silver-colored letters spelling 'dream', a white notebook with a grid cover, pen and laptop on a wooden surface. hand on laptop.

What Happens When You Follow Directions?

By Dr. J.

a writer's workstation featuring letters that spell dream, a white lined notebook, laptop and a pen

When you begin a new part of your life like writing, and it involves everything you know nothing about, what do you do?

If you are the former academician like me, you begin research. Learn about what you want to do. Find experts. Get guidance. Make a plan. Execute. Let’s see what happens when you follow directions. That’s what I did.

LEARN ABOUT IT 

I attended a local writers’ group where I met Andrea Patten. When I talked with Andrea, I was days from completing a basic writing course with a New York editor for my writing genre erotica and erotic romance. The editor suggested I use three specific websites where I could share my work and become known in the writing world. 

What did that mean? 

First, it meant I’d be writing for readers. And second, I needed a website to link my stories to the other locations. How do you get all of this up and running? Andrea consulted with me to lay the ground floor of my author platform. That makes an author visible to the world

Andrea consulted with me to lay the ground floor of my author platform. That makes an author visible to the world. Click To Tweet

CREATE THE WEBSITE

The first part of the plan was securing a website. Even though I knew it was essential to have a site, I did not understand how to go about creating it. A guide is vital. There are things they know I didn’t. Frankly, I didn’t even know what I didn’t know. Andrea broke down my needs in bite-size portions. 

You can’t learn everything at once. For me, this was a world I had never lived in before, not writing, not IT, and not, social media. As a retired sex therapist, I had steered clear of all social media locations.

The first step in securing the website was to buy my website domain name-DrJAuthor, a combination of my pen name and my new identity. Given my writing content, it was helpful to learn that some hosting sites were better than others for my needs. I settled for HostGator and their built-in Weebly Website Template. Andrea had recommended Bluehost and WordPress, but I liked what I saw with HostGator. Notice, I didn’t follow directions. 

After that, I created a picture that would be my visual recognition, my avatar, to be used on my website and other places. Once the website was in place, social media platforms were next. I learned that my name and my avatar needed to be consistent across all locations in the digital world.

That was my smooth start until it wasn’t smooth anymore. A year and a half into my website, HostGator did not renew its contract with Weebly and I lost a way to create my website content or access my old content. Luckily in a short time, I made many author friends talented in many areas. One such person is Mischa Eliot who in one weekend, rebuilt my site in a WordPress location. If only I had followed the directions of my author platform guru.

But the good news is, even if the names aren’t available, your avatar will identify you for readers. Click To Tweet

CHOOSE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA

After the website, I tackled four social media sites. It seemed overwhelming. Check out my names. Facebook: DrJAuthor; Twitter: DoctorJAuthor; Instagram: drjauthor_; and Pinterest: drjauthor. I put those forward specifically to show that sometimes even with your best efforts, it doesn’t go as planned. What did you notice? The ideal would be to have the exact name match — then it is always easy for folks to find you. But the good news is, even if the names aren’t available, your avatar will identify you for readers.

a person writing on a piece of paper with a notebook, phone and cup of coffee nearby

If I had a full list of all the digital places I would end up, then I could have checked them. But sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know. If you are good at planning, you can secure all the names at the same time for the future. Notice I only listed the ones I started within my first year. I continue to grow my platform to other places.

LET IT WORK

There is so much to share. While Andrea Patten has been the spectacular guru on “all things start-up,” I attended Nancy Blanton’s workshop on Author Branding. Did you notice my purple essence? It’s always about learning more. My branding will be my next discussion.

Follow the directions. Five things created. The website and four social media places. Do the work. Write blog posts. Be social. Make friends of readers and writers. Click To Tweet

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author photo of Dr. J, Author

Dr. J. arrived at her writing career after being a condom packer, sex educator, sex therapist, and finally a college professor of human sexuality. Using her vast knowledge and experience of sexuality and the mind, she continues her education efforts to integrate positive sexuality into the human experience through her stories. She writes romance and erotica. Living the island life, Dr. J. plays petanque, knits, and supports all the visual and performing arts of the area.

Never Made the Oprah Show

She laughed at me

Several years back, at a publishing conference, I had an opportunity to speak with some industry veterans.  One was gracious enough to take a quick look at the marketing plan I was working on. I was encouraged… until she laughed. My inner critic went a little bit nuts. I wanted to crawl under some furniture or run from the room.

Fortunately, she noticed and said, “I like you. You may be the only author in America whose plan does not include the words ‘Get on Oprah’s show.'”

[Tweet “You may be the only author in America who’s not trying to get on an Oprah show.”]

I know why so many people wanted to do that: marketing an indie book can be h*ll on wheels. Granted, some of this is as a result of self-inflicted wounds caused by lack of feedback from beta readers, editing, and proofreading. But even excellent work has a hard time getting through the avalanche of media and promotional material readers see every single day.

My Inner Critic is up to no good

Personally? I need to take a closer look at the role of my inner critic in all of this. While I’m able to harness her powerful warnings to complete writing projects, she’s still pretty shrieky when it comes to self-promotion. (“Get your ego in check!” “It’s not polite to talk about yourself.”) She has gotten a little sneakier and has a New Age-y approach as well: “Stop bothering people. If they’re meant to find you, they will.”

Thank goodness for readers and other writers who help share about our books, our blogs, our events and our news. You are truly a gift.

[Tweet “Thank goodness for readers and other authors who share.”]

And, if you’d like to be part of that giant online support group but don’t know where to start? Here are two small actions that are a huge help.

Reviews. Especially on Amazon and GoodReads. They don’t have to be long to be meaningful. “The author presents helpful information with a light touch.” Or, “I found the story captivating.” Expert tip: If you are personally acquainted with the author please don’t mention that in your review. It’s a red flag for “fake review” and could cause problems for the author. BIG problems. Also, if you’re a relative… especially one with the same name? DON’T POST A REVIEW. (See previous example.)

Facebook page likes and engagement. Have you ever seen the “invite friends to like page” feature on the right-hand side of your computer screen? If you “like” an author (or any page) your friends are more likely to follow suit — if you ask them to. And once on a page? Participate. Comment on and share posts.

You rock. We love you

Genuine interaction helps get attention for our work, keeps authors motivated, and lets the inner critic of self-promotion know it’s OK to go somewhere and take a nap!

What’s your favorite way to help amplify an author’s message? (Please share in the comments section. Every little bit helps!)

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Still struggling with your Inner Critic? Click to download 3 Reasons to Stop Fighting Your Inner Critic and find out what about something you can do instead.

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Giving Away Golf Clubs

Giving Away Golf Clubs

What if you had a beautiful gift to give away?

Let’s pretend it’s a brand new set of golf clubs. Instead of “going viral,” you have the feeling people are avoiding you like a contagious illness… like the flu. It’s  around us, every day, in e-mail blasts, Facebook posts, and tweets; since I follow a bunch of some a few authors, I call it the “buy my book bug.”

Some authors post about their topics, their writing process, their pets, their partners, their projects and their progress. I love reading their stuff. I feel connected to them, and, because of that, I enjoy their success. When they post about a new release, event, or sale? I gladly retweet it or share it on my page. There’s a relationship.

There’s a Relationship

Then there are the others. I “like” or “follow” someone new, hoping to find out about them and enjoy some good, fresh content. But, instead, I get the automatic, one-size-fits-all private message “inviting” me to connect with them (and see the identical content) somewhere else. Ugh. (I solved it by eliminating DMs (direct messages) from my Twitter account — so, if you’re a friend and I haven’t gotten back to you now you know why.)

The second group doesn’t get it: social media is not for selling. It’s for creating and developing relationships. And, as Bob Burg says, “All things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like and trust.”

Social media is not for selling. Click To Tweet

I’ve taught social media basics to authors and other small business owners for a while. It breaks my heart to tell them, “Nobody cares about your _______ (book, restaurant, service, store or product).” I feel like I kicked a puppy, even when I tell them it’s not personal: most people don’t care about mine, either.

What do people care about online? The same things they care about in real life: themselves, their families and their own lives.

So why should authors and small business owners have an online presence? That’s where our readers are. Part of our job is to make it easy for them to find us. Another part is to let them know we care about their lives, too. Writing, tweeting or posting on Facebook… it can’t “be about” you.

What about those golf clubs?

A lot of people would be thrilled to get a brand new set of golf clubs for their next big occasion. I’m not one of them. I don’t play golf and have torn both rotator cuffs; my chances of becoming a regular, happy golfer are pretty slim. If you offered me golf clubs I’d know you don’t know me well…  But, if you kept trying to give me golf clubs? I’d start to wonder what was wrong with you.

There's nothing wrong with you; I appreciate your generosity Click To Tweet

There’s nothing wrong with you; in fact, I appreciate your generosity. There’s nothing wrong with golf clubs, either. They’re just not something I want or need right now.

And, if you stop trying to give me golf clubs and, instead, try to find out what I DO want? I’m a lot more likely to stick around… and share your message with the golfers in my life.

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