Rule #3,671: Don’t Annoy Your Audience

I’ve got a secret for you:

We all want to sell books.

Crazy, I know. But it’s true. Whether we’re self-published, indie published, or are lucky enough to get signed by one of the Big Four, we all want people to buy–and hopefully read–our books.

Here’s another secret for you:

If you’re an author, and you’re as yet unknown–as so many of us are–and your idea of marketing is to constantly barrage and bug people with pleas to “Buy my book!” you’re not going to sell many books. In truth, you’ll probably sell less than you would have if you’d simply remained silent.

But how am I supposed to sell my book if I don’t tell anyone about it?

Great question. The answer may be simpler than you know, and here it is: Don’t tell “people” about your book. Tell ME about your book. Better yet, tell ME about YOU. Tell me about your kids. Tell me about your life. Talk to me.

Not Facebook users. Not Tweeters. Not Instagram-ers. But Joe Smith, Ada Reinhardt, Melissa Johnson, or whoever it is you interact with.

Marketing is based on relationships. That may be oversimplifying things, but at the core, it’s true. Why do you go down the block to the local market to buy your groceries, instead of the Walmart, where prices might be lower? Because the owner, Bob, knows you. He always gives your kid a lollipop when you check out. He asks how your dad is doing because he knows your dad was in the hospital. He knows you; he cares about you. Even if it’s only on a small scale, hell, even if it’s just a facade he puts on, he makes you feel like an individual, like a person, like somebody who is different than every other person that comes into his store. Because he does, you reciprocate by giving him your business.

We, as authors, have to do the same thing. We have to get to know our readers. We have to establish relationships. We have to give people a reason to trust us. Anybody can slap a book on Amazon these days. Some days it seems like everybody has. There’s plenty of garbage out there, we all know it. So we have to make the effort to set ourselves apart from all of that. And we do that, not by banging people upside the head with “I wrote a book, buy it, buy it, BUY IT!” (which, IMHO, screams desperation, not quality), but by paying attention to people, talking to people, getting to know people.

Let’s look at two different scenarios real quick, shall we?

Scenario 1:

Let’s say I join a group on Facebook. We’ll call it “Authors Anonymous.” On Day 1, I post the following:

“Hi, I’m Briana Robertson. Check out my book, “Reaper” on Amazon. It’s only $.99!”

I proceed to go around putting similar posts in every writers/readers group I’m part of. I don’t bother to scroll through the group’s page, I don’t read anyone else’s posts, I don’t interact with anyone. Every other day, I go into the group and post a “Buy my book!” post until, eventually, somebody gets pissed enough to bitch to the admin, and I get booted.

Scenario 2:

I again join Authors Anonymous. On Day 1, I post the following:

“Hey everybody, I’m Briana! I’m an emerging spec-fic author. I tend to write mostly fantasy and horror. I’m married, have three little girls; I love the Chicago Bears, and I’m addicted to Dr. Pepper. Can’t wait to get to know you all!”

I proceed to scroll through the group’s page, perusing, and skimming. I come across a guy’s post that says something along the lines of, “Got a couple thousand words in today, despite the baby’s teething. I’ll take it.” I decide to comment on his post. The following conversation takes place:

Me: Awesome job! I know it’s hard when the little ones are teething, mine just started cutting her upper two. I haven’t been able to put her down for two days. Hoping to get back to the writing soon.

Him: Yeah, it’s rough seeing ’em hurt like that. We rub diluted peppermint oil into his gums; it works pretty well. Have you tried that?

Me: I haven’t. My husband’s a big fan of the whiskey remedy, lol.

Him: Yeah, I’m cool with that, but my wife tends to prefer the peppermint oil. Figures it’s a bit more PC.

Me. I get that. And if it works, why mess with it, right?

Him: Sure thing.

Me: So what are you working on?

Him: It’s a zombie apocalypse novel, told from a zombie’s point of view.

Me: Oh, that sounds cool.

Him: Yeah, it’s been a challenge, but I’m excited about it. What about you?

Me: I’m working on a fantasy novel. It’s about a young monarch who doesn’t know she’s a monarch and her bodyguard.

Him: Very cool. My wife loves fantasy novels.

Now, based on those two scenarios, which one is probably more likely to gain me a reader? I won’t bother answering that. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

The point here can be summed up pretty simply: Don’t be an annoying asshole of an author. (How’s that for alliteration?) We all want to sell books. And because we want to sell our book, we’re aware you want to sell yours, too. And if you’re a decent person who is willing to treat us like we’re decent people too, there’s a decent chance we’ll shell out the money to purchase something you’ve worked hard on, or (if you write in a genre that’s not our cup of tea) at least point potential readers in your direction. If you treat us like nothing more than a money pit, we’re going to give you the figurative finger. Talk about your book, by all means. We want to know about your book. But we also want to know about you. And we want to feel like you want to know about us, too.

Also, we’re authors. We know what you’re going through, so we may give you a bit more slack than the rest of the world.

Maybe.

Don’t annoy your audience. Get to know your audience. Talk to your audience. Make friends with your audience. The benefits of doing that will last a lifetime, and the rewards will be so much greater than the profits earned off a handful of copies of your novel.

I guarantee you.

Much love!

I’m back!

It feel’s good to be back in the book world! A few Months ago I took a break due to health issues and recently decided to come back to books. Being the first YA Author for SSP is exciting and also not really scary but I do have to step up my game in order to hang with the Adult Authors SSP has. SO… The first book in my Gargoyle Redemption Trilogy is re-releasing in a few weeks and I am super excited! This Short story Series is unique to me because when I started writing it back in 2010, not many authors had written about gargoyles. I am a hard worker and am dedicated and driven to be the best author I can be, so get ready to be taken into my world!

Word Association..

From the Desk of the CEO…

Everyone talks about how “nice” people are. In business, there’s a stigma attached to this label.

“Oh, their staff is so nice there!”

And then all your friends shuffle in and blindly follow the “nice” signs to the “nice” building. The problem is nice doesn’t always mean that you’re respected. People can hate one another and still play nice at work because that’s what the rule book says to do. And vice versa, you may respect your co-worker but they aren’t exactly the person you’d want watching over your children or pet.

I’ve lived my life trying to be nice. I lived trying to prove the old adage, “nice guys finish last” wasn’t true. I hate to tell you this, but it is. Only with time, age, and experience did I learn something. I’ll give you this bit of advice for free, but you won’t believe me until you’re old enough to see its truth with eyes of wisdom.

Nice guys do finish last because you cannot treat everyone nicely. You can treat everyone with the dignity and respect they deserve.

There was a cleaning lady at my former employment that didn’t speak English very well (she understood it, she just couldn’t speak it well in return) but she was a hard worker and she smiled everyday. We’d all shuffle in at 7 a.m. blurry eyed and grumbling after she’d just cleaned the sink and coffee area, then brewed the two pots of coffee. I remember looking down at the sink basin and seeing it sparkle. The girls were making their cups of coffee, muttering good morning’s and gossiping about this or that before continuing on their way back to their desks. I stood there looking at the aftermath with complete embarrassment.

Grain’s of sugar and powdered creamer dusted the counter. Drops of coffee trailed from the carafes, down on the floor and out the door. Napkins were discarded, straws scattered…it looked like a bunch of toddlers came in. I remembered how it felt for me, personally, to come home everyday and having to clean after working all day because no one respected the hard work I put into scrubbing the kitchen the night before.

Without a word, I started to straighten up. She kept telling me, “No, it’s ok. This is my job.”

I said, “It is not your job to teach them to respect themselves, or other human beings.”

The “nice” thing to do would’ve been to clean up after themselves. The “nice” thing to do would’ve been to say “good morning” to the woman they see every day, smiling at them with fresh coffee waiting, and a clean counter area. They didn’t even grace her with that much.

What does this have to do with SSP?

It’s simple. I don’t run my business to be nice. Let me explain why. When people don’t get what they want, you find that “nice” is just a mask. It’s a facade they wear to get what they want. When they don’t get what they want, the mask falls away pretty fast. It’s simple to get past the B.S. when you treat them with the respect they deserve straight away. Everyone here at SSP earns their level of respect from the new author to the veteran author.

The new author works hard, the veteran author takes a new author by the hand and gives them a mentor. We are a collective hive of energy — you thought I’d say collective though didn’t you..this isn’t the Borg, you psycho — that helps feed each other’s passion for our craft.

In order to continue doing what we do, we must have respect for one another’s flaws, strengths, differences and be willing to go through it all together. That means, we are a family and anyone that bullies our family, attacks our family, takes from our family, or harms our family becomes invisible to us.

We don’t lash out at others because that gives them power over us. No, the others should become background noise.  I’m trying to elevate (at current count) 38 lives of people that are counting on me. They’re counting on me.

Which brings me to full circle: You will be treated with the respect you deserve is a floating line. You can start out with high level of respect but you must maintain that respect. You cannot drop your guard, you must always surround yourself with the company of those you aspire to be like, you must always keep your eyes on the goal, and never keep company with the people that have grievously transgressed against those that support you.

Being the CEO of SSP has been the biggest blessing of my career life. When people tell me I’m so “nice” I have started to correct them. I’m not nice. I’m respectful. I’ll only be respectful, because being nice is nothing more than a fake smile.

Until next time..keep your Stitch together.

Time to Get Gishy

I am Deanna, one of the editors here at Stitched Smile. A couple of weeks ago, I told the big bosses here that I would have to take last week off for a vacation, and I was told that would be fine, as long as I blogged about it.

So strap in, because this blog post is going places.

Before I delve into this year’s epic adventure, I should probably explain a little about how I got involved with this event in the first place.

In June of 2013, I lost one of my very close friends. He was 27 years old. It’s really hard to explain how hard it is to rebuild after something as tragic as this was; to feel like life it worth it without that person there to laugh with. Not long after his passing, I discovered that the sign ups for a super weird scavenger hunt were open. I had seen a little bit about it the year before, so I figured, why the hell not, and signed up on a whim. After signing up, a did a little googling to see what it was that I had just gotten myself into; and let’s just say that I was not fully prepared.

The Greatest International Scavenger Hunt The World has Ever Seen (or Gishwhes) is an epic event created by one of the actors from the CW show Supernatural, Misha Collins, who plays the Angel Castiel. The first hunt took place in 2011. The following year, the year before I got involved, it became the GishWhes as we know it. The basics are as follows: there are teams of 15 international players. Some teams are formed beforehand; others are created at random by the GishBot the week before the hunt begins. During the hunt, players have to create or find the items on the list. It’s a mixture of classic scavenger hunt and the most absurd arts and crafts you’ve ever done. There is a countdown clock on the website; when the clock strikes zero, the list is released, the website promptly crashes for a half hour. This happens every year. Once the website is back up, you have 7 to 8 days to complete as many items on the list of between 150 to 200 items as you and your team can. Sounds easy right? That’s enough time and enough people to do all those things? Yeah no.

Items on the list have included things such as: Get an astronaut in the international space station to @reply you on twitter. Get a mountain on Mars named after your team. Make a dress entirely out of cheese, wear it, and pose next to an antique car or motorcycle. Make large animals out of feminine hygiene products (animals have included a dinosaur, a safari animal, and angel, a dog, and a panda),  Create a portrait of Supernatural actor Jensen Ackles out of skittles. Must be at least 4 feet by 4 feet. (Funny story, Mr. Ackles entered an electronics store after a day of filming and discovered one of these masterpieces in progress. This is him talking about it). There were also kindness items, like donating blood with a friend, donating hair, joining the bone marrow registry and becoming and organ donor.

Needless to say, when I first actually looked into what I was going to be doing that week in August 2013, I was terrified about what I had actually gotten myself into.

However, the week came, I was paired with 14 other first timers, about 6 of us actively participated, and I met some amazing people and did things I never thought I would ever do. Partly because who builds a lion out of maxi pads? And partly because they push my comfort zone.

For the first time in the months since I lost my friend, I felt like everything would be okay. I could hear his laughter as I lay on my deck in a bathing suit covered in chocolate. I felt whole again like I could laugh again. Gishwhes did that.

I’ve never been one to be “normal.” I enjoy being weird and doing weird things. I’ve always felt like I was a little bit on the outside looking in, but that week, and the weeks after once I became part of the GishWhes network on Facebook, I felt like I found my people. I had never felt more at home than when I discovered the Harry Potter fandom on the internet when I was in middle school.

In 2014, I joined a team with someone I had been mutuals with on Tumblr. I had another amazing year. That year William Shatner, yeah, Captian Kirk, joined. Durning the 2013 hunt there was an item that involved him, and then Misha got a cease and desist letter from NASA for bombarding the astronauts, and Mr. Shatner was curious, to say the least, so he created a team to try to win. (He did not win). I have a fantastic year that year as well. We were a laid back team, a fun team. We created dressed in kale and items only found in bathrooms; we cosplayed as famous landmarks. It was wonderful. Time of my life.

Last year, I decided to get serious. I applied to a “competitive” GishWhes team a team in it to win it: Team Banana Ninjas. Last year was a blast. We complete about 95 (I think) items. We killed it. We made the coffee table book, which is a huge feat considering the competition.

I made a raft out of water bottles last year which of all the weird stuff I’ve done is my favorite thing. I’ve linked the video above. However, the video is set to I’m on a Boat by The Lonely Island, which has a lot of curse words in it, so I would suggest headphones if you are in a public area or at work.

Which brings me to the meat of this post the 2016 GishWhes. When I told Donelle that I would be taking a week after I finished Grad School (I completed my degree on July 31st) to be part of a scavenger hunt. She said cool, what is it? So I tried to explain it quickly: the Skittles portraits, the cheese dresses, the cease and desist letters, William Shatner. I was met with a little bit of confusion and a lot of “Please post pictures.”

I was once again I was part Team Banana Ninjas. We are a team that has members in England, Romania, France, Canada, and across the USA. A lot of the items are US-centric, so it’s great to have people spread out all over. There is usually some place specific events. Last year there were a bunch in NYC, there was one in Iceland once, this year there was on in Austraila. We are a great group of people. I love my team I love hunting with them. It’s been two days, and I can’t wait to start hunting with them again text year.

But before I get ahead of myself, let’s delve into this year.

GishWhes started on July 30th, that same day I ran in a mudderella, which luckily fit into one of the items. I had to tweet myself accomplishing something that I was afraid to do. That tweet was liked by Kim Rhodes, who besides being an actor on Supernatural with Misha Collins was also the mom of the Suite life of Zack and Cody, and that was kind of a big moment for me. I may or may not have cried when I got the notification (I totally cried a little I’m blaming it on post mud run exhaustion).

tweet

Sunday, since I was incredibly sore and had a horrible sunburn because I’m an idiot, I tried to keep it easy. I created a rather large panda out of maxi pads.

panda

Monday was a big day; I started out by handing out coffee at a bus stop.

waiter

Then I went to the cemetery that my aunt, uncle, and cousin are buried to tweet Governor Pence about the dangers of smoking

And then I went to a 5-mile walk to hatch a 10km Pokemon egg. We stopped for lunch in the middle of it, and during lunch, it started to rain, so we walked 3 miles in the rain to hatch Pokemon eggs for a weirdo scavenger hunt because I wasn’t going to not do that item because it was raining.

Tuesday was my day to make someone happy. So on my way to my friend’s house to have the help me make shoes out of pineapples, I stopped to get her two-year-old daughter a donut, and to say she was happy about it, well, I’ve never seen anyone more excited about a donut than that little girl.

Then we made shoes out of pineapple, and I ran down the street.

This isn’t directly hunt related, but I also met a stormtrooper in the street on my way to an improv show Tuesday night.

strom troopers

One of the items every year to get someone dressed as a stormtrooper to do something. If only I had my butter churn with me at the time.

Wednesday I helped my team get retweets on a post about saving smelly penguins and how to help someone having a stroke. I became a citizen of a small country.

I watched my teammates create such amazing things, like Trumppunzel. A teammate mailed their baby. One member created an amazing image showing what their reflection really shows. One dressed as pirates with her son and visited nursing homes, save bees, build sandcastle trailer parks and try to bully William Shatner, who decided to sit this year out because he had “work” or something, into giving us his address so we could mail him a crap ton of postcards. One of our teammates repurposed artichokes in creative ways. Another drew a Picasso style painting of Castiel.

 

Thursday I drove to a Haunted Lake and poured wine off a roof onto my friend.

Friday was a video and photo editing day.

Saturday, I met up with other Gishers in New Hampshire to spread positive messages at a bus stop: like “Be the unicorn you want to see in the world” and “every Magikarp evolves in a Gyarados”. And then I dressed up like a thunderstorm.

cloud

That was the end of my hunt this year. I helped my teammates edit their photos and videos before the gishwhes website, youtube, and Imgur crashed again and waited nervously for Misha to post some last minute item.

We complete 100 of the 178  items this year. The most that we’ve done as a team, the most that a team I’ve been on has complete. (I got to use that 100 emoji unironically, which was another big moment for me. As my French Teammate Amelia said after I expressed my excited about using it It’s the little things that bring us the most happiness).  I completed 11 individual items personal best.

Every year when I compete in Gishwhes, I’m asked what I win. Well, this is a hard question to answer. The grand prize is a week-long vacation with Misha Collins and our team. This year the trip is to Iceland, last year it was Costa Rica. But Gishwhes is so much more than that. Without being a runner up or a “winner,” we won. We did more items as a team and individually than we have before. We could make the coffee table book again this year, we could end up the Gishwhes hall of fame, we could end up being runners-up, but no matter where we end up, we are winners. We made amazing things last week. We forged friendships, pushed ourselves to our complete mental and physical limits.

Gishwhes is about pushing limits, about doing things you never thought you could do. It’s about being #waywardAF. It’s about killing normalcy and learning about yourself. It’s an exhausting week, mentally and physically, but I could never see myself spending the first week of August any other way. It makes coming back to the regular 9-5 life boring. As I sit at my desk at work and try to catch up on the weeks worth stamping invoices, and start to work on editing a new manuscript, I remember what I was doing a week ago, a year ago today. Running around in the rain hatching Pokemon eggs it the rain, covering a friend in butter, building a raft out of water bottles. Normal life feels boring, stressful in a different way.

gish team