Saturday, October 29, 2011

How to Become a Published Author; Part 4

   This is the final installment in my "How to Become a Published Author" series.
    Here are the other parts if you're interested.

    To recap: 

    Point 1--Don't Conform if it will ruin your book. (I'm talking about how a publisher wanted me to change "damn" to "dang.")  "Dang my son died," just didn't cut it for me, and going with that publisher would have been a mistake.

    Point 2--You Need a Platform (use the internet--it is your friend).  Study google keywords (for titles and blog content).  Blog consistently.  Make friends on facebook and twitter.

    Point 3--Hire an Editor even if you haven't found a publisher or agent yet.  (I can't stress this enough).
    
    Today I'd like to talk about how you need to find your audience, learn to advertise, and KEEP GOING!


    Before I decided what the right publishing direction would be for my journal, "The Golden Sky," I researched self-publishing.  I studied for days and the results were almost comical considering that the answers were obvious.  The most affordable place to publish a physical copy turned out being CreateSpace.  The best place for e-books was Smashwords.  
    I know I shouldn't have been shocked, but I was.  Their prices and quality are amazing.  They walk you through the process and even provide an ISBN!  On top of that though, their resources and ability to connect with other companies made them shine above the other options out there.

    No matter if you self-publish, or work with a traditional publisher, you need to know the market and your audience so you can advertise more effectively.
    I called every radio station in my state.  It's crazy, but those hosts actually talk in the same weird auctioneer voices they use on the radio!  Almost all of them were very nice.  I was able to set up an interview--which I'm super excited about.  The only crazy thing is that although their voices are as sexy as hell, some of those sweet announcers do have faces for radio. 
    Anyway . . . I found out that day, it's very important to know your audience.  A rock station won't advertise for a memoir about infant loss, but a country station THEY WILL!  Thank God for country music--it doesn't always have to be sad!

   Moving Along, to the audience . . . 

    My son died, so at once I knew who my main audience would be.  I wanted to meet other people who had suffered the loss of a loved one, or needed help coping with grief.
    I went to a medical website and found a forum where I could respond to questions about this.  Now here's what I wasn't expecting.  
    When I logged into the forum there were hundred of questions WITHOUT ANSWERS!  It was like taking a boat ride down the River Styx.  All of those questions reached out reminding me of hands seeking refuge from the river surrounding Hell.

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        I started from the oldest threads and responded to as many as I could.  "My infant son has CDH; we don't think he'll make it.  Has anyone else gone through this?" a woman had asked in 2008-- and NO ONE had responded.
        My heart practically broke into pieces as I read her question because MY SON had had CDH (Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia).  My son died after months of battles and struggling.  My son, the same one I'd wanted to have my whole life.
        I answered as best I could, ended up sending the woman a free e-copy of my book, and moved along to more questions.
        "My husband has cancer."
        "I'm so sick.  Does anyone have advice for me?" 
        "My twins are dying in the NICU."
        To each I gave a free copy of my book.  It got to the point that I could only write "I'm sorry" so many times.  I figured if they could see the hope that came through my story--how I realized I could make it through--then maybe that would help them more than any comment ever could.
        I only made it through one hundred posts and e-mails before I stopped.  That was the day I considered quitting writing.  I know it sounds silly because the experience should have shown the need for a book like mine, but it was so much sadness and pain, I just couldn't do it.
       But right when I was on the brink of failure, right when I decided I couldn't do it anymore, e-mails starting coming in again.  
        "I read your book in one day!" one woman wrote. "It helped me so much.  I gave it to my sister and several of our family members have read it now.  They love it just as much as I do."
        "I thought I was over the death of our daughter, but your book brought healing!  I gave it to a friend so she could understand what I went through."
        "It was nice reading another mother's experiences.  I blamed myself for our child's death too.  Your realization made me feel better."
        And with each e-mail, I gained the resolve I needed.  That was the day I wrote the post about the blogfest.  Here it is: 
        "Only 50 more days," I wrote, "until my book about Zeke will be released."


        Now, I'd like you to keep in mind that last January, I had no followers, no twitter account and hardly any friends on facebook.  It was around that time when I friended 800 random people and gained 799 friends.  I'd felt like such a loser pursuing a pipe-dream.  I'd turned down two publishers because they didn't "feel" right.  I didn't have a platform.  
        Later, although people had said wonderful things about my book, I still felt a bit hopeless.  Was it the right thing to put my journal out there for so many people to read?  Plus, I still had to change certain people's names because they didn't want their real identities in my journal.
       So, last month, I wrote the post about the release of my book, and this is the one thing that still makes me cry . . .
        I got an e-mail a few days later.  It was from an e-mail address I'd never seen before.  This is basically what it said:

    Dear Elisabeth,
         Nine months ago I got a friend request from a girl I didn't know. I originally thought about just denying the request, but when I asked why she had contacted me, the girl responded with such honesty, I couldn't help but befriend her.
        Like I said, nine months have passed.  I've seen YOU grow from an aspiring writer, to the author I knew you'd become.  I've never met you, but I feel like I know you.  
        Many years ago, I lost someone close to me.  I shut myself off from everyone, but your ups and downs have given me strength.
        I read your blog every day and I must say I am so proud of you.      
        Your son must be watching from Heaven.  I hope he sees how hard you're working to keep his memory alive, and how much you want to help other people.
        Thank you for requesting to be my friend. 
        Thank you for helping me with my own grief.
        When your book comes out in November, I will be the first one in line to buy it.


    Sincerely,
    The  Military Man


        I'm crying as I write this because the support and love ALL OF YOU have given to me is amazing!  I can't explain how much your reviews and advice, your KINDNESS and comments have meant to me.
        I started this journey, just hoping to get a book published, but in the process, I've grown and learned so much.  I've gained over 2,500 friends on facebook!  Over 4,400 followers on Twitter!   Over 1,300 followers on my blog!
        I just had to tell each of you, this success is because of you.  My journal will be released in 20 days . . . and I have a platform--because of you.
        This gift you've given me--you've given Zeke's story--is amazing.


       To that military man, his wonderful words, and all of you:
        You've touched my life more than I can express.  I never hoped for so much.  
        THANK YOU!