Monday, April 7, 2014

Your book is a product and You are a brand!

So this post started as just that a simple blog post.  But it's grown into something so long that no one in their right mind would actually read the whole thing in one sitting!  So I've broken it down into a 3 part post, keep an eye out for parts 2 & 3 coming soon!  These aren't the rants of a random blogger, but instead some advice to Authors, new and old, about trying to survive and make a living in the indie world. 

Your book is a product

I know from experience that creating anything, whether it's a physical product or a work of fiction, is a grueling and time-consuming process.  You put your heart and soul into designing, producing, and manufacturing your product.  And yes, your book is a product. I've been involved with the manufacturing process and while it's not exactly like writing a book, it still becomes your baby.  And if your baby isn't handled properly, it can have devastating results.  If you don't find the right people to help with your new product, it won't be produced at a high quality with great results.

 The same goes for releasing a new book.  Your production team needs to be a quality team with the experience to get things done correctly, on time, and under budget.  This includes your beta readers, editors and formatter. Unfortunately, there are too many people who can simply say online "Hey....I can do that," but in reality, they can't.  Editing and formatting take experience and knowledge.  Before you hire one, make sure they have references, talk to other authors, read their finished products to see if you like their work.  Don't ever take just their word for it.  Make sure you get a contract and set your expectations, goals and deadlines so there is no miscommunication.  Anyone worth their weight will know this ahead of time and expect it from an author.

 And a side note on beta readers; If a beta reader reads over a rough draft of your book and only responds with "I loved it! It's perfect!" then you need to find a new beta reader.  An experienced beta reader will be able to point out plot holes, confusing scenes, and other things that editors aren't looking for.  And while we're on the topic, I think a copy editor is pure gold with a book.  While a basic editor will look for grammatical errors a copy editor (or content editor) will look for everything else.  Down to the position of the characters in a sex scene.  Something so simple can ruin a book for many readers.

In an age where anyone can a review a book on any platform, I can guarantee you that flaws in your book will be exposed, so why not deal with them before you release?  There are actually people out there who get off on reading books just to pick them apart. We see it every day.  It's a better business model to produce a high-quality product that readers will enjoy and recommend.  Remember, you only get one shot at a first impression.  If your book is not well edited and ready to be published, readers will just move on to the next author and there is a very good chance they won't come back to give your next book a shot. 

You are a brand

Just like any product out there in the marketplace, there has to be a brand behind a product.  And as an author, YOU are that brand.  But what does that mean?  It means that, as the brand, everything you do will be judged.  We've all seen the attacks that happen on companies when something goes wrong.  If a brand representative says something online or in print that is offensive or off-putting, it reflects not only on the brand but on the product.  And remember, this not only applies to you, the owner of the brand, but to everyone you employ.  Unfortunately, this includes street teams.  If you associate with a street team or private group and they act badly, this reflects on you as a brand.

I think this is the point that many new authors don't understand.  By publishing a book and interacting with readers on a daily basis,  you have become that brand, even if it's just your pen name.  So just like the CEOs of many large companies, everything you do will be scrutinized.  And I mean EVERYTHING.  This is where the issue of customer service comes full circle.  Did I want to be a customer service rep for a paintball company?  The answer is NO!  But when my husband decided to open a paintball store, he ran the whole thing.  He has a brilliant mind when it comes to the technical side of things.  He can diagnose an issue over the phone in seconds.  But do you know what his problem was as a company?  He SUCKED at customer service.  When someone had a problem with something he had done or a product that we sold, he took it personally and he let them know.  I've worked in the realm of customer service since I graduated high school (many, many moons ago) and agreed to help by stepping in to take that part of the company over.  And it worked, not only did our sales increase but we saw a huge increase in repeat customers....and the best part....instead of customers bashing us on social media forums they were recommending us to other paintball players.  Why did this happen?  Because our customer service style changed and we made it about the positive, not the negative.

As an author, you are your own customer service department!  Does this mean you should be stepped on or walked all over by customers?  Absolutely not.  But it does mean that you need to take each email, each review, and each Facebook post with a grain of salt.  You need to step back, remember to uphold the ideas of your brand, and respond accordingly.  This usually means you'll have to use terms like "I'm sorry" or "that's very unfortunate" even if you really don't want to.  Because your book is your baby, the automatic response to a negative is mail is, "Well fuck you then."  I get it. It's a normal reaction.  Trust me, if you've been yelled at by as many people as I have, you get it. It sucks.  But it's part of the job, and unless you want to pay someone like me to deal with these issues as a virtual assistant, you have to do it yourself.

Why is all of this important?  Daily, we see authors venting, ranting, and complaining on their Facebook pages about this or that.  And I get it.  I really do.  But I think there needs to be a swing in the way that authors handle themselves in public.  If I, as a company, went on my Facebook page and complained every time I received an awful customer email, I can guarantee you that I would go broke.  Your customers , your readers, don't want to know the backside of  what goes on in your company, and truthfully, they don't need to.  Your Facebook page should be a positive place that promotes your works and is fun.  A place to share teasers and inspirations, release dates and sale info.  If you need to vent, then go grab a drink with a friend and vent.  You'll start to find that as more and more authors jump into the game, the ones who make the choice to run themselves as a business will be around much longer than the ones who don't.

Coming soon: Book Signings....Does an Author really need to be at every signing?

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Kat is the owner of Momma Romance but also has a secret life where she runs customer service for her families online paintball company as well as working virtually for a large manufacturer out of the country.  While working from home with 2 small children she finds time to travel the country attending paintball tradeshows, reading until her eyes cross and helping others plan signing events!

1 comment:

Thanks for rock kitten!