Ninie Hammon’s Blog for Writers
What EVERY writer MUST tell EVERY FanPosted: May 26, 2013, 1:47PM
This blog post is for readers, not writers. But it's one EVERY writer will love. It's the post every writer wants to write and certainly needs to write, but usually doesn't. I suspect my writer friends will post links to it on their blogs, so their readers get to hear it, but they don't have to say it.
Why all the angst? One word: awkward. It's awkward to explain to your Loyal Fans that your ability to continue in the art and craft of writing is more completely in their hands than they realize. Unless they are willing to partner with you, the books with stories that keep them up nights and with characters they remember forever won't be written. Without the intentional support of Loyal Fans, Favorite Author could end up writing television commercials or obituaries for a living.
Along in here somewhere, the wonderful Loyal Fans reading these words are beginning to protest. But we do support the writers we love. We buy their books! We read their books! We love their books!
And writer or not, I find it hard to adequately express how much that means to me and to every writer I know. When you buy our books and tell us you liked them, it is glorious on steroids. And if you never did another thing but buy, read and like our books, we would remain forever grateful to you for it.
But it's a hard truth that in today's publishing world, Favorite Author needs more than that from his fans to survive.
What you as a reader might not know is that unless a writer's name happens to be Stephen King or Danielle Steele or Karen Kingsbury, he or she is literally drowning in a sea of other writers' books. In past decades, big publishing houses like Penguin-Putnam, Random House, Simon & Schuster and smaller houses like my publisher, Bay Forest Books decided how many books were published and the number was self-limiting. A book had to be good enough to make it down the gauntlet of agents, editors and marketing experts.
That day is gone.
With the advent of e-publishing, anyone on planet earth who can string a subject and predicate together can publish a book. Anyone! There's great debate over the quality of e-published books (I've found indie authors who are fabulous!) but it doesn't really matter whether the books are good or bad because it's the sheer number of them that's the issue, for indie authors and the traditionally published as well. And it's staggering!
In 2006, the year my first book was published by Penguin Putnam, there were about 380,000 books published in the U.S. In 2012, there were 15,000,000.
FIFTEEN MILLION! In that massive, overwhelming sea of choices, potential readers get hopelessly lost and writers slowly sink below the horizon and are never heard from again. There was a time when the greatest challenge a writer faced was writing a book good enough to be published. Now, our greatest challenge is merely getting noticed!
The only hope we have in that effort is our fans. If, and ONLY if, a writer's work is good enough to have developed a loyal following, the light at the end of the tunnel isn't a train. You see, one thing in publishing HASN'T changed. The Number One reason a reader buys a book is the same now as it was 25 years ago. Readers buy books, whether traditionally published or an e-book, because someone they know recommended it. Word-of-mouth advertising, the keys to the kingdom. The math is simple. A reader tells two others about a wonderful book he just read. Those two readers tell two more, and two more, and eventually the royalty check is enough to survive on while you write the next book.
This is where it gets really awkward. Loyal Fan is now saying, "but I do recommend Favorite Author's books to my friends." And I have to explain tactfully that this conversation over coffee, "Hand me the sugar, would you, Thelma. Hey, I read Favorite Author's new book the other day, really liked it. Billy, you stop that! Do you hear me? You hit your sister one more time and I'm going to screw your head off your shoulders like the lid off a pickle jar", will NOT get the job done.
Every writer needs readers who make the book of yours they just read the reason for a conversation with a friend, with lots of friends. Who annoy the librarian until she puts the book on the shelf. Who write a review on Amazon of every book of yours they read. Who tell their Sunday School class about it and the guys on their bowling team, their hair dresser and barber and personal trainer. Becoming a reader who's willing to partner with your very own Favorite Author to make a book and the author successful doesn't cost much in terms of time or effort for the reader but for an author it can make the difference between writing that next book and going into real estate.
I know writers who have teams of Loyal Fans who do just that, and much more. And those teams get the inside story on upcoming books, get to name characters and read sample chapters, win autographed copies and a Skype with the author. I'm planning to launch a team of my own soon. (Maybe call it 9e's Nutcases?) But every reader who loves a book needs to understand that in the World of Publishing in 2014, their support, in big and little ways, is the only thing that allows a writer to produce the entertainment they enjoy. Those of us who don't get that kind of support will sink in the jam-packed waters of publishing-dom. And our readers will be the only ones who notice that their Favorite Author is gone.
A Great post Ninie when someone buys your work, you want to invite them home for a good bottle of wine!! Reply
What a fantastic article. I'm sharing it on my Facebook page and my Twitter feed. Every reader needs to read this! Reply
Oh yeah! Thanks so much for saying it. I will re-blog and link to Facebook and everything else. Reply
I posted about almost exactly the same thing a few weeks ago. I'm glad there are more of us bringing this to light. I just hope the readers hear us. Reply
One to get out to my readers.Will take all this on board . Many thanks Reply
What a great post, Cindy. Thank you so much for writing it. It is true: Readers are our everything. Without them, we cannot survive. Reply
I believe Malcolm Gladwell in his book "Tipping Point" pointed out that "Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood" took off in sales because the "fans" REALLY supported it and put it at the center of conversation, as you seem to be indicating. Reply
Thanks for writing this! I'd like to add that I have had many people tell me they like my book, but then it becomes clear they haven't bought it (or borrowed it from the library) or read it. I love hearing the praise, but would rather it be based on the fact that my book was consumed and enjoyed. And then, go recommend it to someone else. Reply
Ninie...I can't tell you how glad I am that you're saying this too. I wrote a post called "Indie Author Tells All" (revealing much more about myself than I normally am comfortable with) and thousands have read it, but yet, even close friends that have read my book do not talk about it like you'd expect....HOWEVER, they do hound me for the next one..LOL At first I thought that maybe my book just wasn't good enough to promote to other readers, but then I took a close look at my reviews (all five stars) and considered the fact that one large bookstore is happily stocking it and Walmart is deciding on whether or not to carry it as I type this. I'm betting that quality is NOT the problem in my situation. I'm going to share your post everywhere I can. I hope you reach many, many readers and that they begin to realize their own importance in this new atmosphere of books. Reply
I hate to be a dark cloud hanging over this very well-intentioned post, but I honestly think this is the wrong approach, and if an author said this directly to me, I'd be more than vaguely annoyed. I'm an author myself, and I've had many ups and downs, but in the end, I think authors exist to serve readers, not the other way around. There's an appearance of humility here, and also some seeming gratitude, but the message itself seems to be one of entitlement -- and, frankly, resentment and bitterness. I get the resentment and bitterness -- I really, really do! -- but that's really not the fault of loyal fans, who simply don't deserve this kind of alienating guilt trip. I'm not trying to start an argument, or make anyone feel bad, and I honestly hope this doesn't come across as negative and bitchy. But part of the reason why this blog post rubs me the wrong way is that I don't think it's fair to loyal readers (who deserve nothing but our honest gratitude). But another part is that I just don't think this strategy works. It's like bookstores who appeal to their customers' sense of guilt and obligation in helping to keep them afloat. This is a disastrous approach (IMHO). If things are financially shaky, don't ask your loyal customers to do even MORE for you out of guilt: try harder to serve them better, giving them something that no one else is providing. That's a more difficult approach, but it's one -- maybe the only one -- that has any chance of working. Reply
Writing is hard work, and it doesn't stop when the book is written. This article is exactly where writers are in the world of publishing. I both write, and publish for new authors. It is so exciting to get your first book in your hand, but that feeling quickly drowns in a sea of other books, and keeping up the enthusiasm for writing only happens with passion. There are no guarantees that a book will sell and the author make money. But I will guarantee that if you don't write, you won't sell any books. I will share this on my Soc Media and blog. Thank you for articulating to readers how the landscape around writers has changed with this otherwise amazing on-demand technology. Michelle Snyder Reply
Ninie and Alan, you both are saying the same thing - the consumer is who we write for, at least I do. In a fast-paced world where everything is an electronic neon sign in our faces, how do we get people interested in reading? We have to make them fall in love with words, the sound of the prose as it echoes in the mind, the beauty hiding in an art form. If we can do that as authors, then readers will naturally promote the book. Reply
This is a really thought provoking post. Yes we need fans to be advocates but before we have advocates we need fans. Self promotion, being different and giving away free chapters/ short stories ora raticles are ways to build a fan base. The systems are tehre all we need to do is tap into them Reply
There was a time when my writer's group would joke about shameless self-promotion. Now more than ever, it's a necessity. Having a loyal band of supporters passing along links and retweeting and all the other social media tag team work is so very crucial to success. Reply
When I studied Marketing of Books a little over a decade ago things were indeed very, very different. Even the cover design didn't really matter much back then. Now things evolve so fast it isn't easy to keep up and to tell yet which strategy would work best to be noticed. There are still authors and publishers who keep clinging to the old ways, but new authors and different ways to promote a book are coming up very quickly. As a reader I'm having a hard time choosing which books to read, because there are so many and a lot of them are really good, so quality alone isn't enough anymore. And I want to be an author myself, but how am I going to make a difference when I have to compete with so many competent other writers? It's an interesting time for sure and with my background I'm having such a good time keeping track and studying it. I think it's a wonderful development, but we all need to adjust at lightning speed. Reply
Ninie you KNOW I love your books. But you are right most readers kind of think that we are anonymous and not that important to authors. We read (speaking personally) whatever is available and is well written with a story that draws us in. It is getting harder and harder to find the wheat amongst the chaff - I've read lots of 'chaff'- just in hope of finding authors that can actually tell descriptive , wonderful stories- 'wheat'. The blurb doesn't often match the story within (quality wise). Word of mouth is a tool I use. I also research authors within a genre. But I'm a bit odd.. Most readers are loyal, and won't change authors or try new ones very often. Personal recommendation from trusted people goes a long way to a decision to try a new author. As does a recommendation from an author I love to read. But in saying all that, I like knowing that my support is important to authors whose books I buy. So for that insight I thank you and shall continue to review and pass the word on brilliant authors - you know- authors like YOU. Keep writing, I'll keep buying. Reply
I found the link to your wonderful and much informed article on twitter. I truly enjoyed reading it and love your strategy. Now I need to get my viewers to help me launch my new children's book, "Teacher, Teacher, Can't You See?" a book told in rhyme about bullying geared for younger children. I love your idea. This will help authors like myself get our books into the hands of targeted audiences just by word of mouth and a few helpful friends. Best of luck to you - Cherrye Reply
9e....as usual you don't disappoint with another outstanding article. I find that most not all readers feel the word "support" means I bought your book what else am I supposed to do. Thanks for the article. JW Reply
Yes. Yes. YES!!! A brilliant and, for me, timely post. Thank you for reading my mind! Getting people to comment/ leave reviews is like pushing water up hill. :) Reply
First, I agree. It would be nice if everyone who "says" they bought a book from me actualy had. Second, I love your reply from June 17th 2013. Reply
Thank you, Ninie! I've now broadcast this everywhere on my social media links. Thank you for saying all of this for us. We keep explaining, but no one but other writers really gets it. Glad you wrote this! Reply
[...] Why the Writers are Frazzled: Read “What EVERY writer MUST tell EVERY Fan” by Ninie Hammon – CLICK HERE [...] Reply
Ninie, you may have saved the day! Thank you so much for saying all of this! I've scattered this around the socialsphere, and I've added a link to this article on my page that helps my fans promote: http://wp.me/P2yxe2-1Ng Reply
Excellent post, Ninie, and so true. When you think about it, though, it isn't just books. How many of us have had a wonderful experience in a restaurant with great food and attentive service and thought "I really should tell somebody about this place," but don't. How many of us actually send in any of those eatery questionaires we're given (OK, forget the one from Burger King)? I think part of the problem is that we're losing our individuality. We think, 'Oh, that's such a good book that I bet everybody already knows about it." One hopeful sign I see is that with the Internet, it's possible to build up an on-line fan base. That wasn't possible 20 years ago. Reply
As I've just self published my first book and I'm still wading through the quagmire of marketing and promotions. I have never wanted or felt the need to send any of my work through to the traditional publishers and agents and these are the reasons why. 1. I didn't care whether the agent's or big publishers liked or disliked my writing. The only people that mattered were the readers. 2. The publishers shoved writers down your throat because they made them $$$ not because they were exceptional. The agents thought they were Jesus and you had to go through them to get to God. 3. I liked King but Koonz was better. Maeve Bichey, couldn't get past the first chapter, booooring. Danielle Steel, soooo predictable. Shove, Shove, Shove. 4. New fresh Indie Authors for readers to make up their own minds about, good or bad. 5. When Fifty Shades came out, the traditional publishers ran around like a chook (Australian vernacular) without a head saying the sky is falling she hasn't stuck to our formula, quick sign her up! What's going on? 6. Readers have changed, now Amazon is the warrior for the brave new world and as writers I believe we will get a fair chance in the new market place and readers will have more choice. Amen.... Reply
Really great post! I'll be passing it on. Thanks for saying what we writers feel we can't. Reply
Hear hear! I call loyal fans "rain fans" - the type who stand in the rain to watch their favourite band because that's how loyal they are. Didn't come up with the term myself - it was inspired by a similar post by MCM talking about needing fans: http://1889.ca/2010/07/100-fans-in-the-rain/ Reply
I once met a great movie star in person, in fact there were several at the table in a crowded club. I was young and having fun and spoke to my favorite star telling him how much I loved his work..he just looked at me and said nothing but his face said more "Don't bother me you twerp nobody"..in that terrible moment I reminded him that without fans he wouldn't be the big movie star he is..he still said nothing...I moved on but never forgot it.
Fans and those that have them and who have elevated them to be able to make a living doing what they love to do, are the jewel of every artist regardless of the selected craft. I love this article because as much as it explains to fans what it takes from them to keep an artist in business it appreciates them! Cheers! Great article! Reply
So very true, specially these days. I think it's important as writers that we are also loyal readers. I always review my favourite books on my blog and on Good reads and i always recommend my favourite books to people i think will like them, specially in the writing classes I teach. Reply
Just to add to my previous comment, most people who read, read quite a lot and my recommending someone else's book doesn't reduce the chances that the person I'm talking to will read my book. Also by recommending someone else's book I come across as generous (which is an appealing character trait compared to if I just promoted my own book all the time) and i encourage reading in general, if people read more then they become more likely to read my book. Reply
First, a suggestion as a copy wright -- most of the time, if you can't get your message across in less that 300 words, you don't have one.
When I worked behind a bar, occasionally I reminded customers that I worked for tips. That had a 50% chance of backfiring then, and it has the same chance today.
If you write a book worth talking about, you won't be able to keep people from doing discussing it with their friends. If your book is not worth talking about, nothing you do will get people to do so.
TIP: Write a book worth talking about.
That sounds like a jibe, it is not. Incorporate subject matter into your book which offers discussion points -- then have several characters present differing views on the subject. It's that simple. Reply
Dear Ninie, I looked at your blog it's very educational. What are you going to recommend to your friends about my book "The Last Escape". and what are you expecting from me? is there any fee involved?, and how you are going do it?
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