My Thunderclap went BOOM!

Victory! I used a free service called  Thunderclap.it to set up a far-reaching free ad post for my last sale. It was a huge hit (by my measurements.) It was also one of my toddler-like “What’s that? It’s shiny! Let’s poke at it and see what happens…” experiences, so I learned a lot by breaking things and doing them all wrong.

Here’s a summary of things I did wrong/ would do differently next time. These are my reminders to myself but are possibly useful to others. Presented without judgment or any claims of Big Knowledge.

  1. Aim low. 100 is the lowest number of supporters Thunderclap will accommodate. HeadTalker is a site I’ll consider for future coordinated post attempts. It has a lower minimum to hit, as low as 25 backers, which takes eases the “Gotta push this!” competitive pressure I feel whenever I do one of these things.
  2. Campaign for supporters for at least a two week run-up before the post date. I would consider a month optimal for a sale post. I tried this on impulse at the last-minute– a ONE week turnaround– to distract myself from other life problems, not with any expectations. It DID succeed; it went off to specyacular effect thanks to an amazing bunch of supporters. But. Getting to the goal line  took a LOT of posting, outreach, and outright begging. I am bowled over with gratitude and delight by the response I got, but I wouldn’t want to push my fans and friends so hard too often.

    People do run Thunderclap sign-up campaigns for much longer than a month, but I don’t know  if that would help a sale post much. My experience with giveaways and sale campaigns is that the best response comes in the first few days and the last. A long, slow build-up makes sense for a new release announcement– support posts are an awareness booster in their own right– but I would keep the time compressed to a month before a sale or a giveaway. Just for my own sanity as much as anything else.

  3. Make at least two catchy graphics. Thunderclap lets you change the graphic for the campaign any time you like during the run-up to the final post itself. And if you’re promoting a sale, for example, or a new release, you have TWO messages to send.

    A. During the run-up, you want a graphic that boosts awareness on why you’re doing a Thunderclap: saying what the Thunderclap will do — to encourage those who see it to join in. This is the graphic that will be seen when your supporters share their “I supported” posts on social media. If I was running a long campaign I  would change up this halfway through (or week to week/month to month, to keep the “please support me” posts looking fresh.

    B. a separate graphic can release with the Thunderclap post itself. Something big as splashy showing an eye-catching background, relevant sale dates, or new release info, author site links etc.

    IMPORTANT: it takes time for Twitter & Facebook image caches to clear, so give any changes  24 hours to show.

  4. Explain exactly what you’re doing in the area provided in the Thunderclap page, and show the final post graphic that will go out as the Thunderclap there so people know what they’re supporting. Remind supporters that they can change up the message and add to it too.

People love numbers, so here are my results:

  • 280 downloads of the free book linked to the Thunderclap post. Half that total occurred on the day the Thunderclap post went out.
  • 14 sales of the 99 cent book shown in the Thunderclap post graphic.
  • Kindle Unlimited reads for the sale title during and after the sale dates.
  • sales & page reads on both titles after the sale.

That’s three times the response for my last free promotion, and almost four times the response to my last countdown sale. And I was significantly less stressed. Overall, it’s a win all around. Got specific questions? Ask away, I’ll answer as best I can.


 

Gardners & Architects & Bugaboos, Oh, My

Are you an outliner or a plot-on-the-fly kinda person? Is one harder than the other?  Here’s one take:

GRRM makes pantsing (or gardening as he calls it) sound easy. Lazy, even.  This irks me. (He considers himself a gardener by the way.)

He is doing his own work a disservice by belittling the effort that goes into his creations. This comparison is nothing more than architectural snobbery. The implication that architects plan first and gardeners do not — it’s not even true. Worse, the comparison leads to the false impression that some writers work harder than others.

Gardeners are architects. Gardening is exactly like planning and constructing a beautiful  home that must last as long as any building, and more than that, it’s creating a work of art that must retain its beauty and complexity despite changing on its own year by year as everything in it grows and dies back in inherently unpredictable ways. Discovery writers — the more accepted label for the process GRRM compares to gardening — have to be as structured and as meticulous as any work done by those who follow the architectural Outlining tradition.

It’s all about where and how that structure occurs. The outliner puts all that rigor on the surface where it’s visible. A discovery writer is putting down deep roots long before the first seedling shows.

Also, a gardener who only puts something in a hole to see what comes up isn’t going to get results without fertilizing, watering, trimming, weeding, and pruning. The writer who sits down and starts writing to see what comes out onto the page is manipulating a million incredible concepts and issues all at once.  Discovery writing is messy and muddy, but under the surface it’s a hard discipline. It’s a process of waiting for ideas to mature and rise out of the deep subconscious and then capturing epiphanies as fragile as soap bubbles (or dandelion fluff, to hold the vegetative analogy) within cages of words. Then each idea must be weighed and trimmed to fit in with all the other existing words and ideas.

Downplaying the effort required to pull off discovery writing  plays into the myth that Real Art is all talent and no work. Not only is that myth insulting to all the people who spend thousands of hours perfecting their craft, but it’s also used to excuse devaluing the product of all that work.

I’m disappointed to see someone as prominent in the public eye as George R. R. Martin propagating the false image of discovery writing being imagination put to page as easily as digging a hole. Self-deprecation is all well and good, but it’s misplaced humility that harms everyone who chooses to dig for stories rather than build them on a scaffold.

Harumph.

How to Know Someone Famous

Do you know J. K. Rowling? Neil Gaiman?

No? Me neither.

I know the settings they created as well as I know any place on the solid spinning world my body inhabits, but I’ve never met them. I know their characters with an intimacy I can’t claim of most living, breathing people, but I can’t claim to know more about the creators than their names. I’ve lived in their worlds, I have conversed about their stories and shared my love of their universes with hundreds of people over the years, but I know the writers not at all.

I don’t know those famous authors, but I’ve sold their books to friends, to family, to total strangers perusing cover blurbs near me in bookstores. When an author captures my imagination and holds it hostage, I ransom it back with my recommendations. Joy shared is joy multiplied beyond measure, and when a story brings me happiness, I want someone to hold my hands while I jump up and down making squeaky gleeful noises.

Nothing sells like satisfaction. I am an enthusiastic fan, and I share my passions. I sell Neil Gaiman’s books; American Gods in particular.  I sell Harry Potter like crazy.

“J. K. Rowling hardly needs your help,” some may say, scoffing in that snooty, sneering, internetty way, “nor does Neil Gaiman. Everyone knows them. They’re bestsellers. They’re award-winners.”

As usual, my strawman brings up a lovely point for me to knock down and flame to ashes. It’s true that J. K. Rowling needs no help now, but how did she get to be a bestseller? (Hint: not because her writing is good. It is, but that isn’t the secret.) I’ll give everyone a second to ponder the conundrum.

The answer is this:  J.K Rowling, Neil Gaiman, and hundreds like them became bestselling authors because people bought their books. Period. Not so long ago, no one knew who J. K. Rowling was. When HP1 came out there was no fanfare. NONE. Not even great reviews. Not bad ones, but not gushing raves, either. I was selling books for a living at the time. Crickets.

Best-selling authors become famous because enough readers discovered an unknown writer whose words spoke to them. Those readers recommended the work to other people who read and recommended it. And so on. When enough people noticed, it got onto lists where it was noticed by more people who picked it up from curiosity, and then it was famous, and being famous leads to being noticed for being famous…and the authors never looked back.
That’s how it works.

The enthusiasm of a trusted friend can make up for a bad cover, a dull blurb, and even a questionable first chapter or two. If someone I respect says, Yes, really, it’s worth a look, I will spend my precious time to puzzle out where that worthiness lies. Honestly, it’s the main way a lot of introverted readers like me socialize. Shared reading lists give us common experiences without all that pesky human interaction. All it takes to make book famous is enough people putting that power to use.

It’s fun, too. You earn bragging rights. I was pushing Jim Butcher from Dresden Files Book 2, and pointing people to Laurell K. Hamilton back in the days when some librarians put her books into the YA section. (Seriously.) I sold George R. R. Martin when Game of Thrones was in a plain silver wrapper.

I’m not saying I made them famous. I did not. No one person can accomplish that task. (Although someone with money to burn and an existing media platform can come close. See: Oprah Winfrey.) I didn’t do it alone, but it was the work of the people who took recommendations and made recommendations in turn, and the people who took their recommendations, and so on. Sharing is caring.

Word. Of. Mouth. Handselling. Pass it on. It’s that simple, not that simple means easy. Visibility in the arts doesn’t happen by magic. It only happens when people care enough to do work on behalf of the writers/musicians/artists they know and love.  You know that incredible artist who does napkin sketches at the bar. You know the singer who does the bar circuit? You know a writer who self-publishes? You knew ten of them? You do. I know you do. We all do. Never underestimate your power to start unstoppable momentum on their behalf.

See where I’m going with all this yet?

Maybe you don’t dish gossip with Neil Gaiman, maybe you don’t  hang out with J. K. Rowling, but you do know at least one author.

(Hint: you know me.)

Beyonce says, if you love it, put a ring on it. I say, if you love it, sell it.

Buy, love, share, repeat. You will know someone famous, someday.