What I Learned Working With 20 New York Times Bestselling Authors

img_2351-16As many of you know, I got invited to work in a big anthology with a bunch of New York Times best-selling author is and USA today best selling authors.

I was very flattered to even be included in such a prestigious group!

We ended up not making the USA Today bestseller list, but the reason I joined the group was because I wanted to learn how different people market, especially successful people. It’s definitely different working with people who have such large followings.

What did they do that I didn’t do?

What are the things they know that I don’t know?

What are the secrets that they might accidentally revealed to me?

Turns out – hate to spoil the surprise – it’s really a lot of hard work.

I know. I’m disappointed to learn that, too.

But okay. You work hard; I work hard. What was different about these guys?

And I guys I mean women because I think 18 of the 20 authors are female.

So what was it these ladies were doing that I didn’t do?

Well let’s start with the fact that most of them were very friendly and very cordial, and when I asked them to do an interview on my blog, upwards of half of the participants in the anthology agreed immediately. Within a day or two I had most of those interviews done.

They also sent along a sample chapter.

I wanted that so that I could read a bunch of different peoples writing and see what was different about what I did versus what they did.

Finally, by interacting with them, I felt I would have a slightly better bond then I might if it was only the interaction we did through the box set.

For example, we didn’t really interact that much in the box set. It was less interactive and less camaraderie than I was expecting in this set but I’m told that’s kind of unusual. I expected a bunch of introvert writers to not interact much, but I have been told by other people who did other sets that they interacted a lot more.

So the friendship and the bonding and the cordiality, that’s part of the equation.

That’s what we have that here. And I have that with just about everybody I work with in every situation. If you are in our private Facebook group working or the horror anthology with us, in the past you’ve seen a lot of chitchat and talking and opinion asking and ideas being kicked around and jokes and whatnot.

You certainly see that here on the blog!

So the big life-changing thing I expected to learn was… There really was no magic secret.

Here is what they brought to the table that I either didn’t or couldn’t or wouldn’t or shouldn’t or… Well, basically just what is different.

Most of the people who are in this anthology and who have made the New York Times best-selling author list, have a substantial newsletter following. I’m talking like 10,000 people follow them on their newsletter.

That’s different from following them on a blog because I can tell you I have 3000 blog followers and 11,000 Twitter followers but those 3000 people don’t come here every single day. My Twitter followers hardly interact at all. I’m just not interactive on Twitter.

Now, I’m very interactive on my blog, and that’s why my blog has become successful. I am very interactive on my Facebook page, but less so than my blog. I’m even less interactive on Twitter, so therefore it makes sense that my Twitter following is less valuable as a marketing medium.

And my newsletter… well, I didn’t really know what I was doing when I started a newsletter, and I didn’t feel like I should be bugging people all the time, so I don’t send out a newsletter on a regular basis. (That could a be a 2019 goal. More on that in a sec.)

These other people have big newsletters and they use them for business, from day 1, so their newsletter subscribers have been trained to expect that from them..

I think they email their people twice a month at least.

That just seems like overkill – even though I have no problem putting a blog post out every single day! Go figure. That’s just my perception.

Now, I get newsletters emailed to me from sources that I don’t ever read it all. But I want the resource there when I do want it, if that makes sense.

Okay, so they had big newsletters.

What else?

They tend to have book covers that definitely exude the genre for which they write.

That’s kind of a no brainer, but it’s worth mentioning. When you look at the book covers, they say two things:

  • Cozy mystery or cowboy romance or whatever – but there’s no mistaking it for anything else.

  • The covers also tend to look professional and they tend to look like the person who wrote the book is already successful.

One in particular or just screams best-selling author. No surprise; she’s been on the New York Times best-selling list four times!

So presentation matters.

We’re also going to go ahead and stipulate that they write good stories, and not only that they write good stories but that their blurbs entice people to buy the book.

However.

If you have 10,000 people on your newsletter list, when you roll out your book, you’re going to get a lot of sales on day one, and that is big.

We experienced a small taste of this with the horror anthology we did last year. We had 20 authors all promoting it and it did well for a $.99 book that was a bunch of short stories. But it gave readers a taste of what the authors were capable of doing, and a lot of readers ended up buying books by those on authors. And that was the whole point of it. To get existing authors some exposure and to get people who had never been published before to become published.

So the moral of the story is…

Volume.

When I look at how much money this anthology is spending on paid media before the release date, and how much work these people have put into their newsletter to get them that big, that’s a lot of work.

That’s work on top of the work they’re already doing writing and networking and Facebook and all the other stuff that they keep telling everybody to do.

But I think it’s like this.

I use a lot of running and analogies, but I’m sorry it’s just the way it works. When you first step off your couch to go run a marathon, having never run one before, you can’t go out and bust out 26 Miles. Maybe all you can bust out as 100 yards. Maybe 50 feet. Maybe getting to the refrigerator and back winds you.

But if you keep at it and you add a little bit each week or each month, eventually you find that you were running a mile and once you’re running a mile you start realizing I could probably run two or three…

And if you go really wanted to build up to a marathon, you would.

One of my goals for this year (which I have totally neglected) was to build my newsletter up to about 10,000 subscribers.

Seemed like a lofty goal, and honestly, I got busy with a lot of other stuff. But it’s almost year end which means it’s not gonna happen in 2018. Too bad. Shame on me.

But like a good New Year’s resolution, I will carry it forward, and that starts today.

Or January first, maybe.

(No, seriously, I already started. Kinda.)

The people in the box set anthology are spending a lot of money on paid advertising, and they are doing it in volume, and they are doing it with repetition. Most of us don’t have pockets deep enough to do that, but when you spread that cost over 20 authors, you start to realize maybe that’s a hint of what people who are one or two tiers below Stephen King, maybe that’s what they do. Not them per se, but maybe their publishers.

And that has been eye-opening.

That, and being able to interact with the type of people who I hope to be one of some day.

So it’s definitely been a worthwhile experience, and while not giving away any secrets I swore not to give away, I’m going to tell you guys how to get this stuff done.

Because we’ve already done it.

Before ever joined the box set, I got the wild idea to create a horror anthology with 20 authors. It was mildly successful. If I had pushed harder and invested more, it would’ve been a lot more successful.

We could do that with our next one and it will do even better, but what if we had a horror anthology comprised of 20 complete horror novels?

What if a group of us decided to take whatever our next project was, and group together, and market it first as an exclusive box set?

It’s not different terribly different from what we did last year with the scary anthology and it’s not terribly different from what we did this year with the new horror anthology, but it is a little different.

There’s a lot of what ifs.

As I explore them I’ll keep you posted. Some people I hoped would be involved already said no.

But my wheels are turning.

 

 

11 thoughts on “What I Learned Working With 20 New York Times Bestselling Authors

  1. Very interesting. A lot of what you mention are things I am trying to implement as I go along. And yes the newsletter is key (like the most important thing) as well as having a lead-magnet and landing pages and a whole host of other things that seem impossible to do. Oh yeah, and you have to write a book. But it is the same way you eat an elephant; one bite at a time.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Everybody does it differently. For me, what I would have put in a newsletter was typically what I would put in a blog post, because my output has usually been tips to help authors. (I’m changing that.)

      Other people who don’t have a blog that has an instructional basis to it, tend to talk about different things they are doing as far as the authors personal life. So if they are at the beach or what they’re working on or what ideas they are cooking up for their characters.

      When you do a newsletter swap, you are saying I’ve got this group of people who like reading about my topics, and you have a group that like reading about your topics. Let me talk about you in my newsletter and you talk about me in your newsletter and we can cross promote.

      If I were to have 1000 newsletter followers (I now have about 2000, but for the sake of math if I had 1000) and I did some sort of newsletter swap with 20 authors who also had 1000, it wouldn’t exactly equate to the impact of having 20,000 myself but it would expose me quickly and easily to readers who have not yet discovered me – and it would do so through the introduction of someone they already knew, the author they were following on their current newsletter.

      So that’s obviously the reason to do it.

      Now, as far as building a newsletter? There are many ways to do it. One way is to tell people about your news letter and give them reasons to join. So I’ll be doing a lot of that in 2019. I got about 1500 subscribers this year by offering them a free book and the possibility of getting a signed paperback, but I also did a promotion where people would be randomly drawn to win a free book and a small handful of people would win free books from multiple authors.

      And that’s one of the beautiful things about a newsletter. 20 authors might have 20 books or 100 books or 500 books, so if you cross promote you could be introducing your people to a free book from a different author every single month or every two weeks or whatever, and in addition to that, talking about what you’re doing and talking about your next project, so they aren’t really just there for the freebies (but a freebie isn’t a bad way to get somebody to check out your stuff).

      I think if I was starting out today, I would focus heavily on a newsletter or mailing list. My friend Jenifer refers to it as her readers club. That has the right tone to me. A readers club would be people I would consider like my blog commenters or like you, people I interact with via social media and have some rapport with. So I wouldn’t mind sharing with them about going to the beach for a week (or having the freaking flu like I do this week). But everybody’s style is different. I think your style would work very well on a blog or a newsletter.

      Probably another obvious aspect that I didn’t mention is you can be networking with other people who write the same genre as you write. For example, I always approached writing as, once people like one of my stories, they will read my other stories more or less without regard to genre. And that’s kind of true but that’s because I wasn’t going to write to specific requirements or templates. However, people don’t want to buy milk in an oil can. They want milk and a milk bottle. I make it harder for new readers to discover me. So to be more successful, I have made an agreement with myself to try to make the packaging correct so that people understand what they’re buying, and then be creative and have fun inside those parameters. I don’t have to worry if I’m “selling out” because I already did it my own way for five years and I’ve been very happy with the results but there are new realms to be explored and like Alexander I want to explore them. So if I write crime fiction, and if I network with 20 other crime fiction writers who have newsletters, well guess what? People who read books can read more than the two or three books that I will write in a year. So it’s not a bad idea for me to have friends to refer them to so that I remain of value to between books but if the friends do the same thing in return, then we all benefit. And that will grow us all faster. Consider it like a small private consortium. 20 authors who are all trying to sell a few books a year to their own group and to the other 19 authors’ followings in the group, In addition to whatever other marketing they do. It’s a much better springboard and it makes a lot of sense since these readers are being referred to you from someone they already know and like.

      Let me know what you end up doing. I’ll subscribe to a newsletter if you make one!

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