Sunday, May 22, 2022

Creativity on a Deadline

This week's topic at the SFF Seven is Creativity on a Deadline: How do you balance art with business demands?

Talk about a perfectly-timed topic. I've been working long (looooong) days since The Witch Collector came out in November. I'm also horrible at balancing anything. I'm an overachiever, I'll work myself to the bone, and I have the mental stamina of...I don't know. I have a lot. If my physical energy matched my brain energy, I would be ridiculously fit.

And it's a good thing I'm like this.

We writers have to be writers first and foremost, but also marketers, graphic design specialists, website designers and managers, promotional gurus, executive assistants, top-notch planners, salespeople, publishers, formatters, editors, copy editors... I could go on. It takes a village, and much of the time that village is one lone person who is ready to run to the hills any moment.

Kidding aside, this gig can be a ton of work beyond the writing itself. There's so much to building a readership, cultivating it, and creating a brand that sells books. It's a lesson in patience, perseverance, and dedication, with many days spent traveling down different avenues that might lead nowhere.

I always knew my work style and work ethic was intense, but until The Witch Collector released in November, I didn't really know how it would translate to my author career.

Now I do. And after almost seven months of being ON for seven days a week, I'm taking a break.

This weekend, I announced a social media hiatus. I'm also training my daughter as an assistant and letting her pick up some slack over the summer so I can focus on final edits of City of Ruin and write some pages on the other stories in the series. She's also a creative writer, singer, artist, and musician and has one semester left in the recording industry program at Middle Tennessee State University. She gets this process, and she knows how I like things done ;) She lives with me and we get along because we are literally the same human, so communication is awesome.

In truth, I needed to unplug more than I realized. It's been a whole 24 hours, and I've gotten so much done while simultaneously feeling the stress leave my body. Having trustworthy hands to keep the social media going and the Etsy store functioning is a life saver. 

What I've learned is that, in the future, even if my current assistant leaves me for Hollywood, taking a break from the business side of things to just WRITE is good for balancing my author life. It's also good for my soul.

Because it's okay to unplug from the mainframe sometimes and just be a storyteller. 

Happy Reading and Writing,


Saturday, May 21, 2022

Top 5 Tips on Building Your Author Platform

As a debut author, I’ve been told that I NEED to establish an author platform now.

But what is an author platform? Well, it’s everything you’re doing online and offline to create awareness about YOU as an author. From the TikToks you’re sharing to the friendships you’ve made with local booksellers.

Anything you're doing to increase your visibility and make it easier for your target readers to discover and connect with you and your books is considered building your author platform.

So why is having an author platform so important? Because it’ll help you target and attract new readers on a regular basis. You’ll be able to engage those readers and, over time, convert them into raving fans that label you as an “auto-buy author” for them. And, most importantly, an author platform will help you build meaningful relationships so you can sell more books consistently.

TLDR; Your author platform will make it possible for you to build relationships with your readers, increase your readership, and boost your sales.

My Top 5 Tips on Building Your Author Platform

1. Define Your Brand

I think the easiest way to define your brand is to answer this question: What do you want to be known for?

Sweeping romances that hurt? Enemies to lovers with spice levels that sizzle? Happily ever afters guaranteed?

Whatever it is, you should know this pretty early on because this is what will help you stand out online.

Bonus List: 4 Simple Ways to Define Your Brand:

  • Are you going to use your real name or your pen name? Pick one and use it consistently.
  • Use one professional headshot that readers can instantly recognize.
  • Remember those little sentence examples I gave you above? Come up with a one-sentence tagline that communicates what makes your books unique.
  • Establish a brand palette that includes fonts and colors that fit with your desired aesthetic.

2. Get to Know Your Target Readers

One of the biggest parts of marketing is knowing WHO you are marketing to! Who is reading your books? Who do you want to read your books? A great way to get to the bottom of this is by knowing your target readers deeply.

Consider answering these questions to get to know your target readers:

  • Who are they? And what do they do for a living?
  • What’s their age, sex, marital status?
  • What books do they like to read? What authors do they love?
  • Where are they most likely to leave reviews?
  • What tropes do they love? What tropes do they hate?
  • Where do they spend their time online and offline?

3. Build and Nurture an Email List

Social media is fleeting in today’s age. You never know when one platform is going to vanish into oblivion for the next big thing… But you don’t have to have that fear with your email list!

While it may seem daunting, growing your email list the right way is one of the best things you can do! Simply choose an email service provider (e.g. MailChimp, ConvertKit, etc.) and add a sign-up form on your website. From there, you should create a reader magnet that incentivizes the reader to sign-up. It’s usually a digital download of some kind (think a novella, a collection of short stories, a bonus chapter from another character’s POV, etc.).

Once you’ve got everything set up and ready to go, decide how often you’re going to communicate to your list and nurture them with non-spammy emails. Remember: You don’t always have to sell!

4. Support Your Fellow Authors

I’m a firm believer of Community Over Competition! I will scream about my colleagues books from the rooftops. Because when you genuinely support each other, good things happen. And, from a marketing standpoint, you’re able to tap into other author’s communities and their readers without coming across as spammy. It's a win-win!

5. Take Advantage of Social Media

Social media can be exhausting. But it's a brilliant way to increase your brand visibility and get your books in front of a large number of people without even leaving the house. (As an introvert, it doesn’t get better than that!).

So how can you take advantage of social media? By creating a feasible marketing strategy that sees you using social media to your benefit, establishing time limits and capacities for content creation, and by hanging out on the platforms that YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE USES.

Think back to tip number two where I mentioned getting to know your target audience. Where do they hang out online? On Instagram? TikTok? What hashtags are they using? (Psst. A great way to reach new readers is through hashtags! Read all about them in this blog.)  

Wherever your audience is hanging out is where you should be.

Remember, building your author platform, growing your brand, and establishing a horde of ravenous readers does not happen overnight. So start now!

Lara Buckheit was born and raised on the Eastern Shore. Her debut novel A REALM OF ASH AND SHADOW releases in April 2023! She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications from Wilmington University, is a 2021 WriteMentor Mentee, an avid writer (and reader) of spice, and one time she met Taylor Swift’s dad. She started writing at a very young age, mostly fanfiction centered around women with swords and men with devilish grins. And she hasn’t stopped since. When not writing, Lara can be found drinking tea, hustling for her day job, reading from her endless TBR pile, or hanging out on her body confidence Instagram. Lara currently lives in Roanoke, VA, with her fiancé, dog, and thirteen house plants named after fictional characters. Connect with her here:

Friday, May 20, 2022

The Secret to Author Platforms

 So you want to sell all the books. Me, too, my friend. Me, too. Heaven knows I've chased my fair share of strategies and secret sauces that led me to one conclusion:  You can spend your life chasing attention. 

You can spend all your time and all of your money on classes that promise to teach you The Secret to selling millions of books. Facebook ads! No! Amazon ads! Tik Tok! Newsletters! (Of surprise to no one - blogs never seem to be on the list of 'The Secret to Selling -- Anything.') But the truth is much harder than any of the 'experts' who can teach you to market your books for six easy payments of special for you today want you to believe. The truth is that platforms can be carefully created and nurtured, but they are also very much a function of how well your stories fulfill reader expectations and of luck. One you can control. The other you can't (but you can help it along slightly.)

Reader expectations are knowable and writers can opt to ignore them or make sure their stories hit them. If you're writing a sex scene in a romance novel, you'll write one kind of scene. If you're writing a sex scene in a horror novel, the sex scene will have a very different feel because it serves a very different function - and you're doing it that way because you know that a horror novel needs to read and sound and feel different than a romance novel.

As for helping luck along, I'd like to tell you to just see Jeffe's post because, yeah. What she said. The very best advertising for your current book is your next book. And the best advertising for your next book is your current book.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

The One Thing an Author Must Do to Expand their Platform

GREY MAGIC is out in audiobook! All three Bonds of Magic books are now live on Audible for your glomming pleasure!
This week at the SFF Seven, we're offering tips for expanding your author platform.

"Platform" is one of those words I'm not terribly fond of, seeing as how it comes from the world of sales and legal wrangling. If you do a bit of digging (but please don't go down that rabbit hole!) you'll find that the term arose in the early 90s, along with the advent and burgeoning of the internet, and originally applied to nonfiction works and proposals. (Jane Friedman has a great write-up on it here.) Nowadays it seems like the term gets thrown about by all sorts of agent, editor, and marketing types in seeking the ideal author for them to make money off of. 

(Note: there's nothing wrong with trad-publishing folks making money off of authors. That's the business model and it can work for everyone involved. I just feel that the 'must have a great platform' folks are more interested in the generating moolah side of things than, you know, books.)

Anyway, as Jane succinctly defines it, an author platform is an ability to sell books because of who you are or who you can reach.

So... not all of us, right? Most authors of fiction sell books because of our voice and the stories we write, not who we are. However! What we write is what reaches people, so who we can reach is within reasonable grasp for a writer of fiction. 

Are you ready for this? The great secret??

Write more books!

Or short stories. Or create games or draw comics. Whatever medium is floating your creative boat at the moment, do more of that!

I know, I know - the answer is always the same. But that's because this is the very best advice out there. The most effective marketing for any author is to create more. The more stuff you have out there, the more people you can reach. 

Seriously, over the years I've seen SO MANY AUTHORS get sucked into focusing on flogging a single work or series to the exclusion of all other efforts. Sure, it can be easy to get focused on wanting a particular work to succeed, and yes, marketing can feel like a clearer path, with lots of vultures vendors out there waiting to take your money with glowing promises of high sales. Writing more stuff is hard.

But creating stuff is why you got into the gig in the first place, yes? So go do it, my friend. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

3 Tips to Build Your SpecFic Author Platform:

 Our topic this week: 5 Tips to Build Your Author Platform

To avoid TL;DR, I'll cut that back to 3 tips prefaced by definition `cause thar be confusion about what exactly is an author platform. If you do a Google search, you might believe it's simply your website, which...uhm, no. While having a website is an element of presenting your platform, an author platform is a marketing term for "sell me on you." In this case, you're not selling your book, you're selling your author persona. Author platforms are essential if you're writing non-fiction because you need to prove your expertise and credibility. In non-fiction, your author platform--at a minimum--will present your knowledge base, your bias, and your voice.  

IMHO, when it comes to genre fiction, an author platform is way less important. Exceptions exist; however, if you're having a discussion with a marketing professional and they ask about your author platform, don't panic. What they want to know is if there is anything uniquely marketable about you that can sell your book. For example: if you're a rocket scientist IRL who actively discusses aerospace engineering on your socials, and you're writing hard-science sci-fi, then that's a relevant differentiator about you versus other sci-fi authors. It can be used to package you and your books in sales pitches to buyers and in advertising to consumers. It's a bit of a mental gear shift for genre authors whose marketing typically revolves around selling the book (or series) not themselves. 

So, what if you're an SFF author who is also a recluse and who eschews social media in all forms? Is it possible to have an author platform? Sure, though without a public persona, you're unlikely to see returns on it. The bare minimum would be a statement in your author bio that establishes your "thing." 

Genre writers don't have to be experts in any field, we can be fans or enthusiasts. 

As long as we have a passion that presents in our public persona and in our writing, then we can build an author platform. It is very much okay to take time to build your author platform. Yes, new authors might feel pressured by a publisher to have one locked down before debuting, but push back on that. If they bought your book without you having a platform it means they're not relying on your platform to sell it. Author platforms are long-haul marketing investments. Other marketing tools have better yields short term, and professionals know it (so don't let them bully you). 

Here are 3 Tips to Build Your SpecFic Author Platform:

  1. Know Your Stories' Themes: This probably won't be obvious to you until you've drafted (not necessarily published, but at least drafted) a few books. Once you can discern your repeating theme, you've got your "thing" that you can leverage into a topic that you incorporate into your social presence. Is bodily autonomy a repeating theme? Where is the issue being raised in the news, in pop culture, in lesser-known niches? Discuss on your socials. Are there other artists whose works also address your theme? Promote them. 
  2. Share Your Inspirations: Playing fast and loose with mythology in your stories? Does the way of the Fey seep into your world-building? What about cats? Fetishes (of the idol or sexual kind)? What attracted you to those influences? Would you consider yourself a student of those inspirations? Do you continue to read about and/or discuss them? Great! Share your sources, discoveries, and thoughts. Solicit input from other enthusiasts or experts. Be a fan.
  3. Keep Learning, Keep Leading, Keep Current: Your platform is a living thing. Neglect it, and it loses its value. That includes your interests and themes, both should show your continuous engagement. Being static doesn't help you. It can, in fact, hurt your platform. It's fine if your interests change--personal and professional growth are good things! Make sure to bring your audience along with you on your journey by sharing what attracted you to the new shiny. Did you do a 180 on a formerly held belief because of new information? Great! Share what changed your mind and how it is/will be reflected in your work.

Saturday, May 14, 2022


Fan Mail is the Best Mail

I'm an ambivert so while I love spending time alone in my writing cave, I also get a lot of energy and joy from meeting with readers and other writers. The annual Passport to Romance event in Bellevue used to be the highlight of my year--even before I got published! But I have some high risk members of my family, so for the last couple of years I have been only attending virtual events like facebook parties and online writer cons. This focus on the virtual has led me to appreciate the ways we can interact and connect long distance. And during that time I have a few really touching, really meaningful reader interactions.

Over a year ago, a reader reached out to me through a note transcribed by her husband, expressing how much my books had meant to her and distracted her during her bed rest. She just wanted to let me know that she was looking forward to the next book, and how my words had given her something to enjoy during a difficult time.

It was a profoundly meaningful moment of connection, for all that was virtual. My words had reached someone who was struggling, and made that struggle a little lighter. As an author, I can think of no better complement, and no higher purpose for my books. To have a note like that land in my inbox, out of the blue, was such a gift.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Have you been a fan of someone lately?

brown table top with a cup of coffee with a foam heart, around the cup is a pair of red Beats headphones and an iPhone resting next to them playing the audiobook The Mars Strain

Number one way to support your favorite author? Tell them you loved their book! Wait…maybe leaving a review for said book-love is the number one—hmm. 

Either way, this week we’re talking about our favorite reader interaction and I have to echo what my fellow SFF Seveners have already said this week: every positive reader interaction is my favorite!

The Mars Strain audiobook came out a year ago. It’s crazy to look back at that fact because it has flown by. It’s also hard to look back over the year and at all the promotion plans that my mental and physical energy held me back from executing. 

When 100% of your release’s promotion rests on your shoulders it can be daunting. Which makes those instances where people go out of their way to reach out, or text, and let you know how much they loved your story or how sucked in they got that they couldn’t stop. 

It’s those comments that lift you up and give a boost of writing energy. If you’re an author—you get it. These are life savers. If you’re not an author, which means you are a reader and we love you, then please never stop yourself from letting an author know or posting a review to shout about how awesome you think a book is. Trust me, when you think of doing it is the perfect time. 

Have you been a fan to someone lately?

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Converting the Reluctant Reader

 Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is our favorite reader interaction. 

Once we get past the fact that ANY AND ALL positive reader interactions are a balm to every writer, then we come to the inevitable truth that the more recent ones spring to mind first. I am so blessed to have each and every one of you out there sending me happy messages about my books. I treasure each and every one, I really do.

But I'm going to pick a recent one that really thrilled me because of the unusual source. You'll see what I mean when you read it, but I can preface by saying this was from a new friend, a guy my age(ish), who bought DARK WIZARD to be nice. He was in town visiting and bought a hard copy to support me and my local indie bookstore. I seriously never expected him to read it. 

Then I got this email:

I, at last, had time to read "Dark Wizard" over the weekend and I was so impressed! 

It's totally not my sub-genre, and would never consider reading the book if someone gave me a plot summary, but it is so well executed and such a page-turner - I was really sucked in. And, despite myself, I want to read the rest of the trilogy. What really amazes me, is that you have such an extensive bibliography - you must be writing very fast - but the quality is so high - no idea how you do it.

Is there anything better than converting a reluctant reader? Not in my book! (lol)