Recipe for Success

Happy Holidays everyone! PJ Sharon here, writing to talk with you about recipes. I’m not talking about my recipe for my fabulous homemade cranberry-pear sauce which you can find over on the Scribe’s savory treats page.

I’m talking about a recipe for success.

I’m a relative newbie to the publishing industry and working hard to figure out the ins and outs of what it takes to succeed in this complex and unpredictable business. What I’ve learned so far I can boil down to this:

 Product + Product Placement + Visibility + Consumer Satisfaction = Success

Let me break this down:

1)      You need a quality Product. That’s easy, right? Write a great book. Okay…easy is a relative term here, but you get the gist. Create a stunning cover, hire a fabulous editor, and put out a professional product. Hard work for sure, but this is a no brainer.

2)      Product Placement refers to getting your work out there in as many sales channels as possible to make it accessible for your readers. As an indie author with little hope of ever seeing my books on a shelf in B&N, I need to have a wide, on-line distribution plan. Heaven Is For Heroes is available on Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, CreateSpace, Books On Board, Good reads, and I’m looking at All Romance e-readers. I have the first chapters of my books available on Wattpad and excerpts on my website as well. Also on the to-do list is to contact libraries and try to get my books distributed to public as well as High School libraries. This is a time consuming endeavor and is on my schedule for the first quarter of 2012 (or when I can eventually afford to hire a personal assistant, hahaha).

Sidebar: There is another school of thought that narrowing your distribution to just Amazon will help to drive your ranking toward the top 100 list faster because all of your sales will be there. I’m of the mind that I want my books to be found wherever readers are, so using multiple distribution channels fits that model.

3)      Visibilty is by far the hardest and probably the most important and laborious ingredient in my recipe. Blogging, tweeting, FB, blog tours, book signings, and generally hoing the book and yourself out to whoever will listen, and doing this without making a nuisance of yourself, seems to be what it takes to sell books. I’m all for working smarter, not harder and I’m trying to gain an understanding of how to not only reach readers but those readers who have purchase power. These are two different animals in the YA world. Teens are reading books, but parents are still the ones buying the books. So although my target audience is teen readers who will say to Mom or Dad, “I’ve got to have PJ Sharon’s latest book or I’ll simply die,” it’s Mom or Dad who is forking over  the cash for said book, and will want to know what they are buying and why they should buy it. Thus, my target audience is also adults, whether they read Contemporary YA or are buying it for the teens in their lives. This is a good thing in that it gives me a broader target market, but not so good in terms of focusing my efforts. I’m still figuring out how a pinch of this and a dash of that will affect my sales in the long run. I’ll keep you posted on what’s working and what’s not.

4)      This leads me to Customer Satisfaction. If the cranberry-pear sauce is too sour or too sweet, or gives you indigestion, you aren’t likely to make it again. Nor will you necessarily trust my next recipe. I think every writer worries that their next book might not be as good as their last book and that with every new effort, they risk ridicule and failure. Artistic angst is like chocolate for the doubt monster. But somewhere along the line, you have to believe that if you work hard and put your best product out into the world, chances are someone will love it. Those are the people who will follow you anywhere and buy all the books you write–your customer who you will work and slave to please, because they are the wonderful people who are supporting your ability to sit down and write another cool story. There will certainly be those people who don’t love your product for various reasons, but as one wise writer once said, “then that isn’t your audience.” Not everyone loves cranberries. However, if I’ve done my job and written a great book, produced a professional product, and made it accessible and visible to readers who want to find it, there should be nothing stopping me from reaching my goal to succeed as a published author.

Join me next week, when I’ll define what those goals are and see if they might be your goals too. Congratulations to Stephanie Queen who won a copy of Heaven Is For Heroes for leaving a comment on last Tuesday’s blog. To further thank my supporters, Heaven Is For Heroes is up for sale for .99 through the end of December. If you haven’t gotten a copy, now’s your chance to get it at a great price! You can order it through Amazon, B&N, or Smashwords.

I’d love for you to share YOUR recipe for success!



24 thoughts on “Recipe for Success”

  1. Great post, PJ! There’s definitely a lot involved in becoming a success as an author, whether you’re indie published or published by a small press, or by one of the “big six.”

    I don’t have any recipe tips to add, but I’m finding the same thing you mention, that it’s not always easy to figure out how to market effectively to both the teens we hope will read our books and the parents, teachers, librarians, etc. we hope will buy them.

  2. I dont have a book (I would love to one day!) but I have just started a blog to help me get used to writing and to keep my ideas flowing and Ive been thinking about similar things. You have to keep active to reach people, spread yourself out across social media and any online communities etc! This post was really informative 🙂 x

    1. Thank you, and welcome to the Scribes! Astute observations. Reaching out to readers and creating a community goes along with that visibility ingredient. Whether we like it or not, staying plugged in is the way to go. Keep up the good work with your social media endeavors and good luck with your writing. Try to write every day and I highly recommend getting in touch with other writers. Join your local Romance Writers Of America chapter to connect with other writers (you don’t have to be writing romance). They have wonderful educational opportunites and lots of support. Stay tuned for more helpful hints here at the scribes.

  3. Thanks, Jo. The target market conundrum is definitely a challenge for YA authors. it isn’t easy to get Libraries to “purchase” books by unknown authors. My experience has been that donating to local libraries and asking readers to recommend the book to their library can help get the ball rolling. One of my readers, Lorelei Buzetta, recommended Heaven Is For Heroes to her library in Orlando, Fl. and they purchased five copies–one for each of their branches. i was so thrilled!

    Getting into schools is a whole other circus act. There seem to be several hoops to jump through. From approaching the school librarian to going through the PTO and then getting it approved by the school administration. And then there are still no guarantees. All of these steps take time and perseverance to achieve. I’ll be tackling this very soon as I think it is well worth the effort. I know several children’s book authors who have had success with dealing with the school system, but high school seems to be a bit different. I have more research to do!

  4. PJ – nice job breaking this down! And the cranberry pear sauce looks good too! I’m in the weeds of editing my next book (The Peacock Tale – available Nov. 29th) to make my product as professional as possible and it is surprisingly hard to do! Every time I look at the proof copy of the book, I find something to change. And of course I’ve been through it a zillion times. At some point (for me that’ll be Sat Nov 26) you just have to say enough. This is a good as I can make it and put it out there. Thankfully, in the Indie Publishing business, you don’t need years of lead time once you get to that point, just a few days. Happy Thanksgiving!

    1. Thanks, J. I hear you on the “enough is enough” front. As writers we are constantly in edit mode. I do find it helpful, however, to have others look at my proofs. Our own eyes can never pick up all the errors. For On Thin Ice, I had my regular editor go through it and then hired another editor who found tons more great and easy fixes for me to make. It was well worth the three hundred bucks in my opinion. I’m uploading to Createspace today and hopefully will have my proof copy back next week. I’ll only have a few days to review it before I have to do my final upload, but I suspect I’ll still be tweaking. It never ends, does it?

  5. Great blog. Some books I’ve read lately, I’m almost positive, it never started out the way it is submitted. Over editing is a problem. After so long, aren’t we looking for a problem just so we have something to fix and end up still editing at something we no longer recognized? Thanks for the great reminder to stay on the road we should be on.

      1. That’s what a good editor is for. In my opinion, they are there to help you write the best book you can. If it starts to feel like it’s no longer your story, then Houston…we have a problem.

    1. Thank you, Doree and welcome!

      I just pushed send…to CreateSpace. This was followed by a message from my editor who thought i got the story just right. You gotta’ love a happy editor. If he says it’s cool, then who am I to argue? We’ll see what the proof copy shows. Usually what happens for me is that once I see it in print, I can infuse a little extra punch into an emotional scene or find an easy spot to drop some monumental peice of wisdom at the last minute. Those extra layers seem to be what make the book shine, I think. One of the benefits of indie publishing is that we can always go back and fix or add if need be.

  6. Thanks Patti. If this post was helpful, you should stop by Jennifer Fusco’s blog, Market Or Die. Great minds must think alike because her blog today is about 7 things authors need to do to be successful. She breaks it down a little differently, but is right in line with what I said here. Her marketing genius is rubbing off apparently:-)

  7. Great advice, Paula! It’s very difficult to find just that niche that works for you — blending things in just the right way for optimal success. It looks like you’re doing great. Thanks for passing along what you learn. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Rhonda. If so many wonderful indie authors and marketing people (ahem–Jennifer Fusco) hadn’t taught me and paved the way, I’d be lost for sure.I figure there’s no better way to return the favor than by paying it forward.

  8. I just want to write a book. I don’t want to have to worry about anything else. Guess I’d better either suck it up and get on board with the recipe.or … suck it up and get on board with the recipe. No reason to think my journey will be any less work than anyone elses’.
    Great blog.

  9. LOL, Kathye. I scream that over my first cup of tea and the two hundred e-mails rolling into my inbox every morning. I JUST WANT TO WRITE A BOOK!

    I had no idea that being a published author would mean that most of my time would be spent doing everything but writing the next book. I know at some point, I’ll find a way to manage and balance it all, but it is a bit overwhelming at first. That’s one of the reasons I’m sharing all of this information with all my writer buddies. I think there should be conferences just for marketing and promoting for writers so people will have a clue about what they are getting into when they do get published. Also, it might be that knowing what is involved would help writers to see their goals from a new perspective. Maybe, becoming published isn’t really what they want after all if it involves half their time on social networking and marketing strategies. It would be good to know that before you sign a contract, right?

    There’s nothing wrong with writing for pleasure. not everyone is going to be happy running the business side of being published. But if you’re beating your head against a wall trying to “break into” the traditional publishing world, you are already investing a lot of time and effort into reaching the goal of being published. Just realize that once you get there, the hard work is just beginning, so make sure it’s what you want. On the indie side of things, I realized that once I didn’t have to write query letters and hunt down agents and editors, I had the time I needed to do other things like writing and promoting my next book. I liked the forward momentum of that as opposed to constantly feeling like I was at an impass.

  10. Oh my gosh, Linda. Thank you, but you should see my work space–piles everywhere! I am constantly taking two steps forward and one step back to regroup and re-organize. There is way too much to think about to be as put together as I seem, LOL

    Looking forward to a few days of R&R. it was good to send the book off to the printer today. It’s nice when it’s out of my hands for a while. Then I can focus on getting organized for the next big push. It really is like birthing a baby!

    Happy Thanksgiving.

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