TotWW-Vol1I recently talked about how I was in process of making changes to how I work, the things I need to do to succeed, and so on. Lately, I've been hard at work on the Witch & Wolf series. Blood Diamond released on Friday. On July 14, the first of the Tales of the Winter Wolf short story collections will go on sale. July 31, August 12, and August 28 will see the other three volumes of the collection launch.

I am hoping in mid September, I will have Volume Five ready for sale as well.

At that point, I will begin working on novels again. I really want to finish Project Zeta, which is my space opera destroy-Earth-with-Volcanoes story. I'll be working on short stories while working on the novel, as I really enjoy the Tales of the Winter Wolf set. I have a lot of stories to tell about Richard and Nicolina, so I expect at least several more volumes following the ones I've already written.

Here's the thing: I want to succeed as an author. That means I have a lot of work ahead of me. It means I have to (somehow) avoid giving up due to all of the frustration associated with my career choice.

It's a hard job. I want to tell stories others will enjoy. The problem is this: I need to make enough money to support my household.

It's an issue every self-published and traditionally published author faces. There are millions of books out there. There are millions of readers, many of whom purchase (and consume) many books each year.

The trick is finding them and forging connections and relationships with them. This is something I'm terrible at, for several reasons.

The most notable reason is my love of writing. I'm so busy writing more stories that I often vanish for days at a time. My nose is inches from my laptop while my fingers are setting keys on fire as I try to wrangle my latest story into shape. I'm telling stories.

I'm not exactly winning any races finding my magical golden pot of dedicated fans and readers. I heard someone say it takes a certain number of loyal fans, who will buy your book on opening day (or preorder) in order for an author to succeed.

I always regarded it a bit warily, I have to admit. Why? Isn't it just one of those writing rules? You know, the ones experienced authors ignore once they've learned enough about the craft to realize it takes more than just rules (and knowing when to break them) to succeed…

Well, I think they're right.

Right now, I have ten or so super loyal fans and readers who buy my books right away. (Seriously, I don't know who some of you are, but you really brighten my day. For those of you I do know, you know it already–or you should.)

I've heard numbers range anywhere from two hundred to one thousand plus loyal readers and fans buying a book on opening day to give it a hope of success.

To give you an idea, ten loyal fans made Blood Diamond reach 17,000 in the rankings on Amazon on its opening day. That's actually not bad at all! I was really happy and grateful.

Every little sale helps.

But, I need to do better. I need to tell better stories. I need to get my editorial shit together and make sure each book is as clean as I can get it, hunting down errors and fixing them before they reach my reader's hands.

But, I also want to tell stories that engage them and please them even considering the presence of the inevitable mistakes. (I'm human. Haven't quite managed to get over that disadvantage yet.)

So, to try and do this, I've been changing how I work on my writing. Honestly, I want to kick my feet and scream. What do you mean I'm not perfect and good enough exactly as is? That's not fair!!

That's just tough shit for me, unfortunately! I need to do better. (Yeah, you've heard this before.)

So, what am I doing to improve?

Readers and fans might get bored with this part of the post–I'm sorry! (Please stick with me, I'll try to be amusing.)

#1: Improve Self-Editing Skills

I've learned through experience and trial and error that the only person responsible for my editorial mistakes is me.

That means while I have an awesome crew of people helping me, it falls to me to learn how to spot my own errors, to do a better job of cleaning up my story, and to give those helpful, awesome people much, much cleaner and more polished stories.

Yes, the three or four of you who get the raw material for your pleasure, you will still get them for your advance reading pleasure.

But, when you ask me if you can proof the final version, you'll end up with far fewer mistakes to hunt down and find.

#2: Tell Better Stories

I read my reviews. I don't say much or acknowledge them in public often, but I read them. I read what you are writing, and I decide what to do from there. Sometimes it's as simply as acknowledging the fact a reader doesn't like the story. That happens.

Sometimes someone simply doesn't like my writing style. That happens.

But sometimes, you catch things I really need to fix–so I sit down and I start fixing them.

That's how it is supposed to work.

#3: Keep Telling Stories

This is the one thing I do right. I may not be a great writer, but I'm prolific. Writing is what I do. It's a major part of who I am. I need to write. That's all there is to it.

Here's where my confessions come into play.

Last week, before I wrote those posts about hard work, I considered quitting fiction altogether. As some of you are aware, my husband doesn't like my writing career. He acknowledge I work hard, but because I can't meet income standards–even minimum wage–it isn't a job. It's painful for me to admit this in public. I treat my writing as a job.

But without the two hundred plus loyal fans, it's play money. I do better than the average self-published author. My income is generally stable at approximately $400 USD a month. There are bursts if a new release does well. Lately, they haven't. Storm Surge and Winter Wolf didn't do as well as I was hoping they would. Actually, Storm Surge completely flopped, and Winter Wolf didn't come close to making back what I spent on promotional costs.

I don't know if I'm simply not reaching my audience with my promotional efforts or if my stories, simply put, suck. I don't want to believe I tell terrible stories. I want to believe I tell stories worth reading.

But, money matters.

In order to find those two hundred plus loyal fans and readers, I need to tell better stories. Each book needs to surpass the last. Each one needs characters who live on the page. Each one needs to engage you, my fans and readers.

There are a lot of things I just need to deal with.

The hardest part of these little confessions is acknowledging the fact I'll need to just deal with it–the bad luck, the good luck, the doesn't-exist-at-all luck. It's a part of the game.

I don't have to like it, but it is what it is, and I have to deal with it.

So, Readers, Let me Ask you This:

What do I need to change to make you a loyal fan or reader who buys my books when they release?

You're the expert.

Leave a Comment:

Sonja Laughlin says June 27, 2015

I actually am one of those loyal readers, and I bought Blood Diamond as soon as you posted that you released it. I search Amazon a couple of times a month to see if you’ve released anything new. I preordered the Tales of the Winter Wolf books as soon as they popped up. I love everything you write. Your editing is great. I think your biggest problem is getting your name out there. I stumbled upon you by mistake when I was bored and looking for something to new to read. Have you considered a street team?

    RJBlain says June 28, 2015

    I have, many times–I’ve actually put out quite a few calls for people interested in helping build/join one, but I haven’t had any luck getting something together. (Also, thank you very much!!)

    Getting my name out there is definitely the hardest thing to do. I try to urge fans/readers if they really like my books, to go convince five friends to give it a try and if they like, go convince five of their friends! (If only that worked… hah!) :3

    But seriously–thank you!

      Sonja Laughlin says July 2, 2015

      No, thank you for continuing to write even though it has been a struggle. I have several friends who are avid readers. I’ll see what I can do on my end. I’d help you start a street team, but I have no idea how to go about it.

cfc says July 5, 2015

Have you seen Nick Stephenson’s Your First 10k Readers? It’s a series of 3 free video tutorials on promotional techniques for ebooks, mainly focused on search engine optimization but also touching other issues. I haven’t published anything yet, so I can’t vouch for how well it works or whether the information may be more basic than it seemed to me, but it all made sense and seemed like really good info. It does get just a little bit scammy-feeling at the end — all of the sudden he’s “just about” to release a premium version of the course that will be available “for a limited time only”, which came across as total sales bullshit (unless, by some slim chance, I really did just happen to signup the week before he released it). I didn’t signup for the premium stuff, but the free videos seemed like they’d be super-helpful. Might be worth checking out.

    RJBlain says July 6, 2015

    It’s (mostly) a gimmick to get people to sign up for a mailing list. (I approved the comment with the link removed simply so I could reply.) The value for him is getting people to sign up to his mailer, which is probably impossible to get off of once you’re signed up for it. Is the information any good? Well, considering his pitch only has one success story… I have my doubts.

Jesse Lunsford says July 17, 2015

This comment will likely be different from what you expected to get but hopefully it will still be helpful. I am not a loyal reader. In fact, I have not read any of your books yet. I came across your blog while searching for some writing inspiration for myself. Having said that, after I finish this post I will be purchasing my first book of yours. The reason for that purchase is two fold. One reason is that I simply like the genre and stumbled across your site because I am prepping to write one of my own in this very genre. The second reason however is what may hold the key to your success. I say may because I am not a famous author and most of my writing has never even been released to the public.

In your heart felt post above, I felt a connection with you and your story. That is what I am searching for when I am searching for independent or lesser known authors. I can go buy a book off the shelf from a well known author right now but never expect to have any connection with that writer. That author does’t want to have a connection with me, only my debit card.

The advantage that you may be able to capitalize on is that you have time to make connections with your readers. You don’t have to hire some company to come in and conduct polls to see what your readers want. You can simply ask them. You can connect personally with your readers and develop loyalty because you write good stories And because you care. Do you think James Patterson is going to chat with me about my feelings on his latest book? I don’t think so.

If you want loyalty in your readers do something different in order to inspire and earn that loyalty. I have a few more specific ideas if you are interested. I am just an amateur writer at this point that is building up his catalog before he ever attempts to engage with his readers. I spent some time answering this question because it is something that is important to me.

Good luck – Jesse Lunsford

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