You Don't Have to Be Anonymous Anymore

There is one inescapable and undeniable fact in the world of book marketing and sales, whether you’re talking about indie or traditional publishing.

Readers may not buy a particular genre.

I’m not sure readers even buy titles.

Readers buy authors.

Check out the covers of blockbuster books in either bookstores or on Amazon. The name of the author – John Grisham, James Patterson, Danielle Steele, Tom Clancy, and James Lee Burke, to name a few – are at the top of the book in the same large type that The New York Times has reserved to announce the end of the world.

In much smaller type, down at the bottom of the cover, almost as an afterthought, is the title.

Every book needs one.

I guess this book does, too.

But what we’re selling is the name of the author.

And you sit there worried because you have bled words all over three hundred pages, have a damn fine book, and are working in the shadows of anonymity.

When I say that readers don’t worry as much about genre as the author, take a cold, hard look at Sandra Brown.

She was a romance writer. She sold millions of romance novels.

When mystery novels crawled to the top of the best-selling heap, Sandra Brown took a sharp left turn and began writing mysteries with a steamy romance or two thrown in for those who preferred love and sex to vile and violence.

Her readers didn’t care. Millions made the switch right along with her. To them, whatever Sandra Brown wrote was exactly what they wanted to read.

And that brings me to Twitter. Twitter has become the bane of my existence.

All of us who are indie novelists these days probably wonder, after awhile, if Twitter is really worth the time it takes us each day. Sending tweets. Retweeting tweets. Jumping on Triberr and tweeting ad nauseam about the blogs of everyone else in your Tribe.

It’s a process that never seems to end. We sit in the darkness, stare at a blank screen, and have no visible or analytical proof that anyone ever sees the tweets or even cares that we went to the trouble of tweeting about our books, their books, your books, everybody’s books.

It can be a disheartening and disappointing darkness of the soul. However, I believe that we are in a burgeoning independent publishing environment where every tweet counts. It is the one dynamic and narrow focus way we have to introduce our names every day of our lives to thousands of potential book buyers who may ultimately decide to purchase and read what we have written and consigned to Kindle or Nook or some other eReading device.

For example, I am fortunate to be a member of Bert Carson’s Tribe on Triberr, and he has a cast of loyal, diligent, and dependable tweeters. Together, we have a reach of more than 140,000 followers on Twitter, and each tweet from each member goes out ten times a day. So, in reality, I have the chance to potentially have my name seen at least 1.4 million times each day.

But is it doing me any good?

I don’t know, but I’m willing to tweet, wait, and find out.

Jack Paar

I am reminded of a friend of mine, Dale Remington, who served as producer for the old Jack Paar Show on NBC television. For those of you far too young to remember the late 1950s and 1960s, Paar invented late night talk show television. He was host of The Tonight Show long before Johnny Carson. He could launch a performer’s career or axe a career with a single word. Every young musician and comedian’s dream was to make an appearance on the Jack Paar Show. It might be the end. Then again, who knew what might happen when the curtain rose?

Dale told me that he was working Summer Stock Theater in Pennsylvania when The Jack Paar Show was on its seasonal hiatus. He saw a young actor in a dramatic role who, he thought, just might be the funniest man he had ever seen.

Backstage, he kept the cast laughing. During rehearsals, he kept the cast laughing. He was, Dale said, a comedic genius who needed and deserved a national break. His name was Shelley Berman.

Dale Remington returned to The Jack Paar Show in September, and, as always, the cynical host immediately came knocking on his door. “Who are we gonna have on this week?” he asked.

Shelley Berman

“How about Shelley Berman?” Dale said.

“No,” Paar said. “Never heard of him.”

Next week, Paar knocked again, as always, and asked, “Who are we gonna have on this week?”

“How about Shelley Berman?”

“No,” Paar said. “Never heard of him.”

This went on week after week after week after week …

And one Monday, Paar stuck his head in the doorway and asked, “Who are we gonna have on this week?”

“How about Shelley Berman?” Dale said.

Jack Paar snapped his fingers and smiled. “Yeah,” he said, “I’ve heard of him.”

Shelley Berman took the stage. He grabbed the microphone. He told one story. And history was made. Shelley Berman became the hottest funny man in the country and the first comedian to ever appear at Carnegie Hall.

Jack Paar didn’t make him funny.

Berman was always funny.

Paar simply gave him a chance one night because, deep down in the recesses of his mind, Jack Paar remembered his name.

I keep thinking that, sooner or later, Twitter can have the same impact for today’s indie authors.

Keep your name out front. Over and over. When you think it’s no use, and you’re tired, and your books aren’t selling, and you’re probably tweeting into dead air, take a deep breath, square your shoulders, and do it again.

As author Richard Bach said, “The professional writer is the amateur writer who didn’t quit.” And one day book buyers will snap their fingers, smile, and say, “I think I’ll buy that book. I’ve heard of the author.”

Tweet. And tweet again.You have a way to reach a lot of people day after day.

You don’t have to be anonymous anymore.


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