Saturday, June 22, 2019

So, we're going to reboot your career

Step one for rebooting your career is NOT querying. I don't want to help you with this stuff; I want you to have already done it.

Step 1: Google yourself
Note the order in which your social media sites appear. I'll start with the first one I see when I google you. And I will google you. 

What I want to see WHEN YOU QUERY is a robust following.
Not 12.
Not 200.
2000. Or more.

There are authentic ways to increase your followers, particularly on Twitter. Just do it. Don't complain to me that you don't want to. I get that enough from my clients who have to do this.

Rebooting your career is largely about telling me you have an audience who want your next book.

Step 2: Check Amazon for your previous titles. 
I look for the number of reviews, and what percentage of the reviews are terrible. I look at the terrible reviews FIRST. If you have ten terrible reviews and all of them talk about price, I don't pay attention.

If you have ten terrible reviews and six of them mention they hated the plot, I pay some attention.

If you have ten terrible reviews and all of them talk about some aspect of the writing or the plot, I pay a lot of attention.

In other words, I try to pay attention only to reviews of your book written by real readers. Six people bitching about how they hated the plot tells me something else is at work (like it was a give away, or someone is targeting you) cause who the hell buys a book if they don't think the plot sounds interesting?

If you've had several books published and none of them have more than four or five reviews, the time to fix that is BEFORE YOU QUERY.

Step 3: Tell me about your mailing list. 
Not how you are going to build one.
The number of people on it, and the open rate. 

Step 4: Who will say nice things about the new book?
Your old blurbs aren't going to help us. We need new people who can be asked for new blurbs on the book.

Don't have those? That means you need to be more involved in the writing community. Rebooting a career will happen ONLY if you have other people willing to buzz about you.

Bottom line:
I can help you reboot your career IF and only if an editor thinks there are people out there who will buy the book. Editors are going to do the same thing I am when I see your query: google you.

Thus, before you query:
1 Robust social media presence
2. Good and plentiful  reviews of your previous work
3. Robust mailing list
4. List of people YOU KNOW will be potential blurb provider

Know too that I need to LOVE your books if I'm going to seriously consider doing a reboot with you. Rebooting is a lot of work that doesn't get compensated. That's not a deal-breaker, but if I don't love your books, it's drudgery. I'm not into drudgery as a rule.

Any questions?


K. White said...

This is unlike anything I've read before, so thank you.

However, my woodland creature's brain is now worried about having to reboot a writing career before I've even booted it.

As a co-worker recently asked me: "Writing and publishing sounds like a meat grinder. Are you mentally ill to want to do it?"

Sometimes I wonder ...

AJ Blythe said...

This is fascinating, Janet. Thank you for posting. As K. White said, I haven't read anything like this before.

From the unpub side of the fence this seems like scary stuff to have to have under your belt. Probably scarier if you are having to have it.

Jennifer Mugrage said...

I second that emotion.

Pericula Ludus said...

As per usual, I got stuck on the first step. Googling myself. I'm an academic. When you google me, you get academic journal articles and textbook chapters, institutional pages and citations.

I research disaster responses and humanitarian logistics, which is all very exciting, but has no apparent link to writing historical fiction. Any author online presence would have to be very, very significant to rise to the first few google pages of my name.

Do I have to pick a pen name? My name is unique, I like it, and don't mind colleagues and students knowing about my fictional forays. But I worry that agents/editors/readers will never find the non-academic me.

Brenda said...

If those old, and meager, credits are written under another name, what then? Do I not list them at all or do I list them and presume that the agent will ask for elucidation if he’s interested?

Colin Smith said...

Just to re-iterate a point, and perhaps calm some hamster wheels: Janet is talking about re-booting a career. If you don't yet have a career (i.e., you are unpublished) then this was not written for you. However, this is useful information to be prepared should you ever find yourself in need of rebooting your career. It's never too soon to build an online presence, find people who will hang on your every word, etc.

AmIright, Janet?

Leslie said...

Pericula Ludus, if you haven't already done so, get a website with your as the URL. If you have any published fiction (like short stories), put links on the home page. If not, maybe just some links to things about historical fiction, to your topic, etc.

Then dive a little into the coding and make sure to put your name is in the title of the homepage and in the metadata keywords. For ex.: Pericula Ludus, historical fiction, [keywords related to your topic]

That should push it toward the top of your Google results.

Leslie said...

Sorry for the extra post, but I just wanted to add that your name should also be on the homepage.

And to clarify, a perfect web URL would be something like

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I know that agents google us. And I know Janet has addressed my concern that came from googling myself this morning some time in the past. However, I didn't worry about it then. There was nothing on me 3-4 years back. Now, there is another writer with exactly my name out there. All my stuff comes up with her stuff. She's younger and well, so very not me. I don't want to lumped in with all the other humans carrying my name. I mean, I'll share my name with a dragon or a really fast horse, but other humans. What to do what to do...

Do I just mention to the agent "I am not THAT other person with my name". I am not much into this social media stuff. It's not good for your mental health so I keep it to a real minimum and to stuff that generally makes people happy. Puppy and cat pictures, talking to other writers, and Liverpool FC. That's it.

Well, crap, my rodent wheel just full-on exploded....again

Miriam said...

So, I love reading this blog but don't usually comment. This really got my attention. Editors are looking to see how many followers I have on Twitter? I'm almost at 800 but just because I follow people doesn't mean they follow me back-- 2000 seems like an impossible number. And as far as getting more reviews on Amazon- how do you manage to do that? A lot of friends and family don't read middle grade...and I've posted on Facebook asking them to leave reviews which made me feel desperate afterward. And, by the way, it didn't work. It seems if you already had a lot of reviews on Amazon then you wouldn't need the career reboot anyway, right? So where do you find these random people to read and review? Even if the reviews are good, if you're in this position it means you don't have readers. So if anyone has advice for how to get more people to follow you on Twitter, review and blurb your books, and help spread the word...I'd love to hear it!

Casual-T said...

Oh, that dreaded social media thing... I have wrecked my brain for years, trying to figure out how to make it work. By now I have all but removed myself from it in frustration (as I type this on an online forum!). As E.M. said, it doesn’t seem to be conducive to one’s mental health. In real life I usually don’t fit in, which also seems to be the case online. Without fail I have the wrong political or religious views, the wrong look, or even the wrong skin color. In the age of identity politics, that’s not a good position to be in.

Also, being a rather private person, I tend to keep my life to myself. Which is vastly different from presenting my work. Since social media supposedly is about “connecting” with the artist (rather than the ART!), I’m, once again, smack out of luck. And with the vast amount of music, visual art, and writing, that’s available online (and gratis), screaming “Look at me!!,” to get people’s attention or have them invest in your work by following or liking, seems next to impossible.

OK, that’s my ramble. I’m crawling back under my rock now...

Dena Pawling said...

Well, I'm not yet published [as a fiction writer], so I'm not trying to re-boot THAT career. But my law firm is currently positioning itself as an expert resource in a specific area of our practice that is currently a hot topic in the news, so in a way we ARE trying to re-boot our professional image in that area. Here's what I'm doing in both areas, related to Janet's four points, in case it might help someone.

1. Robust social media presence

I googled myself. First hit was my twitter, second was my blog, third was one of my flash fiction entries on Janet's blog. Interesting. I googled my actual legal name. First hit was my entry on the California State Bar site. Several hits related to my legal work and articles I've written. I googled the name of my firm. Several hits on different pages of our website, yelp reviews, other legal sites. Not bad.

I post on my blog at least once per week, to keep it interesting and current in the search engines. I try to comment on the blogs of others I know, but I'm not as good at that as I should be.

I retweet interesting and humorous legal and military news. I follow agents and writers and occasionally respond to tweets.

I follow back almost everyone who follows me on Twitter, unless their feed consists almost entirely of advertising or foul language or politics. Once a week I use unfollowerstats and I unfollow folks who no longer follow me.

I have a goodreads account and I try to add new books but recently I've been slack about that. Need to get back on it.

I dislike Facebook and am not interested in Instagram, so nothing working there.

2. Good and plentiful reviews of your previous work

No previously published work of the writing/publishing sort. A boatload of legal briefs [“published” with the court, some are available online], and several articles on aforementioned hot legal topic, one of which was included [with my permission] on the website of a national organization. Advice related to this: write articles, book reviews, etc for your blog or wherever. Increases your exposure, especially if you get a lot of comments, shares, etc.

3. Robust mailing list

I have a mailing list but I haven't sent out a newsletter yet so that's kinda stagnating. Need to work on that. I'm setting up a mailing list for my employer using MailChimp.

4. List of people YOU KNOW will be potential blurb provider

I'm sllllllloooooooowly becoming more involved with writing community. This is hard because day job is increasing almost exponentially [looks like I'm too effective in my efforts there LOL, and I thought I had no time BEFORE this happened..............]. I was recently selected as the newest member of the Operation Awesome team [yay me]. Last week I contributed to a flash fiction piece and posted my intro. This coming Monday will be my first regular post. ACK!

Get yourself out there, meet new folks. Yes it can be a little uncomfortable and none of us “has the time”, but it's been worth it in several areas of my writing life. I've met lots of new folks, some currently published and others at various stages of pre-published. It's been fun and educational.

Good luck!

Timothy Lowe said...

I deleted my Twitter account after a few students tried following me. When I'm not at school, I swear like a drunken grandmother at a Turkey raffle, and there was too much potential for backlash at work. Teachers have been fired for social media posts, and I didn't want to risk one career trying to build another.

So, in the meantime, I will take solace in Janet's earlier post about the writer who owes her nothing other than a good book (she tried to reach out and he had no contact info on the book).

I did sign back up on Twitter under an alias (it's way too addicting). I follow several of you under an alias from Parks and Recreation, my cover art being a particularly hideous mug my son made in art class.

Geri Copitch said...

Miriam - I second your comments about getting friends and family to give reviews on my self-published book. I too have begged, repeatedly, for people who've told me face-to-face how much they've loved my book, to go online and write a review. I've sent emails with the link to the page. It's frustrating.

Kae Ridwyn said...

Stuck in bed with the worst headcold I've had in years - but on the upside, I get to catchup on this blog and even get time to comment!
So I have a question regarding what you wrote on 'Mailing list' - "the number of people on it, and the open rate."
By 'open rate', I'm guessing you mean 'the number of people who open your emails' - but how do you get this information?

Casual-T said...

@Kae... If you use a (free) service like Mailchimp to manage your mailing list(s), you can see the open rate, click rate, etc. in the stats.

KDJames said...

The prospect of having to reboot what sounds like a decent mid-list career is more than slightly horrifying. I'm assuming a reboot like this is due to being dropped by a publisher? Any advice on how to avoid this happening? I suppose items 1-4 while you're still published is a good start.

The top search result for my name is a character in the game Dead of Winter, which I find hilarious (I SO hope she was named after me). Next are my website, my Amazon author profile and my FB page. Somewhere down the line is my twitter link. After that, it's all Kevin Durant and James Harden and LeBron James. *sigh*

Timothy, I'm glad you mentioned your new twitter ID (followed back), as I definitely didn't recognize your ugly mug. ;)

AJ Blythe said...

The thing to remember when googling yourself is you need to use a computer/device other than your own!

Google recognises you as you and will bump your own accounts up the list in the same way it remembers you've googled Felix Buttonweezer so lists the kale farms of Carkoon first when you hunt for info on Star Wars.

Ellie Firestone said...

I'm just wondering whether this would still apply to self-published books that were later removed from sale. When I was younger (as in, 13-16), I self-published a series of children's books with NO IDEA how to market/promote them (not to mention no budget). They got good reviews -- just not a lot of them.

I'm pursuing traditional publication now, and I recently removed my old books from sale. However, Amazon doesn't remove paperback listings in case someone has a used copy to sell, and Goodreads makes a point of never deleting books even if they're out of print.

When you Google my name, my website (which no longer contains any mention of my old books) shows up at the top, followed by my blog and my Twitter. And then ... pages and pages of Amazon and Goodreads hits for my old books.

So now I'm losing my mind because I feel like I shot my dreams of publication in the foot as a young teenager. Any advice is greatly appreciated :)

PS. I have considered switching to a different pen name to have a clean(er) slate, but everyone online knows me by this one. By "everyone," I mean my 1700+ Twitter followers and my 1,100+ Instagram followers. So it's a bit of a dilemma.

PPS. Sorry for how frantic this whole thing sounded -- I just really needed to vent my fears :P

Timothy Lowe said...

Thanks for following the Easter Eggs, KD. I have seven followers now, thanks to you, fine by me since they are the right ones ;)

AJ Blythe said...

Janet can you jump in if I am giving Billie a bum steer please?

Ellie, you certainly don't need to panic over your teen books. No-one is going to hold them over your head, it's just a matter of making sure the right information is out there.

You aren't reinventing your career, because I don't think a teenager who self-published a few books will be classed as having a career. There will be more and more people like this in the coming years. For example, my eldest Barbarian had to self-publish a book when he was in year 6 at school for English. Besides his grandparents and us buying a copy (grand total of 2 sales) no-one else did. But I am sure, despite my best efforts, there are still shadows of that book remaining on the internet.

In your query letter mention in the after-blurb admin that you have those books stuck in cyber caches and can be found.

EG As a want-to-be author, I self-published a series of children's books when I was 14.

Or however that fits into the admin you write.

Are you still writing children's books? Because if you aren't there is even less to worry about - after all, it's unlikely that a reader of your adult novels will look at children's books by an author who happens to have the same name.

If you are still writing children's books then an agent will guide you through the process of how to deal with the lingering references on Goodreads etc. But as long as you are upfront about those books, you will be fine.

And when Janet talks about reinventing your career, she's talking about people who took a break from writing, or had flagging sales and are trying to come back and start over. It certainly doesn't apply to you.

Hope that helps.

AJ Blythe said...

DUH, sorry Ellie. I just realised I called you Billie in the first sentence. That's what happens when you try and comment with a Barbarian in your ear asking if he can play computer games. The level of nagging that goes with that is much like trying to camp under a flock of bellbirds. Drives you mental.

Aphra Pell said...

Social media - the key I think with using twitter happily is finding your people and following them.

For example, I follow the British church architecture crawlers, the illustrated medieval manuscript buffs, the castle-lovers, and a selection of historians, writers, and people prone to posting interesting animals.

I largely post pictures of small furry animals, and retweet interesting historical stuff.

What I don't do is follow back for the sake of it. I follow people who post stuff that will add interest to my timeline, and people I feel in a community with (e.g. I followed most reef denizens I know of because we all belong here). Yes, that costs me followers, but its for two reasons:

- following too many people gums your feed up with stuff you may not be interested in, and tweets you want to see get lost.

- numbers aren't what matter - engagement is. If someone follows just for the followback, chances are they aren't that interested in your content so won't engage (and if they are following thousands of people to get thousands of followers, probably won't even see it).

Ellie Firestone said...

Thanks, AJ! I really appreciate your suggestions. I write YA now instead of children's books, so it's kind of different? Definitely not the same audience, anyway. Feeling a bit less panicked now!

Sam Mills said...

I've seen other people in this situation use initials for fiction and full name for nonfiction, or add a middle initial to fiction byline, or really any simple change to keep the names linked but Google-different.