Is Yours a Luke-Warm Sea?

img_1061What breaks my heart are brands (authors & others) who don’t succeed, not because they have no support, but because they drown in a sea of luke-warm support. An army of people who sign on in order to “be kind“, to “boost their numbers“, to “see what it’s like” and who all assume someone else is doing the beta reading, the reviews, or standing on a soapbox down on the corner. And when every single one of those people assume that everyone else is at the epicentre of the campaign… no one is!

We, therefore, need to have some committed Brand Ambassadors who volunteer, hold those posts, and do so proudly! Some people who totally get that they are “it”. That the buck stops with them. The rest of the crowd are great because a portion of them, either intentionally or otherwise, will still do bits and pieces here and there, and that is vitally important as well. But the people in the middle, those who have your back, can make or break us. They are the dozen or so disciples who will pass a word on, tell a friend, chat about our brand with passion, and it is them who will be our greatest allies.

They are the dozen or so disciples who will pass a word on, tell a friend, chat about our brand with passion, and it is they who will be our greatest allies. These people, are our Tribes. Our Brand Ambassadors. Our Heroes. Our Village.

I am building a tribe. We are about a dozen and we all believe in each other. Our purpose is not to review. Our purpose is to build a tribe and have each other’s backs. When each of us launches, the rest of us shout about it. We multiply the voices, we speak on each other’s behaves. We point to the one in the spotlight.

Who is your Tribe?

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Where you can find and follow Jennifer:

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@JPeaSmith

How Do I Tell Them Their Writing Sucks?

IMG_2074How do we support fellow authors when we feel their writing is not of a standard that we would be proud to share?

Today’s question is a lot more sensitive than usual as none of us wants to hurt the feelings of fellow tribe members. But the reality is, we come up against this problem all the time, and we need to put it on the table fully and purposefully if it isn’t going to become the elephant in the room very quickly! Ultimately it will only going to get bigger, and we need to clean up all that poop! So let’s sort it out now before it settles in.

I am no expert on this subject and I find it extremely difficult to tackle. So I’m just going to throw out some thoughts on this one, and hopefully, you can all build on it?

First and foremost I want to stress that being given the opportunity to read and review and critique the work of another author is a huge honour and one that we need to be very very careful with. This is sacred space we are treading on, and no matter what we do, feel or say, we need to tread with a massive dose of humility and an even bigger dose of grace! Anything short of that is always going to go badly!

Here are some real-life examples:

I once read an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of a book which from page one was filled with errors. I would have put down the book immediately but I had offered to read it for a friend and didn’t want to let her down. So I read a few pages more to see what was going on and soon realized that there was a beautiful story underneath there and that without the errors, it could be a success. So I put on the most humble hat I could find, wrote her a carefully worded message which was the least accusatory or judgemental that I could possibly write, and apologized profusely for being the bearer of bad news.

But I told her straight out, that I saw great potential in her story, and that I also saw some quite bad mistakes. I shared with her that in my own personal, totally subjective opinion, the mistakes appeared to me to be simply a translation issue (the book had been written first in a European language) and I gave her some advice on how to fix them.

I went to bed worried, but needn’t have. I woke the next morning to a beautiful thank you message, and over the next few weeks we put our heads together to come up with a solution. She sacked her translator, postponed her launch by a few weeks, and we combed through that manuscript over and over again. She ran it through Grammarly time and again, and I cheered her on from the sidelines every step of the way.

It was a great honour for me to be a small part in that and loved watching her beautiful story emerge!

Here is another real-life story:

I bought a book that looked great, and while it was a much heavier story, with all the things that I am passionate about (abuse, survival, tribes and so on), there too was an amazing story in there. The author wrote in a way that I felt brilliantly walked that very fine line between laying bare the truth of unspeakable abuse without having to go overboard and become gory or voyeuristic. She somehow kept the integrity of the abused child and later adult, without shying away from the horror that she endured.

But I also found the story a little jarring. Instead of building through to crescendoes and solutions and resolutions which built slowly and unpacked over time, the story moved from beautifully written tragedy to beautifully written tragedy with very fast solutions in between which came out of nowhere. I wanted to know how those solutions evolved and came into being, how trust was built and I wanted to live with the main character through her fear of failure with so much on the line. I wanted to rejoice with her triumph but it was a triumph that I couldn’t connect to as the reader was not taken on that particular journey.

Again it was my personal perspective opinion on the story and it was very subjective, but I wanted to share my thoughts with the author in the hope that they could take her writing to the next level. I still believe that she has huge potential as a world-class author, but that this potential blind spot could hold her back for some readers.

Her response was not as welcomed as the other author and she told me I was wrong. I have no doubt that I am wrong, who am I anyway, and it was just my opinion. But it laid out for me the question of how do we navigate this space of sharing our opinions and helping? I was honest with both of them and had completely different results.

And in both cases I believed in the authors and would read ALL of their books and be a huge Brand Ambassadors for them for the rest of their careers if they would learn from what I see as their potential blind spots.. I am not the boss of how successful anyone is, but I do follow authors I can get behind totally, but don’t want to read books that leave me feeling as though it could have been so much more.

Then again what would have happened in each of these 2 cases if behind their meagre blind spots, there wasn’t an amazing author there? What if those stories were boring or badly written, or mechanical or going nowhere no matter what efforts and “fixes” were thrown at them?

I invested in those stories and those authors because I LOVE their work. But there have been others where I simply don’t. Is it me? Is it them? Who am I to say. But I simply don’t have the time, energy, or know how to help them in any way that I can see will make a difference, and it’s best to walk away. Isn’t it?

So my only thoughts and experiences come to these conclusions:

  1. If I have the honour of reading anything for review or critique, then I do so remembering that this is sacred ground I have been given the honour of walking on. I need to treat it as such.
  2. If I LOVE it and it is perfect (how often does that ever happen LOL), then fabulous for me and fabulous for them! Woohoo!! I become their number one fan, write a great review, and become a brand ambassador for them FOREVER!  ….YAY!
  3. More likely, however, is that especially for a relatively new author (less than 5 full books under their belt) there will be a few blind spots that they would hopefully want to be aware of. Most authors want to be better and to know how to improve. But again, we are on sacred group here, so all feedback should be given with as much grace and humility as possible.
  4. How the author responds is about them not me. If I have been constructive, humble and gracious, that is all I can do. If they don’t want anything more then that’s fine and I honestly do feel for them as no one likes “constructive feedback” so they are entitled to feel a bit yuck. But whether they use that feedback as a stepping stone or not is up to them.
  5. If I can’t find the fluent, flowing author and his or her magic in there anywhere, regardless of mistakes big or small, then this is where I struggle the most. It doesn’t mean a fabulous, incredible author isn’t in there, or that their work is not magnificent, but some writing styles don’t speak to me, some stories I cannot relate to, some language grates on me rather than sings to me, and sometimes I can’t even unpack it that succinctly that I can put my finger on the “problem”. It’s just for me and that’s the end of that.

What are your experiences and solutions to this dilemma?

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Where you can find and follow Jennifer:

YouTube |Blog | The Mighty | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads | Amazon

@JPeaSmith

 

 

Brand Ambassadors!

What is a Brand Ambassador?

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Let me start by telling you a bunch of facts which I seriously dislike but cannot do anything to change. They are like gravity… they happen whether I want them to or not, and they don’t just happen now and then… they just are!

1: We are moving to an era of information exchange. The big guys (Am8zon, Face8ook, and Goo8le) all gather massive amounts of information ALL the time through their “free” services. Many of the smaller social media sites are owned by the three major big guys, and they share info as well. They do this not to control us, but to direct the MASSIVE advertising dollars they get, our way. They get money from advertising but also from selling the information they gather from our habits to other major organizations. For the most part, this is a blog for another day, but for now, I just want us to remember that they have a very strong agenda and if we try to work against it, we will fail, and fail miserably.

2: They are also moving (in case you hadn’t noticed) to paid promotion. A decade ago, EVERYTHING we posted could be seen by ALL our Face8ook friends. But as the sheer numbers grew, less and less appeared on our screens and many of our friends whom we would love to see fell between the tracks. Now all the social media platforms have moved to the model of showing about 10% of posts to newsfeeds. This is for two reasons. The first being the assumption that most posts are boring rubbish, the second being that if the poster wants more people to see his/her post, they should pay for it! Even then, when you pay to “promote” or “boost” your post, it never gets to even 50% of your followers!

3: The only posts which get any level of attention without being paid, are posts which are actually newsworthy. So if I post something and the 10% of my followers see it but move on, then it disappears into the oblivion of 90% of posts. However, if my friend Joe comments on it, then it gains “newsworthy” points. And if 4 other people comment on it, it gains more “newsworthy” points. All the big guys guard their algorithms very closely and no one has access to the details, however, one way or another, whether I pay for my posts to be shared more than 10% or not, they are going to go nowhere unless they gain a huge amount of “newsworthy” points. Things that “go viral”, things that “trend” are the posts with the highest “newsworthy” points. They could be because someone famous posted them, but more often than not it is because the public likes them.

4: “Newsworthy” points are measured not by “likes” thanks to Click-Farms and Like-Farms, so no matter how many Followers like your post, they gain no traction AT ALL unless people start commenting and sharing. So please understand this clearly; by someone commenting and sharing, my post gains “newsworthy” points, so it is not just about their share being to their audience (which is good too), but it also means that MY followers will more likely see it. It will appear on 20% or even 30% of my Followers newsfeeds, instead of the 10% it was allocated when it first appeared. I can have a beautiful page, I can put up fabulous things, but I NEED newsworthy points.

5: How to get newsworthy points?

  • Share and comment on (and from) OTHERS pages. So many people fuss about having nothing to post on their author pages. But if your newsfeed is filled with the fabulous and beautiful posts from famous authors and great quotes and beautiful pictures, then you are likely to share things that are newsworthy and you will gain those points too. So make sure that on your “see first” settings, and your “see all posts” settings, you Follow people who’s info and posts you are proud to add to your page. You only get a handful of “see first”s, so choose them wisely! It takes 30 seconds each morning to open your newsfeed, comment on 5 posts and share 3 posts. Even if you never post your own stuff, or anything else, your page will be full, active, busy and people will want to see what you are sharing next!
  • Have your own posts that people WANT to comment on. You do this by having great stuff on your wall (as above), but you also get this by sharing lovely pictures and interesting blog posts etc of your own. As I said, if you aren’t confident doing that, then just do the above, but if you can some stuff to add too, then great (I’ll do another blog on those details later in the month too).
  • You need to have a handful of BRAND AMBASSADORS! You get no “newsworthy” points if no one comments or shares.

It is so easy to go to bed every night feelings sad and hurt. You posted stuff, good stuff, and no one saw or cared. The reality is, that it didn’t appear on 90% of your followers newsfeeds, and that is never going to change without brand ambassadors.

6: A Brand Ambassador in my own words and understanding, is someone (preferably not your granny) who believes in you. Who believes in your products (books, causes etc), and who shares and comments on YOUR POSTS for you. They have your page on their “see first” and “see all posts”. It can happen organically but it is way more effective if they are deliberate and if they do the same things but in slightly different ways. For example. I often post a blog post and get a handful of beautiful private messages about it. I LOVE that and it makes me feel like I’m on the right track. But when anyone at all stumbles on that post, there are no comments, no shares, and they assume it’s a dud and won’t even read it. Yet if those private messages had been placed on the comments instead, the post would gain “newsworthy” points and appear on more newsfeeds, the encouraging comments would make another handful of people want to stop and read it for themselves, and the shares would help them to get more eyes in general… The same encouraging comment can privately do NOTHING for me, or it can leapfrog my post to the next level. A brand ambassador gets that.

So two things from this:

  1. If you want a full, rich social media presence, then be a brand ambassador for the people and pages you feel proud to share, and comment and share their stuff! Fill your page with newsworthy stuff, so people want to come and see what you are sharing next.
  2. Ask a handful of people who already love and support you, to be your brand ambassadors! They will have YOU on their “see first” and “see all posts” setting and each day will interact on your posts so they move to the next level.

Where to get brand ambassadors? What tribes do you belong to? Read THIS blog I wrote yesterday about tribes and villages… this is where you will find your strongest brand ambassadors!

Here is the One Stop Fiction Launch Teams closed Fac8book group that I co-run, where we are building tribes and gathering brand ambassadors like mad!

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Where you can find and follow Jennifer:

YouTube |Blog | The Mighty | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads | Amazon

@JPeaSmith