A Perfect Launch Team Member

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Does this sound like a perfect launch team member to you:

Someone who reads your book over and over again, each time helping with thoughts, corrections, and ideas, bringing out the best in you. They tell everyone they know about your book, they write reviews on every Amazon site, on Goodreads and they write an independent review. They buy your book with their own money, they share every Tweet Facebook post you make about it and they email every single person on their email list.

Well, if you do you then you may just be right. Except, that if you know someone like this then it is probably your granny. Which is lovely, but the reality is that not only are their few people like this available to you but believe it or not, this kind of person can also work against you. If they over do it, never shut up about your book or cover their entire social media in it, then people can so easily get sick of it, stop following her, and at the very least roll their eyes and move on, without even clicking on your book never mind buying it.

So what then makes a second best launch team member? Someone who at least buys, reads, and writes a review on Amazon and Goodreads right?

Well sort of. The reality is that we need ALL kinds of people on our teams! I learned the hard way that not everyone has a “certified” enough Amazon account to write a review. And not everyone has the time to proofread and not everyone has the social media links to spread it. If people love you they will do their bit, but it is most likely that their bit will be quite different to the next person. And you need them all. I had to learn that they all had something different to offer. Even the people who have no time, expertise or capacity to do much, they at least downloaded my book on “free” day and it counts as a sale.

And that is why you need numbers and you need them from far and wide. Only a quarter will leave a review, a small handful will finish a proofread, and tiny proportion will even tell their friends. Keep going, keep digging, and round up those friends … but don’t expect too much from them and don’t forget that they are doing you a FAVOUR!

Where Jennifer hangs out: Blog | The Mighty | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads | Amazon

@JPeaSmith
“Here she comes, running, out of prison and off the pedestal: chains off, crown off, halo off, just a live woman.”  ― Charlotte Perkins Gilman
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Author Stage or Author Platform

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Many people who are new to writing are doing exactly what we are all advised to do: Build an online presence, an online platform, and get the word out there. We have to sell ourselves, and we have to sell our books. But the biggest question I get asked over and over again is how do I get people to come to me and listen to what I have to say. This is the hardest part in some ways, but in other ways, I think it is actually the easiest, but you do need a few key ingredients: Humility, Patience, and Community are just three of them but believe me, you can’t get far without ALL of them. Here is why:

The first mistake we make is to go out, buy the wood and build ourselves a little stage in our back yard. We stand on it and wait for the crowds to come. It is heart-wrenching when no one turns up! So we fork out the cash for advertising, we stick posters on the lamp posts, and we tell all our friends. Some of them come, but still, there is no crowd and few of our books sell. It feels so unfair.

The problem is that many of us build a stage before we build a platform. Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook are all great tools, but they are just that, they are tools. They are the loudspeakers and the flyers and the billboards. But the problem is that they are lost in millions upon millions of almost identical loudspeakers, flyers, and billboards. At one end we have a FABULOUS product (aren’t all of our books going to be the next best seller?), and at the other end we have the advertising, but there is nothing in between. There is nothing to connect us and make us stand out. Even our STUNNING front cover is lost among thousands of other stunning covers!

So in comes humility and patience. Humility to ask someone else if we can perhaps have a seat at their table, to get to know them, and to one day accept a teeny corner of their stage. Over and over people tell me that they don’t have the time to meet people, to get to know them before they ask for help, or even then, that they don’t want to stand on someone else’s stage! They want to stand on their own stage. I get that. We all want our own stage to shine, but we can’t force people to come or to buy.

Another option perhaps is to build your own stage by all means, but for the first season, don’t stand on it other than to introduce our guests. Invite others to come and speak on it instead. Bring in people who you know others would love to hear. It is still your stage. But if you spend a season being the host, welcoming people, giving others a voice and a place to stand, then after a while, when people love and trust you, they will turn to you and ask you ” do you also write? I love to hear your voice at the beginning of each show, I would love to hear what else you have to say”.

These things both take time, they both take humility, and they take a whole lot of “paying it forward”. I am not saying it is easy, but for me, it is actually a whole lot easier than embarrassingly standing on a soap box and shouting “PLEASE BUY MY BOOK!” at the top of my lungs all day, every day.

We need to build an online presence and an online platform, but we must be a little careful of confusing it with simply building a stage…

Over the next few posts, I will dig much deeper into these things and answer any questions you have. Please feel free to join the closed Facebook Group on the subject of building ethical launch teams if you would like to ask your questions in a more private space, by clicking HERE.

 

Caught in gun fire!

My husband and I travel a lot. We always have, as young backpackers then as a young family, then with work as we grabbed a bunch of fabulous opportunities around the globe. We are somewhat more settled now, having come full circle and literally emigrated in such a way that we circumnavigated the globe, east all the way until we returned home four years ago, back to Johannesburg where it all began.

Our story is long and complicated and beautiful and painful and I’m slowly trying to condense it into something readable, (even though in many ways our journey has only just begun). We have been through all manner of strife of many kinds and feel as though we are well versed and well balanced in so many areas and that we have collected a healthy respect for people of all kinds, and don’t jump to conclusions or judge.

So this week as we flew into Cape Town for a week of work for him and writing for me, we picked up our little hatchback rental and headed out from the airport for the expected hour or so drive out into the country to our destination. But as we neared our turnoff and saw the Friday afternoon traffic jam, my husband made the snap decision as he often does, to keep driving instead and asked me to quickly consult Mr Google and find an alternative route. The new route was only 2 minutes longer and took us off the next exit and asked us to turn right instead of left. The route was fairly simple with few turns and all major roads, but we were starving so dipped into a side street to find the closest KFC. But we didn’t turn slow down fast enough to make the sudden change, so took the next turn only a couple of houses down thinking that we would just go around the block and come back again.

It seemed simple enough, and we could see that we were in what could be described a “dodgy” area, but as we are adventurous, non judgemental (or try to be), I simply said these people are probably as nice as can be. It was mid Friday afternoon and school was out, the sun was shining, and the heat of the day was already subsiding, ….so the streets were full of people, many of whom were children and teenagers and most of the adults were women. There were balls being kicked, dogs and children squabbling and laughing, and while there were many people around, there were very few cars. The streets were single lane each way without the need for a white line down the middle. It was by no means a major thoroughfare, and the tangle of dead ends that we came upon as we tried to get around a single block confirmed that this was nothing more than people’s homes. It was struggling class suburbia at it’s best from what I could see; salt of the earth, rich in culture, survival at it’s best. There was a part of me that would have loved to stay, and to speak to the woman at the door with the baby on her hip who was laughing with her toddler kicking his ball, to have a meal with the family who were unpacking their meagre groceries from their walk to the local corner store. A thousand or more deep rich stories to be told around me.

But we were locked into this rabbit warren for no more than 2 or 3 minutes as my husband turned the car around and we headed out again the way that we had come in. Our wrong turn had been quiet the first time, but now that we were exiting, with the same people on the streets and the same kids playing with a ball, we heard a couple of gun shots behind us. Two shots fired one immediately after the other, and as we couldn’t actually see anything happening, in the second (or less) that it took to process it, we kind of looked at each other, registered that something had gone down, and for some reason assumed that it was over …and that is was a good thing that we were on our way out instead of in.

But in front of us a police siren started just seconds after the gunshots, and a police car came flying around the corner towards us, obviously heading to the gunshots behind us. It all happened so fast that there is no way that anyone cold have called the police that quickly and we suddenly realised as the second, third, fourth and fifth police vehicles came screeching around the corner too, taking up most of the road and blocking our exit, that something huge was going down and that their war and our exit had collided. We were the only car on the road in the 50 yards or so between the good guys in front of us and the bad guys behind us, the guns started up again and we realised that they weren’t in any way small guns… It also took less than a second to realise that at least two of the police vehicles were SWAT teams in cammo, full body armour and bullet proof protection, face masks, and MASSIVE artillery which was aimed in every direction in front of them.

It didn’t occur to me until afterwards that they had no idea who we were or that we were good guys, so my husband had one guy (hanging out the  doorless vehicle like you see those army guys hanging out of doorless helicopters), lock eyes and gun on him as he came flying around that corner! We had to jump the curb to get around them and as the gun shots kept going for some reason we didn’t even look back. We just floored it and left as fast as we could.

We are still processing everything, and in a country where nothing but the worst of the worst makes the papers and news, the likelihood of us finding out what was going on was slim. So last night we googled the area that we were in, and sure enough there were a number of very small articles on what went down. Here is one of them. I’m pleased to hear that the good guys one, and it doesn’t sound like any lives were lots in the process.

I spent a lot of time thinking about whether or not to write this. I am enormously protective of this country and I do not want to contribute to it’s negative reputation. But on Friday this was my reality and part of my goal in all my writing is to be honest, congruent, transparent and to keep it all real. For me it was a massive lesson that anything can happen to anyone anywhere, that our two worlds had collided and there was nothing that we had done “wrong” and nothing in that neighbourhood that was inherently “wrong”. I still believe that most of those people are good people and I would love to hear all their stories, have a meal with them, and spend some time there.

I was asked only the week before by another family on the expat circuit whether I would recommend this country as a posting for them and my answer remains unchanged; I can’t guarantee anyone’s safety in any country, but if you are prepared to take the risk on being anywhere on this earth and you have the opportunity to live in this country, then I’d grab it with both hands as we have done …

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The Joan of Arc in me…

img_3986-1As most of you already know or have worked out, I am writing my story of my life and my abandonment and abuse, as well as all the many things that I have learnt and am learning along the way. I see a brilliant doctor at the moment and she is the best Psychologist that I have ever had. We see her together sometimes too, and he sees someone else as well. It sounds complicated but it isn’t really, …. we each grew up in deeply confusing and abusive situations and as a consequence we came together in an extremely cliched way… drawn together in our pain and as bad for each other as it gets… the worst combination. But we didn’t know that, and our love for each other, our faith, a gazillion life altering mistakes and a hell of a lot of hard work means that we are at last now breaking the chains that have bound us all our lives …and we are winning. As individuals and as a couple.

I cannot explain to you how proud I am of each of us in completely different ways. In the next few months we are going to be delving into the hard stuff and I will be writing about much of it. It is painful and it is hard, and all the people who broke me were without fail the exact same people who were supposed to love me and protect me, not break me and abandon me and crush my heart soul and spirit…

So today DrA and I discussed the upcoming topics and she lovingly hit me with one of her doozies; one of those comments that for her are probably par for the course, but for me are life changing in ways that are hard to explain…

Today she told me that we need to be careful with me going ahead, that she is worried about me being hurt by the process, and that we need to keep on top of keeping me safe. She said that over the two years that I have been with her, (that’s nearly 100 sessions alone, wow!!!!) she has come to this conclusion. She told me this:

“Because of what happened to you as a child, because it was such an injustice, the little girl became a warrior. A warrior for righteousness and justice and principals.

….It was the only way that she could find a voice, it meant that she survived.

….She became a very effective warrior and she is very accurate. She speaks truth and she stands up for people and against wrong. She became Joan of Arc. A young woman with a passion and an empathy for the downtrodden. I can’t fault her, Joan was wonderful, an amazing warrior … and you Jenn, you are a great Joan.

….But the problem with warriors is that nobody can see the broken damaged person underneath, and worse than that, …warriors get killed !!!

….Do you want to fight for justice or to be seen and heard? You can’t have both at the same time… “

I am feeling so many mixed emotions. There is something hugely complimentary about being compared to someone like Joan of Arc. But more than that there is also something extremely validating about the things that she described in me… but I’m not quite sure that I’m super excited about being burnt at the stake!

Why Read?

The more I have wanted to write, the more I have wanted to read! I have always loved reading,

….but when I started writing my own abuse story for myself, I stopped reading anything else because I wanted my voice to be only my own. I was scared that I would “accidentally” steal or borrow from someone else, and I wanted to be able to say everything that I needed to say and know that it was from my own heart and soul, even if someone else had a similar experience (which I have no doubt many have). And so I stopped reading altogether for a season.

But then I needed a break. I was having nightmares and really struggling with some of the things that I was writing and so I took some time out to read a book that I found lying around and had no idea what it was about…. it was Alexander Fuller’s “Let’s Not Go to the Dog’s Tonight” and I drank in every word. My story is nothing like hers but having grown up in the same era and in the same corner of the globe there was much that I could relate to.

At the moment I am reading Rachel Thompson’s “Broken Pieces” which is completely different to Fuller’s writings but I am soaking in every word of this book too.

Neither of these are my stories, they are their’s alone, so how and why are they good for me? Because they give me permission. When I started writing my story, I wanted it to be pure and raw and “as is”, but I also knew that I had to fit in to a “standard length” novel, and to write it in a way that people will want to read and understand. Which for me was a certain box that I can’t quite explain. But now that I am reading the works of others that inspire me, they have give me permission to be more of myself and less of that “box”.

Far from restricting my own voice, they are setting it free!

Fuller gave me permission to not have to cram my whole story into one book. To stop my story at a really obvious point, and then to move onto a new book for the next part. Thompson has given me permission to describe feelings even if they didn’t make sense to me then or make sense to everyone else now.

Both writers have given me permission to write my story “as is” without justifying anything or having to explain it so that the reader believes me. Neither of these writers judges anyone, themselves included. They state their experiences and simply leave it at that…

There are many other writers who have put words to my feelings, feelings that have been bottled up for decades but without a voice I had no idea how to describe them or what to do with them. They are still my own, but I needed to isolate them in order to deal with them, and deal with them in order to start healing. Then I could start telling my own story, and use my own words that I learnt to find.

Ethical Tweeting? Part 1

IMG_3561Is there such a thing as “ethical social media”?

I am passionate about both truth and community. They may sound like somewhat unrelated concepts, but for me they very much go hand in hand, regardless of what our belief system is. I believe that community and belonging are at the most basic level of our needs, and I also believe that the deepest and safest relationships are created when they are born and sustained in truth. For me personally, I believe that some of the signs and badges of relational truths are Freedom of speech, Respect for each other’s voices, Empathy from each to the other, Equal measures of grace with your truth, and so on.

To me, I believe that truth builds safe communities, and that safe communities foster truth. In this combination we can grow freely as human beings, we can have space to all be different, we can all be “seen”, nurtured, respected…. And I believe this of ALL forms of community. When I think about anything related to betrayal, hurt, bullying, … some of them can be connected to truth telling (done badly) and communities (functioning badly) but none of them can stand beside both truth and strong community… and I’d love yo to challenge me on that one if you can find something.

I totally understand and respect the issues with social media and that bullies can hide behind anonymity, that we need to keep “real” relationships happening instead of only relying on the internet “fake” ones, but I will deeply challenge the concept of which are fake and which are real in a few posts time. Here I simply want to focus on the concept of the depth of our most basic need for both community and truth.

And like it or not, whatever way we each use Twitter, Facebook and so on, we all use them at some level for community. This to me crosses all boundaries, both cultural and religious, and I believe that the need for community is one of the few things that I can find, that is backed up by all view points.

My Psychologist, a staunch atheist, says that it is deeply built into our DNA to belong to our own tribe or community. Deeper even than our most basic survival need for food, is our need for our tribe to survive as a whole. If it is wiped out, she says, then we will be left alone and isolated, and that isolation is the worst thing that can happen to a person, worse even than death. This rings true for me, even to the point where solitary confinement is still one of the worst tortures in prisons and armies.

From a “God perspective” I can’t find anything that contradicts these concepts either, the Bible is filled (to my knowledge) with all manner of things that all point towards building of community and truth. Jesus told us to care for the widows and orphans, that he would prepare a place for us in community in Heaven, that we are not here to judge or condemn each other. Even the old testament  stories of wars and battles, are about survival of our own communities and protecting and standing up for our own tribes.

My mission in life is to encourage, build, and restore tribes and communities (without wars let me be clear!). These concepts are the threads through and the foundations under, almost everything that I write about whether it is about my broken body, my abused and broken soul, or even on sharing my very fledgling journey on social media. I have already been battling with my gut and all that I am learning about social media, as I find a space to build my community, but to stay true to my values of truth and honesty, encouragement and integrity. In the weeks ahead I hope to explore this further and I am excited to share some of the people and places that I have found that already shine like lights in these areas. I am clearly not alone in this mission!

I’m also on TwitterFacebookInstagram and Pinterest too.