A Year in (the) Rear-view – New Bayou Books
I had a kind of epiphany this week, triggered, in a way, by something from last week’s blog. It involved the word “highfalutin”, which I’m pretty sure I’ve never actually uttered or written before or since. But the actual bit of clarity I had–which relates to how we’ve been describing the mission of New Bayou Books so far–is not important, for now. What I want to talk about now is the reason I’m not sweating this . . . call it a calibration error . . . this mistake I just realized we’ve been making. I’m not worried, because we have time.
So far, I haven’t made any particularly brilliant decisions in the standing up of New Bayou Books. Conceiving of the idea in the first place is as close as I’ll ever get to genius, but really that’s about it. But if there’s one exception to this consistent lack of entrepreneurial prescience on my part, it’s been the decision to allow for plenty of runway time before we launch in October.
And that’s the lesson for this week: start getting out into the world long before you need to be good. For New Bayou Books, that’s October. Actually, 1 November, to put a finer point on it. If you’re in Lafayette, Louisiana on that date, you can come to the Blue Moon Saloon and help us celebrate the official launch of the company on All Saints Day. We’ll also be celebrating the sale of our second book, which is not-coincidentally called All Saints Day of the Dead.
So, time. That’s what I want to talk about. Time to experiment and adjust. Time to improve. Time to learn. Time to write. Time to gain confidence. Let me take a few minutes for each of those points to tell you how I am trying to use time to my advantage, so that, by the time it really counts, I’ll be ready.
Time to Experiment and Adjust. For one thing, I’m a middle aged dude who still actually likes to listen to CDs. Yep, that’s right. Compact Discs. I still have a CD player, I still buy CDs, and I still refer to “albums” and I still listen to the whole record from start to finish. Given this new information, you might not find it hard to believe that I really don’t know much at all about social media. In fact, I didn’t know shit about social media until very recently. But I’m actively learning how to use the platforms to get the word out about New Bayou Books and more importantly, to engage with interesting people. As of now, I think the New Bayou Books Instagram account has something like 14 followers. We have work to do, but since our first book doesn’t go on sale until August, we have time to do that work.
Time to Improve. Take our mailing list as something I really need time to improve upon. I remember being pleasantly surprised maybe four or five weeks ago to discover that we actually had a few names on our mailing list. And this was back when newbayoubooks.com was still the free Google site that comes with the business suite. But since we’ve moved to the WordPress site, additions to the list have slowed. Actually, that’s not true. The truth is we haven’t gotten any new additions.
And so it got me thinking, what I am doing wrong? I also decided to go back and re-read Write. Publish. Repeat.: The No-Luck Guide to Self-Publishing Success by Johnny B. Truant and Sean Platt. I’ve read a fair amount of books on the subject of independent publishing in the last year, and for my money, this is the gold standard. I have a lot of respect for these guys, for a lot of reasons, but the most important of which is they make it plain that success in this business isn’t about luck or gimmicks. It’s about creating great content, working hard, and not being a douche.
Anyway, reading Write. Publish. Repeat, I realized that I’ve totally whiffed on my “calls to action” so far. A call to action is the piece of text or advertisement that prompts you to do something. Buy the next book in the series. Buy the bundle. Join the mailing list. You’ll see it abbreviated as CTA in the literature.
Let me try my first CTA now. [clears throat] So, if you appreciate this piece of insight I’ve offered, please consider joining our mailing list. I promise to never spam you. I promise to send you a hand written thank you note if you include your mailing address. And I promise to always treat you like the intelligent, sensitive fan of badass Louisiana literature you are or will be.
There’s other adjustments I’m going to make with the mailing list to hopefully make it more prominent on the website and more user friendly to complete, but I won’t go into it here. Basically, I still need to work on the user interface, the design of the website.
Time to learn. Well shit, I could’ve included the whole paragraph about re-reading Write. Publish. Repeat here. But since I didn’t, here’s another example. I have not actually uploaded a new book to Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing yet. I’ve read descriptions of how easy and how difficult it is on various websites and in Kindle Unlimited books, but I have not yet done it for myself. And that’s one of the reasons why Tattoos and Tans, our first book, is not coming out until August.
We could release it earlier, but I decided to wait in part, to give myself more time to learn. Now, I’m not saying I specifically delayed the book just in case I have to trouble uploading it to Amazon. In terms of obstacles that are likely to come up, this is actually one I’m not too concerned about. But still, I know from experience that everything takes longer than you think it will, so the more time I have to learn for myself exactly how KDP works, the better.
Incidentally, and this kind of goes back to Write. Publish. Repeat., but the big reason I pushed Tattoos and Tans back to August is so there’s only a two month gap between the release of Tattoos and Tans and All Saints Day of the Dead. Those two books represent my funnel. If you don’t know what that means, Johnny and Sean can explain it better than I can.
Time to write. This one’s probably self explanatory, especially in light of my reference to the funnel above. The basic idea is the more books you have to sell, the better off you are. Or to put it another way, what you don’t want to have happen is somebody reads your first book and they love it, but they grow frustrated because there’s nothing else from you out there. This is why, again, Johnny and Sean actually suggest pushing off the launch of your company and/or self-publishing enterprise until you have at least two titles. And in fact, that’s specifically why I am taking this long-runway approach with New Bayou Books. (It occurs to me now that I could’ve saved my whole Sunday afternoon by just including a link to Write. Publish. Repeat. and calling it good). Oh well.
I mentioned All Saints Day of the Dead earlier. I am exactly halfway through the second draft of that book now. And while there’s definitely some pressure in the fact that I’ve already announced the book, I’m sure my decision to delay the official launch until it’s done was the right one. If Tattoos and Tans were on sale now, I know damn well I’d be spending every available ounce of energy I have in marketing it. And that would only push the second book back that much further. Instead, I have a little bit of extra kind of social accountability to actually finish the second book, but I still have the time and space to put forward my best effort.
Of course, at some point soon I’m going to have to figure out how to sell two books and write a third one at the same time . . . so in that sense I am kicking the can down the road. But, fuck it, you know? At some point you either have to cross the bridge or burn the damn thing.
Time to gain confidence. On this front, trust me, I need all the time I can get. Let me just hit on two things to illustrate this point before I wrap this all up. The first point is a bit more ethereal. It’s simply this: there is no substitute for experience. Knowing how social media works and actually making a post and watching what happens are two different things. And only one of them offers confidence as a byproduct. I could apply this principle across the board for every little thing I’m doing for New Bayou Books. Every miniscule act, from hitting the “publish” button to buying ISBNs or getting an Employer Identification Number for the staff I’m planning to bring on board someday soon . . . it all contributes to a greater sense of confidence. The more I do, the more I feel like the badass entrepreneur I am grooming myself to be.
But how ‘bout a practical example? How about this blog? Are you listening to the audio? If you are, you’re hearing my voice, and let me just say–I’m sorry for it. A part of me is just glad I don’t have to be the one to listen to it. I’m okay at public speaking. Actually, on a few occasions I’ve totally crushed it. But on more than a few I have totally crumbled. Recording these blogs as podcasts for the past few weeks has made it clear to me that I have work to do in this department. I need practice–breathing from the diaphragm, swallowing the ums . . . and thorough that practice, I will build confidence.
And come October . . . I’ll be crushing this shit. And when I do, some poor bastard who’s digging into the archives listening to this post will say to himself, damn! Jason was right about giving yourself a long runway. That motherfucker was terrible!