Updated: Dec 4, 2019
This is me back in 2013, a mere three years after self-publishing my debut novel.
I was (& still am) a HUGE Charlaine Harris fan—the author of the TrueBlood series amongst other dark fantasies. Charlaine's vampire books were not only addictive and delicious, but part of the reason I loved fantasy so much as a teenager.
I booked a day off work to meet her at WHSmith, Meadowhall, Sheffield with my friend (and fellow self-published author, J. A. Myers—seen in blue to my right. Hello, if you're reading this!) where she was scheduled to sign copies of the 13th (and final) book in the series.
In the mile-long queue, I planned my speech. Possible questions spurred me forward as we shuffled nearer the front—I'd have thirty seconds with her, maybe less. Whatever I said, it had to be perfect.
"Thank you for everything your books taught me about writing addictive prose."
"Where do you get your ideas?"
"Your characters are so real—how do you bring them down to Earth?"
"What's the best piece of advice you can give to a new author?".
Finally, it was my turn. I stepped up and handed the book to her outstretched fingers as she smiled genuinely at me.
I had no words. Nothing. Zilch. Nada...
"You were looking forward to this moment and you've got NOTHING'?" was a dominant thought. Instead of asking something productive and useful to my career as a writer, I giggled, re-adjusted my handbag through displaced nervous energy (evidenced in the photo), and—get ready for this—I said...
"Hehe, I LOVE your books."
Believe it or not, a red-faced, sweaty serial killer/stalker-type was NOT what I was going for.
How do you roll your eyes in a blog? :/ Just know I'm rolling them.
But, meeting Charlaine Harris inspired me, nevertheless. She was pleasant and kind and humoured my ridiculous awkwardness. And where the photographer (my dad and now co-author) stood in this picture is the very spot we signed our children's book at on October 12th 2019!
I would NEVER have imagined I'd be breathing the same air as Charlaine Harris, never mind signing footsteps away from where she sat six years ago.
I'm living proof that following in a mentor's footsteps can help your dreams come true, even if they have no idea how important their influence has been.
So to Charlaine Harris and the other authors I've idolised over the years, thank you.
I'm not saying just by attending her signing I re-aligned the universe somehow to work in my favour years later. You guys know I don't really believe in that sh*t—when you read my new book you will, anyway. (November 30th 2019, The Universe Doesn't Give A Sh*t About Your Book). What I mean is, by reading a lot and studying the actions of other authors, modelling their tactics and behaviour, we can implement those techniques in our own writing careers.
Modelling an Author
An example from a self-published writer I admire is Hugh Howey—author of the dystopian series 'Wool'. Hugh began as an independent author, using Amazon (Createspace, I believe) to publish his books which were later picked up by traditional houses. But he got stuck in, filming live videos as he opened fan mail, revealed various editions of his books and created merchandise. This included some awesome USB cards as seen via this link.
When I saw the public's response, I wanted in. I ordered a batch of my own design as I planned for my first serious event at a local library.
Now, I'm no Hugh Howey, so when I modelled this and ordered some USB cards (followed by USB wristbands), they didn't fly out to my readers free of charge in huge, signed batches. They did, however, make for excellent giveaways/prizes, appealed to a younger audience as they could be re-used for school and college work, and they were a means to sell e-books during a paperback book signing.
"Only read on your Kindle? No problem, you can still buy a book TODAY. Check these out."
It captured the attention (and the cash) of readers I'd have otherwise lost. Modelling this idea worked.
Since then, I've tried lots of other ideas and have been thrilled with the outcome.
You Can Model Me
You will no doubt have a favourite author/s in mind who are successful and sell. Preferably, you should be modelling independent authors who write what you write for this to work—choose someone who self-publishes using the same platforms, writes in your genre for your target audience etc.
Now make notes.
What are they doing that you could be doing?
How do they present themselves?
Do they have a website, a blog, a channel—is there a content schedule?
Are they funny and authentic? Do you like their personality?
What platforms do they use? What are their marketing strategies like? Which professionals do they hire and how much are they investing?
If you're just starting out and are yet to find an independent author to model, take a look at some of my older videos on YouTube. In 2017-2018, I filmed a lot of 'pre-signing' content where I'd share some of the merchandise and preparations for upcoming events with my viewers. Below is one of them.
Yes I know it's long. There's a lot in it, I promise. You can skip bits if you like, I won't be offended (and I'll never know if you do, will I?).
Modelling is NOT copying or piracy or negative in any way.
When you buy a book to learn about that subject from a professional in the industry (like mine... hint, nudge, wink), you're modelling that person when you implement their advice. When you shake hands with an author at an event or a signing and ask them about their experiences and struggles, you're modelling them when you consciously avoid making the same mistakes. When you listen to an interview on the radio or YouTube, or you read a book that inspires you to write something similar of your own, YOU ARE MODELLING.
And that's it.
"I am one writer. I am one reader. I am one publisher. And, as you know, there are many, many others. Therefore, I can only give you my opinion and advise you based on my experiences and the knowledge I've gained through research and practices. What I tell you in this book is also based on how I have interpreted the advice of others—the more mentors you can find, the better."
- The Universe Doesn't Give A Sh*t About Your Book: A Brutally Honest Guide to Self-Publishing (November 30th 2019, Curious Cat Books)
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Can I convince you to give Charlaine's first Sookie Stackhouse (TrueBlood) book a go, or Hugh Howey's 'Wool'? You can buy either, or my new non-fiction book by clicking the links below.