Medieval Western author Derek Alan Siddoway may be at the early stages of his career, but he works as though he’s already a bestseller. This week, I talk to Derek about some of the PR strategies he uses to lay the foundation for success.
A lifelong fanatical reader, Derek’s first foray into writing began at a young age when he rewrote a Pokemon story because he didn’t like how it ended. He’s come a long way since those days. In November of 2013, Derek published his first book Out of Exile (The Teutevar Saga Book 1), a medieval western. Since then he’s published Book 2 of the series in two different parts, three short stories, and the first episode of a collaborative series with Samuel Lundquist called The Freelance Tales.
Derek also runs a website called The Everyday Author, “for authors who can’t quit their day jobs…yet.” The Everyday Author includes resources and tips for writers building their careers, as well as a number of fantastic interviews with indie authors who are making it as full time writers.
John Wayne Meets the Game of Thrones
Derek was inspired to write The Teutevar Saga by S.M. Stirling’s Emberverse series. He was fascinated by the idea of taking a traditional epic fantasy, typically depicted in a European setting, and putting it into a more rugged, American West type setting. The result? The Medieval Western, the Old Old West that Never Was.
Currently, Derek is working on finishing up The Teutevar Saga, which will total five books. He also has a novella series planned that takes place between Books 2 and 3 of the main series. It’s more of an experiment, he says, to see how shorter books will be received by readers. They’ll be light fun reads with a single POV and lots of action.
The Everyday Author
Derek launched The Everyday Author a year ago, a website designed to provide the resources, encouragement, and community for writers who are trying to build up their writing careers while juggling day jobs, children, and life in general. He’s got interviews from a great many well known indie authors archived on there, as well as a treasure trove of useful tips, strategies, and articles for working writers.
He started The Everyday Author in the hopes of helping out other authors who are still in the process of trying to make their writing careers financially viable. Even though the indie community is a vibrant one chock full of great resources, he says there were still some topics, at least, that he wished were presented from the point of view of authors like himself, who are still in the process of “making it.” He points out that he himself is still in this process of climbing up the ladder, and that we’re all in this together. With The Everyday Author, Derek wanted to create a community that would provide a venue for working writers like himself to share what they’re going through, pool collective knowledge and experience, and to encourage each other.
Public Relations for the Indie Writer
Derek’s day job is in public relations, and he’s applied a lot of his skill and experience in that area to his writing career. Often, people have a sort of negative perception of what PR is, he says, but it’s basically just building connections with people you want to share your message with. “You want to be able to give something to someone if you expect anything in return,” he says.
Reaching out to folks, whether it’s to do interviews like this one, or to get reviews, beta readers, or any other sort of attention, Derek says, basically comes down to building those relationships that you can with those people, relationships that are mutually beneficial.
To that end, he has blogged about his favorite podcasts, participated in collaborations and cross-promotional events with other authors, and most importantly, isn’t afraid to make the ask.
He notes that people are often afraid of bothering other people, but they shouldn’t be. People are busy these days, and emails often get buried in the inbox and redirected to spam. Don’t be shy about following up in a friendly manner if you haven’t gotten a response.
Derek also stresses that you must do your homework before reaching out to people. Don’t cut-and-paste an email to 50 different reviewers. Take the time to browse their website, do a little research, get to know them and their work. You want to personalize each outreach and contact by demonstrating you’ve made the effort. It shows respect and hard work, and is more likely to get you the response you’re looking for.
On the purpose of PR: “I think when you look at the definition of real marketing — which is basically just getting a product into the hands of somebody who wants it — I think what PR is, is just telling somebody who will be interested in what you have to talk about your message.”
On the importance of outreach: “It’s basically building genuine relationships with the people you need to help your career succeed as an indie.”
On knowing the right people: “Starting out, it really isn’t about who you know, it’s about who you go out and try to build a relationship with. Down the road, when your career is bigger, then it is about who you know because you put the work in.”
- Consider your categories and keywords for your books in both broad and narrow terms. As Derek puts it, “You want to be a big fish in a small pond, but you don’t want to outgrow it. And at the same time, you don’t want to be a small fish that’s only in a giant pond as far as terms of visibility go.”
- Contact three reviewers a day. Derek recommends slow and consistent marketing for busy writers. It doesn’t take long to find three reviewers who review the type of fiction you write. Spend 15 minutes a day finding these people and reading what they’re about, then reaching out individually.
- Write short compelling subject lines in your emails. While you don’t want to be sensationalist or link-baity, you do want a subject line that is interesting and compelling when you’re reaching out to someone new.
- Keep your email pitches brief. When pitching to reviewers, Derek says, keep it short and sweet. Some reviewers get hundreds of emails a day. You want to pique their interest without taking too much of their time.
Do you make outreach a regular part of your career-building activities? If so, what are your favorite strategies for making new contacts and getting the word out about your books?
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