From Simon: Bryan was a guest on the podcast back in episode 42. Since then he’s gone on to start his own podcast, the Sell More Books show, which has been a fantastic addition to the self-publishing podcast scene. He’s also organized numerous Facebook events, which have proven to be an amazing way for authors to cross promote their books with each others audiences. Bryan is an innovator in the self-publishing space, who never fails to impress, it’s a pleasure to welcome him back for this post. Over to Bryan…
You can listen to an audio reading of this podcast if you like! Just click play in the player below.
Everything I learned about being an author came from wrestling. I was the co-captain of my high school wrestling team; checking in at an impressive 119 pounds (54 kilos for you metric folk). Aside from learning how to lose gobs of weight, I picked up dozens of lessons I would apply to my writing career over a decade later.
I learned the importance of training, discipline, and accountability. One of the biggest lessons I learned was how to be involved in a solo venture while serving as part of a team.
Wrestling and writing have a lot in common. When you’re doing the work, there aren’t any teammates to help you. You can’t tag someone in to finish a tough chapter or to write you out of a hole in the plot. When it comes to getting words on the page, you’re the only person responsible for making it happen.
In writing as in wrestling, there are still many benefits you can get from enlisting the help of your fellow competitors. In the last year, I’ve had a lot of success running multi-author Facebook events. These collaborations have helped me grow as an author, as a marketer, and as an entrepreneur. Before these events, I was the the author equivalent of the creepy wrestler hanging out in the corner of the gym trying to psych himself up before a match. My isolation could only get me so far.
Here are five reasons you should add collaboration to the top of your author priority list:
When you make connections with like-minded individuals, you can’t help but learn things that will aid your career. Before I became a full-time writer, I was a Starbucks barista with artistic and intelligent co-workers all around me. Most of them were like me in that they hadn’t yet figured out their lives.
Around 2008 or so, I started to get into the work of personal development writers like Steve Pavlina, Stephen Covey and Marci Shimoff. I had a lot of fear about following my passions at that time, and this type of writing really spoke to me. When I get excited about something, I tend to talk about it all the time.
As I started sharing what I’d learned from my reading, I noticed that many of my barista and customer friends began acting differently around me. I realized that my efforts to grow and change didn’t jibe with some of my so-called friends. I reached out online to try to find people on my wavelength and connected with non-fiction author Alexandra Robbins.
Robbins, who wrote The Overachievers, made an offer to answer life-related questions on the message board of a popular web series about quarter-life crises. From her previous work, I’d seen that she was helping people to deal with the exact same problems I’d been experiencing. When I asked her about my fear, she gave me just the advice I needed to break off and do the necessary work.
After putting Robbins’ good advice to work, I began blogging and writing my first book. Years later, by connecting with like-minded authors, I was first in line to learn about new trends, ideas, and, technology that could further my entrepreneurial zeal.
You never know what you’ll learn when you make connections with other authors. The important thing to keep in mind is that you’ll do much better with that information than you would’ve done alone and knowledge-free.
Joining a group of authors can help you reach your goals much faster. After running several Facebook fiction author events this past summer, I asked the authors involved if they’d like to start a mastermind. A mastermind is an ongoing meetup in which people in similar careers discuss their problems and potential solutions. If two heads are better than one, then 10 heads must be game changing.
Nine of the authors joined me in biweekly Google+ hangouts to chat about our books. There’s something about talking with people who are on the same quest as you that really lights a fire. After experiencing some success on the first book in a new series, my group-mates recommended I move up my deadline for the second book an entire month.
I had no idea how I was going to do it, but when a group of intelligent authors who know what they’re doing tell you to accomplish something, you pull out all the stops. I dashed my mid-November goal and worked long, hard hours to get the second book online. Unsurprisingly, the gang was right. My second book had far more pre-sales than I ever anticipated. Who knows if those sales still would’ve been there a month later?
Find the right group that’ll motivate you to push yourself to the limits. There’s no telling what you’ll achieve with the power of the group mind.
When you collaborate with other authors, word starts to get around about who you are. My February Facebook event led to a connection with my podcasting co-host Jim Kukral and a ton of other people. I didn’t realize at the time that it would put me in touch with some of my self-publishing idols.
In the second month of our podcast, Jim secured The Creative Penn’s Joanna Penn as one of our first guests. When I looked at the date he’d chosen, my nervousness doubled. I’d be recording the episode from a hotel in New Jersey where I had no control over the sound. I assumed that Joanna would be polite about my potential technical difficulties, yet she’d internally scoff at my lack of professionalism.
When the day came, the issues didn’t even come up. Joanna was wonderful and she even mentioned the multi-author Facebook event during the show. Since then, she’s mentioned me several times on her blog and joined up with the next Facebook event.
I would never have written my first novel if it wasn’t for the teachings of the Self Publishing Podcast trio and author Steve Scott. I met Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant and Steve at Author Marketing Live in Cleveland. The nerves were still there, but when it came down to it, these guys knew who I was. It’s insane to me that I’ve shared a drink with people who’ve given me such a boost in my career.
When Johnny mentioned my name on SPP, a podcast I’d listened to hundreds of times, I felt like I’d really made it.
When you put yourself out there, the larger than life figures you’ve built up in your head, will often turn into peers and friends. The more you collaborate, the more people you’ll be able to take off the pedestal out to the pub.
When you work with other authors, your sales are bound to increase. Whether you put together a multi-box author set, write in a shared universe, or set up a live event, your books will benefit from all the hard work you’ve put in.
I came up with the idea for March to a Bestseller when I listened to Simon’s interview with Timothy Long on RSP. I had just scheduled a BookBub and I wanted to give my book a big boost after the campaign to make it stick in the Amazon rankings.
The event took 40-60 hours of prep work, but beyond the connections and the knowledge I gained, I took in a fair bit of sales as well. While my BookBub brought in approximately 2,500 copies sold, the Facebook event contributed another 300. It also kept my book in the top 1,000 on Amazon for almost an entire week and led to sell-throughs of my other books.
Whenever you find a way to put your books in front of another author’s audience in the same genre, your sales are bound to increase.
I’ve forged some great connections in the past year, but perhaps none of them are as strong as my bond with my podcasting co-host Jim Kukral. Eight months ago, I knew of Jim’s work on Author Marketing Club and I’d listened to his interviews. I considered him to be a big fish in the indie author world, while I was a tiny one in a completely different pond.
In the midst of my first group author event, Jim friended me and contacted me out of the blue, asking to be a part of the event. While I wasn’t able to put him into the event, our connection online would eventually lead to something special.
When Jim posted a request to start a podcast with one of his followers, I jumped at the opportunity. Little did I know that 30 weeks later, we’d still be working together, let alone collaborating on our own multi-author event. Sure, I got a business partner and a co-host out of the connection, but more importantly, I got a friend.
Jim invited me to hang out with him at his September event, Author Marketing Live, and I took that opportunity as well. He didn’t get anything out of me being there. We were just buddies, so it made sense. You never know when you hang out with someone online if you’ll get along in real life, but the bear hug Jim gave me when I got to Cleveland validated our friendship.
Friendship with Jim led to direct connections with other authors as well. Because of his invitation to Cleveland, I’ve got a whole gaggle of new author friends.
I had to put friendship last here, because it’s the most important of the bunch. If you’re just trying to “network” to make “connections,” it’s doubtful that you’ll form any genuine relationships with these people. Be honest. Be open. Be who you really are. Keeping your distance won’t protect you. It’ll actually insulate you from forming beneficial relationships that can give you a significant boost as an author.
One For All And All For One
One of the best parts of wrestling was that you had two chances to win. You can win your individual match and win the meet as a team. If you contribute toward the team victory with your own, then it’s a win for everyone involved.
Building up a strong team of collaborators will improve your chances of having an individual author victory. As you grow to that point, you’ll start to take pride in the success of your teammates. In fact, you’ll eventually realize that all of us authors are on the same team. The sooner you come to that understanding, the sooner you’ll be able to tap into the resourceful people all around you.
You may have to do all the legwork when you collaborate with others. So be it. Someone’s gotta do it, but between the tangible benefits of sales and the intangible spoils of friendship and knowledge, I promise you it will be worth your efforts.
Bryan Cohen is the co-host of the Sell More Books Show. On November 7th, Bryan and Jim Kukral are co-hosting March to a Bestseller 2, which will feature over 20 authors and their books on writing, marketing and publishing.
Bryan has written over 30 books, including two novels in his YA sci-fi/fantasy series Ted Saves the World and a collection of writing prompts books, including 1,000 Creative Writing Prompts: Ideas for Blogs, Scripts, Stories and More.