Writing – Putting Penn to Paper

What’s your brand? Who’s your audience? How can you connect with your readers? Have you ever thought about those questions? Recently, I attended a lecture by Pendelton Wallace – his friends call him Penn. He is an author with multiple series, editor and a master marketer. Congratulations to him that his third book in his Catrina Flaherty series will be released this month, “The Chinatown Murders.”

He is the author of the #1 bestselling political satire, Christmas Inc. His first book, Blue Water & Me is a memoir about fishing with his commercial fisherman father. The Ted Higuera Series, about a young Latino security analyst, jumpstarted Penn’s career and he has recently added the Catrina Flaherty Mysteries to his list. The second Catrina Flaherty story, Murder Strikes Twice, was recently Amazon.com’s #1 Crime Fiction novel.

How did Penn get his career started? He had just had surgery and was facing being in bed for 6 months. He was a software engineer by trade, but always had this nagging story that wanted to be told.  Besides what else was he going to do, but lay there?

Once finished – he knew he had the epic novel : ) Don’t we all think that? Remember, he’s a smart guy so he wasn’t beyond seeking some verification. Shall we say his first meeting with a professional editor lasted a lot longer than he had planned?  But no worries, after a dozen books now under his belt, and the ability to make his living writing – it’s obvious he was trainable : )

In 2012 Penn left his career as a software engineer and set sail for the warm blue waters of Baja California in his 56-foot sailboat. His life-long love of adventure I’m sure inspires his stories. I wonder if he talked to his tax accountant too, and his trips are tax deductible because after all, they are research for his latest book : )

Now he was going to teach us how to be successful writers, and I was all ears. A definite sign I was in the right place to learn about branding and marketing, was the chorus of gratitude expressed by others I knew in the crowd who were marketing experts themselves. “Thanks, I never thought, or heard of that,” was echoed throughout his lecture. My time was well spent.

If you want to be a professional writer creating a strong brand is essential. The advantages begin with making money : )  If you are writing merely for personal amusement, then continue to associate branding with cowboys. But if you’d like to someday follow in Penn’s footsteps and be able to live off of your earnings, read more.

When building your author’s brand be sure to have a great product, a definitive message, know what makes you unique, and elicit strong emotional reactions from your fans. Your brand makes an implicit promise to your readers that you must consistently live up to. You are filling a need and you must understand what that is so you can incorporate it in your writing. Make your readers happy by delivering what they expect from you. Readers are fickle – if you disappoint them, they can disappear.

Be sure once you establish a brand that you honor it in everything you do – in every platform where you touch your readers, from interviews, to what you wear. It’s your image. You are not only the author – you are your brand. If you write in multiple genres, he recommends a Penn name for each one : )

Indie authors must turn out a quality product. Don’t put your first draft on the public’s shelf – hire professionals to edit, proof read, format the interior, and design the cover. It’s not cheap, but you get what you pay for. Don’t let Aunt Bessie who once took an art class determine your success. Your most important marketing tool is your cover and your first line – the hook.

Before you set sail on your marketing campaign, he believes you should have five titles, with three ebooks ready to publish. Roll a book out every three months. Write often and fast. New books drive old books sales : )

Besides bringing in sales, effective brands send tentacles out into the ether and bring back loyal readers and might even capture an agent to help chart your waters.  Start your marketing at least six months prior to your book release.

If you have enough of a following, you might be able to increase that $5,000 advance upward. He told us if you are accepted by a traditional publisher, most authors never earn another dime beyond their initial advance. Royalties aren’t paid until the publisher has been reimbursed for their investment through book sales. Sadly 95% of publishers never recoup their calculated risk.

You have to know your readers thoroughly – age, gender and preferences. He told us how once he developed a hearty mailing list, and established relationships with his fans – he was in for a big shock.

He had assumed the lovers of his Ted Higuera series were Hispanic males between the ages of 18-50. Armed with his fans’ emails, he cleverly sent out a questionnaire. He found that his readers were female, over fifty and almost all white. Surprise, surprise, surprise.  This also answered why he would on occasion receive complaints about some of his character’s misogynistic actions. With this new knowledge, he has eliminated these objections.

One of the keys to understanding your fans is by connecting with them, and adding them to your mailing list.  To build a mailing list start with relatives, friends and colleagues.

Attend networking events and writers conferences.  With each card collected, he advised asking “Do you mind if I add you to my mailing list?”

There are new ways in today’s markets to expand your readership by using companies such as Authors Cross Promotion , askDavid and Instafreebie to promote your books. He advises us to check out companies thoroughly before you use them – “it’s like the gold rush days out there today, it’s the folks with the picks and shovels making the money.”

However, when you find the right compadre on the trail, you’ve struck gold. He attributes part of his success to mutually beneficial collaborations with other authors. He asks writers, “What do you write?” with the thought in mind, is this a writer that I might want to collaborate with in the future?  Is there enough of a crossover with your readers to consider adding your first chapter of your new book to your colleague’s final pages of theirs, and vice versa? Don’t forget to end the final chapter with a cliff hanger – you’re priming the pump for sales of your next book even before you may have completed proofing it : )

Synchronize all of your marketing efforts – blog, website, email, newsletters, book jackets and book covers. Be sure to have an author’s Facebook page which makes marketing easier.

Come to the table prepared so when you are asked for information, you can provide it quickly.  He has twelve bios of various length depending on who the audience is – fans, prospective readers, writers, publishers, etc.

Finally, as with all good sales, keep an eye on the competition.  Determine what’s working for them and whether you can use it too.

Ultimately as writers we share our hearts and creativity with the world. We write in a kaleidoscope of colors and long for people to prance amongst the hues and textures. May your writing provide an irresistible bond between your readers and your work.

If you’re a writer and want to find out more advise about how to be a successful, satiated author, go to Penn’s website  and under Writers Stuff , you’ll find a plethora of information.

As always, I invite you to Join Me on My Journey…