Friday, March 28, 2014

Create Fans by Touching People

                                                                          By Edward Massey
When I volunteered to fill Meg’s slot, I thought I best study some.  There are books on blogging, but the good stuff is reading blogs, including every blog on WF’s web site since last December. 
Two observations.  First, the underlying rule is to give more than you get.  This translates into a strong tendency to give advice, tips, one blog even called them “tricks.” Second, most people who post a blog know what they’re talking about.  Not all, but even the advice by people who have no idea what they are talking about is good – because it stands out!

My conclusion: I am sunk!  I am older than almost everyone here in our little blogger’s room and yet I know the least, need the most, and most certainly cannot give advice.   The most I can do is ask if you would be willing to undertake an excursion with me. 

After a self-published a novel in 2009, Telluride Promise, I decided to seek a third party publisher for my next novel.  I had bought the books, gone to the conferences, read the admonitions to create a writer’s platform.  All very dispiriting.  The valley of despond was pierced only by the peaks of five short stories published along the way to securing a signed contract and promised publication date, May 15, 2014, from Duke Pennell and Pen-L Publishing. 

Duke’s Yes was energizing.  One book out there, one coming, now I started to think in very tangible terms.  How to market this book Duke had shown faith in and I knew was worth 5 years of my life?

In our very first conversation after the agreement (Frontier Tales published one of my short stories in March 2012.), Duke said, “Writers have to write to have product, but to sell it they have to create fans.” 

Two words and all the writer’s platform B.S. fell into place.  Create fans.
Here is my invitation.  I don’t have the expertise or track record to tell any of you anything about writing or marketing yourself as writers.  On the contrary, I am launching on a voyage of discovery.  I welcome your willingness to come along.  Maybe the adventure will be worth your time. 

How do I create fans? Simple question.  I welcome your answer.   Please send it to me, or comment.
To spur you on, I invite you to look over my shoulder and to judge if you think what I am doing could work for you – and will work for me.  (Remember rule 1: Give more than you ask for.)

There are hundreds of tasks facing me, but I have a great need to find a limited number of simple steps that I can succeed in doing over and over again.  So, I am going to pick three. (I am not recommending three or these three for you, I am facing the fact I need to find a limited number of simple steps I can succeed in doing.)
First, describe the story in a way that touches people:  This story of a chase recounts a journey but the story is about choices.  Our life is the product of our choices.  Those choices are made within a framework that governs our lives.  Still they are our choices.  Sometimes that framework is too big and too strong to overcome.  That reality is not the source of sadness; or, at least, not sadness to the core of your soul.  Soul sadness comes when you don’t make the choice.  You may ignore it or you may turn away from it but the life well lived results from making the choice. 

Second, describe myself in ways that touch people:  My love of the West grew after I left the West.  From poorly educated, working class roots, I learned the freedom and independence that had been breathed into me with that clear, cold mountain air was what propelled me.  Inside a very clear set of boundaries I learned I could benefit from working as long and hard as my energy allowed and that I would observe those boundaries because our civilization depended upon it.  Not because anyone was watching.  When I started writing it was not an effort to write about the West.  When I wrote a story set in the West, I was told it would not sell because it was not set in the 19th Century.  The person who told me that knows nothing about the West.  I’ll never move back, but that is all right.  I never left.
Third, go out and touch people.  Here it gets tangible.  In Every Soul is Free a Sheriff leaves his grandson and Thanksgiving Dinner to pursue his calling in 1948.  Over the next twelve hours he
(Promotional card, cover to come)
leads his four man posse by truck, horse, and on foot, in driving snow, up to  11,000 feet in the High Uintahs, to track down a fugitive he raised as a son.  A hundred years of Mormon, pioneer, mountain, and world history unfold with the choices that created this crucible.  The people to touch are the people in the book and they live today.  From Relief Society Sisters to Returned Veterans, even Sheriff’s Associations, classmates with pioneer ancestry to independent bookstores with history buffs.  The people who get to the people also need to be touched: newspapers, radio stations, and television.  The work comes in creating the lists and figuring out how to reach them to touch. Talking to them about choices is not work. 

All this work remains to be done because Every Soul is Free comes from Pen-L Publishing on May 15, 2014.  I have time to use every comment, idea, or suggestion you make.  My goal was to give more than I got.  I hope you think a focus on three ideas gave you something.  Describe the story in a way that touches people; describe yourself in a way that touches people; get out and touch people.  Your three idea focus may be different, but remember the central idea is to touch people.  


  1. Very interesting - and thought provoking - post, Edward. Thank you.

  2. What a deep and generous post. Many are the minutes of thought it will bring to the reader. A journey is long or short, but journey it is as we travel our chosen paths. Here is to an interesting one for you. Doris

  3. Interesting post, Edward. Certainly food for thought. Thank you for sharing it with us.


  4. Edward, you've really give us some food for thought here. I always try to touch my "world"--the people in it, the readers, my family and friends, and even the strangers I don't know yet. I think it's more of a way of life than something I try to do for my readers alone. (I wasn't always this way, believe me--when I was a young girl, I was very shy.) My favorite saying: To the world, you may be one person; but to one person, you may be the world. Thanks for a very thought-provoking post!

  5. Edward, I'm no expert either, but I'd call this post a must-read for writers at all stages of their careers. IMO, you've hit on three extremely important aspects of promoting your work. They're all related, and they can be summed up in two powerful little words: touch people.

    The essential truth in any artist's work is its ability to touch the human spirit in some way. As authors, isn't touching readers the purest goal for all our work? It seems to me that if we bear that in mind and approach the task of spreading the word about our stories with integrity, sincerity, and humility, we'll touch people in surprising -- and rewarding -- ways.

    I'm very glad to "meet" you via this post, and I wish you all the best with your new book. "Every Soul is Free" -- such an evocative, "touching" title. I'm already eager to read the story. :-)

  6. I'm so bad at self promotion and so far away from the Western main stream that every word you wrote rings a bell in my head. Looking forward to your book and I hope it is in ebook form as well as printed. Or, if you bring copies to WWA in Sacramento, I can get one there.

    Thanks for the post. Well done, my friend.

  7. Great first blog, Edward! With writing, there is so much to remember...all the tricks, all the rules (and when it's okay to break them). You have zeroed in on the most important rule of all: evoke an emotional response from your readers.

    All the best,

  8. Hi Edward,
    Thanks for such a sincere post. I've been at it for 10 years and still have no advice to give others. Every step forward is followed by two steps back. We learn and share, and keep forging ahead. Good luck to you!!

  9. Well said, Edward. My editor and I talk about this a lot. It's all about building that 'brand' and connecting with the readers. Of course, the key is doing that while there are tens of thousands of other folks out there begging for their attention as well--not to mention, TV, video games and the internet…
    Anyway, nice job.

  10. What a great post! You *touched* on something unique, Edward - and something we all need to think about when we think of our readers/fans.

    Here are my thoughts. - BE YOURSELF (within reason, think *public face* and career) - FEEL BLESSED (because some people always *want* to write a book and never quite do it) - BE GRATEFUL. Because success is an inside job.

    I'm looking forward to your next post!

  11. Great post!
    As for worrying about being "new" and so forth, you can stop now. There are dozens of books in a dozen different places about how to promote oneself or brand your work. You've done more with this post than most do with many of those instruction/self-help books.
    Dave McGowan