BRAND ME by A.B. Funkhauser
BRAND ME by A.B. Funkhauser
Political figures, lifestyle gurus, actors and even notorious killers, once turned author, can flip a manuscript into a best seller overnight, leaving the rest of us to scratch our collective heads. How did they do that? What do we have to do to do that too? Advance publicity from pols and pundits certainly help, particularly when the nod is free, but the secret behind the success, that cause célèbre, I believe, relies more on longevity — that being in your face 24/7 and then year after year — than on a glossy roll out from the publisher.
For the indie author releasing that first book, the response from the market is, more often than not, decidedly cooler, and for obvious reasons. “By your deeds, they shall know ye” was the operative catch phrase in days gone by. A more appropriate phrase in CE 2017 might be...“With a brand, they may read ye.”
Therein lies the caveat. Writers are duty bound to themselves and to their art to produce the best possible manuscript they can. But it may not be enough. The writer is a brand now, requiring a constant social presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and so forth, if only to prove to those that care about such things that they have a market, a following that can be studied, tested and targeted to garner greater numbers in order to drive sales.
Putting author before writing can be scary, especially when a demanding muse pulls, but there are ways to be seen and ultimately heard. For the purpose of this article, I’ll be looking at online awards: what they are, what they mean, and ultimately why they are important.
There are several kinds of awards out there. From cover kudos to celebrations by genre, digital awards require a synergy of writer and following that is often misconstrued against the intent of the award. The salient question to ask when a book is up for “best in category” is what is actually being voted for: the book and its contents, or the author who penned it? There is a difference, you see. To vote for a best book is to imply that the person exercising his or her right has read the text, loves the text, and wants to affirm the love through suffrage. The other, is to vote for the author based on ‘visibility,’ ‘accessibility,’ ‘reach,’ and, yes, ‘popularity.’ Both have merit. Both are also debated.
Content, certainly, is critical if one is measuring the merits of a book, but consider the alternate view: If what I suspect is true, and a writer’s following is as every bit as important to prospective agents and publishers as the content and style and quality of the writing, then maybe the focus in a contest should be on the author, with the campaign to win geared to just that.
What does it mean?
Some contests ask voters to confirm their vote through email; others go with the IP address. A vote is cast once and only once, or once a day, every day for a period of days until the poll closes, allowing authors in contention to rally troops, organize street teams, and monitor their results against real time tallies that show when the machine needs to be fed.
Concerns about fairness aside, multiple voting schedules do an impressive job in turning up the heat from a creative perspective. Author, now politician, must devise campaign strategies that include tweets, blip ads, micro blogs, macro blogs, endorsements, banner art, and teams of volunteers committed to getting their author/book into first place. Phone banking, an old-timey tool still used by modern political campaigns (though most are automated), puts the author in direct touch with real people, allowing for real dialogue about who they are, what their book is about, and why it should be voted for.
Far from being sinister, the author-centric campaign to win might just be what every author needs: a good reason to connect with prospective READERS on a direct level.
To put oneself out there in this way is a powerful and daunting way to develop new communication skills that can only be complimented by fine writing.
And so the cycle goes that the author will need product just as the politician needs policy. Without it, there is an empty cupboard. Write your book. Grow your social media base. And when you are ready, gentle writer, enter some awards contests. But be prepared to put yourself out there. We are rooting for you.
There are so many awards. Just Google “Indie Book Awards” and you will find several lists. For example:
They key to finding the right award is in the details. Read carefully. What kind of nomination process and voting system will be employed (1 person, 1 vote; multiple voting); fees if any; stipulations, including exclusivity clauses; endorsements; limitations. Do some research: How long has the award been in place? Past winners? Laurels & Lemons. Testimonials.
There are several juried competitions out there as well, but, again, do your research. Some are limited to residents only, while others require multiple paper copies as part of the submission.
Average entry fees start at about $45 U.S. or 65 pounds (U.K.) Awards competitions asking for a higher fee may offer larger cash prizes. Those that do ought to be carefully considered before hitting the Paypal button.
Good luck and good campaigning!
Adult, unapologetic, and wholly cognizant,
I am A.B. Funkhauser
Fascinating! Thank you for stopping by to give us a glimpse into branding and informing us about entering book award contests, A.B.! :)
Wow! Congratulations, A.B.! How inspiring! :)
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