How to Recognize Your Fan Base

Emma in Save-On with Chasing Down the Night - Guenette photo

I read somewhere that a solid base of a thousand fans is the tipping point for an indie author. That number of readers who are committed to buying the author’s next book, talking up an author’s work and recommending said author to friends and family will push sales and name recognition to a level where things start to snowball.

But how does one evaluate this fan base? It isn’t about sales because people often download books and never read them. It can’t be determined from the number of followers on various social media platforms because much of this type of engagement is people looking for reciprocal action. No judgement, here – just reality.

Self-publishing sign - Google imageIn my experience, fans are counted through engagement. My fans take the time to let me know they love my work. This post is a tribute to those people. They really seem to love the Crater Lake characters and they keep on asking for more. I’m not at the one thousand mark yet. Winning people over and generating true engagement is something that builds, slowly but surely, over time. This is what makes self-publishing a marathon and not a sprint.

A couple of weeks ago, I was walking down the sidewalk of a nearby town. A store door burst open and a woman came running out. She stopped me by saying, “I know you.” I smiled and stuck out my hand. She went on, “I’ve read all your books.” Then she pulled me into a tight hug as she said, “Thank you so much for writing those books.” Stepping back, I could only stare at her in amazement. My first brush with being recognized solely on the basis of my writing was a surprising thrill.

As I said, fans keep asking for more. A case in point is a recent comment on this blog supporting Malestrom, my work-in-progress (a non-Crater Lake book) but ending with a plea for more from Crater Lake.

3-D Box Set - Crater Lake Series

Trilogy number one? Time will tell. Ideas are definitely percolating for book number four.

My daughter had an interesting conversation with her stepsister the other day. Amber had just finished reading Chasing Down the Night and she asked, “Has your mom told you if Justin and Lisa-Marie ever get together?”

Kristen replied, “Even if she did, are you sure you would want to know?”

Matt, Kristen’s husband, laughed and piped in with, “I heard she’s going to kill Justin in the next book.” Amber jumped up in alarm. (No spoiler alerts here – that joking son-in-law heard no such thing from me!) I do cherish the emotional attachment readers have with my characters.

I can’t even describe the fun I had watching my niece, Chelsea, read Chasing Down the Night. There was only one rule – every time she laughed or gasped, she had to say why. It felt like I was attending a weeklong book club. When she got to the end, she gave a heavy sigh and said, “It’s like a summer holiday coming to an end. You wait and wait for it then it’s over before you want it to be and you have to wait a whole year for another one.”

Silver's Book Review capture

Colleen Chesebro, who blogs over at Sliver Threads recently wrote a review for the box set of the first three novels. Her wrap up is well-worth bragging about. Please check it out by following the above link to her blog.

She topped off her thoughtful review and blog feature with this response to my thanks.

“Francis, I have read many books, but few touch me as much as these three did. I simply loved the characters and their journeys. I do want to know how they survive the winters on Crater Lake. I wish you continued success and look forward to your future books. I was honored to read the Crater Lake Series. Thank you.”

I know my fans because they let me know how they feel about my work. More than anything else, that type of sharing makes writing a thrilling and worthwhile endeavour.

Brit at the beach - Guenette photo

Brit making you an offer you can’t refuse – read my grandma’s books. You won’t regret it!

Circle the Object that May Not Belong

Bear in the garden - Guenette photo

Do you remember those worksheets from primary school that instructed you to find the object that was out of place? What certainly doesn’t belong in this photo is the big, black bear strolling down my garden path. Bears don’t belong in gardens. It seems like this guy or gal hasn’t got the memo.

I took this photo standing on the top step of the back stairs, camera in one hand and a paddle in the other. Ready for anything.

So far, we are living a peaceful co-existence with this bear. Except for chowing down on the grass that covers the pathways, he/she is not interested in any of the garden produce and we are not interested in his/her primary food choice – salal berries. Time will tell if this honouring of boundaries lasts.

Bear outside the kitchen window - Chelsea Johnson photoMy niece and I were in the living room the other night, both of us immersed in quiet reading, when we heard the distinctive sound of something thrashing away in a salal bush. Coming into the kitchen, we saw the bear, pawing and eating away on a rise just outside the kitchen window. If you read my last blog, you will recognize my tranquil view from the exercise bike filled with something not quite so peaceful.

 

 

 

 

Yesterday morning, our visitor was back. A wonderfully, healthy black bear going about business as usual.

Bear in the salal - Guenette photo

“We are all travellers in the wilderness of this world, and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend.” (Robert Louis Stevenson)

Here’s to living in peace with our wilderness friends Smile

Imaginary Cycle Trips, Summer Visitors & Garden Bounty

View from my stationary bike - Guenette photo

A recent knee problem has prompted me to follow my doctor’s advice on the need for a non-loadbearing exercise regime to strengthen quad muscles and make this type of injury less likely in the future. She recommended a recumbent, stationary exercise bike.

We had always planned to extend the covering over our back deck and since I absolutely refuse to ride a stationary bike inside the house, the timing was perfect. Deck cover is now done, bike is in place and I have embarked on an imaginary, stationary bike ride across Canada to visit my son in Ottawa. Things are off to a slow but steady start. It took me some time to cover the gravel road out of here but now I am onto the highway (metaphorically speaking) and rolling along.

Resistance is set low, speed consistent at about 17 miles per hour and as I recover, I’m keeping the riding time to thirty minutes per day. It’s like cruising on a very smooth track. There will be time enough to build in higher resistance, greater speed and lengthier rides. The longest journey starts with a single step. Or should I say, a spin of the bike wheel?

Emma in Save-On with Chasing Down the Night - Guenette photo

Granddaughter, Emma, at Save-On Foods in Campbell River – having fun posing with my book.

We’ve just come through an amazing two weeks of friends, grandkids, kids and nieces visiting us at the lake with all the fun, laughs and good times that go along with such times. Please watch for future posts covering the highlights. I’ve had a wonderful break from social media and am coming back refreshed and happy.

Chelsea relaxing and reading Chasing Down the Night - Guenette photo

My niece, Chelsea, enjoying a reading break. Her choice – Chasing Down the Night, of course!

Final edits on Maelstrom are keeping me at my computer for thirty minute blocks several times per day. I now set a timer and get up when it goes off. Good knee health and all of that. I find it amazing just how fast thirty minutes can fly by.

The garden has moved into high production mode and we are reaping the harvest. Yesterday I was busy making blackberry jam and tonight’s dinner features fresh green beans, zucchini and tomatoes.

Blackberry jam - Guenette photo

Reason clears and plants the wilderness of the imagination to harvest the wheat of art. (Austin O’Malley)

Things Heat Up When the Mounties Arrive

Pt. Alice 50th - Bruce Witzel photo

I’m spending a couple of days selling books and having a great time over at the Port Alice 50th Anniversary Celebrations. For a died in the wool (get it – red serge!) Canadian like myself, a visit from an RCMP officer in full dress uniform is quite a treat.

And what I can I say? There was cake.

Pt. Alice 50th - cake - Guenette photo (1)

Celebrations are going on all weekend. Port Alice is the place to be. Stop by the registration room and say hi.

Pt. Alice 50th - banner - Bruce Witzel photo

Writer’s Quote Wednesday–Ernest Hemingway

Brit at Maple Ridge Dike - with Hemingway quote

This picture combines two things I love – my beautiful granddaughter, Britney (carrying my book)  and the inspiring words of Ernest Hemingway. Some truths are better expressed in fiction – right? And who among us won’t sink so low as to use a cute child to promote our own work?

For this week’s Writer’s Quote Wednesday, (that amazing blog brainchild of Colleen over at Silver Threading) I have to go with Hemingway. I’ve just finished reading an excellent novel that features the often enigmatic author – Crook Factory by Dan Simmons. The book plunges the reader back in time to 1942 Cuba as Hemingway sets up an amateur espionage ring to ferret out information on Nazi spies and makes use of his own boat, the Pilar, to search for German submarines. Enter FBI Special Agent, Joe Lucas who has been sent to keep an eye on the aging author. Through twists and turns and endless intrigue, Joe and Hemingway develop a unique relationship and Joe is the recipient of more than a few tidbits of life advice – Hemingway style.

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This photo comes from a trip Bruce and I took back in 2010 – before I wisely succumbed to the newest wisdom that states grey is the new blonde. We ended up, by fluke, staying at a place in Idaho where Hemingway had often taken up residence during hunting and fishing trips.

If you are a fan of Hemingway, the war years, 1940’s Cuba, or the in-fighting between what would become the CIA and J.Edgar Hoover’s FBI, you might love this novel. I sure did.

Crook Factory Cover

Just a final note on author inspiration. It is said of Hemingway that he read all the time – newspapers, magazines, novels, nonfiction, draft works of other authors, letters. Stephen King has emphasized that if you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write. Naturally one should want to read Hemingway. But do read Dan Simmons. I would rate his book, Terror (all about the Franklin Expedition) among the top ten books I’ve ever read when it comes to a satisfying ending. Simmons tromps across genre boundaries as if the very idea of such divisions are ludicrous. He has written sci-fi, horror, hard-boiled crime and my personal favourite – the artfully blended, historical fact and fiction novel. He plays it loose when it comes to various writing conventions, making up the rules as he goes. I don’t always approve but I love to be along for the ride.

Jack London’s Writer’s Philosophy

  Jack London's Beauty Ranch - Bruce Witzel photo

The Wild still lingered in him and the wolf in him merely slept. (Jack London)

In the summer of 1897, Jack London, author of books such as Call of the Wild and White Fang set sail to join the Klondike Gold Rush. He would  develop scurvy and lose his front teeth in the harsh conditions, but the experience would also inspire him to write the first of his successful fiction. (Goodreads Quote of the Day for July 25, 2015)

Jack London's Writing Cottage - Guenette photo

Seeing Jack London highlighted on Goodreads a couple of days ago had me remembering our trip in 2010 to Jack London State Historic Park in Northern California. This park encompasses what London called, Beauty Ranch, and contains the cottage in which the author wrote.

Jack London's writing room - Bruce Witzel photo

Jack London's sleeping porch - Guenette photo

Jack London had a strong work ethic and writing philosophy. He saw his craft as a profitable chore. The products of his lively imagination were a means to an end.

“I write for no other purpose than to add to the beauty that now belongs to me. I write a book for no other reason than to add three or four hundred acres to my magnificent estate.”

I found this quote disconcerting. It seemed such a calculated attitude to take towards the craft of writing. I couldn’t square London’s somewhat utilitarian attitude with my own memories of how his work had moved me. Call of the Wild broke my heart and not just as a youngster. I had the same tear-filled-eyes experience when reading it to students years later.

Jack London's clothes peg line of notes - Guenette photo (1)

Once again, I am reminded of Paul Ricoeur’s thoughts on interpretation as the realm of the reader. Whatever impetus brought Jack London to the act of writing matters not when it comes to how his work made me feel.

Andy Warhol said this well.

“Don’t think about making art, just get it done.  Let everyone else decide whether it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”

Jack London quote - Guenette photo