|Posted by nancyfreund11 on May 8, 2016 at 11:30 AM|
When's the best time to plant a tree? Twenty years ago. Or if you didn't do it then, TODAY.
I KNOW it would have been smart to organize my email list like I used to keep my old-fashioned address book when I was a kid. I hate losing track of friends -- always have -- so I was the kid at summer camp who made sure the directory was up-to-date before we all scattered to our homes at the end of our sessions. I made sure my Christmas cards went out on time, all with personalized notes so my friends would know I was truly thinking of them. Nothing automated, ever. (Well, let's face it, we didn't have that kind of automation in the 70s or 80s). But more than just holiday cards, I wrote LETTERS to the people I loved too. This always mattered to me, and it still does. Over and over again, I've learned that distance doesn't have to be an obstacle. Geographical distance, I mean. Geography -- I laugh in your face!
But of course social media has changed everything. Now I have friends on Facebook I've met once at a party, and I don't even know how to pronounce their last names. In some cases, I've never met a friend (a TRUE friend, I believe) in person at all... YET. In some respects, I feel as close to friends who live continents away as I do to my own neighbours here in Switzerland. Some of my favorite people who I feel a sort of incredible soul connection to are folks I once knew in real life only tangentially -- friends of my brother's or prior students of mine or that older guy in my high school who always intimidated me... or that girl in my sorority I always wished I'd get to know better, but our activities just never overlapped. And now, though social media and through putting my SELF out there through my fiction, I've found some amazing new connections and reconnetions. Every time I'm online, seriously, EVERY time, I'm just marveling at it.
My first novel came out 2 1/2 years ago, and every time a person reviews it, and then my next two books since, I'm slightly shocked by the fact that I didn't already know that person. A READER chose my work! He or she invested their valuable time not just in reading my work, but in telling their friends about it and reviewing the book online. Usually these reviews are positive -- usually they're thoughtful and well written. One of my worst reviews is actually very well written, and I like that reviewer SO MUCH for her honesty and her investment in sharing her thoughts. She spent time with my work and that's such an honor. I'm not going to put her on my Christmas card list -- I'm not a glutton for punishment, and she really did not enjoy my writing -- but I am still so pleased she spent the time to share her thoughts.
So the point here is that list, how important I know it is. When I taught high school in LA, one of the first things I learned about gangs was how important their database was. I had students who'd scribbled on their notebooks in angry black ink the gang names of their people. The list mattered, the hierarchy and its current state, mattered more than anything. The police taught teachers to read the writing on the walls, literally, to know what criminal activity was being planned, who was in, who was out, and what was in the works... all shared in spray paint along the freeway. It was terribly dangerous stuff going on, but it all boiled down to their lists of friends. From my perspective as the new English teacher, it almost seemed quaint.
And then came my first job in newsletter marketing, as a list broker. It was my job to understand our current subscribers -- who they really were, what they liked to do in their free time, where they lived, what they looked like, what their families were like, what they cared about and spent money on, what else they already read and what they might possibly like to read next. It's both an art and a science, and it was great fun to delve into both sides of that. Yet again, I recognized the importance of the list.
So you'd think as an indie author I'd have stepped up to bat with my very first speech, my very first website, my first published poem or essay or novel... all with my mailing list in the back of my mind. But I never did. I have enjoyed all those "firsts" without any eye on development at all. Silly, but there you have it! I really do write to create connection with readers. Reader to writer, writer to reader, reader to reader, protagonist to reader... book group people who find things in common as a result of my writing and other people's novels as well. If there's a single thing I'd say floats my boat more than anything else, it's this idea of literature creating connection. So with apologies to the universe for not getting organized any sooner -- like 20 years ago -- it's time to plant my tree now.
I sent my first email out to my "reader team" about an hour ago. It's Mother's Day after all, and 'Mailbox' came out last year on Mother's Day. So I finally started trying to figure out Mailchimp -- the software my first (unofficial) publicist and dear friend, Bonnie recommended I try even before my first novel came out in 2013. Do I wish I'd invested the time then in planting those seeds? Sure -- I'd have a little tree already growing! But the time wasn't right then, and now maybe it is. No RAGRETS! But I've now sent that first email, got high-fived by a cartoon monkey when it went out, and I'm getting somewhere.
What I sent was a chance to win 'Mailbox' in ebook. All you have to do is this jigsaw puzzle of the 'Mailbox' front cover. If you're tempted, give it a try and tell me how fast you were! You can comment here on this post or come connect on Facebook. And subscribe if you want to stay in touch! Soon enough the tree will grow and we'll be building a tree house with a little library and a rope ladder and a window, where we can hang out and read books and share stuff, where ever we live, regardless of the miles in between.
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