Inkshares Contest Survival Guide

With the announcement that my publisher is running another contest sponsored by The Nerdist, I raise my creaking bones from the sharp-edged divan of Anxiety and inksharesEditing to applaud and salute all the new campaigns! More writers, more books, more readers – these are always good things. It’s easy to think of writing as a purely competitive enterprise – especially in a contest framework, but you know what’s great about readers? They don’t want to read just one book – they want to read many books! And bringing more attention to my publisher helps me too – *rubs together hands maniacally* – now more people have a chance to see MY STUPID DORK BOOK FOR DORKS.

But let’s talk about your stupid dork book for dorks. And more importantly about how you can survive the next few weeks of the contest with crying in the bathtub only every other night.

  1. Use your campaign dashboard. Inkshares gives you plenty of easy tools to link up all of your Facebook, Google, etc. contacts and puts them in a handy list called the Reader Pipeline. This is a perfect way to start keeping track of who you  have contacted, who’s pre-ordered the book, who you need to beg harder. There are also built-in tools to contact prospective readers and also to THANK people who bought your book.
  2. Get comfortable with asking people for money. Yes, I know. It’s terrible. But you have to do it. All of the easy/passive ways you can ask aren’t going to get you there – i.e. posting on Facebook, or your blog, or Twitter. You are the best salesman of your work – you need to go directly to your friends, family, acquaintances, vague strangers, lemurs and ASK for the pre-order.
  3. Take a long look at your writing schedule. Assume it’s going to get thrown away for most of the contest. It’s a stressful time! You are going to start refreshing the contest page a few times an hour in the last few days of the contest – go ahead and accept that your writer-brain has checked out, and you are pure rodent-lust. It can be extremely demoralizing for writers – as surprise! – writing is what keeps us happy and reasonably emotionally balanced. You need to account for that, and build in some slack in your support network. (see: crying in the tub.)
  4. Get to know the other competitors. Not just follow their campaigns from the shadows — talk to them! 5 winners are going to make it, but there’s nothing saying that even more can hit the overall Inkshares funding goal. The more you share resources, readers, knowledge, and support the easier things will be for all of you. I made several friends during the last contest and I’m very glad that they are still talking to me. One of the winners of the last contest is putting another book up – JF Dubeau – he would be a great resource to you for help and ideas.
  5. Noblesse oblige. No doubt, tensions are going to run high as the contest heats up – it pays to remember that you all have the same goal, the same dream. Go out of your way to play fair, to help out the other campaigns. We’re all a bunch of small-timers trying to take the leap into a bigger arena. Even if you win, you can still stumble. Nerds must be held to a higher moral code – we are all taught by the finest stories and the greatest heroes.
  6. Updates. When you send out updates to your backers – remember that they are your allies, your friends and boon companions that want to help you make your dream come true. They are not your servants or conscripts. Ask them to help you, give them clear instructions of things they can do to aid the campaign – but don’t forget to entertain them! Show them exclusive parts of the book, concept art, videos, terrible pictures of yourself. Don’t just send out endless ‘GET MO PREORDERS’ updates – if you cause your core audience to tune you out, that’s hard to come back from!
  7. Cry in the shower. There are going to come moments when you will wonder why you jumped into this thing. We make stuff, we write stuff – it’s a learned skill to put your work out there in the world where anyone can bang on it, or worse ignore it. This contest is 6 weeks of permanent vulnerability – it will be hard. And it’s okay to feel bad. Here’s another post I wrote all about the emotional damage of self-promotion.
  8. It is okay to ask people for money. I’m saying this twice, because it goes against the grain for so many people. My day job is sales, so I have a much thicker skin about it – but even I get squirmy when it’s for my nerd poems. People want to help you – don’t feel like you have to make them read your excerpt, or explain the whole book to them. Don’t sell the book – sell YOU. Look in their eyes and ask for ten dollars. This contest is purely based on unique readers – not preorder count, so you don’t have to stress about getting multiple books out of people. Just ask – I promise that it is okay.
  9. Take breaks. Seriously – as much as you can, especially those last two weeks. You are going to become an internet-octopus, dripping your tentacles across all platforms looking for information and preorders and mentions and ideas and any glimmer of aid that can come to your campaign.  Go on walks. Play video games. Write if you can. There will come moments where you will stare at the contest page and try to WILL the numbers to go up – these are normal, but get your support network to pull you away from it as much as they can.
  10. Contact Inkshares with questions or concerns. Some weird stuff happened last contest. A glitch with some referral credit, things not appearing properly on campaign pages, etc. Everyone at Inkshares was always quick to respond, eager to fix the problem, and as transparent as they could be about the source of the problem and the solution. They want to get it right and they work hard to do so – it’s why I’m quite glad to have them as my publisher. (HEARTS 4 INKS)
  11. Cry in the shower.
  12. Your book is not on trial. There are a lot of moving parts to this contest. People are going to pre-order your book because it sounds awesome. Or because you asked them. Or because they liked the cover. Or, or or…if you find yourself slipping down the ranks, it DOES NOT MEAN your book is bad. Maybe the other books are doing a better job of pestering people, or they have a bigger family, or, or or. Do not start beating up your book and blaming it for not being shiny enough. Unless your book is into that and has given clear, vigorous consent.
  13. You can do it. By that I mean – you can get your book out into the world. This contest, the next contest, regular funding through Inkshares, Kickstarter, self-publishing, finding an agent, printing it out on copy paper and hiding it in Waffle House bathrooms — you can do it.

Enough blathering from me! Good fortune and good campaigning. If you have questions about anything, drop a comment below or look me up on Twitter – @gderekadams.

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