On June 1, 2018 I leaped off the corporate ladder to follow my passion of writing. I had a solid storyline and had been writing the first book of a planned trilogy since November of 2017. After listening to Stephen King’s audiobook On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, I decided to practice, what he calls, “situational writing.”
My single largest struggle, at that time, was coming up with an original story. I believed readers were getting tired of vampires and werewolves, so I thought about it—for days. Days turned into weeks until it came to me in a dream. Every couple has dreams in life. My wife and I are no different. We love paranormal investigation. We love the Smoky Mountains. I love to write.
What if I had to carry out my promise to my wife of, “Till death do us part?” Would she want me to carry out our dreams? Would she approve of me finding another life partner, sometime in the future? Perhaps the answer to all was a resounding, “Yes.” What if the perfect Forever House was haunted?
I began a loose outline. How did the main characters wife die? Why is the ghost that haunts the house still there? Did he hear any stories upon moving in? Oh yeah, he’s a amateur paranormal investigator. How will he communicate with the ghost? Above all, when the story he gets from the entity doesn’t match the story he heard about the dark secret in the house, what really happened that night?
I wrote the entire trilogy in just over a year and had no idea the hardest part was yet to come. I contacted Rick Lite of Stress-Free Marketing to learn what steps I needed to take to get my book out to the world. He offered advice I still use today. Some of what he discussed is what many know about marketing. I must identify my target market. I must define my brand. What that means is, what makes me different than other authors? The answer was simple. I could back up the stories in the fictional trilogy. When I schedule book signing events, I’ll tell people to come talk about their own paranormal experiences. It was rock solid and completely fail-proof—it would have been if the voices in my head told me sooner, “Change your brand.”
Let’s fast forward to June of 2020. In two years, I build an email list of 38 people. No, that’s not a typo. It’s not supposed to be 3800 or even 380. I had 38. One random summer day while thinking of absolutely nothing in particular, it hit me. I was marketing myself as an author who has written a trilogy based on personal experiences. I had it backwards. Unless someone is an established, well-known author, being an author isn’t exciting to my defined audience that had been fine-tuned a year ago. What if I changed my brand? How would my audience interact differently?
In early September, I redesigned some of my marketing materials, joined some paranormal investigations and even took some professional photos that made me appear far more mysterious. Since then, Pete Nunweiler is a paranormal investigator who has been to some of the most haunted places in the country. He’s seen an apparition on the battlefield at Gettysburg. He’s been surrounded by shadow people at Waverly Hills, in Louisville. Oh yeah, he’s also written a paranormal trilogy that includes many of his real experiences.
I changed my target vendor events to paranormal places, shared stories and have sold more books in the past six weeks at vendor events than I have in the year prior. I changed my brand, and it was time to try to build a larger email audience. I took the same approach a parent would take when asking a young child to pick up their toys. It was easy—I bribed them. With the help of a well-designed social media advertisement that cost $50.00, I scheduled a drawing for October 8 to give away an author-signed copy of the entire trilogy from my list of email subscribers. With a single click, they were directed to my sign-up form. In the two weeks that I ran the ad, my email list grew to nearly 200 subscribers.
It wasn’t the advertisement that built the list. I ran the exact same promotion three time prior. This time, it was different. My audience saw a paranormal investigator; a guy who has been to cool places, like the ones they’ve seen on television. He’s really been there and has had real paranormal experiences. The brand I created was interesting to them. They wanted the books for those reasons.
If you’re struggling like I did for nearly two and a half years, consider your brand. Are you a subject matter expert on a topic that fills you with knowledge and experience? Or are you someone who writes in their free time, which is far less than you hoped, that kind of knows some stuff about what you’re writing? Change your brand. Change your world.
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