Hi Rachel and welcome to #ThePhilFactor. Thanks for taking time to answer some questions for my readers. For those of you not familiar with Rachel, she is the CEO of #BadRedheadMedia, a social media/author marketing consulting service and she is also the author of three bestselling, award winning books (A Walk in the Snark, The Mancode: Exposed, and Broken Pieces). In addition to her busy professional life she is also a wife, mother, and recovering pharmaceutical rep.
TPF: How and when did you decide to make the transition from the nine to five grind to author and social media maven?
Rachel: I stopped working full-time as a pharma rep and trainer in 2004. We wanted to have a second child and the stress of a working a noncreative job was too much. I thought I just hated the job – it was only later that I realized it was the noncreative aspects of having a corporate job that was making me miserable.
I started writing as a young kid (nine or ten), studied journalism in college, but it wasn’t until 2008 that I started my blog, mostly as an escape from mommyhood. I didn’t want to blog about mommy stuff though, that much I knew. So I started writing about men and women from a humorous bent.
Fast forward a few years, and I’ve released three books now, as bestsellers (meaning #1 on Amazon’s Paid Rankings Lists). People started asking me on social media how to achieve the same results. I helped found an promotional group of indie authors which combined my love of writing and my sales and marketing experience in a creative way. When that fell apart, I hung out my shingle.
It’s been interesting because even though I didn’t enjoy much of the sales experience beyond relationship-building, I did love marketing and training. So creating BadRedhead Media encompasses all of that as it applies to books, authors, and branding.
TPF: Although authors write a lot, many of them have a difficult time with regular blogging. What advice would you have for them?
Rachel: The same advice I use for myself and all my clients: know your keywords. What are you most passionate about? Then write about that. If you care about your topic, it shows. If you’re just creating something to fill a void, don’t bother. Choose four or five topics that really mean something to you and then be consistent across all channels of your platform. For example, if you write about men and women on your blog, then create Google Alerts for those topics (or use Pluggio – I adore their dripfeed feature).
TPF: What do you consider to be the key platforms an author has to be on?
Rachel: No question, Twitter is an amazing relationship-building tool when used as such – not as a hard sell, one-way only broadcast model. A Facebook page (where you get LIKES), is also a must at this point. I also recommend Google+, if for no other reason than it’s a Google product and will contribute more to your ranking than Twitter or Facebook (though the combo of all three is most effective).
If your interests tend to be more visual, choose something like Pinterest, Instagram, or YouTube (again, a Google product). Social media channel developers are smart – we choose what we are most intrinsically drawn to. If something is just too hard for you, skip it. If you don’t enjoy the layout of a certain channel, it’s because it doesn’t appeal to how your brain works. So move on.
Social media is about connecting and enjoyment. Don’t stress about it.
TPF: How did you decide that your blog content might make a good book?
Rachel: It truly was one of those rare opportunities where the planets aligned: people fell in love with the funny ‘Mancode’ posts that I wrote, I started aggressively building my social media presence, people shared my stuff via mostly word of mouth (because really, what is social media other than our generation’s word of mouth?), and self-publishing was really coming into full swing, and so I just kind of … dove in.
TPF: When you look in the mirror do you see yourself as you are or do you see your ever-present online avatar?
Rachel: Ha! Mostly I love knowing exactly which day a picture was taken and what I was thinking about during the snap – which remains a mystery to people. I also think ‘CameraBag is a great app.’
TPF: What is the most common social media mistake you see indie authors making?
Rachel: No question, it’s spamming constant, repeated, duplicate links to their books (mostly on Twitter but really on any social media). I’m also not a fan of the automated direct message (auto DM). Tip: Customize your book link using bit.ly and add that to your bio– then you can also track clicks from Twitter to Amazon (or whichever site).
TPF: Your book Broken Pieces, about childhood sexual abuse, was a significant departure from the humor of your first two books. Did you have any specific fears or worries about publishing something so personal?
Rachel: No. I gave myself permission to write my story, and I’m now working on the second part. If I hadn’t gotten to that point where I was no longer ashamed (I was 12 when it happened), I don’t know that I would be as confident now. What really helped me is my favorite quote by author Lorrie Moore: Write something you’d never show your mother or father.’ It’s very freeing, not worrying about what anyone will say about your work. Most people can’t do that when it comes to writing the difficult stuff, at least not until they own it completely.
I did talk with my therapist about not making it too explicit – I didn’t want the book to trigger anyone. Survivors typically have some sort of PTSD (anxiety, depression, flashbacks), and I didn’t want to make it worse. So I don’t go into specific detail about what happened. I did have one sticking point: I didn’t want people to think I was exploiting something horrible for profit – but then I realized that I can’t control what people think.
Finally, I connected with a few organizations that help sexually abuse survivors and settled on RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network). Find out more about this stellar organization (started by Tori Amos) by visiting http://www.rainn.org/
TPF: Was the humor with which you approached your blog a kind of therapy for you and Broken Pieces a different kind of therapy?
Rachel: Good question! Well, humor is a coping mechanism, no doubt. I tend to write the way I think: with satire. Some people miss that and have become incensed with my humor books, particularly men (and some religious conservatives). On the flip side, I’ve also connected with terrific guys who can laugh at themselves and see the humor in everyday life.
As for writing Broken Pieces, people do ask me if it was cathartic and I say no, because I think that’s too easy. There’s a certain release in sharing something so difficult and private, yes. But it doesn’t change what happened. It’s all a part of who I am and who I have become and that’s cool.
I’m not a religious person, but I do believe in the universe and that all things happen in a way that connects at some point – that I wouldn’t be where I am writing this if various events hadn’t occurred prior. I couldn’t have written Pieces if I hadn’t been sexually abused as a child, and I wouldn’t have connected with other survivors or readers. So it happened as it needed to.
TPF: What are your thoughts on traditional publishing versus indie publishing?
Rachel: I’m happily self-published, but I believe any author who chooses this route must create a spectacular product. Write the best you can, and then hire a structural editor to make it that much better. Share it with people you trust – other writers, crit partners. Spend time with your rewrites – trust the process. When you’re finally satisfied, send it to a
proofreader, then betareaders, then hire a graphic artist. It’s a mistake to assume you are that good that you don’t need help.
Self-publishing is very humbling, but with hard work, it can be lucrative – you make 70% per book sale. That’s good money if you can sell several hundred or more each month.
I didn’t query any agents or publishers, although I did have two agents contact me (they found me on Twitter!), and I took meetings with both of them in New York. It didn’t work out mainly because I’m not willing to give up eBook rights. A publisher recently expressed interest in Pieces but again, their business model requires eBook rights to make it viable for them so we both decided I’m better off on my own.
I’m to the point where, on a good month, I can pay rent, a car payment, and health insurance with my royalty check. But it’s not enough for a family of four. That’s why I started my business – for added income and because I love it all. Anything to do with books, sign me up!
TPF: Could you tell readers a little bit about your Friday night #MartiniChat on Twitter?
Rachel: A friend of mine (@JackieBernardi) is a brilliant businessperson and martini fan. We were joking on Twitter one night that nobody had a ‘just for fun’ chat about martinis. How was this possible? So we started one!
It’s really just a fun hour to discuss cocktails, appetizers, recipes, bar culture – really anything that has to do with drinks and nothing to do with books. There’s no ulterior motive other than having fun (join us: 5pm PST every Friday. Use the #MartiniChat hashtag to join in.) Folks can also follow us @MartiniChat.
If I may, I also started #MondayBlogs – share your blog posts AND retweet others on, you guessed it, Mondays. I monitor the @MondayBlogs stream only on Mondays so I don’t retweet any other days. The whole point is to give people a designated day on Twitter to share posts and it has created a wonderfully supportive community.
Thank you again Rachel for taking some time to visit #ThePhilFactor. For readers who want to follow Rachel online you can do so on Twitter @RachelintheOC and @BadRedHeadMedia, on Amazon, and at her website BadRedHeadMedia.com. As always, please show your appreciation for indie authors by hitting the Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or any other share button you see below.