B&N Week 64: Hustle

Created on March 13, 2012 and written by
Category: Bolts & Nuts (Syndicated Column)

Every Tuesday, I have an extra bounce in my step, and I feel energized. I think it’s your presence. You make me feel special. Thank you.

This week, I want to talk about hustle. Let’s just get right into the Bolts Nuts of that, shall we?

What do I mean when I talk about hustle? I’m talking about getting your brand known, of getting out there and letting the world know that you’ve created something worthwhile.

I’m going to tell you a secret. The secret is about me, and you know that I don’t like talking about myself all that much. I’m terrible at hustle, just like most of you are. There are reasons for that, and I’m pretty sure you and I share many of these same traits. Let’s talk about them, and the ways to overcome them.

The first, biggest thing is that, despite all appearances, I’m shy. Almost painfully so, to tell the truth. And hustling means I have to break out of that mold and into something different. It means I have to draw attention to myself, and that’s something I’m uncomfortable with. I don’t mind being in the spotlight, it’s that I don’t like drawing it upon me. It feels like a cheat. I’d rather things be about the work, and not the fact that I did it.

I’m willing to bet that many of you share some of that with me. But it isn’t going to get you far. I have two columns that I write per week, and haven’t missed a date yet. Do I crow about it? Do I go out on social media and shout it to the heavens?

No. I don’t. And that’s a problem.

It’s not that I don’t want to, and it’s not that I don’t know how to hustle. It just makes me uncomfortable.

However, making comics is only the beginning of the work. First, you have to make sure the comic is of quality, and second, you have to market it. The marketing is where the hustle comes in.

Hustle means getting out there and showing off. Being shameless. Showing your wares in their best light, and letting the world know that the work exists. This is also very easy to overdo. Extremely easy.

The trick about hustle means that while you’re getting the word out about your book, you’re also not being annoying about it. Annoyance turns people off, and if you turn people off, they will actively avoid you. Active avoidance hurts sales/eyes.

There’s someone on Twitter who was killing me. Every day, a few times a day, this person would tweet about a single portion of their site. EVERY DAY. It was almost the same tweet, word for word. And if it wasn’t the same tweet, the wording would change, but it would be about the same thing. While that’s shameless hustle, it’s also annoying and turned me off. I’m willing to bet it turned off a few other people as well.

But this is what the need for eyes and mindshare will do to you. It will force you to go overboard, and then it’s hard to come back from that.

Getting your hustle on means you’re trying to enter into a contract with the public. You have something you want to give them, something you think they want. You’re bringing attention to that. You then have to keep up your side of the implied contract: the thing you’re bringing attention to should be of worth to the public you’re damn-near hassling. If it isn’t, you’re going to hear about it in the Internet Age.

So how do you go about getting your hustle on? Interaction! Not just about what you’re bringing attention to, but also being interesting in yourself. Have something to say outside of just peddling your wares.

This means being engaging. Talk to people, and have a true interest in them. If you treat them as though they’re a means to an end, they’ll be able to tell, and then you’re done.

Who do you need to have hustle for?

Retailers! Readers will come, but retailers are the ones who are going to sell your book, unless you’re selling it yourself. You get a retailer onboard for your book, and you’ll be able to move more copies.

But you have to be engaging. You have to have the wares to sell, and you have to have the follow through. Your product also has to be of Quality (just as your hustle has to be of Quality). If you don’t have the wares or the follow through, then you’re doing something worse than spinning your wheels and wasting your time: you’re crying wolf, and you can only do that so many times before people [retailers] stop listening. Then you’ll have more work to do in order to make up that lost ground. Even then, you’ve set up an expectation that you’re not going to follow through sometime in the future, and they’ll just be waiting for it.

You also have to let the main news agencies know about your wares. Lots of people read Heidi McDonald’s The Beat, as well as Rich Johnston’s Bleeding Cool. (What about Newsarama and CBR?) [Yes, people read those, too, but Newsarama has new owners that have turned it into a Top 10 List clickfest, which is more interested in traffic than actual reporting; and CBR doesn’t give much coverage to small press. Take that as you will.]

When the reviews of your book comes out, do your best to thank the reviewer, either in email or on the reviewing site. Even if the review is negative.

The next thing about hustle is being somewhat tireless. Being tireless does not mean going overboard and saying the same thing every day, but being pertinent and informative at every opportunity.

Let’s say you’ve got an entire arc of Pen-Man to sell, and you’ve just collected it into a trade. Well, you can go on Twitter [and make sure you’ve connected your Twitter to Facebook and whatever else you can, like LinkedIn] and tell people about it. Talk about the singles in one instance, talk about the arc in another, and then about the trade in a third. Then you could focus on important things or cliffhangers in individual issues. When people [retailers] ask about more, show them! Send them previews of the book. Get them onboard. Reviewers? Send them review copies [physical or, more than likely, digital].

Now, when the reviews are up, and the stores are selling the books, TELL PEOPLE. This is about hustle, as well. Send those reviewers traffic. Send those retailers sales. And when the readers interact with you, thank them for buying and taking the time to speak/write.

Go do in-store signings. This will have the effect of giving more traffic to the store, and have you interacting directly with your readers/potential readers.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of hustling. Done right, it is very time consuming, but it is also very rewarding.

Homework: start your hustle! I’ll be starting mine. Follow me on Twitter [@stevedforbes], I’m barely on Facebook [facebook.com/stevedforbes], and I’m also on LinkedIn. I’ve got columns to talk about, and people to interact with. Come join me!

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