There’s a lot of books out there, and there’s a lot of different methods to get a book. Amazon, like them or not, is the reigning commander of all things “book” on the Internet. Ebook or print, Amazon is where the majority of the Internet savvy world goes to get their read on. For myself and other writers that means we must work with and use Amazon if we hope to have any chance of success.
If Amazon’s new author ranking system is worth believing, I’m doing pretty darn good compared the vast majority of writers out there. Pretty darn good, for the record, is nowhere near good enough. I’m working on that, but the fact that I’ve had more success than most makes me want to offer up some bits and pieces of what I’ve figured out for other writers. I don’t see writing as a competition. Show me a person who reads who will only read a single book in his or her lifetime. No such thing, barring a severe reaction the closing a book that results in an untimely death.
Having said all that, I don’t really have anything new to share that I haven’t shared in the past. I’m always trying to find new things to try, but alas, I’m not finding that many. I do have a promo campaign running for my Vitalis Omnibus book, but it’s more of a slow burn than an instead path to success. Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself to justify the lack of results. :-) To be fair, a lot of the exciting things that should start making a difference will start up in November.
Until then I just keep on writing. I’m working on my next book (Bounty, book 3 in my Wanted trilogy), and I’ll be releasing Child of Fate, book 1 in a new fantasy series, sometime in November. And I keep writing blog posts too, like this one. To be brutally honest I’m doing whatever I can to try and snag and interest readers to check out my stuff (case in point, see those links throughout this blog? Click on ‘em, go ahead, you know you want to. You’ll like them, I promise!).
I’ll stoop to almost any means of generating interest, provided it’s ethical and legal to do so. As a matter of fact, just last night I received a wonderful email from a new fan who admitted to me that she picked up the first book in my Lost Girls series because it was free. She was hooked and bought the other ones as soon as she could. She just finished them and loved them, then she had to tell me. We had a nice conversation over email about things, and what was invaluable to me.
By talking to me she helped me get to know my readers a little better. Sure, she was one of many, but I’ll take what I can get. She provided a new point of view on things and gave me some direction for other things to try. She was excited to get some of my other books and read them and it was a great experience for both of us. Win-win!
But what about other writers trying to get the word out about there books? What’s the secret or the trick to being noticed, especially if you only have a couple of books available? I’m not sure there is any sure-fire method, it’s just a manner of doing as much as you can to try and be noticed. I read a blog post recently by a well established writer (Dean Wesley Smith, I think, but my apologies to Mr. Smith if I’ve gotten him confused with another writer) that eschewed writers from tweeting and blogging about their books. I read it and I came away with a bitter taste in my mouth.
Sure, the author of that post has hundreds of books he’s written. Other people only have a handful. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try to get some awareness generated. Nor does it mean that they are wasting time by tweeting, Facebooking, or blogging about their books or their writing. Even if the 800 words of this blog could be put into the book I’m writing right now, it’s not going to slow me down or impede my progress. I’ve also got over 20 books published, but I’ve been working hard at trying to promote myself since I only had a handful.
Ultimately, in my experience, what I write in a promotional or marketing medium has very little impact compared to what I’ve written in an entertaining fashion. By that I mean my books have been the best sales tactic for me, BUT that doesn’t mean that I haven’t had a measure of success from social media as well. If I had to guess I’d say only 5% – 10% of my sales come from social media, but without that 5% – 10% I’d have 5% to 10% fewer sales. When you’re in the starving artist stages of a writing career every sale means the world to you.
So I say do what you can, so long as it doesn’t hinder your progress. That and be careful with Twitter, they seem to have a random number generator when it comes to suspending accounts without reason or explanation! Or maybe that’s just more bitterness talking since I still can’t get a non-automated response from that company after nearly a week and a half.
To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.
A fellow writer and dear friend of mine, J.E. Taylor, paid for an advertisement as book of the day in Ereader News Today late last year. Thanks to the exposure, her sales skyrocketed for a couple of days. It wasn’t just exposure, for the record, I happen to think she’s a hell of a writer too. I’ve been trying to get a spot reserved in there as well but apparently I haven’t been quick enough to snag one for 2012. Woe is me.
But I did just manage to land a quarter page ad in a magazine called Shelf Unbound. It went live today and I have to say, I was impressed with it. Not just my ad, but the magazine too. Check it out, my ad is on page 37. While you’re there enjoy the magazine too – it’s free and interesting.
How are my sales doing because of this? Well it just went live this afternoon and it won’t be published to iTunes until 24 – 48 hours, so I’ll wait and see. The add will run through March, giving me (hopefully plenty of exposure). I’ll be sure to post on the success (or lack thereof) for this experiment as well…although if it’s successful I may be slightly delayed until after I get a few more ads lined up for future issues!
As far as overall success as a writer is concerned, I consider the fact that I can consider paying for an advertisement to be a milestone in itself. I’ve got a long ways to go, but I’m fighting to get there!
To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.
So I’ve been thinking about doing this for a while, but finally took the plunge today. I took the advice of a certain million-ebook-selling-person, (cough)John Locke(cough), and created a Twitter persona for one of my most persistent characters. And by persistent I mean not only persistently nagging at me, but persistent as in she’s in several books I’ve written or am writing.
Her name, Katalina Wimple. I’ve blogged about her and The Lost Girls (her debut novel) before. She also has a cameo in Voices – but Voices is set later in the Dark Earth universe timeline by a few years. It could be confusing, and contrary to good marketing sense, I would recommend not reading Voices until after I’ve published (and you’ve read) The Lost Girls, Traitor, and Wolf Girl. Voices falls between Wolf Girl and Black Widow.
Anyhow, Kat has a Twitter account (@VDIKaty), as I was saying. If you want to see the latest trouble she’s getting into, or eavesdrop while she insults me, feel free to follow her at http://twitter.com/VDIKaty
I’ve been teasing and hinting that I’m doing all this research and I’m going to post the conclusions of that research. Well, I’m a long ways from that, but I can offer up some tidbits on what a few months of progress are showing. And most importantly (to you, the readers), this is free! I’m not offering all this up in a conveniently bundled package for $x.99 like certain individuals out there. Maybe I should and maybe this simple bit of humanitarianism is a marketing fail on my part. I’d rather think you’d be grateful for this and more inclined to believe that I really do want to help people succeed – both myself and you, dear reader. Heck, maybe you’ll be so appreciative you’ll even go out and buy one or more of my books. No pressure though… ;-)
First on cover art: By improving my cover art images it’s definitely getting good feedback from people anecdotally (kind words over Twitter and email and such). Is it driving sales? No, is it helping? Yes. Can I quantify it? Alas – no. I did take Wanted from a good to a better (in my opinion) cover and got several very positive comments on it though, including at least one sale because it “looked very interesting.” Small sample of data, but I only made the transition last night.
Book Blurb: I’ve revised and fine tuned my book blurbs, improving them steadily all along. I may occasionally make a tweak here or there but by and large that’s all there is to it. The results? Well there’s no empirical data saying it helped n%, but there has been a steady increase over time.
Book Reviews: Yes, these are helping…I think. Nobody has contacted me to say they were on the fence about buying my book until they saw “RazorbabyX99″ thought it was a great read, but knowing how I and a few others look at making a purchase in an online venue, reviews are worth their weight in gold. And like above, the positive trend reflects that these are a factor, I just wish I had more of them. I honestly believe more reviews would make a very strong difference. As it is I’m lucky to have two reviews on any given book on Amazon. I encourage – no, I implore people to please help out the writers they like (especially if it’s me) and leave a few words or sentences about a book they liked. It’s so immensely helpful.
Twitter: The powerhouse that is Twitter is both fun and useful. I’ve had a lot of success with Twitter helping me to increase sales. Both my tweets that go out aimed at promoting and other tweets that draw people in. Sure, maybe it’s a a 1:500 ratio but that’s still a sale. But even more importantly, I’ve met some really cool people and been touched by some of them as well (and not in a creepy way). For example, my wife has spent the week in the hospital for some severe abdominal pain that the docs had a hard time identifying. It looks like she’ll be headed home very soon, hopefully today, and the problem was one that was complicated by a matter of timing and coincidence. A few mentions on Twitter about this brough in a flood of well wishes and support. It was very touching and very much appreciated. Sure, maybe there’s no real investment when all your doing is typing in a few encouraging words but trying being on the other end, when you’re not quite sure what’s going on and you’ve got the creative machine that is a writer’s mind working against you instead of for you. It’s amazing how the power of anonymity and empathy combine to make me think that maybe humanity isn’t destined to spiral into chaos.
Website: I’ve got one (http://www.booksbyjason.com) and I update it frequently. Either new samples, news postings, or design changes (major or minor). Come to think of it I need to revise some font sizes on my book pages for the links still. Well anyhow, having a website has been quite helpful. People like the free samples. My visitation is down recently because I haven’t been pumping it out there very much. So, um, go visit it! ;-)
The data: The following numbers are US numbers from Amazon only. I’ve got a great following in the UK that is increasing at a similar base and even if I can’t speak for their loyalty to me, I’ve found myself becoming fiercely loyal to them for the support I’ve received. I’ve got a passport, I just need the time and more sales to finance a trip to go and visit!
Month Quantity Notes
June 20 No advertising worth mentioning, original covers / blurbs / website
July 14 Just beginning to attempt to advertise but “attempt” is the key word.
August 50 Started fumbling with Twitter effectively and blogging. Website enhancement
September 108 More of the same plus I blurbs and prof. cover art. Website changes too.
October 93 / 135 At 93 presently, trending towards 135. More and more of the same.
So the improvements aren’t linear by any means, it’s a result of working hard and the more I can put into it in terms of time and effort, the more I get out of it. Adding new books to the mix helps as well, of course! The numbers aren’t outstanding by any stretch, but it’s a positive trend and I’m here for the long haul. I stand zero chance of hitting 1 million ebooks in five months like John Locke did, but that’s okay – I’m not the marketing guru he is either. Ironically I read his book and saw that he and I independently came to many of the same conclusions. In a few instances he’s been able to implement them better though.
But speaking of marketing, I’ve got something new I’m trying in the very near future too. It’s staying under wraps until it happens though, it’s a surprise – but I promise it’ll be a great one!
I started this marketing bit with the intent of using it as a tool. It was a means to an end. The end is a long ways away but that’s okay because it’s changed It went from being thought of as a necessary chore to something that has changed and improved me. The Twitter experience, where I interact with friends, has been inspirational, touching, exhilarating, and fun. There’s occasional somber moments as well, such as when I learn of a friend who is on the verge of losing a cherished family pet. They’re not just fans and readers, they’re part of an extended family and I couldn’t have the hopes, dreams, and ambitions that I do without them. If you’re a writer I’d advise you take that to heart and remember we’re only successful because of the people who make us that way.
Happy news, I set a new record for sales this month. Two records, actually – I sold more copies of Wanted this month than ever before and on top of that, I doubled last months sales a day before the end of the month. Ah hell, how about the hat trick – Wanted also broke the 20,000 mark in “all sold books” on Amazon. A couple more sales and it’ll break 10,000 – hint, hint. :)
But this is about advertising. How’d I get to where I’m at? Wanted has two review on Amazon. Sure, they’re both good reviews, but only two. It’s got a striking cover. Not the best, but it’s good. I’m tried my best to make the Amazon page appealing…but again, it’s one of many. So why is it doing reasonably well?
Pricing maybe? I’ve got it at $.99 at the moment. Yes, that helps. But it doesn’t pull people in to look at it in the first place. That’s a combination of me doing my best to make it available as many places as possible, including Twitter.
Ah yes, Twitter. The marketing mecca of the 21st century. I’ve amassed roughly 5000 followers and I regularly send out tweets that promote my books. Not directly, typically. Usually I’m either throwing out a snippet from a review and suggesting people check it out because, damn it, I’m proud of what somebody said in that review. At other times if I think there’s a particularly catchy phrase in a book I’ll tweet that as well. One of the best catch phrases in Wanted, for example, is: “We’re all whores, darling,” he said. “I ain’t judging you, I just don’t care.” If that’s not cool I don’t know what is.
And, of course, if you’re going to give people a reason to check out something, give ‘em a link to do so! The easier you make it for someone, the greater the chance of generating that click. I’m a reader too and if I’ve got to do the extra work to find something like looking it up, odds are good you just lost me as a buyer. It’s not that I’m a prick, it’s that I’ve got a lot of things going on. I’m a busy man, and while my time is not any more valuable than yours is, it is valuable nonetheless. Treat your would-be readers with the same respect you want to be treated with and you’ll get a lot further.
I mentioned pride above. As in I’m proud of the reviews I’ve received. I don’t have a massive amount, but so far I don’t have a single bad review. Sure, I expect sooner or later I’m going to ruffle somebody’s feathers, but it hasn’t happened yet. That doesn’t mean I’m the next NY Times #1 Bestseller, nor that I’m a marketing genius. It just means I’m doing okay and connecting with the right people who like what I write. This is called targeting my market. I’m no wizard at it – in fact I’d say I’m more lucky than anything, but that luck is aided by trying to find people on Twitter to follow and tweet with who share my interests. Who wants the apple at the top of the tree when there’s one at the bottom that’s just as good and you don’t need a ladder? Pluck the low hanging fruit first!
More on pride. I’ll be honest (for those who don’t know me) and admit that I can be rather full of myself when it comes to a few areas. Weight lifting, in particular power lifting, is something I’ve excelled at (and suffered catastrophic injuries while doing). I figure that earns me the right to talk a little smack. My day job and many prior jobs and college degrees / certifications state that I’m an expert in the IT field, so I can roll my eyes with the best of them there too.
But writing? Writing is personal. Writing is pouring time and effort and life into something that comes entirely from inside. Every character has a part of me in it, and short of reality TV stars, who’s comfortable baring parts of their souls to complete strangers? So a positive review, a positive rating, or even a sale is nothing short of humbling. Every time somebody reaches out to me on Twitter, Facebook, my blog, my website, or via email and says they enjoyed what I wrote I’m filled with a warm fluffy feeling.
Maybe I haven’t become jaded yet, but I have a hard time seeing that ever get old. Reading a book is an investment not only in the money spent buying it but also in time. The time is generally for more valuable. Even at minimum wage a single hour would buy any of my ebooks. Reading them, on the other hand, will take considerably longer. If someone’s willing to spend that much time with a little piece of my soul and then come back and say, “Hey, good job, I really liked what I read!” Well, is there a better compliment to be found?
So to tie that back into the advertising aspect, do little things like this. Share with the world just how damned appreciative and amazed I am that they like what I’m doing. As Lady Gaga figured out, nothing is possible in this type of market with the fans. So for anybody who’s read one of my books or one day plans on it, my door’s open and, so long as you’re not a stalker who wants to wear a bodysuit made out of my skin, I’m always happy to talk.
And now another chance to check out Wanted because, well, it’s a fun book with a main character who reminds us all of how we’d like to act if only we could get away with it. Well, for the most part, Carl can! And when you’ve finished Wanted and have questions, head on back to find the sequel, Ice Princess!