I don’t know when, nor do I know how, but I do know that I have got to get over to visit the UK. I haven’t done much of anything to target readers of fantasy and science fiction in the UK but I’ve had several books hit bestselling lists over there on Amazon. Voidhawk, Wanted, Ice Princess, and the Lost Girls all had a few moments of glory. It’s been shocking and amazing for me, and it instills in me a serious fondness for my readers in the UK.
So my plan, far fetched as it may be, is to visit the UK at some point in the future. I sincerely hope I can hook up with at least a few readers when this happens to share firsthand my appreciation with them. No, there’s nothing on the books yet, and for that matter I’m not sure when I could afford to do visit with my entire family, but that’s how goals start out.
As a case in point, let me share a link and a snippet from a review I stumbled across today on the web. It’s from Ishbel Stronach, a wonderful woman across the pond. She picked up Vitalis: New Beginnings not so long ago and used it to step into the world of science fiction for the very first time. She loved it and came back for more, starting with Wanted. To quote a line from her review she said: “New Beginnings was a fantastic book by Jason Halstead. my first science fiction book ever and I thoroughly enjoyed it.”
If you’d like to read more of her blog, here’s the link: http://ishbelstronach.blogspot.com.
If you’d like to check out Vitalis – New Beginnings, here’s your chance:
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.
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!
I’ve reached some preliminary decisions regarding cover art. It’s a huge boon to have good cover art – I can’t find anyone who disagrees. But I still see books rated much higher than mine in the ranks on Amazon that have downright horrible covers. So what gives? Is it the blurbs? In most cases the blurb is inconclusive, at best. In some cases the blurbs are outright horrible and filled with errors, yet the sales are vastly superior. Back to WTF.
Reviews come to mind next. First my definitions:
Editorial Review - this is a review done by a reader or a blogger (or somebody at a reviewing firm). It is not necessarily attached to a book at a point of sale with a rating associated with it. Typically these are longer reviews with more thought and, potentially, spoilers attached to them.
Reader Review - these reviews are done at the various points of sale on the web and have a rating assigned to them. For exapmle, Wanted on the Kindle has two 4.0 rating reviews. There is often a brief bit of text associated with these as well.
When I launch Ice Princess, the sequel to Wanted, next month I’ve got a couple of editorial reviews ready to launch with it. This is a first for me – coordinating a book launch like that. We’ll see how it goes. Anyhow, the point is that I’ll have some data to assimilate at that point about launching a book with an editorial review. A few of my other books (Voidhawk, Human Nature, and Wanted) have editorial reviews as well and they get the most sales for me. So yeah, editorial reviews help a lot. New Beginnings, book 1 of my Vitalis series, has no reviews associated with it yet (some pending), and similarly I have no sales on the Kindle yet (Smashwords and Barnes and Noble, on the other hand, have seen some action).
Reader reviews give the book a rating on a scale (typically) of 1 to 5. The higher the number the better. Of course individual tastes may vary, but it stands to reason that the higher the rating and the more people that rate it, the better the book will be exposed and received. I believe this can sway a potential reader into buying the book. It’s reassuring to know that a few other people thought it looked good enough to buy – and if it’s not well then at least they weren’t the only one suckered into buying it!
So how do we get reviews? Editorial is done by finding bloggers and people willing to do just that, then going out there and submitting your book to them for consideration. Typically there’s a wait involved. That’s okay, good things come to those who wait (or so my bottle of ketchup tells me).
As for reader reviews…that’s a bit trickier. Short of begging and pleading there’s not much we, as writers, can do to get our readers to take time out of their lives to click a button and jot down a few words. But for the readers out there reading this – support your favorite authors (or those who haven’t made your personal favorites list). Take that time to rate their stories you’ve read and let them know what you thought about it. Heck, “Good book, thanks!” is a great review if you don’t want to take time explaining why Shirley should have stabbed Brian after he slept with Tammy instead of asking to join them next time. Or just click the number of points / stars / whatever you think it’s worth. This helps the writer in many ways: it helps them by letting them know whether they did something right or not and it helps to potentially draw in more sales. A writer without feedback (and sales ARE a form of feedback) will lose interest sooner or later.
If you’ve got all of those (and they’re positive), but still not making sales then there’s not much left outside of shouting to the world that your book is out there and the said world should check it out.
In spite of the links and the preference for mentioning my own material, I’m not trying to drive anyone to buy my stuff (at least not any more than usual). I’m using it as examples of the data points I have, and how my barely modest success can be of use to others struggling to write and make a name for themselves. Oh – there is also no relation or involvement in any of my books to a Shirley, Brian, or Tammy, or at least none that I can recall.
I’m working on getting ready to launch into part two of Vitalis (what? Read this: http://booksbyjason.wordpress.com/2011/08/14/artistic-license/), but I’m a couple of characters short. So I thought, for a change of pace, why not give the readers a chance to personalize a book! Put in some comments here and tell me about somebody you like / admire / can’t stand who could be turned into a character in a book.
I’m looking for characters that are not really all that interested in being law-abiding citizens. I can’t go into too much detail without spoiling it though. I suppose they could be undercover law enforcement of some type. It’s science fiction, taking place significantly far in the future – far enough that humanity has expanded to live in multiple star systems and can travel between them with relative ease.
Propose somebody I like and use and I’ll be sure to hook you up with a free version of the finished product. How’s that for incentive?