Not so long ago Amazon came out with a new tool for writers. A reporting dashboard that shows close to real time sales of their books on KDP. It’s cool, I have to admit, and really helps see how things are unfolding in a meaningful way. Things like promotions, new releases, price changes, etc.. And it helps the neurotic writer that can’t help but check their sales constantly have the data at hand almost immediately.
Me, I got over the addiction to staring at numbers a long time ago. Now I still check regularly, but not for a narcotic buzz. I do it to track progress and have reliable data on what works and what doesn’t. It’s a constant ever-learning process too, so it’s important to know what’s going on. And, I’ll admit, there are times when a big surge will still make me giddy as a school girl. Although I can’t ever remember seeing a giddy school girl, you get the idea.
Last night we (myself and Dawn Michelle, my ravishing wife) released the fifth part of her Claimed by the Beast paranormal serial romance. This morning when I checked a few minutes ago to see if it had gained much traction I saw an amazing thing. Not only is it doing quite well so far, but for the first time in, like, ever we’ve sold more books today than we’ve given away as freebies. The difference is pretty minimal (9 books more sold), but I’ve never seen anything like that before. I don’t expect to see it again, honestly, but it’s pretty cool.
Why not? Well, I have multiple books that are free and the first one in Dawn’s Claimed by the Beast series is free also. Want to know more about them? Here’s the links:
And here’s the cover and blurb from Dawn’s latest serial:
The life of a teenage girl is never a simple thing. From drama to decisions made without considering the repercussions, Crystal has to live with the consequences. Her mistakes have cost her more than just a normal life, they’re threatening her friends and family as a savage monster stalks the people she loves.
Even her whirlwind romance is starting to fall apart around her, making her second guess herself. Is living the life she dreamed about worth the people that get hurt along the way? It’s a price that her enemies are only too happy to help her pay.
As for me, I’m nearly finished with Voidhawk – Broken Shards. After that I’ll help my wife with her next project, something that is related to the Claimed by the Beast series but is a historical paranormal serial romance (we’re trying to see how many genres we can hit at one time). Then I’ll be back writing more about Vitalis. Or at least that’s my plan so far…
If you’ve noticed you can hear a pin drop in here lately it’s because I’ve moved my blog to http://www.booksbyjason.com/wordpress. But don’t fret, the old posts have been moved too! It’s cleaner and a better set up, but it could use a little love. So check it out, sign up there (again, if you signed up here), and I promise to keep sharing my trials and tribulations on my quest to become one of those rare writers that doesn’t need a day job.
To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.
I spent some time in the waiting room at the hospital emergency room last night, then later in an actual room in the ER. I brought in my wife’s Kindle for something to pass the time and while browsing through the items on it I had a few discoveries. No, not discoveries like some great reads, rather discoveries that alarmed me. I had a hell of a time trying to find something worth reading! On the Kindle screen the cover is too small to see much of it, plus it’s black and white. The title was all that stood out. So other than a few searches I conducted I mostly browsed through the top 100 lists. I selected a few that found away to pique my interest and downloaded the samples of them to check them out. That’s when epiphany number two struck.
A lot of the books on the Amazon best selling lists suck! Oh sure, there are varying levels of suckage, and in some cases he story was interesting but just not enough to compensate for the errors in flow or the technique (or lack thereof) in which the story was told. I even checked out a story from a Twitter friend of mine and found it to be close, but still a disappointment. How is this happening?!
A lack of control is the answer. Self-publishing is taking the literary world by storm but I can see how the near obsolete publishing companies of old laughed at it initially. It’s hard to believe people will accept the quality found within these self-pubbed books compared to what they’ve grown up on in properly edited print versions. To be fair, some of the problems are conversion issues. Some. The rest…not so much.
And that led me to a moment of controlled anger. Why are these books ranked so highly when mine, which flow far better and have a much more polished look, languish in lower ranks. Am I saying my books are better than these bestselling top 100 lists? Yes, yes I am. Sure, I’m biased, but amongst 11 published titles my lowest review is a 3 and no, I don’t have my wife and family posting reviews for me. If you don’t believe me I’ll accept that challenge and suggest you try out a couple of my books and compare them to other books in the top 100 list for the same genre. No, not the ones written by the famous NY Times bestselling authors that have been around for years, but the other indie authors out there.
As for how those other guys got on the top lists with only average work, the answer, clearly, is networking. Some of these authors must have people on tap ready to snatch them up in quantities necessary to propel them onto the lists and then, once there, the titles often take care of themselves. My experience with the Kindle proved that the easiest way to buy a book is via the top lists. If it’s not on there an author is fighting for table scraps.
No, I don’t have a suggestion for people to help them find books in a better way. Well, aside from typing my name into the search box, that is. :) Seriously though, I’d advise readers when they find a writer they like to share the word and give them as much of a boost as they can to help them get up there. Without sales we lose heart (and the ability to pay bills), and that means we can’t write and publish as much since we’ll have to get a real job.
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
Random thoughts bounce around in my head. Sometimes it happens so quickly it can be dizzying. Other times great ideas occur, but they’re gone before I even realize the potential behind them. Not so with the idea that whacked me in the back of the noggin last night. I turned it around, looked at it, sniffed it, and then even tasted it. Through it all I avoided any thing distasteful to my palate. Having passed the sniff and taste test, the idea has to be golden, right? Well I’m going to find out.
I am hereby putting out a call to my loyal readers, blog or books. I’m looking for a few good beta readers. No editing skills are required. No writing skills are required. Heck, if you can read you’re potentially qualified! Some stipulations apply of course (confidentiality and whatnot), but we can discuss those if you decide your serious about it.
So what’s in it for you? An early (and free) pre-release version of whatever book I’m working on – and I write a lot of books! I’ve got several queued up for release as we speak in fact, and I’m always working on more. Did I mention the books are free?
‘That’s great,’ you’re thinking, ‘but what’s it in it for him?’ Glad you asked! I’m after more reviews to be put on my books when they’re released. Honest reviews too, not just blowing smoke and claiming it’s an instant 5 out of 5 simply because you got it for free. If you’ve got a blog and want to mention it there too, that’d be great as well, but that’s a secondary consideration for me. And of course I’m also seeking feedback on anything you did or didn’t like about it. What worked, what didn’t, etc..
So if you think you’ve got what it takes and are interested in getting your hands on some science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, and occasional other genre books at no cost to you aside from a paragraph of words, let me know! Email me here: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nothing religious about this post – rather it’s all about the lack of birth control endorsement and encouragement to reproduce. So, too, should a writer be prolific. The more material a writer has out, the better the chance of income. More work means more exposure, which means more people interested, which means more sales. Of course it goes without saying that it should be quality work, but unless you’re Will Smith or Warren Buffet, the odds of predicting what’s going to be successful and writing something that matches the timing is a long shot, at best.
Don’t take my word for it though! I don’t have anything to back this up, other than a slowly increasing volume of books sold. There’s plenty of other sources that support this, from other writers suggesting the most important thing a writer can do is write to rough stats that show the more lines you have in the water the better your chances of catching a fish.
Something I stumbled across last night on the topic gave me quite a kick in the pants. The suggestion was relating to back lists, or pieces written that never left the hard drive / were retired from public consumption. Why are they were they are? In the age of ebooks there is no shelf-life, just a steady stream of new people looking for things to read. Is it because you, the writer, feel that it’s poorly written? Are you ashamed of it? Or perhaps it’s something you wouldn’t want your mother knowing you wrote. That’s not much different from having a money tree grow in the back yard but insisting on not plucking the fruit from it because you’re afraid it would hurt the tree. The answer? A pen name!
Branding is a key part of being a writer, and a lot of work goes into establishing and perpetuating that brand. We blog, we tweet, we read / review, and we write. We do other things too, hopefully most of them keeping us out of jail. But if you write something you feel may not be good for the brand you’ve been establishing, then put it out there under a pen name instead. Don’t focus so much on creating that brand, just let it do its thing on its own. Sure, maybe it’s slower, but our focus should be on writing and on doing what we enjoy the most, otherwise writing isn’t about living the dream, it’s just another job. And trust me, there are plenty of jobs that pay a decent salary out there that are a hell of a lot easier than being a writer.
So go forth and multiply! Or at least let your writing do the multiplying. Write like bunnies that got into a bottle of Viagra.
I’m an American. I hate to encourage any stereotypes but like many of my fellow countrymen (and women), I want to see results in a timely fashion. Oh sure, I accept that “right now!” is not realistic, but still, anything that slows down my progress is irritating.
Take, for example, a stretch of a few days where people don’t appear to be buying books. Okay, maybe it’s just my books, but I don’t like being an attention-whore. Anyhow, here I am doing my utmost to try and figure out the art of selling books, whether it’s price point, cover art, blog, reviews, or something involving a special dance, chanting, and optional chicken blood. And in the midst of what seems like slow and steady progress I run into a roadblock of no sales for a couple of days. Where did I err?
Looking back my most recent change was rewording multiple blurbs. This was after a conversation with someone on Twitter who reminded me of what often influences me when it comes to picking out a book. That and studying other, successful blurbs. Or wait, the blurbs of other successful books. Perhaps they are successful in spite of their blurbs? Regardless, my point is that I’ve been trying to refocus the blurb into something geared at selling the book(s), rather than a 300 character synopsis of the story. Among that reworking is special focus on how the main character(s) evolve, grow, and improve themselves (and the hardships they endure).
I read once that a story is about the characters and how they grow and improve. People identify with people, not plots or objects. I think some of my best books so far involve a lot of special characters. Take Wanted, my most successful book – it’s got some extreme characters in it that people really take a liking (or a hating) to. I’ve got another one I’m finishing up called The Lost Girls with a main character that is so damn believable, loveable, and messed up that I’m really expecting her to be a big hit. Er, by her I mean the book. I’d never make the mistake of getting too attached to my fictional characters…even if she did make me write three books about her back to back (to back).
So here are some of the new blurbs. Yes, it’s part shameless self-promotion but it serves two other purposes as well: 1) Considered whether this is decent or not (and feel free to comment on it) and 2) Another stepping stone towards future success for fledgeling writers seeking to spread their wings.
Or maybe my faithful blog-readers instead subscribe purely out of amusement at my attempts. Hey, I’ll take what I can get. :)
Eric Baxter’s dreams were shattered when his wife was taken from
him by a reckless driver on a snowy Alaskan road. All that remained was his
newborn daughter, Jessica. Uprooting to provide a safer life for his child,
Eric moved back home to northern Michigan.
Thirteen years later with Jessica raising the bar in
everything she does, darkness returns to the Baxter’s life in the form of a
crazed gunman. Surviving the assassin and seeking answers, Eric has to not only dig into
the secrets of his deceased wife’s past but also search for his own father that he never
The answers are beyond belief – until the next hunter shows
up with orders to kidnap Jessica and take her back to the world he came from.
In order to protect her Eric has to push past sanity and reason to embrace his
own dark legacy.
Too young and naïve to care about the tensions between
nations, Dexter Silverhawk considered himself the luckiest man alive when he
found a derelict voidship hidden amongst some asteroids. Making it void-worthy
and finding a crew to sail it seem like minor problems when he ends up in a
Rotting in a communal cell, Dexter’s luck shows a fickle
side when a mysterious elven woman is thrust into into his life. Helping her
fend off an assault Dexter quickly learns that her mind and her tongue are weapons
against which he has little defense. Unable to resist, he hires her at the first
Surviving both politics, sorcery, and even ancient curses
will force the growing crew of the Voidhawk to put aside their differences and
work together. What remains for the young captain is the lessons of when to
heed his mind, and when to heed his heart.
People meet in the strangest places. Internet dating, smoky
bars, coffee shops, or while stalking a clueless woman in the hopes of violating
their privacy and capturing intimate footage to sell on the Internet.
Seeking revenge, Cindy blackmails Rodney into giving her a
cut of his profits. The more they’re forced to work together the more confused
Rodney’s mind and heart becomes. From forced partners to accidental witnesses in a
crime, Rodney and Cindy each face a decision – do they turn to each other or
away from each other?
August started out horrible for me, sales-wise. 0 Books for the first two weeks. Nada. Zero. Zilch. It was humbling and demoralizing. I hear that August is a rough month in general for book sales but come on. So I dropped my two best selling books (note: they are not “bestsellers”), Wanted and Voidhawk, to $.99 each and started tweeting the bejeezs out of them. In the last two weeks of august I boosted my sales from zero to 50 in the United States alone. 50 books, by the way, is a personal record for me. Almost as exciting as setting a new personal best in power-lifting. I’m weird – it’s okay, you can say it. The point is sales feel good, damn good. Even when they’re not bringing in the FU money it’s still a psychological boost.
So then September rolls around and my two books come off sale back to original pricing. I modify my tweets to reflect this and sit back, hoping that I can use August’s momentum. The first went by with nothing. The second went by and still the BBOS taunted me (Brown Bar of Shame – it’s the displayed image on the Kindle publishing page when there are no sales). So I caved and decided it was time for a new experiment. I dropped almost all of my books to that $.99 price point to see what would happen. This time tough no tweeting about it (well, other than this documentary blog post – but this is for posterity and to help myself and other writers out).
The results so far, after a day of the new pricing? Two sales already. Would they have happened if I’d have stayed the course and left the book at $2.99? I’ll never know. I’ve done research and concocted a few theories about the topic, but until I get results I won’t confuse myself or any readers with them.
When I see books ranked far within the top 2500 on Amazon that have pathetic covers and horribly written blurbs rife with typos and worse I start to get downright angry. Of course that doesn’t get me anywhere, but it does make me wonder what the heck the trick is. There must be a secret, some way to game the system to get a book that high in the rankings. Of course at that ranking does it mean anything? Being on a bestseller list is a bragging right and a way to not only market more books but it’s also easier for people to find and buy the book. Ranks 1000 and beyond are not bestsellers though, as far as I’m aware, but that does mean they are being purchased regularly. I’d wager somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 – 20 books a day, but that’s purely a guess.
So to myself and to other writers I suggest patience, even if it’s an unwelcome bit of advice. There doesn’t appear to be a secret trick or recipe to sales, or at least not one I’ve found yet. My current guess is that by offering my stuff at a lower price I can generate more sales and inch my way up the rankings. After a while they’ll have reached a point where the interest outweighs the cost and I can inch the price-point up.
It’s an interesting challenge thus far. I’ll be sure to document it as it unfolds!
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