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Sharing Success

April 11, 2012 2 comments

2012 has been a very interesting year. There’s been so good news and some not so good news. I’ve had loads of challenges in all sorts of venues, and so far I seem to be doing well (knock on wood). Now it’s time to share some of that with the people who have helped me along the way. Oh sure, I’ve got a long ways to go but assuming I’m not in the middle of a statistical anomaly, I’m on my way thanks to a lot of hard work and perseverance.

KDP Select. That’s been a big buzz word for 2012 and late 2011. Some writers say it’s changing their lives. Others say nothing because, well, it didn’t. I was skeptical at first, but I tried it in a limited fashion. I saw some success with those books, but like many people report the success isn’t lasting. It seems to work well when using the free book promotion as a loss leader for a series, but I could have already told you that (more on that in a little bit). Now that I’ve run several books through it for 3 months I’m opting out of it and have no plans to return. Sure, for a $.99 book it’s great to receive $1.60 or more for a borrow, but the number of borrows are insignificant compared to the number of sales. Even a ratio of 10:1, in my experience, is generous.

So instead of using KDP Select I’m going to broaden my distribution channels. Does that offset the potential difference? In my case yes it does, even though the amount of sales I generate from everybody who’s NOT Amazon are pretty insubstantial. What I’ve found works far better is selling the first book in a series for $0.00. Yep, free. I’ve talked about it before and I stand by it. Especially in the case where the subsequent books in the series are $2.99 or more. I have a couple of those and I’m working on a few more. I’m planning on releasing Devil’s Icebox, the sequel to my free paranormal fantasy novel Dark Earth, early May and it will be priced at $2.99. I have two or three more books planned in that series. I’m at three sequels right now to Voidhawk, my freebie super-novel (each priced at $2.99) and they’re practically jumping off the shelves – and my next project is the fifth book in that series. Hopefully by early June I’ll have another series opener that’s a freebie too, but we’ll have to wait and see how things go with that one.

On the other hand, I have a series of $.99 science fiction books. I price them at $.99 because they’re all novellas in the 20k – 30k word range. I’ll be honest, I’m considering raising the price to $1.99 on them, but I’m not sure. Right now all five of them are on fire, with each being on various bestselling lists. I hate to screw with the mojo, but I also have to be honest and realize that my goal is to devote all of my working hours to writing and sating my readers need to read more. I can’t do that without either more volume or higher prices. I will put it in writing that, under Amazon’s current pricing template, I’ll never raise my Vitalis books above $1.99. Oh, and for those following the Vitalis series I’m part way through the sixth book, Vitalis – Evolution. On a personal note, I’m absolutely thrilled with this series. It excites me in ways that may be illegal in some states!

In 2012 my books have taken off. In April I haven’t seen a day where combined sales in the US and UK dropped below 100 books. That shocks me to my core and makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I need more in order to meet my goals, but that’s my job to earn, not my readers job to give. I have a few theories on how those increased numbers have come about, especially since every paid attempt at advertising I’ve tried thus far has met with resounding failure.

A. Loss leaders to draw people in and make them realize my writing is pretty good. The writing factor depends upon the writer and the editor, and those are obviously important variables. But if someone can write a halfway decent book and remove the mistakes with some decent editing, giving away free books is a great way to generate interest and get people to check out your other, not-so-free books. Especially if you have one or more series.

B. Links. I go out of my way to make it as easy as possible for people to find my books. I put links in all of my books to the other books I’ve written, as well as links to my website and blog. Both the website and blog have links as well, making it easy for people to click it and get it. Think about it – ask yourself whether you’re more likely to buy something that’s right in front of you or something you have to go and hunt for?

C. Amazon is truly an independent author’s best friend. Some people will bitch all day about how evil Amazon is. Why is Jeff Bezos and the Amazon empire evil? Are they stopping anyone else from doing business? Do they prevent me from selling my books on other venues? What Amazon has done is make it possible for someone like me who doesn’t fit in with the established traditional publishing recipe to still write and find people who want to read quality material. There are plenty of people great writers selling millions of books traditionally, but there are tons of other guys out there too. We’re no less talented, we just aren’t as fortunate or don’t fit in with the paradigm of traditional publishing methodology. Amazon leveled the playing field for us, and in doing so they’ve opened the floodgates and made it so that excelling isn’t about being in the right place at the right time with the right person, but instead it’s about hard work and being talented.

And that’s just the balancing part, it has nothing to do with the extra benefits a successful writer at Amazon can gain. By selling books on Amazon each book gains a little more chance to be displayed on various lists. Bestselling lists, similar book lists, you-might-be interested-in lists, and the list of lists goes on. It doesn’t just happen, and it’s not a matter of pure chance. It happens thanks to a lot of hard work writing, editing, and promoting. And that brings me to my next point…

D. Writing. Quality must come first, but second to quality is quantity. I accepted some time ago that I’ll never be a one hit wonder. I may never be a consistent best selling author either. It’s not that I suck – I’m actually pretty good at it. It’s because there are some writers out there that have savant level talent when it comes to stringing words together. For others, the answer is to just keep writing. At the time of this blog I have 18 books published, number 19 in editing, and number 20 partially written on my hard drive. #21 is planned out and ready to begin as soon as 20 is finished. By the end of the year I hope to be close to 25 or 26 books published, and for the most part I write full novel length books. Yeah, it means a sacrifice in time spent relaxing or doing other things, but my family is very supportive because they share my dreams of making writing my day job. If I can make that happen then I can maintain my pace or even increase it, yet be able to slow down enough to get a full night’s sleep and truly enjoy all facets of life. I’m a ways off still, but writing will get me there.

The reason writing works isn’t just because I’m famous and people can’t wait to read more from me. FAR FROM IT! I’m a relative nobody in the publishing world. Up through and including March of 2012 I’ve probably sold fewer than 7,000 books. I’ve given away close to 80,000 books, but that’s not even a drop in the bucket. The reason writing more books helps is because when somebody finishes one book, they can go and find another book you’ve written. Maybe they’ll tell a friend, and maybe that friend will have a similar experience. Plus every new book is a chance to reach out to a new reader that’s never heard of you, but by scanning for new releases they find it and give it a shot, then they’re sucked in and want to see what else you’ve done. There’s a synergy to it, and the end result is that the more you write, the more you sell. I have no intention of ever stopping writing, even if I can reach the point of publishing 100 books or more. Heck, my Vitalis series could easily reach beyond 20 titles by itself! My Dark Earth setting, through the various series that take place in it, is already at five (soon to be six) books and I’ve got plans and ideas for at least four, if not more.

I once read something about the difference between writers and authors. To summarize, writers write. Authors have written. If you want to be successful you need to write, not reminisce like a high school quarterback about how you wrote a book one time…

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.

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