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The Slippery Road to Writing Success

Am I successful? Only in moderation. Every month I sell a few more books, which is showing a good trend. I’m years away from making it my primary vocation though. While that may be something I hope makes my co-workers rejoice, it only makes me work harder.

There are other barometers for success though. I’m being asked more and more often to do blog interviews, guest posts, and enter into book giveaways. As a case in point I was just interviewed by Heather Powers at Earth’s Book Nook. It was a little different than other interviews I’ve done, which made it fun for me because I could branch out a little more with my answers. She even asked which of my characters I identified the closest with. Rather than spoil the fun head on over to Earth’s Book Nook and read it yourself!

So more sales and more recognition are good things, right? Sure they are, but they’re not enough. Of course there’s a point where enough is enough and anything beyond that is icing on the cake, but I’ve got a long ways to go to get there. My mantra is to always push for more. More success at writing, more success in the gym, being a better husband and father, and everything else I can do. Sure, self-help related stuff makes some people uncomfortable, but I argue that those willing to seek change and improvement are the strongest people of all. Right up to the point where they start consulting with psychics and astrologists, that is.

As another tactic at trying to push for more success I’ve tweaked my prices on my Voidhawk series. The new revised pricing, good as of this very morning, has Voidhawk, Voidhawk The Elder Race and Voidhawk Redemption all priced at only $1.99! I can’t even buy a decent cup of coffee that cheap, let alone provide the hours of entertainment found in each book!

Voidhawk, book 1 in a science fiction / fantasy series by Jason

Voidhawk - the book that started it all


Voidhawk book 2, The Elder Race

Voidhawk - The Elder Race


Voidhawk - Redemption cover art, by A.J. McLain

Voidhawk Redemption

How to Advertise

September 29, 2011 3 comments

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!

Wanted, book 1 by Jason Halstead
Wanted, on Amazon
Ice Princess, 2nd book in Wanted series, by Jason Halstead
Ice Princess, on Amazon

So You Want to be a Beta Reader…

September 24, 2011 Leave a comment

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: jason@booksbyjason.com.

Categories: Writing Tags: , , , ,

Fickle is Lady Luck

September 22, 2011 Leave a comment

For example, you clicked on this expecting to read something inspiring or educational. Ha! Fooled you! This is more of a smorgasbord of current events and thoughts, but to keep it real there is some writing related ramblings to be found.

Case in point: my last post was about Voidhawk hitting a bestseller list on Amazon for a few hours (maybe several hours, I was asleep for most of it). Since I celebrated that I’ve not had a single sale on it. Shame on you, my loyal followers. Yes you, and the guy behind you. Both of you should have rushed out and bought it to help it reach greater heights. That would prove that some random putz like me (and, presumably, you as well) can rise above mediocrity to grasp at greatness.

Of course I am kidding 100% about giving anyone a hard time. I’m not a Catholic priest in the dark ages demanding belief in my books or death by fire on a stake. If you’re not interested or don’t have the time / money, don’t go there. If you do, or feel like being charitable, well that’s a different story…

Okay, enough pandering, back to the randomness. So sales dropped off sharply after that one peak of a day. Not just for Voidhawk, but across the board. Still getting a few trickling in but I’d dared to hope I had somehow climbed to a new tier. No such luck I fear. My fellow struggling writers the moral is this: we will struggle and we will fight tooth and nail for every foot we climb up the hill. And, apparently, we shall slide back a few feet on occasion as well. That’s no reason to not keep on climbing!

Now for a shout out to my wife and her new soy candle business she’s officially launched! We expected to go live with the website on October 1st but I was over-productive in designing it and our testers performed quickly and admirably (and without failures in the code). So it’s alive and well and waiting for you, my loyal readers (yes, both of you again) to head over and check it out. http://www.aflickerintime.com. After all, what better way to enjoy a book (preferably on a Kindle or a Nook) than while burning a soothing scented candle nearby? Fall’s coming on strong and she’s got the seasonal scents wafting through our house. Mmm, pumpkin pie…cinnamon…peppermint…pine trees…. Okay, I’m pandering again. Sorry.

A Flicker In Time picture

A Flicker in Time - premium soy candle manufacturer / retailer

Finally I just found out the last person on Earth I expected to read my blog is, indeed, reading my blog. Well no, that’s not true. I expect somebody like Mel Brooks or Chaz Bono to be the last people on earth to read this. I digress. The point is: Hi mom!

Writing the Catholic Style

September 13, 2011 Leave a comment

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.

Bunny on a Book

Categories: Writing Tags: , , , , ,

Reader / Writer Appreciation

September 13, 2011 Leave a comment

A couple of peculiar things happened to me recently. In the first I was contacted by someone who told me they bought not one of my books, but four of them! Okay, I’d love to say that’s not out of the ordinary at all, and someday I hope to. Even if that happens it’s not the point of the blog. Not only did this individual tell me that, but they went on to admit putting aside another book they’d written to try mine out (Wanted), and were sucked into it and loving it. Sleep, when it finally came, was considered an enemy to their desire to read.

Peculiar item 2 was when another individual contacted me to say they were halfway through my book and loving it more and more with each page (Wanted, again). I thanked them and shared that the sequel to Wanted will be out soon. They, in turn, were thankful for the head’s up. Thankfulness is a neat thing, but that’s not the moral to the story.

The thing that strikes me as odd is that these readers are contacting and sharing this with me in the first place, then in some instances act surprised when I respond to them. The feedback is great – it’s what keeps me and the other writer’s I know going. It’s reviewing, rating, and sharing with us that we know whether we’re doing a good job or not and also how we can improve. Technically a sale is feedback as well, and it helps put food on the table, but all a sale tells us is that we managed a successful sales pitch, not that the finished product was well done.

I can’t imagine a day, regardless of future success, were I can’t take the time to respond to somebody who goes out of their way to share with me. After all, if a person can work time in their busy schedule to send something to me, why shouldn’t I take the same time to do the same? So too all my readers, past, present, and future – I thank you and appreciate the time you take reading and enjoying my work!

Speaking of future success, I read an article recently where a writer considered himself mid-list and made a living at it. He indicated he had roughly 100 titles available. If that’s what it takes, then that’s what I’ll do. So far I’ve got 9 out with a 10th and 11th pending. Behind them I’ve got releases scheduled up through February of 2012 on a monthly basis. That takes me to 16. A bit shy of a 100 but I’ve got a lot of words left in me, not to mention a roadmap for several more Voidhawk and Dark Earth books!

Oh, and as much as I hate to admit it, I may even jump on the bandwagon and include some occasional vampire related stuff into one of my existing or future universes. They will not be sparkly and emo though, that I promise you!

Writing the Book Blurb

September 12, 2011 Leave a comment

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. :)

Dark Earth:

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
knew.

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.

Voidhawk:

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
Federation prison.

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
opportunity.

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.

Sex Sells:

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?

Categories: Writing Tags: , , , ,
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