I hope that’s not arrogant to say. Or maybe it should be obvious. After all, if I don’t like them, why would I expect anyone else to?
The explanation behind this unusual statement is that I was doing some research while working on my latest book (Vitalis: Catalyst). I didn’t have notes written on what I was after (something from Vitalis: Genesis), so I had to read through some of the book to find what I wanted. Well, reading a little soon turned into reading a lot. I was sucked in and couldn’t stop myself.
This isn’t the first time that’s happened. It happens a lot, actually. Whenever I need to do something like that, I get pulled in. I’d do it more often but I have this irrational fear that when I read a book I wrote a while ago, I’m going to find parts of it that I don’t like. Things I want to rewrite or change. Or parts that just plain suck. None of that has happened yet, for the record, although on rare occasions I do find typos that got missed through multiple rounds of editing. No such problems this time, but that irrational fear lingers.
That also serves as a refresher for me. Sales are in the water closet (that’s a fancy term for shitter for us working folks) lately, so my natural assumption is that I’m writing garbage. Sure, I know they’ve taken a dive for virtually everybody out there and a lot of it has to do with Amazon’s fluctuating algorithms and attempts to monetize their own product lines and brands as much as possible, but the demons hiding in the shadows still linger and wait for me to turn away so they can pounce.
I was wondering though, why do I enjoy what I write so much? I’ve written a lot – over 100 books between myself and my shared projects – and I’ve forgotten bits and pieces of everything. Being reminded of them is a blast. It’s more than that though, it’s also my writing style. I write what I like to read. Fast paced, fun, thoughtful, and challenging. Or at least that’s what I like to think I’m writing!
I had a business trip recently and I wanted something to do on the plane (my laptop is too damn big to write on during a flight since I can’t afford first class). I picked up a Terry Goodkind book (The Omen Machine), and revisited some old friends in the process (the main characters of his Sword of Truth series). I also reread the Sword of Truth series last year and found myself enjoying it less the second time around because of all the passive mumbo jumbo they contain. The Omen Machine had a little less passive stuff in it, but near the end it contained a ton of repeated stuff that was really tiresome. Practically entire chapters, in a few cases. I was disappointed and it left me in no rush to buy his next book.
I’ve still got Raymond Feist and Terry Brooks – both of whom I’ve fallen behind on. There’s Dean Koontz too, although reading anything he writes leaves me feeling like a grade school kid who’s barely learned how to spell. And of course, that doesn’t include numerous other writers worth reading like John M. Davis, M.R. Matthias, and Jane Taylor to pluck just a few of my favorite names.
And speaking of Vitalis, I’m over 40,000 words into book #10 in the series (Catalyst). I know it’s going to be another favorite because I find myself thinking about it all the time when I’m not writing. I figure I’m somewhere between halfway and 2/3 of the way through it, but the ends of my books have a way of stretching out longer than I expect them too.
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!