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Posts Tagged ‘bestseller’

The Cost of Writing…and other BS

January 29, 2015 4 comments

Anybody in the world of writing has probably seen all the hoopla about an article in Salon by some lady who’s name I don’t remember. She went on ad nauseum to discuss how success was only possible because her husband made a substantial income that allowed her to stay at home and write. Everybody else wouldn’t talk about the money or where it came from, it was taboo.

Uh… no. I’ve been talking about it for years. And I’ve been working my tail off too. And not just at writing, I’ve got a day job too. I’ve always had a day job. And I’ve written. And I went to school for three degrees. And I have two young children and a wife I adore.

Since 2009 I’ve been doing all of that and writing professionally. The schooling ended a couple of years ago after I finished my MBA, but nothing else did. This year I have over 30 releases planned, from several full length novels and a few novellas to multiple serials. In 2014 I put out 22, so it’s very realistic.

What about the numbers for 2014? Well, they weren’t nearly as good as 2013, unfortunately. But that doesn’t mean they were dismal or upsetting. I damn near hit $60k with books, after all! What worked best? Science Fiction and some (not all) fantasy. Summer, fall, and winter saw definite plunges in ebook sales. I offset it with a combined exploratory effort into paranormal romance with my wife and that, in turn, led me to a NY Time and USA Today bestseller spot.

Yet I’m still at the day job and struggling to get sales back up to levels I can accept. I’m dabbling in advertising, something I’ve had no success with in the past. It’s helping a little, and between that and a new book that’s doing quite well (Into the Dark, a new science fiction book that will begin my Dark Universe series), things are coming back around. Fantasy, sadly, seems to be dying off for me.

But you want the details nobody else gives you. I’m here to deliver:

Title Genre # Books 2014 Royalties
Blades of Leander Fantasy 3 $5,155
Order of the Dragon Fantasy 4 $3,998
Serpent’s War Fantasy 1 (2 more in 2015) $43
Homeland Intrigue, Erotica 2 $156
Dark Earth Urban Fantasy, Paranormal 5 $1,120
The Lost Girls Sci-fi, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy 5 $5,386
Vitalis Sci-fi 7 $11,741
Voidhawk Fantasy, Space Opera 7 $10,454
Wanted Sci-fi, Post-Apocalyptic 4 $9,568
Fallen Angels Urban Fantasy, Occult 3 $438
Transcendent Sci-Fi 1 $105
Claimed by the Beast Paranormal Romance (shifters) 6 $6,133
Blood Kissed Paranormal Romance (vamps) 2 (1 more in 2015) $97

 

You might notice all the links above. That’s my subtle way of inviting you to check them out and see why they are as successful as they’ve been – or not as successful as they should be. And this paragraph? Well, this one is the same thing, except maybe not as subtle!

I’ve been very disappointed with the response to Serpent’s War, for example. After two great fantasy series in the world of Kroth (Blades of Leander and Order of the Dragon), as well as a Voidhawk book (Broken Shards) that visited the world, Serpent’s War is pretty much tanking. I will finish book two (Rise of the Serpent) this week and get it to my editor for a release hopefully in mid to late February), but I’m not expecting much. I wrote it because it needed to be written, as does the third book in the series.

Meanwhile, I’m finishing up touches on a new paranormal romance series about werewolves and a young woman that’s been terrorized by them most of her life. Tooth and Nayelle has five parts that are releasing on a regular cadence through late March / early April. My next project is probably going to be chasing the success of Into the Dark, then I’ll work with my wife, Dawn Michelle, to capture more of the magic she and I make together in the PNR world.

Other projects for 2015? I don’t have them handy, but I’m planning two Voidhawk books, 2 Vitalis books, finishing off the Serpent’s War trilogy, and probably turning my Dark Universe series into at least three books. It’s going to be a busy year, but I’m also going to be working a day job full time because I’ve got bills to pay and a need for medical insurance I can afford.

To those who feel they can only write if they live an otherwise pampered life? Suck it up and get your hands dirty. You might learn something, even if it’s only about yourself.

 

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.

NY Times Bestseller At Last!

November 20, 2014 1 comment

Yesterday the bundle, A Kiss of Christmas Magic, was listed on the NY Times bestseller list at spot #11. It pegged #31 on the USA Today bestseller list. For those that follow this blog, my newsletter, or website / Facebook page, you might remember the second longest story in that bundle is by Dawn Michelle. Dawn Michelle happens to be the name my wife and I write under (and it’s also her name, if you want to get technical). So, in a roundabout way, that means after five years of being a professional writer, I’m finally a NY Times bestselling author. Queue up the confetti, sirens, parade, and line of celebratory cocktails.

Then I checked my daily sales this morning. On the same day I sold 19 books and Dawn Michelle sold 4. How’s that for taking the wind out of my sails? Or sales…whichever spelling you prefer (see what I did there?)

I have to say that, hands down, the group of writers I worked with where fun, amazing, and professional. Well, a few times we might not have been professional, but it was in a fun and energizing sort of way. The point is, every one of them deserves it, and every one of them is a damn fine writer on their own merits.

What the process also told me is that being a great writer isn’t nearly enough. I always believed that if you write a good book, and write enough of them, the volume and quality of work will speak for itself. The readers and sales will come. Life will be good. After nearly writing 70 books and receiving a lot of outstanding reviews and praise, I’m here to say that enough isn’t enough.

To hit the list we needed the combined might of a whole lot of fan bases, first and foremost. Some of the authors have dedicated fans in numbers that left me staggering. I learned a LOT in the process, including the sheer masses of paranormal romance readers that are out there. I mean…wow! There’s a lot.

But that wasn’t enough, we needed more. That more came in the form of literally thousands of dollars spent in advertising. I can’t begin to grasp where all of it went, but there was a lot of ads out there getting the word out. That was a huge contributer. It bumped us up to our peak of #15 on the Amazon bestselling chart (all paid books).

So this is me being happy and also warning fledgling writers out there. Sure, there will always be exceptions to the rule that skyrocket to the top for no reason other than right time, right place, right luck. The over 99.9999% of us have to bust our asses. It’s a business and there’s no such thing as fair play. Write your asses off and understand it doesn’t end there. There’s a lot more to it than that. And if you’re like me without a budget for such extras, that means figuring it out and finding the time to do it yourself.

Good luck my friends – now that I’ve hit the NY Times list my plans are… write another book.

 

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.

Did Amazon Do Something Right?

January 27, 2013 10 comments

I was chatting via email to another writer the other day who was asking for some tips on getting his first book out there. The man was an English Lit professor and here he’s asking me for help with words. I found that ironic. But I shared what few tips I have. It boils down to writing a lot, accepting criticism, writing some more, making sure you find decent editors, and then doing some more writing.

I also touched on the reviewing process (part of the criticism speech) and how bad reviews can sink a book. I mentioned how Amazon is trying hard to eliminate bogus reviews, although they take some good ones along the way. I went on to talk about how my Vitalis series, when I sold them as novellas for $.99 a pop, were butchered by a couple of people that slammed them  in reviews because I was allegedly trying to abuse Amazon’s system and being greedy. Nevermind that the price for buying the Omnibus is the same as it was for buying all seven novella length stories.

I had a possible epiphany while writing that. I took my novellas off sale after the abuse I received for them. Prior to the hateful reviews they were ranked in the top 20 and top 10 in their categories (sci-fi). Was it possible the bad reviews were actually bogus reviews written by other writers? In some cases I even had identical reviews on multiple books from the same person! It got me wondering, with Amazon’s push to eliminate bogus reviews would my novellas possibly stand a chance of being popular again?

With that thought in mind, I’m going to re-release my Vitalis novellas. Book 1, New Beginnings, will remain free. The rest will be $.99. Here are the links if you’d like to check them out – or at least try the first one (it’s free!).

Vitalis books:

Episode 1: New Beginnings

Episode 2: The colony

Episode 3: Parasites

Episode 4: Screamer

Episode 5: Squatter’s Rights

Episode 6: Evolution

Episode 7: Matriarch

or the Vitalis Omnibus (parts 1 – 7)

Vitalis: Resurrection, the novel length sequel

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.

Wanted… the Movie?

December 1, 2011 4 comments

I’ve had more than a few people tell me they can see Wanted being made into a movie (with Ice Princess sure to follow). Who am I to argue? I think it would be an awesome movie. Granted there may be a little confusion over the title, given the recent movie of the same name staring Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman. But hey, that’s negotiable! If you happen to know any screenwriters or have any contacts in Hollywood, send ’em my way!

In the meantime there are some very important questions I need help with… just what actors / actresses would play the characters in Wanted? My wife suggested Anne Hathaway for Jessie. I’ve got a massive amount of respect for Anne Hathaway’s talent and skill and I’m sure she could pull it off. I’ll admit, I’d be more than a little star struck to meet her too. I’ve admired her ever since she got away from the goofy early Disney movies.

As for Carl, my wife’s vote is for Hugh Jackman. I like him – a lot – but I’m not sure he fits the image. He might, if he tapped into a little bit of the hostility for authority he displayed while playing Wolverine. Bruce Willis, on the other hand, might be a perfect fit for Carl, though he’d need some hair.

Tanya and Dustin…I’m at a loss for these guys. And of course the question remains as to whether or not our picks for Carl and Jessie are optimal or not. Sure, this is just a case of mental masturbation but hey, if you’ve read this far into it, you’re asking yourself the same questions!

Or, if you haven’t read the book yet, hop on over to Amazon and pick it up – it’s free and easy to find since it’s #1 on the Amazon list for science fiction / adventure free Kindle books!

Wanted, book 1, by Jason Halstead
Wanted, on Amazon

Wanted on Amazon UK (not free)

Wanted on Barnes and Noble (not free)

Wanted on Smashwords (free)

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.

Writing Outside of the Box

November 13, 2011 Leave a comment

I had somebody ask me a while back on this very blog if it was suicide for a writer to write in more than one genre. My feelings are that it should be quite the opposite, and here’s why.

I’m a science fiction writer, but my second most successful series is a fantasy series called Voidhawk. Granted, Voidhawk is a space fantasy, but I assure you there is little to no science to be found in it. I’ve also dabbled in a few other genres, including romance. Only once so far, but it was a fun experience and I may very well revisit it in the future. So with that said I clearly have no qualms about jumping genres. In fact many of my titles cross genres. I’m reckless like that. I’ve been known to let my veggies cross the line on my plate to mingle with my steak as well.

I believe in a story, whether its mine or not. The story, if it’s good, determines how enjoyable a read it is, not the genre or length. So you’ve got astronauts landing on a derelict space ship, neat. They stumble into a locked vault that hasn’t been opened in centuries? Cool. Their are giants entombed in the hold with the bodies of horses? Rock on! They just woke up and sank their fangs into the human astronauts, sucking out their blood and turning them into vampires? Um…sure, why not?

My stories aren’t quite that exotic. If I could find a way to make it work I wouldn’t be opposed to giving it a shot. I do have a series that starts with urban fantasy and jumps heavily into paranormal (Dark Earth). From there it continues to blend in science fiction and more paranormal (The Lost Girls, Voices), and also introduce a heavy dose of mystery / hard boiled detective (The Lost Girls, upcoming release of Traitor).

Readers are smart people. They know what they like and when they find it, they’ll read it. In most cases they’re not going to view a writer who strayed from their chosen genre as a traitor. In fact, it’s far more likely that they’re probably going to be more likely to step out of their own comfort zone and try something out of the ordinary because of it. I have a few readers who have told me that they’ve strayed into unfamiliar waters because they liked my writing style. The end result was them being excited at being introduced to a new genre.

Now if you’ve got a genre where you’re consistently nailing best sellers with each release it might be prudent to stick with it. Otherwise expand your horizons and branch out. Try something new, you’ll grow from it and more than likely grow your reader pool, rather than decrease it!

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.

A Readers Dilemma

October 18, 2011 Leave a comment

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

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
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