Why Do I Blog?

As an author, “they” say you need a social media platform. It’s true. You should have somewhere you can stand up and be seen/heard. For some people, that platform is Facebook or Twitter. But, I just don’t feel like I get as much out of those as I do here. For me, it’s about killing two birds with one stone. Yes, I need an author platform, but I also enjoy sharing my experiences as a self-published author with others. I learned a ton from folks who shared and I want to pay it forward by doing the same for someone else. I like feeling like I’m being helpful.

So, after writing on this blog since June, I’ve gained 150+ followers and average ~100 visitors a week. My three goals for the end of the year are as follows:

Gain another 100 followers

Average 200 visitors a week

Get people to actually comment on my posts!

This is part of the WordPress Blogging 201 challenge. I’m looking forward to seeing what I learn over the next few weeks and applying it to what I blog about. If you haven’t heard of Blogging 201, you can check it out here.

Have your own goals for your blog? Let us know in the comments and thanks for stopping by!

Why Do Some Books Sell Themselves? 3 Possible Factors

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Authors dream of readers like you… ūüôā

Whenever discussing a marketing plan for self-published books, I make a point of saying, “Books don’t sell themselves.” You have to get it out there in front of readers. You have to be willing to spend money in order to make money. But, some books seem to need little more than a nudge and they’re off to the races. And, why is that? Case in point, my third self-published book (and, technically, first by me). It’s not breaking records by any means, but it’s the first book I’ve put out that manages to sell 1-2 copies a day with little (I ran a small ad back in mid-September) to no marketing on my part. Compare this to my other novels, which are adult suspense/thrillers, and could collect a ton of dust (and have!) if I didn’t promote them on a regular basis. So, what are some factors that might affect this? Let’s take a look at just a few¬†possibilities.

1. Quality of the writing – Truly bad writing won’t sell. I don’t care how much you promote it. I’d like to think that, while my writing is far from perfect, it’s at least good enough to entertain readers. And, to me, that’s one of the most important qualities to have.

2. Genre – Let’s face it. Some genres just sell better than others. I personally know a few people who churn through 5-6 erotica or romance novels a month. And those types of readers are often not picky about who they read next or who published them. They’re just looking for a good, well-written story. Romance sells. Self-published romance sells and competes very well with the top traditionally published authors. In fact, I’d argue that you can’t find the same level of competition in other genres, but that’s just my unscientific opinion. If you write erotica, I envy you. If you write good erotica at a high rate of speed, you can be a money-making machine. Honestly. They’re out there.

3. Topic/Category – So, you’ve got a well-written story in a genre that should be selling, but still no luck? Well, maybe rollerskating detective nuns aren’t everybody’s thing. Seriously, though. Maybe you’re topic is too niche. Or, is your story so mainstream that it looks like everything else in its category? This “factor” could go both ways. If your story is too different, you may find that new readers won’t take a chance on it. But, if your story is too similar to every other book in its¬†category, you may find yourself competing with the big boys (and girls).

So, why does Danny Dirks sell with little to no promotion (in multiples countries, mind you)? Well, I think it gets help from all 3 of these factors. I think it’s well written, it’s a YA fantasy with dragons, and there isn’t a ton of competition in the “Arthurian” category (apparently). Even at a high ranking (see example below), it still graces the top 100 of 3 sub-categories.

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #104,371 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
#44 in Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Arthurian
#46 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Children’s eBooks > Fairy Tales, Folk Tales & Myths > Collections
#64 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Arthurian

What do you think are some other key factors that might make a book “sell itself”? Let us know in the comments and thanks for stopping by!

A game of inches

Football, baseball, hockey. You name the sport and you’ve probably heard someone refer to it as a game of inches (sorry, rest of the world, the phrase “game of centimeters” just doesn’t have the same ring to it). Trick is, you can apply that to life as well. An inch here, or a moment there, and things can turn out very differently.

Have you ever had a moment where you thought, “Boy, another inch/foot/second/minute and I’d have been in trouble!” I’ve only had a few. One was a car accident I witnessed. The driver apparently fell asleep or passed out at the wheel, lost control of the car, swerved back and forth across three lanes of a major interstate and managed to walk away without, apparently, hurting themselves or anyone else. I noticed their erratic driving before anything happened and had slowed down to remain behind the person. Alongside me, a group of motorcycles had just pulled up. Probably about a dozen or so in cruising formation. It occurred to me that, had I been a second faster, not observed her slight swerve onto the shoulder prior to the major accident, that my family and I could have been involved in a serious accident. The same could be said of the motorcyclists. Someone could have died.

They didn’t, but it was a really just a matter of moments. If find this thread of thinking both fascinating and mind boggling. So much of what happens to us is just a matter of timing. I’ve been thinking about this lately because of the whole Ebola “crisis” thing. It could really make you paranoid to do anything. I live near Princeton and if you’ve been paying any attention to the news, you’ll know that a news correspondent recently broke quarantine in town. And, while the CDC has claimed that she didn’t risk public safety, it highlights the reality of the situation: If you rely on potentially exposed individuals to police themselves, this could get out of hand.

It makes for fascinating story telling and the butterfly effect is always an intriguing concept. But it all becomes a little less fascinating when the story and intrigue are¬†happening in real life. I don’t want to have to look back and say, “Gee, what if I hadn’t sat next to that guy who was coughing on the train?”

Ebola is a terrifying prospect. Stay informed and educated about signs, symptoms, and modes of transmission. That’s the only way we’ll beat this.

Kindle Scout

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Planning on publishing your Romance, Mystery, Thriller, Science Fiction, or Fantasy novel with Amazon soon? Not in a rush? Well, you might want to consider submitting to Kindle Scout. Amazon’s new crowd-sourced publishing arm has put out a call for work. Check out the home page¬†and eligibility requirements.

Per the site,

If we select your book for publication, you will be entitled to a $1,500 advance and royalties on net revenues at a rate of 50% for eBooks, 25% for audio editions and 20% for translations.

If you do not earn at least $25,000 during any 5-year term, you’ll have six months after the end of that 5-year period in which you can choose to stop publishing with us and request your rights back.

Be sure to read the fine print before you submit. Another way Amazon is trying to become the publisher of choice. They are certainly dangling another carrot here.

UPDATE (11/4/14): The reader portion of Kindle Scout is now active and you may nominate books for selection. Having seen some of the choices, I wonder if Amazon might help authors with their covers prior to publication. Some are pretty awful. :-/

What do you think? Would you/will you submit? Let us know in the comments and thanks for stopping by!

Observations from a Book Fair

 

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I took this before I had my standing banner up (wind was an issue), but now I think I have to get some book stands… yep. Looks too flat. :-/

I did a book show on Sunday for the first time in what seems like a long time, though it was really just last year. I’ve done several shows since first publishing in 2011 and I was a little bit excited for this one. With doing physical shows, it can help to have a short-term memory. That isn’t to say you should forget what worked and what didn’t, but you should be able to go into it with a fresh attitude. It’s probably why I don’t do more than a couple of shows a year.

I sold 6 books in 6 hours. Three to one person. It’s actually as good as I’ve ever done at this kind of event. Now you see the need for the short term memory. Shows aren’t (typically) money-making events. They’re face-time events.

I considered the day a success, but not just for the sales (which did help me break even for the costs), but the simple fact of getting out and talking to readers and fellow writers. I spoke with many people, gave out a lot of business cards, and chatted with my booth neighbor, horror/sci-fi/paranormal author K. Edwin Fritz. It was a beautiful day and we had some laughs and shared stories about writing and publishing. We each had some sales and chatted about best marketing practices both in person and online. It was refreshing.

As it turned out, the town of Belmar was also having an Octoberfest that day. There was great foot traffic, but the most common thing I heard was, “I didn’t know this was going to be here today!” So, lots of foot traffic, but little in the way of book buying traffic. There were about 25 spaces, but only 20 authors showed, which was fine. They also tried doing panels and readings but, apparently, they didn’t realize there was going to be a live band right in front of the square where we were set up. Hey, it was their first time doing this, so things like that will happen.

I’ve got one more scheduled book-selling event this year, in November. And, while at this show, I was approached to speak at the New Jersey Speculative Fiction Writers monthly meeting next year. Looking forward to that opportunity. I’m also looking forward to doing a few more shows next year. This was my first with more than one paperback. With luck, I might have a fourth this time next year. I’m convinced that having more books helps to sell more books. It helps if they’re good as well.

If you’re doing a show soon, or considering doing a show, I wish you the best of luck. It’s often what you make of the experience that makes the event successful or not.

Considering a small press? Be cautious

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I met a writer a few years ago and he was proud to announce that he’d been published by a small press. He was surprised at the fact that I’d chosen to self publish and I told him that it gave me control over most aspects of my novel. At the time, I was giving him a ride¬†to a small authors’ show where we were to sit in a local mall and sell our books. We got to talking about how much profit we were making off of our respective books and what he told me next left me slightly disgusted and dumbfounded.

You see, while I could purchase my print copies through CreateSpace at a wholesale rate (~$5 for a $12.99 novel), his publisher was, essentially, forcing him to purchase copies at a slightly discounted retail rate. In order to get paperbacks, they would discount the book on Amazon for a short period so he could purchase them for $12.99 a copy instead of their normal $14.99 a copy. Being flat broke, he could only afford 5 or 6 copies, but “buying them on Amazon will boost your sales rankings,” they told him. I couldn’t mask my incredulity about it. His response, “Well, they gave me an advance.” He sold 3¬†books that day for $15 each and had to give the bookstore owner $1 per sale, cutting his take in half. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for his situation.

Now, obviously, this is an extreme example and I’d like to think that most small presses wouldn’t do this. But, in my opinion, you can do for yourself what any small press can do. Sure, you won’t get an advance, but what kind of advance can you expect from a small press anyway? $1k tops, I imagine. Not worth giving up a ton of rights and royalties for.

I’m not here to bash small publishers. I know folks who have done well and are still doing well with small publishers. I’m just sharing an anecdotal story and passing along a great article to read if you’re considering going that way: Salome Jones talks about 8 things to assess when considering a small press over at thebookdesigner.com.

Have experience with a small press? Let us know about it in the comments and thanks for stopping by!

8 Tips for Your Next Book Show

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You don’t see the candy on the table (tip¬†#6 ignored)! This is an old picture… lesson learned.

I’ll be at my first book show in ages on Sunday. The beach town of Belmar, NJ, will be the location of the Belmar BookCon; a celebration of self- and small-press-published authors. If you’re in the area (or know someone who will be), be sure to check it out.

Have you done in-person shows before? I’ve done several over the years and it can be hit or miss, depending on the turnout, but it’s always fun to chat with readers and fellow writers alike. For those of us with extrovert personalities, it can also be a bit of a release.

But, it’s not all about the author at these types of shows. It’s really about the books. I think the biggest mistake I see at these shows is not putting thought into your author space. I’ve even seen authors who showed up without books! This boggles my mind. You might be the best salesperson in the world, but nothing will intrigue a reader more than having your book in their hand. Cards and giveaways are nice, but what they’re really after is your book (hopefully). It’s a much easier sell if you have a product they can touch.

If you’re planning on doing a show, here’s a few tips:

1. Have a nice tablecloth. Most folding tables are pretty blah and the white ones don’t take long to get pretty filthy. Spice it up a bit with a classy clean white or black tablecloth. You’d be surprised what a difference this one item can make. Don’t get anything too loud, as you might be distracting from your product!

2. Pick up a couple of clear acrylic standing displays. You can print out pricing, reviews, or social media info to display right on your table. The idea is to make it easy¬†for the reader to see what you’re all about.

3. Stagger your book piles (makes it look like you’ve already sold some) and leave some at the front of the table (easy access for the reader). The table should be inviting them to pick up your book and read the blurb on the back cover. You should also not hide behind your books. Don’t stack them so high that your smiling face can’t be seen.

4. Give readers some space. I’ve been told I’m too passive at shows. Well, that’s just me, so take this advice with a grain of salt. When I walk into a store, I hate it when a salesperson attacks me right away. I just want to look. If I have a question, I’ll ask. So, I always give potential readers the same space I want. A simple hello when they reach the table and then let them pick up a book or look them over. If they’re still in the space 30 seconds later, they must be a little interested, so I’ll throw out my one-liners. Speaking of which…

5. Prepare one-liners in advance! You should create a few book hook lines. Try out different ones. See which ones seem to work and which ones don’t, but be sure to have something you can say to readers in a concise manner. I’ve heard all sorts of lines. Some work better than others. It can be hard to come up with a single line that gets the point of your book across. And don’t mistake this for the elevator pitch. They are not the same. A one-liner is self-descriptive: a single line that describes your book. I used to say “A bit like Patterson with a touch of Dean Koontz” when describing Multiples. I’ve changed that up since, but it usually elicited a response. If they were interested, I would then go into the elevator pitch.

6. Have something to give away. A business card or a pen or a bookmark. The only requirement I have is that it has to have your (author) name on it! I’ve written in the past about getting author swag on the cheap. Don’t give away candy… unless they have custom wrappers. The point of a giveaway is to remind people of who you are. I’ve had folks come by, look at my books and say, I only buy on my Kindle anymore. Sure, you can reply by saying you’re available there, but a business card will let them know how to find you and your books (or at least it should).

7. Practice signing your name (especially if it’s a pen name!) and bring a pen! Believe it or not, I’ve known folks who forgot to bring a pen to an event. Readers want their book signed, even if you’re a nobody!

8. Lastly, remember that not everyone will be interested in your books. Shocker, right? Deep breath. It’ll be ok. Keep your expectations low. If you’re selling paperbacks, you’re probably asking for $10 or more per book. That’s asking a lot, especially for an author they more than likely know nothing about. Be a gracious host in¬†your show space and leave readers¬†feeling positive when they walk away, whether they purchased your book or not.

First show coming up? 100th show coming up? Post questions or share tips in the comments section and thanks for stopping by! ūüėÄ

Vacation is supposed to be restful, right?

Well, if that’s what you expect, then don’t go to Disney with an 8-year-old who, apparently, has an unlimited amount of sustainable energy. I kept waiting for him to crack. We spent so many late nights and rarely slept in past 8, I figured it was just inevitable. But, despite some particularly whiny moments in the last few days of the trip, he held on. It was his mother and I who were ready to curl up in a ball and weep. ūüėÄ

It was a nice escape from reality though. Something I think we all needed. I did very little in the way of anything home-related while I was away. There was just no time. When we weren’t sleeping, we were on our way to the next park and when the day was done, I often only had enough energy to tuck my son into his bed before I did the same for myself.

There was enough new stuff at the parks for my wife and I to enjoy ourselves as well. It had been 8 years since we last visited and Universal Studios had certainly changed drastically. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you really have to visit the Hogwarts and Diagon Alley. They’re to die for. They really put in so many little details. So much fun. But, at the same time, I also noticed how Epcot is starting to show its age. Space Mountain, Peter Pan, and It’s a Small World, while classic, could all use a fresh coat of paint and perhaps a reimagining. Even Soarin’, which isn’t that old, looked faded due to a lack of high def film and the occasional broken pixel.

Anyway, it’s good to be back on the blogosphere and sleeping in my own bed again. I hope you are well and that your writing is flourishing.