Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Stop Listening To The 'Experts'

Yup, that's right, stop listening to all of those people who claim they have the answer for your book selling woes.  The truth is, they don't know jack squat, and if something they tell you actually worked, it was a happy accident, not expertise.  Yet, they are convinced that it's from their brilliant knowledge.

You need to promote your book on Twitter!  Use your Facebook!  Banner ads, that's the ticket!  And on and on it goes.  And it's annoying people, so in the words of Joey Gladstone from "Full House":  Cut.  It.  Out.

I can hear the screams already.  But if I don't market, I'll never sell any books!  And if I don't sell any books, I'm a failure!  Guess what?  The only one keeping score is you, and the rest of us don't care because we're worried about our own score.  In the end, you have to ask yourself this question: do you want to be a writer and turn out multiple works, or do you want to be a one-hit wonder and just live off your one or two books.  If you answered the latter, you may as well leave now, because you'll completely disagree with me.

This advice comes from someone who has over 30 years in the industry:  keep writing and publishing.  I think he said it better than that, but you get the idea.  When you keep writing and publishing, you add to your virtual shelf that people browse when looking for their next book.  As you have more books, you take up more of the virtual shelf space, making it more likely that someone will come across one of your works and want to buy it.  If they like it, they'll seek out more of your works, and hopefully tell their friends about you.

Do you need to get the word out?  Sure, there are plenty of ways to do it without going to the annoying lengths of tweeting twenty times a day or other social media annoyances.  Instead, figure out how to reach your target market.  Those are readers.  Where do readers hang out?  Some go to libraries, so think about doing something with your local library.  If that goes well, think about going to other libraries in your region.  Where else do they go?  Bookstores.  Why not try to do something with your local bookstores?  Also, have you considered sending out a press release to area news outlets when you release a new title?  I've done it, and it does generate sales.  What about local book clubs, have you considered contacting them to see if they would be interested in reading your book and discussing?  The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.  And best of all, these target your potential audience of readers.

Another aspect that is tied in with this your sales numbers.  Will you sell a million copies of your book?  Probably not, unless you get really lucky.  More likely, you'll slowly grow your sales over time as you release more books.  This is as it should be.  So stop lamenting over your low sales numbers and keep working at it.  You'll get there, it just takes time.  Now get back to writing your next book!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

An Update On...Yours Truly!

It's been quite a while since I've last posted here.  My apologies for those that were hoping for more communication from me.  But at long last, I can give you all an update, which is great since it's the beginning of 2013!

I tried last year to hit a personal writing goal, but didn't exactly "make the grade".  Is that bad?  Some might say it is, but at least I had a goal.  Sometimes it's not the fact that you hit the goal, but that you worked toward achieving it.  Even when you don't hit the goal, you still make progress, and ultimately that was the plan.  Now for this year, I have the same personal goal, so we'll see what happens.  I've made a small dent so far, and if I can keep my momentum going that I've had in the past few days, I'll get a lot closer to hitting my goal this year than last year.

Speaking of goals, not only do I have a word count goal, I also have the goal of putting out the sequel to my first novel, "Coordinates For Murder".  Recently, I've put together some great material that I'm excited about for this sequel, and I'd like to finish it sooner rather than later, especially since I have homeowner goals of completing my basement remodel job, re-roofing my garage (with the help of some family), and at least getting started on completely redoing one of our bathrooms.  Of course, my wife and I love to camp, so we need to get out and do that more than a few times this summer, and I've also got a card/tile game that I'd love to get to a prototype stage.  Winter is the time to get this sequel written!

I also put out my second short story, "The Ritual", just a couple of months ago.  I'm really excited about this because I think it could be a launching pad for a new book series.  I created a secret society for this story, and I've given a hint at things that are much larger than what can be addressed in this story.  How does this secret society influence state-wide politics?  Businesses?  Families?  I don't know, but I get a smile on my face when I think about all of the possibilities.

I think that's about all I have, and if I think about adding anything else, I feel a heart attack coming on!  So, get your goals in order for the new year, and start working towards them.  Even if you don't hit them, you'll have made progress and learned a lot in the process.  And that's never a losing situation.

Friday, November 23, 2012

A Writer's Thanksgiving...

Okay, I know, blogs about why people are thankful are a dime a dozen.  So, just bear with me while I join the chorus.  Maybe, as you read through my ramblings here, you'll agree with what I'm saying.  Maybe you'll be moved to really evaluate what you have in your life.  And maybe, just maybe, you'll be renewed and refreshed, and have positive things to think about regarding writing, whether you are a seasoned writer or just starting out.  Regardless, I'm thankful right now that you are reading this blog post!

So, in reading other posts, I got to thinking about my own foray into the writing life.  It's been quite an adventure so far, and I would be completely remiss if I didn't acknowledge my profound thanks to my beautiful wife of nearly 17 years.  She's an amazing woman who allows me to partake of my dreams of writing, and she's extremely supportive of my efforts.  Once, for the first time I think, when we were in a restaurant with friends, she leaned over, grabbed my arm and leaned into me and stated proudly that "she's married to an author!", and smiled big.  It felt weird to me, and yet satisfying as well - this is where I've wanted to be!  So I'm very thankful for an amazing woman.

I'm also thankful for everyone who's purchased a copy of my novel or short story.  I'm continually amazed that I would be capable of writing something that someone else not only would want to read, but would PAY me as well!  I can't thank you enough for being willing to take a shot on me and my writing.  You've given me hope that I might be offering something that a lot more folks would be interested in as well.  Thank you!

What else?  Well, I'm thankful for Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, Apple, and a host of other ebook retailers that have made it ridiculously easy for authors to get their books into the hands of readers.  Without their hard work, my hard work would have a much more difficult time even making it to the marketplace.  I'm also hopeful for what will be coming in the next few years as well.

Not only am I thankful for the ebook infrastructure that makes it possible to reach readers all over the world - stop to think about that for a moment: ALL OVER THE WORLD! - I'm also thankful for those outlets that allow the same ease to market for print versions as well.  Not only that, but I'm also thankful for the outlets that make it possible to also have an audiobook version of my work as well.  It's simply amazing that it's now so easy to put out a book in the 3 major consumable ways that readers have grown accustomed to.

Lastly, I'm thankful to God for my brain.  I've got a ton of ideas, and I'm not sure if I'll ever get the chance to explore them all and let others read them too.  But, I'm going to make a really good stab at doing so.

I'm pumped about the future and how I can get my novels and short stories out to readers all over the world.  New hurdles will appear, but they should all lead to ever-expanding opportunities.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Are You Risky?

If you're like most people, you like what you already know; you like what's familiar, what's comfortable.  It makes life easier just to keep going along with what you've always done.  Besides, what's wrong with what you are currently doing?  It's gotten you this far...

It's not always easy to take a risk, to do something new, something that's a little bit scary.  Sometimes it's downright difficult.  But so often is the case, once you've finished the "risky" thing you set out to do, you learn so much about yourself and what you are capable of.  You also gain a new perspective on your life, and you don't look at things the same way; you have a new appreciation for the people that do what you've tried, only they do it day in and day out.  That new perspective is important.

To that end, I've embarked on something that I've been longing to do for years, and that is to learn a new instrument.  The last time I played any instrument was when I was in high school, and I played the violin in orchestra.  That was nearly 20 years ago!  But yet here I am, taking up the cause of learning a new instrument:  the acoustic guitar.

What do I hope to gain from this?  Well, obviously, I'm hoping to learn to play it so that I can play some of my favorite songs.  Maybe, if I keep at it, I'll learn to make up my own music.  But what else do I think I'll learn?  Like I had mentioned earlier, I'll gain a better appreciation of the effort that musicians go through to make music with instruments, especially guitars.  Not only that, I'll be able to 'hear' music better, making out the different instruments used in my favorite songs.  It also affords me another topic of conversation with people that I meet, which is always nice when in need of 'small talk' topics.  It's also another life experience that I can draw on for my writing; I might have one of my next characters use their musical skill in an interesting way, maybe to uncover a clue or solve a murder.  Lastly, it affects new areas of my brain, or at least dormant areas, causing new connections to be made in the ol' grey matter.  This has the bonus of helping to stave off dementia, hopefully for my whole life.

As you can see, there are many benefits to this 'risky' behavior I'm embarking on.  And yet, it's not risky at all, at least in the term that most people think of.  I'm doing it on my schedule, making sure that I'm having fun with it, just like my writing.  If you're doing something that you don't enjoy, why are you still doing it?  Life is too short to be stuck at something you don't enjoy, likewise life is too short to continue to do the same thing, day after day, without a change in the routine.

So get out there, take some risks, and enjoy the rewards.  If you find you don't like it, you've still learned something, and that's a benefit in itself.  Push your limits, explore the world, and see what new things you find exciting.  Be risky!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Am I All Alone Here?

Often, I elect to do my own thing, especially when it comes to my writing.  Some could say I'm a risk taker, and artist, whatever.  I'm just doing what I like and think will work for me and my situation.  But sometimes, I wonder if what I'm doing isn't the right thing.  To wit:  my election to this point to not do a freebie promotion.

It seems like all around me, authors everywhere are running free promotions on their books and giving away tens of thousands of copies of them.  Afterword, it sounds like they are selling 4, 5, 10 times or more than they were before the free promotion.  When I read or hear about these, I feel like a fool because I'm not doing that.  What makes them so special that they can have success but not me?

Well, I suppose that I could also join the ranks of the free promoters, giving away thousands of copies of books and potentially getting reviews and new fans galore.  I think I had written about this before in a previous post, and my arguments haven't really changed.  Is the exchange of a lot of free books worth it to get some (hopefully) good reviews?  Will that mean that I end up with a long-term, higher rate of purchases?

I'm just wondering if I'm all alone with my position.  I don't intend to make one of my books exclusive to Amazon and do freebie promotions.  I'm looking to make sales of my book to those who actually want to read them, not just people looking to score something for nothing.  I value my work, my effort, my storytelling more than that.  Am I all by myself here?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Are You Serial?!

The idea of serial storytelling, that is, publishing a story in installments, is not a new idea.  Charles Dickens might be the most well-known author that has utilized the serial story idea, but the idea has never died out completely, but languished in niche areas.  That has been changing along with the publishing industry as a whole.

Why publish a story as a serial instead of all at once?  Well, for starters, it was a way for an up-and-coming author to make a name for him or herself.  It was much less expensive to offer the story in small parts in a weekly newspaper, and it had the added benefit for the newspaper that folks would continue to purchase their paper so they could continue to enjoy the story being told.  To publish a full book was very expensive, primarily because so much work went into laying out each page.  Mass production of books was not yet a part of the book publishing industry.

Then, as it became cheaper to produce books, and paperback versions came out, further reducing the costs, books were no longer relegated to only those who could command the largest reading audience.  Lesser known authors could see their works printed and bound in book form, and as such the serial form of writing, for the most part, went away.  It remained in various places and served it's purpose in those niche areas, but until recently had not come back to a place of prominence.

Today, thanks to the flexibility of ereaders like the Kindle and Nook, serial publishing has once again gained the favor of authors and readers alike.  It's very inexpensive to publish a serial story (very near to zero, if you know what you're doing) and you have the potential audience of millions around the world.  Dickens would be envious of such a lofty position!

So, what about you?  Have you thought about writing a story that is delivered in serial form?  Amazon actually has a special program dedicated just to serials.  You would pay one price, and you would then get all of the parts to the serial delivered to you as they get published.  And it doesn't matter when you purchase the serial - if you get it after the 3rd installment, you'd get all three installments right away and then all future installments after that.  You'll never miss an episode!

I think I'd like to try it, and it would be a great medium for ongoing detective-type characters and others.  It's worked great for TV shows, such as Lost, Mad Men, Fringe and others, why not for books?  What other sorts of story lines might work well for this serialization idea?  I'm excited to find out!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Is Writing Your Passion?

Over the past several months, the issue of someone's passion in life has been the subject of many conversations.  So many people are just "working", doing a job in order to make ends meet.  I'm no different:  I have a day job that I work over 40 hours at every week, and it pays the bills.  But it's the things that I do with my remaining waking hours that really shows what I'm interested in, what I like to do, what I'm passionate about.  And one of those things is writing.

I don't know how many times I've heard someone say that they would just LOVE to write a book.  When I press them, they say that they have a really neat idea, and when they tell me I usually agree.  So then I ask them why they don't do it, why they haven't started yet.  The answer I usually goes something like this:  "Yeah, when I find the time!".  I've got a little secret for you:  If you are passionate about something, you will find the time.

Do I feel bad for these people who dream of writing a novel, but never do?  I little, yes, because they don't even give themselves the time to try it out.  But, then I remember that if they really wanted to try it, they would find the time.  However, there's another type of person, someone who actually did try writing a novel or two.  They've succeeded where so many others don't even start.  They've finished their book, and then they went on to self-publish it.  And then they start to wonder why it isn't selling a hundred copies a day.

It's these folks that really need to evaluate if writing is their passion.  If they really had the passion for writing, they would continue to write, to learn, to study, and to try to make their next writing project better.  They would be able to identify areas in their last work that could be improved if they were to do it again.  They wouldn't be frustrated with slow or even non-existent sales, they would be grateful for the sales that they did have and work to find more people that would also be interested in what they wrote.  They wouldn't get discouraged by a bad review, because they had been expecting it.  They would find time, even little bits of time, to keep writing or doing other things that advance their latest project or hone their writing and/or story telling skills.  These people have passion.

Do you have the passion?  Do you stay up late writing in order to finish something that's captured your attention?  Do you keep looking for new opportunities because you never know when you'll come upon a really good way to reach your target audience?  Do you keep learning about the industry, the latest changes, trends, and how to make it work for your goals?  If you do any of these things, and look forward to it, then you probably have the passion.  But what if you don't?  What if you find it to be taxing?  What if you find excuses to NOT write?

If you find yourself questioning what you're doing or finding ways to avoid writing or doing anything having to do with writing, you have to seriously question if you have the passion for writing.  Okay, we'll all give you credit for finishing that novel, because that's a huge thing; not many people even get that far.  But be honest with yourself and how much you like writing.  It's not for everyone, just like being a surgeon isn't for everyone (I'd faint so fast in the operating room it wouldn't be funny).  I've often said to people who complain over and over and over again about their job, if you don't like it, why are you still doing it?  Life is too short to be stuck doing something that's drudgery.

So find out what your passion is.  If it's writing, that's awesome!  Keep at it, keep writing, researching, doing, learning.  But if it's not, do yourself the biggest favor you can, and stop writing!  Go find what your passion really is, and pursue it with gusto.  You'll know what your passion is when you dream about it in your sleep, talk with people about it even when they could care less, and especially when you start to invest your hard-earned money on things dealing with your passion.

So go on, find your passion!  Mine is to write.  What's yours?