I was ahead of the curve and I blew it. Six months before Amanda Hocking and John Locke stunned the publishing world by selling millions of self-pubbed eBooks, I predicted this would happen. In fact, I’d hoped it would happen to me. I knew that there would be a small window when not too many authors would choose the less traditional route of indie-publishing. They would still be busy adding their manuscripts to the slush pile. I wanted to be one of the first through the indie-publishing gate. All those avid readers with their new Kindles would turn to my economically priced eBook and give it a try instead of paying ten bucks for a traditionally published book.
Tag archive: Self-promotion
The film industry is a great place for a writer who doesn’t want a full time job. I loved it because I spent a lot of time as a daily, going from show to show on a moment’s notice, working on everything from big feature films to YTV kids’ shows. One tradition I noticed was that when the day was over, the regular crew often said to me, “Thanks for a great day.” There was always a sense of relief and it was a sincere compliment. They were happy that I was the guy the union dregged up, and they wanted me to know they appreciated my work. Eventually I did succumb to the lure of money and worked full time on a bunch of shows, and I always continued that tradition when I had extra crew out to operate extra cameras. Thanks for a great day.
So hey, to all you wonderful people who downloaded Generation Apocalypse last Friday during my promotion day: Thanks for a great day! We reached 29 on the free bestseller list for Action/Adventure and 51 for Horror.
But I’ve been reading Cheryl Kaye Tardiff’s book on how she spiked her sales, and she warns that just doing one free day in a row is wasting momentum. She shows that from her experience, it’s best to break up the five free days granted by the KDP Select contract into two promotions-one for three days and one for two days. Full disclosure here: Tardiff was a fellow member of the Crime Writers of Canada, and while we’ve never met in person, I’ve communicated with her in years past via the CWC Yahoo group, and we’ve probably been in the same room a few times at the Bloody Words Mystery Convention.
I’ll learn from her success. My next promotional day will be two days long. I just have to pick the days and start promoting to ensure another great day.
I have a confession to make: I’m not as big a Pearl Jam fan as my wife, or at least I wasn’t until I went to Missoula, Montana. I liked their music before, and I thought they were talented, but I wasn’t a dedicated fan. I didn’t go looking on iTunes for their music.
But excellent marketing changed all that. I’m a lousy marketer, but here’s what I learned in Missoula:
Lesson One: Love what you do. Pearl Jam loves to play music, especially when in the presence their fans. I know that sounds obvious, but friends still speak bitterly of an R.E.M. concert they attended during which the band made it plain that being up on stage was a nuisance that had to be gotten through as quickly as possible, like painting a bedroom or mowing a lawn. Perhaps they were just too exhausted from all the touring. I bet they lost fans at that concert.
Pearl Jam’s performance in Missoula was the opposite. They were having a blast, as if they had just made it to the big time, as if touring was a new adventure. They played their music excellently, better live than even their studio recorded songs. By the end I had changed from a lukewarm fan to a dedicated fan. I want to go to another concert to hear songs they didn’t play in Missoula. I want to buy more of their music.
Lesson Two: Be dedicated to your fans. Pearl Jam runs a fan club, the Ten Club, and those fans pay to be members and get perks, not freebies, but perks, like early access to ticket sales and discounted merch. In Susan’s case, they had a lottery for good seats in Missoula, and she was one of the lucky winners. We still had to pay for the seats, which weren’t expensive, and we had a great view of the stage. We felt special.
Lesson Three: Market to your fans. Pearl Jam marketed the Missoula concert first to their Ten Club members, and they sold the tickets in pairs. We needed I.D. to pick up these tickets at the Will Call, so the scalpers were totally knee-capped. I met people from all over America and Canada, and many were like Susan and I, one rabid fan, and one lukewarm–soon to be rabid–fan. Not only did this increase their fan base, but at the concert they were surrounded by an exceptionally receptive audience. The local newspaper, the Missoulian, described it as a 6000-voice-strong sing along. Dedicated fans know all the words.
But the band was also fair and reserved a block of seats that had to be purchased in person, so that people from Missoula could also attend the biggest event in town that weekend. Once in the Adams Center, which is on the University of Montana campus, they were very likely converted from curious onlookers to music purchasing fans, which explains why a band that just celebrated its twentieth anniversary has fans that weren’t born when Pearl Jam performed their first concert.
Lesson Four: Reward Your Fans: The lights came up and the band played on, rewarding us with several more songs. Eddie tossed tambourines into the crowd, but not randomly. He chose each recipient with care. One man in a wheelchair couldn’t possibly compete for one, so Eddie talked to a closer fan, tossed him the coveted tambourine, which he in turn tossed high up the seats to the man in the wheelchair. But Eddie wasn’t done. He called to the go-between fan and followed up with one for him, a reward for being cool and giving up the tambourine as requested even though he had briefly held it. I loved it. The crowd loved it.
How will I apply all these lessons to marketing my novels? I’m still working on that, and I’m open to suggestions, but the biggest lesson I take from that concert is to be genuine. None of this felt contrived or engineered. It just was. That’s what makes it great.
The launch of Generation Apocalypse has been a hectic and exciting time. While we aren’t even close to breaking Stephen King’s average sales for a single hour, it has been a personal best for me, and it was fun to see the novel quickly climb to 15,000 on the Amazon best seller rank. I admit that’s not record breaking for a lot of novels (No Easy Hope, a zombie novel I keep tabs on, has been around the 1500 mark for about a year) but it’s nice to see my sales improving with each launch.
Our bestseller rank has dropped over the last two days, but I still have great hope for this novel. I’m lousy at marketing, but I once heard a marketing guru state that anyone can be good at marketing if they truly believe in their product. I truly believe Generation Apocalypse is a great read. I can’t wait to get deeply into writing book three of the 1000 Souls, let alone book five.
But the fun is not over. We’re going to launch a website for the 1000 Souls where you’ll be able to take the Ericsians determination to find out what soul-portion you host. We’ll have Youtube videos of Bertrand Allan warning of the apocalypse. We’re going to make the books come alive for everyone, whether they’ve read them or not.
They next few months will be a great adventure.
But first, we’re going to fly 3000 kilometers this weekend to Montana to attend a Pearl Jam concert. What’s that got to do with anything? Nothing. That’s the point.
He had just turned ten when the world ended. At first it was fun, because some of the teachers stopped showing up at school. The principal, tall and angry, kept stuffing the students into the gym to watch movies, promising each day that next would be normal. Instead, fewer and fewer of Tevy’s friends came to school, and one day neither did the principal.
That is the opening of Generation Apocalypse, and I’m delighted to announce that it will launch on Friday September 21st. This Friday. Yup, only three months late, but I think you’ll discover that it was worth the wait.
Early reviews: one trusted reader described it as the best book I’ve ever written. Another raved about the opening and scattered complementary comments throughout the manuscript–something he rarely does. Even my wife, one of my toughest critics, thinks I’ve written a great book.
So here’s my shameless plan: If you’re a fan and you want to be part of the success of Generation Apocalypse, buy it on Friday September 21st, or Saturday the 22nd or Sunday the 23rd. That’s this weekend. Why these days? Because I’m trying to push the bestseller ranking on the book high and fast. Amazon helps those who helps themselves, and their system will automatically promote a book that’s selling.
Is this unfairly gaming the system? Absolutely not, because any author can do it. Indie authors can’t afford advertisements in the New York Times like the big six publishers, so we have to find other ways to get that sales bump at launch and create buzz.
If the book sucks it’ll sink anyway. I’ve tracked several authors through this process, and one thing I’ve discovered is that while an author can light the match, only readers can make the fire catch hold and burn brightly. If the sales taper off and Amazon’s promotions don’t help, their algorithm will drop a book from the most-favored status and it will die.
But I think we’ve got a winner. So buy early and buy often!
If you’re worried that you haven’t read book one of the series, Apocalypse Revolution, fear not. Generation Apocalypse can be read as a stand-alone novel. But I’m willing to bet you $2.99 that when you get to the end, you’ll want to read book one to find out how this all began.
Many thanks to all my fans for their e-mails of encouragement–and their gentle nudges to write faster–over the last three months. You inspire me.
I’ve got a confession to make: book two of the 1000 Souls series is ready to go, but I’m not going to launch it just yet. I apologize to my fans, some who’ve been on my Facebook page gently urging me to hurry up. I know I’ve missed several deadlines, and I hate to make people who are eager to read my novel wait just a little bit longer. I’m as eager for them to read it as they are.
Why am I holding back? Because I’m not good at marketing, and I’m trying to do better. Usually I get a novel up on Amazon as soon as it’s ready and try to do bits of marketing here and there after it’s available for sale. Besides being a challenge to squeeze these faint efforts in between the day job and the family, this half-hearted approach doesn’t build momentum. Every time I get the ball rolling, I wander off to take care of other things.
A traditional publisher would never ship a book out to stores without preparing the ground for sales. They send out copies for review, they get other authors to blurb, they take out ads, and they have a specific launch day and even a launch party.
Obviously I can’t afford ads in the New York Times, and Stephen King isn’t going to blurb for my book since he’s never heard of me, let alone my books. But there are other marketing initiatives I can take.
First, I have a couple of websites I have to get in order: my publisher website and the novel site. I also need to write all the promotional material, which ends up being substantial, rather than adding it a bit at a time later.
Second, I need to do a proper launch. That means picking a launch day and letting people know in advance instead of after the fact. The idea here is to get all my friends, family and fans to purchase the novel on the launch day. This could give the novel quite a boost on the Amazon bestseller list. Is this gaming the system? You bet, but in a way that all authors and publishers try to get a bump in sales right off the bat.
I also want to contact each of my fans, especially the ones who have reviewed Apocalypse Revolution, and give them an Amazon gift certificate so that they can buy it on my tab. If they provide another good review it will be money well spent. Even if they just buy it, well, they’re buying it, which means I’m actually only paying 30% of the cost of the novel, and I get the bestseller rank boost. If you want a free copy, use the Contact Mike button above and let me know that you’re interested, and I’ll see that you get one too. Fans, especially ones who’ve taken the time to write me and tell me how much they love my book, make this whole endeavor worth while.
I met with my business manager today over lunch (fortunately we’re married, so it was easy to arrange) and we discussed what had to be done by launch. After some scheduling debates, we’ve pick a book-launch day.
So here’s the first big announcement. Drum roll please. Generation Apocalypse, Book Two of the 1000 Souls, launches on Friday, September 21st. It’s the best I’ve ever written. I love it. I hope you will too.
Look out world. Here they come.
Never put all your eggs in one basket. This wise old saying was invoked by many pundits when they wrote their opinions about Amazon’s KDP Select. This is the program that allows authors to offer their eBooks exclusively on Amazon in exchange for having their work placed in the Kindle Lending Library. It also provides for the opportunity to offer your eBook free for five days during the three month contract–a way of getting your eBook out there and building buzz to help paid sales.
This was working out pretty well for me until yesterday morning. I was headed for a month of record sales–nothing that was going to threaten John Locke’s records for sure, but definitely a personal best. But when I opened my Amazon account I put down my coffee in surprise. Apocalypse Revolution hadn’t sold in twenty-four hours. I went to look and the product page and discovered it had disappeared. I held off posting this so I could provide a link here, because until 3:00pm EDST, there is nowhere to go. Nowhere. It’s not available on Smashwords or at Barnes and Noble or at any of the other eBook retailers. All my eggs were in the KDP Select basket, and Amazon had dropped it.
Amazon promptly replied to a query, and they were able to tell me that they could see the product page for Apocalypse Revolution, but there were several back-and-forths over the next 24 hours (one of the delays was my fault) before A.R. miraculously reappeared without notice.
Amanda Hocking let everyone know what she thought of KDP Select when she informed the world that half her self-pubbed eBook sales came through non-Amazon eBook retailers. She didn’t say anything bad about Amazon or warn authors away from KDP Select, she was just letting authors know what they might be giving up.
I’m delighted Amazon solved the glitch, especially because the free days I offered this month generated five great reviews and 12 Likes. I know, small potatoes compared to most eBooks, but I don’t know four of these five reviewers–the other is a friend, but Rebecca put that review up without prompting. The others are not friends and family, so if the product page was totally corrupted and the reviews were lost to the ether, it’s not like I can e-mail the reviewers and ask them to re-post their reviews. I would be starting over from scratch.
The damage is minimal. The Amazon Sales Rank has vanished, probably reset as if it’s a new novel, which is better than what it would be after two days of zero sales. But all those other novels that used to auto-suggest AR, well instead of being the first or second book suggested, it’s about sixth to twelfth. I guess other novels were selling while AR was AWOL. Oh, and the link to AR at the right side of this page is broken. I’ll have to get my IT guy on that.
Even a great tech company like Amazon will have glitches, and their response was certainly fast and professional, but it does remind me that keeping all of my eggs in one retail basket may okay for the short term, but in the long term it may not be the best idea. Stuff happens. Better to be diversified.
At first I thought the Amazon sales report was a mistake. How did the number of downloads get so high so fast?
It was last Friday, and I was running a free promo day for Apocalypse Revolution. Only 35 downloads had gone out the door by 5:30pm, which was a bit disappointing because the last time I’d run a promo day well over 500 downloads went out the door, selling at a steady clip all day. That was Thrusday, February 16th, so why on Friday March 3rd was it difficult to even give the novel away?
Apparently because people weren’t home from work or school, or perhaps because the novel hadn’t been picked up and listed by one of the many free kindle sites. But like a switch turning on, suddenly everything changed.
I sat down at 9:00pm and opened the Amazon sales report. Boom! It stated that over 600 downloads had flown out the door. I thought it was a mistake, so I refreshed the page only to discover it was now up to 610. I called my wife, and by the time she got downstairs we’d passed 625. The number of downloads kept climbing with dizzying speed until the promo ended around midnight at over 1300 units out the door.
Of course the best part was the next day when the paid sales started moving. The pace was nowhere near as frantic as the free day, but by the end of the weekend I’d sold more than the previous two months combined. Now that’s fun!
The party isn’t over either. I’m still selling today, and my best seller rank is hovering above 9000, which is great news. I may not be rich and famous, but people are seeing my name and paying for my work. That’s a step in the right direction.
Within 24 hours of launching Apocalypse Revolution, I got two sales and one good review. Yeah! I was on my way with this one. I wasn’t predicting millions of sales, but I thought they’d start to trickle in, so I was surprised when there was nothing. Not a single sale for the following two weeks.
By mid-January I knew it was time for drastic action. I engaged a new cover artist, but in the meantime my previous cover artist slapped together a very different cover–less biblical and more action. That resulted in a few sales, but still not much notice.
So the week before last I tried a free day. Wow! Did it fly off the electronic shelves! By dinner time it was ranked #6 in the free Kindle bestseller list for science fiction, adventure, and #16 for free science fiction in general. Only H.G. Wells, Jules Verne and about a dozen Stars Wars novels were ahead of me. Pretty heavy company.
But the pay-off began after I went off the free day. For over a week those sales, now paid in the Kindle store, have been coming in at one or two a day, sort of what I had expected all along. But the real pay off landed on Saturday morning. Amazon reviewer RandiTS gave Apocalypse Revolution five stars and bought a copy of Vampire Road. RandiTS has nearly 60 reviews under his/her belt, and has earned the Amazon reviewer rank of 5,546, which is pretty good. I’m also proud to note that RandiTS is no rubber stamp. She/he has given one star reviews where deserved.
I’m honored and delighted to have this review, and I’m looking forward to more fans. But for now, RandiTS is my favorite #1 fan.
Why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free? This rather antique view was held by my grandparents’ generation, which apparently equated milk with sex and women with cows. You can see what I mean by antique. This warning for young women implied that all men wanted from marriage was sex, and this was a commodity that must be withheld until he was trapped with a marriage certificate. But people have been more free with love since the sixties, and they still get married and have children. Apparently there are more reasons to get married than just sex. Dare I say love?
Some authors have this milk-cow attitude to their novels. They warn that if you give them away, you’ll lose sales because no one will buy them if they can get them for free. I’ve heard at least one established and successful author state that you should never give your work away. Yet, that same author did just that with his first novel when he was starting out.
When you’re a newbie author you’ve got to build a following, and for that you need fans. They don’t appear magically out of the woodwork, they have to discover you. So I’m going to give it away for free today.
Summer of Bridges is a collection of award-winning short stories that were first published in Storyteller Magazine (alas, now defunct) between 2002 and 2008. They’re a comedic romp through one coming-of-age summer for Kenny, a seventeen year old who is nothing but trouble for his widowed mother. To save him from pot-smoking friends, she sends him to work with his uncle’s bridge painting crew, five hundred miles from home and so far north that there are no roads that don’t head due south. Kenny has to learn to fit in with a construction crew of ex-cons, become comfortable working at high heights, survive forest fires and even gets involved with a murderer.
I’ll be curious to see how this experiment in free works out. What I want more than anything as an author is for people to read my work and enjoy my stories as much as I do. I developed some faithful fans when the stories first came out, and I hope to add more with this promotion.
UPDATE: I wrote this blog last night before the promotion went live. I just checked my sales and BAMM! Holy Downloads, Batman! By 9:00 this morning nearly fifty have flown out the door, including a bunch in the UK and even one in Germany. We’re looking into how people are finding out about this freebie because I’m flabbergasted.