Monday, March 31, 2014

Marketing Techniques

I have been doing some research over the last two months on marketing of books. It becomes apparent very quickly that most of the success of self published authors comes down to luck. Some marketing techniques that have worked for some have not worked for others. Some books sell really well while others do not. However, I did come across some common themes that give a little insight to increasing your "luck".

Social Media

Social media has become the backbone to advertising in the past couple years. Places such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and even Pinterest has reached millions of potential customers in the click of a button. The trick here is to grow your groups, learn how to market within these online environments, and make your advertisement attractive.

Another important point here is that people are more likely to read your post if it is funny or has nothing to do with selling something. People are on these websites for social reasons, not to buy. However, the exposure and generating buzz can only help.

Increase your Book Reviews

Submitting your book for free may seem like crazy at first but let's talk about it. If you were to go to Amazon to buy a book and it had very few reviews, would you read it? Would you spend the money to buy a book that nobody else wanted? There are mechanisms within Amazon that allow you to give away your book for free for a limited time. This will count as a "sale" even if there is no revenue involved. You have a window to put your book up for free and advertise that people can grab it. This will generate reviews. Not everyone who downloads your book will write a review, but any review you get will help generate future sales.

I know that some people would say that you shouldn't give your work away for free or give something away that you could be making money off of. The thing about that approach is that it is short term. If you sell your book for $3.99 and ten people are brave enough to buy it, you will make some money even though it is not much. If you give your book away for free for a limited time, yes, you would lose those potential customers. Let's say you give away 100 e-book copies. This cost you absolutely nothing to do. Even if half of those people write a review, you will have 50 reviews on your book. It will now show up on 100 different lists of "People who bought this also bought....". In addition, if those people like your book, they will buy your next one and refer it to a friend.

It is not about the short term gain, it is about the long term vision of building a fan base.

More books equals more sales

From what I have read, it appears that people with more than 4 books as an author sell more. This is not a proven fact, just an observation. If you think about it, the idea is pretty rational. If an author can reach a reader or group of readers and the book is well written (important point there!), then the reader typically wants to read more by that person. How many times have you read a book by an author and purchased another written by them because you liked the way they wrote, told a story, etc? I do it all the time. Repeat book readers goes back to my previous point, building a fan base.

In addition, the more books you have written, the better chance you have of being visible. This is not magic. This is just logic.

Book Covers Matter!

I cannot stress this point enough. People do judge books by their covers. This happens all the time and has only increased in the e-book industry. In a world where you can see thousands of books in the click of a button, you have to stand out. Your book cover has to reflect the genre and be professional enough to be taken seriously. You cannot expect people to spend money on something that does not look professional.

Look at other books in the genre that are selling well. What is it that sets them apart from the others? What about the books that you have read that you like? What caught your eye and made you want to buy it? These are all questions you need to ask yourself when you buy a book cover.

Change, Evolve, Innovate

The world is changing every second. What was popular one minute is old the next. You cannot expect to upload your book, stand back and say, "Give me money!" You have to drive your sales, push different avenues to reaching new potential customers, and keep changing. I am not saying that you have to change your cover every week. Nothing that drastic. But you should be updating your blurb summary of your books, reading reviews for feedback, and updating your books to correct errors. Maybe your cover is not working. You have to make that call. It may be possible to reach out to your fan base for feedback on your cover.

Innovation is a tough word for anyone. It is easy to do the things that work because they work. Do not be fooled by this. Those who do not change in an ever-changing environment will die. Ok, a little over dramatic but you get my point. Try different things. You may fail at most of them but you may also stumble on the one marketing avenue that slingshots you into high sales. You have to try. Nobody will do this for you.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Apple Settlement give Amazon Customer Credit

In a turn of events, Apple gave Amazon (and other retailer) customers a total of $166 million in a settlement due to price-fixing. Apple had worked with five publishers to fix the price of eBook sales which resulted in over charging its customers.

See the articles: GIGAOM and CNN Money

It was stated that,
"Illegal actions by these publishers forced consumers in New York and across the nation to pay artificially inflated prices for e-books," said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, in a statement.

Amazon is sending its customers emails that said,
"Good news! You are entitled to a credit of $xx.xx for some of your past Kindle book purchases."

This is further proof of the conspiracy of traditional publishers trying to drive prices up to increase their commissions. Do you think that the author of these books had any say in this? Do you think that Apple will ask the authors for money back? I hope not.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Standing Still

One of the problems about working full time and trying to write a book is time. It is easy to work too much and burn yourself out, which I have done on several occasions. Burning the candle at both ends will definitely wear you out. This is what I feel like at times:

And just because Peanut Zombies are cool:

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

New Contest - Flash Fiction

There is a new contest available through the Charlotte Writers' Club called the Ruth Moose Flash Fiction contest. I have not decided on a topic yet, but this is good practice to use clever words to invoke emotion and tell a story with few words.

Flash Fiction is defined as a short story, usually 300 to 500 words long, that has the normal characteristics as a normal short story. This would include the protagonist, conflict, obstacles or complications, and resolution. Trying to add all of these aspects in 500 words is a challenge, but can also be fun.

So, I have a decision to make on what I want to write. The deadline is April 15th, which means that I have some time. I am open to any suggestions or ideas on a topic. Unfortunately, after I write it, I am not allowed to publish it on the website until the contest is over.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Short Story Post 4

Before reading this, please be sure to read Post 1, Post 2 and Post 3. Or you can click on "Short Story" on the menu for the full story.

It did not take long for them to walk across the small port town to the stables. Jaina was true to her word. Supplies were waiting for them set against the wall of the stable. Beside them, two of the most beautiful horses that Erik had ever seen were tied to a post. The stable master was carefully checking them one last time before their departure. When he saw them approach, he hobbled around the horses to greet them. He had a hunched back and a bad limp, favoring his right leg. That did not stop him from smiling widely as he welcomed them. He was obviously good at his job.

“Lady Jaina,” the man bowed a little lower than one would expect his body to allow. “I have been expecting you. It has been far too long since you have graced us with your presence.”

“Good to see you, dear Tagron. I would love to stay and talk, but we must be on our way immediately.”

Without complaint, Tagron went to work on loading the horses practiced efficiency. He introduced the horses as he worked. “This fine beast is Brannon. He is very strong, but stubborn. You have to watch your supplies because he likes to steal food.” Tagron turned to the other horse with a beautiful brown coat, “This is his beautiful girlfriend, Briella. She is more elegant but will keep Brannon in his place. Together they will be a great team and you will travel fast.”

Erik took a step forward, admiring the tall strong creatures. He reached out to place a hand on Brannon’s neck. The horse responded with flapping lips and stomping one foot. “He likes you.” Tagron said. “What is your name?”

“Erik. My name is Erik Steele,” he replied.

Tagron squinted as he looked at Erik curiously from head to toe. “You are not related to….nevermind. You have to excuse an old man.”

Erik silently gave thanks to Teylon for the man not pressing him further. Steele was a common name in the Gaena Province. Very few people would draw the connection between him and his father Devlin Steele, Leader of the Assassin’s Guild. Erik did not look like his father which helped him deny any relation. Where is father was tall and lean, he was short and muscular. His father had long black hair, a well-trimmed beard and dark brown eyes. Erik had light brown hair, no facial hair and blue eyes. In fact, if they were in a room standing next to each other you could only seem a small resemblance in the nose.

“Thank you again, Tagron.” Jaina said in a sweet voice. This was definitely a side of her that Erik did not expect. Jaina reached up to kiss Tagron on the cheek. “My father would be most pleased.”

“Anything for the daughter of House Claymore,” Tagron smiled and bowed again.

Once Tagron was finished fussing over the two horses he took a step back nodding his approval. Jaina mounted Briella with the ease of a practiced rider. Erik fumbled with the reins and barely pulled himself up in an awkward manner. The short laugh from Jaina caused his face to turn red. Jaina turned the horse, giving it a swift jab with her heel. Off she went down the narrow street in a full gallop. Erik looked over to Tagron who shrugged his shoulders in response. He rolled his eyes and started off after Jaina. If this was any indication of the trip to come, he was going to be frustrated for weeks.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Creating Side Plots

In the past month, I have dumped all that I had in my head onto the screen. I was able to write more than 120 pages of details and draw out the storyline. Then I went back to the beginning and started to write the first draft. I was writing happily until something seemed out of place. I stopped to think about what I was doing. There was something wrong and I could not put my finger on it.

A week went by, due to work and other things going on. I picked up the story, scanned through it, and stopped at the same exact spot. I can only assume that this is writer's block. But that did not settle well with me. I would not accept it. I took the only action that I could think of......ask for help.

I tapped my friend on the shoulder (well, sent him an email) and asked if I could run it by him. I explained my situation and that something was wrong. I made some suggestions of what I thought might be the problem and I wrote a two page summary of where I was and where the story was going.

It did not take long for him to point out the problem. My story was becoming too linear. There was not enough depth in the story due to the lack of well developed side plots. I started to do it, but when I reached the point where something should happen, I could not write it. It was not developed.

The light went on in my head and the problem was staring me in the face. I am thankful that I have enough courage to admit that I am lost and even more thankful for friends that are willing to help. I am sure that one day they will get tired of me. Now, I am spending the time with story weaving. The side plots, back story, relationships, and driving factors for the characters. This will create the depth and realism within the story. Then I can finally move forward!

Back to writing!

Monday, March 10, 2014

First Month

One month ago, I started this journey to write a novel. I have worked hard in my spare time between being a husband, father, and working my full time job. There have been times where I am frustrated and discouraged. Don't let anyone fool you....writing a novel is hard!

Luckily, I have a very good support system. I have friends that are encouraging and my wife has been a source of inspiration. I am able to voice my frustrations and share my doubt without fear. When talking to one of my friends today, I was voicing my frustration with how far away I am from my goal. He turned the conversation around on me, telling me to put things in perspective. It has been ONE MONTH!

It sounded very strange to me at first. Has it really only been one month? I went back to look at when I setup my blog and the first post, February 6th. One month.

So many things have happened since this journey started. I started this blog, posted many different topics, wrote an outline for my novel, wrote over 120 pages, wrote and submitted a poem for a contest, joined the Charlotte Writers' Club, did research on publication, cover art, proof reading, and formatting, and laid out a plan for several other books. That is a lot to accomplish in one month.

The lesson that I learned here was sometimes you have to stop and think about where you have come from to see how much you have accomplished. It is not always about reaching the final goal, but the journey along the way.

A special thank you to all of my friends and family that have been supportive of me in this journey.

New Menu and Pages

If you have visited my blog before then you noticed some changes. I have changed the heading banner at the top of the page, which I proudly created. This was an opportunity for me to use my limited 2D Art skills and distract me from writing for a little. I have also added a menu at the top of the page which links to my website. Please bare with me as I continue to work on this in my spare time. It will grow to be more, but I am not there yet.

There are several things that I would like to change in the future. I want to make the transition between the blog and the website seemless. I have not figured out how to do this yet, due to an issue with the menu link opening a new page instead of redirecting. My web design skills are a little rusty. I also want to start putting information up about other indie author's books, books that I am currently reading or read, and any reviews that I have. This is to branch out more to see others work and get opinions. In order to successfully market a book, you have to know your market.

If anyone has suggestions, ideas, feedback or want to provide some help please let me know. I am always looking for new ideas and ways to improve. Also, if any indie authors want to submit their book for review or provide a guest post you can email me on the "Contact" link in the menu.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Short Story - Post 3

Before reading this, please be sure to read Post 1 and Post 2.

“You will have your hands full with that one,” Captain Warwick said, breaking the silence. “She is to be escorted by you alone to Fedoria in the Highlands of Caelda. Nobody is supposed to know who she is and she is to be protected at all costs.”

“Captain, you cannot be serious. That is all the way across the Shifting Sands to the Alteen Province. Going that far south will take weeks.” Erik started to protest but Warwick cut him off.

“Do you forget who you take orders from, boy? I still own you. When I say you will do something, you do it.” The seriousness in his tone assured Erik that he does not have an option.

Erik was not bothered by the fact that it would take him several weeks of travel to Fedoria and back. In fact, it was a nice thought to get off that wretched boat for a while. However, traversing the Shifting Sands while being weighed down with a woman is a burden that would likely get him killed. When he did not respond, Captain Warwick continued. “Gather your belongings and take this map. I have marked the way for you. Horses and supplies are waiting for you in town.” The Captain’s voice changed to one of efficiency instead of anger. “Deliver the girl and meet us in Southport in three weeks. We have a load to deliver there. Do not make me wait on you.”

With the map rolled up in his hand, Erik found himself on the other side of the door as it slammed shut causing him to jump. Damned door. Erik spent the next hour gathering the few items he had in the bunks and trying to get his mind set for the road. The only reason the Captain chose him for the job is because he is the more civilized among the crew, which does not say much. He would try to make the best of this trip but he had a feeling that would be more difficult than he would like.

Erik made his way through the boat to the docks where the woman was waiting. She was standing there with one hand on her hip and the other twirling a lock of dark hair. Erik rolled his eyes as he stepped off the boat, thinking to himself, “This is going to be a long trip.” Jaina made a huffing noise while he stumbled onto the dock. His bag hit the wood in a solid thump. He could feel the tension between them, thicker than the salt in the air.

"Glaring at me with your eyes will not make me move faster, Miss Claymore". He could not remove the ironic tone from his voice when he spoke her name.

"I did not ask for your opinion. We may be forced to travel together, but that does not mean I have to like it,” she snapped back with her own haughty tone.

Shouts of laughter burst forth from the boat. The crew had been listening to every word, enjoying the misery of Erik’s assignment. “Hey, boy!” Smitty shouted. “At least you have another woman to talk with!” The crew laughed louder at the comment. Erik made a rude gesture with his hands before scooping up his pack and walking past Jaina. Regardless of how the crew treated him, he felt a little sadness leaving behind the Anne-Marie, which was properly named after Captain Warwick’s daughter that died many years ago. The ship had been his home for three years, it was only natural that is had become a small part of him.

Jaina outpaced him, her long legs making longer strides. “My father has arranged all of our supplies. We must hurry if we want to travel today.” Jaina’s pace picked up as she walked toward the center of the small town. “The sun has almost reached its peak and we only have 6 to 8 hours of light left.”

“Fine, lead the way.” Erik replied with more than a little sarcasm. Even though it was his job to lead this trip he apparently did not have control over where they were going.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Poetry Submission

Recently, I joined my local writer's group: The Charlotte Writers' Club. Being part of a group such as this one allows a writer to meet other like-minded people, expand their networking, utilize the club for various workshops, and contest entries. The most recent contest that was open is the Deane Ritch Lomax Poetry Prize. The rules are fairly simple. You write a poem, pay the entry fee and submit. Sounds easy enough, right? There is only one small have to write poetry.

Even though I have not shared with many people over my life, I do have a natural affinity to poetry. The artistic form of using complex words to shape a vision without directly stating it has always been fascinating to me. The largest challenge for me is choosing which style I want to write in and the fact that the poem cannot be published. That means you will not get a preview of the poem, sorry.

What I can tell you is that I have chosen to write a Sestina. A Sestina is a unique poem style that centers around six words. There are Six Stanza's (paragraphs), each containing six lines. Each line ends in one of the six words in a certain order. This order is pre-defined. Then the poem is closed with an Envoi, which is three lines at the end, consisting of all six words, two for each line.

Sound complicated? It is. But once you go through the process of writing a couple of them it gets much easier.

The submission deadline is March 18th. I have already submitted my poem into the mix, so we will see what happens. The winners will be named in a couple months. There will be a First Place Prize of $100, a Second Place Prize of $50, a Third Place Prize of $25 and three Honorable Mentions. The winners will have to read their poem in front of an audience at an awards presentation during the monthly meeting.

Wish me luck!

Click HERE if you would like to know more about Sestina Poems.

Short Story - Post 2

“Come in!” The Captain’s voice boomed in great contrast to the knock.

Erik pushed hard on the heavy wooden door forcing it to creak and moan as it opened. When he entered the small room the door slammed shut behind him. Erik jumped at the sound and Captain Warwick let out an evil laugh. No matter how many times he was summoned to that room, the door always received the same reaction.

Captain Warwick was standing on the opposite side of a large mahogany desk that seemed far too valuable for the boat that carried it. He was a tall man with wild red hair that was untamed and windblown. Erik could not help but stare at the man as he loomed over the desk, his large hands holding open a map.

"Always the scared little girl." Warwick extended his grin and motioned to the chair across from him. "When you are done pissing your pants, come introduce yourself to your next assignment."

"I am not an assignment!" The young woman bolted upright from her seat. Her long black hair hung past her bare shoulders. The motion seemed to put Erik in a trance. Before he realized it, the woman had turned around to catch him staring at her. He immediately turned his gaze downward as his face turned red in embarrassment.

"I don't care what you are called. Let's be done with this so you can be off my ship." Captain Warwick smacked his hands on the desk, drawing attention to the map. The woman turned back around as Erik slowly made his way forward.

Erik stepped up to the captain’s desk to take a seat next to the woman. The captain remained standing, tracing lines on the map before he started to speak again. “Erik, this Lady Jaina Claymore, of the Noble House Claymore. Lady Jaina, this is Erik Steele, one of our finest deckhands.”

The words that left Warwick’s mouth seemed to be forced. This was the first compliment that Erik had received from the old sea dog. Turning toward Jaina, Erik extended his calloused hand without looking at her face. “A pleasure for you, I am sure,” she said as she ignored his hand. “Captain, you must have someone more civilized for this task. You cannot expect this….” She gestured toward Erik with her hands, “… lout to escort me!”

Lout! He might not have known the word, but he understood enough by her tone that it was not a compliment. Before he could respond, Captain Warwick spoke up. “Lady Jaina, you are a guest on my ship and you will control yourself.” The green in his eyes glowed a little darker and he lowered his voice in a serious tone. “I do not care who your father is. I will feed you to the sharks if you speak to me that way again.”

Jaina sat in her chair with a scowl on her face. It was obvious that she did not like Warwick but she did not speak another word. When he was sure that she would remain quiet, Warwick continued. “Erik will escort you. I owe a debt to your father and this is my payment. Now get off my boat before I make you spread your legs for my crew.”

Jaina stood up and stomped out of the room. The sound of her shoes clacking on the hardwood was drowned out a second later by the door slamming behind her. Erik did not move as he waited for Warwick to give him orders.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Map Progress

I re-worked the map a little. I did not like the way it flowed before. There were too many open areas of land. This feels more like the Kingdom of Amleer to me. Next, I will break it into the Five Provinces by using mountains, rivers, and other natural landmarks. Then I will add key cities and ports.

The Kingdom of Amleer is made up of The Five Provinces.

- Gaena Province (North)

- Alteen Province (South)

- Enton Province (Central)

- Eld'hui Province (East)

- Sibel Province (West)

As I develop these further and draw the landscape of the map, they may change slightly. But I think that you get the idea.