Archive for category: MarketingTIPS

Fanning the flames of creativity: What the Kindle Fire could mean for indie authors

23 Oct
10/23/2011

For a device that hasn’t seen a single hands-on review, Amazon’s latest addition to the Kindle family, the Kindle Fire, is already setting records. It’s currently the number-one most gifted item in Amazon’s electronics rankings, closely followed in the number 2 and 3 spots by Amazon’s other new-kids on the block, the redesigned Kindle and the Kindle Touch.

The loss-leading $199 price-tag for the Kindle Fire is probably one of the primary reasons behind the massive pre-order rush reported by Amazon. Tech-magazines across the net (thanks to leaked sales figures) are estimating a staggering 2,000 pre-orders for the $199 Fire every hour. That figure is worth repeating: 2,000 pre-orders EVERY hour! Amazon will have sold more than 2.5 million of the 7-inch tablets before its November 15th release.

While the Kindle Fire has certainly received a lot of coverage, the press in general has spent most of their time comparing it to Apple’s iPad, a comparison which, in my opinion, is misplaced. There’s a very simple but fundamental difference between the two gadgets: the Kindle Fire is designed solely for the consumption of media. It’s essentially a very clever marketing gambit by Amazon, and one which will help assure them of a captive audience for years to come.

And that’s fantastic news for us authors. Why? Because we have a massive company effectively working for us; creating an expanding marketplace of customers who will continually do what they do best … consume.

If those earlier pre-release figures don’t impress you, think about this for a moment: eMarketer (a website that tracks digital commerce and marketing) estimated that “more than 20 million ereaders will be in consumer hands by the end of this year, reaching 8.7% of the US adult population. By 2012, 12% of adults will have a Kindle, Sony Reader, NOOK or similar device.” Those figures are only for the US, by the way.  They don’t take into account the current, growing, markets in Europe, Australia, and eventually China and India.

Amazon’s announcement of the Fire’s release seems to have galvanized other manufacturers, too. Kobo and Samsung have all announced they are in the process of releasing or developing new 7-inch tablets. Barnes & Noble is also expected to announce a follow-up to the Nook Color and there are even rumors of an iPad Mini hitting the market sometime next year, despite the late Steve Jobs insistence that 7-inch tablets would be “dead on arrival”.

While a 7-inch tablet isn’t much use for anything more complicated than watching movies, playing the occasional game or surfing the net, it is the next best thing to a dedicated e-reader, and the more low-cost devices available to readers, the greater the market for our books will be.

So how does all of this help us scribblers?

Amazon is creating a stage where we, as indie authors, will have an almost equal billing with the big publishing houses. Conventional publishers are still geared to churning out what they know best, paper books. That’s going to leave a vacuum we can fill.  It’s up to us to take advantage of the ever decreasing boundaries between us and our target audiences to deliver a steady stream of interesting, well developed, professional content. It’s an opportunity that many of us will be unlikely to see again in our lifetime; an industry reborn. A literary gold-rush, if you like. We just need to be prepared for it.

As Bob Dylan has been saying for many years now “The times they are a-changin’”. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

 

The unnoticed benefits of the ePublishing revolution

31 Aug
08/31/2011

It’s not hard to convince modern readers of the benefits of ePublishing. The popularity of the Kindle and Nook has given book lovers an unparalleled level of freedom akin to the invention of digital music players. The first iPod was released way back in late 2001 — ten years later and how many people do you know who don’t own an MP3 player?

But it’s not just bibliophiles who will benefit from new reading technology; savvy authors are in line to take advantage of the changing publishing landscape too. In fact, I would go so far as to say that we are actually benefiting more from this reading revolution than readers themselves.Think about this for a moment: all that has really changed for readers is how they purchase, store and read their books, but the act of reading hasn’t changed one bit,it has just become far more convenient.

The digital age has unleashed a new publishing paradigm on the world, but the true revolution isn’t happening for the reader, its happening for us, the authors. The equivalent of a tsunami is slowly sweeping its way across every aspect of publishing, and when the waters of change finally subside, the landscape will be unrecognizable, with few of the old establishments left intact.

The benefits for authors extend far beyond being able to publish one’s novel without the help of an agent or publishing house. It even exceeds the unprecedented commission payments and our ability to retain complete control over our work. This new business model forces indie authors to become socially active to succeed. We now have to reach out from wherever we write and actually talk to our readers, and our peers. As an author, I have an opportunity few writers in history have had: I can interact directly with my target market (fans of the post-apocalyptic genre and Science Fiction buffs) and ask them what they enjoy or dislike about the genre.

You’ve probably heard of Goodreads, it’s a site that brings readers and authors of every imaginable genre together, and that’s where I decided to put my theory to the test. I already had an outline for my new novel; I know how it starts and ends and the majority of what happens in-between, but I wanted to speak to lovers of post-apocalyptic stories and see exactly what it was they would like included.

I joined Apocalypse Whenever, a Goodreads group with over 1600 members from around the world interested in reading post-apocalyptic fiction. The group’s moderator, Gertie, was kind enough to allow me to post a request asking for their opinion on what makes a good end-of-the-world novel. The response I got from the members was absolutely phenomenal.  I had well over 100 replies; each gave me invaluable insight into what readers look for from a post-apocalyptic storyline.

I now know they want believable but flawed protagonists; they don’t want the clichéd macho-soldier type who can overcome any obstacle or situation thrown at him, or the professor who’ll save the day with a miracle solution from out of thin air. They want intelligent characters they can care about who are involved in situations situations that require ingenuity to overcome. They want normal people, just like you and me; ordinary people who are forced to overcome extraordinary situations that none of us, as readers, hope we will ever have to encounter other than between the pages of a good book.

There was also a consensus that post-apocalyptic novels lacked strong female leads: so my new book’s protagonist will be female. She wont be an unbelievable characterture of what seems to pass for a strong woman in today’s TV and movies, instead I hope to create a true heroine, someone just like my female  readers who (fingers crossed) they’ll associate with, but one with character traits my male readers will also recognize in women in their lives.

You may be asking whether this is a wise decision, letting go of some of the creative process involved in the development of my novel. Will this stifle creativity? Could this kind of writing-by-committee cause authors to abandon traditional development in favor of a narrowly targeted development process aimed directly at a particular stratum of readers? Could it kill organic story development and creativity?

Maybe. But it’s doubtful.

John Locke, in his recently released book “How I sold 1 Million e-books in 6 Months”, basically admitted that this process is the secret-sauce for his phenomenal success. Locke has found a niche readership that he caters to. He listens to them and writes exclusively for that audience, everyone else can go pound salt as far as he is concerned. He expects to get negative reviews from people outside of the narrow band of readers he has identified as being fans of his stories, but that doesn’t matter to Locke. He’s gone out of his way to cultivate a relationship with his readers and gives them exactly what they want. It’s hard to argue with the kind of success he has had, no matter what you think of his ability as a writer.

Am I advocating authors give up creative control of their next novel? No, of course not, but as writers we are lucky enough to be at the forefront of a revolutionary period that gives us greater access to the people we write for than at any other time in history. It would be a crying shame if we missed this opportunity to reach out and connect with our readers, because, in the end, that is who we are really writing for.

 A quick plug: My new novel is called Extinction Point. It’s due out this December. You can sign up to be notified when I release it by using the form in the top-right hand side of this page

 

Another 5-star review for Towards Yesterday. This time from Sift Books Review

19 Aug
08/19/2011

Kevin Glowacz just posted a great 5-star review of Towards Yesterday. You can find it by visiting the Sift Book Reviews site here

Towards Yesterday got a 1-star review and I couldn’t be happier. Here’s why …

26 Jul
07/26/2011

Every morning I go through the same routine: I grab a cup of joe, let my four dogs out into the backyard and then settle into my writing room to check on sales of my novel, its Amazon bestseller rank and any new reviews. It’s a little like Christmas day every morning; you never know what you’re getting but it’s always exciting.

As a full-time writer I’m used to receiving criticism of my work; it’s a welcome element of my chosen career. I already know that I am no Hemingway or Steven King, so constructive criticism is okay by me. Since releasing my first full-length novel in May, I’ve received plenty of five and four-star reviews but I knew one day the negative reviews would appear and, to be quite honest, I was looking forward to them.

You may ask yourself: Why on earth would you want a negative review? My answer is simple: you cannot learn anything from your successes. You can, however, learn much from the negatives.

Well, today was the day. My 18th review was a 1-star and I could not be happier about it.

Here’s the review in question:

1.0 out of 5 stars Unreadable, July 26, 2011

Downloaded the trial chapters and thought the plot was good so I bought the book. Although I tried to keep reading this book, after awhile I was just wasting my time. If the author was trying for the record in just describing gore and destruction, he may have succeeded. I finally gave up when I noticed a new Donovan Creed novel was out.”

So, what did I learn from this review? Of course, the most obvious thing is that it isn’t so much a “review” of my novel than a comment on the reviewer’s personal taste in books. He enjoyed my writing style and liked my initial plot enough to buy the book after reading my sample, but he was put off by the “gore and destruction” later in my story.

That’s great news for me. As the author it tells me that my writing has created images and conveyed the kinds of emotions I intended for the particular scene that disturbed my 1-star reviewer so greatly. The end of civilization, especially when it comes as unexpectedly and brutally as it does in my novel, is not pretty.   In fact, it is downright terrifying and should be written accordingly.

The post-apocalyptic genre explores humanity at its basest, most hopeless level.  It examines how we, the survivors, conduct our lives when everything that is most precious to us, everything that makes our lives worth living and comfortable is stripped away, leaving nothing behind but the horror of extinction and the realization of our own fragile existence.

It is never a pretty story, but it can be wonderful in its revelations.

So, I want to say a big “thank you” to my one-star reviewer.  You’ve reinforced my belief that I’m doing my job correctly for all those readers who are looking for this kind of experience. Readers of post-apocalyptic fiction want a journey that will take them to places they hope they never have to go but are inexplicably drawn to travel that route anyway. They are willing to face the horror and devastation because they know that along the way they will experience humanity at its finest. They don’t want me to pull any punches in my descriptions; they don’t need my protection – this is the end of the world after all. It deserves to be spectacular.

They want to experience the raw horror and terror we all know exists mere moments away from these cozy lives of ours, suspended in place only by the slimmest of technological strings. When I tell my stories I owe it to my readers to be truthful about the experiences of the characters they will be traveling with. We are, after all, fascinated by what will happen should that fragile string fray or be cut.

So let me reassure you; I’ve got a really sharp pair of scissors and, as an author, I have no compunction about using them!

 

That’s the BigAl’s Books and Pals effect – Part Deux!

08 Jun
06/08/2011



About two weeks ago, I published a blog that attempted to take a critical look at the  market effect a writer could expect to see if they received a positive review from what is, arguably, the biggest and hottest indie-book review site on the web.

I’m talking, of course, about BigAl’s Books and Pals blog.

That last foray into marketing analysis didn’t turn out so well – you can read the original blog entry here , and only really proved how fickle Amazon’s ranking system is when your book is sitting around 100,000th place.

At the time, I mentioned I was going to give it another shot, simply because the review I chose was for a short-story, and I happened to know the author. So I knew I could probably get some finer details on his sales.

This time, I picked two books recently reviewed by BigAl, both full length novels, and both received five-star marks. Those books are:

 

  • Vestal Virgin, by Suzanne Tyrpak. Historical fiction set in Rome
  • Along Came a Demon, by Linda Welch. Urban fantasy/horror

I used NovelRank.com to track both books positions for a couple of days before the reviews appeared.

So, without further ado, here are the results:

Vestal Virgin

The Vestal Virgin review was published at 8:00 am on Monday, May 30th. At that time, Vestal Virgin’s Amazon Best Sellers ranking was #6,079.  Novel rank showed Vestal Virgin as ranking at an average of #6,000 for the two days before the review appeared.

It held the following top-100 category rankings:

#8 in the nonfiction>history>Ancient>Rome

#8 in Books>History>Ancient>Rome

#12 in Books>History>Europe>Italy

Over the next 5 hours, Vestal Virgin’s ranking continued to decrease nicely, reaching #5,203 at 4:00 pm

#7 in the nonfiction>history>Ancient>Rome

#7 in Books>History>Ancient>Rome

#9 in Books>History>Europe>Italy

There was a slow increase from that point on but the following day, at 10:00 am, Vestal Virgin had reached #4,233 and had settled in nicely to the following rankings:

#5 in the nonfiction>history>Ancient>Rome

#5 in Books>History>Ancient>Rome

#7 in Books>History>Europe>Italy

As of 3:00 pm today (Wednesday, June 8th), Vestal Virgin sits at #9,713

#13 in the nonfiction>history>Ancient>Rome

#14 in Books>History>Ancient>Rome

#24 in Books>History>Europe>Italy

 

Along Came a Demon

 

When BigAl’s review was released at 8:00 am, on May, 31st, Along Came a Demon ranked at #1,889.   Novel rank showed Along Came a Demon as ranking at an average of #1,500 for the two days before the review appeared.

It held the following top-100 category rankings:

#4 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Genre Fiction > Horror > Ghosts

#70 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Horror

Along Came a Demon hovered around the same position until noon when  there was three hours of positive movement for the book which moved it a hundred places or so to #1,719

#3 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Genre Fiction > Horror > Ghosts

#67 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Horror

As of 3:00 pm today, Along Came a Demon sits quite comfortably at # 2,827

#6 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Genre Fiction > Horror > Ghosts

#100 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Horror

I have a sneaking suspicion that the BigAl’s effect was watered down somewhat due to the fact that Along Came a Demon was already a very  popular book at the time the review was released, which could have greatly dampened the review’s impact.

I don’t have any numbers on sales, unfortunately, as I know neither of the authors featured.

I do think that it is clear that the extra exposure from a BigAl’s review (and most likely, to a lesser extent, any other indie review site) will have an immediate positive impact on a book’s sales. That initial exciting boost to your sales might be short lived, but the long term benefits are likely to be far more tangible to an author’s reputation. After all, the only way the majority of self-published  books are  going to get the kind of long term sales needed to sustain an author, is through word-of-mouth and positive exposure through sites like BigAl’s.

A positive review from BigAl looks like it will be a great shot in the arm for any new author, with long term benefits that could be measured over years and go a long way to help create a positive image of an author in readers’ eyes.

Lastly, this is quite obviously not a scientific review of BigAl’s effect on the book market. It’s a purely subjective experiment, based on some definitely un-empirical processes, gut instincts and personal observations.

For a comprehensive list of review sites that you can send your Ms to, check out Simon Royle’s blog – he keeps a list of review sites that is second to none: you can find it by clicking here

 

 

If you’re self publishing, you need to read this Forbes article

08 Jun
06/08/2011

A fantastic piece by Forbes writer and blogger, Alan Rinzler, that defines the current state of self publishing for both authors and publishers. Do yourself a favor and read it.

Click here for the article

 

How to track down and join Facebook Groups – a simple guide

02 Jun
06/02/2011

I’ve read that one of the fastest ways for an author to gain new social contacts on Facebook (FB), is by joining a FB Group. These, as the name suggests, are collections of  FB users who have banded together to communicate directly with each other about their favorite subject. This represents a fantastic opportunity for authors looking to promote their book – If you can track down a group of like-minded people who are interested in your particular genre; you basically have a captive audience who are already interested in what you are selling.

Not having much of a social network to speak of, this sounded to me like the perfect platform to reach out to potential readers of my novel, Towards Yesterday. It’s a sci-fi adventure story, so naturally, I was interested in connecting and participating in any groups interested in science fiction.

But tracking down these groups was quite confusing, as I’ve not been a big user of Facebook until recently. There didn’t seem to be any reliable information on FB’s help pages on how to find a group, neither was there anything particularly useful that I could track down on the web. So, after a lot of trial and error, I decided to throw together a quick-and-dirty guide for the social networking newbie on how to find and join groups on Facebook.

Here we go: how to find and join Facebook groups in 6 easy steps:

1)      Look at the top of your Facebook page and you will see a white search box. Type in the name of the kind of group you are interested in joining. For instance; if you’re target market is Young Adult, type in YA or Young Adult. My book is a science fiction novel so I tried Sci Fi and Science Fiction.

2)      As you type you will see a list of suggestions matching your entry pop-up beneath the search box. These will include user names, pages, accounts and groups that match what you are typing. The important thing here is NOT to hit the enter key, that will just select the top item in the search results and take you to their page. Instead, you can either click the magnifying glass at the far right of the search box or click-on the See More Results link at the bottom of the list.

3)      When you’ve clicked, you will be taken to a results page that lists the first 20 or so matches of your search term. Rather than page through the list to find what you’re looking for, you can filter out everything except groups with a single click of a button.

4)     Here’s how you do that. Look at the column on the far left of your screen. You should see a list of clickable filters. One of those will say “Groups”. Click it and you will immediately be presented with a list of all the groups containing your search term. The group results will include the name of the group and the number of people who are currently members.

5)      To the right of each Group you will see a clickable button that will  say either “Request to Join” or “Join Group”. This merely denotes which groups require you to be approved before gaining access and which ones you can simply click and immediately join.

6)      Just click on the join button for the group you are interested in and you are ready to go.

Remember, these are groups of people who are there to talk about their particular interest. I’m pretty sure that constant spamming of links to your website or book’s Amazon page will only result in getting you banned. Use the groups for what they are, places to talk with like-minded people about a subject that is close to both theirs and your hearts.

There may be an easier way to do this, but as I said at the beginning, I couldn’t find it. Feel free to email me any other suggestions and I’ll incorporate them into the guide.

Good luck and I’d love to hear about your successes.

 

A novel reaction to a bad review

23 May
05/23/2011

A different take on dealing with a bad review by author Christine Rice

MARKETING: an update on how Towards Yesterday is doing

22 May
05/22/2011

Earlier this month I tried a little experiment over at Reddit.com (you can read about it here). Briefly; I made a couple of posts about my novel Towards Yesterday in their Science Fiction and Self Publishing sub-reddits. The response was actually a lot better than I imagined it would be. In the two weeks since I posted, Ive sold 50 copies of my book (averaging about 3 a day), received 3 unsolicited positive reviews, and promises of more reviews to come.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: 50 sales is not a lot, and I agree, BUT that’s 50 people who now know who I am, 50 people who will potentially recommend my book to their friends, and 3 reviews that I did not have before. All in all, it’s a pretty good result for what amounted to 20 minutes worth of marketing. And of course, this is all of the marketing that I have been able to do to date. That was enough to push my book from an obscure Amazon ebook sales-ranking of somewhere in the 350,000 range to keeping my book in the ballpark of 20,000 for the past 10 days or so.

So, what have I learned – simply that even a minimum of effort can have a very positive effect on your marketing campaign.

Stay tuned for news of  my next big marketing push which is just getting off the ground.

 

Marketing: My first attempt at marketing Towards Yesterday

07 May
05/07/2011

I’ve been a member of the social news site Reddit for over two years now. For those of you not familiar with Reddit, it’s a news aggregating website that allows members to post links to interesting stories on the web — other users can then comment and vote on the popularity of the post. There are many other sites like Reddit, but none of them come close to the insightful, intelligent users who are attracted to this particular website.

There are many sub-Reddit’s on the site (you can think of these as collections of like-minded individuals who share a particular interest, political opinion or have a common interest in a subject.) Sub-Reddit’s range from science to religion, suggested reading lists to UFO sightings, writing advice and job advice columns, and everything in between. The probability is that there is a sub-Reddit for anything you are interested in.

Two of my favorite are the Sci-fi and Self-Print sub-Reddits. These seemed like the perfect place to post about the release of my book, and a good way to test the waters with a group of likeminded individuals. You can view both of the posts and readers comments by clicking here and here.

I’ve had a great response from both of the Reddit threads and generated my first 20 sales. The feedback I have received has been priceless. Nothing but honest opinion and suggestions for improving the layout.

This is a good start.