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.
We’ve all seen the photos of our favorite authors on their bio-page. You know, the one where they always look so comfortable and relaxed, or broodingly contemplative. Well, I decided I needed one of those for the blog (and my twitter account). After all, it works for other authors (and real estate agents) so it stands to reason that I should have one, too. Let’s face it, you’re not a “real” author until everyone knows what you look like, right?
I mean, how hard can it be? You just throw on some cool looking clothes and settle back in your armchair, all while trying to look as nonchalant or mysterious as you can. Grab yourself a decent photographer and presto! You have yourself a portrait worthy of the back flap of a dust-jacket or the bio page of your website.
Turns out, there’s a little more involved to it than that.
You have to suffer for your art. At least, you do if you’re wife is also your photographer. Take a look at my photo on my bio page — I have to admit I look pretty good in it, especially as I’m not the most photogenic of individuals (there’s a reason I’m a writer and not an actor).
But there’s more to this photo than meets the eye … literally. See those eyebrows? My eyebrows did not look like that the evening before the photo was shot. No, my wife insisted that I had to have them “shaped”. And by “shaped” what she really meant was plucked. So she spent an hour or so with a pair of pliers … I mean tweezers … plucking away at the offending follicles. Eventually she resorted to an application of Nair.
“Just to get the right shape,” she said.
It took about 15 photos and numerous poses before we actually got one that we were both happy with. Between getting the right colored jacket to match the surrounding walls, making sure that I wasn’t blinking or one of the dogs hadn’t wandered into frame we ended up spending about two hours of our time.
Of course, a bio picture isn’t essential. I don’t know if knowing what I look like is going to help me sell more books (or less), because, in the end, it’s going to be the quality of my storytelling ability that will keep readers coming back. But think for a second; have you ever read a hardcover that didn’t have a photo of the author plastered on the back dustcover? No, me either.
So I guess it can’t hurt.
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.
... it’s a very good place to start. That’s what the song says, anyway.
Like any good story, it usually helps to begin by giving the reader some backstory to the characters they are about to meet. So,without further ado, here is a brief history of how my book, Towards Yesterday, came to be.
In February of 2003, my wife and I hit the roughest patch of our lives to date. We lost our home in LA, and faced losing what little we had left, including having to give-up our two dogs if we decided to stay in LA and move into an apartment. After a lot of discussion, we made a bold decision — rather than lose the animals and stay in LA, we would move to Nevada, close to Las Vegas, keep our animals and start afresh. It was the only choice we could make and hope to keep our animals with us.
By the time we had paid for the moving truck rental and a couple of guys to help us pack our belongings, we had enough money left over to make a first and last payments on our rental. We were left with the grand sum of $1,000 in our bank account and worse, no jobs.
My wife found a job quickly (thank goodness), I on the other hand was not so lucky; there wasn’t much call for an out of work writer. Luckily, the money my wife was making at her new job was enough to keep us ticking over — after all the bills were paid we were left with less than $20 each month. To make matters worse, that September would be my wife’s 40th birthday, and I didn’t even have the money to buy her a card, let alone a present. So, being the resourceful kind of a man I am, I decided I’d spend my free time between job hunting and write her a present.
The result was a 74,000 word sci-fi adventure called Towards Yesterday. The book follows the adventures of James Baston (and a cast of billions) after an experiment gone disastrously wrong throws humanity 25-years into the past. It’s all very exciting stuff, if I do say so myself. You can read the synopsis here or click on the link at the top of the page. I’ve also made the first five chapters available for free here. Of course, if you’re feeling really dangerous, you can buy the book for your Kindle by clicking here or your Nook by clicking here.
I’m pleased to say that my wife was very happy with her gift. So, mission accomplished, right?
Wrong! The story could end right there and I’d have the happy ending needed for closure, but it actually gets better.
A friend of ours back in LA read a copy of the book and decided to send it to her brother (thank you Judy), a Pulitzer Prize wining writer, who in turn, sent it to his literary agent. I thought nothing of it, but late one Sunday evening I received a call. It was the New York agent who, to make a long conversation short, told me that he loved the book and wanted to represent me … as long as I was willing to make some changes to the story.
I was stunned. Most writers have to wait for years to grab the attention of an agent, and I had managed to get one without even trying. Now thats what you call luck!
And then, I got a job. It wasn’t a great job, but it took up all my time. Months passed and I was never able to quite find the time to make the changes that the agent needed. We exchanged a couple more phone calls until I finally just explained that I really didn’t think I was going to have the time to dedicate to doing the rewrites he needed.
And that, as they say, was that.
The book has languished on my computer’s hard drive for the past seven years, until last month when I realized what a complete and utter idiot I had been. (I know, I’m slow to catch on sometimes).
My wife and my lives are immeasurably better now. We have a beautiful new home to call our own, my wife runs her own successful business and I have a pretty good copywriting business of my own. I finally have some time to call my own.
So, in April of 2011, I tracked down the Towards Yesterday manuscript and began making some changes, updating the story and editing the copy. The result is much like the Six Million Dollar Man – my book is now bigger, stronger, faster (paced) than before. I’m proud of it.
Rather than try and shop the book around to a new agent, I’ve decided to follow the ePublishing trail being blazed by indie authors such as John Locke and Joe Konrath by publishing Towards Yesterday myself. This blog will be my attempt to chart my progress from a nobody to literary superstar (one can but hope). I would be honored to take you along for the ride.
Somewhere in the Nevada Desert
May 8th, 2011
You’ve reached the blog of Paul Jones. Feel free to call me Paul, I won’t mind, honest. Over the coming months (Who knows, maybe even years) I’m going to attempt a little experiment, and I hope to chronicle my experiences right here on this blog. I would love for you to tag along.
I’ve written a book — it’s a sci-fi-adventure end-of-the-world kind of a story. It’s fun and an easy read, and I have to say I am rather proud of it. I’ve decided to publish the book myself as an eBook through Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble’s ePublishing websites. It’s already available through both those sites, check the right side of your screen for links.
The experiment is to see whether I can make this book a success; without the backing of an agent or publisher (or access to editors, proof readers, marketing departments, publicists and the myriad other professionals involved in bringing a book to market). I have absolutely no experience in ePublishing (although I am a writer by profession), but then this industry is still in its infancy, so there really aren’t that many people who do have any experience to speak of.
So, what will you get out of this? Well, maybe like me, you’re a new author who’s trying to figure out the best way to market your book? Maybe you’re just interested in seeing whether I can pull this off? Whatever your reason for being here, hopefully we’ll both learn from the mistakes (and successes) I expect to encounter along the way.
As of today, I’ve managed to sell a grand total of 16 copies of my book Towards Yesterday. That’s about 50,000 copies shy of where I want to be in the next six months.
So, pull up a chair. Grab some popcorn and lets you and I see where we can take this thing.