If you love (or perhaps “loved”) Star Wars, but never felt right about the prequels, you’re in the right place. [Obviously, if you enjoyed Lucas’s prequels, you’re not. You have your movies, go enjoy them!] What I’ve done here, is provided Star Wars fans with a prequel trilogy that “feels” more like the originals.
I began this project as a writing exercise, a sort of “Oh, yeah? Can you do better?” to prove that the prequels were not beyond repair.
And I’ve done it.
I really have. I’m incredibly proud of these three scripts and in my mind, now they are the Star Wars prequels.
Give it a go. Reading a screenplay is like having a movie unfold in your mind. Put on a John Williams station on Pandora or YouTube and let these scripts come to life in your imagination.
Hit that hyperlink, go to the landing page, and check out Attack of the Empire.
And if you’ve been following along, you might have noticed I changed the title of my Episode II. Originally, it was going to be called The Dark Lord of the Sith. I’ve also changed Episode III from Fall of the Jedi to Return of the Sith. Why?
The titles changed between drafts. As A New Menace was born of a portmanteau of The Phantom Menace and A New Hope, so too is Attack of the Empire a linguistic blend of Attack of the Clones and The Empire Strikes Back (while Return of the Sith sits between Revenge of the Sith and Return of the Jedi).
I felt these new titles more clearly stated my goal: Return the Prequel Trilogy to the tone, feel, and world of the Original Trilogy.
As hinted in my tongue-in-cheek clickbait alternate title, anyone who tells you there’s a guaranteed path to publishing success is probably selling something. Usually in ebook form. As the old joke goes, if you purchase, “Learn how to be a bestseller, just buy this book!” the only thing you’ll find written inside is, “Write a how-to book; tell people to buy it.”
While there’s nothing you can do to guarantee success, there are steps you can take to increase your chances. Many authors compare publishing success (whether self-pubbed, small press, or traditional) to being struck by lightning. Think of these tips as your lightning rods.
Write a marketable book. I’m going to catch a lot of flak for this one, but the easiest way to market a book is to make sure it’s easy to pitch. In Hollywood, they call this High Concept—your story should be clear enough that you can describe it in one to two sentences, and have someone hooked if you only have an elevator ride to pitch your story. I know, you’re an artist, you write what the muse speaks and not what sells. But you really can have it both ways: Perfect your elevator pitch for marketing success, and perfect your prose for artistic fulfillment. No one will read your genius if you can’t convince them to crack open the cover.
Be active on social media. There a thousands of people, right this second, looking for their next book to read, and they’re doing so online. Social media is where you give your elevator pitch, but don’t use the internet solely as a sales tool. Be yourself. When others see that you like the same shows, or they admire your viewpoint on an issue, or fall for your under-140-character wit, they’ll pay more attention the few times you announce a promotion. Which leads us to…
Use available marketing tools. No need to reinvent the wheel, all that groundwork has been laid out for you. If you’re self-pubbed, you should consider running free or discounted promotions of your title. You can also get your publisher to run some of these promotions for you. Then advertise your promotion on the many websites/mailing lists targeted to eager bargain hungry readers. This will drastically expand your reach, increase sales, and gain you reviews.
Market off-line too. Don’t forget to reach out to the real world. You don’t have to be a bestseller to set up a book signing at your local store, or an interview on your local radio station. Tell friends at parties. Always carry business cards! By rubbing elbows with potential fans out in the real world, you’ll increase your visibility online too. Many of those new connections will reach out to find you in cyberspace, or tell their friends. Each new fan is like planting a seed to help you grow as an author.
Think outside the box. There are far, far more reading options than ever before. From the growing list of classics, to the self-publishing movement, it’s hard to stand out. You’ve got to try something different. For me, that’s been book trailers. You can turn that elevator pitch into a short film, and spread it out across the series-of-tubes just like a movie trailer. If done well, it’s an entertaining piece in its own right and most viewers don’t feel like they’re directly being advertised at. Book trailers are a growing trend, but what will be the next tool? Who knows, maybe you’ll be the one to discover it.
Are you a writer or marketer? A reader/customer with thoughts on being pitched to? Add your opinion in the comments below. And don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe!
Okay, I promised a final analysis and now–two weeks after the promotion–I’m ready to deliver. Here you’ll see the good, the bad, and the ugly. Time for some results, flaws and all.
If you recall the results from Day One, my pre-promo sales of INFECTED were low (if not stable) and my sales ranking was a sad state of affairs (jumping between 40k and 100k depending on how recent the day’s sale occurred). INFECTED had never cracked the 20k sales ranking in its history.
The giveaway crushed those numbers.
My post-giveaway numbers are (knock on wood) staying higher than they were before the promotion. The weekend after the promotion saw 79 combined sales and borrows and nearly paid for the whole promo just using those two days. Note that these numbers do not include foreign sales or paperback units, both of which have increased.
Another huge win in the ‘Good’ category is increased discoverability. This may seem strange, but before the promo I had to tell people to search amazon for “Click Your Poison” to find the book, because there were too many things called “Infected” in the kindle store (164 as of publishing this article). Now, I’m the #1 search result, which is huge.
LESSON LEARNED: This is tangential to a promo, but important enough to share. When I originally wrote the story for INFECTED in early 2008, there was nothing out there with that title. When I published the kindle version a little over a year ago, I didn’t bother to check if the title was taken. Granted, you can’t copyright a title, but you don’t want to exist in the shadow of another book either.
I did not crack the Top 20 overall free kindle books. This was one of my goals, and I’d missed it. I wanted to be the #1 free book if truth be told, but that didn’t happen. Still, I feel like I did everything in my power to promote the book. In the end, horror just isn’t as popular as genres such as romance. Nothing I can do about that. I write books that I would like to read.
MURDERED sales numbers have not seen a significant post-promo boost. In fact, the sales are worse than they were before the promo.
You’ll see there was a boost on the last day of the promotion which carried only so far as the day after. Why the drop? I’m not doing anything to promote the book right now, and the buzz is centered directly around INFECTED, so my new release is starting to stagnate. Will it go up once people have more of a chance to read the first book and start looking for more in the series? Time will tell.
The book has gained 12 new reviews since the promo began. This is a good thing. What makes it ugly, is that 1/3 of them were negative. From what I’ve read and seen from other authors, this isn’t all that uncommon. I’ve also heard that negative reviews can help your book, because it makes it seem more genuine. Pre-promo, my 48 reviews were all 4 or 5 stars, giving some people the (false!) impression that I’d paid or begged for positive reviews. If I’m lucky, this’ll shut some of those people up.
What makes some of these reviews ugly isn’t that some people didn’t like the book (I can deal with that), it’s that they actively tried to hurt my success. The first negative review was entitled, “Don’t pay for this.” Not much of an opinion so much as a command.
Another reviewer attacked the originality of the book, stating that I stole ideas from The Walking Dead because I set my survivor group up in a prison. Tangent alert! When I wrote the book, I set my survivor group in a prison a year before the cast did so on The Walking Dead. It’s a smart place to go in the event of the zombie apocalypse. But Parallel Development does happen.
Okay, enough of that. Time for…
The Final Word
DO use BookBub.
DO prepare beforehand.
DO share word of the promo with your fans, and if people spread the word, DO say thanks.
DO NOT sweat over the results. What will be, will be.
DO NOT let the bad reviews get to you.
DO learn from your mistakes.
January 10th Today starts the final day of my free promotion, and it is with some apprehension that I begin. I’ve read that the “magic number” is 20k downloads. If you get less than that, your promotion was not worth it. You also need to make it into the Top 20 free books (overall) on Amazon’s best sellers list. Bearing those stats in mind, let’s see how we’ll start off the day:
NOTE: CLICK ALL IMAGES TO ENLARGE
Woof. No update in the ranking and a measly 300 downloads overnight. Fear is sinking in… Am I doing this for nothing? Have I spent all this money advertising only to fail? But I can’t think that way. Today is my BookBub day, they’re supposed to be the best of the best, and that announcement hasn’t gone out yet. Holding out faith for “BookBub the Almighty” I’m still worried. I’m listed in the horror category which is one of their smaller lists. As you can see in the pricing chart below, the average downloads for a free horror book are 6,700 with a historical maximum of 10k over the entire promotion.
Seeing as how I’m only using a single day of BookBub, I’m thinking I’ll be lucky to get 6k. Which means <12k downloads. Which means… failure. Well, at this point what’s done is done. Best to let it play out and hope for the best (along with continued plugs on social media). Yesterday’s lesson was to be patient and not to panic, so I’ll try to keep that in mind as the day progresses.
Here’s a mid-day update, after BookBub has gone out:
Whoa! Now that the BookBub announcement has gone out, the downloads are gushing forth like spray from a firehose. I can literally refresh the page every few seconds and see more and more downloads. #26 overall! Maybe I’ll make the Top 20 before the day is through?
LESSON LEARNED: BookBub rocks. Until something changes, don’t do a free book promotion without them. This is my honest advice.
I'm currently giving out copies of INFECTED at a rate of 3k every 2 hours. Hahhahaha, what? This is insane. #enjoytheride#cloudnine
With numbers like this, I’m very very hopeful again. Though I’ll only be “On top of the world!” for a fleeting instant, it’s nice to bask in that accomplishment. When you do your own promotion, don’t forget to do so as well.
LESSON LEARNED: Enjoy yourself.
Everything’s going my way! This is amazing! I’m climbing the chart, I’m absolutely killing it, I —- just got a 1-start review. What? Ugh. Hours before my promo ends, someone shows up and says “Do not buy.”
LESSON LEARNED: Shrug off the haters. As much as it sucks getting negative reviews or bad press (someone also posted in the comments of an INFECTED blog review how much they hated it…), if you manage to give out 20k copies, you’re bound to have some readers that don’t like what you’ve done. There’s no pleasing everyone.
Okay, time for one last check as the promo ends…
The best INFECTED was rated during the promotion was #22 Free in Kindle Store, so I didn’t quite make the Top 20, but I did (barely) make 20k downloads. Will it be enough? Time will tell…
Good morning, again! Today Book Blast is set to go out and, with (fingers’ crossed) the continued buzz from yesterday’s promotion, this should make for an exciting day. I don’t know about you, but I could hardly sleep a wink. Whattdya say we see how much action happened overnight?
NOTE: CLICK ALL IMAGES TO ENLARGE
Two interesting points of order based on these stats. First, is that I’m still listed in Literature & Fiction > Action & Adventure (an old category) as well as Science Fiction > Post-Apocalyptic (new category). Could this be because my update is still “processing”? I’m not sure. I’ll have to watch carefully as this develops. Second, even though my rank has surpassed the Top 100 free books in the kindle store, I only gave away 450 copies over the course of the entire night. Which leads to…
LESSON LEARNED: Be patient/don’t panic. Within the first two hours of the day, my rank got worse and shot up to #99. If this is a race to #1, that means I’m not doing well… or does it? Amazon’s best seller ranking is elastically flexible and doesn’t necessarily correspond to current downloads. Maybe someone else’s rank simply processed before mine? I could just need some time to catch up. Tough to say. Amazon keeps their ranking algorithm a closely-guarded secret, but it pays to go with the flow. Just keep doing what you know you should be doing, and let the ranking system do its thing.
Here’s a mid-day update, after Book Blast has gone out:
Interesting to note that the categories are still switching. Could this be a good thing? It’s putting me on several different categories throughout the day (the maximum allowed is two), so I can’t see how it would hurt… Hmm. But the main point is that it’s getting better. From all I’ve heard and read, Book Bub is the behemoth service that’ll push any promotion over the edge. So if I can just keep climbing the charts, no matter how slowly, I should be in for a treat tomorrow.
The afternoon was spent doing more promoting and marketing, of course, which leads to another…
LESSON LEARNED: Set up everything beforehand. I started contacting book sites a month out, but I found a great list of resources I was planning to contact during the promotion. Big mistake. Just going through with everything I’d had planned, to include continued social media marketing, took up all my time. You should have everything ready to go before you promotion starts, so the most work you have to do during the event involves the copy/paste function.
It’s getting late. Let’s do one last look at the stats before bed:
It’s getting significantly more difficult for INFECTED to climb the ranks, but at least it still is. And with tomorrow set to be my “anchor day” I’m hopeful. You might also notice 3 more sales of MURDERED in 24 hours. Not exactly the boost I was hoping for, but it’s still early (and I’m thankful for each sale I get). Time to try and sleep and prepare for the exciting conclusion tomorrow…
What did this do to you? Tell me. And remember, this is for posterity so be honest. How do you feel?” — Count Rugen, The Princess Bride
With everything set up to go the night before, one last stat-check. Below you can see my pre-giveaway sales numbers and the ranking for INFECTED. In the spirit of honesty, I’m sharing my less than stellar numbers. Hopefully that means you won’t mind my bragging after the promotion, right?!
NOTE: CLICK ALL IMAGES TO ENLARGE
INFECTED has been oddly steady over the past year, garnering almost exactly 2 sales per day (+/- 1). Usually, it’ll jump to somewhere in the mid #40k rankings, then return to the #100k block until the next day’s sales. MURDERED, as you can see, is still building momentum. Hopefully, that should be one of the side-effects of this promotion. INFECTED has never gone lower (higher?) than #19k in the kindle store, while MURDERED made it to mid #12k. Goal is to crush those records in the coming days. Well, time for bed!
Good morning! With Kindle Fire Department set to announce me today, as well as a whole slew of free resources (most of them ask for a giveaway window and there’s no garauntee that they will feature your book, let alone when they’ll do it. It is a free service, after all. I’ll assess which ones worked and which didn’t in my final thoughts), we’re ready to kick off the free promotion. Let’s check the overnight stats:
This is before any site announced the giveaway, as far as I know. Interesting that one person bought the book before it went on sale… Thanks, whoever you are! The goal of the promotion is to get your rank as high as possible — it’s a race to #1. If you can make it into the top #20 or #10, then people will start downloading your book just from browsing the top free ebooks on amazon, thus increasing the snowball effect.
In addition to the websites listed on my previous post, it’s also important to do your own marketing. As such, I blogged about the giveaway, tweeted the heck out of it (including a link in my “welcome DM” on @clickyourpoison), and created an event on goodreads and on facebook:
Let’s check the mid-day numbers, after the promotion has been announced:
Okay, so from what I’ve researched, these are awesome numbers. Especially for an author with a small fan-base who has never done anything like this before. Which leads us to the first lesson learned. Yup, I’ve already made a mistake.
LESSON LEARNED: Categories. See how I’m already #6 in Horror > Occult? That’s actually not a good thing this early into the promotion. I originally chose this category as “low-hanging fruit” because it’s easy to climb the chart (there aren’t too many books competing for space). Which is a good thing when you’re trying to keep your paid ranking high, but when you’re doing a free promotion, you should shoot the moon. So, I looked up the bestselling books most similar to mine and mirrored their categories. I settled on Science Fiction > Post-Apocalyptic and Horror > United States. I called Amazon customer support to get them to quickly change my categories, so hopefully within 24 hours the rankings will be fixed. Lesson Learned? Update your “shoot the moon” categories before your promotion.
Okay, took a hike just to get away from the craziness, then spent the late afternoon/evening posting on facebook groups and tweeting. I had joined several “zombie fan” groups on facebook in the weeks prior, and now used the opportunity to spread the word. When you’re offering something free, most people don’t mind.
Let’s check the numbers once more before bed, shall we? Okay!
In addition to all the free downloads, that’s also 4 sales of MURDERED in 24 hours. Great first day, see you tomorrow!
First, a quick overview for those not in the know (or wanting a refresher) about a KDP Select ebook promotion over amazon. To be enrolled in KDP Select, an ebook must be exclusively available for sale on the amazon kindle for a period of 90 days. During that 90 days, the book may be offered for free or as a $0.99 sale for up to 5 days. I went exclusive with Amazon last year because, as another perk, readers can “borrow” your book for their kindle for free (while the author still enjoys a royalty) and these “borrows” are still incorporated into sales ranking. My sales from all outside ebook channels were quickly eclipsed by borrows, so I’m very pleased with that decision, but this is my first KDP promotion.
Why buy the cow when you can have the milk for free? I’ll admit, it seemed counter-intuitive to me at first. How can you possibly make a living as a writer giving your books away for free? First and foremost, it should be noted that this tool should be used wisely, and in such, promotions should be limited. Give away your book too often, and your sales will fall through the floor. That’s why I chose to promote INFECTED a month after the release of my new book, MURDERED (after it had time to gain a few reviews), and why I’ve made clear that it’s available for free 8-10 Jan ONLY.
It’s all a game. A free ebook promotion should be treated like a strategy game, with free downloads counting as so much monopoly money. The only difference is, if you win, to the victor go the spoils. That is to say, if you play the game right, you can see some rewards in the real world. The first benefit is increasing your standing in the amazon ranking system. You know that section under the product description on an amazon page where it says “Customers who bought this also bought”? That’s you now. With this marketing tool, every free download counts as a purchase. So, with several thousand downloads, your book will now appear all over amazon’s sales rankings.
Second, is increasing your book’s presence. As any new author will attest, getting people to discover that your book exists is the hardest part. Giving away your book is a great way to increase word-of-mouth buzz, especially if you have multiple books in a series. People who enjoyed your book during it’s limited free promotion may convince their friends it’s worth it to pay for the experience once it’s no longer free. They may also check out your other books themselves.
The cornerstone of your strategy is visibility. There are many websites out there dedicated to letting readers know when a great free deal comes along, and it’s in your best interest to use them. Some are paid services, but have proven worth it to many authors. The bigger ones have hundreds of thousands of subscribers who might be interested in your book. It’s likely that many who frequent free book email-blast and announcement websites weren’t out looking to buy anyway, so don’t think of these free downloads as lost sales. Think of them as new opportunities.
Allow me to break my strategy down for you. I went with a “go big or go home approach” and I used a total of 44 websites to announce my giveaway (staggered over the three-day period), only 4 of which were paid services. I also used the model put forth last year by Elle Lothlorian, combined with a few other tricks I’d picked up in my research. Like her, I’ll break down exactly what I did and how it worked out for me.
Paid Services: BookBub, an oft-touted service considered by many to be the #1 way to announce your promotion, was my front line. I contacted them first to check their availability and settled on Friday, January 10th for their announcement. The second heavy hitter is Book Blast, and they were able to accommodate me for January 9th. The third biggie I chose was Kindle Fire Department, who had an opening to feature INFECTED on January 8th. Not that it was my intent, but I ended up being featured by these websites from least popular to most. I think this has actually helped my “snowball effect” greatly. As I’m writing this on day two of the promotion… we’ll see! The fourth paid service was Sweet Free Ebooks, a $5 posting set to go off on January 9th.
Free Services: For the other 40 announcements, I used a list on eBook Booster (you can pay to have your book submitted automatically, but I took a full day to contact them myself) and the list on Author Marketing Club. INFECTED was set to be reviewed by Horror Novel Reviews and I asked if they could time it to coincide with the promotion. I also had reviews set up for MURDERED over at Evolved World and You’ve Got Red On You and asked if they would give a shout out for the promotion as well. All three requests were kindly granted.
A week into the New Year, I’ve finally decided to write a post pertaining to my goals in 2014. I have personal resolutions for health and happiness, but I’d like to keep this post focused on my goals as an author and as the owner of this blog.
The first, as an author, is a fairly straightforward one: Complete the next book in my Click Your Poison series.
As far as a blogging resolution, I feel a bit hesitant. But… I think I should embrace being a “blogger” — and for me, that’s easier said than done. I have a voice in my head saying, “Why should you shout your opinion at the world? Why should anyone care?”
Well, in order to silence that voice, I pledge to post more often and more honestly about the two things that should draw you to this page: 1) My writing, and 2) My journey from unknown writer to self-published rock star (gotta dream big, right?)
Topic #1 will include include progress updates and samples (hooray, samples!), and will involve the community when and where I can. Maybe I’ll bounce story ideas off you, give polls, or even host contests for naming characters, businesses; that kind of thing. It should be light and fun.
Topic #2 will focus on what I’ve learned in this business from pitfalls and successes. This will primarily be of interest to other writers. In that vein, I’m introducing a new topic: Lessons Learned (to be populated gradually over the year)