I hit 100,000 words on my next Click Your Poison book the other day. I figure as long as I’m celebrating base-10 accomplishments, from 1k to 10k, I think I should toast myself for hitting 100k words on MURDERED. That’s long for a novel (which typically runs 60-90k words), and I’m not even done yet. Chalk it up to the three storyline schtick. Hopefully it’ll result in a more immersing experience for you, the reader. That’s the plan anyway. Now if I could just finish the first draft! Although, I did celebrate this today as well:
Just wrote my first “winning” end to Click Your Poison #2, MURDERED. The end is nigh, mystery fans… or is it?
Please, leave me an Amazon review! It’s the best way you can help a writer succeed!”
See that? It’s the new battle cry of many an author, myself included. Amazon keeps its internal marketing algorithms a closely guarded secret, and thus many authors have tried cracking the code over the years. Somewhat of a ‘no-brainer’ has always been “The More Reviews The Better.” Well, there’s more to it than that, and I think I may have just figured part of it out.
And the primary beneficiary of this new knowledge is you, the reader.
What’s the breakthrough? What do you get by leaving Amazon reviews? Cheaper books. I believe that the more reviews a book has, the more Amazon discounts the price. And–this next part is huge–they’re only diluting their own cut. As in, the author keeps the same royalty and the savings are directly passed onto the reader.
Where’s the proof?
Here’s my book, which Amazon offers at a 10% cut. They only started doing so somewhere around the 30 review mark.
Here’s another self-published book written by a friend. You can see, more reviews, bigger discount.
This is a traditionally published book, but you can see that it follows the same pattern.
And lastly, a mega-hit book. Tons of reviews, tons of savings.
Note: This is merely a trend I have noticed. I do not have an inside connection at Amazon. But if you love books, leave a review.
Second Note: For whatever reason, this only applies to paperback editions.
So, how about it, penny for your thoughts? If you haven’t left a review yet, please do! It will discount the book for other buyers without hurting the author’s cut. It should go without saying, but I want nothing less than your honest opinion. If you thought the book was a 3-star book, tell me why. If you think it’s 5-stars, I’d love to hear what you loved about it too!
Click Here to leave a review for INFECTED and then go spread the word! More reviews; cheaper books.
A couple of weeks ago I was approached by an author on twitter who asked me if I’d like to participate in an ‘Interview Swap.’ Through the process, I’ve met the whip-smart and extraordinarily creative fantasy author, A. Wrighton. You can see my side of the Q&A on the A. Wrighton blog here.
Thus far, I’ve been able to accommodate any requests for interviews (Love ’em), but I’ve yet to actually interview someone myself. So I said, “Sure!” and started brainstorming a list of questions. I should’ve asked her why she enigmatically goes only by the letter “A”, but, as I said I’m only a novice interviewer. Here’s the Q&A I managed:
Tell us a bit about yourself (bio): I started writing when I was really little, about 5, and at that point I had been telling stories for a few years. (Yes, seriously). I’ve dabbled in every kind of writing you can think of – fan fic, video games, comic books, novels, novellas, short films, web series, feature films, animation, etc. – and love helping and networking with other writers. I’ve lived in or visited almost every state in the U.S. and I was once fluent in Spanish, Latin, and Arabic. I have a B.A. in English/Literature and I took home the highest honors for my M.F.A. in Creative Writing program. I like fruit, coffee, and football and when I am not writing, I am hiking, sleeping, or playing with my family & two pups.
And a quick blurb on your book: World War II with a victorious Third Reich – with dragons and less guns. What? You said quick! It boils down to this: Defiance: Dragonics & Runics Part I is the first in a quartet of epic novels that enlist you in the Resistance movement against a tyrannical dictator who has successfully murdered the entire race of magic-wielding people, the Runics. Following a Prophecy slated to free Solera and return the Realm to greatness, the Rogue Dragonics – Dragon Riders who disobeyed the order to slaughter the Runics – search for The One and the Five Catalysts that will enact the Prophecy and restore freedom and Justice. The Rogues have a breakthrough when they decipher a predecessor’s log and realize one Runic – of untold power – escaped the Council’s grasp. Find her, and the Resistance will be one step closer to the Prophecy’s success. The only problem is – they aren’t the only ones looking for her.
What inspired you to start writing? How old were you? As long as I can remember I was telling stories. My first recorded (on paper in my mother’s garage) was in Kindergarten when I was 5. I think it has 11 words total.
How would you characterize your writing style? I don’t characterize my style. I write in my own voice and what you read, is who I am. I bend the rules but only because I know and respect them. If you are looking for traditional styles – I’m not your author. What other people say ranges from a female Edgar Rice Burroughs to an astute student of Hemingway.
How did you come up with Defiance: Dragonics and Runics? I fell asleep listening to the History Channel. It was either a show about Dragons or Hitler. I honestly don’t remember. I just know that I woke up at around 4 am, grabbed a pen and my notebook and scribbled down (I found it recently): “WW2 with dragons. Don’t &$@! with the dragons. Magic.” After that, I took my love for dragons and history and wove together a story that hopefully serves as a warning to its readers and really calls into question the extent of a person’s humanity in extreme circumstances.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? Yes. It’s really easy to say in retrospect that if put into the situation the characters in the Dragonics & Runics series were put into, that you would do the right thing. But then, what exactly is the right thing? Who decides that? Where’s the line? And, if you were actually there – in the war, in the battlesky or in the cities – would you still do what you think you will? There are limits to a person’s humanity and this series really opens that conversation up to the readers.
What books have most influenced your life most? The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen The Sun Also Rises by Hemingway Stardust by Neil Gaiman The Pern Series by Anne McCaffrey The Ancient One by T.A. Barron
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work? Tim O’Brien. He’s so brutally honest and his characters are so truthful and raw. He bends rules to wield a better story. I just love everything he writes. It’s pure genius.
What are you reading now? A colleague’s book. Can’t divulge too much now!
What are you working on right now? The second book in the series – ALLEGIANCE: Dragonics & Runics Part II, the young adult paranormal fiction episodic that I host on my website, and then the third episode on the webseries I co-created and write on – Things Left Unsaid.
Do you see writing as a career? Or just a hobby? How else do you fill your time? Career. It’s my calling. Right now, it’s not my day job but it will be. I fill my time with my day job and my family. That, and I sleep every third day or so.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging about writing? Writer’s block, etc. I don’t look at things as challenges but as puzzles. I don’t subscribe to writer’s block so, no go there. What I do find challenging is being an indie author in a not-so-friendly-for-indies book world. That’s changing, but it’s still got a ways to go and that can wear down on the indie author.
Do you plot out your books or just shoot from the hip? Both. I work with a bare bones skeleton and then – if it’s an intricate weaving of plot and subplots (like Dragonics & Runics) then I note card it. Otherwise, I just write.
Who designed your cover? The amazingly talented Anabel Martinez. She’s well known for her video game art and has amazing fans. I saw some work she did of a character for a video game that was kinda slated as a propaganda poster and I was all – HER! I MUST HAVE HER! I think I started my email with that too…
Who did your trailer? I did but with some help. All the trailers feature voice-overs directed by Scott H. and there are three different actors that lent their voices to it: Michael Monks, Kiriza Bajos, and Erin Bennett. They’re amazing. The music I get royalty-free from Kevin MacLeod. He’s wicked talented!
What was the hardest part of writing Defiance: Dragonics and Runics? Figuring out where to “divide” the books (parts) properly so you have a microcosm plot that furthers the series plot and doesn’t cut short the subplots. It’s like knowing where to step on a rickety bridge.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers? Network and work on your craft. Write, write, write. Edit. Edit. Edit. Don’t give up. Don’t stop. And, don’t take failure as an option. Learn from your criticisms and mistakes and get better. Oh, and get used to not sleeping so you can finish that story burning in your mind’s eye.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers? You think you know what will happen and to whom, but you don’t. I didn’t even know on some of them. They surprised me, now I will surprise you.
What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life? My heritage is that of a German Jew on one side. You’re probably going “eesh” right now and you’re right to do so. We don’t have a family tree anymore. They’re just… gone. So, really delving into the Third Reich and Hitler and his powerful oratory skills was a challenge. I can’t make the Chancellor seem flat and I wanted him to be as realistically twisted as Hitler was. But, I hate him. Hitler’s one of the only people I will ever hate. He earned it, if you ask me.The other challenge was keeping everything sorted. Thank god for my OCD organizational skills and making a production bible. It’s often referred to as “My Precious.”
Thoughts on a zombie dragon? Bad. Ass. Can it have an acid fire breath? Oh! And maybe… his wings are mainly bone with just these rotting sloughs of skin and wing membrane. He can eat goat brains!
First, I’d like to address the issue of piracy. If you’re not too concerned with reading Part One, here’s the context: Someone has ripped the ebook version of INFECTED.
I know that movie studios have a hell of a time dealing with piracy, but this is for something self-published so I’m kind of on my own. Let me reiterate: No guild, lawyer, etc. I’m a small independent ship out on the seas. No guns with which to shoot pirates.
Here are my options (as I see them):
1) Look into sending a DMCA Takedown Notice and start the game of virtual whack-a-mole. They put something up, I tell them to take it down, repeat.
2) Post a comment on the page. “Glad you are interested in INFECTED! If you really like it, I ask that you support an indie author and tell ten friends to buy it, leave me an amazon review, and (if you can spare it), fork over the $3.99 to buy a legit copy.”
3) Shut up and be happy that people are noticing my book.
I realize that some high-profile self-publishers think piracy may actually help sales, but I can’t say I agree. Right now, there are 2-3 illegal downloads of my book per day on this piracy site. Compare that with the 1-2 legitimate sales I get each day (which I am eternally grateful for–thank you, readers!). As one friend put it, “Well, definitely not number three. Maybe if you were typing this in your mansion. That sucks.” So I think I can cross #3 off right away.
I will say, however, that it does feel like fighting back would be akin trying to punch a school of fish. And after looking into it, I see that the website is hosted out of Poland, so #1 is off the table. As I understand it, US law (DMCA) only applies in the US.
So, how about #2? I believe most people who pirate TV or movies seem to mainly be impatient. Take, for example, the fact that Game Of Thrones was the most pirated TV show last year and many say that if they could pay for HBO streaming without getting cable, they would. My book is already published and (was) widely available, so my particular crowd of pirates must just be cheap. Therefore the chance of lost sales is pretty low…
I tried to post in the site’s comment section, and that probably would’ve been the end of it. But (surprise, surprise) comments appear to be disabled. So I sent the host site a nice message, hoping they’d take it down (they haven’t yet, nor have they replied). I also flagged the URL to google, so hopefully that will kill its SEO rating.
I had to do something. In the end, I couldn’t justify the piracy in my head. If I wanted to give the book away for free, I would, but the choice should be mine.
In fact, now that INFECTED is only available as an ebook through Amazon (the paperback is still widely available), you can get it for FREE if you’re an Amazon Prime member. If not, it’s still cheaper than a Subway footlong.
Last thought: For the time being, if you don’t see this, it is most likely a pirated copy:
Now then. Let’s round off this post with a positive thought.
Yesterday I was approached by my first ever twitter fan account. I’m flattered, of course, but it was also a much needed reminder. A reminder of what? That when I put in the extra effort, my readers notice.
Other authors I’ve talked to seem to think the best idea is to split apart a traditional novel into bite-sized chunks: maybe three books at 30k words each. This way you can sell them each separately, and you’ll be noticed more since you have a series and not just one book.
I’ve been called crazy for making INFECTED three books in one. It’s somewhere around 115k words and easily could have been INFECTED: Part 1, 2, and 3. But I believe that readers will appreciate not being manipulated and that (eventually) a superior product will rise to the top.
It appears to be working. Now I need to get back to writing Click Your Poison #2 before all this fan love goes to my head.
Okay, so last week I posted about my move over to Amazon. It’s currently in progress, but some of these sites take a couple of weeks from when you edit your book to respond. Which, really, is a major indicator that Amazon has their stuff together way more than the other retailers. If I make a change in price, or an edit to the manuscript, Amazon has posted the new information within a couple of hours, 24 hours max. The other retailers, I’ll remind you, take a couple of weeks. That’s ridiculous. If the other retailers moved as fast as Amazon, you could do your low-price promotions without going exclusive. But trying to wrangle them into appearing all at the same time (a pre-announced time) would be a bit like trying to herd cats. Good luck with that.
Now then, the results of my giveaway trial for “Corporate Zombie” using KDP Select. Prior to the giveaway, I had the story available for free on my website. Then I moved it to Amazon in August of 2012, to prepare for my future as a published author. I’ve sold a total of 27 copies at $0.99 since August. Last Tuesday-Friday, I gave away 128 copies for free in 6 different countries.
Three days after the end of the giveaway, I’ve not yet had any new paid sales. HOWEVER, you can see that my numbers are tiny. In a “real” giveaway, you need to give thousands of copies away in order to see a difference. I only spread the word on facebook and twitter, and even then using only casual posts. So — lesson learned #1 — you have to advertise your giveaway. Yes, you need to pay to spread the word about your free book. It’s counter intuitive, but it works. I’ve seen the numbers from other authors.
During the giveaway, I recieved a new 4-star review on the story entitled “Great short story”:
A great little short story that is a real page turner. A refreshing variation on a zombie story, from the corporate side. I don’t think a 6-page story is worth $0.99, but as a freebie, a very good read.”
First this, then lesson #2:
Alright, off my soap box. Lesson learned #2: Most readers don’t value individual short stories. I already knew this based on my previous sales, but the event & review confirms it. So, if you have short stories, go with an anthology. I hope to “replace” my individual shorts with an anthology some time around this summer.
I also haven’t seen any sort of boost in my other titles. Which, I realized a little too late, is lesson #3: Link your other titles at the end of your books. Don’t expect the reader to find them on their own.
Silver lining: There are 128 people out there who were introduced to my work. Though I love this story, I haven’t had a sale of “Corporate Zombie” since November. So I don’t really feel like I “lost” anything.
Recap: Advertise, Anthologize, Link-ize.
Now for the fanfic and pirates.
While googling to see if INFECTED had disappeared from other e-tailers (see what I did there?), I found out that I’m much more on the cusp of “making it” than I realized. I’ve been content thus far with relative obscurity. People read my book, like it, tell me so, I feel good, and I write the occasisonal blog post that maybe 10-20 people read. But now, I’ve been noticed: someone wrote INFECTED fan fiction, and (unrelated) someone has pirated the book.
For the fan fiction, I don’t want to embarrass the author too much, but sufice it to say that it exists. I’m flattered. If you really want to see the link, I posted it on my facebook page.
The piracy, however, is a different matter altogether. There’s a website offering an INFECTED .doc, .pdf, and .epub rip at the low, low price of $Free-95.
Yes, I realize the irony that once I’ve considered book giveaways I discover that someone else has beat me to the punch.
But, obviously, there’s little benefit to me on the piracy site. According to the website, the book has been illegally downloaded almost 200 times since January 24th. Which is more than I’ve had in paid sales over those last two months. The wound is still a little fresh and has left me dazed. I’m unsure what I can or will do about it, but if there are any of you out there with experiences in this arena, I’d love to hear them. I’ll do some research and make another update in the next few days.
It is with bittersweet anticipation that I announce INFECTED will be only available on Amazon.com very soon. Some of you are nook users or buy using itunes, kobo, etc — if you’ve been waiting to get the book, do so now. I’ll leave it active for another week or so. If you already bought a copy from another site, don’t worry, you’ll still have your book on your ereader.
Why go exclusive? If you haven’t heard of KDP Select, allow me to sum it up for the layperson: Amazon offers benefits for those who go exclusive. Most notably, five promotional free-giveaway days per 90 days of exclusivity. What? Giving away your book for free is a benefit? It is — and I’ll explain that in a moment. You’re also allowed to lend the book to Amazon Prime members, which makes it free for them to read (Amazon still pays you) and that sounds like a real win-win for readers and authors.
I already have two short stories available through KDP Select, and this week I’m using all five of my giveaway days on “Corporate Zombie” a short story. Please, check it out and download it free:
I’ll report back on the success of my “Corporate Zombie” giveaway later, but even now it’s being downloaded by new readers. I’ve already had half as many downloads this morning as I’ve had *total* sales, and that’s by just tweeting about it. Sure, it’d be nice if those were paying customers, but not many people buy short stories and I’m happy just to have it read. Plus, when you look at the short, it tells you that people who’ve purchased “Corporate Zombie” have also purchased INFECTED and the main benefit is that (I hope) people will like the story and want to check out my book. Cross some fingers for me.
It’s always seemed counter-intuitive to me to go exclusive with one platform, especially when the intended benefit from such an action is ease of giving your work away for free. Indie publishing, if you’re doing it right, can get expensive. I’ve spent money trying to make INFECTED a professional product, and if I’m paying a copyeditor, cover artist, formatter, etc — Don’t I want to try and earn some of that back? Aren’t you devaluing your own work by giving it away for free? Yes and no. I firmly believe that if you want something to be permanently free, the best place for it is your own website. But a free promotion gets… complicated.
After reading these two articles, I can no longer debate the power of a free promotion:
I’m planning a giveaway of INFECTED to coincide with the release of the next book in the series. Since I’m (hopefully) only 3-4 months away from releasing Click Your Poison #2, I need to go exclusive. Much like the second article I posted, I’ll be transparent about my success and share with you how it goes.
So… thoughts? Good idea? About time? Noooooooo? What do you think? I’d love to hear from you in the comments. And if you’re going to download “Corporate Zombie” — Enjoy!
If you follow me on twitter, goodreads, facebook, or have checked out my “events” tab in the last month, you probably know I went to Ft Hood, TX for a book signing (Or, to be more accurate, I went to Texas for my sister’s wedding and scheduled a book signing around the same time. Congrats Melissa and Craig!). Well, for a self-published author, this was a big week.
Knowing it would be a 3-day signing event, but not knowing what to expect, I ordered 3 boxes of books (24 each) and brought the 10 I had sitting at home, just because I was feeling optimistic. So, with 82 books, I was hoping I wouldn’t have to leave too many at my parents’ house.
First stop was to our hometown newspaper, where I was interviewed. I’m still new enough to the game where little things like this are novel and exciting. If you like, you can read the article here.
Next stop? I’d heard that Hastings has a “local author” section, so I decided to give it a try and see if I could leave a few copies there. Much to my surprise, not only was I accepted at Hastings in Killeen, but I was placed on the “zombie” shelf right up front as well as out in the general “horror” section. Whoa! That in itself was a huge life event–my first brick-and-mortar store.
Then there was the signing. My sister Alison had the idea to dress up like a zombie on Saturday, and my other sisters soon caved to the peer pressure. After all, I offered a free t-shirt and a professional makeup job. I’d play Friday straight, have my zombies with me on Saturday, then offer a sale on Sunday in hopes of reducing my inventory. I needed to leave some books behind for Hastings, but not too many…
Friday, day 1: People were very receptive to INFECTED! In fact, I sold 21 books–almost a full box. Not bad, maybe I could sell the same on Sunday and try for a full 30 on Saturday when my zombies were with me. That would leave 10 books for Hastings. My nervous fears that I’d be ignored for three days were proving to be unfounded. I even met some very nice people who were excited for me to sign a book for either themselves or a zombie fan in their family. At lunch, my fortune cookie sagely reminded me:
Whoever wants to reach a distant goal must take small steps.”
Saturday, day 2: Thanks so much to my sisters–love you guys! The book sold like hotcakes. There was often a queue at my signing table, zombie fans eager for a book and a photograph with our crazy family. I sold 47 books. I had to tell my family members not to buy any for themselves, otherwise I’d be in danger of selling out. I had already dropped off 9 at Hastings, so I was left with only 5 left for Sunday… gulp.
Sunday, day 3: I sold out in about an hour. Boy, did I underestimate. I should’ve brought two more boxes at least. I think I could’ve hit Friday’s numbers at least, then I would’ve had some left over for Hastings after I left. Instead, I had to direct disappointed would-be customers to either this store or amazon.com. After checking with Hastings, turns out they sold out of my book as well–making it their #1 book for the week. Even beating out “50 Shades of Grey”! Granted, E.L. James wasn’t in Killeen promoting like I was, but it still felt like victory.
This was an appreciated confidence booster, and it was fun to be a minor celebrity for a weekend, but I still have lots of work to do before “Click Your Poison” is a household name. So what’s next? Of course there’s book #2 to work on, but I’ve also been invited to come back to Fort Hood any time, and I probably will. Maybe for book #2? Maybe around Halloween when the zombie craze is at its peak? In the meantime, I need to ship more books to Hastings and see about getting other stores out there to carry INFECTED. Maybe there’s a Big Week in California in my future? Who knows–but wherever life takes me, the future looks bright.
I’ve officially begun “Click Your Poison #2” and the subject is (drum roll, please)…
A mystery! And I don’t mean, “I’m not telling you, it’s a mystery.” I mean a literal murder mystery novel–a solve-your-own mystery, in fact. Which, I believe, is the first of its kind. I don’t think anyone has ever tried a literary puzzle of this scale, letting you (the reader) attempt to piece together the clues yourself. As part of my preparation, I read “The Elements of Mystery Fiction” by William G. Tapply (which is written more for a novice writer than it is for someone who has studied writing but is new to mystery fiction) and in it he says:
Avoid the second-person point of view… I know of no mystery novel that’s done it successfully–or of any serious writers who’ll admit that they’ve even tried.”
Well, Mr. Tapply, rules are made to be broken. In CYP #2, YOU will have to crack the case or the killer will get away with murder. I’m also sticking with the “3 Unique Storylines” convention that I started with INFECTED, but I can’t promise “50 endings.” I’m going to let them occur organically, like I did with CYP #1. Maybe there will be less, maybe more; we’ll see.
BUT! I’m excited. I know the plot and I’ve buried it under layer upon layer of subterfuge, red-herrings, and what-could’ve-happeneds.
Like onions (and ogres), mysteries have layers.
I know the characters, locale, and major turning points, and now it’s time to jump in and let the possible decision points guide the path of the book. It’ll probably be around 8-10 months before I can publish this book, but I’m too excited not to share. Don’t worry, I’ll post various updates (and samples) in the months to come, so if you haven’t already subscribed now is a great time to do so.