Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Self-Publishing Tricks

Okay, the title of this blog is a little misleading if you are one of those people who are looking for me to tell you some super-secret tricks that you can use to instantly boost your books (or novellas, or what have you) to the top of the Amazon Kindle charts. I will tell you one trick that I've learned, but it's only one, and you really don't have much control over the outcome.

The trick is this: To have a book or story or product that people are looking for in the right place at the right time.

It's not marketing that has worked for me. I'll explain my reasons for this "failure" in a moment. But first let me tell you the experiment that I have been doing for the past two months.

I am a noob to self publishing. I've been a writer since I could hold a pen, and even begged for a typewriter one year (which I still have tucked away for inspiration). I published my first book, Macyntire & Hough, last September to a modest amount of fanfare for me. Mostly people I knew read the book, and I admit that it wasn't a genre that I typically write, though I have read a bunch of paranormal romances and thought they would be fun to write. The big problem is basically that I am a man with a  book geared towards women. Despite my bio, my Twitter and Facebook, and everything else that I did by-the-book, Macyntire & Hough is lucky if it sells one copy a month - and that is mainly because I dropped the price from $2.99 to $0.99 this past month. There is a sequel that I am nearly finished, but that is not the experiment that I am talking about.

I decided to take a dare, related to something that I was meaning to try for fun anyway, and that was to write a genre that I could never publish under my own name and see what happens. I won't reveal the pen name or story that I wrote just because, but I will say that it was something funny to write and definitely stretched my imagination a bit. This book was short because it was just a test, and I finished the entire eBook in a week, including the hastiest cover I've ever created. For this book, I created a female pen name and decided that whatever happened would happen, and then I could move on with my life once my curiosity was squashed.

Well, I have to say that I am surprised by the results. The numbers I have to share are hardly groundbreaking, but for a young man struggling to find the time to write - let alone market - his work, seeing this experiment yield such great results really lit a fire within my creative mind. I only told one person about the book, and they acted as my proofreader. I gave them a copy for free because it was a fun keepsake for a few hours of laughter. However, even without advertising or a great cover, this book in this particular genre sold copies. Compared to the one copy of my novel that I sold in January, I sold nine copies of my tiny pen name work. I quickly penned a second book under the pen name, and surprise - that one started selling too.

The failure of my marketing for my novel was that it was a hard concept to sell (surprising when it comes to paranormal romances!) and my gender is not exactly inviting for the women who read that genre. I would be more successful writing horror or a more manly genre, which I intend to do for my own author name. But, it didn't matter what I threw out there as marketing for my novel because it wasn't something that people were actively searching for, and whatever it sells from here on out, I'm fine with that.

I am still conducting more tests with this experiment - specifically, I am attempting to write some longer works compared to my first attempts, but my point is this: The only trick to selling eBooks is to have a product that someone is looking for, for the right price, and at the right place at the right time. Who would have thought that people in other countries would see these tiny books and give them a shot? I'm hoping that they will try my newest attempts when they are finished (which will be soon, if I can keep up my energy and find the quiet time to write). There really are no guarantees that your work will sell, but every person who sets eyes on my work and deems it worthy to throw down a dollar to own gives me a new drive to stretch my idea of what writing truly is.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Harnessing Nostalgia

This is more of a personal post than anything specifically about publishing or writing, but I have been going through phases lately where I will see something from my past, usually related to media and books and toys that I had, still have, or always wanted, and will pursue these items online as a sort of obsession. I've only purchased maybe one or two of these items, such as Lego characters and old books, but the whole idea of chasing nostalgia is something that I can't get out of my head. We experience this sort of look-back often, most commonly in the form of our music. All it takes is one song to play unexpectedly on the radio and we are transported mentally back however many years to a place and time that connects with that song on an emotional level. For me, that time period is generally the '90s, and I loved every single one of them!

As I continue to run into all the many different forms of nostalgia in my daily and weekly life, I am attempting to connect these feelings of joy and respect to my latest writing work. (See? I knew I couldn't get away with writing a blog post without tying it to my latest project!)

For anyone interested, I was dared to write a "Choose Your Own Adventure" style book where the reader is the main character and they must choose their path based on different decisions they are presented with on certain pages. This sort of book is still on my shelf in my library, and I remember fondly the Goosebumps versions were so popular that one of them is cracked entirely in half and some pages had to be taped back inside! The nostalgia here is obvious - I used to love these books. Sadly, there aren't really any modern equivalents of these books that I can see. So, it makes sense that I could create my own - not using their copy-written name, but inventing my own. So, that's what I've been working on.

Essentially, I was prompted to make a story for a more adult audience and went with a story relating to zombies. I'll talk about that more as the book nears completion. What was really interesting to me was the amount of imagination that writing one of these books takes. You don't just simply sit down and start writing whatever you want. You can do that, but it will be very hard to complete! In order to write one of these books, you need to keep track of all the different story threads that the readers can go down, and you need to have a cliffhanger at the end of each page that leads into another cliffhanger. This is very demanding creatively, and my imagination has had plenty of exercise these past two weeks as I toil away on this book!

I guess what I'm getting at is this: If I hadn't been chasing my nostalgia, this book might never have started its journey into reality. If you are obsessing over something that you love, try to bring it into your work. The love that you have for the story or genre, whatever, will fuel a passion inside your own creativity and provide it with fuel to hopefully create something that someone else will love. Great art inspires new art, after all.

More on the zombie book to come!