Monday, December 31, 2012

Hypocrisy thy name is Hollywood Celebrities

Don't watch if language and Hollywood violence upsets you.  Although this should upset you but it's your choice.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Passive Guy Throws Down the Gauntlet

Over at Passive Voice, PG posted a photo of Ernest Hemingway skiing.  "Famous Authors Playing In The Snow" and I said what about obscure authors?  So he said submit photos of obscure authors for consideration.

So I put my D7K on the tripod outside.  Got out my wireless remote and ran in front of the camera while tripping the shutter.

Obscured Writer in Snow
That was 1 shot.  It's cold out there, the snow is deep and all the feral cats wanted to know what I was doing.  So yeah, it would have been good to have my boots in the shot but we'll leave that for next time.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve and The Tipping Point

Merry Christmas.

I wish us all great sales this holiday season.

That out of the way, Joe Konrath posted his yearly resolutions and I'd like to respond with my own take on the state of epublishing.  It's true that I derived a push from reading Konrath in last 2008.  I tested the waters with Impossible Charlie/now Dream Horse, which I had already self-pubbed with Lightning Source earlier that year.  At that point digital was pretty much nothing.

And it grew fast.  So fast most of us can't keep up.

Where are we now?  There are millions of books for people to choose from and millions more will flood in next year as backlist books are added.

Just write a great book, publish it and write the next.  Rinse and repeat and repeat and repeat. 

That's what we hear and I don't believe it right now.  If you're Konrath and have a fanbase fine.  Sure there are outliers like EL James who comes along and makes a huge impact.  But the thing with her is that she had a fanfic fanbase already. 

So I sat down and said "How can I better understand this market and how to get attention over the din and the sheer tsunami of books crashing in upon all of us?"  I went back and read Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point.  He explained it pretty clearly.  It boils down to word of mouth.

Here's the reality.  You can write all the great books you like but if you don't light the fire under readers who then start telling each other "This is great!  You have to read this NOW!" you will be as unnoticed and unappreciated as someone who wrote dreck.  So yes, go write that great book.  What's step 2?  Go write another book?  Or get that first book to some readers?

It's your choice.  It's your career.  These are your books.  If you think having a shelf-full of ebooks is the way to go, do that.  It could work.

Here's another plan.  Flog that book.  I know a romance writer who flogs her work like crazy and it works.  She's a good writer and she should be read.  She makes sure people are aware of her.  She advertises, does book tours, gets reviews and does freebies.  She makes her books visible.  She puts them in front of the audience with a vengeance.  She twitters constantly.  She told me she doesn't care if it bothers some people, she'll redouble her efforts.

I've been reading about the life of Ruth Harriet Louise a portrait photographer in the silent era of Hollywood.  They flogged every movie, they flogged every actor.  They sent out tons of publicity photos.  Someone wrote in and asked for a photo of Norma Shearer, they got one.   There were fan magazines whose only reason for existence was to put actors in front of the public.  The interest was created.  People bought the magazines to see the stars, to get fashion tips from the stars, to read concocted rumors of the stars' lives and to go to the movies to see the stars.  The studios didn't let up for one minute.

You have to get people to know you're there.  Get them talking about your books.  Sure make it easy to find you with the best keywords and all your search engine techniques.  Have great covers.  Have great blurbs.  Don't stop there.  It's not enough.

And I'm not at all convinced (which is putting it nicely) that spamming on Facebook will help.  You are probably reaching more writers, not readers.  I have seen no proof that readers depend on Facebook to tell them what to read.  Maybe there are a couple pages with websites or blogs elsewhere that are influential but I can't tell you which those are.

I do know it's going to get harder to do as this year goes along so start gearing up.  You have even more work to do than before.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Formatting Anthologies or Boxed Sets

This seems like a lot of work and it is but it's not horrible.
If you're using Word, you're going to make 4 separate sections.
You'll have front matter and a contents page.  More on that in a moment.
You'll have a section for each book.
This is not page break.
Look under page layout and you'll see section break.  Use that.
This way you keep the TOC for each book separated.

In the front matter content, use hyperlinks and direct it to the bookmarked title.
Don't make another TOC.
Don't give Word reason to get confused.

And that's really it.  You copy and paste to 1 long document, separating each with a section break each time.  Clean up where you need to.

So yes, it's work but it's not horrible.

How you do the cover is up to you.  I know someone who did it in Paint and that's about as basic a program as you can find.  I tried a couple different ways and then paid for a photoshop action that automates the process beautifully.  It is possible to do it manually and it will help if you're good at geometry which I'm not.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Advertising/Publicity/Book Tours

The answer is now yes.
It's no for some outliers but for the rest of us, yeah, taking up shelf space isn't enough or isn't quick enough.  If you want to achieve audience awareness, I don't think passive works anymore and you'll have to have some kind of marketing campaign.

I have a pal who is on this aspect all the time.  She does freebies on Select and then promos them everywhere.  She does quite well sales-wise.  Not up at the top of the charts but steady sales.

I don't know if FB and Twitter work.  I'm sure they do for some but perhaps you need a fanbase first.  Personally I'm sick of seeing someone flogging their books everywhere on FB and having every instance of it wind up on my wall.  I've unfriended some individuals for such egregious behavior which is the opposite of what they want.

So you need to keep the annoyance factor down.

Anthologies.  I'm not sure why these took off but apparently readers see it as a good deal.
Right now (the price will go up by the first of the year) the Flash anthology is basically $1 a book.  So that is a good deal.  You could price a 3-book boxed set for 99 cents and that would be a fantastic bargain.

But people still need to know it exists.  You can't rely on them finding it among the millions of books now on Amazon.  You need to find a way to point to it.

I've approached book bloggers in the past months and they were unaware of my books and very enthusiastic to read them.  That made me realize there are just too many books out there to expect to be easily found anymore.

The Flashes

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Old Technology

I use a CRT for a monitor.  Yes, it's old technology but it's actually very good for photo editing.  Unfortunately it seems to be time to switch to digital.  My concern is that a new monitor will require a new computer.  It's all quicksand.  You install a better video card and then there's a cascade of requirements as everything wants to be upgraded.

So until I get that sorted out, I'll probably be away for a bit.

Let me just say something about ebooks, sales and Amazon.  Ebooks are the future.  Amazon is leading the way.  Sales slowed?  Hey people, the economy is crashing.  Some are either oblivious or in denial but that's the truth.  Whether people consciously know, as I do, or feel it, these are not the same days as 2009 or 2010.  People are not going to be spending freely.  Sure there are writers not feeling it.  Certain genres aren't feeling it (erotica or as I call it--porn).  There is also the issue of freebies which have glutted the marketplace so people don't need to buy in order to read.  Maybe they can't read what they want to but they can still read.

That's where we are.  I'm betting it's going to get worse for a long stretch although in a couple years things will improve financially.  (Yes, years, this isn't a joke, this is a big recession, this is a fundamental change to the country.)

So what can you do.  Actively seek out your niche audience.  How?  That's for you to figure out.
Write the best books you can for your audience.
Put more effort in than your competition.

Happy Holidays.