Jun 152014
 

Yeah, I’ve been quiet for a while.  Ironically, it’s not because I haven’t been busy.  Quite the opposite.  Life has been pretty “interesting” for the last few months. As in “may you live in interesting times” interesting.   Struggle

My wife & I sold our house about two months ago. The idea was that we would downsize to a smaller house with more property. But during the interim between selling the old house & buying a new one, we were going to stay with family members. We expected it to be a matter of a few weeks, possibly a month or two.

But right after we moved in with them, life jumped up and smacked us all. We had a few crises that have demonstrated to us that Murphy is alive and well, and apparently has taken a liking to our family. I won’t go into details, because those stories aren’t mine to tell.  But a minor side effect has been that I haven’t been paying much attention to marketing for my writing, and to be perfectly honest, I don’t know when this is going to change.  As a result, my numbers have slipped drastically, and I simply don’t have the time or setup to pursue the “traditional” marketing venues.

Streets of Payne 800 Cover reveal and PromotionalSo I’m going to try an experiment here. It may work, and it may not. I just figure this is the perfect opportunity to try something off the wall.

My book with the worst numbers right now is “Streets of Payne”. I don’t know if it’s because the book is cyberpunk, and there simply isn’t the following for the genre that there once was, or if it’s because that’s my newest book, or if I’ve made a mistake with the cover, or blurb, or categorization, or what… All I know for sure is that the thing isn’t selling.

So here’s my experiment. If you think you might be interested in a cyberpunk-ish techno-thriller, check out Streets of Payne. If it looks like something you might be interested in, buy it.  I recently lowered the e-book price to $2.99, so it’s not like it’s going to break the bank.  And for the first three people who purchase the novel in the next 24 hours, and can provide me with electronic proof of purchase, I will give you an Audible.com promo code for the free download of each of my three published works in audio format.

So, buy “Streets of Payne” in print or electronic format within the next 24 hours, email me (jlb DOT author AT gmail DOT com) with your proof of purchase, and I will send you promo codes for the free download of the Audible.com audio book versions of “Streets of Payne“, “Half Past Midnight“, and “The Road to Rejas“.

I will do this for the first three people who contact me with proof of purchase before 10PM central time, Monday night.

And then I’ll do it again for the NEXT 24 hours… and the next… until Friday night, or until I run out of codes, whichever comes first.  Like I said, I don’t know if this little experiment will help, but I figure it probably can’t hurt, either.  Right?   Confused

And that’s it for now.  As always, stay safe.   Bye

Oct 202013
 

thermalimage2IMP – Well, it isn’t great, but it’s progress.  Just under 2000 words on the IMP story (working title is “Ghost Story” – real imaginative, isn’t it?)  The good news is that I think I’m past most of the framing, and am getting into the meat of the story now.  Hopefully that means it will go much easier now. I don’t know why this one has been such a problem, but let’s hope the problem is past, and the progress is faster.  Wink

SoP – In the meantime, October marked the end of my Kindle Select period, and I have now made Streets of Payne available for Nook.  I hope to have it up on Smashwords next week as well, and I plan to look into making it available for Apple and Kobo soon.  My next step is to work on some marketing for it.  I’ve got to do something, because as much as I like the book and the characters, I haven’t sold a single copy this month.  If I can’t turn that around, I’ll have to assume either there’s no market for this particular type of book, or I’ve done something terribly wrong with it.

That’s it for tonight – short and sweet.  But I’ll be back in two days with an interview of new author, Stephen Kozeniewski.  If you’re interested in a new take on the zombie genre, check him out.  After all, how often do you find a pulp style detective… who happens to be a zombie?

All right.  Good night everyone.  Stay safe.  Bye

Aug 072013
 

WARNING – The following post contains considerable writer geek-speak, and may cause non-writing enthusiasts’ eyes to glaze over.  DO NOT OPERATE HEAVY EQUIPMENT FOR AT LEAST HALF AN HOUR AFTER READING THIS POST.  If you are easily offended by geek-speak, please do not read any further.

 

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Yep, this one is going to be another “lesson” blog entry, so if you’re new to the business, pay attention and learn from my mistakes.  And if you are a pro, sit back and laugh at my misadventures in the writing business. Smile

THE PROBLEM  –  I’ve reached the point at which sales on Half Past Midnight and The Road to Rejas have pretty much tanked.  In July, HPM had fifty-three sales (including international sales) and two borrows, while R2R had thirty-one sales with four borrows.  And since Streets of Payne is a brand new release, it’s basically an unknown title in a sea of others on Amazon.  As of today, it has sold thirteen copies since its release on July 11.

THE SOLUTION(?)  –  Obviously, if I ever want my writing to become a serious income stream – or even (dare I dream?) a career, I will need to learn to handle and use marketing to better effect.

As ominous as that sounds, what it really means is that I’m tired of watching the numbers drop without even trying to do anything about it.  So I got busy looking for advertising venues, and found a few that were relatively affordable, and whose criteria my books met.

Criteria, you say?  What criteria?

I’m so glad you asked! Smile

You see, many of the advertising sites have become popular specifically because people who subscribe to them know they can count on seeing recommendations for quality books.  After all, who wants to have a deal recommended to them, only to find out that the product is crap?  And what site wants to be the one that recommends said crap?  The site’s subscription levels would plummet which would quickly be followed by the loss of advertising income.  So, to prevent such occurrences, most of them have certain requirements regarding the number of reviews, the rating of the reviews, and sometimes what kind of books.  Sometimes they will make exceptions if an author is well-known and has a long track record of producing quality books, or if the book has been favorably reviewed by a well-respected book reviewer.  But such occurrences are rare for new writers.  The better review sites protect their reputations stringently, as they should.

And of course, there is always the little matter of cost.  The big sites can charge hundreds of dollars for ad listings.  For a new writer with a new book, these factors make it pretty difficult to gain any traction.  Streets of Payne is in that no-man’s-land right now.  As I mentioned earlier, it’s new (been out for less than a month), and as a result, it has no reviews.  As such, it has a low sales ranking, which results in minimal visibility. Such are the breaks for a new book.  Frown

So, HPM and R2R sales have tanked, SoP hasn’t taken off, and I am faced with a harsh reality – it’s time to do some marketing.  Eek!

I suppose I should mention that I really, REALLY hate the marketing side of the biz.  I always feel like a sleazy street vendor, trying to hawk my wares to passers-by.  Still, I know that marketing is part of the business.  And I keep going on about how I need to treat my writing as a business, right?  Wink

So I bought an ad for HPM on BookBub.  Yeah, it’s a gamble.  I mean, you’d think I would concentrate on getting exposure for SoP, wouldn’t you?  And I would, except for that pesky review requirement.  So, while marketing for SoP is currently problematic, I’m hoping that if I get an ad for HPM, maybe that puts my name in front of some people who’ve not yet heard of me.  And if they like one book, they may be inclined to buy another.  Like I said, it’s a gamble.  I also bought an ad for SoP on a new advertising site called BookGorilla.com.

Coincidentally, while I was working on all this, my good friend and fellow author Edward Lorn called me with a proposal that seemed perfect for increasing visibility.  He was gathering a few new authors together to do a quick marketing slam fest.  He had lined up a few review sites to get out the word.  Needless to say, I was in.  And since I hadn’t been able to get any other exposure for SoP, I went in with that title, with an agreement to run it free for five days (August 1st through August 5th).

SoP Promo

Click image

August 1 - At the start of this little endeavor, my Kindle Sales ranking was #77,084.  The book came out on July 11, had sold twelve copies in the US, and none in any other country.  Our slam fest began on August 1, with a mention on Big Al’s Books and Pals.  On that day, I gave away 190 copies of SoP in the US, 30 in the UK, and 13 in other international venues.  It was nothing like what happened with HPM when I conducted “the great experiment” last year, but it was definitely better than I had been doing.  On top of that, my Kindle sales ranking dropped from #77,084 to #1,697.  Of course, that was in the “Free” listing, but I thought it was respectable.

August 2 -  So after the first day, my “sales” rank rose dramatically, from 77,084  up to 1,697.  Very cool.  But there was no “slam-stop” scheduled for August 2nd or 3rd.  So while I had gained momentum, inertia only takes you so far.  As a result, my “sales” dropped to 78 in the US, 26 in the UK, and 4 international.  My Kindle Free ranking rose a little more, settling in at #1,153.

August 3 – On the 3rd, with still no further advertising slated, the number of sales dropped.  As I said, there was still a certain amount of inertia, so books were still moving, but the number dropped for the second day.  60 units in the US, 16 in the UK, and 16 international.  However, the Kindle ranking dropped from #1,153 to #1,406.

August 4 - On the 4th was when the magic happened.  Remember me mentioning the ad I bought on BookGorilla.com?  Well it worked like gangbusters.  During the course of the day, SoP moved 1,576 units in the US, 53 in the UK, and 41 in the other international sites.  Better yet, the Kindle Free ranking rose all the way to #118!  Woohoo!

August 5 - Momentum, once again took over.  August 5th was the day after the BookGorilla ad, and the book was still coasting.  Additionally, we had an ad at another review site called “ImAVoraciousReader” that I’m sure helped out a bit.  SoP moved 627 units in the US, 91 in the UK, and 55 in other international venues.  And the Kindle Free ranking rose just a little more, topping out at #108Yes

All in all, I thought it went pretty well.  I was relatively pleased.  Final number of units given out were: 2,531 in the US, 216 in the UK, 92 in Germany, 7 in France, 3 in Spain, 1 in Italy, 2 in Japan, 4 in India, and 20 in Canada.  A total of 2,876 copies of Streets of Payne were given away over a period of five days.  So would it pay off?

First, you have to look at what I was trying to accomplish.  My first goal?  I wanted to gain visibility for SoP.  Second goal? I was hoping that said visibility would garner itself into a higher Kindle sales ranking, which would hopefully translate into the third goal of some reviews, and the fourth (and ultimate) goal of higher sales.  So did it work?

Well, the first goal was definitely a success.  SoP is now in the hands of over 2,800 people who likely never heard of it before last weekend.  In the grand scheme of things, 2,800 people isn’t huge, but it’s much better than I’d started the weekend with.

Second goal?  Well, that one was a resounding failure.  That may sound counter-intuitive, considering the numbers I listed above, but here’s where a HUGE lesson comes into play.  Remember how I mentioned that my sales ranking rose from #77,084 before the giveaway, to #108 on the last day?  Something you have to bear in mind is that the #77,084 was in all Kindle books listed for sale, while the #108 was in all Kindle books listed for free.  After SoP was no longer free, not only did the ranking not carry over (which was to be expected), but it appears that Amazon counted all five days of the giveaway as zero sales days, and knocked me all the way back down to around #400,000.

Third goal (reviews) - It’s really too early to say for sure, but I’m going to list this one as a tentative success.  Up until this morning, SoP hadn’t gotten a single review.  This morning (August 7) I received my first.  Even better, it was a very favorable (five-star) review.

And the fourth goal (more sales) – Well, it’s obviously much too early to tell how that one’s going to turn out.  I can only hope it will pan out in the near future.

Lessons learned – The first thing to come to mind is simple.  NEVER, EVER, EVER GO FREE!  I don’t know if it’s because of those mysterious changes that Amazon makes to their magical algorithms that we always hear about, or if it’s simply that free is so blasé now, but the loss of sales ranking doesn’t appear to be worth it anymore.  If I had it to do over again, I would pay more to get an ad to sell SoP at 99¢.  I can only speculate on how many sales I would have made, but at the 99¢ price point, half of the sales would still have paid for the ad, with perhaps a little left over.  Additionally, the book wouldn’t have lost its sales ranking.  Indeed, if I had sold 1,400 copies at any price, I can only imagine that my ranking would have shot upwards, and likely would have stayed there for considerably longer, and would have translated into even more sales in the long run.

Also, coordinate your advertising better than I did.  If I could have managed to get ads in several locations all at the same time, I wonder just how big a splash the book could have made?  Sure, it would have cost a decent chunk of change, but would it have paid off?  I suppose there’s no way to know.  However, I now have a better idea of what I need to do in future marketing campaigns.  Hopefully, I’ll do a better job next time around.

So that’s it.  Another adventure with Jeff Brackett “Learning to write”.  Stay safe everyone.

May 062012
 

Cover for "Explorers: Beyond the Horizon"

The writing is still moving, albeit slower than I would like.  Current project progress is as follows:

Road to Rejas has been languishing, waiting on some distance so I can go through it for another round of edits.  I think I’ve just about had enough time to go through with fresh eyes, so I’ll hopefully be able to get it to the editor soon.

In the meantime, I’ve been working on Streets of Payne again.  I’m beginning to rethink some of the storyline, but I’m determined to not let that stop me from the writing, itself.

The Burning Land is the short story I wrote for The Dead Robots’ Society anthology. The name of that anthology is entitled Explorers: Beyond the Horizon, and it is currently scheduled to publish in early June.  Over the last few weeks, I’ve driven the editors of the anthology nuts with the galleys.  It seems that each time they sent me a galley to go over, I kept finding something new.  We went back and forth five different times, and I finally submitted the last proof last week.  I hope you’ll pick up a copy when it comes out.

I’m finding that trying to make it as a writer is as draining as it is thrilling.  It’s not so much the writing itself, but trying to fit the writing into the rest of my life that is the problem, and I know I’m not the only writer that has to deal with this.  That’s why it’s so much fun to witness the success of a fellow writer.  It shows me that there is hope that I may one day be able to spend all my time doing what I really want to do.

 

Dastardly Bastard cover

And that’s why I’m so happy to make the following announcement.  On Tuesday, May 15th, I will be hosting the first stop on Edward Lorn’s blog tour to promote his new release, Dastardly Bastard.  I know I normally post on the blog over the weekends, but I had an opportunity to help out an up and coming writer whom I greatly admire, and truly believe is on his way to big things in the writing community.  If you like Stephen King style horror, please look up Ed Lorn’s books.

So check back here on the 15th for my interview with him.  There will be a bit of insight into what makes such a twisted person tick, as well as information on a raffle to help promote his book. Smile

If there are any specific questions you would like Ed to answer, leave me a comment and I’ll pass them on to him.  In the meantime, be safe.  Bye

 

NOTE:   Thanks to Michelle, who pointed out that I had misspelled Mr. King’s first name.  I have now corrected this.   Smile

Mar 112012
 

Well, it was time for another post, and Mike made the below comment, and once again, I was well into another long winded reply before I realized this was more appropriate as a post than as a comment.  So once again, here is Mike’s question, followed by my reply:

Mike Oakes

Hi, Jeff

Looks like things are still going well for you. There’s a couple of things I’ve been thinking about as far as ads go, and I was curious what you thought.

My first thought (and I apologize for being negative) is what percentage of the people who bought your book because of the ad would have eventually bought the book anyway–even if it was over the course of the next year. My guess is it’s not that high, but let’s say, for example, of your 268 sales, 200 of them were a result of the ad, but only 50% of them were sales to people who would have otherwise never bought your book. That’s a net of 100 sales from the ad–not enough to recoup your investment.

On the flip side, every sale that’s generated by the ad has the potential to spawn more sales. So if 100% of the sales that wouldn’t have otherwise happened generate each generate another sale that wouldn’t have happened, you’re back in the black.

It’s probably impossible to ever determine any real numbers on this, and all the ones I used are probably grossly inflated (I do figure the smaller your niche is, the larger these percentages might be), but I’m just trying to cover all possible scenarios.

What do you think?

 

Hi Mike,

You make some good points.  However, I’m approaching this from a different perspective.  While it’s possible that many of the people who bought Half Past Midnight would have eventually found it and bought it on their own, I don’t think it too likely.  You see, I’m just one new, no-name author with a new book - among tens of thousands of others.

I view it like this – I’m an entrepreneur with a new product that I want to use to make a living.  Therefore, I have three jobs with regards to this product; create the best product I can (within reason – there must be ROI), package it as attractively as I can (also within reason), and place it in front of people who might be interested in buying it so that it has the best chance of success.

I have covered the first two steps by writing a (hopefully) entertaining story, hiring and working with a first-rate editor, and hiring a cover artist and formatting company to wrap the product up in an attractive package. I’m now working on the third step, and my job is to get my product in front of as many of my target audience as I can, to see if it’s something they would be interested in buying.  I think we can all agree that if they never see it, the odds of purchasing go down considerably.  Smile

But here’s the thing – if I simply place the product out there and hope people find it on their own, the odds of them ever seeing it remain very slim.  Books that are way down on the sales chart tend to stay way down on the sales chart – unless something happens to raise them up.  Look at it like this, if my book is rated #1000 in the Action/Adventure category, and #100,000 of all Paid books, what are the chances that Joe Q. Public will ever see it?  It’s up to me to do something to make it more visible.  And that’s where I have to learn to work the system.

When you’re ranked that low, you are among the tens of thousands of other new authors, many of whom are not really serious about making it as a writer.  Most of them are going to be the folks who have always wanted to write a book, but never wanted to put in the effort that it takes to make it successful.  (Remember the video that Justin put out on DRS?)  Smile

I like to think of this as the free-market version of the traditional slush pile.  If these were the days of “traditional” publishing, there would be junior editors at the publishing house sifting through the slush pile, looking for the gem that is worth putting some time into.  That is part of what they deemed as their job as “the gatekeepers”.  But anyone in the industry knows that the traditional model has been turned up on its ear.  The role of traditional houses as gatekeepers has been negated by the new technologies that make it so easy for us to self-publish.  But the other side of that coin is that it is now up to the individual author to raise themselves out of that slush pile on their own.

As I said, most of the books that are that far down in the listings are stagnant.  But believe it or not, that can actually work to your advantage.  When a book is that far down, the sale of a single unit can temporarily move it up in rank.  The sale of four or five books in a short timeframe can move it up quite a lot.  I know of a fellow author whose novel went from around #196,000 to around #45,000 with only four sales in one day.

Now think about what can happen if you can sell a few hundred in a few hours!  And beyond the abrupt climb in sales ranking, there is another, less obvious advantage that can be triggered here.  You also stand a good chance of hitting Amazon’s list of “Movers and Shakers“.  These are books that have jumped dramatically on the rankings charts, and there are a lot of people who watch that list to find the next “breakout” book – which in turn leads to even more sales – which brings you further up in the rankings – which gets you more exposure – which gets you more sales…

Remember my comments on the Ouroboros effect in my earlier post?

Now, I’ve heard lots of people more knowledgeable than myself talk about Amazon’s algorithms.  I don’t pretend to understand it all, but I do know that getting your product out to as many people as possible is only part of the equation.  To maximize your sales potential, you have to get your product out to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible!  Otherwise, you will never get the visibility necessary to continue to make the sales.

Basically, there are several things you want to use on Amazon.  I already mentioned the Movers and Shakers list.  There are also the Top 100 category lists and the “Also Bought” lists.  These lists help keep you visible in the groups of people who are already interested in the kind of stories you write.  Conventional wisdom also says that choosing your genre category or sub-category is also very important.  I have read blog posts by other authors who will intentionally bypass an obvious category to publish under, so that they can hit another, lesser used sub-category with a higher ranking.  I currently have my book listed as “Action & Adventure”, but I could just as easily have listed it as a “Thriller”.  I don’t know how that would have worked out, but there is obviously some overlap, since during my POI experiment, HPM ended up moving into the Top 100 list for Thriller as well as A&A.

And I will go back again and mention that getting high enough in your sub-category gets you more exposure.  And once again, more exposure means more sales, which can bring you higher up on the coveted Top 100 of all Kindle books sold.  That’s not top 100 in your category, that’s all books.  I keep coming back to it, but it all boils down to getting that exposure.  You know the old ko-an about the tree falling in the woods, with no one around to hear?  I don’t want to be that tree.  I want to be the tree that people have to block off the road for, that stops traffic and has everyone’s attention.  That’s the tree people notice.

I keep banging this same drum.  Sorry.  There are likely hundred of other ways to make it as a writer, and I’m doing my best to learn about them.  But one thing I’ve learned that seems to work well is to get the best exposure you can that will give you a rapid climb in ranking.  That has to be the result of some sort of advertising or marketing campaign.  Whether it’s a day of free giveaways, or a paid ad, the best ROI seems to be exposure to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, to prime that old Ouroboros express.

On the other hand, you have to remember to keep working on the next project.  Keep writing.

And on that note, I think I’ve rambled on enough here.  It’s time to take my own advice and get back to writing.

Be safe.  Bye