Dec 092012
 

Hello all,

Yeah, it’s been a couple of weeks since I posted anything.  Things have been pretty busy at work, and there are the holiday preparations, and I can make all sorts of other excuses.  But the fact is that I’ve just been off my game and haven’t been keeping up with my blogging.  Sorry guys.  But I’m trying to get back into the swing.

Streets of Payne is coming along and it looks like the cover work is almost done.  You know, when I published HPM last year, I had the book completed and ready to go for several weeks before it actually published.  The hold up was the cover.  I was so new to the business that I didn’t fully understand all the various pieces that comprise the publishing puzzle.  I concentrated so much of my effort on the writing, editing, and publishing aspects that I didn’t realize I had overlooked overseeing the cover art.  So when I got to the end of the “assembly line”, I found there was a key ingredient missing.  Talk about your “DOH!” moments.  :shock:

This time around, I’m going to have the opposite problem (if you can call it a problem).  The cover work is almost done.  The artwork is pretty freaking awesome, and I can’t wait to do a cover reveal once the finishing touches are in place.

Unfortunately, the book is still at least a couple of months away from being completed.  And you don’t want to do a public cover reveal months before the book is ready to publish.  Do that, and it’s like a big tease for people.  It’s just cruel, isn’t it?  Guess I need to think about how to approach the whole thing.  If you have any suggestions, please don’t hesitate to tell me.  Either comment here, or you can email me privately at jlb.author@gmail.com.

On another front, I’m participating in a Red Adept Select giveaway.  Follow the link and enter, or enter on Facebook for the chance to win all ten of the Kindle books listed.  Ten books!

Go, enter.  And I wish you all the best of luck.

Be safe everyone.  :waving:

May 292012
 

The title pretty much says it all, though it likely seems a bit confusing at the moment.  It’s simple, really.  First of all, I owe you all an apology. I typically post on the weekend, and here I am at the close of the day on Tuesday, just getting my post out there.  I’ve been sick, and let myself get a little run down.  No big deal, but after work, I have all the energy of a wet washrag.

However, I noticed something today.  I checked the hits on my blog here and found that the number of visitors here just took a big jump.  I can only assume it’s related to a message I got from Lynn McNamee (formerly Lynn O’Dell – more on that below).  Her message was a bit cryptic:

I just added a new post to http://RedAdeptSelect.com/ that you might wanna check out.”

That was it.  So of course, I followed the link, and read the below:

 Half Past Midnight, by Jeff Brackett, has been reviewed on I’m a Voracious Reader.

Quote from Review:

Well-written, smooth-flowing, excellent plot and compelling. I kept thinking throughout the story: Would I, could I be able to do that? What would I do here? What if…?

To read the full review, visit I’m a Voracious Reader.

Of course, I followed the link and read the review…  All I’ll say is… Woohoo!  Just follow the link and go read it for yourself.  Whether or not one event had anything to do with the other, the number of visitors to my little blog here spiked at almost triple my normal average.  So to all you new folks, if you’re still checking in here… welcome!  I hope you keep dropping by.

Now, on to the celebrations.  This last weekend, I got the chance to meet some of the Red Adept family when Lynn O’Dell celebrated her marriage to Chuck McNamee, and we were invited to share in the celebration.  While there, I also had the chance to finally meet some others of the Red Adept family in person.  I met Jim Chambers, who saved my bacon in the proofreading stage of HPM.  He is now a publicist for the newly opened Red Adept Publishing.  I also got to meet with Ed Lorn, fellow Red Adept Select author, and vangard author for Red Adept Publishing.  We had the chance to discuss story ideas, and it looks like we will be working on a project together in the very near future.  I’m really looking forward to it.

And of course, Sunday was Memorial Day.  I hope you all had a fine time, but still spared a moment to remember the real reason behind the holiday – our brave men and women who have sacrificed so much in the name of our freedom.  We all owe them so much!

And now for the goodbyes portion.  A friend of mine from work has been battling esophageal cancer for the last few years.  Each year the doctors told him that he needed to get his affairs in order, that he wouldn’t make it to see another Christmas.  And for the last two years he proved them wrong.  This year, they were right.  He went into the hospital last Friday for an upper GI obstruction.  He didn’t make it out this time.

So long, Jim.  I’ll miss you, my friend.  May every day be Beer Friday for you now.

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.  :)

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?)  :)

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:

Mar 022012
 

Yeah, that sounds like an intro for a bad erotica story, doesn’t it?  Well, don’t get too excited.  It’s not.  I don’t have the chops for erotica.  :)

No, the title is simply a reference to an observation that some folks have made with regards to the women in Half Past Midnight.  One of the more common comments I get from readers is that they’re glad to see the women in HPM are not the stereotypical “damsels in distress” who depend on their big strong macho men to take care of them.  In fact, I’ve gotten more than a few comments to the fact that the women in HPM “kick ass”.  This is something I’m proud of, and it was intentional.  It’s a subject that is near and dear to me, and the title of the post sums up my feelings pretty well – I like strong women.

The feeling goes back to my early days of training in the martial arts.  Even as a teen, I noticed that the special “seasonal self-defense” classes that came out during the holidays were aimed almost exclusively at women.  Even worse, it almost seemed that they were designed to make women fearful.  I know a lot of it is the result of living in a male dominant society, but I’ve known too many women who were absolutely fierce when it came to fighting for me to believe that women are inherently incapable of taking care of themselves.

It is my firm belief that the only reason our society constantly uses the “damsel in distress” stereotype is that we raise our children to believe women are physically inferior, and that just ain’t true.  Yes, women are different.  Yes, most women have less muscle mass than most men.  Yes, most women are smaller than  most men.

But in a hand to hand situation, smaller is NOT the same as less capable.  Anyone trained in grappling styles such as Judo or Jujitsu knows that a lower center of gravity can be a huge advantage in grappling.  And women who are trained in martial arts are typically faster with short burst speed attacks than their larger counterparts.  Yet we raise our daughters to think that they should play with dolls and dress up, and that they should look to a man for support and protection.   We raise our sons to think they should protect women as fragile things, incapable of taking care of themselves.  Older brothers are taught that they should watch over their younger siblings.  If the boys are brought up in polite society, they are taught that it is their responsibility to watch over and protect women.  After all, it’s the “gentlemanly” thing to do.

But reverse that situation – older sisters watching over younger brothers… there comes a point with this paradigm at which the older sister is actively discouraged from protecting younger brother.  They are taught that he must learn to take care of himself in order to “be a man” and not “be a sissy”.

I was raised in The South (capital “T”, capital “S”).  I was the elder of two siblings, and was taught to watch out for my younger sister.  But I can tell you from painfully personal experience that past a certain age, my sister didn’t need anyone to watch out for her.  In point of fact, I can recall one situation in which she jumped into a fight and pulled my butt out of the fire.

So I contend that the only reason that most women need a man’s protection is that they are convinced from birth that they need it.  We are all convinced that they need it.

Now, this is my blog, and I get to guide the conversation wherever I want it to go.  So, let’s extrapolate this hypothesis to a post-apocalyptic setting.  If the SHTF scenario ever becomes reality, do you really think anyone is going to be worrying about lip gloss or mascara?  No!  Initially, men and women alike will do whatever it takes to survive.  As time passes, they will work to develop the skills necessary to perpetuate that survival situation.  And once that is somewhat assured, they will work to rebuild and advance beyond the terrible circumstances in which they have found themselves.  There will be little time to worry about whether an activity is man’s work or women’s work.  And when the time comes to protect yourself, your loved ones, or your property, it’s unlikely that anyone will worry about how an opponent’s genitalia looks.

That is why I write strong female characters.  And it’s why I will continue to write strong female characters.  Weak female characters simply don’t interest me, just as weak male characters don’t interest me.  In my opinion, weak characters of either gender can only serve as cannon fodder.  Any decent protagonist or antagonist will inherently be a strong character in one way or another.  Otherwise, you don’t have much of a story – or at least, not a story that would interest most people.   And just to be clear, by strong, I don’t simply refer to physical strength.  A good character can have plenty of strengths other than muscle mass.  Intelligence, diligence, perseverance, even luck (think Louis Wu in Niven’s Ringworld), are just a few strengths around which you can build a good character.  And all of those characteristics can apply to women, just as easily as to men.

So I refuse to perpetuate what I view as a societal fallacy.  When the fecal matter impacts the oscillating rotary air redistribution device, men are not more courageous, intelligent, or superior in any way that matters by simple virtue of their gender.  And when push comes to shove, it could just as easily be a woman doing the pushing and shoving.  :fighterf:

Stay safe.  :bye:

Feb 292012
 

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!

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

This is a sort of followup to my post from February 15 (In answer to Mike’s question…) in which Mike wanted specific sales numbers from when I put HPM up for free.  In that post, I explored what happened during “The Great Experiment” from the perspective of using Amazon’s KDP Select “free” marketing tool.  Well, this post is about another marketing tool I just used — paid advertising.

Yes, I actually paid for an ad for my book.  I once again had some great guidance from my fellow Red Adept Select authors in chosing the proper ad.  Truth be told, I sat back and let them decide what ad location would be best, and I went along for the ride.  And what a ride it was.

There was a short list of sites that most of them felt would be worthwhile with regards to buying ad space.  You have to balance several factors: the readership or traffic on the site, the cost of the ad space, the length of time the ad will run, and probably a few others I can’t think of at the moment.  You may also run into problems with some of the more reputable sites with actually getting in.  Some have relatively strict requirements and considerable waiting lists.  The site I got on is called Pixel of Ink.  POI is a little expensive (I think it was $275, but I could be wrong), a bit restrictive (requires that the book have at least ten four-star or five-star reviews on Amazon), and has a HUGE following.  I paid for my ad last December, and it just came out on February 24.  When I just went to their site to check specific requirements (I don’t actually remember them all), the site shows that they are closed to further submissions.  I can only assume this is because they have already filled their slots for the current time period (quarter? year?).

So, the ad for HPM came out shortly after 2PM on Friday, February 24th.  As soon as I saw that the ad was out, I struck a base line on my sales and started tracking hourly (yes, I’m that kind of geek) :)   See the chart over there to the left?  (Click on it if you want a larger view.)  Notice that at the beginning of the chart the unit sales per day were dancing around the fifty sales per day line.  That big spike there?  Yep, that’s the day of the POI ad.

The numbers on the chart show that I sold 239 on that day.  But that’s not the whole story.  You see, when I started my base line for the POI ad, HPM had made 922 sales during the month of February.  But that base line started at 2PM, and I draw my daily figures at 8AM.  So, in order to draw a more accurate picture of my sales due to the actual POI ad, I started tracking on a separate spreadsheet.  Starting at 2PM I made it a point to check numbers as close to the hour as I could manage.  Here is a chart of the numbers during that twenty-four hour period.  The blacked out portion is when I finally succumbed to sleep.  :)   (Again, click for a larger image.)

As you can see, I began charting from my 2PM baseline (Row 2 – 2-24 1400) with “1400” representing the time.  It was easier to keep the columns sequenced properly using military time.  There are some obvious observations here.  For instance, note that as the number of Domestic Sales (red column) increases, the various rankings on Amazon decrease (they don’t show up until row 5 because that was when HPM broke into the top 100).  This inverse relationship is shown even more obviously in the earlier chart.  You will see that when that huge red spike of Domestic sales goes up, the other lines (representing the various rankings) goes down.  The exception is the lowest line at the bottom, which represents the number of units borrowed in the Kindle Prime library.  Note also that at 10PM (Row 10), HPM unexpectedly broke into the Top 100 Kindle Sales in a whole new category, (Thriller).  I’m not honestly sure what prompted that, but I’ll take it.  :yes:

But something that’s not quite as obvious, and in fact might actually be mistaken for a discrepancy between the two sets of numbers, is the fact that the first chart shows 239 domestic sales, while the second shows 268.  This is explained by taking into account the two different timeframes.  The first chart covers the period of 8AM, February 24th, to 8AM February 25th.  But the POI ad came out at 2PM, so when I tracked for a twenty-four hour period, I covered from 2PM of the 24th to 2PM on the 25th.  That covers more of the “hot” period after the ad. 

Here is another chart that exclusively covers that time period.  This picture is simply a graphical representation of the same data shown in the spreadsheet above.  In this one, the relationships between the trends is more difficult to see because the scales are so disparate.  Nevertheless, these two graphics show that, rather than the 239 sales indicated on the 8AM to 8AM chart, there were actually 268 sales for the twenty-four hours immediately following the POI ad. There were also 11 borrows during that same time period, when there are typically only three or four per day.

It looks like my peak rankings were right at midnight, when I hit #8 in Paid Kindle A&A, #13 Paid Book A&A, #66 Paid Book Thriller, and #302 in All Paid Kindle Books.  And right now, it’s 8AM February 29, five days later.  Checking my numbers shows HPM is still in the top 100 A&A in both Kindle and Book categories (#62 and #79, respectively).  It is also #2149 in all Paid in Kindle Store.

So was my ad purchase on POI a success? Absolutely.  Is it going to work like this every time for everyone?  Of course not.  Buying the ad alone is not going to guarantee sales.  There are your basic prerequisites here.  You have to have at least a marginally well told story.  That story must be well-edited (hire a good editor folks – it is a necessary investment in this business).  You have to have decent packaging (a good cover and title is also necessary – if you can’t do the cover yourself, hire someone).  THEN worry about promotion.  If you’ve done all this, and you still have some cash to gamble – because it is a gamble – then you can think about purchasing advertising.

But I’ve read about many authors that have done the same thing, and for whatever reason, they didn’t recoup their investment.  Like I said, it’s a gamble.  So think before you make the leap.  Ask yourself “Do I have the money to drop at the poker table?”

Now, for all of you who couldn’t care less about my lessons along the way to learning the business of writing in today’s market, I promise to have something less geeky/writer-y to post in the next few days.

In the meantime, be safe everyone. :bye: