Archive for the ‘Promotion’ Category

If I were to tell my full story of life and writing, it would be many thousands of words. If I were to write this fifty years from now, it might be a hefty book (or two).

Now, I just want to concentrate on my thoughts of my writing and my life in the past few years.

For as long as I remember, I’d always been fascinated with reading. When other kids were out getting into shenanigans, I was in my bed reading J.K. Rowling, Robert Jordan, Isaac Asimov, or whatever author I was into at the time. I would read whenever I got the chance, between classes, on car rides, wherever. By the first grade, I was a book junkie, and by high school, my addiction had manifested into the desire to become a real life writer.

Now, at the ripe age of 25, I’ve written five books, two of which are self-published (and a third that will be within a week). If I had started realizing my potential earlier, maybe I would have written much more.

In the past four months alone I’ve started taking this writing thing a lot more seriously. I’ve done more for myself and my writing than at any other point in my life. I was stuck in a rut, writing-wise, for a long time. I feel like there were a lot of years where I wrote hardly at all, and if I did, the book was never finished because I didn’t know what else to do with it.

In 2010, I finished my first real book, with my friend Jelani Sims. It took two years of outlining and writing to finish it, but it got finished. Looking back, it could have, and should have, been done a lot quicker.

We had no idea what we were doing. We just worked on it, taking our best guesses on what should be done. We stopped outright at several points, only to start writing on it again somewhere else down the line.

Then, I learned the job wasn’t over when the book was finished. I learned about the joys of editing, copy editing, formatting, and marketing.

Well, we really did not learn that (at first). We published Night of the Necromancer in early 2011. It was exciting at first. There was a lot of fanfare, and it got some press. I think even to this day the book sits somewhere in OU Gaylord’s illustrious halls (perhaps in the professional writing alcoves)?

But after the first string of sales, everything just…died. It became clear, a few months in, that it was only our friends and family that bought it. No one else was interested, and I had no idea why. The book was great…wasn’t it?

Yeah, the story was good. That’s what a few random reviewers said. But why wasn’t anyone buying it?

I’d read some articles about some authors who found a lot of success by lowering their book prices to $.99 in order to get exposure, so I thought that might be what the problem was. So, we lowered the price from $3.99 to $.99. We got a few more sales, but by the time all was said and done, the royalties about broke even.

Then, I just got depressed about it, because I truly believed that was all there was to it. You write something, it either works out or it doesn’t. I think that depression created a block from me ever writing. I would write, but the projects wouldn’t get finished. I vowed that my next book would see an agent next time.

I attempted a fantasy novel a few times, always getting slammed to a halt about 50,000 words in (always when they got to that dreaded oracle scene). I may have attempted a few other things, I’m not sure. I was also working a job that was just downright depressing and boring, which certainly did not help.

I think the overall feeling was one of powerlessness. I tried to make something work, and it didn’t.

I didn’t know anything back then. I didn’t know what I had done wrong, but now I know exactly what I did wrong. And I’m learning what I’m doing wrong all the time. I’m still doing a lot wrong, but the most important lesson is learned: I have a sense of power, and I recognize that even if I make mistakes, I can correct them or at least do better next time. And as I keep on doing that, my writing will get better, and the way I get my writing out there will be better.

What I did wrong:

1. I had bad quality. My problem was not pricing, as I had previously thought. After all, who backs down from paying $3.99 for a book they want to buy? Hardly anyone. Actually, $3.99 is very cheap for a book, even an e-book. That’s just a little over the price for a gallon of gas. The problem was one of quality. Not quality of story, but the actual text of the story. The formatting was horrible and not user-friendly. There were typos galore. The cover art was good, but even good cover art can’t make up for typos. This is just a fact. There are hundreds of other choices within the same genre that a reader can go to. Yours has to stand out above the rest, and be professional, or you will not be taken seriously. Recently, a reviewer pointed out my grammar and typos, giving me one star. At first, I felt upset and angry. Then, I realized that it was my fault. Maybe I couldn’t fix my characters without a complete rewrite, which is something else this reviewer pointed out, but I could at least hire a copy editor to fix the typos. I did. And the book is better for it.

2. I did not stay updated with the industry. I did not read blogs, articles, or forums where other writers gathered to talk about writing and the promotion thereof. I wished every day, when I was not writing, that I had a great community of writers to learn from. For some reason, it never occurred to me to go searching for one online. I think as I read the Kindle forums, KBoards, and blog posts of other self-publishing authors, I started to learn what I was doing wrong. If I had done this earlier, I could have taken advantage of many opportunities to advance my career, opportunities I will never have again. Then again, I’m glad I am wise enough to keep updated with self-publishing related things, because now I am more conscientious of what I need to be doing to be successful at it.

3. I did not promote. You can write the greatest book in the world, but no one will read it unless they find it. And readers can’t find it unless there is someone to tell them about it, in some form or other, whether it’s the author his or herself, or a friend. I have done almost zero promotion for the past month, and it shows. If I had promoted a bit more, solicited more blogs, done more giveaways, or found new avenues for promotion, my sales would not be so slow.

4. I did not read enough. Reading inspires you to write. When you read great books, it makes you say, “Hey, I want to write!” It really is like magic. I find my writing flow is so much better when I’m reading constantly.

5. I did not write enough. It’s really hard to talk about all the steps, and how they work together, but this one is a biggie. I had major lack of motivation. I think it stemmed from the lack of success and discouragement of Night of the Necromancer (which came from a skewed perspective of what “success” was). Success is the journey, not the end. Truer words have never been spoken, because the journey never ends. Success is getting better, being better than you were yesterday, and not giving on something that truly matters to you. Give up on everything else, but don’t give up on something that matters to you – and only you can be sure of what that is. I’ve never doubted, for a moment, that writing was what I wanted to do. I have the talent, I have the drive…why not go for it? Why waste my short life doing things that don’t matter, in the end?  I sort of lost focus on a lot of things post-college, and it took a while to find my feet. It’s important that in whatever field you choose, that you make it your passion and learn all you can about it, and correspond with others in it.

It’s also important to recognize the brevity of life and to do what you want with your life, while you still have it. That realization was very big for me. I have other goals in life, too, but writing books is the main one for now.

I think it’s amazing that anyone can publish a book using Amazon, Smashwords, B&N, Kobo, Apple, Sony, etc.. I think it’s amazing that someone on the other side of the world can buy one of my books. I think it’s amazing that someone on the other side of the world can buy one of my books and completely trash it.

I know that I have been downloaded in the U.S., U.K., France, Italy, Germany, Australia, Japan, among other places, I’m sure. The few giveaways of done where thousands of copies of my books were downloaded were mind-blowing. The almost two thousand people that requested copies of The Wasteland Chronicles on the Goodreads giveaways section was also mind-blowing. I’ve had real life successes that give me fire to go on, which was something I was lacking before. So far, I’ve sold hundreds of copies of my books. I don’t think I’ve hit the thousand mark overall, but I’m closer to a thousand now than zero. Not enough to live on, but enough to keep trying and to keep pushing. I feel like by the end of this year, things will be moving a lot faster. Even if they’re not, I’m going to keep writing. Because that’s what writers do. And that’s what I’ve learned to do.

Maybe self-publishing isn’t the right path for everyone, but it is the right path for me, at least at this moment. As long as you’re self-motivated enough, and you have the talent and the drive, you have a shot at succeeding at writing. Not a guarantee, but a shot. That’s what I want: to succeed at a job that I’ve always wanted to do, which is to tell stories that entertain, and hopefully, when I get better at it, make people laugh, cry, and think.

Since college, I’ve never truly wanted any other job, other than to write full time. I always just assumed it would happen, that a muse would drop out of the ether and God would somehow write through my pen. Don’t worry, I’ve come down to Earth a bit since then. I’m trying my hardest to succeed, and I am getting better at this. I’m not there yet, I haven’t really found my voice yet, but I will.

Hopefully, I can tell more of my story at some future date. Right now, the main goal I have is getting Origins online. I’ve incorporated my copy editor’s fixes and all things are go as soon as I give both books 1 and 2 a back to back read. That should happen on Saturday, at the latest.

After that? Time to write Book 3, Extinction. And hopefully update the paperback of Book 1 to get rid of the typos. And promotion. Always, always, promotion.

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A couple nights ago, on a whim, I decided to use two my five free days to give away Apocalypse, curious to see how many copies would be downloaded without any other form of promotion.

The result is, more people have my writing in their hands from two days than over my entire life. It’s kind of weird.

As of 7:53 p.m., here’s the current breakdown:

United States: 2059

United Kingdom: 110

Germany: 21

Spain: 2

Italy: 4

Japan: 5

Total: 2201

What’s crazy is there are a bunch of blogs where you can upload your book, and they’ll feature it for thousands of people on your free days. I did not use any of these blogs (though I did for Night of the Necromancer, which is due to go free next weekend), so if I had used them, the total downloads might have been a lot higher.  I may have even broken the top 100.

Still, this number is far more than I was expecting. This morning, I was ranked #1 in Science Fiction Adventure, #2 in Science Fiction, and something like #80 in all genre fiction. I just barely missed being in the top 100 of all Kindle books, coming in at #131 at my highest point. Here are the pics:

ImageExhibit A: Yes, that is my book next to a man who goes by the name George R.R. It’s probably the only time my name will appear next to his, ever. 😛

ImageExhibit B: This next one is me at #80 on the Genre Fiction list. The funniest part about this list is I was pretty much the only book that was not romance/erotica…lol.

I was holding my breath to make the Kindle Top 100 Free, but it didn’t end up happening. Perhaps some day, and I feel like I could have made it if I had let blogs know a few weeks in advance I was going free. But, like I said, I did this on a whim out of curiosity. What I learned is, when you have a popular genre, a great cover, and a short and to the point blurb, as well as a well-formatted and intriguing sample, your book is very likely to be downloaded if it goes free. I’m sure lots of reviews and likes help as well, but my book is new and has had any exposure yet (I guess until now). Or, it could have just been luck. There were thousands upon thousands of books that were free at the same time as mine, yet somehow mine climbed its way close to the top of the heap.

All in all, not a bad run. It felt pretty good to get so high on those lists, and to refresh my page every second to see all the downloads. The only thing is, I don’t know how many will actually read the book, because I’m sure a lot of people are just like “FREE!” and they get it, and never read it. I know I have about 5 free books queued up myself, that I keep telling myself I’ll read someday.

Also, if everyone had actually bought those books, I would have made about $4,500. Really, this wasn’t money “lost” per se, because none of these people likely would have downloaded my book anyway, much less have seen it.

All the same, it’s really cool. I have no idea if any of this means anything, so we’ll see if I get a little bump tomorrow from sales or the coming week. The biggest thing I can hope for is that people read the book and like it. Ultimately, I think if you have an entertaining yarn, people will like it, look out for your next thing, or tell others about it. I’m also hoping for some positive reviews, but I recognize there are some things wrong with the book..like the ending being too much of a cliffhanger without enough resolution…but I think ultimately it’s probably the best piece of fiction I’ve written. And I will get better, and am already bursting with ideas for book 2 (but first I want to finish the first book in my new series, Dark Prophecies…hoping to have that one online in mid-Feb at the latest).

If anything, five people in Japan have my book now. Whether they read it or not, that’s a cool feeling.

Also: to everyone who downloaded my book, THANK YOU! I hope you read it and enjoy it. You should also leave a review on Amazon (preferably glowing, but honest works too!).

Double also: As of this edit, the book is still live for another 2 hours and 38 minutes, CST…so go download it!

1. Today I wrote about 6-7,000 thousand words to complete my novella. Total of about 39,000 words.

I have no idea whether or not it’s good. I guess I’ll find out when I read it over again and see what needs to be fixed.

I have never written a book as fast as I’ve written this one. In a few days, I’m going to go back and start the editing.

2. I’ve heard back from 10 blogs that want to review Night of the Necromancer. I have 10 reviews (some slotted for February/March, 2-3 interviews, and a couple of giveaways is pretty good. It’s only been a couple days, so I may hear back from more. It is amazing to think that 10 blogs will be reviewing my book, some of them overseas. It’s pretty mind blowing, and awesome. These book bloggers are amazing people.

3. Even though it feels like I did a lot today, it still felt slow for some reason. I still need to go through Apocalypse and make sure the changes my professor suggested get implemented throughout. After that, promotion time…and the working on a physical copy with my illustrator, Luke Atkinson.

4. I also need to redo the print version of Night of the Necromancer to keep it updated with the online version. That’s a project for another day, but Apocalypse 2.0 needs to get done. That is the priority number one.

As I sit down to do writing stuff, or even book promotion, I really wish it were my full time job. I’ll get there, someday.

5. Speaking of, I got a call from Hobby Lobby. Pending I pass a drug test , I should be starting in the warehouse moving boxes and suchlike things. I’m glad to have a job again. In total, I’ve only been without for a week. I feel incredibly lucky that this worked out. I’m a bad interviewee because I’ll get nervous and talk fast, but I just have to sit through and deal with it. I’m just glad it went alright. Also, my good friend Jon gave me an amazing reference. It just might have clinched the deal.

5. I appeared on a podcast. I listened to The Storyboarders while at work, but since I probably won’t be able to listen to my iPod anymore at work, I’ll have find another time for it. I appear on Episode 13. I talk a little bit about working on Night of the Necromancer with Jelani, as well as a bit about self-promotion, the journey I’ve been learning for the past few weeks or so.

6. Things are good. I’m occupied every moment in something I really enjoy. Starting next week, I’ll most likely be starting my new job.

Anyway, that’s all for now. I’m sleepy so sorry if there are weird wording things. It’s been a lot of writing today.

Spent the whole day doing promotion stuff. I’m getting better at it! It’s actually kind of excited. I solicited a total of NINETEEN blogs today about my first book, Night of the Necromancer. That was really cool and I’m expecting great things.

The vexation comes with the new upload of the book…it’s doing screwy things I didn’t expect to as far as formatting. I’m just going to bite the bullet and try to take care of it, but my beloved chapter headings I worked so hard on are part of the problem and have to go. Avast, indeed.

That, and I have to take care of the edits of Apocalypse, finish my new novella that has now crept up to 25,000 words (working title of Dark Prophecies…what do you guys think as far as a fantasy having to do with dark magic with a princess female lead?), as well as go in for my last week of work tomorrow AND applying for new jobs. I’m applying in person tomorrow for one at eight a.m…

Seems like there’s always work to be done if you want to get ahead. Sadly I’m falling back on my running and I’m paying the price. I’ve run once in the past two weeks (and that was only a mile and a half), and I’ve gained FIVE pounds. Oi! I’m going to have to get back on track if I hope to complete this half marathon.

I have to get back to work now, so farewell, readers. Wish I didn’t have to go in tomorrow because I could do so much with the day, but I need the money. All in all, a VERY productive day/weekend. Hardly relaxed the whole time, but it is a good kind of work that I feel like will advance things. Time well spent.

Thanks for reading! Also, new season of Downton. Huzzah!