C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

Write and publish with love and fury.

Marketing Experiments, Promotional Pricing and Free Books

Written Word Media came up with a survey that found optimum pricing to boost author income in fiction ranges from 99¢ to $4.99. Not surprisingly, the more books you write the more you are likely to make. There’s a ton of useful info in their report. Here’s the link.

Here’s how I’m applying that information to my situation (and more)


I’ve been running a lot of experiments with my book marketing this fall. (For instance, after watching the Game Changers movie, I’ve gone vegan.) But you want to hear about my book marketing experiments, not what I’m eating.

From running a ton of Amazon ads to Bookbub ads and featured deals, it’s been a tough go to get visibility and traction. If I hadn’t been publishing since 2011, I’d be in more trouble. You want the what, not the how. Rather than get into the weeds of how I arrived at my conclusions, I’m going to skip to the end and tell you what I’m going to do moving forward based on my experiments.

Here’s the no-bullshit skinny:

  1. I’m no longer interested in running Facebook ads for a variety of reasons. More than the expense, the ethics of a company so willing to subvert democracy by publishing lies and advocating racist news outlets means I’ve got to be out of it. So Ex Parte Press doesn’t commit suicide, I will continue to use it as a free service so I can connect with readers in my FB fan group. That’s the best I can do right now.
  2. Paying for Bookbub ads to go at the bottom of their newsletters? That’s out, too. I tried to make it work. The budget got spent too fast and it did not pay off.
  3. In the past month, I’ve had two Bookbub featured deals. The first was somewhat successful. The second was a disaster. I ignored applying for BB featured deals for their newsletters for too long. Despite the uneven results, I love Bookbub! They’ve been the most reliable book promotion service. However, after getting knocked in the dirt yesterday, my enthusiasm is somewhat deflated.

    The trouble was that they didn’t allow me to promote to the American market in those adverts. For thrillers set in Michigan and New York, that would have been great. I will continue to apply for Bookbub promotions but I’m more willing to say no to a promotion that doesn’t match well with my best market. I make 65% of my income from Amazon.com. Amazon India is just not a factor for me.
  4. By the close of the year, I will have written and published five books in 2019. I’ve written down my plans for 2020 and the pace is going to be about the same. That is my pace. If I write faster, the quality of the reader experience may degrade. No disrespect to anyone who writes faster or slower. That’s just me. However, four of the five books I have planned will be more carefully aimed at a niche market. One of the books is more literary rather than genre so I might shop that to publishers.
  5. I intend to take one series “wide” beyond Amazon’s ecosystem in 2020.
  6. I’m trying to get new covers for my most popular series. Nothing wrong with the covers, necessarily. Just needs a fresh face after being on the market for several years.
  7. I will continue to work with the Amazon ad platform because I can control the budgets better. Unlike Facebook ads, for instance, Amazon ads don’t blow through their budgets as quickly and I feel more in control of the variables. Still, it takes a lot of monitoring and tinkering. I don’t love it but it’s necessary. (Beware of any set-it-and-forget-it marketing schemes.)
  8. No Instagram ads. Tried it. That dog won’t hunt for me. Love the platform but also don’t want to give any money to Zuckerberg.
  9. I’ve become a big fan of BookBrush. For $8 a month, you can make beautiful images for marketing, blogs, posts, etc. I also like cheap image editing services like Crello and Canva. Picmonkey is also useful for a small fee.
  10. I used to appear on several podcasts quite often. I’d like to do more of that again. Remember Author Strong and the Self-publishing Roundtable? Damn, those were fun. A recent study says podcasts help move the needle, too.
  11. That’s a lot of what’s out. What’s else is in, Rob? Give it to me faster!
    (A) Continuing to connect with my readers personally through my Facebook fan group. I post there daily. They get me. I love them. It’s personal and real and real fun.

    (B) I’ll be using free promotions for first in series more often. I’d abandoned that for a long while and focused all my energy on writing. I have to allot a couple of hours a day to tinker with ads, blurb copy, blog posts etc. I write for three or four hours a day. Then I hit the wall and have to sit back and think a bit.
    (C) Focus. I’m tracking time better. I write full-time and work with a great editor (strawnediting.com). That helps me get those five books a year out there. Conscious time management makes me more productive.

    I have a big backlist and a lot of work to do to promote that catalog. However, completing one project at a time would be better. I occasionally do book doctor work, for instance. When I’m doing that for another author, I don’t do any work on my own books.
    (D) Audiobooks. We’ve completed the sound booth in my basement AKA the Blanket Fort. I’m taking an excellent audiobook narration and production course from Udemy.com. Audiobook recording and editing take a lot of time but that’s where the market is going. I hope to have two audiobooks on the market by this time next year.
    (E) Community knowledge and support: The 20Booksto50K Facebook group is a great resource for authors. My resolution is to check in there once a day to see what’s up and what’s new. I don’t post there but I lurk quite enthusiastically.
    (F) Ordinarily, I would be doing NaNoWriMo but that doesn’t fit my schedule this year. I have to come up with a series bible for Item G below and I’ll be editing my new dystopian thriller. That pushes out writing new stuff in November. However, if you’re looking for support and community while you write, sign up for NaNoWriMo now.
    (G) Starting in December, I’ll be writing two books with my buddy Armand Rosamilia. Team writing is a little like tennis. We lob chapters back and forth so writing two books will be more like writing one in terms of word count. If you want to write more, cooperate and coordinate for greater gains, consider teaming up with a co-author.
    (G) According to Written Word Media: Promo sites are the most effective marketing channel. I will be focusing on a few lower-cost sites and sites that are specific to my chosen genres. There is Bookbub, but there are lots of other services, as well. I like Freebooksy and Bargain Booksy, for instance.

Please note: These are my conclusions based on my experiments over the last few months. Your mileage may vary. Educate yourself and experiment to find what works for you. There are no guarantees in this business. Sometimes book sales will take off and we aren’t even sure why. Good books can fall by the wayside and that’s an irritating mystery, too. Only one thing remains constant: Someone helpful and condescending who doesn’t know all your variables will come up with plenty of ideas about why you messed up. (Sorry. Still wincing from yesterday’s failed experiment.)

Okay, deep breath.

What else you got for me, Rob?

More? You want more? How about this:
Two free thrillers and a fan-priced thriller. This is your universal Amazon link to pick them up, binge and love.

Also, here are my latest posts from my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Eight Things You Didn’t Know

Why The Night Man?

Titles, Arcs and ARCs

Sign up for my newsletter while you’re visiting AllThatChazz.com.

And here’s that universal link to my Amazon pages again because, hey, bills to pay and lettuce to buy. Thanks!

Filed under: book marketing, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Book Biz is Busy

Many writers have faced the problem I’m up against. I don’t write in only one genre and it’s been a while since I did something new for the Hit Man Series. How can I breathe new life into the series and get that readership back? How do I find new readers? When you don’t publish in a single genre for a while, it’s too easy to become forgotten. Whatever happened to what’s-his-name?

Here’s the part of my strategy built around publishing new books. (There’s more to it, but this was a good start, I think.)

CORRECTED LEGS HITMAN AD

This week I released three books. I hadn’t worked on Hit Man for years. I was too busy writing other books. When readers think of me (if they do), it’s probably for This Plague of Days or another of my apocalyptic epics. Noir fun is also my jam and I missed playing in the Hit Man sandbox. So, here’s my strategy to get more eyes on my prize:


Step 1. Write a new novel in the Hit Man Series that can be read as a standalone.

 


Resurrection, A Hit Man Thriller, loops back to the beginning of the series with Jesus Diaz’s ex-girlfriend, Lily Vasquez. The events of books two and three have happened and Lily is still alive. Maybe not for much longer, though. She’s being chased by the mob. Too bad for them, she’s scary deadly. However, when you’re going up against an army of bad guys, it helps to have Jesus on your side. He’ll do anything to protect her. She’ll do anything to stay alive and free.

Fun stuff, right? Here’s the killer cover:

Ressurection 1

 

Step 2: A Bulk Binge

I do a lot of research for my science fiction novels. However, crime thrillers come much easier (as a result of my terrible childhood). I enjoy writing tales of vengeance, violence, and redemption. I don’t do police procedurals because, frankly, bad versus evil interests me much more than good versus evil. I share Jesus Diaz’s dark sense of humor so the writing and revising fly along at supersonic speed.

That’s grand, but how could I get readers back into the flow of a series I haven’t boosted with a new book after so long? A rerelease. The box set is Bigger Than Jesus, Higher Than Jesus, and Hollywood Jesus set at 99 cents for a limited time.

I also added a healthy dose of a sneak peek of Resurrection at the back. Besides providing the usual links to all my books, I put in a page dedicated just to my crime fiction, complete with descriptions. These are crime thriller readers so I put special emphasis on Brooklyn in the Mean Time, The Night Man and my new anthology (below).

The Divine Assassins Playbook 3D (Large)

Value added

Not everybody loves reading huge box sets on an e-reader. I put The Divine Assassin’s Playbook together as a paperback that will remain up forever. This omnibus is three books plus the sneak peek of Resurrection. That’s 495 pages of violence, adventure, and jokes for $24.99. Pretty damn good deal for many hours of entertainment, right? I’ve got my eye on another author’s book I plan to read this summer but it’s just one book for $40. My work is very competitively priced.

Step 3. Sometime Soon, Somewhere Close

CORR Sometime Soon, Somewhere Close

Short story collections generally don’t sell as well as novels and series, sure. However, the form is not dead. I can knock out great short stories pretty quickly. (Must be my time as a journalist working the crime beat added to that terrible childhood I mentioned.) The tales are clever, gritty and witty. I love action, banter, and comeuppance. Sometime Soon, Somewhere Close delivers on all that and it was a gas to write.

For this single-author anthology, I wrote seven stories, sent it off to me editor and published the ebook at 99 cents. This one will stay at 99 cents. The paperback, priced friendly at $6.99 and weighing in at 92 pages is a great page-turner that could be devoured in one (long) sitting. It’s a fast read, not a skimpy one.

I love the stories in Sometime Soon, Somewhere Close, especially the one set in a coastal village not far from where I grew up. Nova Scotian witticisms share a lot of connective tissue with the Irish sense of humor and the Irish sense of being put-upon. (Despite my French name, I’m Irish all the way back on me mudder’s side.)

At these prices, I’m obviously not out to make a killing (no pun particularly intended). The point is to entertain first, and then possibly find new readers who haven’t heard of me in this genre. I provide links to all my books, of course, so they can continue feeding their new addiction. However, since it’s aimed at readers of crime fiction, I give them a page of book links devoted to the genre (complete with a little description to whet the appetite.

That’s what I’ve been up to lately. The book biz keeps my days and nights full but I’ve never had this much fun being this busy.


For more, here are the latest links to articles from my author blog, AllThatChazz.com. (Hey, pick up some books!)

This Deal’s for You

Bang! Pow! Resurrected!

Punch, punch, jab, jab, hook

Overwork, Suffering and Canada

 

 

 

 

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , , , ,

How to twist a psychological thriller into something new and different

If you’ve read This Plague of Days, you know I go for unique takes on familiar genres. This is how I cut new grooves in an old record and made new word music.

IVBT FINAL 2D cover

 

1. There are no new ideas, but I have novel ideas that play with reader expectations. Always do the unexpected (usually within the confines of the genre, but certainly not always.)

2. Make it meta, commit and have fun with it.

3. Break the fourth wall and talk to the reader. Sure, Italo Calvino did it plenty. Why not you? (But not so much there is no story.)

4. Focus the psychological in psychological thriller on the protagonist. Done right, the reader will share in the pain and therapy.

5. Be the main character (yes, you!) and put ’em through the Poisoned Corridor of Shame and Rusty Carrot Scrapers. 

6. Sift in some weird facts readers won’t think are true (but are.) Realistic context makes fiction feel like non-fiction. Cover your tracks and always let them wonder a bit what and how much to believe. Being a writer is a fine thing. Be a magician, too.

7. Give regular readers some Easter eggs with crossovers from other books. (New readers won’t notice, but the regulars will love it.)

8. Make the confrontations with self and others real and honest. There is underlying truth that’s bigger than mere facts.

9. Stir in plenty of action to push readers along.

10. Add pop culture references, nostalgia and funny dialogue to pull readers along. Make room for jokes. Be different enough to be memorable, but not so different readers hate you. Stay weird, but not for the sake of weirdness. For the sake of the readers who dig doing the daring.

BONUS

Add a secret link and password at the end of the book so readers can find out more about what’s true and what isn’t. Slake their thirst, but don’t tell them everything, either. You don’t want to dispel too much magic in case there’s a sequel.

This is what I did. I called it Intense Violence, Bizarre Themes, The Autobiographical Crime Novel. I hope you like it.

 

Filed under: Books, My fiction, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sell More Books Top 10: Variables that build success

We often don’t know for sure which strategies sell more books so we have to fire a lot of bullets into the darkness. Last week, the best advice I heard, repeated from a couple of authors, was about the willingness to experiment.

When it comes to radioactive isotopes, infant juggling and indie publishing, it’s good fun to mess around. Play with the variables to sell more books. What are some of those variables? Here we go:

1. If your cover doesn’t sell the book hard enough, change it.

Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire wasn’t selling the numbers I wanted. I changed the cover.

WYB NEW COVERcover

2. I played with categories for the Hit Man Series.

My funny and luckless assassin is Cuban, so I tried the Hispanic & Latino category. Didn’t work. I switched it back. Each failure is a refinement. It’s not permanent so relax and fire more shots into the dark.

3. I’m experimenting with keywords, too.

Did you know you don’t have to use a single word (i.e. crime, thriller, action, romance) for keywords? You can add up to seven phrases and it can pay to make them less generic. Cater to your niche and, for more on this strategy, listen to Nick Stephenson’s interview on the Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast with host Simon Whistler. It’s called “Quadruple Your Kindle Sales.” That got your attention and turned you into a podcast listener, didn’t it?

Don’t forget to play with changes to your book descriptions, as well. Use keywords where appropriate. Don’t fall into the trap of awkwardly stuffing keywords into the description so it sounds like you’re straining to please search engine robots.

While you’re plugging podcasts into your head, please do listen to my interview on Episode #60 of Rocking Self-publishing. We had a lot of fun talking about how to enjoy marketing your book.

4. I changed the cover for my poetry book, too.

Poetry is hard enough to sell so don’t handicap your efforts with a sad cover like I did. I changed the cover using an image from Pond5 and switching back and forth from two photo editors, Picmonkey and KD Renegade. 

As always, I recommend the awesome cover design work of Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com. He wasn’t available this week, so I improvised. It’s an improvement on the original cover (which was my fault, not Kit’s. The original crap cover was my design, too.)

BRAINGASMS FINAL cover

5. My biggest change was long overdue.

My first book was a fun, funny and thoughtful short story collection to read on the toilet. It’s called Self-help for Stoners. Unfortunately, I uploaded my first indie published foray through an intermediary. To make changes to the text cost a lot of money. It needed another edit so I have reclaimed the book from the intermediary. Huzzah!

I did the edit for the second edition. I added bonus material (big tastes of two of my series) so it could act as an introduction to my kind of crazy. Finally, it’s also a sales funnel to my newer books. 

Self Help for Stoners JPEG

I can do more with this book now, like experiment with variables. I can play with the price, keywords and categories. I can change strategies as needed and put it in KDP Select and try countdown deals etc,….

The print version of the second edition will be for sale again soon so I’ll have more to sell for the Christmas season. Most important, with these changes, I’m delivering a better reading experience along with all that awesome hilarity. It’s a relief to be back in the driver’s seat.

6. Speed.

I’ve been thinking a lot about production speed as marketing. I’m changing my production timetable. The third book in the Hit Man Series hits October 1.

HJ COVER FINAL LADY IN RED

The goal is to put out another crime novel thirty days after that. Thirty days later, the plan is to put out a time travel novel. The books are all written and in the editorial pipeline. I’ll also add an omnibus edition of the first three books in the series.

TWEAKED JESUS OMNIBUS COVER WITH CROSS

The goal is to avoid falling off the cliff. All authors experience the cliff. After a month on Amazon, your beautiful baby is old news and sales tend to begin to slide as you disappear from the list of freshly minted books. Publish a new book more often and all your sales may be buoyed…assuming all the other variables are properly in place. For instance, if the story sucks, nothing can save us.

7. Accept failure as part of the play in the gears.

Please keep in mind that you can put all the sales variables in place, but that does not necessarily mean the book will move. It should move more, but there are too many variables we can’t control. Maybe you’re going head to head against a book with tons of mojo and money behind it. Maybe you’re at the top of a genre that is stone cold. Maybe the book just isn’t that good or you’re an unrecognized genius. (So many of us are. I empathize.)

All we can do is write more books and play with the variables that we can control. I should get a blurb for the Self-help for Stoners cover, for instance. That task is on my list. Blurbs help. More reviews help. Maybe more review copies to book bloggers is something to change up. Or do you need to change the book bloggers on the list you already have?

8. Make plans.

This might be a new idea you want to resist because you’re an artiste, dammit! I know, but work to word count or page count goals and editorial deadlines, anyway. I always get more done when I pretend I’m a grown up.

9. in that vein, establish systems.

When you learn the steps to how to do something once (e.g. putting out a podcast or compiling manuscripts in Scrivener), write what you did right. That way, you don’t have to start at zero knowledge each time you repeat the task. Systems are flow charts of mistakes you corrected. It’s a great way to avoid making the same mistakes with your next project. Put it in a binder within reach of your desk. Update it as you go.

Sure, taking the time to put what you’ve learned into binders sounds like drudgery. However, systems actually make you efficient and eliminate the drudgery of reinventing the wheel each time. Tiny course corrections steal far less from our precious writing time. (Tip: Take screenshots of your winning Scrivener process to make it less tedious.)

10. Speaking of finding efficiencies, track results.

That which is not measured cannot be improved. Repeat the variables that seem to work. Dump what doesn’t work, no matter how much you loved those seemingly brilliant ideas. Old ideas that don’t work can weigh us down as we climb the mountain.

BONUS:
Get better with each book.

This will happen organically. It will happen faster if you organize the variables in that binder.

Pretty soon, you won’t be firing bullets in the dark. You’ll see what hit and become a sharpshooter.

 

Filed under: author platform, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Maxwell Cynn, author of Cybergrrl

Available now!

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

Action like a Guy Ritchie film. Funny like Woody Allen when he was funny.

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

You can pick this ebook up for free today at this link: http://bit.ly/TheNightMan

For my author site and the Chazz network, click the blood spatter below.

See my books, blogs, links and podcasts.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 9,858 other followers

Brain Spasms a la Twitter

%d bloggers like this: