What I'm about to say flies in the face of of pretty much every piece of advice out in the blogosphere for indie writers--too much promotion can kill your book.
Back in 2011 (yeah, the good ole' days, LOL), I was one of those writers who flogged the hell out of my urban fantasy books. I got a few sales that year, as in $180 $130 worth, but nothing spectacular. [Sorry for the typo; it was 180 books.]
That same year, a friend who was copy-editing Zombie Love said, "You know, that sex scene between Sam and Duncan is really hot. You should try writing erotica." So in February of 2012, Alter Ego put up her first erotic romance novella.
Other than exchanging samples of A.E.'s first story with copy-editing friend's erotic novella, I did very little promotion. I set up a website and a FB page linked to Twitter. I'd announce when a new story was available. That was it.
A.E.'s sales took off.
Some of purchases were because of the popularity of the genre, especially since the FSoG phenomena was still climbing. But that wasn't all of it. Basically, A.E. wasn't screaming "BUY MY BOOK!" from the rooftops like I was.
About the same time, I was inundated with Twitter followers, who would unfollow me if I didn't follow back within two days (or in some cases, two minutes). If I did follow someone, all they talked about was their SINGLE book. Indie writers would leave comments on my blog that had nothing to with my post, but plugged their books. Some of the folks in the grassroots marketing group I joined were sending out twenty or more items a day, and if I didn't re-tweet/re-post EVERY SINGLE ONE then I wasn't being supportive enough.
It got pretty damn annoying. So annoying, that I did very little social interaction or social media for several months. I stepped back and took a hard, HARD look at my own behavior. If what other writers were doing irritated the hell out of me, what was I doing to potential readers?
So I stopped being an obnoxious indie writer on all social media. Other than making the novella Zombie Confidential perma-free on retail sites a year ago, I stopped all promotion for my urban fantasy. Funny how sales picked up a few months later.
So what am I doing instead? I'm spending that former promotion time writing. I'm getting better at storytelling because like the old saying goes, "Practice makes perfect."
Okay, maybe not totally perfect. I can already see that Blood Sacrifice will be a much better book than Blood Magick, but by no means is it perfect. Otherwise, I wouldn't be rewriting it after ripping the first draft apart, but I'm getting to the point were I'm catching mistakes and flaws before they happen.
So what does better writing have to do with promotion? Your writing and storytelling abilities are your primary selling points. If someone likes Book A, they will buy the rest of your books. Also, putting out a new book and simply announcing it is the best advertising you can do.
How do I know this? A.E. released the fourth book in her BDSM series on May 8th of this year. Sales for her were averaging 3.1 books per day. Average sales for the last two weeks shot up to 9.1. Not all sales can be attributed to just readers waiting for BDSM Book #4. People are going back and buying the other three books in the series. And when they devour those, they are downloading A.E.'s non-BDSM books as well.
So what's the moral in all this? It comes back to the fabulous Wil Wheaton's Philosphy of Life: Don't Be a Dick.
Don't flog your book to death. Don't annoy your readers. Write more. Write better. Stay cool. Have faith in yourself and your storytelling ability.
Blame it on E.L. James. Her Twilight fanfic, Master of the Universe, spawned the best-selling Fifty Shades of Grey series. Money out the wazoo time! And since NY publishing always upholds the highest standards of literature, fanfic suddenly became acceptable.
So acceptable that Amazon has launched Kindle Worlds. Amazon has inked deals with Alloy Entertainment (a division of Warner Brothers) that allow writers to create stories based on Alloy's intellectual properties such as Gossip Girls and The Vampire Diaries. Revenue is split between the writer, the license holder and Amazon.
And the blogsphere went wild! (There's a very good discussion going on over at The Passive Voice.)
There's a lot of pluses and minuses to monetizing fanfic. A myriad of writers are debating these very issues. For a long time, most creators looked the other way as long as the fans didn't charge other fans for their homegrown stories. Sometimes, creators gave the fans their blessing and a share of the profits. Then there were those creators who went absolutely apeshit over the hint of fans touching "their" universe.
I admit I've done my fair share of fanfic. The first story I remember writing involved Godzilla saving Christmas. The reason I drafted these little tales? I didn't want the main story to stop. I was the classic reader/watcher wanting to know--"What did Luke do after the destruction of the Death Star?"
"What did Kirk & crew do after they completed their five-year mission?"
"Did John Carter ever see Dejah Thoris again?"
"How did Dorothy deal with leaving her friends behind in Oz?"
"What happens next!"
Would I ever let people play in my sandbox? Damned if I know right now. It's an interesting thought. I think I'd get pretty damn possesive when it comes to Samanatha Rideway though.
What do the rest of you think?
P.S. Here's links to a couple of fanfics that cracked me up the first time I read them.
This whole thing will include spoilers. So if you want to be surprised, close this page now.
Seriously though, if you haven't figured out who the Big Bad is by now, you probably are a recent visitor to this planet, right?
I'm a Trekkie. I have been since 1969. The only reason I didn't see the first-run episodes of seasons one and two is because my parents had this thing about children under three going to bed before prime time.
So after forty-five years of fandom, I hold Star Trek to a higher standard than most other franchises. That said, here we go...
1) Into Darkness is essentially a remake of The Wrath of Khan, tweaked to account for the new timeline. In this version, another starship captain Alexander Marcus finds the Botany Bay, years before the Constitution-class Enterprise is launched. At the opening of the new film, Marcus is now a Starfleet Admiral. Khan hates Marcus for holding his fellow supermen hostage and making Khan design new weapons and ships for the Federation. (Sound slightly familiar?)
2) Benecio del Toro was originally named as Khan, but when filming was delayed, it interfered with del Toro's schedule. Benedict Cumberbatch was tapped instead. I love Benecio. The first film I saw him in was License to Kill, and he freakin' scared the piss out of me. I'm sorry things didn't work out with him. That said, Cumberbatch did a fabulous job, though Abrams and his writers had to gloss over Khan being Sikh because there's no way a white, blue-eyed guy would pass for that, right?
3) What the fuck were they thinking with Chekov? They made him look like a total idiot, where in Star Trek (2009), they turn him into Wesley Crusher, the kid that saves everything. If the writers have that hard of a time getting a grip on the character, maybe they should consult with Walter Koenig.
4) Carol Marcus, Part 1 - They did a fine job of ret-conning why original-timeline Carol hated Starfleet, and why she would be desparate to keep her son David from following in his dad and grandfather's footsteps.
5) Carol Marcus, Part 2 - Gratuitous nudity? Seriously? Because that's all it was, and Star Trek should not be a peep show. Jeez, Kirk's threesome and the mini-skirts are bad enough!
6) Carol Marcus, Part 3 - Why was she on the Enterprise again? She didn't do anything that couldn't have been handed to one of the already existing crew members.
7) The trading of positions. Yep, Kirk dies of radiation poisoning while saving the ship. (Psst! Make-up folks! It's okay to make Pine a little uglier in this scene. Radiation poisoning ain't pretty.) Spock goes apeshit wanting revenge. (Almost as good as Sheldon screaming, "WHEEEEEATOOOON!")
8) Sulu gets to sit in the big chair!
9) Who the fuck decided Klingons needed glowing blue eyes? Not to mention, if tensions are the same in this timeline as the original, what the fuck happened all the Klingon listening posts along the Klingon-Federation border? A Constitution-class cruiser sitting on the border is going to attract SOME kind of attention.
10) Uhura kicks ass! I'm not sure if everyone in Hollywood got together and decided that the girls need to save their boyfriends in every blockbuster this summer. When I mentioned this, DH groaned and said, "God, I hope there's not a lovescene between the Lone Ranger and Tonto." I wouldn't rule out the possibility with Johnny Depp.
11) Best scene - Spock going Sylar on Khan's ass. And in an vast improvement over the original "Space Seed," Khan CAN outfight both Kirk and Spock. (Which is why Uhura has to kick ass.)
12) Killing off Admiral Pike. Um, no. This did not work for me. I know they've been trying to make Chris a father-figure for Jim, but for Kirk's triggering motivation, it kind of sucked. As if the terrorist bombing in London and Kirk's sense of duty weren't enough? I can think of a couple other reasons that would have better served to make this personal to Jim.
13) Scotty quitting was the most organic scene of the entire film. Major kudos to Simon Pegg for making it so damn real!
14) Spock and Uhura's love spat was the best comedic relief scene, especially when they drag Jim into it.
15) The movie needed a lot more Karl Urban. He was definitely not given enough to do. The writers didn't make him as idiotic as Chekov, but it was a close second.
16) Section 31. Still contravenes everything the Federation stands for. Still hate it. Used to good effect in the movie as to why absolute power corrupts absolutely.
17) Peter Weller ROCKS! Yes, Robocop played Admiral Marcus. HE should have been the main bad guy just for the Ricardo Montalban scenery chewing style alone!
18) This movie joins several others lately in the theme that our greatest enemy is ourselves.
19) The ending of the first order - Obviously, someone in the front office loved Benedict's performance enough that they want him back. And it was a sweet coda.
20) The ending of the second order - FINALLY the Enterprise heads out on her five-year mission. With Carol Marcus on board....
There's lots of other things I could say (like Nurse Chapel asking for a transfer after her affair with Kirk--ewwwww!), but I'll leave it to you to decide.
I'm not a big fan of Gordon Ramsey, mainly because he yells a lot. But I don't deny that the man knows his business, and if you're calling him for help, then maybe you should listen to him. Not only did the folks on this episode not listen to them, they created their own social media nightmare after the episode aired.
Publicity tip, kids: Don't ever, EVER blast your critics on Facebook, Reddit, or Twitter. Even better, don't engage them all at the same time! It never ends well.
P.S. This is the ONE episode of Kitchen Nightmares I've ever watched all the way through.
After my news yesterday about "Justice" being selected for Sword and Sorceress XXVIII, I spoke on the phone with Friend #1 who is trade published. There was the obligatory "Congratulations" (after I explained who the fuck Marion Zimmer Bradley was). Then she popped out, "You'll have to do a book signing."
"I don't think so-" I started, but she burbled on with, "I can help you with arrangements. There's a couple of stores I've worked with. Oh, and maybe someone from New York will read it, and you'll get an offer from a big publisher."
nuqjatlh? (Which, by the way, is Klingon for WTF.) "I really don't want-"
"Or at least an agent! Think of what an agent could do for your career!"
"What do you mean?"
"Why would I want an agent if I can make my own sales?"
There were some strange choking sounds before the portal between our worlds closed.
Later, I relayed the conversation to DH. He asked if I'd told Friend #2 about the sale yet.
"Are you kidding? No, I'm not going to tell her!"
"I don't feel up to dealing with her screaming at me about how I'm a sell-out, how I'm being taken advantage of, blah, blah, blah. The usual indie rhetoric." I sighed. "They're both nucking futz."
Maybe that's the saddest thing about our strange new world. Everyone is so sure they are right; they cannot conceive of a world in between theirs and the alleged enemy.
I didn't write a blog post yesterday because I've had some serious issues to deal with over the last couple of days: additional testing for a medical condition, some basic promo for Alter Ego's latest novella which came out last week, cranking on Blood Sacrifice, and reading over a publishing contract.
Yep, I know which of those items blew your minds.
There's this concept out in the publishing world that if you're pro-indie, then you're anti-trad. As I've said repeatedly, different strokes for different folks.
I love indie publishing because I can unleash my creativity. I love learning new things. I love being in control of my work. That doesn't mean it's right for everyone, and as long as you don't get my face and tell me I'm a stupid fucking idiot for going the indie route (variations of which have happened, by the way), I won't refer to you signing away all your rights to your book to a publisher as a moronic act of desperation.
Several people have asked me over the last two years if I'd ever consider signing a tradional contract. My standard reply is, "It depends on the offer." And contrary to popular belief, I have been submitting to short story markets roughly every six months.
Tuesday morning, I got my first traditional offer from Elisabeth Waters, who is editing Sword and Sorceress XXVIII. For those who may not know, the Sword and Sorceress anthologies were started in 1986 by the esteemed fantasy writer Marion Zimmer Bradley. She wanted to showcase smart, capable female protagonists in the tradional fantasy setting.
As a fan girl, I have every edition except II, III and V (which if anyone has extra copies they are willing to trade, I'll send you a signed copy of XXVIII; contact me!). I discovered so many great writers through S&S. Writers whose work I've fallen in love with: Mercedes Lackey, Jennifer Roberson, Carrie Vaughn, etc. This was a market I dreamed about writing for!
When MZB passed away in 1999, many of us fans feared that would be the end of S&S. But the Marion Zimmer Bradley Literary Works Trust has continued on with MZB's goal of promoting stories with female protagonists, and now S&S is closing in on a full three decades.
Here's the thing that tipped the scale for me: the contract that Ms. Waters sent me doesn't take away my rights to my work forever. There's no oppressive restrictions on what I can do as a writer. No claim on my next fantasy work. The advance is appropriate for a short story in an anthology. With its history, Sword and Sorceress XXVIII is something I'm damn proud to be a part of.
Does this mean I'll give up indie publishing? Hell, no! But if Ms. Waters wants my story in next year's S&S, I'm probably going to say yes.
Sword and Sorceress XXVIII will be available October of 2013. My story is called "Justice," and I'll have more info closer to the release date.
[As my primary beta reader, DH is already bugging me about a full-length novel with my heroine from "Justice." I should never have given him that copy of A Game of Thrones. LOL]
There were a couple of events last week that made me think.
(This is where DH says, "AAAGGGHHH!)
The first one was having lunch with a former critique group. Four different writing career paths and life events mean we don't critique together anymore, but we still try to get together once in a while.
And by different paths, I mean incredibly different paths. Christie still writes for two of the Big 5 and 1/2, but she's self-published her backlist from the now-defuntct Dorchester and Triskelion. She's also hit the NYT Bestseller List. Teri started with Ellora's Cave, dabbled in indie publishing, and is now focusing on finding a trad publisher for her young adult series. Life has hit Jody the hardest, which is why she focuses on the magazines that still accept short stories. Then there's me, who went 100% indie after nearly two decades of rejections.
Christie related her adventures during her first publisher-sponsored book tour, so of course the conversation turned to book promotion. Needless to say, she's shocked at how little promotion I've done, yet I'm still make a few hundred bucks a month.
Quite honestly, I can't do the amount of travel Christie does for promotion. For one thing, I have a preteen child while her kids are adults with their own homes and significant others. Then there's my health issues. My immune system is so compromised I'm lucky to get through the grocery store without catching someone's disease. Believe me, I wish I were joking. A mild cold swept through GK's soccer team, and I spent a whole day on the family room couch because it was closest to the downstairs bathroom.
The other thing that happened last week was Charlaine Harris's last Sookie Stackhouse novel was released. Despite my best efforts NOT to hit spoiler sites, the fan backlash over the ending was a major topic of conversation on several writer business blogs I follow.
I realize I really don't want Charlaine's level of success. I already have DH pissed at me over something I'm going to do in Book 8 of the Bloodlines series, I can't imagine having thousands of fans sending me hate mail and death threats.
No, I definitely don't want the kind of success Christie and Charlaine have. I would never survive it.
Deep down, I want readers, not fans. I want to give people entertainment in their lives, but not to the point they go Kathy Bates on me. Most of all I want to bring them a little joy. That's my definition of success right now.
But I am a woman, and I reserve the right to change my mind down the road.
Today's late post is brought to you by the luxury called SLEEP.
After this week's rampage of personal/family issues and trying to get Alter Ego's latest book uploaded, I slept nearly twelve hours, woken briefly by the thunderstorm that rolled through this morning. So, FIRST LESSON, make sure you get enough rest!
(You'd think that would be obvious, right?)
I've been trying out a new distributor Draft2Digital. One of the things I love about D2D is that I can upload my own EPUB file (something Smashwords' Mark Coker had been promising for over a year and only recently delivered). They charge a hair more for distribution, but it's worth the price for direct deposit to my checking account and to avoid dealing with the misogynistic owner of PayPal. (To me anyway. You need to be looking at your own financial goals.) SECOND LESSON learned, keep your options open when looking at e-book distributors.
The only issue I've had so far with D2D is that they use EPUBCheck 3.0 and my WORD files could not convert cleanly. This meant learning HTML coding.
Not that I was afraid, but it'd been seventeen years since I had to learn a new programming language.
Okay, I was afraid my skills had rusted out completely.
The lovely Jaye Manus helped me out by suggesting NotePad++ for my HTML editor (it's freeware!). It took a few tries and missteps, but I FINALLY produced a file that could pass EPUB Check! THIRD LESSON learned, nothing is ever as bad as I fear it's going to be.
So in conclusion:
1) Sleep = Good
2) D2D = Excellent
3) NotePad++ = Good
4) HTML coding = hairpulling, but doable
5) Hiring Jaye to do my conversions next time = PRICELESS!