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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How to Anger Friends and Alienate People (Redux)

Let’s face it: it’s hard to promote your own book. When I decided to publish “A Soul to Steal,” I knew I’d have to do some marketing, but I really believed that given the right set of circumstances, my book would be discovered on it’s own.
But that isn’t how it works. With the flood of indie books out there, it’s hard to get attention for your novel. So what’s a budding author to do?
Well, you can query book bloggers and start a blog, and maybe buy some advertisements. But that sounds like a lot of work. So I thought about it long and hard—at least two minutes—and came up with a few options that I decided to test out. I’m sure one of these will put me on the road to bestseller any minute.

1)                  Fake my own death
A couple of weeks ago, a Facebook book blogger decided that the best way to get attention for her new page was to pretend she had been in a life-threatening car accident. The details were gruesome: her brother, 5-year old Duncan, was dead, and the blogger herself supposedly slipped into a coma.
The stunt resulted in a wave of attention as good, normal people—who had no reason to think the blogger was making this up—offered their heartfelt best wishes, prayers and assistance. Eventually, however, the truth was uncovered. Apparently she had made up the story to a) earn “likes” for her page on Facebook, and b) receive free books from authors looking to promote themselves on her page.
Which was totally bizarre. For one, what happened when the truth was uncovered? Virtually everyone who had liked her page immediately “unliked” it and she ended up deleting the page. For another, who sends books to a blogger in a coma?
Lesson: Faking my own death would undoubtedly win the book more attention, but it’s hard to see much upside beyond that. Since I’m dead, I can’t write sequels, promote my novel or, oh yeah, ever see my friends again. Also, it violates one of my basic codes of conduct: Don’t be an asshole.

2)                  Steal From Other Books
Quentin Rowan caused quite a stir when it was revealed that his much praised debut novel, "Assassin of Secrets," was mostly plagiarized. And when I say mostly, I mean all of it except the words “the,” “but” and “bootylicious.”
Seriously, Rowan—whose own nom de plume, Q.R. Markham, was also stolen—is like the Olympic gold medal winner for lifting from other books. He stole virtually every line from somewhere: old James Bond novels, assorted spy thrillers, Ladies Home Journal, etc.
When the truth came out, Rowan didn’t even have the good sense to slink away in shame. No, this guy actually published an article in The Fix, a magazine about addiction, claiming that plagiarism was like an addiction. He was young, under pressure and when he scored a valuable book contract, felt strangely compelled to steal from other, better writers rather than making up his own book. His “confession” is hilarious in its absolute narcissism. He admits he was a liar and a thief, but wants us to give him credit that he fessed up so readily after he was caught. Also, his parents cried when they found out and his “beautiful” girlfriend left him—and now don’t we feel bad for saying all this mean stuff about him? No, I don’t feel bad, Quentin—if that is even your real name. The only thing I want to know is where you stole your “confession” from.
 Lesson: Stealing from other books a) will be discovered and b) is not a form of flattery. Sure, Rowan’s book sold really well in the aftermath of the accusations—even as his publisher tried to yank it from shelves—but it’s hard to build much success off that.

3) Marry a Kardashian
Seriously, I don't know who this is
Seriously, I think this is my best bet. Apparently, marrying a celebrity instantly makes you a celebrity too. So all I need to do is find a Kardashian and marry one—I don’t even need to stay married to her for very long—and boom: I’m famous and the book is a hit.
There’s just one problem: I have no idea who the Kardashians are. I’m being totally serious. The funny thing about pop culture is that I usually absorb it unconsciously even when I don’t care about it. I can tell you about the recent plot twists on “Two and a Half Men,” and I’ve never once watched the show. I don’t know how I know this: it’s the most useless psychic power there is.
But with the Kardashians, I’m totally lost. I don’t know who they are, where they came from or why they’re famous.
Lesson: It turns out I’m already married and my wife was not pleased with this suggestion.

4. Write a good book
Here’s another idea. Rather than looking for a short-cut, I could just take a long time to write and polish a book, release it into the wild, and ask people to buy it. If it’s good, maybe, just maybe, it will sell some on its own via word of mouth. If not, I can write another book, and hope that eventually, I'll gain a following. It's hard work, but it doesn't involve lying to friends and family, stealing from authors I love, or figuring out who the Kardashians are. 
 Lesson: We may be onto something here. I will have to give this more thought.

So, what do you think I should do? Marry a Kardashian? Steal from Stephen King? Leave a comment below!

P.S. This post is a repeat of one that originally went out in December. Apologies for any who have seen it already.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

From Mania to Reality: The Results of My Amazon Select Experiment

The decision to give away my book was not an easy one. My fears were divided into two contradictory concerns: 1) that no one would download it and 2) that so many people would download it, there would be no one left to buy it when the promotion was over.
I needn’t have worried on either count.
If you want the short version of my KDP Select (or Amazon Select, if you prefer) experiment, and whether you should jump in yourself if you are an indie author, I will say this: Run, don’t walk, to join this program and try it for yourself. I gave away more books than I could have possibly imagined, and still sold more in the following week than I did in the entire month of December. For me, this program has already been a phenomenal success.
If you want to know the long version, read on:

Day 1 – The Free Give Away
I gave away the book for free on Tuesday, Jan. 17. I picked it because it was the beginning of the week (given MLK day on Monday), and weekends and holidays had never been particularly kind to me in terms of book sales. As I mentioned, I was nervous about how many downloads I would get. I was hoping for 1,000 or maybe, if I was really lucky, 1,500. I figured this was a big enough haul that it would give me some momentum for the rest of the week.
I was unprepared for the deluge that resulted. By the time I woke up at 6 a.m. E.S.T., I already had given away 75 books. It was an auspicious start, considering that the give away hadn’t begun until 3 a.m. my time and the data I received was delayed by roughly an hour and a half.
Throughout the morning, the number steadily rose, often enough that I could check it every two minutes or so and see it increase by 20 books. For a guy whose best sales day was 34 books, this was amazing. Around lunchtime, I noticed the rate had started to slow. I had already given away 600 books and I felt certain I would now reach my 1000 goal.
I wrote my wife a note telling her as much—already viewing the day as a success—and stopped watching the blow-by-blow sales figures. About an hour later, I checked the number, hoping it had reached 700 books. Instead, the book had exploded while I wasn’t watching. I had now given away 1300 books, or “sold” more than 700 in a single hour. I got up to fix myself tea. When I came back, that number had jumped 200 more.
By this time, I was giddy. I could keep refreshing the sales figures every second and watch them jump by two dozen every time. By dinnertime, I had given away 2500 books, far outside my wildest dreams. By the time I went to bed, I was past 4500 books and seemed likely to get to 5,000. When I got up the next morning, I had given away a total of 6,486 books (estimated). I reached #40 in the entire Kindle free store.
I’ll admit it—I tried to sleep, but had trouble. I was excited. It took me four months to sell 1,100 books. I had just “sold” almost six times as many in a single day. Secretly, I felt sure that the next day was going to be just as amazing. I had dropped the book’s price to $0.99 and hoped to build enough momentum to shoot up the bestseller charts.

Day 2 – Reality Pays a Visit
I sold—for actual money—73 books on Wednesday, Jan. 18. It was my best single sales day ever and pushed “A Soul to Steal” into the Top 100 Horror books on the Kindle charts, and near the top of two subcategories: Ghost and Occult.
You might think I felt pretty good about all this. But to be honest, I felt like someone coming off a great high, which I suppose I was. It’s tough to watch your book “sales” jump by 100 or 200 in a five minute period one day and then slowly watch them increase the next. Also, I had hoped that my 99 cent approach would goose the figures even more.
I couldn’t help but wonder if I had made a massive mistake. Sure, my book was now in the hands of 6,500 more people, but would they even read it? And what if I had just saturated my market?
Still, I was happy that the book was in the Horror bestseller chart, which was totally new for me. I had even beaten “The Shining” on that day. Even if only for a moment, that was a fantastic feeling.

Day 3 – Reality Kicks My Butt
If I was wary on Wednesday, I was even more concerned by Thursday that I had made a big mistake. Instead of rising at a slow but steady rate, I had sold only seven books by 7 p.m. This was at 99 cents. My novel had fallen off the Horror bestseller list and dropped down the subcategories to boot.
With the numbers so low and feeling I was back to where I had started before my free give away, I raised the price back to its original $2.99. Strangely, this seemed to boost sales a bit. In all, I sold 24 books on Thursday.

Day 4 – I Wake Up
At some point on Friday I realized I was thinking about this all wrong. I used Facebook ads—and spent a lot of money—to sell those initial 1100 books. The book had turned a profit, but barely. On average, I spent $15 to get $16 or $18 worth of sales, almost breaking even.
In a matter of days, however, KDP Select had changed all that. I had sold nearly 100 books in two days. Yes, much of that was at 99 cents, but still… It took me four weeks to sell my first 100 books. So no, I wasn’t in the Horror bestseller list anymore, but people were finding my book on their own. I wasn’t advertising anywhere or even posting on various Facebook pages.
I decided to stop focusing on the sales figures, except for the purposes of this blog post. Ironically, this new attitude seemed to produce good kharma for the novel. It sold 31 copies (at the regular $2.99 price) on Friday.

Days 5 and 6 – When You Least Expect It…
On Saturday, I had my second biggest sales day of all time. I sold 57 books and the novel rocketed back into the Top 100 Horror bestseller list. On Sunday, I sold 41 books.
This time I didn’t take it for granted. I knew from other blogs that my sales figures were likely to drop after a few days. Instead, I focused on the fact that I had just sold another 100 books in two days. Even if sales dropped to zero, KDP Select had been a successful experiment.

Days 7 and 8 – Back to Normal
I sold 9 books on Monday and 11 on Tuesday. In total, in my week since making the book free, I had sold 246 books. Considering I had sold only 211 in the entire month of December—and spent $345 on Facebook ads at the time—this was a remarkable feat.
No, my novel isn’t in the Horror bestseller category (honestly, it’s more mystery than horror, but never mind that for right now). No, it’s not selling dozens of copies a day.
But importantly, it’s still selling every day, with no help from me. As I said, I’ve spent a lot of money and time designing and redesigning Facebook ads. If you want to know how to sell your book using FB ads, I can give you advice (and will in a later post). But it’s an exhausting process trying to micromanage your marketing. For me to be able to sit back and sell 10 books a day without lifting a finger is exhilarating.
I don’t know how long it will last. It may be that sales drop off to zero again soon. But I will tell you this: I’m damn happy I tried Amazon Select. In the past week, the book has earned three more 5-star reviews, two of them clearly from people who picked up the book for free. I’ve significantly expanded the number of people who have heard about my book—and might buy the eventual sequel. My total (paid) sales have jumped to more than 1350 books. All in all, not bad for a week’s work.
Even better, I have four more promotional days to use before April. Will they be as successful? I have no idea. It may be that with so many authors using KDP Select now, the impact will be less. Or it could be that so many people have already downloaded my book for free that fewer will be interested this time around.
But you know what? That sounds a lot like my initial fears (no one will download it and no one will buy it later). They proved unfounded the last time. The only way to see what happens is to take another shot—and see what happens.
What about you? Have you tried KDP Select? What was your experience? Please let me and others know in the comments below. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Why I Joined KDP Select

Since its introduction last month, Amazon’s KDP Select program has caused a fair bit of controversy. On its face, it sounded good: a program that would let Amazon Prime members borrow your book for free, in exchange for a cut of a $500,000 fund. Select members also get five promotional days, courtesy of Amazon, in which their book is available for free, but the company helps get the word out about it.
But there was a catch: If you wanted to join KDP Select, the novel had to be available exclusively in digital form to Amazon. So if you’ve gone to the trouble to get it published elsewhere, such as Nook, iBook and Smashwords, you had to depublish the book from those outlets.
This, to me, was a deal breaker. My objections were twofold. One, I worked hard to make the novel available to everyone—even in print—that wanted to buy it. True, my Amazon purchases vastly outnumbered my Nook ones, but I felt it was important to sell in multiple markets. Secondly, I worried the benefits would be relatively minor. Yes, I’d get a cut of 500k, but how many Prime member were going to borrow my book when they could buy it for $2.99? Since Prime members can only borrow one book a month, it seemed more likely they would favor more expensive novels than mine. As for the free promotion, I would be giving away my book for nothing. How was that going to help me?
Boy, was I wrong. Joe Konrath successfully used his free promotions on KDP Select to make more than $100,000 in three weeks( Jeff Bennington, meanwhile, the author of Reunion and Twisted Vengeance, has used his free promotional days to get three of his novels onto bestseller lists. How does this happen?
Well, for starters, Amazon’s algorithms help promote your book, so instead of relying on ads or word of mouth, it gets a much wider audience than it normally would. While in theory, interest in your book should wane the day after your promotion, that’s not what happens. Because so many people download it—and do so in a short period of time—Amazon’s algorithms indirectly continue to help promote the novel. As a result, you could find yourself selling a lot more books the day after a free promotion than you did before. That’s the theory, at any rate.
Once I saw what kind of success this was spurring for others, the lure of KDP Select was too much. I decided I needed to take the plunge.
To be honest, I’m a little scared. My first “free” promotion will be tomorrow, Jan. 17, and I worry that a) no one will download it for free or b) everyone will download it and the book will then stop selling afterward. While there are plenty of success stories out there, there are many private failures as well. Some authors say they’ve noticed no uptick after a free promotion, or that actual sales of the book have declined.
As for the other concern—about exclusivity—it still bothers me. I was happy to publish on Nook and Smashwords and have been pleased with every sale there. But realistically, those sales pale in comparison to what I see on Amazon. I’ve sold more than 1000 books, and only 40 of those were on Nook. For iBook, I’ve sold a grand total of 7 books. So while the idea of making the book available everywhere is appealing, it’s clear that most of my readers are buying it on Kindle. Why not take advantage of KDP Select?
So I made the jump. As I said, the book will be available for free on Jan. 17. If you haven’t taken the plunge already, it’s a good day to buy it. If you have and you liked the book, feel free to buy copies for your friends. It won’t cost you a dime.
As for this experiment with KDP, let’s see where it goes. No guts, no glory, right?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Masquerade Crew is giving away copies of Dan DeWitt's novels.

Book Details

Title: Orpheus
Author: Dan DeWitt
Find him online:

Genre: Horror (Zombies)
Synopsis: Cameron Holt is fortunate enough to survive the initial outbreak that turns his New England island community into a hive of the undead. So is his son, Ethan. Now, the only thing keeping Holt going is the determination to rescue his son from the undead...or remove him permanently from their ranks. Unfortunately, zombies aren't the only thing getting in his way.


Orpheus received two five-star reviews from The Masquerade Crew.

An Interview With The Author—Dan DeWitt

What's your writing background?

Nothing too exciting. I have a Bachelor's degree in English, which means next to nothing when it comes to writing fiction. Still, I took a bunch of creative writing classes and really enjoyed them. Before that, I dabbled in short stories here and there, but wasn't ready to try and make a career out of it. I wrote one screenplay in 2001 that advanced to the second round at Austin (and I'm about ¼ of the way into its novelization). I've always been a voracious reader, and I got really serious after participating in NaNoWriMo in 2006. Since then, I've published a couple of short stories in e-zines and one non-fiction profile in a local magazine. But I'm really just a guy who loves to read fiction and tell a story from time to time.

To read more of this interview, click here.

Win a copy of Orpheus

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Best of What's to Come: A Time Traveler's View of 2012

I know—you are still busy reading about the best of 2011. But due to an unexplained rip in the space-time continuum, I was able to jump ahead in time one year and find out what the best of the new year is going to bring us. And folks, hold on to your hats. Because 2012 is going to be awesome!


There are a lot of good movies that will come out in 2012. For Twilight fans, there is the last half of Breaking Dawn. For superhero fanatics, there is Joss Whedon’s The Avengers, a movie that brings together a slew of famous names: Ironman, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, and Samuel Jackson (he’s called something else in the movie, but he really doesn’t need to be. He’s pretty much playing himself with an eyepatch.)
But having watched those and other movies during my jaunt to the future, I can honestly tell you that the winner of Best Movie goes to… The Hobbit
Seriously, you don’t need a time traveler to tell you why. Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins? Check. Ian McKellan back as Gandalf? Check. Andy Serkis as Gollum? Dwarves? Check. Smaug the Dragon? Check. Directed by Peter Jackson? Yes. It just doesn’t get any better than that.
Most prequels face an uphill climb because it’s hard to make something exciting when you already know the ending. But in the case of The Hobbit, the finding of the One Ring is largely ancillary to the plot. The exciting bits don’t come from that, but instead from the battles against giant spiders and a massive dragon. Trust me, this movie will blow you away.


We thought we had bid Roland Deschain goodbye when Stephen King published his final novel in The Dark Tower series in 2004 (appropriately titled The Dark Tower.) Since then there have been prequel comics and rumblings of a movie and television adaptation (both by Ron Howard), but I never thought I would see another book in the series from the King himself.
So I was surprised to see The Dark Tower: The Wind Through The Keyhole top the bestseller lists for 2012. Released in April, I had a chance to read it quickly in my jaunt to the future and it may be the best Dark Tower book yet. Ostensibly set between books four and five of the series, the novel fills in a gap of what happened to Roland’s ka-tet on their way from Emerald City to Calla Sturgis. It also reveals more of Roland’s past and his ridings with Cuthbert.
More intriguingly, is this book really a prequel? Those who read the final volume of The Dark Tower know that in King’s world, things aren’t always what they seem.

Video Games:

If you follow game news, you know that 2012 is due to be a banner year. In addition to the annual Call of Duty offerings, several major releases are due, including Halo 4 and Bioshock: Infinite.
Yet it will come as no surprise to Bioware fans to discover that Mass Effect 3 was the best game of 2012. From its fantastic plotlines to its well-drawn characters, the Mass Effect series has been top-notch. Until ME3 was released, Mass Effect 2 was considered the best Xbox 360 game of all time.
But Mass Effect 3 raised even that high bar by going out on an explosive note. What made the conclusion so amazing was how it built on the choices you made in Mass Effect 1 and Mass Effect 2. Did you save the Rachni from extinction? Did your entire squad survive your trip to destroy the Collectors? Far from incidental, these decisions proved to have a significant impact on how Mass Effect 3 played. A lot of games have tried to make the role of choice important—but Mass Effect 3 beats them all.
The controversial decision to include multiplayer in the game, meanwhile, turned out to be an ace move by Bioware. No, you didn’t need to play it to enjoy the single-player finale, but it turned out that playing Mass Effect with friends was the blast you always knew it could be.
Mass Effect 3 will go down in history not only as one of the best games of 2012, but likely the best game of this console’s generation.