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Author Topic: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out  (Read 104301 times)  

Offline merryxmas

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #125 on: May 08, 2013, 11:53:34 AM »
Solid advice from a solid performer. 

Offline blakebooks

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #126 on: May 08, 2013, 11:59:37 AM »
John: Yes, even I've been known to get sucked into the internet vortex. It happens.

merryX: Not the clowns. Anything but the clowns.

Damn you. Damn you all. When will the persecution end?  :o


Offline burke_KB

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
« Reply #127 on: May 08, 2013, 12:00:05 PM »
This kind of post is what discourages people from sharing their successes and systems for success.  ATTACKS.  Useless, time-wasting attacks, against someone who's trying to help his fellow indie authors for not a single penny.  DWS and his wife both have a friggin paypal tip jar on their sites, but I didn't see the OP asking for tips.  The OP has written a short story here on this thread, of how to be successful writing and publishing books, in his free time for nothing (while he has a book to finish).  If he sells a few books because he was helpful, who cares?  I'm happy to contribute to someone who's helped me.  And guess what?  I like to read good books!  Maybe the OP has some kick butt books.  I'm willing to check them out now that he's brought them to my attention.

The fact that you'd compare the OP's post to John Locke's methods show you have zero understanding of what helping your fellow indie is all about.  I don't know if you're an author or not.  You don't have any books in your sig line.  But if you are, you should know that you'll get more help from people around here if you're less quick to jump to negative conclusions and give people the benefit of the doubt before you accuse them of something ridiculous.

I agree. The original post was great, and accusations or insinuations without proof is wrong. This is no different than the drive by 1 star reviews by frustrated and jealous authors.

Offline Susanne.

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #128 on: May 08, 2013, 12:05:38 PM »
The big problem is: TIME.

I am supposed to be a full time writer. But I'm married with a family. I get about 4 hours a day to write and do my other stuff. Writing is my first priority. Then comes marketing. So I have to do what works best in the shortest possible time.

Susanne O'Leary | website | blog | facebook | writer's forum

Offline Jan Hurst-Nicholson

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #129 on: May 08, 2013, 12:07:38 PM »
Thanks for this useful advice  :-*. I've copied and pasted into my file for sending to people who ask for advice about self-publishing  :).

Fiction, family saga, humour, short stories, teen, children's
Jan Hurst-Nicholson | author website

Offline David Thayer

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #130 on: May 08, 2013, 12:21:40 PM »
Russell, thanks for taking the time to lay out your approach to this thing of ours. My books tend to float around some of yours on the visualization program so I have studied your work and admire your success.

Cheers, David
David Thayer

Offline blakebooks

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #131 on: May 08, 2013, 12:25:57 PM »
Susanne: It's always the biggest problem. The way I cope is with my 75/25 rule. Actually, more like 80/20, although periods like the last 24 hours are an inversion. But then I simply adjust my schedule for the rest of the week, and bring it back into balance. Besides which, I think this has been a valuable interaction, so WTF, I'm willing to bend the rule temporarily. And it's impossible to be a full time writer if you're spending part time hours. If you were working any other job, you wouldn't say you were full time, nor would you expect full time earnings. Part of the way we make ourselves quietly miserable are having expectations or goals that are disproportionate to our efforts. That was sort of my point. Or one of them. If you can make full time money working part time, you're a rock star. But to expect it is, in my view, a recipe for misery. Just saying.

Jan: Beautiful dogs. Glad you liked the post.

David: No worries. Hope it helps.



Offline cynthialuhrs

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #132 on: May 08, 2013, 12:34:35 PM »
Hey Russell, great article. As a newbie with my first book out, I have a question for you - you talk about pub 3 books a year or heck, every 2 months is better. Do you work with an editor that turns your work around that quickly? Curious as my editor takes about a month.  Thanks and congrats!
         

Offline Mit Sandru

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #133 on: May 08, 2013, 12:54:01 PM »
If I would be aspiring or starting to be a writer most of the points written by Russell would go wright over my head. However, these points are as close to the real thing as it can be, and should be followed. I've been around the block twice now and I understand everything it's written in this blog. I follow most of them with modifications based on my experience, and try something new every time I find a new idea. Russell did a good job listing the essentials to be an Indie author.

Offline John Hamilton

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #134 on: May 08, 2013, 12:57:01 PM »
Russell, I just wanted to thank you for sharing your experience, and time, with us. Your advice fired me up to turn my WIP into a three-part series (at least), instead of bouncing to yet another genre. And I'll be cranking up the promo efforts as well. Thanks again for the straight talk.

John C. Hamilton | author website | facebook | twitter

Offline blakebooks

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #135 on: May 08, 2013, 01:06:40 PM »
Cynthia: Yes, I'm lucky in that I've got an editor who turns my work in two to three weeks, a line editor who does it in a week to two, and a proofreader who turns it in a week. The trick is to establish a pace, so that they're working on the edits while you're writing the next book. Given that last year I produced 7 novels, and this year will produce 7 to 8, it's a system that works, although I really, really want to slow down to one book every 3 to 4 months next year. Guess we'll see what happens. Part of me wants to keep producing work while the muse is dancing and I feel inspired to do so, but another part wants to take more time to enjoy what I've built. There has to be a happy medium. Right now, I originally said I'd write four books this year, but then I got the idea for a new series, and then I got sidetracked by my current WIP (which will be DONE this evening - yay!), so instead of four, it will be eight. You can do the math on that from a time and effort standpoint. It's not for everyone. Next year, three or four. I swear. Because my editor will probably quit if I keep this up...

DG: Thanks for the praise.

John: Glad it nudged you. I find it's a useful tool for evaluating what needs to get done, and provides a reasonable guide for how to do it. But to each his own, said the man as he kissed the cow...


Offline Susanne.

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #136 on: May 08, 2013, 01:18:20 PM »
Susanne: It's always the biggest problem. The way I cope is with my 75/25 rule. Actually, more like 80/20, although periods like the last 24 hours are an inversion. But then I simply adjust my schedule for the rest of the week, and bring it back into balance. Besides which, I think this has been a valuable interaction, so WTF, I'm willing to bend the rule temporarily. And it's impossible to be a full time writer if you're spending part time hours. If you were working any other job, you wouldn't say you were full time, nor would you expect full time earnings. Part of the way we make ourselves quietly miserable are having expectations or goals that are disproportionate to our efforts. That was sort of my point. Or one of them. If you can make full time money working part time, you're a rock star. But to expect it is, in my view, a recipe for misery. Just saying.

Jan: Beautiful dogs. Glad you liked the post.

David: No worries. Hope it helps.



I TRY to spend more hours. But do you have  spouse wandering into your office looking for clean socks when you're in the zone and tapping away? Or kids looking for attention? or an ever growing stack of ironing? Or cooking, shopping, cleaning that need to be done? And I also manage to do some kind of workout for an hour and a half every day, as fitness is very important to me.

Actually, I applaud myself and any so-called 'full time working woman' who manages to produce two books a year and also succeeds in selling at reasonable levels.

Susanne O'Leary | website | blog | facebook | writer's forum

Offline blakebooks

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #137 on: May 08, 2013, 01:35:56 PM »
Susanne: I'm mis-communicating. What I'm trying to say is that if you had a full time job in an office, say, you'd spend 40 hours a week there, and have to manage your time to deal with life's other obligations around that job. Working from home, it's way more difficult to get in your 40 hours of full time work, for the reasons you cite. But those are reasons why you can't devote the 40 hours to it. You see what I mean? So you have to calculate what you do put into it, and then base your output and expectations on that. If you expect the results of a 40 hour workweek and yet life only allows you 20, there's a disconnect that will make you unhappy, between expectations and investment. That's all I'm saying. I agree that it's tough. We agree on that.

I actually blogged about my Xmas present to myself this year: a treadmill desk. I clock three to four hours a day on it, walking on average 9 to 10 miles a day, while writing. I swear by the thing. It is so beyond awesome I can't tell you, and has transitioned writing from being a sedentary pursuit, to something that approaches good for me. Best $1500 I ever spent. I recommend it to every author who is doing this full time. Got the idea from CJ Lyons, for which I'm ever grateful. If you want to increase your productive time, look up treadmill desks on Amazon. I told Melissa Foster about it and now she's hooked too. It's a godsend, and suddenly you have another six or seven hours a week to write. Imagine what that translates into over a year. It's impressive, and yet another trick of the trade I gladly share. No point in making a bunch of money and selling tons of books if you can't walk, you know?


Offline AmsterdamAssassin

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
« Reply #138 on: May 08, 2013, 01:40:29 PM »
Hi Russell, I came a bit late to the party and I had five pages to read through. I loved your Assassin novels, the Jet novel didn't do much for me (probably not the intended audience), but I admire your work ethic and business acumen.

Not much to add to your post, except that my thoughts about shorter works in the thriller/suspense/mystery genre:
I'm not a quick writer - my second novel Peccadillo was half done by the time I published my first novel Reprobate, so I could publish Peccadillo a mere 3.5 months after Reprobate. The third novel, Rogue, is going to take longer. I'm at 50K+, but to fit with the novels it has to be around the 100K mark.
What I do to keep readers engaged is publish short stories in the Amsterdam Assassin Series, based on the assignments Katla fulfilled before the events in Reprobate. So, they're not mandatory reading for someone who just likes to read novels, but they're interesting, shedding more light on Katla's skills and methods, whilst providing additional backstory. Plus they act as loss leaders with a teaser chapter from the first novel.

JET outsells the Assassin books because the protagonist is easy to like, and because it's written to a less gritty sensibility. The protags in the Assassin novels are morally complex and flawed, and there's no easy space you can shoehorn them into. To me that makes for far more interesting reading and storytelling, but many readers want a clearly good guy they can root for, and a clearly bad guy to root against. JET makes it easy on the reader. The Assassin novels don't.
Perhaps that was the crux of the issue I have with the Jet novels (I only read the first one, but I don't think I want to read the rest), is their lack of believability. I like Die Hard 4.0, but it doesn't rank with my favorite movies, if you catch my drift. The moral ambiguity and gritty stories of the Assassin series is more to my liking.

Also, and I think this is a big part of it, the first free book in the Assassin novels is the prequel, which was written mainly to flesh out the Assassin character from King of Swords. If I had to do it all over again, I would make King of Swords free, and charge $2.99 or $3.99 for Night, which is shorter, and to my ear, more satisfying if read after King.
I think you're right. I read the books in the order you published them, so I read King before Night and I liked that order better than the other way around.

If you read JET, you'll find that within the first pages it's a mad rush, and it doesn't ever let up. It's not intended to be particularly believable, any more than Bond or Bourne were intended to be The English Patient. It's pure escapism, but written at a more sophisticated level than most, and aspires to be a bit better than the genre.
I posted a review of Jet on GoodReads, as well as reviews of your Assassin books, where I voice my disappointments. Not to detract from your work or disparage readers, but just to let them know that, in my opinion, the superficiality and lack of realism in Jet makes the series rank lower in my appreciation than your excellent Assassin series, so that readers know that it's a different ride.

I know I'll never sell 10 million books a year, because I write at too high a level - I was told that by a renowned editor. Said I write at a second year university level, in a world of fourth grade level readers. My response was, too bad for them. And that's still my response. I do this because I'm serious about it, not because I want to hawk widgets. I've already sold enough widgets in my life so I don't need to be in that business.

I've had the same comments. Although my novels can be read and enjoyed without digging too deep, digging into the multiple layers seems to be enjoyed by many reviewers. I know my English tends to be second year university and above, but I don''t want to dumb down my books for mass appeal. I also had a three star review on GoodReads because the reader had trouble with the Dutch names of the locations in the book. Well, I'm sorry, but the setting is Amsterdam, so alleys are called steeg and canals are called gracht. Although I'm tempted to add a lexicon to the series to help people with the Dutch, I'm not going to write Prince's Canal for Prinsengracht. And I wouldn't know how to translate Kloveniersburgwal into English...

Thanks for your excellent advice in this thread (and others), you're truly inspirational.


"...most realistic depiction of a blind character I have come across..." -Amazon reviewer
Martyn V. Halm | author website | blog | facebook | twitter | google+

Offline Susanne.

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #139 on: May 08, 2013, 01:51:06 PM »
Walking on a treadmill while writing? Gee,no, that would make me feel like a hamster on a wheel. I love going outside to walk the green hills in this stunning Irish countryside where I'm lucky enough to live. And work out in my little gym area with music playing. It's often during those breaks that I get my inspiration and my ideas and my mind freewheels.

I'm not as driven as you are. I'm totally committed to my writing. It's something I simply have to do. It's who I am. What I do. But my real life is important too.

So I might not do as much as I could to sell a lot of books. Or spend enough time writing. I'm very impressed with how you handle your career and sometimes frustrated and a little guilty that I don't do even half of that. But in the end, we all have to do what's best for us and not feel we have to compete with the people at the top.

Susanne O'Leary | website | blog | facebook | writer's forum

Offline blakebooks

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #140 on: May 08, 2013, 02:06:48 PM »
Amsterdam: You are proof of why you have to take reviews in the macro, not necessarily individually. JET outsells the Assassin novels, and I predict it will continue to. Most readers apparently don't care about realism nearly as much as some, which was my suspicion going in - I imagined a female James Bond type, deliberately overblown and over-the-top. In other words, fun to read, even if not entirely believable. I struggled with it, but decided that the net effect of an #ss-kicking femal protag was more important than strict believability, in much the way that Kill Bill is physically impossible to take completely seriously, and yet enjoyable to watch. I liken it to eating ice cream or any other guilty pleasure - satisfying if you want a tasty dessert treat, but it will disappoint if you're looking for nutritional value. Ironically, I have other readers who e-mail me (a guy from MIT comes to mind) who loved JET, but doesn't really like the Assassin books, because they're too gritty and the characters are too morally ambiguous. And you're both right, because it's simply a matter of preference. As long as they're well written, I delivered the goods - but you can't please everyone, and so shouldn't try. I could have made El Rey less despicable or given him an arc where he saves a basket of puppies by the end of the second book, but that's not the character. I could have toned down JET some, but she wouldn't be as intriguing. In the end, you have to use your own judgment, and you'll never please all.

As an aside, I also get comments on my less action-drive novels that some readers don't like the slower pace. Meaning that it's not happening at Mach 3, so it feels slow by comparison to JET or the Assassin books, which are a very particular approach to thrillers. Others prefer the more thoughtful, substantial intellectual heft of a Silver Justice or Geronimo Breach.

Part of what makes it interesting, I believe, is that if you understand that going in, you can evaluate your reviews more even-handedly, understanding the difference between folks who dislike your subject matter or approach, and those that are calling out real failings in your editing or craft, or plot holes, etc. Anyone who is too bummed by that one bad review (isn't it funny how you can get 20 great ones and you'll remember the 1 one star?) should go read the one stars for Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, or The Da Vinci Code, or The Bourne Identity, or, God forbid, Fifty Shades for some balance. Or read masterpieces like DFW's Infinite Jest's reviews.

I think we as indies are often guilty of being almost blind to the meritorious bad reviews, and too dismissive of them, when they are legitimate criticisms of flaws in craft. I try to strike a balance. I don't read my reviews much any more, but when the ratio exceeds 10% one and two stars, I do, to see if it's a chronic, legitimate complaint being voiced, or if it's that 1 in 10 don't like the subject, or the conspiracy, or the violence, or whatever.

Susanne: No disagreement there. I think my OP is probably more helpful for those who are wondering what they can do to improve their productivity and focus than those who have legitimately thought it through and arrived at a balance they're comfortable with. And yes, it's sometimes a little hamster-like. But in a good way. Wink.


Offline ellecasey

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #141 on: May 08, 2013, 02:14:11 PM »
...
Part of what makes it interesting, I believe, is that if you understand that going in, you can evaluate your reviews more even-handedly, understanding the difference between folks who dislike your subject matter or approach, and those that are calling out real failings in your editing or craft, or plot holes, etc. Anyone who is too bummed by that one bad review (isn't it funny how you can get 20 great ones and you'll remember the 1 one star?) should go read the one stars for Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, or The Da Vinci Code, or The Bourne Identity, or, God forbid, Fifty Shades for some balance. Or read masterpieces like DFW's Infinite Jest's reviews.

I think we as indies are often guilty of being almost blind to the meritorious bad reviews, and too dismissive of them, when they are legitimate criticisms of flaws in craft. I try to strike a balance. I don't read my reviews much any more, but when the ratio exceeds 10% one and two stars, I do, to see if it's a chronic, legitimate complaint being voiced, or if it's that 1 in 10 don't like the subject, or the conspiracy, or the violence, or whatever...

I agree whole-heartedly.  I view low-star reviews much differently than I used to, although I still read every single review and comment on them too.  Before, the lower star reviews were all arrows to the heart.  Proof I suck.  But now I see them differently.  Mean people are still jerks I wish would leave me and my poor widdle books alone, but the ones who really read the book, who aren't mentally ill, who just didn't like it for whatever reason, I'm good with it.  And if they have suggestions for improvement, I can take them or leave them without letting it ruin my week.  I've changed the way I write or things I do in books based on excellent feedback I've gotten, both good and bad, so reviews have helped me develop my skills. 

Offline Amyshojai

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #142 on: May 08, 2013, 02:44:27 PM »
I am SOOOO going to get that desk-treadmill! Woot! Exactly what I've needed, will improve my achy-breaky back, too. I already get the outdoor rambling with the Magical-Dawg but that's only 20 minutes at a stretch (all I can stand in Texas summer heat) and the hubby has been doing some of that. Thanks, will invest the next month's Kindle-ization income there...and I suspect this is a tax deductible expense, as well.  ;D

Working on the 2nd book in my thriller series, seeking to be THE go-to in my genre (nobody else doing this). And the nonfiction is a nice cushion. Why am I not surprised CJ recommended this? *s*

Online Martitalbott

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #143 on: May 08, 2013, 02:51:32 PM »
All this writing and publishing stuff sure has been an experience. I do about half of what you do, Blake, and I'm getting old enough to think a nap sounds pretty good.

I think the biggest mistake new authors make is not to read, learn and listen to those in the know. I always listen to you, even if I don't always agree.

I just have to say again, selling books for $.99 - even $3.99 screams Indie. I learned that the hard way. I don't sell as many, but at least I get a paycheck that will buy more than a cup of coffee. Truly? $.35 a book? What was I thinking?
« Last Edit: May 08, 2013, 03:24:22 PM by Martitalbott »

Offline blakebooks

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #144 on: May 08, 2013, 02:56:58 PM »
Martita: I live in Mexico. The Siesta is mandatory. Sensible, that.

Amy: You should check out my dog book, An Angel With Fur. Doesn't sell much (I learned the hard way on genre jumping) these days, but sold maybe 7K since release, and a heart-tugger.

elle: Everyone's a critic. Some are just readers. Many lower-star reviews are left by disgruntled authors with an axe to grind. Which doesn't make them invalid. But it does mean that it can introduce bias that's not necessarily accurate. Always an issue, which is why I tend to not read my reviews much anymore.


Offline Amyshojai

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #145 on: May 08, 2013, 03:05:38 PM »

Amy: You should check out my dog book, An Angel With Fur. Doesn't sell much (I learned the hard way on genre jumping) these days, but sold maybe 7K since release, and a heart-tugger.

Saw that. Looks like a great story and that's not bad numbers for an animal memoir. Could be a seller to members of DWAA.org or to BlogPaws.com (I'm speaking there next week on DIY Kindle-ization).

Really the only reason I'm able to jump from nonfiction to fiction is that my platform is dogs/cats and my readership followed me to read service dog-viewpoint and trained cat hero in the thriller. *shrug* Leveraging one readership to expand/create a new one.

Offline blakebooks

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #146 on: May 08, 2013, 03:09:13 PM »
Amy: Ping me if you'd like me to gift you a copy, with my compliments.


Offline Matt Ryan

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #147 on: May 08, 2013, 04:38:18 PM »
Thank you for the thread and all your responses. As a beginner, this stuff is invaluable.

You said at xmas 2011 you released five books and bumped your sales up and then later you said January 2012 was the turning point for you in sales. Do you think the five book release was the catapult? The reason I ask is because I was planning something similar for xmas this year. I have a five book series that I planned on releasing one month at a time to capitalize on the new release lists. What do you think about that approach? Some argue that you should release as they are completed, but as a unknown, I wanted to keep a steady flow going to build confidence in readers.

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Offline B. Magnarella

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #148 on: May 08, 2013, 04:41:32 PM »
Just wanted to add my voice to the chorus of thanks, Blake. This should be required reading for new all indies. It's the kind of tough talk I would've loved starting out, but is just as valuable -- if not more so -- now. A refreshing smack in the face. Among other things, I've decided to postpone my planned June release until October, so that I'll be able to release the second and third books in the series in Nov and Dec/Jan, as well as have a solid marketing strategy in place.

Again, thanks for taking the time to share/motivate.

Offline blakebooks

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books - My Approach
« Reply #149 on: May 08, 2013, 05:03:07 PM »
Matt: I think it was a combination of releasing a trilogy and a series in December, hitting the Hot New Releases list simultaneously during the Xmas selling season, and the additional massive effect of my first Select promo, which saw something like 35K downloads and moved many thousand copies of The Geronimo Breach, which is still a reader favorite. I believe enough folks tried that book, or got one of the series books and liked what they read, to create good new word of mouth. I think your strategy of staying on the HNR list isn't a bad one, although my launch of JET, wherein I released book 1 and 2 simultaneously, and then followed with 3 and 4 one month apart from each other, is the optimum strategy. But that was when Select was a different animal, so I think I'd probably release book 1 first and list it free through smashwords so I could start the clock on perma-free being price-matched, and then get book 2 out a month later, and then book three a month after that. By the time book 3 is out, book 1 would have been price-matched at free, and then I'd probably advertise the hell out of it coming into the holidays. My caveat is that book 1 better be frigging magically well done, or you won't get any buyers for books 2 on. Obviously they all should be well done, but some lag on the one they know they'll give away free, which is a huge mistake.

Brad: An October/Nov/Dec release isn't a bad idea. But I think I'd probably go out in Sept with book 1, because it will take some time to build - it won't happen overnight, unless your last name is Kardashian. Which, BTW, there's time to change it. Just saying.


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