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Author Topic: Sell Loads of Books - My System Spelled Out  (Read 104300 times)  

Offline ellecasey

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
« Reply #75 on: May 07, 2013, 05:22:06 PM »
Thanks for this re-affirmation, Elle. I thought it was counter intuitive that YAs would want bigger books, but sure enough, that's the one comment I got repeatedly on the first book in my series. At 40k it wasn't long enough for them. So in a careful-what-you-wish-for scenario, I've been writing longer and longer books ever since. Not looking back, either.

You're welcome!  I noticed a while ago that readers were leaving lower star reviews for shorter books and specifically saying in the reviews they did that because the book was too short.  Even when they buy a novella, they still get cranky.  That's all I needed to see.  I committed to writing a series of them, but the smallest is at 40k, so I just have to deal with the fallout since I'm already bound to the promise.

Offline Adam Pepper

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
« Reply #76 on: May 07, 2013, 05:22:18 PM »
Russell,

No question this has been a great discussion.  Thanks for your time and candor.

Do you attribute your success to word of mouth?  Algorithms?  Combo of both and other things? Have your sales been primarily Amazon?  Have you done well elsewhere?

« Last Edit: May 07, 2013, 05:24:40 PM by Adam Pepper »

Offline CJArcher

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
« Reply #77 on: May 07, 2013, 05:22:37 PM »
I've been avidly reading a lot of your posts on here lately, Russell, so just had to read this one too. So many good points, and I agree with them all 100%. I'd like to echo a couple of points - write in a popular genre and write as much as you're able. I've found out the hard way that certain historical time periods in romance and YA don't sell all that well, but I've also found that my growing body of work means I can experiment with price drops, bundling and paid advertising. 2013 is shaping up to be a good year for me. Thanks again!
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Offline Maya Cross

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
« Reply #78 on: May 07, 2013, 05:38:12 PM »
This combined with Elle's post make this one hell of a week for useful info on KB. Bravo. And thanks for taking the time, even if you did have an ulterior motive =)

Offline NathanHaleJefferson

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
« Reply #79 on: May 07, 2013, 05:57:00 PM »
Thanks again to the Op and to everyone else.

I don't think I've ever read a forum post anywhere with as much good information in it. (and I've read waaaay too many posts on too many forums!)
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Offline Ben Mathew

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
« Reply #80 on: May 07, 2013, 06:06:34 PM »
High value post. Thanks.

Offline mrv01d

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
« Reply #81 on: May 07, 2013, 06:18:39 PM »
I write in YA, and my readers have been very clear that they don't like novellas or short stories.  They want BIG books. (They like big books and they cannot not lie...).  And erotica readers are starting to trend towards longer books too.  I agree with the OP, the shorts and serials are not as popular as they once were.

Do you have other books in other pen names?  I see only two in your name on Amazon and their ranking suggest not many have been sold recently.  Could be because of this trend moving towards longer works, like I've noticed.  I've written one serial erotic romance title and it's the box set that sells, not the individual pieces.  And most readers waited until the whole thing was out before buying.

I have other pen names. Yes YA likes long lengths but novellas are good too esp. serialized ones but YMMV. I seem to be able to imbue shorter lengths with the depth of a novel which is key IMO for successful shorts (umm not the book in my Sig though,that is an early work).

I am moving into writing mostly novellas as I've caved to the opinion that shorts are dead. However, as I mentioned on  Elle's epic thread, I have a toddler and don't get enough writing time to support novels, not if I want to publish something before my readers forget me. I've had to thrive with shorts or accomplish nothing.

M
« Last Edit: May 07, 2013, 06:21:00 PM by mrv01d »
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Offline Eren Cain

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
« Reply #82 on: May 07, 2013, 06:31:12 PM »
Hey Russell, what an amazing post!

I'm very new to indie publishing, after toiling in the hell of Hollywood writing and directing for a bit, but I should be releasing my first novel in the Fall.

Yea, get to the point, right? Just wanted to ask you what you thought about NetGalley and its usefulness to Indie Authors.

Best, Eren Cain

Offline blakebooks

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
« Reply #83 on: May 07, 2013, 07:02:35 PM »
Adam: I think it was a combination of both. God knows I played the Select free game with the best of them, and frankly I'm amazed that it remained viable as long as it did. But I think that the algos sped up what was already happening: readers were discovering the work, and telling friends, who were telling more friends. I've got a good core fan base now, and I think I'm still riding the wave of, "What? JET is free? How can a book that good be perma-free? Did Blake fall out of a tree and hit his head?" syndrome, which is really just over-delivering on quality and expectations. It's a real, 85K word novel, no apologies, and probably one of the fastest-paced, pure adrenaline reads out there, even if a bit deliberately over-the-top and unrealistic (realistic is for the birds, most of the time, anyway. Realistic is where my a*s hurts after sitting for 12 hours writing. You can have realistic. I want a hot female protag who can kick butt and take names every time).

So the algorithms helped, but it's the quality that keeps em coming back. When Amazon selected King of Swords to feature as their Kindle Daily Deal on April 22, it wasn't because of a gimmick. When people read JET or Night or whatever and discover that the work is equal to or better than most trad pubbed offerings in the same genre, I think that does the trick. Because everyone wants a deal and a find, and getting $15 quality for $5 or $6 qualifies.

Eren: I don't know enough about it, but from what I saw, basically anyone on the planet qualifies. I mean, who doesn't review books online or blog? Seems like just another way of getting your book out there free. Whether it actually is effective, I'd love to hear about, because so far I'm unaware of any success stories. That, and I basically publish about 10 minutes after I get the finished copy back from my editing group and do the final read myself, so I'm not sure I would see any value in holding it for weeks in order to have the Netgalley gang read it for free and *hopefully* review it favorably. My experience is that *pro* reviewers are often completely out of sync with what readers think is good, so I question the overall value. But I could be convinced.

mrv: That's why I make a big point of being honest with yourself in terms of how much time, effort and money you're willing to commit, or your circumstance will allow. If you only have time to write novellas, that's fine, but it doesn't actually say anything about what the overall market demand for them is, just what you have time to write, which is fine. I wouldn't recommend it to beginning writers if they can select the novel form instead, though - certainly not in my genre, whereas others may well be different. I don't pretend to know about all genres and their peccadilloes. I can barely keep up with my own.

CJ: Glad your year is shaping up nicely. It's always nice to be read, and even better to be paid to be read!

elle: Yup. Readers are evolving and adapting. One thing in my genre that's interesting is that the norm used to be 100K, and now readers seem to prefer 80K, based on purchasing patterns. That tells me that attention spans are shortening, likely due to the internet and social media formats like Facebook, etc. I tend to groan if I download a book and it's 120K, unless it's by a REALLY good writer, because I'm as guilty of short attention span as the rest. I'm grappling with that on my WIP right now - it's a slower paced novel, a la The Firm, rather than my balls-to-the-wall style action adventure thrillers I've sort of perfected in the Assassin and JET series. And it will finish out at around 95K, assuming I actually finish it tonight and tomorrow. My instinct is to edit it down to 80K, and throw in an action-filled ending for a climax, even though the current ending is the one that works best logically. I actually had a different ending in mind, but upon rethinking it over the last week, I realized that it would be too much of a downer for many casual readers, even if it was the most impactful. Which is a shame, because I find myself self-censoring based on what my business sense says will be most popular, versus what makes for the best book. But it's also reality, and we have to acknowledge reality when we move from the writing phase to marketing phase - and we both know that a committee of editors at a trad pub would dictate a more palatable ending than a downer, so all I'm doing is what I would have been doing if I were "just writing and letting the publisher handle the rest." A fantasy world, that, IMO, from all the trad pub authors I know...


Offline mrv01d

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
« Reply #84 on: May 07, 2013, 07:28:46 PM »



mrv: That's why I make a big point of being honest with yourself in terms of how much time, effort and money you're willing to commit, or your circumstance will allow. If you only have time to write novellas, that's fine, but it doesn't actually say anything about what the overall market demand for them is, just what you have time to write, which is fine. I wouldn't recommend it to beginning writers if they can select the novel form instead, though - certainly not in my genre, whereas others may well be different. I don't pretend to know about all genres and their peccadilloes. I can barely keep up with my own.



Yes it's important to be practical about what you can achieve. I guess I am finding that I can build a brand(s) and a career with short fiction so all I am saying is, if a writer's genre will accept shorts, you can do that in addition to or as a build up to novels.

I would hate for anyone with little ones underfoot or other productivity constraints to take away that they can't get anywhere unless they write novels. They can be successful at shorter lengths. You don't have to hit the pause button on your dream until you have time for a novel production pace that will build a sustainable career.

I don't know if I'll ever write novels. I may do novella length serials and then bundle them as a novel, but unless my sales change markedly or I start writing as fast as Elle, I won't be angling to produce novels anytime soon. I'm enjoying the novellas too much to quit right now. (It helps that I have a mailing list, my marketing structure is solid and most of my catalog has hit Top 100-- one story of 10,000 words bounced between 20 and 30 for almost six weeks.)

M
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Offline Kathy Clark, Author

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
« Reply #85 on: May 07, 2013, 07:51:11 PM »
Thanks Russell...sound advice.

When you're switching from traditionally published to indie and switching genres too the do list gets a little longer.  But what you've listed in your post was spot on.  Well done.

Now...do I write tonight or add my two cents on switching to Indie and switching genres...I'm going to write.

Thanks.
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Offline blakebooks

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
« Reply #86 on: May 07, 2013, 08:10:12 PM »
mrv: I think it's also a function of what your goal is. If it's to make part time income, or to support yourself as a writer. I haven't seen many making a good living wage writing short stories. If you have hit in the top 100 overall Amazon paid with shorts you are doing better than I - highest I ever got was #11 and #19 in April with King of Swords and The Voynich Cypher from promotions. Even cracking the top 100 is noteworthy.

BobKat: Yes, writing does help pay the bills. Nobody's paid me for my comments here today, and the book isn't writing its own ending, so I'm going to join you on that. Back to my rule of turning the internet off. Not a bad rule. It'll still be there when I'm done, I'm quite sure...


Offline ShaneJeffery

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
« Reply #87 on: May 07, 2013, 08:42:52 PM »
Hi Russell. Amazing in depth posts from you these last few days. Unbelievable amounts of useful information to new writers :)

As someone who is writing dark literary / horror stuff (confined at the moment, but later hoping to release more commercial books), would you advise them to allocate time to a pen name in a more popular genre? (IE romance, erotica, YA fantasy etc.). I guess there's no guaranteed success whatever path you choose, but maybe it's best to spread one's bets a bit?

The stuff I'm writing now is what interests me, but that probably has little bearing on being popular and it's ability to sell.

Offline blakebooks

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
« Reply #88 on: May 07, 2013, 08:58:25 PM »
Shane: I don't personally believe that an author can write convincingly in a genre they don't read a lot of, and don't particularly enjoy. As an example, if I thought for a second I could write a convincing YA romance, I'd be so all over that. But I can't. And I know it.

It's all an incredible long shot. That's the ugly not-so-secret truth. I think that it's a recipe for madness to write that which you don't love, or at least like a great deal. To write in a particular genre simply because you hope to make a big pile of cash seems a bit mercenary to me, and I don't think I could do it, but if you can while controlling your gag reflex, you're a better man than I and I wish you luck with it. I write what I do because it's what I like to read, and it's what I know. I could probably cobble together a decent romance, but my heart wouldn't be in it, and I have to believe it would show. So I don't try. Which is better for my sanity, in the long run.

That said, I would never presume to tell other authors what they should or shouldn't write. I'm simply trying to offer ideas of how to go about the whole thing once they decide that they want to write, and want to sell what they write, which are two different things.


Offline Jason Blacker

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
« Reply #89 on: May 07, 2013, 09:03:49 PM »
You sir, are a gentleman and a scholar.

With deep gratitude and profound thanks for the helping hand.

Offline ShaneJeffery

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
« Reply #90 on: May 07, 2013, 09:22:07 PM »
Shane: I don't personally believe that an author can write convincingly in a genre they don't read a lot of, and don't particularly enjoy. As an example, if I thought for a second I could write a convincing YA romance, I'd be so all over that. But I can't. And I know it.

It's all an incredible long shot. That's the ugly not-so-secret truth. I think that it's a recipe for madness to write that which you don't love, or at least like a great deal. To write in a particular genre simply because you hope to make a big pile of cash seems a bit mercenary to me, and I don't think I could do it, but if you can while controlling your gag reflex, you're a better man than I and I wish you luck with it. I write what I do because it's what I like to read, and it's what I know. I could probably cobble together a decent romance, but my heart wouldn't be in it, and I have to believe it would show. So I don't try. Which is better for my sanity, in the long run.

That said, I would never presume to tell other authors what they should or shouldn't write. I'm simply trying to offer ideas of how to go about the whole thing once they decide that they want to write, and want to sell what they write, which are two different things.


Thanks for the feedback, Russell :)

I can totally understand your aversion to it. I mean, I don't read, and strongly dislike those genres. It actually only occurred to me today after reading some of the posts here, and I wanted to see if that's what you were advocating. Which you're not :)

Guess we're just figuring out the balance between business and creativity. I mean, I'd write the horror stuff anyway, regardless of whether it made money. But if it's a choice between some minimum wage job in hospitality, and writing in a genre you don't love, I'd rather do the writing.

Offline Kailei Wiseman

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
« Reply #91 on: May 07, 2013, 09:36:09 PM »
This combined with Elle's post make this one hell of a week for useful info on KB. Bravo. And thanks for taking the time, even if you did have an ulterior motive =)

This was exactly my thought. What a great community we have here. I'm honored to be a lurker. :D

Thank you to everyone who posted thoughts on this and Elle's thread. They've both been awesome reads.

I especially need to take the advice of less internet. Or no internet. But the withdrawals are so fierce...
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Offline cdvsmx5

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
« Reply #92 on: May 07, 2013, 09:38:44 PM »
In; 'An Interview with editor Elaine Ash..' you claim to be 'Joe Nobody'.
Care to elaborate?

Offline Mike Dennis

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
« Reply #93 on: May 07, 2013, 09:46:56 PM »
Outstanding post, Russell. Well-thought out and very eloquent. You deserve everything you've attained.

I, too, did Select/Free back in early January of 2012 with my first novel (in my crime/noir series), which came out about the same time as yours. At that time, I had 6 titles out. As a result of Select/Free, I sold over 1000 books in January. I was looking forward to more. I did interviews, I used Facebook, I got great blurbs from the likes of Jeffery Deaver and Max Allan Collins, among others. A couple of months later, the respected online pub Noir Journal devoted an entire issue to my work, but that month, I sold only 240 books.

It's safe to say the momentum died. My books did not develop legs, even after going free with other titles numerous times. Amazon made it more difficult for guys like me to capitalize on Select. I never achieved 1000 books/month again. I now have ten titles out, and last month I sold 51 books. Isn't the holy gospel supposed to be "The more books you write, the more you'll sell"? I think I may have developed some sort of dyslexia.

I'm giving Select/Free one more shot next week, with an ad on BookBub (at a cost of $240!!!), but how can I be optimistic? We'll see what happens.

In any case, I'm buying one of your books after I post this. It's the least I can do.


Offline Shane Murray

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
« Reply #94 on: May 07, 2013, 09:56:21 PM »
Took a while, but well worth the read.

Thanks!

Offline blakebooks

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
« Reply #95 on: May 07, 2013, 10:00:31 PM »
ShaneJ: Everything I've described in these posts is akin to establishing a good foundation of sound habits that improve the odds of success, whatever that is. It's by no means a guarantee. More an outline, a discipline of how to best go about organizing oneself in an fundamentally chaotic world, a way of viewing things that's logic-based and seems sensible. It's entirely possible that I would still sell a boatload of books without any of it, but I seriously doubt it. Whether it can work for someone else, and result in their selling a bunch...who knows? But it just seems more reasoned to separate writing from the mundane business of selling books, and develop a system for handling both. Because as everyone recognizes, writing is fine, but if you can't sell your writing (which also means, have it widely read) it's a hollow satisfaction you have when you type, The End.

If I can help anyone to feel more empowered, more capable, more reasoned about the whole mess, then my purpose has been accomplished. There are no guarantees in life, but this seems like a better strategy than simply hoping for the best, or thrashing around making oneself crazy trying to get something, anything, to stick. This may not be the best plan, or the only one, but it's a plan, and a place to start. Sometimes that's all you need. It's certainly more than I had to work with when I began.

Mike Dennis: I've been warning in my blog for a year that my love affair with Select was waning - not because it wasn't working for me, but because I could see the writing on the wall, and that it was becoming like a crack pipe for an increasingly addicted author population. I'm sorry it hasn't worked out for you yet, but I recall that I was equally befuddled in November of 2011, with seven novels out, 15 hour days, and really meager sales at what was being called the heyday of indie publishing. Writing more isn't a bad call. But if there's any takeaway from all this, it should be that this is a retail biz, and you have to keep promoting. Regaining momentum is a lot harder than maintaining it. Hopefully BB will work for you - it has for many, although the impact of a successful Select run is pretty muted compared to what it was even 60 days ago. And thanks for buying a book. Hope you like it. Some do.

And with that, I wish everyone good night. It's been a long one. The good news being that I'm only around 3K from being done with my WIP, which will be done tomorrow. Then the tequila comes out!
« Last Edit: May 07, 2013, 10:37:15 PM by blakebooks »


Offline ChrisWard

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
« Reply #96 on: May 07, 2013, 10:41:59 PM »
Great post. If there's one thing that I've learned over the last few months of this is that its to listen to Russell Blake.  :D

Offline Shelley K

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
« Reply #97 on: May 07, 2013, 11:35:43 PM »
In; 'An Interview with editor Elaine Ash..' you claim to be 'Joe Nobody'.
Care to elaborate?

What a strange question. He claimed to be a "Joe Nobody first time author," not the writer from this board who goes by Joe Nobody. It's a bit like calling yourself an anonymous John Smith. Actual line from the interview:

Now in a perfect world where Bantam gets behind and throws $2 million into pushing me, Joe Nobody first time author, hey, theres a benefit.






« Last Edit: May 07, 2013, 11:37:17 PM by shelleyo1 »

Offline B.A. Spangler

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
« Reply #98 on: May 08, 2013, 03:22:59 AM »
Bookmarked this post - great stuff. Thank you.

Offline Scott Daniel

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Re: How To Sell Loads of Books
« Reply #99 on: May 08, 2013, 04:47:38 AM »
First of all Russell, thank you so much for your sage advice. I was wondering if you might share how you were able to become a full-time writer a few years ago, how did you afford it? Had you been successful in another line of work? How did you get by as a writer until you started making decent money?

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