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Denny O'Callaghan is afraid to open his eyes.

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He opens his eyes. Blood. On his sheets. His pillowcase.

Then he gets a call: his ex-wife was murdered last night.

He desperately tries to piece together what happened. But he can't explain how he got the scratches on his arms, the police want to know about the domestic violence report his ex filed against him, and his buddies say he was raging against her last night before he stormed off on his own.

Right about the time she was murdered.

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Author Topic: First Novel Writers' Dilemma: the necessity of morphing into a carnival barker?  (Read 15117 times)  

Offline Cody Kelly

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I imagine many writers face this dilemma: you have created a book. You are (at least relatively) satisfied with it. You are not rich and you have no "connections." You are not on the inside track of Culture Merchantry. How do you rise above the Cosmic Slush Pile, whether at kindle or an agent's office?

And, like so many artists and writers, self-promotion, hustling your book, carnival barking, and all go against your very genetic make-up, which is to not obnoxiously push yourself on people.

And it does not appear to matter whether your book is good, bad, or anything along the grey scale in between: what matters is raw salesmanship.

What are your thoughts on this terrible tragedy?

Offline J. Tanner

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What are your thoughts on this terrible tragedy?

That it's a non-tragedy.

If you aren't interested in promotion, don't do it. Start writing the next book instead. Repeat this cycle until something catches on. It's a perfectly viable path to success. Lots of "overnight" successes are 10 years in the making--so you've got a while to go before declaring success or failure if you just finished your first book.

You are mistaken about raw salesmanship being the only/primary thing that matters, though it certainly doesn't hurt.

Your book may or may not sell whether you don't promote at all, or you're a killer salesman. No one promised you (or me, or any of us) a career in publishing at all, but it's nearly always a marathon rather than a sprint if you luck into one.
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Offline Thomas Watson

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Agree with J. Tanner. It's neither a tragedy nor a dilemma, it's just the nature of this business. The way I look at it, a combination of writing the next book (and the next) and a moderate amount of self promotion is probably the most practical approach. You don't need to knock yourself out or play the shill. Go places online, like this one or Goodreads, and post about your book where it's permitted. Then join the discussions elsewhere on such sites. Make yourself known, talk to people, and stay within the rules for author participation. It actually makes a pleasant break from writing.

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Offline RJ Kennett

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I imagine many writers face this dilemma: you have created a book. You are (at least relatively) satisfied with it. You are not rich and you have no "connections." You are not on the inside track of Culture Merchantry. How do you rise above the Cosmic Slush Pile, whether at kindle or an agent's office?

And, like so many artists and writers, self-promotion, hustling your book, carnival barking, and all go against your very genetic make-up, which is to not obnoxiously push yourself on people.

And it does not appear to matter whether your book is good, bad, or anything along the grey scale in between: what matters is raw salesmanship.

What are your thoughts on this terrible tragedy?

Yes, it's necessary to be something of a carnival barker. And like a carnival barker, 99% of the people will ignore you. But you need that 1% that listens and gives you a chance. You have to respect their time by providing something that will knock their socks off - so quality IS paramount. Coming from a marketing background, I'm comfortable with the tools available, the strategies, etc. But I'm uncomfortable marketing myself. I'm used to being paid to market other people, or their products. It's more nerve wracking when I'm the brand and my baby is the product.

You have to choose your target audience and find ways to reach them, at least to get the ball rolling. Save up some money and throw it at a narrowly-targeted audience. A lot of this promotion stuff is trial and error, so you don't want to put all your eggs in one basket.

Personally, I've found Twitter to be a dud. Now, with a mere 50 followers, I expect MY tweets to die empty deaths. But I've had others tweet on my behalf to thousands, and while there's an occasional retweet or favorite, they don't appear to do anything for sales. Not enough to show on the radar, anyway. I'll still do it, because it costs nothing but a few minutes of my time every few days.

Facebook has worked for me, at least to a degree. You can target specific Facebook groups. There are genre-specific fan groups, groups for writers and readers.

Using KDP free days, if you're in KDP Select, may or may not work. It seems to work well for some people, to get their book shotgunned out to a wide group of people, some of whom will actually read it and may talk it up (especially if that quality thing is there.) Myself, I have no intention of giving away my hard work. Now, there could be something that changes my perspective on that, but that's where I am now. I'll take the long view and be patient.

Pricing strategy may also help. On the advice of some fine folks here at KBoards, I'm keeping my price higher than the "Cosmic Slush Pile" you mentioned, which may provide separation from the chaff. Subconsciously, price = quality (but to get people to spread the word, I have to DELIVER on that quality. Remember when I said quality is paramount? I meant it.) I ran my book at $2.99 for two weeks after release, then ramped it up to $4.99 and sales only increased.

Google AdWords was a bust, but a cheap one. I hit a deal where if I spent $25 on AdWords, Google would credit my account another $100. I've burned through it all, and there's been exactly zero evidence of AdWords increasing my sales, despite ample clickthroughs.

Publicity articles placed on blogs may or may not impact sales, but at least they provide added material for search engines and therefore, credibility outside of Amazon.

Inexpensive advertising is available, if you target it. I wrote a zombie apocalypse novel, so I put together an ad to run on a zombie-themed online game I play, urbandead.com. There's not a lot of people playing it these days, but it reached a few thousand. I can't say whether many people there bought the book (though I know some did), but at least it was exposure.

But it absolutely matters whether the book is good or bad. A bad book will always be bad and could taint your brand for future endeavors. A good book may be overlooked, but will take on a life of its own once it is discovered, even if it takes months or years.

An eye-catching cover and a concise, sales-oriented blurb are vital. They speak to the quality the reader can expect. They get people to read the sample, and if the sample is good enough, they'll buy. I have anecdotal evidence of that working.

As an unknown, first-time author, however, the main thing I'm after is reviews. The more reviews, the more credibility is built. I've only got 7, and I'm always begging people for more. Obviously, begging isn't working as I have so few. But I'll keep working at it. There are several more reviews that should be showing up soon, as I've gifted the book to some reviewers, but many of them have months-long backlogs before they'll get to mine - some as long as a year. That's fine; I'll gift copies for reviews. I get 70% back and it counts as a sale.

The long and short of it is, there is no magic bullet. If there were, everyone would do it. I've taken almost a month off from writing, just to try and get the ball rolling on my first novel. Then I'm going to forget it's there and focus on book #2, and let my novel sink or swim on its own. I might juice it with an ad once in a while, but mostly I'll leave it to word of mouth. (Cool story: my niece was talking to a friend, who recommended my book, not knowing my connection to her. It was a very cool feeling when I found out, as it personalized my work.)

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Offline RJ Kennett

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dang, that was a long post.  :o

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Offline daringnovelist

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Yep, my thoughts upon finishing one book is to write the next.

And this isn't new with indie publishing.  It's as old as writing: Write it, finish it, put it on the market.  Repeat.

When you have several books in the same genre (or better yet, the same series) then it might be worth doing some marketing, as any sales you get will sell the other books too. But with one book?  Forget it.  It's like trying to bust down a dam with a hammer.

Camille

Offline KellyHarper

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Thankfully, this arduous task can be outsourced to your second, third, and even all, subsequent books. Let them do the heavy lifting while you keep writing.

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Offline Jan Thompson

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I agree with the others. It's not a tragedy. On the contrary, it's an opportunity.

And it does not appear to matter whether your book is good, bad, or anything along the grey scale in between: what matters is raw salesmanship.

This might be true in traditional publishing where you have to "pitch" and "sell" to agents in 60 seconds or less in "elevator pitches" or maybe 5-10 minutes at conferences if you had an appointment. I have heard of newbie writers hiring other authors to write their synopses and one sheets for them in the hope that they will catch the eye of agents. They have one shot at conventions, one shot at cold queries, one shot. And most fail. Someone told me that some agencies reject almost all the queries they receive, preferring to bank on tried authors.

In indie publishing, it's all different. The gatekeepers (agents) and middlemen (traditional publishing houses) are gone. Now it's just between the writer and readers. Write your best books, and let the chips fall where they may. Success might not necessarily be measured in sales. It might be intangible for some. But indie publishing is where the long tail is. This is one of the many reasons for my going indie.

But it absolutely matters whether the book is good or bad. A bad book will always be bad and could taint your brand for future endeavors. A good book may be overlooked, but will take on a life of its own once it is discovered, even if it takes months or years.

I agree. As a reader, I go for a good book, and sometimes only discover the author years later. Bad books leave a bad taste in my mouth, and I move on from the author.


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Offline Quiss

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If you feel like a hawker, then you're doing it wrong.

Using Twitter and Facebook as megaphones not only doesn't work, it annoys the crap out of everyone.

If you think you should be selling your book, you're doing it wrong. The product, in the promoting game, is you, not a single book. You want people to recommend your name, not your specific book, to others. You are the brand.

You do this by writing more books and by being engaging and involved on social media, not by spamming.

Online J.L. Jarvis

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I imagine many writers face this dilemma: you have created a book. You are (at least relatively) satisfied with it. You are not rich and you have no "connections." You are not on the inside track of Culture Merchantry. How do you rise above the Cosmic Slush Pile, whether at kindle or an agent's office?
Be brilliant and/or entertaining. For agents, be so in a way that can make them money.

Quote
And, like so many artists and writers, self-promotion, hustling your book, carnival barking, and all go against your very genetic make-up, which is to not obnoxiously push yourself on people.
This assumes that being obnoxious is the only way to get books into readers' hands. Many writers manage to do so while being nice.

Quote
And it does not appear to matter whether your book is good, bad, or anything along the grey scale in between: what matters is raw salesmanship.
What matters is (1) getting your work into the hands of readers; and (2) being brilliant and/or entertaining. If you don't do 1, then 2 matters only to you and your loved ones.
Quote
What are your thoughts on this terrible tragedy?
It's a living.
« Last Edit: August 26, 2013, 10:36:47 PM by jljarvis »

Offline Cody Kelly

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It's interesting: the people who have responded to this thread so far are all gung-ho, die-hard optimists. The cream (and everyone believes in their novel, by definition, or why hassle anything?) must inevitably rise to the top ...

I read an interesting comment by poet Charles Bukowski's once -- something to the effect that many (most?) good writers give up eventually. Largely in the face of indifference. He was as cynical as Hell but he stumbled onward, banging away on his typewriter.

The people commenting here are full of optimism, and vigor. It's definitely an "attitude" you folks have. I think, actually, that it is "hope" that keeps us all going. You apparently haven't had it beaten out of you yet. Perhaps there is something intrinsic to these Kindle talk boards -- with billions of names and chatter -- that gives folks the illusion that "success" is right around the corner.

It's the American work ethic, isn't it? -- keep on working, working, working, working and good things will happen. But there is an central problem: there is only so much time in the world and every contributor the Kindle system is a competitor for that time and for that audience.

Isn't it a giant pyramid? Whether by genuine quality work or by simple hustling, a few rise and the masses remain the stepping stone, the backdrop, for them.

But my own sense is that self-promotion is intrinsically distasteful. I see that commentary here, for the most part, doesn't identify with that position.

Offline Victorine

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Study the successful authors in your genre. See what they do and mimic them. Odds are they are not carnival barkers. (I've only seen one successful carnival barker and well...he's not around here anymore. He got kicked off for being a carnival barker.) ;)
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I'm not American.

There is nothing gung-ho about quietly releasing books, doing what we love and quietly engaging with people who like to read our fiction.

There is no such thing as an overnight success.

Offline Victorine

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But there is an central problem: there is only so much time in the world and every contributor the Kindle system is a competitor for that time and for that audience.

How many people do you know that read a book, like it, and then never read another similar book again?

"Hmm, Hunger Games was great! Guess that's all the dystopian novels I'm going to read. Nothing else could be as good."

Sorry, but that doesn't happen. Other books are not your competitors. They are stepping stones to lead readers to your book. IF your book looks similar to another one that they've read and enjoyed, they are going to be MORE likely to buy yours and try it out.

Just look at the slew of books that are coming out now that LOOK like 50 shades. They are selling WELL. It's marketing. Don't look at other books as your competition, or you might as well give up now because with that attitude you'll get nowhere.

Sorry, that ended snarky. Didn't mean it. I'm just tired of indies looking at other indies as competition - and then you've got sock puppet accounts that give each other bad reviews to try to take down the competition. It's stupid. No one reads just one book.

/rant
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Offline lynnfromthesouth

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It's interesting: the people who have responded to this thread so far are all gung-ho, die-hard optimists. The cream (and everyone believes in their novel, by definition, or why hassle anything?) must inevitably rise to the top ...

Actually, several of the people who responded are immensely successful at self-publishing. I'm guessing a few of them tried the carnival barking and found it didn't really work. I didn't find it worked well at all for fiction. Maybe if you write non-fiction. And I will point out that nearly all the writing self-help authors who claim that's what you need are non-fiction authors, and they generalize for fiction without having self-published in it.

My sales tripled when I released my second book. The write, release, repeat method works, without heavy marketing. Amazon (and other platforms to a lesser extent) set up the algorithms to favor repeat authors, or that's how it seems.

Offline RJ Kennett

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Don't look at other books as your competition, or you might as well give up now because with that attitude you'll get nowhere.

This. When I was writing my novel, I read a LOT of other indie author's work. At the end of my book, in the "From the Author" bit, I listed some of the authors I enjoyed the most, encouraging my readers to check out their work. They're not my competition; they're my compatriots. Maybe they'll do the same for me one day, maybe not. It's not a quid-pro-quo, I just felt like sharing some of those who earned my stamp of approval.

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Offline Terrence OBrien

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Quote
And, like so many artists and writers, self-promotion, hustling your book, carnival barking, and all go against your very genetic make-up, which is to not obnoxiously push yourself on people.

I have no reason to believe writers are any different from the rest of the folks. Writers are just as smart as anyone else and can figure out how to interact with out being obnoxious and pushy.

Quote
And it does not appear to matter whether your book is good, bad, or anything along the grey scale in between: what matters is raw salesmanship.

That is a comforting idea some writers like to push. But one has to have a product before selling it. The notion that the book doesnt matter is unfounded.

Quote
What are your thoughts on this terrible tragedy?

I think its bogus.

Quote
I read an interesting comment by poet Charles Bukowski's once -- something to the effect that many (most?) good writers give up eventually. Largely in the face of indifference. He was as cynical as Hell but he stumbled onward, banging away on his typewriter.

How would he know?

Quote
But my own sense is that self-promotion is intrinsically distasteful. I see that commentary here, for the most part, doesn't identify with that position.

Fine. Don't do it.

Quote
Other books are not your competitors.

Books compete with other books, not people. Books compete regardless of what the author thinks. Books compete if the author is dead. Doesnt matter what the author thinks. As long as two products are in the same market, they compete.
« Last Edit: August 26, 2013, 09:34:37 PM by Terrence OBrien »
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Online J.L. Jarvis

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It sounds as though you're feeling pressured to use marketing strategies you're not comfortable with. I'll echo Victorine's suggestion to study the successful authors in your genre. If you're comfortable with a strategy, do it; if not, don't.

Offline Saffron

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Some really helpful advice on this thread. Thanks everyone.

I'm not in favour of carnival barking.

The bottom line is you need some personal motivation for writing fiction. You need to get a kick out of doing it, a buzz from the creative process. If you are doing it only for the money, then there are easier ways to make a fast buck. I'm not saying we don't want the money, but you have to be motivated to write, or to play music, or to go on stage, or to create art. You get my drift.

Online J.L. Jarvis

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The people commenting here are full of optimism, and vigor. It's definitely an "attitude" you folks have. I think, actually, that it is "hope" that keeps us all going. You apparently haven't had it beaten out of you yet. Perhaps there is something intrinsic to these Kindle talk boards -- with billions of names and chatter -- that gives folks the illusion that "success" is right around the corner.

I've been trying to pinpoint what troubles me most here. You seem frustrated, not by the process of writing and publishing, but rather by the illusory nature of success in light of what you perceive to be a necessary path to reach it.

If you are writing to become the next bestselling indie, then you may soon become discouraged. If you write because you love the sound of the words and phrases in your head, the touch of the keyboard as your story unfolds, the emotions you feel with your characters as you read and rewrite each draft, and the heart pang you feel when you know that you've finished and are ready to share it with others; then you will not be disappointed regardless of how your books sell. This is not to say it's not nice to sell well and make money. But perhaps writers driven to write by the inherent satisfaction of it are more likely to appear enduringly optimistic, because they love what they do.

So my question to you is: Why are you writing?

ETA: Saffron beat me to the same pointand in far fewer words.   :)
« Last Edit: August 26, 2013, 10:12:57 PM by jljarvis »

Offline daringnovelist

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It's interesting: the people who have responded to this thread so far are all gung-ho, die-hard optimists. The cream (and everyone believes in their novel, by definition, or why hassle anything?) must inevitably rise to the top ...

But my own sense is that self-promotion is intrinsically distasteful. I see that commentary here, for the most part, doesn't identify with that position.

Dude, I don't think you read ANYTHING anybody has said, or maybe you just didn't understand it.

First -- most of the people are not giving you pie-in-the-sky advice, but hardened professional advice.  Also, folks are telling you NOT to indulge in self-promotion and carnival barking.

Stop messing around with stuff you don't want to do and get back to writing.  That's the professional way and always has been.

Camille

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As someone who hopes to be in your shoes someday soon, OP, I wouldn't dream of spending time on marketing or promotions with only one book published. As wiser and more handsome posters than I have already told you, simply write the next book. And the next one. And the next one. And the one after that.

If you spend that time writing another book, you double the royalties that might come your way from every pair of eyeballs you reach. The payout from any future marketing become more potent. Not only that, but the book itself will help you become more visible. You've got twice as many ways to be found, and you get another shot at being featured in all of the adverts that only show new releases. You've created one more product that can draw royalties from now until the end of time. You've made any marketing that you do down the road much more effective, simply because it can lead to more sales per reader.

I'll agree with you that the cream rises to the top, though. Be that cream. The cream fears no competition, but only readers who have run out of products to purchase.

There may come a day when marketing yourself and your work will pay worthy dividends, but it is not this day. This day, you write. By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, we bid you: write.

Offline EC

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I'm in Thailand writing a series of books.......a common phrases you hear in this country is "Don't think too much".

The national phrase in Thailand (if such a category exists) is "Mai bpen rai", which means "don't worry/ don't worry about it". 

So Cody, just get on with writing, don't think too much and mai bpen rai.

In many ways Thais are extraordinarily wise, in others, they do my head in. That's why I'm writing books about them.

Just sayin', just in case your wondering.  ::)

Offline CraigInOregon

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This is version 2,302 of this topic.

May I direct the OP to version 2,301?

http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,159708.msg2295900.html
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