Wednesday, October 27, 2010

It's Your Universe

After debuting my self-pubbed ebooks on Kindle in April of 2009, I've sold over 100,000 of them.

One of the reasons I've sold so many is because I currently have 29 Ebooks on Amazon. Just like a brick and mortar bookstore, the more shelf space you take up, the more likely you are to be discovered by browsers. You can't be read if you aren't seen, so try to be seen in as many places and as often as possible.

When you're an author, you're a brand. A certain percentage of readers who like one of your books will seek out other books written by you. My goal, from the beginning, was to make the Konrath brand instantly identifiable. I did this in three ways.

First, I wrote a series. Mystery readers are loyal to characters, and I knew if I hooked a reader with one book, she would be likely to read everything featuring the same character. In this case, it was a female cop named Jack Daniels.

Second, I made the books stand out from the crowd by making them both suspenseful and funny. There are scares, and there are laughs, often on the same page. I knew this would turn some folks off (the early reviews for my first JD thriller said I had no idea if I wanted to be Thomas Harris or Carl Hiaasen) but that some would get it.

Third, I made these books easy to find, by naming them all after drinks. That way, a reader could go into a bookstore and not remember my name, or the title, but could still find my novels by asking the bookseller "Who does those books with drink titles?"

The seventh Jack Daniels book, SHAKEN, was just released yesterday. It's currently the #14 Kindle Paid Bestseller.

Now, as expected, a lot of the folks buying SHAKEN are fans of my previous books. But there are also some newcomers who are meeting Jack Daniels for the first time with SHAKEN. And what are those folks doing?

You guessed it. They're going back and buying the other six books in the Jack Daniels series.

WHISKEY SOUR, the first JD book, is currently #173 on the Kindle Bestseller List. That's the highest it has ever been.

BLOODY MARY is at 681.

RUSTY NAIL is at 1214.

DIRTY MARTINI is at 735.

FUZZY NAVEL is at 739.

CHERRY BOMB is at 728.

Why is RUSTY NAIL the only ebook not in the Top 1000? Because my publisher is charging $5.70 for it, and is charging $4.80 or less for the others. But then, I've told them many times they should all be $2.99 or less, and my pleas fall on deaf ears.

These books are all part of the same series, and the same universe. But rather than stop there, I realized I could expand this universe even more.

JACK DANIELS STORIES gathers fifteen shorts featuring Jack and her supporting cast.

THE LIST, though a technothriller, has a Jack Daniels cameo (and the hero from THE LIST, Tom Mankowski, is in both CHERRY BOMB and SHAKEN.)

One of the characters from DISTURB also has a cameo in CHERRY BOMB.

SHOT OF TEQUILA features Jack as one of the supporting characters, and it is referenced in SHAKEN.

More on Jack Daniels in a moment, because I want to switch gears and talk about another brand I'm building. I write horror under the name JACK KILBORN.

Kilborn came about when I sold my horror novel AFRAID. Because this was a different genre, and style, from the Jack Daniels series, we went with a different name. This allowed me a fresh start with new fans (and the potentially bigger pre-order numbers from booksellers), while also allowing me to write stuff that some of my JD fans might not like.

So Kilborn became my horror alter ego. He wrote the novels TRAPPED and ENDURANCE, which have become two of my biggest bestsellers.

Even though Kilborn fans might not be Konrath fans, and vice versa, I knew that some would. So I never hid that I was Kilborn, and have always encouraged the Jack Daniels readers who liked the scary parts to check my pen name out.

Since Kilborn has been outselling Konrath lately, I also wanted Kilborn's fans to know that the Jack Daniels series had some real horror chops to them as well.

How best to do this?

Have them write a story together, obviously.

TRUCK STOP featured Jack Daniels, and the serial killer Taylor (from AFRAID and TRAPPED.)

Here's where things get interesting.

TRUCK STOP also featured a serial killer named Donaldson, who was in a novella called SERIAL that Jack Kilborn wrote with Blake Crouch.

Blake and I expanded SERIAL into SERIAL UNCUT, which encompassed SERIAL, TRUCK STOP, and his novella BAD GIRL. SERIAL UNCUT also featured Mr. K, the serial killer from SHAKEN.

Confused yet? It gets more convoluted.

SERIAL UNCUT also features the serial killer Luther Kite, who appeared in Blake's thrillers DESERT PLACES and LOCKED DOORS. SERIAL UNCUT ended with Luther thinking about seeking out Jack Daniels. Which he did, in SHAKEN.

Blake and I are now writing STIRRED, which will be the conclusion to the Jack Daniels series and his Luther Kite trilogy.

So what have I done here?

I've not only tied the J.A. Konrath and Jack Kilborn universes together, I've also brought Blake Crouch's universe into the mix. So Blake's fans (he's also written many short stories, plus the excellent thrillers SNOWBOUND and ABANDON) can discover me through him.

So let's get back to Jack Daniels. Seeing the advantage of cross-pollination with other authors, Konrath wrote a Jack Daniels novella with Henry Perez called FLOATERS, featuring Jack and Henry's main mystery character, Alex Chapa, from his novels KILLING RED and MOURN THE LIVING.

Konrath also wrote PLANTER'S PUNCH, where Jack Daniels teamed up with Duffy Dombrowski, from Tom Schreck's series (ON THE ROPES, TKO, OUT COLD.)

Konrath also penned a Harry McGlade novella called SUCKERS with Jeff Strand, teaming Harry up with Jeff's character Andrew Mayhem: GRAVEROBBERS WANTED (NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY), CASKET FOR SALE (ONLY USED ONCE), and SINGLE WHITE PSYCHOPATH SEEKS SAME.

So now Blake's fans, Henry's fans, Jeff's fans, and Tom's fans, can all be fans of Konrath and Kilborn as well.

My universe has gotten a lot bigger.

Recently, Kilborn, Blake Crouch, Jeff Strand, and F. Paul Wilson wrote the horror novel DRACULAS (with an introduction by J.A. Konrath.) Paul is a NYT Bestseller and the other of more than 40 thrillers. More cross-pollination.

Leaving no stone unturned, I wrote a Choose Your Own Adventure-type novel featuring Harry McGlade called BANANA HAMMOCK. During the course of the narrative, the reader can have Harry appear in some of my other books, in scenes where he shouldn't. So Harry gets to wreck ORIGIN, ENDURANCE, DRACULAS, SUCKERS, WHISKEY SOUR, and many other books in my oeuvre. It not only makes fun of my writing, it also introduces readers to some of my other novels, albeit in a skewed way.

Finally, I'll be unveiling my new persona, Joe Kimball, next year. Kimball writes sci-fi thrillers with some humor. New genre, new audience. But, of course, I want my old audience to be aware of it as well, and I want to make sure it's tied in with my other books.

The main character of TIMECASTER is Jack Daniels's grandson. Harry McGlade III is a supporting character. An elderly Phineas Troutt makes an appearance in TIMECASTER SUPERSYMMETRY.

So what's the point of all this?

The point is, I've currently got ten ebooks in the Kindle Top 1000, and the rest aren't ranked much higher than that.

Writing good books, with good covers, good product descriptions, and low prices, will help you sell. Writing a bunch of them will help you sell even more. But you should also consider biggering your brand by having cross-overs with your characters, and cross-pollinating with other writers.

BTW, I'm dedicating TIMECASTER SUPERSYMMETRY to J.A. Konrath. He works hard, and I think he deserves it.