Saturday, May 07, 2011

What Works: Promo for Ebooks

I get bombarded by email, mostly from people either thanking me or asking me for something, and I simply can't respond to everyone. If you've emailed me and not gotten a reply, it's because I need an assistant, not because I hate you.

That said, one reoccurring question seems to be: "I've got an ebook, now what can I do to make sure it sells a lot of copies?"

The bare-bones answer: There's nothing you can do to guarantee a lot of sales.

Sales involve luck. Luck is all about random chance, which can't be predicted or planned for. There is no magic bullet for generating big sales.

But... there are a few truisms I've discovered.

1. Sales Fluctuate. What is your best seller this month may drop off next month and may again be your bestseller two years from now. Ebooks are forever, and forever is a long time for a book to find its audience. Don't sweat it. Don't panic. This is like surfing. Waves may die, but new waves always come along.

2. Remember the Four. I've noticed the books that sell best seem to be professional looking (covers, formatting, editing), have low prices, good product descriptions, and are well-written. Don't put up anything less than terrific on all counts.

3. The More the Merrier. The more books you have for sale, and the more you keep adding to your virtual shelf-space, the better you'll do. Right now I have 40 ebooks available. That's a lot of ways to be discovered. And once discovered, it's a lot of titles to sell to fans.

4. Exploit All Platforms. Kindle is still King, but remember to upload your books to Createspace, B&N, Smashwords, and Overdrive (more on Overdrive in an upcoming blog post.)

5. Practice Makes Perfect. I'm currently reading a book that was recommended to me by my buddy Henry Perez, called Outliers: The Story of Success. It mentions the 10,000 Hour Rule. In short, no one becomes an expert at something without having invested 10,000 hours in it.

I found it interesting to apply this to my career. It took me twelve years to become published. While holding down a fulltime job, I still managed to write over a million words during that time--roughly 15 to 20 hours a week. Guess what? That's 10,000 hours.

Since being published in 2004, I've been writing fulltime. But the majority of my job has always been promoting my work, not the writing itself. It wasn't unusual (and still isn't) for me to work 60 hours a week.

Guess what? In order to reach the point where I understood the opportunities that ebooks presented, and was able to capitalize on that opportunity, I'd put in another 10,000 hours learning how the publishing industry worked.

So according to the 10,000 Hour Rule, I'm a dual outlier, in both writing and self-promotion.

In other words: if you aren't a raging ebooks success yet, keep at it. You may not have put in enough time yet.

Now what does this all mean to you?

While none of the above guarantee success, if you're doing them all you're maximizing your chances for success. But success STILL involves chance.

Chance. Luck. Randomness. We hate these things, because we want to be in control of our careers. We want to believe that working hard will make us winners.

That isn't necessarily true. But working hard can improve your odds at success.

Years ago, when I was more known for my self-promotion techniques than I was for ebooks, I used to always caution that the things I tried did not guarantee I'd become a bestseller. All they guaranteed was that I'd sell more books than if I hadn't done anything at all.

All promotion results are twofold. First, there are the tangible results of a marketing effort, which are usually calculated by immediate sales. But there is a secondary result that is tougher to gauge. Much of what we do to promote our work is intangible.

In other words, we may not know that what we're doing is working, until later. Sometimes years later.

My first novel, Whiskey Sour, is still selling strongly after 8 years. I attribute this to the massive amount of work I did in the past. I visited over 1200 bookstores. I signed tens of thousands of autographs. (Hell, I wrote the definitive article on how to do booksignings.) I traveled to 40 states, met countless librarians and fans and booksellers.

I began blogging in 2005. I gave away ebooks that same year. I was one of the first authors to use MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter to promote my work. I did a mass mailing to 7000 libraries. I amassed a newsletter list of 10,000 names. I've gone to scores of conventions, conferences, and book fairs.

As a result, my books are all still in print, while many of my peers are out of print. (A cruel irony, since right now I'd pay big money for my books to go out of print so I could get the rights back.)

My efforts didn't turn my early books into bestsellers, even though I did more to promote them than just about any other author who ever lived.

But I did sell some books.

These days, I no longer do signings. I don't speak at libraries, or visit conventions. For years, I talked about having a one-on-one interaction with fans, and now I don't answer my email. I used to scramble to get interviews, now I turn them down.

In 2011, the game has changed, and so have the rules.

So what are the new rules?

Here are my thoughts. Again, none of these will guarantee huge sales. And none of them work all the time for all books. But doing these things will help to sell more books than doing nothing at all, and I've found them to be the best use of my time.

1. Use Your Fans. Blake Crouch and I have done well by sending free advance ebooks to fans we've got on our mailing lists, or found on Goodreads.com. Offering a freebie in exchange for an honest review seems to work well.

2. Social Network. Being active on Twitter and Facebook beats not being active. But remember it is about what you have to offer, not what you have to sell. No one likes ads, or being sold.

3. Change Your Price. I've become a fan of putting ebooks on sale. The more books you have available, the easier this is to do without hurting your pocketbook. Keep in mind that you may not see instant results.

4. Write More. The best advertisement for your writing is your writing. The larger your virtual shelf space, the more you'll be discovered.

5. Diversify and Experiment. I've had as many failures as successes. Though my ebooks Trapped and Origin continue to sell hundreds per day, I've got other ebook titles that only sell a hundred per month. I have no idea why some sell better than others, but I'm continuing to explore new genres and experiment with formats.

My worst selling novel on Kindle is Banana Hammock, a humorous Choose-Your-Own-Adventure type of interactive narrative. I think it's funny as hell, and perfectly suited for ereaders.

Oddly enough, it is one of my bestsellers on OverDrive for the library market. Go fig.

If your sales are in the gutter, switch genres. Get a pen name. Try something different. Play with the cover art and product description. Switch the category label. There is no surefire path to success, but if you want to hit a home run, you gotta swing at everything.

6. Use Your Peers. Do guest blogs. Trade back matter excerpts. Review each other. Buy each other. Support one another. We're all in the same boat, and we all need to row.

(My latest novel Flee is now available on Smashwords, Amazon, Nook, and the Apple iBookstore for just $2.99.)

7. Prioritize It. In my never-ending quest to get into Bartlett's Familar Quotations (there's a quote list at the end of this blog post) I've coined yet another axiom that I invite all to retweet:

"Don't prioritize the mundane."

By mundane I mean routine and ordinary.

If you want to have extraordinary sales, it means devoting an extraordinary amount of time to it. That means sacrificing other aspects of your life, like leisure, sleep, and family.

If you don't want to give up Netflix, or miss your kid's baseball game, or get out of bed at 4am, that's fine. It's your life, and you decide what is important.

But while you may win Dad of the Year, never have bags under your eyes, and be able to quote every episode of Seinfeld, you probably won't ever sell 1000 ebook a day, either.

I realize these rules aren't what writers want to hear. A writer would much rather be told, "Tweet your Kindle URL three times a day for three weeks, and you'll sell 15,000 copies." That just isn't how this works.

In fact, doing that could actually harm you. In that spirit, here are some things that I don't believe work.

1. Advertising. Joe's First Rule of Marketing is: Only do things that work on you.

I have never bought an ebook because I saw a Facebook ad, a Google ad, a print ad, or any kind of ad. Ditto postcards, bookmarks, or any sort of handout.

I've never heard of an ad campaign for a book that paid for itself.

I've never met any writer truly satisfied with the results of advertising, but have met many who aren't.

Those who wish to sell you ad space will tell you that ads are meant to announce releases or inform potential fans, and have intangible effects that reinforce brands.

That's fine. But I'm not paying $500, let alone $5000, for intangible effects. I get plenty of intangible effects on my own, for free. If I don't see an immediate sales bump, I'm unimpressed.

I feel the same way about publicists. I've met some terrific publicists who do exactly what they say they'll do: get you publicity. Radio interviews, newspaper and magazine coverage, and press releases are all well and good, but guess what? I've been featured in Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, The LA Times, and many others. I've watch my sales while this happened, and didn't notice any appreciable uptick.

Odd, isn't it? Being on the front page of the LA Times, and not seeing a huge boost in sales?

How many publicists would be able to land you on the front page? How much would they charge?

Are you sure you want to pay for publicity?

You can see the effects for yourself. Tomorrow, I'm mentioned twice in a long ebook article in the Washington Post. Watch my Kindle rankings. See if they change dramatically.

Here's what I'd like to see with publicists and advertisers. I believe their purpose should be to sell books, not sell the writer their services. So offer to pay them a percentage of every sale that can be directly linked to their campaign.

I doubt you'll find any takers.

And let me state here that I don't doubt that ads and publicity have intangible, long-term benefits, and even some tangible short-term ones. I'm sure they do sell some books.

But in order for me to be behind them, I need to be shown they can sell enough to at least cover their own cost.

2. Appearances. I used to evangelize public appearances, and would speak at every opportunity I could. These appearances undeniably had value, both tangible and intangible. I sold books while there, and sold books after I'd left, for sure.

But I never sold enough to justify the cost of travel, or the time it took away from my writing.

These days, I get offered decent money to speak. But being flown to Texas, or Italy, is a minimum of three days lost to me. Even being paid $5k or more for an appearance, my hatred of travel, and the burnout I still feel from giving so many talks, panels, and lectures, does not make it worthwhile. So I quit cold turkey.

And my sales have increased.

Now it could be said that perhaps my sales would have increased even more had I kept up with appearances, but if you look at the biggest sellers in both print (King, Patterson, Rowling) and ebook (Hocking, Locke) you'll notice that they do very few public appearances.

I've eased up a bit on my moratorium. Amazon is bringing me to BEA (I'll be wearing a tee shirt will a bulls-eye on it) and OverDrive asked me to be the keynote at Digipalooza, which I agreed to because I'm pretty sure ebook lending at libraries is going to be the next big thing.

But in these cases, the main reason I'm going is to meet the people I'm working with, as face-to-face time at the bar is great for cementing relationships. Meeting fans is secondary, though I'll do my best to dazzle those I encounter.

The conference/library/bookfair/book touring circuit I've embraced in the past helped me sell a lot of books, though not in proportion to the time and money I spent traveling.

But until Autography becomes fully implemented and organizers begin catering to the ebook crowds, appearances have little value for self-pubbed authors.

3. Spam. Spam comes in all flavors these days. You can spam via email, via Twitter and Facebook, via Goodreads, Library Journal, Shelfari, via forums, via blog comments.

As mentioned earlier, no one likes being sold. Especially hard sells, repeated again and again and again.

It's a fine line to walk between blatantly tooting your own horn and informing those that want your message. So tread carefully.

Have a mailing list and make sure it is opt in/opt out. I use www.ymlp.com. When you use Twitter or Facebook, make sure links to your books are vastly outnumbered by content. Content, as you know, is information and entertainment, not spam.

Building relationships online is about what you have to offer, not what you have to sell. This blog wouldn't be popular if it was about me trying to sell my shit. Surf through a few dozen of my past entries, and see how many are about me offering information, vs. me trying to sell my books. Even though people come here of their free will, I could easily lose readers if I began to spam my own blog with constant self-promotion.

Occasionally it's okay. But out of the 600+ blog posts I've written (over 500,000 words) I doubt there are more than 30 that are dedicated to me selling my ebooks. The rest are content, which is why people keep coming back.

THE BOTTOM LINE

I fully believe that the ultimate reason I'm selling so many ebooks is because I got lucky.

I was able to improve my odds by being a good writer, being prolific, being professional, and learning a lot about writing and promotion. But it still came down to luck.

Ultimately, there isn't anything we can do to guarantee success.

However, as I'm fond of saying, being "successful" isn't a good goal.

Goals should be within your control. "I want to hit the Top 100" or "I'm going to sell 10,000 ebooks by June" are not goals. Those are dreams.

Goals are "I'll have three books up on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords by September" or "I'll be active on Facebook and Twitter until I get 5000 friends each." Those are within your control, and worthy pursuits.

Everyone needs to stop worrying about things they have no control over, and focus instead on the things they can control. Write well. Be professional. Experiment. Learn from mistakes. Keep an open mind.

There are no longer any gatekeepers. But that doesn't mean being a writer has gotten easier.

You want the real secret for success? Work your ass off until you succeed, no matter how long it takes.

Konrath Motivational Quotes

There's a word for a writer who never gives up... published.

Denial is a powerful opiate.

If you're selling eggs, don't piss off your chickens

Ebooks are forever, and forever is a long time.

When you're learning how to walk, you don't take classes. You don't read how-to books. You don't pay experts to help you, or do it for you. You just keep falling until you learn on your own.

Before you make the key, study the lock.

People would rather fight to the death to defend their beliefs than consider changing their minds.

It's about what you have to offer, not what you have to sell.

You have a better chance of getting struck by lightning than becoming successful in this biz. But if you really want to get hit by lightning, you can improve your odds.

No one is entitled to anything.

What are the last ten books you bought, and what made you buy them? Use those techniques to sell your books to other people. Do what works on you.

Hard work trumps talent. Persistence trumps inspiration. Humility trumps ego.

Praise is like candy. We love it, but it isn't good for us. You can only improve by being told what's wrong.

Your book is your child. You can't recognize its shortcomings, any more than a proud parent can consider their child dumb and ugly.

The experts don't know everything, and they might not know what's right for you.

Fate is a future you didn't try hard enough to change.

Anyone looking for you can find you. Get them to find you when they're looking for something else.

Life gives you wonderful opportunities to conquer fears, learn skills, and master techniques. "I can't" shouldn't be synonymous with "I don't want to."

People seek out two things: information and entertainment. Offer them freely, and they'll come to you.

The Internet isn't temporary. What you post today can lead people to you decades from now.

Writing is a profession. Act professional.

No one said it would be fair, fun, or easy. But it can be worthwhile.

We're all in the same boat. Start rowing.

If you can quit, quit. If you can't quit, stop complaining--this is what you chose.

There are a lot of things that happen beyond your control. Your goals should be within your control.

Just because something is publishable doesn't mean it will get published. Just because something is published doesn't mean it will do well.

Write when you can. Finish what your start. Edit what you finish. Self-publish. Repeat.

The most successful people on the planet have one thing in common: nothing can stop them. Don't expect to reach your goals without sacrificing things that are important to you. You can't be both happy and ambitious.

Being your own best advocate is about understanding how people react to you.

Fake confidence, and real confidence follows.

Maybe you can't win. But you sure as hell can try.

Always have two hands reaching out. One, for your next goal. The other, to help people get to where you're at.

If you can't be smart or funny, be brief.

If you're not in love with the sound of your own voice, how can you expect anyone else to ever be?

Knowing you're not original is the first step in becoming unique.

There's a word for a self-published writer who never gives up... rich.

242 comments:

1 – 200 of 242   Newer›   Newest»
Dylan English - Author said...

Thanks, Joe! This is exactly what I needed today.

I started publishing a little over three weeks ago an have sold 54 books as of this morning. The last few days have been slower and I was starting to get discouraged.

Thanks for reminding me that chance, randomness and luck are a huge part of this. And also for reminding me that marketing is a big part of this work.

-Dylan

Emily Hill said...

I will not coach an IndiePub potential-client unless they are a subscriber to the JAKonrath blog.

Simple 'sort' process.

Works for me! ;D

Daryl Sedore said...

Joe said: If your sales are in the gutter, switch genres. Get a pen name. Try something different. Play with the cover art and product description. Switch the category label. There is no surefire path to success, but if you want to hit a home run, you gotta swing at everything.

That's exactly what I did. I took down the Daryl Sedore titles that weren't selling that well and put them back up under my pseudonym.

Now sales are incredible. I sell in 1-2 days more than I sold in a month as Daryl.

Seriously informative post and motivational. Thanks!

Words are your paint. Use all the colors.

Daryl Sedore
AKA Jonas Saul

Brenda said...

You're right, Joe. You always have something to offer and that's why I read your blog and buy your books. Thank you for sharing.

Donald Wells said...

Thanks again Joe for more great advice.

Katherine Owen said...

What's the deal? Everyone's taking Saturday off??? You are an inspiration. I just put my book up this last week. It was exhausting, exhilarating, and powerful. I know I made the right decision because I enjoyed the process and control far too much. I did POD and epub at the same time, all on my own. I taught myself Indesign and pushed Word to the absolute limits and at the end of the rainbow; I'm published because of you. I didn't have to wait another year or two for some New York agent to tell me I'm worthy or good enough and I came very close to taking an offer, but, in the end, I knew I would turn them down because self-publishing is the way to go. It feels great. It feels right. Because of you and what you've written in your blogs. I just want to say, thank you, Joe!

Katherine Owen

michellemuto said...

Thanks for this Joe. I'm probably one of the many who emailed you for this exact advice. Great post.

Mister Snitch! said...

Very common-sensical advice Joe. Of course, common sense isn't all that common. Well done.

Julia Kavan said...

Thanks, Joe! Just what I needed to read today too!

Christina Garner said...

Such great info, Joe. Thanks for always being so generous with your knowledge.

I'm releasing my novel next week and am so glad I've been implementing some of your suggestions already, and the ones I'm not, I'll be getting on, prontissimo!

Kathleen Dienne said...

The part about "be successful is not a goal - I will put up three books is a goal" really resonates with me, and I appreciate you spelling it out.

The whole reason I started writing fiction was because I wanted more control over my creative outlets. Setting goals where I can't control any aspect of their achievement? For that I have birthday cake candles and falling stars, not business plans.

Kathleen

David said...

I just finished the 2nd draft of my first (publishable) novel an hour ago. I really needed to hear this. Just a few days ago, when I told a published friend that I was thinking of self-publishing, he told me "You're no JA Konrath." Then he encouraged me to try my hand at traditional publishing first.

Self-publishing takes so much courage. To put down your own money (especially when you don't really have it...or know if it will pay off) takes major guts. It's so much easier just to send our manuscripts off and see if some publisher will bury it on a shelf somewhere. Then we don't have to do any more of the work (unless we are going to sponsor our own book tours).

Self-publishing, I can already see, will take so much more courage and effort than traditional publishing.

Hard decisions.

author Scott Nicholson said...

I agree with much of this, and note it's funny how the people who work hardest sure seem to get lucky the most. But I have to say I'd take "Dad of the Year" over selling a gazillion ebooks anytime.

Fortunately, since I took responsibility for my own "luck," I have a lot more time to be a good parent.

Scott

Tom said...

That's the single most informative and inspirational article about writing I've ever read online... or in print either for that matter.

The quotes are awesome.

the1940mysterywriter said...

The content-vs-advertising issue is something that's been bothering me about Facebook and Twitter. It's boring when someone else does it, so why should I? And yet "they" swear it's important, to reach everyone. Thanks for putting this into perspective.
Gunnar

Tim McGregor said...

Good points here. Thanks again, Joe.

How does that saying go? "Be prepared when luck finds you."

Something to that effect.

Joe Konrath said...

But I have to say I'd take "Dad of the Year" over selling a gazillion ebooks anytime.

There are millions of good parents.

There are only a few hundred bestselling authors.

My responsibility as a dad is to provide love, advice, food, clothing, shelter, and happy memories. I believe my wife, and kids, would say I meet the criteria for a good parent.

That said, once you start sacrificing your goals and happiness for the happiness of others, it builds resentment, not healthy relationships. And while it is important to be there for your children, being there too much can enable them to depend on you for everything.

It's very easy to fall into the "I don't have time to write because I'm a parent" trap. If you want to write, you make time, not excuses.

Laura said...

You are a legend J.A.
FANTASTIC article, thanks so much!

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/54060
http://lkwatts.com

J. E. Medrick said...

"You have a better chance of getting struck by lightning than becoming successful in this biz. But if you really want to get hit by lightning, you can improve your odds."

I like this one, in part because it reminds of that old Family Matters episode where Urkel keeps getting struck by lightning. The (il)logical correlation is that if I want to sell well, I need to eat a lot of red meat (iron)... ;)

"Fake confidence, and real confidence follows.

Maybe you can't win. But you sure as hell can try."


I really like both of these, as well. I think it's absolutely true that what you fake can become second nature. It can turn into something real.

You can't learn to ride a bike without crashing into a few trees (ahem). You can't win a race without taking the first step.

You can't become a successful e-book author without posting some content!

Good, positive post today. Like it :)

YA: Cheat, Liar
Adult: Shackled

Ryne said...

Reading a post like this is really helpful.

You're an inspiration, and you're one of the main reasons that I opted to self-publish, or am going to self-publish after I finish my next novel at least.

I found your blog about six to nine months ago, and I just recently found it again.

But before I ramble, let me just say, thank you for everything.

nwrann said...

@Konrath wrote: "Sales involve luck." I wholeheartedly disagree with this. And since you brought up a baseball analogy later in the blog I'll expand on that.

It's damn hard to be a best-seller. It's damn hard to hit a baseball. It's even harder to hit a home run. Yet everyday during the Major League Baseball season balls are hit out of the park. Is that luck? I would say that there are fewer people alive that can hit a Major League home run than can have a best selling novel. But they don't hit home runs because of luck. And novels don't sell a lot of copies because of luck, that's a myth. And you have written a long blog post destroying that myth.

Thanks. Time to write.

-Nathan Wrann
Dalton Gang Press
The Kindness of Strangers

Joe Konrath said...

But they don't hit home runs because of luck.

Read The Drunkard's Walk, and pay attention to the discussion about Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.

In fact, it is luck.

That doesn't discount talent or hard work. But if talent and hard work truly win out, Mantle should have been the homerun king that fateful season. And he wasn't.

Also read Outliers. Luck plays a much bigger part in sports than we believe.

But bestsellers and homeruns aren't analogous in the way you're inferring. My comparison was to say that in order to hit a lot of homeruns you have to swing a lot, and strike out a lot.

But a homerun is dependent on how well you can handle a pitch coming at you. That involves control on your part.

You have ZERO control over 1 million people buying your book.

Stephen Knight said...

Thanks, Joe!

I had a wonderful couple of days, with one of my books finally making it to one of the top spots on the Amazon horror list as it flew north of the #500 mark...and then it flamed out. It's currently at #11 on the horror list and down to around #630 overall. Very discouraging, but I'll have sold about 550 units this week. So I shouldn't complain, and after reading your post, I guess I won't!

Tell you one thing, this makes for one interesting ride.

Stephen Knight
City of the Damned
The Gathering Dead
Hackett's War
(obligatory and shameless self promotion)

daniela elza said...

Great post. Thank you. I just published my first ebook. Have not had a lot of time to work on the promotion aspect but intuitively what you say resonates with me, and would be my choice, as I have followed similar strategies for paper books. The surprising parts for me were the thoughts on speaking, signing, conventions. Though it makes sense after a certain point.
I have been told it is a courageous thing to do. I have also been warned of the stuff one is giving up by going this route. But the exhilaration and sense of adventure is enough of a good sign to go for it.
I have already sensed that my writer buddies are not a very technologically adventurous lot. So there is another aspect to this journey. Thanks again.

Rob Cornell said...

This is timely. I've been a little in the dumps because my newest release isn't taking off like I'd hoped. In fact, the two novels I released before this one are out-selling it. Now, nothing I have published is burning up any bestseller lists. (Seems like I don't have near the luck as many of the folks coming here.) But I still thought it odd my older books are still selling steadily (and slowly, slowly, slowly increasing) but the new one isn't.

I did genre hop a little. I wonder if that’s the issue. Perhaps I should rebrand the new one with a pseudonym.

Anyway, I’m not about to quit. I still have fun writing, so why would I?

Just started on Goodreads. That looks like a lot of fun. I’m hoping to get more into that. Facebook and twitter is fun and all, but I like that Goodreads is focused on books. I could talk about books all day (not just my own, either. :))

Rob Cornell
Darker Things
Let the world you know meet the world you don’t.

Eloheim and Veronica said...

Thanks Joe. I just shared this post on Facebook. When I did, I noticed that instead of your summary of the post, the first comment on the post shows up as the description.

You can see what I am talking about here: https://www.facebook.com/eloheim.channel

I use Wordpress for my blog. I have a SEO plug in. The summary I place in the SEO plugin shows as the description of the post when I share on FB.

Not sure how blogger handles it.

Veronica
The Choice for Consciousness: Tools for Conscious Living, Vol. 1

The Homo Spiritus Sessions, Vol. 1, Vol. 2

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Oh, God. Still saying you got lucky. The self-delusion - I mean modesty - of it!

Missed you at RT. We didn't even find the hot tub, your fault entirely.

Kekoa said...

Konrath,

If you merchandise a line of t-shirts featuring a bull's-eye on the front and your epigraphs on the back, I'll buy a bushel.

Kekoa Lake
The Twentyfirsters

josephrobertlewis said...

It's been such a relief to me to learn, both from others and from my own experience, that success in this new era really depends on good books and not on social media skills. It means that good writers can and will succeed on real merit, which is all that really matters.

Oh, and go see Thor, it was fantastic.

Anna Murray said...

I'm counting on getting lucky, and I don't mean sex. Matt Dean is the state rep just north of me, and I'm trying to provoke him enough to call me an ink-sucking skunk. My first-choice epitet, "pencil-necked weasel", is taken. Blasted Gaiman.

Anna Murray

Anna Murray said...

Oops. Forgot the link to the Gaiman brouha.

Anna

Anonymous said...

Ross the husband here. My lovely and talented wife and I have been listening to Joe for a good many years. More than we care to name. And for good reason. Because, while a prophet is only rarely honored in his/her own country, and nobody is right all the time, there is this peculiar thing about Joe. If you believe, as do I, that publishing is more closely aligned to baseball than any other sport, Joe makes Ted Williams look like a bush-league piker! And we're Red Sox fans....
PS - my lovely and talented wife, Julia Spencer-Fleming,just made the New York Times Bestseller List (only #23; but ya gotta start somewhere!) Thanks Joe!

Sideburns said...

I'm involved in SF and fantasy fandom. We hold lots of conventions and we're always looking for speakers. If you write SF/fantasy, get in touch with whatever local conventions you can and let them know you're willing to be on their program. This gets you access to hundreds if not thousands of potential fans and, if you have a dead-tree version of your book, an autograph session will boost your sales.

Mystery fans also have conventions, as do other genres, although SF and fantasy outnumber them. Whatever genre you write in, become a regular at whatever conventions are appropriate because name recognition is important in building sales and there's no better name recognition that having met the author in person.

Anonymous said...

This is AWESOME.

Blogger and former agent Nathan Bransford just wrote about why he chose traditional publishing and validation was high on the list. Even with his platform/huge following/ability to sell, he still wanted (1) someone to say he was good and (2) to be able to tell, via who his publisheer was, other people that he was good ("people take note when I say Penguin is publishing me").


And that was for a MG book, not literary fiction.

Michael said...

Thanks, Joe. I always appreciate your thoughts and insights.

Stephen T. Harper said...

Dylan English said " Thanks, Joe! This is exactly what I needed today."

It is kind of funny how impeccable your timing seems for us serendipity believers.

I've been stuggling with a screenplay for weeks and watching my sales fall the more I ignored publicity work for my books. I finally sent off the script yesterday and decided to jump back in and do a book giveaway on Twitter... and long story short, suddenly Konrath comes back with an epic post on promoting. Or in other word, "just what I need today."

Thanks again for the inspiration and the info, Joe. Love this blog.

PS - if anybody would like a free Episode of King's X for Kindle - details of the giveaway are on my blog - ­SharperBlog

R.M. Prioleau said...

Thank you so much, Joe for another great post. I've bookmarked this post to help me stay motivated and on track on what I need to do next for my newly-released book (and hopefully future ones).

Rebecca Knight said...

I facepalmed when I read "Do what works on yourself" as far as promotion goes.

This is so simple, and yet I'd never thought of it in those terms! I mean, we're all writing what we love to read, so we *are* our own audience--our own demographic.

Marketing based on what get us to personally buy books is brilliant.

Thanks for the lightbulb moment!

Bob Mayer said...

One thing I see on Kindleboards is an amazing sense of wanting instant gratification. People are thinking in terms of days, weeks and months instead of years. I wrote my first manuscript in 1988. I was on my third manuscript and hundreds of rejections before I got an agent and got published in 1991. That's three years right there. Just to get published. I hit my first bestseller list around 2000. That's nine years to do that. With eBooks, I sold 347 all of January. I easily sell that in a day now. But that's because I have an extensive backlist and have spent years building an online community which I had not really tapped into until I woke up and realized the need.
I'm not as concerned with what's selling right now, because that work is in the past, I'm focused on where I'm going to be a year from now, two years from now, three years from now. I used to say in traditional publishing that you had to look three years ahead at least to stay alive. I was also always one manuscript ahead. What I mean by that is even though I was under contract for books I was writing, I always wrote an extra book that wasn't under contract. That saved my ass more than once.
As far as promo for ebooks, building community, such as this blog, is one way. I built a community from my teaching writing and also with several diverse genre communities ranging from science fiction (Area 51, Atlantis and my abductions), romance (where I am the only male on the RWA honor roll, which might make me weird too), military (because of my background) and non-fiction because of my teaching and consulting. But taking a long term view and committing to the work it will take to achieve that goal is key.

Joking about the abductions. But the mothership is really cool on the inside.

jonathanmoeller said...

I like this. It's like the Spartan creed for writers. Return with your keyboard or upon it.

Benjamin Wallace said...

Thanks, Joe.

Like many have said, the timing couldn't have been better. I posted my first ebook on Amazon Tuesday.

I put a few comments in the threads, used the social networks.

Once everything processed I found myself in third on the comic fiction list.

Since then I've been thinking, "What now?"

This article was a huge help. As always.

Ben

S.E. Gordon said...

Your best post yet! Tons of insightful wisdom imparted here.

S.E. Gordon
http://segordon.blogspot.com
http://www.segordon.com

roh morgon said...

Great post!

Thanks for sharing your experiences in the wild world of publishing. It gives the rest of us an inkling of what a rough ride it can be, and how awesome it can be when it everything lines up just right!

Richard Brown said...

Count me in as another follower.

I stumbled upon this blog about a month ago, read through almost all the former posts, and now I'm about to release my first novel. This wouldn't be happening for me if not for the advice i've read here. Keep up the great work, Joe. It's inspiring to see fellow authors helping each other out, even with marketing tips.

-Richard Brown

Karl said...

"If you want to write, you make time, not excuses."

Joe, you need to add that one to your list of motivational quotes.

kathleen shoop said...

Hey Joe, thanks for the post! It gives me so much to think about. I wanted to share my latest movement up the kindle ladder! Thanks for all your input and that of everyone who posts here. It's a real supportive community that is valuable to any writer. And while, being in the top 100 is a dream--I can say I'm nearly there! I realize I could drop like a lead pipe at any moment...but for now, it seems attainable if only by finally having some sheer luck dumped on top of all the hard work.

My book just went up last week, so this is good!

Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #188 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
#2 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Genre Fiction > Westerns
#3 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Westerns
#4 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Genre Fiction > Historical

Sietske said...

These tips really encourage me to continue writing. Thanks.

Linda Lavid said...

Terrific post! Blue skies back at cha.

Marie Simas said...

Joe's right about luck. I woke up this month and my book was ranked #371 on Amazon UK. It's the #1 essay collection over there.

I did very little marketing, and it took exactly 6 months for readers to find me.

It's a really wonderful time to be an author.

AnneMarie Novark said...

Best. Post. Ever.

Thanks, Joe!!!

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

Seems to be there's too much emphasis on making the big bucks rather than writing a brilliant book.

Mike Fook said...

Writing ebooks started off pretty well. Doing about 800 sales/month now. But, the last 4 books have pretty much tanked. By tanked, I mean there is only one selling at 3 per day, and the rest a couple a month.

I specifically wrote the last 4 books for the marketplace... and yet, I lost 4 times. It's a sad place to be in when the books you spend time on to get right and kill it in the marketplace - die. The ones that I had no clue would do well - are doing well.

Luck has something to do with it - sure. I've gotta believe, gotta find, the things that add up to success - or it doesn't make sense for me to keep on writing blindly.

I'm one of those people that needs to see results - positive results after putting a hundred hours into something. When I don't - it's crushing. I just wasted 100 hours. Lately I wasted 400 hours on 4 books.

I think I have better odds making YouTube videos in the partner program. I know better what works there.

Ebooks are still a mystery. What works, what doesn't. How to ensure success? Maybe Joe is right - Luck, Luck, Luck...

Jude Hardin said...

I spent $625 on a cover and formatting for my horror novella Unborn. So far this month it has sold seven copies.

At $.99.

I'm glad it has worked out so well for you and a few others, Joe, but I'm quickly loosing enthusiasm for the self-publishing route. I'll be working hard on my next book in hopes that my agent can sell it to one of the bigs.

SlingWords aka Joan Reeves said...

Joe, I have to agree with you about the luck issue. I've been in writing and publishing too long and have witnessed the luck factor time and again. Never had it before. I shut down every line that ever published me. *g*

Guess what? I finally got lucky! I put my first ebook Just One Look up in late March. At the end of April, I had sold 1000 copies! 1,000 in a month!

But guess what again? In the first week of May, that book has sold another 1,000 copies! That's right. I don't fracking believe it either!

My second ebook The Trouble With Love I priced wrong to begin with. Long story. Read back over your blog and you set me straight and got me back on track.

Changed price to .99 and it has started selling at the pace the first book showed from the get go.

I'm stunned. I can only chalk it up to the crucial elements but also to LUCK! Woo hoo. Who knew? I'm lucky!

Best wishes,
Joan Reeves

Nicki said...

With three little girls five and under, I've decided the only way I can both write and be a good mom is to get up at 4am every morning to write for a few hours before they wake up.

You have to do what you have to do...and hopefully it will pay off when my book comes out later this year.

Thanks for the inspiration, Joe!

-Lily

nwrann said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
nwrann said...

@jude, so you think you can buy a nice cover, price your book at the magic .99 and you'll be rolling around, wrestling with hundred dollar bills in your bed? After a month? I apologize if this is too blunt but... Get real!

First of all, a nice cover (and you do have a nice cover for "Unborn") is mandatory. Just like hitting a ball is mandatory to get in the big leagues. Doesn't mean you're going to the all-star game (might as well keep the baseball thing going).

Second, .99 isn't a magic number. As a matter of fact there are less .99 titles in the Kindle top 100 now than there were a month ago. (does that mean anything? I don't know but it might be a trend.)

Maybe you can just throw your hands up in the air and chalk it up to good old fashioned bad luck.

I am amazed at the number of writers here that believe that their future lies in the hands of good luck. Do you all rely on "good luck" and hope, hope, hope that your book is going to be well written? HELL NO!

@Konrath wrote: You have ZERO control over 1 million people buying your book.

It's not about 1 million people buying my book. It's about 1 person buying it, then another person, then another person. And on and on. And in order to get those people to buy it I have to work toward maximizing my potential to reach those buyers, whether it's through a great cover, great description, twitter page, blog, specific genre, whatever. Luck would be if every reader simply hit a "random" button and only bought whatever book popped up in front of them. But that's not how people buy books, is it?

-Nathan Wrann
Dalton Gang Press

The Kindness of Strangers

nwrann said...

Two more things:

1) If Amazon's reports actually gave detailed referral links you would be able to see how little luck actually plays into it. You would be able to see where your sales are coming from.

2) @Konrath, if you don't mind me asking, what's the daily traffic of this blog? Have you noticed any patterns with the popularity of this blog and your increase in sales?

nwrann said...

Okay, this is my last point and then I gotta get back to writing.

This is to all of those writers who believe sales = luck:
If your book is not selling it is not because you have bad luck it is because you are not putting your book in front of people that are willing to buy it. Plain and simple. If you want to sell your book, you need to put it in front of people that want to buy it.

Marie Simas said...

So far this month it has sold seven copies.

Jude, this is about how much I was selling per month when I first released my book.

It just kept climbing, slowly. If your book is good, it will generate buzz, and your readers will find you.

You just need to give it some time. Have a little faith and patience.

Robert Burton Robinson said...

So well said, Joe. How long did it take you to write it? Thanks for sharing with us when you could have instead been writing another five chapters of a book. ;)

I agree with everything you said. In fact, I learned most of it from you. The rest I learned by wasting time and/or money on promotional ideas that were doomed to fail.

Recently my luck ship has come in. One of my mystery books has been ranking around #125 for a few weeks. Today it shot up to #98 for a brief period. My wife and I were eating dinner at Outback when I checked my stats (shouldn't be checking stats during dinner, I know). When I showed her the #98 rank on my smart phone I had to muffle her scream. I wanted to finish my steak before they threw us out.

A couple of days ago I wrote a blog post on this subject titled, Creating Amazon Kindle Bestsellers. Of course, it wasn't nearly as good as your post, but then, nobody can out-Joe Joe. ;)

I am toasting you tonight, Joe, as I celebrate my very first 500-Kindle book sales day. Thanks!

Archangel said...

luck, they say she's a lady. I've met her; she's a wild woman who comes on to those who have a) been waiting for her, b)who are prepared with significant somethingorother loaded on the dock, c) who are willing to jump into her boat that could have unreliable everything, but somehow, for at least a period of time, floats. It's not the boat, its not the wild woman exactly; it's being ready to push off and being willing, as joe says, to row like hell toward other boats of your choice that have something to offer, and/or your help is needed there.
dr.cpe

Jude Hardin said...

so you think you can buy a nice cover, price your book at the magic .99 and you'll be rolling around, wrestling with hundred dollar bills in your bed? After a month?

It's a good book. It has a good cover, good blurbs...I think Joe will vouch that I can write.

I expected it to do well, but it's been a total disappointment so far. My traditionally published novel is actually selling better at $9.99 (which I think is an insane price for an ebook, btw). Maybe sales will pick up. I'll be happy if I can just make back the money on my investment.

Aimless Writer said...

I bought your first book because I read the Writer's Digest article you wrote about how you got published. I thought that was a good article so I wanted to see what you wrote. I loved the first Jack Daniels and bought each one that came after.
Other than that, I think book covers grab me and a clear simple blurb. When the back blurb is complicated I move on quick. Hey, I got a lot of books to peruse...I can't spend time figuring out what all that blather means.
And because I'm a avid reader people give me books all the time. And I'm in love with my kindle. I can buy a book in seconds. How kool is that???

Anonymous said...

It's a good book. It has a good cover, good blurbs...I think Joe will vouch that I can write.

Your book hasn't been out long enough to get linked into the Amazon system (linked on also bought lists, genre bestseller lists, keywords (tags) in the database indices). It can take several months for all this to happen. You might have the greatest story ever told, but it isn't easy to find on the shelf (yet). You need to be patient. Also, Carson Wilder isn't a known brand . . . it isn't like you get spillover from existing fans looking for more Carson Wilder books. Once you have two or three books out under the new pen name you'll get more traction . . . new releases start to sell sooner and faster once you have multiple titles.

I expected it to do well, but it's been a total disappointment so far.

Patience.

My traditionally published novel is actually selling better at $9.99 (which I think is an insane price for an ebook, btw).

How long has the traditional book been for sale on Amazon Kindle store? Perhaps it has been more thoroughly "Amazonized" (more occurrences in the 'also boughts' on other book listings, more tagging, more reviews)? Those factors all work to make the work more visible and increase sales.

Maybe sales will pick up. I'll be happy if I can just make back the money on my investment.

It's possible. Jude, I read the blurb and the first sentence was a turnoff for me. I'm pro-choice, and the aborted baby girl device struck me as veiled pro-life propaganda. I don't know if others would have the same reaction, but that could work in your favor (with some readers), but it might be a disincentive for others. Of course the controversy could create traffic and sales . . . like Da Vinci Code. If you could get a couple of pro-choice groups to rail on your book then you'd get plenty of traffic. Maybe that's what you were aiming for (?) I thought of that when I read the blurb.

Good luck with your sales. My experience is that the first couple of months aren't indicative of the sales pattern for a title on Kindle store. Give it 2-3 months.

nwrann said...

It's a good book. It has a good cover, good blurbs...I think Joe will vouch that I can write.

That's great! What are you doing to get it in front of people that are willing to buy it? Waiting? Hoping? Wishing?

Joe Konrath said...

Fer crissakes Jude, you've been reading my blog for five years. You know it took me 20 years to get to where I'm at right now--and you seriously expect to knock one out of the park instantly>

Joe Konrath said...

It's not about 1 million people buying my book. It's about 1 person buying it, then another person, then another person. And on and on.

Yes and no.

Yes, books sell one at a time.

But that's not what we're talking about. We're talking about being successful. If we define success as a great many book sales, then we're talking about a title selling in massive quantities.

In the case of a bestseller, it is done for them: publishers get books in many outlets at the same time. Bestsellers in print exist because of large print runs and distribution networks.

Ebooks have no such advantages. There are only a few retailers, and each carries 1 virtual copy which occupies one virtual spot on the shelf (rather than B&N having 120 new Patterson novels at the front of the stores.)

In order for ebooks to sell, luck is needed.

jtplayer said...

Now it's sold 8 copies Jude, 'cause I just bought one.

Hang in there man, things will pick up. And get to work on the next Nicholas Colt novel. Pocket 47 rocks, and I can't wait for more.

Btw...my review is coming soon. Been a little sidetracked here, but I'll get on it.

Good luck to you my friend!

Joe Konrath said...

Luck would be if every reader simply hit a "random" button and only bought whatever book popped up in front of them. But that's not how people buy books, is it?

So how do people buy books?

I sell over 1000 ebooks a day. Surely you don't think I am personally greeting each of those 1000 buyers and showing them my wares.

Yet they find my titles somehow.

That somehow is largely luck.

Kris said...

Great blog! I've been reading your blog for a long time, and have always enjoyed it, but truth be told, I've kind of zoned out with all of the guest posts lately. I still read all of them because I just released my own book and will never turn down free advice, and I've found some great reads...but nothing's quite like a honest post from you, Mr Sir!

And some good points that I haven't considered yet. I find myself having a difficult time finding time to promote myself because I really want to write! That said, maybe that's good - get some more books on the rack before I get the butts in the seats.

The Whispering Ferns - An Old-School Kid's Ghost Adventure!

Joe Konrath said...

If Amazon's reports actually gave detailed referral links you would be able to see how little luck actually plays into it. You would be able to see where your sales are coming from.

I get enough email to have a good idea where they are coming from. They happen upon my books by surfing Amazon, browsing bestseller lists, word of mouth, and the "Also bought" programs.

And all of that is basically beyond my control. Hence luck.

@Konrath, if you don't mind me asking, what's the daily traffic of this blog? Have you noticed any patterns with the popularity of this blog and your increase in sales?

First let me ask, of my 40 ebooks available, how many have you bought?

This is a writing blog, not a reader blog. My readers don't care that I'm the poster boy for self-pubbing. They simply stumble across my ebooks, and buy them based on a combination of low price, good cover, and decent description. They aren't doing it because I'm J.A. Konrath.

This blog can get upwards of 30,000 hits per day. My blog readers aren't buying many ebooks.

Joe Konrath said...

Seems to be there's too much emphasis on making the big bucks rather than writing a brilliant book.

When you can universally define "brilliant" you'll have my interest. Until then, I'll judge a book by its sales.

Joe Konrath said...

I am toasting you tonight, Joe, as I celebrate my very first 500-Kindle book sales day. Thanks!

It's been fun watching you go from giving ebooks away on your website to selling like hotcakes. Congrats.

Réussie Miliardario said...

I think your success, Joe, comes largely in part from your generosity. Because you have given so much help to others, that positive energy comes back to you. Thank you for the informative, helpful, inspiring post.

And much more success to you!

Reussie

Angela Verdenius said...

I have just found your blog, and I thank you so much. I write for a small publisher, and have seen my sales go up and down. I'm dipping my toes into self-publishing now. They both have 1 thing in common - publicity. I've been wrestling with that a lot lately. I joined facebook, got frustrated with it, felt I wasn't touching anyone (and the fact it ate 3/4 of my content when I took hours to uload it!), and it took so much of my time that I left. Now I'm focusing on being visible on yahoo groups, guest blogging, and contemplating a blog (but not solely about writing because I agree that reading a blog based soley on an author's books is, well, boring!). I work full time and need all the time I have to write, and I agree that one of the best things we can do is have our books out there for people to see, so I'm trying to spend more time writing, and a little less publicizing - maybe that should be trying to find an even balance! Anyway, just wanted to thank you once again - you gave me hope!

Elizabeth Ann Pierce said...

Wow, if I listened to the comments that suggest that I have to have 1000 sales/day right out of the gate or I've wasted my time epublishing and should go back to the query-go-round, I'd be really depressed right now.

My contemporary fantasy, Just Another Day in Suburbia has been on Kindle/Nook/Smashwords for one month, and is selling a copy here, a few copies there - nothing spectacular, but a reasonably consistent trickle that I hope will continue to pick up over time as I write more and readers begin to recognize my name and refer my books to their friends.

No one, not even Joe (especially not Joe!) ever suggested this was a get-rich-quick scheme. I don't know about the rest of you guys, but I'm in this for the long haul!

Liz
www.elizabethannpierce.com

Jude Hardin said...

Now it's sold 8 copies Jude, 'cause I just bought one.

Thanks, JT!

How long has the traditional book been for sale on Amazon Kindle store?

Since Monday 5/2.

I'm pro-choice, and the aborted baby girl device struck me as veiled pro-life propaganda.

It's not. The book is actually apolitical. The ghost of an aborted child haunting those responsible for its demise is part of the mythology of certain cultures, and that's what I was playing off with the idea.

You know it took me 20 years to get to where I'm at right now--and you seriously expect to knock one out of the park instantly?

I didn't necessarily expect to knock one out of the park, but I expected way more than what I'm getting.

My foolish mistake.

I'm learning very quickly that there's no safe investment when it comes to writing. It's always better, though, when the money comes to the writer, not from the writer. And the only way that that happens consistently is with traditional publishing.

Of course there are no guarantees in that realm, either, but at least there aren't any upfront expenses. John Locke says he spends $1000 for every ebook he publishes (and that $1000 has proved to be money well spent for him), but I wonder how many self-published authors are spending thousands only to see their money go up in smoke.

Will Granger said...

Thanks Joe,

I'm trying to apply your advice to my promotion efforts for my book. I am also going to teach a creative writing class this summer at the high school where I work. I plan to have each student publish an ebook to teach them about this process. I am also going to make your blog required reading for the course.

Will Granger

wannabuy said...

@Jude: "I didn't necessarily expect to knock one out of the park, but I expected way more than what I'm getting."

Have you followed Derek's blog?:
http://derekjcanyon.blogspot.com/

He's clawed his way forward. I find his sales inspiring... Even though he is still financially 'in the hole.'

It takes time and 'luck.' But the more time and effort, the more luck. ;)

Neil

nwrann said...

I sell over 1000 ebooks a day. Surely you don't think I am personally greeting each of those 1000 buyers and showing them my wares.

Not personally but you are greeting them and showing them your wares, by having good covers, good descriptions, good samples and good keywords.

They happen upon my books by surfing Amazon,
browsing bestseller lists, word of mouth, and the "Also bought" programs.

And all of that is basically beyond my control. Hence luck.


Nope, not beyond your control. Whether it's the keywords, collaborations, or quality of writing You can directly attribute each of those things above to distinct choices and hard work that you have done to put your books in front of readers that are willing to buy them. It's not luck. It's all traceable back to choices and effort that you have made.

This is a writing blog, not a reader blog.

Writers are readers. I've bought one of your ebooks and right now it's sitting in a back log of books that I need to read. After I read it, I'll probably buy another. If you don't think that your blog readers buy your stuff (and then go on to spread word of mouth, get it on "also bought" (don't forget the "also viewed") lists and move it into the best seller lists) then you need to go back and read the comments for your "Konrath's New Stuff" post.

You've worked your a$$ off to cultivate this 30,000 hit per day reader base. It seems to me that they're a pretty dedicated, supportive and vocal bunch. I wouldn't just toss all the credit off on "good luck".

wannabuy said...

@Liz:"No one, not even Joe (especially not Joe!) ever suggested this was a get-rich-quick scheme. "

So true. As a reader I'm enjoying the indie books immensely. The tough part is finding enough people to recommend your book...

Neil

Bob Mayer said...

I always say if you want to get rich like this play the lottery. It's got better odds and the work is a lot less.
I write because I love telling stories and would rather do it than anything else.

Paul Salvette said...

Thank you for the excellent advice, Joe. I admit I was a bit skeptical when I came across your site, as I had numerous preconceived notions about how publishing worked. You have shown me that I was wrong, and it is indeed possible to reach out to readers by self-publishing.

You mention that making money in this business is hard. Well, this should come as no surprise to anyone, as making money doing anything is hard work. Starting a business is hard, working in an office is hard, and the guy selling fried bananas down the street from me is working hard. That's why you get paid.

I very much appreciate your guidance and expertise, and I look forward to future posts as I try to get started in this business.

antares said...

Wisdom from a pioneer. Thank you.

Nicole MacDonald said...

As everyone else is saying - thanks! Totally needed this post :)
Re-edited vsn of The Arrival now up and just .99c for May ONLY

chris said...

It's very easy to fall into the "I don't have time to write because I'm a parent" trap. If you want to write, you make time, not excuses.

I got heaps of time to write... unfortunately I operate a popular on-demand lounge-room WrestleMania competition.

That said, tossing little kids across the floor doesn't pay the rent ... despite me being, by far, the winning-est competitor ever to participate in the daily "Disaster Dad vs Matty Monster/Nick Nightmare Tag-team" match-up.

Of course, when writing becomes as exciting as forcing toddlers to tap-out I will immediately lock the office door and find motivation to become a bestseller.

But until that time arrives I'm forced to continue my fighting career as well as cook, cuddle and kiss my very dedicated, extremely understanding and oh so, employable wife!! ;)

chris said...

...I'm forced to continue my fighting career as well as cook, cuddle and kiss my very dedicated, extremely understanding and oh so, employable wife!!

Ha!!

That line reads as if I like to COOK my wife!

She is SMOKIN' HOT... but no cooking was required to achieve that!

Joe Konrath said...

It's not luck. It's all traceable back to choices and effort that you have made.

That's a common logic fallacy. Hindsight is always 20/20. Read Drunkard's Walk and Predictably Irrational.

If my efforts lead to my success, they should be predictive, like any good experiment put to the scientific method.

But they aren't predictive. Not even close. There are no concrete reasons why some of my ebooks sell 200 copies a day, and some sell 10.

I've made it clear that you can improve your odds. That's a helluva lot different than actually calling your shots. I've had my expectations surpassed, and I've also had them deflated. If I was as popular and savvy as you think, every release would be a homerun. But they aren't.

You may not like to hear it, but we are ruled by luck.

Joe Konrath said...

It's always better, though, when the money comes to the writer, not from the writer. And the only way that that happens consistently is with traditional publishing.

We'll revisit this myth when you get your first royalty statement.

You released a single short story by a pen name. When this pen name has 20 titles available on Kindle, and has been doing this for 10,000 hours, then you'll have the right to be discouraged.

Total Honesty said...

Joe, I know you're right on these points because I know I'M right on these points. Lol.

Three things I tell my authors:

1. Your best work will only come once you've become part of the Million Word Club. (I never figured it to be 10,000 hours as you pointed out, so thanks for that aspect of it.)

2. The best marketing you can do for your book is write another book.

3. Most advertising is a black hole. It will suck your budget dry and leave you with very little to show for it.

In addition to these things, I also, like you, believe we are all in this together, small indy presses and enterprising self-pubbers. Hence, I started the "E"ndependent Publishers $2.99 Ebook Club enewsletter (check out the link below, a plug would be nice. Grin.)

I totally agree with everything you wrote, and it's nice to know that I'm leading our authors down the right path.

Rebecca Melvin
Double Edge Press Christian Publishing http://doubleedgepress.com
"E"ndependent Publishers $2.99 Ebook Club http://www.doubleedgepress.com/Endependent-Publishers-Coalition.html

Betty Houle said...

Joe, thanks so much for all the great stuff you send our way! I found your blog only recently, and I absorb every word. I write children's picture books and poetry, and I've had two of my poems published, but no luck yet on the picture books. Per your great instructions, I'll keep at them until they succeed.

Jude Hardin said...

Sorry I sounded so whiny last night. I'd just gotten back from my first signing at a bookstore, where I sold a grand total of one copy.

But I knew how tough this business was going in, and I have no intentions of ever giving up. Thanks for the slap in the face, Joe.

Bitchfest over.

Marcus Blakeston said...

>Kindle is still King

I only have free stuff on Feedbooks at the moment, but 91% of the downloads are epub format. PDF is 5% and Mobi is just 4%.

Jude Hardin said...

Oh, and Happy Mother's Day! :)

Shéa MacLeod said...

Every time I read one of your posts I get inspired all over again. I learn something new, and am gripped with fresh determination. I've learned so much from reading your blog. THANK YOU!

And then, because I believe in paying it forward, I share what I've learned with others. I haven't had anyone mock my decision to self publish simply because I'm brimming with confidence about it. I can't tell you how many people have been flat out astonished and impressed about my knowledge of publishing/self-publishing and my confidence about going indie. I just grin and say, "I read Joe." lol

Anonymous said...

Joe sez: Fer crissakes Jude, you've been reading my blog for five years. You know it took me 20 years to get to where I'm at right now--and you seriously expect to knock one out of the park instantly

Joe, what about Joan Reeves, who commented on this very thread that she put a book up in late March, sold 1000 copies in April and another 1000 the first WEEK of May?

You can go over to Kindle Boards and see dozens and dozens of similar experiences. People who throw books up, do no promotion whatsoever, and before you can say "99¢", they're selling thousands of books.

It does seem highly unlikely that Joan or anyone else could get a book in front of that many readers in almost no time at all. And yet she did. And so did all the others. How? Who knows?

I think that may have been the kind of thing Jude was referring to.

Lee McAulay said...

Great quotes, Joe.
Thanks to the advice, information and cheerleading on your blog (and a couple of others) I'm now self-published. I wouldn't have done it (note, not couldn't) without that inspiration.
It's great fun! And those stories are building blocks, each of them part of a canon of work that will grow and grow, as I add to them over the months and years.
Keep up the good work.
Thanks again.
- Lee.

Robert Bruce Thompson said...

Jude Hardin said...

I spent $625 on a cover and formatting for my horror novella Unborn. So far this month it has sold seven copies.

At $.99.

I'm glad it has worked out so well for you and a few others, Joe, but I'm quickly loosing enthusiasm for the self-publishing route. I'll be working hard on my next book in hopes that my agent can sell it to one of the bigs.


So, you've planted an acorn, waited a couple weeks, and you're disappointed because it's not yet a giant oak? Get real.

--
Robert Bruce Thompson

Joe Konrath said...

I'd just gotten back from my first signing at a bookstore, where I sold a grand total of one copy.

Congrats! That's more than most.

You know how you never appreciate your parents until you've become one?

When my first hardcover came out, I did a signing at a store that had 100 copies. Not a single person came to see me.

I was there for 8 straight hours, handselling to everyone who walked in, and sold all 100.

This is a brutal biz. Learn your elevator pitch, smile a lot, shake hands, be conversational, and work your ass off.

Joe Konrath said...

Joe, what about Joan Reeves, who commented on this very thread that she put a book up in late March...

Good for her. She got lucky.

Joan, and other authors who get lucky fast, are exceptions.

Don't base your career on exceptions.

The normal path is slow and steady.

Right now, Blake Crouch is selling like hotcakes. It took him a year of being on Kindle before that happened. But more to the point, he's been in the biz since 2003, like me. That's a lot of hours logged.

Keep at it until you get where you want to be. That's the only answer.

Jude Hardin said...

I just read a Washington Post article
that pretty much tells it like it is:

The overwhelming number of self-publishing e-authors are consigned to the same fate as their print counterparts: oblivion.

“We have less than 50 people who are making more than $50,000 per year. We have a lot who don’t sell a single book,” says Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords.com, a Web site that helped launch indie publishing.

“When I load all our numbers on a spreadsheet, it’s the typical power curve,” he says. “On the left, there’s a skinny area of the chart where people are knocking it out of the park. And then we have a very, very long tail off to the right, where some titles sell very few at all.”


Like Joe says, you have a better chance of getting struck by lightning than becoming successful in this biz.

Andrea Lipomi said...

Hi Everyone! I've been reading Joe's inspirational posts and the equally inspirational comments here for a few months now, and your honesty has given me the courage to epub my first book. Granted, I rub butts in Las Vegas for a living, and it's a non-fiction guide to massage therapy, but the process seems pretty similar to the fiction epubbing experience.

Thanks a million!

Andrea

Confident Relaxation Massage: Advice for the Budding Massage Therapist

Jude Hardin said...

I was there for 8 straight hours, handselling to everyone who walked in, and sold all 100.

That's awesome.

But I've felt for quite a while now--unless you're a celeb or at least a NYT bestseller--signings are an extremely inefficient way to sell books. Apparently bookstores are starting to feel the same way, because it's getting harder and harder (especially with the indie stores) to schedule events. Along with a lot of other things in the biz, that old model is starting to crumble.

Stephen Knight said...

I think it's vitally important to have more than one or two works available.

I have one title that sells real, real well, and I wrote that one as an "experiment", more than anything else. It's a zombie story, and while I like zombie movies, I've never really been taken by the handful of zombie books I've read. Just the same, I could see the market for a book is pretty big, so I spent a couple of months writing one and adding a strong military component, which is something I do very well, because I know how the special operations community works. I got a good cover, wrote and retweaked the description, and set it at the holy grail price of 99 cents.

Bang--out of the park.

Now I have a similar story that's actually better, about vampires who don't sparkle and seduce young girls... and it doesn't have one tenth the sales of the zombie book.

But the zombie book is reponsible for a lot of draft, and all four non-zombie titles are selling a lot better than they did without the zombie book in my arsenal. But in order to stay viable, I need to add more titles. Do I strike out and start something new, or work on another zombie story?

The answer seems pretty clear to me, since there's a thusand-unit gap between the zombie title and next best-selling title I have available.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, you have to have some notion of what the market is for a title you want to write...if you want it to sell well. And one or two offerings isn't enough to generate revenue if one of the works takes off.

But no matter what, it's going to be a waiting game, and it could be a long one. My next release might fall flat on its face even if it is a sequel to the book that's selling well, because the buying public is damned capricious. You always have to be mindful of that; there's no formula for success, and success is random. But failure? Failure seems to be the normal state of things, but that state also isn't constant.

Rob Cornell said...

I have an idea. To test the theory that Joe's blog here sells books (not just luck), everyone go buy my crime thriller, RED RUN, on Amazon and see if I get to the top 100.

(Tongue planted firmly--but nevertheless hopefully--in cheek.)

Rob Cornell

Lauryn Christopher said...

among other things, Jude said: It's always better, though, when the money comes to the writer, not from the writer. And the only way that that happens consistently is with traditional publishing.

The part you're forgetting is that when you decide to epublish you're *taking off* the writer hat and *putting on* the publisher hat - which includes the expenses that go with that part of the equation.

So sure, as a PUBLISHER you'll have to invest in your epublishing venture, in terms of time, money, etc., and it will take time before you see a return on your investment.

As a WRITER you need to stop focusing on sales and ROI and get back to writing the next title. In the meantime, whether the money comes in trickles or floods, it is flowing in the right direction. (That's the sweet part about owning *both* hats!).

Conflict of Interest
a crime novel by Lauryn Christopher

Joe Konrath said...

Do I strike out and start something new, or work on another zombie story?

I'd write a zombie book that incorporates vampires from your other book.

Stephen Knight said...

I'd write a zombie book that incorporates vampires from your other book.

Heh, thought about that too!

Jude Hardin said...

So sure, as a PUBLISHER you'll have to invest in your epublishing venture, in terms of time, money, etc., and it will take time before you see a return on your investment.

You must not have read the article I linked to. Most self-pubbers are making, and will continue to make, scratch. Like any gold rush, a few will make it big while thousands of others epic tank.

On a positive note, the manager at BAM last night did allow me to autograph the nineteen copies I didn't sell at the signing, so those copies will stay in the store and will probably get some prime placement for a while.

Stephen Knight said...

Jude, your book's only available on Amazon? No B&N or Smashwords? It has a kickin' cover, by the way.

Jude Hardin said...

It's on B&N. Since I released it April 21, it has sold one copy there. :)

Thanks regarding the cover. Jeroen Ten Berge did an excellent job for me.

Stephen Knight said...

Jude, pop it over on Smashwords and I'll guarantee you at least one sale there... I've been buying my books there, since they seem to pay better royalties, and I like it when more of my money goes to the writer.

And Jeroen does fantastic work. As soon as I come up with a work that my current guy can't handle, I'm going to him.

Anonymous said...

Jude, my 2-cents on Unborn is:

1. Cover doesn't appeal to me. It has too much of a slaughter-fest feel to it rather than a complex novel with likeable characters and twists and turns.

2. I'd have to suspend my disbelief too much and enter a world where someone unborn ends up killing people.

3. The description sounds like a straight-line slaughterfest and a very predictible plot (there, just lilled # 1, now lets get # 2, etc.)

So, wihtout reading a word of the book, I'm already turned off. My question to you is whether the book is deep enough to actually appeal to a reader like me? If so, then I'd suggest tweaking all the above so that it draws me in. Are there any likeable characters in it? If so, let the reader know that in the description. Is there anything at work here other than "you killed me so now I'll kill you"? If so, put those additional dimensions in the description.

My 2 cents.

Robert Bruce Thompson said...

Jude Hardin said...

It's on B&N. Since I released it April 21, it has sold one copy there. :)

Thanks regarding the cover. Jeroen Ten Berge did an excellent job for me.


The cover is good, as are the blurbs. It's good that you have lending enabled and unlimited devices.

The one big problem I see is that potential buyers have no idea what they'd be buying length-wise unless they happen across the reference to "novella" buried in one of the blurbs. I'd recommend you add a line to your description something like "about xx,xxx words, or xxx print pages"

--
Robert Bruce Thompson

Jude Hardin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jude Hardin said...

Thanks for the comments and suggestions, everyone. I'll work on that stuff.

Anon: You speak of slaughterfest as though it's a bad thing. ;)

It's a ghost story. It's extreme horror. It is what it is.

Unborn

Stephen Knight said...

I just checked out Unborn on Amazon, and I have to say, I disagree with the previous criticism regarding the description. The novella may be only for those with a specific taste, but I think the description does it justice.

Interesting how viewpoints can be so divergent, isn't it?

Knight
City of the Damned
The Gathering Dead
Hackett's War

Jude Hardin said...

Thanks, Stephen. I wanted to try to sell it with a logline, and that's the premise I worked with from the beginning.

Stephen Knight said...

I love loglines, myself. Very handy, I think.

Stephen Knight
City of the Damned
The Gathering Dead
Hackett's War

Merrill Heath said...

Joe, I'm glad to see you mention the 10,000 hours rule Gladwell discusses in Outliers. Like anything else, writing is hard work and it requires hours upon hours of effort to hone your skills and become really good at it.

Professional athletes spend many years perfecting their skills. They practice hours every day. Top pilots require years of training and practice to acquire the skills required to be an ace. In all walks of business the majority of the people who reach the top of their field do so after years and years of hard work, study, practice, and failures as well as successes. And yet, some writers think they can plunk out a book in three months and it's good enough to make them a huge success.

Of course, there's more to Gladwell's theory on the 10,000 hours rule than just putting in the time. You also must have talent, opportunity, luck, good timing, and a return on your investment. In other words, you have to get something positive in return for your efforts. If not, chances are you won't keep plugging away at it long enough to ever get to 10,000 hours. His point is that it's one of the factors that separates the guys who are successful from those who aren't. But it's only one of many factors.

Another great analogy is learning to walk. If we gave up on walking after we stumbled and fell a few times, very few people would be walking. But not walking is not an option. So we fall. We get up. We fall again. We get up again. And so on until we learn to walk.

It's also interesting to note that much of the motivation to learn to walk was provided by our parents, since we were infants at the time and didn't have the capacity to reason through the pros and cons of walking. The encouragement we received was also a key factor. Both of which were beyond our control. But that's a topic for a whole other discussion.

At any rate, with the exception of a very few, successful writers take the same approach to writing as they did to walking. Not doing it simply is not an option.

Merrill Heath
Bearing False Witness

Mike Dennis said...

Joe,
Regarding the signing you mentioned where you went into a bookstore and hand-sold all 100 copies the store had, after no one had come to see you, that is a great example of how an author can help himself.

By being comfortable around people, by not being afraid to pitch your book, by developing the right pitch for the right person...it all adds up, in your case, it added up to 100 books sold.

Congratulations on that (now minor) accomplishment.

Dustin Wilson said...

@Jude Hardin

I read the description for Unborn. I can see a lot of people being turned off by the subject matter.

I would probably never read a book like that except with the intention of having a laugh at the author.

This isn't to be insulting. Just to say. A book with that type of charged subject matter is probably going to be fairly polarizing.

Jill James said...

Joe, great post as usual. Promo sucks sometimes so I think we have to at least find a way to do it that we enjoy.

Jude, love the cover, but that description is so not going to sell mass quanities. The stuff in the editorial review by Eric Christopherson was what I would read and want to buy about John Rock and tracking down the vengeful ghost.

Karen Woodward said...

Thanks for the inspirational words. I know this isn't the first time you've heard this, but I'll say it anyway: great blog!

Darlene Underdahl said...

Keep throwing sparks. A fire will start sooner or later.

Rebecca Stroud said...

Well, I must say that this is one of your best posts ever, Joe...and quite timely (for me anyway).

As in: I've been struggling for just a bit over six months to market my work but, no matter what I do, it doesn't seem to help one helluva lot. Admittedly, I'm no whiz kid when it comes to PR but - personally - I still believe it comes down to the luck factor (I call it timing) plus old-fashioned word-of-mouth. Ergo, I need to get more work out there instead of spending so much time uselessly beating my head against social media walls.

In the meantime, I could use all the help I can get so, if you like nasty women, do I have a book for you...Devil's Moon

Rebecca Stroud

Rob Cornell said...

I read that WashPo article, too. And I noticed they only quote Mark Coker's numbers--probably because he's the only one giving them. But his numbers DO NOT reflect the ebook market at large. Smashwords is a tiny percentage of total ebook sales. Amazon is the big dog. I would bet money there are more than 50 people making over $50,000 a year on Amazon alone.

Rob Cornell
Red Run
Your daughter murdered. Your son the prime suspect. What would you do to prove your son's innocence? Would you sacrifice your own?

Gretchen Galway said...

Thanks, Joe. I was feeling Joe-deprivation for another post.

The Washington Post (via Mark Coker) and others quote how most self-published books fail by a large margin.

Gathering statistics that are accurate right now is utterly impossible. More useful would be a poll on a site like this or KindleBoards--where there are people who are applying serious effort. Even then, we're on a rapidly shifting surface, and no averages could be calculated for anything. What data set would you use? February 2011 to date? February 2009 to date? People who paid for professional editing? People with three or more titles up?

I published a novella in February and a novel a couple weeks ago. I used a pen name with absolutely no history online. I'd never published fiction in any form before, though I believe I've put in my 10,000 hours since I began writing in 2000.

I'm not a bestseller, but I'm a hell of a lot closer to the left side of that bell curve than this newbie expected. If I follow DWSmith's advice and write a lot more, I could make a living through volume of titles alone. This is a goal I can control: learning how to write faster. Working harder. (Turning off the Internet more.)

An interesting note on luck: as Amazon and BN tweak their search engines, my sales fluctuate wildly. In the last couple weeks, I've seen my sales on Amazon take a hit, but my BN sales have taken off (well, relatively speaking.) Dramatic changes because of environments I can't control.

I don't think it's like baseball, but fishing. The more hooks in the water, the more lakes, the earlier you drag yourself out of the tent, the better your luck.

Love Handles (A Romantic Comedy for when Spanx aren't enough)

Robert Burton Robinson said...

I read that WashPo article, too. And I noticed they only quote Mark Coker's numbers--probably because he's the only one giving them. But his numbers DO NOT reflect the ebook market at large. Smashwords is a tiny percentage of total ebook sales. Amazon is the big dog. I would bet money there are more than 50 people making over $50,000 a year on Amazon alone.

I made $3,249 on my Kindle books in April, and I'm headed toward a $5,000 month of May. Yet, I only make around $250 per month via Smashwords---although, the number could be higher for April and May. It's kinda hard to tell since you don't get immediate feedback on your sales from the iBookstore, Sony, Kobo, etc. So I agree, it's probably not a good idea to look at statistics from Smashwords only.

Brandon Wood said...

Knowing what genre you're writing in helps. I know that sounds obvious, but one of my short stories I had listed as paranormal fantasy, but then I read an article about sub-genres in fantasy, and mine was actually high fantasy, not paranormal... Woops!

I'm also trying to promote causes with my books rather than just promote my books. For example, my short story "Double-Double: Shots in the Dark" is dedicated to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. I like to promote charities and causes that I believe in more than tooting my own horn because, as you said, that kind of advertising doesn't work on me so it probably won't work on others.

Jude Hardin said...

Right now the Kindle version of Pocket-47 is doing pretty well at $9.99. It's #6202. How low would it have to go to start showing up on some of the bestseller lists?

Pocket-47

AnneMarie Novark said...

Jude said: Right now the Kindle version of Pocket-47 is doing pretty well at $9.99. It's #6202. How low would it have to go to start showing up on some of the bestseller lists?

From my experience, they usually have to hit around #3000 or so to get into a Top 100 Genre list.

Dustin Wilson said...

I published a short story (the least in-demand fiction format) and didn't sell 1000, in the first month.

Time to go online complain about it.

Nancy Beck said...

In the Food for Thought Department:

In the comments section over on Dean Wesley Smith's blog (touting this blog post, BTW :-)), there is this, "I’ve seen two major studies by major writing organizations lately, and they both found that the most important factor in book purchases was familiarity with the author. In one case they had multiple questions about that, and the thing that blew me away is that knowing the author was more important than having read that author’s books!"

As the commenter went on, "Does this mean they need to _meet_ the author and have pancakes with them before buying a book? No. It just means that they have heard of the author, Maybe from friends, or they’ve seen a review, or they’ve read the author’s blog or met them on facebook — or maybe they’re read their short stories in magazines. But the biggest thing is that they’ve heard about the author from someone they trust."

Interesting stuff. I'm going to leave a post there to try to get the particulars on those studies.

Lacy Camey said...

Printing this out! Thanks, Joe! :)

Erik said...

You mean it takes more than writing an incredibly entertaining blog and composing witty comments on popular blogs? Damn. Back to the drawing board.

But seriously, what hit me the most is sacrifice. I have three small children. I'm a great dad (kind of a selfish thing to say on mom's day. oh well. my wife doesn't read this blog). I write when my family's asleep, so I sacrifice sleep. I need to sacrifice more of it because I'm now a believer that I need to get multiple titles up to increase my chances for luck. I don't have bags under my eyes, but I probably should.

Benjamin Wallace said...

@Erik

I'm with you. I couldn't give up time with my three kids.

But, there is always time to be found. When people ask where I find the time to write, the only thing I can tell them is that I just do.

I did give up TV and it's rare I sit to watch a movie now.

I've definitely got the bags under my eyes though. But, I know I've earned them.

Blake Crouch said...

Jude - hang in there, dude. While Pocket-47 has about 3-5 weeks to kick ass or go home, Unborn (which is a damn good horror novella) is forever, and will be earning you $$ long after Pocket-47. I predict in the next 24 months, if you release more ebooks (and all under your name) that Unborn will earn you 5 or 6 times what you were paid for your traditional release. People just haven't found you yet, and I do agree that the subject matter is polarizing. I would consider renaming the book, releasing it under your name, and not giving away the reveal, which is that this fetus is on the warpath (which you execute very well) but in a short product description, kind of sounds like pro-life propaganda. Redo your pitch, base it on your hero and his past, that a lot of mayhem is happening, and that he's come to fix it. As is, you're giving away the entire book in the product description. Just my three cents.

Blake Crouch said...

Oh and being on Joe's blog doesn't sell books. The last two times I've posted here, I've actually seen a slight drop in my daily ebook sales. People are here for the wisdom, not to shop.

Dustin Wilson said...

@Blake Crouch

I bought Run after your guest post.

The description was too good to pass up. For $2.99 I can't imagine how someone could read that product description, and not just throw their money at you and say, "I give up! I have to know what's going on!"

Rob Cornell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob Cornell said...

@Dustin

Agreed. I did the same thing and bought RUN. A hell of a book description and a low price made it an easy buy.

@Blake Crouch

Do you think publishing across genres under the same name is a good idea? I just released an urban fantasy with heavy thriller elements, but worried it was too different from my straight crime novels. So I just made updates and put it under a pen name. After reading your recommendation to Jude, I'm second guessing myself. After all, more titles under one name means I don't have to promote like I'm two people, right?

Jude Hardin said...

Thanks, Blake! I'll definitely work on the product description.

I'm not sure about publishing extreme horror under the same name as my tamer stuff, though. Shouldn't they be under different "brands"?

Jude Hardin said...

I just checked on Unborn and saw that I now have an AWESOME review from Lee Goldberg. Grinning from ear to ear. :)

Anonymous said...

"Right now the Kindle version of Pocket-47 is doing pretty well at $9.99. It's #6202. How low would it have to go to start showing up on some of the bestseller lists?"

So how do the traditional publishers manage to push a $10 ebook from a first-time writer into the top 6200?

I think this shows the power of traditional publishing vs. the power of indie publishing. I'm sure it's a fine book but had Jude self-published it at $10, where do you think the ranking would be?

I'm not advocating one way of publishing over another, but I do think it's interesting to see how traditional publishers can push ebooks and make them sell. What do they do that indies don't do?

Jude Hardin said...

Right now Pocket-47 is 4,151. A couple of more good hours and I might start cracking some of the genre top 100 lists. I'm surprised as anyone that it's selling this well at $9.99.

Douglas Dorow said...

Jude,
Like all of us, I think you've figured out it isn't just writing the book and getting it out there. If you look at Joe's post, it's about marketing as well.

Wish we could just write. My book is coming out in June, but I've been working on promotion of me as a writer since Sept with twitter, facebook and a blog. We'll see how it pays off.

Good luck, and work on marketing as much as your writing. You've written a couple of great books. Now you have to sell them and write some more!

Keira Lea said...

"2. Remember the Four. I've noticed the books that sell best seem to be professional looking (covers, formatting, editing), have low prices, good product descriptions, and are well-written. Don't put up anything less than terrific on all counts."

I listened to this advice and reworked the cover for my YA novel REPLAY. I can't believe how excited I am about the new cover. Please wish me luck! :D

Woong Lee said...

Hey Joe,

Perfect article considering I uploaded my first experimental piece to Amazon.

I'm still a relatively young (24) drifting soul trying to figure out my way in life, always with the vague notion that one day I would write a book. Then, after I read some articles, and then this blog, detailing the massive success some of these indie writers were having, I found my mind was blown with the possibilities the situation offered.

I wanted to get something written, upload it, and swim in cash. But I find myself writer's blocked to an extent, mainly because I can't figure out what I want to write. Well, actually, I do have a hazy idea of the kind of thing I want to be writing, but my pen stops cold knowing that there would be no market for it, not without a big push by the major players (particularly the reviewers) in "legacy" publishing (and I'm obviously a million miles from getting there, so that's out.

If you want to sell, write romance, thriller, fantasy, sci-fi, or books about zombies, vampires, wizards or what have you. That seems to be the take-home message. Something marketable, with a built-in audience.

So you see the conflict. Anyone feel this way?

Also, I managed to string together 9,500 words into a story, the first in a series, in a highly experimental move, a hodgepodge of elements thrown in, trying to appeal to audiences, but at the same time have some fun writing it. Where's a good place to get some feedback?

nwrann said...

@Rob, Use your pen name on the cover and as the "Author" of the book. Then put your real name in as the "Editor" that way it will still be linked to your other books.

@Woong, Don't try to play the market. Write what you want to write. Write the story that is dying to come out. Look at it this way, would you be happier writing what you want to write and selling zero copies or writing what you think will sell and selling zero copies?

Selena Kitt said...

Jude said: "Sorry I sounded so whiny last night."

Aw Jude. Lots of HUGS. Ya know, try a "bright side" approach. You were in a bookstore, where your book is actually sold! That's pretty cool to those of us who are self-published and have never had that experience. ;)

As for "Unborn" - you just reminded me I wanted to read it. (so many danged books, so very little time...)

Dr CPE says: "It's not the boat, its not the wild woman exactly; it's being ready to push off and being willing, as joe says, to row like hell toward other boats of your choice that have something to offer, and/or your help is needed there."

Yep. Luck is a lady, and like most of the feminine persuasion, she's as changeable as the weather. Consistent she is definitely not.

It's hard to wrap our heads around things that are outside of our control... but it's hubris not to try. Writers are egoic enough! I'd suggest giving luck her due. ;)

Lena Sledge said...

I really enjoy your blog post they are informative and useful. Reading it is like having my morning coffee, I don't drink coffee, but I do read your blog everyday. The tips you give are invaluable for a writer, especially newbies. Thank you.

Anna Murray said...

Those who worry about their book sales straight out of the gate should read my latest blog post, "What is a bestseller"?

Rob Cornell said...

Jude said: "I just checked on Unborn and saw that I now have an AWESOME review from Lee Goldberg. Grinning from ear to ear. :)"

See that? I'd kill to have a glowing review from someone like Goldberg. Or even that J.A. Konrath guy.

You keep getting reviews like that, you'll see the sales you're hoping for.

telly said...

I'm excited about OverDrive because the library-lending issue has yet to be properly tapped by ebooks. Got a question about it, too: right now I think getting a LOC number with all the respective cataloging-in-publication data (to be put in the front of the book on the copyright page) is the best way to be recognized by libraries. Do you recommend this, Joe? Is OverDrive ready for prime time (ie for self-published authors who have books ready to go)? Thanks.

Kendall Swan said...

Joe,
Thank you for another great post.

I know you've gotten in trouble for your parenting comment before but what you say still holds true. I think for a lot of mothers especially, carving time out to write is just too fraught with guilt, too uncomfortable of a path. But getting the words on the page is always step one, regardless of of how you get your book out there.

Love the quotes!

Kendall Swan
NAKED Housecleaning

Blake Crouch said...

@Dustin and @Jude

I tried to post this earlier, but blogger ate it...re: pennames, I don't use one, because I'm trying to build as much shelf space as I can. And my work does differ broadly. The serial stuff I write with Joe is horror to the max, with dark, twisted humor, that is not everyone's bag of laughs...then stuff like Run, Abandon, and Snowbound, while having horror underpinnings, are much more mass appeal type of books. This is why I cannot wait to get Snowbound and Abandon back from my publisher, so I can release them properly. So I don't understand what the allure is to people using pen names just starting out...I think the vast majority of people who buy Jack Kilborn stuff for the first time have no idea he's JAK. To have estabbed two successful writing names is not easy, and I'll be curious to see how Joe's sci-fi alterego, Joe Kimball fairs...it's hard enough out there to carve out an identity without confusing everyone with pen names, etc. Just be clear in the product description what you're writing. Jude, if Pocket-47 is doing well, that should be boosting Unborn, but no one who buys it will know you wrote that too. That's a shame.

ezbeanz said...

"But while you may win Dad of the Year, never have bags under your eyes, and be able to quote every episode of Seinfeld, you probably won't ever sell 1000 ebook a day, either."

Yes, screw family and bring in $$$.

Stephen Knight said...

Why, how uncharitable! Guess there's always enough time for a "read and snipe" pass.

Joe Konrath said...

Yes, screw family and bring in $$$.

Agreed. My family hates the $600,000 a year I'm making, and having me home full time.

Rob Cornell said...

Agreed. My family hates the $600,000 a year I'm making, and having me home full time.

Yeah, they must despise your @#$!%&* guts. :)

AJ Barnett said...

A terrific post - great insight.

It gives shy authors a bit of heart. I hate promotion.

I look forward to a gradual increase in sales, as I put out more books instead of wasting time trying to get my name out there.

Jude Hardin said...

Jude, if Pocket-47 is doing well, that should be boosting Unborn, but no one who buys it will know you wrote that too. That's a shame.

Well, I'm listed as an author, so it should show up in searches, and Unborn is on my Amazon author page.

But I hear you, Blake. There's a lot to be said for sticking with one name.

Jude Hardin said...

You were in a bookstore, where your book is actually sold! That's pretty cool to those of us who are self-published and have never had that experience.

It's a pretty humbling experience. :)

ezbeanz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
WDGagliani said...

Congratulations to Joe and a few others who read this blog (and to me, lol) for the Anthony Award nomination of the book THRILLERS: THE 100 MUST READS, edited by David Morrell & Hank Wagner (Oceanview).

Just announced!

Congratulations to all contributors, the editors, and the publisher!

Bill Gagliani
(I wrote about Wilbur Smith)

Selena Kitt said...

So I don't understand what the allure is to people using pen names just starting out...

There is one really good reason - if you write erotic fiction and you decide to start writing mainstream. Sometimes those can cross over. But if, for example, you wanted to start writing young adult and were previously writing erotica? Go for a different pen name.

Jude Hardin said...

Congrats on the award nomination, guys! I know that book was also nominated for an Edgar. Very impressive!

Mark Asher said...

Since this blog post is about promotion, I'm wondering if Jude or anyone else knows what Jude's publisher did to propel his $10 ebook into the top 5000?

And please, I'm not trying to suggest the book doesn't warrant good sales and a good sales ranking, but I think if he self-published it at $10 he'd have a harder time getting that kind of sales ranking.

It would be very interesting to know just what promotion, if any, his publisher did for the book.

Amber Argyle said...

That was a REALLY long post.

So ya, luck. Your front list sells your backlist. Writing always comes before marketing.

Got it.

Bob Mayer said...

I second the recommendation to read Predictably Irrational and Drunkard's Walk. I use both when I teach. You have to understand this is the entertainment business which is mixing emotion and logic. Doesn't make sense.

WDGagliani said...

Thanks, Jude!

Should have mentioned that it's also nominated for a Benjamin Franklin Award.

Alas, the Edgar Award went to another work, but it was still great to be involved with a nominee.

Figured since we are mostly all thriller aficionados, it would be relevant. I do recommend the book to anyone who loves thrillers and mysteries, and I would have bought one even if I weren't in it. Essential for the reference shelf.

I suggested we start to list the NEXT 100 must-reads... we'll see.

Bill Gagliani

Jude Hardin said...

I'm wondering if Jude or anyone else knows what Jude's publisher did to propel his $10 ebook into the top 5000?

That's a good question, Mark. The book has gotten solid reviews, for one thing, including a starred review in Publisher's Weekly and a quarter page write-up in The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville's daily newspaper). Oceanview has been promoting through email blasts and Facebook posts, etc., and if you Google Pocket-47 it will show up in a lot of places. And I'm hoping word of mouth is fueling some of the sales as well. But like I said, I'm as surprised as anyone that the Kindle edition is selling as well as it is for $9.99.

Helen Hanson said...

Success rarely travels with an overnight bag. It’s a long train trip. Got to stay on the rails.
Thanks for the reminders, Joe.

Paul Jones said...

Quote: "I realize these rules aren't what writers want to hear. A writer would much rather be told, "Tweet your Kindle URL three times a day for three weeks, and you'll sell 15,000 copies." That just isn't how this works."

We may not want to hear them, Joe, but this is exactly what we need to hear.

Thanks for the sage words of advice.

Donald Wells said...

@Joe
I'm also a believer in luck, both good and bad, but isn't luck just another name for predestination?

Selena Kitt said...

"I'm also a believer in luck, both good and bad, but isn't luck just another name for predestination?"

Of course not. They're spelled entirely different! :)

Mark Asher said...

@Jude: "But like I said, I'm as surprised as anyone that the Kindle edition is selling as well as it is for $9.99."

It's not terribly surprising. It has great reviews and it has a publisher behind it. The traditional publishers seem to be able to get a lot of higher-priced ebooks onto the bestseller lists.

Kendall Swan said...

LOL Selena!

Donald Wells said...

@Selena Kitt
You're right. I better brush up on my spelling.

Nicholas La Salla said...

Good to see another writing-related post from you, Joe! I missed reading your thoughts on the self-pubbing world.

It really is luck. There is an ebb and a flow to all of this, and as long as we keep that in mind we can succeed.

The only person standing in my way is myself -- that's why I keep myself as positive as possible. Just as good times turn to bad, bad times flower into moments of success that eclipse any that have come before in our lives.

Thank you for keeping these posts coming, Joe!

Nick
One More Day: Kindle Nook
Three Before Dark: Kindle

Robert Burton Robinson said...

Success rarely travels with an overnight bag. It’s a long train trip. Got to stay on the rails.

Yeah, my "overnight" success took five years, which is actually not that long. My Sweet Ginger Poison just made the Kindle Top 100. It is currently ranked #83. Yahoo!

Selena Kitt said...

You're right. I better brush up on my spelling.

Did you really want to get into a philosophical debate about predestination instead? :)

Call it what you want - lady luck, karma, predestination. Or call it nothing at all, like the egoists among us.

The fact remains - some awesome books never sell more than a few copies and some crappy books sell like crazy and there's very little rhyme or reason to it or to the world.

I'm afraid debating it gets us nowhere. And eats into writing time. ;)

Gabriella said...

Want to see Joe Konrath on a TV talk show interview?
Here's your chance!
http://imashrew.blogspot.com/2011/05/interview-with-joe-konrath-on-tv.html

And Joe...Blake...and Barry...let me know if you want this taken down.

Rob Cornell said...

Gabriella: LOL. "There's a word for a self-published writer that never quits...rich."

Ima Shrew said...

Rob..I too cracked up when I saw Konrath put that in his post. I HAD to add it!
You think him, Blake and Barry will kill me for this?

Ima Shrew said...

By the way...I'm Gabriella as well. Ima Shrew is my pen name. Well it will be when I'm brave enough to put this up on amazon.

Cathy Titus Neumueller said...

Joe says, My blog readers aren't buying many ebooks

Joe, I've read every Jack Daniels book, most on audio from the library but I did buy Shaken in Trade. Here's the rest of my Konrath library,
Shot of Tequila - Trade
The List - Trade
Trapped - Kindle
Origin - Kindle
Wild Night is Calling - Kindle
Shapeshifters Anonymous - Kindle
Jailbait - Kindle
Flee - Kindle (purchased)
Banana Hammock - Kindle
I would have purchased the Jack Daniels stories on audio if my library hadn't ordered it on my request. I'll probably also purchase Serial Killers Uncut when I get up the nerve to have the willies scared out of me.
I know this isn't all of your books. Just give me time.

Cathy Neumueller
library999cat@gmail.com

S Alini said...

Joe,
Great info. We appreciate all that you do. Thank you.
S. Alini

Jeff Kay said...

What are the last ten books you bought, and what made you buy them? Use those techniques to sell your books to other people. Do what works on you.

I like this. People shilling their own books are a dime a dozen, but I listen when someone shills another person's book. Especially when there's no known connection between the two.

Matt Bone said...

Thanks Joe. Plenty of things to chew on, as ever. One of my favourite aspects of self-publishing/e-publishing is your "more the merrier" point - specifically in how it gives a real incentive to writers to actually write. More books, more readers.

Archangel said...

@selena "I'm afraid debating it gets us nowhere. And eats into writing time. ;)"

thou hast said it.

there are a lot of exciting lures... away from... writing. Which is also exciting. There's a saying in psyche that mind cannot necessarily differentiate between idle arousal and meaningful arousal. I know. I know. Too many applications in our wide biological and creative worlds. Never mind. lol.

Maryann Miller said...

Wonderful advice, Joe. I read your blog often as it is so informative, but I don't comment as much as I should and thank you for all the work you put into helping other writers. I love the quote "We are all in the same boat, so we all have to row together." That works for relationships other than writing friends, too. A very wise man told me that is the secret to staying married through the thick and the thin. Keep rowing, both of you.

Anonymous said...

What's all this about OverDrive and libraries?

Self-published Kindle books can't make it in libraries can they. Even the Lulu hardcover you might make isn't going to be ordered by libraries.

Joe Konrath said...

What's all this about OverDrive and libraries?

I'll blog about it soon.

Andy Conway said...

@Jude Hardin

You should also now have a review on amazon.co.uk (where your book is mysteriously more expensive) by me.

Read it last night and see a strong future for it (even though you disturb me as an individual!).

Andy Conway
Train Can't Bring Me Home
The Girl with the Bomb Inside
on Amazon
Publishing 11 titles before 11.11.2011

Selena Kitt said...

There's a saying in psyche that mind cannot necessarily differentiate between idle arousal and meaningful arousal.

Damn, that's sexy. And true. :)

tyhutchinson said...

Great post. Includes all the important stuff learned so far.

Jude Hardin said...

Thanks for the great review, Andy!

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