Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Three and Box Sets

We interrupt the ongoing guest blogs for a bit of talk about Amazon Publishing and collaboration.

If you've missed the last few guest blogs, they are worth reading and the comments are still open:

You can read Marcus Sakey talking about cover art here: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/06/guest-post-by-marcus-sakey.html

You can read Dakota Madison talking about finding success as a romance writer here: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/06/guest-post-by-dakota-madison.html

You can read CG Cooper talking about his Rule of Three here: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/06/guest-post-by-carlos-cooper.html

You can read Todd Travis talking about fear here: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/06/gust-post-by-todd-travis.html

Today, the Thomas and Mercer imprint of Amazon Publishing is launching two books by me and Ann Voss Peterson.

The first is THREE, the third novel in the Codename: Chandler trilogy. THREE is a sequel to FLEE and SPREE, and it's about a female operative who works as an assassin for the US government. We wanted to do an updated, American version of James Bond, where a woman was the lead. Like Bond, she thwarts plots by evil super villains who want to take over the world, she has lots of cool gadgets, there are many over-the-top action set-pieces, and she seduces men to complete her missions.

While we aren't the first to create a female super spy, I'm incredibly pleased with the way these books have turned out. So much so that we wrote two prequels, HIT and EXPOSED, and Chandler will also be in my next Jack Daniels novel (LAST CALL with Blake Crouch, coming soon).

If you've read FLEE and SPREE, you should pick up THREE. It's my longest book (Ann and I had so much story to tell this wound up an whopping 150,000 words long--and trust me, it's all action) and it also is a nice end to the trilogy. All three of the main characters have full arcs (thank you Joseph Campbell) and it functions as an epic as all of the books take place during a single week. And what a violent, sexy, funny, insane week it is.

But if you haven't read the Chandler novels, don't buy the individual ebooks yet.

You read that right. I'm asking you to not buy my ebooks. Because Thomas and Mercer, in their willingness to listen to my ideas, has done something both unusual and innovative.

First, some background.

Way, way back in ancient history, authors vied for shelf space in brick and mortar bookstores. Bestsellers got the most. Publishers paid coop money to have these books featured on the new release table, in large numbers and at a 40% discount. They also paid to have them prominently placed throughout the store; face-out on end caps, in the store window, near the check-out registers, on kiosks and promo tables, and multiple copies (usually of the author's entire backlist) in section.

I had eight books published by major NY publishers. When they were published, the bookstores only carried a handful of copies, spine-out in section, no discount, no promo. There were some exceptions (I've made some terrific bookseller friends who kept my books stocked and hand sold lots of them), but for the most part I'd maybe have three books on the shelf compared to three hundred by James Patterson.

I couldn't find readers, because they couldn't find my books.

Then this Kindle thing came along, and shelf space changed. Rather than having multiple copies of bestselling new releases stacked to the ceiling, commanding attention, every ebook has a single page. And that page is forever. It doesn't get sold and disappear, hoping to be restocked.

In other words, it was no longer about how many copies of a single title an author had. It was about how many titles an author had.

Virtual shelf space is all about how many pages you have on Amazon.com, not about how many physical books are on the shelf.

I first started experimenting with this by publishing three short story collections, JACK DANIELS STORIES, HORROR STORIES, and CRIME STORIES. I combined all of these into 65 PROOF, an omnibus of all my shorts up to that point. Then I pubbed some of the stories individually. I was using the same content to maximize shelf space.

Blake and I did this with our Lucy and Donaldson stories. We did SERIAL, then SERIAL UNCUT (with more story added), then KILLERS and BIRDS OF PREY, then KILLERS UNCUT (which is KILLERS plus BIRDS OF PREY), and finally SERIAL KILLERS UNCUT which combined everything into one massive tome.

One work became six different ebooks, all with their own Amazon page, their own reviews, and potential to hook different customers, demographics, and genre readers.

We maximized shelf space on a single property.

When I got the rights to AFRAID back, I combined with with my other two Kilborn novels, TRAPPED and ENDURANCE, and sold it as a trilogy for a discounted price.

I did the same with my Jack Daniels series, making ebook sets out of the first three books in the series, and the second three books in the series. For the curious, the first set has sold 371 copies this month at $9.99, and the second set has sold 1117 copies--proof that readers hooked on a series will seek out a bargain and happily buy a box set.

So if you haven't bought any of the original Chandler novels, don't. Because Amazon released the CODENAME: CHANDLER COLLECTION as a box set.

That's a 350,000 word epic filled with sex and action and cameos by some of our older characters (Jack Daniels, Harry McGlade, Tequila, Val Ryker, David Lund) for less than the price of a paperback.

I believe this is one of the first compilations Thomas and Mercer has done, and it is currently discounted--priced to sell at only $4.99.

But it's more than simply a bargain. Three ebooks now are four ebooks, maximizing shelf space, which improves exposure, which increases the chances of one of these titles being discovered.

The more titles you have, the more chances you have to be seen and bought. The more you are seen and bought, the more you'll be read. The more you'll read, the more fans you'll accrue who seek your books out.

It's like a big pyramid scheme, at a global scale, lasting for eternity. The more ebooks you have available, the likelier your chance of success.

You can combine stories or books into a single volume, split off stories and books into separate volumes, and even join forces with other authors. If you've never started my Jack Daniels series, or Blake Crouch's Luther Kite series (they finally meet in STIRRED) then you can get the first book in each of our series as a double novel called BEGINNINGS: DESERT PLACES & WHISKEY SOUR.

A brick and mortar bookstore has a limited amount of real estate. If major NYT bestsellers take up 40% of the shelf space, it's hard for browsers to find your books among all the multiple discounted copies. Even more challenging, paper books have expiration dates. If your book doesn't sell within a few months, it gets returned.

But a virtual bookstore has infinite shelf space, and eternal sales potential. One title = one web page. The more titles you have, the more chances for browsers to find you. Use different BISEC categories and different keywords to maximize searching potential.

Just remember that readers HATE to buy the same title multiple times, so make sure your product descriptions are clear and don't purposely try to confuse.

The more titles you have, the better off you'll do. It's fine to have one title selling two hundred a month. But having ten titles selling thirty a month is better for your pocketbook, and your future (the more titles, the more visibility, the more potential fans).

Success involves luck. Luck is all about odds. You can't force success, but you can increase your odds.

I've heard writers bemoan the fact that this new ebook revolution favors those who can write quickly.

If you can't write quickly, learn to. No one owes you a living. No one said life was fair, fun, or easy. And no one is forcing you to be a writer. If you can't write fast, then in all likelihood you won't make as much money as those who do. That kind of complaint is akin to, "But I can't hit a slider or a curve ball, so Major League Baseball won't hire me!"

We all have real lives that interfere with our writing time. We all write at different speeds. We all have challenges to overcome. But here is something I don't say enough, but every writer needs to know:

The ebook revolution has made publishing a lot easier. But it hasn't necessarily made success a lot easier.

In the past, to break into legacy publishing and make a living, you had to bust your ass. You STILL have to bust your ass.

So go bust it. And if this blog has helped you, support me and my guest bloggers by buying our books. It's always cool to pay it forward.