Saturday, June 29, 2013

Guest Post by Mike Dennis

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

You can read Dakota Madison talking about finding success as a romance writer here:

You can read CG Cooper talking about his Rule of Three here:

You can read Todd Travis talking about fear here:

You can read Patrick Balester talking about how he learned to love e-publishing here:

You can readt Shantnu Tiwari talking about publishing cliches here:

So here's today's guest blogger, Mike Dennis...

First and foremost, I want to thank Tess Gerritsen for donating her considerable efforts toward this drive to eliminate Alzheimer's. That disease took my Mother a few years ago, and I want it eradicated. I feel a cure is near, and maybe Tess' campaign can put us over the finish line.

Then, I want to thank Joe for generously donating space on his widely-read blog. There's no way I could ever get this kind of exposure on my own blog.

For those of you who don't know me, which I'm sure is nearly all of you, I'm a crime/noir fiction writer living in the island city of Key West. With the exception of the years 2006-10, when I lived in Las Vegas, I've made my home here in Key West since 1991.

It was during those years that I came up with the notion of Key West as a great noir city, along the lines of Los Angeles, New Orleans, or Miami. It took me a few years of living here to realize it, to peel back the veneer of tourism and sunshine, but when I finally did, I saw a small town where everybody knows your business, including things you'd rather they didn't know.

I envisioned a series of novels (Key West Nocturnes, I eventually called it), each with a different central character, one who is no stranger to crime. Each book would of course be set in Key West, and some of the locales and secondary characters would recur throughout the series, but each book could be viewed as a standalone. The events in one book might be alluded to in another, but there is no principal story arc threading the series. The series instead pulls the reader deep into the shadows and alleys of this town, behind the margaritas and out of the sun, where the tourists never go.

As in most noir fiction, my central characters are driven by the urge to escape, whether it's from their past, from squalid surroundings, from pursuing lawmen, or from personal failure. This frequently opens them up to betrayal and deception, and some may face a narrow range of options. Deep in the collective American psyche is the drive for freedom, for independence, to be left alone, but not at the price of loneliness. These urges find their fullest expression in Key West, the little town at the end of the road, where everyone is welcome, regardless of his/her past, and where anything goes. It's where anyone can become anonymous. This is where the road story ends.

And where my Key West Nocturnes series begins.

The first novel in the series is Setup On Front Street, a tale of a native Key Wester (or "Conch", as they're called) returning home after serving three years in a Nevada prison on a diamond swindle. He comes back to collect his share of the proceeds but finds the money has vanished. It's set in 1991, right after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and everyone in Key West is certain Fidel Castro would fall any minute. This produces feverish angling for position when Cuba finally "opens up", and plays an important role in the novel.

The next two entries in the series are called The Ghosts Of Havana and Man-Slaughter. A fourth novel, The Guns Of Miami is in progress as I write this.

I was very fortunate to have received blurbs on this series from the likes of Max Allan Collins, Jeffery Deaver, Vicki Hendricks, Jonathan Woods, Heath Lowrance, and others. Thank you all.

And thanks again to you, Joe, for your generosity.

Joe sez: Mike is an example of a writer doing everything right. Killer covers, great product descriptions, lots of good reviews, releasing his titles in paper on Createspace as well as KDP. It's only a matter of time before he starts selling in big numbers.

And to that end, here are some of my suggestions:

1. Unless you're selling huge on other platforms, opt out of them and go all in on KDP Select. I'm all for reaching as many fans as possible, but right now Amazon is where the money is.

2. Start making your ebooks free, and use Ebookbooster and Bookbub to promote them.

3. Consider lowering your prices to $3.99 across the board. I'm not convinced the $4.99 price point is worth the extra 70 cents because in my experiments it doesn't sell well enough to make up for it. But don't take my word for it--do your own experimenting if you haven't yet.

4. Short stories can be sold as 99 cent singles.

5. Keep at it. The more you write and publish, the harder it is for readers to ignore you.

6. Though not every writer can do it, writing in different genres can be beneficial. First because it can expand your readership. Second because it's great practice. Third because experimentation is often the key to success. Konrath and Kilborn share some readers, but some readers prefer one to the other. My secret pen names are in entirely different genres. While it is key to be passionate about what you write, if you have the ability to write in other genres, it can't hurt to give it a try.