Sunday, April 03, 2011

Guest Post by Guido Henkel

In February, Guido Henkel did a guest post about his sales, which weren't up to his expectations.

I offered some advice, and so did many others in the comments section.

Guido followed this advice. Did it work?

Here he is again, to answer.

Guido: As you may all recall, a few weeks ago, Joe was kind enough to allow me to presented to you the scenario of my “Jason Dark” series of supernatural mystery dime novels and how sales have been very flat despite my best efforts to kickstart the series.

The comments this blog post generated were staggering — to my mind at least — and I read every single response to the discussion with interest and with an open mind. In fact, I immediately began bolstering my Twitter presence as a result of it. But once things had petered out a little I took the next step. I made a detailed list of things that had been brought up and weighed the comments as I felt some of them warranted more credit than others.

As a result a picture began to form in my mind about how I could actually reshape the series, starting with the very first book, “Demon’s Night,” based on many of these comments. For the past weeks I have done just that and finally, I am able to show you the result.

About four weeks ago I relaunched a completely rebooted version of “Demon’s Night!” As you can see at a glimpse already, the book features a completely new cover artwork. Virtually nothing remains of the old look, I daresay. While the urge was strong to somehow reincorporate the original artwork, a few attempts quickly showed that they all, inevitably, turned out pulpy. Not what I wanted!

I wanted to refashion the book with a contemporary look, something that looks a lot more like what other quality Kindle releases look like these days, as opposed to the traditional look of old dime novels. It took a good amount of trying and tweaking, but I do like the new cover quite a bit, and through its design, it allows me to loosely suggest a series character by retaining certain elements when I go to work to rework the covers for the other nine books I have in the market.

But there are more changes. The title, for example. As you can see, the book is now simply called “Demon’s Night” without the limiting mention of the “Jason Dark” series as such. Instead, I provided a small byline saying “A Jason Dark Supernatural Mystery.” This way people can still identify books featuring Jason Dark as a main character without my creating the impression that this is a series of books that needs to be read in sequence. This, in particular, was important to me, as I realized just how strongly people believed they had to read these stories in sequential order, when in fact each one is a stand-alone book. With the new moniker, any reference to volume numbers is gone also, for the same reason.

Next is the reworked product description. Once again I have worked towards giving the book a description that makes it stand on its own instead of seeing it as tied into a series, so the boilerplate text that was part of each of the adventures is gone entirely. Instead I tried to fashion a description that has a hook and generates enough interest for readers to take a closer look. To complement the new description I have also changed my author biography on Amazon and placed the track record of my books in the text rather than my achievements in the computer games industry. With ten books now published, I guess I can safely use those titles as references to establish my credibility and will no longer require the mention of the games I did so many years ago. In addition the description now includes a word and page count to make sure potential buyers have better idea for “how much book” they get.

Let’s see, what else is there? Oh yes, the absolute hot-button issue — price. I have — once again — reduced the price of the book to 99 cents. Out of necessity. I still believe that this price point has become the bane of the book industry, but be that as it is, I have to bow to the market requirements just as much as anyone who wants to gain exposure. So I am deliberately forfeiting revenues for the sake of volume. Having nine other books in the catalog at a $2.99 price point will hopefully mean that I will generate much needed revenues though those titles in the tail.

In order to sell other titles, however, it is necessary for the loss-leader book to be as strong as possible, of course. Therefore I gave “Demon’s Night” a complete revision. Starting with the completely rewritten opening chapter, I went over the entire book with a fine-toothed comb to improve the style and writing. It was actually interesting to go back and see how much I have grown as a writer in the past two years, and to put some of the new things I’ve learned to work in that, my first, book. The result is, I hope, a much more riveting experience that will hopefully translate into readers picking up other Jason Dark adventures — or at least recommending “Demon’s Night” to their friends.

I made a series of other changes, including my author description, removing the message boards from the official website because they lay there barren, unused and intimidating and numerous other smaller things.

As I said, I relaunched the book about four weeks ago and was really curious to see what results these changes may yield. To prevent the tension from killing you, let me make this short and sweet for you. The result was zilch! It resulted in no measurable increase of sales — not for “Demon’s Night” or any of the other books.

By the time I launched the new version, “Demon’s Night” was hovering between #70,000 and #120,000 on Amazon, with an occasional break-out. I looked at that as my baseline. There has been some improvement in the ranking since the reboot, but the book is still hovering between #20,000 and #45,000 with occasional dips below the #60,000 mark. Since in that space selling even a single copy can make a huge difference, the sales numbers are really not nearly as dramatic as the rank improvement might suggest. The sales increase is not nearly doing enough to make up for the lost royalties resulting from the different price bracket. As such it is a complete loss.

My hope was, that sales increases in “Demon’s Night” would eventually lead to a sales increase in my other books — the upsell effect, but since there was virtually no sales boost… all of my other books are still hovering somewhere between the #100,000 and #200,000 marks, just as they did for the past months, each selling a single copy every 4 or 5 days.

During the past four weeks I also redesigned the cover for “Ghosts Templar” in a similar vein of the “Demons Night” rework to see how that will perform. I also changed the title to remove series references, I created a new product description and once again included a word and page count. I needn’t have bothered, really, as there is also no notable difference here either.

The only satisfying result that came out of this so far is that I can at least tell myself that I tried. I had an open mind and tried to incorporate feedback. I even agreed with a lot of the feedback and I felt good when I first relaunched the book, especially since so many people told me how great the reworked version looked and read.

So, what does all of this tell us? To put it bluntly, it tells me that we are all pretty clueless. There is no secret formula — or at least we have not yet discovered it. The original concept, look and feel, and presentation for the series that I had for the series was every good — or bad — as anything the collective input was able to produce. For everything I created and tried, there were people who thought it was great and others who thought it was bad. It is the way of life, for sure, but it certainly teaches me one thing: to go with my own instincts because they are every bit as true than anyone else’s.

For me, that instinct tells me right now to let go of Jason Dark for the time being, as there is quite evidently very little interest in this sort of literature at this point in time. The latest issue of Fangoria just came out this part week, featuring the first installment of an exclusive Jason Dark serial. Fangoria, as you may know, is America’s leading print horror magazine and even the exposure on the pages of such a genre institution did not have an impact on my sales, so perhaps it is time to move on. “Curse of Kali”, the tenth Jason Dark adventure is just around the corner and it will represent a nice way to put the series on hiatus with a cool cliffhanger.

If I sound disappointed to you, it is probably because I am. I spent every waking hour of the last two-and-a-half years on creating these books. It was a full time job, creating, publishing, promoting and, of course, writing these ten books and I have spent many thousands of dollars of my own money to see it come to fruition. Over that time I have fallen in love with the characters, the world, the possibilities it offered, etc. To see that it was all in vain is disappointing — would be to anyone, I suppose, but with that in mind I have begun writing a modern day thriller, a book that has absolutely nothing to do with the horror genre. It will be a full-length novel and I’ll be curious to see how that pans out.

Altogether, this was an exciting experiment that yielded some interesting — yet unexpected — results. I wish to thank you all for your feedback and most importantly, my heartfelt thanks go out to Joe who has allowed me to not only present my initial concerns to you, but who has been even more gracious by giving me the opportunity to share these resulting changes with you just now. Joe, you are a class act in my book!

Now, where was that refresh button for the Amazon Author Central ranking page again???

Joe sez: Wow. I'm impressed with all the work Guido put into this reboot, and I think everything he's done is smart and should increase sales.

But it hasn't. So what's going on here?

There's no magic bullet in this business. No one can predict what will sell, or even adequately decipher why something does well while something else doesn't. As I've stated many times, luck plays a big role in determining success.

I've had novels on Kindle for two years, and watched my sales rank fluctuate on various titles. Two of my novels, ORIGIN and THE LIST, were the first two I released, and they're both currently in the Top #100 at $2.99 each. (That might change shortly--ORIGIN recently fell out of the TOP 100 and only crept back to #99 an hour ago.)

But those are two ebooks out of 25 that I have available. What aren't all 25 of mine in the Top 100?

I have no idea. I wish I did, but I can't read every customer's mind to learn why they did or didn't buy something.

I have noticed that successful ebooks have some common traits--good cover art, low prices, good writing, good product descriptions. But in my humble opinion, Guido has all of that.

So did Jon F. Merz. Yet he also struggled to find an audience. That is, until recently, when his sales have blown up. Like Guido, Jon tweaked his backlist according to some suggestions by me and people on my blog.

And, like Guido, those suggestions didn't help much. But then Merz released a new series, which caught on and is earning him $150 a day.

Let's assume Henkel, Merz, and I are all equally talented writers. Let's also assume our covers are all of professional quality, and we're all doing similar things to find an audience.

So why am I selling like crazy, why is Merz finding an audience, and why is Henkel still struggling?

I can't say. Luck swings both ways. Prior to the new Lawson Vampire series, Merz was experiencing some bad luck. Now his luck is turning around.

Anyone who has read my blog for a while knows I wrote nine novels and got over 500 rejections before landing a book deal. Two of those rejected novels, ORIGIN and THE LIST, are currently in the Top 100. Why were they not good enough twelve years ago, but are now selling hundreds of copies a day?

Hell if I know. They books haven't changed. It just took 12 years to find an audience.

Now, no writer wants to hear that success could take 12 years. Or even 2 years (ORIGIN and THE LIST were uploaded to Kindle in April 2009.)

But sometimes, that's how long it takes to get lucky.

All we can do is keep writing. Keep experimenting. Keep trying.

Guido Henkel is going to succeed. I'd put money on it. He's doing everything right.

The world just hasn't discovered him yet. Sometimes it takes a while. I'm proof. And so is almost every other success story. Kindle lore is full of newbies who got rejections and then became bestsellers, and snubbed legacy authors who self-published out-of-print titles and made a killing. All of these stories have a common element: the writer kept at it until the world couldn't ignore them any more.

I think Guido is smart to try something new. I've reinvented myself at least six times over the past 20 years. Mysteries, thrillers, horror, sci-fi, humorous thrillers, technothrillers, medical thrillers, etc. Until THE LIST and ORIGIN took off, my pen name Jack Kilborn was outselling J.A. Konrath by a wide margin. Why? Hell if I know.

But I do know that writers need to write. And if something isn't working, it can't hurt to try something new. If Guido keeps at it, he'll find those sales he's looking for. Ebooks are forever, and forever is a long time to find a fanbase. Ask Van Gogh, who only sold a single painting in his life.

So my advice to Guido is to keep at it, and write something new. I'd stop messing around with tweaking covers, but if I was in his shoes I'd drop all of my titles to 99 cents for a month, just to see what happens.

Jason Dark isn't a dead property. It just hasn't caught on yet. And it wouldn't surprise me if, in the future, there's a demand for more Jason Dark stories.

But for now, it's time to move on. Having been at that point many times in my career, I know how hard it is.

I also know that I'm going to have to write sequels to THE LIST and ORIGIN--novels that have been "dead" for over a decade. I never could have predicted that would happen.


Tanya said...

I can offer 2 cents - from a "paper" book reader who is slowly moving to the ebook format.

I read a lot, but on novel length books as I will not buy short stories...I read too fast. I would def have bought your series but for the $2.99 price on the remaining series - that's too pricey for what amounts to a hour of my time (reading wise). Even if they are all marked $0.99 cents to me thats still high for a short story regardless of the work put into making it.

Maybe if you rewrote them into full novel length stories you would see more action.

Hope this helps.

A none specific wish in regards to would be awesome if someone could create a way to do searches for books we might like in the ebook format (think virtually browsing the shelves of similar types of books) - now we have to stumble across them.

Unknown said...

Hi, Guido

First, congratulations on the new cover. It's worlds better than the old one.

This is not a genre I read, so anything I say is from the perspective of a complete outsider, but my first reaction is that novellas don't sell nearly as well as full-length novels. Perhaps you should consider combining your first three or four books into a single Jason Dark full-length novel, doing whatever rewrite and bridging text you need to turn them into a unified work. Then republish Demon's Night with your cover, priced at $0.99. I'll bet that book takes off, although as Joe said it may take a few months for you to start building your audience. I'd probably buy that book myself.

Robert Bruce Thompson

JA Konrath said...

I've known for a long time that novellas don't sell nearly as well as novels. Not sure why that is, but that's the case.

Donald Wells said...

Hi Guido,

I came across the new cover for Demon's Night just yesterday and remarked on what an improvement it was from the old one. As far as sales go? Give it time. As Joe says, "Ebooks are forever." Your readers will find you eventually and when they do all the hard work you've put into the revamp will pay off. I also think you have the right idea about trying another genre. It can't hurt and will be fun for you and a chance to learn and grow. Good luck my friend.

Ruth Harris said...

Love the new cover, love Guido's attitude & willingness to work really hard. I must have missed something in the post because I did not realize that these titles are novelas until I read the comments. (IIRC Guido refers to them as dime novels & books.) Perhaps he should bundle two or even more to introduce readers to his work.

I also think Joe has a key right at the top of his blog about never giving up. Time and persistence matter. It seems that if Guido keeps at it, he will succeed.

Chris Gibson said...

Jason have you tried offering up the book for free to those that would be willing to review it? I have read Robert W. Walker and Michael Wallace who both have offered free copies to those willing to read and review their books. In return I ended up buying two books of Michael Wallace at a higher price and five Walker novels between .99 and 2.99. Not only do you get reviews that may help sales but you might get more sales from those who are getting free copy. Free is how I discovered Joe with his Serial and now I have 30 titles all of his Jack Daniels series and most of his other work. Good luck, I will buy a copy and give you a shot for .99 cents and review it.


Sam said...

It's way too early to consider the new & improved cover experiment a failure. Because the other covers in the series are featured so prominently on the Amazon page ("customers also bought"), it is very much worth revamping all the covers to match the new one. Stick very close to this format (basically you just need a different main image for each book) and it shouldn't take much work.

TK Kenyon said...

Hi Guido and Joe,

I, too, rarely if ever buy novellas. If a story isn't at least 50Kw, I can read it in too short a time. For comparison, I read about 100 paperback-sized pages per hour, +/- 2 pages, which is about 500 words per minute. I don't think I'm unusual. A 20Kw novella, then, is 40 minutes of reading time. Not worth 99c, certainly not worth $2.99.

Have you considered bundling them into compilations that are >100Kw? That would increase the perceived value for the buck.

Also, massive improvement on the covers. Massive. The "eye" looks properly like a modern horror book. The "dime book" cover looks like satire, at best.


TK Kenyon

Merrill Heath said...

Guido, you commented about how much you've learned and how much your writing has improved over the last 2 years. That's the main thing you should take with you as you move forward. Take what you've learned and apply it to writing a novel in a genre that has a bigger readership.

I think it's good to experiement with different genres and ideas until you hit something that clicks. Then pump 'em out.

I also think that if you hit the mark with a novel in the another genre it will create spinoff sales in the Jason Dark series. But I agree that it's time to move on to something else.

Merrill Heath

Gary Ponzo said...

I'd double check which genre's you have the book listed and see if you can find some tags without as many books, less competition means you can move up the lists easier. Then lower the price to see where that leads.
Just my 2 cents.

Ellen Fisher said...

"I've known for a long time that novellas don't sell nearly as well as novels. Not sure why that is, but that's the case."

It may depend on the genre. My top-selling Ellen Fisher book is a novella. My short erotic stories (many below 10,000 words) have sold like crazy on B&N. Overall, I find it more profitable to write shorts and novellas than full novels. However, my books are all priced at 99 cents, which makes novellas and shorts more attractive to most readers.

Michael J. Sullivan said...
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Michael J. Sullivan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...


As you're probably aware (you retweeted my blog post about the experiment) I did something similar in early February.

I removed three titles from Amazon. I changed the covers, the titles, the blurbs, and the author name. I uploaded two February 5, and the third one February 27 (just over 4 weeks ago) under my pseudonym Jonas Saul.

Sales overall made March a record month for me. April, in just these two days, is on fire.

Sometimes it's just luck. How something looks, or how it's perceived by the buying public.

Oh, and Guido, love the cover!

Unknown said...

Congrats to you, Guido, for goin' for the gusto with all these fabulous changes.

But here's what I sooo believe is the secret...and one thing, I don't think you have yet...and that's...a platform.

Let me give you an example...I don't read the kinds of books you and Joe write...well...I didn't used to. But that all changed, after learning to luuuvvv Joe because of his fabulous Pay It Forward blogs and platforms.

Now...I buy almost all Joe's books. They still creep me the hell out. But I like Joe, and I do like his books, even though the blood and guts things does do me in at times. LOL!

So I buy books and support authors who I've gotten to know, and who I rely on for certain pieces of info and who I happen to really enjoy spending time with in all the various cyber communities.

So give us --- your readers and potential readers --- Guido Henkel as well as your fabulous books.

Who are you, Guido? Tell us and show us.

Whether on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, the Kindle Boards, blogs and grogs, etc.

It's all about connecting with your readers. And yes, readers, more than other writers. Readers buy books more than writers. As writers, we're too busy writing. LOL!

Here are a couple ways I've done it: (a grog for writers) (a grog for readers) (my personal blog)

Then, of course, I'm on Goodreads, Kindle Boards, Twitter and Facebook, etc.

Create a platform...brand yourself...give the world Guido Henkel AND his fabulous books.

Your stars will sooo start lining up that way.

Mine sure have! For example, Friday, I just got picked up by the incredible Bufo Calvin of the I Love My Kindle Blog. I thought, upon seeing one of his posts come up on my Kindle, oh this sounds interesting, another author having success with the 99 Cent Price Point, I should read this...and I did...and it was about me!!! LOL!!!

Good Luck, Guido, I'm looking forward to getting to know you and your books too!

James Viser said...

Guido, you're doing the right thing and Joe's comments as to we just don't know what works are on-target.

In the business world, I've raised millions from venture capitalists and been rejected more often than not. I've seen great ideas get rejected and had my management team remark "Really? You've got to be kidding me." when we discovered other entrepreneurs with flimsier business plans secured tens of millions in seed capital while our great idea received scant attention from the investment community. Eventually, we raised our seed money and made a go of it. After eight years, our venture failed. Have you ever lost $2.5 million of someone else's money? It doesn't feel good, I can assure you.

After that experience, I thought I was so smart that I put my own money into a new venture. That business failed after two years and forced me to go back into my current "day job."

That day job has turned into something great that I enjoy doing and more than pays the bills (college tuition for daughter, too). I would never have been able to do well in my current job without experiencing all my previous "failures."

After many years of threatening to write a novel, I did. I received about 100 rejections from literary agents going the traditional route, but achieving nowhere near Joe's level of rejection :), but enough to tell me that patience was in order.

I ran across Joe's blog and decided to self-publish my novel as an ebook. I am selling more than some, but less than about 100,000 others. I am okay with that, because this is a marathon and although I may never be able to make enough to live off my book sales alone, I know that by self-publishing there are many people who are reading Lie Merchants who otherwise would not have.

My experiences in business and writing are that persistence and perseverance are essential for any kind of success. Joe's comments and others on this board to that end are not just perspective, they are true.

So Guido, you can't succumb to the dark thoughts of disappointment. The technology of self-publishing allows us to go to market so fast, that we expect unrealistically to get immediate feedback. Some authors do, which is statistically apt to happen. I like to believe that something will occur that will make each of our books relevant, we'll get that 15 minutes in the Sun, and sales will pop. If we don't keep trying, we know we won't be there to realize any success. So, keep the faith, be persistent and be there when your moment arrives.

At least, that's what I am doing while I write my second book waiting for my moment :).

Robin Sullivan said...

I just want to congratulate you on the new cover - I think it is a HUGE improvement over the last one. I'm sorry to hear that sales didn't pickup I DO think it has a lot to do with being novellas rather than full novels.

I'm glad to hear you're "still going" put something else out there and if it catches people will come back and pick up your Jason Dark works.

Never give up....never surrender.

Robin | Write2Publish | Michael J. Sullivan's Writings

Sven Davison said...

Hi Guido,

Glad to see you here after all these years. I hope all is well with you outside of this conundrum. Congrats on the cover. It looks fantastic.

I believe in Joe, it is a matter of time.

Think of it this way. The internet is a vast ocean, you and I are molecules in that ocean. How does a molecule stand out above all the others in the Pacific? You can blog and tweet, but so is everybody else. You can pay to advertise like I have, but I have yet to see an ROI in that area. I believe it’s a numbers game. Keep plugging and eventually you’ll reach a tipping point. If I discover a new publicity technique, I’ll share it with you.

My publicist (now past tense) told me that there would be one million books published this year in the United States alone. My balls fell off when I heard that. The ocean is getting even larger and the odds are growing longer.

You and I both worked in Hollywood. Everyone who “made it” got a lucky break combined with savvy salesmanship. Those that continued their streak of success did so because they had talent. For everyone who made it there are a thousand still waiting for their break. There are hundreds of thousands who have given up. All careers in art are like this. The market simply cannot support the number of people who are trying to break in. But we clutch our lottery tickets regardless.

I often wish I had had a yen for medicine back in high school. The road to becoming a doctor is well paved with many marked signs and excellent odds of a career at the end. The road to becoming a writer is a maze that wanders up a cliff face, shrouded in fog. There is no clear direction.

Again, I go back to Joe. Just keep plugging and trying everything you can in hopes that your lottery number comes up. If you don’t play, you can’t win. I do not have nearly the body of work you and Joe do. You have much better odds.

All that said, I want to go back and tweak my first book BLOCKBUSTER to see if I can get more sales.

All the best to you.

Thank you Joe for your fantastic blog posts.

Sven Davison

David Tanner said...

Just wanted to add my two cents to the conversation:

First off, I just bought Demon's Night for my Nook. It looks like a good read.

Second, if I remember correctly, a series that you read as a boy growing up in Germany inspired the Jason Dark series. So, I think the problem might be a bit of a cultural one, Guido.

I have friends who collect several of the German "pulp booklets." They absolutely love those things but they really haven't caught on in America for the most part. But I know that they're big sellers in the rest of the world. For instance, Perry Rhodan-the best selling science fiction series of all time-has sold over a BILLION copies. (That wasn't a typo.) But is pretty much unknown in the States.

I know you think that lowering the price to 99 cents would devalue the series but I disagree. I think you'd be right if they were novels but not with novellas. Novellas just don't sell as well over here for some reason.

I also respectfully disagree with an earlier poster about 99 cents being too pricey for a short story. I know a lot of long time pro writers and their short stories are selling just fine at 99 cents. Why not split the difference and price the books at 1.99?

Alright, that's my two cents, the lampshade is going back on my head now.

Eric Christopherson said...

I'll agree with Ellen that novella sales may vary by genre. (Al Guthrie's crime novella, Bye Bye Baby, is doing great, for example.) In Guido's genre it may be the longer the better for a lot of readers, I don't know. What about packaging two or three novellas in one offering?

RĂ©ussie Miliardario said...

Thank you for sharing your story with us, Guido. I personally love your new book cover and think you are on the right track with all your experimentation and attempts.

Like, Joe said, I agree that you've worked enough on the Jason Dark books and when the time is right the gates to success will open.

I think we all can relate to your frustration as probably most of us have had similar experiences as authors trying to break into the business. Sometimes when you surrender completely, success comes in the most unexpected manner. From what you said, it sounds like you are there.

Much luck and success to you. It will come.

Unknown said...


As I've said before, you are a brave man. You not only stood here and let the arrows fly, you picked them up and stuffed them in your quiver.

Red Adept posted a 4.5 star review on this book. Her copy was submitted long before your recent rewrite.

I agree with Joe:

"Guido Henkel is going to succeed. I'd put money on it. He's doing everything right."

I admire your tenacity.

jtplayer said...

I just bought a copy of Demon's Night.

I'm intrigued by the rewrite, as I'd sampled the book before and felt it lacking a bit. Not bad mind you, just something seemed missing. I'm looking forward to reading the new version.

I love the idea of resurrecting the old dime novels, and the setting of Victorian London is way cool, as I'm a huge Sherlock Holmes fan.

Keep up the good work Guido, and keep plugging away.

William J. Thomas said...

Guido, the new cover rocks. I agree that it's just a matter of time before the Dark series takes off, but it may take you writing 1 (or 2 or 3) different books that sell better before it does.

I think Joe was right in suggesting that you drop the price for all of the books to 99 cents. What have you got to lose? I also think you should bundle the books in 3 book sets for $2.99 and see what happens. But other than that you should probably be done tweaking and concentrate on new books.

I know how attached you are to this series, but for now just consider it your 'rejection' pile. Joe and many others have shown that these piles can be very lucrative somewhere down the road.

Still working on my own first book. It's an erotic thriller about a prostitue who develops a crush on a certain client so has trouble accepting money from him. It's called - Pennies From Kevin...

Casey Moreton said...

Yesterday I finally got around to posting my newest title VENGEANCE on Nook. It was a great feeling! The listing is up, but the cover image has not yet appeared. Is this typical?

T.J. Dotson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
T.J. Dotson said...

I can't offer much advice. Other than KEEP WRITING. The one thing I noticed is that the successful Kindle authors are prolific. They don't stop with just one series. Look at Joe; he has several series out.

Start a new series..and put it out there. And when you finish that one, start another.

Also, have you contacted any Horror Book bloggers about your series? You need as many reviews out there as you can mange.

I know many writers hate the 'marketing' & 'networking' part of writing. But for an independent its vital.

Guido Henkel said...

Thank you all for the feedback and the kind words. I do appreciate them all very much. So, even though I may not respond to them, I am absolutely reading them.

I.L. Wolf said...

Hi Guido,

One of the first few postings I read on this blog was your guest post (there. It's out. I'm a habitual lurker). I'm really impressed by your willingness to take suggestions and incorporate them. The cover is amazing. More importantly, you have tightened and polished the writing, it now glistens. I immediately sent it to my brother, or as I like to call him, the Repository for All Things Too Scary for Me.

Your disappointment is understandable, but what’s fantastic is that you’re not mired in it, you are willing to stretch out your fingers and get to typing. Your handling of frustration with such resilience is inspiring.

Jason, I'm looking forward to your collected works.

Eloheim and Veronica said...


I had this problem too. Turns out that Nook wanted a BIGGER picture than any of the other site and was rejecting the one I was uploading. I re-sized it and it was accepting immediately.

The Choice for Consciousness

Eloheim and Veronica said...

Yikes... sorry for the typos. I have a meeting in 3 minutes and I rushed that post.....

Jimmie Hammel said...

Awesome cover. I love it. You might want to take another run at your product description though. A few of your sentences were vague/clunky and there's some missing punctuation.

Casey Moreton said...

@Eloheim and Veronica

I figured that part out after several attempts and was finally able to upload my cover image. So when I go into My Titles, the image is there. But what I'm talking about now is that image hasn't shown up in the product listing page.

Peter Spenser said...

I bought “Demon’s Night” with the new cat’s-eye cover and it says “Revision date: March 1, 2011.” Is that the latest one?

Skip said...

When the first post on Guido Henkel went up, I went to check it out, because I was familiar with him (or at least someone with that name) from some of the best computer RPGs ever written, including what I'd call, "the best RPG ever created that almost no one played", Planescape:Torment. Because I remember those games fondly, I was predisposed to buy them. And yet I didn't. The first reason was that they appeared at first glance to be steampunk horror, and I'm not particularly fond of steampunk. But I still might have, until I noticed that while the description called these 'books', they were individual pieces of short fiction, and priced at a premium for short fiction.

I didn't buy any of them, and I can say that if I had, not noticing the length of the work ahead of time, I'd have felt cheated and avoided everything else going forward.

Does everyone have that reaction to short fiction priced at a premium? I don't know, I mean some people are willing to pay $4 for a cup of coffee at Starbucks. But I'm sure not.

crw said...

Great covers. But... you're selling short stories. Price is not an issue, it's length. Package three together and sell at $2.99 for 3 months and see what happens. for a start $2.99 gets you the higher % from Amazon, also it's more than 3 x $0.99. I don't see the problem. I could read 24,000 words in well under 2 hours so I would never buy a short story when I could get a novel to read which might take me a whole day to read.
Also persevere. You need to give it more time. The big market is going to be November December January. Try a package experiment before then; if you're not selling many you've got nothing to lose.
Good luck but as Joe will tell you, luck comes from perseverance and hard work.

Charles Findlay said...

I'm also following up a post I made on your own blog as to why I didn't buy your book previously.

First, I'm sorry that things haven't improved as much as you had hoped. But I do think you're on the right track. Since my original comment on your own blog, I have read two of the Jason Dark books and I really like them. I have to admit that when I first purchased Demon's Night that I secretly feared the reason you weren't selling was because the writing was bad, but the exact opposite is true. They are very well written.

I was going to post this on your blog but you've already decided to do it. You really do need to back off Jason Dark and go into another series or even two. Jason Dark isn't selling like crazy, but it may once you have a hit in another genre or different horror series.

I also think you need to take Joe's advice and slash the prices to 99¢. I just don't think a $2.99 is justified with your story lengths. Now I did go and purchase the first five books, but I was really hesitant to do so. If I wasn't writing myself and looking to lend support to another writer then I probably would have ditched the series after the second book.

I know that you and a few other guest bloggers here, notably Zoe Winters, have argued against the whole 'books shouldn't be 99¢ thing', but I totally disagree.

Unless it's a 15th century monk scribed tome, the price of a book has no reflection as an indicator of value. It just doesn't. Zoe Winters book isn't better then yours because it's priced at $4.99 any more then your books are better then John Locke's because his are 99¢ and yours are $2.99.

People don't look at the price of a book or a song and get any indication of value (besides an expected length) based on price. Plus the marginal cost of a digital book or song is zero. Soooo, the ONLY correct price for your books is the price where you make the most money.

You don't know what that price is since you haven't done enough price experimentation. It could be higher or lower than your current prices. Maybe you'd sell the same number of copies at $3.99, then you'd have more income from the higher price. Or maybe it's a cheaper price: $1.99, $1.29 or even 99¢.

Personally I think dropping the price is the correct move. Are you better off with someone buying your whole series at $1.29 or 99¢ or if they just bought the first one or two then didn't buy any more because they thought the price was too much for a novella?

If you even just dropped the first 7 or 8 books to the $1 range and left the last two books at $2.99 you might have higher total series sales and profit then you do now.

You won't know until you experiment.

I do look forward to whatever you decided to write next and wish you the best of luck.

Charles Findlay

Unknown said...

Joe Konrath said...

I've known for a long time that novellas don't sell nearly as well as novels. Not sure why that is, but that's the case.

Probably for the same reason that series books generally significantly outsell standalones. Readers have to make a psychological investment in a new book or series. If they like the book and the characters, they want more of the same. A novelette or novella simply ends too soon. As a reader, if I'm going to make that commitment to a new set of characters, I want a full-length novel to finish. I read recreationally at about 850 to 1,000 words per minute, so I get through even a 60,000 word novella in an hour or so. If that's all there is, I'm disappointed. I want a 100,000 or 150,000 word novel to start, ideally with at least several other full length works in the series. A novella, let alone a short story, simply isn't worth even that small commitment of time and effort.

I didn't buy any of them, and I can say that if I had, not noticing the length of the work ahead of time, I'd have felt cheated and avoided everything else going forward.

Does everyone have that reaction to short fiction priced at a premium? I don't know, I mean some people are willing to pay $4 for a cup of coffee at Starbucks. But I'm sure not.

Yes, exactly. I'm willing to pay $2.99 for one of Joe's novels, but if an author I don't know wants to get my attention, his or her first in the series had better be well-written, full-length, and priced at $0.99. And there had better be several more in the same series, priced at $2.99 or lower.

Robert Bruce Thompson

Paul McMurray said...

Guido, I've made a total of $1.02 from my books, so keeping that in perspective, here's my 2 cents:

When I use your name-link in the comments, I get "Profile Not Available" on Blogger.

When I do a search on your name, what I first see is your opening paragraph from your website: "...homeless Leprechaun...etc."--which is funny but would confuse me about your work if I didn't know who you are.

Also, IMO--again, keeping in mind my $1.02--I would start your Jason Dark site off at paragraph 10, or maybe 15, then segue into why you write what you do.

No offense taken, I hope. Thank you for all your advice--I need it!

Nicholas La Salla said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nicholas La Salla said...

It is a shame to see that Guido hasn't seen a proper return on all the hard work he's put into his series. He's got great looking covers and obviously the man can write.

Why do we sometimes get noticed and other times not?

I think my first novel did well in its first month of release: 23 copies. I sold a copy or two every few days. I upped the price to $2.99 recently, and hopefully that will pay off. So far nothing's happened.

You never know if you've done the right thing or made a mistake.

I do have a list of goals I am holding myself to for April. I'm going to post it on my blog tomorrow, but I believe that holding to a schedule of hard work and keeping production of new books going is the most important thing.

The long haul. That's what it's all about. It's only a matter of time until Guido's efforts pay off. Nothing happens in a vacuum. An equal return will come eventually, if Guido never gives up.

Your hard work is inspiring to me. And as always, thanks to both of you for another insightful post about this wacky world of e-book publishing.

One More Day

Guido Henkel said...

While we're on the subject of Jason Dark, I also wanted to point out that Fangoria issue #302 is out on newsstands now.

Why am I bringing this up? Because Jason Dark is now also a serial on Fangoria's pages. For the next five issues there will be an installment of an exclusive Jason Dark adventure called "Food for the Dead" in every issue.

So if you happen to see the issue, take a gander at page 74. :-)

JGByars said...


I just purchased the book and began reading. However, I had to stop at 11% due to the proliferation of adverbs in your writing. I would recommend that you use the Edit/Find feature in your word processor, type in 'ly', and every instance you come across, you re-write.

You do have a great cover, a very interesting premise for a story, and a well conceived back-drop for your characters. That being said, you are missing what is necessary for a strong selling product: good fiction writing.

I apologize for the harshness of tone, but this is something you must correct. And the thing is, as a writer, you have absolute control over.

Jack D. Albrecht Jr. said...

hello Guido,

I love the cover so much that, even though it is way outside my typical genre, I purchased a copy about a minute ago.

For me, I tend to not buy books that have the main characters on the cover. Why? because I always find that I picture the characters a whole different than the artist who made the cover does. That is distracting for me while reading. more often with paperbacks since you see the cover more with them. So you removed the portrayal of the characters and now I am happy to give it a read. I am sure others will notice your book for the first time soon thanks to the cover.

I wish you the best.


Anonymous said...

On the subject of 'ly'...

As @jgbyars said;

Look at each page and remove all 'ly' adverbs. Remove all of them. Then you can go back and add one, maybe two, but one is preferable.

They slow the reading experience and 'ly' adverbs almost always catch the writer in the act of explaining dialogue, which is a good reason to cut almost every single one you write.

My double copper input...

Jeff Faria said...

I feel badly for the author, but it's healthy (for this blog) to demonstrate that it's not all about the marketing. The public, for whatever reason, has not embraced this book. It happens.

FWIW, and it's probably worth NOTHING: I rather liked the old cover. I know nothing about the books/series themselves, which makes mine an uninformed opinion. But then again, the average reader stumbling around looking to latch on to a book is similarly uninformed.

In my uninformed, clueless way, then, the old cover suggested a demon-comedy of some sort. To me, that's a rather interesting idea. Zombies, evil clowns - whatever those were - out on a merry spree. That's a bit different. Don't know if the public generally wants it, but it's different.

The new cover IS simpler, darker, not 'comic' at all. It suggests straight-to-the-point horror. But there are tons of books offering the same thing, selling on the strength of the author's reputation.


agavin said...

What about combining 3-4 of the books into a novel in parts? It's possible the novella (and a short one at that) length is part of the problem.

Karly Kirkpatrick said...


First, many kudos on the new cover, it looks great, and it sounds like you're doing everything right. I agree with Joe, so much is luck and beyond our control.

Just to offer a little suggestion. I like the bundling ideas that people have offered below, maybe offer them individually at 99 cents if they are on the shorter side then combine a fair number of them at $2.99 or $3.99.

Another thing I would say to try is to write something different. You have a lot of titles available, but they all revolve around the same characters, which is great. But if it's not selling then maybe try some new work and keep building that backlist!

Best of luck! I'll be pulling for ya!


Nirmala said...

No one has mentioned the possibility of giving one of your books away for free. I know you can't do this on Amazon, but you can do it all over the web including on Smashwords. Free is even more of a loss leader than $.99, but then it still might end up being worth it if it brings readers to your other books.

My wife and I have been giving away some of our spiritual ebooks for free for years and it has created a tremendous amount of goodwill and awareness of our work.

That being said, I still think there is a lot of luck or something equally mysterious involved in being successful at selling ebooks. All of a sudden some of our books are doing well on Kindle and we have no idea why. Maybe it is just an accumulation of time that we have been out there doing what we do, but we really don't know for sure why.

Our free spiritual ebooks are available here:
(My wife, Gina Lake's site: )

Nirmala said...

No one has mentioned the possibility of giving one of your books away for free. I know you can't do this on Amazon, but you can do it all over the web including on Smashwords. Free is even more of a loss leader than $.99, but then it still might end up being worth it if it brings readers to your other books.

My wife and I have been giving away some of our spiritual ebooks for free for years and it has created a tremendous amount of goodwill and awareness of our work.

That being said, I still think there is a lot of luck or something equally mysterious involved in being successful at selling ebooks. All of a sudden some of our books are doing well on Kindle and we have no idea why. Maybe it is just an accumulation of time that we have been out there doing what we do, but we really don't know for sure why.

Our free spiritual ebooks are available here:
(My wife, Gina Lake's site: )

jtplayer said...

"FWIW, and it's probably worth NOTHING: I rather liked the old cover"

Yeah, it's definitely a matter of personal taste.

I too liked the old cover. It evoked the right vibe for me, and combined with the product description it was enough for me to check out a sample.

Bottom line? It's all kind of hit & miss, ain't it?

Lundeen Literary said...

@Guido -

Man your new versions rock! Love the covers, the tags are good, the description pops... I really wish this had worked already. :(

I'm so sorry there hasn't been insta-turnaround, but I do think this experiment needs more time. 4 weeks is hardly enough time to build. I think that all of a sudden, one day, this will just skyrocket for you.

From your last post, people were suggesting bundling. People are suggesting it again this time, too. I think you really ought to consider this. Really. Just try it. You can leave the other versions up. Take the compilations down later if you want to, but give it a go.

I wonder if you should run a parallel experiment; try posting all of these novels under the new covers, new approach, etc. under a pseudonym. Offer them as individuals AND packages. Mark them all down to .99 except the bundles, which can be 2.99. Continue to alter the covers. In short, implement 100% of what we've all said. Now, the crux of what I'm suggesting is this: LEAVE THESE SAME VERSIONS UP. This way, you can do a side-by side comparison as to how the changes are taking. You'd lose no money by having these up for sale in 2 spots instead of one, and it would tell you much of what you need to know.

Honestly, it may just be me and my weird brain, but I'm wondering if readers aren't thinking "funny horror book" because Guido doesn't "sound" like a horror writer's name. Don't get me wrong, Guido is a rad name, but I just can't shake the notion that you should try a pseudonym. Heck, even Joe said the Kilborn stuff sold better than Konrath stuff...

Dunno. Just thinking out loud, but maybe you should just *try* uploading them under another name. Again, you can always un-publish.

Otherwise, I agree that it's maybe time to move on to another series or book. Still give Jason a bit of your weekly love - send to reviewers, tweet, and write new works, but try something new during the lion's share of your time. Maybe all you need is a breather and to let it lie a while. You know, the same way that you stop looking for your lost car keys or the love of your life, and then BAM! Right in front of you. I really wish I could snap my fingers and make it all happen for you. :( You've worked so very hard.


Rambling Expat said...

Hi there,

I am very impressed that so many people are saying that $2.99 is too expensive for a book, even a short one.

This is not even the price of a hot-dog where I live...
And you don't buy much junk food for $2.99.

What kind of world are we living in?
Where a book has to be cheaper than a cafe, is this really that you all wish for as authors?

I do believe that a paper back at $35 is a bit pricey and stop some people to enjoy good books. And that book should be at an affordable price for all.
But still, this is a very confronting thought for me to think that we live in this kind of economy.

But please, don't be offended by what I say, I am known for having absolutely no business sense...
And have never been able to write a single book, which may be why I still think that they are worth more than $2.99.

Have a good day,

Dana Granger said...

First of all, I loooove your new cover so much better than the last one!

I agree with some of the comments that in the indie ebook world, many people might hesitate to buy them because of the price you're charging for a novella. I'm not saying that's either fair or unfair; the market is what it is.

I really am sorry to hear that this didn't take off yet as much as you've hoped, but I think that your reaction is right on the money; put this aside for now and move on to a new series or new character. It seems as if you've found that a series of shorter pieces didn't work out for you; you might want to consider a novel-length story the next time.

Paul McMurray said...

Guido, re: Jenna @ Lundeen Literary ("Guido doesn't 'sound' like a horror writer's name."): This came up last time you posted here.

I think it is the PERFECT name for what you write. Besides, it's yours.

Brian said...

Guido -

One thing I would note about your social media usage - you say you've bolstered your Twitter presence, but when I go to your Twitter, it's basically just you selling your book. Just as a Twitter junkie, I can tell you it's the wrong approach. Being on Twitter isn't using Twitter.

This hit me again here in this thread with your last comment plugging Fangora - as DD Scott noted above, give people more of you.

Selling online - especially via social channels - is almost about the non-sell. If your followers feel the only reason you're there is to sell them a book, it's not going to work.

S.L. Pierce said...

I just checked his ratings and they are way up so I say the secret is getting a mention on Konrath's blog. Can I do a guest blog and boost my numbers?:)
Love the new covers.

Eric said...

One of the things that I am so impressed with in this e-book revolution is the way that everyone is helping each other out. There has been some very good solid advice not just from Joe Konrath but also from the others in the comments area. It’s really nice to see this type of cooperation and group thinking to help another author out.

Based on posts and comments on Guido Henkel own blog I also wanted to pitch in and help. Because I teach motion graphics I went ahead and made Guido a new movie book trailer to help reboot the Jason Dark Series.

Old Trailer

New Trailer

Marketing is a very odd thing and is more of an art form than a science. I think that the new covers and price drop will see results over time but I think that that the Jason Dark website also needs a makeover to match the new look of the cover.

Paul McMurray said...

Guido, just bought it; looking forward to it.

Thanks again for your info and to Joe for all he does.

David said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joseph said...


Thanks so much for showing the other side of the coin. When you're just starting out, it's just as helpful to learn about authors who are struggling to achieve "luck" as it is to learn about authors who have succeeded.

Barb said...

My women's contemporary novel was published by me in Aug. 2010 and was flatlined for months. The cover is homemade, going against Joe's advice. I did the editing (I think after all my years in the biz, I can do that). I sat with it. I knew the description was good, I thought the cover was good. A couple days into March, there was some activity. I thought gee, if I could average 10 copies a day wouldn't that be something! For the last 2 weeks it's been #3 or #4 in kindle books>fiction>mysteries>thrillers> legal. Michael Connelly with the book to the movie Lincoln Lawyer is #1, it's going to be hard to dislodge him! Everytime I go there and see my book with the handmade cover, that no one in legacy publishing could bother to read and I'm ranking higher than some of the biggest names in the business, I laugh. I'm averaging 60 copies a day now and it's spreading to my other books.

I have no idea what triggered it. I do nothing, no publicity. It did get a good review though so maybe that's some of it.

Write the best book you can.

Paul Rogers said...

jgbyars said:

I had to stop at 11% due to the proliferation of adverbs in your writing. I would recommend that you use the Edit/Find feature in your word processor, type in 'ly', and every instance you come across, you re-write.

I haven't read Guido's work, but this sort of advice can be too proscriptive in my view. Yes, too many adverbs can distract and look a little clunky, but whenever you see this advice, go and read some Harry Potter: adverbs big time. (I suspect she may even have given a certain sign to the adverb critics by using 'Deathly Hallows' as the title of the last book.)

It probably (!) works for Rowling because it seems to create a childrens / YA feel to the voices. In any case, it did not hurt her overall success.

And I just re-read the first chapter of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men -- a liberal sprinkling of adverbs, but not too many.

BTW, Guido, thanks for the elaborate advice on ebook formatting. Very useful.

Jimmie Hammel said...


I don't agree with your assessment of the ebook market as a bubble. Every person with access to the internet spends hours a day reading. Maybe it's the NY Times, wikipedia, or Perez Hilton, but it's still reading. While texting, IMs, and Facebook might not be educational but they are getting people, (especially young people) to read voluntarily. Reading is a skill like any other and practice leads to proficiency.

E-books aren't just read on kindles anymore. I don't even own a kindle. I read my ebooks on my smart phone. (I wish they'd had something like that when I was in college. Accounting books are not light.) As long as people continue to buy kindles and smart phones with pre-installed kindle software, e-book sales will continue to rise.

With the Harry Potter and Twilight crazes of the past 10 years, reading for fun has lost a lot of its stigma. It's no longer a loner activity. Reading is making a huge comeback.

How many times have you reread the same book, not because it was your favorite, but because you didn't have anything new to read and you were bored?

Point: People are more interested in reading than they were 20 years ago. The internet has increased the average american's reading proficiency both in speed and comprehension. E-book readers provide easy access to an unlimited number of books and the low cost of many e-books provides low-risk entertainment. It's not a $25 hard cover investment. It's a $3 impulse buy.
And finally, ebooks have a long way to go before their sales top those of paper books. As long as people are still being lured into the new medium, ebook sales will continue to grow.

Guido Henkel said...

Just a quick comment. I am sorry, but I do not buy into this whole "adverbs are evil" mentality. There is a reason why they have been part of the English language for such a long time.

Livia Blackburne said...

I also agree that four weeks is too quick to declare this experiment a failure. These things take a while, so keep writing and keep an eye on how this is doing.
I haven't read your book, and kindle is not letting me download the free sample for some reason, but I would also like to echo Lee's advice on taking the adverb tips with a grain of salt. We writers like to toss around lots of heuristics, and most of them are helpful, but they do tend to make everybody end up sounding exactly the same. Also, the general (non-writer) reader is concerned much more with the story than with the word by word sentence construction. Take the advice that works for you and feels right to you.

Guido Henkel said...

@Livia, there are free samples for each volume on the website also, in case you have trouble getting the Kindle sample to download on Amazon's site. In fact, "Demon's Night" is available there as a browser-read version in its entirety for free... always has been.

Shelby Cross said...

Well, your numbers are up on Amazon, so I guess this worked.

As far as the length vs price argument goes: from what I read, people are okay with spending more money on a novella if they are told, up front, that it is not a full-length novel. However, many readers get royally PISSED OFF if they spend more than .99 cents on something that ends up being too short. They write bad reviews, encourage others not to buy from that author, etc.

Guido, your description states clearly how long the novella is, it's up to readers to decide if they'll pay for it.

(I still have a major discrepancy in my own numbers between Amazon and B&N for my collection of erotica stories. Today alone, I sold 24 copies on B&N, but ziltch on Amazon. Why is this??)

T.J. Dotson said...

Just got back from Wondercon & wanted to see how Guido's book was doing. It looks like he's lowered the price. That with a guest appearance this Blog today, seemed to have a an effect:

Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #4,069 Paid in Kindle Store
#39 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Genre Fiction > Horror > Occult
#16 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Genre Fiction > Mystery & Thrillers > Mystery > British Detectives
#23 in Books > Mystery & Thrillers > Mystery > British Detectives
Would you like to give feedback on images or tell us about a lower price

These rankings look really good to me. I bet your Fangora guest shot will boost sales as well. Guido, you should really tweet things out like the 'Fangora' thing. People eat that stuff up.

Milton Bagby said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Milton Bagby said...

Hi, Guido --

Daryl Sedore went with a pseudonym and changed his luck. I've just started, so I don't know yet if my prosaic natural moniker works or is a drawback. I am completely willing to try a pseudonym, if that's what it takes. If it does, Milton Bagby is history.

Michelle Muto said...

I'm going to go with some of the others and say that it hasn't been long enough yet. It's a slow build, right? A marathon, not a sprint. At least that's what they tell me - I'm still a few days from a month in.

Still, the cover is fabulous. Perhaps a few reviews?

And write something new. Something outside of the Jason Dark series. If what everyone says is true, a new book should spark interest in older books.

I wish you the best, Guido.

Michelle Muto
The Book of Lost Souls

Guido Henkel said...

@T.J., the Fangoria serials has produced no noticeable increase, really. I have been tweeting it out and I've been Facebooking it on my personal FB page as well as the Jason Dark FB page, etc. So have announced it in many places, sadly however, people have not really taken notice of it, it seems, or rebroadcast it much.

Brenda Wallace said...

Hey, Guido,
My CP friend, Chryse Wymer, is a brilliant writer and hugely picky reader and just recommended your writing in Demon's Night, so I bought it. I also noticed that you're now sitting at 3,884, so probably just needed this exposure for readers to take another look at your revamped books and covers. I prefer your new cover, personally.

Selena Kitt said...

A 20Kw novella, then, is 40 minutes of reading time. Not worth 99c, certainly not worth $2.99.


You can eat a Snickers in less than a minute and people pay $0.99 for that.

BTW, Guido - I'm an avid horror reader. And this time you sold me. The cover caught my eye, the description was better and the sample didn't turn me off. And at $0.99? Sold!

You're doing something right!

Ellen said: It may depend on the genre. My top-selling Ellen Fisher book is a novella. My short erotic stories (many below 10,000 words) have sold like crazy on B&N. Overall, I find it more profitable to write shorts and novellas than full novels.

Absolutely. Short erotica can be quite profitable. In fact, I've had some readers of my longer works (and folks, these aren't "long" by a longshot - 50Kish) admit that it was hard (no pun intended) to get to the end of a longer book because of all the "good parts" at the beginning they kept re-reading (thank goodness Kindles can't get dog-earred)...

You have to remember your audience and their motivation for reading.

Anonymous said...

I am rooting for you Guido. I have been following as many of the indie authors as possible to see how you guys are doing it. You strike me as highly committed, take Amanda Hocking (extreme example) she did not have huge sales one month but the ballooning which eventually took place dwarfed her earlier e-book sales. I can definitely envision you getting your break, so many authors toil away for years in obscurity before being discovered, I believe the only thing that is consistent in all these stories is the author keeping at it and not giving in no matter how discouraging things get. The fact that you have earned a small pocket of hardcore supporters here already says a great deal. Keep fighting the fight Guido, and keep writing and pubing! Your perseverance is inspiring.

S.J. Harris said...

I like the new cover, Guido.

KDJames said...

I know I'm going to get grief for this, but I really want to see Henkel succeed and sometimes you just have to be blunt. I agree with Jenna of Lundeen Literary about a pen name. Here in the US, at least, the name "Guido" has negative connotations attached to it. I'm sorry, I know it's wrong, but it just does. I blame Hollywood.

A quick Google search comes up with these two "definitions" (for lack of a better word):

Urban Dictionary: "A sad pathetic excuse for a male; not necessarily of Italian descent, but most likely; usually native to the New York/New Jersey Tri-State area."

Wikipedia: "Guido is a slang term for a lower-class or working-class urban Italian-American. The guido stereotype is multi-faceted. Originally, it was used as a demeaning term for Italian-Americans in general. More recently, it has come to refer to Italians who conduct themselves as thugs with an overtly macho attitude. The time period in which it obtained the latter meaning is not clear, but some sources date it to the 1970s or 1980s."

Now I'm pretty damn sure that Guido Henkel the writer does not fit either description. But the fact is that this perception is pervasive in American culture.

Guido, in my opinion, you've made some truly excellent improvements. I'm impressed by your willingness to listen to feedback and make changes. Seriously, there are very few people capable of doing that to the degree you have done it. Really admirable.

A name is a very personal thing, perhaps more so than any other aspect of writing. But if I were you, I'd give serious thought to using something other than Guido as a first name.

It's not worth even two cents in any known market, but that's my honest opinion.

Jeff Faria said...

"Just a quick comment. I am sorry, but I do not buy into this whole "adverbs are evil" mentality."

Hi, Guido. Well, since we're talking about making a book commercially successful, I want to just gently point out that the biggest rant against adverbs I ever read came from one of the most successful writers who ever lived - Steven King (in his book On Writing).

I personally took it seriously. What King said about this (paraphrasing very liberally) was that, yes, in common parlance we use adverbs regularly. But good writing is not common parlance. (If it were, it would be pure hell to get through most books.) Even though good writing might strive to come across as effortless, plain speaking, we both know that's not the case.

King said adverbs in literature are a shortcut and a crutch (paraphrasing, remember). Look at it this way: Adverbs are the conclusion you want to make your readers draw.

Sometimes there's nothing else to do but say: "He smiled sadly." But what you really want is to say, "He smiled," even as your reader concludes "He smiled, but he was sad."

Again, FWIW. Just pointing it out because King said it, and I at least think he knows somethin'.

Jeff Faria said...

Oh, sorry to run on. I did just want to add that I disagree with the approach that one should just run through one's work with a buzzsaw and yank out all the words ending in "ly". That's because every time you use an adverb, what you were probably trying to do is paint some kind of picture. So now, in yanking the adverb you've lost that color and splashed black paint on it. It probably doesn't look or 'feel' right.

Instead, what I do is I look at the passage and ask if the reader is going to draw that "ly" conclusion anyway. If so, I'm going to assume the best about him and yank the adverb. But if not, it's because I haven't painted the picture properly. I have to do more work on that passage so that my reader can connect the dots.

The greatest-selling book of all time (you know what it is) has damn few adverbs.

Lada Ray said...

Guido, thank you for sharing your story. I am very impressed by the amount of work you put into your books. Your story puts a lot in perspective for a newbie indie author. I don't normally read your type of fiction, but I do like the new cover, although, in my humble opinion, the old wasn't bad either.
Most importantly, I strongly agree with Joe that the thing to do is to keep at it no matter what! Keep writing, keep publishing new books and I am convinced, you'll find your audience and success!
I have recently published my first mystery novel, Stepford, USA, on Kindle and Smashwords and am currently trying to figure out how to do the same On Nook and Ipad. I still have tons to learn in this, completely new to me, business and I have to constantly remind myself to stay positive, too.
I wish you the best of luck with your writing! Keep at it! Like Joe says: with ebooks you have forever to find your audience, but of course, ASAP is always preferred.
That said, we are only at the beginning of the ebook revolution - time's on our side!

Lada Ray

Unknown said...

As many have said already, we're all cheering for you, Guido. Keep working hard and know that you and others like you are an inspiration to the rest of us.

Guido Henkel said...

@Mister Snitch! Don't get me wrong, I am not disagreeing with you per see, and I do not want to create the impression that I think my writing is perfect - not by any means.

I think I am reasonably conscious and critical of what I am writing and I always look for ways to improve. As a matter of fact, because English is not my native language I sometimes have the impression that I might be too aware of certain things.

What I am not agreeing with is that notion that adverbs are by definition evil, and that use of adverbs automatically indicates poor writing. That is not the case. I agree that they can hint at issues and flaws that are typically rooted much deeper. But it is not a commutative thing in that the use of adverbs would automatically indicate that there has to be a problem. Am I making sense here?

Jimmie Hammel said...


Yes, and no.

Adverbs and adjectives are considered modifiers. They change the feel of a verb or a noun. They help wishy washy writers EXPLAIN what they mean. The problem with that is that you want to show and not tell.

If you need to use an adverb to make a sentence paint the picture you want then 9 times out of 10, there was probably a better verb you could have used.

BUT, the average reading public wouldn't care. Look at Stephanie Meyer. She's never met an adverb that she didn't like and she's a millionaire.

I guess the point is this, lots of people have voiced concern over your adverbs, so cut them. You can't explain to every person that reads your books why you think your adverbs are valid. If they are reading your work and saying, hey man, these adverbs are distracting... then you have to assume that they have a point.

Paul Rogers said...

Jimmie Hammel said:

If they are reading your work and saying, hey man, these adverbs are distracting... then you have to assume that they have a point.

Well . . . not necessarily. That's one person saying that. And he said to cut "every instance" of adverbs.

Now if Rowling and Meyer between them have sold several hundred million books with a liberal sprinkling of adverbs; and Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize for Lit using carefully placed adverbs, then isn't it about time someone said: "Wait a minute . . . maybe Stephen King - On Writing - is wrong and adverbs used judiciously are okay."

"It's the writing, ....." (As Bill Clinton famously once said about the economy.) Story, plot, voice etc.

Let's put adverbs, per se, on the back burner and concentrate on good story telling with a dash of creative writing.

Jimmie Hammel said...

In On Writing even Stephen King admits that adverbs can be used Judiciously. They become a problem when they're distracting.
I don't agree that a writer should eliminate all adverbs. That's silly. I do, however, think that they should be used sparingly. When an adverb can be cut without loss of meaning, it should be.

nwrann said...


Good to see a follow-up on your previous post, despite the unimpressive results. I've been following you on twitter so I knew the outcome before reading it here.

I have a few questions and comments:

1) Your Jason Dark premise is unique, maybe too unique. Readers always say they want something "new" but what they really want is something like everything else they've read, just a little bit different. Your genre (old school, pulp, dime novels) probably doesn't have a big audience (compared to thrillers, romance, etc). So for most readers, you're asking them to read something they don't normally read. There is probably a small group of dedicated readers, like you that have been waiting for these types of stories to come along. Now you have to FIND THEM.

2) Which brings me to my next point. Why does it seem that self-pubbed authors expect readers to find their books. Shouldn't the self-pubbed author be going out and FINDING THEIR READERS? Have you had reviews of these books in publications (magazines, blogs) that have a readership that is interested in this genre/subject? I would think Fangoria (although, judging by what Fangoria focuses on for their covers and content (mainstream and gore. (but they do give good support to independent filmmakers) I don't think the typical fangoria reader is a fan of old-school pulpy occult horror. You might have a good shot at Famous Monsters of Filmland, or other "vintage" and "retro" focused magazines and blogs. Maybe the steam-punk crowd would dig your books. Maybe even the bizarro set might get into them. Are there other, better selling authors currently writing in the same genre? If so, see where their readers come from. See where they get coverage.

3) English isn't your first language? Have you considered rewriting one or more of these in your native tongue?

4) I liked the old cover. I thought it was very genuine and had a lot of integrity, and it was unique. The new cover is a good cover but seems a bit generic. IMHO.

5) I think the overall takeaway from Guido's experience is that: Every best seller has a good cover, good description and is well written, but not every book with a good cover, good description that is well written will be a best seller.

Sorry to go on for so long.

Sarah McCabe said...

The only people I've ever seen complain about adverbs are writers and critics. Readers don't care. Honestly.

Anonymous said...

Hmm... Interesting post, Guido & Joe. Thanks for sharing. Sometimes it is important for others to hear that not everything is roses in the new indie world.

Of course not everything was roses in the old print world. Think about it. Guido's stories are, by all accounts, novellas. No one would've printed them. They don't sell hot enough to justify a print release. That being said, books from the Jason Dark series DID sell. They just didn't sell a lot. But the people that read them and enjoyed them would've never had an opportunity to see them - these tales would've never seen the light of day. They would've never made it passed the gatekeeper.

I for one like a short story or novella. I find it CRAZY that some fellow comments speak of how buying something they can read in in an hour or so is in no way worth $2.99 and barely - in some cases - worth $.99. Yet, iTunes can sell a 3 minute song for $.99 and a 40-minute album from around $10. Ah the perception of value. See how it rears its ugly head yet again, especially when it comes to this digital world.

But then again, I'm a slow reader, so what do I know? :D

I guess, Guido, I would say keep at it. I'm going to purchase Demon's Night today and give it a whirl. If your writing is strong - as many of the reviews suggest - than you shouldn't have anything to worry about. Here's an idea. If you really enjoy the Jason Dark world and character, make a series. Do a trilogy of full-length novels set in that world. Think HUGE and just kill it. Then price your novellas at $.99. All of them. If you can give those readers wanting more that more they're wanting - really expand the world and characters and dive into it in riveting ways - then the novellas become add-ons. They become collector's items. They become a cheap way for someone to enjoy Jason Dark while they wait for the 2nd or 3rd novel. THAT I think is the power of the short or novellas when it comes to indie e-books. It's like that EP that comes out between full-length albums.

Or you can explore new terrain for a while, that's a good bet, too. Whatever you do I'm sure will bring you joy, because you obviously know how to put the work in and love what you do. And remember, people DID buy your story - they DID enjoy it. And that would've have happened at all of it hadn't decided to put in the work and pub it yourself.

Best of luck!


ps sorry about the length of this comment. I'm probably breaching some sort of etiquette.

JGByars said...


Since I opened the adverb can-o-worms, let me clarify.

Your (over)use of 'barely' and 'slowly' took otherwise fantastic sentences and, for me, cheapened them.

I would never suggest you lose all adverbs, and I too do not believe adverbs are 'evil'.

I did finish reading Demon Night, and you have a wonderful set of characters, and also a gripping story.

I plan on buying the other books in the series simply because I enjoyed the world you have created.

Guido, you are talented and deserve success, and I wish you all the best.

Rob Walker said...

Returning to report on my own 99c experiment. I have 45 novels and one how-to book on my Kindle offerings, many first time only Original to Kindle tltles, never before seen in life nowhere, but many are backlist titles published in the 80s and 90s by Legacy publishers sitting in NYC. Anyhow...I cut out five titles to be dropped from 2.99 to 99. This has been a March-long experiment that I am continuing through April and perhaps beyond because why? Suddenly my FLOATERS, a medical examiner title with 3 sequels with Dr. Dean Grant (homage to Dean Koontz and the infamous Mr Grant of horror fame) is sitting at #59 in top Medical thrillers category on Kindle lists of top 100. It is also at #79 under Technothrillers. In very very good company. A book that at 2.99 had remained 'invisible' - now too another of the 99 centers I put up, Brain Stem, is spiking in sales as well.

Great way to get folks to read my more current, more layered Children of Salem and Titanic 2012 for sure, for sure.

My thread on Kindle Comm. forums too has had a touch of Viral-ness in that it has had 10,350 views and more comments than I can handle and has gone to 17 pages!

Rob Walker

Livia Blackburne said...

"The only people I've ever seen complain about adverbs are writers and critics. Readers don't care. Honestly."

Yes. This is a learned preference, driven by the current popular writing style -- not among readers, but among writers.

Nothing against the anti-adverb rules (I tend to limit adverbs in my own writing), but I'm kind of uncomfortable when they're presented as objective laws that define "good" or "bad" writing. They don't. Even if Stephen King says so. Jk Rowling and Stephanie Meyer disagree. Writers do themselves a disservice when they start taking writing guidelines as absolute truth. Evaluate them for yourselves, and decide whether or not you agree with them, and give other writers permission to do the same. (Nothing wrong with spirited discussions to try to convince each other though :-))

Sorry for the rant. This it a topic that I feel strongly about. I posted more about it on my blog a while back.

I do some pseudoscience writing posts once in a while. The last one was "Will Self Publishing Make You Die." Perhaps I'll follow it up with "Do Adverbs Cause Erectile Dysfunction." :-)

Jeff Faria said...

Guido said:
"But it is not a commutative thing in that the use of adverbs would automatically indicate that there has to be a problem. Am I making sense here?"

Sure you make sense. The way I see adverbs, they're a flag. I see one and ask myself if there's some (reasonably economical) way I could get the reader to draw that conclusion for himself. I also try to keep the writing a little hungry and lean.

I don't believe in 'rules' because as soon as you make one, someone will find a way to break it that works just fine for him.

Anyway, all this is too far off track. I doubt adverbs were the problem in marketing this book!

Guido Henkel said...

Thanks again, all, for the comments and thoughts.

Sarah Woodbury said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sarah Woodbury said...

I think Guido, that experimenting is the way to go, and that this is going to work out, but maybe just needs more time.

So, inspired by this blog, I dropped my two $2.99 books to 99 cents (to match my other two) on March 19th, at the suggestion of my husband. I've only been at this for 2 1/2 months, so perhaps too anxious to jumpstart the process, but my books were hovering in the mid 50,000-100,000 range most of the time, selling around 5 a day (which was my goal for March). So, okay, but not great. I'd sold 103 books all told on Amazon between March 1-18.

In the 17 days since I dropped the prices, I've sold 307 books. In particular, the two books I had priced at $2.99, of which I'd only sold 14 each in those initial 18 days, have now sold 100 more in the following 17. Their rankings today are nearly identical at 18,000 (though both have been as low as 10,000 over the weekend.

Better, I think. Certainly more fun.

Cathy Keaton said...

I actually love reading short stories and novellas, but I'm not in the norm. What I DO think works with the normal public is to at least write 1 or 2 full-length novels to start your series, then add to it with the shorter works as sequels.

Any author can get away with selling short stories and novellas so long as they are sequels to a NOVEL series. Hoping for your future success, Guido!!

Gisele said...


I didn't have time to read all of the comments as there were so many of them... so, sorry if you've heard this before...

On your previous guest post a few months ago, it was mentioned that Jason Dark was a homage to a very popular pulp series in Germany.

It got me thinking...maybe you are pushing JD series in the wrong country. You already have a lot of potential fans, who enjoy this genre and will instantly "get" the JD series, waiting for you all the way across the five steps. Your niche is already carved out for you. Why not go after your known audience?

Are you trying to promote your series in Germany? Maybe get a few German pulp fiction blogs to review it? I think it will be worth your time.

Jacquelyn said...

Thanks for sharing your experience, Guido.

If you're happy and confident with all the changes you made, then you're probably right to move on for now. If nothing else, you can feel good that you made some real improvements to your work. Hopefully with some time, your sales will reflect this.

(BTW, I think your new cover looks great.)

Joshua said...

No disrespect to D.D. intended, but I just don't buy into this notion that a "platform" is an iron-clad requirement for fiction writers, even now in such a rapidly changing publishing landscape.

Dean Koontz, Nicholas Sparks, Michael Connelly, Preston and Child...none of these authors found success through blogging, tweeting, or Facebook postings. Strong, well-written novels were their platforms, and that should still be enough, even today.

Of course, most will point out that these authors achieved success long before the rise of social media, and I won't argue with that, nor will I dispute that a strong online presence can be beneficial to an author's career.

But even now, I have to believe that a significant number of new authors are building large readerships based on nothing more than quality writing and good old-fashioned word-of-mouth.

In all fairness to D.D., I also became a bigger fan of Joe through his blog, and the wisdom and inspiration he regularly shares has been tremendously beneficial to me in areas that extend beyond my writing life. But it was his Jack Kilborn novel "Afraid" that first put him on my radar, and the quality of that novel was all the platform he needed to earn my support.

I think it's dangerous for newbie fiction authors to invest too much energy into developing something as intangible and subjective as a "platform" at the expense of strengthening their craft as storytellers.

I also have to question just how concerned the average reader is with an author's platform. After all, I (and millions of other readers) will gladly take a new Dean Koontz novel over a Dean Koontz blog entry any day.

Even Joe himself, with one of the best and most valuable blogs of any author working today, will probably be the first to admit that his blogging likely hasn't earned him nearly as many fans as the quality of his novels have.

And Guido, please know that your work is valued and you ARE connecting with readers, even if the numbers aren't quite where you want them to be.


JVRC said...

I'm going to read all of these comments eventually. But...I have a suggestion. It's a bit painful, but in the long run, it could very well kick start things.

Take that first book and drop the price to $0 for a week or two. I know, sounds stupid, sound counter intuitive, but...

I'm on the mailing list of several pages like, where when a book is marked down to $0, they tell you. Yes, you'll "give away" a large portion, but I've found a lot of authors that way. And those very same authors have ended up rising in the rankings for a bit and when the book price is returned to what it was before, those same books are selling. Not to mention the rest of the books in a series.

Random House had Diana Gabaldon's first book--Outlander--as a free ebook for a month. Watching the ranking, it was in the top 100 again, as well as the other ebooks in the Outlander series.

I found a historical fiction author, Susan Higginbotham, that way and ended up buying the rest of her books as well.

It's a scary thought...but then, you've got nothing to lose and everything to gain. And with those crawlers picking it up and broadcasting to everyone on the list, you can definitely pick up new readers that way.

It's a thought....

Guido Henkel said...


Even if I wanted to, Amazon makes it impossible to offer a book for free.

Jeff Faria said...

Gisele said...
"it was mentioned that Jason Dark was a homage to a very popular pulp series in Germany.

It got me thinking...maybe you are pushing JD series in the wrong country."

I think Gisele brings up the most relevant point in this whole thread. The problem may be cultural. Some ideas don't translate well across cultures. Others do, with no problem.

And then, there are ideas that translate, but only after proper adaptation, or preparation of the new culture to accept the idea. (For example, the new Disney theme park being built in China, which has encountered a blizzard of cultural issues. Or any McDonalds outside America, all of which offer native dishes. Or baseball in Japan, which is different in many details, including a smaller, softer ball.)

Sometimes, the 'foreign-ness' of a cross-cultural idea is what sells it, and it shouldn't be 'adapted' for the new culture. Manga comics, for instance, caught on in America precisely because they were so culturally different from anything else on comic dealers' shelves. They stood out, and the needed 'adaptation' took place in readers' minds. It was an acquired taste. In that regard, your old cover stood out, while the new one has adapted nicely to the norms of many current thrillers. However, it also looks little different from many current thrillers.

Your challenge, anyway, would be to find out which situation you're in. Is there anything in your concept requiring adaptation, or has the opposite happened - have some key selling points been adapted away to nothing? Does it assume some foreknowledge or cultural leaning on the part of your target audience that is not actually there? Those are the kinds of questions you might be asking, rather than hunting down adverbs, tweaking prices, or trying new covers.

FWIW. You have an interesting problem.

Misty said...

I'd just like to add my personal reading preference is also for full-length novels. I like to enjoy a book for a while - a day or two - med school trained me to speed read. I feel cheated when a short story or novella ends, no matter how well. I just got to know the characters and the world. Like making a new best friend and having them move away 2 month later. It makes you skittish of doing the same again.

So, I stick to novels and really love series. Enjoying a good book is made even better knowing I have the two others in the series sitting on my night stand, like big chocolate bars, waiting to be enjoyed. :-)

Kudos to all the work you've done! The best writers are the ones who keep writing!

Milton Bagby said...

HELP!! Somehow, I have become "subscribed" to this post and keep getting email updates. I have clicked the unsubscribe button, but still get every new posting. This has never happened before and I am not subscribed to any other Konrath posts. Anyone else having this problem? (Konrath does not list a webmaster.)

Duane Spurlock said...

The new cover looks great. Hang in there.

Stitch said...

Hi Guido! Sorry to jump in so late, hopefully you'll still read this...

"So, what does all of this tell us? To put it bluntly, it tells me that we are all pretty clueless."

I think it is a big mistake to give up on the changes this soon. I mean, you've spent what...two years doing it your way? And you make a few changes and when they don't make you a bestseller in a month you discard them as worthless? I'm sorry for being so blunt, but that's how it looks to me.

You need to give the changes more time to take effect. And there are still several suggestions that you haven't followed.

I'm sorry, but I sort of get the feeling that you (intentionally OR sub-contiously) want the changes to fail, if only to justify all the time and effort you've spent on other things that's not paid off.

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