Sunday, June 23, 2013

Guest Post by Carlos Cooper

Joe sez: With almost two hundred guest posts promised, I'm going to be blogging more frequently. I don't have a choice, because if I leave each post up for two or three days, it'll take 3 years to fit everyone in.

As a compromise, I'm going to link to the last seven guest posts at the start of each new guest post, so everyone's visibility is maximized.

You can read Marcus Sakey talking about cover art here:

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

And now here's Carlos Cooper:

Carlos: First, a huge thanks to Joe. I know you hear it all the time, but I’ll say it again. You give indie authors a glimpse not only into the struggle and pain of writing, but also what can be. You da man.

About me: I've read Joe’s blog since the fall of 2011. I even wrote him a post to say thanks. At the time I was trying to figure out how to self-publish my first novel, Back to War (currently FREE until 6/24/13). I have no idea how many hours I spent scouring posts and comments, picking up nugget after nugget. I was a free info whore and my wife hated it when I stayed up late reading in the dark with my iPad.

If there's one theme I've taken from Joe it's keep experimenting. With that thought in mind, I self-published my first novel. It was more of a passion project at the time as I wanted to give back to the Marine Corps for changing my life. I still owned a small business and never really thought that I would 'qualify' to be a professional writer. Dumb ass. To my surprise the book started selling. I stuck with Amazon mostly for simplicity and their awesome customer service. For me it worked.
So as I struggled with my property management business, I watched my book sell thirty copies one month, then ten the next, then twenty seven the next…you get the picture. As a big believer in residual income, I was intrigued. I wasn't doing much other than running the occasional Select promo and answering the rare email.

It wasn't until after I’d gotten out from under my company that I thought seriously about writing full time. One book that told me I could be an author was You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One) by Jeff Goins. At that time last summer, I was really trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. That book hit me right between the eyes. Finished it in less than a day and WHAM…I was an author.

I buckled down and wrote book two of the Corps Justice series, Council of Patriots, in just over two months. Published it on Amazon and all of a sudden sales of the first book doubled. Hmmm…

I released the third book, Prime Asset, in three episodes (once again experimenting) and experienced another large boost to my other titles. That's when I realized something amazing. As a big believer of KDP Select freebie promotions (it's the only way I built my small yet loyal readership and actually got visibility) I always used my freebie days to max effect. Results varied when I only had one title. What I realized was that I could do a five-day promo each and every month because I had three books in the series. I started calling it The Rule of Three when other authors asked what I was doing. Throw in a couple short stories and I was seriously boosting the number of potential readers I could get in front of.

I've used The Rule of Three since February of this year. My sales keep growing. I'm finding new readers. Readers are engaged and telling me what they do and do not like. I'm growing as an author.

I also found out something else that Joe mentions. When readers like a book (yes, even a freebie) they'll go buy your other books. That fact is affirmed for me every month as each of my Corps Justice titles sell almost exactly the same number of copies as their brothers. Simply put, it works.

Important things that I've used and recommend for The Rule of Three to work:

1. Use all 5 freebie days at once. It’ll give you a better chance at hitting the Top 100 Free list. Unless you're a big dog like Joe, the days of using one or two days and seeing a huge boost are gone.

2. Have three or more titles even if they're short novels or short stories. Series work for a reason. If you can connect with a reader they will want more.

3. Do what Joe sez: Write a great book, design a hot cover and keep writing.

I’ll apply The Rule of Three concept to my new series The Chronicles of Benjamin Dragon. I released book 1, Benjamin Dragon – Awakening, at the end of May. Now my job is to hurry up and write the next two. In my mind I won't have a chance until then.

So what's the moral of the story? First, listen to Joe. He knows what he's talking about. He's been there. 

Second, write a lot of good books. Be prolific. Series sell and they bring new readers back for more. 

Third, max out freebie promotion using The Rule of Three.

Thanks again for all the wisdom, Joe. Now back to writing…

Joe sez: I'm glad Carlos is building an audience, and I love his covers. They look like one of the Big 5 put them out. Also, thanks for serving our country in the Marines. 

My experience with freebie promos varies. Sometimes I can hit the Top 100 the first day with no promotion at all. Other times I use and to get my books up there. I haven't seen any verifiable connection between how many ebooks are given away, how quickly they're given away, and how the title bounces back to the paid list.

Sometimes I give away a lot of ebooks in a few days (50k or more) and I have a nice bounce back. Sometimes I wind up exactly where I was before the promo. But these freebies are getting read, because people are reviewing them. So hooking a reader with a freebie is possible, and can boost backlist sales.

Remember that selling books isn't a goal. It's a hope. Goals are things within your control, and you can't force people to buy or read you. 

I've said many times that promotion isn't about selling books to people who don't want them, it's about making people aware of books they're actively seeking. 

Also, it bears repeating that I'm just one guy with unique, subjective experience. No one knows everything, me included. What works for me may not work for you at all. All writers need to amass as much information as possible--even if it is contrary to what I say--and figure out what works for them.

A final note: if someone on this blog has a freebie, even if it isn't your preferred genre, download it to help them out. As writers that's the least we can do to help one another. I also encourage readers of this blog to buy ebooks that they're interested in, by both my guest bloggers and by me.

Currently my Codename: Chandler trilogy, co-written with Ann Voss Peterson, is available for $1.99 a title. And if you pre-ordered THREE (which will be released on June 25) you will get it for the $1.99 price.

That's over 350,000 words of over-the-top action, sex, and humor (the series features appearances by Jack Daniels and Harry McGlade) for less than six bucks. 

So check out C.G. Cooper, and if you have a little money left over, check out Chandler. (And don't forget to try Marcus Sakey for thrillers and Dakota Madison for romance.)


Bob said...

Carlos-- thanks for your service to our country and all the best with your books. Love your covers.

Alistair McIntyre said...

Glad to hear your strategies are working out for you. Ebooks do allow for a lot of experimentation, and it's always good to hear of successful endeavors.

CF Winn said...

Love this post! Great advice and the message of generosity to other authors is one that I wish more people would embrace. CHEERS! *clink*

Jill James said...

Carlos, thank you for your service.

Joe is so right. Those are amazing, professional covers.

Love your Rule of Three.

shantnu said...

Joe, I've been trying to contact you to arrange my guest blog (at joekonrath at comcast dot net), but can't seem to get through. Are my emails lying in your spam folder?

JA Konrath said...

I've got over 250 emails for guest posts, so I can't reply to them individually.

You need to:

1. Email me with the heading TESS GUEST BLOG 7/15 (or any date you want)
2. Attach the blog post in MS Word with all hyperlinks already embedded.
3. Attach the cover art to your book as a jpg.
4. Remind me the day before you want the post to go live by sending all of the above to me a second time.

And I'll post it. If I don't, remind me. And if I have conflicting dates, I'll let you know.

Wayne McDonald said...

I love your covers also, they are beautiful. I picked up a copy. Also put You Are a Writer in my wish list, thanks for the advice. I'm also a big fan of Joe's. I read his entire blog in about a couple weeks last year and it helped me start publishing.

I know this is crass but if anyone could help my friend could you download a freebie of his to bump him? He's struggling like many, he's a bit strange but helped me through my seperation in his own way.

shantnu said...

Thanks Joe.

I didn't know that if you didn't reply, it meant you had no problems. I was assuming that you weren't replying because you couldn't find any free dates.

Thanks for clearing that up! Cheers

Hollis Shiloh said...

You have great cover art!

Oh, I loved You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One) by Jeff Goins! Excellent book.

I really look forward to these more frequent posts of authors sharing their experiences, so, yay for that! :)

I don't quite understand, though, how giving away more books to people who don't read them will help an author. Is it because it gives him or her a higher free ranking?

Also, it seems like when I give away my books on Amazon, they sometimes get more negative reviews. Does the benefit of publicity, etc., offset this? I'm wondering about that a lot lately, and sort of on the fence about whether to continue experimenting with free giveaways or stopping them altogether.

Eric Daugherty said...

Over 200 guest blogs is amazing. Can't wait to read them all. When they are all up someone should think about compiling them into an ebook.

Eric Daugherty said...

@Wayne McDonald, I downloaded your friend’s short story but I have to say my first reaction upon seeing the page was that is a really bad cover. This is just my opinion of course, but it looks like a drunken ghost is having a hard time shopping. You need to drag your friend to this blog. Joe is always hammering the importance of a good cover and it's easy to see why when you look at Mr. Cooper's.

Wayne McDonald said...

@Eric Daughtery
Thank you for helping Eric. I've annoyed him a few times about his covers. He has 2 novels he wrote a while back and I'm hoping he gets decent covers made when he uploads them.

@Hollis Shiloh
Even if they don't read them there's more chances of getting in the top 100 lists for a sub category where people who are interested will be able to see them. There's also the chance that they will mention it to a friend who does read that type of story.

I think freebies overall depend on what your writing and how much other books you have. I write niche short stories that my readers will find from search keys. My friend linked above writes literary fiction and I can't imaging his 'Uranus Unbound' or 'The Need for Shame' titles for example will appeal to people looking for books on Uranus or bullying. So freebies are possibly going to be very useful for him to connect to people who like eccentric fiction.

Negative reviews are also inevitable since I think people vacuum up freebies, read them weeks later and don't take responsibility for downloading something they wouldn't normally read.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Bob. Love your work.


Unknown said...

Joe is the most open and giving guy talking about self-publishing. Let's do the same and pay it forward :)

Merrill Heath said...

Bob said: Carlos-- thanks for your service to our country and all the best with your books.


Chris Everheart said...

Great post! Thanks for sharing your experience, Carlos. It will be a big help as I go forward. Will read "You're a Writer" (and will probably start acting like one). Thanks for the ebook, too. I'm looking forward to reading it.

Mike Dennis said...

Great post, Carlos. Your Rule of Three is concise and on the money. You have obviously adhered to that credo. Your covers are killer.

And above all, thank you for your service to our country.

Anonymous said...

Anyone got any tips on the mechanics of writing a trilogy, or know of a good website?

I know how to write a stand alone novel with a beginning, middle, and end, but stretching it out into a trilogy is a little iffy. I don't want to make it seem like I only stretched out the story just to make extra money. I myself, hate the feeling I get when I read a book in a series that doesn't have proper closure, it makes the series seem like one long never ending soap opera that's designed to suck up your money. :(

Alan Spade said...

@Anonymous 1:24 : I've just finished the third volume of my science-fantasy trilogy, Ardalia.

Of course, your story has to be long enough. Mine is 440 000 words long for the three books.

It was clear from the beginning my protagonists would explore different countries : the country of the people of the wind, the people of the water and from the earth and fire.

So, even it didn't turn out so divided as that, I had from the beginning an idea of three or four books, each centered on one element (the intelligent species in this world are each linked to one element).

You have to know where to divide your story, though. My advice would be to have each book with at least one quest fulfilled.

Robert Jordan, he finished practically each book of The Wheel of Time with a big fight against one of the Chosen.

It's a good way to bring a satisfaction to a reader, although it reminded me a little too much the "end level bosses" in videogames.

For myself, I tried to end each book with some striking or memorable scene, at the exception of the last one.

Unknown said...

@Wayne McDonald, Thanks!

@Hollis Shiloh, I'll piggy back on what Wayne said. For me the freebie promotions are mostly for visibility. I want the 'chance' of new readers finding me. Then it's up to me to convince them to stick around with my writing. Negative reviews are inevitable. I've tried to ignore the snarky trollish ones. Sometimes the negatives actually help attract your true readership. When my dialogue in my first book was compared to The Sand of Iwo Jima in a One-Star review, that helped me. People who love that movie are exactly who I want. It took me a while to figure that out.

@Eric Daugherty, thanks for the kind words

@Merrill Heath, thanks!

@Chris Everheart, thanks! That's a great book if you're struggling with saying "I'm a writer." Enjoy!

@Anonymous- regarding endings of installments

I try to write like I'm writing for a TV show. Each episode can stand alone, but there's always a teaser for the next installment. I want my readers to buy everything, but that won't always happen. Even readers who don't like your books as much should get closure at the end of a novel. I guess it just takes practice to produce a proper cliffhanger at the end.

@Mike Dennis, Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Carlos -- First, my deep and grateful thanks for your service to our country.

Second, your books sound like something I'd love to read -- HOWEVER, I do not have an e-reader, nor is reading online an option. Like many people, I still read hard copy books.

This is the big reason I don't buy most of the enticing-sounding books mentioned in this blog. I do not have an e-reader, and only offering the books in e-format cuts out a lot of potential readers -- and any possibility of persuading libraries to stock your book.

If you're publishing using Amazon's platform, I ask you to consider also publishing your book
s as trade paperbacks.


Many thanks to you and to Joe Konrath. This blog is a gem!

Daniel O'Halloran said...

Carlos, those covers are gorgeous. Did you make them yourself or get a third party to help you with them. If it is a third party would you mind sharing the name with the rest of us?

Unknown said...


Actually my first two novels are available in paperback. Also keep I mind that you can always download the Free Kindle reading app to your computer, iPhone, etc... :)

Unknown said...

@danielh, had most of my covers done on I love to see talented designers compete and make the final product better and better. Not the cheapest (lowest package is $299, I think), but awesome if you're serious about getting a hot cover. Again, I'm a business guy first, so I'm all about paying to make my brand's image look good. A step a lot of authors miss. Thanks again!

Daniel O'Halloran said...

Carlos, thanks so much for the information. I briefly checked out the site and it actually blew my mind. I haven't seen anything like this before (actually get multiple designers to compete on your cover design) - this seems like a really great service for indie authors - and obviously you have had great results with their service. I will definitely be giving them a try.

Colin M said...

Hi Carlos,

Great covers. Can you tell us who you use? Also, very good description on Amazon. I downloaded Back to War and am looking forward to it, but your others look quite good as well. Best of luck and I hope you do well from Joe's Blog.

Unknown said...

@ColinM, Thanks for the note! I use for my covers. It's like a gladiator battle to win your business.

Elizabeth said...

I immediately downloaded Back to War (it cost $3.79 but I live abroad, and happy to purchase it). Am reading it now and the story is engrossing but the script version of dialogue doesn't work at all. for me at least. yanks me right out of the story and wouldn't read another book where the dialogue is so separate from the text. sorry. But if that's what you like, it's always good to experiment.

Love the covers. Thank you for your service.

Unknown said...

@Elizabeth, the dialogue in the first novel was an experiment. More of a meld with a screenplay feel. Some love it and some don't. The rest of my books have normal dialogue. Thanks for reading!