Monday, September 30, 2013

Guest Post by Joan Rylen

Make Your Mark with these Marketing Tips

It doesn’t matter if you’re self-publishing or going traditional, one thing is for sure - marketing yourself is a must. Many cringe at the thought, but there are some ways to make it less painful and more productive.

1.      Press releases are a priority.

Take time to write a good one. You’ve put a ton of time into your book, so don’t flub on the release. Give your story a good hook, something that will catch the eye of a reporter or editor. We, being the eccentric girlz we are, go the extra mile to hand deliver our releases in a whimsical way.

We have just launched our third mystery, Big Easy Escapade, which is set in New Orleans so the press kits included purple, green and gold tissue paper, a French Quarter magnet, an alligator and beads along with the book, press release and our business card. We spent about $7.00 each including the cost of the book.

Our first book, Getaway Girlz, was set on the white-sand beaches of Mexico. Therefore, our press kits were delivered in hot-pink sand buckets and included a Getaway Girlz koozie and pen, the book, press release, business card, and small bottle of white sand (direct from Mexico) that was labeled with a picture of the book cover and our media contact. This kit got us noticed by the Houston Chronicle and Getaway Girlz was chosen as one of their “recent releases worthy of attention.” Getaway Girlz also attracted the attention of CultureMap Houston, which led to our first interview and feature story. Our hometown newspaper, the Pasadena Citizen, ran our story almost word-for-word from the release.

Timing your press release is important, as well. We send the first announcement about our book launch one month out, the actual press kit and book at two weeks out and a shorter “reminder” email two days before the launch. Each press release needs a slightly different angle, but should boil down to the launch of the book. We customize the releases depending if we’re sending it to our local media in Fort Worth, our hometown of Houston/Pasadena, New Orleans, etc.

2.      Plant a person at your book signings.

Another of our marketing strategies is the Barnes and Noble “plant.” We have a friend meet us, wearing their Getaway Girlz gear. We put them front and center at the entrance of the store, holding our books and greeting folks as they come in. They let customers know about the book signing and point them in our direction. If they can hand them a book, perfect! Hand it back-cover up, so they see our (fantastic) picture and read the back blurb. After that they’re usually hooked. Just a side note - most people assume our plant is a Barnes and Noble employee, so be sure they know where the restroom is - a common question.

3.      Get out and about – work it!

This may not be easy for everyone, but because we write as a team, we meet at local restaurants and bars to work. We are connoisseurs of the local happy hour, always checking in on Facebook so people can see us hard at work. In the process we’ve had restaurants hang our books on their wall. We turned it into celebrations inviting our fanz to watch as the art was unveiled. We recently found out that a couple who met at our book unveiling just got married! Press release time!

4.      Cash and carry.

The most common thing we do is carry our books with us in our big ass purses (sorry guys), business cards, Square credit card reader and change for a $20. It’s easy enough to ask your lunchtime waitress, the person next to you on the plane or anywhere else “do you like to read?” Nine times out of ten they’ll say “yes,” and you can ask what types of books are their favorites and go from there. Johnell recently sold two books at a blackjack table. She lost her ass otherwise, but sold the two books she had in her purse. Winner winner chicken dinner!

5.      Paid promotion can help you prosper.

During the July 4th holiday Getaway Girlz was featured on Bookbub, which was our first paid advertising. The results were phenomenal! We received more than 48,000 downloads which led to additional sales of Rocky Mountain Mayhem. Getaway Girlz hit #2 in the bestsellers Kindle store, top 100 free. Thanks, Joe, for blogging about Bookbub!
About the authors:

Texas gals and life-long friends, Johnell Kelley and Robbyn Foster, a.k.a. Joan Rylen, can be found vacationing across the globe with their favorite Getaway Girlz, stirring up trouble, then writing about it! Visit us at

Best of luck in your endeavors!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Guest Post by Adam Lawson

Before I get to my totally awesome system that I should market and sell and make a million bucks off of (ha), let me introduce myself.  My name is Adam Lawson, and I'm a writer.  I've been writing stories in some form or another since the second grade, when we had an assignment to make up a page-long story.  I was on that like ink on paper.

I've never been published through a traditional publisher -- by the time I'd finished something I felt worth publishing and received some rejection, the e-book market had started to grow.  Why limit myself, I thought, and hand over so much control?  So I published my first book, "The Boots Are Red", on Amazon.  It's a detective style story set in the 1950s.  Instead of using a real town, I made one up (it worked for Faulkner) and combined a lot of features of a lot of towns near where I grew up (well past the 1950s). 

Boots is free for the next five days, and the sequel, "The Boots Come Off" is available as well.  A collection of short stories set shortly after the first two books are also now available:  "The White Dames".

I grew up reading fantasy, though, and one of my longer works is the first in a series:  "The Five" (also currently free!).  I write what I like, so I'm all over the map because deep down I just like a good story.  Now, on to my system.

Three Goals At A Time

A few weeks ago I was just feeling overwhelmed with all the stuff I needed to get done and all the stuff I wanted to get done.  There just wasn't time to do it all, or so it seemed.  Everything appeared to be heading at me at lightning speed, and I couldn't juggle it all.  At that point, I decided I needed to come up with some sort of... system to help me organize it all.

The best way I've found to get myself writing and accomplish other goals is to limit myself to three at a time.  But there's more than just one type of goal.  There's obviously a daily goal.  Write X,000 words (or XX,000 if you are ambitious) every day, exercise every day, but there are longer term goals than daily.

Goals, in this case, are limited to things we can control.  We'd all like to win the Powerball jackpot.  But we can't make that happen short of buying all numerical combinations -- and if you have that much money, you don't need it!  We'd all, as writers, like to sell more books.  But short of violence, we can't force people to buy them.  So we're limiting our goals to things we can accomplish, and sticking with three at a time. 

Every day, one of my goals is to walk my dog.  For him, and for me.  I can always control this -- but I can't control the weather, which means I might not walk him in cool air and sunshine.  Sometimes it's over 90 and sometimes it's raining.

I set three a day, and writing is always one of them.  I want to write so many thousand words every day.  I don't always hit it, but the goal exists.  Write, every day.  Write between bites of food if you have to.  Write everywhere -- I carry a notepad and pen with me at all times just in case. 

But life is longer than a day.  I thought about setting larger goals for every week but that's not long enough.  A month is too long for the next step.  Two weeks, however, is a good length of time for intermediate goals.  Cut the grass.  Write XX,000 words -- and hit my daily goal at least 12 out of 14 days.  Stick to a good diet at least ten out of 14.  You allow yourself some wiggle room on your daily goals within the two week period for a couple of reasons, but the big one:

Self guilting.  I guilt myself all the time if I miss a goal, or break a good habit or streak of writing/working out every day.  By allowing a bi-weekly set of wiggle room for days where you just can't... you have some built in slack.

The next set up is quarterly goals.  This is where it gets more interesting and you have more flexibility because you have more you can do.  Mine, for example, are to publish something every quarter (this is a new one!), even if it's just a short story.  Also, tackle a big item from my To Do list -- which usually involves a few weekends of work or time. 

I've divided everything into sets of three on purpose:  Three types of goals, and three goals within each type.  This seems to be a good balance of getting stuff done without overloading yourself.  Especially if, like me, you have a day job that gets in the way of writing. 

There it is.  Just three goals, and three levels of them.  Make it all into a system you can track.  Assign rewards for yourself if you need to.  It hasn't been something I've done for very long (just since the start of September), but in my head everything is much more organized.

Finally, thanks to Joe for this opportunity to get the word out about my books.  I hope the idea of setting up a to-do system helps at least a few of you! 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Guest Post by Alistair McIntyre (with Kris Kramer and Patrick Underhill)

Big thanks to Joe for loaning us his blog in exchange for a cause that affects so many of us.

My name is Alistair McIntyre, and I’m here on behalf of myself and my buddies at  What follows is a fake interview that I set up for this kind of shameless publicity, featuring my associates Kris Kramer and Patrick Underhill.  We write our own individual pieces, but we’ve collaborated together on a new series entitled RISE OF CITHRIA, and we’d love to tell you all about joining forces with other authors.

What is is an indie publishing imprint created by a group of writers who want to make an impact. We collaboratively edit, critique, publish, and market everything we do, including both single and multi-author projects. It’s essentially a brand that encompasses all the novels, short stories, comic books, screenplays, and whatever else we feel like writing.

The independent publishing scene is a wild, untamed frontier right now, and there’s no need for each of us to tackle it alone. We believe in a strength-in-numbers approach, and we do what we can to support each other, which makes the group, and the writers who make up the group, stronger and more successful.

We’re based physically out of several locations but our main web presence is at

How did the three of you meet?

Kris:  I’ve known Patrick since Middle School, back in good old Cedar Hill, TX. Alistair joined forces with us after a long online courtship through IGN’s VNBoards. We all played the same MMO at the same time, and even though we were enemies in-game, we were pals on those forums, which was home to MANY fascinating personalities.

Alistair: I physically met Kris and Patrick for the first time in 2003 at a get-together for said MMORPG (Dark Age of Camelot, not WoW) in Dallas.  I wasn’t even twenty-one yet, so someone had to sign in as my chaperon at Dave & Buster’s.  Needless to say, I ended up as someone’s designated driver, even though I didn’t know how to drive a manual transmission at the time, which was… fun.  Back then, writing wasn’t remotely on my radar, though.

You met online?  Isn’t that a bit weird/creepy?

Patrick:  Hey, Alistair was nineteen.  That’s legal in Texas.

Alistair:  If you want creepy, you should meet some of the other dudes we played games with (I’m looking at you, Hroard).

How did the story for Cithria originate?

Alistair:  It all started with a flash fiction piece I wrote called Lost Souls (available for free on our website), which was based on the MMORPG that the three of us used to play.  I added in what I’d consider a game-changing mechanic, and then from there had a general idea of how I could expand on that to write a full-length novel inside the game world.  As usual, I aimed too low.

Kris:  Alistair sent his story to me, and after reading it, I had an idea to create a bigger story than what he’d envisioned. Basically, we’d grow it into a larger world, and we’d each write from the perspective of different characters in that world, advancing the story separately until they all eventually met and the larger story could take off. It would be a pretty big collaborative effort, but it sounded fun, and I’m rarely ever daunted by big, seemingly impossible projects.

At first, we just posted chapters on the website every week, alternating between myself, Alistair, and Patrick. That plan worked pretty well for a while, but eventually, we wanted to make this into something even bigger…

Patrick:  I think most of the fun was that each of us got to write from the perspective of a different “realm.”  We each had a chance to get into the minds of these characters and show how they might view their enemies.

Cithria is based on a videogame?  I’ve never heard of it.

Kris:  The original story was fan fiction, based on a property owned by EA called Dark Age of Camelot. When we decided to make this into a full-blown series of novels, I contacted EA to see if we could get permission for something like that. They basically told me ‘NO,’ so we decided to adjust on the fly, scrap our existing stuff, and rework it into a brand new world, created entirely by us. Thus, Cithria was born!

Patrick:  Instead of just writing fan fiction, we began creating our own cultures and religions to give to our characters.  In a sense, we were creating a world of our own from three different points of view.  I think it really made the creative process much more fun for all of us.

Kris:  The freedom to build this world from scratch really excited us, and inspired us to create a lot of new backstory, interesting new locations, rules for the fantasy elements, and an entirely new mythology. I think most fantasy writers will agree that world-building is one of the best parts of the job. Well, try doing it with a group of other writers who are just as ecstatic and imaginative as you!

What prompted the recent rewrite of The Chosen (Rise of Cithria #1)?

Alistair:  A friend of mine read it, and loved it, but told me that despite this cool world we’d created, the physical character descriptions were lacking.  I took this as a sign that we hadn’t fully disengaged from the assumption that our audience knew what the hell we were talking about with a known game universe, so I went back through the Andua section and spiced it up.  Nothing near what GRRM could dream up, but I added enough to paint a less vague picture of each character.  At the same time, we collectively came up with all kinds of new details, and I totally revamped the social structure of Andua.  This didn’t change the plot at all, but now the story feels more complete.

Patrick:  While it’s nice to be able to edit our work at will, I’ve decided not to touch my first book.  I like the idea of someone reading my next book and saying, “Wow, he’s really improved.”  That’s assuming, of course, that I do improve.  People’s reactions could be far worse.

Kris:  Shameless Marketing Incoming!!! The updated The Chosen (Rise of Cithria #1) was released in August, and the second book in the series, The Descent, will appear in October 2013! Get in line now! I want to see people camped out outside the doors at Amazon!

(Yes, I know Amazon has no doors, so to speak…)

What’s the worst part of collaborating on a story with two other writers?

Alistair:  Telling Kris that I’m going to kill off all his characters in book three.

Kris:  Wait… what?

Alistair:  Don’t worry about it.  Really the worst part of collaboration for me is also the best part.  What a cop-out.  Anyway, instead of harnessing just my own creativity, I need to harness and merge the creative outbursts of three imaginations.  There are tons of great ideas floating around, but at the end of the day, someone needs to make a damn decision and force the others to cooperate.  We switch out on that role quite a bit, but I think Kris hypnotizes us into going his way most of the time.

Patrick:  Damn it!  I knew it!

Kris:  You’re welcome.

Alistair:  In any case, the end result of melding the powers of three nerds into one epic fantasy tale blows away anything I could’ve ever dreamt up on my own.

Kris:  The key to smooth collaboration is learning how to make others do exactly what you want while making them think it was their idea.

Self-publishing carries a stigma of poor quality control and a lack of editing and proofing.  What does The 4th Realm do differently to counteract that notion?

Kris:  We pride ourselves on our quality at, which is why everything we publish passes before many eyeballs first. We critique and edit each other’s work extensively, all in the service of a good story. Then, we make use of a few different editors, just to minimize the glaring grammatical, spelling, or text issues as best as possible. By the time we publish something, we’ve each read it multiple times, so even though we’re sick of it, very little escapes our notice.

This kind of quality control is important to us, because I can’t count how many books I’ve read, by independent and traditionally published authors that have GLARING issues. The ones in traditionally published books especially astound me, since I have this preconceived notion that a professionally published book will be just that: Professional. The fact that our books hold up as well, or better, than many other books I’ve read makes me more than a little proud.

Patrick:  We’re also trying real hard to master the art of self-promotion.  There’s something about going to a convention and having people meet us, the authors.  They like putting a face behind the words.  Plus, we encourage them to go to the website and contact us directly.  Only small publishers like ourselves have the ability to make themselves that available to their audience.  In that regard, I think self-publishing catches a niche of readers that, while small, tends to grow into a more dedicated fan-base.

Alistair McIntyre is the author of the sci-fi thriller PHALANX ALPHA and the recently released regular ol’ thriller SHALLOW CREEKKris Kramer is the author of the historical, dark fantasy SANCTUARY, the action-packed thriller THE EXTRACTION, and the fantasy THE WIND RIDERSPatrick Underhill is co-author of THE CHOSEN with Alistair and Kris.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Guest Post by Paul Draker

How To Get Great Amazon Reviews For Your Brand-New Novel

First, a big thanks to Tess and Joe for launching this campaign in Tess's War On Alzheimers. You never know which bullet will end up winning a war, and with our help, Tess and Joe have already delivered more than $25,000 to the front lines. If you haven’t done so yet, please go visit her page and donate.

If you’re reading this, maybe you’re a newbie writer like me. A story idea sinks its hooks into your brain and won’t let go. You find yourself grinning into an open refrigerator, whatever you were going to grab forgotten as the perfect plot twist or high-concept hook reveals itself to you. Your spouse/kid/significant-other has to repeat themselves three times before you realize you’re still standing there with frost forming on you’re face. And still grinning like an idiot.

You go write the story. And rewrite. Study craft books. Rewrite. Join critique groups. Rewrite. People start liking what you wrote. Some even love it.

You make whatever sacrifices are necessary to get yourself a great editor. You do that because you know publishing unedited, unpolished, incoherent writing riddled with typos is unprofessional. It’s arrogant. If you expect readers to pay for your writing, they should be able to expect transparent prose and near-perfect copy from you, too.

You go get stunning cover art. A compelling blurb. Professional conversion to epub & mobi files. You upload your book to KDP, Nook Press, and iBookstore, and you “push the button.” Then you celebrate, and tell all your real-life and Facebook and Twitter friends your book is finally out. And you sell a few dozen copies. Your friends compliment you on how talented you are.

And all too soon—to paraphrase Animal Mother from Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket—“…you’re fresh out of friends, Joker.” Because half of your friends don’t read, and the other half don’t like the same kinds of books you do.

So you start eyeing BookBub, Ereader News Today, Pixel of Ink, and the other great sites where we indies can get the word out. But that glaring “Be the first to review this item” link on your book’s Amazon page is an ugly roadblock. You need reviews. Good reviews.

Still with me? Great. Let’s go get those reviews.

Should we:

1)     Harass friends and family to write their first book review ever?
2)     Pay a service to bulk-email a hundred or a thousand prolific Amazon reviewers in our genre, blasting them with a generic mail-merged solicitation to review our book?
3)     Review other new authors’ books ourselves, just so we can ask them to review ours?

No. All three approaches are total bullshit. Worse, they will damage your credibility as a newbie author. And you’ll end up making the rest of us indies look bad, too. Here’s why.

The problem with friends-and-family reviews:

I’m not going to touch the ethics here; I’m only going to focus on the practicalities. When checking out a new author on Amazon, the first thing a savvy book-browser does is look at the distribution of ratings. A natural distribution of 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 star reviews is very easy to recognize. So is a pattern of friends-and-family-written 5-star reviews—even with a couple fake 4-stars and one 3-star thrown in to try to appear more authentic.

The next thing a savvy Amazon browser does is skim a few of the reviews. A quick glance at word count, specificity, and tone usually tells me right away which ones are honest, non-incented reviews by strangers and which ones are what the Amazon reviewer community refers to as “shill reviews.”

If there’s still any question about whether you’re looking at a shill review or not, the proof-positive check is to click on the reviewer’s name, and then the “See all my reviews” link on their profile. If the only three books he or she ever reviewed belong to that same brand-new author… or if five other titles got quick-and-dirty reviews that same day, but the reviewer reviewed nothing before or afterward… then you know.

And you move on immediately. Because the shill reviews look needy and sad, and the sour whiff of desperation makes you assume the book is lousy even when it really isn’t. You resent the author for trying to trick you. You make a mental note to avoid him or her in the future… if you actually bother to remember the name.

Hugh Howey’s WOOL has over 6,000 reviews on Amazon. (Go read WOOL, SHIFT, and DUST. Seriously. Then read ’em again slowly and take notes.) Hugh requires no introduction here, and he’s graciously allowed me to quote him on the topic of reviews.

Hugh Howey says:

I ask my friends and family *not* to write them (I had my wife delete some reviews for my older works)… It was over a year or so ago that I had to tell my father not to write reviews for my works. I love the man to death, and he was just trying to support a son that he was proud of, but he would get on and review my works as soon as they went up (he reads them in draft form before I publish them). At this point, I was aware of Amazon's review policy and the sensitivity toward authors soliciting reviews from friends and family. I never asked my dad to write reviews. He was just being nice. Same thing with my wife. What stinks about all of the controversy around the reviews is that my friends and family *do* read my books, and at least some of them actually like them. And they can't share their opinions.

We can learn a lot from Hugh. Every new author has to find his or her own path, but with selfless folks like Hugh and Joe lighting the way for us and sharing their experiences so openly, it’s a hell of a lot easier now.

If you are *still* tempted to go the friends-and-family-reviews route at this point, here’s a final caveat emptor. Amazon’s independent reviewer community doesn’t like authors who do, because it devalues and shows disrespect for something they care a great deal about: honest, impartial reviews. Amazon’s most influential reviewers are people like you and me who are very passionate about what they do. They put a lot of time into it. They hate it when you make everyone question the integrity and credibility of Amazon reviews. As a new author, do you really want to poke our new gatekeepers in the eye? Especially when those gatekeepers are some of our best customers?

The problem with spam-solicited reviews:

I ran across a few services that will spam Amazon’s Top-100 or Top-1000 “contactable” reviewers if an author pays them to. Some target reviewers by genre: Mystery, Thriller, Romance, etc. One predicts a 9% response rate and a 6% agree-to-review rate. But if you try this approach, your chances of screwing yourself good are also reasonably high. Here’s why.

If you’ve written a novel that evokes strong reactions—and if it’s good, believe me, it will—your true target audience will love it. But not everybody will. Some people will hate it, and that’s fine. Look at the most-successful novels and you will see a plethora of one-star reviews panning them, too. Look at Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl reviews. And who wouldn’t want her sales?

But you aren’t Gillian Flynn. If you are, call me—I’ve got a series idea we can co-write ;)

If you write “thrillers” as I do, you face a real audience-segmentation challenge. The term “thriller” can mean anything from a CSI-style procedural or a courtroom drama, to an apocalyptic end-of-the-world epic, a gore-drenched serial-killer hunt, or a guns-blazing spy-versus-spy technothriller. Each has a distinct audience, and they don’t overlap much. “Mystery” could be a parlor-room cat-sleuth cozy or a Hitchcock-style suspense story or splatterpunk noir. “Romance” could be sweet, soft-focus boy-meets-girl that makes you go “Aww…” Or it could be sexually-explicit erotica. Genre-mashups make the problem worse. Industry BISAC categories fail to delineate the real distinctions between what a given group of readers will love and what they are likely to detest.

An email solicitation that begins: “Dear iluv2rivu, because you like thrillers…” is more likely to net you a bunch of lousy reviews than good ones. Not because your book sucks, and not because the solicitation screams “spam,” but rather because you ended up soliciting reviewers predisposed to dislike your book.

Oh, and a lot of the top reviewers *do* find getting spammed by those emails annoying. Especially when they can tell the book is one they won’t like. Once again, caveat emptor.

The problem with you-scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours author peer reviews:

Amazon already has, or had, a policy of deleting reviews by other authors. Enough said. If poking the new gatekeepers in the eye is a dumb idea, what about biting the hand that feeds you?

Okay, so none of those approaches are worth pursuing and some can backfire. They can seriously hurt your author cred. But that “Be the first to review…” link is still sitting there like a big, ugly cankersore in the center of your product-page’s face. So…

How does a newbie author go about getting great, honest, real Amazon reviews?

You know your book is good. Really damn good. You know there is a specific group of readers out there somewhere who will absolutely love it. They are your audience. In fact, you even know the exact tastes of those ideal readers. You know precisely what books they read, what movies and TV shows they watch. You know which ones they’ve loved, and which ones they’ve hated. And you know what they loved or hated about them. You know all of this because you see one of your ideal readers every day. In the mirror.

You *did* write the kind of story you always wanted to read, right? If not, what are you doing here? Go write *that* book, then come back.

Because what comes next presupposes that you’ve already done your part. You’ve written a story that people will actually love reading, and you’ve had it professionally edited, and honed your prose to perfection before you try this. The reviews you’re about to get will be no-bullshit honest reviews. If your book isn’t ready for that, you should NOT be doing this at all. If you do, you’ll get reviews, all right—one and two star ones. Worse, you’ll also hurt the credibility of the rest of us indie publishers.

But if you did do your homework and wrote a good book, your audience is out there somewhere. Even better, some of them are honest, tenured reviewers who will love what you wrote and give you a heartfelt, enthusiastic review on Amazon. Your book may well be a unique and beautiful snowflake, but right now it’s invisible in a blizzard of brand-new books. Your ideal reviewers are busy writing Amazon reviews for other books. They have no idea that yours exists. You would love to tell them about it, but you have no idea who they are, either.

What you do know is the other books and movies they love. And which ones they hate. And why. So roll up your sleeves… it’s time to get to work. I didn’t say this was going to be easy, did I? But you already wrote a good book. Compared to that, this part is cake. And you’ll see—once you start engaging and talking to reviewers who are part of your own unique target audience—that it’s rewarding, gratifying, and fun as hell, too.

Let’s dive in. Here it is, step by step.

STEP 1: Make a list of books and movies you absolutely loved, and which some aspects of your book are similar to. Unique snowflake? Nothing else like it? Gee, sorry, but something inspired you to write that particular type of story. Figure out what your all-time favorite book and movie influences were and write them down. You need a statistically-significant spread, so write down at least twenty. The more distinctive they are, the better. The more unique to your taste they are, the better. Then make a second, shorter list of five or so books and movies your friends expected you to love, but you ended up hating instead.

STEP 2: Read five-star and four-star Amazon reviews of the books and movies you love first. Whenever a reviewer’s specific comments make you smile and think, “Yep, that’s exactly what I thought,” or, “that was the most memorable part/character/twist/setting for me, too. That’s why I used a similar one in my book,” click the reviewers name to pop open their profile. Some reviewers have email addresses listed, but don’t jump in and email them yet. A single book or movie on which your tastes are similar doesn’t mean much. Sending them a vague email implying that any five-star reviewer of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books should be thrilled to hear about your own won’t get you good reviews. At this stage, you would probably just be annoying the recipient with unwanted spam. You might even earn yourself a lousy review by doing so.

STEP 3: Read the reviewer’s “In My Own Words” and “Interests” which some have taken the time to fill out. Look at their frequently used tags. All these things will give you a better feel for whether this person is part of your audience or not. If you see red flags that apply to your book (no graphic violence, dislike profanity), or just get a general sense they might not be a good match for you, move on. Again, you’re trying to find reviewers who will *want* to hear about your book… and trying not to be that jerk spamming people who don’t.

Look for Amazon rank badges next to the reviewer’s name: Top 1000 reviewer, Top 500 reviewer, etc. Reviews from higher-ranked reviewers generally get more visibility on your product page, in the two slots for “most helpful positive review” and “most helpful critical review.”

But trying to get the higher-ranked reviewers to review your book isn’t necessarily the best approach. They receive tens of daily email solicitations to review this or that. Most are Vine Voices, often with a backlog of obligatory reviews they owe Amazon before they can even consider tackling yours. They are already jaded by the tons of free review copies big publishers throw at them every day, so many have adopted a policy of ignoring indie book review solicitations. Because they have to review so many books, they might only speed-read or skim yours, then write a generic review that reads like backcover-blurb-summarized-plus-generic-faint-praise. That’s not what you want, either.

Instead, look at the reviewer’s “Helpful votes received on reviews” percentage. Here, the higher, the better. 80%+ is good. 85%+ is great. 90%+ is stellar. Below 50%, and you are asking a person to review you whose reviews most people consider unhelpful. In other words, probably a troll. Move on.

Also, some reviewers’ profiles clearly state “I don’t accept review requests” or “no self-published books” or “no e-books” or “I don’t review fiction” or similar. If so, respect their wishes and move on. They aren’t your audience. But if the reviewer’s profile reads like something you might have written yourself, you’re getting warmer. Still, you have much more to do before you can decide whether to click that email link or not.

Many profiles are blank: a nickname, but no details and no contact info. Even that’s not a showstopper if the reviewer’s tastes turn out to be a great match for your book, as we’ll see shortly.

Some profiles have a website or blog listed for the reviewer, but don’t go there yet, either. Save that for last. We’ll come back to it if the reviewer still seems like a good match after the next—and most important—step.

STEP 4: Now click on “See all 114 reviews” (or however many this particular reviewer has done.) Page through them to find which of the other books and movies on your lists the person reviewed, how they rated them, and what they said about them. If they haven’t reviewed several of the other books and movies on your list, it’s an indication they probably aren’t a good match, because folks tend to review their favorite things. Look at their one- and two-star reviews, also, and read what they say. If the reviewer disliked a book or movie you love, that’s a big yellow flag. If you disagree with why they say they disliked it, that’s a red flag. Move on. But if their opinions on the other things on your list parallel your own opinions, too, and they say “should get seven stars” and “my all time favorite” or say “fell asleep halfway through” and “I wanted the annoying sidekick to die” about the same ones you would, then BOOM. You most likely have found someone who would want to review your book. Another good sign is when they make frequent references and comparisons in their reviews to yet other books and movies you love—like John Carpenter’s THE THING—too.

Take notes on the individual reviews and colorful comments that you most strongly agree with. Seriously, take those notes because you’ll need them when you contact the reviewer. And don’t forget, you’ll be looking at lots of different potential reviewers and tons of titles each have reviewed. If you don’t take notes, it will all blur in your head. And then you’ll embarrass yourself telling someone you loved what she said about the chainsaw flashback in Jeff Lindsay’s Darkly Dreaming Dexter when it was actually someone else who said that. Did I mention to take notes?

If you see reviews you emphatically don’t agree with, it’s time to move on, because the reviewer is not your audience. But if you find that the more of their reviews you read, the more you believe their tastes match yours, it’s time to go back to their profile page and click the link for their website or blog.

One last thing: as you read reviews, look for the word Kindle: “I was turning Kindle pages faster and faster at the end.” “My Kindle battery died on the last chapter, and I almost cried with frustration.” “When I read that part, I wanted to throw my Kindle in the pool.” If you find references to their Kindle or other e-reader, then grin and make a note of that, too.

If this seems like a lot of effort to put in to get to know a single potential reviewer, just consider how many hours of *their* time you are asking for, when you ask them if they want to read your book.

STEP 5: Read the reviewer’s webpage, if they happened to provide a link to one. Browse their blog posts. Get to know them better. Again, look for red flags that have relevance for your book (“BF took me to see Joss Whedon’s CABIN IN THE WOODS yesterday. Yawn.”), and make note of interests that match yours.

If the reviewer didn’t include their email on their Amazon profile but listed their website or blog, you can usually find their email or other contact info there.

STEP 6: You’ve now gotten a good feel for how this reviewer thinks and talks, what gets them jazzed, and what annoys them. You’ve read so many of their reviews that you can practically hear what they’ll say about your book in your head already. If you still are convinced they’ll love it, it’s time to send that brief email. Include:

·         How you found them: by reading a bunch of their reviews on Amazon.
·         Which comments and reviews of theirs you enjoyed. You write books. They write reviews. They want folks to read and value their reviews just as much as you want people to read and value your book. Tell them which reviews you liked, and why. Be specific. But be succinct, too.
·         Why you are contacting them: because you think that, based on what they said in their reviews, they might enjoy your book, too.
·         A very brief teaser or blurb for your book. But provide enough information to let them know what to expect, plot-wise and tone-wise.
·         A statement that you are looking for honest, unbiased reviews of your book.
·         Offer them a free review copy of your book.

If you are sure they read on a Kindle or other ereader (check your notes), offer to email a free mobi file of your book. But do not send it until they tell you they want it. Many will decline and buy their own copy, which is even better. They do it because they love books and want to support you, the author. And also because they don’t like to put the FTC-mandated disclosure of a free author-provided copy in the review, which might cause someone to question the honesty and impartiality of what they said about it.

If you have a print version available through Createspace or Lightning Source, you can offer the reviewer their choice of formats. It’s a classy thing to do. But it can get expensive fast.

If you don’t currently have a print version, narrow your target to reviewers who have mentioned their Kindle or ereader in a review. Otherwise, you’re probably wasting their time. And yours. And disappointing or annoying them.

No email address on their profile? No contact info? No problem. That “Add a comment” button beneath their most recent review of a book you both love? Leave a briefer version of your review request as a comment instead, but make sure you tick the “Receive an email when new posts are made” checkbox when you do it.

Be courteous. Be brief. Be honest. Be yourself.

Remember, nobody can express what’s great about your book as well as you can. And you’ll also be talking to the most receptive audience possible: the reviewers most likely to love it.

But no means no. If a reviewer doesn’t express interest, don’t pester them. Don’t spam them. Move on. Reviewers are our most influential, most valuable, most enthusiastic customers. Don’t pee in the pool the rest of us indies are swimming in, too.

STEP 7: Shake. Rinse. Repeat.

Before you start, I also recommend reading How To Get Good Reviews On Amazon: A Guide For Independent Authors and Sellers by Theo Rogers. It’ll help you avoid shooting yourself in the foot. You’ll learn a lot about the reviewer community from it, and I’ve borrowed from it shamelessly here.

If your own book is good—if it’s polished and professional and people actually enjoy reading it—repeat STEPS 1-7 enough, and that ugly “Be the first to review…” will go away, replaced by pretty yellow stars. Lots of them.

The best part is: you won’t only be gathering honest, positive reviews from well-respected Amazon reviewers this way. You’ll also be planting seeds that will grow into your own eager army of Constant Readers, too. And you’ll be meeting new friends who share your enthusiasm for the books and movies you love, including your own. Reviewers are by definition the most active, outspoken readers, and they share what they like with their friends. They spread the word. Your reviewers are all unique and beautiful snowflakes, too. You never know which snowflake will be the one to set off the avalanche.

As I type this, I’m staring at my own book NEW YEAR ISLAND’s ugly “Be the first to review” link. But I’m grinning at that nasty little sucker, because it’s not going to look that way for long.

Does combing through Amazon reviews until you find honest reviewers who share your tastes sound like a lot of work? Then picture Joe in the pre-Amazon days, driving around the country from bookseller to bookseller, talking to several a day and doing back-to-back book signings. For years.

Puts things into perspective, doesn’t it?

If you’ve managed the hard part and written a book that some people will enjoy reading, then your own audience is out there, waiting for you. Now go find them.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Guest Post by Brianna Salera

I have a confession. I’m not Brianna Salera. I don’t even play one on TV. I do, however, write using that name and just published Brianna’s first book, Tessa’sEscape to Athena’s Ground, which is now free on Amazon. Why would I do that when I’ve got well-reviewed books under my real name?

I’m gonna blame Brianna on Joe.

My “real” books are genre reads that are well-written and professionally edited. They’ve gotten very good reviews (yes, even by a goodly number of people I’ve never met.) I’m proud of those books, and plan to do more.  The frustration is sales: the first one has sold from good to not so good, with the past six months being horrifically not so good. The second has sold well enough to take the family to Mickey D’s for a happy meal. 

Maybe twice.

I was 30,000 words into Book Number Three and plotting ways to address my woeful sales when I started hearing voices, well, a voice. It was the voice of Joe Konrath and he was singing one of his favorite songs: When One Thing Doesn’t Work, Try Another. I tried to ignore it. I put my fingers in my ears and sang “la la la la la, I can’t hear you.” But I could. Loud and clear.

A very long time ago, back in the day when covers had to be hidden because eReaders didn’t exist, I got hooked on historical ‘bodice rippers’.  My attraction to exposed breasts and giant ‘members’ died after a year or two, but I fondly remember how much fun they were to read and I wondered if they’d be as much fun to write. Joe’s Try Something Else siren song and the devil on my shoulder had me loading up my Kindle with contemporary erotic romances. I read, and acquainted myself with the heaving bosoms and throbbing members of today’s literary scene. Those books were fast and fun and I was only a little surprised when my own contemporary, not historical, storyline grew almost as quickly as this genre reader’s libido.

So I wrote it.

Now I had a little problem. I think my book is pretty good, for those who like erotic romance. But I’m a fairly conservative girl, and I embarrass easily. More importantly, I’m a professional with a serious job and I’d be incredibly uncomfortable if my day job coworkers and employer knew I wrote erotic contemporary romances. So I did what any brave writer would do, what some of you have already done, what Joe’s song inspired me to do: I published under a fake name.

I learned some interesting things with this little experiment.

A rose by any other name…the name on the cover was the only fake thing about writing Tessa’s Escape to Athena’s Ground. The book required attention to all the things we writers strive for: creative plot well-presented, interesting characters, proper pace, engaging voice, grammatical and structural competence, etc. Yes, Brianna’s name on the cover will spare me problems at work and embarrassment at the family dinner table. (“Hey Gram! Tell me about your new book, the one Mom won’t let me read.”) But it didn’t spare me the work any writing involves, whether one’s real name is on the cover or not. (Confession Number Two: the research for this one was a whole lot more fun than the research for my other books.)

Location, location, location…when starting in a new genre, reading a lot in that genre is essential, and so is knowing how to categorize your new book at Amazon. I chose Romance-erotic and Romance-contemporary after sampling other books in those categories. Did I pick the right online locations for Tessa’s Escape? I don’t know. Part of this trying-something-new business is making your best decision and being willing to change if it doesn’t work.

Girls just wanna have fun…while I’m proudest of my “real” books, writing hot romance was so much fun I could hardly tear myself away from the computer. This makes me wonder: does this mean my “real” books are the wrong genre for me? Should delight in the process of writing dictate what one writes? I don’t know the answer to that, but I’m sure thinking about it in a way I hadn’t before.

Joe’s blog has given me a lot to think about over the years. My biggest blog takeaway is to try something different when things seem stuck (refuse to give up!)  What’s your Number One Takeaway from Joe’s Blog? And how have you used it?

If you enjoy erotic romance please check out Tessa’s Escape to Athena’s Ground, by me, not really Brianna Salera. It’s currently on KDP promo, free at Amazon through September 21st.  If Tessa does even a little better than nothing, I’ll probably write another in the Athena’s Ground series. It’s just too damn much fun, it keeps Joe’s song down to a dull roar, and I already have a new character bouncing around in my head, begging for a shot at Athena’s Ground.

But first I must get back to my “real” writing. I’m going to finish Book Number Three before Christmas, or my name isn’t Brianna Salera.

Joe sez: Pick up Tessa's Escape. It's free.

My #1 takeway from my blog is the comments and guest bloggers. I'm constantly learning from other people, and upping my game because of it. Thanks for the blog post, Brianna, and for the free book. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Guest Post by Hillary Rettig

Do You Suffer From Marketer's Block? by Hillary Rettig

Recently, I've noticed an interesting evolution in the writing productivity classes I teach. Up until a few years ago, writers almost always took one of my classes because they were procrastinating or blocked on a book or other work. These days, however, many who take my classes have finished their book: it's their marketing they're stuck on.

And many of those who are stuck are indie publishers.

What gives?

To understand what's going on, you first need to understand that procrastination isn't caused by laziness, lack of discipline, lack of commitment, or any other lack, but disempowerment. Disempowerment means you're not missing anything; just separated from, or constrained from using, that which you have. Locate and remedy the disempowering forces in your work and life, and your energy, discipline, commitment, etc., will "automagically" reappear. Here's more info on how to do that.

So what would disempower an indie publisher?

The major disempowering forces are: perfectionism, ambivalence, resource constraints, unmanaged time, ineffective work processes, traumatic rejections, and a disempowering career path. I characterize them all, and detail their solutions, in my book The 7 Secrets of the Prolific.

Perfectionism is the most serious because it undermines you in many ways, and also impairs your ability to solve the rest.

But let's look at that last one: disempowering career path. In the bad old days of traditional publishing, writers slogged away for years in a fundamentally disempowering system. You took years to write a novel; an editor or agent held onto the manuscript for months and then decided its fate in a few minutes (if you were lucky). And often, depending on how your publisher treated you and your work, getting accepted only brought on more disempowerment, since you would have little or no say over your book's cover, editing, and marketing.

In such a situation, where the odds are really stacked against a writer's success--especially if your work isn't trendy, or otherwise easily salable--procrastination actually makes sense as a way of "opting out" of an unfair and hopeless-seeming system. So that's what many blocked writers were doing: rebelling.

This example illustrates two core features of procrastination:

(1) Our reasons for doing it are always valid. Always. And,

(2) It's a suboptimal response to a bad situation. Procrastination isn't a character flaw; it's simply a coping strategy. And it's even okay (and entirely human) to procrastinate once in a while. However, as a primary coping strategy, it's a disaster, and leads to a life of unfulfilled bitterness.

Cut to 2013, and the glories of indie publishing.

Most readers of the Newbie's Guide to Publishing blog know that indie is a a major liberating and empowering force for writers. As Joe himself recently wrote: "It truly is the best time in history to be a writer. The are no longer any boundaries. You can work with whomever you want to, at your own speed, get paid monthly, write about anything you want, do very little marketing, and still reach readers....What an amazing, incredible time to be alive. How lucky we all are."

I concur! I indie published The 7 Secrets, and wound up with a book I truly loved that is now helping many people and selling hundreds of copies a month in electronic and paper formats. Like many successful indie publishers, my main problem is not the disempowering drudgery of dealing with capricious and uncaring publishers, but finding the time to replicate my success by writing and marketing as many other books as possible. Believe me--it's a much better problem to have!

Which brings us to all the cases of Marketer's Block I'm seeing.

I think what's happening is that many writers, who finally see themselves as having a realistic path to publishing via indie publishing, are no longer feeling disempowered when writing. And so they're finishing their books.

But then, after they start to market, it's a whole other story. Suddenly, they realize that marketing is not just a much bigger process than they had envisioned, it's also much slower. They had dreams of winning readers by the dozens or hundreds, but instead they're winning them a few (or one!) at a time, in what seems like a painfully slow effort.

They're also discovering that, while it's fantastic to have access to a superabundance of great marketing tools, it's also overwhelming. For many writers, figuring out the right mix of marketing tools and techniques is a constant challenge that's only getting tougher. A year ago, for instance, few writers had heard of email direct marketing companies like BookBub, BookGorilla, and BookBasset, but now they're all the rage.

It can all lead to a kind of overwhelm, decision fatigue, "analysis paralysis," and the feeling of disempowerment that leads to procrastination.

So what to do?

Here are some techniques that will help:

1) Acknowledge that you're in a business. The writers who succeed are those with the clearest vision, and what they see most clearly is that indie publishing is a business. So they educate themselves on business (visit to learn about free resources in your area) and conduct themselves like businesspeople. ALL businesses, whether they're selling shoes or salsa or science fiction, require lots of marketing and sales; and the best any business can offer is a decent return on an investment, which means that to succeed, you need to be be prepared to make initial investments of money, time, and attention. Relatedly,

2) Lower your expectations. Forget about the overdramatized, reductive, and probably untrue "overnight success" stories the media constantly pushes--they're not the norm. Indie publishing, like most businesses, is a long term endeavor, so work hard, moderate your expectations, and relish even your small successes (which probably aren't as small as you think).

3) Don't compare. In practically every class I teach, sooner or later someone starts complaining about Fifty Shades of Grey--how bad it is, how unfair it is that it's a bestseller, how much the world sucks for "real writers," etc. (It used to be Twilight, by the way--writers can always find someone to envy; and while I'm at it, let me remind you of Joseph Epstein's famous quote that, "Of the seven deadly sins, only envy is no fun at all.") It doesn't matter. Focus on writing the best books possible, and on doing the best possible marketing for those books, and your odds of a success that will be satisfying, if not stratospheric, will soar.

4) Work on your perfectionism. Because it is the main brake on your productivity and success. It's not at all the same as having high standards; it's a toxic brew of unreasonable expectations, harsh self-punishments, grandiosity, shortsightedness, reductionism, dichotomization, and more. For the complete description, click here. And for the solutions, click here.

And, finally,

5) Have fun. Because Joe is right: this is a golden age for writers. The problem we have is the one we want to have: too much opportunity. It's the problem of the proverbial kid in the candy store, and, like the kid, all we have to do is pace ourselves and we're in for a great time.

Hillary Rettig is author of the best-selling The 7 Secrets of the Prolific: The Definitive Guide to Overcoming Procrastination, Perfectionism, and Writer's Block (Infinite Art, 2011) and other works. She has taught writing, creative, and business productivity for more than a decade at Grub Street Writers, The Mark Twain House & Museum, The Loft Literary Center, and She worked as a business coach and microlender for more than a decade, until indie publishing made it possible for her to live entirely on the proceeds from her books, workshops, and coaching. Visit for free information about overcoming procrastination, perfectionism, and writer's block; and to learn more about Hillary and her work. She welcomes your inquiries at

Joe sez: Good advice, well presented. 7 Secrets of the Prolific is now $3.95 on Amazon, and I just bought a copy.

If anyone has questions for Hillary, please put them in the comments.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Guest Post by David Haywood Young

Hi everybody!

I say that sometimes on my blog, too, and it's a sort of private-to-me joke. Very nearly an entirely private joke: I don't have a lot of readers. Compared to some people.

But when I started I had none. Even my wife and my mom needed constant prodding! (In fact they still would, but I gave up on 'em...the traitors.)

These days, a couple of hundred people read each of my posts, and...well, I obviously ain't no Joe Konrath but I find that both flattering and humbling. As it says on my homepage, I'm not sure I even want to be the sort of wildly popular writer who can't respond to his readers. I love the interaction.

Okay, enough about me. (I would've also described myself as a Konrath groupie, but then I'd have had to tell you he doesn't know me from a hole in the ground, and then somebody would raise the obvious question...frankly I neither know nor care what he does with them, and neither should you. Best to let it lie, don't you think?)

Let me tell you what's different about this guest post: I'm not talking about any of my books. I'm not even linking to them. I'm confident enough in my plan for the next year that I can say this: frankly I don't think I need to plug anything here. Also, I don't think it would benefit me much in the long term even if I did.

(I don't think there's anything wrong with self-promotion, by the way. I'm just trying to make a point about an alternative approach to the problem.)

Bear in mind:

1)      Reviewers of my books (on Amazon) have generally been quite kind,
2)      My first novel sold fairly well for the first couple of months, but
3)      Current sales can't even climb out of reach the toilet, and
4)      My second novel never really sold at all even though I do get nice comments from its few readers (a self-inflicted wound, I think: my sense of humor won't let me change the title, and its cover sucked), but
5)      I'm nevertheless pleased as all hell with my writing career just now.

I'm here for the long haul. I need to generate material for various retailers' virtual shelves. I also need to connect with readers. Thing is? I can. It'll just take some work. So, for the near future, I'm going to use that shelf space a little differently than most. Than any, as far as I know, unless you folks want to come along with me. Which you're welcome to do.

All right. I'm coming at this whole writerly ambition thing from a software/entrepreneur background. I've posted about that before, and you can find that stuff if you want to. What gripes me most about the current indie publishing world? Customer lock-in at Amazon. The customers under discussion? We're them. As a business guy I have to say this: it sucks the bottom line.

I mean, let's face it. They've got us. We do our damnedest to send people over there to buy books. And why not? It works. They know who our actual repeat customers are. And they know better than to tell us. Since they also have a huge pool of potential first-time buyers handy, we're convinced we can't afford to take our toys and go home. We play in their sandbox, or—essentially—not at all.

Seriously? Doesn't that bug you? We advertise for them? I grok the necessity, but it's damn well backwards if we want to grow a long-term self-sustaining business for ourselves. Here's the neat part: I think we can improve the situation. I don't even think it'll be all that hard, as long as we're willing to work at it. And no, I'm not just talking about email lists...though I do think they're essential.

Right now I should tell you all about my new guaranteed way to do business without Amazon. That'd be cool. But I'm not going to tell you about a foolproof get-rich-quick scheme for indie writers (though of course I do have one). Nor am I going to tell you about the bright future indies have in traditional bookstores (though I'm wildly optimistic on that score too).

Incidentally, did you follow those links to my site? Sucker! Fun, though, I hope.

Seriously though: it's the counter-intuitive but dead-simple ideas that work. I did a goofy giveaway on my blog a little while back, in which instead of posting download links I personally emailed free e-copies of any book anybody asked me for, one to a customer (obviously on the honor system there), in any format they liked...for 30 days. I put a lot of work into the post explaining it all, trying to make the offer sound enticing. And a ton of work into getting all the books sent within 24 hours of the requests, with personal comments included if the requester had a blog or something. My wife was...supportive and pleased and exasperated as hell by the end of it. Maybe I'll wait till next year to do it again! {8'>

But every single one of the recipients has my personal email address and knows I'll talk to them. I got a few reviews and a few new beta readers out of the deal (and it was fairly recent, so there may well be more coming), but the main thing? Though the overall volume was a small fraction of what I could've done with a KDP giveaway, it was a hell of a lot more fun for all of us. And I think a bunch of these new people will stick with me. If I can continue to earn their attention. My opinion? Joe Konrath can't afford to do this sort of thing. But I can. So, as long as I'm willing to put the work in and I don't let it stop me from writing new stuff, I have a competitive edge. If so, I should use it, huh? My readership, though puny, can grow a lot (in a percentagewise sort of way) from a few efforts like this.

I'm doing another goofy thing in which I'll be writing a story about a character who likes a particular computer game. Oddness ensues. The character is a bit player from my first novel, so there's some potential to help re-goose that one (also the sequel I'm writing ought to help, and so will the first novel's eventual perma-free status).

Thing is, I'm doing this story in semi-collaboration with the game designers. We're going to try some cross-pollination between our audiences. And why not? It should be fun for everybody involved.

But here's my main topic for today: I'm doing something deceptively straightforward, both at Amazon and emphatically not.

1)      I'm posting a new free story on my blog every Wednesday. For a year.
2)      Each following week I'm publishing them via Smashwords (as freebies) and Amazon (as...well...$.99 specials, pending the elusive price-match).
3)      I provide links to retailers on my site so folks who feel the urge will have a handy way to go post a review if they like, or recommend the story to others...or whatever they choose to do.
4)      The biggest bit, simple as it is: each and every one of these stories, when posted at Amazon and elsewhere, will include language right on the “book description” page (and in a “Thanks for Reading!” section at the end of the ebook) telling folks about the weekly freebies on my blog. People will see that whether they buy the story or not.
5)      Yes, I'm continuing to write novels. Though, yes, at a slower pace.

Essentially? I'm trying to turn the tables on Amazon (to some extent) by using them to place a highly-targeted ad for my blog. Let their recommendation engines roar! Hell, I don't even have to make a sale for this to work. Anybody who finds any of my “Weekly Challenge” stories can: (1) go away, (2) buy the story, (3) at some point buy a story collection including the story they've found, or (4) come play with me at my place today. Or some combination of the above.

Let me ask you...which is of greater value? A $.99 sale, of which I get to keep $.35? Or bringing a reader to my blog, where if all goes well he/she will get in the habit of reading my fiction every week? Possibly even signing up to one of my mailing lists?

Kind of a no-brainer, isn't it? And here's a funny thing—my blog subscription email list, which I put off even creating for a long time, is growing more than three times as fast as my RSS subscriber pool (assuming Feedburner is roughly accurate on the RSS side of things). I had no idea how many people I was essentially turning away until I tried it. Which makes me feel kind of stupid, because I knew exactly how much my email list was worth when I ran an internet startup: essentially it was the only asset I owned that mattered. The same applied when I was doing freelance work, though in that case phone numbers mattered too. I did have a new-release-only list going already, but I was still kinda dumb.

I originally intended to put the stories into KDP Select, and in fact I did that with the first one. But I got pushback via blog comments, Twitter, and email. I can't say how much of that was genuine interest versus frustrated entitlement, but people flat didn't like it when I shut them out via Amazon-exclusive content. So I learned something there too.

Speaking of obvious stuff I missed going into this? Until recently I failed to grasp something so important it's kind of funny. It's out there for all to see, but I think nearly everybody is missing it. Let's recap: Amazon is giving less of a boost to indies (especially via KDP Select) than they used to. Thus, it's hard to sell much of anything unless you have a following or pay for an ad, and you kind of need a following to get enough reviews to place an effective ad. So...what's that mean? Should we panic? No, we should direct our efforts elsewhere. Because Amazon has made themselves much less important to indie writers than they used to be. I'm waiting for other people to notice this and come up with new strategies accordingly.

In fact...if we need to go find readers ourselves in order to get a sales “bump” to kick off Amazon's algorithms, why do we even need Amazon? Not that I'll go out of my way to stay away from their sites, but true fans we find for ourselves are probably at least somewhat portable. Seriously, just today a reader saw a post about some trouble I'd had with Amazon and asked me via email where I'd prefer she get my stuff in the future.

Feel free to discount all of the above. This isn't a success story. It's not a testimonial. I'm just telling you what I'm up to, because I think it will work. Possibly very well indeed. But if it doesn't? It doesn't really matter. I'll just try the next thing.

And thanks, Joe. You helped inspire me to go back to writing fiction. I'll make it work one way or another—this is, or will be, my third career (after professional poker and software development). Neither of the other two was easy to break into. I don't at all mind that I'll need to earn any success I attain in this new area over time. Sounds like a blast actually!

Oh, and if any of you guys are in the place where I used to be? Where you get a lot of value out of Joe's blog but haven't read his fiction? Well, if that's your spot, change it. I've now read most of his fiction. It's also a blast. Those books, I'll plug anywhere.

Did I mention I believe success will come from hard work and a bit of creativity? 'Cause I do. And nobody seems to be stopping me from finally doing what I've always wanted....

Joe: I applaud David for thinking outside the box, but will offer some unsolicited advice: Novels sell much better than short stories. At some point, while releasing a story once a week, consider releasing a segment of a serial novel, so at the end of the year you have a longer work or two. Those can then be put together and sell for $3.99, and you'll make more money in the long run. 

Also, I'm a good reminder that blog traffic isn't directly comparable to ebook sales. The first part of the zombie novel GRANDMA? that I'm writing with my son has sold 100 copies since we released it last week.

I'm a name brand with a popular blog and lots of bestselling titles, and that ebook--my latest--is selling lukewarmly. I expect it to pick-up as we add more installments, but so far I'm underwhelmed.

No one knows what sells, or why. Having a well-known name, lots of publicity, a brand, a blog, 10,000 Twitter friends--none of that makes people buy books. All of my experience points to the majority of my books sales due to Amazon's algorithms and website structure (reviews, bestseller lists, also bought, search engines.) Who I am outside of doesn't seem to matter much. 

So go for it, David, but keep your expectations modest, and remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint. It's smart to increase your virtual shelf space with a lot of content (provided it is good content) and if you can wrangle a novel or two out of your experiment, all the better.