Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Anti-Konrath...

Well, it's the end of the month (just about) and I got achingly close to my sales goal. In case you haven't been following closely (and really, what's wrong with you?) my goal for the month was to sell twenty-five Kindle e-books. That's twenty-five copies total, not twenty-five per day or per minute. Nor is it twenty-five of each of my titles (I have a total of seven titles available - two novels, two short stories, and three story collections). Just twenty-five. There are still a few hours left in the month, but I'm stuck at twenty-four. I've been there for a few days. Ah well. If I do my maths correctly, that's a total of $10.50 in my pocket that wasn't there before, so that's not so bad, but...

I'm not sure how to increase sales. There are a lot of things that I'm not doing yet - for instance, some writers say that if you're active on Facebook, you get greater sales. First, I can't imagine how that works. How would people find me there unless I tell tham I'm on Facebook? And if I have their ear for that long, why wouldn't I just tell them where my books can be bought? (Amazon... That's pretty much it.)

Still, there are a lot of things that I have done througout my writing career and now with the Kindles. It's just that absolutely none of it has ever helped. Years ago when people were giving away free stuff (bookmarks, pens, baseball caps, etc.) I gave away a ton of stuff. Sales sucked. When the advice was "get short stories published to boost novel sales," I published a couple dozen stories. Paying markets, non-paying, online, in print, anthologies, you name it. Sales sucked. I did signings at bookstores, booktalks at libraries, other speaking engagements. Nothing. And, by the way, I'm not saying the uptick in sales was small, I'm saying there was literally NO uptick in sales. I wrote articles for magazines, even one for the New York Times. Nothing. Conference panels? Nothing. Getting blurbs from all the best authors (except you, of couse)? Done. Sales? Unchanged.

Then Kindle came along. I could be in chrage of my own lack of sales for once. Nice covers? Some of the e-books have really nice artwork, I think. Here's an example:

I like it.

High quality content? yes. Some stories nominated for awards. One was a winner. Great reviews. Not sure what else I could do on that score.

Formatting? Certainly adequate though I can't say I'm an expert. No glaring problems that I can tell.

Haven't done the social media thing (though I blog as you see and I'm on several listservs - not terribly active perhaps).

My website is not as up to date as it should be.

I don't have a mailing list at all. Wouldn't know how to construct one though I'm sure it's easy. There's a fault. People who have shown an interest in my past writings aren't automatically told about future writings. Of course, Dickens made a bundle without a mailing list, but....

What else am I doing wrong? Tell me. I want to know.


Blogger Joe Konrath said...

I'm not sure how to increase sales.

Write more.

January 31, 2012 2:34 PM  
Blogger F.T. Bradley: said...

Hmmmm... Have you thought of maybe expanding your target readership? I see in your bio that you're a Christian--any way to connect to those readers that might be looking for a good mystery?

Otherwise, I'm not much help... I have my debut coming out in the fall of this year, and this sales stuff is intimidating :-)

I hope a breakthrough is on the horizon for you, for what it's worth.

January 31, 2012 2:55 PM  
Blogger pattinase (abbott) said...

I am told that tweeting is the way to go. That people active there sell more books. I don't know how many ebooks I have sold, but I am thinking not that many. Facebook has now turned into a place to hawk your books-a real shame. And some people unpublished in traditional ways, seem to have a book on there every few days. BSP is the key word. I hate it.

January 31, 2012 3:11 PM  
Blogger John R said...

Twitter's no more than talking with friends/vague acquaintances, unless you also acquire a vast unknown readership who'll lap up your every word. But to do that, you need, probably, to sell books (or to be outrageously funny or interesting in other circles).

People who don't have the vast unknown readership and just endlessly spam "buy my book" messages on Twitter to an audience composed primarily of people who already know them and thus they have books to buy are dicks and/or clueless, IMO.

(It's a UK/US difference, to be fair; that sort of thing seems to be a lot more acceptable across the Pond, but still, dude, these people already know.)

January 31, 2012 3:28 PM  
Blogger John R said...

Which is another way of saying, Patti, Twitter can be no different. Half the people who use it are the same and just cross-post those sodding adverts.

January 31, 2012 3:29 PM  
Blogger John R said...

We hates them, Precious. We hates them all.

January 31, 2012 3:30 PM  
Blogger Lauryn Christopher said...

The best way to build your sales is to build your inventory - or, as Joe so succinctly put it, write more.

January 31, 2012 5:56 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

People who don't have the vast unknown readership and just endlessly spam "buy my book" messages on Twitter to an audience composed primarily of people who already know them and thus they have books to buy are dicks and/or clueless, IMO.<<

Okay, really? How did this help? Basically you just called a lot of people clueless dicks. I do not have a vast readership, nor do I endlessly SPAM buy my book tweets. I do however Tweet on a regular basis and I do self-promote my book a lot. I can track a large number of sales (in ratio to my overall sales) back to Twitter posts. I can also tell you I have garnered dozens of reviews, interviews, articles, speaking gigs, etc. from the relationships I am developing on Twitter. Is everyone on Twitter my BFF? Of course not, I don't know most of my followers, but that does not make them any less important. Twitter and Facebook have been very valuable marketing AND sales venues for me.

As for what are you doing wrong? Take your Blog for instance. It is very generic. On first appearance it is black and white and I almost didn't stay to read the post, despite, despite my curiosity. You need all your book cover prominently displayed with buy links. Don't expect people to go looking for your book. Show them where to click right away and then leave them to decide.

In my opinion you are not doing yourself any favors by going on about your low sales, does not instill a lot of interest. You are pretty much telling people your books are not good enough to buy.

You have excellent credentials with your nominations and so forth, play them up. Have you thought about gearing your Blog toward readers and not so much writers? Face it we writers are all looking to sell our own books, not so much buy yours. In this post, there is no clear BUY LINK for anything. No one will go looking like this.

Now, I just bought a book (the cheap one). Why? Curiosity. And because the series I was interested i I could not find book one and they were too expensive for what I am willing to spend on an eBook. I would have bought Book One but it wasn't up there.

I hope my note doesn't come across as harsh, but you asked. LOL I have changed my marketing habits a lot over the six months and while my sales ain't Konrath's, they are way better than they were 6 months ago.

Karen Syed

January 31, 2012 6:34 PM  
Blogger jennymilch said...

Well, I have no cred, my debut is still a year from coming out. But I would say that if you write books your twenty-four readers this month have trouble putting down, then your sales are going to grow. It may take a while, but they will. Karen Syed is a marketing genius and offers great tips, but I think that's the salesman's/saleswoman's hat. The writer's hat is to write one book after another that readers can't put down. They will tell people what you're doing. They'll tweet it for you.

January 31, 2012 6:57 PM  
Blogger Steven said...

Many thanks all. Some stuff to chew on.

Joe and Lauryn,
As far as writing more - already on it, but it's a slow process for me.

Low-Church Christian, me, so if it ain't about the rapture, I'm not sure I'd get many readers from among the many people I know. Of course, I could write about the Rapture, but it has kind of been done.

I can't Tweet. Facebook maybe. Not likely, but maybe. Tweet? I can't even figure out how to read Tweets let alone write them.

What are you doing here? Is England really that boring this time of year?

Good tip about the pictures of the books. I'm a bit technically challenged, but I think I can manage that much, and it certainly can't hurt. About talking my work up, I've done it (posting good reviews, blurbs, etc.) but that hasn't helped either. I'd love to gear my blog toward readers, but I haven't a clue about how to do that. That is, how is the content different?

If only I could wear the writer's hat all the time.

January 31, 2012 11:42 PM  
Blogger John R said...

Karen: Okay, really? How did this help? Basically you just called a lot of people clueless dicks. I do not have a vast readership, nor do I endlessly SPAM buy my book tweets. I do however Tweet on a regular basis and I do self-promote my book a lot.

Then perhaps you're not who that remark was aimed at. There are plenty of self-published writers on Twitter whose entire stream consists of "A thrilling tale of frogs armed with machine guns! amzn.to/somebook #kindle #ebooks" repeated with mechanical frequency. Others who I can only assume use an auto-post application which intersperses their ads with quotations by famous people. And nothing else.

Those people have totally missed the point of Twitter, how it works and how people use it. They are - quite possibly through no fault of their own - clueless.

Then there are those who occasionally take part in conversation or tweet about other things, but who insist on hourly (in some cases) reminders that they have a book for sale. In case their readership has very short memories.

If their twitter followers list consists mostly of people they don't know - as you say yours is - then presumably people follow them because they're interested in their writing and would like to know more about it, and thus respond well to ads. Fine. If they're happy with it, rock on.

If their followers list consists mostly of people who do know them - as is usually the case when someone first joins Twitter and all their friends hit 'follow' - flinging repeated ads their way and very little else is equivalent to rushing up to a bunch of friends in a crowded room, friends who already know you're a writer and that you have x books for sale (friends who may, even, have prodded people towards your books in the past), and doing nothing as the conversation rolls on but say "buy my book" over and over again to people you know and love. That's obnoxious, dickish behaviour in any medium.

With Facebook, at least you can unsubscribe from a friend who won't stop with the damned promotion without actually unfriending them. Twitter, unless you use an application with a 'mute' function, you have to unfollow them.

How is this helpful? Steve's never used Twitter, nor any other major social network AFAIK. He's an old mate, and if he was to dip his toe in the social waters to try to boost his sales/profile, I'm making him aware of a particular approach that some self-published writers adopt that drives many people, including me, up the wall, and which I don't think would aid him. Used well, Twitter and other networks can be very helpful, but you have to have a light touch, certainly to start with. They're social networks, and used primarily as such, not advertising networks.

Steve: England is cold, and I'm putting off doing any work. Also, I *do* read your blog when you bother to update it, y'know... :D

February 01, 2012 5:56 AM  
Blogger J L said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

February 01, 2012 8:06 AM  
Blogger J L said...

(deleted the previous post because of a typo. argh)

I'm in a similar boat as you. I had 20 books out with small publishers prior to self-publishing some books that had rights reverted to me. I've used them as my introduction to the whole self-pub world, finding a person to do my covers, formatting, etc.

I have another book just launched that is a revenge mystery and I'm just starting some promotion for it. What do I do? Tweets now and again (when I can tie the tweet into something about the book), conference appearances where I can chat about the book, etc. I usually don't promote a book with a buy-me link unless it's just released. I try to chat/tweet about something that ties into writing and I'll mention a book in that context.

I have 3 more books ready to launch and 3 more in the works. I'll probably release 2 more books this year. Last year I had 11 books out and between that and moving to a new state, I was a bit overwhelmed. So I'm going to cut back slightly.

I'm going to continue talking about my back list books whenever I can, too. Those books are still available and are still selling well (through my publishers). Every 'old' book I sell may get me a reader for a new book, so it all adds up.

Joe is right (as he's said on his blog): it's a long, uphill road and you gather new readers along the way. Sometimes someone hits it big and gathers a bunch of readers all at once.

And Karen is right, too: you need to appeal to readers as well as other writers and you need to be aware of the persona you are projecting.

But all in all, there is no magic bullet and no one-size-fits-all answer. Keep writing (good books) and keep trying. Know that it's a cumulative journey. And try to enjoy the ride. Your enjoyment or lack thereof comes through and may color someone's desire to buy your product.

Just my musings on the subject. I've only been in the biz about 6 years and it continues to change so fast it's hard to keep up. Just hang in there and don't get too discouraged (hard to do, I know!)

February 01, 2012 8:09 AM  
Blogger Linda Hall said...

It also might help, Steven, if your fiction was some place other than Kindle. I looked for it on my Kobobooks and couldn't find it. Your Minotaur books were there, but not your Indie ones. I know that Kindle is 'king' or so they say, but a lot of people have Nooks and Kobos and other eReaders. . If your short fiction was on Smashwords, even, I would buy it. But, I don't have a Kindle.

February 01, 2012 9:08 AM  
Blogger Kenn in Colorado said...

A friend of mine, who sells tons of ebooks, sent me to your blog, so you're doing something right. I've been making a modest living self publishing books for over 20 years now and I completely sympathize. My "secret" has always been to rely on word of mouth, which means lots of people need to have copies of my books in some form or other so they can recommend them. For me, that's usually meant sending paper books to magazines and other paper media in the desperate hope they'd review them. Now it means sending free paper books (or ebooks) to bloggers who might mention them in a kind way. It doesn't do any good for ME to say "my books are good and you should buy one." But, when Ray Bradbury did, it helped a lot. It also did when the tiny magazine, "Monitoring Times" did. You just never know.

My ebook sales are building, but slowly. My advice to other writers is to do it the same way I did: twenty years ago write a book that sold 100,000 paper copies and then release it as an ebook. Obviously, that's easier if you have access to some sort of time travel device.

Shy of that, my real secret is that I keep doing little things because you never know which one will lead to something. Maybe a little thing like easy links on your blog to your book page would be five minutes well spent. But enough about your book sales, let's talk about improving mine.

I'm giving away free copies of my book "Joy Writing: Discover and Develop Your Creative Voice" (the kindle version) this Friday only. If you've got a kindle, feel free to snag it. Wait a minute! I just promoted my book on YOUR blog by offering to give you and your readers something for free. (although you might delete the comment because it seems sort of crass. Like those serial tweeters. If so, sorry.) One or two of your readers might google me and decide to buy one of my other books. Or, they might sneak over to Amazon on Friday and score a free writing book, which they will obviously love, and they will feel compelled to leave a five star review on Amazon. It cost me nothing.

But don't trust me. Didn't Joe Konrath just do the same thing on your blog? Could he be onto something here?

Is there any reason you couldn't do the same thing? I'd suggest you do it on my blog, but no one reads that, so there wouldn't be much point. Find someone else's real blog and leave a comment. I've gotten sales just by responding to articles in the NY Times, for example. Little things. Hopefully FUN things.

Most important, just keep plugging away. That first book of mine was rejected by 89 publishers before I did it myself. Most of my friends suggested I just give up after 87. Turns out, they were all wrong.

Good luck.
Kenn Amdahl

February 01, 2012 3:13 PM  
Blogger Irene Black said...

Many of the comments on your blog are posts in and of themselves.
I came to the conclusion sometime back that by the time "everyone" is promoting an action, said action has lost its effectiveness.
Never ever put out negative comments. Turn it to a positive and say the same thing.
"Hey look folks, I sold 24 copies of my book in January, that's almost one/day out of a million or so offerings." Nash Black

February 01, 2012 3:23 PM  
Blogger Steven said...

John R.
England, cold? Never. I've been to the old world several times and I've never been less than warmly received. True, it is always the same recording at Heathrow that welcomes me, but...

I will try to be less gloomy in future. I'm just wishing now I had the sales figures at the moment to support cheerfulness. Ah well...

Smashwords et al. is coming, I swear, but not being a techie, I have to muddle along quite slowly. Hopefully, I'll have rights back to several of my novels and put up a bunch of stuff in several formats.

I know what you mean about the ever changing nature of this beast. I'm in for the long haul, but it has been ten years already.

Funny you should mention time-travel. Writing a book with that in it as a major plot point.

February 02, 2012 11:03 AM  

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