Conventions from a Different Perspective: Shore Leave

Conventions from a Different Perspective: Shore Leave

Shore Leave was a few weekends ago, but I was a big backed up, and I wanted to do more than just update you on how it went (spoiler alert, it went well).

20245535_1081963961948376_2724749083115162963_nI met some great new readers.  Here’s a picture I took with a few. One was so kind, she continued to update me on where she was in the book each time I saw her. (She’d made it to Chapter 10 of Caught when I last saw her.) I’m happy to say I usually expect to sell enough books to make back what I paid for the table. This was true for Shore Leave as well. I even managed to get some autographs for my mom (she was a big Star Trek: The Next Generation fan).

I met several wonderful people at the panels I was on, two of whom (I happen to have their cards on my rat’s nest of a desk) were Kelli Fitzpatrick and Derek Tyler Attico. They weren’t the only people kind enough to let me hang with them during the panels, but I have their names handy, and I wanted to give them a shout out. Andrew Hiller was also just a few tables down from mine, and having him to chat with on occasion is always a good time. He was the one who gave me the opportunity to sit on panels he was unable to attend.

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All stock imagery from Pixabay.

I’m still working and learning when it comes to actually selling my books, but one of the things I like to do is peel back the curtain sometimes. You have to have a lot of conviction to just be a writer. Creating a book and revising it until it’s ready to publish is a mission of faith all by itself, but then putting yourself out there can be daunting. Remember, I’ve said conventions are my number one way to generate sales.

True though it may be, one still has to be willing to put himself out there again and again.  To help put it into perspective, I had a thought and acted on it (a bad habit of mine).

I decided to start tracking statistics.

I did that so people planning to do conventions knew that getting a table can work and be fun, but you have to be willing to work at it.

How I work. People are wonderful, and I think of them as compassionate people that are, at the very least, interested in the same things I’m interested in. Marketers (Steve, help me out here if I’m off) call this the funnel process, but I think of my process more like a series of doors.

Bob&Caught_Teaser Card FrontEvery person who walks by receives a little handout from me. People like cool, free things. I have cool chapter icons and covers, so I hand them out. When I do so, I simply say, “If you have a moment, I’d love to talk to you about my work.” That’s door number one.

When a person tells me they’re interested, I give them the pitch to each book. Then I tell them the sale I’m having (I always have a sale of some sort during a convention). That’s door number two.

If people like the pitch, I put whichever book in which they’re interested in their hand. That’s door number three.  If reading the first few pages doesn’t grab them, they probably say thanks but no thanks.

Every now and again, they show some level of interest. That’s usually when I direct them to door number four. I tell them about the electronic versions of my books and tell them about whatever e-sales I’m running. A great number of my online sales come from this.  I can’t get the numbers for The Journals of Bob Drifter yet, but I sold eight more copies of Caught in this manner.)  Yes, I want to make money, but what I want more is for people to like and enjoy my work. I don’t care if they buy the 99-cent (when it’s on sale) version of Caught, the free (with an credit) Audible version of Bob , or whatever. I write stories for people to enjoy, and I consider it my job to give them every option to choose from.

The thing is, it’s pretty daunting to hand out that many cards or book covers just hoping someone’s willing to give you a bit more time.

That’s when I decided to just keep count:

The first time I tracked it, I handed out seven book covers before someone listened to my pitch. The good news is, that person bought my book.

The next time, I handed out 12 bookmarks and gave five pitches before someone bought a book.  Sound pretty rough? Well, I don’t think 1-out-of-12 is all that bad myself. I’d actually be thrilled if that were the case.

broken-1739128_960_720I had to hand out 74 book covers and give 15 more pitches before I sold my next book. I won’t like folks, that was a pretty epic sledgehammer to my confidence.  I had that “I’m the nerdy kid at a junior high dance” feeling. I kept at it. Why? Well, for  one, what else was I going to do? Also, you’re going to get a lot of rejection and doubt in this field. You, frankly, need to be willing to fight through it.

The next time was a bit easier. I handed out 29 book covers and gave five pitches. Believe it or not, that fifth pitch sold two books.

Average it up and it took me about 31 book marks and seven pitches to generate one sale.   I don’t know what other authors do (and I’d be curious to hear about it in the comments below), but that’s actually a pretty good day for me. I would have done much better had I not left about 20 editions of Caught on the convention floor at AwesomeCon. (Just left them there. I completely forgot them.) For one, Caught was much more in demand at Shore Leave than it was at AwesomeCon (different audience). Also, bundling my two books as a deal tends to generate a few extra sales. Learning that made me want to crawl in a hole and cry for a while, but I had things to do.

I don’t consider myself super aggressive or even remotely aggressive. I try to be friendly, and I only communicate with people I think are at least willing to talk to me. My point is, you have to put yourself out there. I don’t think of it as 116 people didn’t want my book. That sort of thinking is poisonous. I considered each person I spoke to a new acquaintance made. Each sale was a victory in and of itself. If those sales result in good reviews, that’s all the more awesome sauce for my cool-guy taco.

music-545770_960_720So if you’re at an event, and you start to feel like that poor junior high kid who bought a brand new pocket protector just for this dance, get out on the floor and shake your tail feathers. Remember you love what you do, and you like people. The ones who get up and dance with you will be all the more special for it.

Thanks for reading,
Matt

The Con of Awesome! What I’m up to this weekend!

The Con of Awesome! What I’m up to this weekend!

13260113_808371919307583_171282834181363032_nHappy AwesomeCon everyone! So this convention has a special place in my heart. They were the first large con to contact me and invite me to their event. I’ve had a panel there every year (like last year) since I became published, and I have one this year as well.  I always look forward to this convention, and I’m excited about what I have going on this year.

First, I’ll have a partner in crime.  Fellow author Andrew Hiller will be with me at the booth, he’s joined forces with me. I read A Halo of Mushrooms, and posted my review here.  It’ll be nice to have someone to sit with and talk about writing with all day.  Andrew and I will be at table P19.

caught-front-coverNext, I’d like to announce a few sales. To celebrate this event, Caught will be on sale for 99 cents from now until the 19th. If you were waiting on a deal, this is your chance. Outside of the electronic universe, the hard cover for The Journals of Bob Drifter will be reduced to $30. The soft cover will be down to $20.  Caught will be it’s regular price of $9.99, but if you haven’t had a chance to grab any autographs from me, I’m bundling the books.  You can buy Caught and The Journals of Bob Drifter together for a total of $25 (with a soft cover of Bob, $35 for the hard cover and Caught). I wanted to re-release Bob before this, but it’s my own fault for giving my editor two books to edit at the same time (I’m selfish really). So reducing the price to Bob is the least I can do for those readers who want to try out my work.

As I mentioned above, I’ll be hosting a panel (actually it’ll be more of a Q & A).  It’s about the Pitfalls of Unwary Self Publishers. That’s scheduled for 5:30 June 16 in room 154.  I hope to see you all there!

AwesomeCon runs from June 16-18.  Doors open at noon Friday and close for another year at 5 p.m. Sunday.

I think that’s about it. I’m looking forward to a great weekend, and I hope to see you all there!

Thanks of reading,

Matt

Some Dream-Come-True Moments

Some Dream-Come-True Moments

b2b-WEBSITE-LARGE-BANNER-LANDSCAPE-The B2B Cyber Convention just wrapped up. I’ve been super busy these past few days, but I wanted to take a moment to share some things (one of which was truly amazing).

The first is a story I’d like to share with you all.

I’m a creature of habit. I do my laundry on the same day. I eat at the same place every Friday. I work the same schedule every day. I like routine. The thing about routines though is you tend to have this expectation that every day, week, and moth will work out exactly the same. Most times, when there’s an interruption to my routine, I’m actually quite difficult to deal with.  But sometimes, it’s just wonderful.

Every other Friday, I go to the same place to cut my hair. I eat at the same place as I do every Friday. I check to see what movies are out that I might want to see. I stop by the book store in the mall just to see what may have gotten released without my knowledge.  That’s when I head over the my hair place.

This particular Friday, I arrive to find the woman who does my hair isn’t available for  awhile.  I don’t think much of it. I arrange a time later that evening with her. I’m about to head out to knock a few items off my to-do list when someone taps me on the shoulder.

One of the other employees caught my attention and pointed to the woman he was working with.  The woman smiles and points at me.

“Aren’t you that author?”

(PAUSE)

You see, my whole life, I’ve always wanted to be, “That Author.” That identification may be on the top three list of things I want to put on my tombstone.  When The Journals of Bob Drifter was first published, my sister bought me a personalized pen.  When she gave it to me, I told her it was a life dream of mine to have someone approach me and ask for my autograph.

So when Karen asked me that question, she quite literally made one of my life’s dreams come true.

(RESUME)

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A picture of me and Karen after the autograph!

I don’t really remember much after that. My euphoria made it pretty hard to think straight. I said yes.  She said that she’d recognized me from my book (Journals). Since I’m a regular at Rafet’s (the place I get my hair cut), I thought to plop a copy of the book there so people could read it while they wait for their haircuts. Now, that book has been there since Bob got published (two years now).  Turns out, at least one person had been chipping away at it!

So we chatted for a while. She told me the book really grabbed her attention. We exchanged contact information, and, yes, I gave her an autograph.  I originally gave her an autograph on a sheet of paper (which I tell my students to always have on their person). The establishment actually gave her that copy of the book, so I later signed that one and grabbed a selfie with Karen.

The world is a wonderful place sometimes. A guy can just be going about his day, and suddenly God smiles on someone. The little things are usually more special than the big. That moment will fuel my dream to be a “successful” author for quite a while.

So to those of you a little earlier in their journey than I am, I say you have to remember it’s a marathon. You have to work. It’s not an overnight thing. This isn’t the realm for instant success. But if you keep at it, and you’re consistent, you’ll get these little moments that mean so much. My sales are still right about where they normally are, but I found a fan and a new friend. If you’re reading this, Karen, I say again, Thank you!

BloodSpringThunderclapThat was how my weekend started! I posted on Friday about the Brain To Books Cyber Convention 2017.

The first cool thing was how many more authors I met. I got to hang out more with Joshua Robertson, who I met a few months ago and got to know a bit better when his book Anaerfell was up for Book Cover of the Month. I also met so many other cool authors: My internet is really acting up, so I can’t really link them all like I want.  But just a few are: Heidi Angell (she’s not THAT kind of angel), Richard White, A.L. Mabry, Suzanna J. Linton (a fellow Dragonriders of Pern fan), Tim (again, my internet isn’t letting me find his last name), and Joe Compton. I PROMISE I could go on for days. I don’t know how many panels or group chats I did. What I DO know, is I’ll be adding a page to this website soon. I’ll add those videos, because they’re fun for readers, writers, and authors trying to figure out marketing.

Angela B. Chrysler and I had an idea at about the same time. I’d been trying to figure out a use for Youtube, and so she created Nerd Rage, which will be a monthly Youtube event we do. We’ll film them the last Saturday of every month. There may be a time or two we can’t all make it, but for the most part, there’ll be a handful of us just needing out about whatever topic Angela pulls out of a hat. (No, I mean that literally.) If you can’t wait for me to get around to loading what videos I’ve already been a part of, you can look at those and everything else here.

caught-front-coverWhich leads me to my last thought of the day. I’d mentioned that one of the events I was taking part in was a covers war. I’m very proud to announce that Caught won the cover war for horror and thrillers! I have to admit, I campaigned pretty hard to win. I was a big fan of my cover, and I wanted it to get recognized. It turns out, a bunch of my Facebook friends and a few of my Author/Wordpress friends (Hi JR! Hi Corey!) came to offer me support! Look, it’s basically just bragging rights, but it’s like I said, the little things make all the difference sometimes. So I wanted to end this post with a huge thank you for that support in giving that cover some love. Thank you all.  Now, I have a short story to revise, another short story to write, two books to write and a series to get started on. All by 2018.  So…I’m off.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

 

What Box Does This Fit In? The Importance of Putting Your Book in the Right Category

What Box Does This Fit In? The Importance of Putting Your Book in the Right Category
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This screenshot was captured Feb. 3, about 6 days after Caught was released.

As I type this, Caught is still a long ways away (a month actually).  I recently read (and reviewed) How to Market a Book by Joanna Penn. One of her chapters spoke about categories and their importance, and that made me want to share with you some things I did differently this time around.

 

What I did wrong: I’m in love with my genre, and I (obviously) know The Journals of Bob Drifter better than anyone. I understand the magic system and the other three books (two written) that are related to it, but none of that matters. I didn’t see it, because I was trying to fit Bob and my work to where I want to be one day. I threw it in the Urban Fantasy category. It simply doesn’t belong there.

What I fixed: Well, the trick here (thanks to Joanna’s book) that worked was to think about Caught in terms of books that are related. What books does Caught feel like? What authors produce work that is similar to what this book does?

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This screen shot (taken Feb. 3) shows the various categories The Strain is in. Notice how well it’s doing in all categories related to Vampires?

The first book that came to mind was The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan.  That book’s primary category is Mystery, Thriller & Suspense. Down that rabbit hole of categories is a sub category called Supernatural > Vampires.  A few clicks down Amazon’s categories, and there for the taking was my category (there’re some spoilers in that area, but it’s there).  Bob is a Supernatural thriller as well.

 

(NOTE: The real trick is getting the book to register on those deeper categories.  For instance, The Strain is also in General Fiction > Horror.  Caught is in a few other categories as well, which increases visibility. That’s great, but I still focus on the category I know is best.)

But I didn’t just DIVE after the Supernatural category. I did some more searching around. I came up with a list of books and authors that all line up with Caught. I feel the readers who enjoy these books or authors will like Caught.

Night Chills by Dean Koontz

The Shining by Stephen King

Not all the stuff I looked up fell in this category, but many of them did.

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Bob isn’t doing so well in this category. Is it a bad book? (Screenshot taken Feb. 3)

I can shove my book into the Fantasy category if I want. But Caught isn’t Fantasy. It isn’t by any stretch of the imagination. Sure, I know Bob has a magic system. Eventually, you’ll see more of that magic (and even a monster), but even when I publish 1,200, a clever reader would have to look closely to see the connection between that book and Bob.

 

The lesson. Put your ego in a trunk, and throw it off the deck of a ship. I’m an author. I worked long and hard, sacrificed, and spent thousands of dollars on editors, but the PUBLISHING of that work, the MARKETING of it is about the CUSTOMER. Readers have the right to know that the book they purchase isn’t one they

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No. It gets good reviews, but it has no visibility because the people who will enjoy it can’t see it. (Screenshot taken Feb. 3) 

“might” like, but one you know they’ll love. Man was it hard to look myself in the mirror and tell myself that. ESPECIALLY while I’m getting ready to revise Sojourn in Despair. But that’s the right call.

 

Put your work in front of the small, specific audience you know will like your book. Some writers avoid this out of pride (abashedly raises hand). Other avoid it because they’re afraid. They want their book in front of millions of eyes.

People, I see dog poop on the road every day. Seeing it doesn’t make me want to pick it up.

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This image and the Feature Image were taken from Pixabay.

Your book (my book) isn’t dog poop, but it might as well be if you throw it on the busiest street (metaphorically) you can find. Because those people (metaphorically) are going somewhere. They’re looking for something specific. Put your book where YOUR readers are going.

If your sales are low. Ask yourself if you’re putting the book in front of the right readers. Try changing the category. I promise, you’re not going to sell fewer books.

For example, my category for Caught has 1,120 books. I’d rather go up against 1,000 books than the 293,452 in the broader category. J.R. (I believe he passed it along to me, but he’s the guy who told it to me) said be the big fish in the little pond. It took me a minute to find my pond. This is what worked for me.

When I shift Bob over to the right category, I’ll let you know how it affected sales and reviews.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

My Tour is Beginning to Take Shape

My Tour is Beginning to Take Shape

I feel now is the appropriate time to officially make an announcement as I’m starting to make contact with people and settle in on dates and conventions. I’m not registered with nearly enough conventions just yet, but I hope to change it.

This blog will receive revisions through the weeks as I set dates or firm up times, but if you’re in the area, and you’d like to stop by, say hi, grab an autograph, buy a book, or all o the above, these are the places I’ll be.

Jan. 28. Time TBD
Caught Book Launch
Twilite Zone Comics
18 Crain HWY N, Glen Burnie, MD. 21061

I did the book launch for The Journals of Bob Drifter here, and if I have my way, I’ll do all my book launches here. Bumper is awesome. His store is amazing, and I love comics!

Jan. 29. 1-2:30 p.m.
Book Signing
Greetings & Readings
118-AA Shawan Rd, Hunt Valley, MD. 21030

Greetings & Readings is way more than a book store. It’s a great location, and they were so helpful in having me do a book signing there last year. I’m honored they’re letting me back.

Feb. 12 1-4:45 p.m.

Lecture: Self-Publishing Considerations and Options
Glen Burnie Regional Library
1010 East Way
Glen Burnie, MD. 21060
(DISCLAIMER: The library was kind enough to provide a venue, but they are in no way endorsing my books. It’s important to note that as I’ll be selling copies of my books there, and as the library hosts many events, they are not endorsing me over any other product.)

June 16-18
AwesomeCon
Walter E. Washington Convention Center
801 Mt. Vernon Pl NW, Washington, District of Columbia 20001

I’ve been to AwesomeCon two years in a row, and I’ll be there every year if I have any say over it. I’ve also done panels there both years. I’ve put in for panels already, but I’m waiting on word as to if I’m being picked up.

Stay tuned for more updates as time goes by!

Thanks for reading,
Matt

 

I Have a Youtube Channel!

I Have a Youtube Channel!

I had an idea a while back. I love this blog, but the primary function of my posts are analytical in function. I love it, and I’m honestly a very analytical person, but I love geeking out too. So I figured it would be fun to create a Youtube channel designed to cater to the more “fan” side of me. That’s why I named the show FanTalk. I’ve done two episodes so far. I plan for them to be weekly episodes.

I’ll offer top 5 or top 10 episodes. I’ll talk about movies I just watched or TV episodes that caught my eye. It’s different because I’m really just having fun with it. It’s new, and there’s work to be done, but I wanted to share it with you all.  Feel free to head over here and have a look. I hope you like what you see, subscribe, and comment.

Just a quick update this weekend. I hope you had a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: How to Market a Book by Joanna Penn

Book Review: How to Market a Book by Joanna Penn
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Book Cover for Review purposes under Fair Use Doctrine. Also, I want you to know what this book looks like because you need to buy it and read it

I never made it a secret that marketing is far more of a mystery to me than writing or producing a book (and I’ve made more than my fair share of mistakes in those areas).

A few weeks ago, I bought one of those “marketing for dummies” books. I got one chapter in before I wanted to know if anyone had something for someone even less educated.

I read J.R. Handley’s blog a few weeks ago.  That blog led me to Joanna’s website. The website led me to her book, “How to Market a Book.”

What this book does for me is speak to me in a manner that makes sense. It’s not just a book on marketing, it’s a book about how to market my product.

At first, I started reading it like a manual. Basically, I thought, “Do all of these .things in this order.”

I don’t know why I thought this as she says one shouldn’t try all of these things at once. What I realize this does now is give several things to try at various times until I find what works for me.

Things that really worked:

There’s a segment about Twitter that I found very helpful.

wiar_how-to-market-a-bookThere are some tools here to use now and then. So this is more of a reference book than a text book. To explain: I can come back to this and study up, and then get more information when I’m ready to try something.

She gives a ton of follow-on sites, blogs, podcasts, interviews, and books that I plan on using here and there as I try different things.

The only thing I wish I could find is what I call more actionable information. I’m intuitive in my craft, but literal in my thinking. I’d kill for more specific step-by-step instructions. Like I really feel that changing keywords on Amazon might help me, but HOW do I do that?  How do I change my categories? I did a search on Author Central, but all I could find basically amounted to “send us an email.” Even then they swear we can only have “two” categories (a main and a sub) when I know for a fact that some books go four levels deep. So how to I get into THOSE categories?  With Caught coming out, I took a LOT of time finding the right book. Joanna DID give some great advice that I followed. It has to do  with looking at books you think are similar and seeing what categories they fall under.

arrows-1617376_960_720This book gave me something I desperately needed. An idea on where to step. I want more steps. I want small, baby steps, but this is a fantastic overview book with critical follow-on material. Seriously, if you’re about to publish your first book, if your book is nearly ready to come out, if your looking at releasing anytime soon, buy this book. The worst mistake I made in releasing a book was releasing a book without knowing remotely how to market a book. I truly wish I’d read this about two years ago. Even better, two years ago. I can’t stress enough how important it is to start building your platform. I’m on the right track now, but I’d be farther ahead if I gave this aspect of this business more attention.

Thanks for reading,

V/R
Matt