Benchmarks and Thanks! The Initial Results of My Giveaway With Both an Emotional and Marketing Perspective

Benchmarks and Thanks! The Initial Results of My Giveaway With Both an Emotional and Marketing Perspective

Greetings all,

AnUnusualOccupationCoverLast week was a whirlwind for me a in a lot of ways. But for those interested in marketing and for those interested in my life as an author, I thought it’d be nice to simply give a look at the results for my giveaway.

Premise:

I knew I had Bob’s Greatest Mistake coming out (it’s out now, and still 99 cents until May 15). I wanted to get Bob some visibility, and I knew this option from KDP was available. When I do anything, I like to have reasonable expectations. I also want clear, measurable goals.

Goals:

Get Bob on the top 100 list.

Get at least 100 downloads.

Get 25 reviews.

Reasoning:

Getting Bob on the top 100 list for his category gains the visibility I wanted. The more I can get Bob in front of viewers, the more likely it is someone will give him a chance. Giving copies away now and getting him on that list could gain those I call loyal readers.

Knowing how many followers I have on various social media, Choosing a small fraction of that number (about 10 percent), I felt was reasonable. It still meant there were people at least rooting for me and willing to help out. If those downloads become reads, that’s even better.  But…

…. if those reads become reviews, now we’re talking. If I earn 25 reviews on Amazon, first, it means 25 more people actually read my book, which is awesome! Also, This gets me more visibility on Amazon. This number should be enough to start getting Amazon to recommend it to other readers.

Results:

Screen Shot 2018-04-29 at 2.01.14 PMBob made it as high as #31 on Amazon’s Free Paranormal Thrillers category! Honestly, Bob’s never sniffed a ranking that high before. This achievement alone would be enough to consider this campaign a huge success, but it didn’t end there.

I had 140 downloads for Bob. For those who read this post, I offered little demonstrations of appreciation for each benchmark, and we hit 100.  Not quite enough for a karaoke song, but still, so many people turned up to give Bob some love!  This puts me past the 500 mark in terms of “sold” books.  Sure, they were free, but at the end of the day, people picked my book. There are lots of free books out there in the world, and you all chose to give mine a try. That matters. I appreciate it! It means the world to me. I even sold a few copies of Bob’s Greatest Mistake and Caught. Again, even if this was all that happened, I’d call this a huge win. That said, the 100 copies people picked up in five days was more than 1/4 of the books I’d sold in the last three years.  Like I said, success!

It’s too early honestly to talk about reviews. While I did post a review that appeared during the giveaway, I’m not convinced that copy was downloaded during that this. I’m pretty sure that was an individual who bought the book earlier and finished it in a very timely manner. If I hit that 25 review benchmark, it would be the first time I’d run a campaign of any sort and had remotely this level of success. I’m eagerly refreshing the page and looking for reviews, but I still think it might be a tad early for anything to come up just yet. This is even more likely if anyone is as remotely loyal to their TBR as I am. Sure, Brandon Sanderson has automatic head-of-the-line privileges in my TBR, but everyone else has to wait their turn.
Those Emotions:

thank-you-1606941_960_720I’m still in awe of your support. I’ve been at this for a tad more than three years. The blog’s been going for a bit more than a year (I think). It’s just amazing to see how far it’s come and how willing you all are to lend a hand. I can’t repay it. I can’t thank you enough, and there aren’t enough words to express my gratitude anyway. I can only hope that I continue to post content you’re interested in and write stories you love. I hope you enjoy the first part of Bob’s journey as much as I do.

If you have any  questions on logistics, feel free to ask in the comments. For now, I just wanted to sing the praises of a successful campaign.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

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Want a Free Book? I’m Asking for Help to Get My Work Out To the World!

Want a Free Book? I’m Asking for Help to Get My Work Out To the World!

Occupation_Mistake_DealGreetings all,

An Unusual Occupation, the first part of The Journals of Bob Drifter, is free on Amazon April 26-30!

We’re just days away from when Bob’s Greatest Mistake, the second part of The Journals, goes live, and this giveaway is my way to celebrate the countdown.  Mistake will remain 99 cents from now until May 15, when it will go to its normal $2.99 price. So this is essentially a chance to get two stories (or two thirds of Bob’s story in particular) for just 99 cents.

Here’s the part when I ask for help.  Having Occupation as a free release does a lot for an author. The more people who grab up the book while it’s free, the more visibility it will have on Amazon. The more visible the title is, the more likely it is other people will see the book and give it a try. This is an easy way to help me out. All you have to do, is click on that first link, and get a free copy of a story I’m very proud of. I hope you read it. I hope you enjoy it. No matter what you think, I hope you leave a rating and a review. But if you just grab up the title while it’s free, you’re doing me a tremendous favor.

What else can you do? Share the link. Share this blog. Tweet it. Instagram it. Anything you’d be willing to do to get word out would be a great gift and blessing to me.

AnUnusualOccupationCoverNaturally, I hope everyone who grabs the title reads it. I also hope that people pre-order Mistake or even just grab up the full story, but the primary goal of this giveaway is to gain visibility and draw attention to the other titles I have available.

To make things fun, I’m offering some silly little rewards for helping.  I currently have about 700 followers. So:

If I get 100 downloads, I’ll show off my pushup with no feet.

If I get 200 downloads, I’ll karaoke a song of my followers’ choice.

If I get 300 downloads, I’ll reenact a scene of a movie of my followers’ choice.

If I get 400 downloads, I’ll narrate one chapter of any book my followers’ choose (with voices).

If I get 500 downloads, I’ll recreate the “My Little Buttercup” scene from Three Amigos.

If I get 600 downloads, I’ll perform an original song I’ve written.

If I get 700 downloads, I’ll reenact the entire Thriller dance.

I hope you all will give Occupation and Mistake a try. At the very least, I hope to have a little fun with this particular campaign. No matter what, I always appreciate you for stopping by and seeing what I’m up to.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

 

Book Review: Working the Table: An Indie Author’s Guide to Conventions by Jeffrey Cook and Lee French

Book Review: Working the Table: An Indie Author’s Guide to Conventions by Jeffrey Cook and Lee French
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This image was taken from Amazon.com for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

As I was trying to improve my success at conventions, I met Jeffrey at the 2017 AwesomeCon, and picked up his book.

This really is a solid resource for a new author looking to start using conventions to expand his platform. My regret is that I found it a year after I’d been doing conventions, and I read it nearly a year after that.

There are a few things in this book I’m considering, the one I’ll mention (and I assure you there are several ideas in here that new authors should consider) is working with a partner. For me, my current issue is the overhead.

This book agree that conventions aren’t about making money. Most authors hope to break even. My current advantage is that I’m staying local, but even that advantage doesn’t always help.  While I think most of the conventions I’ve been at have been successful, I’ve still actually lost money.

31V2s4104aL._UY200_I’m prepping for Balticon, and I’ve done the math. I have to see at least 11 pairs of books (or some combination of the two, but the pairs are easier to estimate) to make back what I paid for the table and the actual ordering of the books. I average 15-30 books sold per event. So why do them? First, if I don’t, I don’t sell books. It’s that simple. What this book confirms is the idea for conventions is to build your platforms and find more readers loyal to you. I’ve done that through the years, and that’s the trick for me. If I were able to team up with a  few local authors, the overhead would come down, and I could lose less money (maybe even make some) while still gaining new readers.
91eVmgnWIyL._UX250_All of that comes just from that idea. It’s one I’ve tried a few times, but this book gives tips on how to work with other authors. Seeing these ideas gave me a bit more insight into how to do this better.

Like I said, this book is most valuable to those who haven’t started going to conventions yet. If you’re thinking of doing it, I recommend this book to give you a solid start.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Farpoint: A Good Time Was Had By All

Farpoint: A Good Time Was Had By All

Greetings all,

27972454_1205474502930654_1199494595308664423_n
One of the kind folks who picked up a copy of Bob Drifter. 

I had the pleasure of attending Farpoint last week.  It was the second of what will now be six conventions I’ll be at this year.

The most fun for me was talking to the other venders. It’s always fun meeting artists and venders, but this time was a particular pleasure. I ran into a few acquaintances, which is always nice because it allows me to catch up.  I made some progress on Worth of Words.

Oh yeah, I sold some books! For those curious about the financial feasibility of conventions, well, I didn’t sell quite enough to earn back what I paid for the table (let alone what it cost to purchase the books). The thing is though, if I don’t do conventions, I don’t sell any books. The investment is on building familiarity, building my newsletter, and getting my work out there. Those are all things I accomplished. I still only have two physical books to work with and three titles available. Things will improve as I keep at it. Last year, I didn’t do that many events, and my sales reflected it. While I can’t point to many sales, what I can say is I’ve almost sold more books in two months this year than I did in all of last year (I’m only 20 sales away from that mark).

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Stock imagery from Pixabay.

I say this because it’s important anyone getting their name out there understands it takes time. I’ve always advised that the more patient (and probably successful) author waits until he has three books before he publishes.  It creates momentum and lets readers know you’re not going anywhere. None of the math made this any less fun or successful when considered with a longer, more strategic mindset.

I let that affect me far too much in my first year, so much so that I didn’t do many conventions in year two, and that made things even worse. I believe in this plan, and I have the regular sales to prove it. Doing conventions on a regular basis is the right way to go.

The other thing that matters are the reviews. The more books I sell, the more likely I am to see reviews. The reviews I’ve gotten are mostly positive. Of the 35 reviews I have on Amazon, only three of them (9 percent) are two stars or fewer. I’m not even sure I have any one-star reviews. Of the 41 reviews I have on Goodreads, only three of them (7 percent) are two star or fewer. Yes, there are some repeats, but there are also some originals, and I’m simply providing data to those thinking about publishing or becoming authors.  What this means to me is that the people who read my books like my books. That encourages me to keep putting the books out there, and I hope it encourages you to do the same. No, I wouldn’t do it the way I did it if I could do it over. But I’m fixing that this year and next year (four titles in 2017 and at least three in 2018).

27867504_1205474519597319_5040277904096255085_nOn the other side of this equation is how much fun these events are. Like I said, Farpoint was a blast just talking to people and getting to know the other venders, and you all saw how much fun I had at Animorecon. The rest will work out in time.

My next convention is Awesomecon, which I’ve been to every year since I’ve been published. I’m doing my “Self-Publishing for Unwary Authors” panel again (folks seem to really like that one). I may even get another. I see a lot of folks at that event, and I can’t wait to meet more.

I’ll keep updating it, but it’s important I make clear this post is more about perspective than it is about immediate gratification, which is true of being an author. I want any hopeful authors to be informed, and I the conventions, readers, and newsletter subscribers to know just how much they mean to me. I hope this accomplishes that goal.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

No One but You Wants to Sell Your Book: A Scam Warning

No One but You Wants to Sell Your Book: A Scam Warning

shakedown-1340048_960_720One of the biggest things I feel for early on in my career as an author involves the appearance of help.

What happens is someone from a company calls you.  I was just sitting in my room editing Caught when someone calls.

“Hello, I’m is this M.L.S. Weech?”

I ignored the suspicious accent and rough pronunciation of my name. You see, someone called my author identity. I was finally noticed!

“This is,” I said, feeling my heartbeat race.

I can’t remember what company he claimed to be in, and I don’t want to dime out the other company that fooled me the same way (though that looked far more legitimate than this first company).

Things they say:
“Our research team has tagged your book as one that’s very appealing to our market.”
“I’ve read your book, and I really think there’s a lot going for it.”
“Our reader surveys have identified your book as one that rated very high.”

Other things they say:
“We’re prepared to present your book at ‘insert fake book conference.'”
“We’d like to market your book.”

So, on my infinite list of things I wish I’d known or even just thought of:

  • What self respecting marketing company has to solicit books to market? Seriously, their job is to put brands in front of eyes. Their entire profit margin is based on selling things. People go to them to market a product. They don’t just randomly call people.
  • Anyone who calls asking for your money, isn’t interested in helping you make money.
  • Even if they’re offering to pay X for Y. They’ll eventually get around to asking you for money.

This leads me to last night. I’d already had a fairly unpleasant day. So imagine my mood (those who know me know I’m not one to suffer much in the way of wasting my valuable time) when someone calls.

First warning: They used my real name and not my pen name. I have nothing against my real name. It’s a bit hard to pronounce, which is the reason for the pen name, but I like it. The thing is, this caller didn’t even speak about the author credited for my book.

Second Warning: “I can tell you’re reading out loud.” When this woman called and told me how readers rated it 90-something percent whatever, she started off by saying, “I’m calling about your book….The….Journals of….Bob…Drifter.”  (Clearly she’d done a tone of research on my book. I mean, she worked so hard, she forgot the name of the book she was researching.)

dollar-163473_960_720I tried to be nice:
I’m smarter now than I was a few years back. So I usually have a nice conversation. I’m polite. I get a kick out of these people who want to tell me how great my book could sell, but they can’t even name the main character (the hint is on the cover folks). But, as I mentioned, I was already in a fighting mood. So, the most nice I could have been was to be  frank:

“I’m sorry ma’am, but if you’re calling to offer me services that will cost me any money, I’m not interested. I’d been scammed before, so unless you’re offering me services at absolutely no cost to me, I’m not interested.”

Anyone who knows me knows that was probably the moment this individual should have hung up.  She didn’t.

Don’t worry, Sis, I still wasn’t that bad:
I can get flat out mean on the phone (one of my sisters gets pretty upset at me when I lose my temper on people who waste my time on the phone).  It’s a failing of mine, but this time, because I already knew I was ready to spit rage and discontent in the face of any who dare appear before me, I reminded myself that no one actually deserved said anger.  She went on to carefully avoid using the phrase “no cost to you.”

She said things like, “We’re prepared to do this marketing for you for this amount of time.”  Then she went into her pitch like a bull in my freshly mopped China shop.

I was still pretty direct:
Before she could finish her rather elaborate plan that didn’t include my target audience, my demographic or my local market, I said, “I need to stop you there. The question I asked was, are you doing this at absolutely no expense to me.”

She said, “Like I said, we’re preparing to offer you…”

I said, “Ma’am, I asked you if you’re going to do this at no cost to me. Please answer yes or no.”

safe-913452_960_720This apparently hurt her feelings. She told me she can’t work with me. I’m apparently a negative person.

Honestly, I was, but she was trying to steal my money, so I don’t, exactly, feel guilty about it.

The thing is, my first year I lost $24,000 (that’s not a typo). So be direct.  I found a blog I think really gives you a good way to vet people, but I stand by my original statement:

No one, ever, is going to call you and say, “I want to help you sell your book.”

Well..okay, an Agent may call you, but he’ll know your name and the name of your book, and you’ll have sent him a query.  Same with a publisher.  But no one, ever, is going to call you out of the blue, and suddenly want to sell your book. Spend that money on a marketer you’ve researched, conventions you can attend, or publishing a new book.

Don’t fall for the traps. We in the indie author community support you. Bounce these opportunities off us. Search any company that calls you. Chase your dream, but don’t let others take advantage of that dream.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

 

The Art of Writing vs The Business of Being an Author: A request for discussion.

The Art of Writing vs The Business of Being an Author: A request for discussion.

As I grow as a business man, I learn more about some of the decisions writers make, and I felt it was appropriate to discuss some of these issues in an open forum. I’m really just taking a few minutes to gain a sense as to what the rest of the community of authors out there thinks about a few things that have come up during conversations or conventions.

BobsGreatestMistakeThe Amazon formula: At Awesomecon, I spoke with a few authors about a practice that I find a bit underhanded. It’s one thing for an author to release segments of a book. One wise piece of advice I’ve heard about long-form authors is to release segments, and then release an omnibus book when everything is done. However, the more sly tool I’m opening for discussion is the habit some authors have of publishing a book. Amazon tracks “Hot New Releases” for 90 days. What some due (and it works for them, so how mad should I be), is then slap a new cover on the book and re-release it. Thus restarting that 90-day tracker and keeping the book appearing on the relevant pages. As I look at covers every day, I see this on occasion, and I hear about it more (admittedly more than I actually see it). The first topic of discussion is: Is this practice bad form or what it takes to get out there? What do you authors think about the practice as a whole an any who do it? What information do you have on the subject? (I have word of mouth and a few discussions here or there.)

Writing the story that’s in your head or the story that might earn you more: Having done more research now than I have, I understand just how small the Fantasy/Science Fiction audience really is. (Horror is that much smaller.) I have a few friends who jump at opportunity. I’ll be honest here. I don’t have any issues with writers sitting down and producing quality work for any reason. Getting other products out and bylines completed is a great strategy. I’ve had people loop me in on anthologies. I’ve only volunteered for one, and that was because I had the idea kicking around my head already. I can’t seem to write anything but the story playing out in my head. This is why Bob came out when it did, and was then followed by the much darker Caught. To be honest, it’s hard to keep my mind on Oneiros because Perception of War is playing like an X-D theater in my mind. Writing Kaitlyn’s short story has done a good job to help get the Oneiros juices flowing, which is one of the two major reasons I decided to make that my main project. I’m also aware that some genres simply sell better. I have friends that insist I’d be a best seller by now if I wrote romance. I’m not actually against any writer producing any quality work. I just don’t have a lot of “romance-specific” stories running around my head. Also, those novels are much tighter, fast-paced stories. I have to force my self to keep the word count down. How many of you struggle to write in a metaphorical box? This may mean you’re writing to try to satisfy an audience or produce a story for something for the sake of a byline. Again, I can’t stress enough how OK I am with it, I simply don’t have that ability. I have to write what’s in my mind and in my heart.

ElelefinalGetting Product Out in a Timely Manner: This leads me to the third topic (and I think I’ll stop here even though I could go on much more).  I love epic fantasy. Most of my projects are large. But it takes time to write 400,000 words (or even 100,000).  So when an idea for a shorter format story came to mind, I went at it. What this will do is something I feel is a financially beneficial decision to keep me in the lighter shades of red while I produce the deeper, wider-scoped stories I love most. I would’t be able to do this on the spot. Even Sojourn was a tangental project that was made harder for me because my mind wanted to focus on Images of Truth. The main reason I was able to work on it as quickly as I did was Elele is in both books.  This other world captured my fancy. The theory is I can do one “large” project a year (like Caught or 1,200), and one or two smaller projects. I’m holding off on releasing until I build a buffer of sorts that allows me to release product more frequently, but that’s the ideal pace for me. I still admit I don’t prefer this method at the moment. I like to work on a thing until it’s done (or the draft is done) and then step away to something else. Based on where I am with Oneiros and 1,200, my newer short-fiction saga (called Mercer in case you’re wondering) is what will be my “step away” project while I’m in between drafts of the Oneiros log (not to mention trying to get 1,200 out there).  The question here is, what is your ideal pace, and what do you all think is a solid “release” year?

I’d ask any author to comment below. If you could, please state what you have out and some record of where you are in terms of being a business author.  What are your thoughts on these topics? What works for you?

I thought this was a good chance just to open the doors to the community and get a dialogue  going on these subjects. If this goes well, I’ll make it an occasional post.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

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