Friday, September 23, 2011

Stick out like a sore thumb

I am the only urban fiction writer writing about working class people. I'm not just saying this to brag. In order for any new writer to make it in the new digital world he needs an edge. Some thing to make you stand out from the crowd.

If you are an established Urban Fiction writer like K'wan for instance, you come to the ebook world with a fan base. This is a following that will buy your books. But if you are like me and so many others in the game who never sold a lot of physical books, we need other means to grow our fans.

There are many ways to promote an ebook, but the best way is to get into a category (genre) and then stick out. You see, a sore thumb sticks out but it is still part of the hand. We have to realize that most of us will never sell as many books as a K'wan or a Nikki Turner, but if we can carve out a small enough niche, we can sell a decent amount of books on a regular basis.

Some writers will say they want everybody to buy their ebooks. If you write with everybody in mind, your book may come out sounding crazy.
There's an old saying: If you try to please everybody you end up pleasing nobody.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Put your money where their mouths are...

Word of mouth is the best way to sell books. If a friend of yours tells you a book is good, there's a good chance you'll read it. One way to get people to talk about your book is to write a good book. If people like what you have written they will tell others. Another way to get people to talk about a book is to write a controversial one. Even if the book is not that good, but it gets people talking or even arguing about it, people will buy it.

Authors can help get the word out. With street books authors, they can help get the word out by mingling with readers. Going to conventions and book shows and things like that. Book signings and going out to meet with book clubs. Or in cities like New York they can even stand on street corners.

But for authors who only put out ebooks, the rules are a little different. Since we can't go around signing people's kindles we have to get the word to readers in different ways. In some ways the internet is just like the old way. You have to get some one else to talk about your books. Again the most important thing is to write a good or controversial book. Then you can get somebody like Valinda Miller to hit you up in her blog  African American Books on the Kindle .

Word of mouth can make a lousy book sell too. The problem with that is many people might not want to buy your second book. So again it still boils down to writing a good book.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Going H.A.M (Hard As a Mother F...)

This summer was rough for many independent authors.  and ebook sales were down for most of us. And since I no longer publish physical books these basically are my only two sales outlets, it made for a depressing summer.

I started to doubt myself as a writer. I really thought about giving up. The going was getting tough and I saw no light at the end of the tunnel. I thought my first book would be a million seller. Then I felt the next one would. Then I prayed that the third one would just sell twenty thousand copies.

Even though I'm doing fairly well for an independent, I'm not selling as much as I would like. I was comparing my work to the best selling books of others. But looking at the top ten list doesn't tell the whole story.

Take Dan Brown's book the Da Vinci Code. It has sold over 80 million copies. But the author's first three books sold less than 10,000. Since my first three books have sold over ten thousand copies I'm not in bad company.
There's a saying by President Calvin Coolidge: Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

That means we should keep trying. The Dan Brown example shows us how big publishing companies do it too. They'll put out a few books by an author. Then when they think he has a large enough fan base, they push his next book hard. i don't know if this is the best way, but it is one of the easiest for self published author's. Your books can be your best advertising. You just have to make sure they're good.

I've seen a couple of self published books that are garbage. This is usually because the author just up and decided to be a writer without ever getting an honest appraisal of his writing. Or the author is not a good story teller but thinks because he reads a lot and has big vocabulary he can entertain people. We have to always keep it up front. If we can't entertain people with our writing it's not going to sell.

That means our persistence should be two fold. One keep writing. Two learn how to write stuff that SELLS. Because in the long run, if your writing don't make no dollars, it don't make no cents.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

There are a few reasons many urban fiction authors can't get white folks to buy there books. But one of the biggest is writing style. There are certain tricks to good writing that many black authors haven't picked up on yet. They may be good story tellers, but I know some seven year olds who can tell good stories. There is a something a little extra that goes into writing novels. And I'm not talking about grammar.

There a saying in writing schools, show don't tell. This one trick can make a story come alive in a reader's mind.

Here's and example: Mary walked in the house and saw that the living room was still messy. She was angry because she told  her husband to clean up. It was the least he could do because he didn't have a job.There was a pile of dirty clothes on the sofa right next to her husband who was watching the football game. Now she was even more angry

This sounds decent but it's telling. Look how it reads when we show instead: Mary walked into the house and tripped over a pair of sneakers. She kicked them and they landed in the empty Dominoes pizza box. "Damn it," Mary said as she slammed her purse on the table that was by the door.

She stepped over piles of dirty clothes as she made her way into the living room. What the hell are you doing?" She said.

Her husband John, was laying back on the sofa using a pile of clothes for a pillow. "What does it look like I'm doing? I'm watching the football game."

The next thing she knew, she had a pair of scissors in her hand and was headed for the TV's cord. 

Notice the difference. Not once did I write that Mary was angry in the second version. I didn't have too, you could see it.

There's another benefit showing. It takes up more space than telling. You can really stretch a book out by telling.

A great place to practice showing is when you want to describe a character. Instead of saying she is beautiful, have one character in the book tell another character say that so and so's ass looks good or she has  gorgeous face.

It's like in a movie. The director doesn't come on stage and say the actor is mad now. The actor shows you he's mad through his actions.

Now I'm not saying you want to show the whole story. It'll read more like a crazy movie script. But you'll to w\show most of it, with just enough telling to round it out. It something you have to practice. Like when Richard Pryor Or Martin Lawrence do stand up comedy. Some of what they show us is funnier than what they say.

Believe me, their are some white folks waiting for some fresh and different writers; and Urban fiction has them. We just have to speak to them in a language they understand and enjoy.

More to come.

e-Reader ownership surges since last November; tablet ownership grows more slowly | Pew Internet & American Life Project

I wrote earlier about there being no real competition between authors. Here are some stats to help prove that point.

e-Reader ownership surges since last November; tablet ownership grows more slowly | Pew Internet & American Life Project:

The above article states that 12% of the adult U.S. population owns ebook readers. That's about 19 million people. And if African Americans are 10% of the population that means there could about 1.9 million black adults who own ebook readers. That means if you can get just one out of ten black ebook readers to buy your book that could be 190,000 sales.

The market is there. All you have to do is the marketing. Oh yeah you have to write a decent book.

Crabs in a barrel or is it the blind leading the blind

A lot of authors feel threatened by other authors they consider the competition. The ease of ebook publication has made some authors feel even more threatened. The truth be told no author is competition to any other author.

I first learned this on the streets of the Bronx trying to sell my books. I had a street vendor on Fordham Road and Webster who sold  a lot of my books. I would stand at his table sometimes for up to an hour just talking about the book business. But I would also talk to the customers.

I found out about two things that sold books. One was word of mouth. People bought books that they heard were good, or that they saw lots of others reading. But the other thing that sold books were other books. I saw people come back to the vendor's table after reading a good book. They would be excited and would want something else to read. Now they were willing to read whatever he recommended. This is when he would push my book, which didn't have the word of mouth recommendation yet.

What many novelist don't realize is or at least they don't act like they realize it is, readers can buy your book and another authors as well.

I had another author/vendor on 125th Street in Harlem, hide my books because he felt I was competition. When I asked him why my books were at the back of his table covered by some old books, his response was people were complaining about my book. But when I talked to other vendors they said the book was selling well.

I hand sold my book to one lady who wouldn't buy books from street vendors. But once she read my book, she started buying books from vendors. She buys about twenty books a year now off the street, but only bought one from me. My one book sale helps about twenty authors a year.

The truth is, if you book is well written and you can tell a good story, your book can sell regardless of the competition. If you book is truly well written but doesn't sell, the problem is your marketing not the competition.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Colored People Time-When did the revolution actually start?

I'm not exactly sure when the ebook revolution started. But like many revolutions small individual acts of rebellion were springing up before anyone noticed. Personal computers and the internet were the major social change that made it all possible.

The internet made it possible for a regular dude like me from the Bronx to be able to find a book printer whom I could afford. Soon I had 2,000 books sitting in my living room and was selling books on Bronx street corners. Eventually through internet resources I was able to get my books on Then came Barnes & Noble. At first, a few of my friends and family members didn't take me serious. But when somebody that new me saw my book in Barnes & Noble, I was accepted as an author. But what really excited me was that the big book retailers considered me a publisher.

I had joined the revolution. Six years later, I still deal primarily with amazon and B&N. But I no longer sell print books. All my books go straight to the Kindle or Nook formats. Some authors resisted ebooks in the beginning, but any one who's serious about making money off their writing has joined in.

Yes most books sell for cheaper price, but you can now reach a world wide audience. And you no longer have to worry about the cost of printing, storing and shipping boxes of books.

I say all that to say this: I'm still hearing about African American self published authors who are still trying to sell old fashion, first and foremost. I'm not saying don't sell paperbacks. I'm saying go the ebook format first. Let me put it to you like this, imagine selling 10,000 copies of a book that didn't cost you nothing but time to make. And all you had to do was upload the book to the internet and collect the checks.

Don't be late for the revolution