Monday, November 21, 2011

Good luck charms that sell books

There's a discussion in one of amazon kindle's forums about if it takes luck or skill to be a successful writer.

The truth be told it takes lots of luck and skill. We all know there are plenty of lucky authors who were able to get there books mentioned on Oprah. Being on her show was like getting the winning lottery numbers two days before the lottery. But many forget the skill part. If your book is garbage and Oprah or whoever reads it and can't get past the first page, guess what?

All the luck in the world won't help you get that shout out. In other words people have to like your books. And not just any people. I'm talking about people who read and are willing to tell others about your book.

It takes some luck to have these first tier readers discover your book. And it takes some marketing skill. If you're an established author already with some sales under your belt, you have passed this hurdle. But if you are new, getting your book noticed may feel like the hardest thing to do.

If you are new and self published there are few things you can do.

1. Write a good book. Not a book that you and your loved ones think is good, but a book that people who pay for them think is good. Everybody's not going to like any book, but you better make sure the first tier readers like it. Because if they don't like it they will tell people your book sucks.

2. Only promote your book to people who read that type of book. I don't like romance books. Therefor every romance book that I come across will look like garbage to me. Why waste time and energy pushing your book to people who probably won't like it anyway. I write for African Americans in general. I don't promote my books in general to white readers. Some may say I'm missing out on potential sales but I learned from drug dealers a long time ago, you don't try to sell heroin at church picnics. You might have some luck with Tyler Perry movies but the dope probably won't sell too good.

3. Listen to the advice of people in the business. Things are changing fast, so some of the things they tell you might not work anymore, but listen anyway. You can use your own gut feelings to figure out if what they tell you is right. And too some degree you will have to trust luck. But the old saying is, if you want what someone has, you have to do what they do.

These three things can increase your luck factor. Because every seasoned gambler knows, you should never make a sucker bet.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Separating the men from the boys & I'm not talking about Penn State

See what a good title can do?  Actually I'm talking about separating professional writers from amateurs. 

1. A professional is an amateur that didn't quit. I've talked about it before, writers have to have persistence. It's important to understand that I don't mean just keep writing garbage. 

2. Pro's constantly are trying to better. We have to read books on writing, and learn from our customers experiences.

3.Pro's know that it's a business. When customers complain about our product we can't just get mad and say they are stupid because they couldn't understand your book. Because if their gripe is legit, and enough people agree, you won't sell too many books. And what that means is your the stupid one. But there is help. Read number two on this list again.

4. Pro's get paid. We can give away free samples of our writing. I gave away close to five hundred books a few years ago. But i sold a lot more. There's no semi pro league in writing. If you have ever gotten money for writing you are a professional.

The thing is the market is more competitive than ever. Not only do we have to compete with hundreds of new writers daily, there also playstations, 360's and movies on demand. Pro's recognize this and do what they need to do to deal with the new competition. 

Boxers like Mike Tyson used to study tapes of other fighters. Modern armies send in spies before they go to war and performers practice at least 8 hours before a one hour performance.

So we have to man up. In order be professionals. We have to do a little more than the other guy. Most importantly we have to keep writing. In reality, I'm saying this too myself more than anyone else.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Class System

It seems to me that there are two kinds of ebook buyers. There is the die hard read a book every few weeks reader. And there is the read every once in a while or when the weather is bad reader. When I look at my amazon and Barnes & Noble sales a few of things pop out at me.

The die hard readers read all types of books by all types of authors. But it looks like they tend to go after top sellers and or books from traditional publishers. Many of them will read indie authors books but some won't. I think this is why indie sales go down in the summer. Amazon is still selling lots of book, just not as many indie ones.

In the winter or when there is a spat of bad weekend weather, my sales and sales ranks go up.  This is when the every once and a while readers start to buy. This crowd seems to be more willing to give indie authors a try.

The weather was nice in NYC this weekend and it seems I couldn't give my books away. But on rainy weekends my sales seemed to jump even in the summer.

This may seem obvious to most of us, but some times we don't do things based on observations. More often than not our actions are based on emotions. Many writers got depressed and talked about wanting to give up during the summer. The extra competition, plus the fact that the die hard readers weren't that supportive of indie authors made them FEEL that it wasn't worth it. They stopped writing.

Now when sales for indies pick up in the winter they won't be ready with new books. They'll hear about all the indie ebooks that are selling and rush to write. The problem will be though, their books won't be finished until the spring when indie sales start to go down again. Again they'll be flooding the market when our type of books are not in season. Publishing like many other businesses is subject to seasonal cycles.

Just like there are two classes of regular readers, there are two classes of indie writers. Those that can get regular sales and those that can't. Both groups know that writing is an art. But only one seems to realize that publishing is a business.

Friday, November 11, 2011

You're fast you pass

If you read books on writing or have taken a class on writing, you've probably heard that good writing takes time. This may be true if you're writing a text book. But if you writing fiction there's no proof of this. Some of the greatest writers have written over a hundred books and short stories. And when I use the word greatest, I talking about writers whose books sell.

Why is this important. Because in the new world of ebook publishing, quantity counts. If you have put out an ebook, you may be wondering where the sales are. But if you have three or more ebooks out you are starting to see some sales. I'm not saying if you write a lot of books you are guaranteed a lot of sales but your chance will be increased.

This is because once people read an author they like, they will often read more of his books. Also if people see your name popping up on a few amazon or Barnes and Noble titles they may be more inclined to try you out.

Three of my shortest ebooks were written in one day. They're not best sellers but they sell one or two books a month. If I complete my goal to write over on hundred books in the next ten years that could add up to five or six hundred sales a month on books that are not selling well. Now imagine if one or two of them sells well.

I don't know about you but I am in this for the money.

By the way those one day written ebooks are under different pen names. This is important, but I'll tell you more about that later.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The writing on the wall

Everybody who can read, likes to read to some extent. They may not read novels, but when they're in a public restroom they definitely read the writing on the bathroom stall.

If you live in New York City and drive down the FDR you have tried to read the signs that the crazy homeless holds some where along the south bound side below 125th Street.

Reading seems to be in our nature. People love to text. And I don't care what anyone says, it's easier to call some one and talk than it is to tap out a bunch of letters on a small ass phone. But yet my baby's mother claims it's  easier for her to text me than to just call and say come pick up your kid.

I read some where that a majority of teen age girls now sleep with their cell phones in the bed with them. I don't know if that is true, but I have watched my daughter wake up, grab her phone before getting out of bed and start texting.

And we all know about the different emails that get passed around.

The reason most people don't read novels though is a no brainer to me. They find them boring. Before Sista Soulja reintroduced us to Urban Fiction, most Black people couldn't relate to novels. We weren't in most books. And when we were we didn't recognize the characters. Alex Cross may be a black character, but I can tell on a subconscious level that it's a white guy doing the talking.

A lot of Black people hate Urban Fiction. I guess the reason is, they spent years learning to read, write and talk like white people. And now regular talking black people are reading and writing books for and about regular black people.

Like rap music, Urban Fiction is here to stay. And like rap music, in a couple of years, white people will spend more money on it than we do. I see the writing on the wall

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Drama for your mama

There's an old saying in the teaching of writing; Happy families are boring. What this means to fiction writers is, your stories have to be about people who are in not so happy situations. How do we do this?

First off we have to understand, that part of what makes a story interesting is seeing some sort of action. Not just any action but action that shows us change.  You show your main character living life and then as quickly as possible something in their life changes. Not just any change but a what's the worst that can happen change.

Of course your character has to be likable. You have to establish that as quickly as possible too. Because if readers don't like the character, they won't care about  the change in said character's life.

Modern stories are told in scenes. Each major scene with your lead  should be about the main character trying to get out of whatever jam the major change has put them through. And each scene should end with your character a little worst off. This will keep people reading. You know how when you watch your favorite show and it ends on a cliff hanger, you can't wait for next weeks episode. Well if you end your scenes and chapters this way reader won't be able to put your book down.

I'll tell you another way to keep readers coming back for more, in my next instalment.

Doers and Waiters

Doers make orders waiters take them.

When people find out I'm an author, they often tell me they want to write a book. I call most of these people waiters. They'll tell me how great their idea for a book is and then they'll wait. Some will even ask me to help them write the book.

One person told me, they'll tell me the story and I could write it. When I asked them, "Why don't they write it?" They told me they weren't ready, they'd have to WAIT until they had the time.

The first step to writing a book, short story or even an email is sitting down to write. It also doesn't hurt to have something interesting to write about. But even books that are not that interesting often sell. The key is you have to write it.

So if you think you have a book in you, write it. Sit in front of your computer and get to typing. If you do it every day, the worst that could happen is you'll eventually have a book. Don't worry about wasting your time. So what you miss a few hours of TV.  But by its very definition, waiting, means wasting time.

So maybe you should stop reading this and start typing that book you always wanted to read.