Tag Archives: self-publishing

Marketing 101

A guest post by Doug Dandridge.

Empires at WarI’m not sure if you can call me the world’s greatest expert on self-marketing. However, since I am closing in on 130,000 book sales in thirty-four months, I must be doing something right. I have made over $300,000.00 in that time period, and am a full time working author. In this blog, I will give a quick rundown on some of the things I have done. I will go ahead and plug a book I wrote which is available on Amazon called How I Sold 100,000 Books On Amazon. I’ve heard from some people who read the book and reported increased success. I don’t have time to go into everything in this brief essay, but will cover what I think are the most important points. Of course, most important is to write a book that a lot of people will want to read when you put it out there. But that is of no use if you can’t attract people to give it a try.

Establish a web presence. You want your name, not just the name of your book, to take up the top slots in a Google search. There are several things I did here. First, I established a web site, with a lot of outgoing links, which hopefully will help generate more incoming links. This will raise it up in the search algorithms. Next I established a blog. I was able to get domain names for both blog and website that were my name, dougdandridge, one with a .com, one with a .net. I went on Amazon and Goodreads and rated a hell of a lot of books I had read, and left actual reviews for most of them. Blog when you can. It doesn’t have to be daily, and don’t just blog on how people can buy your book. Blog on things of interest around the topics of your books. I do blogs on armor, modern and future weapons, tropes, movies, all kinds of stuff, and then also do a couple of blogs, with excerpts, whenever I put out a book. And don’t let the number of subscribers put you off. I only have about a 150 subscribers, but my blog, published about every other week, gets hundreds of views a day. That’s because I also tweet the blog, with hashtags, and post it on a number of Facebook pages frequented by people interested in fantasy, scifi or ebooks in general. Also do blogs for other people when asked, and ask them if they don’t get around to it. I have done blogs for people like David Farland, and for people who have less than fifty subscribers. I feel like it is a reciprical effort, helping both parties. The result is that I have the top twenty slots on Google for Doug Dandridge now. When I started out I was on page two with one entry, and there aren’t that many Doug Dandridges out there to compete with.

Advertise your other books in each of your books, with hyperlinks to make it easy for readers to get to them. I also have a newsletter, which, while it has slightly less than 300 subscribers, has a much better than average opening rate. The newsletter is probably responsible for a couple of hundred early sales of each book, driving them up the genre charts, which gets even more attention. Reviews are important, probably as much as anything. Not actually what they said, but how they rate you, and the average of those ratings. Do not buy reviews. Repeat, do not buy reviews. But if anyone compliments you, on Facebook, your blog or by email, ask them if they will give you a review. One review I got was a three star for another series, but he complimented me on my Exodus series, and I asked him is we would be kind enough to write a review for one of those books. I got another five star review out of that transaction.

I got started with Amazon giveaways. I have given away almost 16K ebooks, and several of those giveaways have driven my sales. The trick is to not just do the giveaway, but to advertise those dates. I use Author’s Marketing Club, which has a free page where you can visit sites that let you advertise your free book. Most of the sites are free, some charge a nominal fee, but it’s worth it. You also blog and tweet the giveaway. How well have they worked? In September of 2012 I gave away 4,100 copies of The Deep Dark Well, a book which has sold almost 6,000 copies since. When I released the first of my Exodus: Empires at War books, it started flying off the Amazon servers. In May 2014 I did a giveaway of that very Exodus book, just after releasing book 6. I gave away 4,900 copies of book 1. The five Exodus books were selling between fifty and a hundred books a month at that time. After the giveaway, each volume sold over five hundred copies in May, including the one I had just given away. Over two thousand books, for over six thousand dollars in royalties. Cha ching. So they are still useful, if done properly.

Twitter is a big part of my platform. And twitter doesn’t work well at all when you’re just starting out. What I did was join an indie author’s site, Independent Authors Network, and started retweeting the tweets from some of their most followed authors. Eventually I was tweeting about fifty authors, and when I started to tweet my own books, I was being retweeted to several hundred thousand followers. And I learned about hashtags, which get your tweets in front of people who are not following you or anyone you know. Hootsuite was also useful in scheduling tweets around the clock, so I could get my message in front of fans in Australia.

And those are my basic steps for getting some notice. Some may work well for you, some may not. Among the strategies that don’t work are paid advertisements. Among others that work well are volunteering to do essays on other blogs, like this one. Or, as Kevin J. Anderson says when offered an opportunity that might help, “I can do that.”

11348812_911349812241779_1132617393_nDoug Dandridge Bio:
Doug Dandridge is a Florida native, Army veteran and ex-professional college student who spent way too much time in the halls of academia. He has worked as a psychotherapist, drug counselor, and, most recently, for the Florida Department of Children and Families. An early reader of Heinlein, Howard, Moorcock and Asimov, he has always had a love for the fantastic in books, TV and movies. Doug started submitting science fiction and fantasy in 1997 and collected over four hundred rejection letters. In Decmeber of 2011 he put his first self-publishing efforts online. He currently has 26 books on Amazon, with two more due out over the summer. After a slow 8 month start, he has sold over 125,000 copies of his work in a 33 month period, and his Exodus: Empires at War science fiction series has placed five consecutive books at the number one rank on the Amazon.UK Space Opera and Military Science Fiction lists, and top five on Amazon.US. He has been published in Kevin J. Anderson’s Five By Five military science fiction anthology, and has been invited to submit to several others. He quit his day job in March 2013, and has since made a successful career as a self-published author

Celebrating a Launch

Set in Stone CoverBig magic.

Big adventure.

Lots of humor.

May 1st saw the release of Set in Stone in both hardcover and ebook format!

The release of Set in Stone was a long time in coming and a huge milestone. It kicked off the 8 books in 8 months publishing blitz I’m trying to do this year, and launched the Petralist series, a YA fantasy series that’s already being enjoyed by a wide audience, from middle-schoolers to adults.

Tomorrow, at sixteen, Connor will reveal his secret curse to the world and take his place as a guardian.

If he survives today.

When armies descend upon his peaceful village, led by superhuman Petralists and clever Builders, most people run and hide. Connor’s not that smart. He manages to get caught in the middle of the escalating conflict. Worse, he learns his curse is the rarest of powers, and both sides will do anything to control it and secure his loyalty. Connor is fast, but even he can’t outrun this avalanche.

Truths are sacrificed, loyalties are sundered, and dangerous girls twist his heart into knots.

That’s when things get complicated.

While his friends try to free the village under siege, Connor peels back layers of intrigue and half-truths to find secrets neither side wants him to know. Surrounded by deadly enemies that all claim to be his friends, Connor must choose a course with the lives of everyone he loves hanging in the balance.

His only hope is to gamble everything on a curse that could destroy them all unless his final choice is Set in Stone.

The book launch was a great experience. In fact, I blogged about it here.

You can find Set in Stone at every ebook retailer. Hardcovers are available online as well, or you can order signed copies directly from me. I’ll have my website (www.frankmorin.org) updated soon with the shopping cart. Until then, feel free to contact with requests.

The sequel, No Stone Unturned, is expected to be released in August.

#8books8months #SetinStone

Not Another Edit!

EditsMost non-writers, and many new writers, have no idea that finishing that manuscript and typing END is anything but the end. I know when I started writing, I couldn’t see beyond reaching that final scene. Of course, that first novel was a 300,000 word monstrosity that took me over two years to complete, but the principle is universal.

The first draft is not the final draft.

That truth is even more daunting when we consider how few wannabe writers actually reach the end of their first draft. Of those who do, many lack the determination to see the project to its full completion.

It’s easy to assume the tragic artiste pose and proclaim in an awful imitation of an accent from some European country, “This is my Art and the muse must be honored. The words were given to me like this for a reason.”

Not if you want to sell it and actually have someone read it.

This becomes the dividing line between those who like dabbling in writing as an enjoyable hobby and those who are serious about becoming a Writer as a career.

Some first drafts are pretty good, but pretty good isn’t enough. Every successful author I know recognizes they will need to make several editing passes through each novel before it’s ready. One of the reasons we’re encouraged to write what we love is because if we don’t LOVE our stories enough to work through them at least half a dozen times, we’re going to HATE them before the process is complete.

Many new authors don’t understand this and unfortunately in today’s ebook world, it’s all too easy to complete that first draft and throw the book right up on Amazon.

I for one have read some of those stories. After wading through the piles of novels that make me cringe when I look at the cover or read the first page, I’ve selected one that looked like it had real promise. Many times those ebooks turn out to be pretty decent, maybe have a great concept and tons of potential, but where the author wasn’t patient enough to really finish the work.

I find it tragic when I complete an ebook like that. When I think, “You know, that could have been a really good book. But it was only about 90% finished and needed more polishing.”

What a waste.

Not only of my time, but of the author’s time. They worked so hard bringing that novel to life, only to not put in the effort to get it that last 10%. It’s like Frankenstein stitching together the perfect monster only to not bother raising it up on the platform during the lightning storm. That last 10% is what infuses the story with it’s real life.

That’s one of my fears: that my novels won’t be ready.

I cringe when I think back to my first monstrous novel. With how little I knew about the industry, about editing, I was convinced it was a great work and totally ready to go. Had the ebook revolution already been underway, I probably would have self-published it.

I would have destroyed that story.

I’m glad I didn’t have that option and that the dozens of rejection letters finally clued me in that there was something missing. I’ve since thrown that novel away and rebuilt it from the ground up. The resulting story is ten times better and is one of the eight books I’m preparing for publication in my upcoming “Eight Books in Eight Months” publishing blitz.

Before I pull the trigger on those novels though, I’ve dedicated the time to rewrites, I’ve gathered honest feedback from beta readers, and I’ve worked with professional editors (including Joshua Essoe and Evan Braun) to make sure they’re really ready.

Even so, I still have to wonder, are they really?

This time I feel a lot more justified in saying, “Yes.”

Literary Agents are Still a Good Idea . . . Sometimes

ebook vs physical bookWhen the ebook revolution first began a few years ago, people rallied into two very distinct camps: one was the camp of the revolutionaries who pomoted the ebook-only route and
proclaimed the death of traditional publishing and teased those who still believed in the ‘old ways’ of being dinosaurs.

The other was the traditionalist camp scoffing at the young upstarts and their wild west approach to books, promising that no good end could come to those who started down that dark and unproven path.

It was a pretty exciting (some might say nerve-wracking) time, and no one was sure which camp would ultimately win the war of words.

ReesesThe situation reminded me of the Reeses Peanut Butter Cup commercials arguing about chocolate vs peanut butter. And like the commercial, reality seems to have found a way to bring those two great approaches to book publishing together. It is no longer an either/or discussion.

The most recent evidence suggests that the market is stabilizing. Ebooks now make up a large part of the new landscape, particularly the US market, while traditional publishing has survived the coup and has stabilized. The good news is that more books are being sold through both mediums. As of today, neither ebooks nor traditionally published physical copies appear to be heading the way of the dodo any time soon.

That’s great news for writers.

But the world has definitely shifted and writers need to approach this new world intelligently. The two markets are different, and different types of books tend to fit better in different slots, so writers need a plan.

As Brandon Sanderson, best-selling fantasy author recommends, it is a good idea to take shorter novels that can be produced more quickly (every 6 months max) and publish them as ebooks while taking longer novels like epic fantasy and publish those via traditional publishing, probably at the rate of one book per year. It makes so much sense that most of the authors I speak with are considering or actively pursuing the Reeses Approach, trying to establish a presence in both markets to leverage different strengths in each.

That is the approach I am taking.

Last year I entered the ebook world with an urban fantasy novella, Saving Face. This year I will complete and e-publish a trilogy set in the same urban fantasy setting. Those books are the beginning of my indie publishing market penetration, the chocolate in my Reeses.

At the same time, I still chose to secure the help of an agent, and am working with him to find a traditional publisher for my big fat epic fantasy novel, and another large YA fantasy novel. The signs are promising, so hopefully deals will be struck with both of those series this year. These are the beginning of my traditional publishing market penetration, the peanut butter side to the equation.

Some people ask, “Why do I need an agent now that we have ebooks?”

The answer is, “You may not.”

If you are convinced your only road to publishing is to directly e-publish your own novels as an indie author, or perhaps go with an ebook-only publisher like Musa Publishing, then an agent is not going to be able to add any value to you.

But in the traditionally published book world, agents still make a lot of sense. They not only have access to many publishers that authors just cannot reach, but they have established relationships with sub-agents to sell their authors’ works internationally. Those international sales can provide a huge advantage for authors, as the ebook revolution has not made such inroads in much of the rest of the world and physical copies still make up the majority of book sales there.

So when a writer decides to pursue traditional publishing for some of their works and they find an agent who extends an offer of representation, the next step is to establish the writer/agent relationship.

This generally results in a short legal document that both parties sign that lays out the agreement between them. It should include the percentage commission the agent expects to receive from the various types of media through which the books can be marketed. For example, a common commission rating is:

  • US Rights: 15%
  • UK or Foreign Rights: 20% inclusive of sub-agent’s commission. 15% if direct.
  • Translation Rights: 20% inclusive of sub-agent’s commission. 15% if direct.
  • RADIO 15%
  • THEATRE 15% Subject to negotiation
  • TELEVISION 15% Subject to negotiation
  • NEWSPAPER & MAGAZINE ARTICLES, S,SHORT FICTION,ANTHOLOGY 15% when applicable (7.5% when contract vetting only)
  • FILM 15% Subject to negotiation

The agreement should also include a termination clause, which allows for either party to terminate the agreement, usually with a month’s prior notice. Generally the agent still collects commission on those works which were sold through them, and will collect commission for any works sold within a set period of time after the termination of the contract if they were the ones who submitted those works to publishers (usually 90 day window).

Given that many authors now follow the hybrid Reeses Approach, it is a good idea to include a clause in any agreement signed that explicitly states that those books which the author directly e-publishes on their own instead of traditionally publishing through the agent and a publisher who will produce physical copies are exempt. But any ebook royalties on the electronic sales of those books published through traditional publishers and negotiated with the help of the agent are included in the commissions they would expect to receive.

The agreement should be short, simple, and clear. I am not a lawyer, but that is my opinion.

So yes, I am a believer in the Reeses Approach to book publishing. I did sign with an agent and I am anxious to sign that first deal with a traditional publisher that he is working to line up for me because I see value in getting hard copies into bookstores and gaining access to the international markets that would be difficult to penetrate as an indie-only writer. I am also loving the indie publishing route and am looking forward to completing the new trilogy, getting those books online, and participating in all of the exciting marketing opportunities for indie writers.