Thursday, July 25, 2013

Don't Promote

Yes, Burger King is into the "hard sell..." Not a good idea for authors...But you gotta love the "super seven incher" ad copy...

Things change at lightening speed in this business. Which means, what was hot and happening and the absolutely only alternative yesterday is today, cold and old and as outdated as your great grandmother's underwear.

Three years ago when I first started working with indie publishers you didn't go a day without posting something about your books on Facebook, Twitter, and even Myspace. Of course, you had to watch what you posted since you couldn't directly ask someone to buy your book. You needed to utilize a more indirect approach. For instance, you might post something on Facebook about "Identical Twins" and their uncanny ability to know what one another are thinking at any given time, which on the surface seems like the kind of interesting topic that might pull you away from your accounts payable reports at work. But within the piece itself would be a quick mention of my novel, The Remains. Of course, The Remains is about a set of identical twins who communicate even after one of them has died.

Oops, I did it again...I just promoted The Remains.

But not so fast. The point here is that even that kind of off-handed, soft, and gentle promo is not as effective as it used to be. Which is why I rarely do it anymore. Instead I just might post a piece on Twins and let it go at that.

But then how do I get the word out about new books?

I still use all the social media tools, but instead of shotgunning dozens of notices over dozens of engines, I elect instead to send out a mention of the new book on Facebook and Twitter on its release day. I'll also set up a Facebook event page in order to invite certain people who might be interested in reading it. Lastly I'll utilize a guaranteed reader's list of email addresses (which have been obtained with permission from the people who own them) by sending out a direct mailing.

All in all, even this softer approach won't light the book on fire, but it will serve to slowly get the wheels turning. You don't want to see a huge surge in sales on Day 1 only to see your book fall to the back of the algorithm line on Day 2. Better to see your book slowly begin to make its rise to the top over a period of weeks or even months (It took The Innocent nine months to reach the Amazon Overall Top 100...The same for Godchild, The Remains, The Concrete Pearl, and others...).

Things like virtual blog tours, the occasional free special, and blogging, remain important tools. So does careful pricing, as well as a great cover, and a great product description. But nothing sells like writing more books. The author who can put out great work speedily and consistently will find that he or she is writing faster than publishers can keep up. Even indie publishers. I suppose that's when authors begin to contemplate self-publishing (No, despite the rumor, I have yet to self-publish...Surprise, surprise...But I will one day).

Amazon's algorithms have changed. Books that surge to the top are almost automatically now pushed to the back of the line. Better to focus on slow, steady growth than a fast shotgun approach. Don't think sprint, think slow jog. Think organic growth. But don't think for too long, because a week from now, the blog you just read will be old, and dumb, and useless. Like the Beatles once sang, "Tomorrow Never Knows..."


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Party's Over! Don't Let the Door Slap You in Ass on the Way Out...

"Party's over..."

Just arrived back from Thrillerfest in NYC.

As always it's...well...a thrill to hang out with my publishers and drink and eat and gossip and pat one another on the back. It's even greater to see some of the very talented and successful authors who through the years have become real friends. It's even fun to be in the presence of some authors who are not my friends but whom I'm a fan of. Big names like Michael Connelly, Anne Rice, Joseph Finder and more. It's also strange when you find yourself signing copies of your newest novel at table just two or three down from Lee Child.

"Hey Lee, how's about Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher? Not sure Mr. Smiley was the right choice. Let's grab a beer and talk about it later."

Until fairly recently I've always avoided conferences like the plague.
They're expensive and time consuming, and in terms of sales not much will happen there as a result of downing a few beers with your fellow authors. An author friend of mine refers to conferences as one big "circle jerk." Yah, he's right. If however, you're looking for an agent or a publisher, literary conferences such as ThrillerFest is a good place to be (I did hear of one neophyte writer who pitched an agent and signed up with him on the spot...).

Two years ago, I attended my first Thrillerfest back when I was strictly independent. I walked in like I owned the joint, having just come off the sale of 100,000 editions of The Innocent, another 30 or 40K of Godchild back up by similar numbers with The Remains.

One year ago, I had just signed a 7 book, "very nice" deal with Thomas & Mercer. We were anticipating the first batch of books to be released on October 1, with a couple of books to be released in December 2012. It was an exciting time, because life was all about the anticipation.

This year there was still excitement, but life is more or a work in progress at present. I'm speedily earning out my advance, while finishing some new books, and anticipating which roads to take when publishing them down the line.

This is a rapidly changing industry and who knows what next year will bring. I do however have a strong feeling that the writer who walked through the doors of the Grand Central Hyatt (the home of Thrillerfest) this year, will not be the same writer who walks through them in July 2014. The work in progress year will quickly come to a close this Fall as the new writer emerges from his cocoon and dramatically steps up his game in terms of writing, publishing, and marketing.

After all, being a writer is like being a shark. If you're not always moving forward, you die.


Saturday, July 6, 2013

THE GUILTY is Born (or Jack Marconi is Back!)

  Jack is Back!

Years ago when I was writing The Innocent and Godchild for a major publisher (back then The Innocent was called As Catch Can, which never really rolled off the tongue the right way for me), I had assumed I'd be writing about Jack Marconi, former maximum security prison warden turned private detective, for the rest of my days. I was only thirty at the time.

But then my publishing deal started going south when the imprint I was with was handed its walking papers and the office was swallowed up by another imprint that didn't want to back Jack in the first place. In fact, although they honored my contract and even paid me my full advance, which was quite hefty, Jack was relegated to the broom closet. In the words of my then editor, "I'm think Marconi is done for a while." RIP, that is.

But then something miraculous happened. About three years ago my agent (now retired, but what a wonderful woman God bless her), was able to wrangle the rights back from said major pub for both Marconi books (You see, even though the publisher wasn't going to publish anymore Jack, they still insisted on holding onto the rights for the first two Marconi's for years...). How she did it, I'm still not sure. But the novels were promptly republished by StoneGate Ink. In just a single six week period, The Innocent went on to sell more than 100,000 copies while earning more then 60 four and five star reviews. I entered into the Top Ten overall Kindles on Amazon and I was blowing even the top New York Times Bestsellers out of the water. Godchild fared almost as well selling tens of thousands of copies. In the end, I'm sure said major publisher was punching itself in the head thinking, "Why oh why did I let those rights go?" Or perhaps, they should have said, "Why oh why didn't I back Jack?" Or maybe they said, "Who gives a rat's ass?"

Now The Innocent and Godchild have been bought out by Thomas & Mercer of Amazon Publishing and continue to be the gifts that keep on giving. Jack just won't quit. Which means, I've given the tough guy a new case. As always, it's loosely based on a true events.

Here's the tagline: Sometimes the recipe for true love can turn out to be the perfect poison.

Jack Marconi is back. In The Guilty, Jack finds himself investigating a local restaurateur who’s not only obsessed with the sexy, dark romance novel, Fifty Shades of Grey, he’s accused of attempting to murder his school teacher girlfriend. As the now brain-damaged young woman begins recalling events of that fateful winter night when she was allegedly pushed down the stairs of a West Albany mansion, she becomes the target of the angry foodie/sex-obsessed boyfriend once again. Only this time, he’s cooking up a plot to keep her silenced forever.

As you can see, I became a little intrigued with this popularity not only of the dark romance Fifty Shades of Grey but also with the the explosion of vampire, zombie, and fantasy lit. I wondered what it would be like if someone were to begin living the fantasy for real and if it could result in murder?

Jack Marconi is also pondering that very question in THE GUILTY.

Yup, Jack is Back, and he's as bad ass as always. You just can't keep him down. Like great poetry his message (and his actions) resonate.