Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Engine That Could--Your Mailing List



Those who know me know I’ve been on the 'build your email list' bandwagon for some time now.  As the market becomes more cluttered with indie writers writing more and more books, the marketing of our books is going to get harder and harder. Our mailing lists of go-to readers is what can keep us in the game.  As I discovered over the past few years, building this potent list is not easy.  It won’t happen overnight.  I’ve been at it for over a year now and my list is still quite small.  My mailing list, however, is like the little engine that could. 

I think I can,
I think I can,
I know I can,
I KNOW I can!

My mailing list is not very deep, but it is powerful.  Here’s a recent story that demonstrates the power of my list.  I’d been posting chapters of my latest WIP, The Memory Giver, on Wattpad all summer long.  In early September, to my delightful surprise, the book was featured by Wattpad and (like with Amazon) I noticed I had a ranking.  Just like with Amazon, the lower your ranking the more visible your book becomes to new readers.  The goal, like on Amazon, is to get to #1. The day my book appeared on the list it ranked just above #500 in horror. Because of the feature, the ranking began to drop. One day it got as low as #18. 

With Amazon your ranking is based on sales, but since Wattpad is free, I couldn’t determine what affected my ranking. I did some research and discovered to improve your ranking readers must “star” the chapters they read if they like them.  The more stars you can get in a short period of time, the lower your ranking becomes.

After the first two weeks of my feature my ranking began to climb. It was still pretty good, hovering just under 100, but I wondered if my fans on my mailing list could help get the ranking down and keep it down a little longer.  So on Sunday October 19th, I emailed my frans on my list and told them I was looking for beta readers for my latest work and what I needed them to do to become one--read the chapters on Wattpad and star the ones they enjoyed.  They acted swiftly.  On October 21st The Memory Giver dropped to #14 on the list.  Today, two days later, it’s still #15. 



I have a regular mailing list with 100s of names, but it’s just a list because I didn't realize how important my list could be when I started it. A little over a year ago I started another list, my special list. I only have a handful of followers on my special list, but look at the power they pack.  Imagine if I had hundreds or thousands of these types of followers.  I’ve now rededicated myself to adding quality names to my special list.  Eventually, I’ll phase out the other list. Imagine if we each had 10,000 loyal followers who bought everything we wrote; we’d be doing pretty well, wouldn't we?  Getting there is not going to happen overnight.  You need to build a list of frans (friend + fan = fran) who listen when you talk to them. You do this one name (one fran) at a time.

By the way, I sent a similar email to those on my regular list.  Two people (out of 400) responded. That list will definitely be phased out. We don’t just want names on our mailing lists, we want friends who we can talk to.  Like I said, building this list won’t be easy, but in a year or two, it will be worth it.  So start now to build your mailing list of special frans one name at a time.

In a future post I’ll tell you how I'm going about building my special list.  In the meantime, if you’d like to read chapters of the (as of today) #15 horror novel on Wattpad, The Memory Giver (it’s free) Go here: THE MEMORY GIVER.   If you do stop by, please remember to “star” the chapters you enjoyed.  Thank you.


Keep Reading-Keep Writing!


Friday, October 17, 2014

It's Time To Adapt Your Novel For The Screen



There’s a new phenomenon sweeping the Hollywood landscape. Authors are being allowed to adapt their own works for the screen.  For most of my career this has not been the norm.  Typically, the studio would purchase the rights to your book and then bring in a screenwriter or two to “adapt” it—often to disastrous results, definitely to unnerving results for the author.  Just ask Stephen King about The Lawnmower Man.

Recently, however, there seems to be a change in the air.  Authors are being allowed to write the screenplays for their works, and some of the results have been stunning: Gillian Flynn wrote the movie adaptation of her novel, Gone Girl, Dennis Lehane adapted his short story The Drop, and Johnathan Tropper wrote This Is Where I Leave You.  All three movies have received good notices from the critics. 

With these successes, Hollywood  will be more open to authors penning their novels for the screen. So what are you waiting for? Now is the perfect time for independent authors to start working on their screenplays.

As an author who’s spent most of my career writing for TV and film, I can tell you writing a screenplay is a very different animal than writing a novel.  Animal?  Heck, it might not even be considered the same species.  If you haven’t written for the screen before it’s going to take some training, but if you’re a self-published or independent author, chances are you’re no stranger to training and learning new skills.

Take a screenwriting class, or buy a book on screenwriting.  There are lots of good books on screenwriting out there.  I trained so long ago I don’t want to steer you wrong on what to read so ask around.  I will tell you Linda Seeger’s Making A Good Script Great was a good book for me, and helped me immensely with the writing and rewrite of the Academy Award nominated short film, Cadillac Dreams

You know you’ve always wanted to see your book on the screen.  It’s time to get to work on your screenplay.  In a future post I’ll give you a few tips on what to do once your screenplay has been completed. 


Happy Reading – Happy Writing


You can read more about Flynn, Lehane and Tropper in this Variety article.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

On Writing What You Know



They say write what you know.  This doesn’t mean you can’t write about unicorns because you don’t know one.  By the way, I do know a few unicorns and if you want to write about one I’ll introduce you.  But I digress. What this means to me is write about people you understand; write about emotions you understand and can relate to. This rule is not meant to be taken literally. It does not mean to write about J who borrowed your favorite jacket and then sold it for drug money.  Sure, you can write about this literally, but what’s more interesting is to write about the person’s emotional state when they borrowed your jacket knowing they never planned to give it back.  Write about your emotional state when you discover you’ve been duped by a friend.  This is what I believe is meant by writing what you know.

With my latest WIP, however, I’ve seemingly moved backwards and gone somewhat to the literal stage.  While The Memory Giver is a ghost story, at its heart it’s about the unlikely romance of a pre-teen boy and girl.  Anyone who’s seen my WIP on Wattpad (If you’re interested GO HERE) knows chapter one begins when a girl rescues a boy from some bullies. This really happened to me--literally.  When I was in the eighth grade, I really did get rescued (in a sense) by a girl.



Susan was new to the neighborhood, but had quickly earned a reputation for herself as one of the girls not to be messed with.  Not by girls.  Not by boys.  Not by teachers.  Susan was the first girl I knew who smoked.  I’d often see her sitting on her stoop, a cigarette dangling from her lip like a card shark, as she talked a-mile-a-minute.   The way that cigarette could hang there without dropping off was a fascination to me.   While other young girls who smoked put out their cigarettes before they got into the neighborhood, Susan smoked right in front of her own apartment building. 

She had scars on her arms, and one on her upper lip from fighting, I guess.  I’d never seen Susan in a fight, but I’d heard about her beating up boys.  Her prowess only added to her mystique. Beneath the scowl and the scars and the cloud of smoke, Susan was cute.  She was no raving beauty, but who was back then.

I was in the accelerated learning program, and somehow Susan was placed in my class.  She didn’t look like she belonged there, but no one was going to question her presence.  One day in home room three of the popular boys were teasing me.  I can’t remember why.  I’d known these guys since 6th grade. 

“Stop messin’ with my boyfriend,” Susan said.  She seemed dead serious.

The entire class stopped what they were doing and looked at her.  Susan was a girl of a few words.  She’d had very little social interaction with the class until then.

“Who?  Eric?” one of the boys said, as if she’d just told a joke.  

Susan stood up.“You got a problem with that?”

Needless to say, no one had a problem with me being Susan’s boyfriend. The teasing stopped.   I couldn’t figure out why she did it, why she came to my rescue.  Even though I was glad the teasing stopped, it was embarrassing having a girl stand up for me.  Then, to my surprise, after school, Susan appeared by my side.



“Hi, boyfriend,” she said with a big smile.

“Umm. Hi.”

“Were you leaving without me?  Aren’t you going to walk me home?”

“Umm.  Sure.”

Things went back to normal after a few days, but I never forgot Susan, and I used this incident as a springboard for my latest.

This writing from my past is actually a first for me.  I can’t say I’m growing as a writer, although I can say my material is getting closer to home. In part II of this post I’ll talk about my older brother, the other person my latest is about. 

Write what you know means to write about the people and emotions you understand enough to explore. You can also write about amusing or interesting situations you’ve been in.  Just don’t take the adage too literally and start writing about you and your three friends in high school who all like the same boy.  That may be interesting to you, but it will bore us readers to tears.  Use the adage judiciously.

Are you writing what you know?  I’d like to know.

Keep Reading-Keep Writing

Friday, September 12, 2014

Thanks Wattpad!




Todya I received some exciting news.  Wattpad has selected my WIP The Memory Giver as one of their featured books this month starting today 9/12. The book will be on their featured book list for the next several months.  That means that during that time my new work will be exposed to many more readers.  How cool is that?

If you don't know about Wattpad, it's a community of readers and writers where we authors can expose our works or as in my case, works in progress to readers to get their opinion and/or approval.  So far the response to The Memory Giver has been outstanding which is why I believe It's been chosen.  This is a great honor for me, as it allows new readers to become fans of my work, so...

Thanks, Wattpad!


If you're not aware of The Memory Giver, my latest novel in progress, it's a romantic horror thriller.  If you'd like to know more about it please click here for The Memory Giver page on my website.  If you'd like to shoot on over to Wattpad and start reading go here: TMG Wattpad. If you sign up to follow me on Wattpad you can receive the latest chapters or updates right in your mailbox. If you're a fan I'm telling you it's my best book yet.  The language and subject matter are a bit stronger than my earlier books. That's because I'm writing it with my horror writing alter-ego, Sal Conte.  And Sal has a foul mouth. Seriously.

When you read it, please leave comments.  Those who leave several will be chosen as beta readers when the entire novel is ready for publication.  So, there's a reward for commenting. I believe the book will be coming out in December or January. Leave comments and you'll be the first to get a copy in your hands.

That's all for now.  I hope everyone had an awesome summer.  I did.  I've been writing The Memory Giver.

Keep Reading-Keep Writing.
E

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

How Are Your Summer Sales?


It's been a month since I posted about my summer sales experiment.  I thought I'd take a moment to catch you up.  I know I said I was going to recap after two weeks, but I was still gathering information. If you'd like to read the initial post go here: Summer Sales.

As of today, July 30th, I've given away just over 8500 books.  Most of the books were given away at the beginning of the promotion. I gave away 6200 between June 18th and June 30th. I did two paid promotions in June advertising that the first book in the series was now free.  I spent around $100 on June promotions. Not a lot to begin stimulating stagnant sales.

I don't want to bore you with numbers, but I can tell you this: as I said earlier, the freebie has stimulated sales across the franchise.  My rough estimate is we sold between 200-250 books in July. While I haven't reached my goal of 750-1500 sales during the slow summer months, I am selling books during the toughest time of year to sell books. You may recall my May sales (before the experiment) across the franchise were below 100 books.  At the rate I'm going I will sell around 600 books between June 18th and September 1st.

The lesson here is to not sit pat and watch your sales dwindle.  Do something to stimulate them.  If that thing doesn't work, try something else.  For me, 600 books in 2 1/2 months is not a lot. But when I started this experiment my sales were in the toilet, so it looks like the experiment is working.

Another thing, always keep writing.  It may be that next book that propels you into the Kindle top 100. Stop fretting over the books you've already written and write a new one.  One more thing you should know:  Sales seem to increase right after promotion periods, and fall off dramatically when you're not advertising. However, if you run too many freebie promotions you will lose effectiveness. I suggest you keep all your promotional activity over a one week period, then stop for a while. I'd say at least two weeks.  And don't throw a lot of money at it.  You want to make sure you're revenue is higher than what you're spending to advertise.

I'd love to hear how your summer sales experiments are going--or any ideas you might have to stimulate sales. Let's share the information. Please write me here. Now I'm going back to work on my latest; this one is a romantic horror/thriller The Memory Giver. This is the big one, the top 100 seller, I can tell  ;-) You can read more about it here, and even download a free audio presentation of the book's prologue as well by clicking on the book title above.



Have a safe and enjoyable rest of your summer. Keep Reading-Keep Writing!

E  

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Stir Things Up to Boost Summer Sales


It's no secret that summer represents a sales challenge for authors. People travel, take vacations and spend more time outside.  This translates to fewer hours in front of the computer shopping.  Two years ago I was caught totally off guard by the summer sales doldrums.  In March of 2012 both Boyfriend From Hell and Earth Angel landed in  Amazon's top 10 Children's and YA ebooks.  Both books were selling well.  In May and June with no promotion I still sold 500 books, no sweat.  Then July hit and--SCREECH! the bottom fell out. Man, was I depressed.  Sales eventually returned in the fall, but summer was brutal. Last summer (2013) I made sure to have some promo activity (a sale or contest) throughout the summer to help keep sales from slipping too much.

Fast forward to 2014.  I must admit to you this has not been a good year for me.  The final book in The Falling Angels Saga, Falling, was delayed from debuting in November of 2013 to March of this year. It was totally my own fault. I missed the holiday season because I got side-tracked on a TV project.  Despite lots of promotion the new book did not sell well.  That was a first for me. Another first, sales across the entire Falling Angels franchise were in free fall, falling from 500 to 400 to less than 100 books a month by May.



By mid May, knowing that summer was coming, I knew we had to do something.  My publisher (Chris Meeks of White Whisker) and I had been putting our heads together since March with new promo ideas.  We'd see small blips during the promo periods and then sales would go flat again.  So I approached Chris with the radical idea of making Boyfriend From Hell perma-free.  In a long email, I made a compelling argument on how we needed to breath new life into the franchise by creating new fans.  While Chris didn't respond to the idea of perma-free, he did think making Boyfriend From Hell free for the summer was worth a shot.  Heck, we weren't selling any books anyway.  The giveaway began on June 18th, ten days ago, and so far things are going very well.

As of this morning we're up to 6200 free downloads.  More importantly, we're selling books across the franchise.  The final two books in the franchise have been priced at $5.99, a bit more than I would have liked, but surprise, surprise, they're selling.  At the start of the promotion no book was ranked below 100,000.  Heaven Sent and Falling were hanging out around 350, 000.  I don't have exact sales figures, but I know we've sold over 100 books in the 10 days.  Not great, but far better than where we were. Here are my rankings as of this moment.

Boyfriend From Hell (free): #194 in the free store #1 Teen Horror

Earth Angel ($2.99): #40,562
Heaven Sent: ($5.99): #52,987
Falling: ($5.99):  #65,903

Every book in the franchise is now selling.  Every book has been ranked under #100,000 for the last 5 days. I feel as more new readers get around to reading the free books they've downloaded that trend will continue.  If we give away 10,000 free books, and five percent of those readers convert to sales across the franchise (500 readers Xs 3 books), that's 1500 sales during the slow summer months.  If two and a half percent convert, that's 750 sales. Not great, but a lot better than I'd been doing.  It also represents 500 new hard core fans for my next book.  I'll report on my progress in another two weeks.

Boyfriend From Hell is now Free

I know many authors don't have 4 books available and can't afford to give one book away for three months. The idea is not to do what I did, but to do something daring.  Change up your promo patterns.  Hold an oddly interesting contest, package several chapters and give those away. If you try something and it doesn't work, try something else.  But don't stand pat.  Summer sales doldrums can be brutal.  Have fun while trying to think your way out of it.  Oh... and if you haven't read Boyfriend From Hell--guess what?  It's now free.

Keep reading-Keep Writing!




Monday, June 16, 2014

An Update from Sal Conte



Hello my Peeps. It's me, Sal.  My "Pal" E. has allowed me to use this platform to talk to those of you who haven't yet started reading our writing collaboration, The Memory Giver.  What's the matter with you people?  Do you realize I haven't published a word since 2010s short story, The Toothache Man, and before that, nothing, nada, not one word out of me since the 80s.  Most of you were little babies back then, am I right? So if I'm writing now it must be because I have a whole lot to say.  It was back in the 80s that E. left me for dead, but I promised I wouldn't go into that here, and I'm a man of my word.  What I do want to say is The Memory Giver is turning out to be a fun collaboration.  It's a nice combo of our styles:  creepy horror with some light-hearted romance and a kick-ass thriller.



Chapters have been going up on Wattpad Sunday evenings for a few weeks now.  Many of you don't like to read in short busrts, so now's a good time to jump in as there's a nice chunk of story up there just waiting to be read.  It's enough for you to get a sense if you want to stay with it or not, and after you've read it, I'm sure you will.



Just click on the WATTPAD link, sign up and you're all set to follow along.   If you download the FREE WATTPAD MOBILE APP you can easily follow along on your phone or tablet.  What's more fun than creepy horror all summer long?  Free creepy horror all summer long.  Sign-up now.