Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Way I See It: Bad News

I have received over 50 comments, tweets and emails thanking me for my The Way I See It posts.  I hope you enjoy this one as much as you did the others.  If you do, please take a moment to drop by the comments section below and let me know.

Nothing can stop a writer in his tracks and keep him from reaching his goals like bad news: A one star review on your new novel; a turn down by an editor, or worse, an email telling you the publisher you had high hopes for passed on your new novel.  Your novel has been on Amazon for 6 months with weak reviews and weaker sales... Bad news can be debilitating.  Boyfriend From Hell has 90 ratings on Goodreads.  Only two of those are 1 star ratings, yet when I read each of them I felt depressed, even though I know how important bad news is to my success.

That's right, bad news is important to your success. You cannot succeed without it.  The problem with bad news is we take it emotionally, when in reality it's just information.  I cannot tell you I am going to stop having an emotional response to bad news, but I can tell you that when I get past the emotional dip, I look at the bad news for what it is.  In truth, bad news can be very good for you.  It is the only news you get that you can learn and grow from. 

Many of you know I spent much of my career writing and producing TV shows.  In the late 90s I had written and produced a pilot for UPN ( a now defunct network).  When pilots are complete, studios always put them before focus groups.  I had done several pilots over the years and hated siting behind a one-way mirror while the people in the room who couldn't see me trashed my work.  I told this to the president of UPN.  "I know you like my pilot.  Why do we have to do this?" I went on to tell him that I thought people in focus groups were on power trips. 

He was a wonderfully understanding man, who took the time to tell me a story.  When he was a producer at Warner Brothers he shot a pilot for a show.  The focus group didn't like the pilot.  They particularly didn't like the wife in the pilot.  Instead of crying in his beer (which is what I would have done) the producer asked Warner Brothers for a little more money to shoot one scene.  "Eric, we shot a scene like you guys always did on The Cosby Show," he told me.  It was a very short bedroom scene with the husband and wife having fun with each other.  They added the scene to the end of the pilot and put it before another focus group.

This time the pilot (as they say) tested through the roof.  That pilot became a show called called Growing Pains which went on to have a long and successful run on ABC.  If that producer had been me back then, that pilot would have become nothing. But the producer turned network head realized what we all need to realize--bad news is just information.  If we listen to the bad news, rather than react to it, we can improve.  I can talk to you about marketing until I am blue in the face, but if you're work needs improving, or your blurb needs improving, or your cover needs improving, or your marketing needs improving, nothing will change until you listen to the bad news.

Like I said earlier, good news is great, but bad news is the only news we can learn and grow from--just ask Michael Jordan, who was cut from his high school basketball team.  Truth is, if he wasn't cut from that team, he wouldn't have done the work to become... well, Michael Jordan.  MJ turned bad news into good news.  You can do it, too. If you want to have a career as a writer, your success depends on doing what he did, on what I try to do--make bad news, good news.  At least, that's the way I see it.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Heaven Sent

Heaven Sent is the title of the next book (Book Three) in the Falling Angels Saga. It's also how I feel about many of you book bloggers out there.  You know who you are.  And I am not just talking about the bloggers who have supported my work.  I am talking about the bloggers who support all of us authors.

Over the past few weeks, I have written about authors using Goodreads and Twitter as their most effective marketing tools.  But book bloggers are really our most effective tool.  You guys review our books and then post your reviews where readers can find them.  You guys praise us and our books to your followers on your blogs and Twitter and Facebook.  You guys send kind messages to us when we're having bad days and need a psychological boost. And I'm not just referring to the big bloggers with thousands of followers.  A blogger with 100 followers can beat the drum for you just as effectively as a big blogger can.  Authors, DO NOT take book blogggers lightly.  They are the backbone of the industry.  It's great to be listed in the New York Times, but in this digital age, book bloggers are your key to greater sales--and they make excellent friends.

Okay, I think I've heaped enough much needed praise, now I want to catch you up on what's happening with me.  My novel, Heaven Sent (the sequel to Boyfriend From Hell and Earth Angel) is underway.  SPOILER ALERT.  If you haven't yet read Earth Angel, skip the rest of this paragraph... The next book in the series picks up eight weeks after Earth Angel, and it starts off with a bang as Megan has a huge awakening about the abilities she may possess.  Love is in the air, but not for who you might think.  And as promised in the riddle at the end of Earth Angel, someone returns, but that's all I am going to say.  I need to keep your appetites whet until December. So I will tease you with tempting little tid bits over the coming months. Buaaahahaaaaa!

I am also happy to announce that I have finally gotten the editor's notes for the first book in my Hollyweird series.  The publisher who originally bought the book last year went out of business.  The head of that house took my book with her and is now at a new publishing house Waterstreet Press, that will be opening their doors any day now.  I am so excited about this book.  I wrote it three years ago, so it's about time you guys got to see it.  I can't wait. It's the story of a fifteen and a half year-old necromancer living in Hollywood California.  The title of each book in the series is a play on an old Hollywood movie title.  The title of the first book is: The Zombie Always Knocks Twice.  I will keep you posted as the new book moves closer to publication.  It should be out some time this summer.

Boyfriend From Hell and Earth Angel continue to do well in sales.  Both books have been blessed with excellent reviews.  Boyfriend From Hell now has 50 four and five star ratings on Goodreads.  Earth Angel  has 20 four and five star ratings on Goodreads, with more coming everyday. 

I have received quite a few compliments about my The Way I See It posts.  I am so glad some of you are finding them helpful.  I will be posting another one some time next week.  If you subscribe to my newsletter you will get an email alerting you to the posting.  If you don't already subscribe, why not do it now.  http://evanlowe.com/

And finally, my cover artist Adara Rosalie, has created an exclusive Earth Angel iphone 4s cover case for my iphone.  If you think you'd like to win one of these as a prize in a contest, go over to my Facebook Fan Page  and like the Earth Angel iphone comment before April 3rd.


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Way I See It: Impressions

In this post I am going to further the conversation on impressions.  My original plan was to start a new subject today, but I’ve decided to save the new subject for some time in the future.  Many of you left comments or emailed me, or left word via Twitter and my Facebook page about the original post.  I am overwhelmed that my post touched so many of you.  As of this writing 165 of you have seen the post. Because so many of you seem to be interested, I wanted to spend a little more time on impressions.
For those of you who haven’t read the post on Lottery Mentality, I suggest you scroll down to it now before you read this.  It’s just below. This post will make little sense to you if you haven’t read the first one.
So… in my earlier post I discussed getting impressions.  Impressions first, because impressions will lead to sales.  There’s some very good news about getting impressions. Two of the best tools you can use to get them are free. The first tool I am going to discuss with you is Goodreads.  If you are not on Goodreads get on it NOW.  Immediately. It should be every indie authors number one tool for marketing.  And like I said—it’s FREE.  My humble description of Goodreads is it’s Facebook for readers.
In the Lottery Mentality Post I touched upon Goodreads giveaways.  I am going to expand upon it here.  The way I see it, there are two ways to gain impressions with a Goodreads giveaway:  first are the people that sign up for the giveaway, and second are the people who add your book to their “to read” list. Everyone who signs up for the giveaway is not going to add your book.  If you have 500 people who sign up for the giveaway and 250 of them also add your book, you have made 250 strong impressions.  Some of these people will go ahead and purchase your book when the promotion is over.  Others will buy it the next time they see your title.  It may take several more impressions to convince others.  But that’s okay.  We’re not trying to win the lottery here; we’re trying to build a writing career.
With giveaways, shorter is always better.  My giveaways usually last 5-7 days.  Here’s why.  The first day of your giveaway you’re included in a “recently listed” posting done by Goodreads.  The last two days of your giveaway you are going to be included in a “closing soon,” posting.  If you schedule your giveaway for five days that means three out of the five are high visibility days where Goodreads is promoting you.  These are the days you are going to get most of your hits--impressions.  If you want to do a month of giveaways, schedule four giveaways for the month.  This way you will have 12 high visibility days.  This just makes good marketing sense, people.  Put yourself in the best position to reach the most people possible.
Another reason not to do long giveaways is something I learned from the marketing people at Disney when I was a producer there.  The longer a message is out there, the more your message becomes diluted.  People will begin to take your message for granted until they don’t notice it anymore.  We all do it.  It’s human nature. What’s going to get the most buzz: “Sting Appearing Here One Night Only.” Or “Sting Will Be Performing Here All Month?”  The answer is obvious, isn’t it? So, in my opinion, short focused giveaways are the best way to get the most impressions on Goodreads. And only give away one book.
The other FREE marketing tool I use is Twitter.  You must be on Twitter.  With Twitter you can test the viability of your message and tweak it all day, or all month until you begin to see results.  The key with Twitter, however, is you have to tweet in waves.  Say, four (or more) tweets an hour for a five hour period.  Half of these tweets should be a pitch for you or your book (whether direct or indirect), the other half should be useful information.  If you don’t tweet in waves you cannot have a strong presence and your message will be diluted.  You will notice this because as soon as you begin tweeting in waves you are going to get more followers. 
Here’s how I see it.  About six months ago a novelist showed up on Twitter.  This person seemed to tweet all day.  One day I counted 30 tweets in an hour. This person’s tweets were annoying to me. I assumed most people had stopped following the novelist or just tuned the message out.  Wrong.  I went to the novelist’s Amazon page and discovered the person had two books in the Amazon kindle top 100.  Then it dawned on me that the author realized the power of impressions.  Sure the constant barrage of messages were annoying to some, but even those who were annoyed were going to remember the author’s name.  Impressions. 
Most people do not hang out on Twitter all day.  Many people will only see a few of your messages, if any.  You send out one tweet a day and it’s like dropping a grain of sand in the ocean. So don’t look at it as 30 annoying messages, rather, look at it as 30 opportunities to make an impression.   Car companies buy hundreds of 30 second TV ad spots a day.  You might see two or three, if any.
For Superbowl Sunday--a bad business day for most--I devised a list of sixteen tweets scheduled to go out between 11am and 3:30 pm, which was the start time of the game.  The tweets said things like: “Not into The Patriots vs The Giants?  Try angels vs demons”… and I linked to my paranormal novel Earth Angel. Or “Here’s MY Superbowl commercial.  My Boyfriend From Hell book trailer,” and I linked to my book trailer (HERE).  By the time the second tweet went out I had four retweets by people who were not my followers until then.  I can’t say the campaign worked, but I did get several new followers, and I also sold several books on Superbowl Sunday.  So I’m guessing I made a few impressions.
I realize this is a slow build for success.  I'd like it to happen for you overnight.  I really would.  These tools are here for you to use in case it doesn't.
That’s my advice for the day.  Use Goodreads and Twitter to increase your impressions.  They are the most awesome marketing tools around and they are both FREE.
And like I said in the earlier post, if what I am saying doesn’t work for you—cool. But if my words resonate with you please come back, please leave a comment, and please tell your friends. I am not trying to create a controversy here; I am no expert; this is not the gospel according to E.  I don’t have an axe to grind or anything to prove.  This advice is just the way I see it. 
Since I don’t post on a regular basis, those of you who’d like to follow these posts should sign up for my newsletter.  http://evanlowe.com I only send out emails when I have a contest or one of these posts. 


Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Way I See It: Lottery Mentality

Anyone who knows me knows I tend to see things differently than others. It's just the way I am wired. So I have decided to start a column called The Way I See It. If you are a new writer or an author trying to make it in the digital age, it may offer a new perspective you haven't thought of. If you like it, cool. Leave a comment and I will write more. If you don't, that's cool, too. It's not meant to be the gospel according to E. It's just the way I see it.

I have real qualifications as a writer. For the last twenty plus years I have earned my living (and a very good one, I might add) as a writer. I have nothing against people who have cobbled together careers as writers but had to do many other jobs to survive. It's tough out there. I'm just saying I feel I am more qualified than most to talk about a career as a writer since writing (and producing what I've written) is my only career, and has been for a very long time. I know what it takes to have a full time writing career.
I entitled this post Lottery Mentality because most people I know—my friends included—have what I call a lottery mentality.  Let me state right here that I am not an elitist who is above the lottery.  I’d love to win the lottery.  Whenever there’s a huge jackpot I buy a ticket.  I never win, but at least I am in the running.  I want to win like everyone else, but my hopes and dreams aren’t tied to winning the lottery.  The lottery is not a part of my life plan.  If I win great, but if I don’t, my life plan is still in-tact.  So what does this have to do with writing, and more importantly, what does this have to do with you?
There’s something wonderful happening in publishing these days.  As the days go by, the role of the so-called gate keepers is diminishing. This is a good thing for writers. The barriers to publishing are coming down.   A writer can now connect directly to the audience.  They don’t need the approval of the Big Six publishers.  They can publish their books or short stories themselves.  All they need is a book, a book cover, a twitter account and a blog, and they are good to go.  Let the readers line up, and the money flow.
This is what many writers think when they are deciding to self-publish.  If you are self-published and that’s what has happened for you—you put your book out there and the money flowed—great.  But for the majority of us that’s not what will happen.  Publishing a book (self-published or not) and thinking you are now ready to begin to earn a living is like buying a lottery ticket and believing all your money problems are solved.  Somebody hits the lottery every week, but chances are it won’t be me, and in the lottery of book publishing, it probably won’t be you.  I hope it is you.  I really do.  But if this has not been your experience with your books, I want to tell you why, and give you some food for thought as to how you can turn things around.  A little background first.

About a year ago, a little known author named Amanda Hocking started having a windfall in sales for her Trylle Trilogy.  She was written up in the Wall Street Journal and The Huffington Post.  She sold over a million books.  And guess what? She was self-published.  A lot of people started thinking.  “I am as good a writer as she is—better!  If I sell just 100,000 books, even if I only earn 33 cents a book (Amazon pays a smaller royalty if you sell your book for ninety-nine cents) I will earn $33,000 dollars.”  If you thought that, or anything like it, you were using lottery mentality. 
I am not even going to get into all the years and number of manuscripts Amanda Hocking tried to get to major publishers only to be turned down.  That’s not my focus here. (But if you’d like to know more about it go HERE.)  My focus is to let you know that each and everyone of you can make a living as a writer or an author.  You can make a good living, but do not expect it to happen over-night.  Do not expect to win the lottery.

Here’s how I see it.  You ever notice how many times movie trailers run on TV just before a new movie comes out?  That’s because it takes three to six impressions for us to even notice the trailer.  Once we notice the trailer, we still need to see it at least one more time before we say “I want to see that movie.”  It doesn’t mean you’re actually going to see the movie; it just means you want to see it.  The movie has made an impression on you.
So the first thing we need to do before we start raking in the dough as authors is get “impressions.”  And remember, one impression isn’t enough. People need to see and hear about our books between three and six times for the impression to stick.
When my YA paranormal novel Boyfriend From Hell first came out, I gave one away on Goodreads.  It was a week long giveaway. My publisher told me the big publishers were giving away 10 or more at a time.  He was giving away 3 of his.  I told him one was enough.  I wasn’t interested in giving a book to someone to review.  I wasn’t interested in reviews. I was interested in impressions.  If 1000 people said they wanted the book I just made 1000 first impressions.  Yes, I wanted to sell a ton of books.  Yes, I wanted to hit the lottery.  But if I didn’t hit the lottery, I needed a solid plan as to how I was going to find sales. 
As some of you may know I spent most of my career in the movie and TV business. I want us to all take a lesson from all the great movie and TV marketing machines.  No one does marketing better than Hollywood. They believe impressions first, and then sales.  Politicians are now also following this model.
In addition to my Goodreads giveaway I went on two blog tours back-to-back.  Redundant?  Of course it was redundant.  But isn’t seeing the same ad for a movie five times in one night redundant?  Impressions.
My sales started slowly—less than a book a day.  Now (four months later) I am averaging 100 books a week without any promotion.  When I do a promotion (like Kindle Daily Nation) it’s a lot more.  Boyfriend From Hell spent nine consecutive days on the Amazon Top 100 seller list in the Girls & Women category in early January.  This did not happen over-night.  Boyfriend From Hell came out in September.  That month I sold around 69 books.  50 of those were at my launch party. As January ends I am closing in on 1000 books for the month.  Why the increase?  Because instead of fretting over the lack of sales, I went after impressions.

I am going to stop here 1) because I want you to digest this 2) because I hate being long-winded.  But I want to ask you indie authors or would-be authors something: how many marketing posts have you read that mentioned impressions?  I’m guessing none.  Spend any Thursday night watching TV and you will see how the big movie companies practice this. Shouldn’t we be doing the same thing? Copy success is what I’ve been told.
The good news is you don’t need to spend a fortune to get impressions.  In my next The Way I See It post I will discuss ways to get impressions and also start a new subject while I am it. 
And hey, if what I am saying here isn’t holding up for you—cool.  Don’t read the next post.  But if you have been struggling trying to make a career as a writer, and this has touched a nerve, please come back, please leave a comment, and please tell your friends about the post.  I’d love to hear from them, too. And remember, I am not trying to create a controversy here; this is not the gospel according to E.  I don’t have an axe to grind or anything to prove.  This is not an expert's hypothesis on how to make it as a writer. It’s just the way I see it.