Tuesday, June 1, 2010

GUEST BLOG: Robert W. Walker......Marketing Book Before It's Written? eBook eVolution

by Robert W. Walker

How often over a 30 year career in writing supported by teaching and scraping have I had to “Re-invent” myself? I forget at this juncture, but this year I had to do it again. I did so in what I consider two bold moves… One has to do with going “gaga” for Kindle for good reason, and two taking a page from Julia & Julia, the movie.

In what I consider a bold move, a writer decides to resurrect his “dead books” – all those out of print titles and some gathering dust, never before published, in his desk drawer. In a second bold move, he creates a journal-type blog that will follow his work in progress—which he also intends to take to Kindle, thus bypassing traditional routes to publication (and to be sure with thanks to many hundreds before who self published for the past 30 years!

Furthermore, in this journal-blog. The bold Prof. Walker makes challenging deadline predictions for completing the rough draft and the edited-vetted final: a book in a year, a rough draft in three months. This prediction came in mid-February of this year. You can learn more in depth on how I did it at DIRTY DEEDS – ADVICE.

This idea came about after seeing the film Julia & Julia. I figured why not “Cook Up a Book” and I sent it forth using that as my marketing ploy – Let’s all Cook Up a Book in Julia & Julia styled blog. I went forth to garner followers interested in looking over my shoulder as I worked who could make comments as I worked. I felt confidant as a writer to make it happen once I had decided what the project would be, and it was and is an ambitious one: a retelling of the Titanic story that blows away every other “theory of the crime” for my theory. In a sense if Michael Crichton had rewritten this chunk of history, well he is high up on my most admired authors list. I blogged once a week at outset, then more like every other week as the book progressed, also noting when things were going badly as well as smoothly. Along the way, I took up issues that any author must deal with in crafting a novel such as dialogue, action, setting, etc.

At the same time, I used social networking to let people know about the online Journal for my Titanic efforts. I managed to make my first prediction fairly closely. While I failed to finish the rough draft in three months, I did so in three and a half months—while teaching and dealing with life’s typical obstacles at the same time. Now that I am doing my first major reading and rewrite, there is a lot more for the journal to cover. Finishing in a year appears now to be a deadline that I will come in on early – perhaps as early as November which would be ten months. I may make that prediction soon.

Aside from just carrying on at the online journal, I have targeted all my chat groups, Twitter, Myspace, and Facebook, of course. I have pushed the idea for other authors to try on MurderMustAdvertise and DorothyL, encouraging anyone on these sights to have a look-see. I have also placed it up on Kindle boards and at KindleKorner in quick bursts. I increased the number of blogs that I am a regular on—four now, and on each of these blogs, I give comments
on for the online journal – marketing a book not yet written…now not yet edited…and not yet published or being written on speculation for an agent or editor. I have never turned down a request to guest blog, and I am writing articles routinely for www.1stTurningpoint.com and www.speakwithoutinterruption.com In this I have an online presence that supports my Julia blog but also supports sales of my Kindle titles.

Early on in the process, I decided to take my predictions and climbing out on the limb much further. I announced that I am writing this work in progress not for anyone anywhere but Kindle Readers. This will go straight to Kindle, by-passing the usual clap-trap of sending out outlines and parcels to agents and editors. I have been doing that for 30 years. Thanks to Amazon.com/Kindle I am given an attractive alternative, and since my other 44 titles on the Kindle bookshelf are doing extremely well, making me more money in the past month than I have made in paper/traditional publishing in the past three years! – well you might imagine that writing a fifth “Original to Kindle” title is the way for this author to go. If interested in learning more about ebook pubbing with Kindle, go to www.dtp.amazon.com which is where I started, and if you’re interest is POD with Amazon, check out www.Createspace.com

I work hard to get discussions going on Facebook where I truly open up and just “be me” asking silly, crazy questions, exploring fun issues as well as making my feelings felt when others bring up issues on FB. I try to build interest in me first before hammering FB friends about my books; often I tease them with a line. Often I bring up a theme in a book, a location. I set up contests and raise interest in the issues being discussed at my various blogs. Social networking is ADVERTISING for my ebooks. I believe the initial sales of my books on Kindle were as a result of all of the above activity that I set in motion along with smart “packaging” of the product(s).

Once you acquire those first, early readers, then news of a good read goes viral—and your readership grows exponentially—far more so than with paper book readers. Still, my early kindle book sales a year ago were terribly unimpressive; some might say dismal. I had little faith it would improve and it did not all summer (I began in June last year), but when I placed up the Instinct Series on the heels of Children of Salem, suddenly sales soared, along with the Edge Series. This tells me that the word and idea behind SERIES works wonders on Kindle as all my earlier titles were stand-alone titles! Then the series followed and whamo!

This is significant as the first to take off was Children of Salem but I billed it as 3 Volumes in one at 160,000 words! A whopping “self-contained” epic SERIES. In fact, I wanted it to have an old traditional book feel to it so I divided it into three volumes. People on Kindle truly responded to this novel—a novel turned down by every agent and editor who’s ever looked at it. Then getting up the eleven-book Instinct Series, which is now out-distancing Children of Salem. Behind but not by much is the four-book Edge Series. I have as a result put up my DECOY Series of four, and my Dean Grant ME Series of four books, a trilogy, a two-some, etc. as Kindle readers appear to absolutely “love” series characters, I feel this is a significant DISCOVERY. And so my response—put up my Abe Stroud horror trilogy and my two-some about the monster behind Spontaneous Human Combustion. Next on horizon is a two-some of YA historical coming of age novels along with Titanic which is in and of itself TWO books in ONE, the 1912 story with Insp. Alastair Ransom, and the 2012 story with Oceanographer David Buckland.

Even if you have only one book to place on Kindle, I suspect you would do better to indicate that it is “just the beginning” of a series wherein this ensemble of characters will play a part in future titles. In point of fact, I also place Chapter ONE of the next book at the back end of the one preceding it, and this I believe helped my sales tremendously as well.

Then too Joe Konrath and I did some cross-pollinating by his placing one of my chapters back of one of his books and visa versa—and whenever, wherever, as buddies will do, we talk each other’s works up on social networks.

This new Kindle era venue has been a huge boon for new writers but even more so than anyone? Yes, the hugely put-upon Midlist Authors – and many of us have been wise in regaining our rights to out of print or DEAD books, and miraculously these are resurrected for an entirely new generation now who do not have to scrounge around in dusty used book stores for them. Plus they are offered up at prices below two and three dollars; they also offer a whole new income for their authors with a better contract or “treaty” than any Indian or workhorse (midlist author) has ever imagined – a 70/30 split in favor of the author!

Do not be fooled, a publisher puts a book up on Kindle for you and prices it at 16.00 or at the same price as the paper book (which is the case with my City Series, controlled by HarperCollins) and I have made NOTHING on these as they are selling nothing, so the price per unit holds it like a stone going nowhere, whereas the new Amazon model of selling in bulk at say 1.99 or 2.99 has earned me enough to give some thought to a vacation this summer. So another thing, 70 percent of 1.99 is far better than say 30 percent of 25.00 or even 7.00 if there are NO sales at the higher price but sales are going through the roof at the lower price. I make far more on the Amazon model than I do the HarperCollins model.

For the likes of Joe Konrath, Rob Walker, and many more whose series have been cut by our publishers, it is wonderful to be discovered anew by young and old thanks to the advent of the Kindle reader. And now I am planning a 12th Instinct title, a 5th Edge title etc. despite their being “dead series” to NYC’s Penguin Publishers.

Furthermore, my control and freedom is a wonderful new sense given the author too. In fact, a dream and a miracle come true for yours truly as no publisher could ever keep up with my output anyway, so I always dreamed of lottery winnings so I could afford to become my own publisher. The Kindle has given me my dream and the times they are miraculous as a result for on Kindle I am the publisher, producer, PR and marketing rep, ultimately editor, copy guy, all of it and it feels great to be in charge. It is a wonderful boon, and nothing succeeds like success, and since I am a happy camper, I have more positive vibes running through me and far more motivation and energy to pursue all the steps I need to take in terms of marketing, PR, social networking, etc. necessary to keep the train on the tracks.

One more thing is the “dreaded” bottom line as Kindle allows you to see your bottom line at any time of day, any day – no waiting months to know sales results & no returns beyond a handful electronically handled. Now for more on what I am doing Google me on Google, and also Google: Write Aide a blogspot wherein I give advice. Another presence is www.makeminemystery.blogspot.com where I blogger-mouth every other Saturday. Another is my staple, each Friday at www.acmeauthorslink.blogspot.com

Yes you can generate buzz for a novel not yet published, and you can start at inception, before birth! Hand out those cigars! Think of it: a blog that WARNS people of your impending opus.

Finally, with regard to writing “Original to Kindle” titles it cost you nothing to set a novel down on the virtual shelf. Should you do this with your work in progress? I will admit, writing novels has become somewhat second nature after doing some 50-odd novels, but part of the purpose of the blog is to demonstrate just how many ways I mess up and pick myself up and go on in the face of adversity and life in general and STILL craft the best novel I can create. My best advice to get a winner on Kindle pay close, close attention to your title, cove art, and description. All three MUST capture the imagination and enrapture a reader in those early moments where his or her eyes are on your book.

Write the most important short story you will ever write – the story about your story. Be sure to put in as many of the journalistic 5 Ws as you can along with character and place names. Be specific and brief at once. Write what your “dream” of what should be on the backflap copy of your book. Get professional help to edit your description (no errors!) as you must get professional help to edit the book itself as I do. Get a pro to do your cover art as well. I rely on my son, a pro..

Check out Killer Instinct (for ME fans) and Children of Salem (for HYstery-Romance-Mystery fans). Below is an EXAMPLE of a description I wrote for my second highest selling ebook:

Children of Salem

An eccumenical spy, Jere Wakely returns to Salem Village Parish where it has become obvious to church athorities that this parish is in serious trouble. Wakely works for Increase Mahter. But he is reluctant for many reasons, not the least being that his heart is broken and returning to his boyhood home means he will inevitably run into Serena Nurse

Jere assumes that Serena is by now married with children. He had left her without saying goodbye to go off and make something of himself. He has no their love would be rekindled, but it parallels a greater fire—one of terror amid the infamous Salem Witch Trials. A witch hunt in this important election year of 1692 is backdrop to a romance filled with intrigue and mystery; the history is accurate, and the truth is disturbing yet fascinating.

Man, I sure hope I didn’t misspell ecumenical in the descript….

Hey all, major thanks, and do find me on facebook and twitter and elsewhere! And do leave a comment here, please!

Rob Walker


Donna Fletcher Crow said...

Great post, Rob. We can all learn from it.

Now, will youplease tell us what you did to promote the book that will let you get a suntan this summer?

Net said...

t would appear to be dominating their every conversation and for good reason. It is actually where the money is.

online affiliate marketing

jenny milchman said...

You are at the forefront of this brave new world, Rob, and I admire your ability to reinvent yourself--more than once. You, like Joe, have an established following, readers who know your work. How much do you feel that affected your ability to flourish when traditional publishing seemed to come up short?

Rob said...

Let me do my best to address the comments so far. Donna and Jenny, I did not in the least feel that my record of publication with traditional publishing had that much to do with the success on Kindle; I worked form the POV of a novice, but I did have a LOT of material to place up, so in that regard yes, but readership no. I believe I am reaching a whole new generation (cool for an old guy). That most who have bought into my otherwise DEAD series like Instinct and Edge have embraced them for other reasons, number one being the label of SERIES and I clearly marked them numerically on the covers - a thing my trad publishers refused to do. The ebook readers love the idea of continuing series ensemble of characters and esp. a lead they latch onto. So even if you were to put up ONE book and state it is first in a series in your description, I believe it would sell far better. My Children of Salem (buy one book get 3 volumes in one) is also doing extremely well as it appears a self-contained series or three books in one for the low low price....
Pricing LOW is also something I believe really makes a huge difference as I noted in the article. I "advertise" my good nature and humor and my books on facebook, twitter, website, blogs, ebook mags like speakWithoutInterruption.com and I never turn down a chance to guest blog. Also go onto Kindle boards at amazon from time to time as well as a regular at www.kindlekorner@yahoo.com

More than resting on our laurels and hoping readers have heard tell of us from previous publishing, Joe and I work our butts off on PR and marketing online. I do interviews where I can find them, do contests as in my OMG Bad Dates contest on facebook and give aways at the website. ETC It's taken me a long time, however, to be certain not to overdo pushing books without self-deprecation and humor. I will try to follow up any sales pitch with a contest or a joke or an interesting tidbit, as in my Fact or Crap segments on facebook.


Jacquie Rogers said...

I've been following your progress and I have to say, the ebook model, whether Kindle, Smashwords, or a combinaton, makes more and more sense.

I hope you continue to have a boatload of sales, and I'll bet Titanic will be hot, hot hot!

raelalt said...

From a reader's standpoint I can vouch for Mr. Walkers claims. Before I got my Kindle I am sorry to say that I had not heard of him before. But when he offered "Dead On" for free from his website, I put him in my top 10 list of authors to watch our for. So far I have purchased two others, including his book on writing, "Dead On Writing". All for the kindle.