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Time for the nuts and bolts of book blurbs.
Step 1: Read the blurb content guide.
Step 2: Read the blurbs from your genre's top-selling books. How do you check which books are dominating your genre? Click on your categories on your listing.
Clicking on the bolded genre: Horror in either line of the "Best Sellers Rank" section will take you to the top 100 in that category.
Step 3: Utilize the Hero Line concept
What the hell is a hero line? Glad you asked. The hero line is the bolded line at the top of a blurb that establishes genre atmosphere—the most important part of the listing.
Firstly, to even make a line bold, you need to go into your Author Central page and click on the book's listing which will allow you to edit the details. You can edit the blurb there. Also, when you add spaces, the software will reject them. Go ahead and add them anyways, then message Amazon through the Author Central contact portal and tell them to add the spaces manually. Why / how a multi-billion dollar corporation like Amazon can't get basic HTML coding to properly display is one of the world's greatest mysteries.
What do you put in the hero line? Cool shit. Snappy lines. Atmosphere. More on that later (with examples!)
Step 4: Add some author bio
Toss a couple lines into the bottom of your blurb about you as an author. And make sure to cram a bunch of keywords into that section. Everything on the blurb factors into Amazon's search algorithms. Example: Bill Writerson, a 2010 Hugo Nominee for best upper thighs, crafts harrowing tales of epic fantasy, weaving all the suspense of a fast-paced thriller into worlds reminiscent of J. R. R. Tolkien, George R. R. Martin, and Dr. Suess.
See how many keywords we slapped down in just a few lines? Goal achieved.
Step 5: Talk about your other books
Why not add a couple lines below the author snippet to mention your other works?
Step 6: Drop a line about your website / newsletter
Yeah, do that.
Step 8: Wonder where step 7 got lost...
Nah, I'm out of steps.
Examples by genre:
Want to know the best blurbs in each genre? Me too. What I've assembled are examples I think are decent in each genre, probably not the best, but I'm not going to sift through 10 million books. Stop being greedy and do some research on your own.
Epic Fantasy: The Goblin Wars Omnibus
Dinosaur Erotica (you didn't think that was a real genre, did you?): Taken by the T-Rex
Sci-fi: The Martian
Romance: I Love You Again (this blurb is too long, but it uses the concept of the hero line quite well. Honestly, it has too much plot and not enough atmosphere)
Thriller / Urban Fantasy: The Victor McCain Collection (specifically, check out the last paragraph. That's how you drop keywords in an author bio snippet)
Postmodern sexual surrealism nightmare fuel (you didn't think that was a genre either? Buckle up.): Razor Wire Pubic Hair (check out the hero line and the author bio snippet—both are perfect, though I would have done them both in bold)
YA Romance: P.S. I Still Love You
Cookbooks: Thug Kitchen
Heavy Metal Cookbooks (by now you should believe every genre I throw out there): Mosh Potatoes
Non-fiction: The Space Barons
Looking for the best websites to use during a sale?
Check out this list: http://www.paidauthor.com/best-ebook-promotion-sites/
- Caveat: There's a lot of speculation about Books Butterfly. The current consensus is typically to avoid them.
And another large list of places: http://www.openworldmag.com/dominate-amazon-bestseller-54-resources-kindle-countdown-promo/
- Caveat: Their discussion of Reddit is bad. Don't follow that. Always look at the sidebar rules in every subreddit, read them carefully, and become active before trying to promote.
Here's a great list of the places organized by genre: http://www.creativindie.com/1100-new-places-to-market-your-books/
My Personal List
The promoters in my personal list aren't ranked in any order or anything like that. Bookbub is the best, and the rest are all of decent effectiveness. Also, if you want the absolute best value for your promotions, most of the sites have their own newsletters. Make a new email address, use it to sign up for all the promotional website newsletters, and then get all the promo codes and coupons that the promo sites send to you, saving you money on each and every promotion!
Looking for professional services to bring you next book project to publication?
Here's a list of the people I've found who do excellent work:
I have another awesome editor I use (who is rather inexpensive), but she has no website as of now since she does it part-time. If you're looking for a budget-friendly editor, send me an email and I'll hook you up.
Facebook Ad Management:
Isaac Boldery manages my ads. Contact him (email@example.com) for info on packages and prices, etc.
Looking for AMS ad generation, blurb help, or other personalized marketing solutions?
Want your service to be featured?
Too bad. I only feature services that I’ve personally used and found to be exemplary. You can’t pay to be on the list. (Alright, well… at a certain number I won’t say no, but you’ll need to at least be paying a few of my mortgage payments before you catch my attention)
Killstreak Book One: Respawn
“What do you think?” Lord Kadorax Darkarrow whispered to his sole companion, a thin half-serpent with a scaly head and flat ears.
The bipedal snake-man’s gaze darted around nervously as his tongue licked the air. There were torches on the walls, but most of them had already sputtered out. Ahead, down a stone ledge slick with old moss, a ring of robed humanoid figures stood around an altar. “Five against two,” Syzak hissed. “And none of them are above your level, my lord, not even close.”
Kadorax nodded. “Good. Which one is the strongest?”
Syzak scrutinized the ring of priests once more, using his Detect Strength ability to read their stat sheets. “There,” he pointed with one of his three green fingers, “the one on the left is two levels higher than the others. That one is their leader.”
Again, Kadorax nodded. He was characteristically silent, taking every precaution to hide his presence as thoroughly as he could. As the head of the Blackened Blades, he valued stealth and secrecy above all else.
“Shall I take the leader first, my lord?” Syzak asked. He held a small crystal wand between the three fingers of his left hand, clearly eager to cast a spell and begin the fight.
For a moment, Kadorax called his own stat sheet to his vision, flicking his eyes downward to scroll through the myriad of spells and abilities he had mastered over the last decade. He had spent years training both his mind and body, and now he was the highest-level assassin-mystic hybrid in the entire realm of Agglor. Ever weary of traps, he focused his vision on the Discover Magic spell and viewed the proper casting procedure from his ability sheet. It had been years since he had needed the spell, and it wasn’t one he kept lodged in his brain for quick use.
Kadorax silently mouthed the words to the mundane incantation, having long ago earned the Silent Casting talent, and two areas of his vision lit up with brilliant, translucent color. The first had been expected. The humanoid leader—he still wasn’t positive what the priests actually were—showed a heavy aura of red magic encasing his form, likely a protective ward of some sort. The second area of magic came from a large circular rune inscribed on the wall behind the altar, and Kadorax didn’t know what it meant.
“Can you disable the leader?” the assassin whispered so faintly he could barely be heard.
“Of course,” Syzak answered with a smile.
Kadorax held up a hand. “He has a red aura around him, probably Stone Skin or Magic Armor, perhaps of a rank we have not seen before. Can you break it?”
Syzak’s serpentine eyes inspected the humanoid once more, but only for a few seconds. “I have Strip Enchantment, though it is a costly spell,” he said.
Handing the snake-man a silver shard of reflective metal, Kadorax nodded. “No chances,” he breathed. While most of the spells in Agglor could be cast by having them unlocked and either reading or knowing their incantational phrases, certain extremely powerful abilities required specific components which were sometimes incredibly difficult to obtain.
Kadorax’s Discover Magic casting was about to expire, so he flashed a quick successions of rudimentary hand signals to his companion, and then shimmied over the edge to begin his descent down the nearly sheer rock surface of the temple’s interior wall. His gloves, black silk constructions known as Cat Paws, silently gripped the flat surface beneath his fingers with all the strength of a well-muscled panther. On the temple’s floor, Kadorax melted into the shadows. The place smelled musty and damp, and the flagstones making up the ground were wet with stale rainwater.
Above the assassin’s head, a partially concealed flicker of purple light emanated from Syzak’s wand, shooting across the temple with blinding speed. The magical glob struck the leader in the chest, and Kadorax saw the humanoid’s red aura fade just seconds before his Discover Magic spell wore off, unable to be cast again for several hours.
Kadorax sprinted forward on leather boots as silent as the grave. He reached behind his back and grasped the bone handle of a dagger hidden in a sheath under his cloak. The bone was frigid in his grasp, ice cold even through his gloves, and the blade was so dark it actually dripped a steady stream of viscous shadows onto the stone ground between his strides.
He took the first robed priest in the back before any of them even noticed Kadorax among their ranks. The priest let out a muffled shriek as he crumpled to the ground. When his robe fluttered to the side Kadorax finally saw the head of a jackal underneath, its teeth bared.
Dogheads, Kadorax mused, using the derogatory term for the race. He had killed scores of the jackal-headed beasts throughout the years, and he’d never regret a single strike of his blade.
Another bolt of purple magic sailed over Kadorax toward the doghead leader, catching the jackal fully in the chest. At once, a rigid shell of stone grew up from the temple floor to encase the beast, locking it in place in a dark, constricting prison that was as terrifying as it was effective.
Kadorax didn’t waste any time. He spun from target to target, whirling his black blade between the two nearest living enemies and rending them to bloodied bits.
While his compatriots were dying, the final jackal had run a few steps backward and drawn a small crossbow from underneath his dark robe. The weapon clicked and thrummed, and the steel bolt held in its track sprang forward.
Kadorax quickly whispered the words to Shield Maw, and a fiery dragon’s head sprang to life in front of his body to consume the incoming missile. He didn’t need to use such flashy magic—his Expert Reflexes would have easily moved him out of the way quickly enough to dodge the bolt—but he hated doghead scum. He wanted the remaining jackal to fear him, to contemplate its own death before he gutted it, and the dramatic spell certainly did the trick.
The jackal only spent a few heartbeats trying to reload its crossbow before it gave up and turned to run. Kadorax chased after it, clearing the distance almost instantly and sinking his dagger into the fur-covered doghead. The creature shuddered, but it did not die. It slumped to the ground and mewled, its bounty of experience points flashing in yellow just above its head. Kadorax stepped over, letting the congealed shadows surrounding his blade drip onto the doghead’s chest. The shadows themselves were harmless, but the psychological impact they had on a dying foe was certainly palpable.
Kadorax stomped down on the creature’s throat, silencing it before it could speak a single intelligible syllable.
With a faint rumble, the experience Kadorax gained from the swift battle sifted into his body, adding to his already staggering total. He brought up his sheet again to check his progress toward the next level, but he knew more or less what it would be. The jackals hadn’t been worth much. He was still more than fifty percent away from level seventy-three. His next talent, Exceptional Void Strike – Execution: Rank 7, was still frustratingly far away. He would have to kill hundreds of dogheads to even make a dent in the total.
Then a rumbling from behind snapped Kadorax’s thoughts back to the present, and he dismissed his stat sheet with a thought. The leader was still alive, and he was finally breaking free of Syzak’s stone prison.
Seeing his eviscerated companions, the jackal’s eyes went wide, but he was still quick on his hairy feet. The jackal rolled left behind the stone altar, drawing a slender sword from his robe and rolling his wrist with practiced ease. Kadorax had never learned the Detect Strength ability, but he could tell the jackal leader was far beyond the mere underlings lying dead around the altar. Repeating the words to his most frequently used spell, Kadorax felt the familiar rush of adrenaline brought on by Slaughtering Surge filling his veins. He sprang forward with lightning speed, twirling his lightless dagger downward for a quick killing blow, and met the jackal’s adept parry with a ring of steel.
Flurry of Strikes pumped through Kadorax body, moving his right arm as quickly as it could physically go, putting on a dazzling display of violence made possible only by the assassin’s maxed out Agility stat. Shockingly, the jackal matched his relentless pace.
The jackal leader ducked his shoulder and used a talent, Armor Break by the look of the yellow sheen on his weapon, charging forward with power akin to a stone giant fueling his legs.
Kadorax staggered backward. It was the first time in over two years his Strength had been matched, and the sheer surprise of it broke his concentration for a split second. The jackal was relentless. The creature’s slender blade came in from every angle, slashing at Kadorax’s face over and over again.
Growling with sadistic pleasure born from a true challenge, Kadorax summoned his character sheet to the corner of his vision and searched for Pull from the Void, repeating the order of the required words several times in his mind before attempting to cast the spell. When he finally let it loose, a shadowy hand of pure magic erupted from his chest and sailed toward the hidden ledge where Syzak waited. The small snake-man latched onto the hand and rode it back down, flinging a rapid barrage of lightning and fire from his wand all the while.
Some of Syzak’s magical bolts managed to hit their target, but the jackal leader wasn’t particularly fazed. His red aura returned, now visible without magically enhanced vision, and it absorbed the energy of the magical assault almost fully. Kadorax had never seen the defensive enchantment before, and he had seen almost everything, or so he had thought.
Working quickly as he cast, Syzak brought forth a Wall of Frost in the narrow gap between Kadorax’s boots and the jackal’s furry paws. The shaman augmented the spell with another talent activation, one Kadorax had only seen him use a few times, and the wall that erupted from the ground reached far over either combatant’s head. Kadorax scampered backward to catch his breath and scour his character sheet for an answer.
“He’s fast,” Syzak hissed, keeping his wand ready and a spell at the front of his mind.
Kadorax didn’t waste his breath on a response. The jackal was quicker than any opponent he had fought before, and he needed something unexpected, something obscure, to turn the tide.
“The wall will not hold much longer,” Syzak said. “Should we flee?”
“Eldritch Fire!” Kadorax yelled as he completed the spell. A burst of blueish-black flame licked out from the end of his dagger toward the ice wall. A quick activation of Perfect Timing let him flawlessly judge the expiration of Syzak’s conjuring. Snapping his wrist forward, a burst of black fire cascaded through the falling, dissipating ice, and fully engulfed the howling jackal.
Kadorax lunged forward with his blade, shielding his eyes from the painful mixture of fire and ice raining down on his shoulders. At rank ten, the highest available to any spell, Kadorax’s Eldritch Fire was nothing short of a cataclysmic conflagration—and it worked. The jackal only avoided part of the blast with his Improved Reflexes. His mangy hair danced with flames, and the jackal howled as he spun through the temple, slapping at the licking flames in vain.
“Coup de Grâce!” Kadorax yelled, activating his Assassin’s Superior Talent with a brilliant flourish. His blade danced in his hands, flinging thick globs of shadow to every corner of the room, and the burning jackal could only offer a meager attempt at a parry. In a blur of speed, Kadorax appeared to the jackal’s left, then his right, and finally he was behind the beast with his black dagger held high above the creature’s spine. He drove it downward with all his strength.
The jackal leader’s experience flashed in yellow above his head as he died. The formidable foe had been worth just over three thousand experience, and that brought Kadorax noticeably closer to level seventy-three, though he was still roughly thirty-five percent from leveling again.
Sweat poured down Kadorax’s head. Next to him, Syzak tucked his wand back into his belt. “Where’s the loot?” the snake-man asked. He nudged the jackal leader’s corpse with his boot, pushing aside the front of the robe to inspect the body for treasure. He found nothing.
“Use Detect Hidden, Syzak,” Kadorax panted, thoroughly exhausted. Part of why he had risen to be Agglor’s highest-level assassin had been his choice of battles. He never fought more than one heavy encounter in a day, and he preferred to only test himself once a week if he could, being as frugal as possible with his rewards specifically to allow himself the most meaningful respites. Due to his style, he hadn’t taken many of the endurance-related talents, so he had no way of reducing his recovery time with magic.
Syzak uttered the words to the simple spell. “Oh, shit,” he said almost at once.
Kadorax skipped backward on the balls of his feet, dagger at the ready and chest heaving from exertion, scanning the temple for some new threat he had not seen.
“The inscription,” Syzak explained, pointing to the magical symbols behind the altar. “There’s a door. The jackals were summoning something, not imprisoning it…”
As if on cue, the wall behind the altar shook forcefully. Something was breaking through it with heavy fists. Something massive and beyond powerful. Something unknown. Something.
“Lord Kadorax, I feel it unwise to remain here,” Syzak implored, his serpentine eyes full of terror.
“We haven’t gotten any loot yet,” Kadorax growled. He scanned through his list of abilities, quickly reorganizing them so that his unused spells and talents appeared at the top of his character sheet. “Whatever it is, it’s guarding the treasure. We stay.”
A few bricks fell out of the wall, and Syzak glimpsed something dark—and enormous—pounding away at the stone on the other side. “Kad! We can come back later!” he screamed. The snake-man turned to run, but Kadorax caught him by the arm.
“We’ve defeated worse,” Kadorax reminded him.
The wall crumbled inward.
A giant, horned head emerged from the rubble, quickly followed by four muscled arms, each the size of tree trunks. The thing roared, and then it wrenched the rest of its body free, coming to its full height in the high-ceilinged temple.
Lord Kadorax Darkarrow felt his heart catch in his chest. He had fought dragons on several occasions and lived to tell the tales, but those encounters had always been with dozens of other high-level adventurers. With only a single shaman at his side, powerful as they were together, he knew he was outclassed.
The beast, whatever it truly was, stood over twenty feet tall. Its skin looked like rock, but it flowed and moved with such ease that Kadorax knew it was organic—some sort of hardened carapace—and its head was covered in a circular pattern of bulging black eyes that reminded the assassin of a scorpion. It had four arms, each vaguely humanoid and rippling with muscle beneath its thick armor, though it did not wield any weapons in the traditional sense.
“W-what is it?” Kadorax stammered. He tried to access the dungeon boss’ character sheet, but all he saw was a series of question marks highlighted in deep crimson floating near the top of his vision.
Before either hero could speak, the boss reared its hideous head. “I am your undoing!” it announced with all the strength of a world-ending earthquake.
Kadorax flew through his list of abilities to find the one that would take him and Syzak farthest from the temple in the least amount of time. “Teleport!” he yelled, grabbing his companion with both arms to ensure they traveled together.
The four-armed beast laughed, its voice so loud the Kadorax had to cover his ears to keep the pain at bay.
“Teleport!” the assassin tried again. Still, his feet remained firmly planted on the temple’s stone floor.
Kadorax flew through his list of mystic abilities, searching for something that might work in the boss encounter. He settled on Smoke Leap, a low-level ability designed to vault him upward and forward by about thirty feet while leaving behind a decoy made of smoke, but the ability did not function properly. Something blocked it.
“You cannot run, puny human,” the massive boss taunted. “No one can escape their own grave.”
Kadorax had encountered enemies in the past with similar magic-preventing abilities. Typically, the dampening field was generated by an enchanted ring or amulet worn by the user, but the towering beast featured nothing of the sort.
“Slaughtering Surge!” Kadorax finally yelled, bringing a fresh wave of adrenaline to his arms and legs.
Syzak summoned forth a shell of protective energy around the assassin, and then a burst of brilliant light shot from the snake-man’s wand. The spell landed on the boss’ head, but it did not have the intended effect of blinding the creature. In fact, it didn’t appear to have any effect whatsoever.
When Kadorax reached the horned beast, it was ready for him. Arm after heavy arm came hammering down into the temple floor like boulders dislodged in a landslide. Each strike was enough to turn Kadorax into dust, and his Expert Reflexes were all that kept him alive. Swerving between the arms, the assassin brought his dripping blade of shadows in with all the strength he had left in his body, slashing furiously at the creature’s exoskeleton covering its segmented right leg.
Kadorax’s blade clicked loudly off the boss’ armor. From his position between the beast’s legs, he could just barely see into the room from where the horned thing had emerged, and it was full to the ceiling with treasure—more than the assassin had ever seen before. Piles of glittering gold shone in the torchlight, and iron-banded chests were stacked in neat rows as far in as he could see.
Breaking his greed-fueled reverie, a huge hand swept Kadorax up from the ground, crushing all the air from his lungs. On the ground, Syzak used every ounce of obscure arcane knowledge he had to rain blow after blow on the creature, though none of them had any visible effect. Even spells like Void Prison, an incredibly high-level magical assault designed to immobilize even the most magic-immune foes, simply did not succeed.
The boss brought Kadorax up to its huge maw. “I am your undoing, human!” it yelled. Its breath smelled rotten and old, like the beast had been chained in its prison for hundreds of years with nothing but dead adventurers to fill its belly.
Kadorax saw a hint of yellow coming down from the top of his vision. It was his experience total—the amount the boss was about to claim for itself. “I’ll see you at the spawn, my friend,” the assassin called to Syzak, his voice shaking.
The snake-man nodded. “In the next life,” he answered. “In the next life…”
Laughing all the while, the dungeon boss squeezed. It didn’t need to activate any ability, and it didn’t even bother to watch. In an instant, Kadorax’s chest caved in on his organs, squishing the life from his body like a bug caught beneath the hoof of a horse.
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Check out all the hottest new releases from tons of best-selling authors in sci-fi and fantasy, including Blood and Ash!
A new fantasy series?
So I had an idea while driving from Tennessee back to Kentucky this Labor Day. I've been thinking of ways to incorporate new and exciting magic systems into my fantasy writing and well, I might have it figured out.
Here's the pitch: this new fantasy series will surround characters who are 'Shadowliths' - gifted with the ability from birth (or perhaps learned as well) to consciously take the form of their shadow and go about doing things. Fantasy things. I like this magic system for a few reasons. Firstly, it makes an interesting circumstance arise: the caster can only control his / her shadow during the daylight. The night does not provide enough light to make substantial shadows after all. Putting such an ominous feeling magic system into a new fantasy setting where they only have power in the day seems oddly refreshing to me. I'd expect a shadow-based fantasy magic to be more powerful at night, not less.
Secondly, I like the idea of the shadowlith going into a stupor while controlling the shadow. A lot of fantasy worlds (DnD, WoW, etc.) feature absurdly powerful wizards casting spells until they run out of strength, energy, favor, mana, etc. Until their spell power is fully drained, they are basically immortal. I'd love to see casters made incredibly vulnerable by their art. That could be a great twist on a fantasy staple which I have personally never read before.
So did I try it yet? Of course! I've officially begun work on a side-project fantasy book (or maybe novella, who knows?) which I tentatively call: "The Shadowlith" - cheesy title but I'll probably change it.
Maybe I'll have something ready for the publisher in the next 6 months, but it isn't likely. I'd bet this idea won't be fully fleshed out until the fall / winter of 2017.
CHECK OUT THE NEW PAPERBACKS!
New formatting, redesigned interiors, awesome art.
Marketing, Marketing, Marketing... Part 2!
Actually, let's back up a step. If you don't know where to look to find a place that will host you as an author, you (obviously) need to do that first. Is your book available on Barnes and Nobel? Call them, speak with a manager, and ask to do a signing. Offer them a cut of each book you sell. Offer to sell them store copies at a big discount. You could also get a table at a convention that specializes in your genre such as fantasy, sci-fi, horror, etc. Want to try something with a cheaper table cost than comicon? Find a local art festival and grab a vendor booth.
OK, now you have a live event booked. What do you need? You can check out the first Marketing, Marketing, Marketing... post here if you want to get an idea of what my personal setup usually looks like. Bring some sort of stand to vertically display your books. Bring promo materials like bookmarks, cards, etc. If you have a banner, set it up behind you but don't block it. Put it a little off to the side. Lastly, bring tons of books! You need to have at least 6 copies of each title sitting on the table at all times and another 30+ of each in a box under your chair. Never run out. Plus, having so many copies will motivate you to sell.
Dress professionally. If you're at comicon or a similar event, feel free to cosplay. If you're at a church book fair, leave the Cannibal Corpse shirt at home. Especially if you're young, you need to look like a pro.
So you're sitting at your booth and people are walking by... but no one is stopping to look at your books. Guess what? That's your fault. At one of the comicons I attended last year, there was a guy selling a really cool children's book. The event was very family oriented, so there were tons of little kids with their parents. I sold more horror titles than that guy sold children's books. He sat behind his booth, worked on his laptop, and never interacted with potential customers. That's a fine way to lose money, get discouraged, and fail.
I can't tell you how many people have said things like, "I just don't feel comfortable promoting myself." That's like saying, "I'm a really good wide receiver on the football team, but I'm terrified of catching the ball." Suck it up, put on your salesman hat, and start moving books!
The Pitch: you need to have a solid pitch down that conveys the atmosphere and general idea driving your book. No one wants to stand at your booth and listen to the entire plot of your novel. Get something concise and poignant that will drive a sale. It might take a few tries to nail it down, but once you do, it will sell books for you. The legendary bookseller Tony Acree has a wonderful pitch that I've heard several hundred times. When a potential customer shows interest in his series, he describes it like this: "The first line of the book is, 'It was 6pm when the devil walked into my office and had a seat.' The Hand of God is about bounty hunter Victor McCain. His only brother has sold his soul to the devil and he has 24 hours to find a certain girl before the brother goes south. It has lots of action, dark humor, and ends on somewhat of a cliffhanger. The Watchers is book 2 and you can find the rest of the series on Amazon and Barnes and Nobel."
That pitch is great. In 20 seconds, Tony conveys the atmosphere of the novel (it helps that the cover says supernatural thriller on it) and gives a brief overview of the plot themes. He lets the customer know that it is a series, that more books are already released, and that all of his stuff is available online as well.
Want another example? Here's my pitch. When people come up and are interested in fantasy, I tell them something like this: "The Goblin Wars series is non-Tolkien fantasy from the perspective of goblins. I don't have elves in trees shooting bows or dwarves in mines with hammers. My races are goblins, humans, orcs, and minotaurs. The goblins are a hive-mind controlled by a single goblin queen until one of them is born free. He leaves his mountain home and adventure ensues. My books are $12 each or 2 for $20." Most people will ask more questions after my pitch and I try my best to answer them. For whatever reason, fantasy fans like to know a lot about the lore of a world before they buy the book. Personally, I like to give the price in the pitch since I hate asking people for prices myself.
So you have your pitch, but how do you get people to listen to it? When you're standing behind your booth (never sitting) and someone glances at your stuff, ask them a simple question: "Do you like to read?" If they shake their head, let them walk on. If they say yes, ask them what they read. If they respond with your genre, hand them a copy and dive into the pitch. If they say the classic 'everything', hand them a copy and dive into your pitch. If they tell you they like to read western cross-species bunny-themed erotica with a sci-fi twist, kindly inform them that you don't write that smut but you do write (insert genre here) if they're interested.
I'll leave you with one final bit of advice. I'm sure I've mentioned it somewhere else in the blog, but I'll say it again:
If your seat at a convention is warm, you might as well leave.
People want to look you in the eyes when they talk to you. Stand up, hand them a book to check out, and deliver your pitch. Oh, and watch those profits soar.
Want some help with your own pitch? Post it in the comments with a link to your book and I'll give my two cents.
Looking for your next favorite book? Click here.
Firstly, tell us about Gears of Golgotha, your debut novel. What inspired it? Where did you get the idea for the world of chemists and scientists?
It's kind of a funny story how I came up with the idea for Gears, actually. The basic ideas of it came from a dream I had after a night of hanging out with friends (and no, it wasn't like that haha). From that dream came Erin, the main character; Dr. Sharpe; the villain (at the beginning, the villain was a man named Xerxes, brother of the Supreme Leader); and the Gears themselves. I knew I wanted to turn it into a novel, but I didn't know where to go with it. That was until NaNoWriMo 2013. I was hanging out at my cousin Amy's house (of Bella Morteand Letters to Daniel fame). I had a basic skeleton of the story, but didn't feel it had any meat on its bones. I had two choices to take on for my NaNoWriMo project: develop this new idea, or refine a murder mystery I had been working on. I eventually picked the new idea, but still couldn't think of a name. The idea of Chemists and Mages, as well as the title itself, are actually fossils from the era of story development where Gears was actually a commentary on the science vs. religion debate.
What made you sit down and start writing? Have you always been a writer?
This is another funny story, I think. When I was in first grade, my class had to participate in the Young Authors competition at my school. I've always been very competitive, and when I heard that there were going to be medals (at the time my life goal was to earn one of them), I jumped at the challenge. With the help of my Eighth Grade Buddy (an 8th grader that was assigned to first grade students to tutor them and serve as a role model), I wrote My Alabama Vacation, a story where I go on vacation to a zoo in Alabama, even though I have to this day never been there haha. There was no real plot to the book; it was mostly just about the trip there, and stopping at places like a barber shop and comparing human and animal behavior ("Do animals get haircuts, too?"). I glued in different pictures of animals, including one of a monkey picking bugs out of another monkey's fur for the "haircut" bit. I was really proud of my work, and submitted it to the contest. A kid in my class named Nicholas won first place with his story The Last Dinosaur. Even though I won second place, I didn't think it was good enough. I swore that day I would hone my skills as a writer, so that next year, I would kick Nicholas' butt. He transferred to another school the next year, and there were no more Young Authors contests, but I still kept writing and writing. In 7th grade, I wrote Chapparelle's World,a short story which can only be described as Edgar Allen Poe meets Alice in Wonderland, in which a woman ends up in her dreamworld and confronts her demons while in a coma after a failed suicide attempt. I won 1st place in my school's Young Author's competition, and even went on to the county-wide semi-finals, but it was then I realized something: I didn't care about the awards. Sure, they were nice, but I loved writing. And I was good at it. I've been writing regularly ever since.
What has been the most enjoyable aspect of being a writer? What keeps you writing more?
I love making up things. I love asking "What if...?" When I was little, I used to make up what I called "step-friends," imaginary characters that I would make up stories for. I think about different worlds, wonder what life would be like if someone changed one little thing, or if something never even happened.
Who are your favorite authors? Does any of their work influence yours?
I really love the classics; you can never go wrong with them. I feel like the darkness of my stories was inspired by writers like Poe and the Bronte sisters. I love J.K. Rowling's writing style, too; it's so raw and personal, and gets under the readers' skin, which is something that I strive to do as well.
What books did you read when you were young? What was the first book you ever read?
I read pretty much everything I could get my hands on. I would read anything and everything. While I can't remember the first book I ever read, I do remember that I started reading from a very young age. My mom will tell you that I started reading at 2 years old, when I picked up the newspaper off the kitchen table and started reading it to my parents. I mostly read Dr. Seuss, Harry Potter, and the Magic Tree House books. I didn't start reading classics until 5th grade, with my first being The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
What do you have planned in the future? Anymore steampunk? Anything written in the Gears universe?
I do want to write a sequel to Gears, but I haven't even started it yet, let alone set a release date for it. Right now, my attention is focused on ALPHA, book 1 of The ALPHA Trilogy. Think Bourne saga meets Manchurian Candidate. It's my first spy/political thriller, but I've always been fascinated with MK ULTRA and other legends like it, so writing it has been a lot of fun.
What's the best convention you've attended to promote your work?
Imaginarium, by a long shot. It was my first convention, and I had never felt more welcome there than anywhere else. That was where I actually felt like my work could mean something to other people. I was offered and signed two contracts there for Gears and ALPHA from Hydra Publications. I had a lot of fun, and I can't wait to go again in September, where I'll be turning 21!
What advice do you have for fledgling writers?
KEEP WRITING. I can't stress this enough. They say that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to get good at something. And don't let ANYONE tell you to stop writing.
Lastly, where can we find your work?
This post is primarily addressed to the good people over at www.reddit.com/r/selfpublish. There have always been lots of posts asking for marketing advice and a lot of the advice is either super obvious or terrible. I'm not incredibly successful by any means, but I've made a good bit more than I've put in.
Here it goes...
Step 1: The Really Obvious Stuff
In case you didn't know, you should use social media. You should also have a professional website. If you need a guy to design your website, shoot me an email and I'll hook you up with my web guy. He will get you set up in about a day for $200. Which social media websites should you use? All of them. GoodReads is the most important. Do some giveaways and start building reviews.
- GoodReads Pro Tip: at the conclusion of your giveaway, message the winners personally and make sure they like your genre. Do it under the guise of confirming their address. You can weed out the bots and people who actually don't like your genre and just want free crap.
Become active on forums and different writing communities. Join a local author group and make friends. Find the people more successful than you and learn from them. There is a subreddit for every genre - use them! If you write fantasy, hang out and interact on /r/fantasy. After people get to know you, dropping a line or two about your own writing (tastefully...) will be welcomed and respected.
Step 2: Printing
If you're really serious about making money in the crazy world of books, you need to spend money first. I highly recommend getting a few thousand (~$100) bookmarks printed at UPrinting that describe your book, have a link to your website, and links to Amazon. If you have multiple series or genres, get multiple bookmarks. Give them out at live events and hand them out everywhere you go. Go to bookstores and ask to leave them by the register or in your genre's section. Drop a stack off at a local coffee shop. Always keep a stack in your car and a few in your wallet to hand out to people you meet who might be interested.
The banner: Having a great banner is critical for live events. A great banner can run up to $400. Honestly, an eye catching banner will not only bring people to your booth at an event, it will sell copies for you.
Step 3: Going Live
I've said it before about a thousand times on reddit, live events are the best way to market. Now that you have beautiful bookmarks and a great banner, find every event you can and book a table. If you want to go to a huge event, get other authors to split the table with you and bring down the cost. The table pictured above cost $30 and I made hundreds.
How to sell in person: I've read plenty of posts from other indie authors about how they feel gross selling in person and they can't do it. They don't have the personality for sales. Guess what? The moment you tried to make money from book sales, you became a lifelong salesman. At my first live event, I only sold 3 books. I still blame the frigid weather and outdoors setting for the most part, but I didn't know how to sell. I sat behind my booth and waited for people to come up and ask a direct question. The event drew about 1,000 people and I only sold to 3 of them. Pathetic.
Find people selling books at your own live events and watch them for 10 or 15 minutes to get the feel of how they do it. Observe them make a cold sale to a disinterested passerby. Get a good 30 second pitch down and stick to it. You'll be pulling people in left and right.
- My actual spiel at live events: stranger walks by and A) if they glance at my banner, ask if they like fantasy or B) ask if they like to read. If they like fantasy, give them a Goblin Wars bookmark and pitch them the book. If they like to read, ask them what genre. I'm in 3 genres, so I can usually grab them from that point. Always end your pitch with a price. Don't make the customer ask for it. Offer them a deal on multiple books, especially if you have 2+ out in the same series.
- Another great strategy: take pictures (with permission) of cos players at live events and post them to your website in a Convention Recap style blog post. After you take a picture, hand them a bookmark with your address and tell them it will be posted soon. You just sent traffic to your website and every click is a potential sale.
Step 4: What do I write / how much?
The obvious answer is obvious. Write what you love! And never stop. With only 1 book released, physical promotion and live events are tough. People don't take you seriously and you can only market to fans of 1 genre. The truth is, series sell. Standalone novels are outsold by series novels 2 to 1 or better at live events. An article I read once said that you need to spend 90% of your "book time" writing and only 10% marketing. Every time you release a new novel, bump another 10% into marketing. That's a good formula to follow.
- Don't skimp on a cover and good editing. You'll destroy potential fans if they read your first book and find errors or the cover is crap. The upfront cost might hurt, but you're hopeless without it. If you need a cover artist, I can recommend a few, just shoot me an email. If you need an editor, I know a couple of those too.
Step 5: Online Marketing
Unless you miraculously get accepted to the shrine of holy book sales known only by whispers (aka BookBub), you need to be careful with online advertisers. A few services out there look great, but many of them are expensive scams veiled as instant success. To name a few of the well known scams: Reedsy, BookDaily, NetGalley, etc. Stay away. For a detailed video on how to build ad stacks and make money (including a list of places to use when promoting), check out this post.
- KDP & Kindle Select - I recommend it. I know a lot of people don't, but I've found the countdown deals to be fantastic.
- KDP free download days - I sort of recommend it. Only do free days for book 1 of a series that already has book 2 released. You want to gain long term fans. Use those days sparingly.
- Kindle Unlimited - I recommend it. You still get a cut of the sale price and it encourages people to give it a shot. Plus, there are several websites and subreddits devoted to books on KU and they will advertise you for free. This is especially true for romance / erotica.
Do a blog tour. What's that? Find a blogger (like me) and book reviewers and send them free copies of your eBooks to check out. Ask them to interview you for their blog. Run a giveaway contest on their blog. Ask other authors to be interviewed for your own blog so you can share an audience. Offer to write guest posts on other blogs about anything the owner of the blog wants to read. The more places that have your name and a picture of your book, the better.
Step 6: Mad Profits
Be realistic. Don't set out to self-publish or publish through a small press and quit your day job. Especially in the first year, it won't even pay for itself. Your covers and editor fees will rack up and that mountain of book related debt won't start to erode until you have 2+ novels released. Try to only check your sales rankings once a week and you'll avoid most disappointment. Use your sales rank as a reward: every 10,000 words you write on your work in progress earns another peek into Amazon.com's author central.
Feel free to comment and add your own advice. And of course, since this is a post on marketing, check out my books!
Firstly, I noticed a set of The Civil War: A Narrative by Shelby Foote in your author photo. Does history influence your writing? Have you ever written anything related to the Civil War?
I've only read maybe 25% of Foote's trilogy. I do like history, and I'm especially interested by my own country's history, but reading about it is just a hobby. Those books are beasts, but more and more I keep thinking that finishing them will just have to be one of those things I put off until retirement.
I don't read or write much historical fiction and I'm not sure why. I guess it's just not really my thing…although The Killer Angels is a notable exception. That one's definitely among my favorites.
Take us through your bibliography. You have several releases on Amazon. Where did your writing begin? What did you think when your first novel was released? How have things changed?
The first thing I self-published online was a novel called The Weather Man. It's presented as the main character's blog transcript, complete with reader comments and the occasional flamewar. I've been scribbling down stupid little stories and things for as long as I can remember, but this was the first time that I spent so much time and so much energy on a piece of my writing. Publishing it on Amazon gave me a pretty overwhelming rush. It's exhilarating to create something that only existed as jumbled ideas in your head, solidify it into a purposeful shape, and then throw it out into the universe like it belongs there. I got that same kind of rush from my second novel, Tiem Mechine, too, although I have a feeling that the first time will probably remain the most memorable for a good long while.
I also released a pair of short stories called A Vampire's Proposal and The Kill Room between the two novels, but that was mostly because I felt weird going more than a year without a second release on my Amazon resume. So I threw in a couple of shorts to break the silence.
Starting this year, I'm releasing a series of novellas that are adapted from my fantasy web serial entitled The New Devil. I have the first three volumes up so far, with at least five more to come.
As I publish more, I'm learning a lot about how to do it. I've been writing and revising and writing more since I was a little kid, so I was used to learning how to write better. But when it came to self-publishing, how to format ebooks, where to release them and how to market them, I was completely clueless. I still feel pretty clueless, but the more I do it, the more I'm forced to learn to do it better.
Explain the title of your sci-fi novel "Tiem Mechine" for those of us who still might think its a typo. Where did you get the inspiration for that novel?
Yeah…that title was kind of a gamble for an indie author!
In the opening pages of the novel, the protagonist buys a time travel device from an alien. The alien was a marketing consultant for a corporation from space that had been attempting to sell advanced technology to humans. Thinking that humans would freak out if they realized little green men were peddling space-age tech, they intentionally misspelled "Tiem Mechine" on the box so that everybody would just assume it was a bad translation for a Japanese product or something.
The main inspiration for that book was the Back to the Future movies. Those blend kind of a soft science fiction with comedy and adventure so well, and I personally get a huge kick out of how confusing it all is, especially in the second film, when there are two Marty McFlys running around at his parents' prom. So I decided I wanted to write a time travel story that was so ridiculously complicated that even most of the characters struggled to figure out what was going on. It took a lot of planning, and a lot of headaches, but I think I managed to create a really messy series of timelines so that all the events play out with a crazy, circuitous kind of logic. My hope is that the plot is confusing enough to be funny but just comprehensible enough for my readers to follow it without tearing their hair out.
Have you read the classics of sci-fi or fantasy? Do any authors in particular stand out as "must-reads" for fans of the genres?
I greatly prefer sci-fi to fantasy, personally. I mean, I've read the Lord of the Rings, and it's wonderful story, but after that I don't have much appetite for high fantasy. I've read some of the Narnia books, I really enjoyed the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman, and I used to love those Redwall series when I was a kid.
Sci-fi has a lot more appeal to me. The Foundation books by Isaac Asimov are a must-read, as far as I'm concerned. Fantastic Voyage and I, Robot by Asimov are up there too. For something a little more recent, I love me some Crichton, especially Jurassic Park, Prey, and Timeline.
My favorite sci-fi writer, however, was a young adult author whose books I stumbled across in a Scholastic catalogue when I was maybe twelve or thirteen. His name was William Sleator, and the book I ordered was called The Boy Who Reversed Himself. It was about a kid who could travel into to a fourth spatial dimension. It was a complicated concept to explain in a young adult book, but he did it and he blew my mind…all while telling a pretty great story.
When you write, are you more of a planner and note taker or a write-as-I-go author?
It depends on what I'm writing. I usually start off with a premise and a general ending in mind, and if the subject matter isn't too complicated, I like to fly by the seat of my pants. If I'd tried that with something like Tiem Mechine, though, I never would have been able to finish a first draft. I feel like my stuff is trending a little bit more toward plot complexity lately, and I'm starting to take my planning a lot more seriously.
If your work could be favorably compared to any current main stream author, who would you choose? What about their works makes them a literary icon?
Oh, man, that's a tough question.
Gun to my head, I'd probably have to say Dean Koontz, which seems weird. I don't think we're particularly similar, but I have a lot of respect for his work. He can craft some creepy, messed-up stories, but he manages to accurately portray a wide spectrum of human emotion in them, and he knows how to keep them light and funny to balance out the less pleasant stuff. I shed a few tears over Lightning and Odd Thomas, and I laughed my way through them, too. That's a delicate balance that I'd like to get the hang of someday. I don't know if he's a literary icon, but Dean Koontz is probably my favorite living novelist.
Have you read any other indie authors? Any that you would recommend?
I've read a few. My favorite indie authors to enter the non-traditional arena of self-publishing mostly started off in the even-less-traditional world of serial web fiction. There's The Zombie Knight by George M. Frost, which is action-packed and insanely intricate, Hidden, an urban fantasy series by Colleen Vanderlinden, and Hobson & Choi, a quirky detective story by Nick Bryan.
Isaac Asimov once published an article where he outlined the three types of science fiction. He defined them as gadget, adventure, and social. Do you buy into his theory? Which type does your sci-fi fit into?
I hate to disagree with Asimov, because I have tons of respect for the guy…and, let's face it, he has approximately 342 times the education that I have. But I don't think things always break down so cleanly. I mean, Tiem Mechine probably fits pretty safely inside the adventure sci-fi category, but I'm sure there are plenty of stories that qualify for more than one. But from where I'm sitting, I think it's safe to say that probably all science fiction can fit into any one or any combination of Asimov's three classifications.
What direction do you see for your writing in the future? When is your next anticipated release? Any big changes on the horizon?
Hopefully my third novel, tentatively titled Their Works Shall Be in the Dark, will be out in March or April. The next few months should also be peppered with subsequent volumes of The New Devil. The only big change I'm hoping for is putting out better material at a faster rate!