Covers? Covers!

New covers! I’ve been running my brain through the gristmill to learn how to make better covers for my books. I also got honest with myself and rebranded the first book from “Sunshells” to “Shadow on the Eclipse”. The new name fits the book and my target reader MUCH better. Here’s a look at the new SotE cover:

SotE Small

Not bad, eh? GoMB is getting a new cover, too. I have one 99% done, which is now in the “endlessly tweaking” phase. The third book of the series is DONE, HUZZAH, with only some error checking left to do. The cover, however, isn’t done. Still trying to figure that one out.

The big rebranding and whatnot is going to roll out all at once. SotE is going to be republished as a “new” book to help it get some visibility, and the third book will come out at the same time, a la Hugh Howey’s recent advice.

The website will get some tweaking to help build my email list and just look better in general. One example: the email signup at the bottom of this post.

Big stuff happening. Cross your fingers.

Not on the list? WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU? Get on the Story List and I’ll send you the shorter stories I write for fun, and I’ll let you know when something big comes out.

Get on the Story List!

The New Marketing

I’ve been listening to David Wright’s walking podcast, which he calls The Walking Dave. Today (-ish) he got onto the subject of connecting with fans as a means of marketing, and since my wheels have been turning in that direction lately, too, it gave me a lot to think about.

The days are gone when you ran an ad on TV and watched your sales go up. Ignore TiVo, Netflix, Hulu, etc. People don’t respond to ads the same way they used to. It’s a fact backed by data, and a lot of it has to do with how the internet is changing our relationship with media. And, the internet is definitely NOT like traditional media, and doesn’t respond as well to it.

The new reality of media is that there’s a vast ocean of free content of all kinds that you can dip into whenever you want. Want to play video games for free? Or buy cheap games? When I was a kid, getting a new game meant dropping $60. Now you don’t have enough time in a 24-hour day to play all of the REALLY FUN free games out there. How about books? Amazon has an uncountable number of free books, and enough of them are good that you could read forever, without stopping or spending a dime. News media? Music? How about expensive Hollywood-style fight sequences? Surely you can’t see those for free… except you can.

It’s a kind of golden age of media, except most of the media has a grayish-pink tint, standing out no more than anything else. This is the new quandary for the people producing that media; among this ocean of stuff, how can I catch enough attention to be able to make a living? And ┬áthe second question alongside it, in this ocean of free stuff, how can I convince people to spend money on me instead?

In the past, it was enough to produce something of great quality. After all, the store shelves only held a certain number of books, and if a customer spent time at that shelf, there was a reasonable chance that they’d at least stop and consider your book before moving on. Now, the shelf holds millions of titles. On the smaller shelves of genre lists, they hold tens of thousands or more. Being on the shelf no longer guarantees anything at all. This is the new truth of selling anything, but especially media. You must, MUST spend some time capturing attention, because otherwise you’re hoping that readers will stumble across you instead of the millions of other options.

I think the question of how to get people to spend money is simpler to answer. Simpler, but not easier. You convince people to spend money on something instead of using a free solution by convincing them it’s worth the money. In other words, you offer quality. It’s the same kind of decision people make when buying a coffee maker. Is this nicer model worth the difference in cost? Is this $5 ebook worth $5 more than the free one I downloaded? If your work is good, their answer will be yes, and they’ll buy your book. If you fail to convince them of the value, their answer will be no.

A third variable enters into the equation at this point, though, the same point that Dave was talking about on his podcast. We can now boost our sales by selling ourselves as a brand. Not so long ago it was almost impossible to “get to know” the personalities behind your favorite television shows or music or whatnot. Now the channel is smooth and easy. What’s more (and better), it’s more available to people like writers than to large organizations. There is no single personality behind Coca-Cola, regardless of their Twitter feed or Facebook page. As a writer, though, I represent the whole work; I can tell you exactly why Reggie has those headaches, should I decide to share it with you. I can tell you what I was thinking while writing that certain scene, and, even better, you can change the future of my books by what you say to me.

That third variable is the one that is the newest, least researched, and least perfected. I’m still not finished with the marketing books I’ve gotten recently, so hopefully there’s some advice about building connections in there.

El Dorado: Big Fella

I’m not a fan of Westerns. Yeah, I hate them. I love the 1966 film “El Dorado,” though. It’s got fantastic characters (and John Wayne), it’s got GREAT screenwriting, and the story isn’t half bad. I think the movie handles tension extremely well, and this scene is a great example of that:

(Thanks to TCM for the video.)

Two old friends, now possibly on opposite sides of a range war. Both of those relationships come out clearly in the scene. There’s no confusion about what’s going on, yet you aren’t beaten over the head with an explanation of it, either. The bit of comedy at the end is a nice play against Wayne’s and Mitchum’s tough-guy attitudes, too, in what I like to call “awkward humor.”

That Short Story Thing

I got around to epublishing my new short story from last month. I also renamed it to make it more interesting. Yeah, naming something a common phrase is not a good idea. The new title is “The Dragon Prince and the Hideously Unattractive Woman: A Tale of Deep Meaningfulness.” It’s a bit old-school and also lets you know that this book is not to be taken seriously.

DP - HUW 320I did the cover, and no, I’m not super happy with it. I’m giving the book away, though, so I don’t know that I care too overly much at this point. It’s been downloading steadily at Smashwords.

Yes, it’s at Smashwords, but no, I haven’t properly uploaded anything there yet. I don’t use Word. That’s the main reason I didn’t upload there until they started accepting .epub files. My point is, until Amazon gets around to price-matching me, no one can get a free .mobi of my books, which is bad. Maybe the $0.99 price tag will still entice.

Cut a Notch

My latest book, Gods of Metal and Blood, sold a copy on Barnes and Noble the other day. It was the first sale I ever got on B&N so I’ve added that badge to my sash. Brightened my day, to say the least.

It was also nice to see that my first book, Sunshells, is in seven libraries. Fun! It’s free on Smashwords, Kobo, and hopefully soon on B&N and Amazon, and Smashwords alone has racked up 77 downloads in the past three weeks. I’m liking how it’s looking.

GoMB is out!

Yes, the much-anticipated “Gods of Metal and Blood” is on sale! Kobo is still processing, and B&N decided to have technical difficulties (sigh), but they’ll be ready in the next 24 hours.

Sunshells is going free. Yes, you heard it right! So, all of you millions secretly pirating it, now you have a chance to get it legitimately! Shazam! You’ll be able to ease your guilty, guilty conscience at long last.

To top it all off, I’m going to start writing and posting free stories right here on the site. They’ll probably end up as collections on sale as ebooks, but they’ll be free here individually.

2013 is going to be a fun year. Make sure to sign up for the RSS feed or email newsletter so that you can be notified when the next story or novel comes out.

Yo Dawg, I’m Above Par

Just broke a couple of milestones on the WIP. I’ve caught up with my NaNo words-per-day average (after starting with four days of nothing), and the WIP has broken 60,000 total. There are quite a few scenes that still need writing out, but I am definitely on the downward slope.

Now all I need to do is finish the scenes, revise, get alpha reading done, revise, beta reading, edit, cover, formatting, crap. :(

Hugh Howey’s Book Marketing Plan for “Wool”

Apparently, Hugh Howey’s book marketing plan for “Wool” was to:

1. Write a powerful story.

2. Make it available.

3. Profit.

Seriously, read this interview and tell me if I missed a step. He also said that he worked his butt off to promote earlier stuff, which you’ve probably never heard of. His conclusion?

“You like to think you have some control over what succeeds and what doesn’t, but for me it just highlighted that the reader is totally in charge of what succeeds and what fails.”

Ever look back at something and say…

…why did I ever think that was a good idea? Well, in the last month or so I realized that the cover for Sunshells needed new type. Badly. So I got rid of the Times New Roman with color border and went with a font called Ringbearer. Here’s the result:



















That feels a lot better. Also, in the spirit of science hacks everywhere, I decided to experiment with the price at the same time. I’m out of the 70% royalty on Amazon. I need to sell about 3x the copies to make equal money, but that wouldn’t be all that hard.