Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Guest Post by Raymond Benson

Raymond Benson has been a buddy of mine for years. He wrote nine James Bond novels and a slew of others, including tie-ins for the the video games Homefront and Metal Gear Solid, and a few Tom Clancy spin-offs.

He's made his backlist and a few unpublished novels available as ebooks, but they aren't selling as well as they could.

So what's going on? He's a name author with a fanbase, his covers are decent, his formatting is professional, and his ebooks are priced right.

Here's Raymond to talk about it...

THE ELUSIVE REWARDS OF E-BOOK PUBLISHING
By Raymond Benson

My good friend Joe Konrath has become the poster boy of e-book publishing. I really admire him. I step back and watch him and shake my head and say to myself, “Good for him. It’s so amazing that he’s had such success with e-books.” And I think: “Maybe I can do that, too!”

So, like many of Joe’s other author buddies, I have uploaded several of my titles to Amazon Kindle and Smashwords. I figured that if Joe, who produces a new, wonderfully entertaining Grindhouse-style horror or crime novel every day (it seems) and earns oodles of cash, then why can’t I?

But I don’t write the same kinds of books Joe does. Mine are straight thrillers, for the most part, although one of the new books I uploaded has a supernatural slant.

I’m mostly known for my James Bond novels published between 1997-2002. Unfortunately, these titles are owned by Ian Fleming’s literary company, so it’s up to them to make the books available in digital form (supposedly they’re coming soon). Other work-for-hire books for which I’m known are available but, again, I don’t own them.

The way to do it, Joe says, is put all your books that you own up there, even ones that were stashed away in a drawer long ago, price them at $2.99, and sit back and collect 70% royalties. So I did that. I have ten titles up there now—seven novels and three short stories. Five of the novels and one short story were published “traditionally” in print a few years ago (and are still somewhat available in that format). Only two novels came from the “vault,” so to speak. They didn’t sell originally but I personally thought (and my agent thought) they were sure-fire winners. So they should be selling well, right?

It hasn’t worked out that way. Not yet, anyway.

I did all the things Joe says to do. Get good covers, generate some buzz on the Kindle message boards, announce their availability on Facebook and the like, and market them the best I can. And yet, my sales are puny. As the author of twenty-five published books, and one who has made money from traditional publishing, I am now scratching my head and rubbing my chin and looking at my friend Joe and asking, “What’s wrong with this picture?”

Here’s what I have available. The two books from the vault were written in 2006. The first, Artifact of Evil, is a thriller with historical fantasy elements. A prehistoric relic has become a coveted object of destruction, and it’s up to “Rusty” Red River, a freelance forensics consultant from Texas and his ex-girlfriend, a Jewish expert of Hebrew myths and legends, to solve a series of horrid crimes that stretch from Iraq to Chicago.

The other one, Torment, is about love, obsession, and voodoo. Our protagonist is on a business retreat in Jamaica, where he becomes simultaneously “cursed” and “protected” by two different voodoo charms. He also meets the love of his life, who mysteriously vanishes the morning after. Tracing her steps backwards, our hero must undergo unimaginable torment to find her.

Previously published novels available as e-books are my two rock ‘n’ roll thrillers—A Hard Day’s Death and Dark Side of the Morgue. These feature Spike Berenger, a P.I. who works in the rock ‘n’ roll world, which, of course, has been skewed to be a very dangerous place. With lots of references to music, cameos by real rock stars, and a healthy dose of tongue-in-cheek humor, these are simply a lot of fun. There’s a Spike Berenger “hit single” (short story), too, entitled On the Threshold of a Death.

My early novels Evil Hours and Face Blind have been available as e-books for years. Evil Hours was written back in the late 90s while I was doing the Bonds. It’s “Larry McMurtry meets David Lynch”; in other words, it’s a crime thriller about the underbelly of a small West Texas town. Inspired by true events that took place when I was in junior high and high school, Evil Hours remains a favorite among my own novels. Face Blind concerns a young woman with “prosopagnosia,” or “face blindness,” a real neurological condition that prevents a person from recognizing faces. It’s “Wait Until Dark meets Memento”!

All of these titles are $2.99 or less in all formats. Other books of mine, for which the e-book rights are owned by different publishers, are also available at slightly higher costs. That’s standard for every author out there who still has books with traditional publishers—and despite what Joe says, I do believe that traditional publishing is still an important and necessary means of distributing one’s work.

In fact, I am extremely grateful and excited to work with the independent publisher Oceanview Publishing, which is publishing my thriller The Black Stiletto in September, both in hardcover and as an e-book. The first in a series featuring a female vigilante working in 1950s New York City, The Black Stiletto is very close to my heart. For a sneak preview, check out the ultra-cool video I recently wrote and produced in Hollywood at www.theblackstiletto.net. (Joe sez: best book trailer I've ever seen.)

But back to e-books. From what Joe and a handful of other author friends tell me, this is the future of publishing. I had a long talk with fellow authors at the Printers Row Lit Fest in Chicago this past weekend about the subject. Most everyone is having the same kind of luck I am with e-books, i.e., it’s nothing to write home about. A couple of folks are selling books “okay,” but nowhere near Joe’s range.

So for me, at this moment anyway, the e-book thing is an enigma. It’s the jewel inside the puzzle box that one can’t seem to open. It’s the carrot dangling on a string that pulls away just as one grabs for it. As a result, I don’t trust it. I’m not convinced.

Hence, I’ve come to the mountain to seek the wisdom of the shaman who lives in the Forbidden Cave.

“Hey, Joe!” I call out. “Toss me a rope! I’m coming up!”

Joe sez: Raymond can write.

I like Raymond's Bond novels more than I like the Ian Fleming and John Gardner novels. They're a lot of fun.

Faceblind is a wonderful novel that needs to be made into a movie.

That both Torment and Artifact of Evil couldn't find homes with the Big 6 is criminal. They're terrific thrillers that should have sold.

So what's the deal?

Armchair quarterbacking Raymond's career, I believe he should have written a spy novel right after his tenure with Bond was up. That's what his fans were expecting. Instead, he delved into noir with Evil Hours and Faceblind, and while those are good books, he lost some momentum and still hasn't recovered.

His Spike Berenger Rock and Roll P.I. books are great, but they were released by Dorchester. Anyone who knows anything about Dorchester's history can understand why the books didn't do well.

The tie-in novels are all well-crafted and a joy to read, but Raymond wasn't writing those for his fanbase, he was writing them for hire.

But that's all in the past, a remnant of the legacy publishing world. In the brave, new world of digital, Raymond should be able to find the wide audience that has eluded him since Bond.

Let me reiterate some tips that I've successfully used to sell ebooks.

Trading Excerpts in the Back Matter. Not only with your own ebooks, but with other authors. Every ebook should have three or four sample chapters from other work by the author, and by work by similar authors (who can then do the same for you in return.)

Linkable Bibliography. At the end of your ebook should be links to buy your other ebooks. You can also link within your narrative text, like I've done with Banana Hammock and did with Black Crouch for Serial Killers Uncut.

Collaborating. Sharing and swapping fanbases is always a good idea, and with Google Docs and Dropbox, stories can be written in less than half the time.

Professional Formatting. You wouldn't serve a fine filet Mignon on a paper plate. Presentation is almost as important as content.

Compiling. Several 99 cent short stories can be combined into a $2.99 collection. Two $2.99 novels can be a $4.99 omnibus. This increases your shelf space, and gives you price points for several demographics.

Deluxe Editions. The collaborative novel Draculas, which has over 80,000 words of bonus features, is a great way to offer the reader more than plain old vanilla text.

Putting Ebooks on Sale. I've had a bit of success dropping prices on ebooks, getting high on bestseller lists, then returning them to the regular price. Sales and revenue inscrease.

Print Editions. Some people still want paper. Give it to them inexpensively, using Createspace.

Multiple Platforms. Make sure your ebooks are available in all formats, wherever ebooks are sold.

Tie-ins. Readers like a series. But there is nothing stopping you from taking characters from stand-alones and putting them in new stories with other stand-alone characters. Serial Killers Uncut has more than 25 characters from my books and Blake Crouch's books. This is fun for fans, and helps sell your backlist to new readers.

Different Genres. While you shouldn't try to chase what's hot, if you enjoy reading different genres there is no reason you shouldn't try writing those genres. All of your fans may not follow you, but this can introduce you to a whole new set of readers.

Some of these Raymond has already done. Some he hasn't, but should try. The one thing that might be the most effective is putting ebooks on sale. If he's not selling well, it can't hurt to drop everything to 99 cents for a month and see what happens. It's a risk, but it often works in jump starting sales, which gets books on the bestseller lists, which spurs more sales. (Note to Raymond: If you try this, do it on the 13th of June, two days before Amazon's current Sunchine Deals Sale is over, because those books will all fall off the map when they go back to full price, leaving room for others to take their places.)

I've also been begging Raymond for years to write another spy novel. His upcoming Black Stiletto is pretty close, but if he did something in modern times similar to Fleming or Ludlum, I think he could lure back his Bond fans.

Ultimately, though, it comes down to the one thing all writers hate to rely on: Luck.

We all have to keep plugging away, story after story, book after book, and hope that lightening strikes.

The more you write, the more you keep at it, the greater your chances at finding success.
I got lucky. That's why I'm selling so well. Events played out which allowed me the perfect opportunity to exploit a new technology. Sure, hard work and talent play a part. But luck is the linchpin. If Amazon never invented the Kindle, I'd be writing sci-fi novels for $6k a pop, working two extra jobs to support my family.

Remember that this isn't a sprint. It's a marathon. Ebooks are forever. Forever is a long time for fans to discover a title. What's selling poorly now could be a hit in ten years. When shelf-lives and shelf-space are infinite, all we can do is keep chugging away until we reach that critical mass/tipping point.

I know it's discouraging. I have a few titles that aren't selling up to my expectations, and I have no idea why. The goal is to keep feeding the machine, to never give up, and to constantly be open to experimentation.

Also, try not to compare yourself with other writers. Others can inspire you with their sales, because this proves high sales can be achieved, but the whole "why him and not me?" mentality only leads to misery.

106 comments:

Rebecca M. Senese said...

These are all great suggestions on how to maximize our titles. I also believe that thinking long-term is a good strategy. It all doesn't have to happen immediately. Ebooks are still new although growing. I believe there's lots of room and time to grow our sales. Best of luck to Raymond! And to all of us!

Angela McConnell said...

Great post! Thanks to Raymond Benson for being so candid with his results. I hope this exposure here will help push his numbers up. (I'll be trotting over to Amazon for a look-see after this.)

And thanks, Konrath, as always, for the breakdown. There's a reason why your name is always first on every list of indie author resources. Always a pleasure. :)

Bella andre said...

Raymond,

Thanks for sharing your story! This really is a case of "keep the faith" - and keep putting out more great books. I know many, many self-pubbing writers who were getting zero traction and then BOOM! Suddenly they are topping charts everywhere. And know, too, that no matter how big our small our current rewards from this are, we are all in the same boat - writing, revising, planning, hoping!

I see great things in your future, no question about it.
:) Bella Andre

KevinMc said...

Good of you to give another writer a little boost with your blog, Joe. I have no doubt he'll see sales increase a little over the next few days. ;)

By the way - RIGHT NOW would be a superb time to drop one title down to 99 cents, and then mention it in the comments here. Easy way for blog readers here to "opt in" and taste a bit of your writing.

Joe, completely agree with the breakdown. And the luck. I think the best bet, in the long run, is simply to keep plugging away and trying.

E.C. Belikov said...

This is one of the things I love about this blog: seeing the other side of the polarity too.

Thanks for the great post and advice. And to Raymond Benson, I hope things pick up for you soon.

John G. Hartness said...

Here's my 10-second impressions, do with them what you will (and I may be guilty of some of the same things on my books, I realize this).

1) I don't like the covers featured in this post - I don't think they tell us what the books are about and I think the Artifact of Evil cover looks cartoony rather than creepy. Maybe new covers would help.

2) I think the blurbs could use a little love, too. Starting a blurb with "from the pen of..." sounds old and out of date. You have great elevator pitch stuff on each book here, use that in the blurb to hook more readers. Lead off with "Wait until Dark meets Memento in this new thriller from the author of [Insert biggest seller here]." That will grab the eye quicker than a slow-build blurb like you currently have.

And I can't agree more about swapping chapters/excerpts in the back of similar/related genre books. I swapped with Derek Canyon a few months ago and saw great results from it.

That's of course just my $.02. YMMV, use what you like, ignore what you don't. I wish you nothing but the best and bucketloads of money.

Brian Drake said...

Raymond,
Thanks for sharing your experience. When I worked the graveyard shift at a radio station over ten years ago, I would bring your Bond books to read.

Joe made the comment that what isn't selling today could sell tomorrow, and I have to echo that. In 2010 I released a short story collection called Reaper's Dozen; I could not give that darn thing away.

This year? It's my best-selling title! It has a cover none of my friends or family like, and I was told by "those who know better" that short story collections do not sell well--"You gotta write a novel," they said. But people keep buying my collection and the reviews have been very kind. I hope when they finish it they will buy my other novels.

Bridget McKenna said...

I downloaded samples of two of Raymond's books, but the "Read the First Chapter" buttons for Spike Berenger books aren't working. They appear to be active links, but don't open a page.

Raymond, all the best to you in this new venture. I'm looking forward to reading your books.

David Tanner said...

Great post guys! Raymond's books look interesting and I just bought a couple for my Nook.

I hope I'm not being too nosy, BUT I have a couple questions. I think this might help us get a better handle on the situation, if that's even possible. I agree with Joe, though, when he says a lot of this boils down to luck.

So, here goes:

1) I think that Joe was right about writing a spy novel after doing the Bond novels and am wondering why you didn't. Was there a non-compete clause in the contract with the Fleming estate?

I know that some of work for hire contracts can be wonky. Also, I've heard that there isn't a lot of crossover from tie-ins to an author's original work but I could be wrong. The very few people that I know who've done tie-in work have been in the science fiction and fantasy arena.

2) It looks like up until your e-releases there might have been a bit of a gap between releases of new books: Could that be a factor? I could easily be wrong on this as Amazon confuses my tiny little brain sometimes.


Again, this is just me thinking aloud and sort of spitballing.

Rebecca Burke said...

Thanks for the honest (if somewhat disheartening) post. Benson's books at least seem like the kind of works that can be parlayed into success eventually--particularly using Konrath's suggestions.

Try writing for a readership who by and large don't own ereaders yet--teens! And my gritty realistic novels don't lend themselves to serialization or, needless to say, sport any zombies or wombats. I see a future of endless networking and contests, and all that robs me of writing time.

Hey, Mr. Benson--maybe you can run a Father's Day contest! 'Tis the gifting season (again).

kathleen shoop said...

Hi Raymond. Thanks so much for posting here. First I appreciate your honesty. As a first time author I am petrified my work (historical fiction) will go unnoticed and I'm sure it's even more nerve-wracking when you've had traditional success first. Second, I'm glad you posted here because I think your books sound awesome. I'll be buying several today and I know my husband will like them as much as I do. I'm an eclectic reader even though I seem to only write women's fiction and historical fiction. What kind of marketing are you doing, btw?

Kathie
The Last Letter
kshoop.com

Marie Simas said...

Have some patience, and try using the 99 cent price point to drive interest.

I released my first e-book last August, and sales were very slow at first (7-10 per month). I got some good reviews, dropped the price to 99 cents, and just waited... six months.

My first book is now the #1 essay collection on Amazon UK, and I sell, on average, 100 books a day. I expect to sell 2,000 in June. Maybe more.

Patience, brothers. Patience.

Merrill Heath said...

Thanks for sharing your experience with us, Raymond. It's interesting to see your name linked with the Bond books. I didn't know you had done that. I read all the Fleming books. I'll look into yours.

I agree that exposure is key...and patience. One thing that I'm doing is publishing my father's novels which are currently out of print. As "publisher" it adds more exposure to my writing, and vice versa. As a shameless plug I'm including a link to my blog which has info on my father's books and his bio.

Merrill Heath
Novels by W. L. Heath

David Darracott said...

I love the honesty of this post. Nobody knows rejection and disappointment like your fellow writers. Nobody would like to help more than we who've gone through the same things.

A couple of points that might help. Every post by Konrath shows that he has an internal mechanism that makes him exceptional at career development. When he sees an opening, he instinctively knows how to carry the ball through it like a great running back. When trends or new developments create opportunity, his sixth sense kicks into gear and he seizes it.

Not all of us have that innate ability. We have to cultivate it.

Korachof said...

Keep at it, Raymond!

I would have to agree with the post about your covers. Although they look professional (IE not home made), a couple of them look either old fashioned or a bit cartoony, kind of like "Tales from the Crypt," or something.

It could just be my opinion. Although I don't think covers are the leading seller of ebooks, I think they can be one of the leading reasons why one isn't selling. What I mean is, is a cover seems to hurt sales more than it helps it. A bad one or one that doesn't fit will stop sales, where a great one will only be good if the rest of it is put together correctly.

Good, strong descriptions. i know Crouch had success offering something at the top: (For fans of Stephen King, etc etc). You could use this so people that are doing quick searches or are looking at your descriptions will have an idea what others authors your stories are like.

Writing another spy novel would probably be a good idea. They are popular and you don't see a whole lot of competition for them. What I mean is, is that it's a niche that's hardly filled, and on top of that you already have a backlist for that sort of thing.

Last but not least, I would focus on other ways to push your works. Podcasting, youtube, blogging, and so on just to get your name out there can help.

Do what works on you.

Do what works on others.

Just remember one thing. It's not always what you do, but what others do. There are tons of ebook authors out there selling and selling. You have to go above and beyond what they are doing. If they are blogging and have great stories and good descriptions and great covers and good prices, and you are doing the same, what is pushing you above them? What is getting the readers attention?

Yes, readers will buy more than one book, more than one author, but here are hundreds of authors epubbing. You have to act like a potential new hire that is being interviewed. Before you go, what are YOU going to do to make yourself stand above the competition?

J Randall said...

Raymond, good luck. It may take some time, as I well know, but you'll get there. This guest post will be a great help.

Derek J. Canyon said...

If all his other ducks are in a row, I think Raymond's best bet is dropping his price to 99 cents. I did that and went from #6000 to #333 in 6 weeks.

You can see my sale daily charts showing this in my blog post here

Watcher said...

I agree that the cover Artifact of Evil is lacking. The description of the book is interesting, but the cover is a major turn-off.
Sorry I don't have great advice for what it SHOULD be, but something to think about.

Joe Konrath said...

Everyone should check out the link to the Black Stiletto website. The book trailer is incredible.

J Randall said...

Joe, thanks. The trailer was super.

Andi Lea said...

Great information! Especially for someone like me just starting out in ebook publishing. Thank you!

Jon Olson said...

Thanks for the peptalk, and thanks to Raymond Benson for his story. Those of us who struggle need to hear that it's not easy for everyone, even though I'm sure it will turn around for him.

Jon Olson
The Petoskey Stone
The Ride Home

C is the Big Dog said...

I agree with Mr.Canyon, drop the price to 0.99 for at least a week and offer a short story for free. Give readers a taste. It worked wonders for the keeper of this blog. My sales suck at 0.99 but it is my first book, and I know Mr. Benson's work is far superior to mine. They are in need of a bigger audience. Incidently my title is Teaching Can Be Murder...not that anyone is interested. :o)

Cunningham said...

Sorry to reiterate what everyone else is saying but:

- Get some new covers.

- In the case of ARTIFACT OF EVIL I would also consider a title change.

- Changing prices and formats.

Keep at it. Remain flexible to the market, and good luck!

The Daring Novelist said...

My first impression on reading this was -- that first cover didn't tell me what the book was. For me, this isn't a bad thing, because I read off-genre, and I'm more likely to reject a book I can peg as something that doesn't interest me.

And from the sound of it, Raymond's books ARE harder to peg, so he's going to be building his brand. That's a very slow process. (Not even a marathon, it's a hike.)

One of the things to remember, though, is that, unlike in the bookstore world, nothing goes away in Google-land. Every bit of promotion, every discussion, every review, remains to be discovered later. Everything always builds. Nothing you do today is a waste.

So good writing, even if it's hard to peg, will win out. At least if you don't stop writing.

Darlene Underdahl said...

"We all have to keep plugging away, story after story, book after book, and hope that lightening strikes."

Yep...sigh.

www.VermillionRoadPress.com

J.M.Cornwell said...

Since it all comes down to luck, according to Joe, lots of good luck Raymond. Your lightning strike may be hovering nearer all the time.

To boost the luck, I'd suggest a Kindle Nation book of the day/week ad. It's worth the money and the results are instantaneous.

Michelle Muto said...

Great post. Thanks for sharing, Ray.

Like Ray, I'm not getting the traction I'd hoped for although I'm getting great reviews for The Book of Lost Souls and emails from people who love the book.

I'm working on the next, which I believe to be my best promotion. As for price? The Book of Lost Souls is at $1.99, but maybe dropping it to 99 cents mid-month for a month or two wouldn't hurt.

Derek J. Canyon said...

No offense to Raymond, but I also think the covers are lacking.

Artifact of Evil does not look professional. I can't tell what the heck is in the middle box. There's lots of wasted space. To me, the only thing Artifact of Evil has on the cover is the title and the author. That's not using the billboard that is your cover to greatest effect. You definitely can't identify anything else in thumbnail size.

Torment is better, but I think also still lacking. It tells me nothing about the story, other than it seems to be set in the tropics.

I guess this is the style of thriller covers. It never appealed to me.

All just my opinion, of course.

Edward G. Talbot said...

There are a variety of different things that contribute to sales - Joe has noted many of them. One huge one, though, is getting enough sales that your books start appearing in the various Amazon promotional areas ("customers who bought this also bought." "customers who bought this might like." etc).

You're not hooked into any of those yet. Therefore, covers, descriptions and titles are pretty much irrelevant to your lack of success thus far. Literally, this post on Joe's site alone might be enough to hook you into some of those.

Once you've started getting hooked into those, then issues with covers, etc are a factor and you of course want them dealt with before it happens if possible. My take is that in thumbnail size, the covers don't look good - titles are not readable. Look at them in 150x225 size and that's fairly close to what people are seeing in the "also bought's"

The other suggestion I have is to hit readers in the face with the fact that you're the author of the James Bond books. Don't just say from the pen of internationally acclaimed, New York Times bestselling author. These days, the word "bestselling" simply doesn't carry much weight in an ebook description. If you can get Joe and other authors to give you a blurb to lead with, that's great too - I have had multiple readers tell me they only took a chance on my novel because of a blurb I have as the first part of my book description from another author.

Chris said...

Raymond,

Obviously Joe is the expert you should be listening to in terms of things you should do to sell ebooks.

But when Joe says ultimately it comes down to luck, I think it's important to keep in mind that the luck involved in a book catching on is sometimes different than the luck involved in an author catching on. The bestselling author who releases a book that flops v. the author who has released many books none of which have really taken off. I have no idea what to say if an author is selling like gangbusters except for a couple titles. But a good author who hasn't taken off still has options. Luck may ultimately decide the day, but targeting discoverability might work, especially if you're not only switching styles or genres but also predominate formats.

How are readers finding you? Or finding out you have new releases? Or that you're publishing digitally now? Do you have a newsletter list, an active blog, twitter, etc.? Your established fanbase is mentioned, but since it sounds like you've gone in a different direction with your writing since the Bond novels and you've started self-publishing, maybe you should proceed as if you don't have the established fanbase you think you do. What would you do to find readers if you were a debut author today?

Can you set up guest blogs with authors or sites where thriller readers tend to congregate? (Joe's blog probably has a significant number of followers who don't really read thrillers, but are here for pubbing info). What about advertising? I know some authors think it's a waste, but I think it's a good idea in certain circumstances (Is there a Smart Bitches, Trashy Books or Dear Author equivalent in the thriller world?) What about contests or giveaways? Most importantly, have you sent the books out to reviewers? Book bloggers can be key.

I'm seeing a lot of traditionally pubbed authors in my genre upload backlist titles, make announcements, and expect to sell because they're established authors. But they're not doing any new promo or marketing for the titles. If their previous readership was mostly print-based, then...they probably need to market to digital readers. And maybe they can best do that by releasing a brand new book which would spur backlist sales, but either way they need to let digital readers know about the books and try to grow that audience.

I know I just gifted my bro-in-law with Face Blind b/c he has a kindle and I know he'd read it, but he probably wouldn't read your Bond novels. Is this the case for everyone, I have no idea but it might be worth it to consider it.

Joe Flynn said...

Best of luck to you, Raymond. We all need some of that.

You mention the importance to you of traditional publishing. Going along with that, don't forget the importance of traditional media to gain attention for you and your books.

This week, my latest novel, Still Coming, was featured on Sunday and Tuesday on Kindle Nation Daily and it got a nice bump. But on Sunday, I also did an interview with the Illinois Times. It has a readership that will focus more closely on me a local writer, and the two outlets will provide a synergy greater than either could achieve alone.

The lesson is to cast as wide a media net as you can as long as it's directed at an interested audience.

M. R. Mathias said...

I sold nearly 50k eBooks my very first year. (July'10 to present) My fantasy epic has been in the top 100 of Amazon fantasy/mythology for 10 + months. My newest book comes out in a few days & explains what to do after you publish. How to use free social media to outsell the pubbed authors. I'm proof it works. You'll see. Follow @DahgMahn on twitter! or click my name to learn more.

Jonas Saul said...

Thanks for sharing your experiences.

I have to say that patience and feeding the machine are what got me through.

I spent almost six months doing less than 50 sales a month. I waited and wrote more books.

Now I'm selling over 50 per day and the average per day is continually rising.

With the name you have built for yourself it is only a matter of time.

All the best,

Jonas Saul

Selena Blake said...

As Joe has pointed out, a lot in this business comes down to timing and luck.

And if I had to venture a guess as to why Raymond's books aren't doing as well as he'd hope, I'd say that readers just haven't found the book they want to read yet.

I've noticed with my own releases that once I found a core group of readers for one book they're much more excited about my other books, even if the other books aren't in the same series.

In that position I would tweak the blurb. Keep experimenting until you find something that people seem interested in.

Also consider a cover change. After a while of lack luster sales, what could it hurt?

Add a free short story to the back of a book you really want to boost. Or bonus features.

Team up with other authors to swap excerpts - on their blogs and in their books. This is an excellent way to cross promote each other.

Write something new. A spy novel would be great since you have an established fan base there.

Make sure you're utilizing your newsletter. This is such an important part of how I stay connected with my readers!

~Selena
http://www.selena-blake.com

M.P. McDonald said...

I just grabbed a sample of Torment as it sounds just like the kind of book I'd like. Thanks for featuring this author, Joe. I love finding new authors to read.

T. Roger Thomas said...

Thank you very much for this excellent information

bettye griffin said...

Summed up beautifully..."'why him and not me?' mentality only leads to misery."

I, too, had about 15 novels published traditionally and have met with only the most modest of success with my own well-written, well-edited eBooks. But from the very beginning I never expected riches. I'm generally not a lucky person, and anything in the arts is always going to be iffy. The best sellers are not necessarily the best writers (same thing for singers). I wrote, then and now, because I love it, and my small audience loves my work as well. I love the sense of accomplishment I get from a job well done in creating a book from an idea.

Writing, first and foremost, brings me joy, and without joy what else is there?

Karen said...

Joe, thanks for introducing another author on your blog. Raymond, from the descriptions you gave of your work, those are exactly the kind of books I love to read. I'm excited to have discovered another great author.

I have a feeling your sales are going to go up in the near future. Best of luck!

Jason said...

The rock 'n' roll P.I. series sounds right up my alley. Gonna check 'em out.

Walter Knight said...

Recently I friend posted one of her E-bookk novels on Smashwords for free. Some time later Amazon changed their listing to free. In six days there were 40,000 downloads. Then she changed the price back.

That book and a sequel are now selling thousands of books. Any thoughts? Raymond Benson has a lot of books to spare. Toss one out for free, and gain a NEW following.

I plan to do the same when my science fiction series is complete, and the Christmas season past.

Merrill Heath said...

Raymond, I looked at your covers and don't really see a problem other than Artifact of Evil. I don't care for that one. But I think the others are fine.

Merrill Heath
Novels by Merrill Heath

pagerd said...

Okay, I'm a consumer. I just bought the two Spike Berenger titles. If I'd seen them before, I would have bought them then.

I can see by the ASIN that they've been at amazon for awhile, so they don't show up on new releases lists.

If you decide to drop the price of any of your titles, first go over to http://eReaderIQ.com/pricewatch and track the book. Many readers check the site to find bargains.

Robin

I.J.Parker said...

Thank you both, Joe and Raymond, and the best of success to you, Raymond.
I read Joe's blog nervously these days, because I started to push electronic publishing with my agents when my third publisher let me down (My story is similar to Joe's, though I'm not good at promotion and he is).
Last month four of my novels (the other e-rights are owned by the publisher who put a 12.99 tag on them and pays me 15 %) went on Kindle as an exclusive at 4.99 each. For this, Kindle does some promotion. And by, golly, the books are selling. I'm getting new readers, something that I need badly because I write a series (a historical mystery series set in eleventh century Japan -- think action and exotic setting and characters you can identify with).

I'll soon put a historical trilogy about life during the Heike Wars on Kindle.

So, courage, everyone. Stick to your guns and keep control of your books!

Critic said...

I wouldn't pick up those books based on the covers. They look amateurish, like they were created in MS Paint. Whenever I see bad covers on self published books, I assume the writer is lazy, and I'm less likely to take a chance on the book.

Eloheim and Veronica said...

Some ideas about getting the word out:

I was reading the Publishing Poynters Newsletter this morning and they mentioned this site. I'm going to give it a try.

http://www.paywithatweet.com/

I created a 27 page sample of my first book and I am going to use that in this promotion.

If people tweet or FB about my book, they get the free 27 page download. It's all automated and free to use.

I also added the 27 pager to my website and I am using a bit.ly URL to track traffic.
http://bit.ly/kkxWdS

I will give that out during the Blogtalk radio show I will be interviewed on today. --a side note, I don't remember anyone else talking about Blogtalk shows, they have been quite good to me and there are tons of them.

http://www.awakeningzone.com/Episode.aspx?EpisodeID=177

Should be good for some sales! Or at least good for spreading the word!

Wow, I'm tired just writing that post. It's been a busy day!

Veronica
The Choice for Consciousness: Tools for Conscious Living, Vol. 1

The Homo Spiritus Sessions, Vol. 1-4

Anonymous said...

Covers, covers, covers.

These? Meh.

For an example of a decent, prof cover, check out The Wild Grass at Amazon by a fellow blogger. The literary short stories might not be your thing, but dude has an "it could be in the book store" cover.

M.U.S.C.L.E.: The Cheatin' Security Guard said...

I especially like the advice on attempting to write for another genre. I write mostly non-fiction but I had a fiction idea that virtually wrote itself. We'll see how well it does...

S.E. Gordon said...

The enduring argument: Luck or Law of Attraction?

S.E. Gordon said...

@Critic: Artifact of Evil definitely needs work. Made with MS Paint? That's a little cruel, but I also would not purchase it based on the cover alone.

J.M.Cornwell said...

Despite all the hype about stunning book covers, how many of you can actually remember the book covers of the books you like the most? Many people, a goodly sum, don't buy books because of the cover, although they might be attracted by a bright or interesting, or even awful cover. It's the words that make the book worth buying. The cover is fleeting. The words are forever, otherwise why not just paint covers and hang them on your walls?

As important as it is said great book covers are, it's what's inside that counts. Anyone ever hear, you can't tell a book by its cover?

Anonymous said...

Frankly, the descriptions sound dumb, almost as if you're pretending to be a bad writer. Almost like you copied bad tv shows like cop rock. How many terrible low budget movies are about some dumb artifact? Typically they have some hot topless Indian girl. I haven't read these books so they might be great, but you probably shouldn't describe them like you did. I don't recall Joe giving descriptions of his books, which might sound dumb that way. The Jack Daniels books are interesting in the way they're off marketed, like what do they have to do with booze?

Mark Asher said...

"Recently I friend posted one of her E-bookk novels on Smashwords for free. Some time later Amazon changed their listing to free. In six days there were 40,000 downloads. Then she changed the price back."

Problem is you can't count on Amazon price matching. Sometimes they do. Sometimes if they do, they take months to price match. Sometimes they don't price match at all.

Andy said...

Thanks for posting this, Raymond. It's been really illuminating and some of the comments have been been a real education.

I believe that covers are very important and I'm quite sensitive to design. Yes, it's what's inside that matters, but a bad shop window invites no one inside to buy the goods. Bad covers repel readers.

I've been checking out your books because two of them really interested me from your descriptions in the blog post: Evil Hours and Face Blind.

The cover for Evil Hours is very well designed and I'm buying it just as soon as I've finished this comment. The cover for Face Blind is awful and it sends me scurrying away even though you'd sold me on the pitch.

The cover for Artefacts of Evil is also dreadful. I know others above have been really polite about its faults but it really is bad. It looks unprofessional.

Then there are the covers that are between those two extremes: Torment, Hard Day's Death, Dark Side of the Morgue, Sweetie's Diamonds... these look professionally done, but just a little dated, which may be deliberate because they give off a sensationalist vibe. They look a bit 1980s to me. That might work for the kind of genres they are, though, I don't know. They're certainly not amateurish like the other two.

Reading the synopsis of Evil Hours (on amazon.co.uk) I see this: 'This is a thriller in which a girl in new York with a rare cognitive disorder (inability to recognise the human face) becomes entangled with the mafia.' which must be the synopsis for Face Blind?

It's not going to stop me buying it because I'm already sold on it, but it might be confusing to passing trade.

I hope these comments help in some way and i'd like to thank you again for sharing your experiences and being so open.

Andy Conway
Publishing 11 titles before 11.11.11 on Amazon and Smashwords : 3 down, 8 to go
The Very Thought of You, a timeslip ghost story, out now...

Basil Sands said...

I find myself in a similar place to Raymond. While my podcast audiobooks garnered over two million downloads worldwide over the past 5 years, my ebooks have not made me even close to Konrath famous.

This past year I even went so far as to offer a drawing for a Kindle 3, up to a dozen entries for each book purchased. And I'm giving away one Kindle for every 1000 books sold. The hard part though has been getting word out about the drawing, or even the books.

I guess it takes time to get known, especially with family and day job taking the time that otherwise could be spent on marketing/blogging/touring, etc.

That being said, I will keep plugging on and offering free stuff to folks willing to try my stories. So tell all your friends and family and strangers and everyone in between to stop in at www.basilsands.com, get a couple of $2.99 thrillers and enter to win a Kindle 3.

And maybe, just maybe I'll be able to climb the mountain and see things from Joe's perspective.

Basil
www.basilsands.com

tmsouders.com said...

I can only hope, when it's my time, I get lucky. Statistically though, most of us won't. So, all we can do is keep plugging away, keep writing, and hope that hard work will pay off in the end, and maybe luck will pay us a visit eventually.

Traci Hohenstein said...

Here is my 2 cents - and I'm a newbie to ebook publishing so take it for what it's worth. I published my first suspense novel after taking a leap a faith after reading Joe's blog front to back. I paid for editing, cover art, and formatting. I published Burn Out on April 1st. The first month I sold a little over 100 ebooks - mostly at Amazon. In May I sold over 500 ebooks. The end of May/first of June - I hit the Amazon bestseller list (Action/Adventure) several times reaching as high as #72 on the list. Not a biggie - but not bad for only one title - and within 60 days of publishing. My sales have been steadily increasing and are now around 35-40 a day. What I believe has helped me is 1. Goodreads. Can't say enough good things about it. I noticed Raymond you aren't utilizing the site that much. Join some groups, socialize with members (without spamming), hold a Q&A and do a blog. 2. I got together with a few other indie authors and we help each other out with promotions. Cross-promoting is huge. 3. Write articles for online magazines in your genre (I did one for Spinetingler which helped boost sales). 4. Guest blog and do author interviews on other blog sites (I was interviewed for Night Owl Romance which also boosted sales).
Also, you may want to re-think some of your covers. Do some tweaking.
I'm buying a couple of your ebooks for my son - I think he would enjoy them.
Good luck!

Rob Cornell said...

Okay. Who wants to trade excerpts for the back of our books? I write crime and urban fantasy.

Shoot me an e-mail at robcornellwrites AT gmail DOT com

Rob Cornell said...

Um, also meant to say: Great post. *smacks forehead* I've spent too much time on promotion stuff today. I need to disconnect for the net now.

Raymond said...

Thanks for the comments everyone. I'll work on changing that Artifact of Evil cover :). I forgot to mention in the blog the title that has sold the most on Kindle, and that's "Sweetie's Diamonds," a Tarantino-esque chase across America featuring a single mom/high school teacher with a dark past that catches up to her. Won one of those "Lovey" awards for Best Thriller of 2006.

Many thanks to Joe for allowing me to guest blog, and thanks to all who responded. Good luck to all...

Raymond

Mark Terry said...

Raymond,
Huh. I have similar experiences. (Including publication by Oceanview, who, for a small press, does everything right). Don't really know the answers, eithers.

Robert Bruce Thompson said...

Basil Sands said...

This past year I even went so far as to offer a drawing for a Kindle 3, up to a dozen entries for each book purchased. And I'm giving away one Kindle for every 1000 books sold.


Hoo-boy. IANAL, but it sounds like you're going to need one. Do you realize that you're running an illegal lottery, which is a felony in many jurisdictions? You're even running it across state lines, which means the feds could even get involved if they want to.

You'll notice that all those giveaways you see mention "No Purchase Required". When I was doing some consulting a couple years ago for a large on-line retailer, this came up frequently. Basically, if you get any tangible benefit from such an activity, you're in a very dangerous area legally. Also, unless you have the winners determined by a neutral third party, you're opening yourself up to all kinds of legal problems. As I said, IANAL, but if I were you I'd stop doing this immediately and hope that no one noticed. If anyone raises any questions or complaints, I'd recommend you talk to an attorney immediately.

Stephen Knight said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephen Knight said...

Damn Ray, how much did it cost to make that trailer?

JAMES BRUNO said...

Just as "if you build it, people will come" thesis is fallacious, "if you write it, people will buy it" is equally off the mark. I also agree with Mr. Hartnesse's comments above.
Joe's "the whole 'why him and not me?' mentality only leads to misery" hits the nail on the head.

While luck indeed plays a role, one mustn't dismiss talent. People picked up on Joe's stories quickly because they like his writing. My own have books followed a similar route. I had no idea they'd landed on Kindle bestseller lists until money started appearing in my bank account (duh!). Luck? Sure. But I like to think readers found my writing to be engaging.

All writers can do is to continue to put their best stuff out there and hope for the best.

Milton Bagby said...

Raymond makes some terrific points, but does not mention the value of producing your own audiobooks--something that was difficult if not impossible until now. Amazon and its audioboook partner Audible have just announced ACX, Audiobook Creation Exchange, which promises to do for audiobooks what CreateSpace did for books, Kindle did for e-readers, and lines like Thomas & Mercer did for straight publishing. Check it out at ACX.com. Great post, Raymond!

W. Dean said...

Raymond Benson,

The first thing I noticed was the cover art on “Artifact of Evil” and “Torment,” neither of which would inspire me to buy the book. The first calls to mind the golden age of horror comics. As someone else pointed out, it’s reminiscent of “Tales from the Crypt,” which was a throwback to those times. The cover of “Torment” makes me think of the poster for the movie “Jaws” and others from the late 70s, early 80s with the big dividing line cross the middle. This ‘evil lurking beneath the peaceful surface motif’ has become a visual cliché.

Maybe a bigger problem is the product descriptions, especially since what I read of the books doesn’t have these problems. The ones I looked at have not been properly edited. Here’s the first paragraph for Artifact of Evil:

“From the pen of internationally-acclaimed, New York Times best-selling Raymond Benson, comes a new and unique suspense thriller that blends real-world modern-day crime, historical figures, and fantasy.”

Like the rest of the blurb, this first paragraph sounds like a dufflebag full of golf balls rolling down concrete stairs. It’s too wordy (e.g., “real-world modern-day,” “historical figures”); and there are bad words in there, like “unique,” which is bound to mean “all over the place” to a reader. That suspicion is then confirmed when “suspense… thriller… modern… crime… historical… fantasy…” are piled up as descriptors. It’s everything at the same time. Moreover, there’s a mistake: “…best-selling [author] Raymond…”

The first paragraph should be something simple like this:

“From New York Times best-selling author Raymond Benson comes a thriller two millennia in the making” (or something similar that fits).

The same goes for the second paragraph. The first line reads: “Rusty ‘Red’ River is a former FBI agent, now a freelance forensics consultant and private investigator, who resides in the West Texas town of Limite.” An editor would at least chop that down to: “Former FBI agent Rusty ‘Red’ River is a forensics consultant and private investigator in Limite Texas.”

In the same paragraph you have “abduction/murder,” when a slash has no place in a teaser or anywhere else. The sentence beginning “Investigation reveals…” is grammatically incorrect. In the next sentence, the word “signature” should not be surrounded by quotation marks and it shouldn’t read “the Arabic equivalent of the letter ‘L.’” Throwing in “equivalent of” is an explanation not a description, and you should either use the appropriate symbol or its name.

(As an aside, I haven’t read the whole book, but the Arabic alphabet wasn’t established until the fifth-century AD, which leads me to suspect a historical lacuna if Judas (first-century AD) is using this letter. And the girlfriend may be a “Jewish historian,” but someone with this kind of historical knowledge suggested here would more likely be a “Hebrew scholar.”)

The next paragraph has the same problems. We don’t really need to know the ex-girlfriend lives in Chicago and that she is fluent in Middle Eastern languages in addition to being a Jewish historian (one or the other would suffice). And the exact chronological sequence of countries and cities is stilted in a number of ways: “a bizarre plot that stretches from war-torn Iraq to Israel, then to Mexico, Texas, and finally the Chicago area.”

Again, the sample I read from the book is well-written. It would be shame if you’re losing potential fans over this horrible product description.

no-bull-steve said...

Raymond, thanks for coming by and honestly sharing your journey.

Joe - thanks for your follow up.

I'm not going to read the comments so as not ot influence what I want to say. I'll be direct and honest. The Artifact of Evil cover looks amatuerish. I'd likely not investigate a book like that if it showed up on my suggestion list. The Torment cover is cool...but a factor I don't know that graphic artists are taking into account yet is that buyers are seeing far smaller "products" -- often they're thumbnail on black and white. I don't know if that cover translates well.

It's obvious from your credentials that you can write...but no reviews? Are you interacting with your fans? Did you slowly build a social media presence around your existing work or did you put up a number of eBooks and then try and push people to buy them? I read a few years back that it's easier for an "author" without a book to sell to build a web/social media presence than one with a book to sell...I've seen that theory work a number of times (The Sh*t My Dad Says etc).

Also, if you're "competing" with John Locke, your books are all still 3x higher than his and he's an established market player in the new world order. Here's where the "rush to the bottom" folks have a point. I'd suggest getting at least one or two of your backlist at 99 cents (or get Joe to pull some strings to get one of them given away for free). As Joe says, it's a Marathon, not a sprint. I don't know that a writer of your caliber should even be evaluating before they've had work out there at least a year.

Good luck and I'll certainly buy Artifact of Evil (despite the cover!).
:-)

no-bull-steve said...

WTH?????

Having read the comments, it looks like I was spot on about the cover. I didn't mean to pile on.

But how can the guy who has that and seems to be behind the times have a book trailer like that?!!??!?! That is AWESOME!!!

Having seen that trailer:
A. whoever did it had better be revved up for a TON of new business.

B. Take your best book and either give it away for free or 99 cents and just wait for that new book to come out. That rocks!

James said...

Though the covers don't grab me, either, the descriptions are more problematic. Blurb writing is almost an art unto itself. I would put some effort into fixing those first.

Jude Hardin said...

Thanks for sharing, Raymond.

I only have one indie title for sale so far, the horror novella Unborn. Right now if you buy it for $2.99, the entire novel Journey Into Darkness: A Kim Journey Thriller is included for free. So, like Joe said, offering bonus material is one way to potentially boost sales.

And congrats on your deal with Oceanview! They did a great job with my debut thriller Pocket-47, and it even got a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly.

Jude Hardin said...

And yes, that trailer rocks!

It's way better than mine.

Coral Russell said...

I have no idea if this applies to this author or not and I have nothing against authors putting up their backlist as eBooks, but as a reader, I want something new.

Because of how breath-takingly fast everything is moving today, if the book is too old, it's not going to have all the bells and whistles of events that are going on now. Certain genres are effected by this more than others.

I'm not implying that's what is happening with this authors sales. I've just noticed it as a reader in general.

Much luck to you!

And as always Konrath's ideas look great!

Rebecca Stroud said...

@J.M.Cornwell - For what it's worth, I completely agree about covers. Of all the thousands of books I've read in my life, I could not describe nor do I recall one. single. cover. Of course, maybe that's why my sales aren't zooming but I think that would be a shame...that readers don't do just that: Read the description, a sample, or - hell, for $2.99 - the whole book if they like the genre and the blurb.

Again - and in my not-so-humble opinion - I truly think that judging a book by its cover is self-defeating, especially if the writing appeals to you...

Rebecca Stroud
Devil's Moon

J Randall said...

@ Rebecca Stroud, Ditto. I wonder at times if folks that paid to have their covers designed feel a little superior, perhaps not. I have never purchased a book for it's cover. I doubt there are many folks that do. I think Raymond's covers look okay. But who am I.

J.M.Cornwell said...

Rebecca, I obviously agree, but I also paid a professional artist to do the cover for my novel, and I have three covers. The last was the best, although the other two covers have their charms.

I still say a cover may draw your attention but cannot cover up bad writing.

Coral, there are some people who have yet to discover a writer would be enthralled at being able to buy the author's back list, especially if they enjoy what they have read. When I was about to interview an author who had a back list, I bought and read all the books in that series so I would know the full creative arc and have fodder for good questions. Some people care about the back list, and they are a gold mine for authors, not to mention a way to introduce a whole new generation to their work. I wouldn't rule back lists and short stories, or other offerings out.

SBJones said...

I always enjoy reading this blog. The tips were very nice as well as hearing how the journey has been for an established author.

Vivi Anna said...

Thanks to Raymond to sharing his story, the ups and downs.

I can feel his pain, I'm not selling as well as I thought I wuold. I have 12 books to my name in my backlist, and I put out new work, and did some promo and it's selling okay, but not anything to cheer about.

I plan on putting out the new book in two months, so I'm hoping that spurns more sells.

It is a crap shoot sometimes.

But you just have to dig in and hang on, and keep at it.

Estevan Vega said...

Good info. I think the linking within a book and the excerpts at the end of a book is a great concept. Something I never really thought of was adding excerpts from other authors. Sounds legit.

estevan (ARSON)
www.estevanvega.com

Tim Myers said...

I like the covers!

Keep the faith, my friend.

W. Dean said...

"Don’t judge a book by its cover” is a nice sentiment. So is “don’t judge people by their appearance.” But I’d like to know how many of you would open your door to a prospective baby-sitter who was wearing a clown suit with a hand grenade tattooed on her forehead—all of you I’m sure!

You have to be realistic. Readers have a lot to choose from and the cover and book blurb are the fastest way to sort through the pile. Besides, a cover should evoke the kind of book it fronts; otherwise, it just creates confusion.

How many books would Konrath have sold if, say, he’d put a photograph of a field mouse nibbling at a piece of cheese on the front of every one his thrillers? Do you really think it wouldn’t have mattered? If you’re inclined to answer, “It shouldn’t matter! And I’ll be damned if I bother with appropriate covers! People should buy my books in spite of the cover!” then I suggest you get used to obscurity.

Thrilling Covers said...

The covers are quite strong in terms of color. Things that can be enhanced include the font (color, placement, size), dramatic effect, background images and proportions (they're too wide).

More importantly, however, the titles of the books can be improved. "Artifact of Evil" implies a possessed item, which requires an immediate suspension of disbelief. "Evil" is an antiquated word and overly elementary.

Similarly, "Torment" implies a story of someone being tormented. I'm not sure how many people really want to endure a story of that nature. A more dramatic and positive title would probably do wonders.

Anonymous said...

J.M.Cornwell said...
Despite all the hype about stunning book covers, how many of you can actually remember the book covers of the books you like the most? Many people, a goodly sum, don't buy books because of the cover, although they might be attracted by a bright or interesting, or even awful cover. It's the words that make the book worth buying. The cover is fleeting. The words are forever, otherwise why not just paint covers and hang them on your walls?

My answer: Are you kidding me?!? I have always bought a book by its cover. That's how I ended finding some of my favorite authors or books. I can remember the covers of many of my favorite books. For instance, I LOVE Black Sun Rising by CS Friedman. That was the ONLY reason why I picked up the book in the first. I had never heard of her before then. I picked up the book, admired the cover, read the first page and was HOOKED every since then. I have read every single book she has ever written, some of them multiple times, all because of that awesome cover. Yes, the writing is important. CS Friedman is a master storyteller. But I only found out about her because of that cover.

Folks, don't be fooled. People do indeed judge a book by its cover. But yes, it will always be your great writing and compelling stories that KEEP them coming back for more.

Mister Snitch! said...

I don't think the covers are bad. I don't know that they're 'great' either, but either ay I don't think they're a factor here.

It might be a question of rethinking how a certain kind of thing gets sold. In terms of thrillers, it may be a matter of thrillers being sold via a 'brand name', where either the publisher or the author is the brand. Could be it's a matter of Mr. Benson needing to market himself, rather than his books.

Years ago, I used to do publicity for Bantam Books. I was amazed that anything that said 'Louis L'Amour' had a market, period. People only needed to se that name. That was the beginning of my understanding of how this really worked.

Just a thought.

Vincent Stark said...

Well I just bought A Hard Day's Death - there's another sale at least.

Basil Sands said...

Sigh...just when you think you've got it figured out, you don't.

I am more and more just going with the idea of luck. Hit the streets long enough and loud enough and eventually success will be there...unless you get sued, mugged or hit by an asteroid along the way.

jtplayer said...

I've bought/buy plenty of books based on the cover. But that's with paper. It's one of the reasons I love bookstores so much. I dig browsing the titles, holding the thing in my hands, checking out the cover.

I find with ebooks the cover is slightly less important, because once I've bought the damn book I never see the cover again. In fact, I've bought some books where the cover doesn't make it onto my Kindle. What's up with that?

James said...

>Readers have a lot
>to choose from and
>the cover and book
>blurb are the fastest
>way to sort through
>the pile.

Exactly.

I have never bought a book because of it's title (or blurb), because I never buy a book without reading a little of it first.

However, I have found a number of interesting books that I may have overlooked because something about the cover caught my eye, or something about the title or blurb piqued my interest.

When you are scanning hundreds of books on bookshelves, or (even worse) scanning thousands of books online, an interesting cover or title might make you pause for a second to read the blurb. A good blurb may lead you to read a sample chapter (or skim pages, in a bookstore), and a good sample may lead you to purchase the book.

Things that are designed to draw attention aren't necessarily going to be memorable. I can't remember any of the pictures of food I have seen in restaurant menus, but I know that some of them have led me to try new things, which become memorable if I like them.

Anonymous said...

I posted before about the descriptions, which bother me. I think the problem is he's using movie style in selling a book. Movies tend to have unique plots, but books don't really distinguish themselves that way. It's like a pitch. Might work better on agents or people in the business, but for a reader something else is needed. Maybe that's the secret to these ebooks.

Mark Asher said...

All I can say is neither the covers nor the descriptions grab me.

I believe the descriptions are too long. Can you give it to me in three sentences? There's a sea of books out there, and the water is getting deeper every day. I don't want to read three paragraphs to figure out what a book's about.

I'm also not a fan of any kind of fiction that deals with the music industry. No idea why, but I don't want to read about that industry.

Robin Sullivan said...

Raymond, sorry you're not hitting good numbers yet. I do think that Joe is more toward the "top end" but there are plenty of other authors that ARE doing well. A lot of it comes down to marketing. I have an author "Marshall Thomas" that had been published through be for a while but it wasn't until April that I really poured on the marketing efforts for him. In May he sold more than 17,000 books. So far this month he's up to just a tad shy of 6,000.

Nathan Lowell's third book has raised all his tales across the board and so frar in June he has done more than 3,300 books.

For my authors I find the best thing to do is right the next book in the series - do you have any ideas for extending what you have now?

Robin Sullivan | Write2Publish | Ridan Publishing

Robin Sullivan said...

I also want to say that I'll chime in with John C. Hartness - the blurbs aren't rocking my world. Writing fiction and writing marketing copy takes a much different skill set - you might want to approach someone in advertising to give them a makeover.

Robin Sullivan | Write2Publish | Ridan Publishing

A Wild Imagination said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I am an aspiring novelist who is sponging up everything I can learn about the industry. This information is priceless! I would like to invite you to look at my blog at fay-moore.blogspot.com. If you would be willing to share advice via a guest post for my readers, I'd be very grateful. I am going to post about A Newbie's Guide on 6/18/2011. Thanks again for your site.

KR Jacobsen said...

Raymond,

I wish you better success and luck, but I appreciate that you are willing to share your results. As Joe says, maybe it's a bit of luck, and perhaps with something (or a couple of things) at $.99 it'll jumpstart sales.

As someone preparing to dive into this pool, I appreciate the information and the tips both.

Good Luck, Raymond!

Selena Kitt said...

Now that I've seen it like that, I think Blake should change his name to Black Crouch. It has a ring to it. *grin*

Aaron Patterson said...

Three things that are a must for the eBook world.

1. Cover, must be amazing and clear on what the book is about.

2. Reviews, some good and some bad, just the more the better.

3. description and good story.

That is my advice, but we all are just doing what we can. Good luck.

Aaron

Terrance Foxxe said...

Now we get down to the meat of the issue: LUCK

Anybody can make their own luck, it’s called hard work. I’m marketing myself offline, simply because I suck when it comes to social networking. I’m surrounded
by writers, when I need readers. The work is hard, slow, but I find my efforts worth my time. Most folks buy because of word-of-mouth online, and I wish I could tap into that; tried, failed. Four e-books now up and on Kindle, all for .99, and in one month I went from selling one a month, to one a day on average. My Alice! XXX, which is pure literary porn, seems to attract the most readers. My
other books hold their own. No reviews as of yet, but I’m hopeful. I have six more offerings I’m slowly getting out. My covers I did myself, and Rabbit (Alice! XXX) looks cute. Eona (A Post-apocalyptic Story of Love) is the babe on the skulls. Imagine a teddy bear in a straightjacket, or click on In The Dreaming. What Not
To Do should appeal to all budding Indie Authors, because I explain why we should strive for perfection, learning how to edit ourselves into print, and so much
more. I’m just getting started, but I’m doing what I can to make my own luck. I’m for those like me, broke but willing. I post what I’m doing on my blog to make my
own luck. Everybody keep the faith, and think in terms of years, not days.

http://terrancefoxxe.blogspot.com/

http://www.amazon.com/Terrance-Foxxe/e/B004ZNFV0C/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_p
op_1

Renee said...

I'm curious, Joe, on how you get a "quality" writer to trade excerpts with me. I would love to do this, but where to start? I am a nobody when it comes to self-publishing (although Nephilim sold 500 print books) I still have the "self-published author" label. My thought would be to ask on Twitter and review writings of those who seem interested, and then if I feel their writing is good (and vice versa) we might trade excerpts. Any thoughts on this?
Thanks
Renee

heavycat said...

Wouldn't this site be a great place to do some kind of community critique of each author/book's marketing efforts, cover, blurb, presentation, web site, etc? Seems most, if not all authors here have marketing going at some level.

For example, here's our trailer.

Just a thought. :)

LadyStar

Stitch said...

I have to say the Artifact of Evil cover, and title, don't appeal to me. I also agree that the "From the pen of..." doesn't add anything positive to the description.

"Don't judge a book by its cover" is an old saying that came about in an era when books looked like this: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tieto.jpg

They don't look terribly exciting, do they?

Now, I don't think a lot of books get bought because of amazing covers, only, but I do think a lot of books get "not bought" because of bad covers. Maybe the cover looks unprofessional, or misleading, or just doesn't grab any attention at all.

Duane Spurlock said...

Great trailer!

Good info. Like Joe, I enjoyed Mr. Benson's Bond novels and expected to see more spy fiction from him. The Black Stiletto, however, looks intriguing.

Pickle Smith said...

I'm glad I stumbled upon this site. I even mention the 10,000 hours bit in my own blog. Keep spreading the word!

Raymond said...

All the books are now dropped to 99 cents and there's a new Artifact of Evil cover... and I fiddled with some descriptions. :)

trickaduu said...

Howdy Joe,

I've been reading your blog for a while now, mighty information. Well of knowledge and insight! Cheers for sharing so much.

As a result, I've just released the eBook version of my first book Randumb... The Adventures of an Irish Guy in LA!
http://www.amazon.com/RanDumb-Random-Dumb-Adventures-Irish/dp/1905483902/
http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/65762 if anyone would like a look!

If you're a fan of laughing, you might like it!

And now I'm in full on book whure mode. Apologies. Anyways, mighty blog. Write on.

Cheers,

Mark

Christina Garner said...

I second what Traci said about Goodreads. I've found it to be a welcoming and helpful community. Btw, Traci, your success is impressive--congrats! In 3 days my novel, Gateway, will have been up for a month and I'm at around 50... not great, but not horrible. I'm hoping book bloggers will help. I've got a few reviews coming out soon. Have you tried bloggers, Raymond?

In any case, I'm sure you'll see a spike in sales from this post--I know I just bought Artifact of Evil--sounds great!

Clytie said...

I buy a lot of ebooks (and only ebooks, due to disability), and I find the cover and blurb can help you weed out less professional efforts. My 20-year-old daughter says covers are very important: they're your window into the story. (In response to an earlier commenter, teens have smartphones with ereader software.)

I wouldn't have bought any of the titles Raymond listed here based on their original Amazon covers and blurbs. However, I liked the way Raymond made them sound.

So I clicked on the cover image for Artifact of Evil, above. It just showed a larger image. (Please fix: cover images should lead directly to the opportunity to buy.) Luckily, the inline title link did take me to the Amazon listing.

I also wanted to buy the first rock-n-roll title, but the inline link took me to the paperback listing. (Please fix: when you're talking about epublishing, the link should lead directly to an opportunity to buy the ebook.)

At 99c, I was happy to buy Artifact of Evil and both rock-n-roll stories. I look forward to reading them. :)