No, mind my isn’t in the gutter right now, I’m talking about how hard it is to sell books. I’ve been writing since I learned how to hold a pencil, I’ve won contests, had a top NY agent, and have written and/or published a dozen novels. People ask me where my ideas come from and I can’t give them an answer. All I know is that ideas for stories DO come and the urge to capture them on paper is overwhelming. I’ve been known to jot down notes on whatever I can find, tiny pieces of scrap paper, toilet paper, even my own skin. Writing has always come easily and naturally to me and I get insurmountable joy sitting in front of my computer and living in and creating worlds inside my own mind. Some people say there’s nothing better than reading a good book on a rainy or snowy day. There is one thing I can think of that’s better: writing one. So why have I titled this post It’s Hard? Because trying to make a living as a writer is a completely different animal than just being a writer. Marketing and promotion is tedious and grueling, but necessary of course. The best piece of advice I ever got as a young writer was a very successful author telling me that making it in this field was incredibly hard and takes years of commitment and devotion and that most people give up or fail to achieve any level of success. But that’s okay. Because if it were easy than everyone would be rich and famous. And that ain’t the case.
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Nook just unveiled its new tablet today. Watching the interview on CBS this morning with the president of the company he was asked if he thought traditional paperback books will disappear in thirty years. Although, he wouldn’t give a definitive answer (because Barnes and Noble still have over 600 bookstores nationwide) it was apparent that he thought so. Though Barnes and Noble have outlived most retail book outlets, I do believe those days are numbered. Getting into the ebook revolution by designing the new Nook is a wise idea when Amazon is clearly taking over the market. And with the Kindle App, you don’t even need to own a Kindle to buy from the electronic store and read a book. As I’ve watched my book sales on Amazon rise steadily each month, I’ve also watched my Nook and Kobo sales stagnate. It could simply be the popularity of the Kindle and ease of the Kindle store that feeds my sales or it could be that I haven’t put nearly the effort into selling to Nook and Kobo through Smashwords. It’s my own ignorance that keeps this market low on my priorities. I simply don’t know much about the Nook and its store. That’s all about to change. I’m dedicating the month of October to getting myself setup on the Nook sites and their boards. Though I was loyal to Amazon when I was in their Select program, it’s time to branch out and spread my promotional efforts around the globe. Look out Nook, here I come!
Monday, September 24, 2012
After almost eleven months of continuous, daily writing I finally wrote ‘The End” on IMAGINATION. Well, I don’t actually write those words since it’s not industry standard anymore, but I did write the final, conclusive last sentence of the novel. Ah, what a feeling! This being my eleventh book, it still never ceases to amaze me how a story can take on a life of its own. If I were to look at my original notes on the concept for the story from last year and compare it to what I actually created, it would probably give a good laugh. In the original concept the main character was an alien. When you read IMAGINATION you’ll discover the humor in that. Though I’ve finished the novel, it is still a ways from hitting the marketplace. I need to give it a couple of good, thorough reads, looking for any mistakes or poor/boring sentences. When I can read it without pausing to correct, it will be ready for a professional edit. Not sure who I’m going to use at this point. Once those corrections are made it’s designing the cover time. I already have an idea of what I want it to be. Then to my formatter who will set it up for the marketplace. Then what? Well, to be honest, I usually feel a little depressed and disconnected after finishing a book when I’m not sure what my next book will be. Sometimes the idea for a novel won’t come for months after I finish the last one. I usually wander around in a semi-fog desperate for an idea that will keep me interested for at least the year it usually takes me to write a book. Sure, I’ll market and promote my other works and concentrate on IMAGINATION, but that still leaves hours free when I would normally be writing original stuff. I’ve tried short stories in my spare time, but I’m just not that kind of a writer. I like to develop a concept or idea fully and that usually takes me at least 50,000 words to achieve. Sometimes writing ‘The End” can almost be as scary as writing that first sentence.
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Ebooks are forever. Think about this sentence for a moment. You write a novel, get it formatted, have a nice cover made up, get an ISBN, and then download it onto Kindle, or Smashwords, or any of the hundreds of ebook distributors, and poof, it’s available globally to anyone with an ereader. Not only that, it will be available until the end of time. That means fifty years from now if I want to show my great grandchild one of my books, all they’ll have to do is type in the title and, poof again, there it will be. Talk about immortalizing yourself for all eternity. Isn’t that what art is all about? I’m very lucky to be living in an age where I can imprint myself to the world and be remembered forever through my books. I do feel sad for all the paperback writers throughout the last centuries whose hard work and effort only got them a six-week shelf life for their masterpiece and then their book would disappear forever, going out of print and into the paper shredder. With ebooks I may still be getting royalties when I’m a hundred years old, I can write and publish what I want and let the worldwide public decide if the book is good, without being evaluated for the amount of profit the story might generate. My novels won’t sit stacked on some shelf in the back of a dusty old bookstore (if bookstores still exist in five years). They will always be fresh and ready for download, ready to draw a new reader into my crazy, noir, eccentric, imaginary worlds. It’s an incredibly comforting thought knowing my stories will be around forever, like the myths of ancient
or fables and folklore of olden times. In a way, ebooks will immortalize me and
define me as a novelist until the end of time. Now, if I could just make a
healthy living at it. Haha. Greece
Monday, September 17, 2012
As I edge ever closer to completion of IMAGINATION, I’ve finally reached the climax weeks (yes I said climax weeks) of novel writing. The book is complete from first sentence to last, and all the plot details, settings, and characters have been worked out and are complete. Now is when I can fully enjoy the novel writing process. Because now, I get to paint all the mental pictures that in my opinion sets my writing apart from normal storytelling. You see, I started my writing life as a young poet, writing and publishing my work back in the early 1990’s. Many of my poems can be read on my Authors Den page. http://www.authorsden.com/neilostroff Writing poetry trained my style and allowed me to perfect the art of creating what I call mental-visuals. This is where a sentence is written in such a poetic style that the reader distinctly sees the words as pictures in his mind. Here is an example from the book, a scene where one of the main characters dies.
Roger’s lungs would take in no more air. His heart stopped beating and he heard the steady whine of the monitor announcing his physical was gone. He comprehended everything. His body was deceased and he knew it!
His consciousness disengaged completely from his mortal mechanism and awareness floated like a buoyant bubble up toward the ceiling. He looked down at himself. Saw the deep wrinkles of his forehead, his hollow cheeks, his fixed eyes, his absolute pale skin. Tension in his face had dissolved leaving his body looking like a clay model.
Even this scene can be tightened a little, but you see how the scene is complete regardless; the point comes across. The fun for me is now reading each scene and tweaking them to perfection. It’s almost like play for me after the last ten months of intense writing, and trying to tie all the subplots, histories, and concepts together into one solid piece. I still haven’t decided what to do with the novel once it’s complete. There are a few minor league literary agencies that have connected with me through Linkedin and have seen my other books and are showing interest in seeing more. But as I’ve blogged many times over the months, in this day and age I’m a little frightened about sighing away the rights to my stuff to anyone. I guess I’ll have to see what interest is generated when I announce that IMAGINATION is ready to go. My other books continue to sell well but I still haven’t gotten that pop like I did last month. Also, my
Friday, September 14, 2012
It used to be that an aspiring author would write a novel and then painstakingly send out SASE’s (remember them) hoping to land an agent. If the author did land an agent, then the author would hope for a publishing contract. If by miracle of miracles the agent actually sells the book, then eighteen months later it comes out in the bookstore (remember those) and the author starts doing a grueling schedule of signings hoping to recoup more money in sales than the advance received. The ebook revolution has changed all that. Sure, there are a lot of people publishing crappy books that they type out in a few afternoons. Some even sell a few copies. But readers are wary of junk writers and Amazon allows a sample to see how the book flows and if it hooks you. All my samples hook the reader and have them wanting to read more (I hope). But now, just providing samples may not be enough to grab an audience. Now, there are book trailers that need to be made and then uploaded to every video site around (I have yet to make a trailer, but know I should). There is Pinterest, and Facebook, and Yahoo groups, and blogs to be written, and sites to upload samples and links. It takes a lot of time to get noticed as a writer these days. And therein lay the secret of success. Writers quick to publish their books are usually people who want the instant gratification of saying they wrote a book without the months or years it takes to write a really good novel (with the exception a few genius writers). These same writers don’t have the tenacity and patience it takes to slowly build up a readership. Those quick-to-publish writers will grow bored of the daunting process of getting noticed and eventually their books will fade from view. It’s almost like a natural selection for stories. Bad books will be weeded out leaving the good. Readers may have to take a little more time finding the gems amidst the dirt instead of relying on large publishing conglomerates to tell them what to read and what’s good for the masses, but they will. I think the birth of indie publishing will change the very core of what a reader can expect in a book. Stories won’t be sweetened up, or toned down, or made politically correct to sell more copies. Good novels will become true works of art and writing will blossom to a new degree of freedom and creativity. And we will all benefit from that.
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Although this review came out yesterday on 9/11, I didn’t want to promote it until today. Because the book deals with 9/11 and its aftermath and one man’s struggle to come to grips with his loss, I felt awkward and didn’t want anyone to think I’d take such a tragedy and use the anniversary to sell books. http://voices.yahoo.com/drop-out-novel-reaches-depths-soul-11743006.html?cat=38 Please check it out and check out my latest tips and advice for writers on my blog. Thank you and thanks to our troops for keeping us safe.
Monday, September 10, 2012
In my neck of the woods fall is just around the corner. That means crisp air, changing leaves, the first milky frost. Those of you who read my blog know that I’m a warm weather kind of a guy, but there definitely is an advantage to the coming winter weather. It gives me a chance to hole up inside my office and write freely without feeling the guilt of wasting a beautiful summer day inside. I don’t mind spending hours in front of the computer when the temperature outside is ten degrees. I get inspired by snowstorms and the feeling that the world is a closed room and in hibernation. What I don’t like about the cold is breaking away from the warmth and security of my house and venturing into the winter world of icy roads, scraping windshields, and crazy drivers who think an inch of snow means having to drive twenty-five miles per hour on the cleared and salted highway. I’m excited for the colder weather because right now I’m at the most fun point of finishing IMAGINATION. The scenes are placed, the characters fleshed-out, and the plot is strong and engaging. I’m just reading it over and over, editing, and filling in gaps of information where I think there needs to be more explanation. With the colder weather approaching, this delightful task is made even easier without the temptations of a beautiful day. It also allows more time for marketing and promoting. And speaking of the latter, a wonderful woman named Kim Hope Smith who I met through Linked in, showed me a way to increase traffic to my sites through specialized keywords. If you’re a writer this is some valuable info.
Go to: https://adwords.google.com
Go to the tools and analysis tab at the top
Go to keyword tool
Under find keywords there will be three entry boxes; word or phrase, website, category.
Input the words you’d like to use and see how many times it was searched on the web. You want to choose words with a low competition rate but a high search history, preferably over 500,000. You should update keywords every week to increase traffic and even title your blog posts and promo with these keywords. I will be updating mine today and will keep a close eye on sales and traffic to my sites. I’ll report my findings in a few weeks. Hope this helps.
Friday, September 7, 2012
With a new month comes a new reset of sales figures. It always seems to hurt my ego just a little when I look at the KDP figures and they’re right back at zero (or were). I’ve sold a few dozen books so far this month. Still, for the last two weeks my heart twirled every time I brought up my sales page and saw all the numbers, the result of many, many hours of marketing and promotion. For the last four months every promotion I’ve done has been on free sites, word-of-mouth, and social networking, but that’s about to change. With Amazon’s announcement of the new Kindles, I foresee a huge boost in new readers and Kindle owners. In fact, I just received a few messages on Facebook from my friends who are going to buy the new Kindle. So, I believe it’s time to start booking paid sponsorships. I’ve already booked November 30th on Kindle Fire Department.com for DROP OUT and I am going to spend today booking a few more. I’ve been saving and have budgeted $500 for marketing this month. I know to some writers that may seem like a lot of money and to others not nearly enough if I want to hit it big time. For now, I’m going to experiment before I invest the really big bucks. Kindle Fire Department boasts that seventy percent of their sponsors earn their upfront money back in sales and another ten percent actually make money. If that’s the case with DROP OUT, then I will book repeated sponsorships until I don’t get that return. Last sponsorship with KFD sold about five dozen books that day and another three dozen the following days, with relatively steady sales for a few weeks after that. My hope is with all these new sponsorships that I’ll be able to build a much larger fan base for the release of IMAGINATION, plus I have my other books available if readers like my style. My other dilemma is whether I should raise my prices before I start all my paid sponsorships. I’ve been doing pretty well selling all my books for a flat rate of $1.99, however, that still keeps me in the 30% royalty rate instead of the 70%. I would have to raise my prices by a dollar to meet the criteria. But statistically, I would only have to sell one book at $2.99 to make as much royalty as three books at the $1.99 rate. This is one I’m going to have to think about. By the way, KFD rate for a one day sponsorship is $100. Doing the math, I need to sell 167 books to break even at $1.99 and only 49 books to break even at $2.99. My reviews for DROP OUT have all been from strangers and all have been five stars so I know my readers will enjoy the story, I just don’t know if they’ll be willing to spend their hard earned money on me, a relatively unknown author. Ugh! I hate these kinds of decisions.
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
I watched a funny Family Guy episode last night (actually, I think they’re all funny) about Brian the dog wondering if he should marry an older woman. He goes out to a bar and tries to pick up this really pretty cartoon girl. When all of his pick-up lines fail he finally says to her in desperation, “You know, I wrote a book.” And her response, “Let’s both go into the bathroom.” Haha! No, seriously. Why does someone write? If you ask a sixteen-year-old male musician why he wants to be a rock star I guarantee top of his list is to impress girls. Why do people drive really expensive cars when any good, inexpensive reliable means of transportation will do? Why do people buy mansions that can sleep twenty people when there’s only four or five in the household? Why do anything at all to improve your status in life? Unfortunately, it’s to impress other people. Even I will admit to being affected by this need to impress. My ego does inflate whenever I see someone’s eyes light up when I mention how many books I’ve written. I absolutely enjoy the accolades sometimes thrown my way by strangers and fans. But here’s what separates those who create art because they have to and those that do it to impress other people. I wrote for sixteen years before I got anything more than nice notes of rejection from agents and publisher’s before I started to get noticed. Had I counted on other’s praise to keep me going I would have quit long ago. I write because I’m hard-wired to do it. Everything else, the praise and respect that comes with completing novels, is bonus. I want people to be impressed by the content of my stories not just by the fact that I was able to complete one. As Brian the dog uses the fact that he wrote a single novel to impress a woman, I’ll stick with people reading my books first and then see if they’re impressed. They usually are.