A Time for Courage …

 

Yes, courage is a strong word and conjures up a variety of images, but it can also be measured in different ways. For the purpose of this post it will be aimed at:

Free this weekend: 23rd/24th January

1. My latest marketing strategy.
2. My next scheduled collection of short stories.
3. Indie writer attitudes.

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My latest marketing strategy.

I’ve already published my first book of this year, A Life of Choice: Part One, and I aim to have the second part published by April 2016. All is going to schedule with my other projects.

I said in a post last year that I’d stopped giving things away, but on a recent update of my catalogue I realised a word which carries international appeal is ‘FREE’.

Throughout 2016 I will promote a FREE title every month. On the weekend 16th / 17th January 2016 I set up The Welcome: and other Sci-Fi stories as FREE. My idea behind the move was to promote the title and my six guest authors.

During the weekend 23rd / 24th January 2016 I am offering A Taste of Honey as my first monthly freebie. To make things easier and more tempting to the international readership, I am using the new Amazon ‘preview/buy’ link.

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My next scheduled anthology.

Collection - A Time for CourageApart from the heading of this post, A Time for Courage is also the title of my next anthology. It will contain my preferred number of short stories (12), in a collection which will be military-themed.

I had intended to open this new collection to guest authors, but with very little interest when I floated the idea last year, I went ahead with a selection of my own ideas. There may be one or two stories borrowed from another anthology, but I believe cross-pollination is good.

At the time of writing this article I have 10 stories completed and two more in the late stages of my editing process, so I’m confident of my target publication date of late March 2016.

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Indie writer attitudes.

As a member of the Indie Author Support and Discussion (IASD) group, I’ve been instrumental in coaching new writers. No, I’m not the be-all-and-end-all when it comes to advice, but sometimes a little nudge is all a new writer needs.

Yes, I’ve been known to suggest that a ‘writer’ either works harder or finds another outlet, but I only do such a thing when I’ve worked hard to read past the first few paragraphs. On odd occasions it stands out when the person in question has an urge best kept to themselves.

We may be known as ‘indie’ but I like to think it stems more from the publishing aspect than the selfish, keep-it-to-myself attitude of some. I’ve only been a writer since 2007. I am not an authority on our craft, but I recognise when somebody’s heart is in the right place, and I will do all in my power to help. If my private offer is refused, I’ll back off – no offence taken.

IASD - globe (2)I’ve noticed at the other end of the scale we have a great number of new authors who have great storytelling skills, but they have little or no confidence in their ability. It may surprise those reading this, but I started like that, before realising the only person who could shout for me with any conviction in the early days – was me.

Authors with several titles are always asked for a piece of advice. I’m always open to take advice, but if I could offer a piece of advice to my peers it would be to lean on the rest of us. Yes, the first and general idea is ‘don’t give up’, but importantly, I believe having your work read, critiqued and read again are essential requirements.

We can’t judge our own writing, and anybody who shouts about how good their own work is will put me off the idea of reading any. Self-promotion is not about how good you think you are, but about letting people know you have titles out there. There is a big difference between self-belief and marketing.

I’m proud to be a member of the IASD, which in my opinion is the best writing group I’ve associated myself with, and I’ve been with a few. An honest opinion is never far away, but by the same token, it has to be sought.

As I said at the outset, this is A Time for Courage. We must work hard to produce a good story, and then edit, edit, and edit, before we ask for another person to give their views.A Taste of Honey

If you haven’t already tried my writing, here is A Taste of Honey, the title which is FREE this weekend.

Click on the cover to preview before downloading – if you like what you see:

As always, thank you for reading.

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The Wallpaper Effect – Part 2 of 2

Wallpaper sectionIn the first part of this two-piece article I highlighted what I refer to as the Wallpaper Effect. As promised, this second post is not intended as a list of suggestions to bring success to all, but it is an insight into my own personal strategy.

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It may not seem like much, but if you saw Part 1, you will remember how busy the graphic appeared. There was so much it was difficult to see the information. In the picture above you’ll see the same information, but presented more clearly.

Even in a picture we must remember to keep it straightforward – or the message can be lost, or ignored. For an eBook, the cover must be effective – it has a job to do, so it might be the reason there is little or no interest in your hard work.

Be prepared to change your cover if there are no sales, or after a lengthy period only low sales. Yes it’s true, the cover can be the cause of folk taking no interest in a title.

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Who designs my covers?

The covers of my novels are usually designed by a cover designer – and this has proven to be a good decision. I saw my sales rise when I made that investment.

I created the cover for Give & Take, and then it was enhanced with the help of the very talented Nico Laeser. The whole idea of attempting the genre was experimental, so I didn’t intend a big outlay. Give and Take - the final cover

As we all do for all of our titles, I have high hopes for my erotic story, but I will only have a new cover designed if the sales continue to rise over the coming weeks. This is not through lack of faith in my work, but because of the saturated market in that genre. Since publication about two weeks ago there has been one day when it hasn’t sold.

I design the covers for my poetry and short story anthologies – because it doesn’t matter how good they look – they are both low selling markets.

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Why would I have a cover designed if my erotica story was actually selling?

Statistics used at a recent conference demonstrated that a professionally designed cover increases existing sales of an eBook by 34%, or if you don’t like percentages – one third. In other words if you are selling 30 books per week, the change to a professional cover is highly likely to take your sales up to 40 per week.

My own title Beyond The Law was selling a couple of days per week with the cover I produced. I had a bespoke cover designed. Inside the first week with the new cover it started to sell almost daily, and it is still my best performing title.

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Which outlets do I use?

I was with Smashwords for a year, and with Kobo about three months, and that was whilst I was also using the basic Amazon account. I decided early on not to spread myself too thin and end up with a possible conflict of interest between outlets.

A few months ago I moved all of my work to Amazon, so as I’ve said before in two posts, I’m an Amazon Bitch. Check out Amazon Bitch Part 1 and Part 2.

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What is my philosophy regarding marketing?

I treat my name as a brand with regard to writing. I know that many indie authors don’t agree with the ‘brand’ idea, but if I am promoting the sale of a product – my work – it is a brand. Fact.

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How do I use my books as a marketing tool?

My steadily increasing catalogue of titles is my best asset. If I can capture one reader with any of my titles they might go on to read more of them. If I’m really lucky the reader will talk about their experience.

I believe my general format helps. To ensure the prospective reader is offered a good sample – I place the minimum information at the front of my books:

– Title, copyright, acknowledgements, and Table of Contents (which lists the information at the back).

There is time enough for extra information at the back:

– Endnotes, a word from the author, a short bio, and also by the author – listing each title with a blurb to entice the reader to try another. I will soon be adding links to other authors – if I’ve read their work.

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What about pricing?

I maintain a reasonable and varied price range – bcause I’m an unknown.
My poetry anthologies are the cheapest – because few people buy poetry.
My short story anthologies have 12 stories – because I believe that gives value for money.
This year, I’ve started working on a sequel to one of my novels. I will eventually write sequels for all of them.

Wallpaper section

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Is there anything I do not do?

– When I post about my titles, I do not praise my own work, except occasionally with a humorous comment.
– I’ve learned to reduce my membership of social media to a handful of sites. I believe that one of the reasons for indie authors feeling stress about marketing is because they spread themselves too thin on the ground.
– Even on Facebook I try not to join too many groups. Once again, less is more
– I do not promote my work daily.
– I post on social media regularly, but not always the same title, or the same message. I alternate between the Books page of my author website, the News and Projects page, the Homepage, and this blog.
– I occasionally use a Kindle Countdown Deal, but I do not do FREE books. I have tried it three times and I don’t think it helped my cause.
– I do not rush my writing – so my publishing target date is not set in stone.
– I do not do a ‘release’ page or anything of that sort on Facebook. This proved to be fortuitous, because I postponed the publication of Give & Take by a week, and I believe I improved the overall product.

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How do I produce my books regularly?

I work on at least two projects simultaneously. Most recently I alternated one month on Give & Take (erotica), and one month on Acts of Vengeance (thriller). Whilst one manuscript is ‘resting’, I work on the other. I’ve found that method of working pays me dividends on various levels, but I may write more about that in another post.

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What else do I believe helps to market me as a brand?

– I have my author website which I paid to have designed. Writing is not a hobby for me – it is by choice a new career, so I wanted a professional look.

– I have another website, Creative Writer and Artist, which features both my writing and samples of my artwork.

– I have an account with the Independent Author Network.

– I have my separate page on Facebook: Tom Benson – Writer.

– I have an author page on both Amazon – UK and Amazon.com

– This blog is related to writing – it is not used as a journal of my daily life.

Please remember – if you don’t want to spend any cash, you can use a blog website as an author website.

My one suggestion is that if you do, you must maintain it as such, and not allow it to become a blog. WordPress have a good basic framework to build such a thing, and it is easy to use. This blog is a WordPress site.

Apart from all the efforts online I designed a business card, and business postcard. Image (28)

I have these produced regularly through Vistaprint. I designed the front with a gloss finish and downloaded a QR code so that it can be scanned by smartphones.

The back of the business card has all contact information except phone number.

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Is there anything that helps but indirectly?

It is probably the most subtle of all things, and I have never intended it as any sort of self-promotion. I make every effort to help other indie writers – especially those who are new to the game. There is not one of us so good that we can’t do with a little bit of help occasionally.

There is nothing more to it for me, than the desire to help, so I read and review work by others.
If I see something that would spoil a story, I hold back on a public review – I tell the author privately. There have been cases where the author has dealt with the issues and I was happy to go back and write a 4* or 5* review.

I do not promote an author’s work unless I’ve read it – for many reasons. If I do like an author’s work, I will praise it at every opportunity.

I’m proud to say that I’ve been in support of Paul Ruddock since he set up the Indie Author Support and Discussion group on Facebook. In the early weeks I ventured to send respectful private messages to those who were producing … less than a good quality product.

We lost three ‘writers’, but since then I’m pleased to say that I’ve continued to work the same way and we have several members who accepted my early criticisms and have gone on to produce great stories.

That is not due to my interference – it is down to the individual author’s hard work and positive attitude. They’ve accepted that their skills were lacking in a particular area – and done something about it. I still get the odd message from a fellow writer about a minor issue, and I’m always grateful.

Mutual support is key to our individual success.

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Do I consider myself an authority?

No, I am not an authority, but I learned most of what I do by reading reference material, hard work, and listening to my reviewers. I am now more of a hermit than a socialite, but I have a burning desire to help my fellow writers to avoid issues I’ve had on my journey.

I joined a writing group a couple of years ago, and it helped me in some ways. When it began to feel like a social gathering, I left.

For several years I’ve subscribed to the two main writing magazines on offer in the UK. They are Writers’ Forum, and Writing Magazine. I’ve won prizes and free subscription years with both of them in the past.

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I hope I haven’t bored anybody with my opinions and ideas, and as always, I’m willing to take any comments or criticisms coming my way. I try never to say anything that I cannot later justify.

Thank you for reading. My next post will be about my journey from ‘regular’ genre to the divisive area of erotica.

See you there … all you voyeurs.

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