Marketing by Stealth

An Amazon Author Page
An Amazon Author Page

This is not one of the thousands of articles … ‘Ten Things to Do to Increase Sales’
In my post last time which was about the results of my three weeks of non-marketing, I said I’d come back to mention a couple of simple ideas that I believe help to encourage sales.

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It may be accepted that we’re not going to buy a small island in the near future, but we want sales, and reviews, and recognition for our efforts. Whatever our reason for writing, if we publish, either traditionally or self-published, we’re not doing so for the exercise. It is a means to an end. We want success.
Personally, success with my writing is more important than money or fame.

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Why are eBook samples important?
It’s an obvious answer. It gives the prospective reader an insight into the story they may, or may not buy. Keeping that in mind, we must tease and please the reader with a worthwhile sample.

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How can we improve the sample?

Only have the essentials in the front pages of a book:
1. Cover
2. Title
3. Copyright
4. Acknowledgements
5. Dedication
6. Table of Contents

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That is a minimum of six pages / screens before your new reader has seen your writing.
The odd one out is ‘Dedication’, because it is not essential, but it is usually found at the front if it is to be included.
Immediately after the Table of Contents, we should expect to see the Preface if there is one and then Chapter 1.

If using a Preface, try to keep it short. I read one recently that stole a lot of the space that would otherwise have allowed me to read more of Chapter 1. A typical occasion for using a few words before the first chapter might be because the book is a sequel.

I will repeat – the Preface is an introduction so keep it short and let the story do the work.

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What information would I suggest leaving out of the front pages?

1. A word from the author
2. About the author
3. Also by the author
All of those subjects and even the dedication can be placed in the back pages.

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How do the back pages help with marketing and sales?

A lot of readers like to know about the person who wrote the story, so a page dedicated to a short bio at the back is a good idea. If the reader doesn’t want to look at it, they have a choice. If they do – it’s there for them.

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A word from the author

This can be whatever you like, but good ideas are to say something about the story the reader has just finished.
1. What inspired the story.
2. Any interesting research that was done.
3. If there are plans for a sequel
It is up to the individual author how this area is used.

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About the author

A short bio. Practise writing your bio, but keep it between 50 – 100 words.
Once again, what is said here is an individual choice, but good ideas include:
1. Use it as a writing bio, whether you are a novice, or if you have any track record.
2. Perhaps mention your nationality, and the country where you now live.
3. Family? Some do, some prefer to leave it out.
4. Pastimes when not writing.
5. Interesting careers you’ve had.

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Also by the author

A key area for marketing by stealth.
At the back of all of my books I have the titles and the blurb for all of my other books.
I believe that this is a crucial part of creating substance for your brand.
If you are new and using this in the back of your debut novel – use it to talk about your next piece of work.
If a reader likes the story and style of what they’ve just read – don’t have them going on search engines to find your name and other titles – tell them here, right after they’ve been impressed.

If you haven’t already set up an Amazon Author Page – consider setting one up on Amazon.com and also on Amazon.co.uk

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Remember, even though the prospective reader sees the sample and hasn’t read the back pages information yet – it is listed in your Table of Contents, so they know it will be there.

The ideas above are not a quick-fix, but I believe I achieve initial sales and follow-on sales by using them. Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts and theories – now if you haven’t done so already, please have a look at my author website:
http://www.tombensonauthor.com

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New Year … New Projects!

HF - 20

A location which will be recreated in my stories for young children.

Many writers enjoy the feeling of a new year, because it feels like a natural time to get fresh projects underway. I am one such writer.
For me, I believe 2014 was a successful year for my writing, so I’m going to push myself harder this year. I’ve already started.

Two days ago I updated the front end (sample pages) of all of my eBooks to give excerpts of recent reviews, so that they are all live and updated for the benefit of prospective readers.

Today, I updated the information on several sections of my author website: http://www.tombensonauthor.com

Although I have a ‘coming-of-age’ novel already well underway, I am intending to write two sequels to other books, and I’d like to compile an anthology of military short stories.

My greatest self-imposed challenge is to create ‘Countryside Tales’, a series of stories for young children. As I write, I have already created the main human and animal characters, plus I’ve drawn a map of their environment. I have three authors in mind for when I require guidance as to whether or not I’ve got it right.

I’m intending to produce my own covers, but for now at least I am not using illustrations. I toyed with the idea of producing my own illustrations, but they are time-consuming to get right and to resize for an e-Reader. Apart from those points, I believe that I am capable of creating sufficient imagery within my words.

I will be making more of an effort to check out my fellow bloggers, so I’ll have to come up with a routine, because sporadic visits don’t seem to work well.
As always, thank you for checking out my scribbled thoughts.

Amazon Bitch – Part 2 of 2

£ $ £ $ £ $ £ $ £ $ £ $ £ $ £ $ £ $ £ $

We can lie and fall into the self-denial category, or we can come right out and admit that we may enjoy our writing, but we would like to make some … no, a lot of money from it. I’d love to see one of my stories being adapted as the basis of a movie, but maybe that’s a topic for another post.

My suggestions on how to be successful with sales are based on my own experience, not on a list provided on the Internet. There are several on there, I know.Smoke & Mirrors 020614

1. Present your books to the best standard you can. Consider the actual writing, punctuation, grammar, editing and formatting. Do not under any circumstances publish something that has only been written in one draft. My average for a novel is four drafts. My short stories usually take about six or seven drafts.

2. Pay to have eBook covers designed. Sales of my novels increased dramatically after I’d had the covers designed by a professional. Expensive perhaps, but following the revamped covers, the sales of one of my novels paid for the covers of all three novels in less than three months.

3. More than one title assists sales, but that doesn’t mean you should rush out your next book. Take your time, get it right and watch your books sell because readers trust your name and brand. Do not allow your name to be discredited by a poor book – and poor reviews.

4. Increase your social platform. There was a time when I scoffed at social media, but now I use it daily. Why? I post a link to my author website on three different Facebook groups daily. I occasionally post on Twitter, but not as often.

5. If an author website is beyond your reach financially, get a blog organised in the meantime. My first blog lasted over a year before I realised how many mistakes I was making with the content.

6. Only when you have two or more books to promote – consider an author website. If a website is out of reach – use a blog template to build an author website, but treat it as an author website – not a blog. If necessary, set up two blogs. One used as a blog, and the other as an author website. If you have any issues about the difference, please feel free to check my own.

7. Organise an Amazon Author Central page. This can be done on both the UK site and the US site. I have a page on both.

8. Review the work of your peers, and don’t stick to your own genre. I’ve reviewed Young Adult, Supernatural, Romance, Thriller, Suspense, Erotica, The Classics, Humour, Science Fiction and Children’s books. You will gain by:
a) possibly learning something, and, b) the recipient author and others might even check out your work. We all need each other, and we need to do our best in writing and support.

9. Price your books appropriately. Use common sense and remember you might become the next Stephen King, or Jackie Collins, but until you are at that level – be honest and realistic, not over-confident and greedy.

10. If you intend to produce a collection of short stories, publish a couple on one or two reading and writing sites and get feedback / reviews / critiques from total strangers. That really is a wake-up call. Make the number of stories in an anthology worthwhile.

Coming Around - 020714

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However you read into my blog posts or my occasional Facebook rant, I am not a know-it-all, and I accept that I sometimes make a mistake, but I put myself and my writing through the wringer. I give many hours over to learning about and improving my craft.

We owe it to each other and to the industry not to put something out there half-cocked. If your mum, dad, brother, sister, boyfriend, girlfriend, or Auntie Agnes likes your writing then I’m happy for you – but please don’t take their word for it that you’ve got it right and you’re good.

Why do I rant about getting the writing as good as we can?
1. Would you ride a bike, or drive a car with loose wheel nuts?
2. Would you buy a keyboard with two letters missing?

We are asking people to give us money for these things that we write. It’s a transaction whereby we suggest that what we’ve produced is worth money, and the buying public pay their hard-earned money in good faith.

I keep my book prices low. I don’t do it because I’m rich, because I’m not. I also don’t do it because I haven’t made any effort, because I work damn hard. I keep my prices low because I’m not a household name and I’m realistic. I want to build my personal brand and I will only be able to do that with a good catalogue of books that have received good reviews and are making sales.

I can sense that I’m going off on a tangent, but I hope I’ve managed to get at least a couple of points out there.

Lest I forget, I don’t expect to see my sales increasing after leaving Kobo and Smashwords, but within 24 hours of enrolling on the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library my books were being borrowed again. If it gets to a healthy level I’ll write a post.

All comments are welcome as always and thank you for reading.

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Simply Irresistible

Around 3rd June 2013, http://www.readwave.com/ formed a partnership with a charitable organisation called WorldReader (http://www.worldreader.org), an organisation that aims to help spread ebooks and literacy in developing countries. They load ‘Tablets’ and ‘Kindles’ with ebooks and learning materials and then send them to schools in developing countries. WorldReader is backed by Amazon and the big publishing houses. ReadWave were requested to send their best short stories for inclusion in the programme so I felt honoured to discover that one of my tales was chosen.                

Simply Irresistible is a short story about a young man and a young woman meeting on a train journey – where one of them is really taken for a ride. To read the story, please click on the title. Enjoy!

Laptop, PC or Tablet, but no Kindle ?

Screenshot from a PC using the Kindle App (an excerpt from my novel)
Screenshot from a PC using the Kindle App (an excerpt from my novel)

If you haven’t got a Kindle, but you do have a PC, Laptop or Tablet, why not take a few minutes to download the FREE Kindle App from Amazon. Click here to check it out: Free Kindle App for Laptop, PC and Tablet

Why should I promote this idea? Well apart from anything else, I hate to see people missing out because they don’t know about something – and this is a pretty simple ‘fix’ to check out the wonders of eBooks. A lot of them are FREE! It’s no accident that the word FREE is being plugged so much in this post, so in summary, if you haven’t got one of these wonderful machines, but you’d like a lot of the benefits of having one, click: Free Kindle App for Laptop, PC and Tablet  … and enjoy! 

My own Kindle is a Keyboard 3G. Displaying here the main shopping page.
My own Kindle is a Keyboard 3G. Displaying here the main shopping page.

It takes a few minutes and then you can download books, adjust the font size, etc., just like any of the family of eBook readers would allow you to do.  

Every day from Wednesday to Saturday (inclusive) this week, each one of five of my books will be FREE. For details check out my Amazon page:

Tom Benson / Author’s page – UK 

or

Tom Benson / Author’s page – outside UK

All my eBooks are listed with price, or the FREE indication. Thank you for checking out my blog. Feel FREE to comment.

Reading, Writing and Rhythm

As we arrive into March of another year, like many people I feel I have to look back on how things have gone so far – and where I intend to go from here. To brighten up this post with a graphic it felt right that it should be one that reflected my working environment so I’m featuring an updated vision of my workstation.

Where most of the effort is put in ....
Where most of the effort is put in ….

What have I been reading?  ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen celebrated it’s 200th anniversary, so having had it on my Kindle for some time, I actually got around to reading it.  A full review is available on Good Reads, but for here, suffice to say I enjoyed it and now at least some of the comments made about ‘Elizabeth’ and ‘Mr. Darcy’ make sense.

I am presently taking my time as I read ‘Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee’ by Dee Brown.  Anyone who has read my poetry will know that there are several long poems and a four–part series featuring the noble Native Americans.

In one of my rare channel hopping moments, yesterday I came across a 1952 movie entitled, ‘The Battle at Apache Pass’.  I had to watch it because my memories of western movies go back a long way and I had to be reminded how the two sides were portrayed.  It was as close to truth as I suppose they dared go back in the ’50’s and I dare say if there was a remake they would tread even more carefully.

In other news, I am enjoying being a member (and pleased to have been asked to be a Staff Reviewer) on ReadWave.  It’s a great site and if you haven’t had a look, please do.  If you enjoy reading short stories there are lots on there to entertain.  If you write, there is a Staff Picks page which is used as the homepage where work is showcased.

I feel I should be spending more time reading other blogs but I’ve decided to cut down to what I did previously and only read a chosen few.  One person can only read so much online when the hours of the day are already being rapidly filled.

What am I writing these days?  I gave ‘Pawnee Express’ a revamp recently and entered it into a competition and then ‘Deadly Nightshade’ got a good overhaul too.  Another short story that went into a competition was ‘Through A Lens’, which started life as a 1000 word intro’ into a ‘racy read’ for an ITV competition.  I’ve just completed the first draft of ‘An Aspiring Writer’ which will find itself on ReadWave in a week or two when I’ve revisited it and tweaked it a bit more.

My ambitions in the world of eBooks have not ended.  I now have my novel, ‘Ten Days’ still on Smashwords, accompanied by the first five volumes of my poetry, classified by genre in my ‘Rhyme Scene’ series.  I’ve raised some cash for Comic Relief 2013, but not as much as I’d hoped.  In some ways you are damned if you drop the price to increase interest, or raise the price to try to increase sales.

My website http://www.tom-benson.co.uk has had a few more pieces of artwork and photos added and of course my updated short stories.

What’s in the pipeline? Well, apart from revisiting all my short stories to see where they can be improved, I have my short story, ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ being published in a new anthology titled, ‘Out of the Shadows’ by the Inkerman Writers, which will be launched in the next few weeks.  I’ll mention it again when I have a hard copy.

Comic Relief 2013 – Buy an eBook to help raise funds!

och aye the noo What can I do that’s different from other fund-raising ideas?  How about donating the proceeds of all sales from my novel and series of poetry books?  Sound good?  Okay, it’s a deal – and for the cynical among you, no, I’m not joking!

“I pledge that for a limited period, the proceeds from sales of my novel ‘Ten Days’ and my series of ‘Rhyme Scenes’ poetry books will be donated to the Comic Relief 2013 fund.”

Now we need some parameters to work from.  1. The figures will be calculated from Monday 14th January 2013 up to and including Friday 15th March 2013.

2. All monies will be added to the funds raised by other Ryman Limited employees.  I now work for our local branch on a part-time basis.  The Ryman stationery company is owned by Theo Paphitis, entrepeneur, millionaire, philanthropist and all-round good bloke.

Theo Paphitis
Theo Paphitis

On alternate years the company sponsors Comic Relief or Sport Relief as appropriate.  Cash is raised by selling sponsored items like ‘Red Nose’ pens.  ‘Comic Relief’ T-shirts are bought by the employees to increase the funds.  Hundreds of thousands of pounds is raised by individual employees and groups within the Ryman company – some of whom do very strange things for sponsorship.

If anything particularly eye-popping comes up I’ll mention it here.  With the best will in the world I could put my hand in my pocket and make a moderate donation, but I would much prefer to give more and with the help of my e-Books and the generosity of lots of other people I can do that this year.  Sales of my e-Books would be nice, but it would be more gratifying for me to be able to build a sum of money to donate to Comic Relief 2013.

So, what do you, my prospective fund-raising buddy need to know?

1. In order to make it easy I intend to maintain the individual prices of the novel and three of the poetry books at only $1.99 each.  It seems fitting that the first poetry volume, ‘Humour’ is a mere $0.99Any cash payable to me (after the tax man gets his cut), will be donated to the fund.  At time of writing $1.99 is approximately £1.30, which to most of us, is not a lot …

2.  The novel, ‘Ten Days’ is a romantic thriller, but can be enjoyed equally by male or female readers (honestly, I know).

3.  The four books of poetry are: ‘Humour’‘Love and Romance’, ‘Natural History’ and the latest release, ‘Military Matters’.  There will be more books to come, but at the time of writing these are available immediately for download.

By using Smashwords to publish, my novel or poetry books, they can be downloaded as: .mobi (for Kindle), Epub (for Adobe, Nook, Sony, Kobo, iPad, iBook), PDF (for PC or Laptop), RTF (for wordprocessors), PDB (for Palm readers/apps).

Direct link to the eBooks on my Smashwords homepage: http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/TomBenson

We can reduce this ....
We can reduce this ….

No pressure, but please remember, all the money paid for my eBooks between Monday 14th January 2013 and Friday 15th March 2013 will be donated to Comic Relief 2013.

Thank you on behalf of those who survive to become the eventual grateful recipients of our fund-raising.  Tom