Tag Archives: e-books

JA Konrath’s “A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing”

Like I said in a previous post on Jeff Bennington’s Indie Author’s Guide to the Universe https://stevevernonstoryteller.wordpress.com/2012/03/25/the-indie-authors-guide-to-the-universe-a-book-review/ – I am in the midst of attempting to learn everything that I need to know about e-books and/or making a decent income from them.

Which is a little like saying that I have decided to swallow the Atlantic Ocean, one shotglass at a time.

After I finished reading Bennington’s very helpful e-book I decided to tackle something from someone who has become almost iconic in the field of e-publishing – namely, JA Konrath.

Now a lot has been written about JA Konrath’s freaking-mega-huge success in e-publishing.

A lot of it by himself.

This is one of the key’s to Konrath’s success. He is a media wizard. The man knows how to get the word out there. He has set himself up as a bit of an e-book how-to guru – which means that anyone trying to break into the e-book business is going to want to listen to him and learn from him and (most likely) read his stuff.

Like me.

Which is partly why he has sold over 400,000 e-books.

For some of the viewpoint check out this.

http://jakonrath.blogspot.ca/2012/01/reality-check.html

Some people figure Konrath has met with this sort of success because he started with a traditionally-published based audience – (did that make sense? I hope it did) – meaning that he already had a market base established from his Jack Daniels series.

That does count for some of his success. I don’t believe he’d deny it if he was asked.

So there – I’ve figured out JA Konrath’s success in e-publishing. His secret is his ability to get the word out, to stir up the e-reading public and the fact that he likely had a few thousand fans to begin with.

Except that doesn’t explain all of it.

I believe a significant part of his success stems from two other sources.

Number one – he’s prolific. The man writes a book about as often as some people fart. The writing business is a bit of a numbers game. You have ten e-books out there, selling a hundred copies a month – (and I’m just pulling these numbers out of my hat, you understand) – then you are a writer selling 1000 copies a month.

That’s not me, you understand. If I’m to hit 1000 copies – the 20 people out there who actually read this blog will have to begin buying my books at about 50 copies each. Maybe if I start offering a bulk discount…

Mmmm.

Number two – and this, in my opinion, is the big one. JA Konrath is goddamn good. I started reading him from his first release, WHISKEY SOUR.

From day one, his words rocked me. I even made it a point to write a review of one his books for Cemetery Dance – even though it wasn’t necessarily a horror-based novel. His words just flow and he entertains and his dry sense of humor always makes me feel good. He’s got that same comfortable style of writers like Joe Lansdale, Robert Parker or Janet Evanovich. The man’s work reads like a good bottle of cold beer. You know what it tastes like, you know what it’s going to feel like going down your throat and you know that it will fill that craving that you have for good cold beer.

I can’t really write a proper review of  Konrath’s first book on e-publishing, THE NEWBIE’S GUIDE TO PUBLISHING. The book itself is over 1100 pages long and is simply the accumulation of everything about writing that he has ever blogged upon since 2005 to 2010. Some of the early entries are quite out-dated – as it begins while he is still firmly imbedded into the field of traditional publishing. Which, in my opinion, makes this book all the more valuable because it actually SHOWS how a traditionally published writer makes the transition – or, at least how Konrath has done it.

I’m only about seven percent of the way into the book. I’ll probably be picking at this one for months to come. Maybe it is a stupid way to go about doing things – but, because I am attempting to ride the twin horses of traditional and digital publishing – I find the advice offered in this e-book to be timeless and invaluable. There were about a half a dozen entries into that early part that I wanted to link to – tell you – HEY READ THIS, HEY READ THAT – but hell, why waste all that valuable bandwidth when I can put it to you simply.

You want to learn this business?

Pay attention to what this fellow is telling you.

That great big honking e-book of writing advice will cost you a mere $2.99 at Amazon – or you can just download the PDF for free at Konrath’s website – http://www.jakonrath.com/writers.htm

Either way you’re going to learn an awful lot from reading this book.

I believe that’s as close to a review as I’m going to get.

(note – two of the commenters mentioned the Scott Nicholson e-book on e-publishing WRITE GOOD OR DIE. I know Scott and he’s a good dude and has been in the business longer than Konrath – so his words bear listening to. AND, today the e-book if free. Here’s a link. Go and grab it. http://www.amazon.com/Write-Good-or-Die-ebook/dp/B003H4QZOG/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1333120110&sr=1-1)

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

Let’s review the art of getting a review…

Okay, so I’ve got a new book out – BAD VALENTINES.

http://www.amazon.com/Bad-Valentines-ebook/dp/B0075XA4HO/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1328564960&sr=1-2

And I’ve got another book out – DEVIL TREE.

http://www.amazon.com/Devil-Tree-ebook/dp/B004OA6M3G/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1328565093&sr=1-1

And I’ve got a whole mittful of other e-books but I’m not going to belabor the point. The problem is – nobody has heard of them. Nobody, aside from my cat, even knows they exist.

Let alone if they’re good or not.

So how do we writers get the word out?

Well, one way is to solicit reviews.

I love that word, solicit. It brings this writing gig right down to where it truly ought to be. In the gutter. I am soliciting clients. Hey baby – how’d you like to get lucky? Show you a good time. Hook you up with a novel – jiggedy-jig.

So how does a writer go about propositioning a reviewer?

Reviewers get pummeled with review requests and/or review copies. Waiting for a reviewer to “stumble” across your work and ask you for a review copy might make for an AWFULLY long wait.

Your best bet is to start checking out the review market. Depending on your chosen genre you might find yourself with an awfully large group of reviewers to choose from. That’s good. That will work in your favour.  Somebody like myself, working in horror, has a lot fewer reviewers to find. Folks in romance, YA or paranormal romance have an abundance of reviewers to choose from.

Once you begin finding reviewers you need to start researching them. Have they written a lot of reviews. Does their blog site look professional. Do their reviews read like good professional reviews or do you see a lot of “Ya, I thought this book was kuul.”?

If the review site mentions anything about a cash payment up front – run away. Don’t even stop to think about it. Writers should not pay for reviews. We give a free book, that’s what a reviewer is owed and nothing more. I wrote reviews professionally for Cemetery Dance, Fearzone, Hellnotes and several other markets – and I usually recieved a small payment – maybe ten or fifteen dollars – from the publisher of the magazine/market that I was writing for – but nothing from the writer but a free book.

What else could I ask for?

Certain sites maybe worth making an exception for. Sites like Kindle Daily Nation http://kindlenationdaily.com/ has a sponsorship plan for $139 and up that will advertise your book. I haven’t tried any of that sort of thing – nor do I intend to – but it is out there. What I would mostly warn about is sites that offer you reviews at five or ten dollars a pop. You have to ask yourself what kind of a review are you going to get when you shell out ten dollars. That is a lot different than how I operated, getting ten dollars from the owner of the review column/site that I wrote for. He was just paying me the same way you would pay anybody who provided your column/site/magazine with a certain amount of words for your readers to read.

Prepare a proper review request. Take a half an hour or so and put one together. You’ll want a short letter-sized document that tells the potential reviewer what the book is about, who you are, how many books you’ve written, whether you are new to this business.

Here’s a review request that I wrote for my novel DEVIL TREE.

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Hello REVIEWER’S NAME

I have taken a look at your review column I LIKE COOL COOL BOOKS and enjoyed the heck out of it. You have a keen eye and I believe I might have a book that you’d be interested in reading/reviewing.

The book is called DEVIL TREE – and it is the story of Lucas Sawyer and his wife Tamsen who find themselves marooned in the heart of a mid-nineteenth century wilderness. They’re rescued by Jonah Duvall, a mysterious woodsman who abides in this wilderness with his wife Jezebel and son Cord. Brooding over all stands the Devil Tree – a huge and evil jack pine that has summoned them to this valley to feed upon their collective emotions and guilt and to breed unnatural offspring. Part earth spirit, part elder demon – the tree is farming them. The characters are bound into a tightening noose of blind undeniable fate. As winter sets in they must face the tree’s unholy fury in an utterly horrific finale.

Devil Tree is a 60,000 word novel that will take you into the heart of pure unimaginable horror. We are not talking gore or graphic blood-spree. This is NOT one of those OH-MY-GOD-GRAB-THE-CHAINSAW-AND-CLEAVER blood soaked yarns, but rather this is a work that I guarantee will horrify and haunt you for a long time after you turn the last page.

“A mesmerizing journey into unimaginable darkness, DEVIL TREE showcases Steve Vernon at the height of his power and results in a provocative, profoundly unsettling novel you will never forget.” – Greg F. Gifune

Have I overkilled this? I hope not. I surely would appreciate you reading my book. I can provide you with a Kindle copy or a pdf or an epub – whatever your pleasure is.

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

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That’s one way of doing it.

Notice how I started by introducing myself. I made sure that I knew the reviewer’s name and the name of their column. You don’t want to come off sounding like you’ve just cut-and-pasted a hundred review requests to a hundred random review sites – even if you have. I told a little bit about the novel, without spoiling too much of the reading experience. I gave them an idea of how long the novel was – so they could judge for themselves how much eyestrain they might actually have to invest in the process. I included a picture of the cover, which is also a key selling point to any book in the world – including e-books.

I probably should have talked a bit about myself and my history as a writer – but in this case I was submitting to a reviewer who already knew my stuff. Usually you won’t have that benefit. I’ve been writing genre since the mid-80’s, so a few people have heard my name. Some of them even don’t run away when they hear it.

Think of it as being the same as pitching a publisher a new book idea. Remember, these reviewers are READERS first. They want to read something that will get them excited enough to write a good review. They don’t do this sort of work to bore themselves to sleep at night. They review books because they have a passion for it.

Do your homework, and send out a few review requests. In the long run they are worth it. You may get a good review, you may get a bad one – but it will improve your visibility and (hopefully) improve your sales for the next ten books that you write. Each step forward in your writing career will take you further down the road – so by god, make it a good step.

How do you find reviewers? Well, for starters, watch your message boards and Facebook pages for like-minded writers who are advertising their own books. If Jack writes the same sort of genre as you do and has just recieved a glowing review from Fester over at the WE REVIEW COOL COOL BOOKS site, well you want to do swing on over to that site and check out their review policy.

ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS spend the time necessary to check out that review policy. Odds are, if the reviewer is so booked up with books to review they’ll mention that in their review policy – something along the lines of “Oh my good gosh golly, I am so swamped with books that I won’t be taking any more books until next year.”

You read that in a review policy, honor it. Don’t figure that your book is so gosh golly good that the reviewer will make an exception for it. All that you will accomplish by sending an unwanted book to a reviewer is pissing him off.

Royally.

Finally, a few words on response time. Nine out of ten reviewers aren’t even going to respond. Get used to it. Send more review requests out to more reviewers. Pick a day each week and spend an hour that day researching new review sites and sending out review requests. Sooner or later somebody will take the bait and ask you to look at your book – unless your book sucks so badly that even your mother is shaking her head no when you ask her to read it.

Lastly, when you do get that review don’t get all upset if it isn’t a good one. You can’t control that. All you can do is do your research ahead of time and try to send it out to somebody who likes the sort of thing you write. DON’T send an angry e-mail back to the reviewer arguing with them about thier opinion on your book. You will just piss them off.

Double royally.

Last off all – here’s a good site to get started on your hunt.

http://bookbloggerdirectory.wordpress.com/

But don’t stop there. If you write Rock and Roll Romances, then Google Rock and Roll Romance Book Reviews and commence hunting.

Good luck and have fun.

Yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

How am I doing so far???

All right.

I’ve spent the day leisurely, watching the Turner Classic Movies network with my wife. Started the day with Camelot, rolled into Knights of the Round Table, slid into The Adventures of Robin Hood and Errol Flynned into The Sea Hawk.

Camelot was fun. I had never seen it before. Knights of the Round Table infuriated me with the liberties they took with the Arthurian mythos. Robin Hood I had intended to skip, but as soon as I watched a few minutes I was hooked. The Sea Hawk was interupted for kitchen duty.

I’ve been tinkering with a story that involves a combination of Sasquatch, Sam Steele, an ancient Chinese Demon, and the building of the cross-Canada railroad as personified by a gigantic oil painting of the driving of the Last Spike in Eagle Pass, BC. It’s for a themed anthology that I’ve recieved an invite to be a part of – providing I can come up with a proper story.

I think I’m on the right track.

I have also done a bit of networking. I’ve heard from the folks at Crossroad Press. I’ll have another e-book available on Kindle, hopefully by tomorrow. I’ll keep you posted.

The bus strike is still ongoing. Apparently they haven’t even bothered to come back to the bargaining tables. Means another walk tomorrow. Oh well, the exercise hasn’t hurt me so far.

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I’ve tinkered a bit with the blog today. It would really help if I knew what I was doing, but I’m making my way. If any of you techno wizards out there have any tips, hints or brainstorms on building a blog on WordPress I am not too proud to listen.

Belinda is cooking fish tonight. A big mess of homemade coleslaw and some spuds of some sort or other. I’ll have that with a beer while I hunker down to Frederic March’s Dr. Jekyll and Mister Hyde. It’s Superbowl Sunday and I am watching old movies, you bet.

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Lastly, let me leave you with this link to a blog that looked fairly interesting. I haven’t gone over it yet – but it looks to be definitely worth reading for anyone who is as interested as I am with selling e-books through the Kindle empire.

http://phoenixsullivan.blogspot.com/2012/02/kdp-select-amazon-rank-and-secret-of.html

(yes, it is fast becoming an empire – or would that be e-mpire???)

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

My E-Book Experiment, so far…

As most of you know I have been focusing a lot of my energy in 2011 upon the creation and marketing of a line of e-books.

It took me a while to come around to the idea. I was one of those old farts who thought that e-books were sillier than pink slippers on a blue bull – but then, as I saw that they weren’t a fad and that they weren’t going away and that they looked to be a true and viable means of getting your words out to brand new readers I decided to evolve my thinking.

I am in the midst of a sort of an experiment and I thought I should record my results – just in case the Mayans are right about the upcoming apocalypse. Centuries from now strange aliens will undoubtedly land upon the remains of this planet – following the Mayan meltdown. They will likewise undoubtedly boot-up the remains of the internet and discover my blog and look upon and wonder to themselves just how desparate this old fart must be to imagine that anyone was interested in this sort of hoopdoodlery.

So be it.

With the help of my publisher, Crossroad Press, I have released eight e-books – with two more e-books coming out during February. I have decided that my best plan of action is to work on my numbers. The more e-books I have out there the more likely it is that people will stumble over them.

So far, this has been working to a slight extent.

My first monthly pay cheque consisted of a whole five dollars – which isn’t much. My latest monthly pay cheque was a little over a hundred dollars. So the e-books have at least evolved into a slightly worthwhile secondary income.

For those of you who aren’t writers – this sort of thing is just another example of how us writers have learned to make it in this life. We depend upon an interval of cheques and payments that come in semi-randomly.

For example – I have two royalty cheques that I get from Nimbus  in a year. One every six months. In addition I have a check from the PLR – the Public Lending Right – that guages the number of times my books were borrowed from the public library. This check comes once a year. I also have a cheque that comes from Access – the Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency that is based on the number of times that people photocopy my work.

Don’t ask me how they calculate that. Math was never my strong suit.

So – for now I am hoping to add these e-books to my cash flow and pay a few more bills.

Oh yes, we writers have bills, too.

Up to now my bestselling book has been my horror/historical novel DEVIL TREE – which is available at Amazon.com.  http://www.amazon.com/Devil-Tree-ebook/dp/B004OA6M3G

It is also available on Kobo. http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/Devil-Tree/book-Zk7YCormwkefEhhTbf6twQ/page1.html

Or, you can get it directly from my publisher, Crossroad Press, in a variety of formats. http://store.crossroadpress.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=270

I suggest you stop and download about twenty or thirty copies of this book in each separate format – just in case those post-mayan aliens only have access to Kobo e-readers.

With my luck they’ll have nothing but Commodore 64’s.

So far, the sales figures on Devil Tree – even though it is my bestselling e-book, have been fairly unimpressive.

Here’s a rough estimate on what I’ve sold – strictly through Kindle at amazon.com.

Devil Tree Sales (Kindle only)

August 2011 – 5 copies

September 2011 – 8 copies

October 2011 – 13 copies

November 2011 – 7 copies

December 2011 – 14 copies

January 2012 – 22 copies

February 2012 (as of February 4) – 3 copies

That’s 72 copies in six months and a bit – in Kindle format alone . There are Nook and Kobo and Smashword and assorted format sales besides these – but on the whole I sell the most copies of my e-books through Kindle.

Bear in mind that I’ve sold about 8000 copies of my traditionally published Nimbus collection HAUNTED HARBOURS, since it first came out in April 2006. So 72 copies is not anything to write home to mother about.

Haunted Harbours is available through Chapters/Indigo http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/Haunted-Harbours-Ghost-Stories-Old-Steve-Vernon/9781551095929-item.html

Also available through Amazon.com  http://www.amazon.com/Haunted-Harbours-Ghost-Stories-Scotia/dp/1551095920/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

Bear in mind that Haunted Harbours is also available in e-book format for the Nook and the Kobo. This is a fairly recent development and I am hoping for sales figures on the digital version with my next royalty cheque.

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Now that I have a line-up of e-books it has become necessary to proceed to the next step of my e-book experiment. I need to goose up the publicity a bit and hopefully draw attention to my efforts.

There are a number of ways that a writer can go about doing this. I have already contacted quite a few reviewers and I have e-copies of my books in a number of reviewers to-be-read piles. That is the important thing to remember when you or your publisher send a review copy to a reviewer. You have little or no control over when that review will come out. Most reviewers have a lag period of at least six months – so getting a review is not something that you do instantly. Furthermore, just because a reviewer has accepted your book is no guarantee that they will either read and/or review that book. Remember, these folks get free books every week.

How do I know this?

I used to be one. For two years I wrote regular reviews for many markets – primarily Cemetery Dance magazine. I got free books and was paid a certain amount for each review – and even now, years later, I still recieve the occasional free book because somebody has still got me on their mailing list. I’ve written back and told them I don’t do this anymore – but every now and then a book shows up.

Another technique is to supply a few free books to readers that you trust. Not just your friends or even your mom – but good honest readers. They will post their reviews on Amazon, or Chapters, or at Goodreads or Library Thing or ducttaped to a stall in a men’s room.

I don’t know if reviews really help a lot – but they don’t hurt. And I have found that I do sell a few more books when ever a good review pops up. So I’ve taken steps to get reviews in motion.

My next part of the e-book experiment begins this month. I have instructed my publisher to enroll my two February e-books into the KDP Select program. You have probably heard of this program. The way it works is that you agree to only sell your e-books through Kindle at the various Amazon sites. In turn you are given the option of releasing these books as “free e-books” for up to five of those ninety days.

So what good does giving away your books do for you?

The theory is, that if you give away enough e-books people will start talking and when those five days expire your books will still be visible enough – that is high enough on the Kindle bestsellers list to attract people who don’t mind actually paying the two or three dollars your e-book costs.

I’ve talked to a few writers and this strategy as worked for them – sometimes improving their sales numbers by as much as tenfold. I have likewise spoken with other writers who report very little change in their sales numbers following a KDP Select release.

I intend to find out just how this whole procedure will work for me. If it fails miserably, then I have lost nothing – because the e-books are still plodding along and will continue to do so. However, if I can improve the sales numbers then I will be one step closer towards evolving my life into that of a full-time writer.

I intend to keep you readers posted on the developments of my e-book experiments.

If you want to find out more about writers who are making their way in the e-book world check out Arthur Slade’s blog http://redroom.com/member/arthur-slade/blog/the-amazing-ebook-experiment-june-sales and of course you’ll want to check out the master of the e-book format JA Konrath who has been working this gig since 2006. http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/search?updated-min=2005-01-01T00:00:00-06:00&updated-max=2006-01-01T00:00:00-06:00&max-results=50

So, for now, I’m signing off. I’ve got some writing that needs writing, a light bulb that needs changing, a floor that needs mopping and some bills to pay.

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

Send For R.E.M….

Hello. My name is Steve Vernon and I am an old fart.I wasn’t terribily keen on the notion of electronic books in the first place. Shoot, what if I give myself a shock turning the pages???

I love “real” books. I’ve got bookshelves in every room in the house except for the laundry room – and I keep trying to convince my wife that clean clothes are really overrated…

That’s where some of the conversion began. I’m running out of bookshelf space. With a Kindle I can store a couple of hundred books in the space of a single skinny pocket book.

Cool.

My back is starting to go, as well – which means I can’t read hardcovers on the bus to work because I have to tote the darned things back and forth – and they get heavy. With a Kindle I can finally read Stephen King’s Under the Dome without aggravating my lumbar.

Ain’t nothing worse than aggravated lumbar…

Not to mention the whole eyestrain issue that’s already been mentioned by a few folks. There are certain books in my collection that I just can’t read anymore because the teeny-tiny font is beyond the grasp of my failing old fart eyes.

Speaking as a writer, I’ve also become a great Kindle fan. My publisher, Crossroad Press, has helped bring out a lot of my older, out-of-print works in e-book format – for Kindle and all other formats – (insert self-serving commercial right here) – so, thanks to the Kindle and other e-reading-devices I am reaching a whole whack of new readers.

Even my regional publisher has begun to step into the game.  Haunted Harbours is available for both the Nook and the Kobo reading devices.

I still don’t own a Kindle or a Kobo – but only because I’m suffering from a severe case of chronic broke. But I have sworn to purchase a Kindle a Kobo before the end of 2012.

Unless the Mayans turn out to be right.

It’s the end of the world as we know it – but I feel fine!

Bring on the future. Bring on the Kindle. Print books aren’t dead so long as I’ve got a bookshelf in my house – and there’s still lots of room for e-books!

Yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon