Category Archives: Thoughts on Writing

The One Year Published Author Introspective

If you’ll recall, when I was starting out I published my One Month and Three Month published author introspectives, to give other budding authors an idea of the highs and lows of being an author and perhaps what to expect. I thought about writing one at six months, but instead I waited and decided to do one on the eve (more or less) of my one year anniversary.

Things have changed a lot in a year. At the end of my first month, I was cautiously optimistic. At the end of my third month, I was ecstatic. At a year, I’m more grounded in reality, and while still optimistic, I’m better aware of the challenges of the industry.

With that said, here’s what I’ve learned:

1) eBooks are forever. Sales are not.

At the three month mark, sales were going great, and I was understandably going nuts. Why wouldn’t I? So I tried to project sales going forward. I made what I considered to be a reasonable projection, an optimistic one, and a conservative one. There was just one problem: I was working on three months of data, during a time period in which I released four novels (I’d had a backlog of stuff to publish when I got started). I was riding a massive growth swell. So my projections were understandably off.

Here’s what actually happens when you release a book, though. There’s an initial growth period, where people are hearing about your book through different channels and giving it a try. This growth can be linear or exponential, depending on how lucky you are. Eventually, however, growth turns negative as you reach a greater and greater portion of your target audience through your sales channels. Sales drop, and drop, and drop, unless you do something to change it.

Don’t believe me? Here is the unit sales chart for Red Hot Steele, the first in my Daggers & Steele series and my best-selling novel overall:RHS Year 1 Sales

What you see is that sales grew organically for three months, then started to taper off at a regular pace. The massive spike in sales in May is due to a Bookbub promo. I’ll get to that later. You should note, however, that the sales decline trend from January to the present was unaffected by the May promotion.

In indie publishing, there are some who espouse an idea that books are like cash steams. Individually, they don’t make you much money, but put together, a bunch of streams add up into a sizable river of cash.

I don’t think this is a very good metaphor—or at least, it’s not the whole metaphor. The fact of the matter is, when it rains, streams swell into huge torrents, and when it doesn’t, those streams dry up into nothing at all.

Book sales are the same way. Sales can swell quickly. They dry less quickly, but they do dry. And they can dry to almost nothing. If you have dozens of dry streams, they still won’t add up to a river.

With that said, my next bullet point will probably catch you off guard.

2) It’s to your benefit to publish as many books as possible.

Wait, you say. Didn’t you just mention that your book revenue will dry up over time? Why publish lots of books only to create lots of small streams that generate almost no cash flow?

Because you’re not after the tail. I mean, you’ll take it. Any cash from your backlist is nice. But you’re after the cash from the initial growth stage.

The growth period is where you’ll make most of your money from a novel, and that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Movies, video games, traditionally published books, and other media all make most of their money shortly after the initial release, and if they don’t recoup their initial investment quickly, they’re seen as a loss.

I’m not sure if you should be quite so harsh on your own projects (there are ways to revive dead novels and series), but you’ll probably only get a few solid months of earnings from any given release, unless you do something drastic. Speaking of which…

3) The right promotion can make all the difference.

Remember that huge surge in sales in May? That was from a Bookbub promo. If you’re an indie author and you don’t know what Bookbub is, I’ll pause while you go figure it out. Suffice it to say, they’re the most important company out there to help you sell books and make money.

Thanks to the Bookbub promo, I sold over 3500 copies of Red Hot Steele in May, but that doesn’t begin to tell the whole story. Red Hot Steele was priced at a paltry 99¢ for that promotion, but the sales of Cold Hard Steele and the recently released Time to Steele also shot up, and those were listed at full price. That helped me make a lot of money in May.

So while the Bookbub promo couldn’t stop Red Hot Steele’s sales slide, it did earn me a nice chunk of change and earn me a lot of new readers. And Bookbub isn’t the only way to promote your novels. There are many other ways. Bookbub is just one of the best

I don’t want this to turn into a huge ‘How to Promote your Novel’ post, but my point is simply that promoting your novel, if done effectively, will gain you more readers and earn you more money. If making money from your work is your goal (or at least, one of your goals), then you really do need to spend time thinking about promotion.

And last but not least…

4) You’d better be in it for the long haul.

This one doesn’t really fit in with the rest of my tale, but I think it needs to be mentioned. Being an author isn’t easy. It’s full of highs and lows, periods of bounty and periods of drought. You’re constantly learning and trying new things, and if you’re smart, adapting to the marketplace. If you do the same thing for too long, you’ll be left in the dust.

You have to be smart, hard-working, and lucky, and even if you’re all three that doesn’t guarantee success. But it gives you a better shot. So you’d better be committed, otherwise you’ll either never crest the peak in front of you, or you’ll go tumbling down the other side once you get there.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000032_00033]As for me? I’ve got my crampons on, and I’m climbing this mountain like there’s no tomorrow. But I’m not going to say it doesn’t get a little hairy every now than then.

***

Thanks for reading, and be sure to check out the newly available fourth Daggers & Steele installment: Fine Blue Steele. It’s only been out for one day (one day!) and already it’s reached the number one spot in Amazon’s psychic suspense category. So thank you, readers!

Buy it at: Amazon, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

The Complete Guide to Home Audiobook Narration and Production

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a long time. Like, a seriously long time. I think I first mentioned the idea to some friends on Facebook back in April. But I got sidetracked with a book release, and then I got sucked into the writing of a new novel, and so on and so forth. But today I finally submitted my self-produced Red Hot Steele audiobook to ACX for review, and so I figured it was a perfect time to finally write this.

And so, without further ado, I give you: The Complete Guide to Home Audiobook Narration and Production. I think it’ll be a good reference to those of you at home hoping to narrate and produce your own audiobooks (and I bet I’ll refer to it on more than one occasion myself).

One note before we get started: This guide should help you produce audiobooks for any vendor, but I’m specifically focused on producing audio for ACX (Amazon’s subsidiary that uploads to Amazon, Audible, and iTunes). ACX is really the only game in town for indie audio, so it makes sense to focus on them.

OK, first things first. ACX has a series of five videos in which they discuss many of the basic elements of home audiobook production. I HIGHLY encourage you to watch them before you begin here. Seriously. I’ll wait.

Ok. Are you done? Good. Now we can discuss some of the things they mentioned—specifically how to get audiobooks done cheaply and efficiently but professionally. And I’ll give you specific advice on mastering, which the folks at ACX don’t go into.

Space

Let me be blunt. If you don’t have a quiet room in your house that can act as a recording studio, you might as well not even try to record your own audio. This is the most important part of the entire process. If you record in a noisy room, your final product will sound terrible, no matter how hard you try to fix it.

Luckily, many of us have one (and only one) room in our homes that can work.

A walk-in closet.

You see, the key to good audio recording is to do it in a ‘dead room.’ This simply means a room in which sounds don’t bounce around off walls and furniture and play havoc with the audio recorded by your microphone. While professional recording studios will line walls with noise-cancelling foam, it turns out clothing (which is mostly fabric and air) does much the same thing.

Closet
My ‘recording studio.’ Note the copious piles of clothes. I have my wife to thank…

I’ve attached a photo of my own recording studio (ie. closet). As you can see, it’s filled with clothes—my wife’s, mostly, but this is how you want it. More clothes means more dampening material. And though you can’t see it, the door to the closet is to the right. When recording, make sure to close the door and drape a thick towel over it. Hard surfaces like doors reflect sound, and you want to avoid any echoes you might get from them.

To see if your closet can work as a studio, you’ll have to try, and we’ll get to that. But first, I want to point out a few things you may have gleaned from the ACX videos. First, be aware of your surroundings as you record. If you can hear dogs barking, birds chirping, children playing, or loud trucks driving by when in the confines of your studio, chances are your microphone will detect those sounds too. Most of the time, you can simply pause your recording if you hear these things and start up again once they’re done.

One thing you must check is to see if your closet has a vent for central heating/air. If it does, I highly recommend you turn it OFF (the entire system, not close the vent) for the length of your recording session. The sound of air forcing through a vent will show up on your recording, and it doesn’t sound good.

And one more point: check to see what kind of lighting you have in your closet. Chances are there’s a fluorescent bulb in there. Those are terrible and make tons on noise. So just bring a small lamp in with you, and make sure to put an LED bulb in it, as LEDs are whisper quiet.

Tools

The ACX guy lists a whole bunch of tools, computer equipment, and software that you should get to optimize your recordings, but quite honestly, the list is excessive, and you don’t need to spend a fraction of what he says you do to produce a quality finished product.

There are really only a few things you need, and I’ll list them here:

Pop Filter and Mic
My mic setup. I use the small (but excellent quality) Samson Go Mic.

1. A mic. I recommend a simple USB mic like the Blue Yeti, but even that might be more than is really needed. I use the compact but excellent Samson Go Mic, and it produces great quality sound.

2. A pop filter and a mic stand. Yes, you really do want a pop filter as it noticeably improves sound quality on certain consonant sounds, and a mic stand is critical for optimum positioning. I use this filter and this stand. They’re not expensive.

3. A computer to connect your mic to, preferably a laptop with a solid state hard drive. Why? Because solid state hard drives don’t make noise. Thankfully, I already had a Macbook Air, which is perfect for this sort of thing. (Note the ACX guy says you need a backup hard drive. You don’t. This is purely in case of computer crashes…but it is smart to back up your audio files after every recording session.)

Computer and Kindle
My computer, running Audacity, and my Kindle, which I use for my readings.

4. Headphones (in ear or over ear). You’ll need these connected to your computer to avoid having the computer use the standard speakers for output (which will mess up your recording).

5. Something to read your book from. The ACX guy recommends a script stand with a printed script, but you know what I found that I really like? I used my Kindle. It’s backlit, lightweight, and I can switch pages on it faster than I could on a mic stand anyway.

6. Audio recording software. Again, ACX guy says to use Pro Tools, and you could, but it’s expensive. Audacity, on the other hand, is free, it’s available on multiple operating systems, and it works like a charm. In the rest of this guide, I’ll assume you’re using Audacity.

Recording & Narration

You’re now ready to start narrating and recording. First things first, you’ll have to familiarize yourself with Audacity. It’s pretty simple. Just play around with it some. You’ll learn more later at the editing and mastering stages.

There are only a few things you really need to check at this stage, and I’ll refer you to the screenshot I’ve taken.

Audacity Screenshot
The Audacity interface. Note the red numbers 1, 2, and 3.

See that red number 1 in the lower left corner? Make sure it is set to 44100 Hz. This is the recording rate you’ll want.

See the number 2 at the top right? Make sure you’ve selected the mic you’ve attached via USB, and make sure you’re recording in MONO. Also make sure your headphones are selected.

See the 3 in the top middle? Click on that section to monitor the background noise in your studio. Ideally, you should be at -60dB, but if you’re close, don’t fret. I find that if you’re below -52dB or so, you’ll have no problem editing the background noise out in post processing.

That’s it. You’re ready to record. Just be sure to leave ~20 seconds of silence at the beginning of each chapter you record (you’ll need this for noise reduction purposes later).

Now, let’s talk narration. This is actually one of the hardest parts of the process, as you may not be experienced as a narrator. But you are familiar with your own work, which is a big plus.

Here’s my advice: Practice, practice, practice.

Speak to yourself in a quiet room, at least until you can recite multiple lines of your own work in a row without stutters, stammers, or ums. Don’t worry about flubs during the recording. Just start over at the beginning of a sentence, and keep going. And stay hydrated. A well-lubricated throat is key to precise pronunciation.

A note on character voices: They are essential components of audiobooks, as they give the listener cues as to who is speaking. I can’t give you any advice here other than practice them often, and listen to your own work to make sure they are consistent and unobtrusive (ie. not annoying).

Finally, one last piece of advice. READ SLOWLY. Way slower than you think you should be reading. It takes a lot longer to absorb auditory information than it does to absorb the written word. Go too fast, and your finished product will come across as a blur. Trust me. I had to re-narrate my entire first attempt at Red Hot Steele because I read too fast.

Editing & Mastering

We’ve made it to the last step, which is arguably the trickiest. Editing is simple, but extremely time-consuming and tedious (you’ve been warned!). Mastering is tricky because you probably don’t have any idea how to do it, and it’s easy to mess us the finished product if you’re not careful.

Now, I’m going to say something that will probably make audio engineers cringe, but I like to do the mastering before I do the editing. Why? Because if you edit first and master later, you’ll end up amplifying all sorts of weird, breathy mouth noises and have to go back and edit those out later. So save yourself time and do the mastering first.

Mastering for audiobooks is comprised of (at minimum) three basic steps: noise reduction, compression, and normalization.

Noise reduction removes the background noise from your audio recording (assuming the noise floor is already low). Compression reduces the dynamic range of the audio, so that the loud parts are quieter and the quiet parts are louder. This makes for a more uniform listening experience and makes it so the listener doesn’t have to play with the volume knob often. Normalization limits the maximum loudness or amplitude of a track.

Here are the mastering steps you should take to get a professional finished product that will satisfy ACX submission requirements:

  1. Noise Reduction
    1. Select ~10 seconds of silence at the beginning of the audio recording.
    2. Click on Effect > Noise Removal and click on Get Noise Profile. Hit Ok.
    3. Select the entire audio recording.
    4. Click on Effect > Noise Removal and click Ok.
  2. Compression
    1. Select the entire audio recording and click on Effect > Compressor.
    2. Set the following parameters:
      • Threshold: -25 dB
      • Noise Floor: -40 dB
      • Ratio: 7:1
      • Attack Time: 0.2 s
      • Release Time: 1.0 s
      • Make up gain for 0 dB after compressing checked, Compress based on Peaks unchecked
  1. Alternate Compression (I find that this compresses more and better than step 2 above. Use it instead of step 2 if you decide to go this route.)
    1. Select the entire audio recording and click on Effect > Compress Dynamics (must have optional plug-in, Chris’s Dynamic Compressor, installed. Download it here).
    2. Set the following parameters:
      • Compress Ratio: 1.0
      • Compression Hardness: 0.75
      • Floor: -40.0 dB
      • Noise Gate Falloff: 0
      • Maximum Amplitude: 1.0
  1. Normalization
    1. Select the entire audio recording and click on Effect > Normalize.
    2. Check remove DC offset.
    3. Check normalize maximum amplitude and input -3.0 dB.

Once done, you can check the RMS volume of your audio track. Select your entire recording, click on Analyze > Contrast, and then click Measure selection (foreground or background, won’t matter in this case). For ACX, your audiobook track should be between -23dB and -18 dB. If it isn’t, click on Effect > Amplify and play with the values until your track is in the right range.

If there are any wonky spots that are too loud (you’ll see them on the spectrum if they’re there), select them and decrease their volume using the Amplify tool. Then, select all and renormalize.

If you find any spots in your recording that are too quiet, just select them and amplify them individually.

If you’ve gotten this far, that means you’re ready for the editing. It’s simple, really. Just go through your entire recording, deleting bad takes and flubs, silencing any weird mouth sounds or background noise that made it through your noise reduction step, trimming or lengthening pauses between phrases (if necessary), and playing with volume (again, if necessary).

Final Notes

I congratulate you if you’ve made it this far, and hopefully everything I’ve collected here will be of use to you in creating your own audiobooks. But there’s a few final points I wanted to add that didn’t fit in anywhere else, most of them specific to ACX requirements.

  • Remember to record each track in MONO format at 44.1 kHz.
  • Record separate opening and closing credits (see this ACX page for more information).
  • At the beginning of each track, record a chapter header after your initial ~20 second pause, and be sure to leave some room tone (0.5-1.0s at start, 1.0-5.0s at end) in your final finished product.
  • Export to MP3 format at 192kps, Constant Bit Rate (CBR) in MONO (as long as you record in MONO, Audacity should export in MONO).
  • Be sure to give all your finished MP3 files a proof listen. Chances are, there will be a few mistakes you’ll have overlooked.

Alright, I think that’s it. Best of luck with your audiobook endeavors, and be sure to check out Red Hot Steele in audio at the following vendors:

Red Hot Steele Audiobook: Amazon | Audible | iTunes

Pirates, Kindle Unlimited, and more Amazon Thoughts

The Black Mast Murder
Buy it now on Amazon! Or read for free…

So first things first, let’s get the obvious part out of the way. I have a new novel available!

It’s called The Black Mast Murder, and as you might have guessed based on the cover, it’s a pirate novel. But what sort of pirate novel? Grim and dark? Whimsical? Historically accurate?

Well, imagine one of those Pirates of the Caribbean movies, complete with all their mystical, fantastical, grandiose elements. Now add in my own sense of snark and charm (which I’m sure you’re used to by now), mix it all up with a cracking good mystery, and you have yourself The Black Mast Murder.

In all honesty, I’m very proud of this novel. I think the setting will draw you in immediately, and the story has a nice balance of action, mystery, and even its fair share of romance. And you can BUY IT NOWexclusively on Amazon.

Which, as you may have guessed, means I’ve decided to put the novel into Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited (KU) program.

For those of you unfamiliar with KU, it’s a monthly subscription service that lets people read as many novels as they want, and we (the authors) get paid based on how much you read. To opt into the program, you have to make your ebook exclusive with Amazon, at least in increments of 90 days.

Now, let me be frank. I don’t like exclusivity—even timed exclusivity. I think it usually benefits the distributor, not the author. But the ebook market is changing. More and more readers (especially power readers, who read in large quantities) are shifting to subscription services, chief among them KU, and those authors who ignore them are leaving dollars on the table.

Of course, you can argue that going exclusive also forces you to leave dollars on the table—the dollars you would earn from other retailers. But those dollars are few and far between.

Over 91% of my lifetime ebook sales have been on Amazon. Barnes & Noble has about 4.5%, Kobo about 3%, and Apple/iTunes has brought me a meager 1%. AND those numbers are generous to those other retailers, as the majority of sales I’ve received everywhere other than Amazon came off the back of my successful Bookbub promo. If you exclude the month of May, my lifetime sales are about 96% from Amazon. (And considering that Barnes & Noble’s nook division seems to be going down the tubes, those numbers look likely to continue to worsen in the future.)

The Tau Ceti Transmutation
Now available on Kindle Unlimited. Read for FREE!

All of which is to say that I make the VAST amount of my revenue from Amazon, and if there’s a way to increase my Amazon revenue, even at the cost of revenue from other sources, it might make sense. Honestly, if I can earn even half of the amount from Amazon’s KU program as I do from sales, that would still be about five times as much as I make from all other retailers combined.

So what does this mean for you? Not much, probably. You can still buy my work (at a fantastic, low price, I might add!), but if you’re a member of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited monthly reading program, you can actually read The Black Mast Murder for FREE!

And at the risk of sounding like a used car salesman…wait, there’s more! Remember my science fiction P.I. novel, Rich Weed in The Tau Ceti Transmutation? Well, it’s also exclusive to Amazon now, and those of you in KU can read that for FREE too!

(Side note: My Daggers & Steele series continues to be available everywhere, for the time being anyway. Consider this a test. If my novels in KU do great, I might move everything there. If not, the exclusive titles will be made available everywhere. I’ll decide in about 90 days…)

One last note, before I go. You’ve probably noticed the link up at the top of my website encouraging you to join my new release mailing list. It’s the easiest way for me to tell you about my new novels. But, understandably, many people don’t like signing up for tons of lists. Our inboxes are cluttered enough as it is.

Well, Amazon has once again come to the rescue. Check out my Amazon author page. See that yellow button underneath my photo, the one that says “Follow”? If you click that, Amazon will let you know when I release new books. Why trust me with your email address when you can trust a massive, multinational corporation? (I kid, of course…) But nonetheless, it’s a neat feature, and if for some reason you’d rather not give me your email, why not give the Amazon Follow feature a try?

The Superstars Effect

Roughly a year ago I attended a conference called Superstars Writing Seminars, or Superstars for short. It’s a writing conference focused not on the craft of writing but rather the business of being a successful author, and attending the conference was, quite simply, life-changing for me.

Let me paint a picture of where I was a year ago, in terms of experience, knowledge, and my mental/emotional makeup. In the year prior to attending, I’d realized my love of writing, and I’d written my first novel. Then, like many other people in my shoes, I’d polished up the work, sent it to agents in search of representation, and gotten rejected dozens of times. And I’d become depressed and unsure about my path forward.

Thankfully, I had my lovely wife to gently encourage me (via a swift kick in the rear) to keep trying—assuming that writing was something I was serious about. Well, it was, and a conference seemed like a good way to kick-start my, at the time, non-existent career. As luck would have it, I found Superstars, and only a few weeks before the conference was scheduled to be held.

Now, I won’t go into the specifics of what topics were discussed—everything from contracts to self-publishing to marketing to sales numbers and trends, and every tidbit I learned was helpful. But there were two things I took away from the conference that were far more useful than any specific piece of advice I learned.

The first was seeing how hard the most successful authors worked. As someone who had approached writing (to that point) as a hobby, it was eye-opening to see how much time and effort the successful writers poured into their craft, and by craft I don’t just mean learning and practicing their writing, but also marketing, networking, working on budgets and sales and financials, blogging, web design, cover design, editing, etc, etc, etc. Not surprisingly, those authors who were successful approached their endeavors as a business, and like any other business person, they worked hard to be successful.

The other major takeaway I gained from the conference was a renewed passion about writing—in part due to specific motivational speeches (*cough* James Owen *cough), but also because the presenters and attendees were all so passionate about their writing that it was hard not to be infected by the feeling. Not that I really needed to be infected—I was already passionate about my writing. But seeing others doing the same thing I was working toward, and seeing their success while also learning how to do better myself—that was inspiring. And I came away from the conference with that knowledge that I could—not would, but could—succeed as a writer. And despite the idea of gatekeepers in writing, whether they were agents or editors or others, the biggest hurdle to my own success came from within.

So after the conference, I worked hard. I applied myself. I learned as much as I could, and I cut things out of my life that wouldn’t help me become a better writer and a more successful one.

I read blogs on business and writing daily. I updated my website with new bells and whistles. I boosted my social media reach over twofold, and more importantly, I made connections with other writers and with editors and cover artists. I read—a lot, in lots of genres, stuff outside my traditional preference.

And I wrote, as much as I could. I penned three novels, and self-published them when they were ready to see the light of day (well, not the last one yet—but it should be out very soon).

And sales? I tried not to worry about that part too much. That part was largely out of my control. All I could do was work as hard as possible and put out the best product I could. I figured if I did that, success would at some point follow. And you know what? In many ways, success is already here, as evidenced by some of my recent blog posts. My books are doing great. They’re flying off the digital shelves. Readers love them. And I love writing them.

So for those of you who are going to be joining me next week at Superstars, brace yourselves. You’ll have a flood of information coming at you. All of it will be useful. Absorb as much of it as you can. But also keep in mind—success will only be able to come from within you.

Chances are, it’s already there. You just need to free it.

The Three Month Published Author Introspective

A couple months ago I wrote a One Month Published Author Introspective post, where I tried to share some of the insights I’d gathered in the brief month during which my first two self-published books had been available for purchase. I think it was a useful exercise, both for me and for others, so here I am with the three month update. I might also do the same thing at six months and a year, depending if I have worthwhile information to share. In the first installment, I used an unorthodox approach, describing things I was excited and disappointed about. Here, I’ll take a more traditional approach and discuss things I’ve learned along the way.

1) It can be done.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably an author, maybe an indie-published one, or you aspire to be, and you’re thinking, is self-publishing worth it? Can you really find success that way? Can you make it in the current environment?

Yes. You can.

I wondered the same thing when I started. I mean, there’s over 3.2 million books for sale in the Amazon Kindle store. How is someone going to find yours, and why would they buy it? But you’re not just selling a book. You’re selling your book, and your book is unique, isn’t it?

The one that started it all, Red Hot Steele.
The one that started it all, Red Hot Steele.

Take Red Hot Steele. It’s not just a book. It’s a mystery—a fantasy mystery, in an urban environment. That’s different. But there’s more. It’s not a typical urban fantasy, rather a mystery set in an urban setting with fantasy elements, if that makes sense. And it’s filled to the gills with humor. And elements of noir. And even some sexual tension. Now we’re talking. It’s not a book. It’s my book. And if it’s the sort of thing you’re looking for, you won’t find it anywhere else.

Why does that matter? Because most people who are searching to buy a piece of fiction are looking for an experience, and if you can offer them an experience they can’t get anywhere else, they’ll come back to you for more. And they’ll tell others about you, too.

I think word of mouth, to a large degree, has helped me achieve success so early on. And I’m not going to lie—it’s come very quickly. In the two weeks of October that my books were available, I sold 60 copies, which I didn’t think was particularly good, but other people might see it differently. Then my books sold quite a bit better in November. And they sold much, much better in December. And they’re doing even better so far in January. If things keep going the way they have been, I’ll make a living wage from my writing this year, maybe a really good living wage. But, I don’t want to count my eggs before they’ve hatched, which brings me to my next point…

2) Visibility is key.

There’s a lot of reasons I think my books have done well, first and foremost being that they’re really well written—by which I mean, in this case, funny, interesting, and exciting, right off the bat. Great characters, great plot. I also have a fantastic cover that makes people want to click on it when they see it, and I wrote, in my humble opinion, a really engaging sales blurb that makes people want to see what the fuss is about.

Cold Hard Steele
Book #2, already a #1 best-seller!

But I can’t stress enough the importance of visibility to readers in my success, and here I mean placement on Amazon lists. I put Red Hot Steele, and later Cold Hard Steele, on a fairly small Amazon list—Psychic Mysteries. That let Red Hot Steele get visibility right away, first on the Psychic Mysteries Hot New Releases list, and later at the tail end of the main list itself. People saw Red Hot Steele and started to buy, and bit by bit, it rose up the list, until, sure enough, it got to the number one spot. And the number one spot of an Amazon list, any list, no matter how small, means good sales. Really good. Honestly, anywhere in the top three means really good sales.

I realized this, and so I rejiggered my book’s categories so that it would show up on two lists—Psychic Mysteries and Psychic Suspense—and sales rose even further.

I’ll say it again: visibility is key. If you can, place your book in an Amazon list where it will get some.

Of course, the fact is, if you don’t have a great book with an awesome cover and an enticing blurb, your book won’t sell well enough to get visibility. So doing all that is a given. But on the bright side? If you do all that well, and your book sales slowly improve, it’s really hard to lose visibility. Amazon’s algorithms have a long tail, meaning they take into account past sales to a fairly large degree. If your book sales grow organically, you’ll be hard to displace by someone else who, say, has a 99¢ book promo and sells a tons of copies over a few days.

3) Don’t Sweat the 30 Day Sales Cliff

I mentioned this is my one month post, the idea that sales drop off a cliff after thirty days. I suppose it must be true for some authors otherwise the myth wouldn’t exist, but the only reason I can think of must be that for these folks, their only real visibility on Amazon comes from the Hot New Releases list, which lasts for thirty days. But if your only visibility comes from those lists, chances are you’re probably not selling particularly well anyway.

Once more, with feeling: visibility is key. Find a category, somewhere, where you’ll get some—just be sure that category really is a fit for your book, otherwise readers will be upset with you.

4) It’s True What They say About Book Two

There’s an adage that nothing sells book one like book two, and even with a book like Red Hot Steele that had quite a bit of success early on, this has been absolutely true. It took Red Hot Steele two months to reach the #1 spot on its first Amazon list. It took Cold Hard Steele a week to do the same. They were even both #1 on separate lists at the same time. Still are, in fact. And the release of Cold Hard Steele boosted Red Hot Steele, which had been flagging slightly, higher on the Amazon best-sellers lists than it had ever been.

RHS and CHS Both #1
What’s better than an Amazon #1 bestseller? Two, of course.

 

The fact of the matter is, people love series, but many people aren’t willing to dive in until there are multiple books available. For one thing, you need to convince people that you’re not a one shot wonder—that you really will write a book two and a book three, and that they’ll hold up to the first. And people love to binge read. When was the last time you read a great book one and immediately bought the rest of that series?

So don’t worry if your book doesn’t take off right away. It might be frustrating, but there’s time. Each book you release will help the profile of the ones before it, which brings me to my last point.

5) The Launch Doesn’t Matter

It may be hard to convince yourself of this point if you release a book into the wild and it bombs, but it’s true. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s great if you can have a successful launch. You should try and drum up support for your book by any means possible: through social media, by sending an e-mail blast to your mailing list (you have one, right?), and by talking to people in person (a time forgotten art, I know).

But even if you don’t sell any books right away, remind yourself: it doesn’t matter. In this day and age, with e-books and print on demand, your book is eternal. There is no such thing as a new book—just a book that a reader hasn’t read yet. You have all the time in the world. So sit back, relax, work on your craft, write another book, one that’s better than your last, and hope that somewhere along the line, people start buying your stuff.

Well, that’s all I’ve got. Hope it was of use to you. If you have any questions for me, please feel free to start up a conversation in the comments.