A few words of questionable wisdom from author Al W Moe - you can leave questions on each blog or go to my profile for direct email.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Gift from John Grisham

Recently I really got stuck on a writing project. I thought, I paced, I waved my arms at the blank canvas of my computer screen, I bit my nails. Nothing. Just me and the darkness. I was stuck, stranded in limbo. After a day in the dark I was afraid to go forward. There might be a cliff, a wombat, or even worse an editor out there for all I knew. I mean come on, it was really dark and I was scared and hungry sitting there cradling my meager story ideas in my lap.

Eventually I gathered enough courage to slink away to the kitchen for a tuna sandwich, leaving the story to fend for itself, because I'm a heartless bastard. And that's the way the story would have ended, except for John Grisham.

Strange as it seems, the man of 100 million book sales clicked on friends on my Goodreads account. I know because the website sent me an email, I looked to confirm this happenstance, and there was a great quote from him:

"Don't compromise yourself - you're all you have."John Grisham

Now not even in my fevered mind did I think he was sitting at home in front of a roaring fire reading  Nevada's Golden Age of Gambling, but still, I was happy, and suddenly inspired. And, I wanted to pass that along to another author. So, I chose a not-yet-proven but fun-to-read writer and bought a dozen of their eBooks on Kindle and passed them on as gifts, to friends via email. Really, you could do a lot worse for a present these days than a book that can be read anywhere.

If you buy those gifts on Amazon, your friends can read from any Kindle reader, the device itself, or a web app on a computer or even a Smart phone. And, it's win-win. Your friends get a good book, and the author gets the thrill of seeing some extra book sales and makes some royalty bucks before Christmas. You can pass on a little inspiration and kindness. And, if you happen to see Mr. Grisham, tell him thanks for me.

Those thanks are heartfelt, because his little mouse click, that tiny act of kindness, inspired me to get that last story, a chapter of my novel, actually, back into play, and now it's nestled between chapters 11 and 13, safe and sound and no longer alone. A random act of kindness can go a long way!

Thanks for reading - Al W Moe

Friday, November 9, 2012

Living on Book Reviews

Living on book reviews will not feed you as an author. There is a popular misconception that a book with a lot of reviews is selling more books based on those reviews alone. Sure, book reviews can be very important, but they don't come first!

I really enjoy reading reviews at places like EK Ellis Literary Works or Goodreads, or even Amazon, because they help me find what I'm looking for. However, too many new writers see wildly successful books on Amazon with 1000 reviews and put 1 and 1 together to get 11. Sorry, doesn't work that way!

You have to have a quality product and great marketing first, to sell that many books and then to get that many reviews. If your book isn't selling you may be able assuage your feelings by blaming it on a lack of reviews, but the secret is, you don't need more than a few reviews to sell your book. Books sell based on author name recognition, genre, price, reviews, marketing, and well, those last two things, what were they, oh yeah, creativity and quality.

If you forget those in your manuscript you won't have many reviews and the ones you do have won't be that good. A bad book can get some reviews and sell some copies, but those sales won't last, while a quality read without many reviews can still sell plenty of copies.

Your Book's Best Friend

If you are a self-published author, you know how important it is to try most everything to sell your books, from blog tours and book signings to free copy giveaways, but your absolute best friend for life is good old word-of-mouth.

You only get good word-of-mouth if you have a great product and you manage to get some copies into the hands of people that will mention your book to their friends. So, you'll have to do some good marketing, but before you publish, have a few friends take a look at your work. Then, track down all those dangling participles, passive sentences, and of course all those adverbs you do not need (that's 98% of them). And then, go through your manuscript again and look at the story, your timing, your protagonist's motivation. Does your book still need work?

Yes, without reading your manuscript I can tell you that it does! Self-published authors aren't often hurt by a lack of enthusiasm and drive, but their stories can be killed by a lack of editing. Find a librarian, English Teacher, your best friend's mother's cousin's sister if you have to, but find someone who can help. You might even have to pay someone.

I've read hundreds of manuscripts from authors who thought they were ready to go-to-press, and I can tell you that only two of those were really ready. That's bad odds for you being ready. Fight the fight, edit till you can't stand it any more so you don't put your readers in the same boat - and then you have a great chance of selling your books, even if you don't have many reviews!

Other Marketing

You also might consider using a banner exchange to get additional readers to your site. A banner exchange is (usually) a free-membership type of website that allows you to install a banner on your website (for most, like this blogger site, you simply go to "layout" and click "add a gadget," then scroll down to "add html" where you insert the html you got from the banner exchange and your web page will now show a banner!

You, in turn, upload a banner with a link to your own site page to the banner exchange and they automatically give you x-number of free page views for the readers on your own pages. The exchange is usually 6 or 7 to 10 (your site gets 10 page views and your ad on their network of web sites will show your banner 7 times).

If you want to stay free, try ad designer. You can signup for free and make as many free banners as you want.

Thanks for reading - Al W Moe

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Secrets of Search Engine Optimization

Marketing your website or blog without having first provided good content is like capturing water with a net. Even if you do succeed in getting to the source, you won't be able to hold onto it! Readers want quality content - whether you are writing a blog, a web article, or a book. Offer junk and you won't hold your readers, even if you provide excellent SEO practices.

Today's search engines don't just analyze your traffic patterns, they actually have amazingly strong algorithms that measure your actual content. Search engines like high quality, continually updated content that is unique on the web. Provide it and the web will beat a path to your site - using front and back links!

Know Your Audience

Just as a book author has to know their genre, a blogger needs to know their main subject and their readers. If your blog is about manhole covers, you need to know a lot about them, you need a new slant on them, and you need to figure out what your readers want to hear about them!

Make sure you use the name manhole covers in your blog title. And, when you do each article, use something associated with them in the title - and whatever the article is about, make sure you use several keywords in the text.That's the first step towards getting some good marks from search engines.

The second step is proving new and unique content every day. Obviously your readers will return more often if there is something new to read. If they return once or twice and there is nothing new - well,  you just lost them. And, the search engines really do love to see new content. Do yourself a favor and make the search engines happy!

Thanks for reading - Al W Moe

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sacrificing Your First Born (Book) to the Masses

Want to be a successful self-published author? Consider sacrificing your first born new book to the reading (and buying) masses. Driving future sales with current book giveaways is one of the best aspects of Amazon's Kindle program. The marketing aspects are sound - introduce readers to an author's work and hope there's a land-swell of interest and word of mouth that propels new sales.

Read New Books for Free

Readers can hardly pass up a free book. For instance,  Oct. 29 and 30, readers can download Jessie B Tyson's book, White Heaven Women (a supernatural ghost story), and read from start to finish at their leisure at no cost. That's great.

Unfortunately, even if the idea of a free book is sound (and Jessie is only giving it away free for a short time), it only translates to future sales if the author's book is exceptional. That doesn't mean the writing has to be great (honest, it doesn't), it means the story has to be great. Readers don't care nearly as much as paid critics do about an occasional grammar slip. Readers want a story!

With physical books, a great cover can translate to many new sales. Seeing a book on your friends coffee table with a catchy cover is enough to start a discussion and boom: book sales. Books online via Nook or Kindle (and other readers) don't have that hook, but free books can help.

The Real Key

However, the real key to successful book sales (beyond the obvious STORY, STORY, STORY) when using a free book as a driver, is to have other books for the satisfied masses to buy. New writers can learn a lot from those who have already been successful like M. R. Mathias - he of the Dragon stories.

Mathias figured out his audience, he's prolific (over a dozen books and stories for sale), and he's got a few freebies that are always available. You can read his 77-page novella The First Dragoneer for free and see if you like the style, which many, many people have done. Then, you may be inclined to do what about a zillion other people have done:

Pay for Other Books

Yes, Mr. Mathias gives away a lot of books, but because he has a back-list of titles, he knows many readers will turn to his "for sale" books, and he'll make money from those. I know, because several of his best books, like The Sword and the Dragon, are fun to read and selling great on Amazon and on other eBook devices.

When readers find an author they really like, they'll buy all of their books. Giving away free copies or even 99-cent copies makes a lot of sense when you have other books to sell. If you have but one book, well, free and 99-cent books may not be the way to go! $2.99 is probably where you should be - and I'll explain that next week!

Thanks for reading - Al W Moe

Monday, October 22, 2012

Circular Book Marketing

Circular book marketing used to include book readings at libraries, interviews on TV and radio, book signings at bookstores, and then talks at the local Rotary and the Ladies Club. The idea was to get a little grassroots campaign going to garner publicity. Successful book sales started this way spread like water flowing from a broken dam across the fertile fields of a flat valley of readers. The web provides a similar approach to marketing now. If you aren't using it, why not?

I've been reading more and more book reviews recently. I'm fascinated by what readers find compelling enough to write about and reading what makes them think a book is a good read, and it's not usually the grammar or the punctuation. In fact, that's never mentioned. So, you have to face it - readers want a story!

Some of the best reviews I've seen are on blogs like  Tic Toc, where author Leslie Ann Wright does a great job of deconstructing each book's true story. When I'm ready to pick up a book, that's the information I really want: is it a good read.

Wright is also working a bit of circular book marketing, whether she intended to or not. She's a great reviewer, so her work is shown on blogcritics, and from there blogs are picked-up by other web sites, like the Seattle PI's. Each of those posts list her name with links to places like Goodreads, and her own book is listed several times.

That all creates something the search engines love, organic links. Google has very sophisticated algorithms for finding "popular" keywords, and they are able to distinguish between what they consider quality pages, and spam. You can't beat the algorithms with junk anymore, and you can't achieve high page rankings or listings with junk either.

These days, in the same way that readers want a great story, search engines want a great web of quality backlinks to choose how high in relevance to rate key words. Without those links, you'll have trouble getting noticed - and no publicity is no sales. You've got to get the word out, but it's got to be a good word.

So, if you're looking for a point here, it's not just the review that's selling your books, it's the reviewer and the links on the pages of the reviewer and how those links are read by search engines. A blog page with 100 hits a day doesn't do you much good if there are no links to and from it. If you have an author's page or a book page for your own work, make sure it has backlinks (links to the page) as well as links to other quality sites.  Without those links you wonk rank high enough with the search engines to ever get noticed!

Thanks for reading - Al W Moe

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Author Blog Marketing

Blogging started out as a great way to connect daily with your friends; an open journal. Today we've got Facebook, so the blogging idea has morphed into a more organized way of marketing. That's good and bad.

When I was growing up, a few friends and I used to do a lot of running, just for the fun of it. One of them, Fred Schumann, went to the extreme when he ran the length of Japan on a 2,000-mile journey that took him fifty-nine days to complete. He later blogged about it - now that's something you'd want to read about each day. And that's what brings readers back to blogs on a regular basis - great stories.

If you're using a blog to sell your books, you're going to have to offer something extra each post to get new readers. My Nevada Casino History blog is written because I love old casino photos and stories. If I sell a few extra books in a somewhat organic way, that's just a nice bonus for me. Every blog that offers something nice has a huge advantage over the ones that are all marketing and no substance.

 A good example is Jessie B Tyson's blog, where I downloaded a free copy of SpaceHive today, by author Kenna McKinnon. You can get your own copy while the offer is still up! Jessie is herself, an author, with a new book called White Heaven Women, a spooky paranormal story.

Jessie says she considers herself to be a Spiritual Christian, but that doesn't stop her from writing paranormal fiction. Her stories come from vision-like dreams that she turns into enjoyable tales. I guess she's not afraid of the dark, but her readers might be after finishing her book! White Heaven Women is just $3.99 on Kindle.

Thanks for reading - Al W Moe

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Neurotic Authors Amazon Author Rankings!

Amazon let millions of authors know via email that their work is now graded in yet another way - not just by reviews,or by comments, or by income, but now as an actual rank of every author on the Amazon system! Not that insecure, neurotic authors need more to obsess and fret over.

 Consider Yourself  a Success!

Now before anybody slashes their wrists, you have to consider yourself successful if you somehow manged to get your book finished and in good enough shape to actually make it to Amazon at all. Beyond that, you are a successful author if you have any sales at all. There are 8,000,000 books on Amazon, so if people are actively buying your work, you are doing well. But if you want to make a living at it, well, you need to get in the top 25,000 of all Amazon authors, maybe lower!

I'm not shy, I'll show my numbers, but I don't know whether to laugh or cry at them. I'm pretty happy to see that I'm at 1745 for history and 6939 in mystery, thriller and suspense for all of Amazon. On Kindle, my history number is 1745 with mystery and thrillers at 4906.

Of course that tells me there are a lot of authors writing books, but not so many selling enough books to make a living.

The Roots of Reno came out on Kindle in November 2011. At the time, Amazon accounted for 10% of sales, with most copies sold at bookstores. Now Amazon accounts for over 50% of my sales  because it's tough keeping backlist books on the bookstore shelves!

The most sobering news from my trip to Amazon's Author Central was seeing that my overall ranking of all authors put me at number 93,189 (24,135 on Kindle). That tells me that if you only sell on Amazon, and you achieve those numbers in a year, you can afford to eat Ramen noodles every meal, but if you want to take an occasional trip to Mickey "D's", you better think of the best way to get your author ranking under 25,000. And, there are only two ways to make that happen: write better, market better. Good luck!

Thanks for reading - Al W Moe

Friday, September 28, 2012

Marketing Budget for Self-Published Book

The world certainly has more writers, but apparently it needs more readers, too. According to Bowker (who handles ISBN's), there were 211,000 self-published books put on the market last year, up almost one-third in two years. Did you contribute to that total?

Turner Publishing expects to crank-out over 1,000 titles this year - and focuses on first printings between 5,000 and 10,000. Their marketing has to be spot-on and conservative to keep in line with those small but realistic numbers. Obviously re-prints are based on performance, and many titles rise in sales to reach six-figures, but what about your book?

Last year the average (according to Bowker, again) self-published fiction book sold for $6.94 - in softbound. Nonfiction works commanded nearly three times that figure, and sold more copies on average!

Next, take into account that e-books accounted for 41% of self-published units, but only accounted for 11% of sales dollars, mostly due to the average e-book sales price of $3.18 And where exactly does your marketing plan fit with these insights into national sales figures? Don't know? Better start planning!

According to Publisher's Weekly (2006) the average sales for a published book is about 500 copies. The chance that any published book actually gets stocked in an average bookstore is 100-1, but I know, your book  is special! It's really good! What to do?

Obviously marketing is everything when it comes to the sales of good books. Nothing can help a poorly written book, not even 99-cent e-book sales. If you spend a year writing your book and $1000 getting it edited and a few hundred on a spiffy cover and countless hours self-publishing and setting up websites and your Facebook and Twitter accounts, how much are you going to spend on marketing?

The  average amount of money spent on marketing from a completely non-scientific poll I've done of dozens of self-published authors is about $500.

If the big publishers plan on spending $5,000 to $7,000 for a first printing of 5,000 copies, your plan to spend $500 randomly with no experience, is accepting that your book will indeed sell less than 500 copies. Realistically, you can probably expect to sell 50.

Next we'll talk about an actual plan.

Thanks for reading - Al W Moe

Friday, September 21, 2012

Anything to Keep From Working on the Novel

When I'm busy elsewhere it seems like I just can't wait to get to work on my latest novel (Dying to Be Slim), but when I sit at the computer, there I go to Twitter, Facebook, my emails, my book sales.........anything but the manuscript!

How much time needs to go into marketing and social media these days to be successful? Well, although I have a degree in marketing, so much has changed in the last ten years with regard to selling books I sometimes feel like I have no idea anymore.

Publishers still use book wholesalers, book tours and good-old-fashioned TV/Radio/print marketing to drive sales, but publishers are increasingly more reluctant to take on new authors. That's understandable, and fortunately it's easier to publish your own work these days, so there are options for those of use who are inclined to self publish.

 In my case, if I actually finish the novel I'm working on (maybe by the end of the next month) I won't be heartbroken if I can't find a publisher. I've got the same self-publishing avenues as other authors, and I've got a small back-list of previous books too.

The two previous publishers I used for Stealing from Bandits and Nevada's Golden Age of Gambling were sold and then subsequently went out of business. Certainly my modest sales couldn't keep the publishers in business. So be it.

On the plus side, the books reverted back to me and I've reissuing them on Create Space and Amazon Kindle - where I'll get a monthly deposit straight to my checking account without doing anything else. That's not too bad, except for ignoring my present manuscript to push the old works on Facebook, and Twitter, and on Goodreads, and .......wait, don't go away, I've got more!...........

Thanks for reading - Al W Moe