Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Review of Jeff Rivera's Effortless Marketing

Yesterday I downloaded Jeff Rivera's 99-cent e-book, Effortless Marketing: How I Sold Thousands of Ebooks, Landed an Agent and Book Deal in Just 10 Minutes a Day Using Message Boards. Today I spent two hours in a doctor's waiting room with my Kindle and read the book from beginning to end. Other than a couple of small blips, it's a decent resource for us indie authors.

As its title suggests, it focuses on how to effectively use message boards, stressing the importance of visiting boards with 5,000 to 10,000 users. Of course, different writers will likely have different audiences, but I wish the book gave at least a few examples of large boards. If you know of some, please reply to this post with the information. In the meantime, here are the most promising links I've come up with:


The Big Boards site has a comprehensive-looking list on various topics and in various languages. If I find specific links on that site that seem promising, I promise to share and hope you'll do the same.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Can I make it up in volume?

Kindle's KDP Select program opened up some real opportunities for independent authors to make money from our own work. With three books on the market, it wasn't hard for me to tweak the formatting and upload them to KDP.

The deal is widely known: give Amazon an exclusive on distribution for 90-day periods, and you can not only sell your e-books for a 70 percent royalty, but you're also paid each time your titles are borrowed in their Kindle Prime program. You can offer them for free for up to five days within that period as well.

For me, this program has been an immediate success. My titles have been downloaded over 30,000 times, mostly as freebies, but the attention has also generated a fine, if temporary income. I was determined not to spend any money at all on advertising, so I focused almost all my energy on Twitter. When giving away a title, I always included the #free hashtag in my tweets. It's like bears to honey. People love freebies. But one surprise to me was that a certain number of people would see the free offer and pay for the book instead, as it was only $2.99. After an initial announcement on Facebook, I used it very little, partly because of the lesser reach and partly because it felt more intrusive, like always getting in someone's face. Twitter is anonymous, and the connections seem more distant. Ironically, while Facebook is bigger, it seems that tweets can reach more new people quickly.

Still, you know the saying about all good things. Until a week or so ago, Twitter and I seemed to be generating steady sales--and then sales seemed to fall off a cliff and go splat. There's a certain group of people who retweet my messages, and I always do the same for them, but apparently my market is tapped out for now. My followership is at about 2,400, and probably that number has to increase by quite a bit to reach a significant new group of potential buyers.

February sales have convinced me that the market is out there. Book lovers will spend 2.99 on an unknown author if they are given the opportunity. Could Facebook ads provide that extra kick? I tried a brief experiment, uploading an ad for all three books that would cost me slightly under a dollar per click. My plan was to try it for a week, budgeting $10 per day. My Twitter sales had already flatlined, so any Facebook results would be obvious. By the time I had 32 clicks, the cost to me was about $26, and I had sold two books. So let's see:

Sale price: $2.99
My share: $2.05
Amazon's share: $0.94
Facebook's share $13.00

Someone please help me out, because I'm not very smart. If I lose about $11 per sale, can I make it up in volume? Since the answer is probably no, I canceled my FB ad today.

Friday, March 02, 2012

What in the World Is Creative Nonfiction?

Please give a warm welcome to Morgan St. James, who knows a thing or two about creative non-fiction, an area quite new to me. Take it away, Morgan ...
First of all, Bob, thanks so much for asking me to write about “creative nonfiction.” Many people are a bit flummoxed when they hear this and want to know “what in the world is creative nonfiction?”
Well, the genre of creative nonfiction is enjoying a renaissance of sorts these days. I’m even working on one myself—a book entitled Confessions of a Cougar, targeted for release late this year. The title should give you a pretty good idea of what it's about, so we won’t go there today, but watch for it to come out. It is a very “interesting” read.
What type of books qualify as creative non-fiction?
The range is wide. There is fertile ground for creative non-fiction because so many out-of-the-ordinary things happen in real life. It can be anything from life as a spy for Churchill to the child of a parent who was one of America’s Most Wanted to a romantic romp. Maybe this genre is enjoying resurgence because reports of crisis or bizarre experiences spew from every newscast, tabloid, radio talk show and more. Reality shows demonstrate the degree of humiliation or challenge a human being is willing to endure for money and publicity. Some stories are fascinating, some make the heart go atwitter, and some cause revulsion. Defining creative non-fiction as “not fiction” is almost like calling classical music “non-rock.”
It actually started centuries ago
Back in the days of yore, literature was mostly non-fiction—it just wasn’t called that. Books recounted actual events in a storytelling style. Myths were basically the fiction of the day. It is natural for people to tell stories about events in their life, and that said, I must be the poster child for over-the-top stories. If anything, I almost have too many of my own stories. Sometimes I have to heed a mental “T-Sign” and slow it down, so for the most part they turn up as scenes in my fiction books.
Example of a creative non-fiction story
One of the award-wining stories in the recently released The MAFIA FUNERAL and Other Short Stories collection is The Second Time Arounda hilarious, over-the-top story about a woman who remarried her first husband thirty-six years after getting divorced. When Husband #4 died at the race track with a winning ticket in his hand, she decided to find Husband #1, the dashing tango dancer in her youthful memories. Although he turned out to be an aging, potbellied little man with a sprinkling of thin gray hair across his pate and a Desi Arnaz accent, to her he was Antonio Banderas. Who was the woman? My former mother-in-law. It’s a great story and a terrific example of creative non-fiction.
Most people have stories about what happened at the office, how we met our spouse, a hilarious misunderstanding and on and on ad infinitum. When telling these stories, we often embellish the facts for the shock or humor value by adding details that didn’t actually happen and exaggerating or eliminating some that did. What does a story like that become? Creative non-fiction. Facts mixed with fictional details.
Manipulating the story while being "sort of" true to facts
Think about it. Often the tendency is to leave out details that might make us look bad, stupid or gullible. When we are talking about someone we don’t like, they might be depicted as a real ogre when in fact they are only someone with bad habits. But it is more entertaining to give them extras that make them loathsome. Let’s not call these lies. They are “prevarications”—statements that don’t really give a direct and honest answer or opinion, or perhaps dance around a clear and truthful account of a situation. Adding controversy or being deliberately ambiguous or misleading, doesn’t qualify as a bald-faced out-and-out lie. At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
What makes the story change?
Depending upon the point of view we choose, the story changes. Are we telling only what we can see (first person)? What someone else has seen and is now telling the reader (third person)? Perhaps a God-like knows all/sees all point of view that includes knowing thoughts of various people (omniscent). Or, a combination of any of the above. We determine who is important to the story, who will be most likeable, what events will trigger the reader’s emotion, etc. This might not be the way it really happened, but it makes for a better read. We are being creative with factual information plus some manipulation and prevarication thrown in for good measure.
In the end, however, if you want it to stay creative non-fiction, you are stuck with what really happened. Otherwise it becomes a creation of your imagination or pure fiction. Oak Tree Press will be releasing my latest novel, Who’s Got the Money?, written with co-author Meredith Holland. It is a government embezzlement story that happens in a division of the Department of Justice--federal prisons. The story is fiction but the inspiration was from first hand knowledge of the system. In other words, the scheme didn’t happen but from our experience we know it would be possible. As for the humor, well, that’s a bonus.
Whichever path you choose, it’s your story—you can play with the endings. Real stories don’t always turn out the way you want them if you are holding to reality.
Writer or not, I’ll bet you have some great stories. Why not try your hand at turning real events into a captivating combination of dialogue and narrative with a little help from your imagination. Even if it doesn’t get published it should be an interesting jaunt down Memory Lane.
MORGAN ST. JAMES co-authors the popular Silver Sisters Mysteries series with her real-life sister Phyllice Bradner. She also writes and co-writes novels, short stories and columns, publishes a Writers’ Tricks of the Trade monthly E-Zine newsletter, and more. Her books are available at most online booksellers or from your favorite local bookstore. Morgan’s talks and workshops have been praised by attendees at conferences, meetings and events. The Writers’ Tricks of the Trade webinars, sponsored by www.savvyauthors.com, begin on March 6. There is still time to register.