Monday, June 29, 2015

A Little Help From My Friends

Well!  I will admit this has turned out to be a whole lot harder than I ever imagined.

When I committed to this first Monday of the month blog, I decided to use it to my advantage.  I needed to succeed at marketing my writing, selling my books, and building my brand.  What better forcing mechanism?

Past training dictated (no choice) that I immediately organize the blog into planning, action, and results. After a month, I remembered I am a writer and a little imagination brought plowing, sowing, and reaping.

To quote the Beatles, “With A Little Help From My Friends,” there seemed to be quite a bit to cover.  There continued to be the day-to-day writing and the not quite so day-to-day commitment to my own plowing, sewing, and reaping.  Six months into this it looked like my idea and energy had about run their course.  I considered aborting, leaving today’s first Monday a blank.  The result augured little more than the hole you leave when you take your hand out of a bucket of water.

Friends saved me again.

John Nesbitt and I had a long discussion about multiple marketing ideas, conferences, book store tours, and the problems of geography.  On the latter, I observe John has a towering reputation, a formidable body of work, and residence in Torrington, WY.  His natural market is .0019 (0.19%) of the population of book buyers.  Within about eight hundred miles he can expand it to 3.31% (.0331) of the population.  My version of that problem is that I have no reputation and I am about two thousand miles away from my (current) natural market.  When I travel to it, it is the same size as John’s.  We both have to find a way to reach larger markets.  As one means to overcome geography, we discussed using short stories as a marketing tool.

With the remarkable aura of modesty that accompanies him to every room he inhabits, John immediately points out that these ideas are not original with him.  He learned them from someone before he discussed them with me.  And I write them here, not new with me,  in the vein of standing on the shoulders of …….

Although I culled five stories from the chapters of my manuscript and worked through the year plus of submission and rejection agony to see them published before Every Soul Is Free was published, I never considered short stories as a marketing tool.  That long sentence almost adds up to an oxymoron.  I have viewed the world as composed of short story writers and novel writers, placing myself in the latter category.  (I even retained that view of the world after multiple readings of Stephen King’s On Writing.)  If a short story comes out of a novel I am writing, fine.  If I am diverting myself to write a short story.  No thanks.  I do not have the time.  As with so many of my fiercely held viewpoints, a little more nuance may be useful.
The usefulness, of course, remains at its highest when the short story can be lifted out of the novel.  It creates a pathway for the work as well as the author.  The pathway for the author, however, is the reason for viewing the short story as a marketing tool.  With rare exceptions the print magazine market is dead, so we focused our discussion on the online magazine market and the e-book market.  I have the experience mentioned above in the online magazine market but the insight to produce your own publishable e-book stories was the epiphany.  The notion is breadth – a short story for 49 cents or 99 cents and ultimately a collection for $2.99 and maybe someone asks you to be in an anthology.  Under any circumstances, your name is out there on a lot of titles.  I had never thought of before, and have yet to do it, but it is an antidote to the bottom of the well I was talking about at the beginning of this blog.  There is a lot to work on here.
While we are on the subject of e-books, the irrepressible L.J. Martin told me that his venture Wolfpack Publishing sold its millionth book a couple of Fridays ago.  I love the way that word feels in the mouth, millionth.  What interests me about what L.J. and his partner are doing is the potential power boost it can give to a back list.  I do not yet have one with two books published, but I have a friend who has five self-published (not Westerns) books.  I asked L.J. if it would be a benefit to refer him.  Visualize high-wattage smile and gale force enthusiasm, “Yes.”  So, I have put them in touch.  I’ll keep you posted.

If you remember a couple of blogs ago, Dusty Richards told us about an effort where his e-book publisher gave away 10,000 of his books and the result was to generate a sizable 1099.  We had a chance to talk about it.  I asked him how that worked.  Did he think the 10,000 who got a free book told people and those people bought one?  He allowed as how he did not know, all he knew was that it worked.  From other friends I hear that the free book strategy has not worked so well.  So, the free book strategy is still unclear to me.  Perhaps you have had some experience, good or bad, that you will share with us in the comments?

Another friend, Vonn McKee, told me about her ideas and plans, but I am sworn to secrecy. Sooo, this is but a teaser to pique your interest.

Circling back to the beginning, I find it a joy not to leave this first Monday blank and, once again, all because of a “Little Help From My Friends.”

E-mail Edward Massey with comments, author of 2014 Gold Quill winner, Every Soul Is Free and Amazon ABNA 2009 Quarter-finalist, Telluride Promise.

1 comment:

  1. Howdy! Louis L'Amour had a profound impact on my life growing up as a young, fatherless boy and I was looking to find some modern-day western writers, which led me to your blog. I read it with interest and have a comment regarding the free give-away.

    I'm the author of three published mystery novels (one is forthcoming) and have had a bunch of short stories published in many different magazines. The publishers have control over the pricing of my novels, but I compiled some of my previously-published short stories and released an anthology on Amazon. I've done a few give-aways over the last year, or so, and several dozen people download it each time it's free. After the give-away...crickets. I have a random sale here and there, but I haven't sold enough e-books to equal the minimum $100 that will generate a royalty payment from Amazon. If the free downloads are generating word-of-mouth discussion, it must be negative, because I don't see any benefits in the sales department.

    So, there's my experience. Hope others have had better results.