Tag Archives: selling

Indie Publishing & Surprises

lucyIt’s been a month since the release of “The Hard-Boiled Detective 1” in paperback and ebook. Big dreams. High hopes. Low expectations. Call me a romantic realist. Sure, I can fantasize, but I don’t get much fooled when it comes to practical matters. Maybe that’s why so many pleasant surprises keep popping up.

First off, when I approached authors and local celebs for blurbs, I didn’t know what I’d get. But I figured to crap out big time. Instead, I came across more graciousness and generosity than you find on the red carpet at Oscar time. Of course there was one Chicago hotshot who misread my query and looked at me all sideways and suspicious. Then there’s the big mucky-muck author who never replied at all. But they don’t know me from dirt and don’t owe me a damned thing. What got me were the eight gentlemen, and I mean “gentlemen,” who tossed me some of the most terrific book blurbs I could’ve hoped for. A couple just plain over the top. And then there are those who took a pass, but fell all over themselves doing so, apologizing and offering deep regret for not being available at the time. They’re apologizing to me? What a bunch of sweethearts.

Last week I walked into a local bookstore for a scheduled reading. The owner had taken a couple copies of my volume on consignment and told me he’d already sold one. Number-wise, one is next to nothing. But the point here is that there’s no reason for even one to sell. I’m just another unknown in the expanding wasteland of the self-published. I couldn’t of been more surprised, or more delighted.

I’ll also note this one for what I consider sheer lunacy. Would you believe that since the book release I’ve been approached for a book blurb? Not once, but twice? I feel complimented like Groucho when he said he didn’t want to belong to any club that would accept him as a member.

Crazy times. Crazy business. Plugging along, all innocent-like, and the unexpected crops up to slap another smile on your kisser. Maybe it’s always been like this. Maybe it’ll always be like this. Sure.

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The Hard-Boiled Book Tour: The First 30 Days

one. word. at. a. time.

one. word. at. a. time.

Almost 30 days into the release of “The Hard-Boiled Detective 1.” A good time to update the scorecard. Success? Failure? Progress? Depends on the size of those rose-colored glasses.

The paperback came out on August 28. The ebook came out on September 11. I’ve been featured in four online interviews with another due tomorrow. I’m scheduled for a big-deal radio interview on October 5. I’ve held two book readings, got another tonight, and appeared at two reading series. You could say I’ve been busy.

For all that, about a month in and I’ve sold nearly 30 books. Does that number mean anything to you? Sounds small, looking at it bare and all. But I’m impressed. That’s no egotistical claim, and I’ll tell you why.

There’s no damn reason my book should sell at all. Who ever heard of me or my humble volume? Sure, I’ve got my social media friends and followers approaching 100 folks. Toss in another 100 from my series subscription list, allow for overlap, and that’s one humble group. Now put that up against Amazon where there’s 300,000 mystery and suspense titles listed. That’s one heck of a field to compete in. All together, the site offers more than 8 million titles. Put any kind of dent in that and you’re getting somewhere.

So I’ve moved 30 books in the first month, in my own, little way. Through Facebook and Twitter and blogs. No paid advertising. No media coverage. No published reviews. No viral campaigns or celebrity scandals to draw on.

I began writing the stories in this collection in August 2012. It’s been plenty of work getting from there to here. I’ve covered my shoestring costs of publishing. And I’ve got enough yarns, ready to polish and proof, for another 2–3 volumes. I’ve just gotten started. Sure.

 

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There’s No Success Like Failure

"The future ain't what it used to be."

“The future ain’t what it used to be.”

Sophistry and card tricks. Monday morning quarterbacks and backseat drivers. Data mining, info-graphics, ten-best lists. Rankings and reports and royalties and reviews and readings. The stuff of success?

Am I above the all-American dream? In by nine, out by five and make your first million before the first pot brews? Of course not. I’m a yankee doodle dandy as much as the next fella. But as soon as notions of success-measuring cliches enter the mix, I’m overwhelmed. Besides, a million isn’t cracked up to be what it used to be cracked up to be.

I wouldn’t turn down commercial success. Not on your life. But I can’t measure myself by it. That’s not why I do what I do. I haven’t made any New York list or bestseller list or even some Hoboken list. I’ve still got to do what I’ve got to do. I’ve got to create. I’ve got to produce. I’ve got to get it out and put it on paper or turn it into pixels or some damn thing.

Sure, I’ll promote myself. I’ll pitch. I’ll sell. But there’s boundaries. There’s some reasonless gut level line drawn in that invisible sand I’ll never cross. My writing isn’t based on market analysis or Pew polls or the latest Amazon stats.

I get an idea, see? I imagine an image or hear a voice. An artistic question pops into my little head that I’ve got to try to answer. It ferments and bubbles and boils over. It spills through my fingers and onto the electronic canvas.

Spinning on the so-called creative process leaves me with dizzy dissertations such as this with no business prospects in sight. Left brain-right brain? I sometimes wonder if they’re connected.

I meant this post to hold forth on measuring success, and here I am slinging in circles. But my hourglass is running on empty and I have writing to do. Maybe I’l be a success tomorrow. Or next week. Or next leap year. Maybe I’m already a success and I don’t even know it. Sure.

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The Next Great Unknown

Magritte_TheSonOfManIn case you hadn’t heard, my latest book has just been released. No, not from prison. The paperback recently went “live” on Amazon. Just got my first review, too. Five stars, no less. The ebook’s also in the works, promising to grab some screen space from just about every major distributor…and then some.

So I’m forced to indulge in the indulgence of self-promotion. Press releases, interviews, guest blogs, readings, signings. All that and more, if you can get it. That’s the old catch. It’s tough going for unknowns to get any attention because they’re unknown, but they’ll never become known unless they muster up some attention. It’s kind of like going to a bank for a loan. They’re not all that excited about handing out dough to anyone who really needs it.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not griping. I’ve got no kick. That’s the way things are which is a hell of a lot better than the way things used to be. Not only have I self-published my first book, but I’m confident I made a damn respectable job out of it despite pulling it off on the cheap. And I expect to easily cover my out-of-pocket costs.

I’ve done okay at the attention game, too, considering. I received no less than eight blurbs from some pretty respectable names. A legendary, local reporter invited me for an interview on his weekly radio program. On top of that’s a handful of associates  spreading the word, offering reviews, and conducting interviews. All this generosity and grace staggers me. My first of three readings is scheduled for tonight, this being the 11th of September, and three metro-area bookstores are carrying my little volume on consignment.

So here’s the shameless plug that’s easily skipped.
The paperback on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0692269940
Events page: http://thehardboileddetective.com/events.php

Not bad for an independent unknown, flying by the seat of his pants without a compass or handler in sight. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be the next, great unknown.

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My Name is Ben and I’m a Salesman

BaldwinCould I sell you a bridge? A Fuller brush? A fuller set of encyclopedias? A subscription to the Columbia Record Club, maybe? Or how’s about a paperback or ebook?

Sure, the book is almost ready. I launched “The Hard-Boiled Detective” in February 2013, an ongoing series boasting three—count ’em, three—new adventures each and every month. The Paris Review never came calling. Tinseltown, neither. But that’s just swell ’cause I didn’t call on them.

It’s nineteen months since my first yarn saw the light of day. I’m prepping stories 58–60 for Monday, about to cross the 300,000 word threshold. It’s about time I published the first collection, and it’s hitting the virtual shelves in September.

So it’s also almost time to put on my snappy, translucent green visor. Snappy armbands. Get a couple clipboards and some number twos. By this time next month I’ll be in full tilt Glengarry Glen Ross mode. I’ll probably kick off like Al Pacino and wind up as Jack Lemmon.

But I’m not sweating it. I’ve got this thing knocked. All I’ve got to do is work a little razzle-dazzle and come up with another couple million friends on Facebook and followers on Twitter. Land a segment on Ellen, plant an interview in O magazine, and ask Dave to work me into a “Top Ten” list. Maybe I’ll concoct a photo-op with Miley. Or  just with her tongue.

The real trick is follow-through and follow-up. No one-hit wonders for me. No flash in the pan flies on me. I’ve already got that covered. The trick in this racket is having numerous titles. And the more concurrent series the better.

So I’ll give my dear blog readers a sneak peak at what’s next for my throw-back, hard-boiled detective. I’m pulling no punches by bringing in the big guns, narrative device-wise. That’s right, I’m drawing on every trend  coming and going and developing the first noir, vampire-zombie private detective. If that’s not putting “pulp” in “pulp fiction,” I don’t know what is. And of course with a little sex thrown in. Sure.

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What Price Literature?

That favorite book on your shelf—how much is it worth to you? Sure, ebooks count, too. Would you say five bucks, easy? Ten? Twenty-five? Might you go so far as to say priceless? How can you put a value on one of your most cherished possessions?

burstluridImagine you’re publishing your very own volume, and imagine you’ve got to slap a price tag on it. So you study the marketplace, other forms of entertainment, and how you spend your dough in general. If you look at it all too close, I guarantee you’ll go nuts.

Take my upcoming tome, for instance. We’ve got a collection of 11 shorts stories, more than 70,000 words, 212 pages in a 6×9 paperback. I can conservatively estimate that it takes five hours to read this book. Probably longer. That equates to three days’ worth of viewing to an avid Netflix user, the value of one buck. On the other hand, compared to the average movie theater, the value jumps up to around $20. The time value tops a staggering $50 looking at the cost of CDs. Stacking it against the cost of downloading single MP3s at $0.99 a pop is completely off the charts.

A froufrou Starbucks drink could run you a five spot. A gallon of gas goes for $3.45, a gallon of milk $3.64, and most people pony up about $50 every month for their mobile phone service. Using those kinds of expenditures to price your book twists one’s brain into knots.

Logic says look at the marketplace. Logic says consider book size, genre, author recognition. But logic, my friends, has no place in book selling. Logic can go take a flying leap. You can find new copies of paperbacks starting at one penny. Loads of ebooks are being given away. There’s no true middle ground, no one reasonable average, no apples to apples—even if you find an apple, you can bet it’s thick with worms.

There is no right, there is no wrong. I’m left figuring what I want to make per paperback and ebook, and price accordingly. The ultimate bottom line’s with the reader, anyway. If you love my book, the sky’s the limit—how can you put a price tag on love? If you hate it, you wouldn’t want to give me two cents for it. Sure.

 

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Wooing Art, Success and Lady Luck

I grew up with Hammett, Picasso and Cagney. Throw in Beethoven, Ellington and Buddy Holly. The list goes on, from Bogart, Raft and Robinson to Cezanne, Matisse and even Pater Max. Plenty of examples of artists with rare talents, works of brilliance, and all with varying degrees of success.

You can't lose if you don't play.

You can’t lose if you don’t play.

How would they make their way today, if they made it all? You can’t account for luck, fortune, kismet—however you want to tag it, so I’ll skip that. What I’m spinning on is approach. I’m less than a month out from launching my first book, and the promotion side is overwhelming. How would Chandler or Hammett play it today? How would any of the Black Mask boys?

Can’t say I have an easy time transplanting these guys into another era. Except for his writing, Chandler came off like an SOB unfit for any setting. Would he join the crowded field of indie authors? Would you find him going exclusive with KDP Select and running book giveaways on GoodReads, etc?

Hard to picture Picasso giving away pictures. A two-for-one sale on signed lithographs? Are you kidding? Or Mozart plugging his latest divertissement MP3 on Facebook, linking back to his website where you can sample movements from his latest symphony? Would Buster Keaton start up his own YouTube channel?

Perhaps the oddest fantasy that springs forth is Charlie Chaplin. World famous, wildly successful, a man of his day who kept at his art form for decades without significantly changing. But Chaplin was also a social butterfly, a guy you could easily imagine rubbing internet shoulders on every social platform imaginable.

There’s no one way to succeed, and thousands more ways to flop. All I can do is put it into perspective. Those great ones who inspired me found their own way somehow. They did what they did, mostly on their own terms, and their success stories are as unique as their art. Maybe I can’t account for luck, but maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to discount it, either. Sure.

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Would You Sell Your Soul on Amazon?

If that headline sucked you in, that means I’m learning. The art of the huckster. The pitch and woo. The bait, the push, the draw, the close.

"What are you selling, Johnny?" "Whaddaya got?"

“What are you selling, Johnny?”
“Whaddaya got?”

What am I selling? Just the same thing you’re selling. The same as you and everyone and their mother. Sally Fields, the president, the man in the moon. I’m selling me.

I’m selling my Facebook profile, my Twitter tweet, my ether charm. If you go for any of that, maybe you’ll go for this here bridge I’m trying to unload. I’ve also got some pet rocks and a slightly used personality. But don’t take my word for it—rent my personality for a few days and purchase it later if you like. And I can make you the sweetest payment plan you ever did see.

I’ll bet you’re tempted. Am I right, or am I right? Your curiosity runneth over like George Lucas’s bank account. Now there’s a man who can sell.

Me? I can’t help myself. It’s not like I’ve always longed to get thick into the selling game. It’s not like I was born to be the the poster child for Glengarry Glen Ross II. But self-publishing’ll do that to you.

Sure, you can write a book and choose to do nothing with it. Reaching an audience? That’s asking for loads of aggravation. But if you prefer foregoing that peace of mind, welcome to the new Madison Avenue. Query agents. Query publishers. (Query’s fancy talk for sell.) Or publish the thing independently.

Every step of the indie way there’s another consideration involving the old flim and the flam. There’s selling the book to proofreaders, getting blurbs and reviews, designing the cover, lining up bookstores and readings and the media. You might even try to sell to a reader or two.

Sure. That’s what I’m up to. Watching the shill hit the fan. But there’s just thing more, one last piece to figure. And it’s the mother of the whole shebang. It’s at the drop-dead center and heart of all this soul-mongoring. Who’s the yoyo that sold me on the idea of writing a book in the first place?

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You Can’t Always Give Away What You Want

They say you can’t take it with you. I don’t know about that. What I do know is that it’s tough giving it away. But I’m not talking about money.

I’m talking about a subscription series. I’m talking about giving away a year’s subscription for free. And talk about a hard sell. Sure.

The subject is hard-boiled detective fiction. Very old school. Very retro detective. And I’m convinced there’s an audience for it. I know there’s a huge audience for it. An immense audience.

So I’ve got this subscription series I’m trying to get off the ground. Seemed to me that the easiest thing in the world would be to give away subscriptions. In a pig’s eye. Finding the audience, reaching the audience, selling the audience. It’s like being a marketing detective. Sure.

But what do I know? I must have misplaced my business doctorate or my marketing degree. I can’t even seem to find my blogging diploma. So I guess I don’t know much.

Hard-boiled fiction on a subscription basis is more than a bit unusual. Maybe that makes me a ground-breaker. On the other hand, maybe it’s not being done for good reason. I’ll have to get back to you on that.

What I can put out there are some dumbed-down metrics. I’m talking simple. Stupid simple. For instance, the number of “likes” on Facebook for three of the all-time big-boys of hard-boiled fiction top 60,000. Yeah, that’s gotta include some overlapping, but still. That’s an awful lot of likes. And that’s just on Facebook.

Then again, on the other hand, do your like Robert Downey Jr? I’m not sure why, but his following is split up on Facebook. He’s got a big-time following on his main page—we’re talking millions. But on his Italian fan page? A mere 17,000.

So what do you with that information? How do you interpret it? How do you boil it down, sift through it and make your calculations?

I don’t. I just sit down at the keyboard and write the next month’s stories. And I wonder how the hell to give it away.

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