Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Why I am NOT Crazy

I just gave away 7,801 copies of a book.

Some feel this is insanity. Why give it away? The answer is complicated and not necessarily a good argument for my mental clarity. The same week I gave this book away, I also offered the second book in that series discounted to 99 cents. Crazy? I wish I was nuttier, actually.

I missed my goal of book give-aways, and books sold at discount. I intended to give away 10,000 books. ON THE FIRST DAY. I wanted the other four days to get that number closer to 20,000 or even 30,000 copies.

But, why? What good does giving away so many free copies achieve? you may ask.

Because no one knows me. I am a very small speck of plankton among hundreds of thousands of plankton. I want someone to notice me. I need to glow. Grow abnormally large. Send off book-reading pheromones. Develop a book-reader-attracting mating call.

One sure way to do that is to give away something.

People LOVE free.

But, you may argue, doesn't offering something for free devalue your work?

You may have a point. I am willing to take that risk. Because of numbers.

I have been in sales all my adult life and I live by numbers. "X" number of presentations will produce "Y" opportunities to close a sale which at "Z" close rate will result in "AA" number of sales at "BB" average revenue which will earn me "CC" dollars of commission. I intended to use a similar method of success for selling books.

See, that is the difficult part for me. I am the creator. The author, editor, publisher, cover artist, social platform manager, literary agent, sales manager, and public relations specialist. I wear a bunch of hats. Sometimes that is the part that wears me down.

So, when I produce a great story, get it edited, go through the hard work of packaging it, formatting it, creating a cover, writing the doggone blurb, pricing it, getting it beta-read, and then uploading it to the online book stores, I expect results. I have so much control over everything. That is what I LOVE about independent publishing. I have control. Well, over everything except people buying it.

I am looking for raving fans. Fans that tell other fans. I am risking my neck by tossing my book out into the maw of the free book binge. There is a whole culture of book collectors who look every day for new free books. Some of these people are voracious readers. Not all of them will like my book. That is risk number one: my work will be downloaded and read by readers who are not my target audience.

Risk number two is the devaluing of books we discussed earlier. Not just my book, understand. All books. It has come to the point now that we indie authors have conditioned folks to think that a "cliffhanger" in a short work is a cheat. That we are trying to milk them for all the book money they have. In a way, I suppose that would be nice. I will take milk money, too, if they will depart with it. But, this pervading perception that free is a springboard to capturing readers is exactly correct. It is what we want. Are you not entertained? Try my book for free. It is the first in a series. The other six are priced competitively in their genre for their length.

Are free books conditioning readers to not purchase? I don't think so. Most of the readers who fill their ereader devices full of free downloaded books are the same people who read books from the library, buy books from used book stores, and borrow books from friends regularly. I don't begrudge them their buying habits. They are not the audience I seek. For every one of these readers, there are potential buyers who snatch up series like they were going to out of print tomorrow if it is in a genre they like/author they like/ or set of covers they like.  Those readers are my audience. Or at least I hope they are.

Which brings us back to why I am not crazy.

My number theory about book selling is simple. I think that for every 10,000 books I can give away, 80 to 100 people will buy at least one other book in the series. Not only that, I believe that within 6 months, I will get: 10 new book reviews on the free book alone; 40 new subscribers to my newsletter; an additional 100 or so sales from carry through from book 2 to 3, etc.; 20-40 new sales at every new release, and 20 new Twitter/Facebook/Google+/Goodreads followers.

Those numbers are conservative and only refer to the readers who originally downloaded the free book. It does not take into account that with enough quick growth (several dozen sales in one day, for example), my titles will shoot up the best seller lists and gain more visibility. More potential sales. More potential reviews, newsletter subscribers, followers on social media, more website hits, and more reader engagement. It is a snowball. The thing is, to make that snowball grow in diameter, I have to pack the core and roll it down the hill, hoping it will pick up momentum and attract more mass.

Offering my book for free is like packing that snowball core. Ten thousand downloads is a bunch of potential readers. Not all will stick. Hundreds will never get around to sampling my free offering and may even delete it later to make room for more free books. Those ereaders have a capacity, you know. Hundreds of the people who DO read the free sample will just nod, smile, thank me silently, and read the next free book on their to-be-read pile. Then, some will read it, love it, and want more.  Leave a review, sign up for my newsletter, tell a friend, share it with a colleague at work, write a book blog about it, or simply visit my website and get a copy of another book. Soon, the snowball is rolling down the hill and picking up speed. Maybe before it gets to the bottom and sits for weeks melting it will get really big. That is the plan, anyway.

How many potential readers will join the snowball? Less than 1% is my guess. Which is why 10,000 is such a crucial number.

Am I crazy? Probably. I intend to make the first book free permanently. OK. Not permanently, permanently. Just permanently for now. Beginning in April, actually. For an indefinite time.

So, if you have the patience, you can save 99 cents and get the book free if you have not already downloaded it. MANIC MONDAY is the first novella (which means under 250 pages) in my 7-part series called THE JAKE MONDAY CHRONICLES. It is an espionage thriller in the vein of Jason Bourne and James Bond.

You can pick up a copy of MANIC MONDAY or any of my novels HERE.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Book Review: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

I am impressed with King's return to Danny's world. King really flexed his considerable writing muscles in Doc ZZZZ. Some may criticize the elements of the True Knot, or the introduction of a new main character, but the truth is, from a pure writing standpoint, this is a better effort than The Shining.

I was mildly disappointed in the lack of a Randall Flagg reference, which easily could have been applied. I thought that was a missed opportunity.

I really liked the idea of Abra. Thought the naming convention was a little trite and ironic, but I have been known to indulge in similar naming conventions (my Jake Monday series titles, for one). But, as a character, Abra is not as well-drawn as Danny. I imagine it would be difficult for a man of King's age (and sex) to do a character like Abra justice. I say that, realizing of course, that he did a wonderful job of that in The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.

Adult Danny got on my nerves a bit at first. This was perhaps the part of the novel I liked least. Tearing him down to the lowest point is a common fiction convention, and certainly in character considering his father, but the low was not as low as his father. It fell a little short of that. Not that I want Danny murdering someone or beating his child or chasing his wife with an axe. It just felt over-blown. I found it interesting that when Dan Torrance finally opens up about it at the AA meeting, the audience there has the same ho-hum attitude about the story that I did.

One thing about this criticism, if I look at it objectively: we often are more harsh on ourselves regarding our redemption and deep, dark secrets than others might be when they compare our deeds or or lack of action to their own experiences. For every person who feels awful about themselves, totally disappointed that they neglected their aging parent, there is someone who shot a kid while cleaning their gun, or hit their child in anger, or hit a woman while driving drunk. It is all relative. Not that it expunges each of us from the guilt we feel. This guilt is a cleansing thing, a reminder that we are fallible and must try harder, strive more for peace, love, and serving others--change the way we act and think.

I think that is the deeper message King is sending in Doctor Sleep. He explores it with the night clerk, Torrance's AA mentor, Abby's grandmother, and even the True Knot. We are responsible for our actions and how those actions impact those around us.

All-in-all, this is a book I will highly recommend. Not as good as 11/22/63 in many ways, but a healthy reminder that King is only getting better at this writing thing. I think he might be famous some day. :)

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Review of Blue Like Jazz


I wrote this review on GoodReads and on Amazon. I highly recommend that when readers finish a book, they review it at least on the site where they purchased it.

My Review of Blue Like Jazz:

Well written, but mostly immature. Although his take on topics are challenging at times--his insistence to look at things differently--it began to wear on me. By the halfway point, the book was pushing 3 stars. He redeemed himself in the end when he pointed out what I had felt from the beginning: he was being hypocritical. He approached the problems of not receiving love and his own prejudices late in the book and so I bumped it back up.

I read this book after having read two books by Eldredge and one by Francis Chan in the last 30 days. It is odd to see the similarities among these books. Especially the references to pop culture. One thing he added was his apparition of Emily Dickinson. I don't think any Christian writer in his right mind would actually tell that tale. It was the beginning of his redemption for me, though. It was when he first began to be "real" as he puts it.

Nothing about culture validates philosophical thinking, religious beliefs, or human suffering. This is perhaps my biggest problem with his writing style. He elevates a progressive-thinking anti-religious think-tank, a hippie commune, a bachelors-are-us retreat, and an on-the-edge church as morally and spiritually more pertinent than the Midwestern "Republican-supporting" churches of his youth. It revolves mostly around the lack of structure, the value of not being judged, and the name brands of their clothes, the social consciousness of the music they listened to, the authors they knew, the quality of the coffee and beer they consumed, and the lofty intellectual relevancy of their conversations.

Christianity, or "Christian spirituality" as he puts it, is not made more pure because one is socially conscious. I think sometimes this is a misconception that is spread by mainline Christianity's fear-induced hatred of people we see as opposed to our values, our choices, and our love for God. We DO care about other people. We give. We battle our own prejudices. However, in the process of Don Miller's accusations about the Christian experience, he committed the same sin he was pointing towards. The speck of dust he was trying to remove from their eye was in his own as well. By midway through his book, he sounded....judgmental. Unforgiving. Unloving. The only causes that were worthy were the ones that made him appear "socially conscious."

In the end, as I have said, he recants. Repents. The truth is that we all have to struggle to be less selfish. We must all learn to die to self, and to live in love. This delicate balance of acceptance--of God's Great Gift, of each other as made in His image--and sacrifice is the key to living as God designed us.

On marriage and relationships, he was rather hysterical and clueless. These two qualities are intertwined. His friend, Paul, was actually more insightful.

On the topic of the metaphors of love being metaphors relating to economy: that was pure genius, and admittedly not his own idea. I think there is a book title there, something maybe I will pursue: The Economy of Love. Maybe use math symbols and NYSE symbols on the cover. My idea. No one take it, please.

On the topic of loneliness: probably his most lucid writing. I think this is because the topic was near his heart and wired to his life.

On the concepts of serving self: he began the book with this and then spiraled into its net. Even the "Confession Booth" scene was all about him, really. His own need to feel forgiven. To feel a part of something bigger than himself.

On the subject of his father: I think many of his problems actually stem from this loss, this emptiness in his life. His lack of intimacy, his living life like it is the radio station, "K-Don, All Don, all the time," and his need for acceptance comes from this loss. I am possibly playing the Monday-Night psychiatrist here, but I think I am on to something.

I have rambled long for a book I found only mediocre.

In the end, his deliberate cleverness, his way with words are compelling, but his theology is skewed. At the same time it is raw and real, personal and genuine. These qualities overcome his immature theology, his hypocritical liberal bias, and his sloppy scriptural references.