It’s one week until my “silent film horror” book comes out! And yes I highly suggest you click here to see the “Jazzy Pre-sale Gifts.” Click, I dare you.
Anyway, sales hat off: as part of my research for Flickers I watched a large selection of Silent Films. These were the five that stood out for me.
1. The General
I knew little about Buster Keaton before writing this book. Everyone talks about Charlie Chaplin. He is brilliant. But Buster Keaton is his equal. Today we live in a world with giant budget special effects and grandiose 3D spectacles. But nothing tops the live on the scene “real” special effects of this movie.
Dracula! Well, not Dracula because they were trying to avoid copyright issues when they made this movie thus they called it Nosferatu. Bram Stoker’s widow won the court case and had every copy of the film destroyed. Except one. It was shipped to the US (where copyright had lapsed) and the movie was release there. Luckily for us, it lives! It lives! So many of these scenes will look familiar because so many horror directors paid homage to this film.
3. The Kid
Charlie Chaplin made better movies. Deeper movies. But boy…this is just so much fun.
It’s one of the first and greatest science fiction epics. And I have no idea what’s going on sometimes. But the grandeur of imagination comes across.
5. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
Okay. This is like a nightmare inside a nightmare inside a shadowbox full of nightmares. Artsy. Gutsy. Scary. It sticks with you.
There are, of course, many more brilliant films from that age. Educate me! Leave a comment to tell me which ones I should have included.
One of the latest “trending” theories on book promotion is the idea of creating a newsletter/email list so that you can communicate directly with your fans. Part of the reason there’s been a movement towards this is that Facebook and Twitter are so “busy” now. If you post on your own Facebook “like” page about 16% of your “fans” will see the post. You need to pay to “boost” the page to the rest of your followers (Clever move, Facebook). And I’ve seen numbers as low as (or even lower than) 5% of Twitter followers see a tweet. Like I said, it’s busy out there.
So an email list is a way of reaching out directly to readers. And more writers are catching on to this (which is why there are so many pop-ups and email boxes on writer websites these days). I’ve experimented with pop up boxes on my website with some success. But you have to drive traffic to get sign ups and that can be difficult and time consuming. And frankly, I like writing books instead.
My most recent attempt is to use a giveaway to encourage fans (or potential fans) to sign up. With the generosity of my publisher, who gave me five “adventure” books to giveaway, I ran two contests. One was with Rafflecopter where people could enter to win but if they joined the email list they’d get an extra entry. I ended up with 88 entries.
I ran the exact same “Adventure” prize a few months later, but this time used the KingSumo Giveaway Plugin (on WordPress). I had read a rather amazing (and somewhat alarming) account of one person using the app and getting 200,000 email addresses. Read it here. Of course, I didn’t expect to get that many. The way KingSumo Giveaway works is that in order for people to enter for the prize they need to sign up to your newsletter. That’s made clear on the contest rules, so it isn’t a surprise when they get an email from you. And it’s also made clear that they can unsubscribe at any time. The clever thing about KingSumo is that if someone enters the contest then they receive a special link that they can email, Facebook, or tweet. And if other people click on that link and enter the contest, the original entrant gets more entries (3 in the case of my last contest). It’s a way to reward people for sharing the contest. In other contests every time you share it and more people enter then your odds of winning go down. This gives each entrant a way to stack the odds in their favour. And it can help build buzz about the contest.
The key is to pick a prize that will attract the type of people who would be interested in your writing. So I didn’t give away a Cadillac. Or two hundred golden ducks. Instead I gave away the Adventure Prize Pack that you see above.
And here were the results:
So 175 people entered. Because several of them shared that magic link there were 229 entries in total. And one person won (and I tell you, he was overjoyed!). I imported all of them into my newsletter list (I use Mailchimp) and ended up with 103 new subscribers (the other 72 were already subscribed). I sent them all a “hello” letter and explained that they were welcome to unsubscribe, but also mentioned how hilariously funny my Somewhat Clever Newsletter is (click here if you want to find out for yourself). Three people unsubscribed. Since my biggest month of signups was just under 100 people, this was a success in my books.
One caveat, I did spend $75 on Facebook ads. So that cost, added to the cost of shipping books, makes this whole experiment about $100. Or a dollar per new subscriber. Next time I’ll skip the ads and see what happens. (Actually speaking of next time; I am doing another giveaway at this moment: A Writing Critique Giveaway, contest ends April 8th, 2016).
Anyway, that was my experiment with KingSumo Giveaways. Thanks for tuning in!
Well, I’m giving away a writing critique session with moi. Yes, you could have my scribbles on your text! Just click the image above for more information. Or click here. Contest closes April 8th, 2016.
My editor finds an innovative way to point out my repetitious writing habits.
How it began:
I handed in draft number umpteen (that’s an understatement) of my 1920’s horror novel, Flickers. A short time later (geologically speaking) I received the edited version all marked up in Microsoft Word. All was well and I even laughed when I came across this:
So I dutifully changed it to this:
Then a few pages later this appeared:
Another uproarious laugh exploded from my lips.Exploded, I tell you! This is the kind of back and forth authors love with their editors. And on the next page I found this:
Aha! Game on, I thought. Game on! So for fun, I changed it to this:
And the next one I changed to this:
But something horrible happened. The kitties kept coming. A calvacade of crying kitties.
A cry of pain strangled itself in my throat. The horror! The horror!
There was only one logical response:
**No editors were hurt in this process. 17 kittens in total cried. Only one author was slightly damaged.
Let me read your writing!
The first page of your writing project is the most important. It’s where you hook the readers. This is the same truth whether it’s a short story, novel, or non-fiction piece. So I’m offering to do a critique of the first page of your piece of writing for anyone who’s a subscriber to my newsletter. The actual offer will be in my next newsletter (to come out on June 16th) and will be available until June 30th, 2015.
Hmmm. The word critique bothers me. It implies criticism. Instead I should call it here-are-my-humble-suggestions-take-them-or-leave them. I’ve been doing this sort of work for over twenty years. In fact I just finished spending nine months as a writer in residence. The most important part of my job was to go over the writing of other writers, mark the work up line by line, then have a one on one discussion (we talked out heads off). I read everything from memoirs, to poetry, to fantastical fiction. Oh, and one engineering paper.
So this is my way of offering a similar virtual experience to you. You can even submit the 1st page on behalf of someone else (a student, your offspring, an elf…even literary pets). Just sign up by visiting the link here: My Newsletter Signup Page
The newsletter itself is monthly-ish and has lots of goodies for fans, readers, teachers and other humans. And there’s often a prize and competitions. I have so much fun putting the newsletters together–it’s the perfect way to procrastinate.
So, please hop on board. And if there’s anyone else you think might enjoy this offer (and the newsletter) just click and share on the links below.
Mad Max: Fury Road is an understated movie. Oh, I know, I know it’s perhaps the greatest action/car chase/things-blow-up movie in existence. But it’s also very understated and that serves to make it more powerful.
One of the things I think about when writing is the relationship with the reader. Am I telling the reader too much (IE the ol’ show don’t tell rule). Am I trusting the reader to put two and two together (and make four, of course) or am I not trusting them and telling them too much backstory (again!)? Readers become more engaged if they are allowed to participate in the story. To not have every scene and emotion handed to them. As writers we must give them space and just enough information to figure out for themselves what the character is feeling. We must keep the story tantalizing.
That’s one of the brilliant aspects of Mad Max: Fury Road. Charlize Theoron’s character, Imperator Furiosa (love that name), has a disability. She is missing an arm. But the director doesn’t give us a long shot of her missing arm and dwell on it. In fact we see her several times before we get a hint that she is using a prosthetic. And even once it is clear that she is missing an arm no one makes a note of it. In fact it’s a non-issue (and makes her cooler because of her metal arm). No boring forced dramatic back story. We just know that she has been scarred by some past event and has risen above it. We are allowed to come to that conclusion on our own.
Max himself has a back story. We are told in frightening micro-second flashbacks that he has lost his family. But we aren’t hit over the head with a long backstory. He doesn’t stop to shout out “My family is gone and that’s why I’m so messed up.” Again, the viewer is allowed to come to that conclusion.
The world they live in is a dystopian world. Again, there isn’t a long dramatic voice over telling us all the horrible things that happened to make it that way. We are just thrust into the world as it is and have to figure out the rest for ourselves.
Throughout the movie we are given just enough information to flesh out the characters or the background of the world we are inhabiting. But not once are we slowed down from our pursuit of the story.
Well, my total eBook sales across all platforms is now 10, 016 copies. I’m happy to have reached this magic milestone and have now ordered a yacht for my backyard. All hands report on deck! Or perhaps I should write about about how to sell ebooks for the YA and Children’s market. It could be titled: How To Sell 10,000 Copies in Fifty Months!
All kidding aside I’m glad that this ebook adventure has been (sometimes) a tidy little addition to my regular income. All of the books that I’m selling are either out of print editions that I’ve re-issued in various countries or collections of new work (for example my short stories). And the work I did at the beginning of this experiment has paid off. Basically, I don’t have to lift a finger to keep that income trickling in.
If you’re curious about reading this adventure from the beginning click: beginning.
Oh, why don’t we look at the handy dandy chart?
It does look a bit like a patient who has flatlined, doesn’t it? Except for that little burst of life at the end there. To quote Monty Python: I’m not dead yet. I think I’ll go for a walk. The basic story to the graphic is this: when I started selling eBooks in 2011 you could give away free books then when you switched your book back to being paid it would (sometimes) rocket up the charts. That’s why there are those two big mountains at the start of the chart. But in 2012 Amazon changed its logarithms so that this “trick” didn’t work as well. And from that point on the books sold whenever someone stumbled across them. The smaller “mountains” are when I lowered the price to 99 cents and the book gained a bit more traction then went back to selling 10-30 copies a month again. And that’s why the graph begins to rise at the end. One of my books (DUST) was on sale and briefly went up the charts. The graph will drop back down again this month. I’m certain of it.
I have 16 different books for sale and the majority of my sales (90%) have been to Kindle. Dust has sold the majority of the copies (6500). I think that’s because it’s a book that crosses over from YA to adult reading and the majority of ebook sales are to the adult market. And it has the most reviews.
The Hunchback Assignments are in second place. My self published versions are only sold in the UK (because publishers in other countries own the erights). The four books have totalled 1600 in sales. That’s a tidy sum over time for very little extra work on my part.
Anyway, as I said, I’m pleased to have reached this milestone. And it’s still my experience that in general books for younger audiences sell a lot more copies in paperback than they do eBooks unless they are able to attract adult eyeballs online. I do plan more experiments in the future, including a How to Write Kid Lit book and other “manual” type books to test out that part of the market.
So this is my second day in the office as WIR at the Regina Public Library (WIR stands for writer in residence–I like the acronym…it sounds like things are whirring around me). I’m here every Wednesday from 1-9 PM.
My day started out with the two and a half hour trip from Saskatoon. This is office time, too, because I listen to audiobooks as I travel. Today’s book was a BBC version of the Foundation trilogy by Isaac Asimov. It…ummm…sounds very ‘70’s at times but certainly captured my attention and is classic science fiction. I was reminded that when Asimov pitched this series he’d already set up an interview with an editor (I guess you could do that in the old days) and was on the bus on the way to his appointment when he realized he had no ideas to pitch (nothing like waiting until the last minute). He happened to be reading Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and thought, why don’t I pitch a series of novels about a galactic empire that is in decline? That’s what he pitched and that’s what the editor bought. And the rest is history. Or psychohistory…for those who’ve read the books.
It’s an example of how sometimes the big ideas can come at the last minute and from a simple concept. It’s the work of the writer to find those ideas and turn them into a story that readers will want to read.
One more note: I took the above shot on the way down. There was an overwhelming abundance of clouds in the big blue sky. The STOP sign is important. Is it telling you to STOP what you’re doing and start writing? Or is it telling you to STOP and look around and capture the moment?
Technically it was telling me to STOP and LOOK before turning onto the highway. An important thing to remember.
I’ve been curious about Createspace’s print on demand book publishing options for some time now (It’s just one of the many arms of the Amazon). Since my novel Megiddo’s Shadowwas out of print in the US, I decided to use it to try out Createspace. It is a relatively easy way to self publish a book. All you need is a word file. They provide a template that I just copied and pasted my novel into (there were a few hours of fussing a fidgeting to get things right, but I expected this). The actual book cover design system is also very easy to use. They have a variety of covers and styles that you can use. Since the novel is inspired by my grandfather’s experiences in WW1, I decided to use his picture. Again this took me at least an hour of fussing–if I had better design skills it probably would have gone faster. And finally I submitted all the files and ordered my proof. It arrived a month later (there was some odd delay and when I informed them that it had been a month Createspace immediately sent new copies of the books to me).
Here’s what it looked like when I got the books:
Overall I was quite happy with how the book turned out. The font is perhaps a little small for my ancient eyes, but the whole process cost me less than $30.00 and now people in the US & UK can order physical copies of the books for $8.99. Which means I still make $2.41 for each copy sold. I don’t expect to sell many copies, this was just an experiment to see how it worked. I also hope that it will actually help sell more ebook copies of the book because the ePrice looks better by comparison.
Am curious to hear anyone else’s experiences with Createspace or other print on demand systems.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…well back on February 5th of 2011, I launched my novel DUST as an ebook.
I just wanted to experiment with this new fangled book form called Electronic-Books-That-Aren’t-Printed-On-Paper! Read about the beginnings here: beginning. By this time last year I’d sold 8406 copies of my ebooks. This year my grand total is 9383 books. That’s less that 1000 books sold in this last twelve months. In the business we call that a big drop off in sales. I see this as a sign that the sales in the ebook world has slowed down (at least for me). Everyone’s ereader is stuffed with books. It’s not the wild west anymore. Here are the sales from the first 7 months of 2013.
In total I brought in around $1000 for my bottom line. Since I didn’t have to do any extra work selling these books, it’s a pleasant amount (but nothing like the year before when I made $6000 from ebook sales). My sense is that sales will continue on in this vein, making it a comfortable addition to my income, but not a game changer. I did decide to take my Northern Frights books off of the ebook market and sell the rights to HarperCollins (who will be putting them out soon). This is mostly because YA books still sell the majority of their copies in paperback. Kids are reading paper books! Those rebels!
I did write a book intending to release it as an ebook but at this point am holding on to it to see if there is a better option for me.
Tune in next year when you’ll hear me say: I didn’t see that coming*
Here are the requisite clickable links to my books, including the two “grown up” books I’ve published under the name Stephen Shea. If a book isn’t available in your area as an ebook, it’s because I’m still negotiating the erights for that book.