Getting the word out

The challenge with epublishing is to get the word out. The challenge with all publishing, really. How do you reach out to the readers who will want your book? I figure it needs a certain amount of mass advertising, moving toward targeted advertising.

So, first it’s friends and acquaintances. They may not have an interest in this book, but they have an interest in me. I put it out on Facebook, sent an email to my colleagues, put a text out to people in my phone book. I think I put it on linked in — technical difficulties. Some interest — 33 comments/likes on Facebook. Not completely scattershot, but close. Four or five responses from department. (that says a lot about the dept.) more feedback from texts. And the texts had the highest purchase percentage. Closest to me, one-on-one messaging, high response rate.

So far, 7 books sold, in five days.

I fashioned a hook for Facebook: most of the people there are former students and colleagues. So using humor, I suggested they might want to return the thrill of being edited by me, and read and review. It played well.

With colleagues, I put it in the context of an update as to what I’ve been doing, and in the scholarly context of a changing media form. Also played well. But a sell isn’t made itch one exposure. (an old publisher of mine, used to say it was the 30th exposure that clenched the ad sale. I don’t plan to be that persistent.)

I think in a bit, I’ll offer a coupon at smashwords on Facebook. Making sure to offer it during the week. This last one was on the weekend.

Moving Outward, Tightening Focus
The last two days I’ve been working in goodreads, setting myself up as an author, adding the book to the database. Looking at groups I might join. Although this is a much larger pool of people, in some ways, this refines the parameters. These are all readers. Still need to refine that category down of course, but it’s a better pool than colleagues, friends and alums.

The goal of all of this is to form a loyal customer base of say 5000 who will buy anything I write. Repeat sales to satisfied customers. If I write two books a year, that would be a living wage. And of course, with ebooks, you can have new people discovering you forever.

So not generic readers, but mystery readers. Where to find them. How to lure them into trying it.

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Writing vs. publishing

My first ebook went live last night on Amazon and Smashwords. Called Everybody Lies, it’s a mystery set in Alaska.

Everybody Lies

Alaska’s most hated lobbyist is dead. To State Patrol Lt. Paul Kitka, the case is simple — abused wife flees to Alaska, husband follows, wife shoots husband. In Alaska, the jury would acquit the wife, and it’s over. Except Candace Marshall says she didn’t do it. And it turns out that more than one person in Talkeetna had a grudge against the deadman. Suddenly the case isn’t so simple after all.

The book is one of six or so that I’ve written but never did much to try and sell it. Embarrassing really. I have always told stories. True ones in journalism, fiction ones in my home computer. I might let friends read them. I went to a couple of writer’s conferences. But the path to publication gave me the creeps. Learn to make a pitch. Write a query letter that sells. Get an agent.

I was too used to journalism’s hungry maws — feed me, I’ll take everything you write and beg for more. Book publishers seemed disdainful, playing hard to get. Writers’ conferences were these disfunctional events that reeked of egos and game playing. And I’d wander home, back to my world of daily writing — or teaching writing — adding to my files of novels. And keep writing.

Along comes the Internet, and the barriers to entry across all media making come down. News media, entertainment — it’s all more accessible now. I teach this stuff. Exciting times. Scary ones, as well. So finally I decide it’s time to try it out.

While I edited Everybody Lies, I also sank into the Kindle readers community. I read a lot. I read reviews, and enjoyed the comment wars that break out. I started to post a few reviews. Found writers whose blogs were rich with their thoughts about what they are doing.

I became part of a community of writers and readers. Rather than the hierarchy of the publishing track, this was more of a circle. It harkens back to story-telling circles. I can see me as a child making up stories and telling them to neighbor kids.

This is happening with established writers as well of course. A part of it is the ability of the Internet to allow communities of interest to form. Whether it is Amazon or Smashwords or Goodreads or multiple other places, readers and authors can engage with each other. But going the ebook route opens up the conversation to others like me who found the publishing route inaccessible.

So, Everybody Lies is up and running.