Asking for Support

Today, I’m doing something I rarely ever do and asking readers for their help. The fact that you buy and read my books is truly enough and for that I’m grateful. But I have special circumstances, and if you’ve read Dying for Justice and liked it, I’d love for you to post a review and rating on Amazon.

The short weird story is that after 27 reviews—22 of which are 5-star, and 5 are 4-star—a reader posted a one-star review. I wouldn’t care except that one-star reviews really hurt a book’s Amazon ranking. Immediately after it posted, my ranking dropped, and the book disappeared off the police procedural bestseller list.

This breaks my heart because Dying for Justice is, overall, my best-rated book, and the one that more readers have contacted me to rave about. If the reviewer had posted a legitimate negative comment, I would have simply let it go. But he talked about other writers and novels and never mentioned a thing about my story, until one broad comment near the end that was aimed at me personally. It’s also the only book review he’s ever posted on Amazon.

I’m hoping enough of you will post positive reviews that mathematically his ranking will be diluted. The reviews don’t have to be long, a sentence or two is enough, because clicking a rating will help the most. I also wouldn’t mind if you voted down his review as “unhelpful.” ☺

I’m not asking anyone to post a review you don’t believe in. But many of you have taken the time to write to me about this book, and if you could spend a few more minutes supporting it, I would be very grateful. All I can promise in return is another Jackson story in June. (And more book giveaways on Amazon to come!)

Thanks again for all your support.

All Amazon!

I finally did it. I pulled all my books from B&N and enrolled the rest of the Detective Jackson novels in Amazon’s Select program. My apologies to Nook owners! But the royalties from Kindle Owners Lending Library (KOLL) are too good to pass up.

In December, Amazon paid $1.70 per “borrow.” I made more money in one month from KOLL, with only half my books enrolled, than I’ve made from B&N in the last year. Sorry again to Nook owners, but I just can’t sell books there. Which has always been puzzle to me…because I sell so well on Amazon.

So it’s done. I’m exclusive. The move is not necessarily permanent, but I have a feeling my Amazon KOLL royalties will continue grow along with sales. And as I mentioned in a previous blog: Amazon already owns me. I might as well profit as much as I can from it.

The hardest part will be not giving away ebooks from my blog…or through LibraryThing or Goodreads. The exclusivity clause prevents it, and I’ll miss that interaction with readers. I love giving books away! But I can still give away my print books, and more important, I can give away ebooks through Amazon. And I have to remind everyone that Kindle apps are available on almost every device, and you can read Kindle books online, directly from Amazon now in the “cloud.”

So my ebooks are still available to nearly anyone with a computer, mobile phone, or tablet. And I’m sleeping better at night, knowing that as long as Amazon is doing well, so am I.

The Importance of a Title

The numbers don’t lie. When my thriller was called The Arranger: A Futuristic Thriller, I couldn’t give the book away. After three days on Amazon’s free list (through the Select program), The Arranger managed a mere 1535 downloads, despite a 4.5-start rating and rave reviews. I’d already given away two books that racked up 55,000 downloads between them ,so I understood just how pathetic that number was, and I instinctively knew the problem was the title.

I originally came up with the title because it fit the antagonist, Paul. When I bounced it off my husband, he loved it and pushed for it. I keep thinking about The Gauntlet and he kept saying, “No, it’s been done.” So I put the book out as The Arranger, and that was clearly a mistake, especially when you consider I spent more on promotion for that book than any I’d ever done. <Sigh>

But the giveaway taught me that I needed a new name. And with your help, we came up with one: The Gauntlet Assassin. I made the changes, waited for the ebook to be reformatted with the new cover, and reloaded it to Amazon. Fortunately, I’d saved two days of the five-day giveaway, so I was able to list The Gauntlet Assassin for free for two days. In that time, it had nearly 15,000 downloads, and is now selling well.

Same cover, same description, same great reviews. But clearly the new name appealed to people in a way the original had not. I purposely took “A Futuristic Thriller” out of the title. I think the word future turned a lot of people off and made them think sci-fi or dystopian novel. The book is neither and set only 13 years from now.

The lesson here is that being independent allows me to makes changes and correct my mistakes.

In other news, an established production company saw a review of The Arranger and contacted me about film/TV rights. They’re reading the manuscript now. Wouldn’t it be amazing if this strange little story were made into a blockbuster film? My husband is  counting on it. 🙂

Writers: Have you changed a story’s title or cover to make it marketable?
Readers: How do you feel when writers make such changes?

Writer Promo Swaps

Writers have always exchanged high-praise blurbs with each other (with the most famous example being the writer who blurbed himself using one of his pseudonyms). But lately I’ve been exploring other types of promotional swaps that are less direct, but also effective. For example, a group of us who have been networking through a Yahoo group recently paired off to post articles about each other on Wikipedia. Read more

Email List Etiquette

keyboard-smallCrime writers and readers have been discussing the proper etiquette for collecting e-mail addresses for a newsletter or new-release announcement. Some readers are quick to say that any unsolicited communication is spam and will turn them away from a writer forever. Ouch! Read more

Eugene Crime Lab

I finally visited the Eugene Police Department’s crime lab. Criminologist Jason Petersen gave me a two-hour crash course in processing evidence. I heard a lot of chemical terms that, fortunately, I have on my recording, because they didn’t stick in my brain. I learned that what real evidence technicians (versus the CSI kind) spend most of their time doing is processing latent fingerprints and watching/editing surveillance videos. Here’s the photo highlights.

Read more

The Gift

happy-birthdayToday I am 50.

If you only knew how hard that was to say. I’ve struggled to get my brain around this number for weeks now. I thought for a while if I never actually said it out loud, no one would know, and I could keep up the illusion that I was still in my late forties, which sounds so much nicer. But’s that crap. Read more

Blogathon! Be AFRAID!

Mystery/suspense/horror novelist Jack Kilborn (aka J.A. Konrath) stops in today to evaluate his experience with a blog tour promoting his latest release, AFRAID. I’ve seen reviews on the mystery list servs and they’re all great. Several people have said, “I don’t usually read horror, but I couldn’t put this book down.” I started it yesterday and am having the same experience. Very compelling!

Meanwhile, Joe has been on a nonstop blog book tour for 27 days, hitting multiple blogs each day. Few authors could keep up that kind of pace, but Joe is not your average guy. Now we find out if it’s been worth the effort.

You said earlier that you won’t know how successful the blog tour has been until you see your Amazon sales on April 1st. Did you set goals before you started? What kind of numbers will make you happy?
All authors have a love/hate relationship with Amazon, because it is the only way we can immediately view the results of our self-promotional efforts. If you do something on the Internet, and your Amazon ranking goes up, obviously some people just bought some books.
But Amazon ranks are confusing, and are far from hard science. The only way you truly know how you’re doing is when you get a royalty statement. If, in April, AFRAID is ranked higher than 20,000 on Amazon, I’ll be happy. It’s already spiked past there a few times this month. For a first book by an unknown author without a big marketing campaign, that ain’t bad.

Did anything about the tour surprise you?
It’s been a bit challenging to not repeat myself. By the end of the month, I’ll have been on close to a hundred blogs. That’s a lot of blogging. I’m pleasantly surprised that people are still tuning in, still following the tour. Personally, I’d be really sick of me by now.

Did it improve your promotional skills and repertoire?
It allowed me the opportunity to try different styles. My blog, A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, is basically me lecturing about the biz. I don’t get very personal, and don’t do much self-promotion.
With this tour, I had the chance to blog about many topics I’d never do on Newbie’s Guide. I got to answer a lot of great questions, talk about my new book, AFRAID, goof around, and try to match my writing style to be simpatico with the blog hosting me. It was a terrific learning experience.

Can any author pull this off or do you think the blog tour is suited to certain genres and certain author personality types?
The best way to answer that for yourself is to go back to Day #1 of my tour, follow it up until now, and ponder if it’s something you think you could do. I can’t really speak for anyone else. I don’t think it has to do with genre. It’s more about networking, time constraints, and a willingness to adapt.

You’ve created a lot of momentum by doing 73 blogs in last 27 days. How important is it to have that kind of schedule? And is it worthwhile for authors to do a blog tour even if they can’t maintain your frenetic pace? And, BTW, how much coffee does it take to keep you going?
I have sort of a “go all in” personality. But I think there can be benefits from doing this no matter the scale. Obviously the more places you appear, the better off you are, but I’ve said before that you can’t every compare yourself to any other authors. Your race is with yourself, not with me. And my coffee machine is hooked up to me intravenously.

Why should an author follow another author’s blog tour?
We can all learn from each other.

Why should a reader/fan follow a blog tour? What do they get out of it?
Information and entertainment. But if you’ve been following this tour, you probably knew I was going to say that. ☺

Would you do it again? And if so, what would you do differently next time?
I would do this again, that’s for sure. But I’d plan it next time. I announced this blog tour on Feb 28, on a whim. In the future, I’d try to set things up in advance, and not be so rushed and disorganized.

If someone has never read any of your work, should they start with AFRAID? Or do you recommend they read your Jack Daniels’ series first and ease into this scarier stuff?
People who like horror, will like Afraid. People who like thrillers, will like my Jack Daniels series. People who like both will like both.

Was it liberating to break away from your recurring characters and write a standalone? Was it harder?
It was fun. Writing is always liberating, no matter the genre. I’m the luckiest guy in the world, being able to do what I love for a living. The worst day I ever had writing is still a wonderful day.

Any negative feedback from fans (or publishers) who often just want more of the same?
Some people think AFRAID is too extreme. They’re probably right. It’s a pretty intense book. But I’m all over the place when it comes to genre. I’ve published mystery, thriller, horror, sci-fi, paranormal romance, humor, and a few genres I’m probably forgetting. If someone likes one type of my work, but not another, I’m fine with that. Everyone has a valid opinion.

Early Thanksgiving

I’m celebrating Thanksgiving today (sans turkey) because I have so much to be grateful for that it can’t wait.

  1. We have a new president! A thoughtful Democrat who will value the things I value and raise our standing in the world.
  2. I have a new book contract! My recently finished story, Secrets to Die For, will be published for people to buy and read. Oh happy day!
  3. I have three great sons, who all contacted me yesterday (calling, texting, visiting) to let me know they had voted (and for Barack Obama).
  4. My husband has a job, and I have some freelance work coming. We will stay solvent!
  5. My wonderful husband has worked hard to resolve my exercise issues, and, as a result, my chronic knee pain is diminished!

So today (and going forward), I am grateful for these things and more. I posted this list next to my computer where I’ll see it first—and last—thing every day.