Friday, December 21, 2012

Creating an Effective Author Platform in 3 easy Steps

So you hate that you need this mystical thing called an author platform just to sell your books, huh? Well I've got some good news for you. You can actually grow your platform in 3 easy steps!

What I'm about to show you will require a personal investment of time and finances, but it can be worth it if you do this regularly. I know it works because I've done it in the past and have had success almost every time--almost every time, because not everything goes as planned, and because I can be lazy sometimes. But I am doing this right now and seeing excellent results as we speak.

What is the trick? It's called a "Reader Role Call" promotion. You might also want to call it a multi-platform giveaway. This trick is something I do in addition to a KDP select giveaway (for details see previous 2 posts), but when I do, I see excellent KDP Select results. More importantly, I grow my reader base by gaining social media followers.

I'm currently doing this with 84 other authors at The Kindle Book Review. We are giving away a Kindle Fire and two $100 Amazon gift cards. I've joined forces with these authors and Digital Book Today, but I've done this all by myself recently and it worked great then, too. When going solo, I usually give away print copies of one or more of my books, which requires a much smaller investment, but will also garner less interest than a major giveaway (Kindle, Nook, iPad).

Results?
At the time of this writing, I've personally gained nearly 50 subscribers at The KBR, and about the same on Twitter and Facebook in the last 24 hours, and this is just the start of a 2-week promotion! This promotion has had over 20,000 entries in the last 36 hours, so the authors involved are getting a lot of exposure. And my sales? They've ticked up a little, but that's what I expected--just a little. Promos like these need to be tied in with layered marketing in other platforms to see large sales spikes. The thing to remember is a promotion like this is more for growing an author platform, which is a long term relationship, and does not always lead to immediate sales.

The general idea of the Reader Roll Call is to give something away by using Rafflecopter as the source of generating a raffle/drawing to automatically choose the winner. Rafflecopter is really cool because you have lots of options in terms of creating ways for readers to gain entries/points, and the ones with the most points naturally have a greater chance of winning.

So what are the 3 easy steps?
#1. Decide what you want to give away, and if you want to join forces with other authors. If you go solo, try giving away a print copy of your book during a KDP free promo to help spread the word about you and your books. This will draw attention to your freebie if you tie it in right. Also, if you include other authors, understand that this is your show, and you must work hard to get the others everything they need like links, ideas, and dates. You have to make sure everything comes together.

#2. Decide where you will host/publicize the promotion and how you will reach your audience. When running a promo like this in the past, I've listed the promotion directly on my Amazon book page by adjusting the text via my Amazon Author Central account. But the real trick is to incorporate the giveaway across your entire online platform, including Facebook, Twitter, your blog, or website. And the better trick is if you work with other authors, and everyone contributes to the promotion, you can gain an even greater reach, and piggy back on their reading audience as well. Another tick is to give away a copy of your book(s) on Goodreads at the same time, and link the giveaway to your REAL promotion, the one with the Raffecopter giveaway, or your freebie if doing a KDP giveaway as well. The point is, before you start, you have to commit to how deep you want to go, and then follow through and do everything you said you would. I'm also doing two other promotions like this with other groups of authors during the holidays, and it stands to reason that the more my name is seen across the Internet, the greater chance I have of gaining followers and readers.

#3. Create your Rafflecopter form. Creating a Rafflecopter form is easy and can include many upgrades if you plan to use this often. I use the basic form and still have the option to have the reader/registrant follow my twitter account (@TweetTheBook), my Facebook account, subscribe to my blog(s), and  "Like" my author page on FB. And this, my friends, is the best part about this type of promotion; it draws readers into your author platform, and that's enough for me, for now. But one important thing to remember: when using Rafflecopter, the actual raffle sign-up box will not go live until the start date that you choose, so you have to make sure everything is correct when it does go live. I have had some problems with them linking facebook pages. In that case I have replaced, for example, an authors FB link with his/her Twitter handle.

A few points to remember, regarding author promotion:

  • Authors with one book will have a more difficult time selling/promoting (unless they are lucky). Always remember that, "The best marketing plan for a newer author is to write more good books."
  • A social media audience is more receptive to receiving something free than a constant barrage of self-promotion from you. They are also more willing to share your giveaway with their friends if they know there is no "catch". And there shouldn't be a catch. Giving your book(s)/something away is a win-win, because if you write great books, your new readers will be more willing to buy your other/next book---that's just how most people are--they appreciate kindness, and in general, want to return it.
  • Expect complaints. Although most people are good hearted, there are some that you cannot please. Be gracious. And offer exceptional service, even to the grumps out there.
  • Plan your promotions around typical retail cycles (Holidays, back-to-school days, etc).
  • Expect to invest more time/energy/money during the busier seasons (Christmas, Halloween, etc). There is more competition for the top spots on ad sites, and in Amazon lists.
  • A few key ingredients to all promotion/book sales are great reviews (more is better), a great book description, catchy cover, and a compelling sample.
And now I'd like to invite you to WIN a Kindle Fire or a $100 Amazon gift card with my KDP Holiday Kindle Giveaway. The giveaway runs until Jan. 5th, 2013.

This giveaway is brought to you by The Kindle Book Review, Digital Book Today, and 84 amazing authors.

Jeff Bennington is the best-selling author of Reunion, Twisted Vengeance, the Creepy series, and The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Winning in Amazon's KDP Select Program: PART 2

Questions are great. I love questions. Sometimes I learn more when someone asks me about a topic that I am passionate about. And yesterday a writer friend asked a very pointed question. This is exactly what she asked:
"Jeff why is it better for authors with fewer books to stay on KDP Select? Sorry, but I don't get it." - anonymous
Well, naturally I told her to come to The Writing Bomb for details. But I also typed the following reply with my phone… talk about an auto-correct nightmare! Anyway, I realized that if one person asks a question than there are probably dozens more with the same quandary.

Anyway, here's my answer to her question:
"Why is it better for newer authors to stay with KDP select?"

The reason is simple. No one knows who you are, and no other online book retailer will help promote you like Amazon... hands down.

Take any first time indie or small press author, drop their book into all online ebook stores and they will all sink to the bottom unless that author continues to write book after book, and promote heavily, and still may not sell much. Most new authors continue to promote heavily, trying to force their dream of mass sales and book signings, waiting, hoping for the magic to happen, and it rarely does. 

Why? Because no one knows who you are! Not you personally, but the rhetorical you, the unknown author, the first timer who isn't famous, who doesn't have 50,000 twitter fans, a platinum album, or staring in a sitcom. 

Amazon knows this, and so in order to create a marketplace where their author's are committed to them for the long haul, they created a system (that was already in place and effective) and offered it as an "on-demand" promotional tool for author's who publish exclusively with Amazon (KDP) -- a reward if you will. 

The reward is on demand promotion (1-5 days to sell your book(s) for free, renewable every 90 days) that can be targeted and controlled. It's the perfect answer to the unknown author. The author can give away thousands of copies (15,000+ is a good free promo result, and my average for my novels,  a drop in the bucket in terms of  millions of kindle readers). 

But why would an author want to give away so many books? Simple. When you give that many copies away, two things happen (the magic): 

 1. Readership Explosion: With KDP Select, a new author can grow a following at a rate never before possible, and will garner far more reviews than with sales that trickle in under normal circumstances. How is this possible? Visibility, my friend… visibility in the free store. Heck, I even sell more print copies during a freebie promo. 

 2. Consistent Sales Bump: Amazon treats free downloads like sales, thereby placing the author's book cover across their site in places like the "customers who bought this also bought" section below other books purchased by those who downloaded the free book, and often in the same genre. The residual promotion that Amazon provides is of course relative to the number of books downloaded during the free promotion. 

Here's the trick (well, one of them): Do this enough times and you start to target your audience because your book is consistently landing in your pre-selected category lists in the free store. Then, when you get the visibility from being in a category list, your sales can grow organically within days of returning to the "paid" store. 

Example: Twisted Vengeance garnered 18,427 downloads in my Sept. 2012 freebie promo. I scheduled the promo for 3 days, but kept it going one more day because I was #5 in the free store for 2 days straight and didn't want to stop the momentum. Two days later, Twisted was ranked #800 something in the paid store, selling very well. I raised my price back to $2.99 and made a few bucks. 

Now, what just happened besides giving away 18,000 books? 

1. Audience Growth: I gained a lot more readers from that promotion, as reflected in my post freebie reviews, and Facebook likes that came in after the promo. Not everyone who downloaded the book will read it, or like it for that matter, and that's okay. But you can be sure, there is a greater probability that I will gain a higher number of fans with 18K downloads than with 500 organic purchases.

2. Additional Sales Lift: The wheels that started spinning during my free promo continued after the "sale". NOTE: Free books don't add as much weight in Amazon's algorithms as a paid book (hence hitting #5 in free store vs. #800 in the paid), but that's okay, too. Amazon rewards sales with visibility. So if you continue to  promote with KDP Select every 90 days, getting that regular sales bump, and adjusting your price with the ebb and flow of your ranking (99¢ when your sales are down, and $2.99 or more when sales are up), your sales should continue to grow -- even more so if you continue to publish additional books. Why? Because every bump throws your book on more book pages, and then you fade, but then you bump up. Long term (1 year for me), it is working like a healthy looking Stock Market graph… slowly rising with dips and spikes, but consistently increasing sales. 

KDP Select gives you free promotion from the largest book retailer in the world! And the results improve with every new book. Why? Because not only can I lift my ranking using price decreases as an incentive (promotional tool), but I can also promote with targeted free days with multiple titles. That gives me two methods of attracting readers with every 90-day cycle. So if you have 2 books, that's 4 free promotional tools. If you have 3 books, that's 6 free promotional opportunities, and so on.

Like I always say, "books sell books". Unfortunately, many freshman Author's think their book will sell on the merit of quality. Sometimes that happens with luck, but rarely. There are over a million kindle books now. A million! Geesh!

Do you see the advantage of hitting the top #20 or #100 in the free store? Thanks to KDP Select, I have sat above, beside, and directly under Stephen King and Koontz. But get this, I am a nobody in terms of the world wide publishing industry. The name Jeff Bennington means very little to the vast majority of readers, and yet my "free book" promotions have placed my name and book covers in places I never thought possible. 

This program can market a relatively unknown like a big name author. With KDP Select, I beat out Heather Graham (Big time author in ghost category) often, because my promotions with KDP Select help boost me up there with the big boys and girls. This program can truly be the great equalizer for new authors, even if you only have one amazing book. And no other platform, with the exception of Kobo is doing anything like this.

Amazon has so many promotional tools to help market authors, it isn't funny! Take a look at some of these marketing tools they use: Bestsellers List, Hot New Release list, Movers and Shakers, Top Rated lists, Gift Idea lists, Top-100 Category lists, Tags,  "If you like" lists, "So you want to" lists, and Top Rated Author List (New: I'm currently #44 in Horror). 

The truth is… if you have 10 titles it's easier for readers to find you. And an author with that many books has probably grown his or her platform over the course of time anyway. But when you only have one or two titles, like most authors out there, KDP Select is the only program that can accelerate the long, time draining process of finding your readers.

Other sites list your book(s) for sale, but when you partner with the biggest book retailer in the world, and they are willing to help you find your audience, and sell your books, you get a much higher return, relative to what the other stores can do for you. And like all programs, there are a variety of variables that can impact one's success (cover art, reviews, product description, sample, book length, etc). And of course, there is always the exception, and a time for an author to pull out when they have outgrown the program. But in general, after one year with Select, I'm still very excited about KDP Select's power to promote.

By the way… REUNION is free Oct 28 - 30th during my little "Halloween Haunted Giveaway"

Jeff Bennington () is the best-selling author of Reunion, Twisted Vengeance, Creepy, and Creepy 2, and The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe. Creepy 3 is coming soon!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

How to Win in Amazon's KDP Select Program

Nearly a year after joining Amazon's KDP Select program, I've learned how to work the system, and what it takes to have a successful "free promotion".

The rules have changed since December 2011, and many authors have zipped in and out of the "select" revolving door, perhaps at the peril of growing their audience. It seems some writers give it a quick try, but if they do not experience the success they hoped for, they bail out and jump back into the wide world of multi-platform sales (Kobo, B&N, Sony, iBooks, etc).

I've said it before and I'll say it again, after rolling in the select platform for almost a year, this program is still the best way for a newer/unknown author to increase sales, get reviews, get noticed, and shorten the amount of time it takes to find his or her audience. I saw the potential in this program early on, hoping it would give me world wide exposure. The result? It has accomplished everything I hoped for!

Why do I still like KDP Select? What has it done for me a year after joining? Read on.

Here are a few reasons why KDP Select still rocks:
  • KDP select is an equal opportunity promoter. Everyone gets a fair shake. So in terms of marketing, Amazon's Top-100 lists, both free and paid, are the best promotion tools available anywhere for the lesser known author. If your book hits the Top 100, or better yet, the Top-20 in the free store, you will get world wide publicity. And if you know the going rate to buy that kind of marketing power, you'll realize that it is VERY important to put everything you have into your free promo… it's so worth it. 
  • Authors with one book can get instant notoriety. In the past you had to grow your audience organically, and to some degree you still do. But the select program can actually accelerate that process when you give away your book(s). Put as simply as possible: a successful "Free Promo"  can help your book find its targeted "category list" in a matter of days, not months or years. If you select the right category and use targeted "key words", "tags", and your title is right, you will  discover that readers can find you much easier than if you are just floating out there in Amazon land. Of course there are many factors that determine a winning freebie promo, but I'm assuming you know about cover design, book description, sample, etc.
  • KDP select can literally grow an unknown author with one title into a Kindle reader household name and you do not have to be a literary anomaly. Readers around the world may not know you now, but if you keep writing, and keep promoting your book(s) every 90 days, you can definitely go from dozens of monthly sales to thousands. I'm not exaggerating! You just have to know how to promote your book. This may not happen the first time you plant that seed. But keep at it, and over time that tree will bear fruit!
  • KDP select is designed to lift quality books that are lagging. If you are not selling many books, your only hope in the past is to buy expensive promotions that "buy" sales. Well, you still need to do that to some degree when promoting a free book, but it's much cheaper to promote a freebie, and you can potentially reap a harvest of readers who might not have tried your book if it wasn't free - and make a few bucks while you're at it. I have 5 books now (3 in 2011, 2 in 2012), and my sales increase with every giveaway. Of course more titles makes a huge difference. But after a reader snags one of my freebies, they often buy my other books, too, which is the whole point of going free… to tease… to prod… to gain trust. And if you write great books, and you earn a readers trust, you've got 'em. You WIN! 
  • Huge growth potential with Amazon. With new readers buying kindle products by the millions there's an endless supply of readers, so I don't sweat giving away thousands of copies when there are millions of new readers opting into the Kindle world every month!
  • Rentals. I don't quite understand it, but Creepy, my little 99¢ short collection of scary stories gets about 100 or more rentals every month! Don't ask. I have no idea why. That's an additional $200 every month from that little book alone! I definitely wouldn't get that without the select program.
So what's the key to hitting the Top-100, or Top-20 in the Amazon Free Store?

Well, in my last six "freebie runs" as I call them, I've hit the Top 20, five out of six times, and the sixth time I hit #58 with Creepy, book 1 in my Creepy series. How did I do it? What is my system? Glad you asked because I do have a system. I'll tell you what I do, but first, I need to gain a little more credibility in order for you to take me seriously.

Here are my approximate year-over-year sales records for Sept/Oct 2011 & 2012 respectively: 

Sept. 2011   - 2,238 units (published 2 new titles that month)
Oct.  2011   - 901 units   
Total Sept/Oct 2011 = 3,139 units   (includes UK)

Sept. 2012   - 24,700 units (19,500 free/5,200 paid or rented)
Oct.  2012   - 10,082 units. After Reunion freebie (10/28) I expect to exceed 26,000 units!
Total Sept/Oct 2012 = 44,864 units   (Does not Include UK or other countries)

That is a huge difference, so much so that figuring the percentage of sales increase is redundant.

I average about 8,000 (small books) - 15,000 (novels) downloads with every freebie run. If you get 500-5,000, your after promotion sales will not do much for your post-promo sales. A <5,000 download promo could mean that there is a red flag. A red flag after a freebie run is probably a result of one of the following: poor cover, poor book description, or too little marketing. Obviously price isn't an issue during a freebie, and readers are probably less picky when they get a free book, so what does that tell you? It tells you that there isn't necessarily a problem with KDP select. Obviously Select still works; something else is broken.

So is KDP select still worth it? I think so. Is it for everybody? Probably not. At some point this program may become pointless for those with an established readership -- those with enough kindle readers that they can afford to branch out. But for now, it's doing exactly what I need it to do.

What's my system? I promote my free book. I don't just tweet about it. I don't just blog about it. And I don't just tell my facebook peeps. I actually list and/or pay to advertise it in as many books sites as possible. Some sites are free and some require cash. I usually budget anywhere between $70 to $100 per promotion (every 3-4 weeks). Below you'll find a list of the primary sites I use. I rotate my usage of these sites every 90 days. That's it.  

Here's my list of "Free Book" promotion sites: 
These resources are updated regularly at The Kindle Book Review.

  • Top 100 Best Free Kindle Book List brought to you by digitalbooktoday.com
  • The Kindle Book Review - lots of creative ways to promote free books
  • WorldLiteraryCafe.com (tweet Teams/Free day announcements for members [free])
  • bookdaily.com - get your book excerpt mailed to thousands of opt in readers
  • storyfinds.com - great site to promote freebies and 99¢ books
  • bargainebookhunter.com - Offers free promo & sponsorships.
  • eReader News Today – free ebook submissions
  • booktweetingservice.com – tweets to large audience $29
  • ebookswag.com - Promotes to a decent sized facebook crowd.
  • Freebooksy - Promote free books & offers paid features.
  • freeebooksdaily.com - Announces free books and does author interviews.
  • kindlenationdaily.com - large reach but expensive.
  • centsibleereads.com - up and coming free/low cost book promtion with a friendly touch
  • Kindle Mojo – a book promotion site for freebies and non-freebies
  • Kindle Book Promos - Free book announcements/Sponsorships
  • Book Daily.com - Emails daily book excerpts to their reader list
  • Author Marketing Club - FREE! Free day promos and book promos
  • BookBub.com - pricey but has a large email following
  • Bookgoodies.com - author features/reviews/free book posting
  • BookDealHunter – promotes freebies
  • Free Kindle Books and Tips – Promotes quality free kindle books
  • Free Today – Post free books. Facebook focused.
  • GetFreeBook.com – List free books
  • zwoodlebooks.com - Posts free books and reviews books

  • I hope this article helps. Let me know what you think. 

    Jeff Bennington () is the best-selling author of Reunion, Twisted Vengeance, Creepy, and Creepy 2, and The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe. Creepy 3 is coming soon!

    Friday, September 21, 2012

    How to Keep Your Book in a Top 100 Category


    A fellow writer recently asked about my pricing strategies. This is something I don't talk about much because I wrote a chapter on Floatation Pricing ™ in The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe and didn't want to give away the farm. So as one might expect, I kept quiet. But since I still get plenty of questions from authors about price-point solutions, I thought I'd go ahead and share my thoughts on ebook pricing.

    But before I do that I want to point out the big blue book image to the right. That is the audio edition of The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe. It was produced by an amazing Voice Pro, Philip Andrew Hodges. His voice is pleasant and enjoyable to listen to, so if you are considering creating an audio book at acx.com, look him up. And if you drive a lot or listen to audio books, consider grabbing an audio version of "The Guide". You'll be glad you did.

    Now back to my thoughts on pricing…

    My writer friend was curious why I use the 99¢ price point and sent me an email asking about my choice. I'm assuming he was asking me because my books are in the 3,000 to 11,000 Amazon ranking at the moment, and he probably thought I was doing something right. So here's what I said...

    First of all, pricing has nothing to do with quality. Writers want to bring up the devaluing of books argument, but in truth, the price of a book has nothing to do with the  quality of the literature. Just look at Amazon's Top-100 bestselling books, where prices range from 99¢ to $9.99 and up. You see, the true value of any book is in the demand of the author. 

    Authors are products. We are brands. 

    Authors rarely think in terms of economics because we can be overly delusional at times, and narcissistic in terms of the world's perception of our work. If you don't believe me, ask any author who is on their third or fourth book. They'll tell you that they thought the world was going to wait in line for their first book as soon as it was released - it was that good! I know, I thought that way, too.

    The point is, our books will abide by the laws of supply and demand and there isn't anything we can do about it. If you are in high demand as an author, you can raise the price of your book. If you are in low demand - in other words, if no one knows who you are, you should offer your book at a discount. Don't take it personal, that's just the reality of economics.

    I price my books anywhere from 99¢ to $3.99 at different times. But I don't price them that way because I have placed a specific value on my work. 

    I price my books to sell, but more importantly, to remain in my category Top-100 list. 

    Staying in a category list is my #1 priority in regards to marketing. I don't think about sales (although I get excited when things are going well), and I don't think about whether I'm targeting the right audience either. All I care about is staying in that top 100 list.

    "Now wait a minute, Jeff," you say. "Don't you realize the people buying your books on the cheap may never read them? Or worse yet, may write a bad review?"

    Yes. And I don't care. If someone buys my books on an impulse, they are giving me more sales, but more importantly, they are keeping me in that category list. And that is the best place to be because that is where my true audience is shopping. 

    "But don't you think readers see your 99¢ price as a sign of poor quality?"

    No. But again, I don't care. If my book is priced at $3.99 or higher and I'm not in demand, they aren't going to buy my book just because I priced it higher. As the founder of The Kindle Book Review, I see award winning, well reviewed books with a $3.99 price point sitting on a 300,000+ ranking all too often. Remember, the longer I'm in my category list, I'm more likely to find the right buyers - outside of the list, I'm less likely.

    I wrote a chapter about Floatation Pricing ™ in The Indie Author's Guide, and I get into the nuts and bolts about this strategy, but the basic idea is to be flexible with your pricing and change it as the tide rises and falls.

    I never suggest using one price point. Not only is it important to set your price according to the demand of your products, it is important to be willing to change your price. Sitting on a $3.99 or $4.99 price point because of pride is just stupid. No offense if you're stupid.

    If you're selling your books at $2.99 or higher, and they're selling like hot cakes, I'm not talking about you. And if you're trapped by a publisher's inflated pricing system, I'm sorry. I'm not calling either of these groups stupid - just the folks who are sitting there with their arms crossed, pouting about their sales, and blaming it on the guys and gals selling their books for 99¢!

    What my friend didn't realize is that I price my books at $3.99, $2.99 and 99¢, always changing the numbers. Every author platform is different based on numerous factors. My audience, ghost/supernatural/occult, is not as large as the thriller audience, but it probably isn't as competitive either. And since I'm still a relatively new voice in the book world, I have chosen to set my price at 99¢ when necessary.

    And when is it necessary? Simple. It is necessary for me to lower my price from $2.99 when I'm on the crux of breaking out of the Top-100 ghost category. So when one of my titles is teetering around the 15,000 to 20,000 overall ranking, I'm probably nearing #89 to #90 in my category. But I do not want to wait until I hit #101 because I'll be out of site and start free falling. Therefore, I re-set my price to 99¢ before it drops out of my list.

    What I have discovered is that some readers are willing to try my work at $2.99, but not as many as those willing to try my work at 99¢. So when I've tapped out the readers at the $2.99 level, I drop my price, and the discount shoppers take over from there, boosting my ranking once again. Sometimes they'll take me from 20K to 8K or as low as 5K. The audience is always different. And it is always fun watching how the market changes from one week to the next.

    "But what about book rentals via KDP Select? Wouldn't you rent more if your book was priced higher?"

    No. I do not. My top selling book is always priced at 99¢, and has a ridiculously higher rental rate every month. I don't really know why; it's my shortest length book. Strange. 

    Here are my MTD rental stats as of Sept. 21st:

    .99¢ Book   -  64 rentals 
    $2.99 Book -  11 "   "
    $2.99 Book -    5 "   "
    $2.99 Book -    2 "   "

    Why do you think Carolyn McCray and the 99¢network.com do a promo featuring 99¢ books? Because they know that books (in general) will drop in ranking and rise in visibility.

    Does that bother me that some people refuse to buy my work for more than 99¢? No. Well, not any more. I like readers with low and high book budgets. They are equally cool and just as loyal. Besides, why should I insist on selling at higher prices, when readers can choose from other new writers all day long at the lower prices? What makes me so special? Sure, I write books, but that does not entitle me to anything, including an audience.

    Honestly I'm grateful for every reader, no matter what price they pay. And what the hell, I give away tens of thousands of copies every 90 days anyway. 

    It's all about staying on the list, making use of Amazon's algorithms, getting noticed, and floating my prices to stay in my Top-100 category at all times.

    All my books are currently 99¢, and when you read "The Guide" or chapter on pricing, you'll know why. I'm also using my Layered Marketing approach to the freebie promo I'm running this weekend (9/23-9/25). And if all goes as planned, Twisted Vengeance should hit the top 20 in Amazon's Top 100 FREE list. I actually plan for that because of the resources I use, but you never know. However, I'm 4/4 in my last 4 freebie runs.

    In conclusion, there is no single rule to pricing - get locked into an idea and you'll slowly watch your ranking drop from obscure to pathetic in a few months (unless you are in high demand). There are far too many factors for anyone to say, "This is a guaranteed result". But if you've tried to price your book at all levels and you're still having trouble selling, it may be time to look at the other factors like cover, product description, writing quality, and sample.

    Publishing is a business in motion, so it's better to learn how to sail rather than learn how to build a boat.

     ~ Jeff Bennington

    Tuesday, September 18, 2012

    How to be Successful at Anything

    If there is anything we all need, no matter what we do, what our goals are, or how lofty our ambitions, we need a path. We need a road map to guide us. And we need motivation. The trouble with these points is that we are all human; we fail often and miserably. But should our  vulnerabilities stop us?

    Never!

    I heard a story recently that made a huge impact in the way I look at success.

    The story is about a young man who wanted to be the best athlete in his sport. He wanted to be famous and he wanted to make a lot of money. So the young man called up an old pro, a man who was considered a guru in the sport. He asked the guru if he could teach him the secret of his success. He asked if he could coach him and tell him what he had to do to be successful. Being the helpful man that he was, he agreed, and he asked the young man to meet him at the beach early the following morning.

    The eager young athlete showed up a few minutes late, but the guru overlooked his immaturity and began his instruction immediately. He asked if the young man was willing to do whatever it takes to be successful, and the guy shook his head enthusiastically. The guru then walked through the sandy beach and into the crashing waves and signaled for the youngster to follow. The young athlete looked at him quizzically, but went ahead and did as the man asked.

    The guru said, "Very good. Now keep moving."

    The young man continued into the water until it rose above his knees. He wasn't much of a swimmer so he started to feel a little bit nervous and asked, "How deep are we going to go?"

    The guru replied, "A little more." He waved his hand, commanding the athlete to continue, and he walked until the water rose over his chest. Naturally, the young man followed, but stood close to the guru, fear written all over his face.

    The guru said, "Now take one more step."

    The young man did so reluctantly.

    "Now take another."

    The young man took another step and lifted his chin so he could breathe and shouted, "I can't go any deeper without going under."

    The guru smiled and said, "I know." He then griped the athletes shoulders and shoved him into the water and held him down. The athlete struggled, and kicked, and although he was as strong as a lion, the guru was stronger. He held him down until the young man almost passed out.

    When the weary athlete came out of the water gasping for air, he coughed and spit out the salt water, shuffling through the waves until he returned to the sandy beach and plopped down, exhausted and lightheaded. The guru followed. And when the young man had caught his breath, he asked with a hint of hostility, "Why did you do that? You almost killed me!"

    The guru bent down and looked at the youngster eye to eye and said, "If you want to be successful at anything, you have to want it as much as you wanted to breathe when I was holding you under."

    The athlete just stared at the guru, stunned.

    "If you want to be successful, you have to crave success more than your next meal. You have to want it as much as you want to sleep. You have to give up video games. You have to give up a few meals. You have to give up the things that everyday people are doing in their everyday lives, because success doesn't just come from wading through life. Success doesn't grow. Success doesn't appear. Success is what happens when you eat sleep and breath your dreams, not because you can, but because you cannot survive without it."

    The guru stood up and left the young man on the beach.

    This story is so applicable to writers. Publishing success is all about investing into a life-long dream, not a one-time achievement. And the same is true for any career, sport, talent, or hobby. Success is earned by putting much more time in than everybody else who is doing the same thing you are doing. We can't all be successful. But the ones who are, have been shoved under the waves and appreciate every gulp of oxygen they take.

    Don't ever give up! But when you feel like quiting, you know what to do -- Dunk. Push. And hold your breath. A good drowning never hurt anyone swimming in success.

    What do you think? What lessons have you learned about success?


    Jeff Bennington  is the best-selling author of Reunion, Twisted Vengeance, and The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe.  

    Tuesday, August 28, 2012

    10 Creative Writing Ideas for Teens

    For the last few years I've taught a creative writing course for a home school co-op and I've had a great time. Unfortunately, I couldn't do it this year, so I sent a course syllabus to the co-op president to give to the students that were signed up. So, of course I had to share it with all of you as well.

    If you have a teen who likes to write, or if you home school your children, or you just want to give your little writer some creative writing assignments, I have a 10-week mini course that will make writing fun for any kid between the ages of 10-17 (depending on level of maturity).

    When your kid(s) finish with this course, I have a whole lotta more! In fact, I'm publishing a 36-week creative writing course for teens by early to mid 2013. So follow this blog for updates.

    Writers: If you are a writer, and you'd like to contribute an "exercises" to the course, I'd love to hear from you. I think parents and teachers and the young writers of the world would love to receive writing tips from successful writers like you. So, if you leave a comment (i.e. writing exercise suggestion), be sure to include at least one writing credit, and I'll include your name/title in the course. NOTE: I will publish this, so you'll have to be okay with releasing your idea to Nexgate Press. But as I said, we will include your name/book title with the exercise.

    Parents/Teachers: Feel free to copy and past. See instructions at the bottom of this post.

    Creative Writing Exercises for Junior and Senior High Students.
    By Jeff Bennington
    Author of The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe.

    Welcome to The Writing Bomb's Creative Writing Course for Junior & Senior High Students. 

    Week 1. Write a short story (1-2 pages) from the perspective of your favorite animal: bird, dog, horse, skunk, etc. Let the animal in you describe what it is like living among humans, in the chicken coop, or in the dog house. What are your hopes and dreams? What are you looking for in a mate? How do you feel about rainy days, baths, and treats? What do you expect from your puppies, cubs, or kittens? Write a draft, have your parent grade it, and then rewrite/polish it.

    Week 2. Write a documentary (1-2 pages) about the most exciting thing that happened somewhere in the world in the last week. Don't know what happened in the world? Type in a Google search of... "What happened in the world the week of Sept. 1, 2012?" - or whatever the date is. Again, write the paper, have a parent grade it, then polish it. This is something you will always have to do (edit, revise, and revise again).

    Week 3. Write a persuasive paper (1-2 pages) in favor of anything you are passionate about. All persuasive papers need an Introduction that states the main point, introduces the content to come, and includes a thesis statement (a sentence declaring the point you are trying to make). 

    The Body of the paper must include at least three additional paragraphs. Each paragraph must support one of three basic supporting ideas, and have at least three sentences to prove your point or support the idea in that paragraph. 

    Finally, you'll need a summary paragraph that summarizes the points listed above, and re-emphasizes the thesis statement. All in all ,there must be five paragraphs, with no less than three sentences in each paragraph. Seniors should have more content… especially since they will have to write a paper like this on the SAT in 30 minutes. PARENTS: This may be tough for junior highers and freshman but it is a good introduction nonetheless. Be patient with the younger ones.

    Week 4. Write a descriptive paper (1full page) that describes your dream car, another one that describes your dream house (1full page), and another that describes the dream job (1 full page) that you will have to support those dreams (be realistic here… do not say you will be an ultra-rich rock star, unless you are working toward that today).

    Week 5. Write a Poem (1full page) that describes the fall season and the beauty of the leaves turning and falling to someone who has never seen fall colors in the trees. Do not take anything for granted! Include colors, smells, sounds, feel, etc. Write another poem (1full page) about the joys of fall: sitting around the fire, camping, raking and playing in the leaves, carving pumpkins, trick-or-treating, etc.

    Week 6. Write a short story (2 pages) about a family sitting around the dinner table talking, or sitting around a camp fire. Include conflict, different personalities, different ways of speaking (dialog) that is unique to each character. Be sure to resolve any conflicts that you start. Be creative, but be realistic. This is not a science fiction or fantasy assignment - that comes next.

    Week 7Write a full-on short story in the genre of your choice: Science fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Inspiration, Action Adventure, Romance. This is your choice. Write the story that you'd like to read. BUT, keep it short. If you are a junior higher, write a three page story. If you are a junior or senior, make this a 5- 6-page short story. Be creative. The sky's the limit. You have two (2) weeks. Use the first week to write a rough draft and then turn it in to your parent(s)/teacher. Let them read it and suggest changes, correct spelling, etc. Then go back and revise. 

    Week 8. Your short story is due by the end of week 8.

    Week 9. Write a descriptive paper (1-2 pages) about what it would be like to be a real hero. If you were a hero, what would your super power be? How would you use it? Who would benefit from that gift? Where could you live so that you could save the most people? What does it take for you to remain strong? What would you look like? Are you from another planet? Did grow up underground, or in another realm? And finally, what is the one thing that causes you to become powerless?

    Week 10. Write your own autobiography… starting from when you are young, going forward through your life, including college, career, victories, failures, marriage, children, family, occupation, illnesses, and ultimately (and I know this is morbid) your death and funeral. This is a perfect opportunity for you to explore your dreams and hopes for the future, and for your parents to get to know you better.

    Parents and teachers: Pay attention to what your kids/students write. I have read a few papers over the years where a child has revealed critical "secrets". Listen to their words; they could be telling you something. 

    PLEASE SHARE this post with anyone you think might be interested.

    Directions: All papers should be assigned early in the week and due by Friday unless otherwise noted. These papers can be hand written, single spaced (large cursive writers can add an extra half page), or typed as double spaced, 12-point font). Students should always write a rough draft and have a parent grade it mid-week with the final revision due on the last day of the week. Parents, should focus on spelling, grammar, structure, and less on content, relative to the child's age. I wouldn't look at these assignments as critical to a student's progress, unless they are at the junior/senior level. In general, these are simply creative exercises and tools for teaching basic writing and communicative skills. Have fun!

    Jeff Bennington  is the best-selling author of Reunion, Twisted Vengeance, and The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe.