Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Layer Your Book Marketing Efforts for Better Results

Welcome back to The Writing Bomb. I'm posting another excerpt from The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe, and I hope you find my marketing strategy helpful. The following information helped propel me to the Amazon Top 100 in December 2011. I hope it works for you as well. 

My Favorite Marketing Strategy

One of my favorite strategies in my marketing plan is layering. Layering is the process of adding promotions in sequence. In other words, before you pay money to Kindle Nation Daily, schedule a giveaway, immediately followed by a two or three day blog hop, followed by a killer blog post at your blog, followed by a two day KDP Select giveaway. Then, wrap up your marketing blitz with a paid promotion from Digit Book Today, The Kindle Book Review, or Kindle Nation Daily, after you’ve invested some time in a series of free promotions.
Be sure to keep all of these events well publicized through Twitter and Facebook.
As I mentioned earlier, marketing isn’t about a single promotion and it isn’t always about money. Good promotion is about getting your book cover as much face time as possible. Stacking your promotions will help elevate your book into the public eye. 
When I think of layering, I imagine a video game character, like Mario, jumping on a gear that propels him upward, only to land on another gear that shoots him to another gear, and so on. The idea is that each gear lifts him higher with each spin of the cogs, getting him closer to that giant mushroom in the sky. You may or may not want a bucket of golden mushrooms, but you do want to get closer to readers and that's what layering has the potential of accomplishing.
The reason I like this strategy is because it works, and because it can make your paid promotions more effective. Layering your promotions is better than spending money on an ad, hoping that a single marketing tool will bring an onslaught of sales. Sites like Kindle Nation Daily have a pretty good track record, but just think how much more effective that ad could be if you raised your Amazon ranking from 80,000 to 25,000 the day before your ad went live. An ad with KND will do a better job if you work hard at getting your sales up before the ad starts. 
It’s not just important to sell more books. It’s important that you get your book on category bestseller lists where there are more eyes watching. These lists will lead you to the readers looking for your genre and your price point. 
Do whatever it takes to get there, because once you're there, the attention can hold you up for an extended period of time, even after the ad has expired. If you don't hit a category list, you'll drop out of sight much faster.
Don’t depend on others to work their marketing magic with your book. You have to do your part. And the more you can do prior to a paid promotion, the greater chance you’ll have of selling!
In the weeks prior to hitting the Amazon top 100, I paid for a featured ad with The 99 Cent Networks Twelve Day's of Christmas promo that ran from December 12th to December 24th. During the course of that promotion, I wrote a couple killer blog posts here at The Writing Bomb. I also placed Reunion on The Kindle Book Review’s marquee banner during the month of December. Finally, I scheduled my first two free book promotion days with Amazon’s KDP Select. The result, thanks to Lady Luck, was the #55 spot in Amazon’s paid best-seller list. I spent $50 for each of my books to be entered in the IBC promo, but the rest was free. I used every aspect of my platform, layering each step with tweets and Facebook notifications. It cost me a few bucks, and a few hours of my time, but the pay off far exceeded the expense.
Are you sequencing your marketing? Or are you trudging through individual promotions, separated by large blocks of time? The next time you schedule a paid promotion, try layering a sequence of free promotions and see what happens. Your book is hungry for mushrooms. It's time you shoot it into the sky where it belongs.

~ Jeff Bennington is the Amazon bestselling author of Reunion, Twisted Vengeance and Creepy

Monday, January 23, 2012

Why No One Is Buying Your Book

The following is an excerpt from The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe:

Why No One is Buying Your Book

Have you stared at your book ranking, and sales data, and wondered why no one is reading your work? Are you disappointed that your story hasn't caught fire, or hit USA Today's front page?
If you answered yes, I want to share a secret with you. I want to tell you something, and it might hurt your feelings. I don't mean to be cruel, but I have to be honest.
No one has ever heard of you.
Readers do not know that you exist.
That can change, but for now, you have to know the truth. You have to face the stark reality that you're not famous, you don't have a cult following, and you're not a New York Times bestseller, yet.
One of the biggest obstacles for indie and small press authors to overcome is finding readers. You may have a great book cover, and your prose may be razor sharp, but lets face it, you are one in a million. Hundreds of thousands of books are published every year, and as a new/newer author, it's not likely that readers will search your name or title.
Depressing isn't it? Well, it can be, if you're subject to resignation. But if you are the type of person who sees an obstacle as an opportunity, you may have what it takes to climb out of the literary abyss and into the public arena.
The problem with publishing is that unless you have a platform, or a method to reach out to readers, you are like a grain of sand on the beach. People will walk on you all day long, but never know you're there. If you publish on Amazon, your book is thrown into the ocean of ebooks and will splash around until readers start buying. When they purchase your book, it'll stay close to shore where other readers can see it. But if you don't plan for a beach party upon publication, your book will drift off to sea and eventually end up in the south pacific, stranded on a lifeless island. 
If you publish on Barnes & Noble's Pubit!, iTunes, or Smashwords, it's even harder to get noticed because the sheer weight of new books will push you deeper into the water.
So what can you do? What does it take to lift your book above the crowd and get the notoriety you deserve? Good question. When I have the secret formula, I'll bottle it and sell it to ya for a thousand dollars per ounce. Until then, it helps to know that you are not being flat out rejected by the world, but rather, unseen. Understand that, and embrace it. Knowledge goes a long way when you are problem solving. Don't take it personally. Accept your reality and work to improve your position in the crowd.
You need to figure out how you're going to be an author that readers recognize. You have to build a platform. You have to brand yourself. You have to go into the big world, put on a pair of stilts and start shouting, "Hey, everyone, look over here! I write suspense novels with jaw-dropping twists. Anyone interested?" When you do that, someone will turn around and say yes. If you wrote a good book, they might recommend it to someone else. They could also write a review and encourage others to buy. But don't stop there. You have to keep walking clumsily through the crowd, hand selling your work to readers, bloggers, and reviewers everywhere. 
If you're no good with stilts, try the trapeze. If that doesn't work, hop on a unicycle or put on a clown suit. You may not get it right the first time around, but with a little trial and error, you'll discover what works and what doesn't. Just remember, what works for me may not work for you. I'm a lion tamer and that's somewhat daunting to the vast majority, so I wouldn't recommend it. Besides, you could lose your head.
Getting noticed, especially when you only have one book published, can be a slow process, more so if you are not actively building your platform. The truth is, there is no quick answer to growing an audience. Building an author brand/platform takes time, it takes multiple books and it takes creativity. 
If you look at the top right-hand side of this blog, you'll notice that I recently hit four-hundred followers. I'm excited about that because several months ago I didn't think I'd reach one hundred. Four hundred looks like a lot, but there are other blogs with a whole lot more subscribers than I have. There is always a bigger duck in the pond. But don't compare yourself to anyone else. Take an honest assessment of where you are and chart a realistic course that will keep the wind to your back, blowing you toward shore where the readers are. You might hit a sand bar on occasion, but that's okay. Authors wearing clown suits, splashing around in the ocean are likely to get a little attention.

~ Jeff Bennington, author of Reunion, an Amazon bestselling supernatural thriller.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

An Excerpt from a Chapter of My Life

I've never been one to share the details of my life. I'm quiet. I'm shy. I tend to withdraw when life gets tense. If you met me for the first time, you'd never guess that. You'd never profile me as a serial thinker. In fact, I'm pretty good at acting dumb, while packing mental heat at the same time.

It's not the best way to live, bottled up feelings and all. I get that.

Today, I'm breaking the mold. I'm breaking the ice. I'm going to share with you what it's like to be me. I'm going to write an excerpt from my life.

To begin with, my wife and I have four children, ages 16, 14, 12, and 10 (3 boys and 1 girl). We have been married for almost twenty years and are still dating. I take her out twice a week. As you can imagine, my wife needs to have adult time. We both do. We home educate all four of our kids, including two other boys who we've sort of adopted. Our life, as you can imagine is full of odd smells, loud noises, wrestlemania and food… lots of food and dirty dishes.

My wife is an amazing person. She works extremely hard, is a wonderful teacher, mother and friend. She takes on the brunt of our craziness.

I, on the other hand, am a writer. My mind is occupied with a million dreams. I think of new ways to create characters and twisty tales and how to package those ideas into something coherent. I have two blogs to manage. I wake up in the night and jot down my nightmares, or write a blog post to relieve some of the mental pressure. Sometimes, if I wake up to get a drink, I'll pick up my phone and check my sales when I should be sleeping.


Don't get me wrong, I make every effort to spend time with each of my kids every day, asking them questions and listening to them, putting my arm around them, and observing their growth and silly, sweet things that they say. But sometimes I let this writing thing, this platform building stuff get out of hand. Sometimes I think it's too much. Sometimes I want to unplug it all and never look back. On occasion, the best thing to do in this hectic writer life of mine is to just grab an xBox controller and play call of duty for a couple of hours with my 12-year old son.

If you're a writer working a day job, and you want to be involved with your family, I'm sure you understand the pull. It's very powerful. The force will wear you down if you let it. And to be honest, I'm teetering on the brink of to-the-bone wear down. I've been feeding The Kindle Book Review Miracle Grow, I just released Twisted Vengeance a month and a half ago, and I'm about to embark on the release of The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe. That's two books in two months.

That's too much.

I'm not complaining. I know what I'm doing. I manage my time and make every moment count, but doing so takes so much focus that it's physically and emotionally draining. Strange thing is, I think I thrive on the madness.

That's me. That's my life.

Now it's your turn.

Are you familiar with the insanity? If you're new to indie publishing, let me warn you; as rewarding as it can be, writing and everything that goes with it can consume you. Indie publishing has the potential to occupy your mind like moss on a fallen timber, slowly enveloping your mind until you and the soil below are one.

It's the nature of the beast. It's a mental thing. It's a monster thing.

Fortunately, writing blog posts like this remind me that I am the ruler of this animal, and why I've had this longstanding love affair with the trade. The beast is mine to control even when I've lost my grip of the leash. His teeth may sink into my flesh and begin tearing, but I can always break its neck with my words and a few quick strokes of my pen.

So there you go; I've bared my soul and spilled my guts. I'm weak. I'm faulted. I'm a writer.

~Jeff Bennington
Bestselling author of Reunion, Twisted Vengeance & Creepy
Look for my forthcoming non-fiction, The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Writing the First Line

Does your first line grab your reader's attention and never let go? Do your readers get hooked immediately? Or are you losing readers because the beginning of your book is dull and slow moving?

Today I'm posting another excerpt from The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe called Writing the First Line. But before you read on, here are a few of the other topics that you'll read in this book:
  • How to build a blog tour
  • Choosing your printing press
  • Your role as marketer
  • Your role as publisher
  • Author Blogging
  • How to build an author platform
  • Selling and price-point strategies
  • How to make the best use of KDP Select Promotions
  • Daily motivation 
  • Tips from bestselling indie authors

Writing the First Line

Be original. Think oustide the box in order to raise eyebrows with your promotions.  The quality of your writing will take over from there.
~ Richard Bard, Brain Rush & Brain Rush II

As an author I’ve learned that the most important part of any book is the first few words, the first line, and of course the first paragraph and chapter. If I can’t bait a reader with my prose and hook their attention from the beginning, I might as well pack up my writing gear and head for the hills. In the world of literature where thousands of books are published every day, readers have an abundance of choices and mine is one of many, like a solitary vapor swirling over Niagara Falls. 
If I can’t grab a reader from the very beginning and get them excited about my story, I might as well fahgetaboutit.
Once I’m into the story, and parts of speech start flying like trimmed shrubbery, I can install new chapters for hours at a time. But when it’s all said and over with, it’s the beginning that I come back to. It’s the first impression, and perhaps my only opportunity to get a reader interested. 
The beginning has to be perfect. 
It has to be compelling and it has to attack with bear-trap-like strength.
In a May 14, 2004 issue of psychology today, Carlin Flora states that, “Our brains form first impressions by creating a composite of all the signals given off by a new experience.” When someone reads my work, they are entering into a new experience, a new world with my name stamped on it. I want their first impression to be, “Wow! This is good,” and then keep reading.
When Bill and Hillary Clinton discuss how they met at Yale's law library, they tell how after staring and flirting with each other Hillary finally walked up to Bill and said, "Look, if you're going to keep staring at me, and I'm going to keep staring back, we might as well be introduced. I'm Hillary Rodham. What's your name?" It’s said that Bill couldn't remember his name, but that’s another story.
From an artist’s perspective, I want you to remember my name: Jeff Bennington, the guy who writes incredibly engaging thrillers with knock-your-socks-off twists and turns. From a business perspective, I need you to remember my name. And that’s why I work so hard on the first line.
To demonstrate what I’m talking about, I’ll show you a few of my first lines from my novels, lines that I hope will nudge you to the next paragraph and to the next chapter and finally to the very end.
• • •
The first paragraph from Reunion:

David Ray stood in front of his mirror, dressed to kill. I look good, he thought, like the real deal, like a real killer. He narrowed his eyes, grit his teeth and unfolded his checklist. Sharp blades of black hair dangled in front of his face, covering the brownish rings that encircled his eyes. He peered at his scribbled writing and read the list as he felt his insides tense with hatred.

The first paragraph from Twisted Vengeance:

Detective Rick Burns raced into the upscale Indianapolis neighborhood, slammed on the brakes and stepped out of his rusty red Pontiac. He peered into the night and watched the crowd gather, took a deep breath and prayed to God that this murder would not be like the others. The heaviness, the blood and the darkness had finally pricked its sharp edge into his soul.

The first paragraph from Federal Underground (Coming 2012):

My legs strained up the dark and musty mineshaft as I ran from the depths of the federal underground. My left hand scraped the rocky edges, caking my fingernails with dirt and decades of filth. Every step I took injected a cold burn into my lungs; every breath thrust me beyond the point of exhaustion and terror. My red jump suit smelled of the world below and clung to my skin, wet and ragged. I stopped running for a moment, sucked in a life-giving inhalation and rested my body on the earthen wall. I tried to forget, but the images were too strong, too frightening to escape.
• • •
In my opinion, and in the opinion of the authors and editors who have taught me how to weave a harrowing tale, an author must place the reader directly in the heart of the action. Some authors spread out the details of setting and back story like a picnic blanket, the foundation on which the main course will be enjoyed.  In the case of thrillers and suspense, however, I prefer action.
My goal as a thriller writer is to throw the reader into a story that screams, “What is going on here? Why is David Ray dressed to kill? What is Detective Burns about to get himself into? What is the federal underground and what did he see there? Questions need answered, and I find that if the first few lines have a compelling character with adequate tension, a reader will want to discover the answers. Besides, if I can not get you interested in reading beyond page one, why even bother with the rest of the book?
The beginning of a novel is that important to me.
After all, If I’m going ask you to give me money and dedicate hours of your precious time into my words, they better be good, especially the first line. 

~Jeff Bennington, bestselling author of Reunion, Twisted Vengeance and Creepy

Friday, January 13, 2012

How Ghosts Have Helped My Writing Career

I am very proud to say that I have 3 ghost stories in Amazon's TOP 100 ghost category. What's even better, they are all in the top 20 at the time of this writing. A couple of weeks ago, Reunion held the #1 spot for over a week Twisted Vengeance and Creepy came close at different times. If you like ghost stories, they are all 99¢ right now.

In honor of this occasion, I'm going to post one of my ghost stories, which is also an excerpt from my soon to be released non-fiction, The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe. Enjoy the read.

How Ghosts Have Helped My Writing Career
“No tears in the writer. No tears in the reader.
No surprise in the writer. No surprise in the reader." ~Robert Frost,Sentiments of Blake Crouch, Best selling author of Abandon and Serial

The night crept upon me like a shadow. The house was quiet and I felt the need to listen to ELO, a pop culture group that dates me but that I'm proud to say I knew well. I slipped away from my family and headed downstairs where my oldest brother's turntable sat, crying out for me to spin a sheet of vinyl under its melodic needle.
I placed the album on the record player, gingerly avoiding discovery. If I had scratched any of my brother's albums, I would've surely died. I knew that. I had learned the hard way. I had the bruises to prove it.
Mr. Blue Sky started drumming hip quarter notes and I hid under big brother's bed, feet tucked into sticky cobwebs and my hands under my chin, basking in the glory of big bro's collection of soul food... music from the 70's and 80's. The room was dark of course; I had to keep a low profile less I be found out and quickly dragged outside where I'd receive a proper thumping.
Our home was a typical tri-level from the 70's. I lay at the bottom, the rear, the caboose, the small room in the basement on the backside with a convenient set of double doors that frequently allowed us boys to escape late in the night.
I was in keyboard heaven, loving the solitude, taking in the soul food.
My eyes adjusted to the darkness that filled the room and everything took on a navy-blue sheen.
Looking straight ahead, daydreaming, as usual, something caught my attention. The adjacent room had been vacant and black. No one had entered or exited for the twenty minutes or more that I had been down there… until the shadow moved.
I lifted my eyes to see a form step out of the darkness. A full-bodied figure silently walked in front me looking forward and then abruptly turned to the right, staring down at me. There were no eyes, no face, no teeth glimmering in the darkness. The figure was made of midnight and quiet as the morning. He took another step and his body faded into eternity.
I felt cold. My heart raced. I swallowed a lump of fear so thick I nearly choked.
The music continued, Mr. Blue Sky ended, followed by Turn to Stone, which I did. I shivered as if I had been dumped in a vat of ice. I waited to hear the figure call to me, to come back, but it didn't. It had already left my world.
I tried to make sense of what had happened. I tried to convince myself that it wasn't real. But I couldn't hide from the truth; I had seen a ghost; a real G-H-O-S-T. He appeared and vanished out of thin air, lost as it were, between where he should've been and where I lay.
The realization scared the bejeepers out of me and I bolted out from under the bed, rounded the corner and raced upstairs where big brother and mom and dad sat in the living room watching a re-run of Three's Company.
I plopped down on the couch next to my mom. The color returned to my skin, but my heart continued throbbing under my ribs. I never told a soul until recently. And now you are one of the privileged few.
• • •
Looking back on that day, I've concluded that experiences like this make writing enjoyable for me. Understanding fear allows me to communicate what my characters feel and in some way, what I have felt during the creepiest of circumstances. I have a firm belief that what we see with our eyes is not all there is.
There's more to this life than living and dying. There's more to this life than laughing and crying. If you don't believe me, ask anyone who's had the privilege of tasting the afterlife. There's dark and there's light. When I die I want to see the light. I don't think eternal darkness and wandering would be all that enjoyable.
All to say, it's no wonder I've chosen to write about the supernatural. Doesn't everyone see dead people? They're everywhere.
What do you see? What has inspired you? What gives you the chills? These are the things that you should write about. Just don’t start until after you’ve read this book. 

Thanks for reading. Follow The Bomb by email to stay up to date on the release of 
The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe. ~ Jeff Bennington

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Secret of the Master Novelist.

The following post is an excerpt of my new book, The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe, coming February 2012.

The Indie Author’s Guide to the Universe is meant to help any author whether he or she is traditionally or self-published. This book will encourage those who travel through the easily discouraging planetary system we call publishing. It also includes tips and quotes from best selling indie authors like Scott Nicholson, Blake Crouch, Joanna Penn, Saffina Desforges and more. I'll keep you posted on the exact release date.

Secrets of the Master Novelist

“To be successful, you have to be an entrepreneur and treat your books as products.
Stop thinking of yourself as just an author. Those days are long gone.”
~ Ann Charles, Deadwood Mystery Series

Like many people, I’ve had multiple occupations in my life, scrounging through positions like a dumpster-diver, digging for the secret to my soul. I’d go to work and think about writing a book some day. Then a few years later, I’d think about it again. Sometimes I felt inspired to write a few songs or poems, but determined that I had experienced a chemical imbalance, melancholy blues, or lack of vitamin D. That was probably an accurate diagnosis, but the point is, I never noticed the red flags flying, waving, snapping their thunderous threads, clapping for my attention.
The red flags had a message. And if you could’ve analyzed my life, and examined the evidence, you might’ve noticed that I was on the wrong track.
I didn’t see it. 
I was too busy with my fledgling attempts at success to hear the call. I had strapped on a pair of fulfillment-blinders and kept my gaze firmly fixed on that which left me passionless. I was spiritually self-medicating on a false perception of what life was meant to be and who I was. I didn’t know that I was a writer. I didn’t know, although I suspected that God had gifted me in that area. Yet I had never experienced the level of satisfaction one gets when transposing his thoughts and dreams into a full-length novel.
Oh sure, I enjoyed writing college papers and telling my kids absorbing bedtime stories, but that was different. That was business. That was just being a dad.
That was also my ignorance.
I was clueless about what it meant to be a writer until sometime in 2007’ish. I’ll save you the gory details about what I’ve penned since then, because at this point, only three of those works are even worthy of discussion. However, I will tell you this; my literary reviews cover the full gamut from, “This is the best thing since bottled spring water!” to “Poor writing skills...One Star...YOU SUCK!”
Most writers can relate to the pain and joys of writing, a craft that can never be perfected, at least not in the eyes of the author. The way I see it, the craft of writing requires diligent study, loads of reading, thick skin, saint-like humility, and a consistent routine. But there is one secret that the master-craftsmen never reveal. It’s a secret that’s been kept in literary vaults since Moses locked the Ten Commandments into the Arc of the Covenant.
What’s the secret?
The secret of a master novelist is that writing, as in good writing, has nothing to do with money, it has nothing to do with an author platform, snagging an agent or getting that elusive contract. The secret every would-be, aspiring, want-to-make-it-someday author needs to know is simple; if you don’t love it, if you don’t drink literature by the gallons, if you can’t enjoy sitting still, dreaming, rewriting, plotting, taking criticism, breathing life into a new character and feeling absolutely passionate about your words and what they mean to no one else but yourself, you will never know how excellent you can be.
In my opinion, writing has less to do with the skill of carving stories out of words, and more to do with the love of the sculpture, including the pieces of stone that crumble to the ground.

~ Jeff Bennington, best selling author of Reunion, Twisted Vengeance & Creepy

Follow The Writing Bomb by email (top right) and let me know if my new book sounds interesting to you. Comment & visit often. And if you can spare a dime, buy one of my novels.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

An Authors Guide to the Almighty 3% Rule

If you've been in business for an extended period of time, you've probably heard about the 3% Rule. If you're an author, you'll definitely want to get a handle on this treasured tool that businesses of all kinds have used as a measuring stick of their success.

As an author I have a bad habit of reading my reviews. I probably shouldn't, but it is what it is. I take my words very seriously and personally, so when I read a review that is singing my praises I feel good. Knowing that my work had struck a chord with a reader means everything to me. Conversely, when I read a review that more or less bashes my work, I take it personally. Yeah, yeah, I know, literature is subjective, to each his own, blah blah blah. I've heard it before and have probably written it even more. But bad reviews are still a bit cutting to me. I didn't work that hard on a book that hundreds loved, just to be told that it wasn't worth $1 by a few. Really? A buck? Who says that? What kind of person---?

Anyway, Back to The 3% Rule.

As an author, indie or otherwise, you need to understand statistics. There's a rule that has rolled into common business practices called the three percent rule. This rule says that out of 100 customers, there will always be an average of 3% who are never happy, never satisfied, inconsiderate, lawsuit happy, etc.

Businesses use the 3% rule to determine when it's okay to let customers go, as in drop them from their mailing list, or to determine if they are doing something wrong. In other words, the closer their customer satisfaction rate is to 97%, the better they are doing. The further away they are from 97% satisfaction, there is a greater chance that they need to make some changes.

How does this apply to authors? Simple. Authors can use this rule to determine if their book is actually a quality product, or if it needs another round of edits, re-write, etc. Also, if you have a quality product, you don't have to take your bad reviews as personally, because you can trust that 3% of your reviews are trash worthy.

This is a statistical fact. Look it up. Good to know, huh? I thought so anyway.

So here's the deal. I took a look at Reunion, did the math, and discovered that out of 79 reviews, 70 were good to great, and nine were okay to bad. Now here's how the math works. To determine the TRUE level of customer satisfaction, you automatically throw out 3% of the bad reviews. That's right. Pitch 'em. Lose 'em. Get 'em out of your head forever. They don't count. They are the same people who live miserable lives, make everyone around them miserable and wouldn't have it any other way. Their bad review is simply a reflection of themselves.

I bet you're feeling good about yourself now, huh? Good. You should.

Anyway, Once you know the true level of dissatisfied customers, you can discover the actual quality of your product or service.

I can feel fairly confident that some of those reviewers simply picked a genre that doesn't fit their interest or got something different then what they expected. In fact, those stats are a pretty good indicator that I did a damn good job.

On a side note, I will mention that of that half of the bad reviews came after I hit The Amazon Top 100, thereby getting a much higher level of exposure. After doing a little investigation, I found that most of the reviewers who gave Reunion bad marks did not have any other reviews to their credit. Not one. They talked about how many books they've read, but they didn't have a single review, except mine.

Do you see me scratching my head? I've chatted with other bestselling indie authors and they had a similar experience. We call those reviewers "The One Hit Wonders" because they hit and run. This happens all too often.

Not sure about you, but that seemed a bit questionable to me. Made me wonder if there are peeps out there seeking indie authors, spying out free, 99¢, and $2.99 books by no name authors and targeting them, to squash the indie movement. Just a thought. But I'm moving on.

WARNING: Never, ever, ever, comment on a bad review that you receive. That is bad form. Remain silent, bite your tongue, and then smile and wave. My #1 rule of author PR:  Stay as far away from drama and negativity as possible. Learn it. Live it. If you get a bad review, bite your tongue; it's comes with the territory.

All to say, the 3% rule is a great tool to help you take an honest look at your work and the value it brings to the ebook market place. If your average customer satisfaction is bordering on the 80% and under, you might want to take a good hard look at what you're doing wrong. And I'll be honest, I do listen to my reviewers, because they can have valid complaints as well as compliments.

No matter which way the wind blows your reader response, I hope the 3% rule helps you get a handle on your quality. And I wish you the very best of success in 2012. If you need any help with your books, check out my author services page. I do a few things that can make your life a bit easier. Also, watch for my soon to be released book, The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe.

~Jeff Bennington best selling author of Reunion, Twisted Vengeance & Creepy

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Indie Authors: Past and Present

In the not so distant past, indie authors were all about print books, and in some circles they still are. Back in the day (as in what seems like yesterday) we had to write our book, get it printed and then hand sell that puppy to any chain store or mom and pop outfit that was kind enough to put our books on consignment.

That is so yesterday.

If you are venturing into the wide world of self-publishing, and plan to get your book in stores I would urge you to stop. Please stop. You are wasting valuable energy. The phone calls, the Saturdays wasted on "Self-pubbed" book signings that at most sell a dozen copies must end. You are wasting time, and losing money—lots of money.

Independent authors need to understand something, and this is my opinion based on my experience; print books have made a turn. They, as in your books, only want to see your family, friends, reviewers who have bad eyes, and that occasional peep who can't seem to get over their love for the smell of paper.

Your book wants to be in print, but only for the chosen few, and, so you can hold it in your hand. After that, it doesn't ever want to see you again. It wants to be free. It wants to see the world. It wants to drink tea in the UK and walk under the Eiffel Tower and visit as many German breweries as possible. That's what your book wants.

You are not the Olsen twins or Ozzie or Justin Biber.  You will not be welcomed into the chain stores with fanfare and raving fans (save a few). You are the guy behind the little desk with a stack of books in front of you, instead of in your reader’s hands. ~~~>>>>

Today's book has matured. It has grown up and wants to be free from your clutches.

Surely you remember your youthful desire to get away from your parents and see the world, see new places and meet interesting people? Well that's what your book wants. It's part of a new generation and the idea of sitting on a shelf collecting dust is no longer appealing to his or her kind. It needs the energy and bolt of confidence that comes through the Internet and Amazon's Whispernet technology. Your book wants and deserves readers by the thousands. And what parent would give his child a serpent when she asks for a loaf of bread? What parent would give their daughter poison when she asks for a drink of water?

We are clearly in a new age. My computer experienced the Internet for the first time is 2001, but all of my kids are growing up in a time when the Internet is commonplace. Ebooks are likewise going to become commonplace. Print, in my opinion, will not disappear, but will fade into the shadows.

If you are still working at trying to get your books in stores, I applaud you, but only because I admire your love for the printed book. Seriously, there is something about paper that is alluring to me as well. But from one author to another, I believe your time is better spent writing more and selling online.

If the business of selling ebooks is new to you, let me bring you up to speed. Unknown, independent authors, like myself, are selling thousands and tens of thousands of copies of our digital books. Gone are days when a good book signing churned out ten copies and an order for six more. Things have seriously changed. And I hope you get on board soon. If you do, I can help you get on the ship and start sailing, but I’ll warn you, the sea is rough, dangerous, turbulent and most of all an adventure like no other.
• • •
Less than a year and a half ago I sat in a writer's conference in Indianapolis and listened to a panel of experts in the local writing community go silent on ebooks unless directly asked by a member of the audience. When asked about epublishing, the pros avoided the topic as if knowledge on the subject would stain their careers. They were clueless and many still are. This post may not make you an expert on “indie publishing” but it will keep you from looking like a fool when talking ebook shop.

Do not listen to the traditionalists unless you are dead set on getting published traditionally by a major or small press. I don't have a problem with someone going down that road. We all have a right to choose our own path. But if you desire to go the indie route, know this; you will likely sell one print copy for every thousand ebooks (my personal experience). I'm not talking about the first 200 print copies that are a shoe in from Aunt Bessie and Uncle Vern. No, I'm talking about that reader in Nebraska who hasn't heard of a Kindle or Nook for every thousand who have.

The publishing business has changed. Indie authors need to think differently, faster, and stay on top of technology. We need to write the best stories we can, get them edited and get a great cover and get them out the door formatted for mobi and ePub. We need to consistently churn out great reads and stop wasting time with the traditional methods. That's how we make money. That's how we stay in business. And that's how we get read.

Time is a valuable commodity. Use it well. I recommend joining Amazon Select (at the time of this writing), staying ahead of the curve and welcoming technology with open arms, because the picture I've painted regarding the publishing business is likely to change sooner rather than later. If you don't move with the waves, you will be left on shore... on a very hot, sandy beach that will leave you parched and sun burned.

**All this from an indie author who’s gone from “no name” to “Amazon Best Seller” within nine months of deciding that I would do this on my own instead of listening to people who ONLY want my money. If you truly care about your success as an author and you don't want to wait around for that perfect agent or perfect publisher who want to take all but 8% of YOUR royalties on something YOU created, than take heed, listen to me, write more, go indie, and sell. I'm here to help.

Look for my soon to be released book, The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe.

Jeff Bennington is the best selling author of Reunion, Twisted Vengeance & Creepy
True Ghost Stories