F.A.T.E: From Authors to Entrepreneurs

 

What is F.A.T.E, you ask? It’s our first collaboration and the first of its kind, as far as we know. 🙂

F.A.T.E: From Authors to Entrepreneurs encompasses excitement, exhilaration, doubt, fear–all the rollercoaster human emotions mangled together during the process of not only launching a debut novel, but a new publishing company at the same time. It ain’t all fun and games for sanity. Definitely no picnic, either.

Learn about Stephanie cussing me out when I questioned the edits of one particular sentence; Omar’s concerns of his first book marketing plan; my perpetual battle against the Sandman, re-writing and re-writing and more freakin’ re-writing into the wee hours under a strict deadline; and the three of us struggling and juggling our managing partner roles as we tried to figure out the intricacies of a publishing company, like a new website, social media, legal matters (partnership or LLC?), printer selection, distribution, ISBNs, edits, typesetting, bookkeeping, taxes, seed money, travel costs, networking, e-books…

My head hurts already, but yes, the list goes on. This is not your typical “how-to” book; it’s more of a behind-the-scenes reality show from the moment we conceived the idea of a publishing company to the realization of a dream at an Atlanta book conference, written from the unique perspectives of the author (me); editor (Stephanie); and marketing expert (Omar). Like our own collaborative diary.

If you want a FREE copy of F.A.T.E: From Authors to Entrepreneurs, a chance at a $150 Amazon gift AND all four of our company’s previous e-books, just take about 5 minutes to complete a survey at this link: http://bit.ly/JLejoz.

Our tagline encapsulates everything F.A.T.E is about: Three Minds. One Mission. No Limits.

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Into the New Year…

Well …

I didn’t meet my NaNo goal by the end of November. Matter of fact, I was about … um … 44,000 words short, BUT! I have a valid excuse. I’d mentioned if I didn’t finish 50,000 words by November 30, I suck monkey balls; however, I’m in grad school right now and at the same time of the NaNo marathon, I had a major research paper due by Dec 6th at 5:00pm. I submitted that beeyotch of a paper at 4:45. Yup, fifteen minutes to spare. So, most of my energy went into writing this paper than my NaNo. As much as I wanted to get to 50,000 words in my new novel, NaNo ain’t gonna give me that grade I need for the next semester. Oh, well. I’ll aim for April to have Tangled Web completed.

On another note…

As of this writing F.A.T.E: From Authors To Entrepreneurs is in the typesetting stage (yay!). We should have it ready to go in a week or so. Read about all the behind-the-scenes soap opera mess of writing and launching a debut novel, from the perspectives of the writer (me), marketing expert (Omar) and editor (Stephanie). Oh, buddy! If you haven’t launched a novel yet and want to see what it’s like–all the while establishing a new publishing company with two other people (dra-ma!)–this is the book for you.

If you want a free copy, contact us at pantheoncollective@gmail.com. Into the new year, our goal is to have our first collaboration and three new books from each of us. Can we do it?

We will see…

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NaNo and F.A.T.E In Our Own Hands

Earlier this month, I hopped onboard the NaNo bandwagon, hoping to jump-start my latest novel TANGLED WEB. So far, I’ve … oh, if you don’t know, NaNo is short for National Novel Writing Month, an initiative where thousands of writers pump themselves up to write their novels in November. The goal is at least 50,000 words before November 30th.

The good news is I’ve been writing more, especially since so many other writers are “NaNo-ized,” which inspires me to light a fire under these fingers so I can blaze the keyboard like my fellow scribes. And yet, The bad news is my daily word count. Pathetic. Paltry. Sucky. I probably average 250 words a day–way below the recommended 1700 word count, which by November 30th, at that rate would put you well over the 50,000-word mark. But, damn, I’ll be happy with half at 25,000 words. And I started this journey with a ” credit” of 7,279 words, so I really only need about 18,000 more. Definitely doable. If I don’t reach 25,000 words, I suck monkey balls.

You’re a writer, James! Kick your ass in gear!

Well, at least I wrote this blog at 3a.m. That’s what real writers do, stay up deep into the AM hours, fighting sleep at the desk. Sleep always wins. I’m nodding off right now, but dang it I’m pushing through it.

On another note, our first book collaboration–“our” includes me, Stephanie Casher, and Omar Luqmaan-Harris, my business partners–will drop (hopefully) in early December. It’s called F.A.T.E: FROM AUTHORS TO ENTREPRENEURS and it details our journey as a small business, from the first seed planted for a new publishing company, to the launch of our debut novel SELLOUT. Learn about my brief stint as a rapper. Stephanie cussing me out during one of our power summits. Omar’s concern about the first marketing plan. The doubts, the fights, good, bad, ugly–its all in there. You’ll be reading our diary, like an author version of a reality show behind the scenes, from December 2009 to the present.

If you want to know about the up’s and down’s of starting a publishing business while trying to launch a book under a strict six-month deadline–from the point-of-views of the debut author (me), editor (Stephanie), and marketing expert (Omar)–this book is for you. We have our defined roles, but during the initial stages of The Pantheon Collective,  best believe we changed business hats as often as underwear.

How would you like a FREE e-copy of F.A.T.E when it launches? Just email pantheoncollective@gmail.com to get on our mailing list and we’ll shoot one to ya! 🙂 In the meantime, November 30th is fast-approaching, so I need to jump back on the NaNo bandwagon before it leaves me behind.

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The Hustle Continues…

I admit, I haven’t been the greatest at posting blogs. I looked at my website today and was like,”Dang, I haven’t written a blog in a while. I should let everyone know what’s going on with J Willy!”

The skinny: Since my last blog, I started graduate school at SJSU, working on a Masters in Exercise Physiology (kicking my ass sumn’ proper, too). I’m also working two jobs as a personal trainer and boot camp instructor, helping a variety of people reach their fitness and health goals. It’s all hard work, but I’m lovin’ it! Check out my personal trainer bio here.

Considering the to-do’s on my daily schedule have mashed and cut into my free time, I now take advantage of portable technology to squeeze in blogs and chapters for my work-in-progress Tangled Web whenever I can get it in. That means while standing in line at Subway for a 12-inch cold cut sandwich, eating said sandwich in the food court, waiting on my car for an oil change, walking to and from classes, waiting on a client, etc. For these short spaces of extra time, I’ve introduced a new habit: Writing via my iPhone’s notepad. Smart phone texting is like a 21st century typewriter on-the-go, perfectly designed for hustle-and-bustle people like me. I’m five chapters into my new novel and at least 60% of it came solely from my thumb and an itty-bitty touchscreen. Works for me, but it’s not for everyone. And I’m sure I’m slowly working my way toward some type of thumb-related carpel tunnel, so I try to scale back a bit, but hell, I typed this entire blog with one thumb! Pretty impressive, huh?

If graduate studies, two jobs, and a new novel isn’t enough, my partners and I are finishing up our first collaboration entitled F.A.T.E: From Authors To Entrepreneurs, our memoir-ish look at publishing our first novel Sellout, spoken from the point-of-view of the editor (Stephanie Casher), marketer (Qwantu Amaru), and author (me!). I think people will enjoy  reading what happened behind the scenes prior to book launch (from January 2010 and beyond). The good, the bad, the ugly–it’s all in there. Like a VH1 reality show in a book.

I hope to finish Tangled Web before the end of the year, but that’s ambitious as hell. I have homework, constant readings, F.A.T.E to edit, projects to finish, exams to study for, exercise routines to design … sheesh. It’s going to be a rough semester.

But on another note…

My second novel A Hard Man is Good To Find is approaching 10,000 sales! Only have 300 to go! Last week, I held a BookBub promotion and it more than delivered. I sold nearly 1,000 copies in two days (yeah, for real. Authors, you need to get up on the BookBub train!). But will it reach 10,000 before the end of the year as its sister Sellout? Hell, the real question is will I pass my classes and finish F.A.T.E while maintaining two freakin’ jobs? Need to keep my head above water. We shall see. Stay tuned…

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Tips for Targeting Your Audience

Way too often, new authors go through all the trouble of writing, editing, typesetting, then publishing a book–but have no idea how and where to sell it.

They ask, “I just published my third novel. How do I sell it?”

Uh-oh. It’s too late to ask such a question. An author should know his or her audience long before the novel hits the street. It’s like this: Everyone won’t read your book. Not targeting a particular group is like throwing darts at a swarm of flies, hoping to stick one.

Analogy alert: Serious fishermen know fish and how to catch ‘em. They know the best season of the year, time of day, right temperature, specific locations, the right bait to use, and best equipment to catch the most fish–more so than the novice Joe Schmoe who just wings up, hoping to snag something. Yeah, Joe Schmoe may catch a few snappers, but the true “Fish Heads” will return home with a seafood buffet in a bucket. Why? Because the Fish Head did his homework. Joe Schmoe didn’t.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, as the author, you’re the fisherman who’s trying to hook as many “fish” as possible–the readers.

Many new authors just don’t ask themselves two important questions when trying to sell their books: 1) Who’s my audience and 2) how do I reach them?

Answering those questions is not as hard as you think. However, to get the answers to those broad questions, you’ll have to ask additional questions that are more focused. What’s your book’s genre? Who reads this genre? What’s your typical reader’s profession? Relationship status? Where do they live? What kind of books do they read? Where do they buy their books? Are they on social media?

Focused questions help you target your audience–the people most likely to read your book. It’s probably not a good idea to promote an erotica novella to a group of people who normally read children’s books.

You can also ask focused questions about the book itself, like what city is the book based in? Or what’s the main character’s profession? If your book is a murder mystery involving a magician who lives in Seattle, you’ve already narrowed down two categories of potential readers–magicians and Seattle book clubs. I’ve found that some readers love reading books based in the city they live in. And just about every profession has a regional, statewide, and/or national organization an author could target (i.e., The International Brotherhood of Magicians).

Once you identify the specific group who are interested in your book’s genre, you’ll need to know how to reach them. My first book SELLOUT is about the struggles of interracial dating from the perspectives of three individuals, so my partners and I came up with a game plan to target individuals in interracial relationships, which, actually, wasn’t that hard.

For example, I’m engaged in several Facebook groups for interracial couples, participating in relationship topics (they often get heated, too); I’ve published essays in online journals that focus on subjects related to race; have done radio interviews on interracial dating; and even received a written review for Sellout from a student who conducted a panel on interracial dating at a local university. I’ve also targeted book clubs and book bloggers who read my novel’s genre.

If you do research BEFORE your book launches by narrowing your audience, you won’t feel like Mr. Joe Schmoe the clueless fisherman, hoping to get lucky with no set plan on how to catch ’em. Fish don’t just jump on the boat. You need to know what kind of fish are biting and the right bait and equipment to use, THEN know how to get to them.

Dang, now I want a Red Snapper sandwich!

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50 Reasons Why My Debut Novel Sold 10,000 Copies! (Final)

Before Launch

After Launch (pocket-burning)

After Launch (free to low-cost)

Misc

41. Previous publishing credits: Long before I wrote my first novel, I published short stories online, mostly for critique. Timbooktu got the creative juices boiling, and I credit them for jump-starting the path I’m on now. Some made it into local print media for free; others on a national level with pay. My biggest paydays came from an erotica anthology by New York Times-bestselling author Zane and two Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Every now and then I’ll stumble on an ancient piece of writing from over ten years ago. A few old pieces link to my website (I first purchased my domain in early 2003). I was building a platform before I knew the definition of a platform.

42. Automated Newsletter: You can create a quick newsletter with Paper.li that does all the work for you. Similar to Google Alerts, all you do is select a topic, write keywords related to that topic, choose media sources (Twitter, Facebook, Google), how often you want it to post and boom! Instant newsletter with the latest 411. Pretty easy. My KDP Select News newsletter posts daily via Twitter and email with the latest “news,” usually current blogs from other authors that have tried (or trying) KDP Select. If a new tweet contains one of my keywords or hashtags (i.e., “#kdpselect”) the newsletter links that tweet and hashtags the author. Or it may find a recent post on Google and Facebook. When notified via Twitter, authors often thank me for including their blog. Then they follow me and sometimes retweet my newsletter. KDP Select News has my bio, including my two novels and website link.

43. Being male: Book clubs are mostly comprised of women. No matter the book of the month, what often becomes the number one topic when a bunch of women get together, often fueled by some alcoholic beverage? Yup, you already know—the weaker sex. Not many men write in the multicultural fiction genre, either, so that alone helps me with book club invites (I’ve found women like to get male opinions on relationships in particular, with “why do men do such-and-such” type of questions). Sometimes, I feel like the sole spokesperson for the male species when blasted with questions from ten to fifteen women. Also, three of the four main characters from my two novels are female, so I know a few readers who have purchased the book purely out of curiosity to see how I handled the female voice. From the reviews, I think I got it a right (thanks to my female editors, of course!).

44. Controversial topic: Yes, race relations have improved, but interracial dating, especially between blacks and whites, is still taboo for some—not so much for black women and white men, though, (think the show Scandal), but the other way around. Cheerios ran a commercial of an interracial couple and hate flooded the Internet. Be honest: Do you think Barack Obama would be president if his wife was blond-haired and blue-eyed?

45. Being approachable: I accept everyone who sends me a Facebook friend request and respond to authors who ask questions on the publishing biz (I get about 5 friend requests a day). People hit me up in Facebook chat all the time, too, mostly just to say hi or ask questions on fitness and health (I’m also a personal trainer). I’ve responded to a few random pop up chats like “I’m on page 238 of your book!” You think I’m going to ignore a fan reading my book in real time?

46. Questions of the day: I often post questions related to issues between men and women, and boy, they get heated! No holds barred on my page—sex, dating, married life, divorce, cheating, etc. I even post questions from friends who want to remain anonymous and are looking for unbiased opinions. Sometimes, questions derive from events or character actions in my books.

47. Facebook friends with cover models: I wanted live models for the cover because I had this wild idea that by promoting themselves, they would promote the book, too. If featured on a book cover, wouldn’t you tell everyone about it? And the book cover gig becomes a part of their resume (like on Tribble’s site). Of the four models, I’m Facebook friends with three of them and have sent each autographed copies: Tribble Reese, Ebru Keskin and Deborah O Ayorinde. These three are doing big things, and it’s always fun to see them in random spots, like while browsing a magazine (Deborah in Essence magazine); channel surfing (caught Tribble on the reality show Sweet Home Alabama while both females were on the show The Game); or even a motion picture (I spotted Ebru sashaying like a model in Tyler Perry’s movie Temptation). Ebru and Deborah even took pictures of themselves holding a copy of SELLOUT!

48. PayPal link for various sites: During the first few weeks after launch, we linked PayPal buttons on my author site, TPC site, and even our Facebook fan pages for customers to order autographed copies (they’re now on all our individual websites, too). PayPal makes book transactions easy because you can pay with either a credit card or PayPal account, especially when processing bulk orders. Then I take my happy self to the post office and mail them off.

49. Time and patience: Reading a book takes time. Building a platform takes time. Reviews take time. Selling 10,000 copies took time (nearly three years!). Just the way it is. However, with e-books, you don’t have to worry about returns or limited shelf space. The World Wide Web is your shelf space, and there’s plenty of room and time to build demand for your book—even if it takes years. Still, the earlier you lay down the “slab” for your platform foundation, the better the chances of high book sales.

50. Being open to just about anything. In this wild journey toward writing, publishing, promoting, and selling SELLOUT, we have encountered many waves in rough seas, but instead of staying ashore, we grabbed our mythical surfboard and rode as many waves as we could—not entirely certain where the waves would take us. That’s what happening in the publishing industry right now—waves and ripples. Borders has closed forever. The #1 bookseller in the world is an online retailer (Amazon). Publishers and literary agents are redefining their roles. More people find comfort in reading on electronic devices. Geesh, could you have imagined these ripples just five years ago? Probably not.

Think what the next five years will bring…

However, changes help to usher in new opportunities, which is why it’s a good idea to stay abreast of which way the tide is turning by subscribing to newsletters and staying active in different writer groups—and be willing to try new things. I’m not saying throw your money at just anything. Research will help you decide on the next move, but if the results of your analysis shows you can possibly improve sales, why not try it (whatever “it” is)? BookBub had less than 100,000 subscribers last year. Today? Over 1,000,000. Yup, things just ain’t the same anymore, but I find it exciting! Don’t you?

Well, I hope you found these blogs helpful! If you’re looking for a PDF copy of this blog with all the “reasons,” hit me up at james_wil_lew@yahoo.com.

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50 Reasons Why My Debut Novel Sold 10,000 Copies! (PT 3)

Before Launch

After Launch (pocket-burning)

After Launch (free to low-cost)

25. Converted to e-book: Duh, right? But you’d be surprised at the number of authors who haven’t converted their print books to e-books. Why purposely miss out on another revenue stream? You simply won’t sell as many print books at the same rapid-fire rate as the point-and-click features of e-readers and tablets. Find an e-book, point, click, buy, submit, done—anywhere, anytime. Simple. In 2010, about 2% of overall book sales came from e-books. In 2013, it’s around 30%. About 97% of SELLOUT sales are e-books. We’re in the digital age!

26. Experimenting with price ($2.99 to $0.99):  The price debate never ends. Some think dropping the price to $0.99 devalues not only the book itself, but the whole industry. Others feel it’s the best way to hook new readers, especially for a series. Still others will make it free and give away thousands via KDP Select. Nothing wrong with a little price experimentin’, but I don’t think a novel should stay at the low a price forever. For SELLOUT, we use $0.99 to spark sales when they lag, then bring it back to regular price of $2.99. This tactic has worked pretty well. The highest month of SELLOUT sales was 961 (for Amazon only). Amanda Hocking and John Locke have sold millions with that price. Hey, when you can sell that much, a 35% royalty rate ain’t bad at all. For your books, I suggest finding out what works. You have control.

27. Book clubs:  Book clubs for authors are like DJs for musicians—they start the ground swell of buzz. They buy in bulk, too! I’ve successfully connected with at least 25 online and in-person book clubs since 2010—face-to-face, SKYPE, and conference calls—and had a fun, memorable experience each time. I even took up a cross-country book club invite and flew to Ohio, meeting about 30 club members. An author who goes out of his or her way to meet readers speaks volumes. Book clubs usually bend over backwards to accommodate the author (within their budget, typically free meals, gifts, and some travel expenses, such as hotel reservations). Book clubs love to host authors they enjoy and sometimes recap the meet-up via social media, encouraging others to buy the book (if they liked it, of course). Book clubs also add to the buzz by posting pictures, author bios, and reviews on their Facebook, website, or Twitter page.

28. Interviews: We’ve done interviews in just about every form of media, some just about me as an author, others spotlighting TPC, from online, print, radio, and video. Need all the exposure we can get! For a list of interviews we’ve done, click here.

29. Posting comments on targeted sites. Topics on interracial dating often pop up on blogs, online newspapers, websites, and high-profile Facebook groups. People who post on these threads typically have strong opinions on interracial dating and race in general—which means potential SELLOUT readers. I know a few readers who read the book simply because I responded to a discussion on interracial dating. I also post comments on writer-related sites and author blogs.

30. Facebook Sellout fan page. Although it has 900 likes, they don’t guarantee book sales. However, even though we no longer use ads to attract visitors, SELLOUT still gets a few likes per week with little promotion. Maybe the new likes come from readers. Regardless, I keep up page activity by posting links involving interracial dating.

31. Spoke at schools: Some colleges have creative writing classes and professors love to invite established authors to share their experiences with students, so I volunteered to talk to a class at my junior college (I was still a student at the time). They expressed a strong interest in independent publishing. I passed around a copy of SELLOUT, mainly to show the students my book looked no different than a traditionally published book, fresh with a logo and everything. Many of them felt empowered by the do-it-yourself process of independent publishing and vowed to explore that option in the future. Stephanie and I also spoke in a small creative writing class at her alma mater UC Santa Cruz when her book WHEN LOVE ISN’T ENOUGH dropped.

32. Google alerts: Looking for blogs, news links or even YouTube videos related to your book? Google alerts are a great tool to reel them in, using key words as bait (like “interracial dating” or “sellout” as key words). Most of the websites I target come from Google alerts that show up in my inbox daily.

33. Engagement in social media: I’ve found social media is for building personal connections, not Buy My Book posts all day! Social media cuts the six degrees of separation to one, so it’s more about the person, not the product. I post often on other Facebook pages, whether for a popular magazine, a best-selling author, groups, or one of my Facebook friends—but rarely mention my book. When I see a post on interracial dating/relationships, of course I jump on it, but I don’t end with, “by the way, I wrote a book on this topic. Wanna buy it?” I know several people who saw one of my responses for a topic that had absolutely nothing to do with interracial dating or even writing, friended me, found out later that I’m a writer, then bought one of my books.

34. Publishing articles/essays: Justin Timberlake hadn’t released an album in six years before dropping Suit and Tie; yet, he stayed in the public eye with movies, musical guest spots, and appearances on late-night TV between albums. I view taking advantage of the time prior to writing the next book the same way. I never understood why novelists don’t showcase their talents and expertise more via shorter forms of writing, such as articles, essays, or short stories, especially between writing books. I’ve published a variety of short pieces on timely topics related to writing and my novels, such as health tips for writers and even my own experience with interracial dating. I’ve also written about military life and physical fitness (other areas of interest). Shorter forms of writing can spotlight you as a subject matter expert and add to your discoverability. Plus, your byline can link to your website for readers to find more goodies, like your books!

35. Free copies (for reviews,  gift certificate contest, and giveaways): Long before anyone heard of KDP Select, Omar came up with a brilliant idea for a contest that entailed getting free PDF copies of SELLOUT to as many readers as possible. That contest was the one described in 24, where the top winner received a $200 Amazon gift certificate. By giving away free PDF copies, the goal was to drive up interest and start a buzz. Initially I resisted—I didn’t like the idea of giving away so many copies for free—but I eventually agreed accumulating reviews was more important. The contest was a great success because we got what we wanted—more reviews.

Also, we “donate” free copies to book bloggers and independent book reviewers. It’s a fair exchange—a guaranteed unbiased review for a free copy. A book club president always receives a complimentary copy, too, and if lucky, we get bulk sales in return. So far, only one book club passed on the book.

36. Wide distribution: Successful investors know two key strategies that build wealth: diversifying stocks and staying in the market for the long haul. That’s how I view e-books. Why lock down your e-book on one site when you can “diversify” into so many others (B&N, Apple, Sony, etc )? Smashwords distributes e-books to the aforementioned online retailers, and has added at least three new channels since last year. It’s typically going to take a while to sell a substantial number of books if you’re an indie, so hold tight. Now, I understand this may sound like a shot against KDP Select, and it kinda is, really. More on KDP Select and “patience” later.

37. Reviews. I don’t know about you, but before I buy a new product or book a hotel in an unknown area, I check how others felt about said product/hotel. Hell, sometimes I’ll snoop behind a professor’s back and read about him or her at Rate My Professor before I take a class. In other words, I read the reviews. The same with e-books—reviews are extremely important to an e-book’s lifeline because they have a huge influence on a potential buyer’s decision to part from his/her hard-earned money. I always seek out reviews, specifically from book bloggers and dedicated reviewers. I don’t stop there, though. I once sent a PDF copy to the organizer of a panel on interracial dating, which was held at a four-year university. SELLOUT has 96 reviews on Amazon and 21 on B&N, averaging 4.3 stars out of 5.0.

38.  Multiple works (free/cheap). If a fan loves one of your works—a short story, novella, or novel—they’re more likely to read more. Once I read my first Eric Jerome Dickey book, I knew I was a fan for life. What author wouldn’t want that kind of fan loyalty? I know several readers who have read A HARD MAN IS GOOD TO FIND, then bought SELLOUT (and vice-versa). Regarding my shorter works (free & not free), Smashwords allows distribution of free titles (unlike Amazon, unless you commit to KDP Select). I average about 1000 free downloads a month from all retailers combined. My $0.99 short stories don’t get nearly as many downloads, meaning I don’t sell a lot, but here’s the thing: They often show up under the Customers who Bought This, Also Bought section (for example, my free story THE CUT UP links to SELLOUT). One piece of writing often sells other works by the same author (like my Eric Jerome Dickey example). I have about 10 free and low-cost mini-books in rotation right now, all with their own book covers.

39.  Increased UK exposure. I’ve always considered the UK as a close cousin of the US with similar interests and issues, especially in terms of pop culture, music, race relations, and dating, including interracially. Hell, they even speak the same language (ha ha)! So I sought out more UK media to give SELLOUT a little European love. About 30% of Amazon sales come from the UK, a significant increase since last 2010.

Check out my UK interview in FAB Magazine.

40. Local bookstores. SELLOUT “sold out” in two mom-and-pop stores on consignment  (about 10 copies total). Yup, I even included it in my college bookstore because they have a special section for faculty, alumni, and current students (Steph did the same for WHEN LOVE ISN’T ENOUGH). It’s cool seeing your book on the shelves, no matter how it gets there! However, since most of our sales come from e-books, we’ve decided to focus more on that. Like I said, we’re in the digital age and Amazon is the great and powerful OZ. But how long will that last? Time will tell.

Final Note: KDP Select doesn’t have the same “boom” as last year, but when used with BookBub, it can be very effective. If you’re a new author in need of reviews, the free promotion option of KDP Select may be for you. Still, having multiple works and wide distribution are probably the best ways to build an author platform. Just look at Stephen King!

Next up: Miscellaneous

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50 Reasons Why My Debut Novel Sold 10,000 Copies! (PT 2)

Continued from Before Launch:

After Launch (pocket burning)

18. Soft launch: We built demand for SELLOUT at a gradual pace. Of course, we informed family, friends, and associates in our mailing lists, but we kicked off the soft launch in June 2010 at a book conference in Atlanta. However, the official launch was July, where we then blasted the world via social media with details on how to purchase the book (we pushed for autographed copies). In that month, we sold about 100 books, received a few five and four-star reviews, connected with book clubs, processed orders for autographed copies and snapped pictures of readers holding the book with big ol’ smiles. Once we let the cat out of the bag in July, SELLOUT didn’t start from scratch because it already had a following (a small one, but growing).

First Book Signing!

19. Other book signings/conferences: After the official launch, we pushed forward with more book signings. We went to the hottest book club conferences to target readers in SELLOUT’s genre, mostly in Atlanta and Los Angeles. Like our first book signing, the trips weren’t cheap, considering we paid for hotels, rental cars, flights (from Northern California and New Jersey), food, and conference fees (sometimes, costing more than $200 for a table). Still, we met readers and other authors, took pictures, and of course, sold books. And the expenses were tax deductible!

20. Book trailer: We tried something unique—a live action book trailer. No usual still pictures in this production. Actors brought a scene from the book to life. Expensive as hell, but worth it. We won a Best Book Trailer of the Year award, but it’s hard to gauge sales from book trailers, unless someone says, “I saw the trailer and just had to get the book!” Still, a good trailer can spur interest and sometimes, shares on Facebook. Plus, you’ll find purchase information at the end of the trailer.

21. Google ads / Facebook ads: Not the greatest tool for sales, but it works as advertised for “likes” and simply bringing more people to your social media pages. You can set a daily cost limit, but it adds up.

22. Entering indie book contests: Indie book contests average about $50 to $100 in entry fees. I entered about six of them and placed as a finalist or winner in 4. Now, anyone can argue only a few book awards carry weight (like the Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards), but if you win any of them, you can place “award-winning” next to “author,” which is pretty cool. Plus, during an Internet search, a potential reader may land on the website that boasts your award. I also won a Best New Author award, where a book conference organizer presented me with a trophy in a room with other authors. Check me out! 🙂

23. Other advertising options: I was never one to just advertise for the sake of advertising, hoping for a few sales. No, I learned about different ad sites from other authors in writer groups. Then I searched for as many testimonials as possible and checked out the site myself. When convinced at the chances of my book benefitting from a particular paid ad, then I would burn a hole in my pocket for the service. BookBub and Ereader News Today are expensive, but they also are the top dawgs for good reason—they work. I sold nearly 600 copies in one day with BookBub alone (bargain price of $0.99). I’ve heard good things about Pixel of Ink, too, but haven’t tried them yet.

24. Gift Certificate Contest. The chances of winning a high-priced prize with no entry fee almost always perks up the human senses. When all entrees automatically receive a free e-book, everybody wins. We started such a campaign, and the top winner received a $200 Amazon gift certificate. This contest also helped with reviews.

Final note: I’ve found a soft launch is a good tactic for introducing new books to a limited audience, especially for accumulating reviews.  Those reviews will give you an idea of how the readers are accepting the book, and may even determine whether or not to push back launching the book on a grander scale (hard launch). Book bloggers, book reviewers, and book clubs often post reviews not only on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but also social media and websites, so having them as part of the soft launch arsenal can add fuel to a buzz.

Because advertising can burn holes in your pocket without much return, gauging what works and what doesn’t often comes from other authors. I’d heard enough praise about BookBub and ENT from authors I trust, so I was convinced it wasn’t a fluke or scam. I gave it a shot, sold a lot of books, and made my money back.

Next up: After Launch (free to low cost)

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50 Reasons Why My Debut Novel Sold 10,000 Copies! (PT 1)

10,000 copies sold!

10,000! Man, oh man. It has taken me a while to soak that number in. That’s 5 figures! Before starting this journey, I’d dreamed of us selling 10,000 copies of my debut novel Sellout, but for it to actually happen? Especially as an indie? Wowzers! “Proud daddy” is the best way to describe this new sensation. Not many authors, including traditionally published, see that number in a book’s lifetime. Sellout took three years.

In today’s topsy-turvy book publishing environment, I’ve yet to find a statistic that has compiled average sales data for an indie/self-published print book and its electronic version, probably because ebooks are still the new kids on the block. One statistic that’s floated around for years says a self-published book only sells about 100 – 150 copies in its lifetime; however, I’ve heard some experts says that statistic applies to authors of vanity publishers like Authorhouse or Trafford, AKA rip-off artists (the authors themselves are primarily the buyers of their own books).  Today, authors have wider distribution and the ability to drop ebooks to as low as $0.99, so maybe average lifetime sales are much higher than 150 copies.

But…

Because more  authors are doing it themselves, an avalanche of books has flooded the market in millions.  Since it’s hard to break out from the crowd—especially of millions—maybe average lifetime sales are still as low as 150, or even lower, despite the fact that e-books have provided another way for authors to sell.

Who knows?

Regardless, I’m confident that it’s pretty ding-dong hard–dare I say “rare”–for an indie to sell 10,000 copies of one book, let alone a debut novel. Yet, we did it!

Yup, proud daddy here (sniff, sniff).

Hey, how about I show you all the things that led to 10,000 copies sold, fifty of ’em to be exact? Cool? Cool.

I didn’t want this blog to be so long it could tear blood vessels in your eyeballs, so I decided to break it up in four parts:

6/3 – 6/4:  Before Launch

6/5: After launch (pocket-burning)

6/6: After launch (free to low-cost)

6/7: Misc

Before launch

1. LLC formation: The Pantheon Collective is its own entity. It has an Employment Identification Number and pays taxes. Being “legit” forces a business to strive for a higher standard in practices like bookkeeping, sales management and tax accounting, to ultimately, the finished product—your book! In other words, this ain’t no hobby! If you look at this book publishing thing as some fly-by pastime, you probably won’t sell many books.

2. Merging skillsets with two other authorsOmar is a Fortune-500 minded individual with extensive experience in marketing; Stephanie is the “backbone” and behind-the-scenes organizer, skilled in editing, typesetting, and bookkeeping; and I’m the “veteran” with multiple publishing credits and was once under contract with a literary agent. Our “areas of expertise” are tailor-made for a publishing company. And as authors, we’re not only the “presidents,” we’re “clients,” too.

3. Marketing plan: Who will buy your book? What do they look like? What age group? Where can you find them? Everyone won’t read your book. Not targeting a particular group is like throwing darts at a swarm of flies, hoping to stick one. Omar drafted the SELLOUT marketing plan.

4. Constant blogging: How will people know about you and your upcoming debut novel? You blog about it! That’s exactly what I did, long before book launch (almost six months prior). Not only did the blogs consist of SELLOUT updates (finishing edits, frustrations, deadlines, etc), they also included information about TPC as a whole.

5. Professional cover:  IMPORTANT! Marion Designs has crafted dozens of book covers for traditional publishers, which is why we hired him. He works with individual authors, small publishing houses and the “big dawgs.” A cover for an indie/self-published book should be the same quality as a book from Random House or Simon & Schuster. Yes, it’s expensive, but crucial!

6. Professional editing: ALSO IMPORTANT! Note the word “professional,” not Aunt Pam because she’s good with grammar. I suggest a developmental or content edit (for character development, scene structure, polishing dialogue, etc) and proofreading. Skipping these two steps begs for one-star reviews and readers demanding a refund while possibly cussing you out. Another expensive investment, but necessary (note I mentioned “investment,” not expense). SELLOUT actually received two professional edits and two proofreads.

7. Partner critique of book: Both partners read SELLOUT and gave their two cents. Based on their recommendations, I changed the plot a bit, strengthening the story with more tension/conflict. Stephanie made her suggestions while editing the book.

8. Three times promotional power:  Not only did I blog about the details of our first upcoming novel and TPC operations, but so did Steph and Omar! We expressed how things were going with the book from our point-of-views, which gave an interesting insight from several vantage points, specifically from the author (me), editor (Stephanie), and marketing expert (Omar). We became our own street team!

9. Book cover vote: After Marion Designs finished the covers, he gave us four choices, all five-star quality, industry standard, and hot! But instead of the three of us voting on them, we posted the covers on the TPC website and made a Choose My Book Cover announcement on social media and our individual mailing lists. The voting lasted for several days, which allowed hundreds of new visitors to our page, who, by the way, now knew about this book called SELLOUT about to drop.

10. Mailing list: We already had our individual list of emails, but when visitors would post comments on our blogs, we added more. We compiled emails into several distribution groups, later used mainly for announcing upcoming book signings and information on autographed copies. We now post most of our announcements on social media.

11. Video interviews: What better way to know more about the person behind the book than video? We completed several author interviews and check-ins, then posted them on YouTube. Video engages human senses in a way text can’t. I even posted a video of me holding the hard copy proof of SELLOUT for the first time, looking and feeling like a proud new daddy!

12. Networking: As TPC, we attended industry-related conferences, such as the Self-Publishing Symposium in New York in March 2010. It was like a TPC coming out party. This allowed us to build more bridges with industry professionals like editors from major publishing houses and best-selling authors while learning tips on how to run a successful independent publishing business. Students of the game we are!

13. Read Indie Publishing Books:  Trying to cover all the steps of book publishing (digital and print) wrecks the cranial nerves. ISBNs, distributors, print book formatting, e-book formatting, printers, typesetting, book sizes, covers, front matter, back matter—yikes! Dan Poynter’s Self-Publishing Manual and Aaron Shepard’s Aiming for Amazon helped ease the “pain.”

14. Reputable printer: In 2010, e-books weren’t as popular as today, so we initially focused on print only. But which printer? We chose Lightning Source (LSI), a unit owned by Ingram Content Group (which is the world’s largest distributor of books). Traditional and small publishers use LSI, and since they have Print on Demand technology and distribute through Amazon, B&N, international retailers, and visible from brick-and-border bookstore databases, it was a no-brainer.

15. Websites: We had four websites already “revved up” (mine, Steph’s, Omar’s under his pseudonym Qwantu Amaru, and the TPC main website). SELLOUT sneaked its way in each of them, including the cover. On the TPC page, we also added a ton of resources to assist other aspiring authors as we learned the process of indie publishing in real-time, like helpful links, tips, and templates for business and marketing plans. Remember, not only were we trying to build momentum for SELLOUT, we were telling the world about our author collective as well.

16. Well written:  I’ve been soaking up the fundamentals for years, including the nuts and bolts of writing novels (creating a hook, character point of views, adding tension, tone, setting a scene, etc). Around 1999, I transitioned my hobby to a more business-like venture. I subscribed to writer-related newsletters and magazines like Writer’s Digest, attended umpteen conferences, and took college courses on writing. I’m no expert, and I can never learn enough, but SELLOUT wouldn’t have been nearly as good if I hadn’t studied the craft and developed my scribe skills. Best believe I’m going to bury my head in books like The Elements of Style for my next novel TANGLED WEB.

17. Online Writers Groups: I’ve been an active member of several Yahoo writer groups for years, a few as far back as 2000. Writers.net was probably the first online group that taught me the most about the business of writing, such as soliciting literary agents via query letters. Now, I’m more involved in social media writer groups, particularly on Linked-in and Facebook. The cool thing? You hear from authors who’ve been there, done that. You also learn tips and tricks that can make you a better writer and promoter while avoiding costly mistakes. I wouldn’t have known about Lightning Source, Smashwords, or BookBub (more on these two later) if not for the writers in these groups. Every now and then Dan Poynter, the self-publishing Yoda of our time, pops in the Self Publishing Yahoo group. (end)

Final note: As you can see, it’s a good idea to promote the books before you launch it. Too many times, I’ve read a post from an author who asks a group, “I just published my book. Now, what do I do?” If you just can’t wait to read all 50 reasons in a 5-day blog, hit me up at james_wil_lew@yahoo.com and I’ll send a PDF copy with all of them included.

Next up:  After Launch (pocket-burning).

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Win A Kindle Fire!

My book A Hard Man is Good to Find is part of this summer campaign! For more details, go to http://www.thekindlebookreview.net/summer-kindle-giveaway/

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