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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Stay tuned…

Every time I look at my website, I think, “man, I need to update this thing.” I mean, dang, I have a banner that says “Author of the hot new novel SELLOUT!” Uh … Sellout came out almost three years ago. Yeah, I know. My goal was to update the website last fall. Well, you see how that worked out. My new goal is this summer–2013, of course–all pimped out like a hooptie on Pimp My Ride.

Okay, enough about my website. I think I mentioned something about it on the last three blogs. Sad.

Anyway, I really don’t have much to say except that I’m in school full-time and it’s kickin’ my patooty, hence the reason I haven’t posted much. However, I’ll be graduating this spring–yay!–and my company The Pantheon Collective is still working on a few big “thangs” this year. Speaking of big thangs, I have an upcoming blog that will announce a MAJOR milestone. Can’t wait to share! Stay tuned…

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Where’s the freakin’ time?

It seems the conspiracy to keep you from doing the things you love starts when you wake up. Kids, the spouse, work, school, family, friends, pets, social events—they all impede on precious “me” time. Once you’re sucked into the daily routine, the “roadblocks” in front of you stand high and strong, trying to keep you from your writer destiny and forcing you to surrender.

“Maybe I’ll have time to write tomorrow,” you say. But tomorrow becomes another tomorrow, then another, then another. Before you know it, you scramble to get back into a writing rhythm, but then you’re like, “Now, where did I leave off again?”

Sound familiar?

To read the rest of this article, click here.

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2012: A Year in Review

2012: A Year in Review

I’m waaaay overdue on a blog. Now that I’m out of school, it’s time to get it crackin’ again!

First off, let me again apologize for my website. I’d been talking about an overhaul since last summer, but I still haven’t gotten ‘er done, yet. Hopefully, the fonts and color aren’t hard on the cornea and irises of your eyeballs because I wrote a long-ass blog this time. I’m not the best website designer, either, ya know. I actually thought I would include having a new website in my year in review, but alas, I must wait until 2013.

Wow, 2013. Can you believe it? And to think we’re not supposed to even be here!  Ya know … with the whole Mayan calendar thingy and all. Whatever.

Anyway…

If 2013 will be anything close to 2012 in terms of e-book sales, exposure, and just all around awesomeness, I predict 2013 will be the breakout year for not only me, but my partners, and publishing company The Pantheon Collective. Some cool ish went down this year, and the way I see it, it’s only going to get better. Here’s a quick recap of that “ish” :

1. After dropping my book A Hard Man is Good to Find to $0.99 at the end of 2011–a common practice of ours–the first quarter of 2012 started off with the most ridiculous sales bump I’d ever seen. We accomplished two things with one book never done before in our short time as a publishing company: eclipsed 1,000 copies in sales three months in a row and sold over 2,000 copies in one month alone (Feb). Total Amazon Hard Man e-book sales for the first quarter was 4,764. Crazy!

I attribute this phenomenon to dropping the price during the holiday season, great reviews, word of mouth, and the millions of new tablets and e-readers as Christmas presents. It appears people went nuts downloading gazillions of e-books the first few months—and that’s fine with me! Why the 2,045 e-book sales in Feb (not including print copies and Smashwords)?  I have no idea to this day. In contrast, we kept Sellout at $2.99 and it sold about 175 copies in the same time span.

2. KDP Select, KDP Select, yada, yada. I’d heard a lot about Amazon’s revolutionary program, where authors reported record sales after offering their books for free. Only problem: You had to sell your e-book exclusively on Amazon for 90 days. That meant removing the book from other online retailers, including my own website. That kinda sucks. Still, since I had a few short stories, I wanted to experiment, so I gave KDP Select a shot.

I won’t rehash the details since I wrote three blogs on my experience (you can read it about it here). Let’s just say it started off with a bang, then crashed and burned. However, if you only have one book out and want to build a fan base, the program may be for you.

3. As I mentioned, I had a few short stories in my tool box, but this is the first year I offered them up for sale with professional covers and wider distribution. I originally just used Smashwords for my short stories, but I figured what the hell? Why not sell them on Amazon and expand to premium distribution through Smashwords online retailers?

Sales of my short stories have been slow, averaging about 5 per month for each story with very little promotion. However, I discovered a new tactic that I like: Whenever I make a short story free on another channel (like B&N), Amazon eventually matches the price and “sells” it for free, too. As a result, I have a couple of free stories on Amazon without using KDP Select (which is the only other way to make a book free). The Cut Up on Amazon has had around 1,000 downloads since I made it free on Smashwords a few months ago.

I launched four short stories this year, and they’ve helped lead to sales for my other works: Open House, When Happens In Vegas, Premature Eradication, and Black People Can’t Be Republican. I made The Cut Up free, and if you look on Amazon, Sellout is under the Customers Who Bought This Also Bought section. Having multiple works on rotation definitely helps with sales.

Note: I tried to include Open House on KDP Select, but Amazon rejected it. Why? Because I had an excerpt on an old website page of mine, a page I no longer used and completely forgot about. Amazon is crazy serious about that exclusivity rule, so watch out!

4. I was already active on social media, but I’d been neglecting the fan pages for A Hard Man is Good to Find and Sellout. I had over 1600 “likes” between them, but I finally realized I was wasting opportunities to engage my audience more with new content, so I now post relevant links and content daily (for example, I would post an article on interracial dating for the Sellout fan page). But I didn’t stop there. I not only created two more fan pages—one for Slow Your Prose: 25 Tips On How New Writers Can Improve their Craft and Black People Can’t Be Republican—I had Facebook ads for each one, setting a daily dollar limit. Facebook ads are very effective in attracting new “likes.” I started Slow Your Prose in late November and already have nearly 400 likes.

5. For some reason that I’ve yet to figure out, my UK sales for Sellout jumped in November. As of this writing, my Amazon UK sales are outpacing my US sales for December. I’m scratching my head on that one. Yes, I’ve had UK exposure, with interviews and even a feature in a UK magazine, but one feature was in the summer and the other was over a year ago. Why the jump now? Beats me, but hey, I’m not complaining! I’m definitely going to figure out how to capitalize on it, though! Matter of fact, I recently contacted a London freelance writer to see if she will review Sellout.

Other noble J-Dub achievements this year:

Sellout and A Hard Man is Good to Find are on pace to reach 10,000 copies sold each, hopefully within the 1st quarter of 2013. Can’t wait to write the blog about that one!

– Met up with the Sistahs & Friends book club in San Diego and Bonded Through Books in Cleveland, OH. Had a fantastic time! Building Relationships Around Books (B.R.A.B) is definitely THE liveliest online bookclub on Facebook! I’ve had around 10 four and five-star reviews from B.R.A.B alone this year and they hyped Hard Man so much, I’ve probably sold at least 30 copies to their online members.

Book trailer for Sellout went over 2,000 hits

– Went over 4,000 friends on Facebook. Approaching the magic 5,000!

Notable TPC achievements this year:

When Love Isn’t Enough by Stephanie Casher eclipsed 5,000 copies sold

One Blood by Qwantu Amaru has won several awards this year, but the grand daddy of them all is its pick for Kirkus Reviews Best of 2012. That’s a huge honor!

And onto 2013…

Yeah, it’s been a great year for TPC books. I would ramble on, but I think I’ve done enough, so stay tuned for part II of this series, 2013: The Year in Preview! I will list my predictions, upcoming works, and what The Pantheon Collective has planned! Hmm … maybe we’ll publish someone else????

On that note … MERRY CHRISTMAS! 🙂

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And The Book Cover Winner is…

Book Blurb:

In the eyes of many, an African American commits the ultimate act of betrayal if he or she dares to express conservative beliefs. Ironically, those before us fought for African Americans to simply vote, not be handcuffed to one particular party.

Still, because approximately ninety percent (90%) of African Americans are registered Democrats, it’s almost as if we have a “negrofied” bible that says, “If you’re black, you’re Democrat”—and that’s it. Period. That closed frame of mind leaves little desire to even acknowledge another viewpoint, let alone try to understand it.

Black People Can’t Be Republican is a collection of short stories based in Anytown, USA that explores viewpoints from various angles in a debate format—not only about political party affiliations, but other hot-button topics common in the community, such as the N-word, homosexuality, “thick” versus “fat”, and sagging pants.

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The World Has Moved On (from the TPC blog)

Written by Omar Luqmaan-Harris of The Pantheon Collective – 8/30/2012

Do you like stories? Well here you go…

Once upon a time, in a land much like our own, there was an entire industry devoted to publishing, manufacturing, distributing, selling, reviewing, and critiquing books.

The publishing was done by a handful of large elite companies who determined what and who could be published. They employed the services of literary agents to help their editors determine the best books to publish. Both the agents and editors were very successful at identifying and harnessing the talent of the writers, most of whom never made enough money off their books to quit their day jobs. There were many more writers left out in the cold, their dreams of seeing their work in print dashed to pieces.

The publishers also manufactured the books, employing the services of copy editors, cover designers, typesetters, and printers. Due to this large infrastructure, they justified paying their writers next to nothing to keep “the machine” running. The writers were told to keep writing and to learn how to market themselves by building a platform; it wasn’t the publisher’s job to market them. Before the books were printed, advanced copies would be sent out to newspaper reviewers, literary critics, other established authors, and even bookstore representatives to build buzz for the book; thus, creating a secondary market for these services. In many instances, the large publishers were also spending millions on advertising with the newspapers and literary journals and in return usually received glowing reviews.

Distributors interacted with the publisher’s large sales forces to move the books from the publisher’s warehouses to their own and then on to the bookstores, libraries, and other outlets dependent on the revenues from selling books to stay in business. Because of constant sales pressure, the shelf life of books dwindled dramatically over time, adding even more burden to an already tense system. Bookstores started demanding more sure things from publishers who began demanding more guaranteed successes from their editors who then gave the literary agents their marching orders. The result was less creativity, choice, and more writers left on the outside looking in than ever before.

Then, seemingly overnight, everything changed. A company called Amazon, with a brash, bold leader and even more audacious vision, launched a device called the Kindle that would enable readers to download electronic books in seconds. The traditional publishing establishment laughed it off. “Readers would never prefer digital books over paper books,” they said. Unfortunately, they hadn’t learned the lesson of the music industry, still reeling from the introduction of digital content vs. the traditional format. Amazon, like iTunes before them, had an ace in the hole. They knew that in order to make their Kindles valuable they needed content. They didn’t really care where it came from or how good it was, so they introduced a method for authors to directly publish with them. All of a sudden the traditional publishing  hierarchy was usurped.

Writers could hire their own editors, cover designers, and typesetters. They could upload the books to Amazon in minutes. They could use their own websites, social media and reader communities to find their readers and direct them to Amazon to buy their books. And most surprisingly, some of them could actually write good books! Kindles started selling like hot cakes and these indie books were selling right along with them. Some of these authorpreneurs even began outselling their traditionally published counterparts and showing up on bestseller lists. One of them even sold over 2 million e-books!

Needless to say, the large publishers weren’t going to take this lying down, and began meeting in secret with Apple to establish a pricing model that would allow them to stay in business. They needed to do this because their large  bookstore partners were closing by the thousands and Amazon was not allowing them control over their own prices. When the government found out, a Department of Justice  investigation was initiated and many of the big publishers and Apple were named as defendants, having to justify their actions to force consumers to pay more for products that cost significantly less to produce.

Meanwhile, the indie author community was growing by leaps and bounds as authors, left out in the cold for years, capitalized on the opportunity to establish a follower-ship of readers. Unfortunately, many of the books were rush jobs with shoddy covers, poor-to-no editing, and plain sloppy writing. And there were other companies called vanity publishers preying on the ignorance of authors, by taking their money and offering little to no service in return. Still, readers were far more forgiving to these authors than the literary agents and editors had ever been. Maybe they connected with the entrepreneurial spirit of these intrepid authors. Besides, if they didn’t like the book, a full refund was a click away, a privilege never afforded them by bookstores.

The large publishers realized that e-books were not going away and in fact were outselling their print counterparts, so they began a smear campaign to lambaste indie authors and their primary steward, Amazon. They found a man who had been quite successful for a time selling 5 star reviews for a price. When they discovered that the #1 Indie author had actually used this service to obtain 300 such reviews, they went on an all out initiative. Book critics, traditionally published authors, literary agents, and newspaper journalists fired away on the credibility of Amazon and Indie authors in article after article.

The traditional establishment rejoiced as indie authors began to turn on each other. Until the leaders of the community stood up, pointed out these underhanded tactics, and calmed everyone back down. In the end, the Indie authors kept writing, kept supporting each other, kept churning out successively better products, and kept building strong connections with readers. Traditionally published authors, increasingly neglected by their publishers, jumped ship and bolstered the ranks of indies until most authors found on Amazon were indies with the traditional authors few and far between. A surprising winner in this whole tale were indie booksellers who were thriving in the new world. Paper wasn’t dead; authors just wanted their due remuneration for their years of hard work. And there were readers who would always love paper.

As for the publishers and all their cronies? Realizing that their last-ditch effort failed, they initiated massive rounds of layoffs of skilled editors, publicists, cover designers, and sales people, many of whom immediately found work servicing the indie author community. Literary agents started representing indies in negotiations with Hollywood. And the large publishers consolidated until there were only two or three left in business.

What came next? Only they can say for sure. But in the words of Stephen King, the world moved on. Some moved on with it. Most others were simply left behind. Out in the cold.

Sound familiar?

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Fit and Fabulous!

It’s official: I’m a Fit and Fabulous FINALIST! Here’s what they said:

(excerpt) “Congratulations! We have poured over hundreds of entries and have picked you as one of the 15 finalists for this month’s Fit & Fabulous contest! Your story of hard work and triumph truly inspired us.”

If any of you know me, I’m just as passionate about health and fitness as I am with writing, which is why I entered the contest. Since I’m now a finalist, I need votes! #13, that’s all I’m sayin’. 🙂 Still, win or lose, I’m inspired by all the contestants and proud to have been selected as a finalist. But ‘cha know what? Winning would be the cherry on top – and I like cherries. LOL

Voting ends August 31st. Thanks in advance for your votes!

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