Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Use the 5 Senses to Hook Readers

One simple thing a writer can do to help the reader sense the story better is to use words and phrases that appeal to the 5 senses. This isn’t normally my strength as I’m a straight to the point type without much flowery description, but I find it fairly easy and enormously helpful, especially early on when readers decide if they can relate to the tale. I think of it like adding spices to the meal; just a bit makes the experience so much better. Here are some examples from the first 2 pages of The Little Universe:  
My legs labored to turn the pedals on my bicycle as the frigid air bit into my cheeks and knuckles.
I pedaled quickly past a busy construction site and endured the jeers from workers dressed in expensive coveralls, laughing at me as they leaned against new trucks, sipping their hot drinks. The aroma of fine coffee made my stomach grumble.
He led me into his house. The entry had a cathedral ceiling with stained glass windows that filled the downstairs with an array of colors, like walking through a rainbow.
My footsteps echoed softly as I followed him down the hallway.
The top floor was immaculate with marble counters, leather couches and a plush carpet that led to a stone hearth and fireplace, where a small fire crackled.
Whether or not the reader likes the story line, at least I’ve made an effort to appeal to her senses of touch, sound, sight and smell (not so much for taste, but the cookies come on page 3).
See if there are places early in your story to add those little spices for the 5 senses. It might make a big difference in hooking more readers. Then remember to keep appealing to them throughout your tale.
Good luck with it and keep writing.
Click here for the home page of Jason Matthews, spiritual fiction author.

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Writing and Campfires, Make 'em real Crowd Pleasers

Ever watch someone (or yourself) struggle to make a fire, someone who perhaps doesn’t make fires regularly? Was there a period of time where you doubted if the fire would ever start? Or maybe there were brief moments of yellow flame that ended up extinguishing into a smoky wisp due to poor thermal mechanics.
Sometimes that’s what writing is like in terms of gathering readers. You write for months and think it’s ready, send it out to the  world only to gather brief sparks of readers and then… nothing. The fire went out as the sound of crickets has replaced the crackling embers you had hoped for. Try lighting it again. One match, two matches, sulfur in your nose, three matches, blow… still not catching. Hmm… what to do now?
There are times when an overhaul of the book and campfire will be needed. Not to worry, most everything that matters is there but just needs major tweaking. Ruthless editing, dryer kindling, better dialog, more air flow, critique groups, scout manual, fewer words, smaller logs, less redundancy, more stoking… and it might take a short period of time or a long one. But sometimes it simply has to be done. This is what separates the master fire builders from the hordes of would-be-writers, a willingness to do whatever it takes to get that baby roaring.
How will you know when your book is ready? When you put it out there and absolute strangers contact you to let you know how quickly they burned through it and how it mesmerized them while warming their hearts.
Stick with it and remember; Rome wasn’t built in a day but it burned in 5.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Hooray, it's Get Away from the Computer Day!

Just did the morning routine which begins with checking emails from three accounts. Then I contact buyers of my ebooks (on good mornings when orders came in) to thank and remind them to contact me with questions. Then it’s time to peruse my Google Alerts (just love those things) for where I can find other people’s blog posts and learn from them and make helpful comments. That is such a great way to network and get URL links out there. Then I check my website cpanel and statcounters for visits from certain links and find out where people are re-posting my posts and now videos (that’s cool to see people quoting me) and perhaps contact and thank them.
Now’s the time when I usually either start some writing, editing or computer searching for new info for learning or blog posts or whatever… but today is one of those days… just feel like I need a break… out of my cave (my wife’s loving term for my office)… out of the house (feels like a cave this time of the year)… and perhaps to go skiing.
While it’s probably glorious and warm where many of you reside, we live in the N. Cali mountains and had a few inches of snow. Squaw Valley is 20 minutes away and I’ve only got 7 lousy days on my season pass because all I do is hang out in this cave. (Hate it when my wife’s right.) So today is an example of something I need to do and recommend more often…
Writers, for the sake of your sanity, the sanity of those around you and the sanity of the world in general… every now and then you absolutely must schedule a get-away-from-the-computer-day.

This photo from April 09 at Homewood CA with Lake Tahoe in the background. Anyone have other great suggestions for when the snow melts?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Results after 1 month of Uploading to Ebook Retailers

Okay, it’s been one month since I uploaded How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks – All for FREE to several different online retailers. Let’s go through a quick summary of how that’s going.

Smashwords.com. There have been 42 sample downloads and 3 sales. One customer has already reviewed the book with 4 out of 5 stars, so that was cool. I wish the sales were higher, but maybe that’ll come in time. Fortunately the ebook was accepted into their Premium Program which means it’s being distributed to Barnes&Noble, Sony, Kobo, Amazon and Apple this week. That’s the best reason to publish with Smashwords! Thank you, Mark Coker. I sure hope someone reads my ebook on an Apple iPad soon.

Scribd.com. The sample 35% of the ebook has been viewed 265 times. Just last week I was notified of 1 sale, which actually was a surprise because I thought scribd readers were die-hard freebie types. I’m also happy with the views since I’ve had samples of my novels on scribd for 6 months and they’ve received only a hundred more views. Perhaps the latest How to book will surpass them next month in less than 30% of the time.

MyEbook.com. Supposedly, the ebook there has been viewed 643 times (the sample 35% anyway). There have yet to be any sales. A part of me is highly skeptical of the views number because it seems to gain around 20 views every single day even though it’s been 4 weeks removed from the top pages of latest released. How could it keep getting so many daily views without ever generating a reader comment or a sale? I have to say, I suspect there may be something going on at myebook.com and so I’ll keep an eye on this.

Amazon.com. It took a while before it went live so this is the only site where it’s probably been closer to 4 weeks than a month. The only stat they provide is for sales (and returns) so I can only report 6 sales so far in 4 weeks. Not horrible but not nearly what I was hoping for. One of the problems might be because there are no reviews yet. I wanted to do this entirely with strangers which means not asking friends, family or associates to leave any reviews anywhere. (That’s actually a great way to jump-start some sales but I thought my customers might appreciate this approach). So perhaps in the following months if good reviews come the sales might rise. We’ll see.

Youpublish.com. This site was actually a second thought, but I’m glad I put it there. It still has no ratings though the sample has been viewed 227 times and 1 sale has resulted. Not bad. Again, perhaps if some good reviews came in it would help with sales.

My Own Websites. (Here and at Webs.com, Wordpress.com and at Viviti.com) I like it when sales happen directly through these because I get 100% of any profit, even though most of the other venues are pretty good at 70% or more (Amazon currently at 35% but going to 70% in July 2010). I don’t know exactly how many visitors have been to the sites since the stat keeping is a bit rough, but I estimate approximately 750 visitors resulting in 6 sales.

Google Rankings. It appears I erroneously reported a page one Google ranking earlier this month. Perhaps my surprise helped me overlook the fact that Google must have keyed in my IP address and sites that I had previously visited. I swear my mentions were true for page one, but after I cleared my browser of cookies, temporary files and visited pages etc, I lost the page one ranking and currently don’t show up until page 8 (yikes) for a search term of “sell ebooks.” It’s the Amazon listing of my ebook, then followed by Myebook’s listing on page 9 and PRLog’s free press release. It’s okay because “sell ebooks” is a highly common search term with massive competition, averaging 12,000 search inputs per month and high advertiser competition. Plus I’m the new kid on the block. As long as I keep doing this program, that page ranking should drop each month slowly and surely. This isn’t a get rich quick thing, more of a pacing with persistence wins the race.

Just in the past few days I uploaded several videos on Youtube (see one of them here), so next month I’ll have some comments on how that’s going.

So what are the final monthly numbers? 17 sales which isn’t what I wanted but an okay start. Only one review so far so perhaps more to report next month.

The best thing that’s happened is that I’ve received 2 thoughtful emails from customers who told me how much insight and helpful information they found in the book. That they were just starting out with marketing their own books and the info really helped. That’s really the best reward of all.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sell Ebooks on Youtube - Market Ebooks and Websites for Free

Well, you won't make the ebook sale on YouTube but you'll show the world what you have to offer and where they can get it. I'm no video pro but I'm not convinced you have to be. If people are looking for information and you demonstrate that you can help them, then it's likely they'll visit your site.

See if a YouTube video helps you sell ebooks or drive traffic to your webpage. Why not? It's free and not that difficult.
Click here for the home page of author Jason Matthews.
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Friday, April 09, 2010

Indie Authors, don't Waste Money Marketing Books

The Wrong Ways to Spend Your Money

The following is a list of things I tried that either didn't work or were not cost effective. There are plenty of things that I haven't tried, but anything that requires a fair amount of money with no guarantee can go here too.

Printing and Shipping.
I spent hundreds of dollars each year printing copies of my screenplay and then novel and sending them to agents and publishers. Each copy cost around $12 to $15 to make, plus the shipping to get it there and the SASE (Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope) to return it when they eventually would. So each package totaled close to $20 with the shipping, and I felt bad knowing I cost at least one large tree its life with all that wasted paper. Months later I'd invariably get my work returned with a note from the agency/publisher that read something like this;
Thank you for your interest in our agency/publishing house. We have reviewed your materials and determined that it doesn't meet the criteria of what we're presently looking for. We wish you the best of luck in your endeavors as we know how nearly impossible it is to get published. Hahahahaha.
Of course I've embellished on the ha-ha-ha part as they were always polite, but that's how it felt at the post office when I'd get those rejection letters that were probably mailed by the same twenty-year old intern that rejected my novel. (I'm clearly not bitter about it, am I?)

Print On Demand (POD) Publishing.
I went with Authorhouse. They were the biggest outfit and really sucked me in. I went with a fairly extensive package of bells and whistles, including the editing and some of the marketing services. I spent around $3,200 just to get my initial run of 100 books made. After that I could order more books for around $9/apiece for print runs of 200 copies or more. Knowing I could only sell my books for perhaps $15, I soon realized this was going to be an extremely difficult way to earn any real money. And coupled with the fact that I gave away so many free copies for reviews in the hope that new readers would generate more readers and someday orders, I sold far fewer than I needed to turn any profit.
The other bad thing about POD publishing, and this is the part that the companies don't tell you, is that large book stores don't buy POD books. They just don't. It's like an unwritten rule. If you get one of their buyers on the phone, they'll tell you it's because they can't get them at a 40% discount rate. Instead it's just 35%. But there's more to it than that. Large publishing houses spend big bucks on advertising, including location. Location is everything in books stores, and the big publishers pay to make sure that their books, and not those of POD or independent authors, will have the best shelf display and placements.
My advice is to stay away from POD unless you absolutely must have some print copies made. And if you do, do it for free (CreateSpace). We'll get to more on that in a later section.

I spent thousands of dollars on two different professional webdesigners. In each case they did their best to interpret my concept and come up with websites that worked for me. But ultimately the pages did little to advance my career and book sales, plus I could have created them myself for free. I just didn't know that back then. Had I known how easy it was to create my own websites for free… it would have saved me massive amounts of time, money and frustration.

It's easy to spend huge dollars on advertising whether it's radio, TV, magazines or newspapers. To get any kind of decent coverage, the amounts they'll demand will be outrageous and the results won't have any guarantee whatsoever. I ran a radio ad that broadcasted in my hometown and beyond for about $500 which aired a few times a day for three months. That resulted in a couple of sales. I also ran a small magazine ad for about $100 that I believe added up to zero sales. The simple fact of advertising this way is that it's grossly expensive and probably only makes sense with a book that is already successful and known.

Book Stores.
Another of my horrible ideas was to send a free copy of my novel to bookstores across America. I figured someone there would read my book, realize how wonderful it was, start selling it and order more copies. So I researched bookstores across the states and mailed 150 copies at costs to me of $9 apiece plus a few dollars for shipping. I spent close to $2,000 on this half-baked idea. Did any of these book stores ever contact me for more books? Nope, not one. Did a bunch of copies show up for sale on Amazon for one penny? Yep, a huge number of them. The rest probably either got sold at a major discount or simply thrown away. It makes me sad to think how many of my books have been tossed in the garbage, and yet it was entirely my fault for not going about things smarter. In hindsight, if I had just called these bookstores and talked with the person in charge of purchases, I would have found out either to not send the book or how to have done so properly.
However, that being said, bookstores are still terrible places for new authors to sell books in amounts that really matter. They place your book deep in a shelf, spine out, and sell maybe a few copies every couple of months. Then you have to track them down with the invoice and get your check, an amount that you realize was barely even worth it. My advice (if you end up having physical books) is to stay away from bookstores until they order from you and pay up front.

This is one that I have mixed feelings about because you can make some really valuable contacts and have good experiences and get information from conferences, but you will spend loads of money along the way. I probably didn't say that with enough emphasis so let me repeat; you will spend LOADS of money at conferences. I've done four, and each time I not only paid for the conference but I paid for the travel and the hotel stay. Take all the costs into consideration: conference, products, hotel room, travel, parking, eating out, extras, baby sitters, etc. When it added up, I spent a minimum of $1,200 at the least expensive one and around $4,000 at the most. On average each conference, with all the total costs added up, ran close to $2,000.
(Side note; at this point you might be asking how I could afford this? I couldn't really. I was using up all the money I ever made as a house painting contractor, plus I took out a second mortgage on my house to borrow up to $100,000 so I could continue blowing it on bad marketing ideas. I naively used credit to market my book.)
Back to conferences. I say don't do them unless you have a darned good reason for being there and can do it on the cheap. It will help if you can stay at home or with friends in the area. You should also be extremely prepared to make the most of it, as in having your work polished like nobody's business and researching the top people that will be there and the workshops and how to do it to the fullest. Otherwise, save your money.

I've done plenty of other things that didn't pan out. I spent money on a part-time marketing person. She didn't do much except give me advice like where to advertise and which conferences to attend. She also told me to submit my book to Oprah. Great idea! I'll bet nobody's thought of that, and Oprah is just dying to have a suggestion for a new book. I also spent $800 on stickers and gave them away and stuck them to things wherever I went. That was kind of a cool idea but far too much money. I don't think it sold any books, but everyone likes stickers and I still give them to random kids that come over.
The point is, I spent money for four years and none of that worked. When I recently finished my second novel I vowed not to do anything that wasn't free. And so I didn't. I stuck to just doing free things, and the results have been remarkable. I'm selling more books now than I ever did before, and guess what it's costing? Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Nothing.
And now, I'd like to tell you all the absolutely 100% free things you can do that are also 100% guaranteed not to waste any money. And if you do them and do them well, you will sell books. It's up to you. Do you want to sell books on a budget that everyone can afford? I promise you this much; if you follow these tips you will only invest your time. It won't cost one penny. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.


Friday, April 02, 2010

Google Alerts, a Marketing Must for Notifying You about any Subject

Google Alerts are incredibly helpful and a real must for anyone marketing online. I use them for my book titles, for my name and also for subjects of interest. For those who aren’t familiar with Google Alerts, this is how the company describes them;
Google Alerts are email updates of the latest relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) based on your choice of query or topic. Some handy uses of Google Alerts include:
-monitoring a developing news story
-keeping current on a competitor or industry
-getting the latest on a celebrity or event
-keeping tabs on your favorite sports teams
But I use them to help me with marketing efforts. For example, I get alerts each day about anything on the subject of making and selling ebooks. I can then click on those links and read the current articles and blogs. Very often, there will be a comment box where I can leave a comment on the article and include a blurb about my ebooks including a link to my sites. Blog hosts almost always publish comments because they want it to appear that lots of people read their post. As long as you’re not blatantly spamming an advertisement for your stuff, it’s really easy to get your message and links out there for others to click on. This will help generate traffic to your sites and rise you in search engine rankings over time.
To get started, visit the site – http://www.google.com/alerts and fill out the form with your search terms and a return email. Once a day or so, Google will email you with any web content that appears. I find it super handy for being informed of any references to me and/or my books. But it’s also great for notifications if someone is talking about a subject that I care about.
Then visit those articles and blog posts. If there’s a comment box, leave a thoughtful comment. Usually, you get to insert your URL which will be a clickable part of your name next to your comment. Sometimes you can also type in a URL that will become clickable. After leaving comments, make sure the links work.
Remember, comments often require the moderator to approve them, but blog hosts almost always do because it shows that people read their blog. No bloggers enjoy seeing their comment boxes reading zero, even me (wink, wink).
So put Google alerts to use and make connections instantly. For more helpful advice like this please check out my ebook, How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks – All for FREE by Jason Matthews. Available for Amazon Kindle, at Smashwords in any format, or as a PDF for reading on a computer here. And it’s not just for selling ebooks, but it’s for marketing and selling anything online for free.
Click here for the home page of Jason Matthews, spiritual fiction author.

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

Sell Ebooks, Search Term in Google lists How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks All for FREE in top spots in Just 2 Weeks!

It's only been about 2 weeks, and somehow a Google Search currently shows links to my ebook on page 1 when the term "sell ebooks" is typed into Google. (However, I admit for some reason it doesn't work every time, and it could be due to the fact that it's recognizing my IP address. Maybe give it a few more days in case it doesn't work for you on the first try. Even so, at least I definitely am on fairly close following pages in little time.)
"Sell ebooks" is a highly competitive search term. It averages between 12,000 and 18,000 searches per month. That's between 400 and 600 times every day. The results come up with over 5 million entries spread out over enormous amounts of pages. To think that my ebook, How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks - All for FREE is already in the top references on page 1 of Google - that's amazing! And remember, I haven't spent one penny in the process. Don't ever think you need to spend marketing money to get results fast!
Here are the top 3 (non-paid for) search results for this term:
  • Amazon.com: Make Money Online-Write and Sell EBooks Guide: A Work ... You can write, publish, and sell ebooks, even without lifting a finger, and earn $10000/month in only 30 days. This ultimate guide to starting and running ... www.amazon.com › ... › Business & CultureWeb Marketing - Cached
Although this is not a direct reference for my ebook but for someone else's, How to Make, Market and Sell ebooks still comes up in the top left corner of the page, and it's way less expensive!
This is great because this PR.com press release has been out for less than a week and already it has my book on the first page of Google for a highly competitive search term! And it was free. I guess this advice works better than I realized.
I've really been surprised and impressed with myebook.com for the number of views and the Google results that it's had for my ebook.  To think I almost didn't include them in my retailer list because they were a newer outfit and I didn't know much about them. Just goes to show that this entire field is new and clearly some people are doing it better than others. (Now if I could just see the sales there picking up we'd have a real tri-fecta.)
So who are the winners here? I'm super impressed with PR.com, Myebook.com. I'm still really happy with Smashwords and Amazon. But honestly, and I know this sounds like tooting my own horn, I'm delighted by the results that can be had with very little effort and no money in a short period of time by simply following the advice in my ebook.
Please check out How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks - All for FREE by Jason Matthews if you want success in this business or any related business.
Home Page of author Jason Matthews.

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