Tuesday, September 6

The Secret to Selling Books: Getting Sticky

What is the Stickiness Factor?
The Stickiness Factor says that there are specific ways of making a contagious message memorable; there are relatively simple changes in the presentation and structuring of information that can make a difference in how much of an impact it makes.
- Kristen Lamb quoting Malcom Gladwell
Kristen Lamb, in her post The Secret to Selling Books Part I, writes:
The Stickiness Factor not only applies to our social media message, it applies to who we are as writer personalities. It also applies to our books. Nailing what I will call The Sticky Author Triumvirate is key to publishing success. We need to get sticky on all three to have the best odds of reaching the tipping point.

Let’s take a look at The Sticky Author Triumvirate:
1. Get sticky with social media messages.
Kristen writes:
What can make people care? Care about them first. Just talking to people can go a long way to making a sale. People buy from who they know and who they LIKE. Stand apart from all the takers and learn to give.
For instance,
Yes, most of us love writing, but we love other things too. We need to extend ourselves and simply start talking to people. We have to learn to be unselfish. Stop demanding that others connect with us via OUR interests–books, craft, writing–and take initiative. We need to find the common ground and extend ourselves and connect where the potential READER feels comfortable.

Surely you have friends, family or coworkers on Facebook who are not writers. Who are they talking to? Who are their friends? Start poaching (befriending) normal people and talk to them. If you meet a pet lover on Twitter who works as an engineer and he is nice? Look at who his friends are and extend yourself. Hey, I am a pal of Jim’s. Thought I would say hello. (DO NOT pitch to them, just talk and be cool).

Just once a day make it a point to add non-writers who are active on social media to your network. Pay attention to them and start a dialogue. Be genuine and positive, and that will be STICKY. People crave attention and positive energy.
2. We need to be sticky writer personalities. Get out and mingle with non-writers.
Kristen writes:
As long as we are all hanging out with other writers we blend into the din. But, if we start talking to other people who love sports, parenting, knitting, the military, politics, animals, horses, celebrities, then we are now injecting ourselves into groups that are not comprised of people just like us. We stand out so we are a bit more “sticky.”

Pick a favorite channel on cable TV, a favorite show, or a video game, and I guarantee there is a Twitter # for it. Start talking to people who love #Lost or #AI, #Glee, #ESPN, #Oprah, #Ellen, #Halo #GoW. Profile your potential reader. What does she do with her day? Maybe she is a #teacher or she plays #WOW. Get creative and get out of that comfort zone.
3. Write sticky books. Don't be polite, be passionate.
Kristen writes:
It is not enough for someone to buy our book. They must also love it so much that they can’t wait to tell someone, recommend our book or even buy a gift copy for a pal. THIS is how word of mouth wildfires get started.
Read the rest of Kristen's article here: The Secret to Selling Books Part I–Let’s Get Sticky

Sunday, September 4

Dean Wesley Smith: The secret of making it as a professional writer

Dean Wesley Smith gives Heinlein's Rules of Writing:
1. You must write.

2. You must finish what you start.

3. You must refrain from rewriting except to editorial order.

4. You must put it on the market.

5. You must keep it on the market until sold.

Then he said, “The above five rules really have more to do with how to write fiction [...] but they are amazingly hard to follow — which is why there are so few professional writers and so many aspirants, and which is why I am not afraid to give away the racket!

I found these rules and followed them when I got serious about writing in 1982. So did my wife before I knew her. So did so many more of my successful writer friends.

As Heinlein said, the rules are amazingly hard to follow.

And for those of you who are looking for a secret to making it as a professional writer, Heinlein put it right out there in 1947. And it hasn’t changed, unlike most everything else in this business.
Read more of Dean's article here: Heinlein's Business Rules

Joe Konrath: Why Writers Shouldn't Care

You shouldn't care about people liking you. Praise is like candy. It tastes good, but it isn't good for us.
- Joe Konrath, Not Caring
This is why I like Joe Konrath's writing: Not only is it snappy, but there's something behind it. ... Not, of course, that Joe cares what I think!

He continues:
The world is filled with a wide variety of people. But only a few of them should really matter to you. The rest are just white noise. They can amuse. But don't give them more power than that.

One of the greatest journeys in life is overcoming insecurity and learning to truly not give a shit.

But don't take my word for it. My opinion shouldn't matter to you at all.
Great advice! To read the entire article, go here.

Kurt Vonnegut on the shapes of stories

Master storyteller Kurt Vonnegut once gave a talk in which he discussed the different shapes stories can have; it's funny. Here is the video.

The video is only a portion of Vonnegut's talk but this transcript gives the entire thing.

Since we're talking about Kurt Vonnegut and writing, here are his rules for writing:

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
4. Every sentence must do one of two things —- reveal character or advance the action.
5. Start as close to the end as possible.
6. Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them -- in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Kurt Vonnegut goes on to say:
The greatest American short story writer of my generation was Flannery O'Connor (1925 - 1964). She broke practically every one of my rules but the first. Great writers tend to do that.

I would give you a link to where I got these rules but I printed them out years ago and keep them the sheet tacked above my writing desk.

Saturday, September 3

Word of the day: Neologism

Recently I downloaded a dictionary App (Dictionary.com) and have been getting a Word-of-the-Day popup ever since.

The first time I saw the popup I was irritated (I can get grouchy when something pops up on the screen when I'm reading!), but I decided to view it as an opportunity to expand my vocabulary. I've tried to use each word of the day in my writing or conversation, to help me incorporate it. I've been finding some words insurmountably difficult, though. Tell me, how does one work a word like, "neologism," into conversation?

I can imagine it:

Jan shook in horror. "I'm so glad you weren't there, the whole thing was squicky!"

Bob looked at Jan as though she'd morphed into a Valley Girl. "Squicky? Really? What are you, 12?"

Jan glared at Bob, he was such a man, thinking that if he didn't know a word then it wasn't a word. She put her hands on her hips and rolled her eyes at him. "What's the matter, Bob, you got something against neologisms? Hmmm?"

Well, the thought makes me laugh, but then I'm easily amused.

If you want to check out the app for yourself, here's the link.

Friday, September 2

48 of the best iPad Apps: Many of them free!

As a Canadian writer -- and therefore by definition poor -- I get excited about free! Here's a list of 48 iPad apps starting with BRITISH LIBRARY 19TH CENTURY BOOKS. For this app, if you choose not to subscribe, you only get access to 100 books. But, still!

Here's the article: The 48 Best iPad Apps

The Race to the Bottom: Are low ebook prices hurting writers?

Are low ebook prices hurting writers? As I understand it, the argument for this is something like the following:
Low ebook prices are creating a race-to-the-bottom, each author charging lower ebook prices than the next, trying to attract readers. Soon it will get to the point that readers will refuse to pay anything for books and writers will have to put their books up for free in order to get read. The result: no one will be able to make a living as a writer.
I read what I have just written and can't help but feel that the argument, on the face of it, doesn't seem plausible.

Here, such as it is, is my argument that low ebook prices -- even free! -- won't prevent writers from earning a living wage.

What do writers want? Writers, whether of the traditionally or independently published varieties, care about writing and being able to make enough money through writing that they don't have to do anything else.

All things being equal, how much money an author makes depends on, first, how fast they write and, second, on how big their audience is.

Now, consider these points:
1. The cheaper books are, the more books people will buy. If I have budgeted $50.00 a month for my book purchases, buying cheap ebooks means I can buy more books.

2. The cheaper books are, the more people will buy them. Folks who don't normally buy books, preferring, for example, to get them out of the library, will buy cheaply priced ebooks just for the convenience.

3. The more people who buy books, the greater the chance writers will get their books into the hands of someone who is part of their audience. That is, someone who will enjoy the book and look forward to other books by the same author.

4. People from your audience, people who love your books and want you to keep writing because they want to keep reading, will pay a decent price for your books.

That is my argument, such as it is. I think that the key to success for writers is to get their books into the hands of readers who would love them. Once that is done, those readers will pay money for the books and they will recommend the author to their friends, etc. But the key is to make that initial match between writer and reader. Giving ebooks away cheaply, or even for free, helps a writer find his or her audience.

I would be interested in hearing from anyone on either side of this issue. :)

I wrote this post after reading Joe Konrath's excellent blog post: The Race to the Bottom. I highly recommend it!

Thursday, September 1

Joe Konrath: How to Succeed as a Writer

If you're a writer of any stripe -- whether traditional or indie -- Joe Konrath's latest blog post is a must-read. Here is a sample:
Q: What's the secret to selling a lot of ebooks?

Joe: There is no secret. Write good books, with good descriptions, good formatting, and good cover art, sell them cheap, and keep at it until you get lucky.

Q: I have an ebook, but it isn't selling well. What should I do to market it?

Joe: Write another ebook, and another, and keep at it until you get lucky.

Q: I've changed my cover art 56 times, but sales are still flat.

Joe: You need to keep writing until you get lucky.

Q: Joe, I've followed your blog, and you're the reason I decided to self-publish. How did you get so many sales?

Joe: I kept at it until I got lucky.

Q: Joe, you're a pioneer. A hero. A guru. You deserve all the success you've gotten. To what do you attribute your success?

Joe: I simply got lucky.

Q: You talk about luck a lot. How do I improve my chances at getting lucky?

Joe: Keep writing good books, with good descriptions, good formatting, and good cover art, and sell them cheap.

Q: Aren't talent and hard work more important than luck?

Joe: They can help you get lucky.
You get the idea. ;)

Read the rest of Joe's excellent post here: How To Succeed

19 Ways To Get More Readers For Your Author Blog

I love Joel Friedlander's blog, and posts like this are why: 19 Ways to Get More Readers for Your Blog.
1. Write more often—if you don’t have enough traffic, write more often. This is not necessarily good news, since you may feel you already have enough to do. But when you’re growing a blog, there’s no better way to increase the energy flow to your blog than increasing the amount of energy you put into your blog.

2. Write better articles—look at the last 10 articles you’ve posted to your blog. How many did people really care about? How many did you write for yourself, more than your readers? If you have to, and in contradiction to #1 above, write less frequently but better.

3. Do something different—give readers a reason to come to your blog. If you’re doing what everyone else in your niche is doing, why should they? What is it that no one has done? What angle is uncovered? What insight is lacking in the conversation?

4. Do something big—create a big list, a smashing resource directory, an exhaustive collection of tools, a survey of every viewpoint on a subject. Whatever it is, make it useful, the kind of thing you yourself would link to or bookmark for future reference.

5. Kidnap a celebrity—interview the biggest star in your niche, or the most controversial, or the person with the biggest blog in your field. Aim as high as you can, you will be surprised. Make a regular feature of profiling or interviewing movers and shakers in your industry.

6. Start an argument—disagree loudly with an established authority in your field, an “A-list” blogger, or the institutional overseers of your domain. Demand a response.

7. Rant—find an injustice in your field, something blatantly unfair or a monopolistic company taking advantage of the little guy. Rant about it, invite others to contribute.

8. Guest post—take your show on the road. Create a goal to contribute to someone else’s blog on a related topic once a week, once a month, whatever you can do. Query bloggers and read their archives. Fashion a headline for an article they’ll find irresistible.

9. Comment—leave comments that add to the discussion, that amplify what others have said, that disagree respectfully with the author, that bring something to the table. Pick 5 or 10 blogs and stay in touch with them, commenting when appropriate.

10. Upload articles—put some articles on articles sites like ezinearticles.com and make sure you link back to your blog. Use the same keywords you use in your blog posts.
For the next nine ways, read Joel's article! :)

How To Name Your Book

I've had an incredibly busy couple of days! Time to start getting caught up. A friend of mine, @kaneville, sent me this marvelous link about how to create a name for your masterpiece.
→ Find twenty books on Amazon that are in the same genre as yours and whose titles you like. Write down their titles. Try to get a feel for what works with your genre. What do you like about the titles? What don’t you like? Then put the list away for awhile.

→ Sit with a pencil and paper (and maybe your critique group and a white-board) and free-associate, making lists of words related to your book. Put them in columns: nouns, verbs, adjectives. If it’s a novel, list words that describe or suggest the setting. Then think about each of your major characters and write down words that relate to them. Think about the action in the story and write down verbs that capture it. If your book is non-fiction, list words that capture what you want your reader to think, feel or do after reading it. And words that describe what your book is about.

→ Nothing is off limits—write down anything you can think of that conveys anything about your book. Use visual words that suggest a scene. Other words that evoke an emotion. A sensation. A location. A question. You should have at least 100 words.

→ See if any of the words would work as a single-word title. Then start experimenting with different word combinations. Adjective-noun, verb-noun. Keep a thesaurus handy and look up other words. Write down as many word combinations as you can. Try not to self-censor at this stage.

→ From these lists, come up with at least 20 possible titles. Then put them away for 24 hours. Two things will happen: your subconscious may still be working on it; and when you come back to your list, you’ll have fresh eyes.

→ Go back to your title list. Add any new ideas you’ve had. Then narrow it down to three to five possibilities. Run them by a few people. (This may or may not help, depending on if there’s a consensus or the opinions are all over the map.) Take a little more time before narrowing it down to one. If you can, wait another day or two.

→ Remember your list of titles from Amazon? Go back to it. Ask yourself if the title you’ve chosen would fit the list—without being too similar or generic.
Read more here: How To Title Your Book