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Book Guts, Cover Design, Promotion, The Perishables Project

“Advertising Costs Money. New Stories Make Money.”

The title of this post is a quote from a fantastic blog post/interview/conversation between Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler. Eisler describes having walked away from a half-million dollar contract to self-publish after deciding he could do better on his own than with a traditional publisher acting as his promoter and gatekeeper. In it he points out something very wise: advertising costs money but new stories make money. It really is that simple. The post itself was pointed out to me in the comments to my article on opensource.com. I am tremendously flattered that they asked me to write a post for them about my experience. Opensource.com is an amazing resource for folks who are into all things open source – not “just” software, though who doesn’t love open-source software? – and was already in my RSS reader. To be asked to share my experience with their readers is just an incredible compliment and I am endlessly grateful to them for it. Trust me, folks, all the sweat and cringing and terror and anguish of writing and publishing and letting people tell me what they think of my work has absolutely been worth it for the amazing new experiences it has opened up. Life lesson: do scary stuff that sounds fun.

Back to the topic at hand! For months now John Ward (my cover artist) has been telling me that I need to get the next book out rather than promote the first one. Looking at what promotion efforts have done for me, he’s right. Pure promotion – the placement of banner ads, for instance – has done nothing but cost me money. Those efforts have sold a few books, sure, but this blog and the opportunities it has gotten me to talk about publishing rather than about my book in particular have done way more to drive interest. I suspect that most people who have purchased Perishables have done so out of curiosity – or courtesy – after taking an initial interest in the openness of my publishing and marketing processes. Persons who are interested in it as a book by an author otherwise unknown to them, encountered at random in the Kindle store or on Smashwords, are – according to the conventional wisdom of authors and promoters – those voracious readers who read everything they can get their hands on with a strong preference for series. I don’t have a series, I have a novel and two finished rough drafts for sequels. That’s a series waiting to happen – and continuing to wait while I try to promote the first book instead of write.

I’m a part of an informal group of writers who seek to hold one another to account when it comes to setting and meeting authorial goals every week on Google+, organized by the same John Ward. This week my goal was to get serious about setting some goals. I’ve spent a few weeks dithering over what to do with the rough draft of the next Withrow story and this week I’ve given it a good think and decided the thing to do is to edit and publish the damned thing already. I had this idea for trying to write an ancillary story set in the 1950’s that I could weave into it but that’s the sort of project that becomes self-sustaining and unable to be finished. I could easily see myself being tempted into working on working on the book and never pulling the trigger. Much like the Laine Cunningham Novel Contest’s deadline forced me to shut up and decide I was done with the manuscript for Perishables, I think I need to shut up and recognize that I’m done with Tooth & Nail. It badly needs editing, yes, but that’s something of which I’m no longer terrified. I plan to start next week. I also have a fun idea for a perpendicular short story that I will write, edit and post for free on the various sites to increase my shelf-space and give people a legitimate way to get introduced to the character of Roderick.

It means I also need to get on the stick about putting together a cover for it. I’m tempted, obviously, to hire John again. The tinkerer in me is also tempted to do the cover myself. To that end I’ve reached out to two fraternity brothers who would make excellent models for Withrow and his insane cousin Roderick. The Withrow model has already replied in the affirmative; I’m waiting to hear from the potential Roderick. If I don’t hear from him I have another couple of folks who could do just fine so we’ll see.

So, a few updates:

  • I’ve basically sold zero copies of Perishables this month. I’ve sold a handful but in the single digits. No big deal, though, as I think I am slowly recognizing what’s wrong with my promotion efforts thus far and taking steps to improve on them by producing more content rather than talking about the content I’ve produced. The irony of blogging about the importance of doing rather than speaking is not lost on me, thanks. Heh.
  • I received the prize money associated with the Laine Cunningham Novel Award and thus Perishables is now, officially, a profitable enterprise. WOOHOO!
  • Due to some schedule swapping, my banner ad has gone back up on yog-sothoth.com for a few days at no cost. That has generated a new, smaller wave of visits to the site and at least a couple of sales.
  • The article at opensource.com has generated more visits than the banner ad and was free to me and more fun since I got to talk about myself rather than create a banner ad and email it off and wait to see what happened.
  • My interviews with Brooke Johnson and on the podcast The Platform continue to generate a few visits here and there, showing a strong long tail effect!
  • Visitors to this site who come here from the opensource.com article are drastically more interactive. They visit multiple pages and spend a lot longer looking at the site than people who are referred directly to the sales page by a banner ad. No real surprise, except that I hadn’t thought about it enough to expect that.
  • One really, really enthusiastic reader/fan/reviewer on Facebook has generated a lot of visits to the website. I am crazy grateful for that reader and it shows what I’ve discussed before: a personal recommendation from a voracious reader does more than anything else possibly can do to get people interested in one’s work.
Action items (did I just say that? ugh) for the next couple of weeks:
  • begin editing Tooth & Nail
  • confirm a cover model for Roderick
  • finish drawing the illustrations for Tooth & Nail‘s quirky interstitial pieces a la the recipes in Perishables
  • decide whether I’m hiring John or doing this myself, probably after I try doing it myself
  • avoid going insane due to grad school
  • enjoy my high school class’ 20th reunion, the first reunion I’ll have attended at all
  • avoid going insane due to election season and being an election judge.
That about sums it up. Suggestions? Ideas? Corrections? Let me know via email (michael at perishablesbook dot com works just dandy) or via any of the various other means.

 

Discussion

2 Responses to ““Advertising Costs Money. New Stories Make Money.””

  1. A good friend in England pointed me your way. Thanks very much for this blog! I’m an aspiring graphic novelist with very little experience, and my first half hour browsing your site has opened up my eyes to all sorts of possibilities and common sense approaches to the publishing world. Thank you again!

    Posted by Ross | 10 June, 2013, 11:58 AM

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