Detritus – A Short Story

Hey Guys, updates were a bit sparse last week, but I’m kicking off this week with a new story for you to make up for it. This is a tense little sci-fi horror idea that I quite enjoyed. I’ve been wanting to write a time travel story for a while, but I wanted to do something a bit different with it. I was lucky as the entire plot basically jumped into my head fully formed and I just had to go through the process of getting words on the page. As usual, check it out below.

In other news, the Big Book Freebie I did the other week went really well. A lot of free copies were distributed, and I have had some nice feedback from readers. I was hoping it would translate into a few extra Amazon reviews, but that’s one of the toughest hurdles to achieve. 

Lastly, I finally traded in the very unreliable old laptop that came with my phone contract for a very swish Macbook. This means that it will be a lot easier to get writing and blogging done hassle free. Expect more updates and stories in the future. 

– Owen

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EDIT: Unfortunately, as this story has been published elsewhere, I’ve had to remove it temporarily. Sorry – Owen.

YAFB! – Yet Another Free Book

Free BookGood morning freebie fans.

Just a quick post to let you know about another freebie. You might have missed Time Trial last week, but don’t worry because my first short story Christmas Past, is free today!

Here are the details.

Christmas Past Book CoverChristmas Past – Amazon.com /Amazon.co.uk

The Time Travel story with a dark side.

A man died while the snow fell. His body would be hidden until summer, but there are strangers in the woods today. During a long forgotten Christmas, three time travellers come to town; is their presence just a coincidence or are there darker secrets hidden beneath the ice.

 

Should writers market?

I’ve been reading Seth Godin’s fascinating book Permission Marketing today and it got me thinking about how I, and other writers, seem to approach promotion. Right of the bat I have to say that I have never liked marketing. While I recognise its necessity, self promotion has never come easily to me. I find it awkward and unpleasant, but reading Permission Marketing has really lifted a weight of my shoulders and got me looking at things differently?

So, what is permission marketing? Basically, Godin outlines too kinds of marketing inhis book. The first is interruption marketing. This is the basic form of marketing that we’re all familiar with in which you attempt to draw your prospective customer’s eye away from what their doing long enough to talk them into buying your product. I’ve always hated this kind of marketing and I’m pretty sure that this is why talking about advertising makes me so uncomfortable.

Permission Marketing, Godin tells us, is the exact opposite of this. Rather than intruding upon your prospective customer, you get permission to contact them and then work to build a relationship with them over time that gradually turns them into a loyal customer. The only drawback appears to be that getting the initial permission to contact them necessitates a little of that old fashioned interruption. However, I must admit that this sits a lot better with me. I feel much more comfortable talking to people who are a little bit interested in what I have to say and going from there than standing in the middle of the street shouting “buy my book.”

I’m still in the early days of my writing career and I don’t really have a marketing strategy to speak of, but it has always been my intention to avoid becoming a spammer.  Unfortunately seems to be one of the pitfalls of the internet, you’re only a few short clicks away from the deadly Affiliate Marketing machine that seems to suck in so many good people and absorb them.

But are any of these concerns really necessary? Should self published authors really worry about marketing?

One of the great advantages to Amazon’s KDP service is that a small bit of luck can go a long way. This is partly because you are publishing to one of the most visible and reliable online stores in the world, and partly because it doesn’t take much to get Amazon working for you. While they seem to be a little more effective at sorting out the chaff than they used to be, Amazon’s algorithms are still very favourable to authors. When you combine the bestseller lists, popular lists and also-boughts, Amazon actually does a lot to generate exposure for your book once you get your feet off the ground.

A spike in sales and good reviews seem to be the only events that reliably generate more sales, with advertising and agressive marketing remaining a defunct option. One of self publishing’s biggest success stories, J.A Konrath, said not long ago that he doesn’t believe that many of his sales come from his reputation in the self publishing world. Rather, he attributes his success to writing and publishing a large number of books and giving them professional covers. This is the same advice we see repeated over and over in the self publishing community; the best promotional tool is another book. Over time the writer should seek to develop of platform of multiple books and good reputation, eventually this will create enough momentum and sales increase across the board. Sounds nice.

So, what can I contribute to this discussion?

At the moment I only have one book to my name, I’ll be sure to tell you what happens when I have a second. What I can tell you is that selling a single short story is no small job. In fact, just about the only thing that ever shifted copies was the faithful KDP Select free day that I talked about previously.

Should writers market? I’m inclined to say no. At least, not in the traditional sense. I tried marketing a short story. Though my efforts were meagre, the time I spent should have generated a few sales. That was not the case and all the self promotion in the world only seemed to count when the book was going for free. Admittedly, a short story by an unknown author is at a disavantage, but one only gets known by selling books and had it been a novel the improvements could not be huge. Writers marketing online seem to get a very small benefit compared to the effort they put in, and the success stories come, not from those who marketed, but from those who wrote the most.

Making the most of your KDP select free days.

Part of the problem with self-publishing is finding an effective promotion strategy. It’s not that opportunities are hard to come by, but that no author wants their marketing to be intrusive, or even worse, expensive. Price and ethics, unfortunately, are not problems for traditional publishers with giant marketing branches but they’re an endless headache for an independent.

When I published my short story, Christmas Past, back in January, I had very little idea of what to expect in self publishing. I didn’t expect my story to sell at all, then after it sold a couple of copies, I expected it to sell lots. Which it didn’t. I’m at a slight disadvantage, I’m an unknown author trying to sell a single short story with Christmas in the title as we move further and further from December.

However, like many self published authors, I entered my book into Amazon’s KDP select program. I wasn’t expecting much to come from it; the only reason I went with KDP was because I didn’t intended to fight with Smashwords’ ridiculous formatting standards. If I was going to be publishing solely to Amazon anyway, I might as well take the benefits. Now, a few months on and the whole world seems to be publishing KDP select results and mulling over the advantages and disadvantages. I thought I’d join the fray and share what hasn’t worked for me, and what has.

What hasn’t? The lending library for Prime customers. Perhaps this will benefit me in the future when I have lengthier books out, but right now nobody wants to waste their valuable free book borrows on a short story. Understandable.

What I can talk about is KDP select and free promotions. Free days have been crucial to me in the last few months. Originally, they were something of a disappointment. Yes, they’d get me a bundle of free downloads but they never translated into sales. Where they did benefit me was in reviews. My story currently has three reviews on Amazon.com and three on Amazon.co.uk. This isn’t a huge amount, but they all came after a free promotion.

However, what I understand now that I didn’t understand then is that you really have to make the most of your select free days. Don’t just make the book free, couple it with a big marketing push and ask your friends and family to push it a little too. I ran another free day this week, but I also tweeted about the book, posted to google plus and asked all my friends on facebook to help share the book too. I managed to break into a few of Amazon’s rankings and ranked higher than I ever have before. More importantly, the sale ended a few days ago and Christmas Past is taken in a few real paid sales since then.

Now, I haven’t made any real money out of it, but bumping from no sales to five or six in a few days is a really dramatic increase. I’m sure these will drop off a bit once my promotion wears off, but it’s a helpful indicator as to what works and what doesn’t. My only hope is that the effect is amplified when you have a greater, more diverse platform to promote.

My little short story isn’t much of a performer and it’s a struggle to sell every copy, so not everything I say will apply to other people’s books, but I hope my own little experiences are helpful to you.