Southern Scotch

Southern Scotch

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Time & The Art of the Online Hustle

In the beginning there was Facebook: about 450 friends, the number growing slowly.  And then I added Twitter, which soon swallowed all of my efforts--but did help to get my name around, introduced me to some cool new friends and won me 1800 followers to date.  Still, online book sales remained slow.

Someone recommended Goodreads.  Then I received a lengthy list of review sites and forums to try.

You see where this is going:  While grateful for the intel, I also work and need time to write while rewriting/proofing/formatting my backlog of books from The Desert:  my goal being a dozen books by the end of 2013.  But how could I achieve that goal while doing the promotional and social legwork I now knew I needed to do?

I removed my dunce cap and put on my thinking cap.  Result?  My Secret Weapon:   an 80-sheet, 5x8" college-ruled notebook.  This one is #1 and I suspect there will be several.  It's a combination media log and motivational driver.  As an intensely visual guy, I need to see what baby steps I'm taking.

Examples:
Facebook section:  sent out X Friend Requests with hopes to build my base.
Twitter section:  Added follows, unfollowed nonfollowers, ReTweeted important Tweets from friends, participated in a daily Tweet Team to promote my own books while helping others.
Goodreads section:  Introduced myself formally, joined several groups, participated in forums.
Review section:  requested reviews on the days set aside for this task.
And so forth through a half-dozen more sections (for now).

Others can do this full-time, I'm aware.  But I'm convinced that persistence and consistency will pay--and avoiding doing nothing but shout-outs for my work seems a giant, not a baby, step in the right direction.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

September Coming Events

The September All-Female Big Dog Roundup will feature:
1) Amanda Hocking
2) Barbara Freethy
3) Melissa Foster

Also be on the watch for a bold, outrageous Q&A with Michael Prescott.  MP went on to indie glory when he was dumped by the trad pub industry after eight well-reviewed novels. Fellow Midlist Monsters will want to check this out!

And...Late September I'll post the first fifty pages of the next Boss MacTavin crime  book: concerning the world's greatest cold case.

Monday, August 20, 2012

We'd rather not know that you don't know

...than know that you know way too much.

Colleen McCullough knew too much, again and again and again, in the Roman historical novels that became her cash cows.  But no moos was eventually good moos for me, though I'm a Roman history buff and dig the Roman classics.  How much history can we take when we're trying to follow a story?  I don't need or really want ten pages about Roman plumbing or any arcane trivia that puts my mood to sleep.  I want to know more about Caesar's reactions to the new jams he was in.  I want to know less of the weave of his rug and more about why neither women nor men gave a damn if he had hair or didn't.

Steven Saylor may know just as much but is happy to seem to know less.  His Roma Sub Rosa mysteries make the case masterfully for sprinkling, not shoveling, the details.  We get a ripsnorting mystery each time and characters we can't forget are in another time and place but who are brought to life today.  Paradoxically, Saylor's less is more technique brings Rome more to life in my mind.

And anyone with any interest in Elizabethan England would be hard-pressed to find a livelier account than Brad Strickland's short YA mystery entitled Wicked Will, starring a young boy named Shakespeare.  Strickland's renowned for his research, but had to rein it in here because of the length of the story...but also because he believes less is more.  I'd say it's more than just more here, damned near close to most.  Scattered historical tidbits bring old London and young Will crackingly to life.

The great trick of the minimalist buckshot approach  lies in one of the loveliest words in the Italian language:  sprezzatura. The word was coined in 1528 in The Book of The Courtier:
It is an art which does not seem to be an art. One must avoid affectation and practice in all things a certain sprezzatura, disdain or carelessness, so as to conceal art, and make whatever is done or said appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Numbers, Part 2: Summary of Free Event

So, I'd had a bad day and things didn't bode well with a solitary sale of my new book, NOBILITY.  Here's an update that may be of interest for those who may have gotten the willies themselves, from time to time, thinking of numbers.

Do you remember what I said about the Power of One?  My fortune took an incredible turn when one writer I've come to admire, John A A Logan, set aside most of a day he could have spent on himself to help get me into gear.  About twenty e-mails from Scotland set out to teach me the basics of the electrifying new dance, The Ebook Big-Time Hustle.  John sent pages of links for reviewers, blogs, forums, sites.  And, knowing that I was pressed for time and in the very center of a two-day two-book free event, he listed it on the key sites--in both the UK and the US!

One, one, one, one:  the first review came in...from John.  And it was a beauty.  He then recommended the book to a nine-year fan of his own work--and this led to a second five-star review.  Then a third came in.  And then a fourth, from Kirkus MacGowan:  four stars.

Meanwhile, Logan advised me that my book was well-placed on Kindle bestseller free download charts.  And a terrific review appeared for SOUTHERN SCOTCH--from Brad Strickland. My own words came flashing through my brain:  the Power of One consists of not just one but this one and that one and that one.

Today's reports show about 400 downloads over the two days--and that was with a late start in the UK  and little exposure on Goodreads so far.  And that's directly following one solitary sale the day before the event.  Brothers and sisters, I swear by these words:  take care of the this one and that one and the gods will look after your numbers in time.  Salut!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Infernal Skinny on Numbers

I had a bad day yesterday thinking about numbers, specifically Number One.  Numero Uno, El Reberoo, around whom the sun revolves, took an advance-contented sigh as he checked his Amazon Kindle Reports--then screamed as he looked at his numbers:

One sale of the just-launched book on which he'd pegged his hopes.  One sale.  Here I reproduce the scream to be remembered for all time:

"AIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!"

In a funk far too black to describe here, I fired off two e-mails to writers met on Twitter, then I went home to sleep it off at roughly 6 p.m.  Today, then, with my helmet on and the sniveling snot cleaned away from my nose, I booted up at Starbucks and found their replies in my Inbox.  One offered warm wishes and useful general advice.  The other did that, then went further:  a series of e-mails chronicling his own timeline to success and providing specific links he knew I'd be able to use:  to get my name around and begin gaining reviews.  Unbelievably, he went still further--providing my first review and posting it on Amazon, Amazon UK and Goodreads.  All of this was good and sweet.  But best and sweetest of all was his advice to think a bit more upon numbers:  instead of brooding upon all of the readers and colleagues who hadn't bought my masterpiece, I had to think about the ONE reader, him, who read the book and loved it and now would go to war for it.  And there was a turning in my brain from woeful thoughts of just one sale....to thoughts of the Power of One.

John A A Logan, who'd sent me the series of emails, also advised me to reach out and ask for help frankly.  I began with a list of just less than a dozen.  And one more response has come through, from Becky Scarberry.  The Power of One's been redoubled.  Whatever goes down with the rest of that list, I don't intend to be depressed.  I'll continue to focus on all of those loving and glorious ones.  Ones as readers, ones as friends.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Story So Far

A Midlist Monster who'd trad-pubbed four books and won a prestigious award was sent to The Desert for twenty-odd years.  In September 2011, he set out to reinvent himself and break back into print.

A half-dozen starting decisions:
1) Stop running from poor past sales and stand with pride behind the books I wrote as Kelley Wilde.
2) Reintroduce myself under the name Reb MacRath.
3) Rewrite and go to market with a big book about the aftermath to the Great Escape from Alcatraz.  This had originally been intended as the second book in a series of thrillers starring Boss MacTavin, a charismatic 'Southern Scot'.
4) Temporarily abandon the novel that I'd planned to publish first:  a genesis story of Boss.  Too wild, I decided, for the conservative publishing scene.
5)  Find a writing partner.  I settled on Brad Strickland, who seemed ideal in every way and had a darned good agent.  Pooled talents and contacts might well turn the tide.
6)  Hit the ground running online, starting with Facebook, this blog, and an experimental website.

Setbacks and heartbreaks:
1)  The writing partnership didn't work out.  Scheduling conflicts on Brad's part.  I lost another month removing all traces of his presence before forging on alone.
2)  J. Abrams, I learned, was getting close to premiering his new TV show, Alcatraz.  And, though show specifics were sketchy, I felt more pressure by the day to complete and sell the novel by the time the show premiered.  I worked like a man possessed.
3)  With the help of QueryTracker, I launched a blitz of queries that resulted in the usual high ratio of rejections--but also four requests for 'fulls'.  Response times to these readings of the completed manuscript ranged from three to six months.  No takers, though all praised the smooth, polished prose.

Two critical turns in my thinking:
1) By March, the Abrams show was already the least of my worries.  It bombed.  Then again, I'd now approached most of the country's best agents, as well as new and hungry ones.  And I'd gotten the same response I'd been getting for two decades.  No matter what I did or said, I couldn't get agents to see me as a new writer with sizzle.  I'd stay doomed by the smell of old cabage that trails a perennial loser--UNLESS...
2) What if I saw my Desert books not as books I'd failed to sell but as smashing inventory?  What if I went through the lot, book by book, whipping each one into line with all I'd learned about my art?   And what if there were a way for an ambitious, cash-strapped guy to launch a siege worthy of Caesar:  one book every other month till the end of 2013?

A sharp right turn into Indieland:
Now, a writer can hear about ebooks and never think to publish one.  After all, the story goes, no book is worthy of the name unless it's pubbed by a reputable house (in whatever state of decline), with a print  run large enough to get it on the shelves of bookstores that haven't yet gone belly up.  Furthermore, trad reviewers won't look at an ebook to spit on the screen.  Ebooks, the story goes, are written by losers who can't rub two stylistic sticks together and make a single spark.

That's a clever and self-serving story from the bowels of the Trad Pub Cabal.  And it didn't take me long to learn that the story is wrong on the matters that count.  And here were the matters that mattered to me:
1)  I could enter this arena, rich in inventory.
2)  In time, if I learned the ropes, I could actually call my own shots.  Even at the very start, I could determine the order in which I would publish my books:  putting SOUTHERN SCOTCH out, as I'd always wanted to do, before the book on Alcatraz.
3)  The only limit on my output was the time required to ensure pure quality control.
4)  My initial expenses would be limited to professional formatting and assistance with my covers, though in time I'd invest more and more: still bolder and splashier covers, promotion, promotion, promotion.
5)  I found more honest camaraderie in months than I did in all those many years of slavery to trad pubbing.  The smart, cool indie writer always pay it forward.  And for every Indie Slick Willy or hustler, there are a dozen gladiators good to have as friends.

So, am I rich and famous yet?
Noooooooo.  And yet on Friday, August 10, my third ebook will go Live on Kindle.  And, after that stretch in The Desert, I bless each day that fans the growing inner fire I feel.  My last published book's no longer twenty years ago.  By the end of this year I'll have published eight books:  four with two trad publishers, four as a proud member of the ebook revolution.  Though I haven't seen a penny yet, the money will come with one book or the next.  From book to book I advance along the learning curve:
1) With the third book, NOBILITY, I've found a style of cover that suits me.  And by year's end I plan to re-do the first two.
2)  I changed formatters, paying more for superior work.
3)  Since April, I've worked to build my base on both Facebook and Twitter.  On the latter, I've increased my Followers from zero to nearly 1500 and have bonded with colleagues, both newbies and pros.  It looks as if NOBILITY may bring in the first reviews of my work.  At the same time, I've championed ebook writers I believe in and am growing more active on Goodreads.

Concluding thoughts?
I wouldn't advise anyone to burn the trad pub bridge.  Think about my story and put it in the blender when the time comes for you to decide whether you choose to spend years seeking an agent who may take years to sell a book that you spent years in writing--when well less than 5% of all trad-pubbed books turn a profit--or whether you choose to fly indie.  Throw this fact into the blender as well:  you'll be in a far better position with agents and editors if your sales are setting the indie charts on fire.  Right, Amanda Hocking?  Meanwhile, act professionally:  be civil and respectful to all agents and all editors while you engage in the glorious battle for your independence.
















Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Coming Wednesday, August 8

Be sure to tune in tomorrow for the update, The Story So Far:  how one fallen Midlist Monster became a gladiator in the ebook arena.  I think you're gonna like this one.

Till then,

Reb