fairy tales

Striking Illustrations in a Modern Fairy Tale

ZYFA_DaggerRoseCover_120215v1prepressToday another Clickworks Press author discusses Kickstarter for authors (and illustrators), the value of fairy tales, and writing in community.

Keep reading: Bill Hoard

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The Stone and the Song: Coming Soon In Paperback

Stone and Song Cover 4 - High ResolutionThe physical proof (in two senses) is in the mail. This is my first time through the process, but my best guess is that the paperback edition of The Stone and the Song will be available on Amazon in about a week.

Or you can save yourself a week and save two-thirds of the price if you get the Kindle edition now.

I’ve got an afternoon off and am going to write like the wind. I recently revisited Write Or Die, a motivational tool that’s right up my alley, and had rather astonishingly good results. Even a preliminary attempt had me writing roughly double my normal top speed. Now to see if that’s sustainable. If it is, and if I can maintain sufficient awareness of what’s upcoming in the story, I could be reaching 2,500+ words per hour. If.

Let’s see if I can melt away some goals.

Cheers!

—Ben

PS – If you want a note when the paperback is available, you can sign up for updates and friendly notes.Subscribe Button Red Border 1

Milestone! My First (Sort Of) Negative Review!

Ok, so I’m probably weird to be excited about it, but The Stone and the Song just got its first 2-star review on Amazon, and I’m actually feeling kind of bubbly. Am I crazy? Here’s what I’m thinking:

1. It’s a review. Right now my big goal is to get 25+ Amazon reviews. While I obviously prefer good ones, every Stone and Song Cover 4 - High Resolutionreview adds weight and validity to the book’s presence on Amazon. Every review is a visible indicator to every future reader ever that someone read it and cared enough to talk about it. And, while it’s probably a bit of a fallacy, I think every review adds to the invisible implied crowd of many other readers who didn’t review it.

2. It’s a rite of passage. Since I’m breaking into the publishing world after self-publishing became really viable, I have pretty minimal experience of getting rejection letters. My plan back in the day was to collect them and set goals to reach a certain number. I never got that chance, so a negative review is one small way to join the universal brotherhood of authors in facing rejection graciously. (My writer character Zen, in the meantime, does collect his rejection letters, and writes thank-you notes for them along with his next submission.)

3. It adds legitimacy. Because seriously, as good as it is to have all 4- and 5-star reviews, until you hit some pretty serious numbers that just looks like you got a bunch of friends to say nice things about you, even if that’s not at all the case. Or, as it may be, only sort of the case.

4. My rating can take it. If most of my reviews were negative, it would be getting pretty hard to take around now. But Stone & Song had a 4.8 rating before this and has a 4.5 now. For a minor, early work, I’ll really be satisfied with anything above a 3.5. Well, ok, anything above a 4.0. But still. I admit I’m a little sad this took the visual down from 5 stars to 4 1/2, but xkcd is a comfort in times like this.

5. For a negative review, it’s pretty positive. The main thrust of the review is something like, “Seems like he’s trying to do something interesting here, but I didn’t really get it.” For a bad review, that’s not half bad. If that’s the worst thing a reader sees when she checks the negative reviews, I’m in good shape. Especially in the context of the other reviews which, if I may paraphrase, say something like, “He’s doing something really interesting here!”

In short, many thanks to Voracious Reader for taking the time to read my story and leave a thoughtful review, and thank you to the (so far) 10 other reviewers for your thrillingly kind words. I deeply appreciate it.

Cheers!

—Ben

PS – If you haven’t read The Stone and the Song yet, you can get it here. If you have read it, it would make my day (and help other readers) if you add your review: Amazon | Goodreads. Thanks!

Last Chance to Pre-Order!

The Stone and the Song, coming Feb 21, 2015 (!)

The Stone and the Song, coming Feb 21, 2015 (!)

The Stone and the Song releases tomorrow!

Pre-order now before the price goes up from $0.99 to $2.99.

You can also subscribe to my new mailing list for news on upcoming projects, including a possible audiobook version in the works as we speak!

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In a world where words are power and magic is song, a voiceless girl must defeat the sorceress who betrayed her.

But soon she will find that the evil touches more lives than her own. A sculptor of near-living statues, a fakir with the power of sight, and a band of children chasing dreams in the desert all play their parts. And at the center of it all lies a heart of stone that may hold the secret of unending life.

The Stone and the Song is a story of betrayal and of sacrifice, of love and of dreams, of strength in weakness and life beyond death. Wrapped in lush imagery and poetic language, it is a tale that will draw you in again and again.

150211.0655 Stone & Song Rank - 14 FT, 9405 Overall

Top 10K in Amazon Paid!

Just a quick one today because I’m on vacation in Orlando and there’s family to be enjoyed. The Song and the Stone broke the top 10,000 in Amazon’s overall paid sales ranking!

Stone & Song Rank - 14 FT, 9405 Overall

May not sound like much, but that means fewer than 10,000 of all the books Amazon sells were beating Song & Stone. Many thanks to all of you wonderful people who have gotten in touch, pre-ordered, and are helping spread the word!

Pre-order your copy now if you haven’t – it’s only $0.99 if you get it before its 2/21/15 release, then it will go up to $2.99.

The Stone and the Song, coming Feb 21, 2015 (!)

The Stone and the Song, coming Feb 21, 2015 (!)

Building Momentum on an Amazon Launch: Early Lessons

We’re one day into pre-orders and The Stone and the Song has hit the Amazon Hot New Releases list and #21 Best Seller in Fairy Tales! As an author with a tiny budget and minimal platform, I count that as a big win, though still a preliminary one. Here’s what I’m learning so far. (And you can pre-order here if you want a copy.)

150211.0930 Stone & Song FT Best Sellers 21

Almost up to the front page!

What Went Well

Presentation matters. Everybody says it, and it’s true. Get your cover and your product description as polished as humanly possible. What you’re watching for is a visceral reaction when you show someone. My cover and my description have gotten some big reactions—people exclaim or jump up or lean forward. They’re my friends, but the key here is that I watched people go from just being happy for me to being genuinely excited about the book itself. It’s beautiful and intriguing and it looks like the real deal. That added a whole different energy to the launch.

Use trackable links. I used Bitly to post my links, which gave me clear line of sight on how the message was spreading. I don’t know of any way to see how many people have viewed your Amazon product page, but I was still able to keep on top of how many people clicked through to see the product page. Leave me a comment if you know of a better way to do this. (For the record, I got about 50 clicks on the first day.)

Set a clear goal and communicate it. For this project, I’m not mainly focused on sales numbers. My goal is to get 25 Amazon reviews within 1-2 weeks of release. I have mentioned this over and over, on Facebook, in person, on the blog. Basically any time I tell people the book is available, I tell them my goal as well.

This works on a lot of levels. A review (especially a good review early on) is a lot more significant long-term than a sale. With the pre-order discount, I get about 35 cents per sale. But say you’re browsing on Amazon. Think about how differently you’d approach a book with dozens of fairly high reviews and a book with one or two reviews, or none. The latter looks bare and amateurish, and you have no way to get a sense of the book’s quality and content. The former looks well-established, fairly popular, and has plenty of reader experiences for you to connect with as a potential reader.

But this goal also gives my readers and friends a project to get behind, something that’s beyond just me and my sales numbers. It gives us something to push for together, a message to pass on, a sense of purpose, and (I trust) a big moment to celebrate together in the near future. It’s a great way to bond with readers and add energy to the launch whlie building a solid foundation for future sales.

The Stone & the Song hits Amazon Hot New Releases!

The Stone & the Song hits Amazon Hot New Releases!

Things to Improve

Be available. I made a quick Facebook post announcing the pre-order and a minimal blog post, then didn’t touch it all day because I have a day job (and no smartphone). I have amazing friends, so within 4 hours this still became the most-seen and most-clicked announcement I’ve ever made, but Bitly and my more-connected friends both told me that the action died down around 11am. I bet if I’d been able to check in periodically, even just for brief thanks, likes, and answers to some questions/issues that arose, it would have maintained a slow burn throughout the day and helped the word spread even further than it did.

Fresh eyes. I sent the final version to Amazon at 2am after a grueling day and night of post-production—writing marketing copy, arranging final layout, tiny corrections, check, tiny corrections, check again. Needless to say, my brain was mush, and I ended up missing a pretty glaring issue on the front page. Luckily a friend caught it early on, but probably better to sleep on it, get another pair of eyes on it, and then post it for the world to see.

Looking Ahead

Slow and steady. I got 20 pre-orders the first day. What excited me far more was that I had 5 more a few hours into the second day, up to 8 around noon. While I’m incredibly excited and grateful to have such loyal and vocal friends, one of my big fears is that I’ll tell them about my book, they’ll all buy it, and that will be the end of it. My second-day pre-orders are an indication that I might be setting up for sustainable sales, not just a flash in the pan.

I used to think in total sales, but I’ve found that the more meaningful metric seems to be sales per day. It’s not really about getting a big crowd to do something; it’s about establishing the visibility and credibility you need to consistently keep drawing new readers. My friend Bill has a great analogy about rolling snowballs; the bigger the initial snowball, the easier it is to get momentum, but the real point is to get the ball rolling so it keeps growing. Your crowd is your initial snowball, but the win is to get a steady stream of new readers too.

To assist with this, I’m actually staggering my announcements a bit. I’m going to be sending emails to potentially interested friends-and-relations who maybe didn’t see it on Facebook, and telling different circles of friends as I naturally run into them. From what I hear, this may also help maintain a higher or more stable sales rank, since Amazon now looks for sustained sales rather than raw totals.

Keeping the readers I get. The book includes a sneak peek of my next novel and links that make it easy to read more, sign up for my mailing list, or support me on Patreon. I’d love to get this book to as many people as I can, but I’d especially like to find the people who like it and the sample enough to stay in touch.

So that’s what I’m finding so far. What about you guys? Any interesting questions or findings or ideas for me?

Also, don’t forget to pre-order The Stone and the Song. It’s only 99 cents through 2/21/15. And be sure to leave a review! (Heh heh. See?)

Cheers!

—Ben