Apr 282014
 
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By Jean Marie Stine

It cannot be emphasized enough. Your blog, your tweets, your photo-sharing, your Facebook page, and any and all of your other social media efforts aren’t just something to be reserved for your new book’s debut, or a contest, or an online or in-person appearance.

If you take that course, you will only be preaching to the converted—which is to say, you’ll only be reaching the people you have already reached.

Those readers are crucially important, but even they are not really your #1 target audience for social media. It’s time to re-conceive your presence on the world’s computer screens, phones and tablets from a whole new perspective: as a magnet designed to reach as widely and as frequently as possible beyond your normal circle of fans to bring in new potential readers for your books.

At the same time, you don’t want to take one more minute away from actually writing those books and stories than you have to.

It may not seem like it would be possible to maintain an active blog presence and still have all the time you need to do your core creative work.

But it can be!

Most social media mavens recommend that, at the very least, you put up some kind of blog entry every week, twice if possible. That may seem like a lot of work—and it would be, if you have to write all those blog entries yourself.

But you don’t!

Some writers (perhaps because they are writers) make the mistake of believing that blog posts invariably have to be lengthy, comprehensive, entirely original written pieces.

Instead, there is an easy way to let your own personal interests generate compelling blog entries for you—entries that will bring lots of visitor traffic, most of it new, to your blog. And it involves almost no writing on your own part. Using this technique, your entire contribution to each blog entry you create is a sentence or two to a paragraph at most.

There is no way an author can write a story without putting some of their own personal interests into it. That might be skiing, Europe, the town you live in, collecting stamps, the world of high fashion, the U.S. Civil War, rodeos, motorcycles, etc.—and chances are, if you are interested in something, other people are interested in it, too.

For instance, you might have visited Paris, or wanted to visit it, and thus your newest novel is set there.

Say you see a great picture of Paris on the internet, one that is beautiful, or touching, or shows some specific locale you used in your book. Insert or link to the picture on your blog. Write a sentence or paragraph about why you liked it—something like “I had to share this stunning picture of Paris at night from the top of the Eiffel Tower. I love both so much, I made Paris the scene of the second half of my book, For Love or Money.” Or, perhaps it is a photo of the Champs-Élysées. You could write: “I set the climactic chase scene from my romantic espionage novel, Secrets of the Heart, here.” You will be surprised, over the course of the next year, at how many new visitors have come to your site.

You might be an aficionado of the U.S. Civil War era. You might do research in old magazines and newspapers of the time, or read books reprinting material from them, and come upon an chapter or article that captures your interest. Perhaps an 1864 Harper’s Monthly contains a piece by a woman describing her feelings as she saw the Union Soldiers come running back in terrified, chaotic retreat from the battle of Bull Run. Since anything written in the U. S. before 1923 is out of copyright and in the Public Domain forever, you have every right to reprint that article for free (and there is a great deal of such material in text form free on the internet, at sites like Gutenberg.org and Archive.org). If printed materials are involved, consider purchasing a scanner. They can be very inexpensive, often below $100—and voila, you have a cheap and almost limitless source of blog entries. Again, all you have to write is a sentence or two, such as “I had to share this very moving eyewitness account of the Union rout at the first battle of the Civil War by a young Northern woman whose boyfriend was a soldier in that battle. I found it while researching my next novel, Troubled Allegiance.”

Or you may have written a romantic thriller set at a championship skiing event in the scenic Grandvalira region of Spain. On the web you can surely find photos or video of Grandvalira, as well as present or historic footage of ski meets there. Pick five that catch your eye, and turn them into a little series of posts—put a link to one each week with a few words about the region and your book. You now have five blog entries to draw people in, if they’re interested in the area and/or its skiing, and introduce them to your book—or to get people interested in your book if they’ve heard of you but not Grandvalira.

If your story was set at an oil camp in the 1920s, you can certainly find archival photos of the real thing all over the web.

You get the idea. Here are some more tips to letting your blog draw in new readers and keep existing ones happily following you—without spending valuable writing time and energy on it:

* Don’t overlook your own (digital or physical) filing cabinet! In it you may have all kinds of work you’ve already done but never introduced to a larger audience: articles, school papers, book reviews, interviews and so on. Depending on the subject, they are likely to be of interest to others, too. For example, I recently found an interview I conducted with science fiction great Frank Herbert for a Los Angles publication when the movie Dune came out. I suddenly realized it might be of interest to science fiction enthusiasts, and draw some to our science fiction blog. Not only did I publish it there, it was so lengthy I broke it into three entries. It brought in double the number of my most-read posts till then. I also found a paper I wrote for a university class on Mary Shelley and Frankenstein, arguing that she based much of the monster on herself and her own experiences. I plan to post it on the same blog soon; it should appeal to both aficionados of Shelley’s book and more widely to fans of horror fiction and films as well.

* Link to movie trailers. Somewhere on the web, you can find a trailer to almost any movie ever made. Find trailers for a favorite movie or one related to your latest book (or your writing in general), post a link to the trailer, and write a few words about it.

* You can do the same with full-length movies. There are quite a number of sites were you can watch recent or classic movies for free, like Crackle.com and Archive.org. Browse their stacks. Find a personal favorite or one related to your writings and post the link for it, inviting visitors to watch it too.

* If an article or chapter you want to reprint is lengthy, break it up into two or even three blog posts and serialize it.

* You can also include a scene from your book, its cover image (if one exists at that point), and several others books you have written on the same subject.

* Always attribute the source of any material you reprint:  ”From Harper’s Monthly June 1864, found at the Gutenberg Project.”

Using this easy approach, you can find material for hundreds of blog posts, and draw in new visitors, without going an inch out of your way. All you’re really doing is pursuing of your own interests and passions as you would anyway, and sharing these interests with readers.

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Jan 182014
 
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By Jean Marie Stine

“My ebook sales are declining!” and “Why are my sales declining?” are litanies being heard increasingly from established authors who have been writing for at least three years or longer, and from publishers who have been in the business for the same period. And yet, we are told more ebooks are being sold than ever before. How can that be?

In fact, total ebook sales have risen over the past few years, but not even double—whereas the number of published books available for sale has gone up twenty-three hundred percent during the same time period.

Here are the figures: When Amazon opened the Kindle store, they announced that they had 100,000 ebooks for sale.  Today the site shows their number of available ebooks at 2.5 million. There are now categories in the Kindle store that have more ebooks in them than were on the entire store site when it first opened.

2.3 million titles (and this is just ebooks, not counting print) is at least 5 times the total number of books for sale in the U. S. before the advent of the Kindle.

It is an unprecedented, watershed event in publishing history.

It means the individual ebook today, your book, is vying for attention (and the reader’s dollar) among 2.3 million others. Whether you have written one book or thirty—30 out of 2.3 million is daunting odds.

Of course, the number of titles your ebook is competing with is appreciably smaller than this.

People generally write, sell and buy ebooks according to their favorite genres and categories. Since these categories are smaller, you have a much smaller number of ebooks clamoring for attention along with yours. If you write romance, for instance, your book is only in a pool with slightly less than a quarter of a million other romance ebooks available for sale at Kindle. In addition to which many readers, naturally, have a particular subcategory of romance they prefer, such as paranormal or bondage or m/m, etc., where the number of competing books is smaller still, and the odds improve even more. Your paranormal romance will be offered for sale among only 30,700 others at Amazon Kindle.

The situation for those writing erotica is much the same. Amazon reports slightly over 131,000 books for sale in erotica.  But if you specialize in bondage, you only have to make your book stand out in a field of 19,000. And, if you write about male dominants, you are only competing with 9,000. That is still a lot whether you have written one book or thirty, and individual readers can only afford to buy so many books per month or year—and even the most dedicated readers of bondage fiction with the most time on their hands will probably not buy not 19 thousand.

So, practically speaking, what does that all mean? How many sales can you expect on average when purchases are spread thinly over so many titles?

At a recent industry conference I was on a panel with a woman whose husband worked for Amazon’s Kindle division and she said the average ebook sells 4 copies per week. As there are a number of writers selling thousands per week, that means overall there are hundreds of thousands of books that do not sell even one copy per week.

Finance writer Mike Cooper analyzed reports from Amazon and other sources and concluded that the average ebook at Amazon earned $297 last year. Again, that means there have to have been hundreds of thousands that earned nothing or virtually nothing. Cooper concluded that the average author would have to write and publish “48 books per year just to make minimum wage.”

“But what about Facebook and Twitter,” some authors say. “I have a hundred fans who have friended me and ten times that on Twitter who follow me.”

Sadly, those FB and Twitter fans also follow other writers, and have only a certain amount of disposable income for purchasing books. According to the same woman I was on the panel with, for all the efforts writers put into them, FB and Twitter followers account for at most only 28 copies out of the average ebook’s sales.

And here is a final set of figures, the number of free books for Kindle available at amazon: 54,000! Let’s break that down a bit. There are over 2,000 free romance novels, written by newer writers and even quite famous ones, all trying to gain new readers for their work. Almost 200 free lesbian novels. And if you write bdsm erotica, readers will find over 100 free titles.

And who doesn’t like free? No wonder the average Kindle title sells only four copies per week.

Of course, these are daunting figures for those seeking to earn some or all of their income from writing, and for smaller publishers trying to find sales for their authors. But they do pinpoint why everyone’s sales are declining. Since the first step in solving a problem is to find the cause, being aware of the romance and erotica markets for ebooks is a major step forward.

What can you do about all this? In a market this gargantuan, how can you draw greater attention to your ebook, make it stand out above the others, let alone generate big sales?

The fundamental principle of marketing is first, study your customers. In this case, study your potential readers. You may think you know your readers because you have dozens, if not hundreds, of Facebook followers and because you meet readers at events—but, while helpful, these folks do not necessarily represent the typical book buyer.

Findings on such matters as the influence of Facebook, author blogs, Goodreads, cover, price, reviews, video trailers, famous author endorsements, twitter, publisher name and more on readers’ decision to purchase a books are, to say the least, illuminating. If you haven’t read our summary of the widest reader survey ever undertaken on contemporary book buying habits—and what does and doesn’t influence readers to buy an author’s book—click here now to read it.

The second step in marketing something is to educate yourself on the best ways to promote and sell your product. Working “smarter, not harder” is not just an oft-repeated cliche of the business world; it’s a fundamental, applicable principle, especially when it comes to online marketing. Of course use your blog, your site, your Twitter and Facebook. But use them more wisely and realistically, recognizing their limitations. and learn how to automate functions—that step may save you time otherwise unnecessarily wasted. Generally speaking, do yourself and your books a huge favor and search this blog for tips from established writers and marketing professionals—in addition to the articles linked above, there are many more on these subjects!

And remember, sometimes success strikes with the first book, and sometimes with the 50th. But if you give up on writing, it can never strike at all.

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Sep 092013
 
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Many writers ask friends to read their books and offer feedback—but often fail to make best use of this most valuable of resources. Above all, they ask the wrong question. How often have you said to friends, “Did you like the book?” What are your friends going to say to that? “No, I hated it!”? Of course not! You’ve unintentionally asked your friends to choose between honesty and support, and failed to inspire a useful array of specific feedback, with this overly broad question.

Instead, ask them what they don’t like about the book! That question will give your friends a green light to critique your work honestly, and will help you identify and fix any weaknesses. This approach is based on a principle every business person knows: the customer is always right. The reader is always right, too.

If a reader doesn’t understand something you wrote, or isn’t sure what your broader point is, or is confused, or is bored—they’re right. They ARE bored, confused, etc. by what you wrote. You can’t argue with that. But you can get your friends to stand in for the reader and tell you what they find confusing, boring, and poorly developed about your book. Then you can fix those spots yourself—before your book is published.

When you ask them to note when they didn’t understand something, when they grew restless, when characterization didn’t seem right or the plot seemed contradictory, or where something needed clarification, your friends are potentially your most valuable resource.

Of course, you should also ask them about your manuscript’s strong points, so you can try to capture more of those qualities in further revisions and in the books and stories you’ll be writing later.

The first time I heard about this system it was being used by John Creasey, one of the world’s bestselling authors and a popular reader favorite. He turned out one book a month, every month—twelve titles a year—and every one a critical and financial success. With a production schedule like that, Creasey obviously didn’t have time to troubleshoot his first drafts himself.  He also knew these drafts would have flaws which objective eyes could detect, and which he might miss. Creasey’s solution was to send every manuscript to a group of six friends, each of whom made comments about where they felt the book fell short and how it might be improved. Their efforts resulted in a series of bestselling books under half a dozen pen names in several different fields, and a reputation for quality and speed unequaled by any other modern writer.

You don’t even have to dream up questions to ask your friends. Below, you’ll find a list of over one dozen problems professional editors and authors look for when they troubleshoot a manuscript, and the abbreviations they commonly use to note them.

Your friends may not be professional editors—but if they use these guidelines while they read your manuscript, they’ll be able to give you professional-quality feedback.

Here’s what to do. Print out or send the following checklist to your friends along with your book—but before they start to read either of them, tell them to bear the following in mind:

1) They are not reading the book for grammar or punctuation; a copy editor can take care of that.

2) They should briefly review the list below, before delving into the manuscript, to familiarize themselves with the kinds of defects professional editors look for.

3) The abbreviations provided in the Guide are used to mark the manuscript where one of those defects shows up. A clear and consistent marking language will make it easier for you, the writer, to review their feedback and synthesize it with that of other friends.

4) As they read the book: if the manuscript is in hard copy, ask them to place the following Abbreviations in the left-hand margin at appropriate locations. If they’re reading an editable file on their computer or tablet, ask them to insert the abbreviations in brackets [like this] next to the text in question or use the comments functions found in most word-processing software.

EDITOR’S CHECKLIST

 = Put a checkmark beside any passage, idea or phrase that is particularly good or has strong emotional impact.
Awk = Awkwardly expressed, could be more smoothly written.
Bor = Bored me.
Char = Characterization feels weak or contradictory.
Con = Subject goes on too long and could benefit from being shortened or condensed.
Cut = This material feels as if it is too far off the point of the book and might well be easily deleted.
Dev = This is an important point that deserves greater development.
Earl = This material should show up earlier in the book where it would illuminate what you’ve been saying there, or because the main body of the material on this subject is in that spot. [Indicate where the material should be moved, if possible.]
Exp = Explaining this term, phrase or idea more fully would help make it clearer or give it greater impact.
I/L = I’m lost and either don’t see where the material is going or how it relates to the theme of the book or chapter.
Jar = Too jargonistic, filled with esoteric, inaccessible or unnecessarily in-group terminology.
N/C = Not clear to me, confusing or murky.
Pla = Material feels out of place here, doesn’t seem to be part of the main sequence of thought. (If you have an idea of where it actually belongs—earlier or later in a chapter, or in a different chapter, or perhaps with other material scattered throughout the book that deserves a section of its own—write “Move to [page or chapter you feel it belongs with].”)
P/E = Plot element feels weak or contradictory.
Tran = Some kind of transition is needed here—the switch of scenes or point of view was confusing and/or it’s unclear where we are now.
Weak = Weak material, feels as if it could be improved or made stronger.
WYM = The point of this material, or how it connects with the overall plot, isn’t clear—why are you telling me this?

Reviewing your friends’ feedback is, of course, the final step for you. Make whatever changes and improvements you feel are warranted; your friends can’t be right all the time and ultimately the final decisions are yours. But any time two or more friends make note of the same problem, you can be sure it’s a very real one that most of your readers will have as well. You will have to decide which comments are valid for yourself—but since you can’t replicate your friends’ perspective as readers, it’s wise to take their points of view—and advice—to heart as often as possible.

 

The Lazy Writer’s Guide to Getting Friends to Troubleshoot Your Books, copyright 1997-2013 Jean Marie Stine

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Jun 062013
 
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June 29th -  2 PM PST -  CreativeSexuality.org

Pitch your sexual fiction & nonfiction.  Ask your writing & publishing questions
Learn:

  • Our target markets
  • How you can write for us
  • What we’re looking for
  • How to format, submit and get published

Three Sizzler Ediotions editors will discuss

Writing erotica

M. Christian, Senior Editor, author of over 300 short stories, seven  novels,  and two dozen anthologies

Erotic Romance

Sascha llyvich, Romance Editor, award winning erotic romance author and anthologist

Publishing and non-fiction

Jean Marie Stine, Publisher,  author/anthologist/journalist, 3 novels, 7 anthologies, two collections. over 200 stories and articles

20 minute presentation – then our editors will take your questions

Jean Marie Stine has been running Sizzler Editions since 2000, publishing only the highest quality erotica under the Sizzler Editions imprints, along with the PageTurner division for mainstream and non erotic fiction/nonfiction.

All three editors are contributors to WriteSEX - The highly popular site dedicated to teaching about the business of publishing/writing erotica.

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Apr 252013
 
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Bound After Midnight - Paranormal Erotic RomanceSizzler Editions, a/the premier publisher of erotic eBooks since 1998, announces a new site for erotic literature junkies to access their catalog of 1500 titles, sizzlereditions.com. [http://sizzlereditions.com]
Built on a new, more flexible, platform with additional layers of subcategories, the new Sizzler Editions site features the ability to find related books by theme and series. Next to each book cover, readers will see convenient tabs featuring the book’s description, direct purchase links and other information. The updated site also incorporates video trailers for featured Sizzler Edition titles, and expanded Author bio pages.
Of the new site, Publisher Jean Marie Stine says, “Perhaps the biggest change is the fact that we no longer host and sell books ourselves. Readers will instead find a links, which take them directly to a book’s Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or iBooks page.
“At the redesigned Sizzler Editions site, readers can not only easily find  the book they like, but they can buy it from their preferred vendor in a new tab  and have it downloaded instantly into their ebook reading device without ever leaving the Sizzler Editions site.  It’s a win-win for both readers and for us!” 

Stine reveals that the site is continuing to add improvements above and beyond the update unveiled April 2, 2013. “The new site is still very much a work in progress. We will add audio interviews with our authors, include even more features to enhance the visitor’s search experience and more titles from new erotic authors are always being added to our catalog!”Debut releases at the new site include bestselling bondage author, Powerone’s new Cold War spy shocker, Slave of the Kremlin, two novellas of paranormal romance by Sarah Bella, author of Bound by Blood, and a first-ever collection of Herotica editor Marcy Sheiner’s stories, Love & Other Illusions. Also scheduled for release in the coming weeks are Love’s Storm by Margie Church and K. B. Cutter, the second installment of their controversial trilogy about polyamory, plus a new collection of erotic science fiction stories, Skin Effect, by M. Christian. Coming soon to Sizzler Editions are the first of three books books by sexologist Amy Marsh reporting back on Love’s Outer Limits, and new books by Terri Pray, David Jewell and other bestselling authors.

Bookmark sizzlereditions.com now, and start exploring the new features rolled out in the first phase of the update, and  be sure to come back for the official grand reopening on May 1st, when there will be free eBooks, special prizes and other delights.
About Sizzler Editions:
Sizzler Editions is one of the leading ebook publishers of erotica on the internet. Sizzler issued their first ebooks in 1998, and since that time have published over 1500 ebooks books. As of 2013, Sizzler Editions has more than 1,300 erotic ebooks available for sale, and a growing list of new titles.
Sizzler Editions prides itself on presenting the finest in erotica for every sexual interest and orientation. Sizzler Editions imprints include Intoxication (Erotic Romance), Submission (Bondage and BDSM), Attraction (GLBT Erotica), Scorcher (Hot & Hetero), Hot Flash (Short & Collections), Encounter (SciFi and Fantasy), Sexerience (Nonfiction), HerSelf (Women’s Erotica), Platinum (All-Time Best Sellers), Victoria (Erotic Classics), Bounty (Bargain Omnibuses), and Thrill (Mystery & Adventure).
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:

Sascha Illyvich
Editor – Intoxication line:  Erotic Romance
wolfprinceeditor@gmail.com

Sizzler Editions
2930 Shattuck Ave. Suite 200-13
Berkeley CA 94705
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Dec 062012
 
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It would be impossible to over emphasize the importance of the blurb for your book in its success, or the importance of certain key elements and ways of thinking to the success of the blurb.

When it comes to selling a book to the 87 readers out of 100 who rarely visit book review sites, are not compulsive blog readers, and who will learn of a book only when they visit, for example, Amazon, go to their favorite category, and encounter a thumbnail of the book cover and the blurb for the first time. To this group the cover and the blurb are almost the publisher’s only marketing tools.

The cover’s purpose, really its only purpose, is not to illustrate a scene from the book (scenes often make poor covers from the eye-arresting and sales perspective, and a reader can only know it is a scene after something else makes them want read the book). The cover’s purpose is to rivet the reader’s attention and make them want to read the blurb (if they don’t do that, they are a lost potential sale).  In that sense, covers are not only a marketing tool, but perhaps the book’s most important single marketing tool, and must be designed with marketing as their purpose and goal.

The first thing I had drilled into me about blurbs is that a blurb should open with “hook” that grabs the reader’s interest immediately and simultaneously encapsulates the book’s theme. It should not open with just a description of the character: “Mary was a single mother who worked in advertising where she was a success.” – kind of thing. But a provocative, curiosity stirring, attention getting statement or question. One technique is the challenging question. “Did he plan to to marry her – or murder her.” Another technique is a tantalizing summary of the book’s core situation: “A competition spirals into a tantalizing game of bondage and seduction…” “When a California dyke meets a lesbian from India, sparks fly!” Another very effective technique, which attracts perhaps the largest number of people to look at a book, is to cite a bestselling book, author, movie or tv show with a wide audience which is looking for more of the same: “Fans of Terry Goodkind will love this new urban fantasy novel.” “People who loved Star Trek, DS9 will thrill to this new saga of an almost forgotten space station caught on the crossfire of two warring empires.” etc.

Then for the body of the blurb. It was drilled into me (and from the blurbs i found on the backs of recent paperback bestsellers I have read this is still the practice) that the blurb should be as personalized as possible and tell the story from the pov of the protagonist in such a way as to create sympathy for and identification with or curiosity about the protagonist/s, while making their situation compelling; and that and each sentence of the blurb should deepen the specifics of that story, focusing on the situation and feelings of that character (or when multiple characters, maybe a sentence or two for each character and the essence of their story). In short it should make the book sound so appetizing that the reader’s mental mouth waters to read it and they can’t resist clicking the Buy button.

The following are examples from the first two paperbacks I pulled off my shelf, there are hundreds more like them on my office shelf.

Blurb for Harlequin’s Montana Legend: “Happily ever after wasn’t too much to wish for! Young widow Sarah Redding swore that if Providence sent her another man to love, he would definitely have to love her back. Then into her life rode Gage Gatlin, a rugged jewel of a man who could offer her everything—except his heart! Gage knew Love was a fairy tale. But devotion and desire—those were things he knew he could build a life around. One he could share with Sarah Redding, a woman practical yet passionate, caring to both of their daughters, a; woman he wanted forever. If only she didn’t want love.”

From Kathy Reichs’ Deja Dead: “Her life is devoted to justice—for those she never even knew. In the year since Temperance Brennan left behind a shaky marriage in North Carolina, work has often preempted her weekend plans to explore Quebec. When a female corpse is discovered meticulously dismembered and stashed in trash bags, Temperance detects an alarming pattern—and  she plunges into a harrowing search for a killer. But her investigation is about to place those closest to her—her best friend and her own daughter—in mortal danger….”

Now let’s construct a blurb with these guidelines in mind.

Don’t start with the character’s history, and then get to the story. Start with the emotion or conflict. Don’t write: Jo was a widow with a farm. Frank worked for a land development company seeking to build luxury townhouses. When they met sparks flew.” Instead, start this way: “Sparks flew when Jo a widow with a farm finds herself up against Frank, a land developer who wants her farm for a luxury development.”

Keep the focus on the characters. “Jo wouldn’t admit to herself that she was attracted to Frank until she found herself in bed with him for a night of amazing sex.”

Stay with her, keep the focus on the protagonist (hero or heroine). “She fled the next morning and refused to see him or answer his calls or email.”

Take us to a turning point for drama: “But as he lay in a coma in a hospital, victim of a vicious attack by thugs hired by a rival development company, Jo realized she truly loved him.”

Then conclude on a cliff-hanging note of suspense: “Yet she knew that if Frank recovered, his job would still be to destroy everything she loved.”

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Jul 092012
 
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Before 2008, in what it think of as the wild and wooly days of the ebook, when almost anything went, because there were few readers and almost anything went, the only competition ebook publishers had was each other.

eBooks were read either on pcs or palm data devices and a handful of clunky ebook reading devices – and from the beginning it seemed like there were almost more publishers than readers.

Our audience was so small that big publishers of hard covers and bestseller type paperbacks just laughed at us.

With almost no venue for distribution but our own book sites, we all tried hard to make our sites interesting fun places to visit with lots of intriguing books on display.

Contests, chats, blogs were the order of the day and if well presented drew readers to publishers’ sites in droves, and drove sales of ebooks along with them.

When Amazon came along with the Kindle, ebook publishers had lots of ebooks to supply and the big publishers were still busy laughing. Increased readers meant new people finding us and visiting our sites. eBook publishers were still each other’s only competition.

After a year the big publishers caught on at last and began to scramble just to get their new books into ebook as they came out.

All the ebook publishers still had the edge and our ebooks were still in the majority of those available on the web.

Then came 2011.

In 2010, I was reading thrillers and mysteries, among seven or eight series, were the Harry Bosch series 17 books (we are speaking at the time) the Charlie Parker thrillers 7 books, the Matthew Scudder mysteries 15 books, etc., etc.

In every case i was lucky if the most recent two or three were available as ebooks. I had to supplement my reading by ordering most of the books I couldn’t get in these series (and that was most of them)  for my kindle as used paperbacks.  That became onerous and i gave up on reading them.

The late part of last year, I checked out these series again and found out every book in each series was now available as an ebook.

So add to the books now on Kindle, etc. say ten more ebooks for each mystery series of which there are probably now over a thousand, plus every romance series, and scifi/fantassy/horror series. Then add ten or more ebooks for all the back list titles by nonseries romance writers, mystery writers, nonfiction authors, etc.  (and of course many authors of both types have 20+ titles in their backlist).

So right there, the number of ebook titles at Amazon took a ten-fold hike. Which means there are ten times more titles competing for visibility and sales with those of independent ebook publishers.

But in fact, the last two years have seen the number of titles at Amazon, etc explode far more that just ten times as selfpublished authors have literally flooded the Kindle ebook store’s pages by the tens of thousands.

At the moment the Kindle ebooks store says it has 1,500,000 ebooks and magazines for sale.

Probably less, even much less, than 100,000 of those are from longtime ebook publishers. Probably less than 50.000.

So ebook publishers have gone from having only each other to compete with to get their books noticed and bought, and less than 50,000 titles to compete with, to a million and a half ebooks and periodicals.

Given that, is it likely that independent ebook publishers can continue attracting readers to their sites in the same numbers as today, even with contests and chats – considering the competition from both authors of big publishers and selfpublished authors flooding and overwhelming social media like Facebook and Twitter trying to attract attention to their ebooks?

Even three years from now what will be the role of the epublisher’s site. Will it be sales? Or efforts aimed at selling books not at the site but on Amazon and B&N? Or something altogether different?

JMS

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May 242012
 
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In mid-2008 the four biggest distributors of our ebooks, the four who sold the most copies every month for us, each accounted for about 20% of our overall sales, while a misc. of smaller sites made up the remaining 20%. These four sites were:

* Distributor A (long established with one of the best and most reader friendly ebook sites),

* Our own website

* Kindle (then less than a year old)

* Distributor Z (who had until Kindle the best, if priciest, ereader)

 

Today things are dramatically different. One distributor now dominates the ebook business, and its rise has drained sales from most competitors, who experienced a sharp decline in sales. Here is the approximate percentage of our ebook sales which each of our current distributors accounts for:

*Kindle = grew to 70%

* B&N = grew to 18% (did not exist mid-2008)

* Distributor A= declined to 3%

* Our own website = declined to 4%

* Distributor Z = declined to 3%

* (Misc. small sites = declined to 2%)

 

What is the reason for this amazing redistribution of sales to a single ebook distributor? Not the Kindle itself. The original, and still basic black and white, Kindle was neither the best nor the cheapest of the ereaders.

What made the Kindle so special was one major sales innovation: 24/7 instant wireless delivery of your ebook to your Kindle, almost anywhere in the world you were. Amazon had it, and had deep enough pockets to afford to have purchased dedicated space on ATT three-sixty-five.

To download your ebooks from other sites after ordering them, you had to connect a USB cord to both your pc and your ebookreder, and then click on various icons, and then copy and paste the books from one folder to another, and then click “safely remove hardware,” and then uncouple the pc and reader, and finally turn on the reader and locate your new books, and only then were you, at last,ready to begin reading. Compare that to clicking the Buy button at Amazon and Bam! there’s the book in your reader. (B&N gave you instant wireless delivery, but only if you drove to the store and downloaded your ebooks there!!)

That’s how, from the moment it was out of the starting gate, Kindle left its competitors in the dust.

Over the next three and a half years they became THE market for ebooks. They were the 600 pound gorilla in the cage. They dictated terms and authors and publishers took it, because without them there weren’t enough sales to keep anyone afloat.

But last year Barnes & Noble, and the once laughable Kobo, acquired deep pockets and initiated their own 2/7 instant wireless ebook delivery systems, just in time for the holiday selling season. Meanwhile, Sony which had had deep enough pockets to afford to lease cell time three-sixty-five like Kindle, had been caught flatfooted by the idea of wireless delivery. They had to take the time to develop and test their own wireless ebookreader, losing more than two years in the process, which they also launched at the holiday season.

So for the first time the Kindle has rivals who also offer wireless delivery straight to your ereader, and could cut into Amazon’s ebook sales. A lot of people, including readers, have indicated their displeasure with Amazon over the years. They could lead an exodus.

On the other hand, it might be too late for Amazon’s rivals to catch much in the way of future ebook and ebookreader sales. After all, Amazon has already sold so many Kindles of so many types at such low prices that everyone interested in reading ebooks may already be said to own one. Why switch? Better yet, as far as Amazon is concerned, is the fact that they started as a bookstore, are still the web’s largest and most complete bookstore, and offer the convenience of one-stop purchasing for both paperbound and ebooks. That’s something Sony and Kobo will never be able to do. Only B&N seems to truly have a chance in this arena, and Amazon still has the lead, as they carry far more ebooks than B&N.

However, none of this factors in in the rest of the English speaking world and Europe, where Amazon is not as big as it is here and the ball is still in play. For instance, Kobo has already partnered with the W. H. Smith, the U.K.’s largest book chain, to provide content for and run Smith’s ebookstore, while Smith sells the Kobo in its stores as its branded ereader. Meanwhile, Sony is opening ebookstores with various partners throughout Europe.

I guess we will know the results when we have the next three quarter’s sales reports in hand.

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Aug 112011
 
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Recently, a woman whose erotic stories have been widely anthologized wrote to say her day job was killing her, she needed to quit and write books for a living, and could I tell her what sold best these days? With a few changes, the following what I replied:

Could there be a worse time to need to write for money? I might have advised (nonerotic)  scifi/fantasy or Harlequin a few years ago; they are the easiest sales to make to the big publishers and get nice advances, but the big publishers are all scrambling to catch up. Writing eBooks, certainly can earn some you money, but like all other publishing, the big sales are in categories, that’s because readers have their favorite categories and buy literally 90% of their books in that category or categories.

That said, grinding out category fiction can kill you.

And with any kind of books, it takes so long for royalties to mount up, because of systemic reporting problems. For example, we are too small to pay advances, and most distributors report sales to us at 30 days after the end of a month to 60 days to 120 days after. When we issue the Jan sales report in Feb, what it reflects, is not sales made in Jan, but sales we received reports of in Jan – which would be Nov., October, and even Sept sales. So when we pay royalties at the end of a quarter, they basically consist of 1/4 sales from the actual quarter, and 3/4 sales from the previous quarter.

Biggest sellers overall among ebooks: romance, erotica, success/self-help of all kinds.

Bestselling romance categories: erotic romance. Bestselling erotica categories: bondage and erotic romance. Bestselling subcategories: heterosexual erotic romance; male dom, female sub bondage from romance to pretty hard.

Then, to be one of the top sellers, it takes writing a lot of books and a very active and attractive website and/or blog with free stories, story samples, etc. (meaning contests, blog tours, and lots of other stuff). A good way to get an audience to your site/blog is post stories or hot scenes complete in themselves on Literotica.com, the free erotica website.

Our bestselling author, who writes strong bondage but often with romance, has written around 25 books over the last eight or so years, and currently earns about $28,000 through us. He works very hard to promote his books on the web.

Beyond this, everything is up in the air in publishing, sales and advances right now, with publishers in NY in a panic trying to figure out what the shape of publishing will be and what to sell. And a sinking economy. Of course, sex does sell, so there’s that.

Those are the basics, there are too many nuances to put in writing.

All the above notwithstanding, I always personally advise writers to write what they love.

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Jun 232011
 
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Last time I had the blog we talked about developing a creative personality for the mind in writing short stories

Publishing the hottest in classic and current erotica and erotic romance

The following is a high-octane problem-buster that will make child’s play of even the hardest brain-stumpers and grind down to a manageable size even the most insurmountable dilemmas. It is a development of ideas pioneered by Tony Hodgson, and others.

It’s based on the well-established finding from psychological research that the more different perspectives we bring to a problem, the more ideas we are likely to generate and the more complete our perceptions of it.

You’ve heard of seeing the world through ‘rose-colored glasses’, which cause one to see only the sunny side of things.

Imagine the effect of seeing the world through ten different pairs of colored glasses — one for each hue in the rainbow (and each different spectrum of our mental processes).

Regardless of how difficult the dilemma, you’ll have found the answer long before you’ve tried on the tenth pair. By examining a challenging circumstance through each set of ‘colored glasses’ (each different mental perspective), we achieve a complete, rather than a partial, view, and engage our minds to consider it far more deeply.

 

 

Here are the TEN COLORS

*White – cognitive, the way our mind functions when we are learning, thinking, increasing knowledge or understanding.

* Grey – factual, the way our mind functions when we are absorbing information, scanning for important and critical data.

* Yellow – opportunistic, the way our mind works when we view possibilities from a sunny cheerful, optimistic, positive point of view, and see how we can capitalize on and make the best of events and situations around us.

* Black – critical, the way our mind functions when we are serious, skeptical, analytic, seeing the potential problems on the road ahead.

* Green – creative, the way our mind functions when it sends up the shoots of fresh, new imaginative, creative, innovative new ideas.

* Brown – practical, the way our mind things when we are being down to earth, thinking things through logically, incrementally, objectively, within existing systems and assumptions.

* Blue – holistic, the way our minds work when we are looking at the big picture and engaged in strategic planning.

* Orange -molecular, the way our mind works when we are attempting to throw light on the individual parts of something, either to identify or place them.

* Violet – directive, the way our mind works when we are thinking about crucial aims, objectives, decisions, when we have arrived at a turning point or crossroads, and have to make a gut-level choice about what it is we truly want.

* Red – Opinionated, the way our mind works when we are offering our own view or seeking the views of others, and either arguing our position, debating another, or melding the two together to achieve a greater understanding or consensus.

Next time we’ll cover the last lesson from me on Developing your Creativity

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