May 012014

By Nobilis

I had a great idea today.

No, not an idea for a story, I get those all the time … this was a great idea for promotion. It was going to leverage several of my strong suits and potentially attract a whole new group of potential readers and listeners. It was—if I do say so myself—a brilliant idea, and it still seems brilliant after mulling it over with a few trusted friends. And it’s not only good, but it would be fun. Lots of fun.

And I just don’t have time for it right now.

I’ve got commitments: writing commitments, podcasting commitments, and of course family and dayjob commitments. I went over my schedule with a fine-toothed comb, I figured out how much time I needed to devote to this project, and… it simply isn’t available. It was going to require at least ten hours to prepare the project and three or four hours to execute each iteration. And right now (and by “right now”, I mean “for the next several weeks at least”), I have too much else to do.

Now, any creative person is going to tell you that you Don’t Find Time, You Make It. You make it by quitting habits (like television, video games or facebook) that aren’t serving your goals, and putting your now-freed time into habits (like writing or other creative pursuits) that are serving them.

Thing is? The operative term is serving your goals. All of them. In the interest of my professional and creative goals, I’ve already squeezed my time sources as far as I’m comfortable. The time I’ve left myself for things like TV and video games serves other equally important goals: I reward myself for accomplishments by taking a ride in the TARDIS or blowing up some mutants; I maintain connections to my friends, giving us a shared context for conversation (some of which inspires story ideas, thus serving creative goals as well). I’m also not going to spend any less time exercising. That would be stupid.

So I don’t have time. Not right now, and not for a few weeks at the very least. Possibly months, depending on how things play out—even though I know this project is going to be awesome and bring all kinds of attention to myself and lots of other authors. And besides … did I mention that it would be fun?

So I have to hold on to it.

It shouldn’t be hard, I’m used to holding on to ideas. I have the idea notebook for story and character ideas that I’ve mentioned in previous posts. So why not another notebook for this kind of idea? I’ve even got a spare one in my office. (I can’t be the only author that collects blank books and notebooks)

And we’ll see. Maybe in the fall, you’ll see a new project from me. Or maybe you won’t; maybe someone else will have a go at it, and I’ll sit back and cheer them on.

After all … it’s only an idea.


Learn more about Nobilis and his work at his…

Twitter: @nobilis

Jan 182014

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.

Jan 062014
Making Social Media Work for You, Part II

By M. Christian

On my wall is the maxim Don’t Work Harder; Work Smarter.

Which is what social media is all about. Let’s face it: you are a writer—and that means you should, above all else, be writing. Stories, essays, novels… you name it—are what put cash in the bank. Social media is extremely important, if not essential, to getting people to buy your books, stories, etc., but it’s useless if you spend so much time promoting yourself and your work that social media cuts into your writing time …and you end up with less stuff to sell.

Luckily, there are some very powerful approaches to social media that allow you to manage it all quickly and easily, freeing up vital time you can use for writing. One of my favorites is the idea of interlinking and automating your social media so that your posts, Facebook musings and tweets flow between each other without you having to deal with each one individually—thus maximizing your time/effort/energy for writing … equaling, hopefully, more money.

It’s easy-peasy to set up Facebook to help with this, using a FB app called RSS Graffiti. What this does is take any site with an RSS feed …what? You don’t know what RSS is? You’re right, I should back up: RSS is basically a feature of most social media sites, which allows you to “subscribe” to their content. Once you do so, you only need to check one spot (say, a blog) for news and updates which originate from a variety of sites. Likewise, you, the writer, can enable others to subscribe to your posts and read them on their favorite corners of the internet without having to periodically check your site for updates—thus ensuring that many more of your posts will be read. RSS Graffiti takes advantage of this mechanism; once you set it up, what you post at your blog feeds to your FB page automatically, so your FB readers can see your posts from there.

Here is how to install and use RSS Graffiti on Facebook:

1. Just click here ( to go to the RSS Graffiti app.

2. Follow instructions to install it into your Facebook account.

3. Once you have it put in, click on “New Publishing Plan” and type in, for example, Blog, to give it a name.

4. Paste in the URL of your blog.

5. RSS Graffiti will now feed new blog posts automatically to your Facebook page.

6. Repeat for any of your other blogs or websites. (If your blog or site doesn’t have a working RSS feed for some reason, you can usually go into its settings for your site or blog and turn it on. Most blogs try to make this as simple as possible.) I also recommend using the “full post” feature of RSS Graffiti. It offers other options, but part of why you should be using it is so you can get the most bang for your buck in your blog automation.

Now, when you post anything to your blog (or personal website) it will automatically appear on your FB page without you clicking anything or having to go and paste it in manually yourself. What could be sweeter?


Dec 082013
Making Social Media Work for You, Part I

By M. Christian

Okay, to be honest: I used to be extremely anti-Twitter.

It’s not like I’ve done a complete turnaround—far from it—but I’ve begun to use it more seriously, and …I have to grudgingly admit that it can be an effective social media tool.

While I am still fairly new to tweet-tweet-tweeting, I can’t but help notice a lot of authors making what I think are serious mistakes. Part of that, of course, is because twitter is counterintuitive to the way writers think. Unlike blogs and other forms of social media, twitter is ephemeral: tweets coming and going in the space of a few seconds…with few people taking the time to backtrack on what anyone is saying.

This means that quantity is key to tweeting; zapping out a tweet, say, every few days or weeks or only when you have a book or story coming out is pretty much pointless. Even if you have a huge audience of loyal followers, tweeting infrequently means that you will have an very small percentage of that audience who happen to be looking at their Twitter feed for your short pearls of wisdom, or important book announcements, the moment you send them—and that moment, O infrequent tweeter, is the only one you’ve given yourself. To make effective use of Twitter you not only need to tweet every day, you need to tweet several times a day.

And then there’s the question of what you’re tweeting. Yes, you need to talk about your writing; yes, you need to post book announcements; yes, you need to praise your publisher; yes, you need to scream about good reviews…but you also need to come across as a person. So, share interesting information about yourself, share pieces of your writing that you aren’t necessarily trying to sell, talk to your followers as if they were friends (though, not necessarily the kind of friends to whom you’d say anything), rather than potential customers…get my drift? Your followers are interested in your work, but they’re also interested in you.

One thing I’ve been doing—though probably not as much as I should—is a Fun Fact thread: sharing tidbits about little ol’ me that people might find interesting. Hopefully it makes my feed seem a lot less stridently I’M A WRITER READ MY WRITINGS and more human, intriguing, and engaging.

Fortunately, frequent tweeting with varied messages isn’t as hard as it sounds. You don’t have log in to  your twitter account multiple times and send out each tweet manually. With the right tool you can post a half dozen tweets or more all at the same time, and have them sent out every few hours. One of the best tools I’ve found for this (and, no, this isn’t a commercial) is called Hootsuite; it’s a web-based twitter aggregator that allows me to post, schedule, track, and do other fun things, and from more than one Twitter account (which is handy, since I work for a publisher and send out tweets about myself as well about them). The scheduling feature is very handy: I can create multiple tweets and then copy and paste them into Hootsuite’s scheduler—and program them to pop up over the span of a few hours or even days.

Of course, you don’t want the tweets to be mind-numbingly similar and spammy. No one—ever—wants to listen to a commercial, let alone the same one several times a day. So flooding your poor followers with nothing but BUY MY BOOK BUY MY BOOK BUY MY BOOK is not going to sell a single copy, and will more than likely get you unfollowed. Give the repeated content some variety, switch the words around, say the same thing in different words, etc.

Here are four tweets I sent out for one of my books when Sizzler Editions was giving it away free one weekend:

He drank blood but wasn’t a vampire. Even he didn’t know what he was! Free 14-16thh Manlove novel @MChristianzobop

#Free 14-16th #Manlove #Vampire classic complete in one ebook Running Dry by @MChristianzobop

Like #Manlove #Paranormal #Romance? M. Christian blazes a new trail in Running Dry only @MChristianzobop

#Free this weekend only Lambda Finalist M. Christian’s gay vampire classic Running Dry

In addition to varying the wording of what is essentially the same information, you can parcel out different bits of information about the same event, in a way that’s easy for late-afternoon or evening tweet-readers to catch up on whatever you’d posted in the morning. Say you were going to a convention where you would be on a panel and also reading. Don’t write one tweet about it. Write a tweet about the fact that you will be there and the dates; another about being on the panel and when it is scheduled; a third about your reading, and when and where.

Another feature of Twitter (and other social media platforms) that a lot of people ignore when sending out info is autosharing. In short, this means that whatever you post to one place gets automatically shared to others. Let’s say I have a blog. Using RSS Graffiti, whatever I post there is picked up on Facebook. Let’s also say I have a Tumblr (I actually have seven). With Tumblr’s built-in system I can share (or not) what I post on it to Twitter and then to Facebook. There is also a setting in Twitter that passes your tweets along to Facebook as well. These settings let you decide what’s automatically reposted where, so your aunt Betty doesn’t end up hearing about your new erotic novel unless you want her to.

It can be a tad confusing—to put it mildly—but it saves a lot of time and effort to automate these things. That said, one word of warning: you want to be careful with a quantity-driven thing like Twitter that you don’t choke your slower-rate social media places like Facebook with too many autoshared reposts—that’ll start to get pretty spammy. Hootsuite, nicely, allows me to post to Facebook as well as Twitter, so I can vary the number of posts I send out to match the nature of the media venue. It may take a bit of trial and error to get this all balanced for rate and time and such but it’s really worth the investment.

Pay attention, as well, to hashtags…though the #trick with #these is #not to overuse #them as your post will look really #silly. You can check trending tags and use those—but all that means is that yours will compete with millions of others. Far better to use them only for what you are really writing about, and then only a few per post.

And retweet items you find important, amusing or interesting. Remember, Twitter is supposed to be social media: meaning that the goal isn’t to talk at people but to them. Tweeting a lot but not actually communicating useful or interesting information is going to get you zilch.

Relatedly, don’t, as too many people do, ignore retweets of your tweets or mentions of your name. It’s not a quid pro quo situation, but it’s nice to pause and acknowledge that someone cared enough to spread your tweets further out into the world. Being ignored, specially by a writer whose career, or books, you have retweeted or shared…well, it doesn’t take much of that for a “follow” to turn into an “unfollow.”

Sure, Twitter too often sounds like a parrot who’s been sitting next to the television for too long and is about as deep as a Justin Bieber song—but the fact remains that, if you approach it intelligently and efficiently, it can be a valuable source of marketing for writers.

Just, as with all social media, try not to get sucked into spending so much time playing with it that you don’t #get #any #writing #done…

Nov 302012

It’s a huge no-duh that we live in an Information Age: from high speed Internet to 4G cell networks, we can get whatever we want wherever we want it – data-wise – at practically at the speed of light.

But sometimes I miss the old days. No, they weren’t – ever – the Good Old Days (I still remember liquid paper, SASEs, and letter-sized manila envelopes … shudder), but back then a writer had a damned long time to hear about anything to do with the biz.

If you were lucky you got a monthly mimeographed newsletter but otherwise you spent weeks, even months, before hearing about markets or trends … and if you actually wanted contact with another writer you either had to pick up the phone, sit down and have coffee, or (gasp) write a letter.

No, I’m far from being a Luddite. To borrow a bit from the great (and late) George Carlin: “I’ve been uplinked and downloaded. I’ve been inputted and outsourced. I know the upside of downsizing; I know the downside of upgrading. I’m a high-tech lowlife. A cutting-edge, state-of-the-art, bicoastal mutlitasker, and I can give you a gigabyte in a nanosecond.”

I love living in The World Of Tomorrow. Sure, we may not have food pills or jetpacks but with the push of a … well, the click of a mouse I can see just about every movie or show I want, read any book ever written, play incredibly realistic games, or learn anything I want to know.

Here it comes, what you’ve been waiting for … but … well, as I’ve said many times before, writing can be an emotionally difficult, if not actually scarring endeavor. We forget, far too often, to care for ourselves in the manic pursuit of our writing ‘careers.’ We hover over Facebook, Twitter and blog-after-blog: our creative hopes of success – and fears of failure – rising and falling with every teeny-tiny bit of information that comes our way.

I miss … time. I miss weeks, months of not knowing what the newest trend was, who won what award, who sold what story to what magazine, who did or did not write their disciplined number of pages that day. Back then, I just sat down and wrote my stories and, when they were done, I’d send them off – and immediately begin another story so when the inevitable rejection letter came I could, at least, look at what I’d sent and say to myself Feh, I’ve done better since.

I’m not the only one. Just this week I had to talk three friends off rooftops because they looked at their sales figures, read that another writer had just sold a story when they’d just been rejected, heard that the genre they love to work in is in a downward spiral, that they’d been passed over (again) for an award, or that someone else had written ten pages that day … and all they’d managed to do was the laundry and maybe answer a few emails.

It took me quite a while but I’ve finally begun to find a balance in my life: a way to still happily be – and now we’re bowing to the really-dead Timothy Leary – turned on, tuned in … by dropping out.

Far too many writers out there say that being plugged in 24/7 to immediately what other writers are doing and saying, what their sales are like moment-by-moment, or the tiniest blips in genres, is the way to go. While I agree what we all have to keep at least one eye on what’s happening in the world of writing we also have to pay a lot more attention to how this flow of information is making us feel – and, especially, how it affects our work.

By dropping out, I mean looking at what comes across our desk and being open, honest, and – most of all – caring about how it makes us feel. You do not have to follow every Tweet, Facebook update, blog post, or whatever to be able to write and sell your work. You do not have to believe the lies writers love to tell about themselves. You do not have to subscribe to every group, forum, or site. You do not have to hover over your sales.

I’ll tell you what I tell myself – as well as my friends who are in the horrible mire of professional depression: drop out … turn it off. If the daily updates you get from some writer’s forum make you feel like crap then unsubscribe. If you don’t like the way another writer makes you feel about you and your work then stop following them. If the self-aggrandizing or cliquish behavior of a writer depresses you then stop reading their Tweets, blog posts or whatever.

You do not have to be a conduit for every hiccup and blip of information that comes your way. You Are A Writer … and, just like with flesh-and-blood people, if something diminishes you in any way, punches you in the emotional solar plexus, or keeps you from actually writing, then Turn It Off.

This is me, not you, but I don’t follow very many writing sites. WriteSex, here, is wonderful, of course … but beyond the true, real professional necessities, I only follow or read things that are fun, educational, entertaining, uplifting, and – best of all – make me feel not just good about myself and my writing, but want to make me sit down at my state-of-the-art machine and write stories.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what it’s all about … and everything else either comes a distant second or doesn’t matter at all.

Jan 132011

No Muse Is Good Muse

So it’s another one of these columns where I will speak less about the specifics of SEO writing then the approach I think best suits the working writer, or the one who wants to work. Whatever it is you’re doing, SEO work (writing copy with specific keywords for search engines) editing or if you’re lucky enough to make fiction writing your main gig, I think it behooves a writer to wait for his or her muse.

A muse, if one exists (and I have a hard time believing in the concept) ain’t  gonna put food on your table. If you are a writer, write. Stop blogging about writing, stop tweeting or twatting about it, stop professing to people that you write and you have the great American novel on your hard drive awaiting completion. Please do me, your family, friends and fellow writers a favor…just fucking write!

If you have a job that will pay you to move those stubby little digits across a computer keyboard and the job is paying you what you feel is a honest wage, then you best get on the job and start writing, cause the worst thing to be is a writer waiting for inspiration while money passes you by.  Be inspired all you want, feel the vibe and the verve and the shuck and jive, stand on your head if you have to, but one need remember this writing thang we do, especially if one is writing stuff like SEO copy, is a job. Negotiate a good pay, stay off your twitter-really nobody cares how many followers you have, it doesn’t give your meaningless existence any more weight-and write.

The only way I ever got the jobs I did or the one I presently have is by working. I either worked directly to solicit the job, or my name was given to someone from work  I did previously, or  what little rep. I do happen to have I got by…yes, say it out loud with me kids….by working writing!

The nuts and bolts of SEO writing I can sum up for you right here, right now…either find or have your employer give you the keywords he or she want to get into the copy, write clear and concise copy to your employers specification, put those keywords in the copy judicously, have the copy make sense and make sure to stay on your point in the words allotted. Don’t stuff keywords by keeping the ratio pretty well even through-ut your paragraphs and you’re mostly there.

But none of the paragraph above will mean doodly unless you…that’s right, say it with me again kids…unless you write. Unless you work. Unless you get up off your ass (or sit down on it), turn off the PDA, close the Facebook account-believe me if you log on an hour from now you’re not going have missed a blessed thing-and welcome the muse called commerce and do your job. You’re a writer right? Writers right. If you think for a millisecond that what you do is really all that more important than anyone else’s job, that you are on the fast track to inspiration because you do something ‘creative’, that you’re any more special then the dude that picks up your garbage, then do me a favor, go on your Twitter account and tell all your friends. They believe they are just as special

For the rest of us slobs, I say, keep writing.