Recently, I said I was hoping to do a Goodreads giveaway as a promo for the paperback release of The Oldest Trick. I’ve got a bunch of electronic contributor copies burning a hole in my pocket at the moment and nothing much to do with them, so I thought giving them away would be pretty cool. Giveaways I’ve hosted here on this blog haven’t worked very smoothly (mostly because there isn’t a good system in place here to trade contact information, track entries, and so on), so Goodreads seemed a natural alternative. There’s just one problem: They don’t run giveaways for e-books. Bummer. Back to the drawing board.
This disappointment is just the latest in a long line of troubles facing the author who publishes only electronically. Now, don’t get me wrong – having a novel out of any stripe is pretty damned exciting and I love that there are people out there who have read and loved my books and I’m immensely grateful to Harper Voyager for publishing them. That said, I’ve found it much harder to promote and sell an e-book than I thought.
At the Writers of the Future Workshop (enter the Writers of the Future Contest, budding SF/F writers!), I had the unique privilege to listen to Tom Doherty of Tor speak about the publishing industry as it exists today. The basic theme of his talk was this: the primary difficulty for new writers and for publishers is the issue of discovery. “The Internet,” he said, “is great if you know what you’re looking for. It’s a really difficult place to discover new talent.” So, for already established authors – folks with back catalogs and name recognition – the Internet is wonderful, since people who like your work can find everything you ever wrote and buy it (a great improvement over bookstores which would only be intermittently stocked with older titles). But for the little guys (like me), I’m just one very tiny mote in an endless sea of book titles from relatively unknown authors. Many of these books are wonderful and an equal quantity are, well, not. It is very difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff for anyone, editors, agents, writers, and fans all alike.
Of course, the author must promote his work. This – what you’re reading right now – is one author’s attempt at promotion (I hope that, by reading this blog, you might become curious about my work and buy it without me having to sling mindless Twitter ads at you day in and day out. I have no idea if it works). While the internet is a powerful promotional tool, the e-book is still a harder sell than a physical copy. According to Forbes, e-book sales make up 30% of the market and sales have risen sharply over the past few years while independent bookstores have dropped by more than 50% in the past twenty years. While those are harrowing numbers for print, the fact remains that 70% of books are still sold in print and, while you might not be buying it from an indie bookseller, there are good odds the book is still made of paper, no matter its place of origin. The age of the e-book is very much here, but it isn’t the lion’s share of the market by any means. And it’s worth noting that the 30% of the market that is occupied by e-books, is very much swamped with a vast array of traditional and self-published titles alike. Getting recognition from that 30% is very difficult. Print, a full 70% of the market, is somewhat more rarefied air, if you will.
I have tried to think of ways to effectively promote my e-books beyond simply shouting into the Twitter-Void, annoying people on facebook with ads, and writing blog posts. Here are the things I’ve tried:
- Blog Tours, which are the equivalent of book tours, but online. You go around and ask blogs to feature your book on their blog, interview you, or let you do a guest post. It works okay, but it is frequently impersonal and you need to be careful setting them up. The most successful ones I’ve done have been when I got writer friends of mine (in the same genre) to let me post on their blogs or asked them to feature me.
- Giveaways are possible, but getting an e-book to somebody as a gift is technically complex, involving codes and programs to download and passwords to submit and so-on.
- Getting Reviews has also been a significant part of what I do. I bug people I know have read the book to write me a review on Amazon or Goodreads or wherever. This helps my visibility, which helps me gain recognition, which helps me sell books. It is very slow, very incremental work though. A lot of people don’t want to write a review for some reason, even if they do like your stuff. Also, badgering people about it won’t get them to do it any faster. It is likely it will turn them off to doing it.
And…that’s it. I’m stumped after that.
A real book, though, still has a number of other options available to it – options that authors have been wielding effectively for years. Observe:
- Book Signings: People like signed books. People like meeting authors. Sit at a table with a stack of books to sign and you’ll make new friends, new fans, and so on. You won’t always be successful (my second WoTF book signing was pretty much just me sitting at an empty table talking to one guy who didn’t end up buying a book), but you’ll encounter and engage with more people you’d do otherwise.
- Book Readings: Yeah, you can read your e-book, but not as many people are likely to whip out their iPhone or Kindle and buy it right there. If you’ve got a stack of books and you’re reading from that book and all these people have come out to see you, odds are you’ll sell more. I’ve gone to book readings, and I feel weird if I don’t buy the book. It’s almost as though I’m insulting the author if I don’t.
- Book Giveaways become easier with a paperback. You just stick it in the mail and off it goes. Maybe even with a nice, personalized message or something.
- Impressing Guests is an underrated part of book promotion, I think. Some guy asks you what you do, you answer with writers, and he says “what have you written” and bam, there’s a book in his hands with your name on it. Your friends and family get to do the same thing – your book on their shelf. With an e-book? It’s always an explanation as to why your book is currently invisible.
- Bookstores, while dwindling, still sell a lot of books and are still the best places to browse for new titles. There you are, on a bookshelf alongside the greats, cover art on display.
All this, coupled with the fact that traditional books still control the balance of the market (I have people asking me when the print version of The Oldest Trick is coming out every day; it’s September 29th, by the way), means there is a lot to be said for the paperback, even now. Certainly, e-books are key, but they aren’t perfect yet. They don’t have that feel, that smell, that weight that makes it seem like somebody’s work and effort means something more than just the words on the page. E-books are whispers in the air; the physical book is letters on stone tablets. I, personally, cannot wait to have both at my disposal.
I’m back! Did you miss me?
You didn’t notice I was gone, did you? No, no – don’t deny it. I can see it in your guilty face. Fine.
(comes back through door)
But seriously, let me talk about the last week. I went on vacation – visiting family in South Carolina – and that vacation was poorly situated overtop of the release date for The Oldest Trick. I did manage to put up a post about that while I was away, but there were a few things I missed, so I’m here to catch up. First, though, let me provide you with my Roadtrip Stats!
I have driven from Boston to Hilton Head, South Carolina about twenty five times or so. The last two times, I’ve actually driven myself (and my family). In case you haven’t had the opportunity to journey that far down I-95, let me give you the statistics for this last trip.
Best: North Carolina
Worst: New Jersey (by a mile)
Best: Maryland (honorable mention: Connecticut)
Worst: North Carolina (I’m looking at you, “South of the Border” signs)
Best: Delaware (I mean, assuming you get over the bridge in one piece)
Worst: Virginia (Holy tailgating, Batman!)
Best: Connecticut (what few there are)
Worst: Virginia (I have seen things I cannot un-see)
Honorable Mention: New Jersey, for having the most batshit crazy rest stops in the western world. I mean, they’re fairly clean, but I’ve never run into a traffic jam in a rest stop except in New Jersey.
Best: South Carolina (ran into a guy from Pennsylvania in SC who swore he had gone through a time vortex. $2.10 a gallon?)
Worst: Connecticut (The sign said “REGULAR UNLEADED: Blood of First Born + tax”)
Next time I do the trip, I’ll report my findings. I’m pretty sure Jersey is smarting from its upset from the “Worst Drivers” category and clearly Massachusetts should get in there at some point, too. But Virginia…wow. Just amazing.
- Michelle Hauck’s blog hosted me, wherein I write about sequels.
- AFE Smith hosted me, too, so I discussed conflict.
- Another shout-out to Bishop O’Connell, who let me talk about Guilty Pleasures on his blog.
- Liana Brooks put me up on her Impulse Buys of the Week blog, too!
- I’ve got ten reviews on Amazon for THE OLDEST TRICK! Come see what people who got the Advance Reader Copies thought!
A big thank you to Liana, Michelle, AFE, and Bishop for letting me sully their blog-space with my ramblings, and thank you to all the kind reviewers out there, too!
I keep getting people asking me about print copies. I have been assured that they’re coming, I just don’t know quite when. When I know, I promise I’ll let you know, too! In the meantime, I leave you with this dancing chipmunk:
Greetings intrepid Cybernauts and Internetians!
Today is the day! THE DAY! The day that you may own the first installment of my epic fantasy series, The Saga of the Redeemed, as it was intended to be read and enjoyed! Behold, The Oldest Trick!
Compiled for the first time, The Oldest Trick comprises The Iron Ring and Iron and Blood in the Saga of the Redeemed
Tyvian Reldamar gets betrayed by his longtime partner and left for dead in a freezing river. To add insult to injury, his mysterious rescuer took it upon himself to affix Tyvian with an iron ring that prevents the wearer from any evildoing.
Revenge just got complicated.
On his quest to get even, Tyvian navigates dark conspiracies, dodges midnight assassins, and uncovers the plans of the ruthless wizard Banric Sahand. Tyvian will need to use every dirty trick in the book to avoid a painful and ignominious end, even as he learns to work with—and rely on—his motley crew of accomplices, including an adolescent pickpocket, an obese secret-monger, and a fearsome gnoll.
Before we go any further, some buy links:
There! Go forth and contribute to e-commerce, my minions! Okay, so not ‘minions,’ exactly. Pals? Associates? Mildly benevolent strangers?
Oh, and for those of you awaiting a physical copy, that is coming soon – a few weeks, I’m told.
Anyway, here’s the story of why my first two books are in one volume with a different title. This is the definitive version, so in the future I’ll just link back to here. Here we go:
Many moons ago, when Habershaw was even more enthusiastic and naive than he is currently, he was offered a 3-book deal from Harper Voyager – the culmination of a life-long dream. The catch? The first two books would in actuality, be the first book of the series split into two – The Oldest Trick, parts 1 and 2. Me, having no agent (and not for lack of trying) and having no guarantee such an opportunity would come around again, took the deal. Thus, The Iron Ring and Iron and Blood were born, to the confusion of people everywhere. I began to run into people who would ask:
What the hell, Habershaw? This book ends in the middle! Don’t you know how to tell a story?
and reviews that said:
I like this book, but then it stopped in the middle, so I’m knocking off a bunch of stars because screw this guy for leaving me hanging.
In the House of Habershaw, truly there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. But lo! My editor, in her wisdom, convinced the Powers That Be to release an omnibus edition of the two half-books, also known as a single book, and give it the original title. This, dear friends, is that book – a labor of love some five years in the making and the waiting, at last in one single volume.
I am stoked.
Now, if you’ve already read the first two books (and bless you, by the way. Were you here right now, I’d give you a big slobbery wet kiss. Unless that would be weird, in which case I would shake your hand heartily and slap your back in true man-fashion), then you’ve already read this book. No need to buy it again, really – book 3 is on the way, I promise. HOWEVER, now is an ideal time to recommend this book to others. I cannot get the word out alone, my friends! Go forth! Recommend my work to those who like swords, sorcery, derring-do, and snarky anti-heroes. And giant man-eating gnolls.
If you haven’t read it yet, then buy this one. Save the dollar, read the whole thing, love it, leave a review. Let’s get the word out, folks! I think my book is awesome, and I want other people to know it is awesome, too. Let’s do this. Later, when it’s a hit, there’ll be a big party at my house. Big slobbery kisses for everyone.
Unless that’s weird.
Hi everybody! I’m going to be on the (online) radio! Listen in live as I talk with the hosts of Citywide Blackout about writing, Writers of the Future, and my own fantasy series, the Saga of the Redeemed!
Listen live here: http://wemfradio.com/LIVE/
Can I Ask You Questions on the air?
Yes! Post questions to the show’s Facebook page at facebook.com/citywideblackout and twitter.com/citywidemax, which are both monitored throughout the show. You can also call-in at 617-500-7100 on your regular, old-fashioned telephone!
What If I Miss It?
WHAT? Shame on you! That said, I think you can check out excerpts of the show on Citywide Blackout’s website: http://citywideblackout.blogspot.com/
See you all on the radio waves in about four hours!
Ever been on Twitter? I have. I bring from it a piece of somewhat depressing news:
Every single human being on Earth is trying to sell a book.
Yes. All of them.
And they want you to know about it. Yes, all of them. They tell you all the time: buy my book! Buy my book! I wrote a book, do you want to buy it? Observe this banner – it has my picture and is asking you to buy my book! Will you buy it? Have you bought it yet?
What about now? Have you bought it now? It’s been five minutes since the last time I asked you – plenty of time to buy the book. Did I mention it’s on Amazon? B&N? iTunes? Kobo? No? It is. All of them. Other places, too. I’ve been sticking them on seats at my local McDonalds. Want my business card? It *also* tells you to buy my book.
HEY! Look at the sidebar of this here blog! See those book covers? You can CLICK ON THEM! They will take you a place where you can buy my book, which is something everybody should do. Preferably now.
Hey, Habershaw – Lay Off! How Else Can You Do It?
See, that’s just it – I have no idea. I, also, have books to sell. I’m trying to sell them. However, joining the shout-out party over on Twitter doesn’t seem to get me much of anywhere. Or maybe it does. It’s hard to tell, honestly. I’m just one more voice in the roaring crowd of authors, all pushing the same product to, it seems, an audience made up of largely other authors pushing their own books. Facebook? That’s just a giant collection of friends of mine – marketing there doesn’t get me much further than my home town, family, and old coworkers.
It’s a daunting prospect, really. How can you tell the difference between a good book and a bad one, anyway? Who even has time to read even a tenth of the books that people are writing? Nobody, that’s who. I have trouble keeping up with the books my friends are writing, let alone everybody else’s.
So, I plug along. I’ve got this little blog here, which shoots out to about a thousand people (apparently), which ain’t bad. I try to be interesting, rather than just a bullhorn of “BUY MY BOOK”-isms over and over again. Does it work? Hell if I know. I’m selling books, yes, but not exactly at a blistering pace. I think maybe I need to shake-up my strategy. Maybe I ought to be more aggressive and in-your-face about buying my books. Maybe I should plug them like crazy and see if that helps.
I will tell you this, though: if you do read my book (any of my books), REVIEW THEM. I will never, ever get noticed if that doesn’t happen. Reviews = visibility on Amazon (and everywhere else), and Amazon visibility = sales. If an author you like wrote a book you enjoy, review it, dammit. It doesn’t need to be much, but it needs to be something. Five words. One sentence and a couple stars – that’s it. It helps a LOT (seriously).
In the vein of this article, I’ve got a few announcements:
1) Iron and Blood, the sequel to THE IRON RING, is currently available wherever fine e-books are sold. It just received its first review and it was five stars. FIVE STARS, PEOPLE. Get reading, dammit.
2) This week represents a final push to make Writers of the Future Volume 31 a bestseller. We’re really close, actually – we just need to sell a few thousand more copies this week. Do your part to make history! Buy it now! My story and all the other stories contained in this anthology are GREAT! I promise. Buy you a cookie if I’m wrong, pinky-swear.
3) Tomorrow (Thursday), I will be on the Citywide Blackout radio program on WEMF. I will be interviewed from 8:00pm to 8:30pm EST and, as this radio station streams online, you can listen in from anywhere in the world. I recommend that you do, as I am a fascinating person with a silky smooth voice. Well, probably. I hope. Anyway, I’ll be talking about Writers of the Future, my own fantasy novel series (The Saga of the Redeemed), and probably writing in general. It should be tons of fun!
I just received word that I’ll be giving my first public book signing on Saturday, May 9th, in the Barnes and Nobel Prudential from 2pm to 4pm. I will be signing copies of the Writers of the Future Volume 31, which is a fabulous collection of short stories by some very talented people…and also myself. I’d love for all of you to come down, enjoy scenic and historic Boston, and then come get your book signed by me, your new favorite author. It’ll be grand!
See you all there!
Seriously, though, you all have to go. I mean it. If you don’t, I might end up sitting there, all alone at a folding table, stacks of books around me, and people will be walking by me and staring and muttering to each other about who that weirdo is and why he keeps trying to make eye contact and “I thought L Ron Hubbard would be older” and it will be super, super awkward. And then, you know, after I’ve been sitting there for an hour or so and the manager of the bookstore has decided I’m some kind of hack, some well-meaning old lady will walk up and ask if I’m lost or something and I’ll only just manage to strong-arm her into buying a book because she’s got a grandson who likes comic books and yes, yes old woman, this is exactly the same thing and your grandson will love it just please for the love of God let me scribble on this book to validate my existence!
So you see there’s a lot at stake here. I’m counting on you all. I’m holding you all personally responsible for my emotional well-being. Hell, if you don’t want me writing on your book, that’s cool – I can just pretend! I won’t take the cap off my pen and you can sit there and nod and pretend like something awesome is happening (even though you obviously will forget my name, face, and species the moment you turn around) and I, meanwhile, will twiddle my un-pen about on some random page and say something gregarious and encouraging and then, collectively, the two of us will turn away from each other and politely decide to delete this from both of our memories forever, as it lessens us both. Not too much to ask, right? Then you can stroll off and browse the food court, which is pretty snazzy by mall-food-court standards, I must say. It’ll be worth the trip.
What if I dress in costume? I could put a fishbowl on my head and pretend to be a spaceman! And elf ears! What I’m saying is that I really need you there, understand? This is my first time doing this in the wild, okay? Last time it was after an awards show where a whole lot of really awesome people came and applauded for me and my fellow winners and some very impressive writers explained how great we were. So, you know, after they did all that, they kinda had to walk around and let us sign their books, right? I mean, it would be rude to do otherwise, not to mention undercutting all the nice things they just said about us and all that clapping they went through. That’s not quite the same thing as me sitting in a Samsonite chair in a mall bookstore on a Saturday afternoon. Nobody owes me crap there. I won’t even be wearing that killer vest.
Anyway, you get the point: May 9th, Barnes and Nobel Prudential Center, 2pm-4pm. Be there, or be a rhombus.
So, there’s more stuff up on the intertubes about me! Go and check them out (because, seriously, they’re being nice to me and I should send traffic their way)!
Guest Blog posts!
Literarily Speaking (Wherein I discuss the importance of creating history for your fantasy worlds)
The Page 69 Test (Wherein I discuss how the approximately 69th page of THE IRON RING fits into the story as a whole)
Literal Exposure (Find out about that time I fought a rat for a towel)
Beauty in Ruins (Wherein I go through where, how, and why I wrote the book!)
Book Features! (which are all the same, mind you)
Say it with me now, folks: PUB-LI-CI-TY. We will be returning to our regularly scheduled jibber-jabber next week, I promise. Well, at least part of the time. Hey, let’s face it – all you people should be reading my book right now, anyway! How could you have time to read some silly blog posts?
But seriously, thank you one and all, for reading and supporting me. You guys all rock.