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Melodee’s Rules for Authors — Number Thirty-Eight

Number Thirty-Eight

Read A Few Books

OK, more correctly, read a LOT of books.

This all ties back to other Rules where we’ve talked about writing what will sell and keeping your books on the book seller’s hot lists. Yes, as I’ve said, a representative or (sometimes) agent will help you here, and a personal assistant can be priceless, but it still comes back to you actually reading books to see what other authors are doing.

But there’s a big problem here: Who has time to read? We’re all busy writing!

First, like any other task, you need to set aside time to read. Put it on a schedule and your list of Things To Do Today. Make yourself do it.

Second, read faster. The average American reads around 200 words per minute with about 60% comprehension. To read a, let’s say, 40,000 word novella, the typical reader will need about 200 minutes, or just over three hours. It is possible for most people to learn to read faster. It’s not uncommon to see numbers in the 500 wpm range with near 90% comprehension. Take some classes. I personally am one of the lucky ones in that I read at around 1,000 wpm with better than 90% comprehension. That means I can read the above example book in well under an hour.

The last thing is something you may not be able to do for a number of reasons: Get other people to read books and provide you with a synopsis of them, a maximum of one page. I do this within my company, but the bottom line is that I pay those people to read books. Some are editors, others are marketing types, and some are just average people. For example, the lady who is the supervisor of the housekeeping crew that keeps the offices looking pristine reads books for me. As I said, this may not work for some people, but I would bet that you could get a few friends and family members to read books for you and provide summaries if you buy the books for them.

Using the three items above, in a typical week I personally read 17 books on average, and I get summaries of about 50 more. Do the math…every week, I see what the writers of more than 60 books are doing.

The more you read, the more you learn.

Keep Loving!

THWT Question for 30 JUN 2020

Let’s talk about listening to a book in today’s Two Hundred Word Tuesday Question:

Have any of your books/stories been made into an audio book? If so, what was the experience like?

Keep Loving!

Melodee’s Rules for Authors — Number Thirty-Seven

Number Thirty-Seven

Don’t Pass Up Free Promotion

In this post, I’m going to pick on Twitter only for the sake of simplicity and clarity. The same concepts apply to other social media sites and to promotion in general, so try to expand your awareness to those other areas as well.

Promotion of your books is, by and large, hard work. Probably more work than actually writing the books. Promotion is also, by and large, a royal pain in the ass. With these things in mind, why, in God’s name, would anyone want to make it even harder???

There are countless people on Twitter (myself included) who send out weekly tweets for #MM (Mention or Muse Monday), #WW (Writer Wednesday), #FF (Follow Friday), and other hashtags related to writing and/or general social contacts. Usually, people mentioned in these tweets will retweet them. To make a long story short, a typical #MM tweet will be seen by nearly a million people in the first 24 hours. Stretch that out to a week, and 5-million is not unreasonable.

So, if your author account is mentioned in that tweet, your name (and brand) is seen by a LOT of people. If we assume you are mentioned in six #MM/#WW/#FF tweets a week, your brand could be seen by as many as 30-million people! Just for fun, let’s assume that you gross $0.50 on every book you sell and that 0.05% of the people who see you mentioned buy a book, that comes out to $7,500.00. A week. That’s nearly $400,000 a year. Would you like to have that in your bank account? Better yet, can you afford to leave that money on the table?

I can hear the nay-sayers out there…those numbers are wildly optimistic. OK, so if we assume that the numbers are inflated by 90%, you would still make an extra $750 a week or almost $40,000 a year. Even if you only sell twenty more books, you made enough to go to KFC and get a $5 Fill Up meal. The point is, you will see an increase in sales.

See Rule Number Thirty-Six as well, because the things I discuss there apply to social media promotion, too.

The trick to all of this is getting other Tweeps to mention you. This may be in the #MM/#WW/#FF tweets, by means of retweets, likes, and other things. How to make this happen varies from one Tweep to another, but as a general rule, they will mention (or retweet) people they follow and who follow (and mention) them back.

For our business, the best bang for the social media buck comes from other authors. Follow them and, if they follow you, follow them back. Make use of Twitter’s List functions to organize them. Retweet their tweets. Mention them.

As a side note here, one way to get a two-for-one deal is to retweet something where one author is mentioning another author. With one tweet, you mentioned two Tweeps who will, hopefully, mention/retweet you.

Yes, this takes some time, but the odds are you’re spending more time than that now and not actually doing anything positive. Twitter (and other social media systems) are huge time-sinks. Most people waste staggering amounts of time there chatting with “friends”. All you need to do is change your attitude and behaviors so you are interacting in a way that promotes you and your books. Get your name/brand out there.

In short, you can get a lot of benefit from a small amount of effort.

Keep Loving!

THWT Question for 23 JUN 2020

Today on Two Hundred Word Tuesday we’ll take a look back at your writing past…

Thinking back to the first story you wrote and actually sold, was it: Too Long; Too Short; or Just the Right Length?

Keep Loving!

Melodee’s Rules for Authors — Number Thirty-Six

Number Thirty-Six

Advertising Bang versus Bucks

Many people think of promotion and promoting their books. In more general terms, promotion is just a subset of advertising. But no matter what you call it, you need to get the most bang for the buck when you are trying to sell your books.

Now, if you’re really not interested in making a living as an author and/or don’t care how much you make (or lose), you might as well skip this rule. It won’t make any sense to you and some will even puff up like a bullfrog and fuss about the art or craft or some other thing in order to get the entire world of writers to see the light and make as little money as you do.

For the rest of you who want to (or already do) make a living as an author, read on…

I want to make sure you understand that I am NOT talking about the basic promoting needed from the author of any book. What we’re looking at here is extra promotion down the road.

First off, you need to set a price on your time. This isn’t easy, though. In a general sense, you need to know how long it takes to write a book (from concept to release) and how much you gross from each book on a yearly (or other time frame) basis. Obviously, both of these values vary, but think in terms of averages. Let’s assume you can write a book (as defined above) in six months and in the first year of release you’ll net $100,000. This means, in a year, you’ll write two books and get $200,000 from them. Using the standard working year of 2,080 hours (40 hours a week for 52 weeks) you made just over $96 an hour from writing.

Now we do something similar on the promotion work…how many hours do you spend promoting and how much net income is made from that? In short, the dollars per hour spent on promotion must be less than the dollars per hour earned from the book.

This is MUCH harder than the book income and to simplify the numbers, we’ll make a few assumptions that seem to fit a good number of professional writers. We’re going to cut the dollars per hour from the book to 25% of the above value. This is to allow for “normal” promotion and deviations from the averages. So, instead of considering $96 per hour, we’ll call it $24 per hour.

In other words, if you spend two hours on promo, sales must increase by at least $48 to stay in the black.

Just as an aside, if you have a person employed to handle promotion and you pay this person $20 an hour, using the above numbers you still come out ahead.

DISCLAIMER: All the above numbers are 100% fictitious and many were selected just to make the math easy. You’ll need to plug in real numbers that fit you and your situation.

One thing you’ll notice is that, no matter the values used, as you become more successful and your books sell more and your net income goes up, the value of your time writing also goes up. This means the payback from promotion must get greater and greater to be worth your time and extra effort.

Maybe…

Promotions, especially live appearances like signings, can be a lot of fun. You can also combine such trips with a vacation (about 80% of which is deductible if you’re incorporated) and that’s worth something, too.

The real bottom line is to carefully weigh the costs and benefits of promoting beyond the basics. Is it really worth it?

Keep Loving!

THWT Question for 16 JUN 2020

Here is today’s Two Hundred Word Tuesday question:

What is your favorite movie of all time?

Keep Loving!

Melodee’s Rules for Authors — Number Thirty-Five

Number Thirty-Five

Ignore the Critics

As a group, critics are pompous morons.

Sorry, but I call ‘em like I see ‘em.

Anyone remember Phil Collins? How many of his albums did you buy? Want to know what the critics thought of people who bought Phil Collins albums? Try https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phil_Collins#Criticism on for size.

And critics today are no different.

If you DARE not think, act, dress, and eat like them, or if you disagree with them in any way, then you are stupid. See link above.

Personally I don’t even read reviews of my stories. Part of that is I don’t like critics. Part is I just don’t care about the reviews.

I’ve had books get terrible reviews at the same time they sold 40,000 copies in the first weekend of release. I had books called, “…the worst writing since the room full of monkeys tried to write a sonnet…” that made $5,000,000 gross sales in the first six months.

I really don’t care about reviews or critics. You shouldn’t either.

Critics don’t buy my books.

I care about the readers, and so should you.

The readers DO buy my books.

Keep Loving!

THWT Question for 09 JUN 2020

Here is the Two Hundred Word Tuesday question for today:

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?

Keep Loving!

Melodee’s Rules for Authors — Number Thirty-Four

Number Thirty-Four

Don’t Give Away the Store

Let me start off saying that I do enjoy a little gambling now and then. I’ll buy lottery tickets from time to time. I’ll drop a few dollars in the one-armed bandits as well. I like to play penny-ante poker (real poker, not the assorted nonsense popular in the casinos these days). I like strip poker even more, but I digress.

What I’ve never been a fan of is contests where books are given away as the prizes. I’m in the business of selling books, not giving them away.

There is a ton of research dating back more than 80 years up until just a matter of weeks ago showing such contests do little or nothing to improve sales.

As a caveat, there is a subset of contests where sales are positively impacted: Contests that require the entrant to read a book to come up with the right answer. Be VERY careful with this type of contest. It can be construed as making a purchase required to enter and that is illegal in many jurisdictions.

Anyway…

In general, a more effective approach is to give away something unrelated to books as the prize. Jewelry, gift cards (not to book stores), fragrances, clothing or accessories, and a host of other items work well. The simple fact is that these prizes can (and usually do) stimulate book sales. For all I know, the entrants feel guilty if they don’t buy a book.

Also, be judicious about your contests and prizes. Carefully evaluate the overall impact. If you run a contest and sales go up by $20,000, you’re still in red ink if you give away a new Lexus.

Let me tell you about a contest I used to run on a regular basis when I was living in San Diego…

A couple of years after I stopped having a booth at the San Diego Comic Com, I would put out a notice that I would indeed be at the Con, but not as an exhibitor or panel member. I would simply be there as an attendee, nothing special, not even doing cosplay. I would also announce the exact day and times I would be there. And the very first person to walk up to me at the Con and say, “You’re Melodee Aaron!” (or whatever pen name I was attending as that day) would get, on the spot, $1,000 cash money. This encourages people to read my books to get to know me, but still does not require them to buy anything. They could just walk up to any random blonde girl and play the game. Trust me…there are a LOT of random blonde girls at Comic Con!

Yes, it cost me $1,000 a day plus admission to the event plus other expenses. Call it about $6,000 total for the three-day event. And don’t forget about the time. I typically saw a jump of about $12,000 in sales across the three pen names I would appear under.

Not a bad return on the investment.

Keep Loving!

THWT Question for 02 JUN 2020

The first Two Hundred Word Tuesday question for June 2020 is:

Are there any new authors that have grabbed your interest?

Keep Loving!