The launch pad for D’mok Revival: Retribution (book 2)

Now that the manuscript for book two is in the professional editing phase I’ve begun working on the marketing materials.  Here’s a short list of the most important things in priority order:

  1. Book cover image (H U G E)
  2. Back-cover description text
  3. Reviews / quotes
  4. Web site updates / Social media
  5. Press release, magazine ads
  6. Amazon promotions / other partnerships
  7. Local launch planning and necessary supporting materials
  8. Give-aways
  9. National launch
  10. Contests


Following the pattern from the first book, the most important element is the book cover.  Glenn Clovis is already engaged and working on the new space scene. It’s important to remember that people DO judge a book by its cover, no matter how much “you don’t want them to.” Honestly, if you consider neuroscience it’s clear our brains are optimized to visually discern what we come across. We have near instant decisions made at our most instinctive level whether we like something or not (just by looking at it).

I know from my experience at Comic Con that even an unknown author with an unknown series can attract fans with a picture that appeals to their sensibilities. I was going to for science fiction fans, and space with stations and ships does the trick.

For the second book we’re going to use a different nebula since it’s in a different place, and I want the first three books to have distinct colors. Red was for book one. We’re considering more of a blue-ish for book two.  With respect to the location, Glenn is building out Osuto’s asteroid base floating in the asteroid belt. Currently we’re looking at using the same ship as the first cover.  Osuto’s asteroid base is a key location in the series, so that seemed important to show.  This was the same logic that put the Trading Post on the first cover (though one could argue it ‘could’ also be the sister science station). 😉


Beyond providing some art direction, the first real book cover aspect I can do myself is the wrapper around his incredible images. Luckily I did a great deal of work in Photoshop for the first book. I was able to copy the document and start updating it directly. One of the weaknesses in the first cover was understated series identification. I used some key cover real-estate to herald “A Space Saga By Michael Zummo.” Sure, it was fun to make it seem like people should already know my name (an old Marketing puffery trick), but I want the work to speak for itself and not have people focus on me. So, the first change made is a larger presentation of the series branding.

Next I have the back-of-book text. This is important for sales at shows, displays at stores, and for your online description.  It has to be short, captivating, and leave questions in the reader’s mind to make them want to read and find out how the questions resolve. This isn’t easy. Well known authors and series can get away with a few sentences. Their audience already trusts them and/or understands a series in play.  D’mok Revival has over 2,500 readers that I know of (but that’s all right now). There will be plenty of people checking out this book that will not have seen the first one. Therefore, the back-cover copy needs a little information to get people up to speed.  I have copy that’s being vetted by my internal review group now.  I’ll be posting it to the D’mok Revival Facebook page to solicit opinions there.


With respect to reviews, I’m going back to Reader’s Choice. Their program is fast, affordable, and simple. My series and current reputation are not strong enough to grab the attention of major reviewers. So I’m considering passing on the ARC (advanced review copy) versions of the soft cover book.


Once those items are done I’ll update the site. I already have a design in mind to make sure it can support both books in the series. I plan on continuing to post to Facebook as well. I have great fans there and enjoy staying connected.


With respect to traditional marketing, putting out a press release and placing ads in the SyFy channel’s official magazine really worked well.  Since the first book achieved a rank of #18 on Amazon’s best seller list in Science Fiction, I have a great promotion point now. I also have a 5 star rating from Readers’ Choice I can promote.

I plan on leveraging Amazon’s KDP programs so I can create buzz using their countdown promotions and new book communications. There’s an art to taking your back cover text and boiling it down to a few key statements for an ad. The right quote does wonders as well.

I’m continuing my partnership with the Stan Lee Foundation (which is still AWESOME)! They’ve been a great partner in promoting and distributing the soft cover version of the first book.


I’d like to do my local launch at Boswell’s Book store in Milwaukee off Downer Avenue again. In preparation for book signings and shows I’m going to leverage the picture-to-canvas approach from the first go-around. If you follow Amazon deals, LivingSocial, or Groupons, you’ll see the picture-to-canvas (or metal, or glass) deals come through. They are FANTASTIC deals!  Using them you can get solid promotional materials for your booth or book signing table.

I’ve already purchased a package of four 16×20 canvases that will be the Glenn’s image, the series logo, and book title. It only cost $99. That’s ALL!  I want to use at least 2 for the new book. I think I may update the first book’s cover with the revised branding and use the third one to create a print for that book. The last one I’ll either hold for book 3, or create a “give away” version. I also picked up 2 picture- to-metal prints (for $35) that I was use as give-aways.


FREE autographed books are always a great give-away.  When it comes to t-shirts, they were a nice-to-have item that people enjoyed.  However, I can’t directly correlate sales to them. They were also a high-ticket item. I will get a shirt for the launch, and maybe a few as give-aways, but not at the quantity I did before. The posters done for ComicCon were great attractors (when free not at a cost). I may do those as well since the cost was low.


I’m considering a return to Chicago ComicCon. We’ll see how things are going and the budget I can dedicate as that gets closer.


I’m also going to submit to the writing contests, though results from those tend to be very long-tail. In fact, depending on the cycle, it can be a whole year before the book is even evaluated.

After signing your audio book talent

This is part 2  to the audio book creation posting.

Part 1: Creating The Audio Book On
Part 2: After Signing your audio book talent
Part 3: Your Audio Book is Live


In the end, 23 talented individuals auditioned for the audio book version of D’mok Revival: Awakening.

During this process I realized how little audition text you need to provide to actually tell if someone is right for the part. My big take-aways included:

  1. Include the introduction to your book
  2. Include sections with multiple characters that interact and converse
  3. Keep it only to about two pages of script

I was blessed that nearly each one of them did 10 minutes of audition time.  This is unheard of and made me feel so foolish, not to mention guilty when they didn’t get selected.

I reviewed each one, then sent the top submissions on to a team I assembled from series fans and friends. After gathering and weighting their feedback Kyle McCarley rose to the top of the list.

I sent a personal message to each and every person that submitted an audition.  I wanted them to know I greatly appreciated their effort. Due to the ACX agreements, they can now use that audition in their portfolio as an example of their work.  I completely understand and support this concept.  They put the work in after-all.

I was shocked when each person that I sent a reply to replied back saying how rare it was for them to hear anything when they were not selected, much less genuine gratitude and thanks. I felt both proud and saddened by this.  Authors–APPRECIATE everyone you work with. It’s part of being a professional (even if you, like me, are just entering this space).

Using I send an offer to Kyle. We discussed a few details and decided not to go the profit sharing approach (that Amazon wanted to contribute $1000 up-front towards). We agreed to a per finished hour rate that works for the union he’s in. Based on our discussions he rejected the initial offer and I drafted the next one based on the agreements we discussed. He accepted the new one and we were off.

Kyle shared his approach and process to doing an audio book. I won’t share in detail but I wanted to offer at least some insight as to how to work with voice talent.

  1. Review of the manuscript
  2. Creation of the character list and samples of the voices for each
  3. Clarifications of how to pronounce names and addressing of any grammar issues found
  4. Sample 15 minutes

This is the stage we’re at today.

He’s been amazing to work with. Also, despite having spent thousands on editing, he’s finding a shocking (and rather embarrassing) number of issues in the book.  I’m thankful for how detail oriented he is, along with his amazing process. I’m going to update both the soft-cover manuscript for future prints and the ebook version on Amazon immediately.

In the next week I’ll get the first 15 minutes.  I’m really looking forward hearing his version of it.  It will be interesting to experience reviewing 10 to 11 hours of audio and providing feedback to him.

More to come!

P.S.  Book 2’s manuscript is in the hands of my internal review team. More soon on that as well!