The Next Two Novels (?!)

Where to begin? I’ll start at the very beginning. I hear it’s a very good place to start.

My second novelette, D’mok Revival: The Aloan Conspiracy, is officially released!  Can you believe I had it mostly done back in January. However, my third novel and first novelette had released, and a lot was happening in my life. To be honest, I was a bit burned out. Three full novels of authoring, editing, marketing, promotions, etc. in about a year and half was a lot of work. I loved it, but it really taxed me.  Remember, this is my hobby. I have a fulltime job and son, and somewhat of a life too. Thank God for great friends and family that keep me mostly sane.

Honestly, I wanted to release the second novelette earlier than July! But a few things were happening.

  1. I started editing the fourth manuscript in the D’mok Revival series
  2. I started seeing all kinds of visions in the first spin-off series (that was already a documented part of my literary universe’s book plans), which led to starting to write the first volume in that series
  3. I wanted a life

Okay, and being honest:

4. I started taking some new medications for my arthritis which actually impacted my creative flow

Okay, okay…

5. The board game for D’mok Revival

I’m an over achiever, sorry.

The good news is now that the second novelette is out, I can really focus on the next big things. Sometimes you have to get rid of one of the balls being juggled in the air.

So, given I’m only one person, what’s the next main opportunities here? I have focused my work on one major effort, the next book in the D’mok Revival series (technically book 4, but it can also stand alone as the start of a new trilogy). It’s called D’mok Revival: New Eden (Note: the name changed from D’mok Revival: Reunification as noted in the Final Note section of book 3. It just didn’t feel right. New Eden sets the tone for things moving forward too.)

Back in 2010, at another major turning point in my life, I wrote a fourth book for the D’mok Revival Series. It picked up about a year after book 3, D’mok Revival: Descension. There were many things unanswered coming out of the Nukari Invasion Trilogy. This book not only answered them, but showed the impacts of a redistributed power base in the galaxy. The tone had been set for thing to come (namely the next two books in the D’mok Revival main series). Yes, this means there’s a new trilogy. ;p

The manuscript was around 80,000 words. After ripping out sections (The Aloan Conspiracy was actually the first few chapters of book 4), and making early revisions to the content, it’s already heading up towards 85,000 words. My guess is it will be as large as book 3 was in the end (around 94,000 words).

Remember the fourth manuscript was written before any of the editing changes happened in the first three books. My writing style has also evolved dramatically, so this rewriting process take time. The new medication I’m on for arthritis has also impacted my speed. I originally had two computers going in my brain full tilt with visions of scenes all the time. Now, I feel like an old Commodore 64 computer… lol.  Geek humor. I’m just not working with the same power and speed as before.  The good news is the content is better and more focused.

Then what is this about the “next two” novels?  Well, before I refined my focus, I started writing the first book in the first spin-off series called Weun Academy. Long story short, for those that have followed the main series, this new trilogy (yes trilogy) is named after Seigie Weun and follows the rise of prominence of “the boy with the green eyes.” I’ve mentioned a few more details in past blog posts, so I don’t want to be redundant with content. I have the outline for the entire trilogy, detailed notes for each chapter in this first book, and am about 60 written MS Word pages in. As soon as book 4 in the main series is done, I’ll move directly into this one and finish it.

It’s important to know that the prologues for both of these novels have been professionally edited by Arlene Robinson already. Why?  Good question!  I have include BOTH of them as sneak peaks at the end of the D’mok Revival: The Aloan Conspiracy novelette!  How cool is that?  You can get a look directly into the action of the next two FULL NOVELS right now!

I’m so excited to share these with you. Sometimes people don’t believe me when I talk about the full scope of the series. For the record, I’ve only told a few, because I don’t want people to think I’m just bluffing or puffing myself up. This story is very big. There’s so much to talk about. There’s also a reason I specifically said “the first spin-off…” But before I say more, I think I rather write the stories and then talk about it.

Keep sending me your feedback. What do you love?  What do you want to know more about? What things are slow, boring, not as interesting? Don’t worry, I don’t dramatically swing because of one person’s comments. I trend them and observe what the fans are saying overall. Regardless, your thoughts are precious to me, and they help me grow as an author and creator of this literary universe.

Thank you again for your ongoing support and thoughts!

D’mok Revival: The Aloan Conspiracy Novelette Cover Design

Readers always ask where the ideas come from for book covers. I’ve posted a number of times about the process I’ve used and the evolution of the various covers in the D’mok Revival series. I guess it’s important to keep that tradition alive.

For those that are current in the D’mok Revival series, you’ll remember Speru Chew’s world of Alo. It’s the first major adventure in book 3, D’mok Revival: Descension. Without spoilers, politics abound on that world. One of the pinnacle moments there involved the moon set ablaze with energy, and the resulting power burst that streaked away from it.  It’s certainly one of the moments that comes to mind when I think about Rhysus Mencari’s experience there. It seemed fitting to evoke the memory of that event, and provide a picture of what Mencari saw there.

This is a space opera series, so I went to the traditional presentations from books and television. Picturesque images are common place. So I created an initial sketch.

Crude mock-up for the second novelette

Crude mock-up for the second novelette

The blazing moon was peaking over the horizon of Alo. I sent it, along with some example photos (thank you Google Images) to my amazing illustrator Glenn Clovis. As a sidebar, I could never say enough about Glenn. He’s amazingly talented, a dream to work with, and makes manifest your dreams!

He sent back this amazing image.

First version of the cover based on my crude sketch.

First version of the cover based on my crude sketch.

Beautiful, isn’t it? It felt very Star Trek the Next Generation or Star Trek Voyager (which is great). Though, it felt very still. That wasn’t Glenn’s fault, it’s exactly what I asked for from him. It needed some type of action, something that would pull people in. Good covers make people go “oooh,” and also makes them ask questions—makes them want to be there.

Then I remembered “the streak” from the end of the chapter. I created a quick sketch and shot it over to Glen. The following is my original with Glenn’s response.

cover-thoughts untitled

You’ll notice the dramatic shift in design. How incredible. It really punched things up.  As always, I took it to my Facebook page to get feedback from my incredible fans and followers. It was received very well, though some people mentioned it looked like a highway of light more so than a streak. Fair enough!

I put another tweaked version out there, that was better received.

My "comet effect" version

My “comet effect” version

Glenn made a few adjustments, and BAM!  The final cover was ready.

Glenn's final version with the series branding applied.

Glenn’s final version with the series branding applied.

So there you have it!  D’mok Revival: The Aloan Conspiracy will be available on Amazon within a day!  Check it out and let me know what you think.  Don’t forget to post your review on Amazon.com as well.  🙂

The growing lore of D’mok Revival

Book number 4, along with the first book in the Weun Academy spin-off series are both moving forward. The second novelette, Aloan Conspiracy, is going through final editing and visual design. I’m hoping to get the board game design moving again too.  It’s very exciting!

What’s so amazing is now that I’m out of the first trilogy, book number four can do “new” things. At the same time, I’m building on the existing lore of the D’mok literary universe. This means I have to catch people that may not have read the first trilogy up. I need to provide some context for what’s happened since. There’s set up baggage that needs to be addressed. I’ve also found, on occasion, that I’ve had holes in my own information.  Sometimes it may have been from edits done that didn’t make it back to my catalog of characters, places, and things. Other times I’ve found I never gave a character a last name. Whoops. The good news is I’ve caught a number of things and have cleaned them up.

It’s been a lot of fun looking at how existing characters have evolved since the end of book 3.  For instance (no real spoiler here), what role is Eyani playing now? Has her title changed? How about Rhysus Mencari?

I also find it interesting working on both Weun Academy’s first book AND book 4 at the same time.  “Technically,” Weun Academy happens after book 4. Now, remember that I have an original manuscript for book 4 that I wrote back in 2010. I’m reworking it with updates based on edits done to the first three books, in addition to updating it with my current writing style.  What I’ve found is Weun Academy relies HEAVILY on what’s happening in book 4.  I’ve been literally writing them at the same time, striping back and forth with chapters and events. They both currently sit at 40 pages each. Something that happens in book 4 impacts Weun Academy, and visions of things that happen in Weun Academy feed back into set ups that are woven back into book 4. It’s all very fascinating (and convenient).

I’m having a great time with it. There’s new characters, new races, new places. The lore of the D’mok literary universe continues to grow! I’m glad to keep updated notes about the characters, races, worlds, etc. I need them!

When they’re released, I think you’ll be very pleased with the action focus and core drama presented.

As a side note, people have also been asking for an omnibus version of the Nukari Invasion Trilogy. I really need to get that out there. Perhaps by late summer I’ll have the time (with everything else I’m doing for the D’mok universe) to get it out.  I don’t want to simply slap together the original files and re-release it.  I’d like to add more insights, commentary, notes, etc. into it so it’s more of value (to both new readers and current fans).

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

BOOK COVER

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). 😉

BACK COVER

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.

REVIEWS

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.

WEB SITE

Once those items are done I’ll update the dmokrevival.com 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.

PRESS

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.

LOCAL LAUNCH

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.

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.

NATIONAL LAUNCH

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.

CONTESTS

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 Audible.com
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 ACX.com 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!

Creating the audio book on Audible.com

This is part 1  to the audio book creation posting.

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

————————————————————————————————————–

The two questions I heard after releasing my soft cover book on August 3rd were:  1) is there an ebook, and 2) is there an audio book.  The ebook was very easy to do.  As covered in earlier posts I found the right tool, and was able to do all the formatting, leveraging of my existing cover artwork, and re-purposing of my text to create the ebook for no additional cost.  The audio book path wasn’t nearly as clear or as cost free.  However, I’ve found the experience thus far to be very straight forward and convenient.

While doing research towards an audio edition I came across Audible.com (also known as ACX).  They’re actually owned by Amazon (go figure). I’ll say from the first moment I hit the site I was impressed with how intuitive it was to work with them.

I wasn’t sure if I would be limited to an Amazon only distribution like I am with my ebook (to be a part of the Kindle Direct Publishing program).  It turns out ACX also distributes on iTunes along with Amazon.  PERFECT.  You are locked into a 7 year agreement with them, but that’s fine by me (though it does seem a little long).

I was curious how the work would be done and costed out. I discovered there’s a measure called “pfh” (per finished hour) that dictate how many hours your final recording will be.  I’m told that, on average, it takes 6 hours of recording the production to equal one hour of final recording. The compensation expectations are clearly listed for each narrator in “pfh.” Most of the narrators I talked to had producers and editors they worked with so, in the end, you literally have your audio book to post. We’ll see how that holds up as I move forward.

The average rates for pfh were between $100-$200, or $200-$400 for more experienced voice talent. I honestly didn’t see any hire than the $400 mark, and only two at $50.

If you go with an exclusive distribution relationship with ACX (again on Amazon and iTunes), you can choose to do a revenue share model. In this approach those that created the audio book get ongoing 50% of your royalties from sales.

If you do an exclusive relationship you would be placed on an escalator royalty rate of 50-90%. If it’s non-exclusive it drops to 25-70%. The final percentage depends on total units sold.

Why isn’t it 100%? Keep in mind that, like with Amazon and ebooks, ACX keeps a portion of your sales as tribute for hosting and providing customers and the download capabilities.  Again, 100% on-board with this. It’s totally worth not dealing with the headache of storage, network bandwidth for distribution, etc.

After creating a login I was able to jump into their extensive catalog of voice talent, each with bios and a portfolio. There’s even a detailed search that lets you hand-pick the list.  A few of the parameters include: gender, accent, reading style, cost, etc. It’s fantastic. I quickly found a number of potential narrators that I really liked.

I went to add my project to their catalog of works. I was able to put in my ISBN number for D’mok Revival: Awakening and it found it right away. I clicked the “this is my book” link, and it populated all kinds of information.  I added some data about what I was looking for, and took three sections from my book and created the audition script each person would read from. After posting, it was a matter of hours when inner ACX messages and auditions appeared.  I also went through their library and found 15 others that I specifically liked and used their “request audition” feature to send my interest to them.  Within days of starting this process I had 13 great auditions.

I didn’t want to rely only on my ears to select the narrator. There are a number of people that have contacted me about the audio book.  So I reached out to them and asked if they’d like to review the auditions and provide their feedback on who they’d like to hear.  After all, the book will be around 10 hours of audio (~93,000 words). It’s important they like the voice!

I considered male and female options. It’s possible for a woman to be the narrator but it would be a specific type of confident (more of a military woman) voice that could carry it.  I kept thinking the narrator needed to represent Mencari in essence. For the most part the book is from his perspective, so I guess that’s where that intuition came from. But the narrator isn’t Mencari, so that’s why a woman could work.  I also wasn’t sure about how a man reading all the female parts would sound.  Yes, I realize classic theater was like that, but we’re not in the middle ages anymore. I also considered the option of have one man do all the male parts, and one woman all the female parts. After inquiring to an audio shop (one of my in the ACX catalog of resources) they said it was certainly possible but it could double the hourly cost since there’s more resources (narration and production) needed. I also considered what I’ve come to know as “an audio play” where each character has a unique voice. Given 2 voices double the cost, I’m not going to venture down that path at this point.

I will say this, selecting a voice (much less “The right voice”) is a thrilling activity!  It’s fun reviewing voices, requesting they do auditions (using the ACX system), and getting back their version of your audition script. A few of them nailed the “voice in my head” with respect to dramatic pauses and depth of presentation. You can quickly tell who’s “just reading,” and who can “feel” your material. I imagine this is very similar to how casting goes for television and movies. THRILLING!

One of the potential narrators informed me about a program ACX has that could assist in the creation of your audio book. You petition them through a simple email.  If they like what they see and believe in the project they’ll offer a stipend of money to those that produce your product at NO COST to you. They are literally investing in the creation of your book on their platform. This is also intended to encourage their innovative “Royalty Share” model. I wasn’t sure about my odds of being accepted given it’s Amazon and huge.  I tried anyway, and BAM I was accepted!

Their investment is a major emotional booster to me. It’s like getting a 5 star review from a highly qualified reader!  The other aspect of this program is the book needs to be done within 60 days of me accepting someone’s audition and them accepting the production offer. At this rate, it would mean the audio book could be out as of February. That’s exciting too.

So how about the final cost to end-listener? I’ve done some research on Amazon and iTunes.  It appears an inexpensive audio book is somewhere around $6.99. And average cost is between $10-$12.99, and the upper ranges around $20-$25. Continuing my low-price, low bar-to-entry approach, I’d stick with the $6.99.  Again, I’m not looking to make money.  I’m making an investment in market share and awareness. I’ll continue my research and talk to my readership to tune the price before launch. But that’s what I’m thinking right now.

I can completely see how much work I’m going to have to put into this yet.  For instance, coordination with the narrator helping them to understand names, personalities, etc. I’m hoping they’ll do a read-through before they do the audio component.  I have to find out what “their process” is once the person is selected. I’ll also need to review what’s done and request adjustments if needed. Of course, that assumes I can. The actual production contact with specifications is a bit of a question mark yet.

I’ve been telling those that auditioned I’ll have a decision within two weeks or so. Even with Thanksgiving that gives me and the review team some time to figure things out.  I know there are some very strong submissions already, ones that I could see myself going with. That doesn’t mean new ones aren’t needed or would be out of the running.  I’m just staying that keeping to the two weeks to select a voice talent IS possible even with what I have so far.  🙂

I’ll write more as things continue!  Of the two versions, this one is the most fun. Perhaps it’s because the audio format takes the content off the page and bringing it to life? Regardless, it’s a lot of fun.

Holiday Promotions

As we approach the holiday seasons and Black Friday/Cyber Monday promotions may be a great idea to help move your book.

I’ve already mentioned I’m taking advantage of Amazon’s new promotion option of price adjustments (as opposed to the free promotion they originally offered) starting in December.

As I fulfilled a recent physical book order a string of thoughts came to me:

  •  I have 1600+ printed copies of my first book yet
  •  I’m in an awareness building promotion campaign for my series yet
  •  I’m still financially supporting early distribution versus making money from the series

I signed the first copy, and then decided to throw a second (unsigned) printed copy for free along with a personal message to the purchaser.

In the personal message I thanked them for the purchase, and encouraged sending me direct email with their thoughts about the book.  I also mentioned that since we’re approaching the holiday season they could give the second book as a gift.  Alternatively I suggest they could also donate the book to a local school or community library.  I ended with a side note that Amazon.com reviews are welcomed and greatly appreciated.

At worst, the book goes into the trash (and I NEVER know that’s what happens).  At best it goes to another potential fan of the series, or into a library where multiple people could enjoy it!

It also demonstrated my good will, and sincere interest in spreading the story over making buckets of money.

I found myself curious about what the purchaser would do with the second copy.  I really liked the concept.

As a next step I jumped on my D’mok Revival: Awakening page on Facebook and pulled together a quick post about the special holiday offer.  From now until December 1st, any physical book purchased (up to two) gets a second book free of charge.  I included a link to the physical book on Amazon.com.

Then I used some money to promote the post to general Facebook users (NOT to my friend’s friends).  As a side note, promoting to your friend’s friends tends to make people mad and unlike your page.  But, using the other option Facebook offers, advertising to anyone on Facebook that fits the profile I define, seems fine.

I’ll post back later with the results of this promotion.  But, I think the core concept of it is solid (for someone with a new series in an awareness building campaign that has extra books to move).

What I learned by reading Harry Potter

A writer’s style continues to evolve day-over-day. The manuscripts I wrote nearly a decade ago read and feel like something I did in elementary school. Even with all the guidance from my editor and feedback from fans from book one, there’s still plenty of room to grow.

I’m currently reading the Harry Potter series from J.K. Rowling with my son Derek (who’s 6).  It’s fascinating how we can equally enjoy the story, even if I’m picking up more details than he is.

She has a simplicity to her style that really flows. Sprinkling in little facts and tidbits about a store or a personality quirk really bring the locations and characters to life.

Interestingly enough, she also uses a page turner device at the end of every chapter making you wonder what’s going to happen next. Many times my son was begging to “read just one more chapter tonight.”

Another thing she does very well is keeping a scene focused. She smoothly takes you from background information to the action, moving you towards the major drama for that chapter. In fact, it almost feels like every chapter is like a mini-story with a general setup, build-up, major drama, and then hook to the next loop. The convention really works.

Is she the best literary model of all time? Probably not.  However, the millions of books sold world-wide shows she did something very right.

As I continue forward, preparing the second manuscript for publication, I’m keeping her techniques in mind. It’s not so much that I wasn’t leveraging her approaches, but rather I want to refine them to be as effect as hers.

For those wondering how book two is shaping up, I’m currently revisiting the last three chapters of the book two. I’m also working with Glenn Clovis, who did the Awakening’s artwork, on book two’s cover. Everything’s on schedule for release in 2014. Originally I mentioned summer, it may be sooner!

New Kindle Direct Publishing Feature

“Kindle Countdown Deals” are actually pretty cool.  In the past Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) only offered free promotions.  You’d get 5 days for every 3 month enrollment period. When you did this, you royalties went to zero, but you got great promotion via Amazon for using it. The hope was after the promotion so many people would have downloaded your book that they recommend it to others and they come in later and purchase it. For the record, this has not gone away.

Amazon’s new and additional approach allows you to specify a time range, number of price adjustments over that time range, and starting price. Then, it determines how many days (or hours) during your promotion to charge an adjusted price based on starting price and number of desired adjustments.  It really does all the work. You get a very clear summary before saying “create this promotion” for the exact dates and resulting prices.

What’s great about this is even if your discounted price goes below the magic $2.99 number your royalty won’t be impacted by it.  If you follow all the KDP rules and have a price point above $2.99 you can earn a 70% royalty. Otherwise, you get 35%.

They also have a new section of their website (http://amazon.com/kindlecountdowndeals) to promote your book!  Just because this exists it will get used, which means your book has a higher probability of being seen (and hopefully purchased by your target market).

There’s one qualifier to being able to use this.  Your price has to be stable for at least 30 days before you can use the countdown.  In my case, I just did a FREE promotion.  So I can’t use my new promotion until December! You also have to end your promotion 16 days before the end of your KDP enrollment period.

I nearly forgot to mention the real-time performance monitoring system. They’ve integrated it into the reports that are already out there.

Overall, this is AMAZING and I can’t wait to see the sales results.  For more information check out: https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?topicId=A3288N75MH14B8

Using Facebook Ads

Those that have worked in mobile and social games can appreciate the concept of virality, that tipping point where when you send it to one person, they send it one person, who sends it to other people, which continues to fork broadly.  Facebook ads use their meta-data on users to help target most likely targets for your ad.  You can target your friend’s-friends, or the public at large. Interestingly enough, it costs slightly more to reach your friend’s friends than the general public.

The good news is you no longer have to throw large sums to do a Facebook campaign.  You can actually throw ANY amount at it.  If you want to reach a few thousand people, you can do it with $10.  That’s pretty cool.

Now, the messages have to be crafted to attract the right people and convince them to click.  This is standard pay-per-click strategy stuff.  Don’t just “promote” a general post.  Instead, craft it along the following:

– Two-Three SHORT, punchy sentences

– Get their attention and enable them to identify your message is right for them (Like Science Fiction?)

– Get the product name in (D’mok Revival: Awakening by Michael Zummo.)

– Get quickly across the value proposition (Top 20 Science Fiction Saga on Amazon)

– Include an action statement like “Get it now!” (This is the call-to-action)

– Include a time-boxing to create urgency “Today only!” or “On Sale Today!”

– Image of the product will help

Example

Like Science Fiction? Get D’mok Revival: Awakening by Michael Zummo, on Amazon’s Top 20 Science Fiction Alien Invasion stories. On sale today: $2.99!

The better crafted your message, the more your target will be able to identify it as important to them.

In order to determine pertinent information and the appropriate call-to-action, you need to understand where in the consumer sales funnel you’re trying to hit.  If your series is new and no one knows about it, a general awareness campaign may be better.  In this case, send people to a free preview of your book. If you’re trying to appeal to those that know about your story but have yet to purchase it, perhaps a more sales focused message will help convince them like “On Sale Today.”

The bottom line is this: be deliberate about your messaging. Know what your goal is. And try to track your progress.

For instance, if you have a URL going to your site add a tracking tag on the end like ?tracking=Nov2013Promo.  This does not hurt the URL and creates additional information in your server logs (or Google Analytics) for you to see how many people really followed THAT promotion.  If you’re going directly to Amazon, I have yet to find a good way to trace it, other than watching your actual purchase numbers and trying to make weak correlations between the promo and the sales.  This also doesn’t help you track the long-tail purchases that happen as a result of your promotion but after it ended, or the resulting word-of-mouth traffic it generates that leads to later sales.

This isn’t an exact science, and it’s different for each book and market. Try things out knowing you’re going to evolve your messages, links, and even targets over time.