Today I’m pleased to hand over the blog to Dave Sivers.
Dave grew up in West London, England. He left school at 16 to start a successful civil service career that took him to exciting places like Newport, Rhode Island, Northern Norway, and Sutton Coldfield.
Over the years, he gained a First Class Honours degree from the Open University and moonlighted as, among other things, a night club bouncer and a bookmaker’s clerk and a freelance writer. Since taking early retirement, he has devoted more time to his writing, which includes writes crime fantasy and mainstream crime fiction. His short mainstream crime can be sampled on his website at www.davesivers.co.uk and his crime fantasy novels, A Sorcerer Slain and Inquisitor Royal, featuring personal inquisitor Lowmar Dashiel, is available as an e-book for purchase to Kindle and Kindle apps.
In whatever spare time he can find, Dave can be found writing, directing or performing in amateur theatre productions, trying to keep on top of his allotment, supporting Queen’s Park Rangers Football Club, or attempting to play guitar just a little more like Mark Knopfler.
All In The Marketing – But Does Anyone Really Know What They’re Doing?
What do the Harry Potter Books have in common with 50 Shades of Grey?
If you’re struggling to see a connection between the exploits of J K Rowling’s teenage wizard and the S&M sexploits depicted in E L James’s work, the answers lie less in their content and more in responses to what have both been, in their way, phenomenal successes.
JK and EL have both divided opinion, but especially among writers. I can remember being at the Crime Writing Festival at Harrogate when the final Potter volume came out, and some high-profile authors there being both critical of the quality of the writing and bemused about why on earth these YA books were being devoured by such a large adult audience.
No one would accuse 50 Shades of aiming at the YA market, but the sometimes savage author criticism of James’s writing and puzzlement – sometimes verging on having a go at its readership – as to why it has become such a huge seller strikes a chord with me that reminds me very much of that day in Harrogate. James, of course, started out as an eBooker, another theme which also divides the writing ‘family’.
I have posted elsewhere on the current worrying trend towards writers rubbishing fellow writers, especially eBookers. But, leaving aside the debate over the merits of self-published eBooks, I think authors really need to invest less energy in knocking E L James and a tad more in trying to work out where it all went so right for her.
I should say straight away that I haven’t read, and probably won’t read, 50 Shades – I’m pretty sure it’s not my sort of gig. But its success can’t be explained away by its bondage themes; there have been top-shelf novels, by the prolific and long-lived author ‘Anonymous’ for decades. I’m not aware that any of those have sold 31 million plus copies. So whatever is making what started life as an eBook/POD novel fly off the shelves at such a rate must be about a whole lot more than that.
As a self-published eBooker myself, I’d like to buy a bottle of whatever marketing elixir James and her publishers were having. Which touches the tip of a sizeable old iceberg that has emerged since the e-revolution. Until very recently, the discussion between new writers was about how to catch an agent’s eye and get published. Now it’s about how best to market it, especially if they’ve taken the self-publishing route.
Rebecca blogged recently about a heated debate at Harrogate on the subject of eBooks and especially the marketing of them, and this has led to quite a nasty spat on Twitter and elsewhere. The reality is that, although cyberspace abounds with theories, no one really knows what works and, even if E L James had the time or inclination to produce a step by step guide to how she made the big time, I bet most of us could follow it to the letter with mixed results.
Marketers will tell you there are four elements too marketing: the Product, what it has to offer and how it is different from the competition; the Price, and how it balances competitiveness with profitability; the Place where the product is sold or distributed; and how we handle the Promotion of the product.
Writers are used to writing blurb about their book and describing their Product, and ‘place’ is decided by commercial publishers, whilst most self-published eBookers sell either through Amazon Kindle or Smashwords or both. This leaves Price and Promotion as areas where some variation can be introduced to tweak those marketing levers and try to boost sales. Yet there are as many opinions on what works as there are writers.
Starting with price, something that self-publishers at least can influence. There are undoubtedly a goodly number of readers who instinctively think that a download should be a lot cheaper than a physical book. But how cheap? Free (perhaps as a loss-leader)? 99p? £1.49, the entry level for Amazon’s 70% royalty? If sales volume is important to you, then arguably as cheap as possible is a no-brainer. If you want a fair reward for the blood, sweat and tears that goes into producing your masterpiece, it gets more complex.
In bald terms, if you sell a book for £1.49 at 70% royalty, you will rake in £1.05. If you sell for 99p, you’ll only get a 30% royalty, or 30p, so will have to sell four times as many books for the same return. Will the cheaper price entice four times as many readers? How will they even know your book exists, regardless of price?
This is where promotion comes in. Most commercially and self-published writers are now blogging, tweeting, Facebooking etc as if our lives depended upon it. But does it make a real difference in building a readership – or are we winning some nice new friends, but not necessarily influencing people? I’ve been self-published for about a year and, for me, the jury is still out.
What I do know is that all this uncertainty and trial and error are inevitable as people try to make sense of a revolution. Much as some of us may think we have the answers, we are still in uncharted waters, and we need to see where the tide takes us.
The likelihood is that there is no one-size-fits-all alchemy that will guarantee success, although some tried and tested good practice will eventually emerge. If I find that magic bullet before anyone else does, I’ll take delight at marketing the How To book, the workshops, the lectures etc.
Or maybe I’ll keep it to myself and just bask in the glory and riches that bestsellerdom will bring me.
When trouble comes…
It’s just over a year since the events of A Sorcerer Slain, and personal inquisitor Lowmar Dashiel is back with his irascible dwarf sidekick Grishen, up to their necks in two new cases. In Balimar’s capital, Andruan, a sadistic maniac is stalking a terrified dwarf community. At the same time, with plans underway to celebrate the birth of an heir to the throne, there are assassination attempts on members of the royal family.
… it comes in threes.
With the militia making no headway, the King once again turns to Dashiel’s unconventional methods. But the inquisitor soon has troubles of his own. Someone wants him dead. Is an attempt on his life linked to one of the cases? Or is one of Dashiel’s many enemies seeking revenge?
Inquisitor Royal is a unique blend of crime thriller and epic fantasy that grips the reader from the very first page.