Month:

June, 2019

June, 2011, I released my first novel, Fatal Exchange.

Now, eight years later, with sixty-something novels out, it’s hard for me to believe how quickly the time flies.

I just reread a draft of one of my first blogs, from January, 2012, wherein I was celebrating the fact that I’d hit my first four figure month. My tone was hesitant, and I stated that I was taking nothing for granted, as the mighty could fall as quickly as they rose. Wise counsel, and it applies to this day. I’ve always felt a cautious optimism when it comes to this craft, consistent with my observation of other branches of the arts, where the vast majority toil away for starvation wages while a few bright lights make fortunes and are well publicized.

Looking at the bestseller ranks in romance, for example, I see some of the biggest names from 2012-2015 languishing with rankings that say they’re making considerably less than during their heyday – some, fractions of their prior earnings. This isn’t surprising. Anyone who’s followed pop music, for instance, understands the phenomenon of the fad curve, where you’re super hot for X number of months or years, and then, suddenly, nobody cares. That’s just how it is in pop culture, and there’s nothing to be done about it.

I’ve been fortunate, in that my readership seems stable to growing, and seems to have an unending appetite for my work. 2013-2015 were huge income years, and even the so-so ones that have followed were sufficient to afford me my bad habits. 2018 and 2019 have trended considerably higher, entirely due to advertising, and even after paying the ad costs and associated maintenance, 2019 looks like it will be one of my better years. That’s reassuring, because I haven’t released a book since end of February, and won’t release Day After Never #9 until end of July – an almost impossible to imagine hiatus during which I caught up with life and life caught up with me. And yet sales continue to climb. This proves that Amazon ads, which I openly mocked two years ago, can not only rejuvenate, but can sustain a career during lulls.

Every year I threaten to slow my production to 5 or so novels. 2019 is the year it happens, and ironically, it will be in my top 50% of income years. I’m grateful that the market still consumes my content, and am optimistic for the future given my investments in infrastructure companies like AMSAdwerks.com and Bestsellerblurb.com, which focus on author solutions to increase visibility and sales.

So, does the prediction that books are like opera still ring true? Kind of. Books have never had more competition from other forms of entertainment – TV, Netflix, social media, YouTube, blogs, Reddit, etc. etc. There aren’t sufficient hours in the day to keep up with it all, and with shorter attention spans as a byproduct of an increasingly connected world, books face a tough uphill climb. Does this mean reading is dead, or that it’s impossible to make a living writing novels? Not at all. Will it get harder moving forward? Sure. Welcome to all businesses everywhere as they mature. Can new talents find an audience and break big? They always have, and always will.

But the good old days are long gone, and even the new new things like ghost writing pulp to market and churning out content at rates that boggle even my mind are stumbling and seem to have hit their ceiling. Self-publishing is no longer the gold rush it was, the get rich quick scheme that those who’ve never succeeded at much could dive into with a reasonable expectation of success (even if illusory for the vast majority). That’s fine. The market will continue to evolve and mature, and smart authors will adapt as necessary.

It’s never been easy to be a writer. But it’s also never been easier, given the complete lack of barriers to publishing one’s work. The only difference now is that expectations are coming back to ground, and most understand that it’s a difficult road to travel, and an even more difficult career, where nothing’s assured, and today’s lightning strike can become tomorrow’s footnote.

I’m still loving every minute of it, and hope it continues.

So far, so good.

Now back to writing the next one.

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As readers of my blog know by now, I recently took a minority shareholder stake in AMSAdwerks.com, an ad agency that specializes in Amazon advertisements for authors. That’s gone well, and the company is expanding in a sustainable manner, adding clients as it ads staff. The challenges are few, other than that with Amazon’s current scheme not all authors are good candidates, as its algorithms favor those with a deep series to advertise, with good conversion from book 1 through the rest, and with the environment extremely competitive it’s almost impossible for an author whose covers are marginal or whose blurbs are mediocre to convert well enough to justify the effort.

Because the cover is basically the ad, if it isn’t stunning you can get all the impressions you like, but it won’t translate to clicks to go to the product page – and after Amazon has seen that the impressions aren’t translating, it will stop giving impressions, instead favoring those that do convert.

The purpose of an ad is solely to get a prospective reader to the product page. From there, it’s up to the blurb to convince them to buy.

Of course, if a book has a crappy review score the best blurb in the world won’t help, and if the Look Inside is riddled with grammar errors or is poorly written the blurb won’t convince a reader to overlook those red flags and buy the book anyway. But the blurb is largely the selling copy that urges the reader to give the book a whirl.

Given the importance of the blurb, I convinced my friend Dave Falk to allow me to invest in his company, Bestsellerblurb.com – they’ve written a number of my bestselling novel blurbs, and I’ve A/B tested them and seen a significant increase in sales with their verbiage, so I’m sold.

It becomes pretty obvious when a blurb is evaluated in light of conversions from clicks, to sales. A mediocre blurb will deliver mediocre results (assuming the book’s competently written and doesn’t have scores of lousy reviews), whereas a really compelling, well written one will see an increase in conversions, which can totally change the profitability of an ad campaign – the more sales per 100 clicks, the more profitable the campaign.

After immersing myself in the ad business and learning enough to be dangerous, it became clear that taking a stake in a blurb writing business would be a naturally synergistic step – between the ad agency and the blurb writing biz, two of the most important aspects of book marketing are covered, the third being cover generation, but there are many competent cover designers, so I see no point in getting involved in that side of the business.

I’m excited, because BestsellerBlurb.com does a great job at a reasonable price, and delivers results. Their approach is to treat the product description as ad copy whose sole purpose is to get the sale, rather than to describe the story, characters, plot, etc. It’s an approach that resonates with me and I’ve seen the difference in my own sales, so I can endorse it without hesitation, which made it a natural for me to invest in.

Since many authors are like me, and either hate writing blurbs, or worse, have no idea how to generate a great one versus something middling, I view it as a business with a bright future. If your blurb isn’t firing on all cylinders, might want to give them a whirl. I know they’ve written blurbs for a host of bestselling authors besides me, so they must be doing something right, and they offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee, so there’s no real risk.

Anyhow, that’s one of the things I’ve been busy with, for those interested in how I’ve been taking positions in indie author infrastructure businesses. It’s been eye opening, and has certainly made me more aware of the challenges facing authors moving forward.

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