Monday, February 3, 2014

I've figured out the final element in selling a lot of books!

It's funny, I came to this site today to write a blog saying that I finally figured out why I don't sell as many books as my fellow authors, and I happened to see a list of posts that visitors have most recently read. 1 of the 3 most recent read was one called: I found out why I'm only doing moderately well as a writer.

I read it and it was posted 18 months ago and was written right after I did a sales experiment that told me which genre to focus on. In the post I said that I had 40 titles and that if I could just do 16 to 26 more, I would make 10k a month. I thought that I could do it by Dec 2012. Ha!

Well, 18 months later I hit 56 English titles on Amazon. And this month I hit 10k for the first time. Woohoo! Man, how the hell did I guess that?! Granted, it took me a little longer than 4 months to do it. But, at the time I had 60 titles in all languages, and today I have about 210. Clearly I have spent a lot of time doing translations. Also, many of my books had to be yanked from Amazon because of their whole censorship thing.

But yep, I called it. I thought that if I focused on books the average American woman would like, I would sell more. I did.

Today I'm blogging to say that I have finally figured out the dichotomy which has allows bewildered me. Why is it that I sell so few books in English while getting such glowing reviews from readers. It would seem logical that if readers really like my books, I would have taken off by now. If you are a reader of my post, I'm sure that you've read my endless pondering about it.

Well, I've got it. I've figured it out. As I accurately stated in my last post, there are only three things that a reader users to determine if they will buy a book; the title, the cover and the description. As stated in the other post, readers I've never interacted with say that my writing "good". Readers think that my titles are "great". And in the other post, I just glossed over my book descriptions. What I said was that 2 of 3 is pretty great.

I'm here to tell you that the authors doing really well are getting 3 out of 3. The reason that I'm doing so badly in English is because my book descriptions are severely lacking and I didn't know how much.

Today I posted a thread on my erotica author forum exploring the analysis of successful book blurbs. I then threw myself into heavy analysis of the descriptions for books that became the breakthrough hit for an unknown author. It turns out that there are patterns. And the reason why I know I'm correct is because now that I've seen the patterns, successful description writing seems pretty obvious. Yet, even my very successful author friends were blown away by my discover.

Here's the gist of it. The main thing that readers look for in any book is conflict and plot twists within familiar tropes; the Pretty Woman trope, the Fish out of Water trope, the Found Baby trope. But this isn't brain surgery. Commercial writing is very formulaic. And the book descriptions that sell the most books... here it comes... clearly states what the book's trope is then identifies the conflicts and plot twists in the story.

That's it. That's the big secret. That is what separates a book from it's true potential. Now, knowing that doesn't guarantee a successful book. The trope still has to be one that appeals to the masses and the plot twists and conflicts still have to be interesting. But that simply formula is the secret to helping your book reach it's full sales potential.

See, I told you that it would seem obvious after I said it. Yet, I made up a scale to evaluate books and test the formula and applied it to my past books. Apparently none of them pass. Zero! That's 0 out of 210. Well, it's possible that one of them did pass. It would be the one that reached #1 in humor on Amazon. I haven't analysed it yet, but as I think back on it, that book's description could met all of the criteria.

I would beat myself up about it except it seems that no one else realized this either. I have had a number of successful authors try to help me with my book descriptions and not once did anything like this come up. But please, it's so simply, don't you think that if this was well known, someone would have mentioned it?

Anyway, I have the formula now. So from now on, not only will my wonderfully-titled good books have great covers, but the books will be described in the most interesting way possible. So it turns out that I didn't need a writing class after all. What I needed was to spend an afternoon applying my mind to figuring out the last marketing deficit that I knew I had. Boy I'm glad that I dropped UCLA extension class.

On another topic, I dropped the class I was taking at the UCLA extension. I went to 2 classes and then realized that I didn't belong there. The class ended up being for those who wanted to write the first 50 pages of their first novel ever. That is clearly not me. And being a veteran, I talk about writing differently than beginners do.

Did I gain anything from the classes I attended? Yes, the class gave me confidence in the fact that I knew what I needed to know to start my YA book. I also got a hand out to help me flush out my main character  little more. I did find that helpful. But, seriously, that was not a class for me.

So now I'm going to finish off my werewolf story. With it I will be doing a few things that I have never done before. I was feeling insecure about the stories for a couple reasons. The first reason was that my stories are about werewolves and no one transforms into a werewolf in book 1 which is 60 pages long. The second issue I had was that the second book in the series only had one sex scene. I usually do 3 or 4 per book. It's just how I do it. The third book was fine-ish.

Well, I was reading a post on my forum and saw something about what the best marketing technique is. The best one, which is also the one that has worked best for me, is to write a series and release the first book for free. What I also learned is that the sweet spot for sales is a book with about 25k words.

Well, my first book makes a questionable werewolf book because it ends right before the protagonist transforms, but it makes a hell of a teaser that I could give away for free. And instead of stretching the series out into 4 books, I could combine what is now book 2 and 3 into one book that equals... you guested it, exactly 25k words. This is all working out perfectly. Now book 2 will have lots of sex and werewolf fun. And book 1 will be the the perfect lead in for it.

Put that together with my truly awesome title for a werewolf erotic romance (seriously, I can't believe that no one has thought of this before), and my very, very cool looking cover and all I need is the right description. And now that I know how to write an awesome description, this book, being in the hottest current romance sub-genre, should be my best seller to date. Oh, did I mention that the story is actually really good as well?

It's all kind of exciting. I finally feel like I have a full grasp on my profession. Now, if I could just figure out the plot of the final book in the series, my professional life would be perfect... and all I'll have to figure out is my personal life. But one impossible task at a time. I don't want to overwhelm myself. I'm too much in a good mood to go there tonight. :-)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Creatively I have hit my pinnacle

For the past week I've been doing something that I might have said that I would never do. I'm taking a writing class/workshop. The reason why I decided to do it was that I didn't fell I was a good enough writer and that was why I don't sell as many books as my peer in English. To address that, I signed up for a couple of UCLA extensions.

Combining this with my constant planning on writing my New Adult series, I decided to take a class where the goal was to write the first 50 pages of a novel. That seems perfect, right? I thought so. I figured that I would finally take the time and start the books that are supposed to be my legacy.

There have been a few hangups though. The first occurred about a day after I signed up for the class. I signed up for the class because of my insecurity that I wasn't a good writer. Well, right after signing up, I got this review for one of my books featuring large women: "I enjoyed all the series it made me think there is a guy out there that would love a big girl the way she wants to be loved...."

It seems pretty basic, right? Wrong! It was for a series that I actually mentioned on one of my blog posts. I had blogged about this book series because I was very proud of myself for figuring how to shape the way people viewed life using the context of erotica. I was convinced that with the first book in the series I could reshape the way that heavier women viewed who they were.

That's not a small challenge. Let's remember that the primary purpose of erotica is to get people to masturbate. Comedies fail if they don't make you laugh; mysteries fail if they don't keep you guessing; and erotica fails if it doesn't make you want to have sexual release. So while I was writing a story that made women want to touch themselves, I managed to strategically insert something that also shaped the reader's view of themselves, their life and the world in general. 

Do you know how incredibly hard that is? I have always thought highly of myself, so I didn't doubt that I could do it. But thinking you could do something and actually having proof that you have done it is two completely different things. 

Now let's look at that review again. My goal was to reshape the way that the reader viewed herself. The person who wrote the review said " made me think there is a guy out there that would love a big girl the way she wants to be loved..." There it is. I did it. I changed the way that she viewed herself and the world. 

Do you know how difficult that is? It is hard enough to do it within a self-help book, and people who buy those books are predisposed to want to change their thinking and life. It is hard enough to do it with a spiritual book, yet, again, the people who buy those books are buying the because they are in search of answers and change. But I did it within the framework of erotica.

So, what do you do when you meet your own objective criteria for brilliance? I'm not sure.

The reason why I signed up for the class was because I felt insecure about not being a good writer. I no longer suffer from that insecurity. Perhaps I could get better at describing scenes or creating characters. But in my mind, there are a few definitions of "good" when it comes to writing, and I'm good at the thing that I care most about; using writing to reshape the reader's view of life.

Now, having said all of that, I'm not sure which book I will actually work on in the class. I'm still not done with my 4 part werewolf novella series. I going to try and at least finish book 3 this week. If I do that, I will probably write the long awaited novel for the class. 

I would like to say, though, that being a good writer isn't really correlated to making sales. And I'm really starting to introduce real complexity into this werewolf erotic romance. These characters are getting really emotionally rich, and I'm going to be using some very interesting plot twists to achieve the standard 'will they or won't they get together' troupe. 

This sucker is getting really quite worth while. Add that to the realistic way I deal with race, and the fact that the story is about a heavy girl who experiences what it's like to go from the reject to the girl who all of hottest guys want, and you really have a unique story. 

Is it as good as the first erotic story that I ever wrote? Probably not. That story was unadulterated romance with a protagonist who would do anything for their love. This new story is not that pure. But what it is is a well told interesting story. It's less romantic, and much more relate-able. Will it sell as many as my first story? Who knows. I guess I would have a better idea if I actually read books in that genre. We'll see though.

On another note, one of the things that the class has done for me so far is that it helped me to see that I actually know enough about the long awaited story to start writing it. And more than that, I have the most awesome opening scene.  The protagonist and her crew are being chased by a dragon made of fire. The protagonist is running under a canopy of trees and the dragon is flying through the air, so the dragon explodes into thousands flames. These individual flames fall in among the trees looking for the girl. When the flames find her, they swirl back together into the firey beast and the chase is on. 

I love that opening. I absolutely love the way the final book ends. I love the message of the series. I love how the character changes throughout the series. And I love, love, love love the construction of the series. In another blog post I had referred to the construction of the story as genius. I still think that it is. 

Is it Issac Asinov genius? Geez, probably not. But if I ever finish it, it would be my greatest work. The "brilliant" accomplishment that I mention above would be child's play in comparison. And again, no one may ever read the long awaited series, but god damn, it would be proof to me that I lived up to my greatest potential. Maybe I will fail to change the entire world for the better. But I will be able to say that I wrote that, and that books series would stand as a testament to the best of who I was. 

Now the only question is, will I finish book 3 of the werewolf series this week so that I can start the long awaited series? I guess the way that my life keeps slipping by me, I'll find out soon enough.

Oh, and on another positive note, the software that I've been developing is really close to being done. Barring some other crazy unexpected thing, it is finally days away from completion. After all of this time it almost seems unreal.

And I have to say about the software, I think that it will me my masterpiece. This software will be my 'Wordperfect'. Decades ago, someone said 'you know what? I'm going to make a software that makes it easier to write letters and memos.' No one had ever thought to do it before, and he did it reshaping the world as we know it. 

My software is no 'Wordperfect', but it's my masterpiece. I'm thinking that it's safe to say that I am in the creative prime of my life. I don't know how long anything that I'm creating now will last in the consciousness of the world, but I will feel proud to allow the things that I'm doing now to represent me and to justify my existence.