Thursday, June 16, 2011

Guest post by Matthew Boyd, author of ZNA: Origins

Hey all - today I'm pleased to host a post by Matthew Boyd, author of the novellas ZNA: Origins and Suicide Serial. I asked him to talk about some of his experiences and successes in publishing books for the Kindle.

Matt: Before I say anything else, I would like to thank Laura E. Bradford for providing another insightful blog to the growing community devoted to indie and ebook authors.

I have always had the craziest imagination, according to my parents. When I was a child I would create my own original board games to play. I would imagine impossible, outlandish scenarios and ask my Mom and Dad, "What would happen if...[insert something incredibly unlikely and quite possibly terrifying] ?"

Around junior high school, I started writing little short stories for my own enjoyment. I never really stopped. I can't tell you how many little crazy stories I have had and lost on hard drives over the past 15 years. A few months ago I found out that you could easily publish your own work on Amazon and actually make a little money doing so. I had already nearly completed "Suicide Serial" so I tried to format it for the Kindle and had a good friend, N.C. Jones (screenwriter and artist extraordinaire) design a nifty piece of cover art for it. It's basically the story of two homicide detectives pursuing a serial killer whose MO is to intimidate his victims into committing suicide.

I imagine that if I had stopped right there and never done one ounce of publicity for the book I would have sold about 2 copies. I decided to spam all my wonderful Facebook friends about my new book and offer everyone a free copy. I directed them to the Amazon sales page and asked only that they give it an honest review. I handed out well over 20 copies of the book and to date I have had 3 reviews. Not wanting to pester the living shit out of my friends and family to do the review on Amazon, I settled for hearing what they had to say on the phone or whenever I would see them. Every single person told me they really enjoyed the book and that it was a real page turner. To be honest, I was frustrated that sales were so anemic to start off with and that so few people had reviewed the book. I pressed on and eventually found the superb thread at targeted to ebook authors. I put up links to the product page and images of my cover art. James "Myrddin Emrys" Martin started r/selfpublish on and I placed a promotional for "Suicide Serial" up there as well. Sales started to trickle in a bit more regularly since then.

"ZNA: Origins" is easily my biggest seller. It is the first in what will be a series of short books that detail the life of Paul Anderson, zombie apocalypse survivor. I took the exact same steps for this book as I did for "Suicide Serial" and then went a bit further. A quick Google search reveals several forums that relate to whatever subject matter one could wish to discuss or find out more about. I joined up with several "zombie/apocalyptic" type forums and posted about my book. I offered the first three people to reply to the thread a free copy of the book. Occasionally I will update the thread with something related to the discussion or with news about the progress of the next book in the series.

I made sure to use tags on the product page with terminology directly related to my audience. Using tags like "zombie" will only get you so far, and with literally thousands of other works tagged the same way, does nothing to make it easier to find your book. You need to find words that might not be quite so over-used to give you a bit of an edge in the search results. Think about certain terms, usually acronyms, like NASA or OMGWTF that can help your book have a better chance at ranking in the search results. This type of marketing strategy is used constantly by internet "search engine optimization" (SEO) gurus. I would tell you my best tags, but then I would have to kill you.

In the time frame of a bit more than 2 months, I have sold just over 200 copies of my books, with "ZNA: Origin" making up about 80% of my sales volume. I sell both ebooks for .99 cents and I do not plan to change that anytime soon. I will probably consolidate the ZNA series into one big ebook once it is completed and sell that for $2.99 to take advantage of the increased royalty payout.

Finally, I am exploring a new way to promote my books - guest posting on a blog! I will be sure to let you know how this one turns out!

Thanks Matt! You can check out his Amazon author page here. - Laura


Mboyd1978 said...

Thanks so much for having me! I hope that at least some of the techniques I have described are useful to new or existing indie authors. The biggest obstacle is motivation. Get to work, people!

Patrick Thunstrom said...

I'll respond as a 'future indie author.' I highly disagree with misleading tags on products. Whether it helps you get 'found' or not, you're actively gaming the system in a way that companies try to stamp out.

You referenced search engine optimization, a game played by thousands or tens of thousands of professionals whose lives get turned upside down the next time the algorithm gets changed and the tricks that were tuned to one equation are now caught by this new one.

The ultimate goal of the search engines, by the way, is to present the most natural and correct information (Or items in the case of Amazon) for each search result.

Your forum ideas were good. Do you do much other community building, getting to know the people who'd be in to your story?

Mboyd1978 said...

I agree that tags should not be irrelevant or intentionally misleading. The ones I describe are shortened terms that are commonly used by the groups of people that may have the most interest in the genre/topic of your book.

Putting the tag "Charlie Sheen" on a fantasy book about wizards would be inappropriate and probably misleading. Putting the tag "LOL" on a book about humor and jokes is probably pretty relevant.

I try to stay active in related forums on other topics as well. Having a known presence as a contributor gives you some credibility. Of course, there is only so much time to work the 9-5, take care of the family, write, and publicize your work! In some ways I wish that I had just finished the entire ZNA series before publishing it and spreading the word.

Patrick Thunstrom said...

Makes a lot of sense, and you're doing everything I'd be doing, sorry about the misunderstanding about the tags. (Seriously, knee-jerk to the term SEO guru.)

Good luck!

Wage Domain said...

As far as tags go, I don't think there's any problem with wanting to target tags to search terms that are relevant to your book.

What I personally don't like is that there's groups of people who all tag each others works just to get higher SEO. That seems a little sleazy to me.