“Whether you're shooting for the top 100 or top 10, hitting the Amazon bestseller list is extremely important.”
No it’s not.
Sure, you can then say your book is a “best seller” or an “Amazon Best Seller.” But the increasingly savvy reader knows this means next to nothing.
What it does mean is that you got all your friends and family and maybe the people on your mailing list to buy a copy of your book on the same day, or that you got a bunch of bloggers to agree to give their list bonuses if they buy the book then.
On that day, if you have enough buyers, your book is in the Amazon top 10 or top 100.
The next day it may be back to 156,981 or 512,934.
Another email from someone claiming to have a new way to get you to the top of the Amazon list states: "Dear Fellow Author, Are you ready to write "Amazon Bestselling Author" after your name? The respect and trust the title “#1 Bestseller” allows authors to charge double, triple, even quadruple for their products and services. People are happy to pay those prices, too, due to the opportunity to work with an esteemed expert. Owning the coveted "Bestseller" title changes your game completely."
Didn't the writer of that blurb have any sense of irony when she referred to "the respect and trust" that you'll get...from gaming the Amazon system for a day (or whatever other manipulation she's offering to sell people for a mere $147?).
I have an even better method. Would you like to know how to be able to say that your book was on the New York Times best-seller list? Here is Wolff’s foolproof method and it takes even less work than the Amazon plan and I'm giving to you for the bargain amount of absolutely nothing.
Buy a copy of the New York Times.
Open it to the page with the best-seller list.
Get a copy of your book.
Place the book on top of the best-seller list page.
There you go. Your book was on the New York Times best-seller list.
I think this is a pretty good philosophy not only for writing but also for life. Years ago when I was a reader for a production company in Hollywood, a few of us were talking about why so many of the scripts we were seeing were so bad.
One smart person in the group (not me) pointed out that most things in life are nowhere near perfect. He said, "Think about most meals. Most of your experiences with bureaucracy of any kind. Most of the pop music you hear. Most of the books in the bookshop. How many of them live up to your highest expectations?"
To which one might add, "How often do I live up to my own highest expectations?"
Generally we're doing the best we can, and it's not anywhere near perfect. Sometimes it takes a few tries to get it right, whether that's several drafts of a novel or screenplay or several attempts at finding the right person to spend our lives with.
To me, the "draft" approach is about doing it (whatever it is) as well as you can, accepting the fact that you'll get it wrong a fair share of the time, and paying attention so there's a chance of getting it closer to right the next time.
If that way of thinking might make you less hard on yourself and others, I invite you to adopt it and to share it.
Hmm, I just noticed the final quotation mark is missing on the graphic above. I think I'll leave it--it kind of proves my point.
I think this is a good philosophy not only of writing, but also of life.
On his blog, filmmaker Chris Jones tells the story of how one of his friends raised $8900 toward the production of a short film, “Clowning Around.” Among other things, Lielani Holmes and her team ran a poster competition. They provided designers with photos of the movie’s actors and challenged designers to create a poster.
They got more than 100 entries .
Facebook visitors could “like” the one they preferred and then a panel of industry judges, including Chris, picked the winner from the dozen or so most popular. Chris points out:
“What is so smart about this competition is that it engages creative people now, before the film is made. It also solves the problem of designing a great poster before the film goes into production. This is a great example of effective Crowd Sourcing. It’s fun, it’s about being part of something and it’s got a competitive edge.”
Hmm, do you think this could work for the cover of a book?
The poster design was only one of the ways they used to get people involved and made it more likely they would get supporters. They also loaded lots of videos, photos, and even the script on the crowdfunding site, and they ran small contests throughout the fund-raising period.
(Just to be clear, crowdsourcing means getting the public to create things for you, like a poster, and crowdfunding means getting them to give money toward the production of your project, usually in return for different levels of rewards like autographed books, posters, exclusive videos, etc.).
If you are considering using crowdfunding to finance your book or other creative project, this is a good campaign to study. If you want to have a look at the materials they used and the levels of rewards they were offering to contributors, you can go to the IndieGoGo crowdfunding page for this project: http://www.indiegogo.com/clowningaroundfilm
(Their secret was doing something different. If you want to discover one hundred case studies of people who marketed themselves or their product or service creatively and inexpensively--and how you can adapt their methods--get my book, "Do Something Different," published by Virgin Books and available from Amazon and other book sellers.)
Have you heard of SoundCloud? I hadn’t, until recently. It’s an audio sharing site, an audio version of YouTube with 7 million users who share things like their children’s first words or their own music, diary notes, or poetry. Russell Brand recently used it to share a reading from his latest book.
You can record a sound with your computer’s microphone or using the SoundCloud app on your phone, or you can download it from somewhere else. You can share it with sites and social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Tumblr, and your SoundCloud page). The people who listen to it can add their comments, which can be linked to specific moments of the audio.
How could writers use it? You might record a chapter or section of your novel, send it to your Facebook page, and ask people to comment as they listen. They might point out where the story sags a little, for instance, or the point at which they got really interested in what happens next.
If you want to hear a short SoundCloud I made, it’s here:
Let me know if you come up with any other interesting uses of this service or you have discovered any other apps or tools to share with us.
(If you want to be more productive you'll find a wealth of techniques and strategies in my book, "Focus: use the power of targeted thinking to get more done," published by Pearson and available now from Amazon and other online and offline book sellers.)
I've written recently about how Seth Godin is very creative about how he markets his books. His most recent fun gimmick is that his hardover book has a two-sided paper cover. One image is goofy (a photo of a person dressed up as a wizard with a big pointed hat and a beard, as you can see, left), the other is more serious (a photo of a real guru that Godin encountered).
Of course this works best with hardcover books, but I bet it would even be possible to do this with a paperback--you'd have one cover and beneath it another one. If you preferred the latter, you just tear off the first one (maybe it would be perforated).
So if it's a typical chick-lit novel (lots of pink, an illustration inluding a cocktail glass and a pair of high heels, etc.) but you prefer not to be seen reading that genre, the second cover could look quite sober and serious.
Of course this has been done many times with the same book being released in editions with different covers, notably the Harry Potter series with their kid and adult covers, but never to my knowledge with two covers on the same paperback.
Whether or not people actually tore off the cover, for sure it would generate loads of publicity.
The moral of the story, though, isn't to steal Godin's idea, but rather his way of thinking creatively about things we normally don't bother to question.
(My book, Creativity Now! will also help you to find new ways to think about your projects and your marketing. You can buy it now from Amazon and other online and offline book sellers.)
I was a great fan of the brilliant "Calvin and Hobbes" comic strip, which has ended but is being rerun in a lot of newspapers and available in collected form (I even splurged on the complete box set a while back). I also admire the write/artist who created it, Bill Watterson, who never yielded to the temptation to license his characters for the usual flood of products that come from a hit comic strip.
I think a worthy successor may be the strip called "Cul de Sac" by Richard Thompson.
In the final panel, which you don't see above, the little girl says, "That's IT?" and the boy says, "That's how school IS!"
You know what--that's how writing is, too. And maybe life.
I've been looking at quite a few other writing blogs, looking for ones that might be willing to help spread the word about the Massive Action Day on October 1 (I've stopped using that in the subject line of my emails--it sounds too much like I'm trying to recruit people to march on Washington or London).
Here's the surprising thing I've learned: some writers' blogs make it really hard to contact the writer. I assumed every 'about' page would have an email address, but two of the three blogs I've looked at just now had no way to contact the writer (I'm not sure, but it may even be a legal requirement to have some kind of contact information on your web site).
It won't matter to these writers if they don't hear about the MAD, but what if somebody wanted to hire them, or a publisher wanted to make them an offer? I guess they could search Facebook, LinkedIn, use Google, etc. but would they bother?
Are you easy to find? You could always keep one email address just for friends and family and another for anybody else; the only way opportunities are going to find us is if we're not hiding. Opportunity has a way of moving on fast!
PS: If you can help me spread the word about the Oct 1 MAD, please do. It's more fun if we have more people.
Can the “nudge” strategy help you to become a more productive writer? It seems to be working in other arenas: a recent edition of the Financial Times carried an article about how the UK government’s is using such strategies to save millions of pounds and encourage desirable behavior.
For instance, requiring applicants for a driving license to state yes or no, whether or not they want to be organ donors, is expected to bring in an extra one million potential donors over the next few years (before, there was just the “yes” option and people could ignore it).
This got me to thinking how we writers could set up some nudge structures to help us writers do what we plan to do—but often don’t. Here’s the best idea I’ve come up with so far (it could work for any kind of priorities, not just writing):
If there are some brief activities you need or want to do before tackling your highest priority task, list those along with a time limit and check them off.
For instance, I am allowing myself 15 minutes to scan my emails first thing to see if there’s anything really urgent I need to factor into my plan for the day. I’m also allowing myself another 15 minutes for a brief drawing exercise. I use a timer for both—otherwise it would be easy to go over the limit without thinking.
Below the third priority leave some space for notes on what worked and what didn’t work. Use this form for information-gathering as well as keeping you to your plan. Over time it may help you to see whether there are things that derail you repeatedly and to figure out how to overcome those.
I’m testing this one myself at the moment, I’ll let you know in a couple of weeks how I get on.
Why not try it, too, and let us know via the comments section how it works for you or you can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have other nudge strategies you’re using or think would be helpful, let me know those, too.
(There are lots of other innovative and effective strategies in "Focus: use the power of targeted thinking to get more done." You can get it now from Amazon or your other favorite bookseller.)
Marketing guru Seth Godin zigs when other people zag. When "free" books were still unusual, he gave away digital copies of his books for nothing and built up a huge following--many of whom bought a traditional copy of his books as well.
For his most recent book, "We Are All Weird," he's changed tactics. He's releasing a limited hardcover edition of 10,000 only, which, given his fan base, should go pretty fast. The ebook version is also available at the Kindle store for about $8.
I like to keep an eye on Godin's strategies because he's usually ahead of the curve. As I said in a recent post, I remain unconvinced that selling your ebooks for 99 cents is the way to go for most writers in the longer run, although if you have success doing that, great.
I get a newsletter called Early to Rise, and they made the following point:
Differentiating ourselves is a big challenge for authors. It's a
However, I think it's possible for novelists and poets, too,
(You'll find some great differentiation strategies in my book,
Writers sometimes ask me whether I have any tips for how to find a publisher or an agent, beyond the usual (looking at the annual Writer’s Market or Writer’s Yearbook, etc.).
My number one answer is: keep your eyes open to see where things are changing.
For instance, here’s a little item I saw recently in the Shelf Awareness newsletter:
“Prometheus Books has founded a new mystery and thriller imprint called Seventh Street Books that will begin issuing its first titles in a year. Dan Mayer, former mystery buyer for Barnes & Noble, has joined the imprint as editorial director.”
If I had a mystery or thriller that I was hoping to place with a publisher, this would send me into action. First, I’d look up the Prometheus Books web site to see whether it has any further information about this new imprint, especially about whether or not they are considering submissions and any guidelines.
If they were, I’d send Mr. Mayer a query letter right away. If not, I might send him one anyway—nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Whenever a publisher starts a new imprint, a new agency opens up, or an agent goes from one agency to another—these are the prime times for you to approach them.
She asked for more information about what I had in mind.
I sent a proposal, she gave me feedback on how to make the intended book fit their needs better, and it ended in a deal for my book, “Focus: use the power of targeted thinking to get more done.”
It has gone into two editions, multiple foreign editions, and I think total sales are around 50,000. (The related website is www.FocusQuick.com.)
Based on that, they asked me to do another book—this time the idea came from them—which was “Marketing for Entrepreneurs.” They also asked me to be series editor for the other five books in the “for Entrepreneurs” series and I also illustrated four of them. (The associated website is www.forentrepreneursbooks.com)
Then I pitched “Creativity Now!” which comes out in a second, expanded edition next year. (If you go to www.jurgenwolff.com and click on the Creativity Now book cover, you’ll see the bonuses that go with the book.)
It all started when I spotted that opportunity and followed it up. Does it work out every time? Of course not. I’ve also made lots of inquiries that led nowhere. But as you can see, the right one can pay off handsomely.
(There are many more tips on how to market your writing in my book, "Your Writing Coach," published by Nicholas Brealey. You can get it now from Amazon or your other favorite bookseller.)
MAD = Massive Action Day. It's all online, it’s free, and it can be the most productive day of your life. Here’s how it works: You commit to working on some writing or other project important to you for up to 8 hours, with short breaks every hour. You don't have to participate for the full 8 hours--even four or six hours of focused effort will give you a huge boost.
Every hour I'll do a five-minute live video feed to give you a short tip to help you be as productive and motivated as possible. I will also randomly award prizes and bonuses to add to the fun.
It starts on Saturday, Oct. 1 at 9am London time, perfect for the UK and Europe, and I will stay on the air for 17 hours so people in the US and Canada can get their full eight hours in, too. We’ve had participants from Russia, Bali, India, Afghanistan and New Zealand as well!
If you haven’t gotten as much done this year as you’d intended, it’s not too late! Sign up now below and I’ll send you full instructions, including the secret MAD password, closer to the day. I look forward to having a fun and productive day with you.
More information and sign-up here: http://www.writingbreakthroughstrategy.com/MAD/
Author and entrepreneur Greg S. Reid wrote a guest post at the Pick the Brain website in which he made a great point:
When we say something is a goal, it implies we will “try” to reach it.
When we say something is a promise, it suggest we WILL reach it.
I think most of us are much more careful about making promises than we are about setting goals.
Consider your goals. Would you be comfortable making them as promises?
One important distinction: I’m talking about things within your control. For example, you can promise you will write a novel within the next six months; you can’t promise that a publisher will buy your finished novel. For that you can only promise that you will complete a set of actions that present your manuscript to publishers in the best way possible.
If you try making that substitution, you may say, “Wait, I have too many goals to be able to turn them into promises!”
If that’s the case, you have too many goals. I’m not saying you will never achieve all of those, just that you won’t achieve them all at the same time.
Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty: Which of these goals are important enough to you for you to turn them into promises right now?
If what worries you is that you won’t be able to keep your promises, jot down what you believe may get in the way.
Then either work out a strategy for dealing with those obstacles, or scale down the promise until you are confident you will attain it.
You may find this very helpful in a practical way—your vision may be that you will be a best-selling author, but your first promise could be to write the novel you’ve been thinking about. If you’re not sure you can keep that promise, start with the promise that you’ll write an outline in the next 90 days.
The more promises you keep, the more momentum and confidence you will build.
What are you ready to promise?
(Once you've made your promise you'll need to manage your time and your energy effectively. For help with that, get a copy of my book, "Focus: use the power of targeted thinking to get more done." It's published by Pearson and available from Amazon and other booksellers.)
For anybody buying a three-book bundle during a period of time, he's adding bonuses including your choice of two limited-edition posters that illustrate key concepts from his book (that's one, above) signed by him and the artist, as well as a series of recordings of interviews he did for the book, and six weekly Q&A teleconferences.
He also has packages for those who order 100 or 500 copies (targeting corporations, of course), and more as a gimmick than anything else, a very special offer for anybody who orders 10,000 copies: he will have that company's name or logo shaved on the back of his head and dye his hair to match the company colors.
Nice example of bringing creativity to book marketing!
(Think I'll steal his idea: Order three copies of any of my books: Creativity Now!, Focus: Use the Power of Targeted Thinking to Get More Done, Do Something Different, Your Writing Coach, or Marketing for Entrepreneurs, send me a scan or copy of the receipt and I'll send you an original cartoon illustrating one of the key concept in that book! How's that for a limited run--one!).