I’ve been a big fan of Moo.com for a long time, and I’ve dutifully designed and distributed business cards for each of my books’ releases. While this has worked well for years, lately I’ve been dissatisfied with ordering all these cards and barely handing out half. Instead, I’d rather have something that transcends each release, something I can use until they run out. To that end, I sat down and asked myself what do potential readers really need from me?
Category archive: Marketing
Today, I’m trying to understand what psychology of the series tag. You know, that whole template every budding indie writer seems to be following these days: The Novel Title (The Series Name, Book X). I understand why people who write series would want to tag their books so readers get them in the right order, but what if you write interconnected books that don’t go in any order? Can you still use the series tag? Does it add value, or will it ultimately hurt more than it helps?
Consider the change I made yesterday to the listing of Por Vida on Amazon:
Say you’re a new reader to my books (fat chance, I know you’ve got ’em all on your Kindle), if you saw the above on Amazon, would you:
- See the word anthology and think unordered series of books taking place in the same universe?
- Feel like you should seek out Book 1 and start there? (assuming the other books were properly labeled)
- Not want to get invested because the series is already four books long (I felt this with the Dark Tower series)
- Close the tab and go browse Reddit for a while
I’m torn between wanting to let people know these books are all connected (based on how excited I get when Stephen King mentions Derry in one of his books) and not wanting them to think its a true series that never finds an ending or that it needs to be read in a certain order.
So I ask you, fellow authors: If you were trying to market standalone novels that shared the same universe, would you use the series tag? Why / why not?
I’d ask my agent, but she lives in Canada. You wouldn’t know her.
It’s never too early to start freaking out about having to write a book description that will somehow magically convince people they need to read my latest Science Fictional opus. I have never, not once, written a book description that I was happy with. Instead, I write something the day it goes live on Amazon and hope for the best. Probably not the best marketing tactic, but whatever. For book 5, I’m looking to get a jump on that madness.
I sat down this morning and told myself there was no way I was going to get anywhere near a book description. Instead, I just started writing some garbage. Then I paused, hit Enter a few times, and wrote more garbage. I did that for about half an hour. Here’s what that produced:
The year is 2017. Donald Trump is President. Mass murders are commonplace. Nazis are back. The world balances on the precipice of nuclear war. Most people agree: reality is completely out of control.
But it’s not all bad news.
As it happens, none of it is real.
The world as you know it is actually a simulation centered around the city of Austin, Texas, and more specifically, four of its residents. There is nothing special about them on the surface; one’s a manager at a tech startup, another is a former soldier who drives for Brinks, the sole female is a moderately famous YouTube personality, and the fourth is a day-trader who is making a killing with Bitcoin.
They’re just normal people living out what they believe are normal lives.
But in reality—that is, actual reality—they are all dreaming, hooked into a collective delusion set in the Live Music Capital of the World.
For almost four decades, they have enjoyed American life at the dawn of the 21st century. But now it is time to wake up.
How will they feel when they learn everything they’ve ever known is a lie? Will they tell themselves they knew it all along? Will they abandon their faith and embrace chaos? Or will they use the opportunity to make a fresh start as someone else?
Only time, vicious infighting, and the threat of death at the hands of synthetic killing machines will tell for sure.
Does this adequately describe what Hybrid Mechanics is about? Not really. It’s one aspect of a multi-faceted story, the idea that we’re all living in a simulation. I really want that idea to be in the book description because I don’t want readers to think it was all a simulation is some kind of twist.
It’s not a twist.
It’s a starting point.
After that, comes the how, why, where, and when. The real question is whether the characters can survive long enough to answer even one of those questions.
Someone should take my blog away.
I do a lot of silly things to encourage people to write reviews of my books, but this whole get your name in the next book tactic seems to work the best. You know, aside from cold hard cash, which, by the way, should not be delivered as an Amazon Gift Card unless you want to get 20-30 reviews deleted in a single afternoon. I don’t know why it’s such a struggle to get reviews (even bad ones), especially when the book is selling and plenty of people seem to be reading it. I used to think I could impress upon people the importance of leaving reviews, but no. Bribery is pretty much the only thing that works.
Last time’s winner was Curtis, and since it’ll be a while, here’s a preview of where he ended up in the zero draft:
“Identify yourself,” said Jake.
The man stepped back and looked up.
“Ho there,” he called. “Don’t see many people up this way. What brings you to Challis?”
“Identify yourself!” Jake stepped to the railing and pointed the rifle over it.
The man’s hands went up. “Easy, stranger. My name is Curtis.”
“Curtis what?” asked Jake. “What’s your revision?”
“My revision? What do you take me for, some kind of Lassiter drone?”
“You’re not organic,” said Jake.
“Now that is true. I am not an organic human. But I am a person, just like you.”
“I am a sixth generation Vinestead synthetic,” said Jake. “You’re nothing like me.”
“They’re up to Six now? Interesting.” Curtis stepped back several feet so he wouldn’t have to crane his neck. “Well, Mr. Six. Seeing how you’re hunting organics and I’m not an organic, I don’t see that we have any quarrel.”
Jake considered the offer, shook his head. There weren’t supposed to be any other synthetics. If there were, who did they follow? What was their purpose?
“What are you doing here?” asked Jake.
“We have some monitoring equipment up there,” Curtis replied, gesturing with an outstretched arm. “Helps us keep tabs on who comes and goes in the valley. We picked up a whole mess of activity in Arco day before last, so I came down to make sure everything’s in good working order here.”
“You’re tracking our movements?” His finger trembled on the trigger.
“Yours. Humans. Animals. Anything that moves. Gotta know who’s walking in your backyard, am I right?”
“This isn’t your backyard,” said Jake. “This is Lassiter’s domain.”
That made Curtis chuckle. “Lassiter doesn’t exist in this world, pal. He may reach out to you from VNet, but he can’t walk here. Funny how that works, huh?” He adjusted his jacket. “Look, I’m on a schedule here, so if you’re not gonna come down, I’ll just come back another day. Safe travels, Mr. Six.”
He turned to leave. Jake raised the gun.
“I’m not done with you,” he warned. “This gun will tear you in half.”
Curtis shrugged, didn’t look back. “You’d be doing me a favor. I was never a fan of this sleeve anyhow.”
If you’d like to join Curtis in Hybrid Mechanics, you can buy / review my most recent book, Por Vida, here.
See you in the Vinestead ‘Verse!