I’ve been really brain-storming how to get my books in front of people who might want to read them – meaning reaching the right readership, and it occurred to me I’m going the wrong way about it.
The thing is that my Lukas Boston Mysteries should appeal to female readers who like this kind of roguish, smart-arse, womanising, amusing main character with ridiculous good looks and charming bedroom manners, but my new covers were screaming “horror”, which couldn’t be further from the reality. All the paranormal stuff in my Lukas Boston books is funny, kind of quirky shit. Definitely not frightening. Lukas gets annoyed by ghosts. They’re a pain in the arse most of the time.
Anyway, in my efforts to figure out a solution, someone on a forum suggested my books were “Urban Fantasy” and it might be the key to reaching those women readers, since it’s popular. Now, say to me fantasy and I going to think dwarves, elves, dragons and wizards – and all the above shafting each other with swords and axes in pursuit of some kind of Holy Grail (in a castle at the End Of The World). Asking the forum for clarification (what is “urban fantasy?”) triggered a fierce debate. A touchy subject, apparently.
However, I can safely tell you that these days “fantasy” applies to just about anything paranormal. Ghosts, vampires, werewolves, witches… you name, they all get categorised as a kind of fantasy figure now. In fact, someone went so far as to say there is no such thing as horror anymore. Instead “Horror” needs to be correctly identified as whatever fantasy sub-genre the story demands.
I had another problem. If you start labeling any sexual or naughty stuff in your books as in any way… well, rude – you run the risk of the Erotica Police abducting you in the middle of the night and dragging you screaming away into the darkness, never to be seen again. In other words they get pissed off, if you try to kind of cash in on the popularity of erotica without actually writing the “wet plumber shags bored housewife” books. But Lukas does get a bit risque now and then – think “Fifty Shades of Benny Hill” here (well, not quite). So what can I do?
However, it seems you can include romance-like keywords in your metadata as long as you don’t register your books in the actual Amazon Romance categories – go figure. And we’re talking a foreign language here. Stuff like “rake”, “rogue” and “alpha male”.
So this all led to me rewriting the Lukas Boston metadata and redesigning the covers again, including adding the handsome chap in the top right-hand corner who, I should point out, looks nothing like me. I’m sure he’s disappointed about that.
At least this is a really good thing about self-publishing. You can tweak and change stuff on the fly, trying to adjust your books to find that readership as much as you like. Fingers crossed…
I’ve been working towards this for a few months now. Here are the first three novellas of my Lukas Boston Mystery series and as part of the official launch Book 1 is discounted to $0.99 for a limited time. With a mixture of crime, thriller, suspense, the paranormal and dark humour, these books have been great fun to write and I’m really looking forward to doing more. You can go to the Lukas Boston Mystery page on this site for Amazon links and other outlets such as Kobo, iTunes and Nook. All the non-Amazon resellers are handled by Draft2Digital and it might take a little more time for the books to become available, but they’re definitely on the way. I’d love to hear from any readers what you think.
Over the last few weeks the planets have lined up and made some changes. I’ve suddenly gotten more time to write my novels due to other commitments coming to a halt (don’t you just love it when someone else’s “cashflow problems” become yours?), I’ve embarked on writing a new series on crime thriller novels called The Lukas Boston Stories that I’ll self-publish, and we’ve had some guests staying who are IT and web design experts – so they took on the role of giving my website a new look and migrating it across to my domain, too.
All this equated to a spring clean of what we all call our Authors Platform and it’s been a real eye-opener. Most of us know about doing Facebook, maybe blogging regularly, contributing to forums… and you tend to approach these things piecemeal as you discover the benefits. But when you’re looking at this stuff altogether like I did during the revamp you get a much better idea of what’s involved – and it’s a hell of a lot. I know there are some writers who simply whack a book onto Amazon and it sells without any promotion, but the general rule-of-thumb is that if you want to be successful at this writing bizzo and self-publishing, you need all kinds of extra skills to make sure the world knows your novels and ebooks exist. Even if you have a free ebook or a 99 cent ebook published you need to let readers know. How you let them know is obviously important, but the devil is seriously in the detail too and it can be time-consuming and daunting.
However, I’m so very glad we can do it. Back in the good ol’ days of traditional publishing (I’m sure that one day we’ll consider them “good ol’ days” just like many Russians today still believe the era of Josef Stalin’s rule was the best of times) when a book was published you promised to be available for two weeks of promotions. I even managed a couple of TV talk show appearances, but mostly it was radio interviews over the phone. Some things don’t change – it was vital that you instantly sounded interesting or the producer would be cutting the line. Like the first sentence of a blog or facebook post now needs to be attention-grabbing. After that two weeks, life returned to normal and your book sales were again at the whim of bookstore browsers. It didn’t occur to many of us that continuing some kind of promotional campaign would be beneficial. That wasn’t our job. We were supposed to write. To be fair, I don’t recall any publisher suggesting I get out there and promote myself either. It’s not how things worked.
You might even say it was a mixture of apathy and ignorance that invented the mid-list author. After all, if you were good enough to be published, surely you were good enough to be a best seller? Plenty of authors have complained that a lack of advertising dollars were the only thing between them and super-stardom. Someone else was supposed to make us really famous.
What we should have done is throw ourselves at the task of self-promotion with all the application required today – except can you imagine doing it without the modern internet? Writing endless snail-mail letters to book clubs and libraries, cold-calling radio stations to convince them you’re worth an interview, creating “author profiles” in prominent bookstores by… hmm, standing in the corner and shouting about yourself?
So for those writers today who think the grindstone of self-promotion is something new, and maybe an onerous task, it really isn’t and you should be grateful that it’s a job that can be done these days so easily online. Sure, a lot of us hoary old trad-published authors didn’t have to do it, but we should have, and it would definitely have been a nightmarish task. Nowadays we’ve got so much more influence on how successful we can be – assuming, of course, that at the end of all things considered you’re actually a good writer. Blog about yourself, brag about your writing and blag a bunch of awesome reviews. It doesn’t sound like much of a business plan, but it is.
I’ve started a new series of books called Lukas Boston Stories, and I’ve got to admit I’m pretty excited by the whole idea. But one thing I’m going to make clear straight up – each book is a complete story of its own. While these books will have recurring characters and it will be best, though not an absolute must, to read them in order to know the “back” stories fully, each book will be a stand-alone adventure and you won’t be left hanging, waiting for the next installment.
Lukas Boston is a character who combines all the fun things I’ve been doing over the years – a slice of my ghost story writing, an even bigger slab of the crime and thriller stuff, plus I’ve mixed in some of the dark humour that my friends and family have been urging me to write for years. The end result is the Lukas Boston Stories, novellas of around 100 pages long (about one third the size of a “normal” book) that I’ll be regularly publishing as ebooks. Why only novellas instead of full novels? Simply because it lets me write and work on a great idea and finish it within a comparatively short space of time, then I can move on to the next one. Full-length novels can take well over a year to write, edit and publish, which means my readers have to wait a long time between books! I’m planning to release a new Lukas Boston ebook every six weeks or so.
Lukas Boston is a caricature of everyone’s favourite idea of a private investigator. An ex-police detective who quit the force to avoid a scandal, Lukas is ridiculously good-looking and knows it, believing every woman must find him irresistible (and many do, while the rest kick him in balls). He’s clever, witty and fearless, not mention a little arrogant and full of himself. To help things along, Lukas has inherited a fortune from his father, leaving Lukas financially free to do what he does best – chase down criminals, beautiful women and keep out of the gun sights of the bad people who don’t appreciate Lukas’ successful, crime-busting career. And to top it off, Lukas has a unique gift born from his grandmother’s gypsy blood to see and sometimes talk with spirits from the Afterlife. Unfortunately, these ghosts are usually more annoying than helpful, often pestering Lukas to right some wrong and providing clues that are less than clear.
I’ve completed the first draft of the opening book, “The Good, The Bad and The UnGodly” and it will hopefully be edited and published within a week (the cover design might take a little longer). I’ve added a newsletter sign-up to my website for anyone who like to be told directly and, of course, I’ll post on this blog when the book hits the virtual shelves. Feel free to comment here too, or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
Cheers, Graeme Hague.