The Importance of the “Upsell”

If there’s one thing that today’s writers need to understand, it’s that they have to always be thinking about the “upsell.”

What is “upselling?”

Simple — it’s convincing people, after they’ve purchased a product, that they actually want something else, too. As writers, we really need to understand this concept, because it’s what keeps our readers coming back to us, time and time again.

Let’s say that you’ve just written a book — “Truman’s Folly.” You’ve got a protaganist who is really unique, you’ve got secondary characters who come alive on the page, and you’ve got a strong, solid plot. All of that is great. It really is.

But, there’s one problem.

What are you going to do for an encore?

You see, if your readers have fallen in love with the characters from “Truman’s Folly,” they’re not automatically going to pick up your next book — which has nothing to do with the characters from “Truman’s Folly.” Sure, you’ll get a certain percentage who will be in love with your writing and will devour whatever you’re putting out there. That’s fine and there’s nothing wrong with that. (Hell, look at Stephen King and Dean Koontz, right? Oh, wait — King has written sequels and Koontz has entire little mini-series of books out there.)

Upselling is important.

There are tons of writers out there — and their number is growing every day. Some of those writers are going to just fade away, but some of them are going to stick around — and they might stick around because they’ve hit upon the art of the Upsell.

Basically, when your reader is done with your book, you want them to be primed for the next book. Period.

How can you do that?

Well, if your next book is set in the same “universe” as the first book, it shouldn’t be that hard. But, if your next book is totally different, you might need to prime the pump a little.

How?

Well, one way that’s becoming increasingly popular is to provide a free “prologue” short story that is set before the events in your novel. They get a free book, and if you’re clever, you’ll make sure that you give them information on how to get the novel when it comes out.

Earlier, I mentioned Dean Koontz in regards to upselling, right? Well, it turns out that Koontz has written several short stories that were priced cheaper than his novels — and all of those short stories were set in the same universe as the books that he was selling. So, he whets the reader’s appetite with the short story, and then he comes out with a novel.

Pretty damned brilliant, if you ask me.

How does this help you? Simple — if you’ve got a book coming out on the Kindle, consider also having a shorter piece out there to act as a kind of emissary before the books arrives. If you’re a good writer, you’ll have people eagerly anticipating the arrival of the novel. 

For more information about upselling, I’d like to recommend the invaluable “Write. Publish. Repeat” by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant. These are two guys who are making a living from their writing and have done it without the help of traditional publishing.

Now, go and write — and upsell the hell out of your project.

*** 

Don’t Let Social Media Get in the Way of Your Writing Career

Once upon a time, writers thought that having a strong social media presence was good for their careers. 

The writers thought that the more they engaged their readers, the more that would translate into sales. For a little while, that seemed to be the case, and everyone was happy. The writers were happy because they were selling their books, and the readers were happy because it gave them a chance to interact with their writers.

But then, something happened.

Other writers came along and started selling a lot of books — and without spending a lot of time engaging in social media. Suddenly, the first wave of writers grew confused. 

“How can this be?” they asked. “What are the new writers doing that we’re not doing? Why are they selling more books than we are — and without having to spend hours each day on social media sites?”

The answer was simple — the new writers were experts in marketing, and they knew how to do what it takes to get books sold.

Let’s be honest here — there are a lot of writers out there. Each day, there are more writers than the previous day, and that means that it’s becoming harder and harder for writers to be noticed.

So, what’s the secret, then?

Easy — write.

“Gee, Tom — that’s pretty damned obvious.”

Oh, is it? While you’re engaged in social media, how much writing are you doing? While you’re trading quips with your online friends, there are writers out there who are writing. They’ll be publishing more books than you — and that means that they are going to be more successful than you.

“They might be crappy writers, Tom.”

True. They might be. But, the more they write, the better they’ll become (in most cases). That means that, sooner or later, they might be as good as you — or better. In order to reach that point, they’ll have written more books than you, which means they’ll have a larger catalogue than you.

The larger the catalogue, the more opportunities a writer has to be discovered.

Let’s say I write a book called “The Shedding Werewolf.” Obviously, it’s a book about werewolves, and the title implies that it’s humorous. So, my potential readers are going to be people who like werewolves or people who like humor or both. That’s a pretty broad paintbrush, so that’s not too bad.

But, let’s say that another writer comes along and writes “The Molting Phoenix” and “The Dancing Demon” and “The Vegetarian Vampire” and “The Tap-Dancing Mummy.” Now, all of a sudden, I’ve got some really strong competition. Why? Well, because in addition to people who like humor, that writer can also attract the notice of anyone looking for a novel about phoenixes or demons or vampires or mummies. Suddenly, that writer has a lot better chance of attracting attention than I do, if I’ve only written one novel.

So, let’s get back to social media, shall we?

Now, when we’re playing the social media game, we’re telling ourselves that the more we engage our readers, the stronger the bond that forms — and that means they’ll be more likely to buy our books.

True.

Let’s say that you develop a following of a solid 200 people, based on the two or three books you’ve written. That’s terrific. Of those 200 people, most of them will buy your next book. 

However, Jack NewWriter has written 15 books and developed a solid following of 50 people. So, you’ve got more loyal readers than Jack — but Jack is making more money than you. 200 loyal readers buying your 3 books means you’ve sold 600 books. On the other hand, Jack has sold 750 books, although he only has 50 loyal readers.

But, here’s the interesting thing — the more books that Jack writes, the more likely the chances that he’ll develop more and more loyal readers. So, if Jack only gets 10 more loyal readers when his next book comes out and those readers buy what’s in his catalogue, he’s going to sell 900 books.

The more books you write, the more chance you’ll have of being able to be a writer who supports his or her family by writing.

It’s as simple as that.

Does this mean you need to ignore social media? Of course not. All it means is that you need to make sure that you’re not spending so much time trying to build up a relationship with potential readers that you don’t wind up writing nearly enough.

You know what loyal readers really want from you?

More books.

*** 

Writers Need a Supportive Community

For those of you out there who share their lives with writers, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you.

Listen, if there’s one thing that I know, it’s that it isn’t easy to live with a writer. You’ll be sitting there, telling us about your day at work, and you’ll look into our eyes and see that we’re a thousand miles away. Sure, for you, it was really awesome when you unloaded that truck in record time — but, right now, we’re thinking about the predicament that we stuck our main character in and how we’re going to get them out of it.

Those who support writers are the unsung heroes of our lives.

If the writer in your life has just received a rejection from a publisher or has just seen the sales of the latest Kindle edition drop off, you know that there’s going to be storm clouds on the horizon for quite some time. The fact that you’re able to recognize that there’s a hurting writer nearby means the world. Sure, it might not seem like a big deal to someone who isn’t putting himself or herself out there, but for the writer, just knowing someone is supportive — even if they don’t quite understand the madness that grips us — is really awesome.

So, once again, to those of you who are not writers — but are living with the madness of a writer — we salute you.

*** 

Return to the iPad

iPad-Air

As some of you remember, I left the world of the iPad for the world of my Galaxy Tab 10.1.

Well, there was an unfortunate accident (involving a lovable Golden Retriever on his way to get a bath), and the Tab suffered terminal damage.

I went over to the ASUS Transformer T100 (with Windows 8.1 installed) and thought that would be the end of it. Unfortunately, our cat Sabrina disappeared on the same night that I bought the ASUS, which meant that I was literally unable to use it like I wanted. Every time I sat down to create something, I thought about Sabrina, and that created a writer’s block the size of Rhode Island for me.

So, I returned the ASUS to Best Buy, and went with an iPad Air. Yes, I know that I thought that I could break myself free from the Cult of Mac, but it turns out that some of the most useful apps that I’ve got are only available for the iPad. (Why Android developers won’t get off their bottoms and fix that situation is beyond me.)

Sabrina has returned and all is right with the world. My writing output has literally exploded again — (thank you, God!) — and the iPad ;has turned into my freaking best friend. Now that I’ve found out how to link my mechanical keyboard to the iPad, nothing is being created on my desktop any longer.

You win, Apple. Okay? You win.

Then again, with the amount of writing that I’m doing, I think that I’m winning, too.

***

I’m back

I’ve been away.
No, I didn’t have to flee the country due to some ridiculous trumped up charges claiming that the “Miracle Elixir” I was selling at county fairs was nothing more than Tabasco sauce mixed with maple syrup. (For your information, those charges were dropped and nothing ever came of the subsequent investigations, so there.)
No, I’ve been in a dark place.
You see, the family cat (pictured above) went mixing at the beginning of November, and my wife and I were devastated. Sabrina is unlike any other pet that we’ve got and her presence was sorely missed.
She was missed to the point where I found myself incapable of writing.
However, last Wednesday, the phone rang and one of our neighbors had seen the posters that I put up and called to announce they had Sabrina.
Apparently, for the past week, she’d been hanging around their place, sunning herself. She would disappear every night and they assumed that she had a home. When they saw the poster, however, they called and I went and retrieved her.
She was really none the worse for wear. Oh, she’d lost weight, but other than that, she was in pretty good shape.
Best of all, my writing came back — more powerful than ever.
So, brace yourselves for an onslaught of material that has been kept inside of me all this time and now demands to be set loose.
I’m back.
***

The Trouble With Dragons – Part 2

The Trouble With Dragons – Part 2

I stared at him, wondering if dragons had suddenly developed a sense of humor and he was having some fun with me.

Nope. Those eyes of his told me this was not a joke. There was definitely no fun being had here.

“You know this is not what I do, right? I’m a guy who finds things, Auric. Period. When it comes to doing things like going up against Hunters, I’m definitely not the guy that you’re looking for.”

His eyes narrowed. That was not a good sign. Dragons always narrow their eyes right before they decide to open their mouths and spew out torrents of liquid fire.

I took a step back.

“Thorne, you’re one of the few humans out there I can actually stand. For the most part, you’re a smart enough guy to know that I’m aware of your limitations. But, you’re the one that I want for this task.”

“Why?” I asked.

He shifted his weight slightly, letting out a groan.

“Dragons have a strong sense of things, Thorne. We operate more along the lines of instinct, rather than logic. Logically, having you do anything important would seem to be foolish. However, my instinct assures me you are the man for the job.”

“What if your instinct is wrong, though? What if I can’t stop this Hunter from finding and killing you?”

He thought about that for a moment, then said,

“Then, I would curse you with my dying breath.”

Damn.

Sure, that sounded like something that was just dramatic, right? Wrong! Dragons, as most people should understand, are creatures of magick. That means they don’t operate according to the same rules that you and I do. So, when a magical creatures sends out a curse, it has consequences — and those consequences usually turn out to be lethal.

“Well,” I finally said, after frantically trying to come up with some way out of the current situation, “I guess I’m just going to have to find a way to stop this Hunter from killing you.”

Auric chuckled.

“I knew that I could depend upon you, Thorne.”

***

 

The Trouble With Dragons – Part 1

The Trouble With Dragons – Part 1

Dragons can be such a pain.

Oh, sure — if you’ve never dealt with one before, you’re going to tell me that dragons are “cool and beautiful and elegant and magical.” Believe me, I know all about that. I used to think exactly the same thing.

Then, I started doing business with them.

Look, I’ll be the first to admit that they are pretty damned impressive, okay? No one’s going to deny that. But, they are also ruthless and totally hardcore. I mean, if you think that you’re going to be able to mess with a dragon and live to tell about it, you’re going to join a growing list of idiots who also thought the same thing — right up until they disappeared.

Right now, the dragon that was being a pain was Auric. You’d think that, with a name like Auric, he’d be gold, right? Wrong. Jet black. It might have been something like an ironic name, you know?

Personally, I had no idea. After all, I’d learned that when you’re dealing with a dragon, the less conversation you have, the better the chances are that you’ll actually walk away from the encounter.

So, there I was, standing in front of a six-foot-high dragon, his midnight eyes focused intently on me, and I knew that something was coming that I wasn’t going to like.

“You’re looking good, Thorne,” he said, his voice a low rumble. “Last time I saw you, you were a little under the weather.”

“Last time you saw me, I was under your foot, actually,” I reminded him, “and you were trying to decide whether or not you were going to eat me.”

He chuckled. The sound went through my bones.

“One thing that I’ve always liked about you, Thorne, is that you have such a really great sense of humor. You always make me laugh.”

“Glad to hear that. So, did you summon me here because you wanted to hear some jokes?”

He shook his head, his wings shifting slightly. Since most dragons tend to live in the sewer systems of major cities, they’ve had to adapt themselves to their environments. Back in their day, dragons tended to grow as large as they wanted. However, as they grew more and more scarce, they found themselves becoming less and less massive.

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned, though, it’s that just because they’re smaller doesn’t mean they are any less deadly than when they ruled the skies.

“So,” I said, wanting to get the meeting over with as quickly as possible, “what can I do for you?”

His eyes locked onto mine. I hate looking into dragon eyes. They are more alien than anything else on this planet that I’ve encountered — and they have depths to them that scare the hell out of me.

“Someone has sent a Hunter out after me. I want you to protect me.”

***

 

 

 

 

In His Image

To me, when the Bible says that we are made in God’s image, I’m not quite sure that we’re talking about physical appearance. I think what it means is that God took us and literally created us — and I think that is the image that we share with God.

We are creators.

When I look at the world around me, I’m struck by several things. I’m struck by how varied and different all of us are. I look at some of the buildings that have been designed by us mere mortals and it nearly renders me speechless. (Those of you who know me personally know that it really takes a whole lot to render me speechless — especially after I’ve had my morning coffee.)

We create.

More than anything else, our ability to create is what has convinced me there is a living God out there, infinite and powerful and more creative than we can ever hope to be.

God is limitless — and when he gave us the gift of creation, he also gave us limitless imagination.

For all of my writer brothers and sisters, you know what I’m talking about. Those times when you feel the creative energies flow and you understand that there is literally nothing that you can’t do — that’s a brief glimpse of God, and no one can tell me otherwise. (Yes, my atheist friends, I know that you’ll give me some kind of scientific rationale for our ability to create, but frankly, I’m not buying it. Take a look at the Sistine Chapel or the works of Salvador Dali and tell me there is not something far greater than ourselves at work in the universe. I have unshakable faith in my God, just as you have unshakable faith in your refusal to believe in God. [I kind of find it interesting that atheists have the need to be zealots, by the way — wanting so desperately for others to renounce God. Personally, I suspect there are a lot of atheists who — deep down — have a sense there is a God out there, but they can’t bring themselves to accept that.])

Where was I?

Oh, right — creation.

Just as many of us are driven to create, there are others out there who are driven to destroy. I’ve never understood what anyone could possibly gain by stepping on the dreams and hopes of another person, but I suspect that it might have something to do with having a hole in their lives and needing to fill that hole with something — even if it’s the crushed dreams of another person.

Anyway, as creators, it is our job to make sure that we never accept the words of the Dreamcrushers. They have no idea what they’re talking about, and whenever we allow their words to affect us, we are negating the great gift that we’ve been given. When we encounter a Dreamcrusher, we simply have to recognize that these people are unhappy in their lives and by making others unhappy, they are taking temporary refuge in spreading despair.

Don’t let them do that.

Part of what it means to be a writer and a creator is to accept there are obstacles out there — and to know those obstacles can be overcome. Sure, it won’t be easy, but you and I both know that writing isn’t about doing what’s easy.

It’s about doing what we were born to do — to take nothing and to breathe life into it.

We are children of God, and in our own way, we are all creators.

***

On Being a Real Writer

 

 

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I’m convinced it’s becoming harder and harder to be a real writer these days.

Oh, there are plenty of writers out there. Hell, you can’t walk ten feet in a Starbucks these days without bumping into a writer. But, the people that you see in those places aren’t real writers.

They’re just writers.

So, what the hell am I talking about?

I’m talking about the writers who are driven – the ones for whom writing isn’t a calling, or a passion, or an addiction. I’m talking about the writers for whom writing is as much a part of them as breathing and eating and sleeping.

I’ve got a confession to make.

I’m not one of those writers.

I wish I was. Truly, I do – because I know that, if I was, I’d be a lot more successful in my writing than I am now.

The trouble is – there’s too much of Life in my life for me to be the kind of writer that I want to be. I’m spending too much time online, too much time being social, too much time watching television, too much time doing everything other than what I should be doing.

Writing.

Does that make me a failure? Hell, no – at least, not in my eyes. Perhaps I’m a failure in the eyes of the real writers out there, but I don’t think so. Personally, I think they’re much too busy writing and don’t want to take the time to worry about whether or not I’m a real writer.

All that matters to them is the writing.

I’m writing this now because I can see that I desperately want to be one of the real writers out there. Lately, though, I’ve been spending more and more time away from the keyboard, and that’s not a good thing.

It’s time for me to get my writing on again.

Anyway, for those of you out there who are real writers, know that I admire and appreciate the hell out of you.

For the rest of you out there – the ones who are just writers – hey, I know just where you’re coming from.

***

 

Writing Past the Block

3_w-2-pillars1

Okay, so what happens when you’re going along in your latest work-in-progress and you suddenly find yourself smack in the middle of a writer’s block?
Let’s face it — we’ve all been there. One minute, we’re flying along and the next thing we know, we’re having to stare at the computer monitor and the words simply aren’t coming along. It’s like they’re stuck in our head, holding on for dear life, doing everything possible to avoid coming forth.
What do you do?
Naturally, it varies from writer to writer…and from incident to incident. One thing that I’ve recently learned, however, is that it’s possible to write “around” the block.
Basically, when I discover that I’ve hit my own particular Writer’s Wall, I simply write down something like “In this scene, Elliott needs to make his way to Arthur’s house to retrieve the dagger” and I move on. You see, obviously, there’s something in that scene that I’m not ready to write yet, and rather than force myself to get through it, I simply write around the damned thing and go back to it later.
When I’m writing, I need to remind myself that I’m not writing my final draft. I’m writing my garbage draft, and the purpose of that is to write it and move on to where IF can actually work on the polished version. That being the case, it’s okay to skip entire scenes, when needed, in order to continue on the journey. In a way, it’s sort of like speeding through a school zone at night when you know you’re not going to get caught just so you can get home that much sooner.
So, the next time you find yourself facing the dreaded Writer’s Block, know that you don’t have to let it ruin your day. Just write around it, and go back to whatever you skipped over at some future date.
***