Thursday, 7 April 2011

Some preliminary research results


I may know how to *do* research, but I don't enjoy it. I've spent much of today - though possibly not as much as I should have - trawling through Amazon's sci-fi bestseller lists and the Kindleboards for sci-fi, searching for authors who are self-publishing, per the research strategy I described on Tuesday. While there are many self-publishing authors, what I've mostly learned is that lots of them have never learned how to write marketing copy, and some haven't even learned how to SPAG-check (spelling, punctuation and grammar) their forum posts.

That much, at least, leaves me feeling fairly confident; I'm a pretty accurate typist and grammarian (I recognise the irony in using a word like 'grammarian' here - is it a real word or not?), and I'm pretty sure I can write better marketing copy than much of what I saw on the Kindleboards today. If nothing else, I can write shorter marketing copy - some people post up 1000-word plot summaries, and even anecdotes about how they came to write the book (tip, guys: the anecdotes go on your personal website).

Actually, one thing which has really surprised me is how few of the authors plugging their books on the Kindleboards had easily-Googleable personal sites or blogs. Something I've heard constantly from the blogs I read about how to succeed at self-publishing is that maintaining a good, active online presence is one of the best ways to draw readers. If all that turns up when I Google you is a list of Amazon links, you probably aren't casting your net wide enough.

The drawback from my perspective of it being hard to find people's blogs, particularly, is that that's where I was hoping to get most of the information I'm after - people's descriptions of what they're doing by way of self-promotion and what their results are like. Joe Konrath's blog is great for this, but he's a thriller writer, and 'thriller' is a rather different genre from sci-fi.

I've found a couple of success stories I'll be studying with interest; Christian Cantrell is running well on the sci-fi bestseller list with 'Containment', and Stephen J. Sweeney is doing pretty well on Apple's iBook store and has generated several hundred Amazon sales of a book he's giving away free everywhere else. So this is doable.

What I'm struggling to do is build a systematic body of evidence, rather than a collection of anecdotes and case studies. I'll try to do some more of this tomorrow, as well as dipping into some of the free books I've found today and checking my writing style against what's on show.

To finish with (and to see if my high opinion of my own promotional writing is in any way justified), here's a blurb I'm working on - note, still working on - for 'The Death of John Collins':

"Some believe John Collins destroyed time. Now, in the last human city, Collins has returned, and three students must make up their own minds about his motives. One worships him; one has sworn to kill him; billions of lives may hang on the decision of the third.

And Collins brings a warning: time is collapsing again."

What this needs at the moment, is a better first sentence, or possibly an all-caps leader along the lines of 'THE DESTROYER OF TIME RETURNS...' at the top. Does it grab you?

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