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FIRST PROMOTION: What I took away

July 9, 2013

It made sense to separate myself from The Final Tally by a few days before trying to squeeze out some juicy conclusions from the dry numbers on the blackboard.

I’d like to thank those of you who visited The Final Tally and left a comment there.  Some of you were true friends of my Blog, going back a good while.  Others had jumped aboard with the posting of A Reluctant Manifesto and stayed all the way through to The Final Tally.  All true friends.  Then, there is one whom I count as friend even though this was his first visit.

To a person (including my newest visitor) everyone was trying to take the sting out of what I’d hoped I’d made clear was only a disappointing promotion from the standpoint of the numbersI was not expecting to make a lot of money from it, but I was expecting to give away a lot more eBooks.  Nine hundred to a Thousand is not unheard of, and some of my friends have given away two to four thousand books during a promotion.

Now, I’ve never for a moment doubted the quality of my writing.  I hope I don’t alienate any of you because of my lack of modesty here.  But, if I wasn’t sure I was a good writer, then I would have to look elsewhere for what didn’t work and my conclusions might be faulty.

book and flowerI’m going to go all the way back to Writing 101, to dig up this observation:  Readers need to be able to identify with their protagonist.  And based on whatever personal interests led them to choose the books they read, their heroes/heroines are of a special type and exist in special settings.  This is because we readers are genre driven.  Romance aficionados really love touchy-feely novels; Mystery and Thriller readers crave the excitement ofscreaming man identifying with a Protagonist who’s living on the edge in a world of murder, espionage, etc.; lovers of Science Fiction and Fantasy need protagonists who live in the future, or another dimension of the past or future, and who have antagonists who are larger than life and … and … and …

The fact is I don’t want to get hung up in classifications.  What I’m trying establish is that most readers choose a book or series of books based on a genre they are familiar with and enjoy.  Makes sense to me.

What I’m leading up to is this:   While it is tempting to call a short story—or a collection of short stories—a genre, it isn’t.  My collection: THE GREATEST short STOR[ies] [I've] EVER TOLD doesn’t promise the reader mystery, romance, fantasy or paranormal activity, though each of those genres is found in one or more of the nine short stories. 

But, Rebecca-Luvs-Romance doesn’t know that when she sees THE GREATEST short STOR[ies] [I've] EVER TOLD.  Nor NEW cover for Amazon SSdoes Thrill-a-minute Tony,or … you get the picture!

Because I hadn’t thought all this through when I tried to create the pre-promotional buzz, or even during the promotion, my short story collection, which was first out of the gate (with RSVP to start one day later) started very sluggishly and never really recovered from the lack of momentum.  The numbers went from 1,994 at the end of the first day, to 2,828 at the end of the second day and finished at 3,746.  This was the overall ranking in Kindle Free Books.  The numbers were supposed to get smaller as the promotion progressed.

My ranking in Kindle Free Short Stories also increased from the first to the third day from #28 to #57 (although it did get as low as #21 during the second day.)  Overall, not good.

 Here, though, is what I took away from the promotion and what I am going to use in the next one:

1.  Either the cover art or the title (the first things that strikes the eye) should show the reader in a compelling way what genre the book is.  Mine doesn’t!  So number two, below, becomes even more important for me.  But, it wouldn’t hurt for others to consider it as well.

2.  You must create pre-promotion buzz that emphasizes genre.  I have developed a whole slew of new tweets that do just that for each of the 9 stories.  I will use these discretely prior to and during the promotion and hope for RTs to create the buzz.

Clearly, RSVP: INVITATION TO AN ALCHUKLESH MASSACRE was faster out the gate, its momentum was maintainedrsvp-cover-small (in spite of an Amazon Glitch that did not post rankings until the second day),and it crossed the finish line with much better rankings than my collection of short stories.  At the end of the second day, the ranking in Kindle Free Books was 4,833 and it finished at 1,244.  Not bad compared to the aforementioned promo.

In Free Mystery/Hardboiled, the ranking went from #26 to #9.  In Free Mystery/Crime the second day ranking was #68 and it finished at #16.

Those numbers directly reflected the books that were given away during the promo which went from 12 to 20 to 191.

 Genre recognition was no problem with RSVP.  Both the cover and the title contributed to it.

So, what kept it’s giveaway out of the thousands that I had anticipated?  Part of the reason, I have to believe, is that it is a stand-alone mystery thriller.  There is no sequel—yet!  Noah Winter is the protagonist.  Not enough people knew about Noah Winter so his name could be effectively branded to the book.  The followers of the John Locke mystery/thrillers can’t wait for the next Donovan Creed novel to publish.  Donovan Creed is a brand name.  In my formative years as a writer, I can’t tell you how I anticipated the newest Travis McGee Thriller to hit the book stores.  John D. MacDonald had built Travis McGee into a brand!  Branding sells books.  Noah Winter is not yet a brand.

I still have two days left that I can use to promote both RSVP and the short story collection.  If you are a Twitter follower, you’ve probably noticed I’ve already been sending out hourly tweets touching on some aspect of each of my books.  In the short story collection, I have been stressing the multi-genre nature of the collection and I give mini-snapshots of each story.  For RSVP, I’ve been zeroing in on Noah Winter’s moral character and the dilemma in which he finds himself.  Slowly trying to build a brand.

The single largest general change I’ll be making for both books is on the amount of support I will be soliciting.  It’s hard to say this without sounding unappreciative of all the men and women who tirelessly helped me.  I don’t want them to feel like I always feel when I am on jury duty.  When I am selected in a jury pool and I am called up to answer the prosecutor and defense attorney’s questions—even when the last thing in the world I want is to be selected—it still hurts my feelings, briefly, when one of them says, “The defense thanks and excuses Jay Squires from this jury.”  What did I do or say wrong?  What?

For the next promotion, however, I am going to thank and excuse all those lovely people who helped me.  Unlike the attorneys I am going to add, “It wasn’t any of you, individually.  You were all great!”  But when twenty or so people hit Twitter and Face Book simultaneously for three straight days, and when tweets were RTd or FAVd, I’m afraid the audience became glutted.

 I hope you’ve found my conclusions helpful in pursuing your own promotional goals.  If I raised any questions in your mind or you have suggestions—all are welcome!

Again, may I ask of any of you who didn’t get your free copy during the promotion, and you appreciate what I’ve tried to do to keep you up to speed during its running, to please purchase for yourself or your family or friends a copy of either or both books.  They are only $2.99 each and can be found at the following link:




  1. J. b. Villegas permalink

    Jay, I have to digest a lot of info here. One thing stands out though: Not a doubt you really can write! I started reading your The Dead of Winter, ( have to read it phrase by phrase) to get into the mind of the author, and my, was I blown away! I wonder why authors like you can’t get wider readership. You’re such a talent! Well, you nailed it: Readers anticipate sequels, and maybe Noah Winter hasn’t come of age yet. Genres on romances about vampires, supernaturals, and fantasy/magic are hotcakes. Why? They are easy reading. Not cerebral nor serious. So, deep thinkers and authors( like you) swim on rough waters. I guess, as writers, we just enjoy writing and if we tickle hibernating minds of even few readers, that is already consoling. Keep writing Jay!Sometimes, success is a late visitor. For now, I’ll enjoy the company of Noah.  JB I’ll be posting excerpt of your book in my blog. That– You can’t go home again by T. Wolfe hit a tender vein here. Anyway, some of my friends who got your free promo said they enjoy  reading ( not done though) I’ll buy mine soon. 


    • So good to hear from you, J.B. I’m thrilled — so very thrilled!–that you’re enjoying The Dead of Winter. Indeed, it holds a place in my heart — it being my firstborn, so to speak, but I’ve learned a lot since its publication. Let me know when when you have that excerpt posted in your blog. I’d love to read it — well, except as an excerpt, I guess I wrote it. But, still, who doesn’t like to read his own stuff? LoL. Thank you, JB for your loyalty and kindness!

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