This is a post of 2 parts. But first I want to use this to address something that keeps cropping up in the reviews of Far From Home. People seem to be polarised by it. They either really like it, or really dislike it. In the summer when I sat coming up with different ideas for a scifi series, I thought about all it could be ab out. What ideas I’d use for it. So I sit and start writing them down. Some Ideas I’ve had for a long while, some I’ve just started realizing and writing down in one of many notepads…and aspects of others I’ve adapted from shows I’ve seen over the years.
Ship thrown across space, a long way from home…Star Trek: Voyager
Crew realize they can never go back. They must forge their way forward…Battlestar Galactica
Black Hole as means of travel, not destruction…Disney’s The Black Hole, J.J.Abram’s Star Trek (2009)
The point is, about 2/3 of what’s going into Far From Home at this stage is from my own noggin. The other third has been distilled from the scifi I’ve watched and read. And why wouldn’t it? Write what you know…well, it goes against saying that if you write scifi these influences are going to come through.
Especially if you’re writing a serial, with a structure very much like the episodic scifi you’ve spent years watching on the boob tube.
I come up with my series. I decide how I’m going to release it. Design the logo. Design how the covers will look, how they will be branded. I conjure up characters, storylines, things I want to have going on from episode to episode. Things like that. Then my thoughts turn to how I will sell it. For that I look to Michael R. Hicks. He has the first book in all of his series on sale for free. Think of it as a Try Before You Buy. I e-mail Bernard Schaffer: “Hey, do you know how Michael Hicks got his book listed for free?” He says: “Check out his website. I think he had a post up not so long ago about that.”
I do, and I can’t find it. Being an impatient chap, I just set about going about it my own way. To this day I don’t know if Hicks uses the same method, or if what I did was slightly different. It could be. I send Far From Home 1 through the old KDP Machine as 99c, then I head to Smashwords and publish it as FREE. I go to wattpad, and post the entire thing for FREE there as well. Once it’s live on Amazon, I contact Amazon to tell them that I’ve seen Far From Home 1 elsewhere at a lower price and give them the links. It takes a couple of weeks, but Amazon then price-match to Smashwords and Wattpad and list the book as FREE.
Now I go straight to work on Far From Home 2. The pressure is on a bit when I see that the free downloads of Far From Home 1 are in their thousands, and that it’s racing up the chart. All I can think of is “Strike while the iron’s hot.” I know it’s silly. So book 1 is in the top 10 in the US and it floats between the first and second spot in the UK. I publish Far From Home 2 and see it rise through the ranks, helped along by Far From Home 1. My plan is working. I’ve created a best-seller. I know it’s not “New York Times Best-Seller!” status, but I’m thrilled. As a result of Far From Home’s initial success, the sales of everything else I have on sale get a resultant uplift, as I thought they would. I publish Far From Home 3 and see the same success. It’s all sitting in the top 100 in its category. As part of my original plan, I put the first 3 together into “Volume 1” and put that up for sale as well.
Sales and ranks of FFH2 and FFH3 drop. I expected this. People are now buying VOL1 instead of the individual installments. I expected this too. And I’m pretty happy about it because for every sale of VOL1 I get near on a full dollar whereas I get 30c for every sale of the shorter titles. I’ve not worked in retail all this time and not taken something from the experience.
So it’s working out. Exactly as I thought it would and then…something goes wrong…
As a side-note, I’d like to say that I think this method is a good one in promoting your work. Got a short story collection coming out? Why not offer one of the stories for free? Got a series like mine you’re working on? Then by all means give this a shot. It works. At least, if all the elements come together. Good covers, a catchy write-up and the work having plenty going for it help go a long way of course.
But nobody is going to sell these books for you. Amazon is a shop. You’re the guy/gal who makes the products on the shelf. But you’ve also got to be the poor sap who has to sell them. Why not let your product sell itself? Tune in tomorrow for the con side of all this.
PART 2 TOMORROW