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07.06.2014 04:57    Comments: 0    Categories: Randy Ingermanson      Tags: randy ingermanson  russell blake  marketing  adopted a mentor  

I adopted a mentor a few months ago. He doesn’t know it, but I adopted him.


His pen name is Russell Blake and he writes kickass assassin novels. The series I like best features a take-no-prisoners female ex-Mossad agent named Jet.


I like Russell’s writing and I like his no-BS attitude to marketing, which is summed up in an article on his web site titled How to Sell Loads of Books.


Russell knows what he’s talking about. He’s not some theorist who tells other people what to do from the safety of a no-risk armchair. He’s an indie author with about 30 books out there earning him boatloads of money.


His article explains how he did it. I decided a few months ago to take that article and put it into practice, as best I could.


I’m a different person than Russell, so I won’t do things the exact same way he does and I won’t get identical results. But I think the basic principles apply.


Let’s look at a few of the items in Russell’s article. I’ll talk about how I’ve put each one into practice.


Pick One Genre


Russell says to pick one genre that’s popular and that you’re very familiar with. Write in that genre. Stick to that genre.


Writers often react strongly against this advice. Nobody wants to get typecast.


Yeah, yeah, sure. It goes without saying that you don’t want to get typecast. But there are two things worse than getting typecast:

  • Confusing people so they couldn’t typecast you if they tried.
  • Getting typecast as something you aren’t.

Now there’s nothing wrong with writing under different genres eventually. But it’s good to focus on one thing at a time.


One of my marketing gurus, Derek Halpern, says, “It’s better to dig one hole a hundred feet deep than a hundred holes one feet deep.”


And this is true. If you’re digging for water, go deep. Strike water. Start pumping. Once you’ve got water flowing and you’ve maxed out the yield from that well, THEN go dig another well.


How I put it into practice:  This advice is hard to take. It’s advice I’ve been very carefully NOT following for most of my career. But after thinking hard about it a few months ago, I made a tough decision. I decided to focus for the moment on one genre—time-travel suspense. It’s the category where I got my start in fiction, years ago. But then I got sidetracked.


This is hard because choosing to focus means saying no to lots of other things. Saying no to EVERY other thing. And nobody likes to say no. But focus means that you commit to saying no for a certain period of time.


What this has meant for me is setting aside another project that was mostly done. How did I decide what to work on and what to set aside? Here’s how…


Write a Series


Russell says that the reason you should write a series is because readers like series, and you’re in the business of giving readers what they want.


This makes good sense. Sure, it's possible to do very well writing standalone books. But your odds of making money increase if you string together three, four, five books in a series.


Russell does this well. I read his novel, JET. Then I chain-smoked the other five books in the series in about two weeks. Then he released the prequel, and I grabbed that on sight.


Once a reader buys into the idea of a series, they have bought into each book in that series. The only marketing effort you have to make then is to tell that reader the next book exists. There are ways to do this.


How I put it into practice:  I looked at my set of published books and pending projects. I had one standalone and one series of two novels published. I had another series of three backlist novels ready to republish. I was working on another standalone. I had another series in development. The entire set seemed to me to fall out into three separate genres. That was two too many.


I made the tough decision to set aside the standalone for now and focus on the series of three. Because a series is good. And the second series I have in development is related to the first series.


Just in the last week, I’ve finished formatting the backlist series of three as e-books and they’re now all available online. I’ll be continuing that series for several more books, I hope. My original publisher abandoned the series in mid-stream years ago. Now I can finish the job.


As that unfolds, I’ll work on the second series that was also in development, because it has the same target audience. Two series with the same target audience is even better than one.


Do The First Book Free


Russell says that when you have a series of at least three books, make the first one free. Earn your money from the rest. Promote the heck out of the free one.


The first author I knew personally who did a free promotion was my close friend, Jim Rubart. Several years ago, he published his debut novel, ROOMS, a supernatural suspense novel that appealed to Christian readers. (Not the biggest niche you can imagine.)


Jim’s publisher hit on the idea of making the e-book free for a few weeks. I thought they were crazy. This was before free e-books were common. But Jim’s book shot to the #1 spot on Amazon and stayed there for a couple of weeks.


And sales of the paper edition took off, even while the e-book was free. Because of word of mouth, that thing all writers want.


Jim became a best-selling author because he went free for a short time.


These days, some indie authors make the first book of each series permanently free—the so-called “permafree” strategy. Other indies make their books free for a few days at a time and then boost the price back to normal.


Any kind of free strategy scares some people, because they think it devalues the hard work of a writer. My opinion is that what matters to a writer is net income, not unit price. I’d rather earn a penny per copy on a billion units than a thousand dollars per copy on one unit.


A free strategy removes all speed bumps for readers who’ve never read your fiction before. A free strategy helps your target audience find you.


Let’s be clear—not everybody will love your writing. Giving away lots of free copies won’t make you universally loved. But it will get your work circulated to a lot of people, and some of them will love your writing. Those are the people you want to find you. Because once a fan, always a fan.


How I put it into practice:  I’ve made the first novel in my time-travel suspense series permafree on all the major retailers—Amazon, B&N, Apple, and Smashwords. I may expand to Kobo, once I catch my breath.


This is very recent. I only heard from Amazon yesterday that they were repricing the book to free. But the early results are very good. I’m seeing a lot of downloads. Many of those people won’t read the book, but some of them will. A few of them might even love it. That’s my target audience.


If you want details, see “Randy’s Deal of the Day” farther down in this e-zine. But the details aren’t as important as the principle—that giving free samples is a powerful way to let your target audience find you.


When in Doubt, Listen to Russell


Read the rest of Russell Blake’s article. There are 26 points he makes. Not all of them are action items. Some are just ways of thinking.


You can try to figure everything out yourself. Or you can follow the lead of a guy who’s done it.


I’ve done well in the past by listening to people who’ve done it. Of course, I always try to adapt their methods to my situation. Of course, I add in improvements wherever I can. Of course, I test things and quit them if they don’t work. But I try not to reinvent the wheel.


Russell Blake is a very smart guy. He comes to the world of writing from a business background, and he doesn’t suffer fools gladly. He talks plainly and to the point. If that offends you, well, it offends you.


Once again, here’s the link to Russell’s article.


If you like what he says and you want to thank him, then buy one of his books. If you like the book, tell a few people.


About The Author


Randy Ingermanson is a theoretical physicist and the award-winning author of six novels. He has taught at numerous writing conferences over the years and publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, the largest electronic magazine in the world on the craft of writing fiction, with over 11000 readers.


Randy is best known for his "Snowflake Method" of designing a novel. The "Snowflake" page on his web site has been viewed more than 514,000 times over the years.


Randy believes that prepublished novelists fall into four distinct stages, Freshmen, Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors. Each of these stages has its own unique needs. Have you been a Freshman longer than you think you should? Or are you stuck in a Sophomore slump? If you'd like to move up to that pesky "next level," check out Randy's acclaimed lecture series, Fiction 101 and Fiction 201. Don't settle for where you are! Take action today.

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