As I near the end of writing yet another book, I find myself faced with the concept of deciding what to write next. I typically have things planned out several books ahead, meaning, I’ve generally got an idea of what I want to write next, as I have an incredibly long queue of stories I want to tell.
But here’s the thing…some stories have more interest to the general reading public than others…stories that may be way low on the back burner for myself.
Book marketing and selling is a process that many folks still don’t really seem to understand. There’s a certain magic that comes into play in between the actual marketing attempts (you know, the book trailers, the blurbs, the blog tours, the covers and whatever else people know how to market books do) and actually having books fly off the shelves. I’ve done a fair amount of research into the subject, and tried many things, and typically, I don’t see much of a different occurring for my books as a result.
So I try things somewhat randomly, just to see what might have some sort of difference. I try all sorts of things, such as modifying book prices, putting things on sale, putting things up for free, getting books reviews from book review blogs, and I could honestly go on for quite some time about what all I’ve tried and continue to try. What I’ve found is that very little of it truly makes any actual difference.
What I have found makes a difference is genre.
Case in point. The Agora Files, what I consider to be my most mainstream-reader-friendly book (outside of the somewhat cliffhanger ending, which leads directly into book 2), is the book I’ve definitely put my largest effort into marketing. I’ve kinda figured that it would be a great introductory piece to my writing style, hit people with the action and have them wanting more. The reality of it is that no matter how much marketing I do on the damned thing, it just doesn’t really move. It sells slowly, gets readers slowly, and really just plods along in its own pace, regardless of my efforts to get it to move faster.
This past week, I put it up for free, did no marketing of the fact that it was up (if you missed it and still want it for free, shoot me a message), and just waited to see what would happen. It didn’t actually start moving until the end of the day I had put it up, so I added another day to the promotion, figuring there might be a possibility that it could start moving faster now that it had begun at all. In total, 11 books went out for free. A pittance, to be honest. Considering there is, at best, a 10% chance that those folks will actually read the book they got for free, I’m looking at possibly one person reading the book based on the promotion.
The reason I did this free day was because the previous week I offered both Agora Files AND Daddy of the Dead up for free on the same day, moving a total of 59 units of the two, most of which being Daddy of the Dead. I thought that perhaps one was overshadowing the other somehow and figured I might be able to move more of this other book if it was by itself. The results were much less.
So, to continue the test, I put Daddy of the Dead up for free by itself, yesterday. Final total of the day, 159 ‘sales’. Since I’m a curious fellow, I added a second day to it as well (which is going on right this very moment) and am already at 30 ‘sales’ for the day. Once again, no marketing to state it’s out there, just put it up for free and see what happens.
Is it possibly that the cover and blurb and everything else for Agora Files is just that much worse? Totally.
Want to know what my guess is? Zombies are the hot genre right now. Just because this book has zombies in it, people are right on top of it the second it gets cheap. They’re saving 1 dollar on this cheap novella and still pick it over Agora Files consistently.
Who knows how long the zombie phase will continue? Between Walking Dead, the upcoming Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies, and whatever else(I’m feeling lazy against lists right now), zombies are obviously huge (so are superheroes…Buddy Hero…). But it’s there, and it’s obviously huge.
My next intended book for putting together was going to be a nice little piece about a man seceding from the US and standing firm on his little plot of land as the country goes wild around him. Just a simple piece that would attempt to channel fun literature of the past, like The Mouse that Roared.
For those of you who have read Daddy of the Dead, you should be quite aware that there is a great deal of story left to tell, which is fairly typical of the genre, because no one actually wins against the zombies. Knowing that there’s more to tell (and I’ve honestly got a few stories hesitantly outlined already), and that zombie books move, I find myself at an odd crossroads…tell the story I want to tell next, or tell the story that people obviously want to hear.
I mean, Daddy of the Dead is not about zombies. You could replace the zombies in the book with a lake of fire and it would be pretty much the same book. They were a plot device that didn’t really matter. But its what causes the book to move. A book that is about fatherhood…not about death, destruction, or splatter.
It’s not like these zombie stories I have in mind aren’t stories I want to tell. I do, and I think that although they may contain new characters, they could honestly keep to the true idea of Daddy of the Dead quite well, as opposed to devolving into the exciting splatter that zombie books should really have.
But I fear the concept of bowing to trends….Sure, it may get more people reading my books, but I don’t really consider myself a trendy author. I have stories to tell that are dear to me. Buddy Hero is, at its core, my dealing with growing up. Agora Files is my personal battles with politics. Daddy of the Dead is my coming to terms with fatherhood. These are all dear pieces to me. As is the next tale I want to tell, which is, at its core, my review of nationalism and anarchy.
My next zombie story has a basic idea, but it doesn’t have that same personal effect to it yet, because I haven’t found it yet. I could continue the story of Bert, Guy, and Zelda, but it wouldn’t have any heart left. Not yet. I haven’t found that piece of it yet.
So, I will probably continue on my path of writing the stories I want to tell, telling the stories I’m ready for. Some may be sequels, such as Rise of the Fat Mogul, which is a continuation of the approach to adulthood, and the upcoming sequel to Agora Files, which continues on that concept of questioning politics…and at some point, I’ll return to my Of the Dead series, because I’ve got several stories left to tell there…but none of them have found their heart. Not yet.
So, although it pains me to say that I’m not selling out (not yet anyways), my next project will not be about the undead, but will be about a northwoods man who just wants to live his life. A rather pedantic tale on the surface, but one that means a lot to me personally.
And I’m pretty damned excited to start it up.
Of course, right now I’ve got to finish up on these final edits to The Long Chron, which are going quite well, but are melting the brain a bit…
Have fun out there!