Sunday, September 23, 2012

My Take on the Amazon KDP Select Free Promo

The KDP Select Program at Amazon can be a wonderful way to get more people to find your book if you take advantage of the free promos. For every contracted time, they allow 5 free days. I decided to use three of them. I had done my research about making sure you get the word out about your promo. Writing to sites that list it, tweeting to those that promote free kindle books, etc.

When I started Wed night, I was listed as 215, 245 in the paid kindle store.

The first day (a Thursday) was amazing. I watched my book climb the free chart at a very rapid rate. (Amazon does not allow you to share sales numbers, but let's just say I was shocked by the rate of downloads.) I was climbing so quickly, I thought I might actually see the elusive "TOP 100 FREE IN KINDLE STORE" listing. By 11:00 pm that night, I was #303 in the free kindle store.

I woke on Friday morning to #208 and seeing my book at #15 on the Literary Fiction list. (Right across from THE HELP...yes, I thought that was pretty cool.)

That was the best ranking I would see. While you drop quickly towards the top of the list, once around moves in smaller increments.  I had learned that those top books on the list really hold tightly to their spots and its difficult to budge them. Friday, the downloads slowed and the climb on the ladder begin going the opposite direction.

By morning of day three, I was back up at 451. I was still in the top 20 of Literary Fiction (along side classics like Oliver TwistAnna KareninaGreat Expectations), but downloads had slowed...I wasn't on any more free kindle lists and the process had come to an end.

By Saturday night - I ended at 696 and the next day, back on the pay list at 309,800 like the entire thing was a blur. I know some have said their 'free listing' did something to their paid numbers, but I didn't notice that. I will say that all my other titles did have sales during the promotion. I'm not certain if that is due to the free book listing and people reading about me or if they would have sold than anyways.

I'm glad I did it, but I probably should have just done two days and not three. I would like to say to my fellow authors that you can read many blogs online about people who give away huge numbers during these promos. (Just as you read about people SELLING huge numbers of books.) 

Don't think your promo a failure if you do not match those numbers.

All books are different. I'm not a genre writer. It is not in the Thriller category that seems to yank up readers (much faster than Literary Fiction ever will). So set your goals smaller and be pleased when you meet that goal. I passed mine, so that's all I have to 'compete' with in my own head.

Now the true test will be to see if the book gained any traction after the promo ended. If people went to it and decided to buy it once they saw it was no longer free. Only time will tell.   

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Feed Your Soul for FREE

Many authors have blogged and spoken of the Amazon KDP Select Program and a few months ago, I added my first novel WELL WITH MY SOUL to check it out. Part of being in that program means one can offer their book for free promotions periodically. Well...this Thursday-Saturday (Sept 20-22, 2012) I will be doing just that. 

The book came out a year ago at the end of this month and will occasionally still get a new reader now and again. But I'd love to have it read by many, many more. The book is controversial in subject matter. It has pushed buttons with people. And it is not for everyone. But by offering it for free during this period, perhaps it will resonate with someone in a way I could never imagine. 

A family drama of two brothers. One gay and one straight. Told during the late 70s through early 90s. And goes deep into the question of 'can someone pray away the gay'? Can they change and become straight? And how do choices we make affect those closest to us?

The Book was a Finalist in the Literary Fiction category of USA Best Book Award 2011. It was nominated for Lambda Literary Award for Debut Novel and short-listed as a Finalist for GLBTQ category for the Indie Lit Awards. I was so proud of each of those, but also greatly touched by reviews and emails I'd receive after someone read the book.

I write about adversity and diversity. It is what I love to do. Not in one particular genre. But just telling people's stories...whatever that may be. And just perhaps by offering this one as free, someone will want to pick up another Gregory G. Allen book and check it out too!

So please help me spread the word. Get those downloads going on Thursday!

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Raw Truth of Book Sales

As Indie authors, we sometimes live in a bubble. We interact with our own on social media, we get excited each time a copy of our book is sold, and we read the hype by other Indies of the thousands of books they sell and believe it can happen to us all.

This is the blog where I just feel like spilling it.

Five months ago, my 2nd novel was released (right around the same time I won the children’s book contest). Patchwork of Me has won numerous awards during the five months it has been out. I went on a book tour and blog tour over the summer. Several that have read it say it is better than my first novel. (But that's apples & oranges.)

Yet of all of my four books published, it is the poorest selling book. And I mean by a third lower from the first novel and even my children’s book. (Yes, I know it is less time out than the 1st, but I can compare first months to both.) If it were traditionally published, it would have been yanked from the stores by now and tossed back to the "lost forever" pile.

I’ve attempted to dissect what could be the reason behind this. I don’t write in one genre – so finding an audience is more difficult. I’m a man that has written a female protagonist in first person POV (and yet female reviewers have said I’ve completely captured this woman). Perhaps spring/summer wasn’t the best time to release this kind of book. It came too quickly after the 1st and those friends that bought my first novel to be supportive wonderful friends may have thought “how many books of Greg’s do we have to buy?”

Whatever the reason, it is a truth I wanted to share as an indie author with my blog readers. Not everything we write is going to be read by the masses. No matter how many accolades it may receive.

We have to stay true to ourselves, but we also want people to find and read our work. Patchwork has a sequel brewing in my brain, but I’m not certain it will see the paper if the first one is such a flop.

I know I want to continue in this realm of writing about adversity and diversity from different standpoints and still plan to release my next book about a biracial woman in the south during the 60s. But that book may only be released as an eBook. (Print copies of Patchwork sold were really - REALLY low.)  

To end on a positive note: Since winning the Intrigue Category in the Reader’s Favorite 2012 Awards, Patchwork's September sales have already surpassed August sales (and we’re only mid-month). So maybe this book that does take us on a journey through fall/winter might do well during the upcoming season.

And lastly: I’m planning a kindle FREE Promotion on Sept 20/21/22. Not with Patchwork of Me – but with my first novel Well with My Soul. I’d love to get more readers to check out this controversial book that pushed some buttons and see what others think about it. One way or another: we want them to not only find our books, but talk about them...right?

Monday, September 10, 2012

My Love of Reality TV Returns

Those that have followed my blog know that I used to have a huge addiction to reality TV (and some times still do). It was something easy for me to drop into without truly investing my time, thoughts, or much of anything. I know these shows are produced because they are easy to do, but I've recently been seriously turned off by so many of them. I swear that the new one on the Food Network is using actors in the restaurants to offer up 'drama'. The Amish show that started on TLC Sunday night looks like these people came out of the reject pile from MTV's The Real World and they were given costumes and told to look somber for the camera. And don't get me started on this Honey Boo-Boo show. 

But PBS has started a new show Broadway or Bust that while doesn't call itself a 'realty show', it is plenty full of the reality I enjoy. High school students who won local contests across the country in order to travel to NYC and be mentored by some of Broadway's best as the search for the next great talent. It is a three hour mini-documentary and I highly recommend it for those that love theater and all things Broadway. (It airs the next two Sunday nights.)

I can't help but wonder if they would have had that back in the 80s...yes, I'm certain I would have auditioned. And I know my high school choir teacher would have coached me all the way (she and I were actually chatting on Facebook after the first episode aired on PBS). I watched the show and could recall those exact feelings I had at that age. That musical theater was EVERYTHING to me. I knew by my junior year I would be heading off to NYC as soon as I graduated (even though my mother says she knew when we visited my freshman year and she saw it in my eyes). And I did. I left home at 18 to attend the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (truth be known, only lasted there a year...but it DID get me to New York) and I loved witnessing that hope and promise in the eyes of the teens in this PBS special. I really look forward to seeing the journey these teens take and which names we'll be seeing in the near future.

I may have taken many paths in my life. Corporate America. Writing books. But musical theater is still in my blood and as Julian Marsh says in 42nd Street "I'm talking about musical comedy, the two most glorious words in the English language!"

I'd have to agree.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Tramp That is a Star

Rob McClure

When you open the playbill for the new musical Chaplin on Broadway, it says “introducing Rob McClure as Chaplin” and what an introduction it is. After seeing the preview (opening Sept 10), I went home and read everything I could on Mr. McClure. The numerous auditions he had to get the role out at La Jolla Playhouse two years ago before it transferred. (This after Euan Morton from Taboo had originally done the reading, but was doing another show at the same time: his loss was Broadway’s gain.)  How McClure had walked away from acting and was teaching again in New Jersey before going after the role. The history of what he did was a wonderful read. And what he gives on the stage is magic. We all expect ‘the tramp’ and he shows us his transformation into that character. But he also has a fully realized persona of Charlie and audiences get to see that growth. He did something I wasn't certain could happen: made me care about Charlie Chaplin. And if I could write a love letter to the man about just how spectacular his performance is, I'd do it. (I'm sure his wife is in for many letters coming his way.)

The show has other ‘introductions’ besides McClure. The new composer/lyricist Christopher Curtis has nurtured his baby for years even when producers have brought in Broadway hitters like Thomas Meehan to work on the script. While some of the songs didn't send me out humming, others are very nice and fit the tone of the evening. But being a former BMI Musical Theater student – the non perfect rhymes really got to me after a while. Warren Carlyle was originally just the choreographer, but now has taken over as director as well. It is great to see so much dancing in a show and there are moments where you see a wonderful concept coming from Mr. Carlyle (the use of movie markers to start scenes) – but it feels like those concepts change at intermission and we suddenly see something completely different being 'tried out'. I found myself wishing they had thought in terms of other bio-musicals such as The Will Rogers Follies when dealing with so much material from Chaplin’s life to cram into 2 and a half hours. (Both acts actually start to feel long and I’m not sure anything else will be shaved prior to opening next Monday.)

Bio musicals are hard. You are attempting to show so much and not sure what to remove, alter, etc. I love the use of Chaplin’s mother (played beautifully by Christiane Noll) as well as the adorable boy playing young Chaplin. But trying to fit in the many (MANY) women that Chaplin has been with (the man had an affinity for younger woman) starts to get monotonous on stage. I was in shock to find the 2nd to final curtain call went to the wife that stayed with him until his death. Why was I shocked? Because she doesn’t appear until midway through Act II and right as her storyline started, I was already finding myself growing tired. (This is not a comment on Erin Mackey who plays was more about where it comes in the course of the show.)

The other large issue with the show is dealing with why Chaplin was banned from the US. It was when so many in Hollywood were thought of to be communist. I love how they go into a performer becoming ‘political’ as that is right out of the playbooks of today. (Insert a recent star/TV personality that has turned audiences away simply because of their politics.) But while Hedda Hopper (played by the oh so talented Jenn Colella) was known to go after Chaplin for his remarks, the musical tends to turn her into Cruella Deville. A shame as I’ve read in some forums that hers is the part getting the most cuts during the preview period.

All of this said the show is beautiful to look at. The set by Beowulf Borritt, costumes by Amy Clark and Martin Pakledinaz, and lighting by Ken Billington create an amazing atmosphere to tell this story. (The use of old film and images as set pieces is so successfully done in this piece as compared to other recent shows.) I only think I would have enjoyed the ‘coldness’ of it more had the story itself pulled me in just a tad harder.

But Rob McClure (and the little boy) both brought a tear to my eye, a smile to my face, and made me want to leap to my feet when most times I stay seated during a curtain call. So I end this by saying even with all the other things I’ve pointed out, McClure’s performance is one that we will all want to say we witnessed on Broadway. Kudos to the producers for not doing stunt casting with a big name star. Because we are getting to see a star in the making on the stage at the Barrymore Theatre and sometimes, that is exactly what Broadway is all about.      

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Author Spotlight: Carey Parrish

Carey Parrish

I've had author Carey Parrish answer questions on my site previously in a group of other authors, but today we’re getting to know him a little better on his own…about the novels he has out, what’s coming up, and what makes him tick! J

So I love to start with this question: When did writing become such a part of your life?

At an early age. I started reading "adult" books when I was around 10. I guess you could say I got tired of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Beezus and Ramona! So I began reading books my mom got from her book club, and they opened up the whole world to me. By the time I was a teenager I was trying my own hand at writing. I entered a local writing contest two years running and won the first year and received Honorable Mention the second.

Winning those awards early on! Good for you. What different routes did you try as far as publishing (traditional/Indie/Self)?

I've gone all three routes but the two I find the most satisfying are Indie and Self Publishing. I like feeling in control of my writing and with traditional publishers you have to give up a lot of that.

You’ve had quite a background in writing from interviews for websites to novels – can you tell us a little about that time?

Back in 2006 I began a web magazine called Web Digest Weekly. I had been involved with a few writers groups on the web and I knew so many talented authors who had very few avenues open to them to get their work out to the world. Web Digest Weekly began as just that; a means of helping friends. I didn't expect it to become such a success. Before I knew it I was getting requests to interview everyone from Survivor/Big Brother/The Amazing Race winners and contestants to actors, singers, other writers. The whole thing grew so quickly. I went from a small website with four pages to a BIG venture with 10 pages in no time flat. At one point WDW was getting over 100,000 hits per month. I did WDW until early 2010 when it finally just became too much to keep up a weekly publication. My own writing career had started gaining steam and I was involved in other things as well. I still miss doing Web Digest Weekly but I can't imagine trying to undertake a project of that scope again! All this came about after I lost my grandmother and I had to figure out what to do with my life. I remembered my youthful dream of becoming a writer and I started involving myself with people who shared my goals. I was very fortunate to have friends like Susaye Greene of The Supremes and bestselling author Barry Eisler, people who know a thing or two about making dreams come true, there to guide me on my journey.

What an awesome entrepreneurial spirit! I’ve read two of your books and love your ‘English drawing room’ sensibility in them. Share with the readers a little about those.

My novels Marengo and its sequel Big Business are set in London. I've been to England and I absolutely loved the place. I feel that I must have been British in another life! I like creating characters that readers can care about and who they feel they can get to know. I experienced this as a child reading Victoria Holt, Agatha Christie, Sidney Sheldon, Phyllis A. Whitney, and so on. I also like laying a foundation for my plots that isn't very complicated but which grows into something akin to that. My characters are human and they're as three dimensional as a book allows. By creating intimate settings peopled with those who are interesting, I can go anywhere and do anything with them.

What is next for Carey? Tell us about books, release dates, any gossip you want to share!

I have two projects I'm hard at work on at the present. One is a period piece set in a fictional Georgia town during the Depression called Blackberry Winter. It's about a small community almost torn apart by the rivalry of two of its most prominent citizens, as seen through the eyes of a young journalism student home on spring break. It's as humorous as it is serious. The other is a gay themed thriller set in present day Los Angeles with the working title Mr. Wrong. I may publish this one under a pen name. I'm also outlining the third installment in my Number 56 Kensington Street series; its working title is The Art of Appreciation. I hope to have the first two projects I mentioned out by the end of the year.

You mention writing the gay themed book as a pen name. Can you tell me why you would do that?

I'd have to say because this book is so different from my other projects that I feel it deserves its own identity. Also, some of my favorite authors published their most successful works under pen names and the idea has a certain allure for me. We all have secret fantasies of being someone completely different from who we are; a pen name is a fantastic means of being someone else, if only for others.

We see it from so many big name authors now that split up those personalities. J There are other changes too with some of those authors taking over their own books and publishing themselves. What are your views on the ever changing publishing world?

I think those of us who are writing now are experiencing a boon in our industry. Thanks to the internet there are so many avenues open to writers who want to share their work and I am for each and every one of them. I believe the traditional publishing industry is experiencing a revolution in the way they do business because no longer are literary agents, stuffy editors, or even mainstream publishing houses necessary. It's an exciting time and I am thrilled to be a part of it.

How do you handle marketing?

Like most of us, I despise marketing. It's a necessary evil. I am lucky because I have a group of friends who are also writers who will not only give me plenty of attention but who will also be honest with me about my work. The local media here is also very kind and supportive of me. Other than that, when I have something to promote, I hit the trail and knock on as many e-doors as I can. I've discovered most folks are very kind and will give you their time if you're talented. And I enjoy doing book signings too.

So what does Carey like to do outside of books and writing?

I enjoy reading, walking, traveling, chatting with friends, and spending time my family. I'm a good cook and I like trying out new recipes. I'm also something of a health nut so I pay a lot of attention to my physical body. I'm a devout Buddhist as well. I practice Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism and I chant two hours a day every day. Buddhism along with Transcendental Meditation keeps me sane and grounded and spiritually strong. If I'd had these tools ten years ago I could have avoided a lot of depression. I'm all about being the best "me" I can be. Or as Oprah says, living my best life.

So many things there I didn’t know about you! Thanks for sharing them. Any new travel plans in the future?

I'd really like to get back out to Southern California and visit some dear friends out there. Also, I'd love to get back to New York and see my "tribe" there too. (Wink, wink.) My mom is facing some serious health problems right now and when she overcomes them we're talking about taking a road trip through the US to see some sights we've always dreamed of seeing. I hope I can accomplish all this.

We’ll definitely keep your mom in our thoughts (I know it is something you and I have talked about off-line as both of our moms were going through health issues.)

Lastly – tell us where people can find you on the internet?

I really appreciate Carey taking the time to talk to me. Look him up! Follow him on twitter, read his books and follow his blog. You’ll be glad to add this southern gentleman to your list of friends!