Huge Kindle e-book Sale as Part of Read Tuesday, 12/10

Huge Sale

Read Tuesday, December 10

My books will be on sale starting Monday, December 9 and ending at 11:00 p.m. PST on Wednesday, December 11 as part of Read Tuesday, a Black Friday type of sale just for books.

Both my Kindle e-books and my paperbacks will be on sale. Most will be 40 to 80% off (one will be free).

Click here to see a list of all my Kindle e-books with links to both Amazon US and Amazon UK (the latter appear at the bottom of the list). This includes my e-books on:

  • self-publishing
  • astronomy
  • chemistry
  • math flash cards

My paperback books will be on sale for 40% off at CreateSpace, an Amazon company. Click here to get discount codes valid at CreateSpace. This includes my books on:

  • self-publishing
  • math fluency (arithmetic, algebra, fractions, trig)
  • astronomy
  • chemistry
  • physics
  • chess log books
  • golf stats

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Hundreds of books by hundreds of authors will be on sale on Read Tuesday.

View a sample of participating books and authors by clicking one of the links below:

Give the gift of reading this holiday season. If you would like to learn more about gifting e-books, click here to read a helpful article by Misha Burnett.

Love books? Check out Read Tuesday, a Black Friday event just for books (all authors can sign up for free) on Tuesday, December 10: website, Facebook page, Twitter

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Volume 1 (formatting/publishing) and Volume 2 (packaging/marketing), Facebook page, Twitter

Volumes 1 and 2 will be on sale on December 9 thru 11 as part of Read Tuesday on December 10. These books haven’t been on sale all year, so this is a rare opportunity. The Kindle edition of Vol. 1 will be $1.99 (60% off from $4.99) in the US and 1.99 pounds (37% off from 3.14 pounds) in the UK, while Vol. 2 will be $0.99 (80% off from $4.99) in the US and 0.99 pounds (70% off from 3.25 pounds) in the UK. The paperbacks will also be 40% off ($5.99 instead of $9.99) at CreateSpace:

Thanks for Reading and Writing

Thanks

There is much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. Of course, we must give thanks to family, friends, neighbors, loved ones, health, and well-being.

I’d also like to express my thanks for reading and writing:

  • All those struggling writers from times before who left behind a classic for me to enjoy.
  • And the struggling writers from today who provide more good books to read.
  • Teachers who gave me the gifts of reading and writing.
  • Authors of children’s books for inspiring reading at a young age.
  • The amazing community here at WordPress.
  • Readers who discovered and read my blog or any of my books (I wouldn’t be a writer without you).
  • The invention of the computer because the typewriter lacks a critical backspace key (in my case, the whole page would be smeared with white-out).
  • The invention of the alphabet (just imagine writing abstract ideas with hieroglyphics).

Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Love books? Check out Read Tuesday, a Black Friday event just for books (all authors can sign up for free): website, Facebook page, Twitter

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Volume 1 (formatting/publishing) and Volume 2 (packaging/marketing), Facebook page, Twitter

Attending a Book Fair

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Allow me to share my own experience, while also providing a few tips for what you might do when you attend an author event.

First, let me provide a little background for the event I attended.

Reading on the River

I attended a local reading-oriented event for children today called Reading on the River. There were a couple of hundred children and their parents. They had several reading-related activities sponsored by preschools and daycare centers, a magic show on stage, and even Smokey the Bear and a D.A.R.E. lion. Authors of children’s books were also invited (even little ole me).

They had given me information and forms to fill out a few weeks ago. They set up the tent, table, chairs, and even prepared the board shown above (it was placed in front of the pole, but after it blew over from the wind, I placed it between the poles; the aesthetic problem of the pole blocking part of the sign is totally my own fault).

What to bring?

First, do a little research to learn more about the event. What will be going on? What have other authors done in the past? Who will be attending? What is attracting these people to the event? Will your target audience be in attendance? This will help you decide what to bring. Past-year average attendance numbers will also help you decide how many books to bring; too many is better than too few.

Order copies of your books well in advance. It may take a couple of weeks to print a large order. It takes more time to deliver it. Order more than you need. Plan for the possibility of needing to replace defective copies. When the order arrives, take time to go through every book. Allow for time to replace defective copies, and defective copies of those replacements. Plan for the worst-case scenario, then you won’t be in the frustrating situation of not having enough books.

In addition to books, print out nice looking informational sheets. These should include your name, your books, pictures of your covers, blurbs for your books, quotes from any editorial reviews that you have permission to use this way, where to find your books (give simple, easy-to-type url’s), the url for your author page, your blog, your website, and your Facebook and Twitter pages, for example. The sheet should visually look impressive and the text and imagery should get your target audience interested in your book.

Tip: On the profile page at AuthorCentral, use the feature to create a simple url for your author page (probably, just your name at the end of it). It will take about half an hour for this to go live. Visit the link to ensure that it works, then copy and paste this into your promotional materials. This will be much easier for people to type than the url you see at Amazon. Note that you can only create one special url like this, so choose wisely. For example, mine is http://amazon.com/author/chrismcmullen (but yours won’t be this way by default; you must create this url from your profile tab).

If you have a promotion going on they day of the event and the day after, highlight this on your informational sheet; or you can include a CreateSpace or Smashwords discount code, for example (but note that some people will prefer to buy from Amazon or Barnes & Noble, for example; if you restrict yourself to one option, you’ll lose some sales).

A bookmark that looks appealing is a great promotional tool. If it looks like a bookmark you’d pay money for, but mentions your name and book and any other pertinent information, it will likely get used, which means your name and book will be seen frequently. If it looks like an advertisement in the shape of a bookmark, it’s less likely to be used. This may be more valuable than a business card, although you should have these, too, since they easily fit inside a wallet or pocket.

Prepare a portfolio. Do you have handwritten notes or hand-drawn sketches from when you were developing characters, working out elements of your plot, or choosing names, for example? These would be cool to include in your portfolio. How about a printed page showing several editing notes? Include your final cover, and perhaps a draft or two of your cover showing how it evolved. Your portfolio will be a handy conversation piece to get people interested in talking to you about your book. It will also help convey how much hard work went into preparing your book.

Think about how to decorate your table or booth with objects that relate to your book. Browse images of book fairs, readings, and signings online and you may get some good ideas to help inspire your own creative design. Small household objects that inspire your writing may be relevant; or souvenirs that relate to your genre (but be sure you don’t mind it getting handled, and there is the possibility of items wandering off). If you know someone who is into arts and crafts, they may be willing to help you decorate your booth or table.

If the venue is outdoors, prepare for possible weather issues. Remember, wind can be very important, too, not just rain or snow. Bring a water bottle and multiple writing utensils.

What else?

It may help to prepare a related activity. Since the event I attended was promoting literacy to children, I brought a large stack of Halloween word scrambles from one page of my latest word scramble book and passed these out. A few of the kids asked me for a pencil (I’m glad that I brought several, just in case) and worked on these at my table. They really got into it. A few of the younger kids needed a couple of hints. They really seemed to enjoy receiving a hint so they could still figure it out on their own.

In addition to interacting with people, passing out materials to your target audience, and perhaps selling some books (ask for their names and then sign the books), there are a few other things you should do. Interact with your fellow authors and exchange business cards with them. It’s important to build local connections and support groups. Meeting other authors in person is a cool experience, too. Also, get photos of the event to display on your blog and author page, especially a photo of you interacting with people in your booth at a busy event.

The most popular person in the author section at Reading at the River was an illustrator, Annabel Jones (check out the illustrations and fine art on her website). She had a portfolio of illustrations that she’d made for books. Annabel is an art instructor and artist. She’s made illustrations for authors who are submitting to publishers and she has an e-book. She had her artist tools with her and was creating watercolor caricatures of children for many parents (I got one, too).

One little girl fell in love with one of my books so I let her keep it. I gave a couple of more books away at the end of the event. I passed out several word scramble sheets. I didn’t sell anything (the spirit of this event was to promote reading and literacy), but several children and parents did browse through my books. If I attend in future years, I plan to bring several more books for younger children and give them away, too. There was a book zone where every child could receive a free book or two. Kids received stickers for engaging in activities, then traded the stickers in for books at the book zone.

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing)

I have some more images of the event below, including a bookmobile (I think it looks cool with the rays of sunshine radiating just before it). 🙂

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Share Your Opinion about the New WordPress Reader

Reader

Don’t like the new WordPress Reader?

Do like it?

Either way, share your opinion. There is an open forum about this at WordPress here:

http://en.forums.wordpress.com/topic/reader-changed?replies=4#post-1503145

Haven’t tried the new Reader? Check it out.

The only way for WordPress to know how people feel about this is if people share their opinions. So if you don’t (or do) like it, let WordPress know. They may not respond to one opinion, but if there are numerous responses, perhaps that will get some attention.

I love WordPress, and I love the old Reader. I want to keep loving WordPress. How do you feel?

Some of the changes that I’ve observed are summarized in my previous post.

Chris McMullen

New WordPress Reader? What Do You Think? (Updated)

Reader

My WordPress Reader has looked much different as of yesterday. I wondered if maybe it was just being haunted for Halloween, but if so, the ghosts aren’t very good at keeping track of the calendar. So, is it just me?

The font size is larger in my reader, I see fewer posts on the screen at a time, and I don’t see the word count.

With fewer posts per screen, I have to do a lot more scrolling to skim through it and find posts that interest me. It just seems like a greater chance of people giving up sooner.

I guess the font is a little more readable. But I was used to it the way it was, so now it just seems too large. I guess I’ll get used to this, too, if it stays this way.

The disappearance of the word count seems interesting. Were short posts getting more attention, and long posts being overlooked (or vice-versa), because people were checking out the word count? If so, removing this will force us to choose the post that interests us regardless of length. Or will it cause frustrations, or less use of the Reader?

I think all of the clicks where people get to the post, then think ugh, that’s too short or too long—all that wasted energy will mean some posts that would have been read won’t get read.

Yesterday, there was a huge gap in posts, from 1 hr ago to 16 days ago. I’m sorry if I missed any posts that I would normally read.

That Follow by Email button is handy for blogs we really look forward to. 🙂

And is there an issue with pictures showing in the Reader? It seems that some posts have pictures (are they smaller?), yet none of the pictures show in the Reader.

If WordPress did make changes to the Reader, I wonder if they were beta tested. (Or is this part of a beta test?) If so, maybe they have already determined that the pros outweigh any cons.

There is a forum on this topic now: http://en.forums.wordpress.com/topic/reader-changed?replies=4#post-1503145

I keep looking for a button on my Reader that I might accidentally have pressed. (Is this all just a big OOPS?)

Have you had the same experience? What are your thoughts?

Chris McMullen

Which Genre Is Best?

Genre Pic

ROMANCE: Everyone knows I’m the best genre. I give readers the happy ending they crave.

EROTICA: Honey, you’re just a tease. I have what they really want.

SELF-HELP: That’s not quite true. What people really want is a healthy relationship with a warm, breathing body. A romance provides an escape from reality. But with a relationship guide, people can have a better reality.

ADULT: It’s not the relationship part that’s the challenge; it’s the intimacy. I’m the three-letter word that everybody wants, but most people are afraid to talk about.

MYSTERY: Relationships are fueled by passion. What kind of romance are you going to have if you need to read a guide to learn how to do it? People want books to entertain them. I give them a puzzle to solve to engage their interest.

SUSPENSE: If you want to really engage your audience, you need elements of suspense.

COMEDY: What’s more entertaining than humor? Everybody loves a good laugh.

FANTASY: Why not have it both ways? I offer the reader a better reality and I entertain the reader.

SCI-FI: But your reality is too far-fetched to be believable. I do it with a better version of the real universe.

HISTORICAL FICTION: Are you kidding? Jumping through wormholes, extra dimensions, aliens, going back in time… Who are you calling unbelievable? What I do is take events that have actually occurred in reality and make them better.

PUZZLES: You’re living in the past. I give people a way to make the present more fun.

COMICS: Exactly. And I do it in color with pictures.

CURRENT EVENTS: What’s wrong with reality? I show readers that the real universe in the present is really quite fascinating. It turns out that the truth is stranger than fiction.

POLITICAL SCIENCE: Ain’t that the case? And there isn’t a more fascinating current event than politics.

ETHICS: Where have you been? Politics is the reason reality is so screwed up right now. If everyone read me, the world would be a much better place.

HOW-TO: People can read you, but you’re not going to change people. The way to make reality a better place is to read a how-to guide. We have a guide for everything.

TEXTBOOK: Technology makes the world a better place. You can’t do rocket science or brain surgery with a how-to guide. You need a technical book deep in knowledge.

SPIRITUAL: Don’t you see the problems in society caused by having so much technology without the wisdom and spiritual harmony to go along with it? Look at the happy children playing with rocks and sticks, and the unhappy spoiled children with cell phones and video games. What we really need to teach is how to get along with other people, how to believe in ourselves, and how to overcome adversity.

RELIGION: And what would be better than the word of God himself to show you exactly how to do that?

PHILOSOPHY: That would be a lot easier if there weren’t so many gods and religions to choose from.

CHILDREN: The important thing is to get kids reading early. Teach them the fundamentals they need to succeed in life. Give them the gift of reading. If they don’t learn how to read as children, every genre will be out of business.

TEEN: The critical stage is when the child turns into a teenager. Most people want to ignore teens, or just punish them for bad behavior. What we need is to understand the problems of the teenager and help them through this critical stage of their lives. It can have a drastic impact on their adult lives.

SPORTS: That’s where I come in. I give them something they enjoy doing, provide plenty of exercise, keep them too busy to get into trouble, and teach valuable teamwork skills.

POETRY: Really? Then why are so many professional athletes getting into trouble with drugs and legal problems? Let’s face it. No matter what you do, people will have problems. I help people understand the human experience better, and I inspire them through creativity.

DRAMA: Nobody can illustrate the tragedies of life better than I can.

TRAVEL: When life beats you up, you just need to get away from it all. I can take them to the perfect place and help them enjoy it while they’re there.

COOKING: You can’t run away from your problems. Everybody feels better after a good meal.

LEGAL: That’s a good idea. I’m starving. Let’s all have a good meal. Besides, if you think you’re better than I am, I’ll just sue you for it.

Copyright © 2013 Chris McMullen

Your Blog Branding—Is It Working?

If you’re blogging, you’re branding an image and building a following. You might not be marketing a product or service. If not today, maybe someday. Maybe never. And it doesn’t have to be product or service to be marketed. Anyone can market an idea. It doesn’t have to be an idea to sell—it could be a cause to support or an awareness to spread.

My point is that everyone is branding an image, and everyone has something of value to market.

Is it working?

  • I recognize many bloggers just by their Gravatars. That’s a visual brand that you’ve created, which other people recognize.
  • Sometimes, I also remember what your header, photo, or product looks like. Your visual branding efforts have gone a step further.
  • I also recognize many bloggers by name. In this case, your name (or pseudonym or user id) has been branded.
  • For some, I know what to expect in the way of content when I visit your site. You’ve branded more than just your image and name.
  • For others, I know there is something special that I will find at your site. Your branding is distinguished in some way.
  • There are some sites that I really look forward to visiting when I see a new post (and sometimes, when I see you’ve left a comment). You have me hooked.

I’m not in everyone’s target audience, yet I have experienced the branding that occurs here at WordPress.

WordPress is an amazing community:

  • There is much supportive interaction available here.
  • In some ways, it’s better than a magazine, yet it’s FREE and isn’t packed with all those obtrusive advertisements.
  • The ambiance has been, in my experience, very positive.
  • Blogging has many wonderful benefits, like creative expression, trying something out, finding your voice, meeting and interacting with fascinating people, sharing your passion with others, getting your mind off your problems, developing confidence, and so on.
  • You get your very own personal space in the blogging universe, and a lot of freedom with what you choose to do with it.

Consider this:

  • You are branding an image through your blogging.
  • There are many wonderful benefits of blogging.

This gives you a golden opportunity.

If your branding is working here at WordPress, then what you want is more traffic on your blog from your target audience. You want more than a one-time visitor.

Spread the word about the many benefits of blogging to others. This will help increase the blogging traffic (and those people will enjoy the positive benefits of blogging). If they start blogging because of you, chances are they will follow your blog and interact with you here, too.

Include a link to your blog at the back of your book, on your other sites, and on your marketing materials. More than just a link, include a line that might attract visitors to your blog. When you interact with people, mention what a wonderful place your blog is. Market the benefits of blogging. Encourage others to read blogs, even if they don’t want to start their own blogs.

You don’t have to be a writer, artist, businessman, salesman, photographer, or celebrity to enjoy the benefits of blogging. Anyone can do this. Everyone has something that he or she enjoys—like a hobby, special skill, or sport—that he or she can share.

You don’t even have to make your own posts to benefit from blogging. Reading posts right on my Reader is, in some ways, better than a magazine. When I read a magazine, I loathe having to sort through all the advertisements to find and read an article. And the magazine costs money, whereas a blog is free. (Imagine if we tried to publish books that were so loaded with advertisements.)

I must also say that I enjoy several blogs which are amazingly well-written. Very often, the blogs that I read are edited better than books. The words and ideas tend to flow very well, too. Many bloggers also excel at making their blogs visually quite appealing.

And there is good reason for this. It’s easier to edit one post than it is to edit an entire book (even if you post several times per week). If you are marketing something, you want your blog to be impressive.

The WordPress community isn’t just awesome in terms of interaction and support, there is a good deal of wonderful content here, too.

Not all of the content will suit everyone. But the beauty of the Follow button is that you can easily find content that appeals to you in your Reader.

I contend that, for me anyway, WordPress is better than a magazine. Here is yet another reason why. Imagine that you’re sitting in an office, waiting to be called. You could pick up a magazine that many other hands have touched recently. Or you could get out your e-reader, iPhone, tablet, or laptop, and check out posts from your favorite bloggers.

Market the many wonderful benefits of reading blogs and/or starting a blog. Many people may appreciate this once they really get started. Remember, there is much to gain even for people who don’t make their own posts. It might just help you get a little more out of your own branding efforts.

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing)

Have you heard about Read Tuesday? It’s a Black Friday type of event, but specifically for books.

Have you Considered These Benefits of Kindle MatchBook?

First I’ll address how customers can benefit from Kindle’s new MatchBook, and then I’ll conclude with how authors and publishers can benefit from it.

Note: As of October, 2019, the Matchbook program has been canceled.

The new Kindle MatchBook allows customers who buy a print edition (hardcover or paperback) of a book to buy the Kindle edition of the same book at a discounted price – if the publisher enrolls the book in the program. The discount will be at least 50% off the digital list price, and may be up to 100%.

https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?topicId=AVJCUBZXDNUM4

Have you ever bought a book as a hard copy because that was the most convenient way to read it? Maybe it was a nonfiction book, such as a how-to guide. You want the book spread open, with a lot of information on one page, as you try out the instructions. Maybe you have highlighting and annotations throughout the book. The index and glossary may have been quite handy.

Every once in a while, you really wished that you had the book with you, but didn’t. Too bad you couldn’t find a copy of it on your cell phone.

Imagine if you could have downloaded a copy of the e-book for free, or a low price like 99 cents (pretty cheap compared to a print copy that may run $10 to $25, or so). This way, you could always have the e-book right at your fingertips, while still enjoying the print edition.

Here is another example of how to benefit from MatchBook. You can buy the print edition at the going price and the Kindle edition at the discounted MatchBook price. When you finish reading the print edition, you can resell it, give it to a friend, or lend it to a neighbor, for example, while still retaining the digital copy for yourself. This lets you share your book with others and keep it, too.

This could be handy for books that are published as print editions first, and Kindle editions later, provided that they are enrolled in Kindle MatchBook (and assuming that Amazon doesn’t impose a time limit on taking advantage of the MatchBook offer – or perhaps the e-book will be available for preorder, if published by one of the big publishing houses).

Collectors should see a great benefit of Kindle MatchBook. Suppose you buy a brand new first edition and wish to collect it. You can keep it in mint condition by not reading the print edition at all: Simply save the collectible copy and read the Kindle edition instead.

Authors and publishers should expect to do more than merely enroll their books in the program and see what happens. All authors and publishers who are familiar with marketing know that books don’t sell themselves – i.e. just hitting the publish button isn’t enough. It takes marketing to sell books.

Similarly, just enrolling the books in Kindle MatchBook isn’t enough. If that’s all authors and publishers do, they shouldn’t expect to see a significant impact from MatchBook.

Instead, what authors and publishers need to do is promote the benefits of MatchBook to their potential customers. Just like always, price doesn’t sell books. However, marketing helps customers find books that meet their needs.

Here are a few ways to promote the benefits of MatchBook:

  • Promote the discounted MatchBook price. If the Kindle edition is free with the purchase of a print copy, market this selling point. Even if it’s not free, the discount is worth promoting as an incentive. Make potential customers aware of this through your marketing endeavors.
  • Spread the word about the possible benefits of MatchBook. Help to convey the idea that it’s beneficial to customers. Give specific examples to show customers how they might individually benefit from the program. Especially, giving them ideas that might not have occurred to them might get their attention.
  • Help to build positive buzz for this new marketing tool, while specifically trying to build buzz for how customers might benefit from MatchBook for your books.

Note that if the digital list price is $2.99 or higher and you ordinarily earn a 70% royalty (after subtracting the delivery charge based on the file size), you will still earn a 70% royalty on the MatchBook price even if it is 99 cents or $1.99. (You normally earn 35% on any Kindle e-book priced below $2.99, so it’s pretty cool that they’re paying 70% on these 99-cent and $1.99 MatchBook prices.) You’ll be able to see what your royalty will be before you hit the publish button.

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing)

Do You Support the Underdog as a Shopper?

There are many crowd-pleasing movies and books where the protagonist is an underdog who will beat the odds to triumph in the end. So as an audience, we tend to root for the underdog.

Is the same true when you’re shopping?

All other things being equal, would you prefer to buy a product from a major, national company or a small, local business?

Ah, but the question isn’t that simple because very often those other things aren’t equal. The big business may offer a better price or greater selection, or may provide more appealing financing. The small business may provide incentives of its own, by going the extra mile or being closer to your house.

There is yet another way that it’s not so simple to call the small business the underdog. Suppose, for example, that a huge company brings very low prices, saving people a great deal of money. Suppose further that this helps many low-income families live a little better. Aren’t those families the underdogs? So maybe if a huge business is helping people who could use the help in some way, then the business is supporting the underdog.

Here’s an interesting puzzle: When it comes to buying books from Amazon or a local bookstore, who is the underdog? Amazon is the huge company. Does this make the local bookstore the underdog?

Amazon supports millions of underdogs: indie authors, indie musicians, indie filmmakers, small business owners, small publishers, etc. This is in addition to underdog consumers who may derive benefits from shopping at Amazon. Furthermore, Amazon features success stories of indie authors and small business owners right on their home page from time to time.

Yet the local bookstore is an underdog, too, right? I don’t think it’s so clear-cut in this case. I know many people who would argue the point each way, and both arguments sound good to me. One is an underdog, but the other supports many underdogs. (Now maybe there are other underdogs who are being disadvantaged in the process… I don’t know, but if there is, that’s yet another complication to consider.)

Let me back up. It’s not always right to root for the underdog, is it? Suppose the favorite has worked tremendously hard, learned much from experience, and has rightfully earned the spot as the favorite. Should we automatically root for an inexperienced underdog who comes along just for the same of favoring the underdog? That doesn’t seem right to me.

If you think about the movies and books that feature an underdog, very often the protagonist displays positive character traits and is up against an evil villain.

My point is that character is important, too. It’s not just about figuring out who the small guy is. If the big business has a positive influence on the community, while the small business shows some signs of negative character, for example, that changes everything. Or at least, it should.

Suppose you’re an author (which will be easy to do for many of you because you are). Let’s say that you walk into a bookstore and discover that they have a flat-out “No!” policy regarding self-publishing or the management treats you condescendingly or you otherwise have a bad experience there. Are you likely to support that bookstore in the future?

(I’m not saying that they have to carry all self-published books; just that they should be open to the idea and base the decision on the merit of the book. If they have a few indie books on a shelf for local authors, that will earn my support. How they treat the inquiring author is very important, too.)

If instead you walk into a small, local bookstore that makes you feel like a royal prince, wouldn’t you feel compelled to drive traffic their way and do your shopping there, too? (You should.)

Does the underdog support other underdogs and treat other types of underdogs well? How about the big business? Also look at character. These are important considerations to me.

When it comes to buying a product, quality is also important. Perhaps the big business and small guy don’t have equivalent products. If one has superior quality, it’s more like comparing apples to oranges.

Finally, let me mention one more thing about buying books. This time, let’s look at the publisher instead of the bookseller. The indie author or small publisher is the underdog compared to the big publishing giants, right? Maybe not.

A book may have a small-time author who got a contract with a big-time publisher. And the big-time author was an underdog once upon a time, until many readers supported that author enough to turn the author into a success.

I suggest that there are many gray areas here.

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing)

Creativity: Good or Bad for Books?

Imagination is a good thing, right? I believe so.

It’s good to be creative as a writer, isn’t it? No argument from me there.

So books should show originality, don’t you think? Got my vote.

Nonetheless, here comes a great big BUT!

(Those who can spell realize I’m not talking about anatomy.)

Just to be clear, I’m not going to argue against creativity. I’m in favor of it.

Consider this: Does the bookselling industry discourage certain types of creative storytelling, rather than rewarding it?

Here are some examples of what I mean:

  • Suppose you write something so different that you’re breaking ground with a brand new genre. It doesn’t stand a chance of getting browse category visibility. How will readers discover it? The book is inherently disadvantaged.
  • Readers have an expectation for what to expect in terms of storyline, characterization, etc. in any given genre. The author who deviates from these expectations risks negative reviews for being creative.
  • How do romance readers react when the ending doesn’t turn out to be happy? Is there a significant readership for specific types of unhappy endings in this genre? There are some types of originality that many readers aren’t willing to support.
  • Even creativity in cover design has a significant potential downside. Many readers judge their interest in a book based on a cover. They are familiar with how the books they tend to read tend to look. If a book doesn’t look like it belongs to their genre, they might not check it out.

Do readers want to read the same types of books every time? I don’t.

First, I’m not saying that all forms of creativity pose problems. Some don’t, but others do.

If you want to write a romance, for example, there are already a variety of popular ways to go about it. First, there are subgenres, like contemporary or historical. If you choose a subgenre, there is plenty of room to follow a model while still being very creative. You don’t even necessarily need to follow a particular model. Yet there are some features that are high-risk to change – like taking away the happy ending, or giving the protagonist certain types of flaws.

The point is that while there are endless possibilities that do work, there are limits to it – i.e. there are some features that can hinder sales significantly if changed.

And something completely different is especially challenging to sell.

The problem of a new category is tough for the author or publisher to work around. But it can be done. We have genres now that we didn’t have in the past. So it is possible to breakthrough with something quite unique. Statistically, however, there have been many people with ideas for new types of books, but the ideas that actually opened the door for a new genre have been very rare in comparison.

It would be easy to solve this problem. Suppose, for example, that Amazon created a new book category called “Fresh and Exciting” or “Out of this World.” Don’t you think readers would check it out? Wouldn’t it also attract authors? It could be a very popular category. It has potential.

(Sure, there would be some not-so-good books in there. But you can find such books in all categories. When they don’t sell, they fall to the bottom, out of the way, where they aren’t harming anyone. And some of the books at the bottom are fairly good, but just not selling for whatever reason, and some readers will be happy to find them.)

Right now, the closest thing is “Other.” The name is important. It’s just not the same. “Other” suggests that the book just doesn’t belong.

But as it is, the bookselling industry seems to discourage, rather than reward, such innovation on the part of the author.

Writing a book that’s appealing to readers is important for sales. With the modern self-publishing revolution, every author has ample room to exercise creativity. However, if readers don’t respond well to the originality, the book won’t sell.

Even if many readers do appreciate the originality, some readers who don’t may inhibit sales through negative reviews.

So it’s not just the booksellers, like Amazon or Barnes & Noble. It’s the readers, too. Even if the book does have significant appeal, those readers who don’t like the change can influence sales through reviews.

Then there are agents and editors, who are looking for books that are highly marketable. They may be reluctant to take a chance on too much novelty. It would seem easier for a big publisher to attract readers with something fresh; but it’s also a risk.

Shouldn’t the system encourage innovation, particularly if the book is very well done?

How about you? Do you search for highly original books? Have you read anything that’s really clever and different lately? Do you reward originality in your reviews, or criticize the author for the deviation? Do you help spread the word when you find something very creative and also enjoyable to read?

(I have: For example, Reapers, Inc. by Dave Hunter. I thought the concept was cool; even the cover seemed different in a good way.)

We read books. We are part of the readership. From our end, the best we can do is help to promote original thought and encourage it through positive reviews.

Imagine H.G. Wells writing The Invisible Man, Jonathan Swift writing Gulliver’s Travels, or Mary Shelley writing Frankenstein. Or imagine trying to write realism when romanticism was popular.

We have a very healthy variety of books today. Yet what are your prospects for setting the trend with something totally new?

If you haven’t already seen it, you should check out Misha Burnett’s clever idea for a new writing software package (his irony should be obvious, but I’ll mention it, just in case):

http://mishaburnett.wordpress.com/2013/09/16/new-software/

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing)