Monday, May 19, 2014

Selling Out

Speaking of selling out, if you ever wanted to read my Tales of the Scarlet Knight series, now is the time.  The first collection (not omnibus since that word pissed off Michael Offutt and as he's my VP of Common Sense on these things I decided to not use that term, but it is an omnibus by definition) is FREE on Amazon this week.  Volume 1:  The Call  That's the first 3 books in the series, plus two prequels, for FREE.  That is literally 1,200 pages of superhero action for nothing.  So go download it, freeloaders!  And then maybe leave me a review that doesn't suck.

It can't be free again for like 3 months, so act now!  Operators are not standing by! (Because this is the 21st Century and we have this newfangled Internet thingy)

And if you like it, June 16-22 the second "collection" Volume 2:  The Wrath of Isis will be on sale for 99 cents as my first ever use of the new "Kindle Countdown Deals" thing.  That's 2,000 pages of superhero action for only 99 cents!  Of course right now it's only $2.99, which really isn't that much more expensive, but I know how much people hate paying for books.

And now the rest of the entry...

This is in part another review of a movie I watched about a month ago.  "The Wolf of Wall Street" was pretty much what I thought it was:  Martin Scorcese's version of "Wall Street."  It never really rises above the cliche Every Wall Street Movie Ever plot of young guy with big dreams goes to Wall Street, makes a lot of money, does a lot of blow/hookers, and then his empire crumbles.  Except in this case Jordan Belmont (Leo DiCaprio) only made his fortune on his second tour on Wall Street.  His first ended on Black Monday in 1987.

Then he went to Long Island to a little hole-in-the-wall company selling penny stocks.  I'm sure Michael Offutt could define those better but they essentially are stocks too worthless to be listed on any exchange because they are worth literally pennies per share.  Idiots buy into these thinking they'll get rich.  It's like going to a racetrack and betting on the 100-to-1 shot.

Jordan seals his interview by grabbing the phone, calling some random schmuck, and then getting him to buy $4000 worth of a crappy stock called Aerotyne, which was literally operating out of a garage.  Then he recruits some buddies and they buy an old garage and start their own penny stock operation, which becomes a huge Wall Street firm.

Early on Jordan gives all his guys a script.  First they call the schmuck and start out blatantly lying about some great company that is of course worthless.  This is something I remember Tuesday Morning Quarterback on ESPN talking about a lot, how people love to think they're getting privileged information, that someone has a "secret" that will make them a fortune.  It's why so many people signed up with Bernie Madoff and the like.  Then to cinch the deal Jordan has his guys buddy up to the schmuck saying how they're going to make sure the stock does well because it's their neck on the line too.  In the large part the idea is to act like they care what happens because they're an ordinary schmuck too.  (Meanwhile their buddies are laughing their asses off in the background.)

The other prong of Jordan's attack is to rebrand his company.  He renames it Stratford something or other and uses a symbol of a lion and moves the company into Manhattan.  This is supposed to make people feel the company is legit, because no firm with a lion for a symbol would be some fly-by-night operation, right?

At the end, after Jordan has spent a paltry 3 years in a country club prison, he goes to New Zealand to give a seminar to would-be salespeople.  His intro is to challenge them to sell him his pen.  Earlier he plays this game with his buddies.  One takes the pen and asks someone to write his name on a napkin, to which the guy is like, "I don't have a pen."  Well there you go.  Supply and demand, right?

For many people writing a book is easy; selling it is hard.  Like the other salespeople in Long Island or those at Jordan's seminars most of us are pretty clueless about how to sell our books.  We could all learn something from his tactics, no matter how sleazy they might seem:
  • Confidence!  If you don't believe, why should anyone else?
  • Don't be afraid to lie.  You're a writer; you should be good at making stuff up.
  • Know who you're selling to.  Hopefully that's more than your friends and family. 
  • Dress for Success:  Make sure your books and website look as professional as you can make them.  Which I try to do with my website here
A lot of nonfiction writers use the idea of knowing a "secret" to success, like "The Secret" or "The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People" etc.

A good trick you can use that I learned from my "publisher":  if your book was on an Amazon best seller list in the UK or another country for a couple of hours, you can declare yourself an "International Best Selling Author" on your book covers.  It's not really a lie, is it?  I was on a best seller list in the UK for a few hours!  Just last night a book under one of my pen names was beating those by Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, and Edgar Allen Poe on the short stories bestseller list in the UK.  So there.  You might feel squeamish about it, but that's why most authors are so terrible at selling; you have to be willing to exaggerate and to go out there and toot your own horn if you want to really become a best selling author.

To get back to the movie, I can't really recommend it as at nearly 3 hours it's well over an hour too long.  Did Scorsese even have an editor on staff?  Yeesh.  And as I said it doesn't really rise above the cliche.  Andrew Leon said he didn't know what the movie was about; I think in the big picture it's supposed to evoke the Occupy Wall Street frustration.  Jordan lies, cheats, and swindles a lot of people and yet he only does 3 years of time.  This point is made by the FBI agent who worked for years and years to bust Jordan and then has to ride home on a grungy subway while Jordan gets out after his 3 years and starts making money again from his seminars.  But that point certainly didn't need 3 hours to make.


  1. There are people... say, consumer protection lawyers?... who got a good chuckle out of "don't be afraid to lie" as advice for selling your goods.

    But really, you're not lying. "The Acclaimed Best Seller" is almost always going to be deemed just puffery, and therefore really to be expected in advertisement.

    I think authors are terrible at marketing for two reasons: One, we don't know how to do it. I know how to do law, and how to write. I have to now teach myself marketing, which is a third skill. It's not enough to say "Go out and promote your brand on Twitter!" You have to know what a brand is and how to promote it effectively. Can you write good ADS, for example? I see people posting on Twitter "My New Adventure Book [link] #free." Doesn't make me want to click.

    Another reason authors don't market well is we don't like to. People think ads are intrusive (Michael, who's opinion is valuable on these things, once chided me for having too many ads on my blog.) But they're only intrusive if you don't like them or they interfere too much. Authors need to remember that an ad needs to be subtle and entertaining, and instead they buy into "well, I don't want to seem pushy." I've been mentioning our IWM Indie-Pendendence Day Annual, the Time Travel Anthology Collection, in comments and on Twitter, but I try to do so organically, as it were, rather than just leaving a comment and saying "Great Post Check This Out [link]." The latter is rude and annoying; but leaving a comment on a blog that shows you read the post and thought about it and just wanted to also mention a thing the person might like is okay.

    When I have ads on my blogs or write ads for my books or others', I try to make them fun and interesting in and of themselves. If authors did that, more people would appreciate the ads.

    There's a lot more I could say but I've got work to do today. I will go download your book because I'm a cheapskate, even though I already have 1-2, I think? But I don't have the prequels.

    1. You know, the whole "ads on your blog" thing was mostly meant to be funny. They don't bother me all that much.

  2. Oh, another thing I wanted to add: Authors could help promote each other -- by tweeting links to each other's posts and books and stuff. I try to do that whenever I can. Like right now.

  3. I get asked about penny stocks quite a bit. Here's the thing about penny stocks: they are priced that way because they are not worth anything. Additionally, penny stocks are "illiquid" which means that once you buy one, there's no guarantee that anyone will ever buy it from you. Volume can be absolutely atrocious. True investors will stay clear of them because of this inability to sell. If I buy a hundred shares of Boeing, I'm guaranteed to be able to sell those shares at any time the market is open. The volume is in the millions per day.

    I'm going to download your collection of stories. Thanks for putting them up for free. I worry that by doing so you'll attract people that won't read them all the way through, super criticize your great writing, and bomb you with a one-star review. If it happens, I'll vote it down, but something about "Free" attracts the worst in people.

  4. Dang. I look forward to downloading your books, although I think I already have 1 & 2. I'll make sure people know about this deal.

    Hope you get some good reviews out of this. And exposure.

  5. I read somewhere that the movie started out at something like 4.5 hours long, so someone did a lot of cutting to get it down to 3. Evidently, there was a LOT of explicit content cut out. Which makes me wonder if Scorsese was really making a porn movie all along.

    I downloaded it since it will help your numbers, although I have two or three of the parts already.

  6. I downloaded it too, but I know I have at least 2 of them. Although I'm not sure you should have gone free with it though. It's too much to give away.

  7. I don't plan to watch "Wolf," sounds terrible. Tweeted about your omnibus/collection/big book.



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