Samhain Publishing

Win a $50 Amazon gift card!

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Greetings y’all! I’m doing what many unknown authors do: coaxing readers into reviewing my work for the chance to win something!

Here’s what’s what: Twelfth Krampus Night (Samhain Publishing) is my first-ever novella and I thoroughly enjoyed writing it. And it costs less than certain drinks at Starbucks!

So, if you’d like to win a $50 Amazon gift card, and a print copy of my first book, The Dark Servant, follow this Rafflecopter link to see how to enter, which you can do multiple times.

Also, and this it the REALLY IMPORTANT PART: If you review Twelfth Krampus Night and send the link to Erin Al-Mehairi, Publicist, at hookofabook@hotmail.com, and click you’ve done this on the Rafflecopter section for it, you will get 5 extra entries! Any questions, defer them to Erin as well. Click on the Rafflecopter daily to enter!

Dark servants clash!

Medieval maiden Beate, who’s grieving over the mysterious evisceration of her best friend, Gisela, must escape a Bavarian castle under siege by sadistic creatures.

Standing in her way—beyond towering walls and crossbow-toting guards—are Saint Nicholas’s demonic helper, Krampus, and Frau Perchta, a belly-slitting hag who prowls the countryside during First Night festivities to punish naughty teens. Beate wants out. Krampus and Frau Perchta want in, determined to breach the castle to snag their prey. Beate has no idea why these monsters want her, but she must use her wits to save herself from horrors both human and inhuman—lest she wind up like Gisela.

Having a Howl of a Time Talkin’ Horror with Glenn Rolfe

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When you meet Glenn Rolfe, the first thing you think is “Why is this 12-year-old kid trying to sell me a werewolf book?” That’s my way of saying that Glenn looks young (and he is—still in his 30s; when you’re 40, like me, anybody in their 30s is young). In all honesty, when I first met Glenn in person last year in Cincinnati at HorrorHound, the first thing I thought was “Glenn really loves horror.” His love for the genre is infectious. He’s tremendously supportive of his fellow writers too. So when I learned Glenn had a werewolf book, Blood and Rain (Samhain Publishing), scheduled to drop in October, I couldn’t wait to help him try to promote it to all 4 readers of my blog. And Glenn’s take on the age-old legend defied my expectations—it wasn’t what I was expecting at all! But that’s not a bad thing. I’ll let Glenn explain it. Here’s my Q&A with him. Enjoy!

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Q. Many werewolf stories revolve around not knowing who the monster is until the big reveal at the end of the book, but not so in Blood and Rain. We know full well the identities. Did you ever toy with keeping the identities hidden? If so, what made you change your mind? If it was always your plan to reveal who’s who up front, what was the reason?

A. I changed it in my re-writes last summer. The original manuscript was about 60% different. It was a mystery that I ran to have people guessing whether it was one or the other and then the big surprise was that it was both. I liked it, but I ended up completely changing one of the characters. When I sat down to get real last July, I started by writing the prologue. I revealed it right there. And I liked it. To me, it doesn’t matter if we know or not. If you want to do that, go for it. I decided to run straight ahead and just have a lot of fun with the story and these creatures. So, to answer that one, I guess the story demanded that I reveal the identity of the beast right off. I love how it came out.

Q. You’re a Stephen King fan. Publisher’s Weekly even likened your approach in Blood and Rain to the horror master. How did King’s Cycle of the Werewolf influence you? I know it did because A.) you’re from Maine and pronounce lobster entirely different from New Jerseyans, and B.) Blood and Rain is set in a small Maine town much like Cycle. Am I correct in these observations (don’t worry about the lobster one)?

A. Of course. Yeah, I’d seen Silver Bullet a million times growing up and in 2004 I finally read Cycle of the Werewolf. When I finished it I knew I wanted more! I wasn’t a writer at that time, but I jotted down an idea for a story. Years later, that idea became the first few original chapters of my first real work, Blood and Rain. I love small towns. I’ve lived in them almost my entire life. It’s what I know best, so it’s what I use to paint with. King’s beast is bad news, too. I made sure mine was also going to be mean and nasty.

Q. How come your werewolf isn’t a shirtless teenaged Native American boy who can’t act? You do realize you’re alienating 99% of the high school-aged female readership by going out of your way to make your werewolf a vicious, man-devouring monster.

A. Ha! Hey, Taylor Lautner is a good looking kid. But, yeah, no. I had no romantic notions circling my brain during this one. No way were my monsters going to be pretty and lovely.

Q. Werewolf novels you’d recommend to your fans?

A. The Howling by Gary Brandner (if you go to the movies, The Howling IV is actually the story from the first book). Cycle of the Werewolf. I also loved what Ray Garton did in his book, Ravenous. That one had a lot of influence over the original manuscript, too. Outside of Garton and King’s books, I hadn’t read that many werewolf books prior to writing Blood and Rain. I’m catching up now. W.D. Gagliani has an interesting take with his Nick Lupo series, too. I’m getting ready to read book 3 of his saga. Jonathan Janz’s new one, Wolf Land, is pretty vicious, too.

Q. What’s the most difficult part about writing a werewolf novel compared to your earlier works (Abram’s Bridge, a ghost story; and Boom Town, aliens)?

A. It wasn’t any harder than the others. It was a lot of FUN. The most difficult part was re-writing it. It was the first real thing I’d written. The manuscript had all of my “I have no idea what I’m doing” bits in there, but I knew the heart of the story and the characters I’d created were good enough. I refused to give up on them. I did a crazy re-write marathon for about three and a half to four weeks at the end of last summer. I was lucky to have my friend Ben there to tell me yes or no on the changes. He beta read both versions. Once he said “Dude, this is it”, I knew I had it. Then I let Erin at it and she cleaned up the rest of my mess (Thanks, E!) and helped me tweak the last couple of pieces I wasn’t comfortable with. So, much much kudos to Ben and Erin!

Q. I read Blood and Rain and will say this, you spare no one. I won’t spoil anything, but my god! I will tell the reader not to get attached to anybody. What compels you to kill off characters (some the readers might like) or keep them alive? I must admit there were some characters I wish had survived.

A. I don’t worry about whether it’s going to upset anybody. I let the story do what it wants. If they live or die, that’s whatever I felt the scene wanted. It’s not plotted out at all. I just go with the flow when I’m writing. I like to think if this was real life and this shit happened, it wouldn’t be pretty. You’re lucky if you come out in one piece or at all. I write for myself. If anyone else enjoys it, awesome! But you have to write for yourself first. Looking back after I’ve finished at a piece like this, or my other novel, The Haunted Halls, when I see the carnage and death toll….I like it. In real life, shit happens. Life doesn’t play by the rules. There’s something about going into a book or a movie where you don’t know who is or who isn’t going to make it out. I never understand why some writers choose to play it safe every time out. It is what it is. And I dig it. ###

I wish Glenn the best of luck with Blood & Rain. And for those of you in Maine who are eager to meet him. He’s having a book signing at the Barnes & Noble in Augusta on Saturday, August 24, from noon to 2 p.m. So get out there to pick up a copy, and talk to the guy about horror. You’ll learn a lot and have a great time doing it!

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The ebook promotional numbers are in …

Back in March and April of this year, I embarked on a near three-week-long 99-cent promotion for my debut novel, The Dark Servant. I documented which promotional sites I paid to advertise my book, and how many books, according to those websites, I sold. Here’s the original post, and I suggest you read it to see which sites I plan on using again, and which ones I’ll avoid.

Long story short, I paid $506 to advertise my (discounted) 99-cent eBook directly to readers through nearly a dozen websites. According to my publisher, Samhain Publishing, I sold a total of 1,265 promotional copies through various retail outlets. I don’t mind saying my royalties amounted to $386.10. So, based on promotional copies alone, I came out behind financially. But I don’t mind because I always viewed this endeavor as an experiment for future promotions. I know which sites to use before my next dance with Sentinels (available November 3, 2015). I hope for a 99-cent promotion for that book next spring. But that will depend on one big thing: whether I can land a BookBub slot. BookBub rocked and alone was responsible for moving more than 800 books! It’s pricey (around $280, I think), but worth it. So, as promised long ago, here’s how I got to 1,265.

Retail breakdown:
Amazon: 889
Amazon International: 117
Apple: 39
B&N: 157
Google: 26
Kobo: 33
Samhain: 4

All hail BookBub!

And for anyone out there who reads this and has a question, please, fire away!

An Apocalyptic Interview with Hunter Shea

Tortures cover

Hunter Shea has had a slow summer. Normally he releases 12 books over a three-month span (or at least it seems that way), but this summer it’s only two: The Dover Demon, through Samhain Horror, and the book we’ll be discussing today, Tortures of the Damned, a novel, released through Pinnacle, about a doomed cluster of reporters forced to cover Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

I’m kidding (sort of).

TOTD ventures into post-apocalyptic thriller land, but I don’t think post-apocalyptic accurately covers things because the book begins pre-apocalyptic in a New York City suburb. Full disclosure: I’m not quite through TOTD, but I’m easily more than 70 percent done, and I’m digging it. Without spoiling anything, TOTD focuses on a loving family (mom, dad, four kids) and their resourceful neighbors hunkering down in a fallout shelter during some sort of chemical/bomb attack on the city/country/world? It’s hard to say at this point. I still don’t know what the hell happened! But when our intrepid heroes emerge from the bunker, they encounter what would be otherwise friendly city creatures—rats, dogs, Italians (I’m kidding! I’m Italian so I can make that joke)—gone berserk! Attacking and biting anything that moves!

What struck me as most scary was the book’s beginning, when New York City falls under attack. Hunter’s a New Yorker, and I’m from neighboring New Jersey, and we both experienced 9/11 somewhat firsthand simply because of our proximity to the attack. Naturally I was drawn to that upon reading TOTD and asked Hunter about how the worst terrorist attack on American soil impacted him and his writing.

Q: Were you in New York City on 9/11/2001? If not, where were you and what’s your most vivid memory of that day?

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Hunter: I was at work in CT when the planes first hit. Once we heard on the radio that other planes were missing and the towers collapsed, I got in my car and sped home like the devil was on my tail. My house has a view of Manhattan, and we watched the smoke billowing with fighter jets screaming overhead. Friends and family all gathered there to watch the aftermath and wonder what was going to happen next. It was scary as hell. One of my best friends was working in the area and we couldn’t locate him. Phone lines were down. We thought this was just the start of the end of everything. And through it all, my kids were only 4 and 2 and we took turns keeping them away from it all so for them, it was just another day. The one good thing to come out of it was my friend checking back in 2 days later. I don’t think we ever breathed a bigger sigh of relief.

Q: How did 9/11 influence you in writing Tortures of the Damned?

Hunter: It taught me that we’re never, ever safe. We live in a very dangerous world. Living so close to a major target has changed my view of everything. I refuse to be lulled into a false coma of numbness, nourished by a steady diet of Kardashians, Donald Trump pretending he can be president and social media. There’s real danger around us all the time. The weapons unleashed in Tortures of the Damned exist. They’re on the black market right now. Any lunatic with enough cash can get their hands on them. A 9/11 event will happen in the U.S. again. Let’s all just hope Tortures of the Damned, as crazy as it sounds, isn’t a glimpse into a crystal ball.

Q: What is it about apocalyptic novels that appeals to both readers and writers? And with so many out there, how do you make them fresh?

Hunter: I think there’s a big obsession with them right now because we’re all uneasy. Despite the news telling us things are better, we’re not stupid. I grew up with air raid tests every month, the tail end of the Cold War all too real. What we see today makes me even more uneasy. Maybe we read and watch these stories to prepare ourselves. How would we react? What would we do? I know there are some folks out there that dig them because they hope it will happen. They picture themselves alpha male/female types that can take on the end of the world and spit in its eye. As a nation, I believe we’re at a glass half full period. You’ll know things are turning around when there’s a resurgence of what they called in the 80s tits and zits movies and stories with brighter endings.

As for making a post apocalypse story fresh, I think if you strip out zombies, you’re already ahead of the curve. You need to add a dose of hyper realism and a dash of the fantastic to grab the reader by the throat and scare the bejeeezus out of them.

Q: Do you have a favorite apocalyptic-themed novel? If so, which one and why?

Hunter: I absolutely love The Stand, especially the extended version. But my favorite is Robert McCammon’s Swan Song. Why? Because McCammon’s work in the 80s and 90s is some of the best horror fiction ever written in any time period. He can take an impossible premise and make it seem real. His writing is that good.

Question from Hunter to me: Now, since you live in Jersey, I have one question for you – is your go-bag stocked and ready and do you know where to hide your head when the shit hits the fan?

Matt: Whoa! What the hell is this?! I wasn’t expecting an inquisition! But to answer your question: I’d be screwed if the shit hit the fan right now. I don’t even have a 12-pack of bottled water in my basement. The closest I’ve come to witnessing first-hand the degeneration of society was the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which knocked out power to my house for two weeks. I am ill-prepared. But after reading Hunter’s book, and given our country’s inexplicable apparent willingness to help Iran develop a nuclear bomb, I’ll be going to the grocery store tomorrow, and bottled water will be on the top of my list.

Tortures of the Damned tour logo

Sentinels cover reveal 

Coming in November, my second Samhain Publishing novel, Sentinels. As it happens, it’s set in Reconstruction-era South Carolina in 1872. Someone’s killing KKK members and the Northern Soldiers responsible for helping keep the peace during the rebuilding effort. Who would want to slaughter these two diametrically opposed forces of good and evil, and why? Find out November 3! And there’s not one Confederate Flag mention in the book.  

I’m attending BEA 2015! Come say hello!

Manochio_BEA15I’m pleased to announce I’ll be signing copies of The Dark Servant from 2 to 4 p.m. on Friday, May 29, at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City during Book Expo America 2015! Please stop by the Samhain Publishing display and say hello.

Author Glenn Rolfe: Horror enthusiast, friend

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I get the sense that Glenn Rolfe doesn’t just love reading horror, I believe he loves reading. He adores books and always is eager to help his fellow writers. Glenn and I both write for Samhain Publishing, and he was one of the first people out of the gate to support my debut novel last December. Glenn’s newest novella, Boom Town, was released earlier this month, and I’m happy to help him however I can to spread the word of his new work. 

I’m always curious about the writing process, so where do you write (at a desk, man cave, Starbucks where you can talk about race relations while writing horror)?

I write the majority of my stuff on my overnight shifts (two nights a week) at the hotel I work at. It is quiet (most nights). I can disappear into my mind. I work at home if I have something that is time sensitive, but my three kiddos usually have a way of barging in and keeping me out of “the zone.” So, yeah, work is the best place to create. 

Do you have a specific word count you try to reach?

Depends on the piece. Novels, I aim for 70K words (settle for 63K and up). For novellas, I aim for 20K (and welcome more if they come). For short stories…anything goes. 

Do you prefer silence when writing, or is it OK to have music/television in the background? I almost always have music going. Sometimes I use it to set the mood of the scene I’m writing. Sometimes, when you see a song mentioned in one of my stories, it’s just the one that happened to play on my computer while typing. I never have the TV going. 

Are you able to write multiple projects at once or do you prefer to focus solely on writing one novel or novella at a time? I always have multiple projects going at once, so I always have something to work on. I have four novels at various word counts going right now. I also have a novella started, and multiple short stories that need to be completed. I have a bit of a writer’s ADD going on. If I get an idea for a story, I have to sit down and start it. I’ll find my way back to it eventually.

You’re a voracious reader – at least I believe you are – so please tell us about some of your favorite books, regardless of genre, and how they influenced you. Oh boy, you want me to talk books? Sure thing.

‘Salem’s Lot has to be at the top of the list. That’s my favorite novel of all-time. It has everything in a story that I want to deliver as a writer myself. A great array of characters. Creepy atmosphere in all the right places (The Marsten House, the dump, the cemetery, faces in the windows). A love story (Does it get any better than Ben and Susan?)

For other King works: The Shining, Joyland, The Dead Zone,The Green Mileare all favorites.

Floating Staircase by Ronald Malfi and Beautiful Sorrows by Mercedes M. Yardley each had a HEAVY influence on Abram’s Bridge. Malfi’s descriptions are perfection. He never over does it. I strive for that in my own work. Yardley showed me that you could bring sweetness into your bloodbaths. I never even considered doing that before. I owe Sweet Kate (the ghost girl from Abram’s Bridge) to her.

Richard Laymon and Bentley Little have their fingerprints on my first novel, The Haunted Halls.

I also have started reading some classics to broaden my range. To Kill a Mockingbird was brilliant, as was Brave New World. Character and storytelling for Mockingbird. More social awareness, bigger picture-type stuff with World. I looked to improve in those areas moving forward.

Brian Keene’s Ghoul and McCammon’s Boys Life are two more of my favorites. They offer up that coming of age magic that bleeds its way into a lot of my stuff, too. And magic definitely feels like the right word there. My goal is to one day write a story as good as Boy’s Life (probably my second favorite book of all-time).

I’m also influenced by plenty of the Samhain authors. Being on this roster with you and the rest of the gang definitely makes me want to be a better writer. I don’t want to spoil the quality of the line.

What is your definition of horror? I’ve always contended it’s a tough genre to pin down. Some might think “blood and guts” others might think “monsters.” I love horror. It give you another set of buttons to push on a reader. You can have the love, romance, mystery, sci-fi, psychological. You can have all of that in a great horror book. Plus, you can get downright scary and terrify the reader so that they have to leave the light on when they’re ready to call it a night. A great horror story should aim to push as many buttons in a reader’s mind as it can. It makes the horror go that much deeper. If you have blood and guts, you better make me care about the people getting torn to shreds. I was taught early on to make sure you earn every drop of blood. I probably miss a beat here or there, but it is something I constantly look at in my work.

What scares you? I mean, what genuinely frightens you? (For me, it’s heights. Hate em.)

Spiders. Losing people I love. Our government. The future of Rock n Roll. My daughters in their teens (luckily I have a few more years there).

What inspired Boom Town? The spark was a news story from back in 2012. In Clintonville, Wisconsin, they had these nightly underground “booms” that were (at the time) unexplainable. Over the course of four days or so, they hit like mini-earthquakes, shaking houses and scaring the crap out of locals. I thought it sounded like the perfect idea for a story. In the first draft, there were no aliens. I didn’t dare to go there. I figured I had no right in the sci-fi realm, but then I remembered reading that King had said somewhere “Write fearless” or “be a fearless writer.” It was something along those lines. I knew I wanted my “booms” to be alien related. Once I sacked up, and dove in, it came together so easy.

Thanks for having me, Matt.

☺    

      

Lessons in advertising my eBook (what worked, what didn’t)

How many books do I need to sell to make a bestsellers list?

Every author at some point has Googled a variation of that question. Because let’s face it: most of us want to see our name on The New York Times bestsellers list right above or below whichever 50 Shades book is befouling that list, and there’s no shame in admitting that. (Yes, technically it would be nice to be #1, but you’ve got to start somewhere.)

So how do I get on the bestsellers list without cashing out my 401k and buying 9,000 copies of my book? (I read somewhere that 9,000 is the number of books you’d need to sell in a week to get on the NYT list. Whether that’s true, I have no idea. God bless what you read on the Internet.)

My point is you need people to buy your book. And for a majority of us unknown newbies from midsize to small presses, you’re not going to have huge advertising budgets. So it’s basically up to you to spread the word. I wrestled with the idea of paying to put a click-ad on Fangoria’s website (my book is in the horror genre), and it probably would’ve cost around $300. And what would I get? Probably not much—you’re hoping someone who wasn’t looking for the ad in the first place clicks on it to maybe buy a book from a complete unknown author. Time and again I’ve been told there’s little return in investment, so I scrapped the idea. And then late last year I read in the Wall Street Journal what Darcie Chan did. Chan self-published The Mill River Recluse, which went on to be a massive ebook bestseller. To summarize, she budgeted $1,000 to advertise and selected companies that target readers, especially readers who wanted inexpensive ebooks, with email blasts that contain books from the genres selected by the subscribers. One of these companies was Digital Books Today, which offers to feature your book for free on its Weekly Featured Great Read list. Another company is called EReader News Today, which for $60 allows you to be featured as the Book of the Day. Chan availed herself to this, and it got her good exposure. And that’s how it started for me. I checked out these two sites and learned that you need to sign up way in advance to hopefully be selected for these promotions. And there’s your first rule: Plan your promotion in advance, sometimes months out. The quality advertising websites fill up quick. (I’ll list what I think the best ones are at the end of this post.)

I planned for my promotion to take place beginning March 25, 2015. It’s not like late March was an ideal date for a book (The Dark Servant) with a demented anti-Santa Claus theme—that was the time when the first Weekly Featured Great Read slot was available for me. I also attempted to land the Book of the Day slot, but wasn’t successful. I contacted my publisher and explained that I wanted to drop my ebook price from roughly $5.50 to 99 cents. That’s the second rule: The best price points are free (duh) and 99 cents. I don’t believe in giving away free content, especially because I only have one book out. But I’m fine with limited-time discounts. It’s a way to grab readers for less than the price of a cup of coffee (in New Jersey that’s $1.49 for a refill at the Quick Chek, but I digress). And at this point in my career, as much as I would like to earn a lot of money writing books, I need readers first.

Samhain Publishing agreed to drop the price and I waited for March to roll around, and as it did, I realized I hadn’t yet paid any service to promote my book. I was putting my eggs in one free basket. It was then that I fully realized that if I really wanted to sell books, I’d have to open my wallet. And I did. I researched the sites you’ll read about below and ultimately decided to go with them. Samhain dropped the price to 99 cents on March 21, a few days ahead of time, and that actually is important. You want to make sure your book is at the price you tell advertisers it will be on the day of your promotion. So I actually got a few sales before the 25th just by telling people about it, and people stumbling across it. I decided to get the ball rolling earlier than the 25th and officially began promoting my book on Tuesday, March 24. Here’s a chronicle of the sites I used, how much I paid, the size of the email subscription base, the dates of the promotion:

March 24, 2015

Free Kindle Books and Tips ($25). Reach: 750,000 readers. (The website’s operator is very up front and says that while that number sounds like a lot, only 100,000 or so subscribers might take action [i.e., read the post, and not necessarily buy a book].) But it’s a big pool. My results, according to KFBT, I had 65 clicks and 21 sales (a 32% conversion rate), but that was only for Amazon in the USA. It stands to reason I sold a few more from B&N, for instance.

Bargain Booksy Horror Feature ($25). Reach: 40,913 Horror subscribers. Results: 87 clicks, 15 sales.

March 25, 2015

Digital Book Today’s Weekly Featured Great Read (Free, expired on March 31). Reach: hard to say. According to the site, as of March 15, 2015, there are between 20,000 to 24,000 visits per week (my book was one of seven displayed on every page); 80,000 to 110,000 visits per month; 205,000 to 265,000 clicks into Amazon per month; and a daily email subscriber list of more than 13,400. DBT does not provide click/sales data. I figure, it was free, so I really can’t complain. Thank you DBT!

BookSends ($15). Reach: 100,000 overall subscribers, 17,000 in the Horror category, although the web operator said those numbers are a little outdated and should be 15% to 20% higher. Results: 125 clicks, 47 sales. Put BookSends on your advertising list right now. I mean it. It cost me $15 and I more than made that back in sales.

Ereader News Today ($15). Reach: 118,000 subscribers (I don’t know if that consists entirely of horror fans or is the overall subscription base—I’m assuming the latter). Results: 215 clicks (23% conversion rate) with 50 sales, although the site operator said I probably sold more than that number. (I know what you’re thinking: Wait, wasn’t Matt unable to secure an Ereader News Today Book of the Day slot? Correct. But ENT offers other paid advertising options, and for $15, I’d go with them again.)

I should note here that my book was hovering between 50,000 and 60,000 on Amazon around March 21, when the 99-cent sale started. On the morning on March 25, my book hit 3,074 on Amazon’s paid Kindle list, and on March 26 it his 2,516, a number that bumped me into the 60s for Amazon’s Bestselling Kindle Horror, and in the low 90s for Amazon’s Literature/Fiction Horror category, which means, if various websites that estimate rank compared to book sales are to be believed, I was selling somewhere around 70 to 100 books a day. At this point I’m thinking, awesome! I hit the Amazon bestsellers list only a few days into my promotion! Everything’s going according to plan. I’m going to keep building, one advertisement after the next, that 2,500 will turn into 1,000, then to 500, then to 100 and then I’ll hit the NYT bestsellers list with that crappy 50 Shades book(s)! Not so fast. What happened over the next few days was indeed humbling. Let’s continue.

March 26, 2015

The Fussy Librarian ($10). Reach: 48,000 readers. Results: 30 clicks, 9 sales. Readers that downloaded a free book first, and then purchased mine, aren’t reflected. So the number could be higher. OK. That was my first moment of queasiness. I had read good things about The Fussy Librarian, and that’s why I decided to try it (hell, it was $10). But I took a bath on that one. More baths would come.

Buck Books (Free; in exchange for you becoming an affiliate and pimping them on your website and social media, they include your book in an email blast to subscribers who want 99-cent books). Reach: they don’t provide subscriber numbers. Results: 67 sales. I actually believe they ran my promotion on the 25th (because that’s when I noticed it) instead of the scheduled 26th date, and that would help account for my book doing as well as it did on Amazon. But whatever the case, I’d go with them again, and you can see how I pimp them on my website.

BookLemur ($56). Reach 9,200. Results: 16 clicks, 7 sales. This one hurt. The guy who operates the site couldn’t have been kinder. There wasn’t a specific horror category on BookLemur, so I picked two genres I thought would work: sci-fi/fantasy and thriller. Here’s the third rule: Do not advertise with sites that do not specifically offer your genre. It’s my hunch that thriller and sci-fi/fantasy fans are a picky bunch, and if a cover doesn’t look like it belongs in their genre, or if jacket text doesn’t read like it’s in their genre, they won’t buy. (And this easily applies to other genres too.) Also, more important than that: the promotion reached only 9,200 people. If you’re going to pay $56 (or any sum of money that equals the power bill) make sure you’re reaching at least 92,000 people, not 9,200.

March 27, 2015

Choosy Bookworm (Free, you have to sign up for it and hopefully get picked. There are paid options too. I managed the free one.). Reach: 36,000 newsletter subscribers. Results: I don’t know. The Choosy Bookworm people never got back to me. So, my advice, if you can land the free spot, why not do it? The government already has your sensitive information stored somewhere for future use, so it’s not like anything’s private anymore. The paid option prices aren’t too bad: $8, $20 (although I’m not sure what they get you). I’m not inclined to return. That’s just me.

March 30, 2015 (I took the weekend off)

More For Less Online ($25; there is a $15 option). Reach: 3,200. Results (get ready): 106 clicks, 1 sale. You read that right. One sale. Now, the reason I signed up with them is because I read some good things about them. But when you realize that you’re playing the percentages of how many people will even open the email blast, you can’t expect much when your book is going out to only 3,200 readers.

Rule number four: Really research the sites you’re considering. By that I mean find out up front how many subscribers a site has. Some sites make the information readily available. Others don’t. But most of the operators will respond to you. So ask.

Hot Zippy ($45; it’s a service that feeds to Pixel Scroll and Bargain eBook Hunter). Reach: I don’t know. The information wasn’t readily available on the website. I emailed the site twice asking for subscriber numbers and click/sales data and have heard nothing back. My promotion ran on both the 30th and 31st. I signed up to receive both Pixel Scroll and Bargain eBook Hunter email blasts and I only received Bargain eBook Hunter. Hot Zippy was a gamble. I’d read one author had success with them, while another did not. I hit on twelve and was dealt a king. What can you do? I won’t be returning.

March 31, 2015

ebook Soda ($10). Reach: 1,662 Horror subscribers. Results: a 3.1% click-through rate. That’s all they could offer, so I have no idea if I even sold a book. I picked eBook soda because it was cheap and I didn’t have anything else for March 31. Here’s where some research would’ve really come in handy. Fortunately, it was only $10. Lesson learned.

April 1 and 2, 2015

Discount Books Daily ($35). Reach 25,000 subscribers. Results: No sales data, but the following comes from the site’s operator: I had an average open rate of 8% and 57 clicks. The email went to 20,711 on April 1, and 18,552 subscribed to the Thriller category on April 2. DBD also didn’t have a Horror category, so I believe I picked General Fiction, and Thriller as target audiences. I’m not so sure it worked out. Here’s why:

By April 2, my ebook had reverted to roughly 25,000 in sales rankings. That’s a far cry from the 2,500 I’d hit a little more than a week earlier. Essentially I was hoping for a snowball of book sales that would propel me to even greater book sales. That didn’t happen with the assortment of advertisers I selected from March 27 through April 2. But everything changed one day later.

April 3, 2015

BookBub ($245). Reach: 720,000 Horror subscribers. Results: See below. You read that right. I spent $245 on one advertising website. That email blast went out sometime Friday afternoon, and by that evening I was able to post photographs like this one.

OK, look. I realize that by the time you read this, my Amazon rank will no longer be #27 on the overall Horror/Literature Bestsellers list. But please allow me a little room to smile for being ahead of 29, 30, 31 and 33. (My fantasy: Somewhere in a dark man cave in Maine, Stephen King is hovering over his computer, glowering at the screen, gritting his teeth, saying "Who the hell is this Manochio guy? Release the Cujos!")

OK, look. I realize that by the time you read this, my Amazon rank will no longer be #27 on the overall Horror/Literature Bestsellers list. But please allow me a little room to smile for being ahead of 29, 30, 31 and 33. (My fantasy: Somewhere in a dark man-cave in Maine, Stephen King is hovering over his computer, glowering at the screen, gritting his teeth, saying “Who the hell is this Manochio guy? Release the Cujos!”)

And that wasn’t even my best showing on Amazon. By Saturday morning, April 4, I hit #411 on the paid Kindle list (Author Central had me at #409), #10 on the Literature/Horror list, and #5 on the Kindle Horror Bestsellers list. And on B&N.com, I reached #73 overall. People were buying my book. How many?  BookBub got back to my publisher and provided the following click/sales data. While my book was feautured in one initial email blast on April 3, the book was still visible on the BookBub website through April 8. Here are the figures that encompass US/UK/Canada sales:

1. Amazon: Total clicks: 1,747; Sales: 583.

2. Nook: Total clicks: 392; Sales: 64.

3. Apple: Total clicks: 218; Sales: 72.

4. Google: Total clicks: 249; Sales: 83.

5. Kobo: Total clicks: 124; Sales: 25.

Total combined clicks of all USA/UK/CA sites: 2,730; Sales: 827.

NOTE: Apple, Google, and Kobo do not provide hard sales figures, so BookBub extrapolated the sales numbers based on clicks.

Now, how this translates into overall sales, I won’t know until I get my royalties statement from my publisher, and that won’t be for a while because statements always reflect what happened two or three months ago. As I write this, my book is 3,696 on Amazon and #89 on the Kindle Horror Bestsellers list. So it’s still selling. And I’m getting readers. That’s what I wanted all along. All totaled, I spent $506 advertising my book to readers. I’m thinking I will break even and perhaps come out ahead based on Bookbub alone. BookBub estimates Horror authors can expect to sell anywhere between 180 to 2,670 books (this applies to discounted books at 99 cents, books priced between $1 to $2, and books priced in excess of $2). I’m confident I sold somewhere around 1,100 books, hopefully it’s more than that. But my gut tells me I did OK.

Sites I hope to use again in the future:

  1. BookBub ($270 [the price went up])
  2. BookSends ($15)
  3. EReader News Today (hopefully for their Book of the Day, but certainly for their $15 advertisement)
  4. Buck Books (Free)
  5. Free Kindle Books and Tips ($25)
  6. Digital Books Today (Free weekly feature)

I’d avoid the rest, and not necessarily because the sites were unprofessional. Some just didn’t work for me, others were overpriced for what they were offering.

What I learned:

  1. The more subscribers to an advertising site, the better. Find that out ahead of time. I’d say anything lower than 75,000 overall subscribers isn’t worth the money. I pulled that number out of the air, but you get my drift.
  2. Does the advertising site look professionally done? If it looks like a glorified blog, perhaps look elsewhere. One of the sites I looked at had updates from last year, nothing current.
  3. The more reviews you have, the better your chances of being selected by some of these sites to be featured. Many of these sites set requirements for your book: length, a minimum number of Amazon/BN reviews, a minimum 4.0 review rating, professional-looking cover. Get as many reviews for your book as you can. If you have endorsements from bestselling and/or award-winning authors, play that up wherever you can. Numerous unknown writers are submitting books every day to these sites for selection. Try to make yourself stand out.
  4. If the site doesn’t feature your specific genre (like horror), don’t risk including your book in genres that might not apply. Move along.
  5. Be realistic. Yes, you want to make the NYT bestsellers list, but not everybody can be Darcie Chan. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try advertising like her.

HorrorHound has something demented for everyone!

HorrorHound Weekend has just concluded in Cincinnati, and if you’re like me, you were supremely grossed out upon seeing this:

If you really want one of these (and lord knows, I'm certain some of you do) visit www.scarebears1.com.

If you really want one of these (and lord knows, I’m certain some of you do) visit http://www.scarebears1.com.

Those were selling like bloody, disemboweled hotcakes at the popular horror convention that features movie and television stars, authors, artists (tattoo and otherwise), and vendors galore. All of them in some way affiliated with the horror genre.

This was my first go-around as a Samhain Horror author. My Cincy-based publisher helps to sponsor the convention, and provides plenty of books for its

authors to sell to fans. And that’s exactly what my fellow authors and I did over the last three days, and it was fantastic fun getting to interact with new and prospective readers.

Yes, I'm experimenting with a beard. And yes, the Krampus mask goes everywhere with me.

Yes, I’m experimenting with a beard. And yes, the Krampus mask goes everywhere with me.

HorrorHound is probably one of the best conventions for authors to reach readers, and our booth was busy (and that’s good, given the state of the publishing world). Now, when you consider the hotel bill ($130), gas (at least $100), entirely too much fast food ($20) and souvenirs (I’m not saying how much because my wife might read this), you’re not going to break even by selling 25 books priced at $8 each. But making money at this point in my career isn’t paramount. Sure, I’d like it to happen, but to me this convention was all about getting my name out there, meeting the people who actually work for my publisher (they’re based in Cincinnati), and meeting my fellow authors, most of whom I’ve corresponded with on Facebook and Twitter, but never met in person.

Samhain Horror authors who attended HorrorHound (from left to right): Jonathan Janz, Mark Rigney, Me, Brian Pinkerton, Russell Kames, Tim Waggoner, Adam Cesare, Glenn Rolfe, Kris Rufty, and Tamara Jones. Please, visit Samhain Publishing.com and check out their stuff.

Samhain Horror authors who attended HorrorHound (from left to right): Jonathan Janz, Mark Rigney, Me, Brian Pinkerton, Russell James, Tim Waggoner, Adam Cesare, Glenn Rolfe, Kris Rufty, and Tamara Jones. Please, visit Samhain Publishing.com and check out their stuff.

The other fun part of HorrorHound is slipping away from the table to see which stars of the stage and screen are milling about, and to digest some of the perverse memorabilia up for sale. Case in point, this:

Wait, how did my son somehow slip away from tormenting his mother in New Jersey to wind up on display at a horror convention? I know it’s just a doll (and this was one of the tamer ones) but those of you with children, especially toddlers, know what I’m talking about.

Wait, how did my son somehow slip away from tormenting his mother in New Jersey to wind up on display at a horror convention? I know it’s just a doll (and this was one of the tamer ones) but those of you with children, especially toddlers, know what I’m talking about.

Also fun, seeing movie stars who are 30 years past their prime. Let’s play a game: Name this actor:CT

Sorry it’s grainy. Celebrities now charge you money to take photographs of them, so you have to kind of do it on the sly. So I’ll give you three hints: E.T., Red Dawn (Wolverines!), and a somewhat recent episode of Criminal Minds. OK, one more: The Hitcher. That’s right, it’s C. Thomas Howell! (And it looks like he’s seen better days, and he has—back in the 1980s.)

Here’s another one, and if you can’t guess this, then you weren’t an avid moviegoer in 1984:zg

Yup, it’s Zack Galligan from Gremlins, Gremlins 2, and Not Much Else. I don’t fault these guys (and gals) one bit for hitting the convention circuit. It’s how they make their livings (and they make a lot more than you and me combined by doing it). And if they can help people relive some of their favorite TV and movie memories, then I’m all for it.

Now, as you might imagine, this was the line of people waiting to meet me:IMG_3630

Ha! Of course they weren’t queuing for me! This was for Norman Reedus, of Walking Dead fame. Daryl-Dixon-daryl-dixon-32601352-500-385

I did not see Norman. Although he must’ve been in the building because, and I am not kidding, thousands of people came to see him. That crowd picture doesn’t come close to portraying how many Norman Reedus fans swarmed that convention hall. I think some of them are still there. By the way, one Norman Reedus autograph: $80. You do the math.

Another fun part of HorrorHound: checking out all the creepy costumes people donned.

One second after I snapped this photo, the monkey man suddenly slapped his cymbals together, scaring the hell out of everyone.

One second after I snapped this photo, the monkey man suddenly slapped his cymbals together, scaring the hell out of everyone.

Everypne kept saying "It's Nosferatu!" Nope, any discerning Stephen King fans knows it's Barlow from the late 1970s Salems Lot TV miniseries.

Everyone kept saying “It’s Nosferatu!” Nope, any discerning Stephen King fan knows it’s Barlow from the late 1970s Salem’s Lot TV miniseries.

There's nothing especially stunning about these costumes. I just couldn't help but think that the Big Bad Wolf and Grandmother suddenly had the urge to fill out their 1099s. I mean, it IS tax season.

There’s nothing especially stunning about these costumes. I just couldn’t help but think that the Big Bad Wolf and Grandmother suddenly had the urge to fill out their 1099s. I mean, it IS tax season.

Here are some things that were for sale at HorrorHound that I did not buy:

That’s right, a hand-burnt casket that’s light enough to hang on the wall! The sheep heads were separate (and $150, judging by the price tag). I’m thinking you can probably buy a living sheep on Craigslist (face it, everything’s on Craigslist: used treadmills, meth lab components, prostitutes—so it’s not a leap to think that livestock’s floating around somewhere in there).

That’s right, a hand-burnt casket that’s light enough to hang on the wall! The sheep heads were separate (and $150, judging by the price tag). I’m thinking you can probably buy a living sheep for that same amount on Craigslist (face it, everything’s on Craigslist: used treadmills, meth lab components, prostitutes—so it’s not a leap to think that livestock’s floating around somewhere in there).

And here’s a cool skeletal carnivorous plant that costs almost as much as our monthly mortgage payment:plant

I did not purchase anything nearly as expensive as that. Just a Majestic Demon bust cast in resin. 

It was my one splurge to mark my first horror convention and first time ever stepping foot into Ohio (those billboards advertising “GUNS! This Exit!” is a clear reminder you’re not in New Jersey). Oh, check out http://www.alter-ego-dezines if you want your own demon.

It takes roughly 9 hours to drive from North Jersey to Cincinnati. That was the only downside to the weekend, but not bad enough to keep me from wanting to attend next year’s convention. I cannot wait.    

 

5 Questions with Horror Author Hunter Shea

islandoftheforbidden-h

Hunter Shea’s the first Samhain Horror writer I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in person. This happened at Chiller Theatre in Parsippany, N.J., last October. We both went through the heartbreak of Dorchester Publishing’s epic collapse in 2010 (we both signed to have novels published there). Neither of us gave up. Especially Hunter. He’s like James Patterson when it comes to putting out books, but in Hunter’s case, he actually writes them. Hey-O! Hunter’s stopping by blogs to discuss his new book, Island of the Forbidden, and other fun things.

1. You currently have six novels available, including your most recent, Island of the Forbidden, and a slew of short stories and novellas. How do you stay so prolific?

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I just keep writing. That’s not to say I’m one of those people who write every day. I’ve learned that skipping days or just unplugging yourself for a week or weeks at a time helps recharge your brain. I just love the process of writing, of creating entire worlds. Writing can be a lifeline or a refuge. I remember when my dad passed away suddenly in 2013, I slept at the house with my mom all through that awful day and the funeral to give her whatever comfort and support I could. I found myself writing every night (I was working on The Montauk Monster at the time). Working on the book gave my soul a break from the sorrow it was feeling. I told our editor, Don, that I was going to write 4 books in 2015. I’m definitely locked in for 3. We’ll see if I have time to get a fourth in.

2. Are you able to work on multiple projects at once? I know some authors can bounce back and forth from one project to another. Is that you, or do you prefer to focus on one project and see it through to conclusion?

I’ve tried and it doesn’t work for me. I’m like a dog with a bone. I have to sink my teeth into one book and work it until it’s done. When I write, a part of my brain is living in that story 24/7. It’s hard for me to drag it out of that world so it can exist in another.

3. Where do you write? I’m always fascinated by author work habits. So do you have an office where you lock yourself away? And how many hours a day do you commit to writing, and do you try to hit a difference word count?

I do have a great what I call writing den, loaded with books and tons of horror related collectibles. But I’ve also spent a lot of time the past couple of years writing in the kitchen, surrounded by chaos. The beauty of working on a laptop is that you can go anywhere. I’ve learned to sit my ass down wherever and just write, canceling out any outside distractions. During the weekdays, I get an hour or two in a night, after dinner. On weekends, I work the mornings, sometimes putting up to 4 or 5 hours before I move on with the rest of my day.

4. Most influential horror movie of the last five years — and it doesn’t have to be a blockbuster or big studio release — and why.

I think it has to be Insidious. James Wan has kind of resurrected the horror atmosphere of the 1970s, updating it to the new millennium. The first half of that movie scared the bejesus out of me. It’s led to this small universe of movies like Sinister and The Conjuring that have given the genre the serious boost it needed.

5. Full disclosure: I’ve yet to read Island of the Forbidden, but it’s absolutely in my Kindle queue, and I believe it can be classified as a ghost story. With werewolves and vampires and Montauk monsters, you have physical creatures roaming around. But ghosts offer more of a psychological element to things. So was it harder writing about ghosts than it was for other supernatural creatures?

Best time to read Island is on a cold night, preferably with a wind storm raging outside. A couple of cocktails can’t hurt, either. J

Living in a haunted house with a small boy who just kind of comes and goes, writing about ghosts and the effect it has on one’s psyche has been pretty easy. The twist with my 20-year experience with this phantom is that, with the exception of one instance, his appearances go hand in hand with a feeling of peace and calm. It’s very hard to explain, though I tried my best in a quasi fictional account of it in my book, The Waiting. If ghosts are real, then souls are real, as is the afterlife. Out of all the things you can write about and explore in horror, I think ghosts are the most fascinating, with implications for the infinite for all of us. Everyone reacts differently to seeing a ghost, whether it be their personal temperament, belief system or culture. As a writer, I get to explore those points of view, which is kind of like taking an anthropology class without all the expense and boring homework!

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