Wednesday, 29 December 2010

On Marketing One's Own Books

In the last month or so, Chaz has been making new online friends, seeking (and finding!) reviews for Maranatha (remember that?) and also, considering the vast and, at times, rather intimidating world of marketing - specifically, how, and how not to go about it.

Having done the easy bit (write and publish a book), the self-published or small-press writer then decides that a quick plug somewhere like Myspace or Facebook with a hyperlink and a begging note attached will get sales. Typically it will follow this kind of formula:

"Buy MY book! Look at MY stuff! Vist MY website!"

To which the neutral, casual viewer could be forgiven for replying: "Why?"

This is little short of spamming, and usually about as successful.

That question "Why" is one of the biggest, and stickiest problems, of any kind of marketing campaign - how to convince an apathetic somebody that their life experience will somehow be enriched by the end of whatever sell (hard or soft) you're about to unleash upon them. That's if they stay around long enough to get to the end. (One way to ensure this is, of course, to make your marketing tag-line exceedingly short - but that takes skill, and practice.)

Film studios, publishers, record companies and such spend very large sums of money to people whose job it is to do nothing but answer that "Why?" question for thousands and millions of their potential customers. Authors are by their nature not generally pushy salespeople. Yet in the field of self-publicity, they will have to assume some aspect of that role in order to get their works to the widest possible readership.

It's really a case of psychology. How many people in all honesty would really buy something from someone who was basically begging you to do so? "It's great, you'll love it, honest". A certain coldness, detachedness, can be desirable in this situation. Look on the work as a product, not your personal beloved baby. Decide why it's worthy, why you spent so long on it, and how well it ought to sell. Get inside the head of your ideal customer (not reader - customer) and give them a quick sentence or two advising why they really must buy YOUR book, look at YOUR stuff, visit YOUR website. Appeal to their emotions, to their mind, to their desires, to their fears, even. Hint at a great mystery to be solved, an unthinkable conclusion, a dastardly conspiracy, of success against all the odds. There's a reason why many successful writers produce formulaic work - they found a way to give readers what they were looking for in a certain genre.

Look closely at how succinct and punchy most adverts are. Be the customer, that indifferent, apathetic slob who couldn't care less whether you were a writer or an air-traffic controller. Then tell them why they should care.

As an example, here's a quick tag line I constructed for a hypothetical ad campaign for Maranatha:

Through the dark, distorted mirror of history and religious heresy, it is the dawn of the Second Coming...and the Fourth Reich.

Or, to elaborate: So, it's a dark book - great for anyone who likes gritty, graphic, sinister stuff. It's got historical background. Good for people who like something that's got a bit of research behind it. It's got heretics in it. It's got Jesus, and nazis (and they're always popular subjects for all kinds of fiction). And it sounds like people are messing with the past in order to really mess up our future. How can they be stopped? Will Jesus return and save us all, or is it He and His name that is being manipulated by bad guys? What sort of heroes can stand up to such strange unpleasantness? Why is this happening?

...and so on. I only gave that five minutes' thought, but I'm sure you could all do a lot better for your own book. After all, it's your book - you must love it to have come this far - so share that love and enthusiasm.

Try a role-playing situation:

"Buy my book."
"It's amazing."
"Prove it."
"You have to read it first."
"No-oh. I'm not one those who was born every minute."
"Look, have you ever read X written by Y?"
"Well, if you liked X, then you'll love this!"
"OK. Tell me more."
"It's a rollercoaster ride of emotion, and a physical adventure from the plains of South Africa to the highlands of Scotland...all in the name of love!"
"Sounds vaguely interesting."
"And you'll never believe how it ends...but you'll love the journey that takes you there, a journey you'll wish you had taken yourself!"
"Fair enough. Where can I see some samples? I'm a miserable cheapskate, you know."
"Just visit this website. You can buy a book there too. But don't take my word for it. You can read some reviews of people who loved it."
"Awesome. I'll buy an e-book now, then."

That wasn't so hard now, was it? So we went from desperate to sold in less than ten steps.
You may not always get the sale. But you surely won't get anything if you don't pique the interest of the casual browser, give them a reason to do more than glance over your first half-dozen words and move on to the next random website or distraction. And these days, you have to grab people from the word 'go' - web browsers have attention spans shorter than hey look up there, a helicopter!

Sunday, 26 December 2010

A Very Geeky Christmas...

Jeff Swenson, over at Freethunk, recently commissioned Chaz to produce a 2-part festive edition of his ongoing tech-support webcomic series, Geekz, which is usually published every Monday at

There's an interesting interview there too detailing the origins of the strip, its characters, and development. Part 2 will be following soon.

Here's the link.

You can follow the Geekz series every week at:

Sunday, 19 December 2010

'Waiting for Anais' - a midwinter horror tale

Another horror story commission from the good folks at Freethunk, this may be one of the darkest things I've ever written. It was conceived as a story set around Christmas which wasn't remotely festive, and as bleak as the season and its weather can be (and looking out my window right now, believe me - it doesn't get any bleaker).

Here's the link.

The inspiration came from the accompanying illustration, something of a random sketch I started a few months back. It was nice to have a reason to finish it off.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

The Sword of Lochglen continues...

Chaz & Frang's surreal Scottish satire sees the release of Issue 2, both in print and in downloadable digital format. Wherein our hero William Stanley MacFaddyen realises he has fallen hopelessly in love with his tutor, Dr. Jeanette Mackenzie, and finds a finds a serious obstruction to his romantic ambitions in the form of her stoic and snobbish husband, Gregor.

Deciding to use the grim facts of his life as fuel for his fantasy fiction, MacFaddyen casts those around him as the heroes and villains in his epic novel, 'The Sword of Lochglen'. As reality begins to blur, life begins to get very complicated indeed...

You can pick up a copy of Issue 1 or 2, or read more, at the Lochglen homepage.

Monday, 13 December 2010

A Change of Tone...

Made an executive decision to "jolly up" the Fenriswulf home page tonight. After two and a half years of sombre black with splashes of red and white, Chaz decided that enough was enough and that it was time to let a little light shine through these wolfish pages for once. After all, it's dark enough outside as Midwinter and the Solstice it any wonder that the most popular and widely-celebrated festival of the Western calendar is held only a few days after the shortest day of the year? Even Muslim friends at work buy into the cheer and warmth which is so necessary at this bleakest point in our eternal voyage around the Sun. Decorations and seasonal greetings are universal, and speak across all boundaries.

All of which was a rather highbrow attempt at explaining why Chaz didn't want his beloved website to give the wrong impression to any passing visitors. Black can be very oppressive, and upon reflection, the choice of supporting colour scheme (white and red) does have unfortunate political and historical overtones, though none of which are at all relevant to either the public works of Fenriswulf, or any thought or overriding philosophy behind the scenes. The original red/white/black concept was chosen purely as a striking graphic design element. However, again, upon reflection, its connection with Old Norse pagan imagery was perhaps somewhat unfortunate - especially when such concepts and ideas have often been distorted and forced to serve sinister motivations in the past (which is itself something of a recurring theme through the Trinity Chronicles).

First impressions can linger, and some viewers can, and will, look beyond the innocent and accidental to find hidden meanings where none actually exist. Of course, those who know Chaz personally and who have read his works know that no explanation is required; the two heroes of the Trinity Chronicles are a Nigerian, and a Spaniard of mixed heritage (Jewish, Muslim & Catholic) - not in any cynical attempt to be "politically correct" but to underscore Chaz's eternal desire to promote the 'underdog' to heroic status, and show up the inherent lie within all racialism - that there is only one race, the human race.

After all that, to conclude: we hope you like the new colour scheme! Any suggestions or comments will be more than welcome.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Networking Works!

During a busy old week of being snowed in, Chaz decided to use all that time in the house to do some real networking online, meet like-minded people and even try to find a couple of book reviews. Result: success, in spades...

Facebook has been a bit of a revelation lately. At first very sceptical about its use for an unknown writer, Fenris managed to make some very interesting, and extremely helpful and kind contacts (you know who you are!), with the result that both the blog and the books are now getting some attention. In return, we'll be doing what we can to promote anybody via this very page, or on Facebook, with links, banners, or anything else that can be conceivably useeful.

Also highly recommended is the site where authors and book fans can meet, talk, share views and texts.

On top of all this activity, Chaz has still found time to re-edit Venus in Saturn (again), keep on top of illustration commission works, and a new un-festive short horror story may also be making an appearance before too long. Keep watching this here space ;)

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Venus in Saturn: Sneak Preview

Something a little different: a taster of some content from Venus in Saturn, the soon-to-be-released prequel to Maranatha.

Wherein Inspector Jack Carpenter expresses his frustration with his top freelance CSI investigator, Vanessa Descartes, for going above and beyond the call of duty...

“You’ve gone and done what?”
Carpenter threw his pen to the desk in exasperation, though Vanessa knew he would have preferred to have stabbed it into her eye at that moment.
“Look, someone needed to get close to them.”
She had guessed that Carpenter might have had some quiet reservations about her activities that morning, but the volume of voice was far in excess of what she had ever feared. “Now, you can’t get any closer than being on the inside, can you? I won't be billing you for it. Call it freelance undercover work.”
“No. I'll tell you what I call it: sodding up our enquiry. You realise I can’t do anything for you in there? Any possible future sting or inside job we could have had planned, is out the window for as long as you’re involved with that shower? And if you make one slip - one wrong word - and blow your cover, then they could do a moonlight and then we're all stuffed! Or even worse – they suss you out, and you're the next one to end up gutted like a bloody kipper.
"Now think, Vanessa. If they’re involved, then we have to approach very carefully. And if they’re not involved and it’s just a coincidence, you’re gonna get yourself all stressed out over nothing. You can't be neutral and rational in there, because you have an emotional stake in all of this. Worst case scenario, anything you pick up gets thrown out as inadmissible, and there'll be no justice for Sandra.”
“Then why can’t you set up something, using me as a decoy?”
“Jesus, what did I just say? I know we all think they’re involved, in some kind of way. Whether they had anything to do with Sandra's death is up for debate, but you’ve already convinced yourself that they were responsible for what happened to your big sister as well.”
She shrugged, jerked her head. Not so much of a nod, more an acknowledgement of his words. “I’m still hoping I can be proved wrong.”
“But you’d prefer to be proved right. Because it gives you a rationale, someone to blame. Right?”
“Wrong. There's a connection somewhere in all of this, Jack, and I intend to find it. It combines me, my sister, this case, and this unorthodox religion on some level and if I don't get a better idea of where they're coming from, we may never solve this one. I've had weird shit happen all through my life when I never asked for it. It's time I went looking for some answers, to all of it.”
Carpenter's gnawed fingertips played a slow funeral march on the edge of his desk.
"You know, Vanessa, you're brilliant. You really are. You've helped me get results on every case I've worked with you in nearly two years. But sometimes, you really piss me off. Now get out, and don't come back until I call you, or you have some facts so hard, they could crack diamonds. Okay?"

Work-in-progress illustration for the above scene:

All content (c) C. Wood, 2010.

Of Swords, and Other Tools of Mayhem...

The second issue of 'The Sword of Lochglen' comic series is now just about to be released! The cover is a true collaboration between Chaz and Frang, with Frang pencilling the whole thing and doing much of the inking and colouring. As a result, 'Lochglen' now has its own dedicated webpage, located here. Currently we're only awaiting the arrival of the first set of proof issues from (which with the current weather could take us into 2011...though I seriously hope not!). Once the proofs have been approved, then the direct link to buy a download, or a print copy will become active on the Lochglen homepage.

Speaking of which, it appears that Lulu are current working on some new APIs to improve the digital commerce side of their services - out of all the new improvements, the addition of a 'shopping cart' for creators to place on their websites looks like the most useful so far.

In other news, Fenriswulf has now made it onto Facebook. The profile page is here, where we're looking forward to meeting lots of interesting people, and sharing opinions on comics, books and other things.

Underground British Metal for Discerning Listeners

Underground British Metal for Discerning Listeners
Because Chaz is a fan of these guys and their music. Help support the British metal music scene!

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