Jim Webster’s cunning (marketing) plan

Jim WebsterEvery writer has a problem. It’s not writing books or even publishing books. It’s getting the books seen. I have thought about this a lot. Some people crave ‘reviews’ on Amazon. They’re nice, I’m always grateful if people leave a review. But to see the review the potential purchaser has to find the Amazon page. How do you get people talking about you and get them to look at the page in the first place?

Frankly I don’t know. So I decided to try something. One day, when thinking about it, it struck me that my genres of choice, Sci-Fi and Fantasy, are the ones which exploded in the days of pulp fiction. Published in magazines so cheap the paper never even had its edges trimmed. Sold for pennies in the midst of the Great Depression, they were here today and gone tomorrow. A lot of what they published was rubbish, a lot they never paid for, but out of that system emerged some of the greats.

I’ve also noticed that when I release a new book, I often get a boost in the sales of other books. So the more releases, the more boosts? So rather than just releasing something every year, how about releasing something more often, but on a regular schedule so that people are waiting for the next one? That too harkened back to the magazine model. It also set a size limit on the ‘book’ because there is a limit to how much I could write in that period.

Another way I’d go back to the ‘pulp model’ was to keep the price low. In Sterling terms I wanted to hit that 99p price tag. Again this limited the size of the book I was willing to sell for 99p.

Now I had my idea, but how to develop it? One successful model from the past was the serial. Each episode ended with a cliff-hanger. The cinema used that for many years with children’s cinema clubs. Yet reading discussions on Goodreads and elsewhere I don’t think that is a model that works now. I’ve known people give 1 star reviews to books, purely because they end in a cliff-hanger and you have to buy the next book to find out what happens next. I suspect that in the world of the boxed set where you no longer need to wait for next weeks exciting episode, the day of that sort of serial has passed.

I also felt the more conventional series wasn’t for me. Listen to the comments made about Game of Thrones where the author is chastised for not extracting the digit and getting the work finished. Again I’ve come across a lot of people saying that they’ll never buy a book in a series until the entire series is published. They don’t want to commit to reading a series that might never end.

So I looked backwards once more and borrowed the model used in the Sherlock Holmes stories. These stories were written and published in a certain order, but you as a reader can read them in any order without losing anything.

So there was the plan. Now for the execution, I had to write them. Eventually I wrote six stories. I had them edited and proofread and they were all ready to go. Next I made arrangements for them to be released at four monthly intervals. That was the next two years organised. I’ll fit in the releases of anything else I write around them and hopefully this will build interest and even better sales.

Flotsam coverOh, and the stories themselves? Each is a ‘detective’ investigation set in the city of Port Naain. Yes there are fantasy elements but the stories do not need magic to prop up the plot.

So far so good, but then the project grew beyond my control. The first story in this project has been published. ‘Flotsam or Jetsam’, it is available from Amazon (the second of the stories will be out on the 1st December). But one of the characters in the book, Tallis Steelyard, is a poet. Being a poet he is prone to dropping lines of verse into his conversation. My editor, Mike Rose-Steel, is also a poet and emailed me asking if he could borrow Tallis and proceeded to write ten poems.

I then had one character write the background to these poems, and Mike had another character write a literary criticism of the work. We looked at it and published it as Lambent Dreams.

Well, once you’ve got a published poet, he needs a blog. So Tallis Steelyard now writes a blog at https://tallissteelyard.wordpress.com. There’s even a Facebook page!

So will the project work? I don’t know. I’ve tried to provide it with depth, enough room for people to ‘lose themselves’ in it and still want to spread out to trying my other books. These you can find on my Amazon page.

If that’s not enough Tallis has even produced more of his poetry…

The bottles sprawl unheeded
The discarded valiant dead
Their sacrifice accepted
Sobriety has fled
The truth it surfaced briefly
But shrugged and went to bed.
Will you walk again beside me?
Will you tread the path I tread?
The wine it made me wordy
The truth when poured was red
I didn’t mean to speak them
But I meant the words I said.


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2 thoughts on “Jim Webster’s cunning (marketing) plan

  1. annethewriter says:

    Sounds like a great plan Jim! I look forward to watching it in action and learning from you. I am planning a spin-off series from my last novel, but I’m not sure I can wait until I’ve written three to launch! You must be a very patient man 🙂


  2. jwebster2 says:

    Well I didn’t aim at doing six full length novels, I made them shorter, but still self contained. I don’t think I’d have the patience to have half a million words sitting their edited and ready to go and only put it out in dribs and drabs 🙂


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