September 1st, 2011 | Add a Comment
Declan Conner lives in Brazil where he teaches Business Studies in English. He has created the concept of lunch breaks thrillers and launched and self-published a highly successful series based on that model, some of which are now translated in German.
His short story, The End, or a New Dawn, reached the finals of a short story competition. Harper Collins editors and authors judged the stories.
Survival Instinct, under its original working title, achieved a gold star on the author site, Authonomy.com.
Could you explain what is a lunch break thriller?
I’ve been an avid reader of short stories for many years, but the ones I find most satisfying are around 5/6,000 words. Stories of that length provide for the author to develop both a standard thriller plot structure, descriptive narrative and to develop the main characters. In this busy world with inevitable time constraints, I’ve started to read many a full-length book, but been unable to finish them. It is therefore no accident that I came up with the concept of lunch break thrillers short stories, because I love nothing better than reading a story to its conclusion during a lunch break, or on a short commute. Fortunately, there seems to be a growing army of many like-minded readers out there clutching iPhones and the many other devices they can use to read eBooks.
You have now published 16 of these, entirely self-publishing your work. How long after publishing your first book did you begin to see results?
Number 4 in the charts for Crime/mystery thrillers/shorts in the UK and peaked at 800 out of 650,000 books in the UK kindle catalogue. In the US reached 18,000 out of 900,000 eBooks. What surprises me is that it is still in the top ten for its category in the UK after six months and rubbing shoulders in the charts for short story books with the likes of Stephen King and Agatha Christie. I only published them as single stories in the US around six weeks ago after receiving requests from readers by email. It is early days yet for results on those. I see self-publishing more as a Marathon than a sprint and chalk up any milestone however small as an achievement along an extended but exciting journey.
What marketing strategies did you use?
I came late to having a marketing strategy and regretted not having taken advantage of creating a blog site and developing a social network presence before publishing. It took me until April of this year to set up a blog. What I had done prior to publishing, was to join the Authonomy writers’ site and built up many online friendships with other writers. This helped with initial sales to give Lunch Break Thrillers and Survival Instinct the traction in the charts to make the books visible to other kindle readers. Since then I have developed a blog site, joined Facebook, twitter and Goodreads, and regularly contribute to the kindle boards forums in the US.
You are still teaching, when do you find the time to write and market your books?
Your first novel, Survival Instinct (The dark side of dating), came out last February and is doing well. Did you market it in a different way than you marketed your short stories, and if yes, how?
Yes, in some respects, I market them separately, but there is always room for cross promotion. For example, I joined a Facebook group for short story readers and writers, solely for creating awareness of my short story work. For Survival Instinct, I did quite a few interviews on thriller writer’s blogs, but to be honest I neglected marketing Survival Instinct until earlier this month. My main plan recently has been to join in with a tagging exchange post on Kindle boards and after four weeks of time consuming tagging, Survival Instinct is now either at the top, or on the first page for at least ten of the books categories when readers search out for books of specific interest on kindle. It is all about the visibility of your work to your target readers who buy books. On September 3rd, Survival Instinct is to be featured as buy of the day for 3 days on “Speak at Night Kindle” This is an initiative set up by Night Publishing, who although they don’t publish me, I contribute to their forums and know many of their authors from my time on Authonomy. I did try some advertising initially on kindle boards and Ku forum in the UK for both books, but I didn’t see a return for the investment. In all my books, I advertize my other books and mention my forthcoming release at the end of the read, with hyperlinks for the reader to find the books. I have a short story page on my blog, on which other writers have contributed articles of interest for short story readers and writers and browser searches direct readers to this as a separate page. For the future, I aim to set up two web sites, one for my short story publications and one for my full-length works.
Some of your short stories are now translated in German. How did that happen?
When Amazon opened their German catalogue for eBooks, I saw it as too good an opportunity to miss as Germany is the top European country for paper book sales and therefore I decided to invest in two translations of my favorite short stories. I include the German version, together with an American and a UK English version in the same eBook with internal links for the reader to make the choice of language. I was staggered when one of them shot straight to number 1 for its category in Germany. All my English shorts have sold in Germany, but essentially the market there is limited for English books. I hope to have another four translated by early next year so I can package them as a compilation. The eBook market there is small compared to America, but I have a feeling German eBooks will enjoy considerable growth and so I am in it for the long game.
In the meantime, I am close to finishing having one of my shorts translated to Brazil Portuguese with the help of a native speaker and I’ll be publishing it the same 3-language format as both an eBook and a POD pocket book in Brazil through Bookess, which is similar to Create Space. Short story pocket books are big business in Brazil. Not many of the population speak English, but with the growth of their economy and the coming world cup, many are starting to take private lessons. Brazil is in the top 10 of countries in the world for sales of printed books, but the eBook market is tiny.
How do you market the German version?
I wrote out marketing articles for the books and after translation, I posted them on my blog in German and on the Amazon de forums. In addition, I had a blog post translated to German to market my ‘free formatting for kindle guide.’ Both of these actions resulted in quite an amount of browser search traffic from Germany to my site. I also took advantage of a free online press release. I then started a discussion on the Amazon de English book forum asking for advice regarding translations and received quite an amount interest for the books through feedback and emails.
The second book in the series Survival Instinct (Russian Brides) is about to hit the market. Do you have any particular marketing strategy for the launch of that book?
I am looking forward to the release, which is about a month away. Unlike when I first uploaded Survival Instinct, I now have a solid social network presence and a thousand hits per month on my blog, so it will be all hands to the keyboard grindstone. If you add this to the reader base I now have from existing sales, then with some well-positioned posts to get the word out, I am hoping it will be a success. I will also be issuing online press releases. The strategy is really to turn up the gears on promoting Survival Instinct and the hope that satisfied readers past and future will buy the second book in the series. The trick will be getting enough people to buy it at release in order to harness the Amazon algorithms, which gives sales a life of their own when they are listed on other author book pages as ‘this customer also bought’. One thing I will be doing this time around is to gift some books at release to encourage early reviews and getting to work on category search tag exchanges much earlier that I did on Survival Instinct.
Thank you Declan Conner for sharing your experience with us. We look forward to your new novel Russian Brides coming out in early October.
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