2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award

Do you have a manuscript or self-published novel that you think was overlooked by the mainstream publishing industry?  I do, a bunch of them.  You may even feel like it’s impossible to break down that wall separating you from traditional publishing nirvana.  Well, wipe that frown off your face, you sad, sad clown.  Amazon is now accepting entries for its version of American Idol, except it’s for writers… and it’s not lame.  Here are the details.

The 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest: Submit Your Novel

Amazon.com, along with Penguin Group (USA) and CreateSpace, is pleased to announce the fourth annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest, the international competition seeking the next popular novel. The competition will once again award two grand prizes: one for General Fiction and one for Young Adult Fiction. Each winner will receive a publishing contract with Penguin, which includes a $15,000 advance.

Manuscript submissions are now being accepted through February 6, 2011, at 11:59 p.m. (U.S. Eastern Standard Time), or when 5,000 entries have been received in each category, whichever is earlier.

Go to www.createspace.com/abna to register and submit your manuscript following the instructions on the entry form.

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How I increased my book sales

There are plenty of more tens where these came from. I want to be perfectly clear about this.  I do not sell tens of thousands of books (yet) every year.  I haven’t spent any marketing dollars since January of 2010 on any of my books.  I’ve never launched a major coordinated advertising campaign for any of my books.  I would say 90% of my marketing (or more accurately branding) takes place on this blog and my relentless (almost annoying) presence on various social networks.  So, if you’re looking to me to help you unlock the secrets to sell a million books, you’re likely to be very disappointed.  Trust me, when I figure that out, I’ll be on this blog discussing every detail of the trek.

My books sales hover in the thousands.  Not a blistering number of sales on the surface, but here’s the thing, I have increased sales every year.  Granted, I usually add a book to my arsenal every year, but even accounting for that, each title sells more copies year over year, and it all starts with my anchor book, The Takers.

Comparing 2010 sales of The Takers to 2009 sales to The Takers, I increased sales by 29% on just that title alone.  Taking all books into account, I increased sales 45% over that same time period.  I’m only counting print sales for our purposes here, but I’ve increased sales on the Kindle side of things, too.

So, how did I increase my sales so dramatically?  After all, I’m a self-published author.  Mainstream media wouldn’t know me if I sat down in front of them and pitched my books to them.  I’m not opposed to spending more money on marketing, but to this point, I’ve shelled out only about $1,500 since I first published in 2005.  I am not a household name.  To top things off, the publishing industry as a whole has struggled to increase sales since I entered the market.  This is not the golden age of publishing.  So, what did I do to sell more books this year than last year?  Here’s the list of things that I’m confident attributed to my increased sales.

1. Word of mouth – My books have a small fan base, but they are extremely engaged.  I have a handful I hear from all the time via email, this blog and my social network accounts.  They are champions at spreading the word.  More than a few of them are teachers, and they introduce my books to a new crop of students every year, to which I am extremely grateful.

2. Price reduction – I dropped my base price for my books from $15.99 to $9.99.  I never liked the higher price, but I didn’t have any flexibility in changing it until my POD provider (CreateSpace) had an overhaul in policy and created flex pricing.  I immediately jumped on the new policy and brought my pricing more in line with publishing industry standards.  It made me more competitive, and eliminated a huge sales hurdle for me.

3. This blog, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube – I’m fortunate to be a one-man shop in publishing in a time when I have access to the same tools bigger publishers use to brand their authors and sell their library of books.  Every day I use these resources at my fingertips, the more my brand gets out.  The world of publishing only looks like a sedentary lifestyle.  And in as far as the day-to-day routine is done primarily sitting on one’s ass, it is, but it is also a frenetic occupation.   Your mind is constantly in motion creating and looking for opportunities to get your name out there. And, we’re not counting the time you spend writing, rewriting and everything else that goes into creating a book.

4. Evergreen mentality – I don’t look at my books as having an expiration date.  Just because I’ve written and published a new book, doesn’t mean my previous books are no longer relevant.  I look at all my books as having equal value regardless of the date they were published.

5. Publishing every year – One way I’ve kept my fan base engaged is to provide them something new to talk about every year.  I’ve made it a personal goal to publish a new title every year.  Initially, I did it to keep myself sharp and hone my craft.  But, the unforeseen benefit of the practice is having those early readers returning over and over again to read (and buy) my next book.  One and done is hard to pull off unless your Harper Lee or Ralph Ellison.

6. An insane belief in the improbable – The odds are against a book doing well in the market.  Statistically, more people want to write a book than read one.  The odds are even worse for a self-published book.  If you take new books, and royalty-free republished books, more than one million books were published last year.  In 2005, when I first published, that number was around 270,000.  I’ve had to find my spot in an ever-expanding pool of offerings.  It would have been easy to give up a long time ago, and chalk up my exit to too many things stacked up against me.  But dreams are a funny thing. They are easy to conceive, but nearly impossible catch.  And as Dr. Robert Sapolsky put it, the more impossible something is the greater the moral imperative that it must be done.

So, there you have it. I know I haven’t given you any magic bullets or even gems of wisdom.  Succeeding in publishing takes the same one element every profession takes, hard work.  If you’re pursuing easy riches, you’re on the wrong road.  Writing and publishing serves a compulsion first, and with persistence, the money will follow.  So, lead with high expectations, and survive with an impenetrable sense of success despite you current struggles.

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Christopher Walken Voicemail on Marketing Books

Time to make a fool out of myself!  This a little game I like to play. What if Christopher Walken published my book? It makes no sense, and my Walken impression sucks, but what are you going to do? It’s strangely therapeutic. Spend any amount of time talking like Christopher Walken, and suddenly you feel like you can do anything. Plus, he actually came up with a great marketing idea. “Ring Tones!”

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Lost Days has officially launched!

We have lift off... of my new book, Lost Days!

The official launch is underway.  The “BUY” button has been activated and you are free to buy the book from Amazon!  Here’s the extended description of the book:

 

While snooping in their Granddaddy Hank’s garage one afternoon, Hayley Wilkes’ little brother Grover discovers a decades-old newspaper clipping. It details the tragic death of their grandfather’s first wife when the car she was driving careened off an icy mountain road in Lake Roosevelt, Washington. Yet when her body was discovered, something was missing: her four-year-old son, Crew. Searchers could find no trace of the boy and gave him up for dead…until the toddler was discovered in the woods, alive and well, fourteen months later.

 Since then, everyone has considered Crew to be a bit “touched” in the head. Hayley thinks he’s downright crazy―and not in the fun way. And for a teenager trying to fit in, being related to such a nut isn’t doing her social life any favors. Nonetheless, she can’t help but be fascinated by her uncle and intrigued by the mystery of his past. How could a little boy survive for an entire year in the woods? Someone must have taken care of him, but who? The more time she spends with Crew, the more Hayley realizes he’s tormented by those long-lost days. Determined to ferret out the truth, she launches an investigation into the heart of a forty-year-old mystery. As she digs for clues, Hayley forms a tentative friendship with her crusty uncle and comes face-to-face with a legendary creature whose mere existence has long been the source of fevered debate.

 Led by a precocious young heroine and packed with quirky characters, family drama, and more than one very scary monster, Lost Days is an endearing and surprisingly relatable coming-of-age story about the strength of family. More importantly, this intriguing young-adult novel suggests that being different may not be so bad after all.

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Lost Days – Qualifying Question… for real this time!

Read a book! Win a laptop computer!

First things first, an important rule to follow:

PLEASE, DO NOT post the answer to the qualifying question on Facebook or any other public forum, including, but not limited to blogs, messageboards, other social media sites, etc. And don’t send out a mass email to friends and family with the answer. They always make their way back to me, and it makes things very awkward.

And now for the qualifying question:

What is the name of the Bigfoot that injures Owen?

Obviously, you will have to have read the book in order to know the answer, and that is the point of the contest.  You are welcome to purchase the book by clicking here, Lost Days.   But purchasing the book is not necessary.  I would never make you purchase the book.  That would be a real jerky thing to do.  You can download the PDF for free by clicking here, Lost Days – Free PDF Version

Here are the rest of the rules:

1. You must be a member of the Lost Days Facebook group in order to be eligible to enter the contest.

2. Lost Days Facebook group members must provide the correct answer to the qualifying question to be officially entered in the drawing.

3. There are no limits to the number of times Lost Days Facebook group members can attempt to correctly answer the qualifying question.

4. Spread the word bonus – If you provide the correct answer to the qualifying question, you can earn extra entries for each member that joins the Lost Days Facebook group based on your referral.

5. You must provide the correct answer to the qualifying question by January 4.

6. A video of the drawing will be posted on the Lost Days Facebook group on January 10.

7. The answer to the qualifying question can be found in either the paperback version of the book, Lost Days or in Lost Days – Free PDF Version

8. PLEASE DO NOT post the answer to the qualifying question on Facebook or any other public forum, including, but not limited to blogs, messageboards, other social media sites, etc. And don’t send out a mass email to friends and family with the answer. They always make their way back to me, and it makes things very awkward.

9. Send the answer to lostdays@rwridley.com with the subject line “I know the answer.” The subject line is very important because it helps me streamline the process, so please remember to use it.

10. The qualifying question is… What is the name of the Bigfoot that injures Owen?

11. Second Drawing: The second laptop will be for the top 10 people with the most Spread the Word Bonus Points. What are Spread the Word Bonus Points? Simple, whenever someone joins the Lost Days Facebook Group and leaves a comment saying “I’m a fan because (your name) sent me.” You get a Spread the Word Bonus Point (provided you answer the qualifying question correctly). To give everyone ample time to get the word out, I am holding the second drawing on January 17. BTW – You can start spreading the word now.

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The qualifying question for the laptop drawings…

Read a book! Win a laptop computer!

…Will be posted on Friday.  Sorry, I didn’t mean to tease you.  I just wanted to give you a heads up.  Actually, I did mean to tease you.  Don’t hate me.  If you’re confused, and don’t know what I’m talking about, click here to get up to speed.

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Lost Days – Post 38 (Win a Free Laptop!)

lost-days-4b-web

Read a book! Win a laptop computer!

This is the 38th installment of my new book (launch is this week) Lost Days.  I hope you’ve been reading carefully because the answer to the qualifying question is in one of the previous posts. Qualifying question for what?  For your chance to win a free laptop computer.   Click here to read the rules for the drawing.  Basically, you  read Lost Days for a chance to win a laptop!  If you don’t want to read the free online version, it will be available for sale on Amazon this week!.  Good luck.

 

I didn’t sleep a wink after Grover and I turned the lights off and settled in for the night.  My brain fought with itself all night.  I went from thinking the pictures were real to knowing they had to be fake and back again over and over until all my thoughts felt like racecars speeding around in my head.  It was maddening.  No matter what I did, I couldn’t shut it off. 

I gave up trying to sleep about two in the morning.  I sat up and watched Uncle Crew’s FROG from my window.  He didn’t go out probably because three guys had broken into his room a couple of nights before.  He was waiting for them to come back.  They wouldn’t.  Even I knew that.  They hadn’t found what they were looking for, and there was no reason to risk getting caught looking in the same place twice. 

J-Rob stepped out on the stoop at the top of the stairs a couple of times and smoked a cigarette.  I drifted back to our conversation on the porch.  I played every word over along with every motion he made.  He had a lot of nervous ticks.  Comes with being crazy I guess, but there was one that seemed out of place.  A few times he would pat the pocket of his coat, the pocket that had the jump drive in it.  Then it hit me.  He meant for me to find that jump drive.  He wanted me to see the pictures. 

The natural question followed, “Why?”  I thought about putting on some shoes and running outside to ask him, but I knew he would deny it. 

His face glowed orange each time he took a drag from his cigarette.  If he saw me watching him, he never let on.  I didn’t know much about him, but I knew he loved my uncle like a soldier loves his commander or a boy loves a hero. If I had to guess why he gave me the jump drive, it was so I could help.  He would never betray Uncle Crew by asking me outright, but if I volunteered, then he was off the hook.

I quickly ditched that idea.  How could I possibly help?  I was a kid, a test-taker still trying to make my way through Homer’s Iliad and the quadratic formula.  I couldn’t help myself through high school, how could I help them… with whatever it is they were doing.

I tried one more time to lay back down in bed and fall asleep, but this time all I thought about was Joyner.  I hated myself for believing that he could actually be interested in me.  What a jerk I was.  I felt like a complete and total fool.  The horror slowly engulfed me as I realized that I would have to see him at school. 

I gave up trying to sleep and quietly left the room.  I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I just wandered through the house aimlessly until I reached the living room.  I didn’t turn on the lights, choosing instead to sit on the couch in the dark.  The pale light of a half moon shined through the window.  I sat and listened to the sounds of the early morning.  The house settled causing barely audible pops and the wind outside whirled.  It was amazing to hear nothing make so much noise.  I heard a floorboard creek and almost let it pass without a thought.  It suddenly dawned on me that floorboards don’t creek on their own.  I became stiff.  Another creek.  Something out of the corner of my eye moved.  I turned and saw a dark figure swaying by the fireplace.  I screamed.  The figure jumped and sprinted past me.  I was screaming with more intensity as I realized that it was a real live person hiding in my grandparents’ living room.  The man jerked the front door open and disappeared into the darkness just as granddaddy and mom came rushing down the stairs. 

“What the hell…” granddaddy started to say, but stopped when he saw the front door wide open.

“Honey,” mom said running to my side. 

I was a blubbering mess.

Granddaddy eased up to the door and peered outside.  He shut it when he realized no one was there. 

“What happened?” mom asked sitting next to me and allowing me to bury my face into her shoulder.

“A man,” I said as I sobbed.

“Man?” Granddaddy said.  “In the house?”

I nodded pointing over to the fireplace.  “He was over there.”

I heard the kitchen door open.  Uncle Crew and J-Rob barreled into the room. 

“What’s going on?” Uncle Crew asked.

“Heard some wild screaming,” J-Rob added.

Granddaddy looked at me with more concern than I have ever seen in an adult.  “Hayley said she saw a man in the house.  Front door was open when I came down the stairs.”

J-Rob didn’t hesitate.  He ran to the door and opened it.  Growling like a wildman, he jumped out onto the front porch in an attack posture.  If I hadn’t been scared to tears, I would have been laughing.  He stepped back inside.  “Nothing.  I’d say he’s halfway to Peoria by now.”

“What did he look like?” Uncle Crew asked.

I shook my head, and attempted to say that I didn’t know, but all I could manage was a series of squeaks.

“We should call the police,” mom said stroking my hair trying to calm me down.

Granddaddy grimaced.  “Police have been out here enough.”

“But a man was in your house, daddy,” mom said sternly.

“I know,” granddaddy said, “And they’ll ask questions, none of which Hayley’s going to be able to answer because she didn’t get a good look at him.  It’ll rouse the neighbors and just bring us attention I’d just as soon avoid.”

“Daddy, call the police,” mom demanded.

Nana Taffy came down the stairs holding Grover’s hand.  “What happened?” she asked.

Granddaddy rubbed his grizzled face.  “A lot of excitement.  No one’s hurt…”

“A man broke into the house and daddy refuses to call the police,” mom said.

“A man?” Nana Taffy said pulling Grover in close.  “Oh my.  Why would he do that?”

“Who knows?  Probably a drunk got lost on his way home,” granddaddy said.

“A drunk?…” You could hear the outrage in mom’s voice.  “It could have been a burglar or rapist or serial killer for all we know.”

“Connie!” Nana Taffy shouted as she covered Grover’s ears.

“It was me,” Uncle Crew said.

I looked up at him astonished.

“What do you mean, it was you?” granddaddy asked.  “You were in the house?”

“No,” Uncle Crew said.  “They’re after me.”

“And me,” J-Rob added.

Granddaddy dropped his shoulders and shook his head.  “No one’s after you boys.”

“No,” I said.  “It’s true.  Someone is after them.”

“Enders,” J-Rob said.

Granddaddy started to shuffle toward the stairs to go back to bed.  “Sun will be up in a couple of hours.  We should try to get some sleep before it’s too late…”

“They broke into my room the other night,” Uncle Crew said.  He hesitated before he continued.  “Hayley saw them.”

All eyes turned to me.  “There were three of them.”  I cast my head down feeling ashamed now for not telling them sooner.

“You saw them from your room?” mom asked.

“No,” I looked to see if Uncle Crew would step in and save me, explain what I was doing, how I was able to see the three men, but he simply nodded.  “I went up to Uncle Crew’s room after he and J-Rob left the other night…”

“Why would you do that?” Granddaddy asked.

“Sh… she had her reasons,” Uncle Crew said trying to suppress a nervous facial tick.  “We’ve talked about it.”

I didn’t know if he was trying to save me or keep the subject of the camera from coming up.  “They broke into the FROG while I was there… I mean I wasn’t exactly in the room when they came exactly.  I was hiding in the tree right outside the back window.  I couldn’t see any of them.”  I considered telling them about Joyner, but quickly changed my mind when J-Rob spoke again.

“Gotta be Enders,” he said.

Granddaddy turned to him and asked in a strained voice, “What’s an Ender?”

“Assassins,” J-Rob said.  Uncle Crew squirmed.  “Of sorts,” he continued.  “They work for developers, the timber industry, oil companies, any outfit trying to get their hands on government land.”

“This isn’t the time, J-Rob,” granddaddy said.

“Tell ‘em, Crew,” J-Rob pleaded.

Uncle Crew had a look in his eyes like someone was pointing a gun at his head.  “They… they clear vulnerable protected lands from endangered and at risk wildlife.”

“You mean like Bald Eagles?” mom asked.

“No,” Uncle Crew said with slightly more confidence.  “Lower profile endangered species. Animals that don’t get a lot of attention except from a few animal rights groups.”

“And by vulnerable protected lands,” Nana Taffy said.  “You mean what?”

“I mean those government-owned, protected lands they’re considering selling to pay down the federal debt.  The Enders eliminate any evidence of endangered species from those areas and the developers make their case that there’s no reason to keep the land under protected status.”

“Why do you call them Enders?” Grover asked.

“Because,” J-Rob said, “they end entire species just to make a stinking dollar.”

“And this has to do with Bigfoot?” mom asked.

“No,” I said.  “Owls.”

She looked at me ready to ask how I knew, but I didn’t give her a chance.

“That’s what Elizabeth Starling was doing in Little Grand Canyon.  She was collecting evidence that an endangered species of owl used that area as its habitat.”

“They don’t just end animals,” J-Rob said sounding disturbed.

Mom jumped up.  “Daddy did you hear that.  The men who killed Elizabeth Starling were in this house.  You have to call the police.”

Granddaddy considered her demand.  “I’ve heard a lot of things here tonight.  Not a lot of which I put much stock in.”

Nana Taffy said sternly, “Hank Stanton you pick up that phone and call the police.  The neighbors be damned.  I promise you that if I have to do it myself, you will not soon live it down, do you hear me?”

He grumbled and marched past everyone and headed for the kitchen to make the last phone call he ever wanted to make.

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