My Very Scary 10,000 Book Sales Challenge

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My name is Holly Hook, and I am a very desperate writer right now.

I have been publishing young adult fantasy and science fiction ebooks for almost 5 years. During this time I have written and published the five book Destroyers Series, a few short stories, an omnibus, the first two books of the Deathwind Trilogy (of which Twisted is the first book) and I’m getting ready to release the first two books of the Timeless Trilogy as well. Many of my stories are about teens who are much closer to the destructive power of nature than anyone could imagine.

During the last five years I have had mild success with selling these ebooks and I have gathered (mostly) good reviews. I have paid for professional covers, invested in good editors and spent hundreds on marketing. I have written and published perhaps 3 or 4 new titles per year, well more than enough to get some sales momentum going. I write in a popular genre that lots of people read: young adult paranormal and fantasy. My books are all in a series, and series books are supposed to sell well. I have my titles available on every eBook store out there, for every kind of eReader you can imagine. According to conventional wisdom in the author community, I should be selling well and growing every year.

And yet, I only sell a couple of books per day. Total. This does not change no matter what I do. There is no growth. No change. It has been this way for the past four years. My author career is stalled despite “doing everything right.”

I’m not trying to whine here. I didn’t create this post to complain. I’m saying this so you can understand why I am going to do the crazy stuff you’ll read about below. It’s time to do something different. The conventional methods of gaining lots of readers and fans have simply not worked for me.

Some people will call me insane. Some will call me an idiot, I’m sure. That doesn’t matter. What scares me most is the thought of staying obscure for the rest of my writing life.

So what are you going to do?

Twisted SmlRight now, I’m looking to get Twisted (#1 Deathwind Trilogy) and its sequel Torn out into the world to be read and enjoyed. Like my other books, they’re professionally edited, generally well received and fall under the Young Adult category. I really love these books, and I don’t feel it’s doing them justice to let them languish in the bowels of several eBook stores where no one can find them.

Here’s what Twisted is about:

Forget the beach. Forget the teacup ride at Disney World. Sixteen-year-old Allie’s going on the vacation of her life: tornado chasing. What can possibly go wrong with that?

A terrifying, magical experience leaves Allie shocked and confused. Once she returns from her summer break, she learns that she now bears an awful curse. She isn’t an ordinary girl anymore.

Every time there’s a storm, she turns into a tornado. Literally.

Allie has no choice but to flee her hometown–if she stays, her new powers could harm or even kill everyone she loves.

With her best friend, Tommy, Allie must return to the plains and find those who made her this way. But her quest to save herself is only the beginning of her adventure. She discovers a society where others share her curse, including a kid named Dorian who hates his elemental abilities just as much as she does. Not only must she risk everything to face those who turned her, but getting close to Dorian will pose its own dangers–dangers that could decide her fate.

Twisted is the first book of the Deathwind Trilogy, a new young adult and teen paranormal romance series. The second book, Torn, is also available. Book Three of the Deathwind Trilogy, Unleashed, will be released in Summer of 2015.
I will admit I have had much trouble getting this book out there and seen, even with ads. At the time of this writing, I’ve only sold a few copies of this book. My sales rank is in the toilet. So I will begin my crazy, scary marketing plan here.

If I sell 2,000 copies of Twisted, I will let a live, fully-grown tarantula crawl on my face.

For a full minute.

I will even post it to my Youtube channel. I’ll share the video on all of my social media. I’ll share it here.

Yes. You will see my face. With a huge, hairy spider on it.  It’s a nice warm up for what’s to come…

Wait, shouldn’t you do something that has to do with your novel?

TornadoNow, this next one is a far reach. It probably won’t even happen. If I sell 10,000 copies of Twisted, I will do the same thing that got Allie in trouble.

That’s right.

I will go tornado chasing.

I will pay for a professional storm chasing tour, take a trip to Kansas/Oklahoma/Nebraska etc and potentially meet a real, live tornado. Then I will film my experience and share it with all of you.

Seriously.

See that progress bar at the top of the page? Each week, I will tally up my total sales for Twisted and display it there. I already have a few sales of Twisted displayed there. If all goes well (or wrong, depending on how you look at it) the bar will creep more to the right each week.

Welcome to the 10,000 Sales Challenge.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Which book sales will you count towards this Challenge? Does it matter where people buy the book?

I will count all sales of Twisted (with the exception of the Magic Touch Bundle, which gets me almost nothing) towards the total. It doesn’t matter if it’s bought from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Kobo etc. They will all be counted. I will tally them each week and update the progress bar every weekend.

Please note that some bookstores, like Apple, don’t report sales data right away.

Do you have arachnophobia?

No. I’ve held plenty of tarantulas, including some VERY big ones. But I haven’t let a tarantula ever crawl on my face, either. That will be new.

Isn’t that dangerous, letting a big hairy spider walk on your face?

Not really. The biggest thing I’ll need to worry about is the tarantula’s hairs, which can itch quite badly and cause irritation if you’re not careful. It’s what they used to make itch powder out of! Tarantulas sometimes “fling” their hairs when distressed. It’s their natural defense. I’ll try to choose a spider that doesn’t do this often.

Have you ever been bitten?

Never. Many kinds of tarantulas are very gentle, in fact. I only handle the gentle types. The tarantula in my video will be one of my own.

Will you freak out and drop the tarantula when you do this?

Absolutely not! Tarantulas are very fragile. Even a short fall can kill one. For the safety of my pet, I’ll lie on the floor during filming.

How long will it take you to release your tarantula video after you’ve sold your 2,000th copy of Twisted?

Within two weeks, barring some kind of horrible emergency, accident, etc. There won’t be much prep work involved. I will announce its release at that time.

Okay, that doesn’t sound too dangerous. What if you really do sell 10,000 copies of Twisted? You’re hosed!

I will admit that the thought of facing an actual tornado is pretty scary, even in the presence of professional storm chasers.

And dangerous. Are you a moron?

I have a 40 mile commute to my day job and I live in Michigan, so I do something that’s far more dangerous all the time. It’s called driving on icy roads. No, really. Icy roads kill more people than lightning, hurricanes, and tornadoes combined. That’s right. They really do. Hundreds die each year as a result of this. As far as I know, there have been only 4 deaths as a result of tornado chasing, ever, and all of those were due to one super rare, freak tornado that also happened to be the inspiration for Twisted.

Of course, like with anything else, there is always a bit of risk involved.

Okay. You’re so desperate to sell books that you’ll face a tornado to do it?

Yes, I am.

What will your tornado chasing experience be like?

I cannot guarantee that I will actually witness a tornado, but the chances seem good that it will happen. I will likely be chasing for about a week, perhaps a bit longer to maximize the chances. This depends on the chasing company that I will carefully choose. At the very least, I should see some amazing storms which I’ll share with you once I return home!

What kind of videos will you share with us afterwards?

I’ll do a small video “series” about my adventure in the form of episodes. Think of them as journal entries – some of which have the potential to be quite scary!

Once you hit 10,000 sales of Twisted, how long will it take for you to go through with this insanity?

Tornado season is, at least in the Plains, from May to early July. This is when all of the storm chasing companies run their tours. I have no control over this. Once I reach 10,000 sales of Twisted, I will book a tour as soon as I can. For example, if I hit my goal in October of this year, I’ll book a tour for the following May or June (in 2016.)

Doesn’t it cost thousands of dollars to go on these wild chase tours?

Yes. It’s not cheap. But if I sell 10,000 copies of Twisted, I will have the funds.

You’re going to do the same thing that got your main character into trouble in Twisted. You won’t return home…changed…will you?

Of course not! But if my tour guide’s name is Kyle, I’m getting out of there.

The Desperation Sale is On!

The Desperation Sale is on! Pick up your 99 cent copy of Twisted (Book One of the Deathwind Trilogy) today! If you like young adult/teen novels and fantasy, you will probably like this. Sale ends at the end of the year.

You can also sign up for my mailing list and get a free book. There’s a link in the back of any of my novels or you can sign up here: http://wordpress.us6.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=8696a40cb388cfc9f1421d292&id=2e2b7ac94d

Amazon.com:

http://amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=adventure+trilogy%2CB00QFLB9ZI

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/twisted-holly-hook/1117544043?ean=9781493746002

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/twisted-1-deathwind-trilogy/id782695429?mt=11

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/twisted-1-deathwind-trilogy-1

Twisted and Torn now Available all Amazon sites

The title says it all.  Twisted and Torn are both now available on all of the Amazon sites, both for $2.99.  Here are the new buy links below:

Twisted SmlTwisted (Book One of the Deathwind Trilogy)

Amazon.com

Amazon.UK

Paperback

(This book is in very bad need of reviews.  If you read and leave a review, you will be my favorite person of the week!)

Forget the beach. Forget the teacup ride at Disney World. Sixteen-year-old Allie’s going on the vacation of her life: tornado chasing. It what she’s always wanted. What can possibly go wrong with that?

Being chased down by the twister and waking up captive by a couple of weirdos, for starters. They put her through a strange ritual, and Allie comes back from her vacation changed. Every time it storms, she becomes something powerful, dangerous, and terrifying. If she doesn’t do something, she could end up hurting or even killing her friends and family.

With her best friend, Tommy, (who might be more than a friend) Allie must return to the plains, find her tormentors, and cure herself. But her adventure’s only beginning. She finds a world where she’s not alone in her abilities, a world that includes a hot guy named Dorian who shares her curse. But Allie’s search for her tormentors is only the start. Others have their own plans for her and her abilities. Allie becomes a pawn in a battle to save others from her fate…or to destroy them.

Twisted is the first book of the Deathwind Trilogy.

Torn SmlTorn (Book Two of the Deathwind Trilogy)

Amazon.com

Amazon UK

Paperback (Yes, I was able to fix the issue)

Allie’s former best friend, Bethany, says she’s a monster, and Allie’s starting to believe her. Allie turns into a tornado every time it storms, and it’s freaking out her mother and her boyfriend, Tommy. She’s lied to her parents, and worse, she’s already helped level a town. Madeline has kidnapped her father and she’s still armed with the Deathwind. Allie will have to go through her to get him back. But the Deathwind might not be the scariest thing Allie has to face. There’s a growing evil inside of her, an urge to destroy and kill those she cares about. If she can’t fight it, she just might become that monster after all.

Torn SmlI regret to say that there will probably not be a paperback version of Torn anytime soon. I did attempt to have one printed, but Createspace will not accept my cover file. They claim I have graphics too close to the edge of the cover, and I don’t have the know-how in graphic design to fix this without it coming out terrible in the end.  Making a paperback for Torn will involve making an entirely new cover, which may or may not be possible as I have a lot of other things going on right now.

I’ve been quiet lately, but I’ve been working on getting everything ready for a re-release and working on some new material, too.  I’m about two thirds of the way done with the second book of the Timeless Trilogy, 11:39.  2:20 is out for a new edit and will be part of the big re-release as well.  I will start writing the third book of the Deathwind Trilogy once 11:39 is shipped out to the editor, which may happen around the start of the year.

Torn (#2 Deathwind Trilogy) Released!

Torn SmlAt last, it’s here: the second book of the Deathwind Trilogy!  I finished my final read-through and released Torn at about midnight last night, only two days after I had hoped to have it done.  Right now, it’s only available on Smashwords.com, but will be distributed from there to other eBook stores very soon.  I’ll post those links as Torn becomes available at other vendors.

Fortunately, at Smashwords you can download Torn for any eReader (including your computer) so there’s no need to wait.

Get Torn HERE for $2.99

Book Two of the Deathwind Trilogy

Allie’s former best friend, Bethany, says she’s a monster, and Allie’s starting to believe her. Allie turns into a tornado every time it storms, and it’s freaking out her mother and her boyfriend, Tommy. She’s lied to her parents, and worse, she’s already helped level a town.

And things are about to get much worse.  Madeline has kidnapped her father and she’s still armed with the Deathwind. Allie will have to go through her to get him back, but this time, Madeline’s different.  She’s…unhinged.  Crazy.  Willing to do anything to get to Allie for some horrifying plan. 

But Madeline and the Deathwind might not be the scariest thing Allie has to face. There’s a growing evil inside of her, an urge to destroy and kill those she cares about. If she can’t fight it, she just might become that monster after all.

I apologize for being so silent lately, but I’ve been super busy finishing Torn (#2 Deathwind Trilogy), doing its first rewrite and getting it out to the editor.  I haven’t heard back yet on how long it will take them to edit Torn (or even if they will take it!), so I can’t give you a release date quite yet.  Tonight, I’ll be going back to working on 11:39 (#2 Timeless Trilogy) while I’m waiting for Torn to come back.  It will be at least a couple of weeks before I can start the second round of edits on Torn, likely longer, but once it’s back it shouldn’t take too long to fix.  I’ve already gone through and fixed the things that I know was wrong with Torn, but of course, writers can’t see many of their own mistakes and I’m going to need another pair of eyes for that.   Once I know when I’ll be getting Torn back, I’ll be able to give an estimate of when it will finally come out.

Plus, I need to get a cover made.  I think I have the artwork chosen for it and I need to contact Robin Ludwig Designs, but that shouldn’t take too long.  I usually have a cover within a week of contacting them.

When Torn does come out, it will be up on every store except for Amazon.com, due to the experiment I’m trying with release dates. (For those of you who are new, I’m going to see if releasing all the books in a trilogy in under two months makes my sales better on Amazon.com.  I’ve had terrible luck selling books on there, probably due to releasing them a year apart in the past.)  But for those of you with Kindles, there’s no worry–I’ll have a link where you can pick it up in Kindle format so you don’t have to wait!

The next update will probably be either my cover reveal for Torn or my release date, so stay tuned!

Upcoming Book Fair Appearance…

aabflogoIf any of you will be around the Ann Arbor area this Saturday, you may be able to catch me at the Ann Arbor Book Festival.  I’ll be at the Street Fair, along with several paperback copies of Twisted and a few copies of Tempest and Inferno.  All of my books will be on sale for 8 dollars!  For more info on this event as well as directions, click here.

reflectionI’ll be sharing a table with two other authors: Kacey Vanderkarr, author of Reflection Pond, and Chris Dungey, author of the Pace-Lap Blues and Other Tales From the Seventies.  I’ve read both of their books, and I’m not lying when I say that they’re both amazing writers.  If you like young adult paranormal books, you’ll like Reflection Pond, which I just finished this week!  I highly recommend that you pick up a copy.  The story and the characters are superbly done.  You can find it HERE.

paceOr if you like literary fiction and the 70’s, check out Chris Dungey’s Pace-Lap Blues.  I recommend this short story collection for adults only, however, since there’s plenty of mature content.  (It is the seventies after all.)  Chris is an awesome writer and I’ve had the pleasure of reading his stories!  You can find his book HERE.

 

Drastic Measures

I’m flying in a helicopter over the ocean as a passenger.  There’s an island ahead, a barren, rocky one that’s far from civilization.  We fly lower and are just about to pass by when I spot groups of people standing on hills and at the edges of cliffs, waving desperately to us.  I realize that they’re stranded and I ask the pilot to land so we can help them.

I get out of the helicopter.  There are hundreds of people on this island and I talk to them for a while.  I learn that they’re survivors from a plane crash who landed here on a raft some time ago.  These people are all on the brink of starvation, and they’ve been barely surviving here for a long, long time.  I tell them that I’ll get them off this island or at least get them some food, but that I’ll have to go for help.

I get back into the helicopter and we fly over the ocean again.  I spot some cruise ships and we radio them for help, asking them to head to that remote island and find those starving people.  However, they refuse.  I’m upset, because if the ships would just go over there and notice those dying people, everything would be okay…

Of course, I knew this was all a dream when I woke up this morning, but I couldn’t let go of it.  I lay in bed for a while, thinking about it, wondering what the whole thing meant.

And then it hit me.  That island and those half-starved people is my writing career.  Those cruise ships are the goal I’ve been struggling to reach for four years now: sell enough books to be able to write full-time.  My failed efforts to get those ships to help are all my efforts to gain some traction and get somewhere.

I’ll begin by saying that I released Tempest in September of 2010.  I have to date released 9 novels, one short story and one novella while working a full time job.  I have one complete series under my and two more going that I’m in the process of finishing.

And yet, for the past three and a half years, I’ve sold only a few books per day, total.  It’s never changed or gotten better even though I’ve released more books.  There are some books that I sell only one copy of per month, and several others (such as Frostbite and Ancient) that have sold only 5 or 6 copies per month.   Sure, I’ve had rare days where my total sales were in the double digits, but they were gone as fast as they came.  And I had a day a few weeks ago where I sold 24 books, but that was due to a huge sale that I ran where I got Tempest featured on several websites.  That, too, was gone was fast as it came.

I made a lot of mistakes in the past that largely caused this to happen.  When I first started, I waited a year to release the second book of the Destroyers series.  Those who did buy the first book had lost interest and moved on by then, so I didn’t gain any traction with that release.  I started out with an awful cover.  While I did use beta readers and critique groups back then (and still do!) I didn’t use a professional editor like I do now.  While I got mostly good reviews, my overall average wasn’t as high as many other young adult fantasy and paranormal books, making it harder to compete with them.  And since Amazon.com promotes new releases more than older books, this was a lost opportunity to jump up the charts.  And if nobody sees the first book of the series, nobody sees the sequels, either.

I’ve noticed that most young adult books that do well on Amazon (sell dozens or more copies per day) have an average rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars.  Tempest has an average of 4.0.  Twisted has 4.1 and 2:20 is sitting at 3.7 (largely due to a review from someone who didn’t know it was a young adult book.)  A rating of 4.0 is barely enough for most of the good advertising sites to even consider taking your book, but not enough to compete.  It’s not enough for Amazon’s search engine to put my titles anywhere high in the search results.  This means that no matter what I do now, I will never reach that cruise ship.

Unless I go for the nuclear option and start over.

That is, to take everything off sale and then re-publish all of my books.  One by one.  From scratch.

Yes, it’s drastic and risky.  I’m pretty much going by my gut here.  I’ll lose sales temporarily, but re-publishing everything and not making the dumb mistakes I made before will give me the second chance that I won’t be able to get back any other way.  I have tried everything up to this point.  I’ve tried getting more reviews.  I’ve tried playing with my Amazon descriptions and categories.  I’ve tried advertising, getting better covers and even hiring a publicist.  Nothing’s worked.

Plus, it’s my hope that I will get better rating averages this time and be able to release every two months instead of every year, which should help me gain some traction.  I know what I’m doing now.   And don’t worry – none of the stories will be different, so there’s no need to buy a book you’ve already read!  Twisted will probably be back up within a week or two, followed by Torn, which I am still planning to release soon.  I will continue to send out the Destroyers E-Zine and four free short stories per year.  And those of you who signed up to get Torn and 11:39 for free will still get your freebies once they’re released.

I will admit that I’m a little bit nervous about doing this, but overall I feel pretty good about this decision.  It’s certainly not as scary as spending the next ten years working fifty hours per week, coming home exhausted each night and and checking my book sales to see that I’ve sold one or two books…or nothing.

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