I’ve mentioned this before, but I figured it was time to lay out the lurid details. ASH is a rewrite of the first piece of fiction I ever attempted, Echoes. Note that I didn’t say the first piece of fiction that I published, which it also was. I started writing in January. Echoes was published in early April.
It sucked. I was incredibly proud of it at the time, but it was pretty terrible.
Because I wanted to write more about Asher Benson, I knew I had to rewrite the whole damn thing. I couldn’t salvage any of Echoes. So I started from scratch and cranked out ASH. I was very excited to release the novel, because I planned to write multiple sequels. My cover artist whipped up some cool artwork based on a design idea I had. This was the original:
I loved it.
The book bombed at release. I mean, really bombed. Most of the readership I’d built had found me through The Dark and The Hunger, so I guess most of them didn’t want to try something else. I dunno. It bombed and I was bummed.
But I didn’t give up on it. I believed in the character and the over-the-top nature of the series. After finishing the third book in The Hunger, I decided to get going on the sequel to ASH, Madness. I knew I had to make changes or the series would die, so I got to work.
The first thing I had to do was change the cover. My designer came up with this:
This one has more commercial appeal. Much more, going by how many books it moved. Using big titles is something I’ve drifted toward over the past few years. Having large letters on the covers has helped because the vast majority of my books are sold online. When people browse Amazon or Apple on their phones or tablets, they’re glancing at thumbnails. Big letters grab the eye more than small details in the artwork.
Second, I changed the book description. I drummed up a punchy intro that details a few of the intense moments at the beginning of the story. This is what I started the description with:
9 AM EST: A senator shoots himself on national television.
10:32 AM EST: An entire floor of government agents leap to their death from their office building.
12:57 PM EST: All the police officers inside a station murder each other.
You can read the rest here, if you’re interested. It seemed to grab potential reader’s attention a lot better than the previous one.
The new cover and description increased the purchase rate of ASH by a large percentage. But it wasn’t enough if I wanted to get a whole series kickstarted after a shitty release. I figured I needed to move at least ten or twenty times as many copies as I was at the time, if I wanted to make Asher Benson viable. If the first in a series doesn’t sell a lot of copies, the sequels are doomed. Buy-through rates are a whole other post that I’ll get to at a later date.
Third, I made ASH permanently free, with links to Madness in the back.
The book exploded in popularity after that. It topped the free ‘bestseller’ lists on Amazon and Google for months and months. Madness, and the short story before it, The Perfect Crime, took off as well. And Asher Benson was given new life. I plan to release at least one more Asher book this year, and maybe as many as three. That’s probably wishful thinking, though.
So long story long… don’t give up on something too quickly. Just because a book failed at release doesn’t mean it can’t find an audience. Maybe it needs a new cover. Maybe a better description. Maybe it needs some targeted advertising. Perhaps a dash of black magic.
Echoes needed to be shitcanned.
ASH just took a little TLC and some creative elbow grease.
The first thing you need to do is be honest with yourself. Is it a solid story? How’s the writing? Does it have good characters? If you believe in it, honestly, then start tinkering. It might not be as dead as you think.
Today, I only edited a chapter and a half of Decayed, which is terrible. Some more SBIG editing happened. Hoping to release the new episode this week. The Tall One should be reading Decayed in the next two days.
See ya tomorrow.