Peake Performance: From Pen to Published
Tips for Writers: How Did “Twisted Tails” Become a Best-seller within Days of Publication?
By Marilyn Peake
Twisted Tails has been a wonderful experience from start to finish, from writing the short stories to having them published to seeing TT make the eBook best-seller lists within a day or two of publication on numerous eBook websites. Published in April 2006, TT placed among the top 9% of Double Dragon Publishing best-selling titles for the time period from January to June 2006. What a wild, fantastic ride!
While taking in the fact that I now have three short stories published in a best-selling eBook and while writing my short stories for Twisted Tails II, I find myself analyzing the success of TT, so that we might repeat it. The book cover by Deron Douglas, publisher at Double Dragon Publishing, is indeed a great one. The idea of TT is intriguing. The quick read of short stories is perhaps appealing to busy readers. But I think that—in addition to all of that—something else, a kind of perfect storm or chemical reaction, took place, arising from the writing careers of many of the authors within TT.
I’m delighted to have the opportunity to share a marketing idea in this eBook today—something that seemed like a miraculous discovery when the information first dawned on me. It’s the idea that, once an eBook or small press author gains recognition – in book reviews, in visibility on the Internet, or in having found a fan base of readers—more sales will frequently occur with each new publication.
Many times, upon experiencing success with the marketing of a first or second book, a published author will spend so much time continuing to promote those books they hold themselves back from becoming a prolific writer, from sharpening and expanding their writing skills and from reaching new readers who might purchase their future books. Many of the TT authors have had a different approach for some time now. After briefly promoting a new book, they quickly move onto writing and publishing their next book. With so many authors in TT working that way, it makes sense that the anthology quickly became a best-seller.
I published my first book, a children’s fantasy adventure novel entitled The Fisherman’s Son, in 2003. Last year in 2005, the idea of publishing more books to succeed at book sales finally dawned on me. It’s very simple: The more well-written books, short stories and other works that an author has published, the more likely that author is to attract a fan base and to sell significantly more copies of each book. In order to expand on this idea, I’m going to discuss my own experiences in this regard and the experiences of three other Double Dragon Publishing authors: Darrell Bain, Peter Prellwitz, and Terence West.
Darrell Bain has been publishing books for many years. At some point, his novel—co-written with Jeanine Berry for a female point of view – entitled The Sex Gates, published by Double Dragon Publishing in 2002, became very popular among people at Science Fiction and Fantasy Conventions. The idea behind the novel is quite ingenious. Here’s the Summary “From Inside the Flap” of The Sex Gates:
“Change your sex; change your life! One day thousand of gates suddenly and mysteriously appear on Earth. No one knows where they are from. Some think it is the start of an alien invasion. Others credit God. When the old and the sick go through these gates, they become young again and their illnesses disappear. But there are several problems! Not everyone makes it through the first time. Some people simply disappear. When you go through a gate, your sex changes -- men become women and women become men. And no one can go back through the gate a second time. Everyone who tries disappears. When Don accidentally falls through a gate and becomes Donna, he and his friends face a life-changing adventure, for THE SEX GATES are more than they seem to be.”
Now, once that novel caught on, I noticed that Darrell did something “unusual”. Rather than advertising and promoting The Sex Gates, he just kept on writing – one novel after another after another. The Sex Gates was followed by two sequels, also co-written with Jeanine Berry: Masters of the Sex Gates and Worlds of the Sex Gates. Then many more novels followed. Darrell now has 41 works, many of them full-length novels, published by Double Dragon Publishing.
And here’s the best part. In 2005, Darrell Bain was named—over all famous authors—the“Fictionwise Author of the Year” for both total number of books sold and highest ratings by readers at Fictionwise.com!
At the present time, Darrell Bain’s novels and short stories continue to make best-seller rank on numerous eBook sites over and over again.
Recently, the Sony Connect Store—getting ready for the release of the “Sony Reader”, the newest advance in eBook readers – announced some of the hot new titles it will include for sale at the Connect Store. MindWar by Darrell Bain was listed among the Top Ten hottest titles, along with books by famous authors including Stephen King!
Great news for Twisted Tails II – Darrell Bain will be one of the authors!
You can visit Darrell Bain’s website at:
A second success story along these same lines is TT author Peter Prellwitz. Peter went to numerous Science Fiction and Fantasy Conventions to discuss his books and to represent other Double Dragon Publishing titles. After doing this for a short period of time, Peter attracted fans very interested in his books. In a time that seemed practically overnight to me and was indeed less than a year, Peter’s novels and short stories catapulted to best-seller status on numerous bookstore sites, often competing very well with Darrell Bain’s books. Peter now has 15 works published by Double Dragon Publishing. Once he became a best-selling eBook author, Peter Prellwitz went to work, writing more and more short stories and novels.
You can visit Peter Prellwitz’s website at:
There you can find information about all of his works, including fascinating details about his fictional “Shards Universe”.
Terence West is another TT author whose books have made numerous eBook best-seller lists. I emailed Terence and asked him if he could give me the background as to how he first made the best-seller lists. He graciously sent me a very inspiring story about his experience. With Terence’s permission, I’m publishing that information here. It’s a great story!
My first novel to hit the best seller’s list was Fallen Angels. Released in January of 2005 by Double Dragon, it didn’t make eReader’s best seller’s list until March 9th, 2005 (where it was #2). I can remember that morning almost vividly. I was working as the News Director for a local radio station and Deron Douglas sent me an email to give me the heads up. I had a live newscast coming up in about fifteen minutes, and I still had to finalize the news stories, but I couldn’t stop staring at the image of eReader’s best seller’s list. There was my book with authors like Greg Bear, and Dan Brown. People were actually buying my book. Of course, I was astounded. I hadn’t done much in the way of promotion, as I simply didn’t have time. I was working a full time job, my daughter had just been born, and I was writing another novel. Somehow, someway, Fallen Angels struck a note with readers. It stayed on the best seller’s list, moving up and down the list and eventually peaking at number one, for quite some time.
Fallen Angels was written during the summer of 1999. After a grueling round of submissions in which I received my weight in rejection letters, I was starting to lose hope of ever seeing it in print. It was then that I made a terrible mistake. I decided to self publish. And I say it was a mistake for several reasons: the book was woefully edited by the publisher, the cover was completely and utterly atrocious, and I ended up spending about $1,500 by the time it was finally released. I have since recouped that money, but mostly because of my sales at Double Dragon. I think my biggest check ever from self publishing was $38. That’s really sad. Self publishing was easily the worst mistake of my publishing career. Thankfully, I was able to overcome it.
The change came at 4:46 am on September 2nd, 2004. Here’s an excerpt from my blog:
“Here’s where the story picks up: at 7:36 pm on Wednesday, September 1st, I sent out a submission to Double Dragon E-books. I wasn’t overly familiar with the company, I had just found their name in a Google search and decided to give them a shot. At 4:46 am the next morning, I get this response from Double Dragon:
We are presently filling our release schedule for the late winter or spring of 2006. I will personally be reviewing your submission for release with our Double Dragon e-Book imprint during this time. However, if your manuscript is better suited for one of our other imprints (fantasy or romance), I will forward your submission to my Associate Publishers in those divisions. If accepted they can offer a release position in 2005.
Not a big deal. I had received automated email responses before. However, to my amazement, at 6:53 am that same morning, I received this response:
I would like to offer you an e-Book contract with Double Dragon Publishing for a spring 2006 release date (if an earlier opening occurs we will be moving you forward). If you are interested, I can send you a contract via email attachment in PDF format. I would also be interested in reviewing Fallen Angels, Biogenesis, and Crusade for possible e-Book publication if they are not already taken. Let me know and we can get the process started.
I jumped, I cheered! This was the moment I had been waiting for! A contract! An actual publishing contract! As I was at work at the time, I charged back into the production studio (I’m the morning show host and Program Director for two local radio stations) and hugged my Assistant Program Director.”
Since then, all nine of my published novels had hit the best seller’s list. Fallen Angels, Crusade, and Darkness have all hit number one, while Biogenesis peaked at number two. My next trilogy of books, which I thought was going to knock the socks off the Fallen Angels Trilogy, was released in the fall of 2005 to very limited success. Caitlin has never been in the top fifteen, Phantoms has never breached the top ten, and The Abydos Triad appeared on the bestsellers list, but vanished just as quickly, and Exodus: Europa peaked at #15. I understood at that point that it wasn’t my name driving sales. It was what the readers wanted, and they weren’t interested in the paranormal at the moment. Since then however, Phantoms has become one of my better sellers, but it never seemed to have that “zing” out of the gates like Fallen Angels did.
Now Darkness on the other hand, seems to have a life of its own. It debuted on eReader’s best seller’s list at number two, and didn’t take long to make it to the top. It has reinvigorated the sales of my Fallen Angels Trilogy along the way. Of course, Darkness is part of the Urban Fantasy genre that is so hot right now. I had once believed that I could write whatever I wanted, and the readers would come. That’s a terrible misconception. I’ve learned that you have to take the market into account, and write in the same vein as what’s popular. Know your audience. I got lucky with Fallen Angels. Who can say if that will ever happen again?
I’ve never been much in the way of promotion. I know I should, but I just don’t. I use my website and blog. That’s pretty much it. I have found that my books, without question, sell better at eReader than at Fictionwise. I don’t know why that is. It would seem to me that the common audience is relatively similar, but that just isn’t true.
You can visit Terence West’s website at:
After looking at the success of Darrell Bain, Peter Prellwitz, and Terence West, I decided to slow down on my own book promotion, and to spend much more time writing and submitting my new work for publication. I should add that, in order for this plan to work, it’s tremendously important to have a good publisher with name brand recognition. Double Dragon Publishing (DDP) currently has that within the eBook community, especially within certain genres including Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror. I should also add that I have no intention of stopping the promotion of my books because book promotion is very important. I'm just saying that publishing more work can be equally important in finding readers for your books.
I’ve noticed that, after every new title I publish through Double Dragon Publishing, my other titles improve in sales rank. And, within a week after my free monthly online newsletters are published, the sales ranks of some of my Double Dragon Publishing titles almost always improve.
Recently, Deron Douglas, my publisher at Double Dragon Publishing, posted the sales ranks of all DDP titles for the first six months of 2006. Twisted Tails ranked in the top 9% of all best-selling titles! The Fisherman’s Son book, my first novel in the published trilogy of children’s fantasy adventure novels, ranked once again in the top 50%, as did the audio book version of The Fisherman’s Son!
And now, with his permission, I would like to close this article with important advice from Darrell Bain in response to the book marketing ideas I’ve suggested in this article:
“Unless you have a million dollar advertising budget, your most important marketing tool is word of mouth, and the more good books you produce, the more opportunity there is to have them talked about.
“You're perfectly correct in your deductions. You have to keep your readers happy, and that means keep the books and stories coming. Another key you mentioned is ‘well written’. That is very important. One or two poorly written stories can hurt sales with the fan base you've already established and if the poorly written story is the first one new readers run across, they won't look at your other work.
“I personally believe that a good editor is as important as a good publisher. I've had a number of different ones and the quality varies tremendously.
“Well, thanks again, and here's wishing you great sales. You've found the secret!!”
So, there you have it—awesome advice!
NOTE: This article was voted a TOP TEN Finisher in the “Nonfiction Articles” category of the 2006 Preditors & Editors Readers Poll. It was originally published in the free eBook entitled A Twisted Tale about Twisted Tails, available on the Web site of Twisted Tails author Biff Mitchell:
Since the time this article was originally published, two more Twisted Tails books – Twisted Tails II – Volume 1: Time on our Hands and Twisted Tails II – Volume 2: Out of Time – have been published and remain on eBook best-seller lists since the day of publication. The first Twisted Tails anthology, Twisted Tails: An Anthology to Surprise and Delight, was recently named a Finalist in the 2006 Dream Realm Awards.
Marilyn Peake is the author of both children’s and adult literature. Her trilogy of children’s fantasy adventure novels – The Fisherman’s Son, The City of the Golden Sun, and Return of the Golden Age – have received many wonderful reviews. Ms. Peake’s short stories appear in both the Illuminated Manuscripts and Twisted Tails anthologies from Double Dragon Publishing. Two of her adult short stories, Coyote Crossing and Cannon Fodder: Operation Horse Whisperer, are published by DDP with their own book covers, and are listed among the “Fictionwise Recommendations” at Fictionwise.com.
Please visit her Web site at: http://www.marilynpeake.com