Author Archives: alexlaybourne

Finding your Writing Zen

zen_writing_stonesAs writers, we spend a lot of time buried deep inside our own minds. We spent countless hours, if that is an adequate manner in which to accurately quantify the statement, locked away in the confines of our own minds.

This is something we all share, a common bond that transcends genre, it transcends genders and culture. Writing is a mental game, and as such, we owe it to ourselves to make sure that our minds are as sharp and as tidy (a relative term you will understand), as possible.

How often have you heard, or you yourselves used the term, I’m in the writing zone, or to the writing cave! My muse is on fire, or other general words to that effect.

I won’t count hands, because, well, there must be a lot of you out there with them fingers raised.

Zen 2

Have you ever actually wondered that this zone is all about? I mean, it is not just writers that talk about being in it. Athletes are also prone to naming this infamous zone. It is a wonderful place. It is a place where we can lay aside thoughts. That includes the doubts that so often tend to lurk in the background of our minds; the fears and worries of where we are, and what we are doing. Even the general noise of everyday life falls away. Our fingers dance over the keyboard, or our bodies glide over the courts or around the course. We react not to the situation, but to our own instincts. We trust ourselves and we trust in our abilities.

We enter… the zone.

In essence, this place is very much a spiritual place. Whether you choose to believe it or not, the mind works in its own mysterious ways, and when it enters the zone, there are a great many parallels that can be drawn to the concept of Zen.

This begs the question of whether a writer could benefit from regular Zen based training sessions. These would include sessions on visualization, meditation and reflection. Exercises and practices designed to increase your mental toughness. Tools to develop the mind so that clarity and tranquillity can be created, not merely found by accident.

Zen stones pyramid on water surface, green leaves over it

Studies would suggest that this is the case. While I have not seen anything that would directly relate to writing, I did find a paper written based on over twenty-five years of study. The subjects in question were athletes. In the paper Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, a psychology professor at the University of Chicago found that there were certain characteristics amongst people that transcended matters of race, gender and cultural influences. All of these shared attributes were linked to a certain level of mental toughness; the ability to cast aside self-doubt, a clarity when visualizing their goal, and a strong emotional balance.

Admittedly, none of these things sound like many of the writers I know (and love), but then again, I don’t know many writers that practice cleaning their mind, however one successful writer that was a big fan of the Zen mentality was Ray Bradbury. His success as an author cannot be questioned. He even wrote a book about the Zen in the Art of Writing (I would love to get a copy of this somehow).

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There is proven credence in the theory to adopting a Zen approach to things, outside of the writing world too. Just take a look at legendary basketball coach Phil Jackson. He pioneered the introduction and incorporation of yoga, meditation, and positive visualization in his players. This is the man who won eleven championships and earned himself the nickname the Zen Master.

Imagine turning these techniques upon ourselves. Envisioning our writing success. Perceiving our success, envisioning our stories with a clear mind. The possibilities are certainly more than intriguing, do you not agree?

An Interview with One of the Stars of British Horror

… ME.

That’s right.

I have a new interview out today and it is one I have been anxiously waiting to go live. I had a blast answering the questions, and really love the way the finished article came out.

The interview is over at East, Sleep, Write, and you can find it right here.

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I’d Buy that for a Dollar! Would you?

I am toying with the idea of running a 99 cent sale on Blood of the Tainted. For those that don’t know, this is my most recent horror novel release, and my first foray into Vampire horror.

Now, before you start thinking vampirish thoughts, these are not your twenty-first century vampires; love sick puppies who would rather spend their immortality lusting after teenage girls, but rather the kind that spend eternity chowing down on the local population. My vampire, for there is only one in my novel, is an ass kicking murder machine.

Now I will happily say that Blood of the Tainted is my best horror novel to date. There is something about it that just came together. Not to mention I grew a lot as a writer while writing it. It was a learning book for me, I honed my processes on it.

Yet, it is not selling. It has a paltry three reviews, after being out for over three months.

Honest book reviews are the best way for an author to get seen. I will not claim to understand how sales and marketing work, as I have often said in my posts here, but I do know that book reviews are powerful. So it is my goal now to get more book reviews in for Blood of the Tainted. I want to look for these on Amazon, and of course on websites, real book review sites. The kind where people go when they are actually looking to buy books.

Book promotionUntil now, my 99 cents campaigns have relied on Facebook for the promotion. Why? Because I am clueless. I will be honest with you on that one.

This time around, however, I am intent on doing it properly. I am not going to rush in. I am already looking around, looking for sites that I can approach for promotion. I have a long list of book promotion sites – taken from a few websites I found on google offering such information – and I am going to go through a number of them and draw up a list of sites I think would work best for me.

I have been looking at BookBub, this morning and I learned two things. One, without having a budget to invest, the big sales are a real struggle to obtain. The second thing was that horror really is a small group. It is one of the lowest supported categories on the BookBub site. It has an approximate reach of 670,000 subscribers. Now, that sounds like a lot, but when you look at Thrillers, you see they have 1,890,000 subscribers, while mysteries hold the number one spot with 2,430,000 subscribers.

bookbub

Now, the prices are adjusted accordingly, but I find it interesting, as many shops list their horror selections amidst the thriller section, yet from an indie perspective, there is quite a difference between the two in terms of sales potential.

If I were to be accepted by BookBub for a 99 cents promotion campaign, it would cost me $240. Now, they say that the average return is 950 books. Now, for me, luck is never on my side, so I will treat that as the upper level rather than the average. So in my head, I would be looking for around 750 reach. That sounds good, but at 30 cents a sale in royalties, I would need to sell about 800 copies just to break even. Now, if I could even get close to that, my ranking on amazon would certainly be rather impressive, and then there is the hopeful surge of sales that will come through once my 99 cent promotion has ended, but there are a lot of ifs and maybes there.

Book promotion 1

The truth is, I don’t see this being a viable option for me based on the price alone, at this point in time, but it is certainly something I would be interested in exploring later on.

The question is, what can I realistically expect to be achieved on a $0.00 budget, because that is what I am working with. I know it is possible, but you need work your ass off, and you need help. Lots of people sharing posts and the like. I have a few ideas planned out in my head for this, and I am sure to be coming back here with a rallying cry in a few weeks, once I have a clearer picture.

It was in April / May last year that I ran my last 99 cent campaign for my zombie horror novel Diaries of the Damned, that landed me a number one rank in a sub category on Amazon and a record month of over 300 sales on that title alone. I had help back then. This time around I will be flying solo, but with a little bit of structure, I am sure I can at least break this current rut and get a few sales and reviews coming in.

Book promotion 2

I will only run the sale on Blood of the Tainted, and I am debating whether or not to make it a month long price drop, or a shorter period. I am leaning towards the month, because word will need to spread. Not everybody will read the blogs straight away, and the latent traffic that comes in the days after the post goes live also deserve a chance to get in on the act. If it is over in a week or so, then you could lose out on potential sales. Maybe a two – three week range is a good size. I will add that to my research.

While sales are unpredictable, there is a pattern to things. Maybe not a magic formula for best-selling success, but research and an analytical approach to the results of others, will surely yield some insights that I have missed until now.

How much luck have you had with 99 cents promotions? I would be interested in reading up on any correlations between pricing strategies and genres. It would be interesting to see, but that is a step too far right now. Baby steps, first I need a good plan, and implement it properly, measure the impact, and then look to play around with fine tuning the strategy.