Christopher Godsoe is an author and computer graphics artist residing in central Maine, with his son. He is a maker, a futurist, and a child at heart. pre://d.o.mai.n is the first novel in his d.o.mai.n science fiction series. In his free time, he enjoys golf, video games, and customizing automobiles.
In your opinion, what are some of the factors that distinguish novels that sell well from novels that flop?
It’s such a crapshoot, commercial success. I’m a big believer in removing roadblocks between your work and each potential reader. Each step of the purchasing process for people has such a small margin of error nowadays, because there are so many options out there for people entertainment dollar. Certainly an attractive cover comes first. You have to both capture the readers attention and accurately represent the content and quality of the story within. Second, the reader looks at price. While established authors can get ten dollars or more for an ebook, and fifteen or more for a paperback, the rest of us need to lower the bar a little to give a reader an incentive to give us a chance.
In their eyes, a new author is unproven, and while you may look at it as just a couple of dollars, the truth is that there are thousands of other options in the same column for people, and if a reader has decided to check out something new between releases of their favorite authors, then you need to remove every source of objection that you can from their path. Third-The book has to be great. Not just superficially great, but having layers of nuance and meaning that cause it to live on in your readers mind moving forward. And fourth? Dumb Luck. This one might be the most important of all.
I have to say one thing that can turn me off to a book is a horrible cover and/or horrible synopsis. What other aspects do authors overlook that can ultimately make or break a sale?
A cover is your first impression. We get the luxury as writers/artists to take all the time we want to craft a good first impression. For all those times that you met someone for the first time, made a poor showing of yourself, and wished you could have it back, you owe it to your book to not let it go out like that, and the same goes for your synopsis. You know how good your book is. Write your synopsis like you’re writing to impress a beautiful member of the opposite sex.
The publishing/book world has changed dramatically over the past five years, and is still changing. How have these changes impacted the way we market?
It’s driven more of it online. I have this wacky vision of a writer able to create this amazing career, using a pen name, voice changing technology, and the like. They do all that, become one of the richest people in the world, and nobody knows who they are. It’s possible now. It’s also completely pointless, because I can count on my hand the number of authors that would even be recognized by a substantial portion of the population, lol. The point of all that being that there is no reason to not be accessible to your fans. Even if you make it big, you have to make it REALLY big to have any kind of measurable impact on your life are essentially zero. The changes in the industry have forced authors out of the shadows, to make themselves accessible to their fans.
It’s a scary thing for many of them, but I think most have realized that it’s rewarding. I mean, they’re your fans. These people like your work. So long as you aren’t a raging lunatic (or more often than not, even if you are), your fans are going to love you. We need to give of ourselves, realize that there aren’t finite resources of our intellect or wit, and engage our readers on a social level. In the age of social media, there’s no reason not to.
As authors, our main objective is to find readers. What has been the biggest resource to you in finding your readers?
This is going to sound like the mother of all cop-out answers, but the internet. I don’t specify social media, because I think if you just stick to social media, you’re making a mistake. Sure, it’s a great tool to interact with fans, but social media does not an internet make. The internet is a delivery medium, a way for an author to deliver whatever content they want, however they want. Want to send a video message directly to your fans? You can do that. Want to create a 3D world from one of your books, and post it online for your fans to explore/enjoy? You can do that. Want to live broadcast a book release party, inviting millions of fans the chance to virtually “hang out” with you? You can do that. Actually, scratch that. You NEED to do that. Hugh Howey, author of WOOL and the Silo series, broadcasts his book signing/mailings. It’s cool to see the interaction when people can see him sign their book that they will receive in the mail a few days later.
What is the biggest mistake you see authors make when marketing?
They spam the hell out everyone with “OMG, Buy my book!” links. Seriously? That’s just lazy. You need to put yourself out there, but you also have to let people discover you. That car salesman that really wants you to buy one specific car is an apt analogy. If he’s pushing you to buy one specific car, the first question that pops into my head is usually, “What’s wrong with it?” If someone is pimping the hell out of their book mainly through direct request of purchase links, I would ask the same question. It just wreaks of desperation, and a desperate author is commonly thought to have a reason for being desperate.
What has been the most successful part of your own marketing campaign?
My marketing campaign is (as of this writing) just getting underway, but I anticipate that the giveaway will be the most effective. People like free stuff, and if you can make it easy and simple for them to enter, it makes them more likely to do so. I have a lot of prizes that I am giving away, several that I’ve never seen done before. I have actual “props” from the book, )(objects described in the book) to give away, as well as beta reader copies of the book. The beta reader copies are three paperback copies that I circulated around to my beta readers earl on in editing, inviting them to write notes directly in the book for me to use later. So three lucky winners will get those, actual paperbacks used in the editing process of the novel, with handwritten notes from beta readers pointing out all of the mistakes I made up to that point in the process. It’s a cool idea (I think), and I hope it’s something people will consider spreading the word on twitter or their blog for a chance at winning.
Traditional vs. Indie – Do you think indies have to market differently than traditionally published authors do, or is the game the same for everyone?
I think they do. Traditional authors get invited to do book tours and the like via their publisher, and there are a few other limited resources that publishers still do for their authors, though the gap is narrowing between the two worlds. Some of the options that were traditionally only available to….traditionally published authors are now accessible to all, and some that weren’t possible before when working with a publisher have become available on the other side as well. Even book placement in stores is becoming less of an issue, with expanded distribution and the general decline in the number of book stores rendering the divide less each year.
How important is blogging to an author’s platform?
To me, blogging is a bit like phone calls during summer vacation. (Stay with me on this, I make a lot of absurd analogies and they usually end up working out in one way or another.) Novel releases are like the school year, it’s easy to maintain relationships as a kid when you are all gathered together. During summer vacation, however, everyone is doing their own thing with their families. New friendships are formed while others fade away, as new people are introduced into your life and you no longer have time for the old ones. Unless, that is, you do a good job of staying touch via phone (this is all pre-smartphone, I grew up in the 90’s, just take my word for all of this if you’re under 25). That’s like blogging, it’s a way to stay in touch with people in prose, to post excerpts from your book, to share your thoughts in longer form than you can on twitter or facebook. It’s just good for keeping people from making new friends (forgetting how much they enjoyed your writing).
Social media – worth the time or not?
Worth it, but you need to forget about using it as a selling tactic and just have fun with it. People want to get to know you a little bit, they want to see what makes you tick, so to speak. Share pictures, share ideas, funny anecdotes, and they might even come to like you as a person, which makes their decision on whether or not to buy your next book a no-brainer. It also encourages them to talk about you to their friends, if you say something they particularly like, they might share it or tell someone, which is the word of mouth advertising people pay huge sums of money to generate otherwise. So I say have fun with it, don’t be afraid to look foolish (any of my facebook friends can tell you I don’t have this problem), and people will respect you for “keepin’ it real.”
Any other words of wisdom?
Writing is a long, discouraging slog. It can be months and months between book releases, and you never know if your months of work are going to be well received, or if people will just ignore it and move on. There is a lot of advice about there that says, “Write to your demographic”, or, “Know your audience.” Most of it is crap. Certainly, it helps to know who will read your book from a ratings perspective. I mean, nobody wants explicit sex scenes in a YA book, but a lot of the advice sounds a lot like, “write something you can sell to the maximum number of people.” That’s the part that I think is crap. Write what you love. If you want to put a sex scene in your book, write the sex scene, just don’t write the rest of the book like it should be on the shelf somewhere along Sesame Street.
Own your story. Accept it for what it is, and don’t try to water it down because you think someone will get offended or not buy it. I worry about that, people watering down their work for commercial gain. Where would we be now as a societyme kn if Orwell, Steinbeck, Rand, and Stowe decided that they couldn’t risk taking chances in their work because it might not sell? There are parts of this book that I could have removed to make the content more appropriate for a larger audience, but I’m not even sure I like those people, why would I want to spend months out of my life trying to please them? If someone reads this book and enjoys it, I can safely say that they would be someone I could share a drink with, and we would have plenty to talk about. We’d have similar interests, I think, and I say that because I made it a point to write a book I would enjoy reading if I found it on a shelf somewhere. That’s my biggest piece of advice-write a book you would want to read. Don’t compromise, write something you can put your soul into, and it will be better for it.
In 2037, cancer isn’t an automatic death sentence if you can come up with the cash, but what is certain is that Miles will spend the rest of his life in prison if he’s caught. A chance encounter with an old flame introduces him to an enigmatic man named Atlas, and he just may be the answer to Miles’ prayers. Out of options, Miles accepts his offer of assistance, and Atlas promptly delivers a powerful tool; DJINN, an artificial intelligence crafted by the hacker collective Anonymous before the turn of the millennium.
To a sexually frustrated loner like Miles, the fact that they designed her as a flirtatious twentysomething only complicates matters. Together they will weave their way through the augmented reality darknet while eluding Tobin Maldovan, a former Black Ops operative and the FBI’s newest agent in the war on cyber crime, to save his mother.
Miles will learn that in a future where appearances are often misleading, trusting yourself is the only hope you have.