My name is Russell Newquist. I am a software engineer, a martial artist, an author, an editor, a businessman and a blogger. I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy and a Master of Science degree in Computer Science, but I'm technically a high school dropout. I also think that everything in this paragraph is pretty close to meaningless. I work for a really great small company in Huntsville, Alabama building really cool software. I'm the owner and head instructor of Madison Martial Arts Academy, which I opened in 2013 less to make money and more because I just really enjoy a good martial arts workout with friends. I'm the editor in chief of Silver Empire and also one of the published authors there. And, of course, there is this blog - and all of its predecessors. There's no particular reason you should trust anything I say any more than any other source. So read it, read other stuff, and think for your damn self - if our society hasn't yet over-educated you to the point that you've forgotten how.
There are no men like me. There is only me.
Readers loved “Who’s Afraid of the Dark?” when it was part of Make Death Proud to Take Us. Since we released it standalone, even more praise has come in. Here’s a sample of what the readers have to say.
The anxious anticipation is nearly over! Although Post Traumatic Stress is not, strictly speaking, a Peter Bishop novel, it does actually feature his origin story as the b-plot. The first draft of the novel is now 90% done, and it’s coming together rather quickly at this point. I expect to have the manuscript off to my editor sometime in November. God willing, we’ll have the novel published sometime around the first of the year.
In the meanwhile, the second Peter Bishop story, “Knight of the Changeling”, is already available as part of the anthology Between the Wall and the Fire. We’ll also be releasing it soon as a standalone story. Meanwhile, “Who’s Afraid of the Dark?” is available DRM-free for the bargain price of $0.99 on Amazon.com, or free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers.
Little Johnny isn’t afraid of the dark. Big boys aren’t afraid of the dark – and at five, Little Johnny is a big boy. No, he isn’t afraid of the dark. He’s afraid of the things that come out in the dark, and what they might do to his baby sister. But his parents don’t believe him – so it’s up to Johnny to keep her safe, armed only with his toy sword and shield.
About the Tales of Peter Bishop
Peter Bishop had a simple life. He had friends he liked, a church he loved, and a job that he actually kind of enjoyed. He didn’t want much more. Maybe just a nice girl to settle down with. OK, maybe just one specific girl. And then again, maybe she wasn’t as nice as he thought she was. And maybe she wasn’t all that into him, either.
Yes, Peter Bishop had a simple life. Until a demon attacked his town, his friend Michael joined an ancient band of knights, a dragon kidnapped the girl, and a seventy three year old monk gave Peter the sword of an archangel.
Peter’s life is not so simple anymore.
When I launched “Who’s Afraid of the Dark?” as a standalone eBook on Wednesday, I didn’t expect it to go all the way to #1 in its category. But I did plan out the launch ahead of time, applying all the lessons I’ve learned from previous book launches. I did expect a strong launch this time, and it didn’t disappoint!
Since many fellow authors follow this blog, today I will peel back the veil a bit. I’d like to show my friends exactly how I did it. A fellow business owner and I once mused that he and I could do the exact same marketing and it might work for one of us and not the other. Marketing is like that. Even so, hopefully you can put at least some of these tips to use.
The first thing to realize is that this successful book launch didn’t happen overnight. In fact, it’s been quite a long time in the making. I’ve spent the last year and a half or so helping other authors launch their own books. I’ve left reviews on quite a few books now. I made sure to put those reviews here on this blog, on Amazon, and on GoodReads. I have used social media, especially Twitter and Facebook, to help boost the signal of marketing attempts for several other authors. The upshot is, when it came time to ask for a favor in return, they were ready to do it.
More on that in a minute.
The second most important thing I did was pick the proper categories on Amazon. Some categories are really tough. Others are easy. “Who’s Afraid of the Dark?” is a short story, so Amazon helped me automatically her by lumping it into the “Short Reads” parent category. Pro tip: this is one of the easiest categories to reach #1 in. People don’t buy as many short stories as they do novels, so you simply don’t have to move as many units to make it to number one. Take advantage of this. It’s not cheating – it’s just knowing the game. I also used Amazon’s recommended keyword selections to ensure proper subcategory placement. That allowed me to get the story placed in a very specific subcategory, which again made it easier to rise to the top.
Category selection is absolutely critical – don’t neglect it in your book launch.
The third major thing I did was enroll it in KDP Select and set it to have a few days free, beginning the day after launch.
Why the day after? Because you can’t schedule free days until the book is actually live. Also, I picked the launch date and the free days carefully. Today is Michaelmas, the feast of St. Michael and the other Archangels. Since my hero, Peter Bishop, wields the flaming sword of St. Michael the Archangel himself, this seemed like a great day to go free. But I wanted some time for buildup, so I didn’t want just one free day. I went for three – the day before, Michaelmas itself, and the day after.
Due to the way Amazon’s sales ranking works, your best bet for rising to the top of a category is to move a lot of books very close to launch day. Therefore, I scheduled the book launch to coincide with this for maximum effect. The algorithm takes sales history into account – so if you’ve got a long history of no sales and then a sudden burst, your sales rank gain is limited. But if you have no prior sales history, then the algorithm works only with the sudden burst. Boom, you get a great ranking.
Get your friends to help – but make it easy for them!
Remember earlier when I said that I had a lot of author friends who were happy to help? I made use of them – and many of my other friends, too. I also made it super easy for them to help. All I asked for was two very small favors. First – and easiest – I asked them to drop by Amazon yesterday morning and pick up a copy of the book. Remember, though, that I’d already made it free. So I’d asked my friends to please pick up a FREE COPY of my book. Hard, right? I got a huge response from all of them, and it really helped.
Don’t think for a minute, though, that that accounts for all of the units moved. It doesn’t. It’s not even a quarter of yesterday’s units – and none of today’s. They helped boost it up the ranks and get seen. My other marketing work, took over from there. But I digress.
The second favor I asked for was reviews – and I made this one easy, too. I asked those who had already read the story to please take a moment to leave an Amazon review of it. This particular story had already been published before in the anthology Make Death Proud to Take Us, and many of my friends had read it. Now, getting reviews from people – even friends – is like pulling teeth. (Yes, this might be a not-so-subtle hint to my friends who have not yet left reviews on any of my works!) I knew I wouldn’t get many – but I did get a small handful. Thank you so much to those who did leave reviews – I love you for it!
Announce it everywhere!
I blasted the announcement all over social media. My Twitter feed, in particular, had a lot more “marketing tweets” in it than I usually like to go for. But I wanted the word out, and it worked.
But the catch here is that I’ve spent all summer carefully building my Twitter audience. I definitely could have done better with an even wider reach, but I have enough of a following now to make an impact – especially when I’m giving something away for free! Also, I’ve spent the summer building relationships on Twitter. So I had several friends retweeting me throughout the day. Some of those friends have much bigger audiences than I do. To each and every one of you who gave me a signal boost yesterday, thank you!
Last but not least, I made use of the Amazon Giveaway in a way I never had before. This time, I made a giveaway for Make Death Proud to Take Us, which also included the short story “Who’s Afraid of the Dark?” But in the message for those who didn’t win, I left a note and a link to the free version of the story. I set the giveaway to make people follow me on Twitter… but my goal wasn’t Twitter followers at all. I wanted people to pick up the free story.
How well did that work? I’d estimate that about 1 in 15 to 1 in 20 giveaway entrants went on to pick up the free story. Frankly, a lot of giveaway entrants aren’t interested in your books at all. They just enter every giveaway they see. So the percentage wasn’t huge, but it was enough to help move a few more copies.
I’ll give a more detailed report on the aftermath after there’s been some. The best I can say today is that copies are still moving, albeit at a far lower rate than yesterday. I didn’t hold the number one slot for very long – the current occupant is tenacious. But I’ve sat at number 2 for almost 24 hours now (barring the brief stint at #1). The story has also held on well at #6 in its secondary category, and is still within the top 100 in at least two other categories. That’s going to continue to bring it a lot of visibility it wouldn’t otherwise have had.
If you don’t have a copy yet, stop by Amazon and pick one up. If you did pick it up, read it. I think it’s the best work I’ve yet published. And if you’ve read it, please do leave it an honest review on Amazon. Amazon reviews are the lifeblood of independent authors – help a friend out! Even something as simple as, “I liked it – 5 stars!” is a major boost.
If you liked it, you can find the second Peter Bishop story in the anthology Between the Wall and the Fire. That one gets much deeper into the actual world of Peter Bishop. You’ll also want to keep an eye out for my upcoming novel, Post Traumatic Stress. It’s not technically part of the Tales of Peter Bishop series, but he does guest star in it… and it also happens to contain his origin story. I’m also nearly finished with the next Peter Bishop short story, “Dinner Party.” Imagine Peter – a good Catholic boy – meeting his fiance’s very Baptist parents. Keep in mind that until now, Faith has been a very bad Baptist girl. Hilarity ensues. Plus, there’s a werewolf.
My newest release, a short story titled “Who’s Afraid of the Dark?” is now available on Amazon. This is the first of the Tales of Peter Bishop. If you’ve read my anthology Make Death Proud to Take Us, then you’ve already read this story. If you haven’t, it’s now available as a standalone. The story has done very well on Amazon today, climbing (so far) all the way to #2 in “Kindle Store > Kindle Short Reads > 30 minutes (12-21 pages) > Science Fiction & Fantasy” and #5 in “Kindle Store > Kindle Short Reads > 30 minutes (12-21 pages) > Literature & Fiction.”
The kicker? In the much, much tougher category of “Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Paranormal & Urban” earlier today it sat at #58. Number 55? Yeah, that was the International Lord of Hate himself, Mr. Larry Correia with Monster Hunter International. Not bad. Not bad at all!
I’d like to give a special thank you and shout out to all the people who have helped boost the signal today and get me to that point: L. Jagi Lamplighter, Susan McPhail, Declan Finn, Dean Esmay, Daddy Warpig, Christopher Lansdown, and especially Brian Niemeier.
Best of all, the story is available free through Friday! As the tale tells of the man who wields the flaming sword of the archangel St. Michael, it is only fitting that it should be available free over Michaelmas. Get your free copy today. And after you’ve read it and loved it, leave me an awesome review!
Update: “Who’s Afraid of the Dark?” is now Number 1 in “Kindle Store > Kindle Short Reads > 30 minutes (12-21 pages) > Science Fiction & Fantasy.” Thank you again to everyone named above, and to all of you! Please do remember to drop by and leave a review when you get a moment!
Just in case you’re not sold already, I’ll leave you with a sample.
Even though he couldn’t see them he could hear their skittering. Despite his impassioned pleas and his sister’s crying, his parents had turned out the lights. Again.
“Don’t be afraid of the dark, Johnny,” Bruce had told him.
“Be brave like Batman,” his mother told him. Batman wasn’t afraid of the dark.
Johnny wasn’t afraid of the dark, either. Only babies were afraid of the dark. Johnny was five now, and a big boy. Little Ginny wasn’t afraid of the dark, either. Even if she had been, she had an excuse. Still a mere two years old, his little sister was a baby. But Ginny was as brave as Johnny, and Johnny wasn’t afraid of the dark.
He was afraid of the things that came out in the dark.
They didn’t come out straight away. They were too smart for that. They waited until later, after Johnny and Ginny had gone to sleep – until after their mother and Bruce had gone to bed, even. Only once the grownups were sound asleep did they come out.
It started with the skittering. They came from the closet. At least, that was Johnny’s best guess based on the sound. Then they crawled across the walls and the ceilings to the beds. Ginny always slept through it. But not Johnny. He’d always been a lighter sleeper than his sister, and he’d woken at once every time.
The first night it hadn’t even scared him. He’d just listened with fascination, wondering what kind of critter it would be. Maybe it was mice, or rats, or squirrels. Maybe it was even a raccoon. How cool would that be? A raccoon in his bedroom!
Then he felt the cold, sharp agony of its touch. He felt the mouth over his shoulder and the teeth sinking into him. He felt the drain as the monster sucked his life away. He tried and tried to fight it but his body would not move, could not move. So he tried even harder to scream, to call to his mother for help. But no noise passed through his lips.
In the pale stream of dim moonlight that passed through their curtains he could just barely make out his sister. It was enough. He could see that she, too, was writhing in agony. He wanted desperately to help her, but he couldn’t even help himself.
And then, suddenly, the monster was gone. So he screamed. Ginny screamed. A moment later their mother was there, comforting both of them. But no sooner had they quieted than Bruce filled the silence. He really liked to yell at them. He scared Ginny, but not Johnny. Johnny thought he was a coward who wouldn’t do anything more than yell, even to a five year old.
“What are you screaming at? Go back to sleep!” he roared, and stormed off.
Johnny scowled after the man as his mother comforted Ginny. It made him so mad that that big, cowardly bully shared a name with his favorite superhero. He didn’t deserve to have an awesome name like that. When his mother finally left, too, he pulled the blanket high up over his head. He fought it for as long as he could, but eventually he fell back asleep and the rest of the night passed without incident.
His mother spent all day trying to convince him that he’d imagined it, that it was just a dream. It almost worked. After all, Ginny didn’t even remember it come the light of day. And the monsters hadn’t left any marks.
It almost worked, but it didn’t. Johnny could see how tired his sister was, the dark bags under her eyes. He could see his own matching pair when he looked in the mirror as he brushed his teeth that morning. Even his mother remarked on how tired he seemed that morning, but even so she couldn’t seem to put it all together.
Why wouldn’t she believe him? Her boyfriend was even worse. Bruce kept treating him like a stupid baby for crying in the dark. He never could figure out why his mother liked him. He was even more awful than her last three boyfriends, and they were pretty awful. But he’d never disliked Bruce quite as intensely as he did that morning.
On the second night they came, Johnny was scared right from the beginning. He knew what to expect this time. That definitely did not improve the experience.
“Be brave like Batman,” his mother told him. As if all he had to fear was the dark.
He went to sleep with his blanket pulled tight over his head. The thick blue blanket was far too warm for that evening, but he insisted and overruled his mother’s objections. He hoped the thicker blanket would keep the monsters away. His mother thought he just wanted Luke Skywalker. He was happy to let her have her delusions.