Saturday, 12 April 2014

Operation Mallory


Normally, this blog is about offering help. We've put up our own experiences, and tried to figure out how to best maximise that elusive exposure we authors all crave.

We've talked about our books, our covers, our marketing techniques. Some  of you have tried many of them. But a technique only has value to you if you can use it, and get the same results each time (assuming quality is sufficiently high to merit a book being considered fungible). Do A, get B. That's the sort of simple, straightforward advice that we like to get, so it's the kind of advice we try to offer.

So this blog post is about a real world test of our techniques - and a request for your help in doing it.

Many of you will know Stephen C Spencer. Steve is United States Navy veteran, and a world class author of thrillers. He's got seven eBooks, all in the Paul Mallory series, under his belt. Reader reviews have been almost universally positive. In short, he's a good author with good books - good books which aren't selling.

All that makes him a wonderful test case.

But Steve also has cancer. He's suffered with a brain tumour for a while, and kept it pretty quiet. The observant among you will notice he stopped blogging and tweeting. The very observant will have noticed his twitter profile being amended...

All the authors who follow this blog will appreciate how hard it is getting your book noticed. If you can't promote, then your books go unseen and unloved. For someone in the USA (where medical treatment isn't paid for by the state), this is a double whammy. You lose income while incurring huge unexpected bills.

In the fast paced world of eBooks, it really is a case of out of sight, out of mind.  It  also doesn't help that Steve's artwork is... rather 2011. Expectations have changed, and high end artwork is now a must for any author with high hopes of maintaining sales.

Steve hasn't been able to do all the stuff we take for granted - tweets, facebook shares, blog posts, review requests from book blogs,  keeping the art current, running short term pricing, releasing new books. We're going to do it for him. Another author, the lovely Julia Hughes, has been helping me to plan a whole marketing plan for Steve. We've put together a small group of authors who have laid the groundwork up until this point but now we need to scale it up, and get everyone who loves books and knows Steve involved.

Here's the plan:

STEP 1: New artwork.

This is what his art looks like now:

These are the four novels out. Steve also has two shorts (already out), and has one finished manuscript awaiting publication (which needs some final polish).

Thanks to some very generous authors' donations, we've been able to change this already. We hired the very talented Clarissa Yeo of Yocla Designs to redo all the art. Clarissa is one of Singapore's best graphic designers, and she really knows the eBook market. We've now got new, well branded covers that look like this:
Book 1 in the Paul Mallory series - going free soon!

Book 2 in the Paul Mallory series

Book 3 in the Paul Mallory series

Book 4 in the Paul Mallory series

Book 5 in the Paul Mallory series

A Paul Mallory Short Story

A Paul Mallory Short Story

As you can see, they follow genre conventions closely - a palpable sense of danger, lots of mysterious shadows and  a strong, highly legible font.

As well as these eBook covers, Clarissa has also prepared CMYK print-ready PDFs for the five novels.

We're also unifying his online branding - so that it's consistent on all social media, the books and of course his website...

STEP 2: A new website.

Steve has been using for some time. This was his only active domain name - but,  he's now dropped the 'D' middle initial to give Mallory more of an everyman persona. So the old domain had to go.

Unfortunately, during his illness he didn't keep hold of so we had to buy it back (many thanks to the other Stephen for not price-gouging here!).

Once we had done that, we rebuilt the site. It's under construction, but what we're going for here is a clean, simple design that omits a blog. We don't know how often Steve will be able to update his site, so we want this to be as timeless and low-maintenance as possible. Part of this new site is going to involve mailing list integration, and will serve as a landing page for the books' backmatter (so readers can easily find out about the rest of the books).

Check out a book page for yourself - everything is open to feedback

STEP 3: More distribution, and the introduction of a pricing curve.

Amazon is the 400lb gorilla in the eBook market, but iTunes, Kobo and Google are all working hard to gain market share. In some regions, like Canada, Amazon isn't the frontrunner. It makes sense to get the Mallory books out to as many people as possible.

It also makes sense to try and set up a low-maintenance marketing plan. In order to do that, Steve has agreed to give away the first book for free (which will be done via Amazon price match; much like our own Dead on Demand).

We're introducing a 'laddered' approach to sales which will look something like this:

The reasoning behind this is simple - it gives readers a no-risk chance to try Steve out. It helps convert readers to fans by giving the second book for next to nothing, but moves Steve into the 70% royalty range with books 3 and 4. Frontlist (new) titles get a small premium.

This represents phenomenal value for money. $12 for all seven books, and you don't have to risk a penny to try him out. He'll be up shortly on all the major etailers - Amazon, Kobo, B&N, GooglePlay et al.

Step 4: Eyeballs

This is the last step, and arguably the most important. We need people to see the books if we have any chance of moving copies. We're going to do this via:
  • Social media - twitter shares, facebook posts; facebook groups, G+ groups, Pinterest etc 
  • Blog posts - cover reveal, review stops 
  • Press releases - on re-publication 
  • Media interest - as a local interest story in Indiana, as a success story (we hope!) 
  • Review copies - as many as humanly possible 
  • Targeted advertising

This is where you come in. Operation Mallory has a very small warchest - provided by author donations - to place a very small number of adverts. These are going to be targeted to the websites we found success with - because Steve writes in a similar genre, so the audiences will have crossovers. That means BookBub, FKBooksandTips, ENT, Booksend, Fussy Librarian, Freebooksy etc as the budget allows (if anyone wants to see the full plan - email and I'll ping a copy over).

But this isn't a big corporate campaign. We need your help. If you've got a blog, use social media, review books, or know people that do, we need you. We need space to tell Steve's story. Help us spread the word about the free book - there's no hard sell here. Steve isn't looking for charity. You get a fantastic free book, and Steve gets the chance to make a new fan.

If you're an author, we'll even throw in a value-add. Tell your readers about Steve and his books, and we'll give you space to talk about your own books here at It gets a couple of hundred unique hits on quiet days, and has had significantly more on busy days. It's not a big blog, but it's free if you want it.

So if you can help, comment here or drop me an email on

All the files you need to take part in Operation Mallory, and some exclusive Helper Rewards, can be found at

If you can't help, please consider sharing this post/ those files with a friend who can.

Many thanks,
Sean, Dan and the rest of the Operation Mallory team.

With thanks to all the wonderful Operation Mallory supporters (in no particular order)...
Charlie Plunkett, Author
Ava K Michaels, Author
Clarissa Yeo,Yocla Designs
Izabel Brekilien
Rosie Amber, Author
Charles Yallowitz
Kat's Indie Book Blog
Wicca Witch 4 Book Blog
John W Howell, Author
L K Jay, Author
Doreen Cox, Author
S K Nicholls, Author

Are we missing your blog post/ facebook mention/ tweet about Operation Mallory? Leave a comment, and we'll get you added.

1 comment:

  1. Exciting times - the covers and website look amazing. Let's do this!