Friday, June 29, 2018

Comparing Yourself to Others

One problem with comparing your work to the work of another author comes when your potential reader HATES the author you just compared yourself to.  I mean, everything else could be going along just fine, and they're halfway to one-clicking, then BAM, you've compared yourself to the dreaded author.  Lost sale.

Which, I guess would be okay because, if your book is really like that other author then you don't want her detractors reading your book and giving you loads of bad reviews.  On the other hand, if your book really isn't that much like BIG NAME AUTHOR's work, then by saying your story is like theirs, you've just screwed yourself out of a sale.  Or left her fans feeling let down. 

I try not to compare my work to other writers' books.  Aside from the above, I have a tough time comparing authors.  Those 'compare and contrast' assignments in high school?  Yep, bombed them. Every rare once in a while, I'll be reading a book and think to myself 'this is kind of like...' but it's not often.  And who knows if the way I'm seeing it is the way other people will see it?  Know what I mean?

Anyway, it's a slippery slope. I'd avoid it unless you're really really sure.  Like, say, if other people have told you 'this reads like a Michael Crichton novel' or 'hey, this story could've been written by Terry Pratchett', it might be worth something.  Awesome praise, but I'm still not sure I'd use it as a sales tool.  Not that I wouldn't want Crichton or Pratchett's reader base, but I also don't want that reader base to be disappointed. 

Better off to just be you.  And hope the readership loves you for the way you write.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Writing Advice

I follow an author on FB who regularly answers reader questions in her posts.  She answered one recently that went something like 'I want to be a writer. Do I need a degree in English?'  She, of course, answered with a resounding 'NO'.  And then went on to write some pretty salient and interesting things along those lines.  But since I don't have permission to post any of that here, I thought I'd address the idea myself.

First off, I don't have a degree in English.  Or anything else for that matter.  I'm degree-free.  I did go to college for 4 years and majored in Speech/Communications with a minor in Psychology.  But I quit with one year to go.  (For reasons that aren't pertinent to anything here.)

Did those 4 years of college help me with my writing?  Well, yes and no.  The two English college courses I took both helped and didn't help.  The first one was basically a 'pat on the head for stringing words together in a cogent fashion' course.  The second one kicked my ass.  (Which is why I dedicated my first book to the second professor 'in memoriam' because he'd gone before I could show him what I'd accomplished.)  Otherwise, it was more about the experience of being in college and all the combined knowledge I'd soaked up while I was there that helped me in my writing.  Sure, the psych courses help me delve into the human mind and get hands dirty.  But I could've learned all that on my own online without paying for the classes.  Know what I mean?

Everything I've done and all the knowledge I've acquired has helped me more than any class I paid for.  Every person I've met.  Every place I've been.  Every experience I've had.  They've all helped me to write novels*.

So, basically, what I'd advise any person thinking about writing to do is acquire experiences and knowledge - from everywhere.  The more you know about existence, the better off you'll be.

Oh, and please do have some English (or whatever language you write in) education under your belt.  You need to understand language in order to make yourself clear to your readers.  And you have to know the rules before you can break them.  ;o)  After that, get an Awesome Wonderful Editor who has an excellent understanding of your language, so she can kick your ass and make you write better.

Now, go and experience things. Shoo shoo.

*Writing non-fiction is a different animal.  Obviously.  Since I don't write NF, can't help you there.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Recent Marketing Efforts

I suppose all y'all saw my overly optimistic marketing post on Friday.  Umm, yeah.  I never came back to update because there really wasn't all that much to update. 

I think my ads came out, but I don't know for certain because I never got the newsletters in question, but I did see a slight uptick in sales regardless that most likely did not come from my FB group posts. 

Anyway, here's the final shake out from those (without any potential residual sales - which I don't expect - or page reads - which I hope for but are unlikely.) I garnered 14 sales from the two ads for the two books.  Which netted me about $9.  I spent $22 on those ads.  The larger portion of the 14 books sold seem to have come from the $6 ad rather than the $10 ad. 

Now, it could be the books themselves.  I'll admit that AD and NC are not wearing my best two covers, and the blurbs might not draw the most people.  They aren't for everyone.  However, when I ran an ad with ENT for AD back in 2015, I sold gobs.  :shrug:

Speaking of ENT ads, I'm still seeing sales from the ad I placed with them in May.  Page reads mostly, but I'll take them. 

Anyway, I'm still figuring this out.  I'll be trying some more ads next month.  Fingers crossed those go well.  All I can really say for certain is that regardless of the ROI (return on investment), I sell more books with ads than without ads.  (As evidenced by the lack of ads last year and the corresponding lack of sales versus this year.)  So, I'll keep on trying.

By the way, the books are still on sale thru tomorrow night.  Since the number of copies of AD way outnumber the sales for NC, I'm going to assume some of you haven't picked up the second book yet.  What are you waiting for?  ;o)

Any questions about anything? 

Friday, June 22, 2018

Brief Marketing Update 1

I'm doing some test marketing right now.  This post is as much about me keeping it straight as information for you guys if you're interested in marketing data.  Bear with me.

So yesterday, I had a $10 ad go out for AD.  I sold 5 books and earned just under $4. 

This morning, I posted sales links for AD to various FB groups* for free and, within an hour, sold 2 books. 

Today, two more ads go out at $6 each.  One for AD and one for NC.  :fingers crossed:

The reason the title of this post says '1' is that I'm going to try to post an update later if sales change.  If you don't see an update, there was no change.

* The FB groups posted to were: Amazon Kindle Goodreads, Indie Authors International, eBook World, Self Published Crime Fiction Writers, and Crime, Thriller and Mystery Readers' Cafe.  Since the books I sold were in the UK, I'm going to assume the Indie Authors International group gained me those sales, but I could be wrong.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Sale Time Again

Years ago, there was this furniture store that would have so many sales it was hard to discern if any of them were really special.  It was like 'oh, yawn, they're having a sale again'.  I am trying to keep that in mind when I have these sales, but it seems like the number of books I sell hinges on having 'sales'. 

So here we are again.  Another sale.  This time, the books of the 'A Dennis Haggarty Mystery' series are both on sale for 99c or .99p.  Now until Sunday. 

I know a great deal of people have purchased Accidental Death since it's release in 2015, so now's their chance to pick up the second book - Natural Causes - for cheap.  See what's happening with Dennis and Jillian and Pat. 

Accidental Death, as you may know, is particularly close to my heart.  You know, the wife of a former city manager writing about the widow of a deceased city manager.  That sort of thing.  All spun up into a hard-boiled, noir-like mystery with characters you could meet in any small town on the eastern plains of Colorado.  (Or anywhere else in America, truth be told.  I borrowed some traits from people I knew back in small town Michigan, too.)

Natural Causes progresses from there with the problems of a small mountain town instead of a small plains town, but the problems aren't that much different.  Murder, mayhem, cover up, with Dennis investigating it all and trying to stay sane.

Anyway, I hope you'll give them a try.  Or if you've already tried Accidental Death, will give Natural Causes a whirl, too. 

Monday, June 18, 2018

Sleeping Ugly... The Story Behind the Story

Years ago, when I was a teen, my middle brother was home on leave from the Air Force.  I remember staggering out of my bedroom one morning and hearing the words "Stop plucking your eyebrows like that.  You look like a..."  Wait... that's not the right story...

Another time, when he was home on leave, I stumble out of my bedroom and hear the words "You're not Sleeping Beauty.  You're Sleepin' Ugly."

My brother is funny that way.  And just so you know, he's my favorite brother* - witty comic statements and all.  (Actually, his witty statements are probably part of the reason he's my favorite.)

Flash forward about thirty years and the phrase came to mind one day when I was trying to decide what to write next.  Along with the phrase came the idea of a super model who gets cursed so that when she falls asleep at night, she turns ugly. 

That's clever, but not enough to build a whole story around.  So I sat down and did some thinking.  She can't just turn ugly and be ugly.  It wasn't enough.  So I made the curse not stop there.  She gets better looking throughout the day until she's back to herself by the time she falls asleep (or midnight, whichever comes first) and then BAM!  Ugly again.  Every night. 

But it's not just her.  The one night stand she was with the night the curse hit her got it, too.  Except his curse is slightly different.  He's ugly from sundown to sunup.  Which sucks for him because he works nights as a bouncer at a trendy nightclub. 

And then the fun begins.  Who cursed them?  Was the curse aimed at her or at him? 

And then, of course, I couldn't stop there.  I mean, that's probably enough of a pain in both their asses, but I threw another wrench in the machine and had the cops show up for something totally unrelated.  Or is it? 

Bwa ha ha.

And all of this came about because sometime back in the '80s, my brother was being a wiseass.  So, yeah, I'm dedicating this book to him.  Because he gave me the title, and it's a wiseass kind of book. 

I hope you enjoy it.

*Okay, so maybe he wasn't my favorite at the time.  He was just a jerk older brother then.  And that's okay.  Every teenage girl should have a jerk older brother.  It toughens you up a bit.  In fact, there's a jerk older brother in this book.  WAY worse than mine and still a jerk as an adult.  At least mine stopped being a jerk once we became adults.  (Or I got over myself and stopped perceiving him as a jerk.)

Friday, June 15, 2018

Updates and Stuffs

First off a little reminder that my Dennis Haggarty mysteries - all both of them - will be on sale starting Tuesday.  99c or .99p each (depending on what side of the pond you call home).

Next, I think the residual sales from my Kindle Countdown Deals are wrapping up.  Mind you, all but one of those sales are KU Page Reads.  But I've had almost 8K pages read this month so far and that's about 2K more pages read than last month, which is WAY more than any of the other months this year.  Sure, 8K is nothing compared to a lot of other writers, but hey, it's better than a sharp stick in the ear.

So, the final tally is $76 spent on advertising.  About $170 made in sales.  Not standing under a waterfall of currency here, but I'll take it.  I'll take every sale I can get because it means someone somewhere is reading my books.  Yay!

I updated my balance spreadsheet this past week, so I know exactly where I'm at with Outgo and Sales Income.  Yeah, it was pretty depressing.  For the entirety of this venture (since Nov 2014), I'm approaching the $10K spent mark and I'm just past the $2700 income mark.  Thank Hubs and my side job for keeping this machine running.  Without that, it would all grind to a halt. 

Editing is underway for Sleeping Ugly.  Meanwhile, I'm writing Ugly and the Beast (Yes, I finally gave SU2 a name) and it's rolling along even if I have no clue where it's going or what will happen.

If all goes according to schedule, my cover artist should start work on the SU cover next month.  Again, I am eternally grateful she could squeeze me into her schedule so I can still meet an August release date.  Without her, I'd be screwed.  And without my editor being available I'd be screwed.  I don't want to even think about THAT.

I'm still on the fence as to whether SU2 or Unequal will be next on the publishing schedule.  I suppose it depend on how SU2 goes.   If I can get it written and edited in time to meet a November pub date, then SU2 will be next.  Fingers crossed.  Whatever happens, you will see Unequal by sometime next year.  Good lord willin' and the creek don't rise.

Onward and upward! 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Miranda Rights

Who in this country does not know their Miranda rights?  I mean, seriously.  I knew my Miranda rights by the time I was 12 - from watching cop shows on TV.  I can recite the old version of them by heart now...

You have the right to remain silent.  If you give up this right*, anything you say can and will be held against you in a court of law.  You have the right to an attorney.  If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided to you.

From watching Live PD, they've added some more words to it, but it's basically the same gist.  Right to remain silent.  Right to an attorney - paid for by the state if you can't fork out the money yourself.  Easy peasy.

The police used to be able to just tell you your rights, but now, I guess, they have to read them off a little card.  They're the same either way.

Before the law enforcement official asks you any questions, he needs to read you your rights.  If he doesn't, anything you say is probably inadmissible in court. (I'm not a lawyer, I just watch a lot of TV.)  So, it benefits the law enforcers to make sure you are read your rights and understand them, so they can ask you stuff. 

So, I find it funny when I'm watching COPS or Live PD and some person is squealing about not being read their rights before they're even to the interrogation phase.  Officers do not need to read rights to put handcuffs on a person.  They don't need to read rights to detain someone.

Then again, if these people were half as smart as they think they are, they probably wouldn't be in handcuffs.  Jus' sayin'.

*That part doesn't sound right to me, but it's late and I'm tired.  I'll correct it in the morning, if I remember.

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Mysterious Case of the Missing Reviews

You may have heard that some Amazon reviews are disappearing.  In their defense, they're trying to get rid of fake reviews and scammers to make Amazon a better place to shop.  A noble endeavor, but unfortunately, there has been collateral damage during this bloodbath.  Actual, legitimate reviews are getting caught in the crossfire.  And actual, real, honest authors are taking a hit.

First off, you can't review a book if Amazon thinks you're friends with the author in question.  Because, in their minds, friends can't be objective.  And to use their verbiage it might be 'perceived as bias'.  I've had some reviews I've written suddenly disappear and others get rejected for this very 'reason'.  And it pisses me off.  I am friends with some writers - BECAUSE they write good stuff.  And I review their books because the books are GOOD.  derp.  If that's bias, then I guess I'm biased toward a bunch of awesome writers I don't even know.  I'm not shining readers on.  I'm not faking my enthusiasm, so my friends can get more sales.  I'm geniunely enthusiastic about good writing.  Always.  I'm not trying to pull the wool over anyone's eyes.  For Amazon to delete or reject my reviews is insulting as hell.  Not a damn thing I can do about it, though.

Harrumph. In case you can't tell, I got a 'you can't review this... ever' notice when I tried to post a review for a friend's book that I honestly loved.  GAH!

Yesterday morning, an acquaintance of mine posted to Facebook that Amazon had deleted ALL the reviews she's ever written.  Which explains why Accidental Death had 9 reviews and now only has 8.  I've known this gal since before either of us were published - when we were both part of a group of writers encouraging each other... so like 2006.  She made it going traditional and I'm indie, but we made it.  And now, suddenly, Amazon has decided her reviews are faked.  I hope she's contacting Amazon and pitching a fit.  It sucks for her.

But, yeah, this hurts me.  AD didn't have that many reviews to begin with and I've got a big marketing thing going on starting the 19th.  Every review counts.  And that one I lost was a 5-star.  :sniffle:

Then again, fake reviews hurt us all.  Actual fake reviews.  I'm hoping that once this storm is over, the honest reviewers can get their reviews reinstated.  I'm also hoping that once the storm has passed, and the majority of the shithead scammers are gone, the rest of us will reap the benefits.  We just have to survive this and ride it out.

Hang in there, folks.  It's likely to get worse before it gets better.  Until then, if you want to review a book but Amazon won't let you, go post it to Goodreads.  I'm hopeful this will out get fixed eventually.  Hopeful is all I can be right now.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Events and Fears

This morning I read another excellent post over at Elizabeth Spann Craig's blog - 3 Things You're Probably Not Doing on Goodreads That You Should.  And I hung my head in shame.  They're really not hard things to do and as into Goodreads as I am, I probably should've already been doing them. 

To that end, I created an event for my upcoming sale on the Dennis Haggarty Mysteries.  If you got an invite, great.  If you didn't, you can click the link and join along.  It's my first 'event', so don't be surprised if I did something wrong. 

Now, as for invites.  I sat here for the longest time, trapped in a fearful place and wondering whether I should send invites at all.  I really don't want to irritate people.  Really.  Don't.  So much so that I am loathe to send invites to anybody for anything. 

And that is really stupid on my part. 

People follow me on Goodreads and Facebook because they WANT TO KNOW what's going on with me and/or my books.  So it stands to reason that receiving an invite from me would not be irritating.  Right?

So, I bit the bullet and invited like 200 people.  Pretty much everyone I'm friends with (with the exception of one super bestselling author and one gal I know did not have a fond appreciation for AD.)  If you got an invite, feel free to share it around. 

If you don't follow me on Goodreads, please do.  I'll try to be more active on there. And I'll try not to be such a putz when it comes to inviting you to things.  Hell, I haven't even invited my friends on FB to like my Pages.  Derp.  Maybe I'll suck it up and do that over the weekend.  Baby steps.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Marketing Stuff Again

Mornin' Folks.

With a lack of anything else on my mind right now, I thought I'd talk a bit more about my marketing efforts, how they're working for me, and what's next.

First off, I realize you have to have money to do marketing.  At least any effective marketing.  I mean, there are Facebook groups you can post to that sometimes can bring you sales without you having to shell out any dough, but that's rare.  And it's inconsistent.  Hit or miss, if you will.

But, not every outlet will break the bank.  There are some nice little venues that can give you at least an equal ROI.  (You pay $6 and you make about $6.)  You might even make a little money over and above, which is always nice.  And it helps the soul to see people actually buying your books, even if the money isn't rolling in.

Last month, I had that ENT ad which cost me $40 and a smaller ad with PUFB that cost $8.  I'm still seeing residual sales from those.  Mostly in page reads with Kindle Unlimited, but hey, those page reads bring in money, so they count as sales.  I've already had almost as many page reads this month as last month and this month beats every other month but May this year.  And it's only the 6th.

Plus, I'm still seeing some page reads for DE and that sale was in April.

I'm not making money hand over fist, but I'm about 2/3rds of last year's total sales over the first 5 months of this year.  And last year I did very little advertising.  Because the money to do it just wasn't there.  But that's another story, eh?

Looking ahead, I've got Kindle Countdown Deals set for the 19th thru the 26th of this month on Accidental Death and Natural Causes.  I've already set up an ad for AD with a place called ebooksHabit on the 21st ($10).  And I'll set up something with Author Billboard for both AD and NC for the 22nd (she only runs her newsletter on Fridays) which will cost me $6 ea.  We'll see how those work. If I sell at least 32 books and pay for the ads, the rest is gravy.

I don't care what the dieticians say, gravy is good.

In August, I'll run sales for the Once Upon a Djinn books again with as much advertising as I can swing in anticipation of the release of Sleeping Ugly - which isn't part of the genie series, but its a paranormal, so I hope I'll get some crossover readers there.

What I really need is more reviews because there are lot of advertising venues that won't accept an ad for books with less that 5 Amazon reviews (or under 4 stars, but that's not a problem right now).  Which means I can't push ads for the majority of my books at those outlets.  I wish all the people reading my books on KU would write reviews.  Not sure why they don't.  =o(

I could also use a big lottery win.  I think reviews will be easier to get.  But only slightly.

Monday, June 4, 2018

A Question Posed and Answered

On FB, a writer posed the question about whether one would prefer a soul-sucking job making $100K a year or a satisfying job for beans.  (I'm paraphrasing there, but that was the gist.)  Then farther down, in the comments, he explained that he had recently realized certain people thought less of him because of the amount of money he was making as a writer. 

First off, let's address the question.  Obviously, I'd rather be working as a writer making $100K a year.  Durr.  But yeah, that wasn't one of the choices.  And since I've never had a job - soul-sucking or otherwise - that paid anywhere near $100K, I can only imagine.  I have had soul-sucking jobs that paid way less, though.  It wasn't a question whether I could quit them to follow my bliss.  I worked them because I needed money to keep myself alive.  You can't eat bliss.

I don't need money to keep myself alive right now, but I would take craptastic employment in a heartbeat if I had to.  A soul-sucking job is better than starving to death while your bills slowly mount and someone comes along to take your home.  Am I right?

As for the second part, it makes me sad.  There will always be people who look down on you for one reason or another.  Screw them.  If they can't be supportive, one hopes they at least won't be negative.  If they're negative, you need to determine how much value you're getting by keeping them in your life.  Are they enriching you in some other way?  Great.  If not... Well...

I imagine a big set of scales.  Put the good of your relationships on one side and the bad on the other.  Which side weighs more?  If the bad outweighs the good, then you've probably got some hard decisions to make. 

Yeah, it's harsh, but it helps keep you sane.

Listen, nobody promised this writing thing was going to be a road to riches.  :waits for laughter to subside:  It's hard.  Sometimes, it's deciding whether to buy a new washing machine or pay the editor.  (If it's whether to buy groceries/pay bills or pay the editor, I might suggest finding a day job and writing in your off hours.)  Sometimes, it's waiting for sales to come in to pay an editor before you send her anything, and that can take months (err... lots of months... :thinking of last year:)  If writing is your bliss, you'll find a way to do it even if it means not publishing anything any time soon. 

But if you're waiting for validation from the peanut gallery as part of your pay, don't hold your breath.  You'll turn blue, pass out, and wake up with a tremendous headache.  You've gotta do this for yourself or you'll go nuts.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Work is All Around

The other day I was sitting here bemoaning the fact that work is all around me.  I had a pile of work on the right side of my desk.  I had a pile of edits waiting to be input to the left of me.  And behind me was a whole house that needed cleaning.  (Still does.) 

A friend of mine commented on my bemoaning FB post about commiserating but having to leave for work in a few minutes.  And I joked about work being all around me and having to leave to not work. 

There are definite perks to working from home.  I can take off any time I want to.  I can go do other things when I need to.  I don't have to get dressed in outside wear and be presentable.  No makeup, no high heels, no pantyhose.  Ahhhh.

There are also definite non-perks.  I can never come home and forget about work like I used to when I held a job out there in the world.  I have to go elsewhere for that.  And my work hours are from the time I get up until just before I go to bed.  At any time during my awakeness, I could conceivably be working.  Today's workday could've started at 4:15am.  Yesterday's ended at 8pm when I knocked off to read for an hour before bed.

Sometimes I miss going off to work.  But that's rare.  And when I do miss it, I remind myself of all the downsides to working outside the home - traffic, other people, on my feet all day - and the feeling passes.

So, anyways, it's ten after six and it's time to get some household chores done so I can get to work.  My book is due at the editor today.  And I will have them done and to my editor before bed.

Do you work outside the home?  If you don't, do you miss it?