Friday, September 28, 2018

Observations While Searching for Books

I spent part of my time this week looking for something to read on Kindle.  I wanted a suspense, preferably free, that met my parameters (low reviews, new-to-me).  The Top lists of Free weren't giving me what I wanted, so I tried searching the 'Zon.  And I learned some interesting things...

When you search 'free' on Amazon, it pops up all the Kindle Unlimited books.  Which are only free if you're a subscriber, so that doesn't do me a damn bit of good.  (And they aren't really free, folks, they're included in your subscription price.)  So I sorted by price from low to high.  It was still throwing KU books in there, but I got some actually free books that time.

A bunch of authors are doing this thing where readers get the first six or ten or whatever chapters FREE.  Which isn't a whole book, it's a teaser for a whole book.  As a reader, I do not approve of this.  As a writer, I can totally see how that might be a good marketing thing, but I feel like it would just piss readers off.  With the 'look inside' feature, readers can get a whole bunch of chapters free for every book.  Listing the first x-number of chapters as a separate entity feels like a bait and switch to me.  :shrug:

Other authors are doing this thing where the whole book is split into 'parts'.  The first part is free, and the other parts you have to pay for.  I got caught on one of these a while back.  I downloaded it and got into it before I realized it was only a first part.  It was a good first part, but the idea irritated me sufficiently as to make me not buy the other two parts.  Isn't that how drug dealers sell their junk?  Give customers a taste and once they're hooked, you've got them.  I don't respond well to those sales tactics.

Another thing I noticed was books by authors I've never heard of with an obscene number of reviews.  The smell test tells me something's off.  Big Name Bestseller only has 500 reviews, but Joe Schmoe self-publishes and has 3000 reviews?  Umm. No.  It makes me wonder how much Joe paid for those reviews and it makes me think few of them are real.

I still haven't found any books to download.  For now, I'll read paperbacks and keep looking for the elusive 'right book'. 

Those are my observations and opinions.  What are yours?

Oh, and speaking of searching for a good book to read, both Wish in One Hand and In Deep Wish are on sale today only.  99c each.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Stuff and Junk

I last night's writing ended on a plot twist and I have no idea where I'm going next with this.  Which is why I stopped writing last night.  Ah, the joys of flying by the seat of your pants.  I wonder what today's writing session will bring.

This book is currently a hot mess.  Woohoo.

I'm having a flash sale on Friday.  Wish in One Hand and In Deep Wish will both be on sale for 99c/ 99p here and in the UK.  A $3 discount for 24 hours only.  I won't be advertising this because I just thought of it yesterday, but I will be splashing it around FB and Twitter.  Both books were approaching the end of their 90 days with no Countdown Deals, so rather than waste those opportunities, I thought I'd take advantage of them.  We'll see if anything happens.

My sales are sucking hard this month.  I blame lack of advertising.  I really need to do something about that next month.

I went through a period of 'I don't wanna do this anymore' earlier this week.  It lasted a couple hours.  Then I got over it and got back to work.

While I was updating the back matter of In Deep Wish, I found a glaring typo in the last line of the book.  Not sure how I missed it with as many times as I've been over that book, but there it was.  I killed it and the freshly uploaded version no longer has that flaw.  It said 'I've have' instead of 'I'd have'.  I still have to update the paperback version. Blerg.

I wish Amazon would let us do Kindle Countdown Deals for other countries.  I actually had someone in Australia mention this in the comments of one of my posts to a FB group.  I felt really bad that I couldn't give her the discount, too.

The back matter is updated in all but two of my books. Project Hermes and Blink on an I are still on the old back matter.  No a big deal because neither of them are part of a series.  I may be using them as a control for the experiment.  Or I may just be lazy.

Well, time for more coffee.  Got any stuff or junk to talk about this morning?

Monday, September 24, 2018

Paperbacks, Back Matter, and Making Sellthrough Easier

First off, I got the letter from Createspace finally and got my paperbacks ported over to Amazon.  It wasn't really all that hard, but there's a little glitch so that when you go to my Author Page and click Paperbacks, the prices are off.  None of my paperbacks should be over $15.99 (actually I think they're all less than that even, but I don't feel like looking).  If you want to buy a paperback and you're only seeing the higher price, contact me and I'll shoot you a good link.

Now, with that out of the way, I'd like to talk to you about another thing I was working on this weekend.  Back Matter.  Or rather, moving my back matter to the front of my books.

It all had to do with that link I posted on Friday.  Part of what he said in that article struck me.  When you're reading on the newer versions of Kindle, and you get to THE END, it automatically shunts you to a page where you can click through to review the book.  So readers aren't actually seeing the back matter of the book.

Well, not unless they're sufficiently motivated to click back and then go forward again.  It can be done, it's just a pain in the ass.  And, as we all know, people don't generally do things they perceive as being a pain in their asses. I know I usually don't go back and look at the back matter once Amazon has shunted me away from it.

The answer?  Put the back matter at the front.  Then leave a single lines with links right after THE END to the next book in the series or to your Author Page (if it's not a series titles) so they can go buy another book, if they're so inclined.

It kinda looks like this:

When a reader finishes one book and goes on to buy the next, it's called Sellthrough.  And thus far, I have sucked at it.  Oh, occasionally I'll get a reader who finds the links and then clicks through to buy another book.  Here and there, I've had KU readers start with one book and read them all.  And thank you to them for putting in the extra effort.  But I don't want it to be an effort.

So, I made it easier for them.

Now, I realize that since Kindle opens my books at the start of the first chapter, people would also have to be inclined to go forward a bit to read stuff like my bio and Copyright Page, etc.  But they don't have to jump back to the book from another site to get there.  And it's all in the Table of Contents, so it will be easy for anyone who wants to find it.

:shrug:  I'm not sure if it'll work, but it's worth a try.  The next time I do a sale, I'll try and chart the Sellthrough.

And hey, it can't hurt.  All it cost me was some time when I could've been watching golf.  ;o)

Friday, September 21, 2018

Selling More Books

The other day, David Gaughran had a most excellent blog post 'How to Advertise and Sell More Books' by guest poster Nicholas Erik.

Now, there's a lot of math in there, but most of it is useful - even if you're not mathematically inclined and your brain glazes over.  If your brain is glazing over, scan past that and read the non-math.  The part on Back Matter is particularly useful.  As in 'lightbulb over the head moment' useful.

And it all makes total sense.  Which makes me feel like a derp.  But derp is fixable. I'll be spending some quality time this weekend fixing all my back matter.  I only wish I'd thought of this when my series books were shiny and new.  Not sure how much good it'll do after the fact, but it can't hurt.

It's gotta help when I do advertising.

Go back to the math parts when your brain is less glazy.  Seriously.  Knowing how effective your advertising efforts are can help when you're thinking about what kinds of marketing to do next.  Which is where I'm at.

Now, I don't do the whole 'cost per download' thing.  I look at the bigger picture - the ad cost me $X and I got $Y in sales.  Y minus X = ROI (return on investment).  If the ROI is positive, then it was a good ad.  If it was negative, then it wasn't.  The higher the ROI, the more effective the ad.

For instance, the ENT ad I placed for DE back in July netted me $92.19.  I spent $45 on that ad.  Making the profit on that ad $47.19*.  That makes an ENT ad way more effective than say, a Bargain Booksy ad which cost me $55 and only netted me $11.83.  Making the loss $43.17.

You don't need to be a rocket scientist to see that's a bad investment.

Anyway, there's still a lot more I can do.  And I'm working on it.  Having some big outgo coming up, though, is putting a crimp in my budget, so we'll see how much I can do over the rest of this year.  I haven't done squat for marketing this month and I'm seeing squat for sales.  Just as actions have consequences, so do inactions.

I hope this helps.  I really hope reading that article helps.  :fingers crossed:

*Imagine how much better that could've been if I'd had the right back matter.  Ugh.  I'd like to kick myself.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Stuff and Junk

Two stuffs and a junk, to be exact...

If you haven't heard, Kboards has changed their terms of service.  In a bad way.  Apparently, they got bought out recently and their TOS reads in such a way to make anything you post on their forum theirs to do with as they will without your knowledge or consent.  Sounds like this includes private messages through their system.  I haven't used Kboards in years, so I'm pretty sure whatever is there is so out of date as to be useless.  If you are or were active on there, you might want to check it out and see for yourself.

Yet another celebrity was bashing self-publishing.  Equating it to masturbation or some such nonsense.  At the risk of being crass, if this was like masturbation, it would be way less frustrating and we'd all be way more relaxed.  This is more like manning a tiny little booth at the world's largest tradeshow by yourself, where you've got to try and get noticed but you're shoved in a corner where there's no foot traffic.  While you juggle puppies behind a curtain.  Ugh.

I need a new keyboard again.  This POS is already losing its letters and I never did get used to the smaller Backspace key.  Or the closeness of the Caps Lock to the letter A.  I think I found one on Amazon.  I'll probably order it this week.  We'll see if it's better.

That's about it for me right now.  Got any news to share?

Monday, September 17, 2018

Bad Inner Editor. Sit. Stay.

Recently, a writer friend of mine was lamenting the fact that she can't seem to get out of her own way with the book she's working on.  She's written pages and pages and pages only to scrap them and write more pages.  And I think it's driving her batty.  This one book - the culmination of a trilogy - is undoing her.

I get it.  She wants the book to be perfect.  Or if not perfect, at least a bit better than her last book (which was excellent by the way, but we're all always trying to make the next book better than the last).  But I think her inner editor is hamstringing her. 

You know the inner editor.  She's a bitch.  Always with the 'this sucks, start over' and never with the 'this is awesome, keep going'. 

Oh, she's a bitch, but she does keep us honest, nipping at our heels like a Border Collie.  So, I'm not saying get rid of her entirely.  But there are times when the bitch needs a muzzle.  Especially when she's keeping us from getting the book written. 

I struggle with her all the time.  All.  The.  Time.  She's being particularly vocal right now, as a matter of fact.  "You're doing this wrong," she says.  "You need to scrap this and start over."  "You need to rewrite this scene, and if you do, then you need to rework that scene and, by the way, if you do that, you'll need to go back and fix the part of Sleeping Ugly that refers to..."  Ugh. 

Whack that inner editor on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper.  She's not being helpful right now.  Let her out of her kennel after the book is written, when it's time for editing and that bad dog has learned to sit and stay.   

I'd ask if you struggle with your inner editor, but that's a given.  So, how do you get your inner editor to behave? 

Friday, September 14, 2018

Talking to People About Your Books

I had an interesting book discussion yesterday at my local smoke shop.  I've been going there for about five years and the main core of employees know me.  I stop in two or three times a month to buy cigarettes, and I'm a Chatty Cathy once I get comfortable around people, so of course, they do.

Which means they know I write books.  And some of them even have copies of my books.  Yesterday was the first time I'd been in there since SU went live, so I started telling one of them about that, and then the new guy joined in and we got to talking. 

Most of the discussion was about hardcopy books vs ebooks.  But that's not what I wanted to talk about today.  Nope, I want to talk about talking about your books.

Seriously, think about it.  Do the people in your everyday life know you write books?  I'm not talking about family and friends.  I'm talking about the people you run across consistently in your travels, your errands, etc.  The cashiers at the stores you go to once a week.  The nurses at your doctor's office.  The people at your bank.  The postal person you buy stamps from.

These are all excellent opportunities to chat up your books.  And most of the time, they'll be excited for you.  Which is always nice.  Sometimes, you might even hand sell a book to someone who's really interested.  Sometimes, you might give away a book and then get good feedback.  The hope is that they'll talk about your book to their friends and family, and you'll get some word-of-mouth sales. 

I keep copies of my books in the trunk of my car.  But if you're not in a position to trot out copies, keep marketing materials handy.  I usually have bookmarks and postcards in my purse.  I hand those out whenever anyone shows an interest in reading.  (Which reminds me... I need to update my marketing materials.  ugh.)

I've sold books to the gals at the bank, the office manager at my vet, and the postal gal.  I've given books out at the feed store, the smoke shop, and the building supply store. I've chatted about my books with the cashiers at Wallyworld and the local thrift shops.  I've even talked about my books with other customers who were looking at books at the time. 

And I'm not exactly a social butterfly.

Now, you can't just walk up to perfect strangers and shove a bookmark in their face.  We start out talking and then the conversation turns to books for some reason or other.  Then after a time, I segue into 'I write books'.  And 'here's a bookmark for you'. 

I don't know if most of this turns into sales, but hey, one can hope.  And it provides the side benefit of talking about books.  Who among us doesn't like to talk about books, eh?

All it takes is a little conversation.  And one that's NOT about the hard sell.  You try the hard sell, and they'll just look at you like you're one of those loons.  Just talk.  And if your books happen to come up in the course of conversation, offer them a way to look you up online.  Which may lead to them buying one of your books. 

It's worth a shot, eh?

Wednesday, September 12, 2018


As I sat there Tuesday night, having just finished my pay-job work for the day and preparing to start my nightly writing session, a thought occurred to me.  I am about 27K words into this novel and I've hit what could easily be the lead-in for the climax.  Derp.  So, I either need to make some additional interesting stuff happen between the beginning and now, or I need another plot twist.  OR I need to stretch the end out for about another 25K words.  Umm, yeah. 

Now, I am not expecting the final word count to be as low as 50-55K.  If you've been here a while, you know I write pretty lean first drafts.  There's little description.  I have long stretches of nothing but dialogue, during which you can't tell who's talking.  (And I even I have a tough time figuring it out during edits sometimes.)

But yeah, my first draft of this thing should be around 50-55K.  Then it'll end up at around 60-65K and we'll all be happy.

Anyway, the last time I wrote, I was getting bored, so I threw in a plot twist.  Except I didn't ponder how major this twist was.  Until I sat down to write some more words.  Then DERP.

So, I took last night off writing so I could ponder what the hell I'm going to do.  One day off won't kill me.  I have until October 15th to get this done, so it's all good.  I mean, it's not all good.  But it will be.

Just another day in paradise.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Losing Your Voice

Back in 2004 when I first started writing seriously, I learned I couldn't read while I was writing.  Everything I read inserted it's voice in place of my own.  Fiction... non-fiction... it didn't matter.  If it had a voice, it was overriding my own.

So, I stopped reading.  At least while I was working on my own manuscripts.  And I'm talking years here.  I'd be surprised if I read a dozen books a year 2004-2006.

Slowly, over time, my own voice got strong enough that it could drown those other voices out.  But still, I couldn't read books of the same genre I was writing.  No suspense during, say, Dying Embers.  No paranormal anything during Wish in One Hand. 

Then I reached a point where it didn't really matter.  Yay.  I could read anything while writing anything. 

Until last week, when I read a book with such a strong voice, my own ran yipping into the barn.  I sat down to work on Ugly and the Beast, and suddenly it wasn't my voice spilling out onto the page, it was hers.  (Not that her voice wasn't awesome, but I kinda like my own, thank you very much.) 

Oh, it didn't take as long as it used to for me to get my own voice back.  Once I realized what was happening, I wiped that other voice out and got back to being me. 

So, when you hear someone saying they don't read when they write, don't be too hard on them.  They might be protecting their voice until it gets strong enough to stand on its own.  And if you find yourself unable to read while you're writing, don't be too hard on yourself.  Protect the writing.  Protect your own special, unique voice.  You can read after the new words are on the page. 

If you're a reader, have you read a book where the voice sounded almost exactly like another writer's?  If you're a writer, have you ever had to protect your voice? Or is it just me?

Friday, September 7, 2018


I have reached a point in Ugly and the Beast where the title actually makes sense.  Jeni's ugly and now we have a beast.  I didn't plan it this way.  I had the title and I was scrambling to think of a way to make it make sense.  And when I wasn't thinking about it, it sort of fell into my lap. 

Titles are like that sometimes. 

I have no clue what Cinder Ugly's story is going to be.  This series may be the first time I've ever written books to title.  For the genie books, I had title ideas and I just sort of picked the one that fit after I wrote the books. 

Well, that's not strictly true.  The first book was originally called Djinnocide.  But that title seemed confusing to other people and it wasn't really exiting any agents and then I got sick of myself and querying and... Well, Wish in One Hand seemed appropriate.  The other titles followed the formula, but as I said, they were picked from a list I created.

Dying Embers was originally called Manhunter.  But there's a movie by that name and it wasn't really blowing my skirt up.  So, before I even started querying it, I found a better title.  I had a devil of a time coming up with Fertile Ground after it was written.  Early Grave was a bit easier.

Don't even get me started on finding a title for BloodFlow... err, Blood Flow... err, Project Hermes.  If you've been around a while, you'll have heard the story of changing a title AFTER the book is published.  On the bright side, customer feedback indicates Project Hermes is a much better fit.  I wish I'd just called it that to begin with.  Ugh.

My first book went through so many title changes it would make you weep.  Second book, too.  If they ever make it into the publication schedule, I'll probably keep their current titles - Fear Itself and Nature of Fear respectively.

It's definitely easier to come up with a title when you have series parameters.  Having the first Dennis Haggarty novel as Accidental Death made choosing a title for Natural Causes a breeze.  Then again, there aren't too many other terms that fit for future novels.  We'll see what happens with those in the future.

I'm not sure what my title future will bring.  I have an idea for another SCIU book, but no clue what it might be called.  The same with the next DH book.  Oh well, I'll figure it all out when the time comes.  Maybe.  I hope.

How are you at titles?  Ever read a book where you never did figure out what the title meant in relation to the book? 

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Don't Do This

I recently stumbled across something that still has me confuggled.  There's a writer, maybe more than one, who listed their editor as Grammarly in the front matter of their published novel. 

Now, Grammarly is awesome.  And very helpful.  But it's NOT an editor.  Oh, it does have software you can use to help clean up your emails and your FB posts and whatnot, but that does not, and should not, take the place of an actual EDITOR. 

As, I guess, was proven by the poor quality of said book.

For the love of all you find holy, don't do this.  Even if you use Grammarly, don't list them as your editor.  Anymore than you should list PhotoShop as your cover artist.  It's a tool.  Not a person.  If you're using Grammarly to the exception of all other editors, than YOU are the editor.  And if you are using it to the exception of all else, then you need to rethink your writing strategy.  Seriously.

I get that a lot of people can't afford editing.  It's not cheap.  Hell, I'm working a side job to pay for editing (and cover art).  But for godsakes, it's necessary.  Unless you are a goddess of all things edity yourself, and even then, you need someone else's eyes to point out things you might miss.  If you can't afford an editor, find friends and acquaintances, even family, with good English skills to proofread for you.

No program can take the place of human eyes and a human brain.  Not yet, anyway.  Hell, even with human eyes AND programs, errors still hide in the words, furtively screwing with the perfection of your manuscript.  Several were found in SU after it went live.  I fixed them, but like gremlins, they found a way to hide in there.

Beyond proofreading, though, there's the big editing.  Finding flaws in the thinking, catching timeline issues, pointing out when the character you renamed twice is called Tom, Tim, and Tony is the same manuscript.  Catching the fact that Tom has green eyes on page one, but brown eyes on page one-hundred and one.  And Tony who started out lefthanded is signing something with his right hand.  Or that Tim has a cockney accent, but he was born and raised in Dublin. 

I guarantee there isn't a program out there doing that.  (If you know of one, let me know, eh?  I might use it as an alternate editing tool. Having another one can't hurt, eh?)

To sum up, don't do this.  It hurts your writing, it hurts your readers, and it hurts us all.  Do your damnedest to make your manuscript the best it can be. 

'Nuff said.  Let's hope I don't have to beat this dead horse again any time soon.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Writing Time: Six to Nine

I'm not sure how anybody can write fiction* first thing in the morning.  I was up obscenely early yesterday and got done with my usual stuff way early.  So, I decided it'd be a good time to get those ideas I'd had the night before onto paper before I lost them entirely.

Oh, I got them down, but in the most drekkiest way possible.  Thank the writing gods for edits, eh?.

And as I was sitting there, trying to get back to writing - drek or not - I started to think about when we write.  Personally, I'm an evening writer.  My best work is completed between 6pm and 9pm.  On a good night, I can get between 3K and 5K out in those three hours.  Depends on how the story is flowing.

Oh, I can write at other times.  Especially when I'm on a deadline.  But evenings are for me.

When the Kid was still in public school, I wrote during the day.  I had the whole house to myself, so it was perfect.  Then I started to homeschool her and there was no way I could write while she was being taught.  I had to shift to nights - after Hubs came home from work.  We'd have a nice dinner together and then around six o'clock, I'd go to my hole.  Nine o'clock came and I'd shut down.  Time to put the Kid to bed and spend some time with Hubs.

And the schedule kind of stuck.  So here I am without a kid to teach and Hubs is home all the time now.  I could shift my writing to daytime hours, but I can't.  :shrug:  And I'm okay with it.

Except when I want to write during the early morning hours and the writing's coming out all drek-tastic.

I know there are a lot of writers who get it done in the morning.  If you follow any amount of writers online, you'll see them proclaiming how many words they've gotten done and it isn't even lunch.  If you've ever done NaNo, you might've seen the wordcounts jumping throughout the day.  Me?  Umm, nope.  I used to cringe when people would ask 'How many words did you get done today?' and I hadn't even started writing for that day.

And there are a ton of other writers who don't get rolling until after every else has gone to bed.  Burning the midnight oil and all that.  Nope, can't do that either.  Nine o'clock comes and I'm a toad.  (Again, if deadlines are looming, this can change, too.  I'll stay up late if I have to, but I won't be happy about it.)

I'm a six-to-nine kind of gal, I guess.  Good thing I type fast.

What time of day are you at your best?  If you're a writer, when do you schedule your writing time?  Do you have a particular time of day when you're a toad?

*Oddly enough, I can write blog posts and do other writerly things** first thing in the morning and throughout the day.  (Except afternoons.  I totally suck in the afternoon.)  Fiction?  Not if I want it to be any good.

** Not always well.  I wrote this post early yesterday morning and thought I'd scheduled it for Monday, but it went live right after I'd hit the freakin' button.  Derp.  Monday was not the 2nd.  I fixed it, but you might've gotten an error message.  For that, I apologize.