Friday, June 28, 2019

A Little Bit of Pixie Dust

I was sitting here last night, looking at the numbers for last week's sale and trying to figure out how to boost sales for next month.  And I was all like "I haven't done a sale for Project Hermes in a while.  I'll just set up an ad with..."

Which was when it occurred to me that PH doesn't have enough reviews to set up ads with almost anyone I'd like to advertise with. 

Which brings me back around to wondering how to get reviews without paying for them or begging for them. 

A while back, I took the 'please review my book' verbiage out of the ends of all my books and replaced it with 'please buy the next book'.  Figuring if readers only had enough time to do one thing, it was better to have them buy something than write something nice.

And that worked.  Kinda.

Now, please understand that I had the 'review' wording at the ends of my books for a long time and it didn't seem to help much, so I didn't think taking it out would hurt much.  Right now, I'm not sure if it did hurt.  All I know is that I haven't seen a new review for any of my books in a while.

I know my regulars here have reviewed as much as they are able.  And thanks to each one of them for doing so.  I just wish a higher percentage of my readers would do the same.  I'm not asking for a book report.  All I really need is some stars and a few honest and positive words.  "I enjoyed this" would be a nice thing to say.  (Although, I'm not sure if Amazon has the word minimum thing or not these days.  I've left some really short reviews, but I could be wrong.)

Anyway, if you're here and you're a reader, please understand that a lot of things hinge of the number of reviews a book has - advertising, sales, whether Amazon pushes your book or ignores it, etc.  Writers need your help.  I need your help.  We all need your help - especially indie writers who don't have a publisher behind us helping get reviews. 

So, if you would be so kind, take a moment out of your day to help a writer out by leaving an honest review for a book you've read and enjoyed.  It'll be like a little bit of pixie dust sprinkled over our day.  Trust me.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

An Expletive-Laden Rant

Yesterday, a newsletter arrived in my inbox.  And I'll admit, I did what I usually do with newsletters - I skimmed through it.  But I read enough to seriously harsh my day.

I won't say whose newsletter it was.  You probably got a copy in your inbox, too.  Cuz it's by someone who's like 'in the know' and junk.

And what did it say?  Well, basically, it said that if you don't already have things like reviews and buzz and bling and stuff, that you shouldn't bother marketing.  Not just an encouragement to avoid it, but an out-and-out 'don't do this at all' thing.  You won't get anywhere anyway, so why bother?

Probably the last thing I needed to read yesterday.  Like the last... thing... I needed.

Like all of this shit isn't hard enough.  Like I'm not already hitting my head on a rock every damn day while still trying to stay positive.  Some fancy pants shithead is gonna drop a boatload of negativity in my inbox?

Well, you know what?  Fuck him and the horse he rode in on.

Yeah, getting sales is fucking hard.  But at least I'm trying.  I sold 27 books off my marketing efforts last week.  That's 27 books I wouldn't have sold if I hadn't paid for marketing.  The ad paid for itself and made me a little scratch over and above that.  That's a win in my ledger.

So, who the fuck does he think he is telling struggling authors not to bother marketing their goddamn books?  I mean, where does he get off pushing that kind of crap on unsuspecting, and perhaps close to giving up, authors?  Asshole.  Somewhere out there, there could be a low-list author getting ready to slit their proverbial wrists because they were already at the end of their rope and he lit it on fire. 

Maybe he thought he was saving some of us the heartache by discouraging us and thereby saving us from failure?  Well, don't do us any favors, bud.  It's hard and we know it, but we don't need you rubbing our faces in it.  I had a couple therapists and a social worker (for brain injury therapy) once upon a time who tried to save me from the chance of failure.  I fired them all and hired new ones.  If I'd listened to them, I'd be selling plants at a nursery right now.  Feh.

Or is it that we struggling wee authors might maybe be taking a tiny little piece out of his precious pie?  Up yours.  Take your money and your sales and leave us the fuck alone.  We aren't hurting anyone.  I can pretty much guarantee we aren't taking marketing space that would've gone to you.  So, stifle yourself.

All I want is to sell books without some numbnuts trying to step on my throat.  Without the bestseller telling his readers that any book priced at $2.99 or less has to be crap.  Without a boatload of bestsellers trying to shut big-bad Amazon down.  Without this jerkstick telling me to quit advertising until I'm 'worthy' of it.

Yeah, marketing a book with few reviews is an uphill battle through fire ant nests covered battery acid.  I don't need someone standing in the paradise zone eating bon-bons and stabbing at me with pointy sticks, as well.

So, I spent most of yesterday afternoon depressed as hell.  And then I wrote this post.  Now, I'm just pissed.  Maybe some good came out of that stupid newsletter after all and the fire that's been mere embers will finally flare into a conflagration.

It doesn't matter.  He's dead to me.  Onward and upward, folks.  And don't let anyone tell you not to do what you think is working for you.  Market the hell out of your books if you think it's doing some good.  Keep writing.  Keep publishing.  Keep moving forward, however you get the job done.

And remember, every book you sell is one more person who is reading your work.  I got 27 new opportunities this past week.  Yay.

* In the cool light of morning, I admit it's entirely possible I took this the wrong way, but I'm leaving it up.  This rant helped me.  Maybe it'll help someone else, too.

And if you know the name of the newsletter person, I left it off on purpose, so don't try saying it in comments cuz I'll just not approve the comment.  K?

Monday, June 24, 2019

Profanity in Fiction? Hell, Yeah.

The other day I was getting ready to leave a review on Amazon when another review caught my eye.  It was a one-star and it went kinda like this:  'Littered with profanity.  I won't read any author who isn't intelligent enough to write without profanity.'

My first thought was 'well, honey, you read this one'.

My second thought was 'aren't you precious?'

My third thought?  'Who in their right mind read the blurb for this book and thought there would be no profanity?'

I mean, it was a suspense with a gritty, take no shit from anyone, hardass main character - which was pretty obvious from the blurb.  He had to deal with lowlifes and gangbangers and scum.  And she (I assume it was a she) thought there would be no swearing?  Oh, for pity's sake.

Personally, I didn't notice an overly large amount of profanity in the book.  It didn't stand out to me.  Which is how you should have swearing in your work.  It should flow naturally.  If you're throwing naughty words into your work for effect, it won't flow right and readers can tell. 

And if you're writing about life and reality and bad things happening, your work should probably have profanity.  Because, let's face it, people swear.  A lot. 

Of course, it should fit with the book you're writing.  I mean, if your book is set in Amish country and the characters are Amish, then profanity wouldn't fit.  Derp.  And if you're writing a fantasy or SF or something, you may have to make up swearwords to fit the world.  (DJ Salisbury - our very own Deb - does a most excellent job of this in her fantasy world.) 

Thinking about it now, the person who left that review probably read two pages, found an f-bomb, and got up on her high horse.  Wrote a one-star review to show how virtuous she was and went about her day patting herself on the back for her good works.  Bleh.

I hope she doesn't pick up my books.  Especially Sleeping Ugly - which is probably the most profanity-laced of my books.  But yeah, there's profanity in most of them.  Naturally.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Facebook and Marketing

Recently, Facebook gifted us with the ability to pretty-up our Page and Group posts with bold and italics and bullet points or numbering and some other extraneous stuffs.  Which is all well and good, but... and it's a big but for me... when you copy and paste text, it tosses in weird spaces and line breaks.  And if you try to fix it, it makes it worse.

Frankly, it's a pain in the ass. And as we all know, making something that's already kind of a pain in the ass more of a pain in the ass tends to make one not want to do it anymore.

But I have to do it.  Hitting the FB Groups the morning after an ad, when the ad generated sales have boosted my rankings, is a must.  I need to take advantage of that better ranking - 17425 overall and 371 genre - to possibly gain some extra sales and maybe get some people to download the book for Kindle Unlimited so I can have residual page reads later.  Plus, selling the day after an ad helps keep those rankings from dropping too quickly which leads to better sales.  It's a circle thing.

Today's marketing image is:

Speaking of images, check out this useful post over at Elizabeth Spann Craig's blog - The Importance of Images in Social Media.

Now, if only the social media... ahem, FB... was cooperating.  ;o)

Anyway, good luck out there with your marketing efforts.  Any questions, let me know.

Edited to Add: When you post in a FB Group, you should see something like this now:

If you hover over the 'paragraph marks' symbol, you get the opportunity to change the format to Header1, Header2, bullets or numbering, and embedded quotes.  If you select text, it gives you the opportunity to Bold or Italics the selected type.  I think this is only in Group posts, but I'm not sure. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2019


All three of the books in the Serial Crimes Investigation Unit series are on sale starting today and running through 11:59p PST (US) or GMT (UK).  99c/99p each.

Buy one or buy them all. 

The SCIU series US
The SCIU series UK

Dying Embers US
Dying Embers UK

Fertile Ground US
Fertile Ground UK

Early Grave US
Early Grave UK

All of them are also available through the Kindle Unlimited program, so that's over a thousand pages of suspense for free with your subscription.  Jus' sayin'.

If you haven't read any of them, they're stand alone novels with the SCIU organization tying them together, and a bit of information from Dying Embers in Fertile Ground and Early Grave (and a bit from Fertile Ground in Early Grave).  But yeah, new main characters, new plots, fresh faces with a bit of the old, familiar mixed in. 

They were a ton of fun to write and from what I've heard, they're a ton of fun to read, too.  If you haven't read them, now's the budget-friendly time to give them a whirl.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

And I know it's horribly teasing of me to talk about it, especially when I'm in a writing dry spell, but I do have plans for a fourth book.  Maybe next year?  I have the plot - someone is killing the criminals the SCIU went after who got off on technicalities - but no title yet.  Stick with me, folks.  I ain't done yet.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Eating an Elephant

Saturday morning, I was reading an article over at the Mad Genius Club blog wherein the author was discussing re-evaluating what he's doing, and in such, going over whether this writing thing is a business, a hobby, or just a pastime.  (It's a good article.  Go read it.  I'll wait.)

I had hoped reading the article would light a fire under my ass, but in reality, all it did was depress me.  Especially when I read about all the things he's currently working on.

What am I working on?  I have the notebook full of edit notes sitting on the stool next to my desk, where it's been sitting for the past few weeks.  And every time I look at it, I feel guilty and depressed about it, but I can't make myself pick the damn thing up and get to work. 

I got this awesome idea the other day for a new book.  Can't seem to work on that either. 

And I probably should be writing Cinder Ugly.  Or the fourth SCIU book.  Or the third Dennis Haggarty book.  Umm...

Then there's the point in the article where he talks about 1000 super fans.  I guess it's a thing.  I have two super fans.  :waves at them:  And he talks about how we should be connecting with them.  Umm... Hi.  I can't even bring myself to invite people to like my pages on Facebook.  Cuz, like I don't want to bother anyone.  Connecting with people other than hoping they find me here or there is really hard.  Like run away and hide hard.

When I was in sales, it was way easier.  You need a widget, I have a widget.  I make an appointment to talk to you about using my widget instead of the dozen other widgets out there.  You buy my widget because it's the best widget at the best price with the best lead time.  Or you don't.  And I move on to the next company that needs widgets. 

Translating that into book sales?  Not so much.  Oh, I still have awesome widgets at competitive pricing.  But everybody's got a widget to sell and trying to get my widget in front of buyers... Yeah, I've already gone over that before.  Or to borrow a line from an Andy Grammer song "I'm supposed to cut through all this noise with my little voice."

Everything feels so overwhelming right now.  Maybe I should look at it like eating an elephant.  You know how you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Creating Marketing Materials

I read an interesting newsletter article this week on creating marketing materials.  It was specifically geared toward materials for that venue, but it got me to thinking.  And creating.

Starting next Wednesday, the SCIU books are on sale.  Taking ideas from the article, I came up with this:
I think it still needs some tweaking.  The white 'Bringing Killers to Justice One Book at a Time' on the gray background might have been on the no-no list.  When I made it, it looked pretty good, but seeing it now, it's kind of hard to read at this size.  Might need to outline those words like I did with the SCIU words.

Still, I think it carries the message I wanted and it's not too busy (which was another of the marketing no-nos).  You can tell that's a prison fence, right?  Yeah, not all the villains in the series make it to behind the fence, but I was trying to find one image to convey a theme for all three books and nothing says 'justice' like a prison. 

I found the fence picture at Morguefile.  Then grayed out the image because a pretty blue sky wasn't right and the colors would've distracted from the covers.  I think.  And I tweaked the brightness and contrast to come up with a sufficiently gloomy feel.

Then I added the covers and wording, moving things around and trying different fonts and tweaking everything until I came up with what you see above.

Anyway, creating marketing materials is a learning curve.  I hope this image works.  The proof is in the pudding.

So, yeah, the article said to make the image clear as to its purpose.  Prison fence... Got it.  And to not make it too busy so it doesn't distract from its purpose.  Three covers, minimal wording... Check.  And to make it easily read.  Umm, I'll work on that.  Clear, concise, intent on its purpose... check, check, check?

Now, the question for you all is: If you saw this, would you be inclined to explore the series further with the intent to buy?  Because that's really what all of this is about.  If you can't achieve that with your marketing materials, you're spinning your wheels.  And lord knows, none of us has time for that.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

A Gentle Reminder

Time again for a gentle reminder...


Twice in the past few days, I've seen marketing materials with typos in them.  One, the author used your instead of you're.  The other, the author used there instead of their - twice in the same blurb.  :headdesk:

Seriously, folks, this shouldn't be that hard.  I mean, we're talking a few short paragraphs.

The first one was in a Facebook group.  So, free advertising.  The second was in a marketing newsletter that they obviously had to pay for.  Which makes it doubly egregious. 

FB group marketing... Sometimes shit happens.  Lord knows I'm not perfect, and I've made mistakes.  Which I then catch and edit.  Yes, you can edit FB posts.  There's a little ellipsis looking thing in the upper right corner of your status update.  When you click it, you get a dropdown menu...
And there's an 'edit post' option.  So, if you see an error, you can fix the error. 

Once, I had to go back and fix a half dozen marketing posts because for some stupid reason the UK sales link was broken and I didn't notice until I'd posted the damn thing all over the place.  Caught it, fixed it.  It was only live to users for about ten minutes. 

In marketing efforts you've paid for, fixing the flaw isn't necessarily possible.  Here, you really need to pay attention.  Because once you've sent it out to the powers that be, it's stuck there.  Well, I guess you might be able to contact them if you have enough time.  And then you can hope someone over there is paying attention and is nice enough to allow you to fix the error.  But I wouldn't count on it.  Proof, proof, proof. 

Otherwise, you might as well put on your big red nose and floppy feet because you'll look like a clown.

In either of the above cases, the author may have proofed the holy hell out of their manuscript to make it all shiny and clean, but their marketing materials tell the world that they probably didn't bother.  All that work down the drain. 

So, yeah, a gentle reminder this morning... proofread your stuff, folks.  It's kind of important.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Watch Everything

Over the weekend, I sold a book.  Yes, I sell few enough right now that it's an event, but that's not why I bring it up.  I sold a copy of a book at $3.99.  And I got $1.40 in royalties when I should have gotten $2.74.  (When you're small beans, every penny counts.)

Basically, they gave me the 35% royalty rate instead of the 70% rate.

Once I realized this, I checked first to make sure I hadn't accidentally clicked the 35% rate at some point.  Nope.  I've got it clicked right.  Then I contacted Amazon to get it fixed.  (I'm still waiting on a reply at the time of this post's creation.)

Then I got to thinking.  I don't usually check this stuff.  Usually, I assume everything is hunky-dory until I match up the deposits with the amounts I assume I'm going to get.  Which is two months down the road from the actual sale.  So far, everything has matched up. 

But what if it didn't?

And what if I was selling way more books, so one messed up royalty percentage wasn't as obvious?

What a clusterfuck that would be.

Now, I don't believe this was intentional.  I think it's more an issue of the massive amount of calculations and code it takes to run a website like Amazon.  There are bound to be errors now and again. 

Sometimes, it's a customer issue.  In February, Amazon showed that I sold a copy of Project Hermes, but the money never showed in my Royalties Earned section.  I chalked that up to the actual payment never going through - which sometimes happened.  Sucks, but it does.  Oddly enough, I got paid for a copy of PH in April that I never showed selling.  So it all worked out somehow or other.

My point is authors really have to watch what's going on.  All of it.  All the time.  $1.34 doesn't sound like a lot, but it adds up over time.  Or think of it this way, that's a cup of coffee.  Over 100 sales, it's $134 which I'm sure none of us can afford to lose.  Over 1000 sales... 10000 sales...


Or think about the agent that screwed all those authors out of royalties last year because he was funneling the money into his private charity.  And somehow the authors just assumed their books weren't selling?  I'd be watching even closer when someone was handling those amounts of my money.  Embezzling... it's a real thing, folks.

I know it's a pain in the ass to have to watch every little thing.  We've all got better things to do with our time than babysit this stuff.  But not watching could really hurt the bottom line.  And I, personally, like to get paid what I'm owed.  

Anyway, I'll try to remember to let you know how this all works out.  I have every faith that Amazon will fix my little burp.  Well, not every faith.  I did screen capture how my pricing page looked for WIOH before I emailed them.  You know, just in case.  ;o)

Friday, June 7, 2019

A Business Like No Other

I've seen a lot online* recently about treating this writing/publishing thing as a business.  And I don't disagree.  It is a business.

Unfortunately, for most of us, it's a business that's not making enough money to keep a bird alive and would close it's doors in a day if it were any other type of business. So, treating it as a business... in say the same way one would look at a store or a restaurant or an accounting firm... isn't exactly feasible.

If the business my father started back in 1983 behaved the way this writing business does, it wouldn't have made it 36 years.  Sure, the first few years sucked.  That's to be expected in any new business.  But by five years in, if you're not making money, you should probably send all the employees home and close the doors.

Oh, I get how the whole 'it's a business' thing helps keep the mindset of 'show up every day, work your hours, etc.'  So you're treating this as a job and not a hobby.

But let's not fool ourselves overly much.  This is a business like no other business.  We work in our pajamas for petesakes.

We don't have employees, per se.  (Editors and cover artists are contractors, not employees.)  We are every employee wrapped up into one person.  And most of us should probably be fired from at least one of those positions.  Except we can't fire ourselves from anything because if we stop doing it, we're screwed.

We keep strange hours and they differ from writer to writer and sometimes from day to day - or to paraphrase Steven Wright "Open 24 hours... but not in a row."

We almost never know or see our customers.  "Hey, look at that, someone in the UK is reading Natural Causes. Don't know who or why or how they found it, but cool."

90% of our work is in our heads, for petesakes.

So, treat it like a business if it gets you motivated and your butt in the chair doing your job.  Personally, for me, it would be easier to treat it like a business if it was actually making money. Or maybe it would make more money if I treated it more like a business.  I'm not sure about that, though.  In the past, I've shown up and put in the hours and still no monies, which makes me less likely to want to show up and put in the hours now.  Especially when I can spend time doing spreadsheets and actually getting checks for my time.

Treat it like a business, but always remember that non-writing businesses don't work this way.

* Complete disclosure - I didn't read the online articles, so they could've said exactly what I'm saying.  These are just the thoughts I had after seeing people talking about the subject.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019


I saw something yesterday that asked what current books we thought would be considered classics in 100 years.  I didn't bother seeing what other people were saying might be classic because that would just be depressing, but it did get me to thinking.

I don't write classics for the most part.  I expect that as long as I keep advertising the books, people will keep buying them for 5-10 years.  But classic?  Not really.  The SCIU series and the OUAD series are entertainment.  So's the Sleeping Ugly series if I ever get it past the first book. 

I'd like for Project Hermes to achieve the sort of status of Patriot Games, but I'm not fooling myself.  It'll never be a movie. 

If 100 years from now people pick up Blink of an I or Unequal and think 'wow', I'd be happy.  Then again, I'll be dead, so it probably won't matter much.  Still, I'd like for those to be classics someday.  Again, not fooling myself here.

I wonder what the authors of 100 years ago thought about their books.  Were they thinking 'this is going to be a classic' or were they just hoping to make enough money to pay the rent? 

A lot has changed since then.  I mean, all of the books of 100 years ago were paper.  And they all had to wait for some publishing company to recognize their brilliance so the masses could even have a chance of reading their books.  Now?  No waiting, but also way harder to get noticed and get read by even a portion of the masses. 

I'm sure there are a wealth of awesome books out there withering on the wine.  Mine could be several of them.  And the world will never know they existed. 

Don't mind me, I'm just pondering this morning.  Since I don't really read books anyone might consider potential future classics*, let me know if you've read anything new you think might fit the bill. 

*In case you don't follow The Writing Spectacle, where I talk about my reading habits, I primarily read either old books or new ones that are underappreciated.  When I do pick up a newer traditionally published book, it's from a thrift store. 

Monday, June 3, 2019

KU, Page Read Vacuum, and the Timesuck That is Writing Forums

As you know, I had the Once Upon a Djinn books on sale.  And this is the point at which I should be seeing residual Page Reads mounting.  Except I'm not. 

So, I says to myself this morning... 'Self?' I says.  "I wonder what the hell is up with Kindle Unlimited?  And finding no answer in my head, I went in search of people who were perhaps in the know about such things.  And the only place I know of to go is the KDP community forum.

Yeah, yeah, if you know me, you know I don't do forums.  At least not in any participatory way and rarely in a read-and-learn way.  (Long story... old story... blah and yawn.)

Anyway, I was scrolling though the forum, trying to discern the answer to my question.  I clicked on a post that I thought might help.  Nope.  Someone asking a question that might've been answered by doing what I was doing, and then getting a 'well, duh' answer and then getting her undies in a wad because she felt like she was being bullied.  Clicked on another... Same same.  Then I clicked on a thread because I wanted to laugh at the responses to the question of 'why is everyone so vicious here?' (and they spelled vicious wrong... on a writing forum... derp.)  Then I got sucked into a post that's subject was so horribly written it made me want to gouge out my eyes.  You know, just for kicks.

And then I remembered I was supposed to be trying to answer a question and I left because being in there is suck a huge waste of time.  Which is pretty much what happens when I go into any forum lately. 

Yes, I could've tried searching the topic.  I've done that in the past and get more useless hits than useful ones.  Sometimes it's better to just scroll down the list and hope for the best. 

Anyway... again... I did find that other writers seem to be in the same position (i.e. Kindle page reads are down), but no real clue as to why.  It could be that so much drek is floating around in the program and readers are being so consistently burned by crap that they're not using KU as much as they used to.  That's my guess anyway.  Not sure what the answer is.  I know I don't want to go wide, but it may be the only answer. 

The problem with even exploring that is my Kindle Select dates aren't up for an entire series any time soon.  And it's such a pain in the ass to go through all my books and change all the links so they don't point to Amazon.  Ugh.

I also noted, in the forums, that the general consensus is ads are paying for themselves, but no one is seeing sales like they used to.  So, I guess we're all in this together.  I'm guessing again but I think it's the glut of  potential reading material. 

Imagine you're in a stadium full of people and you're trying to find one person you might want to be friends with but you've never met them and you aren't sure what any of them are like.  That one is wearing a brightly colored shirt, but when you step up to him, you discover he's boring.  You overhear a woman talking and she sounds interesting, so you step up and find out she's kind of repeating the same things you've heard over and over.  There might be a good one in there somewhere, but finding them is hard and the harder things are the less likely we are to do them.  And so you get a headache and you go home.

I imagine that's kind of like what being a reader these days is like.

Wish I had better information for you this morning.  Like I said, I tried.  I may try to research this more after I've had some more coffee and the memory of the forum timesuck has faded a bit.

What say you?