Friday, August 30, 2019

Wasted Time, Wasted Effort

The other day I needed to clean out a Pendaflex folder so I could sort my spreadsheet work into it.  (Why buy a new one when you have old ones you aren't using?)  In the folder were query materials.  Pages and pages of printouts from back when I was querying that I'd stuff into a folder to try and keep track of it all. 

Queries sent, responses... err, rejections, agents to query, publishers to submit to and the results of those efforts.  In that folder alone were probably 150-200 pieces of paper.  And that's only one small portion of the things I submitted.  I can't even begin to imagine how many pages would be there if I kept everything and stacked it all in one pile.  Reams worth.

None of which did me any damn good.  Ten years worth of effort.  Ten... years.  2004-2014.

All the hours I spent researching agents to make sure they were what I wanted and I had what they wanted and that I was meeting all their various requirements for submission.  The various versions of query letters typed and edited and worried over.  So much time. 

I don't even want to try to do the math on how much time I spent just on the querying/submitting stuff.  Thinking about it makes me want to weep because all of it was wasted.  (Let's not even talk about the money wasted on stamps, envelopes and paper for outgoing hardcopy queries and for SASEs which always contained rejection letters.)

Ten years and countless dollars wasted. 

But I need to remember it.  Every time I get down about the lack of sales, I need to remember the ten years of no sales and no chance at any sales because the door to traditional publishing was being slammed in my face.  Every morning when I don't feel like posting another damn marketing thing to one more FB group, I need to remember that I am getting sales from those efforts as opposed to the monumental wasted effort I was putting out before to gain no sales whatsoever. 

So, maybe I shouldn't shred this pile of queries and rejections. 

ROFL... right.  Those suckers are toast.  It'll be another wasted effort, but it'll be one I'll enjoy.  ;o)

Never again. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

A Little Marketing 101

Okay, so FB has this thing now where you can use bold and italics in group posts.  Which is cool.  (Wish they'd let us use them for personal and page posts, too.)   But I've noticed certain people going a little BOLD crazy out there.  (And this holds true for non-FB marketing, too, btw.)

Just because you can put stuff in bold, doesn't mean you should put everything in bold.  Bold is for emphasis.  So having your entire marketing verbiage in bold means you're emphasizing everything.  And therefore nothing sticks out.  Same with italicsBold and italics together should be used very sparingly. 

Now, look at the above paragraph.  Which words do you see first?  You want to pick certain words to draw your audience's eyes to.  Those emphasized words are the ones that will stick in a consumer's head. 

verbiage TITLE verbiage verbiage verbiage.  On sale now!  more verbiage.  Only 99c.  links and junk and hashtags.

verbiage TITLE verbiage verbiage verbiage.  On sale now!  more verbiage.  Only 99c.  links and junk and hashtags.

See?

Your brain picks up on the bolded words better in the second example because those words stick out.  'Oh, look,' it says, 'Title is on sale for only 99c'.  And you'll be more likely to go back and read the verbiage if the bolded words are interesting to you.

Plus, I look at entirely bolded posts as input overload.  EVERYTHING IS SO EMPHASIZED that my brain skips past it.  (I do the same thing with all caps, so sorry about that.)

When I see an entire marketing post in bold, it makes me sad.  I'm not sure what the thought is there.  Perhaps they're thinking that their whole post in bold will make them stick out from other posts.  I don't think it works that way.   As you scroll along reading stuffs, each post is an individual thing, not part of a whole.  If it was part of the whole, then I guess emphasizing all of your message would make it stand out from the rest.  Like if I bolded this entire paragraph, it would stick out from the rest of the post.  But when you're in the middle of a bunch of individual posts?  :shrug:

Think of emphasizing elements like seasoning on your food - sometimes a little goes a long way.  Choose your emphasis wisely and you might just get more attention.  Jus' sayin'.

Lord knows, I am not the goddess of all things marketing.  This is my opinion.  Take it for what it's worth.

By the way, Once Upon a Djinn is still on sale.  And I'll talk about the success or failure of that sometime next week.

Monday, August 26, 2019

The August Genie Sale

Time for another sale - this one with paid advertising.  All four Once Upon a Djinn books are on sale right now (through Friday night). 

Wish in One Hand - 99c
In Deep Wish - $1.99
Up Wish Creek - $1.99
Wish Hits the Fan - $1.99

Get the whole complete series for less than $7.  (Always free with Kindle Unlimited.)  Yep, it's complete.  The arc wraps up in book 4.  Promise.

Read one or read them all.  And if you've only read part of the series, now's the time to finish it.  (I wish I could coax the one less-than-stellar reviewer of In Deep Wish to finish the series, so she can see her comments there don't hold true across the series.)

The ad goes live tomorrow with Ereader News Today for Wish in One Hand.  It's going out in the Fantasy section this time.  My only other choice was to put it in Paranormal/Romance, but there's no romance in this.  So, we'll see if having it the Fantasy section this time shows better sales.  

If you read them, I'd really appreciate a review.  Once you've read the series, it would be awesome and super helpful if you could jot a review down at the series page.

AND if you enjoy them, give Sleeping Ugly a whirl.  There are two more books in the hopper for that series.  Honest there are.  And I promise I'm actually working on them.  I'd like to promise they'll be out later this year, but some things have to align in the universe - things I have no control over - before I can promise anything.

Anyway, thanks everyone for your support in all this, and if you're new to Once Upon a Djinn, thanks for stopping by.  I hope you download them and enjoy the hell out of them.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

It's All Been Done

We all appreciate the known and sometimes we crave it.  But on occasion, it feels like Bare Naked Ladies is singing 'It's All Been Done' in the backs of our heads. 

Recently, I was reading a cozy mystery and as I was reading along, it seemed like I was reading the same book I'd read a dozen times with the characters and setting slightly changed.  You know the book...  'amateur detective with a failed marriage comes home to start a new life, finds a body, meets an old love who happens to be a cop who doesn't want her involved in the mystery, but she keeps solving it while battling the bitch from high school'.  It did, of course, differentiate itself eventually, but it felt all 'it's all been done' for a while there.

It's the same with romance.  If you read enough romances, over the course of time, you will see that they're pretty much the same.  I mean, at the basic level, of course they are - boy meets girl, they start to fall in love, tension happens to screw it up but they work it out, boy gets girl.  And that's what we want in our romance.  But when you look at the differences in how to pull that off, you could probably find a slew of them with the above mystery premise slightly changed: 'woman/man with a failed marriage comes home to start a new life, meets an old love while battling the bitch/bastard from high school'

Sometimes that's a good thing.  Other times?  :yawn:

And SF is the same way.  I know of several 'estranged from their family, heroine/hero goes out into the universe to seek their fortune and kick alien ass' series out there.

I guess what I'm talking about are 'tropes'.  Wikipedia gives this description: "The word trope has also come to be used for describing commonly recurring literary and rhetorical devices, motifs or clich├ęs in creative works."  Like the 'secret baby' one in romance.  (He and She get together, she gets pregnant and for some reason or other hides it from him until sometime in the future when they reconnect and he discovers he's a daddy.)

Like I said, sometimes tropes are a good thing.  Readers want the known.  They just don't want too much of it.

Thinking about this yesterday morning, I discovered I have a recurring theme in my books - a lot of my heroines/heroes have bad family things in their backgrounds.  I mean, Jo in the genie books is probably the queen of that - both daddy and mommy issues there - but Jace lost her family to a fire and Ned's family hated that he's a Fed.  Mary's a foundling.  Rue's dad pretty much tortured her.  Jeni's mom is a total bitch.  And let's not even talk about Dennis' sister.  Not sure why I lean that way - it doesn't reflect my own family in any way.  Maybe it just makes for a certain pressure-laden background that produces diamonds and heroes.  I should probably fix that in my next new MCs' backgrounds.

And that's what the point is.  Finding a way to make the tropes just a little bit different, so readers aren't feeling like they've read the book before.  I almost DNF'd the mystery I talk about up there.  Which would've been a shame.  It was fun.  And I've said this before - don't give a reader a reason to stop reading your books.  

The above book added in some things that weren't present in other books of the same trope.  She made it interesting.  The only problem was she threw all the same-same stuff at me right up front.  

And I talked about this the other day - with Oliver now Kazimir - and the sameness I was feeling from reading other paranormal mysteries.  Look for sameness in your writing and try to winnow it out.  

Remember when vampires were all the rage - the Anne Rice Syndrome, if you will.  I can't bring myself to read a paranormal with vampires anymore.  It's all been done.  (If you know of one that's different, let me know.  I still like the idea, I'm just bored with the execution.) 

Of course, you can't help but ascribe to the sameness of your genre, but you can find ways to stand out from the crowd.  You have to if you want to grab a piece of the market share. 

Friday, August 16, 2019

I Won't Do It

I hate when authors front load a description of their book in the book's title.  I just stumbled across one that was like "TITLE: A chilling psychological thriller, that will keep you on the edge of your seat."  (Yes, the misplaced comma was theirs.)

Seriously, folks?  This is how you're going to pimp your books? 

Have readers gotten so lazy that if the description isn't in the title, they won't read further to see if the book is right for them? 

:shudder:

Anyway, I won't do it.  It feels sleazy to me.  And I have a really tough time buying books that use that marketing scheme.  Cuz... sleazy.

Imagine if other products started that crap...

Cheerios: A tasty, heart-healthy cereal that will make your family smile.

Umm, yeah.  Maybe it's just me, but I don't want the commercial right there in the title.  If you can't grab readers with your title, your cover, and your blurb, sticking the description in the title probably won't do it.  Although in this 'short attention span theater' world we live in, maybe that's all the time you have.  :shrug:  I still don't like it.

And if I don't like it when someone else does something, I won't do it myself.  I keep hearing Val Kilmer as Doc Holiday in my head talking about hypocrisy. 

What do you think? 

And for a bit of fun, write a NAME: DESCRIPTION thing for a product like the Cheerios example up there.  (Mine was lame.  Can you do better?) 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

It's Just Bad Business

Now, this is only peripherally a writerly type post, but bear with me...

Earlier this week, I got an email from Goodreads telling me that I have a credit on my marketing account or some such thing and that I needed to do something about it. 

First off, I thought it was a spoof email and I sure as hell wasn't clicking any links* in it.  Why did I think it was a spoof?  Because, to the best of my knowledge, I had never marketed with Goodreads or put any money into an account with them, so how could I have a credit?

Well, it turns out that at some point in 2015, I had done something.  My best guess?  They offered me a $1 credit to play with.  So, I used the credit to set up an ad for Dying Embers.  One person clicked the ad and then the ad was done.  Leaving a whopping 50c in my account with them.

According to the email, that 50c is going to become the property of the state of Delaware if I don't claim it.  (From what I gathered, I can contact support at Goodreads and have the money transferred into my bank account.)

Delaware?  But Goodreads is in CA.  Hubs says a lot of companies incorporate in DE, so that explains that.  :shrug:

Anyway, I've already wasted more than 50c of my time dealing with this, so I moved the email into the Archives so I wouldn't have to look at it anymore. But it stayed in my head. 

This is bad business.  It's also bad government, but I won't get into that here.  Think about it... Goodreads - a business - offers its customers a credit (not real money) to encourage sales of its marketing but when the credit isn't used in its entirety, they're willing to send the remaining credit as actual money to either the customer or, according to the laws of the state of Delaware, to the state of Delaware.  But it was never actual money.

I never gave Goodreads my account number.  I never transferred any money to them via bank or credit card.  It's not my money.

And it's not the state of Delaware's money.

It's Goodreads' own money.  Because even though it wasn't actual money when they gave me the credit, it's actual money now - ready to be plopped into a bank account somewhere.  Sure, it's only 50c for me.  But what if 1000 authors received the $1 credit and never put it to use?  10000?  Now we're talking money any one of us would certainly like in our own pockets.  Drop in the bucket for Goodreads, right?  Probably, but that's not the point.  It's bad business. 

And it's bad government because I'm sure this thing where they're offering to give the money back - well, not really 'back', per se - is driven by some strange ass law in DE. 

Part of me wants to claim the damn 50c because I don't want the state of Delaware to have it.  It doesn't belong to them.  But it doesn't belong to me either.  It belongs to silly-ass Goodreads.  And it always has.

Frankly, I'm surprised that a business like Goodreads would make such a gaff.  Especially since it's now owned by Amazon.  But the credit was given before the takeover, so maybe that's the answer.  :shrug:

Any of you get a letter like that from Goodreads?  Have you ever used Goodreads to market anything?  How'd that work for you?

* I don't click links in emails unless I know exactly who it's from, why I'm getting a link, and where it's going to take me.  In this case, I went directly to Goodreads and checked my marketing account (not easy to find, BTW) to verify that the email was correct.  No link clicking necessary.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Changing a Character's Voice is Hard Work

Imagine you've typed along for weeks/months, building your world and populating it with unique individuals.  You've got a whole book.  Maybe more than one.  And suddenly, you realize this one character isn't as unique as you thought he was.

This hasn't been a problem for me.  Characters pretty much pop out of my head onto the page and I leave them as they are.  I haven't seen a reason to change any of them after they were already birthed onto paper. 

Then came Thomas... who popped into my head almost fully formed when I first started writing Ugly and the Beast.  But he was too much like another Thomas in another UF series.  So, he became Oliver.  And I wrote the whole book with Oliver being Oliver.

Except after I was finished and starting to write Cinder Ugly, I noticed a lot of other books had characters that were a lot like Oliver. 

Hit the brakes and hit the wall.

I'm too far along to completely change Oliver.  He's a cat.  He has to be a cat or there are several... tons... of scenes that don't work right.  He has to be a black cat - because I already paid for a cover with a black cat on it. 

Okay, I can do this.  In my head, I've reworked Oliver into Kazimir - an Eastern European aristocratic cat.  No biggie, right? 

Wrong.  I can't seem to get his voice to stick firmly in my head.  My head still wants him to sound like Thomas... err, Oliver.  And he's not.  He's Kazimir.  KAZIMIR.  Kaz-i-mir.  (Maybe if I keep saying his new name, it'll stick.)

I think I need to immerse myself in people speaking with that particular accent until I hear Kazimir talking in my head.  Right now, he's this bizarre snooty British/Russian/Geico Gecko with attitude and slang.  So, that definitely needs to change or it needs to be consistent.  And I need to make sure he doesn't sound too much like Grigori from the genie books. 

Gah.

Like I said, changing a character's voice is hard work.  But no one promised any of this would be easy.  And if they did... ROFL... right.

Now I just need to suck it up and move forward with this.  Maybe I'll sit down with my trusty notebook and have a little conversation with ol' Kaz on paper until I can hear him in my head. 

Ever have this problem?  If you're a reader, have you ever run across a case where the character's voice wasn't consistent?  Did it bother you as much as it bothers me?

Friday, August 9, 2019

Suspended Sentence? WTF?

Our local paper puts out a court report once a month that tells basically who was arrested for what and what the sentence was.  It came out in yesterday's paper.

The headline read '9 Incarcerated for Felonies.' 

But when I flipped through, there were way more than 9 cases listed.  Deciding this bore further investigation, I read deeper.  Drug charges... suspended sentence.  Theft (burglary, shoplifting, car theft)... suspended sentence.  DWI... suspended sentence.  Child molestation... suspended sentence.  Non-payment of child support... suspended sentence.  Battery... suspended sentence.  (BTW, across the board of crimes, several of these people were listed as repeat or persistent offenders.)

Of the nine cases that actually saw someone's ass behind bars, only two of them were new.  The other seven were for people who had violated their previous suspended sentences, probation, or what have you.  Basically, they got caught committing the crime again, and in such a way, a slap on the wrist wouldn't do it.

Naturally, I was all like WTF???  And Hubs was like "Who the hell is our judge?"  (Brief googling netted me no names.  Apparently, it's a secret.)

Now, I'd like to say this was an isolated and unusual month, but it isn't.  This is about par for the court report around here.  People commit crimes, they get a slap on the wrist and probation, and then they continue to commit crimes because there is no consequence to their behavior. 

And we have a conservative sheriff here who has to be tearing his hair out because whoever the judge is keeps letting these motherfuckers back out onto the streets.

It's no wonder that I was told numerous times when we first moved here to be careful driving the roads because meth-heads are everywhere.  Of course, they're everywhere - no one is stopping them from being everywhere.  

I'm pretty sure it isn't just in this county.  It's here and it's there.  In the county, in the city, everywhere.  No consequences.  You committed a crime?  Oh, well sorry to have bothered you.  Here's a lollipop.  Run along.  Oh, if you don't mind, please don't do it again or we shall have to smack your little paddies once more. 

What in the sam hill is wrong with our judicial system?  Blerg!

Perhaps, if there were actual punishments for crimes, the punishments would deter people from committing the crimes. Cuz obviously this whole suspended sentence thing ain't workin'.

Jus' sayin'. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Using Situational Awareness to Protect Yourself

I was having a chat with my postal-person friend yesterday about situational awareness.  In case you're not familiar with the term, it's pretty much what it sounds like - being aware in whatever situation you're in, particularly when the situation has become hazardous to your health (i.e. someone has come to assault you, rob you, or rape you.)  She's alone in a rural post office all day - one that has been robbed before, albeit at night when she wasn't there.  And this post office is about 3 miles from the little country store that was robbed at knifepoint last year.

Anyway, I was talking about making sure that wherever you are, you should always be aware of the things within reach that can be used to defend yourself - provided you aren't already carrying a gun somewhere on your person.  In seconds, I pointed out the things right there at the postal counter she could use - including a hefty-looking metal postal scale.  And she thanked me. 

I also showed her my pepper spray and told her she needed to at least get one of those.  I carry mine everywhere.  99% of the time, it's in my pants pocket.  The other one percent, it's in the front pocket of my purse (because I'm wearing pants without pockets).

I also carry my keys in my pocket.  Keys can be an excellent way to defend yourself.  Put the biggest one sticking out from between your finger and you can either stab at someone who's attacking you or slash at them.  My key fob also has a button on it that sets off a really loud, annoying alarm in my car which could attract the attention of others.  (Provided they don't ignore it the way most of us ignore car alarms these days.) 

When I'm out at the lake, by myself and a long way from most other humans, I also have the knife in my tackle box.  If I can't reach that, I have my fishing pole which I could beat someone with.  And that's gonna hurt.  Barring that, there are a lot of rocks just the right size for grasping in my hand and hitting someone with.  Hell, if I have to, they're getting a bobber to the eye.  (I use the pointy stick-like bobber, not the round ones.)

I also have my cell phone, but that's less about defense than calling for assistance.  Which could take a while out here, and which I hope I have time and signal enough to use at any given time.

Running is good, but with this bum leg, I can't really use that as an option.  It walks fine, but running?  Nope.  The best I can manage is a kind of weird hop/run thing.  It ain't fast enough to get away from any attacker. 

I may not survive the encounter because all of these things are fairly non-lethal and only stopgaps, but I hope they're enough to give my attacker pause.  One thing's for sure, I won't be going down without a fight.

And since this is a writing blog, thinking about situational awareness is good for your characters.  Joan Wilder used her attacker's own cigar against him and a stick to beat him off.  Think about it.

Anyway, what kinds of weapons do you have within your immediate grasp right now?  For me, I have scissors, pens/pencils, a really heavy ashtray, a paper weight, my stapler, and depending on the time, I might have a lit cigarette.  I used to have a letter opener... I wonder what the hell happened to that...

Monday, August 5, 2019

A Pet Peeve for Your Monday Morning

In a world where there's so many things that piss me off, let's take a little side trip down Pet Peeve Lane to talk about something that pisses me off without any global or societal ramifications...

TILL.

Now, it's a perfectly valid word on its own.  You can till a field, for instance.  Or you can till your garden.

But when it's used as a contraction for the word UNTIL, it totally pisses me off.  Sure sure, the dictionaries have caved and said TILL is now considered a proper way to convey UNTIL.  Except it's not. It's totally not.  And I don't care if it's become accepted.  It's wrong.

When you take letters off a word to shorten it, it becomes a contraction and it needs an apostrophe.  UNTIL would then become 'TIL.  Not TILL. 

Where's the apostrophe? 

You might just as well say ISNT is okay in place of IS NOT.  Or IVE works instead of I'VE.  Or WELL is peachy when you're saying WE WILL.  That last one makes it kinda confusing, don't it?  Because WELL is a word that means something totally different.  Like...

TILL

And where the hell did the extra L come from?  There's no rule anywhere that says when you take two letters off the front of UNTIL, you add a extra L at the end.  For what?  Balance?

Might as well make 'TIS into TISS.  Remove a letter from the front, add an extra letter at the end.  Right?

Bah and feh.

So, I'll keep using 'TIL when I want to shorten UNTIL.  And I'll keep getting irritated when I see others using TILL.  Because it makes no sense.

Some days, I wish that was the only irritating, nonsensical thing in my life.  But it's not.  You do not want to know what I could've ranted about this morning. 

Your turn.  What non global or societal thing could you rant about this morning?  Have at it.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Stuffs

I was going to skip posting today because I don't really have anything to talk about.  But hey, it's Friday and chances are you're here because you expect me to say something.

I got a survey thing from the last place I marketed.  They were fine.  Sure, I didn't break even on that one, but I suspect it was less their fault than mine.  Not sure why they send out a survey right after the sale is over and ask about page reads in it.  Page reads generally don't come in that quick for me.  Gimme another week and I might be able to accurately answer that question. 

Right now, I'm waiting for ENT to get back to me on whether I can have an ad with them.  One thing about ENT is they're not that good about sub-genres.  They have paranormal, but it's paired with romance - which is totally not the place to put Wish in One Hand.  I went with 'fantasy' this time, cuz, like, it's urban FANTASY.  We'll see what happens.  I gave them a date range and told them I'm flexible, if that helps them decide anything.  Worst they can say is no.

If ENT rejects WIOH, advertising will be with Bargain Booksy again.  But I think BB is almost tapped out.  They recommend advertising a book every 90 days, but I'm afraid of market saturation, so I don't follow their advice. 

Oh, and I discovered a new thing with BB specifically targeting Kindle Unlimited subscribers.  It's $25, but it only reaches 10K people.  And the book has to have more than 20 reviews.  Might give it a whirl in September with Dying Embers (my only 20+ review book.)

Also 'oh, and', this month is the four-year birthday for Wish in One Hand.  Four years... whoda thunk it?

What's going on out there in your world?