Lessons about Writing: Ads

As a new writer, I have a lot to learn. Sometimes I wonder if I wouldn’t have been better off sticking to my day job. But then I think about my characters and the time it took for me to make them, and so I keep trying and hopefully, I’ll get to tell a story someday.

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But as a new writer, I forget I understand very little about this industry. Specifically, I’m not an ad-man, and I know nothing about marketing. I was silly enough to try to find my own ads in the beginning. I should have asked for references from a more experienced author. If you take away nothing else from my meanderings, please, seek guidance from the veteran authors you know.

The Long Story:

When I first published my book, I set out to purchase advertisement for the release. I had read good things about fiverr, and so took out an ad with FlurriesofWords. They promised the following:

proofofnoservice

Sure, I thought, I could use the social media publicity. 35,000 is a lot of people. I ordered the service, waited a couple days, and then I received this note:

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Oh good! It’s up. I hurry over to the websites:

I was excited for about 10 seconds when suddenly, I realized something. Looking over at the “Members” area, I noticed the exact same people. The exact same 429 people. That’s weird. The seller had promised 2 different blogs in two different markets. This blog looks like 1 blog in 1 market, with 2 urls.

So I send a message, asking for the second blog. I had a suspicion at this point that she might have misrepresented her services and considered asking for a refund. But I decided to ask for proof of service instead for the rest of the postings she promised: the facebook and twitter posts to 35,000 followers. “Please provide proof of two [m]arkets as well as twitter and facebook feeds with 35k followers. Thank you.”

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She did not seem to understand my request, so I tried again:

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Hmmm, I asked her for proof, she’s accusing me of making her jump through hoops. A simple screenshot would have sufficed, but no, I have nothing except 1 blog post and 2 accusations. I emailed fiverr customer support to sort out this issue.

While fiverr thought about it, I submitted a request for a refund, saying she had failed to provide proof of service. She rejected it, claiming I was lying. I tried again. Again she rejected it. And then she accused me of cyberbullying because I requested to cancel the order due to her lack of proof. To be fair to her, I provided the reason I requested to cancel.

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After 4 tries, fiverr customer services finally stepped in, and I get this in the mail:

verdict

Well, that’s that… leave it to Fiverr’s Trust & Safety team. I added this experience with my other ones in a log I keep on Kboards.com, and moved on to finding other types of promotions.

Two days later, I get a one-star review on my book, by a person called “Geeky Books”. At first I thought it was a disgruntled reader, so I checked the person’s history to see what kind of books they did like. I found a very confusing set of books.

The subjects ranged from epic fantasy, to horror, to how to get rich guides, to family management advice for men (strange, considering the reviewer seems to be a woman.)

I noticed two books also with one-star ratings, so I clicked on them to see what she didn’t like about these books. About five seconds in, I realized they were by the same author. The same guy wrote both books. The same guy she one-starred twice. Strange, I thought… what kind of consumer buys 2 books by the same author just to one-star them both?

My first instinct was that this was a personal grudge and that author had made her mad. Then I realized that perhaps my own was for the same reason. Who had I made mad in the last 3 days?

The fiverr woman came to mind. To ensure I wasn’t making a mistake, I looked into the reviewer’s positive reviews. The three she gave were for a 7 volume epic fantasy, a paranormal romance, and the family management for men book. They had nothing in common, save…

Oh look, all three were featured multiple times on that Fiverr woman’s website. Suddenly things became clear. I felt better. I shared the news with my friends. We decided to move on.

About a week later, the Fiverr woman appeared on Kboards, the place where I keep my reviews of marketing services I tried. She was angry. Her business had closed. Why, she did not say, but she blamed authors for “cyberbullying” her and hinted at my review. I thought about confronting her, but, at the advice of a more experienced author, decided to take it to the moderators instead.

Well… the Fiverr woman decided to confront me instead. She started posting on my threads, and again the accusations of “lying” and “cyberbullying” kick in. Thankfully, in came the Kboard moderators and within an hour and a half, the woman’s posts were gone. The woman proceeds to accuse the Kboard admins of bias. I informed the Kboard admins of her 1-star review. They were hesitant to take action without further proof.

Fair enough, I thought. I considered what I knew about the woman. In her hurry to confront me, the Fiverr woman had mentioned that it was not “an author” but “authors” that she was angry at. We have an old saying in my line of work: if they’ve done it once, they’ve done it before. So off I went to see who else she is angry at…

Upon searching “flurriesofwords” in google, facebook, and twitter, I found this: Flurries of Words or Flurries of Hate

In this article, author Gene Geter said:

I paid for my ebook, How To Gain Wealth With Just One Word to be book of the day and [Flurries of Words owner; actual name ommitted] who runs the website, Flurries of Words, decided on February 14th. I asked for two changes. The first one was to change a book review because this book review talked about another ebook. At first she just added another book review and left the first one. So after another email, she removed the book review I asked about. The second change I wanted was that I noticed most of the book links went to the original ebook while two links went to the extended version. I felt since [Flurries of Words owner] already had the original book cover posted, all the book links should be the same. [Flurries of Words owner] never changed it. I asked for my money back via PayPal. PayPal decided null stating that they didn’t have enough info to decide in anyone’s favor.

A few minutes after I asked for a refund, my ebook (the book of the day) and another one of my ebooks, Nurture received one star reviews on Amazon.com from someone named Geeky Books. I had a feeling it was [Flurries of Words owner]and when I checked Geeky Books’ wish list, [Flurries of Words owner]’s name is right there on the top athttp://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wishlist/17G4V8RPEJHUA/ref=pdp_new.

Well, this is awkward… it seems like she did the same thing to someone the year before she did it to me. So I started looking for this author, Gene Geter, to get the details of his story.

I found the author on facebook about half-an-hour later; he seemed more than happy to convey his story. He even seemed happy to meet me, and I told him I’ll look into “Geeky Books’s” reviewing habits.

While trying to figure out what to do, a friend alerted me. Someone was downvoting my book on Goodreads. I go over and noticed I suddenly had a 1-star review on there too. Hm…

I filed a few reports with a couple authority figures, and then Amazon, asking them to IP check the reviews. They were happy to oblige, after I told them this series of events. They promised me an answer soon. I was please, and went off to do other things.

A few hours later, a friend alerted me. Apparently, a sudden stream of feedback started flooding my book page, all of which promoting the negative review she left. Strange, I thought. My book is new. How did I end up with 10 “helpfulness” votes in a few hours?

After some time searching, I found out that it was the fiverr woman again. She had written an article about me on her blog, and another one about Gene Geter. Boy, was she angry. She accused him of lying in his article, then of cyberbullying. (Yes, this is a trend.)

But the one thing that caught my attention was her screenshots showing she had in fact, attempted to share my book on social media. (Twitter: 20,700 followers, Facebook: 3,067 followers, Pininterest: 295 followers, and Google+: 273 followers)  = 24,335 total. Not the 35,000 she promised, but heck, if she showed me those screenshots when I asked, she would have been paid with a halfway decent review for trying.

I thought it was very strange. If she had those screenshots, why didn’t she show me? Is it because it didn’t ad up to 35,000? Did she just not want to look through your data to take the screenshots? Did she think it would be better to call me names rather than admit to puffery?

Well lady, if you’re reading this, all you really had to do was tell me you lost a few followers along the way, and everything would have been fine. If you had another reason for not showing me, that’s fine too. Just tell me, instead of accusing me of asking you to jump through hoops. I asked for some proof of the services I paid you for; that’s not jumping through hoops, that’s industry standard.

All you had to do was send me the screenshots, instead of threatening me with cyberbullying law, following me from fiverr to amazon to kboards to goodreads, and leaving one-star reviews on my book. I practice law; that cyberbullying statute doesn’t work the way you think it does. If you want to talk about it, we can, but there are other ways of telling me your feelings are hurt. I’m not going to grudge you $5.00 if you really need it. If having that $5.00 really makes you happy, then tell me.

In general, I get that money is hard to come by in this industry, and that this woman is probably doing her best, same as the rest of us. She was upset I gave her business a poor review for failing to provide proof, and I was upset that she wanted me to pay without offering proof of twitter or facebook posts. In hindsight, I guess there were some things we both should have learned, but it’s not my place to tell her what she should have learned. As for me, I need to be better about seeking the advice. I’m a new author. I worked hard on my book. I should have taken the extra five minutes to seek a wiser and more experienced author’s advice.

Oh well… chalk it up to a learning experience about ads.

 

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Finding readership is hard, so I’ve decided to take up advertising in booklists. Here are some good ones:

 

http://readcheaply.com/

Your Discounted/Free Book

http://bookloversheaven.com/

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Published!

I published my book!

The Almshouse, now on Amazon Kindle

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Title: The Almshouse
Genre: Supernatural Mystery
Short Summary: THE ALMSHOUSE, a ghost mystery set in the 1930’s, follows the story of a 12-year old catholic school girl as she attempts to solve a decade old tragedy. The people who provide her with clues are the ghosts of those who perished throughout the town’s history.

Kindle Scout

Hi there.

I wanted to start my blog with a recap of my recent experience with Kindle Scout. I’m still waiting for the results of my campaign, but I thought I would share what I’ve learned.

The Beginning

I started my novel, The Almshouse, in 2008. I was 18 then and a freshman in college. I didn’t pick up the project again until late 2014, after I found my first job as a summer associate at a law firm. Between the years, I tried my hand at writing a romantic comedy. I learned that I’m not funny.

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The Almshouse took 8 months to finish and another two months to edit. After I posted it on WriteOn, a writing community owned by Amazon, I saw that several other authors had entered their books in Kindle Scout. I decided to copy them and submitted The Almshouse to Kindle Scout in mid-October.

The first week was uneventful. None of my friends or colleagues knew I wrote anything except academic papers, so I stuck with spreading the word among writers’ forums. I thought I would bother them when I actually published the story, whether through Scout or direct publishing. (It seemed rude to bother thousands of people twice.)

Because I launched a mystery/thriller campaign in October, I was lucky enough to catch the Halloween campaign promotions. For sixteen days, I hovered in Hot & Trending. Then the first week of November hit, and I found myself out of Hot & Trending. I asked three close friends of mine to help spread the word, and a few days later, I ended up back in the Hot & Trending selection.

Here is a graph showing my numbers.

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As you can see, my campaign ended 5 days ago. I haven’t heard anything yet, but I will post again when I do hear. During the campaign, I learned a few things that may help future authors:

  1. The numbers above were enough to earn me a read, but it doesn’t seem to provide an advantage in getting published. Off the top of my head, three people have had those numbers and or better and have not been selected, and their books were well-written. There were also several good books that were selected without a lot of H&T time. As far as I can tell, as long as you’re floating in H&T for a few days, they’ll look at your book.
  2. The top banner of H&T is rotating. All 20 books are listed in random order, so you’ll have some hours in the first four and some in the last four.
  3. The popularity of genres are as follows: Romance, Mystery/Thriller, SciFi, General Fiction
  4. This is not just a campaign for first time authors; it is a publicity campaign available to everyone. Of the 50 or so selected authors, most of them have already published several books, or were award winning television script writers in a past life. Others either already have a five-figure following, or are current USA Today bestselling authors. As such, while cover, blurb, and first chapters are very important, please do not discount the importance of having a publishing trail, or you might find yourself fighting an uphill battle. I had nothing but a short story published at the time of my Scout campaign, and I’m already regretting it.
  5. Monday is the most popular day for getting selected. The other days are mixed.

In general, I would recommend aspiring authors to participate in the campaign. I would also caution them to prepare their campaigns ahead of time, and not to launch their campaigns at the same time as groups of bestselling authors. I would also caution against entering without a professionally designed cover, as that is your primary clickbait. As for current bestselling authors, most of this will probably not apply.

My own theory is that the number of Hot & Trending serves only as a comparative factor against other books ending around the same time; it doesn’t actually correlate with the likelihood of selection. Given that 10-16 campaigns end every day, it’s a lot of work to read through that many full manuscripts, or even sample chapters. H&T hours might the gatekeeper that isolates the top 3-4 from each day/week/batch.

In other words, there may not be a difference in consideration between the book with the most H&T hours and the book that came in #4; the remaining process is a free for all among the read books. That would explain why some books with lots of H&T hours don’t get picked, and the ones with a mediocre amount do.

Hope this helps. I’ll post again when I have more information.