Lessons in Writing: Even More Ads

This is probably overdue, but here is another list of ads I placed for The Almshouse. Funny enough, I found a copy of my book on Overdrive, the online library. It disappeared shortly after.

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1. Ereader News Today: Overall, I’d play this in third place out of all the services I’ve tried. Second in terms of number of books sold, and fourth in terms effectiveness; the ad did not pay for itself. However, this is still a fantastic service, and it did produce a good amount of sales (~60) for $30. The acceptance process took about 3 days, and the people at ENT are very easy to work with. I would strongly recommend those who haven’t tried this service yet to try, and for those who have series. Since I only have one book, it may have been my fault for trying to recoup costs off of one book.

2. Fire and Ice Blog Feature: This is a smaller company with nice people and good service. For $5, they feature your book, and just your book, for the day. Unfortunately, it didn’t do much for me, but that does NOT mean it won’t work well for you. I get the feeling romance might do better than thrillers with this blog. Just a hunch

3. Betty Book Freak: Betty is a sweet lady, but please keep in mind this is still a small business. If you’re looking for big results, apply with Robin Reads, Ereader News Today, or Bookbub. Here, my $8 resulted in 8 sales. Perhaps I’m in the wrong genre again; I’ve heard stories from Fantasy authors that it does work.

4.  NewFreeKindleBooks.com: This one was interesting, because they do accept discounted books, and the “free” pertains to author fees as well. The day the ad ran, I got 16 sales by noon. No other ads were running that day. By evening, I found 24 sales. My daily average is ~7 sales, so this is definitely out of my expect range. So either this is an undiscovered source of sales, or a group of readers out there suddenly decided to do their last-minute holiday shopping at once.

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Lessons in Writing: New Authors

It’s hard being a new author; most authors will confirm. You just finished your first manuscript, polished it fervently until it shine and sparkles (metaphorically), and it’s the nearest and dearest thing to your heart next to friends, pets and family. But when you enter the industry, you find yourself surrounded by honed veterans with tens and hundreds of manuscripts to their names.

Suddenly, your one little manuscript doesn’t seem so valuable anymore. It’s like having an old dog; it may not be the cutest thing, but its yours, and you want from the world is for them to see how special it is. Yet, you have no idea how much attention is sufficient, and how far you need to go before feeling satisfied.

My experiment

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After a month of swimming through the writing industry, I was able to sell a little more than 400 copies of my book,  The Almshouse. (I did not hit my 500th sale until 3 days after my 1-month anniversary.) I managed to shove it onto the top of the Hot New Releases list for my genre. At its best, it was ranked 3,000-something in Amazon’s paid rankings, and currently it has 19 reviews. Without ads, it sells ~ 5-9 copies a day.

I had no idea what to make of these numbers until last week.

Earlier last week, I was curious as to whether the behavior behind sales for The Almshouse was standard, so I launched an old manuscript under a different pen name. (We’ll call this New Story.) I did the same thing for New Story as I did for The Almshouse, including advertising through all of the channels I’ve listed below in “Ads” and “More Ads” and discounting this new book at $0.99. The result…

I sold 5 copies in 7 days.

It was pretty bad. The gentleman who ran BKnights even offered me a refund because of the abysmal sales. (I still consider him one of the best promotional source; I’m just amused that even he had a hard time peddling New Story.) Regardless of how hard I try to imitate my approach to marketing The Almshouse, New Story simply refused to sell. After 7 ads, most of which were free or cheap, nothing worked for New Story. In the end, I was satisfied with my experiment, and a little prouder of my first book.

The rest of this entry is just a summary of the lessons I’ve learned this past month, but have yet to write down.

1. The first manuscript usually sucks more than the author realizes:
When I started writing ten years ago, I was an idiotic, entitled teenager looking to get lucky. I spent 3 years writing and polishing my first manuscript, and thought it a unique work of literature that the world must see. I spent a year querying agents, got a 33% return rate in partial requests, only to have the blasted thing returned every time with a “not for me.” Frustrated, I complained to several friends that, if only the agents would give it a chance, they would see it was a bestseller. This manuscript is now known as New Story, and the only one who ended up eating her words was me.

2. Friends make decent guinea pigs:
The best thing I did was attempt to read my works out loud to friends. Your friends love you; they want you to succeed. They will do their best to listen to you gush about your novel. So… if your friends’ eyes are glazing over when you try to reach them your work, you know your story is boring, and if you can’t even keep the attention of your loved ones, it’s time to rewrite or give up on the thing.

3. Marketing early is not optional, and neither is math: Amazon does its rank calculation based on “# of units sold” divided by “# of days the book is on the market.”

This means, for every day you do not make a sale, your rank will drop. (This part is common knowledge.) BUT… this also means that, the later you make a sale, the less impact it will have on your ranking.

For example: no sales in 2 days and 3 on Day 3 = an average of 0,0, and 1 sale a day; this will result in an abysmal ranking for 2 days, and a slightly better ranking on Day 3. However, 3 sales on day 1 with no sales for 2 more days = 3, 1.5, and 1 sale a day; this will result in a much better ranking than the alternative.

4. Stick to one genre, the one you read the most: I have no idea why I tried to write a paranormal romantic comedy as a teenager.
I am not a romantic. I’m not even funny. And the most recent book I’ve read involving any sort of hanky-pankying was The Great Gatsby. Most authors have a tendency to write what they want to read, so when they present their books to the public, it’s to draw in everybody else that share their reading habits. If you don’t read romance (like I don’t read romance) you won’t be comfortable writing a “steaming? steamy?” scene about your hot princess or knight in shining armor.

5. Grow thick skin, the kind people get after tanning too long: 
Writing is not a competition, but that won’t stop some people from treating it like one. Unlike desk jobs (or in my case, law) there are trolls, and angry mobs, and even people with personal vendettas. If you read the writers forums, you’ll see some pretty interesting stories about readers giving reviews to the wrong book, or chefs getting 1-star reviews for their BBQ cookbooks from members of PETA. Remember: the reviewers mean less to the reviewers than the author. Don’t take anything one person says personally (yes, it’s easier said than done.) People read stories for different reasons. Some of them might be upset. Some of them might be drunk. Some of them might be rival authors. Just grit your teeth and ignore the reviews. Even Harry Potter has 1-star reviews (though goodness knows why.)

That’s all for now. This is just one person’s reflections. Feel free to take as much or as little to heart!

Lessons on Writing: Covers

I’ve learned that I like making book covers.

The Almshouse Neverland Lucinda on the Roof Rain

It’s relaxing, especially when I get stuck on my new manuscript or have reached my character-butchering limits for the day. As much as I like writing thrillers and horror, I try not to kill off more than a handful a day.

It started when I saw a fall in sales for my first book. I had just launched the thing, and already by the second day, I had half the number of sales as the day before. I ran off to consult established authors, and was told by many to change my cover.  My original cover was mediocre, and I had slapped it together on Canva in five minutes. Needless to say, it did nothing for my sales.

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I left the lights on in the house, something no self-respecting burnt building should have….

 

 

 

At first, I considered upping my promotional efforts instead of changing the cover. That was a mistake. After a few more days of falling sales, I gave in and made a new cover. It’s similar to the old cover, but I changed the arrangement and lettering.

Sales picked up after that, just a few everyday, but it was enough to keep the book afloat. I got the impression that most people wouldn’t mind paying a dollar for something that’s at least nice to look at when they open their kindle libraries.

So I started making more covers. I changed the covers for my short stories as well. As much as I liked my doodles, they weren’t as pretty as photos.

I’m still experimenting with text and layout. One of these days, I’ll write a fantasy book (or have a friend write one) and make a cover for it.

 

Lessons in Writing: 2 More Ad Reviews

Another week done, another set of ad reviews. Here we go.

The spotlight this week goes to Robinreads. This well-known service lived up to its reputation by delivering a whopping 63 sales this past Saturday. They were fast respond when I first submitted my form, and payment was cheap, a mere $15.

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Because my book saddles the boundary between horror and thriller, I first submitted it under horror to try out their service. The price for thriller and romance is $30, while the price for horror and dystopia is $15.

Was it worth it? Absolutely. When I woke up at 9 am, I already had 12 sales. By lunch, we had reached 28, and by dinner it was 56. (Please note that this book was discounted to $0.99 for the promotion.)

I had expect 25, as stated by their chart. (Chart belongs to Robinreads, not me)

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Will I use their service again in 90 days? Absolutely. This time, I plan to file my book under thrillers and see what happens. However, I definitely recommend aspiring authors to try this service. It’s $15; you’ll make your money back in sales.

Which brings me to the next service… http://www.ebookhounds.com

Their staff seem nice enough, but at $10, I’m afraid I cannot recommend this service for authors expecting results, especially with:

  • Readcheaply.com outputting 16 sales for FREE
  • Bknights outputting 30 sales for $5
  • Robinreads outputting 63 sales for $15

Rumor (or forums) has it that they used to be $3, which I think is reasonable for their output. But at $10, http://www.ebookhounds.com outputted a total of 10 sales… and that’s with my thunderclap campaign going off on the same day.

For the three no-promo days prior to my using http://www.ebookhounds.com, my sales were 9, 16, and 9. In other words, I didn’t see much of a change.

That being said, I do not think they’re a bad service; their staff tries hard to be professional and I appreciate that quality. (I’d give them an A for effort.) I just want to caution writers expecting an increase in sales to temper their expectations. As their own website says, there is no guarantee that sales will increase. Know that you’re taking a chance.

I will have a few more services next week. Fingers cross and feeling optimistic. Now off to pester Bknights to help recoup sales numbers…

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:

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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:

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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.