Free Chapters: Nuts, Chapter 3

Chapter 3

 

When I returned, I found Titus still staring at the wall. He seemed frozen, like a permanent fixture resembling the table and bed on his either side. He said nothing when I pulled him to his feet, and did not resist when I laid him on the bed.

“What are you doing?” he said when I rolled him towards the inside.

“I want to sleep with you.”

“Absolutely not,” said Titus. “It’s bad enough I’ve ruined your life. I don’t—”

He tried to sit up, but I pushed down on his chest. “I don’t have my bear anymore, so you will have to suffice.”

“You did not need one last week,” he said.

“I had a friend last week. But since you’ve stopped speaking to me, you’re going to serve some function besides decorating my room. I don’t like cluster and I don’t want to be alone.”

When Titus said nothing, I climbed into bed and pulled the sheets over us. He was much broader than my teddy bear, but he smelled nice, like the sea and autumn air. I put my arms around him. It was close enough. At least Titus did not fidget.

“It’s not so bad here,” I said. “The other ghosts have gotten used to the place. You will too. Why not make some friends?”

“Who told you there were other ghosts?” said Titus.

“Brenda,” I said. “She’s another patient at the ward. She’s got her own version of you, a man named Darcia.”

“And you’ve seen this Darcia fellow?”

“No, but he’s her ghost so why would he appear to me?”

Titus turned so that we were face to face.

“Your ability is universal,” he said. “You can see all ghosts. Even if we vanish, you can still feel our presence.”

“Are you sure?” I said. “I can’t see Darcia, and I haven’t seen any new ghosts since you arrived.”

“But you’ve seen more than one at a time?”

“When I was younger, yes.”

“Then ask your friend if she has as well. If this Darcia is her only ghost, he may simply exist as an outlet for a lonely and desperate woman.”

“Possibly. Then again, she might say I’m the crazy one.”

Titus looked down at his hand as I slipped my fingers through his.

“It’s alright. I know I’m not. You are tangible. To me alone, but you exist, as did the others. But no one has ever verified my presence either, and look…” I put my other hand against his cheek. “See? It’s all there. I’m not crazy. I can see you, clear as day, and touch you…” I ran my hand down his arm. “Has anyone else seen you? Or touched you before we met?”

Titus said nothing. He took my hand in his and held it up to his mouth.

“Then we are at an impasse,” I said. “It’s alright. Regardless of who’s crazy, Brenda said we can’t leave. Apparently the hospital is cursed, and anyone who tries to escape dies.”

“Do you believe her?” said Titus.

“No, but just the same, there’s no harm in staying put and making friends. Who knows? If we do decide to leave, we might take some of them with us.

Titus paused for a moment. “Are you sorry?”

“For what? We’re free, aren’t we? At least in the nuthouse we have company. It’s better than living alone outside.”

The next morning, I found Titus on his back, staring at the ceiling.

“Good morning.”

Titus said nothing.

I got to my feet and dressed quickly. One of the orderlies would arrive by nine with my breakfast and pills.

As I slipped a dress over my head, a pair of hands pulled the fringes down and tied the ribbon behind my back.

“If you wish to go outside, I will come with you.”

“What brought about the sudden change?”

Titus picked up my hairbrush. “Since I cannot make you leave, I want to meet the people in this hospital, see for myself that they’re not dangerous. It is as you suggested, if we cannot leave, we might as well proceed to live as comfortable to us.”

The door rattled. I heard the jingle of keys before the door swung open. In came the orderly I saw in the courtyard: he towered over us, over six feet in height, and he couldn’t have been more than twenty-five in age. From the front he looked less like a human and more like something from a romance novel. His black hair matched perfectly in shade with his eyes and goatee, and his olive skin suggested tropical origins.

“Hello,” he said in perfect English. “So this is where they put you.”

He produced a clipboard and grinned in a way that suggested he intended to share an inside joke.

“Lucille Dane. Fifteen. Claims she can see ghosts.”

He scanned my person.

“You don’t look crazy to me.”

“I’m not,” I said, “But you’re not supposed to believe me.”

I held out my hand for the pills. The orderly chuckled.

“Your pills are outside with your breakfast,” he said. “I’m Peter, by the way. It’s nice to meet you.”

I sat on my bed as he wheeled in a cart with a tray. He had toned arms, Peter, slender but well-defined. For a moment I wondered if his wife would not feel jealousy for him working in a hospital of shut-ins. Perhaps she did not care. Perhaps he did not have a wife.

As I ate, Peter watched from the chair by my desk. I purposely left the medicine where it sat, though neither this orderly nor the one before him seemed to care. The previous one had been a woman, a brunette with a a scowl for all but the door every time she entered my room. I got the feeling she didn’t want to be here, though the one time I tried to talk to her resulted in threats to report me to the doctor.

“Need a napkin?” said Peter, holding one up.

I shook my head and wiped my mouth on the back of my hand.

“You’ll get your dress dirty,” he said. “It’s a nice one. Bright, like the color of stars. You’re well dressed for someone locked in this place.”

“I’m new,” I said. “I will learn their habits soon enough.”

Titus said nothing during the exchange. His figure, slumped against the wall behind the bed, continued its inspection of the window. Several times I glanced at him, waiting for his verdict of the new orderly. When he remained useless, I finished my cereal.

“All finished?” said Peter. “That’s a good girl. Don’t change too much, alright? I’d rather not add another shabby, shaking patient to my route. It’s what that needle jockey wants; subjugation. She likes to rule while the rest of us toil for her benefit.”

I swallowed some milk. I hadn’t expected further conversation, much less bitterness from an orderly. The previous one just dropped off my food and left. She never made eye contact, and I suspected she feared either the patients or her boss.

“Why are you here?” I said. “If you don’t like the doctor, I mean.”

“My sister got me the job. She works here with her fiance. You’ve probably seen him, big guy, toned, goes by Ted? No? Well, it’s not so bad, save the doctor’s ridiculous rules about bedtimes and noise. Otherwise, I’d invite you to watch me rehearse with my band.”

“You play in a band?” The words sounded ridiculous coming out of my mouth, yet he sounded as if he wanted to talk. Perhaps he felt isolated from the pack; the lone orderly in a game of doubles.

“Bass,” said Peter. “It’s not glamorous, and I’d be kidding you if I said I had what it took to be a professional musician. Everybody needs a pastime, and there’s not much to do around here unless you count feeding the Corner Man.”

I said nothing.

“No pressure,” said Peter. “But if you’re up for breaking the rules, my band and I practice in the old warehouse across the street. Bring the other patients with you. It might be fun.”

I considered. He didn’t seem intimidating, Peter. Quite the opposite. He had an honest voice, kind of goofy, but no rumble and smolder. I thought of asking Titus for his opinion, then reminded myself he no longer spoke.

“Are you always this friendly?” I said. “I’ve never seen you before.”

“Yes you have,” said Peter.

We stared at each other. My chest deflated. How did he know?

“Yesterday, in the courtyard. I saw you behind me, looking up. I’ll be very disappointed if you weren’t looking at me. You seemed happy, and it’s hard for me not to notice a happy person in a sea of vacant stares. I saw you head this way after dinner, so I traded routes with my sister.”

He smiled and mentally, I noted the relationship between him and my previous orderly. Perhaps their parents raised them separately: what his sister lacked in personality Peter compensated for in abundance. He seemed more alive than anyone I had met, like he knew something I didn’t or had seen parts of the world I didn’t know existed. I thought about taking his offer to see his band, then reminded myself not to be forward. I should discuss this with Titus, when we were alone.

“Well, I best get going,” said Peter, getting to his feet. “Lots of other patients on this route, and the old bird will flip if I’m late with their medication.”

“Will you come by tomorrow?” I said.

“Of course. I didn’t trade shifts for nothing.”

As an unfamiliar thrill ran through my body, I caught sight of Titus, slumped against the wall behind the bed. He rained expressionless, though his eyes followed Peter out the door.

“What’s wrong?” I said when the door closed. I got the impression he found the man distasteful. Strange, Titus was not the possessive type. He normally took pleasure to people who showed interest in me.

“Are you planning to sneak out?”

“Of course not,” I said. “But you have to admit, it was nice of him to offer.”

“Maybe,” said Titus.

“Why don’t you like him? He’s more pleasant than that other girl. She keeps calling me ‘Lily.’”

“I don’t care what she calls you as long as she does her job. That man though…he’s might be dangerous.”

“Isn’t that a bit dramatic?”

“Is it?” said Titus. “There’s dry blood under his fingernails.”

…..

“They all do every once in a while,” said Brenda some two hours later. “Most orderlies assist with surgical treatments. We have very few nurses. Working here is not an ideal job, even given the generous pay.”

I looked at Titus. He didn’t seem convinced.

“So where is Darcia?” I said.

Brenda raised an eyebrow. “He’s right here,” she said, gesturing to her other side. “Can’t you see him?”

I looked at Titus. He shook his head.

“Has he made himself invisible?” I said.

“No, but he might have lowered his visibility.” Brenda turned to the empty space beside her. “It’s rude to play jokes on our friend, Darcia. Turn your opacity up right now.”

I waited with little anticipation. Despite Brenda’s repeated requests, nothing appeared in the lounge.I had hoped that in bringing Titus, he could confirm Darcia’s existence. Surely ghosts could see other ghosts.

“Like I said, she must be an actual patient,” said Titus. “There’s no one there.”

I tapped Brenda on the shoulder. “You never told me what you thought of Titus.”

She turned to look at the space next to me. Titus waved. Brenda furrowed her brows.

“I can’t see him,” she said. “Do you mind asking him to turn up his opacity too?”

Titus put his hands to his temples. His body began to glow, filling the room with a bright, white light. The lounge crew shied from our direction, and the cross-legged man in the corner stopped talking to his shadow long enough to scowl at us. Brenda stared ahead, her expression unchanging.

“Did he do it?” she said.

Titus and I exchanged glances. Brenda pushed past me, kneeling in front of the couch and face to face with Titus. She squinted.

“Oh I see,” she said. “Good-looking guy, for a faded, pasty outline. Taller than I expected. I thought he’d be your size and age. What do you think, Darcia?”

I waited for more. Titus surveyed her, scanning her face as she conversed with the space behind her.

“She’s bluffing,” said Titus. “She feels the need to acknowledge my existence in order prolong her delusions. You have yet to deny Darcia’s existence, so she feels she must do the same.”

“Are you sure?” I said.

“Of course,” said both of them at the same time.

“He looks twenty,” said Brenda.

“Ask her for the color of my eyes,” said Titus.

The bell on the wall sounded.

We stood in line in the cafeteria, waiting for lunch. The lounge crew shuffled in front of us, Willy lecturing about the proper etiquette of bidding in Spades. He stopped when he saw us.

“Ladies.” He nodded in our direction. “Darcia.”

Titus raised his eyebrows.

“You can see him?” I said.

“Of course,” said Willy. “We’re telepaths. We can sense more than cards from the other realm.”

“He also indulges Brenda,” whispered John. “He’s got a thing for her, ever since she started playing cards with us.”

I thought about Titus’ theory. Perhaps Brenda is the type to indulge others in hopes they will indulge her delusions.

“I don’t think we’ve met,” said Chris, extending a hand in our direction.

“Yes, we have,” I said.

“I mean the gentleman next to you,” said Chris. “I’m Chris. You look like you could use a towel.”

“Titus,” said Titus. Slowly, he extended his hand. The telepath attempted to shake it, but his hand fell through and he clutch at nothing.

“That’s a bit of a problem,” said Carol. “I’m Carol. Have you thought of wearing a glove? Might make you easier to spot.”

“What are you two blabbering about?” said Willy. “There’s no one there.”

“Yes there is,” said both Chris and Carol.

“No, there isn’t,” said John.

As they bickered about who was right and who was delusional, it dawned on me that the lounge crew may not be on the same psychic wavelength. Chris could see Titus, but not Darcia. Carol seems to see both. Willy is only conscious of Darcia, and John saw neither. The espers’ argument grew louder as they neared the front of the line. Titus said nothing, and Brenda exchanged words with the space next to her. Perhaps Willy’s control over the lounge crew was only artificial, and it was his personality rather than his powers that bound the others.

“There are only three people there,” said Chris.

“Four,” said Carol.

“Both of you are insane,” said Willy. “Your powers are giving out. You’re seeing kids that don’t exist. Keep it up and you’ll be no better off than the actual crazies in this place.”

“Look who’s talking,” said Chris. “You’ve been struggling to maintain control of your powers. Who tried to play the Ace of Spades twice last game?”

“That was Carol!”
“No it wasn’t!”

“SHUT UP!”

All four of them stopped at once. We turned to see the bandaged girl behind Brenda, her brows furrowed as she held on to a gaunt, vulture-like man with half a head of hair. He wobbled next to her, towering like an obelisk on wheels with arms like those of a gorilla. I would have thought him ready to pass out had his biceps not pulsed and tightened.

“Alice, Jeffrey…” said Brenda.

“No!”said the girl. “No more outbursts. You’re adults, not children. Yet you’re always fussing and disrupting Jeffrey with your ghosts and make believe.”

She rounded on us, but turned a foot too far to the right. While Alice lectured, I made a mental note that her voice rang clear despite her bandaged face; it seems only her eyes were damaged.

“And what about poor Jeffrey?” she said. “Do you ever think of him? The poor man can’t create. How is he supposed to play?”

“He can start by going to his room,” said Willy. The rest of the Lounge Crew apologies; Chris shuffled his feet, John turned to the food line and started loading his tray, but Willy threw his scarf over his shoulder and nodded towards the door.

“If you want silence, there’s a morgue on the seventh floor. Otherwise, be quiet and mind your own business.”

Alice let go of the old man. “You’re not one to talk, Mr. Pretend Esper. Always banging your hands on the table and acting like you control the lounge. It’s no wonder people don’t go there anymore.”

“They have no more right to the space than we do,” said Willy. “At least we’re not paint the walls with our own feces.”

Alice turned a shade pinker. “I do not paint my walls with feces. I paint pictures with brushes.”

“And other people’s blood,” said Willy.

“I do not!”

Suddenly, the vulture-like man threw up his hands.

“It’s gone. It’s gone.”

He clutched the side of his head, thrashing left and right. The other patients back away from the line. Brenda reached for his shoulder.

“Don’t touch me!”  

A loud slap echoed through the room. Willy stepped forward. Titus raised a hand.

“No,” I said. “He’s not dangerous.”

“He is out of control,” said Titus. “Something’s been lost, and he blames the lot of you.”

Alice managed to find the man’s shoulders again. “Shame on you, Willy,” she said. “Just wait until the doctor hears about this.”

She helped the man shuffled past us and placed a bowl of something on his tray.

“It’s alright,” said Brenda. “Alice’s a bit strange, and Jeffrey’s just temperamental. All music prodigies tend to be.”

When the other moved out of earshot, she added, “Jeffrey composes a new piece everyday. They’re unique, brilliant, and unlike anything you’ll ever hear on the piano. He would’ve been famous, if he didn’t also have dementia.”

My eyes followed the hunched man. He moved from the meatloaf to the silverware, taking a set for himself and another for Alice.

“Why is he here?” I said.

“Tantrums,” said Brenda. “Because he doesn’t know how to write music, he has no way to record the pieces before he forgets them. His sister found him smashing furniture one day after he had forgotten a particularly endearing piece. It took five men to restrain him, and the judge had him locked down when he started ranting about lost loves. They say the madness started when he lost his first love twenty-five years ago, though no one knows if it’s a girl or a song.”

The two made their way to a table in the back. Alice wobbled as she ate, splashing soup all over her white patient’s gown. Jeffrey handed her a napkin.

“Are they—?”

“No.They’re just friends. The creative types tend to stick together. Alice used to be an artist in New York until an accident left her blind. She still sculpts and paints, and well. She also claims she can tell colors apart by their smell.”

“That sounds more like a virtue than a vice,” I said.

“Not when she’s throwing them at you.”

I eyed the artist as Brenda continued to explain. Like Brenda with Willy, Alice had a special friendship with the crooked musician; she was the only person Jeffrey permitted to touch him. The two had been friends since Alice was first committed. She had a habit of throwing paint balloons at her canvases. Since she couldn’t see, her aim suffered nine times out of ten, and some unfortunate object or animal became the target of her inspiration. To the frustration of her aged grandfather, she took up sculpting to compensate for her lack of two-dimensional output, and after stabbing her landlord by accident, Alice was removed from her studio apartment and placed in Dover Hill.

When everyone finished eating, the orderlies gave us our medication and escorted us out of the room. When afternoon came, they informed us we could spend an extra hour in the courtyard. They thought fresh air would benefit us all.

“It’s possible they’re bringing in a new patient,” said Titus. “We saw no one during our first hour.”

As we followed the short, squarish orderly down the stairs, I caught Titus looking over his shoulder. Brenda rushed in to join the rear, looking more disheveled than she did at lunch.

Our group wandered around the courtyard, admiring a new sculpture the doctor had purchased. It looked like a man, bent, hunched, its metal splattered with red, blue, and purple paint.

“Nice, right?” said Brenda. “Looks like something Alice might have made before she went blind. They say she had her own exhibit back in the day.”

“Do you think she can really smell colors?” I said. Brenda nodded, then went into a reverie about the first time she and Darcia met Alice. I got the impression she enjoyed indulging other people. She liked every patient in the hospital and she wanted them to like her as well.

“Colors cannot be smelled,” said Titus. “Likely the woman keeps her paint systematically organized. She may be a genius, but that doesn’t exclude her from being a charlatan.”

“Why don’t we ask her ourselves?”

Brenda paused. “Ask her what?”

“Alice,” I said. “Titus and I would like to speak with her.”

Brenda looked around. The artist was not in the courtyard.

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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.

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 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 on Writing: Great Ads

It’s been two weeks of advertising, and book sales have been pretty good. A big thank you to everyone who has purchased one of my stories.

I wanted to make a post about the great promotional services out there. Without their help, I would not have been able to spread the word about my new book,  The Almshouse.

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(I also changed the cover.)

Here’s a list of tried and true advertising services for other authors out there:

Readers in the Know: (free) I have to say this guy is great. He put ads for my book on his website, facebook, and twitter. I will definitely continue using his service. I think I will purchase his gold promo package in December.

BookKitty on fiverr: ($5) I used her before and was happy to purchase again. She’s very professional and tries to do as much as she can for her customers.

Bknights on fiverr: (same $5) This man works miracles. Seriously, you cannot ask for a better ad. He’s very easy to communicate with, flexible in terms of dates, and his website is very well put together. With this and my own promotions and a couple of my friends sharing my posts on facebook and group text messages, my book was pushed from rank 49,000’s to #6,590. Also I got #9, #10, and #16 on the Top 100 Bestsellers lists for 3 categories. If you’re just starting out, or running low on funds, try Bknights. (Also, and this is a rumor, but it seems he gives refunds for the books he was not able to sell as well as he wanted)

Goodreads: (free) I found a group of people who will give one honest review each for a free copy of the book. I sent them each a PDF, so hopefully that will turn into something. I also found a person who runs a book feature blog. It’s free but you have to apply. It’s an up and starting blog, so I’ll let you know how it goes.

Asking for friends to help: (free) It’s funny. The years I spent as an artist, I built up a network of people. One of them has decided to take up promoting my book in exchange for some of my artwork. He was able to secure 6 sales in the last couple of hours. If anyone had a previous job before writing, I recommend falling back on the old network.

eBook Booster: ($25) Good people. They’re very professional, act quickly, and they really make sure all the work is done as promised. I will definitely use them again when I can figure out how the countdown deals work.

ENT: ($30) Received a cordial email from ENT today notifying me of the acceptance of my book. The processing was surprisingly quick. Will update this based on change and status.

Readfree.ly: (free) First thing’s first: the guy who owns this website is very nice. He got back to me within a day and I saw the ad go up the day after. That being said, my own sales did not benefit significantly from Readfree.ly, but it might be cause of my genre. I would definitely not hesitate to recommend the site to others. It’s free… there’s nothing to lose.

Readcheaply.com: (free for a limited time) I think they were responsible for my sudden increase in sales this past Wednesday. In my absentmindedness, I forgot to keep track of when this ad was supposed to kick in. But since it’s free for a limited time, I definitely recommend this service. They’re more likely than not responsible for the sudden +13 I saw from my usual daily sales.

Do you have a service you like? Feel free to share your experience.

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.

fiverrpart3

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.