Jul 152015
 

Mailchimp signupYay!  I got the visual editor for my website working again (mostly).

Just in time for Wednesday, too.  And I’ve got a lot going on with my writing since the last blog post. First and foremost, you will notice a new signup field on my site. If you’re reading this on the actual site, you will see it over there on the right. The header presently reads “Sign up for new release notifications”. If you’re getting this in a feedburner email, the signup form looks like the picture accompanying this post. At the moment, it’s not much to look at. Maybe I’ll be able to pretty it up later on, but for now, I thought it was more important to get it up and active.

Now that last sentence will likely get a “huh?” out of a lot of you. In other words, why the push to get the mailing list going?

Like I said, I have a lot going on with my writing now. And ironically, a lot of this is due to an inspirational roadblock I hit on Year 12. Without going into a lot of detail, I hit a brick wall with the plot on Y12… lost the flavor. There was a day of panic, hair pulling, and chest beating before I decided my time would be better spent moving on to another project. Not wanting to actually start a whole different book, I instead began a project that I’ve had percolating for quite some time. It will be the story of how the antagonist from Half Past Midnight managed to roll into Rejas at the head of a small army. The story should be another novella, similar in length to The Road to Rejas – possibly a bit shorter. I’ve tentatively titled it Crazy Larry.

Additionally, I have another project that I’ve been slowly working on. It’s going to be a short story collection, and it came about because there are a few particular stories that some of you have asked me to publish, but I’ve not felt right about. Not that I don’t think they’re good, it’s just that I don’t feel right charging a reader 99¢ for a short story that will only keep them occupied for a few minutes. Yet 99¢ is the least amount that epublishers will allow you to charge. And let’s face it, after paying for editors, cover work, and formatting, I at least need to recoup my expenses on the work, right?

But if I put them all into a collection together, along with some that very few people have ever seen before, then I have a single edit, one cover, and can sell it in good conscience, knowing that I’ve given the reader their money’s worth.

And since the story collection is a bit shorter than most of my work, I’ve decided to throw in the beginning of something else a lot of you have been asking for. I’m adding the first chapter for the Streets of Payne sequel (working title Payne and Suffering).

So if you want to receive announcements about these, or any other writing I do as it nears release, please sign up for the mailing list. I’m not going to spam you, or bother you with the day to day miscellany. I figure, if you really want to torture yourself with that stuff, you can just read my blog, right?

And that’s it for now. Back to writing.

Stay safe, folks.  Bye

Jun 192014
 
Bella and Cricket

“The Girls” – Bella and Cricket

As mentioned in earlier posts, my wife has been out of town for several weeks.  My parents are getting a bit older, and Dad especially is having some health issues.  My better half has been with them for the last couple of months helping them out with the day-to-day, as well as visits to doctors, etc.  She has been in human resources with a few medical facilities over the last several years, and is familiar with medical procedures, insurance, medicare, and just about anything else they need to know to get through this time, so it only made sense for her to go up there to help out.

But in the meantime, I have a job back home that I have to maintain.  As a result, we’ve been apart for longer than we’ve ever been separated before, and I miss her terribly.   Side Frown   Bella and Cricket miss her, too. See?   Smile

In addition to all that, since we sold our home a few months ago, my sister and my brother-in-law have been kind enough to let me stay in their home.  So, since my better half is gone, I’ve developed a morning routine.

I get up at 4:45 AM, let the girls outside, and feed them.  Once they’ve been taken care of, we head back upstairs where I shut them up in our bedroom while I shower.  This morning, I went through all that, came back into the bedroom, and found Cricket laying in her bed.  Bella, however, was nowhere to be seen. Where is Bella-1b I wasn’t terribly concerned, not really.  I just figured she had followed me back out of the bedroom when I left to take a shower, and wandered downstairs.

So I opened the bedroom door and called her.  I didn’t want to shout, since my brother-in-law was likely still asleep, so it was more like a loud whisper.  “Bella?”  Nothing.  “Bella!”.  Still nothing.  I watched down the hallway in the darkness for a few minutes, but didn’t hear or see anything.  I still wasn’t really worried, but at that point I was confused.  Bella is usually pretty good about coming to me when I call.  But I mentally shrugged, and turned back into the bedroom to finish getting ready for work.

Where is Bella2bThat’s when I saw her.  A fifty pound prankster, hiding behind my pillow.   Laugh

 

Other news

Well, my marketing experiment/contest seems to be a big flop.  On Monday I announced that until midnight (central time) on June 20th, for anyone who purchases a copy of my latest novel (Streets of Payne) in any format, I would give codes for the free download of all three of my current audio books from Audible.com.  All they had to do was email proof of purchase to me at jlbDOTauthorATgmailDOTcom.  So far, there have been three responses.

Three.  (sigh)   Confused

Oh well.  Like I said, it was an experiment.

On the personal front, my wife is coming back to town for a few days as I type this,  (I miss you, wife! In Love) and I’m really looking forward to holding my lady again.

Writing Chucklers (an apocalyptic/horror collaboration I’m working on with Edward Lorn) is really moving along for me now.  Chucklers face onlyThe main manuscript is sitting at almost 60k words, and there is still so much story to tell.  I’m currently working on the “Charlie” part of the story, and Charlie is a truly despicable character.  Not like a cute, kind-hearted criminal with a heart of gold and minions.  No, this guy is someone I want to meet in real life just so I can punch him in the throat.  Eek!  If I do my job well enough, readers will hopefully hate this guy as much as I do.  Writing someone this foul has been quite an experience for me.  Trying to put myself in that mindset is an exercise that I suppose all writers and/or actors work through at some point.  I think it helps you grow as a story-teller.

But there are times when I feel like I need a shower after being in Charlie’s head for a while.   Eek!

Well, I’d better go for now.  I just got a text from my wife that she is currently driving through Dallas, and should be home in a few hours.  For some reason, I’m grinning like a little kid.   Grin

Stay safe, everyone.  Bye

Jun 152014
 

Yeah, I’ve been quiet for a while.  Ironically, it’s not because I haven’t been busy.  Quite the opposite.  Life has been pretty “interesting” for the last few months. As in “may you live in interesting times” interesting.   Struggle

My wife & I sold our house about two months ago. The idea was that we would downsize to a smaller house with more property. But during the interim between selling the old house & buying a new one, we were going to stay with family members. We expected it to be a matter of a few weeks, possibly a month or two.

But right after we moved in with them, life jumped up and smacked us all. We had a few crises that have demonstrated to us that Murphy is alive and well, and apparently has taken a liking to our family. I won’t go into details, because those stories aren’t mine to tell.  But a minor side effect has been that I haven’t been paying much attention to marketing for my writing, and to be perfectly honest, I don’t know when this is going to change.  As a result, my numbers have slipped drastically, and I simply don’t have the time or setup to pursue the “traditional” marketing venues.

Streets of Payne 800 Cover reveal and PromotionalSo I’m going to try an experiment here. It may work, and it may not. I just figure this is the perfect opportunity to try something off the wall.

My book with the worst numbers right now is “Streets of Payne”. I don’t know if it’s because the book is cyberpunk, and there simply isn’t the following for the genre that there once was, or if it’s because that’s my newest book, or if I’ve made a mistake with the cover, or blurb, or categorization, or what… All I know for sure is that the thing isn’t selling.

So here’s my experiment. If you think you might be interested in a cyberpunk-ish techno-thriller, check out Streets of Payne. If it looks like something you might be interested in, buy it.  I recently lowered the e-book price to $2.99, so it’s not like it’s going to break the bank.  And for the first three people who purchase the novel in the next 24 hours, and can provide me with electronic proof of purchase, I will give you an Audible.com promo code for the free download of each of my three published works in audio format.

So, buy “Streets of Payne” in print or electronic format within the next 24 hours, email me (jlb DOT author AT gmail DOT com) with your proof of purchase, and I will send you promo codes for the free download of the Audible.com audio book versions of “Streets of Payne“, “Half Past Midnight“, and “The Road to Rejas“.

I will do this for the first three people who contact me with proof of purchase before 10PM central time, Monday night.

And then I’ll do it again for the NEXT 24 hours… and the next… until Friday night, or until I run out of codes, whichever comes first.  Like I said, I don’t know if this little experiment will help, but I figure it probably can’t hurt, either.  Right?   Confused

And that’s it for now.  As always, stay safe.   Bye

Oct 202013
 

thermalimage2IMP – Well, it isn’t great, but it’s progress.  Just under 2000 words on the IMP story (working title is “Ghost Story” – real imaginative, isn’t it?)  The good news is that I think I’m past most of the framing, and am getting into the meat of the story now.  Hopefully that means it will go much easier now. I don’t know why this one has been such a problem, but let’s hope the problem is past, and the progress is faster.  Wink

SoP – In the meantime, October marked the end of my Kindle Select period, and I have now made Streets of Payne available for Nook.  I hope to have it up on Smashwords next week as well, and I plan to look into making it available for Apple and Kobo soon.  My next step is to work on some marketing for it.  I’ve got to do something, because as much as I like the book and the characters, I haven’t sold a single copy this month.  If I can’t turn that around, I’ll have to assume either there’s no market for this particular type of book, or I’ve done something terribly wrong with it.

That’s it for tonight – short and sweet.  But I’ll be back in two days with an interview of new author, Stephen Kozeniewski.  If you’re interested in a new take on the zombie genre, check him out.  After all, how often do you find a pulp style detective… who happens to be a zombie?

All right.  Good night everyone.  Stay safe.  Bye

Aug 072013
 

WARNING – The following post contains considerable writer geek-speak, and may cause non-writing enthusiasts’ eyes to glaze over.  DO NOT OPERATE HEAVY EQUIPMENT FOR AT LEAST HALF AN HOUR AFTER READING THIS POST.  If you are easily offended by geek-speak, please do not read any further.

 

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Yep, this one is going to be another “lesson” blog entry, so if you’re new to the business, pay attention and learn from my mistakes.  And if you are a pro, sit back and laugh at my misadventures in the writing business. Smile

THE PROBLEM  —  I’ve reached the point at which sales on Half Past Midnight and The Road to Rejas have pretty much tanked.  In July, HPM had fifty-three sales (including international sales) and two borrows, while R2R had thirty-one sales with four borrows.  And since Streets of Payne is a brand new release, it’s basically an unknown title in a sea of others on Amazon.  As of today, it has sold thirteen copies since its release on July 11.

THE SOLUTION(?)  —  Obviously, if I ever want my writing to become a serious income stream – or even (dare I dream?) a career, I will need to learn to handle and use marketing to better effect.

As ominous as that sounds, what it really means is that I’m tired of watching the numbers drop without even trying to do anything about it.  So I got busy looking for advertising venues, and found a few that were relatively affordable, and whose criteria my books met.

Criteria, you say?  What criteria?

I’m so glad you asked! Smile

You see, many of the advertising sites have become popular specifically because people who subscribe to them know they can count on seeing recommendations for quality books.  After all, who wants to have a deal recommended to them, only to find out that the product is crap?  And what site wants to be the one that recommends said crap?  The site’s subscription levels would plummet which would quickly be followed by the loss of advertising income.  So, to prevent such occurrences, most of them have certain requirements regarding the number of reviews, the rating of the reviews, and sometimes what kind of books.  Sometimes they will make exceptions if an author is well-known and has a long track record of producing quality books, or if the book has been favorably reviewed by a well-respected book reviewer.  But such occurrences are rare for new writers.  The better review sites protect their reputations stringently, as they should.

And of course, there is always the little matter of cost.  The big sites can charge hundreds of dollars for ad listings.  For a new writer with a new book, these factors make it pretty difficult to gain any traction.  Streets of Payne is in that no-man’s-land right now.  As I mentioned earlier, it’s new (been out for less than a month), and as a result, it has no reviews.  As such, it has a low sales ranking, which results in minimal visibility. Such are the breaks for a new book.  Frown

So, HPM and R2R sales have tanked, SoP hasn’t taken off, and I am faced with a harsh reality – it’s time to do some marketing.  Eek!

I suppose I should mention that I really, REALLY hate the marketing side of the biz.  I always feel like a sleazy street vendor, trying to hawk my wares to passers-by.  Still, I know that marketing is part of the business.  And I keep going on about how I need to treat my writing as a business, right?  Wink

So I bought an ad for HPM on BookBub.  Yeah, it’s a gamble.  I mean, you’d think I would concentrate on getting exposure for SoP, wouldn’t you?  And I would, except for that pesky review requirement.  So, while marketing for SoP is currently problematic, I’m hoping that if I get an ad for HPM, maybe that puts my name in front of some people who’ve not yet heard of me.  And if they like one book, they may be inclined to buy another.  Like I said, it’s a gamble.  I also bought an ad for SoP on a new advertising site called BookGorilla.com.

Coincidentally, while I was working on all this, my good friend and fellow author Edward Lorn called me with a proposal that seemed perfect for increasing visibility.  He was gathering a few new authors together to do a quick marketing slam fest.  He had lined up a few review sites to get out the word.  Needless to say, I was in.  And since I hadn’t been able to get any other exposure for SoP, I went in with that title, with an agreement to run it free for five days (August 1st through August 5th).

SoP Promo

Click image

August 1 – At the start of this little endeavor, my Kindle Sales ranking was #77,084.  The book came out on July 11, had sold twelve copies in the US, and none in any other country.  Our slam fest began on August 1, with a mention on Big Al’s Books and Pals.  On that day, I gave away 190 copies of SoP in the US, 30 in the UK, and 13 in other international venues.  It was nothing like what happened with HPM when I conducted “the great experiment” last year, but it was definitely better than I had been doing.  On top of that, my Kindle sales ranking dropped from #77,084 to #1,697.  Of course, that was in the “Free” listing, but I thought it was respectable.

August 2 –  So after the first day, my “sales” rank rose dramatically, from 77,084  up to 1,697.  Very cool.  But there was no “slam-stop” scheduled for August 2nd or 3rd.  So while I had gained momentum, inertia only takes you so far.  As a result, my “sales” dropped to 78 in the US, 26 in the UK, and 4 international.  My Kindle Free ranking rose a little more, settling in at #1,153.

August 3 – On the 3rd, with still no further advertising slated, the number of sales dropped.  As I said, there was still a certain amount of inertia, so books were still moving, but the number dropped for the second day.  60 units in the US, 16 in the UK, and 16 international.  However, the Kindle ranking dropped from #1,153 to #1,406.

August 4 – On the 4th was when the magic happened.  Remember me mentioning the ad I bought on BookGorilla.com?  Well it worked like gangbusters.  During the course of the day, SoP moved 1,576 units in the US, 53 in the UK, and 41 in the other international sites.  Better yet, the Kindle Free ranking rose all the way to #118!  Woohoo!

August 5 – Momentum, once again took over.  August 5th was the day after the BookGorilla ad, and the book was still coasting.  Additionally, we had an ad at another review site called “ImAVoraciousReader” that I’m sure helped out a bit.  SoP moved 627 units in the US, 91 in the UK, and 55 in other international venues.  And the Kindle Free ranking rose just a little more, topping out at #108Yes

All in all, I thought it went pretty well.  I was relatively pleased.  Final number of units given out were: 2,531 in the US, 216 in the UK, 92 in Germany, 7 in France, 3 in Spain, 1 in Italy, 2 in Japan, 4 in India, and 20 in Canada.  A total of 2,876 copies of Streets of Payne were given away over a period of five days.  So would it pay off?

First, you have to look at what I was trying to accomplish.  My first goal?  I wanted to gain visibility for SoP.  Second goal? I was hoping that said visibility would garner itself into a higher Kindle sales ranking, which would hopefully translate into the third goal of some reviews, and the fourth (and ultimate) goal of higher sales.  So did it work?

Well, the first goal was definitely a success.  SoP is now in the hands of over 2,800 people who likely never heard of it before last weekend.  In the grand scheme of things, 2,800 people isn’t huge, but it’s much better than I’d started the weekend with.

Second goal?  Well, that one was a resounding failure.  That may sound counter-intuitive, considering the numbers I listed above, but here’s where a HUGE lesson comes into play.  Remember how I mentioned that my sales ranking rose from #77,084 before the giveaway, to #108 on the last day?  Something you have to bear in mind is that the #77,084 was in all Kindle books listed for sale, while the #108 was in all Kindle books listed for free.  After SoP was no longer free, not only did the ranking not carry over (which was to be expected), but it appears that Amazon counted all five days of the giveaway as zero sales days, and knocked me all the way back down to around #400,000.

Third goal (reviews) – It’s really too early to say for sure, but I’m going to list this one as a tentative success.  Up until this morning, SoP hadn’t gotten a single review.  This morning (August 7) I received my first.  Even better, it was a very favorable (five-star) review.

And the fourth goal (more sales) – Well, it’s obviously much too early to tell how that one’s going to turn out.  I can only hope it will pan out in the near future.

Lessons learned – The first thing to come to mind is simple.  NEVER, EVER, EVER GO FREE!  I don’t know if it’s because of those mysterious changes that Amazon makes to their magical algorithms that we always hear about, or if it’s simply that free is so blasé now, but the loss of sales ranking doesn’t appear to be worth it anymore.  If I had it to do over again, I would pay more to get an ad to sell SoP at 99¢.  I can only speculate on how many sales I would have made, but at the 99¢ price point, half of the sales would still have paid for the ad, with perhaps a little left over.  Additionally, the book wouldn’t have lost its sales ranking.  Indeed, if I had sold 1,400 copies at any price, I can only imagine that my ranking would have shot upwards, and likely would have stayed there for considerably longer, and would have translated into even more sales in the long run.

Also, coordinate your advertising better than I did.  If I could have managed to get ads in several locations all at the same time, I wonder just how big a splash the book could have made?  Sure, it would have cost a decent chunk of change, but would it have paid off?  I suppose there’s no way to know.  However, I now have a better idea of what I need to do in future marketing campaigns.  Hopefully, I’ll do a better job next time around.

So that’s it.  Another adventure with Jeff Brackett “Learning to write”.  Stay safe everyone.