Oct 142015

Critter notes –

Last week I mentioned some of the furry critters we’re learning to share space with.  Some are harmless, like the rabbits, deer, and armadillos.  Others are nuisances, like the opossum from the other night, or the moles that dig in the yard.  And of course, some are downright nasty.  Just ask Bella and Cricket about that skunk.   Pain

Brown Orb WeaverSomething else that we’ve noticed lately though, doesn’t exactly fall into the furry critter category.  There are some BIG spiders here that seem to be relatively common.  Now, we’re used to the little grass spiders, wolf spiders, etc, that are common in the Houston area, but these suckers are huge by comparison.  I’m pretty sure that they’re Brown Orb Spiders, but since I’m no expert, I could be wrong.  This not-so-little beauty keeps weaving its web just to the side of our front entrance.  I’ve knocked the web down when it gets too close to the walkway, since MBH is considerably less tolerant of our eight-legged neighbors, but he keeps building back up in the same general area.  I generally don’t have much of a problem with them, and I’ve noticed them all around the neighborhood, so I guess they’re simply more common here.

Cricket has a couple of hot spots on her back, and she’s chewed strips into her fur with all the gnawing.  I looked online, and found that a vet recommends treating it with diluted povidone iodine.  So I made the diluted solution, took her on the back patio, and swabbed the affected areas.  (I’m supposed to do this twice a day until the spots clear up.)

Coming back inside though, I saw this little guy on the left. Black Widow-01 And while I don’t mind sharing space with Orb Weavers, a Black Widow is another thing altogether.  First came the bug spray. Black Widow-02 That was quickly followed by my size twelve spider stomper.  I might not mind spiders, but I’m no saint, either.   Shock  I have several friends who usually mention spiders and flamethrowers in the same breath.  Black Widows are enough to make me think they just might be right.

So, on to writing notes…

Giveaway notes –

Last weekend was the big giveaway.  Okay, maybe not all that big, but it was a giveaway.  Friend and reviewer, Carol Conley from the “I’m a Voracious Reader” book review blog, contacted me a few weeks ago to let me know she had read Ghost Story, and wanted to know if I would consider running some free days to coincide with the release of her review.  Now, I generally don’t like doing free days, since my experience with them has been mostly negative in the last couple of years.  They worked really well for me back in the early days of Amazon’s KDP Select program, and I’ll never forget that first nail-biter when I put HPM up for free shortly after it released.  In a single day, I gave away more than 11k copies of Half Past Midnight.  That giveaway, and the reviews it sparked, shot followup sales through the roof for the better part of the following year.

For a new author, just getting his feet wet in the world of indie publishing, it was nothing short of miraculous!

Of course, shortly after that, Amazon changed their algorithm, as they so often seem to do.  The next time I ran a book for free, it didn’t do nearly as well, but wasn’t a total loss.  So I tried it again later.  The third time I did it was with the release of Streets of Payne.  This time, not only did I not get as big a response, I completely lost all momentum and sales actually went down.  When I checked into it, it seemed that moving from the Top 100 Sold, to the Top 100 Free was a sales killer.  Since “free” was not “sold”, SoP‘s sales rank dropped like a stone.  No visibility, no sales.  It was the exact opposite of the Ouroboros Effect I wrote about in an old post “In answer to Mike’s question…“, and this time instead of boosting my sales, it actually killed them.

So no, I don’t like doing free days any more.  But Carol is a friend, Ghost Story is just a novella, and it’s not like it was really selling all that well anyway.  So what did I really have to lose, right?   Thinking   And while I was putting Ghost Story out there for free, why not also throw SoP out again?  It wasn’t selling either, so what could it hurt?

As it turned out, nothing.  It didn’t hurt, and there actually was a slight bump in sales afterwards.  Not huge, but a few extra sales is a few extra sales.  Yay team!   Smile

Year 12 notes

I have problems with what I call “transition scenes” when I’m writing.  I get scene “A” pretty clear in my mind, and I go after it, flying through it like there’s no tomorrow.  I can see in my mind where scene “B” is, and how it should run.  But the transition from “A” to “B” stumps me.  For whatever reason, I get hung up in the minutia of who says what to trigger what, and why did this do that, and… I get stuck.  I just got through one of these transitions yesterday, and I have to say, I get a little frustrated with myself.  I feel like I should be able to knock out three or four thousand words a day.  Instead, I’m lucky if I average over one thousand.

Yeah, I have problems.  But I’m progressing.  Not as quickly as I want, but I’m progressing.

Speaking of writing, I need to get back to doing just that.  So time to stop whining, and get back to work.  Take care of yourselves, and stay safe.  I’ll talk to you later.   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.




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.

May 062012

Cover for "Explorers: Beyond the Horizon"

The writing is still moving, albeit slower than I would like.  Current project progress is as follows:

Road to Rejas has been languishing, waiting on some distance so I can go through it for another round of edits.  I think I’ve just about had enough time to go through with fresh eyes, so I’ll hopefully be able to get it to the editor soon.

In the meantime, I’ve been working on Streets of Payne again.  I’m beginning to rethink some of the storyline, but I’m determined to not let that stop me from the writing, itself.

The Burning Land is the short story I wrote for The Dead Robots’ Society anthology. The name of that anthology is entitled Explorers: Beyond the Horizon, and it is currently scheduled to publish in early June.  Over the last few weeks, I’ve driven the editors of the anthology nuts with the galleys.  It seems that each time they sent me a galley to go over, I kept finding something new.  We went back and forth five different times, and I finally submitted the last proof last week.  I hope you’ll pick up a copy when it comes out.

I’m finding that trying to make it as a writer is as draining as it is thrilling.  It’s not so much the writing itself, but trying to fit the writing into the rest of my life that is the problem, and I know I’m not the only writer that has to deal with this.  That’s why it’s so much fun to witness the success of a fellow writer.  It shows me that there is hope that I may one day be able to spend all my time doing what I really want to do.


Dastardly Bastard cover

And that’s why I’m so happy to make the following announcement.  On Tuesday, May 15th, I will be hosting the first stop on Edward Lorn’s blog tour to promote his new release, Dastardly Bastard.  I know I normally post on the blog over the weekends, but I had an opportunity to help out an up and coming writer whom I greatly admire, and truly believe is on his way to big things in the writing community.  If you like Stephen King style horror, please look up Ed Lorn’s books.

So check back here on the 15th for my interview with him.  There will be a bit of insight into what makes such a twisted person tick, as well as information on a raffle to help promote his book. Smile

If there are any specific questions you would like Ed to answer, leave me a comment and I’ll pass them on to him.  In the meantime, be safe.  Bye


NOTE:   Thanks to Michelle, who pointed out that I had misspelled Mr. King’s first name.  I have now corrected this.   Smile