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Would this ad work for you?

There is something more difficult than creating that first draft of a work of fiction, at least for me. It’s called writing an ad. Yet I am as determined to market my new novels as I was to create them. I just have no feel for it.

So, I did what any of you would advise. I talked to experts. (Or at least to people who were successful at marketing their own books and willing to talk to me.) They had a lot of great advice, particularly about what to bother with and what to ignore. I consolidated their opinions into this:

Go with Kindle Select no matter how much you don’t want to, and put your time and money into advertising on Amazon and Facebook.

This was simple enough. I could do it.

They advised I buy and read the books they’d turned to. I bought them all. Two were on writing advertising copy, one was on how to use Facebook to sell books, and the other on using Amazon. I’ve read them, pretty much cover to cover now. With notes. And highlighters. I’m very thorough.

I started with Amazon Lock Screen Ads. My first ad is at the top of this post. It got 5,418 impressions which seemed like a lot to me but my books tell me it is woefully inadequate. 16 wonderful people clicked on it, none of them bought it, and I spent $2.26. I was fine with this as learning exercise.

I tried again. This time I tried to be more witty. Maybe I was. I only got 5026 impressions, but 63 people clicked on this one. Four times as many clicks cost me $11.47 and no one bought it. This was a slightly more expensive lesson on the learning curve.

My third attempt was wildly successful. Perhaps it’s because I didn’t target every genre and category I could possibly fit into. I only targeted women’s fiction and I wrote the ad for the audience. I got 98,215 impressions, and 439 clicks. Cool, huh?

Unfortunately, I want sales, not attention. All those clicks cost me $63.30 and as far as Amazon can tell, I made one sale from this. Yup, I spent sixty some dollars to make two. Not good.

I did get a bunch of page reads through Kindle Select all of the sudden, so maybe I picked up an extra ten or twenty dollars there. I’m not going to last long spending sixty to make twenty, though.

I decided the careful targeting of one group at a time could be the secret sauce I was seeking, so I created a bunch of ads designed to appeal to every subgroup I could think of. None did very well, but my absolute worst was this ad designed to appeal to readers of Literature & Fiction: Action & Adventure and Mystery, and to Thriller & Suspense: Kidnapping and Paranormal. (It’s not so far fetched. The book is about two telepaths rescuing a kidnapped sister.)

It got five impressions. Period. No clicks at all. The good news is it didn’t cost me anything.

My creative campaign didn’t even show a version for Kindle Fire. I can’t tell if it is because it did so poorly, or it did so poorly because it was never shown on Kindle Fire. (If anyone knows how this works, please tell me!)

Back I went to more generic ads. My next most successful one was an exact repeat of an earlier ad, targeting pretty much the same groups. But it managed 16,829 impressions and 43 clicks. Why?

It also never showed an ad version for Kindle Fire. Why not?

The most exciting part was that I managed to sell another whole book and this time I only spent $19.08 to do it. Wahoo. With the Kindle page reads, I could be approaching breaking even.

Of course, breaking even is not the point. I am determined to keep at this, figure out what works and why and find a way to actually make money.

For more about my Amazon advertising adventures see “How about this ad?

 

 

 
2 Comments

Posted by on June 5, 2019 in being better, writing

 

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Review: Empty Promises

This is my second recent review here. I hope to do much more of this, so see the end of this post for details about my new review policy.

Review summary: James Jackson has written a book that is both entertaining and thought provoking, both heartfelt and action-filled. I enjoyed this story on so many levels, and will seek out the earlier Seamus McCree novels soon. This is a 4.5/5 star book in my opinion. Details are below

About this book: Seamus McCree’s first solo bodyguard assignment goes from bad to worse. His client disappears. His grand-dog finds a buried human bone. Police find a fresh human body. His client is to testify in a Chicago money laundering trial. He’s paranoid that with a price on his head, if the police know where he’s staying, the information will leak. Seamus promised his business partner and lover, Abigail Hancock, that he’d keep the witness safe at the McCree family camp located deep in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan’s woods.

Abigail is furious at his incompetence and their relationship flounders. Even his often-helpful son, Paddy, must put family safety ahead of helping his father. Seamus risks his own safety and freedom to turn amateur sleuth in hopes he can solve the crimes, fulfill his promise of protection, and win back Abigail. Wit and grit are on his side, but the clock is ticking . . . and the hit man is on his way.

About the author: James M. Jackson authors the Seamus McCree series consisting of five novels and one novella. Jim splits his time between the deep woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Georgia’s Lowcountry. He claims the moves between locations are weather-related, but others suggest they may have more to do with not overstaying his welcome. He is the past president of the 700+ member Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime. You can find information about Jim and his books at http://jamesmjackson.com. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and/or Amazon.

Giveaway: James M. Jackson will be awarding the chance to name a character who will appear in FALSE BOTTOM (Seamus McCree #6) to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Learn more, and register to win.

My full review: Having not read any of the earlier Seamus McCree books, I began this one feeling somewhat disconnected from the main character. The plot was interesting, but the emotion was lacking. However, as the story progressed, the protagonist and his family came into better focus, while the action kept moving. By half way through the book I was fully engaged.

What I liked best:

  1. This is first and foremost a well done story. One could quibble that it is a little predictable here and a little cliche there but I don’t see how an author can develop a plot as intricate as this without leaving themselves open to such complaints. Bottom line: is it is humanly believable and logically consistent. That is no small feat.
  2. I would have liked to know more about all of the characters, but I suspect this is a pitfall of starting with the fifth book in a collection. What is presented of them here is well done, with particular kudos to the father son relationship and the wonderfully portrayed three year old granddaughter. Even the dog is well written.
  3. I’m not such a fan of first person narratives, and the switching between first and third person threw me at first. I do happen to like head hopping, however, and I enjoyed the way the frequent changes in perspective moved the story along. Part way through the book, I realized I had totally acclimated to the mix of first and third person, and by the exciting and rather lengthy climax scene, I found it particularly effective.
  4. I always appreciate when an author has the background, or has done the research, to add local color to the setting. I felt like I was on the Upper Peninsula by the end of this book, listening to the birds and riding around in an ATV.
  5. There are a few bad guys in this story, but the ultimate creep gets to have his own point of view, and he is appropriately chilling.

What I liked least: As you can probably tell, by the end of the book there wasn’t much I didn’t like. If forced to find items to have a minor quarrel about, I’d mention these:

  1. The local environmentalist was a caricature, and an unpleasant one at that. (I’m something of an environmentalist.)  Every other character of significance was more multi-dimensional.
  2. The sheriff’s degree of anger with Seamus sometimes seemed out of proportion to the events, particularly given the two men had collaborated together in the past. Maybe the sheriff is supposed to be an unusually angry individual?

Like I said, minor points. I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good crime thriller.

This review is part of a book review tour sponsored by Goddess Fish Promotions.

 

My favorite excerpt: 

Had Owen returned my call? Had Abigail found anything? Any word from Bartelle after Owen ratted me out? My phone claimed it had no voice or text messages. Sometimes the signal is so weak the phone doesn’t receive messages, so I brought the remainder of my drink to the deck, where the signal was strongest, and dialed voicemail. The sun-heated decking was uncomfortable on my bare feet. I shifted weight from foot to foot to minimize the discomfort and keyed in my password.

You have no messages at this time.

Back inside, I booted up the computer and checked email. Nothing relevant and no help for my situation.

I had a long, positive history with Sheriff Lon Bartelle. Was it strong enough for him to cut me some slack over my initially lying to him? Surely, the best way to tell him of my malfeasance was face-to-face. Like a man mounting the scaffold for his hanging, I forced leaden legs to return me to the deck. My call to Bartelle brought the information that he was in the office but not available to come to the phone.

I put Atty on a lead to do her business and then shut her in the house. “Sorry girl, I need to leave you home for this one. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”

She trotted to the living room and, without a glance back, crawled onto the couch, where she didn’t belong. She pawed the throw pillow resting against one arm, knocking it flat, and stretched out, snuggling into the back of the couch and resting her head on the flattened pillow. Her eyes met mine and she grinned, as if to say, “What? I’m just following orders.”

A personal note: I am a writer myself and therefore come to all reviews with biases born not only of my personal preferences  but also of my own writing style. In this case the author’s well done frequent changes of point of view, and his flair for local details, resonated with my own efforts and no doubt bought him extra enthusiasm from me.

I also received a free pdf copy of this book from Goddess Fish, the value of which would never be enough to entice me to write a better review for anyone.

If you are interested in a review from me: I read speculative fiction of all sorts, have a fondness for metaphysical tales and particularly like stories with a strong female protagonist. I will consider novels of almost all types that relate to the general theme of world peace. I am not interested in reviewing non-fiction, romance novels, stories which promote any particular religion, children’s books, or horror of any type. Please do not ask me to review books about vampires or zombies. If you would like to be considered for a review please send all the usual information to Lola (dot) Zeitman (at) gmail (dot) com.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on April 16, 2018 in other authors

 

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Review: Deep Sahara

This is my first review here in a few years. I hope to do much more of this, so see the end of this post for details about my new review policy.

Review summary: This is an impressive book, but not an easy read. If a reader is willing to make the effort to flow with this unusual story, I believe they will find themselves haunted by it, in the way only a fine novel can manage. I give it a 4.5 out of 5. Details are below.

About this book: Klaus Werner travels to the Algerian Sahara to research a book on desert insects. He is billeted in a local monastery, but upon arrival he finds it empty of its inhabitants. He soon discovers that it is a recent crime scene.

About the author: Leslie Croxford is a British author and Senior Vice-President of the British University in Egypt. Born in Alexandria, he obtained a doctorate in History from Cambridge University. He has written one novel, Soloman’s Folly (Chatto & Windus), and is completing his third. He and his wife live in Cairo.

Giveaway: Leslie will be awarding a $10 Amazon or B/N gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Learn more, and register to win,

My full review: Leslie Croxford has written a book imbued with the feel of the desert and buoyed by his deep knowledge of the region. As I followed along on one man’s odyssey to find himself after the death of his wife, his personal mirages of the mind and heart competed in my head with those of the world’s most vast arid region.

What I liked best:

  1. I’m not generally big on description, but the contrast between the sparse, often brusque dialog and the vivid verbal painting of the Sahara made me feel like I was there, experiencing days of solitude punctuated by stark conversations with others who seldom spoke.
  2. The main character’s earnest search to understand his past and discover who he is are woven well into the action. The hero is perceptive and honest with himself, making him fine company for all 280 pages.
  3. Occasional clever observations about humanity add a much needed touch of subtle humor. A few of my favorites are at the end of this post.
  4. Bonus points have been given for the delicate yet effective handling of both the sex and violence.

What I liked least:

  1. One significant event in the narrative is never explained well enough for me, and the little explanation it does receive contradicts other parts of the plot. It’s a minor but irritating flaw.
  2. I’m definitely not a fan of the very end. I will not give anything away, but only say that there were several possible variations on it that would have fit the spirit of the story as well or better, in my opinion, and been more satisfying to and even respectful of the reader.

In spite of these two issues, the book is well worth reading for all those who yearn to experience other lives and stranger worlds inside the covers of the novels they choose.

Purchase this book: Available in paperback through Amazon, or at the Book Depository.

This review is part of a book review tour sponsored by Goddess Fish Promotions.

Read more reviews at:

January 25: Locks, Hooks and Books

February 1: Bookaholic

February 1: Journey of a Bookseller

February 8: Sharing Links and Wisdom

A few of my favorite quotes

  1. “… recounting the tale to myself, to that other beholding part of me standing in for the God in whom I no longer believe, but to whom I apparently continue to have things to say.”
  2. “Be that as it may, I kept no diary. What I had to say about myself today was the same as I would have said yesterday or what I shall say tomorrow …”
  3. “Wherever one is, Monsieur,” the officer said, looking directly at me, “one is actually in one’s own situation. That’s the case regardless of how alien one’s surroundings are.” He replaced his cap over his clear features and prepared to leave. “So one would do well to understand what that situation is. It might save one a lot of trouble in one’s new setting.”

A personal note: I come to this review with a bit of bias, as we all do. In my case, I, too have written a book (x0) about Africa (Nigeria) drawing on my professional background (as a geophysicist) so I wanted to like this novel. I was once employed by one of the major oil companies exploring for oil in Algeria (where Deep Sahara takes place). Although I never worked there, I heard plenty of stories and have an appreciation for the female geologist in this novel. (There aren’t that many of us.) I also received a free pdf copy of this book from Goddess Fish, the value of which would never be enough to entice me to write a better review for anyone.

If you are interested in a review from me: I read speculative fiction of all sorts, have a fondness for metaphysical tales and particularly like stories with a strong female protagonist. I will consider novels of almost all types that relate to the general theme of world peace. I am not interested in reviewing non-fiction, romance novels, stories which promote any particular religion, children’s books, or horror of any type. Please do not ask me to review books about vampires or zombies. If you would like to be considered for a review please send all the usual information to Lola (dot) Zeitman (at) gmail (dot) com.

 
8 Comments

Posted by on February 8, 2018 in Africa, oil industry, other authors

 

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x0 on 1670 people’s to-read list!

Like most independent writers who have decided to not go the traditional publishing route, I am always looking for effective ways to promote my three novels. I don’t have training in advertising, and in truth I would much rather write than sell. However, if I am going to spend some time trying to get folks to read my books, I would like that time to be as productive as possible.

goodreadsSo far, my best results seem to have come from advertising and doing give-aways on Goodreads.com. After about six months of steady effort, I am happy to see that I now have 77 ratings and 43 reviews (mostly good), and over 2700 different people have selected one or more of my books to go on their shelf of books to be read.

I have been promoting x0 for the longest, and so not surprisingly it has the most reviews and most would-be readers. It’s true that some ratings appear to be random from people who have just joined the site and haven’t read my books and I have no idea why someone would do that. (These people seem to grab about 50 random books all on the same day and often give them all the same rating, be it three stars or five.)

Others, however, have taken the trouble to provide thoughtful reviews with both compliments and criticisms and their efforts are greatly appreciated by this author and hopefully by the possible readers who they help inform.

Check here for news on z2 out in paperback and here for news on y1 making it to the semi-finals of a contest.

 

 
2 Comments

Posted by on July 2, 2013 in One of One elsewhere

 

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Watch what you wish for

An old friend gives me a hard, meaningful stare. It is April 2012 and I’ve just published my first book, x0 and I am telling him about the plot.  His response?  “Careful what you wish for.” Then he adds in a warning tone “Life imitates art.”

Icarus: click for print

Icarus: click for print

The visit has not gone so well and this friend is already well on his way to becoming a former friend. His odd response to my story of a telepathic loner who discovers kindred spirits through her unusual mental talent finally clinches the deal. The implication behind his warning has always irritated me. Don’t reach for your dreams or you may lose all. Our culture is full of fables of backfired wishes and the assorted smiting of those who reach too high. The very myth of Icarus warns those who would chose to take flight and touch the sun.

Not that I don’t get the “cherish what you already have” side of this issue. It’s about balance. Again. Savor the moment and reach for the stars.

So what happened once I started to reach? Did my former friend’s dire warnings come true and have I found myself fighting off strange telepathic urges, kept up in the night by the sounds of countless souls? No, I found myself joining writer’s groups on the web and reading a lot of other blogs. It turns out that, just like in real life, I don’t have all that much in common with many of the aspiring writers out there fighting for attention on all the sites. And I am not terribly compelled to join in the countless threads of conversation on every blog I visit.  I’m a loner, even online. Maybe especially online.

visit the farmlet

visit the farmlet

But it also turns out that there are folks out there with whom I share commonalities. I met a wonderful writer named Bob Craton who has penned a series about four pacifists fighting to save their home world. I met a wonderful blogger named Christi Killien who tells a fascinating tale every week about life on her self sustaining farmlet. I’ve had people review my books who seem to get what I am saying far better than people who know me well. Wahoo!

And just this past week I’ve had a reader contact me to complain about all the mistakes in x0. Mistakes? I was horrified. The book has been professionally edited and proofread within an inch of its life. Okay, she offered.  Let’s call them “puppies” so you do not get so defensive. I knew as soon as she proposed using a new word, that I had the good fortune to meet yet another kindred spirit online. She is now in process of showing me what she means, taking some of the more difficult passages in x0 and rewording with a light touch that makes the concepts clearer. I will be using her input to give x0 a gentle tweak someday soon, and the second edition will be better for it.

As she and I exchange ideas, I think of the other remarkable writers, readers, and bloggers who have touched my heart and mind since I published x0, and then I think of my former friend’s dire warning. Now I know what I wish I had said.

“Life imitates art? Really? You promise??” I am so lucky that he was right.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on June 12, 2013 in telepathy

 

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Hugs and kisses?

From the bridal website Just Jen

From the bridal website Just Jen

No, the title of my first novel is notHugs and Kisses”, and the truth is that my story could probably use a few more of them. Rather, the title of this book has always been “One” and its plot has always been about the ways humans are alike. You know, at some level we all are one.  Somehow, that theme wasn’t as conducive to love stories, much less hot sex scenes, as the themes of my other novels. Hopefully a suspenseful plot makes up for the relative lack of kissing in this book.

So why isn’t it called “One”? Well, somewhere along the way I decided that “One” had been used too often for it to be my book title. One is a wonderful sounding children’s book about colors by Kathryn Otoshi. One is a metaphysical fable for adults by Richard Bach (remember Jonathan Livingston Seagull?)  1 is the exact number of people it takes to make a difference in a delightful 80 page treatise by Dan Zandra and Kobi Yamada. One is an exciting sounding new suspense thriller from J.A. Laraque. You get the idea.  And that’s not even thinking about books called “The One” which are another whole matter.

So in an attempt to be clever, I decided to call my first novel “x raised to the power of zero”. I’m a geek you see, married to a math teacher, and x raised to the power of zero is one. Isn’t that cute? What I wasn’t counting on was (a) an awful lot of people have no idea what x raised to the power of zero is and (b) you can almost never type a superscript anywhere that matters. This includes on my own blog, and anywhere at Amazon, Goodreads, and every other avenue for publicity that a beginning author can turn to. Out of necessity my book became x0 because I couldn’t get it to show up any other way.

Worse yet, at smashwords (the other main sales outlet for independent authors) it is required that the title start with a capital letter and include lower case letters, meaning that one cannot call a book either x0 or X0. Unless one contacts a smashwords rep directly and pleads, which of course, is just what I did.

So now family and friends call my book “ex oh” and strangers sometimes call it “hugs and kisses”. It gets confused with Ashley Whitaker’s book xo about a woman with Turner’s Syndrom and Aspergers and my searchers often find Jeffery Deaver’s thriller xo about a stalker instead.

You’d think I would have learned my lesson about giving a book a title with a superscript in it. But no, apparently not.  I went and called my second book “y raised to the power of one”.  Why? Because it equals y.  But that’s another story.  Please visit my other blog Fire Dancing for Fun and Profit to hear more.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on February 19, 2013 in One of One

 

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Chain letters for authors

People love chain letters for some reason, and last week fantasy author Jaq Hawkins tagged someone in a chain post. Her blog does look cool and you can find it here. The person that she tagged, supernatural thriller author Michael Brookes,  then had to answer the same set of questions here. And he tagged me. Who am I tagging? Luckily I found two people with seriously interesting blogs. Please meet:

Fantasy author Brian Rush (check out his blog here)  and hard core science fiction author Rob Lopez (check out his blog here)

My answers are below.

What is the title of your next book?  My next book is called z2

Where did the idea come from for the book?  It is part of a six book collection involving a family with mild superpowers.  This one advances the story of telepathic mom, and shape shifting older son, while introducing a dad who has a sort of special relationship with time.

What genre does your book fall under?  It’s a sub-genre called “magical realism”. The best way to explain it, I think, is that things happen that would be considered magic in a fantasy book but here they are explained as scientifically possible.  I reluctantly call it science fiction when I have to choose a major genre.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? I don’t see these particular novels as a movies. Too many subplots.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?  By book three I’ve fallen into a pretty good pattern.  A month of research, four months to write, then a month of  basic first pass editing to get it to a draft I’ll show to someone else.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? It’s not quite like anything I’ve ever read, and I like that.  But it kind of vaguely reminds me of the Clan of the Cave Bear Series, or The Mists of Avalon. Sort of real and sort of not.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? I love to travel, and each book partially takes place in a location very different from my home in Texas.  In response to other readers who are curious about the far-away, each book has a couple of dozen live links that lead to more information about books location, subject matter, and even to the music that the characters listen to. I guess you could say that each book has a sound track that reflects its main character.

 
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Posted by on November 4, 2012 in writing

 

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