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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?

 

 

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

 

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How does she really look?

It turns out I really enjoy book covers. I like looking at them, I like thinking about them, and I love working with professional designers to make them.

I’ve had such fun as these six covers for my re-released collection-in-progress were created, that I hate to see the cover design part come to a conclusion. Aren’t they lovely?

What I’ve enjoyed most is seeing my main characters come to life.

When I first wrote One of One (called x0 at the time) I was obsessed with giving form to my mental picture of Lola, the main character. I wished I could draw well enough to show the world how she looked. I can’t, so I scoured Shutterstock for artists images that captured what I was seeing in my mind. These were some of my favorites.

When I decided to rename the books, I needed new covers. Current fashion is to show the characters, so it looked like I had to find someone who could show the world what Lola really looked like, and would do it at a price I could afford. I found a group called Deranged Doctor Design.

For each cover, DDD found Shutterstock models whose faces were “close enough” to my main characters, and then the faces were altered (if necessary) to make them more accurate. Then the head was stitched onto a body that worked well with the cover design and character. (This process, I presume, yielded the name of the company. I mean what kind of deranged doctor stitches heads onto new bodies?)

The first head DDD proposed for Lola wasn’t right.  She looked too young, but it was more than that. It just wasn’t Lola. I could tell.

The second head looked right as soon as I saw it. What I didn’t know was that the model was blonde, and a creative designer at DDD had already turned her yellow tresses just slightly darker, into a more coppery brown.

The only change I requested was to make her blue eyes brown, which the designer did with no problem.

When it came time to create the last cover, we needed Lola to make a second appearance, but not with an identical face. Unfortunately this particular model didn’t have many options to choose from.

Third from the right had been used. I liked the second one, but it lacked all trace of superhero steel. The first one had an interesting wistful tone, but not really right either. That left #4.

The first version of the cover came back with Lola looking like this. That’s right, the model is blond but the character isn’t.

I was good with her expression, but her blonde hair and blue eyes had to go.

No problem.

Here she is with her darker hair and yes she looks more like Lola. Eyes will be brown in the final version coming on Monday.

It’s funny how she is close to what I saw in my head all along. It’s even funnier that now when I picture Lola, this unnamed model with her altered hair and eyes is the image I have. I guess this is what she really looks like.

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2019 in my other novels, One of One, writing

 

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Watch what you ask for.

Do you get what you want, or do you get what you need?

I had a spirited discussion about this once with a psychologist. I was praising the wisdom of the Rolling Stones; she was sharing her professional observations. We were at a party and it was lucky no nearby cynic entered the conversation arguing people don’t get either.

It is a conundrum, though, isn’t it. You ask for something you think you want, only to discover….

So, a couple of days ago I got this cover proposal for book 5 in my 46. Ascending collection. I loved it, as did others who saw it. This is Ariel, my precog, and Cillian, the Irish prophet who sees the probable end of the human race. They aren’t romantically involved and in fact their powers make even casual touch between them painful.

I asked the designer to put some space in between them, and while she was at it could she please make the ocean behind them more obvious. I like the ocean. It plays a role in the book. I wanted more ocean.

Back came this lovely cover. They aren’t touching, which is good. There is more ocean, but it came at the expense of those gorgeous rocks and thunderclouds and blue lights off to the left. Oh no. Those were the things I liked most about the first cover. I didn’t realize I’d have to lose them to get a little more sea.

That’s the way it works, isn’t it? You can get what you want, but you probably have to give up something else and it may be something you want more. Or something you need. Back to the old expression. Watch what you ask for.

 

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2019 in my other novels, writing

 

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It worked!

Some times things do go well. Or at least, they don’t go awful. It’s so easy not to notice when that happens.

I’ve been holding my breath for months now (metaphorically) as I worked to release my first novel with a new title. I could hardly be blamed. The first title had an exponent in it. (Yes, as in the letter x raised to the power of zero.) If you’re not mathematically inclined, trust me it was clever, but no one could fault me for wanting a title that was easier to pronounce, market and search for.

However, this meant I had to get a new cover with the new title on it, and resubmit this all to Amazon, and I wasn’t sure what would happen, in spite of a helpful SFWA mentor who’d assured me this could be done. To complicate matters more, the book got a couple of edits to clean it up while the new cover was designed (why not) and much to my surprise it tells the same story in pretty much the same words and yet is about 20,000 words shorter. Amazing. No original reader would ever miss what was cut. Even I had trouble finding it.

So what happened when I republished? Here’s my process and how it went.

I had taken all versions of the book off the market in December. I went back into KDP, and gave my old kindle version the new title, cover, manuscript, and the new variation of my name I’ve decided to go with. (I’ll be publishing under S.R. Cronin instead of Sherrie Cronin. More marketing.) I gave it the new price. I hit the publish button. No sirens went off. So far so good.

Then it asked if I wanted to publish in paperback. Oh yes, I did. Back when I started this adventure, paperbacks were done through Create Space, but that’s changed. I have to say this is easier. I created my new paperback with its new ISBN number and hit publish.

My dashboard showed the two books as linked and under review. I went off and had a glass of wine.

A day or two later both were approved. Wahoo. Then I went into Amazon to find them. It took the full title of my book and my name to get there because Amazon wasn’t used to finding this. That’s okay. Under books, there was my paperback, with no kindle version and no reviews. Hmm. Under Kindle, there was my kindle version, linked to my previous x0 paperbacks being resold by who knows who and with all of my reviews. (27 of them.)

Be patient, I told myself.  It takes a while for these things to shake out.

Almost two weeks later, nothing had changed, so I did something radical. I called Amazon. (Yes, you really can call them. More accurately, you can request they call you.) I got an immediate call from someone with a heavy accent and a helpful attitude. I explained my problem. She laughed aloud at the idea of a book with an exponent in the title and assured me she could fix things. And she did.

Minutes later, One of One in kindle showed up right along with One of One in paperback. Excellent. Then I looked closer. This new combo had 17 reviews. Odd.

I went to the old paperbacks of x0 that somebody out there wants to sell. (I understand there is nothing I can do about this. Amazon will let anyone sell any book.) My old x0 paperbacks had 11 reviews. Hmmmm.

I looked closer. It appears that reviews are attached to either the kindle copy or the paperback. When the two versions are linked, all reviews appear. Once the nice lady on the phone severed my kindle version from the old paperbacks, the reviews got split. As fate would have it, my less favorable reviews were attached to the old paperbacks, including my one and only one star review which still makes me cringe. (She won a free copy! For heaven’s sake don’t read it if you don’t like it….)

So now, I not only have a beautiful new book with a new cover and a new name, I also have a 3/10’s of a star better rating (4.3 instead of 4.0). Those of you who are mathematically inclined could have noticed that 11 plus 17 is 28, not 27. You are correct. I gained a review because the new book already has a brand new review of it’s own — 5 stars from a happy reader. Wahoo again.

Like I said, somethings things go well, even when you don’t expect them too. It’s good to take a moment and appreciate the good fortune.

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2019 in One of One, writing

 

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Bitchy Editor says this is it!

I’m obsessed with my new alter ego, who I’ve come to call Bitchy Editor. I’ve asked her to step forward out of my subconscious and oversee the re-issue of my six novels. So far she’s sunk her teeth into this first book with a blood-thirsty zeal.

She pushed for want she wanted from the fine folks at Deranged Doctor Design, leaving me with a cover I love. Check it out.

Most of her efforts, though, have centered on giving the book itself what I thought was going to be a quick once over. You know, get rid of some of those lingering adverbs. Reduce the he saids, and make the he pondereds, he chuckleds and he exclaimeds go almost completely away.

She has been doing that, and found more than I expected, but that wasn’t enough. She’s decided to look at every sentence and demand to know what it is doing in my book. Does this matter? Who cares about this? Why is this in here?

But it shows my characters development. It’s so cute. I worked so hard on that paragraph. Bitchy Editor has little sympathy for any of that, and she wants me to stop starting so many sentences with but while I’m at it.

The result is I went from about 119,000 words down to 95,000 and it’s a better book. Maybe a little less charming here and there, but readers will never miss those cute detours I took.

I gave her a chance to do one last read after I cleaned up the blood from the first mess she made, just to check the continuity on what she cut, and she’s already loped off another 3000 words and she’s not even halfway through the book. Yikes. I had no idea she lived within me.

Of course, merely eliminating words does not make for a better book. (It does make for an easier to read bad book, but that isn’t my intention.) Eliminating the right words does, and damn if Bitchy Editor doesn’t seem to have a good feel for what needs to go. She’s also added some stuff, tweaking the plot slightly to make motivation more clear.

Why didn’t your original editor do this, you might ask? Well, he did much to improve the book, and he tried to do more. I ignored too many of his suggestion and he was a little too polite with me. Bitchy Editor has no such restraint.

The good news is I’m proud of this new product already, and excited to be releasing it sometime in mid-January. I’ll post more details here.

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2018 in One of One, writing

 

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x0 will die

What prompts an author to kill her own book?

On December 1, 2018 my firstborn novel will die. I admit the prospect makes me sad. This book has been part of my life for a while.

I wrote the first draft in just six months in 2011. After several rewrites, professional editing, and more feedback and corrections, x0 became available on Kindle in 2012. The paperback version followed.

I’ve never totaled up the sales, because it’s not easy to separate a sale from a give-away. I guess I’ve been paid for about four hundred copies, and gifted at least as many more. I’d hope for more sales, of course, but every time a stranger liked my book and let me know, it delighted me. No regrets.

Times change. Sales of x0 have gone from small to nearly zero.

A few months ago, I attended a conference of science fiction writers, and signed up for a mentor. It may have been one of my more useful decisions. This guy pointed out that I could still have a marketable product in this particular story, but I needed a more genre-appropriate cover, a much better title, and an updated and aggressive marketing plan.

I can change the title of my book? Apparently I can. I do need a new ISBN number (no problem). I also need to acknowledge to the new reader what has been done (just in case he or she is one of the 800 humans who already read this story.)

And …. I need to kill x0. That is, I must take it off the market completely.  No electronic versions for sale, although those who have it obviously always will. No new paperbacks printed and sold, although nothing can prevent current owners from reselling their copies on Amazon and elsewhere.

Over the years, I’ve eliminated all the hyperlinks in the book, and the text that went with them. I’ve made corrections and done minor clean-up. Why not. But I’ve refrained from doing anything major.

Because this will be a new book, I have the chance to do some serious editing. So I have. The original x0 came in at just under 119,000 words. The leaner new version is under 96,000. I’ve broken the chapters into smaller chunks. I’ve given more attention to point of view. I’ve taken the techniques I’ve learned over the past six years, at conferences, from other writers, and simply from practicing my craft for hours every week, and I’ve done my best to fold those learnings into telling my story better.

I’m pleased with the result.

So while x0 will soon cease to exist, it will give birth to a new and better novel. I’ll be blogging all about it soon.

 

 

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2018 in One of One, writing

 

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Designing your own book cover, part 1

I have been told that the two things you have no control over with a traditional publisher are the title of your book and the cover. It’s one of the many reasons that I knew before I began to write x0 that it would be a self-published book. In fact, I doubt that I’d ever have written a novel if the world of self-publishing didn’t exist. The whole 46. Ascending collection was kind of an art and philosophy project for me as well as a story I was compelled to tell, and I cared more about doing it my way than I cared about striving for that traditional debut as an author.

But wanting to do something and knowing how to do it well are two different things, as you can tell by looking at my first version of the cover to the right.  I knew my book needed to be red, and because much of the story takes place in Nigeria, I wanted Africa to figure prominently in the final result. I had been directed to Shutterstock, an affordable online service for leasing the right to use images, and I was delighted with the world map I found.

But I didn’t have clue of where to go from there. I wanted to use the rest of the space to convey something about empathy and telepathy, and to me shoes were a symbol for this. You know “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” and all that. Red shoe images turned out to mostly be women’s heels, which seemed fine. But when I sent my proud new cover off to family and friends, I didn’t get the expected response. The most typical was “What’s with the ‘have sex with me’ shoes on the cover?” Oh. Back to the drawing board.

My next idea was to find an image of Lola, my main character, and put her on the cover. I wasn’t pleased with the choices I found, but finally settled on this one. She sort of looked to me like she was having a telepathic experience. That’s when my son called.

“You cover has only one purpose, mom. It is to make people want to read your book.” I hadn’t viewed it quite that way, but I had to admit he had a point and the lady on the cover didn’t particularly make me want to read the book either.

Then I found the lotus lady and she was perfect. She was so perfect that I tried using her twice, to symbolize the strong psychic connection between two different women who were highly alike on the inside. Not only did I feel good about this improvement, but my informal focus group gave it a big thumbs up.

I decided that I needed a better font for my unusual title. After experimenting with every font that came with Microsoft’s PowerPoint, and after playing around with the positioning, I ended up with the cover below and was quite pleased. It was a huge improvement over where I had started. I released x0 for kindle with this cover in February of 2012.

Over the next couple of months I began to lurk in chat rooms and on websites frequented by other self-published authors and I learned quite a bit. One thing was that I could make my electronic novel available on sites other than Amazon by submitting it to Smashwords.com. That sounded good. Another was that I could actually produce a paperback version at no extra cost using Amazon’s Create Space. Even better.

If I was going to take this self-publishing thing all the way to making a real book, it seemed worth revisiting whether I had the best cover I could have. I had assumed from the beginning that any professional touch was well out of my budget, but I was learning otherwise. Graphic artists out there were willing to take an author’s best attempt and make it more professional, for a relatively modest fee. I contacted a few that came well recommended by others.

One was called Mother Spider, and the first thing they came back to me with was perfect. It was exactly the cover I had wanted all along. The title jumped off the page, the map blended, the lotus ladies glowed and new little bulbs of telepathic thoughts shone. I tried putting my glitzy new cover on one of those websites that critiques book covers and got high praise for it. My informal focus group of cover critics was equally pleased.

I’m now working on the cover for book six. In every case I’ve started the process myself, struggling to gather together my own vision for the face I want my book to present to the world. Time and experience have taught me a lot. I’m back at Shutterstock sorting through images for a book that I know will be purple and sparkly and once again about telepathy. I’ve decided that the basic background will likely be forged from the Shutterstock image below. Other than that, I’m open to most anything, although I’m pretty sure there won’t be any shoes on this cover either.

(For more on this topic see Designing your own book cover, part 2  and Designing your own book cover, part three)

 

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2017 in One of One, writing

 

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