Back to the Evil Dowager Princess for #WIPpet Wednesday

Even with all the guests gone, I’m *still* not back to serious writing. As some of you may have already noticed, I have a 99c sale on Yseult running this week, the first marketing gig I’ve set up in a couple of months. While I have a number of ads running, I have also been doing some of the standard social media stuff.

I also tried to get a Facebook ad set up for Chameleon in a Mirror today, to test the clickability of the new cover image. Steep learning curve there, since I’ve never done a Facebook ad before, and the fact that I live in Europe and want to advertise to the US seems to complicate things a bit. Nor am I a Canva expert, which is what I used to create the image to go with the ad.

Chameleon in a Mirror

Even though they have templates for Facebook ads, I think next time I just use Photoshop. Let me know what you think!

Since Monday, I’ve only managed to get 600 new words written. That’s what marketing does to a gal … But without marketing, I don’t sell a damn thing (or close), and when I don’t sell a damn thing, I get frustrated and don’t feel like writing anymore. Which is why I have finally made my peace with the need to market. :)

Next up, WIPpet Wednesday! We are back to the evil shenanigans of the Dowager Princess, in a scene from Facets of Glass which I hope will speak for itself. 11 short paragraphs for 9 + 2:

The apple was lost, but Dowager Princess Zilia had other items from Chiara’s hand with which to find the wayward glassmaker. Before she sent Gaetano to Bohemia, she needed to know the glassworks where Chiara was working in Prague.
“Here, take this goblet,” she said, giving the witch a wine glass with delicate slopping sides that opened out much like the petals of a lily. “I need to find out more about the person who made it.”
Vanna caressed the wooden frame of the mirror and then stepped back. “Magic mirror please show to me,
“Where the maker of this goblet might be.”
After their reflections faded, a glassmaker’s workshop once again took shape in the mirror. This time, Chiara had what looked like a giant pair of tweezers in her hand and was plucking at a blob of glass on a rod. As interesting as this insight into glassmaking might be, it was not what Zilia wanted.
“Can the mirror show us the outside of the building?”
Vanna nodded. “Magic mirror, please move away.
“Out of the door and into the day.”
Zilia found herself wondering why the mirror had to be spoken to only in rhymes. Perhaps it wasn’t even for the mirror and instead was more for the client who booked Vanna’s services?
Either way, it worked. Chiara’s figure disappeared into the mists swirling through the mirror, and shortly thereafter, the image of a narrow lane with colorful houses appeared. As the image slowly focused on the front of the house, the dowager princess could discern a large window with a display of glass vases, beakers, goblet, and bowls. Above the window stood the German name “Friedrich Glas Prag.”
Zilia smiled. Now she knew where to order the glass coffin.

WIPpet Wednesday is the brain child of K. L. Schwengel. If you’d like to participate, post an excerpt from your WIP on your blog, something that relates to the date in some way. Then add your link here — where you can also read the other excerpts.

Promoting your 99c sale revisited: Yseult, A Tale of Love in the Age of King Arthur

Yseult: A Tale of Love in the Age of King Arthur

About two years ago now, I pulled Yseult and Shadow of Stone, my two big doorstopper Arthurian novels, from KDP Select and went wide with them. Unfortunately, I was never able to get any traction with them on other sales sites, even with a couple of permafree titles. So when Amazon changed it’s payment model for borrows, I pulled them from all other sites and re-enrolled them in Select. At official KENPCs (Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count) of around 1000 pages each, when those are books are read to the end as borrows, they earn me almost four times as much for a borrow as in the old system — and they earn me more than for a direct sale too. :)

But as I have pointed out before, you can make neither sales nor a borrow if you don’t get your book in front of people. This summer has been crazy busy, and I haven’t had a lot of time to set up advertising. Now I finally have a Countdown Deal set up for Yseult this week, during which I will be testing a few more 99c promotional gigs. BookBub is not among them. I am trying to find out what advertising opportunities are out there for which you do not need to shell out hundreds of dollars. Next week, I will post my results, as well as summaries of several other 99c promotions I’ve done in previous months with the ads I bought for them.

Another thing I’ll be tracking is the ranking of Yseult. Before the promotion started, it was at #511,349 on Amazon.com. I have already had two sales, and now it is at #97,793.

This week, I’ll be testing the following ad sites:

Book Barbarian – Aug. 31 ($8)
Booklovers Heaven – Aug. 31 (Free)
Manybooks.net – Aug. 31 (Free)

Books Butterfly – Sept 2 ($50)

Bargain Booksy – Sept. 4 ($40)

I’ve also applied for a number of other free ads, but I haven’t received confirmation that my book will be carried, so I’m assuming it won’t be running on any of the other sites besides ManyBooks and Booklover’s Heaven.

I deliberately spaced the more expensive paid ads with a day in between so that I’ll have a better idea which ones are actually effective. When I’ve done this kind of thing before with a different ad every day, it ends up being hard to figure out how many of the sales are from the ad of the day, or from the ad that ran the day before.

Watch this space next week, when I will post my results, and provide a summary of ads for other 99c sales I’ve tested. :)

And the winner of the Chameleon cover contest is:

New cover for Chameleon in a Mirror

I have tweaked the cover a bit in accordance with some of the comments I got here and on Facebook, so it isn’t exactly the one you voted on and/or rated, but it is still (for the most part) the winning design.

On the Help Me Choose My Book Cover site, it barely won, and on Rate Book Cover it comes in a little behind design A — but it also has more ratings, none of them negative. And on Facebook, this design won hands down. So when I count that feedback in, things look much clearer than on the two sites linked to above.

But when it comes right down to it, all of the new designs rank better than the cover Chameleon in a Mirror has now. Thanks very much to everyone who voted and rated! Of course, I won’t know if it actually helps until I do a promo of the book with the new cover. I will of course keep you all posted. :)

As to progress, that has been limited the last week. For most of the week, the apartment was Very Full. My niece’s boyfriend left Friday evening, my niece Saturday morning, and my daughter and her boyfriend today. I was able to keep up with my self-imposed translation schedule; writing not so much. From Monday to Saturday, I only wrote 1100 new words. But with the exception of one especially full day, I did manage to get at least 100 words on Shards of Glass written a day, so that it will at least stay in my back brain until I have more time to get back to it again.

Wishing everyone a happy and productive week!

Cover voting for Chameleon in a Mirror now open!

I’m late, but at least I’m showing up for the party. :) So, as I predicted, I haven’t gotten a lot of writing done in the last week. I’ve done a lot of visiting with the visitors, kept up on the translation, and managed to write at least 100 words a day on Shards of Glass, to make sure it stays in my subconscious so that I can jump right back in when things calm down here again. I have also set up a 99c sale for Yseult for next week, for which I had to get the promotion organized. Also, my daughter helped me out with tweaking the new cover designs for Chameleon — and whipped together a third based on our old design, just simplifying it. Here is what can now be voted on:

Cover designs for Chameleon in a Mirror

You can take the poll here.

I have also uploaded all three covers individually to the Rate Book Cover site to see how they do on a “graded” scale. You can find the three covers above here, here, and here.

Do please vote and rate. It shouldn’t take much more than a minute of your time, and you’ll be doing me a huge favor. :) Thanks in advance!

Now on the WIPpet Wednesday. No math this time: we’re nearing the end of the month and the end of the scene in Facets of Glass, so I have to decided to use that as my excuse to give you the rest. :) For the sake of context, I’m also providing the last paragraph from the previous excerpt. After this, we will be returning to the evil Dowager Princess again for a while.

“Yes, but please do not tell anyone,” he said, addressing Anastasia again. “I might be accused of practicing magic illegally. In exchange, if you have not found a way to lift this spell by the time I return from Bohemia, I promise to do everything in my power to help you.” But what? He had no magic, and no access to those who did.
All he had was the trust of the Dowager Princess. He would need to use it well.
Anastasia nodded. “I can see that it might lead to problems for you.”
And you must promise me that you will not kill my step-sister, came Minerva’s voice in his head.
“That is an easy promise to make, seeing as it is impossible.”
I do believe that you truly do not know Chiara is in Bohemia.
He stared down at the prone form. If Minerva’s step-sister was alive and in Bohemia, it could only mean that his journey there to commission the glass coffin was a pretense.
And the Dowager Princess did not trust him as much as he thought.
But he could speak of neither without revealing too much to Anastasia.
“No, I didn’t,” he said. “Thank you for telling me.”
“Telling you what?” Anastasia demanded.
“That she is grateful to me for making it possible for her to speak with you,” he lied.
Anastasia’s eyes teared up. “I am grateful as well.”

WIPpet Wednesday is the brain child of K. L. Schwengel. If you’d like to participate, post an excerpt from your WIP on your blog, something that relates to the date in some way. Then add your link here — where you can also read the other excerpts.

Call to Arms – Book Marketing Results

Ruth Nestvold:

This is a great analysis! Sharing to my blog, where I can keep an eye on it. :)

Originally posted on Nicholas C. Rossis:

Following my Call to Arms, a number of you responded by sharing with me your book marketing experience. I now have about a hundred responses by some fifty authors. Although some of the responses were expected, there were quite a few surprises in there for me.

Methodology

For anyone wishing to take a look at the raw data, you can download this Excel spreadsheet. I grouped the results according to whether the book was offered full-price, discounted or free. I also have a fourth category titled Other, that includes any entries where this was not specified.

To compare the various ad media, I came up with a number that represents the ratio between number of sales and cost of advertising. In other word, if you spent $1 and had one sale, then this number would be one. If you spent $1 and had two sales, the number would be two, etc.

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More covers, more progress, and more from Gaetano for #WIPpet Wednesday

As I pointed out in my last post on this blog, the cover of Chameleon in a Mirror didn’t do so hot at a cover rating site, so I decided to try a couple of alternatives. I’ve been tweaking them a bit since, and here are the results:

Do let me know what you think! When I have a chance, I plan to upload them as well to the cover rating site to see if they do any better, but the next week and a half is going to be crazy. We have a number of guests from the States arriving, and there will be a lot going on.

With all the work on covers and packaging that I’ve been doing recently, I haven’t been breaking any records on the new words front. But I did manage to get my quota of 2500 words written on Shards of Glass. It’s already several thousand words longer than I originally projected, and new scenes keep popping up, demanding to be written as well. It will be interesting to see how long the book turns out to be.

Since it is Wednesday, that means it is also time for an excerpt from a WIP for WIPpet Wednesday. Since Gaetano is a popular lad in these parts, we’re sticking with him for now, following wherever he needs to go. This snippet is 19 sentences long for the 19th of the month — plus 2 to end the paragraph. It follows directly after what I gave you last week:

Gaetano suspected that the dowager princess would somehow ensure that her daughter-in-law would be unsuccessful, but he didn’t want to tell her that. “It would be worth a try, Your Grace.”
“Would you tell her for me that I will consult witches in addition to doctors on her behalf?”
Tell her thanks, but I can hear her just fine.
“Signorina Minerva wishes you to know that she is grateful, and that she can hear what you say, she just cannot speak.”
“Except to you,” Anastasia said thoughtfully.
He nodded.
“Then I will be requiring your services on a regular basis to accompany me to Murano to speak with my sister,” the princess said.
“I am afraid that will not be possible, Your Grace,” Gaetano said. “The dowager princess will soon be sending me to Bohemia.”
Bohemia? Minerva called out in his mind. Is Zilia sending you to murder Chiara?
“No,” Gaetano said. “That makes no sense. How could she?”
“You truly are speaking with my sister,” Anastasia murmured.
“Yes, but please do not tell anyone,” he said, addressing Anastasia again. “I might be accused of practicing magic illegally. In exchange, if you have not found a way to lift this spell by the time I return from Bohemia, I promise to do everything in my power to help you.” But what? He had no magic, and no access to those who did.

WIPpet Wednesday is the brain child of K. L. Schwengel. If you’d like to participate, post an excerpt from your WIP on your blog, something that relates to the date in some way. Then add your link here — where you can also read the other excerpts.

Starting Out as an Indie Author: Be Willing to Make Changes

More than once in this series, I have pointed out the things an author might want to take a critical look at if her book isn’t selling — assuming she is doing the marketing work to get the word out in the first place, that is. :) Without regular marketing, all the fabulous book blurbs and pretty covers are nothing, since no one will see them. (If you have not yet read my post about what to do if your books aren’t selling, it’s available here.)

The simple summary is this: in my opinion, the most important things standing between an author and a sale are:

– A less-than-gripping book description
– A cover that isn’t compelling enough
– First pages that don’t make the reader eager for more

I admit up front that I have never rewritten the first pages of a novel to give it more of the character of a hook that will lead to a sale. But I have switched stories around in a collection to see if the new first pages will result in better sales. And I have revamped descriptions more than once, along with keywords and all that comes with it.

But changing descriptions and keywords is relatively easy. The work (and possibly expense) involved in changing covers is something else again. Nonetheless, I have done it a few times. Here are a couple of covers I’ve changed:

The cover for Mars was a new one when I finally published the short story to Amazon, so I have no comparisons there, but with The Future, Imperfect, sales increased dramatically after I changed the cover.

If you are doing regular marketing and your sales are still flagging, I strongly recommend running your covers by a new site, Rate Book Cover, to see what readers totally unconnected to you think of your cover.

Naturally, I have to test these things myself. Since sales for Chameleon in a Mirror have been limping along recently, I decided to upload it.

It flunked out.

Okay, not completely. It got an average of three stars out of five. But that is not good enough. Over a third rated the cover average, and even more rated it either poor or awful. Most of the readers in the last two categories are probably not going to click on that cover, and I’m assuming quite a few who rated it average are lost to me as well.

I still like the cover. But I can see how it might be too busy for some readers. And since Chameleon in a Mirror is a book of my heart, I think it deserves some experimenting.

I started out with two considerations: 1) The book plays with literary history; 2) It’s a time travel.

For #1, it occurred to me that a number of novels that revolve around thought experiments involving historical figures use art in the public domain in their covers. So I started searching for paintings of women gazing into mirrors. I would have preferred something from the same period as the novel, but I couldn’t find anything I liked. Instead, I went for John William Waterhouse. The result is the cover at the beginning of this post.

For #2, I went to Amazon and searched for “time travel.” Going through several pages of results, and ignoring the time travel romances, I noticed that a lot of the better selling books have a background with clockworks or a clock face. So for a cover emphasizing time travel, here’s what I came up with:

I don’t regard either of the covers as “finished” yet — I still need to work on type and layout, among other things. But once I’m satisfied with them, I’ll upload both to the Rate Book Cover site to see if they can get better reader ratings than what I have now. I also intend to upload all three to the cover comparison site, Help me choose a cover. Unfortunately, that one doesn’t get very much traffic.

If all of the covers get bad ratings, I will keep trying. My goal is to come up with a cover that gets an average rating of at least 4, meaning more positive reactions than negative. Once I have a compelling cover, I’ll upload the new one and then schedule a promotion for the book, so I can see if the results are better than with the previous cover.

I’m not looking forward to another rash of “awful” ratings, *g* but I figure if I can get an idea of reader reactions before I upload a new cover, it might save me time on the promotion end. The truth can be harsh, like the reader feedback I got for our first Chameleon cover, but now that I know, I can work on coming up with a better cover for the book, one that grabs the readers CIAM was meant to reach. :)

One of the freedoms of being an indie author is that we have control over every aspect of the book, from editing to appearance to marketing. By the same token, we also have responsibility for every aspect of the book.

For that reason, we need to be willing to recognize errors in judgment and make changes accordingly. I intend to slowly start uploading all my covers to the Rate Book Cover site — one at a time, since I don’t have tons of extra time to start working on new covers or finding new cover artists.

Oh, and please feel free to let me know what you think of the new designs. For the sake of comparison, here’s the old:

Book covers and an enchanted hero for #WIPpet Wednesday

I missed last week again, sorry. I was finalizing the paperback version of my latest collection of short stories, Oregon Elsewise, containing previously published works set in the state where I grew up — and that in many ways still feels like home. While I was at it, I decided to also finally put together the new paperback version of Almost All the Way Home From the Stars, the collection of published science fiction stories I wrote with Jay Lake. The original paperback version was done by Draft2Digital, and I was never completely happy with it, so doing it myself has long been on my to-do list. At the same time, I tweaked the cover a bit, trying to make the font stand out more. Here’s what I have now:

Collection with Jay Lake, new cover

For the sake of comparison, here’s the old:

I was noticing that in thumbnail, the font on the old version was looking unfinished somehow, so I decided to mess with it. Happy to hear any feedback you might have!

With all the work on formatting interiors and creating / messing with covers, I haven’t gotten a lot of writing done in the last week or so. Last week, I managed 1600 new words on Shards of Glass. I also did some editing, and cut 2000 words from the manuscript — which means I ended up with a weekly total of -400 words! :)

For Wippet Wednesday, we will back up and return to the previous book, Facets of Glass, which is also still in draft mode, so I’m not cheating. I’m just waiting to finish this last book before I go back and start on the edits of the second.

Two weeks ago, we left Gaetano talking with the unconscious Minerva while her sister watches in amazement. This excerpts picks up exactly where that one left off. Today I am giving you 12 sentences for the day of the month, plus 1 to finish the paragraph:

“Who are you speaking to?” Anastasia asked.
“Your sister. She asked me if I am the one who enchanted her. But I have no magic.” Nor did the dowager princess. But she had access to a bevy of witches and alchemists to turn lead into gold and beautiful young women into living corpses.
“Do you have any idea who might have done this to my sister?” Anastasia asked.
“No,” he lied. He still had to stay on the good side of the dowager princess. And he couldn’t trust Anastasia to keep his suspicions to herself.
Anastasia clapped her hands to her cheeks. “Enchanted! Perhaps I can find a witch to lift the spell.”

WIPpet Wednesday is the brain child of K. L. Schwengel. If you’d like to participate, post an excerpt from your WIP on your blog, something that relates to the date in some way. Then add your link here — where you can also read the other excerpts.

Travel theme: Grey

The last couple of days, I’ve been putting together the paperback version of my short story collection Oregon Elsewise, and when the “Travel theme: Grey” post popped into my inbox, I figured I had to participate again. Here’s the pic of the Oregon coast I used for the cover:

The Oregon Coast
Cannon Beach from above, Oregon

A few more greys for good measure:

Weil der Stadt
Weil der Stadt, Germany

Reykjavik Iceland
Reykjavik, Iceland

Gothafoss, Iceland
Gothafoss, Iceland

Rate your Book Cover

Ruth Nestvold:

This is a great new resource for indie authors for figuring out how well your covers score with readers, Sadly, it looks as if I too will have to redo the cover I uploaded there for Chameleon in a Mirror, if the votes are any indication. :(

Originally posted on Nicholas C. Rossis:

From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's booksI’m currently finishing my second collection of short stories. In fact, once I’m done editing the last story, the book will be ready!

However, I still need to design a book cover. Lorelei Logsdon recently informed me of this great website the other day, and I now consider it one of the the best resources of its kind.

Called Rate Book Cover, it allows authors to test possible book covers for reader feedback. Basically, you upload your book cover and that’s it. Visitors will rate it using one to five stars, and that will allow you to know instantly if a cover has traction with readers or not.

That’s not all, though! You can also browse the site to see what kind of covers people like. It’s like an instant trend-o-meter!

All this is available for free. There are two paid options: for a daily fee of 99c

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