My Summer Reading List and How to Get Reviewed

This is my first year teaching and the moment is upon us here in the South, Summer Vacation. I have a number of plans to include some light burglary and home repairs. But above all, I plan to do a great deal of READING and WRITING.

Below is a short list of the books I intend on reading. Some are not Indie, some are. Just like my writing, I will genre hop. If you do not see your genre included here, DO NOT be afraid to ask. I am always open to explore. Other books are for sport, entertainment, or writing practice.

If you want your work to be reviewed, I accept ARCs, but if I can, I will buy it. You can check out my review page above or just shoot me a message below or on Twitter.

Due to the fact that I will likely spend a lot of time in the car this summer, Audible copies are often moved to the front.

This is by no means a complete list, but a starter list and NOT in any particular order. I hope to review these books and many others, so please send in your requests.

  1. My mom’s book club read this, I am getting a head start and listening on Audible.

 

2. Scooped this up on Kindle Unlimited, already started and I like it so far…

 

3. Niels Saunders follows my blog and I am genuinely interested in his writing. Not going to lie, I DO want to take a picture with a pineapple and I love his branding. If he is paying attention, he will send me an ARC. He has a newer book out Grand Theft Octo that I may get to later.

 

4. and 5. I received these copies from Joanne Van Leerdam all the way from Australia! Stained Glass will be a gift after I read and review. I reviewed her short story collection New Horizons here.  

 

6. 80% finished already, Jack Donovan is very interesting indeed.

 

7. Picked this up at a bargain at McKay’s Used books in Knoxville, TN. Great Store.

 

8.  Picked this up at a bargain at McKay’s Used books in Knoxville, TN. Great Store.

 

9. This book is written entirely in letters. Such great practice filled with enjoyment for the next Letters Never Meant to be Read. Also picked this up at a bargain at McKay’s Used books in Knoxville, TN. Great Store.

 

10. Because “Your Mother Should Know…”

 

11. Stories: Contemporary Southern Short Fiction also found at McKay’s Used books.

 

12. The Eon Chronicles: A New Order Emerges Book 1 of the Eon Chronicles Trilogy (Volume 1). I actually went to high school with Daniel Sopp and now we are sort of family by marriage. I have been meaning to get to this book. It is out of print now but maybe if it is good, I can convince him to let me do a reprint.

 

13. I received an ARC from Mike Wells via Audible. I reviewed his other book here. Looking forward to this.

 

14. Because I well…run. I picked this gem up at Alan’s Used Books.

 

15. Aikido in Everyday Life: Giving in to Get Your Way.

 

16. I have read some of this already. Sections of the book are for traditional publishing methods, but I will revisit this and possibly review.

 

17. Have to see what this is about and check out Derek Murphy’s tactics in fiction form. I will read this with my daughter.

 

18. Because…I want to know.

 

19. Newer cover is better and I listened to it before. I will listen again, maybe it will help…

 

20. Love a little Faulkner. A little hard to follow at times, but it gets the words flowing.

 

 

 

21. I got to like day 12 and got distracted, which the book warns against. I will follow through with this and review.

 

22. Same as above. I started reading tactics in the book and got distracted from finishing. I will finish and review.

 

23. Because…Jack Donovan

 

24. Because…Jack Donovan

 

 

25. ADD YOUR TITLE TO THE LIST!!!

Too many? Too little? We’ll see.

Don’t see your book on the list?

Comment below and I am sure to oblige. Remember, Audible books will usually be reviewed sooner!

 

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Taking Back Control of My Twitter Account

Two years ago, I was a stupid writer who only wrote stories and refused to recognize the importance of my blog and social media in general. I have no time, or…I should be writing…It’s so impersonal…These are the common excuses.

My friend set up my Twitter Account (for a price). I was blogging on my own but sporadically, which didn’t make much of a difference except for my core supporters and family who would check in every once in a while.

When my good friend set up my Twitter account, he aimed to get me numbers. Not the kind of numbers I needed, but just followers.

Now, I see blogging and tweeting as fun and a value to my writing. I met some Amazing people on Twitter: A.M. Hounchell, who I am now writing a book with, Derek Murphy who I can’t stop watching on YouTube, Dave Chesson at Kindlepreneur, and A.Z. Anthony and Jo van Leerdam whose books I reviewed. Jo is sending me a signed poetry book from Australia! Among Many others…

I can pitch stories, do book reviews, and just talk about my two favorite activities, Reading and Writing.

It is such great practice as well and I can get a word count going and reach people in a meaningful way. Blogging has helped my writing because I am, well, writing more often and on various subjects. I can also talk about my work and pitch.

I can meet other indie authors too, buy their books, call for submissions, and just mingle with people who have the same goals. Some are further along, some are starting out like me.

Tweeting is fun too and has given me many exercises in marketing, micro poetry, books to read, memes to create, etc.

The problem was, I had too many people that I was following for no reason. This has given me less clout with my measly 2700+ followers (I thank you all) and has filled my news feed with so much stuff I don’t care about (politics) that it has been hard to decipher who I really want to interact with and re tweet.

I needed to take the plunge and do what several people have told me to do and use a Twitter Manager.

I first checked out Hootsuite because EVERYBODY says use Hootsuite. Too many features for me right now, and I would end up paying for features I would never use. I also checked out Meet Edgar, Post Planner, and Buffer.

For now, all I really want to do is manage Twitter and maybe Facebook, and be able to connect my blog.

So, I set upon the YouTube journey of discovery… 

 

I watched the following videos in this order:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Until I found Jerry Banfield’s video about ManageFlitter

Here Are the Features of ManageFlitter

Here is the Plans and Pricing

 

This video is long and he does repeat himself so I suggest you use the time markers in the description in order to jump to the info you want. 

 

 

You can try ManageFlitter for free without any effort (no forms or whatever) which I was pleasantly surprised about.

I started hacking at inactive followers right away. I then scheduled some Tweets which was a cool feeling since I do it haphazard or on the fly. I also found the best times to tweet out my info. I then connected my blog which would allow me to schedule tweets from my RSS feed, awesome.

A few months ago, I saw this as impersonal. Now, I realize that what I was doing was impersonal. I can engage with the people I actually want to.

I upgraded to a Pro account which is 12.99 for now, the other option is 49.99 with all the bells and whistles. You can also use Facebook and LinkedIn profiles with ManageFlitter.

What I wanted to achieve is three things:

  1. Unfollow in large quantities (ManageFlitter has many options for this, even large accounts).
  2. Find Out When the best time to schedule posts and do just that.
  3. Be able to Follow people I want to interact with and find them in an easy way (ManageFlitter makes it just as easy to follow in large amounts as unfollow).

 

More about this later, but I thought it was at least important to let you know how I spent my Sunday afternoon.

 

I am going to be checking out more of Jerry Banfield, his website and videos. He really has a lot to offer and I appreciate the info. I have queued up his video on SEO that I can’t wait to watch:

 

Stay Classy Authors and Poets.

 

What is your Favorite Social Media Managing App and HOW DO YOU USE IT?

Please share in the comments below.

Book Review: Passion, Power & Sin – Books 1-5: The Victim of a Global Internet Scam Plots Her Revenge by Mike Wells

 

I feverishly listened to this title by Mike Wells after finding him on Twitter. I had several posts where I called upon my fellow indie authors for suggestions on what to listen to and review next on Audible. Nobody loves me, as it were, and I was left to my own devices.

Author Bio:

Mike Wells is an American bestselling author of over 20 “unputdownable” thriller and suspense novels, including Lust, Money & Murder and Passion, Power & Sin. He is also known for his young adult books, such as The Mysterious Disappearance of Kurt Kramer, The Wrong Side of the Tracks, and Wild Child, which are used by English teachers in high schools and colleges worldwide. Formerly a screenwriter, Wells has a fast-paced, cinematic writing style. His work is often compared to that of the late Sidney Sheldon, with strong and inspiring female heroes, tightly-written scenes, engaging action/dialogue, and numerous plot twists. He currently lives in Europe and has taught in the Creative Writing program at the University of Oxford.

 

Talk about branding! And “unputdownable” is right. I blew through the 20+ hours of these five books in less than a week (partly thanks to commute and stakeouts). Mike Wells’ work is his own brand, complete with predictable cover design and profitable categories. He has got his thing here and he does it well. I’m glad to have stumbled upon his work.

 

Book Description:

One spectacular financial scheme. One woman alone against the world. Young, beautiful, and yearning for love, Heather Bancroft meets the “perfect” man…and is lured into a game in which she begins to make more money than she ever imagined. Betrayed by her own innocence, she loses all that is dear to her and discovers that she has been mercilessly used. Defeated and broken, but surviving with sheer persistence and ingenuity, Heather emerges from her trying ordeal, determined to punish the ruthless man who destroyed her life. Her thirst for revenge takes her halfway around the globe, to the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean, where her nemesis secludes himself in obscene wealth that he’s gained from the financial ruin of others. Heather is playing for the highest stakes in a lethal game. Only one man loves her – he’s handsome, confident, and just as determined as she is. Only one man can stop her – a criminal mastermind who is intent on her destruction.

 

What I Liked about this Book:

 

I sometimes look for value when using my precious Audible credits. At a run time of 21 hours and 4 minutes, this book provided a lot of air time and is jam packed with twists and turns. I loved the opening scene which showed the antagonist and his doings first before going to the protagonist Heather Bancroft.

Characterization was great in this book, even minor characters had a soul and some dark secrets to boot. The protagonist Heather Bancroft is morally ambiguous yet somehow centered. She is both pretty and practical, driven by emotion, while still cunning. I couldn’t help but fall in love with the redhead just a little.

I absolutely love books and movies that span a great deal of time and space. Up for some international travel? Well, you can surely find it here. Heather tramps across New York, France, the old Soviet block, Turkey, the Mediterranean, and Japan.

If you are looking for a good beach read or need to kill time on an international flight, this will do the trick. You’ll be entertained, you’ll commit some white collar crimes, and you’ll have fun along the way.

 

What I didn’t like about this book:

 

Some of the twists were unbelievable, even for Heather Bancroft, but it is entertaining. The author also seems to have an imbalance of “show verses tell” but maybe that’s the point. If he didn’t tell some of the scenes, this book would be twice as long which might not fit into Mike’s audience.

The ending. Without giving anything away, I feel the ending was abrupt and unexplained a bit. How did she have a reunion in France without the authorities ruining the party? I asked this of myself and made a note.

 

What this does for My Writing:

 

Yet another author that I feel could write circles around me and is probably doing so as we speak. He spans a lot of time, covers a good bit of ground, and makes me wonder in sickening delight, just how long it took him to write these books. Everything is reasonably believable, and straight to the point. I would love to take some lessons from him and cringe as he crosses out in red all of my useless explanations and garbage.

I believe his branding style could be adapted to my gritty crime novel Modern Waste, a book I have mostly written a sequel for but I am worried that nobody cares about.

I will need to investigate Mike Wells further to figure out how he sells books, as it is certainly worth noting. He seems to have book 1 in every series as free with some configuration of package deals.

 

This book is an easy read and can be picked up and put down on your beach blanket over and over again. You won’t avert your eyes or ears long as it keeps you enticed, just to see what Heather encounters next.

4- Stars

Mike’s blog

Connect with Mike on Twitter and Facebook

Results of Amazon KDP Free Promo Days- A Case Study for Letters Never Meant to be Read

 

These are the results of a previous post where I outlined a multi-faceted marketing plan in order to jump start my Amazon KDP Select Free Promo Days- A Case Study for Letters Never Meant to be Read. 

My plan was based on the guidance and know-how of  Dave Chesson at kindlepreneur.com and listening to and exploring the world of Derek Murphy  on his YouTube channel and his website Creativindie.

If you missed my setup for this promo, please review the Case Study so the results make sense. There were several small tasks that I did to get ready for the marketing plan to make my page better, etc.

It’s always good to review the goals in order to gauge results:

KDP Select free days for Letters Never Meant to be Read were 4/21-4/25.

Goals: Garner more Reviews and Interest in the Project (Fans and Writers).

 

In the marketing plan, I spent 

Total KDP Free days Promoters: $165.99

Pre-KDP Free days FB ad: $80

Budgeted for FB and Amazon During and Post (5 days after) KDP free days: $200

Total for this promotion: $445.99 + Ongoing $75 Twitter campaign from yourbookpromoter which adjusted tweets for the KDP free days= $520.99

 

Starting Point. Here is the data on the Amazon rankings as of April 20, 2017, one day before the promo:

Author Rank: 157,720 (obscurity).

Letters Kindle Version: 389,652 (not even the top pages of my categories).

Letters Print Version: 188,476 (just OK)

 

Some Results:

Below are the results of the free books downloaded which equal 3,839 free downloads, 2.9K on the first day.

Campaign Results during

 

Interestingly, my Kindle Unlimited numbers weren’t too shabby either during this period with 821 KENP total:

 

KENP During

 

0 Paperbacks sold During this period.

 

Is this good? I don’t know what I would compare it with since Letters Never Meant to be Read is such a unique book.

What I do know is that nearly 4K readers decided to add it to their collection and this can’t be bad. Some of them may end up reading it on the beach this summer and review later, who knows? Thank you if you took a chance on us!

I also got #1 in my fav 2 categories which work best for this book:

 

More results: Now let’s see just what happened after. I can say that I made it as high as #32 in free in all of Amazon at one point.

 

Amazon Kindle Rank overall

 

We have been hovering between 25K-50K overall and never falling off the first page in my main category. Paperback sales have not been altered at all so I am not going to show the graph because it is sad.

 

Here is the after results for Kindle Units Sold since the promo. Nothing to write home about and I CERTAINLY will not get see any return on investment at this point:

 

After purchased units

 

Here is KENP after the promo:

KENP After

 

New Reviews Since Promo: 2 (Hopefully this will go up as people read what is on their virtual shelves).

Letters Received from New Writers for the Next Volume: 1 (The Best Number).

Author Rank Now: 34,290 (not as obscure).

Letters Kindle Version Rank: 54, 807 (WAS 24,227 yesterday).

Letters Print Version Now: 1,339,909 (insert sad-faced emoji here).

 

Well, Now What?

I would first like to thank everyone who paid attention to this case study and I’d love to hear about your results with your own projects as well.

I would also like to thank all of OUR new readers who are scoping this out right now at LaGuardia Airport or sitting by the pool on a cruise somewhere. The thought of them keeps me going.

Was it worth it? Sure, I suppose. I spent a lot of time and $500, but it’s always worth a shot. This is also part of a larger plan and experimentation. If I run this with the new Worked Stiff Book, I am bound to get wildly different results.

I also was not looking for a one shot wonder or anything. I wanted more reviews and more letters coming in. Those numbers are just not there yet but I know that it will take time.

My confidence in the Letters Project as a whole has not wavered.

I am disappointed that Worked Stiff: Short Stories to Tell Your Boss was delayed and I didn’t get it out during this promo which may have helped its initial sales.

I am running test Amazon ads right now which I will take a look at in another post.

Soon, I am going to go into a LESS MARKETING mode, just write, and get the next volume ready, the best marketing there is.

I am happy with the results in that  a decent number of people downloaded the book. I just hope 10% of them read it and review on the beach later this summer. That will give me a lot more juice when I run Facebook ads later.

Next time, I will break up my promo days into 3, then 2, something that Dave suggested.

Perhaps Dave and Derek can shed some light on these numbers so I can stop scratching my head like a weird dragon.

If I missed something here, please let me know.

If anyone else has any help, comments, or guidance, I am all ears and strawberry licorice.

 

forward-graphic-sig

 

Book Review: Mark Dawson’s Self Publishing Formula: Learn Amazon Ads

 

Ok. So I mainly run Facebook Ads for Letters Never Meant to be Read. The results of those among other marketing efforts will come out soon. But I wanted to get a handle on Amazon Ads, or Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) because I have spent $100 dollars and only sold one book with them (what???).

I know, right? Sad. Not entirely true because it seems that Kindle Unlimited Lending Library stats are not reported on AMS.

But still.

I scooped up this book free on Amazon thinking I would get a better understanding of how Amazon Ads work. The book opened with the logic that direct sales on Amazon itself would be more productive than any other platform. The customers are already there and are mostly ready to spend money. I knew this already.

What I liked about this book: 

One aspect of Amazon Ads that I did not understand for fiction writers is Targeting. AMS has an option for Automatic and Manual Targeting.

This is the part I was missing out on for the Letters Book. Although it is technically non-fiction, it is very important to do your own Manual Targeting and test those key words. You can use your own key words with a Cost Per Click adjustment as well as the suggested key words that Amazon lists for your book.

This suggests using authors and Google Adwords for Keyword planning.

Unfortunately, this is a two part deal. Not only do your keywords matter, but your ad copy matters too.

Test, Test, and more test. You must test the combination of keywords and ad copy to get the best conversion to sales. Expensive right?

Not really, the authors suggest a dollar a day on several campaigns. Once you find the right combination, pour money into that fire. The authors state that it is also difficult to get Amazon to spend your budget.

Also, the authors suggest “Most authors find that Product Display Adverts are not as effective for gaining sales…you will find that Sponsored Products are the simplest and most direct way…”

Choose Sponsored Products. I ran Product Display Ads one time, I don’t know what I was thinking.

 

What I didn’t like about this book:

Short much? Click bait in book form? Did this really take two authors to write?

Obviously, this is a link generating book with some insight and references to more knowledge but…necessary? No.

I didn’t even realize that I could have gotten this book, or some version, simply by giving one of my emails that I never check.

Luckily, it was free, but there is no way I would be happy if I spent a full 2.99 on this little gem.

Also, one of the authors references his guitar books and used those as examples of how to work the advertisements. I could have really used a little more help with using AMS to market fiction.

 

How this Changes My Marketing

Well, I did what the book said and I am now running 6 Amazon Ads. 3 for Letters Never Meant to be Read, 2 for Worked Stiff: Short Stories to Tell Your Boss, and one for Andrew Brechko’s Where Did You Go?: A 21st Century Guide to Finding Yourself Again.

I used 30 different keywords on each. Is that enough? No, probably not. When I ran a taxi company before, I had 750 keywords that I used in Google Adwords.

I’m sure there is more and better information out there. I will go on the hunt tomorrow for free info on the web, maybe even run across your blog, who knows?

3-Stars.

Scoop it up while it is free, read it in 30 minutes and adjust your ads accordingly.

Anybody run ads?

Anybody know of a better reference to Amazon or Facebook Ads out there? 

I could use the help, Please Comment below.

 

A Day in the Life and the Premier of Worked Stiff: Short Stories to Tell Your Boss

This book is a salute and celebration of the Modern American Worker. Generations of unrecognized heroes who wash our cars, mow our lawns, bake our bread, douse our fires, take our garbage, teach our kids, grow our food, build our houses, mend our roads, and defend our freedom.

The American Dream is still there for all of them, hidden in plain sight, riddled with confusion and abandonment.

In an America full of unemployment, late fees, foreclosures, bankruptcy, and loss of hope…

There Are Consequences.

This short story collection includes some of the pale misery behind faults in the American Economy. Find a cab driver who lost his way, a down and out executive who stumbles onto a Voodoo curse in New Orleans, a nurse who pays the price for rescuing a man once thought loved, and a horrific, dystopian future. Discover new hope after cancer. Follow a paratrooper to manhood as he approached the deadly ground. Help the underemployed win at a game where reality TV meets nature at the crossroads of technology.

The stories in this collection contain clues, breadcrumbs dropped along a path to help you on your way.

Can You Find Them? 

 

This short story collection was a while coming but I am overall happy with the results. Between pulling teeth over the cover design, hiring an editor, and editing AGAIN on a 60 inch TV in a hotel in Tennessee, this has been quite the ride. How did it begin?

It all started this past fall when I was underemployed. Isn’t that how all mischief starts? I feverishly wrote before the light of day. I tested on the phone to unsuspecting victims. I was posting these and other stories on my blog. All because I read Miracle Mornings by Hal Elrod and Steve Scott and went off to the races every morning, writing whether I cared to or not. I am NOT a morning person, despite my military background, but I became one with coffee and anger.

 

 

I wrote a few of the stories while out on a case (I moonlight as a Private Investigator). I did some first drafts with Dragon Naturally Speaking, but most I crafted before anybody could get to me and ask for anything.

The first  in this series Worked Stiff: Poetry and Prose for the Common was an unusual 2nd book to put out. Yes, weird after Country Noir Modern Waste but that’s what a year in Russian school at the Defense Language Institute will do to you. Utterly demoralizing.

If you are interested in poetry, great art, or political treatise without picking sides, Poetry and Prose for the Common is good. If you are interested in selling books, it was not. What was I thinking?

Well, I was thinking about art and I am glad that was the first in the Worked Stiff Series but man was it difficult. Think layout is hard? Try adding stanzas and full page digital artwork into the mix.

Really though, I cut my teeth on that baby. And, after the first edition of Letters Never Meant to be Read, I can pull any project together.

So, naturally, a children’s book would be next, right? No!!!

I am actually working on a psychological thriller with A.M. Hounchell which I need to get back to. I will also be pulling together the next Worked Stiff: Crime Always Pays. Or, something to that effect.

Short Stories to Tell Your Boss was difficult because of editing and more and more editing. Why? Well, when you edit a novel or novella, you have mostly one POV and one tense. Short story compilations are tough and I found myself having to edit one story and taking a break before starting on another. This is after I hired an “editor”. I had to fix his mistakes too. There is no brevity as in a poetry book either.

I made the final cuts while in Tennessee, in a hotel, on active duty, plugged into a big flatscreen. That was so helpful and I am never going to edit any other way. All the mistakes were HUGE and it really helped me when I needed to read out loud.

I needed to get this out before I could move on. I know my writer buddies out there feel the same way at times. The cover design was a terrible process but I am satisfied enough for now and I can’t wait to see the print version.

I wanted this release to coincide with my KDP free promo days for the Letters Book but I hit a snag back there. This process has been a lesson in patience.

I am going to go for ACX tonight. I usually meander around awhile before doing the Audible version, but not this time.

Do tell if you see anything glaring and I sure hope you like it. My dog Maggie and I just got done with a long run and there is nobody home, and nobody will answer my calls of joyous celebration. So, I am sharing the release with you in this quiet way, for now.

Slow and Steady wins this one. May your night be wonderful and filled with dreams of paratroopers, android sex, and black mambas.

 

 

Book Review: New Horizons by Joanne Van Leerdam

 

 

I first got serious about Joanne’s work on Twitter when I halted my incessant scrolling for answers. I was stopped short by the cover of her poetry book titled Stained Glass– This is the best cover I’ve seen in like forever so Joanne has to tell me who designed it.

 

 

 

 

I’m not in the poetry mood yet. as I am about to release my own short story collection (whenever the cover design is done), and, I am really into writing the short form right now. So, I checked out everything else by Joanne and bought New Horizons instead. I will read and review Stained Glass in a few weeks though.

Description:

A change of scenery. A new direction. A break in the weather.
Who hasn’t hoped for something different at some point in their life?

These sixteen short stories offer insights into how people respond when they encounter experiences and events they have not foreseen, or when they discover new horizons in their lives.

 

What I liked about New Horizons:

This book was settling and comforting in a way that I was not expecting. She must be a decent poet because her word choice and melody in this short form is astounding. No story is more than a handful of pages, and without counting, I’m sure some of them might be considered flash. One could read this book in under an hour as I did, or a story a day with your morning coffee.

I felt most of her tales were inspiring and left me wanting to know more about the characters, even the secondary. Each focuses on one character facing some kind of new beginning. Yawn all you want now, but there is some real depth here, and a kind of tease into the satisfaction of gossip or living vicariously.

Even small, supporting roles have their place and form here. Check out this excerpt from “Time Will Tell”:

A nurse works at her station on the corner of the small, cool room, making notes: a silent witness of every dreadful moment.

 

I teach English at an orphanage and work with children who are often in and out of foster homes. The story “Rube” really hit home for me and I believe it to be my favorite. Sorry Joanne, that’s favourite. This is the last line:

Heading for the railway station, Rube’s stride was brash and confident, but the tune he hummed was melancholy.

 

“The Karma Train” was another good one and it had me thinking for a moment that these were all parables in a way, life lessons for the willing. There is a steady theme of starting over and moving on that is hard to get away from.

Then, I found it. The dark and twisted side of reality shown through and I was in my special, evil place. “Coward” knocked my socks off with its form and economy of words:

They all think I’m a coward. That I couldn’t have done it. That I’d never fight back. But they’re wrong.

“A Most Educational Quiz” was very clever in the telling, I even read it twice, once to my wife out loud.

“Lucy” was another tasty treat as we danced in the dark once again, sin and ambition.

 

What I didn’t like:

Layout issued are paramount but should be an easy fix for the author. I’m reading on a Kindle Fire HD 8″ . This was so short that I didn’t read it on anything else as I sometimes do at work.

I’ll pay 2.99 because I write everything off like a wild bandit but I’m not sure everyone else would. My mom will after she reads this post. The author would do best by writing more and more and posting this for .99 cents. Kindle Unlimited wouldn’t do much for this title because of length but who am I to know such things?

“Revelation” should be a Letter in Letters Never Meant to be Read. It was more of a rant and didn’t quite have a place after “Lucy”.

It was strange to end with “Late Fall” because there was no suspense or cliff to hang, but that may be the point considering the subject matter. Still, in a house full of tease, I wanted more of that kind.

 

What this does for my writing:

It is so nice to bask in the real once again and feel the morphing and twisting of human nature. I can’t thank Joanne for all the evil thoughts either, it was the parlor crowd inside my head and their commentary. Sometimes, you have to go home and mix it up a little. Don’t know what I mean, do you? No, you wouldn’t.

When I was reading “Rube” I stumbled on this passage:

He didn’t want to go to the pokey country town school with all the farmers’ kids who couldn’t think of anything better than to grow up and work on the farm with their dads.

Oh the mayhem that occurred in my brain and the evil laugh I am giving off right now. Thank you Joanne for giving me the fuel to douse my barn with. Not really, but let’s just say that I have the perfect story idea that involves a steep body count and a poor farmer’s son. I made a few scribbles in my notepad before reading on and I am happy for the lead.

5-Stars

So I’m pretty much going to read everything by Joanne Van Leerdam but she better tell me where I can get a physical copy of Stained Glass or I will pitch a fit and blame the local banker for the trouble. Her work is soothing, calm, yet it packs a punch that leaves you waiting for another turn at the potter’s wheel.

Joanne van Leerdam’s blog: https://wordynerdbird.com/

Follow Joanna on Twitter

 

All works by Joanna:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Nine Parts Bluster and Other Stories: A dark fantasy anthology by A.Z. Anthony

 

I first ran across A.Z. Anthony on Twitter and wandered over to his blog where I found him in the midst of releasing a story a month. He did this in four parts, one each week, and I got caught up in his writing style and unique setting. Every week for awhile, I would be in the same place, waiting, and Anthony’s stories would be there to let me escape to a far off land, play games of power, and fight.

Description:

Nine Parts Bluster and Other Stories is a potent mix of madness, myth, and murder, with a sprinkling of black humor.

A monster of legend stalks the shadows, surrounded by rumors as abundant as the slashed and torn corpses it leaves in its wake. It’s wonderful news, assuming you’re Senesio Suleiman Zhao, famed monster hunter, Champion of the People, and murderous egotist.

It’s the place of lesser men to fear the dead as Harper conquers the scared mountains of the ancestors. Honor be damned, there’s glory at stake.

Jao has always tried to do right by others, but the time for that is long past. When his brother and companions are murdered by bandits, there’s only one recourse: a feast.

A classical education at the imperial capital has taught Chen a great many things. What it hasn’t taught him, however, is to lie, cheat, and steal. A shame, then, that he’s working for the biggest liar, cheat, and thief this side of the empire.

 

Where are we Anthony? Singapore? Mongolia? Is the year 2136? Is it 1872? I don’t know and it doesn’t matter. Anthony creates a world that is here on Earth, in the East somewhere, or is it? Yes, his characters reference the West, but again, it is of little importance because he is so convincing that you already know. You already have some idea of your time and place and everything from there will be glorious.

Like Economy of Words? I thought I had a handle on that aspect of my writing until I read this short story collection.While the author doesn’t describe every facet of setting, the vivid direction is there for the taking.

He never says when we are either, not directly. He doesn’t have to. Somewhere off the Silk Road perhaps, an Imperial Land that has either reverted back to crude weapons, or is stuck in time.

I can’t get enough of this brave, disastrous, and comical duo in Nine Parts Bluster. Senesio is the perfect mix of charlatan and hero while Chen is a happenstance boulder.  I want to follow these two on every adventure from now until the end of time. Yes, I could be summoned to quest after quest in my armchair. I would walk along the path of danger, hardship, and riches with this pair any day, all the while laughing with my popcorn, still ready with my sword on standby.

Like Characterization? Anthony spends all his writer money on just that:

“Senesio had a way with words, to be sure. He shaped the hopes and dreams of men like a potter did clay. And like clay after it was fired, what Senesio promised was prone to shatter.”

The author’s action scenes and monster are great in this. I do not want to give anything away here,  but the way men die in this and Sensio’s reaction tells the reader so much.

In Respectable Work, the author jumps back to the duo’s first meeting. The action scenes are quite stellar and the origin story is there for the taking:

“A second knee caught him (in) the chin and he stumbled backward, spitting blood and what might’ve been a tooth.”

My favorite by far is Kiss of the White Mistress which had me entrenched in the protagonist’s inner and external battle. Again, the author’s ability to work magic with less is seen here. It is all characterization:

“He smiled at the pale chunks of white mistress floating in the simmering stew, and for an instant, in that shallow hell of a prison, he could swear the stew smiled back.”

This story was intense and deep. It had me up swilling Merlot last Saturday, turning pages and dreaming of a nightmare.

In the Garden of Giants, he describes a troop in almost another world that could be its own series as well. This story really brought out the author’s sense of narration. It made me feel like he was an authority, an old man of sorts that I could count on for a good tale.

What I didn’t like:

Found some minor editing flaws. No big deal but some people care when they stumble upon Indie material.

I am confused by the cover design. It markets like a horror feature yet the work is much deeper than that. While some aspects of the stories revolve around death and a body count, it makes me wonder if melee is the true purpose, or, an interesting side-effect of the characters and their decisions within this realm.

A.Z. Anthony would do best by writing a full-length novel including Senesio and Chen immediately and selling this book for .99 cents or free. That is likely the tactic here. All of these stories are available for .99 cents on Amazon. I WANT MORE! Now that he has released all of these in one collection, a fan like me only has one thing to buy. But, I was considering doing the same thing with my short story collection for marketing and funnel purposes. He did pretty much post everything on his blog, something I tried with my hopefully soon to be released short story collection as well. I had mixed results from my posts and we shall see when it comes to sales.

 

5 Stars

 

How this book effects my writing:

While I am here toiling away with the mostly real and dark, A.Z. Anthony is creating a convincing, dark world of his own. I twist reality while he creates one.

Really, Anthony reminds me what it is like to read for pleasure again and be entertained. My wife watches these Chinese recent release, action/fantasy shows that I get sucked into from time to time.

A similar hint of lore is there. His writing is so deep but he uses less. How? I appreciate Anthony’s presence, his word choice as a narrator, and his economy of words.

Follow A.Z. Anthony on Twitter

A.Z. Anthony’s Blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazon KDP Select Free Promo Days- A Case Study for Letters Never Meant to be Read

 

 

 

My last book Letters Never Meant to be Read has had me in a fever.

Yes, book marketing can take over your life, if you care to let it, and this has been quite the puzzle. My Kindle Free Promo Days start tomorrow 4/21. What to do?

I listed all of the tasks I have done leading up to the free promo. Will it work?

I don’t just want to sell copies of the Letters book, I also want Letters to come in for the next edition. Basically, I want it to be a thing. Also, because I believe in the project, I want it to be a thing sooner than later. When people read the book, they generally like it, which only adds fuel to my crazed fire.

I realized that I was throwing money away at Facebook and Amazon ads after listening to and exploring the world of Derek Murphy  on his YouTube channel and his website Creativindie.

I reviewed his work Book Marketing is Dead: Book Promotion Secrets You MUST Know BEFORE You Publish Your Book on the last post and have implemented some of his tactics with regards to the Amazon page for the Letters Book.

I hired two people on Fiverr to help with the sales copy. The first was good, the second was better, almostfreemoney. She gave me new keywords with analytics, categories, and better description copy.

Part of the new description copy included a spot for a quote from the book. This put me in a panic because I couldn’t decide. I knocked a few around, but ultimately settled on a few simple phrases that better describe what it is because the work is unconventional. I am still not happy with the description, but apparently it includes the necessary keywords for the robots. I hope.

The cover? People love the cover so I think I am good there. I like it too, but that doesn’t matter. I have received many compliments from NOT JUST FRIENDS and FAMILY, so all is well, right? I hope so.

Before, when I ran Facebook ads, I’d get a 2.5% click rate and about a 10% sales rate from there. Well, when you get 1346 Button Clicks out of 57,000 impressions, you should get some sales, right? I am no math wizard. Is that good? Am I a moron? Yes, probably in this realm.

Hell no, that is not good and it leaves me squeamish when I look at my sales rankings, the Commander of My Life right now. Here is a great article on those monsters.

The idea is that if you get your sales ranking up and people like and review your book, the ever-knowing Amazon robot will nod in your favor and start pitching your book for you. Plus, it helps to be at the top of your categories. My categories are easier that most, being a niche book, but I have clenched my teeth when I get into the top 20, only to be faded away. It is like a slow death, really.

Which leads me to reviews. These are really important as well, and I have a 10% review rate on queries sent out to reviewers. Not good either and very time consuming. I need at least ten reviews, which shouldn’t be hard, right? Wrong.

Again, following the direction of Derek, I devised a plan:

KDP Select free days for Letters Never Meant to be Read are 4/21-4/25.

Goals: Garner more Reviews and Interest in the Project (Fans and Writers).

One week prior: I ran FB ads with new copy and fiddled with the description and categories (some more). I found a blog post that discussed having Createspace keywords different from Kindle keywords. Duh? Why didn’t I do this before? I did this.

My Amazon affiliate links are all good too btw.

The FB ad at $20/day for four days generated again a 2.5% click rate with only two sales. What? I did better before I tinkered, so what then? I don’t know, moving on.

Luckily I stumbled onto kindlepreneur.com from a Google search and found a quote from Derek Murphy on his site so I knew I was in friendly territory.

I found Dave Chesson. He was in the military, like me, and I have gone back to his site like 20 times since. I used his Amazing List of Kindle Free Days Promoters , even downloaded the preferred list went to work with the form fill.

I used the following Kindle Promotion Sites:

Freebooksy.com    $40

Pretty-Hot.com  $25

eBookasuarus.com $10

bknights on Fiverr  $6

Book Bongo $29.99

Robin Reads $55

*I did a few other easy and free ones, but these are the bulk and the ones I paid for. There are some that are difficult to navigate.

Total KDP Free days Promoters: $165.99

Pre-KDP Free days FB ad: $80

Budgeted for FB and Amazon During and Post (5 days after) KDP free days: $200

Total for this promotion: $445.99 + Ongoing $75 Twitter campaign from yourbookpromoter which will adjust tweets for the KDP free days.

Will I win? Am I wasting my money? Will I get more reviews?

Stay tuned.

Time will tell. I will write another post as a result to this campaign. I at least wanted to “do some things right” and give this project a fair shake. If people truly hate it, I will continue with Volume II and press on.

This Letters project is unique because the candle burns at both ends. I want nothing more for readers to enjoy the letters, the first examples, but also Send In Their Own for future publication. Because I and my alter ego who runs Rusty Wheels Media, LLC. believe in profit sharing, it’s a Win, Win for everybody.

Incidentally, my KDP Free Days coincide with World Book Day on April, 23rd. Will that put me in good running? Who knows.

I also wanted to coincide the release of my KDP free promo days with the Kindle release of Worked Stiff: Short Stories to Tell Your Boss. A great plan, right?

Except I am having trouble with the cover design being late from Fiverr (you get what you pay for).

This is not my first business and I have had minor success. This is certainly the most challenging and the most rewarding. I love writing and reading books but I have to tackle book marketing.

If anyone who may be reading sees any flaws in my little endeavor to spend money and make something out of nothing, please comment below. Also, if you notice anything that I could adjust with my overall marketing of my books and myself, please, feel free to comment. I could certainly use the help and insight from any veterans of book marketing out there.

I am smart, but only kind of smart when it comes to this game. At times, I feel I am stumbling around, alone in the dark. Other times, I feel like I am drinking from a water hose.

Of course, all of this takes away precious time from what I really love, Reading and Writing. Still, it is a game, and I like to win. I will play this one until I do.

Thanks for your input!

-The Apprentice

 

 

Review- Book Marketing is Dead: Book Promotion Secrets You MUST Know BEFORE You Publish Your Book by Derek Murphy

 

 

I know, I am late to the party again with this 2013 release with 2016 forward but… I have a funny story to tell.

First, the Description:

How to sell a ton of books (even if you’re starting with no platform). If you’ve found this book I’m assuming you have or will soon have a book out on the market, and are exploring ways to turn it into a best-selling powerhouse that will slaughter the competition and pay for your retirement. The indie publishing world is thrilling because of the possible returns, and I hope you and your book do well. You’re probably searching for things like “book marketing” and “book promotion” so you can learn how to find readers and convince them to buy your book. But almost everything you read will be wrong.That’s because marketing in general is dead. Advertising is dead. Selling and convincing people to buy: also dead. The new law of book sales is this: if you’re talking about your book, promoting your book, sharing your book… you’re screwing it all up. Don’t make “Old School” marketing mistakes that will sabotage your efforts! This book will help you to…

  • Avoid the common mistakes that kill book sales
  • Set up an author platform quickly that will triple your results
  • Use Social Media (like an expert) without being annoying
  • Advertise for maximum impact (at the lowest cost)
  • Make powerful friends online who can move thousands of books

Before you spend a lot of money on book marketing services or author publicity… Make sure you’ve plugged all the holes in your sales funnel so you’re not throwing money away. If you’re looking for a “Bestseller Campaign” but don’t have a big budget… This book will show you plenty of ways to improve sales without spending a dime.

Now the Funny:

Over the past year, I have seen Derek Murphy on You Tube while searching in a desperate, late-night manner for help with book marketing. His awkwardness and his soothing gravel-voice always put me at ease. I took in and nodded at everything he said.

I’m a good student, I swear. After all, I learned Russian in a year from those ladies at DLI and somehow survived. But I didn’t practice what Derek Murphy preached. While I nodded, agreed, and clicked on more videos, my left hand looked for quick fixes. Those one-time bandits in the book marketing world.

About a month ago, I was on a long stakeout (I moonlight as a Private Investigator) and I had Audible credits burning a hole in my pocket. I searched “book marketing” and found this book.

I did not, however, put the author and the videos I already watched together. Perhaps because I work 3 jobs + writing. Perhaps I am my own worst enemy.

This book is a new template for my Battle Plan. Because I want Letters Never Meant to be Read to be a thing, and because I want Letters pouring in from all over the world, I needed some guidance.

What I Liked:

This book is full of the basic concepts that don’t require an attempt at bludgeoning new readers into advertised submission.

Derek Murphy talks about marketing as we know it far into the actual book. He emphasizes having your pages, cover, reviews, and author platform in place before putting any money up for advertisement.

Also, the concept of stacking marketing efforts is much easier for my military brain to understand and more clever than hoping on those one-offs.

Unlike what most people think of authors, I am an extrovert and I love to make friends.

This is a blessing and a curse. Pitching my book to people is easy in person. Where I have failed in the past with social media is blasting “Buy My Book!” type stuff which Murphy warns against. I now see how silly this is. It’s hard to stop.

Instead, I need to use my talents for making friends and be the all-around likable guy I already am. I NEED to actually meet people on the web, which is awkward for me even though I can talk on the phone for days.

I am doing this, Derek Murphy. I am out there replying to Tweets instead of re-Tweeting after reading articles. I used to read anyway, then just re-Tweet. How dumb. These are difficult habits to break.  I feel awkward sometimes, but I just remind myself that most people are real and will respond similar to what they would in person.

I am also working on my battle plan. I have a 15 short story collection coming out soon, and I will make the stars align just as Mr. Murphy suggested. I will align the free days for Letters Never Meant to be Read, I will run simple Facebook ads for my book page, and I will get reviews. Slowly but surely.

The truth is, I like it better and I get discouraged less by marching the slow ground. The easy solution that my left hand looks for, that quick fix, is always there.

In reality, there is no silver bullet to shoot off when it comes to book marketing. I know that now but I have to remember, daily. Derek Murphy explains so many pitfalls, some I have already toppled into, head-first. I feel silly, but I have to keep moving.

 

What I Don’t Like:

If you’re looking for a “Bestseller Campaign” but don’t have a big budget… This book will show you plenty of ways to improve sales without spending a dime.

Yes, it does this OK. I tallied all of his advice and you would need some chump change. If you want to do it “right” you will need a little more. Every time he mentioned a figure, I cringed when I added it to my total. Not his fault, but I am an unfortunate older millennial with 3+ jobs and “My number is negative, I work for a negative number…” 

Of course, I was looking at it through the goggles of my latest Letters Book and I know what I need to do.

Some tasks I’ve already done since reading this book, like fixing my Amazon page, optimizing keywords, and  adjusting my categories using almostfreemoney on Fiverr. Worth every penny.

I’ve signed up for MailChimp but that is as far as I’ve gone so far, sorry Derek. I HATE pop-ups and I only signed up for yours on CreativIndie because I wanted to. For the most part, I ignore my email. I KNOW that email lists are important and I will come around and find my way eventually.

I also  have a hard time with his other section on reviews. I advertised that I would do book reviews on my blog. I did not solicit or ask for  reviews in return. Most of the books I bought and I will continue to buy with Kindle Unlimited or Audible Credits unless I need an ARC to do the review.

Yesterday, I received a nastygram from Amazon with a warning about reviews which I can only assume are the ones I got from other authors or a marketing campaign. Murphy does warn about this. If authors are in the same category, you can get tripped up. I didn’t think I was in competition with any of the reviewers. The Amazon warning, which is not uncommon, doesn’t give specifics, go figure.

This is less of a knock on Derek Murphy and more of a pleading to Amazon. If I lost access to selling books, I don’t know what I would do. This is my dream, my purpose. Amazon doesn’t care and is likely ran by a robot that has no feelings. Still, I need that mean robot.

I also get the feeling from his latest videos that Derek is getting away from helping authors to work on his fiction. That’s understandable. Perhaps I am reading him wrong here, but I need him to stay with me for a little while longer, or come back someday.

How this Book Changes My Writing:

Collaboration. I am working on a psychological thriller now with AM Hounchell and it is quite exiting. I am also thinking about the next book or series in a different light. I want to write something that will market itself. For some of you that think this is selling out, I don’t care, and neither does Mr. Murphy. I want to be prolific. If that means writing what people want to read for awhile, fine. The Beatles did it, then went on to make what they really wanted. In this case, The Beatles and Derek Murphy can’t be wrong.

5 Stars

Ok. I’ve spent some time here and this is a long post. I love this book and have listened to it 2.5 times in the car and at home. I am making my battle plan and this is my manual of sorts. I will have to buy the print version too so I can circle things and make notes. Derek Murphy does mention in a more recent version that there are some things that might not be valid any longer.

I want to thank Derek Murphy for writing this book. I know he sold a bunch of copies the past four years, but he has given me hope. And that, Dear Reader, is priceless.

Derek’s site: Creativindie  Post after post of helpful guidance.

Watch Derek Murphy on YouTube

Follow Derek Murphy on Twitter @Creativindie

 

 

Check out D.S. Murphy’s latest fiction:

 

 

Buy the Reviewed Book here:

 

My Latest Book: