Friday, May 10, 2019

Fiction Friday: I'm a Finalist!

On Tuesday I learned that The Demon Always Wins is a National Readers Choice Awards finalist for Best First Book!

They gave me this very cool medallion to display.

Winners will be announced on July 25th at the RWA National Conference in New York.

If you haven't already bought, read and marveled at (or even better, reviewed) The Demon Always Wins, you can purchase it here on Amazon. Or, if you refuse to help Jeff Bezos in his quest for world domination, you can find it here on Barnes & Noble.

Friday, November 16, 2018

The Chunky Writing Method

Last weekend my RWA chapter, Central Ohio Fiction Writers, hosted Allie Pleiter, inventor of the Chunky Writing Method. The Chunky Method is a way of scheduling your writing time to make yourself more productive, based on how you naturally write–in big chunks or small chunks.
The size of your natural chunk can be determined by how many words you can write on a normal day before you run out of energy/creativity. In the absence of writer’s block or incomplete research, which will stop any writer from moving forward, each writer will still hit a point where they just run out of steam.
Big chunk writers, according to Ms. Pleiter, can write thousands of words before that happens. Small chunk writers run dry after only a few hundred words–or even less.
But, she says, don’t despair. By figuring out which kind of writer you are, you can adjust your writing schedule to make the most of the way you write.
Big chunk writers typically need big chunks of time to produce words. They need time to get into their story world before the words start coming. They also, often, need a dedicated space to write and a minimum of distractions. Once those things are in place, they are fiction-writing machines.
Small chunk writers, on the other hand, can sit down in a coffee shop and start batting out their word count on a moment’s notice. They don’t need warm-up time or a dedicated space, so it’s much easier for them to schedule multiple chunks in a single day.
Not sure which kind of writer you are? Ms. Pleiter suggests tracking your word count for five days. Sit down and write till you run out of steam. If you average over a thousand words per session, you’re a big chunk writer; less than a thousand suggests you’re a small chunk writer.
Want to know more about the Chunky Method? Check out Allie Pleiter’s website.

Friday, November 9, 2018

The Stages of a Manuscript

Stage 1: This is a brilliant idea! Once this thing is published, it will make me instantly famous and very, very rich.
Stage 2: Okay, it’s a good idea, but how in the world am I going to make this work?
Stage 3: Whatever possessed me to think this was a good idea? Joss Whedon himself couldn’t figure out how to make all these pieces come together.
Stage 4: Okay, okay, I think I see how it can work. I really am pretty smart.
Stage 5: But I SUCK as a writer. This has to be the most boring pile of manuscript crap ever committed to paper.
Stage 6: So that was a pretty good scene. Clever banter, a little humor. Maybe not every reader will abandon ship on page 1.
Stage 7: I have a book! It didn’t turn out quite like I thought it would (or, it turned out nothing like I thought it would), but there’s a worthwhile story here.
Stage 8: Okay, it’s out in the world. How do I make people aware of its existence?
Here’s where I am with the first three books in my Touched by a Demon series:
Book 1: The Demon Always Wins--Stage 8
Book 2: The Demon's in the Details--Stage 7 (with sudden trips back to Stage 3 as I work through my editor’s feedback)
Book 3: The Demon Wore Stilettos--Stage 3
How about you?

Friday, October 26, 2018

The Many Facets of Love

The Greeks have 7 different words to describe love:
  1. Eros (sexual love)
  2. Ludus (playful love)
  3. Philia (friendship)
  4. Agape (selfless love)
  5. Philautia (self-love)
  6. Pragma (longstanding love)
  7. Storge (love of children)
Good romance novels depict most or even all of these.
1. The couple is attracted by eros. Sexual chemistry initially draws them to each other, but that’s barely enough to sustain a one-night stand, never mind a happy ever after.
Example: every romance novel ever written.
2. Romances are much more fun to read if there’s an element of ludus, typically portrayed through banter, and through what the late Blake Snyder called the “fun and games” section of a movie script, where people are chasing around and unexpected things happen. For that matter, Christian Grey’s playroom can even fulfill that need for those so inclined.
Example: The first half of Loretta Chase’s Lord of Scoundrels, where Jess and Dan spar and try to keep their distance from one another, even while attraction drags them relentlessly together.
3. In most well-constructed romance novels, there’s also philia in the form of support from the couples respective communities. This gives each lover someone to bounce things off of, and a chance to gather more objective input as problems start to mount.
Jenny Crusie is the mistress of this. Every one of her books has, or builds, a rich, positive community.  In Bet Me, her RITA® award-winning romance, Minerva’s cadre of friends and family are there to back her up at every step. In Dogs and Goddesses, the three protagonists start out as strangers but go on to form a solid, supportive community.
4. In almost every romance novel I’ve ever read, in order to earn their happy ever after, the protagonist must display agape, the ability to love the other selflessly and to put the other’s needs ahead of their own.
I’m going to cite my own debut novel, The Demon Always Wins, here. Although Belial starts the novel intent on corrupting and destroying the heroine, Dara, once he falls in love with her he will do anything, including risking destruction in the Lake of Fire, to save her.
5. It may seem to run counter to what I just said about agape, but to complete their character arc, the protagonist must also learn philautia, self-love. This occurs in the form of overcoming the character flaw that is keeping them from succeeding in the quest the plot calls for them to accomplish.
In Lord of Scoundrels, Dain must overcome his horrific childhood and learn to accept and love himself to truly become a couple with Jessica.
6. Finally, the happy ever after ending is a promise of pragma, long-term love.
In a country where the divorce rate runs between 40 and 50%, pragma is what every couple dreams about. It’s also what romance novels, by definition, offer their readers. The two rules for romance novels are:  1) They must contain a central romance and 2) They must have a “satisfying and optimistic” ending–the promise of a future together for the couple.
7. Finally, the desire for storge, love of children, may explain readers’ love of epilogues, which often feature the children of the couple making an appearance.
Romance writers: we do it all.

Friday, October 19, 2018

So How Are Those Amazon Ads Working Out for You? Part 2

Last week, we talked about how Amazon ads work for authors at a hypothetical level. This week. we’re going to talk about how they worked for me when I ran them.
My ad campaign was put together by a publicity agency with stock set of keywords for my type of novel, plus some that I suggested.
Here are the overall numbers and top performing keywords from Campaign #1:
Ad copy: Sometimes you have to go through Hell to claim your Heaven.
ImpressionsClicksACPCSpendTotal SalesACoS
KeywordsMatchCPC BidImpressionsClicksACPC*SpendSalesAcos**
win winBroad$0.504411$0.08$0.08$0.00  –
devilBroad$0.503951$0.27$0.27$0.00  –
bibleBroad$0.502920  –$0.00$0.00  –
demonBroad$0.502313$0.29$0.87$0.00  –
enemies to loversBroad$0.502180  –$0.00$0.00  –
shiloh walkerBroad$0.502170  –$0.00$0.00  –
widowBroad$0.501800  –$0.00$0.00  –
pc castBroad$0.501450  –$0.00$0.00  –
christina doddBroad$0.501320  –$0.00$0.00  –
bittenBroad$0.501310  –$0.00$0.00  –
fateBroad$0.501240  –$0.00$0.00  –
touchedBroad$0.501210  –$0.00$0.00  –
danteBroad$0.501180  –$0.00$0.00  –
halfway to the graveBroad$0.501020  –$0.00$0.00  –
alwaysBroad$0.50990  –$0.00$0.00  –
the darkest nightBroad$0.50990  –$0.00$0.00  –
jd robbBroad$0.50910  –$0.00$0.00  –
cheyenne mccrayBroad$0.50890  –$0.00$0.00  –
rise of the fallenBroad$0.50880  –$0.00$0.00  –
erin mccarthyBroad$0.50800  –$0.00$0.00  –
it lucasBroad$0.50770  –$0.00$0.00  –
scarsBroad$0.50710  –$0.00$0.00  –
soulmatesBroad$0.50690  –$0.00$0.00  –
shiverBroad$0.50630  –$0.00$0.00  –
*Average Cost Per Click
**Average Cost of Sales
And here are the results from Campaign #2:
Ad copy: Sparks fly upward when fallen angel Belial comes to Earth on a mission to corrupt God’s favorite in this Golden Heart® winner.
ImpressionsClicksACPCSpendTotal SalesACoS
KeywordsMatchCPC BidImpressionsClicksACPC*SpendSalesAcos**
booksBroad$0.503,5104$0.33$1.30$0.00  –
win winBroad$0.501,2120  –$0.00$0.00  –
devilBroad$0.501,0130  –$0.00$0.00  –
demonBroad$0.507695$0.45$2.27$0.00  –
shiloh walkerBroad$0.507410  –$0.00$0.00  –
touchedBroad$0.504571$0.37$0.37$0.00  –
bittenBroad$0.504240  –$0.00$0.00  –
christina doddBroad$0.504120  –$0.00$0.00  –
alwaysBroad$0.503980  –$0.00$0.00  –
pc castBroad$0.503850  –$0.00$0.00  –
fateBroad$0.503660  –$0.00$0.00  –
widowBroad$0.503620  –$0.00$0.00  –
soulmatesBroad$0.503530  –$0.00$0.00  –
enemies to loversBroad$0.503230  –$0.00$0.00  –
molly harperBroad$0.502850  –$0.00$0.00  –
halfway to the graveBroad$0.502660  –$0.00$0.00  –
redemptionBroad$0.502391$0.37$0.37$0.00  –
shiverBroad$0.502320  –$0.00$0.00  –
markedBroad$0.502230  –$0.00$0.00  –
donya lynneBroad$0.502230  –$0.00$0.00  –
cheyenne mccrayBroad$0.502220  –$0.00$0.00  –
erin mccarthyBroad$0.502170  –$0.00$0.00  –
rise of the fallenBroad$0.502160  –$0.00$0.00  –
tina folsomBroad$0.502070  –$0.00$0.00  –
the darkest nightBroad$0.502020  –$0.00$0.00  –
Before we talk about results, let’s take a moment to review what we learned last week:
  1. Impressions (i.e. position in search results) is determined by:
    1. Keywords and match type (exact, phrase or broad)
    2. Bid per click.
First takeaway–despite getting 27,000 impressions across both campaigns, I only sold one book.  On the plus side, I only spent $11.52, so not a huge investment for an opportunity to start figuring things out.
Second takeaway is that Campaign #2 did much better than #1 in terms of impressions (like, three times better), but they used the same keywords, matching and bid per click. Both ads ran at the same time, so that’s not a factor.
The only difference I can identify between Campaign #1 and Campaign #2 is the ad copy. The copy for campaign #2 contains the word “winner,” which is a broad match for my keyword “win-win.” That accounts for 1212 extra impressions, but it doesn’t explain the full delta.
For example, Campaign #1 got 1120 impressions for the keyword “books,” while Campaign #2 got 3510–three times as many.
Third takeaway is that, while Campaign #2 did better in terms of impressions, Campaign #1 did better in terms of clicks per impression by 40:1.
If I’m constructing an ad campaign aimed at brand awareness, which has value for a total newbie like myself, but no immediate payoff, the second campaign was better.
If, on the other hand, I’m shooting for impressions that drive clicks, the first worked better.
My fourth and final takeaway from this initial foray into Amazon ads is that before I try this again, I need to glean a much better understanding of how Amazon ads work.
Some of the other Eight Ladies have indicated they’d rather stick a fork in their eye than spend hours analyzing data. I, on the other hand, have a data analysis background and I’m totally geeking out over this.
You’ll be hearing more on this topic.


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