A Glimpse at EAGLEBREAKER. The Eaglemasters’ Greatest Battle!

I’m very grateful for everyone’s patience as I get closer to completing Eaglebreaker. As a token of my gratitude, and to build a little hype, here’s the opening of the chapter in which the Eaglemasters begin their greatest campaign ever. No longer spread along two battlefronts, they launch a full-scale invasion of the Ferotaur Wildlands to finally wipe out their ancient enemies once and for all.

But, as the months go on, the great war they’ve long imagined doesn’t transpire exactly as planned…

Chapter Five – To the Wildlands

 

Valeine sat mounted on her eagle, Lielle, atop Veleseor’s walls as she peered northeast, where the Mountains of the Lost barely peaked over the horizon. A month had now passed since Morlen set out alone, and despite all the frightening stories her brothers had told her of that place when she was a child, and the more reliable accounts she’d heard as a Lady, she knew he was still alive. Perhaps malnourished, cold, and one hundred miles from Roftome, but alive. And any enemy foolish enough to attack him alone would fare poorly.

She had no illusions that they would soon be reunited, nor did she take for granted that he would escape at all. But hope was the brightest star that guided him now, and she would let her own burn just as fully every day. Then maybe, when their memories of shared happiness were buried under ones of battle and death after years apart, their paths might meet again.

Her gaze turned toward the capital and the thousands of Eaglemasters flying southward from it, and she only now began to wonder how prudent it was to leave all five cities of the realm with merely a few dozen defenders. True, their greatest and most present threat had always sprung from the territory they would soon invade, and eliminating it could forever bring security and prosperity. But if their war with the Tyrant Prince had taught them anything, it was that new and devastating foes could always strike unexpectedly.

The king eventually descended to the north walls beside her with the Crystal Spear in his grip and his banner men flying the red and silver flags of Veldere. Throngs of the city’s people celebrated his arrival from below, and he sat on his perched eagle to address them while the full army of Eaglemasters landed outside the city’s perimeter.

“My people,” Verald called out while their applause subsided, “I bring you many good tidings. The first, and most joyous for me to share not only with you, but also with my sister and loyal battalions, is that…” He paused to let their suspense grow, and waited until the city became utterly silent before finally announcing, “Your queen is with child!”

A burst of cheers rose from the enthralled crowd, and Valeine smiled broadly at her brother on hearing the news for the first time. Such fortunate events had been scarce indeed, lately. But still her misgivings about their impending departure grew when she pictured his first child learning to walk in the castle halls while he was off fighting battles in a distant land.

“How I wish my father and brothers had lived to see this day,” he continued. “They were the strongest champions of our realm, and would rejoice at the new light that shines upon us now after such a long darkness. By their sacrifices, and those of so many heroes whose valor may never be equaled, we have defeated the shriekers in the East and freed all lands from the scourge of the Tyrant Prince. Yet our war, which has raged since the birth of our kingdom, is far from over. But never have our enemies across the river felt the full force of the Eaglemasters deep within their own wretched lands, until today. And so, I have come to you to say farewell.”

Many dispirited voices rang out in response to this declaration, and he held up a hand to ease their sadness. “But it is not goodbye. Queen Elleth will rule in my stead while she carries your new prince or princess, with my trusted counselors to guide her forward and contingents of Eaglemasters to look after each of our five cities. My army will launch from this seat of strength founded by King Veleseus the Bold to finish the conquest for which he gave his life generations ago. The Eaglemasters will shroud the Wildlands and destroy every ferotaur from the river to their cavernous mountains, and the plague that they have brought to this border for so many centuries will be eradicated! And our future will be brighter for ages to come!”

All gathered citizens made a thunderous clamor, and Verald looked to Valeine in respect. “It’s your city; you lead the way, Sister.”

She took one final look at the many families that she had protected with her life and the lives of her men for the last year, and could only resolve to fight so fiercely in this new campaign that they would be safer upon her return than they were now. Lielle took her skyward with a powerful lunge as she had her bow in hand and her spear strapped over her shoulder, and the king joined her with his banner men and trumpeters on either side. As the entire army ascended, the people of Veleseor honored them by singing the victory song of their city, and the Eaglemasters too began to sing each verse as they passed over the Silver River that divided their realm from the Ferotaur Wildlands.

“To the Wildlands long ago he flew
Veleseus the Bold
The fiercest king we ever knew
For his wrath is widely told
The tens of thousands that he slew
At the river he patrolled
Piled higher than the walls that grew
At his newly built stronghold
He spurned safe ground and pressed ahead
Into the open skies
O’er lands that filled most men with dread
But were pleasing to his eyes
Together with his eldest son
The Bold King felt no fear
And side by side, many battles they won
With the mighty Crystal Spear
Alas, one returned, a prince no more
Who to his sorry people said,
‘My father could not win his war;
Your beloved king is dead.’
But in the Wildlands he still flies
Veleseus the bold
The king whose memory never dies
While we stand in his stronghold.”

Their formation of nearly three thousand crossed swiftly over enemy shores and cast a widespread shadow on clusters of ferotaurs that frantically scattered at their approach. The nearest packs had been pushing skiffs on wooden-wheeled frames toward the river, but abandoned their vessels in a futile effort as flaming pots of oil bombarded the entire area and set them all ablaze.

“Give them a river of fire!” belted Verald as they swept northwest along the border incinerating entire swaths of land wherever the ferotaurs were dense, and a serpent of engulfed terrain meandered in their wake…

 

Don’t forget to subscribe here for more updates and to be notified as soon as Eagle Breaker is available! And have you reviewed A Facet for the Gem yet? I’ll raise my glass to you if you get on that by clicking here

Indie Publishing Lessons I’ve Learned Since I Released My Debut Fantasy

I spent half my life writing one book. Got the idea for it at thirteen, published it at twenty-six. Sure, a couple distractions got in the way during that time: puberty, high school, a bit of college, a day job doing manual labor that put hair on my chest, an obsessive routine of HIGHLY amateur dumbbell curling, booze, 2 years spent querying literary agents, booze. And now after finally unleashing my debut Fantasy on the world, with the release of its sequel a few months out, I’m so glad that I broke my way into indie publishing and have seen data-based potential for the sustainable career I’ve always wanted. Here are some little nuggets of wisdom and experience I’ve gathered on my journey so far.

Invest in a high quality editor and cover designer to make the best possible first impression

No matter how long you spent finishing that first draft or how many dozens of times you’ve polished it on your own, front to back, IT’S NOT READY! Most of those rejections I accumulated occurred when my manuscript was 40,000 words heavier than the final product that I published. After doing a Writer’s Digest workshop with one literary agent, I realized I could substantially trim the book down and still keep it all intact. I went line by line to chisel the substance out of the murk, and after a few months had it down from 130,000 words to around 89,000, and still it was far from done.

Beta readers are an invaluable resource to help you make your work consumable, but that’s still not enough. After all those brave souls have sunk their teeth into your under-cooked work, hire a professional editor and a cover designer who can help you publish the best version of your work right from the start; don’t try to sell a salad of grammatical awkwardness wrapped in a middle school collage project. Even if you plan to publish a majorly improved 2nd Edition later on when you have more funds, you will have fed a sour apple to so many prospective fans that you’ll lose credibility and appeal. I found my editor, Karen Conlin, through some very well-respected indie authors on Google Plus writing communities. It turns out that she edits for a couple other authors who signed with the award-winning audiobook publisher that picked up my series, too. And the book designers at Damonza have produced beautiful covers for my series that have been worth every penny.

If you only have one book out, KDP Select is probably the way to go

Selling exclusively through Amazon has been much more profitable than my brief stint with wider distribution, because in addition to sales, subscribers to Kindle Unlimited have read more than half a million pages of my book over the last 6 months. What Amazon pays you for that varies a bit each month, but it usually appears close to half a cent per page.

Join online communities and enter your book in a few contests

It’s common for newbie authors to bombard every social media community they find with daily pleas to GET MY BOOK NOW. Free advertising is tempting for sure, but that kind of shameless self-promotion usually disgruntles A LOT more people than it attracts. I was certainly guilty of it for the first several months that my book was live, and sometimes I’ll do a scaled-down version of it if my book is free or highly discounted for a few days. There’s a lot more value in building a friendly relationship with the readers in those communities, and giving as much as you hope to get in return.

If you’re an Indie Fantasy author, check out Mark Lawrence’s annual Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off. This year’s contest is near its end, and the link will take you to the 10 finalists that have gotten a lot of well-deserved publicity. Being involved in that contest was a great experience for me, and I got a nice review plus some badass author friends out of it. Get the announcement about this year’s winner and next year’s application period on Twitter: #SPFBO

Hiring “social media gurus” to plaster your book link all over Twitter/Facebook is like paying someone to hurl a basketball from the opposite end of the court

There are paid services that do the dirty work for you, and send out the same tweet ten times a day to their “hundred-thousand followers.” I blew a decent amount of money on one of those at first, and even though the staff were highly courteous and responsive, I’m convinced that I never came close to getting a return on my investment. A fraction of the people who see those social media posts are interested in your genre; a fraction of those in your genre will be motivated by your post to look at your book on Amazon, and a fraction of those that you’ve just spent money to attract will care enough to shell out their own cash. But if you’re advertising your book directly on Amazon, almost everyone who sees your ad is already looking to buy something; they’re not as “cold” as potential customers on Twitter or FB.

Amazon ads can be extremely effective, but can also drain your bank account with lightning speed if you’re not careful. Low Cost/High Yield is achievable through trial and error

I invested about $4,000 testing 4 different ad pitches against 5 audience targets over the course of a couple months, and was able to isolate several specific combinations of pitch and target that are profitable. It’s challenging enough just to create ads that break even, but through trial and error you can really elevate your sales and income with Amazon marketing. My Product Display ads with a Cost Per Click Bid of around 20c and a monthly budget of $400 often result in an actual Cost Per Click of 2c-5c and monthly expenditure of far less than the maximum I set. They’ve been way more successful for me than Sponsored ads, which have always been a competitive cash drain in my experience.

It took about 4 months to recoup my investment and start making a profit, and even though it was a long haul I now have a handful of ads that consistently bring in more revenue than they consume. I go more in depth about my advertising experiments in a couple other posts that you’ll see in the margin, but here are a few pro tips that could have saved me a lot of dough when I was starting out:

  • Create several pitches that concisely capture the essence of your book’s appeal so that you can test them on relevant audience targets
  • Pick just 1 audience target per ad to determine which specific pairings of pitch and target are most successful, and weed out the ones that attract people who are interested enough to click (at your expense) but won’t close the deal
  • Start with a CPC bid of 20c and a monthly budget of $200-$400 per ad, and be sure to select the “Spread Campaign Evenly” option instead of “Run As Quickly As Possible.” This approach I’ve found spends less per day than the max you allow
  • Check your stats and Billing History every day so you know how much you’re spending, but remember that it often takes several days for stats to start showing up. While your spreadsheet may look bleak, your ads are likely running and your Billing History will show your accumulating tab. I’ve terminated ads and then kicked myself hard after seeing great sales stats show up a week later, which is why you should always Pause instead of Terminate if you’re nervous

I recently did a free giveaway and didn’t have any ads running for several weeks, and my sales took a dive as a result. Now I’ve just started a new set of ads that promote my ebook and audiobook with one pitch that mentions three of the bestselling Fantasy titles by the same audio publisher. The pitch is essentially:

Hey, you know these three Fantasy books that everyone and their mother are reading? Well my book got picked up by the same audiobook publisher that picked those up. It’s the hottest new thing! 

The most promising of those ads is one that only appears on the Amazon pages of the other Fantasy titles that my audiobook publisher picked up. It brought in 2 sales with just the first 3 clicks, which I’ve never seen before. With my most successful ads before now, the ratio of click to buy was about 40 or 50 to 1, so I’m hoping that trend continues past Week 1.

Beware of Data Pollution

I first heard that term in a great interview that author Chris Fox gave on the Self Publishing Podcastanother wonderful resource for authors, and he warned that shouting about your new book from the rooftops and getting all your friends and family to buy it right away might actually hurt you more than it helps. Amazon analyzes all your customers to find what other purchases they have in common, so that it can then recommend your book to lots of other people who also bought those same titles. But if all your customers have nothing in common but you, then Amazon gets confused and leaves you stranded to find customers on your own. This is why specifically targeted advertising is so valuable, because it can gain you hundreds of customers who buy many of the same books and give Amazon the data it needs to help more of the right people discover your work.

Your sales might skyrocket unexpectedly. It will be confusing and awesome, and can be soul-crushingly temporary

After several months of increasing success with Amazon ads, my sales abruptly shot through the roof in mid January of this year, and the marketing on my end accounted for less than half of that. For the ensuing three weeks, my one book was bringing in more than enough money for me to live on, and I was planning which city I should relocate to so my new life as a full time author could begin. Then, after those 3 glorious weeks, sales dipped down to their normal level and left me scratching my head about just what the hell had happened.

All the people who got new Kindles for Christmas could have contributed a bit to that surge, and perhaps Amazon in all its wisdom threw my book into one of its popular mailers. Though it definitely stung to find out that it wasn’t a long term situation, the fact that it happened at all and could happen again is very encouraging. The most important thing I can do is continue my well-targeted, low cost/high yield advertising, build a mailing list (yeah, that cool box that popped up and asked for your e-mail address gets you a front row seat to all the wonders I have in store for the reading public), and of course…

Take some key advice from the great publishing minds at Sterling and Stone: WRITE, PUBLISH, REPEAT

I’ll be releasing the sequel to A Facet for the Gem this September, and if just my two books bring in the average amount of revenue that Book 1 has made over the last few months, I’ll be earning as much from them as I’ve ever made at my day job. Then I can support myself doing what brings out the best I have to offer, which has been the dream all along. And all the kind readers who continue to come forward help me keep that dream alive.

Adventures in Amazon Ads Pt 2: From 8 Bestseller Lists to 9+

Last 3 Months

Important Note: About 1 month since beginning this experiment with expanding my advertising portfolio, I’ve still spent about 2 1/2 times what I’ve generated in sales. My book has climbed up 14 Amazon Bestseller lists, and paid sales can lead to organic sales by word of mouth, but always be careful not to create so many ads that you exceed your budget.

Let me start this end-of-week followup with the postscript to last Friday’s report that some may have missed: As of 10/12, my Amazon ads have been directly responsible for at least 95% of all sales. My trial run with Facebook ads just happened to coincide with the unprecedented surge on 10/28, and it’s important not to assume correlation equals causation. I’ve ended all Facebook ads and am creating more in Amazon.

As the above graph shows, 10/20 was the first time my “Paid Units” cracked 5 in one day over the last 3 months, except during a cute little 99c promo I ran at the end of August. So, when I saw that my one and only book’s full-price sales had more than quadrupled from the norm last Friday (10/28), I naturally hoped it was due to clear actions that I could analyze and perpetually maintain with consistent results. The following day (10/29) showed great promise of that with a record 21 sales, and 1,000 more Kindle Unlimited pages read than on 10/28. The 2 days leading into Halloween showed an understandable drop, since a large portion of my target audience was likely engrossed in the hedonistic festivities, but still they surpassed what I’d seen in the 3 months prior. Kindle Unlimited pages also shot to higher levels than ever on those 2 days, amounting to more than 20 copies read.

Then, what the hell happened on Tuesday and Wednesday? 8 sales, and then 4? Going back to those familiarly mediocre levels felt comparable to returning to a dietary routine of microwaved TV dinners after a brief, luxurious getaway. The same ads were up and running, minus a few disappointing ones that I’d paused, and I’d even created duplicates to test new genre targets (which I’ll get to shortly). I think one contributing factor may be that my audiobook became available for Pre-Order on 10/31. Because of that recent development, customers who go to my book’s Amazon page now have the option to pay $ for the Kindle book and paperback, or get the audiobook in exchange for a monthly credit that Audible allots its members. So it’s possible that some thrifty buyers opted to forgo shelling out cash and instead traded in a “use it or lose it” credit for the audiobook, which is officially out on Nov 22 (and is beautifully done, I might add, thanks to Podium and James Foster).

I’ve also suspected the audiobook will boost Kindle sales, since experienced customers might anticipate being able to get the audible narration for a substantial discount after purchasing the e-book (assuming Audible enables the Whispersync feature, which is up to them, not me). Because of this theory, and to promote the audiobook itself, I ran 2 versions of the same ad that reads:

Epic Fantasy Adventure Audiobook now for Pre-Order from Podium Publishing (King’s Dark Tidings, Dawn of Wonder, Cycle of Arawn) Narrator: James Foster.

One is a Sponsored Ad that uses Podium’s other Fantasy titles and authors as search engine keywords, as well as “audio book,” and the 4 main keywords that have led to sales in my other Sponsored Ads: “fantasy, fantasy fiction, fantasy books, fantasy fiction books.” The other is a Display Ad that I targeted by specific products instead of genres, using the same Fantasy titles that Podium has published.

The problem with this is that because customers can order the audiobook without a cash transaction, my ad data can’t show me whether any clicks on these ads are leading to sales. When someone clicks one of my ads and then pays for the Kindle book or paperback, I see their respective prices in the “Total Sales” column for that specific ad. The only way this would happen for the audiobook ad is if someone clicks on it and buys the Kindle or paperback version, or pays the full audible price instead of exchanging a credit. Anyway, it’s too soon to halt that campaign, and some unknown individual(s) have already Pre-Ordered the audiobook, so I’ll keep the ad running a bit longer.

Back to my moneymaking ads, limited to 150 characters each. A few authors asked me for specifics about the unique pitches I’ve been using, so I’ll list them in order of greatest sales to least:

  1. “Superb Fantasy Tale! Writing that soars & inspires” Hero’s Sword & Sorcery quest with epic battles, one-on-one duels, & friendship with a giant eagle
  2. A hero’s adventure leads him to the sky with eagle-riding knights, into the scorching breath of a dragon, and side-by-side with a fierce lady warrior
  3. A hero gains the loyalty of a giant eagle that would not carry any other man, and flies in an epic showdown against swords, fangs, and his worst fear
  4. An eagle-riding hero holds the Goldshard which makes invincibility just a whisper away. But it soon becomes a worse enemy than the monsters he battles

In last week’s post I listed the 5 genre subsets that I targeted with each of these, creating an experimental pool of 20. Here are those targets in order of greatest sales to least:

  • Teen & YA>Sci/Fi & Fantasy
  • Sci/Fi & Fantasy>Adventure
  • Sci/Fi & Fantasy>Superheroes
  • Sci/Fi & Fantasy>Sword & Sorcery
  • Sci/Fi & Fantasy>Fantasy

It’s important to note that my KU Pages read have also skyrocketed with these ads, and unlike sales, you can’t be sure which ad leads a KU subscriber to start reading, so that makes it a bit difficult to decide which ads to scrap. That’s why I always pause the ones that look weak, so if my figures start to dip I can immediately switch them back on and see if there’s a noticeable improvement.

This week I’m also having success with 3 additional genre targets that I’m testing with Pitches 1-3 and an improved version of #4. That’s 12 new ads divided into 3 groups, each of which has already produced 4 sales. The new genre targets, which may prove to be more lucrative than the aforementioned 5, are:

  • Sci/Fi & Fantasy>Myths & Legends
  • Literature & Fiction>Action & Adventure
  • Literature & Fiction>Genre Fiction

I’m still gradually eliminating ads that are bringing in too little return on investment, while increasing the budgets of the proven “winners.” I was relieved when yesterday (11/3) turned out to be more profitable than last Friday, the day when everything changed for the better, and today’s sales are so far consistent with the best my book has performed so far. I’d say I’m satisfactorily on my way to having a shortened system of highly efficient ad pitches and targets that I can leave alone to maximize my income from Book 1, while I continue to plug away at Book 2.

I’m really looking forward to Nov 22 when the audiobook becomes available, and am very confident that listeners will be almost as moved by it as I was.

From 0 Bestseller Lists to 8 In 2 Weeks w/ Amazon Ads

 

 

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I’m sure that seasoned veterans of book publishing and marketing will laugh hard when they read that I invested approximately 2 1/2 times what I generated in sales (before royalty) during my advertising experiment over these past 2 weeks. So I’ll take that ridicule with humility and concede that it may be warranted IF I don’t see a better return on investment around a month from now.

After deciding to take several months off from my day job to write the sequel to my well-received debut fantasy, A Facet for the Gem, my goal has been to establish an automated system that maximizes my daily income from Book One as I dive into Book Two. I dreamed of the day when 4 paid sales in 24 hrs would be cause for concern, not celebration, and after much trial and error since the middle of this month, I’m finally there (for now).

I laugh when I look at my initial attempts at Amazon Ad campaigns, all of which have been enabled by my book’s enrollment in KDP Select. Unlike a print ad, for which you pay just to publish and hope it sparks interest, Amazon ads are free to publish, and you only pay when customers click on them. My very first ad ran for all of March, generating $15 in sales at a cost of $150 (1000% Advertising Cost of Sales, Amazon’s chart screams mockingly with a big middle finger held up on Line One) Subsequent campaigns show less money wasted on still meager returns, and the silliest thing is that I would just let them sit all month, one at a time, as though thinking, “Ok, this is my single ad for the month, I’ll just let it drain my bank account for 31 days and hope for the best.”

I also spent hundreds on a service that would blast the same promotional tweet for the book several times a day, which at the time I credited for what turned out to be my 2 most profitable months. But right before those 2 successful months, I had given away 1,600 free downloads of the book, and I think the temporary surge in my sales is better attributed to those readers spreading the word.

Anyway, after several months of generally acting like a novice (despite which I somehow caught the eye of prestigious Podium Publishing for a kick-ass audiobook deal) I decided that my money would be best invested in closely monitored, simultaneous Amazon ads. At the start of October I had 4 unique 150-character pitches that were selling enough to show promise, each of them “Product Display” ads targeted at several Fantasy genre interests. But maybe some of those selected interests were delivering my ads to customers intrigued enough to click but not enough to close the deal, wasting my $$. So I decided to run a test that I hoped would isolate which ad copy paired best with which interest, and weed out all the duds.

On Oct 12, I made 5 duplicates of each of these distinct ads, one for each of the 5 Fantasy interests I wanted to test:

  1. Sci/Fi & Fantasy>Adventure,
  2. Sci/Fi & Fantasy>Fantasy,
  3. Sci/Fi & Fantasy>Superheroes,
  4. Sci/Fi & Fantasy>Sword & Sorcery
  5. Teen & YA>Sci/Fi & Fantasy

This generated a new list of 20 ads divided into 4 groups, with each ad spread evenly over 30 days on a budget of $100. They didn’t get approved until Oct 13, and I’ve noticed it takes a good 12-24 hours after approval before you really start to see impressions and clicks.

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For those not familiar with KDP, the red graph shows paid ebook sales, and the blue shows the number of pages of my ebook read each day by subscribers to Kindle Unlimited (We get paid around half a cent per page read)

As these new ads started to take effect on the 13th and 14th, my sales increased, and I also spent a lot on clicks that led nowhere, causing me to eliminate a few ads from each group that didn’t seem to fit their one target. I found that terminating these was a mistake, however, because sometimes there’s a delay of several days before sales figures show up. If it looks like an ad isn’t producing, and you’ve spent more on it than you’re comfortable with, always PAUSE it instead of terminating. This leaves you the option of immediately turning it back on if suddenly you find that it brought in some decent revenue. Now I tend to pause any ad that’s sold 0 after I’ve put in $5-$10, and sometimes am pleasantly surprised to later see its sales surpassing what I spent.

My strategy was to narrow down a few exceptional matches of ad pitch and genre target that yielded a great return on investment, and then create duplicates of those with budget being spent as quickly as possible rather than evenly. I thought, “I’ll pick a handful of winners from the list of 20, throw more money at them at a faster rate, and get way more sales!” Turns out, nope. I learned that the “Spend budget as quickly as possible” option works poorly compared to even distribution.

So even though that one tactic proved disappointing, I still eliminated weak combinations of pitch and target and beefed up the budgets of the stronger producers, while also re-creating a few that I had terminated before seeing the value they brought in. At the end of the week, sales went up even higher (A solid 8 units on Saturday the 22nd) and it was clear which of the 4 groups of ads was performing the best: one that opened with a very positive clip from a kind review and then immediately cut to the chase with three main highlights from the plot.

Thrilled with my incremental success, I decided to tackle Facebook ads next after reading of the tremendous success some authors have had. On Oct 25th I created close approximations of the same 4 pitches, filtered to be delivered to an audience of around 700,000 interested in reading books and ebooks, specifically Fantasy oriented and excluding all other topics. And just like on Amazon, the same specific pitch attracted more traffic, and at a lower price per click than the other 3 that I subsequently deleted.

screenshot-5

My Facebook ad sends potential customers directly to my book’s Amazon page, and of course you can’t monitor which of those clicks leads to sales like you can with Amazon ads. In this very informative interview, Facebook advertising success story and author Mark Dawson discusses how Amazon Affiliate links, which could allow you to monitor those results, are not allowed in this circumstance. But as the above graph seems to indicate, my book’s stats picked up drastically in direct correlation with the timing of the Facebook ad, and I saw more than double the sales today than in any 24 hour period throughout the book’s 8 month history. Of course I understand that correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation, but I’m hopeful.

At the time of this post, A Facet for the Gem is ranked within the top 3,500 of all Kindle Books, and it occupies 8 Amazon Top 100 lists for various Fantasy categories in Adult and YA. Also, today marks the first that its sales are displayed in increments of 5, and it feels great. In tandem with the Facebook ad, I currently have 21 Amazon ads still running, which I’m systematically narrowing down. I’ve tried “Sponsored” versions of some of the original pitches and broken even on the best performer, spending $100 for the same amount in sales.

But as I’m starting to find, breaking even on paid sales can still pay dividends if your book is good enough for readers to talk about afterwards. And, while I certainly could have spent a lot less money to get to this point, that would require insight that I only gained through these stair steps of trial and error. If one month from now I’ve discovered how to achieve twice these figures for half the cost, I’ll be in more than decent shape, just in time for the release of my audiobook I might add (Nov 22).

*Important note: After further examining my data on 10/30, I found that my Amazon ads were directly responsible for at least 95% of these sales. My trial run with Facebook ads just happened to coincide with this weekend’s surge, and as I mentioned above, it’s very important not to assume such correlation equals causation. Unfortunately there’s currently no way to tell for sure where my Kindle Unlimited readers are coming from, but I’m confident enough that I’ve now ended all Facebook ads and am creating many more in Amazon.

Podium Publishing (The Award-Winning Martian Audiobook) Just Picked Up The Audiobook Rights To “The Tale of Eaglefriend” Series

a-facet-audio-cover

The captivating Audiobook edition of A Facet for the Gem went live about 4 months after I signed with Podium! Find it here

Last week I was intrigued to receive an e-mail through my homepage from Podium Publishing, expressing interest in talking with me about the audiobook edition of A Facet for the Gem. I hadn’t heard of that particular house before, and when they claimed in their message, “We’ve had lots of audiobook award nominations, and wins, as well we’ve created massive bestsellers for debut authors with Top 10 Bestsellers across ALL titles on Audible including Andy Weir’s The Martian,” I scheduled a phone conference and did as much research as I could.

In the back of my mind I knew it made sense to eventually produce my book in audio format, as audiobooks are rapidly growing in popularity and demand, but realistically I don’t think I would have taken action to achieve that on my own until years from now. My biggest priority has been to finish writing Book 2 and turn it in to my editor by February; I’ve already paid her to reserve that month. I invested $3,000 just in the production of my ebook and paperback, and plan to do the same for Book 2, so investing thousands more in creating an audiobook when I have no experience in that area was never a plan.

But when a legitimate publishing house that’s won the Audie (the most prestigious audiobook award) stepped forward and showed enough confidence in my work to invest their own resources, I read everything Google could provide about them and found only good things in author testimonials, message boards, and press releases. The first author testimonial that popped up on Google was from Edward Robertson, and his reasoning stuck with me as far as the benefit of starting to earn money and publicity now if an award-winning house is willing to foot the bill, as opposed to waiting until years from now to start earning a bigger cut.

ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange) is the service analogous to Kindle Direct Publishing in the realm of self-published audio. It provides channels for authors to contract with narrators and produce their own audiobooks, and the author gets a 40% royalty of all sales for exclusive distribution. But as I mentioned above, the commitment of my own resources this would entail precluded me from considering it any time soon. And after everything I read about Podium’s pedigree, accolades and reputation, I felt comfortable forgoing the profits (if any) I might gain from handling the audio production myself and instead entrusting the responsibility to experts who were asking nothing from me except just that: trust.

Plus, after investing at least $1,200 in marketing Facet over the five months since its debut, I hoped that the promotional aspect of its audio edition appearing on Podium’s list of high-quality works could pay major dividends in future sales across all formats. With all of these considerations in mind, I went into the phone call hopeful that I could strike a deal with Podium’s acquisitions department, and the Author Liaison Victoria helped to make that an exciting reality. I signed over the audiobook rights for the entire Tale of Eaglefriend series just a couple hours later.

She did explain that the audio length of Facet, based on its word count, would be a few hours shy of the norm for a standalone Epic Fantasy, and that Podium might want to wait for the completion of Book 2 and produce an omnibus audiobook. I asked them to give A Facet for the Gem a chance as a standalone, especially since its release would capitalize on the popularity it’s enjoyed right out of the gate, not to mention coincide with all the buzz generated by Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off #SPFBO (more on that contest soon). I’m currently awaiting their decision on the matter, and am happy to defer to Podium’s expertise in audiobook production.

And now that the ink on our contract is dry, I’m truly thrilled at the opportunity to work with them over the coming months.

My Great Experience with the Book Cover Designers at Damonza

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It’s natural to judge a book by its cover. A cut-and-pasted image salad that screams “middle school collage project” delivers an immediately unpleasant visceral impact, and casts a shadow on the content itself before prospective readers even open it. Many of them probably won’t. But a tasteful, elegant window into the literary wonders you have in store for the reading public can be an invitation too compelling to refuse. Below you’ll see the detailed progression of my own novel’s cover from two contrasting first drafts to a stellar final product, designed by the experts at damonza.com

Certainly many indie authors are on a tight budget and search for the most economical options to make their books marketable. I personally opted for what I judged to be in the top tier of book design, as well as editing (my editor is Karen Conlin—highly recommended) and now that my debut novel has been on the market for just over three months, I am very satisfied with that investment.

I entrusted the essential task of creating an arresting cover for my epic fantasy novel, A Facet for the Gem, to the book design professionals at Damonza. Not only does their extensive portfolio showcase striking covers in the fantasy genre and beyond it, but I was also persuaded by other customers’ high praise of their courtesy and professionalism, which I came to experience firsthand.

I initially envisioned the book’s cover depicting a very defining scene from the narrative, but they advise specifically against that on their webpage, as it can attempt to convey too much information in the imagery without context. So instead I provided them a highly detailed synopsis of the whole story, indicated what I thought would capture its essence on the cover, and deferred to their artistic talent. This paragraph from my submission highlights the elements I gave them to work with:

“The heart of this story, and the entire 4-part series, is Morlen’s friendship with the giant eagle, Roftome. I would really like to see them both on the cover. Morlen goes from 16 to 17 years old in this book—he’s tall with shoulder length brown hair, and wears a brown cloak. I would love to see him holding the Crystal Blade in his right hand, and the Goldshard in his left, as this symbolizes his internal struggle between realizing his potential, and his dependency on the Goldshard.”

They advertise a 14 day turnaround, but Alisha the designer got back to me just one week later with 2 drafts for the e-book. This is the first one that I saw:

Facet - 02

She gave me exactly what I asked for with this one, and I think that’s why I favored it initially after considering them both. It captures Morlen’s internal struggle between trusting in his own abilities, symbolized by the sword he arduously earned in his right hand, and the security and power offered by the Goldshard in his left.

But, referring to the pitfall I mentioned a few paragraphs back, that’s a lot of information to convey in an image without any context. Prospective readers don’t know this protagonist or his dilemma yet; this image is supposed to entice them to experience it, not define it straight away. And I wonder, Alisha being the pro that she is, if this was her way of saying, “Here’s what you envisioned, but I can do better.”

This is the second one that I looked at:

Facet - 01

First of all, the eagle is much more present and attractive here, and comes across much more clearly as being giant and otherworldly. The detail in the sword’s winged hilt is beautiful and went beyond what I’d described. But also the entire picture has a more open and kinetic feel, immediately beckoning the reader to embark with these characters on an adventure.

After soaking them both in, and asking for input from a few people close to me, I of course chose the second for my cover. I revealed it to friends on social media, and got additional helpful input as a result. The only revisions I went on to request were:

To lighten Morlen’s cloak a bit, as I felt the “Kylo Ren” look depicted a brooding antihero that doesn’t fit his character. Make the Crystal Blade look more solid and defined. And to make the Goldshard in his left hand like a flat, jagged piece of metal and less orb-like.

She got back to me the very next day with this final product:

Facet - 3

I have no doubt that this stunning cover has contributed greatly to the book’s sales, as it frequently garners praise on social media while I promote it. The full paperback cover is at the head of this post, and it blew me away as well.

I went on to enlist Damonza’s formatting service for the book’s interior, and was very pleased with the professional, elegant result. I fully intend to hire them for Book 2 in “The Tale of Eaglefriend,” which I plan to release in Spring of 2017.