#89 Dealing with the mistakes of a book launch

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I try to learn from every book launch. The lessons I learned from my previous book launches was that my books ad advertising had to be much better targeted in terms of keywords. To solve this I purchased KDP Rocket which analyses Amazon and Google to see what keywords customers type in when they are looking for books.

The software cost almost $100 but I was optimistic that I could recoup the costs from future sales. I spent quite a long time entering keywords into Rocket and then analysing the results. I spent even longer entering the results ito Amazon, Facebook and Bookbub adverts. I also scheduled an ebookbetty email promotion and scheduled different start dates for each so I could work out which was affecting sales the most.

A day after my email had gone out the ebookbetty email went out but I did not get a great result so I wanted to pull my other promotions forward a day. I started the Amazon ads but they only yielded a few results so I tried to pull forward by bookbub ads which I had naively left  as a scheduled campaign with an overall budget rather than an ongoing campaign with a daily budget. The result of this was that the overall budget for all my ads were consumed very quickly n high cost per click ads while yeilding smaller results for book sales which I had also erroneously left at only 99c. This meant I ended up spending hundreds of dollars on ads while only earning a few dollars in sales.

The lessons I have learned I will apply to my next launch and hopefully, sooner or later I will find the magic combination of ad copy and keywords which sell books at a low enough cost per click to make the ads economical. As a result of blowing my budget on the Bookbub ads, I am now having to rely on the free tools of social media to promote the book.

Therefore, I will be hosting a live Q&A session on my Facebook page at 08:00 EST on Saturday 2nd February. Unfortunately this is only 05:00 for folks on the West coast on PST but you can always watch the reply which will be available immediately afterward. The live feed is at a more convenient 13:00 for those in the UK, 14:00 in Europe and any owls in Australia can catch the live feed at midnight. To find the feed simply open my page at https://www.facebook.com/mjdeeswriter/

Whether or not you can listen live, please feel free to send me any questions you might like me to answer either about my current novel, Fred & Leah, or about any of my other novels. Email me at mj@mjdees.com, comment on my facebook page, or send me a Tweet.

Thanks for your support during the launch of Fred & Leah. We made it into the top 65 in the US, the top 11 in Canada and the top 50 in Australia where we were ranked together with some big names of military historical fiction like Wilbur Smith, David Baldacci, Ken Follet, Bernard Cornwell, J M Coetzee and Michael Ondaatje.

The book is still available at the special launch price of $2.99 (or equivalent worldwide) but won’t be for long so get your copy while it’s still cheap.

The book is available here: Buy directly from me, Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Kobo, Google Play, iBooks, Nook via Barnes and Noble and all good online retailers.

Please leave me reviews when you buy the book. I am not a big publisher with a big advertising budget, so these reviews helps the book to be noticed by other readers
Leave a review on Amazon.com
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I am giving away five free signed copies of the print version of the book. To win one of these fantastic prizes, all you have to do is to email me at mj@mjdees.com and tell me where Fred and his platoon were marched from and to on Tuesday, 18th June 1940. The first five people to email me with the correct answer will win a signed copy each. The launch competition closes on Sunday 3rd February.

Also, If you would like me to make a fool of myself trying to read the opening chapter of Fred & Leah then you can see it on YouTube here.

 

 

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#88 Setting up a You Tube channel

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Vlogging seems to be the latest trend if the amount of time my daughter spends on YouTube is anything to go by. It is certainly an important aspect of social media which cannot be overlooked by any serious independent author.

Therefore, it was with this in mind that I have begun to film my own short videos and added them to YouTube. The first three videos feature yours truly reading excerpts from my books and are actually broadcast live and then saved on YouTube for future viewing.

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So far, the first three videos have featured the opening chapter of LIVING WITH SACI the opening chapter of THE ASTONISHING ANNIVERSARIES and the first section of WHEN THE WELL RUNS DRY. Future videos will feature the opening chapters of FRED & LEAH as well as additional chapters of all the books.

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Have a look at the videos and let me know what you think.

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#87 Interview with Fallacious Rose

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Fallacious Rose, not her real name,  started to write when she was about 8.

“I suppose I was an isolated (not necessarily lonely), bullied kid who read constantly,” she says. “So writing seemed like a natural progression. I always felt as if writing was part of my core purpose in life.”

She is concerned that she might sound too ‘up herself’ as if she was born for it but she feels that it has probably her only real talent.

To earn a living, she worked in what she describes as’the land of the living dead’,  in reality the Australian public service.

“I worked for years, and couldn’t devote much time to writing at all. Recently I’ve worked as a carer and cleaner for the elderly, but now I’ve retired to write full time and it’s great! I get about 5-6 hours a day! Of course three quarters of that is spent trying to convince people to buy my stuff, but…”

Her books span a range of  different genres, fiction for children, paranormal thriller romance, humour,  modern fairytale, short story.

“I don’t have a favourite genre,” she says. “I’m restless, I get bored easily and I like the challenge of writing different things. That said, I couldn’t bring myself to write softcore romance or formulaic stuff: it would feel to me like disrespecting the art of writing, or words, or even my own talent, such as it is. Not that I see myself as the new Tolstoy or anything like that – I know I’m relatively mediocre – but I do see my writing as having a meaning beyond itself, and definitely not something to be just hashed together for money. That said, I did try once or twice to be commercial – it didn’t feel right.”

Her modesty masks the fact that her writing is often very clever and is delightful to read. But it is more difficult to find an audience when you are writing in so many other genres.

“Everyone who reads one book and goes ‘oh yeah I like that, now where’s another one of the same sort’ goes away disappointed. But I do have a brand – I call it ‘weird’. If you dig Fallacious Rose, it’s because you like weird stuff – writing that is original, imaginative (if I say so myself) and not in the usual way. If you don’t, that’s fine by me.

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She’s just released three books: Lady Charlotte’s Dilemma, a not-so-serious Regency Vampyre novel; What Are You Afraid Of? (a collection of chilling, but largely gore-free horror stories), and Utopia Pending, a collection of short stories by twelve different speculative fiction authors (including her) around the theme of a brighter future. But what of her writing in this brighter future?

“I’m still tinkering with my horror stories. I bore my daughter silly with conversational openings such as ‘so I’ve got this situation where people get eaten by a giant alien anteater thing…’

“I want to write a sort of political thriller about a scenario where Australia is cut off from the rest of the world by some kind of major war, our democracy is destroyed, and a ‘Prince Harry’ figure takes over the reins, a bit like Churchill in WW2. I’d like to explore the implications of a return to royal leadership, and society’s need for a hero and what it would be like to actually be a hero these days.”

If you’d like to keep up to date with what she does, you can check out her website or follow her on Facebook or BookBub.

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#86 Interview with Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger

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In the first of my series of chats with fellow authors, I’m finding out all about Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger,  the author of the historical fiction series Reschen Valley.

Chrystyna is an American ex-pat living in Austria. She grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota and was studying to become a veterinarian before an English professor rescued her. The rest is history, or historical fiction, if you like. She also runs a business providing communication and coaching programs to local businesses, and takes great interest in cross-cultural impacts, a common theme throughout her writing.

The series takes place in South Tyrol, just located south of the Austrian border. It is a story about a Tyrolean woman who is fighting for her land after WW1, when her province is cut in two, one half remaining in Austria, and her half being annexed to Italy. When she discovers an Italian engineer, who has been attacked and left to die on her mountain, rescuing him thrusts both of them into a labyrinth of corruption, prejudice and greed. The series spans three generations between 1920 and 1961, and she has the last two to write yet.

When I asked her what it was about that time that intrigued her and motivated her, she asked me to imagine driving south from Austria over the Reschen Pass in the Alps and then crossing the border into Italy. The first thing you expect, she told me, are pizza and pasta stations, Italian signs, and Italian architecture. But that’s not what happens. It still looks like Tyrol with a few Italian names. In fact, everything is still in German and in Italian and everyone speaks German.

“Then it comes,” she says. “Spreading out before you, an unbelievably beautiful lake some four miles long and nestled in the Alps. The sight takes your breath away. You pass the first town and quickly come upon the next one called Graun / Curon Venosta. And then there it is. Off to the right, some 100 meters from the lakeshore, is a fully intact medieval church tower, sticking straight out of the water. My first reaction was, “What in the world happened here?” It took me ten years, and loads of building up my German language skills to find out. When I did, I was horrified that we never learned about this part of history. The Tyrolean-Italian conflict was a huge deal! And the pain of that history is still there, just under the skin, hot as embers and as volatile as gunpowder.

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Chrystyna not only loves reading but writing the scenes between Angelo Grimani and the Colonel, his father. She says she taps into her dark side in those scenes, something she keeps very well under control and she hoped she only utilises to write her villains.

“I consciously set out to make each of my characters complex and three-dimensional,” she says. “I honestly believe that every person is simply trying to do their best. The world is paved with good intentions, they say, but it’s where you lay the pavement that determines whether you’re going to be remembered as a good person or a bad one.”

One of her other favorite parts to write was Chapter 10, which she calls the baby of the published book. When she sent the script to an editor last summer, she came back and said, “I just don’t think we’re invested in Katharina enough. What does she really want? Make us root for her.”

Chrystyna did not despair. On the contrary, she was really glad the editor had said something, because in all these years of writing Katharina,  Chrystyna was frustrated and disappointed with her development.

“I’ve got a female character trapped in a day and age where she just cannot be emancipated,” she says. “On the contrary, her choices make her want to blend in as much as possible and it was irritating me that she was fading into the background. After I hung up with the editor and as I was driving to my other job, it hit me like lightening. I realized the answer was there all along. I just had to make it explicit. I knew what Katharina wanted and all I had to do was pull the threads forward and weave them. The new Chapter 10 managed to solidify that for me and I was able to pull her back in with great strength.”

Chrystyna is on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Bookbub and Goodreads. She says that’s all she can manage for social platforms. All information about her books can be found on www.inktreks.com.

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#85 What happened to those left behind at Dunkirk

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The incredible story of how almost 340,000 troops were evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk in northern France during the summer of 1940 is very well known and is symbolic of the spirit which Winston Churchill was attempting to engender among the British public during that period of the war.

However, much less known is the story of the 40,000 troops who were left behind in France to be captured by the Germans. A recent Channel Four documentary featured first-hand accounts of those who had been involved but barely touched on the fact that these thousands of soldiers were marched through France, Belgium and Holland where they were transported to POW camps in Germany and Poland.

Many of the soldiers captured in the weeks following Dunkirk were either part of or attached to the 51st Highland Division. The division had been defending a section of the Maginot Line in France but the speed of the German invasion cut them off from the rest of the British Expeditionary Forces (BEF) in the north.

The division and battalions from many other regiments including my grandfather’s battalion, the 7th Battalion Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, who were attached to the division to offer support, in my grandfather’s case as a machine gun unit, retreated across France and could have been evacuated from ports further west such as Le Havre were it not for the fact that Winston Churchill insisted that the division continue to support the French. The British had trucks but some of the French were on horseback which made the retreat painfully slow along roads blocked by refugees.

Cut off from Le Havre by the rapidly advancing German panzer divisions, the 51st found themselves at the small port of St Valery en Caux but thick fog made evacuation impossible and on 12th June 1940, ammunition spent, the command was given to surrender.

Those captured were then marched back along the route of the German advance all the way to Holland where they were loaded onto coal barges and ferried along the canals to Germany where they were packed into railway wagons whose destinations were the POW camps of Germany and Poland.

My next novel, Fred and Leah, tells the story of these soldiers and also of the families left behind. The novel will be published in January but if you can’t wait that long, you can download a free sample here.

 

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#84 Why I am doing Nanowrimo this year

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Back in 2015 when I finally decided that the days of procrastination had to end I decided that I would take part in the National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo) in which participants attempt to write a 50k novel in 30 days.

I had attempted Nanowrimo before, a year or so earlier, and had failed abysmally but in 2015 I decided that even if I didn’t reach the 50k target by November 30th, I would keep on writing until I had and half-way into 2016 I had written the first draft of my first novel, LIVING WITH SACI.

I’m currently about 35k into my fifth novel and another 50k would put me past my minimum 80k target. The deadline I have set myself for the completion of the first draft is the end of December so if I succeed with Nanowrimo I will finish a month ahead of schedule.  Even if I don’t succeed, at least I’ll be closer to the finishing post.

Hopefully you can keep track of my word count via this image:

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#83 Who the hell is SACI anyway?

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My first novel, LIVING WITH SACI, suggested that one of the characters might actually be the mischievous character from Brazilian folklore, Saci.  But who is Saci?

Just like the character in my book, Saci has one leg and is black. Unlike the character in my book, Saci smokes a pipe and wears a magical red hat which enables him to appear and disappear at will.

At best, Saci is an annoying prankster, at worse, like the character in LIVING WITH SACI, he is outright dangerous.

Sack is able to grant wishes to those who are able to trap him or steal his cap, although his cap is said to be so smelly that those who touch it are never able to wash the smell away.

Anything that went wrong around the house, too much salt in the soup for example, would usually be blamed on Saci.

Saci can also transform himself into a bird and the protagonist of LIVING WITH SACI is often seeing stripes cuckoos which her Grandmother told her were always a sign of Saci.

The only way to get away from Saci is to cross water which Saci cannot cross without losing his powers. Other ways to confound him are to leave ropes full of knots which he feels compelled to undo. Alternatively,  leaving the Brazilian spirit cachaça or tobacco for his pipe might appease him.

I am currently writing the sequel to Living With Saci based on the Brazilian legend of the mule without a head. It will probably be titled Living With the Headless Mule.

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