Category Archives: Commentary

First Ever BookBub Deal (Results)

I recently ran my first ever BookBub Featured Deal, the gold standard of all book promotions, and I wanted to share the results for all my fellow writers and interested readers. If my experience can help you better organize your business or promotional goals, right on!

In case you didn’t know, I started a pen name for my horror works. Several months ago I set-up a Twitter account, Instagram, and even a Facebook Author page as well as a free Wix website for the name. I went this route out of respect for my family. Needless to say, the pen name doesn’t have much of a social media presence and nothing published under that name until now.

On July 20th, I released the first novel under that name and had a couple sales. Literally a couple. By the time my Featured Deal ran, it only had nine sales.

I tend to submit my novel The Selection to BookBub every thirty days, as is their policy, and have been rejected at least nine times. On July 25th, not even a week after I released my horror novel, I submitted The Selection and while there, I figured I’d give my new book a shot knowing I’d get rejected and would have to wait another thirty days.

Two days later, a full week after the book’s release, I got the email from BookBub accepting my submission and that it would run my .99 deal on August 5th if I wanted it. Umm…YES! I paid the bill, about $350, and geared up for the email blast.

My novel had a ton of things going against it for a successful BookBub promo. It was a new novel by a new author with very little social media presence. It was a stand alone book with no series to back it up. It was exclusive to Amazon. It only had (and as I write this still does) two reviews. I did nothing else to promote the book other than a couple low cost AMS ads and a low budget BookBub ad (which is waaaay different than their Featured Deal). I did add another book on pre-order so potential readers had more to try from me and to know I wasn’t a one trick pony.

The morning of the 5th came and the email blast went live. I was nervous and worried I wouldn’t get any downloads. I knew how many I needed to sell to cover the ad cost and waited anxiously for the numbers. I’d been watching other authors on kBoards share their BookBub success and hoped I’d follow suit.

One the first day, I sold a grand total of 286 copies, well short of my goal and a bit discouraging. It was the single biggest selling day ever for me, but I knew then I wasn’t going to cover the ad cost. That day, as the numbers rolled in, I went through a series of emotions, mostly rethinking my ability to write and if maybe I ought to toss it all and give up. So far, I’ve not made back the cost of producing a book, ads, or anything. At the end of that day, I was bummed but decided to carry on because I feel I can write compelling stories that others enjoy. My time will come.

youtuber-2838945_1280So day two came and went and I sold a total of 42 copies. So far today, day three, I’ve sold 3 copies. I’ve also started to see a rise in Kindle Unlimited page reads which will help. There have been 4 pre-orders of the other book I put up just before the promo.

So what’s my take away? After the initial shock of watching sales come in slowly and talking myself off the ledge, I’m viewing this as an extremely positive experience.

To land a BookBub Featured Deal on the first try with a new book and new pen name was amazing. What better way to introduce that name to readers than the best promo service around? I expect this will set up my name for quite a while and give it the foundation it needs for future success.

Promoting a horror novel on a Sunday might not have been the best day. Don’t get me wrong, when BookBub says we wanna share your book, you jump at the chance. I’ve tried other services and none have the return they have.

I knew going into it that a stand alone book stood less of a chance to recoup ad costs and in my case, that has proven correct. If it were the first in a series, the read through to the other books would’ve helped tremendously.

For those that wanted to know, there ya go.

Oh, on the bright side, my novel did rise to number one in two of its three categories, earning the coveted orange Best Seller stripe and in one category, I was beating out Stephen King!

Onward and upward friends!

 

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Seeking a Genre

I’ve had a difficult time lately trying to figure out what kind of writer I am. Do I write horror? Am I a scifi writer? What about fantasy? Does it even freaking matter?

I’m not sure what’s prompting me to pigeon-hole myself to a particular genre or not, however maybe it’s best if I gravitate toward something. The phrase “Jack of all trades and master of none” keeps coming back to me.

Of all three genres, I think the one that I most identify with is horror. It’s what I’ve read the most, watched the most, and what interests me the most.

I don’t feel I have the credentials to call myself a scifi or even a fantasy writer, though my background in medieval history does give me a foundation for the kind of fantasy I enjoy. I’ve not read many of the scifi classics. I have tried to navigate my way through some of the mainstays of the genre to have a working knowledge of what’s been done before and the major players in the field. Still, it doesn’t feel like I’ve “paid my dues” and learned enough about previous authors to jump into their genre. Does watching a lot of scifi shows count? I don’t know. Maybe? Do I have to have those works read in order to write my own stories?

thinker-1294493_1280I imagine purists would scoff at the idea of someone with a basic knowledge of science fiction calling themselves a scifi writer. I kinda agree. Start throwing questions at me about Heinlein or Asimov, I might give you a blank stare and change the subject.

Same goes for fantasy. I know a few pillars of the genre, but I’ve not read many of them. My first real introduction to fantasy was through Robert Jordan and I know there were many before him like Tolkien, Terry Brooks, Terry Pratchett and more. I love fantasy for the idealized medieval worlds they tend to portray (and yes, I’m aware of the Euro-centric bent of most fantasy) though I’ve not read extensively in the genre. Do I have to in order to call myself a fantasy writer?

When it comes to horror, I do have a greater background through reading and movies than the other two genres I gravitate toward. King, Barker, Jackson, Oates, Ramsey Campbell, and countless other authors have all been my go-to authors when I want something to read. I love the dark themes and ability of authors to scare the crap out of me. I feel much more confident calling myself a horror writer though to date, I’ve not written much more than several flash fiction and short stories in the genre.

So why question all of this? What’s the point?

skull-3026666_1920As I continue to grow my readership and reach out to new readers, I don’t want to confuse them. I love using elements from all three genres in my writing. One day I feel more like writing fantasy, while another I want dark, scary horror. I don’t want to be forced into a genre I’m not entirely 100% all in on (or at least don’t feel like I belong because of a lack of rudimentary knowledge of the field.) Yet, readers and especially other authors want to know “what do you write?” Damn good stories? I mean, that’s how I want to answer.

Lately I’ve come to use the term “Speculative Fiction Author” to describe what I write. It’s a term not without its drawbacks and controversy, though for the most part, it encompasses all that I enjoy writing. It allows me the freedom to flow between genres without feeling stuck or unable to try something else. It’s like when King wrote the Dark Tower books. He’s known as one of the most popular horror authors ever, yet he wrote a fantasy series. Of course, it sold because his name is on the cover, but in my case, I have a long way to go to establish my name. If I call myself a “Speculative Fiction Author,” readers generally understand I genre-hop and can pick and choose what stories of mine to read.

If I take a big step back, this entire discussion about genre really is all about marketing anyway. When bookstores sell books, they need to know where to put books to make it easier for customers to find what they’re looking for. When Amazon categorizes books, they get down to fine detail about the genre. It all goes back to marketing: How do we sell this book? Who is the market for this one? Have a monster in it? Good, call it horror. Is the protagonist a seventeen year-old girl? Call it young adult. It makes it easier for readers to discern what to buy and not buy. I get it.

The more I can figure out who I am as a writer, the easier it’ll be for me to market myself. If I claim “Speculative Fiction Author” as my title, then I’m open to marketing myself in all three of the genres I enjoy depending on the books I’m writing at the time. It’s not that I’m chasing the latest trends, but writing stories I enjoy and hope others will too. I don’t even know what the latest trends are! Reverse harem? Who knows!

I hope to figure this out soon. I’d like to sell a few books and begin making a profit off my work. I haven’t yet, however I have earned a few new readers in the process.

 

Behind the Forgotten Chronicles

With the conclusion of my young adult scifi series The Forgotten Chronicles, I wanted to take a moment and share the process for how it came to be.

When I wrote the first book, The Selection, I kinda hoped to write several books but I wasn’t sure how it would be received or if anyone would care. I knew the story was interesting and action-packed, but I had no idea if it would lead to anything.

The way I write longer pieces, I have a tendency to leave the ending somewhat open for another installment if I feel it deserves it and if readers ask for more. It might not be the best way to write, but as a novice with little recognition, that’s how I thought (I’ve since changed my approach, but that’s how it was when I wrote The Selection.)

THE FORGOTTEN CHRONICLESTRILOGYAfter its release, I was surprised by the reaction for The Selection. By and large, most readers enjoyed the story and were awesome about sharing that through reviews or connecting with me on social media.

It wasn’t until about a month after its release that I decided to write a follow up novel. That was also when I decided to make it a trilogy (I mean, it worked for Star Wars!) I started writing in early May of 2017 and by November, I had a fairly clean and polished story ready for release with book 2, Rise of the Forgotten. It came out in January of 2018.

Before the release of book 2, I had already started book 3.

I kinda knew how I wanted it to end and did a bit of planning to make sure The War for Truth was a satisfying conclusion to the series.

It’s been an educational journey as I went from “Hey, read my book The Selection” to a finished trilogy.

I never wanted to write a YA series. I wanted a book for my son written by me. What I found out was the story worked for others and they were eager to find out more about the world introduced in The Selection. I can’t even explain how amazing it felt knowing someone else cared about what I created.

I hope you were one of the many readers who took a chance on me. If not, no worries. Maybe one day you’ll give it a try. Until then, feel free to ask me anything about the process or how it came together. I’d love to share more with you.

Thanks!

 

Behind The Story

Not many readers know I like to hide surprises in my writing. I want to share one of those with you today.

 

My young adult scifi series “The Forgotten Chronicles” is set on an alien world similar to ours yet orbiting a red sun. I based it off of a NASA travel poster released several years ago for the planet Kepler 186f. I wanted an Earth-like world where readers were familiar enough with how it worked yet still completely alien. If you’ve read The Selection or the follow-up book Rise of the Forgotten, you know what I mean.

What hardly anyone knows is they may have read a story about this series before it was ever released. I had it hiding in plain sight.

I honestly didn’t know if The Selection would ever see publication. I enjoyed the story but still wasn’t sure if I was going to put the time and effort (and money!) into making it a novel I wanted to release. I wrote the book leaving the ending in a way that if enough readers enjoyed it, I could continue the series. As it happened, many readers loved the book and that gave me the impetus I needed to write Rise of the Forgotten. The final book in the series, The War for Truth, is due out in May (and can be pre-ordered for the ridiculously low price of .99. Go here to get it: The War for Truth)

However, one of the questions I often get asked is why are there so many boys born on the planet Anastasia? What causes this? Why does it happen?

AlmostAs an origin story mostly for myself, I wrote a short story called The Long Sleep which answers these questions. If you’ve read any of my short story collections, you may recognize it. I released it in my first ever book, (Almost) Average Anthology, back in 2016. It was the last story in the collection and gives a great explanation as to how things got to be in The Selection.

I released (Almost) Average Anthology in Jan. of 2016, well over a year before I released The Selection. The story The Long Sleep isn’t my favorite of the collection, but it most certainly belongs with my series as an origin story.

So, for fans who like to know behind the scenes info, there ya go. You can get the entire 16 story collection (Almost) Average Anthology for .99 or if you subscribe to my newsletter, you get it for FREE. Either way, I hope you enjoy the dark tales and I hope you continue to follow along with my scifi series. It’s been so much fun to write and the reader response has been amazing.


For those interested in the series, here are the links.

The Selection: ebook, paperback, audiobook.

Rise of the Forgotten: ebook, paperback.

The War for Truth: ebook (special low pre-order price)

 

Self-Doubt Sucks

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you’ll know I’ve been kinda down on myself the past few weeks. I’m not normally one to share a lot of personal info (like do you really care that I ate nothing but fruit for breakfast or how work is going?) however I did take the time to share how discouraged I’ve been with my writing.

depression-2912424_960_720Like most writers or creatives, I doubted myself and my skills. I doubted if I should even continue writing. It’s not like many people are reading it! But an amazing thing happened.

I had support.

By sharing my doubts about my craft, many others (maybe even you!) stepped in and told me to slow my roll. You encouraged me to continue what I’m doing because I do indeed have a tiniest clue as to what I’m doing. I do not suck as bad as I thought I did.

I think I go through this mentality about once a year or more. When it passes, I blissfully continue what I’m doing and spend my time writing new stories that will one day entertain and delight readers.

I’d love to make writing a full-time paying gig, but for now it’s not there yet. It may never be, but with encouragement from those brave enough to try my work and like it, I know I’ve got support from those who truly care about the next adventure I write.

It helped me so much to see how many people believed in me. I don’t like sharing my doubts because I don’t want others to see my weakness. I don’t want them to pity me. I have a hard time accepting help and encouragement, a trait I know is not the best. But sometimes, it just needs to come out.

If you’re experiencing something like this, I’m here to talk if you need it.

2017 Year in Reading

Every year in January I revisit the past year in reading and share my books with you. What follows is the list of books and magazines I read in 2017. At a quick glance, I noticed my year was dominated by indie authors (a topic I’d like to revisit in a future post).

I continued to read Daily Science Fiction and Every Day Fiction in 2017, though in all honesty, I don’t read them much anymore. With all the longer work commitments I made, I don’t write short stories. I may on occasion turn back to the short form but I haven’t written any in a while. What that means is my reading tastes have changed. I now read more novels and I think that’s due in part to what I’m writing.

I did get a subscription to Nightmare Magazine, but I’d always lose my place because as new issues were released and I’d download them to my iPad, I couldn’t tell what month they were. So..I ended up not reading as much as I wanted. I still have some catching up to do and most likely won’t renew my subscription because of how far behind I am. It’s well worth the money if you have the time to stay in top of the current issues.

Here is my 2017 reading list.

Magazines

SciFan Magazine, Issue 1

SciFan Magazine, Issue 2

SciFan Magazine, Issue 3

Nightmare Magazine, May 2017 

 

Novels/Short Stories

John Scalzi, The Human Division

Callum Wallace, The Walker

Christa Yelich-Koth, Illusion

Nicole Lutrell, Station 86

Nate Southard, Scavengers

Crystal Lake Publishing, Writers on Writing Omnibus

Joe Chianakas, Nightmares Under the Moonlight

Kevin T. Johns, The Page Turners: Blood

Harriet Darling, The Haunting of Wicker House

Stan Faryna, Francesco Augustine Bernadone

Ryan Holiday, Perennial Seller

Iain Robb Wright, Animal Kingdom

R.J. Batla, Fire Eyes Awakened

Schreyer Ink Publishing, Twilight Madhouse, Vol. 1

Bryan Caron, Year of the Songbird

D.L. Richardson, Poison In the Pond

Greg Alldredge, Lights In the Night

Hellbound Books, The Big Book of Bootleg Horror, Vol.2

Miranda Nading, Eldorado Gold

Michael Bray, Meat

Schreyer Ink Publishing, Twilight Madhouse, Vol.2

Philip K. Dick, Second Variety

Crystal Lake Publishing, Where Nightmares Come From

Derek Murphy, Guerrilla Publishing

Leland Lydecker, Necrotic City

MD Parker, The Ghosts Between

Joanne Van Leerdam, The Silver Feather

Jim Driver, How to Write a Novel the Easy Way Using the Pulp Fiction Method

A.K. Taylor, The Newbie Author’s Survival Guide

Philip K. Dick, The Crystal Crypt

 

Beta Reading

R.J. Batla, Tempus (Beta Reading)

Aaron Hamilton, To Die One Death (Beta Reading)


Have you read any of these? What did you think? What are some titles I need to add to my 2018 reading list?

PennedCon 2017 Recap

Wow.

PennedCon is a well run machine thanks to the dedication of Rick and Amy Miles and a ton of volunteers.

Oh wait, what is PennedCon you ask? It’s an annual author convention which just celebrated its fourth year. It’s an event that raises money for Action for Autism by bringing together over 160 authors and readers over two days in St. Louis, MO.

Dominated by Romance authors (I think the first year it was almost exclusively for Romance authors) it is now open for all genres. I will say, if I’d gone in with only my dark short story collections, I wouldn’t have sold much. My young adult sci-fi novel “The Selection” really helped with sales over the weekend.

PennedConSwagI got to meet readers who actually read my books beforehand! For me, that’s an amazing experience. I had one twenty-something young lady (man that makes me sound old!) bring by a bound book she had created with pictures of the covers of some of the books she read of the authors there. It wasn’t like taped together or anything, but bound with a metal spiral binding. She opened it up and there was the cover to my book “Moments of Darkness.” We talked about the book and the stories and then I signed the page for her. Just floored me!

I got to meet potential new readers and sold a fair amount of books over the two days of the convention.

They also had workshops, keynote lectures, and more. At one point, Mark Coker, the CEO of Smashwords stopped at my table and I had a nice conversation with him about his service. I have one book I used Smashwords for: (Almost) Average Anthology. I used a different service for my other two books. He asked a bunch of questions as to why I tried the other services and what I thought about them. I’m not gonna lie, it felt slightly awkward telling the CEO of such a well known company why I tried his competitors. It was all good though. Later that day he sat at my table for lunch along with several other authors and we all talked a bit more.

PennedCon does an amazing job of after-hours events for VIP ticket holders and authors. We had a pajama party on Thursday night and there was a party thrown on Friday night featuring a lip synch battle. I didn’t get in on the battle, however as the night wore on, several of the guys decided to do one last song. Somehow I got roped into the group and we did a pretty funny rendition of Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me.” And yes, there is video. Lots of them. 🙂 There was a casino night Saturday night, but my wife and I decided to leave after the signing room closed and made it home late that night.

JohnAndMyselfThough I didn’t sell a ton of books, I sold enough to cover my table fee. Beyond that, I got to catch up with a few author friends like Amy Hale, John Smith, Eric Asher, and more. Actually, my wife and I hung out with Amy and her husband for most of the after-hours events. I met new authors to me like John Hartness and Bess Sturgis and meeting potential readers ultimately made the event that much more enjoyable.

I’ve already booked a table for next year. Maybe I’ll see ya there!

 

 

The Dedicated Dead

What are you a fan of? Is there a television series, book series, comic, or something else that excites you like nothing else?

Just the other day, I was discussing this subject with a coworker of mine trying to figure out what I’m a big fan of.

I enjoy some of the suspected franchises. I’m a big fan of Star Wars. I’ve read several of the books, seen all the movies, been to midnight releases, and played some of the video games. I don’t collect memorabilia or create my own costumes though, and I couldn’t have an in-depth discussion on which sith lord is the most powerful and back it up with “facts” from the books or expanded universe.

I used to read comics. Judge Dredd, Batman, and the X-Men were my favorites. Still, I’d lose in any argument that requires more than surface knowledge of these characters. I enjoyed the comics, tv shows, and movies, but my level of interest only goes so far.

My entertainment interests are like a person called a “Jack of all trades, master of none.” I’ve got a great surface knowledge of most of pop culture, but the depth isn’t there. I have enough understanding to appreciate most new ventures, but lack the committed time to the deeper competency in the subjects.

However, through our discussion, I did come to the realization that I did have a pretty good knowledge of and committed interest in one brand or show: The Walking Dead.

I’ve watched the original show from the beginning. I remember when my wife and I eagerly awaited the first episode. I hadn’t read the comics before then (still have only read a few of them since) but the commercials for the show looked amazing. And zombies? Yeah, I was in! We’ve watched every episode since.

File_000 (4)I can tell you a lot about the characters on the show, their back story, their motives for what they do. I’m invested in them. When certain ones die, I’m crushed.

I own several pieces of merchandise from t-shirts to coffee mugs to pop figures. Last year my wife and I went on a trip to Savannah, GA and left a day at the end of our vacation to visit Senoia, GA where they film The Walking Dead. We spent an entire day in that little town, doing a guided walking tour, eating at Nic and Norms (a burger restaurant owned and ran by Norman Reedus, who plays Daryl on the show, and producer Greg Nicotero) and enjoying one of the coolest gift shops with a small Walking Dead museum inside.

So yeah, I guess I do have a pop culture franchise I’m all in on. What about you? What’s your guilty pleasure that you know way more than you should about? It’s ok, all are welcome to share here! Leave yours in the comments below and lets leave the judgement aside. I’m curious to know what else all of you enjoy.

Indie Thoughts

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always held a strong independence about myself. Sometimes to the detriment of others around me.

I recall distinctly when as a young skater punk wearing denim jackets with band patches sewn all over them (think Metallica, Anthrax, Suicidal Tendencies and more) and I had a girlfriend who had a hard time with it. She was a little embarrassed when she said “everyone’s gonna talk about you.” My reply? “Great! At least they’ll be thinking about me!” I didn’t care what they thought, just that they thought of me. Owning a small slice of space in their minds for free was awesome.

FreeNow, I didn’t go out of my way to be different, I was just being myself. If that meant denim jackets with patches, then that’s what it was. I didn’t care what anyone thought of me. I knew myself. I knew what I liked and didn’t like. I did things my way how I saw fit.

That doesn’t mean I always did the right thing. Just ask my mom or my wife about the crazy haircut I had. (If you go through my posts from August you’ll see a picture of me in a yellow shirt. That’s the haircut I clung to). I wanted to try something different and I let the style linger through my senior year in high school. Not my finest moment but then again, I did things my way. At the time I could care less what anyone thought of it. Looking at it now I can laugh, but you know, I don’t regret it. How many times do we want to try something but don’t because we let fear rule us?

My tendency to do my own thing leads me away from a lot of things too. If some book or movie or band is the newest thing, I purposely stay away from it. Call it my old punk rock spirit. Call it being non-conformist. Call it whatever, but that’s kinda my reaction to things. I still haven’t read the Harry Potter books, mostly because “everyone loved them” and my natural tendency is to steer clear of super-popular things. I’ve never watched Dr. Who because it’s expected of scifi fans. I know, it doesn’t make sense, but it is who I am.

The indie spirit, so prevalent in the music I listened to (and still do!) is alive and well within me. I’m myself. I make no apologies about it.

 

Going Full-On

I’ve written before about moments in my writing “career” where I’ve felt dejected and full of self-doubt. This is not one of those posts.

I have a strong tendency once I get past my initial doubts where I go full-on confident.

man-1902765_960_720You see, there are times when I don’t give a damn what someone else thinks. I know I will succeed. I have no doubt. I believe in myself when no one else will.

I’ve never been given anything. If I wanted it, I had to work hard for it. My family didn’t have money. I started working when i was 13 or 14 as a newspaper carrier for the Plain Dealer in Cleveland, OH. I got up every morning before the sun and delivered the daily paper all along my street.

Not having money taught me to work hard, learn from my mistakes, and suck it up. I didn’t always enjoy the jobs I had, but I dealt with it and gained strength from it. Everything I gained is because of determination.

I can’t tell you how many times my stories have been rejected (Well, actually I can. My stories have accumulated 74 rejections since 2014 with only 4 acceptances). Many for good reasons. It’s ok. I know they’re good. I know they belong somewhere. So I continue sending them out.

The thing is, I can’t let those get to me. What’s the saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure?” I feel that way about my stories. They weren’t right for some places but a perfect fit for others. I gotta find that fit.

So for those who reject my stories just know, you’re gonna be part of my success. You will push me to prove you wrong. It might not be the most healthy attitude, but it keeps me focused.