Covers & Ad Update

At the end of February 2020, having changed the covers back to the swirly house in the wood type covers, the sales rank through February slowly climbed and abruptly dipped. The high for the month was 1993, which was the highest it had been since November 7, 2019, when it hit 1912 for no obvious reason. The general trend, though, was steadily up, suggesting that yes, the older covers are more effective covers.

On March 1, I advertised Ghosts on a site called kindofbook, which was a free ad. Since I’m writing this on March 1, I can’t say whether there’s been any result, but I’ll check back in with myself in a week or so and see if there was any increase in downloads.

During February, I ran an ad on A Lonely Magic. I spent $15 on Digital Book Today, on February 18th. In the preceding week, ALM averaged 5-10 free downloads a day; on the 18th, it had 252 downloads, with 81 on the 19th and 27 on the 20th, and an average above 10 for the next week. Yesterday it was back to 8, so it’s returned to where it was, but it definitely had an impact. Sadly for me, it didn’t do anything for sales of A Precarious Magic: in the first 18 days of the month, I sold 11 copies and in the next 11 days, I sold 5. I did get one nice email from a reader, so yay for that, but no new reviews on either of the books. So it goes.

March marketing goals, I think, will be to revise the blurbs on both ALM and APM. The covers are beautiful, IMO, although my cover debacle on the Tassamara series probably proves that I don’t know what I’m doing when it comes to covers. With the books not selling at all, my next best thing to try is changing the blurbs. Well, and running more advertising, but there’s only so much money I should spend on giving away a free book when the sequel is getting no sales. (Actually, that amount of money should probably be $0. Alas.) But either way: goal for March, new blurbs.


In 2019, I redesigned almost all the covers for the Tassamara series. It was a big investment, but I thought having covers that looked like true romance covers for the books might give the books reach into the romance market. There are millions of romance readers. It is by far the biggest genre marketplace. And even though the Tassamara series has done okay, there are certainly millions of those readers who haven’t ever tried it.

I did some Facebook advertising with the new covers and found that to be slightly better than break even. The obvious thing to do would be to increase spending on Facebook ads to see whether slightly better than break even would pay off. If I invested $10,000 in Facebook ads and earned $12,000, that would be a gain of $2K. Worth doing, right? Except that it would mean giving a lot of money to Facebook and I don’t like Facebook. Investing in Facebook ads feels a lot like investing in gun manufacturers or big pharma. I get that it might be profitable, but I just can’t bring myself to do it.

So I considered investing in advertising in other places — Amazon, BookBub, other sites — but I’ve also just been watching the sales rank. After six months, it was clear that the new covers had done nothing intrinsic for the books. The sales ranks, especially on A Gift of Ghosts, which is free, have just dropped and dropped and dropped.

It made me curious. Were the old covers actually better for sales and downloads then the new covers? The only way to find out was to give it a try. So as of Feb 1, 2020, the old covers are back.

According to the listings on Author Central, until December 2018, the sales rank of Ghosts was only rarely out of the top 1000 free books on Amazon. At that time, I put it in KU which stopped it from being free. The sales rank then dropped like a rock until June 2019, when I finally managed to get it free again. The sales rank climbed back up to 500 or so by August 7, 2019, then began dropping steadily. Throughout January 2020, the sales rank of Ghosts was mostly in the 4000 – 5000 range. (I don’t know the exact date when I uploaded the files with the new covers, but it was sometime after July 21, 2019.)

I’ll recheck these numbers at the end of February. Until then, I’m not going to spend any money on advertising, because I don’t want to add another variable to the experiment.

It’s human nature to assign cause and effect values to change, but it’s important to note that the drop might have everything to do with Amazon’s algorithms and the way Amazon is changing sales rank and nothing at all to do with the covers. The experiment might not show me anything one way or another. But I’m trying it anyway.

Setting A Lonely Magic Free

This was a nice surprise this morning. Merry Christmas!

I’m experimenting with benign neglect on the release of A Precarious Magic. So far, I sold 31 copies in the first several days, from readers of my blog & possibly Facebook followers. Amazon sent out an email to my followers, which I know because I received it myself, and that caused a short spike in sales. I don’t believe that BookBub did, however, as I haven’t received an email from them. Meanwhile, I haven’t even emailed my mailing list or updated my book pages. Benign neglect = not good for book sales.

But I decided to set A Lonely Magic to be free. It’s more work than it used to be: Amazon no longer price matches and they caution you that they have discretion over their prices. Fortunately (or at least I hope fortunately), they did agree to let ALM be free and it went live as such yesterday. And this morning it hit a best-giveaway list, yay.

For my own future reference, my rationale was/is that ALM has earned $4500 in its lifetime. In the typical business model of publishing, APM would therefore earn less, because not all buyers of ALM would go on to buy APM and no one is likely to buy APM who hasn’t purchased ALM. Ergo, my expectations for APM are pretty low. (Note that there are plenty of indie authors who would be delighted to have made $4k on a title, so I don’t wish to sound ungrateful about earning what I have. It’s a lot better than zero and I definitely have earned back what I spent on it, which was in question for the first year or so.)

At any rate, expanding the readership of ALM might open the door to improved sales of APM. I figured it was worth a try and set ALM to be free for one year on B&N, Kobo, and D2D.

Of course, it’s possible that having the second book in the series would have improved sales of the first book, especially since so many readers thought the first book ended in a cliffhanger. Still, it’s impossible to control for all variables. In the past year, ALM earned under $400. I’m considering that to be the opportunity cost of giving it away: ergo, this is a $400 marketing expense for APM.

And I suppose I’ll check back in with myself next December to see how it went. I’m just posting now so that I retain this thought process & the numbers that went with it. Also, so I don’t lose that picture of ALM at the top of a best-seller list. Go, Fen, go!

The Unexpected News

Cover for Cici-and-the-Curator

So I did a thing.

It was a most unexpected thing, frankly. I started a story back in December 2016, with no idea where it was going. A girl behind the desk at a museum, two giant monster dogs, a rude guest… It was part of my quest to write 1000 fiction words a day, every day, to see if I could remind myself how to write. (At that point, I was two years in to the never-ending writing and rewriting and more rewriting of A Gift of Grace, and feeling very, very stuck.) I wrote a couple thousand words and then I set it aside, and went back to Grace.

But when November 2018 rolled around, I decided to write a NaNoWriMo project. Fifty thousand words later, I kept writing. And when I’d finished the story and found the ending, I liked it. I liked it a lot.

Cici and the Curator

A delightful interstellar adventure featuring a museum of mysterious artifacts and a magical heroine.

Accident? Self-defense? Or murder?

Cici Wainwright loves her job working at the ticket counter of the famed Guanyasar Collection, a museum of mysterious artifacts from around the galaxy. But customer service jobs always have one big drawback: the customers. When Cici’s attempt to help an unpleasant guest goes horribly wrong, she’s left trying to conceal the evidence.

Unfortunately, the evidence is alive.

Also carnivorous, poisonous, and capable of teleporting. 

Also cute. With fluffy tails. 

Cici knows she ought to vaporize the two monster dogs. After all, they ate their owner. They’re clearly dangerous. But she just doesn’t have it in her. Instead she hides them, turning her one little mistake into one big disaster. Will she survive? And more importantly, will she lose her job?

The Big News!

photo of A Gift of Grace book

The voices are driving him crazy. And he’s driving them crazy, too.

For Noah Blake, pretending to be normal is getting harder by the day. A brush with death in Iraq has left him suffering from chronic auditory hallucinations. Ignoring the voices he hears isn’t always easy, but Noah knows it’s better than the alternatives.

Yet when a mysterious redhead hands him a seemingly innocuous business card, a new voice — that of a teenage boy — becomes too insistent to deny. It wants him to go to Tassamara. It swears he’ll find help there.

It’s bad enough to have hallucinations, but doing what they say is bound to lead to disaster.
Isn’t it?

Releasing August 14th, 2018


Translations & other formats

My big accomplishment of January 2018 was finalizing an Italian translation of A Gift of Ghosts and rejecting a Portuguese translation of A Gift of Thought.

Translations are fascinating. It’s obviously difficult to proof-read a translation of a book in a language that you don’t speak, but it’s worth the effort. The Portuguese translator was highly recommended: lots of positive reviews, a five-star average.

But I suspect that people were mostly judging him on his ability to meet a deadline. The punctuation in the document was a mess: random spaces, curly quotes turned the wrong way, question marks followed by commas. The only way for me to fix some of it was to start running sections through Google Translate to see what it said.

Now Google Translate — all translation software, to be the best of my knowledge — is not terribly accurate. You definitely can’t use it to translate a book, because it’s going to wind up being a mess. Especially with pronouns and gender in the romance languages. But it was possible to notice things like “He’s going to want me to fire you,” being translated as “He’s going to want me to shoot you.” Um, that wasn’t really the meaning of “fire” that I was looking for.

Some of the missed meanings were almost funny. At one point, Dillon says, “Score,” meaning “Goal” or “Win” or even “Yay!” Definitely not meaning “Punctuate,” however, which was how the translator interpreted it.

And the farther I got into the file, the more often I noticed times where the translator just… didn’t. Translate, that is. “Snit,” “frou-frou,” “littler,” “boot camp” and a bunch of other words stayed in English. Maybe in Portuguese “snit” means “snit”… but I suspected not.

I wrote many words of explanation of problems to the translator and probably spent far too much time on the project, given how little money the translations earn, but eventually he recommended that I simply reject the translation, so I did. Someday maybe I’ll have a translation of A Gift of Thought in Portuguese but it won’t be any day soon.

Meanwhile, though, the Italian translator — Ilaria Grande, from Tuscany — was as much of a perfectionist as I am, and as attentive to details as anyone could wish. I managed to get the final files for both a print edition and the ePub edition uploaded this morning and so I’m looking forward to seeing the book posted for sale soon.

I’m also looking into audio book production again. I’ve struggled with how to do an audio book, largely because I really personally don’t like listening to audio books, which makes it hard for me to judge the quality of auditions. But I’d like to make that alternative format available for the people who prefer audio.

Unfortunately, in the news that any reader of this post actually wants — what’s happening with A Gift of Grace? — I don’t have much to report. I keep writing, I keep deleting, I write some more. I went backwards in January, not forwards, but it had to be done. Still, I didn’t go all the way back to the beginning this time, so maybe that’s progress?

Goals for 2018

I am not going to write a 2017 in review post, because from a business point of view, it would be depressing. I did a lot of amazing things in 2017, but it didn’t include much in the way of publishing.

(But I saw the Grand Canyon! Mount Rushmore! New York City! Beaches on all three coasts — Atlantic, Pacific, and over a month on the Gulf. Yeah, in a life sense, it was a very cool year. But this is the business site, so, ahem, I have to admit, I was a lousy business-person in 2017.)

My resolution for 2018 is to write more, edit less. Also probably write more, travel less.

And yes, I do plan to finish writing A Gift of Grace and publish it. I really hope it’ll be available by spring 2018. I’m also going to start writing A Precarious Balance, the sequel to A Lonely Magic.

Happy New Year!

36 Questions

The big news from the month of August is that I published a short story, 36 Questions, which is available for free on Amazon from September 1 – 3, 2017.

(I threw in the year because I was reading a blog post recently that seemed all wrong… and then I realized it was from 2008. No wonder the writer wasn’t up-to-date!)

Work on A Gift of Grace continues. In my last update, I said I expected to finish and that I thought rewrites might take a while: I didn’t actually finish but I did start rewriting (again!) and I do expect these rewrites to take a while. At the moment, it seems to have gone in a totally different direction than any other version. I think I like it, but it means replacing a lot of previously written content.

But I persist. I will finish someday.

While you wait, go grab 36 Questions. It’s short, but fun.