Notes from the Self-Pubbed (Issue #7)

I’m conflicted. I’m kind of tempted to just keep the omnibus at $1.99. After all, sales keep happening (albeit a very small amount of sales), so I imagine people keep reading. When I started this I had no problem giving away the first book (Dead Empire) for free, but although many thousands of people downloaded it I never received any reviews or hits to the blog or Facebook page. Upon research, I found it was likewise among others who tried the same tactic – nobody seems to know where all those copies went or whether they were ever read. Even though $1.99 isn’t free, it nets me very little money. Still, it’s something, and I seem to get regular hits to my social pages.

But of course I had to bump the price back up. If I didn’t, I’d never be eligible for another BookBub promo with the omnibus unless I wanted to straight up give it away, which as I mentioned is a loser deal. In fact, I bumped the price up to $9.99 because many moons ago I had increased each included book to $3.99 and had never adjusted the omnibus. So, now it matches as just a bit over the price of two books for three, same as before. It’s been a couple of days and sales have predictably dropped to zero, but that’s okay. We’re not having a fire sale or a going-out-of-business blowout. We’re staying the course.

And the course is looooooooonnnnnnnnnnnnggg. Like, for the rest of my life long. Like, Tolstoy long. You on board? Come on, we’ll walk it together. Won’t be so bad that way.

But how exactly did that BookBub promo go, you may be asking? And I promised I’d tell you, didn’t I? After all, this is Notes from the Self-Pubbed, so I shall dutifully and unashamedly share my trials and travails with you, my beloved and curious readers.

But first things first. HAPPY SECOND ANNIVERSARY to THIS TONE OF VOICE! YAY! Commence with the dropping of the balloons and the throwing of the confetti and the eating of cake!

 

I invited the New England Patriots to my Blog Anniversary Parade. My fans seemed to really enjoy that.

I invited the New England Patriots to my Blog Anniversary Parade. My fans seemed to really enjoy that.

 

Second, I have a blog tour on-going, so I will refrain from comment on that until it is done. It deserves its own post, so I’ll wait until it’s finished. By the way, today Grant Scotland is featured over at Hope, Dreams, Life… Love. Check me out on my good side.

But let’s take a look at those BookBub numbers. As this was a BookBub International promotion, the United States subscribers were excluded from seeing my sale. I don’t really get how they separate the two in a digital universe, but they do how they do. People visiting Amazon or B&N.com in the U.S. could still buy my book at the reduced price, they just didn’t see mention of it in their BookBub newsletters. Anyway, here are the numbers:

 

BOOKBUB INTERNATIONAL PROMOTION

COST: $261 (ZOINKS!)

ANNOUNCED SALE PROMOTION DATES: Monday, February 6th through Wednesday February 8th

VISIBILITY: One appearance on Bookbub’s International distribution newsletter and webpage on February 6th.

 

SALES:

FEB 6th:

AMAZON: 123 units @ $1.99 @ %35 royalty

FEB 7th:

AMAZON: 58 units @ $1.99 @ %35 royalty

FEB 8th: (announced end of sale date for promotion)

AMAZON: 12 units @ $1.99 @ %35 royalty

FEB 9th: (I updated blog and my own newsletter with news I would extend sale another day)

AMAZON: 16 units @ $1.99 @ %35 royalty

FEB 10th: (not technically part of the promotion, but just finishing out the week and waiting for price normalization adjustment to appear at stores)

AMAZON: 5 units @ $1.99 @ %35 royalty

While I waited for the stores to accept the fact that I had brought the price back up to $9.99, I sold 13 more copies at the reduced price from the 11th to the 13th. B&N was the culprit. They always seem to drag their feet when I tell them I want to raise a price. As long as they resisted raising it, I couldn’t tell Amazon to do the same. Amazon is very touchy about that sort of thing. Ah, these little wars these mega companies wage. Anyway, that’s 13 more units @ $1.99 @ %35 royalty – all Amazon.

So, how’d I do?

 

"You're kidding, right? I don't have time for this anymore. I'm THE PRESIDENT.... Okay. Wait. Let me see if I can get Flynn on the phone."

“You’re kidding, right? I don’t have time for this anymore. I’m THE PRESIDENT…. Okay. Wait. I know a guy who’s not doing anything. Let me see if I can get Flynn on the phone.”

 

Okay, fair enough. I’ll handle the summary this time, Your Orangeness.

Total sales:

Amazon: 227 units @ $1.99 @ %35 royalty

Kobo: Uknown

B&N: Unknown

Apple: Unknown

Return: $159

 

Soooooooo, not so great. Looks like I’m out about $100. I know Kobo and B&N and Apple have yet to report in and I won’t hear from them for another month or so (I distribute to those outlets through Smashwords and they usually report sales to Smashwords monthly or quarterly) but I very heavily doubt those platforms yielded enough sales to even bring me to break-even territory. Admittedly, Kobo is huge in Canada, so that might not be nothing. Regardless…. I won’t lie. I’m pretty disappointed. BookBub was supposed to be a guaranteed positive ROI. Everywhere I checked not a single person had a bad experience.

And yet, I’m partially to blame. If I had set the price at $2.99 instead of $1.99, I would have been in Amazon’s %70 royalty bracket, which would have made all the difference in the world if I had achieved the same number of sales. At $2.99 @ %70, I would have a return of $334. About on par with what I was expecting. Again, this is assuming I would have achieved the same number of sales. No guarantee there. Also, BookBub’s international reach is far less impressive than its domestic subscriber base. But, I would have had to pay about three times as much to get a domestic feature, which they didn’t offer to me anyway.

So, am I head-in-the-oven? Am I looking wistfully at tall buildings and wondering how to get to the roof?

Nope.

I may have spent my last dollar-rich marketing bullets on BookBub and Goddessfish, but I’ve got plenty of ammo left. True, the advertising budget is depleted (for now, at least), but the word ammo is plentiful. I’ve finished both of the short stories I promised myself I’d complete this year and even revised them to a level I consider fit for submission. And I love them. They’re of a higher caliber of writing than the Grant Scotland books, but that’s because I’m aiming them for a larger audience. Also, short stories – to my mind – insist on packing more info and subtext into a tighter margin. Words are more carefully chosen and I have to be more precise than what the comparative roominess of a full-length novel allows. Finally, I need someone else to foot the bill for marketing for once, so I need to devote a little extra energy into crafting stories for specific publications.

I think. I don’t know. I haven’t submitted a story to a magazine since I was in High School, so this is all going to be new to me.

Anyway, money’s tight right now, so it’s time to turn to traditional publishing for some help. I’ll be submitting these stories to magazines/e-zines for publication and I’m sure I won’t get much (if any) money from it, but at least I’ll get exposure at no cost to yours truly. I might try BookBub again someday, since selling 227 copies of the omnibus over the course of a week is still the best performance I’ve seen from any promotion so far, but next time I’ll do it at $2.99 and hold out for a domestic distribution. That will be costly, so I won’t even attempt it until next year.

Meanwhile, I’ll try to get these stories published and let you know if I have any luck.

As for Grant Scotland… Well, if you’ve been following the series at all, then you already know he doesn’t let a little thing like lack of dough get in the way of setting the world to rights. Some friends have insisted Grant is me and I’ve resisted the comparison. After all, ALL of the characters are me. How could they not be? But, right now they’re more right than they know. I may have gotten knocked around a bit (again) but as the wise ones say “If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.”

 

 

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“If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.” – Wise Ones

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Grant Scotland Goes To Print!

At long last the day has arrived! The Adventures of Grant Scotland is confined to merely existing in the digital world no more! Now you can find actual ink and paper copies of the chronicles of Grant’s deeds of dubious merit and doubtful virtue. So, if you’ve been waiting to have your shelf decorated with these handsome volumes or know someone who would appreciate the gift (Christmas is right around the corner) then you’re in luck.

 

image

When I hold them all in my hand at the same time I can’t believe the sheer volume of word-mass I have vomited forth to date.

 

At the moment, Dead Empire and the omnibus are currently available, but books two, three and four will be ready for order in a few days. You can find options for ordering the print editions on the Amazon pages of the Kindle editions, but here are the direct links:

Spy for a Dead Empire

The Adventures of Grant Scotland: The Unlikely Spy

Are you interested in hearing about the self-publishing print process? Maybe? I’ll tell you what. I’ll refrain from getting into the details here, but I’ll do another Notes from the Self-Pubbed next week for those who are interested. Something tells me people are a little too distracted by other events to be in a good place to concentrate on the nuts and bolts of my little cottage industry just now.

I may also do a post about the election, but I don’t want to get too political here. However, there have been a few things I’ve observed after Super Tuesday that I’d like to talk a little about, but I promise it’s not anguish-filled Trump bashing. Plenty of people are doing enough of that and I’ll no doubt do some of my own over the course of the next four years, but there has been some interesting internal debates among Dems/leftists that have got me thinking.

But for tonight, I’ll just keep it short and sweet. The next few months you will witness one of the things that makes our country great – the peaceful and orderly transition of power. Celebrate and be thankful you live in a country where that is the case. The rest of the stuff we’ll keep working on.

 

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I didn’t forget my contest winner! A signed copy of The Unlikely Spy will soon find it’s way to you, Daria Liston!

Reviewing books and tipping delivery people help make America great (again)!

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Now Available: Spy for a Greedy Villain

Finally! After delays, snafus and shenanigans too copious to recount, the Kindle version of Spy for a Greedy Villain, the fourth installment in The Adventures of Grant Scotland series, is now available! So far it is only the Kindle version. A few of those aforementioned snafus hit the print production line, so the availability of the print editions that I promised for all the books has been pushed back a couple of weeks. They should be ready by mid-month.

In the meantime, download Greedy Villain to your Kindle and get reading!

 

aogs4_cover_final

 

Not sure if you’re ready to buy? Just waiting for the print edition? Well, then let me whet your appetite with a little excerpt:

 


I gave him a brief recap of my espionage activities over the past few months, which included reports on the growth and temperament of the One God followers, the coming and going of any Huthan notables and the operations of Doogan and Quinn. At last I followed up with a summary of the harbormaster investigation and finished with the discovery of a ghost in the Lower Docks.

 

“There’s no such things as ghosts, Scotland,” Solin said.

 

“I know, but I haven’t worked up a better nickname for him yet.”

 

“I’m sure you’ll think of something. I have every confidence in your ability to accomplish inane tasks of trivial importance.”

 

“Everybody has to be good at something.”

 

“And while your limited mental capabilities will no doubt be severely taxed in that endeavor, I’ll do some checking into what could make a man entirely concealed in plain sight.”

 

“You mean invisible. You can just say invisible.”

 

“Were I interested in being as lacking in attention to details as you, I could use the word invisible, but luckily for the both of us I am not. Complete invisibility is impossible. Not even the greatest Aelfan wizards were ever able to accomplish such a feat. But, there are several ways a man can remain unnoticed. Take me for instance. For the eleventh time in a row you failed to spot me before I spotted you.”

 

“How am I not surprised you’ve been keeping score? At any rate, he didn’t sneak up on me, I’m telling you I looked right through him.”

 

“Except his boots. Unless in addition to invisibility you also believe in the existence of a sentient pair of boots?”


 

 

Yes, Grant is at last reunited with his endearingly abrasive taskmaster. Hilarious hijinks ensue.

It’s only available on Amazon right now, as are all the rest except for the omnibus, because I want to stay in Kindle Select for now. I still get the occasional borrow through that program and that’s more than I get from Barnes and Noble or Apple or the others. At some point I may re-distribute the series to other markets but my experiments with doing that have been less than rewarding to this point.

In other news, I just finished my initial batch of interviews and guest blogs for my first blog tour! Goddessfish has taken all of my choicest bits of juicy word meats and flung them to the hungry denizens of the blogosphere. Feeding time is scheduled to start right after Christmas, so stay tuned and I’ll let you know what sites to visit so you can follow me around! You won’t even need night-vision goggles and a windowless van this time! It’s perfectly legal!

 

"Well, that takes the fun right out of it. Doesn't it, Precious? Yes."

“Well, that takes the fun right out of it. Doesn’t it, Precious? Yes.”

 

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That’s all for now! Please to enjoy!

Commence with the reading and the reviewing and the ordering and the tipping!

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The Cover Reveal and Other Things I Should Care More About

The talented and affable Mr. Thomas McGee of Rightly Designed has finished work on the cover for Spy for a Greedy Villain! And, now… without further ado I will reveal to you that which you have in breathless anticipation no doubt been awaiting. God, what an awful sentence. Who wrote that? Was he given permission to brutalize the English language so heinously? Actually, you probably don’t need a permission slip these days. Oh well… RAISE THE CURTAINS!

 

aogs4_cover_final

You already looked before I said “raise the curtains” didn’t you? Of course you did, you sneaky monkey.

 

You know, I really don’t get the whole “Cover Reveal” thing. I never even noticed it was a thing before I started self-publishing. What is it supposed to do? Generate buzz and excitement? Has it ever? I doubt it. I really do. I think it’s just another marketing gimmick that people do because they figure “why not?” It’s no-cost and it fills another blog post and generates a new tweet.

Well, hey. “Why not for me too” is what I always say when I’m saying things that aren’t quite true and don’t make much sense.

 

"Now you're starting to speak my language."

“Now you’re starting to speak my language.”

 

In addition to revealing the cover, I’m also revealing the release date for Greedy Villain. November 1st! Mark it on your calendar if you’d like but rest assured that I will remind you as obnoxiously and repeatedly as I can summon the strength to do so. Speaking of which – the strength summoning part, not the obnoxious part – I am planning to do a blog tour after release and have been investigating how these things work and they look HARD! You have to commit to doing at least one, but preferably several, guest posts and interviews per week over the course of four or eight or even sixteen weeks! Yikes! I can hardly stand talking about myself here as infrequently as I do. I don’t even know how I’m going to muster up the narcissistic wherewithal to launch what amounts to a dastardly coordinated surprise attack on the internet using naught but my massive ego.

Actually, when I put it like that, it sounds doable. Exhausting, but doable.

In any case, I no longer have a choice. Either I’m taking this whole enterprise seriously or I’m not. None of the lesser book promoters have yielded satisfactory results and Bookbub is still giving me the cold shoulder. The first three books haven’t collected a single new review in months. Purchasing a blog tour is the only viable way I can think of to get a few sales and a few reviews and push my name out there some more. I’ve done a little research on this and, like Bookbub, a blog tour almost guarantees you’ll get your money back, as well as pick up a few reviews. Also, they’re cheaper than I had priced them when I initially looked at them last year, so that’s good.

A friend of mine recommended I start going to fantasy/sci-fi conventions as an attendee and approach some publishers to help spread the word about the Grant Scotland franchise and also possibly pick up some extra work for e-zines and what not. It’s not a bad idea. I hadn’t really considered it, because I’m not too interested in writing for anyone else right now and I don’t want to give up rights to Grant either, so I doubt how sincere I’d be in approaching people in the industry.

Preferably, I want to attend a fantasy/sci-fi convention in a booth with printed copies of my books to sell or raffle off. It’s the self-pub way. I want to market to the consumers, not the producers. But, I also want to land a traditional publisher at some point for other projects I have in mind, so maybe getting my face in front of faces sooner rather than later might work. I don’t know. I’m having a tough enough time thinking about all the guest posts I’m going to have to write, nevermind my person-to-person pitch skills.

 

"Hi! I'm talk! Do you have a minute to Dan McClure?"

“Hi! I’m talk! Do you have a minute to Dan McClure?”

 

I know. I should have thought of all this much sooner and been busy with it after book two rather than book four, but come on. It’s me we’re talking about here. If there’s a way I can do something backwards and make it more complicated than it has to be, then you can bet your lunch money that’s the way I’m doing it. But if I was any other way would you still love me?

Don’t answer that.

 

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Finished. Let’s you and me grab some hooch and dangle.

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The Adventure Continues

Hello?

Anyone still here? Hey. Hey, you! Yes, you at the buffet table. Look, I appreciate you hanging around, but I wouldn’t eat those finger sandwiches. They’ve been sitting there since July. I don’t think they’re-

What’s that? You’ve already eaten three of them? Okay. No problem. Just have a seat. No, not there. I was thinking maybe you could sit in the port-o-potties in the parking lot. Trust me on this one. You’ll thank me later.

Okay, so… Oh, good. Some people coming in. Welcome! Anybody have the number for Poison Control? No? Okay. No problem. That’s completely cool.

How about a tow service? A REALLY discreet towing service. Yes? Good. I won’t ask how you got this… Yes, and I won’t make direct eye contact with the tower. Got it.

Well, alright! Let’s get things started! Please, everyone, have a seat. Refreshments will be made available, just not right now. And don’t mind the cobwebs. Purely for effect. Spooky, right?

 

Personally, I can never pull off spooky. I never get past "I really need to dust."

Personally, I can never pull off spooky. I never get past “I really need to dust.”

 

Anyway, thanks for coming. I really appreciate it. I know it’s been a while since I’ve hosted one of these things. Sorry for not being around this summer. Time went by crazy fast, right? How was your summer? Was it crazy like mine?

Yeah? What’s that, now? Oh, that doesn’t sound good. Should you even be telling me… Oh, you buried the hatchet with someone? Ohhhhh. I see. And then you burned the midnight oil, but not anything else… or anyone else. Good, good. Sounds like a summer to remember.

Well, my summer was… What?

Yes. Yes, you’re right. It should probably be printed on the label that a fifth of Jack Daniels won’t put out a roman candle stuffed into someone’s jeans. Like, both labels, probably.

 

"If you've consumed anywhere close to even half of this in one night, you're going to do some stupid shit. There. We warned you."

“If you’ve consumed anywhere close to even half of this in one night, you’re going to do some stupid shit. There. We warned you.”

 

Anyway, I don’t mean to cut you off, sir. If you’d like to make a guest post, then we can arrange something, but tonight I just want to do my thing and then… ummm… go do something else. Sound good? We good? Alright! Have a finger sandwich.

So, I’m back with news for you! Book Four of The Adventures of Grant Scotland is in final editing! I’ve passed it off to my beautiful and talented editor so she can correct the thousands of mistakes I’ve made before I expose them to the public. She knows how eager I am to expose myself, so she’s always great about making sure I’m covered.

What’s that? No, I don’t know if she’s single. Sir, please. I promise I’ll get done shortly and then you’ll…. Yes, karaoke starts right after this. All the more reason to let me finish, right?

So… Oh. Well, thank you for saying so. I haven’t really paid much attention to my mouth, but thank you for saying it’s pretty. That’s… Well, that’s really something.

Sorry, everyone. WordPress has started renting out my space to people who use it more frequently. They promise they’ll give it back to me full time once I start posting more regularly.

Yes, sir. Thank you for the suggestion. I will consider hosting my own karaoke night. Sounds like a good idea.

Ummm… but where was I? Oh, yes! So, Book Four is almost ready for publication. The design of the cover is currently under the deft hand of my most trusted and professional artist, so I can’t reveal it yet. However, I can tell you the title of the book will be…

Drum roll, please.

Oh. I see that I don’t have a drummer anymore… No, sir. You don’t have to…. Yes, I’m sure you were in a band in high school….

Okay, that’s not really a drum roll so much as the machine-gun evocation from Metallica’s “One.”

Yes, it’s awesome… Yes, awesome and deep… Deep like most people would never understand, you’re absolutely right. Please, stop crying.

Anyway, Book Four’s title is Spy for a Greedy Villain!

RIM-JOB

Wait. That’s… That’s supposed to be rim-shot. You meant rim-shot, right? You see, that’s only supposed to come after a joke and…

Well, that’s a fair point, sir. Perhaps I am a joke.

Wait. How did you even get a drum to make that sound? It doesn’t seem like a percussion instrument should be able to make a slurping-

Oh… Oh… No, you don’t have to show it. I’m sure you’re instructional video is wonderful. Maybe you can share it after karaoke? Okay? Honestly, I’m almost done here.

Look for Spy for a Greedy Villain (TICKLE-SLURP) to make an appearance on virtual store shelves this fall! You won’t want to miss what Grant Scotland gets up to next! And stay tuned to this blog! More delicious details and well-aged appetizers to come!

 

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Okay, we’re done. Seriously, though… Sir? You still awake? Send me the link to that video. That shit is cray-cray.

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Moving on… as we sometimes do.

That’s something my high school Algebra teacher used to say during class. He was a bit of an odd duck, but a great guy and probably a decent math teacher. I wouldn’t know. I’ve never met a mathematical formula I wasn’t allergic to in some way. But he tried his best to help me out and that was enough to earn me a weak “C” and let me get on with life and never have to do another scrap of math homework ever again, so I guess that says something good about his skills.

 

Yeah, I got a solution for X. I got it right here.

Yeah, I got your solution for “X” – RIGHT HERE!

 

But “Moving on… as we sometimes do” was a little phrase he’d use whenever he seemed to sense that he needed to move on to the next point he was trying to make instead of letting himself get bogged down. That’s more or less where I’m at with my writing now. I’ve been holding off on any further major revision work on book four while I go back and tear apart and reconstruct the “metaplot” – that’s the collection of continuing plot elements that bridge all the books. Sometime after book two came out and while I was writing book three, I had decided I wanted Grant Scotland’s adventures to revolve more or less around a major multi-volume story arc. The biggest reason for this was that I felt I couldn’t mimic the exploits of Robert Parker’s Spenser or Ian Fleming’s James Bond over an extended series in a fantasy world. Without an environment set in our modern world, I think reading about Grant solving crimes and engaging in clandestine operations would get old and silly rather quickly. I think (but I don’t know for a fact) that this is why Glen Cook stopped writing the Garrett, P.I. books. Well, his name is still on the new books, but it’s pretty obvious that ghost writers have taken over the series for the last few installments.

A fantasy world is hard enough to create out of whole cloth. To do so and then leave 90% of the cloth away from the reader’s eyes seems insane. My original idea was to have major plots typical of fantasy books unfold around Grant and have him only be tangentially involved. This would insure Grant could continue to have adventures without end and I would not have to stipulate a series finale. But in plotting it out I realized it was too much work for too little reward. Grant needs to be much closer to the epicenter of these events or the readers are going to feel like I don’t care about what’s going on, so why should they? On the other hand, Philip Marlowe can avoid getting involved in World War Two and Spenser can get away with barely acknowledging 9/11 happened, and these characters were and are as popular and readable as ever. So, why can’t Grant just float along and live his Grant life and just have a series of adventures with little to no connection between them?

 

Grant's idea for the T-Shirt design as well as his most often recommended solution to any and all of my plot problems.

Grant’s idea for the T-Shirt design as well as his most often recommended solution to any and all of my plot problems.

 

The answer I settled on is that I don’t think most fantasy readers have the patience for that. Or, more accurately, they want more from a fantasy world than just set-dressing. Secondly, the world of Spenser and Marlowe is changing and everyone who read those books knew it. Chandler and Parker didn’t have to mention it – it was already obvious to all of their readers. Unfortunately, I have no such luxury. If something changes in Grant’s world, I have to let the reader know about it or else the environment seems stagnant and dull. The real world changes, so mine should too. However, the reader is never going to see it change unless Grant is more actively involved.

So, for a while there I was not “moving on” but rather sticking in place and rebuilding the scaffolding around Grant’s adventures. However, that work is completed and I now have a new outline for world events that solves a few critical questions I had to answer for book four. I can now return to revising it with confidence.

That’s all for now. Time to get back to work.

 

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End of post! Thanks again for your continued patronage.

Go write something for someone and give someone some money, too!

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A Love Letter to Gaming

Been a little while since I last posted. I could make excuses about being too busy or concentrating on AoGS4 revisions, but I honestly just needed to take a little break from writing. I had been going strong for the better part of three years and was beginning to show the signs of burnout. At least I think they were burnout signs. Although writing is never easy, it was becoming more and more like a chore and less like a labor of love. On top of that, I was beating up on myself for not doing it faster or better. In addition, the task list on the self-publishing/marketing side just kept growing. There it sat in front of me, like a pile of dirty laundry, passive-aggressively waiting for attention and assaulting me with its guilt vapors.

 

"Oh, did you need clean socks today? Well, maybe you should have thought about that yesterday, hmmm?"

“Oh, did you need clean socks today? Well, maybe you should have thought about that yesterday, hmmm?”

 

So, I took a deep breath and just decided to let it all go and live for a little bit. I didn’t take any trips or anything like that. No aimless road voyage to a random appointment with destiny. No excursion to the top of a lonely mountain to meet a wizened mystic. No trek through the wilderness in search of peace and meaning. I decided I’d just stop trying so hard. I was still writing and revising and researching, but not as much as I had been and without pressuring myself.

Usually when I need to relax and escape from my life and recharge my batteries, I turn to computer games. Oddly enough, that didn’t happen this time.

Games have always been a part of my life. It’s hard to say exactly why they’ve been so important to me, but the easiest answer to reach for is that they engage both my strategic and creative thinking capability like no other form of stimulation I’ve found. Reading is wonderful. Drugs are nice. Booze is great.  Sex is awesome. Smoking is sublime (which is the title of a book about quitting smoking that I never read and now that I’m almost three years quit I’m not likely to – but dat title, tho!).

 

It's especially sublime when you can make it look like this, but it's easier to quit when you realize you can't.

It’s especially sublime when you can make it look like this, but it’s easier to quit when you realize you can’t.

 

But games have always been a kind of entertainment that pressed all the right buttons. In any game I’ve ever played I’ve felt a sense of familiarity. No matter if it was the first time I played, whenever I began to play I always felt I was on good ground. A safe place. Old territory where I instinctively felt I had an edge, a confidence I never truly possessed in any other aspect of life.

Board, tabletop, card, role-playing, computer – it never really mattered the specific type of game – I always felt I was at my best at play. It was a venue where conversation was never forced – there was always the game to talk about. It was a created space where creativity was encouraged because the game needs its players to play along. It was a narrative invoked by its audience and its authors and the game’s story could only unfold if it was played in good company.

For many years I played games to satisfy a need for a form of socialization and creativity I could not find anywhere else. In some ways, I still do. But recently I’ve found that sense of comfortable space is no longer as comfortable as it used to be. A game, after all, is only a game. It is temporary. The experience is simulated and takes place within a semi-defined constructed reality. This doesn’t lessen its importance as a created and creative space. I’ve just found that I’ve become dissatisfied with the finite nature of a game.

Now it sounds like I’m about to endorse massively multiplayer games, which have no definite end or winner, but that’s not the case. I have nothing against those games and have played my fair share. No, I haven’t arrived at some epiphany that condemns games because of their ephemeral nature. Rather, I have arrived at a personal realization (a more self-referential sort of epiphany, I guess) that the things I’ve most prized about playing games have been replaced by writing.

When I stopped, I sort of missed it. It wasn’t the physical act of writing so much (certainly not!) as the mental act of creating and controlling characters, plots and worlds. When I tried to play games, I wanted to be constructing the narrative. I found I was spending creative energy fighting the game’s rules and limitations to construct a narrative more to my liking.

That’s when I realized I no longer needed games as an escape. My escape has become not so much the act of writing, but in being the writer. That’s a little unclear. Let me try again. I imagine it’s because I’ve exercised my writing muscles diligently enough that they now have a heavy influence on my mind whenever my creative side is engaged, but I’m less interested now in being told a story than in telling it myself. Maybe I’ve just grown more comfortable with exercising some sort of control over my own world instead of one imagined in a game space. In one way, it’s sort of sad. I fondly remember losing hours and days in gleeful exploration of the beautifully constructed and detailed universes of Baldur’s Gate, Fallout or Mass Effect. Or spending time thinking deeply about every aspect of strategy in games like Total War, Hearts of Iron or Civilization.

 

civ5screen

“Oh, so conquering the world isn’t enough for you now? It’s like I don’t even know who you are anymore! I… I think I need to start seeing other players…”

 

In another way, it’s incredibly liberating. I feel confident now that the experience of game playing will be less satisfying than the experience of pure creativity. I had been using game playing as a reward for writing 1,000 words or revising two chapters or researching news on self-publishing and setting up promotions. Now, I’ve come to the realization that I can be just as fulfilled as I used to be by not forcing myself to stop writing when some arbitrary word limit is reached so I can capture some escapism in gaming that is no longer there. And on days when the writing is too hard, I can let myself off the hook and imagine what I want to have happen instead of what should happen. It may not help with reaching immediate goals and accomplishing tasks, but it feels more honest.

I’m at about the half-way point in the journey I had planned for myself when I started writing seriously. My goal was to get six Grant Scotland books out in five years. The series may never be as successful as I had initially hoped, but six books was my estimation of what it would take to give it the best shot I could. Not to say it will end at six books, just that I won’t let it go until then. Anyway, I’m at year three and about to get book four finished, but I think I just realized that the road is long and I’ve been trying to move along it too fast. It won’t help to overheat my engine by forcing it to run hot. So, I guess a few weeks ago I let myself coast for a bit. And when I did that, I found that instead of returning to my old ways of spending free time, the writer inside me came out. Maybe he’s not fully ready to sit in the driver’s seat, but he’s in the passenger seat, keeping me awake by telling me stories and jokes and helping with directions.

It’s going to be a long trip. Maybe longer than I had planned, but that’s okay. This writer guy seems like a good companion. I just hope he brought some snacks.

 

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That’s all for this post! I’m feeling refreshed and happy you took some time to let me tell you about it.

Know what this author-delivery man likes? Reviews and tips, that’s what!

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Want to see my author profile and my books on Amazon? Check it out!

Want to see more posts and tour the blog? Go to the Home Page!

 

 

I Only Have Everything Left To Do

All done! Finished! Fini! Mission Accomplished! Pencils Down! Le livre c’est morte! No. Wait. That’s not right. About five years worth of French classes and you’d think I would have learned one damned thing. I don’t even think I can remember how to say my own name.

Anyway. Not important. I don’t write in French. I barely write in English.

The point is that I have finished the first draft of the fourth book in the Adventures of Grant Scotland series! Huzzah! I even maybe kind of sort of know what I’ll call it, but I’m not 100% on that, so I’ll keep it to myself for now.

 

"Keep it secret. Keep it safe."

“Keep it secret. Keep it safe.”

 

But what does this mean? When will this book be released so the one or two people who mistakenly download it can immediately return it when they realize there are no pictures of boobies?

Well, I’ll spend the next two to three months revising it and then get the editing and cover art done. It would be nice to think I’ll have everything wrapped up by June 1st, but July 1st is the safer bet. And while I’m doing all this revision, I’ll also be continuing to write the short stories I’ve been working on and setting up promotions for the new book as well as the series as a whole and getting print versions ready for order. Oh, and I’ll be trying to drum up real world enthusiasm by getting space at a fantasy/sci-fi convention and raffling off some books and t-shirts. Hopefully, I can purchase a booth without having to ransom someone’s child. Again.

NOTE TO SELF: Look for less awesome kid this time. Last one was too much fun and was a killer Catan player. Couldn’t resist setting up play dates, which have been a little awkward. Maybe kidnap a brat. Wait… parents might not want him back. Hmmm…

Oh, and the map! I keep forgetting about the map. There’s a map to Grant Scotland’s world – two, actually. They are in very rough form, but more or less ready to hand over to an artist and have them make something pretty. This is more a question of having spare cash. I don’t believe maps are critical to the series, but I’d like to add them to the blog and Grant Scotland Facebook community page as just a fun add-on for fans.

When I get some fans, that is. I ordered a bunch from Amazon, but they still haven’t showed up. I did get a large shipment of desk-top, oscillating… You know what? I’m not going to do that. You deserve better.

 

"Don't make me come over there. That joke was almost a hate crime."

“Don’t make me come over there. That joke was almost a hate crime.”

 

So, let’s see. I’ve got a ton of revisions to do (seriously, the amount of trouble Grant is getting into almost requires its own encyclopedic appendix to adequately catalog) plus more writing in and out of the Grant Scotland universe plus a lot of new promotion work. I recently did a no-frills promotion of the first three books during their latest Kindle Countdown phases in March using just the Kindle Advertising Campaigns and the results were not encouraging. That cost-per-click is just too high and there’s still not much difference I can see between interest-targeting and product-targeting (although product-based yields significantly more impressions but fewer sales). At any rate, I’m going to do one more round and tweak the expenditure way down to see if I can still rack up enough impressions/sales to make it worth it. I’ll probably bring my bid down to a dime a click. If the expenditure still gets out of hand, I’ll give up on it until I see some kind of limited guarantee of performance from Amazon. Kindle borrows are increasing in frequency, and that seems related to the campaigns – so there’s that, at least.

I’ve only found less than a handful of outside promoters (E-Reader News Today, Fussy Librarian, Booktastic and perhaps Booksends – although Booksends never pays for itself, its subscriber base seems decently big from what I’ve read elsewhere) who seem to be worth the money, but I’m building up some cash (and giving their subscribers a reset phase) before using them again. Additionally, I’ve heard from everyone who has used it that Bookbub is a veritable goldmine, but I have yet to be accepted onto their newsletter.

So, no Notes From the Self-Pubbed for now or the next few months. Also, the T-shirt giveaway has been put on hold for now. Contain your disappointment! I plan on re-launching the giveaway once Book Four releases. At that point in time I plan on including a free e-copy of Dead Empire along with an entry into the T-shirt giveaway at that time. The hope there is that tying such an enticing invitation to join my mailing list into a blog tour will yield the best results in terms of picking up dedicated readers. But we’ll see.

 

"Such plan! Much idea! Very excite! Wow."

“Such plan! Much idea! Very excite! Wow.”

 

That’s all. Just a quick update. Now I must away. I’ve words to beat into complete sentences and plans to set in motion and pizzas to deliver! YIKES! Is it April already?

Don’t put things off like I do. Get those reviews out and those tips ready. 😉

 

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Notes from the Self-Pubbed (Issue #4)

Well, the holiday season is in full swing and all of us here at Grant Scotland Enterprises are full of good cheer, not to mention copious amounts of scotch! But we’re not just celebrating the annual month-long feeding frenzy of consumerism nor the yearly visit of a conspicuously overweight Aelfan man of notoriously unstable temperament and questionable judgement nor even the secret pagan rites of the Winter Solstice festival.

No!

I mean, yes. All of that, of course. But also, no!

We are chiefly celebrating – and we’re really excited about this – our first Grant Scotland T-Shirt recipient! That’s right, ladies and gents! We have a winner! A verified winner! Someone who has actually succeeded at something! Right here in our very presence! Can you believe it?

But let me back up a second, if you don’t mind. We’ll bring our lucky contestant out later so we can gaze in admiration and swoon with adoration. First things first, though. Let’s talk business.

I just recently finished my first promotion of the holiday season and I wish I could say that everything went super terrific. In fact, it was just the opposite of that. What would that be, anyway? Unexceptionally inferior? Insignificantly awful? Ordinarily bad?

Ordinarily bad sounds about right. It has a certain sad-sack tone to it.

 

What is the sound of one clown crying?

What is the sound of one clown crying?

 

Anyway, I had decided on marching my promotion efforts sequentially through each Grant Scotland novel as the holiday season progresses, so I began with Spy for a Dead Empire. I bought advertising space on two ebook advertiser’s websites and newsletters during the first two days of a Kindle Countdown Deal. For those who aren’t familiar, a Kindle Countdown deal is a week long period of price-reduction (either graduated or not) where the publisher (me, in this case) signs his book up for participation in the 90-day Kindle Select program (which means Kindle Unlimited subscribers can borrow it and I get a little bit of money from borrowed pages read) and Amazon allows some additional internal promotional options. That may be a little much to take in all at once, but essentially it’s a deal with Amazon where I publish with them exclusively for a time and in exchange they help promote my book.

So, my Countdown Deal days were from November 23rd to the 30th. I tapped Booksends to run an ad on 11/23 and Booktastic on the 24th. Concurrently, I gave Amazon a budget of $100 to run pay-per-click ads on their site (you may have heard of it) for the period of 11/23 to 12/7. Let’s see the breakdown and the results:

Countdown Deal: Discount Spy for a Dead Empire @ $0.99 from 11/23 up to 11/27 and @$1.99 from 11/27 to 11/30.

Booksends newsletter ad space for 11/23 – $25 + $10 for EReader IQ partner newsletter

Booktastik newsletter ad space for 11/24 – $10

Facebook community page promotional post boost for two days starting 11/23 – $5

Amazon pay-per-click ad campaign 11/22 – 12/7 – $0 to $100 depending on results. Actual result was $75.56

Total marketing expense: $125.56

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And lets take a look at those sales from 11/23 to 12/7:

Spy for a Dead Empire Amazon sales: 12 copies @ $0.99, 2 @ $1.99

Spy for a Troubled King sales: 0 copies @$3.99

Spy for a Wayward Daughter: 0 copies @$3.99

Spy for a Dead Empire borrowed pages read: 882

Spy for a Troubled King borrowed pages read: 271

Spy for a Wayward Daughter borrowed pages read: 1 (for real?)

Total Sales: $16

Royalties from borrowed pages read: (roughly one-half cent per page)  $5.77

Amazon pay-per-click stats:

Impressions: 104,519

Clicks: 95

Average Cost Per Click (aPCC): $0.80

Detail Page View: 103

Estimated Total Sales: (Resulting from same user clicking the ad and then buying) $7.96

Gross income (not adjusted for Amazon’s 30% cut on sales): $21.77

Net: -$103.79

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YIKES! That’s awful! And highly unsustainable. What really did me in was the pay-per-click. I definitely was too competitive on that. An $0.80 cost-per-click is ridiculous. Maybe I’ll tone that down for Troubled King’s holiday promo. We’ll see.

The sales were so dismal that I don’t feel like including the daily counts. Most happened on the first day and then the rest happened sporadically, probably mostly attributed to Amazon’s click ad. Booktastic was notably horrible. Maybe resulted in one sale. Maybe.

Well, I don’t have to guess what my financial adviser has to say about this…

 

"When I'm president, remind me to deport you. Now, show me this winner you mentioned. I only want to talk to winners."

“When I’m president, remind me to deport you. Now, show me this winner you mentioned. I only want to talk to winners.”

 

Ah, yes! To the good news! The first week of our Grant Scotland T-Shirt giveaway is completed and the winner is….

JOSH PHELAN! That’s right! Josh Phelan is a WINNER!

 

He's actually wearing a Grant Scotland T-Shirt underneath his suit.

He’s actually wearing a Grant Scotland T-Shirt underneath his suit.

 

Congratulations, Josh!

I’ll shortly be contacting Josh via my fancy-shmancy newsletter (Sign up now and don’t miss next week’s giveaway!) to get his size and address. Soon he will be receiving his short-sleeved shirt just in time for winter.

I know, I know. Someday I’ll figure out how to schedule things appropriately… but it is not this day!!!

So long everyone! Tip your driver and review a book! Alternatively, you could tip a writer and review a driver, but we’re not equipped for that here.

 

Adventures of Grant Scotland T-Shirt Giveaway!

‘Tis the season, everyone! ‘Tis the season of buying and selling, giving and taking, eating and drinking, sneezing and blessing, caroling and drinking, wrapping and decorating, arguing and drinking, throwing and dodging, weeping and drinking… and… what else? Oh yeah, drinking. But it is also the season of Grant Scotland! In fact, it is the very first season of Grant Scotland merchandise! The inaugural season. Season One – with deleted scenes and a blooper reel!

That’s right! Sweet Grant Scotland loot is now available! Feast your eyes upon the glory that is the Official Adventures of Grant Scotland T-Shirt (TM)!

 

actual_T3

Pictured sizes are 2XL and Small for reference. Other sizes include, XL, Large and Medium.

 

actual_T19

This is what I had written on the back, because when you’re wearing this thing, you’re wearing Grant Scotland.

 

“Oh sweet merriment above the firmament!” you may cry out in glee. And who could blame you?

“I am unworthy to even gaze upon such gifts of grace!” you may exclaim tearfully. And who wouldn’t think that? Except maybe not quite with such hyperbole.

“But how might I lay my unworthy hands upon such gleaming bounty, even if only to pass it on to one more worthy than myself?” you may ask on your knees and with hands upraised beseechingly. And again, who could blame you? Although, really, you’re starting to get a little weird about the whole thing.

Well, you’re in luck! Every week during the holidays (and perhaps even some weeks after the holidays) I’ll be giving these T-Shirts away FREE! Yes, FREE meaning including shipping. Not, FREE, but you have to give me thirty bucks, first. No! FREE, like for real FREE. FREE as a newly born infant! FREE as a lucky penny! FREE as that pack of gum you stole when you thought no one was watching! (People were watching, it’s just that no one cared.) FREE, I say! FREE as only a man writing with no pants on can describe it!

“What’s the catch?” you ask, suddenly cagey and on guard. And why shouldn’t you be? There’s nothing in life for free!

And you’d be right. I do require one small favor. Sign up for my mailing list. In exchange, you become a permanent entrant to every weekly giveaway I hold this season (and possibly later).

That’s it. That’s all. No money involved. I promise not to email you anything but blog updates and alerts for book releases and major promotions. That will be at most once a week. Additionally, the mailing list stays with me, obviously. Your email address goes nowhere but into my Mailchimp account.

I’ll make sure nobody gonna get it. Know why? ‘Cause we tight, yo. *FIST BUMP*

So, every week for the next… mmm… call it five or so, I guess… I’ll draw a winning email address out of a virtual hat and announce the winner and ask that person where he or she would like me to send the shirt! It’s that simple! I’ll announce the first winner around this time next week, so sign up now!

Oh. What’s a virtual hat you ask? Well, it looks a little like this:

 

actual_T17

Photo touch-up courtesy of my lovely goofball of a wife.

 

I’m reasonably certain you’d look way better in my t-shirt than I do. It’s really not that hard, as you can plainly see. You’ll draw a lot of attention. No need to thank me. And when people stop you on the street and say “I like your t-shirt,” you can reply with a wink: “Grant Scotland lives.”

Or you can smile awkwardly and look away and pretend to be interested in the cars and the buildings and the lack of anything interesting to look at while you wait for the crossing light to change. That’s pretty much what I do, because I suck at self-promotion. But it won’t be self-promotion if you do it!

But however and wherever you wear your Grant Scotland T-Shirt, you’ll be happy that you got it for FREE! So sign up now! Don’t miss your opportunity to be dressed in the next big thing in serial adventure, fantasy, mystery, action, espionage, suspense and… what else… oh yeah, drinking.

 

"Ahem. There is also a cat of plainly superior quality, breeding and temperament."

“Ahem. There is also a cat of plainly superior quality, breeding and temperament.”

 

Hope you’ll sign up! Good luck! In the meantime, don’t forget to tip your driver and review a book!