$1.99 for The Unlikely Spy

For a limited time only! Actually, a very limited time. Like, just for today.

I actually began the $1.99 promo on Monday with a spot on BookBub’s International Distribution newsletter. I remembered to update the Grant Scotland Facebook community page, but not the blog. I sometimes forget that although the two crowds overlap considerably, they don’t overlap completely.

Anyway, the sale was supposed to end today, but I decided to extend it for one more day because of my gaff. Sorry about that. For those who have been following my (mis)adventures in self-publishing, it should be abundantly clear by now that my sales/marketing skills leave much to be desired.

Nonetheless, I persist.

So, by around about this time tomorrow the omnibus of the first three Grant Scotland e-books, The Unlikely Spy (an e-omnibus?), will go back up to $8.99 across all markets. So don’t delay! If you still haven’t checked out this fun, exciting and humorous fantasy adventure series then now is a great time to dive in and get caught up!

And how did the BookBub promotion go, you might ask?

Welllllll… we’ll talk about that next week. I promise. For now, if you’re a New Englander like me, today is a great day to burrow under some blankets and get some reading done.

 

 

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“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” – Walt Disney

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A Sort of Roundup

I don’t usually do roundup type posts, but I have a few things to tell you about and none of them I felt I could stretch to fill an entire post, so I thought I’d rope them all together and herd them into a corral somewhere on this imaginary dude ranch I call a blog. So, giddy-up those little piggies. Do pigs giddy-up? I told you, I’m no expert at roundups.

Today is the last full day of Obama’s presidency and I hope he does something weird with it, like fill the Oval Office with testicle-shaped balloons or put glue in the First Stapler. You know, just go crazy with it. But seriously, I’ll miss the guy. I’m split about whether or not he was a great president, but he represented the USA very well with his style, grace and gravitas. Although his foreign policy left a lot to be desired and he spent most of his first term struggling with a muddied domestic message, history I think will be very kind to him based on the ACA alone. Yes, it’s a deeply troubled piece of legislation, but it’s the first of its kind and it took serious balls to get that thing passed and then defend it like it was the Alamo. Hopefully, the once impossible dream of national healthcare will remain a reality and will survive and evolve into something we can all be proud of. No matter who else in the future tries to put their name to it, it’ll always be to his credit in my mind.

Thanks, Obama.

 

obama_wave

“No problem. Be good. I’m outta here… I’m taking the jet with me, though. Trump’s got his own. He won’t mind.”

 

In other news, guess who landed a promo-spot on BookBub? ME! Yes, the most influential and successful email marketer of e-books finally selected my Grant Scotland omnibus, The Unlikely Spy, for a spot on their daily newsletter. As most of you probably know, I’ve performed several painful experiments over the past couple of years with other email marketers and came to the conclusion (along with basically every other self and traditionally published author) that BookBub is the only one truly worth it. The entrance price is steep, but everyone who has ever been featured on their newsletter has received a decent return on investment as well as a huge increase in distribution, at least for the length of the promo at any rate. How did I do it? Well, I told them the omnibus would be discounted down to a crazy cheap $1.99 for a few days and would be offered on Nook, Kobo and Apple as well as Amazon. I think that’s the killer combo they like to see.

I’ll update the blog/Facebook page/Twitter etc when the deal goes live.

I made some New Year’s resolutions. I committed myself to writing two short stories and the next installment in the Grant Scotland series by year’s end. One story is almost finished and the other is about 30-40%. The next Scotland book is all just notes for now, but there are ALOT of notes.

Oh, and I resolved to lose weight. Again. Sweet treats, this is tough! Word of advice to anyone still in their thirties – start adopting healthier eating habits than you had in your twenties. Your waistline will thank you in your forties. Your wallet, too. You’ll save a TON of money on the number of forklifts needed to move your gigantic ass around.

 

“Morning, Dan! Where would you like me to place your left buttock?”

 

And finally, the Adventures of Grant Scotland blog tour rolls on! Today, we’re being featured at T’s Stuff. Stop by and read an excerpt from Greedy Villain and a brief interview. Each blog I stop at has a little different dose of excerpts, guest posts and interview questions, so be sure to check them all out. You can find a list of all the stops here. FYI – Some sites have switched dates so you might have to hunt around a bit. You can also find updated  links to all the stops as they happen on the Grant Scotland community page.

That’s it! Are you ready for tomorrow? Are you ready for the next four years? Things are about to get real interesting, that’s for sure.

 

jurassic-park-33-hold-on-to-your-butts1

 

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“When you’re going through Hell, keep going.” – Winston Churchill

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Notes from the Self-Pubbed (Issue #6)

For the Grant Scotland franchise, the 2015 holiday promotion season wrapped up in the first week of January with a Kindle Countdown Deal for Spy for a Wayward Daughter. After I tell you how it went, I’ll do a little retrospective about last year’s efforts and my goals for 2016.

So, what was the plan for Wayward Daughter? Well, I decided to play this one pretty low-key and use a shoestring budget. The last promotion I did for Wayward Daughter was perhaps my worst ever, but the conclusion I drew was that it still hasn’t received enough reviews for the better marketing sites to consider it and it’s at an awkward place in the series. Advertising the third book in a series with the first two at full price and an omnibus already released is a tough sell. Interested people who see it and haven’t read the others are likely going to wait for the first one to go back on sale or for the omnibus to drop in price.

Consequently, I didn’t do too much to promote Wayward Daughter this time around. In fact, I probably wouldn’t have promoted it at all, except there were a couple of decent no-review requirement marketing sites I still hadn’t tried and also I had to schedule the Kindle Countdown Deal anyway. Might as well give it a little bit of a marketing boost. Finally, I’m still fiddling with Amazon’s internal ad campaigns, so this gave me an opportunity to do that, too.

Here’s the set up and the take away:

 

Set up:

From list price of $3.99:

From 1/1 to 1/5, Wayward Daughter went to $0.99

From 1/5 to 1/8, Wayward Daughter went to $1.99

ReadFREE.ly ad selected for 1/1: $0

eBookLister ad selected for 1/2: $25 (But I was never charged?)

Amazon DisplayAds campaign for 1/1 to 1/15: $100 cap with a $0.75 max bid per click. Also, I shifted the focus for this campaign to be “product-based” instead of “interest-based” which was what the others had been. This basically means that instead of firing the ad at people Amazon labels as “fantasy readers” or “mystery readers” it targets instead people who have bought titles that I specifically cite. So, I gave Amazon a list of books by authors I feel my stuff kinda-sorta resembles – Glen Cook, George RR Martin, Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch, Jim Butcher… You know, the usual suspects.

 

usual_suspects

It would have been really cool if I had photoshopped in the faces of the authors, but there’s no way you’re getting that kind of effort out of me.

 

Total ad expenditure: $0 (plus $22.82 in resultant Amazon click-charges from ad period)

 

Results:

Sales for 1/1: 1 unit of Wayward Daughter @ $0.99

Sales for 1/2: 1 unit of Wayward Daughter @ $0.99, 1 unit of Troubled King @ $3.99, 2 units of Dead Empire @ $3.99

Sales for 1/3: 1 unit of Dead Empire @ $3.99

Sales for 1/4: 1 unit for Wayward Daughter @ $0.99

Sales for 1/9: 1 unit of Dead Empire @ $3.99

Kindle Unlimited Page Borrows during promotion period: Dead Empire (413), Troubled King (446), Wayward Daughter (43)

Amazon DisplayAds pay-per-click stats:

Impressions: 59,740

Clicks: 44

Average Cost Per Click (aCPC): $0.52

Detail Page View: 49

Estimated Total Sales: (Resulting from same user clicking the ad and then buying) $0

 

Campaign Totals:

Expense: $22.82

Sales: $23 plus about $4.00 in borrowed page reads = $27

Net: About $4.00

 

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Well, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. There never was much hope for… wait… what’s this? Is this a PROFIT I see before me? But what do I do with it? This can’t be right. I can’t possibly actually make money – this ruins my entire “struggling author” street cred!

But my rep is probably still intact. Truth be told, my real numbers aren’t exactly that rosy. First of all, my royalties are 70% of my sales, so that knocks actual profit down to an overall minus. Second… I may have accidentally charged my wife’s checking account instead of my own when paying for eBookLister, which would be why I can’t find a record of it anywhere. Sorry, honey! Hehehe… ermmm… Thanks for the kind holiday gift, I guess?

 

SMH

SMH

 

Regardless, I’m pleased with the progress here. I feel like I may be starting to home in on some generally effective marketing strategies. While my self-publishing business lost money last year overall, I managed to lose less and less with each promotion. I’m going to go ahead and call that a positive direction.

I re-enrolled all three books into the Kindle Unlimited program, but I probably won’t spend any money or time advertising them over the next few months. Instead, I plan to do a cross-platform promotion for the omnibus edition shortly before or during the launch of Book Four, which is coming soon. I promise. Some other plans for marketing in 2016 include some blog tours, some press initiatives and – finally – actual printed copies. I’ve decided it’s time to stop hoping a publisher will be interested in picking up my print rights and just commit to making Grant Scotland an all-self-published venture from top to bottom. So, look for that to happen some time in the later half of the year.

As far as writing plans for the New Year, obviously Book Four takes precedence. I’ve committed myself to getting it out the door by June 1st, but hopefully it’ll be sooner than that. I’ve also started writing some more MWO fan fiction, which I’ll be adding to the site soon and I also want to at least start on a draft of a stand-alone military sci-fi tale that may be a short story or may be a novel. Not sure yet. It’s just text-pad notes and images in my head at this point, but I’ll get something down soon.

That’s all for now! Thanks for checking in. Not sure when the next issue of Notes will be, but I promise I’ll keep the blog active with other fun stuff.

Speaking of which – this week’s winner of the Grant Scotland T-Shirt giveaway is… Tara Chase! Congrats, Tara! I’ll be sending out the newsletter soon, so be sure to reply with size preference and location.

Until next time, don’t forget:

 

buffalo_bill1

“It orders the pizza and tips the driver. It does this when it’s told.”

 

 

Closing the book on 2015

So, 2015 is almost in the books. I won’t lie to you. It’s been a year of trials and tribulations. My writing career hasn’t yielded the results I had hoped for, BUT results have been yielded. That’s a terrible sentence. What an awful arrangement of words. It’s hardly English is it? No, don’t look at it. Let’s just keep going and hope it stays behind us. Don’t look back.

And that’s really the lesson I’m carrying forward into 2016. “Don’t look back.”

But first, let me take a look back. What? Did you think there wasn’t going to be some self-reflection in a post like this? Bear with me for a bit.

 

Nobody does a cuter eye roll than Tina Fey. Nobody.

Nobody does a cuter eye roll than Tina Fey. Nobody.

 

When I first decided back in 2013 to self-publish the Grant Scotland series, I knew only enough about the publishing industry to know I didn’t want to go the traditional publishing route and that I had discovered a large amount of inspiration, creative energy and determination that I had never before possessed. Deep down, I knew instant success was not in the immediate future, but I was certain that I no longer had any choice about what to do with the time left to me.

Gads, that sounds fatalistic. I don’t mean it like that. It’s just that I realized I was at that point in life where there are debatably (yes, that’s a word, WordPress – stop squiggling at me) more days behind me than in front. Nothing that I had done up until then had been especially noteworthy, but at the same time I don’t consider any of my time ill spent. Far from it. I’ve worked in bookstores (something I recommend to everyone who loves books – such a great job) and I’ve designed computer games (laborious, but incredibly fun) and I’ve even tried to be a serious-minded career-driven professional programmer – complete with benefits and a retirement plan and everything! On top of that I’ve had friendships and relationships with people both within and without my comfort zone. Every one of them has contributed to my continued growth as a human being and as a writer.

No, I don’t dismiss my past spent not writing. I’m just especially driven now that I’ve finally figured out my time is best spent engaged in trying to be a successful author. I don’t think I was ever the natural born writer. I tried to keep writing after I finished college, but I found I had nothing to say. I guess I just needed to get some dirt under my fingernails. But now I find that saying things in prose is the most important thing I can do with my time.

And I love that. It’s rewarding in and of itself, but I freely admit it is not at this moment monetarily rewarding. 2013 and 2014 were years spent writing and spending money to support my jump-start into self-publishing. When Wayward Daughter was released and the omnibus put together and made available earlier this year, I saw little to no interest picking up anywhere. I had three books in a fantasy series out and no one seemed to notice. On top of that, I couldn’t seem to find my target audience. It isn’t that they were reading it and hating it – I just couldn’t seem to put the book in their hands. Most of my readers that don’t have at least some connection to me are (according to Goodreads anyway) women who read fantasy only because they either like Gabaldon or Martin or are looking for the next vampire sex novel. And I’m none of those things. I’m more in line with Glen Cook or Joe Abercrombie – speaking strictly content and narrative style, of course.

So, this year I finally faced what I had known from the start was waiting for me. With my meager savings depleted and my former careers well behind me, I took on a part-time job delivering pizzas and started severely curtailing my advertising budget as well as all other expenditures. I have entered (cue dramatic pause in whatever music you may be listening to) the Dark Days. These are (and will continue to be for a while yet, I’m certain) the times that will sorely test my mettle and determination as a writer. Can I keep it going in the face of profound reader apathy and surrounded by an increasingly large and somewhat suspect ancillary industry of self-publisher services? Will the car stay healthy enough to make delivery driving profitable enough to stay ahead of the bills? Will I ever appease The Donald? Stay tuned!

But seriously, it’s not as bad as all that. I’m just in my December mood. This month has always been tough for me. Something about it being so damn dark out all the time, I guess. I secretly don’t mind at all how people and businesses spend every day from Thanksgiving to Christmas in an orgy of forced glee. It actually helps. And all the lights are nice, too.

Anyway, the pizza delivery gig is actually not bad at all. Much more lucrative than I had imagined. At around 25 hours a week, I can support my relatively humble lifestyle and still keep writing. Also, I’m surrounded by supportive friends and family and I count myself incredibly lucky to have them. It helps me keep going. Although my productivity has certainly suffered from those halcyon days of yore when I was easily hitting 1K words a day writing Wayward Daughter, I’ve still been able to keep at it. Additionally, I’ve been writing this blog and have been active on Twitter and on blogs and forums related to the self-publishing industry. So, those are undeniably good things, no matter the Trump glare I get from the disappointing results of seemingly every promotion I run.

 

"Why do I even bother with you?"

“Why do I even bother with you?”

 

Why indeed? Because without the hard edge of the relentless definition of success that capitalism lays before our feet, which Trump embodies more perfectly than anyone I know, I would get soft. And I’m plenty soft enough. I don’t need to be softer. Please don’t take that as any sort of endorsement of his politics, because it definitely is not.

Well, that’s the wrap up. The year has been a struggle, but progress is being made on all fronts. Slow progress, but it’s both honest and interesting – two qualities I admire a great deal and are rarely found together. 😉

Happy New Year, everyone! Next week I’ll get back to giving away T-Shirts and telling you about how the Troubled King promo went and possibly making some New Year’s resolutions. I guess I should’ve done that last thing here, but I’m no slave to the Julian calendar. Fight the power!

Or not. Or maybe just not today. Whenever you get around to it. No biggee. In the meantime – eat, drink, review, tip!

P.S. And don’t forget to add yourself to the mailing list for the next T-Shirt draw!

 

The Unlikely Spy

The first Grant Scotland omnibus is finished and available for purchase! You can grab it HERE or HERE or get it on Nook/Kobo/Apple in a few days. It includes the first three books of the Adventures of Grant Scotland, lovingly bound in this collector’s edition cyber-volume. Order now and we’ll also include this attractive virtual slipcase!

 

Made with the finest virtual materials and rarest digital ingredients.

Made with the finest virtual materials and rarest digital ingredients.

 

Thank you to everyone who participated in the contest to come up with a name for this collection. I received many responses, both on the community page and through email. Some were creative, some were funny and some were unabashedly ridiculous. Although I didn’t find this exact title among the submitted entries, I do have to credit one person with directly contributing to the final decision. So, congratulations to Daria Liston, whose several recommendations revolved around Grant’s profession as a spy and his seeming perpetual state of being unready for the role of protagonist that we keep demanding of him. I think she really captured the essence of our hero in these first three books.

So, I included a special thank you to her in the acknowledgements and will be sending a signed print copy as soon as those become available. When will that be? Hard to say, but rest assured that it will happen. I will contact Daria for shipping info as soon as it does.

I decided on the title  “The Unlikely Spy” because it spoke to one of the central themes I wanted to explore in this series. The idea of “the unlikely hero” is a common one in genre fiction, but all too often I find that even though I am promised an unlikely hero, the protagonist is generally quite capable and even extraordinary in one or two ways. I remember growing up this was everywhere in fantasy fiction. The books that stand out in my mind most are the Dragonlance Chronicles. We were told on the back of the first book and at several times throughout the narrative how “unlikely” these heroes were, but in fact they were anything but. Even when we first meet them they are already accomplished at their various talents, widely traveled and almost always more experienced and gifted than most everyone else in the world. Is it any wonder they were drafted by one god to fight another?

So, while I loved those books, I was always a little put off by the constant assurances from the writers that these people were just like me. No way. Not in one single way. In fact, the only thing I could point to that made them seem unlikely is the fact that they were outsiders. Well, I guess they would be, right? If such a heavily armed troop of death dealers were ever to settle down anywhere, they would instantly become the de facto ruling party of that area. Then you’d have to admit that they were not in fact unlikely heroes, but instead exactly the right guys for the job. Who is going to investigate these weird lizard people that keep eating our children? Well, I guess it’s probably going to be that Tanis fellow and the Majere boys. After all, they live here. This effects them, too. And, seriously, what am I supposed to do? Go into the swamp and start poking seven foot tall lizard men in the nose with my rake?

 

'spose I could try baking him a pie. He does look hungry.

‘spose I could try baking him a pie. He does look hungry.

 

So, when I set out to write about Grant, I wanted a hero that wasn’t just paying lip service to being unlikely. I wanted a well and truly unlikely hero. I not only wanted the ordinary man in the extraordinary circumstance, I wanted my hero to have very big, very obvious faults and weaknesses that would battle him just as hard as any enemy. I wanted the reader to be genuinely unsure Grant was going to be up to the task of solving difficult situations. Added to that, I also wanted the reader to be protective of Grant and sympathetic to him because they recognize he’s battling with common everyday internal and external pressures, just like us. In short, I wanted people to worry a little bit about him, to see him attempting something heroic and think “hey, wait, if he’s just like me, there’s no friggin way he’s going to pull this off.”

You see, I’m never all that interested in how a book ends. I’m really not. I always assume that the end of the book works out just the way the author intended. How could it not? I’m more interested in tracking how he gets his protagonist/s through the trials. This was one of the things that always amazed me about Robert Parker. Spenser was incredibly tough – the obvious hero – and could easily shoot his way out of most situations, but he was also a deeply sensitive man constantly worrying about his antiquated code of ethics; a modern knight errant. So, while he could just kill everyone who bothers him, he very rarely allows himself to do it. The drama from most of the Spenser novels comes from the hero finding a way to solve his problems and lead an enriching life without always reaching for the gun. Obviously, he ends up reaching for the gun quite a bit, but that’s because a good book needs its doses of action and Parker probably knew he couldn’t let his series get too cerebral. Anyway, the point is that most of the plot of each book revolves around Spenser making life difficult for himself by holding on to his code.

I took this idea and turned it on its ear for Grant. Instead of having a code to wrestle with, he makes life difficult for himself by holding on to his own trauma. He is haunted and bedeviled and when the rapidly changing world brushes his shoulder as it goes by, he gets spun around a few times and falls down.

But then he gets back up. After all, he’s just like us.