Calling all Beta Readers!

Greetings!

I just set up my first author event for Saving Ebenezer. It’s getting real! This event isa pre-launch get-togetherfor a small group of people who are close to me (residing in San Diego) or decision makers in the Tierrasanta community (the neighborhood where I live). I’ll be sure to post pictures on my blog and send out a link to everyone. So far, I’m planning three total author events this fall. I hope many of you get a chance to attend one.

Speaking of Saving Ebenezer, I’m currently taking applications for test readers, otherwise known as beta readers. Here’s a short list of the test reading process so you can decide if you’re interested:

  1. I send you an electronic copy of the book. You can upload it into any e-reader you want (Nook, Kindle, iBooks, Kobo, etc.). I plan to get those sent out in the first week of September.
  2. You read the book by the end of September (it’s a novella, so plenty of time!).
  3. Please inform me of any glaring issues in the book, like misspellings, bad grammar, missing punctuation…things like that.
  4. Before the book’s publication date, you submit a review to Saving Ebenezer’s Amazon page (link will also be in the back of the book). This is the most crucial aspect of this process. People need to see truthful reviews of the book before they decide to buy. Your review will be THE key component to that purchase decision.
  5. After you’ve submitted your review on Amazon.com, your part is complete! Let me know via email and I’ll send you a signed copy of the paperback version of the book as my thanks.

Think you might be up for it? I’d love to have you on board! Simply reply by email (dan[at]navychristian.org)  and let me know you’re interested in being a test reader.

Fussy Librarian Ad Campaign

This is a special post for other small-time writers like me who are trying to figure out ad campaigns. In this post, I focus on Fussy Librarian with a note on Bookbub. 

I’m intrigued by the name Fussy Librarian alone, so of course I wanted to test the service. Since Saving Ebenezer isn’t ready yet, I ran my test case on The Dirty Campaign, which I use as a sort of reader magnet, in that I keep it in KDP Select so that I can make it free periodically.

First of all, Fussy Librarian is really easy to use. Since it’s a smaller-scale service, setup is easy and you’ll likely find your book one of only a few books being recommended on a particular day. It still goes out to several thousand potential readers, so don’t let the smallness affect your decision-making. Fussy Librarian charged me $22 for the freebie ad, which looked like this:

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When I ran this test campaign on the 25th of June, I was on business travel to Belgium, so I got home from work just as my target audience was getting started on their day. When I saw 150 downloads, I freaked out. I was already calling Fussy a success. I went to dinner and came back and it was at around 450, and I nearly started crying. After waking up in the morning (when America was headed to bed), I crested 716 downloads and #2 in the Christian Suspense category on Amazon. Fussy Librarian did so much more than I planned for it to do.

I was able to track the effects of Fussy Librarian over the few days after the ad. The following day, 138 people downloaded the novelette. That was almost certainly due to being in the top five in its category since no advertising went out that day. Some downloads might have been folks going back to the previous day’s Fussy Librarian ad, but I suspect most were from being #2 on the list. These additional downloads helped The Dirty Campaignto make it to #1 in its category on the 26thof June.

It also led directly to my first review on Amazon (a 4-star) and an additional ranking on Goodreads. I also got 106 total KNEP pages read, so that was nice as well.

On the 27th, an additional 42 people downloaded my story. The novelette had slipped outside the top 5 by now, but it was still nice. My BookBub ad started showing this day.

Turns out that BookBub is harder to figure out than I’d first thought. Fussy was easy because I was the only email out that day. Not so with Bookbub.

Despite editing the ad during the time it was alive, and allowing for a higher bid (I went above the average bid in the evening of the first day), BookBub was a disappointment. I only had 974 impressions resulting in 0 clicks. This means that BB was not responsible for any of the 920 The Dirty Campaign downloads.

I didn’t even get enough impressions to be charged for my ad (I allowed for up to $22 to match what I did with The Fussy Librarian). Guess that’s nice, but I was willing to bid enough for each click that it would have quickly spent my money if they’d shown it more.

At first, I was upset. It shouldn’t be this hard when I’m offering to throw money at the problem. Then, after thinking it through, I realized that this is a learning opportunity. I’m trying to build a future in writing. To do so, I need to learn the ins and outs of marketing, which just happened to be easier this time with Fussy Librarian.

Having said all of that, the Fussy Librarian ad for the day it wasn’t free, I got zero purchases (Ad for a non-freebie cost $14). So what that means for me is that Fussy Librarian was really, really good as a freebie, but not as good for a non-discount/free day. I’ll test it again when my next KDP Select day opens up for The Dirty Campaign.

In contrast, while I still didn’t get in front of nearly as many people with my Bookbub ad (again, matching the $14 ad cost for The Fussy Librarian) on a non-freebie day, I did get one download. It’s all part of the learning process!

Of Sailboats and the Hearts of Men

img_20190725_063650.jpgOur family vacationed in Oceanside, California this week. We stayed at a very nice hotel right on Oceanside harbor and went to sleep every night after a gorgeous sunset and woke the next morning with sounds of the surf.

While waiting for my family to wake up one morning, I walked around the marina. Boats…lots and lots of boats.

On this particular morning, I saw a beautiful sailing boat a few rows away from me and started walking in her direction. She drew me in with her varnished wood on her clean, white decks, her blue canvas covering her boom and sails, and her black hull.

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When I got closer, I noticed that she looked good from far away, but closer inspection revealed a new truth. That truth was that the varnish was peeling away in many places, the blue that seemed so clear far away had fading where the sun drenched it, and the pristine deck was anything but.

It was then that I Samuel 16:7 struck me. “…For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

And I stopped walking. I’ve been a fool, trying to keep up appearances so people wouldn’t see how fragile I am, while God sees the stripped varnish and sun-drenched stains. His magnified eye can see all of me. All that I’m hoping you won’t see.

IMG_20190725_194435I’ve wondered, as someone trying to become a known author, if you’ll ever know the whole me…the one with the emotional scars, the horrible sins, the ruins of past relationships. I wonder if knowing that will make you not want to know me.

Seeing that sailboat, and seeing it again close up, made me realize that it’s not you I should be worried about. I’ve been hoping, all this time, that my far away appearance might just fool God. That maybe he won’t get close enough to me to see my heart, my past, my scars…all of it. And I’m humbled.

He has seen it for eternity, yet he has loved me and loves me still. God is good.

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My Vision for Saving Ebenezer

front-2I’m very excited about my upcoming release, called Saving Ebenezer: The Continuing Saga of a man named Scrooge. It is a novella about the aftermath of Ebenezer Scrooge’s change from a miser to a philanthropist and what that means for his faith.

Today I want to share my vision for the book, but first, let me show you the first line:

“Tiny Tim was dead, to begin with…”

For those who have read A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, you’ll recognize that line immediately. “Jacob Marley was dead: to begin with,” is how Dickens begins his classic. I had hoped to capture the setting as instantaneously as Dickens did, and I believe I accomplished that mission with my reworked first line.

But why? Why start with Tiny Tim? Because, at the end of A Christmas Carol, Dickens tells us that Scrooge became like a father to him, and that he actually saved him. So, I start seven years later with a tragedy…not due to Tim’s disease, but due to a simple bout of pneumonia. That’s where we get to my vision.

Vision point 1: Life is full of tragedies. How we respond to them is largely a factor of our internal faith, fortitude, and relationships with people who can support us through our pain. Scrooge has built his relationships based on his philanthropy, and as such, doesn’t know who to turn to when life deals him a crushing blow.

Vision point 2: Our faith defines us, not our philanthropy. This is not true in the secular world as much, but as a Christian, I wholeheartedly believe this concerning eternal matters. Do I believe in Jesus as my savior? Do I rely on him for my soul’s security? Am I, to put it in Christian-ese, born again? Scrooge cannot answer yes to any of those questions. It’s something that I want to make any reader ask themselves.

Vision point 3: Gotta get to the point. And that point is the gospel message. What started as a great plot idea became an opportunity to witness on God’s behalf, so I took it. My hope for you is that you’ll read the book, realize that you know a couple of people who might also enjoy a good book that will share the gospel message with them, and send them a copy or give them yours.

I have several other mini-vision points and a couple of goals for the book, but these are my primaries. If I succeed with these three points, I count the book’s story line a success.

Your feedback means a lot to me. Do my vision points make sense to you? Do they seem to match what God would want? Give me your thoughts! Write me at dan[at]navychristian.org and let me know what you think!

To get information about Saving Ebenezer, including release dates and tour schedule, sign up HERE for my newsletter.

Too Early to think about Christmas?

Most people start their planning for Christmas around October. I started planning Christmas 2019 in January.

January?

Yes, January.

Why?

Because I’m releasing a very special book this year. It’s unlike anything I’ve written before.

What’s it about?

You’ve heard of Ebenezer Scrooge, haven’t you? Well, of course you have! This year, get ready for the surprise of your life, because Ebenezer Scrooge is back to his old ways in my novella called Saving Ebenezer: The Continuing Saga of a man named Scrooge.

In Charles Dickens’s 1843 A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by three ghosts (Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas yet to Come). They teach him that his greed will become his undoing if he doesn’t change.

So he changes.

And then what happens?

That is where my book picks up the story. It’s 1850, seven years after the ghosts changed Ebenezer’s life. The Ashley Down orphanage, overseen and prayed for by George Muller, opened the year before. Charles Spurgeon is saved in April of this year. William Boothe is a lay preacher in London and as yet to think of the Salvation Army, the worldwide organization he would found in 1865 and officially name in 1878.

And Tiny Tim is dead.

This news will shake Ebenezer to his core. Suddenly, all of the charity, the change of heart, and the wisdom of years in finance mean very little to Scrooge. He has lost a son…his only son. The pain is unbearable! Is there hope?

“Bah…Humbug!” says Scrooge.

Join me on this adventure into the life of a man whose story Dickens did not finish, but God most certainly will. The book will be available for preorder in September and will officially go on sale in October, in time to order your copy for Christmas, and an extra copy too! I promise…the book will make a great gift for your friends and loved ones.

Most importantly, it will be a tool for you to use this Christmas to tell your loved ones about Jesus Christ.

Together, in the spirit of Christmas, we shall read the rest of the story. To get updates about this book directly to your inbox, click HERE.

More to follow!

American Easter

IMG_8908This Easter holiday, I’m in a country that doesn’t celebrate the Risen Christ. In fact, they don’t celebrate Easter at all. There are no church slogans posted on billboards, no Easter bunny’s hopping on plastic signs, and no eggs to buy in stores. No peeps either, but I’m ok with that.

There is no Easter here.

That’s to be expected when only 4% of the population ascribes to a form of Christianity. That includes Catholics, Reformed, non-denominational, etc. The whole kit and caboodle. Only 600,000 protestants and 300,000 Roman Catholics out of a total population of 23.5 million people.

IMG_8913I should back up a little. Having visited a church in Taipei, I know for a fact that 600,000 Protestants here celebrate Easter. I’m sure that the 300,000 Roman Catholics celebrate as well, however limited its form in this culture. What I mean to say is that the holiday does not permeate culture like it does in America.

On the other hand, there is something refreshing about not being inundated with what Easter is in America. The fact that many churches start the week with children waving palm branches and muddling through a few songs on Palm Sunday annoys me, frankly. And that it culminates often with Easter egg hunts on Saturday morning or after services on Sunday is just shy of sacrilegious.

Cue the defensive responses from American Christians…

“We are just raising up the children the way they ought to go…”

“We are trying to bring more people to church on Easter so we can present the gospel…”

“We have to engage our culture…”

No. You only haveto get the gospel message out. If you’re doing that differently on Easter Sunday than you do on any other Sunday, you’re doing it wrong in one of those situations, probably both.

Alas, there is none of that in Taiwan, or at least not so openly produced and paraded about. Even in the hotel where I’m staying, which caters to Westerners, it’s not visible. I’m the only person wearing a pastel color, and that’s by happenstance. I did see one child dressed in a pretty white dress today. I say that in the spirit of full disclosure.

By the same token, there is no mention of the blood of Jesus Christ, which cleanses us from sin. And I saw a person today who looked incredibly down, and I had no words for them because I don’t know the language, and I can’t simply say, “There’s a church right down the road…” Taipei is largely a first world, materialistic city. As such, there is no thought of where the nearest church might be and there usually isn’t one “right down the road.”

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So, where does this leave me? It leaves me hoping that the scattered congregations on this island do what God has called all of us to do, in order to reach as many Taiwan people for Christ. It leaves me praying for the individual I saw this morning at breakfast.

In all of the pageantry that is an American Easter, I hope you will find some time for reflection as well. In the hustle and bustle of the holiday, will you pray for those you come across? Will you pray for the hundreds of millions of Americans who only know this Sunday as Easter egg hunting and the one day a year they go to church? Will you pray for the billions around the world who do not know our savior? And have no hope of redemption without someone telling them the good news? Will you pray that God sends more laborers into his harvest?

Or are you content with colored eggs and a church service?

 

IMG_8904I’m grateful for the folks at Grace Church Taipei. The church was welcoming, friendly, and simple. There was no pageantry…no special song by half-interested toddlers, no egg hunt after service. Only the message of a Righteous God displaying his Mercy through Christ’s sacrifice.

As always, if you want to read more from me on a monthly basis, sign up HERE for my newsletter.

The Romans Road for Today

The Romans Road for Today

Like many in more conservative churches, I grew up with the Romans Road. It was a list of verses intended to show the realities of sin and the desperate need for a savior. I used the Romans Road to walk my little church community on my last ship through the Gospel. I know that a lot of people now days don’t hear about it, so I thought I’d share a little about it.

In this post, I’ll walk you through a simplified version of the Romans Road, complete with a short statement about each verse.

Romans 3:23“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

You don’t get much more straightforward than this verse. We’ve blown it. We are hopeless! And think about it: How many times have you thought, “why did I do that? I know it was wrong!” and yet you did it anyway? Far too many times for me, and it’s situations like that which tell us of our desperate need for a savior.

When we talk about sin, we mean disobedience to God. It could be anything from cheating on a spouse to stealing an outfit from the store to being un-neighborly to the family down the street. In all of these situations, and so many more, we are proving our unwillingness to maintain God’s standard.

Romans 6:23“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

This verse represents the fulcrum of our spiritual lives. Because of our actions that lead to Romans 3:23, we find ourselves at the beginning of 6:23. The wages of sin means our just payment for our misdeeds. And we are not talking about a physical death, which we will all see. I am talking about an eternal spiritual death.

Sin is so much more than just a mistake or a folly or a screw up. Sin separates us from our life force – God – and makes us the center of our little universe. It may work for a while in our lives on earth, but eternally, Romans 6:23 tells us what we have waiting for us.

Thank God that Romans 6:23 comes in two parts! The second part is our first ray of hope. “But the gift of God…” What does that mean? Let me show you the next part of the Romans Road to find out!

Romans 5:8“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

It was so good that God did this! As painful as it was to him, and as much as I wish it hadn’t been necessary, Christ’s perfect sacrifice was the only thing that could reunite humanity with God on a spiritual, eternal, level. It was the only thing that could take all of those sins that we’ve committed through the centuries and make everything right again. What hope! Out of Christ’s great sacrifice came something so very powerful. For us!

Romans 10:13“For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”

There are basically two camps of believers within the theologically conservative church. One side believes that we have absolutely nothing to do with our own salvation, that God even directs our desire to be saved at some point. Others believe that we have free will, and as such, we make the decision to follow Christ and accept him as our substitute on the cross.

What we know is what the Bible says, and what we have in the Romans Road is the understanding that we have sinned, that sin results in spiritual death, but God provided a way out of that future by Jesus’s sacrifice. And the final act is that we call on the name of the Lord for our salvation. Whether we do it because we were irresistibly drawn or because we made the choice to do so is irrelevant to you and me at this specific moment.

The only thing that matters is: Will you make that choice?

 

This blog is a ministry of author S. Daniel Smith. You can sign up HERE to receive monthly updates from his writing ministry.