A real Trope of a Character

I’m currently listening to a podcast called Writing Excuses. I’m doing that because Thomas Umstattd Jr. and James L. Rubart told me to, in order to become a best selling author in the next 5 years. Since I have a resolution of having an agent by the end of this year, having a 5 year goal to being a best seller is a good range I think.

Anyway, my first podcast from the folks behind Writing Excuses is about cliches and tropes. They suggest I go through my writing and seek out these cliches and tropes to make sure I’m not using them without originality. I hadn’t thought about it too much, but after listening to the podcast, I realize that I do have a couple of these as characters in my stories.

For example, in The Dirty Campaign, I have two characters that would be considered tropes. The first is Mildred, who is the town gossip. She hangs around, gathering bits and pieces of a story, and then tells it as gospel truth. She is a trope, bordering on the cliche. Yet, Mildred also plays an important part of the story by forcing the reader to consider the damage gossip causes in our churches. This is something I’ll explore more in future stories with her as well.

In the current WIP (Work in Progress), J. William Seymour, the intrepid young reporter for the Sunset Sentinel that you met in The Dirty Campaign, also serves in the trope/cliche role. He dreams of being the big city investigative reporter who breaks the big case, and Sunset just isn’t big enough for him. Because of that, he over-attacked the situation in The Dirty Campaign and, not to spoil things, causes issues in Tragedy in Sunset as well. Whereas Mildred served to move the story along and sound the warning, however, I need to work more on Will Seymour. Truth be told, right now, he’s too canned.

While I wish I had great examples to share with you in addition to Mildred above, the truth is, I have a long way to go before I’m where I want to be as an author. I’ll get there, though, and I’d love to have you along for this ride of a lifetime! Sign up HERE to get on the mailing list and join me on this adventure!

KingSumo Campaign Results

Like I did with my Bookfunnel Campaign, I want to give back to the greater writing community by sharing with everyone how my KingSumo Campaign went and what it accomplished.

I actually ran two campaigns. The first one was for my Christian fiction newsletter list and the second one was to kick-start a science fiction mailing list. I’m moderately pleased with how both turned out. I’ll break down each one in turn.

1.  Christian Mailing List:

Goal: Increase readership in order to provide future agent/editor/publisher hard stats on my ability to build a platform for my writing. This mailing list needs to be able to make an impact by the middle of 2019, so a shorter event horizon, if you will.

Method: Set up a KingSumo contest with a free book giveaway advertised on my personal facebook page and my writing Facebook page.

Cost: Book ($8.79) Facebook ads: ($18.19) Total: ($26.98)

New email addresses: 55

New likes on Facebook page: 30

Engagements on New Subscriber Email #1 (17 opens, 2 clicks, 2 unsubscribes: 30% opens)

Engagements on New Subscriber Email #2 (10 opens, 0 clicks, 0 unsubscribes: 18.9% opens)

When I added the 53 email addresses to my main Christian fiction newsletter, I got the following responses from my drip campaign:

Drip 1: 53 sends, 11 opens, 3 clicks. I believe, based on what I can see, that my free Bookfunnel novelette was downloaded twice off of this campaign.

Drip 2: 53 sends, 7 opens, 0 clicks.

Drip 3: 53 sends, 7 opens, 0 clicks.

I’ve sent one monthly email since then, and my preliminary data suggests 9 opens.

Commentary: Overall, I’m happy with this campaign. It cost me less than $30 and it got me 53 subscribers, of which 18 are 3-star and above after my drip newsletter and one monthly newsletter. I’ll try to reengage the rest of them before purging my list in mid-January. I suspect I’ll be able to capture a few more, but most of the rest will be dropped. Again, for such little overall investment, picking up this number of new subscribers was worth it.

I plan to run another KingSumo campaign in the early spring to coincide with my next short story release.

My biggest takeaway is that I need to write better engagement emails for my drip campaign, and to incorporate those new subscribers sooner into my larger mailing list. I kept them quarantined too long.

Special shout out to James L. Rubart, who’s book The Man He Never Was* had just earned him his 5th Christy award right before I started the contest. I’m sure that helped, and I’m grateful for his dedication to the craft. Jim and I did not correspond before I ran the contest and, aside from hopefully gaining some new fans through my promotions, was not given any monetary reward.

2.  Science Fiction Mailing List:

Goal: Long term prospect of slowly building a list to introduce people to my writing while building relationships that will, someday, lead to sales of future projects. Maturity horizon for this list is approximately 5 years out.

Method: Set up a KingSumo contest with a free short story value pack giveaway advertised on my Sci-Fi Facebook page.

Cost: Asimov’s Science Fiction Value Pack ($11.70) Facebook ads: ($20) Total: ($31.70)

New email addresses: 49

New likes on Facebook: 21

Engagements on New Subscriber Email #1 (11 opens, 0 clicks, 2 unsubscribes/bounce: 22.9% opens)

Engagements on New Subscriber Email #2 (11 opens, 0 clicks, 0 unsubscribes: 23.4% opens)

I’ve sent one monthly newsletter since gaining these subscribers. The newsletter resulted in 9 opens (19.1%) out of 47 sends, with 1 unsubscribe.

Commentary: I bought a value pack from Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine* in late 2017 and loved it, so I enjoyed using this as the prize for my sci-fi contest. While the number of bounces and unsubscribes is higher with this campaign, I’m still happy with the results in an overall fashion. All said, 14 subscribers have a 3-star and above Mailchimp rating on the date of this post. Like with my Christian newsletter, I plan to attempt to engage the 2-star subscribers to beef that number a little before purging the inactive subscribers by the end of January.

Oh, and the guy who one the contest? Already signed up to be beta reader for my short fiction!

Overall Verdict

Ok, now for my overall verdict. Would I do KingSumo again? Yes! It took very little cash to reach real potential readers that I probably wouldn’t have reached before. Now I’m doing the hard work of building relationships with them. Several email addresses were probably just spam traps, which bounced as they expected, and some realized they didn’t win and don’t care about my writing, which led to the unsubscribes. Others probably just have an email address they don’t check often and don’t care about me either. They’ll get removed if I can’t engage them.

Overall, though, this was a better campaign than the Bookfunnel free giveaway, and I expect to run it again at least for my Christian fiction brand, if not for my sci-fi list.

* Affiliate Marketing Link

Advances in DNA Analysis Affect Tragedy in Sunset!

So the crux of my work in progress, Tragedy in Sunset, is that a young woman is assaulted and raped, but is too scared to give a name to the police. They have a DNA sample, but it doesn’t lead to any new results.

Well, all of that might be about to change, and I’ll have to figure out how it affects my story. According to an article in the San Diego Union Tribune, DNA samples are being used to match alleged perpetrators to a crime scene by matching the sample against a family tree. The suspect is then narrowed down and an arrest made.

This was used most effectively in 2018 to find the Golden Gate Killer, so named because he raped over 50 women and killed 13 people in the years between 1974 and 1986 in California.

When I first wrote Tragedy in late 2016, this data wasn’t available like it is now. That’s the problem when writing a story that relies on systems and processes that are apt to change wildly from year to year.

The basic plot is still fine and will provide quite the story, but I will probably have to do a little modifying as I go.

One idea, thanks to one of my friends, is to bring up the privacy issues that go with matching publicly-available DNA samples when handling crime evidence. I think that might very well figure into the rewrite of Tragedy. Stay tuned to see how it plays out!

To stay up to date on Tragedy in Sunset, as well as my other writing, sign up for updates at THIS LINK and get a free ebook as my thanks!

2018 and 2019: A look Behind and Forward

When gauging 2018, I have to be careful. I typed an amazing number of words for me (just over 200,000 total), but failed to get more than two sales. I didn’t get my sci-fi sale, despite submitting to various sci-fi publications a total of nine times. I failed to get an article published in a national Christian magazine as well, despite eight queries. My novel, Tragedy in Sunset, failed to garner any attention, despite submission to three publishers (this is in addition to submission to four agencies in 2017). Kind of a disappointing year in certain terms.

frontLooking at the positive, however, there were some key points to celebrate. First, my novelette, The Dirty Campaign, went live and has met several positive reviews. I also sold 41 more copies of Gluttony, my perennial best seller (total sold: 254). Of the 200,000 words written, I published 33 blog posts (2013 views on my website), four short stories, the novelette, a published article, a published short story, and 26 newsletter-based email campaigns. BTW, not on my mailing list? Why aren’t you on my mailing list!!! Click HERE!

I also made more money this year than ever before, though not by all that much. In total, I made $315 from articles and short stories. I estimate another $20 or so from Amazon and Smashwords, though the final tally hasn’t come in on that yet.

Overall, a mediocre year, but mostly that is because I set the wrong goals for this year. I wanted too many things. Sci-fi credits, major Christian publications (a la Christianity Today), and a book deal. Just too many balls to juggle.

Which leads me to 2019:

First, I only have one goal this year: By December 31, 2019, I will sign a contract for representation with a literary agent in the Christian fiction industry. If I sell articles, great. If I sell short stories, also great. I’ll continue writing my monthly newsletters as well. All of that is still in play, but the only goal that matters this year is signing a contract with a Christian literary agent.

What will that mean? It will mean that I’ll have a representative to help manage my writing career, at least at the novel-writing level, so I can focus on churning out books. It doesn’t guarantee a publisher for Tragedy in Sunset, or the follow-on novel, Redemption in Sunset, but it does guarantee I’ll have someone with business acumen in my corner.

I’ll still deal with articles and short stories directly with the various editors and their respective magazines. Agents make 15% from my sales, and book-length projects are the only things that bring in enough money for both the author and agent.

If I had my druthers, I’d like to see six bylines and 250,000 words typed this year. Those are great goals to have. However, they are secondary to the only one that matters: That I have an agent to represent me in 2020 and into the future.

My work on the proposal for Tragedy (first fifty pages or so and a proposal package), is progressing along nicely. I’d like to start submitting by the end of February, the same month I plan to launch my next Sunset short story.

Speaking of the first 50 pages, I bought a new resource I want to share with you. It’s literally called The First 50 Pages,* and it comes with a recommendation from Donald Maass, the famous lit agent who wrote, Writing the Breakout Novel.* I can’t wait to learn more about preparing my manuscript for publication!

Anyway, I can’t wait to share with you how 2019 goes! I hope you have some solid goals for your life. By the by, if you want to beat gluttony this year, may I suggest my short nonfiction work called Gluttony: A Study of Overeating in the Bible? You can get it HERE.*

So, that’s my plan for the New Year! If you want to get monthly updates on my progress, and the progress of my characters, sign up HERE and you’ll get all the details!

The Bookfunnel Campaign Post 2

frontIn the previous email about my Bookfunnel campaign, I laid out the business framework for the release of The Dirty Campaign, my reader magnet. In this email, I want to show you the unadulterated data from the campaign.

I’ll admit, I messed up a couple of things when I started this campaign, despite reading as many posts and FAQs as I could. One of the things I did was accidentally put in motion one of my Facebook ads early, which forced me to actually publish the story on Bookfunnel a few days before I’d intended to. That wasn’t too serious an issue, but it wasn’t the way I would have wanted to do it.

Another thing I did wrong was not pay for a good cover from the get-go. Unfortunately, the numbers indicate that it didn’t help much in the end, but most of my sign ups did come after I had a better cover on the front of the novelette (Pictured above is the better cover).

So…here are the numbers:

For my (then) current subscribers to my mailing list:

  • 25 views on my Bookfunnel page
  • 9 downloads

For a general release page, which got shared on my blog, through email, and on FB, I got the following data:

  • 57 views on my Bookfunnel page
  • 1 download

For my fiction FB Page, I got the following data:

  • 457 views on my Bookfunnel page
  • 1 download

For my political commentary FB Page, I got the following data:

  • 237 views on my Bookfunnel page
  • 2 downloads

I also created a “Personal For” message, which I targeted to friends and family that I wanted to specifically invite to take part. This also included my beta readers. I got the following data:

  • 6 views on my Bookfunnel page
  • 4 downloads

In all, I got the following data:

  • 782 views on my Bookfunnel page
  • 17 downloads

As you can see, this was far from a success for me. I’m not saying Bookfunnel isn’t a success for many authors, or that maybe it’s more of a success for authors who already have a following, but for getting started essentially from scratch, it’s rough. The bottom line was that, out of 782 views, and over a thousand on Facebook, I only gained 8 (!) new subscribers to my list.

Speaking of Facebook, I wanted to break down some numbers there too. This is a broad stroke look at the keywords and numbers. I’m honestly too busy to be able to dig much deeper at this time.

Keywords: Baptist, Southern Baptist, Politics (Conservative), Politics (Moderate), Likely to Engage in Politics, Christian Fiction.

  • Fiction FB Page, using the a mix of the above keywords, garnered 3,396 reach, with the aforementioned 457 views on my Bookfunnel page, resulting in 1 download and signup. Paid: $33.39.
  • Political Commentary FB Page, using a mix of the above keywords, garnered 1,478 reach, with the aforementioned 237 views on Bookfunnel, resulting in 2 downloads and signups. Paid: $17.23
  • Unfortunately, I can’t know exactly how my personal Facebook page helped or hurt, but suffice to say, not many of my friends signed up either, except through the “Personal For” message.

I actually had more success getting the signups first, and then offering the book later. Of 14 page views from 5 new subscribers, all five downloaded the book. If anything, my Bookfunnel campaign suggested that I would have done better by getting signups through a different style of campaign and then offer the book. This is still a strategy I’m employing.

If I learned anything, it’s that I went into a Bookfunnel campaign thinking that it was the magic bullet for building a mailing list. It’s not even close to that. I have a couple of things I’m working on now to make Bookfunnel part of a larger strategy for building a list, but alone, Bookfunnel just isn’t enough, at least for me, writing for my intended audience.

For those who’ve used Bookfunnel, how did your numbers work out? Better? Worse?

 

 

The Bookfunnel Campaign Post 1

In an effort to be transparent about my Bookfunnel campaign, and to possibly help authors in the future, I’m going to spend the next three posts discussing my results for The Dirty Campaign. I will cover the build up to the campaign, to include the writing process, the Bookfunnel campaign in general, to include the raw download/newsletter signups data, and finally, at year’s end, I’ll talk about what’s still working with the campaign, meaning, am I seeing newsletter signups turning into fans.

I know that’s a lot. First, an assumption: I assume that people reading this three-part blog series are writers, or interested in the craft and business of writing. If you’re not in that situation, this may sadly get boring pretty quick. Anyway, that assumption is also a sort of disclaimer. I have switched to writing almost exclusively fiction, so you’ll find a lot of nuts and bolts in this blog series.

First things first: My plan of action

1.  Write the story. If you already have a system for writing, then don’t worry about this. Just do what you normally do. I did try a new thing that I’ve continued to incorporate. I’ll write about that in the future.

2. Edited the story significantly. I verified POV so often I got sick of some of the characters. But it paid off in the end.

3. Sent the story to a handful of beta readers. Not all of them gave me feedback unfortunately, but enough of them did that I could feel confident about moving forward.

4. Converted the final draft to .epub and .mobi using draft2digital.

5. Uploaded the files from draft2digital to BookFunnel.

6. Paid for advertising on Facebook (because that’s where my page already resides and I knew it would cost for people to actually see it). 

7. Wrote several blog posts to announce the coming publication. Shared on Facebook. 

8. Prepared a drip sequence in Mailchimp ready to go for new subscribers as they signed up for the newsletter and downloaded the novelette. This drip sequence introduced new readers to me as the author, to the fictional town of Sunset, Kansas, and to my characters, and included three emails spread out over two weeks.

As you can see, I laid out what was basically a business plan. I had all of this ready to go two weeks before the soft launch, which went to current subscribers and to my personal Facebook page. The soft launch occurred one week before the main launch, and gave me a chance to reward my current subscribers for their loyalty as well as test out a couple of ideas in a setting that allowed me to make corrections before going wide release.

In the next post, we’ll do the numbers!

 

* None of the links in this email are affiliate links. I don’t stand to make any money off of this blog post. It is for informational purposes only and for the edification of other authors.

My Writing Strategy

In my Sunset series, I’m embarking on something completely new. It’s not that several authors don’t also do it, but it’s new for me. In the past, whether fiction or nonfiction, I’ve bounced from idea to idea. With Sunset, I’m sticking with a community of characters who will tell my stories for me. I’ve picked the idea of Sunset because it’s been a dream of mine since I was in my early 30s.

This flies in the face of my previous post about wanting to be the John Grisham of Christian writing. With very few exceptions, John has never returned to any of his characters. I can see the wisdom in that. It’s a blank slate every time he sits down at the desk. There are definite advantages to that.

But that also means he faces a blank slate every time he sits down at the desk. I’ve already got a couple of short stories (Forgotten Name / Friday Night in Sunset), a novelette (The Dirty Campaign), and several character sketches. I’ve got stories out for review by editors of Christian magazines as well, and one was published by The Gem.

At least in my head, I know how Tom Reynolds reacts to things. If a reader wants to know why Tom Reynolds reacted a certain way, he or she can go find out about Tom’s history and what made him the way he is. They’ll know that J. William Seymour, a reporter in town, is so desperate to make a name for himself that sometimes he creates stories where there isn’t one and his editor has to shoot him down. They’ll know how Bill Summers gained his land holdings and, in the future, how he throws his weight around to help the community.

So what is the grand strategy? It’s simple: I’m creating a community of people from which to draw stories about life. In some ways, the stories build on each other, but in most cases, the shorter stories are episodes which give the novels freedom to build the series. And always at the heart is making God known.

I’ve planned, at least to a degree, two more novelettes and four novels. Both novelettes are in progress and will serve to further advance the background understanding of Sunset. One novel is complete and in rewrite at this time (Tragedy in Sunset). The sequel is about 6,000 words in. Two others are notes in my journal. I’d like to see ten novels before I close down this project.

My hope is to secure a literary agent and then a book contract. I’d love to have you with me on this journey. Please sign up here to get on the mailing list!