Saving Ebenezer: Sneak Peek

Deciding to buy a book is a big step. In order to show you just how much you’ll love Saving Ebenezer: The Continuing Saga of a man named Scrooge, I’m offering you the first scene, in its entirety, for your enjoyment. Once you’ve given it a read, please order the book at THIS LINK. Feel free to share this sneak peek with your friends!

front-2Tiny Tim was dead, to begin with. There was no doubt about that. His death certificate carried the necessary signatures of the clergy at the church where he would be buried, the clerk, the undertaker, and a certain Ebenezer Scrooge, whose name was just as solid as it had been when he’d signed Jacob Marley’s death certificate. Indeed, Tiny Tim Cratchit was as dead as the wood he presently lay in.

Much had changed in seven years. Scrooge had given much. Indeed – almost all! – to rid himself of the guilt and shame of his miserly ways. Nearly saved Tiny Tim, too, who was only slightly bigger at his death than Christmas Eve seven years prior. Scrooge had the best doctors working on the boy’s condition, all of them happy to have Scrooge pay for this treatment or that, but never quite figuring out exactly what was wrong. Still, Tim had started the pathway of a bright future.

Until pneumonia struck. In a fortnight, Tim had gone from spry and hopeful to weak and discouraged. And then dead.

As Ebenezer Scrooge watched the simple casket lowered into the near-frozen muck on December 20th, 1850, there could be no mistaking the fact that a piece of him was being buried as well.

And that was why Ebenezer Scrooge was angry.

The old Scrooge was back. Joy had given away to sorrow in the meanest of ways, for it sprung upon the old man with such ferocity that he had no defense! None at all!  Oh! How much Scrooge had loved the boy too! Like his own child. Alas, his love had no more ability to overcome Tim’s sudden illness than his father’s had. Powerless, and angry, that was Ebenezer Scrooge, all right. Joy had given way quickly to pain and sorrow, the likes of which Ebenezer Scrooge had never experienced before.

“Amen.”

Scrooge looked up. He hadn’t even noticed that someone was praying. The few who gathered on that crisp Camden Town morning made their way to Bob and Emily Cratchit to give their condolences or pass by the cold hole where Timothy now lay. They passed by Martha, the oldest sister, who had her husband and small child by her side. Then they would say nice things to Belinda, the second child. Peter would be next, though he was now much taller than his older sisters, and then a couple of younger children whom Scrooge didn’t quite know well enough, despite being close to their parents for these last seven years.

Ebenezer didn’t recognize many of those gathered that morning. Undoubtedly, a few were churchgoers, whom he might not recognize because, if he were to tell the truth, he didn’t go to church often. Even after giving money for several new pews five years prior! And one that bore his name besides. Nevertheless, many of those gathered were strangers, if the looks on Bob and Emily Cratchit’s faces were any indication. Mourners, the lot of them.

One of them, in particular, caught Ebenezer’s suspicious eye. A man – late 30s perhaps – well dressed in a dark, drab coat, black gloves, and black shoes that matched his black hat. He smiled a thin smile that seemed out of place, and Scrooge also noticed that he looked in his own direction as much as he looked toward the grave or the deceased boy’s family. The man did not offer his condolences to the family directly, which Ebenezer thought odd. His thin smile was unsettling…something different there.

Scrooge looked away from the grieving family. His pointy nose and tired eyes focused on the ground where his adopted son now lay. In the moments when he let himself dream, though those moments were few, he dreamt that he could help find a cure for the boy and someday take him under his wing. To watch him die of fever and cough, and not the crippling ailments which Ebenezer had tried to correct, was a blow of the meanest sort.

And what now? Well, that was a question supposing for another time to answer it. He turned slowly, yet as fast as old bones and sinews would allow, and began to walk away. Turning back to look one more time on the cold mud, he spat on the filthy snow beneath his feet.

“Bah! Humbug!”

 

Saving Ebenezer: The Continuing Saga of a man named Scrooge, is available now at THIS LINK. Please share this sneak peak on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms where you are present. Thank you!

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.

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?