Jeanne: So How Are Those Amazon Ads Working Out for You? Part 2

Last week, we talked about how Amazon ads work for authors at a hypothetical level. This week. we’re going to talk about how they worked for me when I ran them.

My ad campaign was put together by a publicity agency with stock set of keywords for my type of novel, plus some that I suggested.

Here are the overall numbers and top performing keywords from Campaign #1:

Ad copy: Sometimes you have to go through Hell to claim your Heaven. Continue reading

Jeanne: How Are Those Amazon Ads Working Out for You? Part 1

Amazon LogoToday I’m going to provide a brief survey of Amazon ads and how they work for authors.

Disclaimer: I did my research on the Internet. Although I tried to cross-verify all the information provided below, it’s entirely possible I fell prey to some of the misinformation floating around the Web. (!) Eight Ladies Jilly and Kay have both taken classes on Amazon advertising, so I’m counting on them to correct any egregious errors.

There are three types of Amazon Ads:

  1. Headline Search Ads (primarily for brand awareness)
    • Allows you to display multiple products at once
  2. Product Display Ads
    • Allows for interest targeting
    • Allows addition of custom copy and images
    • Allows selection of pages on which to appear on (i.e. similar products or competitive products)
    • Clicking link sends customer to vendor’s website
  3. Sponsored Product Ads
    • Keyword-driven
    • Auction-based
    • Allows for custom copy but not custom images
    • Clicking link sends customer to book’s Amazon product page

Sponsored Product ads are the ones best suited for selling books, so we will focus on them. Continue reading

Jeanne: The Chicken and Egg of Fiction Writing

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I’ve been doing an in-depth critique for a writer friend. She has a lot of talent, and she’s as committed a writer as I’ve ever seen. She stood up to the scrubbing sandstorm of my critique and kept asking for more. Tough lady!

Working with her has gotten me thinking about the kinds of issues exhibited by the work of newbie writers:

  • Wandering POV
  • Lots of telling rather than showing
  • Dialogue issues
    • All characters sound alike
    • Dialogue is stiff and unnatural
    • Lots of “as you know” dialogue–where one character tells another character something she already knows in order to clue the audience in.

There were also some plotting problems–the third act, which should be the most consequential and high stakes, revolved around a character who had been a really minor player up to that point. The conflict between the romantic partners was already resolved, which meant the couple could work together to save the minor character, but eliminated the sexual and relationship tension that might have upped the Act Three stakes.

There were plot holes and dropped plot threads. (Full disclosure: these types of issues *may* continue to hound even the more experienced writer, if my editor is to be believed.)

There were also places where characters did things for no apparent reason, behaved inconsistently from their previously defined characterization and even did things that seemed to go against both their best interests

You know, the stuff we all do when we first start writing and often continue to do in our first drafts.

I give this writer huge props, because she was very open to hearing feedback (lots of feedback) and made amazing strides in addressing the issues I identified. She was committed to writing the best book she possibly could, and she was willing to set aside her ego and put in the work to make that happen.

In working with her, I focused on the first set of problems (word-craft) more than the second (plotting), mostly because that was the order in which I learned to write. Back in 2002, I formed a critique group with some people I’d met in a novel-writing class at the local community college. For the next ten years, we hammered on each other about the items in the bulleted list above. We didn’t give each other a lot of feedback on plot, other than to point out plot holes and character inconsistencies. This may have been because we didn’t know enough about plotting to do that.

It makes sense to me that you need to work on your prose first. It’s hard to get anyone to read your story until your writing becomes strong enough for them to make it through to the end of your book.

On the other hand, the popularity of books like Fifty Shades of Gray and The Shack prove that you can create a bestseller with really weak word-craft if the story is compelling enough.

What do you think? Which should come first–word-craft or plot?

Jeanne: To Show or Not to Show?

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I’ve received a couple of invitations to talk to local book clubs about The Demon Always Wins and it looks like one of those will actually happen.

The second invitation got rescinded after the friend who offered me the invitation read the published version (she’d read an early draft) and realized how explicit the loves scenes in the book are. Her group, she said, don’t really like discussing books like that.

Okay, that’s fair.

On the other hand, she also said that she liked how much stronger a character Dara was in the final version.  Here’s the thing: those two things are interrelated. One reason Dara seems much stronger now is because we see her gritting her teeth and resisting a gorgeous demon who is the embodiment of temptation.

In the early drafts of TDAW, the physical interactions between Belial and Dara were limited. Anything beyond kissing happened behind closed doors. Continue reading

Jeanne: My First DNF (Did Not Finish)

censorship-3308001_640So I got a note from an old friend and former co-worker the other day, saying they couldn’t finish The Demon Always Wins because it was too scary. Pressed, she admitted that she never actually started it–just the idea of demons freaked her out.

I was sorry she couldn’t enjoy the book, but I didn’t really take it to heart. It didn’t feel like a rejection of my work so much as a rejection of the genre. Since I have no expectation that I’m going to convert anyone who doesn’t like paranormal over to reading it, I wasn’t upset.

What felt a little more personal was the lady at the gym who declined to read it because of the cursing in the first chapter. I pointed out that only the bad guys curse, but she wasn’t swayed. Cursing makes her uncomfortable. Continue reading

Jeanne: Aristotle’s Unities

AristotleOne of the things Jenny Crusie covered during the McDaniel Romance Writing program was Aristotle’s Unities.

Aristotle, Greek dramatist and perhaps the world’s first story wonk, believed that a well-written play should have a very limited scope. He thought a play should:

  • Have the least possible number of subplots (unity of action)
  • Have a single setting (unity of place)
  • Occur over the course of a single day (unity of time)

When I first heard this, it felt completely over the top to me. To a certain degree, it still does. Lately, though, I’ve been reading manuscripts and even published novels who authors don’t appear to have ever heard of good old Aristotle and his unities.

  • They hop from place to place.
  • They wind on for months or even years.
  • They include subplots that don’t get resolved.

Aristotle may have been too narrow by today’s standards, but I think he was on to something.

  • Limiting your plot to a main plot and no more than a couple of subplots allows you to really delve into those stories.
  • Limiting your novel to the absolute minimum number of characters limits the number of names/personalities your reader has to keep track of and allows her to connect more deeply with the characters you do choose to include.
  • Limiting your book to the shortest possible period of time automatically grants your story dramatic tension.
  • Limiting your story to a minimum number of settings allows the reader to engage more deeply with that setting, and with the story that sits on top of it.

Some of my early (forever-to-be unpublished) novels ignored some or all of these rules (because I’d never heard of them), but the things I’ve written since McDaniel really try to adhere to them.

The one I’m least successful with is probably unity of time. Although I’d love the tension a book that takes place over a few days or a week has, my plots are usually too complex to easily resolve within such a short time-frame.

  • The Demon Always Wins takes place over a period of 7 weeks.
  • The Demon’s in the Details occurs over 44 days (so, 5 days shorter)
  • The Demon Wore Stilettos is planned to take 30 days. (Since it’s not finished, I can’t swear that won’t change.)

The good news is, my timelines are getting shorter.

That said, it’s tough to have two characters meet and fall in love in a convincing way in a very short period of time. The only reason The Demon Wore Stilettos can resolve so quickly is that it’s a second chance at love story, so the H/H already know each other.

What about you? What is your ideal timeline for a novel?

Jeanne: My First Book Birthday

Roses from A&A

Saturday, September 1, was my debut book release. It went well–I even received this lovely bouquet of roses from my daughter, congratulating me on achieving a life-time dream.

Because I’d badgered, I mean, encouraged people to pre-order the ebook, my royalties report on my Amazon Central Dashboard looked like this at the end of the first day:

 

Continue reading