Well, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that I received the beta reader’s feedback. The bad news is that it scared me. As in, made me afraid of what to do next. I also tried to sneak in a marketing promotion test, and to be blunt, I’ve never seen a bigger failure. And that’s saying something! Before we get into the details, let’s look at the numbers (or, in this case, the descriptions).
Progress Report 2023 Week 25 By the Numbers
Very Scary Beta Reader Feedback
What, no words written in book 6 yet? It’s partly because of the terror I felt from the beta reader’s feedback!
Let’s talk beta reader feedback. One of my goals last week was to evaluate the beta reader’s feedback. I’ve been contracting with J. Flowers on Fiverr, because their feedback in the past has been insightful, clearly presented, and flat out helpful to me as a writer. They’ve read the previous three books, so they knew the characters and world. That added even more layers of detail and overall coolness to the feedback.
And that’s where the terror comes in.
J. Flowers seemed to really like how I crafted the plot for Evolution’s Hand Book 4: Blind Exodus. Why is that a problem? Because, dear readers — and I probably shouldn’t say this part out loud, but I’ve never let issues of pride stand in the way of honesty — because part of me really did work hard to get that balance right, and another part of me has no idea what the first part of my brain was was doing.
The problem with imposter syndrome is that it has a basis in at least some of the parts of my brain. It’s a weird perspective to have. But the reason that feedback struck me as so terrifying is that now, there’s an expectation that I can do it again. Maybe even better.
Humbly Improving My Skills Is the Way Forward
Can I? Is the manuscript I just finished, Evolution’s Hand Book 5: Split Infinities, up to snuff?
Did I select the right balance of characters in Evolution’s Hand Book 6: Unnatural Crypsis?
Is the next book I try to publish going to prove my plotting for Blind Exodus was just a fluke?
It’s still amazing to me when editors and beta readers use my ships’ names in their comments. And yes, my manuscript still had typos, despite reading it out loud and sending it through two ProWritingAid passes. Sigh.
I let myself go on a little too long there, but I want to make a point to any aspiring writers out there. Unless you have way more self confidence than me (or, honestly, a startlingly high percentage of the writers I’ve worked with), you’re going to have those feelings of inadequacy. And you know what?
They mean precisely nothing.
I might face-plant on Unnatural Crypsis. But the book after might be better. Or the both might be so good that readers look forward to the next books. Or both might be so terrible that they physically catch fire. There is exactly one way to find out. That’s to write. And write. Then write some more. All I can do is improve my craft to the best of my ability and apply that meager skill to the written word.
But, man oh man, do I hope readers love the stories.
Oh, and if you’re looking to hire a beta reader? I highly recommend J. Flowers. Offers not only great work, but great work delivered on time.
Speaking of Humbling Improving…
Ever heard that management saying, “there are no problems, only opportunities?” First of all, I beg to differ. I’ve seen some problems that were much closer to invitations to flee than to problem-solve. Second, if I do accept it as true at least some of the time, then my recent marketing experience is an enormous opportunity. Because my BookBub Partners ad failed harder than any I’ve ever tried. And it’s all my fault. Well, mostly.
It’s exactly the same graphic and ad copy as my previous BookBub Partner ads.
I recently re-priced Evolution’s Hand Book 1: Executive Action and Evolution’s Hand Book 2: Dying Breath. The Facebook ad, which is still running, proves the price cut helped sell ebooks. I’d had great luck with BookBub Partner ads before. I thought I’d have better luck this time now that the price is lower.
Except I did something stupid. I changed the audience. When you assemble a BookBub Partners ad, you select a writer you think your work resembles. Previously, I’d picked either Peter F. Hamilton or Alastair Reynolds, because of their amazing treatment of politics and intrigue. That’s something I’m trying to do, too.
This time, though, I had just finished reading Marko Kloos’ series Frontlines. My brain said, “Hey, the presentation of tech is similar. Let’s try using that author.” And I tried. To paraphrase Dune, did I try and fail? No, I tried and died.
I have never gotten that few clicks in a BookBub Partners ad. I have never had that low a sales percentage. But thinking about it, I believe the answer is hidden (in plain sight) in me rephrasing my decision to change authors: “Hey, Marko Kloos writes military science fiction, and that audience is profoundly different from a political thriller audience. As in, there’s little overlap. So I’ll use Marko Kloos as my target author!”
Which means no clicks. So guess what I’m going to do?
There’s one other aspect that I’m looking at. BookBub Partners as you set a bid for a block of ads. I used the same bid I’d used before, but my spend was very, very slow this time. I think I need to up my bid. But trying to sell political thriller science fiction to a military science fiction audience seems to be the primary problem here.
Plotting Unnatural Crypsis
I mentioned earlier that my beta reader’s feedback has me scared about my character and plot arc selections for Unnatural Crypsis. Some of it might be irrational. But by this stage in my career, I ought to be able to justify my character and plot selections to myself. So I’m going to put them through a second pass. I think they’re okay. But spending an extra day or two now could save months of time down the road.
This is the first time anyone aside from me has seen the planet Peak!
That said, I’m having an absolute blast designing the sets and worlds. I won’t go into much detail because it would spoil some bits of Split Infinities, but the world I’m designing, Peak, is going to play a central role over two epochs. I wanted a robust world, and I don’t know enough about geology to satsify my expectations. Fortunately, there’s a website that lets you design planets. It’s called, succinctly enough, Planet Map Generator. Its output is more detailed and realistic than anything I could come up with. So, I use it to generate a Mollweide projection of the world. In this case, it’s the one in the graphic above.
I have a subscription to Adobe’s Creative Suite, so I can use Illustrator. I pasted the graphic above into a new illustration’s first layer. I add a second layer and outlined the continents and major features. Then, I added a third layer for the labels. If I then hide the graphic, i end up with something like this:
My problem is that I could design worlds and languages all day. To the exclusion of ever actually writing the story!
The net effect is that I can have multiple views of the world with minimal effort. Or at least much less effort than me doing everything by hand. I finished the sets on Earth using the same technique, which only occurred to me while preparing Unnatural Crypsis. I wish I’d figured that out before! My sets in the previously books would have been much more realistic!
Goals for the Week in Progress Report 2023 Week 25
Here are my goals for the week:
- Continue designing the planet Peak, including its early languages and civilization during the two major epochs.
- Consider another BookBub Partners ad with a more reasonable author group selection and increased bid.
- Incorporate the beta and proofreading feedback into Blind Exodus.
What Do You Think?
How do you combat imposter syndrome? Or are you blessedly free from its clinging fingers? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!