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Progress Report 2024 Week 14

I’ll bet you’re dying to know how my BookBub Partners ad went! Or maybe you’re a normal human and hadn’t given it any thought! But I was dying to know, and I’ll be happy to share what I learned with you. It’s also a new month, so my previous month’s sales figures are in. How’d they look? I also have news about the short story Fallback Position and the new book The Sword of Sirius Book 3: Firebreak. But first, let’s look at last week’s infographic.

Progress Report 2024 Week 14 By the Numbers

Yep! I’m starting to track counts from Firebreak! I’m pretty excited about it, too!

I finished the first draft of the new short story lead magnet. The story’s called Fallback Position, and it starts on the Colonial American guided missile submarine Florida. Jackson Scott, the boat’s Executive Officer (XO), is the main character. The tie-in to The Sword of Sirius is that Scott is the Supervisor of the TransStell Exploratory Fleet ship named Endurance. So, I guess that’s a spoiler — he doesn’t die in the short story!

Though he’s one of the select few!

I’m going to let Fallback Position sit for a while — probably until after I finish writing The Sword of Sirius Book 3: Firebreak. Then I’ll put it through the proof reading cycle and create a cover for it. Speaking of covers, I ordered one for The Sword of Sirius Book 1: Red Flag Warning, which is important for the short story because I want to capture the book’s look and feel for the short story. I did the same thing for Code Blue. Which you can get for free if you sign up for my newsletter!

Once the cover’s done, I’ll publish the short story to BookFunnel and start the Facebook campaign to drum up interest in my newsletter. Oh — if you join my newsletter before the ad campaign, you’ll still get the short story. I try to treat my newsletter subscribers well.

Proofreading for Evolution’s Hand Book 6: Unnatural Crypsis is almost done. I’d hope to have it in my hands by the end of March, but life happens. That means I have three books — three of them! — written and waiting for edits. I have to pace myself because covers and edits add up!

Sales for March 2024

The raw sales numbers for March were the best of the other two months this year. This quarter is the best yet (calendar quarter 1 2024 compared to previous calendar quarters, I mean). This is partly because I’ve come up with a low-intensity but stable FaceBook campaign that runs all month. I combine it with specific low-cost promotions most weeks. March was the first time I got organized about that. I was very deliberate about what promo I ran when. I’m not going to say I’m getting the hang of it. But I’m closer and closer to breaking even, which is a milestone. Once I push the needle into the black, I can (slowly!) throttle up.

Individual performance indicators were decent, too. I tweaked ad targeting and blurbs. As a result, my Facebook click to purchase percentage went from a dismal 1.7% in February (almost but not quite my worst ever) to 4.5% in March. Still nothing to get excited about, but in the upper levels of my past performances.

March’s numbers were the best of the first quarter.

The individual ads performed well, too. I’ve tweaked the ad copy for each of them, and I think it’s better than before. It’s so hard to know if the improvement is due to those tweaks or some kind of seasonal variances. But my ad copy reads a lot like my peers (at least it reads that way to me!), so I’m counting that as a victory.

Some promo sites require 90 days between promotions, and they’re among the bigger ones like Book Barbarian and Robin Reads. Book Barbarian contributed in March, and it’ll be May before I can run another Robin Reads ad. We’ll see if I can match March’s numbers in April!

BookBub Partners, on the other hand… Don’t get me wrong. The platform is as strong as ever! But I think more traditional publishers, and/or more successful independent publishers with a bigger budget than I have, are using the service more. I’ve had to increase my minimum bid each of the last three times I’ve used it. I’m very near the top now, and I couldn’t buy enough impressions to exhaust my budget for the two day campaign. I had fewer clicks but the same number of purchases, which I think suggests my blurbs are better. But it’s getting more and more expensive to advertise with them.

The Sword of Sirius Book 3: Firebreak

Each of my novels gets its own Scrivener project. That means the creation of that project is a milestone. Over the weekend, I made a blank project and proceeded to populate it with the characters, equipment, planets, and other materials from The Sword of Sirius Book 2: Collapse Zone. That included marking up the ships that had been destroyed and any characters who are no longer with us.

I’ve started fleshing out the area around where our heroes landed on Álfheimr at the end of Collapse Zone.

I mentioned in my Progress Post from last week that I was getting really apprehensive about the plot for Firebreak. I tried to be brave about it. I did something that has worked before. I started building out the environment. I did most of the work on the diagram you see above over the weekend. That gave my characters a stage on which to act. I’d already set the location of Trelleborg and New Brussels, but Wilhelmshaven is new. So are the locations of the EVA pod craters and the mines (mines are identified just by numbers — a reference to a historical practice).

Speaking of that practice, I also built out the design for New Brussels. It’s based on the concentration camp named Flossenburg. I recently read that some folks misread Frank Herbert’s intentions with the Atreides family. Some viewers of the movie, at least, thought Herbert held Paul and his father up as examples of “good” government.

So between us — in appreciation for you actually reading this blog — I’m going to do something writers don’t typically do. I’m going to let you in on The Sword of Sirius thematic secret. Nazis are bad. Even if they don’t commit mass murder on a daily basis; even if they’re nice to other Nazis. Nazis are bad. New Brussels is a concentration camp. It’s named New Brussels as a slap in the face to the name of the European Union’s capital (at least in the time of these novels).

So now you know!

Then I created a character named Gerhard Wimmer (based on the actor Boris Kodjoe). I crafted his backstory, and all of a sudden, I started feeling connections — connections between Wimmer and how he got to be on Álfheimr; connections between Owen Payne’s cover story the Wimmer’s experience; and all sorts of other things that started interleaving. It’ll also tie into the themes, especially when you read how he became a resident of New Brussels.

Finally, I did something that I found useful for my last couple of books. I wrote paragraphs capturing the state of mind for each of the three POV characters at the start of the story. That helped me focus on how to craft their arcs. I finished one for Ira Malhotra, Owen Payne, and Luisa Brunner.

I still have some more environmental work to do, but this week, I think I’m going to begin plotting.

Progress against Last Week’s Goals

Here’s how I did against last week’s goals:

  1. Finish Jackson Scott’s Plot Turn 2: Done!
  2. Finish Jackson Scott’s Resolution: Done!
  3. Work on the plot for Firebreak: Done!
  4. Run a BookBub ad for Evolution’s Hand Book 1: Executive Action: Done!

Goals for the Week in Progress Report 2024 Week 14

Here’s what I hope to accomplish this week:

  1. Finish plotting Ira Malhotra’s POV
  2. Finish plotting Owen Payne’s POV
  3. Finish plotting Luisa Brunner’s POV
  4. (Stretch Objective): Write chapter 1, which will be the helper plot and will focus on Jackson Scott

What Do You Think?

Do you have any routine procedures or rituals that help you start a new book? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!