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Progress Report 2024 Week 28

I’m running a month-long experiment with Facebooks ads, partly to save all of the promo site slots for the release of The Sword of Sirius in a few months and partly as a sanity check. The results are, let’s say, interesting. Also, I received beta feedback for The Sword of Sirius Book 2: Collapse Zone and alpha feedback on The Sword of Sirius Book 3: Firebreak. Both keep the “interesting” theme going. And of course, I have news about progress on Dreams of Deucalion Book 1: Stellar Entanglements. Let’s talk about all of that after we look at the progress infographic!

Last Week’s Progress By the Numbers

I was able to take advantage of the July 4th break to sneak in a couple extra writing sessions. Yes, that’s my idea of a vacation!

Stellar Engagements is flowing well. I’m already starting the Pinch 1 plot point for all three main arcs. In the middle of this gathering momentum, I received another beta reader’s feedback on Collapse Zone and the alpha feedback on Firebreak.

First the good news: the feedback on Collapse Zone is trending in the right direction after I incorporated earlier feedback into the plot. I’ll tell you, it’s liberating to strive for the idea of not taking constructive feedback personally. I’m much more able to take the feedback and do something useful with it. After incorporating the feedback, I can actually see the improvements. In the case of Collapse Zone, I only had to add about fifteen hundred words. I had most of the structures in place. I just needed a little extra umph to get them across the finish line.

Which brings me to the less than good news: alpha feedback on Firebreak wasn’t as positive as I’d hoped. Remember how I said that not taking stuff like that personally is an ideal? It’s hard, sometimes, to hear even constructive criticism (which is what the alpha feedback absolutely was). This was while I was trying to write Stellar Entanglements.

So far, the novel’s all over the place — geographically speaking.

So I took a step back. I reread the feedback a few more times. Then I let it simmer. By the end of the day, I had four specific changes I thought would address all of the valid points the alpha reader brought up. And guess what? It only cost me about two thousand more words. I think those two thousand words make the difference between a manuscript that mostly delivered what I wanted to one that hit the mark — at least as well as I can hit it.

Did I say it was less than good news? No. It was good news, because it helped me make the story better.

Remember how I mentioned that Collapse Zone needed a little extra push? It’s the same thing with Stellar Entanglements. There are times when I writing while a dozen things are happening all around me. Real Life Family Events (RLFEs) are a regular occurrence, and they take a toll on my mental fortitude. I can see the moments when I shied away from giving my writing my full attention — times when I held back, even a little, out of exhaustion. Understandable? Maybe. But it’s not acceptable. I need to figure out a way to get everything on the page, regardless of my mood.

I think I know how. First, I need to be mindful of the problem during the first draft. Second, I have to be double mindful during the read-aloud second draft. I think if I bring more concentration and effort to those stages, I can become a better writer.

Well, I feel kinda silly. After re-reading that paragraph, I realized my advice to myself is “write and rewrite.” Well, I think you know what I mean. I hope! And I hope I do, too!

Preparing for The Sword of Sirius’ Launch

Conserving Ad Space for a September Launch

Many book promo sites don’t want an author to advertise too frequently. Some make you to wait 30 days; some 90. So, anticipating a September 2024 release for The Sword of Sirius, I’m throttling back my promo ads and focusing exclusively on Facebook and Amazon ads.

I have two Facebook ads running: one to sell Evolution’s Hand Book 1: Executive Action and another to offer The Sword of Sirius Prequel: Fallback Position as a lead magnet to get e-mail addresses for my newsletter. In the case of the latter, I just checked today (Monday, July 8) and found I’d already hit my goal for newsletter subscriptions! That’s good news — I didn’t expect to hit it until the end of July.

The short story Fallback Position has been doing well as a lead magnet. You can get it by subscribing to my newsletter here!

But the news on the Executive Action front is less cheery. I’m nowhere near the sales figures I expected, based on my analysis of previous months that tries to factor out the promos. I think there could be one or more factors involved:

  1. Many writers report Facebook ads have been increasingly less effective; some folks blame the toxicity around the 2024 election for driving people away
  2. I may have underestimated the influence of the promo ads by counting sales against a promotion if it happened the day of or up to two days after the day the promotion ran
  3. I may have exhausted the potential in the currently demographic I’ve selected
  4. July 4th was smack-dab in the middle of the first week of July, and folks might have been too busy setting off or dodging fireworks to buy books

Augmenting Facebook Ads

I’ll let things ride for July. With Facebook ads, it’s important to not react too quickly, because sometimes Facebook needs a week or so to crunch the demographic numbers and adjust presentation. But I’ll say I’m a little disappointed in how July’s shaping up.

I decided to give Amazon ads another try. Lots of people say they’re tricky, and they are — to make effective. They’re relatively easy to setup, but they’re tough to get to convert. And I think, unless I’m missing something, that it comes down to the bid price (assuming you have ad copy that’s effective, and for me, that’s not a given).

Amazon has a bidding system. You have to win the bid with other writers before Amazon will show your ad to potential readers. I’ve read several writers say the same thing: the minimum bid prices have been rising. Like, a lot. A few years ago, I took an Amazon ad class that said your minimum bid should be around thirty cents. Assuming a one click to one purchase ratio (which is about five or ten times too generous!), the ad might break even for a $0.99 book. That’s what I set my current ad to, knowing it would likely not win the bidding war very often.

In over a week, it hasn’t won even once.

Of course, I can’t put on blinders and say the ad has to pay for itself through sales of Executive Action. It’s $0.99. Read-through to the rest of the series comes into play. But I really don’t think I can afford Amazon ads, at my current stage. I’ll use July to confirm that — for example, I’ll raise the bid until I start winning impressions. But I’m not hopeful.

Progress against Last Week’s Goals

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

  1. Write Atticus Porter’s Plot Turn 1 Part 2: Done! I even wrote his Plot Turn 1 Part 3, which should wrap up that point.
  2. Write Jadwiga Janczak’s Plot Turn 1: Done!
  3. Write Trent Raven’s Plot Turn 1: Done! It turned out to need two parts.
  4. Receive and process the first beta read for Collapse Zone: Done!
  5. Receive and process the alpha read for Firebreak: Done!

I also wrote two helper plot chapters:

  1. A reintroduction of Henry Duncan, who will interact with Trent Raven’s arc
  2. A reintroduction of Takeuchi Mai, who will also interact with Trent Raven’s arc (more in future books than in this one)

Goals for the Week in Progress Report 2024 Week 28

Here’s what I hope to accomplish this week:

  1. Write Atticus Porter’s Pinch 1 (it might be multiple chapters)
  2. Write Jadwiga Janczak’s Pinch 1 (it will likely be two or more chapters)
  3. Write Trent Raven’s Pinch 1 (again, it’ll probably be more than one chapter)
  4. Bid the cover job for The Sword of Sirius Book 3: Firebreak
  5. Receive the final beta feedback on Collapse Zone
  6. Send Collapse Zone for proof reading
  7. Bid the first beta read for Firebreak

What Do You Think?

How do you keep up with trends and tips for the various ad platforms? Do you hire that work out? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments!

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