Joshua C Cook

Author, Husband, Father, IT Manager

Dragonlance – Reading with a Writers eye.

Dragonlance. Good pulpy fantasy. And it is pulpy, as much as I like it. It’s a book series based off a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. There are formulaic parts, and early on, the characters aren’t super well defined. That being said, it’s just good solid fantasy. Now I’ve owned this ‘Annotated’ copy for years now. But it’s been more than a few since I read it. I recently came across it again in my books, and being in between series, decided to pick it up again. I’m very glad I did.

See, the annotations included with the book are by the authors. The last time I read this I hadn’t even begun to start writing, it was only a super vague idea and hint of a thought. Now, after pushing out 4-5 books, picking this up and reading the story AND the authors notes, has made for a very interesting read so far. One, the notes give a great deal of background information, why decisions were made, how the characters grew, and the thought process that went into making various plot points. In short, it’s a view into the two authors mind about the story. And some rather interesting take aways on back story, timelines, and giving the world your creating a history. Giving the readers a sense of time, that they aren’t just being thrown into a new world with no anchors to make it real.

Is Dragonlance great epic fantasy? I don’t know. It’s a little long in the tooth these days, and while some of the characters seem cliche now, I’m not sure how cliche they were at the time. But still, I’m finding this read through, reading with the eye of a writer, a very interesting, and rewarding experience.

 

In other news: Bridgebreaker, the second book is being released the 12th, so in a week. I have no idea how the pre-orders have gone, I’m not sure there is a way to even see that. I have lined up 5-6 release day reviews as well. I shot for ten, but doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. So I’ll take 5.

Bridgebreaker

Bridgebreaker, the second book in my series, The Echo Worlds, is now out on pre-order! (click that link to be taken to the pre-order page.) And there was much rejoicing. Release date is September 12th, and I’m looking forward to it. This marks the first time I’ve really been able to get a series started, and I’m already mentally laying out the next book. Once I get a good handle on everything I’ll be jotting down main points and getting down to the business of actually writing it out.

Bridgebreaker has greatly improved by the help of my great Beta Readers (who get a shout out in the book.) They all gave great feedback, useful feedback, and I think made the story a great deal stronger. I have heard that so far everyone who has read it feels it’s a stronger story than the first book. Not that Bridgefinders was bad at all, but this part of the series has more emotional ‘oomph’ than the first book did, which was actually by design.

This also marks the first time I’ll be trying two new marketing strats with a book release. Namely pre-orders, AND lining up release day reviews. So far I have 5 or 6 release day reviews promised to me. I’ve given out ARC’s (Author Review Copies) and have given them a timeline to get the reviews done. I’ll be sending out reminders to them a few days before, and the day of release as well, hopefully this will give this book, and of course the FIRST book a bit more viability.

I would be stupid if I didn’t also give a shout out to my cover artist guy, S.A. Hunt, who put up with my last minute requests for changes. I greatly appreciate it, and the issues were totally creations of my own rush to get things done. If your ever looking for a cover guy, S.A. is great!

So Bridgebreaker is being released, I’m starting to work on the next book, I’m accepting auditions for the Audiobook version of Bridgebreaker, the paperback is pretty much ready to go (once I push it out for release) and things are lining up nicely!

Marketing, Bridgebreaker, and Future items

Marketing : It’s complicated. So I did my mega-ultra-super marketing push.. and sold.. 34 units. 34 units at the sale price of 0.99 cents. Which because it was a countdown deal I got 70% of still at least. 🙁 Had a bit of a tail, but not a huge one. So all in all it wasn’t that successful. Looking back I think I made one really serious mistake, with so many services running at one time, I really have no idea which ones were truly successful, and while ones weren’t even close. Lesson Learned! I think I’m going to back off a bit on that, and marketing Bridgefinders in general. As it’s been said before, the best way to sell more books is to WRITE more books. So in that spirit.. I’m close to being down with the sequel to Bridgefinders! The cover above is in fact the cover of the next book, Bridgebreaker!

(And yes, there was much rejoicing.)

Currently the book is being read by Beta readers. Once I get that back, and ponder all of that input, I’ll be making changes, tweaking things, some more minor edits, then, publish time! I will again be doing an audiobook as well, so that will be going on, etc. So yeah, busy!

On future items.. I’m mulling over an idea of a story I sort of started once, and never finished. This is going to be a “I have nothing to work on so let’s work on that” project. So I don’t expect this to be something I’ll be pushing super often or super quickly. Who knows if I finish it, and polish it up I might do #pitchwars next year for it. Maybe not. I’ve discovered that while I love self publishing books, and find it fun, the idea of being ‘commercially’ published doesn’t really appeal to me much. I dunno. Maybe it’s because I am not fond of putting myself out there in that manner? Who knows.

Beside the point though. The real point is the coming of Bridgebreaker! Keep it tuned here to find out when it’s out. And as always remember to subscribe, join, follow, and all the above to see where I go with all this next.

 

— Josh

E-mail list Marketing

E-Mail list Marketing seems to be the holy grail of the self published author marketing world. And I can understand why, a dedicated list of readers who sign up to find out when you have a new book out. That usually means they will at some point buy it. More sales lead to better rankings, better rankings lead to more people seeing it, which leads to more fans, more e-mail list sign ups and so on.

It’s a great and wonderful thing.. Assuming you can get it working right. I’ve talking about what a pain book marketing is in the past, and it is. I’ve tried review stuff, and tried the free book promo. I’ve tried twitter storms, and ads. Ads on Facebook, Ads on Amazon. None of it has been particularly effective. Now, there are services that use e-mail lists and send your book to their sign ups. The downside is of course that your book is competing with everyone else’s book on those email lists, which is one reason I’ve been a bit turned off from using those services.

But as I work on the last chapter or two of the sequel to Bridgefinders, I’ve decided to try things a bit differently.

The ‘best’ service for this kind of thing is Bookbub. The problem is of course, that Bookbub is both very pricey and VERY hard to get into. Yes, getting lots of sales or downloads is nice. Very nice. And when I say a lot, I mean a LOT. For a reduced price book (down to 0.99 cents.) I’ve read of authors making 300-400 even up over a thousand sales in a single day or two. That is crazy to think about. Free book promos do even better, sometimes cracking 30,000! Of course it costs the author over 400-500$ sometimes to run on Bookbub as well.

Based on the fact that Bookbub has turned me down (again.) I’ve gone instead for the following approach.

On August 8th-10th, I’ve got a book countdown deal running. For those two days, Bridgefinders will cost 0.99 cents, down from 2.99.

Bridgefinders will be featured in newsletters going on to e-mail lists from the following services:

Book Barbarian

Books Butterfly

Bargain Booksy

Book Goodies

Book Scream

Fussy Librarian

Yes, I’m using the shotgun approach. 🙂 About the only one missing from this list is Book Gorilla, who I wanted to use as well, but I miss clicked and selected a promo I didn’t want. By the time I got it fixed I couldn’t run with them in the time frame I wanted. So, not using them. I’m not going free for the simple reason that I’ve done free, and not seen free turn into a lot of sales at this point. As I come out with more books in the ‘Echo Worlds’ series, I think running a free book promo on the first book would be worth doing, but at this point, it doesn’t help.

I’ve been investigating creating my own E-Mail list, but haven’t really taken that step yet. But using all the above services, for a fraction of what it could cost to run this on Bookbub, I’m hoping will pay off. I’ll update after the promo has run!

Forward, Onward, or where have I been?

Forward to the light! Well, almost. OK, so my updates to the blog have been in fact fairly sparse lately, I will try to work on that in the future, and hopefully I will. I’ve got a LOT of irons in the fire as the saying goes right now, and all of that is taking up time. First off, I’ve been writing, and writing a lot. A lot. This of course is a very good thing, as I had hit a bit of a wall mentally, and wasn’t sure where I wanted to take things. I’m sure the wall was also partially getting out of ‘writer’ mode as summer time activities with the family took precedence a lot, and I don’t begrudge that.

But anyways, I’m shooting for mid august (or sooner) to be done with this draft of the next book in the Echo Worlds series, Bridgebreaker.  You will know by now I’m not an outliner, and I’m still not, but to help me get past the wall I took 15 minutes (yes only 15, I set a timer.) and jotted down everything else I wanted to happen in the story.  Not chapters, but just single compact sentences about what else needed to go on. This seems to have helped me a great deal, as I’ve plowed through a great deal of it already. Once I get done with the draft I’ll send a few days crawling over it with the help of my word add on ProWritingAid. I got it and hated it at first. Then as I learned to use it more, I’ve gotten to love it. No, it’s not perfect. And yes, it makes mistakes sometimes. But it’s really helped me with my addiction to commas as well as pointing out where I repeat myself often.

Embarrassingly enough I tend to use the same phrases rather often and close together to boot. The add on does a very good job of finding those, so I can modify the flow a bit. Once I’m fairly happy I’ll be passing the draft on to.. BETA READERS! (yay, and there was much rejoicing!) I have, currently, 4 very good, through, Beta readers on point. I’d like to have an even five, so if anyone wants to put their hat in, PLEASE let me know via contact me here on the blog. After beta reader feedback, or possibly during that phase I’ll get a cover made by the ever talented S.A. Hunt, who did my cover for Bridgefinders.

Then a few more tweaks, and the next step forward! 🙂

Other updates coming in posts: A new video on my quarterly goals (bleh), a before and after on marketing Bridgefinders, and a few useful links I’ve been hitting often. So basically, stay tuned!

Busy Month

Busy Month, June. Very busy. It’s summer in Florida. My wife is a teacher so she’s home, the kids are out of school, so it’s trips, going places, doing stuff. This is all good, not complaining at all! However it has made me rather busy, and while I’ve been writing, social media (twitter, Facebook, blog..) have all suffered somewhat. I just haven’t updated things as much as a should have. I was out of town with the family for a week at the beach, which was a blast, but didn’t get anything done writing wise.

But I’m back now and going strong! I’m pretty happy with the sequel to Bridgefinders, at least in terms of a first draft and where it is now. I have it laid out somewhat in my head, though the story has taken me places as I’ve gone along to things I hadn’t planned on, but that’s the life of a Gardener. (Gardener = No Outline, let the story guide you.) On the Marketing front I’ve tried various different things to little success for the most part sadly. I got turned down by Bookbub again, the heavyweight in that area, but I’ll try again sometime, once I get a few more reviews down. I’ve managed to get to 14 so far, should get to 15 before to long. I also got the coolio banner made for free for Bridgefinders that you can see above.

What else is on tap? Hmm…I published an older book of mine, Canitus on Draft 2 Digital as a test. I took it *off* Amazon’s select program, meaning it’s not eligible for KU anymore, but that’s fine. It wasn’t doing anything anyways. Draft 2 Digital puts it on 6 different other eBook sellers, though truthfully, it won’t sell anything there either for the most part. The ugly fact is that Amazon is and will continue to be the gorilla in the room when it comes to eBook sales. No one else even comes close to it. But I figured, why not?

On the positive side, the audiobook stuff! Bridgefinders is still selling OK, got some reviews. People love the story, but aren’t overly happy with the sound production it appears. I also have approved the audio for Project: Perception, read by a gentleman who was my almost choice for Bridgefinders. That should be for sale *soon* I’ll update things when it’s done and ready.

So all in all, things are going well, though I’m a bit behind the curve in some area’s. Updates should happen a bit more often as I move forward from here and now.

Contest!

Contest! (Plus other things)

 

No, I’m not doing a contest (yet) but I’ve entered one. See, I really like my cover to Bridgefinders. I think it’s awesome. Lets look at it again, shall we?

Bridgefinders

Bridgefinders

See, that’s awesome 🙂 So being rightly proud of it, I have entered it in a contest for a Facebook group called ‘Book Viral’. The winner of the contest gets 500$ worth of credit towards book marketing with them. Now, given that they have a pretty nice plan, and it’s not cheap, 500$ would really help. So I entered.

The link is HERE.

 

All you need to do is click the heart under my book cover, and fill in the form. (Book Name: Bridgefinders, etc.) Now they WILL ask for an email address, and yes they will email you at whatever address you put in. It’s book suggestions really, but if you were to put in something other than your normal address I don’t think it would really matter. So if you read this, a vote for Bridgefinders would be appreciated. And if you click the link and you see a cover you like more, well.. I understand, vote for them! (It pains me to say that.. *heh*)

So what other things are going on in my world besides contests?

Hmm.. The audiobook for Project: Perception is moving along, I’ve joined a review group on Goodreads, and I’m writing. I believe my next post will be about PoV (Point of View) changes, and why/how I do them, as this seems to be a subject of some debate I’ve unknowingly discovered. The Goodreads group is an interesting thing that another author got me started on. You get into a review ‘circle’ and your book is reviewed by 4 people, and you review 4 DIFFERENT peoples book. They can either send you an ARC (Author Review Copy) but I prefer if I can to get the book via Kindle Unlimited. I prefer it for two main reasons, one, it gets the author a tiny bit of money, since Amazon pays them per page read, and it also shows up as a ‘verified’ review, since I downloaded it from Amazon. And since Amazon weights verified reviews a bit differently, it helps.

Being the overly fast reader I am, have torn through and reviewed 2 of my 4 books already since I started, 2 days ago. I’m loving it. Both books I’ve gone through so far have been very good, and I recommend them.

The two books in question are: The Midnight Land: Part 1 and White Serpent, Black Dragon

I’ll post links to the next two when I’m done with them as well.

So that’s it for today, I’d love your vote for my book in the cover contest.

Book Titles

Book titles are one of those things that I struggle with sometimes. Trying to find the right balance of being interesting, but not giving to much away is not always easy. Take for example my current work in progress. At the start I was going to name it Grellnot, after one of my antagonists. I liked the idea of it, and the mental image I had of the cover was really cool. However, as I began working on the book, I realized that the title, as cool as it was in my head didn’t accurately describe what the book actually was about. So I made the decision to change it. As the first book was called ‘Bridgefinders‘ I based on the story so far and thinking I knew were it was going to go, I came up with ‘Bridgebreaker.’

Which is a bit self-explanatory, but still it works. All that being said, with the work taking a decidedly different turn than I had originally thought I may revisit the name again. Remember as I’ve said before I’m a ‘gardener’ as the might George RR Martin describes it. I have an idea, a single sentence for the start of the book and let it grow, I don’t outline, create flash cards of notes or plot points, none of that. Which again knowing me is rather amusing, I’m a logical person and love structure and systems, but not here, not in this.

As a result sometimes the writing takes me in a totally different direction than I had expected. In the book under development, the Bridgefinders find themselves and Cendan in particular in a very bad place. Unexpected allies, new knowledge, and somewhat dangerous characters have appeared in ways I hadn’t even thought of before.

I guess the questions are:

  1. If your a writer/author/indie, whatever you call it.. do you title the book when your all done? Maybe in progress? Does it it even matter to you?
  2. If your a reader, how much do you want the title to ‘give away’? Have you ever not bought a book because of the title?

 

Other News:

After some success with the audiobook for Bridgefinders, I decided to go back and put up Project: Perception as an audiobook. Now, for Bridgefinders I had a bear of a time getting people to audition for it at first. I’ve not had this issue at all for Project: Perception, in fact my main issue is I’ve had 7 auditions so far. One is someone I reached out to personally as they auditioned for Bridgefinders but I ended up going with a different reader. It was a very close call between the two of them, and I wanted to give the guy another chance.But some of these auditions are really really good. So it’s going to be interesting picking one!

That’s all for today, need to write some more of the sequel, and work on a few other things. I’m very curious as to how other’s deal with book titles, so please leave a comment below!

Bad Reviews

Bad reviews, revenge?

So if you haven’t read it yet, read this first, I’ll wait.

Back now?

So as you read, I had a little dust up with a book marketing ‘company’ called creativwriter.com with accompanying site bookmarketingdivas.com. They missed deadlines, wouldn’t respond to emails, phone messages, or direct messages. I finally had to dispute the charge on my credit card, and THAT got their attention.

But, flying in their constant refrain of ‘I’m a professional.’ they lashed out. How? By first attacking me on twitter which I honestly didn’t care about, I fired back with a link to that other blog post, and it stopped. But what I didn’t know when I wrote that was something else, something worse.

The night I disputed, I had sent them a message saying that due to lack of communication, and the face that I didn’t believe they could deliver what they claimed in the time frame they have claimed to do it it, I was going to have to dispute the charge. I did offer in light of the mock-ups being done,even though they took 9-11 minutes to do using free templates (Click here to see them) to pay 50$, which I still think is pretty generous for that amount of work.

Well a few things happened. One, the video showing how fast it was to create the templates vanished from Periscope, still trying to get a copy of it if I can to hold onto if I need it. The worst thing however, was Goodreads.

The person behind this (and it’s one person) created a slew of new accounts, plus using some old pen name accounts 1 starred and used the same basic text over and over on my book Bridgefinders. Drove what had been a 4.5 star avg to 1.6.  See, I was willing to let this go, I’d have paid them 50, (but they have yet to ever say yes, we will take the 50$.) but they had to go and pull that crap. So I dig some more and with the assistance of another author whose had problems with them, found so far 10 authors who’ve had issues with them. SAME EXACT PROBLEMS.

Missed deadlines, stops responding, etc. And EVERY single time, she lashes out, 1 staring books, or in one case creating a whole blog post attacking them. This is a prime example of why every indie/self-pubbed author should investigate and vet ANY company they do work with. Ask for testimonials from multiple authors. Ask around see if anyone has done business with them. It may take a bit of time, but trust me, you’d rather do this before you pay up than after.

As it stands now, I’ve Flagged all the negative reviews, and had Goodreads investigate. With any luck they will get removed, and even better the accounts she used and created be banned from Goodreads.

I know some may think, just let it go. But I can’t. I won’t. That’s exactly what she wants, me to go away, her to continue to be able to scam and steal. She claims to have sold 42000 books last week, that’s right SOLD 42,000 books. (Yeah, no.) Her latest claim is she’s signed up 500,000 people for her email list in the last two weeks. She says these numbers, and people who don’t know and don’t understand believe it, and she gets more victims. It isn’t right.

Hopefully this will have to be the last time I ever have to post about this.. I’d much rather post about the sequel to Bridgefinders, or how I’m getting one of my old books, Project: Perception made into an audiobook now as well. Those would be far more fun posts to write, and so barring any escalation, that’s what the next blog post will in fact be about. Not bad reviews thrown by a scammer.

Buyer beware…

“Buyer Beware” is a saying that has new meaning to me now, let me tell you a story…

Hello! I’m sure you’ve heard a version of events that makes it look like I’m stealing. I’m not.

Let’s go over what I got, and what I paid for, and why exactly I disputed the charge with the credit card company.

On April 2nd I bought the ‘Book Launch Boost service’ from creativwriter.com for 250$. What was supposed to be included?

50 verified reviews

Multi-step Author Platform review

5 Marketing mockups

 

I was pretty excited about this purchase. I was launching my latest book and wanted to get it out there.

Before purchased I had been in twitter DM contact with Erin Kirchner, aka BookmarketingDiva and had asked a few questions. One of the main was how did this not violate Amazon TOS as Amazon can be highly touchy about this.

I was told this:

You would change the price to $.99 for 2 weeks for our purchasers. If you’re unable to change price then we allocate $50 towards verified and make the rest unverified.

 

We don’t violate TOS because we are hiring readers that purchase your book directly and are not affiliated with you.

Flag this message Delete this message

 

They get a gift certificate from us only after a review has been completed and posted.

Mar 16

 

There’s s big difference in buying reviews which Amazon depicts as “review farms” – same individuals owning all the accounts – and what we do.

Mar 16

 

Compensation would mean that we actually make money which we don’t. It’s an in and out transaction.

 

Let’s keep that in mind shall we?

So I purchased… And then was told it would be three weeks due to ‘high demand’ before they got started… Ok, not super happy but ok. A few days later I got an email from a leah@creativwriter.com asking for the book title. I had been pretty sure I had given it, but gave it again. It was a nice normal conversation.

I’ll be honest, I was impatient. I emailed them a week later asking if the wait was still three weeks. I was trying to get a firm launch date as I was having the audiobook made and wanted to try and coordinate the release of the audiobook with the upcoming reviews, which if you’re a writer makes sense.

I got back a response, a bit curt saying yes, but they wouldn’t’ actually give me a firm start date, just ‘at the earliest the 25th’ which was a bit after three weeks truthfully, but I jotted down that date.

The 25th of April came and went, and still nothing.

I wrote another email (still polite, just asking for information. I’ve paid them at this point, right? I’m a client, I’d think an actual professional would know that…but I digress.) Asking when it would start. I had expected the 25th, and honestly had overlooked the ‘at the earliest’ part of that email when I had jotted down the date. I got a even more curt email in response stating it was all an estimate, and they’d let me know when they started.

So then… The 29th came around, and I got an email saying they started! Yay!

But…

Something weird happened.

I got this spike of ‘sales’ on the following Sunday… 26 sales, but I got no credit for them. Really strange. Amazon has been known however to lag on things, so I waited… And watched. Looked for reviews… waited and watched. Days pass. No reviews, and no money. I did email Erin asking how the sales had been done, as it wasn’t acting like a normal sale, and she did write back, but it was a non-reply as in she didn’t answer the question. Mostly she just told me that book rankings on Amazon don’t matter. So I wrote Amazon an email asking about the sales.

Lo and behold I got a response back, they were gift purchases. Wait, what?

If you remember the conversation above you will note that I was told that only after the reviewers purchase and POST a review are they reimbursed, and that’s clearly not what’s going on. So I emailed them again, the Leah/Erin team, and was told nothing. Nothing as in they didn’t respond.

At this point I get curious… I start looking into Leah Hart and Erin Kirchner.

1) Leah claims to be an author with lots of books for sale

2) Erin claims, nothing.

So I go looking, and see that Leah Hart while she claims to have a great many books for sale, in fact has a handful, several very poorly reviewed, and hardly any overall. And in fact at least based on her website, all these books she’s launched.. I can’t find evidence of them really existing anymore (if they ever did.)

The picture she uses for media, is the back of a head, that’s not her. It’s a prom hair picture from 2015. As in ‘Look at these great options of awesome hair at prom!’ click bait picture. Google image search is a great thing. So I do a bit of digging on the websites themselves, websites registered to a law office in LA? The phone numbers are all disconnected (and in Arizona.) Curiouser and curiouser.

So at this point I just ask where Leah’s books are as I was interested in one (I actually was.) I got no response again. See a pattern?

A few more days pass, and I write them again, asking where the mockups and platform review were.

Crickets.

The one day (with no other communication) I get an email with a drop box! My mockups! I was happy to get something, and thought “Maybe I’m just being paranoid, it should be fine.”

But….

I really liked the mockups, and mentioned so to another author. Lo and Behold, I discovered they were totally free templates. Hmmm. Then Leah posts a periscope with her doing my mockups, and it took her all of 11 minutes. Note, her laptop is a very old MacBook, missing keys, this is important.

So the mockups cost her 11 minutes of time, and nothing for the templates. Not exactly overly professional, but ok. Not worth 250$. To date this is the ONLY thing I’ve ever gotten from them.

Then she (Leah) posts a supposed screen capture from createspace showing her with a monthly royalty of 72 grand. Yes, 72 grand. Remember what I said about the laptop.. and on top of it, it’s a bad photochop.

creativ-createspace

(all rights to this image are via @leahhart

Doesn’t add up does it?

 

So I talk to a few other ‘clients’ of theirs, and find out people before me have been asking the same questions, and still, not gotten answers. Those who have gotten their platform reviews aren’t for the most part happy with them (seems to be a bunch of questions asked in variations with the same answers over and over.. basically Hire Creativwriter to do this for you.)

The mockups were done with free templates and took 11 minutes.

And people have been waiting much longer than I for reviews, and still haven’t gotten them.

What takes the cake (as I’m seeing, and expected.) is that if you want off this, if you question, you get publicly attacked. Which also is so very professional of them.

 

I don’t believe Leah is a real person truthfully.. I believe she is an alias, a pen name. I lean towards the idea that Erin isn’t real either. There’s also a Kendall Sparks name, that’s an alias. I am pretty much sure the real person is Stacey Keene. No I don’t have hard proof, just suspicions, with some circumstantial evidence. I’m working on fleshing this out.

I have sent them an email offering to pay 50$ however. 25 for the mock-ups, and 25 for the fake gift purchases.. I’ll update when they respond.. if they do 🙂

« Older posts

© 2016 Joshua C Cook

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑