Some Dream-Come-True Moments

Some Dream-Come-True Moments

b2b-WEBSITE-LARGE-BANNER-LANDSCAPE-The B2B Cyber Convention just wrapped up. I’ve been super busy these past few days, but I wanted to take a moment to share some things (one of which was truly amazing).

The first is a story I’d like to share with you all.

I’m a creature of habit. I do my laundry on the same day. I eat at the same place every Friday. I work the same schedule every day. I like routine. The thing about routines though is you tend to have this expectation that every day, week, and moth will work out exactly the same. Most times, when there’s an interruption to my routine, I’m actually quite difficult to deal with.  But sometimes, it’s just wonderful.

Every other Friday, I go to the same place to cut my hair. I eat at the same place as I do every Friday. I check to see what movies are out that I might want to see. I stop by the book store in the mall just to see what may have gotten released without my knowledge.  That’s when I head over the my hair place.

This particular Friday, I arrive to find the woman who does my hair isn’t available for  awhile.  I don’t think much of it. I arrange a time later that evening with her. I’m about to head out to knock a few items off my to-do list when someone taps me on the shoulder.

One of the other employees caught my attention and pointed to the woman he was working with.  The woman smiles and points at me.

“Aren’t you that author?”

(PAUSE)

You see, my whole life, I’ve always wanted to be, “That Author.” That identification may be on the top three list of things I want to put on my tombstone.  When The Journals of Bob Drifter was first published, my sister bought me a personalized pen.  When she gave it to me, I told her it was a life dream of mine to have someone approach me and ask for my autograph.

So when Karen asked me that question, she quite literally made one of my life’s dreams come true.

(RESUME)

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A picture of me and Karen after the autograph!

I don’t really remember much after that. My euphoria made it pretty hard to think straight. I said yes.  She said that she’d recognized me from my book (Journals). Since I’m a regular at Rafet’s (the place I get my hair cut), I thought to plop a copy of the book there so people could read it while they wait for their haircuts. Now, that book has been there since Bob got published (two years now).  Turns out, at least one person had been chipping away at it!

So we chatted for a while. She told me the book really grabbed her attention. We exchanged contact information, and, yes, I gave her an autograph.  I originally gave her an autograph on a sheet of paper (which I tell my students to always have on their person). The establishment actually gave her that copy of the book, so I later signed that one and grabbed a selfie with Karen.

The world is a wonderful place sometimes. A guy can just be going about his day, and suddenly God smiles on someone. The little things are usually more special than the big. That moment will fuel my dream to be a “successful” author for quite a while.

So to those of you a little earlier in their journey than I am, I say you have to remember it’s a marathon. You have to work. It’s not an overnight thing. This isn’t the realm for instant success. But if you keep at it, and you’re consistent, you’ll get these little moments that mean so much. My sales are still right about where they normally are, but I found a fan and a new friend. If you’re reading this, Karen, I say again, Thank you!

BloodSpringThunderclapThat was how my weekend started! I posted on Friday about the Brain To Books Cyber Convention 2017.

The first cool thing was how many more authors I met. I got to hang out more with Joshua Robertson, who I met a few months ago and got to know a bit better when his book Anaerfell was up for Book Cover of the Month. I also met so many other cool authors: My internet is really acting up, so I can’t really link them all like I want.  But just a few are: Heidi Angell (she’s not THAT kind of angel), Richard White, A.L. Mabry, Suzanna J. Linton (a fellow Dragonriders of Pern fan), Tim (again, my internet isn’t letting me find his last name), and Joe Compton. I PROMISE I could go on for days. I don’t know how many panels or group chats I did. What I DO know, is I’ll be adding a page to this website soon. I’ll add those videos, because they’re fun for readers, writers, and authors trying to figure out marketing.

Angela B. Chrysler and I had an idea at about the same time. I’d been trying to figure out a use for Youtube, and so she created Nerd Rage, which will be a monthly Youtube event we do. We’ll film them the last Saturday of every month. There may be a time or two we can’t all make it, but for the most part, there’ll be a handful of us just needing out about whatever topic Angela pulls out of a hat. (No, I mean that literally.) If you can’t wait for me to get around to loading what videos I’ve already been a part of, you can look at those and everything else here.

caught-front-coverWhich leads me to my last thought of the day. I’d mentioned that one of the events I was taking part in was a covers war. I’m very proud to announce that Caught won the cover war for horror and thrillers! I have to admit, I campaigned pretty hard to win. I was a big fan of my cover, and I wanted it to get recognized. It turns out, a bunch of my Facebook friends and a few of my Author/Wordpress friends (Hi JR! Hi Corey!) came to offer me support! Look, it’s basically just bragging rights, but it’s like I said, the little things make all the difference sometimes. So I wanted to end this post with a huge thank you for that support in giving that cover some love. Thank you all.  Now, I have a short story to revise, another short story to write, two books to write and a series to get started on. All by 2018.  So…I’m off.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

 

What Box Does This Fit In? The Importance of Putting Your Book in the Right Category

What Box Does This Fit In? The Importance of Putting Your Book in the Right Category
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This screenshot was captured Feb. 3, about 6 days after Caught was released.

As I type this, Caught is still a long ways away (a month actually).  I recently read (and reviewed) How to Market a Book by Joanna Penn. One of her chapters spoke about categories and their importance, and that made me want to share with you some things I did differently this time around.

 

What I did wrong: I’m in love with my genre, and I (obviously) know The Journals of Bob Drifter better than anyone. I understand the magic system and the other three books (two written) that are related to it, but none of that matters. I didn’t see it, because I was trying to fit Bob and my work to where I want to be one day. I threw it in the Urban Fantasy category. It simply doesn’t belong there.

What I fixed: Well, the trick here (thanks to Joanna’s book) that worked was to think about Caught in terms of books that are related. What books does Caught feel like? What authors produce work that is similar to what this book does?

screen-shot-2017-02-03-at-10-21-18-pm
This screen shot (taken Feb. 3) shows the various categories The Strain is in. Notice how well it’s doing in all categories related to Vampires?

The first book that came to mind was The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan.  That book’s primary category is Mystery, Thriller & Suspense. Down that rabbit hole of categories is a sub category called Supernatural > Vampires.  A few clicks down Amazon’s categories, and there for the taking was my category (there’re some spoilers in that area, but it’s there).  Bob is a Supernatural thriller as well.

 

(NOTE: The real trick is getting the book to register on those deeper categories.  For instance, The Strain is also in General Fiction > Horror.  Caught is in a few other categories as well, which increases visibility. That’s great, but I still focus on the category I know is best.)

But I didn’t just DIVE after the Supernatural category. I did some more searching around. I came up with a list of books and authors that all line up with Caught. I feel the readers who enjoy these books or authors will like Caught.

Night Chills by Dean Koontz

The Shining by Stephen King

Not all the stuff I looked up fell in this category, but many of them did.

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Bob isn’t doing so well in this category. Is it a bad book? (Screenshot taken Feb. 3)

I can shove my book into the Fantasy category if I want. But Caught isn’t Fantasy. It isn’t by any stretch of the imagination. Sure, I know Bob has a magic system. Eventually, you’ll see more of that magic (and even a monster), but even when I publish 1,200, a clever reader would have to look closely to see the connection between that book and Bob.

 

The lesson. Put your ego in a trunk, and throw it off the deck of a ship. I’m an author. I worked long and hard, sacrificed, and spent thousands of dollars on editors, but the PUBLISHING of that work, the MARKETING of it is about the CUSTOMER. Readers have the right to know that the book they purchase isn’t one they

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No. It gets good reviews, but it has no visibility because the people who will enjoy it can’t see it. (Screenshot taken Feb. 3) 

“might” like, but one you know they’ll love. Man was it hard to look myself in the mirror and tell myself that. ESPECIALLY while I’m getting ready to revise Sojourn in Despair. But that’s the right call.

 

Put your work in front of the small, specific audience you know will like your book. Some writers avoid this out of pride (abashedly raises hand). Other avoid it because they’re afraid. They want their book in front of millions of eyes.

People, I see dog poop on the road every day. Seeing it doesn’t make me want to pick it up.

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This image and the Feature Image were taken from Pixabay.

Your book (my book) isn’t dog poop, but it might as well be if you throw it on the busiest street (metaphorically) you can find. Because those people (metaphorically) are going somewhere. They’re looking for something specific. Put your book where YOUR readers are going.

If your sales are low. Ask yourself if you’re putting the book in front of the right readers. Try changing the category. I promise, you’re not going to sell fewer books.

For example, my category for Caught has 1,120 books. I’d rather go up against 1,000 books than the 293,452 in the broader category. J.R. (I believe he passed it along to me, but he’s the guy who told it to me) said be the big fish in the little pond. It took me a minute to find my pond. This is what worked for me.

When I shift Bob over to the right category, I’ll let you know how it affected sales and reviews.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

My Tour is Beginning to Take Shape

My Tour is Beginning to Take Shape

I feel now is the appropriate time to officially make an announcement as I’m starting to make contact with people and settle in on dates and conventions. I’m not registered with nearly enough conventions just yet, but I hope to change it.

This blog will receive revisions through the weeks as I set dates or firm up times, but if you’re in the area, and you’d like to stop by, say hi, grab an autograph, buy a book, or all o the above, these are the places I’ll be.

Jan. 28. Time TBD
Caught Book Launch
Twilite Zone Comics
18 Crain HWY N, Glen Burnie, MD. 21061

I did the book launch for The Journals of Bob Drifter here, and if I have my way, I’ll do all my book launches here. Bumper is awesome. His store is amazing, and I love comics!

Jan. 29. 1-2:30 p.m.
Book Signing
Greetings & Readings
118-AA Shawan Rd, Hunt Valley, MD. 21030

Greetings & Readings is way more than a book store. It’s a great location, and they were so helpful in having me do a book signing there last year. I’m honored they’re letting me back.

Feb. 12 1-4:45 p.m.

Lecture: Self-Publishing Considerations and Options
Glen Burnie Regional Library
1010 East Way
Glen Burnie, MD. 21060
(DISCLAIMER: The library was kind enough to provide a venue, but they are in no way endorsing my books. It’s important to note that as I’ll be selling copies of my books there, and as the library hosts many events, they are not endorsing me over any other product.)

June 16-18
AwesomeCon
Walter E. Washington Convention Center
801 Mt. Vernon Pl NW, Washington, District of Columbia 20001

I’ve been to AwesomeCon two years in a row, and I’ll be there every year if I have any say over it. I’ve also done panels there both years. I’ve put in for panels already, but I’m waiting on word as to if I’m being picked up.

Stay tuned for more updates as time goes by!

Thanks for reading,
Matt

 

I Have a Youtube Channel!

I Have a Youtube Channel!

I had an idea a while back. I love this blog, but the primary function of my posts are analytical in function. I love it, and I’m honestly a very analytical person, but I love geeking out too. So I figured it would be fun to create a Youtube channel designed to cater to the more “fan” side of me. That’s why I named the show FanTalk. I’ve done two episodes so far. I plan for them to be weekly episodes.

I’ll offer top 5 or top 10 episodes. I’ll talk about movies I just watched or TV episodes that caught my eye. It’s different because I’m really just having fun with it. It’s new, and there’s work to be done, but I wanted to share it with you all.  Feel free to head over here and have a look. I hope you like what you see, subscribe, and comment.

Just a quick update this weekend. I hope you had a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: How to Market a Book by Joanna Penn

Book Review: How to Market a Book by Joanna Penn
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Book Cover for Review purposes under Fair Use Doctrine. Also, I want you to know what this book looks like because you need to buy it and read it

I never made it a secret that marketing is far more of a mystery to me than writing or producing a book (and I’ve made more than my fair share of mistakes in those areas).

A few weeks ago, I bought one of those “marketing for dummies” books. I got one chapter in before I wanted to know if anyone had something for someone even less educated.

I read J.R. Handley’s blog a few weeks ago.  That blog led me to Joanna’s website. The website led me to her book, “How to Market a Book.”

What this book does for me is speak to me in a manner that makes sense. It’s not just a book on marketing, it’s a book about how to market my product.

At first, I started reading it like a manual. Basically, I thought, “Do all of these .things in this order.”

I don’t know why I thought this as she says one shouldn’t try all of these things at once. What I realize this does now is give several things to try at various times until I find what works for me.

Things that really worked:

There’s a segment about Twitter that I found very helpful.

wiar_how-to-market-a-bookThere are some tools here to use now and then. So this is more of a reference book than a text book. To explain: I can come back to this and study up, and then get more information when I’m ready to try something.

She gives a ton of follow-on sites, blogs, podcasts, interviews, and books that I plan on using here and there as I try different things.

The only thing I wish I could find is what I call more actionable information. I’m intuitive in my craft, but literal in my thinking. I’d kill for more specific step-by-step instructions. Like I really feel that changing keywords on Amazon might help me, but HOW do I do that?  How do I change my categories? I did a search on Author Central, but all I could find basically amounted to “send us an email.” Even then they swear we can only have “two” categories (a main and a sub) when I know for a fact that some books go four levels deep. So how to I get into THOSE categories?  With Caught coming out, I took a LOT of time finding the right book. Joanna DID give some great advice that I followed. It has to do  with looking at books you think are similar and seeing what categories they fall under.

arrows-1617376_960_720This book gave me something I desperately needed. An idea on where to step. I want more steps. I want small, baby steps, but this is a fantastic overview book with critical follow-on material. Seriously, if you’re about to publish your first book, if your book is nearly ready to come out, if your looking at releasing anytime soon, buy this book. The worst mistake I made in releasing a book was releasing a book without knowing remotely how to market a book. I truly wish I’d read this about two years ago. Even better, two years ago. I can’t stress enough how important it is to start building your platform. I’m on the right track now, but I’d be farther ahead if I gave this aspect of this business more attention.

Thanks for reading,

V/R
Matt

 

Marketing Journal: Goodreads Campaign

Marketing Journal: Goodreads Campaign

I’ve made no bones about the fact that marketing is something I don’t understand.  Oh, I have as much economics training as the next Associates Degree holder, but to be honest, I only know enough to know I don’t know what I’m doing.

My idea is to create a marketing journal.  I’ll track what I try and how it works.  Then I realized others might be interested in seeing what I’m doing.  Maybe they know how to do it better and will help a guy out, or maybe they’re like I am, and this will help them at least be as successful as I’ve been.

This is my first entry under this Marketing Journal tag, and I don’t know how often or regularly I’ll post these.  Most marketing campaigns have some sort of cost associated with it, and money just isn’t a thing I have.

I noticed Goodreads has started an add campaign system a while ago, so I thought I’d give it a try.

How it works:  Well, if I can figure it out, it’s pretty easy.  You start by clicking here.  It’s the summary and description of how it works in general.

target-418917_960_720Like I said, advertising usually costs money.  For this campaign, I set a limit of $50.  For anyone smarter than me:  is it completely unreasonable to think the money you invest in campaigning should at least result in the same amount earned in sales?  What’s the ration of profits earned against advertising dollars?  For me, I would consider this a gain if I simply get 50 people to add my book to their TBR lists.  I’d be ecstatic if I sold 50 copies of my book.  But I need to be told if that’s just a pipe dream.

I have a daily cap set at $5 a day.  That cap is based on my Cost Per Click.  I established my Cost Per Click originally at $0.5.  So when I started, if 10 people clicked my link, I wouldn’t get any more clicks, but I wouldn’t lose any more money from my budget.  I’m not sure how big a deal that is to be honest.  My whole campaign is built to end when the $50 I invested runs out, so weather that runs out in a day or a month, I’m not concerned either way.

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This is my actual chart that tracks views for the month of September.  All the following images are from my dashboard showing my progress.

Now we come to the part I think might be of interest to those like me.  I set up my add to target women who like a group of genres.  I was very broad, basically clicking any genre my book comes anywhere near to fitting in.  The first day I had 70 views.  The second day I had 73 views.  I didn’t have anyone click my link.  I’ve mentioned before that interaction matters to me.  So I changed it up.  I shifted so the campaign only targeted men.

I’m a man.  I wrote a book I liked.  I wrote a book my best friend and brother in law might like.  But when I looked at Goodreads and Amazon, I realized that the BULK of my sales and 5-Star Reviews were, in fact, from women.  That’s why I chose women first. Watch this:  When I shifted from women to men, my views plummeted from 73 to 22.  I can say I wrote this book for whoever I want, but the fact is, women are more interested in my book than men. I shifted the campaign back to women the next day and ended with 100 views.  After four days, I had 165 views, but no clicks.  Time to switch it up.

Goodreads also has a feature that allows you to target people who rated a group of Authors.  So if I select authors I think my book is like, anyone who gave all of those authors 3 or more stars will see my add.   This is awesome.  I chose Dean Koontz, Christopher Golden, Mike Molina, James Patterson and Dan Wells.

I had 23 views.

My theory is that the list of authors I gave is very broad.  Only two come any where near each other, and even that is a stretch.  So if only a small percentage of people read that combination, it reduces my reach.  Now, this would have been fine if those 23 views also mean 23 clicks, but it didn’t.  In the interest of science, I switched it from women who liked those authors to men.  Again, I dropped to 16.  Still no clicks.

So I changed my approach.  I switched my audience to women again.  Then I went back to genres.  This time, I reduced the number of genres to those I felt BEST represented Bob.  I chose Ebooks, Fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Paranormal, and Thriller.

october-viewsIn one day, I received 3,562 views.  I  also received 3 clicks.  Two people added me to their TBR lists.  The next day I received 3,362 views and one click.  I was very happy with the views and the clicks were improving.

The help section in Goodreads recommends if you want to increase your click through percentage (CTR) (percent of people who click your link from those who view your add) to change the add summary.  At this point, my add was an image of the cover with the following:  “Dead Like Me meets Supernatural.  A story about life from the perspective of those who watch over the dying.”  In an effort to increase that CTR, I changed it to, “Dead Like Me meets Supernatural.  A substitute teacher must collect the souls of the dying.  How does one live, when his real job is death?”

october-clicks-1Whenever you change your ad, it takes a few days for Goodreads to approve your ad.  So my ad shut down for a few days until it was approved.  When it came back up, I received 2,720 views, but no clicks.  I’m going to let this campaign run for a few more days with these settings.  If I don’t get back above 3,000 views, or I don’t get any clicks, I’ll go back to the original add and see if those numbers climb back up.

That’s where I’m at right now.  I’ve had 10,040 views and 4 clicks for a CTR of .04%.  (Goodreads says the results span from .05-.5, so if I can get to .25, I’ll call that a solid first time average).

current-add-lookI hope this helps those trying to figure out ways to reach viewers.  Of all the campaigns I’ve tried outside of conventions, this is one I feel best about because I already know I’m getting my add in front of interested readers.  That’s priceless to me.  Facebook and Twitter adds can be refined to interests, but people are finicky.  I would not call someone who likes Harry Potter  a fan of Fantasy.  The reading of one book doesn’t make you a fan of genre.  I’ve read two romance novels.  I hate romance.  I actually liked one of those books.  I read it because I wanted to learn from the structure and style.   Any genre is the same really in that regard.  BUT, to be able to target readers who like those genres or the authors those book match is awesome!  I’ll keep you all posted in how this goes.

Until then, thanks for reading,

Matt

The Battle With Discouragement

The Battle With Discouragement

social-1206612_960_720As I type this, I’ve sold less than 300 copies of my first book.  I’m ranked 532,049th among Amazon’s authors.  My sales graph looks like a jumbo slide at a theme park.

Writing a book is hard.  It takes time and effort.  Authors shove all of their heart and souls into their work, and they care about what they do.  Here I am looking at all of this data, and it can be discouraging.

This is not a blog about giving up.  If you’re reading this, and you think I’ll ever stop, you must be on my page for the first time.

What I’m trying to share with everyone out there is how discouraging it can be some times.  I talk to my author friends about it all the time.  This, in my opinion, is one of the main reasons people never write a book.  They see the completion of a novel as a step to success (the sale of said novel).

What I want to do now is share with you all how I deal with discouragement.  I’m in NO way an expert.  But of all the things that get me down, writing isn’t on the list.  Sales, marketing, and life, oh my do I have a list!  But discouragement can only win if you give up.  I’ve spoken about this a lot.  So what keeps me going?  What keeps me typing when I’m setting new all-time lows?  What keeps me marketing?

checkmate-1511866_960_720You fail when you quit:  This is something I was taught even as a kid.  To my own detriment, I’m one who refuses to quit.  I’m fiercely loyal.  I’m ABSOLUTELY dedicated.  When I say “I will,” I do.  So when I start to feel like a failure, I try something.  I try ANYTHING I can think of that I think will help me improve.  I try a new marketing scheme.  I try a new sales tactic.

In my life, I’ve learned that if you want to HAVE something, you must, in fact, DO something.  Now…I’m a man who like momentum.  I’ll take the longer, slower way to work if it lets me keep my car in motion.  Try though other friends have, I refuse to believe the answer to getting anywhere is stop.  The downside to this is sometimes that effort is misused.  I try not to waste energy, but in this, my nature trumps my actions.  Whatever happens though, the moment I feel low, I consider what I CAN do, and I do that.

memory-1010902_960_720Remember Where You Started:  Even if I NEVER sell a book again, I’ve still written a book.  It’s not easy.  You see, in reference to my earlier statement, I see sales as sales.  I don’t consider the sale of said book to be the goal of writing.  Finishing a book is the goal of writing.  Selling said book is the goal publishing the next book.  No matter how low I get, I realize nothing stops me from writing another book.

This does a lot for me in other ways.  Bob was my first novel, and if I had it to do again, I’d have waited to publish one book until I had three ready to go.  I had no idea how powerful having multiple products was.  I would categorize the decision as a mistake, but it’s not one from which I can’t recover.   Caught will help.  Maybe 1,200 gets me an agent?  Maybe the next book gets me on the NYT Best Seller List.  Even if they don’t.  The data shows having more books out helps you sell more books.  So even if I’m the worst selling author ever, I’m still an author.  As I type this, my book is on my little trophy case.  I get all sad and whiny, and then I look to my left.  That’s MY book.  I wrote that!

cup-1010916_960_720Finding Wins:  This is a harder concept to grasp.  For me, one of my most powerful wins is that the bulk of my readers like my book.  According to Goodreads, 95% of people who rate or review my book like it.  80% offer four stars or more.  Even the three-star reviews are very kind and usually have something very fulfilling to offer an author who’s having a bad day.  Another win for me is starting or finishing another project.  I can finish edits to Caught and tell myself, “This one will do better!”

comfort-536896_960_720Talking To People:  This is critical.  We writers can be pretty miserable at times.  We’re actually very fun people on the whole (well, maybe I’m not, but I’m not all that normal a guy to begin with).  The thing is we’re artists, and we artists are emotional beings.  I’ve had several conversations with all my writer friends.

Sometimes I’m there telling them how great they are.  Sometimes they’re around to remind me the same.  This isn’t just writing.  When life in general gets me down, I have friends that I can turn to.  Don’t mistake the desire to move on as “happiness.”  This isn’t a post about how to be happy.  I’m a fighter.  I am constantly fighting the me from yesterday, and I hate that dude.  I want the me of today to be better, and that’s a very hard code to live by.  But I find the strength and will to keep going when I talk to those I love.  Sometimes we bounce ideas off of each other.  Sometimes they just sit and listen because they know that’s all I need.  No matter what though, they’re there for me, and that means everything.

horse-746635_960_720So those four things are what keep me going.  I understand that one of them amounts to, “just keep going, cause screw giving up,” but it works for me.  My friends hate this phrase I quote, “I am Orwell’s Boxer, and I will work harder.”  But that’s me in a nutshell.  I’ll never stop.  I’ll never give in.  I may end up old and in a metaphorical glue factory, but I’ll never give in.  When I feel the temptation to get too self pitying, any one or combination of these things helps me get moving again.

What works for you?  Do you have some motivation that keeps you moving when everything and everyone says you should stop?  Share it down below or post it on your blog and throw up the link.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

(AFTERWARD:  The day after I typed this, I sold a book.  I also received one three-star review and two, five-star reviews since writing this post.  So you see, just keep going.  No matter how low you are, the only time you fail is when you quit.)