I think it was last week that I mentioned disappointment. Well I’m only 18 days into June and I’ve already met what I consider my current quota for the month. That got me to thinking about my current goal. Sure, I want to write more books, and I am. I’m just about six chapters from being done with Discovered. However, I’ve always had a pretty solid idea on where I was going, and I thought I’d share the math.
This all started when I started taking a more critical look at my AMS ads and what they were doing. I realized I can’t spend $200-plus dollars a month on ads that only get me 10 or so sales a month. That led me to the current plan to optimize my campaigns.
The general goals are to reduce campaign costs without losing too many sales. Then, once I become balanced, to increase both to become profitable.
What would that look like? Well, I went back about three months. I currently spend about $109 a month on marketing. In order for me to break even I’d have to sell about 60 books a month. That’s about eight times what I currently sell, so I obviously have to keep bringing down my costs. However, that gives me a definite target to work toward.
Obviously I can only do that one month at a time, working on my marketing, finding profitable keywords and eliminating money wasters.
It’s important to have goals in pretty much everything one does. Goals are what give people direction. They allow people to break those goals into smaller chunks.
For instance, I’ve already cut my cost per month in half. If I can do so again, and double my sales per month, I’d actually only be about $20 away from a break-even ACOS (average cost of sales percentage). Any author using AMS needs to work to get his ACOS to 70% or lower. The closer you are to 0%, the more you’re profiting per sale.
This 60-per-month goal feels every bit as ambitious as it seems challenging to reach, but it’s an important goal to have.
But to a much more unfortunate degree, I learned that where there are people trying to do cool things, there are people who are horrid.
I had to switch to Zoom to allow for recording. I shared the link. I was very happy to see people stopping in. That is until one person appeared on camera without clothes. I told him I wouldn’t stand for that sort of thing and immediately removed him. But that doesn’t mean that myself and those who were on with me weren’t subjected to completely inappropriate and unsolicited material. If there’s a way to preview who is allowed into a call, I’m not aware of it.
I reported the incident to the police, who (I am told) are investigating. This means I have to be more careful.
To that end, I am still hosting Zoom meetings where I talk about covers. I will happily share the links to any who send a request via email. That request must include your email and your Zoom profile name so that when I see your request, I know it’s you and not some pervert.
I’m honestly disgusted I need to take such measures, but I can’t risk that sort of thing happening again. I still dream of being able to sit and chat with people about several things. I just have to be sure that the people I allow into those meetings are joining to talk about books and things like books rather than just shock people.
I’ll still share the links with some of my author groups and the like, but I’ll be more careful who I actually allow to join.
That said, the plan is still to do a Q & A followed by the long anticipated cover reveal for Betrayed. The date and time are still set for 2 p.m. (EST) April 10.
I have contact Carlos to see if he’ll be able to make it, but the hope is he will be. But I do hope you will post questions (below) for me to answer and join me on Zoom to celebrate the new cover. I do intend to do weekly talks as well. So again, if you want to be a part of them, shoot me an email providing your name, email and Zoom profile name so I have a record of who’s coming. Remember, I will be posting these reviews on my YouTube channel, so don’t join and don’t turn your camera on if you don’t want to be on YouTube.
I’m actually typing this April 2. I have quite a lot to do leading up to the tenth, but I still hope to do Week 2 of my Book Covers talk (or whatever I’ll end up calling the segment). I hope to add to the talks too, but for now, we’re starting small. I hope you’ll join me whenever you can, and I truly hope you’ll at least stop by for the reveal to Betrayed.
As is usually the case with me, I’m constantly trying new things. One thing I want to try is to get my YouTube channel off the ground. This means I’m using a lot of different tools, so I had an idea.
I’m revealing the cover for Betrayed via a Google Meet video conference that will be posted on Facebook and Youtube (at the same time if I can pull it off).
I’m hoping you’ll all decide to attend.
What will I be doing?
Well naturally I’ll be doing the reveal, but here are some other thoughts:
Conversation with Carlos, the artist. My first hope is that Carlos will be available to talk about the work and his process. I’ll reveal the cover after the conversation, and anyone interested can talk to us about our work or the cover.
I also want to do a Q & A. In order to do that though, I need Q’s to A, if you follow the joke. If you’d like to help an independent author out, please post any question you’d like to ask of me in the comments below or email them to me. You can ask whatever you want, but I reserve the right to choose which questions I answer.
I plan on the event lasting 20 minutes. It will be Saturday, April 10 starting at 2 p.m. I hope you all can make it! Please comment below if you plan to be there.
Right now, this is all in the idea phase. My intention is to do between 2 and 3 videos per week. One will be general “Writing Advice;” one will be general “book talk;” and the last is bringing back a favorite. My plan is to bring back my book cover of the month. This time, I’ll be looking at covers and talking about why I think they work. I’ll create polls for people to vote in and announce the winners. This is going to demand some time, and I’ll have to see how well I manage it. But it’s something I’ve been mulling over, and I want to give it a shot. It should take less time than the original format because I’ll be highlighting seven covers each week and using those to do the polls. So the time it took me to find covers is the only time I’ll need because I’ll be doing it live.
You can get a head start by heading over to my (very puny and unproductive) YouTube channel now and subscribe (don’t forget the notification button). I actually plan to release my first set of videos starting next week. I’m probably biting off more than I can chew, but you’d all help me be motivated to keep at it by viewing, liking, and sharing the videos as they come out.
Once I finalize the general plan for the cover reveal on April 10, I’ll share the Google Meet link for you to join.
As Betrayed gets closer and closer to release, I’m starting to gather everything I need. One of those things is art! I haven’t had Carlos start working on the cover yet (saving up money), but I was able to commission the chapter icons for the new POV characters.
First, I’d like to introduce you all to Ignacio. I sent out feelers on Twitter, and he responded. I looked at his work, and it was a pretty easy decision after that.
Ignacio was wonderful to work with. I sent him some rough sketches I made, and he came back with wonderful images. The image for Zac (below) took a few attempts. You see, his chapter icon is an actual element of the story. It’s a patch for Zac and Dom’s old unit, and it’s also a tattoo that Zac has on his arm. So I needed a much more literal representation of the thumbnail I originally sent. The down side was that the concept wasn’t actually an artistically interesting. That’s because most military patches aren’t exactly works of art. But where I was worried I’d annoy him or frustrate him, Ignacio took it in stride and sent me at least six different versions of the idea for me to choose from.
This patience is what really stands out to me. As an artist myself, I know how possessive people can be about their work, and Ignacio was nothing but polite and responsive. Folks, if you’re looking for art, you should consider looking him up.
Now that I’ve raved about his professionalism, it’s time to show off his actual work! I proudly present the new (additional) chapter icons for Betrayed.
This is the image for Dom. Dom was a side character in Caught, but he gets a starring (if not leading) role in Betrayed.
His story was the inspiration for the title and general overall structure. Dom has the heart of a patriot.
In this story, Dom is yet again pushed and hurt by the nation he so earnestly wanted to serve and protect. This image is designed to represent a batter soldier still loyally carrying an equally battered American flag.
This image is for Mariana. Mariana is Zac’s daughter.
She is introduced in this book and only has a small role, but her story is just beginning.
This book only hints at the role she’s going to have and how her story is going to affect her. This image represents the idea of a young girl whose innocence has just started to wither. Mariana is very different than Kaitlyn. The interesting dynamic in Betrayed is her relationship with her father. She’s currently in a world where she only knows love and kindness. That world is absolutely going to change.
Here is the previously-mentioned challenging logo. It was only challenging because I needed such a specific rendering. This logo represents Zac. This patch was his (and Dom’s) unit patch.
Zac loved this patch (and the team mates associated with it) so much he tattooed it on one of his arms. The shield and lightning bolts were inspired by the Army Special Forces patch. I replaced the sword with the number nine (Special Operations Unit Nine).
Zac and Dom were best friends before Dom was “recruited” to be a part of a “special operations training unit.” This was all part of what happened long before Caught. Now, years later, Zac is called on a mission that will force him to choose between his loyalty to his country and a friendship that parted ways years ago.
Please respect the copyright I hold on these images. I’m happy to present them to you here, but I ask that you don’t copy or reproduce them without my expressed permission.
That said, what do you think? Do you have a favorite? I’m actually torn between Mariana’s and Dom’s. I haven’t really decided yet, but I love them both. Please take a moment to hop over to Ignacio’s Twitter page and give him a follow and maybe tweet him a message telling him what you think of his work.
Every now and then, one of the students at the Defense Information School where I teach will approach me to write a feature about my writing. I typically get the same sorts of questions, and one of the more common ones is about where I get the ideas for my stories.
I have to admit that this is a very hard question for me to answer. You see, I have ideas all the time. I’m more baffled when people tell me they have trouble coming up with ideas. That gave me the idea (see what I mean?) to do this blog you’re reading.
For me, ideas are very natural. Even when I was trying to think about what I was going to blog about today (I spent about five minutes thinking), I was more considering options than I was trying to think of just one.
Idea Generation Method 1: Let your life inspire you. This is probably my primary method. I have a very active imagination, so when I see something, I sometimes take it to a fantastic degree, and that leads me to a story idea. Bob Drifter came to me while watching my dad and his dog interact. There are some other childhood trauma things I won’t get too far into, but I’ll only touch on them by saying there were people who left my life, and I had trouble dealing with it, so I created this world where souls were passed on. This isn’t remotely Biblical, and I acknowledge that as a Christian. However, it was a lovely thought for a 17-year-old who wanted to feel more connected to the people around him. I really loved the idea that people can leave pieces of themselves to other people they’re close to, and, in a way, we do.
I’m struggling between going into where the ideas for all my books came as examples of this process and offering other methods. I’m actually articulating this so you see how my mind works as well. So the happy medium is to give you another example of letting life inspire you before moving on to other techniques.
Stealing Freedom came to mind when some riots were happening a few years back. The details are fuzzy in my memory, but what I remember is a person drove a car into a crowd. There was a lot of debate about protesting and how people respond. I worried that people would start to discuss “limiting” free speech for the “protection” of others. I had a mental picture of a little girl wearing a shock collar. Then I thought about one of my sisters being that girl’s mother. “She’d burn the world down before she let that happen,” I thought to myself. And there it was, the opening chapter to a new story.
The method (if I try to explain it) is to look at something happening in the world around you and then try to add fantastical elements to it. You can try it now. Look at one thing that happened to you today and then apply some strange or even just ridiculous element to it. Then start trying to come up with ways to rationalize that element. This will form a situation if not a full blown story.
This is easily my primary method for coming up with ideas, but there are others I’ve either heard others talk about or offered to others.
Idea Generation Method 2: Combine and Twist: What are your two favorite books? If you were going to write fan fiction and try to combine these worlds, how would you do it? If you can follow this line of thought, you’re halfway to coming up with an original story. All you need to do then is come up with your twist. Ask yourself what you can do to put a new spin on the two worlds or magic systems. Because almost all of my stories were used with the above technique, I can’t point out any one of my own stories. Neither can I name a Combine and Twist story I’ve seen off the top of my head. So we’ll have to come up with something together.
I love Dragonriders of Pern and Wheel of Time. What if owning a dragon gave you powers, but your will was always at odds with the will of your dragon? (I actually love this idea, but I promise I have enough books to write). Let’s go with this a bit further. Say we live in a world where dragons exist, and a select group of people could mentally connect with those dragons. However, if one took over a dragon contrary to one’s will, they’d have to constantly maintain control of the bond lest the dragon take over the human’s mind. That gives me an idea for a main character. What if my main character had the idea to find and bond a dragon who actually agreed with his line of thinking. How much more powerful would both become if they worked together rather than engage in a perpetual mental battle for access to the powers the dragons provide? If you like that idea, feel free to write it. Just give me a nod in your acknowledgments page (and maybe buy and recommend a guy’s books?).
Idea Generation Method 3: Fix A Broken Story: What’s the worst movie you’ve ever seen or book you’ve read? Why was it bad? I’m actually currently reading the worst book I’ve ever read (I feel obligated to finish it). Now, I have that opinion of this book because I’m at a loss as to how I would even go about fixing it (it’s that bad). But, this is a great way to come up with ideas. I actually do have a personal example of this. You see, I don’t really like YA fiction. I think that there are some very overdone aspects of it that just make it predictable and unrealistic. When I had a life inspiration moment for Repressed (people were debating the right to let others legally immigrate), I knew that Kaitlyn (originally from Caught) would be perfect for that situation. However, Kaitlyn only fits two of the list of things YA characters have. She was (she’s 19 now as I’m writing the end of Oneiros) young, and she’s a compelling character. I didn’t like the stories of the young girl who meets a dangerous boy and falls in love trying to change him. That’s putting it mildly. I’m not at all against people meeting and falling in love. I’m not at all against young people of either gender wanting to find love. What I hate is what I see as the glorification of toxic relationships.
So that’s the part I changed. Instead of a girl meets bad boy plot, I had a young girl who was driven to a different goal. Can YA be about young people learning about themselves rather than falling in love with the worst possible person? The plot and writing of Repressed was easy after that.
So those are three things you might try if you’re struggling to come up with ideas, but I leave you with a different challenge. Is it possible you don’t actually struggle coming up with one idea? When I talk to students, the struggle they have is that they’re waiting for that “perfect” idea. I don’t have that problem at all. My recommendation more than how to find ideas is this: Once you find an idea, write that book. It doesn’t have to be the greatest book ever. It doesn’t even have to be that good an idea. What doing this does is train you to ideate and then create. This way, when you do have that one great idea, you’re already practiced at writing and developing it. Don’t get stuck. Don’t wind up never writing anything because you’re chasing after a better idea. It’s a fool’s errand. I sincerely hope each idea you have is better than your last one, but that doesn’t actually mean the first idea was bad. So have ideas and then write them. Practice that positive habit, and you’ll find a whole bunch of books you’ve written ready to evaluate when you’re done.
Yet another two weeks in a row with some reviews to share! I still don’t think I get reviews consistently enough to warrant a “review day” post on my schedule, but if I keep getting them (this regularly), that might change.
The first review I’d like to share is a three-star review for Caught from Deedra. She was kind enough to post the review Amazon, Goodreads, and Audible.
I’m always so happy to receive reviews. Both of these reviews were every bit as informative and helpful as they were kind (even in how they expressed what they didn’t like). I thank both these reviewers.
If you’ve read any of my work, would you please consider leaving a rating and/or a review on Amazon, Goodreads or both? It really does help.
As you can tell by the headline, I’ve sent out Betrayed to Sara for proofreading, and I’m hoping a number of you would be willing to be ARC reviewers.
Betrayed is the second part of the Oneiros Log Trilogy (Repressed is more of an out rigger novel).
Here’s a small summary/blurb:
They were captured and tortured until their minds finally Broke, unleashing the latent powers inside them. The six members of Oneiros spent more than five years content to build their life together and use their gifts to help people. The government has other plans.
The nation some of them served, the nation that failed all of them, is about to betray them. These two forces collide in a war that will have deadly consequences for both sides. How will this declaration of war affect the team?
Former friends stand on opposite sides of the battle lines. Loyalty prevents them from finding common ground. Loyalty will be one’s downfall.
The peacemaker suffers silently, hiding a secret that threatens them all.
The violent beauty suffers from a past that will change all of their futures.
The young protege hopes to become a hero but doesn’t know the pain all heroes face.
The leader is falling, completely unaware of the corruption to which he’s succumbing.
Their creation broke them. This war will shatter them, and the secrets it reveals will change the world as everyone knows it.
Caught was a horror story with a twist of action. Betrayed evolves into an action story with a bit of horror. If military action with psychic powers are up your alley, I think you’ll enjoy this installment of the trilogy.
My goals: What I truly hope is to find 50 dedicated reviewers, but given that I don’t have 50 reviews total, that goal would unlikely (but amazing). So instead, I’m setting a (far more realistic) goal of 10 ARC reviewers. I’m looking for ten (or more) volunteers to receive a PDF version of the story and prepare a review for the day Betrayed goes live (currently scheduled for April 1, which gives a reader plenty of time). If you’re interested, please don’t hesitate to email me.
A note: This is an un-proofed draft. That means you’ll probably note typos I haven’t managed to polish out yet. While I don’t expect this to be riddled with issues, I will remind potential readers that this is the draft I finished before sending it to my proofreader. If you care to make note of them and tell me, I’d be grateful, but that’s not the need I’m trying to fill. Sara is great at what she does, and she’ll help me get Betrayed cleaned up before it goes to market. Sending the un-proofed draft to ARC readers just allows them time to read and me time to do the other things an independent author has to do to prepare for a book launch.
While I wait for edits (and hopefully reviews), I’m already toiling way on Discovered, the last book in the Oneiros Log. I’m a little more than halfway done with the discovery draft, and I’m pretty happy with how it’s coming out. It’s still very optimistic to think Discovered will be out in 2021, but I fully expect it to be out before 2022 comes to a close. That’s my main priority. If I do finish that draft, I’ll go back to Images of Truth, but I’d say it’s unlikely I’ll write another 50,000 words in a month. For those keeping score at home, you’re right. Discovered is by far the biggest of the three main books. Caught was somewhere in the neighborhood of 80,000 words, and Betrayed was just about 60,000. Discovered looks like it will land in the 100,000-word area. This is because I’m tying up all the plot lines and making sure fans of each character get a satisfying conclusion for their favorites.
As always, I’m so grateful to all of you who support my work. It’s amazing to think I’ve been at this for six years! I’m always working to be a better writer and a more successful business man. I can’t do either of those things without God allowing and your help. Thank you!
I’m happy to report I’m about to begin work in the Beta Draft of Betrayed. This will be the last content draft and the last set of revisions. After this, I send it out for proofreading and then polish it up for publishing.
I’d like to just take a moment to thank my beta readers!
Next up are Tamy and Don Way. I actually met them outside an Ikea, and they’ve been supporting me and my work ever since.
I just want to thank them for taking the time to read Betrayed and offer feedback. The good news is they all liked it! Yes, they all had constructive feedback that I have to comb through and consider as I do this final draft.
I’ll say this much, Kira has been a challenge to write, and she’ll be challenging. Her arc is powerful, and I’m of the opinion that if I don’t get it right, the series will suffer greatly. I’d argue the next most important arc is Kaitlyn. Dom and Sal aren’t nearly as challenging because they’re more simplistic in nature.
I’ll start work on that early next week. While I was waiting, I got some more work done on Discovered. I’m just a bit over halfway done with the discovery draft of that story, and it’s looking solid.
I’m doing everything I can to get Betrayed out as soon as I can. It’ll take me at least a month to finish. Then I’ll need to give Sara time to proofread it. Then I have to apply those edits. So I’m hoping for a February or March release date. While Sara proofreads Betrayed, I’ll switch right back to Discovered, so it shouldn’t be nearly as long a wait for that book as it was for Betrayed.
Again, I just want to thank my beta readers and let you all know where I’m at. I can’t thank you all enough for the support you give. I hope you choose to stick with me and continue to enjoy my silly little stories.