Spolier Free Summary: Nothing Left To Loseby Dan Wellsis a horror novel about a young man named John Cleaver. It’s the final book in the John Cleaver series. John has all the traits and desires necessary to be a serial killer. He simply chooses to be better. Lucky of him there are monsters in the world only he can hunt down. Unfortunately for him, his newest target has a reputation: “Run from Rain.” He’s alone. He’s being pursued by the FBI, and he’s facing the most feared creature on the planet.
Character: John is one of the most compelling characters I’ve ever had the privilege to read about. I still feel strongly that the first three books were a more satisfying story as a whole, but the rest of the books were a fantastic extended look into someone you can’t stop listening too. If you enjoy deep characters with intense conflict, this is the series for you, and read the whole thing.
Exposition: Wells doesn’t mess around too much with exposition. Even from a first-person narrative story, the information comes in a lot of ways. I said this is a horror novel, but it’s more of a twisted detective story. So yeah, there’s some exposition and pondering, but when the character talking is this wonderful, it’s hard to notice.
World building: The biggest benefit to the continued series (a phrase I use to describe the other books in the series), is the world building. The first three books focus more on John and his conflict. The other book sin the series build on the method of the Withered. I was happy to get more information on this group, how they formed and how they work. The last three books answer all those questions and put a nice bow on the series as a whole.
Dialogue: This felt a tad heavy handed in this novel. These books have always been fairly cerebral, but I think there was more of this than I’d like. The reason for it is, like old Batman comics, John makes use of the other characters to explain his logic. It’s common is detective books, but it felt a little over the top for my taste.
Description: Easy to scan. Nice details. No chunks that slow me down. My kind of pace!
Overall: I didn’t want to put this book down. It drags the reader through an intense story. Yes, I’m still a bigger fan of the original three books, but this is a nice ending. It fits the tone and is probably a stronger theme than the third book. If you love gritty, monstrous detective stories, you’re missing out if you haven’t read this. Until further notice, this is the book I will compare others to when thinking of my top reads of 2018.
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.
Like 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.
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.
In 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?”
Whenever 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).
I 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.
Under my new book review format, I talk about how much I enjoy characters. That got me thinking about character sympathy, why it’s important and how to manipulate the reader’s sympathy for a character.
One reference for how to adjust sympathy is Writing Excuses. They’re more successful than I am, and they’re also better at this than I am. The linked podcast addresses the how. They reference another podcast that explains why you don’t have to have sympathetic characters. That’s true. There are reasons to have unsympathetic characters, but I’m not a fan of them. They exist in The Journals of Bob Drifter, but that doesn’t mean I was overly happy about their existence, only aware of their necessity.
What is a sympathetic character. There are a few differing opinions, but I’m going to selfishly hover in my realm of opinions. While some feel sympathetic characters are those readers feel sad for, I don’t necessarily leave it at that. When I talk about sympathetic characters, I’m speaking specifically on characters readers have a strong emotional response to. A character my readers hate (if that’s what I wanted them to feel) is every bit as important as a character my readers love. When I get feedback from beta readers, my worst fear is I’ll ask, “what did you think about Character X?” and the readers will respond with, “Who?” That’s a much bigger problem to me.
One of my betas for Journals hates Richard. When she told me why, I smiled, and said, “Sorry, but that’s exactly what I wanted you to feel.” The degree to which readers hate Richard is one thing, but if they hate him for the same reason my beta hated him, I did my job right. Characters can’t be completely rage worthy any more than they can be completely sympathetic. The masters (who in my opinion are George R.R. Martin and Peter V. Brett) can make you hate a character and then a book later, make you at least understand them. This particular ability allows you to have an extra arch with your characters.
A great example for how to do this? Believe it or not, the WWE. I haven’t watched wrestling in years, but think about it. Shawn Michaels went from hero to villain to hero to goof to hero and all the way around again. Readers look for growth in character, and that’s another term that might be misleading. Sometimes failure tests a character’s metal, and it’s okay for that character to regress. Why?
Now we come to the main purpose of this particular blog. We’re all human. Just on the drive to my brother’s house we talked about what it is to be human. I don’t think people are good or bad. I think they’re people. Sometimes they do good things, sometimes they do horrible things. I know I have. So the most realistic characters react to their environment. I have a few characters who don’t change. I like those characters. I like those who no matter the test, they alway pass. I like the other characters too. I think House, M.D. was a great example here. What kept me watching that show was the thought that, “Maybe this episode, he’ll do the decent thing.” Nope. Never did. It’s the same trick Charlie Brown kept falling for. He’ll never kick the ball and House will never be a compassionate person. (You can argue the end of that series with me in the comments if you want.)
Those characters are unique, but they can get boring quickly. I’ve failed in my life, so I look for characters who have flaws, but are generally decent folk. One of the more common compliments I get for Journals is Bob. He’s a good, white-hat, guy. He has his slumps, but he’s consistently kind and compassionate, and that makes him sympathetic when he’s faced with tragedy. Others don’t like him because he’s too nice. I think the world is just about done with antiheroes, then again, maybe not. I think it’s an archetype like any other. Use tools for a reason.
You don’t need a raging alcoholic day-care sitter any more than you need an incredibly pious prostitute. That sort of extreme can seem forced and/or contrived. Strive instead for people who feel real. All my favorite books have at least one character I genuinely feel some connection too. It’s the part of me I see in those characters that makes me want to see what happens to them. I think this is something to strive for in writing.
That makes me want to close with a few (in no particular order) characters I found very sympathetic. They area also some of my favorite characters in fiction. They are:
Perrin Aybara from Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson.
All of these characters have great emotional range. Sometimes, they do things that make me proud, other times, I’m angry with them for how they handle a situation. I could have gone on, but I just wanted to give you all a few characters I felt have the qualities I look for when I’m reading. You can feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.
In summary: A sympathetic character is someone the reader feels something for. They should be realistic by sometimes failing tests of character. They can be “bad” or “good” as a whole, but no one is all of any one thing. (except for a few carefully chosen characters, which I feel need to be offset by other members in the cast.)
I hope this gives you some insight into what I shoot for when I write. If you think you’ve found something I missed, or you just have a good resource to share, let me know in the comments.
Thanks for reading,
I still feel as if Dan Wells is one of the most underrated authors out there. The John Wayne Cleaver series continues to be an amazing story about a young man who knows he’s capable of evil, and in fact desires to be evil, and chooses to be good.
This reason alone makes the book worthy. OYDB is more predictable than some of the other John Cleaver stories, but I wonder if that wasn’t intentional. For me, this book was less bout the identity of the monster and how it operates and more about the effect that information would have on John.
WhereThe Devil’s Only Friend bridged the first three books to this new direction, OYDB continues to push the potential of the series into new directions. It takes place relatively soon after the events of TDOF. The wit is every bit as charming. The conflict is every bit as compelling. The ending was every bit as tragically beautiful as I’ve come to expect from Wells.
This is part of a series, so if you haven’t started with book one, I recommend you do. You’ll be the lucky one though as you can read the whole series up to this point in a row; where as I had to wait for each book.