Why my enthusiasm to help you turned into grumpiness (and this ranting blog post) #AuthorMarketing #Rant

rant 1I’m a sincere believer in ‘pass it forward’. I can’t even count the number of book bloggers who have had my back with doing promotions and writing reviews for my books. Some of them have been with me from the beginning when I had no clue what I was doing and stuck with me through my dangerously steep learning curve.

I like to pass this forward by helping other indie writers out there. I mostly help self-published authors because I know how difficult it is to get the word out there. Like me, many of them are climbing that steep learning curve in figuring out how to market their books. I try to lend a hand up, but sometimes I want to let go and watch them fall – preferably while screaming. That’s right, folks. It’s rant time.

Here are some examples of why I would gladly let go of a writer’s hand and gleefully watch them curse me out as they tumble to the ground:

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No sharing. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million gazillion times, if I spend the time to blog about your writing, you should at least stop by the blog and say hi! At a minimum. A like and a share would be preferred. I’m doing you a favor here, but I can’t do it all!

Can’t accept no for an answer. This is another of my pet peeves I’ve complained about way too much. There is a reason I’ve told you I can’t review your book. You should be happy I even responded. I offer almost every writer whose book I chose not to review an author spotlight. Can you not be happy with that instead of whining about me reviewing your book?

False bragging rights. Please, please don’t tell me you are a bestselling author when I can look on Amazon my dang self and see your book is ranked at 1,000,000th. Just because your book hit the top 20 on Amazon for one freaking day two years ago doesn’t make you a bestselling author. And I’m not very impressed if you’re #10 in a category that has twenty books. Do you think I’m stupid?

Cheap giveaway. I’m very much aware of how expensive it is to market your books. Pfff… I am down with that. BUT that doesn’t mean your giveaway should be cheap. And by cheap I’m talking giving away an ecopy of your own book. Seriously? What’s that costing you? Nothing? A dollar? Come on, that’s just pathetic. And we all know you’d give away a gazillion of those ebooks if you could get some decent reviews.

Inability to follow directions. I am not a professional blogger. I’m not earning any money with this. I do this in addition to the 10,000 other things I do a day. So, have a little respect and follow my guidelines when sending me materials for a book spotlight. I don’t need to be spending my valuable time formatting blog posts because you couldn’t be bothered to follow directions.

Failure to follow back. This peeves me. You are a brand spanking new author and yet you can’t bother to follow me on Twitter where I’m promoting your work? Grrrr….

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Five Things You Didn’t Know About Me #AwesomeAmazonAuthors #Giveaway

The awesome author gang’s back!

Last month, me and my awesome author buddies held a giveaway for a $25 Amazon Gift Card. We had so much fun that we decided ‘What the heck! Let’s do it again!’ To enter, you need only get onto Goodreads and follow each awesome author. AND get bonus entries by checking out each of our Goodreads Questions Page.

Enter here → Rafflecopter

Get your entries in between June 10-14.

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Not only do we have an awesome giveaway for you, but we’re letting you in on some secrets – Five Things (You didn’t know) About Five Authors for Five Days!

Five Things You Didn’t Know About Me

It’s hard to believe that there are still things my readers/followers don’t know about me considering how often I ‘confess’ my failings on my blog and social media. I’ve had to dig deep for these. Please keep your giggles to yourselves, folks.

  1. I thought the annual eye test at elementary school was a test that I had to pass. I, therefore, memorized the entire eye chart. It wasn’t until second grade and a more than a few stitches before a teacher realized I couldn’t see sh$t.
  2. Despite carrying a weapon every single day for five years while I was a military police officer in the Army, I’ve actually only ‘passed’ the range once – in basic training. Otherwise, I had ‘helpers’ who shot at my target.
  3. I’ve broken the same little toe at least three times. Two of those times were in the exact same manner – because I apparently don’t learn from my mistakes. I was a lifeguard at the YMCA when I was working on my undergrad. We had a chair where we sat when adults were swimming lanes. I ran into that flipping chair and stubbed my toe so hard I broke it – twice!
  4. I’m a social introvert. Yes, that really exists. People always assume – probably because I have a big mouth – that I’m a social butterfly. In reality, I’m cringing inside and wondering when it’s okay to pull out my kindle.
  5. I once had a bout of dysentery so bad that it’s put me off tropical fruit forever. I have no idea if its psychological or not but whenever I try to eat pineapple or mango (or any other tropical fruit, all of which I freaking LOVE), my insides rebel in the most horrid of manners.

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Here are the links to the Authors Goodreads Questions Pages

AC Melody

Brickley Jules

D.E. Haggerty

Didi Oviatt

Feclicia Denise

Just in case you missed it the first time, here’s the Rafflecopter Link again: https://tinyurl.com/FollowFive

Good Luck!

 

 

 

Owning a B&B ~ Strangest One Star Reviews #MondayBlogs #Travel #Humor

B&B reviews 2I discussed (okay, I ranted and raved about) one-star reviews of my books a few blog posts ago. Basically, I concluded there wasn’t a damn thing you can do about them. Which does not make me a happy camper. Several friends asked why I let the reviews bother me. They were complete b.s. after all. Just let it go. Yeah, ‘cuz that’s the kind of person I am. Just letting shit roll off my back. But yesterday I was having lunch with a friend of mine and regaling (yes, regaling!) her with funny stories of reviews of my B&B. She asked if I let those reviews bother me, and I had a light bulb moment. I could not care less about those reviews now – a few years on. Maybe that’s all I need to ‘get over’ those lousy, inaccurate, bullying reviews – time.

So, while I wait for the years to pass and my blood to calm down over those reviews, I thought I’d share some of those somewhat unbelievable reviews of my B&B.

B&B reviews 1Couldn’t figure out how to use the shower. In one of the bathrooms of the B&B, I had installed a spa shower complete back massagers and seat. It was heaven. I used it whenever we didn’t have guests. Anyway, it was a bit confusing to figure out for some folks. Me? I just push and pull dials until I figure things out. I’d learned that not everyone was the same. How did I learn this? A guest came down to reception in a towel and asked me how to work the shower. After I nearly peed my pants with my efforts not to laugh at him, I showed him and his wife how it worked. After that, I made sure to show all guests how the shower worked when they arrived. Of course, this particular guest didn’t need my assistance. He refused to allow me to demonstrate how to use the shower and then wrote a nasty review because he couldn’t figure it out! Yes, seriously.

B&B reviews 3GPS took us to the wrong location. Because my B&B was a small family-run operation, I had limited check-in times – from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. (or something like that, I’ve tried to wipe the entire time from my memory). Naturally, this guest booked via booking.com at 11 p.m. and wrote in the notes – late check-in. No shit! Good thing I was still awake. I waited and waited. They finally showed after 1 a.m. cussing up a storm because their GPS lead them to a farmhouse down the road from the B&B. (Because having a GPS means you don’t have to use common sense or know how to read a map.) Naturally, this was cause to give me a bad review. Never mind that I’d stayed up to check you in.

Not enough lights in the parking lot to fix my car. So, these hippies show up with a car registered in France. My French is crap, but I struggle on doing the check-in in French. Then, it turns out the sliding door on his van is stuck. By now it’s after 10 p.m. and I’m ready for bed. I offered to have the mechanic from my garage come in the morning before breakfast but, no, he was going to fix the car himself. Naturally, he didn’t have any tools. So, I spent an hour rushing up and down the stairs getting tools for him, taking several extra trips because I have no clue what most tools are called in French. Around 11:30, he gives up and says he’ll deal with it at home – in Holland. WTF? You’re Dutch? I not only speak Dutch but I speak construction in Dutch. I was majorly annoyed and my annoyance only worsened when the guy gave me a bad review because there were not enough lights in the parking lot to properly fix a car. Seriously?!?!?!

Although I still get a bit annoyed when I write these stories, I mostly just laugh. Because they’re ridiculous! Now, to apply this perspective to those annoying reviews that claim my ‘clean’ read is ‘smut on parade’.

Keep writing, peeps!

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My evolution from bullied nerd to flyer of history geek flag #AmWriting #History #HistoricalRomance

history geek 2When I was a student a long, long time ago, being into history was not cool. Not at all. Being called a history nerd was an insult. No one called themselves a nerd on purpose. Revenge of the Nerds, which hit cinemas in 1984, may have sounded like a big ‘ol lovefest for nerds, but it wasn’t. Not really. Did you seriously see the clothes those ‘nerds’ wore and how ugly they made those poor actors look? Not feeling the love for nerds.

 

history geek 3Notice I’m using the word nerd and not geek? That’s right. A long, long time ago (okay, I’ll stop shoving my age down your throats), geek was not a word used to define a person’s personality or generalized skill set. Nope. The 1975 edition of the American Heritage Dictionary defined a geek as: “…a carnival performer whose act usually consists of biting the head off a live chicken or snake…” in its 1975 edition.

 

 

The definition of geek has changed considerably over time. Although carnival performers are still included in the definition, the definition is generally considered as a source of pride for a person interested in a subject (mostly intellectual or complex in nature) for its own sake. Urban dictionary even has a definition for history geek (although how a history geek could fail grammar use that spectacularly is beyond me).

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Thus, over the years, it’s become ‘cool’ to call yourself a geek or, in my case, a history geek. Since yesterday was a historical day (American Independence Day), I thought I’d make a case for my history geekdom. First and foremost, my undergraduate degree is actually in history. Contrary to popular practice, I didn’t study history because it was ‘easy’. Nope, I totally got into it, even if studying Hitler and Stalin caused me to have nightmares.

And what could be more history geek-like than taking a trip to a historical destination for an important event? I’ve got tons of examples of that! I went to Colonial Williamsburg for my honeymoon. Beat that you amateur history geeks! I’ve also spent numerous birthdays and wedding anniversaries visiting battlefields and historical museums. When I mentioned (all excited), I was spending my 40th birthday visit the Somme battlefields, friends looked at me as if I’d lost my mind. Someone even had the gall to ask if I knew that Paris was just as close? (Paris might not have been just as close, but it was definitely more accessible than the battlefields.)

Even when we do head off on ‘normal’ vacations, we always take time out to visit military cemeteries, architectural excavation sites, battlegrounds …. Well, the list goes on and on. From the bridge on the River Kwai to an ancient Vietnamese city where a battle was fought during the Vietnam War (not fun to visit with dysentery) to an American military cemetery outside Tunis. You get the picture.

So, decades after being bullied for being a (history) nerd in school, I can now proudly fly my geek fly. This one’s stamped ‘history’, but there are other geek flags in my closet.

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How my Amazon Ad Campaign went #MondayBlogs #Marketing #BookMarketing #AmWriting

amazon ad campaign logoI recently read an article that stated the most successful self-published authors concentrate on Facebook ads and Amazon ads. I’ve tried the Facebook ad thing – ad naseaum – without much success. Amazon recently made it easier for us indie authors to do an advertisement with them. As the vast majority of my books are sold through Amazon, I thought I’d give it a try.

There are two options for an amazon ad campaign: sponsored product or product display ad.

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As far as I can tell, the big difference between the two types of ad campaigns is placement. Sponsored products are further down on the page and may be easier overlooked than the product display ad, which sits directly beneath the purchase buttons.

I chose the sponsored product ad. I’m not really sure why. (Let’s just blame that on lack of sleep and not complete idiocy, shall we?) I try to do a marketing push for one book in my library each month. I spend between $150 and $200 on these marketing pushes with $50 a fairly average amount to spend for one newsletter campaign (Bargain Booksy, Ereader news, etc.) I’ve discovered that spreading a marketing push over three days works best for me.

Amazon allows you to choose a time period in which to run your ad as well as an overall budget. Based on the above, I decided to set a budget of $15 per day for three days. How did I do? Not great.

amazon ad campaign

I have to hand it to Amazon, they did do a ton of impressions of my ad – 1,450. The problem is the percentage of clicks is less than 1%. Yep, you read that right. Less than 1% of those who saw the ad actually clicked on it. Geez. To be completely fair, Amazon does not include royalties from Kindle Edition Normalized Pages (KENP) Read and my pages read has increased substantially since I ran the ad (although it’s impossible to tell if that’s from my other promotions – I ran approximately 20 promotions over the three-day period – or from the Amazon ad).

My thoughts? Is it worth it? Will I try an Amazon ad again? Sure, I’ll give it another try. The huge advantage is the cost. If no one clicks on your book, there is no cost. Maybe I’ll try a product display ad instead. I’m also planning on keeping track of whether the number of reviews makes a difference in the number of clicks. (If anyone has figured out a way to get more verified reviews, please clue me in.) Stay tuned …

This is my Harry Potter Story #HarryPotter #AmReading #HarryPotter20

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Image from Bloomsbury

According to all the news media, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published twenty years ago this week. I had no clue about Harry Potter for years after it was initially published. Twenty years ago, I had just finished my first year of law school and was doing a judicial internship while trying to write a novel. (Don’t worry, that novel was burned and can never see the light of day!) My internship was in Wisconsin, the hubby was flying out of St. Paul, Minnesota. We lived somewhere in the middle and only had one car. I had the car during the day to drive to the internship, while the hubby took the car at night. We had no money. I don’t think we even had a television. The only things I remember from that summer are fifty cent tap beer at the local bar, camping trips, and the dog figuring out how to open the refrigerator and subsequently eating an entire pound of cheese. Harry Potter wasn’t even on my radar.

 

It wasn’t until my book club chose Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone as its September 2000 book selection that I discovered Harry Potter. Just to be perfectly honest here, my book club abandoned a history book about the Great Depression and slotted in Harry Potter instead. I struggled through half of the history tome, while everyone just abandoned it! I was not a happy camper. (Note: The book now serves as the prop to keep my living room window open.)

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Imagine my surprise when I went to the English-language department of the bookstore and discovered an entire table filled with Harry Potter books! There was the British edition, the American edition, and – of course – the Dutch edition. What the heck is all this about? At the time, I had a firm rule. I read every single page of every single book club selection so, despite my annoyance in regard to the history tome, I was reading this book. (I’ve calmed down since then. Blame it on old age or just plain exhaustion with reading books I didn’t like. Whatever.)

I sighed and opened the darn book. To my great surprise, I freaking loved it. Let me rephrase: LOVED IT. I had never read anything like this before. I never read so-called children’s fantasy books. The Chronicles of Narnia? What’s Narnia? The only book in a similar genre I’d read was The Hobbit. And that was because it was the only book in English I happened to have with me while living in Germany some thirty-years ago when English books were hard to find and no one had even thought of the idea of a Kindle yet. Don’t even ask me how many times I read Gone with the Wind in German. It’s embarrassing.

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One of the few books in my life that I’ve lost, and I could not care less.

 

For me, Harry Potter is escapism at its best. You open one of the HP books and dive into another world. We say that about books all the time, but it’s actually true with HP. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, in fact, let me escape at a moment in time when I really, really needed it. You see in 2000, I was still young and by definition stupid. So, when I ruptured my Achille’s tendon two days before I was to fly to the US for Christmas, I didn’t cancel my trip. See, told you. Stupido!

The flight to the Texas from Amsterdam was horrid. Despite calling the airline in advance and explaining the situation, I did not get a bulkhead seat. Nope, my leg with its heavy cast was stuck on my husband’s lap for the entire trip. I couldn’t leave it down as the foot was severely swollen and flying only makes that worse. Who would have thought the return trip would be worse?

We were flying out of Texas on New Year’s Eve because it’s cheaper and we were pinching our pennies at the time. Unfortunately, Texas had a bizarre snowstorm and – for obvious reasons – wasn’t prepared for it. There was, in fact, only one de-icing machine for the entire airport. First, we had to wait in the departure hall for several hours. Then, we finally boarded the flight only to be delayed again and end up sitting in the plane on the runway for a few more hours.

What does one do when one is in severe pain (the Dutch may have a lot of recreational drugs but they don’t believe in pain killers) and stuck at an airport and then in a plane? Read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, naturally. HP may not have saved my life or anything, but he certainly got me through a tough moment in my life.

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What should you do about a 1-star review that has NOTHING to do with your book? #WriterWednesday #BookReviews

It happens. It is – in fact – almost guaranteed to happen. If you’ve written more than a handful of books and it hasn’t happened yet, it will – probably soon. What am I talking about? The dreaded one-star review. Just writing the words makes me angry and hurts my teeth (probably because I automatically start grinding them).

I don’t need to tell you not to engage with negative reviewers. We all know that nothing good will come from begging a reviewer to reconsider (and it’s kind of pathetic). You also risk getting a bad reputation amongst the blogger community and let me tell you that’s not something you want. The book blogging community is incredibly helpful to a writer. Getting on their bad side will help no one.

But what about a review that contains obvious falsehoods or is obvious bullying? Can you engage then? Or maybe contact Goodreads or Amazon to deal with the issue? This is painful, but the truth of the matter is this: there’s nothing you can do. Let me re-phrase that – there’s nothing you can do that will get that review deleted. (This is my personal experience, if someone has had a different experience, please let me know!)

1 starLet’s start with obvious falsehoods and Amazon. I received a one-star review for my bundle The Gray-Haired Knitting Detectives. Naturally, that can happen. Readers are allowed to absolutely hate my novels no matter how much pain that causes me. But this review – titled Smut on Parade – was even more painful because it was full of lies! The reviewer claims there is a sexual act in the first paragraph (the first paragraph is a diatribe about women over forty getting chin hair). The reviewer even claims the price of the book cost 20% more than it actually does (twenty percent doesn’t sound like much but I put a lot of thought into how I price my books).

1 star 4Obviously, this reviewer was bullying me was my thought. I immediately contacted Amazon and asked that they remove the review due to misrepresentations in the review. After all, there is that little box with ‘report abuse’ on it! They didn’t even bother to get back to me. There’s no way in hell I’m contacting the reviewer myself. So, what’s left to do? Well, not much. The only thing I have done is vote her review unhelpful. Go me! That’ll show her.

Unfortunately, that’s not the only one-star review I’ve received. On Goodreads, I have a ‘follower’ who gives all my books one star. Even books that have not yet been released! When she one-starred a book not yet released, I thought “A-ha! I’ve got you now”. Goodreads didn’t agree. They did respond to my email, but the response was not what I expected (let alone what I hoped for). They told me that they do not review the content of reviews as everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But the book wasn’t released yet! No matter.

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If you were hoping to find some magically solution to dealing with one-star reviews in this blog article, I’m sorry to have disappointed. As I’ve pointed out above, there’s pretty much nothing you can do about these reviews – even when they have obviously nothing to do with your book. The only thing I can say that may take away just a little of the pain is this – You are not alone. Even the greats receive one-star reviews.

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