Using automatic Amazon ads #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop #WriterWednesday #AuthorMarketing

One of the most difficult parts of running Amazon ads is trying to find keywords. And, yes, you should try to find 1,000 – the maximum Amazon allows – for each ad (read my blog article about finding keywords here). But what if you let Amazon choose for you? How does that work? I decided to try a few automatic ads on Amazon and see how it went. Before I tell you my thoughts on my results, here is how you set up an automatic ad.

First, it’s important to understand I’m talking about Sponsored Products ads. I haven’t tried a Lockscreen Ad and don’t plan to as there has been nothing but bad press about them thus far.

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When you have the amazon dashboard open, you’ll see an option under targeting called ‘automatic targeting’.

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Instead of using custom text, I also choose for this experiment to use standard ad without custom text.

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I made several ‘automatic’ ads for my books and what I discovered was this:

  • Automatic ads work well for books that are already selling well. I assume this is because Amazon finds it easier to target the book as there are several ‘also reads’.
  • Automatic ads also seem to work well for novels in larger categories. The novel I tried an automatic ad  with is in the category of romantic comedies. As this category is huge – HUGE – Amazon had lots of possible keywords from which to pick.
  • Automatic ads don’t work as well for books that are in smaller categories. I tried automatic ads for two of my cozy mysteries I was having a hard time finding keywords for. These didn’t work well at all. In fact, Amazon is barely serving these ads.

Based on my findings, I will try some more automatic ads for my other romance novels but automatic ads for my cozy novels seem to be a waste of time.

Has anyone else tried automatic ads? What were you experiences?

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This blog post is part of the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop. This is a monthly blog hop hosted by @raimeygallant. Make sure to stop by the other author blog posts in this month’s blog hop to fill up your author toolbox! Just click on the graphic to take you to the list.

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Review of The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff #MondayBlogs #BookReview #HistoricalFiction #AmReading

I was super excited to read this book for book club this month. I love anything having to do with history, especially the Second World War. And bonus! The Lost Girls of Paris is about the women who helped the Allies win the war. It seemed, then, to be a guaranteed home run. Spoiler alert! It wasn’t. I was beyond disappointed by this novel.

~ The Lost Girls of Paris ~

1946, Manhattan

lost girls of paris 1One morning while passing through Grand Central Terminal on her way to work, Grace Healey finds an abandoned suitcase tucked beneath a bench. Unable to resist her own curiosity, Grace opens the suitcase, where she discovers a dozen photographs—each of a different woman. In a moment of impulse, Grace takes the photographs and quickly leaves the station.

Grace soon learns that the suitcase belonged to a woman named Eleanor Trigg, leader of a network of female secret agents who were deployed out of London during the war. Twelve of these women were sent to Occupied Europe as couriers and radio operators to aid the resistance, but they never returned home, their fates a mystery. Setting out to learn the truth behind the women in the photographs, Grace finds herself drawn to a young mother turned agent named Marie, whose daring mission overseas reveals a remarkable story of friendship, valor and betrayal.

Vividly rendered and inspired by true events, New York Times bestselling author Pam Jenoff shines a light on the incredible heroics of the brave women of the war and weaves a mesmerizing tale of courage, sisterhood and the great strength of women to survive in the hardest of circumstances.

~ My Review ~

I loved the concept of this book. It is based on real history. A history almost forgotten of how women were also dropped behind enemy lines during the Second World War knowing the chance of survival was low. This type of novel is right up my alley, but I ran into problems almost immediately. The idea that Grace was obsessed with finding the identity of women in some photographs she happened upon in a train station didn’t ring true. Why was she obsessed? Maybe it was meant as some type of escapism for Grace from her life but for me it fell flat.

Unfortunately, I didn’t connect with any of the female protagonists in this novel and boy did I want to. There’s nothing I like more in a novel than strong female leads. But – in my humble opinion – each of the main female characters – Grace, Eleanor, and Marie – felt one-dimensional and underdeveloped. Their motivations were lacking. Why, for example, did Marie leave her daughter to go fight in a war from which her chances of returning were minuscule? It was almost as if the writer threw together characteristics of several people into these three main women making them feel anything but real.

lost girls of paris 2Although this novel is based on a true story (you can read the biography of Vera Atkins in A Life in Secrets by Sarah Helm), the novel itself didn’t feel realistic. When being recruited, Marie asks Eleanor if her work would be like the code breakers at Bletchley Park. But no one knew what the people at Bletchley Park were doing until well after the war. And how the heck did Eleanor manage to talk to a Nazi being sent to trial in Nuremburg? Although the real Vera Atkins did manage this, I didn’t believe the Eleanor portrayed would have managed to even get into the same compound let alone into a prison cell to perform an interrogation.

Jenoff didn’t make the time and locations come alive. Instead of smoothly filling the reader in on the historical background piece by piece and, thus, making the reader feel as if she were in France or New York of the 1940s, information was unceremoniously dumped on the reader. It made the novel feel choppy.

The love affairs the characters had didn’t ring true either. Marie fell almost instantly in love with Vesper, a man who initially treats her like an idiot. Their final scene together was unrealistic to the point it would have fit nicely into a second rate Hollywood romance. Grace’s ‘affair’ with her dead husband’s best friend was unbelievable.

Unfortunately, I must conclude by saying I wouldn’t recommend this novel.

Claustrophobic? Me? Nah… Adventures with gas masks #ArmyAdventures #BeAllYouCanBe #Memoir #Nonfiction #CreativeNonfiction #ThisIsMyLife

I’ve never been great with elevators or tight spots, but claustrophobic? Nah, not me. Or at least that’s what I thought. More likely, at the age of twenty-one, I hadn’t had many opportunities to be in tight spots (pardon the pun). I got my bachelor’s degree when I was twenty. I was busy with other things – not worrying about claustrophobia.

protective gear

Aren’t we stylin’?

And then I joined the Army. One day during Basic Training, we stood outside of the barracks and a drill sergeant yelled the dreaded words: “Gas! Gas! Gas!” Crap. It was time to put on our protective mask or – as you civilians call them – our gas masks. I’m not embarrassed to say (okay, I’m a little embarrassed) that I lost my shit. Lost. My. Shit. I couldn’t breathe. The gas wasn’t going to kill me. A panic attack was. The drill sergeants thought I was fucking around and started screaming at me. Great help. Not.

I literally have no idea how I made it through that day. A day in which we were not only forced to wear our protective masks but also our protective gear for twenty-four hours straight. I can tell you this. I went to the toilet a lot – A LOT – during those hours. And yes, I’m a sneaky bitch who took her mask off and sat on the toilet trying not to freak the fuck out.

Somehow I survived that day, but it wasn’t over. Not by a long shot. Nope. We also had to do the dreaded gas chamber. They actually call it a gas chamber. Talk about freak out. It happens like this. They line you up in groups and off you go into the gas chamber. First, things are relatively okay. You have your mask. You can breathe (relatively) well without inhaling gas. But then – bam! It’s time to take the mask off. And no, you don’t get to simply run outside afterwards. Nope, you have to stay inside and sing a children’s song. Only when you manage to get through a verse without stopping are you permitted to leave.

exiting gas chamber

This is me exiting the gas chamber during Basic Training, several lifetimes ago.

I managed to not only survive Basic Training and AIT, but I actually graduated and off I went to various military bases throughout the world. Well, guess what? That gas chamber shit was not over. NO!! Fortunately, I’d become even more sneaky. I have a very small head (go figure!), but each time I was issued new gear upon relocation, I asked for a medium-sized mask. Of course, it was impossible for me to seal the mask as the thing was too big! And voila! I never went into a gas chamber (or did any gas mask training) again.

So, yeah, it turns out I’m a bit claustrophobic. One of these days, I’ll write about the time I had to go through a tunnel in AIT. I shiver thinking about it.

Go Army!

Important but not urgent ~ Time Management with the Eisenhower matrix #WriterWednesday #TimeManagement #AmWriting #AuthorMarketing

A friend of mine introduced me to the Eisenhower matrix yesterday. Although I’ve always intuitively known to put urgent and important tasks on top of my to-do list, I hadn’t looked at the matrix before. (Check out this YouTube video for a quick introduction.) I love this idea. I truly do! Basically, according to the matrix, all work-related tasks can be divided into four quadrants: urgent and important (green), not urgent but important (blue), less important but urgent (yellow), and not urgent and not important (red).

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Sounds great, right? But I have two problems with the matrix:

(1) I have no one to whom I can delegate tasks. Oh sure, I have an editor and a cover designer, but those are very specific/specialized tasks. I don’t have a PA or anything like that. *pouts* It looks like I have no choice. Until I win the lottery, I will just have to do those tasks. *Sigh* Truth be told, I’m pretty awful at delegating anyway, which is one of the reasons I went the self-publishing route.

(2) My second problem is deciding which tasks are important. Take social media as an example. On the one hand, it seems as if being on social media doesn’t sell any books. (Please social media gurus don’t crucify me!) But is that really true? How can I be sure? What if I let my social media accounts become rusty and then realize it was important? What then???!!! With regard to social media, my answer is a timer. It may seem childish but whenever I go on Twitter or Instagram or Facebook, I set a timer to five minutes. It’s entirely too easy to get sucked up into social media otherwise.

I’m still struggling with the idea of not doing those tasks that aren’t urgent and aren’t important. It’s sometimes difficult to categorize items as not urgent and not important. For example, despite clearly indicating on my website that I’m not currently accepting books for review, I still get review requests. Do I just categorize those emails as not important and not urgent and thus don’t respond at all? I don’t want to come off as a big fat meanie. And I don’t want to lose possible connections to other writers and readers. Ugh! It’s a dilemma. (FYI: For requests that are obviously mass produced, I have no problem hitting that delete button.)

What tools do you use to manage your time and tasks?

Why I’m no longer doing sweepstakes to gain newsletter followers #WriterWednesday #AuthorNewsletter #AuthorMarketing

mailchimpIn case you missed it (although I’m not sure how that’s possible), the writing world is having an absolute hissy fit about the newsletter marketing platform MailChimp. MailChimp has changed a bunch of things on its platform. Don’t ask me what those changes are I haven’t the time to study the changes. I did, however, take the time to listen to the Novel Marketing Podcast, which discussed the changes in words a non-marketing professional such as myself could understand. (In case you need some guidance, here’s the link to the podcast: https://www.novelmarketing.com/190-5/)

don't panicMy takeaway from the podcast was as follows: For someone like me who has around 1,300 subscribers and does not have an onboarding sequence, there’s no reason to panic. The only thing I needed to do was archive anyone on my list who had unsubscribed. Well, okay then, off I went to do just that.

While I was archiving my unsubscribed and cleaned contacts, I discovered most of these contacts were from a sweepstakes I’d taken part in to gain subscribers. And by most I mean nearly all. Logically, I knew taking part in a sweepstakes would lead to a lot of unsubscribes. I still thought it was worth a try. No more, though. I will try to gain my subscribers organically from here on out.

I’m also working on a short story, which is an offshoot from one of my series, to provide to my subscribers for free. I may do some advertising in that regard – assuming I ever finish the darn thing. Full disclosure: I haven’t even started it yet.

I’m sticking with Mailchimp for now. If I somehow become super popular and gain tons of followers, I’ll reconsider. Right after I buy the Brooklyn Bridge that is…

A review of Darkness Rising by @KatieReus #BookReview #MondayBlogs #ParanormalRomance

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There are very few authors who inspire me to read everything they write. Katie Reus is one of the few. I was super excited when I managed to get my grubby hands on an ARC copy of Darkness Rising. I’ve read (and maybe re-read) all the books in the Darkness series. Vampires, Dragons, Demons, Wolves, oh my! Darkness Rising sounded like a great addition to the series.

~ Blurb ~

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~ Review ~

I was a little worried about this final novel. No where in the blurb does it mention any of the wonderful characters I’ve fallen in love with during the reading of this series. No need to worry. This story is perfectly interwoven with the past characters of the series. And sometimes in a surprising way!

What can I say about Reaper? I’d totally let him eat crackers in my bed. Sure, he was gruff. But give the guy a break. He’s been in deep hibernation for hundreds of years. The modern age confuses me. It must downright confound him. Good thing he has some old friends to help him out along the way. I’m not sure why Greer didn’t jump him the moment she could. She had her reasons, for sure, I just didn’t think they were worth ignoring the sexy man for.

darkness rising 2One of the things I love about this series is that the romance is only one element of the story. Sure, it’s a big element but not the only one. There’s always some kind of suspense or mystery happening as well. Darkness Rising is no different. There is something very evil going on and it’s up to Greer and any other ancients he can manage to gather together to stop it.

The ending is surprising. Yep, didn’t expect that to happen. I didn’t want this book to finish. After all, it’s the final novel of the Darkness series. I feel like my friends are moving away. Please, don’t go. Luckily, Reus has promised us more novels with our favorite characters in a spin-off series.

 

That time I yelled at the Polizei #Memoir #Nonfiction #CreativeNonfiction #ThisIsMyLife

180108-1126-police-2817132-1920I’ve titled this blog ‘that’ time I yelled at the Polizei. The proper title would be ‘one of the’ times I yelled at the Polizei. Yes, I’ve yelled and screamed at them more than once. To be fair, I spent quite a bit of my youth in Germany and all young people do stupid stuff. Not just me. (Someone back me up here!) Unfortunately, this particular instance happened when I was in my thirties, my late thirties at that.

It was a snowy night the week before Christmas. At the time, I was living in the Eifel region of Germany but working in The Hague. Mostly I worked remotely but I did travel at least once a month to The Hague. I’d get up at 4 a.m., drive like a bat out of hell to beat traffic, arrive at the office around 9, spend an entire day at work, and then drive home. Not my happiest memories.

On this particular occasion, I’d stayed even longer in The Hague as we were having our Christmas dinner. It’s customary in Holland to have some kind of holiday event to ‘treat’ your employees. Normally, considering the late hour, I would have just slept in The Hague – especially as this would have allowed me to have a drink or two at dinner. But I’d been dealing with a horrible toothache for weeks and could only get an appointment at 9 a.m. the morning after our Christmas event. Oh well. Guess I’ll drive then. No biggie, right?

Although Holland doesn’t get much snow, the Ardennes in Belgium is a whole different matter. And guess where I always had to drive through to get home? That’s right, the Ardennes. Naturally, a week before Christmas, it was snowing in the Ardennes. The roads were horrible. It was slow going the entire time from Liege to the German border.

 

Unlike all the spy movies would have you believe, border control between most European countries is basically nonexistent. The border between Germany and Belgium near Sankt Vith is usually abandoned (unless Germany happens to be hosting the World Cup but that’s a different story). So, I flew through the border. Only forty-five minutes left until I was home!

Right after the border, there is an exit. I saw a car driving slowly on the onramp. I slowed down thinking the car was in trouble. It was late at night and there was tons of snow. Even though I was on my own, I would stop and help if needed. To my great surprise, when I slowed down, lights started flashing! What the heck?

I slowed down further and pulled over. It’s about 2 a.m. at this point. I’m exhausted from my long day, my tooth is freaking killing me, and I just want to be home – I’m nearly there! The police man approaches me, and I roll down my window. In German, he asks me: Do you have any drugs? He doesn’t ask if I’m okay, doesn’t ask for my license and registration. Nothing normal like that. He asks if I have any drugs.

I asked him WHAT? Obviously, my brain was no longer comprehending German, I thought. He didn’t just out and out ask me if I had drugs. No way. He repeated his question slower. I turned to him and said: You have got to be kidding me. Do you think I’d tell you if I had drugs? What the hell?

He stared at me for a moment, nodded, and then told me to have a good night.

DISCLAIMER: I do not recommend you try this. Although German police are the most correct police probably in the world, it’s never a good idea to yell at a police officer.