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I Spent $100 on Amazon Ads and All I Got Was This Lousy Blog Post

My fellow writers, let me be clear and unequivocal in this declaration:

Promoting books is the worst part of a writer’s job.

Who in their right mind enjoys pestering friends and family — and, of course, strangers — with promises of dazzling plots and paragraphs? Who enjoys reminding readers to leave you reviews on Amazon and Goodreads?

At the same time, you know there are at least a few people, somewhere, who share an affinity for your particular brand of weird; people who would appreciate and enjoy your work and take pleasure in leaving you a review. How do you reach those people?

On October 1st, I launched a week-long promotion for my short story collection, The Woburn Chronicles, to see if I could crack the code.

What follows are the true accounts of my follies, foibles, failures, and ever-so-occasional bouts of good fortune, which I encountered while carrying out a multi-pronged promotional offensive.

Continue reading at your own peril.

Prong 1: Spend $100 on Amazon Ads

woburn-chronicles-amazon-ad

Okay, so to be fair, I’ve only spent $8.09 of that $100 so far, but I had to commit to spending the full $100 upfront (otherwise they won’t let you create an ad).

I had always imagined that running ads on Amazon would be like pulling a magic lever, and that downloads would skyrocket.

That’s, uh, not how it works.

I’ve been running an “interested-based” promotion, where I’m targeting the following interests (based on the format and genre of the The Woburn Chronicles):

  • Literature & Fiction:
    • Anthologies & Short Stories
    • Mythology & Folk Tales
  • Mystery, Thriller & Suspense
    • Horror, Paranormal
  • Science Fiction & Fantasy
    • Myths & Legends

After 13 days, the ad for my book has been displayed 3,196 times, which sounds impressive … until you hear the second half of the story: Of those 3,196 impressions, only 10 have resulted in clicks. 10! That’s a 0.313% click-through rate, which is positively atrocious.

The possible explanations:

  • My ad was crap. Definitely a possibility.
  • Nobody clicks on Amazon Ads, at least not for books. (I know that for me personally, I see them on my Kindle every day – and I almost always ignore them.)

Prong 2: Facebook Ads

woburn-facebook-adsThe two best things about Facebook Ads:

  1. They’re cheap.
  2. You can get super-specific in regards to the people you target.

In my case, I displayed my ad only to people who A) listed ebooks, Kindle, reading, etc. as hobbies/interests AND who B) listed sci-fi, fantasy, horror, etc. as their preferred genres.

The results? My ad was displayed 1,524 times and 204 people watched at least 10 seconds of my book trailer. More importantly, those 1,524 ad views resulted in 17 clicks, which means this ad had a click-through rate of 1.12% (not great, but way better than what Amazon has been yielding me).

Prong 3: Posting on Personal Twitter/Facebook Accounts

I try to do this sparingly. I posted once back in March, around St. Patrick’s Day, right when The Woburn Chronicles originally came out.  FYI: The 3 stories that comprise The Chronicles are interconnected and follow an Irish immigrant family (over the course of a century) as they encounter strange phenomena in the blue-collar suburb of Boston that they call home. Hence, the St. Patrick’s Day promotion made sense.

Likewise, given there is a strong horror element running through all of the stories, I thought running a promotion at the beginning of October, just as people were getting pumped up for Halloween, made sense. (In retrospect, a million other horror writers probably thought, and did, the same thing.)

woburn chronicles personal facebook

At this point, I should probably mention that as I was doing all of this promotion, I was also running a free book giveaway on Amazon. That is to say, yes, I was paying for ads and reaching out to friends and family in order to drive people to my Amazon listing so they could download a free copy of my book. 

Why the hell would I do that? Probably because I majored in Humanistic Studies in college. (Business has never been my strong suit.)

Also: I didn’t want to make money from this promotional campaign, I just wanted more exposure, and I wanted reviews. (I had screwed up back in March by not putting any energy into getting reviews. So I viewed this October promo as a “relaunch” of sorts.)

From a vanity perspective, of course, I also just wanted to see my book climb its way up Amazon’s best-seller rankings.

Mission: Accomplished…ish.

Prong 4: Riding the Wave

woburn chronicles facebook riding the wave

This was definitely the funnest part of doing all this promotional stuff: Being able to share my book’s progress as it climbed Amazon’s rankings and use it as social proof.

At first I only did this on my personal accounts, but once I managed to crack the top 10 in the Sci-fi & Fantasy short reads section, I felt worthy enough to share the news on Book Twitter.

twitter woburn chronicles

Then I got all jazzed up and experienced what can only be described as an “advertiser’s high” and ran another ad on Facebook.

woburn-chronicles-update

The Facebook ad above proved to be the most successful ad I ran as part of this multi-pronged promotion, yielding 393 views and 13 clicks. That’s a click-through rate of 3.3%.

Total cost: $3.

Not too shabby.

I also ended up walking away with two reviews on Amazon, which is considerably better than receiving zero reviews. And, hopefully, there are more on the way.

My Biggest Takeaway: More Abs Needed

Screen Shot 2018-10-05 at 5.53.13 PM.png

While tracking my book’s ascension on the 90-Minute Science Fiction & Fantasy Short Reads list, I made a startling realization: The books that were immediately ahead of me on the list had one of two design schemes:

  • Design scheme 1: Blue with something shiny in the middle.
  • Design scheme 2: Muscular man-body.

What you choose to do with this knowledge is up to you.

As for me, I’m going to redesign my cover. I’m envisioning a blue background with a six-pack — no, eight-pack — of shiny abs in the foreground…

P.S. If you found this post insightful, enjoyable, or even remotely not-terrible, please consider dropping a buck for a copy of The Woburn Chronicles and leaving me a review. 🙏

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Get Ready for UNEARTHED from Altrix Books: “an anthology celebrating the magic, horror, and mystery that comes with human curiosity.”

As soon as I read the prompt for the Unearthed anthology, I was hooked and knew I would be submitting a pitch.

Editor Kara Dennison and the team at Altrix Books were looking for stories about “the contents of any coffin, sarcophagus, mausoleum, or other big mysterious tomb,” and explained that the contents of said tomb “could be a person, a thing, a non-corporeal entity, a feeling…”

Their only stipulation? At some point in the story, the writer must reveal what’s inside.

My Story Pitch

With no limitations on genre or setting, my mind went in a million different directions, but I kept coming back to a poem I had read by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “The Skeleton in Armor”, published in 1841.

The poem explores the hypothetical origins of a real skeleton, adorned in copper armor, which laborers discovered in a sandbank in Fall River, Massachusetts in 1832. In the poem, Longfellow attributes the body to a viking, and links the discovery to another famous (and mysterious) site nearby: the Newport Tower in Rhode Island.

newport tower-L
The Newport Tower

Without giving too much away, my story follows a gumshoe/journalist who uncovers the secrets of these (ancient?) sites. While primarily a work of historical fiction, there will be hints of supernatural elements sprinkled throughout.

Learn More / Meet the Other Authors

But hey, enough of my yakkin’. I’m just one of 12 authors who will be featured in this anthology from Altrix Books. You can see the full list of authors and learn more about the project here.

FYI: All of the proceeds from Unearthed will go to ARCE, the American Research Center in Egypt, which is “devoted to preserving ancient Egyptian culture and supporting scholars and archaeologists.”

Unearthed will be available for purchase in early 2019.

Pssst. Interested in reading some historical fiction a little sooner? Check out The Woburn Chronicles.

“It’s like The Devil in the White City meets Hocus Pocus”

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“Fromagegoria” (Winner of Zeroflash’s July 2018 Flash Fiction Competition)

This story won first place in Zeroflash‘s July 2018 flash fiction competition. The theme was pulp horror. Word count: 300. Bon appétit!

 

Fromagegoria

by I. E. Kneverday

My Dearest Elizabeth,

As promised, I am writing to inform you of my safe arrival in Grotte-de-Noyade. So the village exists after all! My journey, while fraught with danger (I nearly lost a toe to frostbite) has not been in vain, for the mere existence of this place suggests that the old man’s map was no mere tourist trinket or forgery, but the genuine item (as had been my conviction from the start). The “village,” if such a term can be applied to what I have encountered here, consists of a series of caverns, the majority of which are inhabited not by people, but by massive cast iron vats. My translator Damien tells me that the villagers use these vats to soak their cheese in a peculiar type of brine, the recipe for which has been passed down among their kind for centuries. This brine is said to allow for the cultivation of a rare bacterium, which gives the cheese a rare taste—and perhaps other properties rarer still. So you see, my dear, how more of the old man’s story has been proven true! I promise I will deliver some of this famous fromage to you upon my return. For now, I must bid you adieu, for it seems the villagers wish to give me a first-hand lesson in their craft. What an extraordinary honor!

With all my love,

Jonathan

 

Mademoiselle Reeves,

It is with great sadness that I must inform you of your fiancé Jonathan’s passing. I discovered his remains in a brine vat on Sunday morning. Unfortunately, on account of the brine’s bacterial content, it was impossible to recover the body. As a token of their sympathy, the villagers of Grotte-de-Noyade would like you to accept this wheel of cheese, which was crafted with Jonathan’s input.

Condolences,

Damien

 

Pssst. Looking for a longer read? Check out my collection of three (interconnected) short stories, The Woburn Chronicles.

“It’s like The Devil in the White City meets Hocus Pocus”

giphy (1)

The Songs That Inspired the Stories: The Woburn Chronicles Spotify Playlist

I like my town with a little drop of poison
Nobody knows, they’re lining up to go insane

☝️ Those are the opening lines of “Little Drop of Poison” by Tom Waits, which is a song that perfectly encapsulates the vibe/mood/ambiance/atmosphere I was trying to create with my debut book, The Woburn Chronicles: A Trio of Supernatural Tales Set in New England’s Most Mysterious City.

Ultimately, over the course of several months, I would encounter several songs that would help inspire (and serve as background music for) the writing of the three short stories that comprise Chronicles.

So without further ado, here is the official Spotify Playlist for The Woburn Chronicles:

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/vzg778yrjoapfgd7l7tz18ucv/playlist/2MM9SAPk3jzme0QWSkCXll 

Song List:

  1. “Little Drop of Poison” by Tom Waits
  2. “The Parting Glass” by James Elkington
  3. “Gene Takes a Drink” by Michael Gordon, Bang on a Can All-Stars
  4. “The Hall of Mirrors” by Kraftwerk
  5. “Villains of Circumstance” by Queens of the Stone Age
  6. “No Quarter” by Led Zeppelin
  7. “There, There” by Radiohead
  8. “Bloom (Harmonic 313 Rmx)” by Radiohead
  9. “Chemical World (Including ‘Intermission’)” by Blur
  10. “Threshold” by Steve Miller Band
  11. “Angel” by Massive Attack
  12. “Immigrant Song” by SOAK (Led Zeppelin cover)
  13. “I Am the Changer” by Cotton Jones

The Woburn Chronicles is now available in paperback and as a digital download. Grab your copy now.

Citing My Sources: The Hidden History (and Mythology) Behind The Woburn Chronicles

For the past several years, I’ve had a healthy(?) obsession with New England history and folktales. And while a lot of what you’ll find inside The Woburn Chronicles stems directly from my twisted imagination, you’ll also find that the three supernatural tales that comprise Chronicles are littered with historical and mythological references.

Without a doubt, doing the research for this book took longer than the writing, and it’s hard for me to say which activity I found more enjoyable: the former or the latter. What I can say for sure is that I’ve learned a hell of a lot about the place I call home and have developed a newfound respect for all those peoples, native and immigrant alike, who’ve inhabited this land over the centuries.

For those of you who also have an unquenchable thirst for stories, factual and fictional, set in and around Woburn, and Boston, and New England at large, I’ve put together a condensed list of works that inspired The Woburn Chronicles.

Like all writers, I stand on the shoulders of giants.

A List of Works That Inspired the Woburn Chronicles

Click here to grab your copy of The Woburn Chronicles today (available in paperback or as a digital download).