Thursday, March 17, 2016

Blarney Rubble: Cover reveal!

Cover reveal! I had hoped to release it today, in honor of St. Patrick's Day, but the cover will have to do (courtesy of Mike Sottong). With a little "luck," the book will be available very soon. If you'd like an Advance Reader Copy to review, let me know and I'll add you to the list!

Blarney Rubble: Humorous Suspense from Bill Cokas

Can he keep quiet enough to hear destiny calling?

For a local politician in the North Carolina mountains, Frank McCarthy has been remarkably good at keeping his mouth shut. His soft-spoken ways got him elected to the school board and helped him overturn a longstanding zoning policy. At home, though, his wife yearns for more conversation, compliments and compassion. 

After a funeral trip to his ancestral Ireland, with a detour to kiss the Blarney Stone, Frank’s behavior takes a turn for the bizarre. He’s caught on camera groping an intern and his public apology fuels a social media circus when Frank goes way off script. A friend suspects he’s been blessed with the Blarney Stone’s fabled “Gift of Gab.”

Blessing or curse, Frank can’t shut up, and to save his career—and his marriage—he returns to Ireland to confront the Blarney Stone and break its grip on his tongue. There he encounters a demure grieving innkeeper, a patriotic security guard and a scheming grifter who all offer to “help” Frank to complete his quest. Compounding his trouble are a trio of mythical creatures who seem to have sprung to life from the long-forgotten Celtic tales of his youth.

Being Irish has never brought him much luck, but breaking the curse will require Frank to finally embrace his heritage, with all its flaws. Going up against a centuries-old stone calls for rock-hard resolve.

Available in Spring 2016, Blarney Rubble is a fresh, contemporary mix of suspense, relationships and humor in the tradition of Carl Hiaasen, Christopher Moore and Janet Evanovich.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Selling my soul might actually be easier.

"Your book is...special."
I have been doing a TON of reading, research and "gathering of best practices" lately, including poring through blogs and absorbing hours upon hours of podcasts. Of particular help are Joanna Penn's podcast (The Creative Penn) and the Sell More Books Show. I've also listed to quite a few Author Hangout episodes and Rocking Self-Publishing. The prevailing wisdom is to start marketing your books (or at least your "brand") long before their release, so in a sense, my marketing efforts should always be "on."

What I haven't been doing a lot of is writing. But there's a good reason--after hearing Shawn Coyne interviewed by Joanna Penn, I picked up his book The Story Grid and thought I might be able to figure out where the missteps are in my WIP. It has changed my thinking--it's really inspired me to go back and re-map out the entire novel (word-count-wise, I'm about 2/3 through, but in reality, I'd say only about 50%). Yes, it's more work, but I will feel so much more confident when it's done. I'm out outliner anyway, so I always like to know "where I'm going," even if my characters pull me off that path now and again.

I'm almost done with The Story Grid, at which point I'll pick up Take Off Your Pants! as I dismantle and reassemble my WIP. Projected release date of Spring 2016 (actual date is a secret, because it's relevant to the book's setting and theme, which will be revealed once designer extraordinaire Mike Sottong finishes my cover)!

Shifting gears, I'm ramping up promotion for my first two humorous suspense books, Ring of Fire and Battle Axe. I gave Ring of Fire a fresh edit, a tweaked cover, lopped out about 5K words, caught a few typos, and entered it into KDP Select so I could do a giveaway. After a 3-day giveaway leading into Labor Day weekend, here were the results:

Day 1: 500
Day 2: 105
Day 3: 61
Total downloads: 666

I think Satan himself downloaded the last copy just to make it work out even.

As far as promotional tools, I didn't do a lot. I've spent entire days before pushing giveaways via Facebook and Twitter, but when I saw that 5k+ downloads didn't result in a single new review, I realized those numbers are not all that they seem. So I limited it to one $1.50 paid listing on Snick's List and then using Book Marketing Tools' very handy Book Submission tool to hit 30+ sites for all of $15.

My main goal here is to boost reviews, and based on more advice (see above sources), I've added links and incentives to the book itself. Once a reader posts a review on Amazon or Goodreads and sends me a screenshot or a link, I'll send a copy of Battle Axe (where the cycle begins anew). I'd like to boost reviews of that book, too, and by the time my WIP is ready early next year, I might have something of a "fanbase" or, God forbid, a mailing list.

So there you have it. In the case of this blog, no news is good news, because no news means I'm working too hard to write about how hard I'm working. I'll try to be better about that.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

When everyone is super, no one will be.

I listen to Joanna Penn's podcast regularly. She's a certifiable success and role model when it comes to indie publishing and attracts high-level talent for her interviews. I've broadened my network and likely improved my craft just in the short time since I discovered her.

In one of her recent episodes, she interviewed the designer of her fiction book covers, Derek Murphy. By all accounts, Derek seems like a very nice guy and is indisputably talented. He's designed hundreds (thousands?) of covers in the past few years and has no doubt enhanced the appeal of books that might have otherwise gone unnoticed.

And now to my point: should all books be noticed? It was bad enough when the "indie movement" first took off and suddenly, everyone was an author! Then there was NaNoWriMo, which practically mandated that everyone write a novel! As someone who's been a writer for his entire career, and writing novels for more than ten years, I take umbrage with the notion that possessing a computer and an internet connection endows upon you the skills of structure, plotting, character development, dialogue.

Derek is about to start providing Microsoft Word templates so indie authors can design their own covers--halfway decent covers at that.  It's hard enough for the good books to rise above the mediocre books, and now we won't have their covers to help us distinguish between them.

The process used to be self-qualifying: if you wrote a lousy book, chances are you'd put a lousy cover on it, and we really could judge a book by its cover. I'm generalizing, of course, but I would think that really good writers, those with discriminating taste who bother to proofread and format their content correctly, wouldn't settle for a cover they designed themselves.

I'm fortunate enough to have a best friend who's not only a brilliant designer, but who listens and collaborates, too. If I didn't have him, I'd surely pay someone to design my covers, because I know how important they are, and I want the cover to be indicative of the quality inside.

I'd be willing to bet that many of the books that end up using Derek's templates will be camouflaging mediocre content with pretty pictures.

Must we lower all the barriers to entry?

Author's note: To give this post some context, the author is a 20-year advertising veteran who has seen his profession devalued beyond recognition with the advent of digital technology that makes everyone not only a writer, but also a website designer, a photographer and a videographer. Some chafing is to be expected.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

I've (almost) reached the halfway mark!

Now of course, this refers to a first draft, and we're talking ten chapters of a first draft that may ultimately have more than 20 chapters, but that's all I've outlined so far. So this is a very qualified celebration. But it feels like progress nonetheless. As avid readers of this blog know (Lock him up! He's referring to imaginary people!), I was well into (probably halfway, ironically) a middle-grade adventure novel (working title: Opposite Day) when I decided to shelve the whole thing. One day, I might pull it back out, and one day it might actually be shelved in a physical library, but I just wasn't feeling it. I'm not sure if it was the voice, the "reining in" of my normal adult-speak (vocabulary/idioms/cultural references) or the crazy-elaborate dual world I had built that spun out of my control, but I no longer looked forward to opening that file anymore.

Now I'm onto another "humorous suspense," much like my first two novels. Also, like my other two novels, this one takes place partly in Europe–in this case, Ireland. I like to escape when I read, and when I write, and since I don't write sci-fi or fantasy, which necessitate travel into other times or even universes, I satisfy this urge with vicarious tourism. In my plots, the characters always travel for a legitimate reason that's integral to the action–not like in my old ad agency, when we'd try to sell a commercial that took place in an exotic location (think Rice Krispies in Belize) purely to shoot in an exotic location. Without the trip to Greece, Ring of Fire would have made no sense. Without the detour to Germany, Battle Axe would have fallen apart. And now, with [working title here], my main character is compelled to hit the Emerald Isle for reasons critical to his health and his marriage.

I hope to begin posting regularly again soon, and it won't always be about the status of the WIP (work in progress), but I have given myself a loose-but-looming deadline, so one way or another, I'll be writing.

Friday, September 20, 2013

KDP Select update: promotion helps. But not a ton.

Just finished my third and final KDP Select giveaway for Ring of Fire, with abysmal results. It was really just a test. With the first giveaway, I spent a large chunk of time pre-promoting it and even spent a not-insignificant amount of money getting it listed on other sites. Downloads were upwards of 6K, but ensuing reviews were nil and sales didn't even cover the cost of the promotion.

Second giveaway was nearly identical to first, except I spent a little less money, the same amount of time, and got slightly fewer downloads (5K+). I hit #3 in Suspense Thriller, for Pete's sake, so I definitely got exposure. Again, sales and reviews afterward: nil to nearly nil.

SO, I thought for my last giveaway, let's just pay ONE person on to blast it out to 25 sites (same resource I used for first two giveaways), do NO promotion myself and see what happens. Here's what happened: fewer than 500 downloads, and of course no follow-up sales or reviews.

So, promotion helps, if you're looking at sheer downloads. But do downloads translate to sales or reviews? Not in the least, and I have two books out there, so there's even another book to benefit from all this. I did NOT use some of the more expensive sites that I've heard do produce better results (Bookbub, for example), but then you're looking at spending $300-500 or more. I can't rationalize it.

In the end, I'm done with KDP Select. It was good to try it, but in the past year, Amazon has gotten beyond saturated with indie books and at this point, getting one book noticed through giving it away is like the Whos trying to get Horton's attention in that enormous field of clover. To grant them exclusivity for three months and get so little in return--no thanks.

For now, it's back to writing. That's a lot more fun, anyway.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mixed--but better--results with second KDP giveaway.

My second Amazon KDP Select giveaway of Battle Axe is winding down after three consecutive days, and I must say, it's changing my mind about the program. I still don't know if it will boost my reviews or sales, but the activity has blown away that of my previous giveaway over Easter weekend.

Here's what I did differently:
1. Three consecutive days vs. two non-consecutive days (last time I skipped Easter proper).
2. Used only these paid sources:

Here's what I did the same:

1. Picked a holiday weekend
2. All the same Facebook and Twitter sources

But this time, as of 4:30 on the third day of the promotion, I'm looking at 5700 downloads vs. the meager 710 I got the first time around. I hit #2 in the free Kindle store both times in the Humor category, but this time also hit #6 in Suspense. 

My theory is that the paid sources I used this time are indeed more effective (and slightly more expensive), and the three consecutive days allowed more momentum to build vs. the two nonconsecutive days. Also, I have a feeling that Memorial Day itself is a more popular time to download books, as opposed to Easter. And my books definitely qualify as "beach reads."

Lastly, either Amazon got my scheduling wrong, or I was looking at a European calendar when I picked my dates, but the three days started not on Saturday, May 25 as I had hoped, but on Sunday, May 26 and continued through Tuesday, May 28. I imagine if the promotions (both paid and my own) and the scheduling had synced up better, my results would be even more impressive.

I'll report back with after-promotion results. In any case, this has persuaded me to enter Ring of Fire into the KDP program as soon as Battle Axe expires. Giveaways to follow.

Oh, and actual writing? That may happen again someday, too.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Pinterest: I'm doing it, even if I don't get it.

Okay, that's not entirely true. I get it, but I have to admit it's not my thing. Which is fine--there are plenty of things that aren't my thing. In fact, there are probably way more things that aren't my thing than things that are my thing. I'm a man of particular interests. And you can find a selection of them here. A note: most of them relate to my novels, because I have to weave my interests into my novels, so I can experience them more often.