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Messages - vaughanwsmith

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Writers' Cafe / Re: Some New Sci-Fi and Fantasy Premades For Sale
« on: February 19, 2018, 04:47:48 AM »
OMG those are amazing! I need to look at my future projects and see if anything fits :)

Writers' Cafe / Re: bookbub ADS: What's working best?
« on: February 14, 2018, 04:42:21 AM »
I just want to add a counter point to this.

I heard recently on a podcast (ep 165 of the SFF Marketing Podcast with guest Bryan Cohen) that bidding higher CPM on BookBub ads resulted in 'better clickers' as an audience. It was a theory suggested by Bryan, and the feedback he received from the BookBub ad people suggested they thought he was right, but couldn't say definitively. But I thought it was interesting, and decided to test because I've been quite low with my bids. And I could imagine the scenario where low bids get the 'leftovers' so to speak.

Before I show results, I should mention:

- I am advertising a book 1 in a Fantasy Series, and it's not discounted ($2.99 standard price) and I don't mention price in my ad.
- Book is in KU so I can only target Amazon stores
- In my previous tests referencing 'free on KU' did abysmally, so my ad has a buy button

Test 1:

I took my best performing ad (in terms of CPC and ability to safely leave it running in background):
- started off only spending around $1-2 a day at an effective CPM of $5-6, average CTR was around 2.5%
- now struggling to get any impressions

And I increased the bid to $12 CPM.
- Effective CPM around $9-10
- CTR consistently between 3-4% now
- I'm spending my $5 budget each day
- Average CPC is about the same as when the CPM bid was much lower (between $0.25-0.30)
- I'm very happy, since it's made this ad useful again

Test 2:

I took two author targets that are in my also-boughts and should have worked pretty well, but only had mediocre results previously, and tried creating new ads
- Author 1 historical ad had a CTR of 0.5%, average CPC of $1.20
- Author 2 historical ad had a CTR of 1.3%, average CPC of $0.50

After I cloned my 'good ad' from Test 1 and used the other author targets and the higher CPM bid of $12
- Author 1 new ad CTR 1.8%, average CPC of $0.60
- Author 2 new ad CTR 3.15%, average CPC of $0.30
- Both spending my $5 budget each day
- I'm happy enough to leave them running for a few days and see if they're converting decently

Some information that may skew my results a bit:

- Author 1 had some new releases at the beginning of the year
- Author 2 had a BookBub featured deal recently

Regardless, it's been a successful test and I'm excited by BookBub ads again. I thought I was going to have to wait until I could target more storefronts.

The moral of the story is: test everything!

Writers' Cafe / Re: $500 Cover Illustration by Sam White
« on: January 07, 2018, 04:51:16 AM »
Great style, definitely get the old skool vibe too.

I think it would be good if you made a mock cover out of one of your art works. It would both show your typography skill, as well as show how the nice piece of art translates into a good cover.

It is really important to consider just how the composition of the image works for both eBook and paperback, where the title, series name, author name etc will fit amongst the art.
Showing that you understand that will bring in more business, because it's a safety net for authors. They won't end up with a lovely illustration that's hard to use (not suggesting that you would do that, only that you could give people a better idea of the end product they could get).

Unfortunately (or fortunately :P) books are a product, so the packaging is very important and needs to adhere to certain requirements.

Writers' Cafe / Re: ODDHOUSE STUDIO - Book Cover Art Illustration
« on: December 05, 2017, 04:47:01 AM »
Fantastic work there, I will keep you in mind for future projects.

Also you may want change the size of those images haha.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Underperforming first book - any help?
« on: November 24, 2017, 05:34:07 AM »
A few thoughts:

- Even the last iteration of the blurb has too much plot, and too many things that people need to try and remember. More tease please.
- If you're riffing off Charlie's Angels, then why not have the three characters on the cover, doing a similar pose? It would also give you the opportunity to put them in medieval clothing and help convey the setting.
- Your choice of cover is problematic. Salem has a lot of meanings, and doesn't help narrow down genre or setting at all. If you want to keep the title, then the cover has to clearly telegraph more detail about what the book is about
- Weighing into the author name... I agree it's a bit off-putting. Can you add a surname that's obviously a joke / pun etc? I guess you could just own it and have Tizzy be huge lettering.

Anyway good luck with the revisions  :)

Writers' Cafe / Re: Bookbub Ad
« on: November 18, 2017, 05:06:22 AM »
I've just started testing them to promote the first in my fantasy series. Since I'm in KU with the series, I'm restricted to targeting Amazon. Only 2 days in, but it's already confirmed what everyone said about Amazon US and UK chewing up most of the budget. CPC isn't too bad yet, ranging from $0.30-$0.48 which is palatable. Need to see how it trends with more data. It's hard to measure since I'll need time for the page reads to start accumulating enough to conclusively show an increase.

Just cloned the add that's getting the most impressions and made a new image referencing KU. Will be interesting to see how that affects clicks.

I think there's a lot of potential here, mostly for international stores. You just need to find the best author and region combinations for your books.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Christmas came early this year, Santa Zon gave us...
« on: November 16, 2017, 01:59:35 AM »
Awesome! I had a bunch of unpublished shorts with basic covers that were never going up again. So much better now  ;)

Writers' Cafe / Re: Who is your cover artist? Care to share their work?
« on: October 21, 2017, 06:10:41 AM »
For my thrillers I used Damonza.

For my fantasy series I used:

I think you'll agree the results speak for themselves!

Writers' Cafe / Re: Anyone Use Findaway Voices for Audiobooks?
« on: October 07, 2017, 02:58:06 AM »
The industry standard seems to be around 9000 words per finished hour, so that should give you a good indicator.

E.g a 72,000 word novel would be 8 hours and $1600-$2400 USD given the ranges you mentioned. Not a small investment, but considering you wouldn't do it unless the ebook was well received it isn't too bad.

Writers' Cafe / Re: The AUSTRALIAN writer's support thread
« on: September 14, 2017, 07:47:10 PM »
Just an FYI, if you're comfortable to jump across to KDP Print they will wire transfer your paperback royalties at the same time you get your ebook royalties. But they still don't have proof copies or author copies. I'm happy to use Ingram for that but not everyone's in the same position.

Writers' Cafe / Re: I'll light the fuse
« on: August 20, 2017, 07:49:02 PM »
That does seem a bit off. If you're going to do it anyway, do something like "too hot for NY Times bestseller list"  :P


NY Times Bestselling Author*

* I was in a box set with 20 other authors that sold over 30,000 copies on release week and was ignored by NYT.

It's hard. I totally get Hugh's approach to ignore inconsistent gatekeepers that keep changing the rules. But at the same time, that award was not conferred.

Writers' Cafe / Re: My wife made my book cover. Looking for feedback.
« on: August 10, 2017, 07:19:48 AM »
Honestly I don't think the vertical type works. The title probably looked cramped up top when you tried it because the first word is quite long and your phoenix image is very big.

I'd try the following:

- Center the Phoenix and make it half the size
- Put the title center and top of the cover
- Use font treatment on the title to show the combination of Technothriller and dystopian. So maybe have the INC looks faded / crumbling etc and Democracy all computerised or something interesting. Or the reverse
- Author name much bigger and centered
- You would have space for the subtitle in this revised design, which would help explain the book more. But I think the subtitle could be more descriptive. A schoolteacher being hit by a bus could be an American Tragedy. What's the essence of this story that sets it apart?

Anyway that's my thoughts, trying to be helpful and give you a different perspective. Ultimately you have to be happy with it, but I think you really need to consider how readers will view it. The packaging aspect has to be more important than respecting the artwork / design. You have to make the reader completely confident that it's the kind of story they want to read. Good luck with the design  :)

Let's Talk Kindle! / Re: Trying to read a paperback book
« on: July 16, 2017, 02:42:52 PM »
I'm trying to read a paperback by Dan Brown. You know the type - big thick bestseller, small print and on cream rough paper.

How do you make the font bigger, and where's the back light button?

I had no idea my eyes had deteriorated to such an appalling level. I guess my pension this year is coming at just the right time :/

Sorry about that.  ;D So yeah, I do find paperbacks not as covenient now that I am used to kindle.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Need font design for existing cover art
« on: July 14, 2017, 07:19:05 AM »
I do typography-only work. You can check out my portfolio at I also did the typography for Steven Kelliher and Vaughan Smith if you want to take a look at those on Amazon.

I can vouch for Shayne - great to work with. You can see her typography on the 2 fantasy books in my signature.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Book Report adds custom book attributes
« on: July 10, 2017, 08:17:06 PM »
This sounds great. I've been manually selecting particular books to build series reports so thanks!

Since series is such a pervasive concept I think you could do more with it rather than rely on authors to configure it.

For example:

- make series a standard attribute
- add an attribute for series number (1, 2 etc)
- create series report pages that show the following information based on the period you select:

- total sales and income
- sales per book
- reads per book
- read through % per book (e.g. sales of book 2 / sales of book 1)
- read through % for entire series (e.g. Sales of last book / sales of book 1)

That would be hugely valuable to help authors gauge the success and effectiveness of their series.

Anyway just the ideas I had immediately. Going to get to tagging :)

I pre-ordered this back in the day and read it pretty quickly. Good ideas and good exercises to get you thinking. Like anything, there's similar information out there. But Chris has done some investigation, put his own slant on it, and structured in a helpful way. And I never considered doing a ROI on the relaunch to see how many copies would have to be sold to justify the spend.

I was really excited thinking about a relaunch I can do for my first novel to really do it justice, but reading Chris's book talked me out of it for now. There's no point revamping and releasing a new thriller when I'm deep in my fantasy series. Will delay that until it makes more sense and I can tie it into something worthwhile.

Writers' Cafe / Re: New Release Pricing: $4.99 vs $0.99
« on: June 21, 2017, 07:34:53 AM »
I launched the the first book in my fantasy series at $0.99 and have left it there for almost three months. The reason is that I wanted to maximise my visibility, and I had book 2 on a 2 month preorder (at $3.99) before it released. Page reads have helped bring in the money despite the low price.

I think it has worked really well. I honestly don't think I would have anywhere near the same level of sales or stickiness had I raised the price. The question is whether I just leave it there and do free promos later, or bump it up to $2.99 at some point. Who has a parallel universe I can use to test?

It seems like a pretty fair agreement. The pricing control and wide distribution may help offset the 20% cut. For someone like me who is in Australia, it gives me an option where Audible/ACX do not.

Let's see - assume you list it for $20.00:

Royalty payment is $4.00
Voices gets $0.80
Author gets $3.20

Assume your book is 10 hours length and your narrator is $200 PFH. That's $2,000 outlay and you need to move 625 units to break even. That doesn't sound too bad really. Less if there's a better royalty on the other stores. I'm assuming this kind of setup avoids whisper sync etc. Somebody who knows audio better may be able to weigh in with better numbers.

I don't think review averages mean that much really. Not to the extent that you are worrying about it. I don't think crisis management is warranted.

My best selling book has a whole bunch of 1 star reviews, some of them really harsh. My average star rating on US Amazon is 3.2 on that book. It's actually higher on goodreads if you can believe that.
But it still sells. And people are buying book 2 as well.

I used to worry about reviews too, when I wasn't selling many books. And I used review services in the past. But I won't again in the future. A poor review boils down to one or more of the following:

- You messed up something that's fixable next time
- You have gone against genre or reader expectations
- You attracted the wrong reader to your book

Learn what you can and move on. Don't let reviews drag you into the revision death spiral. A good cover / hooky description / enticing first chapter will win out every time over reviews.

Rather than spend time on getting more/better reviews, spend that time on getting more sales and attracting readers. The sales will come and with them reviews.

Anyway that's my 2c, hopefully some of that resonates.

Writers' Cafe / Re: $350 Cover Book Illustration by Alberto Besi
« on: May 26, 2017, 06:43:50 AM »
Great portfolio will keep you in mind for future projects.

I've done it in the past. If I remember correctly it was not long after the auto-renewal had ticked over and I said in my request that it was a mistake and I missed it. They complied  but said something like they wouldn't do it again, or if I asked again I would be ineligible to participate in the program afterwards.

Hasn't been a problem, so it's worth asking. But I would only do it if you're sure you aren't going back in anytime soon.

Graham came to the rescue for me on my latest release when my booked editor had to cancel at the last minute. Not only is Graham fast, but his work is professional and helpful. He is thorough and consistent which is what you really need in a editor. Highly recommended.

I had a copy edit and proofread done and immediately booked Graham again for the full package.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Would like feedback on fantasy blurb
« on: April 11, 2017, 06:11:20 AM »
I didn't see the previous version, but I think there's a little bit too much detail and explanation going on here. I've had a crack at it to show my ideas.


A match made by the goddess is tested by an Ancient Evil. What cost will the royal couple have to pay to seal it away?

Samantha had everything she wished for. She was to marry the man she loved and rule as queen. Robrek was born a peasant, but by the blessing of the Goddess was granted enormous power and a chance at a better life. He just wanted to be worthy of his new queen.

Before they can establish their rule a deadly curse breaks out and threatens to envelop the joined kingdoms. The source is an Ancient Evil, bound by a hero a thousand years ago. How he managed such a feat is long forgotten.

Samantha and Robrek must contain this Ancient Evil before it consumes their realm. The last hero that did so achieved victory at the cost of his own life. Will Samantha or Robrek also have to make the ultimate sacrifice to save their people?

Writers' Cafe / Re: What's the best review you ever had?
« on: April 03, 2017, 05:05:52 PM »
It's probably this one for my first book - on goodreads no less!

I don't know where to start. Heading into this book, I expected it to be another cheap take on the Bourne Identity books. However, it didn't take me long to realise that there is no other book like this. If you take this book in its entirety, including the big reveal at the end, there is no one sentence that could sum up this audacious book.

The first thought that wrongfully struck my mind was that the writing was terrible. This is because it came across as unrealistic, given that for a man who had no memory, he certainly didn't ask a lot of questions. However, upon learning on the true format of the book (being something of a report or journal), this could be excused.

However, I say 'wrongfully' because it did not take the author long to pick up his pace and rapidly improve his writing.

The book, narrated by a mysterious individual who had lost his memory, tells the story of crime families and their obsessions over artifacts that, once combined 'reveal the secret behind life itself'. The story focuses on the mysterious individual and how he works out his place in the events.
I can not string together the right words to explain how much this book enthralled me and I can honestly say that I had too much fun following this man along on his quest. My reading experience was completed when I 'solved the riddle' as the blurb instructed and all I will say that the answer I worked out kept me up thinking for many hours.

Overall, this book has thrilled me more than any book has done, notwithstanding the minor few flaws. I would most definitely recommend this book to anyone. And you know this book has pleased me so, as I have never written a review nor did I ever intend to- but I had so much to say about this book that I had to.
I won this book on Goodreads First Reads.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Blurb help for epic fantasy
« on: March 23, 2017, 03:16:24 AM »
Definitely too many names, and too many plot threads. Remember, names have no significance to a new reader. Here's my take on it (rough but you get the idea):

Two spies. Five nights. A weapon that will change the world.

Cal is a spy without a mission, and the endless cards, drinking, and women are starting to wear thin. When he hears his long lost partner Aaron might actually be alive, Cal seizes the opportunity to become active once more.

Aaron's time away hasn't been for nothing. He now holds the key to harness the power of dragons, and with them own the skies. But such a weapon attracts the attention of many undesirables,  and Aaron can trust nobody else.

Together, the two spies must contend with greedy government agents, entitled nobility and ruthless street gangs. And sightings of the stunted, shadow-loving Chalk.  Can they stay alive long enough to exploit their new weapon? Or will they fill two more unmarked graves?

Night of the Chalk, first in the Spies of Dragon and Chalk series, combines elements of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels and crime noir into a thrilling world of epic fantasy.

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