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Messages - Jonathan C. Gillespie

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Forum Announcements & Tips / Re: Add a thread to "favorites"
« on: August 24, 2016, 10:36:42 am »
I seriously cannot believe I missed that. Thank you, Ann.

Forum Announcements & Tips / Add a thread to "favorites"
« on: August 24, 2016, 06:19:12 am »
Other than doing this at the browser level, is there any way to permanently bookmark a thread? I browsed around a bit, and didn't see any obvious instructions. Forgive me if this has been posted elsewhere.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Science Fiction Anthology Call
« on: August 23, 2016, 11:38:16 am »
I was passed this promo link by another author (cheers, she-la-ti-da!), and I think it might be a good fit for some of my own goals. But can you kindly link to the last one that was done so I can check it out and make sure it's a good fit for my work?

Thanks for the opportunity!

Writers' Cafe / Re: Advertising outside of Kindle Select methods
« on: August 23, 2016, 06:25:01 am »
Once again I've come here for help and concise answers, and once again they're delivered on a platter.

If I wasn't married, I'd propose to, like, everyone on this forum. That'd be one crazy after party, granted.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Advertising outside of Kindle Select methods
« on: August 22, 2016, 09:40:53 am »
Thanks, guys.

"Outside of anthologies, you might also consider genre-targeted cross-promos to get also-boughts."

Have you seen any sites where people coordinate on these, or is something that just tends to crop up in networking and other "organic" methods?

Writers' Cafe / Advertising outside of Kindle Select methods
« on: August 22, 2016, 07:01:02 am »
So, following the advice of a notable author, I've decided to go after one group or another with my books--her two "groups" were the KU readers and then the broader, "wide" public. I'm targeting the KU folks, because page reads have been encouraging, particularly for my Tyrant Strategy novels.

Nevertheless, not having a permafree produces interesting quandaries. I don't have a title set to $0.00 I can just slap a promo on anytime I wish. I only have three titles I could price reduce or set to free for promotion purposes, and even then only for five days at a stretch--and then only every three months. So this means I can only do one promo a month. I don't know if this has worked out for folks or not, but given that one such title would be the first part of a serial (kinda hard to promo in the first place), the second would be the first book in my series, and the third is just a standalone short with links in the back matter...I'm not sure if I'm neglecting other avenues.

One thing I'm trying my level best to do is get into also-boughts, but it feels almost like trying to break into a private club. You need sales to show up in AB's for other authors' books. But you need enough cross-sales. Reviews help cross-sales, theoretically, but you need sales to get reviews, and since many sites cut you off if you don't have enough reviews, you're cut out of one of the entrances to the club. So you wind up trying to find a route through the kitchen service entrance.

To that end, I noticed many authors in science fiction have had success popping tales into cross-author anthologies priced dirt cheap and popped up on the 'Zon. Great. I tried reaching out to one of the authors that had published one of these on behalf of the others, and never heard back. I'm not sure how to get an "in" for folks to consider including me. This is ironic, because I know I can write, and even before I started self-publishing my short fiction was published in about a dozen markets, and picked up award nominations and fan mail and the like.

It just seems like it's super hard to break out. The club has a bouncer, and he's a big guy.

I'm open to any advice. I just had one of the best months I ever had, following the release of my two novels, but I know how this turn on the board ends. Momentum is everything.

If you want to just throw an Ahnuld-esque "stop whining" at me, I guess I'll take that lick, too.

Writers' Cafe / Re: 50 reviews on Amazon to get visible - is this true?
« on: August 15, 2016, 01:41:05 pm »
I vividly remember encountering an author many years ago who encouraged their fan base to down-rate bad reviews of their books.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Stuck in 'publishing'
« on: August 12, 2016, 12:55:49 pm »
Give it 48 hours. I've seen it vary widely.

Writers' Cafe / Re: 50 reviews on Amazon to get visible - is this true?
« on: August 12, 2016, 10:44:40 am »
A reader who lays down their hard-earned time (and especially their money) is doing me a solid already. They've engaged with all these words I've worked so hard to publish. However, they're no more inherently obligated to give me their feedback than I am when I visit the local Taco Bell.

That's the honest truth. It's not cold, or heartless. You're selling fiction or nonfiction to the general public. Some authors make it their business model to engage heavily with their fan base, but it's up to the fan base to reciprocate; they aren't required to do it.

This isn't all bad. When someone dings one of my books--and remember, those bad reviews have value, too--I know it's not because of who I am, but because of what I made. I can always improve what I make, but it's much harder to improve who I am, so I shouldn't take it too seriously. I'm in a tough business, ultimately. Taking bad reviews personally would be like a store owner breaking down into sobs because one of their customers thought they had a bad experience. That doesn't solve any problems or help anything. Rather, a different attitude is more useful. In this business, everything can teach you something, including bad reviews and other forms of criticism, and the best way to improve the Who and What is to take it all in stride and separate your emotions from it.

I would join other authors in not recommending this business for those who attach too much negative emotional weight to bad reviews. No one's ever written a book that's escaped them.

Also, guilt-tripping or shaming our reader base only damages our ability to get more reviews. I find the best approach is just to leave a polite note in the back matter. The very first thing I do is tell readers I appreciate their time and their purchase so very much. I tell them if they are feeling generous, the most powerful thing they can do (other than having purchased the book in the first place) is to tell a friend about it. I then tell them reviews are also very important, and if they want to leave one--good or bad--that would be awesome. Finally, I provide the normal list of contact info.

That's it. That's all you can really do. Authors get themselves into trouble, I find, whenever they spend too much of their energy chasing reviews. They'll come. Focus on your work and your marketing, and they'll happen. I say that as someone who wishes they had more, but still sees a steady trickle. Ultimately, that's the experience for most of us, and it doesn't do us any good to stress too much about a common experience.

Writers' Cafe / Re: BookBub Advertising Effectiveness
« on: August 11, 2016, 10:11:13 am »
Ugh. Thanks. I'm going to blame missing the OP's clarification on having a newborn. Perhaps I should avoid the web for a while :)

Writers' Cafe / Re: BookBub Advertising Effectiveness
« on: August 11, 2016, 09:46:20 am »
You ought to search for Bookbub in the upper right. There's literally about a thousand threads of just folks recounting their Bookbub experiences.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Heads up going from Permafree to KU
« on: August 11, 2016, 09:42:59 am »
No offense taken at all, Rick. Thanks for the info.

Edit: I should point out--I moved tons of permafree books (Beacons Part I and II). I guess my point is those aren't factoring into also-boughts at all, even having moved to KU instead, and I guess that makes sense.

Writers' Cafe / Heads up going from Permafree to KU
« on: August 10, 2016, 06:47:20 am »
I recently went from permafree to Kindle Select for the Beacon Saga Serial's Part I and II books (you can see part I in my signature). I had an outside hope that books showing as also-boughts would now reflect these first two parts in their own also-boughts as well, but unless the Zon's algos just take a while to update, this sadly is not the case.

Consider this at least one anecdotal heads-up for an obstacle\factor to consider when going from permafree to select.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Kindle Advertising K-Os Christian Covers?
« on: August 09, 2016, 06:59:03 am »
Let's put it this way, how do you think evangelical Christians would feel if ads for books promoting Muslim beliefs were popping up in front of them? Or how about Satanism? A book condemning the Jews for killing Christ showing up in a Jewish person's search? And if you allow crosses, do you allow burning crosses? It's not nonsense. It's good business to reduce opportunities for backlash.

I'm not sure why you're trying to make this point, because I already said I get why Amazon is doing it. My broader issue is I'm lamenting the fact that we're in an environment where people can't deal with ideas that run counter to theirs and move on. I think it's crazy that the world's largest bookseller feels compelled to take these steps. I don't think Amazon is at fault, but society's tendency to leap to offense is something that bothers me.

I don't know why people think I'm indicting Amazon. I'm not.

Let's put it this way, how do you think evangelical Christians would feel if ads for books promoting Muslim beliefs were popping up in front of them?

Again, I'm not sure if you didn't read what I wrote earlier, or if I just didn't express it properly. I can tell you that driving down a major local highway, I can pass prominent billboards for free Korans, which state "Find Jesus in the Quran". The Mormon church has folks waiting at the local subway, complete with signage and literature. These things don't bother me, and I am a Christian (not in the Mormon denomination, for the record, hence the distinction I've made).

Still, I'm just one guy, and you're right in a general sense--there are quite a few out there who are bothered by such approaches. And as I said, I get why Amazon is doing this. The only thing I'm not sure about is if Amazon isn't being too cautious, given that this stuff goes on literally everywhere else in society. Maybe they'd be okay after all if they opened the floodgates a little. I just don't know :/

Writers' Cafe / Re: Kindle Advertising K-Os Christian Covers?
« on: August 08, 2016, 10:04:40 am »
Well, if we pull out just one series, Left Behind, we're looking at 65 million copies sold, and four film adaptations. I'd call it Christian--it features the Rapture and the rise of the Antichrist, subjects I *think* (I could be wrong) aren't typically seen in everyday post-apocalyptic fiction. I don't buy that just because they marketed the books a certain way, they're not still inherently Christian books.

I'm reminded of a sci-fi mag's definition of science fiction: that if the science were removed, there goes the story. If Left Behind drops all the Christian elements, I'd imagine it wouldn't survive as a story, thus since said elements are's Christian fiction. If you want, you can call it "Christian Post-Apocalyptic Fiction" if you'd like to split hairs.

But people seem to want nonfiction titles. Okay. I'm not here to debate the merit of the content therein, but let's just pull a random Christian author and his nonfic work.

Joel Osteen's Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential was a #1 New York Times Best Seller. Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day printed four million copies.

So unless NYT best sellers and blockbuster series are generally foisted on the backs of "fringe" topics, I stick to my point: Amazon doesn't want controversy.  We can still technically call these "niche" books, yes, in the same way that urban fantasy and surival horror are "niches", but there's quite a few genres that are allowed to be advertised that would fall under the same guidelines, if sales figures this "low" were the main reason the 'Zon wouldn't want them advertised. If you see what I mean...

I get their reasons for doing this, I just think we should have a healthy respect for why. The world's largest bookseller doesn't want a Twitter hatestorm, or some other nonsense.

Let's impart a sense of urgency and cut the extraneous details as much as possible. Let's show the readers that this puppy is going to bark. One thing that's missing in your description is a name of the bad guys; I like to drop this kind of thing into my description as a lure to the reader--to make them curious. So for kicks I'll call your bad guys the Coven (yeah, I know it's been used before, but bear with me). Thus:

Everyone who has met me thinks I'm insane, but I've seen what was once our world, and I've seen who destroyed it. They call themselves the Coven, and they're coming back to slaughter mankind. Grace, an ancient and powerful angel, swears I'm someone called Chris, and that I've got a gift that can save us all. For the past fifteen years, she's honed me into a force like nothing this Earth has never seen.

But now the Coven knows I'm here, and they're on the hunt, drawing closer every day. They think I'm still a regular human. They're about to find out how wrong they are.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Domain Authentication For Mailchimp?
« on: August 04, 2016, 10:24:48 am »
I have never heard about this before. I thought a domains email address covered the entire domain. I didn't even know you could assign an email to a sub domain. I thought it represented the entire website so to speak. Also, I thought mailchimp was the actual "email service" here. My hosting claims to have a 200 email send per hour limit too. I was told the emails were actually sent through mailchimp though and not my domain.

It isn't common knowledge among the general public; folks with a web-related IT background tend to get introduced to this stuff.

The issue would be whatever from address that would be displayed. Mailchimp might be sending the mail, but spam reports impact the domain in the "from" field. This is one of the reasons why folks are getting a warning about using email addys in gmail domains.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Kindle Advertising K-Os Christian Covers?
« on: August 04, 2016, 10:14:03 am »
Hi, Julie. Good to see you.

I don't think you're right that it's because the products are inherently "niche" items. There are 2.2 billion Christians in the world. I'd wager there are more people reading Christian books than science fiction. Rather, 'Zon knows they can't restrict the truly fringe religious content without drawing a Venn Diagram around the entire category.

Like I said, they're avoiding controversy. That's what's really going on here.

But the point of advertising is not high-brow "sharing of new ideas." It si to make money by selling products.

The point of an advertiser is also to make money selling advertising space.

Also, do you really think advertising is never used to spread ideas? I think what you're meaning to say here is that Amazon is trying to guard their reader and storefront experience, which we actually agree about.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Shifting from Act 2 to Act 3 in an Outline
« on: August 04, 2016, 06:03:50 am »
I break my outline into chapters, and I know each character's arc in terms of the growth I want them to either show (or not) through the story. I'm just referring to an Act in terms of about where in the story the issue seems to crop up.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Domain Authentication For Mailchimp?
« on: August 04, 2016, 05:53:01 am »
You should be able to easily get the necessary info from your registrar that is required. A phone call will allow this.

Let me warn folks of something: be careful about using your main domain name for this. For example, my official site is If I send bulk mail from that domain, I might be fine for a while, but if users start reporting the email as spam (or any number of other metrics crop up), something we in the tech field term a "reputation" starts to kick in for the worse.

Every domain name has a reputation. Things like spam reports against it begin impacting that reputation. This is very hard to recover from, and a bad rep can start impacting your domain in all kinds of fun ways you wouldn't want to deal with. For most folks, using a subdomain off the main domain is a safer approach. For example, would be excellent, because then I'm impacting the rep of that subdomain and not the primary domain. If got dinged enough to create deliverability issues, I could just replace it with a new domain.

Please, if you're sending a ton of email, consider using a subdomain for that traffic.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Kindle Advertising K-Os Christian Covers?
« on: August 04, 2016, 05:26:50 am »
It doesn't surprise me at all. In a perfect world, people would be able to interact with their big boy pants on, tolerant of ideas and beliefs that might not gel with their own. But this isn't a perfect world, and many people--sometimes Christians, if we're being honest--are all too apt to jump on Twitter and start a firestorm of protests and controversies. So we get companies that just don't even want to take the risk of being lumped in with such a ruckus.

It's tough. A bookseller ought to be at the forefront of spreading ideas. They're the bastion of things you haven't yet read or considered. But I get their hesitations, too.

Writers' Cafe / Shifting from Act 2 to Act 3 in an Outline
« on: August 04, 2016, 05:17:18 am »
It seems, no matter how many outlining resources I've read, and no matter how many times I've outlined a book, that right around the 20k mark in a WIP I often find myself stopping and reassessing the way forward from that point. This leads to reviewing the outline again, and sometimes making minor changes, but for the most part it's just two to three days thinking of plot options; time spent coming to grips with the fact that I really can't conjure some magical idea that will somehow make me feel like my first draft is anything but a shack held together by spit and bailing wire. I generally know the way ahead is solid in the outline I already made, and of course I have my character arcs, conflicts and endings all ready to go, but there's something about actually writing the middle of the book that tends to create misgivings. I worry if I'm asking the reader to suspend too much disbelief. Questions come forward, such as:

1) Would Joe Bob really go for that?
2) Why wouldn't Entity A do [action] instead?
3) They'd be romantically involved, those two, by now. You know that, right?
4) Those two characters wouldn't trust each other this quickly.
5) I don't care what you outlined. This is CRAP.
6) Your readers are going to hate this.
7) Stephen King and Robert Heinlein never had these problems. You do, because you screwed something up!

But then, inevitably, I swallow my misgivings and I soldier forward. A few drafts later (the usual trimming and the like), and I've got a book ready for the beta readers, then eventually the draft with their feedback in mind (and my last changes) goes to the editor, and the book is released...and everything goes fine.

So, yeah, there's always that spook-out, every time. I've been writing since 2000, and I've got quite a few short stories and novels to my name (not all of them published; some were just exercises), and I'd love to somehow identify what it is that's causing this hiccup at almost the same time in the process, almost every time. Is it simple, harmless doubt? Am I not being thorough enough with my outline before I leap into writing?

Anyone else ever run into this?

I've heard not one, but two podcast stories featuring sentient zombies, one of which was induced into being such by....*drumroll*....a fungus.

No one cares. Publish away! :)

If Susan's on tap, this is worth listening to.

Also--cheers, Mark!

Writers' Cafe / Search words: target categories or buckets?
« on: August 03, 2016, 05:28:39 am »

What's your strategy with key words? Do you target categories and subs, so that you're in as many as possible, or are you instead focused on buckets--by which I mean, for example, you want your killer book about shortcake to show up three spots down from that NYT bestseller about shortcake? Or are you doing something entirely different?

The reason I'm asking is I'm trying to decide if I should groom my key words in use for my books. My novels are doing all right, given I've done almost no promo for them, my serial not so much, and though I know keywords are not the sole reason for either's success or slow sales, it doesn't hurt to try optimizing things.

Also, if you know a good service that can do this, that's actually worth paying for, I'd happily take recommendations.


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