Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Year-end review

The year and the decade are ending, so it’s time for the traditional look back to what I’ve done. If I look at the whole decade, I’ve achieved a lot: I fulfilled my dream of becoming an author. I published my first book in 2012, and it’s been a great journey from then on. The learning curve has been steep, but I believe I’ve come a long way since. All in all, a brilliant decade.

Me at the beginning of the decade.

This year, however, is a mixed picture. I can start with what I haven’t done: written this blog. Despite my best intentions when the year began, I only managed five posts (six if you include this) the whole year; three less than the previous year, which I thought was the low point.

On the positive side, I manged to revive my reading blog, Susanna Reads. I wrote twenty-six posts, so approximately one post every other week. However, considering that I read sixty-five books this year, it’s not much, and I didn’t manage to review everything I read. I’ll try to do better next year.

I published two books. Crimson Warrior, the book 6 in the Two-Natured London series, came out in March. It went fairly unnoticed, but the sales have picked up towards the end of the year. If only I could get people to review it, it might become more popular.

The second book I published was Tracy Hayes, Tenacious P.I., also a book 6, this time in the P.I. Tracy Hayes series. It has sold well, with the best pre-order sales for me ever. However, the reviews haven’t shown up yet either. In addition, I began to write several books, a couple of which will actually be finished too. Eventually. All in all, I've written about 128.000 published words and roughly the same number of unpublished words.

Financially, the year was better than the previous one. I’m still on the red, but less than the year before. That’s mostly due to publishing one book less than the previous year, which cut the costs. The income was roughly the same, maybe a little less. I spent less on advertising, having learned my lessons there. Mostly I advertise on Amazon these days, which I have found to be the most effective platform for it.

On a personal level, this has been a year of small health problems. I was diagnosed with high blood pressure and asthma, and I’m learning to live with both. Luckily neither of them is severe, so I’m doing just fine with medication. I also suffered shoulder problems the whole year. First the right shoulder and then the left had infected rotary cufflinks, which limited the arm movements and caused great pain. But on the upside, as I was dealing with that, a physical therapist showed me a proper way to sit at my desk, which made my chronic back pain vanish almost completely.

Me at the end of the decade.

All in all, a mediocre year. There were no great breakthroughs, and no great disappointments. I still love writing and I intend to continue the next year too. I hope you’ll stay with me. Happy New Year and new decade to you all.

Friday, 25 October 2019

The importance of secondary characters in a long series

It’s that time of year again! No, I don’t mean Halloweenalthough that’s around the corner too. The next instalment of P.I. Tracy Hayes series comes out on November 3, and you should all preorder it.

Tracy Hayes, Tenacious P.I. is the sixth book in the series about a Brooklyn waitress turned an apprentice P.I. This time round, an old friend asks Tracy to locate his missing sister. It’s easier said than done, especially after her only lead goes missing too. But Tracy is definitely tenacious, so you can be sure she’ll do everything she can to find the missing girl.

Tracy Hayes, Tenacious P.I. by Susanna Shore

My favourite thing about writing Tracy Hayes books is everything that happens in the background. Tracy has a large family, two older brothers and a sister, who are all much more successful than her, and whose lives she has to sort out while she is solving crimeswhen they’re not trying to butt into hers. Having a large cast of characters with their own lives brings depth to the series and continuity between the books that I find important.

There’s Travis, the eldest brother, eight years older than Tracy. He’s a public defender and a father to energetic twin boys. Because of the age difference, he’s sort of an older statesman in Tracy’s life, there when she needs legal help, like in this book, and always worrying for her safety. He hasn’t had a chance to shine yet, but I already have plans for him.

Then there’s Theresa, Tessa, the second eldest. She’s an ER doctor who comes out in the first book when it turns out she’s having an affair with Angela, a paediatriciana bit of a shock to their Catholic families. Tessa is a fun character to write. She’s not very good at reading people and with social situationsI think she has some Asperger characteristicsbut she is a brilliant doctor who never fails to patch Tracy up after her escapades.

The closest sibling to Tracy is Trevor, who is four years her senior. He’s a homicide detective and therefore shows up every time there’s a murder to be investigated. He has his private drama going on in the background in form of a son he didn’t know he had. I like him perhaps the most, and I have to watch out so that I don’t let him dominate every scene.

Regular characters that are not family include Tracy’s roommate Jarod, a computer genius ex-hacker, who occasionally creates drama of his own, and Jonny Moreira, a mafia enforcer turned hotel manager, who shows up regularly in Tracy’s life. He’s a reader favourite and I think some of them would like to see him redeemed, but that might take a longer series than what I have planned. Characters with lesser roles and no major story-lines of their own include Tracy’s ex-husband Scott, and Cheryl, the agency secretary.

And then there’s Jackson, Tracy’s boss. He starts out as an enigmatic figure she can’t quite get the hang of; a childhood friend of Travis, who has gone through a great transformation already before the series starts. He was a delinquent, a Marine, and a homicide detective before becoming a private investigator. He’s the most important person in Tracy’s life throughout the series and I like exploring where their relationship takes them.

Not every family member and friend has a major role in every book. There’s no room for it, as solving the mysteries have to come first. But every book has more going on than the mystery, whether it’s relationship drama or a family issue. I like the cosy atmosphere it creates. Every book is like returning home to me. I hope it feels like that to readers as well.


Who knew art could be so deadly? 

I don’t know why I lifted my camera and began to record, but I managed to capture the moment she punched Joel in the gut with everything she got. 

Brooklyn art circles are buzzing about the latest sensation, painter Joel James. But all is not as it seems with him, as Tracy discovers to her surprise. And then he vanishes.

Tracy has another case giving her trouble too. An old friend asks her to locate his missing sister, and the only lead Tracy has is the vanished artist. Is Russian mafia involved? Have they taken the missing girl too?

When a body is found, Tracy’s missing person becomes a murder suspect. Can Tracy find her before the police? Or worse, before the girl becomes the next victim of the actual killer.

On top of everything, Tracy’s going on a date—with her boss Jackson. But does it mean something, or is he just doing her a favor? And what does it say about her that she still can’t keep away from Jonny Moreira, the sexy, no-good mafia enforcer?

Tracy Hayes, Tenacious P.I. comes out November 3. You can read the first two chapters here. Preorder links are here.

Friday, 1 March 2019

Two-Natured London returns

It’s been over a year since I published a Two-Natured London paranormal romance. That was a collection of Christmas themed short stories called Moonlight, Magic and Mistletoes that came out for Christmas 2017. And it’s been much longer that I published a full-length Two-Natured London romance. So it’s high time I wrote one.

Crimson Warrior is the sixth book in the series, if you don’t count the shorter romance, Magic under the Witching Moon, and the short story collection. This one is about Gabriel Hamilton, the First Son and vampire warrior of the Crimson Circle. His book has been a long time in gestating. I began writing it almost two years ago. But I couldn’t quite finish it. I needed to write other books first, which put it into backburner. And then the story didn’t quite go where I wanted it to go. I needed to put it aside and let it simmer. For quite a long time, as it turned out.

The book is finally here, after a lot of wrangling that caused me to delete and reorganise full chapters even during what I thought was the last read-through before sending it to the editor. And I think it’s better for all that delay and rewriting. Some books simply take more time to turn out as best as they can be. Still, I’m sorry it has taken this long, if you’ve been desperately waiting for a new book. And I’ll try to write the next one faster. I make no promises though. Occasionally these things are out of my hands.

Here is the first chapter of the book. You can read the second one on my webpage. And the book comes out March 3. You can preorder it here.

“Why are you following me?”
He cocked one of his strong brows slightly. “Who says I’m following you? It’s a popular shortcut.”
“Then why did you stop when you saw me here?”
“I didn’t expect you. I was startled.”
Allegra sneered. “You’ve never been startled in your life.” 

Allegra Emery has protected her family for decades, but when they are targeted by foul, unnatural men, she finds herself out of her depth. So she turns to the first person who seems ruthless enough to help her: a huge man who has a strange ability to make her feel utterly safe. If only he weren’t a human, they might have a future together.

Gabriel Hamilton, a vampire warrior of the Crimson Circle, is definitely ruthless. Everything to achieve a goal: ridding the world of renegades, demon vampires, even if it means using a vulnerable vampire woman as bait. But pretending to be a human to gain her trust is new even for him. What will happen when she finds out the truth? For the first time in forever, the answer actually matters to him.

Allegra is willing to sacrifice everything to save her siblings, even herself. But what will it mean to the emerging bond between her and Gabriel. Will she save her brother and sister, only to lose forever with her warrior?

Chapter One
Gabriel Hamilton leaned deeper into the shadows of the portico that was shielding him from the rain. Getting wet wasn’t an issue; being detected was. It was mid-morning in central London after all, even if this was one of its more quiet corners. Fifty metres from his hiding place was an elegant dark green door. It led to a lawyer’s chambers where his target had entered into moments earlier.

He was on Clerkenwell Close, a winding one-lane street with low yellow-brick buildings on each side that gave it Old London charm despite some of them being new. The businesses here were lawyers, architects, and PR agencies that didn’t generate much traffic. It wasn’t often that he went out among the general population during the daylight hours, and he felt odd out of his fighting leathers, unshielded by the darkness. The well-loved black jeans he was wearing didn’t have quite the same feel, nor did the black trench coat over his black T-shirt. He didn’t need the coat for warmth, even though it was November, and not a very balmy November at that. He wore it to hide the long knife at the small of his back he never left home without. Just because he didn’t anticipate trouble didn’t mean he wouldn’t prepare for it.

It wasn’t the woman he had followed here that worried him; it was who might be after her. Renegades. Demon vampires. Gabe almost spat when the name brought a foul taste of rotten eggs to his mouth.

He called up a bit of magic to create a camouflage around him and blended into the background. He didn’t sense any renegades nearby, but there was no need to scare the few passers-by with his presence either. He was large and frightening—even to humans who couldn’t sense his immense impact in Might—and he was so by birth and by design. He was a vampire warrior of the Crimson Circle, and the First Son of their leader, Alexander Hamilton. He had a legacy to live up to, and he did it well. He’d had over five centuries of practice.

Renegades were a fairly new enemy in the long history of their organisation, but they had proven difficult to conquer. Not impossible though, and the Crimson Circle were determined to put an end to their practice of turning humans with promise, the vampire gene, to their unnatural kind.

The enemy had become overly ambitious lately, and that would be their downfall. They had targeted one Ryan Warner, a member of a high-ranking vampire family, and made him one of their own. The warriors had meticulously tracked all Ryan’s contacts, humans and two-natured alike, and had kept an eye on them even after the bastard had been killed. Then they’d built a round-the-clock operation around the most promising target, Beau Emery.

The Emeries were an old and respected vampire family, if diminished in power during the past century. The current generation in charge was young, the older generations having died during the Blitz. They were still well connected, but without its strongest and oldest members they were more vulnerable, and therefore could be more susceptible to renegades’ lures.

There were three siblings. The eldest was Allegra Emery. At two centuries old, she had already won the sun when her parents perished, and she had taken charge of her two younger siblings, Adeline and Beaumont. Of the two, Adeline’s promise had been fulfilled a couple of decades before the parents died, and at a hundred and eighteen she should emerge within a decade if she was strong, maybe another century if she wasn’t. But Beaumont—Beau, as he was called—had been only a child during the war and still human. He was now into the sixtieth year of his fulfilment, and would live in the night for at least another four decades more.

Young in vampire terms, he’d formed a friendship with Ryan Warner. And it was this friendship that worried the warriors. Though Ryan was gone now, the seeds of their friendship might have a lasting impact. One lure that the renegades had for enticing vampires was the ability to face the sun right away. What if Beau was tired of waiting and wanted a fast way out? Ryan had.

But it wasn’t Beau that Gabe was after today. After all, the man couldn’t leave his house during the day, if he was even awake. It was Allegra. She wasn’t their main target, because renegades generally left women alone, but she had been behaving strangely lately, slipping out of her place of work at odd hours, visiting the chambers of a lawyer who didn’t handle her family’s affairs—a human lawyer, as far as they’d been able to determine.

“Maybe she’s having an affair with the lawyer?” Marcus Hamilton, Gabe’s right hand man and cousin, had suggested when Gabe brought her behaviour up during a meeting with him and Zach, his younger brother, earlier that week. “The world’s changed and vampires and humans are pairing up.”

A foul taste had risen to Gabe’s mouth at the suggestion, and he had shaken his head. “She doesn’t look like a woman in love.”

“What do you know about women in love?” Zach had sneered, amused. And while Gabe would be the first to admit that his brother had the greater experience in women—in love or out—he hadn’t budged. He had kept an eye on her for days already, and had come to recognise her moods.

“She’s not smiling when she goes to meet him, like she’d be happy to see her lover. And … I don’t know, there’s no spring in her step. She looks worried and drawn. Reluctant to see him.” She had been quiet and drawn in general, but the meetings with the lawyer truly upset her.

“Maybe she’s having financial trouble she doesn’t want to tell her own lawyer.”

Gabe nodded. “That’s possible. But what if we’re wrong and she’s been targeted by renegades?”

“Why would renegades target her?” Marcus had asked in his reasonable manner. “She’s a woman. They can’t turn her, not without killing her.” They’d all grimaced, remembering the series of dead women that had been left in the wake of renegades’ experiments the previous spring. “Besides, the lawyer’s a human.”

“For now he is. He could be an unwitting accomplish to renegades.”

Zach lifted a quizzical brow. “We’re already keeping an eye on Beau. Why are you so hung up on Allegra?”

Gabe hadn’t been able to explain his need to keep an eye on her, or his uneasiness when he saw her so troubled. “What better way for renegades to hide than behind a respectable vampire woman?”

That argument had finally won his brothers over to his way of thinking, and they had let him handle this any way he saw fit: by himself. He would follow Allegra and he would find answers. If it turned out to be a lover, he’d leave her be; if it was financial trouble, well, he was here to help, wasn’t he. But if it turned out his worst fears were confirmed, he would act, swiftly.

His eyes trained at the lawyer’s door, secure in his knowledge that he was well hidden, he was outwardly relaxed. But he never let his guard down; wasn’t even sure he knew how. After centuries of keeping a constant eye on the enemy, it was as natural as breathing for him to be aware of his surroundings at all times. He knew well in advance when someone was about to walk past his hiding place, even though humans barely made an impact in Might, his vampire senses fine-tuned to even the slightest change in the energy surrounding all living beings.

Or, rather, his rider was always vigilant.

Most vampires barely acknowledged their second nature, the entity inside them that gave them all their abilities, once they grew strong enough to keep it in rein. And he couldn’t really blame them. The rider was difficult to live with even in optimal conditions. Suppressing it was the best most vampires could achieve. That it made them weaker in magic as a result was no concern of his, although it made it imperative that the Crimson Circle watched over them and kept them safe.

But his rider was as essential to him as a shifter’s animal nature was to a shifter, the two of them working in tandem. It was never off duty, always there to provide him with a constant feed of what was beyond his already superior senses. Not even his fellow warriors relied on their riders as much as he did. He had come to an agreement with his second nature ages ago. Together they were stronger, better.

There was no stronger vampire in the country, bar his father, but then again, Alexander Hamilton, Lord Foley, was in a league of his own. Physically, Gabe could overtake his father if needed—though he couldn’t imagine such need emerging—but when it came to the ability to wield magic, he didn’t come even close.

Gabe preferred it that way. As the leader of the Crimson Circle, Alexander was supposed to be above them all. As his First Son and heir to the centuries-old organisation, it was Gabe’s duty to make sure his father didn’t have to bother himself with the day-to-day operations anymore. And he did it well, he was proud to say—even if he was currently allowing a surveillance operation to take most of his time.

The door Gabe had been watching opened and he perked when he saw Allegra exit. Like all vampires, she looked sort of ageless, somewhere between twenty-five and thirty-five. She was tall and slender, with the kind of dainty bone structure that made Gabe fear he would break her if he so much as stood too close to her. She was too thin and he studied her with a critical eye, like a fellow warrior. The knee high boots she was wearing had space in them even with the jeans tucked in, and the well-cut mackintosh seemed at least half a size too large. Had she lost weight? Exactly how bad was her situation?

Her delicate face was drawn and there was a deep crease between her brows. If the lawyer was her lover, they were going through a breakup. If it was about money, the news hadn’t been good. She didn’t register the light drizzle, not even to lift the collar of her mackintosh up, and in mere moments her shoulder-length chestnut hair, usually so neatly combed, began to fizz and curl.

To all appearances, she was oblivious to her surroundings, but Gabe wasn’t taking any risks that she’d notice him as she walked past his hiding place. He diminished his impact on Might to almost nothing. It was a neat trick Alexander had taught him that allowed him to pass as human, though the drawback was that it forced his rider to become inoperative, cocooned in Might. It wasn’t easy to make his second nature stop and lie low, the reason why only vampires as strong as his father—and him—were able to pull the trick off, but his rider understood the necessity of it. He let Allegra disappear behind the corner of the lawyer’s building. Then he went after her.

She was halfway down the gravel path through St James’s Church Garden, and he had to walk on the lawn to prevent making noise. The park was empty, but he kept a vigilant eye on the shadows, needing to rely on his sight, smell, and hearing now that he couldn’t reveal his presence by scanning the area. She didn’t look left or right, and he didn’t sense her scan her surroundings at all, but he couldn’t say if it was because she was so absorbed by her worries or because it wasn’t her habit in general. Civilian vampires probably weren’t constantly vigilant.

There were more people on the street on the other side of the park, but Jerusalem Passage, a pedestrian street to the south, was empty, forcing him to keep his distance. She appeared to be heading back to her place of work, a private institute conducting research on genetic diseases, located at the edge of the enclosed Charterhouse area, so he didn’t have to stay close.

But instead of taking Clerkenwell Road east, which would have taken her straight there, she continued south down St John’s Square. She didn’t once look back to indicate she suspected she was being followed, and her steps were steady. Was she not paying attention to where she was going? Or was she heading home?

That wasn’t far either; she lived on the south-side of the Charterhouse area, in a Georgian house her family had owned since it was built in the eighteenth century. Warriors were keeping an eye on it and Gabe wouldn’t be needed once she was at home. She would be safe there, but he found himself hoping she wasn’t headed home. She was his to look after.

He shook his head, baffled. Where did that thought come from? She was a target in an important operation, nothing more.

Past St John’s Gate, an imposing remnant of the Tudor era that arched over St John’s Lane, she dove into Passing Alley. It wasn’t an entirely logical choice, as there was no access to the enclosed Charterhouse area from St John’s Street, where it led.

Gabe didn’t like it. The alley was little more than a low, dark tunnel running through the houses, and so narrow that two people couldn’t pass without turning sideways; at least, they couldn’t if they were his size. Not only was it a perfect place for an ambush, should renegades be targeting her, it would be difficult for him to follow her unnoticed. His steps would echo, perceptible to vampire hearing no matter how silently he tried to tread, on top of which everyone coming towards them would certainly pause when they saw him approach, giving his presence away.

Gritting his teeth in frustration, he allowed her to walk deep into the alley before entering himself, making sure his steps remained as silent as possible. The tunnel was dark and empty, and he couldn’t detect her now that his rider wasn’t helping. Had she run through the alley? It was an eerie place and a lone woman would probably find it scary. Cursing, he hastened his steps.

Through the first house, the alley opened into a small garden, squared in by the tall buildings on all four sides and closed off from passers-by with a tall stone fence. His eyes trained at the tunnel opposite, he hurried past the fence, taking care not to run so as not to alarm her. As he passed the closed iron gate that led into the garden, he glanced there, more out of habit than curiosity—and paused, stupefied.

Allegra Emery was standing in front of the gate, leaning her shoulder against its stone post, facing him squarely. And she looked royally pissed.

* * *

If you liked the sample, you can buy the book on Amazon, iBooks and B&N among others.

Monday, 14 January 2019

The art of appropriate ending

I’m a bit late to the party, but I watched La La Land (2016) the other day for the first time. Lovely movie, though I wasn’t quite as taken with it as I expected to be based on the praise the movie got when it was in cinemas. Perhaps it’s one of those films that should be viewed on a big screen to get the full scope of the colours and scenery. If you haven’t seen the film, major spoilers coming up, so be warned.

La La Land is marketed as a romantic movie, and that’s what it very much is. It’s a love-story between two characters and a love-story with Hollywood. A poor jazz pianist meets a poor cafĂ© worker. Both have dreams. They fall in love and try to support one another to reach those dreams. At the end of the movie, both have what they wanted: he owns a jazz club; she’s a famous movie star. A happily ever after, the trade mark of a romance. But here’s the twist: they don’t achieve their dreams together. Love doesn’t conquer all in the end.

Genre fiction is often scorned for its formulaic nature. A book that follows pre-set rules cannot possibly be good. And, obviously, that can be true too, but not necessarily because of the formula, but because of the poor execution of it. There’s a lot of room for good storytelling even within a formula; it’s up to the author to make the most of it.

But there is one part in genre fiction that doesn’t offer much room for soloing: the ending. When we pick up a certain type of book, or set out to watch a genre movie, we expect the ending to be according to the formula. In crime fiction, the crime is solved in the end. In romantic fiction, the couple gets each other and lives happily ever after. When the ending doesn’t follow the silent agreement, the work belongs to a different category. For example, books labelled as ‘women’s fiction’ often have a romance at their core that then doesn’t end with happily ever after. And the readers know this, too, and expect the outcome.

For readers/viewers to appreciate the known ending, the road there shouldn’t be easy. In crime fiction, there are all sorts of false leads and criminals cleverer than the detective, forcing the latter to truly work for the desired ending. In romantic fiction, the circumstances often oppose the couple. Shady or tragic past that makes love difficult for one or both parties, or one or both parties of the romance have goals in life that they consider more important than love. During the course of the book they then realise these goals aren’t as important as their life together. It’s the author’s job to make the transition seem believable. Modern readers are especially concerned that it isn’t the woman who always gives up her dreams for love and marriage. (If you read old Mills&Boon/Harlequin romances, the handling is quite different in them.)

La La Land breaks this silent agreement of a pre-set ending. Mia and Sebastian make a lovely couple, they have achievable dreams, and they should be able to have it all, love and their dreams. The viewer absolutely wants them to have everything. But just as things begin to align their way, they break up. The next time we meet them, five years later, they have what they have dreamed of: Sebastian his successful jazz club, Mia her careerand a husband, who isn’t Sebastian, and a child. So, no happily ever after for them?

The disappointment I felt for the ending would suggest that the movie failed in its pact with the viewer: a romantic movie ends with happily ever after. But there are two romances in the movie. The other is the love-story with Hollywood, and its promise of and lure with success. Both Sebastian and Mia have entered this love story separately, and though their lives briefly meet, the original love is stronger. And it’s this love story that ends happily: through difficulties they both find the fulfilment they were looking for. They wish they could’ve done it together, but in the end it wasn’t possible, and they seem happy with the way things turned out. As a viewer, I might have hoped they would’ve had happy ending in both love stories; as a writer I try my best to make it possible for my characters. But I don’t feel cheated. The ending was as it should be.

“Here’s to fools who dream.”

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

My experience with Amazon adverts, so far

I began to advertise my books on Amazon in October 2017, and after fifteen months, it’s time to take a look at how that’s fared. There were two kinds of advertising options available when I began, sponsored products and product display ads. I have tried both.

I don’t have a large advertising budget—I don’t have any budget for itso I began small. Only one sponsored products ad, with a two dollar daily budget and the smallest possible per click cost that was suggested by a blog post that I read in preparation, 15 cents (though it suggested a much higher budget). Theres a tight word limit for the ads, and it took some tweaking to get the ad approved; for example, em-dashes and other special characters cause the advert to be rejected. The ad didn’t bankrupt me, mainly because people weren’t clicking it, so I tried another ad, and another. Within a month, I was advertising most of my books, the assumption being that more visibility brought more sales.

The results were mixed. I gained more visibility, and people began to click my ads, but there was barely any follow-through, especially with the ads for later books in a series. Only one ad performed well, that for The Wolf’s Call, the first book in my Two-Natured London series, but since the book is free, I was basically paying for the readers to download it.

I tried product display ads too, but those didn’t perform at all. I had read that it could take a month for those to go through the process and start showing on readers’ devices, but even though I let them be active for months, they didn’t start showing at all. The only exception was the ad for Tracy Hayes, Apprentice P.I., which had 3,500 impressions during a six month run. In comparison, the sponsored product ad for the same book has had 58,000 impressions during the same time. It got only 16 clicks, and ended up costing me three dollars of the two hundred I had reserved for it. Perhaps I should have set a much larger budget, and then terminated the ad when it went over what I was willing to pay for it, but I didn’t have the courage to try. I have given up on product display ads, and so has Amazon, because from February, they will be switched to lockscreen ads—whatever that means. I’ll maybe try one of those when the time comes.

An old product display ad of Tracy Hayes, Apprentice P.I.

During the fifteen months that I’ve been advertising, the ads have become more expensive and less visible due to heavy competition. The 15 cents per click that I started with have changed to 60 cents per click, and that’s being frugal. With my 2-3 dollar daily budgets, I get 3-5 clicks a day where I got 13-20 before. But since I only get 70 cents per book for Apprentice P.I., which doesn’t sell enough to cover the daily costs, and nothing for The Wolf’s Call, I’m not willing to go higher than that, or amp my budget. I have tried running simultaneous ads for the same book with different taglines, but the results werent promising, so Ive given that up for now.

Instead, I culled the number of ads I was running to only three, The Wolf’s Call and Apprentice P.I., both because they are the first books in the series, and The Assassin, because that’s the only ad that has actually performed well, bringing me money instead of costing it. The Wolf’s Call is still my best performing ad, and it’s constantly out of its daily two dollar budget. I believe I could raise the budged quite a lot, and it would still all be used, but I don’t find that a sensible course of action for a free book. It would be a different matter entirely, if the book generated sales for the other books in the series, but that hasn’t happened so far—at least not in numbers that would compensate the cost of the ad. I’m fairly sure people who download free books on Amazon don’t really read them, but thanks to the downloads, my book hasn’t disappeared into obscurity on Amazon ranks, and occasionally performs very well. The same is true with the other books: the ads keep them visible, and thats a good enough reason to keep them going.

As I prepared to write this post, Amazon helpfully unveiled a new feature on the ads page, a graph that allows me to see with one look how my ads have performed since the beginning. According to it, I’ve spent $1,175 in fifteen months, which has gained me 2,347,413 impressions, and $394 in sales, which doesn’t seem very cost effective. If I was relying only on Amazon sales, I would soon be bankrupted, but luckily those numbers aren’t the whole truth, even if I ended up in red last year. I have tried other advertising too, with Facebook proving time and again to be a waste of money, and BookBub being not as good as I’d hoped, though I’m going to give it another try. And this year I’ll concentrate on those three books alone, with a couple of exceptions when I advertise a new release. That should cut my costs and bring at least the same results, if not better. I’ll let you know what happens.

Graph of how much I've spent on my ads and how much I've made.

Have you tried Amazon ads? What’s your experience been? Should I spend more to make more, or is prudence wise? Let me know.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

What I read last year

The year 2018 was a fairly good reading year for me, quality-wiseat least the books I finished. Quantity-wise, it could’ve been better, even though I reached my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of fifty-five books. What slowed me down was that I seemed to pick more than usual number of books that I couldn’t finish for one reason or another. They were mainly books that I picked for free and then found boring. When there are social media and streaming network services that the books have to compete with, a book has to be above ordinary to hold my interest. I started a number of romantic books, for example, where after the first four or five chapters I was heartily bored with the couple for whose happily ever after I was supposed to root. That’s something I need to learn from for my own romantic books.

The reading list that I’d composed in the beginning of the year had fifty-six books, of which I managed to read twenty-one. That means more than half of the books I read came from outside the list, including the books that I couldn’t finish. Most of my reading was urban fantasy, with twenty-three books, and two of the three young adult books could be listed under urban fantasy too. Fantasy was a good second, with eleven books, then sci-fi with seven, historical romance with six, and contemporary romance with four. I only read one mystery last year, but some of the urban fantasies I read, especially Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant books, are mysteries too.

I tried to write a review of every book I read on Goodreads, however short. I gave seven books full five stars. Most books I gave four or three stars, but none less than that, likely because I didn’t finish reading the books that would’ve deserved a poor rating.

The best book I read last year was White Rabbit, Red Wolf by Tom Pollock. It’s a young adult book about Peter, a highly intelligent boy with sever anxiety and other issues that are described and handled wonderfully. His mother is kidnapped which leads to events that force him to question his entire life. It’s a mystery that lives up to its slogan, and its US title, ‘this story is a lie’. It kept me guessing to the end, and I’m still not sure readers were given the truth in the end. I highly recommend it to everyone, not just people who generally read YA books. Read my review here.

Two books by Holly Black, The Darkest Part of the Forest and The Cruel Prince both got five stars from me too. They are very similar stories of human teenagers interacting with the fae, so much so, that the first book reads like a rehearsal version of the latter. The first is set in the ‘real’ world and features siblings of a very dysfunctional family that live in a town with connection to the fae. It would’ve been an excellent YA story even without the fantasy element, with the way the protagonist is forced to take stock of her childhood that she’s mostly supressed. Read my review here. The Cruel Prince is set in fairyland, and the protagonist, Jude, is a human with a fae father, who’s kidnapped to the fairyland with her siblings and is forced to cope among the cruel fae. She is highly ambitious, and she doesn’t let anything come to her way, which makes her slightly unlikeable character that you end up rooting for despite. Read my review here. The next book in the series, The Wicked King, comes out this month, and I’ll be definitely reading it.

The Archived and The Unbound by Victoria Schwab are other examples of excellent young adult urban fantasy that I read the past year. Mac is a teenager whose job it is to fetch the ghosts of the dead that have somehow managed to escape the library they’re kept in. In her ‘real’ life, she has to cope with a death of a sibling that has pretty much destroyed her family. The strength of the two books lies in Mac’s growth story, as she comes to terms with her loss. Read my reviews here and here.

La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman returns the readers to the world of His Dark Materials series, and does it wonderfully. I had my doubts that a book without Lyra could be interesting, but I was wrong. Malcom was a wonderful protagonist, and the story held my interest from the beginning to the end. I’d link to my review, but it’s very short and repeats pretty much what I said here.

The last five star book on my reading list is Planetfall by Emma Newman. It too featured a protagonist with a broken mind, and the gradual revelation of the depth of her illness was brilliantly done. The setting, a remote planet with its firstpresumablyhuman colony was interesting, but in the end the story was more about Renata. The ending wasn’t really to my liking, but the book was so good, I could overlook it. Read my review here.

There were a couple of new acquaintances on my reading list. Kate Locke with her Immortal Empire steampunk trilogy was a great find. I read a few Tessa Dare’s historical romances, which were a hit and miss with me, and I didn’t finish all the books that I started. Samantha Shannon’s The Bone Season was a good book, but I couldn’t get behind the second book in the Bone Season series, and so didn’t continue with it. The Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho was a delightful first book in a series, a mix between Georgette Heyer’s Regency romance style and fantasy. The second book in the series comes out this year, and I’ll definitely read it.

The rest of my list pretty much comprised of my favourite authors and the latest instalments of their series, none of which disappointed. They’ll remain my stables this year too. The new list has sixty-six books, and I hope to read most of them this year. I’ll let you know how that goes. Stay tuned.