Thursday, 26 February 2015

My Tomorrow, Your Yesterday - Q&A

Hi all,

The release of my new novel, "My Tomorrow, Your Yesterday", is imminent, so whilst it is with the proofreader I thought this might be a good opportunity to do a little Q&A session on what the book is all about.

Q: So, this sounds like another time travel book? Have I got that right?

A: You certainly have. And like my earlier Time Bubble book, I think I've managed to come up with a pretty unique concept for a story. It is about a man who lives his life backwards.

Q: Sounds good, but hasn't that been done already? I take it you have seen "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button?"

A: Ha, you're not the first person to say that. This is a completely different concept, though. Although Benjamin Button had a strange medical condition that meant he was born old and grew younger, he still lived normally through time, from his birth in 1918 to his death in 2003.

Q: So how is your story different?

A: My character, Thomas, wakes up at the beginning of the story in a hospital bed, dying from cancer with no memory of who he is or how he got there. It is January 1st 2025. Two pages into the book, he dies.

Q: That sounds cheerful. Then what?

A: He wakes up again in the hospital - still alive, and still very ill. His daughter is watching over him, but she is a stranger to him. When he realises the date is now the 31st December 2024, he is confused. The scenario repeats over and over again. The next day it is the 30th December. Then it is the 29th. He soon realises that he is living his life one day at a time, but in reverse order.

Q: Is it all set in the future then?

A: It starts off in the future, but time runs backwards. The novel does in fact span from 2025 back to 1970. Most of the story is set against the backdrop of Oxford, but there are a few scenes elsewhere in the world, including Greece and Florida.

Q: So what happens as time goes on? Presumably, he gets better?

A: He does, and after a week or two finds himself back at home. As the months pass he learns more about his past life, his career and his family. He has to navigate his way back through his life dealing with all manner of strange problems that his backwards existence brings. As he is always waking up in yesterday, there are many things he can't do. For example, he cannot form a meaningful relationship with a woman, for even if he were to meet a potential partner on a Saturday and hit it off with her, when he wakes up the next day it will now be Friday for him. His meeting with her will now be in the future so if he bumped into her again in the street, from her point of view he'd be a stranger.

Q: So, what else happens?

A: Well, obviously I don't want to give away the whole plot, but among all the minor day to day events are a couple of major tragedies in his family's past that he sets out to correct. As time passes we also see how he copes with his different life stages, from middle-aged man back to teenager and beyond.  There is a fair bit of 80's nostalgia in the book for when he reaches his teenage years, which I am sure anyone of that era will appreciate.

Q: So, if I enjoyed The Time Bubble, will I enjoy this?

A: I would hope so. The story actually takes place in the same universe as The Time Bubble and is a very loosely associated spin-off. A couple of characters from that book do make cameo appearances in this one. However, I must stress that this is very much intended as a standalone novel for a more adult audience. It is not necessary at all to have read The Time Bubble to be able to enjoy this book.

Q: Sounds great! When can I get my hands on it.

A: Very soon! My Tomorrow, Your Yesterday will be released on March 7th 2015.

From March 7th you can "Look Inside" to read the first couple of chapters right here at Amazon


Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Amazon pay-per-click promotions

A number of my writer friends have expressed an interest in Amazon's new pay-per-click promotional tool so I thought I would summarise my experiences here.

Many are put off by the potential cost. Amazon require that you set a minimum budget of $100 per promotion, a figure most indie authors would baulk at. In fact, the reality is, you only need to spend a fraction of that budget, and if you feel at all uncomfortable with the amounts, you can terminate the promotion at any time. Compared to fixed rate ads, where you pay your $x or £x upfront, with no clue as to whether it has been effective or not, it's an option that I feel a lot more comfortable with.

My current promotion has cost me barely anything so far - in fact less than a dollar. Although you have to set a budget minimum of $100, you don't pay any money up front at all and nothing for the ads unless people actually click on them, which the vast majority don't. That's not a reflection on our work, after all, what percentage of ads that you encounter on a daily basis on the internet do you click on? Less than 1% I would imagine, and in many cases, none.

Unlike ads where you pay to go on someone's website, or promote via Facebook, these ads are placed on actual book pages on Amazon. So you are halfway there already when it comes to targeting. Your ads are appearing to people who are actively browsing Kindle books on Amazon - as opposed to, for example, cluttering up the news feeds of people on Facebook who have no interest in buying Kindle books whatsoever, and even if they do, may not be into your genre.

The real beauty of the scheme is that you can specifically target which books you want to advertise against. So, in the case of The Time Bubble, I carried out searches for keywords like "Time Travel", bringing up several competing books, as well as specifically adding the Top 10 books in each of my categories. You can run a campaign more generically as well if you like. I also tried this, just based on Science Fiction, but that was less successful in getting impressions, presumably as there were too many others doing the same. Specific targeting is without a doubt the way to go.

Once you have selected your target books and set the ad running, you sit back and let Amazon do the work. You have to set a maximum price per click (in my case I went for $0.06), and that is what you will pay ONLY if someone clicks on your ad. Otherwise it is free. Your ad then competes in thousands of automatic mini auctions running in split-second every time someone clicks on one of your targeted books. If your bid is the highest at that time, you get an impression - which means your ad appears. They come up in a little box above the "Buy it now" section.

I should point out that at present this is only running in the US, and if you are in the UK, you won't actually be able to actually see your ads because of the territory you are in. But rest assured, they are there. Hopefully this will be rolled out to the UK next, as most initiatives Amazon come up with are.

The beauty of it is, unless someone actually clicks your ad, you don't pay a cent. But what it helps to do is to create brand awareness. Just seeing the ad registers in the customer's brain so at some point in the future, they may see your book again and think "Oh yes, I've heard of that", even if they can't remember where.

Unlike traditional advertising, you also get statistics from Amazon, detailing how your ad is running. So, I set my ad to run for one month. It is about 3 weeks in. According to the stats, I have had 4,815 impressions which have resulted in just 11 clicks and no direct sales from those clicks. So, at first glance, based on these bare numbers you might conclude that my campaign has not been that successful, however, since I set my maximum bid per click to $0.06 (it can be less), it has cost me the grand total of 47 cents.

Far more important are those 4,815 impressions that I had had for free. That means 4,815 people have potentially seen an ad for my book. And so far, during February, I have had more than double the sales I have ever had in America before. Maybe it is just a co-incidence, but I'm happy and it's worth a hell of a lot more than all those £15, $20 ads etc I've placed in the past which I don't think have had any effect whatsoever. So I'm very sold on the concept. As for Facebook ads and promotion, my personal (and possibly controversial) belief is that it is worthless. The market is saturated and the news feed is awash with everyone trying to sell to everyone else. It's why I do so little promotion on there these days. Far, far better to place your ads directly on competing books on Amazon, where you are getting straight to people who are a) kindle readers and b) like to read your sort of books.

This doesn't mean I think all activity on Facebook is a waste of time, the amount of time I have spent in author groups and forums sharing information with other writers has been absolutely invaluable to me. I think that's the best use of the social media tool, rather than pissing off your friends with endless "buy my book" links. I've got a new one coming out in less than two weeks, and will of course be putting a link up to it on launch, but I won't be shoving it down people's throats constantly after that. What's better - marketing to your 300+ friends, many of whom are probably sick and tired of hearing about your book but too polite to say so, or having ads running to potentially millions of people worldwide who are already browsing books like yours? It's a complete no-brainer for me.

Whilst my ad has been running with Amazon doing all the work for me, I've been able to get on and finish my new novel, which is now with the proofreader. I have no disrespect for anyone that wants to spend a huge amount of time on marketing, but the best piece of advice I have ever been given is that if you want to sell more books, concentrate on writing more books. The more you have out there, the more potential you have to sell, and one of the great things about new readers discovering you is that if they really like what they've bought, they may well go and check out your back catalogue as well.

So, it's Amazon all the way for me, for now. I'll be running a promotion on the new book when that comes out too, which should be even more helpful than this one. When my new book is launched it will have no reviews, no sales rank, and no "people who bought this also bought" section. Creating awareness from the off through these ads can only help.

Good luck if you decide to give it a try.

Jason Ayres is the author of six books, including his brand new novel, My Tomorrow, Your Yesterday, available here:

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Return Of The Blog

Image result for uk light bulbs 40w
Come back, all is forgiven.

Hello! I'm back! Did you miss me?

What's that? You didn't even notice I'd gone? Charming...

Actually I haven't been gone that long. Just over two months in fact, which is not a lot in the grand scheme of things. I went four years without a blog post at one point. So where have I been? Well, just here actually, working intensively on my latest novel, to the exclusion of all else, hence no blog posts. However, it is now finished and with the proof readers which means normal service can be resumed here.

I did leave our old friend Gerald Mincen in charge of the blog whilst I was busy, with instructions to write a post every week. However, he seems to have only written one and then not bothered. I haven't actually seen him for a few weeks, as he mysteriously disappeared after going on a tour of a crisp factory in Leicester. It seems he signed in but never signed out. He was last seen leaning over a vat of hot oil, ready to fry up the latest batch of Roast Chicken flavour which has led some to fear the worst, but if I know Gerald, he's probably holed himself up somewhere in the factory, emerging only in the dead of night for a feast.

Anyway, now I'm back, we can get on with the serious business of writing amusing blog posts without making it too blatantly obvious that I'm plugging my books. So today, a quick rant on the subject of light bulbs, which have nothing to do whatsoever with exciting time travel based fiction.

I am bloody annoyed me. About light bulbs, that is. Remember the good old cheap ones we used to buy? Four for a pound? The ones that the powers that be decided we weren't allowed to use any more because they were bad for the environment. Fair enough, we all have to do our bit to save the planet, but what annoys me is the blatant lie about the wonderful new bulbs that was fabricated to placate us.

Never mind that instead of paying £1 for four bulbs, you are now paying £4 for one. These ultra-efficient new beasties not only use less electricity but they last for up to five years - each. So you're getting value for money - right?

Wrong. The new bulbs as far as I can see don't last any longer than the old ones did. I am bloody fed up with changing the damned things. I had to change three yesterday, can you believe? And one of those I only changed a couple of months ago. They don't last any longer than the old ones did and some of them take ages to "warm up". What's that all about? I turn the lights on in the living room, and peer through the gloom trying to make my way through the room without tripping over anything. Eventually after about five minutes they've reached their full level of illumination, by which time I've buggered off elsewhere. If I'd wanted dimmer switches, I'd have installed them.

So, if I could travel back in time, I think I'd go back and stock up on the old bulbs before they disappeared. At least I knew where I was with them. And on this environmentally unfriendly note, I shall depart, but I will be back later with news on the new book.

Jason's new novel, My Tomorrow, Your Yesterday, will be released in March 2015.