Is Books Butterfly A Scam? (The Story Of How One Idiot’s Book Remained A Caterpillar)

In this post, Dan gets even with, not mad at, book promotion cowboys Books Butterfly.

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Every three months I make the first book in my Jake Hancock mystery series available free to download. It’s my favorite time as an indie author. I get to see my book receive thousands of downloads, climb to lofty heights in the Amazon Kindle charts, albeit the free charts, and feel relevant as an indie author for two to three weeks afterwards.

It’s the main reason I’ve amassed my modest readership.

The reason I’ve been successful at this is my willingness to hand over cash to advertise my books through various channels. That’s right: I’m paying to give away books, something that may seem like madness to non-authors.

The last couple free-book promotions, I’ve been making other books in the series available to download for free, and putting more effort into finding and experimenting with channels through which I can advertise, hopefully making more of the five free days I receive by having my books exclusively available on the Amazon website. I’m also willing to gamble more with my day-job cash because I now have six books published in the series.

When researching book promotion services for my recent promotion of Our Little Secret, my googling led me to stumble upon a book promotional service called Books Butterfly.

(Before I recount my experience with Books Butterfly, I want to state that the biggest idiot in this whole process is me. But Books Butterfly gave me a serious run for my money.)

I can’t remember how or when I came to be aware of Books Butterfly, or the first time I clicked on a link to their website, but let’s assume I was suffering from a bout of flu, I hadn’t slept for days, and I decided that the best pick-me-up to get myself through a session of book promotion research was to smoke a generously loaded crack pipe.

My bones aching but not being able to feel it, I was presented with this webpage. Before you look click the link, I think it’s pertinent to mention that by doing so, you won’t magically go back in time to 2002, though you may experience an overwhelming feeling like you have, and/or feel lightheaded.

My crack high was peaking at this point, and I decided I could trust a GeoCities-looking website and clicked on the ‘Free Book Ads’ tab, navigating me to the page that displays their list of promotional packages for free books.

I browsed their range of packages and, my high starting to subside, I became a little skeptical. The prices started high, and became astronomical. I was willing to gamble, but I became hesitant, until I spotted that they guarantee the number of downloads received. But more on that later. (Plot spoiler: it involves fine print, an attempt at legalese by a highschool dropout, and my ongoing fictitious addiction to crack cocaine.)

I selected the ‘Pure Gold’ package, which guaranteed me 1,200 downloads, and ostensibly exposed my book to half a million prospective readers. This is the form I filled in.

It’s simple, basic, and despite the Microsoft Paint-looking graphics surrounding it, I liked it. The piece of information you should remember for later is that it asks for my ASIN or a link to the book’s product page.

At this point in the process, before I got out my wallet, I decided to smoke a larger rock of crack. And even if my thinking hadn’t been impaired, I would’ve handed the cash over anyway, because of my guarantee.

Shortly after I received the following two emails—the first one a confirmation of my Books Butterfly slot, the second stating their terms and conditions regarding the aforementioned guarantee:

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Jake the Snake Roberts.
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Legalese written by a five-year-old.

The part in the second email I want you to look at, though feel free to read the rest of their terms and conditions on their website here, is point seven. They state, “For purposes of the Prorated Refund, average free book downloads during the last stretch when you were running no promotions is counted as the baseline. You can choose a 7 day stretch or a month stretch. It must be a normal stretch with no promotions.” For fun,  read the incoherent drivel after this, which reads like they totally at least consulted with a solicitor while writing their terms and conditions.

The other part worth noting is in the first email, where they address me as ‘Jake,’ the principal character in my book series.

Let’s skip ahead to the promotion itself and circle back to his later.

I mentioned earlier that I’ve had success with free book promotions. My go-to book promoter for these has been FreeBooksy. They give great results, they’re courteous, and their website doesn’t look like a stoner highschool student’s ICT project.

They’re tried and true, so I ran a FreeBooksy ad on the first of my five days, hoping to get off to a solid start. As well as that, I ran a Kindle Countdown Deal for my box set of the first four books in the series discounting it to $0.99 for seven days, the first five days of this promotion coinciding with the free-book promotion. On the first day of the promotion, I also ran a BargainBooksy ad to promote my box set being on sale.

At the top of both book product pages I put the following advertisement, expecting to get some dual-book-promotion symbiotic shit going on:

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Below is a screenshot of that first day’s sales and free downloads:

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Off to a flying start, right? At the end of this day, my free book had reached #45 in the free Kindle book rankings, was #1 in the comedy, private investigator, and hard-boiled mystery subcategories, and my box set had a ranking of between 1000 and 2000 in the paid Kindle rankings, and was ranked high up on the first page of bestsellers for mystery anthologies.

More importantly, my free book received 3,344 downloads and my box set was purchased 138 times.

To celebrate, I got out my crack pipe, shrugged, and told myself crack’s not that addictive, so why not? The next day I woke up with a crack cocaine hangover, but I was awaiting the results of the start of my Books Butterfly promotion, so I wasn’t too bummed.

The way I figured, if they guarantee 1,200 downloads, they won’t want to cut it close and only expose customers’ books to just enough readers to gain them the guaranteed downloads by a whisker, they’ll want to ensure most customers go well above that number, so that even under-performing books meet the guarantee, thus reducing the number of prorated refund requests they’ll receive. It seemed like a sound business model, and the one they’d use. I was wrong.

Needless to say, as I checked my sales stats throughout the rest of my promotion, my hopes and dreams of my book carrying on its temporary metamorphosis from literary caterpillar into fully fledged book butterfly were dashed.

Before I reveal my sales stats for the rest of the promotion, it’s important to note that when books reach high up into Kindle rankings, they organically garner downloads and sales from gaining exposure in the Amazon store. They’re exposed to readers browsing the bestsellers pages, appear higher in search engine results, and gain traction by word of mouth. Otherwise, handing your cash over to give away books wouldn’t be worth the effort and expenditure.

For the following days of the promotion, when Books Butterfly had joined the promotion party, I received the following sales stats:

Day two – Book 5 free downloads: 678, box set sales: 31

Day three – Book 5 free downloads: 340, box set sales: 32

Day four – Book 5 free downloads: 309, box set sales: 22

Day five – Book 5 free downloads: 306, box set sales: 30

As I’ve mentioned multiple times in this post, this wasn’t my first free-book promotion rodeo, so I know what download numbers to expect in the days following a FreeBooksy ad. They look more or less like the figures above, without the aforementioned dual-book-promotion symbiotic shit going on.

Bummed from both coming to the realization that crack cocaine is highly addictive and that I may have given $100 to some acne-ridden high school student who scammed me in return for non-existent book promotion, I emailed Books Butterfly stating my concern. I did so like a professional, leaving out the colorful language above.

Here’s the email:

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Clearly, crack addiction does nothing for one’s letter writing skills.

Having received no reply after four or five days, I sent this email, which admittedly has a more-threatening tone, though I hardly come off sounding like Hans Gruber:

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A gentleman who will remain nameless replied with the following email:

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While reading this hostile reply, I dropped my crack pipe, smashing it on the floor. The evidence he supplied of their book promotion was the ranking I had available to me anyway, and his logic is that the tiny jumps in ranking are attributed to Books Butterfly. Although I’ve witnessed these jumps occur naturally after running a FreeBooksy ad, I still wanted to believe I hadn’t been a sucker by handing over my cash and that I had received my downloads. But I was more than skeptical.

The resolution offered to me was a free run of the same promotion package, just with a different book. I respectfully declined this offer, stating that if it hadn’t had an impact on my download stats the first time around, how can I assume it will the next time?

Giving them the benefit of the doubt, I ran some numbers through a calculator to estimate what I considered a highly generous, best-case-scenario of their download results, no matter how unlikely, and sent them a reply. This wasn’t to give them my estimate of the downloads they’d gained me, as I had deposited that in the toilet at 5:55 am, like I do every weekday. But they ran with these figures, as you’ll find out. I also made them aware of my aforementioned “dual-book-promotion symbiotic shit” and couldn’t help myself but alert them to the fact that one of their representatives had gotten my name wrong.

It’s a lengthy email, so I won’t post it in its entirety, but here’s the most pertinent part:

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The email correspondence between me and Books Butterfly that follows this email is too mind-numbing and long to document in this blog post, the outcome of which is their insisting on my receiving a $25 prorated discount for my missing downloads, based on the grossly generous figures I sent to them. But I will address the most relevant parts and try to sum up my experience with Books Butterfly and why it’s led me to believe they don’t know shit about promoting books and that they’re lunatics:

  1. Remember how they addressed me as “Jake,” the principal character in my book series? They addressed this in one of their tonally snide responses. Here it is:
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They actually had my book link or ASIN.

They’re right. The name by which they address me has no relevance. When I made that point in my email, it wasn’t because I wanted to be addressed as Dan Taylor, BSc., or some shit. Hell, they could’ve addressed me as Uncle Runkle if they’d produced results. I mentioned it because in the email in which they’d called me Jake, they confirmed they would promote my book, so presumably they’d browsed the product page of the book to make sure the book meets their editorial standards, i.e. that it isn’t some 2-star-rated, typo-ridden piece of trash with a Microsoft Paint-produced book cover. And during that process, you’d think they’d have at least caught my author name in the corner of their eye. Or, as the representative said, “My real name.”

Books Butterfly likes to brag about how many readers they can reach, but what good is it having millions of prospective readers on a mailing list who are used to receiving advertisements for books that haven’t gone through a selection process? But more on this later.

2. They put me in my place about my “dual-book-promotion symbiotic shit” in the following email segment:

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Getting schooled with hearsay.

That’s right. They’ve “heard of” authors doing the reverse, but a paid book helping promote a free book is unheard of. It’s a huge assumption on my part. Remember how I got 3,344 free book downloads on the first day? I’ve run at least six FreeBooksy ads, and mostly topped out at around 2,000 downloads, never going much above. I can’t help but make the ASSUMPTION that, I don’t know, my advertisement at the top of the box set product page helped bring it up to this number. But then again, I don’t stand around listening to other authors, doing research for my shitty book promotion service.

3. In this segment, they address my assumptions. They love assumptions over at Books Butterfly.

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They also tried to take credit for my being able to make a bowel movement this morning. They predicted that shit.

I’ve read the first bullet point a few times, and I think what he means is that I shouldn’t assume my FreeBooksy ad would have a secondary impact on downloads the day or days following the day they promoted it. I’ve already addressed this earlier in the post, and why it’s patently false; I’ve observed it numerous times. But what I will address is Books Butterfly’s hypocrisy. Below is a segment of an email I received from them, where they state they’ll run my book from “August 26th to 28th” and that “Free book downloads would be on August 26th to 29th.” Looks like Books Butterfly also make the assumption that “some part of downloads MIGHT HAVE come as tail of previous day.”

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Don’t be too harsh on Books Butterfly. Thinking’s difficult for some people.

4. I told you they love assumptions. This time, it’s Books Butterfly’s turn:

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I actually wrote that I received just under 700 downloads on the first day and an average of 325 downloads for the following days.

I figured I had come up with a pretty solid argument in the email earlier in the post for why I made the educated guess that Books Butterfly’s promotion of my book was a disaster. But here’s another nail in their coffin: Before my FreeBooksy ad went live, in the space of five hours, I received a shade under a hundred downloads. That’s with no ads whatsoever, and before most of America had even brushed their teeth in the morning. If that’s not a savage indictment of Books Butterfly, then I don’t know what is.

I could go on and on about how hostile, illogical, and ill-informed this representative of Books Butterfly was during our email correspondence, and provide countless examples, but this blog post is already far too long. But I will post my favorite email segment for your reading pleasure. This one’s a doozy:

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Oh, boy. Someone’s burned a bridge.

Yep. After I’ve inferred that they played a negligible role at best in the relative success of my most recent book promotion, they suggested I wouldn’t be available to submit any of my books to them again. I’m without words, which is the reason I stopped emailing them for a resolution.

To conclude, do I think Books Butterfly is a scam? In a way, it isn’t. They probably did gain me a handful of downloads, definitely not enough to justify the cost of my promotion package, even factoring in my $25 refund, and certainly not enough to ensure a successful free book promotion. And remember, those free-book days only come around every three months, so they wasted my time and opportunity as well.

But in another way, Books Butterfly is a scam, and that lies in the downloads guarantee and the terms and conditions surrounding it, which aren’t written in explicit legalese and are open to interpretation.

The parts of the guarantee terms and conditions that are explicit are also heavily skewed in Books Butterfly’s favor.  Take the screenshot below, that states all downloads and sales during the promotion period are attributable to Books Butterfly. The only way you can’t get swindled under these terms is if your book would receive 0 downloads without Books Butterfly, which is highly unlikely.

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Let’s assume, however unlikely, that they did gain me the lion’s share of the downloads on that second day of the promotion, and address the three following days, when I received on average 325 downloads a day. As my sole book promotional channel, I could paint the title of my book on a fat guy’s ass and have him run out into the desert and produce the same results they did on those days, and it would probably be a hell of a lot cheaper.

Thanks for reading!


The book that’s the subject of this blog post is number 5 in the Jake Hancock series, so here’s an advertisement for the first book. If you buy it and hate it and think it ruined your life, kindly don’t read the others in the series.

Kiss Hidden Lies is the first chapter in this fast-paced and action-packed mystery series starring a private investigator so cool, you shouldn’t put your tongue anywhere near him. Check it out here.

…Oh, and he’s called Jake Taylor or some shit.

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A Short Blog Post about Description

I get the sense that Dan was a little angry when he wrote this.

It’s my birthday weekend, so this week’s blog post is a short one. Besides, I’m sure your time at the weekend, or whatever time of the day or week you’re reading this, feels equally important to you as the time I’m going to spend celebrating that I’ve made it to the age of thirty-two does to me.

And that’s kinda the point of this week’s blog post, that of being concise in your writing and not wasting readers’ time.

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Time, often referred to as being precious.

In my opinion, novels are too long. If you’ve read any of my Jake Hancock comedic mysteries, you might have noticed that they don’t take more than three hours to read. It isn’t because I’m lazy and unable to churn out a hundred-thousand-plus-word story. It’s because I don’t write a lot of description.

If someone came up to me in the street and said they have a story they want me to read, and that it takes between five and six hours to get through, I’d tell that lunatic to double the dosage of whatever medicine he’s been prescribed. My time’s too precious. I wouldn’t sit through a five-hour movie, so why do novelists expect readers to spend five hours reading their book?

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Something funny.

I know what you’re thinking: Why don’t I read novellas or short stories? Because I don’t think the lengths of those formats are long enough for most writers to tell a fulfilling story in, unless the writer cuts out all the unnecessary description.

I care about reading three things in novels: 1) What characters say, 2) what they do, and 3) what they’re thinking, as long as what they’re thinking, doing, or saying is entertaining and/or moves the story along.

If they’re saying stuff to another character in a busy city street, and you want to set the scene, then write “a busy city street.” Believe it or not, most people have experienced a busy city street. They can imagine it for themselves. Don’t tell them that there’s a building that’s twenty-two stories high, and what the building’s constructed out of, or what models of cars are whizzing past the character.

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More or less a busy city street.

Is it important that the buildings they imagine upon reading “busy city street” are only twenty-one stories high, or God forbid, only twenty stories high? Absolutely not. And crazily enough, when I read “busy city street” I imagined there were cars on the road. I’m good like that.

The same can be said for most descriptions in novels in most genres, with a few exceptions. Science fiction and fantasy, where worlds are constructed that we don’t live in already, can have at their descriptions, filling pages with it. Same goes for erotica, where reading descriptions of places and, err, characters is part and parcel of the experience.

For other fiction genres, keep the camera focused on what really matters: what the characters do, say, and think. And give readers back the time they were going to waste.

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I wonder what that section of fence or whatever behind them looks like

If reading about shit you can imagine all by yourself annoys the hell out of you, don’t forget to share this blog post with your friends by using the social media share buttons below.

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If want to find out if novels sparse with description can work, check out my books here.

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My Revolutionary Writing Process You Should Definitely Know About

A couple years ago I had a subscription to a writing magazine. The name evades me… wait, let me find out by pulling out my desk drawer, where my twelve issues, if it were possible within the confides of a drawer, are collecting dust. Oh yeah, the name of the publication is The Writing Magazine. (No idea why I didn’t remember that.) Anyway, they have this section that’s basically a spotlight on an author, which includes he or she talking about his or her writing day. That section, along with all the other mundane articles contained within its pages, is the reason why I cancelled my subscription. I like writing, sure, and I bore my girlfriend to death about the novel I’m currently writing, but I don’t want to read or hear about anyone else’s process.

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A magazine about writing called The Writing Magazine…? the fuck out of here.

I’m a comedy guy, so I inject humor into most if not all of my writing. I’ll never be a big enough player in the publishing world to be featured in The Writing Magazine and get the chance to bore people with how my writing days tend to pan out, but if I did, I’d probably spice it up a little: add in a bit of hyperbole, stretch the truth at times, and add in outright lies to play on clichés  and make it somewhat interesting. What I would write is this:

Dan Taylor’s writing day:

I wake up at around 5:17 AM. That’s not entirely true. At 5:17 I’ve pressed the snooze button on my alarm clock three times, so technically I’ve woken up four times at 5:17. First thing I do, even before yawning or putting my scrotum back into a place that seems anatomically correct, is to reach over to the ice dispenser I had installed bedside and fill a tumbler with three…dammit! No, four ice cubes. Most people keep water by the side of their bed, or sex toys, I have a bottle of store-brand whisky. I think it might be scotch, though I’ve never read the label properly.

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Not store-brand whisky.

Dragging my feet as I go, I walk to my balcony, open up the patio door, and go and sit on the deck chair I have lying there. Hanging on the corner of it is a Hawaiian shirt, and lying on it is a pair of vintage Ray Bans. I put those on, sit down, and take out from underneath my deck chair the pack of cigarettes that are protected from light showers and nicotine-addicted seagulls. One cigarette isn’t enough for me, so I smoke two at a time, three sets of two consecutively, as I stare at the apartment building opposite mine. I wonder about what to write as I sip whisky and hope that one of my attractive female neighbors across the street flashes me as she opens up her bedroom window curtains.

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Close enough.

About 6:30 I make it to the computer. I’m drunk and haven’t come up with anything decent to write this session. Worse still, I can’t even string together a chain of coherent thoughts or even remember what part of the story I wrote up to the previous day. I sit and stare at my laptop screen for five minutes, probably while smoking another cigarette, and while thinking that the screen looked darker than it did yesterday. Then I remember I still have my Ray Bans on my face. Ten minutes in and without a single word written, I decide I need my muse. I keep her locked up in my walk-in wardrobe, where she enjoys the luxury of my old mattress, a blanket she uses in all seasons, and meals of Cheerios served to her in a dog bowl. She likes to sleep late, but I pull the leash around her neck to wake her. When I ask her to inspire me, she doesn’t have a clue what I’m saying as I’ve driven her insane. After she’s spat on me and threatened to defecate on me, I give up pestering her and decide I’m on my own.

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This muse looks suspiciously like a young Chevy Chase in a wig.

As a consequence of having  a shit muse—or maybe I just use her as an excuse; I’m a little hazy on that—I pour myself yet another glass of whisky. The bottle’s empty at this point, so I throw it in the trash, where there are masses of rejection letters. I go back to my computer and start writing. It’s slow going at first, as I can barely see what I’m writing and have piss-poor fine motor functions due to my inebriation, but as soon as I sober up, the words flow onto the screen. I aim to write a thousand words a day, but every time I get to about the nine-hundred mark, I get writer’s block, or get lazy. That, too, I’m a little hazy about.

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“Writer’s block exists. I’ve seen it, had it, and worn the fucking T-shirt upon which nothing is printed.”

I generally come away from the office feeling like I should give up writing for a while, maybe even stop completely, until I glance at my bookshelf and see my copy of Fifty Shades of Grey and remember all the decent reviews and ratings it has on Goodreads.

This reminder, along with a power nap and a meal consisting of instant noodles, motivates me for the next writing day. The rest of the day is taken up by doing chores—one of which is to place a new bottle of whisky by my bed—and watching Netflix movies, from which I hope to steal ideas. Intermittently, I spam my books and blog posts on Twitter.

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Kiwi fruit and noodles. A terrible food combination.

So there you have it, my imaginary process. If I made you laugh, do me a solid and press one of the share buttons below. If I made you cry, from any other reason than laughter, then well, I don’t quite know what to make of that.


My books, which weren’t written using the above process, at least not on weekdays, can be checked out here.

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Book Review Writing 101

As an indie author, one of my most time consuming activities when trying to avoid writing is reading reviews for books I’ll never read. This might seem like a futile activity, but I like to think it gives me an idea of what readers are looking for, it allows me to avoid common pitfalls of writing a specific genre, or, failing those, it at least entertains me for a couple minutes. The latter is provided by what the internet seems to be best at doing: exposing me to the nuts out there and the stuff they want everyone to read.

In short, in the place of the three extra books I could’ve written during the time I procrastinate is up-until-now useless knowledge about what makes a reasonable book review.

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Instead of writing three extra books, this cat attempted to master winking. Nailed it!

Book review writing is difficult. I had a brief stint being active on Goodreads, and I wrote a few reviews. They’re shit. And not horseshit, which is almost pleasant when encountered on some country road, but the type of shit you might encounter in some inner-city back alley, which you can’t, to a reasonable degree of scientific accuracy, tell whether it came from man or dog. I totally understand that without the shit reviews out there, customers wouldn’t be able to make pseudo-informed choices about the books they buy. If only qualified people wrote book reviews, I wouldn’t have any, and I wouldn’t even sell the meager number of books I do. But what I don’t understand are reviews that fail on some basic level. Not able to articulate why the story about that wizard gave you a semi but you stated it anyway? That’s cool with me. But what I can’t forgive is writing a review that doesn’t meet the four requirements below. Book Review Writing 101 – shoot for horseshit, not human or dog shit.

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Sweet shit.

When writing a book review, you should ensure:

  1. Your star rating is justified by your review

Along with writing the shit you write, you’ll be required to give the book a star rating. It’s important to make sure that if you, say, give it a three-star rating, you make sure you articulate to a reasonable degree of clarity why you knocked two stars off. I received the below review on Smashwords. It’s my first and only one on there. I appreciate her taking the time to write it. It’s a favorable review, but I can’t help but wonder why it wasn’t at least four stars.

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Smashwords, you are the website that distributes this book.

Till the day I die, I’ll always wonder why baseball team A never won the Wold Series, how political party C made such a mess of country B, and why, despite my book being very entertaining, I didn’t inspire this reader to press that sweet five-star button.

2. You finish the book before writing a review

A book isn’t like a plate of food. You can’t take one bite and decide you don’t like it, unless that one bite was riddled with objective errors, like the chef used piss to thin out his sauce instead of water. Confused metaphor aside, if you don’t finish a book you’ve failed to attain the primary qualification for reviewing said book: you didn’t read the frickin’ thing.

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Send it back. Terrible character development.

When I go to my dentist, she doesn’t lean over, exposing her cleavage a little, and take one look at a molar and give me a clean bill of dental health. She looks at all of my teeth and then decides, based on the cleanliness of each individual tooth, that I do a bang-up job of brushing my teeth. I’m also a pretty decent flosser, but that is neither relevant nor contributes to the metaphor.

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I couldn’t decide which caption to go with, so I’ll put both: 1) “Yep, that was definitely a nipple” and 2) “How many fingers am I holding up?”

3. You don’t assume everyone has the same reading tastes as you

It may sound simple, but people like different stuff. While I’m not a fan of hotdogs, I quite like burgers. Some people watch football on a Saturday afternoon; I prefer to watch movies. The below review can be read in two ways. He could either be defining my target demographic somewhat or he could be saying that, because it features the subject matters stated below, the book is objectively bad. The fact that he gave it two stars seems to suggest the latter. I don’t like posing for pictures with a dog that looks suspiciously like me, but it’s not to say it’s an objectively bad pastime.

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If this book for you?

4. You know what type of book you’re reviewing

When reviewing a book, it’s important to know what category or subcategory the book falls into. You’d come across as a bit of a doofus if you wrote a review for Sharknado 3: The Third One based on its merits as a serious natural disaster movie. Equally, you’d come across as a doofus, at least in this humble author’s opinion, if you wrote a review of a comic mystery book (aka, bumbling detective) and you reviewed it based on its merits as an example of “noir detective fiction,” which is incidentally a non-existent, paradoxical subcategory, as I pointed out in a previous blog post.

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Define finally…

 

That’s all I’ve got, which is to say it’s Saturday afternoon and I’m going to watch a movie while eating a burger. If you’re on the way to a football game and have a hankering for a hotdog, go fuck yourself. What you like is obviously shittier than what I like.

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User of words

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The first in my series of comic mystery novels is perma-free on Amazon.com. Check it out here.

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What To Blog About As An Author (spoiler alert, not grammar)

Blogging is important for indie authors. It helps keep writing skills sharp in between writing books, gives readers something to read in between reading your books, and it’s cheaper than a shrink. Three weeks ago, I promised myself I’d keep up an at-least-one-post-a-week schedule, and so far I’m on par. In order to achieve this amazing feat of writing a blog post on three consecutive Saturdays, I’ve had to be really methodical in my approach. Behold, my three-week-worn blogging routine: start thinking about blogging topics as I stare into space at work on a Monday morning, continue this throughout the working week, get to Friday and start panicking about having not come up with one workable idea, google for topics on a Saturday morning, and then hit the computer like I am now, about two hours behind schedule, blogging about a topic I’ve come up with at the last minute. This week’s off-the-cuff topic? Advice on what authors can blog about.

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Yeah, laugh it up, John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

Forget the irony and keep on reading. This blog post might get useful yet. Failing that, it’ll at least be mildly entertaining. Like the picture-caption combo below I’ll select and write respectively just before publishing these words.

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Yep, she’s a dude.

I like reading author blogs. In fact, there are some authors who write books I don’t enjoy but whose blogs I tune in for every week. (I’m looking at you, Awesome Blogger A.) I’m always on the lookout—and by that I mean I occasionally read the odd blog post that was plugged on Twitter—for a new voice I can entertain myself with while reading blogs at the weekend. To get there, I have to read the first shitty paragraph of around twenty blog posts to strike gold. More often than not—and again by that I mean as often as it takes to validate this point I’m making—I come across a blog post that offers dubious advice to indie authors either about the writing craft or how to promote books, or—holy shit what was the author thinking—a blog post about grammar. What’s wrong with the sharing of dubious advice? Absolutely nothing. The advice you’re about to read is beyond dubious, and the photo below that Future Me will screen capture from an Indie Author Group thread I contributed to is testament to my dedication to offering at best dubious advice, as was pointed out condescendingly by a deceptively smiling fellow indie author.

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I went on to defend my problematic example, but only after I’d spent two hours cooking up a response.

So you’re cool with reading dubious advice, question-and-answer-format Dan, but why do blog posts about grammar take a shit in your morning cup of joe? I’m glad I asked. Every indie author’s target demographic blog-wise should be other indie authors. The cliché goes that you should write about what you know. Hopefully, that should include writing and marketing books. But that cliché should come with a caveat: write about what you know, as long as it’s not make-the-reader-want-to-blow-his-fucking-brains-out boring. Indie authors writing about grammar for other authors to read is like Monica Lewinsky hosting a seminar for hookers on blowjob technique: for the scantily clad audience, it’s tedious. So grammar is off the table, but what is on there? Let’s find out together, then hopefully next week I won’t have to write a blog entitled What to Blog about as an Author Part Deux.

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I employed this expert bubble blower to help me blow the dust off that 90s’ reference.
  1. Tell a funny or amusing anecdote

Something funny happened to you this week? Tell that story. Not all blog posts have to be useful or informative. This week I got out of my seat on the subway to offer it to a pregnant lady. Like an idiot, I made conversation about how many weeks along she was, and received the reply zero. If I could get a thousand words out of that shit, you’d be reading about that for sure. You could make it a metaphor for some part of self-publishing to make it informative, too.

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And how many weeks are you along, sweetie?

2. Report on self-publishing news

Last year, I was doing my last-minute google for a topic to blog about and came across an article about Amazon suing fake review writers offering their services on Fiver.com. It goes without saying that I put offering dubious advice to fellow indie authors aside for that Saturday and regurgitated that article, but with my twisted comedic slant on it. It’s now become part of my routine for blog-writing preparation to google “Self-publishing news” when searching for topics last minute. That’s the only blog-post-worthy article I’ve come across so far, but give me a break and pretend this advice point is valid nonetheless.

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I concur. Great advice.

3. Blog about other authors

In love with an author? Thinking about maybe dressing up as him/her and driving your girlfriend and kid off a cliff when he/she doesn’t reply to your creepy letters? Blog about them. Write a case study about their success. Maybe write a satirical mock interview with them, but while making it obvious you’re not quoting that person. (Shit, that last one’s a pretty decent idea.) Not only will you have added one more notch to your blog writing tally, but you might, if you get a decent number of your blog followers buying your books, manage to forge an Amazon cross-selling link with that author, boosting sales. If not, it was fun to dye your hair bleach blonde and pretend like that person was your special friend for a little while.

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Close, but no cigar.

4. Offer dubious advice to other indie authors about writing or promoting books

This one goes without saying. Just make sure it’s amusing or funny. Even an idiot like me can write humorous similes. Dress it up with those. For example, I’ve blogged about writing cliffhangers the right way, How to Not Shoot Yourself in the Face after Receiving a Bad Review, and defining and writing for your target demographic. All those blog posts include examples of my brain-dead brand of humor, and all the advice offered probably shouldn’t be heeded.

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“I’m available for children’s birthday parties and bar mitzvahs.”

5. Give advice on blogging

Promised yourself you’ll keep up a once-a-week blogging schedule and struggling to keep it going? Enjoy irony? Give advice on what authors should blog about. It worked for me this week.

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“Define worked.”

6. Write about something topical

Remember when everybody was watching How to Make a Murderer? There was a huge debate raging online about whether he was guilty or not. In the hope that I could write a viral blog post, I was all over that like pastrami on rye. Writing viral blog posts is like surfing: you see that swell developing and you jump up on your board at the opportune time and hope you don’t fall off and fuck up your dental work on a rock. (I have no idea what the dental-work part of that metaphor represents.) My blog post didn’t go viral, but I was saved from offering questionable advice for one week.

I’ve just reached the thousand-word mark, and six suggestions for blog post topics seems like as a good a number as any. With those dubious chicken nuggets of wisdom both written and read, I’ll say goodbye for this week.

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Nope, no wisdom in this one, either.

If the blog post made you laugh out loud at least three times, apologize to that asshole you’re sitting next to on the bus who’s looking at you like laughing in public is what crazy people do. But most importantly—who am I kidding, I don’t care about that asshole—press one of the share buttons below to help grow the readership of this blog.


My permanently free first-in-the-series comedic mystery novel, which also features hookers and an arrogant asshole offering dubious advice, can be checked out here.

Head on over to my Facebook page and say hi and like it. I have fuck-all likes and would like to start using it more often. Not the best motivation for you, admittedly.

Five Reasons to Keep an Author Blog

I started writing this blog for one reason: to sell my fiction books. I may just suck at blogging, or I might not have been doing it for long enough, or it might be because I write wonky lists like this too often, but this blog does not sell any books. It doesn’t even get a significant number of downloads for my perma-free book. I’ve thought of quitting and putting the time I take to write, edit, and publish this blog back into my fiction writing, but I kinda like doing it. From now on I’m going to write one a week. Even if the end result is shitty, like I fear this one might be. But because I have an iPad and an ass and way too much time on a Saturday morning, I’m going to need greater motivation than the half-assed promise I just made to myself to keep up an intense once-a-week schedule. I’m going to need to go full-ass. Fuck that, I’m going to need to go five asses. Just in case that wasn’t clear, which I’d totally understand, I’m going to need five reasons to keep my author blog updates more regular than my beard-trimming schedule.

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Seven, but who’s counting?

Here goes:

  1. To keep my writing sharp

It doesn’t take me long to write the first draft of a novel. About six weeks, assuming I don’t get ill or go on vacation. This year I figure I’ll write four. So this year, I’ll spend only twenty weeks actually writing—if I don’t keep this blog going—and the rest of the time making book covers, writing blurbs, editing, formatting, and publishing the finished products on Amazon and Smashwords. That’s a tiny amount of time doing what I love and a shit-ton of time doing stuff that makes me want to blow my fucking brains out. Not only is that a little depressing, but during those weeks when I’m not writing comedy or the stupid exciting stuff that goes in between it all, I’m going to get seriously rusty. Just take a second to think about the drivel you’ve just read. It’s definitely a product of my being rustier than…well, something that’s typically rusty, and definitely not a product of my having always sucked. So there’s the first reason, keeping those comedy writing muscles strong and ready for action for when I write shit I expect people to actually pay for.

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Old motor vehicles are typically rusty. And lazy writers.

2) Something to do instead of drinking

One of my hobbies, up until fairly recently…scrap that, pretty much my only hobby up until fairly recently was getting drunk and watching shitty horror movies. I’m now into my thirties and want to be able to look back on this period as a time when I went hell for leather and tried to achieve everything I wanted to achieve with my life. Failing the achievement bit, I want to be able to look back and think that I was at least a reasonably functioning member of society, with friends, and healthy hobbies, and Saturday mornings that weren’t spent scrolling through my Facebook feed as I built up the motivation to reach out my hand and put the glass of water I poured for myself ten minutes ago to my dry lips. One of the distractions that I’m going to use keep myself from relapsing back into that wonderful time of potato chips, craft beers, and movies that were so bad they were good is this blog. Sure, writing it will pale in comparison to that feeling of cracking open that first beer, knowing there are eight more in the refrigerator, but it’ll keep me out of trouble. If you don’t have a drinking problem and want to make this point applicable to you, swap something you do instead of drinking that’s damaging  such as eating processed foods or whatever.

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“Uh, honey, where do you want me to put the cheese?”

3) It’s cheaper than a therapist

I try to keep this thing useful or entertaining for the small readership it has, which comprises mostly of fellow indie authors. When I don’t have dubious advice to offer them, I at least try to make the blog posts funny. But sometimes it’s good to just let loose and go full narcissist and write about shit that pisses me off, to expunge it from my mind, such as when I critiqued some of the really bad reviews I’ve received  for my comedy mystery book. I don’t know whether that’s an accurate description of what people do when they go to see a shrink—now that I’ve thought about it, it definitely isn’t—but I figure I’ll use this blog to give my girlfriend a rest from my tirades and expose you guys to them instead. You’re welcome, there’s no need to say thanks. You guys are now my shrink, which means you’ll listen and probably not say anything afterwards or interact with me in any way. You’ll probably just nod, feeling a little sorry for me. Now that sounds like an accurate description of what a shrink does. And better still, you won’t want me to pay out my ass for it afterwards.

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“I’d do this shit for free…”

4) One day a shit-ton of people might read these words

I don’t fully understand it, nor am I willing to spend a significant time researching the subject, but the more you blog, the more chance you have of your blog turning up in search engine results. Sure, if you’ve got a decent number of followers on a social media platform, you can get fairly decent traffic to your blog by spamming. But it’ll never be enough to significantly impact on book sales. You have to turn up on the first couple pages of search engine results for that, which means producing a shitload of content. In a couple years’ time, assuming I’ve kept my promise of not drinking and writing these things every week, this blog could be like a gigantic cyberspace glacier, slowly moving week after week, picking up shitloads of debris and dirt as it goes. You’ve probably just worked out, if you’re a follower of this blog or have read my books, that in that metaphor you were dirt or debris, which isn’t how I imagined thanking you for reading. How’s that shrink gig working out for you? My apologies.

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“Go straight on, take a right, keep going, then another right and it’s there. You can’t miss it.”

5) One day I’ll have a record of how I made it

I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel here, but four is a shit number when it comes to offering reasons to do something in a blog format. If the meager sales I get turn around in the future and make me financially independent, I’ll be able to look back on this blog as a historical record of how I got there. It’ll be like when my grandparents tell stories of hardship during World War Two, only way less significant and way whinier. Now if that isn’t a decent reason to keep an author blog, then I don’t know what is.

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“Sure, the Nazis were shitty and everything, but I wrote one hell of a blog.”

So there you have it.

My hour’s up. It’s time for me to get up from your leather sofa I’ve been lying on and for you to get up off your chair you’ve been sitting ramrod straight in and for us to ride out that awkward moment when we don’t know whether we should shake hands, hug, or just quietly nod at each other after I’ve told personal stuff to you and probably cried a little. Is the same time next week good for you? Excellent.

If this was useful or as therapeutic for you as it was for me, hit one of the share buttons below. Right now this blog’s a tiny snowball, with your help it could become a snowman’s ass.


My fiction books can be checked out here.

Some of my more dedicated therapists hang out with me on my Facebook page here. Like it and become one of them.

How to Write a Cliffhanger the Right Way

This week a reader was pissed after reading my perma-free book. But this isn’t the first time. What made this situation unique was, he sent me an email, stating he’d enjoyed it, but that he wouldn’t be reading the next one in the series. Why? Because I ended the book with a cliffhanger. He wrote that because I was so desperate for readers to buy the next book, he wasn’t going to play ball. He also gave me some condescending advice about how I’ll put readers off with this devious writing strategy. Before I wrote the ending, I was well aware of writers using the old ending-a-perma-free-book-with-a-cliffhanger strategy to sell the next book in a series, and have seen hateful reviews for perma-free books that ended with a cliffhanger. I had also considered how readers would react to my ending, so none of what he wrote was news to me.

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Find out what happens to the house in the next book.

I emailed back, writing that there are two types of cliffhanger. The first type leaves the reader without the conclusion to the story’s main story thread or mystery, with the conclusion in the next paid-for book. This is obviously uncool. The second type is ending a series book with the inciting incident for the next book in the series, after concluding the main story thread or mystery of the first book, like in an episode of Quantum Leap—I even gave a nod to that show by finishing with the main character’s catchphrase: “Oh, boy.” I think endings like that are fair, and, if done right, exciting, and I don’t remember people going apeshit at the end of each episode of Quantum. I told the guy the type I’d used was the latter, and thanked him for reading, anyway, etc. He never got back to me. And the ninety-nine cents he would’ve paid for my next book had I not been “desperate” for him to read it has me writing this blog post on a street corner, having not been able to pay my mortgage this month. I’m also starving, and for the life of me I can’t find a piece of cardboard to scrawl on to inform passersby of my dire straits.

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“If my story only had a beginning, middle and end, as opposed to a beginning, middle, end, and another beginning, things would’ve turned out different for ol’ Crazy Joe here.”

I was going to make this week’s blog post about differentiating between the two types of cliffhanger, and making a case for why I think they’re a good thing, citing examples in television. But I just kind of did that in—what?—three hundred words, so there’s that idea out of the window. Then it occurred to me that I haven’t written a blog post that mines the comedy from a situation in a little while, and that I’m supposed to be a comedy writer, God damn it. So without further ado, I reveal to you, three ways to sell the next book in your series that are less offensive than using a cliffhanger.

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A swarm of hot-air balloon enthusiasts using their favorite mode of transport to avoid the dreaded cliffhanger
  1. Tell the Reader the Next Book in the Series Contains the Secret of Life

You’ve just finished reading a page-turner, and it turned out it was the priest whodunit, not the chicken farmer, or the icecream man, and definitely not the mistress. It was a solid, mildly entertaining read. It didn’t make you laugh, and the writer could’ve found ways of putting humor into their ridiculous but semi-serious mystery work, but it was a decent read nonetheless. With only five minutes to go of your train ride to work, you figure there’s no point starting the next book on your Kindle, so you start scrolling through the back matter. You read about the author, and he proclaims his undying love of the mystery genre, and tells some silly story about what inspired him to write mediocre fiction. After that, you come to the plug for the next book, and HOLY SHIT!, it contains the freakin’ secret of life. You rush to work to get connected to your workplace’s shitty WIFI, download the book, and read it over the next week or so. When you get to the end, you find out it was just another shitty story about an alcoholic detective solving a ridiculous murder mystery, padded out with an unconvincing love-interest subplot. Huh. No secret of life, which the author promised. It could’ve been worse, at least this God-awful book didn’t end with a cliffhanger. But wait…the next book promises it’s the only book on the planet that can be seen from space. Holy freakin’ cow! You’re not sure how that’s possible, with it being not composed of matter, but still. Space!

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Warning: may contain excitement intended to bring about sales of next book in series
  1. Tell the Reader the Next Book in the Series Will Somehow Feed the Third World

Despite your sales ranking revealing a different a story, tell the reader that if they buy your next book it has the potential to fund the feeding of the Third World, after it’s helped you pay for your wife’s breast augmentation surgery. If they just cough up their ninety-nine cents, celebrities having pictures taken with African infants with distended abdomens will become a thing of the past, and publicists will have to go back to the drawing board when they’re client’s clothing line isn’t selling as well as they’d hoped.

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“Does he bite?”

3. Tell Readers the Next Book in the Series Will Get Them Laid

Feel free to copy and paste the following text into the back matter of your book, changing details where necessary:

Dear reader,

Thanks for taking the time to read my high fantasy story about a wizard who comes up with a spell every time he’s caught in a situation he seemingly can’t possibly escape from.  If you could take a few minutes to leave a review for this book, it would put a really stupid, really big grin on my face. But first, I just want to take a second to tell you what inspired me to write this book. As you know from my “About the Author” section previous, for a long time, probably since I’ve been potty trained, I have held within my heart a great passion to write high fantasy. But what I’ve also held…in a different place than my heart, is the need to get laid. Probably like you, I didn’t get to bang the redhead with the big tits in my math class, and my love life since highschool has been equally underwhelming. But, like the wizard in this book, I too managed to make the love interest in my life inexplicably sleep with me. I took the time and effort to write the secret to my success into the next book in this series. All you’ve got to do is buy it. Click on this link to find out the secret and unleash your inner happiness.

Kind regards,

L.J.J Writersmith


 

So there you have it. Three great marketing tricks.

But seriously, thinking of writing a cliffhanger? Think again, if it’s the first kind. As always, if you laughed out loud at least three times, please take a second to share this post with the buttons below. It’ll get you laid, probably.

In next week’s blog post, I’ll reveal the one writing hack that’s guaranteed to make you sell more books than Lee Child, Jo Nesbø, and J. K. Rowling combined.


 

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