Firstly, so sorry there was no blog last week. I signed up to do the five-day Amazon Ad Course and it turned out to be more time consuming than I thought. As to how it’s going, well it’s very intense and there is a lot to try and absorb and understand. Learning new things is not my strongest point, and I’m not very good with technology either, so it’s taken me a while to pluck up the nerve to even attempt the course.
The course is free, although, of course, you must pay for any ads you place that a potential buyer clicks on. How it works is they email you a 45-minute video each of the five days. It’s a good idea to take plenty of notes when you’re watching the video because there is a lot to take in. Then they set you homework which is estimated to take 30-60 minutes a day.
The first two days were relatively straightforward, and I even managed to make my first ever two Amazon ads. They’re for Lost & Found, book one of the Blackwood Family Saga because the consensus was that the first book of a series is a good idea to promote because then it might lead to read-throughs. So far, I haven’t seen any activity on the ads, but it is early days.
So far, so good, I thought. Then Friday came around. I knew I was going to have trouble fitting in the video on Friday because I had a busy morning of essential life stuff and my local authors zoom meeting in the afternoon and, in the end, I didn’t have the time. The videos can be watched any time though, so I wasn’t too worried.
Saturday simply got away from me. I had housework I couldn’t leave any longer. I was running out of clothes, so laundry and ironing was now a priority, and there was the final read-through of book thirteen that has been consuming my time this last week.
So, the upshot is, I didn’t get around to Friday’s video on Saturday and then Sunday I was at work. No problem, I thought, I’ll watch Friday’s video on Monday morning and do the homework, then I’d do Monday’s video in the afternoon – they had given us the weekend off.
All fired up, I watched the video first thing. A lot more involved than the first two, I frantically scribbled notes and tried to keep up. In the end, I sat and stared at the homework assignment and my brain simply froze. We had to research keywords to use in a complex targeted ad for our book.
For those unsure what a keyword is, it is a word that makes you think of something else. For example, if you’re British and I say the word Tardis, you will probably think of Dr Who. Same if I said the word Dalek. Tardis and Dalek are therefore keywords for Dr Who, as are Time Lord, bigger on the inside, Cybermen etc.
Our assignment was to go through the kindle category on Amazon and find 100 keywords for our book. My mind imploded. It’s not that I didn’t understand the task or think I couldn’t do it, I just didn’t want to. It was like my brain took one look and went – nope. So, I did other things for the rest of Monday. I didn’t even watch Monday’s video because I didn’t want to fog my mind with yet more information when it was having issues digesting what it had.
I’m cross with myself for being so feeble but understand how my brain works. Sometimes, things daunt me with their impossibility, and I freeze. Like a computer with too many tabs open at once, I glitch, and the only way to get me going again is to switch everything off and start again.
So, I took the rest of Monday off the course and worked on the editing.
Now it’s Tuesday morning and this thing must be faced, but first I must write my blog. Due to the wonderful randomness of my shift pattern, this week I am working Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, which will give me no time to blog at all – and I don’t want to miss two weeks in a row. So, I will try to write a big chunk of the blog today and finish it tomorrow so I can then relax and not have to worry about it. I also have a book review to write ready for Friday – the day I always try to post a review for an indie book I have read and can honestly award four or five stars to.
Hopefully, later in this blog, I will be able to report that my brain glitch sorted itself out and the homework was done, along with the video for at least Monday.
Now then, what other news is there? Well, I’m sticking to Dry January and nary a drop has passed my lips since New Year’s Eve. Why am I doing it for the second year in a row? Several reasons really. One is it saves me money. Buying even the paltry two bottles of wine a week that I do is still £10 a week which is over £40 a month. Right now, that’s £40 I can’t afford – money that can be spent on ads instead. Two, it gives my body a chance to recover from the alcoholic excesses of Christmas. Three, as I’ve started a diet this month it gives it a bit of a kick start. As we all know, alcohol contains lots of delicious calories. And four, it proves to my mother that I’m not an alcoholic!
I planned to start the diet two weeks ago today (Sunday) and had even bought smart new scales to chart my progress. They were the first scales I’d owned in over ten years so I assumed they would work the same way scales used to – you know, you step on, the scales shriek “no coach parties please”, then a needle goes around a dial of numbers and shows you a weight that makes you want to cry – and that’s it. Easy.
But no, technology has moved on for scales as well because when I unboxed my new scales on Sunday morning it was to find some fancy arse things that were analyser scales. They needed batteries. I put the batteries in and stepped on them. They told me I weighed 74lbs. Now, being British and old-school, that meant nothing to me, so I Googled it. 74lbs is approximately 5 stone. I don’t think so. I looked at the scales in disbelief.
Mate, I told them, I hate to break it to you, but I haven’t weighed five stone since I was five years old!
The scales sat there. I tried again. Same result. With a sigh, I retrieved the instructions from the bin and read the bit in English. If you would like your weight in stones and ounces instead of pounds, it said, press the converter button on the bottom of the scales. I flipped the scales over. No button. I put my glasses on and minutely examined every inch of the blasted things. No button. There were three buttons on the side of the scales, none of which were labelled.
I returned to the instructions, surely there would be a handy little diagram with arrows pointing to various bits of the scales telling you what each thing was. There was no diagram. You had to guess what the buttons did. I read all the instructions that were in English. They were in teeny-tiny print that even with my glasses on I struggled to make out.
I had to set the scales up first, it said. Tell them my sex, age, and height. Okay, fair enough. How do I do that? The instructions were supremely unhelpful and assumed you already knew that, I mean, duh, what kind of dummy was I that didn’t know how to do that? I mean, come on!
I fiddled and farted about with the scales for twenty minutes, my impatience growing, and my frustration reaching boiling.
Oh, for f**ks sake, I just want to weigh myself! Why is it so bloody complicated!
Anyway, to cut a long story short, I managed to set them up. Unfortunately, my expensive new scales are now convinced I am a 30-year-old man who weighs five stone and therefore needs urgent medical attention.
I boxed the damn things up and slung them in a cupboard, then went onto Amazon and ordered myself a cheap set of basic scales that do not require batteries or setting up, or a degree in IT to use. They couldn’t come until Wednesday because I was at work Monday and Tuesday, but they were delivered Wednesday afternoon. I took them out of the box, set them to zero and left them in the bathroom.
Thursday morning, I stepped on them with some trepidation. It’s been a very long time since I last weighed myself, at least ten years, and I was fully aware that weight had crept on quite considerably over the last five years. So, I got on and looked down. The numbers swam in a faraway blur. I got off, put my glasses on and tried again. And no, I’m not going to tell you what the numbers were. Let’s just say at only five feet tall I have some work to do.
But I’ve been on the diet for two weeks now and I’m sticking to it. I had forgotten how easy this diet is and it’s surprised me how readily I’ve slipped back into the dieting every other day habit. I thought dieting on the days I’m at work would prove difficult, but it’s easier than when I’m at home. The yoghurt and fruit I have for breakfast see me through quite nicely until lunch, then I eat the large salad I’ve packed for myself, and it is nice knowing when I’m coming home after a long shift that all I must do for dinner is heat up a tin of soup. I will let you know next week if the diet is working.
In writing news, work on book thirteen is going well. I am in the final stages of the editing process when I read the whole book right the way through, out loud. Yep, I basically read my book to myself. It may sound silly, but it’s an invaluable editing tool. By reading out loud I can hear which bits work and which bits don’t. If dialogue flows or gets stuck. If I’ve put an “as” instead of an “at” then reading it out loud will find it. I tend to love my long sentences, believing things like commas and full stops are for the weak. Wheezing to a stop because I’ve run out of breath reading aloud that mile-long sentence, will make me look at it and apply punctuation.
I’m over halfway through, and then the book will go to its final beta reader. A rather wonderful fellow indie author, she is eagle-eyed and tends to spot any bits that have managed to elude rigorous editing, two other beta readers, and a read through.
And then the book will be ready for publication. Well, the paperback contents will be. There is still the cover to be made. The paperback version will need to be converted into an eBook – and that will have to be checked, checked, and checked again that the formatting is correct. There is a short promotional video to think about and liaise with the wonderful James at Platform House Publishing about. And there is the dreaded blurb to write.
A novel of 180,500 words – no problem. Try to condense into 150 words the salient points of that novel and make it entice but give no spoilers – nightmare. I don’t know one author who enjoys writing the blurb.
Once the eBook version is ready that can be uploaded to KDP in draft form with the cover and it will be available for people to pre-order at a slightly reduced price. I do this not only because it’s a way to ensure a few sales on launch day, but it means I will have the Amazon link for the book’s listing to go onto Goodreads and my website before publication, which makes life so much easier.
I wonder it took me several books to realise this, but then in this business, you are constantly learning and evolving as a writer.
Finally, before I go and tackle the homework, I thought I’d share with you this wonderful picture Miss F sent me of her in one of her university classes handling a snake – apparently, it’s called Candy and is very cuddly. Hmm, not sure about that, but it was lovely to see how happy my daughter looks with her eyes beaming over the top of her mask.
Sorry, it’s a shorter blog this week, but as you can appreciate I have lots to do. Take care, and I will fill you in next time on how the course, and the diet, have gone.
UPDATE** I threw myself upon the mercies of a fellow local author who has done to Amazon Ad Challenge before, to see if how I thought the homework should be done was correct. She confirmed I was heading in the right direction and helped me brainstorm my keywords until I had enough. On Wednesday, I set up another two ads – one for Black Ice and another for Lost & Found – and watched the video for Monday.
It was truly terrifying, all about data scraping and downloading various apps and plug-ins and none of it really made any sense at all. Feeling very overwhelmed and a big bit stupid, I have had to remind myself that getting as far as I did is a huge achievement for me. That I fully expected not to understand everything the first time around, and that this is okay. I can do the course again in March and again In June if I want. It’s free and easy to sign up to.
In the meantime, I have a basic understanding of how ads work now, I even have five ads up and running which, I can monitor for performance and try to analyse why they work or don’t, and learn from for next time. Because there will be a next time.
It’s all good. I will watch the last two videos on Sunday and make notes, then over the next couple of months, I can try to pick my way through the phraseology and learn what it all means. Next time the course comes around I will be better prepared for it.