The New Orient Express: The world’s first nuclear powered train, moving non-stop from Moscow to Alaska, it carries one thousand passengers.
Today, it carries a thousand and one.
A medical experiment gone wrong, a creature so foul it shouldn’t even exist.
And then the train breaks down in the middle of Siberia.
And someone sets the creature free…
Who wants to be a Millionaire: Terrorism Style
Terrorists have a new tactic. They kidnap your loved ones and give you twenty four hours to carry out a terror attack. If you succeed, you get a million pounds and your loved one back.
If you fail, your loved one is killed.
Soon, the whole of London is burning with terror.
But then the terrorists make a mistake. They pick a fight with the wrong man: Gus Wheeler is crazier and more dangerous than any terrorist you know, and he just loves a dirty fight.
The 3rd book in the Cookie science fiction series is now out.
Welcome to the planet of Prometheus.
A planet whose sun is made of ice.
A planet where war destroyed ninety percent of the population just a few years ago.
A planet where dreaming is punishable by death. A planet where your dreams can come true, and then kill you.
A ghost train turns up in town, with everyone except for thirteen year old Sakura dead. Everyone suspects Sakura, but Dyom already knows who committed the murders: The man known as the Dream Lord.
And now, he has one week to stop the Dreams, before they destroy the planet and kill everyone living on it…
I am giving away 5 copies of my book, the Shatterer of Worlds, on Goodreads. It’s only available to readers in the US and UK.
If you don’t live in these countries, or you just don’t want to wait, contact me directly, and I can send you a review copy as well.
Hey you! Yes you. come here. I wanna talk to you.
Do you self publish? Do you think that going via the evil puppy hating Amazon is as good as going via the puppy loving traditional publishers? If so, you are nothing but a sissy little girl. Shame on you.
Real Men (or Women) (TM) traditionally publish. Got that, you sissy?
Publishing is about danger
Our society has become weak and soft. We are surrounded by hipsters, wearing their hippy clothes, drinking their overpriced coffee, and writing their novels on their iMacs (instead of typewriters). In such times, we need to feel danger to feel alive. And publishing via a traditional publisher gives you that thrill.
Self publishing is so easy, it’s insulting. Pushing a button to publish! Seriously??
Now compare that with traditional publishing. It’s like playing Russian roulette. But with the gun Arnonold Schwa-whats-his-name-nager from the Terminator:
Imagine playing Russian Roulette with the gun above. Except that half the bullets are loaded. And you are drunk, and you just got stung with a lot of poison ivy. And you know that as soon as you press the trigger, you will most likely face a hail of ten thousand bullets. That’s the fun traditional publishing is. And if you survive, you might even win $5000! (the most common advance)
See what you are missing, you cowardly self publishers? What do you do? Sit at home in your underewear and push the publish button when you are free? How does that even compare?
Hunting for clues like Indiana Jones
Not only do you face constant danger, like Indiana Jones, you have to be constantly searching for clues. Which genre is hot now? Which books are selling? This can change any minute, so you have to constantly be racing around, in case you miss the stampede to the Latest Cool Thing (TM). This hunt is even more exciting that stock trading. Especially since, unlike stock trading, you can make a few thousand dollars, which makes it more fun. Fun! I tell you.
Between a rock and a hard place
Another way traditional publishing is incredibly exciting is the fact that your agent and your editor and the publishing company will constantly try to squeeze you, and crush your soul. Surviving this requires great courage. It’s a real character building exercise!
Do you see now why I say self publishing is for little girls? Where is the thrill, the adventure? Where is the character building? Where is the years of struggle to win a few pennies in traditional publishing, and a pat on the head? No wonder the terrorists are winning.
The question is: Are you a sissy girl, or a Real Man (Woman) (TM)?
Summary: In this article, I try to look if using Google AdWords is a good strategy to drive customers to your website, and hence mailing list. I will explain what AdWords is, how it works, and whether it is useful for writers.
Like many people, I have an email list for people to hear about my new books (I no longer call it a newsletter, as it’s such a boring term, and no, I have no intention of sending people crap very week just so they can read my “newsletter”).
But no one had signed on to my list. Which wasn’t surprising- I get 4 visitors a day, out of which 2 is my mother in law (Hi mom!). The other visitors are from random Google searches. Back in the day, when I was still drinking the Kool -Aid from all these social media “experts” (you know, the ones who haven’t published a single fiction book, or don’t make a living from fiction, yet think they are qualified to give us advice?), I thought that blogging would be a good way to bring people to my blog. And it was. I get 4-5 people from Google everyday, to my blogs like this one (keyword search: Do bankers deserve high pay). Now the article I linked to, Why CEO’s deserve their high salaries, is funny, but that’s all it is. The people come, they laugh, and they leave. So even though I’m getting visitors from Google, it’s a waste of time, as they are not looking for books to read. I’m not L’Oreal, I can’t spend millions on raising my profile. I am totally not worth it.
I decided to give Google Adwords a try. For those who are not aware, Google makes most of its money from ads. Anytime you search for anything, Google displays an ad at the top and bottom, as well as the sides:
The important thing is, most non-technical people, a good 60-70%, don‘t know that the results on the top are also ads, which is fine by Google. That top line is hence very important, as if you can reach there, many people will click on your link thinking they are clicking on a Google search.
Even if you can’t reach the top, Google ads are still useful; as long as you get your keywords and description right, people might click on your ad if they find it useful.
Google Adwords: The basics
Google adwords is a real beast. It is not easy to get started with, and if you don’t know what you are doing, you can lose some money. If you want me to write a blog on how to use Google adwords, let me know.
Google makes most of its money from Adwords. If you ever tried to contact Google (because they were harassing you, since you made the mistake of using Google+, and broke one of their ten million terms and conditions) and got sick of their terrible customer service, let me tell you a secret: The reason Google don’t give a crap about you is because you are not their customer.
To see Google customer service in action, create an ad, and then don’t activate it. The customer service reps will falling all over themselves to give you good service. Your emails will be answered in no time, your problems will be fixed pronto.
So people like me (who buy ads) are the customers, while you are the poor sods Google has to tolerate. You know, like your crazy aunt Martha, who doesn’t bathe, and lives with a hundred cats? And every time you meet her, you are trying to be polite, all the while you want to throw up and leave the room? That’s how Google sees you. Now you know.
How Adwords work: The theory behind Adwords is simple. People search for things. You can pay to have your ads displayed when they search for certain terms, like “free books”.
Google doesn’t charge a fixed price for these ads- rather, it uses a bidding system. You bid how much you want to pay for a certain term. The more you pay, the higher your ad will be. But that isn’t strictly true. Google prefers to place respectable companies at the top. So if two companies both bid X$, the one that is older and has more links will be placed higher.
How much do these bids cost? It depends on how competitive your keyword is. You can spend anything from $0.10 to $100 per click (or even more). That’s per click. So every time someone clicks on your ad, you owe Google money. Not everyone who clicks will buy. Some people will click by mistake, and immediately press the back button, but you still get charged.
Google allow you to place a maximum budget per day. This is very important, as the costs can very quickly escalate. You might have put a bid for just $1 per click, but Google might get thousands of hits a days for your keyword, and you might be facing a bill for $1000 in a single day, with no sale to show for it.
When setting ads, you can also check where you want the ads displayed. For example, US, UK, etc. Even within countries, you can set it so your ad displays only in certain cities, like London and Edinburgh.
Who is AdWords best suited for?
AdWords aren’t for everyone. To get the most of it:
- Your target market must be online, and use Google for their problems (only Google counts here, as it has the biggest market share).
- Your keyword must have thousands, if not hundreds of hits a month.
- Ideally, you should have a product that can sell itself, so you can track how many people clicked on the ad, vs how many bought. Software is a good example of this, as are books (especially eBooks).
The second point is important. My wife runs cooking courses. When I first set her ad up, I forgot to set the country. I soon got hundreds of clicks, from places like Singapore and Tokyo. Luckily, I had placed a very low bid, but I still lost money. I set the search area only around nearby cities. The problem now is, only 10 or so people search for the keyword we advertise for. So even though I got her website on the premium top location, it doesn’t help much, since so few people are searching for it:
Note, this might still be justifiable, if you charge enough to cover your costs. So even with low clicks, it may still make sense for me to continue the ads. It won’t work for something like ebooks, where you may only be making a few dollars.
Enter: Google Adwords for Writers
All that was theory, but how does it work in practice?
I wanted to find people who were looking for books online. So I searched for keywords like “free books” “Free kindle books”, “download books”.
These keywords get thousands of searches. The keyword “free books” alone gets 5000+ searches a month. You can setup AdWords, so Google will either only look for the exact term, or a variation of it, like “free books online”. I chose 10-12 keywords which were getting the most hits.
The next thing is to create an ad. This is a bit of a trial process. The best way is to create at least two ads with different words. You then see which ad was more successful, and use that. Then you create another two ads, based on the winning ad, with slight modifications. This is called A/B testing. The theory is that you run this for a fairly long time (a few months, and thousands of conversions- people clicking on your ads, not just viewing them). I only went through a few iterations, as the process can be very expensive, but I did increase my click through rate very slightly. Here are the ads I used:
There is a third greyed out ad up there- that was the one I was using originally, and getting almost zero clicks. Be warned: Google wants to make money, and if no one is clicking on your ads, it stops showing it.
How much to bid: Google wants you to bid as much as possible, as that’s how they make money. But like I mentioned before, this can very quickly bankrupt you. I set a of bid of £0.10 (Around $0.15). Google moaned that this was too low, my ad wouldn’t show on the first page, etc etc. But the keywords I was using was getting thousands of hits, I didn’t care. I set a daily budget of £1 ($1.5 at the time), and let the ads run for a few weeks. The 1st week I didn’t get any clicks, as my ads were bad, but I slow improved them, till in the second week, I had around 6 clicks. Of these, 4 people signed up to my list. This was from almost a 960 impressions. The most popular term was, of course, “free books”.
Click to see a larger image. I got 6 clicks, which meant almost £0.60. Not bad, but not great either. I decided to really push it. I increased my click cost ten times to £1 ($1.50). This would blow my budget in one click, but hopefully, my ad would now be placed higher, instead of the 2nd or third page.
And it worked. Within one week, I went from 3-4 clicks a week to 10-20 clicks a week.
But here’s the kicker. The people subscribing to my newsletter went down. I only got 2 subscribers from those 20 clicks, while previously I had gotten 4 from 6. The only reason I can think of is: When I was on the 2-3rd page, only the very serious people were there, and they really wanted a book.
On the front page, people were more likely to click on impulse, and immediately click back. I had installed analytics (quick tip: Never use Google Analytics. It’s as fun as shoving a cactus up you-know-where), and they told me people were staying for a very short time. I improved my page and wording a little, but it had no effect. This is the final count:
13000 people saw my ad, of which 50-60 clicked on it, and only 6 actually subscribed. For a total cost of £5 (around $8). Roughly £1 a subscriber. Is it worth it? I don’t know. But most of the £5 was in the last week, which meant that if I had continued this experiment, I could have been spending £10 or more a week (as I was improving my ads, and more people were clicking on them). For free books, from which I wasn’t making any money. So I decided it wasn’t worth it, and cancelled the project.
What I could have done better
I could have spent more time optimising my ads and landing page. However, I didn’t want to spend too much money on it. The proper way to run GA is to let it run for weeks, getting thousands of impressions, and hundreds of clicks, making small changes to test what people prefer more. However, I’m not Facebook, I don’t have black hole of VC money to draw upon.
In retrospect, the experiment was doomed to fail. But in retrospect, we are all geniuses. The problem with the experiment was, the people searching for “free books” were doing just that. They didn’t care about me or my books, they would have been happy with books about zombies, Fifty shades of Gray, or my Lord of the Rings parody. Hell, they would have been happy with a Fifty Shades of Gray type erotic story where zombies do it with computer programmers (and if that interests you, do contact me. I’m totally your man).
I think that was the biggest problem. Serious readers don’t type “Free books” on Google, and click on the first link. Maybe if I had been a household name, or at least a best seller, this might have worked. But if I had been a household name, I wouldn’t be using Google in the first place. I’d be too busy sitting on piles of gold and laughing evilly, like that dragon from the Hobbit.
True story, at a Big Corp. Christmas time is coming, so people started decorating. This pissed the the health and safety staff off, who started telling people off. And then, just to humiliate them more, they sent this email:
Safety at Christmas Time
As the festive season gets into full swing statistics remind us of the increase in accidents and fires during this period. In order to ensure a safe run in to the Christmas Holidays for you and your work colleagues could you please observe the following:
1. Please refrain from using on Big Corp premises any personally owned electrical appliance or Christmas decoration. We have no way of knowing or checking the origin of these appliances, the quality of their manufacture or indeed their current condition. Connecting these products to our electricity grid will increase the risk of fire and/or an electrical outage.
2. It is strictly forbidden for Big Corp employees or contractors working on behalf of Big Corp to stand on chairs, desks or other Big Corp owned furniture or equipment for the purposes of erecting Christmas decorations. If the use of decorations have been approved they must be erected by arrangement with your local facilities partner who is trained in working at height and the proper use of ladders etc. This also applies to the removal of decorations following the Christmas break.
We must remain ever vigilant of the increase in hazards that comes with this time of year. We all want a safe and happy Christmas.
Of course, old timey guy didn’t like all this talking down to. So he decides to give the health and safety team a piece of his mind:
Dear Health & Safety Team
This year will be my 56th Christmas, and baring a couple of early years when I was too small to take an active roll, I have each year climbed on a wide variety of chairs, tables, step ladders and other unidentified objects in order to hang my Christmas decorations. I have unravelled miles of twinkly fairy lights, plugged in flashing snowmen and used sharp drawing pins with no protective clothing. It wasn’t until I read your message that I realised just how much danger I was exposing myself to, so I would like to thank you very much for your timely message which will enable me to enjoy however many Christmases I have left in complete safety.
Note: This is a micro-story. Don’t expect it to make sense.
The prince fought through the dozens of soldiers blocking his path. He cut down one enemy after another, showing no fear or doubt. His motives were honest, his heart pure.
Up on the tower, the princess screamed for her rescuer.
” I am up here, my love!”
The prince fought his way up, till there was no human resistance left. But one big danger remained
“Watch out!” shouted the princess. “There is a dragon protecting me. ”
The prince took out his sword, and advanced slowly. From the shadows, a huge dragon advanced menacingly. The princess closed her eyes in fear. What would happen now?
Sword raised, with no fear in his eyes, only pride, the prince walked to the dragon. When he was within an arms distance, he threw his sword away.
He then took the dragon in a passionate embrace, and gave it a kiss.
“Fred, I’ve missed you. ”
“I’ve missed you too, prince” said the dragon.
“Wait, the dragon is called Fred?” asked the princess.
The prince ignored her. “Let’s leave this cruel world, that does not understand our love. ”
The princess wasn’t happy. “You were supposed to rescue me, not make out with a dragon! By the way. Ewwww!”
The prince looked at her. “Prude. ”
And the prince and the dragon Fred flew off into the sunset. The princess was left tied there.
“Hello? Is no one going to rescue me?”
A member of the Association for Gender Equality in Fiction came up to her. “Sister, you should rescue yourself. The damsel in distress is such a cliche. Also , eat a lot of green. It is good for you. Cheers!”
Note: This is a micro-story. Don’t expect it to make sense.
“Ms Electron walked into proton’s office. Proton reached forward into her personal place, making her uncomfortable.
‘Take off your charge. I want to see you neutral.’
‘I can’t!” Electron pulled herself away. ‘The laws of quantum mechanics forbid it.’
Proton grabbed her hand and kissed it passionately. ‘It’s time to let go of these rigid, old fashioned laws. Give in to the passion. Let the electricity flow.’
‘No. We mustn’t. Neutron might see us.’
He looked into her eyes sensuously. ‘Come into my arms. I will make you forget the Copenhagen interpretation.’
She slapped him. ‘I’ll have you know, Neils Bohr is my father.’
‘He will never find out. Like Schrodingers cat, our passions will be invisible, unless someone collapses the probability field.”
… to be continued. Maybe.
The Prince, Princess, and a dragon called Fred Another story that doesn’t make sense