A million impressions

It’s been three months since I started advertising on Amazon. I recently passed one million impressions and I’ve sold 24 books. So that’s roughly one sale for every 40,000 impressions. Still costing me ten times more than I’m making. Actually, I’m not making anything, as Amazon won’t pay me out until I make $100 in royalties, and I’m only making 35c per book!! Hmmm, I don’t quite have this figured out yet…

Reviews please!

Hi everyone. The next best thing you can do after reading my book is to post a review about it. If you can post one on Amazon, that would be the best (because that’s where I’m advertising), but Amazon does have some pretty clever algorithms that will exclude reviews from people that it decides have too close a relationship to me. Like it wouldn’t put up my husband’s review. Like he might be biased or something 🙂

Apart from Amazon, you can:

  • post on my Author facebook
  • post on Goodreads (if you’re a member)
  • email me at realmtrilogy@gmail.com

How to write a review:

  • Start with a couple of sentences describing what the book is about (But without giving any spoilers or revealing plot twists! As a general rule, try to avoid writing in detail about anything that happens from about the middle of the book onwards. If the book is part of a series, it can be useful to mention this, and whether you think you’d need to have read other books in the series to enjoy this one.)
  • Discuss what you particularly liked about the book
  • Mention what you didn’t like about the book
  • Round up your review
  • Give it a star rating

Check out this link for more details.

Thanks!

Reflecting on Geysercon

Over Queen’s birthday weekend (first weekend in June), I attended Geysercon: the national conference for fantasy fans and authors. It was two-and-a-half days of really interesting presentations, panel discussions–mostly for authors, but stuff for the fans, too: discussions on what’s trending in High Fantasy, tropes, Star Wars vs Star Trek, how to write fight scenes, how to market your book, killer covers, back-cover blurbs, how to write a novel in a month, from script to screen, Weta Digital, interviews with the Guests of Honour, etc, etc. A bit of cosplay and a bookstall (I sold 2 books!). I was invited to speak on the panel for YA Fantasy Fiction.

Geysercon2019_2Needless to say, I had a lot of fun, learnt heaps and got to meet some fellow authors–best of all Grace Bridges, who edited both my books!

Two things I’m going to apply going forward are to use the Snowflake Method for writing a book, and creating Magnets (some free samples of work that draw people into my website and mailing list…which I don’t have yet!). So much to do, yet so little time to do it.

Geysercon2019

I’m making an impression!

Well, almost half a million impressions, actually. I’ve been experimenting with Amazon advertising (AMS), figuring out how to target my audience through selecting the right combinations of key words, along with the right wording on my ads and the right bids. There are quite a few metrics and trends to monitor and tweak, but the first thing to try and achieve is impressions: which is the number of times my ad is displayed when someone is searching for something similar to my books on Amazon. I currently have around eight campaigns running, and I’ve abandoned a further six. Each time I’ve managed to improve the number of impressions that the campaign is generating. And today I passed the 500,000 mark since starting advertising just over a month ago.

AMS impressions 2019-05-22

But generating impressions is just the first step. The next thing is to get people to click on my ad. That’s referred to as the click-through-rate, or CTR. My CTRs are also improving. My first ads got 1 click for every 1000 impressions. Now I’m getting 2 to 3. But the final thing is to get people to then purchase. Since starting advertising, I’ve sold eight books. That’s eight more than I sold in the whole year prior!

Whilst that is hugely encouraging, I’m still a long way off making any profit out of this. At the moment, I’m spending more on ads than I’m making in sales. But my stats are improving. And hopefully, as reviews start getting posted, it will help people choose to buy my books.

I feel like I’m getting the hang of this. Hopefully it turns out I’m making the right impressions!

Tyrelia sneak preview – Chapter 3

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IN THE GOLDEN CITY

At the crack of dawn, an invisible Watcher Rube slipped back into the Golden City. He’d spent the night at the base of the city walls, trying to sleep, but the excitement of the previous day had kept him tossing and turning all night long.

The Golden City was the capital of Medar and home to the Master. It was a conical mountain surrounded entirely by a moat and a tall, gleaming white wall. The only way in was via the drawbridge to the single gateway. The dwellings within the city were perched one above the other on the steep hillside, like decorations on an elaborate cake. Narrow roads wound their way between them. All the houses were whitewashed, with terracotta tiled roofs, and many had pots of brightly coloured geraniums hanging from the windowsills. The Master’s mansion, shrouded in cloud, crowned the city. It was said that it was covered in glittering gold.

The inhabitants of the Golden City were selected by a lottery system, and when Freya’s family had been Selected, they’d considered themselves the luckiest people in Medar. Back in Nob, they’d led a meagre existence, scratching out a living in the poor soils in that part of the Land. Here, they were given a pretty, whitewashed cottage with glass windows and two bedrooms. They’d been assigned farming duties to work the fertile fields outside the city gates.

Freya’s family had told Rube that before coming to the Golden City, they had thought that the reason nobody ever left it was because life was so much better there. But on the day of their admittance, they’d learnt otherwise. As they’d stepped into the entranceway, they’d been cast into gloom. As they blinked, trying to adjust their vision, hands had grabbed their arms and pushed back their sleeves. Something had stabbed their inner elbows, and a strange coolness flowed through their veins. An injection. At the time, the Guards had told them that the injection was not only their ‘ticket into the Golden City’ but also that it would prevent them ever leaving. As farmers, the family’s injections allowed them to work the fields outside the city gates, but only to a certain distance. Any further … and they would die.

Rube had first managed to enter the Golden City about a week back and, thanks to his ability to turn himself invisible, had escaped being given the injection. After spending nearly a week drifting invisibly through the city, two days ago he’d finally found Freya’s family. That had been a stroke of luck: he’d been at the weekly Games, and ‘Jack from Nob’ had been announced as the winner of a wrestling match.

He’d followed them home and brought them up to speed with Freya’s adventures—how he and his fellow Watchers had been able to turn her invisible, help her solve the clues that the tablet revealed, and figure out where the long-lost path to Tyrelia was. But, most importantly, based on Martha’s description of Freya’s natural mother, the woman from Yaw, he’d been able to confirm that she’d been his wife … and that Freya was his natural daughter!

However, it had not taken him long to discover that his talking stone didn’t work within the city’s walls. The day after discovering Freya’s family, they’d helped him leave. He’d found a safe spot and waited most of the day, trying to contact the other Watchers. Finally, late yesterday afternoon, they’d connected. Freya and the Watchers had found the long-lost path, crossed the Chasm and were at the Wall. Except Freya could no longer see the Wall! They didn’t know why or how, but Freya was the only one who could pass through and enter Tyrelia. And so, moments after finding his daughter, he had sent her off alone into Tyrelia on another adventure. But not before arranging with Freya and the Watchers to contact each other every evening at sunset.

Now, he crept back into the Golden City to update Freya’s family on this latest development. Once through the gates, he headed up the wide boulevard to the right. He twisted this way and that, up a narrow staircase here and through an alley there, heading ever higher until he found the family’s whitewashed cottage. He sneaked around to the back door and rapped three times, waited a few seconds, then rapped three more times.

Shortly, Thomas opened the back door, stepped outside and stretched, pretending to take in some fresh air. Rube slipped around behind him into the house. Thomas swung his arms vigorously, reached down and touched his toes, then stepped back inside, closing the door behind him.

Rube was now visible and stood resting his hand on the bench, his white hair a startling contrast to his smooth red cheeks.

“Have a seat, sir.” Thomas gestured towards the kitchen table and four chairs in the middle of the room. “Martha, Jack! We have a guest.”

Martha bustled into the kitchen. “Rube!” she exclaimed. “You made it safely back. What news of Freya?”

While she fussed around, fixing bowls of porridge with fresh cream and hot cups of tea for everyone, Rube recounted the previous evening’s conversation.

“Freya and the Watchers found a secret staircase and bridge across the Chasm near the town of Andor.” The family looked blank. “In the north of the Land, on the other side of the Andoria mountains,” Rube explained. “And last evening, Freya managed to pass through the Wall into Tyrelia!”

He waited until the exclamations of surprise had ceased. “Unfortunately, the Watchers are unable to get through. We don’t know why.” He shook his head with frustration.

“So …” Thomas said slowly, “Freya’s all alone in Tyrelia?” He raised his eyebrows.

Martha’s hands flew to her mouth as she gasped.

“I’m afraid so, sir.” Rube replied. “It’s the only way to discover what Tyrelia is all about. But so far so good. I’ve agreed with the other Watchers and Freya that we’ll contact each other at sunset each night. But that does mean I can’t stay in the city.”

“What are you going to do?” Jack asked.

Rube sighed. “I’m not sure. I’d need to find somewhere safe to hide out, but also somewhere close enough so we can all talk each day—so I can pass on news of Freya to you all. And vice versa. Any ideas?”

It was quiet as they all thought for a bit.

Jack was the first to speak. “What about that big tree we all rest under during our breaks? Rube could hide out there and we should be able to somehow arrange to talk to each other?”

“Hmm, yes, I think that would work.” Thomas mused. “Rube, you’d have to be up in the branches, I think, to totally avoid all accidental contact with the other workers. I’m sure one of us could lean up against the trunk. You should be able to whisper in our ear.”

“Yes. I think the afternoon break would be the one to aim for. Then I could hitch a ride on a passing cart leaving the city for the day and find a safe place to contact the others by sunset.”

Martha nodded and clapped her hands together. “That’s settled then.” She beamed around at them all. “Anyone for another cuppa?”

Tyrelia sneak preview – Chapter 2

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THE WATCHERS

Saff pushed himself upright from where he had been leaning against the Wall. “Well, she’s gone then.” He brushed down his dusty robes and adjusted his belt.

Thyst still stared at the spot where Freya had disappeared five minutes previously. She blinked and shook her head slightly, as if clearing it. “Yes, I suppose so. Now what?”

“I’ve been thinking about that. I don’t think we should go back through Andor. Too dangerous—might be more Guards on the way.”

“What do you suggest?”

“Not sure yet. But first we need to cross back over the Chasm before it gets dark, else we risk falling off that narrow bridge. Once we’ve climbed the stairs on the other side of the Chasm, we head towards the western end of the Andoria Mountains.” Saff gestured across the Chasm.

Thyst turned to follow his gaze.

Saff continued, “We can follow the Andor river upstream—making sure we stay clear of Andor. I believe there’s another mountain pass, which would lead us to Marshford on the other side.”

“Sounds good. Let’s go then.” Thyst adjusted the bow slung on her shoulder and out of habit reached behind her to check how many arrows were still in her quiver. Only two. Too few. Frowning, she strode to the top of the stairs and started the descent.

The stairs were narrow and crumbling, a low wall the only thing preventing her and Saff from toppling into the Chasm. They needed both hands to balance themselves. Down, down, down they climbed. It grew darker and colder. They slowed, moving as much by feel as by sight.

Finally, they arrived at the landing at the base and stepped gratefully on to it, glad to be done with the stairs.

“Now for the bridge,” Thyst whispered. Suddenly, an image leapt into her head of Watcher Paz crumpling in a heap and toppling off the bridge into the depths of the Chasm, clutching at the arrow in his chest. She sat down.

“What’s wrong?” asked Saff.

“Nothing … just …” Tears welled up in her eyes and a sob escaped her.

“Oh. Of course.” Saff crouched down beside her and placed his arm around her shoulders. He cleared his throat. “Paz was a good Watcher and a great friend. He did his duty well. But now his vigil is done.”

“His vigil is done.” Thyst echoed. She brushed at her eyes with the heel of her hand and sniffed. “Thank you, Saff.”

He squeezed her shoulder one more time and stood up. “Ready now?” he queried, his blue eyes full of concern.

Thyst nodded and stood up. She eyed the bridge. It was extremely narrow. Without rails. Over an extremely deep Chasm. She took a deep breath and stepped onto it.

It was quite different from when they had crossed it only a few hours earlier. Then, they had been pursued by Guards shooting arrows at them. It had been intense, trying to help Freya across safely. Because the bridge was so narrow, they’d needed their arms for balance and had therefore been forced to allow Freya to be visible. Thyst had gone ahead of her, and an invisible Paz had had Freya’s back. The arrow that had killed him had been intended for Freya. She sighed.

Now it was just her and Saff. She walked calmly and carefully, taking her time. Saff followed her, a few paces behind.

At the far side, the bodies of two Guards lay awkwardly on the platform where they had been slain, arrows protruding from their chests. Thyst strode over and wrenched the arrows out of them. Wiping the blood off the shafts with her cloak, she slid them back into her quiver. She looked around to see if there were any more. She spotted a third Guard on the second to bottom step and retrieved two more arrows out of him.

“Let’s not leave them here.” Saff said. Grunting, he dragged one, then the other, towards the edge, then pushed them off with his boot. Thyst dealt with the third Guard. That business done, they began the long climb back up to the top.

The sun was on the verge of setting by the time they wearily dragged themselves up the final step and fell panting amongst the dense foliage that grew right up to the edge of the Chasm on this side, concealing the stairway.

“I’d better call Freya.” Saff exclaimed, eyeing the setting sun. He extricated his talking stone from a hidden pocket in his robes. It was blue, with white veins running through it. He placed it on his palm and focused his thoughts on Freya. A haze of blue formed around it. Swirling shades of blue solidified into Freya’s face.

“Saff!” she exclaimed happily.

“How are you, Freya?”

“I’m good! But something very strange happened when I went through that archway. I’ve got a shield.”

“What? You found a shield?”

“No, not found. It just sort of … appeared. On my back.”

Saff scratched his beard with his free hand. “I don’t know what to make of that, Freya.”

Freya shook her head. “Me neither. And that’s not all. There’s a pillar with the Laws of Tyrelia on it. There are four of them: Honour the Ancient, Put others first, Use your gifts for good and Follow the Rules.” The words tumbled out.

Saff chuckled. “Sounds great. So, you’re doing okay?”

“Yeah. How’s Thyst?”

“She’s good. We got back across the Chasm all right, and we’ve just finished climbing the stairs. We’d better move on now. Don’t want to be found here.”

“All right. Say goodnight to her from me. I’ll call Rube now.”

“You do that, Freya. Talk tomorrow.”

“Bye.”

Thyst mopped at her brow with her sleeve. “I’m really thirsty and my water skin is empty.”

Saff stood up. “Mine too. Let’s go find that stream.”

They pushed their way through the dense shrubbery that grew all along this edge of the Chasm. Not only did the band of vegetation prevent people and livestock from accidentally wandering too close to the edge, but for a thousand years it had also served to hide the ancient stairway leading down to the bridge. Branches and leaves swished as they brushed against their bodies, snapping back into place behind them, leaving no trace of their passage. Eventually, they emerged into the paddocks and fields at the outskirts of Andor. They turned themselves invisible then walked along the edge of the shrubs until they reached the Andor River. Falling gratefully to their knees, they leant over the bank and scooped the cool water into their mouths.

Their thirst slaked, they filled their water skins. It was well and truly dusk now and, in the distance upstream, the lights of Andor town twinkled from the windows of numerous houses. Andor was built on an island in the middle of the river with multiple bridges to the shore on either side. On their journey to the long-lost path, only Saff had crossed the river by those bridges to lure the Guards into following him rather than Freya and the other two Watchers. The ploy had only partially worked, in that their pursuers had split their forces, and half had followed Saff, whilst the other half had followed Paz, Thyst and Freya.

Suddenly, they heard a noise.

“Shh,” Saff hissed. He put his hand on Thyst’s arm.

They peered into the gloom behind them. There it was again. A thumping sound. Like someone was stamping their feet. A shape moved. Then it whinnied.

“By the Land!” Thyst exclaimed. “It’s your horse, Saff.” She laughed with relief.

“Well, that’s a stroke of luck.” Saff reached out and grabbed his horse’s reins, which were dangling from its bit. He patted it fondly as it nuzzled his neck. “I really thought I’d seen the last of him when I left him at the top of the stairs. He must’ve heard my voice and followed us here.”

“It’s a shame we can’t find my horse, too,” Thyst sighed. Paz and Thyst had left their horses on the opposite side of the river. Who knew where they’d be by now.

“Why don’t we try, though?”

Thyst laughed.

“No, I’m serious. Jump up behind me. Thunder can cross the river.”

“Okay. But you should try a bit further upstream. We were able to cross where there’s a whole lot of little islands. They all lined up like stepping stones. It was amazing,” Thyst recounted.

Saff found the spot and they crossed to the other side. Then he turned his mount to head back downstream towards the Chasm.

“We left them just in there.” Thyst leaned forward from where she was seated behind Saff and pointed under his arm at the foliage. “Beside the river.”

Saff urged his horse forward into the bushes.

“Dapple! Dapple!” Thyst called. She clicked her tongue. “Sandstorm?”

They strained their ears. Nothing.

By now it was dark. “You know what?” Saff asked. “I think we should just call it a night. We’re well concealed here.”

Thyst had to agree. There was not much point in wandering around in this vegetation in the dark. They knew that it grew right up to the edge of the Chasm, and they could easily fall in. She shuddered at the thought.

Saff hobbled his horse. They ate a light meal, then rolled themselves into their blankets and fell asleep straight away. It had been a long day. They had found the long-lost path to Tyrelia and crossed the Chasm. Twice. It was quite a feat!