Amazon Ad School

During January I signed up to a free Amazon Ad School run by indie author Bryan Cohen. It was excellent. I learned so much.

For starters, I had only been running one type of ad. I was running 7 of them, but just one type. I was updating them weekly and adding new keywords, but they’d stagnated. For a while I was selling about 5 e-books a month, but that had dwindled over the past 6 months. In November I sold 1, and in Decemeber 0. Nada. Nothing. Zilch.

So, discovering this Ad school was very timely. I had nothing to lose. Unfortunately, I only joined up after it had already been running for a week, so I had a bit of catching up to do. Bryan had 5 videos of about 45mins long, taking you through how to set up various types of ads, and also how to analyse the data to see where you were making profit.

I have learned:

  • about 3 other types of ads I can run
  • about a Royalties Calculator part of Amazon that I hadn’t previously known existed
  • about a website that you can generate keywords from for free (although it then takes a bit of mucking around in Excel to format the dataset)
  • How to identify the categories that my book/s should be linked to
  • a bunch of other little tips and tricks

During the ad school I created 15 new ads over 4 days. And according to my kdp sales dashboard, I’ve made 2 new sales. They haven’t shown up on my Amazon Ad dashboard yet, so I don’t know which ads generated the sales. The Ad dashboard says that all those new ads generated around 2,000 impressions, but only 1 click. Hmm.

Today I set up 12 new ads and updated 3 others. Hopefully the Ad dashboard catches up so I can figure out what’s working and what’s not. Fingers crossed!

By the way, this is a link to Bryan Cohen’s open FB group for authors. It’s not for promoting our books, it’s for learning off each other.

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Golden City – content edit

Last week, I commissioned a Content Edit of Golden City. This is a review of the story structure and content, not the details of grammar and word echoes etc (which is called a copy edit).

I’ve received a 3-page report, but still waiting for the hard-copy marked-up manuscript. I’m really happy with the suggestions I’ve received, but of course, I will need to go back and re-write chunks of the story. Sigh. But that’s the whole point of getting these professional opinions: to make the story the best it can possibly be.

Overall, he said: Good stuff. It cracks along at a good pace, and your first-draft writing has come a long way — but you know that. I had a wee chuckle at that, because, in my mind, it was the third draft I gave him.

Here’s the key things I need to change:

  1. Add more danger! Make it harder for Freya. I still have some things that are just too easy for her. I’m rushing the story in places. I did already add in a whole lot of extra difficulties during my previous edit, but it needs to be harder still! My editor says “Generally Freya has to have it really tough throughout. Then we admire her more when she wins.”
  2. Timing of events. I have a couple of places where the reader gets a bit confused about when something happened – I haven’t made it clear that I’ve jumped around in the timeline of events. In other places I’ve revealed what’s happened too soon, so need to keep that from the reader to raise the stakes. I’ve been given suggestions on how to handle this.
  3. Tying up loose ends. I thought I’d got everything, but there are a couple that were still floating. One of these is the Cave People: they are in the story, but I don’t really come back to them and explain their ultimate fate. The other is the Master. Again, I’ve been given suggestions as to how these could be tied up.

That’s the main Big Picture stuff. There are a bunch of others, as well as Medium and Small picture stuff, too. So, I reckon I’ll need at least another 4 weeks to work through that stuff (given that I only get about 4-8 hrs a week to devote to it, now that I’m back at work).

If you have any suggestions for me of what you’d like to see happen in this story, now’s your chance!

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Glancing, gazing and gasping

My author friend Lee Murray ( did an initial edit of my Golden City manuscript. Here are the top six edits:

  1. Repetitions / word echoes. As a writer, you become too familiar with the story to pick up on these things, and I’m sure you’ve all read books where a certain phrase is just used too often. Well, I had already gone through and taken out LOADS of ‘gazed’ and ‘sucked in her breath’, but I still have too many of the following: started, gazed, gasped, nodded, hobbled, glanced, stopped short, wrinkled her brow, cleared throat, shook head, eyes widened, pursed lips
  2. Dialogue tags vs action statements. This one is so basic, it’s embarrassing I got it wrong so often. You can follow a bit of speech with ‘said x’ or ‘exclaimed y’. But if you’ve already established who is talking, then you can use statements to describe an action, e.g., “He scratched his nose.” “She frowned.” However, the grammar rules are different. For a dialogue tag, you don’t capitalise the tag, even if the dialogue ends in an exclamation or question mark.
    • “Who are you?” a man asked. (dialogue tag)
    • “Good.” He grunted. (not dialogue tag)
  3. Filtering. Removing incidences of filtering reduces the distance between the narrator and the reader. It is better to use internal thought to explain something your character saw, heard, felt or thought, rather than saying that they saw, heard or thought something. Common filters are words such as feels, seems, finds, wonders, hears etc. The words ‘noise’, ‘sound’, ‘sight of’, ‘felt’ are also filters. Here’s some examples:
    • He glanced up and spotted the entrance to the arena just ahead. <-> The arena was just ahead.
    • A clanking sound was followed by a scraping noise. <-> A clanking was followed by scraping.
    • He spied Cave men and Guards disappearing into the forest ahead. <-> Cave men and Guards disappeared into the forest ahead.
    • She felt cold. <-> She was cold. OR, better yet: She shivered.
    • She noticed tiny red lights lining the lintel. <-> Tiny red lights lined the lintel.
  4. Point of View (POV). I thought I had nailed this, but I still got it wrong a few times. When you’re inside your character’s head, you can only see/hear/feel/know/think what they see/hear/feel/know/think. So if something happens behind them or to their face, or inside someone else’s head, you need to write it from inside your character’s head. Examples:
    • Freya’s POV: The hermit sank gratefully onto a bench. Because I’m in Freya’s head, she can’t feel the hermit’s gratitude. <-> The hermit groaned as he sank onto a bench.
    • Saff’s POV: A smile played around his lips. He can’t see his own lips. <-> He smiled.
    • Freya’s POV: Freya looked confused. She can’t see her own face. <-> Freya was confused. OR, you could just have her say: “Huh?”
  5. Clichés.  It’s better to create your own imagery. Also, the cliché may not fit within your world. For example, my world is medieval, with limited technology. So using fell like a lead balloon doesn’t work, because rubber hasn’t been invented. I was pulled up for using:
    • white as a sheet
    • sat bolt upright
    • disappeared into thin air
    • quick as a flash
    • as far as the eye could see
    • narrowly avoiding
    • eyes as big as saucers
  6. Pedestrian words. This is Lee’s term for very ordinary words. The first of my words she used it on was ‘walked’. I thought, “well, yes, that is pedestrian”! So, words like: stood, sat, got, went, came, etc

It took me about a month to work through the initial edits. Now I’m up to the hard part: the story itself. But I’ll leave that for another post.

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Editing, schmediting

Golden City, book 3 of the Realm Trilogy, is coming along. Lee Murray ( has done such an amazing job with my manuscript. She was only supposed to be a beta reader, but she’s done quite an edit on it. I’m working my way through her comments, fixing word echoes and dialogue tags, removing cliches and weaving in more backstory.

I’m improving my POV (point of view) and internal dialogue but, most importantly, fixing some crucial plot points.

It’s taking longer than I’d hoped, but I know it’ll be worth it. Seven chapters down, sixteen to go. As they say, good things take time!

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Golden City – 2nd draft here I come

I’ve had a couple of beta reader comments back and I have a LOT of work to do. My very first sentence didn’t even make it un-edited:

“Freya’s heart thudded in her chest.”

Reviewer’s comment: “unless she is an alien or an odd animal, where else would her heart be? Delete ‘in her chest’.” Good point.

I remember my first big edit of Medar took 18 months. I’m hoping I’ll get through this in a couple of weeks. Wish me luck!