Miss Priss Monday

It’s Monday so time to share some puppy love to get the week started off right.

Here’s the pup at the unholy hour of seven a.m ready to play. (Her version of playing is to run around inside for five minutes like she’s insane until I finally go outside with her at which point she lays down in the grass and refuses to move.  But if I try to go inside she does the whole thing over again, so I usually bring a book along to entertain myself while I keep her company outside.)

Miss Priss in the Morning

And today it seems is one of the rare summer days when she’ll deign to keep me company while I work.  (In the summer she rarely sets foot in my office, but in the winter she spends most of the day curled up on her bed while I work.) Nothing like writing with the sound of a snoring dog in the background…

Miss Priss in the Office

And can I just add that it’s hard to take a good picture of an all-black dog?

Anyway.  Mondays don’t really count as the first day of the workweek for me since I do something writing-related every single day of the week, but I do still think of it that way.  So another week, another project.

Bidding and AMS Ads

So over on a writing forum thread devoted to AMS ads, one of the users shared an interesting response they received from Amazon about AMS ads and bidding.  I’ll quote part of it here so you don’t have to wade through all those pages to find it:

CTRs build up overtime, so if you are just beginning to advertise with AMS it is wise to go with a high bid in order to win impressions and thus build up your CTR. Once you have a high CTR for an ad and this is based on longevity so the longer you run an ad the better, you can lower your bid, but only if you have a high CTR.

Which is interesting and fits with my own experience in a few ways.

  1.  I’ve found that my best ads are the ones that have run for a very long time.
  2.  I have been able to back my bids down on some of my longer-running ads as time goes by. (My romance ad had bids over $1 at one point which just isn’t sustainable. I still bid high by many standards, but not that high.)
  3. I recently tried some low bid/low budget ads for books I’m not focused on right now just to keep some sort of momentum on them and found that my impressions were high but my clicks were low, and that the ads ultimately stalled out and really don’t deliver.
  4.  My most successful ad is one that I ran through a free run which I’m sure boosted my click ratio and is the reason the ad got sticky. I think of it as AMS rewarding momentum, but maybe what it is more is AMS seeing an ad that’s getting a lot of activity and pushing that ad more and then as long as that ad continues to get activity keeping it running.

The response doesn’t say what a high CTR is, but in my experience my ads that do well have around 1 click per 1,000 impressions with individual keywords doing much better than that.

So if you’ve been trying AMS and not seeing results, maybe try a new ad with higher bids combined with a price promotion that will result in more clicks early on and then you can raise the price later and back your bids down a bit once the ad has established itself.

Random Thoughts on Wanting It Enough

In a Facebook group I’m a member of, a member recently posted about how guilty they feel because they have the chance to write full-time and yet they don’t.

I’m currently in that boat. I’ve chosen not to pursue any new consulting work and to just focus on writing and, since I have no real life other than hanging with the puppy and spending time with family, I could technically being writing ALL THE TIME.

I could write for ten hours a day!

I could write seven days a week!

But I don’t.

Because, you know what?  I’ve been there, done that.  When I was working full-time I routinely worked sixty-hour weeks and hit eighty hours a week more than once. And when I was younger and in college I had summers where between all my jobs I worked a hundred hours a week. And those last two years of college when I was working full-time and taking a full course load it seems like all I ever did was work or study.

I benefited from all of that work. It did let me earn good money and get ahead in my career.  But I spent years of my life in a working-all-the-time auto-pilot.

And I just don’t want to do that anymore. I want to sit outside after lunch and read a good book while the pup snores under a tree. Or sit on my butt on the couch at night and enjoy someone else’s artistic work. Or go to my 88-year-old grandma’s house for lunch and stay for a couple hours talking to her without stressing over how many words I could be writing instead.

In short, I want to enjoy my life now instead of putting it off to some other day. I don’t want to live to ninety if all of those days between now and then are full of work.  Even creative work like writing.

And, yeah, that may mean I “fail” at this writing thing. Fail meaning having to go back to some other source of paying income. And that will be ironic.  That I didn’t work full-time at my “passion” so had to go back to working full time at something that’s “just a job.”

But if that happens?

Oh well. I’ll have enjoyed the years in between. Skydiving, living in New Zealand and Prague, truly spending time with my puppy and my family and my friends, writing whatever the hell I felt like, sleeping as much as I wanted every day, hiking, reading…I’d rather say I did all those things than that I wrote and wrote and wrote.

Miss Priss Monday with Bonus Shadow Photos

First, just in time for August to start, I got my new customized Demotivators calendar. Because being reminded about the parts of the corporate world I didn’t like is my way of trying to stay motivated with this whole writing thing. Month 1 reminds me how uncomfortable it was to be a square peg in a world of round holes.

IMG_4319 - Copy

Here’s to a productive month!

And now for some cute photos of the pup and her “uncle” Shadow.

Yesterday we had a surprise visit up the mountain to babysit the crazy puppy (he’s only eight-months-old) because there was an accident on the highway that basically shut it down for hours. My parents were stuck for over three hours on what should’ve been a thirty minute drive. So pup and I drove past them on the good side of the highway to go hang with Shadow until they could get home.

Here he was in February, the first time he and Miss Priss met. A cute little ball of fur.

IMG_4030 - Copy

And here he is now, looming over her while she tries to hide in the kiddie pool. He is going to be HUGE. Eight months and they already weigh the same and he’s taller than her. Yikes. (And can I just mention how hard it is to take pictures of black dogs. Especially two of them.)

IMG_4318 - Copy

AMS Ads and Names With Initials

The other day someone mentioned that they’d run an experiment with names that use initials (like R.K. Thorne) and that they’d determined that you get the most impressions from AMS ads if you leave the periods out of the name.

I haven’t done as systematic of an experiment as the individual who posted about it, but I had been thinking that AMS ads do behave strangely with author names that have initials in them and had wanted to go look at my results to see what I could see.

While I generally agree with that person’s conclusion, I’m not sure for me that it was quite as black and white.

So let me share some numbers.

One of the authors in my fantasy novel’s also-boughts is R.K. Thorne who is listed on Amazon as R. K. Thorne, which interestingly seems to be the one variant I hadn’t tried. At various points I had used r k thorne, r.k. thorne, and rk thorne. And the clear winner was rk thorne which had almost three times as many impressions as r.k. thorne.  The r k thorne option had almost none.

Another one though isn’t as clear-cut as that.  It’s T.A. White who is listed that way with no space between the two letters. In that case I had at various points used t a white, t.a white, t.a. white, and ta white.  The one that had the most impressions was the one with the typo, t.a white, followed closely by t.a. white and ta white which were almost equal.  The last one, t a white, had the least. (One reason for the difference might be because when I type ta white into the Amazon search bar it shows towels instead of books.)

One more example would be K.A. Linde.  I had tried ka linde, k a linde, and k.a. linde.  By far the best performing of the bunch was ka linde. Neither of the others did much.

The problem with my numbers is that I didn’t do this in a controlled experiment where the bids were the same and the words were started at the exact same time. What I think I’m comfortable in saying is that if you do go without a period in there don’t bother with spaces between the two initials.  So use ka linde not k a linde or rk thorne not r k thorne.

Also, if you do have names with a period in them anywhere, definitely be sure to test out variants of the name without the period included.  I have a few with full first names and a middle initial where dropping the period from the middle initial seems to have resulted in more impressions as well.  (But others where it didn’t.)

Random Thoughts on Ethics and Regulations

So my day job, the one that actually pays bills, involves regulations. I used to enforce those rules and now I consult for companies that need to comply with them.

I’m in an industry that has high barriers to entry. Anyone who wants to start a company in this field has to go through a months’-long review process and prove themselves to be qualified and without known criminal issues.  Anyone who wants to work for a company in this field in customer-facing sales roles also has to prove a certain amount of knowledge about the product as well as about the rules.

Which is not to say that the industry is without its ethical lapses.  I brought more than one case against individuals who out and out engaged in horrible activity involving vulnerable people and then sat there and lied to me about it to my face while on the record.  People with zero conscience.

Those people definitely existed and are attracted to industries like mine because of the amount of money involved.

But far more common were the ones in the middle.  The ones who would never set out to do something blatantly against the rules, but who end up doing so anyway either out of ignorance or greed.

I can’t tell you how many times I heard over the years, “But X person does it and they’ve never gotten into trouble” or “But we’ve been doing it this way for years.”  Which was true in some instances.  One of the biggest investigations I was part of involved thousands of companies who had been doing something wrong for years that cost their customers millions if not billions of dollars.

But you know what?  When that was finally discovered, it didn’t matter that everyone had been doing it that way for years.  Perhaps it did influence how the situation was handled, but it didn’t keep it from being handled. And once it was discovered and people were adequately informed of the issue, they were expected to comply.

The problem with regulation is you can never list everything people shouldn’t do. But if you try to use a principles-based approach you will soon find that your idea of “fair dealing” or “best efforts” or “good customer experience” are not the same as someone else’s. What seems obvious to you is not obvious to them.

You can be damned sure that there will always be people in every industry trying to find the cracks, to get that little advantage that will let them “win”.  These aren’t the ones who flat out ignore the rules (there are always those as well).  These are the ones who push right up against the edge or find the one place where you haven’t been clear enough or aren’t looking close enough and exploit it for all it’s worth.

Right now I spend most of my time dealing with an industry with absolutely no barriers to entry–self-publishing. And there you see this play out every single day.  Someone will say, “Well no one told me I couldn’t scrape content off the internet and package it as my own and then click-bot my book up the ranks and get a hundred fake reviews on it so that Mary Sue in Idaho thought it was a legitimate book…”

No, they didn’t.  Because they thought it should be obvious that that was a shitty thing to do.

The problem with self-publishing is that bad techniques spread like wildfire, and that the big enforcer, Amazon, is slow to act. So by the time something spins out of control there are hundreds or thousands of people, some who just didn’t know better, engaging in it who then get slapped hard by losing their accounts or having their books pulled.

Having seen a number of these conversations happen, I don’t know how you even teach people to see what’s “right”.  A lot of these scenarios that have cropped up (like offering Book A for sale for two weeks and then changing the content out so it’s hardly the same but keeping the reviews from Book A), seem pretty obvious things you shouldn’t do.  But each time one of these scenarios crops up I find myself amazed by the number of people defending it. Either as perfectly legitimate or what they have to do to stay competitive.

And it’s just…Sigh.  More than I can discuss in one blog post.

So let me try to sum something up here:

Regulations and rules are annoying. And some are poorly written. But they exist because at some point someone did something that made them necessary. And if you don’t want there to be more regulations or ridiculous requirements or costs to what you do, the best thing to do is to always step back and ask not “Do the rules allow me to do this?” but instead “Does this pass the smell test? If I had to sit across the table from someone like a judge and tell them exactly what I’ve done without providing justifications or excuses, would they agree with what I did?”  If the answer is no, don’t do it.

Miss Priss Monday (And A New Release)

So, first, the part that matters. A couple cute pup photos to kick off the week the right way.

This is one of my favorites of the pup from when she was little:

Miss Priss and her water bowl

And this is one from our recent adventure in Angel Fire, NM for Taos Toolbox 2017.  I’m not sure it was the best idea to take the pup along (although I wouldn’t have gone if I couldn’t have brought her along), but it definitely kept me in shape.  Pup insisted on hour-long hikes every day up and down the mountains. On this one she decided she needed to bring along her toy, too.

Miss Priss on a Hike.JPG

Because, you know, we all need our pink stuffed pig to keep us company when walking through the woods.

In other news, I just published CreateSpace for Beginners. I should be writing the next novel (because that’s where the bulk of my income is and if I want to keep doing this it would be wise to focus there), but…

I’m presenting at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers conference this year.  One of the presentations on common new writer mistakes draws from a book I already wrote.  (The just re-titled Writing for Beginners.)  But the other two, one on using ACX for audiobooks and one on formatting paperbacks using CreateSpace, were new content.  And, me being me, I decided it couldn’t take all that much more effort to turn them into books.

Ha!

The CreateSpace presentation is about an hour, but the book is probably three times as much content.  Probably be the same story with the ACX book which means a couple more weeks before I get started on the next novel.

Ah well.  Still not sure what I want to write next anyway.  I may hate writing series but the thing I will say for it is at least you know what you have to write next…