Time Travel – A Frequently Used Literary Device

Guest Post by Don Massenzio

As a reader, my fascination with time travel began as a child. When I first read The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, I was enthralled by the idea of travelling either backward or forward in time.

Traveling backward could allow one to catch glimpses of historical events or important figures. You could go back and wander among dinosaurs. Similarly, traveling forward gives a view of the development of man, technology and the future of our planet.

As I sat down to write my book, Extra Innings, I was fascinated by the different views of time travel that have been used in fiction. This post will discuss those various theories and I’ll give you a view of my thought process in landing on one.

Here are some of the theories that have been presented in fiction:

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  1. Precognition – This is the idea of seeing the future during dreams or through the feeling of déjà vu. Abstract black and white design
  2. Time Loops – If you’ve watched the movie, Ground Hog Day, you’ve seen this time travel plot device in action. Usually the events time loop repeat until the character or characters perform a certain action to end the loop and move forward.De Lorean
  3. Time Paradox – If you watched Back to the Future, when Marty McFly went back in time and nearly prevented his parents from getting together for the high school dance, you’ve experienced this time travel device.Time Tourism
  4. Time Tourism – Just like it sounds, when time travelers travel through time to witness historical events as a spectator, this is time tourism.terminator
  5. Time War – This is the use of time travel to conduct war over time using time travel. It could involve going back in time to change events leading up to a pivotal battle or trying to bring about a reset of events that didn’t play out as planned.Erasing The Past
  6. Changing the pastThis is the notion of time travel that I used in my book, Extra Innings. The idea of changing the past is logically contradictory. Even though the consensus today is that the past cannot be changed, science fiction writers have used the idea of changing the past for good story effect. Stephen King used this method of time travel effectively in his book, 11/22/63, by having his main character, Jake Epping, attempt to go back in time to prevent the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Though ultimately successful, when Epping returns to the present, he discovers that his actions have had unintended consequences.


If you enjoy time travel and the possibility of going back in time to right wrongs and do things differently if given a chance, follow the adventures of Joe McLean in my latest novel, Extra Innings.

SAMPLE

Joe McLean hates his life. A lonely, divorced, middle-aged man, stuck in a cramped apartment, the only bright spot in Joe’s life is cheering on his hometown baseball team.

Now, the local stadium, the place of many childhood and adult memories is being replaced. Joe desperately wants a piece of this iconic venue to preserve his memories and have some memorabilia from his happier past.

That’s when unusual things begin to happen, and Joe begins to rethink the direction his life has taken. Can Joe take a different path in life?

Can he use the special ability that he has acquired to change the course of his life? Will he realize the truth about old adage, you can never go home again? Follow the twists and turns in this supernatural story, Extra Innings, to find out.

 

“Hey, you!”

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“Yeah, YOU!”

You’ll no doubt notice that I plugged my latest book, Harbinger, a couple of days ago, and again this morning. (Hope you’ll share the post on Twitter, Facebook, and in all your usual haunts!) Meanwhile, I just want to remind you that promoting our work is one of the main functions of this blog. In addition to our general networking, sharing resources, ideas, excerpts, tips, and anything else useful we run across, you guys can always promote your books here, especially if they are on sale, or you have a new release coming out. That’s a huge part of how we support each other, and make sure the world at large learns about our books.

Please make it a point to share posts here at any time, but especially when the post involves promos and other news you’d like to get “out there.” And PLEASE avail yourselves of this platform to help you reach new readers.

If you are already a contributor (author) on this blog, you can post these announcements directly any time you wish. If you aren’t set up to do that, please email me with your request, and I will either post it for you, or show you how to do it, yourself. You can reach me at mmeara@cfl.rr.com

This blog is specifically intended as a place for us to have fun, ask questions, learn and grow as writers, AND to share our news, with the understanding that others here will pass it along as far and wide as possible.

So . . . what have YOU got to share today?

 

When to go wide

KDP Select

One of the thorniest decisions in self-publishing today is — enroll in Amazon’s KDP Select program (which requires that your book remains exclusive to Amazon) or go wide and try out all of the different publishers. So far, I’ve used the first approach, which has lots of benefits:

  • 5 free days or 1 countdown deal every three months, which (if done right) can really increase your exposure to new readers while also keeping the rank of your book high
  • Eligibility for being borrowed via Kindle Unlimited, which helps with exposure and can also increase your income (although the amount you get per borrow has been dwindling rapidly in recent months, from $2 to $1.50 to $1.33 and some authors report lower overall income as a result)
  • Keeping all of your eggs in one basket means that all readers have to go to Amazon to buy your book, which means your book is likely to have a higher rank than if some of your readers bought elsewhere
  • Simplicity, with only one file to upload, one system to learn, etc.

On the other hand, you’re obviously eliminating the possibility of making sales on other retailers if you go all-in with Amazon. And, while the majority of indie authors find that Amazon is the much easier nut to crack and thus that they make most of their money on Amazon even if they go wide, you might just be the exception to that rule. I hear rumblings now and then of authors who sell more books on non-Amazon sites, particularly All Romance Ebooks (if you write romance), Google Play (for children’s books and perhaps some other genres), and Barnes and Noble (for erotica and romance).

And then there are international sales. While Amazon does have branches nearly worldwide, if you appeal to a Canadian market, you’re shooting yourself in the foot by staying out of Kobo, the dominant Canadian ebook retailer. Similarly, iBooks and Tolino are reported to be big in Germany, where Amazon only has 40% of the ebook market according to Joanna Penn. Of course, once you start branching out beyond English-dominant countries, you also have to start considering whether it’s worthwhile to get your books translated, which is fodder for another post. But 7% of my Amazon income last month came from outside the U.S., making me wonder if I could turn a couple of hundred dollars a month into much more if I learned to leverage other platforms.

Burgling the DragonThe final point in favor of going wide with your book distribution is perma-free. The accepted method of getting a book listed for free on Amazon is to list it through Smashwords or Draft2Digital (both of which distribute to many of the non-Amazon retailers), setting the book at a price of $0 through the distributor and waiting for Amazon to price match. But if you’re going to have the first book in your series up for free on other platforms while keeping the other books in the series only on Amazon, you’re spitting in reader’s faces. I know that if I was a nook user, if I downloaded and loved a free book, and then I found out that I’d have to change devices in order to read the rest of the series, I wouldn’t be very pleased.

Which is probably why most of the self-publishing heavy-hitters recommend going wide once you have more than one or two books in your arsenal. I thought long and hard about that decision as I prepared to launch Pack Princess, the second book in my Wolf Rampant series, and I’ve decided to stay in KDP for now…at least until I publish book three. At that point, I might decide that making the first book perma-free is the best way to get exposure for the growing series, making it worthwhile to pull out of KDP Select and explore other retailers.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic. Are you in KDP Select? Why or why not? And, if you’re still reading, I hope you’ll take a minute to snag my middle-readers fantasy novel, Burgling the Dragon, which is free today. (Gotta take advantage of those KDP Select benefits!)

Paid book promotions worth their salt, part 2

Despite the Billionaire's RichesIf you missed my first post on the subject of paid book advertising, head over here first to get caught up. The short version is: the most sure-fire way to advertise books is to get your title included in one (or more) of the email lists that go out to thousands of readers on a daily basis. My previous post mentioned a few websites that will list your book for free, while this second installment will delve deeper into the paid sites that are most likely to provide a return on your investment.

 

The big dogs

If you hang around with other independent authors for long, you’ll soon hear them singing the praises of Bookbub. Although this advertising service costs hundreds of dollars a pop, most folks find that Bookbub provides a positive return on your investment, and if you play your cards right, your book might even end up in the top 100 in Amazon’s store after being listed! Unfortunately, there are big hoops you need to jump through to be eligible, and Bookbub rejects a lot more submissions than they accept. So, if you can’t get into Bookbub (or can’t afford their high fees at the moment) where do you turn next?

In Write. Publish. Repeat. the authors explain: “We’ve had the most luck with BookBub.com, EReaderNewsToday.com, and FKBooksAndTips.com’s 99-cent promotion programs. We’ve also had lesser but substantial success with Bookblast.co (.co, not .com) and BookGorilla.com.” Let’s Get Digitial Author David Gaughran weighs in as follows, “After BookBub, the next biggest sites are Ereader News Today, Pixel of Ink, BookSends, and Kindle Books & Tips,” before warning that the value of promotional opportunities changes fast, and to do your research before plunking down any money. Sure enough, Pixel of Ink is not currently accepting submissions at this time.

There are also a lot of smaller advertising sites that I’ll mention later, but the smart thing to do if you’re committing to a paid promotion is to combine several promotions in short succession in an attempt to move up the ranks and stick there. The accepted wisdom is that you should first try to bring one of the big dogs on board, then you should plan the other services around the main event.

 

Preparing for the sale

Now it’s time for a healthy dose of “do as I say, not as I do.” The reports I’m going to present below are based on a promotional push I ran around the launch period of Despite the Gentleman’s Riches, and, with twenty-twenty hindsight, I’d do a lot of things differently. All of my previous books have been in the fantasy genre and (in contrast) Despite the Gentleman’s Riches is a contemporary romance, so I wasn’t prepared for my fans’ complete lack of interest (or outright disdain) for the new book. Previously, I’ve emailed my list to find interested readers a couple of weeks before launching a new title, had sent out review copies when I got the manuscript back from the copy editor, and had been able to count on at least 15 reviews averaging about 4.5 stars trickling in during the first week. Since you have to plan your promotions at least 14 days in advance, I just assumed similar reviews would appear on my new book in time for the blitz. Instead, several of my advance reviewers gave the book three stars, one of my preorder fans gave it one star (ouch!), and I went into the promotional period with a 4.2-star ranking. That doesn’t sound bad, but there’s a big visual difference between only four stars filled in versus four and a half, and fewer glowing reviews meant my new book had less perceived social capital. So, lesson 1 — don’t assume that you’ll have a great-looking product page soon after launch. A better idea would probably have been skip soliciting reviews from my fantasy-loving fans entirely, to let the book build reviews organically, then to pay for a promotional period at a later date when the book’s perceived social capital was high.

Similarly, I should have managed my pricing so that I was eligible for a countdown deal during the promotionary period. Most sale sites won’t accept your book unless it’s marked down to 99 cents, which you can either do manually or with a countdown deal, the bonus of the latter option being that for the five days of the countdown deal, you’ll receive a 70% royalty on the reduced-price book. However, since I’d been trying to get fans to consider a title outside their main genre during the preorder period, I launched the book at 99 cents, meaning that I had to make twice as many sales to break even with each ad (due to the 35% royalty). Again, raising the price to $2.99, waiting for the 30 days Amazon requires between price change and countdown deal, and then setting up a real sale would have been a better bet. As an added bonus, the countdown deal would have shown the higher price with a slash through it, so the customer would have known they were getting a great deal.

Summary: More patience on my part would have made this sale period go much more smoothly!

 

My experiences

Mistakes aside, my paid promotions are still likely to break even by the end of the month. I chose 13 paid promotional sites spread out across 13 days, paid $370.50 for the privilege, and (if borrows bring in $1.33 like they did in October), I will make $260.51 for the first 18 days that the book has been live. I could have brought in quite a bit more, though, if I’d focused on the winning sites and avoided some expensive losers, so I thought I’d report my results to keep your own costs down. (Of course, keep in mind that the results of each promotional site is likely to be genre specific, and that some sites probably attract readers who were more turned off by my lack of perfect reviews than others. But, still, this should help you get started.)

Results of paid book promotions

Okay, the chart above might look a little daunting, so let me give you a quick text rundown. The two sites listed in green (Ebookhounds and Naughty List) were both free, but their results were quite good, so I added them to the chart. The other advertisers were all paid, and I listed the net earnings from each, using the assumption that I wouldn’t have sold any other books that day without their help (not a big stretch since the book basically started at nothing). As you can see, some of the cheaper promotions — Awesome Gang ($10), Bkknights ($5), and Sweet free books ($5) did better than the more expensive options. I added the little guys on at the last minute as a way of bringing up the rank of the book before the supposed big dogs hit, since Amazon is supposed to reward slow, organic growth of a book’s sales better than a spike in the rankings from one big advertising blitz. (The former results in a good sales rank that is supposed to stick around longer than the latter.) But now I’m starting to think that lots of these little guys might be a better financial investment than a few of the supposed big dogs!

Because, unfortunately, I was much less impressed by the more expensive promotions that I paid for. I stacked most of the big dogs together, so I have to guess which ones were and weren’t worth the money, but I’ll give you my informed opinions here. Having tried two different $15 promotions through Hotzippy on two different books and lost money on both, I’m now relatively convinced that Hotzippy is not a good use of money (for me at least). I also suspect that Book Gorilla and Kindle Nation Daily (both by the same company) are too overpriced at $50 and $100 respectively to be worth the cash. Finally, since so many people sing the praises of Ereader News Today, I’m going to assume that the expensive My Romance Reads ($75) that I layered on the same day is why that period’s advertising didn’t break even.

And, finally, here’s the cheat-sheet version of the advertisers I at least tentatively recommend:

Ereader News Today — Prices range from $15 to $45 at the moment, depending on genre. Sometimes called “the little Bookbub”, ENT is pretty choosy but is usually considered to be worth the price tag.

Free Kindle Books and Tips — 99-cent books cost $25 to advertise. They do waive their review restrictions for new releases, but they only send out new-release notices on weekends. I didn’t sign up for these guys because I didn’t notice the new-release option when I was first researching, so I have no first-hand data to report.

Booksends — Costs $10 to $50 for a 99-cent book depending on genre. They rejected me, so I can’t report any results.

Awesome Gang – $10

Bknights – $5.50

Fussy Librarian – $5 to $14, depending on genre. I somehow got my wires crossed on setting up my ad for this particular book, but have used them before and broken even.

Sweetfreebooks – $5

 

The good news of a “failed” promo blitz

Even though I came out a hundred bucks in the hole, I would definitely repeat this experience, with all of the caveats listed above (and a few more that I’ll mention in a minute). I’ve had nine new subscribers join my email list during the promo period, have already landed two new reviews (a four star and a five star — so my book doesn’t suck after all!), and the book seemed to be sticking pretty high in the rankings for at least a while after the promo period ended. Plus, more borrows have been landing in my dashboard daily, suggesting that I’ll be raking in the results of the sale-period visibility for at least a few more days to come.

Sales rank during a promotional period

Aside from dressing my book in its Sunday best before the promo, doing a countdown deal, and skipping the overpriced advertisers, what else would I do differently? Paid promotions are most likely to actually make money rather than just break even if you advertise the first book of a completed series. I’ll try out this hypothesis on Shiftless once Pack Princess comes out in about a month, and for this second experiment I’ll see if Bookbub will take my novel to the prom.

That said, I’m starting to think that a free period might have been a less expensive way to get Despite the Gentleman’s Riches off to a good start…and without spending a penny! So, perhaps the moral of the story here is to be patient, to use a free period early on to give your book legs, and to save the 99-cent advertised promotions for later in the life of a book.

Okay, I know this post got way too long (again!), but if you’re still with me, I hope you’ll leave a comment with your own advertising results. Do you agree on which promotions are and aren’t worth your money? Did you advertise a book in a different genre and see different results? Let us know so we can all save some cash next time around!

Teaser Tuesday: Siren Promo

I mentioned in my last post that despite being up to my eyelids in NaNoWriMo word count, I am also in the midst of promoting my upcoming urban fantasy book, Siren, which is set to release on January 5, 2015. It’s currently available for pre-order on Amazon, so I’ve been working some new strategies for promotion to try and reach a wider audience before it actually goes live.

What I’m doing is certainly nothing new. A lot of authors I know, both indie and traditionally published, release little images like this, but promotion is often a huge pain, so maybe we don’t always put as much effort into it as we should.

I was really proud of how this turned out, and thought I’d share it with all of you.

Every Tuesday until January, I’m going to be releasing a new teaser image with a little snippet from the book on my website, my Facebook author page and a few other social media haunts I frequent from time to time. Here’s the first one.

I’d love to hear what you think! I’d also be delighted if you took a minute to share a few of your own personal promotion strategies in the comment section below!

 

PLEASE Remember to Retweet!

If we are going to help each other get the word out, we need to be willing to Tweet, post on Facebook, or Reblog each other’s posts. If you enjoy a post or learn something new from it, please share it. It takes only a second to get the drop down menu from the Share Button on the Comments Page. Send these wonderful posts out into the world. And most especially, please Tweet any promotional posts to all your friends and followers. Then, when you have a promotion, the rest of us will do the same for you. We can make a difference!

Remember, it’s Writers Helping Writers here. Spread the word. You’ll be glad you did. 🙂 (You could start with Aimee Easterling’s post about her newest book. She won’t forget you when it’s your turn.)

Have a great day, you folks!

A Word On Tweeting

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Just went through and Tweeted everyone’s posts and promos, again, and I wanted to remind you to do the same, when you can. Remember, you can Tweet all of your posts here, especially your intros and/or promos, as often as you want. And when you’ve Tweeted yours, please remember to Tweet for some of our other authors, too. In addition to sharing resources and ideas, this is a great way to help each other get the word out. (You can also reblog, and post on FB or other social media, but Tweeting is the quickest and easiest, and I know you are all busy folks.)

Adding the hashtag #TheWriteStuff at the beginning or end of your Tweet would be lovely, but with or without it, the Tweets are a big help to our authors. So. Tweet your own posts, and then tweet a few others. You’ll be glad you did.

Authors Helping Authors. That’s what The Write Stuff is all about. You might say it’s our “AHA” moment. 😀