Chris Wren 3, Last Mayor Rewrites & Mentoring – Writing Update 2019 week 39 & 40

Mike Grist Weekly Writing Update, Writing Leave a Comment

Hoo boy.

It has been 24 weeks since I last updated this writing blog! What have I been doing?

  • Wrote book 3 of the Chris Wren thrillers, Reparation.
  • Substantially rewrote and released book 4 of the Last Mayor series, The Loss.
  • Just now (an hour ago) got done rewriting book 5 of the Last Mayor series, The List.
  • Mentored another writer on marketing 1-1.
  • Spoke to a writer’s group on marketing.
  • Released books 1-3 of the Chris Wren thrillers.
  • Ramped up Facebook and Amazon ad spend such that I’m now making around $40 profit a day.
  • Put all the Last Mayor books together in a box set, dropped the overall price to 99c (!!) and am now selling 60 copies a day with 10,000 pages read (my main earner).

A lot of crazy stuff there.

With Chris Wren, I’m not doing any advertising right now, with book 1 wide and hoping for a Bookbub. If it doesn’t come, I’ll go back in KU and ramp up ad spend for a while, until I try Bookbub again in a few months.

With the Last Mayor, I’ll keep on rewriting the books through the series. More on that now:

Rewriting the Last Mayor

I finished the series with book 9 18 months ago. Honestly, I thought I was done. Through that time I ran some ads to book 1, then to books 1-3, but didn’t get great take-up. Then, on a whim and after looking at what competing zombie authors were doing, I put all books into a 9-book box set.

Boom. Sales rose. Reads rose. I had it at $9.99 and I was getting organic sales, without any ad spend. I turned some ads on, it got a little better. I figured, fine. Go 99c and keep it there, see if page reads increase.

They have. I’m stunned. It’s a great value proposition. 60 sales a day keeps the book at a decent ranking, which helps KU readers pick it up, which helps with page reads, which helps with rank.

I’m slowly increasing ad spend. At the same time, I’ve been rewriting. A year ago I rewrote books 1-3. They were the biggest drop-off points in series readthrough to start with. Remember I did that poll?

Book 1 was biggest drop-off. Then book 3. Then book 5.

It’s funny, because all the books get good reviews. Yet readthrough to book 9 is sub-10%. Maybe sub-5%. Poor.

Why? I asked people. Reasons involved repetitiveness, slowness, too many dream sequences, too much tech babbling, too much violence.

I know how to fix that. I sped up book 1 first with a new opener, less dreaming and navel-gazing, and fewer interruptions – with a new epilogue directly teasing book 2. 2 got most of its dream sequences removed, along with the Interludes gone completely. 3 lost a massive chunk of far-back backstory, with a faster start and cleaner tech.

4 I knew was a beast. Lots of tech, lots of backstory. Much of that is now gone. It was 100,000 words. Now it is 70,000. Mostly that was backstory in the Interludes – all gone. Repetition gone. Dreams gone. It is way faster and cleaner now.

5 I just finished, from 90,000 down to 60,000! It’s fine. Many long dream sequences that could easily be summed up as ‘Anna had a nightmare’. Done. Tech stuff simplified. Backstory bits sped right up and trimmed.

Phew. It means fewer pages, but I’m hoping people with stick with it.

Is that happening? Well – I got a review recently saying ‘books 1-3 sped along manically, then at book 4 it slowed right down.’ This person read the new version of books 1-3, but the old version of 4-6. Pretty telling.

Now it should be full speed ahead through 1-5 at least. At some point I’ll tackle 6-9. A lot of violence and tech stuff to thin out. I’m up to the job. But first I need to-

Write Wren book 4

This is the next big thing. My goal should probably be to get it done by the end of the year. I’m not feeling a lot of pressure though, as it’s still early in the series. It’s only been 3 months since book 1 came out, and there are already 3. Few people will have read all the way through. I’ve got time.

& Mentoring

This is a thing I’ve been toying with for ages. Do I know enough? Do I sell enough? I don’t have a unique gimmick – one thing I’m an expert in. I just follow best practises of the experts. But maybe I could be an expert.

I gave the talk this week to the Tufnell Park Society of Authors group, and the section that was perhaps most engaging and best received was about ‘knowing your genre’ with regard to covers. I’ve got lots of experience in this area. as a photographer and designer of my own covers, I know a thing or two about this. Add that to blurbs, and you’ve got the essential marketing package.

Maybe I could be an expert on that. Write a calling card book – ‘Know your genre.’ Lots of cool examples. Misfires. A deep understanding kind of thing.

I’ve got a mentoring session today with a real-world marketing pro. I’m doing the mentoring. It will be interesting to say the least. Also gathering some testimonials for when I get round to making a dedicated page:

“Mike’s presentation on self-publishing for the Tufnell Park Writers was brilliant. Some of us are complete beginners, others know more about the topic, a few have self-published – but everyone found the session a complete eye-opener. We all gained a new appreciation about the wealth of digital technologies and services out there, and how to make them work for you as an author. I appreciated Mike’s easy-going, clear, and jargon-free teaching approach, but especially his openness: he was unflinching in answering questions about money (e.g. “How much did that cover design cost you?”), generous with details about some of his mistakes along the way, and candid about the pros and cons of different service providers. Probably the best session our group has had since it started.”

– Andrew Wilson, author of Translators on Translating: Inside the Invisible Art

“Michael Grist is a powerhouse of knowledge and energy when it comes to indie publishing, and in particular to marketing. His knowledge comes from his own experience as an indie author and in our one-hour session he was able to lead me carefully through the process of setting up an email list, together with reader magnet and landing page and all that jazz. He is patient and understanding especially when it comes to techie stuff. There is nothing like a one-to-one tutorial as we are all at different stages when it comes to marketing and IT expertise, and Michael seems to understand algorithms as much as they are humanly understandable. He also makes sure he keeps up to date with the latest goings-on at Amazon etc.”

– Patsy Trench, author and scriptwriter for TV, radio and theatre, co-founder of The Children’s Musical Theatre of London,

Pretty sweet. I’d love to run workshops for larger numbers, get a pro room with decent wifi and no distractions. Maybe in the future.

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