Wren book 4 & ROI ad analysis – 2020 Writing Week 15

Mike Grist Weekly Writing Update, Writing Leave a Comment

Coronavirus lockdown drags on, and I don’t know about anyone else, but my stress levels directly related to the virus have dropped right off. It’s largely a known quantity now, it seems we’re doing the right things to manage it, and the daily death count horror has receded.

No doubt it is horrific if you’re in thick of it. There are still terrible stories in the news, but then there are always are terrible stories in the news.

So, my coronavirus reaction is more one of just being cooped up for a long time. It’s not even that bad, as I like my house, but I do miss other people’s cooking. We would normally go out to eat a few times a week, nothing too fancy – just the local greasy spoon, maybe a takeout, possibly a nice meal on the weekend – but without that, we’re only left with food we make ourselves, and that is kind of samey, no matter if we try a new recipe or not.

No surprises.

Onto writing. I have focused on writing this week – producing something like 2000 word a day – but not everyday, and also drastically reworking my Facebook ads.


It is kind of amazing that I launched Wren book 3 6 months ago. I’ve been dabbling on book 4 since. This week I made a big push ahead, but didn’t get too far before running up against some issues.

One is the usual one – which always comes at about a third in. Once I’ve had the ESCAPE section of the book, extricating Wren from whatever immediate attack the bad guy launches, it’s time to consider the next step.

The main difficulty here is not only Wren’s next step, but the bad guy’s. What is their plan? Is it feasible? Is it overly complex? Would it work? What are they seeking to achieve?

It always takes me some time and multiple false starts to get over this. I’ve got to put myself into their head, and hold those thoughts in my head at the same time as Wren is bouncing along trying to figure out what they’re doing. It’s fun but exhausting, and it does feel a little like sculpture – carving out a shape that already exists.

I just have to find it. Whatever the inciting incident was, the ‘first murder’ if this was a straight detective thriller, it tells me what the ‘second murder’ will be. It’s all baked in there right at the start.

A second issue is one of realism. I’ve had a few comments on previous books that Wren is a bit of a superhero, that events are unlikely, that it might be like a comic book. This is a little annoying, though not massively, and I was aware of it, but I’d like to dial it back. At the same time, I want every action scene to go big!!

No answers on this. Try to set things up so they are realistic. Also, any time his hackers do something a little ‘magical’, I try to pave the way so it doesn’t seem so outlandish. Nothing they do, I feel, is impossible with modern tech – but I can imagine to some it seems like sci-fi.

Anyway, I’m in a good place to push forward through the middle.

Word count – 33,600. Almost halfway.


In previous weeks I was doing a complex analysis of ad clicks, CTR, CPC and other metrics. This week I simplified everything and looked just at outlay and income by book and region. The individual ads vary, of course, but I wasn’t doing a deep dive ad by ad anyway, rather book by book, so this is not so different.

I took Ad Spend, Revenue, and calculated Profit/Loss per day and ROI. The analysis leaped right out:

  • The only region where Wren book 1 is making money is the UK, with ROIs of 10-100%. US, AU and Ca all just lose money day on day. This is largely because of low conversion – 1 in 50 or less, which is terrible. I don’t know why. Maybe the high number of vindictive likes on my worst reviews? I contacted Amazon to have a look at that.
  • The zombie box set is generally losing money in Au and Ca, despite good-looking sales numbers. This is odd, but probably due to fewer page reads in those countries, as fewer people are in KU.
  • The zombie box in UK and USA is funding everybody else.

Conclusions were:

  • Turn off Wren book 1 ads everywhere and turn on the boxset. It has basically no reviews, but should be more appealing to KU readers as it is a 3-book set, so better value for their single pick. An upside of no reviews is I bypass those unfairly upvoted negative reviews.
  • Focus my spend primarily on the zombie box in the UK and US. Aim for ROI daily of 100% – basically doubling my money. Not easy.

All this keeps me very busy.

I also essentially reinvented all my ads today, after hearing Adam Croft say on his podcast that he was sending $800 a day on FB and getting 6c clicks with great profits. What!! I get 14c cicks at best. What is he doing?

I go look on his ads library. It is all short video ads! The videos are super basic, 7 seconds long with no sound and have very little to do with his books, but perhaps set a mood.

I can do that. I went and found some free footage, often from drones, downloaded them, trimmed them to length, then made ads. 4 stock footage for zombies, with a new ad copy inspired by the ’empty’ video, and 4 for Wren – one a car racing along what looks like Joshua Tree National Park – the exact spot the first book’s cover comes from.

I turned all other ads off. Now I have a couple of audiences set in US and UK, and all ads are dynamic. Thus far, only one ad switched on, but was getting 6c clicks! We will see if they convert. If they do, maybe I just increased my sales x3?

That would allow Wren to be profitable. I could expand back to Au and Ca and make money too. We will see.

Next week’s plan

I’d love to get serious words done next week. Beyond 40,000 would be the minimum. 50,000 would be very encouraging. That’s only 17,000, which is only 2,400 a day. If I stop tinkering and focus, it’s doable.

Finish by the end of May. Get book 5 by end of August, book 6 by end of December, then that’s another box set, and 6 books all told. A good target. Then book 7, which may close out the current cycle, in early 2021. Then onto whatever comes for Wren next. I don’t know yet.

Also I’ve got the new post-apoc series I’ve been kicking around. Would be good to get on with that.

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