Ghost War launches & Saint Justice conversion up – 2020 Writing Week 24

Mike Grist Weekly Writing Update, Writing 2 Comments

Ghost War, book 4 of the Chris Wren thrillers, is out today!

I’ve had a number of beta readers on the ARC team get back to me with comments and great fixes for minor issues. So far there are just reviews in, but I’m loving them. Here’s Julian’s review off Goodreads:

I don’t like using ‘roller-coaster/page-turner’ in reviews as they are too pat descriptors, useful shorthand, maybe – but lacking some oomph. And Ghost War certainly has the OOMPH! If I wanted a brief description then ‘express train ride, barely short of a complete runaway train’ comes close. The action is breath-taking, right from the start – and I’m not going to try to describe it. Go and read for yourself – but make sure you have read the previous books first.

Over three books we have gradually learned something of Wren’s early life and upbringing. We learn some more here as we careen through the action. The shocking climax is followed by a brief sense of relief that the storm has passed – but then everything is topped by the ending. I should have seen it coming but I completely failed to, logical though it is.

A stunning book – go, read it.

I’m incredibly pleased with that. Many readers have said it’s the best book in the series yet. This is also great news – and also bodes well for the recent changes I’ve made to book 1, 2, 3 to unkill people and generally reduce the horror quotient.

I don’t have massive promo plans for Ghost War – it’s book 4 in a series – my main plan is to notify my newsletter list, maybe run a couple of Facebook ads to past engagers to let them know book 4 is out, then just keep trying to push people through the funnel starting at book 1.

There’s 2 components to achieve that, one is converting people on the Saint Justice sales page, and two is getting them to read through to book 2, 3, etc.. I’ll address readthrough first.

Tackling Saint Justice Readthrough

I’m really aware the readthrough from Saint Justice to book 2 Monsters is poor. If I look at lifetime KU page reads for each book, we can see:

  • Saint Justice – 600,000 pages
  • Monsters – 240,000 pages
  • Reparation – 120,000 pages

This is not good. To Monsters KU readthrough is 40%. Through to Reparation is 20%. It means a lot of people are tailing off, not only from book 1 to 2, but also from 2 to 3. Drop off from 2 to 3 is 50%, which is huge. by that point, they should be hooked.

Why are they not?

Well, as above I expect the violence has something to do with this. I’ve been grading the violence down for months now. Unkilling people across the series. Let’s look at readthrough that may take some of that into account, for the past 90 days:

  • Saint Justice – 83,000
  • Monsters – 35,000
  • Reparation – 27,000

So what are we looking at here? Book 1 to 2 is now a readthrough rate of 42%. Probably not statistically significant. ie – people are not reading through any more. From 2 to 3 is 77%, which is much better than 50%. So I still lose the same number of people off book 1, but I keep more of them into book 3.

This is something. Maybe there are other changes I need to make to book 2 to make this better. As soon as I know what those changes are, I’ll make them. Currently books 2 and 3 have only positive reviews. I need more people in the funnel to write reviews and tell me why they’re dropping off.

Saint Justice Conversion

For a year now since Saint Justice came out I’ve been sending clicks to the sales page, and mostly losing money. Conversion was not great. I knew something was wrong, and have changed the cover multiple times, the categories, the blurb, the social proof.

Recently I wrote on a thriller board asking for help, and got some great tips.

  • My blurb was too long. Too much detail. In response, I cut it in half.
  • There were mentions of ‘apocalyptic cult’ and ‘prevent Armageddon’ which might bring genre confusion. I removed them.
  • The tagline was ‘It takes a cult leader to kill a cult’. Many people said this cult angle would put them right off. There are no positive connotations of ‘cult leader’. They’re not ready yet to see Wren as a leader of a good cult. It’s just the wrong word. So I cut every mention.
  • Too much social proof. I reduced it, and left only 2 short blurbs from fellow thriller authors.
  • Too many words taken up wirth series reading order – end on a call to action. Done.
  • In addition, the highly ranked negative reviews are probably hurting, but all I can do about that is sell more, try and get more reviews, and have those reviews be positive.

Has conversion increased? I haven’t figured out the precise stats, but generally speaking, yes. The last 2 days I sold 11 copies each day at $2.99, for a similar spend that on previous days was netting 3 or 4 sales.

It’s not statistically significant yet, but it’s encouraging. If I can keep this new conversion rate up, and add better readthrough, this series should get profitable. As soon as it’s profitable, I can ramp up advertising spend and hopefully see the same rates hold out.

For the past year Chris Wren has been a race car getting tuned up. I, the mechanic, would take it out for drives and it would keep losing races, blowing smoke, getting flat tires. I didn’t know the genre or the expectations too well, so I was a pretty blind mechanic.

Now I know them better. Is the car ready for a big race? Perhaps it is getting there. The more people I can push through the funnel, the more data I should get on sticking points, and the better I can fine-tune the car. As we get closer to profit, I can speed up ad spend, get even more data, faster, and fine-tune on the fly. Racing pit stops.

It’s exciting. I feel I may be on the precipice.

To Do

Next task is to write book 5. This week I’ve mostly been breaking the major plot points. Everything is to play for. How to top book 4, but not be exhausting? I also put book 5 up for pre-order with a placeholder cover.

Also, I need to make any final changes to book 4 and get it into audio production.

By next week, would be good to have the first 10k written. This would give me a strong launching pad for the rest of the book. In theory, I should be able to finish it in 3 months, with book 6 by December. That’d be great. We will see.

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