Writing Wk1 2021 – Wren’s world comes true, Pickfu, webclouds

Mike Grist Weekly Writing Update, Writing Leave a Comment

The first week of 2021 proved itself the bully big brother to 2020 with an American coup attempt / insurrection at the Capitol in Washington DC. I’m not American (I’m half-American, but a full British national), but watching that awful event transpire live really knocked me for 6.

This kind of thing can happen. Really, the exact kind of thing I’ve spent 2+ years writing about and exploring in the Christopher Wren thrillers.

Trump’s followers as blind cult devotees. Trump as a doomsday cult leader. Social media spreading disinformation which leads to real world violence.

Wednesday evening I went to bed feeling almost sick with the concept of the Wren thrillers. Who would want to read this stuff now – now that it was actually happening? I felt sick with thinking about it.

All night I tossed and turned, in and out of dreams where my books blurred with the reality of the Capitol attack. Partly I was dreaming doubt – that my books were even going far enough. Fact had overtaken fiction. My books were redundant. They weren’t capturing the truth of the issue.

I woke up with some kind of clarity though, which hardened through the day. The Wren books are valuable. They dig into the extremist mindset. Qanon. Trump devotees. They try to open up that mindset so we can understand it, properly react to it, and help fix it.

This thought process resulted in this Facebook post early on Thursday morning:

Prior to writing this, I’d been really wrestling with the opening to book 6 of the Wren series. At this point we were pretty far along to boiling the frog. The people en masse are pretty close to their tipping point. But I had a kid as the lead foil who wasn’t yet a true believer. She was in for it the lulz – a troll, basically.

Then I looked again at these people in the Capitol riot. They were loving it. Trump was loving it. I read my FB post again. It’s all about loving it. These people are junkies for the lies Trump and Qanon pitch. At the start I expect they know that. But it’s fun.

Then they research. They impel each other to ‘Do your research’. That process is one of self-radicalization.

All my books explore this self-radicalization process. Book 6 will double down on that. Show the movement from troll to true believer. That’s the same as moving from being a casual drug-user to a full-blown addict. You’ll do anything to get your fix.


So I did some writing.


Last week I was aiming for 10,000 words by now. I’m actually at 8,500, which is close, and I’ll get some more shortly. Time to ramp back up.

By this time next week, why not go big and expect 20,000? Could close out this book in a couple of months.


In the last week my Facebook ads have become painfully ineffective. I think, at least. I turned on new ads using this book image:

I think it looks awesome. No one who clicks can be under any doubt that it’s a book. It got pretty good clicks, hundreds of them, but did not move the needle on sales.

This is strange and disconcerting. Always previously, even when my ads didn’t make profits or really pay, they pretty much always showed a response from ads. I sent clicks, sales went up. Not always enough to get out of the red, but the response was there.

In the last week? I don’t see the response. Sales are flat at almost zero. I do not get it. Could it really be the new cover? It’s a fantastic cover. Is it the building on fire – it reminds people of 9/11 too much? But then they’re clicking on the ad, which already has the fire baked in.

So what the hell?

I reached out to Amazon and asked them to check my page worked. They said it was working. I got a VPN to look at the US site myself – it looked fine.

So maybe it was the combo of this new cover with my earlier blurb? But how could I test that? Here’s what I did next – as posted on the Self-publishing Formula Facebook page:

The word cloud was a real revelation. I learned a lot.

My response was to stick with that blurb above, but take all the edges off:

  • Vicious doomsday group’ became ‘murderous family’. Still strong but less so.
  • ‘Dark skills of human manipulation’ became ‘dark set of skills’. Less info, more left to the imagination.
  • ‘A mass terror network’ became ‘a mass conspiracy
  • ‘Explosive thriller’ became ‘fast-paced thriller’.

Someone said do away with the bolding, so I have. Someone said they don’t like books in series, so I added a line about each book being a complete story.

I also just started up some new Amazon ads (just now) with a new/old approach. For some time I’ve been trying to make focused, targeted, high-bid Amazoin ads work. They haven’t. Now I’m going back to a more shotgun approach, with 700 keywords lifted from terrorism books in the top 100.

Low bids. Many key words. Hopefully I can pick up some crumbs this way. I can’t play at $1+ bids anyway, so no point pretending I can. Go lower and see if I can get a trickle of sales moving.

That’s all a lot, isn’t it?


We had our first London Indie Authors zoom meetup on Tuesday – and it went fantastically well. Honestly, I’m not sure why. In previous months, after co-organizer Jerome stepped down, I was almost on the edge of throwing in the towel.

Then I made the Facebook group. It has 35 members, and modest interaction, but it’s something that’s always there. It helps to say in the zoom group – ok, if you didn’t get your question answered, put it in the FB group and somebody will answer.

That feels way more like a community.

Also, we covered a great deal of ground in the zoom. I broke us into 4 groups – we had a guy from South Korea, a lady from America – so everyone could do some talking for 20 minutes. Then we covered topics in strict 5-minute pods.

Lots of great intel shared. I learned something – Jon-Jon shared the bklnk link, which tells you what categories your book is in. That got me thinking about making a word cloud, actually. Very productive indeed. Also very much on topic.

Yes. Let’s keep this going.


I’m due another cover tomorrow, for book 3. My designer also gave me a copy of book 1 without the building on fire -on the off-chance that is causing problems on the sales page. I’ll swap it in then out at some point to see if it alters sales conversion.

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