Wren sales down, Facebook ad mystery and W3 rewrites – Writing Wk11 2021

Mike Grist Weekly Writing Update, Writing Leave a Comment

The past week has been a little disappointing sales-wise, as my Facebook ads are delivering less bang for their buck. Thus far they’re still profitable, though I’m spending more to make less, and that is naturally frustrating. What is causing this?

Facebook ad mystery

It’s a mystery, so I don’t know, but every day I try new ad combinations that are attempts to test the water and figure out some kind of mastery. Here are some disconnected comments:

  • Maybe I have already shown my Wren 1 ad image and copy to all the cheap clicks who are likely to buy, in all the major targetable areas who are likely to buy. Only maybe 1% of any given audience have seen my ads on Facebook, but maybe that 1% are the cheap clicks who buy.
  • This is borne out by data – click costs on my Wren 1 ad are up between 20-30p, a lot more than the 12p of the heyday 3 weeks back.
  • So I try new ad images, to the same audience, using the other book covers. Copy doesn’t matter, I can use the book 1 blurb or book 2 or 3, I’m back to getting very cheap clicks, BUT not the sales of yore…
  • So are each of these new ads just targeting the same 1% batch of cheap clicks who buy? And any of them who would buy have already bought, hence the dwindling returns? I don’t think there’s a way to know this or check if these are the same people across ad sets. Maybe they are.
  • If they are, and that’s why they’re not buying, I should stop running these parallel ads. I’ll probably do that tomorrow. Double down on the old ad and its higher cost per click, in the hope that these are new clicks. My ad spend will drop significantly. I’ll be able to get back in touch with who amongst all these ad sets is actually converting.
  • This then is an argument for stopping making new ad sets. Within an ad set, FB is unlikely to show my ad to the same people too often. Across ad sets, I’m thinking each set considers the whole audience afresh. So by running ads in tandem, I’m really hitting the same people multiple times per day. Perhaps a useless thing to do…
  • Funnily enough, something like this actually happened when I first launched Saint Justice with a different cover. I got good sales for cheap clicks for a week or two – then it just went away. Maybe there is a pretty tight group of big buyers on FB, and you can burn through them in days. Maybe…
  • Then the strategy would be, ride one ad image until it can really no longer perform. Then turn it off and start a new ad image to the same audience. Keep moving to new ad images. You’re sort of inundating the audience, but they’re only going to see one ad in any given period.
  • The alternative to all this is that the big spike I had wasn’t even due to FB, but maybe to Amazon. Perhaps they were giving my books some headwind in that period, sending me out in emails. It’s possible. I might never know it. It would throw off all my data. Hmm.

So, that was a lot. My next step is to prune my ads way back. Find out who is performing by adding them back in one at a time. But maybe ditch the parallel ads regardless.

Wren 3 rewrites – Make Them Pay

I swiftly rewrote this back a few months back, mostly to take out the side stories. Now I’ve been looking at it again, in the light of writing new openers for books 1 and 2 that set a very persona stake for Wren, and finding far more wrong than I ever imagined.

This is backed up by reader reviews. Weirdly it has 4 stars on amazon, not 4.5 like book 2. Also weirdly, this is exactly what happened with my Last Mayor series. Book 3 got 4 stars, book 2 got 4.5 Normally when readers are 3 books in, they love your writing. Not in this case.

For the Last Mayor, I ended up making substantial changes to book 3, which ended up with being very short, maybe 50,000 words. Turns out there wasn’t much story in it. Bizarrely, it’s going the same way here. When I first wrote this book, it was probably 90,000 words. Now it is just 60,000! So what am I changing?

  • There are many occasions where I’ve made Wren unlikeable, sort of didactically. Either he is weak (collapsing, weeping, feeling suicidal, going on about all his guilt/PTSD, pointing out his own mistakes, dwelling on his past failures, being unconscious for long stretches of the action, neglecting his Foundation members), or childish/reckless (laughing manically in major action scenes, getting high, getting peevish about ownership of his Foundation, charging in half-cocked) or cruel/incredibly violent (shooting Rogers and leaving her in a suicide cult, berating the Anti-Ca girl endlessly, being brusque with Gruber, horrifically attacking innocent civilians at Namecheck) or doing something unbelievable (having a team who can hack and mobilize dozens of remote driverless vehicles within hours, getting shot a couple of times and feeling mostly fine), or some equally unpleasant behaviour.
  • That’s really a lot. I’m kind of surprised by it all. Why have I done all this? And it was worse before earlier edits, remember. He was harsher. Just a selfish bastard, really. A violence-spraying psycho, like the editor said, acting holier-than-thou but actually completely out of control.
  • To be out of control, whether it is to whims, circumstances, your own choices, is not why people read these books. They want a cool guy dispensing with bad guys in clever ways with clever bon mots. That’s kind of it. They don’t want to be beaten over the head with a guy spraying violence because of some horrific past he still hasn’t processed.
  • So. All that above has changed. It’s a lot. I rewrote whole chapters so Wren’s competence and decency shine through. He’s not taking drugs, feeling sorry for himself, fighting over silly shit anymore. He’s pumped to hunt his father. It’s personal. He hates injustice. He never calls himself a cult leader.
  • Up until now he was still calling himself that. Ugh.
  • Also there are whole chapters gone, largely due to repetitiveness. Right after he breaks NameCheck, he goes down the street and basically does it again with Iota. Why? It adds in a sort of BLM scene, out of nowhere. It is eminently unnecessary, so I cut it. With Jessica the cult girl, he basically makes her flip allegiance to him 3 times. Once would be enough. Now I have it happening twice, which is maybe OK. This happens often with reference to what’s going on on the Internet. I keep mentioning it. But nothing much has happened since the last time I mentioned it, so…
  • Bad events are not properly processed (suicides at Anti-Ca). Mundane events are dwelled on (the Foundation intervention). Long boring calls are made (most calls to Humphreys).
  • I’m fixing all this. Straightening things out so it’s taut.

I’m almost done. It’ll be 60,000 words – really short. Hopefully it’ll be loved, and readthrough will climb. It makes me wonder though, how much of these problems still exists in books 1 and 2, maybe 4 and 5 also? Why would it be in 3 if it’s not also in 2?

Boy oh boy. I’ll need to look through them all, and carry all the lessons forward to book 6. I need to get writing that soon.

By this time next week

I should have a better understanding of my ads. I imagine a smaller budget, more tightly focused. I should also be done with book 3 rewrites, and take a few stabs at book 2. I feel the middle of it may be bogged down. I’ll try to clean it out.

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