It’s been a while …

I last posted in March. Yes, March. I can’t believe it’s been so long but WordPress doesn’t lie. If you’ve been waiting in tenterhooks since my last post then:

  1. You need to find a hobby
  2. You also need to stop telling lies

So what have I been doing? Well, I’ve been spending time with my family (always a good thing), working (sometimes a good thing), and finishing something I should have finished a long time ago.

Yes, I’m very pleased to say that it won’t be long, maybe only a few weeks, before the third and final part of The Transcendence Trilogy is published. It has taken much longer than I thought it would but I’m very proud of the finished article and how it pulls the full trilogy together. When I first set out on this journey I had no idea it would end up with me writing about the same group of characters four years later. There have been many ups and downs, but mostly ups, and I’ve had an awful lot of support from many people, more of which I’ll go into in a later post.

Anyway, to celebrate its forthcoming release I thought I’d share with you something I’ve been keeping under wraps since January.

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What do you think? I love it and think it works really well with the other two books in the series but I’d love to hear your thoughts. I promise you won’t have to wait until November until I answer!

Do you like intelligent thrillers? If so, join my mailing list and get one of my 5-star rated near-future dystopian thrillers absolutely free. The mailing list is guaranteed spam free and I will only contact you if I have a new book launch or an exclusive short story to share. To sign up, please click here. 

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My recent promotion – the results

Two Covers

If you’re a regular follower of this blog you’ll know I ran a promotion over the weekend for both Second Chance and Absent Souls and I wanted to share my results with you.

Background

Outside of blogging and the rare promotional tweet, up until June this year I’ve rarely run a book promotion. Second Chance was published in January 2014 and has stayed in the minor charts on amazon.co.uk ever since. Its sequel, Absent Souls, was published November 2014. There is a third book due out later this year (if I pull my finger out).

I’ve been lucky that I’ve had success with both books on Amazon.co.uk but my efforts of getting noticed in the US have been virtually zero. This is bad news for my sales (the US is by far the largest single ebook market) but good news for testing promotional effectiveness.

I’m not intending to heavily promote my books until book 3 of the trilogy is finished but I wanted to test the effectiveness of different forms of advertising beforehand to see where to focus. I ran my first paid ad in June this year through Booksends, offering Second Chance for free. At the same time I put Absent Souls on a 99c/99p countdown deal. Over the three days Second Chance was downloaded 1000 times and I should enough copies of Absent Souls to cover my costs. While my sales on amazon.com since then have been flat, my pages read (both my books are in Kindle Unlimited) resulted in a higher income than before but were starting to tail off after two months.

The Goal

As in any business, your book promotion should have a goal. My goal was to increase awareness of my two books on Amazon.com, gain new mailing list subscribers and to cover the cost of advertising. I would also hope to see an increase (read: any) in sales and/or pages read over the following weeks.

Promotion Plan

Use the same offer, Second Chance for free and Absent Souls for 99c/99p over three days.

Day 1 – Promote only on my blog, a promotional post by the wonderful author Tammy Salyer, and one or two promotional tweets.

Day 2 – Two adverts placed, one with Ereader News Today (ENT) and the other with Robin Reads. I’d originally planned to promote only with ENT but I’d heard Robin Reads had a good UK following, and as they had a space free I thought I’d try them as well. The cost of both came to the same amount as the cost of the one promotion with Booksends.

Day 3 – No promotion other than the odd tweet.

The Results

IMG_3394Day 1228 downloads of Second Chance.

This was a surprise as I’d expected maybe 50 with so little promotion, so thank you to everybody who took the time to support the promotion with tweets, reblogs or by telling their friends.

Day 21830 downloads of Second Chance.

Because both mailing lists are US based, the first (Robin Reads) didn’t go out until 3pm UK time. I immediately noticed an upsurge of downloads at this point, from around 30 to over 300 by the time the ENT mailing went out at 5:30pm UK time. This is when things went crazy. By the end of the day I’d reached no.2 in the free science fiction/cyberpunk charts, no.8 in the science fiction charts and had broken into the overall top 100 at no. 65. This was well beyond my wildest expectations and a little surreal.

The down side was that I made hardly a ripple on amazon.co.uk, so either the information about Robin Reads was incorrect, or the majority had already bought my book. 🙂

Day 3385 downloads of Second Chance

Over the same period Absent Souls hit no. 13,000 in the overall paid charts, with total sales more than covering the costs of the promotion.

Conclusion

It’s always a little dangerous drawing conclusions from such little data, however it’s clear promoting on two mailing lists was more effective than one. I know this may sound like common sense but remember I paid the same amount of money for the June promotion and the one last weekend.

I also believe you need momentum for a successful promotion. The promotion in June met my goals but it only got Second Chance into the top 50 of the Science Fiction charts. Breaking into the top 10 of science fiction, and the top 100 overall, meant Second Chance was visible to a much larger audience, giving it a second chance (no pun intended) to be seen and downloaded by readers other than those on the mailing list.

For the longer term goals it’s too early to say. I know from Kevin Brennan’s blog earlier this year, that high free downloads doesn’t automatically mean higher sales, but even if I don’t reach this goal as yet, I’ve learnt another lesson on the effectiveness of different promotional options and strategies.

What about you? If you’re a writer, which promotional routes do you find most effective? Or if you’re an avid reader, have you signed up to any bargain book mailing lists and if so, which ones? I’d love to hear from you.

 

Do you like intelligent thrillers? If so, join my mailing list and get one of my 5-star rated near-future dystopian thrillers absolutely free. The mailing list is guaranteed spam free and I will only contact you if I have a new book launch or an exclusive short story to share. To sign up, please click here. 

Second Chance is #Free on #Kindle this weekend

Two Covers

I’m delighted to let you know that Second Chance, my near-future thriller is available as a FREE Ebook on Kindle from the 29th – 31st August. You can download it today by clicking on one of the links below.

To get Second Chance FREE from Amazon.com click here

To get Second Chance FREE from Amazon.co.uk click here

To get Second Chance FREE from Amazon.ca click here

To get Second Chance FREE from Amazon.com.au click here

 

And if that isn’t a good enough bargain, you can also buy the sequel, Absent Souls, for just 99p/99c from amazon.co.uk and amazon.com.

To buy Absent Souls for 99c from Amazon.com click here

To buy Absent Souls for 99p from Amazon.co.uk click here

Two great books for just 99p/99c. Happy Friday!

Praise for Second Chance

“Political intrigue, neuroscience, a missing-persons investigation – this well-written novel has it all.” – Carrie Rubin, author of The Seneca Scourge

“a highly entertaining and thought-provoking first novel” – Vaughan Stanger, author of Moondust Memories

“Overall I enjoyed this novel greatly. I recommend it to readers looking for an engaging science-fiction or political thriller.” – Dave Higgins, Davetopia Blog and author of Greenstar Season 1

“This is a slick, well written book with a strong storyline and plenty of narrative tension.” – Sarah J Higby – Brainfluff blog

Praise for Absent Souls

A pacy story with a cast of vividly drawn characters and plenty to keep the reader engaged.” – Julie Lawford, author of Singled Out

Thought-provoking, well-written and very enjoyable.” – Roughseasinthemed blog

“Absent Souls plunges the reader into the action from the first chapter, and the pace doesn’t let up. ” – Katrina Montfort, author of Future Perfect

Thank so much for your support

Two Covers

I just wanted to say a quick thank you to everybody who have been kind enough to support my promo weekend. I’ve been blown by the response. At the time of writing, Second Chance is the no.2 in the amazon.com free science fiction/cyberpunk charts (damn you Rationality Zero and your better sales!) and 318 overall. Also, Absent Souls has sold enough copies to virtually cover the cost of the promotion, which has been an unexpected bonus!

So thank you to everyone who has shared this blog, retweeted any of my promotional tweets, shared on Facebook, Instagram or any of the millions of other social networks out there. You are too many to mention individually but if we ever meet in real life, remind me I owe you a drink!

The promotion still has a couple of days to run, so don’t panic if you’ve yet to take part. You can buy/download the books on the following links.

Second Chance

To get Second Chance FREE from Amazon.com click here

To get Second Chance FREE from Amazon.co.uk click here

To get Second Chance FREE from Amazon.ca click here

To get Second Chance FREE from Amazon.com.au click here

 

Absent Souls

To buy Absent Souls for 99c from Amazon.com click here

To buy Absent Souls for 99p from Amazon.co.uk click here

Promotion Warning

Two Covers

This is just a little heads up that I’ll be running a free ebook promotion on Second Chance and a 99p/99c offer on Absent Souls for a few days from Friday and may be posting and tweeting about it. For those of you who dislike author promotions, you may want to avoid my blog / twitter feed from Friday and through the weekend (although I promise not to overdo it. After that normal service will be resumed.

For the rest of you lovely readers, if you’d be willing to share or retweet my promotion when it starts I’d be eternally grateful, but if you’d prefer not to I won’t hold it against you.

Of course, for those of you who can’t wait that long, you could always sign up to my mailing list and get your choice of book absolutely free!

Love and hugs,

Dylan

Interview with Author Dylan Hearn

I had the great pleasure of being interviewed by the wonderful Sacha Black earlier this year. If you haven’t done so before, I highly recommend you visit Sacha’s blog, especially if you’re new to writing, as she has lots of helpful hints, tips and writing prompts, and is also very open about the ups and downs of the process.

Sacha Black

Dylan Hearn

Interview slots are now closed until September 1st, when I am opening the slots up for author book release and promotions (i.e. without the interview).

I had the pleasure of being recommended Second Chance by Geoff Le Pard, which is now sitting high up on my list of to read. I then stumbled across a particular post of Dylan’s, ‘You Know You’re A Writer When‘ and after a fit of giggles and eye rolling because I did most of the things on his list, I knew I wanted to interview him. You can find his blog here. I am delighted to present an interview with Dylan Hearn:

View original post 3,377 more words

Goodreads Giveaway: Second Chance and Absent Souls

dfw-dsh-1sc-cover-3d

To celebrate the publication of the new paperback edition of Second Chance, and the first paperback edition of Absent Souls, I’m running two Goodreads giveaways where you have the chance to win one of two signed copies of each book. The giveaway is open now midnight on StarWars day (May 4th). For more information, simply click on the links below. Best of luck!

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Second Chance by Dylan S. Hearn

Second Chance

by Dylan S. Hearn

Giveaway ends May 04, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to Win

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Absent Souls by Dylan S. Hearn

Absent Souls

by Dylan S. Hearn

Giveaway ends May 04, 2015. See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to Win

The bad, the good and the beautiful of the cover design process

In November I published Absent Souls as an ebook only. This wasn’t because I didn’t have a paperback ready but because I’d planned to have new covers for my books and it made no sense spending extra money on a paperback cover which would only be replaced in a few weeks. Or so I thought.

The need for change

When I first published Second Chance, I couldn’t afford to have a bespoke cover designed and I have the drawing skills of a three-year-old, so I used a pre-made cover service at goonwrite.com. I went on the site, chose a cover I liked, had my book title and author name added and published. If you are looking to publish on a budget, I would thoroughly recommend this approach.

After a couple of weeks I’d sold enough ebook copies to justify buying a paperback cover. It was more expensive, but many people had contacted me asking for a paperback so i knew it would eventually pay itself back.

While I love the cover for Second Chance, I realised quite early on that the combination of title and cover art wasn’t eye-catching enough to attract a reader’s attention, or to convey what the book was about. However, I needed to sell enough copies to justify the expenditure.

The bad

Nine months later and I was in a position to move. I’d done my research, identified a well-respected cover designer who was very busy but was taking on commissions from mid-December. I paid my 50% deposit, was sent a briefing document, completed it and was told it would be 10 working days before I received my first designs, so I happily waited.

And waited.

And waited.

I chased a couple of times, received apologies and the offer of a discount for my trouble, then six weeks after the work started, I received the first designs. They were good, not exactly what I wanted but they showed promise. I sent my feedback as requested and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

I chased on numerous occasions but received no reply. Eventually I was forced to contact Paypal to get my money back, which the designer did quickly and with no complaint. I still have no idea what went wrong.

The good

It was now three months since the process had started, four months since Absent Souls was published and I was still no closer to having the new covers I needed. I started to research online once again and saw this post by Julie Stock, raving about the cover for her new book, From Here to Nashville. I looked up the site of her designers, Design for Writers, and liked what I saw. I contacted them and as luck would have it they were able to slot me in for mid-April.

I was clearly nervous after my last experience but I was soon put at my ease. the briefing process was so much more refined. I was asked questions about the book, the story, the lead characters, but also about how the book makes readers feel, the atmosphere it creates, the type of book covers I like and why, and those I don’t, along with many, many more. Where my answers weren’t clear, Andrew – the designer – asked pertinent questions to help me think about what I was looking for.

The team at Design for Writers use basecamp to manage their projects, so I had access to anything that was said at any time and knew exactly what was going on. There was interaction, and lots of it, and best of all Andrew positively encouraged ideas,  but was also not afraid to say when things wouldn’t work and why. I told them to design the covers I need, not necessarily what I wanted. Thankfully they delivered on both counts. If you are ever looking for cover designers, I couldn’t recommend Design for Writers enough.

The beautiful

So here is the end result. These are my beautiful new covers. For those of you who’ve read my books, hopefully what you see will correspond with what you’ve read (although please don’t give away any details).

dfw-dsh-1sc-cover-middfw-dsh-2as-cover-mid

 

The paperbacks for Second Chance and Absent Souls have been updated and are now available to purchase, the ebooks are in process of having their selling pages updated in the next day or so. I’ve also included the full paperback spreads below as I think they’re truly stunning.

dfw-dsh-1sc-cover-spread low res dfw-dsh-2as-cover-spread low res

 

So what do you think? Do you like my covers? If you’re a writer, how did you go about getting your covers designed? Was it a bad, good or beautiful experience? I’d love to hear from you.

Do you like intelligent thrillers? If so, join my mailing list and get one of my 5-star rated near-future dystopian thrillers absolutely free. The mailing list is guaranteed spam free and I will only contact you if I have a new book launch or an exclusive short story to share. To sign up, please click here. 

 

On completing a first draft

ticker tape

licensed under Creative Commons 2.0: source http://www.flickr.com/photos/iluvgadgets/

If you are passing Suffolk at any point today, you may hear the odd scream of joy or bought of hysterical laughter. After what seems like years (but has only been three months), the first draft of Genesis Redux – The Transcendence Trilogy Part 3, is complete.

I don’t know about you, but for me, writing a first draft us a little like taking exams or buying a house – it’s only once you’ve finished that you realise just how much stress you’ve been under. This has been especially true of Genesis Redux.

With Second Chance I went into the process blind. The challenge was to write a book. The first draft was fun because I placed absolutely no expectations on myself. It was only after a number of people read it and told me it was good, that the pressure mounted to get it into a good enough shape to publish.

Absent Souls was different again. This time I had some pressure because Second Chance had been so well received, but at the same time I felt comfortable with my writing process. Whereas Second Chance was a journey into the unknown, Absent Souls was a trip with old friends, the sort where you get to know each other at a far deeper level than before. By this point I had an idea where the series was going, but not necessarily how it got there, so I had the freedom to play around a little and see what happened. The good news is that so far fans of the series have loved the journey too.

With Genesis Redux, however, there has been pressure from the start. It’s the final part in the series, and although each book can be read (and enjoyed) as a standalone novel, it was important that I brought all the major plot lines to a satisfactory conclusion. This has proven to be difficult. It has taken a while for me to find a way to reach an ending that stays true to the characters without feeling contrived. I’ve probably discarded more scenes in this first draft than I ever have before, because I knew I was putting plot before characterisation, forcing my characters to do things that didn’t come naturally.

At the same time, I needed to have the draft finished by the end of this month for personal reasons, and only a few weeks back this looked unachievable. However, I’ve ended up with a completed first draft with which I’m mostly happy (which with first drafts, is a good space to be in).

Of course, any of you who have written a book know that ‘completed’ as far as first drafts is concerned is a misnomer. There are so many things left to do. I have locations I need to change and expand upon, I have plot threads I need to backtrack into earlier parts of the novel and I have themes that emerged towards the end of the novel that need to be tweaked and highlighted in earlier scenes. I also have to follow character timelines to ensure they haven’t miraculously recovered from injuries which happened only moments – but a few chapters – earlier, or manic mood swings with no apparent cause. There are motivations to assess and monitor, behaviours too. And of course there is the all important pacing to consider. And after all that there’s polishing, lots and lots of polishing.

Yet despite all this, editing is the process I love the best. While I enjoy the freedom of the first draft, I’m not the most creative person when faced with a blank page. I’m much better adapting something that already exists. I find I generate more ideas during the edit than I do while writing the first draft. The biggest challenge is to know which ones to include and which to ignore.

I can’t wait to start the editing process, but for it to be effective waiting is what I’ll be doing. I’ve learnt through experience I need to leave my draft at least a month, preferably six weeks, so when I read it back it feels like reading another’s writing, and that’s when I edit the best. So in the mean time I get to work on something new. For the first time in nearly three years I get to think of something other than the Transcendence Trilogy universe. I’m quite looking forward to it. But before that, I’m going to celebrate.

What about you? What’s your favourite part of the writing process? Are you like me and love the edit, or do you enjoy the freeform creativity of the first draft? Are you happy to leave a draft knowing there is work still left to be done, or do you have to correct all plot points before you’re ready to move on? I’d love to hear from you.

Do you like intelligent thrillers? If so, join my mailing list and get one of my 5-star rated near-future dystopian thrillers absolutely free. The mailing list is guaranteed spam free and I will only contact you if I have a new book launch or an exclusive short story to share. To sign up, please click here. 

Regrets? I’ve had a few… My 5 biggest self-publishing mistakes

no-regrets

It’s been one year since I pressed the publish button and Second Chance took its first steps out into the big, wide world. Looking back, I realise just how lucky I’ve been to have escaped relatively unscathed from some of the mistakes I made. I’m not unusual in this, most self-published authors blunder at some point along the way, and I’m not talking about trying things that don’t work, but simple, elementary mistakes.

So, rather than keep these lessons to myself, I though I’d expose what I view as my biggest mistakes so hopefully you won’t do the same.

Regret 1 – Not reading up about self-publishing

Made up my mind to publish and after a few days had launched an ebook. I read voraciously, but not the right material. I read about how to format an ebook, good sites to purchase book covers, how to create a paperback book – the mechanics of self-publishing but not about self-publishing as a business. It was only a few weeks after launch that I picked up a couple of ebooks that changed my thinking completely.

The first was Write, Publish, Repeat by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant, the second Let’s Get Visible (and later, Let’s Get Digital) by David Gaughran. These books take you a step-by-step through the pre-launch, launch and post launch phase of self-publishing, giving good, simple advice all the way through without promising the world. If I’d read these books beforehand, I might not have made the subsequent mistakes I did.

Regret 2 – Not researching my categories and keywords

When I made the snap decision to publish I’d been blogging for 6 months, mostly about other aspects of my life. I’d made little attempt to generate interest in my book because I wasn’t even sure if I’d publish, and if so, how? So, when I published I bombarded my friends on Facebook (I’ve never had an author page), many of whom were curious to see what I’d written.

Because of the generosity of friends (or morbid curiosity) Second Chance spent its first few days in the high 4000’s in the amazon.co.uk charts. It was a great result for such little planning, but sadly nobody knew because I hadn’t set up my categories correctly. I’d selected a category (science fiction – dystopian) but had no idea how popular that category was. After the initial rush, my book disappeared from view.

It was only afterwards I found out about how to research sub-categories to see how competitive they are, allowing me to choose one that enhanced my chances of visibility. I set my book up differently and since then Second Chance has only spent a couple of weeks out total of the amazon.co.uk Science Fiction – Cyberpunk charts. However, if I’d had this set up from the beginning, it may even have got to no.1.

However, this turned out to be a bit of luck because…

Regret 3 – Not taking ownership of my text

I’d spent 15 months writing Second Chance, producing seven drafts in total. I knew the importance of getting the book right. I’d heard of issues with self-publishers not proofreading their work and knew I didn’t want to be one of ‘them’, so I asked a friend to give the book a ‘quick once over’ as a favour. He came back with some corrections, which I made, and I then published. The more experienced writers will know what’s coming next.

A few days later I was contacted by friends letting me know my book had a few issues with typos. They offered to note them down and a couple of days later sent through a list of 58 errors. I was mortified. The book had been checked through. How could this have happened?

The issue was that I hadn’t taken ownership of my text. Not only that, I hadn’t the first clue on just how much work was required and how many passes needed to get a pristine copy. Over the coming months I arranged a second thorough edit which identified another 200+ changes. Not all were typos, but it shows you how much more work was required.

I was lucky. I only received one review, on Amazon.com, knocking me down because of those typos. It is the review I regret the most, not because I have an issue with it or the reviewer, but because if I had taken full ownership of my text it would never have happened. What I don’t know is how many readers I lost because of those early errors.

I learnt my lesson. When publishing Absent Souls, the book was proofread by myself, then by my wife, sent to a copyeditor for his first pass,  sent to a proofreader, sent to a second proofreader, proofread by myself again, sent to my copyeditor for a second pass, then finally proofread twice more by myself. This isn’t to say it’s perfect, but I’ve yet to hear of any errors (and if I do, they will be corrected and the book immediately updated).

Regret 4 – Not setting up a mailing list

Many of my regular followers will know I have a mailing list. I’d been meaning to do it for some time but never got around to it. What made me change my mind? My damp squib of a launch for Absent Souls.

Mailing lists are great because the people who join up are interested in your work. Nobody is forced to join. These lovely people want to be kept informed about book launches. Studies have shown that promotions through “sign-up” mailing lists have a hit rate of 30-40%. This compares to 1-2% on a random mailing or 0.0001% via tweeting.

Because I hadn’t set up a mailing list, only a few people bought Absent Souls at launch (although I’m grateful to everyone who did). Since then, the sales of Absent Souls have grown, but I’m still approached by people asking when my next book’s out. These are people who are interested in my work but had no idea Absent Souls had already been published, exactly the type of people who would sign up to a mailing list. I’d lost the chance of having a bigger push, and therefore bigger visibility, at launch.

Now, with a growing mailing list, coupled with a special launch offer exclusive to those on my mailing list, I’m hoping my next launch will be a little different.

Regret 5 – Not starting on the next book straight away

After writing Second Chance I spent a couple of months basking in the warmth of having completed a novel. What I should have been doing was writing the next book. In fact, I should have started even earlier when I’d put my first draft to one side for a few weeks. That would have been the ideal time to start planning book 2 ready to start writing as soon as Second Chance was published.

One of the big lessons I received from Write, Publish, Repeat is that very few authors have great sales from their first book. The majority of authors who make a living from writing do so through moderate sales, with these sales multiplied across many books. They also publish new books on a regular basis to maintain visibility. Even though Absent Souls came out 10 months after Second Chance, I believe I could have knocked 2 months off that timescale if I’d been a little more organised. This would have given me more months of sales, but also meant I would be much further down the path of writing book 3.

You’ll notice there is one thing I don’t regret: publishing my book. Despite the hard work, the mistakes I’ve made and the fact I’ve not hit the bestsellers lists, I don’t for a minute regret doing this. It’s been one hell of a year and I can’t wait to see what happens during the next one.

So those are my biggest regrets. What are yours? Do these ring a bell or are there other things that you would go back and change if you had the chance? I’d love to hear from you.

Do you like intelligent thrillers? If so, join my mailing list and get one of my 5-star rated near-future dystopian thrillers absolutely free. The mailing list is guaranteed spam free and I will only contact you if I have a new book launch or an exclusive short story to share. To sign up, please click here.