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Thursday Thoughts: Blogging Questions?

I’m relatively new to blogging, only doing it since 2019, and I’d like to get your thoughts on a few things.

Do you blog more than you read others, or are you primarily a reader? I suspect most people on WP write more, but maybe there are more that just enjoy the various offerings.

How often do you update your web pages? I have been working on streamlining my landing page, trying to keep it uncluttered and easy for visitors to find what they need while showcasing my work.

How much storage space do you use. Oh, I still have plenty, but there are a lot of photos and such. If I delete them, then the posts that use them will have the little “image not available” on them.

Do you find the block editor “yell at the screen worthy”?

And now he dirty word: Monetizing

I use my blog to: exercise my writing skills, entertain, inform, and to let people know that I am here. Through my blog, readers can visit my website if what I write is interesting to them. While there, they can: purchase any of my books or merchandise, receive free samples of my books when they sign up for my newsletter, listen to some of the music that I have written, and look for free offerings from other authors I promote. 

I notice that some posts are partial, which if you wish to read the rest, a link is provided that will take you to the writer’s website. Obviously, this will boost the traffic there, but do you tend to pass those over in favor of staying within the WP feeds? I could probably put my posts onto my Medium.com page and get more reads there, but that feels like I’m trying to control where the reader goes.

Do you use your blog primarily for revenue, or is it for the love of writing?

There you go. Discuss.


Leon Stevens is a blogger, composer, artist, and an author of three books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and Pictures, Journeys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar and The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories.

Categories
thoughts writers

The Purge: Redux

I periodically purge my email subscriber list. I have done three since I started with my mail host. The last purge email was opened by 3 subscribers, so they remained on the list. The others? Well, they get archived and are not counted in my stats. Which means my open rate goes up. I rather have 50 subscribers who are interested in my writings than having a large list and low open percentage.

I do state in my sign-up that subscribers should check their spam folder if they don’t receive the welcome email. Often, the welcome email is the only one that is opened and sometimes it is not even that.  I assume that most of the addresses that have no opens are the secondary ones that people use to sign up for free stuff.

Here is what I send:

Dear Subscriber,

Ever see the movie, The Purge? Don’t. It’s a terrible movie. I can’t believe they made more than one, two more actually. Anyway, this email is going out to subscribers who haven’t opened any emails for at least 2 months. I may have made a mistake and accidentally added you to this list, so I apologize and you can stop reading now. 

I am glad that you wanted to read my books and subscribe to my newsletter. Part of being a writer is to entertain readers. I hope that I have been doing this on a weekly basis.

However, nobody likes unwanted email, and I don’t want to contribute to the digital trash folder. If you no longer want to receive my newsletter and updates, please let me know by unsubscribing at the bottom of the page. If you have any comments or feedback, I would love to hear it.

I’m sad to see you go, but hopefully you will drop by my website from time to time, or follow me on social media. Cheers!

Yours sincerely,

Leon Stevens

I add “Important Unsubscribe Information” to the subject line. Does that get more opens? If it is opened by a subscriber with no previous opens, then yes. I probably could put “More Free Stuff!” but that would not be nice, would it?

One of the marketing tips I hear over and over is to build a mailing list. That makes sense because the readers of your books are the buyers of your books and have an interest in your career. Just like blogging, it’s a way to make a connection with people who are genuinely interested in what I am doing.

Do I hope my subscribers purchase my various offerings? Of course. Will I continue to inform and entertain regardless? You bet. That’s what I enjoy doing.

-Leon


Leon Stevens is a blogger, composer, artist, and an author of three books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and Pictures, Journeys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar and The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories.

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poetry readers thoughts writers

Monday Musings: To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme

Reading over the thirty poems that I wrote in April allowed me to assess my writing style. Verdict: Haphazard.

Admittedly, I don’t read a lot of poetry—more now than before—for various reasons. I have more preferred genre preferences, and I suppose I don’t want to be influenced by the style of others. When I began to write poems, I didn’t set out to write a particular form or have a rhyme scheme in mind. It was all about getting my thoughts down in a way that I thought accurately represented the concept. I let the process dictate the final outcome.

As children, we learn rhyme from nursery rhymes, primer reading books, and word families. It becomes second nature to rhyme, and sometimes it is hard not to.

From the very start, I found that rhyme placement was a way to grab the reader’s mind, and too many often detracted from the imagery or idea that I was trying to convey. So, some of my poems have very few, but when they occur, it’s effective. I guess you could call it fluid form poetry or floating rhyme.

I try not to use an unfamiliar word or words that can’t be immediately understood by the context unless, of course, that important rhyme gives exigence to incorporate the word “reticent” (or taciturn, for that matter).*

Learn the rules so that you can break them or make up the rules as you go along. If they don’t work—change them.

I’m not saying that my writing is unique, but it is mine from my heart and mind. I chose to share these words with the world because they help me put things into perspective, and I hope that they can do the same for others along with providing entertainment in this world we all share.

– Leon

*exigence (n.) – demand, requirement

*reticent (adj.) – discreet, restrained, taciturn   


Leon Stevens is a blogger, composer, artist, and an author of three books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and Pictures, Journeys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar and The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories.

Categories
humor thoughts

Sunday Catch-up: Tools of the Trade

(Note: Second Chance Sunday has been pre-empted. I wrote this earlier in the week, but had a few other things to post as well.)

Building stuff, power tools, grease, and sawdust. You either love all that, or you know someone who does (and will do that stuff for you). In the 90s, the T.V. show Home Improvement, with comedian Tim Allen, poked fun at how males love and act around their “toys”.

I finally decided that my 30+year old cordless drill (handed down from my father – who has built all four of his houses by the way) needed to be replaced. It had a good run, but it was clunky, the batteries never held a charge for long, and was loose in all the wrong places.

I dislike spending money, so it took me awhile to come to that conclusion. The next decision was what brand. I don’t need the most expensive, fanciest, decked out tool, but as I stared at the choices I realized that this purchase was going to catapult me into a tool clique.

Was I going to join the Milwaukee clan, the Bocsh family, the Black and Decker group, the Dewalt crowd, or that other yellow brand (I think it was yellow, but it was another brand* I forgot).

If you have never been faced with this, let me explain. If you are going cordless, once you buy into one brand, you might as well keep going for the one reason of having one type of battery pack. Two different tools, two sets of batteries and chargers. Three different brands – well you get the picture. Only if you really, really like another offering over your own preference, then you may be willing to put up with more stuff in the toolbox.

Just as there are people who will be brand loyal no matter what (truck owners, beer drinkers, etc.), there are the aforementioned tool cults. So, I made my purchase and preceded to put it into action.

Did you ever injure yourself while working with tools? (Do you see where this is going? For the squemish people, not to worry, no details are forthcoming)

No matter how careful or how aware of your surroundings you think you are, s#@* happens. What gets the brunt of the injuries? You guessed it: hands and fingers. As you have figured it out, I still have all my digits. But over the years, my hands have had their share of abuse.

Hey! You’re a guitar player. Arn’t you worried? I hear you say. Yes, those are tools as well, and I have gone through times that I wasn’t able to play due to cuts, briuses, or broken bones, not all from construction. I broke my collarbone playing baseball, hurt my elbow falling off my bike, and various cuts from my kitchen knife. You can’t protect yourself from everything, right?

This time it was the left thumb. As thumbs go for me, that was the one to injure. It still doesn’t make doing most things (tieing shoes, driving, making dinner) any easier, but I’ll be playing sooner.

I know one thing for sure – I miss my opposable thumb.

*Updated May 8: Makita! And it’s blue – not yellow…


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Categories
humor thoughts

Thursday Thoughts: Perfection

“We are our own worst critic.” Who said that? No idea, but I have heard it stated many times. Should we take this a positive or negative? Does delicate scrutiny drive us to create our very best work or limit creations from being experienced?

I’ve been doing some painting the last few days – not the Michelangelo style – just the wall/ceiling/baseboard type. It wasn’t my place either, although that would be extra incentive to do my best work.

There were areas that I knew would never be seen, or places where you would have to be in a very distinct location (sitting on the floor on the left hand side, while leaning at a 46 degree angle during the summer solstice) in order to view it. Some spots were giving me headaches, although that may have been the fumes. I could have left those parts, saved some time – and paint – But I just couldn’t do it.

During my schooling as a music student, perfection was the goal. There were much better players than I, and while listening to different performances, I would be hard pressed to hear any mistakes. Yet, while I played, I heard all the subtle flaws in my playing. Often, it would be those errors that initiated more errors as I dwelt upon then rather than focus on the notes that were yet to be played.

Most people will accept imperfections as part of life. We see the big picture rather than the pixels that create it.

Glenn Gould’s 1955 recording of The Goldberg Variations was touted as being the perfect realization of the work. I’m sure Mr. Gould thought so. Yet in 1981, he recorded it again. Could I tell the difference? Not really (less humming perhaps?), but there had to be changes. Was this closer to perfection? If it wasn’t, it wouldn’t have been released, right?

Here is a good definition of perfection: “the condition, state, or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects.” As free as possible? I think that that is a very important caveat. Why? Because as long as we do our best and can be satisfied with the result, then we have achieved our goal.

I came up with this quote: “Perfection leaves you nowhere to go.” Imperfection is what makes us human and drives us forward. Just read any utopian story. Even those utopias have imperfections inherent in them, which is the perceived perfection that is ultimately its stagnation and downfall.

Also, if we as writers were prefect, it would put our editors out of work*.

-Leon

Note: Every try to draw a circle with an Etch-a-Sketch? Even doing it freehand is an impossible task.

*Are there mistakes in this post? Don’t know. I didn’t really proofread it very carefully…


Categories
humor thoughts

Tuesday Tirade

Angry cats are funnier than angry dogs…

Do you find things frustrating? Oh boy. I sure do. But I have a pretty calm demeanor, so I don’t usually get worked up about too much, especially things that I have very little control over. That being said, let’s get into a few things that ruffle my feathers.

  1. Amazon reviews: I’ve focused some ire in the past toward “The Behemoth”, and I find this equally annoying. Amazon has different platforms for every major country in the world. If a reader in the UK leaves a review for one of my books, someone in another country won’t necessarily see it. But wait. What about global reviews? I have sent many emails to customer service, KDP, and Author Central, and have never received a clear explanation on why some author’s books show reviews from other countries and others do not.
  2. Irresponsible dog owners: It’s springtime. The snow melts. What is revealed? You guessed it: Dog poop. Shame on you. And not just dog poop, dog poop in bags. Really? You scoop it up and just leave the bag? Not acceptable. You got the dog, you clean up after it. That’s your job.
  3. Dog owners (Part 2): There are off-leash parks for a reason. Oh, I know you are proud of how well trained it is, walking beside you, but any animal is unpredictable. Unofficial trails within the city, are still within the city. Case in point: In the winter, one of the small rivers that run through the city, freezes over and is used as a walking/biking/skiing/snowshoeing trail. Now I know that you want your dog to get exercise and have a change to blow the stink off, but when a dog runs toward me, I’m not impressed. I like dogs. I walk a dog on a regular basis (a Pomeranian) and I have had to pick her up several times when off-leash dogs have come running over. Maybe they just want to play, but as I mentioned, all animals are unpredictable and it’s not fair if one dog is on a leash and the other is not, regardless of size. One winter, three dogs ran toward me, their owner calling them back (they didn’t listen), and I used my snowshoe poles to stop them from jumping on me. I didn’t hit them or anything, but pointed them in their direction. If your dogs don’t come back to you instantly, they shouldn’t be off-leash.
  4. Walkers (when I’m cycling): Did you forget how to walk over the winter? The multi-use path has a line right down the center. Don’t walk on the wrong side. If there are two or more walking abreast (no one likes to be behind the conversation, I get it), be prepared for me to ask you to more over – don’t give me the stink-eye when I do. Please acknowledge the you hear me so I don’t repeat myself louder. And don’t get mad if I startle you. It is a multi-use path. Yes, I do cycle on the sidewalk occasionally, but then, I always give walkers the right of way.

I think that’s enough for today. i just sent another query to Amazon so I’ll keep you updated.

-Leon


Categories
thoughts

Open Book Blog Hop: Overheard Conversations

Wait. What!? Did I just hear that?

We have to get inspiration for our characters from somewhere, and everyday people often are a prime resource. If you are in a public space, you should realize that if you talk at a normal volume, we – the other public – can hear you.

Twenty-five years ago, before cell phones were becoming a fixture in public places, if you heard someone talking to themselves, you would either change seats, or take a wider berth. Once the cell phone became a hand attachment, you might have been more apt to pretend to read as you leaned in closer. “Hey, if you’re going to talk in public, I’m going to listen.”

The first time I encountered a “bluetoother” it freaked me out. This guy sitting across from me on the bus just started asking my seemingly random questions, and after I inquired about what he wanted, he shook his head and gave me a rude “mind your own business” head shake. Really? You just set that bar for the rest of your kind. It still happens. If I hear someone talking in my vicinity, I’ll turn and look. It’s just human nature.

You know that you are not going to hear public conversations in their entirety. More than likely, you will hear snippets out of context. So as a side conversation to this blog hop, what are some memorable lines you have heard out of context?

Rules:

  1. Link your blog to this hop.
  2. Notify your following that you are participating in this blog hop.
  3. Promise to visit/leave a comment on all participants’ blogs.
  4. Tweet/or share each person’s blog post. Use #OpenBook when tweeting.
  5. Put a banner on your blog that you are participating.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

https://fresh.inlinkz.com/js/widget/load.js?id=a8b40ada7693d64e5923


Categories
poetry thoughts writers

Book Marketing: Spend money, make money?

The other day I was updating some information on my Amazon book page and I noticed this:


   Then yesterday: 

It’s just my free sample book, but #5 in the free-short-poetry-reads-45- minutes category is pretty cool. I wasn’t happy with the cover resolution so I did a full revision on the book and republished. adding a better cover and updating some of the links.

I had finally decided to spend some money and purchased Publisher Rocket. It is a tool that compiles Amazon Ad search terms, category rankings, and book keywords.

You can use this information to position your book into the popular searches, or into ones with less competition. in the case of the latter, you have a better chance of being on the first page of reader searches.

I don’t think that I would have been able to come up with all the terms on my own, or it would have taken me a great deal of time.

My Amazon ad impressions have gone up and have translated to a few more sales. The #5 ranking for the free book is probably due to the increased visibility. Is it worth it? Well, I do have to sell more books to recoup the cost of the program, and you know my view on Amazon ads ( Amazon Ads: Here, Mr. Bezos, take my money and run). But I can’t argue with more people seeing my books.

-Leon


Categories
thoughts writers

Amazon Ads: Here, Mr. Bezos, take my money and run.

Now that Mr. Bezos has stepped down, I’ll do a little bitching.

Are creating Amazon ads making you want to bang your head on the wall? No? Then you’re not doing it right, I guess.

It took me almost two weeks to get an ad running on Amazon. Now, this wasn’t my first attempt–several had run recently–but this time was quite frustrating. Everything has a learning curve, and Amazon’s ad platform is no exception. Reading through the tutorials and the FAQ’s gives you a cursory knowledge, but by no means does it cover all you need to know.

I did other research online, there are many others before me that have done the legwork and produced good lessons. Still doesn’t make it any less confusing. I’m sure my rambles here won’t be any different.

It all comes down to getting your ad to show on a customer’s search page or on their Kindle. You do that by winning a bid–like an auction–against other ads in your genre. Highest bid wins and gets shown, reader sees it and hopefully clicks on it and buys.

I was doing an online course where one author was quoting that when he started his adds, he was getting 200 000+ impressions/week @ pennies/click, which translated to a very cheap advertising campaign and high sales. After digging deeper, those statistics were from 2016. Four years makes a lot of difference when it comes to competition.

I would love to be able to win a bid to have my ad shown to potential readers for > $0.10 when I create my ad, most of the suggested bids for each of my keywords* run from $0.50 to more than $1.00. Which means if someone clicks on my ad, I pay Amazon–let’s take the lower amount– $0.50.

Let’s break it down for profit. I get ~$0.60 if it is read on Kindle Unlimited (approximately, because just like the ads, the royalty structure for KU is not easy to grasp), so I make $0.10. So, I do a lot of free promotions for this version. If it is bought as a Kindle eBook, I make $2.00 – $0.50 = $1.50. That’s not too bad. The problem is that not everyone that clicks the add will buy. It would be nice to have 100% conversion, but that is never going to happen. Even 50% is a lofty goal, in reality it is around 10%. I also have a paperback option which is a higher royalty still.

So basically, with a low conversion, I usually wind up paying more in fees than I make in royalties. I know that advertising and marketing are essential to book sales and all advertising costs money. I would be satisfied to break even since I’m just starting out. Where are those bygone days of $0.05 clicks?

With all my rambling, I still didn’t get into my dealings with customer support, which was the impetus for this this post.**

-Leon

*That’s another topic.

**That’s another topic as well.


Leon Stevens is a composer, artist, and author of three books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and Pictures, The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories, and Journeys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar

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thoughts

Week-end Wrap Up: Feb. 13

Here are my posts this week, in case you missed any:

I came across a few good blogs as well:

Stuart Aken always has beautiful pictures and great writing prompts

And, I always enjoy Sally’s posts but I couldn’t pick just one.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/smorgasbord-laughter-lines


Leon Stevens is a composer, artist, and author of three books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and Pictures, The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories, and Journeys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar

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