My Experience with Robin Reads

Posted on May 7th 2021 ⋄ By Sara Cleveland ⋄ Category: Self-Publishing Woes

As I think most of you are probably aware by now, Saving the Dragon was on sale this week for 99 cents. Some of you may be wondering why I did the sale so early relative to the release of Courting the Dragon next month. Well, wondering no longer. My motivation for doing the sale this week was because I was able to secure a promo slot for Saving the Dragon on Robin Reads.

Each day Robin Reads updates their site with “hot deals” aka limited time free and 99 cent eBook offers. They promote each book for one day, and the author/publisher is obliged to keep that book free or 99 cents (depending on the promotion) at least until 11:59PM that evening. Robin Reads lists their address as Florida, so I assume that’s EST/EDT. Subscribers to Robin Reads will also get those deals in their email.

There is a fee associated with getting a promo slot. For the Fantasy genre for a 99 cent promotion I paid $60 USD. The question other indie authors looking to promote their books will be wondering is… is it worth it?

It’s a little too early for me to answer that question definitively. It will be hard to really quantify how this impacts sales for Courting the Dragon next month, or Saving the Dragon in the future. The promo was on May 3rd and today is only May 7th, so I don’t know yet how many reviews and/or Goodreads ratings this will produce. However, I do have some sales numbers and some thoughts, so I’d like to share those with any authors that may be considering this.

First, the day of my Robin Reads promo was my single highest sales day. Ever. May 3rd wiped the board with my best sales months. In fact, I came very close to selling as many books as my top 2 previous sales months combined. Now, before you think that’s super impressive, let me explain that I sold 39 books between Amazon (37) and Barnes&Noble (2), the two platforms that Robin Reads links in their promotion. My previous highest sales month was around 22 books across Amazon, Apple, and Audible in April 2020.

This (relatively) huge jump in sales did wonders for my Amazon rankings. I didn’t think to snap a picture at the beginning of May, but my rankings in the individual categories were in the 4000 to 5000 range. Here is where my rankings peaked after the Robin Reads promo:

I don’t think Saving the Dragon has ever broken the top 15K for the Kindle Store bestsellers. Not even on publication day. Some may not see being #12,812 as being a big deal, but for an indie book that was published 6 years ago with little marketing until very recently, I would say that’s a heck of an accomplishment.

Since the promo, my sales have fallen off, of course. However, they seem to still be slightly higher than normal. Some of that could be attributed to the on-going ad campaign for the 99 cent sale overall (paid on Facebook and just me tweeting like a crazy person). Given that the last few sales days were still higher than prior to the promotion, though, I think some of it may be a residual effect from the promo, possibly due to my improved ranking. It’s hard to know, because we don’t really get good analytics on the conversions.

So, did I make back my $60 in royalties? No.

Do I think the Robin Reads promo was worth it? In short, I think yes. Even if only 10% of the readers who purchased in rate and review it, that will bring me within spitting distance of 20 reviews. My rankings are dramatically improved, if only temporarily, which should improve the effectiveness of my very modest Amazon ads campaign (which does have good conversion metrics available, by the way). And, if all goes well, at least some percentage of these readers will probably be looking forward to the release of book 2.

It’s not a Book Bub Featured Deal, which I think most indie authors know is the most coveted of promos, but if you can’t get a Book Bub Featured Deal, well… this just might be the next best thing.

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Six-Gun Sorcery

Posted on May 3rd 2021 ⋄ By Sara Cleveland ⋄ Category: Reviews

Today’s review is of Six-Gun Sorcery by Andrew Slinde. As usual, I found this book on Twitter. Full disclosure, I do follow the author on that platform and Instagram, but I have not had a lot personal interaction with him. As always, my opinions are my own and I am receiving no compensation for this review.

About the Author

Andrew Slinde currently resides in Iowa. His official bio assures the reader that he is not, in fact, a dozen squirrels in a raincoat. You can find him on Twitter here.

About the Book

Six-Gun Sorcery is a Fantasy novel published by small press Shadow Spark Publishing. It is not enrolled in Kindle Unlimited and may be purchased as an eBook from both Amazon and Barnes&Noble for $2.99. The paperback is $16.99, which is what I paid.

The book is 318 pages according to the Amazon listing, and is in English.

3 teaspoons of tea leaves

Design

I really want to like the exterior design. It has a really good foundation. The clock-work, steampunk sort of gears and the revolver imposed over the desolate background are what first drew me to the book. And it looks really good on the computer screen. The problem comes into play when you’re holding the print edition of the book. There’s something sort of fuzzy about the whole thing, like the image that was given to the printers wasn’t quite a high enough resolution for that purpose. As a result, the writing on the back cover is sort of difficult to read. My eyes want to slide around instead of staying focused on the words. The cover would look so much better if the graphics were crisp and clean. 21/2 teaspoons.

The interior is nice enough. There’s nothing flashy or eye-catching. It uses a nice, legible serif font. Scenes breaks are clearly delineated. I did notice one chapter header that was not formatted the same as the rest, and it appears to be a mistake in the formatting, rather than an intentional difference. Still, there were no formatting errors that took away from the readability of the book. 3 teaspoons.

Total for design is 3 teaspoons.

5 teaspoons of tea leaves

Premise

The premise on this is so cool. It’s sort of like an old-fashioned western: you have a new law person going out to deal with their first big assignment out in the boonies. Yet, it’s also kind of steampunk with airships and mechanical horses. But it’s also fantasy with magic and monsters. It is by far the strangest genre mash-up I’ve ever read, and I love it. 5 teaspoons.

5 teaspoons of tea leaves

Characters

The main characters of the book are Peacekeeper Esther Triad, Leiyara the former bank teller, Hrakar the draconian warrior, and Le Valet des Couers. The way the main party contrasts with each other and the bonds they form are both interesting and well-written. I especially enjoyed the friendship between the women.

I enjoyed the way the author wrote his female characters. It would have been easy, I think, to fall into some nasty tropes. Leiyara easily could have just been a damsel in distress the whole book, yet she continually managed to surprise herself and her companions (even if she did need the occasional rescuing). Esther, on the other hand, is a beautiful blend of strength and self-reliance paired with an aching vulnerability as events wear on her.

Additionally, there was a wide variety of side characters, each with their own desires and prejudices.

Characters for me are 5 teaspoons.

5 teaspoons of tea leaves

Worldbuilding

In my opinion, the worldbuilding in this book is mind-blowing. It’s hard to call out just a few things. Each aspect of the world seems well thought out. I enjoyed how the author included transitionary details that show a world that is changing and growing. The monetary system, for example, is in a state of change-over from hard currency to paper. There’s a feeling of depth and history that is revealed through the way the characters react to the changing world around them.

There’s also the monsters. Oh, the monsters. I think by far the most horrifying thing in the whole book is probably the demon fungi.

Solid 5 teaspoons for worldbuilding.

5 teaspoons of tea leaves

Plot

One of the things I really enjoyed about this book was the way the plot continually surprised me. I frequently did not see the hits coming, and spent much of my time reading on the edge of my seat. The pacing was excellent and kept me engaged. There is a tiny bit of an info dump at the beginning, but it’s so interesting as to be forgiven.

5 teaspoons.

4 teaspoons of tea leaves

Writing

I found the book to be well-written. The action scenes in particular were enjoyable, and even heart-stopping at times. There were a few editing mistakes that I noticed that had me re-reading some sentences here and there.

4 teaspoons for writing.

4 teaspoons of tea leaves

Final Thoughts

I am solidly ranking this book at 4 teaspoons. I think with a few minor polishes it would be a solid 5. It has so many wonderful qualities going for it, from the unique genre mash-up to the interesting characters and plot. I am eagerly awaiting the sequel later this month.

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April 2021 Update

Posted on April 30th 2021 ⋄ By Sara Cleveland ⋄ Category: News, Release Announcements, Self-Publishing Woes, Writing

My performance for Camp NaNoWriMo was, predictably, abysmal. Finding the Dragon is sitting at just shy of 8000 words (some of which I think will be thrown out) as I write this. That’s a far cry from the “modest” 23k goal I set. Still, I’m not beating myself up about it too much; April was a very busy month.

My sorry excuse for a word count chart from Camp NaNoWriMo

Let’s start with the highlight, of course, which was getting ARCs out for Courting the Dragon. Printing ARCs through Barnes&Noble Press worked out much better than I could have anticipated. Depending on when I get the copy edits back I may be able to do a second run of corrected ARCs, which would be super swell.

Paperback ARCs of Courting the Dragon still in the box.

Which brings me to an update about the paperback availability of both Courting the Dragon and Saving the Dragon. Saving was priced at $9.50 and Courting was planned to be priced at $14.99. This was due to the price restrictions with KDP’s Expanded Distribution (this is what put my KDP paperback in Barnes&Noble stores, BAM, etc). I’ve decided after seeing how the Barnes&Noble printing works to cut the KDP Expanded Distribution and simply run print editions on both platforms. This means that the paperback will only be available from Amazon.com and BarnesAndNoble.com. However, it also means that I can drop the prices to $7.99 for Saving and $10.50 for Courting. I plan to do the same for Finding, and may even offer paperback pre-orders through Barnes&Noble. We’ll see.

I have two other announcement related to the availability of both books.

First, in addition to Kindle, Nook, Google Play, and Apple iBooks, both books will also be available from Rakutan Kobo. The regular price is still $4.99 for Courting.

Second, for this week only (April 30th to May 8th), Saving will be on sale across all the eBook platforms. For this one week you can pick it up for just 99 cents.

Saving the Dragon and Courting the Dragon in paperback, each with a bookmark sticking out of the top. In front of them is a mug that says "I just happen to prefer spells to sewing needles."

Another fun thing this month was lining up some prizes for the big giveaway in June. I won’t tell you all about the grand prize basket yet, but I will tell you about the awesome coffee mugs! You can’t see the whole phrase in this photo since it wraps around, but they say “I just happen to prefer spells to sewing needles.” I got these from the wonderful @skyekelrose. Check out her Etsy shop here.

On a more personal note, things have taken a minor left turn for me recently. A few days ago I started having more than my usual twinges in my neck and wrists. My right hand was basically unusable for a day. Just placing my hand on a computer mouse was intolerable. This didn’t help my already lacking word count for FtD. After much icing, sleeping with a wrist brace, and Advil, I am feeling much better. However, things are still tender and I don’t know how well I will be able to keep up with writing and the blog in the short term. For now I am going to plan on maintaining my upload schedule and social media presence, but please be aware that there may come a time that I have to step away for a week or two. We’ll see what the doctor says.

You can find all the retail links for Saving the Dragon here.
You can find all the retail links for Courting the Dragon here.
Digital Advanced Review Copies of Courting are still availble. You can request one here.
Read my FREE short story “The First” here.

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#IndieApril Fantasy Round-Up

Posted on April 26th 2021 ⋄ By Sara Cleveland ⋄ Category: Reviews

For this last Monday in #IndieApril I wanted to highlight the best of the best Indie new releases that I’ve read this year. I wanted to do this by genre, but quickly realized that the overwhelming majority of what I read is fantasy. And then to my dismay, I realized that the overwhelming majority of that could be classified as Fantasy Romance. Oops. So I will be making recommendations in these fantasy subcategories:

  • Fairytale Retellings
  • Fantasy Romance
  • Misc. Fantasy

To qualify for this list, a book must have been released between April 2020 and April 2021. Now through April of next year, I’m going to try to do a better job of getting some variation into my TBR pile so I can do more categories. Or maaaaybe I’ll get a panel together for this next year. That’d be fun, right? Ahem. Anyway, without further ado, here are my favorite books for #IndieApril:

Fairytale Retellings

To qualify for this category the novel or anthology had to be explicitly described and marketed as a fairytale retelling.

Top Pick – Villainous

I have to give this one to Villainous, hands down. This anthology is packed with awesome, and sometimes twisted, retellings of some of your favorite classics, and some stories that don’t see as much love. My personal favorites were the Bluebeard’s Wife and Piped Piper retellings.

Runner Up – A Song of Sea and Shore by Katherine Macdonald

I did a full review on this one that you can read here, so I won’t dwell too long. Macdonald does an amazing job of keeping the haunting beauty of Anderson’s original tale while ramping up the stakes. As with many of Macdonald’s books, it is advisable to keep the tissues handy.

Fantasy Romance

Rather than a Top Pick and a Runner Up in this category, I have decided to give a Spicy pick and a Sweet pick. Spicy obviously has some smut in it, so read at your own discretion. 😉

Spicy Pick – Queen of the Wild by E.M. Howell

Again, there’s a full review that you can read here. This one has lots of action and laugh out loud moments paired with some delectably steamy romance.

Sweet Pick – The Searching Songbird by E.P. Stavs

This one is definitely my favorite in The Shendri Series (so far). You can read my full review on it and book 1 here. Lily is just a delightful protagonist, and Draven is just perfect for her. The pacing and the writing style make it a quick, fun read.

Misc Fantasy

Okay, I know this isn’t really a sub-genre, but I haven’t really read enough books in any other subgenera to justify more categories. So, everything that isn’t a fairytale retelling or romance was considered.

Top Pick – The Shield Road by Dewi Hargreaves

This is another book with a full review, which you can find here. This short story collection blew me away. The amount of worldbuilding crammed into these stories is breathtaking.

Runner Up – Birthright by M.A. Vice

Birthright is the beginning of what is gearing up to be an epic series. Some of the descriptions and prose are just absolutely haunting. You can read my full review here.

Other Honorable Mentions

  • The Fires of Treason by Michele Quirke – Historical Fantasy
  • Of Goblins and Gold by Emma Hamm – Fantasy Romance
  • Six-Gun Sorcery by Andrew Slinde – Fantasy (I haven’t finished reading this one yet, but I’m enjoying it so much I wanted to make sure it got a mention).

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Get Courting the Dragon Early!

Posted on April 23rd 2021 ⋄ By Sara Cleveland ⋄ Category: News

It’s finally time to head into ARC season! I have a limited run of physical ARCs available in addition to digital copies that will be disbursed through Booksprout.

If you are interested in doing an Advanced Review you can do one of two things:

  • Click the link here to download a digital copy from Booksprout
  • Email me here to request a physical proof.

What is an ARC (Advanced Review Copy)?

An ARC is a copy of a book that the publisher and/or author send out to early readers. The goal is to launch the book with some positive reviews either on or immediately following the day of launch. Sometimes (like in this case) ARCs may be uncorrected. This means any grammatical or formatting errors you encounter will likely be fixed in the final published book.

In my case, I would ask that if you notice any glaring errors you please shoot me an email or a DM on the social media platform of your choice. It would really help me out a lot. Just please keep in mind when writing a review that the book is still with the copyeditor and will also be going through a proofreader before publication.

Where should I post my review?

One excellent choice is Goodreads. You can post a review there as soon as you finish the book. Any of the retailers carrying the book are also excellent choices, although you will have to wait until launch day (June 20th) to do so.

Courting the Dragon will be available on:

*Note: Kobo is a new platform for me. I just recently added Saving the Dragon to it. Courting the Dragon will be my first release to launch with Kobo on Day 1. It is available for pre-order there NOW.

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