NEW RELEASE: A Midsummer’s Party by Morgon Newquist


amidsummerspartyThe Formless are roving the land, unleashing untold havoc. But today, Alis must deal with a bigger problem. It’s Cahan’s birthday, and she’s figured out the perfect gift for him. But it means breaking the rules. The things she does for her friends…

A MIDSUMMER’S PARTY is the second story of the The School of Spells & War series. following the adventures of the sorceress Alis and her companion Cahan the warrior.

The School of Spells & War Tale Two, A MIDSUMMER’S PARTY, is 24 pages, DRM free, and $0.99. If you enjoyed Mrs. Newquist‘s DOWN THE DRAGON HOLE, you will definitely enjoy the second story in The School of Spells & War.

As an added bonus, the first tale of The School of Spells & War, DOWN THE DRAGON HOLE is free on Amazon through Friday for those who have not yet begun this delightful series.

Finally, stay tuned – we have rather a lot of Silver Empire related announcements coming up over the next few weeks.

Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland – BOOK REVIEW

"Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland" by L. Jagi Lamplighter

“Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland” by L. Jagi Lamplighter

L. Jagi Lamplighter‘s Rachel Griffin series is a fantastic modern fantasy series for young adult readers. I’ve already reviewed the first two entries here and here. The newest entry, Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland, is available today. As with the second book, I was fortunate enough to receive a free review copy – only this time I was even luckier because I got it in advance!

Like the first two entries, this book is fantastic for the Harry Potter fans in the audience. Mrs. Lamplighter does a wonderful job of capturing the feel of Ms. Rowling’s world without making it feel like it’s just a copy. Roanoke School resembles Hogwarts in feel, but it’s definitely a unique place of its own, and the characters are fresh and interesting, not just retreads of Harry and Friends. Rachel Griffin herself continues to be an excellent and interesting character. Somehow I have now read three books about this thirteen year old girl without once wanting to strangle her. I suppose it is a fantasy book, after all!

For those who haven’t been paying attention, I had this to say about its immediate predecessor:

I do have two complaints about this book, however. First, there is a pretty fair amount of talking rather than doing. It’s engaging talking, and it’s fun. It never gets dull. But at the end of the day it feels like not much actually happens… until all of a sudden there’s a giant confrontation at the end. The first book suffered a bit from “talking rather than doing” syndrome as well, but not to this degree. And that feeds into the second problem, which is closely related. This book is a “middle” book, and it kind of felt like it. It wasn’t anywhere near enough to destroy the book – I still found myself so enthralled that I finished it very quickly. But it is enough that I noticed it.

This book completely fixed both of those issues. Indeed, it went much the opposite direction. The book opens with a bang and it hardly stops to catch its breath. This is definitely the action-packed entry in the series. It’s a wild ride that’s over all too soon and leaves you wanting more.

There is one issue that I will log not so much as a complaint as a note. This book is about a thirteen year old girl, and its target audience is the Young Adult market – specifically, young girls. Parts of the book delve into Rachel’s feelings about relationships in a way that is probably pure crack to that target audience… but it’s not particularly appealing those of us, say, in the “mid 30s and male” demographic. It’s not a bad thing. Teenage girls will eat it up. Me? Not so much. Still, that’s what this book is aimed at, and it fulfilled its goal well.

Even with that, this was easily the best entry in the series to date. Highly recommended for Young Adults, especially girls, who like fantasy books. Highly recommended as well for adults who like fantasy and can enjoy the occasional Young Adult novel. Five out of five stars.



MakeDeathProud-01My first collection of superversive science fiction and fantasy short stories is on sale this week. Pick up your copy of Make Death Proud to Take Us for only $0.99 – but hurry, this price is only good for 24 hours! It’s an awesome collection, but don’t take my word for it.

  • Each and every one of these stories is well written and the editing is also accomplished with perfection. Most highly recommended.
  • Take a chance on this collection of short stories; I’m inclined to believe that this book will have something to interest nearly any person interested in Science Fiction and Fantasy.
  • From the first story till the last I was hooked. If you love adventure, courage, space, dragons, giants, elves, witches and knights….. ect, you will love this book!!!!
  • A must read for the sci-fi fan.
  • From the first story, I knew this was going to be good.

Authorial Gladiatorial Challenge: Round 2 Judging


The round one entries are up (Brian’s, Declan’s), and they are both fantastic! Both authors lived up to the primary task of the challenge: making it awesome.

Mr. Niemeier gets points for zen. Astlin handled the Gelatinous Cube with poise and grace, and almost without noticing it.

Mr. Finn, as before, scores for lots of guns and explosions, as well as tying the scenario in to Amanda’s backstory.

As with round 1, round 2 was difficult to judge. In the end, however, this round must go to Mr. Finn – as Amanda was the only character to actually defeat the Gelatinous Cube, rather than ignore it.

Sadly, Mr. Niemeier has had to bow out of future rounds due to scheduling issues. Therefore, we leave this challenge the way we began: in a draw. Except that this draw is really a win for us, the readers, because both authors have provided us with excellent reading material.


How I Launched an EBook to #1 on Kindle


categorybestsellerWhen I launched “Who’s Afraid of the Dark?” as a standalone eBook on Wednesday, I didn’t expect it to go all the way to #1 in its category. But I did plan out the launch ahead of time, applying all the lessons I’ve learned from previous book launches. I did expect a strong launch this time, and it didn’t disappoint!

Since many fellow authors follow this blog, today I will peel back the veil a bit. I’d like to show my friends exactly how I did it. A fellow business owner and I once mused that he and I could do the exact same marketing and it might work for one of us and not the other. Marketing is like that. Even so, hopefully you can put at least some of these tips to use.

The first thing to realize is that this successful book launch didn’t happen overnight. In fact, it’s been quite a long time in the making. I’ve spent the last year and a half or so helping other authors launch their own books. I’ve left reviews on quite a few books now. I made sure to put those reviews here on this blog, on Amazon, and on GoodReads. I have used social media, especially Twitter and Facebook, to help boost the signal of marketing attempts for several other authors. The upshot is, when it came time to ask for a favor in return, they were ready to do it.

More on that in a minute.

The second most important thing I did was pick the proper categories on Amazon. Some categories are really tough. Others are easy. “Who’s Afraid of the Dark?” is a short story, so Amazon helped me automatically her by lumping it into the “Short Reads” parent category. Pro tip: this is one of the easiest categories to reach #1 in. People don’t buy as many short stories as they do novels, so you simply don’t have to move as many units to make it to number one. Take advantage of this. It’s not cheating – it’s just knowing the game. I also used Amazon’s recommended keyword selections to ensure proper subcategory placement. That allowed me to get the story placed in a very specific subcategory, which again made it easier to rise to the top.

Category selection is absolutely critical – don’t neglect it in your book launch.

The third major thing I did was enroll it in KDP Select and set it to have a few days free, beginning the day after launch.

Why the day after? Because you can’t schedule free days until the book is actually live. Also, I picked the launch date and the free days carefully. Today is Michaelmas, the feast of St. Michael and the other Archangels. Since my hero, Peter Bishop, wields the flaming sword of St. Michael the Archangel himself, this seemed like a great day to go free. But I wanted some time for buildup, so I didn’t want just one free day. I went for three – the day before, Michaelmas itself, and the day after.

Due to the way Amazon’s sales ranking works, your best bet for rising to the top of a category is to move a lot of books very close to launch day. Therefore, I scheduled the book launch to coincide with this for maximum effect. The algorithm takes sales history into account – so if you’ve got a long history of no sales and then a sudden burst, your sales rank gain is limited. But if you have no prior sales history, then the algorithm works only with the sudden burst. Boom, you get a great ranking.

Get your friends to help – but make it easy for them!

Remember earlier when I said that I had a lot of author friends who were happy to help? I made use of them – and many of my other friends, too. I also made it super easy for them to help.  All I asked for was two very small favors. First – and easiest – I asked them to drop by Amazon yesterday morning and pick up a copy of the book. Remember, though, that I’d already made it free. So I’d asked my friends to please pick up a FREE COPY of my book. Hard, right? I got a huge response from all of them, and it really helped.

Don’t think for a minute, though, that that accounts for all of the units moved. It doesn’t. It’s not even a quarter of yesterday’s units – and none of today’s. They helped boost it up the ranks and get seen. My other marketing work, took over from there. But I digress.

The second favor I asked for was reviews – and I made this one easy, too. I asked those who had already read the story to please take a moment to leave an Amazon review of it. This particular story had already been published before in the anthology Make Death Proud to Take Us, and many of my friends had read it. Now, getting reviews from people – even friends – is like pulling teeth. (Yes, this might be a not-so-subtle hint to my friends who have not yet left reviews on any of my works!) I knew I wouldn’t get many – but I did get a small handful. Thank you so much to those who did leave reviews – I love you for it!

Announce it everywhere!

I blasted the announcement all over social media. My Twitter feed, in particular, had a lot more “marketing tweets” in it than I usually like to go for. But I wanted the word out, and it worked.

But the catch here is that I’ve spent all summer carefully building my Twitter audience. I definitely could have done better with an even wider reach, but I have enough of a following now to make an impact – especially when I’m giving something away for free! Also, I’ve spent the summer building relationships on Twitter. So I had several friends retweeting me throughout the day. Some of those friends have much bigger audiences than I do. To each and every one of you who gave me a signal boost yesterday, thank you!

Last but not least, I made use of the Amazon Giveaway in a way I never had before. This time, I made a giveaway for Make Death Proud to Take Us, which also included the short story “Who’s Afraid of the Dark?” But in the message for those who didn’t win, I left a note and a link to the free version of the story. I set the giveaway to make people follow me on Twitter… but my goal wasn’t Twitter followers at all. I wanted people to pick up the free story.

How well did that work? I’d estimate that about 1 in 15 to 1 in 20 giveaway entrants went on to pick up the free story. Frankly, a lot of giveaway entrants aren’t interested in your books at all. They just enter every giveaway they see. So the percentage wasn’t huge, but it was enough to help move a few more copies.


I’ll give a more detailed report on the aftermath after there’s been some. The best I can say today is that copies are still moving, albeit at a far lower rate than yesterday. I didn’t hold the number one slot for very long – the current occupant is tenacious. But I’ve sat at number 2 for almost 24 hours now (barring the brief stint at #1). The story has also held on well at #6 in its secondary category, and is still within the top 100 in at least two other categories. That’s going to continue to bring it a lot of visibility it wouldn’t otherwise have had.

If you don’t have a copy yet, stop by Amazon and pick one up. If you did pick it up, read it. I think it’s the best work I’ve yet published. And if you’ve read it, please do leave it an honest review on Amazon. Amazon reviews are the lifeblood of independent authors – help a friend out! Even something as simple as, “I liked it – 5 stars!” is a major boost.

If you liked it, you can find the second Peter Bishop story in the anthology Between the Wall and the Fire. That one gets much deeper into the actual world of Peter Bishop. You’ll also want to keep an eye out for my upcoming novel, Post Traumatic Stress. It’s not technically part of the Tales of Peter Bishop series, but he does guest star in it… and it also happens to contain his origin story. I’m also nearly finished with the next Peter Bishop short story, “Dinner Party.” Imagine Peter – a good Catholic boy – meeting his fiance’s very Baptist parents. Keep in mind that until now, Faith has been a very bad Baptist girl. Hilarity ensues. Plus, there’s a werewolf.

Announcing “Who’s Afraid of the Dark?”


whosafraidofthedark-01My newest release, a short story titled “Who’s Afraid of the Dark?” is now available on Amazon. This is the first of the Tales of Peter Bishop. If you’ve read my anthology Make Death Proud to Take Us, then you’ve already read this story. If you haven’t, it’s now available as a standalone. The story has done very well on Amazon today, climbing (so far) all the way to #2 in “Kindle Store > Kindle Short Reads > 30 minutes (12-21 pages) > Science Fiction & Fantasy” and #5 in “Kindle Store > Kindle Short Reads > 30 minutes (12-21 pages) > Literature & Fiction.

The kicker? In the much, much tougher category of “Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Paranormal & Urban” earlier today it sat at #58. Number 55? Yeah, that was the International Lord of Hate himself, Mr. Larry Correia with Monster Hunter International. Not bad. Not bad at all!

I’d like to give a special thank you and shout out to all the people who have helped boost the signal today and get me to that point: L. Jagi Lamplighter, Susan McPhail, Declan Finn, Dean Esmay, Daddy Warpig, Christopher Lansdown, and especially Brian Niemeier.

Best of all, the story is available free through Friday! As the tale tells of the man who wields the flaming sword of the archangel St. Michael, it is only fitting that it should be available free over Michaelmas. Get your free copy today. And after you’ve read it and loved it, leave me an awesome review!

categorybestsellerUpdate: “Who’s Afraid of the Dark?” is now Number 1 in “Kindle Store > Kindle Short Reads > 30 minutes (12-21 pages) > Science Fiction & Fantasy.” Thank you again to everyone named above, and to all of you! Please do remember to drop by and leave a review when you get a moment!

Just in case you’re not sold already, I’ll leave you with a sample.

Even though he couldn’t see them he could hear their skittering. Despite his impassioned pleas and his sister’s crying, his parents had turned out the lights. Again.

“Don’t be afraid of the dark, Johnny,” Bruce had told him.

“Be brave like Batman,” his mother told him. Batman wasn’t afraid of the dark.

Johnny wasn’t afraid of the dark, either. Only babies were afraid of the dark. Johnny was five now, and a big boy. Little Ginny wasn’t afraid of the dark, either. Even if she had been, she had an excuse. Still a mere two years old, his little sister was a baby. But Ginny was as brave as Johnny, and Johnny wasn’t afraid of the dark.

He was afraid of the things that came out in the dark.

They didn’t come out straight away. They were too smart for that. They waited until later, after Johnny and Ginny had gone to sleep – until after their mother and Bruce had gone to bed, even. Only once the grownups were sound asleep did they come out.

It started with the skittering. They came from the closet. At least, that was Johnny’s best guess based on the sound. Then they crawled across the walls and the ceilings to the beds. Ginny always slept through it. But not Johnny. He’d always been a lighter sleeper than his sister, and he’d woken at once every time.

The first night it hadn’t even scared him. He’d just listened with fascination, wondering what kind of critter it would be. Maybe it was mice, or rats, or squirrels. Maybe it was even a raccoon. How cool would that be? A raccoon in his bedroom!

Then he felt the cold, sharp agony of its touch. He felt the mouth over his shoulder and the teeth sinking into him. He felt the drain as the monster sucked his life away. He tried and tried to fight it but his body would not move, could not move. So he tried even harder to scream, to call to his mother for help. But no noise passed through his lips.

In the pale stream of dim moonlight that passed through their curtains he could just barely make out his sister. It was enough. He could see that she, too, was writhing in agony. He wanted desperately to help her, but he couldn’t even help himself.

And then, suddenly, the monster was gone. So he screamed. Ginny screamed. A moment later their mother was there, comforting both of them. But no sooner had they quieted than Bruce filled the silence. He really liked to yell at them. He scared Ginny, but not Johnny. Johnny thought he was a coward who wouldn’t do anything more than yell, even to a five year old.

“What are you screaming at? Go back to sleep!” he roared, and stormed off.

Johnny scowled after the man as his mother comforted Ginny. It made him so mad that that big, cowardly bully shared a name with his favorite superhero. He didn’t deserve to have an awesome name like that. When his mother finally left, too, he pulled the blanket high up over his head. He fought it for as long as he could, but eventually he fell back asleep and the rest of the night passed without incident.

His mother spent all day trying to convince him that he’d imagined it, that it was just a dream. It almost worked. After all, Ginny didn’t even remember it come the light of day. And the monsters hadn’t left any marks.

It almost worked, but it didn’t. Johnny could see how tired his sister was, the dark bags under her eyes. He could see his own matching pair when he looked in the mirror as he brushed his teeth that morning. Even his mother remarked on how tired he seemed that morning, but even so she couldn’t seem to put it all together.

Why wouldn’t she believe him? Her boyfriend was even worse. Bruce kept treating him like a stupid baby for crying in the dark. He never could figure out why his mother liked him. He was even more awful than her last three boyfriends, and they were pretty awful. But he’d never disliked Bruce quite as intensely as he did that morning.

On the second night they came, Johnny was scared right from the beginning. He knew what to expect this time. That definitely did not improve the experience.

“Be brave like Batman,” his mother told him. As if all he had to fear was the dark.

He went to sleep with his blanket pulled tight over his head. The thick blue blanket was far too warm for that evening, but he insisted and overruled his mother’s objections. He hoped the thicker blanket would keep the monsters away. His mother thought he just wanted Luke Skywalker. He was happy to let her have her delusions.

Author Gladiatorial Challenge: Round 2, Declan Finn


HonorAtStakeDeclan Finn is the author of the Pius Man Trilogy as well as the Dragon Award nominated Honor at Stake. He graciously agreed to enter this Author Gladiatorial Challenge to earn your vote for the Dragon Awards. The awards are over, but the fun continues! You can find his entry for round one here. Below is his entry for round two. I hope you find it as entertaining as I did. Brian’s entry ran earlier this evening. Judging comes tomorrow.

Amanda looked up at the giant blob, and decided that she seriously hated whoever put her hip deep in this insanity.

She looked behind her to the room she woke up in, then back to the blob. And she smiled. The door was made of metal, and the blob apparently didn’t digest metal, especially if that stop sign was anything to go by.

This will at least slow it down. She reached over, grabbed the door, and ripped it off of its hinges, and flung it at the blob like a hatchet. The impact sent ripples throughout the creature, and … that was it.

Oh darn.

Amanda turned and ran back into the other room. She thrust her fingers into the wall, grabbing and pulling out a chunk of rock from the wall. She hurled it at the blob, and kept digging through the wall, creating a tunnel that was about a lady’s size six, going straight into it, expecting the blob to follow her.

Had Amanda had the time, she would have sighed. She had survived most of the idiotic decisions of the Vietnam war fighting creatures in the vast network of tunnels, and she swore she would stay out of them for the rest of her life. Now, here she was, digging another tunnel.

Amanda growled, annoyed at the thought of the war. She had been a veteran of five wars – six if you counted the Cold War – and she almost preferred World War II to Vietnam.

Amanda thought that over as she shoved more dirt and rock behind her. Okay, she shouldn’t really think that. Sixty thousand dead in all of Vietnam, while that was the cost of a single engagement in World War II. But God was that war run by idiots. Miles of tunnels throughout the country, crawling with VC and monsters like her, and they could have just been wiped out by bombing some dams and flooding the tunnels. What was the matter with those people? Heck, why didn’t she eat MacNamara again? Oh, right, eating someone for stupidity wouldn’t do anything for the state of her soul.

She stopped digging a moment, and listened. She just made out the sounds of the blob pushing into the tunnel.

Amanda smiled, and made a left turn. This part was going to be easy. She had done it several times during the tunnel wars in Nam. Granted, when they expected her to be a tunnel rat, they didn’t realize that she could turn into a rat, though she rarely used it. It was tempting to use it now, but it would take too long to dig this tunnel at speed as a rat.

Amanda pushed on, circling the blob’s original catacomb. She could have circumvented it entirely, but that would only put the creature on her tail. At current rate of speed, it would have put her between a rock and a squishy place.

Amanda punched through the final bit of wall, then pulled herself out. She saw the back end of the blob pulling itself through the initial hole. She grimaced, reached for one of the vials in her pocket, and tossed it for the blob. Unlike the ones with holy water, this one was topped with a blasting cap. It was a simple solution of Styrofoam mixed with gasoline. It worked very well against vampires. But then again, it was basically napalm.

The back end of the blob burned away, and what was left withdrew into the tunnel as the hole filled with fire. The blob only had one other way to go, and that was right out of the hole she came from.

Amanda went for the cell door she had thrown at the blob earlier. It was relatively intact, having been left behind when the blob came after her. She grabbed the metal door, ripped it in half, and quickly beat one edge flat.

Amanda got back to the hole just before the blob started to push its way through. She waited until a foot of blob came through, then quickly flipped the piece of blob into the fire she started in the other room – a fire that had spread to the bed she woke up on.

Thankfully, what the blob had in size, it made up for by being seriously stupid. It kept coming, and each time she would slash off part of it with her piece of door. She had considered going after it with her sword, but she didn’t want to know what long term exposure to this thing would have done to it.

I suspect I will need it if I have to kill something after this.

After a while, it stopped coming, and Amanda waited, listening. She heard it moving in the little tunnel, and her gut clenched. It was slow and it was stupid, but it had an animal instinct. With the fire at one end, and Amanda at the other, it would have to be smart enough to stop moving, or …

Dig its own path out.

Amanda tossed her half of the door to the other side of the room, and dashed for the initial hole. Along the way, she swept up the other half of the door. She kicked the bed to one side of the room, bent the four corners of the door half to 90-degree angles, and used them as nails to pound it over the opening, sealing it in that way. She wouldn’t need the fiery bed elsewhere.

She grabbed the bed by the legs, and pulled it into the catacomb just in time for the blob to burst through the wall. And that’s when Amanda tipped the burning mattress right on top of it, setting the whole thing on fire. The blob thrashed, and roared, and couldn’t decide where to go to get away. Every time it tried, Amanda was there, the sharpened door edge hacking away.

Five minutes later, Amanda took a slow, deep breath, watching as it evaporated into nothing.

Author Gladiatorial Challenge: Round 2, Brian Niemeier

Souldancer by Brian Niemeier

Souldancer by Brian Niemeier

Brian Niemeier is the Campbell Award nominated author of the Soul Cycle series, including the Dragon Award nominated Souldancer. He graciously agreed to enter this Author Gladiatorial Challenge to earn your vote for the Dragon Awards. The awards have passed and Brian has won, but the challenge continues! You can find his entry for round one here. Below is his entry for round two. I hope you find it as entertaining as I did. Declan’s entry will run later this evening, with judging to come tomorrow.

Astlin isn’t entirely clear as to whether the approaching cube is real or another violent hallucination.

One thing is clear, though: the cube. There are all sorts of odds and ends floating inside it. One item in particular catches Astlin’s attention. It’s a stop sign.

Is a stop sign still legally binding when it’s inside a gelatinous cube? Probably not. Then again, what if the cube isn’t really a cube at all? What if it’s a school bus? You can get in big trouble if a school bus puts its stop sign out and you don’t stop.

Astlin has been staring at the stop sign for a good five minutes, weighing the pros and cons of ignoring it or not, when she is enveloped by the cube.

Five more minutes pass before she stops staring at the sign and realizes that she’s inside a ten by ten by ten foot cube of warm gel that’s oozing its way down the corridor. The jelly is in her ears, crackling like a wet plastic bag.

It’s pretty nice in here. She’d forgotten how much of a chore it is lugging her brass body around. Floating inside the cube makes her feel practically weightless. It’s like drifting on a cloud–a warm, sucking, cube-shaped cloud.

Astlin can understand how being inside a gelatinous cube might not be everybody’s thing. Most other people have to breathe, for one. But that’s no problem for her.

The gel itself also seems like it’s pretty corrosive, if the rapidly dissolving rats in here with her are any clue. That’s okay. Her armor can shrug off black dragon breath, so the cube’s acid gel won’t eat through the salamander leather, and it just makes the exposed skin of her face tingle.

Snug as a cherry in the center of a Jello mold, Astlin lies back, relaxes, and goes where the cube goes.

Three hours later, the cube finally gets tired of carrying Astlin’s weight and disgorges her from its bulk. She sits on the tunnel floor for a while, unhurt but soaking wet.

She decides to take her armor off and dry it with her body heat. Upon removing her shoulder-length right glove, Astlin is shocked and delighted to find that her brass flesh has been polished to a mirror shine. The gel must have eaten away the dull buildup that accumulated over the years. Seriously, below the neck she looks like a brand new award trophy or a luxury car hood ornament!


Craigslist Scam


scamLast week I became the target of a Craigslist scam. Thankfully, I managed to avoid becoming a victim. Still, I thought I’d pass on exactly what happened and what to watch for. Hopefully this will keep my readers from falling for similar scams.

I put my motorcycle up for sale on Cragslist last week. I’ve enjoyed the bike quite a bit since I got it. However, I haven’t ridden much lately. Between hauling kids around, or hauling stuff to the dojo, or hauling stuff to and from work, or the 95+ degree heat, I just haven’t been on it. In fact, the last time I rode it was when I moved it to the new house – a year ago. I like the bike, and I’d probably like to ride again someday. But letting it sit for years on end isn’t good for it. Better to let it go to a new home – a better home.

The bike also served its purpose. When I bought it, I needed dirt cheap transportation and I needed it badly. It filled that role, and filled it very well. These days, I have other options. It simply isn’t necessary the way it once was.

Anyway, I put it up for sale. Then I got contacted almost immediately. The “buyer” (read: scammer) was ready to pay full price, site unseen. That was a little odd. He also wanted to ship it. That was also a little odd. On the other hand, he had a California area code. It made sense to me – at least in theory – that he might want to pick up the bike inexpensively in Alabama, ship it out to California, and turn a profit. He offered to overnight a cashier’s check, so that seemed pretty safe.

Then things got really weird. First, it took days for him to finally get the check out to me. He kept harassing me any time I took more than two minutes to respond to a text message. And then he told me the check would be for double this list price of the bike, and I should pass the cash back to the shipper who would pick up the bike.

That’s when my Spidey Sense went into full overdrive.

Rather than depositing it, I took the check into my bank this morning. Thanks to business accounts, I have a good personal relationship with my banker. She actually called the host bank that the check was written on. They confirmed that it was absolutely a bad check.

In case anyone hasn’t followed it, the scam is this: “purchase” an item with a check for an amount far larger than the original price. Get the difference back in cash, and get the purchased item. Then clear out before the check bounces, leaving the seller on the hook for the cash and without the item.

In my own case no harm was done. I wasted some time messaging this guy and sitting in the bank. But anyone who uses sites like this should always be alert for a scam. Pay attention and you’ll usually see the signs easily enough to avoid becoming a victim yourself.

Paid Advertising on Social Media


social-media-management-1Paid advertising on social media is a tricky beast.

OK, let’s just be blunt – for the purposes of this post, “social media” means Facebook and Twitter. And let’s be even more blunt – don’t even bother with paid advertising on Twitter. Save your money, flush it down the drain, or – if you really must do something with it – send it my way. It’ll do you more good. At least I will say something nice about you for it!

I’ve worked with paid tweets on Twitter over three businesses now. It’s not so much that the results have been poor. It’s that the results have been nonexistent. That’s right: zero, zilch, nada – not a damn thing. Morgon and I experimented a fair amount with them and nothing worked at all.

With that said… I do think that someone with a larger Twitter following could see something from it. Even then, however, I suspect that the ROI would be atrocious. The short answer with Twitter is simple. Don’t waste your money.

Paid advertising on Facebook, on the other hand, has provided results. The ROI is not fantastic, but it’s been better than some other advertising we’ve done. The thing about Facebook’s paid advertising, however, is that you have to be smart about how you use it.

The main reason I think Facebook is more successful than Twitter on this front is because Facebook gives you – the user – far more control. Facebook actually gives you a lot of options. Too many options, in some ways. But what really makes it usable is the controls they give you for ad targeting. Specifically, Facebook gives you three kinds of control that Twitter simply doesn’t.

First, Facebook lets you target ads locally – not just locally, but hyper-locally. I can target ads to a country, state, or city. Nice, right? Or I can target one particular zip code. Or I can even give it a specific address and a radius around that address. For a local business this is phenomenal. I’ve seen research that shows that, on average, 80% of martial arts students pick a dojo within 3 miles of their home. So when I advertise my dojo on Facebook, I target that advertising to a three mile radius of the actual facility. It means I’m not wasting money on ads hitting people a continent away who would never possibly become students anyway. Hyper-local advertising is great.

Second, Facebook lets me specifically target ads to people who have already liked my page. Bonus: it gives me access to a secondary target group: people who are friends with people who have liked my page. This works great for boosted posts on Facebook. Fans of the page like the post early. Then their friends see it in their feed – and Facebook shows them that their friends have already liked the post and/or the page. It does this by name – you get a nice little marker “Russell Newquist and 8 others liked this post.” Preselection is extremely useful in marketing.

Third, Facebook has a lot of information about its users – and it lets you use that in ad targeting. For example, if I’m advertising a youth martial arts class, I can specifically target that ad to Facebook users who are parents. You can target ads in many other ways as well: age, gender, relationship status, language. I’ve had less luck targeting people by “interests,” but the feature is there.

These are just a few ways that I’ve used Facebook’s paid advertising successfully. There’s a lot there to work with – and someone smarter than me can probably make better use of it. I’ve also found that I get far better results for my dojo than I get for my books. However, I suspect that much of that comes from not having yet figured out how to maximize the available features for book sales.

Twitter has some middling location targeting features, and some middling user targeting features. But in the end, it has nothing like this. One partial reason is because Twitter simply doesn’t have this kind of information on its users in the same way that Facebook does. But another reason is that they’re not using what they have anywhere near as well. Is it any wonder Twitter’s stock price continues tanking?