Saturday, March 31, 2012

Tweaked the Flash Cover


Why?  Because I thought the original was a little too harsh and I could soften it up.  I like it very much but I'm not sure it's the perfect cover if I have to depend on the cover alone to sell the book.  I've seen a book about an adult paparazzi and it's pretty tame--white background, woman holding a camera.  There's a YA and it's what you think it should be, a young woman holding a camera.  Actually they are the same, aren't they? 

If photography is about light, then I wanted to do something with a lighting effect.  Maybe that's too deep.  Maybe I should have just taken a photo of my old Nikon.  Wait.  I have an old photo of me with my Nikon F that I took.  I could have used that.  Of course, it's a slide so I would have needed to transfer it somehow.  (Like I'd want to be on the cover of a book.)

Do readers really need to be taken by the hand--"This book is about a photographer".  Kip does photography but the book is about her life and love.  How do you convey that in an image?  You can't.  So look for an image that says something about the theme, the sense of the book.  I know we're somewhat limited although I'm sure tradpub uses many of the same stock photo sites we can.  Of course they can afford Getty Images and we can't.

OTOH I think Avalon spent a buck fifty on the cover of Love In The Air and I mean $1.50 not $150.

Update:  Mark Coker just published a free ebook The Secrets of Ebook Publishing so maybe we'll learn something.

Uptheupdate:  I sorta skimmed/read the book.  It was hard to read in Calibre--no margins.  He says the most successful books are over 70,000 words.

"A book is as long as it takes to tell the story"--Jean Karl my first editor (really famous for being a topflight juvenile editor)

You have to do what is comfortable and what works for you.  If all that social media works for you, and you like it, do it.  I don't so I don't.

Past and Present

Because we don't know what the future holds.  Deal with today in a clear-eyed way.  Tradpub will linger on, stumble forth, limping along but it's over.  Like dial telephones.  Technology has superceded them.   I actually don't know why people are so upset about this.  I'm the one who hates change.  If anyone should have been reluctant to switch to digital, I should have been the last to bail.  Instead I was in that early adopter wave.  I knew tradpub was a bad deal for writers in every way unless you happened to be one of the anointed few.

It's easier to sell a book well on Amazon than to become one of the anointed in paper.  You want to waste your valuable life trying to please people who will be there for 6 weeks or 6 months then stick a shiv in your back on their way out the door, go ahead.

Am I sorry a lot of people are going to be losing their jobs?  Not really.  I'm sorrier about truckers losing their livelihood because of high gas prices or the fishing industry shut down due to regulations or the Central Valley of California drying up because some pols want to save a snail darter or whatever.  These are people who just want to work and do the best that they can to survive.  Editors and agents in their arrogance and disdain, not so much.

I don't like the blamecasting in publishing--everyone is at fault but them.  Do we really even need to talk about it anymore?  I don't.

So lets look for ways to find our audience.  Seth Godin talks about community.  Our niche market.  How are we going to let them know we're here and we're for them and they're for us.  We need to rally around each other.  Work for each other and support each other.  Writers need readers and readers need writers.  (You don't see any of that deadwood in there aka editors, publishers and agents because they are tits on a bull.)  Find a way to reach them and create a relationship when you do.

Maybe we need to set up review sites that are targeted to specific genres.  Maybe we need to find ways to advertise.  That's easy in the romance genre but not so easy in others.  Maybe we need to make the acquaintance of writers who are writing the same kind of things we are and joining forces.

One thing is clear, it takes time and effort.  You must invest time in building a career in the new paradigm.  This isn't for sissies.  You have control.  That's the good news.  The bad news is that you have to do the same thing in tradpub except you will make less money and be treated discourteously.  Your choice.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

I Love These Moments

As two kids walk on stage for Britain's Got Talent
Simon: Just when you think it can't get any worse...

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bad Apple Counting Down The Hours

Yes, BA1 is on Day 89 of its Kindle Select stint.  Giving it away didn't do anything for sales and deprived epub oriented readers of book 1 in the series.  It was something of a mistake but let me defend myself.

Prior to enrolling BA1 in Kindle Select it had a freebie stint on Smashwords that bled over to BN (doesn't always happen).  So it was free at BN for quite a while, long enough for 500 copies to be downloaded.  I thought when I decided to remove 1 from BN there were 500 people who could read 2 & 3 in the interim.  That didn't happen.  The other choice would have been to put all 3 into Select.  Which probably wouldn't have done anything anyway.

When I learned how to play chess, all I knew then and know now is about moving the pawns around.  It's not a game I understand or care to learn.  For me all this moving the books around in Select or BN is like moving the pawns.  You move sideways, you move back and forth but you get nowhere.

All we can say is that my results have been all over the map.   I'm not opposed to doing Select again but I'm not excited by it.  Yes even with the nice results from the ice cream book--which haven't resulted in sales of anything else.  I would like Amazon to make the next move.  Sweeten the pot.  Change the terms somehow.  But I'm sure it's sweet enough for most people so they probably don't see the need to offer more.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Mini Flash Mob

I went shopping and got gas and while I was pumping, this song came on.  I like it so I was happy and singing along and for some reason kept singing when I got inside (softly!).  Then I realized there was another voice and a woman who was working behind the counter  was singing, too.  I knew all the words for once.  So that was terrific.

It was wonderful and I thought--what an accomplishment that Pure Prairie League did a song that still makes people want to dance and sing along.

Why can't we be that joyful every day?

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Ice Cream Parlor Update

Since I've made much of freebies having no effect, from the deepest depths (practically, it wasn't in the millions) of Amazon rankings, we float toward the top
One thing that holds true on Amazon is that the more you sell the more you sell.  Once you can get on a list and people can see you, then your book will be bought.

I'm sorry I don't know how many sales this represents but it's 14 for the month and it was basically nothing before the freebie.  Although 4 sounds familiar.  So say 10 and apparently in these categories that's enough to get up there.

If I knew how to do it, I'd do it for all my books so I'm not withholding special success secrets from you.
It could be back in the deepest depths by tomorrow morning.  That's about how fast NLM collapsed last year.
It's the mystical Amazon algorithm process.  It's like Vegas.  When you're hot you're hot and when you're not, open up the ice cream because that's as cold as you are.

Write something people want to read.  I couldn't find a publisher interested in this so according to tradpub no one wanted to read it.

More than that, my quirky advice is write something important to you.  Write something you believe has merit, that is significant, that is worth your spending your time on and the reader spending their time and money on.
Maybe it won't sell.  But maybe, like that woman who reviewed one of my books so stirringly that you could sense the emotion that still resonated in her over it,  you touch someone and change their life just a little.

uptheupdate:  I guess I have to rethink Freebies.  In my defense, this is the 1st time it's worked for me.  Why are people buying this book?  2200 people downloaded it for free yesterday (and Saturday and Friday), isn't that everyone on the planet who wants the history of soda fountains?  I mean, thank you for your interest.  I hope you enjoy it.  Have an egg cream for me.  (Get the Foxx's U-Bet.)

Amazon Sales in DE for March

Or Non-sales.  Cue Julius Levin.  "They take and then they go."

The Ice Cream Parlor did not make the top 100 overall but got to about 140 when I looked on my Nook.   And about 2200 books were downloaded.  Again very surprising but perhaps not since it's spring and summer isn't far away and everyone loves ice cream.  There was also that mini-mass mailer that went out a few days ago.  Maybe that really boosted awareness of the book.  I hope people enjoy it.  Really.  It's cute, short and sweet you could say.  I wish it had been what I originally intended but oh well.

While it is not technically the last cookbook, it's the first, it will probably be the last due to formatting requirements at Amazon.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Ice Cream Parlor Freebie Weekend

That's pretty cool for a silly little book about ice cream parlors.  I'm glad I decided to let it have the 3rd day.  It did drop quite a bit last evening so I figured everyone who wanted it got it, but apparently there are new people who didn't see it yet.  We should be able to extrapolate something from that but my brain isn't quite working at the moment.

I'm working with the CS6 Beta and I think my computer is just borderline able to deal with the demands.  It's very nice.  The black interface is lovely.  And I need more time to work with it.  I'm used to using Lightroom then jumping to PS to finish up, and I am a creature of habit.

Update:  Wow!

Photoshop CS6

I didn't start as a fan of Photoshop.  Initially you could say I hated it.  I downloaded a trial and couldn't figure it out so bought Corel Draw.  Which I completely recommend BTW.  Issues started to arise where Photoshop seemed better at some things, so I kept going back and then I was hooked.  It took me about 2 months, many days were 8+ hours at it.  Photoshop has a very steep learning curve.  But luckily there are lots of tutorials out there and lots of information, so what I did was set out to do a tutorial every day, whether it was something I needed to do for a book or not, I was trying to figure out how the program worked and build up some skills.

It paid off.  I love Photoshop.  (I think Adobe help files are...well I need more help than is there but you can always google because I'm not the only one struggling.)

Today I found out they released CS6 in Beta a couple days ago.  It's free.  This is a great time to go try it.  There are some amazing, magical (!) new functions.  Photoshop CS6 Beta.  It is a huge file, about 1.5 G which is bigger than most movies but if you have good download speed you should be fine.

It looks like they pretty much combined Lightroom with Photoshop and added I think it's called Premiere Elements, their video editing program.  So under 1 program you have everything.

It's very exciting.  And this is what Word needs.  Why are we in 2012 and Word can't export to epub and mobi formats?  Hey, Bill, send an add-on or a patch.

Yes I understand some of you are still reluctant to create your own covers but for those of you either doing it or considering it, Photoshop is the gold standard.

As soon as I get the program running, I'll post photos of one amazing function.  82% done!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Ice Cream Parlor Again

I completely forgot I had done a book trailer on it a couple years ago so maybe you'll enjoy having a look at that.

Completely gobsmacked--what does that exactly mean in England, I'll have to ask my friend there--over the interest.  I don't know why it's this high in the overall rankings.  The number of downloads is about 700, I'm sure other books have been downloaded 10 X more than that.

Do book trailers help?  Yeah, they help you take your mind off other stuff!  If you need a break from writing, it's a good activity.  I don't think they help sales but they're fun.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Indulge Me

It's been a weird day.  I certainly didn't expect the ice cream thing to interest anyone since it didn't interest anyone until this morning.  But of course free is different and it makes everything attractive

I had 2 reviews today.  I know I talk too much about reviews.  Bear with me or see you tomorrow.  I won't really discuss the 1st.  It was curious and a bit off-putting, borderline creepy actually.

The other 1 was the reverse and I won't post it here because it was personal for the reader.

I had an agent for a while, she's pretty well-known now.  I would call it a boutique agency.  At one point she took me aside and told me to just write stories.  Don't try to reach people or explain life to them or be deep.  People just want to be entertained she said.  I wasn't very entertaining because I was always trying to say something. 

I'm not sure you have that much of a choice as to what comes out of you.  You just have to make peace with it.  Amanda Hocking sure writes those fantasy novels like no one's business.  I couldn't do it.  I do my thing.  It's a niche audience.

This reader read one of my books over 20 years ago and it took her until this month to go public.  I thought wow.  Even though we've never met, I don't know who she is, we shared a very powerful connection.

So you don't know.  You set these things free and you don't know who you touched and how.  It was just a moment of chance that I ever saw the review.

The Ice Cream Parlor

Is having a freebie weekend at Amazon.  Yes, it was scheduled before the mini-mass mailing.  I cancelled it then reinstated it.  So go download it in time for summer.

Here's the background on it.  I was driving down Alisal Road in Gaviota California (well it might be technically Solvang, I'm not sure where the town line is) and I thought gee, I really want an egg cream.  This is pre-www, you could gopher but you wouldn't find much.  You had to actually research stuff.  Let me tell you, that can be really hard in California.

I went to the Los Angeles Public Library and went to the front desk.
Me:  Hi.  I'd like to access your photo archive for a book I'm writing on the history of soda fountains.
Librarian:  Our what?
Me: Your historic photos of Los Angeles like soda fountains, pharmacies, ice cream parlors.  Postcards, whatever.
Librarian: We don't have anything like that.
Me: (Stunned into silence for a change)
Librarian: The studios would have that for set building purposes.
Me: Oh great!  How do I access those?  Do I contact Warner Brothers or something?
Librarian: (with disgust) That's not open to the public!

I finally got help from a librarian in Cape May New Jersey, 3,000 miles away.

I'm from New York.  There's a Museum of the City of New York open to the public where you find all kinds of stuff.  Huge.  In LA, history is 15 minutes ago.

My cousin's wife, Jane Mushabac, wrote A Short and Remarkable History of New York City using the Museum of the City of New York for the illustrations.  I never dreamed a city as large as Los Angeles wouldn't have something similar.  Maybe they do but I couldn't find it when I needed it.

So I got an original dispensary recipe book from like 1909 sent down from a university library in Northern California and wrote the book.  It was supposed to be heavily illustrated and light on the recipes.  My agent sent it around and no one got it.  Finally it landed at Chronicle Books where they liked it and wanted to publish it.  The more it was discussed in-house the smaller it got.  It became a not-coffee-table book.  That was too expensive to produce.  Finally it became financially viable at about $10 in a gift book size, a few crummy photos, mostly recipes which everyone realized was stupid.  That ended The History of the Soda Fountain.

It sat in my computer for over 10 years.  2 or 3 years ago I said I can resurrect this as is.  I'll get some photos from public domain, I'll make do, I'll find some more actual recipes, I'll swap ingredients for things that exist now, and it's 99 cents, done deal.

That's what it is--a modest little ebook on the history of the ice cream parlor with quite a few vintage recipes.

It's actually about at the same place overall as whatever was the last freebie.  What was that?  Drawing a blank.  Cupid?

Weird day.


I upgraded to the new Firefox version this week--I was at 3.6 and the new one is 11.  Yeah, I don't like upgrades and I pretty much hate this one.  As I was screwing around with the tabs and the gray on gray icons that you can barely see, this topic occurred to me.

Mozilla made changes that were totally unnecessary.

If you change something, it should be for the better.  It should be an improvement.  Do I need to repeat that?

If you're writing along and nothing is happening--that's writing horizontally.  You're not getting anywhere.

If you go back to make a change--and I especially mean this for all those professional editors some people think have all the answers--and you're essentially changing 4 quarters for a dollar, that is totally horizontal.

I can't tell you how many television story meetings I've been stuck in where some numbskull insisted on a change that added nothing (and possibly diminished the whole) because they had to prove their value.  Making a change because you can is nonsense.  Always ask yourself--What Does This Give Me?  If the change doesn't give you anything, why are you doing it?

Speaking of writing because I can't solve Mozilla's problems with Firefox, and I can go to Filehippo and get 3.6 later today, if you're relatively new to this writing thing and lack some confidence, think always of the entire book.  If you tinker 1 element, make sure you're not creating the (freaking) butterfly effect.  What you touch might have implications not only on the surface but subtextually.  That's what someone with "fresh eyes" probably won't get.  They come in with all sorts of enthusiasm and swagger with the intention of fixing your story but they don't really understand it.  They haven't lived with it.  They haven't discussed the project with you.  They don't know you, they don't care to know you.  Are they so brilliant they don't have to bother with any of those time-wasters?  They can just go in, tear your work apart while patting themselves on the back and go on to the next victim.

You know you.  You know what you're trying to say.  Keep that as your touchstone.  Know what you want to say and make sure everything in the book leads the reader to understanding what you're trying to say.

Do that and you don't need an editor.

And use that Spell Check and Grammar Check they put into the program with the vague hope someone would use them once in a while.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

I've Stopped Screaming

You'll be relieved to know.

Every day I get a mass mailing from Amazon--which is actually pretty helpful and I don't object.  It's based on what you've bought or looked at recently.  Yesterday I think it was mysteries (I had been looking at Ellen Crosby books and had purchased 1 in the past).  The day before it was electronics.  I recently got an Amazon Basics cable to replace the one for my Nook which cracked and I thought it might work.  It doesn't, forget about it, you have to get the 1 from BN and if it's under warranty it's free so don't worry about paying like $15.  BN figured a way how to make nothing else work, it's nothing about the Amazon cable which is sturdy and beautiful and $6.

Today I get the mass mailing and it says Ice Cream Parlor and my first thought is  "Rats!  Are you kidding me?  Someone has the same title as mine?"  I open it up and no.  Someone does not have the same title.  It's my book.

I started screaming which is the logical reaction to this situation.  Then when my brain reengaged I started to wonder.

Did it go out to the 4 people who bought this book this month or foodie people in general?  I'm trying to figure out who this mailing was sent to and how excited I should be.  If I got it, then I already have the book and I'm not excited.  But if this is an actually live promo that Amazon sent to a targeted audience, well then I'm going to name a character in every book some variation of Bezos.  I already figured out the one for this book--Mrs. Sozbe.

If this went out to 100 people then Amazon has just come up with a way to really help indie writers.  I can't think of a better logical way to help us reach people than to put us in front of customers.  I was talking about using the front page or a page somewhere out--that was stupid compared to this.  This is targeted marketing.

I don't know what extent they could go to or what the cut off would be.  I don't know how many different versions they'd bother setting the computer to churn out.  They sure didn't pick Ice Cream Parlor for massive sales.  It does have 1 review--5 stars.  No not from a friend.  Don't have a clue who she is.

So I don't know what this is but  whatever it is, my plea to Amazon is DO MORE OF THIS FOR LOTS OF US.  Would this make/encourage me to go to Amazon exclusively?  Yes.  If Amazon says they will send mass mailings out periodically where my books will be on a targeted listing, yes, I will cut my relationship to all other sites.  I want to know the numbers.  Is it one of my books a month?  What's the frequency?  1 a month is great. 1 every 3 months a la Select freebie is not great.  I have 24 books up now, 1 every 3 months is years to cycle through the whole list--that's too little.  I think.

I will say that The Ice Cream Parlor was up for a free weekend starting tomorrow.  I cancelled it.  I want to see if there will be sales from this mailing and there can be a freebie next weekend.  

This would be so great if this is what Amazon is going to do from now on.

UPDATE: I've decided not to be excited at all.  I think this is based solely on the like button with 1 click--mine.  I don't know how many people it went out to.  Me, probably.  But that doesn't change the fact that IF Amazon did promo us in this way to more people than ourselves, it would be a great help.

UPDATE 2: I asked the maven of all things publishing, Dean Wesley Smith, and he says yes, it's a mini-mass mailing.  Targeted to people who are interested in whatever it is.  So that's lovely. Then I can say Amazon is really making an effort to help us.  (I don't care how you want to phrase it--help themselves move more units, it's helping us.)

Maybe Amazon has always done this and I just never noticed.  When I was paying attention it always seemed like tradpub books as with that Tim Powers thing we discussed a couple weeks ago.  Let's all just hope Amazon widens their base and pulls in more indie books.

Go change the name now to Sozbe.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Select Surprise

Schtupid Cupid has had a few sales after the freebie at Amazon.  It was also put it up for sale at GoodReads.  This weekend the Ice Cream Parlor will have a 3 day weekend at Amazon and I suspect  the other 2 days won't be used but maybe I will be persuaded since there's been this activity with SC.  There's no bump with anything else.  To be clear, what I'm saying is that the attention received didn't translate into interest in other books.

It would be helpful if Amazon could provide us with page views.  How many times did people at least look at a book.  But they can't seem to get all the books you have in KDP on a 1 page list the way BN does, so page views are probably a long time away.

Going Backward--How enthusiastic am I about taking editorial advice from anyone?  On a scale of 1-10, I register in the negative numbers. I realize with my experience I'm in the minority but I can't see ceding creative control to any dippy little twit who knows nothing about my book, the content, me, or even literature.  Uh, no, ain't gonna happen.  Did Jane Austen have an editor?  Why have writers become so reliant on these people?  You know the old saw find a need and fill it?  It's like they created an imaginary need and filled it so relentlessly few can imagine a writer's life looking any other way.

Here's what constantly surprises me.  I know some typos or errors won't be picked up by spell or grammar checkers.  There/their could be passed over.  But the vast majority of errors or questions will be caught in the net.  You look at them--I'm always asking "What's Word's problem with THIS?"--and make a decision.  This is your job.  Every word processing program has these utilities.  Use them.  Do you think editors, or laughably agents, know more than the Word grammar checker?  I'm sorry to disabuse you of glorious imaginings of the value of editors but no, they are not better than the computer anymore.  They are not Maxwell Perkins, Malcolm Cowley or Jean Karl.

If you don't have the emotional constitution to be on your own in indie publishing, definitely do not be on your own for your own comfort.  All I'm saying is that there is no reason in the real world why you can't do all or most of it on your own.  Try.  Try hard.  All knowledge, all skill is power.  Be powerful in your life.

Luna Park

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Doing What I Can't Do

This is full of numbers so you know I can't/won't do it, but here we have James Lewis breaking down his experience with Kindle Select and the additional promos he did for his non-fiction book.  James Lewis.

I can say I continue to be exceedingly pleased with the results at GoodReads.  Maybe because I can SEE them.
You can see if people added your book to their TBR list.  That doesn't guarantee they will buy them and read them  but at least you know they've noticed you.

Why can I say that when I just gave away 1000+ copies of Schtupid Cupid?  Didn't 1000 people notice me?  Um.  Yes...they downloaded a free book.  Okay, what's the difference?  The people who added Murder to their TBR list will have to buy it and they expect to read it.  I have no idea if the people who downloaded the free books (and I'll say that for Smashwords, too, there have been no sales of Flash 1 or 2 after the freebie week) will ever read them and fewer still will ever review them. 

All this is something each author--ick--writer has to test for themselves.  It probably is different for every book and maybe even every month.  Summer may be one thing, Winter something else.  Take the experience of others, weigh it and try to make an informed decision on how to proceed.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Don't Give Away Anything Valuable

But I'm repeating myself.  I've done posts on this before so you know what I believe--Give away promo items that will get you attention but won't nullify your larger/full length/full price/precious to you projects.

Schtupid Cupid got to about #400 in the freebie overall, and was in the top #100 Contemporary Romances for about 36 hours.  

It is exposure and that's excellent.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


I was thinking about Schtupid Cupid leaving Select later today and this song came to me.


Perhaps you're not familiar with Judy Holliday.  She's was a genius.  No, really, her IQ was sky-high and she was very talented.  Unfortunately, taken far too young by cancer.

The Broadway play was turned into a movie and I love it but have never been comfortable with Dean Martin as the male lead.  Obviously he could sing.  It just doesn't work for me although I can't think of who would have been better. What was Gene Kelly doing at the time?  I love Gene Kelly.

Another agent ran their mouth, and got contract law wrong, besides pretty much insulting all writers.  And there was the part about writers unwisely  talking down tradpub on their blogs.  Oops!  The irony is strong in this one.

I'm sure that for the next few years there will be a constant supply of fresh meat, I mean newbie writers, who will sign away their first born child (literally) in order to have the imprimatur of traditional publishing.  For me the cost is too steep.  They have a scorched earth policy toward writers.  Not only will they mishandle your book, they will mishandle you.  You will have your feelings hurt.  Do I need to repeat that?  You will feel like you've been run over emotionally by a tractor trailer unless you get extremely lucky, like winning the Mega-Lotto lucky, and find a good agent who is nice, does her job and places your book with an editor who not only respects you but lasts longer than 6 weeks in her position.

Learn to do the grunt work of publishing your book by yourself or hire someone to do it.  Don't imagine the easy route is signing away your work just so you can avoid some formatting.  Sure you may feel like banging your head against the monitor but think about how good it will feel when the aspirin kicks in.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Real Photography For A Digital World

Nikon D7k w/ 55-200 VR lens

Because weeds and lenses are more interesting to talk about than agents.  They seem like a pretty irritable lot these days.  Every week or so one runs their mouth (or keyboard in this situation) and creates a stir because they're finally revealing how they actually felt all along.  I suppose if I woke up tomorrow and learned that 100 monkeys or whatever it is could suddenly write books that made sense to humans and my life's work was nullified, I'd be irritable, too. 

So, sorry, you guys.  You chose the wrong team to side with.

This was taken with my zoom which I was going to sell but I might as well throw away or keep in the drawer for what I can get for it.  It's a year old and completely depreciated.  

If you scroll down on the blog, you can see the photo I took for the cover of Last Junior Year.  It was at a winter horse show in Tampa and sort of obviously taken with a zoom lens.  It's what was always on the camera because I was always at horse shows and standing well back from my subjects.  It was force of habit to think I needed another zoom.  They seem so practical, one lens instead of lugging a couple around with you, so that's what I got.  It had good reviews.  I'm really underwhelmed by its utility for me.  I do like the VR (vibration reduction) capability.  Still, no point in being grumpy, this is quite a nice shot.

The Murder Is Exhausting giveaway has been a completely satisfying experience and I'm looking forward to seeing how Nothing Serious does.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Updates on Everything

I realized I had the Ice Cream Parlor on Select and never ran a freebie.  I had to think about it.  So I decided that it didn't make very much difference to me if I did or didn't.  It's over in a few weeks so I decided to run the freebie.  When the pluses and minuses are so close, something's wrong.  Shouldn't decisions like this, for something that is "G-d's Gift To Writers" as someone said last week, be more obvious?

A couple months ago I had a near catastrophe and all my images were deleted.  I recovered most of them.  Then on Day 2 I realized the program hadn't recovered any PSD files--all my Photoshop stuff which means covers.  I got back about 90% of them but not the Ice Cream book.  Yesterday I found a tif file which had all the layers and images so I used that to rebuild the cover.  Which turned out to be essentially nothing like the original but close.

Bad Apple 1.  Here's the interesting thing.  Only about 200 copies were downloaded.  Apparently everyone who wants it got it last time, there is not a huge new group of readers panting for it.  Okay.  What's interesting about that?  Nothing.  Then I went to GoodReads and suddenly 9 people have BA1 on their TBR list.  I understand you're not going to keel over with the vast number but what I'm pointing out is the link.  3 days ago BA1 was on no one's list.

And over the last couple days there's been some sales activity--minimal--with the Murder book.  And I do fully believe that very kind review helped.

So what I'm feeling, sorry it's just a feeling, that having a giveaway at GoodReads is kinda good for exposure.
It may be well worth the $20 (I forgot to include the cost of the ISBN before) and investment in time to get everything in paper just to be able to announce your existence at GoodReads where people seem to be really excited about reading.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bestseller Recipe

This is from some years ago.  A few writers researched the best selling books in the thriller type category and these points were how they were all similar.  (Putting a lie, pretty much, to the claim these books aren't formulaic.)

1) The hero is an expert.
2) The villain is an expert.
3) You must watch all of the villainy over the shoulder of the villain.
4) The hero has a team of experts in various fields behind him.
5) Two or more on the team must fall in love.
6) Two or more on the team must die.
7) The villain must turn his attention from his initial goal to the team.
8) The villain and the hero must live to do battle again in the sequel.
9) All deaths must proceed from the individual to the group: i.e., never say that the bomb exploded and 15,000 people were killed. Start with ''Jamie and Suzy were walking in the park with their grandmother when the earth opened up.''
10) If you get bogged down, just kill somebody.

I find 10) very useful.  You don't have to kill someone, of course, although I happily killed Shannon in the Bad Apple series as a plot point.  Killing someone proves the threat is real.  And it gives everyone something to do and talk about for two chapters.  Don't overdo it.  You can kill off too many people and then death loses its sting.  You may temper it by just reminding the audience that the threat is real and then it becomes foreshadowing.

You may ask "If I'm bogged down, does that mean there's something wrong with the story?"  You shouldn't bother to ask that.  Just make something unexpected happen.

Death losing its sting.  I watched Justified last night and I have no idea what the body count was but once every 15 minutes seems about right.  If this part of Kentucky is actually this violent, the governor should send in the National Guard to clean up the place.  It's like a Third World country in the holler.  Not only does the violence become predictable, it becomes boring.  For me.  I'm sure I'm in the minority.  You can tart up the violence to make it different, like the guy being blown up by the landmine, but it's ultimately just another dead body.  When you have the main character treat it with no seriousness, then the death has no impact at all.

The main character should be the conduit for the author to tell the audience what to think and feel about what's going on.  If the main character isn't disturbed by needless death, violence and loss, then maybe we need to start asking what's wrong with him.  In turn, I know this isn't a popular position for me to take these days, I wonder about the writer coming up with this emotionally dead main character to speak for him/her.

Have you ever talked to a psychologist or a psychiatrist?  It's a bit unnerving because they could be analyzing you.  Don't worry about it.  Your books reveal your interior world more effectively than a shrink.  Luckily for most of us, readers don't pay much attention anymore.

Gallery of Famous Writers

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Bad Apple Final Freebie

At the end of the month, Bad Apple 1 will be out of the Select Program and I didn't re-up.  I had 2 free days left over and wasn't going to use them.  Yesterday I learned (I still don't know if I believe it although I have been assured it's true) that the Amazon algorithm treats a free download exactly like a sale as far as "people who bought this also bought X".


Mary Higgins Cafe Anatole c 1920

Monday, March 12, 2012

Giveaways, Freebies and Promos

Everyone has a different experience of all these attempts to get recognition.  So much depends on the genre.

I looked on youtube for a clip from the movie Independence Day where Julius says to his son, David, something like "These people are vultures.  They take and then they go."  I couldn't find it.

The promo at Smashwords was just starting to become uncomfortable for me the last day.  My bones weren't picked clean, though.

Dream Horse and Murder Is Exhausting are about halfway through their giveaways at GoodReads and so far I'm pleased.  You must give away a physical book, not an ebook.  You can give away as many as you like and it seems that 4 weeks is about the longest any of the giveaways run.  That feels too long for 1 book to me.  A moderate number of people seem interested and have put the books on their lists.  Will there be any sales?  Who knows but at least it was some exposure.  (I would like to know why 9 people have Last Junior Year on their TBR list when the thing has been out of print for decades.  Where are they getting this book and why are they bothering?  Are you telling me there is nothing current like it?  And no, I'm not going to republish it.  But I looked at the cover today and I think I did a good job on it.  Yes, the first two books I published with Atheneum used photos I took for the cover art.  Cool, huh?)

Is it worth it to format your book for CreateSpace and spend the $10 (approx.) to get a proof copy to give away for the exposure alone?  I think so.  After all, that $10 also gets you (although it could be free if you skip the proof) a paperback forever on Amazon that gives you more shelf space to take up, more opportunities to be found.

If you love Kindle Select and have good to excellent results you probably won't want to bother with GoodReads.  If you haven't gotten the results you wanted with the freebies at Amazon, maybe you should try 1 book giveaway at GoodReads.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

John Steinbeck on Writing

True still?

      Dear Writer:
      Although it must be a thousand years ago that I sat in a class in story writing at Stanford, I remember the experience very clearly. I was bright-eyes and bushy-brained and prepared to absorb the secret formula for writing good short stories, even great short stories. This illusion was canceled very quickly. The only way to write a good short story, we were told, is to write a good short story. Only after it is written can it be taken apart to see how it was done. It is a most difficult form, as we were told, and the proof lies in how very few great short stories there are in the world.
      The basic rule given us was simple and heartbreaking. A story to be effective had to convey something from the writer to the reader, and the power of its offering was the measure of its excellence. Outside of that, there were no rules. A story could be about anything and could use any means and any technique at all - so long as it was effective. As a subhead to this rule, it seemed to be necessary for the writer to know what he wanted to say, in short, what he was talking about. As an exercise we were to try reducing the meat of our story to one sentence, for only then could we know it well enough to enlarge it to three- or six- or ten-thousand words.
      So there went the magic formula, the secret ingredient. With no more than that, we were set on the desolate, lonely path of the writer. And we must have turned in some abysmally bad stories. If I had expected to be discovered in a full bloom of excellence, the grades given my efforts quickly disillusioned me. And if I felt unjustly criticized, the judgments of editors for many years afterward upheld my teacher's side, not mine. The low grades on my college stories were echoed in the rejection slips, in the hundreds of rejection slips.
      It seemed unfair. I could read a fine story and could even know how it was done. Why could I not then do it myself? Well, I couldn't, and maybe it's because no two stories dare be alike. Over the years I have written a great many stories and I still don't know how to go about it except to write it and take my chances.
      If there is a magic in story writing, and I am convinced there is, no one has ever been able to reduce it to a recipe that can be passed from one person to another. The formula seems to lie solely in the aching urge of the writer to convey something he feels important to the reader. If the writer has that urge, he may sometimes, but by no means always, find the way to do it. You must perceive the excellence that makes a good story good or the errors that makes a bad story. For a bad story is only an ineffective story.
      It is not so very hard to judge a story after it is written, but, after many years, to start a story still scares me to death. I will go so far as to say that the writer who not scared is happily unaware of the remote and tantalizing majesty of the medium.
      I remember one last piece of advice given me. It was during the exuberance of the rich and frantic '20s, and I was going out into that world to try and to be a writer.
      I was told, "It's going to take a long time, and you haven't got any money. Maybe it would be better if you could go to Europe."
      "Why?" I asked.
      "Because in Europe poverty is a misfortune, but in America it is shameful. I wonder whether or not you can stand the shame of being poor."
      It wasn't too long afterward that the depression came. Then everyone was poor and it was no shame anymore. And so I will never know whether or not I could have stood it. But surely my teacher was right about one thing. It took a long time - a very long time. And it is still going on, and it has never got easier.
      She told me it wouldn't.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Spring Prep

This year has been fairly unfocused so far.  It began with the introduction of Kindle Select--an interesting experiment.  Then February was taken up with formatting books for Createspace purposes and getting them out. This month is about promotions.

Today the Smashwords promotion ends--I feel pleased about it.  Flash was downloaded by a moderate amount of people, not too many, not in numbers that make you feel like they're storing acorns for winter.  The purpose of any giveaway-- at the heart of it-- is for the customer to test the product.  If you're given free shampoo you're expected to use it not hoard it.  If you're given a free book, the reader is expected to read it, not store it on a TBR list that's 800 books long.  There's something broken about this unspoken contract. when people scoop up every freebie they can find, never read them, never review them, and never tell their friends about them.  I know there's a word for this but I can't think of at the moment.

Dream Horse is on a giveaway at GoodReads right now that will last another week and about 130 people have entered to have their name drawn to win the 1 book.  Murder Is Exhausting begins its giveaway today.  I haven't set up the Nothing Serious giveaway yet.

I am writing a book and it's like Love In The Air.  That was the first book I wrote without content.  It was really hard and I struggled.  So this is my 2nd book without content and it will be under a pen name and I won't talk about it here or the BAM blog.  Until the experiment is over if ever.

What do I mean by no content?  No subtext, no alternate meaning, no read for meaning, just the plot.  The kind of thing that does really well at Amazon--something very straightforward and uncomplicated.  A little bit on the predictable side, expected, like everything else, not challenging, doesn't require thought.  Pulp.

There's a story told in Hollywood.  How many stories in Hollywood are true?  You decide if this one is.

A group of missionaries went to a remote village in Africa 70 years ago.  They thought it would be a great idea to expose the villagers to Hollywood entertainment so they set up a projector and a screen in a hut and invited everyone to come see the movie they were running.  The people showed up and stared in amazement as they watched King Kong.  They cheered at the end and left happy people.  The missionaries were thrilled.  They were right, they had improved the lives of these people, they brought the modern world to them.  They decided to do it again and run another movie the next night.  The next night the villagers showed up in great anticipation and the movie started.  It wasn't King Kong.  To say they were disappointed is understating it.  They tore down the screen, wrecked the projector and trashed the hut.  When the missionaries came out of their safe hiding places they asked "What was that about?"  The tribal leader said "We wanted to see King Kong again."

What is the point of this Hollywood story?  People want the same but different.  They want the same.

You will lose more money by being creative and different than you will by giving the audience a "haircut" on something they're already familiar with.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Cover Design Is Like Haiku

Because it takes a small amount of space to convey the idea.  I think we can agree on at least that much--a cover should convey something about the book.  How we envision that outcome is probably something we can't agree on. 

I can tell you what doesn't work for me--bad vector art, amateurish artwork, poor photography, images pasted together that weren't meant to go together (size differential).  Anything sims I think.  I've never seen it work.  Covers that are so dark I can't tell what's going on, covers that have too much going on.

Here's a site where you can look at hundreds of book covers and see if they work.  If yes, why, if not, why not.
Book Cover Archive.  There are links to the sites of individual book designers as well.

Maybe you're just not interested in designing a cover.  I understand.  4 years ago I didn't aspire to editing, proofreading and formatting.  I didn't dream I'd be making covers.  But publishing isn't the same as it was 4 years ago.  You have no publisher to do all the work for you so either you do it or you pay to have it done.  I'm a DIY type.  We all need to be sharper about how we present our work and covers are part of it whether you do the work or pay someone to do it for you.

Here's a portrait of some famous men in their youth.  I suspect if you look at it long enough you will figure it out.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Photoshop For Web Design

About two years ago I spent a lot of time using Expression Web and was gaining ground understanding it.  Then I had to learn Photoshop and by now have forgotten most of what I knew.  I sat here struggling with css and wondered if you can at least build the page in Photoshop--I wasn't even asking for links or bells and whistles.

The answer is yes, you can do this in Photoshop.  This vid shows you some of steps.  It's pretty straightforward and easy to find what tools you need.  And you can create linkable links.  You are most of the way to your page just in using PS.

I just really want a page at the moment.  Very low requirements.

Someone said---Dean Wesley Smith I'm pretty sure--that we've gotten past early adopters of digital reading and are getting into the main population now.  This is good news.

It is true though that the market is more flooded with more choices than ever and it is harder to be found, so having an increased footprint on the web by using dedicated websites can't hurt.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Kindle Select--Pass or Fail

It works a treat for some; for my books, not so much.  Today at midnight the Verrine book finished its stint.  Make sure you go in and change the settings before the time is up otherwise you will be automatically resigned.  If you don't check the re-up box, you can think about it and they will send you a note telling you how great a program readers think it is and that you can be a part of all the money to be had in their fund.  I made a pittance.  People don't want to borrow cookbooks.

Do you get extra special visibility?  Where is that?  I have one book on that I intentionally did not run a freebie on and in close to 2 months there hasn't been 1 sale.  Kindle Select isn't magic.  Like in the real world, you have to start with something people already know they want to read.  If you have a niche audience, if you're off-genre, if it's not something easily understood, it doesn't look to me as though Kindle Select is a help.    One might say that it's a hindrance because the more sites you're at, the greater the possibility people will find you.  Not everyone goes to Amazon, and those who do are of a type.  I'm not sure what that type is except that I know the BN audience is a different type.

I can't argue for or against it.  If you have 1 book, does giving away a ton of them help or hurt?  I have no idea.   If you have a series already, does having a freebie on book 1 help or hurt?  All I can say is that hundreds of copies of Bad Apple 1 were downloaded and there was no spike, no thumbtack in sales of it or books 2 & 3.

Write something we already know people want to read.  That's your surest path to strong sales.

So Kindle Select is both pass and fail.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Fling Transformed Into Waiting For You

Fling.  The title has changed and I gave it a quickie temporary cover that suited it but knew wouldn't last.  I think this is where it will be for a good long while.

There is a giveaway for Dream Horse on GoodReads so it will be interesting to see how that works out.
Then there's one for Murder Is Exhausting.  Proof copies from CreateSpace.

Normally I would have given them to the local library but libraries are very suspicious of indie books.  I was told by the librarian that self-published books aren't quite up to the standard of tradpub so when they get emails selling this or that indie book, they're deleted.  Granted some people are more enthusiastic about their work than realistic, but on the other side, unless readers and libraries can pay for perfection, they have to be a little more forgiving of small glitches. 

Will I do anything about Castor Poche/Flammarion Publisher in France?  No, I won't even bother.  When you have government sanctioned theft of intellectual property, I'm not going to exercise myself over it. 

What's ludicrous is that puny minded politicians world-wide are wringing their hands over a little bit of piracy when this is theft on a grand, monumental scale made perfectly legal.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Now I Understand What Amazon Was Talking About

I just got an email from Smashwords, and Mark Coker says they're running a big promotion for a week where you can discount books.  Gee, that makes me want to put some more books there!

Amazon knew and knew they would have to price match. 

I think that's great.  I don't want those books in Select but I'd love to have them discounted for a week at Amazon to get a little attention there.  Thanks, Jeff!

France and Copyrights

Just because this applies to me now and not you doesn't mean it might not apply to you in the future.

Years ago Atheneum made a deal on the rights to my first book, Ride A Proud Horse (yeah I know it's a stupid title, mine was Higher and Wider) and later Charlie (Dream Horse) to a French company, Castor Poche.  Some years ago when both books, and the other 6, were out of print, I asked for the rights to revert back to me and Atheneum was happy to do so.

Now I see Castor Poche is under the impression these are still their books and have made new versions.

Stupid Cover, that never happened

What do I care?  It's France.  It's a long way from here.  Paperbacks.  I have other things to do, they won't sell that much anyway.

Wait.  Now I learn that France has rewritten/restructured their copyright law so that any book not being commercially distributed in France that was once published in France is fair game to be digitized.

Hey, Charlie is digitized in France now.  Yes in English but I don't want them competing against me.  I actually don't want them making money and not paying me, because they didn't pay me for the 2 books you can see.

Can I afford to hire a lawyer and fight this?  Not really.  Can I afford not to?  Not really.  Do I know what the contract with Atheneum said?  No.  Maybe I had to ask Castor Poche for the rights back, too.  And the company in Germany, as well.

We are about to enter a quagmire of international rights where every country has different laws.  If you have no backlist, you won't have a problem with this.  But if you do and you ever had anything published in another country--good luck.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Amazon Is Like Star Trek In What Ways

Not to be ultra stupid but what's "Print List Price"?   When was that the price and where is it available at that price now?  Answer--nowhere.

Cool.  On sale.  Whatever.  It reminds me of this Star Trek episode.

Madame Zoltan Predicts the Future

Madame Zoltan looks deep into the mysteries of the cards.  The mists are clearing.  Here's the prediction for your future.

Kindle Select will become the only way to sell indie books on Amazon.

The mist is returning.  That is all, Madame Zoltan, over and out.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

What's Important

I was going to talk about how ebooks offer an opportunity for experimentation but just learned someone I didn't know but loved anyway died early this morning. 

You can die at any time.  Periodically go through a checklist and make sure you're living your life in a way that will make you proud when you view it from the other side.