Tag Archives: marketing

Back to normal???

Otto woke me up before six a.m. this morning. I took my time feeding them, fiddled around with social media, then headed for the writing cabin.

I was very close to the big boss battle and wanted to get into that.

This one is called The Viral Blues and was intended to be the second story for Lizzie and the hat. It kind of spun out of control and became a lot more than that.

I had all these characters wasting away, trying to draw unemployment, so I decided to put them back to work. This means there are a team of main characters.

My first obstacle involved section breaks for point of view changes. I’m not a fan of this, but imagine two cars full of heroes chasing one car full of bad guy. They’re all doing heroic things, and I need to change POV from car to car. I worked on this for a long time, but had to add a couple of section breaks to pull it off.

One of the things to keep in mind here is that everyone was someone’s favorite. If they come into this book, they deserve a starring moment for their favorite character. Honestly, this was a fun challenge and I think I met it.

Things are rough around the edges, but I finished the story today. I need to do some serious work on it before I send it to critique members, and it may be a couple of weeks before I can do that.

An interesting new challenge presented itself today. I’m on record (probably over at Story Empire) saying I like brief endings. I’ve used terms like “drop the mike and walk offstage,” and “happy for now,” to describe my opinions. This book wouldn’t let me do that.

With that many lead characters, the denouement took longer than I planned. Everyone needed to get something out of the deal now that their adventure is over. Some could be dealt with quickly, but some needed more attention. Then Lizzie and the hat had a bit of drama over their payment, but I like how it worked out.

Then it occurred to me that I was at one of those pivotal points. I have a marketing idea that is either pure genius, or about as idiotic as anything I’ve ever tried. I’m adding my back of the book material, but instead of blurbs I’m noting which stories the various characters appeared in.

My hope is that if someone just met Clovis, for example, they might want to check out The Playground.

Then… I decided to do something I never do. There is going to be an epilogue. There is one loose end that I really don’t have to tie up, but decided to do it anyway. I have a solid idea for it, and I promise it will be fun. I’m selling it to myself like it’s one of those ending scenes after one of the Marvel movies.

I just started writing the epilogue, when I got interrupted.

Lisa Burton

“Hey! I’m home.”

“Back here. How was your adventure?”

“Honestly, it was rugged. Why do you insist upon breaking me in all my stories?”

“That’s what heroes go through. As powerful as you are, you have your own Kryptonite. Readers need to know that about you.”

“I survived, despite your best effort.”

“I’m so happy. I have some great ideas for your posters, but I didn’t expect you home so soon.”

She hugged me, then sat on the edge of the desk. “Well, someone decided not to write me into the epilogue, so I got an early start.”

“You had plenty of moments, and they couldn’t have accomplished this without you. I decided maybe it was up to someone else to clean up the loose ends.”

“It is good to be home. How’s Bunny doing?”

“He’s huge and fat as ever. I’m sure he missed you, but it’s hard to tell with rodents.”

“I’m going upstairs to see him.”

“I don’t blame you. I think I’m done for the day anyway. I’ll have to finish the epilogue later.”


That is the saga of my day. Summer is going to be a period of editing, getting artwork together, preparing blog tour posts, and loose ends. (Hopefully reading) For those keeping score, I never tracked word count today, but it feels like about 4500 words.

Back to the grindstone tomorrow.


Filed under Muse

Check out Marketing 101

Back in December, the Rave Reviews Book Club held its first annual Writing Conference & Book Expo. Other commitments kept me from attending, but Jan Sikes asked if she could use me as an example in creative marketing. As a reminder, Jan is the author of The Convict and the Rose, that was presented on Lisa Burton Radio yesterday. (Link here.)

This presentation comes in three helpful videos, and its full of useful information. Several popular authors and bloggers were mentioned, but since this is my blog, I'll mention that part three is where I'm featured. Lisa Burton is also mentioned, and you should check it out. It's packed with good information beyond the part where I'm discussed.

Here is the handy dandy link.



Filed under Writing

To give away, or not to give away…

That is the question, on my mind today. I’ve been seeing a lot of posts and articles around the internet about what to charge for our work, working for exposure, and holding giveaways.

The best one this week was from super-blogger Kristen Lamb. It addresses the idea that aggregators want our content, they make money on it, but we are expected to provide it for the exposure it brings. Everyone reads Kristen Lamb, but in case you missed it, this is the link.

I’ve written before about my experiences using Kindle Countdown Deals, and the free days I’m allowed under the KDP program. I was not, and am still not impressed. Once upon a time I held a free day for Panama. It went high enough up the charts to get into the high teens. (the free chart.)

I watched like a hawk. I never received a single review out of the hundreds of copies I moved.(Close to a thousand, actually.) I have a hunch that free was appealing, but actually reading the book wasn’t high on the list. The day after it went back available for purchase, sales were a flat line. Panama still sells to this day, but in drips and drabs.

Yet this is what we’re told to do to gain exposure. So what’s a writer to do?

I won’t do the free days any more. My books are pretty cheap as it is. You can’t buy a coffee in most shops for less than what I charge for a book.

I still give out free copies, but it’s on my terms. I’ve never refused someone who asked. I’m just not likely to give away electronic crates full of them any time soon.

I believe in providing free content, and do it in other ways. All of my writing cabin tales could be looked at as little free stories, even though they contain word metrics and other issues I’m dealing with as a writer. The most recent example was Lisa Burton blasting into space with her rocket-pack. (In celebration of finishing a short story involving that rocket-pack.) I also post some micro-fiction during October every year.

I haven’t gone down the path of creating a newsletter. If I did, I would certainly include some original micro-fiction. I just don’t want to force feed it to anyone. It’s here on the blog sometimes. You can check the categories in my sidebar if you need a fix. There’s even a vignette that led to my current effort, The Yak Guy Project. The Muse category holds all of my writing cabin posts. The Short Stories and Vignettes category has a few items too.

I also have the Lisa Burton paper dolls as a permanent feature. Print as many as you want. They aren’t fiction, but they are free.

As an ebook guy, I can’t do the Goodreads giveaways. I’ve never failed to participate in any RaffleCopter type project I’ve been invited to.

I’ve also written things upon request for other bloggers. This is more one-on-one, like asking for a copy of a book. The other blogger didn’t sell what I provided and offer me exposure. I like to think we both benefited from the shared effort.

Personally, I don’t think skipping the freebies is hurting me. Maybe one of you will convince me otherwise.

Right now, I’m of the mindset that marketing myself is just as important as marketing any single title I have. I have a few crazy ideas that I’m mulling over right now. If nothing else, they will be unique. Watch this space.

Let me hear from you. Have you benefited in any tangible way from making your books free? Did this bread cast upon the waters come back to you? Would you write something, then donate it to a “for profit” operation to gain exposure? (Not the same as donating to a charity.) Did you benefit from doing it in any measurable way?


Filed under Uncategorized

Story Length, again

I know I've written about this before, but it's been over a year. I spent a large part of my morning trying to knock one big item off my list. I'd like to finish the retro science fiction story.

I added thousands of words to this thing, and it still isn't finished. I'm a believer in making things as long as they need to be. Many of the rules regarding preferred story lengths went out the window with the arrival of the ebook.

The rules as I understand them are:

  • Micro-fiction = under 1000 words
  • Short story = 1000 to 10,000 words
  • Novella = 10,000 to 30,000 words
  • Novel = over 30,000, but preferred over 80,000 words.

(That leaves a grey area between 30,000 and 80,000 words. Is it a maxi-novella or a mini-novel?)

Does any of this matter these days? We still need to put a label on our work so shoppers know what we're selling. If I ask $3.99 for a piece of micro-fiction the shopper might be disappointed, even if it's really good.

I am firmly convinced that readers are moving toward shorter lengths. It isn't the price of the book, it's the time involved in reading it. I've even noticed it when asking for volunteers. Experimental Notebook got more volunteers than The Playground. Notebook is a book of micros and short stories, Playground is a novel.

So here I am with the retro science fiction story at 8600 words. I don't know if I can bring it in under 10,000. I made a mistake by having a character outline the big plan, then they execute the big plan. In a short story, outlining it should be deleted. In a novel, the big plan should fall apart and have to be modified on the fly. I will adjust accordingly. First I need to finish the damned thing. Edit later.

I already have the pregame shows on. I sliced up some cheese to have with salami and crackers, and ate a tin of smoked oysters along with the rest. I probably won't eat again today, but may have a brown ale nightcap after the game. Better for my digestion to eat early.

I never checked anything off the list, and I feel terrible. I really tried to finish this short story. I know I could if it weren't Super Bowl Sunday. I looked back at my list, and there is a reminder to have some fun along the way. I'm going to honor that part and watch the big game.

I posted another clever graphic and a plea on Twitter to market Notebook. Facebook vexes me. I went ahead and posted about Lisa's paper dolls, and it was barely noticed. I suppose I need more likes or friends, then maybe it will get more attention. I reserve the right to post about it again at a later date. Maybe they would be better received in one of the groups. I remain open to suggestions on the Facebook front.

I succeeded at messing with Facebook, and updating my blog a few more times. Those were on the list. Everything else still needs work, and I'm chocking this day up as a loser productively. It isn't the number of words, there were lots of words, it's the lack of completion.

Questions for you: Should I even care about titles for story lengths? Should I croak the retro science fiction story as part of another Experimental Notebook, because it's too long? Would it be better used as a permanently free novella? Would you skip the Super Bowl to work on your checklist if your team wasn't in it? (Keep in mind that I'm completely alone today, and have no distractions.) Should I bag the whole process and get back to my beta reading?



Filed under Writing


I’m a bachelor again this weekend. I figured once the kids moved to Boise, my wife wouldn’t be travelling to Nevada quite so much. I figured wrong.

My daughter-in-law is taking the grandkids south to visit my son. He’s working, and won’t return to Boise for a week or two. My wife decided to go with them, and watch the big game with her brother.

That leaves me to my own devices. I have a beta reading project that I’m nearly finished with. This requires some writing to send off my notes. I got a bunch of invites to host and visit other bloggers. Some of them have already delivered some fantastic stuff. I still have to write my posts, and any intros that accompany their posts.

I have an appointment for my daughter to cut my hair tomorrow. I don’t usually have to pay her to spend time with me, but I really don’t mind. She’s doing a fantastic job, and I want to support her.

I need to work on my novel to some degree. I concede that the middle is slower going, but I need to get some mileage on it. I have some decent plans, and have to move the characters toward each other now.

I have to write my normal blogs, in addition to anything I’m cross posting with other writers.

With this in mind, I’m considering not even watching the Superbowl. I know for a red blooded American male, that’s blasphemy. I just don’t care that much about the game. I’m not invested in either team.

I suppose I could do like half the world, and watch the broadcast to see the advertisements. There isn’t much value to that either. I already know Carl’s Jr. is going to use boobs to market hamburgers. I think my Lisa Burton graphic proves I already know that lesson, as evidenced by my blog invitations.

Then my wife went and made me a salami and cheese platter. She didn’t want me to watch the game without snacks. She even bought me some outstanding beer to keep me company. (She loves me.)  I’ll work my fingers raw, but come Sunday afternoon, the old pit bull and I are watching the game.

What are your writing plans? Do you have any marketing plans? Who’s watching the game, and are you invested in the outcome?


Filed under Writing

Kindle Countdown Deal, the Results

My Kindle Countdown Deal for Panama has run it’s course. It’s time to assess the good, the bad, and the ugly. Hey, I made Panama a link, because you can still buy it.

What Amazon is saying. The information about a countdown deal is sparse. In a nutshell, it’s like a blue light special for books. It’s supposed to be exciting and bait consumers into buying the book. Exposure for one story will spark interest in my other stories. The requirements are all available, but you have to dig for them. This should have been a sign. I ran my promotion and only learned some things the hard way. The point is that I learned them, and I’m going to share them with you.

One thing to remember, your results might be dramatically different from mine. I don’t write in the most popular genres, and maybe you do. Maybe you have a broader social network than I do. That kind of thing.

What I wanted out of this promotion. I really wanted to offer this to my blog friends at a discount. People have been so kind to me that my primary goal was to promote the deal here for my followers. I could have done a free promotion, but then I’d never know how the countdown deal works.

I gave away a mountain of books during the Wild Concept promotion. If I sold even half that many at $0.99, maybe I could recoup the price of cover art. I don’t think $0.99 is gouging anyone, but I could be wrong. 

On a side note, does anyone have the name and address of the asshole who decided we no longer need a cents symbol on our keyboards? I’d like to pay him a little visit. I can’t even find an emoticon for it. ¢¢¢ (On my iPad, I have to hold down the $ key and slide my finger to the ¢ symbol.)

Biases that I’m admitting to. Think of this part as opinion. A sale is no guarantee someone will actually read the story. I’d be surprised if half the people bother to read a free book. When they pay for the book, the odds increase. Writers want to have their stories read. Sending a free book to some cloud based landfill isn’t achieving my goal.

Pricing a book at ¢99 puts it into the category of an impulse buy. It’s similar to those little things they place near the checkout stand at the grocery store. In fact it’s cheaper than a Bic lighter or Tic Tacks. Mom and dad can pass the kindle to little Bobby in the back seat so he’ll stop asking, “Are we there yet?”

The effort I put out. I blogged about the promotion several times. This isn’t a huge blog, but I’m at about 370 followers. I used my new membership in the Rave Reviews Book Club to promote too. There are about 500 members there, and the retweet power must have reached 10,000 more people. While I seriously doubt anyone buys anything based upon a Twitter promotion, the price was right – free.

What Happened. I sold exactly four (4) copies of Panama. Enjoy the shock value for a second. Let it sink in. There, done? It really isn’t as bad as it sounds. I know every single person who bought a copy, because they told me so. Here’s how they break down:

  • Two regular readers of this blog, who are also friends I interact with. (Including one who couldn’t get the sale price. Thank you Allie.)
  • One personal friend who is also a blog reader.
  • One member of the Rave Reviews Book Club. Lorraine Adair also tweeted about it to several thousand people.

Why isn’t it as bad as it sounds? Because those same people are much more likely to read the story than the hundreds who grabbed a book during the free promotion.

Assessment. I want to feel negative about this, but I can’t. This promotion didn’t cost me a cent. It provided blog fodder, and I sold four more books than I would have otherwise. All these folks are prolific readers too, and if they have something to offer it will be worth hearing. Three of them are writers themselves.
Amazon dropped the ball on this play. While a giveaway gets Amazon promotion, a countdown deal gets nothing. Amazon places a countdown clock (blue light) on my book page and walks away. It’s my job to drive people to the page.
It was in the fine print somewhere, but I missed it. The countdown deals are only available in the US and the UK. Many of my blog followers are from all over the world and could not take advantage of the offer. It can’t be any harder to make this available in other countries. I would have been just as well served to give a PDF of the story to some of my blog friends. I may still do that.
Does anyone else see the irony that people from Panama could not take advantage of a promotion for Panama?
I will probably use the giveaway option again someday. I think I can benefit from a shorter time period and accomplish something. I can’t guarantee anyone will read whatever story I give away, but there is benefit in getting lookers to my Amazon pages. I may not use the countdown deal again. I have to weigh getting a few voracious readers against the unfair practice of excluding entire parts of the world from the promotion. My sense of fair play is offended.
A broader assessment. I wound up shopping the Rave Reviews Book Club stories. I think my prices are too high. I believe I’m cheaper than a Starbucks or a Red Bull, but most of the self published books seem to be cheaper than mine.
This amazes me, because a server spends ten minutes with me and I leave a bigger tip on the table than what I charge for a book. I spent a year or more writing a story and invested some small amount in the cover art too. Facts are facts, and I probably just have to accept them.
Right now, I could make more money as a writer by finding a piece of cardboard and writing “Will Work for Food” on it.
I’m not actually discouraged. I enjoy writing. While I don’t enjoy the promotion and salesmanship, I also like learning new things. I’m just in the process of learning what doesn’t work.
Please weigh in. I’m signed up under the KDP 70% royalty option. This means that for every $3.99 book sold, I get $2.79. If I moved over to the 35% royalty option and sold books for ¢99, I would get ¢34 per sale. It’s the idea of making it up in volume. While I don’t think anyone can answer the question, I have to try somehow. At the lower price point, I would have to sell eight times the number of books to see the same income.
Another option is to stay in the 70% royalty program and lower my price to $2.99,which is the lowest possible under this option. This might be the better solution to my mind.
I’m not particularly interested in leaving the KDP program and trying other venues. While I may move more books by adding Nook, or Apple, I don’t really want to spend the extra time. Between my full time employment and writing, I’m already working seven days a week.
This isn’t all about the money. I’d be lying if I said I’m not interested in it; I like money. Ten years from now, with more titles available, if I could supplement my retirement significantly I would be ecstatic.
I also want people to have fun with my stories. To do that, they have to read them. I could put them all online for free and accomplish that. What I need is a happy middle ground.
Readers of this blog all seem to be pretty savvy. Many of you are writers yourselves. Let me hear from you. I don’t have to change anything today, but a change is coming. Amazon won’t let me change anything for Panama for another 14 days anyway. I’m looking for opinions here so speak up.


Filed under Writing

Word Count has Meaning

Word count seems to have meaning in my writing. It went kind of like this today.

I got to the writing cabin at about 5:30 AM. Lisa* was still getting ready, so I grabbed coffee and headed into the office I’m using for this story.

Doubt** was still asleep with the time change, and I was thankful. Today was dedicated to new words and I didn’t need his grumbling to slow me down.

I still spent an hour going back over the last section I’d written. This is my normal routine, and it keeps me on track for the next section. I always like to refresh myself as to whether something happened on a Monday or a Friday. It helps me avoid problems later on. I don’t know why I need a raven of doubt to slow me down anyway. I always had enought doubts on my own.

I wound up deleting a few paragraphs and replacing them with better paragraphs. One quick glance at the outline, and I was off and running.

I remember Lisa drifting through in her mad scientist getup. She had a lab coat with bloody pawprints on over a skull tee shirt with tights and boots. A pair of leather goggles served as a headband. She topped off my coffee and disappeared.

I spent a long time moving my characters around to set up the first scene. Teenagers don’t always have access to a car, and this had to be set up. When I was ready, I deviated from the outline. I’ve not discussed this very much, but deviating from the outline is fairly regular.

Sometimes, I have to go back and work on the outline again. This may be one of those times. I wasn’t about to stop today though.

“Lisa, come in here. I need some help,” I yelled.

She brought the coffee pot and trotted down the stairs. “What’s up, Boss?”

“Set that down. I need your help. If I were to grab your ear and threaten you, how would you react?”

“I’d probably punch your throat out and kick you in the balls.”

“Wow, really?”

“That’s my training. Why?”

“Okay, a teenage girl–


“Yeah, Patty. She’s in trouble, but her life isn’t threatened. It’s a different kind of trouble. What would she do?”

“How far along her journey have you come?”

“Pretty far. She’s matured a little.”

“Okay. I take it you want a milder reaction. Could she scream for help?”

“There’s no one else around, and she knows that.”

Lisa cupped her hand around her chin and paced. “Okay, grab my ear and let’s walk through it.”

I don’t know why I listened, but I grabbed her ear, and threatened to call her parents.

“Wait, what’s my motivation here?”

“Patty hasn’t done what the guy thinks she has, but he’s going to call her parents and tell them anyway. She’s on her lunch break and if she doesn’t get back to school, she’s going to get into trouble.”

“Got it. Try again.”

I grabbed her ear and threatened to call her parents.

Lisa stomped down so hard on my foot that I fell head forward into the couch. Then she kicked hard, but stopped at the surface of my ribs.

“How’s that?” she asked.

Tears welled up in my eyes, and I pressed my face into the sofa cushion. “That should work.”

“Thanks. So, do I get credit in your book?”

“No. You don’t have any lines.”

“Fine. Here’s your coffee.” She stomped off into the lobby.

Doubt, the raven woke up and made some of his raven sounds. I swear it sounded like laughing.

I limped back to the desk and kept going.

I managed three pretty good scenes before my battery wanted to die. My word count is up to 52,870. That makes 3203 for this writing session.

My writing always starts with a pretty decent word count. It lags when I get to the middle, but picks back up again when I get near the end. I know I’m getting away from the middle, and my word count is just as expected.

I have about four big things before I get to the end, and I’m worrying about coming up short. There’s probably a fifth bit involving a denoument right at the end.

I’m also concerned about who this might be for. I see it as suitable for kids, but there’s some swearing and violence in it. The twelve year old of today is different than the twelve year old of my day. I think they can handle more today. I also don’t think they would like something all sugary and sweet.

I’m of the mind to write my story and figure it all out later. I’d like to know what other writers think though. Let me hear it in the comments.

I called Lisa back. I don’t like hurting her feelings, and she’s been one of my strongest supporters.

“What do you need, now?” she asked.

“I just want to visit. I’m about done for the day, and we’ve been hitting it pretty hard.”

She sat down and crossed her legs. “We ought to think about taking the skis off your gyrocopter pretty soon. It’s going to get muddy any day now.”

“What then? Will the tires work?”

“Not too sure. The little runway is grassy. If you come early it will still be frozen. Landing is the hardest part. You could even take off on the highway. I can carry the ‘copter out there for you if we have too.”

“What if you used the tractor while it’s frozen and added snow to the runway?”

“Maybe, but you’re going to have to let it thaw eventually. You look tired, do you want a sandwich and a nap?”

“That sounds great.”

* Lisa is the main character in Wild Concept. She works as my assistant these days, and is a robot.

** Doubt is a raven. He was a gift from my Muse.


Filed under Muse, Writing