Give it away, give it away now!

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I have a post-apocalypse book that sells regularly and has never been promoted or part of a giveaway. I wrote a second book that is hard to categorize but it involves romance and life after death. It’s hard to come up with a description for it without giving away the plot. (Most reviewers have already done that though.) I’ve been told several times it’s my best work. Instead of putting it in KDP Select, I tried putting it on Amazon, B&N, iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords, etc.

The book would not sell. I played with the description, the cover, the price, and even re-arranged the chapters to put something more exciting as the first chapter. Still nothing. On Smashwords I set it to “Reader sets the price,” which means the reader can choose to pay $0 if they want. No one bothered.

I concluded that the book is just not marketable, or I lacked the necessary marketing mojo to do it right. I finally gave up on the other retailers after two months of no sales. I put it in KDP select and scheduled it to be free last Friday and Saturday.

I was shocked when 643 people actually downloaded it. But I assumed they were just free book hoarders and they’d never read it.

Over the course of this past week, I’ve sold 9 copies and got 3 new reviews. (One 5-star and two 4-stars.) I have to conclude that giving away a book on Amazon does exactly what you would hope it would do – it gets the book into people’s hands. It gets exposure. It can get people talking about it to others who buy it. It gives readers a chance to find out if they like your writing. If they do, they might come back and buy your other books. There’s a reason why Amazon asks for so much in exchange for the ability to give your book away on their site.

It costs nothing to give a book away. And if no one is buying it, then those free copies are not lost revenue, because it wasn’t selling anyway. Giving it away does not lower it’s value. Who says to a reviewer, “You’re going to have to pay for it if you want to review it, because I value my work.” Such people mean to say, “I’m not giving my book away unless I’m getting something out of it in return.”

Those who value their work so much can watch it gather virtual dust rather than demean themselves and their art by doing a giveaway. It just depends what you want to do, and why you write. Do you write books because the act itself is satisfying, whether or not anyone ever reads them? Or do you want your book in a reader’s hands, flowing through their minds, and giving them the same joy you get when you read a great book?

I always see people in my local grocery store cooking food and giving it away. Someone is paying them to do that so you can get a taste of their product. There’s a reason they’re giving away their product.

If they’re lucky, you’re going to go, “Mmmm. I want more of that.” And when you really, really like something, don’t you tell someone you know?

The CEO

The CEO

by Edward M Wolfe

fireThe sirens had long since faded out and were never heard again. The only sound on the street came from the rustling of windblown debris, like the page from a newspaper that skittered to a stop against the CEO’s legs. He bent down and picked it up, reading the headline at the top of the page. It was about the plummeting stock market. Old news. He turned a little to the side and spread his fingers, letting the paper fly away. He turned further, looking behind him at the skyline in the distance. New York was his town. It was his playing field. He practically owned it. Dollars ruled, and he had billions. His money was securely stored in banks in multiple countries, but it couldn’t help him now.

Looking at the skyscraper he owned, his mind drifted to thoughts of his empire and the power he wielded. With just a few words, he could change lives – for better, or worse. And he did, depending on how he felt at any given moment. There were times when he fired a person just for the rush he got from knowing that he turned someone’s little world upside down – because he could. It served as a reminder of the power he had. Less frequently, when he was in a good mood, he would surprise someone by giving them a bonus.

He had never lost his taste for the finer things in life, and he enjoyed indulging in luxuries, but he had to admit, it got boring after a while. Being the boss and making decisions wasn’t really work. It was more of a game, with the employees as pawns. Other business owners he dealt with were players on his side, and some were competitors. Most of them were weaker, smaller players, and winning all the time was another thing that got boring. There was something to be said for having a challenge; having to expend some effort to achieve something worthwhile. He’d had everything handed to him his entire life and never had to literally work for anything.

Up ahead, he saw two men standing next to a metal barrel with flames flickering around the top of it. They were roasting something that smelled like some kind of meat he didn’t recognize. The men were filthy and wore shabby clothes that looked like they’d been withdrawn from a landfill. As he got closer, he saw that they were holding sticks over the fire inside the barrel. Definitely cooking something, using the trashcan like a barbecue. It was hard to believe the depths to which people could sink. Filthy and stinking and eating roasted garbage. The sight of it made him sick with disgust, and yet, the closer he got, the more his mouth watered at the smell of flame-broiled meat. What was it they were cooking?

They watched him approach and appraised his clothing. He wore a custom-tailored Armani suit, Italian loafers, and a Rolex worth more than their annual salaries combined. They smiled as he stepped up and cleared his throat.

“Excuse me, gentlemen. Could you possibly spare some food? I haven’t eaten for a few days. I have money.”

“Your money’s no good. You should know that. What have you got to trade?”

The CEO reached into the pockets of his grimy pants and pulled out his keyring with the Jaguar fob. He looked at his keys with sadness, then dropped them on the ground. They were useless. His homes and his cars were gone. He opened his tattered suit coat and reached into the breast pocket. He withdrew his lambskin wallet and thumbed through its contents. Black and platinum credit cards and several crisp hundred dollar bills. Worthless. He shook out the cards and money. The cards scattered around his feet. The wind snatched the bills and carried them down the street. He offered them the empty wallet. They shook their heads.

“I don’t have anything,” he cried out, on the verge of tears, his stomach aching for food.

“Is that watch made of real gold?

The CEO drew back his frayed sleeve, exposing his watch. He slipped it off with his other hand.

“Yes. Yes, it is!” he said, holding it out to them.

The man closest to him looked at the other man who nodded.

“Okay. One squirrel for the watch. And half a bottle of water.” He handed over the stick with the charred meat skewered on the end of it and reached down for something by his feet. He came up with a plastic bottle half-filled with cloudy water and handed it over.

The CEO took them both, grateful for the chance to eat and drink, but at the same time, he worried about where his next meal would come from now that he’d traded away the only thing of value that he still owned. He had no practical skills, or anything with which to bargain in this post-nuclear world.

Even though he ate slowly, his meal only lasted a moment. He wiped his mouth on his sleeve, then drank the last of the water. He was about to toss the empty bottle into the burning trash barrel, but one of the men held up his hand, signaling him to stop. He realized that the bottle was a resource, so he screwed the cap onto it and stuffed it into his coat pocket, smiling. He was learning.

“Do you want to help us look for squirrels? We’ll split whatever we find.”

“Yes. I do. Thank you!”

It was turning out to be a great day. He’d eaten, and acquired a bottle, and he had made two friends who could teach him things. He couldn’t recall the last time he’d been so happy.

The Dregs – a dystopian short story

The Dregs

Edward M Wolfe

April 19th, 2042.

Acting on a credible, anonymous tip, the officers kicked in the door of the small cottage. A standard poodle barked and rushed them. Officer Karnes aimed and fired. The first shot missed and he fired again as the dog squatted to leap at him. The second shot sent the dog sailing backwards. It hit the ground and toppled over, coming to rest on its side, whining and panting as its blood pooled in the white carpet.

“Freeze!” yelled the other officer, pointing his gun at an old woman who emerged from a doorway, holding one hand over her heart.

“What are you doing? Why did you shoot my baby?”

“Put your hands against the wall,” he commanded.

“But I don’t—“

“Now!”

Both officers rushed into the hall. One of them slammed the lady against the wall, kicked her legs apart and frisked her, while the other checked the room she had come out of. It was a bathroom, and it was empty. He then moved down the short hall to another door. He put his ear against it and listened.

“This is the police. Come out with your hands up, or I’m coming in, shooting.” He took a few steps away from the door, placing his back against the hallway wall and aiming his gun at the door.

Karnes cuffed the lady then swept  one foot at the back of her calves while pushing her backwards with a hand on her chest. She landed on her back and cried out in pain.

“Shut it, scumbag. Don’t make me stomp on your face.” He pulled his gun out of its holster and pointed it at the door that Wilson was still aiming at. Karnes nodded and Wilson raised a foot and slammed it against the door next to the doorknob. The thin, hollow door crashed open and both officers rushed in.

A black cat lying on the bedcover hissed at them. Wilson shot it and rushed over to the master bath door. He stopped and slowly peeked his head around the doorjamb. It was empty.

“Clear!” he called out.

“I’m gonna check the kitchen. Drag the bitch into the living room and find out where she’s hiding it.” Karnes left the room and stepped around the woman who was breathing rapidly and stifling sobs, arching her back to keep from pressing down on her cuffed hands.

Her legs were sticking out into the hall and rather than step over them, Karnes kicked them out of his way. Wilson came out and grabbed the lady by her feet and dragged her down the hall into the living room. He let go of her when her face was adjacent to her dead dog.

“Where is it?”

“Oh, my dear Pooksie! What have they done to you?” The woman broke out in fresh sobs as she stared at the dead brown eyes of her beloved pet staring back at her.

“I’m not fucking around, scumbag. Where are you hiding it?”

“What are you talking about? I have no idea what’s going on. Why did you kill Pooksie?”

“We know you’re holding, so the sooner you cooperate, the better things will go for you in court. Don’t make it worse for yourself by acting stupid and playing innocent.”

He walked over to a shelf beside the couch and swept an array of collectible glass figurines to the floor. The small animals fell to the carpet with a series of thumps. It was less dramatic than he had hoped for so he pulled the shelf forward, causing everything to slide to the carpet and causing the shelf to crash into the coffee table, shattering the glass top. That was better.

“Where is it?!” he demanded to know.

The sound of crashing objects from the kitchen echoed into the living room. Wilson was ransacking the cabinets.

“Got it!” he yelled.

“You’re lucky. I was just starting to get pissed off. The D.A. will be informed of your failure to cooperate. You’re going down, bitch.”

Wilson entered the living room hefting a zip-lock baggie with a granular, dark brown substance. It was damp and left residue on the baggie as he shifted it around.

“Dregs. Probably half a pound. Recently used. She’s probably high on it right now.”

Karnes looked down at her in disgust and saw the guilt in her eyes as she looked away.

“I hope it was worth the rest of your life. Enjoy it while it lasts.”

***

Later, under questioning, the elderly perp talked. The cops offered her a good word with the D.A. and a reduced sentence for cooperation if she’d reveal her source. At 64, she didn’t want to spend her remaining time in prison and agreed to tell them where she’d got the dregs. What she revealed was better than they had expected. They usually had to work their way up a distribution chain until they reached a big dealer. But Phyllis was well-connected, getting her fix from a major dealer with whom she’d played Bridge for years.

The next morning found Karnes and Wilson participating in a multi-agency raid. It would’ve just been a D.E.A. team, but since the two Vice detectives provided the intel, the feds reluctantly permitted them to accompany the raid team. But they wouldn’t be first-in. The feds reserved the right to any action coming through the door.

The sun crept up over the horizon as men in black took up positions all around a beige two-story house. The loudest sound around came from birds in nearby trees. The suspect’s house sat at the end of a cul-de-sac. The other end of the street was blocked off with police sawhorses with crime scene tape strung between them. Two officers stood with their backs to the suspect’s house, watching for any neighbors who might emerge to see what was going on.

Four agents approached the front door carrying a battering ram. The lead agent spoke into his lapel mic.

“Snipers, sit rep?”

“Sniper One. All clear. In position.”

“Roger, One.”

“Sniper Two. Woman walking her dog past the end of the street… Okay, we’re clear. In position.”

“Roger, Two.” He glanced around at the agents he could see, then spoke into his mic again. “We’re a Go. On three. One… Two… Three”

The battering ram smashed through the front door. Glass shattered as other agents fired tear gas grenades through the front windows. One sniper peered through his scope at the upper level windows. The other perused the perimeter for anyone trying to escape.

The battering ram agents withdrew, trotting backwards, and other agents with gas masks rushed in, yelling, “D.E.A. Nobody move!” and “Freeze, motherfuckers!” Agents spread throughout the house. Within a minute, they declared the downstairs clear. The lead agent, Gelkins, pointed at two agents and motioned for them to follow him up the stairs.

A door near the second-floor landing creaked open and one of the agents fired past Gelkins.

“Hold your fire!” he yelled, running up the stairs and taking a position beside the partially opened door. The two agents on the stairs came a little further up and aimed their guns at the door.

“Come out with your hands up!” Gelkins ordered.

Adrenaline raced through the three men as the door creaked again and slowly began to open. An elderly man in a dark blue robe carefully edged the door back with one foot, holding his hands high above his head. His hair was sticking out in every direction and his eyes were wide with fear behind lenses that make them look much larger than they were.

“Face on the floor, asshole!” Gelkins screamed from three feet away. “Slowly!”

The man bent down to his knees, then lowered his hands to the carpet to lower himself in a reverse push-up. Gelkins gestured with his gun. The two agents on the stairs rushed up and secured the prisoner. One pressed the man’s head into the carpet while the other patted down his backside and then cuffed him.

Karnes and Wilson saw the perp coming down the stairs with the agents behind him.

“How did you know?” the old man asked.

“Your good friend Phyllis sang like a bird, shithead. Your career is over,” Karnes spat.

“You didn’t hurt her, did you?” he asked, wincing in fear of the tactics that might’ve been employed to compel his lifelong friend to turn him in.

“Only as much as necessary. Where’s your stash, you old puke?”

“In the basement. You’ll find everything in the basement.”

“Very smart! I guess you still have some brain cells left.” Turning to the nearest D.E.A. agents, Karnes ordered, as if he were in charge of the scene, “Get this piece of shit out of here.”

A voice came through one of the agents’ radios.

“Jackpot! He’s got a whole fucking java-lab down here, along with a nursery, grinders, antique percolators, and everything else.”

“I’ll never understand you fucking dregs,” Wilson said, watching as the man was escorted out his front door.

***

Walter Brown was booked on charges of cultivation, trafficking, and possession of over fifty pounds of coffee. Phyllis Kant was charged with possession with intent to distribute. Her attorney argued that half a pound was nowhere near sufficient to distribute. The average coffee drinker could easily drink that much in less than a month. In addition, she had cooperated and was promised leniency. They wouldn’t have gotten Brown if it wasn’t for her. The D.A. agreed to simple possession and a term a reduced sentence of six months in light of her assistance which led to the apprehension of a major trafficker.

Brown’s trial commenced a few days later. He and his attorney sat in his cell facing the wall screen. Two metal folding chairs were brought in for the proceedings. The wall lit up and the face of the bailiff appeared.

“Please rise. The Honorable Jacob Jackson presiding.”

Brown and his attorney stood.

“Defendant Walter Brown and attorney Sheldon Knight are visibly present, Your Honor.”

“Court is in session,” the judge intoned.

“You may be seated.” The bailiff stepped out of the camera view and re-positioned it to aim at the judge’s bench, then rattled off the formal list of charges against Brown.

“How do you plead?” the judge inquired, looking over his old-fashioned, half-framed glasses at the video monitor.

“Your Honor,” the attorney spoke up, remaining in his seat. “Sheldon Knight, representing. My client pleads Guilty with an Explanation.”

The judge sighed and turned to face another monitor. “Will the State hear an explanation and consider a sentence less than life in prison?”

A small picture appeared in the corner of the wall display, featuring the District Attorney Janet Callaway. “The State will hear the explanation.”

“You may proceed,” the judge said, looking into the camera perched above his desk display.

“Thank you, Your Honor.” Sheldon looked down at the papers in his lap, then back up at the camera. “My client is from an era when coffee was in common usage and sold in every establishment. He grew up in a household where coffee was served every morning with breakfast. It was—“

“Mr. Knight. The court is aware of what life was like before the Anti-Stimulant Act of 2039. Your client admits his guilt. If there are no extenuating circumstances beyond the accused’s childhood when the laws were different, then we can proceed with sentencing.”

“I understand, Your Honor, and I apologize. I just want to speak to my client’s motivations in breaking the law. To his way of seeing it, he wasn’t doing any harm, and there were no victims who suffered as a result of his actions.”

Janet Callaway interrupted. “Society is the victim here, Counselor. Mr. Brown cannot take it upon himself to decide which laws benefit the people. The people themselves have already decided that.”

“You’re correct, Ms. Callaway. I just want to point out that my client is 67 years old and has a clean record. His only crime, in all his life was to ingest a stimulant that he had ingested his entire life with no harm to any other being besides himself. I ask that the court consider my client’s intention – that being, to do that which he had always done without running afoul of the law. Granted, he failed to change his daily routine when the laws changed, and he continued—“

“Mr. Knight, your client did not only continue to drink coffee in blatant disregard for this nation’s laws, presumably for the last three years, but he also took it upon himself to enable others to do the same. He engendered a spirit of anarchy and rebellion, thumbing his nose at authority, and the People. The State is showing plenty of leniency already in only seeking a life sentence.”

“We appreciate that, Ms. Callaway, and don’t deny his guilt and his debt to society for what he’s done, and which, he’s prepared to pay. I thought it might help to show that my client was a law-abiding citizen his entire life. He, himself never changed in his nature or intentions, and unfortunately, neither did his habits and routines change. One day he was a pillar of the community, and then the next, he was an outlaw – but only because the laws changed and made coffee an illegal substance. My client is the same law-abiding citizen he was four years ago, but for the criminalization of coffee, coffee grounds, and caffeine.”

“Are you finished, Mr. Knight?” the D.A. asked, not at all impressed by the defense attorney’s proffer of an explanation for his client’s guilt.

“Yes, Ms. Callaway. My client asks the State and the Court for mercy in its wisdom in handing down his sentence.”

“Does the State have anything to add, Ms. Callaway?”

“The State rests and asks the Court to not be swayed by the defendant’s explanation. We still seek life imprisonment.” The picture within a picture at the corner of the screen winked out and the judge’s face filled the entire wall display, then zoomed out to show the United States flag hanging behind him.

“In the matter of the People versus Walter Brown, the Court accepts the guilty plea but does not feel the Explanation provides any mitigating circumstances or considerable reason to sentence the defendant to less than the minimum sentence that the State has leniently requested.

“All through this nation’s history substances have gone from legal to illegal, and vice versa. There was a time when families enjoyed beverages that included such vile substances as cocaine. And they did so in family restaurants and other places where respectable people gathered for meals – not in dark alleys and seedy motels, as they do today. People ingested morphine to ease their pain. Marijuana was grown and used in many ways in competition with the cotton industry, as well as ingested to alter one’s consciousness. The fact is, Mr. Brown, society decides what is okay to consume, and what is not. The people make the laws by way of their representatives and their votes. When the people have spoken, the people must also obey. To state that there are no victims to the crimes you’ve committed is to say that the voice of the nation as a whole is irrelevant to you. That you can decide what is right and wrong, despite what hundreds of millions of your countrymen have decreed to be wrong.

“Our society has determined that no substance shall be ingested that accelerates the natural functioning of the central nervous system. Stimulants are illegal in this country in all of their manifestations – regardless of how you were raised. The laws have been passed. And you’ve admitted your guilt in violating them. The Court hereby sentences you to remain in custody for the remainder of your natural life.”

The judge banged his gavel one time then set it down.

“Court is adjourned.”

The screen in Brown’s cell wall turned black. Knight grabbed his papers and put them in his briefcase, then stood and grabbed his folding chair with his free hand.

“I’m sorry, Walter. I did my best.” He looked at his client, chagrined. “If there’s anything I can do for you…”

“I appreciate it, Sheldon. I just don’t know how I’m going to make it in here. I’ve never been in jail before. I’m so stressed, I feel like I’m going to have a heart-attack.”

“I’ll ask the guard to bring you some heroin. It’ll help you relax, Walter.”

###

Q & A for the Newly Self-published Author

Q. How do I get honest reviews?

A. Reaching out to bloggers is a good idea, if you can find some that are not overwhelmed with prior commitments. Be sure to only query bloggers who review your genre. Many bloggers will also have specific guidelines on how to query them. Read these, and follow them with precision.

You can also give your book away to people who will review it. There are groups on Goodreads where you can list your book, and anyone who is interested in reading and reviewing it will reply. Then you email them the book in the format they choose from those you said you have available.
Authors Requesting Reviews

Another Goodreads group has a form of review exchanges, but you do non-reciprocal reviews, so it’s not a tit-for-tat, lacking credibility.
Review Group

You can also do a giveaway on Goodreads. This isn’t guaranteed to get you reviews, but it might. The more you give away, the better your chances, but be aware that this is an expensive route with no guarantees. It’s especially expensive if you make your giveaway eligible to foreign countries. The slowest shipping isn’t cheap, and you have to fill out a customs form.

Some people believe there is additional value in the exposure your book will receive when hundreds, if not thousands sign up for the giveaway. I would be willing to bet that the vast majority of people who sign up barely glance at the book’s description, but rather, just hit the Enter Giveaway button and go on to what they were doing before they encountered the giveaway. Sure, it might really entice some people, but you have to put yourself on the other side of any marketing you’re thinking of doing. Have you ever entered a giveaway, failed to win, and then gone back to buy that book, or another book by that author?

It’s one thing to want something and learn that you have a chance to win it. It’s another thing to simply learn that something is being given away, so you enter just because you can, because – hey, free stuff.

I would not recommend paying for reviews. Not even Kirkus, or anyone else who sells reviews.  I also would not exchange reviews directly with another author. You might not like each other’s books, and yet still be obligated to give a review. Do you give a bad one because you want to maintain your personal integrity? What if they wrote you a good one, genuine or not? It’s just a messy situation that you probably don’t want to find yourself in.

A good way to promote your book is to have it included in a newsletter that is sent out to subscribers who actually want to know about new books. Websites that do this usually specialize in free books, but some also feature low cost books.  One such site that has been doing this is now going to try something new. that is like the “read for review” giveaway described above.

For a $20 fee, ChoosyBookworm.com will list your book as being available to readers who would like to read it and review it at no cost to them. (The price has dramatically increased since this was written.) This could be a win for all three parties. The intention is for you to get at least 20 reviews. Initially, the site owner said that he would keep listing your book until you got 20, but I think he’ll be revising that commitment after the first trial in September. I just signed up for the September listing so I can’t say yet how effective it is.
(I got about 18 reviews at the time, but since then, I think the charge for this same service is closer to $80.)

I said that I would not pay for reviews, but in this case, you’re paying for the chance to get reviews from people you don’t know, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll get good reviews, or really, any at all. But don’t let the possibility of bad reviews scare you off. Believe it or not, a book with nothing but good reviews is viewed by some people as suspicious. This really sucks if you write something really great and everyone loves it, but you can see where they’re coming from. It’s more realistic that not everyone is going to love a particular book. Some people just have to be unhappy with it.

My latest novel has this problem. Nine 5-stars and one 4-star. I can’t wait till somebody hates it. Or at least has something critical to say about it. Then my good reviews will gain credibility. Somewhat. Maybe.

Q. What’s the best approach to promoting on social media?

A. I think social media is over-rated when it comes to promoting books, but it’s probably something you can’t just ignore either. You want a presence, but don’t use the presence for the purpose of spamming. Read my blog post about The Art of Not Marketing on Social Media for more on this.

Q. What’s better – Amazon or Smashwords (and all the other retailers)?

A. Everyone I’ve ever talked to, or read about has said that they get between 60 and 90 percent of their sales from Amazon. And that’s not just U.S. authors. (Which reminds me, if you’re from another country and will be promoting your book to the U.S., it’s probably a good idea to have your book edited for U.S. English so you don’t confuse some readers. If you’re reading this, and you’re from England, imagine if I said I was going to spank your fanny. That’s an example of how  foreign slang can say the totally wrong thing to someone in another country.) My experience matches that of other authors, except in my case, I can say that 100% of my sales is from Amazon. I only gave the other retailers a one month chance to see what would happen, but in that one month I sold a couple hundred on Amazon, and nothing on iBooks, B&N, Smashwords, Kobo, and wherever else. After that, I promptly made my book exclusive to Amazon and instead of doing the free days from KDP Select, I chose Promotional Countdowns, which resulted in an increase in sales.

Q. Should I be exclusive to Amazon?

A. Considering that most people get the majority of their sales from Amazon, there’s not a huge downside to being exclusive. Granted, I only gave the other retailers a month to compare to Amazon, and that’s insufficient to declare empirical results. If you go exclusive though, that means you cannot even sell your book on your own website. It can’t be sold or given away anywhere else.

I’m leaning heavily toward Amazon exclusivity although my latest novel is currently on Smashwords and the list of retailers they distribute to. I’m trying to give it more than a month this time to see if it’s worth having it with the other retailers. The only problem is, it’s not even selling on Amazon, so it’s impossible to make a comparison this time.

If you’re still not sure which way to go, I’d say go with Amazon, and go exclusive. You can always opt out three months later. And you should also know that those who say they get 10% or more of their sales on iTunes – those people have been selling for years and have developed a fan base. I think it makes more sense to start on Amazon, and if you have a degree of success, then branch out to other retailers once you no longer need the promotional advantages of being exclusive with Amazon.

Q. Should I do paperbacks with CreateSpace or someone else?

A. I have only used CreateSpace after looking at several alternatives. Here’s the first major difference: You can have your book ready for print-on-demand via CS at zero cost. You can upload it today and sell it tomorrow. If your document is properly formatted, you shouldn’t have any problem. If you can follow the instructions for the cover, you might have some problems. But if you’re only a little bit off, CS will adjust it for you, and if you like the way it looks, then you approve it, and your book becomes available immediately.

CS has forums with helpful articles on how to do each step, and there are friendly people there who will usually help. If you’re good with Photoshop (or Gimp, which is free) you’ll be okay. If not, ask your graphic artist friend to help, or hire someone to make the cover-ready image for you. We’re talking about putting your front cover, back cover, and spine into a single, precisely measured template that is sized based on the number of pages in your book. It sounds more complicated than it is.

Q. What price should my book be so it’s not too low or too high?

A. I don’t know if a book can be priced too low. There is an opinion that a low-priced book is an under-valued book. As if you’re telling the world, “My book is only good enough to be worth 99 cents.”  I don’t think that holds a lot of water with readers. While it’s true that your book at 99 cents is a clear signal that you’re not a bestselling author, or even a mid-list author, the fact that you’re self-published already gives that away. Combine that with the fact that the reader who’s considering whether to buy your book or not has never heard of you. That’s a big clue that you’re not big and famous. Yet.

Also, flip it around. Have you ever been interested in buying a book that got your attention and curiosity and decided to skip it because the price was too low? That’s never happened, right? You were more likely to be happy that you got it at such a low cost. If it was true that low-priced books communicate lack of quality, then all free books would be considered total crap and no one would download them. But we all do. And we even love some of them. Then we go back and see what else that author wrote, because once we find a good thing, we want more of it. (Which is where the value of KDP Select free days is useful, but don’t assume that 1000 books downloaded means 1000 books read. And it’s also only useful when you have something for that return reader to buy. Only have one book? Publish your best (and longest) short story as an ebook that you give away so readers who come back might buy your novel.)

Pricing your book low doesn’t necessarily mean people will just pick it up and not read it. That’s far more likely to happen when your book is free.  I don’t think you can go too low. And if your book starts moving, then bump it up a little. If the sales continue, raise it again. If they stop, put it back down. Find the sweet spot for your book.

The biggest errors people make is over-pricing. I saw a book of poetry priced at $9.99 and it was about 30 pages. The book had no rank. That means no one had ever bought it. And no one will at that price for so few pages from an unknown author. When you’re starting out, don’t even think about money. I’m assuming that’s not why you’re doing this. Quitting your job to write full-time would be a dream come true for any true author, but you’re just starting out. The important thing right now is to get read. Period. You need people to read your book if you’re ever to have any level of success whatsoever. Price it low. Give it away. Hand it out in public. You need readers!

Some authors are concerned about whether they’ll get their full royalty from Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited. Unless you’re moving a significant number of books every month – who cares? Will it make a difference to you if you get $2.00 instead of $3.00 on the sale of 5 books? I sure hope not. That brings me back to another argument in favor of being exclusive to Amazon. Now you can get “sales” from people downloading your book for free. As long as they read at least 10% of it, you get paid. If they hate it, you don’t have that awful sight of seeing on your sales stats that you lost a sale because someone got a refund. If they hated it after 10%, you still get paid for the sale. Kindle Unlimited is another thing that is too good to be true and I expect Amazon to change the terms later.

(Kindle Unlimited is another thing that has changed since this article was written. Now you get paid for each page read, rather than getting paid after 10% of the book is read.)

If you have a good story in a popular genre, and a good-sized book, I’d start with $2.99 and see how it goes. Amazon has a beta program that will suggest a price to you. Notice when you get to that step in the publishing process that it’s recommending a price based on making the most money per unit. In the fainter line, you can see which price point resulted in the most sales. That’s the one you want. Forget the profit. You’d probably rather have more sales at a lower profit, (which is how Sam Walton built the WalMart empire) than high profit on few sales.

Q. Should I hire a marketing agency or PR firm?

A. I definitely do not recommend using a marketing agency – at least not the type that will promise to promote your book on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc., and send out X number press releases. I don’t care how many followers they have. When is the last time you bought anything from a Facebook ad? How about the last time you bought a book from a Facebook ad? Tweet 100,000 people, and how many are sitting at their computers at the exact moment your tweet comes flying by? How often are you sitting at your computer reading all of the incoming tweets? I don’t know anyone who does that. We’re usually either tweeting, or reading a specific person’s tweets – not looking at the endless stream of incoming.

When did you last buy a book because you read a press release? I never have. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a press release about a new book coming out. Who does that? If you’re small, no one would read it, and no one will publish it. If you’re big – there will be plenty of buzz before the book hits the shelves, making a press release superfluous.

Q. Isn’t it amazing? I already received an offer from a publishing company!

A. If you received a letter in the mail, or an email from a publishing company telling you that they’re interested in your book – throw it away. If they call you, politely hang up. These are companies who will charge you a fee to publish your book for you. Tate Publishing for example will require a $4,000 investment from you to “co-pay your marketing expenses.” They of course will be paying the lion’s share, and you only need to pay this small percentage.

Such “publishers” are only publishers to the extent that they will help you put your book together, and then they’ll make it available on Amazon and possibly other retailers, and they’ll put it on CreateSpace, or maybe a different print-on-demand company, and then they’ll price your book way too high to sell, and they won’t do anything substantial to promote it.

Vanity e-publishers only accomplish a few things for those who can’t figure out how to do them, like making your Word document into an epub for Smashwords or Kobo. Uploading your document to Amazon for you. Formatting your document so it looks  like an actual book. These are good things to have done, but not at the cost of your rights to your own book, and a good percentage of your royalties – if you even get any at the inflated price.

Once you’re in with these companies, you’re in for the duration unless you prevail in a lawsuit for breach of contract. You are far better off hiring out these tasks, or learning to do them yourself. There are books on how to publish on Kindle.

Here’s one that’s free. I think it’s the one I read before I published my first book.
Building Your Book for Kindle

E-publishers will also make your cover. This is one of two things you might need to spend some money on. Look for a pre-made cover that fits your book well, or if money is no object, hire an artist to custom create your cover. Don’t be lured by the lullaby of an e-publisher promising to do all of the things you couldn’t do yourself. You can buy a cover. You can pay someone to convert your books. You can learn to upload them. But if you let an e-publisher do it all for you, the one thing you need the most is the one thing you’ll still be left having to do for yourself – and that’s promoting and marketing your book and getting it in front of readers.

Q. How do I promote my book if social media is out, and marketing firms are a waste?

A. There are readers who subscribe to newsletters about books that are on sale, or that are in the genre they like, etc. Places where readers go to find out about new books is a great place for your book to be. Not in a press release or a YouTube trailer. (Have you gone to YouTube to find out if there are any new books coming out?)

Places like bookbub.com, bookdaily, choosybookworm, and those types of sites. Some of them have free promotion options and some will sell promo spots.

I did ebooksoda.com when it first launched and was free. I got 7 sales that day. It’s hard to say if I got them because of the promo or not. I think it costs $5 now for a promo there. It might even be more effective now that they’ve had time to grow. I’ll try it again and find out. It’s cheap and worth trying.

In addition to getting on these promotional emails, whether you have to pay or not, there are other things you can do. Include a link to your book or your website in your email signature. Reply to every email you receive, even if it’s from a stranger by accident.  🙂

Put your book cover on whatever social media you use. It’s not just to advertise to the same people who will see it everyday, but it’s also to have it in more places on the internet. It helps make you more discoverable. And you never know who’s going to see it.

All it takes is one person to turn you into a success. Literally – but slowly. If you’ve written something that is truly great and one person reads it and loves it so much, they’ll tell other people about it. Some of them will tell others. And so on. Think of your book going viral as being akin to a forest fire. Every person that reads your book is a match that could start that fire.  So bring up your book or the fact that you’re an author whenever and wherever you can that is appropriate. Be proud of yourself for having written *and* published a book.  Lots of people say they’re going to “some day” but you actually did it.

And when you tell someone you have a book out and they ask with that look, “Self-published?” Smile and say, “Hell, yeah! Just like Mark Twain!”

Read The Storytellers and embrace your identity as an author. You have a special place in the world.

Now you just have to do the non-writing work of getting your book out there in the public eye. I’ve given you some suggestions. Come back and give me some when you learn more than you know today. You’ll find that most indie authors are very supportive. We’re all in the same underdog boat, if you don’t mind a mixed metaphor.

Don’t spend all of your time promoting though. The most important thing is to be working on your next book. You’re a much better writer now than you were before you wrote the first one. So it’s just bound to be a better book.

If you have multiple ideas for your next book, take a look at what’s really popular right now. You might need to rearrange the order in which you had planned to write your next books. If you’re thinking of a historical whodunit first, then a post-apocalypse novel later, reverse that order. I would never say to just write what the market wants with no regard for what is inside you bursting to get out, but if you want to sell books, then you do have to look at the business of bookselling and not be blind to reality.

The thing that worked best for me was writing a post-apocalypse story apparently. That book sells itself. I wrote a novella about a demon-like spirit who ruins people’s lives to try to turn them to the dark side, and that book will not sell. People who read it, say it’s great. But people who just see it, pass right on by. I don’t know how to sell it. It might be that it’s in a genre that isn’t doing well currently. I wrote a sci-fi short story, just to get the idea down on paper. I didn’t plan on publishing it. It was almost like a narrative outline for a novel I wanted to write later. That ended up being my bestseller until I wrote my post-apocalypse. And even that was just a short story I had sitting around. But then I wrote a sequel, then another. And then I put the three parts into one novel, and it sells almost every day. It’s nothing more than a combination of a unique entry into a popular genre. I’ve never promoted it. So definitely consider the genre you’ve written in, and the one you’ll write in next. It can play a huge part in your book’s success.

Q. Is Goodreads the number one place I need to promote my book?

A. The least effective thing I ever did was buy advertising on Goodreads. You know, the place with millions of readers that everyone says you just have to be a part of, as if it was the Shangri-La for authors? I spent a hundred dollars on an ad that was to be displayed on genre-appropriate pages. According to the stats, I had thousands of “views.” That doesn’t mean actual views, but it was there to be seen if anyone looked at it.  Out of thousands of views, I think I had one actual click from a user. I asked for and received a refund from Goodreads.

Goodreads is an interesting website. There are alleged to be between 7 and 15 million members. That sounds like an author’s utopia. All of those readers concentrated in one place. It’s nothing of the sort. Yes, there are readers there, but they are there to keep track of the books they read, to share their reviews and read others, and primarily to hang out with reader friends.

Imagine what it must’ve been like there once upon a time when an AUTHOR blessed them with his or her presence. It would have been a big deal. A celebrity they could rub virtual skin with. But then Amazon went and made it possible for any schmuck to publish anything and call it a book. And even worse, to call himself an author.  You have to admit, there’s a lot of crap that is self-published. Now imagine these newly dubbed “authors” rushing in droves to Goodreads and spamming the holy crap out of every group they could get into. Every conversation could be interrupted at any time by a stranger busting in and shouting, “I just published a book. Go check it out! And like my Facebook page too!!”

Readers have their favorite authors and they have lists of books that they intend to read. They also have recommendations that come to them from friends, which is about the best promotion a book can get. No one needs or wants an author shouting at them their big announcement they, who no one has ever heard of, has published a book. Don’t be one of those authors on Goodreads.

There are very specific places where book promotion is welcome. Outside of those places, do not promote your book there. In some places you shouldn’t even mention that you’re an author. Don’t be surprised if you encounter a mysteriously antagonistic attitude after mentioning that you’re an author. Wear your reader hat when you’re in a reader’s forum.  Be a living advertisement for your book. Let people who are interested in you find out for themselves that you’re an author. They’ve been through self-promotion hell there and some people view every new author to arrive as another likely annoyance and disruption to what was once their haven.

I hope these tips from my year of experience as a self-published author are helpful to some extent. Try not to get bogged down in any one thing. Don’t let your first negative review depress you. Consider what you can learn from it – but also, don’t go changing your book to please one person who criticized one thing. Remember that being an author is a marathon, not a sprint. You’re in this for the long haul.

You’re also leaving something behind for your children and grandchildren, and so on – forever. How cool is that?

Post-Apocalypse – First Strike

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00066]

I should mention my other novel  here, instead of only promoting the more recent, “Kendra’s Spirit.” Completely different genres, and there just might be some post-apocalypse fans viewing this page.

*In The End: a pre-apocalypse novel* has been described as unique in the genre, and a “breath of post-apocalypse fresh air.”

America is attacked in limited fashion in what might be a single terrorist event, or considering the location, it might’ve been a first strike intended to knock out at least some of our air defenses and prevent mutually assured destruction of the enemy.

The novel begins with a small group of college students who just arrived at the luxury condominium cabin they rented and seeing a mushroom cloud rising over the Denver skyline. Shortly thereafter, they hear gunshots, despite being among the first to come for the ski season which starts the following week.

Elsewhere on the mountain top are a few bikers – one of whom is delighted to see that Colorado has been nuked. To him, this means the end of law enforcement, and thus the end of restraining his sociopathic desires.

Everyone must fend for themselves as they face the end of the world as they know it. Some of them don’t do so well, and others are surprised to find their latent leadership abilities. 

This is the first in a trilogy and is sub-titled “a pre-apocalypse novel.” The second book, tentatively titled “In The End 2: American Apocalypse” will feature the actual apocalypse, and the third will be the post-apocalypse.

In The End: a pre-apocalypse novel

The Art of Not Marketing on Social Media

Intl' Authors' DayThis blog post is a part of the blog hop, created by b00kr3vi3ws.

The Art of Not Marketing on Social Media

Here’s something you might find refreshing, especially if you’re at the tail of the Baby Boomers and among the first of the GenX’ers and aren’t really all that hip to the whole idea of “building a platform” and plugging in to social media like Facebook and Twitter. Many authors who buy books and/or read blogs about how to self-promote their self-published books are constantly told that they need to get on these two huge social media venues. Once there, you now need to build a huge following so you can then promote your book to that eager crowd.

The truth is, it’s actually a catch-22. If you had the means to get thousands of people to “Like” you Facebook page, or to follow you on Twitter, then you’d simply promote your book to those thousands, wouldn’t you?

Here’s an example of how this works (or doesn’t, actually) via silly dialogue:

The Catch-22

Author: How can I get people to notice my book?

Helper: You need to create a website.

Author: Okay, I have a website now. How do I get traffic to it?

Helper: For that, you need a blog.

Author: Okay, now I have a blog. How do I get people to read it?

Helper: You should promote it on Facebook.

Author: Okay, now I have an author page on Facebook. How do I get people to Like the page?

Helper: Are you on Twitter?

Author: I’m on Twitter now. How do I get people to follow me?

Helper: Have you linked to your Twitter account on your website?

 

You should see at least one problem with this approach, but there are actually two. The first is that it’s circular and the “solution” just recreates the same problem on another platform. The second is that the author is attempting to use social hangouts to sell his or her book.

Imagine you’re at a party enjoying a good time with some close friends. You and two friends are having a very interesting conversation A guy walks up, rudely interrupts the three of you and says, “Hey, you should buy these vitamins! They’re on sale this weekend only, and several people have said they really love them. Here, let me know show them to you.”

Would you be inclined to buy some? Or would you be annoyed and irritated at the interruption and tune the person out so you could continue talking with your friends? That’s what happens when you promote your book on social media sites. The bad news I have for you is that you’re an annoyance. A spammer. Someone who just crashed the party, hoping to make a profit.

The good news is, a really good way to promote your book and to generate interest in it, and sales, is to stop promoting it on social media.

Isn’t that a relief? You don’t have to do that anymore. You probably hated it anyway and felt like it was a chore, but all of the “experts” said you had to, so you did, but nothing seemed to come of it, so you suspected you were doing it wrong, or not enough, and so you tried harder and got the same results. Right?

So what should you do then to get people interested in your book if you’re not blasting away on the Holy Grail of social media? The answer is that you should *use* social media the way it was intended.

About your Facebook

If you’ve been trying to develop a following or a fan-base there, you may have engaged in a practice of exchanging Likes with other authors. It doesn’t say a lot about you or your books if you only have 10 likes, so everyone wants more. That’s understandable. But here’s where the problem comes in. If you Like the pages of five hundred authors and they Like yours in exchange, what do you do next? You post about your book to your larger “fan base” that you’ve established. The problem there is that you don’t have a fan base yet – not aside from the original 10 Likes from people who really like your work. And they already bought your book, so now when you promote it on your Facebook page, the people most likely to buy it, already did!

As for those other 490 people – they already gave you something of fair value in exchange for getting something back. They got your Like, and you got theirs. That’s all they wanted from you. They’re not interested in your book. They’re trying to promote theirs. Did you buy all of their books? Of course not. You have no idea what they wrote or if you’d even like it. You were just exchanging Likes. Your new “fan-base” has equally little interest in what you wrote.

The way to use Facebook is the way it was intended. Connect with friends and family. See what they’re up to. Congratulate them on their accomplishments; cheer them up when they’re down; share photos of you and your wacky pets; pass on the funny meme that cracked you up. Whatever you’d ordinarily do on Facebook is what you should be doing on Facebook. And that includes talking about your book on occasion. Post about your writer’s block, or pass on a meme image that address it. Post a link to your book when you publish it, or get a good review. These are important things in your life and your friends and family will celebrate with you.

You should also make a Facebook Author page, just to have one. I don’t think it will do you a lot of good and I would discourage you from buying Facebook advertising or paying to “Boost” your Author page.

The Funny Thing about Twitter

With 255 million active daily users, this surely seems like a place you need to be. So you sign up and some friends to follow you. Now what? You need new followers who don’t already know about your book. If you’re smart, you start following new people, and a good number of them will follow you back.

This is a long and slow process, so maybe you’ve bought some followers. You paid out $30 and now have 5 or 10 thousand followers. So you Tweet to them, and you find that it’s still not helping your sales any. You might have noticed with all of the people that you’ve followed that their tweets come pouring in constantly. If you’re following a few thousand people, the incoming tweets are non-stop. If you were smart enough to realize that the same thing applies to your followers, then you also realized that there’s very little likelihood of them ever seeing your tweets. They’re drowned out by the mass quantity of incoming messages. Just realize that when you sent a tweet, it does not necessarily reach the people it went out to. It’s sent to them, but if thousands of others are sent to them daily also, why would anyone assume that one particular tweet will even be seen?

This is where some people get creative and use software to auto-tweet for them every few minutes in the hopes that a cup of red wine poured into the waterfall will get noticed on its way down past the follower’s face – if he just happens to be sitting on his home page and looking at all of the incoming tweets. Some of you are probably doing your recommended “one tweet every eight minutes” manually because you couldn’t figure out the software. Either approach is wrong-headed, ridiculous, and isn’t worth the effort at all. Here’s what you should do instead. Use Twitter the way it was intended. But first, set an image of one or more of your books as your cover image. (The big, wide one.) In your bio, talk about yourself the way you would if you were writing a super brief bio that was going to be used to introduce you to others at a party. Include a link to your website, or your Amazon author page, or your book’s website! Don’t leave this out. Now tweet occasionally about something you’d like to tell the world. Or go find an interesting topic by doing a hashtag search and join the conversation that’s taking place. Do NOT mention your book. People who find you interesting will find it on their own when they visit your page to follow you. Or to follow you back. And when people visit your page to follow you, it’s a thousand times more effective if they see a page full of interesting tweets instead of seeing a page filled with ads for your book for as far as the page will scroll. Think of your Twitter page as a website home page. Whatever you tweet will be the content of that home page.

Be social on social media!

If you act like a person on social media, people will find you interesting. Some of them will develop an interest in your book. And by finding it themselves, they’re far more likely to buy it than they would be if you’d urged them to. This approach is crucial if you’re on Goodreads. Establish your author page, then do nothing but socialize as the site was meant for you to do.

I’ve sold over 500 books this year with my non-selling approach and my $0 marketing budget. Consider giving it a try. It’s not a fast advertising approach, but if you’re an author, I would assume you’re in this for the long haul, you want to develop a fan-base, and you’re not just trying to make money.

If you read this entire blog post, you just won a free copy of my latest novel, “Kendra’s Spirit.” (Also known as “Reaching Kendra.” Congratulations! Click  the link below this sentence to download the Kindle version in a zip file. Kendra’s_Spirit_by_Edward-M-Wolfe If you’d like to have the book in another format, just let me know, and I’ll send it to you. You can also view the book on Amazon to read the description and find out how awesome reviewers say it is.  Thanks for reading!

Author Lynn Salisbury gives Kendra’s Spirit five stars

Author Lynn Salisbury gave Kendra five stars on Amazon, saying:

A wonderful love story that answers man’s oldest question. No matter what you believe, Kendra is a thought provoking tale of love that transcends all challenges. Edward Wolfe is an amazing author who delivers what every reader yearns for – a world so real you know the characters as best friends. Characters that stay with you beyond the last word on the last page.

Thank you, Lynn!

Kendra is still on sale for six more days.

Dissolve Writer’s Block

I wrote this as an answer to a young writer who asked what to do when you have 1) writer’s block, 2) too many ideas, and 3) when you see someone else whose writing is far better than yours.

Writer’s block – If nothing is coming to you for what you’re trying to write, then don’t try to write it. You might have some other idea that *will* flow if you change the channel.

You might skip to another, future chapter, or change to another character’s viewpoint, or change to another work completely.

This is also a good time to put effort into other writerly duties such as editing, promoting, marketing, or just enjoying socializing with other writers.

Another good task is to lie down, close your eyes and let your mind clear. Part of a writer’s job is to daydream and visualize. These things need space in your mind and if it’s too cluttered in there with too many other thoughts, then it’s good to clear out the space and make room for ideas.

This might also mean tending to some things that are bugging you, and lying down and seeing what’s in your head could alert you to what it is that’s blocking you.

Too many ideas – No such thing as being too wealthy with ideas. Write them all down. If that means opening a notepad document and writing down one-line plot summaries because the ideas are for multiple different projects, then write them all down. That clears space in your head and ensures you won’t forget the brilliant ideas that you know you’ll remember, but really might not.

If you have ideas for other stories and feel the need to start on one or more, give yourself permission to do that too. Some people feel it’s important to discipline themselves and finish what they’ve started, and won’t start anything else until then.

There are no rules in your writing world other than those that you choose because they work for you.

Feel free to start multiple stories. Create sub-folders in your Works In Progress folder for each one. The next time you feel that you have writer’s block, go look in this folder. Your mind may have a flood of words just waiting for you to open the right document.

This gives you a Get Out of Writer’s Block Free card.
When you write multiple things at once, the progress is slower on each one, which delays the satisfaction that comes from finishing a story, but you’ll also find yourself finishing one work after another, giving you a cascading satisfaction.

Thinking: “I’ll never be this good.”

Realize that the author you’re awed by didn’t start off that good. He or she developed their craft and you will too, the same way they did – by writing, and by learning from your mistakes, listening to your critics, and writing, and re-writing, and lots of reading of better authors.

or “How the heck did this book get published and become hugely successful?”

You can learn from that too. There’s something in that book that appealed to readers. Read that whole book and discover what it was that people love about it. Remember that thing, and if possible, use it when you can in your much better books.

It isn’t always great writing that makes for success. Sometimes a poorly written book strikes a chord that resonates with a large percentage of the reading population.

When that happens, readers don’t care about the delivery. It’s the end result that mattered; the emotion, hope, excitement, inspiration, or whatever they’re getting from it that overshadowed the less than polished method with which that feeling was invoked in them.

Sometimes though, there’s no explaining it, and it will never make sense, and fortunately for us, it doesn’t matter. Use it as another inspiration. “If something this bad can make millions, then I know I’m going to succeed because I’m a much better writer, and I know I can write a much better book.”

View highly successful but badly written books as evidence that you too can and will succeed. How could you not?

🙂

Elliot Rodger: Clueless Psychopath

If you look at his FB page, you can see that for years he posted mainly pictures of himself and his cars. The one time he actually used words, he said, “Damn, I look good.”

It’s not hard to see that he was a shallow narcissist. And that just had to drive him crazy. He was convinced he was a god (for apparently nothing more than being born wealthy,) and yet the evidence made it abundantly clear that he was a total loser, piece of shit.

He was incapable of finding fault with himself, like a true psychopath/sociopath, so he concluded that everyone else was wrong. Only he was right. And everyone else would have to pay for their “unforgivable crime” against him.

Some other sick bastard created a Facebook page, using Elliot’s name, and is calling him a god and condoning everything Elliot did. Facebook won’t remove it.

I and others have reported it to the police. Maybe they’ll at least talk to this guy and make sure he doesn’t have any guns – and if people grow brains, they’ll come up with a new database to be checked before selling someone a gun.

When we see totally fucked in the head people, we need to be able to put them away. I know people cry out, “But then that will be used against people.” But we need to not be stupid about it. If some douchebag is divorcing his wife and tries to get her committed, we can see what the play is there.

We just need to use common sense and not continue to act like blithering idiots, which is the standard today.

So many things that plague society are so easily remedied, but we just forge ahead like morons.

The guy who is worshiping this psycho needs to be put in a mental hospital. But, nope. Can’t do that. It would deny him his rights. Only after he copycat murders a bunch of people and denies them their right to life, then we can wring our hands and say, “If only we had known there was something wrong with him.”

But the fact is, we do know in advance. And we either do nothing, or we try and can’t get through the barriers, as was the case with Nancy Lanza trying to get Adam committed before he slaughtered a bunch of children.

But all we’ll do is say we need another hundred laws against the type of tool that was used. Because it obviously makes sense that some day we’ll reach the magic number of laws against guns that will prevent people from using them to commit murder.

How many more people have to die before we actually do something sensible?

“Humanity, you never had it.” – Charles Bukowski

Blog Hop: My Writing Process

I was recently tagged by a great author named Henry Martin. Sometimes when I’m typing his name, I start to type Henry Miller. Henry is very fond of Henry and so I associate the two in my mind. I’ve always heard of Miller, and I’m aware that he was instrumental in securing free speech rights for authors when his books were censored for being obscene, but beyond that, I don’t know much about him, and I’ve never read him. But that’s changing now, thanks to Henry Martin. He’s inspired me to purchase my first Henry Miller book, “Black Spring.”

I’ve barely started the book and I can already see that this is a man with a super-sharp mind and I probably should have read his work 20 years ago. I also stumbled across one of his quotes yesterday that indicates he and I may think alike in key areas. “Life has to be given a meaning because of the obvious fact that it has no meaning.”

I don’t know how much Miller has influenced Martin’s writing, but I can tell you that Henry Martin has created one of those characters that you won’t soon forget – if ever. His “Mad Days of Me” trilogy is about a young man named Rudy who leaves his family home to find himself and some kind of life apart from the one he despises at home and the town he grew up in. But a tragic assault early on in his adventure leaves in stuck in Barcelona, injured and broke, with no one to turn to but the family he is determined to avoid.

The book (and the trilogy) gets better and better as you read it. By the time I finished the first book, I was so glad to know that I had two more books full of Rudy yet to be read. When I reached the end, I still need just a little bit more, so I wrote an epilogue. Then I was satisfied. If you haven’t read Henry’s trilogy yet, you should check it out:

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Okay, now for the questions about my writing process.

Q. What am I working on?

A. Sorry this can’t be a short answer, because I’m always working on multiple things.

1. I’m in the final stretch of a new novel called Kendra’s Spirit. This is a novel about a young couple named Keith and Kendra who are madly in love with each other and plan to get married soon. She goes to Iraq to report on the U.S. troop withdrawal and is a victim of a suicide bombing.  I don’t know how to say more without ruining story elements.

2. Readers of my short story When Everything Changed have asked for it to be made longer, or to be turned into a series, or for a full-length novel version of the story, so that’s another thing I’m working on. In the short story, the protagonist tells you what has changed in the five years since the Guardians came to earth. In the novel version, called Return of the Gods, we live through those changes through the eyes of the protagonist.

3. Priority number three is a follow-up book to In The End, which picks up with the survivors from book one leaving the mountain lodge that was the focal point of book one and it follows them down the mountain as they seek a new home (or place to survive) while world war three is waged on the streets of the U.S.

4. Another work in progress that is nearly complete (just several chapters to go) but which I’ve also decided needs a complete re-write to give it the classic dystopian feel that I don’t feel it has yet is called Equal Signs. It’s about 40 years in the future after America has survived the devastation of a civil war. The new government is determined to make everything in our country perfect this time around and take steps to prevent all of the things that made a civil war (as well as all major crimes against people) from ever happening again.

5. I’m slowly working on a screenplay about a true story with the working title, “Restrained.”

6. I’m writing an auto-biography titled, “Ascended Bastard.”

Q. How does my work differ from others in the genre?

A. I don’t write in any one specific genre, and probably never in the confines of whatever genre I’m writing in the vicinity of.

I’ve been told that “In The End” is unlike any post-apocalyptic fiction. Devon’s Last Chance would have to be considered paranormal, but it’s not like anything I’ve read before in that genre. Return of the Gods is science fiction of a sort since another race comes to earth and embeds itself here for a time, taking over the planet and changing our way of doing things, but very few such stories exist where the “aliens” are the good guys. Kendra’s Spirit is a paranormal romance, but the only thing I can think of that comes close to it is the movie Ghost. Mind you, I said “close.”  🙂

I’m not sure exactly how my work differs from stuff in the genres that it comes close to being in. I guess it’s original, unexpected, and does not conform to any expectation the reader might have. For example, I call In The End a pre-apocalypse story. That’s probably different. There’s also no protagonist. Or rather, the protagonist is a group of people. So I guess I not only defy expectations, but standard conventions as well. I let the characters tell the story and come to life just like real people. And we, real people, don’t follow pre-conceived character arcs or live out our lives in three acts. Real life is more random and unexpected and captivating than a formula, and I write what one reviewer called “realistic fiction.”

Q. Why do I write what I write?

A. Certain ideas get stuck in my head. There are some things that I want to communicate to the world. That’s what Return of the Gods/When Everything Changed is all about. We don’t have to allow tens of thousands (if not more) people die of starvation every day. We don’t have to allow murderous psycho paths walking our streets and ruining the quality of life for others, killing or maiming people when they feel the urge. So that novel and story is to communicate something I feel passionately about.

Other times I’m just thinking and imagining and I ask the traditional creative question, “What if…?” In my short story, “Lost Father” I just asked myself, “What if you saw someone talking to themselves, but they were really talking to someone you just couldn’t see?” In the case of Devon’s Last Chance, I wondered what it was that makes real people who everyone considers to be normal, suddenly decide one day that they’re going to shoot everyone at work or school, or wherever. And I thought, “What if someone else was making them do it? And what if the entity who drove them to do it, had to succeed in getting them to do it because their life depended on it?”

So, sometimes it’s just weird ideas, other times it’s to get people to think about things they might not have thought about. But not in a preachy way. My primary goal is to tell an entertaining story. But my favorite stories are the ones that make me forget about life for a while because they’re so engrossing, but they also allow me to walk away from them with something I can keep, and think about, and maybe change for the better in the best of cases. So I try to write that type of story.

Q. How does my writing process work?

A. I start with an opening scene that I believe will lead me down the line to the plot idea that I had. Beyond that, I know nothing. I discover so many things about the story much the same way the reader does. I find out what’s going to happen when I get there. When I reach the end of what I know, I have to see more of the story in my mind. This could involve lying down, closing my eyes and activating the movie in my head, which I’ll then write down what I saw. Or it may come to me when I’m driving along the freeway on autopilot, paying more attention to the burgeoning story than I am to where I’m at. In those cases, I eventually get off the freeway, turn around and get back on, and go back to my exit that I missed, then write down what I saw when I get home.

I don’t edit a thing in the first draft. The hardest part is just getting the whole story written. I don’t care what shape it’s in, or if it has a million typos and missed words. First, I just have to get the blob of clay onto the table, roughly shaped like the bust of JFK. Once it’s done, then I’ll go back to the beginning and read through to the end, spotting all of the things that need to be revised, fixed, or changed. This is where I fix the hair length and the size of the nose, and shape the ears, etc.

I’ll continue the same process; going back to the beginning and reading through again and sometimes I may realize that a scene doesn’t need to be in the story, or I’m missing a scene. I might yank off an ear and start over so it matches the other ear.

In the final pass, I’ll finesse the hell out of every sentence, making sure that it says exactly what it should and that there’s little to no chance that any reader will be confused or misunderstand what is being said. I want the reader to have the smoothest ride possible, with no brain-jarring speedbumps along the way that jolt them out of the fictional world that they should be happily immersed in. This where I’m sculpting the eyelashes and the pupils and making sure that the viewer of the sculpture is just a little freaked out to see what really looks like JFK’s head staring back at them.

Q. Who’s next?

A. I’m passing the torch to a couple of great authors who are also great people.

Lex Allen is the author of a trilogy called Imagine. It’s no coincidence that it’s also the name of a song by John Lennon. The books in the trilogy are called No Heaven, No Hell, and No Religion, which isn’t published yet. (So, hurry up, Lex! I neeeeeeeed it!) I absolutely love fiction that not only entertains, but could inspire people to change their way of thinking about things they never gave much thought to before. And if they do that, they can change themselves, and thus the world. Or at least the small part they have influence over – which is how the world gets changed – one person at a time. That’s the kind of trilogy Imagine is. If the thought of metaphysical science fiction sounds interesting to you, check out Lex Allen’s trilogy.

Lex Allen’s blog

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J. Cornell Michel is a relatively new author (although she’s also a fourth-generation on her family tree) who just burst out of nowhere one day when she decided to write a novel. And what a great novel it is. Michel takes the zombie genre and makes it her own. Her debut effort, Jordan’s Brains is about a mental patient named Jordan who has trained for years to be ready for the zombie apocalypse. Jordan is a loveable character who goes on an unexpected journey that keeps the reader guessing and laughing along the way. The second novel by MIchel, “Where’s My Dinner” is an even more original take on the zombie theme as it skewers the 1950s mindset about the roles of men and women. Imagine I Love Lucy meets Night of the Living Dead. I can’t wait to read her third book. If you like the zombie genre, but yearn for something fresh and different, you might just love J. Cornell MIchell. For a sampling without getting deeply into a full novel, have a look at her book of zombie short stories, Zombie Zeitgeist. You’ll see what I mean by her original take on things.

J. Cornell Michel’s blog

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