Monday, May 26, 2014

DIY - 1, 2, 3...

We've all done it, bought that do-it-yourself piece of furniture that only takes 3 steps.  Step 1: Open box and take parts out. Step 2: Assemble. And of course, Step 3: Enjoy.

Oh, if only it was that easy.  Let's face it, more times than not, Step 2 is the most aggravating, time-consuming and life-threatening aspect of the DIY project.

In today's society, everything has become over-simplified.  Meals?  Open a box, add water, zap in microwave for 5 minutes. Voila!  A meal.  Sometimes you don't even need to add the water!  For the artist in you, there are paint-by-number kits which can offer a very nice finished product if you have any talent and can blend the lines just a little.  Even vacuuming has become simplified - just let a little robot play pong in your house as it bounces off the walls and redirects itself on a new path.

Think back - your grandmother would go out and buy a fresh piece of meat from the market, bring it home, beat it, trim it, marinate and whatnot then stick it in a pot to cook for the next 3 to 4 hours with some cut up onions, a couple of carrots and maybe some garlic and bay leaves.  In that free time while the meat was cooking, grandma would peel the potatoes, cube them and place them on the stove to cook with a little salted water.  Next she would go through the green beans she'd harvested earlier in the morning making sure to remove the bad ones, trimming the ends and possibly snapping them into smaller pieces. More water in a pot with the beans and on the stove to cook.  I guess at this time I should mention that she probably has to stoke the stove and get more firewood to keep the oven warm with the meat and the burners hot to boil the potatoes and beans.  With a little luck, by the time everyone got into the house, grandma had supper ready with piping hot biscuits and had finished frosting the cake she'd made from scratch for dessert.

Today it seems everything has been simplified, streamlined and assembly-line rigged to make life easier for everyone.  Cars no longer need to be cranked or shifted using a clutch.  Radios offer more than 2 or 3 AM stations.  TVs are color and huge screens, not small little 9 inch rounded squares of black and white snow-laden visions.  One now zaps popcorn rather than taking the time to heat it in a popper or pot.

Everything is...

Wait!  Not everything has been simplified to a simple 1-2-3 step process.  Writing is still the long, tedious process of putting words together to tell a tale of interest.

Yes, we have word processors and spell checkers and more tools to make the experience easier BUT there is absolutely NO way to simplify the process of creating a story and making it a seller.

Yes, we have all this new social media to help us get the word out about our latest, finished product.  Again, it only tells that it is available.  We are forced into believing that if one has 40K followers on Facebook, another 100K followers on Twitter, at least 400 connections or more in LinkedIn, etc etc for other social media options, that it will help us sell books.

Time to step back and take a real smell of the roses and not the fertilizer.
  1. You have to create a great story, not a good story.
  2. You have to create notice about the story
  3. You have to find readers -- not followers.
Did you notice step 3?  You only sell books to readers - not followers.  I would rather have 5k readers following me on Twitter than 500k generic followers who don't enjoy reading.  The same holds true for Facebook.  I don't need 60 likes at Amazon.  I don't need 35 5-star reviews that say absolutely nothing but some generic fluff like 'This is the best book I've read.' which is useless.  Give me a 5 3 or 4-star review that explains why the book was so great for the reader and why others should read it.  That is the subtle difference between those reviews.  <snide on> Oh look! This review as 127 likes! <snide off>  Exactly what does that mean?  127 like the review. Hmm? Maybe the person adding the review is just a great writer and the people reading the review like his/her writing better than the book? Exactly WHAT does a "like" do for you, the author of the book?  Nobody said they like the book, they like the review! How odd.

We're being told that social media is the new DIY-1-2-3 for authors and all (okay, several) of the writers are flocking to this in a mania hoping tobe the next big book seller.  Twitter and Facebook are not going to get you there even if you have 500k followers on each.  You need readers!  Not followers!

There is no DIY for writing.  There is no 1-2-3 steps to success for writers.  A neighbor of mine paid $50 for a book on how to make over $100,000 in a year.  This was back in the 1980s and it said it was as easy as 1-2-3. The secret was truly revealing.  Write a book that tells the reader to write a book like the one in hand to make money.  Hmm?  If 2,000+ people sent this guy $50 in one year - he made over $100,000.  

One can read all the books they want and watch every TV show about being a doctor but until the day you actually work on a real body, you have no idea what it is about.  The same holds true for writing.  Read all those books but not one of them is going to give you the basic instructions to become a writer, a published author.

In other words, there is no 1-2-3 in writing.  An author must take the time to create an idea and compose a great story to tell it.  Then the author needs to sell it to readers, not followers.  It ain't paint-by-numbers or a zap in the microwave. This process takes thought, time and perseverance.

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, May 19, 2014

Interview Intrigue

Sometimes when an author is interviewed you may learn a tidbit that knocks your socks off.  If you get down into the interview and really tear it apart, you'll learn something about how to write, too.

I was interviewed and answered the questions, sometimes with tongue-in-cheek replies but truthful to the end.

During the interview I was asked the following question: When do ideas come to you and how do you capture them?

So here is my answer: Most of the time ideas come to me at the worst moment. But I've learned to handle that and always have a notepad or blank sheet of paper and always have a pen to write down any ideas or thoughts that come up. Before Smart Phones, I always carried a small cassette recorder in my car so I could dictate ideas or story lines. Worst moment? Let's just say I used toilet paper to jot down the idea.

Okay, maybe, just maybe, that might have been what is termed "TMI" ... Too Much Information! But, surprisingly, I received three (3) private emails about that interview. Seems I'm not the only person to have needed to write an idea while in the bathroom. I can understand the need not to respond publicly with a comment and to protect the innocent, those emails have been deleted so I don't know who they are or how to contact them again. That might have been a mistake, but... To be sure, I did reply back to each person, thanking them for sharing that moment with me.

But, the surprising part was the tidbit I gleaned from each of the emails. It seems that other writers are like me and when the idea strikes, they are ready with pen and paper, no matter the circumstances. The one gentleman explained that he had to write down the idea because if he waited until he was able to get back to his desk, the thought would have disappeared. So, with toilet paper in hand, he saved the day. The lady explained that "the word" she had been striving to use came to her while in a department store restroom. She never told me what "the word" was but I did realize it was critical to her story. I will attempt to use a certain word only to have it flitting just outside my range of vision and then, at the worst possible moment, come zooming in at me like a Kamikaze pilot. And yes, it is a self-destructive course because if I don't write it down, it will most definitely disappear.

The cassette recorder originally was used when I rode a train into work each morning. I would get to the station at 5:40 A.M. and get on the train, find a seat, and if lucky, fall back to sleep since it was a one hour ride. Sometimes I would dream about what I was working on - yes, the current story. I would awake -- okay, somebody would wake me -- when we arrived at the station. My office was across the street from the train station. It was a quick walk and by the time I was in my office, my dream was fragmented and the best I could hope for was bits and pieces. Enter the cassette recorder. When I awoke, I'd grab the recorder out of my briefcase and then as I charged with the rest of the herd toward the station, I dictated my dream into the recorder while it was still fresh in my mind. Then, when I got to the office, I could play it back, make my coffee, let the story mull in my mind, and finally get it typed in and saved onto disk before work started so I could take it home that night.

I tremble to think of how many great scenes were lost due to my lack of not getting my dreams and ideas down on paper before they dissipated from my memory.  

So, yes, even toilet paper can save the day in more ways one!

Addendum: The toilet incident was strictly a thought, an idea I had to get down before I forgot it. Trust me, I don't sit on the throne and write. Besides, toilet paper isn't the best writing material - talk about interpreting scribbled lines after the fact!

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, May 12, 2014

Are You Only Worth $.99?

Let's face facts.  You wrote a book.  You spent, at minimum, a whole year creating a wonderful story, painstakingly going over it repeatedly to make sure each sentence was perfect.  You had a professional editor comb through it for flaws and errors - and corrected those found.  You paid for a ultra-fantastic image for the cover of your book.  And to a lackluster fanfare, you release it for...


No wait!  You only set the price at that ridiculously low price so Amazon would take it.  Actually, you're currently running a special where the price is...


That's right. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Zero. Nothing. etc etc etc

You ain't making a dime and in the thrill of it all, you have given away 3,783 copies so far in only 4.2 hours!  The book is quickly gaining speed and is in the number 1 spot on Kindle for some obtuse extraneous category.

The days of free giveaway expire and in giddy high of being overwhelmed you sit back and breathe.  In the short length of free-feeding-frenzy, your book was downloaded by an awesome total of 10,861 people and you have claimed the number 1 free book position for a day.

The Day After...

Like any drunk, the morning after comes and your head is still spinning over the prior day's activities. You jump onto the computer and check your status... and your sales.

The price is now $.99 and you have 3 ... yes, THREE sales.  You've made a buck-nickle.  You smile.

The Following Week...

You drag yourself to the computer and grudgingly log into Kindle for possible validation of sales.


In the seven days since your free giveaway, you have sold a total of 5 - FIVE - ebooks.  Royalty: $1.75.

At this point in the story, there are other possible scenarios as to what will happen next...

1)  Go to the park and feed the pigeons.
2)  Call a friend and whine.
3)  Start a new book using "sour grapes" theory to write a better book.
4)  Evaluate marketing strategy.

IF ... IF you decide on step 4, the first thing you must realize is your net worth.  You spent a year on that last book and gave away over 10k copies.  Step back and re-evaluate...

If you'd set the newly released book price at $2.99, $3.99 or even $4.99... AND then sold it on Release Day for a mere $.99 -- think of the sales figures.  Even if you only sold 1,000 copies...
             $.35 (Amazon royalty) X 1,000 ebooks = $350.00

Now, take that times 10 for the 10,000 books you gave away.  Yes... $3,500.00

That is $3,500 you lost in possible revenue.  Now let's look at the real facts.

If you'd had sold 1,000 copies at $2.99 - royalty rate of 70% or about $2.10 would equal $2,100.00. So, if you take that times 10 again, the figure is a tidy $21,000.00.  That same number at $4.99 would be a whopping $35,000.00

I've read the books where some authors "sell" the concept that you should price your books $.99 and go for the 'cheap' sales ruse.

Is your book not worth more?  Who has decided that you should only ask $.99 for a copy of your work?  Why buy into a conspiracy?  Yes, a conspiracy.  If you've spent the time to write and edit a novel AND paid to have it professionally edited AND paid for a professional cover, you deserve to price your book like the big boys AKA Big Publishers.  You don't see Simon and Schuster, Random House or one of the other BIG 6 Publishers pricing their books at $.99 and/or giving them away for free.

Oh wait!  You gave your books away for free so you could get your name out there.  Well, why didn't you say that.  My question is this - How's that working out for you?  Does anyone know you now? Oh, and how much food is that putting on the table?

Yes, I'm being sarcastic.  I feel I'm worth more than $.99 and you should, too.  Yes, I did have my books at $.99.  They are now selling at higher prices.  When a reader buys a copy of my book, I know that reader is going to read it because they spent good money.  A free copy can linger on an ereader for an eternity.  I know this for a fact.  How? When I first got my ereader I snagged a lot of free copies and so far, (shame on me!) I've only read a few of them.  I don't give my books away anymore ... unless I'm at a conference and I offer it as a door prize.

You've written a book - you're an author.

So, now I ask you again... Are you only worth $.99?

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, May 5, 2014

Being #2

From youth until a certain point in time, we are conditioned, trained, brain-washed into believing that if you're not number one, then you aren't a winner. How many Little League, Pony League or whatever have been coached in fervor to beat the competition and be #1?  I was a Boy Scout and later, an adult Scout leader. As a youth in the Scouting movement, I attended Jamborees, summer camps and other camping extravaganzas where there was competition between the troops and boys. As such, in these contests of skill and/or strength, it was almost compulsory to win, to be in first place, to take home the honors and ribbons.


There can only be ONE person or team in the first place position. Even in the Olympics, there are three stands for the winners - first, second and third. The person standing the highest is the first place winner. The second and third place winners stand below in the shadows.

In the shadows!  What a terrible description but for many, if they aren't in first place, then as far as they are concerned, they feel they should hang their heads and be demeaned and grovel in shame.

Unfortunately, I don't buy into that mentality.

Last week I released a new book to a lot of fanfare and hoopla.  My book, "52 Weeks of Writing Tips" received many 5-star reviews and climbed the Amazon sales rankings.  Suddenly, my book surfaced into the top fifty and I was ecstatic when that happened.  I watched and it continued to climb quickly into the Top Ten. My chest swelled with pride.  I was sitting at #8 - then #7.  I couldn't believe it!  I was in the Top 10!!

Surprise!  I jumped to #5 position.  I couldn't believe my eyes.  I prepared an email to brag about my current status to all my friends. I clicked "Send" and immediately received an email from another friend which read:

You're in the #2 spot!!

I almost died.  I couldn't believe the email and quickly checked my status.  My friend was right, I was #2.


Greed raised its ugly head.  I was in the number two spot - nationwide - for a book about writing and editing.  I tasted blood.  I wanted the NUMBER ONE spot.

Unfortunately, it eluded me.  I never made it to number one, I was a number two.

So, am I hanging my head in shame?  Am I hoping the shadows can hide my lack whatever?


I'm #2!!!  I'm #2!!

It's a beautiful mantra and I proudly scream it to any who will listen to me.  Maybe some day the book will quietly slip into the number one position and I'll be happy and proud. But, for the time being, I'm very ecstatic at being #2 for a few moments in history. Even now, a couple of days later, I am still in the Top 10 which is a fact that I'm very proud to announce.

Yes, I'm #2, I'm #2.

Until next I ramble on...

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Just Released!

Yes, no longer COMING SOON... IT IS HERE!!!

My latest book "52 Weeks of Writing Tips" is now available at

EDIT UPDATE:  The book reached #2 on Amazon's sales for Editing.  Whoo-hoo!

US: Just click here to purchase your copy!

UK: Just click here to purchase your copy!

It is also available in Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Japan, Brazil, Mexico and Australia.

So what is between the covers of this book?  Let's take a gander, shall we? 

52 Weeks of Writing Tips Table of Contents

Week 1: Thinking Inside The Box
Week 2: That As●Ing●Ly ~ Editing Tricks
Week 3: Character Descriptions
Week 4: Building A Believable Character
Week 5: Secondary Characters aka Walk-On Characters
Week 6: Sabotaging Character Believability
Week 7: Alien Sex or What To Do When Your Partner Isn’t Human
Week 8: Afterglow: The Real Power Behind A Literary Sexual Encounter
Week 9: Writing and Politics: Parallel Words of Perception
Week 10: Sparky: A New Angle On An Old Story
Week 11: Building A Successful Press Kit
Week 12: A Timely Thought
Week 13: Poetry Fun
Week 14: Youthful Poetry
Week 15: The Top 10 Things You Must Know About Radio Interviews
Week 16: Oh Horrors! Children’s Writing
Week 17: Use Climax In Writing
Week 18: Ten Points On Plotting
Week 19: A Couple Of Horror Secrets
Week 20: Author Websites
Week 21: Freelance: How To Sell Almost Everything You Write
Week 22: Dialogue And Detail
Week 23: Instant Einstein
Week 24: Whose Who’s Whose
Week 25: Point Of View aka POV
Week 26: Dumb Writer Edits
Week 27: By Zombies
Week 28: He Said, She Said
Week 29: POV Revisited – Part 1
Week 30: POV Revisited – Part 2
Week 31: A Good Writer
Week 32: What’s In A Job Title
Week 33: The Editing Process
Week 34: The Writer’s Stream
Week 35: August! The Christmas Rush Is Over
Week 36: How To Write Better and Faster
Week 37: How Much To Pay For Edits
Week 38: Mr. Thesaurus, If You Please
Week 39: Where’s The Caboose?
Week 40: Story Continuity
Week 41: What To Write
Week 42: What’s In A Name
Week 43: Time Warping
Week 44: Fragments
Week 45: Writer’s Conference – A Marketing Tool
Week 46: An Idea Generating Exercise
Week 47: Flashbacks
Week 48: Evil Villains
Week 49: The World According To…
Week 50: Writing A Series
Week 51: Character Details
Week 52: Reading and Writing La-La Land
Bonus Week: War and Sex
About The Author
Other Books By The Author
Sample Read — Pangaea: Eden Lost

There is something for everyone (novice and expert) in this handy book.  Right now it is an ebook but a paperback will be forthcoming. But, for $.99 - how can you go wrong? That's even cheaper than the $1 Menu at several fast food restaurants and trust me, you'll eat these tips up and wonder at the remarkable improvement in your writing.

If you didn't notice, there is actually a bonus or two included - another week's tip and a sample read.

Why are you still reading this?  You should be on another page, clicking "Check Out" and getting the book sent to your Kindle or reading device.

For those of you purchasing a copy - I thank you.

Until next I ramble on...