Monday, December 14, 2015

Entering Limbo

I admit, I felt that particular leg of my foundation in writing shaking quite a bit since the loss of the Director of Publishing who had championed me to my publisher. Loss as in no longer working there, not because she had passed. I now begin the strange journey of transition from being a published writer to being, well, something else.

I felt the loss more acutely when the Director of Publishing left. She was the creative spark that directed the fiction side of the business. Without her, all the fiction titles and authors have floundered a bit. My excitement to join the publishing company had more to do with access to real marketing and publishing expertise than it did with the "reputation" of being a professionally published author. Just when my book came out, my champion disappeared and so did the push that was supposed to come with my debut novel.

Still, I can say I've sold about as many books in my first year as an average book by any author this year. many authors have sold less and a few have sold more. I've gained experience in web site design (to a degree), seen some very well done cover designs and book layouts (enough to know I need someone else to do them), and a splash of insight into book marketing. It has been a great learning experience, but I'm now at a point where I can't exactly take advantage of that experience and move forward. Limbo has its drawbacks.

My options from here forth are to find another publisher or create my own publishing company. Actually, the third option is simply to go back to self publishing which is just a step down from creating my own publishing company. I honestly had another publisher lined up, but things have changed for them since our last chat a few months ago and they're no longer an option for the foreseeable future. It may be best to go it alone, take on all the pieces of self publishing and simply get the thing done on my own. The advantages are that I'll have complete control over every aspect of the books' life and marketing. The disadvantages are essentially the same - all of those bits and pieces will take time I simply haven't had in my schedule to take over.

What I didn't have before is access to people who controlled every aspect of building a professional quality book. With the contacts I have now, I feel confident I can arrange those pieces and get them into place. The marketing contact I found is probably the biggest key. Still, the production of this book series at this point is a vanity project of sorts now. That's the reality of the situation. Have people commented that they loved the book? Absolutely! For fans of that genre, it's really spot on. The question of how to reach my target audience that I haven't met yet without spending a ton of money is the real conundrum. I suppose it's the same problem most self published authors face - how to reach their audience and not go broke in the process.

In the mean time, The Adventures of Reztap and Mishaps and Mayhem are still available for sale, and I still get paid royalties for them. It's actually unclear at the moment if I'll be pulling them from Chart House Press or leaving them there. All signs seem to point to the publisher wanting to relinquish control as soon as possible. What files and data I'll receive in the process in unclear. Even book two is in a basically completed stage, just waiting on me to get the cash together to push for the marketing reviews of The Adventures of Reztap and, possibly, Mishaps and Mayhem as well.

New job, bills stack up and the cost for getting review copies sent out seems further and further away every day. I'm taking a deep breath and pushing forward. I want to get those reviews online before March 2016. I'd like to get book two reviewed shortly thereafter and published some time in 2016, hopefully by the summer. I just don't want links to point to a book that's no longer there! Hence, limbo.

Wish me luck and keep on reading!


Monday, October 26, 2015

Book 2 - Pre-marketing Options

Here it is, a mere month before book 2, Reztap and The Quest for the Insane Moth, would have gone on sale and I'm still mulling over my pre-marketing options. I've learned that I've already accomplished some things, I'm right on track with others, and hopelessly behind the eight ball about to get sunk in a corner pocket with the other things.

The rudest note was checking out this link ( outlining what I should do to pre-market my book and when. The timeline starts nine months before book launch! Yeah, that's so not happening. Still, glancing through the list, I did see that I'd gotten some things done already, although that was primarily because they were done for the first book.

Get a MailChimp account - check. Send emails out bi-weekly or once a month - damn. Already missed on that one, mostly because I don't want to fill my the inboxes of my minuscule mailing list with pointless chatter. So, guess I'll be getting a pre-launch email out to them so they know what's going on at least. Putting that on my To Do List, honestly.

Then I'm down to building lists of things, most of which I'm not sure exist or I can reasonably find. Finally, get an author head shot. Thank goodness that's already done. I'm going to be a searching maniac the next couple of months trying to catch up on the other lists...and some of it won't matter because it's already way too late...but not for book 3!

However, with all this insane pre-marketing activity supposedly going into place, I've had to slow roll the entire machine. The "would have gone on sale" is the key note here. Book two is done and in the bag (writing, editing, cover art, book formatting, etc.), but I had to slow everything down for two reasons - one, I want to do things right and there are some prerequisites that still have to be put in place for that to happen. The bigger reason is: I'm simply out of cash.

Starting over professionally and financially since moving here has put us on the edge. It will pass, but it pushes off the publishing date of book two to an as yet undetermined date. I've been advised by a marketing contractor to get "professional" reviews of both the prequel (Mishaps and Mayhem) and book one (The Adventures of Reztap) before I forward book two for the same treatment. All of that will be a three to four month process. I hope to get it started within the month of November, but I can't make any guarantees.

Which puts this whole matter into perspective. What have I learned from this extensive process that perhaps you too, the reader, may be able to apply to your own book marketing adventures?

1. Book marketing is key to a successful book launch.
2. Continuing book marketing has some value but falls off after time.
3. If you're doing a series, get the first books reviewed first; don't start in the middle.
4. There is a LOT to book marketing - see the list above and plan well ahead of time.
5. Marketing is an uncomfortable requirement for someone who just wants to write - but if you want to sell your books as well as write them, it is a necessary evil.

This just relates to marketing. I saw an article that bemoaned the amount of book marketing going on in social media and the article author said "Just write a good book and it will sell itself." Honestly, my jaw dropped open when I read this. It was from a book author who had already written several books and had an audience already. I wondered what he did when he "first" started out? Not advertise or try to market his book at all and it magically sold well? I think not. Even a well written book has to be pushed onto the market with some kind of publicity or, quite simply, NO ONE will know it exists!

So, write your book, get it edited professionally, and start the marketing process. It's a long one, but don't be discouraged. It won't happen fast or overnight - it takes pre-planning and discipline.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Art of Elevating Minor Characters - Arrow

I recently abandoned my in depth study of all things job related and sat down to enjoy something I'd been putting off for a long time - watching Arrow. Specifically, the first seven episodes (I would've watched more, but sleep called my name and I answered.) I gotta hand it to CW - they really know how to make a superhero show exciting, regardless of the elevation of that character in the DC comic universe. I think they've risen to the challenge of putting DC on the front lines of entertainment akin to Marvel's dominance in the movie realm. As I watched the show, I realized a few key points to take away from their successful formula.

The Flawed Hero - Oliver Queen is flawed. He starts out as a flawed brat and undergoes a physical and mental transformation to become a flawed hero. He's pretty good at putting bad guys away, but everything else around him is literally spinning into a whirlwind of crap. He doesn't have all the answers. His solutions aren't perfect, but they're the best he can come up with given his circumstances.

Romantic Entanglements Should Always Be Screwed Up - The CW really went out of their way to through Oliver Queen into an exquisite mess. The lost love, the cheated girlfriend, the broken heart, the best friend dating your girl behind your back (okay, while you were presumed dead), and then, unlucky in love, falling for a dangerous criminal who has a vigilante heart just like his? Wow! Nicely crafted!

Level Up the Intrigue and Twists - Family betrayals, secret assassinations, Russian mob ties, and all things in between, around, above and below! It's a delicate balance and intricate dance to include all the elements and keep everything straight. I'd be lying if I didn't say I was looking forward to catching up.

So, why do I think all these things are so great? Obviously, the viewing public likes them or Arrow wouldn't be in it's fourth season. But that's not near the key reason why I'm so entertained. No, it is because, unwittingly, I've woven the same elements in The Chronicles of Reztap! Let's break it down, shall we?

The Flawed Hero - it would be hard for anyone to argue the Tar Reztap doesn't start out seriously flawed. He does change throughout the series, of course, but he still manages to screw things up even with the best of intentions. It wouldn't be funny if bad things didn't keep happening, but I can't just put him in constant peril without some reward for the reader. Tar and his crew of misfits all change and progress, some for better, some for worse.

Romantic Entanglements Should Always Be Screwed Up - Sure, you see Tar going through some confusing times with Princess Slurk in The Adventures of Reztap, and there is more messed up fun in the prequel Mishaps and Mayhem. While it isn't out yet, and I'm sorry for the delay, you'll find things get messy for other members of the Namreg crew.

Level Up the Intrigue and Twists - I'm going to break this to you as gently as possible - there are things woven throughout the entire book series that you will miss out on if you don't read every book from prequel to finish. I have six books planned (not including the all important prequel) and I'm in this for the long haul. There are loose ends, dangling plot lines and other narrative devices meant to keep the reader coming back for more. I'm not totally a doof, though. Each book has its own beginning, middle and end, but there are elements in every book that tie-in to future events. There are really no wasted characters or events, although I'll admit there will likely be no future impact on the story lines as a result of a night with a bottle of Lobotomy Slammer.

In short, I enjoy when writers take the same approach to storytelling that I do. I can only hope I get a fraction of the readers in comparison to the watchers of Arrow. It's a good show and I'm looking forward to catching up a little more on Netflix.


Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Bump and Grind!

Admit it - it was an enticing title! I'm becoming a click bait master. Seriously, though, it's really all about the grind. Not any bump explored in this article, though that in itself would be interesting but a bit off mark for my blog. The grind comes from breaking into a new job field which takes a lot of time, energy and concentration. I'd be whining and moaning about how this cuts into my writing time if it wasn't for the fact that A) the marketing of my second book is still crawling to a start and B) I need the funds to get the marketing started, which requires becoming good at my new career. It's quite the cart before the horse argument. None of this brings my writing to the fore - in fact, it's really depressed my writing time and production to, well, basically nothing. But, let's be honest, no matter how much I write, it's going to take a long time for my writing to pay the bills, if it ever does. Luckily, that isn't what drives my writing in the first place, so you can look forward to me completing this series within the next couple of years - I'm simply driven to do so!

Launching into a new career is exciting and frightening all at the same time. You see the fruits of the labors of the veterans around you, realize it will take some time to get to that level and, oh my, how am I going to put food on the table? I've embraced the new job and put all my time and energy into making it work. I've been lucky to have such great team members sharing their expertise and showing me the ropes. They've really built an incredible teaching culture here. Even so, it's been a bit of touch and go with the finances. My checking account has dropped below zero more than once in the last three months, and that's not something I've seen happen since the I was laid off ten years ago. This career is all sales and commission. There is no salary. You take a break, you starve (unless you've been so successful, you've built up a hefty nest egg to take time off). I have no nest egg. It's actually going to be a sprint for the next year or two just to keep the creditors at bay. It's frightening that I can't just show up to work, "dial it in," put my butt in a chair and coast for the day if I need to. There's no such luxury in sales. On the other hand, there's thrill in the hunt, adrenaline in the chase and the promise of a reward if you've done your job well and right.

Now, if I could just time travel to where I'll be in six months or a year from now, I'll be walking in and closing like a champion (a possible exaggeration). As it is, I'm still a newbie. I'm hoping I can last to the finish line of the first year, when most new agents have given up and dropped out. Can I hold it together without breaking from the pack and running for the hills? I will say I have one thing going for me - I'm as stubborn as a mule when it comes to sticking it out and giving my all towards success. I've risen to the top tier of pretty much every job I've held by just staying in there and doing a good job, working my hardest and not losing sight of the goal. I can do this if I can just hold out and get there.

Let's drop into the energy side of the equation. I'm middle aged, so I'm not quite as energetic as the spring chickens around me. That may seem to put me on the fast track to failure, but while I'm not the fastest or most energetic, that isn't what actually wins this game. The young look for the quick reward nowadays. If they try it for a few weeks or even just days and don't see immediate reward, some of them are out the door onto another job that looks more promising. I know the value of the slow and steady progression to not just sales but also expertise in the field. Getting to know your products, the sales cycle and your customers takes a while to discover and absorb until you feel like a sales call is second nature, overcoming an objection is child's play and riding the wave to success seems like it was always destined to be. There's a real value to seeing the veterans in the office and knowing they were in the same boat as you when they started. They overcame their inexperience and blossomed into successful professionals. I'm banking on my persistence and tenacity to get me there as well.

I'm fortunate that I'm middle-aged and not a little more advanced in age. It hasn't affected my memory; I'm still able to do the repetitious study and practice that begets expertise. Were I to try starting this career in my later years, I'm not sure my mind and focus would be up to the task. In truth, the only thing I do wish is that I'd started a little earlier in life. Then, I'd be enjoying the fruits of my labors instead of just starting up the hill. Unfortunately, there's only so much focus to go around -  my concentration has to be centered on my job and that definitely affects my writing.

I started book three shortly before I left Texas. It had a promising start, but the stress and activities surrounding the move (and marketing book one) simply drove my concentration from the writing that needed to be done to progress on book three. Truth be told, it doesn't matter in the short term. Book two is months away from being published, although it has been completed. It's now moving at the typical glacial pace of a major publisher, although it's a smaller press involved. There's really no rush to complete book three. Hence, I get to concentrate on becoming better at insurance sales in the mean time.

In all honestly, the transition has been refreshing. Writing led to my time in the acting profession, which increased my improvisational skills and, really, that's at the core of making cold calls on a telephone. The split second reactions you make are at the core of making the first step in a sale - the appointment. My time in IT led to both looking for solutions and handling customer issues which is really at the heart of the sales cycle of finding out what the client needs and then presenting them suitable options.I love helping people and this job actually gets to the core of that desire - I help people transfer the risks they sometimes don't even realize they have to the insurance company. They get protection and piece of mind.

And in the end, doesn't that make it worth the grind?


P.S. You may have noticed me having a bit of fun with the links in the blog. Some are spot on and others take a bit of thinking to connect what I mean with the link. Just wanted to show you I'm still thinking and trying marketing all at the same time!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Pants Around My Ankles!

If there's one thing I've learned in this world, there are fewer things that make you feel like an imbecile than starting a new job. With the remote possibility of getting got dropping trow to take engage in an emergency bowel evacuation (thank you, maximum punch homemade burritos), nothing makes you feel as exposed and ignorant as trying to accomplish something in a brand new occupation. I've had the profound pleasure of sticking my foot in my mouth, looking like I know what I'm doing and fooling myself into thinking I'm gonna nail this sucker!

I'm rebooting my professional life as an insurance salesman. I can hear the collective sucking in of the internet's breath now. Stop it! As I've been deep in the bowels of the humor and entertainment industry, I've heard the jokes, complaints and bemused guffaws at my chosen profession. Honestly, I've heard them for every profession, so in reality, I'm a bit immune to any off-hand criticisms, especially from armchair non-employees. Unfortunately, I did manage to step my foot in it recently on an all-day bender on the phones. I was calling leads, trying to make appointments to come out and see folks when I got the daughter of a deceased woman answering the phone. It was the fourth or fifth phone number I'd dialed where the unfortunate target of my calls had passed away. Unfortunately, I was a bit unfocused by this point. The first thing that came to my mind was "Fantastic, another lead that has me calling people who've passed on!" I think that is actually a reasonable thing to run through someone's mind. Brace yourself - this is where it gets awful. The first thing out of my mouth? "Fantastic."

Have you picked yourself up off the floor yet? I just told a still grieving daughter (or granddaughter, I'm not sure which) that it was "Fantastic" that her relative had passed away four months ago. Not surprisingly, she didn't think so. I spent the next thirty seconds apologizing profusely and getting my body as deep under the nearest rock as possible. After getting of the phone with this young lady, I turned the phone off and sat thinking about my idiocy. I found my idiocy to be palpable and engorged. I considering a brief visit to a medical clinic or possible dousing myself with industrial hemorrhoid shrinkage formula. That's all well and good, but what did I learn from my experience?

I'm actually an incredibly nice and caring person. How could I make such an astounding mistake in manners and sensibility? Fatigue, mostly. I had been on the phone dialing like crazy for hours and hadn't taken a break. I learned my lesson and now I take a break every hour, get up, walk around and stretch. Sometimes, I even partake of a refreshing beverage. I learned later that this is a necessary practice for everyone, not just something my addled brain must utilize to prevent tossing emotional daggers to the hearts of those who've lost loved ones.

I've chatted with folks about insurance, although I'm far from an expert. I have a long way to go to be able to handily riff through the complexities of insurance and annuities without pausing to look through a manual to get the full story across. However, even with the limited (although very intense) knowledge I've attained in the past few weeks, I'm head and shoulders above the level of understanding most people have about their own insurance and needs. It's not just the truth about insurance but pretty much any industry. While I was in IT, I knew plenty of others in the IT industry who were more knowledgeable than I about many computer-based subjects. However, I was head and shoulders above most normal people. The more you study, the more you immerse yourself, the better an expert you can be in whatever you choose to do professionally. Honestly, anyone can do this with most any profession. There aren't a lot who have the patience or perseverance, which is why so many quit before they reach the point where they're good enough to make a living and even excel at it.

After two weeks of studying and testing to get a license, and another two weeks of on-the-job training with what I consider some of the top experts in my field, I'm feeling fairly confident that I can do this. I'm about to enter three intensive days of training, but I'm already chomping at the bit to go out there on my own and make some solo sales. Of course, I realize I'm not really quite ready, but I'm fooling myself into thinking I am. I need to take a breath, put my nose into the books (in this case forms and instructions), and continue to partner with the best agents around to complete my internship. I won't lie. It's hard to hold back. I'm a natural at talking to people and finding out what they need. But I need to be more than a natural. I need to be an expert so I can guide them there with the best knowledge and offer them the best options. They're my clients and I care about them. So, I need to do my best to study and excel so I can offer them the best service and products.

When you think about it, isn't this a mirror of what the best in all professional fields do? Don't just give it a passing effort. Really dig in and study up on your job, Become an expert in your field so you can do the best job possible. That's the best way to succeed and the best way to be a fully contributing member of society. IMHO.

I truly believe I've done this with my novel writing. I think my scripts are up to snuff as well, but I've learned that all the hard work in writing can't equal success. You have to become an expert in so many different professions to truly excel at being an author. I'm still getting the hang of marketing. The hardest thing about it is, there are a lot of theories and suggestions, but no one has a textbook or solid list of instructions telling you how to get your book out there. It's tough. I hope all the aspiring writers out there realize that the first part of being a successful author is excelling at the craft of writing. The second piece is excelling at marketing and promotion. I'm not giving up on that target, but I find it interesting that it's been easier to become an insurance agent than it has to be a successful author. I'll be at it for a year or two before I feel I've really nailed it down, but I've been writing for over a decade and success is still just out of reach.

It's been a sobering realization about how tough some professions can be when they don't seem to be that complicated on the surface. I hope some of you can get some inspiration from both my flawed execution and my perseverance in the face of professional adversity. Keep trying and stick with it folks! Oh, and try to keep your pants on while you're thinking about dragons.

All the best,

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Surreal Bowling!

Sometimes, you can be in the middle of the most normal, tranquil place doing what everyone else in the world does and suddenly - pow! You're a celebrity! In all seriousness, meeting a fan of your work when you least expect it is both gratifying and a little shocking.

I went bowling this evening at a local bowling alley in Spanaway, Washington. I was there with the missus, my brother-in-law and his girlfriend. All was going quietly until I was putting my name in the bowling alley machine and a woman from the alley directly next to us began explaining that I was copying them in adding nonsensical names to the bowling game as they had done (they were Batman and other fictional characters). I explained to the lady that I was actually Artemus Withers. It was at this point, she looked me dead in the eye and said "I wish I had your book here, I'd get you to sign it."

Let's just do the numbers to find out how incredible this really is. I've sold roughly 30 hard copies of The Adventures of Reztap and and 30 hard copies of Mishaps and Mayhem at conventions in TEXAS. There have been roughly 3 hard copies of Adventures sold on Amazon. Throw in the digital e-books, and you have roughly another 60-100 copies sold of both books combined and then there was the promotional blitz that gave away a few hundred copies of Mishaps and Mayhem. This lady read Adventures. That's an incredibly fine line she crossed on the probability path to actually meeting me. The odds were (approximately) 1 in 2 million that she'd read my book (or even knew my name) and that's just the ratio of buyers to the actual number of people in North America. The odds of her meeting me in a bowling alley in Spanaway, Washington? Let's just say I wished I'd played the lottery today and I need to get some rubber shoes before the next thunderstorm!

I'm a brand new face at conventions. Literally no one at the conventions has heard of me or my books, and yet I have a little over 30 buyers of my works just from them meeting me in person there. It's incredibly gratifying from an author's perspective to have someone take a chance on your book just because they met you in person and heard your best spiel on the attributes of buying it and reading it. I was so surprised to find someone who read (and enjoyed) my book who was in normal public life with no attachment to a fan convention or anything. So shocked, in fact, that I bowled fairly poorly my first game. My second game was much better, but she'd left before then. I hope I didn't leave a bad impression with my poor bowling.

All in all, it was fun and amazing to meet an actual admirer of my work. Of course, after thanking her for buying a book, I also informed her there was a prequel (Mishaps and Mayhem) and a sequel coming soon, hopefully in October. She seemed genuinely interested and I'm happy to know people are so struck after reading my books that they remember my name and wish they had the copy of the book with them when they meet me to get it signed. It was, in short, a really good day to be an author!

So buck up, little authors! You write it well and you'll have fans that may surprise you!


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Ant-Man Review: Dang it, People - Lighten Up!

This is why it's so hard to write things nowadays. Everyone is SO critical about things but they're also SO off the mark! One critic says Marvel's Ant-Man is a poor hero movie, another says it has too much humor, another says it doesn't have enough humor, and so on and so forth. I'm frankly a bit shocked...until I remember "Oh yeah! These guys have to produce articles that are click-bait worthy!" Thus, I produced my own click-bait worthy title that will have people wondering what it's all about. I have more pluses than minuses about Ant-Man and I'll share them with you for the small price of a click! Oh wait, you're already here. How about the small price of a scroll down?

I'm going to attempt a spoiler free review, but please don't hate me if I miss the mark. What did I like about Ant-Man? I'm a big Paul Rudd fan and I think he did a fine job playing the hero part mostly straight. I think he's a great actor and he brought the heart to this film with his portrayal of Scott Lang. The fact that he was also one of the writers on this film gives me great hope for the next appearance of Ant-Man if he's involved in the writing there as well.

Michael Douglas nails his part. I'm a bigger fan of his every time I see him on film. Simply phenomenal! The special effects, make-up, whatever they did at the beginning of the film was perfect as well - very believable. Special effects technology is growing by leaps and bounds. The heroic scenes and other special effects were top notch and right on the whole way through. Well done.

The second tier actors nailed they're parts well too. Scott Lang's team of misfits was a joy to observe and experience. I'm really hoping they're back for the next installment of the movie.

I normally love Evangeline Lilly. I thought she was awesome in The Hobbit and, while I haven't watched Lost, I heard she was great in that television series as well. In Ant-Man, she had some good moments and then some moments I felt she was just dialing it in. It may have been how the part was written. I'm not sure, but I hope she does better (or is better written) in the next installment. Maybe it was just her shorter hair - I love long haired brunettes and she's a particularly attractive woman. The short hair threw me off immediately, but I like to think I got used to it by the end of the movie.

Main bad I liked Corey Stoll in his first appearances in the film but as he descended into being the real bad guy, I found the performance less convincing. There are some parts that maybe could've been written better and this was probably one of them. Secondary bad guy was done well though but then he didn't have much dialogue.

Scott's family was well done. I enjoyed the interaction and the tension. Scott's secondary team had some great comedic moments, but also some nice heroic moments as well. Other parts in this film which wove it into the larger story were done well and I like where they're going with it. Both "extras" in the end credits were worthwhile and I'll enjoy seeing these expanded as well in the larger marvel universe.

Overall, I thought the film was a greater small hero adventure with a focus on family and redemption. I found the rare moments of profanity humorous, but wondered if maybe they could've taken them out as this film was clearly targeted at a much younger audience. But then, that's probably just my profanity meter going off - I always think less is better.

It was a lighter film with less ominous tone and consequences than the bigger Marvel tent pole films, but I believe that was exactly what was needed. It was the right balance for this film and would've felt out of place in the other entries (Guardians of the Galaxy not included). I definitely recommend the film with the small caution to extremely young children because of comic book violence and language. Today's 13-year old can handle it, so I'm certain it's appropriate for them.


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Old Endings, New Beginnings

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. It's a phrase used to represent the beginning of a new marriage. However, in my case, I'd like to use it to address my upcoming geographical relocation from the Houston metro area to the Seattle metro area.

Something old - I've lived in Houston longer than I've lived in any town my entire life. My wife and I have dreamed on moving to the northwest for nearly as long as we've been married, but we chose this phase of our life to be in Houston where our kids could go to the same schools all the way through high school graduation. Sure, job opportunities brought us here originally, but the desire for stability for our daughters kept us here. We desired something we didn't have - the chance to start and finish in the same high school. Was it worth it? In the end, I Don't know. My children have grown up to be stable and responsible, so that seems to have paid off, but then so are their parents and we had crazy instability growing up in different ways. I like to think it will help our kids lead better lives which is all we really want for them.

But the time has come to say goodbye to the old house, goodbye to friends and goodbye to old experiences. I think Houston was good to us in the long run and there are things I'll miss about it, but ultimately, it wasn't where we wanted to start the next chapter in our lives. So before I start a new job hunt, I want to be in a new area with new opportunities and new challenges.

Mount Rainier

Something new - the Seattle area is incredibly beautiful. We'll be living near Mt. Rainier which is a spectacular sight as you drive by from our new home just south of Tacoma into Seattle proper. The trees are abundant, the geography mountainous/hilly and the weather is nowhere near the hot and humid we experience every spring and summer in Houston. I will get to experience relatively allergy free symptoms - something I haven't experienced since the last time I was in the Seattle area some twenty plus years ago. We have some family and friends we'll be connecting with in the area, so that will be a refreshing change from when we originally came to Houston and knew no one. Hopefully that insight will make the job hunt a little easier - last time I went jobless in the IT industry in Houston, that lasted three years. I noticed it wouldn't be much easier this time around, so I wanted to go where the prospects might be a little richer. Getting laid off from IT jobs three times in Houston was enough to send me packing.

I'm also a newly professionally published author. Not quite ready to kick off the training wheels yet, but I'm ready to get back to writing book three after my relocation. It will be a new book in new surroundings. I will also get to participate in the Hugo Awards which is something I'd never even dreamed of. The Worldcon (World Science Fiction Convention) aka Sasquan is being held in Spokane, WA this year and I'm already signed up. I will briefly return to Houston for Space City Comic Con in July, even though I probably won't make back the travel expense.

Something borrowed - I'm on borrowed time financially speaking. While we've successfully sold our house in Houston, we've really only got funds for the first couple months' living expenses once we get to Seattle. It is an incredible leap of faith that we'll find enough money from jobs fast enough to keep our head above water. I'm sure there are safety nets I might pull on from family and friends, but that's never been something I've been comfortable doing. I do have some remote work possibilities setup already before I leave Houston, but you never know if those will bear fruit in a timely manner, so I'm not depending on them to come through. I'm hitting the ground running in Seattle and searching as soon as I get there.

Something blue - this is definitely a sad parting. I had hopes things would look up financially to stay here for a few more years, but the winds of fate have proven otherwise. There were projects I wanted to start and see through with friends here. I dreamed of completing the six planned books for The Chronicles of Reztap while I was physically in Houston as well. The old house just wouldn't have it and crapped out at just the right moment to have us searching for a solution. That solution turned out to be selling it to a rehab business and taking our modest gains and starting anew somewhere else. In a way, it seems fate led us to our final landing spot - the northwest of the USA. I've dreamed of returning to a prosperous wooded community on the West Coast for a long time. I'm sad to leave friends behind, but hopeful the new neighborhood will be welcoming and fruitful.

If you ever find yourself journeying up Seattle way, drop me a line. We love to have visitors and already plan on seeing old friends from across the country again before we even have everything unpacked.

Keep Dreaming!


P.S. EDIT: This post was changed to reflect I will be going to Space City Comic Con after all.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

ApolloCon Appearance!

ApolloCon is just a heartbeat away! From June 19-21, I'll be appearing on several panels, doing book signings and will have a booth in the Dealer's Room to sell my wares and a few surprises.

ApolloCon 2015

This was a bit of a challenge, as I'm feeling all conventions are going to be. I remember AggieCon being a bit of a struggle, but I chalked that off to college kids in brand new Con roles running what for them was probably their first Con. I hoped it would be a little smoother with ApolloCon, but alas that was not to be. The problem I had with getting on the list for panels had to do with a personnel change, so the guest chairman who had held the role disappeared due to personal reasons and didn't pass on all the emails agreeing that I'd be part of the program. I connected with the new guest liaison and got some push back since they had already submitted the program, but they got program changes and managed to squeeze me onto several panels amidst the changes. Very satisfying to have someone a bit flexible after I thought I'd already taken care of things! It also took the Dealer Room chairman a while to get me the payment information, but he never wavered on whether or not I had a table, so I was certain I'd always have that.

Given that rough start, you'd think I wouldn't be on many panels. I'm actually on six! I also have a reading the first day. I'm more than thrilled that my suddenly last minute inclusion on the panels was handled so well. When I heard my information hadn't been passed on, my heart sunk. Luckily, I skated in just under the wire to get in before the final program had truly been completed. I'm pretty pumped to be appearing with fellow authors who I used to watch at panels discussing writing topics. I'm even more excited to be sharing thoughts and ideas with a (hopefully) large audience at the panels! I've gotten a lot of interest from individual readers in my books after many panels and that's part of the drive to be on one, but I get so much enjoyment just sharing knowledge and answering questions for curious would-be writers and fans. I always learn something knew myself at these panels, not only from my fellow panel members but also from audience members.

There will be two book signings at ApolloCon. I probably have enough books to satisfy the attendees, but I'm disappointed I wasn't able to get book two, Reztap and the Quest for the Insane Moth out the door in time for this convention. I also suffered what others writers probably do coming to conventions frequently - a cash flow problem leading to inventory supply problems. I've probably compounded this by inserting activities for a cross-country move into my agenda. The timing is unfortunate and I had to hold money in reserve to pay for things I wouldn't have had to withhold otherwise.. In all honesty, I'll be tickled to sell out of my inventory, but I don't necessarily see that happening. I will probably have a good supply left over to pass on to Triscelle Publishing to sell for me at their next upcoming event - Space City Comic Con. I hope to attend Space City Comic Con myself, but now the travel costs from Seattle, WA (where I'll be relocating to next week) will probably be prohibitive to attend. I tried contacting the guest liaison about appearing at the con, but got no response. I may still do it if I can get a good head of pre-marketing steam on book two and get it out the door in time. In other words, I'm still on the fence about it.

What you should see when you pop by at ApolloCon this weekend is not only the Reztap books on sale (Mishaps and Mayhem & The Adventures of Reztap), but a few more books as well. I hope to have Triscelle Publishing bringing their books (The Morrigan's Brood series) and a few other authors books as well. I'm hoping a little diversity at the booth will bring in more customers. Most important at the booth - my lovely missus will be there as well, handling sales while I'm on those six panels, my reading and at the signing table. So come on by and check out my lovely wife!

Moving preparations have delayed this post significantly. I'd be a little more verbose, but this sucker has to get published or it will be old news before it hits the internet. Hope to see you all out at ApolloCon!


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Reviews Revisited - Is Buying Reviews The Only Way To Get Them?

It's been a month since my last post on reviews and how I'm trying to get them. I thought it was prime time to update those of you who follow my blog on what I've found and where I stand at the moment. I've had a tepid response on Choosy Bookworm, a little better response on the giveaways of the prequel and find myself at a crossroads about the book review scene.

As you may recall, I signed up with Choosy Bookworm's offer a free eBook and possibly get a review service. In the month five weeks that have transpired, I received eight emails from interested reviewers, five of whom actually returned an email to get the free eBook. One of those four was a relative and the other a friend. That puts That puts me well short of the 50+ emails I should have theoretically received from interested parties. To be fair, it's only been a month. Science fiction books take a while to get a response, even among those who troll the Choosy Bookworm web site looking to get free eBooks. Of the five who responded, a month later, I've yet to see a review - even by my friend or relative. It's disheartening, to say the least. I'm hoping this kind of experience I've had informs other writers looking to garner reviews for their masterpieces. It's not an easy road, fellow scribes.

Jumping to my next adventure in reviews - book 0, the prequel. I recently gave away 35 copies of that eBook (Mishaps and Mayhem) to attendees of Comicpalooza who signed up for it. I sent them each instructions on the review process in hopes they might drop a kind word on Amazon about their experience. Of those 35, I haven't heard a word or seen a review, but that was literally only a week ago. I'm still hopeful that volume will produce some results.

Three reviews HAVE posted to Amazon for Mishaps and Mayhem, though! Two were from the free eBook giveaway during the launch week of The Adventures of Reztap and another was from an actual customer - someone who bought the paperback Mishaps and Mayhem (and The Adventures of Reztap) from me at AggieCon. An incredibly large number of free eBooks were given away that first week of March, so I'm hopeful there may be more reviews coming from that initial giveaway launch and possibly from the Comicpalooza giveaway.

Let's look at the timing for a moment. From the initial launch of Mishaps and Mayhem, it took nearly two months to garner three reviews, two of which were generated from the free giveaway (but were not given in "exchange" for a review, so there did not need to be a disclaimer for it in any of the reviews.) I'm not saying the free giveaway was worth it from the Amazon point of view - I personally know all three of the reviewers and they're definitely being kind to post a review. It was not from the altruistic reactions of strangers that I received any reviews at all. So, is it too soon to expect reviews from others for both books? Perhaps.

That brings me to another realization. Given the way my publishing process has worked in the past, giving away ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies) may be an important part of the marketing strategy I've been unable to capitalize on. The editor back and forth between me and my editor often happened just days before the book actually launched. A completely edited copy would've only been available at most a day or two before the book went live. That's hardly enough time to send out ARCs with any expectation of a review posting close to when the book launches.

This may precipitate the delay of book two, if that's even possible. I may be locked into it launching this month regardless, and I hardly have time to modify that agreement with other things happening right now. I'm due to make an appearance at ApolloCon at the end of June and it will be one of my last marketing opportunities this year to give book two a push at a live event. I'll have better luck making that happen with book three.

I've seen some amazing and downright unlikely review jumps for brand new books from unknown authors - case in point The Sigil Blade by Jeff Wilson. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure it's a fine novel, but it has 32 reviews already and it's been out for just over five weeks. New author, five weeks, and 32 reviews. So many reviews and sales that it's now being promoted by Amazon. Given my own experience, I have to wonder how this book got those reviews so fast. Some of the reviews are dated the day the book came out. I'm a fast reader, but it's highly unlikely I'd be able to whip through a 400-page book and retain enough of the story to make a fair review of the book AND write it the same day. Does this mean advance copies went out to readers or was there some purchasing behind the scenes going on for reviews? In just the first few pages, I noted there was probably no editor for the book, given credence by some of the less than stellar reviews of the book. However, there were many five star reviews that came in essentially the day the book was published. I don't want to knock the author - I haven't read the entire book. I do want to commend him on his understanding of the Amazon marketing engine. Get enough positive reviews up as quickly as possible and Amazon quite literally does the selling for you. Did he pay for reviews? I honestly can't tell. I do think he has a loyal following of friends and family that put the majority of the reviews into place sucking in additional buyers - this propelled the book to a status that had others buying it simply because it appeared popular. A self-propelling perpetual sales engine if you will. However, my understanding is that it will not get the same lump of readers to buy the sequel if this one isn't written well. It's a way to sell one book, but not to sell a book series, IMHO.

So it comes to this - what's a budding writer to do? I'm still keen to wait another month and see what transpires. Maybe I'll even have my sales figures from my publisher by then and be able to cross-reference my marketing attempts to see what pays off. I haven't given up hope of getting some reviews for The Adventures of Reztap yet. But if it hasn't blossomed by then, I may have to go the way of The Sigil Blade...

Explore and Review!


Monday, June 1, 2015

Comicpalooza 2015 Post Mortem

Four intense days of rubbing elbows with fellow fans and some celebrities has come to an end as Comicpalooza 2015 closed it's doors shortly before a deluge of rain flooded out large portions of Houston and the surrounding area. What did I take away from the experience? Were there incredible sales numbers for Mishaps and Mayhem and The Adventures of Reztap? Did I meet any celebrities? Where there interesting sights and sounds?

I had a lot of fun hanging out with the Triscelle Publishing crew, Heather Poinsett Dunbar and her husband Christopher Dunbar (co-authors of the Morrigan's Brood series), Maeve Alpin (author of As Timeless As Stone among other steampunk novels and also a writer of other books under another pseudonym), and Donna - a close friend of the Dunbars who helps out at many a con. Numerous other friends and colleagues stopped by to chat and browse. In short, had my presence at the con been solely for enjoying myself and hanging out with great people, I fulfilled that in spades!

Sales of Mishaps and Mayhem and The Adventures of Reztap were fair. Nothing outstanding, but definitely better than my previous two public appearances combined. I previously sold a total of 9 books between HAB 2015 and AggieCon, but at Comicpalooza I sold a total of 17 books! Meeting and discussing my books (in other words, hawking them) was a fun experience, especially when the listeners were intrigued enough to buy them. Did I make any money? Actually, no, but I came close to breaking even. The upside to the experience though was signing people up for a free PDF ebook of Mishaps and Mayhem - I got 35 people to sign up! That in itself was probably worth it. If they like the ebook, they're more likely to become loyal readers and that potential means future sales of both The Adventures of Reztap and the sequel coming out next month, Reztap and the Quest for the Insane Moth!

I did also have the opportunity to donate some books and a little cash to The Stan Lee Foundation! I really felt a connection to their stated desire to provide equal access to literacy and education. I think education is the great equalizer in society and I'd like everyone to have a fair opportunity t rise to the occasion and be successful - it seems to me this is a great fledgling organization and worthy of both my support and yours! So pop in and give them a visit.

Also got to take a pic for charity with the Mach V (replica) from the Speed Racer cartoon series:

Mach 5 and Artemus Withers

If you've read Mishaps and Mayhem, you may recognize a reference to this vehicle in one of the stories. If you do, I'd love to hear from you. I sprinkle a lot of references to different shows and concepts in the Chronicles of Reztap - it will be interesting to hear how many people catch some of them if not all.

I got a signed pic from Barry Bostwick (Rocky Horror Picture Show, Spin City, et al) and left him a Reztap bookmark. Who knows if he'll read it or not, but I really enjoyed chatting with him for a few moments and his personalized message to me on the photo. He's a really nice guy with a wonderful sense of humor.

There were dozens of celebrities there from all walks of entertainment - actors and actresses, comic book and regular writers and artists, cosplayers, and some technical crew people of some fame including makeup artists and model builders. There was a lot to see and do. I only visited a fraction of what I wanted, but I was technically there to work, not to just enjoy the con. This year it was so much bigger than when I got to it just two years ago! There were thousands in attendance each day - I think they topped ten thousand on Saturday!

It was by far the largest convention I'd ever attended.

I was really astounded by the complexity of some of the cosplayers' costumes. While I didn't recognize every character, I did appreciate the time and effort they put into their presentation. Seeing some of the little kids dressed in costume too just brought a smile to my face - this was truly a family friendly event and I was glad to see so many families there enjoying the con.

I hope you were able to make it out to Comicpalooza even if you weren't able to see me. I will be at ApolloCon in June 2015, where I should have book 2, Reztap and the Quest for the Insane Moth - hope to see you there, especially if you couldn't see me at Comicpalooza!

Happy Conning!


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Comicpalooza - Houston 2015

Comicpalooza is a big event every year in Houston - a four-day long festival of comics, art, fandom and entertainment. I've been to the event for the last couple of years and it gets bigger and better each time. This will be my first time as a dealer (of sorts), so I will have a different perspective of the event that I promise to tell about later.

The Comicpalooza event usually has a big entrance that has patrons entering through the dealer's room area to get to the other events in the big rooms. This tactic seems to be a good idea for getting everyone to visit the dealer's room portion of the event - you have to go through to get to most everything else. The only exception is the panels in the smaller rooms that are held elsewhere throughout the George R. Brown convention center. It's an amazingly large event, bigger than any other science fiction/comic convention I'm aware of in Texas.

There is a lot to do at Comicpalooza: book, toys and film aficionados can find most everything to their tastes in the dealer's room and events planned throughout the weekend. A large cosplay fandom shows up every year at the event including some of the largest steampunk and anime cosplay groups in the Houston area. A great costume competition goes on and there's a stage where live entertainment of varying degrees plays on pretty much constantly throughout the length on the con. Roller blade teams and live wrestling events also pepper the huge facility and there's an awful lot of activity for pretty much every aspect of fandom. Live interactive gaming, video and table games are also available for those interested in that aspect. I will say some of the louder live acts do tend to resonate throughout the huge convention room - sound carries well in the George R. Brown convention center.

Check out the immense star power at this event! Chloe Bennet from S.H.I.E.L.D., Cobie Smulders from Captain America: Winter Soldier (& How I Met Your Mother), George Takei (Star Trek god!), Jason Isaacs from Harry Potter, Hayley Atwell from Agent Carter (& Captain America), Jeremy Runner from Avengers (& Captain America, Avengers: Age of Ultron, The Bourne Legacy and The Hurt Locker), Summer Glau from Firefly (& Serenity, The Sarah Conner Chronicles, Dollhouse and Arrow), Raymond E. Feist (big-time author!), Henry Winkler (aka The Fonz from Happy Days) several stars from the Gotham series and, of course, the comic book icon Stan Lee! That diverse group of stars will be sure to pull in a bunch of fans, so getting attendance up won't be a problem! There are some behind the scenes film and TV personalities as well, and a large group of comic book writers and artists. Heck, go to the web site and browse - it's amazing, pure simple.

As for my attendance at the convention, I'm there as a guest of Triscelle Press. Very nice folks who offered to display my books amongst there own for sale. I'll be at the booth signing, selling and chatting with anyone who stops by. Triscelle Press has no science fiction authors of their own, but often are asked if they have any science fiction books, so it's a synergistic type of arrangement. My own publishing house has a smaller portion of their catalog devoted to science fiction than other genres, so it wouldn't be likely they'd get a booth at Comicpalooza. That may change in the future, but for now it's not worth their investment to the limited science fiction/fantasy genre inventory they have.

I may get to tag along to a panel or two even, but that's not a guarantee. If I'm very fortunate, I'll get to meet a celebrity or two who will see my books and them a try. I'll stick with regular old fortune and hope I get a lot of new readers.

The big key for Comicpalooza is the extreme volume of people that will be traveling through the dealer's room. The star power at the event will virtually guarantee a record crowd for this year's event. If I can get just a fraction of that gigantic influx of people to stop by and check out Mishaps and Mayhem or The Adventures of Reztap, I'll consider it a win-win!

Happy Fandom Everyone!


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Beaten and Broken!

So dramatic. I do admit to being beaten and broken (nearly) when it comes to getting reviews. I haven't given up entirely, but the tradition routes have offered little in the way of fruit. My request for reviews have, in a sense, been almost completely fruitless!

FAIR WARNING: This blog post gets a bit've been triplicate!

Try as I might, the simple request for reviews from family, friends, old co-workers, fellow writers and even the mailman have come up practically empty. I did manage to get one friend, who I haven't ever met in person, to write a review for Mishaps after he downloaded a copy of it and read it during the free Amazon giveaway period. He rated it a 4, which I value highly as a well reasoned review accompanying the rating.

Is Mishaps and Mayhem any good? I've actually gotten raves about it in person - one enthusiastic reader laughed out loud while reading it during a convention as I chatted with someone else. They liked it so much, they bought Adventures as well! This was a fellow author. If I can make a fellow author laugh, it must be at least passably decent writing. Of the other comments I've had about that book, they've loved it. To be fair, I actually wrote the prequel AFTER writing book one and two, so I had a really good handle on my characters, writing style and insight from the editing process on Adventures - it was, in short, the third book I'd written, so it should be pretty good, right?

Onto Adventures of Reztap! Is it any good? My editor, publisher and another friend (who read the first edition) thought it was a great laugh and good fun! I'll have to find out if my author friend liked it as much, hopefully at the upcoming Comicpalooza here in Houston. I will be attending the convention and displaying and selling my wares at a booth rented by Triscelle Publishing - they were so impressed with the books they offered to give me shelf space to sell Mishaps and Mayhem and Adventures alongside their own books. I feel incredibly honored that they have shared that space and their time and effort to help me get a leg up. I wasn't able to get a booth at Comicpalooza this year, so that's my only way of getting exposure. Very nice people at Triscelle Publishing! (They offered after several hours of interaction and upon a reading of one of my books - I did NOT ask. This was a gracious gift, not a negotiation after I requested anything - so please don't pester them, but do buy their books!)

But, what does that have to do with reviews? The author who loves my book hasn't written a review, and I know she loves it! What's a writer to do? I've met the system halfway. Amazon does allow for free copies to be given away in exchange for an honest review (provided the reviewer include the following disclaimer "I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review" in their review.) Easy as pie, right?

Consider Mishaps and Mayhem was free for five days, downloaded countless times (I really don't know how many times - only my publisher does and they haven't told me yet - but it was in the top 7,000 free Kindle downloads by the end), and I personally requested a group of friends to download it (for FREE) and please review it - and I got ONE review! So, no, not easy at all. Luckily (I hope), I found a service that will post my free offer to prospective reviewers with the implied agreement they will post an honest review in exchange for the free eBook. Enter Choosy Bookworm! Don't applaud just yet, the service to post my book offer isn't free, but I'm at a desperate point for some reviews. You can't pay for reviews (according to Amazon's term of service), which this does not do. I'm paying an advertising fee to get my "book offer" in front of "mostly" reliable reviewers. The reviewers themselves get no money - they only get a free eBook.

Interested in a free eBook of The Adventures of Reztap? Check out the page at Choosy Bookworm and sign up!

So, I still haven't gone down the "disreputable road" of paying for reviews. Are other authors paying to get reviews? I checked out the top twenty or so best selling Amazon science fiction eBooks. The range of reviews rank from 2 to literally over 10,000! None have "zero" reviews. The ones with few reviews appear to have a built-in audience - these are writers who have already gathered a large number of fans/readers, so the reviews may not mean that much in relation to sales. The only correlation I saw for sales was no one had "no" reviews. Did anyone pay for them, though? Not that I could tell. I'm also not an expert at culling through reams of data looking for patterns. I'd give you a detailed analysis of my research methods, but that would be painfully boring. Suffice it to say, I see some value in having a few reviews. I don't necessarily need 10,000!

With no built-in fan base, I'm starting from scratch. I didn't see any debut authors in the top twenty list. That may be something to hope for a few books down the line or maybe even with another series after I've built up a solid foundation of readers and fans. I'm SOOOO jumping the gun that I'll actually build a foundation of fans, but I'm trying to be optimistic here! I'm hoping I see good sales after another book or two comes out. I have to prime the pump beforehand with advance copies to get reviews on Amazon as SOON as book two comes out.

I think that's about all the analytics you're going to get from me tonight. Happy reviewing!


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Reztap and the Quest for the Insane Moth - Book 2 News

We're flying to the next book in the Chronicles of Reztap series - Reztap and the Quest for the Insane Moth! See what I did there - flying? OK, bad joke. The Quest manuscript and cover are completed while the editing has just started. It feels like I did this just a few months ago with Book One - oh, that's because I did just do this a few months ago!

The manuscript for Quest was done faster than the manuscript for Book One (Adventures), which technically had it's infancy in the 1980s. Given that time frame, Adventures took roughly 30 years to complete! Really, though, I was maturing as a writer during that time, with countless revisions, writing group critiques and some writing workshops thrown in there the last ten years. The previous twenty was more of a life happens delay, with sporadic writing occurring here and there including two Star Trek: The Next Generation scripts - which sadly never saw or had a chance at production.

Book Two took about eight months. The lightning round began in June when I figured full time writing would be a fine career transition, and that's when I really put the steam and brought the final manuscript to my soon to be publisher, Chart House Press, in August. That included a great deal of part-time writing, but it really paled in comparison to writing the prequel, Mishaps and Mayhem - A Primer to The Adventures of Reztap. I wrote that 100-page set of three short stories in three weeks (the bulk of which was roughly 80 - pages in the last six days before I sent it in.) That was a real eye opener to my writing abilities - I clocked over 5,000 words one day. To put it bluntly, that's insane, but it worked. I was in the groove so to speak.

If you managed to get out to see me at the Houston's Authors Bash 2015, AggieCon 46 or the MenilFest last weekend, you would have seen the cover art for Quest. I know I have many fans who are not able to make it in person out to see me, but I'm not quite at liberty to the cover at this time. Quest is a darker book by far than Adventures and that is reflected in the cover art. It's dark and populated with zombies! It does play a bit on the zombie tropes out there - I hope my Adventures blurb writer, Joe McKinney, continues to have a healthy sense of humor as I'm traipsing a bit on his territory being one of the foremost in the zombie field (see his Dead City book series for some great, fast-paced zombie action!)

Jerrica Law did a fantastic job on the art of the Quest book cover. She's really nailed the vision I had for the covers and delivered great cover art. Book Zero (Mishaps) was actually a quick revision of a sketch she originally did for the Adventures book cover which I rejected since Adventures didn't involve a shipwreck. Mishaps did and that helped her get the cover out quick for the quick to write, quick to press prequel. She's currently hard at work on the book cover for the third book in the series. I won't reveal the name just yet for a few reasons - I like suspense and I'm not under contract with my publisher for it yet, so the delivery date and publication are nowhere close to set in stone. I've only just barely begun to write it as well. Marketing and coordination for the first two books (and the prequel) have kept my attention away from the important task of writing the book. After Quest comes out, we'll see where we are with Chart House Press and find out if they're ready for the next set of books or not.

Then we have editing! This was my down with the first edition - not getting a professional editor. Second edition of Adventures is fully edited and is so immeasurably better than first edition that I shudder to open the fist edition to take a peek. The manuscript transition from third person to first person introduced so many writing mistakes that I overlooked on three personal editing passes that I knew it had to have the keen eye of a top notch editor to give it any hope of survival. Happily, Chart House Press connected me with Erika Wisdom, a fine editor and fan of science fiction. It's good to get an editor who is not only sharp, but also "gets it" when a humorous novel poking fun at science fiction tropes comes across her desk.

Erika will also be editing Quest! I'm very excited to continue what I consider a successful partnership with such a fine editor. She quite properly dissected Adventures, providing a bevy of corrections and suggestions, putting the manuscript in excellent shape. After I completed my run-through of incorporating everything she had exhaustively done, I then had to go back and look at my own changes with a fine tooth comb to make sure I hadn't introduced further errors with my own revisions. I think I nailed it, although a last minute grammar check revealed a few things I'd overlooked. Still, it was a much better experience than I thought it would be - I'm very happy with the final product and look forward to the same experience with Quest.

Stay tuned for a revelation of the book cover for Quest - coming soon!


Thursday, April 9, 2015

If You Liked It, Then You Should Have Put a Review On It!

My apologies to Beyonce, but she does have a point especially in these days of books being ranked on Amazon by reviews they get. There are a lot of controversies regarding positive reviews, negative reviews and purchasing reviews. But when you're a brand new writer trying to make an impact on Amazon, what are you supposed to do?

Positive reviews on Amazon are amazing when it comes to how Amazon markets your book. You get bumped up on "what buyers looked at" type of link lists and pages. People who go to your page and see it has been reviewed dozens or hundreds of times are more likely to consider taking a chance on your book. Amazon has built a culture among authors of encouraging them to get reviews or risk being dropped into the bottom ranks of obscurity, rarely ever getting a chance to get seen by random book shoppers. Interestingly enough, there are some shoppers who immediately ignore 4 and 5 star reviews because they they have been purchased or are somehow fraudulent otherwise. The problem with this tactic is that some of those reviews are honest and once you get into 3 star territory, that is where people who don't like the book or possibly competitors will say how bad a book is to purposefully give it "bad press". Truth be told, no one pays for 3 star reviews. My personal feeling is this applies more to consumer products as opposed to books, but you can still run into an ex-significant other who may want to cream your book for the sheer joyful malice of the act.

Negative reviews are an interesting concept. Sure, an avalanche of bad reviews may keep you from getting a product, but Amazon is infamously lax in weeding out unscrupulous reviews by competitors. Just like the recent Indiana Pizzeria controversy, there can be a flood of bad things to say about the place by people who've never been there if they have an agenda to press. Alternatively, that same location has gotten a ridiculous amount of donations to support it - "they'll never have to sell pizzas again" type of support. Like the Yelp review site, it's incredibly hard to get rid of bad reviews whether deserved or not. Unfortunately, without some kind of review process, it's impossible to manage these reviews for their consistency and truthfulness.

Enter the purchased reviews! These are specifically against the Amazon terms of agreement. You cannot "pay" someone for a review. Amazon is even going to court against some of these purchase review sites. These sites have conflicting language about how they go about getting these reviews posted. Some of it states the "reviewer" will not have to actually buy the product to write the review. Other language says to send the reviewer an empty box, so they can still be a "verified buyer". In other words, these sites are using Amazon's rules and tactics against them to get around the intention of the rules. Amazon is so big, it's nearly impossible for them to sift through the billions of reviews on their site to find the ones that may be bogus. They can't review every purchase and confirm a product was actually sent or an empty box. In short, while Amazon may fight these sites in court, it's unlikely they'll be able to stop the bogus reviews from coming in from other providers. The really crazy thing? This doesn't mean the products or books purchasing these reviews are bad; they're just trying to work the system like others already have, including the larger companies that post their own bogus reviews via pseudofake accounts without ever going to an outside provider. If the big businesses are doing it, why can't the smaller businesses and independent authors?

The obvious answer is - it is dishonest. The disturbing realization is - you the consumer and the honest product providers are getting hosed by a system designed to be taken advantage of, even if it is "against Amazon policies". So, here's my challenge to you consumers and readers out there. Post reviews of the products you use and the books you read! isn't hard and is only a little time consuming, but by doing this you will reduce the demand for the fraudulent review providers. If you've bought and used the product on Amazon, post a review of the product and the company you purchased it from! Viva la revolution and all that jazz.

It is incredibly hard to get a review of your book (and even your product) from your trues readers/consumers. I know, I've tried. I realize I've sold many books, some even given away for free. I have one review for one of my two books. It's been a whole month. I've personally asked people buying from me IN PERSON to review the books. Nada. I have a single review from a friend who downloaded a free copy from Amazon during the free promo period. Don't get excited - I asked 15 friends. With that kind of response, you may be able to see why authors and companies resort to purchasing reviews. I've had people literally gush about how much they enjoyed my person. Those same people will not write a review for it. I'm in a quandry. I know it's a good book, but I can't get reviews to save my life. It really is a head scratcher.

I would be totally jazzed if you bought The Adventures of Reztap and/or the prequel short story book Mishaps and Mayhem - A Primer for The Adventures of Reztap AND WROTE A REVIEW! However, I would be equally happy if you looked at the last things you purchased from Amazon and did your due diligence and wrote a short review of that product and/or company you purchased it from. Get out there and make Amazon reviews a truer reflection of the consumer experience! If you don't, you're going to continue to read purchased reviews and possibly experience a negative result from trusting them.

So what's it going to be America, United Kingdom, Australia and India? I hope you step in and make this baby your own! I'll let you know if I see any results on my end in about a month or so.

Keep on reviewing!