Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Rollercoaster! Marketing Round 1...

Ups, downs and all arounds! I've been so busy with book launch duties, I haven't had a moment to my blogging. With Facebook parties, blog tours and guest blogs, my busy cup runneth over!

First Facebook party was a success! Well, it was fun and the attendees enjoyed themselves. It took some time to come up with the trivia and fun facts elements, but I was assisted in the actual party by none other than Maggie Mae Gallagher who ran all the behind the scenes stuff while the party progressed. I just responded to what people posted. Was it widely attended? I'd say no, but this is my first and you have to start building a base In all honestly, I started building that base with this party! I developed some nice friendships with some attendees, everyone got a free eBook while attending and a few people promised to read the books and follow along with the sequels just because the party was so entertaining and the book previews were too. Definitely gained a few readers and, really, what more can you ask from a book launch party? I'm sold on doing the same for all my other books.

Blog tours = a fairly significant prep time. Well, fairly significant for some people. I had to write unique guest blogs for each blog and some requested a unique book synopsis as well. Had to provide author bios and a few pics. So, that was several thousand words I donated to the cause that weren't spent on books. But, you know what? I was quite pleased to do it! Here I have an opportunity to write brand new material and get new readers to view it! Asking a writer to write something is asking them to do the easiest thing they have on their plate! The only damper on the whole thing was actually other events going on in life - unfortunately, book marketing doesn't happen in a vacuum. Life happens. So, while it was easy to write, it was stressful due to my real life being busy and complicated at the moment they needed the copy.

The uniqueness of guest blogs (not blog tours) is they happen relatively quietly. The built-in readership of the blog is primarily your audience, but there isn't a lot of interaction. I do provide purchase links and social media contacts, but really no telling how many people look at the blog, click on the links or follow me via social media. While this may seem a waste of time, you would be dead wrong! Here is yet another opportunity to reach a reader I otherwise may not have touched. The writing f the blog itself should be the selling point. OK, to a degree, I don't have as much opportunity to tell what kind of impact the efforts of a guest have for my marketing efforts. However, I'm convinced it cannot hurt. Any new reader could be the word of mouth my book(s) need to get the ball rolling and expand that readership.

Looking at all these simple writing exercises, it doesn't really appear much time was spent at all in the marketing effort. This is where the behind the scenes marketing comes into play to suck up your free time like a sneaky black hole. Promoting these events on Facebook and Twitter (primarily Twitter) is the big time suckage. While I'm promoting the events, I'm also promoting books. If I added up all the text from these activities, I have several thousand words a day under my belt. Unfortunately, none of that is in book form. In fact, when your book launches, you can forget about writing for a while. It will absorb and consume your attention! I haven't managed to pull my focus off the marketing and sales to get any writing done. This takes some supreme time management skills, especially as life (family and part-time consulting work) invade the precious few hours you have to devote to your writing business.

Did I mention booking time at conventions? Yeah, that takes a bit of research as well which is more time not writing. The bag here is mixed as well. Some events you can apply as a guest fairly easily. Others require more lead time than I had - must be published before you can apply and that application date has already passed. Still, I've managed to either apply as a guest or get a table for book signing/book selling at a convention every month through September. What that also means is a significant outlay of cash. Not for each event, but cumulatively, it's quite a chunk including accommodations, travel and food. I've been fortunate enough to get additional consulting work to draw out my savings longer. I simply hope the tail of the sales from the books is sufficient and quick enough to support my efforts in the short run as well as the long run. Ah well, you can't plan for everything. The universe reveals itself at its own pace.

I write this blog not to complain but to give others writers a perspective of what to expect when and if they become published. It's not a write a book and forget it kind of lifestyle except for the quaint few celebrities who actually can do that. For the rest of us, the work has just begun when the ink is dry.

Keep writing!


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Terry Pratchett Dies - Another Source of Inspiration Vanishes Overnight

Another author I admire just passed away. Terry Pratchett, author of the Discworld series has left us at the age of 66 after battling Alzheimer's disease for 8 years. Tough to soldier on after this blow, but I'll keep plugging away.

I was just leafing through his series of books the other day thinking "Oh, he's relatively young yet. I might even get to meet him!" I had no idea he'd been battling nasty, debilitating illness. Alzheimer's is one nasty bugger too. He really faced it with resilience though, writing through it all and releasing his final book this last summer.

I'm going to miss the humor. The finely crafting sentences and laugh out loud moments kept me entertained for a long time. the very least, there is a large volume of work to review and enjoy. Just tears me up that it's ended, all too soon in my opinion. But then, we really don't have a Use By date stamped on our forehead. Every moment we have on this world is precious and should be used to the fullest. Our expiration date is a mystery to most of us.

So, will I let this devastating blow to my personal little world of inspiration get me down? Maybe a little, but it's not going to keep me down. Where Terry Pratchett inspired millions of readers, I too shall endeavor to do the same! OK, my goal may be a few thousand; I'd be awfully lucky to pass the million mark. I'd still like to believe his legacy will live on in what I can write and in how I can entertain my readers. There's a little bit of Terry Pratchett in all of us. I hope we can all strive to pass it on and make the world a better place.

I wish the best for Terry's family in this time of loss. My heart goes out to you all.


Tuesday, March 10, 2015


The Adventures of Reztap has officially launched and shown up on the cover of the Publisher's Weekly Spring Catalog for 2015!

Along with the launch of the book is the launch of the Artemus Withers web site! A little tweaking here and there and it's looking pretty good. Want to go right to the book page? (You know you do!) If you sign up for the newsletter, you will get a free eBook for Mishaps and Mayhem, the short story primer for the Reztap universe. I should have this in eBook format shortly, so don't expect an immediate email, but definitely something in the next week.

Tucked in a bit of revision on book two as well. After everything I learned on the editing of book one, I've got a better handle on what I need to do with book two before it goes to the editor. At least it won't suffer the POV rewrite that book one did!

What else has been going on? A lot of marketing rigmarole has been passing through my keyboard! Blog tour articles and bios, setting up convention appearances (I'll be appearing on three panels at AggieCon 46), and trying to figure out which eBook listing services are worth it and which ones aren't. I'm still in a bit of a quandary on that one.

Launch day was a full day of web site updates, book notes from the publisher, social media updates, and web surfing to find marketing opportunities. I know this is probably one of the shortest blog posts I've done, but I'm working feverishly on getting things finalized and updated. Not sure how you get much writing done at this stage. Well, a long day turned into a long night. Now tomorrow is today and I get to do it all over again!

Happy writing, marketing, blogging, etc!


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Runup to Reztap #1

What a crazy week! With the upcoming launch (March 9th) of book one in The Chronicles of Reztap series - The Adventures of Reztap, I've been busily engaged with proof reviews, web site construction, and setting up blog tours, convention appearances and book signings. It's all a lot of activity - more so with the missus taking off this weekend and leaving me to handle the daily activities of the household including care and feeding of two dogs and a grandson. While those activities have actually been a pleasure, they didn't leave much time for the other stuff I needed to accomplish!

This was actually my second proof review, but twice the length of the last one. I have realized even an editor couldn't catch everything especially with the mess the initial manuscript was in from the point of view rewrite that screwed it up in the first place. Add to that strange names, spellings and punctuation of alien names and you've got a mixed bag of trouble waiting to explode. Well, I exploded that bag on my publisher this week a mere three days before it was going to print with no less than two revision documents marked up. I've resolved to be a bit more meticulous with book two before it reaches an editor for their first pass. I'm reviewing it now with the grammar review and catching all the strange names that need to be consistent. The biggest takes I have from this exercise is to reduce the number of apostrophes in race and individual character's names. Hopefully, I caught everything in book one - I look forward to your letters/emails/comments telling me what I missed!

Web site build has been going at a frenzied pace this week. The initial splash page has been up for a few weeks, so upcoming events have been posted, but the meet of the web site is still to be revealed. I will tell you the newsletter signup works and everyone who signs up for the newsletter will get an eBook of Mishaps and Mayhem: A Reztap Primer, a short story book not available for sale. The only ways to get it are via the newsletter signup (get a free eBook) or when you visit me at a book signing or convention appearance (get a hard copy with purchase of book one). I reserve the right to give it away for other events, but it won't be for sale online or at a brick and mortar store.

I think the other web site content is humorous and entertaining - it's likely we won't take the full web site live until March 9th when you can actually purchase book one (right now the link goes nowhere since the book hasn't been published yet.)

I'm making my very first blog tour appearance at Bitten by Books on March 19th. It will be an interesting experience. There is a contest for a $50 Amazon gift card and a chance to ask whatever questions you might have of me in a semi-live format over the space of 24 hours. The length of the tour gives people in all time zones across the globe a chance to participate.

I've been hard at work setting up convention appearances over the next couple of months. Here are the planned events (subject to change depending on booking confirmations/available funds for traveling to/from said convention):

AggieCon (March 27-29, 2015 College Station, TX) - attending only - too close to try and setup anything else.
CyPhaCon (April 17-19, 2015 Lake Charles, LA) - dealer table
ComicPalooza (May 22-25, 2015 Houston) - applied to be a Guest, panel appearances
ApolloCon (June 19-21, 2015 Houston) - Artist's Alley table
ArmadilloCon (July 24-26, 2015 Austin) - dealer table
Sasquan (August 19-23, 2015 Spokane, WA) - this is the World Sci Fi con aka WorldCon. Will go if can afford it - they may allow a book signing.
DragonCon (September 4-7, 2015 Atlanta, GA) - applied to be a Guest, panel appearances with table.
TusCon (October 30 - Nov 1, 2015 Tucson, AZ) - will try to get a table and/or get on panels.

I know there are some book signings "in the works". I'll be honest, I'm not sure when they are, but I will keep everyone updated. I will be contacting Houston area Barnes and Noble stores and independent booksellers myself soon to set these up (or join a group event already planned).

With all of that done and some still to go, I'm finally at a point to engage in a little more writing! To all of my fellow authors out there, I hope your writing and marketing efforts are incredibly successful. To all you readers out there, get out to Amazon (or my web site) and buy a book on March 9th! Amazon reviews gratefully appreciated as well.


Thursday, March 5, 2015

Just saw Kingsman (No Spoilers - Honest!)

I know - I'm weeks behind the curve. That really is how most movies fall in my watching. I see them a few weeks late or miss them entirely and wind up catching them on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc. Some I just never see at all. I really have to pick and choose what I'm going to devote my time and dollars to. It ultimately comes down to - do I think this is worth seeing in a movie theater or can I catch it later, or not at all?

Without giving any plot details away, I can tell you why I liked Kingsman - the movie, not the comic book, which I haven't read.. It had smart dialogue, didn't take itself too seriously and, I felt, was a great homage to the James Bond films with a touch of the Avengers (British spy TV series). It was a good film and I highly recommend it...when it comes out on DVD or your choice of digital movie provider, since by the time you realistically read this, it will probably not be in theaters anymore. It's still bringing in a few million at the box office and, taking worldwide box office into account, it's a hit. Compared to 50 Shades of Grey and American Sniper, it hasn't blown away the box office, but it has some staying power. But I digress - it's a fun spy movie - rated R, so don't expect there to be no gore or language.

But my movie watching (and even book reading) have recently been taken hostage by the book writer. Writing takes a lot of time and energy - getting in the zone sometimes takes a while. In actuality, I look to movies or books to jump start my imagination - get me back on track mentally to write what I need to write. If I'm writing Reztap, I sometimes indulge myself with YouTube recordings of the Dungeons & Dragons games at the PAX conferences, absorb a little Archer (TV series), or read a little - my last indulgence was Terry Pratchett's first book in the Discworld series - The Color of Magic . The initial book...OK, I actually watched the movie first. It was rough, but entertaining in it's own way. I felt the book was much better, but I thought they did a fairly good job with the movie as well.

I have other writing targets as well - a fantasy series that is still in its early formation stages, for instance. I'll go into some inspirational music for my writing in another blog. This blog is primarily focused on getting back on the horse, restarting the creative gears and, essentially, getting past writer's block. OK, and a little griping about not having enough time to see all the movies (or TV) that I'd like to. I hope to watch everything I've missed when I'm 80.

Keep writing - no matter what you have to miss!


P.S. You may have noticed a bunch of links in this blog - I'm trying to make it easier to find and obtain the referenced works for those who are curious and too lazy to look for it on their own.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Reztap on Publishers Weekly Cover (Spring 2015 Catalog)

The Adventures of Reztap will be one of several covers that get the honor of being on the cover of the Spring 2015 catalog of Publishers Weekly! There were 50 candidates (those who offered the additional funds for the honor), but I believe it's pared down to a dozen or so that make the cover. The others get to be included in the catalog inside at the reduced price of the inside "ad."

What does it mean, though? What kind of impact will this have on the future of my first professionally published book? Publishers Weekly has 26,000 subscribers, so at the very least there's a high probability that 26,000 new people will see my book cover that hadn't originally. That also means there are some booksellers and librarians out there that might order my book, stock my book, or at least take a chance on it that may not have otherwise. So, it's a start.

What it doesn't mean covers a wide variety. The normal Publisher's Weekly magazine has book reviews in it, which can really give a book additional exposure and sales. This is the catalog, though. It's the guide to booksellers about what's new and available, with nothing but a book cover and a brief synopsis to sway them one way or the other towards stocking a book. There is no review. The booksellers have to take a chance and order it. It will be seen by agents and Hollywood producers as well. But I'm taking that with an incredibly large grain of salt; my impression of today's top movie making engines is they're looking for true stories to make compelling films from, not a science fiction comedy. Still, a writing agent could be interested, pick up the book and shoot me an email. I may get other works produced with that kind of contact.

On the side of sales - this is a smaller publisher. These books are typically print on demand. Do they have to give refunds on the books that booksellers stock or is that just considered a sale? OK, these really are questions I should ask my publisher and I will. Right now, to be honest, it's a little gray to me what kind of real impact this will have. Certainly nothing's guaranteed. I could accidentally hit right in the middle of a big upswing in sales of science fiction humor books and suddenly be near the crest of a wave of sales! Just as easily, however, there could be a glut of these kinds of books gathering dust on the bargain table at Barnes & Noble. It's essentially impossible to tell.

One thing I do know - this is not the only marketing aspect of The Adventures of Reztap's journey. There will be blog tours, convention appearances, book signings, etc. all coming down the pike. I'm excited and nervous at the same time. If I suddenly get a flood of book orders the month following the release of the Publishers Weekly Spring 2015 catalog, I will be sure to up date you all.


Monday, March 2, 2015

Houston Authors Bash 2015 Post-Mortem

I made my first real appearance as Artemus Withers to the public on Saturday, February 28th at the Houston Authors Bash in Katy, TX. I had a book launch party earlier in the week, but my slightly less snazzy alter ego showed up there. As my first event, what did I learn, how did I think it went, and what do I think I (and the organizers) might do better next time?

Probably the biggest category is what did I learn. As I've never been to anything like this as a vendor/presenter/author, there are many behind the scenes things to take into account. I lucked out and had a publisher behind me with this one, so my table fee was taken care of and they helped me out with a large poster of my first book (went on a floor easel they also got for me). I had to provide my own table runner, swag giveaway stuff and two 8x10 posters of my book covers for the table (OK, I sprung for some with a thicker backing - my publisher (Chart House Press!) actually provided a printed 8x10 for my covers in a clear plastic stand-up frame). My short story book was there (I asked for a certain number and those were provided - yes, I will be paying for them so they weren't free.)

The author next to me offered a free ebook if people signed up for his newsletter. I immediately talked to my publisher about doing the same thing. Sure, that means giving Mishaps and Mayhem away for free as an ebook, but that was part of the plan anyway. This would be a great way to introduce readers to the Reztap universe - if they like it, that means future readers, fans and book buyers. I'll be enacting that on my web site as well. I have only to wait for the formatted ebook to be delivered so I can send it to my newsletter subscribers!

I had volunteered to be on a panel. Truth be told is what panel number two I thought I would be the most useful in, but I was placed on panel number one - street teaming. Not only did I not know what street teaming was, I was pretty certain I wouldn't be adding much content to the folks watching from the audience. As it turned out, the panel wasn't exactly as well organized and planned as one would hope for. There was no moderator, the authors weren't notified when the panel was starting and, for the most part, the panel was geared toward authors, not readers and fans, so our target audience was busy in the big room selling books and talking to readers while we did the panel for mostly, well, us! But all was not lost. I'd been to so many writing conferences and attended so many panels that I had no problem stepping in and acting as moderator. I learned so much from the other authors there about street teams and how they work, Facebook parties and other fan engagement tips that would strengthen your fan base and make them a part of the creative and marketing processes. I'd like to think other authors on the panel got some great ideas from each other as well. As for our five audience members, four of them were part of one authors street team!

The overall event went well enough. I sold seven books, traded one for another author's book (thanks Tom Glover!), and signed up eight people for my newsletter. That's 15 potential future readers (or more) for The Adventures of Reztap when it comes out! I also handed out 50 pieces of homemade swag (outer space themed foam stickers from Oriental Traders with hand cut personalized information on the front about the books and my website), so there's another potential 50 readers for my books! I think this was a success for my first big event.

What could I do better next time? I would've liked to have some better swag available. I'm currently looking into professional bookmarks and probably some business cards. something easy to hand out and preprinted. The foam stickers were fun, but they inadvertently painted my book toward a younger audience than I'd anticipated. My book covers, I've discovered from the foot traffic, are skewing to a lower age bracket than I'd intended also. Many people asked me about my kids' book - on even thought it was a graphic novel! My swag will need to be a little more sophisticated to balance that reastion out for sure. On the other hand, my book is profanity free and really doesn't have any graphic content, per se. There are some adult situations, but I've intentionally not gotten graphic in any of that. There is suggestion and innuendo, but that's certainly nothing a high school age reader or even a great majority of middle school readers wouldn't be shocked by. At the end of the day, some of the jokes may go over the heads of the more naive kids, but there's really not much in there a parent would find highly objectionable or corrupting. I suppose the references to holographic pornography chits is the most risque element in the book, but, as I said before, there are no graphic depictions accompanying them.

What did the organizers of the event take from this year's session? Number one - don't hold it on a Houston Rodeo weekend! We had half the traffic (or less) than last year when it was held the weekend before the rodeo started. On the panels - if the panels are going to be geared toward writers, they should be held after the doors close so the authors themselves can take advantage of the panels if they so choose. As it was, the authors had to choose between selling their books and meeting readers and fans to attend the panels. No readers attended the panels - I'm not sure this is really the venue for reader attended panels anyway. The feel of the HAB was one of people dropping by for perhaps an hour to browse through the offerings, perhaps chat with a few writers, buy a few books and then move on with the rest of their day. A casual book browsing or buying experience. It works out well as designed.

Will I attend this next year? Absolutely! I'll have three or four books available then and perhaps a bigger presence in the book market by then. I hope to engage with more readers and maybe introduce them to fellow authors when they come to see me. I think that's the biggest gift a successful author can give an up and coming author - a little extra traffic by their booth that might catch a new readers eye!

Keep writing my friends and watch for March 9th when The Adventures of Reztap comes out!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Remembering Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy was an icon not just in science fiction, but in literature and the arts as well. He was a well-balanced individual, inspiring others to heights of greatness.

It was with a small amount of trepidation that I sat behind my first Author's table at the Houston Authors Bash 2015 and dwelled upon the loss of this man. I was celebrating a goal of sorts by becoming a professionally published author. At the same time, I realized that, at half Leonard Nimoy's age (okay, maybe a little more than half), I hadn't accomplished a fraction of what he had in life.

Leonard and the whole cast of Star Trek the original series were my first introduction to the world of science fiction. I watched them before I read my first scifi novel, The Wilk Are Among Us by Isadore Haiblum. A strange book to be sure (at least when I read it at the tender age of 9), and I'm sure there are many others I 'd rather claim as my first, but truth be told, that was it. As good as it was, that book did not inspire me to write. Star Trek did.

In the entertainment world, I got to see Leonard in other TV series, Mission Impossible and In Search Of being the most memorable. Mission Impossible had a cast of top notch actors, Leonard not the least among them. Some of them, Martin Landau and Barbara Bain went on to Space: 1999 to entertain my childhood further. Leonard's work on In Search Of exposed me to more than just science fiction, but real world mysteries. My mind was expanded to other possibilities than just real life and scifi. Mysteries of all kinds were in the world. There was so much to explore.

IMHO, Start Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was one of the best science fiction movies, and definitely the best of the classic stars of the original series movies. The first time I ever cried at a movie was seeing Spock pass on - so powerful and moving. I thought it was an incredibly brave decision to have the character you're most known for put to death in such a public manner. The emotion I felt confirmed my decision to be in arts and entertainment in some capacity that I might entertain and effect fans in a similar way.

I felt similarly after seeing Three Men and a Baby (and Star Trek IV), knowing he had directed them. Leonard was just as skilled as a director as he was an actor. Okay, I will forgive him for Star Trek III. They had to bring Spock back somehow, I suppose.

More recently, Leonard revealed his fight with COPD even though he had given up smoking a long time ago. Obviously, the damage had already been done. Rather than simply give in and crawl into a corner to die, Leonard stayed in the public light, warning impressionable fans on the dangers of smoking, and dispensing other wise words via Twitter (and other media). So, even in his last days, Leonard Nimoy tried to make the world a better place.

In short, I hope to emulate him in many ways. I will miss his wisdom, but relish the memories and legacy he left behind which I can revisit again and again. Live Long And Prosper in the great beyond, Mister Nimoy. Thank you for visiting Earth for a little while.