Friday, November 29, 2019

Disney World the saddest place on earth to end a career

The end of the end
You sang your song
For much too long
The songs they're wrong
The bread has gone

--"Peanuts," The Police, 1978

We need to talk about Sting.

Not for his sake, but for ours. Well, mine. I shouldn't speak for you. Perhaps you've already come to terms with the end of his meaningful career. Or perhaps you always thought he was a tosser and this only proves your point. Again.

But I grew up on his music. Synchronicity made the Police the biggest band on the planet when I was in junior high. I remember wanting to go see them in the Tacoma Dome the week before I started high school. I remember being so jealous of all the kids showing up on the first day in their concert t-shirts. My sister bought me a Synchronicity t-shirt that Christmas and I wore it until the black faded to gray and the holes in it became too large and numerous to ignore.

And then the Police broke up, walking away at the top, and I was gutted. I finally got to see Sting in concert a few years later, at the State Fair in Syracuse. I saw him three times as a solo act, and when the Police did their reunion tour in 2008 my wife and I caught them in Buffalo. My only regret looking back on it was I didn't pay for floor seats. It was my one and only chance to catch my all-time favorite band, and I should have sprung for a closer vantage point.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Reading comprehension, reviews, and jerks

There's an unwritten (but much written about) rule for authors when it comes to reviews. You cannot respond to negative reviews. Authors are supposed to have thick skin. Authors shouldn't put their work out for the masses to judge if they can't handle the criticism that will inevitably come. Even books that have a large number of positive reviews will also attract some 1-star hit jobs. We're just supposed to rise above and tune them out.

For starters, it's unprofessional to try to argue with readers. If someone thinks your book sucks, leaving a comment on their review telling them they're a bozo isn't likely to change their mind. Nothing will be gained, and there's a chance you just might unleash the dogs of the internet, who will savage you with many more terrible reviews, just because.

So I won't respond to the moronic review that was left for The First World Problems of Jason Van Otterloo on Amazon this week. Not on Amazon anyway. But I will vent here, in the relative obscurity of my own site. Here, among friends and spiders and bots (yeah, I see you Russians in my traffic stats).

Here, in its entirety, is the review that was written.

"Is this all nothing but emails?" Um, yes. That is why it says this in the summary of the book:

So maybe if you hate stories told through emails, don't buy a story told entirely through emails.

As for the "what a waste" portion of the review ... you may recall that I ran a free promo for First World Problems last month. Not to go too Janet Livermore on it, but my expectations weren't exactly met. I didn't get anywhere near the downloads I was hoping for. I had 900 in four days, which is pretty crappy. It did generate a few sales of Dispatches from a Tourist Trap, which I assume means there were a handful of people who enjoyed the first book enough to move onto the second. But there wasn't exactly a spike in sales of either book. Which makes me 99.9 percent sure that this reviewer got the book for free. So "what a waste," eh? They wasted none of their own money on it, and if they hate books written as emails, it should have been obvious by the first page--second if they're slow--so how much time could they have wasted figuring that out?

This reminds me of a 1-star review left for my first novel, The Greatest Show on Dirt.

That book is indeed a story about people who work in a baseball stadium. I'm not sure if I could have made that any clearer in the summary.

So, again, if that's not what someone was looking for, why buy the book? Apparently his reading comprehension is as poor as his grammar.

The most incredible part of that one is this same guy left a review for my other baseball book, Nine Bucks a Pound.

So many questions. Why did he buy a second one of my books if he hated the first so much? Why would he review a book he only started? Is it personal? Should I know this guy? Did he open the phone book and plant his finger on my name? Does he hate cans?

Reviews can be tremendously helpful for authors. (I'll pause here while you go to Amazon and write a few for some of your recent favorites.) Even negative ones can be useful if they provide honest, constructive criticism. But these, all they do is give authors something to vent about on their blog. Considering how dry I run sometimes on blog topics, maybe I should consider they've done me a favor.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

FREE! isn't free, but sometimes it's worth paying for

There was a point in the early days of indie publishing when the FREE! book promo was one of the go-to gimmicks. Tales spread among the author blogs about huge sales tails that would follow a 3-4 day run on the Kindle free lists. These surges would more than pay for the advertising required to spread the word back in the glory days of free in 2010-11.

I released my first novel, The Greatest Show on Dirt, in February 2012. I ran a free promo on Amazon, gave away 5,124 copies in April of that year, and saw a modest sales bump when it returned to regular price. Maybe I missed the window on free, maybe my book wasn't quite the right genre to ride the wave. I wasn't sold on free, but I wasn't ready to completely write it off, either.

In July 2015, I dabbled with free again with my second novel, Nine Bucks a Pound, also a baseball-themed story. According to my records, which I have no reason to doubt, I didn't spend anything on advertising this time. I moved 1,147 units. I sold a handful at regular price afterward. Again I was left wondering whether there was more potential for this. Certainly advertising would have helped generate interest, but would it have meant more paid sales after? And how many free downloads would be required to result in a bona fide sales spike? I could only guess.

The last time I bothered with a free promo was March 2018, when I ran one for my third novel, Sorry I Wasn't What You Needed. This time I spent $78 on a total of three ads, and I saw 3,668 free downloads as a result. Sales spike? Not quite. Depends on your definition of spike. I was disappointed enough that I figured I wouldn't bother with free again.

Yet here I am, giving it one more try. This time I'm giving away The First World Problems of Jason Van Otterloo, my fourth novel, from Thursday (9/5) through Sunday (9/8). And I'll be honest, free is something of a desperate measure here. This book just hasn't seemed to catch on. It's received some decent reviews (and a couple of lame ones), but not enough overall.

Monday, May 6, 2019

All booked up with books

I like books.

There, I said it. Yeah, crazy that someone who writes books would like to read them too, right?

Books seem to pile up in our house. Every bookshelf we have seems to have more books on it that it was meant to hold. When we moved in back in 2005, I bought two 6-foot tall unfinished pine book cases, stained them, and then filled them with books. When we finished off our basement, they moved down into the library. Yeah, we have a library. What of it?

I have two more bookshelves in my office, another smaller one in the library. A small one in my son's room, a fancy one with a glass door in our bedroom, and ... somehow we still have more books than shelf space.

For several years now I've been meaning to add another big shelf to the library, to eliminate the sideways lying books that block the ones that are properly shelved. It's actually tough to find a solid wood bookshelf these days that doesn't cost a fortune. The store where I bought most of the others is long out of business, and I can't find any others in the area that stock plain wood shelves. So I decided to make my own.

With a little help from my dad, who has all the tools not to mention all the wood-working skills in the family, I constructed something solid that will alleviate our overcrowding problem. At least for the moment. Check back in a year or two.

Friday, April 12, 2019

New books available in old-school format

Exciting news in the world of print books! The First World Problems of Jason Van Otterloo and Dispatches from a Tourist Trap were both released in paperback format today. So if you don't Kindle and want to read them, you can now order them on Amazon.

I held off on formatting First World Problems for print when I released it last fall, mainly because sales of my other books as paperbacks were so sluggish. But they've picked up quite a bit over the past four months, enough to motivate me to make all five of my books available as both ebooks and paperbacks.

I was also a little hesitant to deal with the conversion process, as I've struggled with formatting for print some in the past. But I have to say this time it was much easier than I'd feared. Maybe I'm learning a thing or two along the way.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Dispatches has been dispatched

Today's the big day for the new book. Dispatches from a Tourist Trap released today on Amazon for the Kindle. Yes!

Here's the link:

Only $2.99. A bargain at twice that.

At one time last year I had hoped to release this book at the same time as The First World Problems of Jason Van Otterloo, the first book in the series. But then the reality of editing and rewriting hit and it became obvious that would only push everything back. I was also hoping that by releasing Book 1 in the fall, there would be a rabid corps of Jason Van Otterloo fans salivating for the second book by now. That hasn't quite happened. This series is more of a slow burner, I guess. We'll get there in time, but for now still building one sale at a time.

I'm in my last week of unemployment before starting my new job next Monday. I've been busy, busy, busy with book stuff over the past few weeks. The top priority was getting Dispatches ready to go, but there's been a lot more going on.


Yes, I have finally gotten the formatting done to release both The First World Problems of Jason Van Otterloo and Dispatches from a Tourist Trap in print. I am in the process of getting the covers created. Once those are ready I'll just need to upload my files to Amazon, order proofs, make sure everything came out right, and release. I'm hoping to have them ready for public consumption by the middle of the month.


In addition to doing review copy giveaways on Library Thing and Booksprout, I had a very long, detailed review run on a site called The Irresponsible Reader. And I don't know if I really understand the name, because the guy who runs it seems quite responsible, as well as prolific in his reading. He had some nice things to say about The First World Problems of Jason Van Otterloo, and will also be reviewing Dispatches from a Tourist Trap soon.

An Author Q&A

In addition to reviews, The Irresponsible Reader also runs author Q&As. Mine was posted this morning. I've done a few of these in the past, but this one was great because he seemed like he put some serious thought into the questions, instead of simply sending the same handful of questions he asks everyone else.

So, plenty going on here. I keep thinking I'll wake up one day to a short to-do list and have time to lounge on the couch watching TV, but it keeps not happening. And we're down to three days of "vacation," so it's looking less and less likely. Oh, well.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Dispatches from a Tourist Trap now available for pre-order

At long last, I'm pleased to announce the second book in the Jason Van Otterloo Trilogy is available for pre-order on Amazon. It's called Dispatches from a Tourist Trap and will release in Kindle format officially next Tuesday.

What's it all about? Glad you asked. Here's the blurb:

Thanks to his parents' separation, Jason Van Otterloo is starting his sophomore year of high school three hours away from all his friends--including his new girlfriend, Sian. Tiny Icicle Flats is a quaint Bavarian-themed mountain village that has been trapped in time since long before his mother grew up there. That she was willing to return is all down to her new boyfriend--who also happens to be her new boss. And judging by all the makeup found in his bathroom cabinet, Jason's dad isn't wasting time waiting for her to return.

Jason begins a blog to share details of his new life with his old friends, but some news isn't meant for wide distribution. Fortunately, his sage-but-sarcastic best friend, Drew, is always just an email away. Would it be so wrong, Jason wonders, to ask a local girl named Leah to the Homecoming dance? "Just as a one-time date, nothing more, obviously." "Why are you asking me and not Sian?" Drew replies. "Wait, I think I know the answer." If only Jason would ever take his friend's advice, he might spend less time climbing out of the holes he digs for himself.

Pressed into afternoon and weekend duty at his grandpa's hardware store, Jason still finds time to join an after-school book club that specializes in controversial classics. When Leah's brother reports the book club to the school board, Jason and his fellow readers are forced underground--until they emerge again to enter a protest float in the Icicle Flats Christmas parade. The ensuing brouhaha makes for the most exciting holiday season Jason can remember. And for once, it's not his parents' arguing that takes center stage. With the new year comes a new scheme: If the local busybody brigade was upset by a few old books, pirate radio will surely blow their minds. Who ever said life in a small novelty town would be dull?

Told entirely through Jason's email exchanges and blog posts, Dispatches from a Tourist Trap picks up where The First World Problems of Jason Van Otterloo left off. Come and spend a little time in Icicle Flats--just don't forget to pack your lederhosen.
Well, there it is. Order your copy today for just $2.99. Or read it free if you're a Kindle Unlimited subscriber. And tell all your friends. Thanks!