Thursday, April 23, 2015

Spotlight on Local Authors

Had a lovely day in Radcliff during the Spotlight on Local Authors. It was warm and very breezy.

Learned something I want to share.

My friend had just purchased two signs on foamboard. She set them up on easels.

The wind had it's way with them. We tried securing them with tape, which only worked for a short time. Then we switched to string, which worked to keep them on the easels, but the easels blew over.

I keep an assortment of small bungy cords. We used the bungies to secure the easel legs to the tent poles, then used the twine to secure the foam board to the tent pole. This worked, only had to adjust the signs after big gusts.

However, the canvas banner I bought via Vistaprint moved with the wind. I merely secured the top grommets to the frame of the tent. Once it was up, I only noticed it when it hit the back of my chair.

My suggestion is to spend a bit more for the canvas banners and signage. When I purchased my banner, I was a bit worried that I'd spent too much. However, after chasing the foamboard signs all afternoon, I think the extra money was well spent. You can see the two different signs above.

Notice the curtains in the background. They provide shade, make the booth more visible and cut the breeze back. When the sun comes around the booth, I move the curtains to block it. That way I stay cooler and my sunblock works better. I still wear a hat to keep the sun off my face. They just don't make a sunblock that will keep my face from swelling up after a day in the sun.

Guess I'm half vampire.

The white curtains in the background are shower curtains, so they are waterproof. If we get a light shower, they block the rain from sneaking in. I put grommets in the corners so I can tie them down. I need to get a set of weights to hold the center down. My book bag wasn't heavy enough.

I want to buy a four-sided tent. When I do, I'll put the shower curtains on the inside, to jazz it up. My sister has a large tent, and she decorates hers extensively.

I also have a stand to bring my books up off the table.

It's all about being visible, and being different, to attract attention.

I'll post more as I learn more.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Covers, Covers and More Covers



Here are six of the new covers.

I've found a photo site I can afford, so I've redone all the old covers and am uploading them to Amazon, Draft2Digital and Smashwords.

I have to say, this is the first time that Smashwords has allowed me to upload new covers without having to upload the entire work.

I'm very pleased with the new covers.

I should thank Bradley Wind for chiding me about the old covers. (He's a cover artist and author I met during my days at Authonomy.)

Daniel Roberts for posting a website with photos that I can afford.

And Andre Jute for his lesson's in cover creation that I was finally able to put to use.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Shouting In A Crowd II

Yesterday there was a post "Please Shut Up" by Delilah S. Dawson on The Passive Voice.

There was this rebuttal from S. J. Pajonas Stop Being A Robot and Start Being You she makes good points. She stresses that using time-saving short-cuts turns out white noise and 'buy my book' tweets and posts. Her solution is 'be yourself' which means interacting with friends and tweet-followers.

But how many hours are there in a day? Hundreds of tweets cross my twitter feed every day. Someone with thousands of followers...reply to them all? Be 'yourself' to them all? Seriously?

Face Book -- imagine trying to read and reply to every post that crosses your feed. All the time spent 'connecting' to hundreds or thousands of followers.

The only way to do that is to be glued to your phone, one of those dazed and disconnected souls who never look up from their phones to see the world. I've seen them at author fairs...glued to their phones or tablets, never looking up from the device to connect to the living humans around them.

They never sell any books. They never speak to readers. They spent good money and time to be at a fair, but stay online selling books to people selling books. They missed the opportunity to connect with real readers.

Isn't connecting with readers the whole point?

I spend enough time at my laptop already. Blogging and reading...I'm already getting frustrated with Real Life left un-lived. I've done this since 2009, during that time, my mother passed and my step-father broke his hip and his leg. Each time I turned from my laptop to 'Real Life' I felt guilty because I was neglecting my 'marketing on social media.'

Then the question arises: If I'm not living life on life's terms, how will I write about other people living life? Won't I be stuck in my office, typing away and leaving my own life un-lived, except through the glowing screen in front of me?

Haven't I done enough of that, working in Tech Support for the last 30 years?

I'm not buying the Kool-Aid. I'm getting more frustrated every day because Real Life is calling and I've put my life on hold to "market my books on social media."

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Shouting In A Crowd

I'm a great fan of The Passive Voice.

This post "Please Shut Up: Why Self-promotion on social media doesn't work." is not the first time that someone has made this point. But Delilah S. Dawson said it this way:

“How do I build a platform and make money with my blog?” a woman asks.
“Build a time machine and go back to 2005 and start your blog then,” I say. 
This is it -- the time when the internet was SHORT on content is over. The time when there were only a few thousand kindle books on Amazon is over. The day when you could tweet "Just released a new book." and get thousands of sales is over.


Should I repeat that in larger, darker letters?

Maybe not. I think you get the point.

We can stop spending all our time trying to sell our books on Twitter and Face Book, Tumbler and whatever else is out there. It just keeps us from having 'Real Life' time with family and friends.

I, for one, have spent every waking moment either writing, or marketing or planning the next book or next marketing move. For the most part, it's been wasted time and effort.

I like going to fairs and festivals. I like talking face-to-face with people who like to read. I'll talk to them all day and go home feeling refreshed. Unlike most days when I feel obligated to compose tweets, messages, like and friend and follow from dawn to dusk.

My books have always sold more in the summer -- because I'm out and about, handing out cards and enjoying being an author.

Guess what I'm going to do more of -- social media or socializing?

I like Kentuckiana Authors, I'm going to continue going to their book fairs.

I'm going to be at the Spotlight on Local Authors on Saturday.

I haven't stopped upgrading covers, blurbs and uploading ebooks. I'm not going to take my books down and slink off into the sunset. To prove that I'm not giving up, here's the cover I created today for my first collection of I. C. Talbot short stories.

But I think my twitter days are over.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Marketing At Fairs and Festivals - Summer Time

Authors must do their own marketing. The easiest way is to sell books at fairs and festivals. If you are about to go to a festival, or a big flea market, what are you going to want to have with you? This is a fairly comprehensive list of the things I have packed in my truck.

  1. A banner (or sign) - I bought a vinyl banner at Vista Print for less than $10 with shipping. It has enough information on it to catch the eye. Put in at people's eye level, make it colorful.
  2. A table, with a tablecloth - It makes a big impact to have the table covered. Also in the fall and winter, you can put a tea-light heater under the table to keep your feet from freezing. 
  3. Display items – business card holder, book display, signage. Up off the table is better than flat.
  4. Business cards - book marks, post cards something with your name and website or Face Book page on it. Sites where your books can be purchased.
  5. A comfortable chair or two – folding sling chairs may not work if you have a bad back. I've got a very old folding wooden chair that weighs more, but it supports my back, which means less pain.
  6. Canopy with sides and weights - Yes, invest in sides and weights. The canopy makes you MUCH more visible. The sides will protect you (and your books!) from the sun, the wind and the rain. The weights can be made for the tent, or cement blocks, or bags filled with sand.
  7. Hand-washing supplies. Wet wipes work great and can be bought in small quantities. I use one of those laundry soap containers with the spout, filled with water, a dash of soap and an old towel. For all day events this is perfect.
  8. Water – thirst becomes a problem when you’re talking all day. Soda is great, but there’s as much sugar in the average soda as there is in a candy bar.
  9. Sunscreen – a full day the sun and wind will leave your skin sun and wind burnt.
  10. Hat & Sunglasses – The hat protects your face and shades your eyes. Sunglasses prevent headaches.
  11. Little stuff in baggies - Twine, tape and scissors. Trash bags, Kleenex, wet-wipes, index cards, magic marker to sign books. Aspirin, band-aids,
  12. Shower curtains rings and clips. If your tent didn't come with sides, a shower curtain will work to shade you from the sun or the rain.
  13. Money supplies - Apron, money clip, cash box with lock and receipt book. I keep my cash in a money clip so the wind doesn't blow it away. I have the cash box for change, the receipt book, the magic marker and extra business cards.
  14. Food supplies - Napkins, plastic silverware, coffee cups, and drink cups.
  15. Credit Card reader - I use Square on my phone. It works either with, or without phone reception. There are other companies, find what you like. They work on phones, laptops and tablets.
  16. Heater - The 3 tea-light terracotta pot heaters are good enough for the average spring/fall day. Make sure it's sturdy enough to take a nudge from your feet if you forget it's there. I don't recommend the ones that use metal to hold two or more pots together. The metal gets too hot for a busy place.
  17. Small cooler – cold drinks taste better. And it can be used as a side table or just a place to stash things so you aren’t tripping over clutter. Snacks help to keep fatigue at bay.
  18. Comfort items - chap stick, bathroom tissue, sun screen(!) sun hats or extra shoes. Temperatures vary over the course of a day. An extra shirt or sweater, a pair of sandals for a day that starts chilly and heats up. Or if the day cools down, or it rains.
This sounds like a lot of stuff. But the devil is in the details - as my grandmother used to say. Kleenx and napkins can double as toilet paper. Twine, well, 'a world without string is chaos.' I use twine every time I go out for something.

Everyone has different requirements. But after 4 years of weekly markets and festivals this is what I carry.

Care to add anything?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Changes In The Background

I am changing distributors. I've gone through several. When I was direct to Kobo, B&N and Sony my sales started good, but soon I had outstanding balances that I had no hope of collecting.

By using Smashwords, instead of going direct, I thought it would make everything easier. But, alas, The Meatgrinder kept chucking my files back at me, and I was unable to find the errors in their FAQ database. Any changes to the files, new covers, new back matter, new ebooks, anything at all and it became a Help Desk issue to get my files approved. Even switching to epub files didn't stop the errors and the delays.

Meatgrinder has become rightfully infamous, once you've run an ebook through it, there isn't any way around it. Anything once run through the Meatgrinder lives forever, untouchable, in formats that can't be updated, corrected or deleted. Worst of all, all potential customers will see the dozens of corrupt files, and could down load any of them at any time.

Then there was the lag on getting these changes published; on getting new ebooks approved; the lag in price changes. Testing and tweaking becomes agony when there are logistical problems. Yet, with falling sales, testing and tweaking is necessary, even critical, for any writer.

Then there was the reporting oddities - a week long 'glitch' that showed I had another $50 in sales last year. Sales and money that mysteriously vanished one day. I got frustrated.

I have nothing personal against Smashwords. Marc's made a huge contribution to Indie Publishing. It's just the software glitches in the site drive me nuts.

So I went back to testing and tweaking once again. First I opted out of Kobo and Scribd in mid-February, and didn't check on the status of the files until this week. They are down, they are all down.

I started tweaking covers in mid March, and updated quite a few of them. But I have yet to fight with the Smashwords site. Instead, I switched some ebooks over to D2D. Every one of the files I loaded went through without a hitch, the same day.

That's right, they shipped the same day.

Now we'll see what will happen with the new ebooks. I will, of course, have to take them down at Apple, via Smashwords. It will take a very long time.

Eventually I'll get my mother's ebooks switched over. Eventually, I'll get all the Smashwords ebook covers updated. Hopefully, there will be improved sales because of the new covers.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

New Release 'Girls Who Wear Glasses'

This blog is officially

I'm not sure what to do with it, today. I've got some long-term plans, and a some research to do, but for now...

This is where I am.

Confession - I haven't done much with this blog since my parents came to live with us, several years ago. There were so many details of my life that I didn't want to blog about, so I let this blog, which once had a couple thousand hits per month, lapse into obscurity.

Now I'm wondering what to do next.

My e-books have suffered from the same dysfunction. But I think it is perfectly understandable when end-of-life issues come to play. Some people can roll with these enormous disruptions. I'm not one of them.

Losing my mother, and my step-father's health issues flattened me. The stress of that put stress on my mental and physical health. I was still working my way out of my own mess, which came to a head on March 9th, when I had my gallbladder out.

I am still working on my parent's property and the barn full of things they left behind when they moved to my home.

I'm still publishing my mother's short stories. One went out last night and went on sale this morning.

"Girls Who Wear Glasses" can be found world wide on Amazon, but alas, only on Amazon for 90 days. The Amazon US link is here. The Amazon UK link is here. The Amazon CA link is here.

The e-book is part of "Tales From The Leeward Lounge II" which has yet to be published. The story is set in the 1970's. I've edited it to enhance the flavor of the times. I think it came out quite well.

The e-book will go free on the 9th of April 2015 and will run free for 5 days. After 90 days it will come off Kindle Select and I will publish it to other vendors.

I'm working on my mailing list. The goal is to publish once a month, and have the titles of the new releases and the free dates in the newsletter.

We'll see if I can stay focused, I'm not promising anything.

Enjoy the new story.