The Odds and Sods of my Life

Oh, how I wish I had one. A Life, I mean. In a very technical sense of the word I suppose I do; for example; I’m still breathing, and mobile, and I can carry on a conversation (as long as it’s with someone of my own generation, at least).

On the flip side, I don’t go anywhere (except the feed store and the pharmacy and every once in a while a grocery store). I don’t drink, I don’t gorge on food, I don’t hang out in bars or chase women. Frankly, I’m terrified one of them will allow me to catch her, and then where would I be?

I’m usually up early in the morning to make the coffee and catch a bit of the news before I go out to feed the horses (Arabians), goats (“Fainting goats”, and we just got two new babies!), chickens (layers, but they’re on strike right now), dogs (two Great Pyrenees) and the barn cat (she terrifies those dogs; nobody messes with the barn cat). So there I am, sipping coffee and catching up on world affairs early in the morning and twinges of guilt boil up in my stomach right along with the strong morning brew. Because I’m sitting there, working on waking up, and I know – I just know – all of those animals are bitching about the delay in getting their breakfast. Now, understand, they always – and I do mean always – get fed before 8:30 in the morning. Always. But come 8:00 they are all standing by their feed stations, waiting. Rain or shine, I KNOW they are waiting, and counting every minute. So I usually get off my butt around 8:10, leave half of my coffee to go cold and head out to feed.

Maybe I have to go back to getting up at 4:30…

Instead of doing fun stuff, I work. Right now, I’m writing “Standing Wave”, the fifth novel in the life and times of Terry Rankin, refining my new web site (the temporary address is www.garyshowalter.net , but I will be retaining www.garyshowalter.com as the permanent address).

Just yesterday we completed the post-production and quality testing work on the audiobook versions of “The Big Bend” and “Hog Valley”. Those audio books along with all of the other novels in the series (eventually) will be on sale direct from the web site once all of the dust settles from the construction and I have a chance to do a bit of sweeping up and polishing.

Some of you, no doubt, are scratching your heads at that. The first two novels were available in audiobook format for several months through Amazon, Audible and iTunes, but both myself and my narrator, Neill Hicks, were extremely disappointed by the paucity of the royalties we received. So we decided that I would recover the distribution rights and market the audio books through my own web site.

Hence the new web site (within a few weeks it will be up at www.garyshowalter.com) with the soon-to-be-available E-Commerce page. If you do visit the new site, please know that while it IS up and running, it is far from finished. A few pages have yet to be posted and the E-Commerce page will only appear next month.

By the way, ALL of the Terry Rankin audio books will sell for $10.00 (Audible.com had them priced at $24.00, unless you joined as a member), with the exception of the odd giveaway and discounts during promotional periods (I get a kick out of doing promotions, by the way!). Along with the promotions I will make ‘gift certificates’ available if you know someone who loves audio books.

Back to the new web site for a minute, if you don’t mind; all of the work, including a bit of editing on the current pages and the addition of new pages and the E-Commerce page, etc, are scheduled to be completed by mid-April. While I am not doing all of the work on the new site myself, it has cost me lots and lots of hours in emails and phone calls to get the work done correctly and do all of the post-production work getting the audio versions into a marketable format.

But all of the little bits should be ready to come together by the end of March and the E-Commerce page should be up and running by the end of the first week in April. I’ll take the next week for testing and fine-tuning and then get it all shifted over to my own domain name at www.garyshowalter.com.

I get tired just thinking of all of the stuff I have to do. But it sure beats pulling weeds for a living. I did that for years, by the way. I’m a slow learner.

 

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Posted in Audio books, General Maundering, Life, and other stuff, The Business of Writing, upcoming events | Tagged ,

A Brief and To-The-Point Note from My Narrator/Producer

Neill D. Hicks, the man who narrated and produced the audiobook versions of “The Big Bend” and “Hog Valley”, sent me the following to post for you:

A Note From the Narrator

Transformational Products

Gary and I have been producing the audiobook versions of Big Bend and Hog Valley for more than a year. We’ve been in touch almost daily to collaborate on the best possible products. Along the way, we’ve learned that, fundamentally, reading and listening involve very different perceptions that literally engage different parts of the brain.

Those of you who have read the printed and Kindle versions of Gary’s books will find that the audio renditions are not verbatim, word‑for‑word replications.  The stories are unaltered, but the audiobooks are transformational products, that is, the written word is subjected to the requirements of the vocal medium. Just as a movie, stage drama, or musical is not the same as the script, an audiobook is not the same as the printed version.

The demands of these different perceptions are ignored by the steamroller marketing of Audible, Amazon, and their cohorts.  The crush‑and‑flatten juggernaut of the mega-distributors hypes the illusion of choice, but maintains a callous disregard for the quality of product. We believe that our readers and listeners deserve better treatment.  The audience may be smaller than the indiscriminate horde gobbled up by Audible‑Amazon, but dollar‑for‑dollar you’ll get a more responsive provider on this site.

Neill

Neill D. Hicks
word-werx@hotmail.com
Skype:  word-werx

 

When you need to say what needs to be said

Posted in Audio books, The Business of Writing | Tagged ,

A correction to my last post, if you please

In the first section of my previous post I wrote about recovering my rights to distribute the audiobook versions of my first two novels (The Big Bend and Hog Valley) from Amazon, Audible and iTunes. It might be that you understood that I was also breaking my agreement with Neill Hicks, the man who narrated and produced those audiobook files.

This is most definitely not the case. Neill and I continue to work together on these novels and I look forward to working with him and his wife, Andi, on the other two novels currently in publication (Twisted Key and Lonesome Cove) and, when it is released, Standing Wave.

Neill was as disappointed in the royalty payment structure from ACX as I was. While I invested years in writing the Big Bend and Hog Valley, Neill and his wife invested thousands of man (and woman) hours in the narration, editing and production of the audio books. While I will be handling the marketing of the audio books going forward, we will continue to split the royalties on an even basis.

WE built this!

Posted in Audio books, The Business of Writing | Tagged ,

Reality Bites, and Other Interesting Bits

Oh, yes it does.

It saddens me to announce the following; I have to increase the price on the Kindle versions of my novels by $1.25. This will take effect in short order. It is not greed that drives this decision; at least, it’s not MY greed. That being said, it has to be done.

I can remember way back in the mid-1950’s my mother complaining at having to spend $25.00 on groceries every week to feed our family of six. Hard to believe, huh? But that is the situation in which I find myself these days. The cost of everything is going up and the purchasing power of my income is, sadly, going down.

One good thing about this is that at $3.00, my novels are under priced; increasing the price by $1.25 is not going to drive buyers away in droves; not when ‘certain’ authors (who shall remain nameless only because I do not want to give my readers any bright ideas) are charging $10.00 to $15.00 for the Kindle versions of their novels. If they can get those prices, I’m not only happy for them I am jealous- downright green with envy (not really; not at all, in fact, because I know those authors are not allowed to set their own prices. That’s done by their publishers). So please do understand, Dear Readers; my prices have to go up.

But they are not going up a whole lot. Just enough to cover my expenses a bit better than they have done to date.

On another note entirely, I am working with a web site developer to put together a new site. This will have E-Commerce capability; meaning that I will be expanding into the audible book market. My first two novels, “The Big Bend” and “Hog Valley”, were converted to audio book format some time ago and distributed through Amazon, Audible and iTunes. However, neither I nor my narrator/produce, Neill D. Hicks, were at all impressed by the inordinately low royalties we received for all of the hours of work that conversion required. That relationship is now dissolved, and I have all of the rights back in my hot little hands.

So, some time this March the new site will go live and the E-Commerce page will be added (I hope by mid-March). The audio books will be sold in two formats each; one large file for those folks who have an audio book reader installed on their device and the second will be in separate files for each chapter for those folks who use a music player that lacks the “Pause” function that allow the user to shut down the player and resume listening when it is restarted. Both file formats will be in MP3 which is standard for the majority of devices. The audio books will be priced at $10.00 each, and since I can control the pricing on these products I can promise you lots of BOGO’s and Free Download promotions. Stay tuned.

Posted in Audio books, The Business of Writing, upcoming events | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Double-Down Book Promo!

The Kindle version of “The Big Bend” will be FREE for downloading on 2 & 3 February AND the Kindle version of “Hog Valley” will go on sale at $.99 from 3 – 7 February! Here are the book links:

TBBCoverIcon
The Big Bend: Free on 2 & 3 February

http://www.amazon.com/Big-Bend-Gary-Showalter-ebook/dp/B0035G0722/ref=sr_1_5?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1391263691&sr=1-5&keywords=gary+showalter

 

 

 
HVCoverIconHog Valley: $.99 from 3 – 7 February

http://www.amazon.com/Valley-Terry-Rankin-Gary-Showalter-ebook/dp/B004478FW0/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1391263691&sr=1-3&keywords=gary+showalter

Posted in eBooks | Tagged

On Marketing Your Books

I’ve never been one to learn things the easy way; the school environment just taught me to hate the school environment. I learn best by doing a bit of research – talking to people and asking questions, mainly, and then by doing, testing and fine-tuning. And even sometimes deciding the project did not work out the way I’d intended and going back to step 1 and starting all over again (with the added knowledge gained from my previous experience as guide, of course).

So what little I do know about book marketing is knowledge well-earned through hands (and money) on experience over several years.

If you have got a book out in the market, you’re one step ahead of everyone else who is still sitting comfortably and thinking about writing a book. If you have two or three books in the market you may already know much of what I am going to present here. But it never hurts to have your own conclusions confirmed by the experience of another, so read on, please.

Only a few minutes ago I was browsing through Facebook posts and came upon a photo of new book by a very popular talk radio/TV personality. Several copies of that book had been placed on a display rack in the feminine products aisle of a drug store. I didn’t bother to read the accompanying text, but I am willing to bet very good money those books sold out in a hurry, contrary to the hopes of whoever put them there.

That is a very bizarre example of incorrect product placement that may well have been an act of twisted genius (or karma).

But if you are a new author, I suggest you follow a more reliable and less risky path; gain some knowledge about the types of readers in your market group and how to reach them. If you write romance novels, do not invest any of your time and money on newspaper ads marketing to lonely sailors on desert islands. What newspapers they do get are several years out of date, they probably don’t have any money and are most likely spending what little they do have on survival manuals or paleo diet cook books.

If you do have only one book (in any genre), do not waste a single penny on advertising your book. Not a penny. If you have one book, you probably have very few readers, unless your name is J.K. Rowling. In which case, you have a large and influential publishing house backing you up and paying for the marketing and promotion.

But you probably don’t. So listen closely; before you begin to market your book, you must learn to market yourself as an author. Take a piece of paper and a pen and write down the names of your favorite authors. All of them. Once you have that done, write down the titles of their books. I guarantee you will have more than a few author’s names with no titles next to them. That is normal, and that is how it should be. People recall authors long after their titles fade from memory.

So sell yourself. Brand yourself. Come up with a short sentence that both describes you and sets you apart from (or groups you with)  the other authors who currently rule your chosen genre. Make yourself unique. You ARE unique, so make sure potential readers know that. Incorporate your ‘Brand’ into your signature line in every email you send out. Make certain that brand appears on every page of your web site, very close to the top of the page. Put that brand on your blog page, as well.

Since it is difficult if not impossible to put your brand all over your web site and your blog page if you don’t have them, you will have to build yourself a web site and set up a blog. And then use them, frequently.

Your brand IS you to the rest of the world. Do NOT ever change your brand, and once you have your web site up and running be sure that you do not ever change the text on your home page. You can change anything on the other pages, but leave the text on your home page alone.

The home page on your web site is the first image people will see of you, and the information you place there (at least on the top half of that page), is perhaps all they will carry away with them when they leave. The average visitor will spend perhaps 30 seconds looking at the top half of your home page before moving on to another web site. What that visitor sees in that time, what he or she takes away with them when they leave, is up to you. Whatever else they take with them, make sure it is an image of your brand. Make it short attractive and memorable.

Set up a Bio page on your site. Make it interesting and memorable. Use humor; if you can get the reader to laugh or even smile you have made a friend for life. You have succeeded in selling yourself as a friendly, even approachable author.

Your blog posts should closely follow your genre. Host fellow writers and offer to post guest appearances on other blogs favored by readers of your genre. You do this to increase awareness among readers of your genre and to create links on the web. Search engines use links to measure popularity, relevance and importance. Those engines are also aware of ‘fake’ links; those made by people simply to increase the number of links bearing their name and web site address. As far as the search engines are concerned this practice is considered as rude and uncouth as paying for reviews of your book. Do not do this.

Personal appearances to sell copies of your book(s) at local events – library appearances, local clubs and fairs, are wonderful for meeting people, usually one at a time. I strongly suggest that all new authors spend as much time as they can during the first few years of their writing career in personal appearances. If this idea makes you nervous (most writers are by nature introverts), that is all the more reason to put yourself out there. If you feel the need, reach out to your local chapter of Toastmasters International. You will have a ball, meet lots of very interesting people and put your fears to rest. I promise.

I push personal appearances because it forces you to sell yourself as an author whose work has value to the reader.

But personal appearances are a very slow way to increase sales. You may well sell a few hundred copies of your book (signed, of course) during the course of a year, and it may make you feel really good, but you can’t pay your bills that way. Just keep in mind that you are NOT doing this to sell books; you ARE doing this to grow as an author and as a business person. You need to learn how to sell yourself before you can ever hope to sell your books. You need to learn how to sell; how to present yourself, how to get your message across in a very few words and how to show a potential buyer that you – and by extension your writing – has value to him (or her).

You need a national audience to make a living as a writer. That is why you set up a web site, that is why you fine-tune the keywords and meta tags on your home page and every page of your web site. That is why you need to ‘Brand’ yourself as a writer and that is why you post blogs and guest host for other bloggers.

Sell yourself to readers and they will buy your books.

There is a very good understanding among marketing folks that a potential customer must see your brand at least seven times before he or she becomes aware of you and begins to trust your brand, becomes to trust you. Give yourself a year or two to get your brand before potential readers; don’t give up on this. It’s not rocket science, boys and girls. You have to produce additional books – a minimum of three – AND build your brand at the same time.

Every new book you release WILL lead readers to purchase you previous work, I promise. Don’t give up.

The life of an independent author requires that you wear at several hats; author, business person and marketing guru. And, if you have the time, teacher. I add that last because my experience has taught me that you will learn far more by teaching than you ever did by learning.

Feel free to browse through the archives on this blog page. I have lots of posts on marketing scattered in there, and even a few on actually writing stuff.

Whatever else you may ever do in your life, wherever your life may lead you, do not ever quit on yourself.

 

Posted in The Business of Writing | Tagged , ,

Comments to a reader on Kristen Lamb’s new blog post

One of my readers, Cindy, who is also a new friend, sent me an email about Kristen Lamb’s recent post (titled “Five Mistakes KILLING Self-Published Authors” ) this morning, and asked if I agree with what she had to say. Here’s the link:

http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2013/12/26/five-mistakes-killing-self-published-au

I suggest you read her post.

My response to Cindy’s question is below:

Hi, Cindy. My answer has to be “Yes, I do.”  Newbie authors make mistakes; that’s how people learn. If they recognize their errors and determine to make the necessary changes in their behaviour and writing and business practices so they don’t make the same mistakes over and over, they will eventually succeed as authors. Not everyone who writes a book can take the criticism they receive and make the corrections to improve their writing so they have a marketable product; too much ego, too sensitive, or perhaps too afraid of an uncertain, confusing future.

Not everyone who writes one book will find the grit and determination to write a second or third or fourth (which IS vital to succeeding as an author).

Independent publishing IS a tough way to earn a living; you find out early on that acquiring a readership is all about marketing, and you know nothing about marketing. Being a decent writer is one thing; becoming a businessman (or woman) is something else entirely.

New authors find themselves in competition for eyes; every reader who buys one of YOUR books (should you write in the same genre as I do) puts money in YOUR pocket, not mine.

If I want some of the money going into your pocket, I have to increase the number of readers who buy my books. My job becomes one of taking readers away from other authors. Every dollar that I earn from my writing goes to paying my bills; every dollar that goes to pay MY bills is a dollar YOU don’t have to pay your bills. Competition is a lovely thing, in my opinion; it makes us better authors and better marketers.  It also discourages others who fear such things as competition.

It’s a free-for-all, Cindy. But that’s okay with me. I write because I can no longer make my way as a craftsman (goldsmith, silversmith, ornamental wood turner, furniture maker) or as a soldier, and nobody I know needs an old cowboy. So I write to earn a living, and that means my novels have to sell better than whatever  my competition puts into the marketplace. I am glad to say that most writers who try to publish their books don’t have what it takes to survive in the business. That’s their fault, and their loss.

Those last few sentences are not meant to be snarky, but fact. All too many could-be  authors give up on themselves and their goals. Not because they can’t write; they quit because they are afraid to change, reluctant to invest the time in an uncertain future, and afraid to take risks. It’s not really a matter of money any more; self-publishing today requires so very little money. It is a matter of the time authors have to invest in their writing and in acquiring the knowledge and the skill required to market themselves and their novels.

Please let me know what you think; both about Kristen’s post (be sure to leave her a comment) and about my comments to Cindy.

Happy New Year to one and all!

 

Posted in The Business of Writing, Writing | Tagged , , ,