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WIP update

Time for an update. For anyone who’s been wondering how much longer it will be until you can fork over your hard-earned cash for another glimpse into the mad and wonderful world I craft, worry not. Or, more likely, for anyone who stumbled across this page by accident, I’m actually making progress on my 3rd stab at literary greatness. Or not-so-greatness, depending on who you’re asking

I’m currently editing the 2nd draft of my WIP, which will eventually be the 3rd story in the Parker Chase series. Not to give too much away, but this adventure will take some of our familiar friends from (like that alliteration??) the cozy confines of Pennsylvania down to the balmy, beautiful Caribbean climate (3 in one sentence, for those of you keeping score at home). Parker and Erika are going to find themselves embroiled in a battle unlike anything we’ve yet seen, squaring off against their most formidable adversary yet. If this sounds like a plug, it is. I’m terrifically excited about this tale, and hope to have it out before Halloween. Much of that depends on how often I can get my lazy butt in gear and write/edit, but I’ve got high hopes.

However, I don’t want to give too much away just yet. Suffice to say that while I’m building on what you’ve seen so far, this adventure has a new flavor. As I’m still crafting the story, we’ll see how it all shakes out in the end, but I think it’s going to be a doozy.

In the meantime, I hope this finds everyone well and enjoying the rapidly fading summer weather. Get out soak it up, preferably with one of my books and a cold beer or six in hand. I’ll be working hard to get this next installment out there.

As always, thanks for stopping by.

Consistency seems to be the Key

For the past few months I’ve been juggling quite a few flaming torches, and unfortunately, haven’t been giving this blog of mine the attention that it deserves. While this is utterly unforgivable, I believe that it may have taught me something along the way. A pretty awful method of gathering information, mind you, but I’ll take it.

For the first time in a while, I checked out how my books were doing on Amazon. To no surprise, they’d fallen down the charts a good bit, both ending up in the low 600’s in sales rank (that’s the low hundred thousands…pretty far down). Earlier this year I was routinely charting in the 300-400,000 range, with highs near 60,000 when I released a new novel. Again, none of this was breaking news. What I did find interesting, though, was that the suggestions that normally accompanied my books had disappeared.

What I’m talking about are the books that Amazon suggests to a reader when they view a certain novel. They’re usually along the lower third of the screen, a bunch of covers lined up in a row. These are the books that others who viewed my novel would either view or purchase. A few months ago there more than 10 novels displayed with each of my books, works that readers may find interesting based on the shopping habits of other Amazon users. Some of these books were sci-fi and didn’t have any relation to my work, while others were in the same vein as APB and TCV.

Though the algorithms of Amazon are but a mystery to me, it would seem that books do not remain associated with other titles in any permanent manner, and that the “Also Viewed” bar is updated constantly in both directions. Books can be added or removed from the list as time passes. So it would appear that while Amazon can aid in spreading the word about a book when sales are high, they are equally adept at forgetting you exist when you’re not selling as much. Perfectly sound business principles, as Amazon is in business to make money and has to watch out for the bottom line.

Unfortunate though it may be, this is a great lesson. You’ve got to stay on top of things or you’re going to get passed by. Every day more and more novels are uploaded to Amazon, and to stand out from the sea of submissions, you have to keep the torch burning brightly, fed by activity. With that in mind, I’m going to hunker down in this storm (whoever is doing the rain dance around here needs to stop-it’s getting old) and continue revising my work in progress. I’m over half way done revising this, my third manuscript, and hope to have it out within a few months. After that, I’ve got 20% of the next tale finished, though it’s been languishing for so long now the paper may have turned to dust.

Hope everyone is enjoying their summer (and all the wonderful seasonal brews that are out for these warm months). Drink up. As they say…Winter is Coming.

Reviews

So it’s been quite a while since my last update, and despite how busy I’ve felt, not half of what I’ve wanted to accomplish has been checked off the to-do list. I’m starting to think that maybe I’m just woefully inefficient in all aspects of life. Other than wasting time drinking beer. I’m still pretty solid in that department. Regardless, in the past week I’ve been doing a little research on an aspect of writing that heretofore has been under my radar.

Reviews. That one little word brings up a host of questions. Do negative reviews hurt sales? Do positive reviews give a boost? How many were actually written by living, breathing sentient beings? I’ve seen books that had been on the market for under a month with hundreds of reviews. Self-pubbed titles, not the latest blockbuster, mind you, with a 6 digit sales ranking. The novel has been out for less than 30 days and has garnered 200 reviews, all while ranked under 100,000 in total sales? The numbers don’t add up. However, those cases are in the minority. A few months ago there was a big hullabaloo when the existence and prevalence of review factories came to light, and since then I don’t recall seeing anything else like that on Amazon.

What I want to talk about relates to my experience with reviews. As of April 5, APB has 13 reviews on Amazon and TCV has 5. I also have other unique reviews on Goodreads, various blogs, and B&N’s Nook site. However, the vast majority of my meager income so far has come from Amazon, so I’ll stick with them for the purposes of this post. After doing a little digging, I believe that those numbers are generally in line with other writers in my position (i.e. self-pubbed, relatively few titles, in this for less than a year). I’m still in the stage where I have to solicit most of my reviews, which I do through reader blogs. I’ve never paid for a review, but I have offered free copies of my book in exchange for a reader’s honest opinion. With all the new books on the market (everyone and their mother seems to be publishing these days), it’s hard to get a reader, even one with a voracious appetite for the written word, to give up their time to read a total unknown. When I am able to convince a kind soul to read my work, I honestly can’t wait to see what they have to say. It’s one thing for my friends to blow smoke up my ass and tell me I’m great, but I usually get actual constructive feedback from total strangers, people who have no problem telling me how it is (though my friend can be pretty brutal…makes me wonder). Some of the reviews have been near scathing, and for a second made me wonder if I should just throw my computer out of the window and head to the bar. However, after I could see through the cascade of tears, I realized that contained in that review was some damn good advice about how to improve my product.

And that is my point. Bad reviews can be the best thing that ever happened to a writer. People who don’t know you and don’t really care about your feelings give the honest, insightful critiques a writer needs to improve their craft and hopefully stand out from the masses. Writing is a tough gig, harder than I ever imagined. To get ahead, you’ve got to offer the best product you can possibly produce. Anything less, and people will move on to the next aspiring hack. A writer needs to have thick skin, and find the gold in every 1 star review. Remember, trying to please everyone is a recipe for failure. There are too many readers with different tastes, so do whatever you do best, write in your own voice, and anyone who doesn’t like it can piss off (hopefully after buying your entire catalogue).

Take Dan Brown for example. Arguably the most successful American scribe of the past decade. The Da Vinci Code sold something like 80 million copies. 80 million. I read somewhere that the guy can’t even fly coach anymore for all the fans bothering him. Must be nice. Anyway, a quick check of Amazon just told me that out of 4,309 reviews for his blockbuster novel, 759, or around 17%,  are 1 star, and include descriptions such as “inept”. They’re talking about Dan Brown here. Maybe you think his style is rambling, simplistic, or boring, but you can’t argue with sales numbers. Every new novel he puts out is guaranteed to top the charts. The guy’s basically printing money in this crappy economy. The Lost Symbol is more of the same; 3,131 reviews with 623 (almost 20%) of them giving 1 star. Even the most successful writers have their share of critics (I realize that people who didn’t like the book are more likely to leave feedback than those who did, but you get my point).

I love reviews. Good or bad, there’s something to be learned from every single one. The hard part in today’s market is getting reviews while mired in obscurity. While you’re still an unknown, you’ve got to pound the (digital) pavement, put your work in readers faces (politely, of course), and grow your virtual presence. I read on Lindsay Buroker’s blog (a fantastic source of information, by the way), that you need to hand-sell the first 1,000 copies before Amazon’s algorithms kick in and start helping. If this is true, and I have no way to prove or disprove it, that’s quite a few emails and review requests to send out. So get moving, keep writing, and if some mean reviewer (who actually took the time to read your book) says some bad things about your writing, be grateful.

Cheers to you all, and I hope the sun is shining, wherever you are.

Promotions

I published my first book a little over six months ago (June 1 to be exact). Since then I’ve tried to get the word out in a variety of ways, mostly through author interviews, requesting reviews from blogs or other writers, starting a newsletter, or posting on various sites such as Kindleboards, Goodreads, or World Literary Café. Through all of this, I never had anything in the form of feedback or assistance from Amazon. Earlier this month, two people sent me emails they’d received that featured my book as one of the suggested purchases. Of course, the first thing I think is Woo-Hoo! I made it! I then cracked a cold brewskie and waited for the checks to start rolling in.

Check out a new review for APB, and a 5 star review for TCV!

A little over a week later, I’m still waiting. While there has been a noticeable uptick in sales over the past month, I have to wonder if that’s more due to publishing my second novel, or if other readers are getting the emails suggesting they purchase my work. Of course, if the mighty Amazon algorithms decide to include me in the suggestions for all fiction or action/adventure readers, I’d expect sales to skyrocket. By that I mean to get above the 100,000 ranking on the charts, which is about as high as I’ve ever been (broke into the 98,000 for one day last year). Before you get lost in a haze of abstract ranking numbers, let me explain further.

Most of the time either of my books are ranked between 150,000 and 350,000 overall. My own rough calculations reveal that a sale or two a day will get you into the 100,000’s, and if you don’t sell anything for a few days, you’ll slide down near 300-400,000. I’ve been hovering between 150-200,000 the past week, averaging at least a sale a day.

During this self-publishing odyssey I’ve been fortunate to read a few fantastic blogs by some very successful authors, all of whom are happy to share what they’ve tried in terms of gaining exposure and readers, going down any number of paths before I do and letting their readers know what works. Russell Blake, Lindsay Buroker, and JA Konrath are invaluable sources of information, so if I’ve only served to confuse you as to how this whole process works, hop on over to their sites and take a look at what they have to say. Based on what I’ve learned and seen, it’s my belief that the best was to promote your novels is to write more of them. If you consistently put out high quality work for which there is an audience, readers will find it. The vast majority of us aren’t going to experience the overnight success that you read about, catch a ride on the rocket of a best-seller. I think the best way to become an overnight sensation is to spend years honing your craft, building a backlist of titles, connecting with readers, and producing the highest quality product. We’re competing with the New York houses, corporations that have spent decades selling books, and you have to put out a product that a reader will look at and think, “You know what? That looks like a damn good book.” Getting people to part with their hard-earned money isn’t easy, and while you may be able to fool someone once, if they get stuck with a turd, they won’t forget it.

I’d be interested to know what’s worked and what hasn’t for anyone else who’s published a book. If you haven’t had a chance, check out my newest book, The Crowns Vengeance, and contribute to my beer fund. It’s cold this time of year.

TCV Available in hard copy

Just found out that my newest book is available for sale on Amazon, so stop over and pick up a copy or 3 for all your closest friends. It took a few days longer to get it through the approvals process than the ebook, but everything seems to be in order now.

Today, while I was editing my next manuscript, I found myself daydreaming, wondering why it’s come to pass that ever since I started writing, my time spent reading has dropped precipitously. It made me realize how hungry I am for a new book to read, to spend some time away from the computer and with my Kindle, taking in a new book. I’m wondering if this will have a recharging effect on my writing, which I love to do, but gets tiresome.

As such, I’ve resolved to spend a few of your dollars on a new book and take a couple days off from the editing process. Not sure which author I’ll be reading, but the thought of sitting back and reading for pleasure instead of editing my own sub-standard content is awesome. Hopefully this time away from writing, from creating my own content in my style will refresh my creative juices, because from what I’ve seen revising my manuscript so far, things are getting ugly.

So, friends, I hope you get a chance to check out my newest book, and if you like it, consider leaving a review. Hope everyone has had a great New Year so far.

The Crowns Vengeance paperback release

I’ve been asked a few times about the hard copy version of my newest book, so I’ll pass along the latest info. I’ve sent the text to be formatted for both TCV and APB (there were some issues with the first version), and expect to have it back by tomorrow. Once I receive the formatted document, I’ll upload it to CreateSpace, and within a day or two (depends on how quickly the system processes my file), both books should be available for sale.

Soooo, the short answer is it will be available for purchase by Monday, possibly late Sunday. I’ll be sure to let everyone know when the book is approved and up for sale.

Hope everyone is having a great holiday season, and as always, thanks for stopping by.

Round robin interview

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas. After finally pulling myself from the couch, liver pickled and stomach overflowing with wonderful home cooked food, I’m excited to post a blogging experience that I’ve been invited to participate in, courtesy of Jan Moran, a fantastic author you should really check out. She’s a fantastically talented author, and I highly recommend her newest novel, Scent of Triumph.

Jan was kind enough to include me in a get-to-know-you type of interview. I’ve got some interesting questions that will hopefully shed a bit of light onto who I am as an author, and give readers insight into where all these words come from (or maybe let you know why my writing is so awful, depending on your personal opinion). Either way, it’s a neat exercise.

1) What is the working title of your next book?

-My next novel, which has just passed from rough draft into the first edit, involves a part of human history that played a much larger role in the founding of American than most people realize. I’m talking about piracy, and the fact that pirates once roamed the waters off America’s shores, their imprint on our society still felt to this day. Right now the title on my laptop is “Book 3”, though I’m hopeful that inspiration will strike sometime before publication.

2)  Where did the idea come from for your book?

-A very simple place. My mind (ha). I started writing because I find pirates and their culture to be fascinating. I try to write about things that interest me, and pirate interaction and presence in America fits the bill. What originally started out as a short story grew into a full novel, and I’m excited to get it out there.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

-Thriller. As with my 2 prior novels, this book will incorporate factual information with fiction I create, blended together to form an entertaining, educational tale.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

-You know, this is a very interesting question. The reason being, I’ve received multiple reviews that say my books are clearly written for the big screen, usually due to the descriptive nature of the story. Now, if that’s a kind way of saying they’re long, drawn-out boring affairs, then so be it, but I like to think it’s a compliment. However, never once have I looked at a completed draft and said “You know who would be perfect for this part…”, and I’ve never considered the question until now. First response would be for the villain in this tale, a scoundrel named Victor. In my mind’s eye, I see Ian McShane as a solid fit. As for the rest of the cast, the jury is still out.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

-History professor unearths lost treasure and discovers that pirates still exist.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

-As with my first two novels, this will be self-published. This allows for the greatest number of people to experience my work as soon as possible.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

-Around 4 months. I’d say 65% was done in the first month, but after that first month I took on a major new project in my life and I wasn’t able to devote nearly the time I’d like to writing.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within you genre?

-The book I find most similar would be Steve Berry’s recent novel, The Jefferson Key.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

-I’ve always loved pirates, ever since I first saw the Disney version of Treasure Island. When it came time to brainstorm for this 3rd novel, a pirate story jumped onto the page, and I never looked back.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

-This novel explores new territory with familiar characters. I did a tremendous amount of research on pirates and their time in America, and I think that shows through in the story. If you like lots of action, buried treasure and looking back into a bygone era, this book should be right up your alley.

 

Thanks again to Jan for the invite, and if you haven’t had a chance to do so, check out my latest novel, The Crowns Vengeance, now available on Amazon.