2016-10-30

Update only

This will be a short update. Peacekeeper Pathogen is now at 47,882 words and moving along very nicely.

Last week, I received an email from one of our local libraries. In support of NaNoWiMo they are hosting a junior write-a-thon for younger writers. They've asked me if I would like to be part of the kick-off. I've been asked to share my self-publishing experience and then answer any questions the young writers might have about what it means to be a writer. Of course I accepted! I look forward to sharing my experience and knowledge with those who will be entering the world of writing.

That's it. Keeping it short and simple so I can get back to writing.

2016-10-23

Geek Expo

Update
Peacekeeper Pathogen is up to 44,428 words. Today should be a good writing day--you should see the word count go up quite a bit next week.

Geek Expo
Several years ago, an Olympic training facility named The Spire was built just down the road from our house. My wife and I use it to walk. The secretary who takes our walking fee knows I'm a writer. Two weeks ago, she pointed out a flyer for an event called the NorthEast Ohio Geek Expo. I'd never heard of it. Interested, I grabbed a flyer. Later that day, I went on the web and found out that it was much like a local comic convention. Unfortunately, the window to apply for a vendor space was already closed. I sent them an email asking to be put on the mailing list so I would not forget next year.

About a week later, I received an email saying they had some spots available and also wanted me to do a panel on self-publishing. Of course I accepted. With the event only 4 days away, I quickly fired off an email to my local author friends and told them I had a table I was willing to share. On the day of the event, it was me and one other author selling out books. We had a great time and I sold a lot of books.

We assumed that due to the location, the event was going to be small. We were wrong. Toward the end of the expo, I asked one of the organizers how many people they believe had attended. I was told that they had expected about 1,400 but ticket sales (although not confirmed) seemed to be more toward 2,000. That made the Geek Expo a fairly large event. As the only authors there, we did quite well. I sold a total of 12 books which more than covered the shared cost of the table and the one meal I ate there.

The self-publishing panel I did went very well as well. Instead of just standing up in front of a group of people, I turned it into a Q&A session. That way, the audience could ask me the questions they wanted answers to concerning self-publishing. One of the people there asked some very pointed questions. I later learned that she is a best-selling romance author who is traditionally published. After the panel, she stopped by my table. That was when I learned who she was. She explained that she asked those questions to get the ball rolling. It helped.

She's also a member of a local writers group. In fact, quite a number of people at the expo including one of the organizers are members. I think I'm going to have to check them out! Here's a picture of me at our table taken by Andi Lawrencovna--the other author who shared the table with me.


The lesson here: Even if the window of opportunity appears to be closed, take a chance and make a polite inquiry. You never know what might happen.


2016-10-16

Advertising

Update
Peacekeeper Pathogen now stands at 42,723 words. The story is moving along quite nicely and I don't foresee any additional roadblocks preventing me from sailing to the end of this novel. But in writing, as in life, there are no guarantees that something might pop up.

I purchased a new HP laserjet printer for the writing business. This is something I should have looked into doing a long time ago. Laser printers have gotten much cheaper and far more user-friendly the last time I even considered buying one. My little writing area (the chunk of our computer room I claim as part of my writing business) did not have much room for a printer. Luckily, I had a long ethernet cable as well as a spare port on my network switch. I installed the printer on a section of my old entertainment center that used to serve as the charging station for my laptop. Now, I need to find a new place for the charging station. I look forward to printing out my next manuscript on a laser instead of an inkjet. Should be much faster and much cheaper--plus, it does double-sided!

Advertising
Some time ago, I mentioned in this blog that my sales were severely declining. An author I met at Launch Pad suggested I try Amazon advertising. Since my books are enrolled in Amazon's KDP Select program, setting up an advertising campaign was a snap. Selecting the keywords according to the instructions given to me by Jake Kerr) took up most of the time. The results? Sales have picked back up and I've been very happy ever since.

A couple years ago, I tried sending out flyers in the mail. I had little to no success and the ROI (Return On Investment) caused me to abandon this idea as a viable means to promote my books. Likewise, attending conventions, writing conferences, and other such large-scale events also provides little to no increase in sales. Setting up a table at an event such a flea-market, library event (which is the only free event), or convention might net you some instant sales, but the cost of renting the space makes generating a profit from these events difficult to impossible. One must also figure in the cost of gas, time, food, etc.

In the end, I've learned that the best way to promote my books is through Amazon's advertising program. I am still considering signing up for a BookBub promotion but that costs money and the ROI there is a big unknown. It's still a possibility though. If I do decide to give it a try, I will share my results on this blog.

2016-10-09

People

Update
Peacekeeper Pathogen is up to 39,729 words as of this morning. I've solved the major plot snag and I'm moving along. I did have another snag last night but it was more about how to word something I needed to say than an actual plot issue. The best way (for myself anyway) is to forget about it, think about it as I'm going to sleep, and, usually, the solution appears in the morning. My brain did not let me down and I will be rolling along again as soon as this post is finished.

My heart and prayers go out to those caught in the path of Hurricane Matthew. My wife's cousin lives on one of the barrier islands off the Georgia coast and he posted a Facebook video after the storm passed. He's head of maintenance at an elderly community and had to remain because many of the residents could/would not leave. His area sustained only minor damage.

My brother lives in Virginia Beach. He called after I had gone to bed last night and said the water in his house was at 3 feet and rising. I'll be watching the news for a bit this morning as soon as this is posted to see what The Weather Channel has to say.

People
Years ago, I used to watch the news every night. There was even a time when I read the newspaper a few times a week. But being constantly barraged with how horrible humans can be to each other caused me to abandon that practice. Today, I catch an occasional news article or hear a conversation now and again that I then look up on the internet. But instead of getting better, it seems as if our species is getting worse. It's depressing.

I will be the first to admit that I am a privileged white man. But that does not give me the right to act that way. Yesterday, the writer's group I attend diverted from the discussion of our various writing projects to a discussion revolving around race relations--specifically, the problem between our police and those who are not white. I am well-aware that this is a problem and I am also aware that there are those who insist on trying to use this issue to create a larger divide between people. Instead of trying to be part of the solution, there are those from both sides who use an incident as an excuse for doing violent acts.

As a science fiction writer, I live in a fantasy world where humans and aliens interact with one another in a peaceful society. Imagine how different an alien culture would be from our own! If we can't get along with our own species, how are we going to get along with a culture from another planet? I believe there are aliens out there. I think they may be aware of our existence. And I'm positive that if that's true, they are unwilling to make contact with us because they know how they would be treated.

Ignorance is something we should all be aware of and be willing to change. Allow me a moment to explain exactly what I mean by this. This is only an example and is not meant to be offensive. Let's say I grew up learning that all Native Americans greeted each other by raising their hand and saying "How" and I was taught that all women Native Americans were referred to as squaws. This could come from my parents, history books, television shows, or even role-playing while growing up. Now, imagine I find myself in a job where I need to interact with Native Americans for the first time. It could be a disaster or a learning experience depending on how I and those I interact with react to my ignorance.

My first reaction would be that the person I'm meeting does not look like what I think an 'Indian' should look like. Thinking I'm being respectful of their culture, I greet this person by raising my hand and saying "How". In an ideal situation, it should be calmly explained to me that my greeting was considered rude. My proper response would be to admit I'd never met a Native American before and to apologize. I would then learn from this and never do it again. I would then begin to question everything I thought I knew about their culture. The incident would de-escalate and life would be better.

On the other hand, things could get very ugly. I could instantly be labeled as a racist and the interview terminated. I would most likely have no clue what I had done wrong and my beliefs regarding the culture of Native Americans would not change. My attempts to apologize could be viewed as stalking or harassment. I could be physically attacked and verbally abused causing me to believe that all Native Americans are intolerant. Labels would be applied by both sides and it could take years before the problem was resolved.

I could also react to a gentle admonishment by rejecting the person's attempt to correct me. Instead of recognizing my own ignorance, I would try to force my own cultural beliefs on others. To understand our differences, both sides must be willing to at least try to educate the other. Ignorance is something that can be corrected as long as it is recognized as such. If I unintentionally offend anyone, I would want that person to correct me so I can learn. Intentionally offending another person is a sign of a mental disorder and such people should be put in their place.

Time to check the news, eat breakfast, and get back to writing.

2016-10-02

Covers

Update
Dragonverse Origins is now at 35,799 words. I managed to get some writing in during the week. I am fast approaching a point in the book where I need to solve a couple of major problems facing the Peacekeepers. At the moment, I have no clue how they are going to solve this problem. I need some detailed information on biotechnology and I've sent out a request to the network of authors from Launch Pad looking for an expert in the field. I believe I've found one.

Covers
I'm sure you've heard the saying that a book is sold by its cover. There's a great deal of truth in this. On the flip-side, you don't want to judge a book by its cover either. A book could have the slickest cover imaginable and be filled with words that make no sense. A well-designed cover will entice a reader into looking at what's inside. The formatting, grammatical correctness, and how well the first few pages are written will determine if the reader makes the purchase. Plot, character development, and the story itself will determine how the reader judges the book and his or her subsequent review (if one is written).

The point is, all of the pieces that make up a book must be done correctly or your novel is going to be a flop. It's the cover that starts this entire process. Word of mouth plays into this as well but the cover is ultimately what get's the ball rolling towards building a following.

With that in mind, I decided to make a tweak to the cover of Dragonverse Origins. The original had a pinkish sky. The dragon did not stand out as much as I would have liked. Photoshop came to the rescue. Using the recolor feature of Elements 14, I altered the color of the sky from pink to blue. That made the dragon stand out much better. You can see the results at the end of this post.

I did this yesterday instead of writing. Sometimes, you have to work at the mechanics of self-publishing instead of focusing all your attention on putting out the words. I made the cover changes for a very important reason--I've submitted the book to the SFWA for consideration in the 2016 Nebula awards. This is the first time I've ever submitted a book to any sort of award contest and I was unsure if I should do so.

I've always been a believer that if people found my books good enough, they would have submitted it to compete for an award. But, believe it or not, most of your everyday readers have never heard of or simply don't care about what awards a book has won or been nominated for. So, I decided to submit a book and see what happens. This submission does not mean it is nominated. I've simply made it available for anyone who is a member of SFWA to read the book. Someone else will have to actually nominate it.

Here are the before and after book covers for Dragonverse Origins: