Thursday, October 25, 2012


Titles can be deceptive. I have never been a very successful marketer of books. Angela Hoy of Booklocker offers some hints on online marketing, mainly through use of an ezine, but I have never been successful in creating a database of followers who are rabidly searching for my books. Neither have I been impressed with the various marketing services, who have a very poor (in my experience) record. An Amazon site titled "Customer Reviews" of the various POD (print on demand) companies is very critical of Booklocker, and instead praises Create Space - an Amazon company, so beware possible bias. One blogger who is high on Virtual Bookworm has blogged a comparison between that company and Create Space. He also has a site which I've mentioned before where he compares the various POD publishers. Curiously, though he rates Virtual Bookworm his top choice, he used the services of Create Space to publish his last book.

But I have strayed from the subject - marketing. It boils down to this: How do I get people to notice my book, like it, and tell others about it so that they, too, will buy it? Is it merely just being in the right place at the right time? That's probably a large part of it. If paying professional marketing services doesn't work, and you don't care for ezines or book signings (that seldom work), what can you do?

Besides blogging about my books, I am going to send a copy of my paperbacks to several of the leading bookstores with a request that they read a (specified) chapter or two, and if they like what they read, to help with the marketing. That will cost me a bit, but where better to spend money and effort than with the people who will be selling (and hopefully pushing) the hard-copy books? It's a win-win situation for the both of us - provided they like what they read. Familiarity with the hard-copy books will hopefully generate interest in the electronic versions as well.

We'll see.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


I hadn't hunted the creeks in Vicksburg in a long while, but when the weather turned cool this week I just couldn't resist the urge. I called a buddy of mine, and off we went yesterday morning, determined to dig a treasure or two from the shallows of one of Vicksburg's many small creeks. After parking we slipped and slid down the steep bank into the tiny creek and began a methodical search with probe and metal detector, slowly winding our way downstream with a plan of covering the distance - several hundred feet - to a bridge where we could exit the creek and walk back to our vehicle. At some point a dog began barking. We could tell from the sound of his barks that he was some distance ahead. Probably just performing his guard duty, we thought. But as we rounded a bend in the creek we saw the dog, a large short-haired breed, standing in the middle of the creek. That, we decided as we watched him, was a bit strange. We wondered for a while if he intended bodily harm to the intruders, but, no, his demeanor was not hostile. Instead he watched us as we cautiously approached. Soon we were near enough to determine the reason for the dog's strange behavior.

The dog had been chained, a practice I despise. He had broken loose, dragging the chain behind him as he sought freedom. But the chain had become entangled in an old bicycle that someone had thrown into the creek. The dog was now facing a slow death by starvation.

Strangely, the dog showed no signs of stress. As my buddy and I tried to befriend him by use of calm, soothing words, he wagged his tail. Then he allowed us to get near enough to free him, leaving the chain behind, still wound around the old bicycle. He darted off, up the creek, and disappeared, only to return a few minutes later to thank us with a wagging tail and a big smile. Then he was gone.

Was the Man Upstairs watching out for that dog? Perhaps so. I have not hunted a creek in months. Why that particular day? Why that particular creek? Makes one wonder.

Friday, October 12, 2012


If you are an "unknown" writer and you have a book that you're ready to submit for publication, you have a choice: Submit it to traditional publishers and hope it's noticed, or publish it yourself and take on all the responsibility for its marketing. Frankly, your chances of getting noticed by a traditional publisher are about one in 250 - or less. How you improve those odds is a subject for another time. Assuming, then, that you have decided to self-publish, which of the many online agencies should you choose? Further, should you offer your jewel as an ebook as well as/instead of a hardcover or paperback? Here's a website that offers a comparison between what they term the "top ten" online self-publishing agencies. It's only a partial list of what's out there. Use it with care, for, as with any other site that offers reviews of a product or business, they may have a dog in the hunt. Some of the online publishers that they don't mention are Lulu, Createspace, and Trafford.

Another good article from the New York Times has some good advice for new authors:

I have had books published by Booklocker (How I Found a Remedy for Innocence(just out), and How to Hunt Treasure), Xlibris (Short Stories - Vicksburg), and Virtual Bookworm (Demons and Whispers - A Memoir of Abuse) (just out) and I'm currently trying to decide who to use for the next book. Based on my experience, I will never consider Xlibris for any publishing job again. Booklocker has done a good job publishing the two books referenced above, but, as with most online publishers, unless you buy extra features, once the book is published you are on your own - and marketing your own book is a daunting task. My experience with Virtual Bookworm thus far has been about the same as with Booklocker - fairly mediocre in that once they have your money, they pretty much forget about you (unless you're willing to send them even more money for more features). Angela Hoy does offer a free guide to publishing online which may be of interest to new authors.

Before making the decision as to who to use to publish your book, it's necessary to research the field. Fortunately, the internet provides plenty of such material.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


It's large - 31 1/2" X 25" - written (I think) on sheepskin vellum - and old - 1821. Do you know what it is? Find out at "Vicksburg's Treasures."


Sure. Ray Bradbury visited Mars before he wrote "The Martian Chronicles," didn't he? And L. Ron Hubbard certainly visited the year 3000 before writing "Battlefield Earth." No, human imagination and creativity enable anyone to write a few lines - or even volumes - about events or circumstances they could never have possibly encountered. I am certainly no expert on matters authorial, but when I first started writing short stories I wasn't sure if I could create anything of value (either for myself or others), so, not knowing upon what subject matter to write, I did that very thing - I imagined and created. Here's an example from the little book I published several years ago about a wannabe author and a spider who has been covertly "suckin' my blood:"

...Buford placed his pointed elbows on the desk for a last look before dealing the spider his fate, and in so doing bumped the hardback Hemingway novel, which, water stained and warped and perched precariously anyway, fell to the floor. "Great balls o’ fire!" Buford screamed as he hurled himself backwards in his swivel chair, for the angry and rejuvenated spider had leaped to the rim of its glass prison and now gloated with all eight Lugosi eyes! The novelist cringed in horror as the insect sprang deliberately from jar to desk and then atop the keyboard from which so many disposable manuscripts had emerged, leered at him, and arrogantly swaggered among the keys. The aspiring author cowered, covered his eyes for a moment, then almost bolted when the spider suddenly leaped high into the air and fell booty-first upon a key. The letter "T" appeared upon the screen. The spider squinted in Buford's direction as though daring him to interfere, then again leaped into the air and pounced upon another key. The letter "R" appeared beside the "T." In rapid succession the spider pounced upon the letters "U," "C," and "E." Buford goggled in disbelief at his monitor. "Truce!" he read. Truce? The spider is calling a truce?
The spider crouched, awaiting Buford's reaction. "I ain't believin’ this," Buford said slowly. "Spiders can't type."
            "Believe it, friend." The spider rapidly tailed the letters onto the screen. "Name's Pierre. You're Buford. Buford! My god! Did your mama not like you? Or what?"

But most writers of fiction apparently use many of their past experiences - and acquaintances - as subject matter for their tales, although most will disguise their memories by cleverly altering the details. I have to admit that many of the experiences encountered (or suffered) by Jack Smith in my latest novel, "How I Found a Remedy for Innocence," were based on events of my teen years. I was there when I wrote...

             ...Josey, Archie, Jerry, and I were having a round of burgers and fries one afternoon when Josey launched into a vivid description of the fine cuisine that was served in the fancy club on Boston Bay where he and his parents often dined. Above us, a thin sheet of sunlight that had sneaked through the window blinds illuminated the anxious fluttering of a lone fly that had apparently escaped an earlier tirade by Mama Mary. We three veterans took note of the crazed insect, and of Mary's instant mutation from cook to killer, and prepared ourselves as the fly staked claim to a portion of Josey's burger. Josey had turned to a tale of his ancestors' part in the Revolution when the ear‑piercing crack of Mary's long‑distance swatter ended his soliloquy. We watched eagerly as Josey gazed in wonder between hands poised to accentuate the significance of Massachusetts's role in American history, to a scene appalling to eyes virgin to the sight of strewn entrails and inanimate eyeballs. Hands yet poised over the remains, Josiah burped so loudly that the gurgle could be heard above the now‑resumed screeches‑and‑screams. We waited. We hoped he would be sick, there and then. We wondered, too, as Josey reeled slightly in his chair, if we would be so lucky as to witness the imposition of a permanent affliction on the Yankee. We all sighed with disappointment, though, as he slowly rose and left the cafe, never again to roam amongst the fertile growth that rooted in its slithery concrete floor. Our laughter afterwards could have been heard in Milldale...


              ...At the sound of another oriental drum roll Sabrina raised and spread her knees, ankles entwined, and leaned backward to rest on one palm. With an eye on the crowd, she ran her tongue along the inside of her free hand, then, fingers glistening, used it to pluck a Ping-Pong ball from the bowl. She fondled it with her lips, kissed it, licked it until it was wet, all while eyeing the eager faces before her, winning groans from collective throats, and then, daintily, with two fingers and her thumb, placed the moist white ball amidst the thick, dark hair of her pelvis. In an instant, it was gone.
            "Wow!" Jerry said. "Just slurped it right up!"
            "Get ready!" Archie gibbered wildly.
            As the drum roll swelled, Sabrina again surveyed her audience, finally squinting and nodding slightly at a fan who stood far in the rear. She seemed to draw air into her plump belly, which extended even farther as she stretched, until it appeared taut and hard. Both palms now propped her lengthening body as she inhaled and concentrated on her objective. The drum roll intensified. A tense hush came over us all. Not another sound was heard. Her eyelids fluttered. Her round belly shuddered and went flat. There was a resounding hollow "thwop!" The missile was launched!
            "She CAN aim the thing!" I cried in amazement.

The process of writing the latter book was to me stimulating and even enlightening. I think most people can similarly benefit from writing of their past accomplishments, trials, and tribulations. Not only will they probably be surprised by the substance of their work, but the interest such can generate from others will delight them. Everybody has a story to tell, and many of them, besides being labors of love, share adventures that others can enjoy.