Thursday, December 9, 2010

My two articles on ezine are seeing more readers. See "Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Religion (http://tinyurl.com/24opxqd) and "How can Writers Finish What They Begin" (http://tinyurl.com/2538thy).

If you are a writer, take a look and let me know what you think.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Author's Dream

What happens if dream becomes reality? Premonition becomes cognition? This is the subject of my video, Author's Dream, concerning my novel, Time of the Heathen. Can a novel that is dead last on Amazon go to number one because of coincidence? In this video, the author answers those and other questions.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWFQX71v5Hs

This video marks the beginning of a new marketing scheme for my book. Since the book is a fantasy adventure, why not use fantasy marketing: I imagine what my book tour and author status is and publish those musings in videos.

I'm going for the humorously ironic. The video is being reproduced in the following venues:

Goodreads
Twitter
LinkedIn
SmashWords

Let's see if any new traffic goes to the website or buys the book at any of the channels.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Back on the Book Tour

At last, I'm back touring bookstores. I went to 6 bookstores yesterday. Actually I only went to two because 4 locations were closed! I got the bookstore addresses from the Internet - but instead of bookstores, auto body, gardening, and empty spaces occupied the storefront addresses.

Bookworm Paperbacks
Of the two bookstores that actually existed, the first was run by a nice, middle-aged lady named Mary. I showed her my book and asked her if she would stock it on consignment. She looked the book cover over and said, "No." She wasn't interested because she knew it wouldn't sell to her customers.

"Why not," I asked.

"Because most of my sales are romance novels," she responded. "I sell them used at $4.00 a copy. What does your book cost?"

"$16.95," I said ruefully.

She didn't want to waste both of our time stocking it. I gave her my card and left.

Cover to Cover Books
The second bookstore I got inside was run by another middle-aged lady. I told her that I was a local author and asked if she might be interested in stocking my book. She said she would like to see it. I showed her a copy. She paged through it for a minute and then handed it back.

"Sorry, I'm not interested," she said.

"Why not," I asked. "I'm curious."

"Most of the books I sell are used paperbacks. New books I've bought in the past from local authors have sat on the shelf for over 2 years and still not sold. I don't believe my customers will buy your book."

"OK," I said and I left the store, hauling my satchel of unsold books back to the car.

We'll try more bookstores tomorrow.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Google Analytics

I added Google Analytics to my site (http://www.timeoftheheathen.com). It appears the the statistics it generates vary a lot based upon site design. My landing page is also the page with the most content. Most people get to it and then leave after scanning the content. They don't appear to click many other links, because there aren't many. So I get a high "bounce" rate. This doesn't mean my site rejects viewers, it just means that readers do not click around to multiple pages within the site.

The website game that Google Analytics seems to support is, once people come to your site, keeping them there as long as possible and moving them around in multiple site pages.

This isn't my site's design. Is that wrong?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Getting near the end of my two writing projects: technical writing for a museum software project and technical writing for a computer chip manufacturer. Hopefully, I'll soon be back fulltime working on Book 2 of Time of the Heathen and promoting Book 1.

My old Time of the Heathen website now has over 11,000 visitors. However, my new website is not picking up that traffic. An automatic re-direct is not technically possible, per my former Internet Service provider. But you'd think more than 3% of visitors to the legacy site would click the link to the new site.

It doesn't appear to be happening - or my new provider isn't recording the traffic. Which is it?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Book Tour on Hold - just

I'm about one-half way through my technical writing contracts. I have ordered the first group of Time of the heathen novels to distribute to independent bookstores. Next week we should begin asking bookstores to take the novel.

I'm also working on Volume 2 of Time of the Heathen. I hope to buy some script writing software and begin work on the movie script.

Lot's going on. Your support is appreciated.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Book Tour Postponed

I'm am dismayed that I must postpone an all-out book store blitz, yet I must. Finances dictated that I accept two contracts offered to me for technical writing. The income earned will enable me to clear my books of virtually all debts. Taking this step will mean that I will have more resources available for the future book tour.

However, I will continue to do what I can to promote the book, while working a 75 hour week (for a period of 7 weeks) and then working 9-hour days until September 2010. But my initial plan of proceeding ahead on all fronts simultaneously has not worked.

Up to this point here's what I've discovered about the book promotion business:
  • Independent book stores are open to selling the work of independent authors, but it takes a lot of work to get to each store, talk to the decision maker, provide promotional support, and see books begin to sell from that one store.
  • The additional promotional materials required include book/author posters, shelftalkers, "local author" foil labels (for book covers), and scheduling author readings/appearances.
  • I contacted local newspaper editors and got one reply by an editor who might be interested in reading and reviewing my book.
  • I contacted local school (colleges/high schools) English departments, offering to make a presentation to students about the craft of technical writing and my experience writing a 400 page novel. I got no replies.
  • I'm Tweeting weekly, and while that has increase some website traffic to http://www.timeoftheheathen.com, it has not generated any sales.
  • My BLOG about my book writing and book promotional efforts provides a historical record of my efforts, and has sent some traffic to my book website, I have not seen any Internet sales from this effort.
  • My initial YouTube videos of my book promotion efforts have also sent some traffic to my website, but have not (as yet) been otherwise beneficial.
  • My writing articles on Ezine.com have been read by about 170 people, and generated some traffic to my book website, but provided no other discernable result.
  • My Ebook versions on Smashwords have experienced about 50 sample downloads, without any actual sales.
  • My Kindle Ebook on Amazon has sold one copy to a family member.
  • My Website has sold one trade paperback copy from CreateSpace.

I can conclude only this: writing a 400 page science fiction fantasy novel, delivered in a literary style, took a little over a year of time. Promoting and selling the book without benefit of a national distributor will take years.

It seems clear that promotional efforts must establish individual sales from independent book stores first, then build upon evidence of a sales history for the book.

But I am emotionally prepared for that. I have determined that my tombstone will contain the following epitaph:

"Here lies James E. Matteson, author.
Buy my book
Time of the Heathen
on Amazon today."

Monday, May 3, 2010

Promo Attempts to Ponder

I've been trying to stir up any interest in my book by several e-mail messages.
  1. I've sent a press release to all of the book editors I could locate an e-mail address for in my local community. I did receive a response from one editor for the six I sent. That editor invited me to meet with him at noon the next day. Unfortunately, I was out-of-town. I hope to see a message agreeing to a meeting next week.
  2. I wrote all the college English professors I could find for the local colleges, stating I was available to speak to their students about technical and novel writing and sending links to my work. I sent seven requests, heard no response.
  3. I wrote ten Christian schools, stating my availability to speak to their students and heard one enthusiastic response from a secretary, who needed to run it by the pastor. Haven't seen a follow-up yet.
  4. I tried to contact an author by writing to his publisher and requesting an address so I could send him a book, if he was willing to look it over and provide a comment. The publisher wrote back saying the author wasn't interested in commenting on another's literary work.

These are my attempts last week to ping some folks and promote the work. If you have tried some other connections, let me know. I did get 2 responses, 1 of them from a newspaper editor. So I'll say, maybe that's not so bad.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Update on Query Process

I've said this before. Compare results.

Pick any agent and determine his/her success rate: books published that made money using the query process. Then give all new queries in a week an ID number and pick some out of a hat to work on. If the success rate for the hat is better than that of the current query process, the hat wins.

I'm not just being a wise ass. If we begin by assumming that the publishing of a book is a random process, then we can ask what additional information could an agent need to determine who got into the hat and who didn't. This information is where agentry should focus, because everything that goes into the hat is worth publishing.

An agent can only process so much material in a 40-hour week. So if he/she can only do justice to 3(?) new works per week, but gets 200(?) queries, then let the sorting hat determine what material gets the agent's full attention. Everything else that week gets immediately returned to the authors.

This method means the agent gets a workload he/she can manage. Only two types rejection letters are sent:
  • A. Your work did not get in the hat.
  • B. Your work got into the hat but we went in another direction.

The writer who got rejection "B" can immediately send his/her work off to another agent, knowing that the current agent believed it was worthy of a look, but didn't have time. Writers who got rejection "A" know they have to go back to reorganizing their work, until they begin to get rejection letter "B".

If the agent is good, the 3 books he/she decided to work on will get published. He will get paid, the publisher will make money. The authors will be thrilled.

Think about it. If I can get into the sorting hat for 100 agents, and each of those agents pulls out 3 to work on, then I have a 3/100 x 100 chance of getting published per a week. From a writer's perspective, that is better than the current system where, despite all of the work agents do, my chance of being published is very, very small. Why? Because a literary work is more than a commodity.

Monday, April 19, 2010

New Ezine Article on Writing

I continue to publish articles about writing on Ezine. My latest is title "Science Fiction Fantasy and Religion". It's about how SF/F literature is one of the last places where the "Big Questions" of philosophy and human life can be discussed.

Also, check out two new channels for book promotion:

Take a look and please share with your friends and associates. We're really ready to being promoting and selling my book, Time of the Heathen.

Thanks for your support.

Jim

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Preparing for Book Promotion Tour

A lot has been going on. I am completing my last 2 weeks of work writing technical articles for a software giant. I've been trying to learn the video business: how to create a promo video for the Book Tour Promo project and fix the lighting and audio, and learn how to do a better job with You Tube cell phone video.

We're much better now and just about to begin a routine process for handling video updates. Be sure to follow the Book Tour and the You Tube updates.

See you on the road.
JEM

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Retweeting Promo

I'm currently tweeting a promo about my upcoming Indie Author Book Tour. The tweet is worded as follows:

Retweet my Indie Author Book Tour project and most retweets per week wins a free book: http://bit.ly/IndieBookTour.

Spread the word. The first book will be awarded Monday 4/19, if any retweets are recorded.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Advice to an Agent on the Query Process

I answered a Nathan Bransford question, How Would You Handle the Query Deluge. My comment may have been a bit rude, but no disrespect was intended.

The first question to deal with when a literary agent says he is overwhelmed with queries from would be authors is to ask:

What percentage of the queries you currently accept actually make it to a published book?

If the agent's current query process does not generate a very high percentage of winners, then the current evaluation system in use is no better than a lottery. My suggestion to test this thesis is as follows:

Have an intern place slips of paper containing some query ID in a hat and draw out 10 each day/week. Follow up on the 10 and see if your percentage of winners increases, stays the same, or decreases.

If you determine that your current query evaluation process generates a string of publishing miracles, why change it?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

New URL and Content

After over 5,000 unique visitors, I've replaced the old website with a new one http://www.timeoftheheathen.com. Lots is new on the new site.

You can now purchase the trade paperback version of the book directly from the author using PayPal. Also, during recent editing, I revised the book's organization to break long chapters into 5-6 page sections that have been individually titled as myths. With each chapter sub-divided into separate myths, I introduced a new character, a fictional editor, who claims to have collected the myths related to the founding of his civilization.

With this reorganization I have greatly improved the raisons d'etre for writing the book which makes the book a lot more fun and a lot easier reading.

If you are one of the almost 50 people who downloaded samples of the previous, draft, Ebook version from Smashwords, please revisit on 4/10/2010 and take a look at the new text.

As soon as I complete my writing contact with Microsoft, I will begin a book tour to promote sales. The content of the tour will be part of a Video BLOG combined with Twitter and this BLOG to allow everyone to follow the attempt by an Indie Writer to publish and promote his fiction without help from the publishing establishment. I hope you will all follow my adventures in this endeavor.

Thanks again to family and friends for reading the draft and for your encouragement. Now let's see if we can get some sales!

Jim Matteson

Friday, February 26, 2010

New Changes in Novel Organization

I was writing the second volume of my two-part novel, Time of the Heathen, and had started the novel with a new character. This character was a professor who had found, edited, and was now publishing myths he had collected about the founding of his civilization and the destruction of the civilization that predated his own.

Each chapter in the second volume was composed of short 'myths' the professor had found that addressed his main concern, how his civilization had developed.

I stopped. I suddenly realized that the organization of Vol 2 is what I should have selected for Vol 1. Therefore, I went back to Vol 1 and reordered it by breaking each chapter into component, short myths. Then, I added an editor's introduction that explained the professor's collection of these myths.

The results were /are astonishing. The new organization brings both volumes together in tone and substance. Other problems with Vol 1 were also overcome. For example, my chapters in Vol 1 ran about 30 pages. This required a lot of concentration from readers. By dividing each chapter into 3 -6 individual myths makes it possible for readers to easily grasp 4-6 pages that sub-divide a portion of the original story. It made an obvious improvement.

I have now completed the re-org of Vol 1 paperback and requested a new proof from the printer. I have also updated the Smashwords.com version and will upload it this weekend. And I'm in the process of updating the Kindle version of Vol 1.

Once the updates are complete and available for sale, promotion begins. I finally feel as if I am getting closer to making this book really available to SFF readers.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Editing the Novel, again

I am so pleased with the new changes I've made to the novel. I'm almost done with this edit and putting the text into this new form/outline. Once finished and uploaded, I will then order a new trade-size proof copy from CreateSpace.com. Once received, that will be my opportunity to approve the final version.

Currently I have 3 versions to standardize: the CreateSpace paperback version, the Kindle version, and the SmashWords version. Once the paperback is completed, then I have to make those same changes in the E-book versions. Once both E-versions are complete, I will produce the audio book and actual book promotion will begin in earnest.

Once the book is finalized and the paperback is printable, then I will set up my website for print sales, open an e-store, set up the Amazon account to sell the paperback, and begin aggressive promotion of both the E-book and paperback.

By the way, my Ezine writing articles have received 108 views. Since I published them, free downloads of sample Ebooks has gone up to 20 in the last month. I'm guessing that readers of my articles about writing are the ones who have downloaded a sample chapter of the novel. I must write another article soon.

More to come soon. I will do my best to record the process, the success and failures of my plan and approach.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Editing Proof Copy

I received my proof copy from CreateSpace.com and was pleased and displeased. I was very happy with the cover, paper quality, binding. I was unhappy with the margins around the text and the pagination. Everything I was unhappy with can be fixed, is my fault, so I'm getting on with it. The interesting thing about the CreateSpace.com method is that you submit the internal pages of your book in PDF format. Of course, I followed their recommendations for margins and what I configured look right in the E-version. It just was wrong when printed.

This will mark my fifth full edit of the book since I first sat back, took a breath, and told my wife it was done! But looking at it printed in a 8-1/2" x 5-1/2" trade paperback size is revealing and sounds like a bear and porridge fairytale. Once the text PDF was run through the printer, the bottom margin was too great, the left and right margins were too small, and the interior (gutter) margin was just right. All easily fixable.

The real problem now is the arrangement and order of the plot and dealing with my insistence on not using quotation marks (" ") for dialogue. I want to set dialogue on an indent marked with an en dash (--).

"Well, you say, "agents and editors aren't going to think this is edgy or experimental. They're just going to think you are an idiot! Plan on instant rejection."

-- Yes, I've noticed, the aspiring author said.

Now into my fifth full edit I see that using an indent and en dash works very well, if (and only if) it is very clear from the proceeding paragraph who is speaking and the dialogue after the en dash does not contain any additional description. For example:

-- Yes, I've noticed, the aspiring author said. He coughed into his fist.

As soon as more description is added to the dialogue line, it becomes confusing. But I can fix this.

The more complex problem is the one of plot. Yes, I had a plot outline when I began writing. I wanted 13 chapters (to follow an occult model) and I wanted a linear story with a beginning, middle, and end. I had a top story at the beginning of each chapter that told a piece of the story from the science fiction present. Then I had the main story, a fantasy adventure, that began with a flashback and then moved the characters forward through their adventures to the present -- which is where the story ends. So, what's wrong?

I'm happy with the writing of each individual scene, but when the narrative strings the scenes together within a single chapter (and each chapter is about 30 pages long because I was insisting on a total of 13 chapters), the causal SFF reader -- not to mention agent/editor -- is going to think there is too much space between slam-bam action scenes. How did Tolstoy and Dickens solve this problem? They didn't.

I have decided on a solution but I'll put it in future blogs.

Monday, January 18, 2010

More on CreateSpace

I received notice 1/13/2010 that my proof copy of Time of the Heathen was shipped to me from CreateSpace.com. I am anticipating another read through to examine how the text flows in book form as opposed to the HTML pages of the Ebook format.
  • The articles I've published on Ezinearticles.com have been read almost 100 times after just a couple of weeks.
  • Also, my Twitter account for Time of the Heathen is now over 100 followers.
These things are all helpful, but I still need early readers to validate whether the book is readable and compelling. I am writing the second volume and have finished the opening chapter and first saga. I will be supplying more information about the second volume in future BLOGS.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Using CreateSpace

I've decided to submit my text to createspace.com and order a preview copy of the book. Actually reading the story in a trade paperback should give me an opportunity to make any final edits. No matter what anyone says, there is a difference in reading a physical book and viewing pages online or in an e-reader. I will be paying about $15.00 (including postage) for my proof copy of the book. I should receive it in 1-2 weeks. Once re-edited, tere are three ways I can sell the printed book:
  • Print On Demand (POD). I must update my website with a PayPal link through which I can receive credit card payments for the book and an e-mail notice of payment so I can ship a purchased book to a customer. Advantage, I obtain the highest markup. Disadvantage, customers must go to PayPal site to buy.
  • I can also send Amazon 5-10 hard copies to hold in their warehouse and ship to customers purchasing through their online store. Advantage, customers browsing on Amazon can find the book and purchase it using their one-click option. Disadvantage, Amazon keeps more of the revenue.
  • I can set up and operate an Amazon or Ebay store to allow sales of single copies through it. Advantage, the store host processes payments for me. Disadvantage, they keep more of the revenue.

Of course, all this time I continue to offer the Ebook on both Amazon Kindle and SmashWords Estores. Links from my website should help direct sales traffic for all of these methods. The big question, how can I turn website visits into sales? As I discover how to do that, I will continue to BLOG the results.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Createspace POD publishing

I received a clarifying telephone call from customer service at createspace.com. In a followup from a previous post, I now understand how the createspace book printing works.

There are really two options for self-printing/publishing my book:
  1. Use the createspace Amazon distribution channel (an e-store within Amazon) to sell and print on demand single copies of my book.
  2. Use the createspace publishing platform to print multiple copies of my book to distribute any way I see fit.

I've determined that, for me, the best use of POD publishing is to use number 2. My reason is simple, although it was difficult to tease the information out of createspace, cost per book. Using option 1, I was given a cost per book of $17.64 (which equals the lowest retail price allowed for the book), the particulars of which I included in a previous post.

However, using option 2, I obtain a printed cost of $6.41 per book and I can set any retail price I choose. Another benefit of option 2 is that I can print any quantity of books I like for that price. I could print two books and have them mailed to any address I choose. One deficit of option 2 is that there are no price breaks for greater quantities. I can never receive a lower cost per book than $6.41.

I'm going to try it. I've n0thing to lose. Once I hit Submit on my publishing page, a single proof copy of my book will be printed and mailed to me. If I've got it right, I can approve the proof and order the printing of additional copies. If I disapprove the proof, I can make changes to the text, upload a new text file, and re-submit, get a new proof copy, etc.

Future BLOG posts will update my experience with POD and let readers know how successful I find this form of printing/marketing is.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Follow up by CreateSpace

Got a telephone sales followup call from Createspace.com this AM. It seems that the createspace.com calculated costs (describe by me in an earlier post) are for a P.O.D. order. They are essentially the costs of a one-off printing of my book caused by an Amazon customer ordering a single printed copy.

There is a separate box that calculates a "multiple copy" cost per book printed. In my case, if I purchase directly more than one book, I would pay either $10.58 (stnd) or 6.29 (pro) for each book + shipping. I'm waiting for an additional call back from the customer service people for my account to explain the details of this feature.

It seems that an author/customer could pay the $39.00 onetime Pro fee, and then have books printed 10 at a time. Those books could be either sold from the author's website, off Ebay, or out of the Amazon warehouse. It would seem you could sell a trade paperback then for $11.99, deduct a cost of $6.29, adding shipping and net a royalty of $5.70 per book. It is true that this royalty is exactly the same you get off a POD sale. The difference is that the POD retail price must be $19.99 per book. I'm just guessing, but I think sales are more likely at an $11.99 retail price then a $19.99 retail price.

Once all points are clarified, I will BLOG that information to help others trying to understand how self-publishing in the POD world works and what options/variations are possible.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Print On Demand

Went through the setup online for CreateSpace.com, a print on demand publishing service controlled by Amazon. I have issues. While CreateSpace assigned a ISBN and EAN-13 identifying number to my book (for free), the sales and royalty program seemed less than generous.

They calculate a list price for you that is based on fixed charges + 40% Amazon take of list (in my case $7.056/copy). The fixed charges for printing my 454 page 8-1/2" x 5-1/2" trade paperback include: $1.50/book fixed charge + a per page charge of .02 per page ($9.08 in my case). So my book would cost me $10.58 in fixed charges + 40% of the list price. Amazon insists on a minimum list price of $17.64. If I accept that price (I can choose to charge more), then I will receive $0.00 in royalties per book sold. This is because if you add up the fixed and percentage charges Amazon makes per book, they must have $17.636 per book printed. If I want to make any money on the sale of my trade paperback, I must increase the retail price beyond this amount. However, they will continue to take an additional 40% of any increase I make.

Of couse, if I will pay a one-time fee of $39.00 to be a Pro, then I will receive $4.29 of the minimum retail price. Obviously, every author is pushed to become a Pro.

Yet, like all POD printers, I must do all the setup to ensure the book is finished with artwork, text, and uploaded files. Since printing appears to use my files automatically, I'm not sure how much Amazon (createspace) employees actually do to print a copy of my book.

I would like to hear from anyone that tried out Amazon's POD program using createspace. Did everything go well or are there issues with the quality of the printed book?

Friday, January 1, 2010

Welcome to 2010 - My Plan

Welcome to my BLOG for 2010! This is a BLOG for discussing fiction, science fiction/fantasy, the writing and the publishing process.

In 2008 I began writing my first SFF novel and completed 3 chapters. In 2009 I finished it, 456 pages (if printed as a trade paperback) and 118,939 words. I'm very proud to have done so. In July 2009 I began looking for a literary agent. I soon realized that getting any to take a look required an excellent query letter. Like other authors, I'd rather write a 500 page novel than a 1 page query letter. But query I did, changing the letter every 6 agents to see what bait would attract a bite. Fishing was bad. Regardless of bait chosen, the fish lay sluggishly on the bottom of a cold pond, apparently well nourished.

While looking for an agent, I began connecting with social media and soon realized that many other wanna-bes were also finding it difficult to locate an agent or a publisher for their work; but I took no solace in being part of the crowd. When I located any notice of a publisher seeking new authors, their submission guidelines appeared daunting. The most attractive seemed always to require printed materials (it's about $50 to copy my manuscript) mailed in with SASE. So I initially preferred e-mail submissions but, after 45 rejections, I think e-mail screeners only read until they encounter the first word, sentence, clause, paragraph or concept they can construe as a reason for rejection. I finally realized that connecting with an agent who is not just looking for what I've got to sell, but also looking for my way of expressing it -- that is the actual search I am undertaking.

Entering 2010 with something to sell (while writing my follow-up), I think I must proceed simultaneously on the following fronts:
  • Continue trying to sell the Ebook version of my first book on Amazon Kindle and Smashwords.
  • Continue to locate and query prospective literary agents. I'm using authoradvance.com to track my submissions.
  • Continue writing articles about my writing experience on ezinearticles.com where I am listed as an "expert author".
  • Continue to BLOG and TWEET looking for connections and information.
  • Begin to contact small presses looking for a direct publisher.
  • Begin to examine Print on Demand (POD) or short run printers to see if I can buy printed review copies of my book at a low enough cost to allow me to sell paperback versions of my novel either directly from my website or through outlets like Amazon.
I will be thrilled if I find success following any of these paths but advice is contradictory. Some in social media suggest that agents and traditional publishers will so resent an author going around them by self publishing (instead of waiting for them to bless the book) that they will refuse to publish anything by that author. Others suggest that before publishers will gamble on a book from a new author they actually want him/her to self publish to prove that their book has a market. Some promote ebooks, some say print first, ebook later.

2010 is the year in which I want to find out whose right.