blue-growth-chartMy new book, The Last to Fall: The 1922 March, Battles, & Deaths of U.S. Marines at Gettysburg, launched a couple weeks ago and I’ve been busy promoting it and making sure that bookstores have it in stock. It feels like an uphill battle at times. There’s a lot more bookstores than there are me and my co-author.

This leads me to an observation that I’ve found as an independent author. The difference between independent authors and traditionally published authors is like the story of the tortoise and the hare.

Traditionally published authors are looking for their books to take off with a quick start. They have to have strong sales right from the start in order to keep their book in stores and in print. Independent publishers certainly would love to have strong sales up front, but tend to see steady sales that stretch out over a much longer life for the book.

I’ve seen that with many of my titles. They may be 5 or 10 years old, but they still sell well.

I think this is because while I can’t put an army of sales reps and publicity people selling my book hard for a couple months before they move onto their next project, I can continually work on promoting my older titles along with my newer ones. The efforts build on themselves, expanding the books exposure and sales.

The key to promotion is to keep at it. Do something every day to market your book. It adds up in the end.

I read Allen Taylor’s E-book Publishing: Create Your Own Brand of Digital Books as an Advance Reading Copy. I have published a number of e-books and thought I pretty much had the process down pat, but I still found information and tips in here that I will use on my next e-book project.

If you haven’t published an e-book yet, then this book is a great primer to get your first book up and for sale. It has plenty of step by step information to walk you through the publishing procedures for various platforms. Hopefully, Taylor will keep the book updated as changes are made with the different publishing platforms so that the book’s information stays current.

That was a concern I had about some of the data about e-publishing I read early in the book. The most recent seemed to be 2013. If the 2013 trends continued, I wouldn’t be so concerned, but I saw stories last year showing that e-publishing might be leveling off. So the rosy picture, Taylor paints, may not be so rosy. Don’t get me wrong. It’s still a great market to get into and this book does a great job of doing it.

Taylor has a relaxed writing style so you don’t feel like you are reading an instruction manual as he walks you through the process. You just do what he says and before you know it, you have a book electronically published. I’ve read some manuals where the steps get so technical that I felt overwhelmed, but Taylor makes you feel like he’s a friend talking you through the process.

What novice and veteran e-publisher alike will find useful are the chapters on marketing, pricing, and running a digital press. Publishing your e-book is really just the first step in a very long process of getting it into the hands of readers. Taylor covers a lot of strategies to accomplish this. Try them out and see what works for you.

He shows you how to publish your e-book in a variety of formats and also with a variety of publishers. My biggest concern is that the book has separate chapters on publishing your book in different electronic formats and also with different e-book distributors. Reading the book you get the feeling that you have to format your books a half a dozen different ways and then upload it a number of different web sites.

One thing I have discovered is that pretty much all I need to do is publish my book with Kindle and then Smashwords. I used to only do Smashwords because it formats your books to a variety of platforms including the ones that Taylor lists as separate chapters. Although Smashwords publishes a Kindle format (.mobi), I’ve found that nearly all Kindle users buy their e-books from Amazon.

So I format my book two ways and upload it to two sites, but then it is distributed to probably more than a dozen sites.

All in all, it’s a very handy reference book to have. I highlighted a number of different web sites and passages to study in more detail.

2012 National Book Festival            I stumbled across this article in the U.K. Daily Mail the other day and it shocked me. I’m not sure if there is more to this story about how poorly Octavia Butler treated her fans, but it made me sad to read how she acted on this particular occasion.

At a booksigning at a Barnes & Noble in Los Angeles, she complained about petty things and took her fans for granted.

As one former fan said, “’Octavia was acting like a diva. She was mad because the event coordinator gave her a small glass of water but she wanted a large liter of ‘good water’ and demanded to know why she was being treated this way,”
Some of the people were parents who had been waiting for an hour with their children to see Butler. It’s sad, as the article notes, that a lot of those people are now former fans. Plus, she generated a lot of bad publicity for herself.

As a writer who has worked hard to gain fans, I wouldn’t want to lose them. I always do my best at booksignings to speak with the fan, have my picture taken, or anything within reason. Granted, I don’t have lines of people waiting for me for an hour, but a writer needs to remember that their success depends on their fans.

As a fan, I have attended the National Book Festival many times. I love being able to meet some of my favorite authors and have them sign my books. I have seen instances of some authors acting very poorly towards their fans, showing up late, refusing to sign anything other than their current book, leaving early, and refusing to take pictures with fans. Some of those things I’ve seen firsthand. Other instances, I heard about while waiting in other lines. When an author behaved badly, it spread quickly among fans.

On the flip side, I feel most authors do appreciate their fans. Here’s a few examples.

I waited in line to get David McCullough’s signature. He was scheduled for an hour at the National Book Festival (the length of time), but his line was so long it became obvious that he wasn’t going to get to everyone. Then word spread that he had asked to stay another hour and the organizers had been able to accommodate him. When I finally got to meet him, I thanked him for staying later. He said, “I would have been a schmuck if I hadn’t.”

I watched Harlan Coben at the National Book Festival joke around with fans and have pictures taken with them, seemingly with nothing better to do than have fun with his fans.

I once sent David Farland some books I had of his and asked him to sign them and mail them back (I included a check for return postage). Not only did he sign my books, he included a paperback copy of one of his early novels in the return package for me, which was a nice surprise.

I know that there are lots of authors who do similar things. That’s why their fans like to meet them and when they make a good impression, they can make a fan for life.

Last To Fall CoverThe Last to Fall: The 1922 March, Battles, & Deaths of U.S. Marines at Gettysburg is now available for sale online and at stores.

Thomas Williams, executive director of the U.S. Marine Corps Historical Company, said, “Every American is familiar with the iconic battle fought in Gettysburg during the American Civil War, some are even aware that two Marine officers and the ‘Presidents Own’ Marine Band accompanied President Abraham Lincoln to Gettysburg in November 1863 to dedicate the National Cemetery there. However, few people are aware that 59 years later the US Marines would “reenact” the battle.

“In 1922, General Smedley Butler would march over 5,000 Marines from MCB Quantico, Virginia to the hallowed fields of Gettysburg. Conducted as a training exercise, but more importantly to raise public opinion and awareness, the Marines would travel to the National Battlefield and carry out many aspects of the original battle. Ultimately over 100,000 spectators would come to witness this monumental event.

“Authors Jim Rada and Richard Fulton have done an outstanding job of researching and chronicling this little-known story of those Marines in 1922, marking it as a significant moment in Marine Corps history.”

The 178-page book is 8.5 inches by 11 inches and contains more than 160 photographs depicting the march from Quantico to Gettysburg and the simulated battles on the actual Gettysburg battlefield.

“The march involved a quarter of the corps at the time,” co-author Richard D. L. Fulton said. “It was part PR stunt, but it was also an actual training maneuver for the marines.”

James Rada, Fulton, and Cathe Fulton (who served as a research assistant) searched through hundreds documents and photographs looking for the details of the march and battles, but the book was meant to tell a story. For that, they went hunting through lots of newspapers in order to piece together the stories of the marines on the march and the people they met along the way.

“What’s really fun is that the marines re-enacted Pickett’s Charge both historically and with then-modern military equipment,” Rada said.

The event was also marred by tragedy when something happened to one of the bi-planes and it crashed into the battlefield killing the two marines flying it. The pilot, Capt. George Hamilton was a hero of World War I.

President Warren G. Harding and his wife, along with a number of military personnel, politicians, and representatives of foreign governments, stayed in camp on July 1 and 2 with the marines and witnessed some of the maneuvers.

The Last to Fall: The 1922 March, Battles, & Deaths of U.S. Marines at Gettysburg retails for $24.95 and is available at local bookstores, online retailers and ebookstores. You can purchase it from Amazon.com here.

Last To Fall CoverI generally love the layout and design phase of a new book. Psychologically, I know that the book is nearing its release date so I’m getting excited about seeing the finished product. Mentally, I get some down time from writing a book to transferring that design to a layout and helping plan a cover. I’m still working on a book, but I’m not writing so that area of my creative psyche is getting a break while I still get to be creative and productive.

That said, the layout and design of my new book has been a rough one. I really like the cover image. That all came together pretty easily. However, I ran into a couple snag expanding that cover to front-spine-back version. Getting the spine in the right place has been tricky. It didn’t take long to fix, but usually I have never needed to fix it before.

The bigger snag has been laying out the interior. I have always had little to no problem getting a typical book set for publication. That’s because there’s little creativity involved compared to a tabletop book size. My book, No North, No South…, was my first oversized book. It worked out all right because the design was relatively simple for a tabletop book.

My upcoming book, The Last to Fall: The 1922 March, Battles, & Death of U.S. Marines at Gettysburg, has been much more challenging. There’s a lot of variety in the book and very few pages that don’t have some sort of graphic element on it. There’s different sidebars and call-out quotes that are presented in different ways. There’s tricky pictures that look fine until you prepare them for publication and suddenly they look pixelated, or worse yet, you don’t see the pixilation until you see the proof.

However, the biggest headache has been the bleed photos. They will look great, particularly the two-page spreads that are 11 x 17 inches in size, but the program that will be printing the book doesn’t like them. It can print them, but I have had to make all kinds of adjustments to get it to work. I’m waiting to see how it looks in print to see if too much of the photo is lost to the page gutter and it destroys a beautifully centered image.

So, I’m waiting nervously to see the proof. Some changes will need to be made. I knew that because I needed to see the book printed before I could decide on those changes. When it’s done, though, and in bookstores, I expect it to attract lots of attention.

The Warded ManI’m not sure why I decided to buy The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett, but I now have another fantasy writer that I’ll be reading.

I wasn’t sure what was happening at first. There were three storylines that didn’t interact until late in the book. Also, I didn’t even try to follow the dating system, but I realized while following the three storylines that the stories weren’t running simultaneously.

However, I enjoyed all three of the characters. There is the warded man, an herb gatherer, and a jongleur. They are different ages, have led different lives, and have different personalities. The two-thirds or so of the book you learn about their backgrounds and what happened to bring them to the point where their lives intersect.

They live in a world where humans and demons battle for supremacy. Humans rule the day, but at night hide behind wards to protect them from the demons who rise from the core. It is a battle that humanity seems to be losing because although they can protect themselves, they have forgotten how to use the wards as weapons.

While the book explores some themes of morality, science, and religion, it becomes a solid action story with all three of the main characters using their special talents to fight demons.

It’s the first in what is currently a 4-book series so I am anxious to see where Brett goes with the story.

Pawn_of_Prophecy_coverI like David Eddings’ early fantasy series, but until last year you couldn’t find them on Kindle. So I was very excited when they became available for download. They were even reasonably priced at $4.99. I downloaded Pawn of Prophecy, the first book in The Belgariad last September and put the rest on my wish list to read later.

I went to download the next book in the series, Queen of Sorcery, the other day and it’s not available. Nor are any of his other books in his most-popular series.

What a disappointment!

So does anyone know what happened? I’m hoping that they will be listed again soon, but seeing as how it took so long to get them listed in the first place I wonder. Why are his other novels listed and not his most-popular ones?

So now I have a lonely Eddings’ novel on my Kindle and I’m wondering when and if, I’ll ever be able to get the rest of the series.

Originally posted on A Writer of History:

It’s time to switch from ‘inside historical fiction‘ to ‘social reading‘, the second of two themes A Writer of History is exploring this year. Why am I interested? Because I want to be part of the conversation readers have with one another, with writers and with bloggers, and I want to embrace, not resist, the change that’s happening in the world of content creation.

Social Reading Landscape

To begin, I thought I would set out a few thoughts about social reading. The headline says 10, but you never know, I could come up with more.

  1. Social reading is about relationships. Readers with writers. Readers with readers. Readers with reviewers and bloggers. Writers with writers. Bloggers with bloggers. Well, you get my point.
  2. Readers expect writers to be social. As a writer, if readers want to hear from, your books will sell. Achieving this objective requires an active, sincere, personal, content-rich social…

View original 402 more words

SnowDayGirl02As I sit here battling the winter blahs and waiting for my youngest boy to get home school early because of the threat of bad weather coming in, I realize one of the peeves I have about being a freelance writer. I don’t get snow days.

When I get the morning calls around 6 a.m. saying whether school has been cancelled or not, I’ve already been at work for an hour. The same snow that gives government employees liberal leave simply means that I probably won’t be able to reach people that I need to talk to on the phone.

Yes, I know it’s not a big peeve in the grand picture, but it would still be nice to have an excuse not to work every once in a while.

This drawback of freelancing is offset by the fact that I do make my own schedule. I may start work early, but I can take a nap in the middle of the day when I start to feel dragged out and then hit the ground running in the afternoon. That’s nice. I just read this morning that Winston Churchill used to take a 1.5 hour nap each day and credited for allowing him to cram a day and half of work into a single day.

By the same token, I don’t get paid vacation. This usually means that in the days leading up to any vacation that I take I find myself doing more so that my vacation days are still relatively free. I still take my notebook computer along to check e-mail and deal with any issues that might arise.

On the flip side, I can take as much vacation time as I want as long as I’m meeting my deadlines. I was able to take four days off last week to go to South Carolina to see my son graduate from marine recruit training at Parris Island.

So that’s my gripe as I try to fight off the blahs.

Another newspaper – The Oakland Republican in Oakland, Maryland –  picked up my “Looking Back” column on a monthly basis last week. I’m pretty happy about that because I love researching the stories and writing about them.

For example, I found a story about a man who was called the “Champion Miner of the World” in the 1920’s because of how fast he was at mining coal. I wrote about his story for The Republican, but in researching it, I found out that this man’s son, was a frontline reporter in WWII who won a Pulitzer Prize. He also got his reporting start at another newspaper that carries my column so I had two columns from one idea.

Right now, four newspapers – The Catoctin Banner, The Gettysburg Times, The Cumberland Times-News, and The Oakland Republican – carry my column, though at one time it was four. Even though multiple papers carry the column, I write different columns for each paper. It’s sort of a hybrid between a local column and syndicated column.

It certainly would be easier if I could just publish the same column in multiple newspapers, but I don’t think it would be as fun.

Actually, I wouldn’t mind being able to get another couple newspapers to carry the column, hopefully, in places that I’m not too familiar with. Then I get the joy of discovering of the interesting people, stories, and places in that area.

Here are the links to the newspapers if you want to search them for my Looking Back articles:

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