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CanawlersCurious how to pronounce the title of my historical novel Canawlers?

It’s CAN-all-ers. It’s what boatmen on the C&O Canal sounded like when they used to say “canaller”.

They also had a challenging and dangerous job during the Civil War. Canawlers brought coal and other goods 185 miles from Cumberland, Maryland, to Georgetown. All the while, they traveled along the Potomac River within site of the Virginia shore and the Confederate States of America. The C&O Canal ran along the border of two warring nations, the canawlers were caught in the crossfire.

Hugh Fitzgerald is a proud canawler. For nine months a year, he and his family live on their canal boat, working hard to get them through the lean winter months.

The year 1862 was a hard year to live on the canal, though. To this point, the Confederacy has stayed south of the canal, but now the Confederate Army intends to go on the offensive and take the war into the north.

Not only are the Fitzgeralds’ lives endangered by the increased activity of warring armies and raiders on the canal, but the Fitzgeralds’ secret activity as a stop along the Underground Railroad only endangers their lives all the more.

Then fate takes Hugh away from his family, leaving his wife, Alice, to hold the family together. With the help of her children; Thomas, George and Elizabeth; Tony, an orphan from Cumberland; and David Windover, a disillusioned Confederate soldier, they will face the dangers presented by the war, nature, and the railroad together.

Download your Kindle copy for FREE until Jan. 20.

From the reviewers:

  • “A powerful, thoughtful and fascinating historical novel, Canawlers documents author James Rada, Jr. as a writer of considerable and deftly expressed storytelling talent.” – Midwest Book Review
  • “James Rada, of Cumberland, has written a historical novel for high-schoolers and adults, which relates the adventures, hardships and ultimate tragedy of a family of boaters on the C&O Canal. … The tale moves quickly and should hold the attention of readers looking for an imaginative adventure set on the canal at a critical time in history.” – Along the Towpath
  • “Mr. Rada presents an interesting slice of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal boatman’s life set against the backdrop of the turbulence and uncertainty of the American Civil War. The use of the canal as a route on the Underground Railroad is also woven into the plot which reveals how hard work, a strong family and difficult times could come together along the canal.” – Rita L. Knox, Park Ranger, C&O Canal NHP

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swlogoWhen I started putting out my books as ebooks, I was initially overwhelmed. Just consider all of the platforms that sell ebooks: Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iBooks and Overdrive to name a few. Was I going to have to prepare my manuscript to meet the standards of each one?

Then I discovered Smashwords.com. It’s an aggregator of e-book platforms. I could upload my book once and have it converted to all of the necessary e-publishing platforms and then appear on the different sites. It was a godsend.

The site is pretty easy to use, too. You fill out book information and then upload a cover and the interior of the book. Smashwords converts the book into the appropriate platforms and then sends it out to the different retailers.

The one problem I have found myself having of late is that to qualify for a listing with all of those retailers, you have to format your book to certain specs. It was no problem for my novels. I just followed the tips that Mark Coker, the owner, posts for formatting and the process went smoothly.

The problem I run into is with my non-fiction books, which contain pictures. The pictures apparently cause a lot of problems in the conversion process. I must have tried six times to get my last book uploaded properly, but something kept going wrong. I think I may have it figured out, though, so I’ve got my fingers crossed for the next book I upload. (FYI, I will be setting my pictures at 96 dpi instead of 300 dpi. The latter is the standard for print publication. Since I’m not doing the print version, the web standard for pictures works fine.)

I haven’t made as much use of Smashwords as I can, which is something I’m trying to remedy. The site offers some useful tools for indie authors. You can easily change the book pricing. Unlike Amazon KDP, Smashwords allows you to make your books free of charge for an indefinite period. You can also alter how much someone can read of your book for free.

You can also use a set of marketing tools. Create coupons. Post an author interview. Link books in a series together.

These are just a few things that I’ve discovered so far.

Despite the advantages of using Smashwords, I also use Amazon KDP for the Kindle versions of my books. It does require some extra work to prepare the manuscript again, but most Kindle users buy their Kindle e-books from Amazon. I found that when I started publishing directly with Amazon KDP, my Kindle sales jumped considerably.

Still, uploading two versions of my books is a far cry from having to upload six versions. Now I just need to find the best ways to use the marketing tools at my disposal.

CanawlersFor just today and tomorrow, Canawlers (Canawlers Series, #1) will be a featured book on KindleNationDaily.com and Bookgorilla.com. As such, it will be available on Kindle for just 99 cents. You can start your journey on the bestselling series with a great deal.

This was my first historical novel and it continues to be my favorite. It also continues to be a reader favorite when I am out a festivals.

At a time of war, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal was caught in the crossfire between two nations.

Hugh Fitzgerald proudly calls himself a “canawler.” He works on the C&O Canal transporting coal nearly 185 miles between Cumberland, Maryland, and Georgetown. For nine months a year, he and his family live on their canal boat, working hard to get them through the lean winter months.

The year 1862 was a hard year to live on the canal, though. The Civil War was in full swing and the canal, which runs along the Potomac River, marked the border between the Union and Confederacy. To this point, the Confederacy has stayed south of the canal, but now the Confederate Army intends to go on the offensive and take the war into the north.

Not only are the Fitzgeralds’ lives endangered by the increased activity of warring armies and raiders on the canal, but the Fitzgeralds’ secret activity as a stop along the Underground Railroad only endangers their lives all the more.

Then fate takes Hugh away from his family, leaving his wife, Alice, to hold the family together. With the help of her children; Thomas, George and Elizabeth; Tony, an orphan from Cumberland; and David Windover, a disillusioned Confederate soldier, they will face the dangers presented by the war, nature, and the railroad together.

Here are some other canal stories that you might like:

Remember, Canawlers is 99 cents just today and tomorrow so don’t miss this great deal!

new-amazon-kindleI was out enjoying the beautiful weather yesterday afternoon when I dropped my Kindle. It had a cover so it didn’t shatter the screen. That was the good news. However, I couldn’t get the text-to-speech function to work anymore. I tried a variety of things, but I’m pretty sure the audio is fried.

I’m pretty disappointed about it. I use the text-to-speech to read books to me when I’m bicycling, walking, and working out. It’s a nice way to multi-task. I can be active and still keep up with the pile of books that I want to read.

Now I’ve got to get a new Kindle and they no longer make my Kindle Keyboard. It was the perfect Kindle for me.

None of the current Kindle e-readers have a text-to-speech function. I’m going to have to switch to a Kindle Fire. I like them, but then they don’t work so well outdoors and I do like reading on the beach or in the park.

I spent the morning pricing Kindle Fires and I was surprised to find that many of them are cheaper than the Kindles. Why does a devoted e-reader, i.e. the Kindle, cost more than something that pretty much a table, i.e. the Kindle Fire?

Anybody have any thoughts on their preferences? I could use some input.

Publication1

Here is the short fiction that I’ve published electronically. Two are novellas and two are short collections. Two also have previews of novels with the same characters in them.

I waver back and forth as to whether I like e-books or physical books better. Both have their advantages, but one of e-books biggest advantages is that it has brought back the viability of short fiction.

I remember when I was writing a lot of short fiction back in the 1990s that a professional rate was considered 3 cents a word or more. That means you needed to get paid at least $75 on a 2,500 word short story. At the time, I was making at least 10 times that amount for a non-fiction article. Plus, the market for non-fiction is much larger.

While some novellas could be published as chapbooks, it could be costly, both for the publisher and the reader. I independently published a 65-page novella that I needed to retail at $5.99. That was really too much for a novella that size, but between the printing costs and the retailer cut, that’s what was needed to make it financially viable.

The one area that did work for short fiction was a collection or participating in an anthology. For me, anthologies were always iffy because I usually bought one because a favorite author of mine was part of it, but usually there were other stories in it that I really didn’t like. With short story collections, my impression is that they never seemed to be as big a seller as a novel by the same author.

Then along came e-books.

You can publish a novella and price it at a $1.99. You can publish a short-story collection, just a couple short stories, or even a single story and price them appropriately. Electronic publishing opened up a lot of new avenues for short fiction. These new avenues can pay royalties indefinitely, eventually making the author a lot more money than he or she would earn from publishing a single story in a magazine.

Short fiction e-publishing also makes a great marketing tool. First, these e-books are usually priced very affordably so that a reader would be willing to try out a new author. Second, these e-books can be offered as perma-free without the author feeling he or she is giving up a large royalty. Third, short e-books can be used to promote upcoming novels.

I have seen the latter happening more and more. The author has a new novel coming out in the fall. In the spring a short story is released for 99 cents. Besides the short story, there is usually a preview of the new novel attached at the back of the story. As an added benefit, publishing short fiction along with your novels helps keep your name out in front of readers.

As a reader as well as a writer, I’m happy to see the resurgence of short fiction. I’ve got quite a few on my e-reader that I read and enjoy.

new-amazon-kindleI was reading Joanna Penn’s Author 2.0 Blueprint the other day and she noted, “If you’re self-publishing, most of us make the vast chunk of our income from ebooks, because there are no restrictions on sales and readers don’t even have to know who published the book.” (BTW, you can get this book for free from her web site and it’s a great resource.)

This statement in the book struck me because it’s far from my own experience. I get about 45% of my income from my books and about 5% from my ebooks. I certainly wouldn’t mind it being the other way around if my current book level made up the 5%.

With a $7.99 ebook, I earn a $5.42 royalty for each sale. For $2.99 ebooks, I earn $2.04 and for $0.99 ebooks, I earn $0.35. That a pretty high percentage (35% to 68%).

By contrast, for a $19.95 paperback, I earn between $5 and $15 after subtracting the book production costs. That means I’m earning between 25% and 75% in net profit for each book.

So per book, I make more for each print book than I do for each ebook. Ebooks tend to be less expensive, though, but you need an e-reader to read them. I still run into plenty of people who tell me that they don’t have an e-reader or that they like the feel of a book in their hands. To be honest, I also meet people who look at my books and ask if they are available on Kindle, Nook, or Kobo.

I still need physical books to sell when I do festivals or presentations. People are there ready to buy and are looking for them.

My book sales have been growing nicely over the past couple years, but the e-books haven’t kept up. It certainly seems like it would be a more efficient use of my time if I was selling a couple thousand ebooks a month.

I think Penn’s statement just shows how much better my marketing needs to become. It’s all right, but it needs to be better. It can be better.

So what are your experiences? Do ebooks or physical books sell better for you? What are your best marketing techniques?

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