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I started to pay more attention to my monthly statements from Kindle Direct Publishing and IngramSpark. It’s not because I want to see how much I made (that’s a given). I have become more curious about where my books are selling.

CanawlersOne of the reasons that I decided to start indie publishing years ago was because the book project that I had in mind to do (Canawlers) was one that I thought would sell primarily in communities along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal with secondary markets in Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Back then, I worked directly with Baker & Taylor as my distributor. They would send me purchase orders, and I would ship them off to wherever the PO listed. I noticed that I was shipping books all over the country, including to a lot of places where I doubted the people knew about the C&O Canal.

Then, when I started Kindle publishing, I would look at my statements in detail and notice that I was selling books in England, Canada, and India. Some of the titles that were selling overseas I would not have imagined having an international market.

Now, I’ve started looking at the statements in detail again for my paperbacks, and I see that copies are selling in Australia, Canada, and Europe.

I don’t know about you, but I find that amusing. I am writing books with global appeal.

How are those readers finding my books? That’s the next thing that I want to figure out.

Some authors may take it for granted that everything they write will have worldwide appeal. I’m not at that point yet. I work to improve my writing with each book, and I try and write stories that excite me.

I hope it means that I’m doing something right as I see my reach expanding because it is something that I want to continue to grow.

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CanawlersI was at a festival the other when someone who was looking over my book display asked, “Which book are you most proud of?”

That was a tricky question to answer. I have 22 books that I have indie published so I have a few from which I can choose. I often get the question: Which book is your favorite? I’m ready for that one with my favorite fiction and non-fiction titles.

“Which book are you most proud of?” seemed like a different question to me. It was also a tougher one to answer.

Canawlers is the first novel that I indie published in 2000, and I’m proud of that accomplishment. It wasn’t the first novel that I had published, but it was the first one where I took control of the process. I’m proud fo the final result.Last To Fall Cover

The Last to Fall is a true story that had been forgotten in history for the most part. I was proud to tell the story of the 1922 Marines at Gettysburg. A lot of my non-fiction explores a forgotten historical story, but this one led to an effort to create a monument to the fallen Marines. When the monument was dedicated, I felt the book had proven its worth, and I was proud.

Clay Soldiers is the only biography that I’ve written to date, and it tells the life story of a man whose life I felt needed to be remembered. I didn’t want Chuck Caldwell’s experiences to be lost as my grandfather’s were because he didn’t write his stories down before he died. Seeing the emotion on Chuck’sClay Soldiers face when he saw his life story in print made me very proud.

So I have three books that I’m proud of for different reasons. How do I pick between those three, or do I just allow it that I’m very proud of three different books?

I chose the latter because I don’t think I could really choose my one book of which I’m the proudest.

 

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thThere are lots of ways you can write for money. Books, short stories, articles, ads, and more.

While most towns nowadays have only one newspaper, they will generally have multiple radio stations. For a writer, this means multiple opportunities to write spots for radio salespeople who want effective ads for their clients.

Radio has been called “The Theater of the Mind.” Written correctly, a radio spot can convey vivid imagery that would be too expensive for some companies to pay for in a television commercial.

Radio also has its disadvantages, which must be worked around when writing a radio spot.  Because of the large number of radio stations with various niches (rock, country, talk, news, etc.), the audience is very fragmented.  Advertisers might have to advertise on a number of different stations to reach their total market.  Also, clutter from too many commercials lessens the impact of your spot.

Radio’s biggest disadvantage, though. is that it is used as background noise.  This means consumers may hear your commercial but might not actually listen to it.  And those people that hear your commercial view it as an interruption of their program or music.

If you’re going to write a radio spot, here are some tips for making your spot stand out from the crowd.

  • Stress a benefit to the listener. Give the customer a reason to buy the product.  Don’t Say: Macy’s has new fall fashions.  Say:  Macy’s fall fashions make you look better.
  • Grab the listener’s attention. Radio allows you to use a wide range of sound effects.  I once combined the sounds of a car and a briefcase opening and closing to create an image of a small car that was being folded up and put into the briefcase!
  • Zero in on your audience. If you know who you’re selling to, radio’s fragmentation can be used to attract the right audience.  For instance, because of the general age of the audience of a rock station, it doesn’t make much sense for AARP to advertise on it.  If you have ever heard ads that start with a line like:  “Allergy sufferers, now there is relief from your hay fever.”  or “If you’re concerned about your family’s well being, you want to keep them healthy.”  Both of these opening statements immediately target their audience (allergy sufferers and concerned parents).
  • Keep the copy simple and to the point. “To be or not to be” may be the best-known phrase in the English language, yet the longest word in the phrase is three letters.  Big words don’t impress people, but they may confuse them.
  • Sell early and often. At most, you’ve got 60 seconds to convince the customer to use the product or service.  Use all of those seconds for your client’s benefit.  Stress one point and do it frequently.  Don’t try and sell a great deal, the reputation of the company, and the quality of the product in a single spot.  You’ll dilute the power of the message.
  • Write conversationally. Radio is personal.  It allows customers to feel you are sitting beside them in the car talking just to them like a friend would.  Read the copy out loud to see if sounds friendly or stilted.
  • Use positive action words. Words like “now” and “today” urge action and are particularly useful when advertising a sale.  “Drive by Anderson’s Hardware today to take advantage of our anniversary sale.”  Radio has a quality of urgency and immediacy.  Take advantage of them.
  • Put the listener in the picture. Writing for “The Theater of the Mind” means you don’t have to talk about a new car.  Revving engines, the squeal of tires on a turn, and dramatic music will put the listener behind the wheel.
  • Mention the client often. Also, make sure listeners know where the advertiser is located.  If the address is complicated, use landmarks to get them there.

Radio copywriting can prove to be a steady source of income for you. It’s not unheard of to earn $50 for a one-page radio script, which represents a one-minute radio spot. Though it won’t get your name out in front of an audience, it will help pad your bank account.

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rain_drops_keep_falling_wallpaper-wideUsually, outdoor festivals in the spring, summer, and fall have been great places for me to sell books and meet fans. I get to talk to people about history or writing, sell lots of books, and enjoy being outside. (I also get to chow down on Italian sausage sandwiches and funnel cake. Yum!) Every once in a while, it will rain or be so beastly hot that no one wants to leave their air conditioning. Usually, those days are few and far between.

Not this year!

The East Coast is running an abundance of rainfall, particularly now that Hurricane Florence has passed. I’ve had a booth at a dozen outdoor events this summer. There has been significant rainfall at eight of them. Three of them were pretty much rained out. (I didn’t come back for the second day of two of the festivals and the third was only a one-day event.) One event even had very hot weather that seemed to be keeping people indoors.

With odds like that, it is hard to sell books. Not only are the people not in attendance, but the moisture is hard on my books.

Unfortunately, the weather is out of everyone’s hands. You have to pay for your booth space months in advance. That far out, you can only make the best guess at what the weather will be.

I’m hoping for a drier fall. Some of my biggest festivals are in October. If I can get good sunny, pleasant days for those events, then I should be able to weather the rough times Mother Nature is creating this year.

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tumblr_static_johannes-cabal-the-necromancer-coverI stumbled on Johannes Cabal the Necromancer by Jonathan L. Howard because someone recommended Carter & Lovecraft to me. (I still haven’t read that novel yet.) The cover caught my attention, so I read the description.

Johannes Cabal is a scientist who sold his soul to the devil to learn necromancy. However, not having a soul interferes with his research so he makes a deal with the devil to get his soul back. To do so, he must convince 100 people to sign their souls over to the devil in one year. The devil gives him a travelling carnival to help him secure the souls. Johannes also gets his brother, Horst, to help him secure the souls. Horst is a vampire, although it never actually stated outright.

It is an unusual novel. I started out cheering for Johannes until I realized that I was cheering for him to have 100 people sign over their souls. Then I found myself hoping he would fail, but that would mean the devil would win. By the end of the book, I was once again hoping that Johannes would win.

Although the book is a horror novel, it contains a lot of humor. I guess it would be considered dark humor. I thought that this helped make the book enjoyable, particularly during the time that I was hoping Johannes would fail.

The book ends with a set up for the next book, which was intriguing but not enough to make me rush off to the next book. I enjoyed the book, but I can’t say that it was awesome. I would give it 3 out of 5 stars.

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A_stack_of_newspapersFor those of you who don’t know, I write a local history column that I enjoy. It’s called Looking Back, and it has appeared in six different newspapers. However, it’s currently running in three newspapers.

The column is a hybrid between a syndicated column and a local column. It’s syndicated in terms that it appears in multiple newspapers and sometimes the same column will even make an appearance in more than one newspaper. However, I tailor the columns to fit each newspaper’s readership. So, the Cumberland Times-News Looking Back has stories about Cumberland, Md., and Allegany County, while the York Dispatch Looking Back has stories about York, Pa., and York County, etc.

I recently had a newspaper that had been running my column for five years drop me. It wasn’t because they didn’t like the column. They got good feedback on it. It was because I started to edit a magazine that circulated in the same area as the newspaper. I was told that they didn’t think it was right to have the face of a magazine competing for the same advertising dollars as the newspaper writing for the paper.

On the one hand, I understand it. They feel like they are supporting the competition even if the magazine I’m editing covers a much wider area.

However, they are hurting their readers because they are removing material that their readers like. That doesn’t sound like a good decision in the long run.

It certainly was a painful choice for me. I make a lot more money doing the magazine work, but I can’t write history articles for the magazine. I really liked writing the column, too.

What are your thoughts about this?  Is the newspaper’s rationale’s sound? Do you see a way around this situation?

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20170624_092912When 2018 ends, I will have done 28 festivals, not to mention other book signings, talks, and events. I mention the festivals because, as expected, they are a great place to sell books. I enjoy talking to readers, and I’m thrilled when I meet someone who returns to see me year after year at the same festival to buy my latest books.

I have discovered another benefit to festivals. After the festival, I see an uptick in my digital sales. I check my online book sales and ebook sales regularly. I realized a long time ago that my online books sales jumped after festivals. Why? I don’t know, seeing as how I offer a better deal at festivals and I’m there to sign the book. Still, some people apparently look at my books at a festival and then go home to order the unsigned books online for more money.

It was just this year that I finally noticed a similar thing happening with my ebook sales. Some people just don’t read physical books anymore. I can understand that. I can usually recognize these people because they ask if my books are available on Kindle and then take my card when I tell them “yes.”

I have always been a fan of festivals as a place to sell books. This just adds one more reason to why authors should use festivals as part of their marketing plan.

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Cover KindleA few years ago, I created a banner to use at the many festivals I attend for bookselling. I already had one for my history books that I write as James Rada, Jr., but I needed one for a new pen name I was using for YA, horror, and fantasy that I was starting to write. The design that I put together needed four covers, but I only had three paperbacks as J. R. Rada. So, I used the e-book cover for Welcome to Peaceful Journey.

Not surprisingly, people started asking me for a copy of the book, which didn’t exist. I looked into creating a paperback edition, but there wasn’t quite enough material for one. Meanwhile, the requests for copies kept coming in.

I looked back at my notes for short stories and found a couple for unwritten Peaceful Journey stories. I delved back into the world of Peaceful Journey and wrote some new material that I packaged with the Welcome to Peaceful Journey e-book to create a paperback edition with a new cover.

I had so much fun writing the new stories for the paperback that I may write some more in the future. I had a lot of potential stories when I reviewed my notes, although I can see that some probably wouldn’t work. Others, though, show potential. We’ll see what happens.

Anyway, the new Welcome to Peaceful Journey is out.

Peaceful Journey is more than a funeral home. It’s the place where the dead aren’t really dead, but where they can still go to find peace. While you won’t see that sentiment written on any of the ads for the place, it is what happens there. Trust me. I know.

In July 1993, my wife’s grandfather died, and we attended the viewing and funeral at a funeral home in Northern Virginia. I’d been to other funerals before, but I was always so wrapped up in grief, I was barely aware of what was going on. This time I was a bit more detached. I watched the people. Those who cried. Those who were respectful. Those who were afraid. I listened to their comments and conversations.

Funeral homes have always made me uneasy. I was particularly unsettled one time when I happened to look into a room before a viewing began and saw the body lying in an open casket. I don’t know why it struck me as creepier than it would have been if the room had been full of mourners, but it did.

For all the goosebumps that they make rise on my arms, I can’t imagine back in the day when bodies would be placed for viewing in a family’s parlor. The family had to pass by the body multiple times a day and wonder, as they cowered under their blankets in an upstairs bedroom, what they heard moving around downstairs.

I left the viewing room after a while and sat in the lobby, I began to look around and make notes about what the people were doing, how the place looked and how I felt. Then ideas came into my head. In a half an hour, I had four different ideas all set in a funeral home. So I decided to set them all in the same funeral home, and Peaceful Journey went into business. And people have just been dying to get in. Sorry…I had to write that.

launch3-1It can be hard, if not impossible, to translate Kindle ebook ranking to how many ebooks are actually selling. I have found a useful tool called Kindlespy. It’s an add-on to your web browser that allows you to get revenue estimates and sales estimates on ebooks and authors.

That’s what I use the program for. In particular, when I notice a historical fiction author doing a promo, I will often check it out on Kindlespy to see if it is working and how well.

The program can also help you find underutilized niches on Kindle or find the most-successful niches in your genre.

It’s a tool an author can add to his or her toolbox to help when it comes time to market their books.

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2766So here’s the first draft of a cover for my upcoming historical novel Smoldering Betrayal. This particular draft is missing a couple elements – author name and that it is book 1 in the Black Fire Trilogy.

While I thought it was a good start, a lot of people, including me, had issues with how the men looked. They are coal miners, but they almost seem to appear as if they are wearing clown make-up.

I searched out some new pictures. I wanted to have a coal miner on the cover since the book is set in a coal mining town, but I also wanted to have someone who looked like a mine superintendent and a woman who could represent one of the female leads in the story.

SB Cover

I sent the options I found off to my cover designer. Then I sat down with her a few days later after she had picked out the people she thought would work. We spent about an hour placing the people on the cover, looking at fonts, and adding the missing elements.

She added a bit more after our meeting, and then fine-tuned the cover to come up with this version.

I think she hit the right look. It shows that the book is about coal mining, and for those in the know, the town in the background is the actual town where the story is set. Three different types of people hint at the characters in the book and the drama between them.

I think it’s leaps and bounds beyond the first version.

Just like your book’s text, don’t be worried that your book cover needs to go through multiple revisions to get right.

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