Monday, February 16, 2015

My Brother, My Muse

Yesterday I talked with my older brother on the phone.  We talk just about every Sunday.  He and his family live in Virginia, while I live here in Southern Cal.  3000 miles has not kept us from remaining close. Growing up in New York City, my brother was an awesome big brother--annoying as hell much of the time, yet there was something solid about him that helped keep me grounded.  Yes, "solid" is the best word I can use to describe him.  You always knew what you got with my big brother.  He unashamedly marched to the beat of his own drummer.  When we were at the age where no one wanted to stick out for fear of being made fun of, my brother stuck out.   When all the kids wore Converse or Pro-Keds he wore what kids laughingly called skips.

I remember one time, back in the day, when sneakers were either black or white, my brother got a pair of red sneaks.  You couldn't help but notice them.  Kids may have laughed at my brother--I may have even laughed at him--but never to his face.  No one made fun of my brother. No one!  He received much respect for not being goaded or ridiculed into backing down from the things he liked. I was amazed at how comfortable he was in his own skin back then.  That comfort helped shape me, helped teach me not to be ashamed.  I don't know where Leonard Adolphus Van Lowe got it from, but I'm glad he had it.

A.D., the at times sinister, ghostly character in my up-coming novel, The Secrets of Love and Death was written with my brother in mind.  A.D., the first two letters of my brother's middle name. The book in some ways is a love letter to him.  Growing up, my brother was among my best friends. Over the next few weeks, I'll be talking more and more about him and about the new book.  I had a wonderful childhood because of him, and in the new book I hope to share some of that feeling with you. It is a romantic horror story, so I'll just be sharing SOME of that feeling, as my main goal is to keep you entertained. The cover art is currently being designed.  I will keep you posted about that as well.   I also have an audio clip I plan to share with you soon.

I hope you'll stay tuned for my journey to the publication of my next novel, The Secrets of Love and Death.

Peace.




Wednesday, January 28, 2015

What's In A Name? We Shall Soon Find Out


In Shakespeare's play, Romeo and Juliet, Juliet says "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." In the scene, Juliet is telling Romeo not to be hung up on names.  That may be true if you're a Capulet who has fallen in love with a Montague.  However, in titling your book, the name you choose can waylay your good efforts before they have a chance to get any recognition.  I'm not saying your title is the key to your book's success.  But just like professional looking artwork, and a snappy book blurb, your title is an important tool in getting your book sampled.  Titles may not matter to some people, but unless you already have a large following, your title is an important marketing tool.

I'm saying this now because after much haranguing over title ideas, my good friend and publisher (Chris Meeks of White Whisker Books) and I have settled on a title for my latest book.  I think it's a good title.  I think it's a very good title.  I'd come up with it over a year ago, but not for this book.  I had been sitting on it to use in my Hollyweird series.  I'm not great at coming up with titles, so when I do come up with a good one, I save it, even if I don't have a work to go with it just yet.


I don't think very many indie authors spend enough time on titling their works.  I see many new books with the same title as three or four other books--some in the same genre.  To me, this is a no-no. Unless your book is part of an ongoing series, I think it should have a unique title.  If you're not sure if your title is unique, just type your prospective title into Amazon.  If you see it's already been used, and used in the past few years, I think you should move on. I didn't know this back when I wrote Never Slow Dance With A Zombie.  I was new to the game, but I knew I wanted a fun, interesting title.  It took me over a year to come up with that title, and when the publisher (Tor) heard it, they new it was perfect. Many readers have told me the title alone has prompted them to pick up the book. Occasionally, I've seen in reviews, where readers have said they didn't like the book.  At least I got them to try it.  After that it's out of my hands.

Another thing about that title is if you go to Amazon and type in the words Never Slow.. my title will pop up.  There's nothing even close.  The title is not only provocative.  It's unique.  A year after my second YA novel, Boyfriend From Hell came out, another book with the same title came out. I was so upset, but there was noting I could do about it, aside from complain to my publisher. Even though I was first to market with the title, you cannot copyright a title. Fortunately, since my book is the most popular with the title, it shows up first. My advice to authors is to spend more time coming up with unique and provocative titles.  It may take more time to bring your book to market, but I think it's time well spent.

And now for the title of my new book. It was formerly called The Memory Giver.  I liked the title, but I had my suspicions it wouldn't stick.  It was unique, but not provocative enough. The new title is. Drum roll, please: The Secrets of Love and Death.  I hope you like it.  It's dead-on perfect for my new book, a romantic-horror-thriller.  And if you type it into Amazon, nothing comes up.  At least, not yet.  Is it a good title??? We'll soon find out.

If you'd like to read a little bit of the book (the fully edited version will be out summer, 2015), several chapters are available now on Wattpad under the old title, The Memory Giver.  Just click on the link.  I hope you enjoyed this post, I hope you like my title, and I hope you'll give my latest book a try. Thanks.  Peace.

Keep Reading-Keep Writing!


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!



I can't believe the year is coming to an end already. For many of us on the author end of the business this year saw diminishing returns for our work.  Meaning, many authors I know made less on their writing this year than in previous years.  If you're a reader, this has been a banner year, with the quality of self and indie published works increasing dramatically along with some great books brought out by the Big 5 publishers.  There's lots of good reading to be had.

I had an awesome year.  And, yes, I made less this year than in previous years, however, I wrote what I feel is my best book yet--The Memory Giver, a romantic/horror tale featuring two young lovers. I can't say I'm going to knock down any doors with this book, but I'm very proud of it nonetheless. The new book is still in editorial and will be out (hopefully) early next year, but 16 chapters are available free right now on my Wattpad page.  If you'd like to end the year (or start 2015) with a solid romantic/horror read click here: THE MEMORY GIVER.  I also dipped my toe ever-so-gently into self publishing with the December 24th publication of my funny, snarky novella I Want You Back! This is just a start for me.  At some point I plan to dive into self-publishing whole hog.  Look for more shorter works from me and my horror writing alter ego, Sal Conte, in 2015. For now, my longer works will continue to be published traditionally.

I'm going to end this post by sharing a post from author, Bob Mayer with you: 16 Thoughts for Authors/Publishing for 2015.  I feel all authors should read this post. While the piece is aimed at authors, readers also need to know what to expect in the new year.

Happy New Year, everyone.  It's an honor and a pleasure being a writer.  I'm so lucky that my job is sharing stories with you. I look forward to a fabulous 2015. and I wish the same for readers and authors alike. Peace.



Sunday, December 14, 2014

It's Not As Deep As I Thought It Was


I've finally done it.  After eight years, seven novels, three publishers, many rejections,  and much hand wringing, I've decided to dip my toe ever so gently into the swirling waters of self-publishing. If you've read any of my posts for indie authors you'd think I was a self-publishing machine.  Think again. This is a first for me and it is daunting.  The thing I feared the most turned out to be the easiest.  I'd heard nightmarish tales of the difficulties in uploading a book to Amazon.  I heard you needed to know how to write code.  I heard you needed a converting program.

After downloading a program to convert my ms file to mobi (the format needed for Kindle) and failing at achieving a satisfactory book to share with the public, I decided to just start the process of signing up to be an author on Amazon while I searched for another, more user friendly, mobi converter program.  I went to Amazon KDP and filled out all the forms--easy, added my tax info--easy, uploaded the cover--easy (I'd had a cover designed months ago), and arrived at the section where it says 'upload your book.'  I tried uploading the pdf  I'd prepared for the converter program. I got a message saying Amazon didn't accept pdfs.  It listed the accepted formats and low and behold, one of them was Word document.   What the??? What about all that very technical converting I needed to do?

Here's where it gets really strange: Throwing caution to the wind, I loaded the doc, waited for it to successfully upload.  Once the ms was loaded successfully Amazon asked if I'd like to see what it would look like in several different Kindle formats. I held my breath and started with Kindle Fire--perfect.  I scrolled my ebook through all the various formats and while some weren't so perfect, all looked pretty darn good.

Amazon then asked was I ready to publish. "No," I thought. "I'm doing something wrong.  It can't be this easy."  Yet after a few days of searching the internet and a conversation with my publisher, I discovered it can be that easy.



So here I am, friends, dipping my toe into the waters.  The ebook I'm publishing is a funny, snarky novella I wrote after the publication of Never Slow Dance With A Zombie called I Want You Back!  I'd been sitting on it for years.  Earlier this year, I polished it again, sent it out for an edit, and here we are. It's available for presale at $2.99 here: I Want You Back!  The book comes available on Christmas Eve (December 24th). Why not pop on over and admire my Amazon page, but DO NOT BUY IT because I'm offering the same ebook here free: E's Website. You heard right, I'm giving the ebook away and I'd rather you try it for free than buy it.

Not to toot my own horn, but some of my books have been Amazon ebook bestsellers, and not in some obscure category, either.  And I've been nominated for the prestigious ALA (American Library Association) Award, so I'm no slouch. I even wrote a short film that was nominated for an Academy Award, seriously, the Academy Award--you know, the show that's on TV every year. But I digress. The free ebook is my way of getting newer readers to try my work. All I want in return is that you sign up for my newsletter for special fans.

Please take a moment to click on the link above, and stop by my wbesite where you can hear more about the ebook & newsletter, and sign-up to receive it in time to read during the holidays.

Now that I know how easy self-publishing can be, you will be seeing more shorter works from me published by me.  My longer works will still be published by White Whisker Books--for now.  I've dipped my toe into the self-publishing waters and they're not as deep as I thought they'd be. If you're considering self-publishing, do not hesitate as long as I did.  It's not as scary as it seems. Go for it!

If you'd like a short, funny, paranormal read, head on over to my website and give I Want You Back! a try.

Keep reading- Keep Writing!


Monday, December 8, 2014

Hachette, Twitter and You



This morning I read in Publishers Weekly that Hachette, the big 5 publisher, was going to start using Twitter to promote their books. Wondering if this was part of the fallout of the much talked about Hachette vs Amazon battle waged mostly in the media, I anxiously read the article.  After all, many of us use Twitter to promote our books.  I wanted to know what Hachette was going to do that I wasn't doing.  In the article, Hachette announced they were going to partner with Gumroad on an e-commerce venture. Who the heck is Gumroad?

I spent a chunk of the morning doing some research, searching for some sage words on who Gumroad was and why Gumroad was a platform we indie authors should be using.  What I discovered was a very informative article on Gumroad's blog by developer Nathan Barry.  In the piece, Barry touted that he'd sold over $355,759 in books using Gumroad.  You know that got my attention.  Click HERE to read the entire piece, but stay with me for a few minutes before you do.

Barry threw me for a loop when he said he didn't use Amazon to sell his books.  Here's what he said:

Before writing books I made all my product revenue from selling iPhone apps on the App Store. Each day I would look at the previous days sales numbers. Unfortunately that’s all they were: numbers. I would be informed “You sold x copies of this app in these countries.” That’s it.
Without customer information I had no way of contacting any of my users. That meant notification about updates, asking for feedback, and any other contact had to be done through custom code through the app—something I hadn’t taken the time to build.
That’s when it really hit me: the people who bought my app weren’t my customers, they were Apple’s. Apple was just giving me a little bit of money from each purchase, but not the customer.
I often get asked why I, as a full-time author, don’t sell my books on Amazon or the iBooks store. The biggest reason is the lack of customer information. I want to sell directly to my customers so that I can email them to ask how they like it, know who is buying it and where, and be able to build on that relationship to make my next book launch more successful than the last.

Interesting, huh? Over this past year it has become more and more obvious to me that my email list is going to be my greatest selling tool.  It isn't yet.  I'm working on it.  If you're an author, this blog post is yet another reason for you to continue to not only build, but cultivate the readers your email list.  There was a time when I held contests just to get names onto my list.  I don't do that anymore.  The names on my list are harder to come by now because they are mostly readers I have sought out because they have read and enjoyed one or more of my books.  I want to have a relationship with these people. These readers are already fans, and if I do things right, most of them will stay with me and become lifelong fans.

As authors we often feel this is our journey.  We feel it's a solitary journey, but we're wrong in feeling that way. It's a shared journey between us and our readers, but it's shared only if we open up to them.

That's it from me for today.  Food for thought. Read Nathan Barry's blog post, decide if Gumroad is for you, and think of ways to organically grow your email list.

Keep Reading--Keep Writing!





Monday, December 1, 2014

A Dose of Perspective For The Holidays


I've been thinking a lot about being an author--indie or otherwise--lately.  As authors we are often looking for new ways to market our books in the hopes of reaching Best Seller status, or at least to sell more books than we're currently selling.  There's nothing wrong with that.

This year, for the holidays, I decided to offer up a large dose of perspective for myself and possibly  for those of you who are reading this and in need of some.  You know who you are.  If you're not sure--read on.


 Here's why I'm in need of perspective: My career as an author began back in 2009 with my novel Never Slow Dance With A Zombie (Tor-teen).  The book had a nice bit of success right out of the gate.  It became a Scholastic Book of The Month Club selection with an initial order of 25,000 copies.  It went on to sell many thousands more copies and was nominated for a prestigious ALA Award.  I followed this up with indie published (White Whisker Books) Boyfriend From Hell and Earth Angel.  Both books were instant Amazon ebook bestsellers, topping the children's-YA ebook list.  The only other author with more than one book in the top 10 at that time was Suzanne Collins with her The Hunger Games trilogy.  I was living the dream. Shortly after, my series was optioned by Hollywood for a TV show or movie.

I was feeling good about myself, but somewhere along the way I lost perspective.  I forgot why I became an author in the first place.  When my next novel, The Zombie Always Knocks Twice (Imajin books) didn't sell well I became distraught.  Then the next book (the third in The Falling Angels Saga)  Heaven Sent, came out of the box like gangbusters and then tapered off. No more 25,000 book initial orders. No more Best Seller list.  And no TV show or movie. I blamed it on my marketing, I blamed it on the market, I blamed it on all the other indie authors who were stealing my eyeballs.  The truth is, there's no blame here.  These things happen.  Some books catch on and others don't.  Some books you think aren't worth the paper (or trilobytes) they're written on become million sellers, and other books you think are worthy (like your own, maybe) struggle to sell 500 copies. Bad mouthing the success of others while bemoaning your lack of success is a trip down misery lane, and one not worth taking.  Don't do it.  It doesn't help.  All you can do is keep writing.

Let's rejoice in the fact that others are having success.  And keep writing.  When I was a salesman and people asked how could I do it, knock on doors day-after-day, I always replied "It's a numbers game.  If I knock on so many doors, I'm going to get in; if I make so many presentations, I'm going to make a sale." What we do is a numbers game as well.  So keep writing, and remember why you started writing in the first place. I started writing because I loved it.  I still do.  I love storytelling and I love sharing my work with an audience no matter how small.  Back in the day, that audience consisted only of my mother, my brother and my friends.  I didn't think 'this audience is too small.' I loved that they enjoyed my stories.  Now, thanks to Amazon, I have readers around the world.  I don't have a million readers, but that's okay.  I'll just write another book, and if I still don't have a million readers, that's okay, too. I'm grateful for the readers I do have, and for the ability to do what I LOVE without a gatekeeper telling me I can't.


I have a new book coming out some time next year, and while I'd love for it to do well, I've stopped worrying about it.  I will market my books as best as I can, and keep writing.  So, this holiday season, as you begin marketing your books for the big Christmas rush, be like me and keep in mind why we started doing this in the first place.  If you're anything like me, you're writing because you love it.  Don't look at what others have and allow it to steal your joy.  Our joy comes from what we do.  While I'm writing this for you to read, I'm writing it for me, too, to look at from time-to-time when I start losing perspective again. I'm going to end this piece with a story written by Aesop.  The Dog And His Shadow


A DOG, crossing a bridge over a stream with a piece of flesh in his mouth, saw his own shadow in the water and took it for that of another Dog, with a piece of meat double his own in size. He immediately let go of his own, and fiercely attacked the other Dog to get his larger piece from him. He thus lost both: that which he grasped at in the water, because it was a shadow; and his own, because the stream swept it away.

I wish you happiness and great selling for the holidays.  Don't grasp at shadows. Let's root for everyone's success and not just our own.  And let's keep perspective. I hope you enjoyed this piece. If you have a comment or story you'd like to share with me (success story or not) I'd love to hear it. And most importantly, Keep Writing!

Happy Holidays. Peace.



Thursday, November 6, 2014

Adventures In Genre-Bending



No! I didn't say gender-bending.

My genre-bending adventure is about to begin.  I just turned the second edit/pass of my latest novel into my publisher, White Whisker Books.  I'm calling this my genre-bending adventure because it was apparent early on in the writing process that this book was not going to fit squarely into any one hole.

I started out with two ideas.  I wanted to do something about my older brother in which my older brother was a ghost.  No, my older brother is not dead, but growing up he was someone I very much looked up to, and I wanted to write about that from a young boy's perspective, a young boy needing to finish growing up without the steady hand of a brother he looked up to.  I also knew I wanted to do something like The Green Mile.  What I mean by that is, I didn't want to hit horror over the head.  I wanted my book to be more wonder--John Coffey in The Green Mile--than horror.  To this, I added a delightful romance that winds up driving the entire story.  Oh yes, and there's a monster. So I've got a thirteen year-old boy (genre, YA), a ghost with a special power (genre, Supernatural), a sweet romance (genre, Romance), the last 100 pages are a thrill ride (genre, Thriller), oh, and the monster (genre, Horror).

For the past few months I've called it a romantic-horror-thriller.  I like that, however, the first editor called it a paranormal coming of age story.  Sheesh! Confusing.




The truth is, these labels only matter in marketing.  You want to make sure your book gets into the hands of folks who will appreciate it.  If someone is looking for pure horror they may give my book a bad review.  Reviews are all important, and early reviews are the most important, so I want to make sure the book is appealing to the right crowd early on.

I did a little research on my favorite genre-bending novel, The Time Traveler's Wife (Sci-fi/ romance), and discovered most publisher's didn't want to touch the book because it was difficult to pigeon-hole.  That didn't keep it from becoming a bestseller as well as a movie. On Goodreads, I did notice from the reviews that many of the reviewers were fans of romantic novels.

Of course, The Time Traveler's Wife is about adults and my book is about teenagers. Young love might not be as appealing as adult love.  At any rate, now that I've turned it in, I't's got me thinking. Also, while I love the Wattpad cover (the book premiered last June as a Wattpad WIP. Click on the link to check it out) it's probably the wrong cover for romance and supernatural.  What do you think?  Does it matter?  I should probably come up with a new title, too, huh?  My publisher already suggested that.  What do you think?



I welcome comments from anyone, whether you've written a genre-bender or not.  I'd love to hear from readers as well as writers.  If you have a moment, please leave your thoughts. 

Anyway, here we go.  I'll keep you posted as I lumber toward publication.

Keep Reading- Keep Writing!