Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Write fast, Edit slowly, Submit carefully.


Back in November I was pretty much done editing and proofreading my books, so when Nano rolled around I wasn't too interested in jamming out another full-length novel.

With a much better idea of exactly what that entailed, I didn't want to start anything I couldn't finish, or had no ending for, or with no basic premise other than to write every day. I might write fast, but much of the story has been visualized or 'daydreamed' well in advance. It's a matter of getting it all down in some logical sequence...(okay, I had nothin'.)

Instead, I wrote about 44,000 words worth of short stories. After not making too many submissions lately, today I opened up the old sf/f/h folder, carefully checked for the proper manuscript formatting, read through, made minor changes, and submitted three stories. One story had only been subbed once, and another about three or four times. And this evening, I pulled out another three to clean up and submit.

Those first three stories were already written. They are recent. Yet I did make three or four changes in them. The process of submitting three short stories took at least two hours.

I studied my list of subs to make sure I didn't re-submit the same story over and over again to some tired editor; and I checked to make sure it wasn't already subbed anywhere else. After a few submissions disappearing into the sub-ether, I study the bloody guidelines for the subject line!

Those went to the highest possible paying markets, incidentally. If rejected, we'll drop a notch or two down the totem pole and try again. That's our 'rules of engagement.'


My big challenge lately is to come up with new twists, otherwise it's just some guy with an auto-tweeter spamming out links to a free get-rich e-book. Unfortunately, I don't have any books like that to promote.

Never having asked for a review before, I nevertheless sent out a couple of simple queries. I don't know, to find an example of one good one on the net would be nice.

But, there are one or two lists I can comb through--saving links is another one of my passions, after all--and sooner or later I'll get a review. Viewed with as much objectivity as a shy perfectionist can possibly muster, the thing to do is to bite the bullet and take whatever pain I got coming!

And then we'll move on to the next one.


Nominations for the 2011 Aurora Awards, the awards of the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association, will close April 30, see links at top right. We are eligible in several categories, and would appreciate your support.

See the SF Wiki link upper right. Look for 'The Case of the Curious Killers,' and 'The Stud Farm,' as well as, 'Thirty Years Gone.' Our poem, 'Mr. Robot,' may be read at the bad poets club.


Thank you!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What Works and What Doesn't?


After not selling a book in about eight days, it is nice to discover that I sold a book, on Amazon, which for my present purposes is the only platform that matters in terms of statistics.

The question, when we are engaged across so many social platforms, using a multitude of tools, techniques, tactics and strategies, is the age-old question:

What worked? What exactly did I do correctly, in what place, at what time, and in what 'context,' did I sell that book? Who did I sell it to? Why did they buy it? How did it come to their attention?

Whether you are cracking jokes on Twitter, mining for followers, signing up for a new social platform, whether it's Library Thing or Orkut, the sad truth is that it all works.

It all works. That's hard to understand, when you haven't sold a book in a week.

What the hell are you talking about, Lou?

It all works. The one key element that so many of us overlook is time.

We are in a hurry. We want success, we want money, we want recognition. We want a pat on the back. We want someone we respect to tell us we're 'a good writer.'

When nothing much seems to be happening, to just stop is an insidiously compelling notion.

Don't do it.

Keep going.

Most of the really great writers in the world are older than I am. And some of them are a lot older.


While my place in literary history is by no means secure, we can always sign up for Wikipedia and enter our own profile data. Because we really don't expect anyone else to do it for us!

As a former journalism instructor once told me, "Attitude is Everything."

Clear, lucid minds.


I have thrown out about two hundred fifty pounds of books over the last while, only keeping a few. I kept the ones I would be willing to carry up three flights of stairs. That doesn't leave much choice. After two years on the internet, in a house with a pile of well-thumbed books, I ended up reading a lot of non-fiction, and short pieces rather than actual books.

This evening I read an article or two in French. In Canada, all the packaging is labeled in French and English, so it should come as no surprise that I can get a fair bit out of it without an actual translation. This is because major words have common roots, and English and French share many words of common ancestry.

I also read a couple of articles in either Spanish or Portuguese, I'm not entirely sure which. The funny thing is, I again got quite a lot out of it, enough to understand what the article was about, and it was only when trying to sum up exactly what was being said that I ran into trouble. The real problem is of course not the major words like 'revista,' (magazine,) but the grammar, genders, inflections, etc. The translations are not too good sometimes, and both French and Portuguese translations into English left so much to be desired; that all the Portuguese one did was to confirm the subject under discussion, and gave me the gist of it.

The French one was better, and perhaps also 'easier' for the computer. But it did leave a lot to be desired, especially since I am kind of interested in the subject of hyper-text, and exploring and exploiting the full potential of the electronic book; insofar as it relates to the novel, the short story, or the collection. It relates to non-fiction, in that a reader can go deeper and deeper into a subject, by following links to relevant sources, (including pictures and video, not just text,) other than the author. That was what he was talking about, (more or less,) I can say that with some degree of confidence. I could decipher that much.

But after all of that, it was a kind of relief to read Edward Gibbon's editor, J. Bury, in the preface to 'The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.'

It is nice to meet a clear mind with a lucid style, and to hear them speak across the centuries. Like an old friend, the warmth and the intelligence are there and there is no mistaking it for anything else. It is interesting to remind myself that Gibbon didn't have all the skills in classic languages that one might have expected in those times. It was a labour of love, and he spent the best years of his life doing it.

His gift will be with us through the ages, and you can't do much better than that, ladies and gentlemen. It's also a tough act to follow. I'm not willing to spend five years writing a biography, and most of us will not spend twenty years writing a history of anything particularly important.

The e-book revolution will not destroy the book, nor will it save scholarship. My old fake leather-bound books aren't worth a penny, and would not impress a 'true bibliophile,' a polite term for literary snob. They have corners bent over, the spine is broken on Volume Five, and there are chocolate stains on some of the pages. My brother might find space for these books at his place. His boys, my nephews, will never read them...I know that for a fact.

And so, I am tempted to throw them away as well.

The only constant in the universe is change. Gibbon's book is 'a history of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind.'

The only thing I can add is, 'plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.'

The more things change, the more they stay the same, and in the end, all is vanity.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Excerpt: 'Time-Storm on A-5' (working title.)


Note: This is an excerpt from something I wrote in the autumn of 2008. I did re-write it just a little bit, but the whole manuscript needs to be gone over 10-12 times. I'm looking to break some bad habits more than anything. I might want to get some glasses before I start that, and I wouldn't mind some decent cover art for a change.


Tom wandered in the desert for what seemed like eternity. Having made the decision, it wasn't easy to change his mind and go back. To admit that he might have been wrong. And he wasn’t sure he was wrong; it was probably just random bad luck. Hot sand dragged at his feet, the heat of the suns searing at the exposed side of his neck. His legs felt heavy already, and he’d only been going a couple of hours.

“Rahr, rahr, grrrrrr…” it wasn't a happy greeting.

He could see and hear and deduce that much. The irrational thought, 'I wonder how long he’s been doing that…' hit him.

An ugly black beast confronted him, spines rising up in a ring about its neck. Slavering jaws, white with teeth, gnashed and growled viciously.

The icy hand of fear clutched at his chest, making it hard to breathe. Not for the first time he marveled just how out of shape he’d become, quite unsuspected. He’d always considered himself something of a jock. Stock still, Tom’s guts quivered inside. The animal bowed its head down low, staring at Tom’s form, and it growled deep in the throat. Its dark and indeterminate hulk, sodden from the morning’s dewfall, lurked there with its backside glued to a cluster of boulders. The beast had four legs, a predator protecting a recent kill.

He saw the thing's dinner laying there all bloody.

Tom backed up in haste, risking a glance rearward to ensure he didn’t go sprawling over a dead tree or a cluster of shrubs, a boulder or just a hole. The thing growled again. It stayed where it was, so he kept going. A certain light nausea could be felt down in the guts. Deep, cold breaths of air seemed to help.

“Holy, Jesus!” he said, wanting to talk to it, to somehow reassure the thing that he wasn’t a threat.

Whatever it was, it was easily big enough to eat him! He stared, as it bared fifty or seventy-five millimetre canines, big, flat, chisel-like incisors showing the creature was totally omnivorous. He risked turning his back, and strode away down the trail, turning from time to time to see if it was stalking him. He jumped over tangles of dried, fallen creepers and prayed not to trip on anything. Tom paused to catch his breath, heart pounding. All was quiet again.

That was a very close call.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Will the Higher Education Bubble Burst?

Re: Will the Education Bubble Burst?

On Twitter, someone posted a link (Mr. Thiel, I resume? -ed.) to an op-ed piece which asked the question, ‘Will higher education be the next bubble to burst?’ or words to that effect.

If enough people turn away, or drop out, because of the high cost, or because it is seen as ‘training for mediocrity,’ then that bubble has already burst.

About a year ago, I wrote something called 'Marconi' for this blog about a ‘bubble’ of radio waves traveling outwards from Earth at more or less the speed of light, and how an alien civilization might intercept and respond to the signal...

Again on Twitter, maybe nine minutes later, someone posted a link to a story, based upon the possibility of aliens intercepting or perceiving our bubble of radio waves emanating from Earth and how they might react. I am not complaining about ‘someone stealing my idea,’ for surely I got my own ideas from somewhere, most likely the encyclopedia; and surely some other much more famous and hopefully better-paid writer has already made the most of the concept.

And I just sort of drifted off into my own thoughts...

My point is that we stand upon the shoulders of giants. The point is that any reasonably well-read working class individual living today has a billion times more useful information available to them than Julius Caesar. It is also true that we compete in a world where many have this available. The fact of ‘the many’ equals us up by simple competition. A competitive advantage never lasts for very long. That’s because we all learn so very, very much from each other.

I’m not even questioning what we as individuals do with it. I'm not complaining about pudgy, asthmatic kids playing virtual baseball in the living room or pudgy, asthmatic fifty year-old kids who never grew up writing about weird stuff. But somehow we must acquire the basic minimum of knowledge to be able to learn or even devise new things on our own without constant supervision. And the world is getting a lot more complicated, which demands new skills.

No nine year-old kid living in a yurt in the Gobi desert ever gets up in the morning and decides to come up with a Grand Unified Theory of the cosmos and its underlying infrastructure. He simply doesn’t have the words. You could not stick him in a modern science research lab and expect him to accomplish anything more than to make paper airplanes and to play table-top hockey with a roll of tape and a like-minded friend.

He doesn’t have the most basic math, he has little in the way of logic or reasoning skills, he doesn’t have the symbols or words in his head. He has never read a book on it. He has never discussed it, or even listened to ‘smart’ people talk about such things. That is not to say he would never ask about the nature of the universe, question the meaning of life, or whether or not there are gods. No one is saying he is stupid.

Wouldn’t he sooner or later ask, “What is Good and Evil, daddy?”

I suspect he would.

But without a lot of help from the great minds of history, he isn’t likely to get too far with it, and there is no one there to listen if he did. By our own standards, anything he comes up with is more likely to be superstition, magic and evil spirits, or self-serving ignorance; a justification more than anything.

Is higher education too expensive? I guess that depends on who’s asking, and whether or not they have the price of admission. The sad truth is that most of us don’t.

Anything that makes it easier for more people to get a higher education is a good idea, and will make the world a better place for all of us.

Anything that makes it harder for more people to get a higher education is a bad idea, and will make the world a worse place for all of us. What is so hard about that?

It’s a simple question of Good versus Evil. How it will all turn out, only God knows and only Father Time can tell.

But the real question asked in Twitteropia, and in several other forums by other commentators, was whether higher education is ‘elitist.’ Oxford and Cambridge are elite schools. Harvard and Yale are elite schools. What about the school I went to? ‘Not exactly.’

Of course there is elitism. The Ivy League schools are elite schools. The fewer students who attend them, the more 'intimate' it is. The richer they are, the more elitist it is. The higher you jack the cost of schooling, the smaller the student population, and the more elitist it becomes.

There are undoubtedly forces and ideologies in the world today that would like to shut down all learning except that which stems from their own teachings. They want to control the curriculum. And yes, ladies and gentlemen, some of those minds were trained in Ivy League schools...and some were educated in yurts.

The invention of the printing press broke the church and state monopoly on knowledge and learning. It freed us from the ignorance of our ancestors.

More importantly, it also broke the monopoly on teaching, with profound results.

With luck and application, the internet can and will break any elite’s monopoly on knowledge, teaching, and political power. It spreads the power around a little, which is just the way it should be.

I have a suggestion.

We should listen very carefully to what ‘they’ have to say, and then we should use our own heads to make up our own minds in order to decide what is best for ourselves and our families. All of the knowledge, all of the great minds of history are right there at our fingertips.

The internet is the key to the greatest library in all of creation, and the great universities of the world are all on the internet too. Use it wisely, abuse it if you must, but use it above all else.

Because if we don’t use it, somebody else will.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Cracking the Crop Circle Code

Wikipedia Commons, author or photographer unknown.

(Our unknown source has requested anonymousness, and he has since disappeared anyway. -ed.)

'So what happens is you strap on your Bergen, which includes plenty of bottled water, because you will be out until near dawn. Then you climb out of the lorry, and your mates hand out your stilts.'

Q: Stilts? Bergen? You mean like, 'a gunny-sack?'

'These stilts are not skinny poles, but wide, flat boards, with a kind of toe-clamp for your boots, remarkably similar to those worn by cross-country skiers.'

Q: Clamps?

'You snap your boots into the clamps, and two friends help you up. Then you walk out into the field, using the stilts. Arriving at a pre-surveyed GPS point, you locate the stakes previouly placed there by others. The stakes have a steel pin on top.'

Q: Stakes? Steel pin?

'Unlocking the 90-degree feature of your specially-designed boot bindings, you can sort of carefully let yourself down to the ground, where you now have footwear that looks like a pair of water skis.'

Q: Water skis?

'Snapping the reel onto the pin on top of the stake, you begin walking around in circles while the line feeds out from the reel. When you reach the end, you carefully go to the centre of the circle. The spring-loaded line rewinds itself automatically, and then you remove the reel from the stake.'

Q: And then?

'Then you move on to the next location.'

Q: Tell us about the truck and the rest of the film crew.

'Meanwhile, the last two friends have taken the truck, oops; I mean 'lorry,' back to the parking lot behind the nearest pub where they will await a simple cellular phone call.'

Q: Alien film crews have cell phones?

'Those in the field never have to leave a single footprint. Each has to do, at most, ten or twelve circles in a night. They do the biggest one first. They carry plastic shopping bags to take a dump in; and the only real hard part of the job is not breaking out in hysterical laughter. However, with the adrenalin pumping and the hefty fines for pranksterism in Great Britain, not to mention a long, sustained, physical exertion, it's actually pretty quiet out there after a while.'

Q: So that's why no alien crap in the field!

Sound advice from an old hand: "Don't try to take a leak while standing on stilts, I once lost it in a gust of wind and fell in a clump of brambles. It was a jolly humbling experience."

Q: So then you pull up stakes and move on! I get it.


(Editor's Note: Since publishing this four or five minutes ago, we have begun to get quite a few death threats, (a couple, anyway,) from documentary film-makers. Coincidence? I think not, ladies and gentlemen.)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

New Post: Advertising


(The following was written in the autumn of 1983 by a college junior.)

Advertising in its many forms affects our society, lifestyles, buying and employment habits, even our personalities. Some believe it doesn’t affect them. This is delusional.

“A peculiarity of the North American mass communications system is that advertising pays most of the bills. On the plus side is the fact that the North American people get an incredible variety of information, entertainment, and culture at minimal cost…a disadvantage is that nearly all of North America’s mass communications is heavily over-laden with commercial or persuasive messages.”

—‘Introduction to Mass Communications,’ Jay Black and Frederick C. Whitney.

Advertising exploits our emotions and beliefs to sell a product. Sex is evident in a large percentage of ad material, whether it be magazines, billboards or television.

By causing us to identify something good, (not necessarily sex,) with a product, they alter our attitudes toward a product, idea, person or action.

Attracting attention, emphasizing a need, awakening a want, or simply announcing a new product or service, outlining the advantages of a brand, educating the consumer, all are the job of advertising.

“The real catastrophe is the prospect of the total moronization, dehumanization, and manipulation of man,” according to noted philosopher Herbert Marcuse.

“Advertising is a necessary adjunct to mass production and is, in fact, mass sales: it is an automated sales force…” (Whitney and Black.)

Editor’s Note: There are about ten or twelve pages here, but we’ll cut to the chase.

'…the potential exists for an individualized information and entertainment system of great complexity, and even greater usefulness. Let the imagination wander on the possibilities. There you are, sitting in the New Guinea jungle. You’re hungry, and you need to know if a certain plant is edible. Speaking into a wrist-watch telephone, you are instantly connected to a computer in the world net. Overhead satellites relay your question to an appropriate channel and your question is answered within seconds. All of this is recorded and your account is charged accordingly…your computer now comes on the ‘line’ and reminds you of a doctor’s appointment. All of this is a drop in the bucket compared to the possibilities.'

(End of excerpt.)

The student got an ‘A’ on that assignment, and the only thing he really missed was putting a camera into the wrist-phone. The teacher missed that one too. Not mentioned is how it was all supposed to be paid for, but the natural assumption would be advertising, sales and service subscriptions, or license fees, or direct taxation by a state monopoly.

Nothing in life is free, and advertising is all-pervasive in modern society. It is used as much to sell a point of view or a way of thinking, as it is to sell a product.

The global structure of the thing is implied in the story. Today, we see a little clearer picture of the costs and benefits of such an infrastructure. And much of the world today is still governed by state-controlled monopolies of mass communications or their subsidiaries.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

New Post: My First Fan Mail.


Hot damn! I'm so excited I'm fit to bust; I'm so happy I could shit!

That's right, ladies and gentlemen, we got our first fan mail for the first time ever, just this week!

Okay, okay, okay...(sorry!) Here's a little snippet from the first one:

Dear Louis;

I see that you are such a nice person and I don't know where else to turn. Boy! Oh, boy. Am I in a lot of trouble. You see, my father, the King Of Ethiopia, has been captured and taken hostage and held for ransom by rebels. While he is being held in the hills not far from the capital, I myself cannot help him as I escaped with my colleagues and the bodyguard and the Crown Jewels.

We are in a camp for displaced persons just outside of Val d'Or, which I admit is actually in Italy. As you should know, kind sir.

Unfortunately, the rebels are demanding cash, i.e. untraceable assets. They are quite adamant you see, and so of course I thought of you. You have many friends around the world and we (the government in exile,) were kind of wondering if you had any friends at the Bank of England.

(Personal details omitted.)

Okay, here's the next one:


Old buddy, old pal!

Say, Lou, all kinds of lazy, no-good bastards, untalented fools and other assorted shitheads are making a ton of money off of the internet. Why not you?

What's so fucking special about you?

If these idiiots can do it, so can you! I'm here to help you, and if you will just click on this link to receive my free pdf, we can get started right now!


Don't worry, I got lots of links. But before we do that anyway, look here:

Here are the twelve points of successful internet marketing:

1.) Listen to me.

2.) Sign up for my course.

3.) Check out my other products, all free!

4.) That's right, Lou, they're all free!

5.) It is only when you go to upgrade, that the reasonable monthly charges really start to kick in.

6.) But I could go on!

7.) Lou, I can see that you are a busy man, just like me, so I will now enroll you into my only-free newsletter, for a special thirty day free trial!

8.) I am really looking forward to our new relationship.

(Name withheld.)

...and I got a couple others here, as well. Yes, ladies and gentlemen:

'Nothing beats the glow of a job well-done.'

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Flux or Revolution?


I’ve been trying to make sense of what I’ve learned over the last few months. Is the industry in a state of flux, or is it in a state of revolution? It is my assertion that debt and recession has shrunk the market for brand-new authors, i.e., ‘real’ publishers, by an estimated ten to twenty percent.

Self-publishing is not revolutionary. It’s been around for a long time. What is revolutionary is that it doesn’t cost any money. What’s revolutionary is that you don’t even have to leave home. You can do it from a blanket on a beach. You can write your book while commuting to your day job on the train and you can publish it from a table at a fine restaurant.

E-books are not going to ‘kill the book.’ The forty or fifty dollar cost of a typical hardcover, or the ten, to fifteen, to twenty-dollar cost of a paperback, are not going to ‘kill the book.’ The sheer weight, bulk, and cost of producing a book, the investment in plant and machinery, plus the high cost of labour and shipping, (i.e. fuel,) will inevitably shrink market share in the face of professional digital publishing and distribution without the use of trucks, warehouses, and human employees unpacking cardboard boxes and sticking books on shelves.

The POD of ‘Case of the Curious Killers,’ is listed at $13.99. By the time it is shipped to your house, it will cost about $20.00 or more, depending upon where you live. My profit would be sixty cents. I can set the price of an e-book at less than two dollars and still make my sixty cents.

Is there some reason why big box publishers can’t see this? I have no costs—no costs except my own time and labour. It’s a good investment, from my point of view.

The old fashioned full-service gas station went away, for many reasons. It was hard to get good help for a buck-ten an hour, which is what the wage was back then. But it was the sheer weight of traffic that actually killed the old fashioned gas station. No one was willing to wait for thirteen cars ahead of them to be filled.

Global online traffic is growing at an exponential pace, especially in developing and newly developed nations.

In five years, ninety or ninety-five percent of all publishing in major markets will be digital, and that’s just because people will still be sticking flyers in old people’s mailboxes. It will never be one hundred percent.

‘Readers,’ are a small demographic group. I’m not saying this to be facetious. But someone remarked that ten million people in France read ten books a year or less, and someone else pointed out that only ‘x-percent’ of people in this other country read ‘y-number’ of books a year. There are plenty of other things to do which don’t require the investment of time that a good book demands of a reader. Why read when you can flip through two hundred channels of TV?

But what really got me was how much time I spend reading online. It’s about ninety-eight, or ninety-nine percent of my reading now. Without a computer, I would read a good deal less. Also, I read much less fiction than I did before, and a lot more technical and how-to material. Digital publishing brings the most up-to-date research to my device. With the devices available today, an old fashioned book is only one kind of programming, and providing it, like music, in the most portable, convenient, and ecologically sound manner makes perfect sense to this writer.

Stripping away everything that is inessential about a book and distributing it globally, to a potential market of one-point-six billion English speakers, at a world-shattering price of one dollar—that is revolutionary, ladies and gentlemen.

That would be a stroke of genius, if it ever comes up in conversation or debate.

A week or so ago, I gave away a box of CD’s. I may never buy a CD again, and the likelihood of buying an ‘LP’ ever again seems rather slim. Did the iPod and MP-3s kill music?

Did sound recorded on wax cylinders kill the orchestra?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

New Post: Kiss Theory of Social Media


This is my 'keep it simple, stupid,' theory of social media.

(For what it's worth.)

Considering the time investment in learning any new social platform, any sort of social media strategy is better than none.

Keep it helpful, positive or relevant, if nothing else funny or entertaining. People like to be liked, and they need to be listened to. There is no such thing as cynically 'reassuring' people. If you're fake, they'll spot it. When in doubt, keep silent.

Consistency over time is probably better than a big noisy splash that goes nowhere.

Right now I'm signed up for more social platforms than I can safely handle. Spewing out links that are boring, irrelevant, or shameless self-promotion wears thin pretty quickly. If you are not prepared to put in the time on any social platform, you're not going to get much out of it; and you're just doing unnecessary damage to yourself.

To engage using social media and at the same time distancing yourself from its emotional impact is not in my experience impossible. It is merely hard! It teaches me...maybe a little sensitivity...some objectivity. The fake IDs on some platforms make this clear: you are who you present yourself to be, because no one has anything else to go on.

'I'm not judging you,' sums it up nicely. I'm sure there are good reasons to put on a papier-mache goat's head and call yourself, 'Spawn of Goat-man,' or whatever.

In some ways social media are unregulated. A site is private property and you play by their rules or out you go. Like many things that are unregulated, they are self-policing. This has its dangers, especially if enough people mistake it for high school.

The unwritten rules of any community are enforced by group pressure. At that point it becomes a question of which group you choose to join,(or leave.)

Never click on pictures of some guy with a head like a goat promising 'special' picures of Jon-Benet Ramsey.

Trust your instincts and know when to back away quickly.

To be a writer, and to be friends on Facebook with 800 other writers is a bit like a convention of shoe salesmen. We are all exchanging business cards, trying to sell the other guy a new pair of shoes, and we all know they've got a big truck full of brand-new shoes out in the parking lot, and they're trying to sell us a new pair of shoes...and we've all got one eye on the other guy's friends list or fan list...and we're all just sort of doing our jobs and trying to keep it nice.

If you don't love people for their own sake, and not so much for what they can do for you, get out now while the going is good.

When I get a minute, I'll post a photo of my new shoes up on Facebook or something. Nice guy, gave me a great deal...hopefully he'll buy one of my books, sooner or later.

Does that sound cynical?


(This is the dumbest post you've made in some time. -ed.)

(Thank you. -louis.)

Friday, April 1, 2011

New Post: Spring Cleaning


I've been doing a bit of spring cleaning and I finally got around to doing something I have been meaning to do for a very long time.

Opening up the old dresser, which was about forty inches wide and thirty-two inches tall, I pulled out the bottom two drawers, which were awfully heavy and hard to handle. They hit the floor with a crashing sound.

I put in a fresh garbage bag and put the industrial-grade can right there and started throwing stuff out. It was bad. Taxes going back fifteen years, an old survey map, a deed of title and sale, and even worse stuff.

I mean old photos, stories and clippings from my youth. Old maps, including all the channel-depths of Lake St. Clair, old fishing and trapping manuals...it was bad. Did you know at one time I was going to go up north and claim some land and start prospecting for gold? It sounds nuts, doesn't it? But I was younger, stronger, healthier and maybe just a tad more optimistic back then. It'll never happen now, of course.

What the hell.

In some ways it was good to just chuck all that old stuff from the past and let it go. Let it frickin' rot!

It was like some big weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I filled up a couple of large garbage bags, and the pair of them probably weighed about ninety pounds.

You wouldn't want to carry that crap too far on a hot summer's day.

New Post: Promotion 101

c2011 Shalako

During E-Book week, we observed that page hits on our Smashwords e-books went up to eighty, a hundred, or even a hundred twenty-five per day. During a couple of short bursts of Twitter-feed promotion, again page hits went up, maybe in the twenty-five to fifty per day range.

The lesson is a simple one. When you promote the book, people look at it. When you don't, they stop! On our Smashwords statistics page, we can see that paid customers are in fact downloading books that they 'paid' for by signing in and typing in the promo code.

Now that the free book promotion is over, virtually no one is buying books even when the page hits are up due to links going out on Twitter and Facebook, etc. I still have one product for free on Smashwords. That is the short story, 'The Handbag's Tale.' People are taking this product, and I can see downloads on the stats page from time to time.

With the price marked at, 'zero,' rather than using a promo code, this does nothing to boost that all-important statistic, books that were 'sold' one way or another.

Right now my Smashwords total is only 135, so anything that sells or even just moves books is important. At some point, I have to put a price back on 'Handbag' just to make the counter move!

As far as pricing, any edge helps to move books. The funny thing is, people are buying my books from Amazon, and that number has bumped up since the promotion. In some crazy way, price doesn't even really matter.

Somehow promotion rubbed off...or something.

No one who isn't into self-publishing or writing really knows what Smashwords is. They don't want to sign up if they don't know anything about it, or its advantages, or how the system works. At that point price is meaningless.

Why I am selling more books in the U.K. as opposed to the U.S. is still a bit of a mystery. The ratio is 2.3/1 in favour of the Brits.

So for March, 'Heaven Is Too Far Away' is back in front, followed by 'Handbag's Tale,' with a surprising third-place resurgence of 'The Paranoid Cat,' and in fourth place is a steady 'Case of the Curious Killers.' Once again, 'Core Values' lingers in a distant trailing position, and maybe we should count ourselves lucky to have sold or given away seven copies of that book.

Promotion gives feedback, which means you have data you can attempt to interpret.

If I do something right, the numbers will climb...if I do something dumb, or just stop promoting...the numbers will fall.


First, I posted this at about noon on a Friday. There were virtually no page hits within an hour or so, yet when I made a post at about eight or eight-thirty last Thursday night, there were about forty page-hits. So time of day, i.e. 'prime-time' makes a big difference to a blog entry which cross-posts on Facebook or Twitter. In terms of technique, it's just dumb. However, I can 'share' it later or copy and paste the URL into posts on other platforms such as LinkedIn or Stumbleupon. It's all written up and everything. It's not a total waste, is what I'm saying.

By having a number of products and platforms, which is a lot of work to set up, it gives me the chance to experiment. By treating one book differently, or promoting one platform against another, I can compare results and try to figure out why one performs differently; or why it might be perceived differently.


While not exactly an expert, my mother is asking me to set up a free website for her.

That is so easy for me now, that it's really more a matter of her finding the time! If she had some short texts written up, and a few images, all I would really need is a little fuel and a couple of hours.

I started blogging in February 2010 and created my first website in August/2010.

I published my first two e-books last fall and I have seven or eight products in all, (some of which are experimental or promotional,) with a few more on the back burner.


If I treat it like a game, and enjoy it as a learning experience, I think we'll do all right, ladies and gentlemen.