Wednesday, March 30, 2011

New Post: Spooky Tech from Google Blogs.


This is where it all happens, ladies and gentlemen. (Trust me. I know what I'm doing.)


by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2011

All Rights Reserved


Here are a few snippets of raw data from the past week, all of which require some analysis or simply chucking altogether as irrelevant. This is because I haven't posted anything since about the 22nd of the month. People still find the Shalako Publishing blog with some regularity.

Audience: Page Hits.Poland 18 Canada 14 Russia 7 Sudan 5 Slovenia 5 Taiwan 3 Vietnam 3 Germany 2 United Arab Emirates 1 Brazil 1

There is some pretty neat tech behind the audience and traffic analysis here at Shalako Publishing. There is data on traffic sources, and the types of browsers that people are using. Also, I'm a little startled to discover that people still use my free weebly.com website. That's because I never go there. It's too static, a place where nothing ever changes.

Even so, someone must be finding it when they Google me, (or whatever search engine they use,) and someone must be clicking on the links.

Pageviews by Browsers
Internet Explorer 63 (87%) Firefox 6 (8%) Chrome 1 (1%) Opera 1 (1%) Safari 1 (1%)

Pageviews by Operating Systems Windows 70 (98%) Other Unix 1 (1%)

Presumably one percent of operating systems are 'Top Secret.'

I have to admit, it's a little spooky to see all these blips on the radar screen, and to wonder if that's some guy in Russia looking into the other side of that screen, right 'now,' as the program states.

You got to wonder what the heck they are thinking, eh?

C'mon, man, buy a book. You know you want to.

-louis

Saturday, March 26, 2011

New Post: Stats Raise Questions




(Fried Steak. Recipe Self Evident.)


by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2011

All Rights Reserved


After taking a belated interest in my stats, they seem to raise as many questions as they answer.

One of the neat things on a Google blog is 'traffic source' data, which startled me.

I had no idea that my French-language blog, 'Les Shalako,' was getting so much traffic. That blog started off as a place to experiment with the online translation technology that is available to writers today. This kind of data used to be the exclusive province of the really big players.

So now we know what 'metrics' are! By using the translator, and then spelling and grammar check, the translated poems and stories, few as they are, are of some interest to some person or persons out there in Canada.

***

It's nice to know that some of my traffic comes from India, some from Iran, and Iraq, and Russia, and Eastern Europe.

Some of it comes from South America, including Peru, and Brazil as well as Canada, the US, Eire, etc. Somebody in Germany hit on my blog--why did that happen? How are they getting here from there? When and where did they stumble across me?

Exactly which post or promo, posted exactly where and when, resulted in this specific book sale?

Why did they pick this book, as opposed to another of my titles, or any other title?

What is it that they are specifically reading, and why are they reading it? A certain post might bring a certain number of hits from a certain place. We want new readers, and new friends. We also want to know why.

***

During the course of our E-Book Week promotion, back on Mar 5-12; we observed that it took approximately 13.9 page views to give away one copy of our e-book, 'Heaven Is Too Far Away,' and that same book takes a little over a hundred page-hits (on average) to sell one copy of the book. As anyone can see, the price is competitive.

So the goal for the next while is to drive up page hits, and take some steps, (I have no idea what,) to lower the page-hits/sales ratio.

The interesting thing is that I have never said that before in my life. I have never asked the question, 'Just exactly how is that done?" before.

Disruption brings fresh insights, and new questions will reveal new questions again.

Monday, March 21, 2011

He Earned It Honestly.

by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved


After dropping out of school in grade ten, I held a number of menial positions. I was a weekend watchman at the local grain elevators, I mopped floors in a local pub, and even delivered tombstones with my uncle. The funny thing was that I tried to go back three or four times, changed schools, the usual thing. On unemployment, there was the chance to go back for 'retraining,' to become a 'retread,' and I eventually got my grade twelve, the 'Level IV Equivalency Certificate' so demanded by the forward-looking employers of the day.

I was twenty the first time I ever injured my back, or felt any real pain. By the time I was about twenty-five, I knew that construction work was not a long term option, although it pays pretty well.

I wasn't a bad carpenter, or a bad welder, or a bad roofer, or a bad drywaller, or a bad high-pressure water blaster.

I went back to college and studied journalism. That was in September of 1983. Journalism is okay, and I did the job for a short while, nothing to brag about or put on a resume. But what I really wanted was for someone to teach me how to write.

Unlike some, I cannot claim that I was three and a half years old, dreaming of better days ahead as I underwent potty training...yearning for my eventual adult liberty and total creative freedom without restraint.

I've been writing for about twenty-six and a half years now. When I sell an e-book, it is such a wonderful feeling, to know that this is a privilege that many seek, and few shall attain.

When I see that thirty-seven cents accruing one sale at a time in my account, no one can take that away from me. I earned that thirty-seven cents.

It was honestly earned. No one is going to take that away from me.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

New Post: A Day Late and a Dollar Short.

Shalakoc2011



The big news is 'The hyper media Daily,' which is a paper.li paperless newspaper.

This is a system of link following and reposting in a format that somewhat resembles the old newspaper, but which more closely mimics what our local paper has online. By setting up another Twitter account, and then following selected twitterers we get a very personalized newspaper, or 'world-class newsletter' delivered to our inbox at six a.m. 'daily.'

By using my hyper-media account to follow my own @louisbshalako account, I can put my own stuff in my own paper alongside sources whose credibility scintillates with the glister of hundred-carat cubic zirconiums under a dental surgeon's worklight. The funny thing is that there are moral considerations, in spite of the fact that I could post eighty links on facebook in a day and no one would remark upon it.

On #wjcht Wednesday night, @girljournalist noted, 'I know someone who had their entire twitterfeed plagiarized,' and while it's an interesting discussion point, there was this one time when I posted my credit card and pin number on www.legitimatenigerianbusinessenterprises.com and some asshole bought himself a whole truckload of A.K.'s.

So; I don't feel sorry for you at all, and you're not on the feed anyway! If you would like to be included, please follow @hyperlouis and then DM and in twenty-five words or less indicate exactly what it is that you are bringing to the table.

So far 'The hyper media Daily' has three subscribers, and @hyperlouis has eleven followers on Twitter.

Another consideration was 'attribution' and 'link rot,' also concerning attribution.

If you're in there, your name is on there.

The paper.li paper is automatically updated every 24 hours, and if a source does not repost in that time, the same story might appear twice.

(The paper is of course archived by the Library of Congress and a number of foreign and domestic intelligence agencies...right?)

As far as I'm concerned, it is an interesting experiment, especially in terms of what sort of reaction one might receive.

By adding and removing links, which takes a few minutes per day, we've invented a pretty good little personal news service--which is all it really amounts to.

It is the creative, aggressive, and disruptive use of the thing, and the potential political impact of the proper use of it, by someone who actually knows what he is doing, that is most disturbing to the bourgeoisie.

I could create ten or twenty targeted papers in a day, if I chose--that's disturbing to the pulp and paper industry. I have no doubts about that, ladies and gentlemen.

Most invalid criticisms stem from unaddressed social tensions, often working from the mid-strata down. It's largely a matter of misperceived social status.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

New Post: Promo Insights from E-Book Week




by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved


The nice thing about Smashwords is that the author gets some data, which is easily understandable and accessible from your dashboard.

Over the course of E-Book Week Shalako Publishing gave free e-books to anyone who was willing to sign up for Smashwords. This is comparable to sign-up at any other electronic bookseller; and for the purposes of promotion even simpler because customers didn't have to provide credit or debit data.

Early on, I was promoting on Twitter to some degree, but over the last two days I let that rest, although naturally I still monitored the stream. Every day I put out at least one or two links to my pages on LinkedIn and Stumbleupon, and that sort of thing.

For the last couple of days it was mostly reminders; bearing in mind that Facebook is my biggest 'audience' or group of friends. On Goodreads, I gave a general update once a day in the morning.

Here are the peak numbers: Heaven Is Too Far Away, up to 80 hits a day.
Paranoid Cat and other tales,about 70/day.
Core Values (up to) 50/day.
Case of the Curious Killers, a nice 125/day.
The Handbag's Tale, about 100 a day.

Over the course of the promotion we gave away 130 e-books, with Handbag's Tale taking the checkered flag, followed by Heaven, Case, Paranoid Cat and then Core Values. The first three had over thirty each, Paranoid a couple of dozen and Core Values was the one that brought in a small donation. We also gave away six copies.

One thing I would like to know is the formats of each download--it would be nice to know exactly how many people took what format.

While this is a small sampling, it is at least as accurate as inteviewing rich people as they come out of Nieman-Marcus and asking them if they are hopeful about the economy.

By five o'clock on the last day I was getting incredibly tired, and perhaps a little slap-happy with the buttons. It is really something to put out a link and then watch page views climb...then the number changes up with another couple of book-freebies.

With little or no marketing experience, the week provided experience, and some new questions, which is always good.

A big thumbs-up to all of our new friends.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Marketing Notes for E-Book Week

by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2011

All Rights Reserved


Without going too nuts for promotion, I have been using Tweetdeck to schedule about four tweets per night. Last night I gave away one book, which seems worth the effort. I posted one link on Facebook this afternoon and gave away ten books in the space of five minutes.

On the bottom of each Smashwords book page, down in the right-hand corner, there is a list of social media links. These include the usual Fb and Twitter, but also Google Buzz, Reddit, Delicious, Stumble, etc. When I post something to Google Buzz, I have no idea where that goes or who sees it. On Stumbleupon, I have maybe twenty followers. Yet by clicking on things and trying things, including MySpace, and a couple of others, I have given away almost eighty e-books in six days.

Honestly, I can't even remember stuff I did Monday or Tuesday, except talk it up all over the place. I posted a blog entry on Wednesday, (I think.) Someone made a donation, which must have been a copy of 'Core Values.' For some reason that book is marked as, 'Set your own price,' and it was worth a buck and a half to someone! Thank you.

I would have been delighted to give away a thousand books. It's important to set a goal, after all. As to how this will translate into eventual sales down the road, or if it will result in any positive reviews, is something only time will tell.

On Twitter, I lost at least one follower...and gained about five more for whatever reason. (Free stuff? Marketing savvy? My boyish good looks?)

On LinkedIn, I posted a link and only later noticed the statement, 'No ads please in discussions!" The funny thing is that someone took a book or two...I'm almost sure of it. Anyway, I hope you like them.

I need a shave and I lost a couple of pounds. But the marketing data is priceless, and I have no regrets about that. Simply put, jam out a link and the books move out the door. Stop promoting, and page views drop to zero.

It can't be that simple...can it?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Big Challenge(s)

by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2011

All Rights Reserved


With three novels in the can, the big challenge is time and patience. What feels like a hold-up can be a blessing in disguise.

I say this because my next three titles absolutely must have killer covers. While some ideas on that subject are afloat in the simmering fluid that is my brain-bucket, plans remain secret.

All will be revealed soon enough, or when I know it, or whichever comes first.

All three books must be re-written ten or twelve times each. When you’re talking your fourth novel release, you had better be hitting some basic minimum standards of literacy, that’s for sure.

During the formatting process, I’m pretty analytical, and keep spell-check and grammar-check turned on until the last minute. Uploading revisions doesn’t take much time, but all platforms have different time delays before the new one turns up for sale. All of them provide your previous version in the meantime, but it is ‘red-face time’ if someone spots an error.

You might run into some person who wrote their doctorate on your subject matter or something, and the scary thing is that they might not tell you! They will get a laugh out of it, though. They’ll tell all their friends, too.

***

Speaking of fact-checking and stuff like that, my working titles, which I must have simply for filing purposes, are, ‘Time-storm,’ and ‘Shape-Shifters,’ and then I have ‘Horse-catcher.’

Googling around reveals that one of my favourite SF authors, Gordon R. Dickson, has a book called ‘Time Storm.’ (1971.) He wrote the Dorsai books.

(I recommend ‘Tactics of Mistake,’ 1977. He also wrote ‘Time to Teleport,’ 1960.)

Gordon Dickson passed on in 2001. I don’t know about the Dragon books so much, but I wouldn’t mind a few dog-eared old SF paperbacks at the right price!

It’s a good idea to check all the titles, and figure out something different that still captures the essence of the idea. You really can’t copyright ‘shape-shifters,’ but I’ll bet there are a few movies and books out there. At Christmas, my nephew was playing with a toy—you guessed it, some kind of plastic ‘shape-shifters.’ It’s on the box, and kind of a service mark, which can be registered. It is an asset to its owner and they hate when you steal it. I’m not a copyright lawyer, but the words ‘shape-shifter’ are public domain and anyone can use them!

***

For a whole host of reasons my ‘schedule’ is pretty loose right now, and it might be time to set some kind of a deadline. Pick a project and just do it.

I’ve been shopping for cover art. I don’t know that much about art, but I know what I like—and I’ll know it when I see it. That Art Fundamentals course in community college might pay off after all! Just one of the benefits of a liberal, (and fairly cheap,) education.

***

My first novel, ‘Heaven Is Too Far Away’ would have been about 230,000 words without cutting, and it ended up about 180,000. This would not have been publishable by conventional standards without coming up with a trilogy or something, and I felt unable to cut it by 70,000 words. To come up with three logical endings for three volumes of 76,000+ words each, was and still is beyond my capacity to imagine. The book starts at the beginning and ends at the end. I must have read 150 books, mostly from the library, in order to write that book. At some point, I knew there was a possibility that a military historian or an enthusiast would read it.

If nothing else, I felt I could compete. While ongoing research into WW I will become ever more refined, if not even regressive or ‘bourgeois-revisionist’ in some ways, the basic facts are verifiable. For about a million reasons I have tried to write a few stories for a younger or less sophisticated audience in terms of science fiction.

What gets me time and time again is that I am essentially a comedy writer. That has its dangers, not the least of which is that it might be perceived as ‘mockery,’ which is essentially what it is anyway.

But it also makes it a hard sell, as I am finding out. I’m not afraid of a little research, but if I use sound, (and fairly simple) scientific concepts, especially the softer sciences, a really good writer might do well with a different demographic group.

Stories for youthful rocket scientists had better be good.

***

So my Smashwords edition of ‘The Handbag’s Tale’ had the same problem I talked about before. One small section had ‘squooshy’ text. The original file looked fine. I uploaded the correct file…I scrolled through every page of ‘Case’ in Kindle for PC and it looked fine. I would like to know what causes this problem. And it looks way worse in Mobipocket reader. Incidentally, Kindle for PC definitely ‘takes over’ every Mobi-type file in your hard drive. That can be a pain when you are testing files from other sources, because you never really know which one you are looking at.

It is irksome. All I could do was to re-upload that file and check it later, and of course I re-dated the file. When that didn’t work, I went back to the ‘nuclear option.’

1.) Take the original .doc file and save it as a .txt.
2.) Copy and paste into a fresh, blank .doc file.
3.) Re-format from scratch.
4.) Turn off pilcrows, grammar and spelling.
5.) Check front matter and re-upload.
6.) Check every page when it comes live.
7.) Cross your fingers and pray.

This worked beautifully, and so far I’ve given away nine or ten of them from Smashwords for E-Book Week, (March 6-12.)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

E-Book Week Promotion.

Our E-Book Week (March 6-12) promotion is going well.

It's pretty exciting to put out a link on Twitter or Facebook, and see that someone has actually taken a free book. I wish they would grab all of them while they're in there.

Some of the data (all of the data) is useful. For example, 'Core Values' has not been mentioned in any of my tweets, or recently on Facebook. Predictably, page views on the Smashwords site are running at about one per day. Even so, we've given away a copy of the book since the event began on Sunday.

On the other side of that coin, 'Heaven Is Too Far Away' has been getting over forty page views per day, at least today, and 'The Paranoid Cat and other tales' has similar results. As for 'The Case of the Curious Killers,' that book has had over fifty hits today so far, and it isn't even eight p.m.

Without going too 'spammy,' and bearing in mind I'm giving things away for free, the results seem pretty positive. If nothing else, customers are curious about what our product actually is, and now a few of them know. It shows that there is genuine desire for the product when I can give four or five books away in pretty short order, right?

The question is one of balance.

My early experience on Facebook is that even on the news feed, constant self-promotion can be self-defeating. At some point you have done your job, and the people deserve a rest! But honestly, on Twitter, there are people tweeting constantly about trivialities such as Charlie Sheen or whatever.

As long as I'm nice about it, and the humour isn't too outrageous, I think I can get away with it to a certain extent. A few times a day, not a few times an hour, and it seems okay so far.

Utimately it's not about me and it isn't so much about the books. It's about entertaining the reader. You can't do that if you piss them off and they go off to spend their time somewhere a little more pleasant.

It sure is interesting, though.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The End of the Beginning of the End of the Beginning.

by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2011

All Rights Reserved


To pick up a phone book is to reveal a rectangular bare patch surrounded by slightly-tacky black fuzz.

To look at a folder is to disturb a quarter-inch of fine gray dust. To open a kitchen drawer is to despair. To pick up some old hats, and to realize that he will never wear them again...and the hats are too dirty, too old for the Goodwill.

To open up the door and go into the room is to smell bear-smell. Sweat, old socks, dead skin, and Gold Bond, slightly fermented.

To look in a drawer is to see fifteen years of bills, all neatly bundled, in order, labeled in blue ink along the top edge. 'Paid.'

It is to wonder about an old photo, to ask what will one do with a handful of old Scout badges...should they go on E-bay? Or isn't it better to let them die with dignity?

To look at a bookshelf and wonder what will happen to all of those books. Some of them are worth keeping...but not all of them. They're just falling apart.

Who wants the couch?

'Not I,' said the cat.

An old table will burn, old bed sheets can go straight to the garbage. The Health Unit would condemn them anyway. I don't ever want to see another man wearing this coat or this shirt...

The pendulum clock on the wall hasn't worked in years, but it belonged to Uncle Ed.

Straight to the garbage.

Remember the electric organ in Uncle Ed's dining room?

He used to take me over there and he would play the thing. He never had a lesson in his life. He wasn't too bad, actually.

The basement leaks. It will affect the price, no doubt about it.

Where he is now, is clean, and tidy, and he gets three square meals a day. He has people to look after him, and someone to talk to.

I couldn't look after him any more.

They tell me I'm free now.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Real Hard Business Noggin.

by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved



After reading L.J. Sellers' 'Spinetingler' guest post of February 18, ‘Joining the Indie Revolution,’ I have to admit my guts were churning.

What used to be vanity publishing is now a very tough call. Monday morning I received a rejection slip for a full-length book manuscript. That was the only book submission that I had out there. I haven’t been sending them out. I had a long list of excuses.

For all anyone knows, that might have been the last manuscript submission I will ever make.

As usual, it hurt. Big, bad, Lou’s feelings were hurt. A couple of hours went by and maybe it makes sense after all. If that publisher did send me a contract, it would have been a far different contract than anything they would have offered two years ago.

My story is similar to LJ’s. Her courage blows me away. She had to do some hard thinking. Back in 2009, I signed three contracts. I knew nothing, and everyone said, ‘Don’t even think about! Just sign!’

I’m used to poverty, and I had nothing to lose. I signed them. It was only later when I asked myself, ‘Why?’

Why send me contracts at all? Did my work have some value that was unknown to the writer? What could it possibly be? I was just some guy who thought he was a writer.

I had more than my fair share of questions, but then all writers seem to struggle with doubts. (At least the unsuccessful ones.)

Your family members or your best friends know nothing about this industry. Neither did I, but as a former journalist I at least have some idea of how to do the research. I know enough to ask questions…now.

I didn’t talk to an agent or a lawyer. I signed the things, and sent them back, and then I started to worry.

When I began to hear about problems in the industry, and the small publisher I had signed with wasn’t returning my calls, and not answering my e-mails, what the heck was I supposed to think?

We were all looking for the big advance. We were all looking for an agent, one who would take us out to lunch at the Four Seasons and surprise us with a million-buck publishing contract.

We were all looking for editors, publishers, distribution, buzz, and hype; and professional promotional efforts on our behalf. We were looking for validation and someone to take us under their wing.

The odds of an author who has never been in print with an acceptable mainstream, ‘big box’ publisher getting a contract of any kind are out the window.

Industry analysts have predicted major problems in mid-2012, and others have predicted the problems will actually arise in mid-to-early 2011.

I wish I could report anything like LJ’s numbers, but she has been doing this longer than I have, and she has certainly earned her success.

Our personal circumstances are different. When anyone mentions paying for formatting, professional book design, copy editing, that’s not an attack on me; in spite of my own occasional doubts and misgivings. In this case, necessity is the mother of virtue. I will simply learn it on my own.

This is a full-time job. The competition just got a whole lot stiffer, judging by the number of former journalists, book editors, and other industry pros looking for work right now.

Many of them will turn to writing books and stories themselves. They know everybody and have all the advantages in terms of networking. The odds of placing a story in a professional magazine just got a whole lot tougher. I haven’t placed a short story in two months! But, when I do, it will be right beside the greats in my genre. (That will be fine.)

What a marvelous opportunity this marketplace presents to anyone with the guts and the brains to take advantage of the situation.

The key thing is to listen well and learn everything we can about the craft of writing and its important corollary, selling books, without a whole lot of help from a system in shambles.

I had a contract offered back in November. It was hard…they didn’t seem willing to negotiate on an advance and they weren’t answering the most basic of questions. The book, my fifth novel, entitled, ‘The Shape-shifters,’ would have come out in November 2011.

I did not sign the contract. But then, I actually read the thing.

I’m not the brightest light in the firmament, but all I can say is, ‘No guts—no glory.’

***

So far 'Heaven Is Too Far Away,' my parody of the hunt for the Red Baron is my best selling title and especially so in the U.K. Second is a tie between 'The Case of The Curious Killers,' and 'The Paranoid Cat and other tales.' The first is a comedy SF space opera-parody, and the second a collection of speculative fiction. Someone bought a Kindle edition of 'The Handbag's Tale' within hours of its publication, which shows the value of my shameless self-promotional efforts/campaign.

Predictably enough, with the skull of a dead rat on the cover, 'Core Values' is the dog of the pack, and still in the number five slot. The title scares 'em more than anything.

At least that's my impression. That one was free all month on Lulu.com, but I'm thinking of extending that for another month.