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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

June 2013

In an Orange-Colored Sky

Nasty 6:00 AM start to the day today.  The sky started out red, went to orange (wasn't there a song about that?), and then to an eerie yellow, followed by purple with gold-topped clouds, and then - -  black! The rain poured, the wind blew, and most of the blossoms on our crepe myrtle ended up in a white puddle in the middle of the driveway. It sounds colorful, but the cats did not find the thunder and lightning particularly appealing.  They have a habit of hiding in the nearest cupboard at the first clap.  The funniest part is watching them re-emerge after the storm passes.  Noses poke out of the door, then the body slinks out, but as soon as their hips appear, the door starts to close, inevitably catching a droopy tail.  I try not to laugh when they jump and whirl to see what is attacking them from behind.  All quiet now, at least until the next wave passes through.

While we wait, I've found a couple of articles for you today:

The Writing Game: A Collection of Advice and Clever Tips for Writers of all Genres

Every writer has a set of tricks to help navigate through thorny spots in the writing process. Maybe some of them will help you, too.  This article offers some insight into the way the mind of a historical fiction writer works.  It rings true to me.

Find it at: http://www.scoop.it/t/the-writing-game

Self-Publisher: How To Be Your Own Publisher without Going Bankrupt

When you think about doing a launch for your new book, do you start six months before publication, or does it come as an afterthought?  Here's why an early start works best.

Find it at: http://www.scoop.it/t/self-publisher

News You Can Use

Back to searching the web today for news that doesn't make the news.  After being away for a couple of days, I found some really interesting articles to pass along.

The Historian's Point of View:  The Experiences of the Past, Seen through Current Events

On this site, I'll be gathering articles about the craft of history -- new discoveries, new methods, new controversies.  Today's article is a scatological one, having to do with discoveries in ancient toilets. Medievalists have been arguing about this for days!

The Writing Game: A Collection of Advice and Clever Tips for Writers of all Genres

Every writer has a set of tricks to help navigate through thorny spots in the writing process. Maybe some of them will help you, too.  This author says there are predictable stages in writing a novel.

Self-Publisher: How To Be Your Own Publisher without Going Bankrupt

Current views and helpful tips from authors who have switched to self-publishing.  One of our hardest jobs is learning how to be a successful marketer.  Here are some good suggestions about using press releases.

The Civil War in South Carolina

As I once again plunge into the history of the Civil War in South Carolina, I notice more and more internet articles that touch on my research.  Some of them inform my next book, "Damed Yankee" while others remind me of incidents in "Beyond All Price,"  "Left by the Side of the Road,"  and "The Road to Frogmore." I'm collecting them here for my own information and to fill my readers in on stories about  Civil War history they may not have heard in school. Descendants of South Carolina slaves still think of themselves as the Gullah/Geechee Nation.  Here are two articles from their recent newsletter, one on Gullah music and another view of Harriet Tubman.

Memphis Newspaper Keeps Its Sense of Humor

In recognition of the Civil War Sesquicentennial, “Civil War-Era Memories” features excerpts from The Memphis Daily Appeal of 150 years ago. The Appeal is publishing from Atlanta.

June 17, 1863
To News Agents — Having our fast press now in operation, and having a plentiful supply of paper on hand, we are prepared to fill all orders for the APPEAL for any amount, provided always that such orders be accompanied by cash.

Attempt to Kill Gen. Forrest — We learn that several days since, Lieut. Gould, of Captain Morton’s battery, attacked Gen. Forrest, at Bethesda church, between Columbia and Franklin, snapping a revolver at him, the cap failing to explode. Forrest closed upon him with a knife, cutting him, where, or whether or not severely, we are not apprised. Gould then fired his revolver, shooting Forrest in one of his hips, the ball striking the bone. (Several accounts of the wounding of Forrest by one of his own men appear in the APPEAL in the days following the incident. Forrest recovered quickly, but the 23-year-old Gould, who had been stabbed in the lung, died two weeks later. For more details, see http://bit.ly/1bWClnn).

June 20, 1863
The Memphis Bulletin thinks that if conscience has not entirely played out, the city of Memphis is quite a loyal place — some four thousand of the Southern people having taken the oath of allegiance. It would seem that the corrupt journal has no great confidence in the sincerity of those who are forced to take the oath. Perhaps there is some ground for that opinion.

Important from the North — Harrisburg / All business is suspended here today. All the important documents have been removed from the Capital ... Gov. Curlin calls upon Pennsylvanians to defend the state . . There is a perfect panic in Philadelphia at Lee’s advance.

June 23, 1863
Towns Destroyed in Mississippi — The Federals have totally destroyed the town of Batesville, on the Mississippi and Tennessee railroad, and partially destroyed Panola, one mile distant.

Another Band of Raiders Thrashed — Gen. Chalmers has cut up and dispersed the column of Federal raiders that came south from Memphis, via Hernando. One hundred and fifty of the band, including the commander were captured.

Vanity Fair says at the present moment, in fact, there are but two obstructions to the free navigation of the Mississippi river. One of these is the Confederate army, the other is the Federal.

Gearing Up for a Productive Summer

A few days ago, I informed our cat sitter that she was out of a job for the summer. (Yes, we have a cat sitter on retainer. She's wonderful about coming in whenever we leave town to water plants, open and close the shutters, pick up mail, newspapers, and packages, give the 19-year-old cat his morning medicine, and play with the young ones until they're tuckered out) I have good intentions and high hopes for staying home during the hottest part of the summer (all contingent, of course, on the air-conditioner remaining in working condition.) And from now to the middle of September, I'm going into maximum production mode.

Here's what I hope will happen during that three-month period:

1. We have a shower stall leak that will require major repairs involving tearing out the old tile, ripping up wallboard, and replacing everything with a one-piece, easy-care shower compartment that won't require much maintenance. I'll tolerate a few days of noise and mess if it means no one has to keep crawling around on the tile with bleach and re-grouting gunk. Have you ever watched "Holmes on Homes" as he tears out and replaces? Well, wish us similar luck.

2. Our condo association has also scheduled our unit to have its siding painted, so I'll be forced to be up and dressed in the early mornings before painters arrive to peer in the windows while they work.  That's a good thing -- being up and about, that is, not the peering in the windows part!

3. Our favorite non-profit (of which I am now Immediate Past President, thank goodness for the "past" part!) will be holding its annual dinner and auction fund-raiser on August 10th.  I'll be working on it for a couple of days, of course, but no longer in charge -- and it's all here in town.

4. On the writing front, the first half of my next book, Damned Yankee: The Story of a Marriage, will be winging its way to my editor by July 1st.  The chapters are written and now only need a quick a blooper hunt before I let Gaby take an in-depth crack at the content.

5. Meanwhile, I'll be working with the designer to come up with a cover design and a pre-publication trailer -- cover in August, trailer in September.

6. At the same time, I'm working on a second edition of Left by the Side of the Road: Characters without a Novel. If you haven't seen that book, it's a collection of short stories, based on characters and events that didn't make it into my longer historical novels. It is currently enrolled in the KDP Select program, which means that it does not exist elsewhere.  However, you can pick the Kindle edition up for only 99 cents or for free if you're an Amazon Prime member until mid-August. Then the second edition will appear in the regular Kindle listing, as well as in trade paper format and on Smashwords.

7. Before the second edition comes out, I'll be adding new introductions to many of the selections, several new stories, and more links to the books from which the stories disappeared. That's where some of my early summer writing time will be spent.

8. What about the second half of Damned Yankee? I haven't forgotten about it, but I want to make sure that the first half of the story arc is set before I move into part two. Writing there should begin again in August.

9. I'll also spend part of the summer gearing up for a second promotional push for The Road to Frogmore.  In fact, that was my first summer project.  I just finished a re-design of Frogmore's website, so pleases stop by and visit. It will get some new hype at a writers' conference in late September, and then we're scheduling its first-anniversary book tour to South Carolina in November.

10. I may throw in a little pre-publication promotion for Damned Yankee during that trip, since it is set in Charleston, but actual publication is not scheduled until Spring 2014.  There will be time in December for some vacation downtime before then.

And that's "How I'll Be Spending My Summer!"

Every Self-Publisher Needs To Be a Marketing Expert

Here's the final section of the article on 21 things a self-publisher needs to know.  And once again, I want to thank the source of these suggestions:

About the Author:
James Altucher can be found at jamesaltucher.com and @jaltucher, where he spills his guts and talks about failure, success, more failure, a little bit of death, and hopefully some life. And his latest book, "Choose Yourself!" (foreword by Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter) comes out this week..

21. Marketing 201
I almost hate the word “marketing.”
It feels to me like, “what gimmicks can I do that will get people to talk about my book and then buy it.”
I wanted to make sure any marketing I did was integrated with the actual message of the book, which is that in order for people to succeed, they need to “choose themselves.”
This is not only a choice they need to make economically, but a choice they make internally, with their physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
And the actual message of the book has some marketing possibilities …
The middle class is dead, every major corporation is systematically firing all of their employees, and we all are going to have the choice of whether or not we want to be artist/entrepreneurs or temp staffers.
So on some of the blogs and sites I guest post on, I will be writing up that story.
I’m a big believer in the message. I  give techniques for how I think people can be happier given that the economic landscape has turned upside down. We are all struggling with money, with happiness, with loneliness. Choose Yourself! tells my story of how I failed, got up again, failed, got up again, and then stayed up.
And I wanted to spread that message to others.

I found a post by Kevin Kelly that suggested a marketing idea of paying people back who read your book. Kevin got a bit technical in terms of figuring out if the person actually read the book or not. He wanted an ereader that could figure that out.
I decided to trust the actual reader. So, I put together an offer that would pay people back, those who could prove to me that they read the book. How they proved it to me was up to them, rather than resorting to technical means on my part.
Why not just give the book away for free? And why not just rebate if they bought the book?

  • People — in general — do not value things they get for free. I wanted people to put the money out, read the book, and only then would I pay them back.
  • Most people buy books, but do not read them. This was an incentive to actually read the book.

I don’t care if I make any money on the book.
The message is very important to me. That’s why I’m willing to pay people back … if they can prove to me they read the book.
So this was marketing that wasn’t just a gimmick but woven into the fabric of what the book meant to me. But I still needed a way to get the message out if I was going to do this marketing.

I called Ryan Holiday, who’d marketed the books of Tim Ferriss, Robert Greene (48 Laws of Power), Tucker Max, John Romaniello, all of whom had hit #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list. He literally had 100 ideas for marketing the book. First we came up with several ideas like the one I just laid out above.
One idea that popped up was that I would become the first author ever to  pre-release a book for bitcoin buyers only. We did this, and it was covered by SF Gate, Media Bistro, CNBC, Business Insider, and other places.
Why bitcoin?
Bitcoin is a “choose yourself” currency. It’s not dependent on a government, a person, a country, etc. and its use is getting more and more widespread. The week I released the book on bitcoin, my pre-orders on Amazon spiked so much I became the #1 kindle book for Entrepeneurship, a full month before release.

Prereleasing on bitcoin also means that I now have several hundred people who have (hopefully) read the book, and many of them have already told me they will be reviewing the book on Amazon. Having many reviews on Amazon straight out of the gate helps Amazon know that your book is one they should feature.
In two days I’m going to announce another adventure that is tightly integrated with the message of the book that I think will also generate interest.
Ryan also suggested various joint content plays (a podcast, for instance) I should do with various bloggers who had large email lists.
This is all still in process (the book is coming out today) but compared with my last book, this book will probably be seen by an extra million (or more) people over the next week.

The first step in marketing is what I described above: build your audience. The second step is a cliché but you have to do it: write a good book.
But for a specific book, come up with ten firsts based on the content of your book that nobody has ever done before. And then make sure the media becomes aware of it.
Hiring a marketing expert allowed me to continue focusing on what was important to me — the writing and the message — while he coordinated more than 100 media sources for the various messages I was putting out about the book.

Why are you self-publishing a book?

Because you are an addict. Like me. But there are some other reasons.
Take pride in yourself and in your work. You are all talented and smart people, else you wouldn’t be reading Copyblogger and working on your own art and creativity.
Some of the things I describe above cost money, some don’t, and some can be done super cheap.
Take your work very seriously.
This is your child you’re letting go out into the world. You want to do it right. Enlist the help of a team. Make it team-publishing instead of self-publishing.
Your book will, of course, stand on its own merit. The only way to have a truly successful book is to have a well-written, unique message that stands out among the cacophony of noise.
But everything I describe above will lend credibility, authenticity, and ultimately audience to the effort:

  • Building the platform and trust with your audience way in advance.
  • Writing a strong story while at the same time delivering value.
  • Connecting  all the dots on editing, design, title, print version, audio version.
  • Having many strong  marketing messages and a way of delivering those messages. Making sure the messages aren’t gimmicks, but real ways that show you are living the message you write about.
  • Infusing professionalism into every aspect of the process. The goal here is not to publish as easily as possible. The goal is to publish professionally in a way that leaves the traditional publishers in the dust.

You are your own publisher.
You are the one who believes in the message and your art and now want to share it with others and ultimately it is you who is choosing yourself to deliver that message. A message that, when properly packaged, will be a delight to the reader to receive.