Thursday, December 27, 2012

Free ebooks … a successful marketing tool?

It’s called marketing – and no, I don’t have one of my novels available for a free download on Amazon. There’s a lively discussion on Facebook started by a New York Times best-selling author. The romance author, who has been able to make a living writing novels for 20 years, wrote: As a writer, “I am SO offended by other writers giving away what they write I could scream.”

She continued, “It makes no sense to work day and night to make a product as good as you can make it, and then put it on the market knowing it's going to be buried by all the free books people are giving away."  as good as you can make it, and then put it on the market knowing it's going to be buried by all the free books people are giving away.”asasas good as you can make it, and then put it on the market knowing it's going to be buried by all the free books people are giving away.”as good as you can make it, and then put it on the market knowing it's going to be buried by all the free books people are giving away.”as good as you can make it, and then put it on the market KNOWING it's going to be buried by all the free books people are giving away.”

Her opinion generated plenty of comments – 106 all told. When she read the comments by readers and fellow writers, some contending giveaways are a good marketing tool, the popular author made a second posting. “I knew posting that earlier status would cause a stink. I am well aware of all the people doing free books and why they're doing free books and why they think it's a good idea and it still doesn't change one damn thing about what I think.” This time she received 70 comments.

I’m not an indie writer. I might try it if I get a large fan base. That way I’ll see a larger slice of the profit pie. My publisher tried a giveaway twice on holidays. They’re not doing it anymore. I wish the publisher had more resources to devote to marketing, but like so many ebook publishers nowadays, they don’t. They stress that authors have to pitch in and help market their novels.

What I see here on Facebook are indie authors making postings every time they have a freebie day or get a five-star review. There so seems to be a lot of freebies and five-star reviews. I’ve always been a bit suspicious of five-star reviews on Amazon. I have the inkling that many of them come from friends and fellow writers who want to help out the author. Another author who is a Facebook friend, Nadine Hays, was the lucky recipient of a review in the USA Today newspaper; that’s the best kind of favorable marketing and no doubt translated into many sales for her.

To me, a review in a national publication or even the local daily newspaper can be very effective in snagging more sales. Getting a local newspaper and radio/television station to mention a book signing at the public library or bookstore also can result in your novel settling into the eager hands of a potential future fan. Then word-of-mouth can take over – as reading addicts usually have friends who are read addicts as well.

I do blog, but I stay away from “how-to-write” posts. They’re way too dry and frankly there are way too many writer blogs telling fellow writers how to develop tension, characters and mood. Who wants to be one of the sand particles on the beach?

When I do post a blog or write something on my Facebook author page, I will try to link to it from one of the Facebook pages like “Books Gone Viral” and “Book Blogs and Tours.” Still, I’m not sure how effective they are. I sense that many of the writers posting on these pages don’t actually click on fellow writers’ links and read their blogs. They’re too busy marketing themselves. Now a mention or link by a popular blogger – and they’re out there – can be a godsend for a first-time author trying to make a splash in the ocean of published novels.

Lindsay Buroker is a successful blogger and indie author. Even before she became a self-published author – and a good one – she blogged about ways to make money online and garnered a readership. She now uses her blogs to market her fantasy novels and has been kind enough to link to other blogs of her author friends including me. Lindsay and I use to critique each other’s chapters on the Online Workshop of Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror. Unlike many indie authors whose books are cluttered with grammatical errors, her novels are clean, well written and fun reads. Her website -- -- includes paintings of her characters done by fans.

There are thousands and thousands and thousands of Ebooks on websites like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, ITunes and Smashwords. An author needs to find a way to outshine the others. Let’s use the timeless metaphor of the lit candle. Being an author nowadays is like being in a Christmas Eve church service holding an unlit candle. You need to make sure you sit in the first pew in the seat closest to the middle aisle. That way your candle will be the first one lit and will shine the only candlelight in the sanctuary. While you outshine the others, you need to make a few sales and win some fans.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Remembering horror and forgiveness...

Just six days ago Terri Roberts spoke at a Pennsylvania church about forgiveness and Christian love.

Terri is the mother of Charles Carl Roberts who back in October 2006 took 10 Amish girls between the ages of six and 13 hostage at the Nic...
Amish families showed Terri Roberts the power of forgiveness.
kel Mines Amish School and killed five of them before killing himself.

As she spoke in the church, she recalled hearing sirens on that fall day and saw helicopters racing across the sky. In response, she said a prayer, “Lord, please be with those people who need you.”

Soon, the phone rang at the office where she worked. It was her husband telling her she needed to come home immediately. In her car driving home she heard on the radio about a shooting at an Amish school.

When she got home, her husband and a state trooper met her.
“It’s Charlie. It was Charlie,” her husband told her, his eyes reflecting his soul’s pain.

How does a mother cope with the news that her son had shot 10 little girls and killed five of them?

“No, no, no, no,” she said. “This cannot be the man we know.”

Shattered, Terri had little desire to keep living. The deeply religious woman turned to her faith. She asked God “to take the pierces and put them back together, to bring new things” into her life.

Terri didn’t think she could ever face her Amish friends again. Instead, they came to her.

On the day of the shooting, an Amish neighbor stood behind her husband and rubbed his shoulders, consoling. She says that action symbolized Amish faith and the breadth of their forgiveness.

When Terri and her husband buried their son, the first parents to greet them at the graveside were the mother and father of two daughters killed by their eldest son.

When Terri finished speaking at the church, the congregation’s pastor said, “The Amish reaction to the shooting was amazing because it was instant. Their forgiveness transcends.”

My mom’s side of the family comes from Wayne County, Ohio and were Mennonites and shared Anabaptist roots with the Amish back in Switzerland. I deeply respect the Amish/Mennonite faith, even their pacifist ways. They have gone to jail rather than take up the gun and fight in our wars.

The Amish response to their killings can be a shining light in the darkness of despair for the families of those who lost their lives Friday in the Newtown elementary school massacre.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas memories settle comfortably in our hearts

Mom passed away 11 days before her 74th birthday and less than five weeks before her favorite holiday, Christmas.

2003 proved to be a difficult year. We watched mom lose the ability to use her muscles as ALS inexorably took her away from us. In her last months of her life, she communicated by nodding for "yes" and shaking her head for "no." Emptying the urine bag, changing the bedsore bandage, telling her we were sorry as we turned her on her side awhile she screamed ... those were our daily tasks in the fall of 2003.
It ended at midnight on November 14 when she turned her head as if looking at someone in the room and the next breath I waited to hear never happened. I rose from her reading chair, kissed her forehead, and said I loved her and would soon join her in Heaven.

I went into the living room and told my sister Jody and her husband Larry that mom had passed. In turn, Jody woke two of the girls, Quinn, finishing up college at Ohio University, and Vanessa, a high school senior, and everyone gathered in mom's bedroom. Tears flowed.

Mom always loved Christmastime.
So began the holiday season nine years ago.

Some who read this may think that Christmas has become a sad holiday for me, but that's far from the case.

I spent the rest of November and much of December in Beverly with my sister and her family. In the week before Christmas Jody, Quinn and Vanessa were at a Marietta shopping center when my sister showed her girls small wrapped presents.

"They're from your grandmother," Jody said. "Their gifts she chose from her Avon catalog."

Everyone cried.

The gifts were pretty remarkable when you think of the implications. With death near mom hadn't withdrawn from this mortal world, but had wanted her grandchildren to get presents from her just as they had since they were toddlers. She said Merry Christmas from Heaven.

Her gifts seemingly from Heaven saved Christmas for me.

Such love creates wonderful Christmastime memories.

My memories of Christmases past would not exist without her efforts to make sure my sister and I always woke up on Christmas Day with nice presents under the tree -- even in tight financial times.

In my toddler days, dad and her took me to downtown Akron to see the wonderful animated window displays in O'Neil's, Polsky's and other department stores.

Later, when we lived in Rialto, California, Christmas shopping always included a trip up the escalators of J.C. Penney, Sears and the Harris Company to their special toy departments. I loved seeing the elaborate model train displays with their Christmas villages and snow-covered countryside.

The Christmas season in Rialto also included an evening trip through the neighborhood famous for its houses decked out with thousands of Christmas lights and front yards populated by animated Santas, elves, grinches, toy soldiers, carolers, snowmen, candy canes and manger scenes.

As an adult, I looked forward to my annual trip north just before Christmas where I would join mom Christmas shopping. We'd always shop in nearby Parkersburg and then head north to Akron where we'd visit Grandma Mid in Rittman and do a bit of shopping at the Akron/Canton malls.

I especially remember December 1994 up in Canton. Christmas music was playing in J.C. Penney and Cleveland Browns memorabilia challenged holiday decorations for dominance. The Browns were in the playoffs that year and it was exciting to see fandom going bonkers over the Browns' playoff appearance. We bought a Browns ornament for the Christmas tree.

The years march on, and as the old hymn says, "Precious memories, unseen angels from somewhere to my soul, how they linger ever near me, and the sacred scenes unfold."