Monday, February 9, 2015

My first interview. My first promo(s). Far from my last steps.

First the cool part.

Pretty much all the advice I hear from other writers stresses the importance of using book blogs to help get the word out. Promos and paid ads can work too, but social media is vital. When somebody sees a review or interview on a blog that they trust, it goes a lot further than a random ad that appeared in front of them. And yes, it doesn't hurt that it's free.

And so, I'm proud to introduce the first of what will hopefully be many author interviews. I'm thrilled with the way it turned out, and I hope you will be too.

Also cool, but not as cool.

While social media is the far preferable way to get the word out (we like free!), I figured it was worth experimenting with paid ads as well. Unfortunately, I have two big things working against me with this. Both caused by the same thing: a lack of reviews on Amazon. One book has one, the other has none.

[This seems like an appropriate time to interject: If you've read either of my books and enjoyed them, PLEASE go to Amazon and write a short review!]

The first reason this works against me is pretty obvious. Even if somebody follows an ad to my books on Amazon, they may be less willing to spend money on a book with few or no reviews. Especially when the very same page includes links to a dozen other books for the same price and dozens of positive reviews. The second is that many of the best paid listing sites won't even consider your book unless it has a minimum of 5-10 Amazon reviews with an average rating of four/five stars.

I wound up trying two sources that were available to me. One a listing on a book site that was technically free thanks to a trial membership, and the other an actual paid ad on a popular email list. The ad was a bit pricey, but at this point it's all experimentation so I went for it.


The free listing resulted in no sales bump at all. However, the paid ad and interview both came out the same day and I did get a clear spike! Not a giant spike, and nowhere near enough to pay for the ad, but clear nonetheless. Luckily, I am in this for the long haul, and am being realistic about my likelihood of making a profit in the short term. In other words, I'm not expecting it. YET.

Next up.

One of the keys is still to get more reviews. *nudge nudge*

Also, I clearly need to find more book blogs, especially children's book blogs that will help me reach my real target audience better. Also, I am working to find children's theater groups in particular, since The Pebble's Wish was inspired by acting exercises. I'm sure there are plenty of teachers out there who would love to have a resource like that.

If anyone out there has suggestions on people, blogs, or organizations to reach out to, please email me or leave them in the comments. Thanks in advance!


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

New book! Introducing "A Castle Under the Sun."

A classic fairy tale for modern readers.

Alone in a castle, there lived a small boy...

Growing up many of my favorite stories were the mysterious, magical tales like the King Arthur legends, Grimm's Fairy Tales, and the 1,001 Arabian Nights. It wasn't just the heroics or the magic itself, but that there was always something deeper going on beyond the plot. They weren't just stories about those characters. They were stories about ourselves.

In the real world, there are often things about ourselves that don't make sense from a logical perspective. At some point or other we've all asked ourselves, "Why did I say that?" or, "Why can't I let that event go?" But those illogical things are an important part of who we are as people. And this is something that those tales inherently communicate. 

How would a prince not be able to recognize the woman he loves without having her try on a glass shoe? How can a shadow separate from Peter Pan and take on a life of its own? How can an emperor really not see that he's naked in front of the kingdom? What could these stories possibly mean? They don't make sense logically, but in reading we feel them deeply and emotionally. And this is especially true of children. 

A Castle Under the Sun is a thrilling adventure that follows in this tradition. From the nearly-empty castle, to a mixed up land where shepherds unsuccessfully try to herd trees, to a terrifying army that is nothing more than shadows. And it all starts with a single boy.

Alone in a castle... but not for long.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

My first children's book – "The Pebble's Wish."

The Journey Begins!

I am proud to announce the publishing of my first of what will ultimately be many children's books!

The Pebble's Wish is one of those books that is a bit hard to categorize, but is very simple in its telling. It tells the story about the power of wish through a small pebble in the forest that learns to become so much more than a normal pebble. First by walking on land, then swimming or floating in the water, then flying, and ultimately radiating his own inner light. 

That description may sound a bit abstract, but the inspiration came from a place rooted deeply in the real world. I doubt you need to be told that today's world revolves more and more around screens. Television, computers, phones, and now even watches.

There are many fantastic things about the Internet, from access to massive amounts of information and the ability to connect around the world instantly. And many video games have been shown to improve hand-eye coordination and various intellectual skills. But if we're not careful, those things can come at a cost. And one of those big costs is that we often sit still for longer and longer periods of time, and forget to get up and run, dance, swim or move in any other way. This is especially important with children.

I witnessed this firsthand several years ago while working as a substitute teacher. For several weeks I was assigned to a particular group of classes where my students were separated from the main school because of construction. Instead, they were temporarily in a tiny building nearby with no outdoor area, and given little outlet for creativity or movement. As a result, by the end of the day even the quietest among them were bouncing off the walls. 

Around that same time I was also taking acting classes, which is where I learned about some of the amazing movement exercises created by the famed acting teacher Michael Chekhov. Some of his students included greats like Marilyn Monroe, Anthony Quinn, Clint Eastwood, Yul Brynner, Jack Palance, and so many more we admire to this day.

Although I often used slightly different language than Chekhov in the The Pebble's Wish, most of the action revolves around the exercise he referred to as "molding, floating, flying and radiating." 

One of my greatest joys in the development of this book is when I started reading it aloud to groups of children and saw that even without being prompted, many of them started spontaneously moving in the various ways that the characters were described. My wish is that in reading it yourself you encourage your listeners (or readers!) to move like the characters as well.

Finally, it must be mentioned that I was incredibly fortunate in finding my illustrator Kaira Mezulis who brought the story to life in a way that far surpassed my original intent. To learn more about her work, click here.

Please check out my book store, and remember to keep moving!


My first steps into self-publishing

The choice between dread and terror.

Any time we begin a new venture, there is bound to be aspects of it we aren't looking forward to. When I finally decided that it was time for me to start fulfilling my dream of writing children's books, I was faced with two options in getting my books published: The traditional route and the self-publishing route. And each one has their own strengths and weaknesses.


The traditional route is what writers have been doing for ages. You work on a manuscript. You mail the manuscript to publishers, agents, editors, and basically anybody in the phone book praying that someday one of your 500 gazillion efforts pays off. But of course when someone finally picks it up, you're guaranteed to at least make some money and get your book sent to stores all over the country. In other words, it's a huge grind unless you get lucky and hit it big.


The self-publishing route on the other hand is a bit more Wild West. In a way it's always been around, but nowadays with more and more people using e-readers, it's far easier to do and is losing a lot of the stigma that once went with it (partly because people don't recognize publishers and online is the great equalizer). Also, the royalty system is far better. You may not sell nearly as many books, but if you sell enough that can even out quickly. Traditional pays with volume. Self-publishing pays with quality. 

The downside is it's all you. If your books are poorly edited or you hire the wrong illustrator, it's you. If they sell well, it's you. If they don't sell well, it's you. Self-publishing is running your own business, with no one to count on or blame but yourself. And that can be scary.

The Choice

So basically, it comes down to a choice between dread or fear. In my case, my day job is currently advertising, where I've been working as a freelancer for years. The constant effort of networking, emailing, cold calling, and repeating as necessary is just a day in the life. I understand that's how it has to be in a lot of ways, just like how somebody needs to spend hours doing boring exercises if they want to become a virtuoso on the violin.

Fear on the other hand is different. Not phobias, but the fear of the unknown. Some may call it terror. This is the type of fear that came up when I thought about being 100% responsible. There is a type of fear we all know that is like the first time you ask out somebody you're really interested (or the second, third, fourth, fifth...). A fear you get when you first go to college. A fear that the aforementioned violinist gets the first time they actually perform in front of people. 

And one of the many lessons I've learned through life is that when I think of taking on a new project that fills me with that type of fear, it's usually a good thing. The fear itself is a hint. There's a reason a leap of faith is called a leap of faith. The willingness to dive into the unknown is everything. Even bigger than the question of success itself.

So this is my big leap. Though I wouldn't mind a bit of success as well. Wish me luck. 

(Or better yet, share this with your friends!)