Tuesday, February 28, 2012

To Select - Second Free Run Results

A few weeks ago, I decided that, given the success of my first free run with Amazon's Select program, I'd give it another shot. Being a bit of a pessimist, I was more than a little apprehensive about doing it again. I'd had pretty good success on my first run, but would lightning strike twice for the same book? I learned a lot from my own experience and those of my fellow authors who keep a running thread of stats over on the Kindleboards. There's enough statistics on going free over there to drive you up a wall and back down. My first run had been a single day and was on a Saturday. This meant that the magical 2-3 day post-free sales bump occurred between Monday and Tuesday. My theory was that a free run that occurred on a mid-week day would then land the bump on the weekend, closer to the time when I figured more people would be buying.

I scheduled my second free day on February 22nd. I notified a slew of websites over a week in advance. There are really only two that matter; pixelofink.com (POI) and ereadernewstoday.com (ENT). POI and ENT are bastions of freebie-loving readers. Each site has 200,000+ loyal followers on Facebook and their legend among indie authors grows. They post free books throughout the day on their blogs and Facebook. To be included in these posts can mean the difference between giving away 1,000 and 10,000 copies. And, that can mean the difference between selling 2 dozen copies post-free and selling 200. In my first run, which was only a day, I only managed to have one site mention me, but it was still all I needed for a great 1-day total. I thought, this time, I'm much more prepared. But, there was still the unknown element of going free with the same book for a second time. I'd not heard any results and had no evidence that it would be as successful as the first time.

When I woke up on Wednesday morning, I was a bit dismayed. At 7 AM I had apparently only given away 5 copies. It was more of a slow start than I'd expected. Of course, being home sick from work that day (really!) was of no help...as I was able to watch the numbers on an almost constant basis. By 3 PM, the numbers were respectable and actually better than my first run at the same time: 1181 "freeloads" in the US. My UK and DE numbers were much weaker this go round. I have no explanation for that, except that maybe the Brits and Germans keep their book buying for the weekends. I got picked up by ENT that evening, but by 8:30 PM, I knew my day was not going to be as successful as my first run: 2722. At that point, I had yet to break into the Top 100 Free books on Amazon, something I had determined to be an important milestone. I made an executive decision that night. I was going to add another day and remain free through Thursday. By Friday morning at 3 AM ET, when the switch back to paid should have occurred, I'd given away 6970 copies and stood at #90 in the Top 100 Free. I'd actually been as high as #57 earlier in the day, but the onslaught of new freebies had pushed me down. I was satisfied, but not really thrilled that it had essentially taken two days to do what one had done last time. The best moment had been the realization that someone in France decided to download my book for free; a first for me to have anything from that store.

Now, the last time I'd gone back to paid status, the sales came in fairly quickly. There was no lag. I didn't see a flood of sales, but it had moved along nicely that first day (a Sunday) before really picking up between Monday and Tuesday that week. I made it as high as #742 on the Top Paid list at one point and finished consecutive days in the 800s. Well, I watched my sales number throughout the day and got scared. It barely moved. One sale...maybe two. I thought, the magic is gone. I had been a one and done. The Amazon algorithms had changed and I'd just given away 7000 books for nothing. Then, I took a deep breath and reminded myself that patience was a virtue when it came to this game. Saturday came and all was right with the world. By 7 PM Saturday evening, I'd sold 60 copies and had 5 borrows. On Sunday, I climbed to my highest rank of #1,831 overall paid. Not as high as last time, but not too shabby. It stinks being in a category like Suspense. Lots of competition...lots of good competition (on any given day, the worst book in the Top 100 in Suspense is #1400 overall in the entire store; other categories, some of the more obscure ones mind you, can have folks who are ranked as high as #20,000).

Not sure if this is legible as is, but it's supposed to show my last month of sales activity. Click to enlarge.


It's now Tuesday night and I've been back to paid for 5 days. I've sold a total of 169 copies and had 13 borrows in the US. I've had no paid sales in the UK this time round and saw very little action at all in the German store. Nowhere near as successful as my first attempt, but I still consider it a success. Still sold more books in five days than all of last year, so there must be something to this. I've now sold 377 copies of my book in the month of February and have 73 borrows. That follows up 201 and 12, respectively, in January. 578 and 85...not too shabby. Sure, I had to give away 14,000 copies, but c'mon!

Things I've learned:

1. A POI or ENT mention is critical to success. It's as simple as that. Yes, you might reach a few thousand "freeloads" without them, but to really get the big push, you need their quick access to heavy firepower. Hundreds of thousands of readers all itching to pick up free books...even if they never intend to read them. I think POI needs upwards of 3 weeks' advance notice now...and even that may not guarantee you a spot. I've given them 4 weeks for my next free day.

2. Reaching the Top 100 Free is a necessity. If you're close and you were only going free for a day, book a second day so you get there. If you're already there on your first day, keep going! The higher you climb free, the more you'll get into the Amazon algorithms and, subsequently, the more you'll be seen afterward.

3. There is little you can do to control what happens on your free day. Just roll with it. What happens happens. It's not a personal affront to you or your book...really. Deep breaths. Remember, you have 5 free days and after 90 days, you can get out of Select if you're really not that happy with it.

4. There is nothing more addicting than having the ability to see your sales updated in real time. It's an awful, wonderful, horribly fascinating and terrifying thing, but you already knew that.

5. Everyone has a different experience. Some folks have gone free and struggled to give away 500 books one time, then turned around and gave away 5000 their next. It's a process. Give it a chance. Be patient with it if you can. It can and has worked for many.

So far, I'm happy with the Select system. It's worked for me. I think it's the ideal mechanism for promoting a first-in-series book. But, at the same time, I don't think I'll be enrolling books 2 and 3 in the trilogy. We'll see though. Now that I have two runs under my belt, I'm trying to apply everything I know for the last free run of my first Select 90 days. I'll keep you posted. ;)

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Same Six Questions - Kate Ellison

Where is the time going? Another month is coming to a close and guess what? I've almost run out of interviewees! Yep, it's time to open the submissions back up! If you're an author and interested in taking part, please head over to the main Same Six Questions page. In the meantime, welcome this week's guest, Kate Ellison!

Thanks, Andy! I live in Atlanta, Georgia with my husband and our two bad cats. When I'm not writing, I enjoy playing strategy board games like Settlers of Catan, watching NBC comedies like Parks and Rec *fist pump* and gardening. I am a fan of the serial comma, but I couldn't figure out how to gracefully insert it into that sentence. Oh well. I'm not a perfectionist, you see.


The Same Six Questions

1. Have you published a book yet?

I have! Several, in fact. The first book I published was The Curse Girl, a YA paranormal fantasy. It's a modern, loose adaptation of Beauty and the Beast with a twist. In this version, Beauty and the Beast are trying to break the curse by figuring out a mysterious riddle and outsmarting the witch who cursed him, not by falling in love (although they MIGHT do that anyway). The book is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.




2. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Since I was six years old. I've always been scribbling stories down on paper, and I started saying I wanted to be an author when I grew up as soon as I knew what that was.


3. What was your first lengthy piece of fiction (say, >1000 words)?

My first lengthy piece of fiction was the mystery series I started writing at age eight. It probably sounds extremely precocious, but it wasn't really. Each "book" had three chapters and was three pages long. I styled them like Nancy Drew, and the adventures were set all over the world. I believe I wrote ten or twelve of them. I've still got them in a box somewhere.

The first one was called The Secret Room.


4. When was your first indication, "I can do this (write)"?

When I was around ten or so, I wrote something for a class and my teacher went nuts over it. She even called another teacher over to read it too, and they got all wide-eyed and told me I was a good writer. Seeing an adult get that excited about my writing gave me a lot of confidence in myself.


5. If you could meet one of your characters in real life, which would it be?

Probably Bee, my main character in The Curse Girl. She's not a very girly girl, and she likes to be logical and smart about stuff. We could have some good conversations, I think.


6. It's a dark and stormy night...you're alone in the house...there's a knock at the door...you open it, look out, and proceed to scream like a little girl. What's on the doorstep?

A box from CreateSpace with the proof copy of my latest book!

____________________________

Thanks so much, Kate! For more of Kate's work and writing, be sure to check out her blog and find her over on Twitter.

See you back here on Thursday, when my guest will be Ami Blackwelder!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Same Six Questions - John Mefford

Hi there, and welcome to another exciting episode of The Same Six Questions! ;) Today's guest is John Mefford. Welcome!

Thanks, Andy. At different points in my life you could call me a West Coast person or an East Coast person. I moved eight times by the seventh grade, finally laying roots just outside Dallas, Texas. Being the new kid was somewhat of an albatross, but the plethora of geographic and architectural settings, weather patterns, and cultures of each home city and state resonated with me. Now grateful for the experiences, I use my recollection of people and their lives to help me devise characters and storylines for my writing. Only my family gives me a better high than spending a day creating something that will hopefully evoke an emotional reaction by a future reader.

The Same Six Questions

1. Have you published a book yet?

My debut novel, Committed (The Michael Doyle Chronicles), is now available on Amazon. It’s about sinful deception, a malicious corporate takeover, a grisly murder, and unrelenting greed. We all have that inner voice, the one who knows all but refuses to let even our closest confidantes inside. The one we must calm when we’re most unsettled. The one who seeks to understand our path, our destiny.

Michael Doyle lives in emotional anonymity, resistant to fully devote himself to anyone or any cause. Without warning, a technology conglomerate acquires Michael’s company, and he quickly sees through the fog of political posturing: false hope, layoffs, and blatant dishonesty.

Then, death reaches up and grabs him. Shaken to the core, Michael leans on his live-in girlfriend, who has touched his heart like no one else. But her haunting past resurfaces, and she’s pulled into a seedy web by an outside force so cruel, so cunning it destroys every soul in its path.

Can Michael rise above his greatest fear to uncover the truth about a murder and save the life of the person he loves most?

Committed is Book One of The Michael Doyle Chronicles.

2. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Twice in my life writing has called my name. Right out of college I took a job as a newspaper sports writer. My competitiveness pushed me to consistently “scoop” the competing paper and to hone my craft. I had never written a story prior to that first job. What seems like a couple of lifetimes later, I quit my regular day job, fed up with corporate BS and greedy a-holes who reminded me of The Penguin from the first Batman movie. I needed a creative outlet. I started writing, pouring out my thoughts into something that resembled fiction. That’s when I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.

3. What was your first lengthy piece of fiction? What was it about? When did you write it? Do you still have it?

I wrote various magazine articles over the years, but, of course, those were non-fiction. Other than some elaborate fictional doodling (not sure they quite reached 1K words), my first piece of fiction was an early version of my just-released novel, COMMITTED. The difference between version 1 and the published version is similar to comparing a slab of concrete to a piece of sculpture created with a metal-bristled toothbrush. Massive effort and painfully elaborate. But worth it.

4. When was your first indication, “I can do this (write)”?

I remember the day vividly. Parked in what has become my writing chair, I had just completed the first twenty pages or so of my first novel. I slowly read through the draft and took a deep breath. My pulse started to pick up speed and a realization clicked in my brain with the exact quote you have above. “I can do this.”

5. If you could meet one of your characters in real life, which would it be?

Without a doubt, Arthur Spanarkel, the publisher. We know enough about Arthur to be intrigued, just by walking into his office. He’s met so many people, seen so many things across the globe. He’s open-minded, but gritty and strong-willed in his own, educated way. Yep, he’s the guy.

6. It’s a dark and stormy night...you’re alone in the house...there’s a knock at the door...you open it, look out, and proceed to scream like a little girl. What’s on the doorstep?

A note from Tony the Neanderthal Bastard (character from COMMITTED) that says: I will find you. I will kill you. The paper message disintegrates the moment I finish reading the note and the remnants fall between my fingers like sand. I’m not sure if I scream or if my heart stops!

__________________________________

Thanks for stopping by and sharing with us, John! For more of John and his writing, check out his Web site, Facebook Author page, and Twitter page.

For more indie author interview goodness, be sure to stop back on Monday!


Monday, February 20, 2012

The Same Six Questions - E. Stoops

Welcome to this President's Day Holiday version of The Same Six Questions! My guest today is E. Stoops!

Hello Andy, I’m a geek from the Pacific Northwest. I work for a small business in the software industry up here and own a fixer-upper house, with a fixer-upper yard. I’m not sure it’s ever going to make it to “fixed up” – maybe just “working condition” – I get distracted by everything else I need to do. Like writing.

The Same SixQuestions

1. Have youpublished a book yet?

Yes. I’m the house author for a tiny start-up called Small Tomatoes Press. The lead editor calls their vision a “confederacy of authors.” That means I also work for them as an editor/reviewer, theoretically. Right now, however, we’re not to that point. They have two of my books, but today I was going to talk mostly about Pocket in the Sea (Pretense of a Paranormal Present) which is a piece of speculative fiction I wrote in 2010. This book stemmed from a conversation I had with a submariner, and then had a lot of later input from my friend who is a retired marine. The book imagines a world where The Great War (WWI) was ended when the allies invaded Germany and brutally broke the country, at about that same time paranormal abilities like telepathy had become a measurable talent in a very small pool of the population. Then it asks, over a hundred years later, where are we? Well, we’re on the verge of a naval war with China and we’re already losing. The book focuses on the events that befall only a few characters, on a single submarine. They are recently sprung from prison, specifically to man this ship that has been hauled out of who-knows-where-the-Navy-stashed-it. They don’t really trust each other except for a few connections, they are utterly lacking confidence in their boat and they universally despise the captain. It’s not a recipe for success. And then it gets worse when the character in charge of keeping everything in order loses it after his best friend dies. It’s a powder keg, and the Navy lights the fuse when they send a seer out to keep a physical and metaphorical eye on things. The characters of course, are cursing their luck, but after the seer arrives, they find the will to power through and save themselves.


2. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I always enjoyed telling stories. I knew in high school that I eventually would write something that would be too good to keep to myself. I didn’t know what it was going to be, but it was going to hit the page and take off running. Then I wrote Being Emelle in college. It lived in my bottom drawer for a long time, but my friend and my mother eventually got to me. “You want to be a writer, you have a book, what are you waiting for?” So I threw it out there. I guess that was the moment I confirmed that, yep, I definitely wanted to be a writer. I don’t think I could say, looking back, that I was a writer until I hurled my work into the universe and prayed.


3. What was yourfirst lengthy piece of fiction (say, >1000 words)? What was it about? Whendid you write it? Do you still have it?

The first lengthy piece that I finished was about a modified Nintendo Powerglove that took the users to a digital arena that felt, looked, and even smelled real. I wrote it for a freshman English class, so I actually had to keep it much lighter than I think the story was meant to be. It was really dark now that I think about it. The main character is in what she thinks is a battle to the death with a bully of a classmate, and thinks that he is cheating, because he has more controls than her. Only at the end did she find out that, like all video games, she would have re-spawned if she’d “died.” Unfortunately, I lost my copy in a computer crash, but I do remember it vividly. At the time, it was a reasonable novel idea, but the story seems stale now, so I don’t think I’d rewrite it.


4. When was your first indication, "I can do this (write)"?

I don’t think that I ever had a moment where I thought I couldn’t write. But it was always in the future that I would write a magnum opus. When I was growing up, the fantasy/sci-fi market was pretty well saturated with manly men, corseted, more-or-less mannered women and a lot of magical beasts. Even in Star Trek novels, which were better than most, there were a lot of clich├ęs, and a lot of overused tropes. It came to a head when all I was reading was L.E. Modessit and Robert Jordan because there was just so much junk out there and I was getting bored. That’s when I realized that the market needed new voices, and it looked like it was going to be up to me to write it. Fortunately, other people got the same vibe as I did and did something about it. But it’s up to everyone to make sure it doesn't get moribund again.


5. If you could meet one of your characters in real life, which would it be?

From Pocket in the Sea, I'd choose Jensen. I think if I could convince him to talk to me, he’d have wonderful stories to tell me. He’s not a very extroverted character, and that means, in the book, he doesn’t drive the story much, and he’s also a very private individual, which means his background is murky. But I have this feeling that he’d be very interesting and with the right encouragement, very funny. He’s very much a rare breed – a frontier doctor. And I do have some questions, even having written him – why would a talented trauma surgeon go into the Navy? And, why does he have such a lousy relationship with his family? I’d also like to know how he landed himself in prison. He’s the only character I’ve dealt with that is deliberately an unreliable narrator. Usually, if a character tells me their story, they tell me the truth as best they know it. Not Jensen. I think he needs to be nailed to the floor and interrogated.


6. It's a dark and stormy night...you're alone in the house...there's a knock at the door...you open it, look out, and proceed to scream like a little girl. What's on the doorstep?

Well, we’d have to assume I was waiting for someone, because I don’t generally answer the door unless I am. But say I was, so I would answer the door. I think the zombified remains of a much beloved pet would definitely do it. Especially if they were happy to see me. You know, in all ways acting just like themselves, but mold-coated and rotting away. Ugh, and maggots. Don’t forget the maggots. That would thoroughly terrify me more than any demon, monster, or alien.

____________________________________

Oh my! That's a vivid image. Thanks for sharing with us today, E! For more of E. Stoops' writing, check out his publisher's blog

See you on Thursday, when my guest will be John Mefford!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Same Six Questions - Paul Price

Hello, and welcome to another edition of The Same Six Questions! Today's guest is Paul Price!

Hello Andy! I've worked as a software developer for the past nineteen years in the DC area. Before that, I was in the submarine Navy for twelve years. I was born and raised in Miami, but I don't speak Spanish very well anymore.

The Same Six Questions

1. Have you published a book yet?

My latest eBook, When Do I Get to Live My Own Life?, (also available at Smashwords) was published in October. Its theme coincides with a Steve Jobs quote many articles cited following his passing: "Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life." The difficulties I've experienced in doing just that are expressed in ten personal stories. Stress and its effects have been a life-changer from my earliest history, and have been the primary obstacles in the way of me living my own life. I published eBooks #6 and #7 during 2011. Books #1 through #5 were published pre-Internet during the late 1980s as consumer education titles, and I sold them primarily to libraries.



2. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I only want to write when I feel that I have information to share that could really help people, and when reliable information on the subject isn't easy to discern.

3. What was your first lengthy piece of writing (say, >1000 words)? What was it about? When did you write it? Do you still have it?

I wrote a piece in tenth grade at age fifteen for my English teacher, Ms. Jasiecki. She was a single woman who was being treated for cancer, and did what she could to influence kids' lives by assigning books that challenged us. After my mandatory review of Camus' The Stranger, I continued by rewriting its theme in a hopeful vein. No extra credit, though, for hopeful existentialism. She's still alive 42 years later, and on Facebook.

4. When was your first indication, "I can do this (write)"?

I often wrote long papers in eleventh and twelfth grades for another English teacher, Mr. Obrentz, so I developed confidence in my writing skills during high school.

5. What's your next book going to be about?

I've jotted down a few themes, but none of them are compelling me to start writing my next eBook yet. I'm currently catching up on my reading from all the great indie authors' eBooks I have on my laptop! I get ideas and feelings by reading other authors, though it's not necessarily what the authors intend. For example, about a third of my way into reading a science fiction eBook over last weekend, it dawned on me that, through the interplay of the characters and environment, the author was indirectly describing her feelings about some of her childhood experiences. That got me thinking about the similarities of people in a spaceship with my experiences in submarines, and more specifically, scenarios when someone feels the need to escape from their present circumstances. The difference in the way that I approach feelings when they rise up is that I try to express them directly. A direct expression helps me, and may provide a clearer opportunity for other people to connect with what I express as a shared human experience.

6. It's a dark and stormy night...you're alone in the house...there's a knock at the door...you open it, look out, and proceed to scream like a little girl. What's on the doorstep?

A man on his knees with his guts spilling out! The perpetrator lurks.

________________________________

Thanks for sharing with us today, Paul! For more of Paul and his writing, check out his blogs: Getting Well for the First Time and When Do I Get to Live My Own Life?.

Stop back in on Monday, when my guest will be E. Stoops! See you then!

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Same Six Questions - S.M. Boyce

Welcome to another round of The Same Six Questions! Tomorrow is Valentine's Day. Did you remember to get your significant other something special (if not, here's an idea ;)? For today, let's meet our guest author. Welcome, S.M. Boyce!

Thanks, Andy! I’m sarcastic and strange, and I love to hike, rock climb, exercise, and listen to good music. I’ve
lived all over the east coast and have a dual degree in Marketing and Creative Writing from Florida State University, which was a lot more fun than it sounds. Lying out in a hammock with a book, my husband, and a glass of pinot grigio is my idea of heaven.

The Same Six Questions

1. Have you published a book yet?


I have! The Grimoire: Lichgates (The Grimoire Trilogy) is the culmination of six years of writing, plotting, and development, so I hope you like it.

It’s about a hidden pocket of the Earth and the magic a human girl named Kara discovers when she finds an old book called The Grimoire. It turns its own pages and can answer any question asked of it, so she has no idea what she’s getting herself into when she actually opens it. Because of the Grimoire’s magic, most of the creatures in this terrifying new world want to control her – but everyone is trying to find her. She learns pretty quickly that there is no going back once you open the Grimoire.

It’s a fresh, fun and exciting story about magic and monsters and crazy new things, but if you look a little deeper than just the plotline, I think you’ll like what you see.

It’s available now virtually everywhere, though of course I have a soft spot for Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Click! Click now!

2. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Writing was never really a choice. I know that one of the main lessons in The Grimoire trilogy is how life is full of choices , but if I’m not writing, I feel kind of empty. It’s something I have always been driven to do and I’m just not complete unless I’ve written something today.

3. What was your first lengthy piece of fiction (say, >1000 words)? What was it about? When did you write it? Do you still have it?

Oh man, memory lane. My first story was about a pickle who was the last one in the jar, and the poor little thing just wanted to be eaten. It was weird, I know. I was six. It’s in a box somewhere, and I think we bound it with cardboard and glue. (chuckles)

I should hope that my stories have improved somewhat since then; my illustrations, however, have not. That’s why I have Rob Meridy to do my cover artwork and the assorted character sketches available on the Grimoire Books website.

4. When was your first indication, "I can do this (write)"?

I think feeling as though we’re “good enough” will always be a painful concern for writers, but my first unwavering confirmation that I was at least a decent writer was in one of my writing classes at FSU. A classmate wrote on the bottom of one of my stories:

“You’re my favorite writer in this class. Whatever you do, don’t ever stop writing.”

I kept that piece of paper because it was validation that someone outside of my family (who are a little biased) liked my work, which is always a stellar sensation.

5. If you could meet one of your characters in real life, which would it be?

I would want to meet Deirdre, who is a vicious, sexy, evil demon woman and my all-time favorite. There are so many levels to her insanity that I would love to sit down with her and analyze her warped perceptions of reality, right, and wrong, but I know that I probably wouldn’t survive the meeting. It’s probably safer that she’s fictional.

6. It's a dark and stormy night...you're alone in the house...there's a knock at the door...you open it, look out, and proceed to scream like a little girl. What's on the doorstep?

The 50k word story that I wrote for my first Nanowrimo. Holy hot wings, Batman, it was just bad.

Well Andy, thanks so much for your time! And guys, if you want to learn any more about my work or just want a good laugh, I like to throw all sorts of strange (but fun!) things on the internet:
Main website & Blog, Grimoire Trilogy website, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Goodreads.

________________________________

Well, my work here is done! Thanks so much for stopping by Sarah!

Thursday, stop back and meet Paul Price!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Same Six Questions - Charlie & Diane Winger

Hello and welcome to another edition of The Same Six Questions! Today, we've got a little change of pace. Charlie and Diane Winger bring to us their nonfiction writing. Welcome!

Thanks, Andy! We live in western Colorado and are authors of recreational guidebooks that reflect our passion for hiking, climbing, camping, traveling, and spending as much time outdoors as possible. Recently, we took the plunge into self-publishing with Charlie's highly-adventurous autobiography. We're both retired computer geeks who refuse to act our age.

The (Sorta) Same Six Questions

1. Have you published a book yet?

Yes, after going the traditional route on our 3 guidebooks, we opted to self-publish Charlie's autobiography, Two Shadows - The inspirational story of one man's triumph over adversity. We wanted the editorial control that we knew we wouldn't have through a traditional publisher, and felt that Diane's experience in publicizing our earlier books, along with her proofreading experience, made it feasible to self-publish.

Charlie originally conceived of Two Shadows as being a fictional account based on his adventurous life. After a surprising incident when he was traveling to Canada for an ice climbing adventure, but was refused entry due to a felony conviction 50 years earlier (yes, that's 50 as in "half a century"), followed by two life-changing events, we agreed that his story should be told "straight up" as a memoir.

This autobiographical book is filled with Charlie's adventures during 35 years of mountaineering, climbing rock & ice, and world travel. People who have met Charlie, attended one of his slideshows, or read our guidebooks will recognize his knack for telling stories. Some are hair-raising, some are a little crazy, and some will have you laughing out loud.

Two Shadows is about more than climbing. It is the story of a boy who grew up in an atmosphere of neglect and abuse. He made numerous bad choices in life which resulted in his being sentenced to prison at age eighteen. While incarcerated, Charlie turned his life around. Upon his release, he began a successful career in information technology. He also discovered a passion for the mountains, and went on to climb peaks all around the world, as well as literally hundreds of summits within the United States.

Two Shadows is available through The Winger Bookstore, as well as through major booksellers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


2. When did you know you wanted to be travel writers?

While we've both dabbled in writing things like technical articles and articles about our climbing adventures, we didn't really think of ourselves as "travel writers" until a local small publisher asked us to write a guidebook on climbing peaks in Colorado. We convinced them to let us change the topic to cover the highpoints of the 50 states, which worked out beautifully since we had recently decided that we wanted to climb (or visit -- the highpoint of Kansas is hard to classify as a "climb") each of those highpoints anyway. Traveling and compiling all the information turned out to be great fun, and collaborating on writing the book was an enjoyable adventure of its own.

Another publisher -- more suited to adventure travel -- picked us up and we talked them into letting us write guidebooks about other places we loved to visit. Fortunately, that publisher also enjoyed our humorous writing style and gave us free rein to keep the books fun and to express our own personalities in our writing. There was a lot of work involved, but we had a blast working on the books.

3. What was your first lengthy piece of writing (say, >1000 words)? What was it about? When did you write it? Do you still have it?

Charlie has been writing short stories for decades, many of which he thought might morph into chapters for a fictional version of Two Shadows. Many of these accounts dealt with his experiences in prison as a young man, but paled in comparison to the real events. Some of these may be tucked away in filing cabinets stored in our garage, but probably only if they were misfiled.

Diane played around with writing and badly-illustrating stories geared toward children while she was still just a child herself. She realized long ago that she is not an artist, and disposed of those early attempts by the time she was in high school. However, she is pretty darn handy with creating graphics like maps and diagrams -- just no snuggly bunny rabbits. Her first published work was a technical article on programming techniques and graphical user interfaces. Fortunately, she's lightened up her writing since that time.

4. When was your first indication, "I can do this (write)"?

Perhaps the true "I can do this" realization was not so much grasping that we both could write, but realizing people would want to read what we wrote. It's hard to pinpoint a specific, first indication. We have both written short articles for newsletters and other publications, and received compliments on our writing styles and especially our clarity of describing places. In terms of writing guidebooks, clear descriptions of how to find a place, enticing explanations of why you might want to go there, and keeping the whole experience light, fun, and interesting are all crucial attributes. We believed that we could do those things very well, and our readers have confirmed that for us.

When it came to translating those writing skills to an autobiography, Charlie also called upon his many years of verbal storytelling. Transferring his chatting-around-the-campfire tales of mountain climbing into the written word was challenging at first, but soon seemed natural.

5. If you could go somewhere tomorrow, no limits, all expenses paid, where would it be?

The moon. Wouldn't that be an amazing guidebook assignment -- and we certainly couldn't ever manage that trip without all expenses being paid.

But if we were picking a place here on earth, New Zealand would be our choice. We've visited before, but would love an in-depth exploration of the gorgeous Southern Alps, the fjords, lakes, and rivers, and to re-visit the ultra-friendly towns with an eye to passing along our favorite discoveries to others. We've found that we observe so much more about a place when we're writing about it than when we are simply visiting. And thank goodness for digital cameras, since we have often taken over 1,000 photos of a place in preparation for the eventual guidebook, which may end up with only a few hundred photos in it.

Perhaps a special section on the finest restaurants in New Zealand should be included -- with photos and reviews of the meals we've sampled, of course. You did say "all expenses paid," didn't you?

6. It's a dark and stormy night...you're alone in the house...there's a knock at the door...you open it, look out, and proceed to scream like a little girl. What's on the doorstep?

Charlie's late Aunt Gertie, a.k.a. The Beast, wielding an axe and crowing, "Here's Johnny!"

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Thanks so much for sharing with us today! For more information about the Wingers and their books, check out The Winger Bookstore, their Two Shadows Facebook page, their Amazon author page, or follow them on Twitter.

My guest on Monday will be author S.M. Boyce. See you then!

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Same Six Questions - Robin Reed

Hi there and welcome to the first day of the NFL offseason! ;) I know, what are you going to do on your Sundays now? Well, you could read a good book. My guest today has a few to choose from. Welcome, Robin Reed! In her own words:

Robin Reed was born on the south side of Chicago, lived in Egypt for a year at the age of five, traveled through Europe at eleven, and went to India when she was eighteen. After that, things went downhill. Robin was an avid reader at a young age and started writing while in grade school. She also wanted to be a cartoonist, and drew cartoons instead of listening to her teachers. As as an adult, she cared only about pursuing these artistic fields. She never wanted to enter any career that would be hard to leave when the big break in writing or cartooning came. As a result, she has had only low level, low paying jobs all her life. The big break still eludes her. She currently lives near Los Angeles and, while the entertainment industry ignores her, she has made some progress in writing, with a number of short stories published and five self-published books available on Amazon.com and other outlets.

The Same Six Questions

1. Have you published a book yet?

I have published several Mama is the story of two families. The Conovers are moving from Los Angeles to Chicago because Jeff Conover's career as an actor has gone nowhere. His teenaged daughter Alison, his nine year old son Michael, who is obsessed with insects, and his wife Lee sit in the car, each stewing in their own resentments. Along the way they attract the attention of Mama and her three kids, who seem to be a slovenly and ugly family, but are truly something else. Mama uses the Conovers as a lesson for her kids, like a lioness teaching her cubs to hunt. When the Conovers start to fight back, Mama gets really mad. Mama is published under my pen name for horror, Robin Morris.

2. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I became an avid reader at a young age, and within a few years started writing. I wrote short stories before I was ten years old. Not good ones, mind you, but I wrote them.

3. What was your first lengthy piece of fiction (say, >1000 words)? What was it about? When did you write it? Do you still have it?

Oh, gee, that's hard to remember. I was also a cartoonist, and I did a cartoon book when I was in high school called "The Cocktail Party." I wrote a fantasy short story around age thirteen that I thought was a devastating satire of the of the educational system I was forced to endure every day, but my parents didn't understand the satire part.

4. When was your first indication, "I can do this (write)"?

Probably when my father, an anthropology professor, showed a story of mine to his colleagues. It was humor, something about an ancient species that was an ancestor of humans.

5. If you could meet one of your characters in real life, which would it be?

Xanthan Gumm, from my first novel. He is an alien who comes to Earth to be a movie star. I put a lot of myself into his character.

6. It's a dark and stormy night...you're alone in the house...there's a knock at the door...you open it, look out, and proceed to scream like a little girl. What's on the doorstep?

Nothing. Then I close the door and the knock comes again. I open it and see nothing. I close the door. Knock knock. Now I am afraid to open the door. The knocking continues. I fling the door open and only the rain and wind greet me. I stare into the heart of the storm for a while, daring who or whatever has been knocking to face me. After a while, I close and lock the door. I am sure I have rid myself of the mysterious knocker. I sit down and relax. I almost fall asleep. Knock knock, harder and louder than before. That's when I scream like a little girl.

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Thanks for stopping by and sharing with us today, Robin! Be sure to check out more of Robin's work on her blog and Facebook page.

Be sure to swing back on Thursday when my guest will be the Wingers, Charlie and Diane! See you then!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Same Six Questions - John Blackport

Hi there! Today's guest on The Same Six Questions is John Blackport. Take it away, John!

Thanks, Andy! I'm a New England attorney who likes to keep his professional identities separate from one another. I have three kids, including two 1-year-old twins. My hobbies include history, math and gaming.

The Same Six Questions

1. Have you published a book yet?

Yes, I've published Raingun.

Here's the blurb:

Rick Rivoire is flush with money, women, and prospects. He protects his country as one of the Rainguns, an elite regiment of spellcasting cavalry.

But national policy drifts ominously into slavery and religious persecution, sparking rebellion. Joining the rebels could land Rick on a prison ship, in slave-irons--or atop the same gallows where he watched his father hang.

The alternative looks no brighter. The status quo imperils Rick’s hard-won self-respect. Supporting tyranny would doom his dream to emulate the valiant swordswoman who braved a den of monsters to rescue the lonely, terrified nine-year-old boy he once was.

Rick can’t stay above the fray forever. He must either defend a government whose actions disgust him--or risk everything he has.

This story unfolds in a world of bloodthirsty pirates, brave musketeers, and vile monsters. Its target audience is anyone who has ever wrestled with questions of whether, and how, to risk opposing the actions of their country.

Half of this e-book's royalties will go to the Scleroderma Research Foundation. The book is dedicated to my late brother-in-law Perry, and I'd like the book's revenue to help fight the disease that killed him.

If Raingun has a target audience, I guess it's for anyone who's ever loved their country, and taken pride in it, but also been disappointed by their country's actions--and wondered what exactly to do about it. America's wars of the past ten years polarized the public, provided an inspiration for a story set in a fantasy world. I think a lot of this polarization comes from the tendency of human beings misusing Occam's Razor--preferring easy answers over the hard ones. It's always tempting to believe that the world is very simple, and that all of its evil comes from one place. When it comes to the interaction of religion, politics and money, I feel that the world truly is as complicated as it appears. There is no single source of evil (or all good, either). I thought at first that a fantasy setting would put me a great disadvantage in addressing this--a lot of readers like their fantasy enemies to be monolithic Dark Lords that are simply pure malevolence--but that preference isn't as strong as it used to be.


2. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Oh, I think I always wanted that. Well, I must have been at least eight. Before that I wanted to be a veterinarian.


3. What was your first lengthy piece of fiction (say, >1000 words)? What was it about? When did you write it? Do you still have it?

My first lengthy piece of fiction was inspired by Battlestar Galactica. It involved me shooting evil robots with lasers mounted on my sled while speeding down the hill in my backyard.


4. When was your first indication, "I can do this (write)"?

Hmmm . . . I'm not sure that's happened yet!


5. If you could meet one of your characters in real life, which would it be?

I'd like to meet Colonel Altiro, the commanding officer of the hero --- and cajole him into teaching me magic.


6. It's a dark and stormy night...you're alone in the house...there's a knock at the door...you open it, look out, and proceed to scream like a little girl. What's on the doorstep?

Hmm . . . I think it's those nanite spider minng robots, methodically breaking up all the planet's solid matter to re-make into copies of themselves with the same mission.

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Thanks for sharing with us today, John! For more of John and his writing, be sure to check out his Web site, Facebook page, and check out a sample of the book at Kindleboards.

Come back on on Monday when my guest will be Robin Reed! Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

To Select or To Not Select, That's the Question - Revisited...Again

BEWARE! LARGE AMOUNTS OF STATS AHEAD! Ok, so you might have perused my previous post on the subject of Amazon's new KDP Select program. Well, I folded and joined the club. Here's my experience...

I decided to use a single day to test the waters. You might remember that being part of Select gives you 5 every 90 days of exclusivity. My intention was to pad my readership with a freebie day prior to releasing the sequel. Then, once the sequel is ready, I would have free days with the first book 4 more times to help move the second book. After reviewing many results on one of my favorite online haunts (kindleboards.com), I was a little wary about going free for only one day. The results seemed to be a bit of a mixed bag. But, I figured, if things weren't going as planned, I could always jump in and add an extra day.

So, let's lay some pre-free groundwork. On the evening of January the 27th, my book was approaching a ranking of #300,000 in the Amazon store and had sold a whopping 5 copies for the entire month of January. What's worse is that those 5 copies were sold in the first week. Oh, and no Select members had borrowed my book. Yeah, not so hot.

The book went free at ~3 AM EST on the 28th.

I woke up late and checked my numbers:

10 AM EST
Amazon US
Best Sellers Rank: #1,861 Free in Kindle Store
#57 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Genre Fiction > Mystery & Thrillers > Thrillers > Suspense
274 "sales"

Amazon UK
Best Sellers Rank: #351 Free in Kindle Store
#25 in Kindle Store > Books > Fiction > Crime, Thrillers & Mystery > Thrillers > Suspense
75 "sales"

Amazon DE (Germany)
Bestseller-Rang: #395 Kostenfrei in Kindle-Shop (Siehe Top 100 - Kostenfrei in Kindle-Shop)
Nr. 5 in Kindle-Shop > eBooks > Fremdsprachige eBooks > Englisch > Krimis & Thriller > Thriller > Spannung
14 "sales"

I was pretty geeked to see that some German customers had picked up the book. Though I've had a couple sales in the UK in the past, I'd never touched the German market. I was also kinda surprised to see that almost 300 people had picked up the book. Not that I was being a pessimist, but I had tried desperately to keep my expectations in check. There were stories about people giving away +10k in a day, that were only slightly tempered by the stories of folks who'd only managed to give away 500. I think that was the goal in my head. 500 additional readers is nothing to sneeze at. It was hard to not check throughout the day, but I won't bore you with too much minutiae (postscript edit: I lie...minutiae to follow). My numbers climbed steadily throughout the day at about 100 copies per hour. By 5 PM, this is what it looked like:

Amazon US
Best Sellers Rank: #298 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)
#18 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Genre Fiction > Mystery & Thrillers > Thrillers > Suspense
918 "sales"

Amazon UK
Bestsellers Rank: #182 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)
#13 in Kindle Store > Books > Fiction > Crime, Thrillers & Mystery > Thrillers > Suspense
188 "sales"

Amazon DE
Bestseller-Rang: #384 Kostenfrei in Kindle-Shop (Siehe Top 100 - Kostenfrei in Kindle-Shop)
Nr. 3 in Kindle-Shop > eBooks > Fremdsprachige eBooks > Englisch > Krimis & Thriller > Thriller > Spannung
23 "sales"

Not too shabby. As you can tell, it doesn't take as much to climb the UK and DE ranks, as there aren't as many transactions happening in those stores. So, at this point, I was pretty darned happy. I'd given away almost one thousand copies of my book. I hadn't seen nothing...anything...erm...you know what I mean. Lightning struck. One of the more popular websites that lists free books sent out a Facebook post with my book as their "cover" image. They have over 170,000 followers on Facebook just waiting for freebies. I suddenly went from 100 copies an hour to ~26/minute.

  • 6:00     2498 copies
  • 7:00     3186
  • 8:00     3919
  • 9:00     4466
  • 11:30   5788
This was the last time point for which I recorded the ranking:
Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)
#6 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Genre Fiction > Mystery & Thrillers > Thrillers > Suspense

It might have gone higher, but I wasn't that desperate to stay up to record the data. Which is why, at this point, the data gets a bit fuzzy. According to Amazon, the final number for the 28th was 6681 freebies given away. However, the free promotion doesn't necessarily turn off at 12 AM on the dot. So, the numbers to start on Sunday are a bit fuzzy.

When I first woke up (time unknown), I picked up my phone and checked my ranking (not my sales). Just as I had expected; I had returned to my previous ranking before going free...plus some. Yep, I was at 340,000. YIKES! Quite a let down from the excitement of the day before. I rolled over and went back to bed. By the time I motivated myself to check my numbers, I was pleasantly surprised. The total number for the month of January at 9:30 AM on Sunday morning was 6733, which meant there were some phantom numbers in there that may or may not have been sales. At least a couple were paid sales because my ranking climbed to #40,000 overall in the hour or so since I'd checked. I'd also received my first returns! I assume that these were people who had clicked a link to my book, figured it to still be free and only found out afterward that it wasn't. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

I then waited for the slow dropoff. The agonizing slide back to where my book "belonged"; wallowing in obscurity in the 100,000 to 200,000 ranking range. It was not to be. Sales came in steadily throughout the day on Sunday; 33 to be precise. It pushed me up to a rank of #2,948 Sunday night.

Ok, then perhaps Monday would prove to be the day of fade. No such "luck"; between Sunday night and Tuesday morning, I sold another 51 copies and got my first Select borrows! The most I had ever sold in one month was ~50. I'd now managed that in one day.

As I post this, early on Wednesday February 1st, a full 72+ hours after going free, I have sold 180+ copies and 15 Select members have borrowed the book (which I'll be compensated for). The book's current rank is:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #967 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
#82 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Genre Fiction > Mystery & Thrillers > Thrillers > Suspense

I'm there, hanging with the likes of Dean Koontz, Lee Child, and John Locke, even if only for a moment. If there was ever a time for the book to really take off, it's got the best chance it's ever had.

Obviously, in the short term, the results look good. I'm now eclipsing the number of books I sold all of last year (5-1/2 months on sale), in a matter of days. Did I give away a lot? Yep. But, I look at the freebies as going to people who never pay for books. If my gift to them helps me get the book into the hands of folks who are willing to pay the $3, I have no problem with that. And, if perhaps I can get a percentage of those 6700+ freebie folk to actually purchase (God forbid!) the sequel, well...I can dream, can't I?

I'm sure I'll revisit this topic. For someone who has seen just brief glimpses of sales success in the past, it's a potentially strange new world to venture into. I already consider it a large success. I've got pretty lofty goals to be able to call it an overwhelming success, but stranger things have happened. ;)