Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Here's the Poop on Chicken Poop

Well, the Chicken Poop* is about to drop. 

I just realized  that all the files have to be finalized by May 11 and uploaded by May 12 with the proofing process completed by May 17 in order to meet the release date of May 28, 2016!

The good news is that the interior is nearly done and the cover has been designed (though the final art needs created). I also need to get back all the use agreements from the authors.

With only two weeks as of today (April 27) to get that all done I'd better step up my game!

*Chicken Poop on My Sole: Feel-Good Fodder from the Farm

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Thought I'd Share a Short Story...

The Proposed Cover Re-Design
As some of you may know I'm re-issuing Rocketman my first collection of poems, personal essays and photographs with a new cover by early June. I'm also about halfway through writing the "sequel" (a second collection) Beyond Infinity which I intend to have out early fall. 

Here is a short story from volume one:

Little Sister
My little sister was annoying to a fault. I’m not talking about Janis; she and I grew up together and the two of us had an understanding. I’m talking about my little sister: Suzi. Suzanne as she was christened—the devil spawn that should have been named: munchkin-sized holy terror!

Suze came along five years after Janis. It was a surprise, much like an alien invading our home! I still remember the day mom brought all the cool stuff from the hospital. Bottles, diapers, a cute little hat, a bib, baby food samples, a rattle and all kinds of other swag you used to get for free just for having a baby. Man! What a way to score.

The new baby was, at first, a novelty, too, and quite adorable, really. That is until she could crawl. That was when the real exasperation began. Suddenly none of my stuff was sacred. And none of it was clean either. Rather, virtually anything and everything I owned became a chew toy. One minute my finely built Lincoln Log® cabin would be standing, the next moment it would be a pile of slimed kindling so drooled upon you couldn’t have started a fire with it if you’d have wanted. I’d find G.I. Joe® half naked and floating warily in the toilet bowl alongside another kind of log that was not Lincoln by nature. And I’d find my Matchbox® collection with the tires eaten off.

By the time she could walk she was into everything. The Pill swept through the house like a silent tornado leaving a path of destruction in her wake. Things would go missing, too. Puzzle pieces, game pieces, and my stash of penny candy—all eaten by this little “thing” with the strange and voracious appetite.

But, to my parents, she could do no wrong. Nothing was her fault. No, to them she was an angel. When the nose to my Teddy mysteriously evaporated and the plug to my rocket bank (on cover) vanished into thin air never to return I’d had it.

And then the following began!

Oh, my word! Was there no peace from this demon child? You’d think she loved me or something the way she toddled after me. Everywhere. She was interested in everything I did and her curiosity was maddening. I tried everything to dissuade her from tagging along. I persuaded her to lick the side of the deep freeze. That kept her pinned down…until mother found her. (Fortunately, Suzi wasn’t yet talking.) I tempted her into sticking her finger into the pencil sharpener one day. One turn of the crank and the siren began. I ran like mad.

By the time Suey was of school age she was okay. Yes, the scars healed up nicely. And she was pretty cute and, amazingly, still looking up to her big brother. I realized she really did love me and I loved her, too. However it wasn’t really until we were adults that we hit it off. Which is unfortunate, because she’s a wonderful person—kind, generous and (fortunately) forgiving.

Of course, now she’s one of my best friends and I wish she was around more. In fact, I’d even let her drool on my prized Mickey Mouse toy collection if that’s what it took to have her near.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Book Signing Events: To Go or Not to Go?

One of the biggest investments in time and money is book signings and other related events such as launch parties, book fairs and bazaars. 

These might include events at which you speak, teach or do a reading. It seems one can always find a book event of some kind.

I have three years’ experience under my belt now as a full-time indie author. And, no, it is not an easy, cushy life. There is always work to be done. If I'm not writing or editing, I'm researching for writing or designing a book's interior or cover, or promoting my books. And promotion does take time. And money.

Under the auspices of promoting books I'm writing press releases, ad copy, designing ads, blogging, posting on social media, sending out materials and/or books, and a dozen other tasks that take my time and attention. Since two of my books have zombies in them I am frequently asked to do zombie related activities (like makeup demonstrations). I have also done many, many “tabling” events. They all involve selling and signing my books.

Now, let's get back to that issue of "time and money investment." Most events require a “tabling” fee. These range widely in price anywhere from ten bucks to hundreds. My experience tells me an average fee is between $40 and $80 for most “author/book fairs” or bazaars. I have paid more (when I knew a book keenly matched an event’s target audience) and I have, on occasion, had to pay nothing.

Do you always get what you pay for? The answer is: no. Sometimes a free event will garner great sales, other times, none. Sometimes an expensive event will garner great sales, other times, leave you in the hole. So, how do you know? You don't. You can never be sure, but here are…

FIVE TIPS I’ve learned from experience:

1. If selling books is your primary goal, don't bother. You will very likely NOT get rich at tabling events unless you already have a best seller and/or a ‘name.’ These events are generally designed to line the pockets of some sponsor, not yours. YOU take all the risk while they have the assurance of taking your fee, regardless of whether or not you sell a single book. Most of these types of events take a ‘shotgun’ approach and don't have specific readers or genres in mind.

I’ve averaged four or five sales at most ‘shotgun’ type events, so I'm usually in the red when paying out fifty bucks upfront, especially if any travel is involved. (I'm learning to stay close to home.)
However, there are other benefits to these events. The more of them you do the more you become known. They are great for networking with authors and fans, and, sometimes, with agents and artists. They can be fun and they are always good practice at how to present yourself.

2. The more authors and books there are at the event the less likely you are to take home a piece of the pie. Sometimes true, but not always. Sometimes large, well known book events attract large groups of people who buy books, so that can be a plus. Other times it just means more competition for limited funds. Well-established events do generally fair better for the authors than newer events. (However, if you don't support new events they won't become well-established.)

I suggest that you plan and put together your OWN events and tours—especially when launching a new book. It's best to begin in your own hometown where family and friends will come out and support you. Work with a bookstore, library, school or coffee shop where you do business to host your event. Scratch each other’s back for mutual benefit.

3. Know your audience and choose events where you know they are likely to attend. Match your topic and genre to a specific readership. This is hard to do; it takes some research. For example: school and library children's programs might be the best place to connect your picture book for kids (though you'll want parents—who have the money—to attend the event as well).

If you write sci-fi or fantasy, Cons can be a good place to table, but fees can be high and competition can be fierce as well, so you'll have to put everything you've got into making it work. If you have a non-fiction book on a certain topic is there a group or conference you might approach?

4. Do your own promo. Don't rely upon the sponsor's PR. Even if they have an “advertising budget’ (and they often don't since they are trying to make as much money as they can off your fees), your attention to this matter will sweeten the pot. Send out your own press releases to local media. Don't highlight the event; highlight yourself or your book or an aspect of interest. Though, do mention the event(s) you'll be attending. And, it goes without saying, blog and post in your own forums.

5. Speaking engagements can be your biggest selling events. Once you've delivered an address, seminar, workshop or other presentation you've become ‘the expert.’ You will be looked up to, your book will be sought, and attendees will want a signed copy. It will feel good.

Find your niche. Learn to speak in public. Sell your expertise, not your books. Often you will be paid an honorarium to speak and be able to sell your books on top of that. I've been paid to speak at conferences. Sometimes I've been well taken care of, other times my honorarium only covered my airfare, but book sales made up for my meals and accommodations and I got to attend a couple days at the conference taking in other’s seminars.

BONUS TIP: Choose events where the sponsor only takes a percentage of the books sold rather than charging a participation fee. There is usually a standard bookseller 60/40 split, but you pay only when you sell, nothing up front. One annual event I put together with a local indie bookstore charges a nominal fee of $15 (much of which actually goes into promotion) then takes a dollar on each books sold.

When you DO table follow these SEVEN TIPS:

1. Have an attractive table/booth. Theme the look to your genre/books. Have some depth, color, levels. Use some signage behind your table. Add light or video (people, like moths, are drawn in). Have a candy dish and/or other give-away trinkets like bookmarks or inexpensive themed items. I give ‘gold’ coins and Mardi Gras necklaces out to kids because of my books Bayou setting and topics.

2. Be warm and friendly. Be ready to talk, ask questions and listen. Prepare to inspire others aspiring to write. Be excited about reading, books and (let's not forget) readers. I know this step is hard for a lot of writers who consider themselves to be ‘shy.’ It is hard—take it from an Aspie*—but it's essential that you're ‘on’ if you're going to do these events.

3. Have your elevator pitch down. Have a ten second synopsis for your book; two quick sentences that will hook a reader. Follow your pitch with a question that will open dialogue. Practice not sounding ‘canned.’ Be ready to follow up with a brief ‘sell’ customized to your customers (their answers to your question should help you know them better).

4. Stand and engage. Don't sit and hide behind your table. Trust me.

5. Get the book in their hands. Offer a copy during your pitch, then, when they take it, pick up another so they can't hand theirs back. Don't ask if they want one; ask if you can sign it for them.

6. Have a ‘deal.’ It has got to be that ‘one time offer’ they can't get anywhere else. Buying now saves them time, trouble and money. Better than Amazon, better than a bookstore, better now than later (which could easily be never).

7. Expect and prepare to sell. Attitude is half the battle, the other half is being prepared to do business. You don't want to lose a potential sale by not having change or not being able to take plastic (credit and debit cards). Get a phone or tablet with WiFi and data (cell service) and a card reader/scanner. Yes, it cuts a bit (1% or so) into your profits, but some profit is better than no profit. Volume counts, so get out there and move books…wisely.

For more about tabling successfully, you might read Working the Table: An Indie Author's Guide to Conventions by Lee French and Jeffery Cook.

*Asperger's Syndrome is a high functioning form of autism which may manifest in diminished or skewed social skills.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Finalized Cover Design for "The Bayou Boys" Omnibus

Here it is: The finalized cover design for the new omnibus edition of The BAYOU BOYS, a collection of Voodoo Virus, Marsh Monster and Playhouse Phantom in one volume. Nearly 500 delightful pages of southern Louisiana adventure!

This is not the final art (still in mock-up stage), but it gives you a really good idea of what the finished product will look like. Thank you to all of you who piped in and contributed to selecting the layout and offering design ideas.

The interior, containing 80,000 words, also nears completion. Look for The BAYOU BOYS in early June!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

New/Upcoming Publication News & New Cover Designs

With the publication of Joe Benjamin's Silly Billy and Ducky Dee through my press, my self-publishing workshop over, and the Indie Author & Book Fair done and gone it's time to turn my attention back to my own work. That is the work of writing, editing and designing stuff that is my own.

Some of you may know that I've been casually working on new cover designs for some of my older books. Actually, I've been working on a new cover for Rocketman: From the Trailer Park to Insomnia and Beyond and now have the concept design finalized. I just have to complete the final art. That should take about a day.

I'm also doing up an omnibus of my three Bayou Boys books (Voodoo Virus, Marsh Monster and Playhouse Phantom). That means I'm compiling all three books into one volume, titled simply The Bayou Boys. I'm working on the cover for that. I came up with four designs and sought opinions and comments. My readers and fellow authors supplied and they definitely ruled out one of the four, but, as yet, I have no clear consensus on the remaining three. LOL I do have one I'm leaning toward, though (see the concept art below).

When I do finally and firmly know which cover I'll go with I'll have to complete the final art, compile the texts and format the interior. That's a good solid week's work. (BTW: I have no plans at this time to complete the fourth Bayou Boys Adventure, Alien Ambush.) I have begun work on the interior layout as of this writing.

Finally, I'm working toward completion of Chicken Poop on My Sole. I still need a couple stories and I have a cover design that needs fleshed out and completed. I have begun formatting the interior, but that, too, needs work. Should I get those stories in (Might you have one you'd like to submit?) I could be done inside two weeks.

All in all, I'm looking to complete these projects before the end of May. Chicken Poop is slated to be released on Memorial Day weekend.

I'm not sure what the summer will bring yet. I do have a humorous short story that I'm looking into possibly making into a graphic novel or something, but haven't really decided what to do with it. I might just put it into another anthology.

You can read it here.

I do plan to write more short works: articles, personal essays, short fiction, and poetry. Sure, I have ideas for novels, but I'm not sure that's what I want to pursue right now.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

SUNDAY, April 10: Indie Author & Book Fair

Wowzers! It's here! 

Sunday, April 10th will be here before you know it and so will twenty-three (23) local authors from Washington and Oregon. Many of them are from the north coast area.

The event directly follows the Get Lit at the Beach event and attendees of the event are encouraged to come on over for the meet and greet.

All the authors will be available to discuss their books, their craft and sign their work.

Several of the authors participating have new books out.

Come on out, 12:30 to 3 p.m., Sunday, April 10 in the Garret Sea courtyard behind Jupiter's Books, 244 N. Spruce in Cannon Beach, Oregon. They'll be nearly a hundred indie titles and live music by Timothy Carroll (banjo and flute), too.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

An Interview with Joe Benjamin, Author of the Book "Silly Billy & Ducky Dee"

Author Joe Benjamin
You have a new book (your first) out; whats it about? 

It's Silly Billy & Ducky Dee, a book about friendship...with a twist. It's 2016 and it's about time someone came up with a children's book that had a rapping duck in it, and since no one else had thought about it I decided to write it myself!

Why write about that? 

It's something new and hip. Hip Hop is everywhere from radio, newspapers, tabloids, word of mouth and TV. Might as well put a friendly spin on it!

Why did you chose a rap format?

To be different. I don't want to be the average Joe [lol]. I want to be Joe Benjamin, the author who revolutionized children's books!

What inspired you to write a book?

My dad [that would be this blog's author] always told me do what you love to do. I never really thought about it until last year. I like to write raps/poems and I never did anything with my talents. 

My mom and dad both have degrees in writing and they both do it for a living, I figured it must be in my blood, so I just let fate take over and determine whether or not I'm going to be a success. We shall see.

How did you find the process? Was it more or less than what you expected?

I tend to think things over. So, I thought it would be way harder than it was. But my dad "held my hand" the whole way and made it simple.

Do you think you might write another? Any ideas floating around in your head? If so, what are they? 

Yes, I plan to at least write two more. The next one may be titled Silly Billy and Ducky Dee Visit the Big City. Keep your eyes peeled and your wallets open!

What are some of your favorite books?

My favorite types of books are adventure stores (but non fiction, too). I like to feel as though this could happen to me. As far as children's books Dr. Seuss, Berenstain Bears, and joke books were my favorite growing up!

Tell us about yourself. 

I come from a family of ten; two sisters, five brothers, my mom and dad. I was raised on a twenty acre farm in Clark County, Washington with just about every farm animal you can think of, for most of my life. I was home-schooled and learned how to farm, garden and work hard.

I also lived in Florida and Colorado and now reside in central California. I like camping, mud races, flipping houses and not having to do farm chores. 

What advice would you give to other would-be authors? 

Don't second-guess yourself.. Like Nike said, "Just do it!"

Silly Billy & Ducky Dee has numerous five star reviews on Amazon. You can buy it there or ask for it wherever books are sold. You can find and follow Joe Benjamin on Facebook.