Down in the Gutter with Marketing

Osar Wilde quote on San Fransciso street

For the last six months, I’ve been part of a small group of authors who gather together via email to discuss book marketing strategies, toss ideas around and in general, support one another’s efforts where and when we can. The organization is loose, the group diverse in terms of location, background, gender, writing genre and point of view. We don’t seek consensus. Instead, we bring the fruits of our experiences to the table and individual members make up their own minds on what to take or leave.

I recently floated a question to the group: What are the ethics and/or etiquette around claiming best seller status. Does getting to #2 in the Amazon Top 100 Free books make me an Amazon Bestseller? How about getting to #1 in a genre category in Free and then hanging in the Top 10 for about 48 hours of that same category after my book went back on the paid list. Is it bad etiquette to drop the word Amazon and just say Bestselling author? Does one have to make it on to a paid list to legitimately claim a bestseller status? And if so, at what point and for how long – Top 10, Top 100, for one hour or one day? What about author ranking? I was in the Top 100 for a day after a promotion. Does that qualify?

A complicated question and the group responses, as expected, ranged far and wide. A few members came down on the side of only paid lists being equated with best selling status. A best seller should, at a minimum, be based on selling. Good point. I went back and took a look at my screen captures for how Disappearing in Plain Sight had done during it’s BookBub extravaganza of free downloads. On one, a large headline read – Best Sellers in Literary Fiction – Sagas. Under that is my book at #1. It doesn’t say Best Non-Sellers due to being Free. Amazon isn’t distinguishing in the big print between paid or free – that comes beneath in a secondary header. Hmmm …. interesting.

Literary Fiction - Sagas - DPS

A member who had previous experience working in the traditional publishing field felt the entire concept of best selling, best seller, best selling author was bankrupt – overused and abused to the point of meaninglessness. Unless, of course, one attempted to claim a place on the New York Times Best Seller List. That you better be able to back up!

One blunt member of our group, wrote – The idea of a great author sitting in the gutter saying, “I didn’t sell many books but I kept my ethics as an author,” has about as much appeal to me as stepping in a dog turd. The premise of the subject is wrong! We’re flogging books and we’re flogging them cheap. We’re not sharing a cup of the tea with the local vicar. Get rid of the word ‘etiquette’ and replace it with ‘marketing’ and you would’ve never needed to ask the question.

When I got up from rolling around on the floor laughing, I read a few more responses. “In an age of distortion and mirage, the big lie seems to carry the day. Even in the dog-eat-dog world of fiction writers.” Another member agreed that best selling is a devalued currency that I could feel free to spend as I liked.

It would seem that I may go ahead and claim a spot on a meaningless list, or I may roll around in the gutter clinging tightly to my moral superiority or I may participate in the big lie and be a dog gobbling up my fellow authors.

On the other hand, I could simply play by the rules Amazon sets forth. My book sat at #1 of a Best Selling List and I don’t see why I wouldn’t mention that when it seems that to do so would be a wise marketing move.

What do you think. I’d love to widen this discussion. At best, we are in for some chuckles as we climb from the gutter to the meaningless and, dare I say, best selling heights.

Clematis 2016 - Guenette photo

Unshod–A book of Short Stories

Unshod twitter

“Short stories consume you faster. They’re connected to brevity. With the short story, you are up against mortality. I know how tough they are as a form, but they’re also a total joy.” – Ali Smith

A couple of months ago, I was invited to contribute a story to an anthology being put together by eight, talented women authors – Jan Morrill, Pamela Foster, Staci Troilo, Joan Hall, P.C. Zick, Michele Jones and Lorna Faith. I would be number nine. The theme was western stories. That stopped me in my tracks. What came to mind was the old west, gunfights and cowboys. I certainly had nothing along that line. Upon further inquiry, I discovered the organizers were looking for an out west theme – era open. West coast got me in the door and my short story Helplessness made the cut.

Here’s what the reader can look forward to in this book of short stories …

An anthology of traditional and contemporary western short stories where the characters are lain bare. Nine female authors pen western tales that you’ll want to retell around a campfire. These aren’t your granddaddy’s westerns. They’re the next generation’s, and they’re darn good.

  • Feel the pain of a young Japanese girl who comes home from an internment camp after World War II and learns it’s easier to go with the flow than to fight the current.
  • Struggle with an expectant mother on the cold winter prairie while she waits for her husband to come home from a hunting trip.
  • Journey with a young woman to the Four Corners as she tries to connect with her Navajo ancestors.
  • Try not to believe in the superstition of the blue moon—if one dies, three more will follow.
  • Know that one way or another, life will change inalterably that day.
  • Walk in the footsteps of an old cowpoke who thought he made the deal of a lifetime.
  • Suffer the torments of a young lady who wants desperately to marry but seems destined never to wed.
  • Walk the wild western paths and run from unimaginable dangers.
  • Choose between an unhappy life of luxury or a happy life of simplicity.

Unshod is free for your reading enjoyment through the following e-book vendors:

Amazon.com       Barnes & Noble      iTunes      Kobo      Inktera      Scribd  

I hope you’ll download this free book, enjoy the read and maybe even feel inclined to write a short review.

85. Helpless

(An original piece of art work drawn by Xiaonan Gao for my short story Helplessness when it appeared on StoryShack)

Tuesday Book Blog–The Patriot Joe Morton

Patriot Joe Morton cover

The Patriot Joe Morton by Michael DeVault

Genre: literary fiction – psychological; literary fiction – war

Amazon.com star rating – 8 reviews with an average rating of 4.6 – I have no idea why this book doesn’t have more reviews!

Book Description

When the good people of Cranston, Texas learn a hometown boy has been killed in Iraq, they set about mounting a proper memorial for their fallen hero. Yet nobody thinks to ask the boy’s reclusive father, Joe Morton, if such a service is wanted … or welcome. Crippled by grief and not one to make waves, Joe goes along with the plans of the townsfolk until he can bear no more. Finally, on the Fourth of July, he tells them just how he feels. But his sole act of independence brings unexpected and devastating consequences. The residents, and least of all Joe Morton, are wholly unprepared for what happens next: change and the outside world come to Cranston. First runner-up for the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society’s Gold Medal.

About the author

Author Michael DeVaultMichael DeVault was born in Mississippi and grew up in Louisiana and Arkansas, which gave him a strong grounding in the rich musical and literary traditions of the South. He worked as a journalist for more than twelve years, covering politics and the arts for local and regional publications while he also worked on his novels. A two-time finalist for the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society Gold Medal (Novel-in-Progress, 2002, Anything But Ordinary; Novella, 2008, The Patriot Joe Morton), Michael’s fiction draws on his youth to weave tapestries of intensely believable characters, finely honed plots, and imagery and symbolism inspired by the great southern writers, all wrapped into a package by clean, sharp prose.

 

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My Five Star Review

If you let it, this book will change the way you look at the world …

A good story allows the reader a peek inside a unique world. If we’re lucky, we come away from the reading understanding life in a deeper way. The Patriot Joe Morton is such a book. The novel illustrates the cost of making assumptions. Whether it is how to deal with grief, subtle and not so subtle forms of racism, or the true nature of patriotism – the reader is invited to examine his or her own assumptions right along with the inhabitants of Cranston, Texas.

The other major theme is change. Change is inevitable and even if nothing much has changed in what seems like forever, most people know in their gut it could happen. Even so, this reality is denied and most of us do everything we can to hold our little worlds in a type of stasis. Thus it is for the inhabitants of Cranston. Life goes along as it has always gone along – stopping at the Truck Stop Café for coffee, working the farm, strolling the main street of small town USA and seeing the same faces and places you’ve seen all your life. Then, like the theory of punctuated equilibrium, the winds of change start to blow and nothing is ever the same again.

There is an intimacy to Michael DeVault’s writing. The death of Joe Morton’s son is the catalyst for change. Joes’ grief is palpable. When he asks Cranston’s funeral director if he’ll be able to see his son’s body, Frederick Gruber, who has been the sole funeral provider in the small town for years – he’s seen Korea and worked through Vietnam, he’s buried grandmothers and infants but never “. . . had he so profoundly understood grief until that moment.”

Doris has worked at the Truck Stop Café since she left high school. She’s never been anywhere but Cranston. The days and years go by in such a cycle of repetitive motion – this is well emphasized by the way in which she continually walks the floor of the café, toting yet another full pot of coffee and refilling the cups of the same handful of people, over and over – she has convinced herself that she wants no more from life. Events serve to rattle her out of that illusion. “She paced the parking lot behind the Café, the merciless east Texas sun pressing down as she puffed away at a cigarette. She wanted to scream, to curse them all. First Casey’s funeral, now the fireworks. The whole year had left Doris wondering what these people had done with their brains.”

The anguish life-long Cranston resident, Harlan, feels, as change rips apart his small and ordered world, works its way under our collective skin. Harlan often goes off by himself to work out his thoughts and feelings. He decides to fix a fence at the back of his acreage. His neighbour four-wheels up for a chat and asks how much the wood cost.

Ted set out a long whistle. “That’s a lot of money to fix a fence.”

“Things cost what they cost.”

“You could have just left it open, you know?”

Harlan stopped driving the latest nail and looked up at Ted, perplexed. “And what? Leave a broken fence?”

“Why we need a fence? I aint got cows. Neither have you, last I checked.”

Harlan shrugged. “Fence is busted, you gotta fix it. It’s just what you do . . .”

In Harlan’s world that’s how simple it all is – a fence is busted, you gotta fix it, no place is better to be than Cranston, Texas so there’s no point leaving, Cranston is just right as it is and no one need bring the world to Cranston in the form of ‘foreigners’ or hi-wi or wi-hi or whatever the hell you want to call that internet thing. There’s one way to be a US patriot and there’s one way to live your life and Harlan’s going to tell you just exactly what that way is.

But Harlan is far from this one-dimensional and the beauty of DeVault’s writing is that we see this in all his characters. Harlan cares about people, he has a big heart, he’s generous to a fault with his time and money and when he can no longer run from change he accepts the defeat with grace.

The Patriot Joe Morton is a book with a message; but the reader always has a choice – take it or leave it – DeVault doesn’t push it down anyone’s throat. But understand this – read this book and you might be changed by the peek you’ve had at the the lives of everyday people in small-town America.

small town Texas 2 - google images

Disappearing in Plain Sight–Free Again

Blue lake beauty - Bruce Witzel photo

Hold onto your hats, folks! Here’s another chance to get Disappearing in Plain Sight – 1st book in the Crater Lake Series – for free. Saturday, May 14th and Sunday May 15th.

Recent review

Over 70 reviews with an average rating of 4.5 stars.

The lazy days of summer are coming and the Crater Lake Series is a great summer-time read. Enjoy the first book for free and tell your friends. Many thanks in advance for your support.

My books - Guenette photo

Creating a Wilderness Garden

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“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

For many years we created our woodland garden on a shoestring. That made extra special the plants that came to us through division, liberation or gift. To this day, I have a soft spot for the perennials that didn’t cost a cent.

There is the blanket of heather that springs from a number of plants gifted to Bruce years ago from a family who attended the Ecumenical Church in Port Alice. They had dug them out of their yard and offered them to anyone interested. We call it Church Heather and it is an incredibly hardy plant that spreads on a whim and sometimes blooms twice a year in wonderful shades of dark purple bleeding off to white.

Baby Bear in the Heather - Bruce Witzel photo

The Juene Landing periwinkle started with a small clump brought home during one of Bruce’s renovation jobs for Western Forest Products. It now thrives and spreads a gorgeous ground cover of glossy-green leaves and stunning little star-shaped blue flowers. Word of warning – this freebie could get to be too much of a good thing if a gardener isn’t careful.

Periwinkle - Bruce Witzel photo

We were fortunate to be gifted with a Monkey Tree seedling from Ronning’s Garden. This garden is a very special and isolated spot on the road to Cape Scott Provincial Park. Many thanks to Ron and Julia Moe for their rejuvenating care of this beautiful location.

Monkey Tree - Bruce Witzel photo

 

Tiger Lily - Guenette photoOur friends, Mike and Cheryl Reaume offered us one of many mature Japonicas they were digging out of their yard. We brought it north from Campbell River. The Japonica thrives through its varied stages of greens, reds (it is sometimes known as the fire bush and if you see one, you’ll understand why) and small white flowers. As an added bonus, the dirt around this plant contained a few Tiger Lily bulbs. We now have a multitude of bright orange offerings marching out from under the Japonica and multiplying each year.

Red Rhodos @ the Lake

The Kaleva Gardens rhododendron – a deep red variety – was liberated from the edges of a worksite during a renovation. It sits out near our apple tree on the more wind-exposed side of our place. But hearty must be its middle name because it is often the first of the rhodos to bloom and the last one to have a flower.

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The Desiree rhododendron, with its price spot in the back garden, now towers over my head. This was a gift from a special student when I left my job at Sunset School in Port McNeill. Every year it produces huge white blooms in joyful abundance. This year it has to be twelve feet across and equally as high.

Cotton Candy Rhodo - Guenette photo

The Hurling rhododendron came to us all the way from Winter Harbour. This little plant had a hard go of it last year when a black bear trod right on it. But enduring must be on this plants label. We simply tucked its bent and damaged stem back under the earth and this spring it looks healthy and ready to go. It’s cotton-candy, baby pink colour was the prize of this year’s collection.

Oh-oh – almost forgot the Byce rhododendron. It’s a gorgeous bright red offering – Vulcan variety!

Apple Blossoms - Guenette photo

You might notice a pattern with rhodos – they really love it here. We have a Cunningham’s Blush Pink variety that complements our apple tree to perfection – both coming into full bloom at the same time.

Lacy Hydrangea - Guenette photo (2)

Then there are the hydrangeas we’ve divided over the years from one special plant. I’m at a loss to remember where the first one came from. I’m sure it was from one of Bruce’s job sites.

Hummingbird in the Montbrecia

The Flostrand’s bulbs – Montbricea that seemed to take forever to bloom and then did so in what can only be described as majestic, humming-bird loving splendour. We also received a bunch of purple flag bulbs that have acclimatized in a wonderful way to our setting. Thanks to Maggie and Lyle for their generosity.

Irises - Guenette photo

Most recently, the Gurski Lilac and a cute little wishing well filled with ivy made their way to us. Too soon to even get photos of these gems. That will have to wait for another post.

Ivy stump - Bruce Witzel photo

And speaking of ivy, a chunk taken from Bruce’s dad’s place in Courtenay years ago – though his warnings were dire when it came to keeping it away from building foundations – has now covered a huge stump and needs continual trimming.

Chives in bloom - Guenette photo

Andrea’s chives, lemon balm and oregano – chunks of plants thick with dirt from her own garden and wrapped in garbage bags were passed on to me. We met at North Island College years ago – taking courses and enjoying each other’s company.

Bamboo on the cliff - Bruce Witzel photo

We liberated from Port Alice a large clump of bamboo though we were warned not to because it can become invasive – it is growing out on the cliff and I think the chances are slim that it will make its way grove-like to our door, but you never know. We ignore these warnings at our own risk.

Lamb's ear - Guenette photo

On a visit to Bruce’s sister Heather’s garden, we noticed a lovely plant – all silvery downy leaves and delicate pink flowers. She gave us a chunk with another of those dire warnings. I call it Lamb’s Ear and, as she warned, it is now everywhere!

The beauty of foxglove - Francis Guenette photo

There are the other weed-like offerings that we embraced as the bounty of the land only to discover that these prolific gems, starting out as innocent mergers, are well on their way to hostile take overs. Though I must say, they are still beautiful. Wild daises threaten to over run all our beds. Foxglove, so beautiful in bloom, has gone mad and must be constantly dug up and removed to the outer edges of our space.

This blog post is dedicated to the generous gardeners who offers bits of this or that from their own gardens for others to grow. It is also written in honour of gardeners who have an eye for rescuing or relocating or liberating those wonderfully free plants that end up creating beauty in new settings.

A liberation gardener - Guenette photo

One-Month Past a BookBub Promotion

Cotton Candy Rhodo - Guenette photo

From March 25th to March 29th, I ran a five-day free promotion for Disappearing in Plain Sight, first book in my Crater Lake Series, with a fiercely-sought-after BookBub Promotion slot on March 27th. Please check out my series of posts to read about how the whole thing unfolded.

The end of April marked one-month past the promotion. Things are still going amazingly well for the Crater Lake books. When you have written a series of books, give the first away for free and realize a bump in sales for subsequent books in the series, this is what is called the halo effect. Well, here I am, checking my stats with a big halo over my head.

Sales over the month of April for the series and for my stand-alone novel, Maelstrom, were five times higher than e-sales garnered over all my titles since Disappearing in Plain Sight came out in 2013. In one month! My email list is bulging from readers who took the time to send me an email and let me know how much they enjoyed one or all three of the Crater Lake books. I went into the promotion with thirty-three reviews for Disappearing in Plain Sight. I now have sixty-four. And speaking of reviews, if you haven’t had a chance to check out my last post on how authors react to negative reviews, please do. The comment stream is as informative as the post, so don’t miss either.

Now that the books have been raised out of Amazon’s basement of obscurity, I am experiencing pressure to keep the marketing ball in the air. I tried for a BookBub slot for the second book in the series, The Light Never Lies, and was turned down. No surprise! Tried for an E-Reader News Today (ENT) slot for Disappearing in Plain Sight and then for my new release, Maelstrom and was turned down on both of those. ENT is getting very popular. I have learned to just keep trying with these sites. One day one of my books will fit their email agendas.

My biggest challenge right now is getting my head out of marketing and back into active writing mode. The best promotion possible will be the release of the fourth book in the Crater Lake Series. I know how it starts and I know how it ends. I’ve plotted out the major crunch points. The new characters and settings are profiled. The story board is up and running. Random scenes pop into my mind at odd moments of the day. So – what is missing? Seat in the chair, fingers on the keyboard producing a set number of words every single day. Excuses abound – oh, let me tell you about the garden and the weather and my pressing need to read all four books in Paul Scott’s Raj Quartet for no good reason at all.

To recap – BookBub works! The Crater Lake Series has broken through Amazon’s vastly crowded ocean of books and for the most part, readers have been pleased. My favourite email so far went like this:

“Bud here, sixty-something-year-old guy. Thought I downloaded a teen romance – not my thing. Stuck with it. Glad I did. Good book.”

Many thanks, Bud. Now all I need to do is get that next book written.

Mountain Bluet - Guenette photo