Friday, June 28, 2013

Test Case for Others

Over at BookBlogs there are several forum posts regarding the use of blog tours and PR folks to handle the release of a novel. It was a couple of months ago that I went ahead and signed up for one. I chose a package that provided 15-20 "blog stops" and reviews.

For the most part I feel that I was given what I paid for, but in some ways I'm unimpressed. Although the tour is not yet complete, so far the evidence is that there is no difference in sales to justify the expense. The last time I released a novel I did more work, but was able to tailor the blogs and reviews to blogs that more closely matched my genre, but more importantly there was a bit more rigidity to the schedule.

To the first part, last year I had to investigate and identify different bloggers who might be interested in reading and reviewing my book for their blogs. Many, in fact I would say 50% of them, told me that my novel might not fit their genre and passed on the opportunity. For the most part however, I found about 15 total bloggers over the course of three months and received decent reviews. How much of that translated into new sales, probably not that many. When I look at the types of blogs that have been used for this blog tour, I feel like I've really missed the mark.

Last year there seemed to be more rhyme and reason to the ersatz tour I planned. It was based on reviews. If an interview popped up, which it did at times, then that was found money. This tour has not had that foundation, one of being based on reviews. I have gotten good reviews (here, and here) but I got good reviews last time as well. This has been based on cover, banner and summary. I'd rather have reviews. Secondly, and this might have been the impetus of this post, the most recent stop on the blog tour was just an interview. A short summary to be sure, but mostly interview. Personally, I'd rather have a review that leads to an interview not the other way around.

All in all I think that the old adage, "if you want something done right . . . do it yourself" has been proven out here. One of the aspects of this experiment I didn't like was that I was using two different experimental media . . . ie. two different books. Last years novel was Toe the Line, this years is On the Edge. How would I know if a decrease or increase in sales was or was not directly related to the blog tour. Now that I've come to the end of the blog tour experiment, I think I am going to try last year's approach and measure my success rate there too. Because at the moment my answer to the Bookblogs question of "are blog tours worthwhile" . . . it would be a resounding . . . nope.

UPDATE: 6-29-13 - the original post included a diatribe regarding missed dates on behalf of bloggers on the blog tour. This was not accurate. Sage and her bloggers on this tour have hit each of their dates as scheduled and as promised.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Nook Out

See, this is why you gotta keep up with current events and why I read the WSJ.

Here is an article by Jefferey A. Tractenberg entitled Barnes & Noble Throws in Towel on Tablets which covers the fact that the Nook is through. Frankly, I see this is a bit of a non-event in the grand scheme of things, but a major event in the world of e-readers.

The bookseller reported Tuesday that losses at its Nook digital business blew out in the fourth quarter, easily wiping out reduced profits generated at its bookstores. As a result Barnes & Noble said it would stop manufacturing its own color tablets, instead going with co-branded devices made by third-party manufacturers.

I also look at Barnes and Noble in much the same way I see the Post Office. Why wasn't the post office the prevailing user and first adopter of email? I remember in 1996 first using email in college. Clunky, orange on black text, an ability to only send to other users in the same community. Why didn't the USPS take that sucker and run with it. Instead of dot com every address should end with dot USPS. For the first few years the only thing we did with the internet was send mail.

I remember when Prodigy (I think that was the name) was introduced it provided local weather and some news as well. It wasn't till email became en vogue that the internet gained legs. Email . . . mail . . . where was the Post Office? They could have been sitting in the fabled cat bird seat had they leveraged that idea sooner.

Why didn't Barnes and Noble jump on the e-publishing band wagon sooner. Why did Amazon, which prior to Kindle was all about shipping goods to people, become the preeminent e-book publisher on the web? Where was Border's? Where was Barnes and Noble? They focused on their core business that's where they were and they weren't nimble enough to change. I see the same thing in my industry. Do we focus on our core? Do we dance with them who brung us? Yep and yep. But we also are expanding into new areas. 50% of our business comes from new or other than core business lines.

It's a miss in my book that Barnes and Noble and Border's aren't still in the book selling business. I imagine kiosks at bookstores that provide a discount on hard cover if you buy the e-book too. I see a store where you can go look at the book in hard cover then buy it on your Nook after you've decided to give it a try. I think about a store where e-publishing takes up as much or more of their core, conventional selling business.

Sadly what do you actually see when you look at Barnes and Noble? You see Cactus.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I Repost Cause I Must

I never intend to repost items from other blogs, but when I run across a post that just screams at me that this is something I must remember, something I must tell others about,  . . . well then I must repost.

I seem to repost a lot from The Kill Zone, and there is a distinct and clear reason why . . . they write some good stuff over on that site. Today P.J. Parrish has a terrific little article called Are Rules Made to Be Broken on breaking rules and following rules. When is it okay to break rules, when should one follow rules. The article is terribly insightful . . . who knew that Picasso had painted the first painting? (go read the article to find out what that means).

That being said, she winds up the column with a numbered list of rules from Emma Coats a storyboard artist with Pixar. There are 22 rules, I liked the following three the most:

Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

I have yet to do this with the novel I'm presently writing. I'm glad I read this. Immediately I'm going to start chewing on and digesting the ending so that I know where I'm going.

What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don't succeed? Stack the odds against them.

This harkens back to the post I wrote the other day on challenges and hurdles for a protagonist to overcome that play such a big part in writing (here). I like the idea of "stakes" much more than just "hurdles" or "challenges." Stakes inherently imply that there are challenges right? I think so.

 Here's an exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How would you rearrange them into what you DO like.

Why have I never heard of this exercise? What a terrific idea! I was recently asked as a part of the blog tour I'm currently in about what movie have I seen that is better than the book. I skipped the question. I couldn't immediately think of one. I would have much rather been confronted with a question of "How would you have changed the worst movie you've ever seen into something better?" I can't wait to try this and I bet I reference the Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics website when I do so.

Again, so much going on that is good over at The Kill Zone and so much worthwhile in that article. Well worth the three or five minutes it takes to read it.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Couple More

So far the reviews from non-friends and family are positive. I received two more reviews from the blog tour. One from "ai love books" the other from "a book and a lattee.

The first, from ai love books said:

On The Edge by Dick Hannah is definitely a good mystery/crime novel. I like how the mystery starts right away in the first few chapters. The writing was smooth. I can’t stop reading to learn about the murder – why? And who did it? I can’t stop guessing until the end. The author did a really good job with the mystery and thriller. I love the bits on family and drama within the story. I wanted to know what will happen to Joe and his father’s relationship. Overall, On the Edge was a good mystery/thriller read laced with family drama and a little bit of romance.

I'm particularly happy with the phrase, "The writing was smooth." I'll take that.

The second review, this one from a book and a lattee said:

In Dick Hannah’s On The Edge is an extremely fantastic novel in which I absolutely loved every part of it. It wasn’t just one novel but became multiple novels all in one – a little romance, thriller, inspirational, and family drama all packed into one. I’m really hoping that Dick Hannah has a sequel to On The Edge just because I’m so intrigued by Joe’s story.

My take away . . . "It wasn’t just one novel but became multiple novels all in one."

So far none of this has resulted in any new sales, at least none that I've seen, but if nothing else this blog tour results in providing me much needed confidence boosts each week!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Entirely Apropos

Over at The Kill Zone they are asking their readers to provide some ideas for a collective noun for a group of writers.

Writers, I have found, love to use these "collective nouns" in much the same way I'm sure a woodworker would enjoy trying to build an intricate jewelry box, or a artist might like to try a new medium with which to work. Samples that most everyone can remember include:

  • Murder of Crows
  • Colony of Ants
  • Coffle of Asses
  • Troop of Baboons

The list could go on and on. What I think is so apropos about this is that I just highlighted a terrific, and I think completely original example in Les Miserables.

above the chimney piece hung a crucifix of copper, with the silver worn off, fixed on a background of threadbare velvet in a wooden frame from which the gilding had fallen; near the glass door a large table with an inkstand, laded with a confusion of papers and with huge volumes

I like that, "confusion of papers." First time I'd run across it.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Always Good to Get Glowing Reviews

It's always good to get a glowing review, even from a "Devoted Mommy of 3."

The blog DevotedMommyof3 is written by "a housewife and mother of 3 boys (19,16, 10) writes on daily life, rural living, and being the only girl in a house full of boys."

This is one of the blogs that was identified for the Blog Tour that Sage Adderly put together. She writes today in her blog:

Dick Hannah has created one fantastic novel. Simply put- I love it. There were a lot of plates spinning & he didn’t drop any. What I’d thought would be a simple mystery novel became multiple novels in one: family drama, thriller, a little romance, inspirational- you name it! Fingers are crossed for a sequel. Five stars straight through- brilliant!

I'll take the praise and hope it transfers into further sales.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Not Punchy

I don't think I'm punchy enough for Twitter, but that being said, I do Tweet.

My Twitter handle is "Novelogism" . . . a combination of Neologism and Novelling. When I combine the definitions I get:

A new book that may be in the process of entering common use.

This morning I tweeted a passage from Les Miserables. Generally I tweet passages or words that strike my fancy. This one hit my fancy pretty hard. This passage occurs right as Fantine is on Death's door and Jean Valjean is about to be confronted by Javert.

The branch trembles when a hand approaches it to pluck a flower, and seems to both withdraw and to offer itself at one and the same time. The human body has something of this tremor when the instant arrives in which the mysterious fingers of Death are about to pluck the soul.

I think that's some amazing stuff. There is alot of writing in Les Miserables that would never make the cut these days. We are far too focused on getting to the heart of the matter. What Hugo takes three chapters to say would be written in a couple of sentences now days. But, there are those passages that can be separated from the rest, like this one, that really make the whole magilla so much better than the rest.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Novel Release

I can't wait to see what happens in the next couple of days. Sage has provided me the list of dates and blogs below and I can't wait to see what the bloggers think of my new novel, On the Edge (prospective readers can buy it either via Amazon  for Kindle or through Smashwords for all others).

Friday, June 14, 2013

Next Novel

June 17th is fast approaching, and with it the release of my new novel, On the Edge.

As you will know if you've been reading this blog I've been posting about the upcoming "Blog Tour" that starts June 17th. I commissioned Sage Adderly to help me out with this, and so far I've been impressed. I wrote earlier about the upcoming Blog Tour that she is helping me run, and last year I wrote about my self-release and own experiences trying to get reviews in my AAR series. We shall see if Sage makes a significant difference come June 17.

So far Sage has been pretty decent. I've had two different rather lengthy questionnaires regarding my reading and writing life that I will post links to once they are released on June 17th. I've been impressed with the book banner she produced as well.

I think success in this arena will be gauged by whether or not I break even. Anything else will be nice, but at this point I'm hoping to take one small step toward my hobby becoming self-sustaining.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Yet Another Retraction?

So many retractions so little time.

Seriously though, this one is more of a clarification than a retraction. But just yesterday I write this post on how so many writing websites and editors have a paradigm that includes so many silly effects to draw the reader in. Then I run into this post today from The Kill Zone. I read the title, Checklist for Adding Suspense and Intrigue, by Jodie Renner and I immediately think it is going to support what I wrote yesterday. 


I wish I could post just the most prescient portions, but if I did I'd be lifting the entire post. It's a terrific checklist, at least the first half. The second half gets back into the typical techniques I alluded to yesterday, piling on the problems, but I suppose that comes with the thriller writing genre. 

Still, if you are a writer, this is a great checklist to help get you going. I recommend using it.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Move Move Move

So often when I read books on writing or try a critique group or hear a speaker the pacing of the story comes up. What I hear is that I should immediately plunge the reader into the action, I should put my hero in constant danger and the end of each chapter should be a cliff hanger of some sorts. It's somewhat refreshing to read Les Miserables if only because it doesn't follow that paradigm.

Would I have read yesterday of what was going on in the mind of Jean Valjean anything like this had it been written today:

In this situation Jean Valjean meditated; and what could be the nature of his meditation? 

If the grain of millet beneath the millstone had thoughts, it would, doubtless, think that same thing which Jean Valjean thought.

Or would I have read the first twenty something chapters at all which describe the daily life of Monseigneur Bienvenue?

Or would I have read an entire chapter about drowning at sea, the whole time thinking that Victor Hugo meant that Valjean was the victim, when by the end of the chapter he flips it around and lets the reader know that Valjean is like the sailors on the boat watching the drowning man recede in the distance. That the analogy has the entire ship as the prison and the drowning man is Valjean's hope and morality.

Granted, the mantra regarding putting the hero in danger et al is more suited for the Thrillers I've been reading lately, but more than that they are supposed to make the reader feel compelled to move on. Hugo does it with Les Miserables without the constant peril and without the cliff hangers and without the silly techniques.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Where's the Retraction Key on this Computer

Yeah, so, where's the key I push to print a retraction, cause after reading today's article on Apple by L. Gordon Crovitz that I found in the WSJ, I was way off!

The post I wrote last week where-in I alluded to Job's biography and his stipulation that "We'll go to the agency model, where you set the price, and we get our 30%, and yes, the customer pays a little more, but that's what you want anyway," was off by a measure. What I didn't realize until I read today's article is that Apple wasn't setting the price, they were just setting the cut, or the percentage. I have polled a couple of other folks and they had the same misunderstanding.

How can you be mad at Apple when they are treating writing the exact same as every other product or good. All of their apps, all of their games, all of anything gets the same cut 30% to Apple. The article says that price isn't a factor. Until I read more, I'm gonna have to agree with Apple.

Apple just passed 50 billion downloads of the 850,000 apps for its iPhones and iPads. For paid apps, developers get 70% of the sales revenue and Apple keeps 30%. This applies to everything from the best-selling game Angry Birds to the GarageBand app that turns an iPad into a musical instrument.

Revenue sharing is a common business model, and it wasn't controversial until the Justice Department made this 30% the crux of its e-book price-fixing case against Apple, now entering its second week in federal court in New York.

There's nothing unlawful about revenue sharing or most-favored-nation pricing. 

I find that pretty dang compelling, but there's more. When I read this I became a convert:

As this column reported when the case was brought last year, Apple executive Eddy Cue in 2011 turned down my effort to negotiate different terms for apps by news publishers by telling me: "I don't think you understand. We can't treat newspapers or magazines any differently than we treat FarmVille." His point was clear: The 30% revenue-share model is how Apple does business with everyone. It is not, as the government alleges, a scheme Apple concocted to fix prices with book publishers.

I can't find fault with Apple if they're being consistent, can you? Find me where this is wrong and you'll see the first retraction of a retraction on this site.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

First Line Today

There is an article today in the WSJ about when people stop reading novels that I hoped to discuss today, but will probably wait until tomorrow. But it goes hand in hand with today's post. I started reading Les Miserables and these are the first few sentences.

In 1815, M. Charles-Fran├žois-Bienvenu Myriel was Bishop of Digne. He was an old man of about seventy-five years of age; he had occupied the see of Digne since 1806. 

Although this detail has no connection whatever with the real substance of what we are about to relate, it will not be superfluous, if merely for the sake of exactness in all points, to mention here the various rumors and remarks which had been in circulation about him from the very moment when he arrived in the diocese. True or false, that which is said of men often occupies as important a place in their lives, and above all in their destinies, as that which they do.

Hugo, Victor - Les Miserables

First, it's hard not to be blown away by the line:

True or false, that which is said of men often occupies as important a place in their lives, and above all in their destinies, as that which they do.

This is great and moving stuff. But secondly, the book's first passage seems like it would be incredibly boring. It has so little to do (seemingly) with the rest of the book. It moves so slowly, the wheels grind as fast as a snail. Still, I can't stop reading it. I'm soaking it all in. I can't wait to juxtapose it against tomorrow's article on when readers stop reading.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Took My Time With This One

I just finished The Ghost War by Alex Berenson. For the most part it was a pretty good book.

There were some instances where I thought it amaturish. Saying things like, "Then Well's told them of his plan," or "Was it any wonder Duto was so tired," idioms and "tricks" that took me out of the story and made me realize this was Berenson's second novel.

Still, it was good enough that I am looking forward to the next one. The ending seemed abrupt, almost too tidy, but sometimes that is necessary. In this case it seemed like I had read his outline for the book and it all tied together too conveniently. The last line was decent so I've pasted it below:

THEN, FROM ABOVE, THE GRINDING SOUND of metal on metal. Followed almost instantly by an enormous explosion, two hundred yards ahead, and a second even closer. Wells bowed his head as sizzling bits of metal crashed around him. 

They’d collided. The wind shift had left the helicopters blind. In their eagerness to get the kill, they’d come too close. They had crashed into each other in the dark and gone down, both of them. This filthy cloud had saved his life. Wells lifted the engine out of the water and looked around, trying to orient himself in the dark, thick air. Distant helicopters behind him. Somewhere overhead, a jet. 

And ahead, a voice. Amplified. American. 

Calling his name. 

He closed his eyes and lowered the engine into the water and steered for it.

Berenson, Alex - The Ghost War

Monday, June 3, 2013

Today's Writing Links

There is just so much to write about, today I'm writing a compendium of links to help keep it all sorted.

First, there is a terrific article from The Kill Zone by Claire Langley-Hawley regarding how to successfully integrate back story into a novel. This is a pet peeve of mine, right up there with poor foreshadowing, so I loved this article. Had it not been for the other links below, this would have been today's post all by itself. Well worth the five minutes it takes to read it.

The second link is this story about Apple appearing before the Justice Department today to discuss price fixing for ebooks. How can you have an ebook and epublishing series and not include this? Personally? My thoughts? Despite Cook's demurral, I believe what Job's said in hisbiography,

"We'll go to the agency model, where you set the price, and we get our 30%, and yes, the customer pays a little more, but that's what you want anyway," Mr. Jobs said in the book."

Then there was this article in the weekend WSJ about how to create a spy. This article resonated with me due to the fact that I'm reading The Ghost War right now by Alex Berenson and it's all about moles, spies and the CIA. Based on the article I'm looking forward to reading Jason Matthew's novel Red Sparrow.

Finally, there is this article from Thriller Ink that goes hand in hand with what I wrote last week when discussing Stephen King, established authors fearful of epublishing. I like Thriller Ink's take on this, mostly cause it echoes my own. Again, worth the five minute investment.