Friday, September 29, 2017

Writing: Book Prices

I subscribe to a service called Authorgraph. People who want to get an electronic "signature" to add to their e-book of mine can do so by entering the title at the site. This is a free service for readers. One of the benefits for authors is that each week I find how much my novels and novellas have gone up or down in the Amazon ratings. Of course, most of us who write know (or have been told) that these ratings change frequently as people buy the books, but it's still a nice barometer.

As I looked at the list, I noted that the popularity of the books are--in descending order--my latest novel, followed by the three novellas I've self-published. This raises several questions. Are novellas more popular  than novels over the long haul, or is this just an aberration? Do people like them because they're shorter (i.e., can be read more quickly)? Or are more bought because they're cheaper (especially in e-book form) than full-length novels?

Of course, this raises another question--one that authors have kicked around for a while. Look at the price of novels published by traditional publishers. It's higher, by and large, than those that are self-published. Most authors have found that the "sweet spot" in pricing of self-published work is much lower than the figure set by traditional publishers. Has publishing shot itself in the foot with its pricing structure?

Well, those are enough questions. I look forward to reading your answers. Please leave them in the comments section. Thanks.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Choose Your Forum

Posting on a blog isn't as easy as it might seem, especially for an author. We're told that we need to connect with our readers, but to avoid anything controversial. But it seems that the whole world is involved in controversy right now.

I have a platform--of sorts. My books resonate with a diverse audience, and I'm delighted about that. I also have opinions, as do millions of others. But my area of expertise isn't autos, or cooking, or politics, or any one of a hundred other areas. So why should my opinion be valued in areas in which I'm no more expert than you all are? That's why I cringe when someone posts on Facebook, "What do you suggest I do about...?" or "I'm having thus-and-such symptoms. What do you suggest?" What I suggest is that you value the opinions you get on social media about like those you'd get from a person down the street with whom your acquaintance is limited at best.

Let me address a topic that's been of interest recently, to say the least. Sunday, when our pastor asked the congregation to stand as the Bible was read, this was a mark of respect that we all recognized. I didn't look around to see if anyone remained seated--I'm sure some did, especially those who were unable to stand for that length of time. But there were no protests and no one called attention to themselves. Why? Because that wasn't the time and place for them.

Everyone has an opinion--including prominent people of all types: TV personalities, professional athletes, pastors. Their opinion counts as much--but no more--than mine or yours. There are forums for debate and espousing of opinions. I suggest that we choose our forums to focus any arguments on the points being made, not on ourselves. That's my opinion.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Writing: What Remains

I thought I was through, after thirty-six years of medical practice, including writing or editing eight textbooks, teaching all over the world, and attaining name-recognition in my specialty. But I was wrong. God had a second profession for me--non-medical writing.

I've been fortunate. I have had ten novels of romantic medical suspense released by "traditional" publishers, and indie-published an eleventh, along with three--soon to be four--novellas. Of course, all this began with the book I wrote after the death of my first wife: The Tender Scar. I'm pleased that book remains in print a decade after its release, and has helped thousands of people who have sustained a similar loss.

Anyone who gets into this crazy business called "writing" often does it for the wrong reason. There's really no money in it (except for perhaps a handful of writers who are at the top of their game). There's little, if any, name recognition or glory. And when one puts a novel out there for all the world to see, it makes them as vulnerable as a football cornerback facing a combination of an all-pro receiver and a world-famous wide receiver. I've heard it described as being "on an island," and I can understand that.

I'm currently re-reading (as I often do) the books left behind by a number of deceased authors: Robert B. Parker, Dr. Michael Palmer, Ross Thomas, Donald Westlake. The list goes on. I intersperse it with inspirational (or, if you're as old-fashioned as I am, "Christian") fiction by living authors. But I'm often reminded as I read their words that a lot of what authors leave behind is encompassed in these printed words. That especially hit me as I re-read the last novel Parker wrote. He was found dead at his computer. But his novels live on.

It's at times like those that I turn to the little card fellow author B. J. Hoff sent me years ago. It pretty much encompasses what I'd like people to think about me after I'm gone, and the reason for my writing.

In case you can't read the words in the picture, what B. J. wrote is this:
"It matters not if the world has heard, or approves, or understands...
The only applause we're meant to seek is that of nail-scarred hands."

What about you? What would you like to be remembered for?

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PS--You may want to check out this interview on The Big Thrill (from the International Thriller Writers). I talk about what I'd like readers to get out of reading Cardiac Event. Feel free to address this in your comments as well.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

'Tis The Season

Lots to think about as the calendar rolls on. Hurricanes and tropical storms have battered us. Baseball season is winding down and football is getting started. Weather turns cooler (although moreso in some areas than others). And the days roll inexorably on toward Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years.

What do you like about fall? I like the march of sports, I don't like pumpkin spice lattes. I enjoy the cooler weather. I don't look forward to snow piling up. Join in and list your favorites and non-favorites.

Iola Goulton has just posted my interview,  plus info about my latest book, Cardiac Event. I hope you'll check that out, too.

And join me back here on Friday, when I talk about the writing life.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Writing: Charting A Course

Given my 'druthers, and because I'm now retired,  I sometimes don't plan beyond the end of the week. However, in my second profession, I have to realize that an author must chart their course well into the future, so that's what I've done. Those who receive my newsletter just got the news about a brief price reduction on one of my novellas. If you haven't already bought and read Doctor's Dilemma, go to Amazon and look for the Kindle version, which is on sale via Kindle Countdown for the next few days. (The best price ends today--and let me remind you that, even though you don't have a Kindle, you can get a free app from Amazon that allows you to read a Kindle book on your computer). Feel free to pass the information on to your friends. And, if you read the novella, please leave an honest review on the Amazon site. They're appreciated.

Next month I'll be sending out news (first to my newsletter recipients and then via this blog) of another brief price reduction on a different novella. I hope to have news of an audio version of Doctor's Dilemma for you in another couple of months, with a new novella ready for publication before the end of the year. To sum it up, I plan to keep writing...and doing the other stuff that goes with it...for a while. I hope you'll come along with me.

Any suggestions about future projects for me, either novels or novellas? Do you like audio recordings? Is your preference for short or long work? Let me know. I read every comment (and try to respond).

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Monday, September 11, 2017

Let Us Never Forget

Yes, I usually blog about "stuff" on Tuesday, but I thought it was important to post this today. As I pondered what to write on my blog, I had lots of choices. Two hurricanes (three if you count the one that didn't impact the US directly), the baseball season winding down, the football season getting underway, fall coming (and has already come in some areas)--but then it dawned on me. Today is the anniversary of the September 11 attack.

I'll never forget where I was when it all happened, and I suspect many of you can say the same thing. I was in Denver, attending a professional meeting. I left the hotel fairly early to go to a breakfast for our leadership, and as I walked the two short blocks to where the meeting was being held I saw people looking in store windows at the TV images there. I called Kay, who had not heard the news.

We were delayed in our return to Dallas, of course. One doctor and his wife rented a Ryder truck to drive home. The staff of our meeting chartered a bus. We were guests of a very nice hotel until my brother-in-law drove from the Dallas area to get us in his pick-up truck. It took quite a while before things got back to anywhere near normal, although it was now the "new normal." We adjusted, and we all vowed that we would never forget.

It's many years later. That vow lives on in my life. How about yours?

God bless America.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Writing: More Than Just Putting Words Together

All writers have to do is write. Right? Once you jump on that merry-go-round, though, sometimes you find you are ready to yell, "Stop. I want to get off for a minute!" Of course, all the writers who haven't yet gotten onto the merry-go-round are standing by wishing they had that chance. While the ones who just want to ride are saying, "Can't it go any faster?"

I've already mentioned that, although some writers stay with the same publisher, others have to look for a relationship (i.e., multi-book contract) with a publisher as soon as their current one expires. For one reason or another, more writers are beginning to join the ranks of indie (independent) or hybrid (both indie and conventional) published authors. And all of us learn quickly that, whether fulfilling a contract or writing an indie-published book, there's a lot more to it than just writing. Unfortunately, the only way to really learn that lesson is to jump in, which is what I've done, first with three novellas, and now with Cardiac Event.

There's cover design, for example. If you're with a publisher, you may be asked for ideas, you might sign off on the cover that's been designed, or in some situations you find yourself stuck with a cover chosen for you (whether you like it or not). Of course, for an indie book the work (usually by a designer) is up to you. How do you find a good cover designer? The same way you find a good pediatrician, plumber, or dry cleaner. You ask around and weigh the advice and its source. I'm fortunate to have found a good one.

There's editing, which the publisher takes care of (although you may not agree with some of the changes they want to make) or for which the author is responsible if he/she indie-publishes the work. And let me emphasize that no matter how good you think your "great American novel" is, it needs a second set of eyes looking at it. 

Then there's the actual marketing of the novel. This includes guest blog posts and interviews (some of which a publisher arranges, while it's totally up to the author who indie-publishes).  And, of course, there are copies to be sent for review by sites and for members of a "street team" or "influencers."

In return for the "independence" of doing these things for himself, the author gets a greater return via royalties than comes from partnership with a traditional publisher. Is it worth it? I don't know yet. Authors who have done this, what do you think? And readers, can you tell when a book is indie-published by looking at it (cover, content, etc.)? Let me know. 

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Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Donations for Hurricane Harvey Victims

We got a phone call at midnight about ten days ago from Kay's great-niece, saying she was moving everything to the second story of their house--including getting neighbors to help move Kay's sister who is bedridden--because the flood waters were rising. It's been an up and down thing since then, and now there's another storm heading for the US. I don't know what the next hurricane will do. But I do know that the relief efforts, both by first responders and government personnel and by Texans who pitched in with their boats and their bodies, have been fantastic, as have those who opened their pocketbooks and hearts to help.

Just a word of warning--and, unfortunately, it usually comes to this. I've made several donations that will go to helping the people who need it most, and I'll make more. But beware of those who register spurious websites to intercept what would be well-intentioned help for those in need. Rather than detailing it here, let me suggest that you click this link and read the article. It's sickening, but that's kind of the way of our world now.

I'll be back on Friday with a post about writing.  Meanwhile, please give to those in need--but make certain your donation gets to them. Thanks.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Labor Day, 2017

The flooding that started in Houston and now reaches into the southeast parts of Texas and Louisiana and northward is one of the worst natural disasters our nation has experienced. If you haven't donated (time, things, money, whatever) to relief efforts, please do so...and remember that after the water recedes, there's still lots to be done. I won't presume to mention specific relief sites--you can choose your own--but please give.

This weekend, including Labor Day on Monday, marks the unofficial end of summer. Some writers find they do better with a holiday, others keep working. I'll be trying to take some time off. However, this will be a different one for many of us, and our prayers and thoughts go out to the people affected by the storms. Please keep them in mind as you celebrate this long weekend.

I'll be back on Tuesday, resuming my blogging. Meanwhile, may your celebration include those who are less fortunate.