Two of them were direct sales to someone who buys all my print books when they come out. The other three were on-line at the Kindle store, most likely to a man from church I met with this week. He has a book idea and wanted to discuss the self-publishing process with me. We met for lunch in my office on Tuesday. He mentioned particular interest in two of my books, and those are two that sold. Maybe he bought those, and a third one as well. That puts me at 70 sales for the year. Not great, but certainly better than last year.
Meanwhile, on the engineering front, I’m now up to four problem projects I’m dealing with for this one client. I wrote about this situation before. My wife asked me how long I would be dealing with these. I told her 1 year, 1 month, and 1 day, my (then) countdown to retirement. These are consuming just about all my work time, forcing training issues into the background.
And then, two different people have asked me to work on specifications for their projects. One is a mostly done spec that needs correcting. The other is a spec for a project that’s part of a nation-wide rollout program for which we have standard specs. That will be about a day’s job. The spec to edit may only take a couple of hours.
Put into this mix a trip to St. Louis next week (maybe) to see the site of one of these troubled projects, and you have a real problem as to time to do anything. I’ve written nothing this week. Christmas is coming, and right now it looks like I won’t have any writing time till after that. Maybe, I suppose, I might be able to carve out an hour here and there, but that’s about all.
It’s making me very weary. I had three nights this week where I slept poorly. Last night was better, but I’m not yet caught up. A heavy day of yard work and other chores awaits tomorrow. I sense a very weary Saturday evening, and falling asleep either on the couch or in my chair.
Yesterday, Thanksgiving Day, was a good day. It was just the three of us this year, as our large, family gathering will be a Christmas, a change from our normal routine. I fixed a turkey dinner, but without all the side dishes. We ate our full and have plenty of leftovers. Yes it was a good day.
But, we couldn’t find much on television that was of interest to us. So Lynda wanted to see the latest episode of The Curse of Oak Island. She couldn’t get it in Oklahoma City on Tuesday night. So I fired up the Roku, had to re-set a password (since it had been a while since we’d used it), and found the show. I had seen it, but it was good to watch it again.
We decided “why not watch some back episodes?” I intended to go to last season, which was season 4, and watch some of the later ones. Somehow, though, I went back to Season 1, so I decided to just start with the very first episode. It was almost as if I hadn’t seen it before, it was so long ago.
One thing that struck me was the similarity of the rhetoric. The searchers for treasure were saying the same thing in Season 1 as they are in Season 5. The narrator’s shtick hasn’t changed at all. It’s always one more search will get us there; we’re inches from the treasure; today may be the day; this new find gives us the motivation to keep on going. That much hasn’t changed, so far into the fifth season.
It suddenly occurred to me that that’s exactly how I am with my books: hoping this next one will be the breakthrough book, the book that gets widespread attention and lots of sales. My first publication was the short story “Mom’s Letter”. I had no expectations for it to sell. It was a story I wrote for a contest (that I didn’t win), and I self-published it because I didn’t have anything else quite ready, so I published it to see what the mechanics of self-publishing were like.
I was intending to publishing my first novel, Doctor Luke’s Assistant, but I didn’t feel like it was ready. So I pulled together my newspaper columns, expanded them, added fifteen new ones, and had Documenting America: Lessons From The United States’ Historical Documents. I didn’t have high hopes for this one either. It sold 30 or so copies in it’s first year.
It wasn’t until the next year, 2012, that I finally published Doctor Luke’s Assistant. It became, and still is, my highest selling book at 128 copies, adding seven to the total so far this year. Now, you’re going to note that 128 is NOT a lot of copies, and if that’s my highest selling book, how low are the others? Good observation. I had high hopes for my next book, The Candy Store Generation, being a political book in a political season. But it sold poorly: 15 copies its first year and a few each year since.
Then came my baseball book, In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People. I thought it was good enough to sell, and would be popular. Alas, not. I sold a few more in 2016, when the Cubs won the pennant, but it still hasn’t sell.
My point is, with each publication (now 26), I’ve thought “this will be the one, the one to breakout.” But each one disappoints. I don’t do a lot of marketing, just Facebook posts. I did one Facebook ad that resulted in no sales. I’ve interviewed authors on this blog, who have sometimes reciprocated. Each of those has resulted in no sales. I did an hour long radio interview, which resulted in no sales. I haven’t done any paid ads yet. Maybe that’s what I need to do. But I’ve thought my publishing should pay for itself, and so far haven’t seen my way clear to buy an ad. Perhaps I’ll change that in 2018.
So I’m much like the people searching for treasure on Oak Island. Just keep going, sinking costs—in my case the cost of time—into the endeavor a little at a time, hoping for change, for lightning to strike. My recent publication, When Death Changes Life: The Danny Tompkins Stories, is a boxed set of six related short stories, reaching all the way back to “Mom’s Letter”. I set the price of the e-book at $2.99, and the print book at $6.00. I sold zero. I do have three pre-orders of the print book, which will happen next week once my copies arrive.
I have two works-in-progress. One is a prequel to Doctor Luke’s Assistant, which is more laborious than expected. The other is the sequel to The Gutter Chronicles. I actually have people at work asking for this, so maybe I should turn my attention to it. I could sell 30 copies without difficulty, and might sell 10 to 20 of the first one to people who are new at work.
But will either of these be a breakthrough book? I can hope, I suppose, because without hope there’s no reason to go on. Hope is starting to grow thin, however.
Preserve The Revelation is published. It’s not selling, but it’s published. The proof copy of the print book should arrive today. I’ll get the e-book up for Nook, Kobo, Apple, etc. this weekend. Time to move on to something else.
That something else is my next book, Documenting America: Civil War Edition. There’s a long story to this book that I’ll try to make short and simple. My first full-length book to publish, back in May 2011, was Documenting America: Lessons from the United States’ Historical Documents. I enjoyed writing that. I found so many available documents, in this information age where digitized historical documents come online every day, that I knew I could make it into a series. Before long I had more than a dozen titles, all of which I knew I could easily write.
I decided my next one would be on the Civil War. The first one didn’t concentrate on one era in US history. Instead, I selected a variety of documents that interested me, from 1711 to 1898. It was fun, finding the documents, excerpting them, writing something about their historical significance, and tying them to an issue we face today. I had actually written a number of them as published and potential newspaper columns. When I decided, in February 2011 that I would make it into a book, it came together quickly.
Fast forward to mid-2013. I was searching around for what book to write next. The US was in the midst of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. I decided to make that the next one. I decided what the year limits would be, made a quick outline of the first few chapters, and wrote the first chapter. At the same time I was writing first chapters of three other books, to see which one felt right. Alas, Operation Lotus Sunday flowed easiest, and I wrote and published that. Once that was done I picked up DA-CW Ed again, added more to the Table of Contents, and wrote a couple more chapters. For some reason, it still didn’t feel right, and I went on to other things.
The next time I looked at it was early 2015. The sesquicentennial was about over. I had lost that window. Not that such a deadline was critical, but if I wanted to gain a few sales from the Civil War interest that the anniversary was generating…
What am I saying? When have any of my books ever found interest from current events? The election of 2012 didn’t help The Candy Store Generation, even though it included a discussion of that election as the campaign was being waged. The Chicago Cubs’ drive for their first pennant in 108 years last fall didn’t help sales of In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People or Headshots, not one bit. The idea that I thought Civil War anniversaries would help my book to sell was, at best laughable, and at worst delusional. I guess one can always dream.
Still, I took up the book again and worked on it, taking it up to about forty percent complete before I once again set it aside, somewhere around February 2015. Why did I do that? I still planned to write the book. But as I dug into the source documents behind the major events of the Civil War, two problems hit me full blast. One, I got tired of all the battles. When you write about a major war, battles will be predominant in the contents; you can’t avoid that. Second, I would read the source documents and start falling asleep. No joke; they were either boring me or I simply couldn’t concentrate on them. Still, from time to time over the years, I pulled the book out, even as I was working on other things, and either researched, wrote, or edited what I already had.
Now it’s 2017. No meaningful Civil War anniversaries will come up for decades. Yet, with my novel done and published, and trying to decide on what to publish next, I decided to return to DA-CW Ed. In January, I returned to my main source document, the Annals of America, and read. Lo and behold, I was able to read with amazing retention and clarity. I’m not sure what the difference was between early 2015 and early 2017, but it was a huge difference. I went to Atlanta for a conference in February, took my source book with me, and read and read and read and didn’t get tired of it.
So, what’s the status of the book? I have thirty chapters identified, which will be the final count. I have source documents in hand for all but one of those, and it’s possible I even have it for that one, reading it pending. I have my Word file created and correctly organized. I have about twelve chapters fully written (subject to editing, of course), and I have the source documents in my file for all but about eight of the chapters. Last night I added the Siege of Vicksburg source document, and began editing it. In terms of organization, I’m about 95 percent there. In terms of source documents, I’m about 60 percent there. In terms of original writing—hmmm, that tougher to figure. Maybe not more than 20 percent. Still a lot of battles to write about and draw lessons from.
Last December, I established a goal of having this published in May 2017. That’s only two months. I’m not sure I can do that in time. My actual writing will begin this weekend (if I get my income taxes done, that is; otherwise it will be next week or weekend). I’ll blog about my progress from time to time, or will post it on my Facebook author page.
Publishing and writing tasks have been proceeding apace. No, that’s passive construction. Let me rephrase. I’ve been able to spend a decent amount of time on writing and publishing tasks of late, with some positive results. No, I’m not where I’d hoped I’d be, not even where I’d planned to be. But I’ve made progress, and that will have to suffice.
I’ve been able to spend time every day working on Preserve The Revelation either writing or researching. Yesterday I added over 2,000 words, and my word count is somewhere around 23,700, I think (my count is at home; I’m writing this at work). If I’m correct that it will take about 90,000 words to tell this story, that means I’m about 26% done. Is that good news, or bad news? If I average 500 words a day, I’ll be done in 133 days (very doable), around the end of March 2017. That seems like a long time from now. If I can bump that up to 750 words a day (doable), I’ll be done in mid-January. If I can do a little better and average 1,000 words a day (a stretch based on all that the world expects me to do), I could be done just before Christmas this year. That sounds so much better. It’s what I need to shoot for.
Apart from that, I continue to work on Thomas Carlyle: A Chronological Composition Bibliography, or whatever exact title I eventually give it. Why? I’m not sure, except I can’t let it go. Most days I spend a little time on it, rarely more than thirty minutes. I’m looking through Carlyle’s letters for references to his publications, checking reference materials for the same, reading a few works by or about Carlyle, and typing/reprinting as I have enough changes to warrant doing so. I have no schedule for completing this. I’m past the most difficult years of Carlyle’s literary life, it seems to me, so maybe this will go fast henceforth. I still have significant editing to do in the years 1823-1832. Right now I’m in 1836-37 and moving forward. I’ll edit those earlier years later.
In late August or early September I wrote a poem for an anthology and submitted it. I found out this morning that the anthology fell through. I still have the poem, a villanelle, that perhaps I’ll do something with. It’s submissions season for many literary journals. What the heck, might as well submit it and see what happens. I’ve written one other poem since, a tanka, that needs some work.
As far as publishing tasks, in September I published the fourth short story in my series Sharon Williams Fonseca: Unconventional CIA Agent. Titled “Hotel, Whiskey, Papa: Sharon Williams Fonseca in Salzburg”, I’ve had one sale of it, no reviews. That’s about par for the course. I had a mere nine sales in 3rd Quarter 2016, and zero sales so far in the 4th Quarter. Since I added to the series, I republished the first three books in the series to include the reference to the new one. All of this was on Amazon. I haven’t done the same on Smashwords yet.
The other publishing task was getting into print my baseball novel, In Front Of Fifty Thousand Screaming People. I was ready with the interior of the book in August, but have had trouble finding a cover designer who could work me into their busy schedules. I plugged along at doing it myself, and finally, with some help from a man in our office, got it done last Friday. The full cover “wrap” is at the start of this post. I uploaded the book the same day, and within six hours had word back from CreateSpace that it met their criteria. I accessed the online proof, and saw only one place that needed a slight tweak in format. I then tried to order a proof copy, but, somehow I hit the wrong button, and the book was published! This was last Saturday. There was one change I wanted to make to the title page, but figured I’d do this after viewing the proof. Oh, well, I’ll republish it with the correction before too long.
One other item of significance was a contest I ran, through my Facebook timeline, to give away copies of my poetry book, Daddy-Daughter Day. Contestants had to guess the name of my [then soon-to-be-born] latest grandson, which would begin with E, as have the names of his brothers and sister. I allowed two guesses. Seven people got it right. The books have been ordered (it’s only available in print) and should be here Thursday. My hope is that somewhere among these seven will be people who will like the book and leave a review on Amazon and other sites. We’ll see.
So, I’m busy and productive, if not productive enough. Alas, the day job and life in general get in the way of full writing productivity.
I’m a day late with this post. The last two months, since I established my Monday and Friday posting schedule, I normally try to write my Monday post on the weekend, or at worst on Monday morning before the start of my workday. I’ve missed a couple of times, but I’ve been doing better about regular posting.
This weekend, however, I did nothing concerning a post. By the end of Sunday I realized that, but it was too late in the day to write it. I decided I’d do it Monday. Monday came and went, and alas, I did nothing on it. Shame on me. I’ll do better going forward.
So what’s keeping me so busy that I didn’t do my blog post? On Saturday it was first work around the house, followed by writing on Preserve The Revelation. The house work included a major cleaning job on the refrigerator, thinning the blackberry vines, cutting a lot of low hanging branches, and weeding in our back yard. I also had chair set-up at church, and trips to Wal-Mart and Home Depot. Sunday was Life Group and church, followed by lunch at a community event. That put me home around 1:45 p.m. I should have written.
Instead, I began work on the print cover of In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People, using G.I.M.P. to assemble the graphics. As always, G.I.M.P. defeated me. I was able to create a palette the size of the cover, and add and size the front and back covers. But on the back cover I needed to hide three corporate logos. I had planned how to do this, and got two done quite easily. However, when it came to the third one, I stalled. I was using the same procedure as for the first two: cover it with an opaque layer. Only on this one I had to add text. Somehow the layer that is the back cover was deselected, and I couldn’t add the opaque circle. Without the circle, the text was meaningless. I worked more than three hours on it, and finally quit in frustration. I went back to Wal-Mart to pick up one thing I hadn’t the day before, then spent the evening reading.
Yesterday was the normal busyness of work and house. In the evening I went to The Dungeon, intending on writing. But there, on my work table, was the box of photos from our time in Kuwait, with several batches of photos out on the table. I had dug into the box last Wednesday to select some photos to scan and post on Thursday. In the box I found batches of photos not in envelopes, hence not matched with their negatives. I decided getting those photos matched was a better use of my time than writing. I don’t say that facetiously, either. Some day we’ll pass those photos on to our children, and having them properly organized is critical. It was a good use of my time—not that I finished, but I made significant progress. But by the time 9:00 p.m. came I wanted to be about my evening reading. No time to write the blog.
So here I am on Tuesday, writing Monday’s post, and it’s about nothing but why I didn’t write on Monday. But it lets my few readers know what’s going on in my world.
Since the weekend, one of my cover designers contacted me, saying he’d done work on it. We discussed it. Hopefully he’ll complete it very soon. In case not, I’ve contacted a third cover designer and am in discussions with her. Today I sent off a letter to an influencer, a seminary professor, concerning Doctor Luke’s Assistant and things he’s written that dovetail nicely with it. This is by snail mail, as the seminary doesn’t post faculty e-mails. We’ll see what comes of it.
Tonight, when the work day is through, I plan on staying about an hour after to do some research and typing on our fact internet and computer. When I get home, I have one small task to do in the yard, then I’ll heat some soup for supper, and descend to The Dungeon. No photos tonight. I need to add at least 1,000 words tonight, and 3,000 in total, before I will allow myself to return to those photos and finish that big task. I’m looking forward to it.
Today, Friday, we are having band after band of thunderstorms pass over us here in Bentonville. As I’ve mentioned before, I like the rain; it does my heart good. So, on a Friday afternoon, I’m upbeat. I have completed a number of miscellaneous tasks this week, including today, and am ready for the weekend. If the storms continue (as, I believe, they are forecast to do), I shall read and write, file and discard, clean and organize to my heart’s content. If the rain holds off, I have plenty of outside work to occupy my time.
My writing work has been slowly progressing of late. I add a little every now and then to Preserve The Revelation. I do the same to Thomas Carlyle: A Chronological Bibliography of Compositions. Almost every day I review and add to my Bible study titled “Entrusted to My Care”, which we are scheduled to study in our adult Life Group beginning in four weeks or so. Of poetry, I add nothing. The villanelle I wrote last month I hope to get back to in a week or so, tweak it, then submit it to the anthology; the deadline for submittals is Oct 31.
Then, the other major task I have at hand is the cover for the print version of In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People. I’ve been waiting for two talented cover artists/creators to get to it. For a variety of reasons, some legitimate, some not, they haven’t gotten to it in over a month’s time. So, my top priority is to get it done this weekend, uploaded to CreateSpace, a proof copy ordered ASAP, and the book published ASAP. It won’t be as good as if a pro did it, but it will be done, and the book will be available before the Cubs win the World Series—if they do.
My cell phone just gave me a severe weather alert, the first one I’ve received on this. Yet, the thunder has about quit. I may not go by Home Depot on the way home. We’ll see.
My intention for today was to write a lengthy post on the status of several writing projects. However, two things intervene. First, I’m in New Orleans on a business trip. I’m not sure I feel like taking time to do a detailed analysis of my writing-in-progress. Second, since around Sunday my gumption for writing has tanked. At present I don’t know that I care much if I write any more or not. The reasons for that are complicated and I won’t go into them here. Suffice to say these are not the days for me to be making bold plans for adding to my published titles.
I will say a few words about my projects. The easiest one should be to publish my last short story, “Sierra Kilo Bravo“, at Smashwords, making it available to Nook, Apple, etc. That means pulling up the file for the Kindle publication, making a few simple changes, and hitting Publish. Along with that I want to republish the other stories in the series to add a link to this one to it. Also fairly simple. But I haven’t felt like doing it, now a month since it went live for Kindle.
Another fairly easy project will be to correct typos in my two baseball novels, In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming Peopleand Headshots. I re-read them some time ago on my Nook, found enough typos in each to warrant fixing them. This is a one-day project for each book. So far, I just haven’t felt like it.
Then, I have some typos to fix and new data to add to my family history book, Seth Boynton Cheney: Mystery Man of the West. This is a little more complicated. It’s a print book, so unless I want to have the cover redone due to pages added I’ll need to add the new data without too much lengthening. The good news is I sort of planned for this, putting a couple of blank pages at the end of the book. So long as the new data doesn’t take up more than them, I should be okay. I have some of these marked, and one of my wife’s cousins also marked some. She didn’t give them to me, but will when I ask her. This should be my priority, I suppose, but so far—you guessed it—I just haven’t felt like it. A related project, some cousins have asked me to publish a color edition of this. That will require rework of the cover, since the page thickness is different when you print in color, but otherwise is a simple thing. I need to do that right after making the corrections to the black & white edition.
So what does that leave as far as w-I-p go? I have three books started:
Preserve The Revelation. This is a sequel to my first church history novel, Doctor Luke’s Assistant. A couple of years ago, when in a period of uncertainty as to what my next project should be, I wrote the first chapter of this. Since then ideas for the book continue to find their way into my conscious thinking.
Documenting America: Civil War Edition. This would be the next in my Documenting America series. I got well into this last year and early this year. I’d guess it’s 40 percent done. I have pushed this far from my current thoughts.
The Gutter Chronicles, Volume 2. The first volume was a reasonable success at the office. I’ve completed three chapters in that, and am well along with the fourth. It’s been over a year since I’ve worked on it, but I’d say I’m about 20 percent done. Ideas for remaining chapters of this have been bubbling up of late.
That leaves my two Thomas Carlyle projects, wanting to join their brother on my virtual bookshelf. These are the two I’m actively working on. At the office I use my free time to work on Thomas Carlyle Chronological Composition Bibliography. At home I use free time to work on Thomas Carlyle’s “Chartism” Through the Ages. Both are well along, though neither is close to being done. They are perhaps silly things to work on, as neither would be a commercial success. However, at least these two are holding my interest.
Well, this post ran longer than I expected. Still, it’s the short version. I write it not so much as to inform you, my loyal readers, about what’s coming, as to help me bring order to the chaos that’s happening in my head and finding it’s way to paper and pixels. May the order come soon.
Book sales in April through August are significantly better than they were in January through March. So why am I so depressed about book sales?
Because, except for a couple of special circumstances, I’ve had close to zero sales of late. Last month I put In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People on sale for $0.99; the regular price is $3.99. I did this, intending for it to last a week, because the sequel, Headshots, was to be released August 28, and I hoped a sale on the first might spark sales on the second. That’s what the conventional wisdom is, at least.
Well, the sale resulted in 7 sales of FTSP and exactly 1 sale of Headshots. I had two pre-orders of Headshots, but when I asked Amazon why only one sale they said the other pre-order was never paid, so they never shipped the book. One sale of a novel that included a pre-order time and some notifications on Facebook is pathetic, to say the least.
The other special circumstance was the release of the paperback copy of The Gutter Chronicles, Volume 1 in June. I sold 23 copies of that in the office and to a couple of clients. Since then none. Except for these two circumstances, I’ve sold 47 books this year. That’s for 17 items published. It’s true, I don’t do a lot of promotion. I’m sure my FB friends get tired of what promotional posts I do make. My two blogs have almost no readers, so the promotion I do on them probably results in no sales. So, any sales I have are the occasional drive-by sale. I don’t know that I have any/many from relatives, acquaintances, or on-line friends. I know that a couple of co-workers bought electronic copies of The Gutter Chronicles earlier in the year.
I have several works-in-progress. I’ll probably finish and publish them, but beyond that I have no vision and no plan. I’ll write more about this on Friday.
Last week I was in Nashville for most of the week, attending the IECA annual conference and presenting a paper there, “Who Pays the Fine?” It was a great trip, and I’m writing a detailed trip diary about it. It’s not something that I’ll publish, though possibly I might take some of it for a blog post. It’s just something I want to do, something I have to get out of my system before returning to work on Headshots.
And, that’s the subject of this blog post. I last worked on Headshots on February 23. I left for the trip on February 25 and came back just before midnight on the 28th. March 1 was moving day for my mother-in-law, with tiredness overcoming me and having no mind or energy to write, little enough to read.
Today is the day I planned to have a blog post here, but my blog post planning record is at work, and I’m at home on a snow day. Having shoveled the drive this morning, I came down here, uncertain of what to write. I just finished a travel log of my trip to Nashville, running on to seven typed pages. Next is this post, which I have decided will be on Headshots.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m slogging through the sagging middle. The idea came to me to make this mostly about baseball, since I had very little baseball action in the early chapters. The timeframe has moved into during the season, so I’ve written about Ronny’s comeback attempt. This has taken me through Chapter 18, and 56,222 words. Since I’m heading for around 80,000, and I think the ending action will take close to 20,000 words, that means I’m almost through the sagging middle.
But, I have other things to add to it. I have to add that Sarah gets kind of stir-crazy, hiding out at the farm, not being able to go anywhere without Federal protective agents going with her. I need for her to do something stupid to make her situation worse. I also haven’t touched on any Mafia/gang actions for a while. I can’t forget them in the midst of the baseball action. Some ideas have come to me for both of these problems. One is to give back story on the four main mobsters: Mancini, Russo, Cerelli, and Washburn. In both books I’ve said very little about what motivates them. Washburn and Mancini got a paragraph each in FTSP, and I think I gave some of Mancini’s back story earlier in this book.
Once I add those things in to the sagging middle, I suspect I’ll be somewhere around 65,000 words. So either the book will be a little longer than I thought, or perhaps the end game will be shorter. Either way, I’ll try to get back to this in a few days, or perhaps next weekend.