Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tooting Your Own Horn 101 Part 2

The other day, in part 1 of Tooting Your Own Horn, I talked about how the way we publicize books and authors is changing because of the Internet. I mentioned some of the new methods I've read about and am implementing.

But there's more to selling books than the Internet.

Margarite Holt, the owner of the Hill Country Bookstore in Georgetown, Texas, said authors often think their work is done, having created the book, after a book is published when in reality the author's job is just beginning.

I have to admit what she said scared me some even though I knew it was true.

I've called this series of posts, Tooting Your Own Horn, for a reason. I don't know about you, but I was taught not to brag, not to show off, not to boast about myself in anyway. All this publicity stuff has a negative connotation for me.

There are many ways I need to be more assertive to sell books, and I know that. But, I'm not sure I'm going to change my basic personality this late in life. I'm just glad I'm as assertive as I am now. There was a time when the word shy might be more descriptive than anything else. I've gotten past that over the years, but I still hesitate to draw attention to myself.

What I plan to do now is think more about why Where Love Once Lived should reach more readers. It tells about God's love and there may be a reader out there somewhere who needs to hear the story.

Let me know how you handle this problem of what I think of as bragging.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Hearing From Readers

Here is a short excerpt from Where Love Once Lived:

Matt’s Quarry restaurant overlooked a rock pit that he’d turned into a lush garden by adding a thick layer of arable soil followed by a variety of trees, bushes, cacti, and flowers. People came from around the country to see the garden, making it difficult to get reservations for the restaurant, especially when the flowers were in full bloom. Matt had saved them a table with a view, and the special lighting installed in the garden below made it easier to appreciate the garden’s beauty.

Sunday, a friend in Georgetown gave my ego a boost when she told me she wanted to go to Austin to eat in the Quarry restaurant. Well, there is no such place. I made it up. But, think what that's like for a writer to hear a reader say something like that. What it meant to me was the description of the setting in the book was so good the reader wanted to experience it for themselves. Wow!

As I explained in an earlier post, my writing instructor encouraged us to not use restaurants in our stories because they had been used so much. But, I felt I really needed to place Karen and Brian in a public place where he could break up with her without causing a scene. Restaurants aren't the only public places, but they do include a certain code of conduct that might not be found elsewhere.

To help sell my writing instructor on the idea of using a setting she felt was boring, I spiced it up by coming up with an imaginary place that looked like the Butchart Gardens in Victoria Canada. She bought it and everyone seems to enjoy that scene.

By the way, being in a fancy restaurant didn't stop Karen. She's unlike most people. All Brian had to do was sit there quietly and she tossed a bill on the table and started to walk out.

See for the complete post about the restaurant.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tooting Your Own Horn 101

In yesterday's post about my experience at the book signing, my friend Jimmy Clark made this observation:

Good start Sid. I'm sure when word about your book gets out you will sell more copies. I am sure that publicity is the most important thing in selling books.

That made me think about publicity. I used to know something about it, but with the Internet, the rules have changed. CreateSpace sent out more than five-thousand press releases, but no one has been calling or writing me about review copies or books. The only activity I saw on the Internet was in the press release sites. I put an ad in the local paper about the book signing, but only a couple of people noticed it.

The profit margin on a book is small so you can't do too much advertising without losing money. So what's the answer?

I've been reading about selling on the Internet. One of the suggestions was to review books similar to your own, especially those of authors who are well known and selling. That way your name is out there and there is a link back to you. I've only done 20 reviews so far and I can already see an increase in my Internet search standing. Also, my blogs are being picked up in many places including a library in Canada, Carbonite's Facebook page, and even a German website for librarians.

Another suggestion is to do what are called virtual tours. That means I find blogs that have followers who might be interested in my book and talk to the blogger about posting a review and/or interview of me and my book. I've done some of this already and have some reviews and interviews scheduled. I need to do more.

I learned today how to check the competition. The article said to use your favorite search engine and type in where is the website for someone with a similar book. Doing so will list all websites that link to the competitor's site. The idea being to get some of those sites to link to mine as well.

I also found a place on the web where you can post articles that can be used free by bloggers and ezines needing content. Within the article, you include information about your book and links to your website.

So, there is much to be done. And these marketing techniques are necessary for books published in the traditional way or by print on demand such as mine. However, I have the advantage over traditional published books in that I can continue to market for much longer.

Monday, September 27, 2010

First Book Signing for Where Love Once Lived

Saturday, September 25, 2010 I had my first book signing for Where Love Once Lived. I had no idea how many books I would need so I took about two dozen books with me into the store, with another eighty-five or so in the trunk of my car. I got there early so I could find a close parking place because I didn't want to leave my signing duties for too long while replenishing the supply of the rapidly selling books.

I was scheduled for 11:00 to 2:00. There was a steady stream of customers for a small store in a small town. There were only a few short periods of times when there were no customers at all. Except while signing books, I stood and talked to everyone who came in. I even tried the suggestion I had read about of putting my book into the hands of a customer. They quickly handed it right back.

A family of four came by and asked if there was a Christian bookstore in town. After Courtney told them where the closest one was I mentioned to them that my book was Christian fiction. They smiled politely and left.

By the end of the three hours I had sold 18 copies of Where Love Once Lived. Ten went to members of my church, two to members of the San Gabriel Writers League, one to a neighbor, one to a singing friend, one to a friend of a friend, two to family members, and one copy to a complete stranger who wanted to see if it was something her book club might want to discuss.

All in all, a pretty good day.

I left six copies at the bookstore in case anyone came late. Sunday, several friends at church said they would go buy one the six I left at the store.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I Love Carbonite

I hope everyone noticed I was missing from the blogosphere last week. My hard drive finally quit. I thought the freezing up problems I’d had were due to the Texas heat, but changes to the environment didn’t help. The drive had to be replaced.
With three computers in a house of two people, one computer being in the shop shouldn’t have been cause to cancel a week of blog posts. But, it was. My notebook computer is old and slow. Besides the screen is too small for my aging eyes.
Being a computer short and having to rely on my old notebook was just the excuse I’d been looking for to buy a new notebook. Or, should I say netbook. I’m not sure what all the names are and I teach computers at Austin Community College.
While my desktop was in the shop getting a new disk drive, I bought another very small system with the CD drive separate since I only use it to load new software occasionally. It’s small, but the screen is more readable than my old one. And, it is fast. I don’t have to start Microsoft Word and go get a cup of coffee while it loads.
Laptops, notebooks, netbooks, that’s a story for another day. What I wanted to tell you today was about my experience with restoring my files. Since I have been using Carbonite for several years, everything I had on the desktop was backed up online.
When I brought the computer home from the shop, all I had to do was log in to Carbonite and tell it to restore. Thirty-six hours later my 79,000 plus files were all back into place.
Let me know if you've had experience with other online backup systems and we'll spread the word.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Selling POD Books in Big Boxes

When I first started my print of demand (POD) publishing project with CreateSpace, I chose the most expensive approach they had which included what they called Expanded Distribution Channel and Pro Plan. By doing so, I was promised my book would be available to major online and offline retailers as well as libraries and academic institutions throughout the United States.
As it turns out the wording may be slightly misleading. Yes, Where Love Once Lived is available to offline retailers as long as they are willing to accept certain guidelines. Which, by the way, are guidelines they are not going to accept.
I happen to know the Community Relations Manager for the Barnes & Noble store nearest to me because he has come to our writers club meeting to sell books from time to time. So, I know he did his best when I asked about a book signing opportunity.
Here’s what he wrote to me.
Barnes & Noble policy states that in order to bring merchandise in for an author event, the title must be available from a wholesale distributor on a returnable basis. While I can order your book for an individual customer on a pre-paid basis, I cannot place an order for a quantity of this title because in the event that there are unsold copies, I cannot return them to a vendor for credit.
Barnes & Noble does not buy from individuals as vendors nor do we take merchandise on a consignment basis.
Also, your book does not have a retail price point printed anywhere on it. Even if I could bring this book into our store, it’s highly unlikely that people will buy something that doesn’t have a price on it.
I suggest you check with your publisher and see how much it will cost you to make this book returnable and to print a retail price point on it.
I didn’t ask CreateSpace about making the book returnable because I know that would be too costly. However, I did ask about adding the price to the book. It took three attempts to find out. They didn’t seem to know what I was talking about. Finally, I talked to someone on the phone and they checked with someone else who said they could add the price for $75. However, they would have to make the book unavailable for two to three weeks while it was being changed. Since I have a book signing ahead I decided to wait.
The price of the book couldn’t be set until the costs were determined. The costs couldn't be determined until the book was complete. Therefore, I didn’t know what price to put on the book until after it was printed. I shouldn’t have let that happened. But, in my defense, this was the first time I had done this and relied heavily on the expertise of the publisher. Too heavily, as it turns out.
As it turns out, I am the publisher, not CreateSpace, and I’ll know more about many things next time. And, who knows, maybe you, dear reader, are thinking about the POD approach and something I say here might help you.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Georgetown Book Signing Coming Up

My first book signing is Saturday, September 25, 2010, between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. at Hill Country Bookstore in Georgetown, Texas.

To prepare for and promote the event, here is what I've done:

Studied information on the web re book signing
Talked to writer friends about their experiences
Made two posters for the bookstore
Put posters about the event in other locations
Sent fliers to several local churches
Sent post cards to some friends in town
Placed ads in the newspaper
Invited San Gabriel Writers League members.

Georgetown is small enough to make newspaper advertising affordable. Even so, I'll have to sell a bunch of books to make enough to pay for the ads. I ran it twice, the week before the event and the Wednesday before.

What I've done to promote the book signing, however, also promotes me and the book for purchases to come after the event.

While trying to get enough people there Saturday so as not to be too embarrassed, I've also discouraged my Austin friends from coming because I want to make sure they will attend the signing at BookPeople in Austin at a date yet to be determined.
Also, some of my friends already have books and don't need to buy another.

Who knows what will happen this Saturday. I know a few people are coming, but I don't know how many. I guess the worst thing that could happen is that I run out of books. Actually, come to think about it. That would be a good thing.

Monday, September 20, 2010

My Book Is In the Largest Bookstore in Texas

Where Love Once Lived is now on the shelves of BookPeople, the largest bookstore in Texas.

BookPeople opened in Austin in 1970, and was named Best Bookstore in the United States in 2005 by Publishers Weekly. Many famous authors include BookPeople in their book-signing tours. Laura Bush was there recently and Jimmy Carter will be signing his latest book at BookPeople on October 29, 2010. They’re selling tickets to the Carter event for crowd control.

Even with their national fame, BookPeople has a special place on its shelves for local authors. Just inside the front door, on the way to the coffee shop, there is a shelf on the left with a sign that says Texas Authors. There are some famous names there, including one of my favorites, Susan Wittig Albert. Five of my books are in the same shelf. Well, hopefully, there are fewer now. My friend Rollo Newsom has written a community comment card for this shelf.

You’ll find five more copies of Where Love Once Lived on the second floor in the inspiration section right along with Jan Karon’s books. I picked that shelf because of Karon, and added a community comment card with quotes from Sandy Althaus’ review.

So what, you’re thinking. Bookstores sell books. They stock books. That’s what they do.

Well, most don’t stock print-on-demand (POD) books like mine. The big chain bookstores won’t stock Where Love Once Lived. They’ll sell it to you and get one for you, but only if you pay in advance and wait a week.

BookPeople in Austin and Hill Country Bookstore in Georgetown both stock my book because on their consignment programs. I furnish the books and they sell them. I end up making a little less than books sold on, but not by much. Also, I’m responsible for costs due to theft or damage.

Is this a reason to avoid publishing POD books? I don’t know yet. With a new book almost ready to pitch, I wish I knew. I’ll be looking at the pros and cons of self publishing and traditional publishing and reporting my findings to you in a future post. If you have knowledge about it, please comment here.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: Breach of Trust by DiAnn Mills

Paige Rogers, the librarian in a small Oklahoma town, is a lovable character before and after we learn she is really Mikaela Olsson, a former CIA operative the world thought had been killed in the line of duty.

Daniel Keary, the person responsible for her early retirement, is about to become the governor of the state with ambitions for higher office. When Paige sets out to stop him, she is reinstated as a CIA operative and she reluctantly accepts the help of the local high school coach, Miles Laird. But it is near impossible to stop Keary.

It is a suspenseful story that grabbed my interest from the beginning. There is a bit of romance in it, but it is not the main part. The intriguing part for me was how Paige justified her job with the CIA with her Christianity. It wasn't easy. We learn she didn't become a Christian until after she had been in the CIA.

Miles lived a Christian life, too. However, the Christianity message is subtle. I watched for it because of my interest in Christian fiction. Most readers wouldn't notice.

The plot itself was fresh and there are surprises I don't want to mention. I know you'll find them all intriguing and entertaining. You'll also love the characters. The characters came alive for me. It was one of those books where you get to know them so well you want to walk with them a little longer. I found it difficult to put the book down, especially near the end.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010 Tags -- Yea or Nay?

In, product tags are used to make it easier for buyers to find products. It is a convenient way for book sellers to encourage people looking for a particular type of book to check yours, too. For example, if a reader enjoys books about Austin, Texas, tags will help find them. Of course there are many such books, so this might not be practical. The hits include fiction and non-fiction. I tried searching on bookmobile and found a much smaller list.

According to specialists on the subject, tagging helps sell books because it adds a particular search keyword to the book. In addition, the tag becomes more important as more people agree with the tag.

In addition to agreeing with tags already there, you can also add tags.

In Brent Sampson's book, Sell Your Book on Amazon, I learned that multiple tag words are best, but only if they are relevant. Multiple tag words increase the likelihood that more people will agree with one of the tags. This, in turn, tells the Amazon search engine that the tag is more appropriate for the book.

Where Love Once Lived had two tags when I first looked: austin and texas. I'm not sure if Rollo added those or if the publisher did, but they are good.

I added the following:

1. alzheimers
2. austin texas
3. austin public library
4. bookmobile
5. christian fiction
6. christianity
7. clarksville
8. inspirational
9. interracial romance
10. librarian
11. race relations
12. romance
13. teacher

As you enter a new tag, you see tags that are already in the database for all books. I noticed that there are variations of the tags in Librarian and librarians, for example. Teacher and teachers. I tried using both to increase hits, but I then learned there is a 15-tag limit for each person.

If you have read Where Love Once Lived, would you review the tags there now by going to and scrolling down to the tag section (just below my photo) and click agree if you agree and add tags if you think others may apply.

Also, I would like your opinion about some of the tags I added such as Alzheimer's, interracial romance, race relations, etc. Will these mislead people searching or help them? If I leave these tags in, should I add the subject matter to the book description? What about Christianity? Is that too general?

Selling books isn't as easy as it looks.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Updated Website -- What Do You Think?

I redesigned the website based on suggestions from readers. Here is an image of the home page. It currently has a press release to announce Where Love Once Lived. However, this first page will change as needed to show the latest information.

Please click here: and look at the real home page plus the other pages. I've tested it on five browsers, but let me know if yours looks funny anywhere.


Monday, September 6, 2010

Another Book Review!!!

I was just talking about how much fun it is to start getting feedback from readers, and soon after that I discovered another review on Read this...


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:

5.0 out of 5 stars A great first novel!, September 4, 2010

By Sandy Althaus - See all my reviews

Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)

This review is from: Where Love Once Lived (Paperback)

I am proud to say I bought Sid's very first book and loved reading it. Rollo has covered the overview so well, but I want to comment on the theme and characters. I thought it was so very creative to use the bookmobile as a center of so much action and activity, and much to my surprise it kept popping up throughout the book. It was so well described I could picture myself being there. I "got into" the characters quite early in my reading, and my interest kept growing. I especially appreciated the comfortable but truthful way the Christian message was presented. I know lives will be touched when reading this book. A Great first novel! Excited to read your next one.


I must admit that swelled my head a little. I said something about Rollo's review perhaps being written from a galley proof and could have been an exaggeration to help sales. What I didn't mention was that privately he did say it was well written. So, I'm celebrating both reviews.

Now, it's your turn. More reviews will help bring attention to the book. If you don't want to write something, then check the Yes button on the two reviews there to let people know you agree with what's been said.

Here's the link to the page:

Thanks, Sandy and to all you who have commented on the book.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Where Love Once Lived Available Internationally

I've been finding Where Love Once Lived listed for sale in some strange places. Unfortunately, none of them seem to be working.

Peg Case sent me her favorite website for finding books: and there my book was. Well, if you know the ISBN anyway. Unfortunately, if you know the ISBN you either have the book or know where it's listed on But, while looking at the website, I notices it showed the book is available at Alibris.

See: They will sell the $15.95 book to you for only $88.77. They mention it can be ordered from Warks, UK for only $32.89 plus shipping. (see: now shows there are some used copies available. They give you a choice of $15.95 new or $17.75 used. Wow, that's a tough choice. I think I would go with Amazon, especially if I planned to buy other books totaling $25 or more to save on shipping.

The used dealer any_book has a very good, a like new, and a new copy of the book in stock, all costing more than the new Amazon book.

the_book_depository_ actually beats Amazon's price. They are offering the book for $15.94 plus $3.99 shipping.

brandnewgoodsus is selling the book new for $16.32 plus $3.99.

I found the book listed on the Canadian, United Kingdom, French, German, and Japanese versions of Amazon.

On eBay, I found one copy available from a seller in the United Kingdom for $22.29 plus shipping.

A Google search by ISBN brings up the usual plus two companies in Japan. See:

The best deal is at Barnes and Noble online. See:

Here you can buy the book for only $11.48 plus postage. And, if you spend $25 or more, shipping is free. What I like is the part that says customers who bought this book also bought The ShackChristmas JarsThe Screwtape Letters, , , and so forth.

All very interesting. However, I haven't seen any sales statistics to show that any of these book resellers actually have copies of the books in stock.

Reader Comments are Fun

I've started getting feedback from readers of Where Love Once Lived and I'm anxious to get more.

Rollo Newsom, who wrote the review, read the book from the galley proof, and besides, you can't trust him not to boast about the book just to help sell it. But, now several people have finished reading the book after it was officially released. Here are some of the comments I've received so far.

Peg Case (she is an author herself and had read an early draft of my book) sent this:

I finished Where Love Once Lived last night. It flowed really well and was most enjoyable. You have a great grasp of characters and clever ways of illustrating them with a few words, and your plot hung together better than I recall the first time I read it. I felt that there were some unresolved plot lines that made me wonder if you plan to use them if you write a book featuring Liz. (Like who is going to run the business now he owns it again and what happens to Laura....) I confess that I got annoyed with Brian - and to a certain extent, Karen - for obsessing so much over "should I or shouldn't I " and "will she ever forgive me? And "am I worthy of her?" Maybe it's a middle-aged guy thing. There were places where I wondered if they might be autobiographical - like Tony's history with singing, for example. All in all, it was a fine book, Sid. I look forward to your next which sounds like it is more my style.

Sandy Althaus (who bought the first book) writes:

I am enjoying your book so much. Wonder how Karen and Brian will finally get together again!"

Then, later:

Finished your book and thought you did a great job. Loved the way you incorporated the bookmobile and the comfortable way the message of Christ was presented. I will write a review as soon as I am off the iPhone and have a "real" computer at my finger tips!

Jimmy Clark (who bought the second book) wrote:

I will start reading the book soon. The cover art is beautiful. It really works well for your book.

Cathy Harris (who bought the first Kindle) sent this:

Sid, I just found and purchased your book on my Kindle! I am excited.

I started it last night and saw a few areas, but I read through them with no trouble. I didn't last long because it was late and we go to early church. I am enjoying it very much.

Website Design Suggestions

I hope you missed me. My computer has been down for three days and I haven't posted a blog since August 31. I don't usually post anything on weekends, but thought I better to keep up my monthly average.

I'm pretty sure the computer is fixed. It's a long story, but I think the problems were due to overheating. Pretty embarrassing for a computer person, but after moving it out five inches from the wall and three inches from the cabinet I had it up against from the time the problems started, it is miraculously working.

Even without a computer, I was able to keep up with the world with my iPhone. I could have done the blog on it, too, the tiny keyboard is difficult to use.

My friend Sandy Althaus finished reading the book last week and when I asked her about doing a review she said she would when she got back home to her real computer. She'd been communicating via iPhone all summer and I hadn't even noticed.

Since my computer was down, I haven't updated the website I showed you last time. However, I did get some great comments about it.

Rollo Newsom (who knows books) said this:

I wonder if it would be wise to make the links a little more prominent and include links to locally owned bookstores that you know have the book available? I'm sure B&N/Borders could care less, but BookPeople and the store you are signing in in Georgetown might like it and a link to them might even sell a copy or two. When I want a book right now, I occasionally go to a bookstore and pay full price rather than wait for Amazon to deliver it.

Also, maybe a link to your next book - just a brief preview and a "Coming Soon" note?

Roger Lawrence (who knows art and design) sent this:

You have your book cover shown twice on your new website. This is Boring. I suggest that you enlarge the book cover with the Sales details and drop the big cover photo. Add a photo of yourself. Add a click below your photo to make it easy to read your bio. Everyone likes to see what the author looks like. You look very distinguished and very much like an author in your photo.

Peg Case (who is an author) wrote:

I never attempted to build a website, but for any kind of advertising the simpler the better. This tells all anyone needs to know, but it's plain, isn't it? As I say, I don't know what's good. When I want to find an author or a book I have heard about, I use a website called So far I have found everyone I've tried - and it lists the author's books in series, genres and chronological publishing dates. (So you know which is first in a series using the same character.) Don't know how one gets on their site...... but something like this would give you more exposure, hey?

Note to Peg: I checked and found Where Love Once Lived listed there. They have the cover image and a list of places where you can purchase the book. Unfortunately, you must know the ISBN to find it. The author search and the title search failed to find the book.

Thanks, everyone. I'll make the website changes suggested and I'll let you all know when to check it again.