Saturday, August 29, 2015

The 3 Things I Learned Releasing 3 Short Stories In 3 Months

My Kindle Publishing Journey Updated

In 3 months I released 3 different short stories and focused all my attention on promoting just one title.  

Here's what I learned:

Lesson 1: Promote The Hell Out Of It

The first thing I learned was the need for promotion. 

In June 2015, I released The Ballad Of John Walker through Amazon's Kindle Publishing platform.

For those unfamiliar with Kindle Publishing, it's an eBook delivery service run by Amazon that offers millions, perhaps billions of titles.  The best part is you don't need to buy a Kindle to read their offerings. You can access their library by downloading a free Kindle Reader App for all devices, PC, Mac, Android, Windows and iOS.

And I promoted the HELL out of it.
Places I promoted the title were:

  • Google Plus
  • Facebook - private and in groups
  • Facebook Ad
  • Good Reads
  • Daily Free ebooks
  • Addicted To eBooks
  • Just Kindle Books
  • That's My eBook
  • Book Praiser
  • Free Discounted Books
  • Reddit 

I promoted the story on these format as well as the programs that Amazon offers on their Kindle Publishing platform - KDP Select - an exclusivity program that allows for free and discounted pricing.

For two months I spent my entire time promoting the title to free and paid platforms and may have received a lot of virtual pat's on my back, but actual downloads of the book?  About 100 titles in all.

While 100 readers may seem like a lot, it's a small trickle in the bucket that is floating in the sea that is the Kindle Publishing platform (among others).

And Then...

Lesson 2: Nobody Gives A S#IT If You Don't Promote

Shortly after I published "The Ballad of John Walker", I quietly released a second collection, a three-story title, Mayonnaise and Other Stories and the downloads were about 1/10th of what I experienced previously.

The main difference? I hardly promoted the title compared to "The Ballad of John Walker".

Mayonnaise and Other Stories was enrolled in KDP Select. I made mention of it on G+ and Facebook.

That was about the extent of it.

And the downloads and reviews were stagnant.  Sitting online waiting to be stumbled upon, to be discovered, but was more like a lonely Pygmy Tarsier looking for a lover.  What's a Pygmy Tarsier?  Google it, they're a primate that was thought to be extinct until one was inadvertently killed in a trap.

It was a shock to the farmers who found the Pygmy Tarsier, and even more so for the scientists who had claimed it an extinct species.  But I wonder more about the possible remaining Pygmy Tarsier, waiting for her date to come and sweep her off her feet.

So the lonely Pygmy Tarsier can't just swipe right on Tinder or sign-up on Ashley Madison, but just has to sit around waiting.

She's without any loved one and probably, like most of us who've been stood-up before, crying into the night. Sad.

Much like the collection "Mayonnaise and Other Stories".

By not promoting it, the collection is sitting around waiting for a date that may never arrive.

Especially if it's considered extinct.

But Wait, There's More...

Lesson 3: Keep At It, But Don't Over Do It

In late July 2015, I uploaded another title, It's Not The Things We Say with the same little, to no, marketing and advertising.

Like all things in life, momentum is created by exerting energy.  I did nothing to create any momentum behind the titles, in part because I was concerned about "Promotion Fatigue" and "Banner Blindness" on the part of any readers here.

"Promotion Fatigue" is what I call the process when we're inundated by too much advertising and marketing.  We get tired of it and tune out the messenger.

"Banner Blindness" has been defined as the blurring of banners and ads online from the original content.  It's the visual representation of Promotion Fatigue.  We know that there is something like an ad being displayed but we have become so inundated by their constant placement, we tune them out.

So between my concern about Promotion Fatigue, Banner Blindness and looking at the ROI - Return On Investment - that slowed my marketing and promotional reach.

But with a few more titles on the near horizon that I'm working on right now, "A Fine Day For A Swim" and its sister accompaniment, "The Palm", as well as "Gunner", I'll have to rethink my promotional strategies.

Additionally the long-term plan is to comprise these published stories into a larger collection and place it on a few other platforms such as iBooks, Barnes and Noble and Kobo.

So, if you've been one of the few who have downloaded my short stories so far, a huge THANK YOU.

For those that haven't - I don't take it personally.  I'll just cry into my pillow until you do purchase one.

If you'd like to download a copy of any of my titles, click the titles below:

The Ballad Of John Walker

Mayonnaise And Other Stories

It's Not The Things We Say

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

3 Tips To Conquer Your Fears And Become The Person You Deserve

The Secret To Becoming Superhuman

Change Comes Slow While Excuses Are Fear By Another Name

(click HERE To See The Outstanding Book: The Power of Habit)

Not many of us can be born as Superman.  There's only one. And he was an alien at that.

Peter Parker wouldn't have become Spiderman except by accidental happenstance.

And the winner of the most recent lottery may have been handed a HUGE financial windfall from the Universe, but for most of us, change isn't a lightning bolt from the blue.

You lie awake at night thinking about how you can get xyz done at work the next day or how you need to exercise first thing when you wake up.

The alarm goes off and wham! You're too tired to lace up your shoes to go for a run.

Or the kids come running into the kitchen screaming for breakfast and poof!

There goes the time you had planned to read that chapter in your sci-fi novel that you were hoping to dig into before hand.

It's easy to think about change.

But hard to act to make those changes.

To make a change in your habits, routines, productivity and health is really about making a change in YOU.

Work, Love, Health, Wealth (or lack thereof) - All Roadblocks To Change

If something matters, if something is really important to you, you'll find a way. 

There are roadblocks and obstacles in all our lives. It could be our jobs, our families, our state of health. 

Other things that may hold us back from making a change all fall under the umbrella of fear.  We're afraid we could be wrong.  Or that we're not capable of reaching our goals.

We all share in the fear.

The key is to identify those fears:

  • Fear: We're afraid we may fail
  • Fear: Afraid of the discomfort that comes with change
  • Fear: Scared of the unknown and what may come from it
  • Fear: Doubt in your skills and abilities
  • Fear: Terror in not being "good enough"

And the biggest FEAR of all?


It does NOT exist.  It's something to dream about, to aspire toward, but too often we use it as a crutch, as a distraction from what we are capable of doing.

It prevents us from getting started.

So how do you avoid these little distractions becoming major obstacles?

The key is to set realistic and identifiable metrics that you can meet.

Follow these 3 tips to become Superhuman.
  1. Decide what you want to get done.
  2. Break the task into smaller steps that you can do in less time with less effort.
  3. Prioritize those steps into 3 things you can do right away, number them from 1 to 3.

Don't worry if there's more than 3 things.  You're focusing on the 3 steps you can take right away.

Set aside a realistic amount of time to get these done.  It may be 10 minutes, or more if you need it, but this time is immutable.  It can't be negotiated away or ignored.

It is absolute.

Don't have 10 minutes?  Bullshit.

Set an alarm to wake up 20 minutes earlier.  If you're normally a 7 a.m. type of person, you are now a 6:40 a.m. type of person.  Or if you go to bed at 11 p.m. (or 1 a.m. for some), then you're now 11:20 p.m.

This needs to be the same routine every day.

You need to LOVE Change.

You need to commit to the process.

It needs to be an everyday thing for you.

You're trying to make the change a new habit.

From there you're trying to make it from a habit to involuntary action.  Like taking a breath or a heartbeat.

You're establishing a daily routine that reaches the point of Automacy - the state of action that is automatic. In other words it doesn't take mental energy or focus to take action.

The most important factor in behavioral change is the discipline and focus on daily, manageable action.

It's dedication.

It's a commitment.

And it's practice.

But highly focused practice.

Until it's no longer necessary to focus on the actions, or until you just find yourself doing those actions without even knowing you began.

When you catch yourself "in the moment" and don't remember how it began.

A very smart person once told me, "practice doesn't make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect".

Said another way:

Practice makes permanent.

And permanence will make you merely human, or superhuman.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

How To Get Better At Damn-Well Anything

From Kindle Publishing To Sports And More, Become A Master At Anything With These Tips

master kindle publishing
This post started out as an answer to a question on Quora.

For those of you not familiar with Quora, it's a question and answer platform much like eHow or that allows you to use social networking to get answers to your questions, or offering up solutions to the questions being asked.

The original question was how to get better at creative writing.

But honestly, these tips could be used to help you achieve efficiency in pretty much any task you'd like to improve on.

How To Get Better At Writing In 3 Steps

Some of what I'm going to discuss is how to get better in phases. 

The first is the process phase.  This is sitting down, doing the grunt work.  Digging the trenches that are necessary to build your story's universe.  It's the outline, the foundation, the skeleton of getting better. 

The second phase with getting better is called the craft phase of writing.  It's mastering the language and techniques.  It's learning how to edit your writing to make it crisp, or as Earnest Hemingway said "write one true sentence". 

Finally, you need to learn time management skills or as I call it, the life phase.  It's too easy to get distracted, allowing the outside world to interrupt what you're exploring in the inner-most crevices of your imagination.  So learning how to focus on one task then moving on will help you become more effective as well as more efficient. 

The Process Phase

The process phase is like these gears. 

They grind and grind, turning each other in unison, propelling the machine forward. 

If one doesn't work, they whole machine ends.

You need to write.  

The process of writing isn't one that you do only inspired. You need to sit down and work on writing everyday. 

If you want to get better at the process, you need to sit down in the chair (metaphorically speaking) and write.  

You'll learn as you go.  

But basically sit down and write. 

Write daily, regularly even.  

This is true of any task.  From writing, to playing the guitar, to playing basketball.  It's due to spending the necessary time, the hours, needed to get better. 

As I said, write daily, regularly even.  

Jerry Seinfeld talked about not breaking the chain.  He would post a calendar on his wall and make a big "X" every day that he wrote.  Eventually the process took on it's own importance. 

To learn and master a task, you get better by doing a task in specific time periods with highly-focused repetition.  Malcolm Gladwell discusses this as the 10,000 hour rule in his book Outliers: The Story of Success: Malcolm Gladwell: 9780316017930: Books

But don't worry if, right now, you don't have a lot of time to write.  

You're learning how to get better.  It takes time. 

You need to build up the muscle, and that takes practice to build the endurance.  

Stephen King talks about how he began his writing career by prioritizing and finding time at lunch at his job. He talks about that in his outstanding book, On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft eBook: Stephen King: Kindle Store

Charles Bukowski wrote while working for the US mail department. 

Meanwhile, digital and ebook sensation Hugh Howey (hugh howey: Kindle Store) began to write while working at a bookstore, using his lunch hour to get some prose worked out. 

In that time Hugh Howey wrote his bestseller, WOOL to much acclaim and literally much fortune. 

So it can be done. 

The Craft Phase

To learn the craft of writing involves a few different things.  The first thing to consider is, again, sit down and write.  

Then edit your writing.  But get someone else to look it over.  Preferably someone with more than just basic grammar skills.  Get someone with the ability to take a red line through your most important prose.  Find a set of eyes more clear than your own. A set of eyes that can see the forest AND the trees. 

Then, take the time to think about what it all means, what you're trying to say. What is the larger picture, the broader message of what you're trying to convey.  

This is the theme of your work. 

For a doctor it may be the health of her patients.  For a mechanic it's fixing and maintaining the life of your transmission.  

To the teacher the theme of their work is to make an indelible imprint on the future of society, one student at a time. 

So theme is important. 

Meanwhile, you also need to get better at how to write. 

One major way to accelerate this growth is to mimic a master.  

You should write in your own voice, but should also try styles of those you admire.  

Just sit down, write the first 3 pages of a novel or story you like.  Imitate what someone has already done, and done well.  This is not to publish a plagiarized story, but to learn on a different level the song, the flow that a writer that's not you has already accomplished.  

Think about it in a different art form.  

Musicians learn to play other musicians songs.  

Classic painters are taught to outline and trace the lines and brush strokes of masters.  

The Guild Approach To Apprenticeship

In the past, there were guilds where artists spent years, ten years in fact, under the guidance of a master.  

There were guilds for masonry, guilds for artists, for tanners, for iron workers.  These were kind of like modern unions but ones dedicated to bettering the craft of the practitioners. 

But the work was grueling.  

The apprentice would clean, sweep up the studio, do whatever menial task that was needed to be done.  

It was the karate kid routine of cleaning the pigs stye, of cleaning the slop up for the master in order to make the master's job easier.  

But it also served a larger purpose. 

The master didn't teach the student about everything that they knew, rather it was up to the student to study and mimic the master until one day the student was able to move on from apprenticeship to craftsman.  

Over years of working on the craft, and only after all of those years would they move from craftsman to master. 


To learn what works for others and gain the foundation and the fundamentals of what others have mastered.  

Actors take lessons from coaches. Even Academy Award winners take classes to get better. 

Singers have a teacher to make sure that the singer is hitting the right notes and staying in time.  

You learn by doing.  And you learn more by getting corrections from someone who knows. 

Perhaps it's time to bring back the guilds...

The Life Phase

This section is divided into two sub-categories.  The creative side and the discipline side.  

The ultimate battle between the id and the ego.  

In the life phase of getting better at writing, you need to live it.  

Live your life.  Go on walks, commune with nature.  Touch your feet on sand and your face into water. 

Observe the way the light reflects in the trees while the sun is setting.  

Record every moment of it.  Document it.  Write it all down, write it down over and over again.  

Sit in a park and listen to how people talk, touch, laugh and cry with each other.  

Somewhere these observations will appear in the story.  The'll appear when you need them the most, even if they only appear in one story and limited to a line in length.  

The second section of the life phase is time management. 

It's the ego of your creative side.  The one where, just like in the process phase, you sit down and get to work.  

But you need to be organized - one of ego's greater traits - when you do this. 

Life Happens.  

It happens to everyone, everywhere.  We have a finite amount of time on this Earth, and with it, we have a finite amount of energy to accomplish all that we want. 

And life doesn't care that you're spinning the All-American Masterpiece in your skull, waiting to unleash it on the world.  You have bills to pay, mouths to feed and jobs to get to in order to take care of those responsibilities.  

There's never a good time to get started, there'll always be something else that comes up.  

So you need to find a way to block out the time and sequester yourself within your world. 

Find a way to turn off emails and your phone.  For god's sake turn off your phone. And TV is a no-no.  It will suck the minutes and hours from you like a Vampire draining a victim.  

One technique to help is set realistic time goals. 

The Pomodoro Technique

 I've written about this before on the blog, and you can check out the articles by clicking HERE (The Pomodoro Technique)  and HERE (Time Management Tips).

What the Pomodoro Technique teaches is to set small standards of time with specific breaks built into the process.  

First, get a timer.  

Set it for a small, realistic amount of time you can work on your writing (or any other task).  

Second, sit down and write (or get to work). 

Third, and this is most important, when the timer goes off, take a specific break from ALL activities.  

STOP - that's the key.  When the timer sounds, you have to stop.  Get up and get away from what you were working on.  

The recommended start is 20 minutes of work, followed by 5 minutes of ZERO activities related to the work you were doing. It'll help you relax.  

 It's interval training for work.

Just like a workout plan, you need time to recover those muscles that you were exerting, and we all know that the brain is an organ but also one giant muscle

That means it needs down time after exertion as well. 

Anything you want to master is a process.  You wouldn't want a surgeon coming straight from High School to perform open-heart surgery on you, would you? 

Of course not.  

It takes years of practice, focused, attentive practice to master a subject.  But if you work daily, on small manageable tasks, you too can master what you're after. 

These 3 phases of task mastery we discussed will help you become better, faster.  

From the process phase to the craft phase and finally, the life phase, learning how to manage all three will help you. 

But you have to sit down and start.  That's the secret to any journey.