Thursday, September 15, 2011

How patient are you?

Hello, it's me again. I'm serializing the first story from my new project, "A Time for Poncey," on Twitter, one tweet at a time. The story is called "You Can't Count What Isn't There," and it is Southern Gothic writing with humor and a spiritual twist. Follow me at http://twitter.com/#!/PonceyStories and search for #Poncey. Thanks, and good reading.

Friday, September 2, 2011

New Media and New Marketing Finis


Well, the “New Media Blitz” is over. It didn’t go particularly the way I’d hoped – I never did get any notice in the old media. Anyway, this project has dominated my attention for about five years, so it’s time to move on to something new. Thanks to everyone who has been a part of this; “The Job” and all my books will continue to be available at the usual websites, and at the discount price of 99¢, so if you’ve been waiting to pull the trigger, now’s the time. I will return to this space eventually (and it will have a somewhat different look), because I’m working on another project as we speak. Thanks again – good reading to all, and to all a good book.
The Craig Davis library of Master Works.


Here's an update as of May 2012: This library has been decimated. Because so many of my books are now part of the Kindle Prime program, they're no longer available at other outlets, so this Smashwords list is limited. The good news is, many books will eventually move back onto the list, but I don't know when.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

New Marketing and Old Media I

Well, I've obviously not been around here much lately, and I doubt I will be in the future. I must not be doing this tagging thing right, because this blog does not come up very high on searches that I need it to. "Christian humor" may just be too ubiquitous on the web. Anyway, here's another review, someone who obviously didn't get it. Why do these reviews always end up on Amazon, but the insightful ones don't? One of the big hurdles I've encountered is that online reviewers say they're prepared for Christian fiction, but then don't read with that in mind. There's a real possibility that they can only handle the most obvious of Christian content. Just waiting for that next "Left Behind" story.

So, anyway, it's on to phase two. I determined long ago that blog reviewers have no influence at all, and that to get exposure to a large audience, the traditional media is still necessary. But my strategy was to collect enough minor reviews to throw myself to the traditional media wolves again, and so I have. At the beginning of this gambit, which started last Labor Day, I sent copies cold to a number of magazines and other outlets, and mostly got zero response. Today I sent out a dozen emails to some of these - Christianity Today, CCM Magazine, &c. - with links to the better online reviews. My hope is they'll do a little research and decide I'm legit. If I get anything to show from this, I'll let you know.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Study on Esther

Hi all, I'm back, but for no real reason. Just wanted to note here that I have a written version of a study of Esther that I did available now for e-reader. It will be on Amazon eventually for 99¢, but it's free on Smashwords.
 
Also, I'll record here that I got a terrific and insightful review of "The Job" from Christian Book Notes, one of the more respected online reviewers I've found. It's funny that the more professional the reviewer, the better the review for this book. Please give them a look if you haven't already.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

New Media and New Marketing XX

Well, I've not been around here for awhile, and I've got to mention that I'm about to give up. I continue to get good reviews for "The Job," for instance this new one at Simul Iustus et Peccator, but these things don't seem to ever show up on Amazon, Goodreads, B&N, Smashwords, &c. &c. where they could actually do some good. As well, a quick googling of some of my key words to this blog shows that it's not showing up even on the first 10 search pages. So what's the point? (or "pint," as I nearly typed). This blog has three followers, and I'm one of them.

On top of that, I was shut out of the Independent Publisher Awards, the only contest I had a chance to be recognized in. I'd entered in the humor and religious fiction categories, and came away with nothing. Not really surprising, but the winner of silver in religious fiction was "The Sherlock Holmes Church Mysteries." This was an author who stole an iconic secular literary character, long after its creator was dead, and adapted it to her agenda. And she gets an award for it. So I'm pretty close to giving up any kind of marketing. It's not what I should be about, anyway. Success in the marketplace is not the raison d'etre of art and literature, and certainly not of the Church.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The King and the Kingdom

Well, the wedding's over, and presumably everyone survived. I suppose it's to be seen if Harry lives through the after-party.

I've never been much of one for the Royals -- I thoroughly avoided the Charles/Di debacle thirty years ago. It seems to me that the hype this time around was much less, possibly because Pr. William has not bandied about for fifteen years as an eligible bachelor like his father. I also have detected more cynicism about this wedding, which shouldn't be surprising from my seat here in the U.S., and I think it's political in nature.

Since the royal wedding thirty years ago, a lot has happened in the world besides the royal blowup, namely, democracy is rampant. The Eastern Bloc and even (for Pete's sake) the Soviet Union have fallen apart, majority rule came to South Africa, de facto representative governments stuck their heads above water in Afghanistan and Iraq, who-knows-what is trying to overthrow dictators in the Middle East and North Africa, and even China has granted economic freedoms. Monarchies and other authoritarians are becoming more and more of an anachronism.

Which poses a question for Western Christians -- how ready are you to bow to the King? Does it seem odd to think of being under absolute authority? Even decisions in most of our protestant churches are made by committees or direct election, not by elders as scripture directs (and the U.S. is definitely a protestant nation in nature.) The church in the West has no inkling of what it means to fall to your knees before one you call Lord. Something to think about.

Oh yeah. Buy my book.

Monday, April 25, 2011

New Media and New Marketing XIX

Hope you all had a marvelous Resurrection Day.

I just keep learning more and more. Here's the latest gambit -- I think these things are going to emerge much faster than I can keep up with them. #MentionMonday is another Twitter event, just like #SampleSunday, in which bloggers can promote their websites and maybe get more exposure (in my case, for "The Job"). So I'm involved today, and I have to apologize to all those Tweeters who do sample this blog and come up with this entry. I'm explaining to you what you're doing right now! Fascinating. But in truth, it doesn't get much more interesting than this.

So, check out my book on Amazon, Barnes&Noble and Smashwords. I also have a page on Goodreads. And have a good day.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Back to the Old Grind

Well, this has been enlightening. As reported, a feature on DailyCheapReads.com boosted sales of "The Job" at the Kindle store, although not to the great effect that I first thought. The next day, sales went back to zero, and it's been that way ever since. So getting on a prominent website can substantially help a book, but once it's no longer at the top of the front page the effect is over. The only thing I can think of to do with this is, since these sites are mostly blogs, is every time a new feature or review is posted, leave a comment about the new post. Probably won't garner much attention, but what else is there?

In other news, the second installment of the Poncey stories is finished in first draft, and the opening story is undergoing its editing process. Don't know what I'm talking about? Stay tuned for more details!

Monday, April 18, 2011

New Media and New Marketing XVIII

As I mentioned, "The Job" was featured yesterday on DailyCheapReads.com, which supports itself by linking to books on Amazon, thereby earning a couple cents every time a customer buys a book through the links. As I reported a couple weeks ago, "The Job" was ranked at about #70 at Amazon in the Christian>Fiction>Humor genre. Well, "The Job"'s performance Sunday vaulted it to #62 in that genre. Woo-hoo!

That's actually pretty good, but here's the other shoe. Confidentially, my sales on Sunday were four books. That's probably a daily record, but still, if four sales can lift a book some 10 places within a genre, what does that say about the genre? So there you have it.

Still, thanks so much to the Cheapskates at DailyCheapReads. Maybe I'll get a review and some word-of-mouth out of it.

Friday, April 15, 2011

New Media and New Marketing XVII

Hey, I thought of something. I've finally figured out what to do with a meaningless review. 

A new review came in the other day, which I'm not going to link to for reasons that will become apparent. First, I have to say that any review is a good review, because it gets "The Job" in front of eyes that might not see the title otherwise. Also, I've never gotten a bad review, even when the reviewer obviously didn't get it. But insightful commentary on the book seldom comes through, which has left me wondering how to use these things pro-actively.

This is how. The review that I speak of reads like this, in toto: "This book is humorous and short by Craig Davis . I couldn't put this one down. This one I highly recommend  this book but a easy short read." Extra spaces and jumbled line spacing is sic, and I don't mean that in a hip way; I don't know what that last sentence is supposed to say. This girl is clearly not a writer, and I think she's not really a reader either. She gave "The Job" four stars, which is fine, except that a review of her blog reveals that she gives any brainless romance five stars. I think "The Job" is blown off to some extent because it is humor and short, and many times it's read superficially, and I think reviewers who read any book only at that level, or want only books that can be read that way, should be discounted.


So what about me? What can I do with this? Here's what: Copy and paste "I couldn't put this one down. This one I highly recommend" and add an ellipsis. I don't know why I didn't think of this before, because it's standard practice in any kind of testimonial, but at least I've got it now. So be prepared for lots of ellipses in future posts.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Old Media I

When you get to the end of the story, you stop writing.

I posted only once last week, and here it is Wednesday and I'm only just getting around to it now. I'm running out of ideas already, and my news to share is paper thin. So has the blog already run its course? No, because it was never about ideas or news, it was about links. Sorry to be cynical, but let's face it, I have no illusions of attracting a big reading audience. I just want links to show up on Google searches, which I'm told begins to happen after about four months of blogging, so I'll keep plugging along. The Job.

I did have an idea about old media and where it might be going, but now I've forgotten it. Maybe it'll come to me.

Here's a feature on The Job at Indie Books Blog. A review would be better, but you take what you can get. I have gotten a handful of new offers from reviewers, but these things take time to turn around.

Monday, April 4, 2011

New Media and New Marketing XVI

Don't have much to say today. I've been running through new lists of book reviewers, and I've gotten a few bites, but most of these poor people are so backed up that it will take weeks if not months for "The Job" to make it to the top of their piles. One of the more major book review blogs, Red Adept, has a turnaround rate of a year. I sent them a copy late last year, so it'll probably be the fall before they get to it.

Which brings me to one observation: There are book review blogs, and there are bloggers who review books. I've learned to concentrate on the first, because bloggers who review books basically are interested only in what they would be reading anyway. Unless I can detect some real connection they might have with "The Job," it's not worth the time requesting a review from them. Their blogs are not likely to have a lot of followers, either.

Having said that, here's a review -- the very first -- of "Feallengod: The Conflict in the Heavenlies." It is by a blogger who reviews books. Full discloser: He's a friend of mine, and this is his first review, but you can trust his judgment 100%. Take a moment to take a look at it. Also, here's an author interview I posted with a Facebook group, Book Junkies.

You know, the part of this that takes the longest is setting up the links.

Friday, April 1, 2011

No Bad Publicity

If you're an author, you're probably not reading this. If you are an author reading this, you can quit now, because you've already seen it.

This is what Internet marketing is all about, in a twisted kind of way. Independent book publishers/authors are all salivating after that killer review, but this woman got more than she bargained for. Jacqueline Howett sent her book, The Greek Seaman, to Big Al's Books and Pals for a review. And that's what she got, and it wasn't particularly bad. But "Big Al" did point out technical flaws in her writing, which led to this firestorm. Now more people know about Jacqueline's book than she could ever have hoped for, and maybe some of them will even buy it.

But more will probably buy this. It's a real measure of our current media culture that you can make a fool of yourself, and someone will be making a profit off you before you can get up off the floor. Big Al is also suffering from the aftermath. Which didn't stop me from sending him a request to review "The Job," because let's face it, a lot more people know of his blog now than they did a week ago. But his sudden fame has surely brought on an onslaught of review requests, so I don't expect to hear from him. But given the size headache he no doubt has now, he might benefit from reading "The Job" anyway.

In other news, Sample Sunday is coming up again. This week I'll be featuring a chapter from "Wars of the Aoten," once again based on St. Celibart statistics, the most popular chapter. If you're on Twitter, just search for #samplesunday, and click the links that authors have tweeted. If you like their writing, then retweet their links to your followers. Help out an indie.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

New Media and New Marketing XV

Time for a new post even though I've got nothing to say. I will mention my new author page at Family Fiction, an online Christian magazine that focuses on fiction, oddly enough. It's worth a mention because I broke in there through my weasely social networking.

Family Fiction is one of the groups I joined on Facebook, and then I added links to a couple of comments they posted, knowing it would show up on the news feeds of their followers. It also caught their attention too, which I hadn't counted on. Judging from their website they seem to focus on traditional publishers, and there's no way I could find to contact them directly, so this is a major breakthrough for me, at least as a moral victory. So be sure to go there lots and generate a lot of traffic.

Gearing up for Sample Sunday #3!

Monday, March 28, 2011

New Media and New Marketing XIV

Well, SampleSunday passed, and I finally learned how to see retweets, and my tweets for Feallengod were retweeted exactly once, and that by a friend I had to pay a lot of money to. JK. But only the last part. So it remains true that social networks are really useless unless your network is really behind you. That seems to be the nut remaining to crack. But I'm going to stick with it for awhile; next weekend, Wars of the Aoten.

But, in other news, I did learn how to track retweets, which proved to be quite easy. For some reason I couldn't find any instructions on how to do it on the World Wide Web. Another thing I've been struggling with is Amazon's best-seller lists based on genre. I think I've finally figured that out as well, and The Job is #68 in the Christian humor fiction category. And this after a brutal March. So tell your friends.

The final comment I'd make today is that Twitter followers are really fickle. Although I'm up by about 30% again after this weekend, that includes a number of drop-outs. I think a lot of people are just trying to set records with followers, and if they pick you up and you don't reciprocate, then you're done. But if someone has several thousand followers, they're never going to see your tweets anyway, so what's the point? So I'm happy with the handful I've got. Especially if they retweet.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Friday, March 25, 2011

Sample Sunday

Here we go again. Sample Sunday is coming up again, surprisingly enough on Sunday, and I will be participating again with an excerpt from "Feallengod: The Conflict in the Heavenlies." I will be offering Chapter 8, which according to St. Celibart stats, is the most popular chapter outside of the penultimate, which is the coup de gras, and I'm not going to offer it to anyone who can't find St. Celibart. So there.

So here's the deal: Independent authors band together on Sample Sunday to Tweet using the hashtag #samplesunday. Each tweet includes a link that leads to an excerpt from one of the author's books. Twitterers who are involved follow the links, and if they like the excerpt, they retweet the original tweet. That way the author's work gets exposure to each re-twitterer's network of followers. I'm also using the hashtags #spiritual and #literaryfiction, so you can search with those to find me if you want. It seems like an effective way to use Twitter.

Speaking of which, I've figured out a couple of the chintzy ways of manipulating social media. First a disclaimer -- there's nothing new here. First, on Twitter I'll often use one of the top hashtags, so hip people will be forced to see my tweets. Of course, the activity around these hashtags is fast and furious, otherwise they wouldn't be at the top, so I'm probably just getting lost in the fray. And then there's Facebook, where I join appropriate groups and wait for them to post something. Then I'll comment and leave a link, which will show up on the news feed of everyone in that group. So I have to say I've got it all figured out.

BTW, I've sold one copy of "The Job" this month.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Politics 101

This is about politics. I'm pretty conservative, so if you think you might be offended, turn away now.

The president is in South America right now, and I ran across this story about what he's doing there. Bear in mind that he's put a moratorium on deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, in spite of a court order to lift the moratorium. Apparently deep-water drilling is OK, even to be promoted in other countries, but not in the United States. The author of the article makes a good argument why Americans should shake their heads over this policy.

But why? Why is drilling off Brazil's coast and buying their oil OK, but we have to keep our oil reserves in the ground? The Gulf is not the only area off-limits to U.S. oil companies -- the eastern seaboard, the coast of Florida, the coast of California, ANWAR, federal lands in the western desert, etc., etc., etc. The list goes on and on of U.S. oil reserves that must remain in the ground. So why?

Cal. Rep. Maxine Waters tells us why:

video

(Tennesseans will enjoy seeing Stephen Cohen smirking in the background.) Waters let it slip. The major tenet of socialism is all industry and business being owned and run by the government. Her stated desire here specifically is to take over the oil companies. Why would the government want private industry to profit from oil reserves when some day it wants to profit from oil itself? It's just an investment. Liberals are so sure they will be getting all the money one day, they want to be sure there's plenty there to get. And that's what politics is all about, folks: money.

Monday, March 21, 2011

New Media and New Marketing XIII

I had an interesting weekend. Did you? Spring is now upon us in all its glory, so I decided to spend a couple days inside staring at the Internet.

First, I found a few Facebook pages that seem useful: Writing Kindle Books, a closed group for, believe it or not, those who write books for Kindle. Another is called Book Worms, which is mostly for readers but has an area for authors to mention their books, and yet another is Christian Books, which apparently just helps people know what's out there. So I'm all over that. I also discovered Pixel of Ink, which highlights e-books that cost less than $1, so I'll probably be using them eventually.

The other notable event of the weekend was my first Sample Sunday, which I think may also have been the first ever. Sample Sunday is a Twitter event in which authors tweet about their book(s) and include the hashtag #samplesunday. Then followers are asked to retweet, and on and on, to gain exposure for the books. I joined in, and even though there's no way to tell if it meant anything, I'll continue on the next several Sundays. I can say that my Twitter followers grew by 50%. I'm just now figuring out Twitter, and I'll probably offer some thoughts about it later. In related news, the viewership of my video on YouTube is still going strong. But sales remain elusive.

I've got another marketing ploy up my sleeve, but I can't say anything about it now. If it develops, I'll certainly let you know.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Mediasaurus

I was literally lying around the other day, reviewing my stellar career in the news media. The reverie was brought on because I'd seen a promotion the newspaper I used to work for had posted online for its new Twitter news feed. This development had made me remember how I told a co-worker in the mid '90s that print newspapers would mostly disappear in 20 years (I thought the only survivors would be huge "newspapers of record," as they are called, and small-town weeklies.) Just call me Nostradamus. My afore-mentioned employer has been very slow to develop its Internet presence, much less apps for smart phones and touch pads. They seem to finally be dipping their toes in the social media. Meanwhile, they've been cutting positions and salaries like Johnny Depp in "The Demon Barber of Fleet Street."

So what's new in all this? Well, as my mind was wandering around, it occurred to me that even with all the adjustments the newsies are making to use new media, newspapers and magazines are doggedly hanging on to the printed page, even though that technology is sinking faster than the Andrea Doria (thought I was going to say Titanic, didn't you?) After salaries, ink and paper are the biggest expense a daily newspaper has. If these news outlets would jettison their printing, they'd have a windfall of money to invest in improving their staff and therefore their product. So there must be some reason they're hanging onto this deck chair, even though it's water-logged and dragging them down.

I think it's because the printed page is their last vestige of exclusivity. Anyone can blog, anyone can Tweet, anyone can become a clearing house of news links on the Internet (this essentially is what the Drudge Report is.) I have a friend who's been following the turmoil in North Africa via Twitter's news feed, and he's been better informed about the overall scene than reporters who are there. But not everyone can afford to print their product every day, or week or even month. That sets these old media outlets apart, and I think they're clinging to it as a mark of legitimacy and therefore power. But that's another thing they just don't get -- the new media has put the lie to press "objectivity" and the limits that printed pages (that is to say, space) put on news coverage. The same thing can be said about the limits (that is to say, time) put upon broadcast news. The old media is just inferior in every way. And it will die a tortured death if it doesn't recognize that soon.

Check out my page on Goodreads.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Book giveaway

And the winner is -- nobody! Because nobody entered. Which told me what I wanted to know.

Promotion through the Internet is like chasing the wind.

Posting the giveaway here, and on Kindle boards, and Barnes and Nobles' discussion boards, was viewed a number of times but raised no interest. So it remains a mystery how to engage the imagination of the market.

Monday, March 14, 2011

New Media and New Marketing XII

Well, the big experiment is over, and it's report card time. All my books were 1/2 off at Smashwords for "Read an E-book Week." The week started out with a sudden sale of both "Feallengod" and "Wars of the Aoten," neither of which I'm promoting at all, and after that -- nothing. Not a peep. So, I conclude that my sales are not being affected by my prices being too high. And I don't think they're being affected by my attempts at promotion, either. Inexplicably, the day after the sale, somebody downloaded a sample of "The Job"; that guy's timing is off.

This past week I've joined Kindle Forum, which appears to be a small attempt at a social network for everything Kindle. I've also been active lately at Barnes and Noble's bulletin board. When you look up strategies for building an "author platform," as they call it, getting on bulletin boards is pushed as essential, but I have yet to draw much of a response to any of my threads. My posts do appear to get a number of views -- in a related matter, my YouTube video has increased its views by a third in the last three weeks, after being posted a couple of times on Kindle Boards -- but I can see no way they've inspired interest in the book itself.

So, that's a lot of complaining. Should I care about all this in the first place? More on that later.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Belief, books and baseball

My friend Tim Ellsworth's new book Pujols: More than the Game, written together with Scott Lamb, has been released by Thomas Nelson and landed in my hands. Thanks Tim. I read most of it in manuscript form, and I can assure baseball fans, in particular St. Louis Cardinal fans, they'll enjoy it. But the book goes well beyond Albert Pujols' baseball accomplishments, and dedicates at least half of its chapters to his life of faith and charitable works. The balance that Pujols' has found between almost unprecedented success in his sport and humility before Christ is good to see. As a Cubs fan, I have to mention that there is some fawning over Pujols, but the authors don't gloss over the controversy that has arisen around Pujols over the years, limited though it is.

So congratulations to Tim and Scott for finding an idea and seeing it through. Much of what is published for the Christian market are testimonies by the rich and famous, and while this book is not exactly that, maybe I'll comment more on that phenomenon later. Pujols: More than the Game has a built-in market, particularly in the mid-South, and a release date during spring training couldn't be better, so I'm sure it will sell well and lead to bigger and better things.

Monday, March 7, 2011

New Media and New Marketing XI

Not much to say today, but a reminder that this is Read an E-book Week. I don't know who came up with that brilliant idea, but Smashwords.com has taken it under wing, and they use it to promote themselves and their authors. All of my books are half-price this week, so check them out using this link. Good luck, 'cause as of this morning I think their server had been crashed.

Also, there's a new review, from Cynthia Hickey of Author's Choice Reviews. It's a rolling page and they update every day, so you'll have to scroll down some. This site rates books according to their "faith element" (The Job scored high), and I think is aimed at wholesalers -- bookstores or distributors who care about what message their books get across. Anyway, it's another link on the innernational inter webs.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

New Media and New Marketing X

My animated video excerpt has broken through the 200-view level on YouTube. It's been up for almost six months, so that's not exactly viral. It's been seen in Slovakia and Vietnam, among other random world sites. I don't know how people can find it in those places, but so few see it in the English-speaking world. I did find a link to it at World News, a web page with an unique approach.

So the big news is the podcast version is now officially available and searchable at the iTunes store. The problem is, I don't know how to steer people toward it there, either. Am I whining now? What do you mean 'now'? Yeah, I'm whining, and I will until I figure this out.

Don't forget the giveaway!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Book Giveaway!

Beware the ides of March! That is the day three lucky blog readers will get their own paperback copy of "The Job: Based on a True Story (I Mean, This is Bound to have Happened Somewhere)". The catch is, the winners won't be random -- they'll be the three entrants who live furthest away from me. (United States and Canada residents only).

So, will the furthest away be in Alaska? Or will it be just down the street? You just can't tell! So don't hesitate -- email me your full name and address, and on March 15 first thing in the morning Central Standard Time, I'll announce winners. Et tu, Brute! It could be your lucky day!

Monday, February 28, 2011

New Media and New Marketing IX

I mentioned the KindleBoards here last week, but here's more detail about them. They seem like a great resource for people looking for independent authors for their Kindle, but it is a real mess there. I've been promoting "The Job" there for several months. But if you're looking for a particular kind of book, it's like being lost in a tangle of roots underwater.

I've tried to help myself (and others) in this regard by starting a couple of discussion threads, Writing for the Spirit and Kindle-ing the Flames of Wit. Their themes are, hopefully obviously, spiritual writing (avoiding the red flag word "Christian") and humor writing. My hope is that visitors who like these genres will find the threads and see books there that interest them. The advantage to authors of threads like these is collusion -- get all the authors in a genre to work together posting regularly, and the thread will stay near the top of the list where visitors to KindleBoards can easily see them. Every author who posts there gets exposure for his or her book without flat-out promotion. That hasn't been the case the "The Job"'s  thread, because nobody posts there but me, and I can do that only once a week.

So this is another angle on Internet marketing. If you are interested in either genre, I invite you to visit the threads and participate in the conversation.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Comics are Serious Business

All through my childhood and well into my adult years, my dream job was to draw a newspaper comic strip. "Mac Quack: Corporate Duck" was my last attempt at this, and like all others, was universally hated by syndicates. But, like everything else, the electronic media has made newspaper comics an anachronism, and anyone can reach the world with their comics electronically now, if the world can find it. Also, if you are willing to take up the daily grind for no reward whatsoever.


So who cares? Nobody. I only bring it up because I recently bought another original of "Pogo" by Walt Kelly. The remarkable thing about this particular strip is the larger character inside the bag is Simple J. Malarkey, Kelly's caricature of Sen. Joe McCarthy during the height of McCarthyism. Kelly stood among only a handful in the media to publicly challenge McCarthy's innuendo and bullying. Communism was a real threat hanging over the country domestically and internationally during the '50s, but McCarthy's tactics were self-serving, unconstitutional and in the end served only to de-legitimize more measured efforts to protect the nation.

So this drawing is a part of certainly the most significant sequence Kelly did in more than 20 years of drawing the celebrated strip. I can't be sure, but it seems like this character appeared in only about 30 strips. Of course, here you can't see the character per se, but there's even a funny story behind that. There was another character, a chicken, who already had been established as a Rhode Island Red from Providence. When the caricature of McCarthy reappeared in mid-1954 (he had first appeared in 1953), the newspaper in Providence had declared that if his face showed up again they would drop "Pogo." So Kelly, who must have been working on a very short deadline, had Malarkey say "No one from Providence can see me" as the chicken approached, and put a bag over his head. The newspaper got the joke, but indeed Malarkey's face never appeared again.

This strip was relatively cheap, particularly for an example from the '50s. I think maybe the seller didn't know what she had. This feels like a piece of history to me.

Monday, February 21, 2011

New Media and New Marketing VIII

I'm all about marketing strategy right now, hence the existence of this blog, but so far I can't see how anybody breaks through to the public consciousness. One of the strategies that a number of "experts" suggest is getting on bulletin boards. So I joined the Christian boards that I could find, and I wanna tell you, they are dead as a doornail. Many won't allow links to be posted, many won't allow promotion of any kind. The ones that do, I have found, get no traffic anyway. Many seem to exist to minister to lonely or troubled people somewhere out there in the cyber world, as if that were really possible on the Internet.

One board I've found that does seem to have some muscle is KindleBoards, which I believe is Amazon-sponsored and seeks to serve Kindle users overall. This bulletin board gets a lot of traffic, and gives writers and readers with similar tastes an opportunity to interact.

Unfortunately, Christian writing is trod underfoot there. There are only about eight authors listed under the "religious" genre, out of who knows how many untold thousands of authors with e-books at the Kindle Store. The link for "The Job" has received a grand total of one comment in its four-month existence. Since the author of a thread can post and therefore bump the thread only once a week, this means that "The Job" thread spends most of its time buried in the listings where nobody can find it.

So I've conspired with some of the other writers of spiritual works there to maintain the thread Writing for the Spirit, dedicated to discussing Christian writing. As long as a few of us post once a day or so, the thread should stay near the top of the list and be seen by visitors to the bulletin board. We may even have an intelligent conversation. I started it up this weekend, and so far it's been pretty busy, but we'll see how dedicated the writers are there to keep in vital.

BTW, somebody bought "Wars of the Aoten" off of Smashwords. Though this blog is dedicated to "The Job," obviously, I do have two other books for sale. Here are links to Smashwords, if you're interested. They're also available on Amazon and B&N, but my royalties are higher from Smashwords, and they have all the different e-book formats.

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/26915

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/31861

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Flim-Flannery

I'm re-reading some of the works of the great Southern Gothic author Flannery O'Connor. This will be only the second time I've gone through most of them, but still I'm finding the Christian themes easier to pick up. I've tried to track down some literary criticism of her works, and I've found that people basically obsess with "A Good Man is Hard to Find." More on that later.

First, I personally find fiction with Christian themes much more thought-provoking and meaningful than simple apologetics. This is why I love O'Connor and Dostoevsky so much. In fact, my favorite C.S. Lewis work is "Screwtape Letters," which is undeniably apologetics but brilliantly written in the voice of a fictional character. Perhaps straight apologetic writing just seems too much like a lecture to me, while fiction allows the reader to bring his own levels of understanding into the writer's thoughts. This is what I try to do.

Although my stories to date have been more straight-forward Christian in nature than O'Connor's, I still give that freedom of interpretation, particularly in "The Job." For instance, you can tell in Grace Krispy's review that she nearly gets it, but Mary Ann Langan's "review" reveals she doesn't get it at all. As I turn more toward Southern Gothic in my writing, I'll try to keep this connection to Christianity without letting it become a sledge hammer.

So, anyway "A Good Man is Hard to Find" apparently is accepted as O'Connor's seminal story in the eyes of most, although I'm not so sure ("Revelation" and "The Displaced Person" deserve some consideration). It certainly is the most direct story in putting forward O'Connor's idea that violence is "the extreme situation that best reveals what we are essentially." It's shock value is probably why the secular world has latched onto it. But O'Connor's overall Christian outlook within her work -- that of portraying "the action of grace in territory held largely by the devil" -- is a little harder to find, the grace part anyway. The grandmother tries to talk the Misfit into being a good man, even in a way comparing his blood to Jesus', but he makes her a good woman by sticking a gun in her face.


That's the extent of my literary criticism. You're free to write your own without my interference. I highly recommend O'Connor's work. I will add this last thing -- the Misfit's complaint that "I wasn't there so I can't say (Jesus) didn't (raise the dead). I wisht I had of been there. It ain't right I wasn't there because if I had of been there I would of known," is very close to Ivan Karamazov's complaint in "The Grand Inquisitor" -- if only Jesus would prove Himself to me, then I could believe.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Was that Will Be

First, kudos to Walt Kelly and the fact that I could steal and pretty much destroy his title for this very important blog post.

Once upon a time, the publishing business didn't really exist. After Gutenberg's invention of the press, authors would pay printers to print and bind their works, and then they would deliver them to local bookstores for sale. There wasn't that much reading material available, so stores were happy to take whatever books they could get, and readers as well. So what came to be known as publishers were just a hired service, and authors made only what they could get stores to pay them for books. If the author couldn't afford printing costs, well, that was just too bad.

Somewhere along the way printers found that they could take on the costs of publishing, thereby attracting popular authors and make a tidy profit. I don't know how this came about, but I do know that Charles Dickens became widely popular by having his stories serialized in magazines, then afterwards published as full books when the audience was well established. This was the mid-1800s.

So who cares? Nobody. But it appears we're back at square one, as traditional publishers struggle to squeeze out a profit while thousands of would-be authors pay self-publishers to print and bind their books for a fee. The catch again is whether these authors can get bookstores to carry their books, now in a culture where not only is there no lack of reading material, but also the broad audience would rather watch Hulu than read anyway. The growth of e-readers will only increase this cacophony of information. This is where I am with "The Job", although I add the twist of being my own printer. How to get notice remains the greatest challenge.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Life is a "Cabaret", again

Watched "Cabaret" again for the first time in decades the other night, and I was struck by how modern it is. The movie came out in 1972, based on the Broadway musical of 1966, based on the 1951 play "I Am a Camera," based on the 1939 novel "Goodbye to Berlin," based on 1931 Wiemar Germany. The main thrust of the story is the decadent escapism of Berlin night life, offering  the people some release from the anxieties of daily life, punctuated by the militant rise of the Nazi party (National Socialists). Thrown in for good measure are homosexuality, abortion, alternative sex partnering, racism and political indifference within private life. The only issue of Wiemar Germany that is glossed over is the economic disaster of hyper-inflation and a worthless mark.

So I was watching it, and I'd see a character and say (quietly to myself) "Wow, she looks just like (insert current celebrity)", or I'd hear a line and say "That sounds just like (insert current political agenda)" or a scene would develop and I'd say "Wow, that's just like (insert current international ideology)". It was truly creepy. One musical number has the androgynous master of ceremonies singing about wanting to marry someone in a gorilla suit, and at the end tells the audience, "She doesn't look Jewish at all." There is even now a prominent group worldwide that describes Jews as pigs and apes.

The warning is that – although I doubt the movie makers intended this – the culture of the cabaret life was inviting the rise of fascism. It is a well-documented cycle that liberal (and I mean that in the classic sense) cultures devolve into hedonism which then gives rise within the population a desire for stricter authority. This is what "Cabaret" presents, and it is unmistakeably the condition of the western world today, in Europe even more so than the U.S. On top of that, the undermining of currency through government borrowing and printing of money (the head of the Federal Reserve a few months ago printed up hundreds of billions of dollars in hopes of creating inflation) will eventually further undermine the stability of our society. What large movement looms on the horizon today, ready to fill a vacuum and force discipline that current authorities are unwilling to enforce? You figure it out. In my mind, we need to get ahold of ourselves before it's too late, or our children might be living in a much-more unforgiving world.

I recommend "Cabaret" as a study of the western condition, and besides, the musical numbers are great. And I'm not generally a fan of musicals.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Eragon-e

Get it? "Era-gone"? Oh well.


How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways -- Actually, I don't hate this travesty, but it's certainly a great example of what's wrong with modern publishing. First let me say I know virtually nothing about the book except what I saw in the movie version's trailer -- that it is a rip off of both "Lord of the Rings" and "Star Wars" mushed into one. In other words, as the old-time pundit, printer's-ink-in-the-veins journalists would say, it's "strictly boilerplate."




Probably violating some Amazon copyright here.


According to Wikipedia, the incredibly talented and home-schooled Christopher Paolini began writing "Eragon" when he was 15, and it was first published in 2002 by his parents' company, Paolini International LLC, which had been formed only five years before. He then toured some 135 schools promoting the book, so the folks definitely had plenty of financial resources to invest in marketing. Eventually "the stepson of author Carl Hiassen found Eragon in a bookstore and loved it, and Hiaasen brought it to the attention of his publisher, Alfred A. Knopf", and the rest is history.


This is an odd twist on "it's who you know," which is an absolutely true platitude in publishing, and also in succeeding (financially) in any of the entertainment arts. No respected agent or publisher would ever have given a second look to a book written by a 15-year-old, but his own parents sure would. Also no school would ever have given time to an adult wanting to promote his fantasy book to a captive audience of kids, but another kid -- wow, that would be inspirational. Christopher cashed in on the money and grunt work his parents invested, and on his own youth to find a core market, one of whom had a connection with a real publisher. All this for a story that will be completely forgotten by the next generation.


So I guess I'm just jealous, because in truth it's exactly what I'm doing. I've got my own "publishing" company simply to give "The Job" an existence before my core audience, which is Christian reviewers and media in general. My real hope is that one member of that market will see the real worth of "The Job" and become its advocate. It's a total shot in the dark, but let's face it, God loves weakness, and there really couldn't be much of a weaker attempt than this. We'll see what He does with it.

It ain't the way it used to be -- more about that later.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

New Media and New Marketing VII

I love Roman numerals.


Well, the Facebook ad campaign is over, after four months. Did you see it? More than 2,100,000 pairs of eyes supposedly saw it in the English-speaking world, targeting Christians and readers. More than 270 clicked on the ad, which directed them to the Facebook fan page. Of those, it's hard to say but I think fewer than five "liked" the page. So who knows if it really had any effect.


So why then? Well, back in the day during the advertising class I had to take in college, I learned that direct mail is the most effective advertising there is. Electronic social networking ads are basically the same thing, but a lot cheaper. Judging from clicks, I had a .013% response rate. That doesn't seem like a very good return, but who's to say about advertising? In broadcast all an advertiser really knows is an estimate of how many people see an ad based on how many are watching a show. My real goal was just to get "The Job" and its cover in the subconscious of my target audience so if it does show up in book stores, they'll remember they've seen it before.


It's just another shot in the dark.

Monday, January 31, 2011

New Media and New Marketing VI

Here's an interesting story on the new world of self publishing. It shows well what authors face just getting their work into print. For myself, I learned long ago that the only way to get a trade publisher's attention is to know someone (rant coming on "Eragon") or to have an established name that will guarantee sales. Next time you're in a bookstore check out the number of book covers on which the author's name is in bigger type than the title. And you can't really fault publishers for this, because traditional publishing has extremely small profit margins, and publishers do have to stay in business.


Here's an apocryphal tale about Eric Metaxis' recent biography about Dietrich Bonhoeffer. His original publishing deal was with Harper Collins, but once they saw the manuscript they decided it could make money at only half that length, presumably simply because of production costs. So Metaxis took it to Thomas Nelson, who published it untruncated, and it has become a best-seller. So there you have it. But it does illustrate the pressures and worries of the traditional publishing world.


So what's the point? Really it is that the article mentions marketing issues, but doesn't offer any ideas that a self-published author can use to market his book. As I've said here before, my approach is to have only enough hard copies to have a token existence of "The Job," and to send them out to reviewers and contests. Also, hit internet networking as hard as possible. Beyond that, what else can an author do? I was hoping for some other ideas from the article, but there were none.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

New Media and New Marketing V

Here's a new review, posted by Joanne Bayles at Figuring Out The Small Stuff. Joanne won her copy from the giveaway at Kathy Habel's I Am a Reader, Not a Writer. I'm still waiting on a review from her.


Which begs the question, why this blog? Don't I know that nobody blogs anymore? Well, yes, I do know that, except that book reviewers seem to be an exception. People who like to read all fancy themselves reviewers, even if they can't get the traditional media to pay them, so blogging is an effective outlet for this. Also, as with all reviewers, if a consumer of books finds someone with the same tastes as him, it makes sense to follow that reviewer and check out books that he (or more likely she) likes. Blogs fill this point of contact nicely.


Still, why this blog? Well, I was reading this other blog (he didn't get the memo either), and that blogger is promoting a book online. His advice was to sign up on as many web directories as possible, using meta words and tags that would make your book rank high in Google searches. I had to ask around about what a web directory was, so archaic is that idea, and I'm not sure it's worth it to pursue that strategy. But he also said to blog a lot, getting those links and meta words out there in cyberspace, so here I am.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

New Media and New Marketing IV

Here's a link to the latest review of "The Job", from Literary R&R. It is the most in-depth review so far, quite thoughtful, but still obviously falls short of fully understanding the book. A friend pointed out to me the letters of C.S. Lewis, in which he goes through a long list of reviews of "Out of the Silent Planet." The reviews were all glowing, but none of them understood the theological underpinnings of the story. I was prepared for this with "The Job"; in fact, it's somewhat gratifying to me that the story can be appreciated on several levels even by those who don't get it. I'm still awaiting that meaty review with real insight, though.


This all brings to a head the requirement that arts offer the consumer room for discovery. If an author (or painter, composer, etc.) makes his point so heavy-handedly that the consumer can't bring anything of himself into the work, then the artist has failed. The artist must be willing to allow the consumer to interpret the work either rightly or wrongly. I think I know what Dostoyevsky was getting at in "The Brothers Karamazov," but short of talking to him about it I'll never really know. But if I'm right, the man was a blinking genius. If an artist can leave an audience thinking that, whether they get it or not, then he's done pretty well.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Joyful Heart is Good Medicine

So, what is Christian humor? Does such a thing exist, or should it? Shouldn't we all be morose repenters and worshipers all the time? Nah. Don't even want to talk about it. But I did wonder what forms "Christian" humor takes and how it serves the body of Christ. My first supposition is that to many, "Christian" means anything "clean," that is, the opposite of what are universally considered "dirty" jokes. My second supposition is that a large part of "Christian" humor consists of embarrassing typos or misstatements, which almost by definition implies unintended innuendo, which contradicts supposition #1. My third supposition is a lot of Christian "humor" is the pseudo-inspirational angel/little kid/cute animal theme epitomized by "Family Circus" and "Precious Moments," done over and over again and designed only for warm and fuzzies, not humor. So I proposed to check out these suppositions; in lieu of doing actual research, I did a Google search.




After a superficial amount of thought, I found that while the suppositions are pretty solid, they're too broad. For instance, within supposition #3 there's also a strain of jokes with the theme of smugly putting unbelievers in their place. But there's also a broader statement that can be made: "Christian humor" is generally lame (although here's a link to a website that contains some actually clever Christian humor). I guess this fact would also fall under supposition #3, but it takes in the first two as well. I mean, how often can you read bulletin bloopers before you begin to know exactly what to expect?

So what's the point, anyway? When taking up "The Job," I wanted to use humor in the same way the world uses it, not only simply for entertainment value but also for its therapeutic value. It's well-known that, at least in the Western world, people use humor to help us get over traumas, and certainly the story behind "The Job" would tap into that. But I knew that what is typically considered Christian humor would shut the book off from the general reading public, so I sought mainstream uses of what is considered funny (by me, anyway.) I wanted the humor to be sharp and insightful, bringing out points that showed where Joe B.'s mind and emotions were going. I also didn't want it to be lame.

More on all this later.

Friday, January 14, 2011

New Media and New Marketing III

So I'm a publisher -- ha! I print and bind books in my office. This is not publishing. But the paperback version of "The Job" exists just enough to be available on Amazon, to be sent to reviewers and contests, and to be left at random locations (keep your eyes open). This is the current leg of my marketing strategy, since no agent nor trade publisher thought they could make money off me. I've taken the position that I can prove to them there is a market for this book. My theory is that with exposure from online reviews and contests, a demand for the book could arise among readers, creating pressure on book stores, which would necessitate mass production through an actual printing/binding company. It might also cause notice from mainstream media. From there buzz might arise that I can eventually use to once again pitch the book to trade publishers. It's a longshot, but what else do I have going on?


Here are links to the reviews that have been posted so far: Midwest Book Review, MotherLode and Tribute Books Mama. It is fascinating to see the different extents to which the reviewers "got" the book. It's also worth noting that at Tribute Books Mama the reviewer enjoyed "The Job" without having a clue what it was about. I should eventually end up with around 20 reviews, which I will link to as they are posted, and I've entered "The Job" in three contests and plan to enter the Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest, so I'll let you know how they come out.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

And now for something completely different ...

I am fascinated by photographs from the early to mid 1800s. The people then didn't know what they were supposed to look like. Exact imagery hadn't been around long enough (and Hollywood hadn't been invented yet) for a mass media to inform the general population what beauty was supposed to look like. So the people just looked like what they looked like. The faces you see are incredible, often weathered into caricature by life and sorrow. The current (Winter 2011) edition of American Heritage includes a collection of photos of survivors from the Revolutionary period. It's not online yet, but presumably it will be eventually.


Not long ago I started a project of rendering portraits of Old Testament personages in watercolor, such as this picture of Jonah. I didn't get very far. The point at hand is, Jonah's face is based on U.S. vice president and senator John C. Calhoun. You can just see this guy railing at God as if he had something to say. Even if I don't pursue the project again at some time, photos from the 1800s are a great resource for the way real people looked in a time when life was a lot more real than we can remember now.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Living in a Fallen World

This weekend seems to be as good a launching point as any to consider life in a fallen creation. A congresswoman is gunned down in a public forum in Arizona, and a federal judge, a 9-year-old girl and four others are randomly slain just for being there. At this point the shooter appears to have been motivated only by mental illness, but many with an agenda immediately tried to score political points off this personal tragedy. From beginning to end these are demonstrations of the corrupt, fallen nature of the world and the people who dwell upon it. Only one question can express a rational reaction to this: How can God allow this to happen?


The violence in Arizona is only a microcosm of what has gone on in the world throughout recorded history. It is a tiny example of the distortion humanity is capable of, and many worse incidents have happened since then that the American media is unaware of. These events are shocking only when they happen in our backyards, or happen to people we know or think we ought to know (like elected officials). So how can God allow these things? A better question is, why does God remain patient with humanity and not wipe out everyone?


Central to our situation is that the Fall was a foregone conclusion. God has set up a stage for a great battle that rages in the Heavenlies, a conflict that led directly to and revolves around the Cross. For more on this thesis, check out this essay. "Man is born to suffer as the sparks fly upward" -- these are words from the oldest writing in Scripture, Job. They have rung true since the Fall, and will remain so until Christ returns. This then can be our only real comfort in times like these, that we believe and pray urgently that the demonstration to God's enemies will be complete, that Christ will return again, He will claim His bride, He will claim His kingdom, and He will set things right again.

Friday, January 7, 2011

New Media and New Marketing II

Another way to gain attention in the cacophony (yes, that's what I said) of the new media is going viral with a video. Producing a video is easy enough with today's technology -- heck, everything you buy today comes with a camera built in. But how do you go viral with it? That's the real question, isn't it? If you can't work a kitten into a video, then you're just left with your wits.




Here's the video that goes with "The Job." I used stop-motion animation to make my reading a little more bearable, and purposefully made it less-than-slick. I was hoping to invoke the old Rankin-Bass, or perhaps even "Davey and Goliath", charm. But, it may be that it's just cheesy. You make the call, because here's the link right here! "The Job" animated excerpt And for those of you who don't understand my references, here's this and this. Anyway, as of this writing, my video has scored about 145 views, several of which are me, so that's not exactly viral. If you have any suggestions, let me know.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

New Media and New Marketing

As everyone knows, there was a time when music, books, movies, &c., could be had only on some kind of physical platform. This also made it imperative to have a record label, publisher, studio, &c., to get an artist's work out to the public. As everyone knows, that's changed dramatically with electronic media. The problem now is quite the opposite: Everyone can get their work out to the public, but there is so much noise in the marketplace, it's almost impossible to get noticed.

I'm obviously pursuing e-publishing with The Job, plus a couple other novels that I'm not marketing particularly aggressively. So far my efforts have mostly been limited to social media, namely Facebook and Twitter, but success tied to those websites seems to depend on the enthusiasm and cooperation of "friends" and "followers" (respectively). If friends don't spread the word about your fan page, and followers to retweet your posts, not much of a network can build. Same for blogging; if nobody reads, the word won't spread. I'll be pondering more such issues as time goes on.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Suffering and Spiritual Warfare

This from my talk with the local newspaper:

"In my Scripture study a number of years ago, I was struck by Eph. 3:10 - "... so that through the Church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the powers and principalities in the heavenlies." I thought this said a lot about suffering in the world and the spiritual warfare, which we can't even see, that goes on around the Church. Then I saw how the verse applies to Job, who literally was the subject of a wager between God and Satan, and whose unwavering belief through incredible suffering served to humiliate Satan, though Job never did learn what was behind it all. It seemed to me that Job was every man, and the suffering of believers in particular serves the same purpose as his did. ... And telling the story with humor would be totally unexpected."

This is my hope with The Job, that the reader will come away with an insight into what goes on around us in the spiritual world, the battle believers are central to even though we can't see it. To read the rest of the Q&A, follow this link.

The Problem of Suffering


Joe B. enjoys the sweet life as a vice president at a huge conglomerate, Universal Whirligig. But along with the Big Boss’ favor, he has also gained the notice of a bitter human resources manager, Luci Fernandez. Hateful of any success but her own, Luci manages to get him demoted to the mailroom! A rollicking comedy of errors follows as Joe B. tries to figure out what's happened to him, and attempts to get a meeting with the Big Boss.

Joe B.'s great expectations have taken an all-over twist. His family is forced to make a series of hard adjustments, and he gets only lame comforts from a string of the worst friends anyone could have. Will he finally track down the cause of his frustrations? Or will he only learn a lesson about what it is to be the boss, and that what is apparent is often only a shadow of a greater ongoing good?  The Job: Based on a True Story (I mean, this is bound to have happened somewhere) is a modern parable, a comic tragedy of ancient troubles and truths.

The Job is available in paperback and for Kindle from Amazon and can be had in other e-book formats from SmashWords.com.