All posts by stevestatham

Writer, editor and photographer. Automotive and outdoor markets, and a little fiction on the side.

For Indie Writers

My non-fiction books that I wrote in the 1990s were conventionally published, but for my new novel Rules of Force I paddled out into the largely uncharted waters of self-publishing. Along the way I devoured the advice posted by some of the champions of e-book self-publishing, such as Joe Konrath, Dean Wesley Smith, Michael Stackpole and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Their insights  proved to be extremely valuable. They are truly providing a service to writers trying to make sense of the rapidly-changing business of publishing.

So now, instead of just being a taker, I hope to add some small bit of knowledge to the self-pubbing database. Specifically, I thought I’d share my experience with a recent promotional push. It’s no secret that getting your work in front of potential readers is the toughest part of self-publishing. Many online book reviewers are overwhelmed by the sheer number of submissions, and most of them flat-out state that they do not accept self-published books for review. Because, you know, you’re aren’t a legitimate writer unless a New York publishing house is taking 85 percent of the revenue….

Whether a book is selected for review is something that is out of your control. But there are a handful of avenues for promotion that are completely in your control. One of those is the Goodreads book giveaway. Most writers are probably familiar with Goodreads, but for those of you who aren’t, Goodreads.com is a social networking site for avid readers, and it has millions of users. One of their most popular programs is the book giveaway. For now, it is only open to print books (they are testing e-book giveaways) but, like many of you, I made my novel available as a print-on-demand trade paperback as well as an e-book.

If you haven’t signed up with Goodreads, it’s pretty simple. You have to register and set up an author page, which takes a couple days for approval. (You can review books, link to your blog, post book trailers, etc.) Then you (or your publisher) can enter a newly-published book in the giveaway program. You can give away as many copies as you like; I decided to offer two signed copies. You can also set the time parameters for the giveaway. They recommend two to four weeks; I set mine for three. Goodreads runs the contest and selects the winners. You just have to mail the books to the lucky recipients.

So how did it work? Over the three weeks of the promotion I had 623 people enter to win, and 65 people put Rules of Force on their digital “to read” shelves. I even picked up a couple of followers of my reviews. Better still, Goodreads provides a list of who entered the giveaway to the author or publisher, so you have a nice demographic snapshot of who is interested in your book.

You have two periods of maximum visibility: When it is newly listed, and during the last few days of the promotion when it shows up on the “ending soon” page. When my book popped up on the “ending soon” front page, I was getting 100 people a day sign up for a chance to win. Granted, some of these people probably enter to win every book in the giveaway program, but still, I had over 600 people look at the cover of my book, read what it is about, and decide “Interesting, I think I’ll enter.”

Not bad for the cost of two POD books and postage. The jury is still out on how much of a sales bump I’ll get out of this, but I definitely consider the promotion successful in attracting the attention of potential readers.

Presidential Review

My Presidential Muscle Cars e-book received a very nice review by Sam Fiorani over at AutomotiveTraveler.com. Follow the link to read it, and then spend some time on the Automotive Traveler website and magazine. It’s a consistently good read with some very entertaining travel stories and road tests.

The Hulk and Harlan

The Incredible Hulk #140

Continuing with our breathless coverage of The Incredible Hulk’s rapidly approaching 50th anniversary, here’s a nearly-forgotten gem from 1971. Comic books had not exactly broken through into the wider adult market at that point in time, so it was unusual to find an established writer willing to openly pen a story for a pulpy medium aimed at your average 12-year-old boy with a spare 15 cents rattling around in his pocket.

And yet, right there on the lower right-hand cover of The Incredible Hulk #140 is the blurb “Harlan Ellison Strikes Again!” Yes, the mighty Harlan was not afraid that his reputation might be soiled by working in the lowly comics field. Who knows what his reasoning was in taking on this job (beyond the obvious paycheck), but in hindsight it looks shrewd, introducing an entire young generation to his name and work. It was certainly my first exposure to him.

So what did Harlan concoct for the jolly green giant? (Spoiler alert!) In brief, the Hulk gets shrunk down by a bad guy to a microscopic world, where he finds a previously unknown race of green-skinned people.  He finds acceptance and love before having it all ripped from him when he is returned to his normal size. Much smashing ensues.

All of which, now that I think of it, sounds amazingly like the plot for the “World War Hulk” storyline from a few years back. Ol’ Harlan really was ahead of his time.

The Incredible Hulk’s Retirement Job

I hate being last to note an anniversary. So let me take the lead in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first appearance of The Incredible Hulk. Yes, I know it’s still not quite 50 years, as The Incredible Hulk No. 1 came crashing onto those spinning comic book racks in 1962. I’m a couple months early. But the arrival of the Hulk comic book was such a momentous occasion in the history of Western literature that it will take the entire year plus some to properly celebrate.

I thought I’d kick off the celebration by catching everyone up on the Hulk’s current whereabouts. As you might expect, a half century of smashin’ stuff wears a body down. It’s not commonly known, but the Hulk has finally taken a desk job. He’s not entirely reconciled to the idea, but, well… judge for yourself.

And so, with apologies to Stan Lee and Herb Trimpe, here’s the transcript from the Hulk’s first day as a radio talk show host:

Hulk: Hulk is on radio? Good. Stupid producer, sit down. Hulk knows what to do.

So, welcome to Hulk Show on radio. You are probably wondering — why is Hulk on radio? And will he smash me if I don’t listen?

Here is the truth. Hulk tears Achilles tendon in battle with Doc Samson. And then Hulk gets in another argument with Thor, and stupid hippie hits Hulk in face so hard with Mjolnir hammer that Hulk’s head hurts for long time.

Hulk says, ‘Enough of this. Hulk needs sit-down job in air conditioning.’ So Hulk sends out feelers, and then satellite radio people call Hulk. They say ‘anyone who was famous for even 10 minutes can host a satellite radio program.’ So now Hulk has radio talk show host job. Puny humans, call me now.”

Caller 1: Hi Hulk! Long-time listener, first-time caller…

Hulk: This is Hulk’s first day on radio.

Caller 1: Er, yes. Big fan from way back. Anyway, Hulk, I’m worried about my mutual funds. My broker tells me I should diversify into more developing Asian markets, but I don’t know….

Hulk: Puny human. Hulk not care about stupid problems. Hulk wants to smash something.

Caller 1: So you’re saying I should be more assertive?

Hulk: Why is this hard? Hulk sees problem, Hulk smashes problem. Smash broker, and then call Hulk back. Ok, Hulk takes another call.

Caller 2: Hi Hulk! Hey, I have a bet with my buddies down at the bar that I hope you can settle. Are you strong enough to smash the federal deficit?

Hulk: (15 second dead air) Hulk smashed Abomination, and Rhino, and… lots of others Hulk can’t remember right now. Deficit monster is bigger than all of them. But yes, Hulk can smash. Hulk knows secret of deficit powers. Is all caused by puny human congressmen and their appropriations bills. Hulk can surely smash puny congressmen and appropriations bills. But then stupid American humans just vote in more congressmen and appropriations bills, and Hulk would have to be smashing forever. Stupid humans. Why can’t you leave Hulk alone? Smash deficit monster yourselves.

Caller 2: Thanks Hulk! If you ever decide to fight the deficit, I’ll definitely buy the pay-per-view!

Hulk: That good call! Hulk not smash puny human. Ok, next caller, talk to Hulk.

Caller 3: Hey, Hulk, Is it true you and Bruce Banner are the same…

Hulk: BANNER! HULK HATES BANNER! WHEN HULK FINDS BANNER HE WILL SMASH HIM INTO BLODDY PASTE! THE MADDER HULK GETS, THE STRONGER HULK….

<Commercial break>

Hulk: OK, Hulk is back.  Hulk’s stupid producer says if Hulk smashes any more equipment, it comes out of Hulk’s paycheck. Hulk listens. Hulk may be green, but he’s not made of money.

Producer also says now is time for interview. Hulk’s special guest today is Doctor Strange. Doctor Strange used to be Hulk’s friend in Defenders supergroup. Then lots of other stuff happened. And then Hulk had to crush all the bones in Doctor Strange’s hands during World War Hulk. Ha Ha! No hard feelings, Hulk hopes.

Strange: haha no hard feelings Hulk.

Hulk: So, welcome to show. Hulk understands Doctor Strange has new book out?

Strange: Yes, Hulk. It’s called “Using Everyday Magic To Create a Better You.”

Hulk: Hulk hates books.

Strange: Er, yes, but…

Hulk:  Books have words, and words are always lies. LIES! Why does everybody lie to Hulk, Doctor?

Strange: (under breath: By the dread Dormammu…) I am not lying to my readers Hulk, nor to you my friend. I’ve tried to give as much truthful information as possible in a way that will help people navigate the shoals…

Hulk: So, if Hulk reads book, will Hulk have enough magical powers to crush Dr. Strange?

Strange: Er, no, Hulk. I am the Master of the Mystic Arts, after all. This is just basic introduction to help people develop a positive life-force…

Hulk: YOU THINK YOU ARE BETTER THAN HULK BECAUSE HULK HAS NO COLLEGE EDUCATION!

Strange: Please, calm down, Hulk.

Hulk: OK, Hulk is CALM. But Hulk really hates self-help books. They sit on the bookshelf and nag, nag, nag at you until Hulk just wants to smashsmashsmash (deep breath). Although they do make big money, which Hulk respects. What’s next for Doctor Strange?

Strange: Well, Hulk, after sending the completed manuscript to my publisher I retired to the Astral Plane for months of cleansing meditation. And now I’m eager to begin my book tour. The tour kicks off at the Borders in Austin, Texas, at The Domain shopping center.

Hulk: Ha Ha! Doctor Strange doesn’t read business section very much, does he?

Strange: I’m sorry?

Hulk: No Wall Street Journal delivery in Astral Plane, eh?

Strange: Um, the rivers of time flow at different rates between the Earth and the Astral Plane, but I don’t quite follow….

Hulk: Don’t worry Doc! You are Master of Mystic Arts! You will figure it out! Hulk thanks Doctor Strange for coming on show to promote stupid book. And be careful shaking hands on book tour! Hulk wouldn’t want doctor’s delicate bones to ache. Ha Ha! Hulk likes jokes.

Sci-Fi Debut

If you’ve been reading car magazines or off-roading publications for any amount of time, you’ve probably encountered Rob Reaser’s byline. Rob has been the editor of Mustang Monthly, was the founding editor of Jeep-centric JP Magazine, and was the entrepreneur behind J-Rations, another Jeep title. He has regularly contributed to a number of outdoor magazines, including a stint as editor of Heartland USA.

Well, like me, Rob has been a life-long science-fiction fan, and has been itching to exercise his skills as a fiction writer. He just released his debut novel, Age of Giants – awakening. I’ve read it, and it is an outstanding debut novel. Tightly plotted and realistically detailed, this book draws you right in and keeps a tight grip on your attention. Here’s the set-up:

Four generations have passed since the giants of old, the Nephilim, returned to dominate the world with an iron fist. After eliminating three-quarters of the human population with an engineered plague, these sons of the fallen angels have enslaved mankind to satiate their lust for power, gluttony and sexual avarice. Yet hidden among the rubble and decay of a vanquished civilization are scattered bands of survivors, raiders, who press their fight for freedom and the ultimate annihilation of the race of giants who once again threaten to lay waste to the earth. 

Nora is a tall and beautiful young woman whose skills in guerrilla combat have earned her a position as leader of a small team of raiders. While away on a mission to destroy an outlying Nephilim communications post in old New Mexico, Nora’s clan is nearly wiped out in a Nephilim attack. The survivors, including Nora’s father, are taken for slave labor deep inside the Kralen Dominion. Nora sets out to rescue her father, but along the way she’s held captive by a secretive resistance group, and uncovers a dark secret that puts her in the center of the war against the brutal giant overlords. 

Age of Giants – awakening by Rob Reaser