When It Doesn’t Work, Get Rid Of It.

For the past year, I have been using a product called AWeber to help boost the internet sales of my book Yalu and the Puppy Room. After a year, there were sales bumps, just a lot of nothing. When it came time to renew with the company, I turned canceled my membership–there are other ways to market and AWeber is not one of them. It would have been nice to have know now what I needed to know then. Life is a learning process and I am a little poorer and a little wiser from the experience.

Commentary From The 21st Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards

The commentary from the Writer’s Digest judges recently arrived via email. I cleaned up some odd fonts  found in the their reply, otherwise, what follows below is word for word.

Overall, the only major significant flaw(s) were not having pictures on every page, a little tightening up wouldn’t have hurt either. I will keep what follows in mind for future books in the series.

My illustrator Tielman lived up to expectations and after singing his praises whenever I pitch the book, it’s gratifying to see him score the only 5 for Production Quality and Cover Design. That five also belongs to Jo and Audrey at Mystic Publishers in the Production Quality department and the people at Bookmasters who printed the book.

The four other fours all belong to me so there’s room for improvement. I have a good book. I’ve always known in my heart I’ve had a good book. I just need to continue promoting it and getting more time in schools and events.

And now, the review.

Books are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “needs improvement” and 5 meaning “outstanding”.

Structure and Organization: 4

Grammar: 4

Production Quality and Cover Design: 5

Plot (if applicable): 4

Character Development (if applicable): 4

Judges Commentary:

Yalu and the Puppy Room is a very sweet story that shows exactly what happens from a puppy point of view at an animal shelter. Right from the start, readers will be rooting for Yalu and feel her pain when she’s not picked to go home with a family right off the bat. The illustrations in this book are exceptional and support the story perfectly.

In future books in this series, I encourage the author to make sure every spread has illustrations. In this volume, there are several spreads with nothing but words, but the illustrations support this book so well, you feel like you’re missing something without them! A way the author might be able to tighten the copy to allow for fewer pages (and thus make sure each one has an illustration) is to make sure that every single word counts. This is especially important in picture books where there are fewer words than most books. For instance, in sections where the reader is shown that Yalu drops her head in despair, we don’t necessarily need her inner thoughts to reaffirm that feeling we know exactly why she’s dropping her head. The author is very good with his words, and showing what’s happening is strong enough without telling afterwards.

That said, the author should be very proud of this book. It looks like the author is developing it into a series, and children will surely want to follow Yalu’s adventures book after book. Good stuff!

And The Winner Is…

The results of the Writer’s Digest 21st Annual Self Published Book Awards are in and the winner is, drum roll please…not me.

After months of reading, there were over 2,800 entries, the judging phase has ended and as a courtesy, the people at Writer’s Digest wanted to let me know that all the winning entries, including the honorable mentions, were already notified by the editorial staff last week and their prizes have been distributed.

Funny, the phone didn’t ring last week and when the phone doesn’t ring and a judging date has passed, that should mean something.

Anyway, narrowing down the winners was extremely hard and the task very difficult because this year’s talent was truly impressive—so that means I lost to very good talent. I’m at that point of my book where Yalu’s world comes to a stretching halt when the father visiting the puppy room says he wanted a male and she thinks: they wanted a what?

The good news is that all participants will receive a brief judge’s commentary that will be emailed by the end of the year if not sooner. It will be interesting to see what my review will say.

It will also be interesting to find out who won as well as those who placed in the children’s category, and those who received an honorable mention. I do want to see their work and gain insights into their writing. The winners and honorable mentions will be posted in the March 2014 issue of Writer’s Digest.

I tried. I put my best effort into my writing and lost. Life does go on. It’s how people and puppies respond to setbacks in life that determines their true character.

Time For A Renewed Marketing Plan

As of late, the marketing for Yalu and The Puppy Room has been on the shelf. Part of the reason is that its summer and sales for me slump when the kids are out of school. The second problem stems from my limited finances. Anything I put into marketing must first come out of my pocket and for the past few months, the funds have gone more into repairing a car and paying the electric bill.

Enter Deanna Van Ausdle of Beasley Broadcasting—a person I promised not to embarrass by placing her into today’s blog so here goes with hopefully not embarrassing her too much. She and I meet today at one of the Beasley conference rooms and discussed the previous events I’ve had them. Those have included two the Best in Show events and last year’s Country Jam, all at the Orleans Arena. Since I promised Deanna that I would only give positive commentary, I will note that these events were opportunities to present my book and yes I had made some sales with emphasis on the word some.

I gave her example of me pitching the book. I spoke about my previous blogs and how I focused on stories about Yalu, events, writing, or my attempts at marketing. When I got to the part that she would be mentioned in my next blog, her eyes got a little wide and there was mention of, “Oh no” as though I might be kidding. Welcome to my blog Deanna!

Her next questions were when I last sold a book and how many in the past month. The answer to question one was April so zero took care of the second answer. I could blame society and a host of other factors. I didn’t because the fault lies with me. As the owner of Little Brown Dog, I am responsible for anything good or bad that befalls me. The problem is that I’m not that good at marketing. I can babble about the great artwork Tielman did for me because it is great and go on and on with Yalu stories. I just don’t dabble about me, doing that just comes off as vain.   

Deanna mentioned the upcoming Country Jam and I had to decline. If I sold boots, hats, belt buckles, truck stuff or something to do with horses, I would be a better Country Jam fit. A children’s book about a puppy dog just at a Country Music concert wasn’t the right venue for me.

An idea that I’ve wanted to try was point and click on a website that gets traffic. Deanna claimed to have access to 5,000 to 7,000 such people who tune into Beasley stations. If 10% of those 5,000 to 7,000 people clicked on my ad posted on Beasley’s website and if 10% of those people purchased a book or e-book, I’d have a new problem: filling orders and perhaps needing more books and don’t get me wrong, those are good problems for a self published author to have.  

Beasley’s Vegas website would have a picture of my book on their webpage with a line: This Golden Retriever needs to find a forever home. Clicking on it would lead the person(s) to my website where the book sells itself. Hey, I had a great web designer who set me up with black and white pictures ready for coloring and I have puzzles—oh yeah, puzzles.

Deanna had more options available. I hope to grow into them. Right now, a limited budget does hinder me. Next Tuesday, there’s another meeting at Beasley staff to cover more details of what I want and what can be done on their side of the world with my limited budget.     

Puppy Anniversary!

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Thirteen years ago, a shy little brown dog entered a room full of playing puppies and made a lasting impression. When the kennel owner placed her on the floor, Yalu took a few steps, looked at the two people sitting on two different couches, and chose them. All she had to do was stand out from the other dogs.

The simple act of casually walking to the couch where Lori sat and trying to climb up on her own caught our attention and captured our hearts. What Yalu didn’t know was that she had a major advantage of being the only Golden Retriever in the room—Lori and I have always been suckers for Golden Retrievers thanks to our previous dog, Chelsea. After losing Chelsea to hip dysplasia and going two and a half days without a dog, we weren’t leaving without a puppy! A little smile from Yalu transformed two adults into a couple of five year olds at her beck and call.

It’s good being chosen by your pet. With all the choosing people have to do in life in categories such as what to wear or what’s for dinner, its nice having a dog choose you because they don’t care what you wear or what’s for dinner–just make the dog the center of your world and life is good. Also, being chosen has another advantage. If Yalu ever offered me a strange look when she didn’t get her way, which was rare, my reply would be, “Hey, you chose me.” That would get a tail wagging and a smile.

Looking back over the whole owner/pet relationship, I have wondered if Yalu was my pet or if I was hers. In the end, it didn’t really matter. She had more than enough cute, fuzzy, and brown to share and was more than willing to have multiple people shower love upon her.

Ding!

Alright, I’ll come out and admit I’m a big old ham whenever I read Yalu and the Puppy Room. There, it’s out the open for the world to see. The problem is that I just can’t stand before a group of people be they kids, adults, or a combination of both and ramble through my book with a bland voice—not when there’s a chance to show off.

Whenever I get the chance to read to a group of students, I would sit a child in front of my computer or the teacher’s computer that would have my PowerPoint pictures of the book at the ready. Just before starting, I would tell the person in the captain’s seat, “When you hear the word ‘Ding’, press the enter button.”

Usually, I’d get an odd look, nothing new there, and would start reading the story. At the right moment, I would say, “Ding!” because I needed a new slid and after all, that was the signal to press the enter button.

After a few dings, my audience would catch on and would start saying “ding”. There’s nothing better than a classroom full of five year olds saying “ding” at once. Even the older kids taking that all important powernap would raise their heads. Now I had to make sure my audience would say, “Ding” at the right moment—I didn’t want the “Ding” to come too early or too late. At the right moment, I’d cup a hand to my ear and do my Hulk Hogan impersonation for the upcoming “Ding”. Yep, that worked. When I ran out words, I’d slap the book shut, await my applause, and take my hammy bow ending the reading portion of the show.