Pastry Puffs

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Once upon a time, there was a princess puppy who adored a product called Pastry Puffs. What are Pastry Puffs? They are without a doubt the greatest pastry item to ever come out of St. Louis, MO from a company called Taste n’ Tell. One type of Pastry Puffs has an apple-raspberry and cream filling.

When offered one of the yummy Pastry Puffs, Yalu swallowed it whole without the benefit of chewing. Her tummy did the digesting. If she forgot what the Pastry Puffs tasted like, she would lick the wrapper it came in until there was no smell left to sniff.

As she matured, Yalu preferred Pastry Puffs to conventional doggie treats. When offered the choice of a Pastry Puffs or a few Snausages, the Pastry Puffs proved the better choice—she could always get someone to give her a few Snausages later. The same could not be said for Pastry Puffs.

Since Yalu’s a princess, no one gave her the difficult choice of having to choose between a Pastry Puffs or a Frost Paws. Talk about a doggie dilemma.

Pastry Puffs were not perfect. For starters, the portions were too small and she was only offered one. The next problem was that they were on the top shelf of the pantry. How could people put something so yummy on the top shelf where a princess puppy could not reach them?

When she wanted a Pastry Puffs, Yalu would sit in front of the pantry door looking, staring at the closed door. The next problem was focusing her puppy mind control to get a people person to do her bidding. Most dogs would give up, but not Yalu. She was a determined pup who used her superior mind control powers for good, her good. Once she consumed a Pastry Puffs and licked the smell off the wrapper, all was wonderful in her world.

Buzz, or How Ellen Degeneres Can Make Your Day

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When I visit schools and complete reading Yalu and the Puppy Room, I like informing students what it is like to be an author with a traditional publishing company.

In my example, I have four students stand up and tell them they are authors, in this case, my March authors. One has the next Harry Potter book. Because I am a book publisher promoting her book, she will be a guest on all the major TV shows. She will be on the Ellen Degeneres Show and her book will be at the top of the New York Times bestseller list.

I tell the next student that he has a book that is better than Dr. Seuss. He will be a guest on all the major TV shows. He will be on Ellen and his book will be at the top of the New York Times bestseller list.

The next student has a children’s book better than anything Margaret Wise (Goodnight Moon) Brown ever wrote. She will be a guest on all the major TV shows. She will be on Ellen, and will be at the top of the New York Times bestseller list.

The fourth student has a fantasy book better than Lord of the Rings. He will be a guest on all the major TV shows. He will be on Ellen and his book will be at the top of the New York Times bestseller list.

I ask four new students to stand. They are my April authors. One has the next Harry Potter book. Another has a book better than Dr. Seuss. The third has a children’s book better than Margaret Wise Brown. The fourth has a great fantasy book that is better than Lord of the Rings.

Like the March authors, these April writers will be on all the major TV shows. They will be on Ellen. Their book will be at the top of the New York Times bestseller list.

I stand up four other students and tell them they are my May authors. I mention Harry Potter, Dr. Seuss, Margaret Wise Brown, and Lord of the Rings. That’s when I stop and ask the four March authors if they think anything is wrong. Most answer no. They’re published authors who have been on TV shows.

Their books might not be selling well and might not be on the New York Times bestseller list or gasp, Ellen. I instruct them to sit down and ask if anything is wrong with them taking a seat. They do not believe anything is wrong—they’re published authors. Some even make to Ellen’s show. That’s when I tell them something is terribly wrong. Their books are no longer getting promoted. They are not making sales. Ellen has not called back.

New books are lucky to have a six month lifespan. If new releases do not become blockbuster bestsellers, bookstore employees across the country will either rip off the front cover of the paperback or return the hardcover  for a refund. Publishers destroy returned books or sell them as remainders. Book stores that remove the returned covers throw away the books.

If one of the new authors has a book that goes to the top of the bestseller list, those sales pay for all the other authors whose books failed. Bookstores only have so much space to hold books. There are new books coming out all the time.

It has become the job of the author to market their products. Even if I followed the traditional route of finding a literary agent and a traditional publisher, I would still have to promote my book. Literary agents and book publishers expect authors to already have a marketing plan and buzz in place before even considering an unknown or even a known writer. Welcome to the wonderful world of publishing.

Frosty Paws

Frosty Paws, Peanut Butter

One of the greatest puppy treats ever invented has got to be a Purina product called Frosty Paws. What are Frosty Paws? Since you have read this far, I will let you in on a super duper secret. Frosty Paws is ice cream for puppy dogs. Alright, it’s not really ice cream, but one cup is guaranteed to make a bad dog good for at least a few minutes and a good dog even more behaved.

For the greater part of her life, Yalu adored her Frosty Paws. She knew what the container looked like. Upon seeing it, she would immediately stop what she was doing and come to a patient sitting position before the person holding her treat. There was no tail wagging only an intense stare as if that Frosty Paws cup was the last one in the whole wide world.

Receiving her treat, Yalu would scamper off to a private place. Once there, she would sit and begin a reverent series of licks. How many licks does it take to get to the bottom of a Frosty Paws? The same question has been asked of the Tootsie Roll lollipop and like the Tootsie Roll, the world will never know.

There was a time where if I was a little quicker with the camera, I could have had a wonderful picture. She has just completed a Frosty Paws and lifted her head up with the cup stuck to her snout. Yalu looked like a bird with a white beak. I was never able to recreate that moment. The big lesson taken for me moment was to always be compared with a camera.

On the health front, Frosty Paws contains proteins, minerals, and vitamins that can be read on the box for those interested in reading the ingredients listed on the side of a box. This most wonderful treat can be found in most grocery stores in the ice cream section. One would think Petco and PetSmart would have this wonderful product. After searching both websites, I came up with goose eggs in that department.

The most difficult decision concerning Frosty Paws was if Yalu would receive the original or peanut butter. Both worked in her world. She loved her Frosty Paws year around. How nice it was having a treat capable of bringing so much joy to my cute brown dog. I knew she adored her Frosty Paws because after finishing one, she would approach, press her head against my chest and let out a happy puppy huff.

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.