Saturday, July 26, 2014

How Authors Can Make More Money

As an author, do you purchase copies of your own books to sell in public? You should. When I sold a paperback copy of one of my novels on Amazon, I received slightly more than a dollar in royalties once I shared with my publisher...or less than three dollars now that I’m on my own (self-published). I got 84 cents for an ebook when sharing with my publisher, and depending on the price I list it for now, I get from 35 cents to about two dollars per book on my own.  I sell my own books in public for $10.00, which is two or three dollars off the listed Amazon price, and I make over $5.00 a book. I know there are starving artists out there who don’t think they can afford to buy copies of their books to sell, but I don’t think you can afford not to—because they’re easy to sell. That’s what you’re worried about, isn’t it? That you’ll have boxes of unsold books stored away, and instead of making money from your books, you’ll be losing it instead. If that’s how you’re feeling, then you don’t have a plan. Before I give you some ideas, do you realize that if you bought 20 books to sell, costing approximately $100.00, you could sell them for $200.00 at a reasonable price of $10.00 per book? Then you could buy 20 more books and never have to worry about losing money again.  Once you realize how easy it is to sell them, you can buy larger quantities and enjoy the profits.

So how do you sell them? Here are some suggestions.

1.       Call local libraries and ask if they have any events. These are usually free, and though I haven’t had large numbers of sales while selling at these events (which aren’t generally attended well), I’ve heard they’ve worked better for other people…and maybe the library will purchase your book.

2.       Call local bookstores and see if they will let you set up shop. Sometimes there are town festivals or art walks or other such events running, and the bookstore will invite you in to sell. Possibly, the owner will have you in just to try to drum up more customers. They will usually advertise your appearance. They may take a couple of books on consignment and sell them in the store. These opportunities are also usually free.

3.       Check the internet for author expos. There are readers who have a passion for exposing others to books. Colleges have author expos, sometimes libraries do, some art guilds do, and sometimes other organizations such as readers’ coalitions organize them. These are generally quite inexpensive to attend and may also be free.

4.       Get the word out that you’re looking for book clubs or writers’ groups. Volunteer to make an appearance and speak. Some groups pay to have speakers, and some just provide lunch or snacks and drinks. I’ve spoken to several groups that have purchased books at the end. Sales at my speaking events have been very good, and the more people, obviously, the better.

5.       Town festivals. Nearly all small towns and all larger towns have downtown events. People are wandering everywhere. They may not be looking for books, but if you’re willing to strike up a conversation, you’d be surprised at how many readers there are that are impressed to meet an actual author. And other kind-hearted people simply like to support local authors. These events are also generally quite inexpensive to sell at.

6.       Look up farmer’s markets and flea markets. If they aren’t advertised on line, try the local Chamber of Commerce or the City Hall for information. For somewhere between five and twenty dollars, in my experience, I set up a booth or a table under a canopy and sell a lot of books. People come to markets with cash in hand, fully expecting to spend money. Having an author in attendance is a curiosity. At a market, people are friendly. They stop and chat. They like a free piece of candy or a bookmark, and they’re all curious about the guy or gal that isn’t selling produce. If the weather cooperates, I’ve had lots of luck at the farm markets. I also tend to buy a lot of fresh veggies, so be prepared to spend some of your profits. Hey, it’s for your own health. The only flea market I sold at went pretty well; plus I learned that next time I’ll bring other things to sell too, since it turned out to be basically a huge garage sale. Maybe there’s a good flea market near you.

7.       Craft shows have been very good to me. Now we’re getting to the especially good events. These, in my experience, can be very inexpensive (10 to 20 dollars) or they can be expensive (like 75 to 150 dollars). I’ve sold over 50 books at craft shows numerous times. They are usually indoors, so weather isn’t a concern, and sharing a table is always a possibility. Do you know another author to split the fee with, or a crafter that will share his or her table? That’s a way to reduce the cost. Shoppers come with money to spend, and they generally spend it. Remember, lots of people love books. Plus I have an easier time not spending my profits on crafts than not buying those delicious fresh vegetables.

8.       Art in the park events are easy to find on line, and there are generally very few authors at those events, so often, they’re very profitable. They can also be expensive. I prefer sharing a booth with one of two author friends that I’ve made. Both Stacey Rourke and Julie Cassar (check out their books because they sell like hotcakes) are very outgoing and personable, and our books are different enough that we don’t invade on each other’s audiences, but when a few people stop, crowds begin to gather. Literature is art. Once shoppers realize this obvious truth, they also realize that your art is less expensive than everyone else’s. At least that’s my theory on why I’ve been so successful at these events. That and my smile and friendly personality. 

I’ve come back from events and my wife will ask me how many books I sold. I’ll sigh sometimes and say, “Only fifteen” or I’ll say, “I sold twenty-eight, but I sold thirty-five last year at the same event.” She’ll say, “How many did you sell on line today?” And my spirits will brighten. Interacting with people, hearing words of encouragement, creating smiles, making connections and getting invitations to other events—these are things that happen out in public, and I believe more authors need to take the initiative to step out and market their books in a way that happens to be fun and also works. I encourage all indie authors to locate some events and make some phone calls. Get your book into the hands of some readers. You’ll wonder why you weren’t doing it before.

Jeff LaFerney is the author of Loving the Rain, Skeleton Key, Bulletproof, Jumper, and Lost and Found  

Friday, July 18, 2014

Up and Down

I’m an English teacher and an author, and I sometimes wonder how anyone can learn English as a second language. Throwing out the languages that require us to learn a different alphabet, is there a more difficult language than English? Take our idioms, for instance—of which there are too many to count. At the drop of a hat? Beat around the bush? Barking up the wrong tree? A chip on your shoulder? Costs an arm and a leg? Can’t cut the mustard? Hit the hay? Jump on the bandwagon? Let the cat out of the bag? Off your rocker? On the ball? Piece of cake? Put all your eggs in one basket? Steal your thunder? Straight from the horse’s mouth? Take it with a grain of salt? The whole nine yards?

But those are idioms, which are figures of speech. We know they mean something figurative, so inherently we understand there is more to the phrase than the literal meanings to the words. But how does a new English speaker discern what the words up and down could possibly mean? I looked up the words (though I didn’t bother to write down the definitions). Down had seven adverb definitions while up had ten. I don’t think it’s enough, personally.

In class, sometimes I hear myself say, “Quiet down and listen up.” I give directions and the kids are mixed up. On multiple choice questions, sometimes the answer is a toss up. I have to crack down on discipline, call down to the office, speak up to be heard, dress up for work, calm down the rowdy kids who are acting up, follow up with a phone call to parents of kids who won't shut up, jazz up the lesson, wait for kids to settle down, turn down requests, lock up the room, sweep up the floor, and build up students' confidence. I have to round up missing work, shut down my computer, scale down a lesson, simmer down when I might be getting worked up, ease up when I’m getting fed up, mix up the activities before time’s up, and avoid getting tied up in politics.

What if I had a beat-up car that was a lemon (idiom)? I mean my car could break down and need a tune up. In order to get it fixed up, a grown-up service man would have to take a close-up look and size up and pin down the problems. He would hook up his computer before he writes up an invoice that breaks down the problems with my messed-up car. He might round up some guys, jack up the car, strip down the engine, break down the carburetor, clamp down some hoses, and make up some problems that don’t exist. Since all I can do is stare down a broken engine, gas up my tank, pump up my tires, and pay up my bills, I can just hope he doesn’t cook up some unnecessary costs and shake me down to cough up some money I shouldn’t have to spend.

What if I was trying to shape up at the gym with a personal trainer? He might tell me to man up and pick up the pace. He might try to wear me down to break down muscles. For me, he might have to scale down a workout he worked up or maybe he’ll ease up on me and back down when I feel like throwing up. Maybe he’ll crack down on me for eating up all the household chocolate. Maybe two trainers could gang up on me and stare me down until I can measure up. Maybe they’ll follow up by telling me to suck it up until I cramp up and need a rub down. When it’s all over, I can settle down, cheer up, strip down, shower up, mop up the floor after I’ve washed up, dress up in my pajamas, turn down the sheets, and wind down by opening up a book to catch up on my favorite characters. I can settle down until it’s time to shut down the lights, which is hands down the best part of the day.

Okay, so we use the words for uncountable reasons, which is difficult enough to understand, but we use up and down with the SAME words. How confusing is that? We touch down an airplane and touch up paint. We settle down emotionally and settle up a bet. We turn down an offer and turn up the pressure. We pay down the loan and pay up on a bill. We write down a blog post, and when we’re done, we have a write up. We crack down on criminals and crack up laughing. We bring down the mafia and bring up a problem. We wash down the dog, and when we’re done, he’s been washed up. We talk down a jumper and talk up our foolish ideas. We screw down a screw and screw up the project. We can drive down or drive up a road, mop down a floor or mop it up, be told to slow down or slow up, be tied down or tied up, soap down and soap up, lock down and lock up, pin down or pin up, and back down or back up. After a beat down, we’re beat up; or after a throw down, we can throw up. We can shoot down an idea and shoot up drugs. We can knock down a wall and knock up our wives. We can take down an empire and take up knitting. We brush down a horse, and when we’re done, it’s brushed up. We can break down an idea and break up with our girlfriend. Is it time to close down or close up?

It all seems so confusing to me with so many meanings for two such simple words. I was thinking, if you enjoyed my mental melt down, maybe you could print up my blog, pick it up from the printer, hold it up or hang it up or stick it up on the refrigerator or pin it up on the wall. Or turn down my suggestion and wad it up or tear it up. By now, you probably don’t know if you’re coming down or going up, yet more than 15% of the words used in this mixed-up article are up and down. Do we as English speakers really know what those two little words mean?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Not a Soccer Fan

As people who follow my blog, my author page, or my Sports, Movies, Books, and Music Facebook page know, I’m an English teacher, an author, and a former athlete and coach. My blog topics range all over the place, but right now my mind is on soccer. It’s World Cup Soccer season, and I’m not a soccer fan. I know, lots of people are, so my intent isn’t to offend soccer fans with this blog. It’s to tell why I don’t like it personally. It’s simply my opinions and perceptions, shared with anyone who is willing to read them. Because I’m being bombarded with soccer images, “highlights,” etc., I decided to tell my four biggest pet peeves about soccer. I’ll get right to it.

Pet peeve number one is simple. I know it’s a generalization…I know it’s a stereotype…but soccer fans around the world seem to me to be dangerously crazy—deranged to the point of absurd violence. Here in America, we have loads of different sports to watch. We get so much sports coverage that we’re bombarded with images, but there is rarely a violent incident at a game. We rarely see riots, stampedes, murders, and other senseless violence at our sporting events, and we have far more events than other countries. My first problem with soccer is the perception that its fans are overly zealous to the point of demented recklessness. I typed in a Google search for “soccer riot images” and there were literally thousands of them—police in riot gear, stadiums on fire, people being carried out on stretchers, stampeding fans plowing over innocent spectators, tear gas, armed police beating fans with sticks, blood. I typed in “American football riot images,” and the same soccer images came up. There wasn’t one with American football players that I noticed. To me, if my life is in danger when I go to a game, there is a problem with the atmosphere of the “game.” I don’t think an entertainment sport should be a life or death event.

Pet peeve number two becomes more personal. The game is such that there is very little scoring. I can respect that the pro soccer players are fantastically talented, but when Sports Center only has to take fifteen seconds of its thirty minute program to show virtually all of the professional goals scored from the previous day—all over the world, I think—to me it demonstrates an adequate reason to not like the sport. And when the majority of goals are scored directly from corner kicks, free kicks, and penalty kicks, I have to wonder what all the other running around for ninety minutes is all about. On a field that’s approximately two acres big, with gifted players, and with a goal that’s eight feet high and 24 feet long (a hockey goal is four feet by six feet), no one seems to be able to get the ball in. You need evidence? I Googled the average score of a soccer game. I don’t know if I got the “right” answer, but the “best” answer given was the winning team averages 1.63 goals and the losing team averages .54 goals—2.17 goals a game. You need more evidence? In any other sport, does the announcer yell, “Gooooooooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaallllllllllllllllllllllllllll!!!!!” for thirty seconds or more when one is finally scored? Goals are so rare, that announcers practically hemorrhage when they see one.

Pet peeve number three has to do with stoppage time. For some reason, the clock doesn’t stop in a soccer game, but a referee is allowed to determine how much extra time is to be played at the end of each half. How does he decide? “The most common reasons include time taken to make substitutions, the treatment of injured players, and deliberate acts of time-wasting by individual players. The referee decides how much stoppage time, if any, should be added at the end of either period.” I guess it’s random—some sort of judgment call one man makes based on what? How much energy he still has? And the irritating thing is….it used to be a secret. No one knew how much stoppage time was granted, let alone how the referee decided upon it. And the time wasn’t put up on the scoreboard for anyone to see. And zero on the clock wasn’t and still isn’t the end of the game. They can play on if the referee thinks they’re making adequate progress toward a scoring attempt. Can you imagine a referee in an American professional football game (the NFL) keeping a secret clock that only he knew about, and then at the end of the game, the players played on without knowing how much time was left? So Payton Manning would line up at center from the ten-yard-line, down three points, and while directing traffic for thirty seconds and while changing the play three times and while giving seventeen hand signals and while shouting out “Omaha” twice, the referee could blow the whistle and say, “The game is over. I just decided. We’ve had enough stoppage time. You made two hand signals too many and don’t seem to be making progress toward the goal line. New England wins!” My son has informed me that stoppage time is now displayed on the scoreboard, and that I would have known if I ever watched any games. Someone—probably someone who didn’t like soccer—convinced the rest of the knuckleheads that displaying the time should be a normal and acceptable practice in the world’s most popular game. But why don’t they just stop the clock when it’s deemed necessary? The ref could just blow a whistle and make a hand signal. And then when the clock hits 0:00, he could blow his whistle again, and the period could be over like in other sports that actually have scoring as part of the competition.

My fourth pet peeve makes all the others pale in comparison. I hate, hate, hate that soccer players flop and act like they’re dead. This happens all the time in an attempt, I suppose, to persuade the lone referee who can make a call that something horribly awful just happened. This is either cheating, in an attempt to draw out a yellow or red card for the opposition…or it’s cheating, in an attempt to give the cheater’s team some sort of free kick so they might attempt to score the only goal they can possibly score…or it’s cheating so the player can rest. After all, there will be stoppage time later when he might not be so exhausted. Everyone knows this is happening, and any true football, hockey, basketball, boxing, wrestling, X-games, or baseball fan (whatever American sport whatsoever) is irritated by the absurd fakery. Let me give two examples from this year’s World Cup. First, U.S. offensive star, Jozy Altidore, suffered a life-threatening hamstring pull—apparently. He was running, pulled a hamstring, grabbed his leg, fell on his back, and nearly died—I guess. He never moved. Too much pain, certainly. He lay on his back like he’d suffered a heart attack. He never tried to sit up, roll over, or stand on his good leg. A hockey player could have had his leg ripped off, and he would have continued playing. Jozy? He needed a stretcher. Six men tried to lift him and failed. Jozy didn’t help whatsoever. They had to tip the stretcher sideways and slide him in because Jozy was too injured from a pulled leg muscle to move any part of his body. Now, I’ll give him credit. Unlike other stretcher injuries I’ve seen in soccer, he didn’t get to the sideline, bounce off the stretcher and run back into the game, but days later, I saw him jogging with his team. Here’s video evidence of the horrendous injury and stretcher humor.

The other example is Luis Suarez’s biting incident. I’ll show you some pictures, but I have to hand it to Luis. He has quite a set of choppers. He’s been gifted with an incredible set of teeth, so I can understand the need to use his gift. His nickname is Dracula…and The Cannibal…and Chewy Luis. So he ran down the field and chomped into his opponent’s shoulder. The victim, Giorgio Chiellini, was in such agony that his legs discontinued working, and he fell to the ground like he was shot in the head or possibly hit by a truck. I watched Mike Tyson literally bite part of Evander Holyfield’s ear right off. Holyfield stayed on his feet. A soccer player would have had to be hooked to emergency IV’s and transported by helicopter to a nearby hospital. Amazingly Chewy Luis also fell straight to the ground in an attempt to persuade the referee, I assume, that he was illegally shouldered in the teeth, rendering him temporarily lame. When poor Chiellini finally managed to stand again, he was able to run all over the field (I guess he wasn’t hurt so badly after all), showing the bite marks. The skin wasn’t even broken. No blood. Just a mark.
I’ve seen hockey players take a stick across the face—broken nose, blood dripping—and keep playing. Football players have collisions that could kill someone, and they get up and play on. They don’t run around the field showing off their bruise (generating who knows how much stoppage time). Can you imagine a catcher, after taking a 100 MPH foul tip off the shoulder, being sympathetic to the soccer player with bite marks? Can you imagine a professional basketball player who just took an elbow to the teeth being sympathetic to the Cannibal who was rolling around the ground, holding his fangs because he bit his opponent too hard? Can you imagine anyone besides LeBron James or Paul Pierce getting carried or wheeled off the court and then heading straight for the scorer’s table again to re-enter the game?

Honestly, I have my reasons for not liking soccer. If you’re a fan, you’re not alone, but I’ll watch almost any other sport before I’ll watch soccer.