Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Self-Publishing Ain't For Sissies!

Blogaholic Designs”=This post appeared originally on DuoLit.

During a period of unemployment in 2004, I did a lot of soul-searching about my career and a lot of reading for pure escapism. It was at this time that I read Nicholas Sparks’ Three Weeks With My Brother, and I tried to absorb the fact that he received a million-dollar advance for this book. After I got over the initial shock of that fact, I remember thinking, “Holy cow! He’s a good writer, but I know I can do this, too.” I’ve been writing since that day in 2004.

When I finished my first novel, my wife and I spent a great deal of time and money printing off complete manuscripts and mailing them to agents and publishers. This went on for months with no result. We struggled with the disappointment we felt from the countless rejection letters.

As this went on (and on and on), I began working on my second novel. I felt it was much better than the first, and I was very hopeful. We finally realized that it wasn’t necessary or practical to mail the entire manuscript to agents and publishers (in fact, most of them don’t want it as the initial contact), and we began querying and sending synopses, chapter outlines, and excerpts. Still no result. A few nibbles, but no bites. Again, much disappointment.

In the meantime, I had taken a job in another state, and we moved. I continued writing novels while working full-time, and my wife took over some of the “marketing” aspect of this endeavor. Nine novels later, we had nothing to show for our efforts with traditional agents and publishers but frustration.

Through some chance or perhaps through diligent research (I don’t remember which.), we discovered the world of self-publishing and Amazon’s self-publishing ebook program. We were so excited to have another venue to explore, and we were sure that if we published the books ourselves, at no cost to us (thank you, Amazon), we would certainly sell books and become rich and famous. How na├»ve we were!

The one thing we have discovered about self-publishing, apart from the fact that getting the books formatted correctly to upload to Amazon’s program is a nightmare, is that ALL the marketing is totally up to the author (and his trusty sidekick/spouse). We were stymied. How does one go about marketing one’s own book? What avenues are out there for this purpose?

Again, through trial and costly error, we discovered that advertising in national newspapers and on BookPage was an exercise in futility. We got NO sales from the several ads we placed in print. Likewise ads placed on Facebook and Google and bookmarks printed and passed out at bookstores and book festivals. By this time, we were beginning to make some contacts online with other authors, and we decided that having a website might be a good idea. It’s amazing how inept we were in trying to create our own “free” website; it really looked like an amateur had done it, and the results, again, were nil, even though we had a store right on the site.

It was not until we hired a web designer who also re-designed the cover of my first published book, A Spy At Home, that we began to see sales. Just a few at first, of course, but by then we had begun to “work” the social media, created a blog, and tried to figure out just who the market for this book was and to send them announcements about the book’s release. We also discovered the value of reviews, we began contacting reviewers both on Amazon and on blog sites, and favorable reviews started coming in. This boosted sales, though they were still modest.

We now have two ebooks for sale on Amazon: A SPY AT HOME and my new release, HAZARDOUS CHOICES.

The benefits from creating a network of contacts (writers, readers, bloggers, reviewers) was so much more than getting good reviews or word-of-mouth advertisement. They supported and encouraged me to pursue this dream of writing and publishing my books.

I am now in my seventh year of writing, revising, editing, marketing, and selling novels. Progress has been slow but steady, and I am proud of the work we’ve done. I will continue to write and market my books, and one day, I know, we really will become rich and famous! That’s the dream, and I know it can come true.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


I am proud to feature Niamh Clune's new release, Orange Petals in a Storm. Niamh was born in Dublin in 1952. She was one of eight children. During the 1970's she was a singer/songwriter in London and was, at the same time, deeply involved in London's spiritual development movement. In 2002, she earned a PhD from Surrey University, UK, in "Acquiring Wisdom through the Imagination."

She has been described as a polymath! She is a writer, teacher, spiritual psychologist, award-winning social entrepreneur, environmental campaigner and award-winning writer of songs.

Niamh has lived and worked in Africa for Oxfam, UNICEF and World Food Programme, which she describes as one of the defining moments in her life. She is the author of The Coming of the Feminine Christ. Her latest publication, Orange Petals in a Storm, is the first in the Skyla McFee series.

Orange Petals in a Storm: A spiritual, inspirational story to feed the soul. In Skyla's world, we find shelter from every hazard and outlive the longest night.

A bedraggled and bruised eleven-year-old child races through the rain-drenched streets of East London as though the hounds of hell were after her. She tries to reach the home of her childhood, a home that was hers until her mother’s recent death. What becomes of Skyla McFee once she arrives there? From whom does she run?

This is a story about a wonderful child who endures great suffering at the hands of her stepfather. Though she lives in a harsh reality, she evolves spiritually despite, or perhaps because of the hurt she suffers. The magical way she transcends her unbearable life through her inner world transports us into the hauntingly beautiful world of the imagination. Telling you that Skyla triumphs over her situation is not a spoiler – because as you get to know her, you realise there is no other way. She must triumph because of who she is.

Read what others say about this book:

“…A delicate, luminous, mysterious book. I am not able to decide what the exact genre is - is it magical realism? Fantasy? Literary fiction? All of the above? It's hard to define.”

“After reading the first paragraph, I knew I had picked a winner. The story instantly engages you, the words flowing elegantly and as magically as the story itself…”

“This is deeply soulful writing, pitch perfect for our fractured times.”

“Unputdownable…You will read and re-read.”

“Niamh Clune is, in the Irish tradition, a masterful wordsmith. The story is beautifully written, powerful, moving, original and believable.”

“…A female Pat Conroy. This Irish lassie has been kissed by the faeries in order to come up with such an outstanding work. Mystical writing at its best!”

Thank you, Niamh, for letting me share the good news about your book, Orange Petals in a Storm. The book can be purchased in Kindle or paperback on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Orange-Petals-Storm-Skyla-ebook/dp/B0055DVQEG and on Smashwords at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/74350. Visit Niamh at her website at http://niamhclune.co.uk/ and her Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/niamh.clune.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Guest Post By Denise Keene on the Top 5 Qualities of Excellent Special Education Teachers

Blogaholic Designs”=Denise Keene has been a special education teacher for 15 years and likes to write articles about various edication-related topics. She also owns the site http://www.mastersinspecialeducation.org/. I am pleased to host her guest post today because my daughter, who has Down syndrome, was fortunate enough to have had a number of outstanding special education and "regular" classroom teachers. Take it away, Denise!

The Top Five Qualities of Special Education Teachers

As with any career, it is best to choose a job that will suit your personality and interests. Special education is a career that requires very specific qualities. Here are the top five:

1. Acceptance and understanding are the most important qualities a special education teacher can possess. You will be interacting with many different students who have many different types of disabilities and disorders. For this reason, you must be very open and accepting to their challenges and individual personalities. One student may be very quiet and yet very stubborn while another may be very loud and yet very diligent. There is a lot of unpredictability in a special education classroom, and a good teacher will learn to accept this and work around it.

2. A good temperament is a necessity when teaching special education. Children with disabilities need a mentor who is direct and firm yet calm and compassionate. It can be very difficult to stay calm when a student with special needs experiences an emotional or physical crisis. It can be even more difficult to stay calm when a student with a disability becomes outwardly defiant, but a good special education teacher knows you must remain kind and composed in order to show the child that you care and are there to help them.

3. Organization is imperative when teaching in a special education classroom. You will be using different teaching methods and tools for each disorder and disability. There may be times when each student will be working on different tasks and subjects; this goes back to the unpredictability of the classroom. A student with autism may refuse to work on a particular task which will require you to veer from your lesson plan and find another task to keep them busy. If you are well-organized and prepared, classroom interruptions like this won’t cause you to skip a beat.

4. The ability to learn and practice new teaching techniques is another key quality for a special education teacher. Research and technology is constantly producing new methods for learning. Staying on top of these new techniques will allow you to give your students the best education available.

5. Positivity is another trait that is needed. Children with special needs are always aware of their teacher’s mood and attitude. If a student feels that you are not positive about his or her ability to learn, their confidence will be affected, and they may be tempted to give up trying. A special education teacher must always remain confident and patient when teaching their students.

There are so many wonderful children out there who deserve special teachers. If you possess these traits, consider a career in special education and begin changing lives for the better today!

I echo Denise's words, and I urge you to consider special education as a career. There may be no more rewarding work than helping students with special needs learn.

Friday, November 4, 2011

First Review for my new Amazon release, HAZARDOUS CHOICES!

Blogaholic Designs”=My first review for HAZARDOUS CHOICES, and it's a great one!

Modern Shakespearean Tragedy, October 31, 2011

By Pandorasecho "echo"

This review is from: HAZARDOUS CHOICES (Kindle Edition)

If you don't like violence, or if you live for happy endings, this is not the book for you. However, It rings of some of the great Shakespearean tragedies in a very modern setting and involved me in caring for characters who were obviously busily living up to the title of the novel. There is a family with a young, down syndrome boy who struggles to communicate but has mastered the social skills of caring and making friends. There are a football team and the coaches involved in learning how to come together after a losing year, contrasted with the street gang trying simply to survive in a world where no choice is anything but hazardous. There is young love, and parental love and teenage rebellion and angst and gang hatred, all interwoven smoothly to keep you hoping for that elusive happy ending for the characters you care about.

If you love an emotional rollercoaster, and college football, if you have ever wanted to see a believable character with down syndrome, if you wonder about the hazard's of gang life, then I strongly recommend Hazardous Choices.