Categories
Arts and Entertainment fiction humor Novels Science Fiction

The First Day of Forever

This is the prologue to the new edition of “Three Days to Darkness.” I’ve extensively rewritten the original novel (first published in 2010) to bring it up to date. It’s amazing how the world has changed in eleven years, but some things never change, like the themes grounding the story. I’ve also added a paperback edition to the digital edition, along with a spiffy new interior design. Don’t miss this heartwarming, humorous, and action-packed saga available at major online retailers worldwide.

Darius McPherson never saw it coming. His thoughts were elsewhere. On the kids. The ones he could save. They weren’t kids, really. Some of them were older than him. They were all tough and uneven around the edges, but a few of them were diamonds in the rough. They were the ones he considered his kids. They had real potential. They just needed someone to care about them. They needed a role model and some inspiration. Darius was happy to provide both. Not a bad summer gig for a guy waiting for his first year of law school to begin.

He pressed the bell on the side of the barred wooden door. The royal blue paint under the ugly bars gleamed in the direct sunlight and looked completely out of place in the burned-out industrial neighborhood in midtown Detroit.

He waited patiently to be buzzed into the youth counseling center. “Be right with you, Darius,” his supervisor said through the intercom. He liked Allison Turner. In her late thirties and twice divorced, she had managed to stay kind-hearted despite rough circumstances. She was also extremely capable. Allison had taught him more about inner-city teenagers than he could have learned in a decade on his own.

The door opened and a group of youthful offenders burst into the street. Darius knew several of them. They were attending classes at the center as part of their plea bargains. Darius smiled at them, even though he knew most of them were as dangerous as plastic explosive wired to detonate at the slightest provocation.

“Hey La Vonn” Darius called to the tallest boy in the group. “I hope you learned something today.”

“Yeah. How to stay outta’ the crowbar hotel,” the slender boy replied.

“Do you mean learning how to game the system or how to stay out of jail?”

Darius noticed La Vonn’s eyes open wide. He turned around in time to see a gray Lincoln Navigator with shiny, twenty-inch wheels and dark tinted windows round a nearby corner. No rap music blared from inside the car, which made Darius suspicious. He heard the sound of footsteps running away from him. He thought it undignified to run. And why would anyone in the neighborhood want to harm him? When the windows came down in unison, a cold chill went through his body. Darius saw young men wearing ski masks inside the car. He had no time to react.

The first shots hit the cinderblock wall of the youth center. Not unlike fireworks on the Fourth of July, Darius remembered thinking before a bullet pierced his chest. At first, he felt like an ice pick had stabbed him in the heart. Then there was a burning sensation. He remembered seeing his body lying on the cracked sidewalk in a pool of blood. The last thoughts that went through his brain were of his parents, his older brother and younger sister, and of course, Rebecca. After that, he sensed his awareness swirling down a dark tunnel opening at the far away end into some kind of scintillating light.

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Categories
humor Novels

The Aftermath

Three Days to Darkness Novel by David Gittlin

Excerpt from Three days to Darkness, Copyright 2009 by David B. Gittlin.

Hiram Fyrum stared at the Mamongen Pharmaceuticals Building through the one-way front windshield of Joseph Mamon’s bullet proof Rolls Royce.  The majestic skyscraper had been reduced to a modern version of the Leaning Tower of Pizza silhouetted against the rising morning sun.

Police cars surrounded the ruptured base of the building.  Portable barricades and a line of Policemen prevented pedestrians and traffic from coming within a thousand yards of the ominous slanting edifice.

Hiram had been up all night, mostly trying to figure out what he was going to say to Joseph Mamon, the ninety year old Chairman and Founder of Mamongen Pharmaceuticals.  His stubby legs ached from climbing down fifty floors of emergency stairs from his twenty thousand square foot Penthouse to the ground floor.  Hiram had spent the major portion of this middle of the night journey screaming into his cell phone at various members of the Mamongen Engineering Staff.  The rest of the time he had spent catching his breath.  Needless to say, Hiram Fyrum was not in the best of shape at the moment for the task at hand.  He was, on the other hand, determined as ever to do what he always did in a crisis.  He would rise victoriously to the occasion.

“I’m beginning to see an opportunity here, Joseph.  What if we left the building tilted like that, reinforced with polished steel supports.  We remodel all the interiors to fit the new structure.  Stay with me now.  The building becomes the company’s new logo.  The tag line goes: ‘Mamongen Pharmaceuticals — Taking an Innovative Direction into the Future.’  The building becomes a statement, like a modern art sculpture.  Think of it, Joseph.  It’s what we’re all about.”

Hiram sat back confidently in the rear compartment of the Chairman’s fortress of a car.  His mind automatically began to compute the logistics of the plan he had just proposed.  The more he thought about it, the more he liked it.

“We’re going to play the cards we’ve been dealt,” Hiram added.  “We’re going to turn adversity into an opportunity.”

He turned to Joseph Mamon in the seat next to him.  Hiram’s confidence was now in full flight.  He was suddenly bubbling with energy despite a sleepless night and no morning coffee.

Joseph Mamon stared morosely out at the spectacle that now loomed in a sadly comic fashion amidst the other sterling examples of Corporate Wellness standing straight and tall beside it.  He coughed into his oxygen mask.

“Come on, Joseph.  Say something.”

“I’m looking at what’s left of my life’s work,” the old man said.

“You’re looking at a new beginning, that’s what you’re looking at,” Hiram said.

The old man turned to him. “I’m looking at the biggest putz in the entire world.”

“I’m not offended, Joseph.  This is an emotional time.  I know you don’t mean that.”

“I’m the guy who hired you, which means only one thing:  I’m getting senile.”

The old man broke into a coughing fit.  Hiram patted him on the back.  The coughing finally stopped.

“I’m going to dismantle the company and sell it off in little pieces.”

“Let’s not make any rash decisions.  Let’s give the situation a little breathing room.  Let’s also keep in mind that your passion built this company and our passion can keep it going.”

The old man looked at him with big, rheumy eyes.  “Get out of my car.”  He blinked several times.  “I never want to see you again.”

“You’re firing me?”

“Only because there are laws against killing you.”

 

Categories
Marketing Novels Online Marketing

How Do I Cost Effectively Market My Book Online?

Online Marketing for Self-Published Books

Comparatively speaking, writing a novel is the fun, easy, first step of the self-publishing process.  The second step, creating an attention-getting book cover, offers its own unique set of challenges.  However, the most intimidating and difficult undertaking, to most authors, is the third step—Online Marketing.  These words strike terror in many authors’ sensitive little hearts because they want as little to do with the outside world as possible.

The most intimidating marketing question is: “Where do I begin?”  In this blog, I’ll let you in on some of the advertising methods I’ve tried and the results I’ve had.  I’ll save you time and money.  I’ll guide you through the marketing process from the completion of your manuscript to the final strokes of your marketing plan.

Before we begin, bear in mind that more than a million books are published every year.  Therefore, we have to be good at marketing.  Damn good!

After completing your final rewrite and the inevitable tweaks that come afterwards, it’s finally time to upload your book to online retailers.  Next, you announce it on your blog, your author website, your Facebook page, and your YouTube channel (optional).

Now what? Gulp…

This is the seriously hard part—driving people to these outposts in cyberspace.

Let’s take a look at what has worked for me and what hasn’t.

Upset young beautiful woman writer mad at slow work of software and computer. Charming young student was upset because of poor grades on test. Gadgets and Technology Concept. Difficulties and troubles

Book Covers

The first step in marketing your book online or ANYWHERE is to create a relatable, attention-getting cover.  We’re taught  not to judge a book by its cover.  Ironically, this principle doesn’t apply to actual books.

I’ve read that the cover of a book needs to be genre specific.  By this I mean your reader can quickly identify the subject matter inside, whether it be Romance, Action/Suspense/Adventure/ Thriller, Espionage, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and so on.  The trick is to make your book genre specific without making it look like every other book in the space.  The idea is to stand out from the crowd, not get lost in it.  If you are an accomplished graphic artist, go ahead and do it yourself.  Just be sure that you follow the specifications of your print on demand supplier.  If you are not a great graphic artist, like me, go ahead and shop for an artist who can turn your cover vision into a commercially viable package.

Please choose an artist with a specialization in book cover design.  This person can have other specialties, but they must also be fully versed in the art of book cover design.  If you are creating the book cover, make sure to research the subject.  There are many pitfalls, just as there are with writing a book.

I used three different artists to create the covers for the three novels I published.  Besides the fact  that I get bored easily, there may have been a method to my madness.  Each of my novels is in a different genre.  Some artists have genre preferences and do better work in those genres.  There is no set rule.  Some artists are good in any genre.  They may be more talented and expensive than others, but you won’t have to go through the angst of breaking in new ones.  And you may get a better overall result.  Or not.  Choose carefully.

If you have an idea of what you want in your book cover, great.  If you don’t, that’s okay.  Just be sure you choose a capable artist who you can communicate with.  Don’t be guided solely by cost.  Choose someone who knows what they are doing; who inspires your confidence, and “gets you.

Blogging

Blogging is a great way to get yourself and your work “out there.” It’s not hard to create a blog, even for graphically challenged people like me.  WordPress and Wix are two of the most popular sites now.  You don’t have to be an expert at coding to make a nice looking blog.  You can also choose an upgrade plan that will give you more customizing options.  I believe the upgrade plans are worth it.  WordPress has a premium plan for only $99 per year.

Once your blog is created, don’t let it just sit in Cyberspace. Take a little time each day to read and comment on blogs by folks who write about subjects that interest you. Those people will then read and follow your blog if your content is good.

Take note of how other people promote their work on their blogs.  I’ve found that the subtle approach is the best way to do it.  Keep in mind that content is king.  What you have to say and how you express it will ultimately determine your degree of success.  Andmake sure the template you use to create your blog is Smart Phone Friendly.  I finally woke up to the fact that most people read blogs on their phones. Duh. I dumped my old templates and replaced them with new, easy to read, phone-friendly ones. Now,  I’m attracting more followers than ever before, and I’m making many new friends.

Facebook Ads

I’ve experimented with ads on Facebook.  I’ve racked up tons of likes and very few sales.  In my humble opinion, paying for ads on Facebook is a total waste of time and money for self-published authors.  I have an author friend who is running great ads on Facebook, but he’s not selling any books.  I’m not saying ads in general don’t work on Facebook.  They do.  But you are an up-and-coming author struggling to find an audience.  You aren’t Macy’s.  You aren’t selling specialty items currently in demand like face masks.  See what I mean?

Facebook Pages

A Facebook page isn’t essential, but I strongly suggest that you put some time and effort into making a good one.  If nothing else, FB pages add credibility and overall impact to your marketing campaign.  And they are FREE.  You might even sell some books from your page using the SHOP NOW button.  Pick a glowing book review and pin it at the top of your posts column.  This little maneuver has increased views and engagements on all three of my Facebook pages.

Instagram

Upload a JPEG of your book cover with a link to your Facebook page.  If you have lots of friends who spend half of their lives on Instagram, you might get lucky.  I don’t use Instagram.  Don’t ask me why.

Press Releases

I’ve created and distributed press releases on PR Web with a target audience of 30,000 journalists and bloggers. The idea is to drive traffic to your websites and generate publicity on major news sites and search engines.  You can participate at various cost levels starting at $99.  The more you spend, the bigger the audience.  I participated at the second highest level at a cost of $289 per release.  (The highest level currently costs $389).  To add interest to the releases, I created a book trailer video. (A simple book trailer without actors will cost anywhere from $250 to $300 from a reputable company).

Bottom line: I could not relate any book sales to my press release adventures.  Save your money.

Book Trailers

Book trailers are nice to have but they aren’t essential to your marketing campaign.  When I first started marketing my books twelve years ago, the pundits all said that you were dead in the water if you didn’t have a book trailer.  As it turns out, this is baloney.  Book trailers are a nice addition to your marketing package, but they aren’t powerful generators of sales.  I made trailers for my first novel, Three Days to Darkness, and my second one, Scarlet Ambrosia–Blood is the Nectar of Life.  I had fun making them and they didn’t cost too much. Recently, I used the first trailer I made as the cover photo on my Facebook page. (Note: The video has to be two minutes or less to be uploaded to the cover section). To my amazement it worked. More than a thousand people visited my Three Days to Darkness page in the span of two weeks. I made some book sales at the rate of two percent of the visits. I’m still getting views.  But here’s the thing: if you have a limited budget, use it where it will do the most good.  I’m getting to that.  Stay with me.

Audio Books

If you can swing the cost, make an audio version of your book.  As you are no doubt aware, people don’t read as many books as they used to.  Audio books are getting more popular every day.  I used ACX to make the audio book for my third novel, Micromium: Clean Energy from Mars.  I liked using ACX and they are part of Amazon.  I signed an exclusive agreement with them, which means I get a bigger royalty (70%) on each audio book sale.  With this agreement, your book is automatically uploaded to Amazon, Audible, and iTunes.  The downside is, you don’t get exposure on sites like Hoopla, Overdrive, and Bibliotheca, which serve libraries.  If you don’t go exclusive, ACX offers a non-exclusive agreement wherein you can distribute to any platform and get a 25% royalty.

If you hire a narrator for your audio book, which you can do through ACX, a good one will probably cost you between $100 and $150 per finished hour.  Your narrator does the narration and all of the production work.  You direct them and approve the finished product.  I had a great time making my audio book with an amazing woman who did a fabulous job.  I’ve done reasonably well with my audio book.  I’ve noticed that having an audio version available has increased my overall book sales.

Paid Reviews

When you launch your book, you want to have a sufficient number of positive reader and editorial reviews available on retail sites and Goodreads to convert browsers into buyers.  Unless you have twenty friends and a handful of book critics ready, willing, and able to post glowing reviews, it makes sense to purchase a few of these.

There are a number of sites available for these services.  I have found the best and most reliable site for reader and editorial reviews to be indiereader.com.  Check out their website.  I bought reader reviews and an editorial review from them. I’m 100% satisfied with their service, reliability, and results.  I’ve also used midwestbookreview.com for fair, reliable, and less expensive editorial reviews. Readers Favorite is an excellent site for FREE reviews. Check it out.

Amazon Advertising

Sponsored ads on Amazon.com are the most effective marketing tool I’ve used so far.  If you have a limited budget, this is where to spend it.  The ads are easy to create. You set your daily budget, write your copy, set your campaign dates, and off you go.  If the ad doesn’t work, you can scrap it and try different keywords.  You can see which keywords are working and which are not and adjust accordingly.  Best of all, you can see how many books you’ve sold and how much it has cost you to sell those books.  There’s no baloney and no guesswork.  And, let’s face it, most of the books people buy are sold on Amazon.  To create a campaign, sign in to your KDP account, select the book you want to advertise, click on the three dots to the far right of the book, and select promote and advertise.

I hope you will find these tips helpful.  I wish you all the success in the world, and keep writing.

Writing Fiction as a Profession