Word counts and other distractions

Originally posted on Griffin Paul Jackson:

I’ve wasted hours upon hours looking up word counts. Finally, I made a list. I want to share what I’ve found so that you won’t waste time looking yourself. Here are the numbers on highly-praised literary fiction, fantasy and science fiction. Now you won’t need to scour the web to find them again.

Literary Fiction

  • The Old Man and the Sea 27,000
  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – 28,000
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell – 29,000
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck – 30,000
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – 47,000
  • Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut – 49,000
  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe – 50,000
  • The Bluest Eyes by Toni Morrison – 52,000
  • Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck – 55,000
  • As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner – 57,000
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy – 59,000
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding – 60,000
  • Their…

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Giving away a Concubine 38,892 times in 16 days—Was it worth it?

This is about the almost 8-year long journey before I offered my Concubine FREE for 16 days in the United States, Canada, Australia, India and the United Kingdom (free copies were downloaded in all five countries) between May 29 – June 13, 2015, and it wasn’t an easy decision to make—to give away a novel that took more than a decade to research (with an emphasis on research), write, revise, edit, revise and edit again several times. A lot of time and work went into writing Robert Hart’s story set in 19th century China.

To be clear, My Splendid Concubine is not a woman, and this post is about what happened when the novel was offered for free for the first time in tandem with a BookBub advertisement. Concubine is a historical fiction novel based on the real life of an Irishman who went to China in 1854 when he was age 19.

I started writing this novel in 1999 when I was dating Anchee. We dated for several months and were married December 1999. When we were dating, before we got married, she was working on her fifth novel, “Empress Orchid”, and she mentioned an Irishman named Robert Hart, who had worked for the Qing Dynasty until 1908—for about 50 years.

The first edition of “My Splendid Concubine” (December 2007) was followed by the sequel, “Our Hart”, in 2010.  Then in April 2013, I combined the prequel and sequel in the 3rd edition of “My Splendid Concubine” and stopped publishing the first two. By then, all of the editions had sold a combined 12,000 copies.

  • 221 in 2008
  • 341 in 2009
  • 2,375 in 2010
  • 4,641 in 2011
  • 4,158 in 2012
  • 5,044 in 2013
  • 4,192 in 2014, and about 300 copies sold over the first five months of 2015

In early 2013, sales started to slip after the 3rd edition came out, so I submitted My Splendid Concubine to BookBub, and the historical fiction novel was accepted for a $0.99 sale that ran on June 16, 2013. By the time that first ever $0.99 sale came to an end, about 2,900 copies had been sold—at the time that represented 22% of total sales since the 1st edition had been published in 12-2007.

Concubine was submitted to Book Bub again in 2014 and was accepted for another $0.99 sale in June of that year. This time, Concubine sold more than 3,000 copies at the reduced price, and the novel picked up a review from:

#1 - Joanna Daneman review posted June 19 2014

In 2015, I submitted Concubine to BookBub for another $0.99 sale, and they rejected it. I submitted another one of my books for a $0.99 sale, and they rejected that one too.

In April, I ran the $0.99 sale for Concubine anyway and advertised through several sites instead of BookBub: The Fussy Librarian, The Choosy Bookworm, and eReaderNewsToday — 177 copies sold, and that represented about 46% of the total sales of all four of my titles for the first five months of 2015.

Then I resubmitted Concubine a 2nd time to BookBub in early May, but set the offer for FREE, and BookBub said yes and scheduled the date for their ad to run on June 11.

This was the first time I’d offer one of my books FREE, and it isn’t as if I didn’t know that this was a viable method to market books and reach more readers.  I’ve read about the success other authors have had offering at least one of their titles for free, and I understand that it works best for the first book in a series, but I didn’t have a series (I #AmWriting a five-book series now, and I plan to publish the first one in about a year and maybe sooner).

The idea behind offering a book for free is to generate word-of-mouth for an author’s work, but, as long as my work was selling several thousand copies annually, I was reluctant to make that decision—until the sales fell off a cliff from a four-year (2011-2014) monthly average of 385 copies a month to an average of 81 a month for the first half of 2015.

When I heard back from BookBub that Concubine had been accepted for a free ad, I let a group of authors that I belong to at Historical Fiction eBooks know—we share information and support each other—and I was advised to start lowering the price immediately, because Amazon doesn’t make it easy to set a price to FREE. I was told that Concubine would have to appear FREE on Barnes & Noble and iTunes before Amazon would match the price.

I logged on to my Draft2Digital account and submitted the price changes the same day, and Draft2Digital submitted the changes to: B&N, iTunes, Kobo, Scribd, and inktera, and it took about three days for all the prices to change.  That was when I logged in to my Amazon kdp account, scrolled down to Contact and left a request for a price match with links to B&N and iTunes.

Once Amazon dropped the price to free on 5-30, I attached the following image to a Tweet and penned it to the top of my Twitter page. During the next 16 days, I swapped that Tweet out and penned a fresh one several times a day for my more than 12k Twitter followers to Retweet. I have no idea how many times that Tweet appeared on Twitter, but I think it was probably hundreds and maybe even thousands of times.

FREE FOR A LIMITED TIME

I also paid eBookBooster $35 to submit Concubine to 45+ sites that advertised free books for free. I only know of five that announced the free offer: FreeBooksAndMore.com on June 5; bestebooksfree.com on June 7; Top 100 Best Free Kindle Books on June 9; Booklover’s Heaven on June 10; and eBookDaily on June 12.

On May 30, the first day after Concubine was listed free on Amazon and the other virtual retail book stores, 1,038 copies were downloaded. Another 1,151 were downloaded on May 31 followed by 291 on June 1st. Then the number of downloads started to drop—77 on June 3 – fifty-nine on June 4 – forty-three on June 5 – thirty-four on June 6 – thirty-two on June 7 – twenty-six on June 8 – Forty-Five on June 9 ( the day Top 100 Best Free Kindle Books ran its free ad), and nineteen on June 10.

Amazon Sales Chart on June 11

Then on June 11th, the BookBub ad appeared early in the morning, and 21,791 copies were downloaded for free on Amazon that day. On June 12, another 3,813 were downloaded followed by 1,412 on June 13.  An additional 7,573 copies were downloaded through Draft2Digital, but there may be more to come (D2D has to wait on the retailers to report sales. For instance, 4,730 free downloads were not reported until June 18 and those were only from iTunes and Barnes & Noble so there may be more to come when the remaining retailers report in.).

Draft2Digital Sales Chart

By the time I submitted the price change for “My Splendid Concubine” from FREE back to $3.99 early in the morning on June 14, 33,703 copies had been downloaded for free for a book that in almost 8 years had only sold 20,895 copies. Concubine also made it to #5 free in the Kindle store for the Top 100 List.

Number 5 in Top 100

Since June 11—the day the BookBub ad ran early in the morning—to June 18th, Concubine picked up 8 new Amazon reviews marked as a Verified Purchase: seven 5-stars and one 4-star. Before the sale, Concubine was picking up about 1 or 2 reviews a month.

What about sales after the price returned to $3.99? Concubine has sold 22 copies, Crazy is Normal sold one, Running with the Enemy sold four, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova sold two. In May, all four books only sold 30 copies, but so far for June, forty-four have been sold with twelve days left before the end of the month.

Do you think giving away almost 40,000 FREE copies and paying more than $300 for the BookBub ad was worth it?

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Bombshell Report from Common Cause: Privatizers Flood New York Politicians with Cash

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

Please read this report and send it to everyone who cares about the future of public education in the United States. Send it to your friends, your school board, your legislators, your editorial boards, and to anyone else who needs to know about the money that is committed to demolishing public schools and turning the money over to private hands.

Common Cause has released an important new report about the dramatic increase in funding and lobbying by groups in New York State committed to privatization of public schools. The report contrasts the political spending of the privatizers to the political spending of the unions, and it is a fascinating contrast.

The report is titled: “Polishing the Apple: Examining Political Spending in New York to Influence Educational Policy.”

The report rejects the term “reformers” and uses the term “privatizers.” It explains here (p. 3):

We use the terms pro-privatization and privatizer…

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The Hostile Corporate Takeover of Democracy

Between 1969 and 2014, the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences was awarded 46 times to 75 Laureates, and Milton Friedman was only one of those 75 award winners, so why has he been crowned, even in death, as the godfather of modern American economics—is it because he said greed was good and the other winners didn’t?

Milton Freedom gave the greed of the 1% legitimacy with his Noble Prize in Economics in 1976 with his claim that greed is good. Then President Reagan—arguably America’s Mao for the 1%—launched his U.S. Cultural Revolution to privatize government and the public sector (in China between 1949 – 1976, Mao was the enemy of the 1% and about a million were tried by the people and executed).

Forbes reported, “Ronald Reagan was elected in the US in 1980 with his message that government is “the problem”. In the UK, Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister in 1979. These leaders preached “economic freedom” (translation: greed is good) and urged a focus on making money as “the solution”. As the Michael Douglas character in the 1987 movie, Wall Street, pithily summarized the philosophy, greed was now good.

The results: starting at zero in 1979, the share of income of the top 1% after taxes grew by almost 150% by 2007, and the share of income for the top 20% grew by almost 30%, but for the rest of us—the other 80%, we saw a decline in the share of our income by as much as –30%. … Wall Street’s profits increased 720%, the unemployment rate grew by 102% and Americans’ home equity dropped by –35%. … Payroll tax revenue increased from 10% in 1950 to more than 40% by 2007, but the share of corporate taxes went from about 28% to less than 10%. – WordPress.com

Can this hostile takeover of the U.S. democracy be reversed?

Maybe, because more people vote during presidential elections so we should expect that to happen again in 2016, and I think the GOP has shot itself in the foot with its first majority in both Houses of Congress in more than 70 years by using that as a false mandate to come out against Social Security (75% of both Republicans and Democrats endorsed a plan to fix Social Security—not destroy it.  – The Christian Science Monitor), Medicare (Over half of Americans support single-payer health care, Improved Medicare for All – Medicare for  All), public pensions (Seventy-one percent oppose reducing pension benefits that are currently being paid to already-retired public employees, while 27 percent favor a reduction in benefits to these retirees. Fifty-three percent of Americans oppose reducing current public employees’ future pension benefits, while 44 percent favor reducing the pension benefits of current government employees who have not yet retired – Reason.com), public schools (47 percent of the public gave their local public schools a grade of “A” or “B,” while 18 percent gave them a “D” or “F.” – Brookings.edu), teachers (70% of Americans trusted grade school teachers – Gallup), etc.

The GOP is even going after veterans’ benefits and the Veterans Administration to continue the spread of the privatization movement there too. Concerned Veterans for America (always the use of misleading titles for these organizations) is calling for the Veterans Health Administration — the wing of the VA that oversees health care — to be turned into an “independent, government-chartered nonprofit corporation.” – Stripes.com

What about the growth of private, for-profit prisons?

Global Research asked if “The Prison Industry in the United States was Big Business or a New Form of Slavery?”

Private security guards have outnumbered police officers since the 1980s, predating the heightened concern about security brought on by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. What is new is that police forces, including the Durham Police Department here in North Carolina’s Research Triangle, are increasingly turning to private companies for help. Moreover, private-sector security is expanding into spheres — complex criminal investigations and patrols of downtown districts and residential neighborhoods — that used to be the province of law enforcement agencies alone. – Washington Post.com

The only way the Democrats cannot win back enough seats in at least the Senate and/or Congress and take the majority back from the GOP during the 2016 election season is if the party refuses to return to their Progressive grass roots that supported the 99% for decades starting with President Wilson.

But if both parties continue to be led by the 1%, then we might see another low voter turnout like we saw in 2014 (the lowest voter turnout in more than seven decades).

Back to Milton Friedman, who, even in death, is still the economic-greed-is-good-god of the 1%.  After Friedman’s death in 2006, Keynesian Nobel laureate Paul Krugman (who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics for 2008) wrote that Friedman “slipped all too easily into claiming both that markets always work and that only markets work. It’s extremely hard to find cases in which Friedman acknowledged the possibility that markets could go wrong, or that government intervention could serve a useful purpose.”

And in her book The Shock Doctrine, author Naomi Klein criticized Friedman’s economic liberalism, identifying it with the principles that guided the economic restructuring that followed the military coups in countries such as Chile and Indonesia. Klein is an award-winning journalist who is a former Miliband Fellow at the London School of Economics.  If Klein is right, the hostile takeover of America’s republic and democracy by the 1% will continue until most U.S. citizens have lost many of the freedoms they take for granted.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

IMAGE with Blurbs and Awards to use on Twitter

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy followed by his award winning memoir Crazy is Normal . His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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What the FACTS Reveal about Teacher Retirement Programs—Part 1 of 6

Originally posted on Crazy Normal - the Classroom Exposé:

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Rolling Stone reported that all across American, Wall Street is grabbing money meant for public workers. The legal theft of public pensions started in Road Island in 2011 as a test case.  “In state after state, politicians are following the Rhode Island playbook, using scare tactics and lavishly funded PR campaigns to cast teachers, firefighters and cops – not bankers – as the budget-devouring boogeymen responsible for the mounting fiscal problems of America’s states and cities.”

Fortune Magazine in addition to In These Times, and KQED also reported on this legalized fraud being supported by corrupt elected representatives from the state level all the way to the White House.

In fact, during my full-time university days on the GI Bill [1968 – 1973] before I graduated with a BA in journalism, I learned how easy it was for the media to make mistakes—sometimes deliberately—while practicing…

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The Real American Success Story

Lloyd Lofthouse:

This is what resonated with me: “Success in education depends a great deal on reading and writing”

My story is one of two brothers who were born into poverty and raised by the same two parents who both dropped out of high school at age 14. To earn money, our mother worked, off and on, baking artistically decorated cakes at home and a variety of odd jobs including working in the laundry at the City of Hope. Our father worked in construction, was an alcoholic and a gambler (he loved the horses and often got off work early to make the last two races at Santa Anita).

My older brother (12 years older) grew up illiterate and worked hard all of his life at back breaking jobs that require3d physical strength that paid mostly poverty wages. Richard would contribute to the birth of seven children that we know of and most of them would turn out illiterate like him and also end up struggling to survive.

By the time I was seven and my brother 19, Richard, still illiterate, had already spent his first stint in prison for being involved in an armed robbery. Before he died at age 64 a broken man who was a heavy smoker and alcoholic, he’d spend 15 years of his life in prison but he bragged that he never lived off welfare. That’s not entirely true. His 2nd wife could read and write and she applied for food stamps and other forms of child support linked to welfare programs but my brother never saw that money. Whatever he handed his wife or kept in his pocket he earned the hard way.

At seven, my mother was told I would never learn to read or write. On the way home from school in the car, she cried and said I would learn to read—that she wouldn’t make the same mistake with me that she made with my brother Richard when she heard that same verdict from some education expert (not a teacher) who based that judgement on a test when he was in 1st grade—probably the same flawed test they gave me years later. I wonder who created that test and profited off of it.

My mother, with advice from my 1st grade teacher, taught me to read at home. At times it was brutal. She used corporal punishment pain to force me to learn out of fear, and I did. I even became an avid reader who ended up loving books, libraries and book stores. That is where my path through life diverged from my brother’s. Instead of going to prison like he did, I ended up in the Marines and fought in Vietnam after barely graduating from high school. Out of the Marines, I went to college on the GI Bill and if I had not been an avid reader who had read hundreds if not thousands of books while a child and teen, I would have never made it through college. Learning to write took decades of effort on my part. We were both born into poverty and we both had severe dyslexia. Without my mother’s heroic effort that she would probably be condemned for today due to her use of corporal punishment, I’m convinced that I would have entered that same school to prison pipeline my brother was shoved in by those so-called test experts who contributed to his ruined life.

Originally posted on the becoming radical:

In the early 1990s after we had moved into our first stand-alone home (having lived in an owned townhouse a few years), my wife and I bought a Honda Accord—a typically American milestone of having finally risen above our station as Honda Civic owners.

As I was dong the paperwork for this car, I realized that the sale price was the same as what my parents had paid for their house in 1971 (a house, by the way, that still is more square footage than any house I have ever owned): $22,500.

I am one generation removed from the white working-class idealists who are my parents, both having been raised in the South during the 1950s—my mother the daughter of a mill worker and my father the son of a gas station owner.

Buying that Honda Accord, however, did not at that moment fill me with pride or a sense accomplishment…

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Author Solutions and Friends: The Inside Story

Originally posted on David Gaughran:

ASandfriendsweboptAuthor Solutions has forged partnerships with a long list of famous names in publishing – from Simon & Schuster and Hay House to Barnes & Noble and Reader’s Digest.

Recent disclosures in various lawsuits, along with information sent to me by a Penguin Random House source, detail for the very first time exactly how these partnerships work and the damage they are causing.

Since a second suit was filed at the end of March, Author Solutions is now facing two class actions, with the new complaint alleging unjust enrichment and exploitation of seniors on top of the usual claims of fraud and deceptive practices. It also has a wonderfully precise summary of Author Solutions’ operations:

Author Solutions operates more like a telemarketing company whose customer base is the Authors themselves. In other words, unlike a traditional publisher, Author Solutions makes money from its Authors, not for them. It does so…

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