An Author Interview with Lloyd Lofthouse at the HBS Author’s Spotlight

Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Author Lloyd Lofthouse. Lloyd is the award-winning, historical fiction author of the short story, “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

Congratulations on your book: My Splendid Concubine. What do you have on the drawing board next? Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?

SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with Lloyd Lofthouse continues on HBS Author’s Spotlight.

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When the Muse Strikes and A-Cappella Hijacked the Next Novel

What does it mean to be first and last at the same time?

The four books I’ve published so far were not published in the order they were written. My first published novel was “My Splendid Concubine,” and about 100,000 readers have read this book since January 2008 when the first copy sold, but this book was not my first novel. The concubine was the last one I wrote. I started researching and writing this one in 1999.

“Running with the Enemy” and “The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova” were both written and finished out of UCLA’s extension writing program back in the 1980s, and “Running” started out as a memoir with a working title that I can’t remember. The professor convinced me to turn “Running” into fiction and ditch the memoir idea, and for two of the seven years I was in her workshop, I wrote and repeatedly revised that book.

The professor’s name at UCLA was Marjorie Miller. She’s gone now. Cancer got her. When any of the writers in her workshop was ready, according to Marjorie, she found agents for them, and she found one for “Running”.  That agent managed to get the interest of a senior editor at Random House who eventually rejected the novel but said he’d enjoyed reading it.  The reason for the rejection was readers were not buying books about the Vietnam War and the market was glutted with titles that were not selling.

That manuscript ended up on a shelf in my garage, and I went on to write the next one that turned out to be “The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova”. That novel also started out with a different title, one that Marjorie and the rest of the writers in that workshop didn’t like.

The teacher’s memoir I wrote, “Crazy is Normal, a classroom expose,” started life in the 1995 – 96 school year as a daily journal that turned into a book almost two decades later. The journal was not the memoir. It was the source of the memoir that I wrote after I published “Concubine”.

I see it as ironic that one Amazon reviewer accused me of being too “Rambo-ish” in “Running with the Enemy” and rated the book with a 2-star review. Rich T. wrote, “It started out OK, then became a bit to much unbelievable. The hero is to (Rambo-ish). Nothing can stop him. Jumping out of a plane at night with a bum leg. Sorry … Not my cup of tea.”


“It’s what Recon is all about – Pain! … Semper Fi, Do or Die!

Jumping out of a plane with a bum leg is not Rambo-ish. This is what Marines do if the situation called for it. I should know, I am a former Marine.

When I was still in boot camp at MCRD, voices and a clattering noise woke me once at three in the morning. I left my bunk and looked outside the Quonset hut to discover a squad of Marines with white-plaster casts on arms and legs. Those Marines were playing football on a rack of pipes about twelve feet off the ground.  As I recall, each pipe looked like it had a four-inch diameter. The polls that held them up were thicker.

I found out later that those crazy Marines were all from Force Recon and were back from Vietnam recuperating at the base hospital before they returned to combat. They weren’t supposed to be out of their beds. They weren’t supposed to be playing football twelve feet off the ground balanced precariously on a set of pipes.

A few weeks later, when my right leg was broken during hand-to-hand combat practice, I was offered the choice to heal at the base hospital when I’d be allowed to join another platoon to finish boot camp.

The DI made it clear that if I stayed with the platoon, I had to do almost everything the rest of the recruits were doing in training, and I did. The bone had a vertical fracture running its length and a cast wouldn’t help it heal or protect it. The doctor’s advice was to stay off the leg as much as possible. I didn’t. The pain was intense but I hid the pain out of fear that I might end up in that hospital bed. I wanted to graduate from boot camp with my platoon. That was 1965; I was 20.

I turned 21 in Vietnam where I’d hold a grenade with the pin pulled to make sure if I fell asleep while on watch, the blast would wake the others. The idea of me falling asleep and the Vietcong getting into the bunker and killing my fellow Marines wasn’t something I was willing to risk. Whenever I was that tired, I’d slip out of the bunker to a nearby foxhole and then pull the pin on that grenade that was meant to become an alarm clock if I fell asleep and my hand relaxed. I kept the pin in a top pocket so I could reinsert it at the end of my watch.

The first Rambo film came out in 1982 and was set in the United States after Vietnam Vet John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) returned to the states. Rambo was having a difficult time adjusting to civilian life. The first film in the series did not take place in Vietnam or Southeast Asia.

Rambo: First Blood Part II came out in 1985. By then I’d finished writing the novel that was alleged to be too “Rambo-ish”.  The 3rd Rambo film was released in 1988, and the 4th film came out in 2008. The plot of the novel that I published decades after I wrote it wasn’t changed from the original.

My next novel is one I’ve been thinking about since I was in grade school.

By the age of 10, I was an avid reader obsessed with the King Arthur Merlin myth. I read science fiction and fantasy novels sometimes two a day. I’d daydream stories of who Merlin was. Almost sixty years later, I started writing “Becoming Merlin”, and the paperback ARC copies are with my BETA readers now.

The real Merlin from the myth was a sorcerer; an immortal shapeshifter and no one knew where he came from or where he went after Arthur died.  In the ancient myths, Arthur lived around the 6th century, and at the end of the TV series Merlin broadcast by the BBC starting in 2009, in the last scene for the last season, we see Merlin walking beside a highway about fourteen hundred years later in the United States with his thumb out hitchhiking long after Arthur’s time.

My Merlin has little to nothing in common with the Merlin of the myth or the BBC TV series, but I wonder if some reviewer that doesn’t like the story I wrote will find a way to make a connection.

The Merlin in my novel is an alien and he has been around for a long time. He is lonely and wants someone to love. His only friend has been his artificially intelligent spaceship that he calls A-Cappella, and they are hiding on an Earth threatened by climate change. My Merlin has the magical powers of a god, but he can’t use most of those powers because he’s being hunted by a brutal team of AI killing machines. Using his powers to heal Earth might reveal where he is hiding and end up causing the total destruction of Earth and all life on the planet.

Here’s the first paragraph to “Becoming Merlin”, my next novel.

Chapter One

I regretted my part in one of the greatest tragic love stories in human history. It was that look in her eyes that did it, and I felt no guilt when I let myself be seduced by my friend’s future wife. She was fourteen the day Artur and I first saw her. That is when I knew that Guinevere was going to be trouble.  She had enchanting eyes, and men of all ages fell under their spell. She hypnotized me too, and I’m not even human.

###

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

Where to Buy

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Are you self-published? I am!

Most people I meet don’t ask me anything, because they are often too busy talking about their world, but if they do ask what I do, I tell them I’m an author and a retired teacher. I might also talk about serving in the U.S. Marines and fighting in the Vietnam War, an experience that’s embedded forever inside my head.

Once I mention I’m an author that sometimes leads to other questions. Then there are the few who ask the question that’s the title of this post.  Recently I stopped by a coffee house and had a conversation with an attractive young lady. You might not consider her young. She was 58, but I’m 71 and to me, she’s young.

By the way, I can start a conversation with anyone or anything if the mood’s there.  I can even talk to my computer screen, car or me, and sometimes I answer me. If you spend as much time as I do alone in front of my desktop computer writing like I’m doing now, it makes sense.

The lovely young 58 year old asked me if I was self-published.  When I told her yes, she changed the conversation and talked about her passion for acting and that she had an agent but never earned enough from acting to support her and her children, so she waited tables, and with a master’s degree eventually went into teaching the same subject I taught for several decades.  Teachers are underpaid, but they are paid better than waiting tables. I know because I’ve had jobs in restaurants, and I was also a public school teacher for thirty years.

I woke up the next morning after that conversation wondering what others might think success means for a self-published indie author compared to traditional authors, and I ended up writing this post.

The Guardian in Stop the press: half of self-published authors earn less than $500 reported “It shouldn’t have surprised me that 75% of the royalty pie is going to 10% of authors: that’s life in many industries”

In fact, according to How Much Do Writers Earn/ Less Than You Think from Publishing Perspective.com, 20 percent of self-published authors earn nothing, zero, zilch, and the next 60 percent earn less than $1,000. Traditional published authors do a little better but not enough to be impressive. About 18 percent earn nothing and another 35 percent earn less than $1,000 annually.

Study the chart following this paragraph and you’ll discover that not too many authors (1 to 3 percent) earn more than $100,000 annually, and it doesn’t matter if they’re an indie or traditional author.

annual-writing-income-by-author-type

There are also terms that rank authors. For instance, there are midlist authors and bestselling authors.  My former wife of 15 years is a bestselling author with 8 books published in more than thirty languages, and her work has sold more than a million copies in English alone. While we were married, I edited many of those books before they went to her publisher.

However, the vast majority of titles published are midlist books, and by definition, I’m a midlist author. My  books have sold more than 22,000 copies earning me about $40k since January 2008, and more than 43,000 have been downloaded  during free giveaways I paid hundreds of dollars to advertise though BookBub and eReader News Today.

Then there were the pirates. Back in 2008, I was told that my first title, “My Splendid Concubine”, was the #1 downloaded pirated book of the month or year. I have no idea how many of the pirated versions were downloaded, and it doesn’t bother me because I don’t think most readers that download pirated books to save a few dollars would spend money to buy books anyway, but maybe if the pirate liked the book, they’d tell a friend who actually buys books instead of stealing them.

In addition, according to Janet Reid, Literary Agent, you have to sell more than 20,000 copies to be noticed, and The Guardian reported that the median earnings of professional authors fall below the minimum wage. I’ve sold more than 20,000 copies, but no one seems to have noticed me yet. Does that man Janet Reid is wrong?

For the last seven years, I’ve earned an average of about $5,500 annually from my writing, and that’s about half of poverty wages if you have no other income. I have several other sources of income, because I worked for 45 years, fought for my country, invested, saved, and planned. Even though I’ve been writing books and learning the craft of writing since 1968, I didn’t hold my breath waiting for fame and fortune to walk in the door.

If you go back to the chart above, you’ll discover that even those poverty wages as an author put me in the top 10 percent of indie self-published authors and the 75 – 80 percent bracket for traditionally published authors. That means my work has sold more copies and earned more money than 75 percent of traditional published authors, but there are still critics out there that consider self-published indie authors losers and posers. I think the lovely young 58 year old I had a conversation with in that coffee house was one of them. She might have asked me other questions, but I don’t remember if she did.

What about all those indie and traditional authors that don’t sell well? How do we judge the quality of their writing when we don’t have the time to read that many books? After all, it takes time and effort to write a book. You don’t do it in the time it takes to stick a piece of gum in your mouth. It can take weeks, months, and years. It took me almost 10 years to write my first published novel, the one that’s earning me most of my money as an author.

Another way to judge the quality of an author’s work is reputable literary contests. Most charge an entry and/or reading fee, but that doesn’t guarantee an author’s work will pick up an award,

Predators and Editors strongly advise writers to enter only those contests without a fee. What do authors do when there are literally hundreds of writing contests but most of them charge reading and/or entry fees? I wrote about that in: Is it wrong to pay an entry fee to a literary contest?  Over the years, my work has picked up a number of awards from literary contests that charged fees where about 95 percent of the authors that submitted work and paid the same fees didn’t earn any mention of their books.

Then there are reader reviews. For instance, Amazon. The 3rd edition of my 1st book has a 4.2 average with 292 customer reviews. My second title has 3.9 with 19 reviews; the third title is a memoir and it has 29 reviews with a 4.4 average, and my last title only has 5 reviews with a 4.0 average. No matter how hard I try, it hasn’t been easy finding readers for my last novel. It doesn’t help that every time I write a book it’s in another genre. That means I have to hunt for another audience of readers that might want to read it. I’ve also written about Authors Finding Readers where I explain why it isn’t easy to find readers.

But last Friday when I was asked if I was a self-published author by that attractive young 58 year old, and I said yes, there was no follow up questions so I didn’t bother to tell her my work had sold more than 22,000 copies, more than most authors, indie or traditional, will ever sell.

How should authors be judged – by the quality of their work or the number of sales or maybe a mixture of both? What do you think?

___________________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

A1 on August 26 - 2016 Cover Image with BLurbs to promote novel_edited-1

Where to Buy

His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy followed by his award winning memoir Crazy is Normal. His 4th novel is the award winning The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

 

Downsizing, cows, a one-sided shootout, and The Wedding

I have downsized my lifestyle from a 5 bedroom house with 4 bathrooms on a half-acre of steep hillside to a smaller 3 bedroom 2 bath on about a 7,000 square foot flat piece of property.

I bought a seriously abused house on the mend and spent the last few months getting up most mornings and driving 14 miles one way further east to work on the house to get it livable as I renovate it, and I finally moved in about two weeks ago.  The house is located in the hills and is next to a cattle ranch. I wake up each morning to eat breakfast sitting on a folding chair at a folding table sharing my eating space with too many tools and watch cows grazing in pastures on the other side of the house’s in need of replacement sagging chain link fence.

It feels like living in not only a storage unit with boxes and building supplies pilled everywhere; I’m also in the middle of a construction zone with cows as some of my neighbors.

Last week there was a shooting three houses down — not the ranch house up the hill behind my place — when a father and son got into an argument causing the police to be called to deal with the son waving a pistol around. I was told later that the son with the pistol got shot in the leg by the police, who did all the shooting, and stray rounds from the police also hit the father still inside the house and a younger son in the stomach also still in the house. I can already smell the vultures; I mean the lawyers, gathering and a fat settlement.

I think the local police need to spend a lot more time on the range practicing. They were way too close to the crazy older gun totting son to have missed him that many times.

I heard the shots but didn’t go out to investigate like many of the two legged neighbors did. I didn’t see any of the cows join the human spectators. I think the cows had more common sense. I’m a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam combat vet, and I learned the hard way that you don’t run out to watch a real life shooting in progress. Instead you should stay inside, get behind a big solid piece of furniture, drop to the floor and hug it tight.

After I moved into the smallest bedroom, I started the first stage of installing solid hardwood flooring. Stage one was the living room, master bedroom and the hallway that runs to the master bedroom from the entry of the house. I’ve finished the living room and most of the master bedroom and started on the hallway. Stage one is a little more than 400 square feet of floor. Once done, I’ll be moving out of the smallest bedroom and into the master bedroom and then filling up the smallest bedroom with boxes as I move them out of the living room and family room to make more room for me and future planned renovations.

Stage two for the hardwood floor will be the 200 square foot family room and stage three will be the 2 smaller bedrooms, another 200 square feet of flooring, after they stop being storage units.

But first, before stage 2 and 3 for more hardwood flooring, I have to install shelves and cabinets in the garage. There is also the fence that has to be replaced. Landscaping is last on the list of renovations. Right now I’m mowing the weeds every week to keep them from smothering the house. I had no idea that wild weeds, that don’t seem to need much water to survive and thrive, grew so much faster than thirsty and costly domesticated grass.


This isn’t my house, but you’ll get an idea of what it’s like.

While this has been going on, promoting my books has all but ground painfully to a stop and sales dropped off of a cliff. In fact, my writing has also slowed to the pace of a desperate man in the desert who has gone without food and water for four days and is crawling across the blistering hot sand of Death Valley in the summer toward what looks like a muddy, scummy watering hole surrounded by rattle snakes.

Did I mention the rattle snakes some of my two legged neighbors have warned me about? It seems they show up each summer and find ways to get inside the garage. As evidence that this warning is true, I did find the skeleton of a long dead rattlesnake in the garage while I was cleaning before installing new insulation and drywall.

Anyway, that thirsty, starving, desperate man in the desert that is the metaphor for my writing isn’t moving very fast and sometimes he lays there panting and doesn’t move for hours. Then he reaches out with one hand that looks like a shriveled, blistered, bloody claw and digs in, and gasping for breath, pulls himself forward a few more inches closer to that rattle snake infested water hole before he starts to wheeze and gasp for air and collapses again to gather his strength for the next page of text.

But on a bright note, I was in Berkeley this morning for a scheduled radio interview with the BBC held in the studio for the PBS station located on the Berkeley campus in their journalism/media department at 121 North Gate Hall. The BBC program is called “Our Man in China,” who happens to be the real Robert Hart, the 19th century main character in my first novel “My Splendid Concubine”. I was told that the program will air later this year.

Then there is our Stanford graduate daughter’s wedding. She is getting married and has gone all out to plan a wedding that seems more like a Broadway play in several acts spanning three days with song and dance. Why are today’s young people planning complex, lavish weddings and spending wheelbarrows of cash on those nuptials when half of marriages end in divorce?

_______________________

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

Crazy is Normal promotional image with blurbs

Where to Buy

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.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

Book Promotion for “The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova” on Sale for $0.99

After years of endless seductions, the 20th century’s Don Juan Casanova has met the one woman he wants to romance for the rest of his life, but his future is threatened when he becomes the prime suspect in the nightclub murders of his grandfather and younger brother.

P Benson, a top 1,000 Amazon Reviewer said, “I loved this book. The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova was a superb, funny mystery.”

A judge for the 23rd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards said, “In The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova, we are presented with a contemporary update on an old story told with an interesting spin that gets us to view the original in a new light while helping us to see the world around us in a fresh and interesting way.”

The setting of this novel is based on a night club called the Red Onion in Southern California where the author was the Maître d for several years in the early 1980s. Some of the characters in this novel are based on real people, who were customers or employees of the Red Onion, but their names and descriptions have been changed.

On Sale Jan 29 - Feb 4 2016

The world of nightclubs and bars is a world we don’t read or hear about often, but there are literally thousands across the country, and the Top 100 List for Nightclubs and Bars in 2014 showcased the current economic strength of the industry with more than $1.5 billion in combined total revenue in 2013.

How big is the industry that is the setting for this award winning murder mystery? The U.S. bar and nightclub industry has about 45,000 establishments (single-location companies and branches of multi-location companies) with combined annual revenue of about $20 billion.

Peter Braunstein wrote, “From the juke joint to the dance hall, American clubs in the postwar era have been the center of a cultural struggle pitting the forces of hedonism, revelry, and sexual liberation against those of socio-sexual stability and control.”

_______________________

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

Crazy is Normal promotional image with blurbs

Where to Buy

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.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

 

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

UPDATE on July 25, 2015

It’s been more than a month since the BookBub ad ran on June 11th when “My Splendid Concubine” had only 117 reader reviews. This morning there were 204 reader reviews on Amazon.com, and all but one of them was a verified purchase. Most of the new reviews have been 5-stars. The 1-star that was not a verified purchase alleged the book was kiddie porn after most of the review praised the writing and the story. Regardless of the alleged opinion of that one review that was not a verified purchase, the book is not kiddie porn. The reviewer based her claim on the fact that in 1855, Robert Hart, who was still 19 had sex with a concubine who was age 14—in a country with no laws that restricted sex with an adolescent female who had reached puberty under the age of 18. In fact, in the 19th century women in China (and even in the United States) of almost any age were considered the property of men to be bought and sold.That practice didn’t end until 1949 in China, but by then Robert Hart would have been dead for almost fifty years.

Do we condemn a man and the book that is based on his life in the mid 19th century for doing something every man could do legally based on today’s laws in the United States?

Paid purchases are up slightly compared to where they are on those months when I am not promoting the book running ads. Before the ad ran and the giveaway ended, the book was getting about one or two reviews a month. In July there have been days when eight reviews appeared in one day. Paid sales are not dramatic but they have increased and sales are up from almost nothing for my other three titles.

— Original Post —

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).

Is it wrong to pay an entry fee to a literary contest?

Back in April 2012, a critic wrote this comment for one of my blog posts: “It’s quite an accomplishment to boast of winning book contests that one pays to enter. It’s like bragging about charming a lady of the evening onto her back.”

My response—would it surprise you to discover that there is an entry fee for the two most prestigious literary awards in the United States: $50.00 for the The Pulitzer Prizes, and $135.00 for the National Book Awards? If you don’t believe that, click the links and read the evidence.

In addition, Poets & Writers Magazine lists many reputable literary contests that charge fees, and for decades I paid the fees and entered some of those contests often not placing, and the literary contests that I did place in are not listed on Winning Writers.com’s list of Contests and Services to Avoid.

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I have also entered Writer’s Digest’s literary contests several times and the fee is $100 each time.  I have never placed, but with that $100 fee comes a judge’s detailed commentary and score that authors may quote for promotional purposes—that is if the judge says anything nice about the book. There is no guarantee.

What counts is not the fee but if the contest is juried. There is nothing wrong with a literary contest that charges a fee that goes toward the costs of running the contest and a cash prize for the grand prize winners.

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Every literary contest does not have a foundation or grant to pay the costs of running a literary contest. In fact, Writer Beware says, “Is the contest free? If so, you probably have nothing to lose by entering—though be sure to read the fine print. If you’re a poet, be aware that a ‘free’ contest is one of the major warning signs of a vanity anthology scheme.”

Many legitimate contests charge a fee to cover processing expenses (which sometimes include an honorarium to readers) and to fund the prize.” Source: Writer Beware ® Blogs!

Poets and authors enter reputable contests to establish the fact that what they write might be worth reading.

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And when poets and authors place in a reputable, unbiased literary contest, they should publicist it, because if they don’t, who will? Published authors and poets are responsible to promote their own work, and if they are traditionally published, the publisher still expects the writers to promote their own work and build an online author platform.

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

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