A Book Cover Must Make a Promise, and the story must Deliver it

How important is a book’s cover? Well, for an answer, The Midwest Book Review rejects books submitted for review if the cover doesn’t measure up to traditional industry standards. Midwest reviewers do not bother to open those books. They go in the recycle bin.

On Saturday, January 10, 2015, I attended the January meeting of the Diablo Branch of the California Writers Club to hear a presentation by Jim Azevedo, the Marketing Director of Smashwords. The title of his presentation was “The Secrets to Ebook Self-Publishing Success”. With a Power Point Presentation that had 72 screen shots, he focused on ten secrets, and the one that grabbed my attention was #2, Creating a SUPBERB cover image.

It was soon obvious to me that a book’s cover was probably one of the most important steps to publishing success after writing a riveting story that is professionally edited, because more than 26% of the presentation focused on the importance of an attention grabbing book cover that makes promises about the story.

Azevedo provided a case study of one cover that went through four changes. During the metamorphosis of this book’s cover from dull to boring, then interesting to sexy and hot, it was barely selling.

It wasn’t until the sexy and hot fourth cover in the sixth month that the novel took off and became an Apple iBoostore #5 bestseller, and today the book has been a New York Times Best Seller and is still selling well on Amazon—when I checked while writing this post, it was ranked #466 in competition with more than 12-million titles on Amazon.

The book I’m talking about is Playing for Keeps by R. L. Mathewson, and on Amazon it currently has a 4.5 average from 1,128 customer reviews. If you check out the paperback, you’ll discover cover number three (there were two clovers before #3 that are not worth seeing).

What does that #466 rank mean? The one-time “My Splendid Concubine” hit #56 on Amazon, it sold more than 2,000 copies in 24 hours. On January 13, Tuesday, the same novel sold three copies and was ranked #114,722.

Anyway, Smashwords’ Jim Azevedo got me thinking. The cover of my second novel, Running with the Enemy, wasn’t promising what readers would find in the story compared to the winning book covers that I saw in the presentation.

Now I have generated several choices to replace the current second e-book cover of “Running with the Enemy” (the paperback still has the first cover), and anyone who leaves a comment and votes helping me select the best cover will be entered in a drawing for a free e-book copy of the novel (or a paperback if the winner prefers one and lives in the United States). If the winner already read it, that’s okay. I’ll send the winner of the drawing a copy of my next novel when it comes out in a few months—“The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova”. It’s with the copy editor as I’m writing this Blog post and the cover is pretty much a done deal—I hope. And if the winner doesn’t want to read these two novels because they offer the theme or genre the winner prefers to read, then I will offer an Amazon “Give as a Gift” equal to the full price of the e-book.

If you decide to take part in helping me select a better cover for “Running with the Enemy”, there are four choices. Please indicate your choice in a comment. Thank you. To help you make a choice, I’ve copied after the five new cover choices the most helpful review on Amazon in addition to what a Writer’s Digest Judge said about the novel. In addition, if none of them work better than the current e-book cover, then I will return to the Adobe Elements editor and get back to work. The drawing for the winner will be held on February 1, 2015.

FIRST ROUND OF CHOICES

Resized and Low Res 4  Covers for Voting on 1-17

“Lloyd Lofthouse describes his book Running with the Enemy as a memoir that evolved into fiction. As a Vietnam veteran who had seen and experienced enough to leave him with post-traumatic stress disorder, he wrote this book it seems to come to terms with all he experienced in Vietnam. The book became fiction, an action novel with a strong romance component.

“Overall it rings true of war and what it was like to serve in Vietnam. Much of the book details the fighting, the casualties and the heartbreak and the trauma experienced by the soldiers. The book also takes you on a dizzying journey when the lovers Tuyen and Ethan flee to other countries in Southeast Asia – Laos, Cambodia, Bangkok, Thailand ,and Burma (Myanmar).

“For those who would like to get a sense of what combat was really like, this is an excellent book, which began as a memoir of Vietnam.” – A Novel of Combat by Harvee L.

“Obviously drawn from the author’s first-hand experiences as a Marine serving in Vietnam, Running with the Enemy is a rough but occasionally heartfelt war story. … The book is sometimes too obviously drawn from his experience. But ultimately that’s a small complaint about a book that, on the whole, is quite good and has a lot to say about the nature of the conflict .”  – 21st Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards commentary from an anonymous judge

Note: This novel—awarded Honorable Mentions in four literary contests and a genre Runner-Up in a fifth literary contest—was targeted by a flock of Goodreads trolls at the time of its publication. Here is the review from one of the Trolls, that I linked to the group of Goodreads bullies, who  never bought or read the novel and gave it one-star on Amazon in an attempt to sabotage its sales and my reputation.

“Lofthouse’s attempt at a 60’s-era thriller is cliched, trite and rather boring. If you’re looking for a good read, check out Graham Greene’s Quiet American instead.” – Miss M

SECOND ROUND OF CHOICES on 1-22-2015

Thanks to comments and suggestions the choice has narrowed down to two covers. They look similar but both have different images on the top third of each cover—which one works best?

Low Res January 22 - two choices

 THIRD ROUND OF CHOICES ON 1-24-15

These two choices are based on the majority of comments from both Twitter and this post.

Jan 24 Low Def Final two choices of New Cover

FOURTH ROUND on 1-25-15

This may be the final cover. There were two more suggestions after I posted the choices for the third round. One suggestion was for a compromise between A & B, and the second suggestion was to take the kissing couple and make them partially opaque/transparent. I used the burn tool on Adobe Elements to take away some of the brightness in the stars and scanned the couple with the Eraser set at 5% Opacity. I started at 20% Opacity and worked down to 5% in several stages, and discovered that anything more than 5% and the lovers started to vanish into the starry sky. This cover revision is still open for suggestions until February 1, 2015, and I thank everyone who is taking part in the process.

Low Res Final  Cover on Jan 25

The Winner of the Drawing for February 1, 2015 was:

Poetic Justice
@ http://poeticjusticect.com/

The details of the giveaway were:

“anyone who leaves a comment and votes helping me select the best cover will be entered in a drawing for a free e-book copy of the novel (or a paperback if the winner prefers one and lives in the United States). If the winner already read it, that’s okay. I’ll send the winner of the drawing a copy of my next novel when it comes out in a few months—“The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova”. It’s with the copy editor as I’m writing this Blog post and the cover is pretty much a done deal—I hope. And if the winner doesn’t want to read these two novels because they don’t offer the theme or genre the winner prefers to read, then I will offer an Amazon “Give as a Gift” equal to the full price of the e-book.”

_______________________

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

His fourth novel is The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

Book Cover and Blurb to use in promotions

Lloyd Lofthouse also worked as a maître d’ in a nightclub called the Red Onion for a few years. A romantic at heart, in his award winning novels, he tests true love in difficult situations and the challenges of keeping that love alive. My Splendid Concubine, his first novel, is an epic love story that teaches acceptance and respect for other people and their cultures. Running with the Enemy, his second novel is a love story that will either cost the characters their lives or will complete each other’s hearts. Lloyd Lofthouse lives with his family in California’s San Francisco Bay area.

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

The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova – is it porno, erotica, or something else?

This morning—Saturday, December 20, 2014—I mailed off the USB drive to my copy editor with the final rough draft of my next novel, The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova. If all goes well, the book will be released by March 2015 at the latest.

My first novel was My Splendid Concubine, and it was historical fiction set in 19th century China based on a real-life love story.

My second novel, Running with the Enemy, was also a love story and a thriller set during the Vietnam War in the 1960’s, and I borrowed from events that happened to me and others in my unit in Vietnam when I served there as a U.S. Marine.

Number three was a memoir, Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé—with no love story or sex—and it came out in November 2014.

The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova is a 1990 libido-driven, multi-murder mystery, want-to-be love story set mostly in the palace of a nightclub called the Aphrodisiac Academe in a beach community in Southern California.

LowiDef Dec 19 Book Cover for Redemption With Title Flattened

In the early 1980’s, I was the maître d’ for a few years for a similar nightclub called The Red Onion in the same region, and the nightclub in this novel is modeled after that one that had three dining rooms—one with a glass ceiling and full-sized palm trees—and three bars for a nightclub that held up to 1,000 lusty dancers and drinkers, including a DJ’s booth and a stage for live entertainment.

“While the dance floor in a nightclub of this size is the central arena of seduction, actual sex usually takes place in bathroom stalls, exit stairwells, and so on. In other cases the disco became a kind of ‘main course’ in a hedonist’s menu for a night out.” – Disco American Heritage Magazine by Peter Braunstein, Vol, 50, No. 7, November 1999

The family that runs the fictional Aphrodisiac Academe in my murder mystery is a deliberately sexually dysfunctional family—or maybe they are normal and everyone else isn’t normal.

A reclusive 96-year old billionaire owns it all, and she helps rescue abused women with help from her grandson, the main character whose name appears in the title, but he has a problem. He has sworn off being the Lothario he was raised to be in the family tradition, and, for him, it’s a challenge to stay sexually sober. Don was taught by his Lothario grandfather to seduce women starting when he was age ten. In the novel, he’s forty. Will he succeed in leaving the old life of lust behind and find the love he craves with one woman?

And will he avoid getting murdered?

My question is this – is this novel pornography, erotica or just a mystery in a setting where lust and sex is normal?  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 this industry that is the setting for my first mystery? The US 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).

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

Crazy-is-Normal-a-classroom-expose-200x300

Honorable Mention in Biography/Autobiography at 2014 Southern California Book Festival

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. 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).

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

Comparing a virtual book tour to the traditional, and why go on a book tour in the first place?

Crazy is Normal: a classroom exposé started its virtual book tour journey on October 1 to November 15, 2014, and I do not expect to make a profit.

A profit would be nice, but as you read this post, you will discover that traditional publishers usually don’t expect a profit—if there is any—until long after the book tour—if there is one—because old fashioned book tours are rare and expensive.

Just in case you think every traditionally published author gets a book tour from a publisher, think again.

In March 2010, the Los Angeles Times reported, as the business of publishing changes, book tours increasingly look like bad risks. “In 99.9% of cases,” says Peter Miller, director of publicity at Bloomsbury USA, “you can’t justify the costs through regular book sales.”

Traditional book tours are expensive, because authors usually fly from city to city between states or countries and the cost can runs into the thousands.

For instance, Brian Jud explored the Cost of a Traditional Tour, by car, and concluded that the direct cost of a six month book tour would run $12,345, and he would have to sell 2,465 books to break even.

In addition, Publishers Weekly—in 2006—said, “There are 5,500 adult trade fiction titles published every year, and a tiny percentage of those books’ authors get sent on tour… Assuming that an average 10-city tour costs, say $25,000 (toting up airfare, hotels, escorts and co-op advertising), most book tours are far from cost-effective in terms of the number of copies sold at signings.”

How is a virtual book tour different and why is that important?

I’m inviting you to read on and discover how much this virtual tour has cost me in dollars and time, and we will start with the publicist, who arranged the 20+, Book Blog tour and charged $534.35.

You might think that’s expensive, but consider the $12,345 and/or $25,000+ mentioned above for the cost of a traditional book tour.

Next, there’s the cost of the complementary books sent to the book bloggers who agreed to be the hosts of Crazy is Normal’s virtual book tour.

This is where I stop to deal with potential critics who will claim sending out free books is like buying a review, but that kind of thinking is wrong because the traditional book publishing industry has done it for decades—long before POD, e-books and Amazon came alone.  Traditional Publishers have always sent out hundreds of free copies of new books, for instance, to book stores, magazines, newspapers, and other authors hoping that this would result in positive reviews and media attention.

To send out complimentary copies for this virtual tour cost $28.93 for eight e-books and $103.69 for fourteen paperbacks for a total of $132.62, and that included the postage for the paperbacks that I ordered directly from Amazon for the e-books and Create Space for the paperbacks. Create Space allows authors to mail directly from the printing plant and placing the order was easy.

Then there was $180 to promote Crazy is Normal during the virtual tour with e-mail blasts from Bargain Booksy (Oct. 5), The Fussy Librarian (Oct. 7), eReaderNews Today (Oct. 17), Book Gorilla (Oct. 20), Kboards (Oct. 25), and Indie Book Promo (starting Nov. 8). I might add more before the tour ends. If so, I’ll update.

The great thing about a virtual tour (I’ve been on several and one local-traditional tour in 2008), the author doesn’t have to leave home and that saves a lot of time and money.

In addition, I also supplied nine excerpts for the book, wrote four guest posts and answered questions for five interviews that will appear during the tour. I didn’t keep track of the time, but if each one took an hour, on average, that’s 17-hours, well spent.

I’m also using Twitter during the Tour to announce each stop, and here are the Tweets I’m using several times a day. I’ll be back to add new ones as they appear.

The publicist I use to organize and arrange a book blog tour is Teddy Rose and Bill Pope, Virtual Author Book Tours.com
http://www.virtualauthorbooktours.com/category/about-us/

Day 1 of Bk-Blog Tour
1st Review
@ SoManyPreciousBookSoLittleTime
tinyurl.com/mswrq9a
pic.twitter.com/91ek9zmYgz

>>>Amazon Sales Rank #46 on Memoir-Educator genre list<<<

Day 2 of Bk-Blog Tour
1st Guest Post
@ InspireToRead
I worked with 6,000+ students
http://bit.ly/1vAHVru

>>>Amazon Sales Rank #73 on Memoir-Educator genre list<<<

Day 3 of Bk-Blog Tour
2nd Guest Post
@ TheWormhole
http://bit.ly/ZBJ5Z0

>>>Amazon Sales Rank #85 on Memoir-Educator genre list<<<

Day 5 of Bk-Blog Tour
1st e-mail blast
@ BargainBooksy
http://bit.ly/1Erdyca

>>>Amazon Sales Rank #8 on Memoir-Educator genre list<<<

Day 6 of Bk-Blog Tour
2nd Review
Welcome to #CassandraMsPlace
http://bit.ly/10FddD6
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-C4X6f0B5g

Day 6 of Bk-Blog Tour
1st interview
@ PinkysFavorteReads
http://bit.ly/1CP2q79

>>>Amazon Sales Rank #13 on Memoir-Educator genre list<<<

Day-7 of Bk-Blog Tour
@ FussyLibrarian
2nd e-mail blast
60,919 readers interested in Memoirs
http://bit.ly/1lvZaI5

>>>Amazon Sales Rank #9 on Memoir-Educator genre list<<<

Day-8 of Bk-Blog Tour
@DrBillsBookBazaar
Says “this fabulous memoir”
3rd Review
http://bit.ly/1pQEiJj
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-C4X6f0B5g

>>>Amazon Sales Rank #16 on Memoir-Educator genre<<<

Day 9 of Bk-Blog Tour
@ BeingTillysMummy
3rd Guest Post
http://bit.ly/1yQGTw7

>>>Amazon Sales Rank #30 on Memoir-Educator genre list<<<

Day 10 of Bk-Blog Tour
@ BeingTillysMummy
An excerpt from Crazy is Normal
http://bit.ly/1w07KlM

>>>Amazon Sales Rank #41 on Memoir-Educator genre list<<<

Day 13 of Bk-Blog Tour
@ Unselfish
4th Review
http://bit.ly/ZXfdGS

>>>Amazon Sales Rank #49 on Memoir-Educator genre list<<<

Day14 of Bk-Blog Tour
@ BackPorchervations
5th Review
Interview
Excerpt
http://bit.ly/1qRb51l

>>>Amazon Sales Rank #58 on Memoir-Educator genre list<<<

Day15 of Bk-Blog Tour
@ SincerelyStacie
6th Review
http://bit.ly/1umMBOx

>>>Amazon Sales Rank #19 on Memoir-Educator genre list<<<

Day 17 of Bk-Blog Tour
@ HeckOfABunch
7th Review and Giveaway
http://bit.ly/1zgn6GG

Day 17 of Bk-Blog Tour
3rd e-mail blast
@ eRederNewsToday
http://bit.ly/1vu2DdV

>>>Amazon Sales Rank #3 on Memoir-Educator genre list<<<

Number 3 Memoir Crazy is Normal Day 18

Woke up this morning to this and 8-hours later Crazy is Normal was still ranked at #3 on Amazon.

Day 20 of Bk-Blog Tour
4th e-mail blast
@ BookGorilla.com
http://www.bookgorilla.com/deals

>>>Amazon Sales Rank #2 on Memoir-Educator genre list<<<

Day 21 of Bk-Blog Tour
@ BooksBooksandMoreBooks
8th Review
http://bit.ly/1pC3nYA

>>>Amazon Sales Rank #4 on Memoir-Educator genre list<<<

Day 22 of Bk-Blog Tour
Lu Ann Worley
@ RockinBookReviews
9th Review
Interview
& Excerpt
http://bit.ly/1tgWmBj

>>>Amazon Sales Rank #4 on Memoir-Educator genre list<<<

Day 23 of Bk-Blog Tour
With Melissa Beck
@ TheBookBinder’sDaughter
10th Review
With Interview
bit.ly/ZP0Ovt

>>>Amazon Sales Rank #4 on Memoir-Educator genre list<<<

Between Book Blog visits—10-24 to 10-28—promotional ads ran on:
http://www.ebooklister.net/
http://www.sweetiespicks.com/
http://digitalbooktoday.com/
and
http://www.worldliterarycafe.com/

Day 29 of Bk-Blog Tour

With Lisa @ The News in Books

11th Review

With Guest Post

http://www.thenewsinbooks.com/crazy-is-normal-a-review/

>>>Amazon Sales Rank #8 on Amazon’s Memoir-Educator genre<<<

Day 30 of Bk-Blog Tour

Hosted by M. Denise Costello

12th Review

With Excerpt

http://www.mdenisecostello.com/2014/10/30/crazy-is-normal-by-lloyd-lofthouse/

>>>Amazon Sales Rank #5 on Memoir-Educator genre list<<<

Day 31 of Bk-Blog Tour

13th Review
@ DWD’s Reviews of Books, Audibooks, Music and Video
http://dwdsreviews.blogspot.ca/2014/10/crazy-is-normal-classroom-expose-memoir.html

Day 33 of Bk-Blog Tour
November 2, 2014

http://www.southerncaliforniabookfestival.com/

LOW RES Biographies and Autobiographies for the 2014 Southern California Book Festival

Day 34 of Bk-Blog Tour
14th Review
@ She Treads Softly
http://shetreadssoftly.blogspot.com/2014/11/crazy-is-normal.html

Day 34 of Bk-Blog Tour
People Reads Weekly Feature Promotion from November 3 – 9
http://www.peoplereads.com/

>>>Amazon Sales Rank #14 on Memoir-Educator genre list<<<

Day 35 of Bk-Blog Tour
15th review
@ Celtic Lady’s Reviews
http://www.celticladysreviews.blogspot.ca/2014/11/crazy-normal-by-lloyd-lofthouse-review.html

Day 35 of Bk-Blog Tour
November 4
Choosy Bookworm Promotion
http://choosybookworm.com/

>>>Amazon Sales Rank #5 on Memoir-Educator genre list<<<

Day 39 of Bk-Blog Tour
Indie Book Promo.com will run from November 8 to December 8
http://indiebookpromo.com/

>>>Amazon Sales Rank #44 on Memoir-Educator genre list<<<

Day 41 of Bk-Blog Tour
The Fussy Librarian Promotion
http://www.thefussylibrarian.com/about

Day 41 of Bk-Blog Tour
16th Review
@ What U Talking ‘Bout Willis?
http://www.whatutalkingboutwillis.info/crazy-normal-book-review/

>>>Amazon Sales Rank #15 on Memoir-Educator genre list<<<

Day 42 of Bk-Blog Tour
17th Review
@ From Isi – Come. Read. Enjoy
http://fromisi.wordpress.com/2014/11/11/crazy-is-normal-by-lloyd-lofthouse/

>>>Amazon Sales Rank #9 on Memoir-Educator genre list<<<

 

Day 43 of Bk-Blog Tour
18th Review
@ Reading to Distraction
http://www.readingtodistraction.com/book-reviews/2014/10/13/crazy-is-normal

Day 43 of Bk-Blog Tour
19th Review & Excerpt
@ Manic Mama of 3
http://manicmamaof3.wordpress.com/2014/11/12/crazy-is-normal-book-review-excerp/

>>>Amazon Sales Rank #9 on Memoir-Educator genre list<<<

Day 47 of Bk-Blog Tour
Author event in Oakland, California at the main library with the California Writers  Club’s Berkeley Branch followed by Howard Allen VanEs who talked about book marketing
http://cwc-berkeley.org/
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10152817792969144

 >>>Amazon Sales Rank #41 on Memoir-Educator genre list<<<

Day 48 of Bk-Blog Tour
21st Review
Interview & Excerpt
@ Deal Sharing Aunt
http://www.dealsharingaunt.blogspot.ca/2014/11/crazy-is-normal-by-lloyd-lofthouse.html

>>>Amazon Sales Rank #10 on Memoir-Educator genre list<<<

Day 49, November 18, 2014
This is the Last day of this Bk-Blog Tour
22nd Review
@ Feminist Reflections
http://www.feministreflections.com/2014/11/book-tour-crazy-is-normal-by-lloyd.html

>>>Amazon Sales Rank #15 on Memoir-Educator genre list<<<

_______________________

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

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

lloydlofthouse_crazyisnormal_web2_5

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. 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).

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

Running with the Enemy on a Kindle Countdown starting August 24

The Amazon Countdown Deal starts August 24 and runs to the end of the month.
0.99ȼ
Also a Kindle Unlimited Title

Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime members can read this novel for free.

Photo for Amazon Countdown Deal

http://www.amazon.com/Running-Enemy-Lloyd-Lofthouse-ebook/dp/B00B42PPX0/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=

 

How Blogging helped me find Readers and sell Books

It seems that many authors think that if they are not writing a book, it’s a waste of their time. For instance, producing a blog. If you are an author who thinks that way, I suggest you think again, and learn how to blog properly.

To make a point, I’m not going to start out talking about blogging. I’m going to mention poetry. Back in the early 1980s, I fell in love with writing poetry when I took a summer workshop from a Pulitzer Prize winning poet while I was working toward an MFA in writing.

I have never earned any money from my poetry, but I write it anyway and post my poems on Authors Den. The 124 poems I’ve posted there have had almost 80-thousand views. My latest poem, Smartphone, has had more than 50 views so far, and I posted it this week.

My fifty-five articles on Authors Den have had almost 50-thousand views, and the fifty-two news pieces I posted there have had more than 23-thousand views.

In fact, the excerpts of my three books on Authors Den total almost 72-thousand views.

There’s also one short story, and it’s had 1,917 views. I also published A Night at the Well of Puritya finalist in the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards—on one of my blogs where it’s had another 125 views.

The idea behind all of this free stuff that I write is to attract readers who might decide to buy and read one or more of my books, and I also enjoy doing it.

But the Authors Den stats are nothing compared to the views on the Blog I launched to support my first book, My Splendid Concubine, a novel that’s sold more than 20-thousand copies. iLookChina.net has 7,481 followers and more than 500-thousand views. In fact, I can track the before and after sales of the novel this blog supports as part of my branded internet author platform.

As I’m writing this post, iLookChina currently has 1,897 posts, and I wrote most of them. So far, for 2014, the site averages 239 views a day. I launched iLookChina in late January 2010, but Concubine only sold 221 copies its first year in 2008, and to promote the book that year, I was on 31-radio talk shows as a China expert, held several author events in local brick-and-mortar bookstores, and conducted two book-blog tours—but I wasn’t blogging.

How has blogging translated into sales of My Splendid Concubine? Well, by the end of 2010—after I had written and published more than 1,000 posts on iLookChina, Concubine sold 2,375 copies that year—more than four times the combined sales of the first-two years. In 2011, Concubine sold another 4,641 copies, and in 2012, four thousand one-hundred-fifty-eight sold, and more than five thousand in 2013.

In addition, in 2009, before I launched iLookChina.net, Concubine sold only 341 books for an average of 28 a month—that’s less than one a day. Over the years, I’ve launched several other blogs and published two more books, a thriller called Running with the Enemy, and a memoir called Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé.

There’s another benefit to writing more than just books. The more an author writes—even Blog posts or poetry that readers may view free—the better the author’s writing becomes, and when I took an all-day blogging workshop from Bill Belew through the South Bay branch of the California Writers Club in late 2007, Belew said we can write a Blog and eventually turn what we write into a book.

What I don’t do on my blogs is write that much about me, my writing habits, or my books. This post is one of the exceptions. Instead, I focus on China, its history, its politics, its culture and its people. For the blog, The Soulful Veteran, that supports my thriller, I write mostly about war, combat, military issues, PTSD, etc. For my third book, a memoir, I write about teaching, public education, children and parenting at Crazy Normal.  Then there’s this blog, Lloyd Lofthouse.org, where I write on any topic that strikes my fancy. I’ve even written about Growing up with Oranges.

After every post I publish, there’s a line that separates the post from a short bio of me and a blurb about my books with links—scroll down to see what I’m talking about. To learn more about how to Blog properly, I suggest you start out by watching the two videos from Bill Belew that are embedded in this post. Because Belew taught me how to blog, why not let him teach you too?


This presentation explains how to overcome the obstacle to getting started with your blog and web site. Bill Belew is an SEO and web traffic guru – a real one. No fancy tricks. Just long hard and long lasting effort.

In conclusion, if you read this far, thank you for visiting. You may never buy or read one of my books, but you might tell someone about this post who will. Think about it.

_______________________

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

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

lloydlofthouse_crazyisnormal_web2_5

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. 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).

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

Thank you for asking me to review your book, but …

Occasionally, an e-mail arrives in my overcrowded inbox—like one did today—from an author asking me to review a book, and 99.9 percent of the time I say no. Then I offer advice on where to seek reviews from what I have learned since I launched my first title in December 2007.

Does that mean I don’t read books?  Of course I read books. I have exactly sixteen very patient tree-books waiting on my bedside table. Some have been waiting to be read for months. I also have four audio books (on CDs) waiting for me to review. These days, I read more books with my ears than my eyes.

Hint—ask avid readers for reviews who don’t write books. The odds of hearing a yes might be better.

The reason why I don’t accept 99.9 percent of books authors ask me to review is due to the fact that I’m usually spending fourteen hours a day, seven days a week, from 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM working on my next book, or promoting the books I’ve already published. For instance, it’s Sunday and I’ve been at it since before 6:00 this morning. I did take a break to walk two miles and eat. I’m eating now as I write this and it’s almost 4:00 PM.

I even force myself to get out of my chair and walk to the bathroom when the call comes, and Monday through Friday, I spend an hour a day exercising with weights and aerobics—something I get out of the way as early as possible.

Here’s some of the advice I offer:

I understand the hunger for reviews, so I suggest starting out with a Library Thing Giveaway in addition to hiring an internet publicist—my publicist is Teddy Rose—for a few hundred dollars to arrange a book blog tour that might generate a few more reviews that appear on Amazon and on blogs that review the book.

You might even want to attempt a Goodreads Giveaway, but be warned, there are trolls who are members of Goodreads dedicated to trashing books—that they never read—with rotten reviews and 1-star ratings, and that even happens on Amazon. Trolls are mean, sneaky, mentally ill people addicted to anonymously hurting others, and standing up to them just motivates the trolls to be meaner. Consider these trolls to be the Ebola virus of the internet. If you question why there are such people on the earth, think about Hitler, Stalin, Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.

You may not know this, but last year when I decided to stand up to a flock of Goodreads trolls who attacked me and my work, one of them predicted my career as an author was over—more than seven thousand copies of my work has been sold since that flame war.

Once a book has garnered enough positive reviews to be considered, I suggest submitting to sites such as BookBub or eReaderNews Today and then, if they accept the book for a paid e-mail blast advertisement—you have to offer it for sale at a reduced price or for free—be aware that not everyone who reads a book will review it, but a few might.

For instance, My Splendid Concubine had an e-mail blast from BookBub earlier this month, and the book has already garnered two, great 5-star reviews from verified purchases and one review from a troll that wasn’t a verified purchase—most trolls are too cheap to even pay 99 cents for a book they plan to trash. Since this June’s BookBub blast, as of this morning, Concubine has sold more than 3,000 copies.

There’s also eBookBooster to announce a book that is going on sale. Click the link and discover for yourself what eBookBooster offers and what it costs, and never forget that there are no guarantees for anything you do as an author to promote your work.

The truth is that for most authors, it takes time, patience and persistence to attract readers, reviews and build an audience. Because there’s a lot of competition from other authors, that means readers and sites like BookBub get to reject books and even ignore them if they aren’t interested.

There’s also another reputable site I know of to submit a book for a possible review, but even The Midwest Book Review only accepts about a third of the books sent to them. For instance, Midwest reviewed my first book, My Splendid Concubine, but didn’t review my second book, Running with the Enemy.

Midwest will not tell you that they haven’t accepted your book for a review or the reason why. What happens when a book is not reviewed by Midwest is that you will never hear from them. If they review the book, they will contact you and send you a copy of the review.

Also, be aware that Amazon will not allow sites like Midwest to post reader reviews. That doesn’t mean Midwest sells fake reviews, but it does mean that Amazon has a policy not to allow any review that was paid for to be posted on their site as a reader review.

Midwest reviews are free for paperbacks but not for e-books. Because Midwest charges a fee for e-books submitted to be reviewed, that disqualifies all Midwest reviews from being posted on Amazon as reader reviews even though they are reader reviews. Here’s my disclaimer—I have never paid Midwest for a review, because I have always submitted paperback copies to them.

Does that mean reviews that Amazon will not allow to be posted on their site can’t appear on the Amazon page of your book?

Unless Amazon changes their policies and rules, any reviews that Amazon rejects as a reader review may be posted through Amazon Author Central. To see what I mean, I suggest you visit the Amazon pages for My Splendid Concubine and Running with the Enemy.  Scroll down and read each Book Description and/or the Editorial Reviews section, where the awards and some pull quotes from reviews are posted. These appear before the reader reviews.

These are legitimate awards and reviews that come from reputable sources. The literary contests charged entry fees for juried literary contests that offer no guarantee that a book will earn an award. In fact, I have been told by the book festival organizers that less than five percent of submissions earn awards.

In addition, next time someone tells you that it’s wrong to pay a fee to enter a literary contest, consider this: The National Book Award that is announced in the national media annually, charges an entry fee of $135 for each title submitted, and the Pulitzer Prize charges authors/publishers a $50 entry fee and again charges to attend the award ceremony where an author, who is a finalist, might not win. The National Book Award and the Pulitzer are considered by the media to be two of the most prestigious literary awards in the United States and possibly the world.

_______________________

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

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

lloydlofthouse_crazyisnormal_web2_5

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. 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).

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

How I sold almost 2,000 books in twenty hours

for the July 6 update,
scroll to the bottom

If you are a serious author—indie or traditional—then you’re in business and should have an internet platform. The simplest platform might just be a blog, or it could be more complex with a combination of a website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter account, and an Amazon author page, etc.

Once an author has an internet platform, there’s one more step to seriously consider—to advertise. Although I have been a guest on thirty-one, traditional radio talk shows, advertised in a regional magazine, held several author events in brick and mortar bookstores, earned awards from literary contests and been on several book blog tours, the only two marketing methods that resulted in immediate, measurable sales was through blogging on iLookChina and buying e-mail blasts from BookBub and/or Ereader News Today.

So far, in one year, I’ve paid for two BookBub e-mail blasts, and three with Ereader News Today, and they have all resulted in increased sales and paid for themselves with a profit.

For BookBub, I submitted my first historical fiction novel My Splendid Concubine back in early 2013, and it was accepted. That first BookBub e-mail blast went out on June 16, 2013, and resulted in 2,699 sales before the price went back up to $3.99 a week later.

After my second novel Running with the Enemy was rejected recently by BookBub, I submitted the book to Ereader News Today.  You should know that BookBub only accepts 10 to15 percent of the books submitted to them, and if your book is accepted, it isn’t a free e-mail blast. It’s costly—several hundred dollars at least with no guarantee the results will be a success.

HiDef Kindle Cover December11

Ereader News Today accepted Running with the Enemy for an e-mail blast that went out March 28, 2014, resulting in ninety-eight books sold over a period of seven days. Ninety-eight books doesn’t sound like much compared to two thousand six hundred ninety-nine, but the results were impressive nonetheless when we take into account that Running with the Enemy hasn’t found its audience yet, and was the focus of a flame war in 2013 by a vicious tribe of Goodreads internet bullies, who were responsible for at least one of the two 1-star reviews of this book on Amazon. The second, more recent 1-star review was left by another troll.

Both of these trolls were liars. The oldest 1-star review claimed to have read the book, but she never did, because only three copies had been sold when she posted her review on Amazon, and her review wasn’t a verified purchase. On Amazon, if you buy a book, the review will be listed automatically as a verified purchase.

The second, most recent 1-star review of “Running with the Enemy” said, “Why I stopped reading: I’ve never given up on a book before the 20% mark. I’ve never given up on a book that I agreed to review for an author—until today.”

That was also a lie, because in the last two years, this reviewer stopped reading twenty books she had agreed to review, and she stopped reading five of them before the twenty percent mark. In fact, for one book, she stopped reading thirteen percent of the way in.

Back to why selling ninety-eight copies of Running with the Enemy through an Ereader News Today e-mail blast was impressive, because this book was selling, starting in February 2013, an average of 4.7 copies a month. Going from that to 107—nine copies sold before the Ereader News blast went out—is more than twenty-four times the monthly average, and only 11 copies sold the next month after the price returned to $3.99.

Back to My Splendid Concubine’s second BookBub blast that went out at 11:30 AM on June 18, 2014—by June 19 at 6:45 AM—about twenty hours later—ASIN: B00578UNLG, had reached an Amazon Best Sellers Rank of #59 paid in the Kindle store. Before the BookBub blast, the best seller rank hovered around one hundred thousand out of more than three million books listed on Amazon. In addition, in the first twenty hours, Concubine sold 1,915 copies—almost as many copies as it sold a year earlier for the same number of hours.

The cost for an Ereader News Today e-mail blast will be 25% of the earnings received as a result of the posting. This will be based on the number of books that were sold through their links on the day the book was posted and the day after, which they will report to you in the invoice that you receive.

In addition, I paid twenty-five dollars to EBook Booster to submit the Concubine sale information to twenty-five other sites that announce free and/or reduced e-book sales. I also paid six dollars to The Fussy Librarian to post the sale announcement there too. If you want to know what I paid for the BookBub blast, the answer is on their site. I paid for a Historical Fiction ninety-nine cent sale.

This second BookBub blast also resulted in a new 5-star review posted June 19, by Amazon’s number three, highest ranked reviewer and avid reader Joanna Daneman, who has reviewed almost three thousand books on Amazon. Too bad I can’t write as fast as she reads. And the ninety-nine cent sale isn’t over until after June 24, 2014

Kindle_LR_e-book_cover_MSC_July_25_2013

Joanna Daneman’s Amazon review
Like “Shogun” but set in Imperial China. REALLY GOOD!

This was a huge surprise–Lloyd Lofthouse’s novel about Robert Hart and Imperial China right after the Opium Wars is fascinating, dramatic and it’s almost impossible to believe it was based on a real character because it reads like a blockbuster novel. Robert Hart, the main character was called the “Godfather of China’s modernism.” He arrived in China almost as a soldier of fortune, and ended up as a completely fluent, trusted advisor to the Chinese court and the British, having learned perfect Chinese but more importantly, the intricacies of the culture.

This book is a lot like “Shogun”–in fact, if you liked “Shogun”, you’ll probably enjoy this book. The themes are similar; an unbathed, barbaric Westerner becomes enchanted with the local women, falls in love, is repelled and confused by an alien culture, but immerses himself so deeply in the ways China that he becomes able to navigate the twisted channels and treacherous waters of Chinese diplomacy and court life. Instead of Japan. Bushido and the Tokugawa Shogunate, we have here the China’s Qing Dynasty and the two regent empresses and the young emperor, and the vast Mandarin bureaucracy buttressed by Confucianism and Tao.

There is a lot of sex in this book, but it isn’t simply for titillation; it shows Hart’s total enchantment with China and the people in the person of Ayaou, his concubine. Her story and the story of how Hart won her is the personal side of a very interesting historical novel.

I couldn’t put this book down. I hope Lloyd Lofthouse will write more.

Discover other posts about publishing and promotion:

Authors Finding Readers

Discover how Amazon changed book cover design and why authors need to pay attention

Learning Twitter for authors; then tweeting magic

Number 2 and then Number 4 on July 4 - 2014

UPDATE
Posted July 6, 2014

“My Splendid Concubine” officially went on sale June 18, 2014 when a BookBub blast went out at 11:30 AM.

By 6:44 AM the next day, June 19, the book had sold 1,941 copies. By 6:26 AM on July 20, another 550 had sold.

Jump to the end of the month on June 30, and Concubine sold a total of 3,015 copies. “Running with the Enemy” sold 18 and “Crazy is Normal” four. So far, for just July to today at 5:59 AM, another 59 copies sold at the full price. For a comparison, only 40 copies sold in May.

For a better comparison of the impact of the BookBub blast in addition to other June cross promotions on Twitter and through other sites:

In 2008, the first year, “My Splendid Concubine” sold a total of 221 copies or an average of 18 a month.

In 2009, 341 copies were sold for an average of 28 a month.

In 2010, after launching my first serious Blog, iLookChina.net, and publishing more than one thousand posts before the year ended, 2,375 copies of Concubine had been sold for an average of 180 a month.

In 2011, 4,641 copies were sold for an average of 387 a month.

In 2012, 4,158 sold for an average of 346 a month.

In 2013—the first year I paid for a June BookBub blast, 5,044 were sold for an average of 458 a month.

In addition, the following 5-star review was also a result of the BookBub blast promotion,
and look who wrote it.

Snapshot of Joanna Daneman review posted June 19 2014

_________________

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

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

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. 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).

The Realty of Honest Reviews and Book Blog Tours

Last Saturday, March 1, 2014, I received an e-mail from the publicist who arranged the March Book Blog Tour for my novel, Running with the Enemy. She was writing to let me know that one of the tour hosts who’d agreed to read my book and review it on her blog wasn’t going to read it and there wasn’t going to be a review posted on that Blog (I’ve removed the blog’s name and it’s host’s name from this post).

Here’s the reason for the change: “I wanted to let you know that (the book Blog host) handed the book off to one of her other readers who requested it. She never told me that it was for one of her reviewers and not herself.  That reader found it too violent and couldn’t finish it. (The blog host) won’t be posting a review but will be posting a spotlight of the book instead.  I really have to wonder if there are people who think you soldiers were out in the field eating bonbons, rather than shedding blood for your country!  I thought I made it crystal clear in the invitation that this was not a feel good, romanticized fluff novel.”

Here’s my response to the publicist who arranged the tour:

It’s understandable that many readers in North America and Europe might be repulsed by the violence in the novel, because more than 93% of Americans, for instance, have never served in the military and even fewer have fought in a war.

There are more than 316 million Americans today, but only 1.8 million served in the Korean War; 2.7 million in the Vietnam War, and 2.3 million in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.

That means that in the United States, less than 2% (this number is probably much smaller due to the deaths of veterans over time) of the population has been exposed to the violence of war. Only a combat veteran understands what it’s like and we’re an often misunderstood minority most Americans would rather sweep under the carpet.

Low Res e-book and paperback covers joined December 13

e-book cover                                     paperback cover

In fact, the only exposure to war most North Americans experience is the romanticized, sanitized, Hollywoodized versions of war that is one of the reasons I joined the US Marines in 1965 thinking of glory and not gore. Over the years, I’ve only seen a couple of films that came close to real combat. Most films are fantasies that glorify boozing, violence and sex, and the few scenes of violence are usually edited (sanitized). This may explain why the big money makers from Hollywood are usually fantasies or cartoons like the recent Lego film that a neighbor said was silly.

It was in the summer of 1965 in MCRD (Marine Corps boot camp in San Diego) that I started to wake up to a reality often not found in films. That summer of training was harsh and demanding where fear coursed through our blood daily as the drill instructors pushed us to the physical and mental brink of collapse and sometimes beyond to strip us of our ignorant innocence and convert us into killing machines willing to die on command.

Then right out of boot camp, we were shipped to Vietnam, where my childhood dreams of glory and heroism from watching John Wayne movies (and other films) evaporated and never returned.  Instead, I came home in 1966 a heavy drinker with a heavy dose of PTSD and night flashbacks so vivid that I often awoke in a cold sweat in a semi nightmare state where I was back in the battlefield being hunted by the Vietcong.

Even to this day, I feel helpless if I don’t have a weapon within easy reach—a knife or a firearm. I still sleep with a .38 caliber pistol. If I lock that weapon up in the gun safe, I can’t sleep. I lay awake all night listening to every sound wondering how long it would take me to open the safe if someone broke in the house.

My medical provider is the Veterans Administration (VA), and on the door to the VA clinic I go to is a sign that says we have to leave any weapons in our cars—don’t bring them inside.

When I stopped swilling the booze back in the early 80s—after my first marriage ended—I started to manage the anger that comes with the PTSD so it wouldn’t consume me and destroy my life totally. The anger is always there like a simmering volcano that occasionally flares up. This may explain why I prefer the life of an introvert. Crowds make me nervous.

Running with the Enemy, although fiction, represents what I experienced in combat, and why I used that 1880 General William Tecumseh Sherman quote to open the book.

War, like rape, is hell. War does things to most of the troops who actually fight in combat. It’s also why I can’t condemn combat troops who end up committing atrocities like the Mai Lai massacre in Vietnam or what happened in Abu Gharib prison in Iraq where there was torture and abuse. Those troops didn’t need to go to prison for what they did. They needed help to recover from the combat trauma that ruined their lives. Maybe a mental hospital/prison would have been a better place to end up with help to heal if healing was possible.

Many if not all of us who joined the military mostly do so out of patriotism—naive and innocent we went off to war singing patriotic songs, and then, like a Dr. Jekyll, many of us combat veterans came back as a Mr. Hyde changed for the worse. For us who manage our demons and stay mostly in control, we must always be on guard to control the dark stain on our souls that was birthed in combat.

Running with the Enemy, not for the faint of heart, is on sale for .99 cents through March (2014) and in April the price returns to $3.99. A few pull quotes from reviews might paint a more complete picture of the story.

A judge for the 21st Writers Digest Self-Published Awards said, “Quite good and has a lot to say about the nature of conflict.” Another reviewer said, “Well written with very graphic language and violent scenes, but a very good suspense book.” A third reviewer said, “I was sucked in by the nitty gritty feng shui of the book; then repelled by the sexual violence.”

The reality is that as authors—if we are honest—we have no control over how any reader will respond to our work.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine, Vietnam Veteran and English-journalism teacher.

His latest novel is the award winning Running with the Enemy that started life as a memoir and then became a fictional suspense thriller. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

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

Learning Twitter for authors; then tweeting magic

Several years ago I joined Twitter and set up an automatic feed from my first Blog—iLookChina.net; then I ignored Twitter for more than four years. I had no idea how to use Twitter or Facebook properly. Both sites confused me and Facebook still does.

In fact, it’s been so long since I signed up for my Twitter account, I had to visit Twopcharts.com to discover that I first signed up on March 16, 2009—1,782 days counting back from January 31, 2014, but I started building my author’s platform December 2007 when I launched my first website. The blogs came later, and after I started to seriously blog in 2010, sales took off from 341 for 2009 to 2,375 for 2010, and in 2013, my work sold 5,044 books—the best year yet.

Then last May—1,531 days or 4.19 years after I signed up for my Twitter account—I was encouraged by another author to seriously start working it. A week later a speaker at the Berkeley Branch of the California Writers Club (est. 1906 by Jack London and friends)—where I am a member—told the audience that writers/authors needed to be on Twitter—that Twitter was crucial for an author’s platform.

Still not sure how to use Twitter, I found a short tutorial and read it; then turned to YouTube and watched several videos. The embedded videos in this post may give you an idea of what YouTube has to offer.

On May 25, 2013, I posted my first original tweet—Historical Novel Review says “written in gritty way enhanced by vivid compelling descriptions that seem too real” @ http://goo.gl/gPnwP 

Since then—for the 251 days before January 31, 2014—I retweeted or posted almost 35,000 times, and I’m still learning how to use Twitter properly.

In those first-four years while I was doing little to nothing with Twitter beyond automatic feeds from my first Blog, my Twitter page attracted about 400 followers.

But since May 25, 2013 that number has improved dramatically; when I starting writing this post, I had more than 4,200 followers and was following more than 4,600.  I’m also retweeting and tweeting three times a day when possible—a morning Twitter session; another one in the afternoon, and a third in the evening. I know there are sites—like Hootsuite—that offer automatic feeds of one kind or another, but I haven’t taken advantage of that yet. I’m still thinking about it.

I’ve also discovered that everyone on Twitter doesn’t tweet the same way. For instance, there are those—it seems—who tweet an endless stream of thank you, thank, thank you, and don’t say much of anything else. Then there are others who tweet stuff that doesn’t work well for retweeting.

I have now developed a routine where I post two originals tweets together and then retweet (RT) others five or more times who retweeted one of my originals. The reason I follow this pattern is so anyone who retweets my tweets won’t have to scroll far down the page to find one to RT, because I’ve learned that it isn’t always easy to find something to RT when you have to scroll for several minutes past hundreds of tweets searching for one that’s worth retweeting.

Anyway, I maintain four Blogs and in each pair of original tweets I post, I Tweet something that includes a shortened link that leads back to one of my blog posts [where I have written and published more than 2,200 posts], Websites or my books on Amazon. I almost never thank anyone for retweeting my tweets. Instead, I visit their Twitter page and RT something interesting they tweeted—if I can find something interesting.

The results of this effort and then some [the following numbers are based on referrers for All time]:

By 6:46 PM on Thursday, January 30, 2014, my Soulful Veteran Blog had a total of 160 visitors who had arrived from Twitter; 2,046 from search engines; 474 from the Website for My Splendid Concubine; 10 from my Facebook page, and 3 from Google +.

iLookChina.net has had 529 visitors arrive from Twitter; 234,889 from search engines; 1,284 from Facebook, and 520 from Google +.

Crazy Normal—my blog about education, teaching and parenting—has had 407 visitors from Twitter; 254 from DianeRavitch.net; 93 from Facebook; 9,765 from search engines, and 50 from Google +.

For my signature Website/Blog—Lloyd Lofthouse.org—925 arrived from Twitter; 8,214 through search engines; 1,849 from Yahoo! (where I leave comments in news piece forums); 479 from Facebook; 11 from LinkedIn, and one from Google +.

Note that this isn’t the entire list of referrals to my Blogs—visitors arriving from other sites and sources.

As for book sales, there’s no way to link sales to Twitter, Facebook, Google +, my Blogs/Websites or any other site, but my first two novels have sold almost twenty thousand copies and continue to sell steadily.

_______________________

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

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

lloydlofthouse_crazyisnormal_web2_5

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. 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).

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

 

Discover how Amazon changed book cover design and why authors need to pay attention

There’s a reason that the Midwest Book Review [est. 1976] rejects books from the covers before even opening the book to discover the story inside. To learn more, I suggest you read what Midwest has to say about The Importance of Book Covers.

Midwest says, “[Titles] are rejected for having cover art that looked like the product of a high-school drawing class assignment for beginners. Cover art that was so avant-garde that it left all mainstream sensibilities bewildered in its wake. Cover art that looked cheap, felt cheap, was cheap.”

The same logic applies for readers who are in search of a good read. The first thing readers see is the cover and there are too many books to choose from. The cover that wins the contest for the eyes usually means the book is picked up and opened.

Because of this, the first book I published that ended up with two covers was “My Splendid Concubine’s” 3rd edition when a fellow author said the paperback cover wasn’t working on Amazon as a thumbnail sized cover. I think it was because there was too much detail in the original art work.

LowRes_e-book-and-paperback-cover-together

The reason why authors need to rethink book covers has been explored by C.K. Abbott on her blog. She says, “Paperback book covers have to perform different jobs than Kindle covers.”

Here’s where I may have made my mistake—twice. For both “My Splendid Concubine’s” 3rd edition and “Running with the Enemy”, my first two novels, I commissioned an artist to create original art quilts and then took photos of the quilts to convert into book covers—those impressive art quilts now hang on our bedroom wall.

But here’s the twist. It’s all in the size. What looks great large doesn’t always work in a smaller size.

The original quilt for Concubine was 23 inches wide by 31 long, and the quilt for “Running with the Enemy” was 21 x 27. After I took the photographs, I shrunk them to 5.5 x 8.5 for the paperback covers.  On Amazon, those same covers were even smaller and the rich details in the original quilts were lost.

As an indie author in charge of every step of book production, it’s possible to get carried away—like I did—when it comes to experimenting with other art forms to create original book covers.

In another Blog post, Scarlett Rugers discusses how to choose the right font for your eBook cover. Rugers is an award winning book cover designer from Melbourne, and the work she displays on her site is stunning.

But cover art appears in more places than on a paperback or Amazon. Cover art needs to be effective in both a thumbnail and larger-than-life on a poster and Read Owl.com discusses this topic in Seven Tips for Great Cover Design.

Low Res e-book and paperback covers joined December 13

And at Book View Cafe.com we learn: “It is a fact that most potential customers for any particular ebook will first encounter the cover image as a thumbnail. With that in mind, cover designers have trended toward simple art, toward large type size rendered in straightforward fonts. Cover illustrations have been demoted to lesser importance. Graphic considerations reign.

“Unfortunately, far too many ebook designers are still thinking like print book designers. The only difference is they have applied the rule of making covers that are legible at thumbnail size. They’re repeating that mantra until they throw the baby out with the bathwater.”

If you want to see more stunning book covers, check out the winners of the e-Book Cover Design Awards, September 2013, by clicking on this link for The Book Designer.com.

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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).

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

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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. 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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