Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Wonderful Review For "Love In A Cafe"

I do admit patience is not a virtue of mine. But many months ago, I discovered a blog, written by Alain Gomez, called "Book Brouhaha" which actually reviews short stories. I sent an email to Alain at the time, asking her if she would review one or more of my short stories in the "Ancient Tales, Modern Legends" Collection. After a while I truly forgot about it or let us say it was way in the back of my mind. Then a few days ago an email suddenly appeared in my inbox from Alain, that she would be posting a review on "Love In A Cafe". 

So being me, and always assuming the worst, I knew Alain had a rating system of 1-5 stars (or maybe 0-5 stars). So I was hoping for maybe a 2 or 2.5 star rating as she does not give them out easily. 

I was pleasantly surprised (actually shocked would be a better term) to see she had given "Love In A Cafe" 4/5 stars and a wonderful review. I am quoting the review below but you are welcome to click here and visit "Book Brouhaha" review of "Love In A Cafe". 

Much like a good cup of coffee, this is the type of story that makes you sit and savor the moment.  At first I was a little thrown off by the structure of "Love in a Cafe."  The author divides it up into chapters which is unusual for a story this length. 

But nothing about the plot feels rushed or "wannabe-novel" (i.e. didn't feel like writing a whole novel so everything is crammed into low word count).  Yes, there are large gaps of elapsed time between chapters but Gross does an excellent job adding just enough details to make you feel like you're in the now.

The result was a beautiful love story with a perfectly bittersweet ending.  As with many short stories, this tale doesn't fall clearly into any one genre.  It's a romance but really it's more of a reading experience.  Highly recommended.

4/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez
If you write short stories check out "Book Brouhaha". And Good Luck with the Stars!

Books by Ted William Gross

If you wish to purchase the books at Smashwords click here.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Interview: Cyndee Schaffer and Mollie Weinstein Schaffer, co-authors of “Mollie’s War: The letters of a WWII WAC in Europe”

“Mollie’s War,” is a memoir weaved around the collection of letters that Mollie wrote home to her family during WWII along with historical commentary concurrent with the letters.  Published by McFarland Publishers in August 2010, Mollie’s War documents the human side of life during the war – a life that alternates between fear and romance, exhaustion and leisure.

Genre: Non Fiction, memoir

Published by McFarland Publishers

Why did an average Jewish-American woman become a WAC (Women’s Army Corps) during World War II and place herself in peril?
“Mollie’s War,” answers this question and more.  It is a memoir weaved around the collection of letters that Mollie wrote home to her family during WWII along with historical commentary concurrent with the letters.  Published by McFarland Publishers in August 2010, Mollie’s War documents the human side of life during the war – a life that alternates between fear and romance, exhaustion and leisure.
It took many letters home, sharing everything from daily challenges to exciting experiences (when the censors allowed) for my mother’s story to emerge.  What was it like to be in England while the country was under constant bombardment by unmanned German missiles? Imagine being among the first WACs to enter Normandy after the D-Day invasion. Consider using your French foreign language skills from high school, as my mother did in Normandy, and when she was transferred to Paris serving as informal interpreter in both work and social situations.  Envision a young Jewish woman in Frankfurt, Germany, on Rosh Hashanah, 1945, and walking with other soldiers and officers to the rededication of the only standing synagogue.
The collection of letters vividly depicts my mother’s experiences from her first train trip to Daytona Beach, Florida, for basic training in October, 1943, to the dramatic image of her seeing the illuminated Statue of Liberty in the midst of darkness as her ship approached the U.S. shores when she returned home in November, 1945.  This book may be the first collection of letters published by a Jewish American WAC.
Did you ever wonder what it would be like to work with your mother and learn about her life; and in doing so discover a completely different person?   My mother, Mollie Weinstein Schaffer was a WAC during WWII stationed in Europe.  Like most of her generation, she did not talk about her service. 
In October 2007, my mother received a letter from the daughter of her last surviving WAC buddy that her mother, Mary Grace Loddo Kirby, had passed away.  This unfortunate event gave me the impetuous to begin this project and see it through to the end while my mother was still alive.  I knew I was living on borrowed time……after all my mother was 91 at the time.  My job contract ended in December 2007; so I had the time to collaborate with my mother.   Timing is everything in life.
This project began in earnest in January 2008.  I had a suitcase of letters that my mother wrote home as a WAC stationed in Europe during WWII.  For some reason her family did not throw out her stuff.  Included in that suitcase were lots of memorabilia—over 350 letters, photos, and newspaper clippings.   My mother had labeled all of the pictures with names, dates and location which helped to make my task easier. 
Writing a book based on letters from the 1940’s is a formidable task.  In order to actually be able to use these letters in a book, I needed to read them and to transcribe them---about 1000 pages typed. Some of the original letters were typed, some hand written and some V-mail—reduced in size and very difficult to read.   I also needed to be familiar with the content for the book so I would have a general idea of what I could cut out since no one would read a 1000 page book of letters.  It became a family project as my husband, sister, daughter and son all helped in the transcribing of letters. 
My mother was always cognizant of her being Jewish and this is a theme throughout the book.   She grew up in a Kosher home but being in the army changed her dietary habits.  Eating bacon for breakfast became a staple for her.  On a lighter note, she was aware of the men that she dated and was most pleased when she could describe the young soldier as a M.O.T., member of our tribe.   When she arrived in the newly liberated Paris in September 1944, she used some Nazi stationery to write to her family.
“Yep, we are finally in Paris and you can see that the Americans took over the situation. Can you imagine—ME—with the “handle” that I’ve got using Hitler’s stationery?” 
And then she sent another letter home describing how she was spending her first Yom Kippur away from home
“This is the eve of Yom Kippur and I somehow felt that you would want to know how I am spending Yom Kippur. I am spending it just like any other day in the army—work day. I really could have gotten time off—but I felt that I would rather work. It’s the first time you know for me, but I feel right about it.  I also decided not to fast—which is also unusual for me—but there is no sense in attempting to work on an empty stomach.—So there you are, and I feel right about the whole thing. Even this moment at the office I feel just as if I were home—there is a soft reflection of a light against my window with the grayness of a September day—and it’s almost as if I were home and Mom had lit the candles on the living room table. I don’t think I will go to the synagogue as it would make me homesick—and I don’t want that to happen.…”
In sharp contrast, she was in Frankfurt, Germany on Rosh Hashanah 1945 and witnessed the rededication of its only standing synagogue.   The only reason this synagogue was not destroyed during Kristallnacht was because of it close proximity to Nazi buildings and the Germans did not want to risk destroying their buildings.
“The services were certainly well attended by our Army and Navy personnel. There were a lot of high ranking officers there, too. As for the civilian Jews, there were very few left to attend from this once large community of 34,000 Jews. Beck, these Jews were not dramatic, nor did they carry-on, but one could discern readily the untold suffering they had experienced these many years. They held their heads high—and we were all proud to be a part of them. Yes, the Germans watched us walking in the synagogue and out—they were hanging out of their windows eyeing us carefully. Not one remark was passed; nor did they even speak amongst themselves, that is, while we stared back at them. This was a great day and one I shall never forget. Although I really didn’t want to come to Germany, it was worth it just to see all this. …”
Collaborating with my mother on this project was a very strange experience.  It is impossible to know what your parents were like before they married and became parents, but using my mother’s actual letters and photos felt like being transported by time machine to another era.  Reading and seeing my mother as a young carefree woman who made decisions for herself and traveled the world during this most treacherous time made me realize the full life that she had before she had a family.  My mother was so excited that we were actually working on the book and writing her story because she always wanted people to know about the role that women played in the military in WWII.   We were offered a contract in 2009 with a traditional publisher, McFarland Publishers, who were planning on launching a series about women in the military.  Our book was published but they never added additional books to their series. Using the actual wording from my mother’s letters made “Mollie’s War” a first person account of World War Two in Europe. Seeing the smile on my mother’s face when she held her book, “Mollie’s War,” in her hand was priceless.  Peppered throughout her letters was the fact that she wanted to write a book… and it happened—only 65 years later!
Mollie’s War” won first place in biography/memoir at the 2012 Royal Dragonfly Book Contest, a bronze medal in autobiography at the 2011 Stars and Flags Book Awards and was a finalist in the 2011 Chicago Writers Association Book of the Year contest.

My mother passed away on April 8, 2012 during Passover.  We remember and are thankful for the courageous "call to duty" that the Mollies and others of her generation felt so that we could all be free.

Books by Ted William Gross

If you wish to purchase the books at Smashwords click here.

An Apology On Delays

I know it has been a long time since I have posted on this blog, though this was due to other matters which required 100% of my time and concentration. I was astounded by the amount of kind and concerned emails that have piled up in the Cobwebs email in-box and I want all to know they are greatly appreciated.

I do hope to be able to return to a more normal publishing schedule, and get my feet wet, yet again, in the world of words and publishing and learn and see just what has been going on during the time of my forced absence. Reviews will start to be published again, (I even hope to get to one later today), and you can once again start by sending in your request for reviews as well.

To all the authors out there, I wish you only success and great achievements. To all those who follow my musings on writing and publishing, I hope to make you smile and laugh again. And of course to all those who have never bought a short story or book of mine "BUY MY BOOKS!". (See I told you - I am back!)

Seriously, thank you for your concern and wonderful emails, and now back to our regularly scheduled program.

Books by Ted William Gross

If you wish to purchase the books at Smashwords click here.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Interview: Barbara Froman - Shadows and Ghosts

Haunted by the past, trapped in a hospital bed and forced to face what you have been trying so hard to forget. A great read from author   Barbara Froman in Shadows and Ghosts

Genre:  Fiction

I’ve always loved movies. There’s something magical about sitting in the dark, watching stories unfold on a large screen, something transformative.  But I realized, a number of years ago, that my fondest and bitterest memories of movies were not triggered by plots or characters; they were triggered by single images.  So, I decided to use that idea as the foundation for a novel that would give readers a cinematic experience.

The result was Shadows and Ghosts which was published by Serving House Books in December of 2011 as a result of my winning the Fairleigh Dickinson University/Serving House Books First Book Contest in Prose.

The novel, which is framed with famous film images and screenwriters’ directions, is set in the fictional upstate New York town of Willow Bend, and is about a critically acclaimed Jewish filmmaker, named Ida Mae Glick, who suffers a near fatal heart attack when she tries to live on the same meager rations as a group of homeless people she is filming. When she winds up in the hospital at the mercy of a neurotic psychiatrist who believes she’s unstable, she is forced to confront not only the events leading to her arrest, but also a troubled past of substance abuse and failed love affairs, as well as her relationship with the uptight, estranged identical twin sister who wants to see her committed.  To make the situation worse, Ida Mae’s ghostly mother appears at her bedside determined to air old gripes.

Ida Mae’s mother, Edna Glick, is the Jewish heart and soul of Shadows and Ghosts. Her appearance and observations are a constant reminder of the importance of culture and family.  Ironically, it is Edna’s ghost that brings Ida Mae face-to-face with the past she’s been trying to forget since moving to Willow Bend, a town in which she seems to be the only Jew.

The prize and publication of Shadows and Ghosts were tremendous honors, coming after approximately ten years of working on the book and going through over half a dozen revisions, first with writer-colleagues, and then with my editor, Walter Cummins at Serving House Books.  I feel very blessed by their support and the generous way in which they shared their gifts.  

I just hope that readers will experience as much joy from reading the book as I did from writing it, and perhaps, contact me to share some favorite film images of their own.

Books by Ted William Gross

If you wish to purchase the books at Smashwords click here.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Interview: Phyllis Zimbler Miller - MRS. LIEUTENANT

MRS. LIEUTENANT: A Saga to Publication and Beyond
The following is the author's own story of her writing and her journey to publication of MRS. LIEUTENANT. An incredibly interesting read!

My novel MRS. LIEUTENANT is based on my experiences as a new Mrs. Lieutenant in the spring of 1970 right after the Kent State shootings.  

I met my husband on the editorial staff of Michigan State University’s daily newspaper when he was already in Army ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps).  A few months after we were married we arrived at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, in May 1970.  There we found ourselves in an alien culture both because we were Jewish and because we were unaccustomed to the military life.

What ensued in the nine weeks that my husband attended Armor Officers Basic at Ft. Knox was an eye-opening experience that I felt should be preserved for its slice of women’s history.  Years later two women producers also thought so, and they optioned the story and asked me to write a book.

By the time I wrote a novel (to protect people’s identities) the producers had moved on.  And then I spent years and years rewriting the novel.  Finally, when POD (print on demand) publication eliminated the need for hundreds of books in my garage, I self-published the novel.

And although it had been turned down by agents and publishes as no longer being relevant, the novel was named a semifinalist in the 2008 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition.  (This honor led me down the rabbit hole into the world of social media, where I have stayed ever since.)  

Kindle had only arrived in November of 2007, but I did have the novel converted into the Kindle format in April of 2008.  Of course, at that time not many people were buying ebooks.  

Recently I had the book re-converted into Kindle (more up-to-date software) as well as the format for the Nook, iPad, etc. and uploaded onto Smashwords.  (I used Chris O’Byrne of http://www.ebook-editor.com/ for the format conversions and uploading.)

I was already on Amazon as the co-author of the 1992 Jewish holiday book SEASONS FOR CELEBRATION, written with Rabbi Karen L. Fox.  Even though that book was published by a traditional publisher, Karen and I had to do the marketing for the book.  Thus I was not concerned that I would have to do the marketing for a self-published book.

I joined several social media sites, started the LinkedIn Book Marketing group (which today is thriving – see www.LinkedInBookMarketing.com), and reached out to the national headquarters of the Jewish sorority I belonged to at MSU – Alpha Epsilon Phi.  (The sorority magazine then featured me in an article.)

The one market I really wanted to reach – the military one – I could not reach because the book is not returnable and thus could not be sold in the U.S. Army’s PX system.

Also, when I first self-published, BookSurge (now part of CreateSpace) insisted on a price too high for a paperback.  Recently I have been able to lower that price.  I decided on the ebook price of $2.99 after much reading about different ebook price points.  

The novel MRS. LIEUTENANT focuses on four women – a Northern Jew (based on only some aspects of myself), a Southern Baptist, a Puerto Rican and an African-American.  The four women must learn to overcome their prejudices against each other in order to adapt to their new roles.

The novel has received many positive reviews on Amazon, and I am always particularly pleased when a military wife tells me how much she liked the story.

I am part-way through a sequel – MRS. LIEUTENANT IN EUROPE – about when my husband and I were stationed in Munich, Germany, only 25 years after the end of World War II.  Currently I am considering changing from a novel to a memoir in order to better tell the story of what it was like to be Jewish in Munich at that time and stationed with an occupying force.

I have all my original documents from that time, including a copy of the letter I typed to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam sending a donation from the few Jews associated with the U.S. military in Munich.  (The reason for the donation is because, at that time, the Anne Frank House was in such short supply of funds that it risked being closed down.)  


Ever since my novel was published, I have been very active online supporting our troops in general as well as Jews who serve in the U.S. military (see www.OperationSupportJewsintheMilitary.com).  

The novel’s website is www.MrsLieutenant.com (created by my younger daughter and Miller Mosaic LLC business partner Yael K. Miller).  This site has links to Amazon, etc. where the novel and the ebook formats are sold. 

My overall author website is www.PhyllisZimblerMiller.com and my author Facebook Page is www.facebook.com/phylliszimblermillerauthor

I can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ZimblerMiller and on Pinterest at http://pinterest.com/ZimblerMiller

Books by Ted William Gross

If you wish to purchase the books at Smashwords click here.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Book Marketing: The Holy Grail - "The Initial Seed Element"

There are so many blog posts, web posts, twitter posts, LinkedIn posts, Facebook Posts and on and on telling you just what to do to market your book. Many of these are very good for the writer/author. Many of them are on the mark, many are very specific to the author who is writing the post. You may be tempted to get carried away. There is no doubt that in search of that all elusive goal of selling ever-more books (and possibly even "illusive" as well) - to this as King Solomon wrote in Proverbs "there is no end". However, all seem to be missing a very critical aspect, and this is the "Initial Seed Element". In this post I will try and explain what that means, and just what is involved in the search to find it.

Some authors and bloggers approach the whole issue of publishing a book with a "master plan". This is actually something that should be done all the time. They take their time, they build up a following in their blogs and they slowly get to the point where they release a partial and then the full book. By that time they hope that many of their avid followers will purchase and read the book. This is certainly a very smart and sane way on how to go about initial marketing of a book. It takes time, lots of it, not exactly writing, but in marketing, and a great deal of planning.

Recently a friend of mine, had a book published in non-fiction by one of the Big 6. I met him by chance in the street, and he showed me the hardcover of which he was very proud and should have been, and we started discussing what he was happy about and what he was very unhappy about. It turns out he was extremely happy with the way the book turned out, but was totally beside himself on the "marketing" end. He had been made a world of promises by the publisher, none of which came to be, (which I told him straight and to the point - they won't come to be so do not rely on it), and he was extremely worried that the book would now languish. He told me he had hired a book publicist, which just took his money and accomplished nothing, (again not a surprise), and even when he mentioned the name of this "famous" publicist I was not surprised as just like the publishers they are swimming in a new sea and still have not caught up with the market. In other words, he finally got an important treatise out there in non-fiction, he had the creditably as a reporter with major newspapers, and his book was now stuck. 

I told him what he did not want to hear. I told him it was up to him now. He had to market his own book. And like me, it was not something he really wanted to spend time doing. Like me, he was incredibly reticent about trying to get people to buy his book, saying it should be the job of the publisher and agent and publicist. I totally agreed on the "should be" part, but there is a world of difference between the words "should be" and "what is". He listened with a frown, and I could see the wheels turning, and the frustration on his face. It was not a pretty sight as it mirrored my own frustration almost every day.

When I got home from this chance meeting, I realized that we are all are missing something. Even if we make maximum use of Twitter, FB, LinkedIn, Klout, Pinterest and all the rest. We are all missing something incredibly critical here and incredibly simple. Unfortunately this specific missing link is not up to us. It can be pushed by us, it can be promoted, but in the end it is karma, fate, luck, God - whatever you believe in which plays a huge part. Not something you want to hear I know, but it is the basic truth.

I come from the world of high tech. In technology, among us nerds and techies, there is something known in the release of any new piece of software as the "initial seed". This actually is the backbone of all viral technology and social networking. So let me try and explain in a layman view.

If you are old enough, you know the game of "telephone". One friend would whisper to another to another and to another, until at the end we would hear the "actual message" which almost always was far different than that original message. The human condition is to amplify, change and put our own mark. It is called "gossip". It is called "talking". It is called "telling a story from your point of view". The effect is the same. Once someone says something, it gets repeated and repeated.

Now on to a bit more sophisticated stuff. Let us say I write a chat system. Now in order for that chat system to work I need people to actually join up and join in. Otherwise my chat system can be great but if there are no users, it is destined for oblivion. So I send out emails and ask people to sign up. I send out 100 emails. 10 people sign up. A couple of those test the system. One of those people, without knowing it, without even having the slightest idea that they are the "initial seed" sends out an email to friends saying "try this system." The email then is spread in a viral method. In other words those that do receive it then in an exponential rate of discovery send it out and the people that get it also send it out, and people start signing up to the chat system. This is what is called viral - in very very simplistic terms.

Believe it or not, FB, Twitter and all the rest had that one seed as well. The one person when they began, without knowing, that at the right second the right place the right moment the right words sent out or phone call or word of mouth and said "try this". Once that initial seed is started the momentum begins. Of course there can and should be multiple "initial seeds" in the perfect world, but even if there is only one, if placed with luck, chance, karma or the kiss of an angel at the right time, the "object" goes viral.

If you work with any of the social networks you will know exactly what I am talking about. The search for your posts and information to go "viral" is the holy grail of any author. This is what brings people to read what you wrote. It establishes followers. And it helps in a very big way to sell the next thing you write.

I know of no way to force something to go viral. There are literally thousands of great ideas and programs who have long since died because they could not manage it. There are I bet, hundreds of thousands of books that did not make it. Great writers who mostly live in oblivion because they were not "kissed by the angel of word of mouth".

In other words all efforts at all social networking and author marketing are aimed at one thing --> word of mouth. Amazing how some things even with all the technology do not change. Without it you are doomed. With it even if your writing is mediocre, you will succeed.

The frustration of many authors, both traditionally published and not is that we do not go "viral". We do not manage to find that luck of finding that initial seed to create a viral path to our books. We read about authors who write fairly decent but certainly not earth-shattering material who are far more successful than we are. And we all wonder how they do it? The answer of course is they managed somehow to go viral. To have their book(s) spread by word of mouth in an extremely swift manner.

But the "initial seed" is not enough. The step afterwards is to make sure you can "sustain" the viral network. Let us call this "sustainability". Here the power of social networking comes to the fore. Because if you are viral and you have and are building up a following social networks allow you to "reach out and touch your following". Blogs allow you to post ideas. Creating more interest. Creating an ever increasing spiral in your viral network.

I always try and use real examples here. I have not succeeded in my book "Ancient Tales, Modern Legends" to reach a viral network. I have also watched another author who writes short stories, and is well known, release his collection, with an agent and publisher at the same time, and jump to the top of the best sellers. Is his work better than mine? Is mine better than his? I have no clue that is for readers to decide. But I do know he has a tremendous jump on me in that he has "followers" and without even knowing it, a "viral network" in place. Which means he can get reviews in the major papers - easily. He can be interviewed - without begging and waiting - easily. He can sell simply because he is who he is.

Frustrating in the extreme. Especially if you are like me, and hate being the marketer of your own work, and hate the idea of having to put yourself  "out there" by yourself, for yourself. However, it is also true the publishing world and readers have changed. He who was on top yesterday is not on top today. So if you do believe in yourself, if you do think what you have to say in the written word is worth reading by others, then you have no choice but to seek out the "magical angel in charge of word of mouth".

Again, I repeat, I know of no formula that will cause your book or books to go viral. I know of no formula that creates "word of mouth". Advertising may or may not help. Book reviews may or may not help. And on and on and on. What is very clear, is that good old simple "word of mouth" the real viral network - that is certainly the holy grail. So all your posts must have that in mind in the end result. Whether they are about your book or not. They need to contain something of import. Something which on a day when you least expect it, that "initial seed is planted".

But be warned. If your book does go viral, do not rest on that. You will still have a lot of work to do in marketing. When your 10th book goes viral you can rest. Because you will be in a very unique place. It is hard work. It is frustrating. It is very depressing at times. And yes, you just want to scream out at times, "Buy the book and read it - you will see that it is great". But of course that does not work. So you plug on. You may succeed you may not. Chances are and odds are that you will fail. It is simply the odds of the game. But if you are like me, and have this inner drive to leave something of a legacy, to leave the world a little better than the one we were born into, to hopefully make people think, laugh, cry, and understand themselves better - you simply have no choice in the matter. You must write. You must work at it. And one day maybe, with the right combination of time, luck, karma, God or the angels, you will find yourself on top of the mountain.

The goal is viral. The challenge is sustainability. Remember those terms. Do not be duped into buying into schemes that will get you a zillion followers on Twitter in one week. You need to work hard. You need to write. You need to hope. And possibly at the end, no promises, you may just succeed. 

Books by Ted William Gross

If you wish to purchase the books at Smashwords click here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Author Interview: Diane Schochet - "COG STONE DREAMS"

Diane Schochet

Genre: Doctor Claudia Alexander, my publisher at Red Phoenix Books, is a scientist.  She says my genre is Environmental Fiction. I’m not a scientist.  I say my book is Jewish Magical Fiction.  (Think Isaac Bashevis Singer.  Well I’m hoping.)

COG STONE DREAMS is a mystical, magical, humorous love story with a murder, 9000 years of history, cog stone induced dreams (the magical mystical part) and wetlands thrown in. 

What is the Jewish related theme in your book? The main character (like the author) is Jewish. So is her family.  So is a character I call Cabel Sturmms who is based on Abel Stearns, who came to California 1829 and became one of its wealthiest citizens.  In Cog Stone Dreams Cabel’s story starts when he’s twelve, the oldest of eight children from a happy Jewish family. Then Papa Sturnns drowns in his soup and Mama dies soon after.  Cabel gives his younger siblings to non-Jewish neighbors.  Though the siblings will be raised as Christians, he promises himself he will stay true to his religion.  Until he goes to Mexico and an old lady tells him nobody will sell property to a Jew, he has no trouble keeping his promise.

Is writing a full-time job for you? If not what else do you do? Pretty full time.

How many books have you self-published or have been published in the traditional manner? This is my first book.  I’ve had lots of my magazine articles published.  I was paid to write two children’s plays.

Why do you write? I like to write.

When you are writing something new do you ask someone's opinion about it? Yep.  I’m in two critique groups. And I take lots of classes.

When you write do you need absolute concentration and quiet?  Most of the time but not always

Do you believe or have you experienced "writer's block"? If so, when and why? I’m not sure but I am a procrastinator and do everything I can to put off writing.  Then when I get into it, I go, fast like an airplane or slow like a snail, but I go.
  • Do you incorporate incidents from your own personal life into your works?  Yes.  In Cog Stone Dreams I put in lots of incidents.  Here I’ll name some of the Jewish ones.
  • When I was young I told people I was Jewish even if they didn’t ask.
  • Dessa, the main character in Cog Stone Dreams, does the same.
  • I stayed with my Bubbie at a Jewish boarding house at the beach.
  • So does Dessa.
  • On Simchas Torah I saw a red haired girl’s hair catch fire.
  • In Cog Stone Dreams, Dessa’s hair catches fire on Simchas Torah.
  • In 1960 when Kennedy ran against Nixon, I thought it difficult to vote.  At the time everybody I knew thought Nixon was a closet anti-Semite (I was surprised when I went to Israel for the first time and heard how well he was thought of there.) I was also told if you voted for Kennedy there was a good chance the Pope would take over our country because Kennedy would tell him all our secrets.
  • Dessa is privy to the same facts.
  • My parents moved into a Jewish neighborhood so I would be raised Jewish.
  • The same thing happens to Dessa.
Do you write what you think the public wants to read or what you feel to be your inner-expression and forget about the public?  I just write.

If you did Self-Publish why did you do it?  Here’s what happened.  A couple of years ago, I took an on line advanced novel writing class from UCLA.  A class mate, Doctor Claudia Alexander, liked my writing.  I liked hers.  We met and became friends.  Then in 2011 she informed me that she was becoming a publisher.  Her deceased aunt, Carol Fenner, had left Claudia her literary collection.  Carol, who had won Newberry awards, a Coretta Scott King award and two other awards, had one book that hadn’t been published and Claudia decided to publish that book and my COG STONE DREAMS book and some books that Claudia had written. I was delighted. 

If you did or do have an agent, without naming them, tell us your experience on getting the agent and if you are satisfied.  In the past I’ve had three agents. All three were very nice.  All three were complimentary.  None of them sold my books or movie scripts.

When you market your book what path did you chose? Why? And what has not worked out for you and what has worked for you? I’m just starting and plan to concentrate on two paths. First, I will find people, like you, who are interested in Jewish themes and secondly,  find people who are interested in the environment, especially wetlands.

How much time do you spend on marketing your own work?  I plan to spend more time.  My publisher signed me up for the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books as a feature writer on April 21 and 22 . 

If you self-published tell us in order the route you went, e.g. Kindle to Print to Smashwords or whatever you did. Cog Stone Dreams started  with e-books on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords, simulaneously, then POD (print on demand) with Amazon's CreateSpace followed by Lightning Source.

How much time and effort did you put into the cover of your book? My publisher made some recommendations, and asked my advice. I wanted Cog Stones to be prominent on the cover and to have the words Wish, Dream, Magic incorporated in three of the stones. So I drew a sample design. Then the publisher and the artist she used came up with a magnificent cover that I love and is so much better than the cover I conceived.

If you are a Kindle publisher, did you join KDP Select and if so what were experiences there and how would you judge it?  My publisher has discussed with me whether to do Kindle Select and provide free downloads for a period of time to boost visibility. We’re studying the pros and cons of this approach by looking at on line blogs on the subject.

Exactly what formats is your book in? (Nook, Paper, Kindle, Sony, Ipad..etc and etc.) I think all of the above.  It is also in paperback.

How did you decide on the price of your book?  I don’t know how prices were decided and haven’t asked because I’m so excited about my book being published.

What advice would you give other authors or other people starting out?  Keep writing.

Do you consider yourself a success in writing, a wannabe, a failure or just misunderstood? And of course why.  Sometimes I think I’m pretty good. Sometimes excellent.  Sometimes rotten.

Excluding free giveaways (such as KDP) - have you ever made it into the top 100 of a list and stayed there for over 2 weeks? Yes.  Amazon.Com puts books about wetlands under the category of Lakes and Ponds in their Nature and Ecology section.  Today under Lakes and Ponds the Kindle Edition of Cog Stone Dreams is the number 18 best selling and the number 2 best rated.  It has been in the same place for about two months now.

Name one thing you absolutely hate about the publishing and writing world. I haven’t been in it long enough to know.
Name one thing you love about the publishing and writing world. Everything. I love being published.
What is your ultimate dream in writing and having your books published? To keep writing and keep selling.

Books by Ted William Gross

If you wish to purchase the books at Smashwords click here.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Understanding The Difference Between Search Categories & Book Tags @ Amazon (& Other On-Line Book Sites)

There seems to be quite a bit of misinformation and certainly many authors get mixed up when trying to find the right way to "categorize" a book. Amazon perfectionists will remind you over and over again to make sure you "create tags" for your book. (This by the way is used on other sites as well.) The tagging system while important, may not be as critical as they make it sound at times. So in this post I am going to try and explain and show the differences between a Category, Search Keywords and Book Tags, without mixing you up too much and the purpose of each.

I should mention this all came about because of a mistake I made and then discovered a bit late, but better late than never. It also made me further my research into this "muddy" area, which seems to be a matter of debate. This post is not to belittle those who think tags are critical and important and ask everyone to check their tags. It is to explain the difference between Categories-Search Keywords and Tags.

Both these systems are created to allow people to find your book in an easier manner. Yet both work in entirely different manners, and certainly the "Category" system and its sub-system of "Search Keywords" on Amazon (of 5 search categories in Print and 7 in Kindle books) is vastly more important and demands much more thought than your "tags" and getting people to click on them and agree with them. Amazon has some gotcha's which I am not sure many authors and certainly the readers in search of a book will know about. It also can be confusing without being given real life examples so I will provide one here. If you just replace the category and tag I am going to give in this example, ("Passover"), with your own, it should be simple to grasp the differences. 

My first short story collection, "Ancient Tales, Modern Legends" contains 1 story with a very clear Passover motif among other things. This book is available in Kindle (and other formats) and in Print. I also released some of the stories within "Ancient Tales, Modern Legends" in singular Ebook format, in other words 1 short story per Ebook, and the story with the Passover motif, was released singularly as well. This story is called "Elijah's Coins".

Now since Passover is coming up, I went ahead and in both the Paperback and Kindle version of "Ancient Tales, Modern Legends" put a "tag" of Passover. I did the same thing with the single Ebook of "Elijah's Coins". What are these tags? Let me show you.

Though the above is not totally clear, I wanted to give you a full screen. On top you can see check boxes with tags. But it does not show all the tags on the book (each person can add or check off to agree). You also can see all the tags by clicking on the "See All XX Tags". You can also "Search Products Tagged With:". It is fairly comprehensive. So one may think that tagging your product as I did with the word "passover" will cause it to show up in search when someone logs in to Amazon and types "Passover" in books. Right? Very, very wrong!

What happens is as follows:

When you tag a book if someone clicks on a tag from another book that you also have, or does a search for a specific tag, in this case "Passover" they will get your book. As follows:

As you can see from the above clicking on the tag "Passover" brings us to a screen where "Ancient Tales, Modern Legends" is listed as #10. Now that should make anyone happy, right? Well hold on a second, because even though Amazon experts use tags, most people looking for a book do not. They go about it a whole different way.

Now, before I go on, I will say that adding a tag to your book is basically instantaneous. It may take a couple of hours for the system to regurgitate your tag, but it is fast both in Kindle and Print. 

Still you have not solved the problem of how to get "normal readers" to see your book. And let me again show you why.

I placed a red box around the Search Parameter. That says "Products Tagged With". However, if you are a customer or you simply go into Amazon with the idea of finding a book you are not going to see in that drop-down list -  "Products Tagged With"! Nearest I can tell is the only way to get to it is to first click on a tag in any book then that option of  "Products Tagged With" will appear. Otherwise it is impossible to get to.

So say you are a customer looking for books on Passover. You are not an Amazon expert. You call up Amazon on your screen, you go to the Search Books and you type in "Passover". Guess what? That search does not work on tags. It works on Categories & Keywords. And if you do not have a Search Keyword of Passover but just a tag, your book tagged "Passover" will never ever show up for that customer in Search. And how do you think most customers search for books?

Okay. Now you say, what do I do? Well this takes a little long range planning because changing categories on a Print book or even a Kindle book takes time. In Kindle you will have to go into the screen of publishing and change a Keyword and actually do the whole "review" and "Publishing" routine which will take anywhere from 12-24 hours usually. In Print books you have to change the category and be patient 24-48  hours is the norm. I will show you where to do it.

In Kindle go to your Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing Page under Bookshelf. Click on your book. On the first page you should see this as #3.

Now the Category above is a clear category established not by Amazon but by the Print Industry. The "Search Keywords" is where you have some leeway. These are the keywords that are used in the normal search by the normal customer. So these are the keywords that will cause your book to appear in any search. You have a maximum of 7 keywords here. You can make them very specific or very general. BUT every time you change them you will have to re-publish and wait 12-24 hours for the effects to be seen on the site. As you can see I put Passover in place of another keyword. This will be temporary until the holiday passes. But now what happens? Let me show you again.

As you can see the search term on top is for the Kindle Store and "Passover" and ugh! now instead of being #10 and showing on the first page "Ancient Tales, Modern Legends" is at 75 in Kindle. Not fair! But fair or not, that is how normal customers are usually going to find your book - not with the tagging system.

Now for the print version assuming you used CreateSpace. Log In to your CS account. Click on the book. You should see something like below.

We need the Distribute option specifically the "Description". So click on that.

The BISAC Category once again is not specific to Amazon. But the Search Keywords are for you to add and you have in this case 5 options. I obviously placed the word Passover there, and then I had to Save, and then it takes 24-48 hours for it to go live. Usually 48. 

My mistake was that I did not do this soon enough before Passover, so the book really had no chance to be in the "Passover" Category. But let us now see what happens when I go to Search Books and type Passover, then click on Literature & Fiction.

And Viola. there you have it. Search Literature & Fiction ---> Passover and both books appear in all formats. 

So Lessons To Be Learned:
  1. Tags are important. However, most normal Amazon users will just search and not use the tags to find books. Indeed, you cannot use tags initially to find a book unless you get to the box "Search for products with tags".
  2. Search Categories and Categorization determine how and where your book shows up in "normal search" in Amazon and most other sites Thus the Categories and Search Keywords are critical to your public finding you.
  3. Plan in advance. Tags are immediate. Categories and Search Keywords take time. 
  4. Spend some time thinking how much you wish to drill down or keep it general with Search Keywords. Too deep in a tree and a buyer may never type the whole thing in. Too general and you will never be found.
  5. You need to plan keywords and test them. Go to Amazon type in a keyword you wish to use and see how many hits there are on it. If you are getting in the gazillions you are too general. If you are getting 100 hits, my guess is you drilled too deep down into the category. This takes time and patience. It is not immediate.
  6. You like tags? Go for them after all you do have 15 of them. 
  7. Make sure you get the keywords as best as you can. In print you only have 1 Major BISAC Category & 5 "search keywords". In electronic you have 2 Major Categories & 7 search keywords So use them with wisdom.
  8. When all else fails "never sweat the little stuff".
Hope all this helped. 

Books by Ted William Gross

If you wish to purchase the books at Smashwords click here.

Author Interview: Dale Stanten - The Hooker’s Daughter

A surprising title with a more surprising story between the covers. Definitely something worth reading & much fuel for thought.

The Hooker’s Daughter- A Boston Family’s Saga
Memoir by Dale Stanten

My name is Dale Stanten and do I have a story for you! 

In 1950s Jewish Boston, my mother established a home-based business as a prostitute to remedy her husband’s inability to provide for his family. At age six, I was answering the front door for johns. Neighbor children were forbidden to play with me and even the Girl Scouts asked me to leave. What a terrible irony, in a family with so many strange and twisted realities, my gay sister, “coming out” at age 16, was the only thing my parents focused on as contemptible.

My memoir, The Hooker’s Daughter – A Boston Family’s Saga, is a story of survival, driven by a strong will and an ability to extract positive qualities from a dysfunctional life, punctuated by immoral and illegal behaviors. I was able to reconcile the reality of my environment with what I wished it to be. My resulting tenacity enabled me to cope with my terminally ill husband and widowhood at age 37. My unconditional love for my mother challenges the reader to examine beyond that which is socially acceptable and identify that which is universal.

This memoir could have been a dark book, “A Mommy Dearest.” But, instead of condemnation, this is a story of love, forgiveness, and triumph over one’s demons. To paraphrase the German philosopher, Nietzsche “What does not destroy me, makes me stronger.” 

I grew up in Mattapan, a Boston suburb, which was a highly Jewish populated neighborhood. Like other first and second generation immigrant families, we clustered together embracing our way of life. There were the comforting landmarks and events:  lots of synagogues, kosher butchers, delis, bakeries, and holiday celebrations on Rosh Hashana and Passover. Yiddish was spoken on the streets and in homes. However, I felt terribly isolated, a misfit and without a support system

The Torah parsha, "Lech Lecha", (Genesis) commands us to transcend ourselves to experience our “real self.” As I matured, the time came to “cut the psychological umbilical cord,” in order to discover what I was capable of.

One day, I read there was a writing group meeting in a back room of Panera’s bakery and decided to go. At first, I wrote the assignments that the leader gave the ten of us, but eventually I asked if I could write my own pieces instead. They were struck with my story and encouraged me to consider it as a serious endeavor to be shared with others. 

I could have put my writings in the drawer but there was something more gnawing at me! I felt that I could offer something to people who are suffering and struggling.  I wanted to show that it is possible to overcome dire circumstances and inspire people not to be victims. As the Torah says: “If you save one person, you save the world.”

Many people have asked me about the process of getting my book published. My experience has been very positive and I had a great story to tell. It took me a number of drafts to understand that a memoir need not be a chronological listing. Instead it should absorb the reader like a good novel while maintaining the truth.

I had many discussions with my husband about what should or should not be in the book.  He said, “There is too much in there. No one will believe it. Decide what is important to make a point and leave the rest out.” But I said “It happened to me. I am telling the story.” Well, it is very hard for an author, especially a memoir writer, to leave anything out. The final product left out a lot.

The growth of E-books and self publishing has significantly changed the publishing industry. Today, a traditional publishing house requires the author to do the majority of the marketing and publicity. Unless you have a platform and your name is Clinton or Bush, it is difficult to obtain any assistance. Ultimately, I decided to self-publish. This gave me more control of the process.

Writing the book is only the beginning. Marketing can absorb a great deal of time and effort. I love marketing! I built my original business from nothing and understand that personal contact and follow thru is very important. What I didn’t know was that it should start at least 6 months prior to publication.

If you get published, I assure you, you will enjoy the journey. The activity will bring you rewards that you never anticipated.

Print copies of my memoir are available on my web site, www.TheHookersDaughter.com, from the publisher Infinity Publishing, and from Amazon.com, Ebooks are also available for Kindle, Nook, iBook from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes and vendors such as Smashwords and Goodreads. I can be contacted by Email at TheHookersDaughter@gmail.com or on Facebook. 

Books by Ted William Gross

If you wish to purchase the books at Smashwords click here.