Monday, December 28, 2015

The Case of the Jade Dragon - A Work in Progress

This is a work in progress and a rough draft of my third novel in the Jonas Watcher Series. You get an opportunity to read the Novel as it is being developed. Please leave any comments, like all writers I appreciate honest feedback. My desire is to be the best writer I can be. I hope you enjoy the book. If you prefer to leave a private comment, you may email me at

The chapters that do not have a link attached have not been completed.

Table of Contents

An Incident at Central Station ..............................................................Chapter 1
The Challenger to San Francisco ..........................................................Chapter 2
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished ..........................................................Chapter 3
All Roads Lead To China Town ............................................................Chapter 4
An Empress, an Artisan, a Thief and a Dragon ...................................Chapter 5
There Might Be Dragons ........................................................................Chapter 6
Qinglong Rises at Breakfast ...................................................................Chapter 7
The Invisibles of San Francisco .............................................................Chapter 8
East on the San Francisco Chief ............................................................Chapter 9
Sun Tzu According to Qinglong ............................................................Chapter 10
The Mythical Hop Alley .........................................................................Chapter 11
Sunrise, Sunset, The Dragon Takes Flight ...........................................Chapter 12
The San Francisco Shuffle .....................................................................Chapter 13
A Gift for The Asure Dragon ................................................................Chapter 14

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Independent Authors: Surveys and Reviews

What Kind of Writer are You?

Writers come in all sorts of categories. And categories have a broad range also; There are Genres  Fiction and Non-Fiction, those who wordsmith in Poetry or Prose, Screenwriters and Novelists, Journalists and Fabricators, and there are a plethora of other ways to identify a writer. They all have one thing in common, they write. How is that for stating the obvious? My interest in this article breaks writers into three groups; those who have gone the traditional route of getting published, independently published authors, and everyone else.

Everyone else as a group is either not interested in getting published or they have found another route to getting their work noticed. Writers in this group may eventually join one of the other two groups or not. They simply haven't made the move because they do not know how they want to go. Independently published authors may eventually enter the traditional route, but once they're there is no going back. I don't mean they can't choose to independently publish their work, but they have become a part of a brotherhood that has obtained connections that are unavailable to the independently published author. More on that later.

I am an independently published author. I specifically chose this route because being in my late sixties, I don't have the additional time, along with everything else I am doing, to wait for someone to validate that I am a good writer. I knew there would be roadblocks, but I also knew that as a new writer, (I am not really, but I am to this world of writing) I would have to do a lot of getting myself in front of readers on my own because I do not have a name the public is familiar with. I am not really bitter about it although sometimes I am envious. The few public appearances I have participated in have been successful, but not with the numbers that noted authors get at their book signings.

While I am focusing on independently published authors in this article, traditionally published authors do suffer some of the same issues I am talking about.

Surveys and Polls

I recently read a post about a survey whose subject was paid and non-paid reviews. I'm not crazy about polls and surveys because depending upon the questions and the supplied answers you can drive the results any way you want. Putting together a poll or survey is a sophisticated process and depending upon who is paying for it, you can determine the desired outcome.

This Survey was called Kindle Book Review Article  and is about the acceptance of paid book reviews. In the review 300 independently published authors -- Say what, three hundred authors? Kindle only has three hundred independently published authors? I have two books at amazon, plug here, "The Case of the Running Bag" and "The Case of the Bourbon Street Hustler", and they are in the kindle book format, and no one surveyed me. So the survey question was "How do you feel about paying for reviews?" The article from Kindle is gearing towards the acceptance of using paid reviews.
Let's face it, traditional publishers have been paying for reviews for years. The truth is, a reviewer needs to read the book, evaluate the book and write about it. While Publishers do not have a pay scale based upon favorability, a professional reviewer knows where his bread is buttered.
When you look at the survey analyze the questions and then evaluate the answers. Like all surveys or polls, the answers are set to provide a direction the author of the survey to go. There are a number of things with regards to getting my name and product out there, but having to pay someone to review my work should not have to be one of them.
J A Konrath has written a number of articles on his blog and here is an article with his two cents. My question is "Is Amazon setting up to provide a listing of acceptable and recommended reviewers?"

Why Pay for a Review?

Get Reviewed, Get Discovered! Maybe. If Oprah Winfrey announces your book on tv, you have a best seller. So get Oprah to read your book. If you can get your book in front of a million pairs of eyes, you just might sell a couple of books. Do reviews sell? If enough people see them they do. Book sites can get your book on pages in front of people, but how do you get on the front page of book websites?  It isn't just about reviews it's about getting reviews in front of readers. It is a numbers game.

There are a large number of "pay for review" websites that make a good case for buying a review. But is one enough? I have a couple of single five-star reviews from people I don't even know. It is great, but I wish all those who have promised to give me a review would. Clearly one review is not enough. What I do notice is the number of reviews. Since so few people who read books, do write reviews, if someone has a lot of reviews it goes without saying they have sold a lot of books? And what does it cost? I have seen sites offer reviews for as little $25 a piece and as high as $500. Do you get what you pay for?

I am less interested in the artificial illusion of proprietary of buying reviews and more interested in the integrity of sites that sell reviews. I am more interested in a more level playing for independently published authors so that they have access to contests, reviewers, and readers.

If you have had an experience with a review selling site or any other website that is available to the independently published I would like to hear from you.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

When One Should Self-Publish

Full Disclosure

I am a self-published author and I am not rolling in money because I know the secrets of how to self-publish. I have completed four novels, two have been self-published and two are sitting in my drawer, perhaps for another day. I am working on my third novel and I may self-publish it or not. It depends...

I am retired living on Social Security and while I do not require an income from my writing, it would be very nice if I could develop enough of a following to provide me some additional income.

I am working on a series of detective stories circa 1930, I characterize them as being light film noir with adventure, some mystery highlighting the style of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. The series is Jonas Watcher.
I have been actively writing for about three years and while writing, I have designed my own book covers and done my own promotion online, with newspapers and posters for book signings. And whether I was involved with traditional publishing or self-publishing I would be doing pretty much the same thing.

So why am I offering up advice, because, I may be able to provide someone else information that may be beneficial to them, and maybe someone will read this and provide me with information that may be beneficial to me.

My Criteria To Self-Publish Or Not

Here is a list of questions you should ask yourself when considering to self-publish or not.

How old am I?

Does age matter? Probably not, but it might be taken into consideration with other factors. If you are starting out in life, then self-publishing  may be a way to get yourself out in the viewing public, but you also have time to get yourself published using the traditional process. Be aware that without some kind of a hook the traditional process might take time. In either case, the internet is full of information about how to get published, so research is your best friend. If you are later in life you might consider the passage of time a handicap then self-publishing may be your best route.

Am I independently wealthy?

     Don't I wish? If you already have an income that covers your living expenses and provides you additional money to get yourself published, then you might want to go the self-published route, not through a vanity press but one of the many publishing options available over the internet. There are editors,  cover designers, and publicists who can help you achieve your goals. Again research is your friend and if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you have the time and the inclination, you might use your extra resources getting your work in front of an agent and follow the traditional route.

Do I work for a living?

Don't quit your day job. Write when you can and follow whichever route that appeals to you the most. Do keep in mind, that neither is a silver bullet, and you will have to work at getting yourself in front of the reading public.

Am I retired?

As a matter of fact, I am, and that was a critical factor in my deciding to go the self-published route. For me time is an issue. I have limited income, so I have to be a one man self-publishing company. The good news is that I have a group of people that I can rely on to check my punctuation, my plot lines, and who will help me with proofreading. Are the infallible? No, but they are very good,  extremely thorough, and critical when I screw up. They do keep it positive, but I often hear the word "really" a lot.

Do I have something to publish?

When you start to consider publishing, you do not have to have a finished product. You should be passed the outline stage and actually working on your first rough draft. Whichever route you choose to take don't actually start the process until you have at least gotten you work in front of trustworthy eyes and gotten some positive feedback. At that point, you should have done enough research that you know the direction you want to go and you start the execution of the process.

My choices for Self-Publishing

Whichever choice you make, I am sharing some of what I have done and I hope it can be of help others. First, I chose to publish both eBooks and paperback books. It is not an either or decision, I chose both. I selected CreateSpace to publish my paperback books. CreateSpace provides that my paperback books are available to both brick and mortar and the internet bookstores. Additionally, CreateSpace is publishing an eBook on Amazon in the Kindle format. I am also using SmashWords to publish eBooks to the rest of the internet eBook population. As it turns out, publishing is easy, getting in front of readers is hard. There are a number of different internet publishers, and I continue to research the WEB for possible self-publish sites. This is only the beginning.

I set up a FaceBook page for the Jonas Watcher Series. I did this for two reasons, It is free and FaceBook already has an infrastructure in place. I post book covers, book signings, I nag my friends to like and share, and I post access to my blogs.

I have this blog where I share my publishing trials and tribulations, as well as details with regards to my writing. I have a second blog where on GoodReads where I share my latest WIP in unedited format. It gives readers a chance to preview an up and coming book. 

 I have contacted local bookstores and the local library to have book signings, I also have accounts with a couple of online publicity sites which I put out press releases when I have an event I am attending, and when I am publishing a new book. I contact local papers when I do the same things.

I have joined a number of online groups for readers and writers and I share my experiences. I have a twitter account that I use for book and blog announcements.

As I find new ways to market myself and if I find any new publishing options I will share them in the comments of this blog.

Gene Poschman

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Choosing a Book Cover

The Case of the Jade Dragon Book Cover

I am about two-thirds of the way through writing my first draft of The Case of the Jade Dragon. I started working on a book cover when I had started working on the outline for the novel. I had a number of pictures to choose from. The story is a third in the series with Jonas Watcher being hired to transport a bride from St. Louis to San Francisco. Two Chinese families who have been feuding for generations have finally come to an agreement that was going to be sealed with a marriage between the two families. There are a number of people who both support and oppose the agreed end to hostilities with the two families uniting in wedlock.

When creating a cover there are a number of considerations I take into account. I try to create an element of the story on the page. I try to tie the cover graphically to the title, and an arbitrary decision upon my part to include a shadowed image representing Jonas Watcher.

For this cover, I used a movie poster from Chinatown with Jack Nicholson as a template. I used the concept of the smoke from an Erte art piece called  "Opium", I imported a shadowed figure for Jonas Watcher. I used eyes, nose and mouth from some clip art I own. The crystal ball was created using storm clouds and a clipart dragon.I layered different elements in and used CreateSpace book cover creator to pull it all together.

While I am not positive that this will be the final artwork for the book cover, I am very happy with it. I would appreciate any comments.

The Case of the Looking Glass Mirror

I have begun working on the outline for the fourth book in the Jonas Watcher series. I have written a basic sketch for each of the chapters. The book will open with a murder and a stolen rare volume of Lewis Carrol's "Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There". The title is deliberately repetitive, and of course, you'll have to read the book to find out why. Now comes the question of book cover images and what will work that fits my paradigm. The image will need an element of the title, a shadowed image of Jonas Watcher, and an element from the story.

They say sex sells so I still have the possibility of a Femme Fatale, as either a good or evil character. Could have a cat fight with either Betty or Xifeng and the Femme Fatale, something to consider.

A glass library, with a dead body, a broken mirror, a knocked over chess set, and Jonas' shadow across the floor is the first thing that leaps to my mind. Then there is the font style, the font color, and the background color. These are all things that I have made note of when thing about the cover for the fourth book. There will be additional elements to consider as I outline the book. but for now, I must get back to book three. Jonas is on a train to St Louis with Xifeng, and trouble is creeping through the train.

Some images to consider for later books.


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Case of the Jade Dragon Book Cover

CreateSpace Cover Creator

I have two articles here that are dealing with book covers. The first I was looking for feedback on book covers for "The Case of the Jade Dragon" the third book in the Jonas Watcher series. The first five chapters of the book in rough draft mode are on my Goodreads blog. I had a number of book covers that I was thinking about for  "The Case of the Jade Dragon". While a couple of covers were very popular, a fifth one I had come up with was even better received, but it was lacking. I have improved upon the cover (I think) and I would like your feedback. Here is the cover below.

The primary complaint in the previous article was that the image was not complete. So I offer up this cover. If you click on it will expand to the full size.

How Important is a Book Cover

Trying to Solved My Book Cover Dilemma

If you are James Patterson, Steven King, or John Grisham, book covers probably don't really matter that much. As I have been working on the book cover for my third novel in the Jonas Watcher series, I have been sharing my cover choices and activities with other writers and readers. One woman sort of clarified the matter for me. She said that for unknown writers, the book cover was the first thing would draw her to a book. But if she saw the name of a writer she liked and read, the cover could be a brown wrapper and she would buy it as soon as she saw the author's name.

What that meant for me, an unknown writer, was that an intriguing Title and an engaging Cover were the two elements that I needed to have that would catch a reader's attention. Getting those tow things in front of eyes is another issue I hope to conquer.

A great title is subjective, and not the subject of this series of articles. Creating a cover is. I am not an artist, but I do know what I like. I have had positive feedback on the covers I have created, to be honest, I doubt I could create a cover for someone else, but I might be able to help others find the best solution that works for them.

As I am writing this series of articles, I am also in the midst of having a process in place to create the covers I want. So those of you following will get a first-hand account of success and failure. Hopefully, that will be useful to you.

For full disclosure, I am a self-published author. I use CreateSpace for my Print On Demand paperback books, and I use SmashWords and CreateSpace for eBooks, CreateSpace for Kindle on Amazon .com. I have used CreateSpace to generate Book Covers, using their basic templates. While they have created professional looking book covers, I had settled for less that I wanted. I am still new to this but in this article, I am going to walk through what I did and share my results both success and failure.

CreateSpace Book Cover Processing

The image to the right is the opening screen from CreatsSpace and the user is offered two choices of book covers, either Matte or Gloss. I have used both and I prefer Gloss. This is a subjective option though you might do one of each and have someone else offer up opinions. The problem is that in order to really see what the image looks like on a book you need to buy a proof of each, which will cost you money. One of the options that I am going to try is to download the image and put it on photo paper both matte and glossy and see if it works. I will share my success in a later article of this series.

Book Covers for The Case of the Running Bag

There were a number of book covers I had used for the first novel in the Jonas Watcher series. The earliest cover was the one on the right. Clearly the image is amateurish, the basic template is okay. The focus is on the series name and the title of the book is in the wrong place. My next attempt was better, the Series name and title are next to one another and I was happier with the results until I had some proofs run. Most of the image was darkened out. It has something to do with what you see online and what the printer actually put out. While the left image worked well for eBooks, it was a disaster for print books.
I went back to the CreateSpace drawing board.

I started putting together covers that I liked, and I asked others what they thought. After a couple of weeks I had a pretty good consensus of what people thought and I selected the one out of group that worked for me and the majority of others. It wasn't exactally what I wanted but it worked for me. The story takes place in San Francisco circa 1930s and the running bag was in the image, and a shadowed image that reflected film noir. There were problems with the cover as far as title and subtitle, and ironically they exists even today, but I am getting ready to fix them. 

But the third cover also failed. I liked the overall feel for the book, so I came up with a new image and I lightened it for the physical cover of the paperback book.

This was the final selection that I made for the book and I re-released it. My main character is a PI, a picture of an office with a running bag and a colt 44 which is prevalent within the story.

The typeface is good, but again the series name takes the lead, and it may be that the book title should be the major point. My name is adequate, mostly because no one has heard of me. I think the cover is professional looking and I am interested in what other people might think. The good news is that I can create a better cover, and I am looking for feedback.

Before I close off this article I want to share a look of what CreateSpace provides for cover creation. I have been using the basic structure provided by CreateSpace and that is what I want to highlight here. I have since discovered that CreateSpace provides information for a more advanced process and that is what I will cover in the next article.

CreateSpace Cover Creator Walk Through

For now lets take a look at the CreateSpace basic Cover creator. The Screen below was provided after I selected a template that CreateSpace has about 5 pages of. The first option is theme which provides fonts, images, and default images. The only thing that was picked up from me was my book Series name, Title and Author name. I selected Shadowplay for the style and font.

The next thing I did was upload an image I created into the Front Cover image.

The next option I selected was to input text to the back of the book. My question for others is should this be biographical, a synopsis of the novel, or an excerpt of the novel. I would appreciate any feedback.

The next thing I did was upload an author's image,

Next I selected the main Background color, CreateSpace picked up the secondary color.

I didn't change the font color and I accepted the cover. Clearly what you see above was not the cover I had setup, I have not entered the back cover text, I would like feedback about that, and I am now going to make two other changes to see what people's opinions are. Again I am looking for feedback about what people think of the next cover I am going to create.

Using the basic cover provided in this template what do you think of this as a possible cover. With regards to the previous, or would you make even more drastic changes.

Keep in mind that I am going to explore using more advance options to create a book cover. I will also be going through the book to correct any errors, and release it as a new edition.

I hope my little journey into CreateSpace cover creator was of interest and please ask any questions I hope I can answer.

Gene Poschman