Monday, April 25, 2016

The Perception of Value, and the Value of Perception

As always, I thank those who've purchased "None of Our Hands Are Clean". I really pray you enjoy it, and it generates conversation. I thank God for this opportunity.

Recently, I had an acquaintance vociferously expect a free copy. The acquaintance didn't mean any harm, but it spoke to a level of familiarity that left me somewhat uncomfortable.

An interesting part of this journey is convincing some people I'm trying to run this as a business. To me, this isn't some school project where I'd want pats on the head or a passing grade.

That's from where today's post title comes.

As I market my novel, I'm trying to foster the perception that there's value in buying it, reading it, telling others about it, etc. I want my work to be worthwhile to readers, even as it challenges them in some way. We all understand on some level that the proper product price point influences what we think a consumable is worth.

In addition, I learn about myself when I value what others perceive in my work. Thanks to my editor Shelia Bell for reminding me not to tell my readers what to think as they read the story, understand the characters, and perhaps re-assess their own understanding of certain situations. My readers teach me as they provide feedback. Of course I have to be judicious in how I use that feedback, but it's a fascinating cycle. At least it's fascinating until I'm "in my feelings" one day, and constructive criticism pushes me to a big bowl of ice cream.

I've been telling folk all the while NOOHAC isn't a one-off effort. I definitely want this to be the first of numerous successful novels. I'm happy this effort forces me to engage a different part of my brain. I'm in this thing, but some large parts I cannot control.

Monday, April 18, 2016

So, Today I'm a Traveling Salesman...

This morning, I said a short prayer and headed out the door.

For decades, I told myself I didn't have what it took to be a salesman. From a distance, I'd always admired those persons who could cold-call potential customers, find common ground, and close a sale.

I didn't have that kind of personality, I'd often tell folk. I'm not magnetic enough to convince people to buy stuff. And, even one rejection would be heartbreaking. 

Given the situation with my novel, I'd best learn how to close sales. Like many others, my father used to tell me "be open to learning new skills, either at your current job or in prep for your next one." So yeah, at once doing this was thrilling and chilling. It would be something I've rarely attempted, and at which I'd never succeeded.

It was me, and my product. It's pretty direct motivation. There was still that reluctance to absorb a shootdown, but here goes.

Before heading out, I had one pretty solid lead and one "possible" (for those who play spades with a partner & bid the number of books you're sure you can get, that kind of "possible" is what I mean).

The solid lead was a Christian bookstore near my house. The young, bespectacled guy at the counter was nice enough, but the manager wasn't there. They'd have to call me back another time. I left my business card and left. On the way out, I noticed all sorts of books on the shelves. I envisioned multiple copies of my novel alongside these other publications.

The "possible" was a bookstore several miles south of my first stop. The second store was a fast-food place in a previous incarnation (I'd eaten there before).

Once I got inside, I realized my "possible" was highly improbable. The lady behind the counter was nice, but they weren't in the market for what I'd offered. This second bookstore sold Bibles and Biblical resources. In addition, they had a nice selection of robes, clerical-collared shirts and other church support products.

The counter lady tried to say "no" without actually using that word. Bless her heart. The manager wasn't in (although someone was sitting at the manager's desk). I could leave a copy for the manager to consider, but the counter lady had no idea when or even if the manager would actually read my novel. The manager rarely read Christian fiction as a business consideration.

She also informed me they weren't staffed to do any marketing (though I assured her I'd take care of that.) She was nice in her warnings, letting me know that their story and my novel wern't a good match.

I left the counter lady a card as well, bid her farewell, and booked out yet again.

So far, I didn't have any sales, but felt encouraged. By this time, I also felt a bit hungry.

After running an errand, I headed home. There's a nice little bistro-type place near downtown, and they serve great panini. I figured I'd stop in to get one. As I waited for my to-go order, I noticed the bistro had bookshelves on opposite walls. I went to the cashier, asked permission to donate a couple of copies, and waited for an answer.

She gave it some thought, reminded me that their books are for loaning. And, they never bought books for their displays. It was donations only. Sometimes, customers return books. Sometimes, they'll recommend a book. Sometimes, the owners will note feedback from reader/customers.

Since I'm riding around with product, it was a no-brainer to go get a couple of copies to leave at the bistro.

(Aside: I'm still trying to figure out the calculus of how many copies to give away to stir up more sales. I'm guessing a number between one copy and halfway to infinity may capture the number I seek. This will take more study.)

After spending the morning driving around, I feel invigorated. Even without actual sales today, I'm in the game. I imagine it's kinda/sorta like a minor leaguer called up to Major League Baseball. My debut looks like an 0-for-2 in the box score, but I wasn't over-matched in either plate appearance.

Tonight, I can put on some baseball in the background, hit up the Google machine, do some more recon about possible bookstores to visit, and work a game plan. This is a challenge, one I've never faced. But I look forward to it. Tomorrow is another day to get in the game and take my swings. More to follow...

Friday, April 15, 2016

Yeah, I'm back - introducing "None of Our Hands Are Clean"


"But you said that before." Yeah, I can't deny I got...distracted.

Above is the first pic I've ever posted. It's the full cover from my debut novel, "None of Our Hands Are Clean." It's available all over.

My first tagline is " A romance...for the rest of us." You can find it on the following websites.

Kindle

Amazon paperback

Barnes & Noble's website

Books-a-Million's website

As always, I appreciate deeply those of you who've already bought it, read it, enjoyed it. For those who haven't yet, check it out.

In this space, I'll share the things I've learned getting this published. In addition, I'll also share some stuff about upcoming works.

I'm available for podcasts, interviews, book signings, etc.

I won't need a year to create the next post.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

"Baby, I'm Back"

Yep, I've been gone for a while. But now, I'm settled in my home. I'm getting involved locally. I'm gonna start writing more stuff. Stay tuned...

Monday, August 11, 2014

Ms. Veteran America 2014 - 12 October, 5PM (local), Leesburg, VA

I saw this on the Twitterverse earlier this afternoon. The Ms. Veteran America pageant is a showcase for women veterans. It's not a typical pageant, though. The main purpose is to raise money for housing homeless women veterans and their children.

http://msveteranamerica.org/ - feel free to hit the site & check out what's going on.

The National Conference Center – Leesburg, VA
18980 Upper Belmont Pl Leesburg, VA 20176
(703) 729-8000 – www.conferencecenter.com
 
I haven't been before, and don't live in Virginia. However, it sounds like a worthy event. If this sounds interesting, check out the links attached for more data.
 
 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Relocation Chronicles, Chapter 5 - I Love That House!

On the 1st of the month, my property manager/realtor formally posted my house for sale. Mid-morning, we went by the house to give it a once-over. I have to acknowledge my tenant, who kept it in pretty good shape. Sure, it will need a bit of TLC, but there are no glaring issues. That is a relief.

As my realtor and I went in that morning, I saw the house from a different perspective. It was the first time since September of 2010 that I'd set foot in in it, and thought "I wouldn't mind staying here". The house was light and airy. The kitchen and den area were roomy. The basement looked good; the carpet held up well & the walls were in good shape. With some of the tenant's stuff still in it, I could see how a different decoration theme could bring out some different qualities.

My realtor is also optimistic about the house being on the market. He feels the proposed price is reasonable for the location, and he's doing what he can to increase its marketability.

I didn't tour the upper (bedroom) level, since the tenant hadn't finished removing her things. But, the rooms I saw reminded me why my wife and I bought it. It wasn't one of those "try to remember/the kind of September..." moments, but I did get a little sentimental. We had such plans for it, plans that didn't quite come to fruition.

The house was the first & only one my wife and I ever purchased. Even after all these years, her vision and intelligence are still a positive impact on my life and the lives of our progeny. That thought really blows my mind, and got me to thinking. Have I made choices that can be a long-lasting benefit to others? When I'm gone, will others say I had their best interests at heart?

Yeah, in a very mundane sense the house is an asset. It can be converted to another resource as I move on in this life. But, it's also a symbol. It's a reminder of a better time, a more innocent time. I'm not saying I want to move back in. But I saw the potential. Whoever buys it will have a really nice house.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Relocation Chronicles, Chapter 4 - Papers (No, Not Those Kind of Papers)

(With apologies to Usher Raymond IV)

Tuesday morning, I met my realtor at his office. It was a cool, weirdly blustery day. In most parts of the nation, it's normally hot on 1 July. Here on the Front Range, though, we're liable to see any sort of weather. I wore a tropical print shirt, trying to convince myself I felt warm.

My realtor, as mentioned before, is insightful & professional. Upon my arrival, he had a bit of Chick-Fil-A set out. We broke bread for a bit as we discussed selling my house. He was confident that the house was desirable, that the selling price he proposed was appropriate for the location, and that it wouldn't take a lot of work to dress it up for viewings.

After a few minutes of visiting, he brought out the papers. Contract time! I put electronic signatures on a couple of forms, forms that were actually shorter than I expected. Each was around 8-10 pages, written in clear text that even a goober like me could understand.

Each form had boilerplate language towards the top, in bold print. I could imagine a stentorian voice reading it, like Chuck D, Walter Cronkite or Billy Graham:

THIS FORM HAS IMPORTANT LEGAL CONSEQUENCES AND THE PARTIES SHOULD CONSULT LEGAL AND TAX OR OTHER COUNSEL BEFORE SIGNING.

First up were the Closing Instructions. This form confirmed the location of the property, the name of the closing company we plan to use, how the closing documents would be prepared, who pays the required fees, etc. Also included were some high-level statements regarding disputes around the closing, if such events happen. So far, so good.

Next, I got the Exclusive Right-To-Sell Contract. This one had language at the top of the form similar to the previous, and something unique to this contract:

Compensation charged by brokerage firms is not set by law. Such charges are established by each real estate brokerage firm.   

Uh, sure. Seems reasonable. This one spelled out my business relationship with my realtor. The listing period was confirmed, the realtor's duties, selling price, and our respective rights to cancel (if it came to that).

One interesting thing included is Section 7 - Compensation to Brokerage Firm. Yep, when my realtor gets the house sold, he gets paid for his work. Something I'd ignored before was in Section 7.3.3. There is a 30-day period after the listing period ends, where if I negotiate independently with a prospective buyer I met through the broker (realtor), I still owe the broker his commission. I'm been na├»ve about this, but there must have been too many instances of folk hooking up after-hours to sell property & "hip-checking" the broker out of his/her rightfully earned commission. People and money, as usual a recipe for possible temptation and wrongdoing.

After signing those two forms, my realtor showed me a website used in the real estate industry. This site is a clearinghouse for home listings, with pictures, descriptions, etc. One cool feature on the site is a scheduling function. There are blocks of time designated, where a realtor can sign up for a block to show the house. This allows different realtors to de-conflict between each other's schedules when showing a house. It seems obvious, but I've always been captivated by "process". In clicking on the tab that showed my house, he had loaded pictures of the interior. These pics were taken before my current tenant moved in. My realtor chose a sunny day, and the interior looked attractive with sunlight streaming in. I was quite impressed (more on that in another post).

The third form I received was the Seller's Property Disclosure. I have to fill out this one; my broker isn't allowed. This one is also pretty obvious - describe the house's physical condition. There's a series of questions, and I fill in the dots. I had four answer choices: yes, no, I don't know, N/A. Seems simple enough.

Most of the questions were straightforward, and I dove right in to addressing them. Sections of questions covered the structure, appliances, electrical/telecommunications, mechanical, sewage, and other related issues. I took real comfort in the form addressing whether or not I kept radioactive or hazardous materials on-site. (rolls eyes). The question about mine shafts or abandoned wells on the property cracked me up as well.

[Note: I understand the need for inclusion of such topics. Especially in this state, with all sorts of terrain and previous usage, one would be prudent to cover such issues. But, in the suburb where my house is located, one wouldn't normally expect an abandoned mine shaft. My suburb is as un-exciting as one would expect.]

Yeah, these were just forms. People sign papers for various reasons every day. But to me, on that day, the symbol was larger than just paragraphs and signature blocks. I've been running my mouth for years about leaving. Now, it feels a little more real. My intent has been expressed through legally-mandated means. It's time to do business.