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125 Pages and 99 Cents

August 4th, 2015 · Sorry I Wasn't What You Needed, Writing

Over the past few years, I’ve met a lot of cool writers and reviewers while reviewing and writing myself. When I was cranking out reviews on Bailey’s Baseball Book Reviews, I enjoyed finding a new author and shouting about their book. I did a number of interviews with authors, most of which ran on BaseballAmerica.com as well as on my site.

It’s fun to be on the other side of that now, and having gone through it as a blogger, I really appreciate the time and effort it takes for reviewers to reach out to authors. Most of us will never get a slot in the Sunday New York Times, so book blogs are a great opportunity to meet new readers. So I am excited to be part of a new feature, Author Tuesday!, on the book blog 125pages.com.

My new book, Sorry I Wasn’t What You Needed, was reviewed by 125pages.com last month. Laura Nagore, who runs the site, said she took a little while to warm up to Sorry’s protagonist, C.J. Neubauer, but she was glad she stuck with it. “The pace of the book picks up after C.J. returns to the Seattle area and the addition of characters, other than his girlfriend and neighbor, flesh out who C.J. is. The familial ties are painted with a very fine brush and really enhance the story. The further into the book, the better the story gets. About three quarters in the story morphs and instead of focusing on a petulant C.J. it wraps around the whole Neubauer family and that is what makes this book great.”

Check out our interview, which is available now. We talked about writing, reading, hidden talents, and, of course, the book. By the way, if you haven’t yet read Sorry I Wasn’t What You Needed, you can snag a copy for your Kindle this week for just 99 cents (Tuesday through Saturday). What are you waiting for?

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Go ahead, judge a book by its cover

July 20th, 2015 · Sorry I Wasn't What You Needed

Sorry I Wasn't What You NeededCovers are tough. As if it’s not hard enough to simply write a book, then you have to wrap it up in some attractive artwork to draw readers in. (And forget marketing, which is more mysterious than the Bermuda Triangle.) I’ve handed the job off to people much more artistic than me, and as a result I’ve been happy with the covers of my books. The first one came together real nice with some Durham Bulls elements that fit perfectly for the story and setting. The second one doesn’t seem to have pulled in as many readers as I thought it might, but I still love the little ‘roided out bobblehead. And the new one, well, I was going for a certain type and feel with this one to give the reader an inkling straight off that it’s smack in that contemporary/literary vein. (And, yeah, “contemporary” to many readers seems to equal “contemporary romance,” but it shouldn’t, so there.) I studied a lot of covers of books I like in the sweet spot I was aiming for, and described it as best I could to the company I hired to design it. And after a few tweaks of font and color, they gave me something I was really pleased with.

A lot of my cover research was done on Joel Friedlander’s site, The Book Designer. Every month he invites authors and designers to submit covers for critique. There are usually well over a hundred of them, and reading through his comments is educational if not entertaining. So shortly after I released Sorry I Wasn’t What You Needed in May, I submitted a jpg of the cover. When the cover design awards were announced last month I scrolled through, looking for mine, hoping for a kind word … and it wasn’t included. I don’t know what happened when I submitted it, but apparently it didn’t go through. So I submitted it again, and this time even got a confirmation email.

ECA-Gold-Star-Jun-2015-1And this month my cover was there. Not just there, but it earned a Gold-Star (as one of a handful of runners-up, which out of 114 fiction covers is no small feat), along with the feedback, “A beautifully effective example of design that unifies the story and the artwork and the words into one whole that really communicates.” I’ll take that as a high compliment, because, a) it’s the best critique I’ve received there of the three (the other two got kind words, but no Gold-Stars), and b) the dude knows cover design. And as a Gold-Star recipient, I get to go to Starbucks and pay regular price for anything on the menu. I also get to display the nifty cover design badge. So I’m displaying it. Proudly.

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Win a free copy of Sorry I Wasn’t What You Needed

June 16th, 2015 · Sorry I Wasn't What You Needed

Sorry I Wasn't What You NeededOh boy, oh boy, oh boy, a contest. Who doesn’t love a good contest? And how about one with great odds? Even better. Here’s your chance to win big. No, it’s not the Mega Millions, but you don’t have to cough up a buck for a ticket, either. All you have to do is sign up for my mailing list, and you will be registered to win a copy of my new novel, Sorry I Wasn’t What You Needed, in either paperback or Kindle format, your choice. (If you already have it or would prefer one of my other books, that can be arranged.)

Ugh, you’re thinking, more email. But … this is a very minimalist email list. In fact, if you hate email, this is just the list for you. Because I so rarely send emails to the list. And what’s more, I promise to never share the list with any third parties. It won’t be sold, loaned, bartered, or gambled away on poker night. Cross my heart and hope to die.

So, if I rarely send emails, what’s the point? Well, this is a list for big announcements, like new book releases or special deals. If you’re interested in those kinds of things, sign up. If you’re looking for recipes and tips on timeshare vacation rentals, this is not the list for you. But if you want to be the first person on your block to know about my next book, you’ll be sitting pretty. This is the kind of stuff one would post on Facebook. And I do, but since Facebook only sends my posts to roughly 6 percent of the people who follow me, it’s tough to get the word out. (And, yeah, that’s true. They want people to pay to “promote” their posts. If you don’t, almost no one sees them.) I tweet it on Twitter as well, but since I don’t want to be a complete tool, I don’t tweet it every hour on the hour and if you’re not on at the time I tweet, well, you might miss it. But if you check your email, hello, all set.

Are you in? All you have to do now is cough up your name and email address by July 3, 2015, and you will be automagically registered. One lucky winner will be selected at random on July 4, making the national holiday ever so slightly more festive, for them if no one else.

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The six people I want to have to dinner

June 13th, 2015 · Uncategorized

I’ve been deliberating most of the day on one of those fun exercises, choosing the six people you’d most want to have to dinner. Or have dinner with. I’m not sure they’d all want to come to my house, though that would make it a little more special in a way. But, man, that’s some pressure to grill the meat just perfectly. I’m not really sure on the rules on this. Do we get to be friends with them from the dinner on? Can I later text them or ring them up to chat? That might actually change my lineup a little.

Another rules clarification: As I interpret this, it’s a ticket to meet people I wouldn’t normally be able meet. So I’m not picking anyone I know, even though I have a ton of friends spread all over the country that I would love to see. I would totally dig a Guy Smiley, This Is Your Life meetup with all of the great friends I’ve made over the years. But I’ll assume they’re all planning to come to my 50th birthday party and I won’t include them in this exercise. (Though it goes without saying that I will become such good pals with these dinner guests that they, too, will show up for my 50th, so I can’t really lose there, I guess.)

So, without further ado, here are my six dinner guests:

Ricky Gervais – Comedy genius. Second funniest man on the planet. Capable of dropping into David Brent at any moment. Hope he doesn’t drop into Derek too frequently, because I’ll start to wonder if it’s appropriate to laugh after a bit.

Karl-PilkingtonKarl Pilkington – Funniest man on the planet, if perhaps inadvertently so. There’s way more wisdom here than meets the eye. Plus I want him to tell the story of how his dad left the Forrest Gump kid in the wheelie bin. And I’ll credit him for limiting my selections to living folk. As he once so eloquently put it, why would you want to invite dead people to dinner?

Kane-ChampionsLeague-561378Harry Kane – I admit it. I have a man crush on him. He’s brilliant. I spend way too much time thinking about how he does what he does. I’ve probably been this fixated on an athlete before, but I can’t recall who or when. Maybe Ilian Evtimov or George Foster, but they never dominated quite the same way. I just love watching this dude play. And he seems like a genuinely nice bloke. I don’t actually think he’d mind coming to dinner, but if he did he’d be too polite to ever let on.

Gary Lightbody – I became hooked on Snow Patrol 4-5 years ago. It’s not the rockingest music I’ve ever been addicted to, but I never shook it off. I probably went a solid 2 years without listening to much else, from 2011-13. I never got sick of it. But more than that, Gary seems like a top bloke. Like he would be fun to hang out with and wouldn’t keep reminding you that he was only there because you won some kind of miracle dinner contest.

James Corden – He’d be the guest that really tied everyone else together. Plus he’s Smithy. I could spend most of the night talking Gavin & Stacey with him. And a little bit of remaining time talking The Wrong Mans. Wouldn’t likely bring up Horne & Corden. No point rubbing that one in. We all make mistakes.

One spot left, and so many candidates to fill it. I’m painfully aware about now that all five of my guests are white males from the United Kingdom. Not a lot of diversity there, though we do have a lot of different conversation topics covered. Comedy, music, football, world travel with Karl. I’m thinking here that it would be great to chat for a while with Nick Hornby, a brilliant author and feverish Arsenal fan. I’ve long admired Dave Grohl, who just seems like a regular dude and must have so many fascinating stories to share. I’ve been a huge Michael J. Fox fan for 30 years, dating back to Family Ties and the original Back to the Future movie in 1985. I make a point of watching Jon Stewart every day, and have for years. His “offspring” John Oliver is even funnier, with a better accent. But to balance things out slightly, at least genderwise, I’m going with …

Ruth Jones – Okay, Gavin & Stacey is full on now. But I’d also be talking a lot of Stella. Where the hell did Rob Morgan disappear to in Season 3? Thanks for bringing him back at the end of Season 4, but really, he’s the one we all wanted Stella to wind up with. Not Neil from Swindon. (Though credit where it’s due, he did grow on me a bit.) Will Dai be coming back? Was Paula’s return only for a couple of episodes? What the hell ever happened to Stella’s parents? So much to discuss, this dinner will run all night.

In the end, it all leans very British. I didn’t really intend that, and maybe six months from now it would come out differently. Of course, if I wanted to pick Americans I would focus on my friends. And you know who you are, all six of you. (There’s way more than six, but let’s let them all think they made the cut.)

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Ebook sales eating print sales for breakfast

May 20th, 2015 · Nine Bucks a Pound, Sorry I Wasn't What You Needed, The Greatest Show on Dirt, Writing

I won’t pretend for a moment that my sales are reflective of book sales in the wide, wide world of literature. I am but a wee bit player in the market, a mere grain of sea salt in the ocean. That said, there is a clear trend in my sales figures over the past three years. When I released The Greatest Show on Dirt back in 2012, my sales were relatively even between print and ebook. The paperback version was priced at $12.95 and probably discounted a buck or so on Amazon, where most of the copies were sold. The ebook version (mostly Kindle, though I did experiment back then with other channels) was mostly priced at $2.99. Even so, with the electronic version nearly $10 less, sales broke down 44.6 percent print, 55.4 percent ebook.

PrintvsEbookAs you can see by the bar graph, those numbers have shifted dramatically in just two years. With the release last February of Nine Bucks a Pound, I had two books available for most of 2014. Of the 598 combined copies sold (including borrows in either the Kindle Lending Library or through Kindle Unlimited), 93 percent were ebooks. And aside from a couple of 99-cent promotions, the Kindle version of The Greatest Show on Dirt sat at $3.99 for most of the year. Nine Bucks a Pound was most often listed at $2.99, with a $13.95 price on the paperback.

I suspect there is a lot more to it than price, though that is likely a significant factor. Amazon’s “Also Boughts” (Customers who bought this book also bought these books) are a huge discoverability booster. Over time, with enough sales, those connections multiply. Once they reach a certain critical mass, sales trickle in at a somewhat steady pace. I reached that plateau for the Kindle version of The Greatest Show on Dirt sometime in 2013. It’s safe to assume I have yet to reach it for print.

But there has to be more to the story, as I’m no where near that magical threshold for either format of Nine Bucks a Pound. Yet my ebook to print ratio was nearly 9-to-1 for it last year. Much of that was due to the promotions that were run, lowering the ebook price temporarily. But I’ll guess a bigger factor is there are a lot of readers out there who will more willingly plunk down $3-4 on a new author than $12-13. I do the same, so I very much understand that approach.

Will I see the same breakdown with book #3, Sorry I Wasn’t What You Needed? It seems likely, though with the print yet to release (getting close, should be ready before the end of the month), there are no numbers yet to compare.

How do your purchases break down? Do you read more ebooks than print these days? Does it differ for novels vs non-fiction books? And how much does price factor in?

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‘Sorry I Wasn’t What You Needed’ now available for the Kindle

May 11th, 2015 · Sorry I Wasn't What You Needed, Writing

Sorry I Wasn't What You NeededA little less than 14 months ago, I started writing novel #3, working off my disappointment in the worst display of free-throw shooting ever witnessed, in N.C. State’s collapse against St. Louis in the NCAA Tournament. Three hours later I had a solid start on Chapter 1 of what became Sorry I Wasn’t What You Needed. It is now available for the Kindle, as of early this morning.

This book is a bit of a departure from my first two novels, which both centered around baseball. C.J. Neubauer, the protagonist this time around, is not a baseball fan. Not much of a sports fan at all, outside of his passion for broomball, a bastardized version of floor hockey played in the living room of his boyhood home. He’s not passionate about much, which is why, ten years out of college, he’s underemployed, constantly broke, and spends most of his nights flicking cigarette butts out the front window after yet another quarrel with his girlfriend.

The story begins on an average Friday evening, which unfolds like so many others in C.J.’s life, up until the point he receives a rare phone call from his father. Here’s the description posted on Amazon:

Ten years ago, C.J. Neubauer fled his family, trading coasts to provide himself three time zones of buffer space. Random email and social media posts yield all the contact he needs. Until a late-night phone call from his wistful father. Unaccustomed to hearing his dad say “I love you,” C.J. freezes, vowing instead to reciprocate the next time they speak. But when the phone wakes him the following morning, it’s his older brother informing him their father has committed suicide.

Sporting a nagging conscience and a chip on his shoulder, C.J. books a flight home on his girlfriend’s credit card. All he wants is to bury his father and try to make sense of what led him to take his own life. All he has to go on is a note that reads, “Sorry I wasn’t what you needed.” Was it intended for C.J. and his siblings? The mother who walked out on them twenty-five years ago? Or someone else altogether?

Alternately heartfelt and laugh-out-loud funny, Sorry I Wasn’t What You Needed explores the familial bonds that obligate us for life—and beyond.

So, yeah, quite different from the first two. More fun to write in a sense. I wouldn’t want to be in a family like C.J.’s, but they provided no shortage of drama to propel the story along.

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Nine Bucks a Pound “humanizes the demonized”

March 2nd, 2015 · Nine Bucks a Pound, Reviews

There is nothing more gratifying as an author than reading a review by someone who really gets your book. Though it’s been a little more than a year since Nine Bucks a Pound was released, reviews are still slowly trickling in, including one this week from Benjamin Hill of MiLB.com. And Ben captured Del Tanner’s motivations as well as anyone has in a very positive review.

Nine Bucks a Pound follows Del’s career from 2003 through 2010, as he transitions from Minor League roster filler to top prospect to Major League success story. Steroid use plays no small role in his unexpected ascension, but throughout the book the question lingers: Was it worth it? His lies, and the paranoia that accompanies them, place a dark cloud over all that he has accomplished.

And later:

As a former Baseball America correspondent (and book reviewer), Bailey is well-qualified to tell such a story. He is familiar with the Minor League locales through which Del ascends, as well as the various personalities — agents, scouts, host families, coaches, players and assorted hangers-on — that populate the landscape. Additionally, Bailey did his research, speaking to (unnamed) former players about the drug testing process and to trainers about workout regimens. Nine Bucks A Pound, though a work of fiction, seems real.

Hill took the time to understand not just Del’s motivations, but that of his co-conspirators, Ryan Edsell and Ian Wicker. Having reviewed many books myself, I know it’s not always easy to really flesh a book out. He did so, and I definitely appreciate the effort he put forth. Now if only everyone in America would log on and read the full review.

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Channeling Charlie Brown for the Local Author Extravaganza

December 12th, 2014 · Nine Bucks a Pound, The Greatest Show on Dirt

Book signing events are usually better in concept than reality. It’s nice to imagine that long line of readers, queuing up for the chance to purchase one of your books, you personalize a short message, pose for a photo, keep the line moving. Then you wake up and realize you’ve nodded off at the table because no one has approached for the past 20 minutes.

I was fortunate enough to be invited out to the Lift Bridge Book Shop a couple of times back in 2012, the year The Greatest Show on Dirt came out. Sales were modest, but it’s nice to be asked all the same. The first time it was just me, at one of their Saturday Author Salons. I think I sold two copies in two hours. Mildly humbling. The second time was for a multi-author event during the Brockport Arts Festival. I had to park a good half mile away because Main Street was blocked off and there were tons of people there. I, optimistically, hauled a rather large box of books from my car to the store, wishing at some point that I’d brought a wagon to pull it in.

I say “optimistically,” but it was more like, well, I better bring a bunch, just in case. I didn’t really expect to sell 25 copies, or whatever the box held. It was like Charlie Brown bringing a briefcase to the Valentine’s Day party, to hold all the cards he didn’t get. And then after Violet and Lucy show up a couple of days later and give him a used Valentine, he decides he’ll need two briefcases the following year. Dream big, right. I sold four copies that afternoon, including one to a neighbor and one to a co-worker.

Sunday I’ll be heading back out to Brockport, to participate in Lift Bridge’s Annual Local Author Extravaganza. I’m going to keep it real this time. Well, within reason. I’ll bring 10 copies of each book. I’ll probably return with eight copies of each, but you never know. Maybe something crazy will happen and there will be a crowd of baseball novel lovers on hand. It could happen.

If you’ve still got shopping to do, stop on out Sunday afternoon between 1 and 4 and say hello. Books make great Christmas gifts.

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Baseball reader on your gift list?

November 21st, 2014 · Nine Bucks a Pound, The Greatest Show on Dirt

Got a baseball fan on your Christmas gift list? Books are easy to wrap. Get them a copy of Nine Bucks a Pound or The Greatest Show on Dirt. Or both. Include their name and a brief message in the comments field when you pay via PayPal and I’ll sign and personalize their gift. All books will be shipped USPS Priority Mail, and I’ll knock part of the shipping cost off to make the prices comparable to what you would pay on Amazon (for an unsigned copy). Buy both books and save three bucks.

Did you know you can send Kindle books as gifts? If your reader prefers to read on their Kindle, head on over to Amazon.com and look for Nine Bucks a Pound or The Greatest Show on Dirt. Just $3.99 each, no postage, no wrapping.


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Reflections on a mostly successful group promotion

October 29th, 2014 · Nine Bucks a Pound, The Greatest Show on Dirt

When I went to bed Monday night, my first novel, The Greatest Show on Dirt, ranked No. 3 on Amazon among all Kindle baseball books. That’s rarified air for me, and I stayed up a bit too late checking my sales, enjoying an unusual night when they came in at a 4-5 per hour clip. If not for an all-day glitch on Amazon Tuesday, I might have enjoyed a moment at the top of the heap, at least long enough to capture a screen shot of Dirt nudging ahead of the Derek Jeter books and Moneyball, which seems to haunt the top 5 for reasons I can’t understand.

Aside from the ‘Zon’s technical difficulties, things were soon back to normal. My one-week sale blitz was complete, the frenzy over. It was a fun ride while it lasted, and, boy, did we move some units. Okay, it may not be NY Times bestseller pace, but for me, moving 85 books (between my two novels) in seven days was dizzying stuff, even at 99 cents a pop.

Amazon Kindle Best Sellers in Baseball at the end of the promo

Amazon Kindle Best Sellers in Baseball at the end of the promo.

I’ve done 99-cent price promos in the past, with much more modest results. My hope this time around was to generate enough sales to see a carryover effect once the books went back to regular price. (The jury is still out on that, but early returns are not promising.) So this time I wanted to do something totally different. I read David Gaughran’s book, Let’s Get Visible, which is all about marketing books, particularly ebooks. One idea I came away with was a World Series group promo.

I kicked it around with a couple of writer friends, both authors of good baseball novels (Russell Rowland’s High and Inside and Jeff Gillenkirk’s Home, Away). They were both into the idea from the start. I reached out to a number of other authors, some I’ve interacted with before and others I hadn’t. I figured we needed at least five books minimum to make a credible stand. With two of my own, we were nearly there early on, but I wanted more.

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