Category Archives: Choose Yourself

How to be famous forever

There was a question on Quora that I answered.

As a person of the arts, (drama, literature, music etc.) what does it take to be remembered by history and to stand the test of time?

I thought it was an interesting question.  So I did a little reading on those that I considered to have stood the test of time, at least 300 years time.

First, let say me I think there is some luck involved here.

After that, you need to be prolific.  

Seriously, over 450 books.

Seriously, over 450 books.

Isaac Asimov wrote over 450 books.

Van Gogh made over 2,000 works of art.

Mozart composed over 600 works of music.

Charlie Chaplin made nearly 100 movies.

Miles Davis’ had at least 48 studio albums, plus dozens of live albums.

Shakespeare wrote at least 37 plays.

Dickens wrote at least 15 novels, five novellas, and hundreds of short stories.

Steven Spielberg has producer credits on at least 147 movies.

Hitchcock directed over 50 movies.

Be prolific.

The lasting effects so far of Bookbub

I am now over a month out from my Bookbub email blast and brief run at the best-seller’s list on Amazon’s Children’s List.  See that post here.

Here is a screen grab of Kevin and the Three-Headed Alien‘s raking:

Book Bub effect with text

I admit it was not a great for a long time.  In fact it hadn’t sold a single copy  in several months.

It now averages more than a sale a day.

I’m not quitting my day job on that news, but it is way better than before.

Lessons Learned:

Simply writing a great book and putting it up isn’t enough.

I know.  Most don’t want to hear that.  You’ve written a great piece of literature, therefore the world is going to beat down your door.  Nope.  Being recommended by others matters.

In this case the book was recommended by Bookbub, and that matters.

Build your own email list

At the time of the email Bookbub told me their children’s email went out to something like 330,000 people.

Off of that email and Bookbub website I had about 350 sales and Kindle borrows.

Let’s do that math.  That’s about one-ten of one-percent.  .1 of 1%

To be able to sell 350 copies from my own list, I wouldn’t need nearly that many subscribers.  If just 10% of an email list bought a new book, all I would need would be a list of 3,500 people.

Now, that isn’t easy.  But I figure my choice is to either focus on building my tribe through an email list or be completely dependent on Bookbub.  And I reapplied to Bookbub for the original Kevin book, which has 48 reviews on Amazon.  But they didn’t accept it.  Kevin and the Three-Headed Alien they did accept only has 12 reviews.  So I will focus on building my own list.

And if you’re a writer then that is what your marketing efforts should be on as well.  Building your own email list.

So Bookbub was wonderful!  If you can get your book accepted.  Take it!  But in the long run you should have your own email list to send a blast out too.

Hey look at that:

That’s the link where you can sign up my Insider’s List (my email list).  You get a couple of free short stories, some photographs I have taken, and you will get the chance to get new books for free before they are available on Amazon.  Plus I send out a lot of blog posts and other content on that list before I send it here, or on Facebook.

What to do when you have no idea what to write about

When you don’t have any ideas.

I had dinner with some friends tonight. One friend, like many teachers, has always wanted to write a children’s book.  But she says she doesn’t have any ideas.

There is the mistake.

Most people who want to write but don’t, make a fundamental mistake.  They wait for the idea first and then they begin writing.  This is wrong.


Louis L’more said “In order for the water to flow you must first turn on the faucet.”  Or something like that.  I’m not looking it up.

In other words, come to the paper (or computer) first, then you write.  Then come the bad ideas, and then later come the good ideas.  But it is, always, first write.

When I decided to try and write a children’s book, I had no idea where to start.  So I did what any good teacher does.  I gave a writing prompt.  When writing Kevin and the Seven Lions I sat down at the computer and wrote several sentences as writing prompts.

Kevin slept in class.

That was the sentence that started the Kevin series.  That sentence didn’t make the final book, but it started the whole thing.

Here are some of the other sentences I wrote

Bobby rounded third and slid into home plate.

Sally was a shark.

I am still thinking about the shark book.  The baseball reference above I don’t think has anything to do with Baseball and Aliens.  But just writing down words.  ANY WORDS.  Got the ball rolling.

When you are completely stuck my recommendation, just write a sentence.  Any sentence.  Put your fingers on the keyboard and let the fingers talk.

Seriously any sentence, and see what happens.

If you are stuck.  Write your sentence.

Trust me on this.



Get this blog post early, free short stories, and my next book for free if you join my Insider’s List.

The amazing fun of a Bookbub promo and being on the same page as Harry Potter

I got freakin’ lucky.  I submitted Kevin and the Three-Headed on a whim to Bookbub, the very exclusive book promoting website and mailing list, and to my shock they accepted the book.  At that point I agreed to the $110 for the promo.

A very brief best-selling children's book.

A very brief best-selling children’s book.

Currently Bookbub is one of the most powerful ways to promote a book in a short term blast.  For the longest time Bookbub didn’t promote children’s books.  The children’s market is definitely a smaller market than romance, thrillers, and science fiction.  But I believe to be a growing market as school start buying iPads and Kindles for their classrooms.  So for a long time there just wasn’t a way to really reach a lot of readers outside of your own platform.

$110 you say!?  I was setting the book to a 99 cent Kindle Countdown sale.  Meaning I would get about 70 cents per sale.  So to me it was worth the investment.  The days of having a bump from a free run, even a really good free run, seem to be over.  So a 99 cent sale would keep the book visible on the sales charts and the Kindle countdown chart.

Yes. It was BIG seller before…

On the day of the of the promotion, Friday October 3rd, I kept an eye on sales as best I could.  I was at school so I couldn’t check in that often on my phone, but I noticed that it sold a copy before the email went out.  So someone had seen it on the website and purchase a copy then.  The email blast went out about around noon.  So the downloads began then.  By the time school was over at 3:15 my ad with Bookbub was profitable.  Let me say that again, three hours and profitable, I had the remaining five days of the promo to still run.  Which is why I recommend when doing a Bookbub promo make it a 99 cent promo and not a free one.

Well that night the wife and I went to the movies.  I was good and put the phone away.  When when left the movies about 8:30 pm the book had just past 200 copies.  After watching other books on Bookbub I noticed that children’s books were hitting the top 100 children’s list, and some were getting to around the 1,000 overall ranking and passing the 1,000 ranking.  So my hope was the get somewhere near there.  Since the book hadn’t sold in a couple of months.  Yes, a couple of months.  The ranking of the book was some where around 970,000.

So #970,000 was where the book started on Friday October 3.

It reached #575 sometime that night.



But even more enjoyable was seeing it hit #20 on the overall children’s list when I got out of the movies.  There on my phone it was on the same page as Harry Potter and Wonder.   Try as I might I couldn’t get a screen grab on my phone.  Never mind the fact that my phone will take random screen grabs in my pocket.  BUT THE ONE MOMENT I WANT A SCREEN GRAB.  No go.

On Saturday it was still climbing the children’s list.

Hey look! I am photobombing Harry!

Hey look! I am photobombing Harry!

I took a screen grab on my laptop so I could fit on the screen with Harry. Silly me.

It was surreal, it peaked at #14.

October 4 will be a day long remembered when Kevin got to hang with Harry and Greg.

October 4 will be a day long remembered when Kevin got to hang with Harry and Greg.

Lessons learned:

  • Getting into Bookbub once doesn’t guarantee a second time.  I submitted the first Kevin book, Kevin and the Seven Lions, it has a lot more reviews than three-Headed Alien does, yet Bookbub turned it down.
  • An author needs their own platform and email list so as not to be completely dependent on something like Bookbub.
  • Sales lead to other sales-in a series.  The promo helped the first Kevin book as well, but so far none of my other books.
  • It is possible to make a living selling children’s books.  There are several writers in the top 100 who are self-published and they have several books on the list.  Marcus Emerson and Noah Child the authors of the Diary of a 6th Grade Ninja
    Series have 8 books at $2.99 in the series.  They are doing very well.  A new series to me, My Monster Farts, is currently doing very well, even at 99 cents that’s good money.

So overall a very cool experience, if you’re an author and can get a Bookbub spot.  Take it.

It would be very cool if you joined my Insider’s List.  You get free stories and free books before I release them.

Learning Facebook ads and books

Kevin and the Seven Lions is a 99 cents Kindle Countdown Deal this week. (Click here to get it.)

"Kevin and the Seven Lions"



But the real news is that I noticed when I promoted a Facebook post announcing the deal that I got more clicks on the link then I had when I hadn’t boosted it.

Here is the post:



I do think the click increase also has to do with the language of the post.  This time I mentioned that the story  of Kevin also includes a good teacher.  And since I am selling to teachers that seems to have increased the post engagement.

I run a Facebook just to see what sort of engagement I can get.  Writers will pay for a Bookbub or Freebooksy Promotion, why not try a Facebook post that will give you more info?  You get no info from the others on how many  people click through to see your book.  I get that info with a Facebook ad.

This was just an experiment.  I believe that part of our jobs is marketing.  Finding new readers and fans.  This is the business part of the equation.

If you have any experience with Facebook ads, leave a comment and share your experience.

New Short Story-The Four Mile Sprint

I am working with an illustrator on a new picture book. In the meantime though I wrote a short story. It is based on characters and situations from my book Dolbin School for the Extraordinary. I’ve written about the idea that as an indie writer, or any writer for that matter, can work in terms of universes and not necessarily sequels. This short story tells the background of a supporting character from my book. I had fun making it. I am okay if I am the only person who buys a copy.

I was inspired by Hugh Howey, who in the past fews weeks has published at least two short stories quickly. There are short story categories in Amazon, making it a category that people search for anyway. Dean Wesley Smith has recommended writing short stories and then submitting them to magazines. I would still consider that, but I must admit, writing a short story and then submitting it to Amazon is easier.

This was also my attempt at book cover creating. I used Sketchup and Photoshop CC. I have a ways to go. But I’m learning.

Four Mile Sprint Cover 2

Click on the pic for the story on Amazon.

Four reasons why teachers should write books

This is an updated post that I guest posted over at AJ Cosmo’s blog.  Check my interview I did with him a year ago.

I am a teacher.  I think more teachers should write books.  They just should.

Cats.  Internet.  I win.

Cats. Internet. I win.

Here are four reasons why.


1)      Writing a book is hard



Even in this new world of indie publishing, with the gatekeepers falling away, completing a book is still hard.  I have seen teachers tell me they have an idea for a book, but as time moves along-no book.

A colleague told me she always wanted to write a book, but she had no idea of what to write.  Another one apparently started, but never finished because the illustrator was an unpaid family friend who didn’t complete the work.  So the project was abandoned.

Finishing a book is hard.

Which is exactly why it needs to be done.  When you finish such a difficult task students will look at you differently as a teacher.  Your colleagues will look at you differently.  Your boss will look at you differently-with more respect.


2)      You will inspire your students


This past year I taught fifth grade.  After sharing illustrations and rough drafts with my students, they all were inspired to write their own books in class.  During literacy station time, a lot of students spent time creating illustrations and writing their own stories.

There was a whole series about Zompires in my classroom.  What is a Zompire?  Why the combination of a zombie and a vampire. Apparently zompires don’t eat your brains, they just suck your blood.  But you need garlic and to cut their heads off to stop them.  I liked reading about Zompires.  I would actually have to remind students to work on other projects outside of making books.  I had a whole chart up in my room about it.  Too much book writing, nice problem to have as a teacher.

As a side, I teach in a high poverty school with a lot of English language learners.  These aren’t students with lots of books in their house.

See my link about my first fan fiction.


3)      You will bring added value to your career


I taught first grade for several years.  In Virginia, the fifth graders are tested in writing.  I published a book.  Boom.  I got moved to fifth grade.

Moving from first to fifth was a challenge.  But I enjoyed the challenge.  Having experience at first and fifth brings me a lot of value.

Teachers teach read reading and writing.  With a book a teacher will bring credibility to their lessons, students and colleagues will respect you more.

When you write a book, BAM!, you’re an expert.

School administrators need experts in their buildings and their classrooms.  Write a fiction or a nonfiction book, doesn’t matter, put it out in Kindle and paperback format and you are now an expert.  You’re an author.  You’re officially different.  And different in a very good way.

4)      You will experience a tear in the space-time continuum

Space time continum

What! You say?  Stay with me.

Early in the year I ordered classroom copies of two of my books, Kevin and the Three-headed Alien, and Dolbin School for the Extraordinary, and put them in my class library.  The students competed on who would read each book first.

During one lesson, the students were to get out a book we were reading.  One student was reading one of my books.  He didn’t put my book away.  I instructed him again to put away other books and get the book we were working on.  He still didn’t comply.  He was more interested in reading my book.  I was so confused.  The writer in me jumped for joy.  The teacher in me was frustrated.  My body was split in two over the meta-physical problem that was occurring right in front of me.  Seriously.  Who has this problem?

Who has students who would rather read books written by their teacher, as opposed to books the school system tells them to read?  I do.  I have that problem.

I love having that problem.

I want you to have that problem as well.


One of my books Dolbin School for the Extraordinary is free for a couple of more days.  Check it out.

P.P.S. Join my mailing list to be the first to know when my new picture book comes out.

Lessons learned from George Lucas

I am a Star Wars nut.  I admit it.  I was four when Star Wars came out.  It apparently was the first movie I ever saw in a movie theater.  From there it took over my childhood.  Now in middle age I enjoy it for the fun of it.  I have long read about George.  There is a lot there to learn from.

These are quick lessons I have learned from reading about his work.

George Lucas

1)  Own your creations

Lucas broke the mold by not accepting a directors fee.  Instead he held onto the rights.  AND THAT MADE ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD.


If you are an independent writer, filmmaker, musician, remember this lesson the most.

2)  Do it yourself.

Kuberick’s 2001 was the cutting edge of special effects when Lucas began work on Star Wars.  No one had ever done what Lucas needed.  When he got the first shot back he didn’t like it.  So he took over the special effects department.


From the need to create ground breaking special effects Lucas created ILM, Industrial Light and Magic.  ILM became the go to place for everyone else’s special effects for an entire generation of movies.


Steven Spielberg uses ILM for all of his movies.  Enough said.

3) Borrow and steal from everywhere

Star Wars comes from everywhere.  I have seen a lot of references to his study of Jospeh Campbell’s work on mythology.  Yes, he studied Campbell.  Star Wars though is the intersection of Campbell, religion, Flash Gordan, Kuirosauara, and movie serials.

In one interview, Carrie Fisher described Lucas as just breathing film.  He took everything he liked and made it his own.

4) Lower expectations and then you can surpass them

For several years the original Star Wars was the highest grossing film of all-time.  Lucas though had no idea it was going to be a success.  In numerous interviews he states that all he wanted to do was to make enough to make another movie.  Well, he made another movie and then some.

5) Be independent and get outside of the group think

Skywalker Ranch not located in Hollywood.

Not only was Lucas financially independent, I would say  that he was also emotionally and intellectually independent.  He set his business, not in the Hollywood capital of Los Angeles, but outside of San Francisco, several hours away from Los Angeles.  Apparently he didn’t want to get caught up in the thinking of Hollywood.

6) Create in spite of criticism

Lucas is also famous for his prequel trilogy.  It didn’t reasonate with the original fans of the of the first three movies.  But he kept making them inspite of people’s down right hatred of them.  In many ways, The Phantom Menace, is the world’s highest grossing indepent movie.  He made The Phantom Menace with his own money that was made from his billion dollar company.  So whenever I hear someone complain about the prequels, I tend to think, “Oh, and how did your multi-million dollar independent movie do?”

Sure, I may not be emotionally as drawn to the prequel trilogy, but if anybody else made the prequels they would be a career highlight and not a side note.

I could go on.  He made the Indiana Jones movies, and others.

He owns education and software companies.

But in the end Lucas has created worlds and companies that affect us daily.

Learn from that.

Another reason why teachers should write books

I have written before about why teachers should write more books.  I had another experience today, that I wished I could share with others.

I presented to my class a couple of copies of Kevin and the Triple Creature today.  I had several students who were particularly asking me to be the first to read them when they would be ready.  I learned to predetermine who would get the books first.  I almost had a, let’s call it an “aggressive disagreement” between students, when I dropped off copies of Kevin and the Three-Headed Alien.  Lesson learned.

You could get picky and say that phrase didn't come from the above scene.  You could.

You could get picky and say that phrase didn’t come from the above scene. You could.

(Aggressive disagreements are similar to aggressive negotiations that Jedi’s have.  Just minus the lightsabers.)

How many other writers can say they had to stop an “aggressive disagreement” over being the first to read their books?

Today my two students brought their copies of the book with them to lunch.  They read them while walking to lunch.

Those copies came from this box.

Those copies came from this box.

I wish you could experience that.

This is why teachers need to write books.  I have so many teachers tell me they want to write a book.  If you could experience this, you would be motivated finish that book.  Students will be impressed that you wrote a book.  They will be motivated to write like you.  They will send you their books for you to review.

Teachers, write your books.

Making an audio book

For some strange reason I decided to turn Kevin and the Seven Lions into an audio book.  My thinking was that as a first grade teacher for years I would have a listening station in my room.  Even in the older grades there are audio versions of stories for older kids.  This year I listened to the audio version of Zathura by Chris Van Allsburg with my fifth graders during a lesson on visualization.

I have also read that when a book has an audio version listed with in Amazon it looks more professional.

"Kevin and the Seven Lions"

Now available as an audio book.

Then there is the idea of different revenue streams, with one story I can sell it as a Kindle version, a paperback, and an audio version.  One story, three different ways to sell it.

To get this done I went through ACX, which of course is an Amazon company.  You post the project in ACX with a description of the project, a script for auditions, and post your budget.  You can also share revenue with the audio book producer instead of putting up cash.  I prefer not to do that, but sometimes it be the only possible option.

When I put up the audition script I got tons of, as in, 40 something, auditions to listen to.  I’ll tell you, after coming home from the day job, it is quite something to have other people come and compete for your attention.

But listening through the auditions was enjoyable, but way more difficult then I expected.   Many people were very qualified to read the book.  Listening to other people read my work gave me chills.  That alone was worth the trouble.

ACX Capture

My inbox became full of auditions. I admit it does change your day to come home and see this.

Getting the right vibe of the story was important to me.  I realized quickly that since the story revolves around Kevin, a boy, that I was going to need a male voice.  I didn’t realize that when I was setting up the project, but after the first couple of female voices tried out I realized I was going to need to go with a male voice.  The story is about boy and all of the day dreams inside of his head.  A male voice made more sense.

I choose Ron because in his audition he automatically got the pacing of the story, and that was awesome to see.  And in some strange way his slight New York accent just brought another level of texture to the story.

Once I chose Ron to record the story, we agreed to a schedule of when the first 15 minutes of the story was due.  In this case, that would have been the whole story, as it is only about 12 minutes.  Once I got the first draft, I listened and then sent my notes back.  He quickly finished it up and got the final audio back to me.

ACX then does a final quality check of their own before it can go on sale.  And that takes several days to weeks.  That is the part that is very different from the KDP experience.  But once it does go on sale, it is for sale in three different places, Amazon, Audible, and iTunes.

ACX though has recently lowered their royalty rate.  Hugh Howey has a great post on the potential problem that may cause.  In my opinion it is one of the few screw-ups on Amazon’s part.

But even with that, creating an audio book version is something to seriously consider as a way to promote your work.

Kevin and the Seven Lions is now a story written by guy in Virginia, illustrated by a woman in England, and narrated by a guy in New York.

I love the 21st century.

Click here to get the audio book on Amazon.