Monthly Archives: June 2013

99 cent sale on Kevin books

One of things about being an indie writer is that I can decide how much to charge for my work and when to set it on sale.

Since I’m working on a new book, I figured I would set my two previous books on sale for 99 cents.  The sale runs until July 1.

Check them out and let me know what you think.

Click on the picture to get the book at Amazon.

Click on the picture to get the book at Amazon.

"Kevin and the Seven Lions"
Click to see the book on Amazon.


The usefulness of a Goodreads Giveaway and word of mouth


I posted that I am currently running a Goodreads giveaway for my latest book.  Now why would I do this?  What is the usefulness of giving away free books?  And does giving them away through Goodreads work with sales?  Does it work with reviews?

The answer to all of the above is: I don’t know.

That’s not completely true.  I ran several giveaways with Kevin and the Seven Lions, and a couple of times I actually corresponded with the winners.  I sent the winners messages that they won and to expect the book, but at least twice the winners wrote back telling me how they were looking forward to getting the book.  Great!  Two new fans that I don’t know personally.  That’s a win in my book.

Do you always earn a review of the book you giveaway?  No.  That’s okay, winners aren’t required to do so.  If they don’t like the book, maybe they’ll give it to someone who will like it.  But occasionally you do get a good review.   Like this one:

This book was received as a result of a First read Giveaway.

I am shamed to admit it, but I’m a mom who kept making her husband check the mail for this book. Should an adult be this excited about receiving a children’s book? Why…yes!!! I tore open the packaging and read it immediately. I did enjoy it and I as a daydreamer could relate to Kevin and was happy to see the suggestion that his teacher gives to him in the end and what he is able to discover about himself. I love that even Kevin’s parents get involved with the story.

I do feel that this book is geared toward an older child with some of the situations he daydreams about. If I did read it to a child younger than 6 I would probably not read it as a bed time story. BUT, what I do see here is a fantastic vehicle to get children, especially boys, interested in both reading and writing. Don’t get me wrong, this has the feel of a unisex book and it is…but boys will be drawn to it and as someone who has worked in the classroom, I know it can be a challenge to get boys interested in a story at times. Kudos for that Tiller!

The language in the book flows well and I believe school age children in grades 3 and up will be able to read this by themselves.

I think many children will receive this book well and will hopefully get an itch to put pen to paper improving both literacy and creativity.

She was excited to get my book!  Seriously if you haven’t written your book yet.  Do so.  Comments like this make it worthwhile, no matter the sales.  This reviewer will tell other people about the book.  Which is what you want.  This is a word of mouth win.

Does Goodreads actually help with sales?  I don’t know.  Probably.  I don’t currently have anyway of tracking that.  If you know of a way to track Goodreads sales mention it in the comments.  But I will say this, as I write this Kevin and the Seven Lions is on 623 different peoples list to read.  623.  I’ll take it.  Some writers would laugh at those numbers.  Not me.  That’s 623 different people that I didn’t have 6 months ago, when I started this silly project of writing a book.  The new book, Kevin and the Three-Headed Alien, is currently being requested by 67 different people for the giveaway, and on the shelves of 29 different people to read.

And that number is currently growing by the day.  That can’t be a bad thing.

This is EXACTLY what Neil Gaiman was talking about when told an audience to be dandelions.


You don’t know which seed will fall, sprout, and grow.  But you need a lot of different seeds.  Those seeds include your Amazon also-boughts, Amazon author pages, Facebook pages, personal websites and blogs, Twitter, KDP free days, 99 cent sale days, perma-free for some books, personal word of mouth, and of course Goodreads.

Another reason I like Goodreads is that a lot of indie writers seem to spend time talking with other writers.  Cool.  But it seems at times indie-writers also only market to other writers. See the kboards (formally Kindle Boards) where writers put their books into their signatures and then spend a lot of time talking on the boards to each other.  That may work, but Goodreads gets me straight to parents and teachers.  The people who I think will want to read my two books.  (I am guilty the Kboards thing as well.  See my Kboards profile here.)

But if you are thinking about writing a book, Goodreads is just one of many ways to get your name and work out to different readers.

If you have done a giveaway on Goodreads, please share your experience in the comments.

It would be great, if you are on Goodreads to go to my author page, where you can add Kevin and the Seven Lions, and Kevin and the Three-Headed Alien to your shelves.  Thanks!


I am working on at least two more books this summer.  One that is not a Kevin book, I am going to try and start another series, and two I want to work on the next Kevin book.  But join my mailing list for new releases.  I will only email when there is a new release, and I won’t giveaway your email or spam you.  I am too busy to do such a thing anyway.

Kevin and the Three Headed Alien giveaway at Goodreads

I have a new giveaway running on Goodreads for Kevin and the Three-Headed Alien.  I have five copies to giveaway, and the giveaway is for those in the US, Canada, and the UK.  Click here to go to the giveaway.

Of course you can just pick-up the paperback on Amazon.  It is less than $7.

Click on the picture to get the book at Amazon.

Click on the picture to get the book at Amazon.

P.S. I’m working on some new books this summer.  Click here to be added to my new release mailing list.  You will only receive an email when a new book is ready, and I don’t give or sell your email.

Interview with Children’s Indie Writer AJ Cosmo

I recently reviewed James Altucher’s “Choose Yourself” and in the spirit of Choose Yourself I emailed AJ Cosmo, an indie children’s book writer, a request for an email interview.  That’s how the 21st century works, you want to work with someone or talk with them, go ahead and email them and see what happens.

I was lucky, AJ was nice enough to agree to answering my questions.  Thanks so much AJ for taking the time to answer my questions.

1. When did you publish your first book?

My first book was published on the Amazon Kindle in December of 2011. It was called “Gordon’s Gravy.” It was about a man that kept asking for gravy for his turkey until he got it. I had tried to get published under different pen names for different types of books but, like most writers, was met with silent rejection. Amazon opened up an opportunity for writers such as myself to approach an out of reach market. I didn’t understand at the time just how difficult self-publishing could be.

2. You write in one of your books that you were a teacher, what did you teach?

Great question, I’ve been looking for an opportunity to clarify this. A. J. Cosmo is a pen name that is a collaboration between two different writers. We have both been teachers but Jeff, the J. in A. J., taught primary grades for nineteen years in Southern California (seven of which were special needs.) Chris, the C in Cosmo, has worked as a class assistant, an adult ed. teacher, and a Sunday school teacher. Chris, that’s me, has done all of the illustration and most of the writing while Jeff shaped the direction of the stories and edited the prose.

Back in January, we decided to stop collaborating and Jeff turned the pen name over to me. Though Jeff still makes sure of the books’ merit, I can no longer in good faith use the same bio, so I have since evolved it. Thus the odd divide in my work. However, as a writer and an illustrator, I hope to teach and entertain beyond the confines of a classroom.

3. How do you illustrate your books?

I illustrate using a grab bag of methods that I have acquired and developed over the years. I prefer to change the method each time I approach a new book and tailor the style to the type of story I’m telling. “My Pet Raptor” was done by painting directly into Photoshop using a Wacom drawing tablet. This made the drawings painterly. “Monsters A to Z” used a more complicated method where I first drew the pictures in pencil, scanned them, added the paper texture, and then colored in Photoshop. This gave the monster illustrations a handcrafted feel. “Hug Bat” was illustrated like a coloring book. I first drew in non-reflective blue pencil and then inked over top of it. I then scanned the images, which eliminated the blue lines, and color filled the white areas. This is similar to how animation is done.

None of these processes would be possible without Photoshop. It is a wonderful tool has enabled me to quickly illustrate new books.

4. What sort of promotion have you used?

None. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. The books themselves are the promotion. I created them fast enough and had them all linked together. I put the ads for the other books at the end of the book (I do not put any of the acknowledgements or copyrights at the front of the book, only the end.) I enrolled the books in Kindle select so that I could put them up for free. And that was it. The new books promoted the old books and something of mine is available for free every week on Amazon. It’s a tremendous amount of work and ultimately unsustainable, but I feel that it is at least honest. If you want to read my work, it’s easy to get a taste of it.

Now that I have a foundation for my work, I have started to slow down and work on more interesting and complicated projects. In doing so, I also have to start traditional promotion. It is incredibly difficult, but I enjoy it immensely when I get to communicate with people who have read my work and find out about their lives and their families. I have an open policy on my twitter account @ajcosmokids that I will help out any artist or writer struggling with their work.

5. What was your most successful book and why?

The Monster That Ate My Socks” hands down. That book has had a life of its own from the get go and I am one proud parent. I don’t have a firm grasp on why it connected with an audience, and I don’t think other artists fully understand their own appeal, but I have my theories. When I write I try to regress to an eight year old and create what excites that mindset. The idea for Sock Monster came from doing laundry, go figure, while “The Imagibles” came from reminiscing about my imaginary friends that I had when I was a child.

Children’s books need to appeal to children as well as adults. You need to engage them with a good story, and surprise them along the way. I try to deal with issues that children will face in their daily lives: bullying, getting in trouble for something you didn’t do, losing a friend, no one listening to you, etc. I was an outcast as a child, so I create work for those children.

I also want to give something to the parents too. I try to add little Easter eggs in my work just for them. They should be entertained too! It’s also a personal goal of mine to create stories that are a little more cerebral, a little more thought provoking, than what the age group normally gets. I want children to read and fall in love with literature, so I hope a small way to push them towards that.

6. Where do you get your ideas?

I don’t know . . . Ok, that’s not a good answer. I can’t site the source, though I am a man of faith, but I can say that often times the idea comes spontaneously when I’m doing something completely un-related. The next book I’m going to put out came to me while walking past the daycare at my gym. I saw a little boy that had a blanket draped around his back like a cape. That started a chain of thoughts that led to a workable idea and I extrapolated a story from there (I wrote a blog post about this technique.)

The Truth Fairy” came from time I spent in the corporate world (and is also a play on words) while “An Alien in the City” came from being overwhelmed when I got lost in downtown Los Angeles. You can’t force ideas either; you can only create the space to allow them to bubble up. If you are stuck on a project or experiencing writers block I highly recommend taking yourself on an artists’ date (from the book The Artist’s Way by Cameron.) You expose yourself to other art and take your mind off of your work. It’s important to do this alone. The last time I got stuck, an exhibit of Marie Antoinette’s life recreated in doll form got me out of my funk.

I have a whole list of unused ideas stored on my phone and computer. I sometimes go back, dust one off, and make it work. Then again, most of them are unused for a reason. 😉

7. What writers inspire you?

I adore Dr. Seuss, Mo Willems, and Shel Silverstein the most. Dr. Seuss did an incredible job of encouraging readers and creating a fanciful world and I don’t think anyone will ever recapture what he accomplished. Willems is adorable and his books read like a great joke that you would tell at a party. I love his simple writing style. I admire Mr. Silverstein for dealing with heavy life issues in whimsical ways. I don’t think anyone else got so many children to think so deeply about typically adult topics.

Whenever I’m out and about, be it in a bookstore or a Laundromat, if there happen to be children’s books I will grab a few and read them. I’m always surprised at the variety of them and I think the form still has a lot of room for growth and experimentation.

8. What do you tell someone who is interested in self-publishing?

Make the best work you possibly can. Create something that would appeal to you. Make it professional in every aspect. Don’t skimp on effort or time but don’t obsess over it either (nothing is perfect.) You are a one-person publishing house and you need to perform every aspect from cover creation to editing to promotion. You can of course hire any of these aspects out and I would recommend doing so if you lack any of the appropriate skills. The gatekeepers may have changed, but the public is as demanding as ever.

Lastly, don’t give up. Nothing is instant in life, nothing worthwhile at least. I tend to look at it like farming. You plant the seeds, tend the soil, water the ground, and then, when it seems like nothing has happened for a long, long time, suddenly something starts to grow. And as long as you keep working, waiting, and trying, you will some day get your harvest.

Check out A. J. Cosmo’s latest book “ The Monster That Ate My Socks 2” on Kindle!

Thanks to AJ for answering my questions!  Now go check out his work.

Choose Yourself by James Altucher True 21st Century thinking

The world has changed.  This isn’t in the future.  The rules have quietly changed.  No one is coming to choose you.  You need to Choose Yourself.  James Altucher’s indie published book really brings to life the need to “Choose Yourself.”

I don’t remember when I began reading James Altucher’s blog.  But I kept reading it because he was articulating things I had been thinking about and noticing for a long time: The middle class is weakening, starting a side job/business isn’t a waste but smart, don’t have just one decision maker that can make or break your financial life, and focus on your own health first.  In other words, he agreed with me. (Isn’t it nice when you find people like that.)

But James according to his writing has started more businesses than I can count and failed at most of them apparently. Thank goodness for his refreshing honesty. He has made millions and lost millions. My success and failures don’t have that sort of grandeur. His book is about focusing on what made him successful and focusing on that approach.

In my own life I accidentally discovered Choose Yourself thinking. I began my first side business over 10 years ago as a freelance wedding/event videographer.  That morphed into a photography business.  (see  Although that never brought me enough revenue to quit the day job, that’s okay.  It at the very least brings in extra revenue to smooth out any lack of raises or cuts I receive as a teacher.  And the side business has taught me a little about taxes, insurance, working with clients, and all the other stuff that goes with a business. That wouldn’t have happened if I just sent out resumes in search of a video job.

My goodness it was early when I shot this.  You can also purchase this at Etsy.  (See what I did there...)

My goodness it was early when I shot this. You can also purchase this at Etsy. (See what I did there…)

And of course I recently have delved into self-publishing, or indie publishing as I prefer, the books that I have put out have brought in a little extra cash, but they have also increased my professional respect as a teacher.  A side benefit I did not count on when I wrote my first book.  None of that, the extra money, respect, would have happened had I sat around and waiting for an agent to come and pick me.

Choose Yourself covers all these ideas that I have done, and others, and does it in only way that Altucher can.  His blog has taken off because of his obsessive honesty and sharp writing.  He is very honest about his life and failures, and therefore greatly human.  And frankly his writing is funny and engaging.

What’s Happening Now? 

You feel it.  Maybe you can’t put your finger on it.

The middle class is dying.  Jobs are being outsourced, to China, robots, and technology.  Face it, get over it and move on.  The days of get a college degree, get a job, work 30 years for the same company and then retire with a pension are over.  If they ever existed at all. Pay for middle class jobs is declining compared to inflation.  So what are you going to do?  Sit around and whine?  Sure most do.  But that’s where you’re different.  You can Choose Yourself, choose a rewarding career without waiting on that ONE DECISION MAKER.

The Opposite of Choose Yourself

My wife and I caught an episode of 60 Minutes the other night.  The episode was a few years old, and it was discussing the financial meltdown.  There was an on camera interview with a 50 something woman who had been an executive assistant for her whole life and was now at a job fair (with hundreds of others).  She spoke directly to the camera “I will relocate anywhere  I will make any boss look great!  Just give me a chance!”

My heart broke for this woman.  I couldn’t imagine her pain or frustration.

But this was the old way of thinking.  If I could just get this or that person to select me then everything will be good.  That is the opposite of Choose Yourself. Altucher explains why jobs are dead and how we can begin in baby steps moving away from jobs. Much needed thinking in today’s world.

Indie Writing

What can you do?  Well if you read this blog your probably interested in Indie Writing.  Indie writing, is a perfect vehicle for a Choose Yourself venture.  Indie writers have stopped waiting for an agent or Big 6 publisher to choose them.  Prolific, focused, Indie writers choose themselves on a daily basis.  And more and more I read about indie writers that are making a living with their writing.

But Altucher’s book is more than just a simple “you too can be an entrepreneur!”  Altucher’s shares what has worked for him in his life when he has been on the rise and his life has gone well.

He calls it the Daily Practice.

Focus on:

  1. Physical Health
  2. Emotional Health
  3. Mental Health
  4. Spiritual Health

Physical Health doesn’t mean running marathon’s, or benching 300 pounds.  (But if you can do those thing, good on you.)  Physical health means going for a walk, cut out excessive alcohol, and for crying out loud…sleep.

Emotional Health is about being around people that lift you up.  Stop engaging with those that are negative and bring you down.

Mental Health, work that brain of yours.  Altucher recommends writing down 10 different ideas.  Everyday.  Your brain needs exercise coming up with ideas.  Use your brain daily.

Spiritual Health is not about going to church.  It’s about being thankful, grateful, and releasing those things we can’t control.

The World has changed

Yes, the world has changed and that’s a good thing.  Altucher’s book describes the New World and gives you the map to navigate it.  Check it out.

Altucher is also doing something different.  If you can prove that you have read the book, he will give you your money back.  Just send a pic of you reading the book, a review, something to prove you’ve read the book and he will pay you what you paid for the book.

(Update: for those that are coming here because James sent a tweet about this post, first thanks for the visit, and second here are a couple of other posts inspired by James’s thinking, One on Alex Day and one on why the 21st Century is great for creative people.  And thanks for the visit, go ahead and subscribe to the blog thanks!  I’ve also written a couple of books too.)