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Sweet Weasel Words Posts

Promotional Rescue

The launch of Jackrabbit has been a hell of an interesting ride, so far. It’s been an absolute thrill seeing something that went from a vague idea five years ago to an actual physical book that I can hold in my hand and use to swat flies. I can remember back twenty years ago, wanting to be a novelist but resenting the hell out of the fact that I had to actually write something. My goal, as I saw it then, was to have my own ISBN number. And now I do – 978-1-7332699-0-2. I just didn’t think I’d have to pay for it myself.

But I’ve already whined about that, so I’ll whine about something else.

To wit: promoting the book. This is something that is proving to be really challenging. I am decidedly NOT good with sales and marketing. At one point, I had my own one-man architecture and consulting business. I managed to limp it along for nearly two years, largely on the basis of connections I had in the local AEC industry and the largess and patience of my wonderful wife. But I hated, absolutely hated, having to drum up business and make cold calls. I figured that was not going to be a good situation for a one-person firm, so I eventually went back and got another “real” job. Also, I needed the health insurance.

So now I am back in the familiar but uncomfortable place of having to promote my own book. I knew that I was going to be in for it when I decided to self-publish (a topic for another post), but thinking about having to do it some time in the future, and actually having to do it NOW are two different beasties. But, here I am again.

Now that I’ve got the self-publishing end of things squared away, I’m focusing my attention on promoting the book, and doing a little online research about the best way to go about doing it. One of the first things I read is that the author needs to begin promoting the book six months before the publication date. WTF?! Back then, I was still writing the bastard; I had no time to think about promoting it. Hell, I have a full-time job and a wife and something akin to a life – there’s only so much more I can do on top of maintaining my so-called life and finishing a manuscript.

Then there’s the fact that nearly all self-publishing promotion involves social media. I don’t much cotton to social media, but I suppose I’ll have to live with it. I knew what I was getting into – but that doesn’t mean that I’m going to deal with it gracefully. Besides, from what I understand, even authors who managed to get their books published are now expected to shoulder a lot of the promotional activities. They need a “platform” – which I guess is what you are reading now.

So, here I go promoting again. I can be thankful for a number of things, not the least of which is that I live in Portland, which has self-published authors out the wazoo. So I have friends and acquaintances who have been down this road before and can offer useful advice. Most important, however, is that I have something that I didn’t really have when I was making those cold calls for my business, and that is faith in the product. This is a good book. I’m proud of what I’ve written, and I’m thankful that I hooked up with a good editor to make ti readable, and a good cover artist to encourage people to give it a try.

Here it goes…

The Ghost of Dillinger’s Corpse

Just a week after I released Jackrabbit, a novel about John Dillinger, he is back in the news again. In fact, he’s all over it. On Monday, it was announced that Dillinger’s nephew had petitioned for the gangster’s body to be exhumed from the cemetery in Indianapolis for examination. Two of the latest stories, from CBS and the New York Times have good information. As August is typically a slow news month, I expect to see more. (Oddly enough, there’s been nothing in Oregonian so far, but it has been in many other small-market newspapers. My Dad called me from Raleigh to let me know that the News and Observer ran a piece.)

The putative reason for this exhumation was initially pretty hazy. Over the last day or so, it has come out that the relatives “have evidence” that it’s not really John Dillinger buried in the grave with his name on the tombstone. This is nothing new – rumors of the “wrong man” being killed in Dillinger’s place have been circulating for ages. In fact, it’s a major plot point in Jackrabbit. I had heard the stories about the “wrong man” since junior high school, and wanted to explore how the switch may have occurred.

Of course, the FBI is standing by their story that they “got their man,” but given the circumstances of Dillinger’s death and some of the events that led up to it, their contemporary accounts may not be entirely believable. Dillinger pulled off a number of incredible escapes that were also incredibly embarrassing for J. Edgar Hoover’s nascent FBI. The worst of these was a shootout at the Little Bohemia Lodge in Wisconsin several months prior to the Biograph shooting. The FBI agents killed a WPA logger and wounded two others, thinking they were gang members trying to make a run for it. One of their own agents was killed by Baby Face Nelson, who also wounded another agent and a local lawman. IF the FBI had killed yet another innocent person in its pursuit of Dillinger, it would have been devastating for Hoover and the FBI. They certainly had a strong motive to conceal another screw-up, if that’s in fact what happened.

Also, perhaps not coincidentally, the History Channel has a documentary about Dillinger in the works right now. Call me cynical, but I suspect that the History Channel offered a bunch of money to the relatives in question to have them initiate the exhumation in order to promote their special.

While you’re calling me cynical, you might as well call me hypocritical, as I am looking to capitalize on this exhumation as much as the History Channel. In fact, I was thrilled to pieces when this story initially broke. From my point of view, the timing couldn’t be better. I’m also plotting a major promotion to take advantage of the actual exhumation, currently scheduled for mid-September

But I’ve got to admit that it makes me feel a little sleazy, too. Take a good look at the picture above, and consider the carnival atmosphere that surrounded this man’s death. That’s about to be repeated, and I suppose I’ll aim to get my slice of the sleaze. John Dillinger was a colorful character, and a true American in more ways than one. It seems wrong to dig him up for the sake of a cable TV special – or a self-published novel.

John Dillinger was a colorful character, and a true American in more ways than one. It seems wrong to dig him up for the sake of a cable TV special – or a self-published novel.

Of course, Dillinger was a massive publicity hound. He loved the attention that he got in the contemporary press, but it also pretty much guaranteed that he was not going to end his career any way but the hard way. Hell, he’d probably be pleased as punch to know that he’s still grabbing headlines 85 years later. Putative book sales notwithstanding, I’d be just as happy if they left that grave undisturbed.

The Return of John Dillinger

Amazing coincidence in timing here, but word got out yesterday that there are currently plans to exhume John Dillinger’s grave in Indianapolis!

The details are still thin on the ground, but Indy station WTHR reported yesterday that Dillinger’s nephew, Michael Thompson, officially requested to the state Department of Health that his famous gangster uncle’s body be exhumed. The request was granted, with the exhumation (and reburial) to take place on September 16.

Initially, Thompson, the Indiana Department of Health and Crown Point Cemetery were all tight-lipped about why they were going to dig up the Jackrabbit. Reports today have indicated that the History Channel is somehow involved in this effort, and that they are working on a documentary about Dillinger.

The details are still hazy, but I think there’s a good chance that this is related to the plot of Jackrabbit. [SPOILER ALERT] One of the main ideas of the novel is that it wasn’t really John Dillinger that was killed outside the Biograph, but a low-level criminal named Jimmy Lawrence. This theory has been kicking around for years; Jackrabbit was an exploration of how it might have happened.

One interesting piece of Dillinger lore is that Dillinger’s dad had him re-buried underneath several huge slabs of concrete. This was allegedly so that souvenir hunters wouldn’t be tempted to rob the grave. Conspiracy theorists surmise that John Dillinger Sr. (and other family members) knew that it wasn’t their relative in that grave, and that the concrete was placed there to prevent the FBI from discovering their mistake.

This is a very interesting development, and I will be following the story closely. I think a lot of other people will as well – I’ve already seen stories about this on CNN, Fox News, the Associated Press and the New York Times.

In the meantime, you can still download Jackrabbit for free from Amazon until midnight, July 31, by clicking THIS LINK.

Absolutely Free

AS part of the Amazon KDP promotion hoo-ha I agreed to, I can give away free copies of the eBook of Jackrabbit. This will run the last three days in July:

Monday, July 29 – Wednesday, July 31

Just go to the Amazon eBook page and download the eBook por nada any time during these 3 days. Enjoy! (And a good review on Amazon would be appreciated as well…)

Live at Last

Well, the Amazon page for Jackrabbit is live! Right now, the paperback and eBook are listed separately. Amazon assures me, however, that once the Amazon Master Brain twigs to the fact that it’s the same book, both listings will be combined.

Now that I’ve navigated the increasingly complex path of: A) writing the sumbitch, and B) publishing it, I now move on to C) promoting it. This should be interesting, as self-promotion is not my strong suit. We’ll see how this goes…

Eighty-Five Years Ago Today…

On July 22, 1934, the FBI Claimed that they finally “got their man” and gunned down Public Enemy Number One. They claim that s they shot John “Jackrabbit” Dillinger outside the Biograph Theater in Chicago. Almost immediately, rumors started swirling that the corpse outside the Biograph didn’t belong to Dillinger, and that the Jackrabbit – just like Elvis, Jim Morrison and Bigfoot – was still alive somewhere.

Well, I had hoped to be able to have my new novel Jackrabbit ready for release today, but alas it was not to be. I underestimated the vagaries of the Amazon KDP process, as well as some glitches in the Reedsy Book Editor software.

The problem is that Reedsy doesn’t seem to want to acknowledge the problem. I don’t care WHAT the Chicago Manual of Style says, “i” should not follow “iii” in any pagination scheme. Amazon certainly doesn’t think so, which is why they are refusing to print the book until the page numbers are corrected. I guess I’ll fool around with it some more, but I’ve got an ugly feeling that I’m going to have to drop my Acknowledgements section to get it to behave. Bleah!

So no book just yet, and the best I can do for an eBook is an Amazon pre-order page, since I clearly didn’t read the fine print, and checked a box that I couldn’t subsequently un-check. I’ll get this figured out soon, I hope.

The Home Stretch

Just a handful of last-minute corrections…

I’m busting the boards trying to get the Jackrabbit manuscript in shape for release on Monday. The reason for the deadline is that it is the 85th anniversary of the shooting at the Biograph Theater. This, of course, is a date with a great deal of significance in the career of John Dillinger.

Being able to get hard copies cheaply and easily through Amazon KDP has been a boon – but the drawback is that I’m really tired of reading this writing (wonderful as the prose is, of course). So, to mix things up, I’ve taken the advice of Trevor Blake, who suggested reading this last proof copy backwards. It makes for an interesting read – kinda like the literary equivalent of Memento . It also makes it easier to spot errors, since my attention is more fully engaged and not skimming over sections that I’ve read dozens of times before.

The scary thing is that I could probably keep reworking the text ad infinitum, but sometimes you’ve gotta put down your pencil and say “Good enough is good enough!”

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

As much as I bitch about Amazon (and Facebook, and Google, and Apple, u.s.w.), I have to admit that their Print On Demand service is pretty amazing. I got the hard-copy proof of Jackrabbit on Tuesday evening. By Thursday evening, I had read through the bastard yet again, and flagged maybe two dozen errors that needed to be addressed. I addressed them and made some graphic changes to the back cover. All of these were loaded back up to Amazon KDP by Friday morning, and a new new copy was on order.

Now, the waiting. It seems like it takes two or three days to work through the print queue, and then a few more for shipping, since I was too stingy to shell out for the 2-day deliver.

Not to worry, it’s giving me a little space to do something I hadn’t done in over a month: write. I’ve been working on a short story called “Reset,” about a fifty-year-old who goes to sleep and wakes up back in eight grade. Derivative? You bet. But I’m having a hell of a lot of fun writing it, so stumm. I cranked out a couple of hundred words yesterday, and when I went to save it, the last save date was all the way back in May. Time slips away, especially when you’re doing something complicated like self-publishing for the first time. Mustn’t forget the object of the exercise, y’know?

The Real Deal!

It’s alive!

I got my first hardcopy proof of Jackrabbit today! Hooray! This is a pretty big milestone for me. I’ve been wanting to get a book in print since, well, I was a little kid and thought Dr. Seuss was the shiznit. I seriously started working towards it in 2008, so this has been eleven years in the making. It’s really pretty awesome to be able to hold a book that I wrote in my hot little hands!

The only problem is that now I’ve got to read it – again! As much as I enjoy this story, and am fairly pleased with how I pulled it off (due in no small part to Jen Huston’s editing), I’m getting mighty tired of reading it at this point. I feel fairly confident that I got most of the grammarly/contenty issues squared away before I ordered the proof, I still want to go through it one . . . more . . . time to make double-extra-sure. Mostly, though, I’m just interested in making sure the formatting is acceptable.

Right now, I’m on track for an official release date of July 22, 2019 – the 85th anniversary of the shooting at the Biograph where “John Dillinger” was killed.