Writer, Broadcaster

Category: Friends (Page 1 of 17)

Book Promotion Play by Play

Logo for Donovan Street Press

Yesterday I started a week long 99 cent promotion for the ebook version of my novel A Time and a Place with marketing courtesy of Manybooks. I was the Manybooks Featured Author and you can see advertisements for the novel up their site now. They also promoted A Time and a Place on their Facebook and Twitter feeds.

The Manybooks team has been great to work with and have delivered exactly what they said they would. There was one little glitch when their promo indicated that my promotion price might be wrong, and that potential buyers should double check, but that may have been my fault; it’s possible I indicated the wrong start date for the promotion when filling out the paperwork. I emailed the Manybooks team right away and they corrected the problem within minutes. So, some nice professionalism all round.

But the big question of course is what impact is this having? The fact is making a single book stand out is a herculean task. It’s not like promoting a movie, where you’re only up again other new releases which that year might number in the hundreds. With a book, you’re up against two hundred thousand. Millions, if you want to talk about all the potential books a reader might be interested in reading, cuz they’re not necessarily only interested in new books.

For the sake of other authors interested in marketing who might be following along, I want to be brutally honest as I track my progress. Casual readers interested in books might also want to know.

A caveat. This is just the beginning of the campaign. And I readily admit that I only barely know what I’m doing (unlike, say, fellow Canadian author Mark Leslie Lefebvre, who’s so good at marketing that, look, here I am helping him by name checking for no reason other than his name just popped into my head. Though isn’t that what we should all be doing? Helping to promote one another?) . Figuring out how to market a book properly is like trying to drink a lake. A tasty lake, with delicious fish in it, but it’s going to take a while to get through that lake.

So how are we doing on Day Two? Manybooks has 1870 followers on their Twitter feed (I have 2071). Their tweet featuring me was liked four times and retweeted four times. I’m one of the retweets, and my retweet was liked once and retweeted once. Highly unlikely that the Manybooks tweet generated any sales.

The Manybooks Facebook post generated zero comments and zero shares. I posted a link to it on my personal Facebook page, my author Facebook page, and the SF Canada Facebook page, of which I’m a member. A handful of friends and family shared the post (thank you! I feel the love) on my personal pages. The SF Canada post reached 38 people and generated zero engagement.

I have no way of knowing the traffic on the Manybooks pages that now feature my book. I can track sales. As of this writing, this effort so far has generated three ebooks sales and one audiobook sale. I can also track some rankings. Right now, A Time and a Place is ranked #328 in Time Travel Science Fiction on Amazon.ca, which is no different than yesterday. It’s ranked 10180 on Kobo in Science Fiction & Fantasy, which is also no different than yesterday.

Here’s the painful part. The Manybooks newsletter promotion cost $39.33. The Manybooks Author of the Day promotion cost $66.45, for a total of $105.78. The revenue generated by the campaign so far (with a promotional price point of 99 cents I get 35 cents for each sale on Amazon) is not enough to even reach the threshold required for Draft2Digital to pay me, though Audible might sent me the 40 percent they owe me for that one sale.

But no matter. This is only the beginning. Today I have promotions with Read Freely and eBooksoda. (Why do I feel like I’m promoting them just as much as they’re promoting me? And for free…) All of this is part of a strategy called Promo Stacking, the idea being to generate buzz in and around the big promotion that happens tomorrow, when A Time and a Place will be a BookBub Featured Deal, theoretically reaching millions of potential readers, as opposed to the smaller newsletters, who reach tens of thousands.

I also want to make it clear that this is not about convincing (or guilting) more of my friends and family to buy copies of this book. Anyone the least bit interested has already done that, contributing to the 500 sales of A Time and a Place that have already happened. This is about seeing if it’s possible to take it to the next level. A little anecdote: shortly after the novel was published, a guy at work asked me what was next. At that time I told him that it was about taking it to the next level. Aware of how challenging publishing can be, he said, “What’s that? Taking sales from dozens to hundreds?” I said, “No, from hundreds to thousands. ”

Even then I had few illusions about how difficult that would be.

A Little Ask

Photo by Lukas from Pexels

As you probably know from my last few posts I’m preparing a marketing push for my novel A Time and a Place. Cuz selling books is every bit as demanding as writing them, and (as a friend of mine said recently) they don’t sell themselves.

Over the next couple of weeks A Time and a Place will be featured in the following:

And possibly a couple of others yet to be confirmed.

My goals are simple. I’d like to generate awareness of the book, and I’d like to (at the very least) break even on the promotional costs.

I’d also like to ask for your help.

  • If you have ever considered purchasing a copy of A Time and a Place, now is the time to do so. The e-book is already available at its promotional price of 99 cents for a limited time. Every sale will help push A Time and a Place up the sales rankings.
  • If you have read A Time and a Place and enjoyed it, but haven’t yet rated it anywhere, doing so would be a great help. Goodreads is a great place to do so, but you can also rate it wherever you bought it, whether it be Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Audible, or where ever.
  • If you have read A Time and a Place and enjoyed it but haven’t yet reviewed it, even just a couple of lines would also help.
  • Finally, you can help by promoting A Time and a Place with me on social media. Simply copy and paste the following universal link to your Twitter or Instagram or Facebook feeds and let people know about the book: https://books2read.com/u/4AKXoe

You’re also welcome to simply sit back and watch as this all unfolds. A while back I reported on how well the book is doing. I’ll also report the results of this campaign, with brutal honesty. It promises to be at the very least educational.

Neil Munro and Barry Morgan

I stumbled across the following recently which had appeared on an early version of this blog (July 14th, 2009, to be precise), before the blog self-destructed shortly afterward (one of a handful of blog implosions over the years). I like to recapture this sort of thing for the modern incarnation of Assorted Nonsense so that it doesn't get lost to time and also because it keeps alive the memory of some important, interesting people in my life. 

Neil Munro

aka “Inspector Nickles” (Photo by David Cooper, Shaw Festival.)

Neil Munro has passed away at 62 years of age.

I was fortunate enough to work with Neil off and on over the course of two or three years. Although they don’t mention it in the notice at CBC.ca, one of Neil’s many accomplishments was starring as Inspector Quentin Nickles in The Investigations of Quentin Nickles , for CBC Radio’s Mystery Project.

Working on these plays I had the opportunity to observe Neil’s craft up close.

You had to be a skilled actor working on these shows. Producer/Director Barry Morgan was a one take wonder. Rarely did we ever make it up to take two. So the actors had to get it right the first time, and they almost always did. If we had to do a second take it was usually because one of us technical types had screwed something up, or one of the sound effects engineers was caught on tape snoring during a brief siesta (that actually happened once).

Neil also wrote/adapted several radio plays; I remember recording and mixing two or three wild and crazy examples of his work. The names escape me now, but I recall them as full of mirth and inventiveness.

I remember Neil Munro as not only a consummate professional but as a genuinely warm and friendly man. He deserved better than to have died at 62, it seems to me. As Truman Capote said, life is a moderately good play with a badly written third act.

In Neil’s case, I’m afraid someone eliminated the third act altogether.

So long, Inspector Nickles.

My friend and colleague Barry Morgan, whom I referenced in the post, responded with a comment which I thought was gently chiding in nature. I realized that I may have irked him slightly with my remark about doing everything in one take. I hope not, because Barry was a great guy and I hate the thought that I might have annoyed him.

Anyway, here's what he wrote in response:

Barry Morgan

Writer, Producer, Director, All Round Nice Guy

 Joe, a really nice appreciation of Neil.

Perhaps I can clarify the “one take” reference.

It was because Neil brought his incredible energy and focus to the rehearsal session before we ever got to the studio floor. The work was already done. And beyond that his electricity energized his fellow cast members to the point that the performance bar was raised far above the level of `excellent`.

We have enjoyed a long history of fine radio actors from the days of John Drainie, Jane Mallet, Frank Perry and a great many others. Neil Munro was certainly among the front rank of those incredible talents.

It was a great privilege to have him around to make all of us look better.

I will always treasure his friendship.

Live Effects with a Dead Dog

Gracie Heavy Hand (Edna Rain), Thomas King (playing himself), Jasper Friendly Bear (Floyd Favel Starr), and me

One day I showed my wife a picture.

It was me performing sound effects for the radio show Dead Dog Café.

“You look a little silly,” she suggested.

She’s probably right. Judge for yourself: that’s the pic at the bottom. That particular picture’s staged, obviously, but it is an accurate representation of the sort of sound effects I was called upon to perform. Just—not usually all at once.

Of all the jobs I ever had to do for CBC radio, the job I hated most was working for the radio show Sunday Morning back in the eighties. There were a couple of jerks on the show at the time (not the host—I liked Mary Lou Finlay).

Performing sound effects came a close second.

At least I got paid for it.

Don’t get me wrong, I had nothing against sound effects per se: I loved sound design, for instance—taking sound effects from different sources and electronically creating worlds out of them that you could fully believe in. But I didn’t like performing sound effects live with actors. It just wasn’t my specialty. We had a couple of guys—Anton Szabo and Matt Willcott—who did specialize in it. They were good at it. Then Matt retired and the rest of us had to divvy up the job. Myself, I preferred being the recording engineer, or producing, or jabbing forks into my eyes. Anything other than perform sound effects live with actors.

So when I was assigned to do sound effects for the Dead Dog Café I was a bit dismayed. I concealed my feelings on the matter from Dead Dog producer Kathleen Flaherty. I really liked her and didn’t want to let her down.   

Making matters worse, I had been shipped a Compaq Armada laptop from Edmonton especially for the Dead Dog Café recording sessions that was not making me happy. It had an audio program on it called Dalet, a program I loathed at the time because of what I perceived to be its editing deficiencies. I’d always likened editing on Dalet to “editing with your elbows” when compared to other programs such as ProTools (I would change my mind later when we upgraded to DaletPlus and I received training from Brian Dawes). I was stuck with the laptop because it had been pre-loaded with many of the music and sound effects cues that I would be required to play back during the taping sessions, and I didn’t have time to come up with an alternative. (Eventually I would come to appreciate that someone had actually made my life a lot easier by prepping the laptop for me.)

Floyd Favel Starr, Edna Rain, Thomas King, and Tara Beagan taping the Dead Dog Cafe in Studio 212

I went into the first taping session with a sense of dread. I was afraid that I wasn’t adequately prepared, and that everything would go wrong. We were taping on a Sunday morning. Greg DeClute helped me bring some props in on the Go Train. He brought his son Randy’s hockey sticks and I brought some umbrellas belonging to my daughters. In the studio, I wheeled out the Dead Dog Cafe door—the one with the bell attached to it, held together with duct tape and wire—and several other props I would require. The cast arrived. Gracie (Edna Rain), Jasper Friendly Bear (Floyd Favel Starr), and Tom King (playing himself, or a version thereof), along with someone new to the show, a woman named Portia (played by Tara Beagan).

I had prepared my sound effects by reading the scripts and getting a sense of the sounds required. I deleted all the dialogue, leaving me a list of sound cues. Any sound cues that were kind of vague, I referred back to the script to see what the context was. Most sound cues were obvious. Like, say, “plunger.” How many different kinds of plungers are there? 

Dead Dog Plunger
Dead Dog Plunger

Shortly before our recording session I reviewed my list, a couple of weeks after having created it. Seeing a plunger listed I thought, well, we don’t have any of those kicking around in the studio so I’d better bring one in from home. I found one, disinfected it, stuck it in my bag, and carried it all the way in on the train along with the umbrellas and Greg’s hockey sticks. I placed it close by so that when the script called for it I would be able to grab it easily.

We started recording. The actors read their lines. We got to the sound cue that said, “SFX: Plunger!” I grabbed the plunger and begin vigorously plunging the floor, making “thwocking” sounds that I thought were really quite outstanding.

Producer Kathleen Flaherty immediately called a halt to the proceedings. “Cut! Joe, just what the heck do you think you’re doing?”

“Uh… making plunging sounds. Is it working?”

It was not.

Turned out the cue was actually calling for a plunger to test Tom King’s blood sugar level. It was a medical device. Which was obvious when I took a closer look at the script.

D’oh!

Fortunately the Dead Dog Café was a comedy show. Everyone had an excellent sense of humour. We had a laugh about it and moved on. And I learned to read my scripts more closely.

Margaret Atwood during Dead Dog Cafe taping

We had a guest on the show that day—Margaret Atwood. I’d met her years earlier—spent four days at her house, actually, recording her interviewing Victor Levy Beaulieu (and vice versa)—but she didn’t appear to remember me. There was no reason for her to have (it wasn’t like we’d stayed in touch over the years, exchanging Christmas cards). But she was friendly and pleasant, like just about everyone else I’ve worked with at CBC Radio over the years (there really have been precious few exceptions).

The entire Dead Dog Café team was unfailingly friendly. Always interesting, consistently entertaining. Tom King told us stories in between takes. He told us how he’d lost a lot of weight recently, after dramatically adjusting his diet upon learning that he had diabetes, remarking that although he still ate bananas, he took great care to eat only bananas that weren’t particularly ripe. He spoke of writing, of particular interest to me. He was fond, he said, of instructing his students to practise writing passages with no adjectives. And that is why, you will observe, there isn’t a single adjective in this piece.  

It was a privilege to be amongst these folk. And yet, as much as I appreciated the experience, I never did really warm up to performing sound effects with them. And not just because I’d made a silly mistake with a plunger.

I just never got comfortable doing it.

Whenever I was assigned to perform sound effects live with actors I almost always felt apart from them. Ill-at-ease. Often, the actors all knew one another. At the very least they could relate to one another. I was a part of the cast in that I had to perform with them, but I was not one of them. I was just this guy off to one side smashing plates and tinkling teacups.

Looking a little silly.

Me attempting to perform multiple Dead Dog Cafe SFX

One Officer’s Experience: Arthur J. Vaughan

One day Damiano Pietropaulo, the Director of Radio Drama, came to me with a proposal. He was putting together a series called “Where is Here? The Drama of Immigration” for Monday Playbill. He had in his hands an unpublished memoir written by a former immigration officer by the name of Arthur J. Vaughan. Damiano wanted me to adapt Arthur’s memoir into a kind of a drama and hire Gordon Pinsent to play the part of Arthur.

I was happy to be given the opportunity and immediately set to work adapting the memoir, but I just could not lift it off the page. Before long I came to the conclusion that it just wasn’t going to work, Gordon Pinsent or no. The best thing, I figured, would be to just get Arthur himself to tell all the stories he’d written about.

Immigrants in Baggage Area of Pier 21, May 1963
Photo from the Ken Elliot Collection

The only problem was that all the stories in question took place just after the Second World War. I didn’t even know if Arthur was still with us. He would have to have been in his eighties. But I picked up the phone and discovered that not only was Arthur still with us, he was sharp as a tack and enthusiastic about telling his story.

With Damiano’s blessing, I booked a studio for Arthur in Halifax and another studio for myself in Toronto and Arthur and I spoke for about an hour. At this time Arthur was eighty-five years old and only afterward did I realized just how inconsiderate I had been. Once we wrapped up our conversation and said goodbye, Arthur didn’t realize that the lines and mics were still open, and I heard him say to the technician in Halifax: “I like to talk, but by the jeez! That was long,” and I realized what an idiot I had been.

I had many opportunities to correspond with Arthur before and after the interview, and speak with him on the phone, and I came to really like him. Such a gentleman, warm and smart, all of which I believe is evident on the show that resulted from our conversation. Sadly, shortly after the initial broadcast, Arthur became ill. I phoned him up and asked him how he was doing, and he replied, “Miserable.” It turned out he had leukemia, and I do not believe that Arthur wanted to go gently into that good night. Later, his daughter informed me that when he packed his bags to go into the hospital, among the few possessions that he took with him was a CD copy of the show we’d made.

Being able to tell his story obviously meant a lot to Arthur, and it means a great deal to me to have been able to make it happen for him in the last year of his life.

Unbeknownst to me, Damiano arranged to publish the entire Where Is Here series with J. Gordon Shillingford Publishing, under their Scirocco Press imprint which specializes in drama. My interview with Arthur appeared in  Where Is Here: The Drama of Immigration (Vol. 2). Years later, a woman by the name of Diana Lobb contacted me for the rights, looking to produce One Officer’s Experiences for the 2016-2017 season of the Kitchener-Waterloo Little Theatre. I was stunned and delighted to learn that my work with Arthur had been published and made available to theatres for production. After establishing that I owned the underlying literary rights, I was only too happy to grant Kitchener-Waterloo Little Theatre the rights for nine performance dates.

“Tonight – we begin an encore broadcast of our series “Where is Here? The Drama of Immigration”: a double bill featuring two plays on the theme of immigration to Canada…we start with a memoir in the first person by the late Arthur J. Vaughan. In the years following the Second World War, a huge influx of immigrants arrived at Halifax’s Ocean terminal, comprising of Piers 20, 21, 22 and 23. Here, the immigrants were processed for landing in Canada. The customs officials they met were often their first taste of the country they were adopting and Arthur J. Vaughan was there to greet them with compassion and curiosity. The late Mr. Vaughan spoke with Joe Mahoney about his experiences, an account both touching and humorous.”

Promo for Arthur j. vaughan segment on “where is here? The Drama of immigration” sunday night showcase/Monday playbill
One Officer’s Experience: Arthur J. Vaughan
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