Archive for September, 2011

How to Advertise

September 29, 2011 3 comments

Happy news, I set a new record for sales this month. Two records, actually – I sold more copies of Wanted this month than ever before and on top of that, I doubled last months sales a day before the end of the month. Ah hell, how about the hat trick – Wanted also broke the 20,000 mark in “all sold books” on Amazon. A couple more sales and it’ll break 10,000 – hint, hint. 🙂

But this is about advertising. How’d I get to where I’m at? Wanted has two review on Amazon. Sure, they’re both good reviews, but only two. It’s got a striking cover. Not the best, but it’s good. I’m tried my best to make the Amazon page appealing…but again, it’s one of many. So why is it doing reasonably well?

Pricing maybe? I’ve got it at $.99 at the moment. Yes, that helps. But it doesn’t pull people in to look at it in the first place. That’s a combination of me doing my best to make it available as many places as possible, including Twitter.

Ah yes, Twitter. The marketing mecca of the 21st century. I’ve amassed roughly 5000 followers and I regularly send out tweets that promote my books. Not directly, typically. Usually I’m either throwing out a snippet from a review and suggesting people check it out because, damn it, I’m proud of what somebody said in that review. At other times if I think there’s a particularly catchy phrase in a book I’ll tweet that as well. One of the best catch phrases in Wanted, for example, is: “We’re all whores, darling,” he said. “I ain’t judging you, I just don’t care.” If that’s not cool I don’t know what is.

And, of course, if you’re going to give people a reason to check out something, give ’em a link to do so! The easier you make it for someone, the greater the chance of generating that click. I’m a reader too and if I’ve got to do the extra work to find something like looking it up, odds are good you just lost me as a buyer. It’s not that I’m a prick, it’s that I’ve got a lot of things going on. I’m a busy man, and while my time is not any more valuable than yours is, it is valuable nonetheless. Treat your would-be readers with the same respect you want to be treated with and you’ll get a lot further.

I mentioned pride above. As in I’m proud of the reviews I’ve received. I don’t have a massive amount, but so far I don’t have a single bad review. Sure, I expect sooner or later I’m going to ruffle somebody’s feathers, but it hasn’t happened yet. That doesn’t mean I’m the next NY Times #1 Bestseller, nor that I’m a marketing genius. It just means I’m doing okay and connecting with the right people who like what I write. This is called targeting my market. I’m no wizard at it – in fact I’d say I’m more lucky than anything, but that luck is aided by trying to find people on Twitter to follow and tweet with who share my interests. Who wants the apple at the top of the tree when there’s one at the bottom that’s just as good and you don’t need a ladder? Pluck the low hanging fruit first!

More on pride. I’ll be honest (for those who don’t know me) and admit that I can be rather full of myself when it comes to a few areas. Weight lifting, in particular power lifting, is something I’ve excelled at (and suffered catastrophic injuries while doing). I figure that earns me the right to talk a little smack. My day job and many prior jobs and college degrees / certifications state that I’m an expert in the IT field, so I can roll my eyes with the best of them there too.

But writing? Writing is personal. Writing is pouring time and effort and life into something that comes entirely from inside. Every character has a part of me in it, and short of reality TV stars, who’s comfortable baring parts of their souls to complete strangers? So a positive review, a positive rating, or even a sale is nothing short of humbling. Every time somebody reaches out to me on Twitter, Facebook, my blog, my website, or via email and says they enjoyed what I wrote I’m filled with a warm fluffy feeling.

Maybe I haven’t become jaded yet, but I have a hard time seeing that ever get old. Reading a book is an investment not only in the money spent buying it but also in time. The time is generally for more valuable. Even at minimum wage a single hour would buy any of my ebooks. Reading them, on the other hand, will take considerably longer. If someone’s willing to spend that much time with a little piece of my soul and then come back and say, “Hey, good job, I really liked what I read!” Well, is there a better compliment to be found?

So to tie that back into the advertising aspect, do little things like this. Share with the world just how damned appreciative and amazed I am that they like what I’m doing. As Lady Gaga figured out, nothing is possible in this type of market with the fans. So for anybody who’s read one of my books or one day plans on it, my door’s open and, so long as you’re not a stalker who wants to wear a bodysuit made out of my skin, I’m always happy to talk.

And now another chance to check out Wanted because, well, it’s a fun book with a main character who reminds us all of how we’d like to act if only we could get away with it. Well, for the most part, Carl can! And when you’ve finished Wanted and have questions, head on back to find the sequel, Ice Princess!

Wanted, book 1 by Jason Halstead
Wanted, on Amazon
Ice Princess, 2nd book in Wanted series, by Jason Halstead
Ice Princess, on Amazon

Ahh Karma! (Review on Human Nature)

September 28, 2011 Leave a comment

I review a book, somebody reviews a book for me. Pretty darn good trade I’d say! Read on for a bit on the review done for Human Nature over at “Love on the Bookshelf”.

This book had me at post-apocalyptic. I admit, I’m a sucker for post-apocalyptic stories whether they’re books, movies, or just a good yarn. Now, Human Nature didn’t have Kevin Costner, but it was still a really good story. Dawn Vincent, aka the Doctor, is one of a handful of people left on Earth that survived an alien attack. (I know! There are aliens!) Most of the aliens have left, deeming Earth unworthy of their attention, but they left a few stragglers that are causing trouble. You know, like killing and eating the humans. And not necessarily in that order.

The real theme in this book is growth. The human race is growing stronger against the aliens. As she works on patching people up, Dawn grows

more confident in herself and her skills – both as a doctor and as a leader. And, an unexpected love grows between Dawn and ________. Well, I can’t give it away, can I?

Read the rest of the review here.

Human Nature, by Jason Halstead

Or click on the image to read the book itself!

Review: A Previous Engagement

September 28, 2011 Leave a comment

I read and reviewed a book. I don’t have time to do it often, but I gave it a go as a favor to a fellow writer. The book is called A Previous Engagement and it’s a romance. Not the smutty (read: fun) kind of romance either. It’s something that would merit a PG-13 rating in a theater. But who wants to read something on a screen that big? (sorry, bad joke)

So, without wasting anymore poor humor, here’s the review:

Either because of my testicles or because I’m just that way, I avoid romances. They seem to only be possible when incredibly stupid people are the characters. The main character in A Previous Engagement (a clever title, by the way), fits the category perfectly. I thought the male paramour did as well until I was most of the way through the book. Then I realized he wasn’t suffering from a series of major concussion, he was just overly sentimental and emotional for a man. Definitely not a man’s man, but perhaps he fits with the modern metrosexual kind of guy that’s become so popular. I prefer the 80’s action movie hero kind of guy. Or The Duke.

One other thing bothered me – the book leaves the impression that it’s unfavorable for a woman to have a successful career. The main character strives to do so, but she’s not complete without a partner and family in her life. I find that a flawed lesson. Why should a person be required to have a family to be complete?

That’s the bad, here comes the good.

The book was very well written. The main character amused me time and again (when she wasn’t aggravating me by being oblivious), thanks to the author’s skill with putting words together. I faintly remember one chapter starting with a sentence that was too long and made no sense, but I was able to move past it easily and find no other flaws. Coming from another writer, that’s a major success.

I read the book in a matter of hours, another feather in Stephanie’s hat. I abhor the genre yet she kept me reading. I wanted to reach in and strangle the characters because they seemed to be inexplicably stupid from the very beginning, but still I read on. I say ‘inexplicably stupid’ but that does not mean they are without precedent. Virtually any romance movie available or even some distant relatives of mine have displayed similar or near exact levels of ignorance and dumbassery. So yes, I thought they were dumb but it’s a dumb that I’ve seen many times before in fiction and in fact.

For someone who enjoys the genre, I recommend the book highly.

You can find Stephanie’s book here: A Previous Engagement.

Out on a Ledge

September 25, 2011 Leave a comment
Arches National Park in Moab, Utah

1.5 Miles up some rough hills in high desert heat to Delicate Arch in Moab, Utah

Simmer down, nobody’s jumping. In fact, the ledge isn’t what you think it is. It’s a geological formation that, for the life of me, I didn’t expect to see within a hundred miles of me.

I grew up in Michigan about fifteen – twenty miles from a place called Grand Ledge. Contained within Grand Ledge, along the Grand River, was a natural formation of rocks called the Ledges. Great to hike amongst and climb on. Great beginner climbing opportunities.

Vacationed in various places with bigger and better rocks – mostly near Marquette, Michigan. So, naturally, I climbed em. Hey, I was a boy. Still am, I just don’t get up as quick when I fall down. Northern Michigan at any time of the year is beautiful. Harsh in the winter, but no less beautiful. Climbing in the winter, incidentally, is a bad idea. As is hiking too late in the evening and having the sun go down on you while you’ve still got two hours through nearly pitch black woods with very scant trails to follow. Not that I know anyone that’s happened to….

So from Michigan I moved to southeastern Utah. Moab, to be precise. Moab, a place visited by people from all over the world for its hiking and climbing opportunities. It’s another absolutely beautiful place. Most of Utah is, with northern Utah reminding me of Michigan UP. There are many things I can say about my time spent out there but of them not a one is a complaint as to the scenery.

Next we moved to eastern Ohio. What’s Ohio got for me? Lots of civilization and a good job until the writing thing takes off enough to take over. At this rate it’ll end up being something for my retirement. Regardless, Ohio is considered, by me, to be a flat and geographically boring state. Sure, a couple of decent rivers, and some good hills in the southeastern portion of it, but that’s about it.

My wife heard of a place called Nelson Ledges from a friend of hers. We looked it up and decided to risk it. We went there today and I was all but blown away by it. Nothing too tall, although we did find one cross in a fenced off area where someone had slipped and fallen to their death. A couple of smaller waterfalls and a lot of niches, crevices and caves. We tromped around there, occasionally having to carry and assist our kids through the more difficult spots, for a few hours. All in all, it was a blast.

I was reminded of a cross between Utah, with the ledges and crevices, and Michigan Upper Peninsula with the greenery and pleasant temperatures. A perfect blend, in my opinion. We plan on heading back again and doing more exploring. The moral of the story was to not judge a book by its cover. Sure it Ohio and sure it’s flat like the chest of a thirteen year old boy, but it’s got some hidden surprises if you look hard enough.

Am I Smarter than a Kindegartner?

September 24, 2011 Leave a comment

This is a short but highly amusing story from just last night. I arrived home and was engulfed in the usual excited banter from young kids happy to see me. Surviving that, we soon moved on to dinner (whole wheat spaghetti, for those curious). During dinner my daughter, who’s five years old, asked if I knew something that one of her classmates had said in school that day. Also if I knew it was that classmates birthday.

Not to be outdone, I asked her if she knew about neutrino’s being measured at CERN during a three year study that showed them arriving 60 nanoseconds quicker than the speed of light allowed. She claimed that yes, she did know that, then went on to share some other bit of fascinating trivia with me. I felt like was having a Jerry Maguire moment.

My wife then trumped both of us by saying,”Hey Lexie, did you know Daddy’s only one millimeter away from wearing a pocket protector?”

I’m pretty sure my daughter confirmed that yes, she knew that too.

Categories: Uncategorized

So You Want to be a Beta Reader…

September 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Random thoughts bounce around in my head. Sometimes it happens so quickly it can be dizzying. Other times great ideas occur, but they’re gone before I even realize the potential behind them. Not so with the idea that whacked me in the back of the noggin last night. I turned it around, looked at it, sniffed it, and then even tasted it. Through it all I avoided any thing distasteful to my palate. Having passed the sniff and taste test, the idea has to be golden, right? Well I’m going to find out.

I am hereby putting out a call to my loyal readers, blog or books. I’m looking for a few good beta readers. No editing skills are required. No writing skills are required. Heck, if you can read you’re potentially qualified! Some stipulations apply of course (confidentiality and whatnot), but we can discuss those if you decide your serious about it.

So what’s in it for you? An early (and free) pre-release version of whatever book I’m working on – and I write a lot of books! I’ve got several queued up for release as we speak in fact, and I’m always working on more. Did I mention the books are free?

‘That’s great,’ you’re thinking, ‘but what’s it in it for him?’ Glad you asked! I’m after more reviews to be put on my books when they’re released. Honest reviews too, not just blowing smoke and claiming it’s an instant 5 out of 5 simply because you got it for free. If you’ve got a blog and want to mention it there too, that’d be great as well, but that’s a secondary consideration for me. And of course I’m also seeking feedback on anything you did or didn’t like about it. What worked, what didn’t, etc..

So if you think you’ve got what it takes and are interested in getting your hands on some science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, and occasional other genre books at no cost to you aside from a paragraph of words, let me know! Email me here:

Categories: Writing Tags: , , , ,

Fickle is Lady Luck

September 22, 2011 Leave a comment

For example, you clicked on this expecting to read something inspiring or educational. Ha! Fooled you! This is more of a smorgasbord of current events and thoughts, but to keep it real there is some writing related ramblings to be found.

Case in point: my last post was about Voidhawk hitting a bestseller list on Amazon for a few hours (maybe several hours, I was asleep for most of it). Since I celebrated that I’ve not had a single sale on it. Shame on you, my loyal followers. Yes you, and the guy behind you. Both of you should have rushed out and bought it to help it reach greater heights. That would prove that some random putz like me (and, presumably, you as well) can rise above mediocrity to grasp at greatness.

Of course I am kidding 100% about giving anyone a hard time. I’m not a Catholic priest in the dark ages demanding belief in my books or death by fire on a stake. If you’re not interested or don’t have the time / money, don’t go there. If you do, or feel like being charitable, well that’s a different story…

Okay, enough pandering, back to the randomness. So sales dropped off sharply after that one peak of a day. Not just for Voidhawk, but across the board. Still getting a few trickling in but I’d dared to hope I had somehow climbed to a new tier. No such luck I fear. My fellow struggling writers the moral is this: we will struggle and we will fight tooth and nail for every foot we climb up the hill. And, apparently, we shall slide back a few feet on occasion as well. That’s no reason to not keep on climbing!

Now for a shout out to my wife and her new soy candle business she’s officially launched! We expected to go live with the website on October 1st but I was over-productive in designing it and our testers performed quickly and admirably (and without failures in the code). So it’s alive and well and waiting for you, my loyal readers (yes, both of you again) to head over and check it out. After all, what better way to enjoy a book (preferably on a Kindle or a Nook) than while burning a soothing scented candle nearby? Fall’s coming on strong and she’s got the seasonal scents wafting through our house. Mmm, pumpkin pie…cinnamon…peppermint…pine trees…. Okay, I’m pandering again. Sorry.

A Flicker In Time picture

A Flicker in Time - premium soy candle manufacturer / retailer

Finally I just found out the last person on Earth I expected to read my blog is, indeed, reading my blog. Well no, that’s not true. I expect somebody like Mel Brooks or Chaz Bono to be the last people on earth to read this. I digress. The point is: Hi mom!

What Makes a Bestseller?

September 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Every morning I wake up and do my morning rituals. Those consist of normal routine items and then I head downstairs, where I prepare 3 – 4 meals for myself throughout the day (not including dinner). Then, like a good little addict, I go to my computer and load up that Amazon publishing page to check out how my books did overnight. Secretly I’m hoping for that thrill of a a few additional sales, versus the letdown of no activity at all. Lately that thrill has been there more and more often. I read in a blog somewhere that someone described it as not so different from sitting at a slot machine pulling a lever and hoping for a score.

Well this morning I was shocked to see my sales had jumped a bit. I beat my previous record (set last month) and still have nine days to go in this month. Giddy with that rush of endorphins, I took the extra time to look at every book page I’ve got, curious as to their rankings. I was impressed. Not floating on air, mind you, but impressed. Then I got to the last window and had to reboot my brain. One of my books had climbed onto one of Amazon’s top 100 lists. As I understand it (I double checked to be sure), that’s a bestselling list. One of my books, a bestseller!

The book is Voidhawk, a blend of fantasy and science fiction (space opera or space fantasy, really). Voidhawk is the first in a series. I’ve got three of them written thus far and many more to come. In my opinion, each book is better than the one before it, but that’s just because of the things I learn as a writer every step of the way. Voidhawk was my first book I ever published back in 2009, though I retained full rights to it.

The secret? Beats the hell out of me! I’m blogging and writing it down as I go but until I can see if this persists I’m not going to mislead anyone. It could be an algorithmic fluke on Amazon’s part, or random luck on mine. I’ll take either, of course! When the dust settles if it continues to rise you can be sure I’ll be analyzing the data and sharing it.

Until then, why not go check out Voidhawk and see why people like it enough to elevate it to the top 100 list? (nudge, nudge, wink, wink)

Voidhawk, book 1 in a science fiction / fantasy series by Jason

Voidhawk - the book that started it all

Update: Voidhawk spent a couple of hours on the bestseller list then dropped off. I’ve tasted it and it was damn good before it was snatched away. Success in something so personal is not a thing that can be cast aside or turned off.

Fresh on the Shelves – Ice Princess!

September 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Okay, it’s not on the shelves yet…a few more days, but I’ve got the finished draft of the cover art on hand and here’s a sneak peak of it!

Ice Princess, 2nd book in Wanted series, by Jason Halstead

Ice Princess, the second book in the Wanted series

Oh yeah, it’ll be on Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, Smashwords, Kobo, iBook, and anywhere else I can think to put it. Help a starving artist out and pick up your copy as soon as it’s available – a good day of sales can push it into one of Amazon’s top selling lists and that’ll help me save towards becoming eccentric in my old age!

By the way, the cover art is by A.J McLain, and every sale sends a little something his way too. Just think, for less than a cup of premium coffee you can help out two people AND be entertained longer than that cup of coffee would last you.

Okay, cheesy sales pitch over, pardon me for my excitement at seeing this book getting close to its release.

I’d advise you not to read this

September 17, 2011 Leave a comment

But clearly, I suck at giving advice (otherwise you wouldn’t have read this far). For this brave enough to continue, here’s the reason for this unusual blog post: a Twitter friend who shall remain nameless, opined that they have been growing restless with their life. Oh, they’re not thinking of trying a different life or anything crazy, just tired of the daily grind and wanting to reach out for their dreams.

For the record, I don’t consider myself qualified in this area to offer up much of an opinion. When it comes to many things computer or IT related then yes, I’m one of many experts in the field capable of offering up reliable opinions. The same applies with weightlifting, personal training, and nutrition. The problem is that there are many experts in such fields, and even among those of us who have proven results to back their claims up our opinions vary. So advice is just that, somebody else’s opinion. In some things it can be more useful than others (e.g. which TV is better vs. which sofa is more comfortable).

Now back to the Twitter dilemma. I was accused of being one of those people who is following my dreams. That made me smile and filled me with a touch of warm fuzziness (not the moldy kind either). Then I thought more about the things I do and I had to chuckle. Who dreams of working the equivalent of four jobs, going to grad school, maintaining a happy family, and training for an obsessive and demanding hobby that can easily lead to personal injury? Not me! I dream of being successful and able to relax a bit, so I work my ass off in the process of getting there. What is the definition of successful to me? Being relatively bill free with a stable and comfortable income, along with a similarly stable and comfortable home / family life. And doing all of that with a day job that does not intrude unnecessarily on the fragile tranquility of the rest of it. And to have laser vision.

Laser vision

Superman for a day

Okay, I made the last part up.

Seriously though, my books are slowly inching up every month in sales. Although at their present climb it may be a decade or more before I’m able to consider it a retirement income, let alone FU money. I’m constantly trying new things though, from launching other backlisted stories under a pen name (part of that experiment is not letting anyone know the identity of said pen name, so you won’t hear it from me) to trying to game the rankings system at Amazon a bit. As a matter of fact, for anybody still reading this if you want to help a brother out and use the social networking tool of your choice to post about Voidhawk, Wanted, and New Beginnings / Vitalis being a series written by yours truly, I’d be terribly grateful. Of course if it’s easier to just go and buy the books that’s a great substitute as well. Did I mention how useful reader reviews are on the Amazon page?

Okay, enough pandering from me, back to my troubled friend. They want a change, and seeing punks like me pushing for my dreams even with the heavy load I’ve got going on they think it might be possible, they just aren’t sure what it is to do or what they want. Changing careers or going after a new degree is no decision to take lightly. I’d considered continuing school myself after my MBA – and get this, for either something in the medical or pharmacology field. Yeah, crazy. I’m pretty sure I’m over that now.

My advice is to figure out what’s missing or wrong. I’ve gone through some overwhelming personal changes in my life and I’ve seen a few others do that as well (including my amazing wife). It’s definitely not an easy road, but with perseverance it can be very rewarding. The only thing that is certain is that 100% of ventures not attempted will fail. The tricky part, as I’ve discovered, is making sure that any new project is not undertaken at the expense of existing facets of life. Easier said than done, eh? That’s where communication comes in, as well as having a decent support network.

Lacking that, it’s time for more drastic changes. After all, who wants to be surrounded by people that don’t understand you or aren’t supporting of you?

Categories: Self Help Tags: , ,