Friday, April 6, 2018

In answer to some readers' questions:

I've made The President's Henchman available for free on four platforms: Amazon, iTunes, Kobo and Nook, but all my other ebooks are available only on Amazon. The reason for this is simple: That's how I make the most revenue. I'm pretty sure, though, that you can get a Kindle app for just about any electronic device, maybe even your microwave oven. 

Regarding audio books: I just don't do them because the overhead is too high and the royalties are too low, from my POV. When you do an audio book — I had one done when I was published by Bantam Books — you need to hire "talent," i.e. an actor to read your book; you have to pay for recording studio time; you need a recording engineer; and it's not a bad idea to hire a producer, too, to make sure the whole thing comes together. All that gets expensive fast.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The President's Henchman, the first book in my Jim McGill series, just reached 1,200 Amazon reader reviews. For indie authors/publishers, favorable reader reviews are critical to success. 

So to all of you who have helped the cause, please accept my heartfelt thanks. If you've read and enjoyed the book, but haven't yet posted a review, please do. A review can be as brief and as to the point as you like. If you prefer to be expansive, so much the better. 

As always, please be sure to tell family and friends that TPH in ebook edition is available to them for FREE. Thanks for your interest and your help.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Latest School Massacre

As an author, I'm lucky to have many devoted readers. What I'm about to write now may well piss off a few of you. Maybe more than a few. How do I know that? Well, I used to have a very enthusiastic fan with the initials RF. He loved all my books right up until the time he read McGill #7, "The Good Guy with a Gun." Once RF read that book, he was through with me. He hated my take on gun laws so much he said he'd never read anything else I wrote.

So be it. Here comes more.

I still feel if someone wants to have a hunting rifle or two, that's fine. There are laws defining when, where and what animals you can shoot. If someone wants to use a rifle or handgun for marksmanship competitions, I'm okay with that. If, God help us, someone needs a firearm in their home because they live in a dangerous place, that's regrettable but also understandable.

What's completely wrong, though, is allowing the public sale of assault weapons. Their very name tells you that these weapons are meant to be used offensively not defensively. They are military weapons meant to be used in combat against hostile armed forces.

In our country, though, they are marketed to any civilian who has the money to purchase one. We've all seen what happens as a result. The most ordinary places from schools to movie theaters to nightclubs become combat zones. People die and are maimed by the dozens or even the hundreds.

Governments — local, state and federal — are given the responsibility of protecting us against such horrific losses of life. With rare exceptions, all levels of government have failed us. The horrific death tolls and the frequency of mass shootings are only increasing.

In the end, though, it's our own damn fault. We continue to elect people who refuse to end gun violence. We are told that more laws are not the solution. Bullshit. Other countries that we consider to be modern and democratic have strict gun laws and none of them have the scale of gun violence we do.

The problem with our country is money trumps everything else, at least up to a point. The money made from selling as many guns as possible is what funds the NRA, the gun-makers most powerful lobbying group. They, in turn, fund the election campaigns of politicians who will prevent any meaningful gun laws from being passed.

These cowards in Congress and state legislatures are also the first ones to tell us any time there is a mass killing that now is not the time to talk about it. That's crap. This is exactly the right time to talk about it.

More importantly, it's the right time to start planning to vote against it. That planning has to start with changing the terms of the debate. Don't talk about the gun lobby; protest against the murder lobby. Don't talk about gun-rights politicians, brand them the murder caucus. Don't tolerate a president who won't stand up to protect schoolchildren, label him the murder enabler in chief.

Some misguided people will say we can't do anything about this horrific situation because of the Second Amendment. Bullshit. Warren Burger, the late, Republican Chief Justice of the United States said: The idea that the Second Amendment guarantees the right of an individual to own a gun is a fraud.

The people of our country are still the ultimate power when it comes to deciding how we will live. If we want to live in peace we will have to stop the sale of assault weapons and outlaw the ones in private hands; buy them back from the willing and let the unwilling know they'll face long prison sentences if they're ever caught with them.

But never threaten to seize them from people's homes, unless there's a sign of imminent danger. After a buy-back deadline passes, allow people to turn in weapons anonymously.

So, it's up to us to seize the power from the murder lobby, the murder caucus in Congress and state legislatures. Don't vote for anyone who takes money from the NRA or other murder lobbyists.

If you do, you'll share in the guilt of the next mass murder at a school, a movie, a nightclub or anywhere else.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Finding Political Unity

Five days ago, 10/13/17, the Vox website published an article about what top political scientists think of the future of American democracy. An academic from Harvard said: “If current trends continue for another 20 or 30 years, democracy will be toast.” You can find the rest of the article at this link:
In 20 years, I'll be, at best, a spry geezer. In 30 years, I likely will be a fond memory to my closest relatives. So this downward trend is going to affect me less than it will younger people. You know, assuming that the Harvard guy knows what he's talking about.
On the chance that he has at least the general direction of things right, I'd say it's time for some intervention. Luckily for us, as we've seen when the GOP tried to screw with Obamacare, people will rise up and bombard their members of Congress with righteous and raucous protest. Being people who, for the most part, want to cling to their jobs, they respond appropriately, i.e. doing what their constituents demand.
That being the case, are there any issues which can unite a broad spectrum of voters to disregard party lines and even long-held biases? I believe there are. For one thing, huge majorities of people, whatever their political affiliation, have high, wide and durable contempt for Congress.
Many people feel that our federal legislators are running, and often ruining, our lives. They are regarded as the middle management of public life, people interested only in their own advancement, who will make everyone else miserable if that's what it takes for them to get ahead. You know, seven-figure salaries as lobbyists once they leave office.
The truth is, though, they are supposed to be public SERVANTS. That leads me to ask: What kind of servants get to raise their own pay? None that I know of, especially in the highly praised private sector of our economy.
If thinking of Congress-people as servants seems a bit quaint, the members of Congress are still public-payroll workers. So the above question is still apt: What kind of workers get to raise their own pay? Taking another step in that direction: What kind of workers get to do their jobs indefinitely without being subject to performance reviews?
Some might argue that elections constitute such reviews, but they lack useful specificity, such as exactly where did this Senator or that Representative fall short? That would be useful information for a voter to have in advance of casting a ballot.
So the questions then become: How can we put in place the reforms needed to seize control of Congressional pay raises and impose regular, publicly available Congressional performance reviews?
The pay-raise issue will require a new amendment to the Constitution, a high hurdle to clear but not an impossible one. The performance review could be achieved as a simple piece of legislation.
Would Congress ever do either of those things? They would if confronted with a sustained, vocal demand to them: As in, "Make these changes or you're out!"
I can see both people on the left and right getting behind these issues. Imagine how voter turn-out would increase in both presidential year elections and mid-term elections if Congress proposed a raise for itself and the voters got to approve or deny it. If during a given two-year period crime was down, jobs and wages were up, health care was widely available and affordable, Congress would get a gold-star review. If the opposite were true, Congress would be found in contempt of the American people. Their pay would be cut 25% and they would be given "Strike One." Any legislator who gets three strikes is out — barred from ever holding federal office again.
Think how changes like those above would unite Americans who otherwise hold starkly different views. Things wouldn't be perfect but our democracy would have a shelf-life of more than 20-30 years.
"If current trends continue for another 20 or 30 years, democracy will be toast."

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Invoke the power of prayer

In a New York Times story today, 10/2/17, about the mass murder shootings in Las Vegas, five musicians were quoted invoking the power of prayer. 

One respondent, a former strong 2nd amendment advocate, demanded a change in the gun laws, i.e. making them stricter. It seems to me that these two impulses might dovetail perfectly if applied in a meaningful way. 

After praying for the souls of the dead and that the hearts of their loved ones might be healed, congregants who believe in the power of prayer might beseech the God they worship to ask their religious leaders to speak out mightily and ceaselessly to force Congress to ban assault rifles, as a start. 

Jews, Catholics and Protestants all believe some wording of the commandment: Thou shall not kill. I imagine Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and other religions have similar strictures. 

So why aren't all the religious leaders in this country publicly exhorting the government to change the laws as to who can own what kind of — and how many — guns? 

The politicians who are in the pocket of the gun lobbyists can easily reject pleas from politicians on the other side who'd want to enact common-sense gun control laws, but they'd have a much harder, maybe impossible, time mocking a wide array of religious leaders pushing for an end to murder by gunfire. 

You'd think these men and women of the cloth, students of God's word not to kill your fellow human being, would rise to the challenge at their own initiative. 

But I haven't seen any sign of this. Maybe we should all pray for them to see the light.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Building a mailing list

Right now, I'm working hard on two projects: finishing a new John Tall Wolf novel and building my mailing list. Writing a new book is always fun, even if it's challenging. Doing the business end of publishing isn't really fun but it keeps the revenue coming in, which lets my wife and me sleep easy at night. That and indulge in non-essentials like buying tickets for plays in Chicago.
Why build a mailing list?
Because when you have a new book to release it helps to have a ready audience of people who'd like to buy it. And how do you build a mailing list? Well, one way is to give away a free book to show you can write a good story. Then people will buy other books you've written, especially if the book you give away is the first in a lengthy series as my novel "The President's Henchman" is.
Giving away a book isn't as easy as it might sound. It helps to have good reader and mass market reviews. I've got those things, but you still have to let people know the book exists. To do that, you have to advertise. My main ad outlet is on Facebook. Since last June, I've added 2,000 names to my mailing list.
That's not bad, but the writer who introduced me to Facebook advertising has 75,000+ names on his list. Being the competitive guy that I am, I want to get to 100,000. I figure there are at least that many people who will enjoy my books. Wouldn't be surprised if there are a million. So I'm going to have to work harder to achieve my business goal.
The next question is, what's the best way to keep the readers who sign up for your mailing list? Some people suggest that you have to email the people on your list frequently. I'm very uneasy about that.
My point of view is to let people know when I have something substantive to say. I don't want people to see an email from me and think it's something inconsequential they don't want to bother with.
So what I'd like to know, from anyone who'd care to comment, is how often, or infrequently, would you like to hear from me via email? Only when I have a new book nearing completion? When I might post a free short story to read on my website? When I announce my retirement? Just kidding about that last one.
Seriously, though, I'd appreciate some guidelines from my readers. Any help you offer will be seriously considered.
Of course, email is one thing, but if I feel a need to spout on some subject, I'll just post it here and on Facebook with no advance warning.

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Latest on Jim McGill

It's time to provide some feedback to all the readers who have been kind enough to either buy or download "The President's Henchman," Jim McGill novel #1.
First of all, your numbers are growing, for which my co-publisher Catherine and I are very grateful. Unlike the cliché attached to many writers — that we're neurotic wretches afflicted by creative constipation — I have a grand time when I sit down at my keyboard. I live my stories as I write them. It's a vicarious experience, of course, but it's also intimately personal as it occurs within my mind.
The only thing that comes close to the joy of writing for me — other than spending time in the company of my wife and daughter — is hearing from readers that I've provided them with a good time. Reading a good review on a McGill book always brightens my day.
McGill has actually been around for quite a while now. I wrote the manuscript for "The President's Henchman" in 2003. That was back in the days when I was traditionally published, and well before Amazon came up with Kindle Direct Publishing. The publisher who brought two of my books to market, Bantam Books, rejected TPH. So did many other big name publishers. They didn't see a market for the book.
So I put Jim McGill on the shelf but never put him out of my mind. A number of years went by and a small regional publisher showed interest.
Sorry to say, things didn't work out. I got the rights back, and Jim McGill had to wait patiently once again. His time came when Amazon let authors publish their work independently through Kindle Direct Publishing.
Catherine and I jumped at the opportunity. Using a BookBub promotion, TPH shot up to #6 in the overall Kindle Paid Store. That was early last year, 2016. Then BookBub decided to emphasize traditionally published books and Catherine and I started to advertise on Facebook a couple of months ago. We were following the lead of an English writer named Mark Dawson.
Thank goodness for Mark. Before we advertised on Facebook, we had 550 people on our mailing list. Now, in a matter of weeks, we're closing in on 2,000. We had 1,600 followers on BookBub. Now, we're close to 2,000 there also.
For comparison, Mark has 75,000+ people on his mailing list. So we have a lot of room to grow, and we intend to do just that. We feel, with good reason, we think, that there are many more readers out there who would enjoy McGill's exploits just as much as you have.
So please spread the good word, not just for me but for any author whose work you enjoy. As readers/consumers, you have tremendous power. Amazon and every other smart retailer want as much feedback from you as they can get. So, please, when something — like a good book — really pleases you, write a brief but glowing review.
That's the surest way to get more of what you like.
I'm working on a new John Tall Wolf novel right now. If all goes well, there will be a first post-White House McGill book out next year, as well as some new heroes (and villains) for you to meet.
Thanks again for being a friend of McGill.