Posts tagged: managing the publishing industry

Is Book Marketing like Snorkeling in a Septic Tank?

Sewage Treatment Plant in England

I have been wrestling with this issue for years. Do I defile myself by immersing my soul (and body) into the odoriferous swamp of  book peddling? Is bookselling the sleazy activity inappropriate for decent people that I think it is? Why is it so off-putting?

Look at my email inbox. As a good, modern Internet marketer, I belong to a multitude of Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Twitter  writers’, readers’, and marketing  groups, as well as subscribing to individuals’ and groups’ blogs. And sites like Pixel of Ink, ENT, and BookBub. I get around three or four hundred emails a day. That’s after scrubbing my list of non-essentials. This is what the emails are like, except most aren’t intentionally funny:

I had to share the latest 5 star review from my new book entitled, POOPSIE SPANKS A POODLE: ‘Wow. This is a really good book. Great character development. You just feel for that poodle! You’re getting to be a better writer, Sandy. I’ll read everything you write!!’ Mom

“WOO-HOO! I JUST GOT MY 10,000,000th TWITTER FOLLOW! I broke their counter! Next, I’ll take over the world!”

“Here’s a foolproof system to sell your book on Amazon. Only requires $99 up front and lifetime celibacy.”  God

“God may promise you a good deal, but I deliver. Want all 5 star reviews? That can be arranged.” Satan

“Hi everyone! Please check out my Facebook  author page and give me a Like. When you’re done with that, could you go to my Amazon author page and Like it, too? And on Google +, there’s a  . . .  And on Twitter . . .  I’m also in a contest. Could you drop by GoodReads and vote? Pretty, pretty please? Plus, it’s my birthday. Could you send a cake?” Mona I’ve-Never-Heard-of-You-in-my-Life

“5 stars! Wow! Was this book hot! My Kindle ignited. Also the house.”

They go on like that, hundreds a day, many from the same person, “Buy my book! Buy my book!” “Me! Me! Me!” “My Book!” “Nothing else matters in the universe, so buy my book.” “Gimme! Gimme!” “He is HOT! She is HOT! Their dog is HOT!” Day after day. Vile communications pitched at . . . whom? Who would buy anything with this type of selling technique? It absolutely grosses me out. Because of this spewing of egotism, I haven’t promoted my stuff for maybe six months. My sales show it, too. This stream of verbiage must do something, but at what personal cost to those sending and receiving it?

Your better marketing articles say this behavior is marketing suicide. But the emails keep pouring in.

How to market a book? I dunno. I’ve been doing it for years and haven’t a clue. I’ve had friends say, “But your marketing is so good!” Meaning whatever I send out is beautiful and tasteful. But it doesn’t ignite my bottom line the way I want.

This is an example of the tasteful and elegant graphics that have my friends thinking I'm a great marketer. This actually happened: I couldn't get my sale to go away. Even Amazon couldn't help.

The good old days really were the good old days. My first book came out in 2006. Marketing was much easier in those early days. You didn’t have to do much more than have a great cover, a bunch of killer reviews, and a few national awards. Bingo! Selling success.

My first novel, Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money, rose to the number 1 position in three categories of Mysticism and cruised around the 1,500 level in the Kindle store for a year. I did no promoting and didn’t think there was anything unusual about the book’s performance.

Hah! I wish I’d known how to take screenshots then. I’d have a record of those fabulous numbers. (The screenshot is the modern author’s best friend. After your mammoth promotional campaign lands you in the #1 Bestseller spot for fifteen minutes, you can stare at the screen shot afterward to remember the glory. You can only do that if you took it, of course.)

Now, it’s not so easy. The problem is the number of books coming out. How does an excellent, well-edited book, with a killer cover and award-winning author get noticed?
Seems like it should rise automatically. Forget that.

I’ve read three books recently that offer a defense against the tsunami of eBooks flooding Amazon. I recommend them heartily. They are:

After reading these books, I felt hope that I could get this marketing thing down. I had a definite direction. In Let’s Get Visible, Gaughran talks about Amazon algorithms and how to use them to your benefit. Reading this was like finding the Holy Grail. Both of his books above are worth memorizing.

Joanna Penn handles the “marketing is sleazy and degrading” issue and shows you how to approach the activity in a civilized fashion. Joanna says she’s introverted. (I doubt she could be as introverted as me and be in international speaking sensation.) But she’s accomplished great things including writing careers in fiction and nonfiction, blogging, and international speaking.

My initial reaction to the three books was relief and joy at having found concrete advice and a path to follow. By the time I got to the end of each, I was more like, “Whoa. This is a lot. This means serious work . . . When do these people sleep?” When I knew what success required, I felt depressed.

But the feelings didn’t last. I have a pressing need to practice the stuff in those books. Starting now. If you’re interested, links to my web page and Amazon Author Page are down below, as is a link to In Love by Christmas: A Paranomal Romance, which blasted it’s way to the top of the charts in a bunch of categories, ending up ranked in eleven Amazon categories just this week. Woo-ha!

In Love by Christmas is a paranormal romance according to the industry definitions of those terms. It’s a romance, in that the relationship drives the story and is its most important element. It’s paranormal in that a few of the characters have supernatural abilities. The hero, Leroy Watches Jr., is a shaman who can do all sorts of things, often with disastrous results. It’s not your paranormal romance with naked men  and dragons on the cover. (My cover artist gave me that description of the genre based on her experience designing covers.)

Oh, let’s go all the way. Here’s a video about In Love by Christmas. If there’s anything I like to do more than write, it’s make videos. This is my masterpiece and my Happy Holidays 2014 greeting to you:

from Sandy Nathan on Vimeo.
Leroy Watches Jr. is a shaman whose Power sometimes makes things worse. Despite his flaw, he must save his soul mate from her addictions, her father, and Evil Incarnate, or she’ll be damned forever.
Trying to unite with his true love, Leroy embarks on a pilgrimage that takes him to the highest levels of European society. As he travels, his shamanic Power grows. So does the Dark Lord’s hatred of him.
His prospective father-in-law demands that Leroy and Cass be in love by Christmas. Can they be?

All the best in your publishing endeavors. Remember, if facing the public is too much, hide under your bed. You’ll find me right beside you.

So long for now,

In Love by Christmas (Bloodsong 3)

In Love by Christmas (Bloodsong 3). My new book, and Amazon #1 Bestseller in Metaphysical Fantasy.

SANDY NATHAN, award-winning and #1 bestselling author of In Love by Christmas, and a bunch more. You can find them on my Amazon Author Page. 












I Don’t Write Like a Girl –– or How I Became a Literary Grown-up and Why It Doesn’t Matter

Sometimes the process of blogging helps the blogger as much as those who read the blog. In my previous post, I introduced my new banner (above), handled some feminist and definitional issues, and tossed out a description of the kind of fiction that makes me want to  throw up. Namely, the sweet Southern family story packing all the dramatic tension of a banana slug.

BANANA SLUG - This is the UC Santa Cruz Mascot. I was going to put a picture of a real banana slug here, but they're so gross I had mercy on you--and me.

Not being able to leave the topic alone, I rewrote the Southern story, making the plot more interesting by adding pole-dancing, zombies, and a meth lab. By that time, I’d broken through the seriousness of writing all that other stuff. I sat at my computer, laughing.


This was a personal growth moment, a message from my Inner Self. Did I ever need it. If I had posted what I’d written to go here, I would have alienated readers and writers of the major book genres.

So I wrote what follows, which has turned into a “free Kindle short.” I really can’t write anything under three hundred pages. Sorry.

SHIVA NATARAJ IN SHADOW - The Dancing Shiva represents the dance of life. If a force like this taps you on the head, it's best to listen up.

So how should I fill this space?

What I was trying to point out in the “I don’t write like a girl” thing is I don’t write like a girl. My work is gritty, sometimes violent, has strong language, and is very sexy (but not too explicit). My writing also has a very strong and pervasive spiritual thrust (which is nondenominational). It deals with rough subjects, such as: will we grow up as a species and learn to work together before we blow up the planet? (That’s the underlying theme of  The Angel & the Brown-Eyed Boy. )

I would give all of my novels solid R ratings. The non-fiction is G rated. That’s Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could, a kids’ book abut a premature baby horse born on our ranch. Stepping Off the Edge is a spiritual companion for today’s world.

The Angel & the Brown-Eyed Boy - Here's the new cover. A different kind of angel

The Angel & the Brown-Eyed Boy - Here's the new cover. Another face of the Angel.

Typically, female genre writers are associated––and this is a generalization––with fluffier subjects. Or flat out romance, much of which has degenerated until it’s close to porn, as far as I’m concerned. Literary fiction is a different matter; female literary authors turn out some of the most profound and beautiful work in existence.

But how about profound, beautiful, hard-hitting, truthful, difficult, transcendent, and inspiring work for men and women? Writing that’s fun and entertaining? That’s what I aim to produce.

Why is my work gritty and hard hitting? Believe me, I’d like to write gentler, easier pieces. But I can’t. (Yet!)

I’ll let my story tell itself.


RICK MORA Native American Actor & Model

In his bio, Native American model and actor Rick Mora says, “Planted in the womb of my mother, a seed from the Sun. Birthed in a field of corn called Los Angeles, but raised on a one hundred acre cattle farm. . .”

Lovely words. I contemplated them and they inspired this blog article.


I was born in a hospital in San Francisco and raised in a minefield.

Ours was not the kind of mine that kicked out gold and silver. It was the kind that blew your legs off if  you made a false step.

The primary rule of our minefield was: don’t acknowledge that it exists. Never talk about it.

Am I going to talk about it here? Good heavens, no. I’m still shaking from my mine-induced memories. But I will allude to the field and its effects.

BONSAI - We grow the way we're bent


Kids model themselves after the people in their lives who are powerful, effective, and successful. These winners become multi-sensory reality templates. Multi-sensory: encompassing sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. We are poured into the mold of our mentors’ being; they brand us to the bone.

I identified with my dad. He held the power in our family and without a doubt had the most fun. Lining up with this man had pluses and minuses.

On the plus side, I identified with a person who went from a penniless immigrant to owner of one of largest residential construction companies in the United States. I breathed the intoxicating energy of success and was force-fed what I needed to be/do to succeed so mightily.

On the negative side, I identified with a person who founded and owned one of largest residential construction companies in the United States. The guy was tough. You wouldn’t believe how tough. And demanding. My childhood was like being in the Marines.

ANDY ODDSTAD Water-skiing in the San Fransisco Bay in the 1960s. He was as tough & powerful as he looks.

My father was driven, an ultra perfectionist, and more capable and effective than anyone I’ve known. He was a volcano of energy, a champion wrestler, and incredible water skier. He lifted weights as big as manhole covers. Expert at reading people, he could negotiate around the most recalcitrant city council and tell who would vote with whom the minute he entered a boardroom. He rose to the top, moving from college athlete and scholar to war hero to captain of industry in a few short years. He always took the hardest course and didn’t shirk anything.

He also demanded that everyone around him reach his mark. That meant me.

ANDY ODDSTAD IN FULL BATTLE GEAR - This my dad somewhere in the South Pacific during World War II. He belonged to UDT 4, Underwater Demolition Team 4. The UDTs went into occupied waters before the Marines––and blew up mines. This is his style: pick the most dangerous thing you can do and succeed like crazy. He brought home a fistful of medals.

When I was ten, my dad said the most valuable words a father could say to a daughter: “There’s no reason that a girl can’t do everything a boy can do.” He looked at me with those brilliant blue eyes. I felt pierced, the way a whale does when the harpoon hits. “And I know how smart you are. Don’t think you can fool me with your grades.”

He knew what I was capable of and expected me to achieve it. No whining. This knocked the “unnecessary little girl” out of me in one swoop.


We lived in the subdivision beyond these gates.

Time passed, life went on. I took physics and pre-calculus in high school and prepared to go to college. The business soared, catapulting my family into a world none of us could have imagined.

When I look back at those years, I see the tender tips of oak branches reaching across the country lanes near my home. Brilliant foliage spilling out of bronze urns that soared far above my head. Hundred-year-old magnolias lining a driveway. We lived on an old estate that had been subdivided. The place was magical.

I recall red-hot speedboats and weekends spent water skiing. Magnificent horses moving around arenas in pristine fairgrounds. Roaming California’s coastal range on my beloved steed. Riding so far into the forest that the boundaries between forest and horse and I blurred, so that all we were was the spirit of the forest moving. I remember riding in a drill team and dancing in my parents’ country club. I’ll never forget the time when we entered a restaurant and the maître de genuflected to my father. Truly.

I was something then, just because of my name.

That life was seductive and I was seduced.

Here I am riding Robin Rose at the Menlo Circus Club.
This was the last time I showed a horse for twenty-three years.

One January morning in 1964, my golden world collapsed. A drunk driver hit my father head on. My dad died three agonizing days later. My access to the world of horses and horse shows, boats, and country clubs disappeared. I went from a princess to nothing in a few hours.

I have great affinity for Native Americans. They, too, had the kingdom and lost it. I know how that feels.


1. Get high: People perish when something so massively bad happens. They turn to drugs, alcohol, all sorts of addictions, and destructive behavior. And they die.

2. Get low: Fall into the ocean of depression and despair, self-pity, and blame. Some of the people in this group join the “I am the most abused person in the universe contest.” I know a number of people with traumatic pasts, including myself. “The most abused person” is an actual contest that you see in this group. Entrants compete for who’s had the most rotten life. The contest is great for cultivating self pity, not so hot as a life theme. When I fell into this, I would tell myself, “At least you’ve never been napalmed.”

3. Fix it: We grow the way we’re bent. I had this crazy war-hero, captain of industry, do-it-the-hardest, roughest-way father as my role model. Trying to bring my dad, the life my family lived, and our position in society back, I went on a mammoth achievement binge, working harder than anyone should. I was full-on with it for about fourteen years, and still am probably in it. I ended up with a couple of master’s degrees, part of PhD, careers in economics, and negotiation coaching. I even was principal interior designer for our furniture store! I did the personal growth workshops of the seventies very hard and was associated with a meditation group based in India for twenty-five years.

All of it failed: I didn’t bring back my dad, our family fortune, or social position. I didn’t save the world or stop business cycles through applied economics. I did not cure the emotional ills of the planet through counseling. Nor did I become enlightened.

I did become highly employable. I was Economic Analyst for Santa Clara County (San Jose, CA, the southern part of Silicon Valley). I got to coach negotiations at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, working for my favorite professor ever, Richard T. Pascale, PhD.

4. Shrink it. Get personal/psychological help if you need it. The mental health community exists to  help you. I used to think that psychotherapy should be mandatory: When a baby is born––Whaa!––it gets a ticket for lifetime psychotherapy. That’s because I’ve seen people in their fifties who’ve been in therapy a while. If you compare them to folks the same age who haven’t been shrunk, the difference is amazing. Good therapy works wonders.

Years ago, I realized that mandatory, universal therapy wouldn’t work. The problem is that only a relatively healthy segment of the population can benefit from therapy. The people who really need help don’t think they have a problem. And they don’t have the insight into their behavior and the discipline to change if they do get into therapy. Too bad. Only the toughest, most motivated people can profit from counseling or therapy.

Therapy can also be a swamp. How do you find a good therapist? A really good psychotherapist told me, “If you do not see a definite, positive change in the situation that got you into therapy within two or three months, change therapists.”

5. Rise above it. Ahah! At last something that really works. I’m talking about spiritual experience, religious experience, and communion with the source of all that is. Grab on that transcendent path and run with it.

Sandy & Rey de Corazones "King of Hearts." The Bliss of partnership with a horse

I have been graced by spiritual experiences since I was a young teenager riding my horse through the redwoods. Sometimes, I couldn’t tell the difference between my horse, the warm light and green majesty of the redwoods, and myself. I learned in graduate school that this is called a unitive experience. Many more types of religious experience exist, and I’ve been lucky enough to have more than a few of them. I guess that’s the way I’m  bent, apart from my family’s influence.

These experiences have thrust their way out of me whenever I needed them. You can read the Author’s Notes from Numemon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money and the three-book Earth’s End series. In those Notes, I tell exactly what happened when the ideas for those books came to me. Hint: mostly they come from really rotten things occurring. My soul processes pain into books.

In addition to the wondrous and magical working of spirit, I suppose that my own internal bending toward the light and search for the divine sets me up for transcendent experiences. And the twenty five years of meditation and spiritual practice I put in might have helped, along with my participation in several churches that reflected my inner reality.

Sandy Nathan and Tecolote - What was truly mine came back to me.

LIFE KNOCKED THE “LITTLE GIRL” OUT OF ME LONG AGO. I was raised in a minefield, but have found that through grace and my own hard work, a mine can yield diamonds and gems, an infinite wealth of insight, fountains of creativity. A life worth living, love and fun and family.

The jewels came to me when I dug deep enough. If my life hadn’t been as hard as it has been, I wouldn’t be able to write the way I do or feel the honed-bright joy.

My journey taught me that what is truly mine can’t be taken from me. What I was supposed to have came back, exactly in the measure that the universe had in mind at the start.

* * *

THE TITLE OF THIS ARTICLE STATES THAT BECOMING A LITERARY GROWN-UP DOESN’T MATTER. It doesn’t. My message from the Divine way up at the top said that. Everything I’ve said above applies to finding the personal you. The you you.This does not have to be reflected in your writing. (Oh, my. Human potential movement heresy.)

You can write whatever you want independent of your deepest Self. So write chick lit, just know that writing it is not going to satisfy your deepest and highest soul. And know that if your chick stuff sells, you’re going to be very happy. So will your publisher. You will have great fun spending the dough you earn. You will have a career and a position in society.

How about if you make money and  write to satisfy your soul?  And you do it, satisfying your heights and depths, your soul and maybe even your bank account.

It still doesn’t matter. You can write absolute dreck and be a bestselling author. You can write wonderful books and have only your mother and aunt June buy them. You can market 24 hours a day and sell a dozen books. Alternatively, your stuff can hook something in millions of readers and you’ll be a famous author. It doesn’t matter. Your writing success may be a matter of chance not worth fretting over.

In the long run, we all end up the same. That is something that matters. On your deathbed, will you wish that you’d won a Pulitzer prize or sold a million books or had a better KDP Free Day? Or will you wish you’d spent more time delighting in the beauty of the universe and the love of family and friends?

All the best,
Sandy Nathan

Giant Sequoias - Timeless, enduring, inspiring

This is the commercial message part of this post: My books have won twenty-four national awards, most of them in visionary fiction. Why that genre? Because without the visionary part of my life, without my contact with the source of Being, I’d be dead. I’d be a suicide, or drug overdose, or an accident. Kaput. I am alive because I went to that place, that fountain of love and beauty and acceptance and healing. That’s why I write the way I do.

What do I consider the hallmarks of visionary fiction? (1) It has a moral core. To me, a moral core means that the universe and the writing runs on rules of decency and fairness. No matter how far from these we may stray. No matter how bad things may become in my work (or in life), something exists that is righteous and will move me/my characters toward righteousness. Doesn’t mean happy endings. (2) Some characters will aadvance toward a more elevated, kind, good, educated, and individuated state. Not all of them. I’m not one that believes humanity will evolve so that we all ascend to the heavens at once. Some people will evolve and move to higher levels of human development. The rest will be headlines in tabloids.

By purest happenstance, a whole bunch of people write like me, or like themselves, rather. If you look to the right of this post, you’ll see a badge for the Visionary Fiction Alliance. I’m a founding member. If you go to their site, you’ll find all sorts of interesting posts and articles about the visionary in literature.

Sandy’s Amazon Author Page. Click here of on image.

They range from wild sci-fi to adorable children’s nonfiction. You’ll find something you’ll like in the list below:

  • NUMENON,  a novel about the richest man in the world meeting a great Native American shaman
  • STEPPING OFF THE EDGE, a modern day spiritual companion
  • TECOLOTE, the adorable kids’ book about a baby horse.
  • EARTH’S END––the new, three book sci-fi/fantasy/visionary series that takes you to the end of the earth, and beyond.
    The Angel & the Brown-Eyed Boy––An angelic girl shows up on the sidewalks of New York City in 2197. Or is she a girl? Jeremy Edgarton, teenage genius and revolutionary decodes the transmissions. They say the world will blow up tomorrow morning.
    Lady Grace––The radiation has cleared. A few survivors make it back to Piermont Manor to start a new life. What they face is a battle more deadly than any they’ve fought. Evolution can work for evil as well as good.
    Sam & Emily––Can love live in an echoing cement bomb shelter three hundred feet below the earth’s surface? Find out in Sam and Emily as headman Sam Baahuhd falls in love with a beautiful assassin.









Indie Gems––Fine Independently Published Fiction Selected by Award-winning Author Sandy Nathan

A few posts ago, I wrote about my plans to feature the terrific independently produced books that I’ve been reading. This is that presentation: INDIE GEMS. It’s going to be a regular/irregular part of Your Shelf Life. I have to give the Amazon KDP free books program some of the credit for this. I’ve been downloading free books like crazy.

THE RULES/STUFF TO KNOW: Indie Gems has a few rules. They’re set up for my sanity and well-being.

1. I’m presenting Indie Gems and will continue to do so as long as it’s fun. I am an author 90% of the time, not a reviewer. I’m doing this bit for my own pleasure, and to share books I really like with you. So many people are hungry for reviews that they could gobble a person up. Not this person. I don’t charge for the evaluations I write, though I may accept a complimentary copy to review. I don’t want to tie myself to producing reviews on schedule. When I get a bunch of books I want to write about–or even just one–I’ll do it and announce it on the social media.

2. Please do not send me your book to review. Don’t include a note saying that our writing styles are so similar that you’re sure I’ll love your book. I’ve already set out my position on reviewing books for Your Shelf Life. I find the books I review myself, or my good friends refer them to me. No exceptions.

3. I give  most of the books here five stars. I won’t put a rating on Indie Gems, but I will post the reviews on review sites with a 5 star rating. What I write here is my estimation of the book’s worth. My evaluation may differ from yours. Why all 5 stars? I don’t bother reviewing books that I don’t really like?

4. The format of Indie Gems will vary. Some times, I’ll post three or four short reviews and that’s it. No photos, covers, etc. Other times, I’ll have a full review, interview with the author, the works. This will depend on my schedule and if I can contact the author and how much he/she wants to participate.

This is a place to have fun, so let’s have fun! Sandy Nathan

Sandy Nathan

Sandy Nathan is a #1 Amazon Bestselling Author in Metaphysical Fantasy and the winner of thirty national awards.
Sandy’s  books can be found on her Amazon Author’s Page.
Here’s her Facebook Author Page. 

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