Category Archives: self publishing

FREE Books (Mine)

Recently a dear friend wrote and asked how I was progressing with my proposed book tentatively titled, “Four Feet of Less: A Gunkholer’s Guide to Florida’s West Coast.” Shamefacedly I had to confess, “Not very well.”

There are a number of reasons, and it’s hard to say which one carries most of the onus. So I’ll just say…I haven’t visited a lot of places I wanted to include in the a guide (Yet?). Last year I went to Cayo Costa, about 100 miles south. I was there for a couple of days and the water was taking on a strange, pinkish hue and my eyes started to burn as well as my lungs which isn’t good when you have serious COPD issues. It was Red Tide. So I pulled anchor and returned to Bradenton Beach. The tide followed me. In fact, at its worst it covered nearly 150 miles of Florida’s Gulf Coast and littered the littoral with thousands of dead fish.

I thought it would at least be a good time to get started with the writing. Then my beloved MacBook Air died! I’m an old guy living on a tiny 22-foot sailboat and subsisting entirely on Social Security. I didn’t have an extra $1,300 lying around to buy a replacement Mac. I thought about how I mainly used the Mac and it boiled down to emails and getting into arguments over politics with strangers online…So I sprung for an Acer Chromebook for less than $300. For the most part it does what I need it to do. The big BUT, though, is that instead of Microsoft Word, that I used to write my book “Adversity’s Wake,” I have to use Google Docs. Not nearly as good. And there has been a learning curve. It’s not easy to assemble and edit chapters. Move one thing and everything gets discombobulated resulting in extreme frustration so I move on to doing something else.

Here’s what I’ve decided to do since the gunkhole book is quite a ways from complete. This will take a little effort on your part, though.

I am offering my book “Adversity’s Wake” and the short story “Sailing Alone to Isla” FREE to anyone who wants them. BUT, you have to go and sign up with the site “SMASHWORDS.COM.” Don’t worry, they WON’T spam you or give your name to anyone else.

When you’ve registered, go to my page and select the two books. When you go to “check out” there is a space for entering a coupon number. Do that and when you complete your checkout you will NOT BE CHARGED for the books. This is a LIMITED TIME OFFER. After August 1 the price will go back to $4.99 for Adversity’s wake and 99¢ for Sailing Alone to Isla.

For Adversity’s Wake the Coupon Code is: QH93D (NOT case sensitive)
For Sailing Alone to Isla the code is: BB62U (NOT case sensitive)

There are different formats to choose from to read them. If you like them an HONEST review would be appreciated.


Filed under Anna Maria Island, Bradenton Beach, FL, digital books, digital publishing, Dual-Language Books, Dual-language books: English/Spanish, e-publishing, ebook, indie authors, indie writers, self publishing, Uncategorized, writing

The 99¢ Experiment

I’ve decided to try an experiment with the pricing of my book Despair and drop the price to 99¢ for one month.

This isn’t a desperate move. It shouldn’t be a surprise that I read a lot of blogs written by successful indie, self-published authors. One who has a lot of good advice for the likes of myself is J. A. Konrath and his blog: This guy is literally making tens of thousands of dollars a month from his ebook novels. The fact that they’re good reads certainly doesn’t hurt.

In several of his posts he’s talked about pricing of his books. Naturally there are different royalty payments depending on the price of your book. Sometimes dropping the price of a book and taking a smaller royalty payment you can actually make more money.Konrath had an interesting post about dropping the price of his book The List from $2.99 down to a bargain 99¢.

You can read his post but I’ll give you some of the highlights here.

“At $2.99, I was earning $2.03 per download. And I was selling an average of 43 ebooks a day.”

“At 99 cents, I only earn 35 cents per download. I’m now averaging 205 sales a day.”

“At $2.99, I made $87 a day.”

“At 99 cents, I’m making $71 a day.”

“But in the last few days, The List has been selling stronger, averaging about 250 sales a day. If it can hold that number, or do even better, that’s $87 a day–matching what it made at $2.99.”

It’s not that the book hasn’t been selling. It has and I’ve been surprised to discover that people in Canada, Great Britain and Australia have bought it. Not only that, it’s being translated into Spanish by a couple of students here in Panama who are working on their Master’s degrees in English. Despair has been selling at $2.99 but my short story Sailing Alone To Isla priced at 99¢ has been moving off the rack at a pretty decent pace. I certainly don’t ever expect to match Konrath’s numbers but it should be interesting to see what happens.

All school children in the western hemisphere know that “in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” Other than that ditty few people know that the Admiral of the Ocean Sea made three subsequent voyages to what was to become known as “The New World.” It was probably the most interesting of the four. It was the stuff of fiction: battling fierce storms, contrary currents and hurricanes. Pitched battles with hostile natives and former companions. Ship wrecks, marooning, mutiny, trickery, deceit, greed, dashed dreams, despair, extraordinary heroism and rescue. But truth is stranger than fiction. All of it is documented. The only license I’ve taken with the story is to create the fictional narrator of the events.

The book is available at: I just made the change and it may take a day or two for the change to appear on their site. If you don’t want to wait you can get it at: where it’s available for download to a Kindle or Nook reader.







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As many of you know, I wrote a book about Christopher Columbus’s failed fourth voyage. Naturally I want people to buy it so I thought I’d put this little teaser here. The first chapter of the book.

It’s available at for you Kindle people. The price is only $2.99.


The Old Man

I don’t remember how the old man, Juan, came to live with my mother and me. It seemed he had always been there. He was no blood relation of ours. Not that I knew of, anyway. He was simply there.

As a young child he scared me. It wasn’t anything he did. It was just him. Short of stature, tiny almost, his sun-weathered skin was wrinkled like a piece of dried up discarded fruit. He was forever hunched over. Even standing and leaning on the old piece of tree limb he carried with him everywhere he was never straight. His back was always bent as if he’d just spotted something on the ground and had stopped for a second to get a better look at it. When he’d been drinking he wasn’t just bent forward, he leaned to one side or the other, too.  You could tell, looking at his arms, that he had once been very strong. The muscles still rippled under the faded designs permanently inked into his skin.

He never combed or brushed his hair.  It was blindingly white and what little there was of it grew in isolated spots on his head. It was as light and fine as dandelion fuzz and the slightest suggestion of a breeze would cause it to flutter nervously.

His eyes were the darkest blue; like the color of the sea where the straight line of the horizon meets the lighter blue of the sky and it often seemed that he was staring intently at that distant line where whatever a seaman is looking for will first appear. And his large, hawk-like nose cleaved the sea of his face like a shark’s fin slicing through the calm waters inside a reef.

He scared me, old Juan did, but that was when I was young. As I got older and he slowly revealed his story to me I grew to love the man and marveled at the adventure of his life.

Juan would spend his afternoons at one or another of the taverns on the waterfront in the port of Cadiz below our house. I don’t know where he got the money to buy his wine but the old sailors, merchants and dock hands who worked along the waterfront always paid him some deference and bought him a cup every now and then. I had also seen him, once or twice, pouring the leftovers from someone else’s cup into his own when they left their tables to answer a call of nature. If he moved from one bar to another during an afternoon he was usually able to cage enough so he would be staggering as he climbed the small hill to our house in the evening.

It was a rainy, early spring evening when my mother insisted I go down to the docks and fetch Juan back to the house for dinner. He and I stood in the doorway of the tavern looking out at the rain-soaked street and the caravels anchored in the river dreading the idea of having to leave the cozy warmth of the bar to journey into the cold night air when Juan mumbled, “It was just like this on the night I first met them.”

“Met who?” I asked.

“My friend Ferdinand and his father, the Admiral.”

We stepped out into the rain, our chins tucked deep into our soggy cloaks in a vain attempt at keeping out the cold, and trudged back to the house. Juan didn’t utter another word the rest of the evening.

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Filed under Christopher Columbus, digital books, digital publishing, e-publishing, ebook, indie authors, indie writers, self publishing

Interesting Sales Info On My Books

As I was finishing my fictionalized account of Christopher Columbus’s ill-fated fourth voyage I knew I was going to publish it as an e-book and not try to have a “traditional” publisher. With 68 summers behind me, and hopefully a bunch more ahead, I knew I didn’t have the time to find an agent who would then try and market it to a publisher and then wait another year of more to actually get it printed and into bookstores. I wanted to get it up and out to the public as fast as possible. That meant going “electronic.”

I knew it was possible to “publish” your own book on Amazon’s Kindle site. But it seems every company that has a “reader” also sells e-books and each has a proprietary format. Besides the Kindle there’s the Barnes & Noble “Nook.”  Apple, of course has a store for it’s iPad, and there’s the Diesel ebook store.

I don’t remember how I stumbled upon the Smashwords site. Probably through a Google search or from reading a blog post about e-book publishing. Smashwords. The brilliance of Smashwords is that if you properly format your book when you submit it to them it converts it to all the different e-book formats and distributes your work to the different booksellers as you can see if you click any of the links above.

Today I checked my Smashwords “sales report” and found some interesting information. It seems I’ve made sales through the Smashwords site as well as Kindle, Barnes & Noble and the Apple Store. What really surprise me was where I’ve made sales. Naturally the U.S. is where most of the sales have come from but I’ve also sold my offerings in Canada, Great Britain and Australia.

By far my best seller is my short story “Sailing Alone To Isla.” It’s priced at 99¢ which is the magic number for “impulse” purchases. Of course at 99¢ the royalty isn’t huge, between 55¢ and 65¢ for each sale, but, believe it or not, that’s generally more than most “traditionally” published authors receive for a $14.99 book!

I’m certainly not getting rich off of these things, but I don’t care. I still think it’s cool that the books are out there and that some people are finding them and actually buying them, even on both sides of the two greatest oceans.

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Filed under digital books, digital publishing, e-publishing, ebook, indie writers, self publishing, writing

My Book To Be In Spanish

As my regular readers know, I have a book available on

I’m certainly no threat to break the number of sales posted by the likes of J.A. Konrath or Amanda Hocking. Not by a long shot. Those two are pulling down close to a million bucks a year off their digital books. Despair! currently logs in at #404,115 on the Amazon Bestseller’s List. It’s not the bottom of the barrel, because some people have actually bought the book whereas some people never sell a single book, and Amazon actually made a direct deposit of royalties earned to my bank account at the end of last month. So while not at the absolute bottom of the heap it’s certainly visible from where I sit. Sigh!

Despite the lowly ranking I’m not discouraged. In fact, I’m pretty sure my book has a distinction that those in the top 100 haven’t achieved. It’s being translated into another language!

This morning I had a meeting with Stephany Peñaloza and Deyreth Garcia, two students who are working towards their Master’s Degree at Latina University in David. Stephany will translate the first half of the book into Spanish and Deyreth the second half. Actually they could translate far fewer pages of the book than there are and still comply with their course requirements.

I’m not sure who it was that contacted me first, but it was a gringo who Stephany had contacted saying she was looking for a book about Panama to translate for her thesis. Since fully a third of the book, about Columbus’s ill-fated fourth voyage to the Americas takes place here in Panama she selected my book over others that were submitted to her. I’m honored.


They say it should be finished this fall. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s pretty cool.

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Another Book On The List

When I finished my book about Christopher Columbus I self-published it through Smashwords and Amazon’s Kindle Store. Well, I’m certainly not getting rich off it like Amanda Hocking or Joe Konrath who are selling thousands of books each month (Hocking sells 100,000+ a month.). But there are a few souls who have bought what I have to offer.

It’s a rare author, either traditionally published or self-published, that makes much money with only one book on sale. Hocking, for example, has 11 available at Amazon and Konrath, who used to be traditionally published but now only self-publishes, has 43!

So, it was obvious that I needed to get more on my list. But how to go about it? The Columbus book took nearly a year to write. Closing in on my 69th birthday I don’t have a lot of years ahead of me to build up much of a list at one book a year. So there had to be another way.

If you look at Amazon’s offerings you’ll see that there are a lot of Public Domain books that people are selling with themselves as the “Publisher.” Most of these books are free, but others have prices ranging from 99¢ to $1.99 and up. Some people are slapping their own “forward” to one of these books and offering it to the public.

What are Public Domain books? As Wikipedia says, “Works are in the public domain if they are not covered by intellectual property (copyright) rights at all, if the intellectual property rights have expired, and/or if the intellectual property rights are forfeited. In other words anyone can do anything they want with a public domain book including selling it if they can find anyone willing to pay for something they can get absolutely free.

One of the biggest sources for books in the public domain is The Gutenberg Project. There are literally thousands of books available here. All of Mark Twain, William Shakespeare, for example and you can download them to your computer or even onto a Kindle if you own one.

Rummaging through Gutenberg I found a ton of wonderful books that would have captivated me when I was a young reader. Great, gripping stories of adventure with one glaring problem. The use of the language a century ago wouldn’t be something a young reader in the 21st century would be willing to wade through. A lot of the books were written by English authors for British readers so the spelling isn’t something a kid in the USA would be thrilled with. Spellings like harbour, colour, neighbour, etc. And simply the way things are phrased. For example: “I don’t believe you just did that,” expostulated Jack.

I labored (not laboured) through a book titled From Powder Boy to Admiral written by W.H.G. Kingston. A great story about three youngsters in the late 1700s who sign on to a Royal Navy frigate and go through some great adventures. Battles at sea, shipwrecks, being captured by the enemy and escaping. All the things that young readers can get behind, but certainly not written with the lasting literary style of a Robert Louis Stevenson.

But I liked the underlying story and decided to edit the book for the modern, young adult reader of today. I went through and changed the awkward, to us, spellings and rewrote almost every paragraph to make it seem like a more modern book. It was also very long at over 112,000 words. I decided to break it in half. Book I follows young William (Henry) Rayner from the time he signs on to the HMS Foxhound until he is made a midshipman. The second volume, which I’m currently working on will take him from midshipman to command.

It took me over a month to edit and rewrite the first volume. I went through it so many times that I got really sick of seeing the same story over and over, but that’s really no different than if you’re writing and editing something you’ve done yourself. It’s just that I didn’t have to create the characters, plot, etc. Just bring the century and a half old story into the modern world.

I priced it at 99¢. It was uploaded to Smashwords Wednesday morning before I went down to David for a weekly meeting with other gringos to practice our Spanish and then to the International Feria (fair). When I got home late that afternoon I’d already sold one copy! (At 99¢ and taking out the PayPal commission I made a whopping 35¢ in royalties. Since then three other people have bought it so I’m up to $1.40. Like I said earlier, I’m not getting rich.)

It’s currently available at Smashwords and should show up at Amazon and Barnes & Noble soon.

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It Actually Worked!

Patience not being my long suit I didn’t want to wait for Smashwords to go through their process before putting my book on, so, as I said yesterday, I went there and did it myself. AND IT WORKED! This morning when I went there to check, sure enough, it’s available as a Kindle download.



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Book Is Published and Available

Well, I got the story up and it’s available at: for anyone who might be interested. What’s it about? This is the preface:

All school children in the western hemisphere know that in “1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Other than that ditty, few people know the “Admiral of the Ocean Sea” made three subsequent voyages. Of these, his final trip a decade later, to what became known as the “New World,” was probably the most interesting. It is the stuff of fiction: fierce storms, contrary currents and hurricanes. Pitched battles with hostile natives and former companions. Ship wrecks, marooning, mutiny, trickery, petty jealousies, deceit, greed, dashed dreams, despair, extraordinary heroism and rescue. But every bit of it is true and documented. The only license I have taken with the story has been the creation of the fictional narrator of the events.

It’s available for reading in a variety of formats including the popular Kindle. It will soon be available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It’s only $2.99…a bargain at twice the price.


Filed under digital books, digital publishing, ebook, indie authors, indie writers, self publishing, writing

Editing For Self-Published eBooks

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately about  self-publishing since that’s how I plan on publishing my book when I complete the editing.

One of the biggest complaints about the quality of self-published books is the poor editing of the final product. Much of it, apparently, is pretty amateurish. Lots of spelling and grammar errors you usually wouldn’t find in books  published the traditional way having gone through a rigorous editing process.

Not only that, but with the ability to put your book out to the public electronically there’s a lot of real garbage out there, too. Most of the sites such as Smashwords, Amazon, etc., allow you to download a sample of the book you might be interested in. Sort of the digital equivalent of roaming the aisles of a brick and mortar bookstore and leafing through a volume that might strike your fancy. I’ve done that with quite a few books online and quite frankly am glad I wasn’t charged for them, though I did download Joe Konrath’s “Newbie’s Guide to Publishing” and his novel “Shot of Tequila” which I thoroughly enjoyed.Very much in the Elmore Leonard, Carl Hiaasen and Tim Dorsey genre, if you like that sort of thing, and I do. The villains aren’t quite as freaky as those other authors but weird enough to be a lot of fun.

Anyway, in all the reading I’ve done one piece of advice is pretty consistent. “Hire an editor!” After all, writers aren’t editors. They write. Editors edit.

Like a lot of good advice I’ve received in my life I’m going to ignore this bit as well. There are just some things I feel as competent at doing as the so-called experts. For example, one excellent piece of advice given to anyone planning on buying a boat is to hire a qualified marine surveyor. I didn’t do that when I bought my sailboat, Nancy Dawson, or any of the other half-dozen or so boats after her. Why? Well, at that time I’d spent nearly 10 years working in boat yards repairing and restoring boats for a living and I doubt there’s anything a surveyor would have spotted that I couldn’t myself. In fact, there were times when I’d made repairs to boats and they were completely missed by surveyors charging their clients extortionate fees for their services.

Regarding the editing of my book, well, I worked as an editor for nearly three years and think I have a bit of an editor’s eye. In fact, I think I proved that to myself this morning as I was editing a chapter that has been sitting for a while waiting for me to look at it with a fresh perspective. I discovered that the narrator of my story spoke about the crew being “mesmerized” by a sight on the ocean. A perfectly apt description except for one important fact. The narrator is speaking in the year 1502 and Franz Anton Mesmer, after whom the phrase “mesmerized” takes its name, wasn’t born until 1734! Two hundred and thirty two years AFTER the narrator of the story uses the word. Would a paid editor have picked that fact up? Who knows? But I bet most wouldn’t have caught it.

Right now I’m rewriting and editing chapter by chapter and it’s a lot more fun than it was trying to get that first draft down on “paper.”

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An Explanation

This is a tremendously exciting time to be a writer. I hate to say it but I wish I was 20 years younger.

Before I became a boat captain I made my living as a writer. I worked as a newspaper reporter,  magazine editor,  advertising copywriter, and a hospital public relations director. I also impaled myself on my own free lance more than once. I published articles in national magazines on such subjects as health care, environmental issues, sports, theater, East-West trade issues when the iron curtain was still in place and crime stories. I even wrote a novel no one wanted to publish.

Back in those days, the middle sixties and early seventies, all publishing was in its traditional form and there were gatekeepers also known as editors. If you had an idea for a magazine article you went to the library and checked the Periodic Guide to Literature to see if anyone else might have been writing about the same thing. If you thought you had a new slant on an idea you wrote a query letter, put it in a self addressed stamped envelope and sent it off to an editor. If they hated it you got a printed rejection letter. If they liked it they’d give you a tentative okay to write it and send it to them “on speculation.” That meant they’d like to take a look at it but it was no guarantee they’d buy it.

All of this took time, of course. There were no computers, no email. Hell, I remember how cutting-edge I thought I was at the hospital when I got an IBM Selectric. Back then you depended on the Postal Service. You considered yourself real lucky if you got an answer to a query letter in a month. If your idea was rejected you went to the second magazine on your list and started all over again. I have to say I usually did quite well and got the go-ahead on almost every query I sent the first time out.

I stopped writing for publication shortly after I started working on boats. One of the main reasons I gave it up was that, unless you were able to get into one of the big “slicks” like Playboy, Esquire or something like that, the rate of pay really sucked. Most of the time you got paid “on publication” rather than “on acceptance.” It could be months before your story was printed, and half the time you had to fight to get them to pay you even after you were in print. It just wasn’t worth the effort as far as I was concerned.

Twenty years later, when I stopped being a captain and had stories to tell, it was worse than before. The rate of pay in those intervening two decades hadn’t kept up with inflation by a long shot and if it wasn’t worth doing back then it certainly wasn’t worth doing now. I wasn’t in it for the ego strokes of “being published.” Been there, done that.

Within the last two years, though, things have changed with the advent of electronic publishing. This past Christmas millions, literally MILLIONS of Kindles were sold and other eBook readers, like the Nook and the iPad stuffed stockings. Even the Luddites among us, like myself, have downloaded Kindle for PC and Kindle for Mac to our computers.

Now, here’s the interesting part. If you have a book YOU can upload it directly to Amazon and offer it for sale in electronic form. A lot of people are doing it and some of them, not many, I’ll admit, are making MUCH MORE money than if they went the traditional publishing route of finding and agent and landing a contract with one of the major publishing houses. J. A. Konrath is one of them and he stands to rake in at least a quarter of a million in 2011 from electronic sales.

Here’s another thing about eBook publishing. YOU get to keep the lion’s share of the money. If you have a book available on Amazon you get 70% of the selling price compared to 15% if you’re lucky with a traditional publisher. Granted you won’t get an advance on your book but the truth is the majority of traditionally published books don’t earn their advances back. Let’s take a look at what this means to the writer. If you have a book out that sells for $19.95 you stand to earn $2.99 on each one sold. However, been in a book store lately? Even though the book SAYS $19.99 you can often buy it for less and the author gets less money as well.

Now, if you have an eBook on Amazon priced at $2.99 you get to keep $2.09 cents of the sale. Sure it’s less, but here’s the thing. The shelf-life of a book in a brick and mortar store isn’t very long and if your book isn’t selling very well it’s returned to the publisher and the first run through the printer will also be the last for that volume. When it’s up on Amazon in eBook form it’s up there forever and you can keep selling it and keep making money. There’s also an outfit called Smashwords. Go through them and they format your book so it’s readable on all eBook platforms and it’s distributed to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the Sony store, the Apple Store and others. You get to keep 85% of everything that’s sold through their own online bookstore which means a $2.99 book nets you $2.54. YOU set the price, not a publisher  but it seems that $2.99 is the magic number that seems to sell the most books.

For the past couple of weeks while I’ve been neglecting writing entries to this blog and uploaded silly cartoons just to keep things going. Instead,  I’ve been doing two things. I’ve been reading a LOT about self-publishing and I’ve been going to town on the first draft of a novel that’s been gnawing away at me for a long time. Writing the book I’D like to read. I’ve been knocking out from 1,500 to 4,000 words a day and am probably three-quarters of the way through now. It’s my intention to submit it, eventually, directly to Amazon and Smashwords. I’ll let you know what’s happening when it’s finished.


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