Author or Salesman part II: How to show an author love…

We writers are an odd breed. We drink coffee into the wee hours, hunched over computers in small rooms and carved out spaces, getting up early to work day jobs and burning our candle at both ends. We leave our blood and heart on the page, dreaming characters, plot, and conjuring worlds in our minds. That’s the fun part, the creating, the honing, the story-telling. At some point, we set our work free to roam cyberspace, hoping that someone reads it and feels something true.

After it’s live on Amazon, then comes the anguished part of the process. We log onto our author page and check our sales rank, and we look for reviews. Good reviews make our day, and a bad review can cast a pall over a week. I’ve been told many times not to read bad reviews, but it hasn’t stuck yet. I read them, and I try to learn something from them. The general thinking amongst the author community is that 4 and 5 star reviews are good, and anything less is bad. Potential readers will often read the negative reviews, too, looking for a common thread. Also those 3 stars tend to give a little more credibility to the other reviews on the page. It’s a numbers game; the more reviews an author gets, the more books he or she is going to sell.

Indie authors must promote themselves, which is a nuisance for both the writer and for their friends, who grow weary of chest-thumping and begging and pleading. Writers don’t like doing it and people generally don’t like to hear about it. I understand. I apologize. There is no other way, unfortunately, for a writer to break out among the millions of other voices, attempting to be heard. So we blog, and we tweet, we Facebook, we Google Plus, we join groups on Linkdin and we post on Tumblir and Instagram, doing what the industry people who are far more savvy at marketing call “building your brand,” and equally important, “building your platform.”

An author’s brand is essential. If someone says, “I’m about to read a Tom Clancy book,” I know what they’re talking about. Clancy built a brilliant brand of military techno-thrillers. The brand is the author’s name in association with the books he or she writes.The reader has a certain expectation of the kind of book the novelist has produced, and will decide to buy based upon that prior knowledge.

The platform is just as important, if not more so. An author’s platform is how we are able to reach people. Social Media is the foundation of this platform, but it also includes book signings, radio show appearances, press releases, networking with other writers, and anything else we can dream up to find readers. For new authors, it’s maddeningly difficult to build a platform.

As a relatively new novelist, I’m familiar with these woes. There is the feeling of a tree falling in snowy woods when a book is released. A muffled, quiet sound at best. My publisher is a big believer in “soft releases” which lead to a “long tail.”  I’ve not yet quite figured out exactly what that means. I guess that the hope is word of mouth makes a novel or a series take off, and this takes a long time. In the meantime, authors have to keep writing, keep producing, not relying on one book or three.

Here’s where our friends are so important.

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If you’ve got a friend or family member is an author, please buy their books. (Hence the begging!) For less than the price of a Starbucks Latte, you get eight hours of serious entertainment. Less than the price of a movie ticket. And folks, the book is always better than the movie.

After you read the books, please leave honest reviews. (more with the begging.) Reviews matter because they drive sales. The more reviews we receive, the more Amazon does it’s thing promoting our books to a wider audience. We’re more likely to qualify for promotional tools like Bookbub, which can potentially make or break a novel. I know it’s a pain to log back onto Amazon and crank out a review. But it really makes a difference to all of us who are striving to entertain a wider audience, those of us who dream of quitting that day job and sitting down at the computer both during the day and in the middle of the night.

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If you enjoyed the book, tell people about it! Share a post every now and then, pass out a business card, or simply mention the book if you’re having a conversation about books. If you’re in a book club, throw it in the ring. People listen to what you have to say, and that word of mouth recommendation is crucial. It means more to us than you know.

No one told me I had to be a writer, no one insisted that being an author was the only right path for me, and that’s how it is for all of us, we crazy writer folk. We chose this path because we felt drawn to words, this need to create, and deep down we believe that we have something worthy to say, and emotion to impart. Whether it’s pure entertainment or something profound, we want to move people.

If we have moved you, please leave us reviews! And you will have succeeded in moving us.

amazon.com/author/seantsmith

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Ukraine, Russia, and NATO… World War Three in the Making

On February 9 a massive explosion, rumored to be a tactical nuke, detonated in the Ukrainian city of Donetsk. There are conflicting reports, with officials stating that an artillery shell hit a chemical plant, while others claim that it was a munitions factory. Witnesses report that the blast shattered windows and shook houses miles away. It is interesting that the media in the U.S. did not pick this story up, especially given their penchant for explosions.  Here’s a video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZuQ5EPnSE_4

Maybe it was a tactical nuclear device, and maybe it wasn’t, but either way, the conflict in the Ukraine shows no signs of letting up, and as the U.S. gets more involved, the stakes are getting higher by the minute. Russian convoys move into Eastern Ukraine with impunity, bringing relief supplies to civilians, and also heavy weapons, armored vehicles, and special forces ground troops. Russian-made rockets and mortars are smashing civilian areas in the Ukraine, killing innocent people, while Ukrainian forces shell rebel-held strongholds like Donetsk, with rounds dropping on schools and hospitals. It’s a bloody, terrible conflict, and not quite as black and white as many here in the States would like to believe.

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Many Eastern Ukrainians do in fact feel allegiance to Russia, and remember the days of the Soviet Union with fondness; they speak Russian and have more in common with them than their own countrymen. They are rebels who desire closer ties to Russia than the western Europe. Both sides are waging a bloody war, trying to gain ground ahead of peace talks which seem unlikely to resolve the issue, with rebel forces currently on the offensive to seize key rail yards and rail lines.

On December 23, 2014 the Ukraine renounced its non-aligned status with NATO, which makes the current debacle all the more dangerous, and outright involvement by the United States a frightening and somewhat hypocritical possibility. Here’s why.

In 1823 the U.S. adopted the Monroe Doctrine, which simply put, stated that interference by European powers in South America would be considered an act of aggression. The U.S. doesn’t tolerate other countries bashing around in our back yard. The Truman Doctrine, which became the bedrock of American foreign policy for decades, dictated that the U.S. would pursue containment of Soviet expansion, and this led to proxy wars in South America and Eastern Europe. As the cold war has begun anew and tensions with Russia have reached new heights, the Ukraine conflict threatens to become a new battleground between nuclear superpowers. I for one, would rather avoid that!

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There is a compelling argument that appeasement does not work, and that Russian aggression needs to be stopped now. Various pundits compare Russian president Vladimir Putin to Hitler at the start of World War II, when Europe wrung its hands in the face of the Nazi advance. Russian armored divisions are poised to move into Ukraine, and NATO is woefully unprepared to halt the attack, should the Russians choose to roll in. Most of the Abrams tanks are gone,Western Europe is largely toothless.  NATO relies on air power and the United States to deter further incursions.Should peace talks fail, it is easily conceivable that Putin will order Russian forces into the Eastern Ukraine. The only way to stop them would be with the use of tactical nuclear weapons, targeting the armor and infantry divisions. That’s how the end of the world begins.

So, here’s to hoping that clear heads prevail. Perhaps a peace can be brokered, one which appeases the rebel forces who wish to align themselves with Russia, but also keeps the Ukraine intact.

What does it look like after a global nuclear war? Check out the WRATH trilogy.

http://www.amazon.com/Sean-T.-Smith/e/B00IKHPGEK

Interview with Sean T. Smith

Steven Konkoly interviews Sean T. Smith

USA Today Bestselling Author Steven Konkoly

The Perseid Collapse Kindle World Interview Series:

Sean T. Smith—author, songwriter, family man.

Sean smithDid I mention Sean lives in Florida? I’m a little focused on Florida these days, thanks to the five feet of snow accumulated on the ground in my yard, so I particularly enjoyed the setting of Sean’s Perseid Collapse Kindle Worlds novella—The Florida Keys. Not the Keys I remember from Spring Break, but the descriptions of the mangrove swamps, sweltering heat and lush vegetation took me away from a harsh New England winter for a few hours.

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Of course, Sean’s novella was not a peaceful Margaritaville interlude. Set several months after the “event” that paralyzes the United States in the original Perseid Collapse Series, things are vastly different. Sprawling FEMA camps dominate the landscape, providing the only refuge for the vast majority of Americans caught off guard by the “event.” Not everyone lives in…

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UFO sighting in Jacksonville, Florida, and I’m not crazy!

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Let me say first of all that I don’t wear a tin foil hat, think Elvis is still alive, or that we didn’t walk on the moon. I’m an avid outdoors person, and I’ve hiked all over the United States. I’ve never seen anything like what I saw this afternoon. I don’t know what it was, and I’ve wracked my brain trying to come up with a plausible explanation. I was hiking with my father and son at Timicuan Preserve, a sunny, beautiful day in North Florida.

Here’s what we saw:

A single point of light that looked like a star. In fact that’s what my ten-year old called our attention to. He said “look, it’s a star in the middle of the day.” We stared at it. Just above and below that bright light were two dimmer objects, grayish against the blue sky. These then moved, and a third dim object appeared, and they formed a triangle around the bright point of light. After a minute or so, three more objects showed up out of nowhere, seeming to circle that point of light. The light itself was not moving relative to the trees around us. We observed these things for about ten minutes until a cloud obscured our view. When the clouds passed, the objects were gone.

We spent the remainder of the day speculating on what we’d seen, going through the usual suspects that might explain the odd event. If it was a weather balloon, then what the heck were the smaller objects? If the bright light was airplane, then why didn’t it move? If it was a group of helicopters, number one, how were they at such a great altitude, and number two, what was the bright light? And also, what were they doing? If it was a satellite in geosynchronous orbit, then what were the smaller objects, and why did all of them disappear? If it was a drone, then what was it doing, and again, what were the other aircraft? They definitely weren’t birds; birds neither move nor look like what we saw. They weren’t flairs fired from a military craft. The bright light never moved, and the dimmer objects weren’t bright enough, and also remained visible for longer than flairs would have.

I’ve never seen anything like that before, but it certainly made for an interesting hike! If anyone has theories that explain what I saw, I’d love to hear them.

http://www.amazon.com/Objects-Wrath-Series-Book-ebook/dp/B00IK7MH9M/ref=pd_sim_kstore_3?ie=UTF8&refRID=1EF4QET9M4XCDETZJ8XN

Jupiter Ascending Review: Nerd Heaven!

Jupiter Ascending is a movie I’ve looked forward to since I saw the first trailer for it more than a year ago. I’m a huge science fiction fan, and within the last twelve months, there have been some excellent films released: Gravity, The Edge of Tomorrow, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Jupiter Ascending, which is my favorite of the bunch.

This isn’t hard sci-fi and makes no pretense of being so. It’s a fully realized space opera, original and visually breathtaking. I saw it in 3-D, and I highly recommend enjoying the film in that format.The CGI is stunning, and there are some extended set-piece scenes that put my jaw on the floor.

There is an intricate back story, one which the film makers no doubt paired down for the sake of pacing, but I was impressed, nonetheless. There is a Shakespearean feel to the film (if the Bard wrote about guys in gravity boots with spaceships and super-cool light shields) with this family who has no sense of humanity juxtaposed with a well and truly grounded heroine.

There is a good bit of humor in the film, which I appreciated, including a long scene reminiscent of a trip to the DMV that had me in stitches. The acting was solid, and some of the performances were deliciously over the top. The film makers put a great deal of effort into the details of the world building, from the opulent living quarters these advanced humans enjoy to a wide variety of aliens and genetically altered species that populate the film.

Overall, this is now one of my all-time favorite science fiction movies. I hope they make a sequel

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00IKHPGEK

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Am I an author or a salesman?

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I’ve spent more than twenty years as a writer who bangs on doors. Literally knocking on doors in neighborhoods like a vacuum cleaner salesman of old, while figuratively attempting to break into the publishing business, sending out manuscripts and queries, song demos and attending parties thrown for other people. I’ve stayed up all night, pounding out the words and the melody, believing that one day, someone might hear something I wrote and it might matter to them in some way. A smile, a tear, a memory, a truth. The next morning, I’m grinning and pretending to be impervious to the nasty looks from folks who don’t want to see me shivering on their front porch in the pouring down rain.

When I signed my first publishing contract for a song, I thought my ship had come in. I was wrong, two decades ago. When I signed a three-book publishing contract, I believed that at last, the tide had turned in my favor. That was two years ago. I was knocking on doors about an hour ago. Sad but true.

One would think that a career in sales would be helpful to launching a book, utilizing lessons hard won for a higher purpose. Nope. Not for me, at least. Because the thing is, I hate sales. Always have. I enjoyed the freedom of setting my own hours and a reasonable standard of living, although in recent years that has declined with a direct correlation to the number of hours I spend writing novels and thinking about plot and wishing I wasn’t ringing somebody’s doorbell.

I hope I’m a better writer than salesman. The trouble is, to make a living writing, an author has to sell. People have to know what we have to offer, must see the need for that product, and then make the decision to purchase it, that wonderful click on Amazon. I hate to think of it in those terms. I’d rather believe that it’s something other than that, but that’s what it is.That’s not to say that the quality of the next great American novel isn’t important.  Every now and then, there is a story about a writer who rockets to well deserved stardom and acclaim because whatever she wrote was so good it couldn’t be denied.I love those stories.

I used to believe in the theory that the “cream will rise to the top.” But I’ve known too many killer songwriters who died unknown and destitute, read countless brilliant books by obscure authors, while watching hordes flock to the Kardashians and Fifty Shades of Gray and listen to country-rap music. (Oxymoron)  Yet all of those things are hugely successful. The creators of those endeavors birthed empires from vapor, and that’s some damn good salesmanship. The thing is to sell something that people want to buy, and let them know it’s there. I’ve struggled with that concept for as long as I’ve been writing and selling, and for me there has been a dichotomy. Writing is writing. Selling is selling. I want to write true, but I also want to make a living. I hope the two aren’t mutually exclusive for me. I’m still dreaming, still believing, writing hard and close to the bone.

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I’ve got three book releases this week, and I’m a crummy salesman. If you read my books, I think you will smile, perhaps cry, and certainly be transported to places you’ve never been. I’d consider it a kindness if you’d “click.”

http://www.amazon.com/Objects-Wrath-Volume-Sean-Smith/dp/1618682245

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For the most part, what a salesman hears is “I’m not interested.” I hear it every day, and it wears me out now more than it did only a few years ago.

Three Releases this week!

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In a cool confluence of events, I’ve got three releases going live on Amazon this week. The conclusion to the Wrath trilogy, Wrath and Redemption is available for pre-order now, and will be available on Feb. 3. In this sweeping finale, readers will get a better sense of what has happened beyond the United States in the years following The Fall. From the Saharan desert to Siberian tundra and the streets of Rome, the Foxes struggle to keep evil at bay. In this novel, Crystal is actually one of my viewpoint characters, along with Russian general Leo Petrovitch, Ryder, who is now full grown, and of course, William Fox. It was hard leaving these characters and this world behind, but I think this book wraps the series up nicely.Patriots cover final

Also releasing on Tuesday Feb. 3 is my novella Sunshine Patriots, set in Stephen Konkoly’s newly minted Perseid Collapse Kindle World. Following an EMP attack by China, the eastern United States is hurting. A family still reeling from loss finds themselves under attack and fights to survive, from the sweltering FEMA camps to the mangrove swamps of the Florida Keys. This is a page-turner, I think, and very fast paced. I’m deeply honored that Steve invited me to be a part of this project, which features some of the best post-apocalyptic writers in the business.

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The third release is a horror anthology, At Hell’s Gates (volume 2), which features a short story I wrote a few years ago. The great thing about this collection of short stories is that all of the proceeds go to benefit the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, a great charity that helps veterans and their families. There are some fantastic stories in this book, written by some top  indie horror writers. My contribution is a weird science-fiction piece about a castaway on a far-flung planet.

I’ve got a fourth full length novel which I plan to publish sometime this spring, The Tears of Abraham, which is about the next American Civil War. Finally, my story Fate of the Fallen, which follows the life of Malak, an angel who has lived and died many times for the last two thousand years, unique in that he posses free will and limited power will come out sometime soon, as well. I plan to release a series of three novellas about Malak, as he struggles to stave off Armageddon. I’m staying busy!

To all my readers, thank you for reading my work! I look forward to exploring new worlds together. I hope you’ll leave me an honest review on Amazon, because that really helps.

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http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00IKHPGEK