Monday, February 11, 2013

Personal Climate Change II: Florida's Nonhuman Inhabitants

More on the differences between Florida and Kentucky. I mentioned the differences in climate, but there are also differences in the creatures you find here.

The good part: Florida has an amazing variety of birds. Many birds pass through the Bluegrass on their way south, but guess where they're headed to? They join birds from all over the place, sort of like the mix of tourist nationalities at Disneyworld. 

Egrets are cheeky. You'll see them along the shoreline, but I've also seen them at busy street intersections miles from the beach. The arched neck gives them a certain dignity, and I've often pictured them as little old ladies waiting for their turn to cross.

One of our friends in Tarpon Springs.
Anhingas are beautiful. They look like cormorants, but smaller. Gwen and I see them when we walk the Howard Park Causeway. They sit on the rocks, looking for leaping fish or holding their wings out to dry them. 

We also enjoy seeing the sandpipers and the red-winged blackbirds, but could do without the gulls. They are exactly like the ones in Finding Nemo. People rarely take food to Howard Park Beach twice. The little bastards will swoop down and take a hot dog right out of a kid's hand. They'll chase you if you run, too.

Now for the not-so-good: you probably know the association between Florida and alligators. In the water, Florida grows some large amphibians. On land, though, the story is different. The trees and rocks are filled with incredibly cute little geckos and anoles. The reason they're so small is because the insects and rats eat them before they get bigger. I'm convinced of it.

When you go into a Wal-Mart, a Publix, or even the Dollar Tree in Florida, you'll find a great variety of plastic bags and containers. Those aren't for tourists planning to picnic at the beach (a bad plan for the reason I gave above). Those are for Floridians trying to protect their food and goods against the waves of local vermin.

Florida cockroaches are huge. The euphemistic term for them is 'palmetto bugs', but they're roaches. Even Orkin agrees. Regular cockroaches run away when you turn the kitchen light on. These guys blink up at you and wonder what you want.

I realized I was getting blasé about them when my brother visited and one crawled through the crack in the doorjamb. He became more and more disconcerted while I was speaking, and then pointed out the roach.

"What is that?"
"It's a roach. They're pretty big here."
"Oh, my God."

Our buddy crawled away. A few minutes later, we heard a screech and a thump from the other room. My sister-in-law squashed him with a book. She had to protect the dog.

Aren't you glad this isn't a picture
of what I'm talking about now?
Ants. Ants, ants, ants. All types, all sizes. Everywhere. In the sand outside, between the rocks, crawling into the house. We had a swarm in the living room last week, and I did the flamenco dance of death. Had to sweep the floor twice before Mother hosed the room with Raid.

The rats. What can I say about the rats? Rats in Kentucky gnaw holes in potatoes and bags of flour. The rats here ate through the plastic and rubber lines of Mom's dishwasher. Twice. They also ate the mattress in the sofa bed and left rat poop behind. They caused a major water leak behind the refrigerator; the ice maker hadn't worked for years, and we found out why.

They're smart, too. Gwen has set traps with bacon, peanut butter, cheese, and lunch meat. She even tried strawberries. Little shits learned how to get the food off the trap without getting caught. The feral cats outside are no help - I think they're afraid of them.

We're going to have to call an exterminator and see if he can do something about getting the rats out of the house. Then, my mother will have to have our handyman block and/or repair the entry points. Meanwhile, we're buying lots of Glad bags and plastic containers. And washing the dishes by hand.


Friday, February 01, 2013

Interview: Lillian Brummett

Today, I welcome Lillian Brummet to Sinister Scribblings. Lillian is an author, but also so much more. She and her husband Dave offer book publishing services when they're not promoting green living and living positively. They also host an Internet Radio program, "World of Writing", on her channel, Conscious Discussions Talk Radio: 
The next broadcasts are scheduled for February 7th and 17th.

Today, she's answering some questions I posed to her about self-promotion.

Q: Whenever I read blogs about promoting writing, I keep hearing about a 'platform'. What do they mean by this term? Is it the same thing as the buzzword 'branding yourself'?

You are so right about the changing buzzwords in the industry – people are coming up with new terms to mean similar things and it can be confusing that is for sure. So I’ll try to clear this up for you and your readers. 

Branding: this term is used to describe how you present yourself or better said, how you appear to others, or what you are known by. An example of this would be:  Jane has have built a reputation for being a green living expert that specializes on educating her audience. So that is her brand. This also means that her logo, the colors she uses in her promotion materials, the website… everything that her put out there reflects this brand. 

Platform: this term is used to describe how you get your branding known. It is kind of like a launching pad that you built that supports your marketing and promotion efforts. So this would include promotion materials you’ve prepared, a website that describes your services and/or products, blog, setting up social media, newsletter, e-newsletter, radio show, video series… or whatever you are choosing to utilize. When you have a platform created (and this can be an ongoing evolving process) it offers you a solid place to stand on and makes your other efforts more efficient. 

Q: I had a self-published author tell me once that you needed to have 5 books in print to make enough money to support yourself. Is this true, presuming that one lives modestly? 

Honestly the comment you heard does make sense in that book sales can fluctuate and the more books you have the better chance you have of creating a sustainable steady income. Sadly, though, in reality this isn't necessarily the case. For instance I've met authors who have written a small book, one single book, but then created a steady income out of it. They’ve built speaking engagements, alternate formats of the book (think audio CD’s, streaming video series, webinars, etc.) and have strong marketing skills. Other authors may have written 10 books and still have to work that ‘day’ job in order to make ends meet. So I would say that income is really an individual thing –your book last year might do well but next year’s book flops for the first year, but then sales pick up again 3 years later. 

I think you just have to have faith in yourself and diversify so that you can have a steady stream of income (such as doing freelance work or offering workshops at the local college). The key to dealing with the low moments is to remind yourself why you are writing in the first place. If you are doing this to leave a legacy, because you love the craft of writing, because this allows you a chance to create positive change, to help evolve society, or some other greater good – then you can console yourself, knowing that this is more important than fiscal gain.

Q: Is it worth the money to buy ads on Facebook, Goodreads, or similar sites? 

I am very wary of putting out money for advertising as an author. I’ve paid for ads early on in my career in both print and online publications/sites and haven’t had a good Return On Investment (ROI). After becoming a staff writer and member of the media, I learned that there are a lot of ways of saving money and creating a better ROI, which I share in our Purple Snowflake Marketing (PSM) book. I have found that there is a higher ROI for ads highlighting either the radio show or blog, and then from there they learn about our books and services. Sites like what you are talking about often offer what is called Pay Per Click (PPC) and this simply means that you don’t pay anything for your ad until someone clicks on it – and you might pay a few cents per click. But that can be dangerous to the budget if all of a sudden you have 5,000 clicks! So you might want to set up a limit if you go this route. The trick with advertising is to understand what your agenda is for that ad – meaning, do you want to drive traffic to your blog or website, or sell a specific product. Once you know what your agenda is for that one ad, you can then create engaging content for the ad that inspires the reader to what is deemed a: Call To Action (CTA). However, once you’ve engaged the reader to respond to your CTA is only the first step – what they see when the go to where you sent them is also an important thing to focus on. So, say for instance you’ve decided to send people who read your ad to your website home page – what will they see there and how does that help build your branding or increase your income?

Q: Could you offer us one tip on generating sales after the Honeymoon Period (described in Purple Snowflake Marketing)?

Ah… this is a great question. First, let me define the Honeymoon Period for your readers – this is the first year after a book is released, when the author has exhausted current contact lists and local outlets, and the author has usually run out of their initial promotional budget. The author’s excitement level also tends to run lower after the first year and they begin to tire of marketing the same product over and over. 

So my tip today would be to get creative – I mean, yes you do want to do all those activities in the first year, but the life of your book may be 7 years or longer depending on the contract with your publisher. Branch out to other communities that surround your area, find new ways of getting media exposure, look for long-term promotion materials (like bookmarks) and get involved with organizations, and get busy online where there are tens of thousands of opportunities just waiting for you.

Q: Can an introvert successfully promote and publicize her writing? Never mind why I'm asking this.

(She laughs) I love that you ask this, since I am an introvert myself. The thing is that each of us has unique strengths and weaknesses, we have a unique location, a unique budget for each and every book we release. We need to constantly evaluate where we are at and what we can do. You’ll notice that our PSM book talks about creating a business plan for your career as an author, but then a marketing plan for each book you release. Those plans should be very flexible and should probably be revised every 3-6 months. Who you are on a personal level plays a vital role in this. 

Most of us will try different things and go through a bit of a learning curve before we figure out what works best for us. Some of us are great at one on one networking, others do very well at speaking events; someone might be a great teacher, while others have fantastic technical skills. One person might excel at radio interviews, another might find better results through social networking, and someone else finds out that they have great results through blog appearances, or promotional articles in a variety of publications. Everyone is different and I think this is a good thing – after all we want to stand out and be noticed… not do what everyone else is doing and get lost in the crowd. 

Thank you for spending time with us. I appreciate it. Below is information on Purple Snowflake Marketing, for authors who would like to learn more about promoting their work.

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Make your book stand out in the crowd! Getting your book into the hands of paying readers is the most important goal of a writer and with the tools offered in this book the sales of your book will increase dramatically!

For the average author the marketing and promotion of their own book is a mystery in itself, and outsourcing these activities can quickly erode their budget. This book has all the tools and tips for developing that marketing plan, and turn your writing into a professional career.

Purple Snowflake Marketing offers a realistic guide to what authors can expect to face and how to employ research and preparation to make a memorable first impression. As you put together a marketing plan, you will be able to proceed with the confidence of a seasoned writer. This book is packed with value, with over 1000 resources along with stats and inspiring quotes to assist you in developing that unique marketing plan for each book you write.