Blog

New Year’s in the West in 1880s

My “First Monday of the Month Blog” for Western Fictioneers was published today. Here it is.

The irony of writing about the stresses and tensions brought on by the holidays — 1883 through 1887 — does not escape me. Last month’s blog, I tried to understand Christmas at that time. It was not my direct intention to follow that up with New Year’s at this blog, but, here I am.

You see, my Fugitive Sheriff  ends up telling someone, “Getting caught isn’t my problem, at least not till New Year‘s Eve. I’ll have to work over in Park City on New Year’s Eve. Snow or no, you can bet the Federal Authorities will do their duty in Park City’s saloons on New Year’s Eve.”

So, I realized I pretty much had the problem of trying to know how people celebrated New Year’s in the 1880s. It turned out to be a lot bigger problem that I expected. Like with Christmas, I found few direct references to New Year’s in the West. With two exceptions. There are no end of opportunities to celebrate New Year’s in the West today, but that doesn’t tell you much about how it was celebrated then. And New Year’s Resolutions (about more below) are dutifully recorded in diaries and journals all over the West.

 Champagne

Without a doubt, the place to start is with champagne.  The name has been around since the 1600s, although its protection as the sparkling wine from a certain region did not occur until 1891. Long before then, Dom Perignon added two features to the wine he pretty much invented, thicker glass and a rope snare to keep corks in place. The stage was set for shipping and a wine that began as a luxury with the Kings of France became industrially produced in the early 1800s and, yes, shipped to the West in the 1880s. While you did not have to be a King of France to buy it, you did have to find a way to make more money than you could working in the mines or poking cattle.

It might be noted that a quarter of the population of the west was British born (or about two-thirds of the non-American born emigrants) and whisky remained the favored New Year’s Eve drink in the UK until the 1980s.  It would not be much of a stretch to guess it was so in the West in the 1880s.

Celebration

It seems that before football games, there was another game:  calling on ladies.

In the 1880s, New Year’s day, rather than New Year’s eve, was the time for gala entertaining and Open Houses, usually held from noon until six p.m. Tradition held that all the ladies of a family, and all boys under the age of ten, stayed at home to receive callers while the gentlemen went out to pay visits. Newspapers would even print lists of the homes that would be open and the hours they were receiving visitors. The only requirement for admission was a calling card.

“A general and cordial reception of gentlemen guests upon the first day of the year, by the ladies of almost every household, also by clergymen, and by gentlemen upon the first New-Year’s Day after marriage, was a Knickerbocker custom which prevailed in New York. It was once a day when all gentlemen offered congratulations to each of their lady acquaintances, and even employees of a gentleman were permitted to pay their respects, and to eat and drink with the ladies of the household. Hospitalities were then lavishly offered and as lavishly received.

“Many gentlemen, even among those who take wine ordinarily, refuse it upon this day, because they do not like to accept it at the hand of one lady and refuse it from that of another. Again, many ladies, from whose daily tables the glitter of wine-glasses is never absent, do not supply this drink to their guests upon this day, because it is dangerous for their acquaintances to partake of varied vintages, the more specially while passing in and out of over-heated drawing rooms.”

At these calling events, a New Year’s Dinner and New Year’s table was presented (as published in Minnesota in 1880):

New Year’s Dinners–Raw oysters; mock turtle soup; boiled turkey with oyster sauce; roast haunch of venison; currant jelly; deviled crabs; potato souffle, baked turnips, stuffed cabbage, beets, lima beans, dried corn, and canned peas; biscuit, French rolls, rye and Indian bread; chicken salad, cold sliced ham; celery, cold slaw garnished with fried oysters, pickled walnuts, variety pickles; sweet pickled cucumbers, peaches, and plums, spiced currants and gooseberries canned pears or strawberries; English plum pudding; chess pie, potato pie, mince pie; orange souffle, pyramid pound cake, black cake, Phil Sheridan cake; Bohemian cream; oranges, raisins, figs, nuts; tea, coffee, chocolate.

New Year’s Table–When receiving calls on New Years’ Day, the table should be handsomely arranged and decorated, and provided with rather substantial dishes, such as would suit the taste of gentlemen. Too great profusion, especially of cakes, confectionery, and ices, is out of taste. Selections may be made from the following: Escalloped oysters; cold tongue, turkey, chicken, and ham, pressed meats, boned turkey, jellied chicken; salads, cold slaw garnished with fried oysters; bottled pickles, French or Spanish pickles; jellies; charlotte-russe, ice-creams, ices; two large handsome cakes for decoration of table, and one or two baskets of minced cake, fruit, layer, and sponge cake predominating; fruits; nuts; coffee, chocolate with whipped cream, lemonade.

Oysters

I also note that oysters made an appearance at a gathering of early Dakota Territory settlers on New Year’s Day in 1880. Not merely traced back to Ancient Greeks and Romans, American Indians on both coasts considered them a staple in their diet. Abraham Lincoln also served them to guests at parties at his Illinois home.

Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote in Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography.: “There were oysters and honey and sauce [from] home dried fruit the Boasts had brought with them. We told stories and joked and had a happy New Year’s day.”

Chinese

The mention of Chinese New Year’s occurs frequently and one notable reference even identified that the 1880 census listed more than 100 Chinese in Evanston.  …. The Chinese staged lavish New Year’s celebrations at the end of winter on the traditional Chinese calendar, including a dragon parade through downtown and fireworks.

 New Years Eve

Perhaps the greatest way to bring in the new year occurred on New Year’s Eve of 1879.  Edison gave a public demonstration of his new light bulb, lighting up his laboratory and a half mile of streets in Menlo Park before of thousands of spectators. By 1881, Edison’s Pearl Street station in New York was supplying about 400 outlets for eighty-five customers.  Cities in the West first became lit with electricity in the 1880s.

The closest to us Western Fictioneers Google hit on search string “New Year’s Eve” came up on page 7, Meg Mims’s blog:  “Toss these babies in the oven and save ’em for your New Year’s Eve party. Mmm! Very easy to make.”

Resolutions

It is said the ancient Babylonians were the first, but the Romans took it up and then the Christians.  In fact, the first day of the new year became the traditional occasion for thinking about one’s past mistakes and resolving to do and be better in the future.  It turns out all over the West, people made resolutions.  They not only made them, they wrote them down in their journals and diaries.  Mostly, they resolved to make a better life for themselves and their families.  They not only resolved, they made better lives for themselves and their families — Us.

Happy and Prolific New Year to All Western Fictioneers. 


E-mail Edward Massey with comments, author of 2014 Gold Quill winner, Every Soul Is Free and Amazon ABNA 2009 Quarter-finalist, Telluride Promise.

Some Christmas Traditions in the West in the 1880s

My “First Monday of the Month Blog” for Western Fictioneers was published today. Here it is.

I wrote about amnesties and pardons because my sheriff was concerned the governor would use his annual Christmas amnesty to pardon a murderer who faced the firing squad. Fugitive Sheriff lived through four years of Christmas. What was Christmas like in the West in the 1880s?

Whatever it was like, if anyone at the time wrote about it, their words have proved more elusive than my googling skills have retrieved. I found a lot of interesting stuff, including a remarkable number of places and persons named Christmas, but what follows is a triangulation, a guess at what might have and must have been the celebrations of Christmas, using the 1880s as the ending point for traditions by then begun and now taken for granted.

Right off the bat, I discovered a controversy I did not know existed. “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” was believed until 2000 (and until last week by me) to have been written in 1822 by Clement Clarke Moore for his two daughters and later published anonymously in Troy, New York on December 23, 1823. In 2000, Don Foster published a book, Author Unknown: On the Trail of Anonymous, in which he demonstrated that Moore could not have been the author and concluded it must have been written by Major Henry Livingston, Jr.

Already a well established tradition during the 1880s, many people certainly knew or read “Account of a Visit From St. Nicholas” (the poem’s subtitle) to their children in the West. (And now we Western Fictioneers know that for 177 years Clement Clarke Moore took credit for publishing something he didn’t write.)

The history of mince pies

Now on to tastier, though no less spicy, fare. Like most of our Christmas traditions, mince pies came to us from the UK, dating back to Stuart times. They were a status symbol.  Having pies meant you were rich. You could afford both meat and the best and most expensive pastry cooks. With their main purpose to show off, they were originally made in various shapes like stars, crescents, hearts, and flowers, the most intricate constructed like jigsaw puzzles to fit together. Some sources report they were filled with meat, such as lamb, rather than the dried fruit mix of today. Both notions are anathema to me.

Our Western forebears never filled a mince pie with lamb when venison was available. For damn sure, mine went out and shot their deer and brought it back for the making of the mincemeat.

And I am certain of that still today. My wife makes mincemeat and she calls up her brother and he goes out and gets a deer and ships the venison to us. Her preference is neck meat, but any will do.  Anne and her brother aren’t Westerners, they’re Mainers, of French descent, but I can personally vouch for the authenticity and richness of her mincemeat. So much so, that I share with you her recipe.

recipe

Christmas Day

Though eating mince pie was a Christmas Eve tradition, I doubt anyone in the West of our interest asked why Christmas Day was celebrated on December 25.

The first record of Christmas celebrated on December 25th was in 336AD, during the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine (the first Christian Roman Emperor). Bringing his Christian army to conquer the Goths, he discovered a pagan rite at the beginning of Winter and took it for his own. He told the Goths they were celebrating Christmas, thereby conquering the Goths with spirit and spirits. Second only to the English, emigrants to the West were German.

A second tradition starts with the day Mary was told she would have a very special baby (the Annunciation), on March 25th. Nine months after the 25th March is the 25th December! How many Western settlers celebrated the Annunciation showed up on no record I could find.

Finally, among early westerners were a smattering of wandering Jews. Hanukkah, starts on the 25th of Kislev, the month in the Jewish calendar that occurs about the same time as December. Hanukkah celebrates when the Jews were able to re-dedicate and worship in their Temple, in Jerusalem, following many years of not being allowed to practice their religion. There is ample evidence of Temples being dedicated in the West in the 1880s.

Christmas

Not being Catholic, I did not know that the ‘Christ-Mass’ service was the only one that was allowed to take place after sunset (and before sunrise the next day). People had it at midnight!

The Christmas Tree

Northern Europe gets credit for this with documented evidence of the first Christmas tree in Riga, the capital of Latvia, in 1510 and the emergence of Yule logs in Scandinavia soon after. Martin Luther was the first to take the Christmas tree into his home, in the 16th century. The Christmas tree basically came to America via Britain when the drawing of “The Queen’s Christmas tree at Windsor Castle” (set up by Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s German husband,) was republished in Godey’s Lady’s Book, Philadelphia in December 1850 (without the Queen’s crown and Prince Albert’s moustache to make it look ‘American’!).

Christmas trees were prevalent in our west – and not too difficult (well, except for the work involved) to go out and cut down an evergreen.

Christmas cards

Christmas cards began in Victorian England, as many of Christmas traditions do, in the early 1840s when Sir Henry Cole had the idea for sending his friends a greeting wishing them a Happy Christmas (printed by John Colcott Horsley.)

The idea took off in Europe but lagged in America, until the Civil War was over – and Christmas was declared a holiday in 1870. The transcontinental railroad completed in 1869 made faster mail service possible and the ground breaking printing capabilities of printer Louis Prang transformed the postcard-size European Christmas card to gifts of art sent through the mail.

Prang learned the art of chromolithography, a technology that allowed him to make duplicates of fine art to bring fine art to the masses inexpensively. In 1873 in Vienna he was presented with the idea of making an artful Christmas card. He liked the idea and by Christmas 1874 Prang’s designs started to catch on – not as Christmas cards, but as art. Costing as much as 25 dollars, the Prang holiday designs were sent by many as gifts.

Unique to Prang’s Christmas art was new verse written by well-known poets of the time, such as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

During the 1880s Prang’s factories put out more than 5 million Christmas cards a year and were noted for offering stable, suitable employment especially for women, a real rarity of the times. By the 1890s, cheap knock-offs were imported and Prang’s popularity began to diminish, but the Christmas card was established.

Recognition of Christmas Day

Alabama was the first state to grant legal recognition to Christmas in 1836. By 1890 all states and territories had done so, including DC in 1870. Christmas is the only annual religious holiday to receive official religious and secular sanction. The following list of Western states and the year they recognized Christmas is taken from Having a Wonderful Christmas Time Film Guide by Terry Rowan. By end of 1887: California, 1851; Colorado, Nevada, 1861; Oregon, 1862; Idaho, North Dakota, 1863; Montana, 1865; Kansas,1868; New Mexico, 1876; South Dakota, 1877; Texas,1879; Arizona, 1881; Utah, 1882; Wyoming, 1886.

Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Carols were first sung in Europe thousands of years ago — pagan songs, sung at the winter solstice as people danced round stone circles. (The word carol originally meant to dance to something.) So, what did today’s most famous source of Christmas carols do in the 1880s?

Named after the Salt Lake Tabernacle, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is credited with being founded in 1847, although the Tabernacle was not completed until 1867, the first recorded choir conductor was not appointed until in 1869, and the choir held its first concert at the Tabernacle on July 4, 1873. I could not find any documented Christmas pageants during the 1880s. We all know they existed by the time of the first-ever recording on September 1, 1910. Given the tradition of music and theater, my bet is the Tabernacle Choir was performing, I simply could not find the evidence.

What I found most certainly did not come from the 1880s, but works for me as an ending to this blog. The Christmas story from Luke Chapter 2 told by John Rhys-Davies with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir: http://mymerrychristmas.com/a-masterful-telling-of-luke-2/


E-mail Edward Massey with comments, author of 2014 Gold Quill winner, Every Soul Is Free and Amazon ABNA 2009 Quarter-finalist, Telluride Promise.

Give an Edward Massey Book 2015

Xmas graphic

Last year, to encourage reading, support bookstores, and buy books, I offered to send a second book for one dollar.

This year, I expected to have another book to offer you. Alas, Fugitive Sheriff has not yet surmounted all his trials and tribulations, but still Christmas and Holidays roll around. And again, I encourage you to give the gift of books. (My books, to be sure.) So this year, the price of a signed and mailed book goes down – and a second book still costs one dollar.

Order now and have the book(s) inscribed by the author. Enter the desired inscription in the field below. If you want the book(s) sent to a third party, enter that information when you get to the order summary page by clicking on “Add special instructions to the seller.”

  • Every Soul Is Free, $15.00, price includes mailing
  • Telluride Promise, $10.00, price includes mailing
  • Gift set, both books, $16.00, price includes mailing

Go to Amazon.com for twenty-three terrific reviews and, of course, if you prefer, buy the books on Kindle.

Happy Holidays.


Choose book(s)



Plowing and Sowing

My monthly blog with Western Fictioneers was published last Monday. Here it is:

Plowing:

Cheryl Pierson kindly gave me a list of seven publishers who are in Western Fictioneers.  I wrote each of them, asking one question: “If a writer could do nothing else, what is the one thing you would tell a writer to do to sell his or her books?”

So far, five have written back.  If the others come in later, I will post them next month.

Rebecca J. Vickery (Publishing by Rebecca J. Vickery, Victory Tales Press)

“Tough question and I’ll answer in general.  For me and our authors at PbRJV, the one thing I advise is get on social media such as Facebook on a regular basis and be “sociable” while providing links to your website and books. It works.”

Dusty Richards

… was very generous and I have edited his response some…

“There is not any one answer on how to sell your books or some of us would have discovered it.  …  I have a professional web site. Anywhere I can I post that address for them to go look. I pay to have it up and it isn’t cheap but gets some results.  I have a page on Amazon and I have to scream to get it kept up to date.  People like a book you wrote they will go look for them at that site.  I have books on the WWA button.  …

I always write a letter to my readers in every book and give them my email.  If you write me or email me you get a list of my books in return and a copy of our magazine  www.saddlebagdispatches.com.  … I try to get the book reviewed. I write blurbs for other authors to get my name out there. A western reader reads my blurb he may go look for my books. That is  better than all the e business you can get into. I answer interviews like this to get my name out there.  ….

 I have a column in a tri-state farm magazine–no get rich deal but it brings me readers. I have column in StoryTeller magazine.  She shows my books on back cover in trade.  I have book signings at events, library, shows. In the right place I make several sales and new fans.

My first e-book/printed was with a small publisher.  It had been out for five years.  He gave it away one weekend . …  We handed out 10,000 copies.  Neither of us could not believe it. I had never gotten a 10 whatever for the IRS in income on it.  In the next 18 months the total sales reached what a good New York book publisher paid out for a western.  I plan to try that again on another project in the future.

I am disappointed in so many western books being published that no one edited and are a mess.  They give us a bad name.  ..”

James Reasoner (Rough Edges Press)

Maybe the most important thing a writer can do today to sell books–whether they’re traditionally published, self-published, or come from a small press–is to maintain an active presence on social media. That can be overwhelming and too time-consuming, so it’s probably best to limit those activities to a few of the available platforms. I use my blog, Facebook, and Twitter for the most part, but a writer should do whatever feels comfortable. Just get your name and info about the books out there!

Livia Reasoner (Livia J Washburn) (Prairie Rose Publications)

Other than writing good books to start with (always the first step), I think the key to selling is to keep writing. Each book’s sales builds on the last, and when you have enough work out there it’s easier to run special sales and promotions with the earlier titles. So when you finish a book, it’s fine to pat yourself on the back–but then start thinking about the next one!

Cheryl Pierson Prairie Rose Publications

When you submit your work, be sure you have had it professionally edited AT LEAST for grammar, tense agreement, and punctuation. Most editors have at least three different price lists, dependent upon how much editing is required or asked for. This would be the cheapest for some–mid-level for others on their pricing. When you send your work to a publisher with poor grammar or punctuation, the publisher sees that you really don’t know what you’re doing–or care. If you don’t care about your own work, why should a publisher, or a reader?

Sowing:

I had an exchange with Vonn McKee about my idea to use Westerns (and fiction in general) as a means to promote corporate goals (goods, values, and services.)  She thinks it’s a tough sell and I share with you:

 “I have some experience in commercial advertising and my sense is that corporations trying to promote an image by drawing on artistic works or examples prefer to use something their audience will recognize. If the western fiction quoted was by a well-known author or a quote from, say, a character like John Wayne or a Clint Eastwood, that known image or emotion would be communicated onto the firm’s brand. …but getting a firm to use just any character or literary excerpt from an unknown author would seem a hard sell. …the exception would be if you happened to have a killer slogan you could lift from your work and pitch…”

One final note on Sowing.  I told you about Writer’s Relief.  Well, I subscribed.  True to their word 29 my initial queries are out doing their work for me.  Well, 25 are still at work, I have already received four “unfortunately, this one doesn’t sound like it’s right for us.” I was pleased with their efficiency and helpfulness in the first cycle, so I am risking a second.  I’ll keep you posted.

E-mail Edward Massey with comments. Buy
Every Soul Is Free here,
or buy Telluride Promise here.

More plowing and sowing than reaping

My regular monthly blog is up for Western Fictioneers. You may see it here or read it below:

The best marketing plan is to write.  In my January blog I mentioned Hugh Howey because he makes this point far better than I, both on his website and in his podcast with James Altucher.  It is no more profound than the observation that successful novelists we remember have all written many books, save Harper Lee and one or two others. Four to four hundred novels seems to be the range needed for success.  Some Western Fictioneers can publish thirty books in three years, some can publish one.  Not to despair, one book in three years means four in twelve and there you are, on the power curve.  So, write two, three, four hours a day but even then you may need some ploughing in other fields.

Indeed, that very Harper Lee brought no less an institution than the Economist to opine on the great Schumpeter and the need for Authorpreneurship.  In their February 14, 2015 print edition, with a column headlined “To succeed these days, authors must be more businesslike than ever” they said,

“…Standing out as a book writer today requires more than a bright idea and limpid prose. Authors need to become businesspeople as well, thinking strategically about their brand, and marketing themselves and their products…”

“…these days, writing a book is just a prologue to more work…Authors mostly used to rely on public-relations staff provided by the publishing house. Now, wise writers hire their own publicists…Authors must court an expanding variety of ‘influencers’—people whose opinions can determine a book’s success. Once…newspaper reviewers were…arbiters of literary taste. Now…a host of bloggers and social-media pundits fill the gap.”

The article devoted a lot of space to celebrities, Hollywood film deals and best seller lists, before it returned to some realistic observations.

“Authors, like other entrepreneurs, should not let failure get to them.”

“The open secret of publishing is that very few authors can live by books alone. Even some of the most successful ones make most of their money from public speaking, consulting or teaching, and use the publicity gained by their books to justify higher fees. …Things are more difficult for fiction writers: the organisers of conferences and other events pay good speaking fees to non-fiction writers with a bit of name recognition, but not to the average novelist.”

“Authors are becoming more like pop stars, who used to make most of their money selling albums but who now use their recordings as promotional tools, earning a living mainly from concerts. The trouble with many budding writers is that they are not cut out for this new world.”

Such an authoritative voice provides the perfect introduction to a breakfast roundtable I am hosting at the WWA Conference in the Overton Hotel, in Lubbock, Wednesday, June 24, at 8:00 am.   I proposed a panel on:  “The Western as a Business Education Format.”  In short, marketing your novel by making it a vehicle for corporate messages, themes, and training programs.  Candy
Moulton suggested we test the idea at the Wednesday roundtable breakfast, if I was willing. Absolutely.  I asked her for permission to mention the Roundtable breakfast in this blog.  Absolutely.  She reminded me to mention that the convention is open to non-members of WWA as well as members and that registration materials are available on the website, www.westernwriters.org.

The idea started with my first novel, Telluride Promise.  A venture capital colleague, who specializes in proprietary schools, suggested that it should be a format for teaching ethics in business schools.  A subject much needed, hard to achieve.

With Every Soul Is Free, 100 hundred years of strong values, powerful and interrupted lessons between grandfather and grandson, and the conflict of choosing calling over family have led to discussions with a major private bank, an investment bank, a foundation, and a well known product based corporation on subjects of trust, career, and generational values.

Not to get ahead of myself, these are long sales’ cycles and major success still lies in the future.  The concept is, so far, well-received and I am certain that fiction has a major role to play in the value systems of corporations.  A breakfast, lunch, dinner, or evening reception allows the company to communicate a set of principles it holds dear to its stakeholders, without ever directly “selling” the company. No one needs to have read the book.  Selected readings illustrate the principles and the discussion is on.

There are many topics supported by Western literature.  The point of the roundtable breakfast is to encourage every author to think of how their Western novel demonstrates standards and values that businesses want to instill in their personnel or communicate to their clients.

With tables for 10 people, the point of this blog is to invite 9 writers to the breakfast.  Come as a presenter and bring your book and one idea.  State the theme. Read up to 3 sentences and launch the discussion. We’ll work for three minutes to talk about the principles involved and thoughts on how to market your novel to businesses.  No prior success is necessary, this is exploratory.  If you have no presentation to make, as I said, this is exploratory, please come and explore with us.  With luck, we’ll digest breakfast and a few insights and views about what principles work and how to sell them.

If you’d like to post suggestions for topics in the comments below, or e-mail me, please do and maybe we can get a full agenda on hand before the 24th.

I am still looking to this blog to force me to work on my bio.  I have not yet made it past the starting point. Telluride Promise gained the quarterfinals in the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards. Every Soul Is Free won the Gold Quill, Grand Prize for best novel published in 2014, from the League of Utah Writers.  Edward’s third novel is finished.  He is at work on his fourth.  He and Anne live in Stamford, CT and look forward to a visit from any Western Fictioneers!

Plow, Sow, Reap

My regular monthly blog is up for Western Fictioneers. You may see it here or read it below:

I’m a writer, so it seemed time to drop the boring words.  Consider this heading chicory coffee and beignets drafted on my birthday while sitting in New Orleans.  Boring words and strong black coffee to resume sometime later in cold New England.

Plough: Creating a fallow field is the goal of a marketing plan.  Marketing Plan has some heavy and cumbersome connotations and I think we are better off if we just think of finding ways to turn over the earth – till our field – to make our efforts yield that much more.

Two clear examples presented themselves in the past month.  Ken Farmer blogged for us (2/19/15)   on “Expanding Markets.”  Punchy message:  you’ve got an e-book or a p-book, make it an a-book.  That’s tilling your field. (About how to do that, more below.)

A second is a theory I have – not yet proven – that our books hold more in their stories than the genre limitations forced upon them.  First limitation is “fiction” and then even more narrowly most of us get pigeonholed as “Western.”  (In a more querulous mood, reserved for days not my birthday, I might argue we bring a lot of that down on ourselves.  We are segregated by the separation we define.)  Yet the stories we tell hold the great and important themes that corporations are trying to project in their marketing and public relations. (Corporations defined as all organizations, religious, social, or commercial, that try to mobilize an external public to adopt –“buy” – their program.)

I have proposed to banks and money management firms to use Telluride Promise as a format for discussing how to choose advisors you trust and what banker to do business with.  Every Soul Is Free may be the format for discussing the conflict between calling (career) and family; how to transfer values across generations; and the quiet power of women in decision making.  No contracts yet, but I believe I am creating one hell of a fallow field.

To support my belief, look at the Wall Street Journal, 2/25/15, B1, “I Don’t Have a Job. I Have a Higher Calling.”  The article makes my point with its sub-head: “ …firms…step up talk about changing the world.”  In our stories, every one of them, there is a nugget that can be built into the discussion of a theme.

To induce you to believe it is a good bet, worth a try, I point to David Whyte.  A poet.   For God’s sake, there is only one harder choice for commercial success than being a western writer.  David is America’s corporate poet.  I commend you to his website to explode ideas in your own mind about how this works for you.  (Enjoy David’s poetry, but click down Speaking/Client List to see my point proved.)

Sow:   Ken Farmer decided to do his audio books, did them, and now he has already reaped the results.  I have long since planned to do an audio book, so I was impressed with Ken’s alacrity in going straight to product he could sell.  I wrote Ken, asking him to tell us how he did it.  Here is his slightly edited response:

“Sign in with your Amazon password and join ACX.  If you’re the author of your books listed on Amazon, that makes you the ‘Rights Holder’ (RH). You can create your audio version one of two ways. I recorded it myself and uploaded it chapter by chapter to ACX.  They Quality Control check the file and, if it’s acceptable, it will go live on Amazon, iTunes and Audible in about a week. Alternatively, if the author is not qualified to be the narrator he posts a request on ACX for narrators to audition.  The fee can be (1) a flat fee per finished hour (PFH), anywhere from $200 to $400 PFH, depending on the experience of the narrator…negotiable; (2) A revenue share (RS).  ACX pays 40% – if exclusive. They fix the price based on number of finished hours. My novels range from 7 to 9 hours and are priced at $19.95. If an outside narrator is selected, all the narrators I know record and edit the novel in their own in-house studio and send the files to the RH for approval and then to ACX.

“One thing is vital. The narrator must speak the writer’s words with total conviction…Storytelling. If the narrator doesn’t love your work, it will probably suck.

“I built my own digital audio workstation (DAW) at my house for less than $300. I have the advantage that I’ve been a professional actor and VO artist for over 40 years. Narrating a novel is Voice Acting (storytelling). I teach Voice Acting Workshops four or five times a year (next one March 7 in Gainesville, Texas) – a six hour intensive for authors and actors on how to break into the VO business and how to create Audio Books.

“I just wish I had started sooner.”

Despite Ken’s writing that he was going to finish eight more of his own (he’s already done four) before he branches out to do other folks, I asked him for a quote.  He gave me one, so I propose you assume he is open for business, if you are interested. Get more detail on Ken here and on the workshops here.

Ken’s $300 DAW is remarkably straight forward:

• Blue Yeti mic with articulating arm and pop filter.

• WavePad Master software.
• Sound deadening: two sheets of foam board 2′ x 3′ (from Walmart) plus a twin size  foam mattress pad. Cut the mattress pad to fit the boards and glue them together.  (You still need a fairly small room).
• Twelve inch notebook for text (Ken has used Kindle, but he finds the  bigger screen to be better.)
• Main PC monitor for the wave form

In February, I mentioned I had joined “Query Tracker.”  To date it has turned up no leads, but I did discover one agent whom I think it plausible to contact.  The ball is in my court.  Also I have secured a referral to a seriously interesting agent, not through QT, but I will use it to track my contact efforts.   Another service, “Writer’s Relief,” has interested me enough to pursue.  They have a submission process with writing sample.  They just notified me (on my birthday, I assume it is another present) of my acceptance. I’ll let you know more as I go through the process with them.

Reap:   This is always the most fun!  In last month’s blog I mentioned Pen-L Publishing’s Kindle Promotion.  To create a Valentine’s Day special, Pen-L dropped the Kindle price to 99 cents on all books in their catalogue and asked their authors to promote them down their channels.  Pen-L reports: “For the books included in the promotion, comparing Dec. 13 through Jan. 13 with Jan. 14 through Feb. 14, sales went up almost six-fold; income went down 20%.

We’re not comfortable releasing specific numbers but … this gives you a good idea. We did not include the two titles whose authors conducted paid promotions online during these periods. Christmas was also a confounding factor as the Dec-Jan. sales might have been boosted by the holiday.

“The more important data is still to come. The purpose of this promotion was not to boost income but to boost sales, which may lead to a longer-term lift in sales for those titles. It’s too soon to tell if this is the case. April 14 we’ll look at the post-promotion sales and be better able to conclude whether the intervention had the desired effect.”

My summary: effort works and lower price leads to lower income, the hope is every promotion fixes a cobblestone in the longer path.

On a personal note, my meager Facebook efforts have led to one small result: 16 wonderful friends wished me a happy birthday; one mentioned they had read Every Soul Is Free.

In last month’s “Results” I invited all of you to send me some tangible help you have received from Writer’s Digest in your career – and at what cost.  Zero.  That may be a measure of the power of this blog, but I actually believe it is a true measure of the degree to which Writer’s Digest actually helps writers.

 I mentioned that this blog will force me to work on my bio.  I have not yet made it past the starting point: Telluride Promise gained the quarterfinals in the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards. The League of Utah Writers awarded the Gold Quill, Grand Prize for best novel published in 2014, to Every Soul Is Free.  Edward’s third novel is finished and out to a publisher.  He is at work on his fourth.

Marketing, Implementation, Results

[Western Fictioneers has asked me to do a blog on the first Monday of every month.  Here is the entry published today on their website.]

In my January 5 blog, I promised this first Monday of the month 2015 blog will follow (1) a year of marketing efforts: Marketing Plan, Implementation, and Results; and, (2) your (to the extent you share them via e-mail or comment) and my marketing efforts over the year.

Results:   Right off the bat, I realize that while results are the product (we hope) of plan and implementation, they need to come first, now that we are up and running.  The reason is something I did not mention last month, but that came up immediately because my January blog resulted in 4 comments, 1 e-mail exchange, and 1 request for a blog-interview.

In that blog-interview, Tom Rizzo’s Story Teller 7, I answered, “In work, there is a  ‘Production Function.’  All it means is if you do something you get a result. For example, if you write 500 words a day, you get a novel.  So, just that one blog led to four comments, one exchange of e-mails, and this opportunity.”

Another result was the very substantial contribution by Charlie Steel to the implementation paragraph below.

In short, what we are all trying to do is increase our production function!

Marketing Plan: The question that continues to plague me, and I think other writers, is simply: How do you create a marketing plan that really works?  There are too many things to do and you cannot really know how any of them work for you until you do them — a state of affairs that leads inevitably to wasted time and frustration.  The alternative is to do nothing, a marketing plan that inevitably leads to … doing nothing.  So, one of the things we do is look for help.

I am going to indulge in a one-time-only bout of complaining.  This month I am going to complain about the rather large industry out there that is designed to make money off writers in the guise of pretending to help writers make money.   We are all mature, consenting adults, so we are responsible for our own protection.  In the end, I am suggesting nothing more than caution and prudence more for the use of your time than even for the waste of your money.  I have long since been suspicious that my subscription to Writer’s Digest was nothing more than an annual payment for the privilege of receiving solicitations.

So, For One Month Only, like one of their screaming solicitations that arrive daily in my e-mail inbox, I thought I would test my perception for purposes of talking about where to turn to help for marketing plans.  I have accumulated and segregated all the e-mails I have received from Writer’s Digest or one of its affiliates or partners since 1:00 am Central Standard Time, January 5, 2015.  I complete this analysis at 6 pm Sunday night, 2/1/15, and attest to you —what was that I said about arrive daily? Twenty-eight days, counting the day of publication, and 73 e-mails have arrived.  58 of them held as their subject a solicitation. 10 held useful content in the subject line and on the first page right up to a Read More that when clicked, you guessed it, offered to sell you something. 5 held out a proposed service that, once you clicked past the subject heading, became a solicitation.

In the spirit of soliciting real interaction with this blog, I invite all of you to send me some tangible help you have received from Writer’s Digest in your career – and at what cost.  For example the analysis mentioned above cost me 28 days of surveillance and two hours of analysis.  Good value for this blog, but only once!  You do not need to mention whether or not you paid cash for it, just note the kind of help they provided you.

I will start it off.  I bought one of their best sellers, Create Your Writer Platform, $16.99 plus shipping.  Rather than focus on my negative reaction to being talked down to, I will focus on my positive reaction to Duke Pennell’s enormously instructive and useful admonition:  “A writer needs fans.”  Aha! That’s what they mean by a platform.

Implementation:   I admit it I am looking for an agent.  While I am trying to figure out how to maximize the productivity of my search, I have joined Query Tracker.  I will report on how useful that turns out to be.

The most interesting how- to-get-things-done discussion this month comes from an exchange with Charlie Steel resulting from last month’s blog.  Charlie commented: “Edward, …My best books sales have always been a free presentation about the WEST, a slide show, a reading of a story, and finally a sing-along of Western songs with me playing guitar. (At a senior resort, housing, library, clubs, etc.)”

My response: “Charlie, One of the problems I am trying to identify is how to get the event set up. Would you send me an e-mail about how you cause ‘free presentations’ to occur.”

Charlie did just that in step-by-step detail that he also asked me to keep confidential as he considers it proprietary.  In my promise to do so, I asked him, however, if I could quote what I thought was the most significant – and not proprietary – insight.  He agreed:

“My experience.  Before speaking, very few in the audience would buy a book.  After being entertained and making a connection with the audience, well over 70% buy a book.

Booking an engagement is the MOST difficult part of doing a FREE speaking engagement.   (…)

Prepare a promotion letter, offering to make a free speech at the church, senior citizen housing, veteran group, library, etc., where you wish to speak.  And, mail them out.  Include email and telephone number.  Or, solicit speaking engagements with a cold phone call to the facility but make sure to have prepared statement.”

What I read in Charlie’s formula is simple:  Do the damn work!  I must admit I get depressed and exhausted, so these words are somewhat inspiring to me. 

An actual plan that got implemented during the month:  Pen-L Publishing’s Kindle Promotion. Pen-L dropped the Kindle price to 99 cents on all books in their catalogue and asked Pen-L authors to promote them down their channels.  They are willing to share with us that “seventeen days into our promotion, of the 40 titles included in the sale, 30 have attracted buyers who purchased 358 Kindles since January 14. The range per title is 1 to 30, with one outlier who did a paid promotion and simultaneously promoted at two sites (eReaderNewsToday and Kindle Books Today) and sold 153 copies.”  My personal result was 3.  I am still working down my channels.  I think sending your love for Valentine’s Day in a tangible way with a Kindle book is an idea that can’t be beaten.  Take a look at Pen-L’s page.  You’ll see a lot of old friends as well as maybe some new ones.  Kissing 10 girls for less than ten bucks is a great deal in my mind.  If you like it, you might want to try it with your own books.

It became my personal challenge finally to get something going on Facebook.  I still have Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and others to do.  I continue to resist them as a time sump, but it looks to me like it is working for someone.

 

Review (3) in ROUNDUP Magazine

ROUNDUP Magazine, published bi-monthly by Western Writers of America, has asked me to do a (third) review. Coming in 2015, you can read it here, now:

ETHAN J. WOLFE. The Regulator. Five Star. Hardcover. 232 pages, $25.95, cengage.com.

The subtitle says Soldier. Sniper. Lawman. That just about covers it all. Except Congressman!

President Garfield summons Murphy, no first name, from his Congressional seat to resume his service, (he was once in the Secret Service to Grant), now as a lawman. His charge: to find and apprehend a sniper who kills railroad track workers and whole families of settlers.

Over the course of a few weeks, he invents forensic science and kills the killer. Aside from both hunted and hunter being snipers, the reader learns Murphy’s painful past makes him one of a feather with the insane killer.

Along the way, man gets his quarry and girl gets him.
—Edward Massey

Publisher’s Valentine Day Promotion

Pen-L Publishing, publisher of Every Soul Is Free, is out to spread the love with a Valentine’s Day promotion on Kindle at 99 cents.  Connect with Pen-L.com or with Amazon directly  for a truly low cost way to send a meaningful Valentine’s Day gift and, of course, tell all your friends and family about this special deal.  Duke Pennell tells me the special runs through February 14, so act now.

Interview on Tom Rizzo’s StoryTeller’s 7

One of the reasons I committed to Western Fictioneers to publish a blog the first Monday of every month was to find out how blogs generate traffic. The first one has already led to an interview, now published by a highly respected blogger, Tom Rizzo. I thought about importing it here, but I am so impressed by the work Tom does and his website that I want to send you to him. Please click here and see what a good job he did.