Plowing and Sowing

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


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  … 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?


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.

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.


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 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.

Holiday Gift of an Edward Massey Book

Xmas graphic

Here’s how it works:

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, $18.00, price includes mailing
  • Telluride Promise, $12.00, price includes mailing
  • Gift set, both books, $25.00, price includes mailing

Go to for twenty terrific reviews and, of course, if you prefer, buy the book on Kindle.

Happy Holidays.

Choose book(s)
Desired inscription

When Your Art Doesn’t Sell

Nicholas Wilton has been a friend of Anne’s, and now mine, for many years. He has many studios representing him and a thriving studio-based mentoring business. In all respects, he is the man who has conquered the problem of making a living from art. Lo, brings he this wonderful blog, When Your Art Doesn’t Sell, and without going into too much detail, it is a breath of life. Thanks, Nick.

The New Conservatism is an Oxymoron

I’m not sure that rants are a good way to sell novels, but I am sure that most political writers don’t come anywhere near as close to the truth as a good novelist.  Why is that a surprise?  Shouldn’t be.  After all, every novelist I know pledges to himself to write the truth.  Don’t personally know any political writers, but I wonder if that is their pledge.  Based on what I read, I doubt it.  Back to my original point.  The new conservatism is an oxymoron.  If it is respectful of conservative principles, it is not new.  If it is new, it is not conservative.  Yes, new 100 years ago may be conservative today, but that is just the point.  A new conservative is just as phony as a new antique.

Financial advice that advises cheating.

Over the weekend, 8/23-24/14, the WSJ published an article that tried to present a strategy for Grandparents providing 529 plans to their grandchildren and then hiding them from the colleges to which those children applied.

To take just two quotes: “Grandparents increasingly are opening such (529) accounts to help cover their grandchildren’s college costs. But their well-intentioned efforts could hurt students’ chances for getting financial aid…[and seven paragraphs later] The problem is most acute when students would otherwise qualify for financial aid based on their parents’ finances.”

Sheriff Simms is extremely concerned about how he passes on lessons to his grandson. I am extremely concerned about how we establish, support, and transmit solid values to our next generation. I am also a willing participant in supporting education costs for grandchildren.

Taken in total, the premise of the article offends me. In short, it is an article that encourages everybody to cheat. I know it’s tough and I know people scramble for every advantage they can cadge and I witness a daily assault on society’s belief in honest self-reliance, but sometimes I just cannot take it anymore. It is like recommending that I — of grandparent age — put all of my assets in a trust the beneficiary of which is my children so that I will qualify for Medicaid when they put me in the nursing home.

Parents often need help in financing the college education of their children (last I checked, the need amounted to 87% of all families). That they have received help is something to report honestly, not hide and obfuscate so that the money that is provided in help can be saved to spend on some purpose the WSJ writer did not explore.

Perhaps there is a more valuable place to spend your money than on helping your grandchildren get educated. Well, one such place is to provide for your old age. So, what you cannot give them, you cannot give them. But, let another few voices scream with me, what you can give them, do not lie about.

July in Maine, salvaged

anne1 My July is spent in Maine, well, commuting to Maine, because Anne spends July at Drakes Island.  After a few years, I started to look forward to July in Maine.  Now I do.  So, this year, truncated and chopped up, turned out to be a frustrating disappointment, ended already on Sunday the 20th, and without once going in the water.  So, you can imagine how happy I was to see Anne in the waves on Tuesday and now I share her with you