A Touch of Magick

I highly recommend A Touch of Magick in Uxbridge. They were absolutely amazing for the author signing with me, S. M. Nevermore, and Sheryl Lynn Kimball.

They even took out a half-page ad promoting our event!

They handed out flyers and promoted us on social media. Just an amazing experience all around.

Please stop by and visit them.

https://www.facebook.com/pg/LisaSheaAuthor/photos/?tab=album&album_id=2396139003775430

Deer Ticks and Doxycycline

I found a fully fed deer tick behind my knee this morning. Bob pulled it off but it managed to escape, so I couldn’t send it in for testing. I did go in to the clinic to get Doxycycline which should prevent Lyme disease.

If you don’t know about tick testing, I highly recommend it. You just send them the tick in a Ziplock and in 3 days they email you a full report about any diseases that tick carries.

Watch out for ticks! Lyme disease isn’t any fun.

https://www.tickreport.com/

I wore my Wicked Good Books t-shirt for good luck so I’m invincible 🙂

The doctor who treated me told me that, just that very day, her own son had been diagnosed with Lyme disease. They never even saw the tick. Now they have to deal with Lyme as an established illness in his body. She was really interested in my experiences with the UMass-Amherst program that tests and reports on ticks. Here’s info on Lyme and doxycycline. 

https://www.hopkinslyme.org/lyme-disease/treatment-and-prognosis-of-lyme-disease/

A friend warned me about another issues which ticks can carry, which relate to red meat consumption –

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alpha-gal-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20428608

Here’s information about ticks in general –

https://www.massaudubon.org/learn/nature-wildlife/insects-arachnids/ticks/about

Amazon and Book Titles

An update on Amazon’s paperback rule change in regards to the word “books” in a title.


I first published my Black Cat compilation book five years ago, in 2014, via CreateSpace (Amazon). The book’s official ISBN (ID number) has the title “Black Cat Volumes 1-31”. ISBNs are set in stone when a book is created. I recently had to update this book – and Amazon is refusing to let the edit through with the word “Volumes” in the title. They are requiring me to change the title to “Stories”. They said they’d assist with the required Bowker change (Bowker controls all ISBNs in the US).


Why did Amazon make this rule change for paperbacks? Apparently a few customers were complaining when they placed an order on Amazon for something called “Books 1-5” and they just got one book. They believed they were going to get multiple books. Amazon therefore required, as of about a year ago, all authors loading new paperbacks to not use the term “books” in their titles.


I understand that.


But, due to that new rule, Amazon now puts a block on the editing of any EXISTING paperback title and does not not allow the change to go through. Amazon requires the paperback title to be altered – in a world where book ISBNs are supposed to be permanent and final – in order to soothe their buying public. Amazon could have handled this concern in a variety of other ways. They could have an indicator on the book detail page showing how many physical items the customer would receive. They could have made the length and width and page count far more visible. And so on.
Instead, Amazon is in essence censoring the book title in order to fix a customer service perception issue.


Until now my Black Cat series was still OK because it said “Volumes 1-31” and not “Books 1-31”. But this weekend, Amazon blocked my edit on this book because of the word “Volumes”. I talked with them in person on the phone. Their new policy is to not let the word “Volumes” show up on a paperback book. And, again, let’s remember this book has been live and selling on their system for 5 years without issue. The only reason this came up was because I had to change it.


So that seems iffy. They should either make the change across the board to all CreateSpace / KDP paperback books or they should grandfather in pre-rule books. Otherwise it’s only authors who need to update their books who get penalized by this loss of link functionality and search engine traffic and so on. Because, since a paperback book URL contains in it the name of the book, I am assuming the URL is going to change when the title changes, meaning all my old links are going to break.


Just another item for authors to be aware of. Amazon has a tendency to change their rules for their own benefit. They rarely worry much about how it’s going to impact authors. Because they’ll change rules to be easiest for them, the aftermath is often unfairly felt by different groups of authors. We’ve seen this happen before with the table-of-contents-up-front issue and so on.


Ask with any questions!

ArtisticChecks Not Working

In December 2016 I ordered photo checks from ArtisticChecks.com, with my photo of Manchaug Falls.

Somehow pens NEVER write consistently on these checks. They always skip and miss sections. I’ve tried every type of pen imaginable. I kept blaming the pen.

Clearly it’s the checks.

It’s taken until now for me to get so frustrated that I’m ordering new ones from Bradford.

Do you do that? Keep struggling with something rather than just replace it?

Why do we do this to ourselves? 🙂

Lisa Signing in Salem

I had a 3-hour book signing in the Salem bookstore Wicked Good Books this past Sunday, June 23rd, 2019. Thank you to Samantha for keeping me company all day and Lynn R for coming out to meet me for dinner – that was delightful! Here’s how it went.

First, the Wicked Good Books location is just about perfect for my Black Cat series. My series is set in Salem and is about a detective solving mysteries. This bookstore continually sells out of my book. So that is one key in working with a bookstore. If you can find that kind of exact match, it does well for both of you. It makes the bookstore happy and you, the author, happy.

Because I am one of their featured authors, they gave me the opportunity to sit in front of their store for a few hours to promote my books. This section of Salem is a pedestrian-only zone. People come out to stroll, window shop, walk their dogs, and enjoy the sunshine. It was perfect weather for a Sunday. So this provides the “built in foot traffic” requirement for a good author signing. People were absolutely out walking around.

Also, with me sitting in front of a bookstore, clearly people near here were interested in books. Probably they were interested in books about Salem. Were they all interested in short mysteries? Probably not, but that’s OK. Enough people would be that it would work out all right.

The bookstore had sold out of my books again in early June so really I was just bringing in another batch of 20 books for them to sell. I didn’t want to sell all 20 on the street because then I’d have to drive in yet again with more books for them to sell. I suppose I could mail my signed books to them, but postage is fairly expensive, and my books are heavy, so it makes sense for me to drive them in. So my vague target was 5 books. That way I’d hand-sign some books for visitors to build that connection. I’d still leave enough books in the shop for them to have them available during their busy summer season. I’d have to drive some out anyway again before they got into the late summer. I don’t mind driving in warmer weather when it’s light out.

I ended up selling six books to fans, which was just right. I also had an herbalist shop owner ask me for three books to put in her shop a few blocks away. That means I’m now represented in two different Salem shops. So I got additional placement simply for being there.

On the downside, it means I only got 11 books into the bookstore itself and they’ll need more again soon. So I’ll have to coordinate that. It takes a full day of time for me to drive out, visit a while, and drive home again. I tend to be extremely busy to I can’t do that very often. So that’s something to balance out.

Still, overall, the keys were this:

* Bookstore was perfectly targeted for my content. Note I don’t have ANY of my other books in this store. It’s not worth it. They wouldn’t sell as well. Find those bookstores which are a perfect match for your book and focus on them.

* I did a ton of promotion leading up to this event. Even if people weren’t coming out to buy my book there, they were buying it online. Use any event as an opportunity to blitz publicity in a way that feels supportive rather than promotional.

* Weather was perfect. Pray to the weather gods.

* I forgot my phone in the car. Usually I would be tweeting and posting the entire time to drum up traffic. While I did miss doing that, it meant I was 100% engaged with any visitor who came by. I admit by the end of the day I was happy to sit back and see if people wanted to come to me. I really didn’t want to sell any more books direct, because it would mean fewer books for the store longer term. But in general, don’t stare at your phone. Don’t talk to a friend. Be there and available to visitors. Look interested in talking.

Ask with any questions!

Wicked Good Books – https://www.wickedgoodbookstore.com/

Black Cat series – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00O3841BO/

Jane Nozzolillo Book Signing Results

First, a reminder that my seminar at the Sutton Public Library tonight, Tuesday, June 25th, 2019 at 6-8pm, is on social networking. Facebook, Twitter. Instagram. If you aren’t using those systems efficiently or easily, come on out. I’ll help you get on the right path. It’s important to use and build up those systems so you can easily sell books. It doesn’t take a lot of time when done well. You can hate them if you want. Just use them and go on with your life.

Now, on to the fun stuff.

As we know, Jane Nozzolillo just released her latest children’s book. It’s about a cat who moves in to the Grafton Historical Society. We got the book done just in time for the Grafton Antique Festival. Jane sold 10 of her books there. That’s a great result! Kudos to Jane!

Here’s a few reasons why it went so well. These are things all of us should try to keep in mind as we plan our own author signings.

First, the Grafton Antique Fair has a built-in draw of people wanting to buy things. This is KEY. People were actively coming to the event with a mindset of buying. There was already heavy traffic. Jane was there to take advantage of that.

Jane had an item which perfectly fit into that atmosphere. Her book is about the historical society. It would appeal to people at an antique’s fair. Sure, the people coming to the fair might be older people, but they would know someone to buy the book FOR. Remember, you don’t have to grab the interest of the person in front of you. You just have to show them that your book would be great for someone they KNOW. 

The weather definitely helped. If it was pouring rain, she might not have gotten as many sales. That’s out of our control but worth mentioning.

Important, though, is that Jane is a delightful person to talk with. I’ve been to many author signings where the author is staring at their phone twiddling with things. A visitor tends to walk on by. Jane actively engages and talks with people. People love that. That absolutely generates sales.

So the keys here are:

* Select an event with built-in foot traffic. Not just necessarily an “authors are here” but a “something exciting is happening”.

* Have your book themed to match with that traffic. The better the match, the better the sales.

* Pray for good weather :).

* Be present! Be mindful! Put down the phone. Stop talking with your neighbors. Be there for the VISITOR. The more you are there, actively available to talk with a visitor, the more sales you will get. Yes, it’s not always easy. The phone is tempting. Fellow authors are tempting. Resist. Be there for visitors. It makes an incredible difference.

Ask with any questions, and I hope to see you tonight!

Thank you to Deborah W. for supporting Jane and for taking these photos!

Remember to mark your calendar for our next Sutton Writing Group meeting on Thursday July 11th, 2019 from 6-7:45pm.

Authors and Counterfeit Books

Here’s an important article for all authors to read. It’s from the New York Times.

Amazon holds a near-monopoly on book sales, but they do not “vet” incoming books in any way. They just trust that a book being posted is real. “The Sanford Guide to Antimicrobial Therapy” is a critical medical handbook. The company, concerned about fake copies with errors being on Amazon, did a test buy of 34 different copies from different Amazon vendors. 30 of them were counterfeits. Someone had scanned and then republished their book.

Numerous authors are now finding that their works have been stolen. Sometimes a counterfeit (mimic of real) version is loaded up in the new / used marketplace. Sometimes the thief changes the cover, author name, title and starts selling the content as their own new work.

Something to keep an eye on.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/23/technology/amazon-domination-bookstore-books.html

This is an example of a counterfeit book. A thief bought the original book, scanned it, and republished it. But they somehow mis-spelled the author’s name on the cover when they made their own version of it. Their aim was to trick people into buying their version of this book rather than the real one. 

This is an example of a content-stolen book. And it shows that it’s not only best sellers being hit by this. The author on the left wrote his book about classic video games. Someone bought his book and scanned the content. The thief then tweaked the title, changed the author name and cover, and published it as a new book. That’s shown on the right.

I wouldn’t “panic” about the thieves. Keep writing. Keep publishing. Be aware that this is going on and do occasional searches in Amazon to see if you find a fake copy of your book in there, either under your name or someone else’s.

The article also talks about the issues of fake reviews and how Amazon is trying to clamp down on those. Amazon is currently a “Wild West” with fake reviews, biased reviews, and fake content running fairly rampant. We’ll see many changes in the upcoming years as Amazon tries to get a handle on all of that.  While some authors might sometimes grouse about the changes, it’s important for all authors that Amazon’s system have authentic, trustworthy content and reviews in their system. These are all growing pains.

Ask with any questions!

MassHealth and Health Connector in Massachusetts

I work with quite a lot of authors and artists in Massachusetts. Many of them are turning to art or writing because they have medical issues which prevent them from “going out” to work. While they are building up their art or writing business, they’re required by Massachusetts law to have health coverage. Also, it’s just good sense to proactively take care of your health before things get serious.

Because health care options can be so confusing, I decided to put together a page of what I understand about MassHealth and the Health Connector programs in Massachusetts. Note that I’m not a lawyer so it’s always best to verify actual numbers for yourself.

First, to begin with, the US government has a program called Medicaid. Medicaid is a nation-wide safety net to ensure that people who have no other option can at least get basic care. Every state chooses how they implement this program. Here’s the details on Medicaid:

Health and Human Services (HHS) page on Medicaid

So here in Massachusetts, we have named our Medicaid program “MassHealth” (with no space). MassHealth is the program that provides a safety net for people of low income, for the elderly, for pregnant women, for children, for those with disabilities, and so on.

MassHealth on Mass.gov webpage

The income level is tied to Federal poverty levels. The cutoff is updated every year, around March it seems. Here is the chart for March 2018.

MassHealth Income Level Guidelines

So, for an example, an individual adult (i.e. no dependents) would make $1,397 or less a month in order to qualify.

I’ve talked with MassHealth and they understand that some people have seasonal fluctuations. If you make less money in the winter and then more money in the summer, if you occasionally cross over that $1,397 (or whatever) limit, that is OK. They don’t want you filing and refiling every week for temporary blips. As long as your yearly income stays within the same range that is OK.

If you DO cross up out of the MassHealth range, which is currently $18,090 for an individual for a year –

Mass Health Connector Page – look for the Affordability Schedule

You then cross into the Massachusetts Health Connector. This is a support system to help people who are not in the poverty range but who still need health insurance to be able to find it. Not all jobs offer health insurance, after all.

So on this chart, for 2018, if you make $18,091 to $24,120/yr in salary you would pay between $44/mo to $58/mo for your health insurance.

If you make between $24,121 to $30,150/yr in salary you would pay between $84/mo and $106/mo for your health insurance.

These are of course the base prices. If you had some sort of a horrific accident and required all sorts of surgery and medication and therapy, there are undoubtedly deductibles and other extra costs involved. We’re just talking about the base cost to be covered.

The Affordability Schedule contains all the details about different income levels and how much base health insurance costs.

Once you get covered by the Mass Health Connector, you can now choose from their available plans to determine which company you want to go with. They work with the standard plans you’ve heard about – BlueCross BlueShield, Fallon, Delta Dental, and so on. You choose which one works best for you. You get your monthly bill from the Mass Health Connector and you just pay that every month.

So there are options out there. Research to see what works best for you. Good luck!

Three Free Books on Publishing

I’m running a FREE promotion on Kindle for books 3-4-5 in my Author’s Essentials series. Get whichever ones you want or grab all three. These are part of what I teach in my in-person free writing seminars. Ask with any questions!

Book 3 on Choosing a Path is here-

https://www.amazon.com/Getting-Published-Traditional-Publishing-Essentials-ebook/dp/B073T8FL8W/

Book 4 on Traditional / Large Press / Small Press publishing –

https://www.amazon.com/Traditional-Publishing-Step-Publisher-Essentials-ebook/dp/B073T8RKQJ/

Book 5 on Self-Publishing step by step (including Amazon paperbacks, Amazon Kindle, and other systems) –

https://www.amazon.com/Self-Publishing-Step-Everything-Self-Publish-ebook/dp/B073WXBPXX/