Aim High or Not?

When I was the financial analysis guy for a large department store chain, I was asked to develop a method to evaluate advertising costs related to the benefits of increased revenue.  The CEO asked me to tell him if he spent an extra $1 in promotion costs what kind of return would he get.  I spent considerable time analyzing various ways to track and measure the impact of advertising; but one of the issues was that there had never been a time in the company’s history when they didn’t spend a considerable sum on promotion.

One of my recommendations to the CEO was that the company should stop advertising for a period of time allowing us to establish a benchmark on what revenues would be without any promotion.  The look in his eye seemed to suggest he was considering tossing me out of his office window.  It was only the third story but my chances of survival were not good.  Thankfully, he chose another option.  He thanked me and did not speak to me for weeks.  It was conveyed to me by one of his assistants that he thought I was an idiot.  He also increased the adverting budget 20% without any factual justification.

While he was the one who asked the question, he knew that there was no way he was going to risk his job by suddenly decreasing or even lowering advertising expenditures.  To deal with the increased promotion costs he cut the staff.  He didn’t get to be CEO by being dumb.

My book sales are driven by promotion.  If I stop advertising, book sales drop to almost nothing.  The only exception to this, is to put out a new book; which will generate short term increases in sales for all of my books.  The problem I have is very similar to the department store CEO years ago, how do I justify spending money on promotion when I cannot measure results.  Sure, I can measure number of books sold during the one-day or two-day promotion; and if that is the measure I should stop all promotions, because I do not generate a profit from those days.  I see this all of the time from “experts” advising how to measure your book sales based on ROI.  I spent $100 and got a bump in sales that brought me $150—okay, no problem; I will do those promotions each and every day.  But how about if I spent $100 and received $40?  That looks like I should stop all promotions.

Of course the problem is how to measure and for how long.  If I run a promotion today and sell books a week from then—did that promotion have anything to do with that?  Or how about in my case I sell some books but also have an increase in pages read (which I receive some compensation from Kindle Unlimited) but can’t really put an exact number on that.  In essence it’s the same problem as my old CEO; stop all promotion and see what happens.

I’ve sort of done that in the past.  No promotions equal zero (or close to it) book sales.  Okay that’s a known; but should you spend $100 to generate $40?  If I had staff, which I don’t, I would follow the tried and true path, and would increase the promotion budget and fire the staff. 

There is another approach to this problem, which I have advised many times as a wise (and expensive) consultant—when in doubt do nothing!  This follows the principle of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”  During my days as a business consultant the most common approach taken by business leaders was always postponement.  While we have the image of business owners/leaders as aggressive “let’s do something new and different” types; the reality is that most successful businesspeople are reluctant to change anything.  I’ve advised people staring at bankruptcy who were reluctant to change anything, including the high-priced brother-in-law who was as dumb as a rock.  Change means responsibility.  The people who most often have tremendous ideas on how to change things often work in the warehouse.  They have nothing to risk, so their advice is throw out the bath water and the baby.  Baby is often the current leader/president/CEO of the business; warehouse people have no fear.

If you follow my blog you know I have this love hate thing with advertising/promotion.  I just want to magically have massive book sales and basically be left alone.  That’s not going to happen.  So the question is the same; what should I do, nothing or something?

I’ve decided to stop whining (I’m sure you can appreciate that, if you’ve read this far) and re-double my efforts on advertising.  Also I’m going to get back to work and finish the two books in progress.  Of course taking a more aggressive approach to marketing, costs money; and since I don’t have the staff to fire, I will have to cut my own pay.  Based on my analysis a twenty percent reduction of nothing is more than doable and reflects my overall commitment to myself.  Recognizing all along I was going to change whatever plan I decided on for this month by next month, the long-term consequences will be minimal.


Baseball folly?  Okay, enough already!  Both sides should immediately compromise.  It’s time for baseball—I’m tired of these scripted TV shows.  We need real drama—bottom of the ninth inning drama.  Go Rockies!

Thanks for being a reader!

In case your interest The Bootlegger’s Legacy ebook is FREE today on Amazon.

Jerry-rigging–a family tradition

Owning an ice cream parlor in my early twenties was the beginning of a long career in business.  During times when I was not self-employed, I offered my services as a financial person—usually a Controller, Consultant or CFO.  As such I knew, or was expected to know, how to make businesses work better.  I understood the rules and how not to follow them to achieve results.

What I was not was “handy” as in handyman.  Sure, I did home repairs and fix-ups, but I was not very good at it; I was a jerry-rigger.  My tools of the trade were tape, glue, wire, screws and pooky.  Yes, the oft shamed gooey stuff that could be used to “repair” almost anything.  Now, I believe, there are a lot of other meanings of this non-word.  Some of them are no doubt offensive, I’m not using the word in that manner—it could also be called goop.  So if pooky is offensive, Word keeps correcting it to poky, let’s stick with goop.

Jerry-rigging came to me naturally.  My father was a jerry-rigger.  He could fix anything with wire—his best go-to staple.  My father had some not-very-interesting stories of fixing various cars with wire.  From tires, exhaust pipes to engine problems, wire was the essential ingredient for any by-the-side-of-the-road emergency repairs.  He would often intone philosophically how his father was not a wire man but had been a devotee of rope.  Different time –different forms of transportation.  These musings seem to imply that dad had improved on granddad’s dated methods.  The next generation tops the old folks, once again.

Because of this unspoken family tradition, I own an unusual amount of wire.  I really seldom use the wire (I’m a tape guy), but it gives me a warm feeling to carry on the family tradition.

My older brother was, of course, a jerry-rigger.  He actually turned this skill into an impressive career.  He was one of the very early (1960s) computer programmers.  He actually dealt with wired boards to instruct machines on what to do—more wire.  The early computers were incredibly dumb and opaque.  He had a natural ability (thanks dad!) to work around the machines that mimicked the use of wire and rope to achieve an outcome that did not match the textbook approach; but got results others couldn’t.  He was hailed as a genius, although it was only jerry-rigging like grandpa; only with different kinds of machines.

Now, if you’re a jerry-rigger and a gooper, you can end up with one hell of a mess.  This ugly mess can sometimes be covered up with tape but often even tape won’t help.  At this point the jerry-rigger starts thinking about things to cover the handyman’s completed task, that now looks like crap.  Cardboard is the resource that always comes in handy.  Cardboard, tape maybe a screw or two and viola—it looks brand new.  Maybe a little paint would help?

Today I’m an author.  My dad didn’t write, nor my granddad; they would probably think it was not much like work at all.  Sitting at a desk all day staring off into space cannot be work, can it?  I write fiction, which in itself might be a form of jerry-rigging.  I tell a story that is made up.  If something is not going right in the story, I just change it—apply a little goop; and its all fixed.  Editing is the ultimate goop.  My slip-shod writing is patched up by competent editors—it’s the way of the writing world.  Just get it on paper, and we can fix this mess.

I look out at the mess the world is in and wonder if it is time for a re-write.  Could we do better?  Sure some of the mess would be in the re-write, we still need flawed people or there’s no plot; but maybe a little less flawed.  Maybe we could jerry-rig some of our flawed systems—shouldn’t everyone have the basic minimums in life, food, water, air, health care, shelter?  How do we do that?  Do we want to do that?

It may sound odd but when I was in business and things weren’t going well; I felt great.  Sure, I didn’t want bad outcomes, but I never felt more alive or engaged as when I was trying to fix problems.  Most business activities come down to just that, fixing what is broken.  Sales are slow—get to work on better products, better advertising, better customer service, better………; stop complaining and fix it. 

Maybe we need more wire, pooky, goop, screws, cardboard or whatever, along with a bunch of jerry-riggers so we can get stuff fixed—it’ll be fun.  And, if the results are not perfect, we can cover most mistakes with a good coat of paint.

Thanks for being a reader!

Alerting The Reader

A reader said the characters in The Bootlegger’s Legacy were boring.  His comment ZZZZZ.  Okay, it’s one of those reader reviews I should ignore and wish the person good health and happiness.  Well, maybe not happiness.  The two characters he was referencing are Mike and Joe.  Mike is the son of the bootlegger in the title and Joe is his best friend since second grade.

The excitement in this book is not thriller stuff—it was not intended to be.  It is about two ordinary guys who stumbled across a mystery about the past and see it as a way to make their lives more meaningful.  Not massive bomb blasts or twenty people mowed down in a hail of bullets.  Nothing close to political overthrow of the government; just a couple of guys trying to figure out how to live.  Maybe that is mundane.

So more than likely the reader was expecting action (which I think means greater risk to the protagonist—like a thriller, or maybe more graphic violence).  Either way that is not this book.  So was the book misclassified?  How, as a reader not familiar with the author, do you determine if the book is something you’re interested in reading?  Probably by the description provided by the author, the genre of the book or reader (or editorial) reviews. 

First the description on the book’s page on Amazon.

“Joe and Mike, middle-aged losers, have discovered the promise of abundant riches and a better life; if they can only solve the cryptic clues from the past. Clues left by Mike’s bootlegger dad, whose legacy is immorality and astonishing wealth. Mike finds a troubling family history and Joe discovers his love for someone already dead. This adventure of discovery may lead to happiness or misery; but they will not be able to stop themselves from unlocking the past. The answers will surprise everyone.”

I’m not proud of my descriptions.  It is one of my many weaknesses.  I have trouble with hype or hyperbole and therefore, they all sound kind of boring or flat.  So if that reader read the boring description and expected something else, that can’t be the problem of mischaracterizing the book.

The genre of the book is mystery.  Well, that covers a ton of books from one extreme to another.  There is a sub-group of Cozy Mysteries which this book might fit into, except for my use of gritty language.  Of course I’m not real sure what the actual dividing line on cozy verses regular mysteries is—so who knows maybe it is, or maybe it isn’t.  Definitely this book was never intended to be a thriller with lots of high tension moments putting the characters at risk of losing their lives. 

There are no sub-classifications regarding mystery; in-depth character development or mystery; fun story with only a little violence—so the huge pool of mystery can, of course, lead to not finding the mystery book you were looking for.  I often think of my books more along the lines of British mystery books with a slower pace and more dialogue—but they are not the same.  That quality can be boring to some readers looking for action.

This book has another element that can be confusing.  There is a flash back to the life of the bootlegger in the 1950s.  And any real “action” in the story occurs there.  Most of the mayhem is “off-camera,” but the main characters in this section of the book are put at risk.  Pat (the bootlegger) and Sally (his mistress) have contact with the bad guys in this part of the book.  Their lives are at risk and the action drives a main point of the plot.

So I suppose you could say that the flashback portion is more of a thriller than the current time portion.  The reviewer I mentioned at the beginning did not refer to the characters in the flashback section as being boring (only Mike and Joe); so maybe the reviewer thought that portion was okay and was only giving a snoring review for one portion of the book.

The last way to evaluate a book (other than reading it—even at full regular price e-books are cheap) is reviews.  The Bootlegger’s Legacy received good reviews from several professional reviewers including Kirkus.  Also, the book received a Benjamin Franklin award.  There are 236 reader reviews on Amazon with an average rating of 4.3 stars out of 5.  But, of course, some reviewers may have better insight than others—how would you know?  Obviously, you wouldn’t.

I have often said this is my best book.  Not necessarily the writing, more the narrative.  The Pat and Sally story as a flashback I think is a great tale of very different people who meet for a short time but leave a lasting impression on many people.  I greatly enjoy those stories of people’s lives that impact the future of so many others—and I thought this was a good one.

So this blog seems to be me promoting my book, okay; maybe.  But it did not start that way.  I am very concerned about how to help readers select the best books for them to read.  In that regard I’m going to re-write all of the descriptions of the books with a new emphasis on less promotion and more information.

Attempt 2.

“The Bootlegger’s Legacy is a non-thriller adventure by two ordinary guys, Joe and Mike, whose lives have hit a wall.  Desperate for money to solve their problems they embark on a lark to find treasure from the past.  The past is about Mike’s father who was a bootlegger in 1950s Oklahoma and his accumulation of great wealth and his illicit love affair with the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.  That legacy of wealth and love drive the later story of self-discovery and fulfillment by the next generation.  Great characters, some romance, some adventure and a bit of humor.”

I don’t know, I think I like the current description better than the new one?  Guess I will try again, later.

Or maybe the approach should be full-on bullshit—

“#1 New York Times national bestseller by one of the best authors writing today; The Bootlegger’s Legacy by superstar author Ted Clifton.  This book has been nominated for every award in existence and is currently being made into both a TV series and a major Hollywood movie.  The Bootlegger’s Legacy is so popular that, if you do not buy it today, all copies could be gone.  Currently the e-book is on sale at only $4.99 from the regular price of $129.99—what a bargain!”  Note; only 5 star positive reviews are currently being accepted for this book per agreement with anybody who matters.

Next book genre, fantasy.

Thanks for being a reader!

Writer and Book Salesman

Indie writers are actually in the business of selling books.  It happens to be books they’ve written, but it is still book peddling. 

For an indie author the first step of producing a book is, of course, writing the book; but also having it edited, cover designed, building the structure of the book (e-book, paperback, hardback, audio) and then having it produced (printed, file creation etc.)

Next step in selling a book is that old bug-a-boo marketing.  Writing this blog about indie authors and the process of writing, I have covered marketing on numerous occasions.  Usually complaining about the time and money involved and the inability to predict results.  Just because you can write a book does not mean you know diddly about marketing that book.  My approach to all marketing is trial and error with a great emphasis on error. Half of my time devoted to being an author is spent (or wasted) dealing with the marketing aspect of book sales.

I have a web site, blog, newsletter and a data base of email addresses.  Also I participate in other blogs, share marketing ideas with people in the industry including other authors.  I place ads on Amazon, Facebook, Bookbub, Twitter, Instagram, Google, Bing; have also ran ads in some trade publications.  I pay to have ads run on Twitter or Facebook by third parties.  Also I giveaway thousands of e-books, utilizing web sites who market the free books to their audiences—I pay for that privilege. 

Generally, I design my own ads (probably a mistake—but I do not need another fee to pay out).  I subscribe to various software sources to construct these ads.  I will spend several days out of every month designing and placing ads with questionable results.  On occasion I will feel rebellious and decide I’ve had enough of this nonsense and will stop placing ads and giving away books.  Sells go to zero pretty damn fast.  Marketing with all of its complications and headaches is a necessary evil.

The results of all of this marketing effort is book sales.  That was the primary goal and at some level it works; not as well as I would like, but it works.  The other result is book reviews.  Reader reviews have some impact on sales, because other readers read them and also because Amazon likes them.  But reader reviews are a double edge sword.  Some reviewers seem to have anger issues.

Probably one of the most popular and acclaimed books ever written was To Kill a Mockingbird.  On Amazon it has 18,800 reviews (wow!) with 3% of them 1 or 2 stars (there are no zero star reviews –it is not an option with Amazon).  Okay 3% bad reviews that is not a big deal—right?   That 3% for To Kill a Mockingbird is over 500 readers who said this was a bad book, not worth reading.  And none of those 500 received the book in a free book promotion—because the To Kill a Mockingbird people don’t have to do that to find readers.

Marketing books is a chore.  I will spend as much time marketing, promoting, advertising, hawking my books as I do writing them.  Writing is what I do and what I enjoy.  I do not like marketing.

In my previous life as a financial analysist I was asked by my employer (a very large department store) to analyze their advertising/marketing efforts and establish a method to measure the results on a cost/benefit basis.  My first suggestion during a large meeting with the top executives was to not advertise for a period of time to establish a floor to measure marketing results against.  You could only measure results if you know what the results would be with no advertising.  All of their attentive faces turned a ghostly shade of white.  It was a while before anyone spoke.  The CEO thanked me for my suggestion and sent me back to the accounting department to measure less important things like ROI.  The next month they increased their advertising budget.  Better to overspend than to run the risk of no customers.

I could take my own advice and stop marketing for a couple of months and then would have the data to measure the impact of advertising.    It would cut my workload in half and relieve me of all this self-doubt about my marketing skills.  On the other hand, I think I know the results.  After some thought I have decided to double my marketing efforts for next month.  Better to have some books sales (with a few less than perfect reader reviews) than to become a private indie author writing only for myself.  Although if I was the only reader, my reviews would be glowing—unless I was having a bad day.

Thanks for being a reader!

Grandma Rules

A blog about books and writing has no business discussing politics or religion.  I remind myself of that a lot—stay away from divisive subject matters.  Advice given, even to one’s self, can be (and often is) completely ignored. So it shall be again.

George W. Bush made an appeal for unity as part of a pitch to get people to give to some charities supporting various aspects related to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.  He closed with: “Finally, let us remember how small our differences are in the face of this shared threat. In the final analysis, we are not partisan combatants, we are human beings, equally vulnerable and equally wonderful in the sight of God. We rise or fall together, and we are determined to rise.”

In his first election for President, I voted for George, in the second I didn’t.  He wasn’t my favorite Prez and on occasion I’m sure I said some harsh things about his abilities.  But this appeal for unity seemed mild and appropriate for an ex-President.  I gave him a thumbs up and thought even though he had serious issues as President, all in all, he has been a good ex-President.  Soon after his appeal, there was some controversy about his comments which seemed out-of-place considering what he said. 

My first impression had been positive, but It occurred to me that what he said was not true.  First, “our differences are small.”  On what basis would we say our differences are small?  We all breath air?  We eat and sleep?  Okay, there are some things that most of us have in common.  But how about what we think, or what we feel?  We have huge differences on many, many topics.  While some differences might be small, a bunch are colossal.  And the differences are growing.  We are not headed toward a Kumbaya moment.

“we are not partisan combatants”.  I wonder if even George believes that?  Combative seems to be a desired trait for all sorts of people, from TV talking heads, to Senators, to Presidents.  In-your-face attitudes even show up with religious leaders.  Kind, gentle, forgiving might be a good thing for grandma, but the rest of us seem ready to fight.  Bring it on asshole!

“we are human beings”.  Okay, I will give George that one.

“equally vulnerable and equally wonderful in the sight of God”.  In the sight of God is the problem here; who can speak for God (definitely not me; and maybe not George).  So, if we turn to the people who claim to speak for God, is this true?  Of course not.  Almost all of those God spokespersons only find true equality with their fellow travelers; not the strangers standing on the edge.  Yes, my people are all equal (with the exception of the leadership people, such as myself), but all of the others are infidels or something like that.

And finally, “we rise or fall together.”  What a farce.  The inequality in our American society is enormous.  The impacts of this pandemic are not equally spread amongst the classes.  Ask the people working in restaurants, ask the nurses, ask the garbage collectors, ask the grocery store workers, ask the factory workers. 

I’m sure George believed what he said, but that does not make it true. 

If from my comments, you think I have solutions to these issues—you are wrong.  Just like everyone else, all I can do is spout off.  But there does need to be solutions and soon.  Maybe the country needs a grandma to run the show.

Every cloud has silver lining.

Audiobook sales for Dog Gone Lies and Sky High Stakes are going well.  Thank you very much.  This is new ground for me and had no idea how it would start.  Got a couple of ads running and there has been a good kick-off for these audiobooks.  Four Corners War should be available in about a month or so.

Thanks for being a reader/listener!

Community Lost

My focus for most of my life was business; often as a business owner.  Even if this corona virus crisis ended immediately the business world will change.  Many businesses will no longer exist.  Much of what we considered normal about business will not return.  The trend toward on-line purchases will continue and totally destroy the already weak retail organizations. 

Amazon and Walmart will capture an incredible percent of total retail revenue.  That is not good for anyone; maybe not even good for Amazon or Walmart. 

In the 1960s and 70s my father was a retailer in a small town which was next door to a larger city.  He sold shoes.  His customers were his neighbors and friends.  I worked in that store.  It felt like no one came in who didn’t either know my dad or my mom.  He extended credit to the people who needed it—even though he was not rich.  He was active in local politics and was on the school board for many years.  This is the America many people still dream about, although there were huge social problems right under the surface.

In what seemed like an overnight change, two large malls opened in the bigger city.  There were twenty shoes stores in each mall that all opened on the same day—each of those stores was three, four or maybe ten times the size of my dad’s neighborhood store.  His business changed overnight.

Their friends and neighbors still shopped at the local store, but almost immediately the older kids did not.  They wanted to go to the mall and buy from the “cool” stores.  And of course, even many of the friends bought from the mall because their prices were “better.”

I observed that dramatic change in retail close-up.  Many described it as progress.  But almost all of those small businesses that were the beating heart of the smaller town dried up; and their owners no longer had time to meet at the Lions Club or Kiwanis because they had lost their businesses and now were employees somewhere, often in the malls in the larger city.  The small town government and school board became dominated by political activists not local business people.

My dad hung on longer than most.  He worked harder and harder, but the level of business that had once been never returned.  He eventually closed his stores and retired.  What replaced those family shoes stores was different and definitely not something better.  What was lost was a community.


Reader reviews nag at me.  Some are good, even great; some are not.  But I read them, all of them.  Is that good, or just a waste of time? The average review of all of my books is above four stars—so by far the majority of readers like the books.  As I have said before, the majority of bad reviews are because of language.  My use of the F-word is, no doubt, not comfortable to some; and I will occasionally toss in other words that fall into that taboo category. 

But there have been the reviews that seem to suggest I’m an idiot.  The Greek root of idiot means a private person, or later a common man.  Someone who was not an official or important person.  Okay, I might be an idiot.  Of course the word now means a foolish or stupid person.  I might rub some people the wrong way, but I’m not a fool or stupid.  So there!

Of course the reason I’m talking about reviews at all is because they are important to authors.  The reason they are important is that they influence sales.  Better reviews equal better book sales.  The more books you sell; the better life looks.  Yes, the quality of life is determined by book sales—oops that should not be said out-loud.  Sure, there are other factors to happiness, but if you are an author who has spent hundreds if not thousands of hours writing books—book sales are a key element.

Thanks for being a reader!

Grumps Welcome

My nature is not to be a joiner, not keen on group activities, actually abhor enthusiasm.  I know that sounds rather down-beat.  So what!  Yes, I don’t seek out people based on their high-energy quotient.  A high-energy, enthusiastic, up-beat person is someone I would try to avoid.  Okay, so now you’ve got the picture.  (As an aside, I believe I’m a friendly, likable guy—no matter the mental image you just developed.)

Recently had my fist audiobook published on Audible, Amazon and iTunes.  This is a little odd in that it’s the second Pacheco & Chino book—the first one was narrated first, but has not been released from ACX (the production arm of Audible) for some reason. The later book, Sky High Stakes, was approved.  No issues that I’m aware of, so Dog Gone Lies audiobook should be available soon.

Next step is to market the book and let those eager readers/listeners know that the audiobook they were seeking is available—come and get it!  First I talked to some authors I know.  The short answer was—there is no way to market an audiobook.  Okay, not very helpful.  So, next, next step, search the internet.  Now we find all sorts of resources on how to market your audiobook.  Many of these are YouTube presentations—including many from ACX themselves. 

Now in my feeble (pre-author stage) brain I would have said much of the marketing should be done by Amazon or Audible or iTunes since they make money when a book is sold.  Sorry, indie author, we are only casually aware that you even exist.  We let our computers deal with you; our humans are busy working with real authors planning great promotions. 

I’m not even offended.  I know it’s a money thing.  Can’t make big bucks off of an unknown author—they want a big name author, maybe even a celebrity or a famous jerk or hated politician—just a name they can market. 

Now it’s YouTube video time.  Why not go right to the source, ACX.  They must know all of the answers, after all, it is their business.  Just 15 minutes of viewing and I will know all of the secrets to having a successful audio book.

Without any warning, such as a parental advisory, or maybe a boring rating—it just started.  Two up-beat, fast-talking, confident to the extreme (read super annoying) people start talking at some speed obviously designed to maximize the words per second objective of all instructive videos.  In between their over active presentation they would flash a screen full of bullet points that amounted to nothing other than a blur as they swept across the screen and back to the charming people smiling like they were actually doing something.

I watched and I learned that I should use social media to its full advantage—whatever in the hell that meant?  I should mention my audio book often and continue to mention it every time I mention anything until the people I’m mentioning it to start to scream.  Okay, I can do that.  Might make more sense to indicate I would stop mentioning my audio book if they would buy one.  At least it would give them another option rather than avoiding me at all costs.

Have I mentioned that I have a new audio book available………………..

Have I mentioned that I think you would really enjoy it?

My new blog schedule is no schedule.  I expect to have a new post once a month but it may be more depending on what is going on or less depending on what is not going on.

Vegas Dead-End

Hoodoo Brown and his gang

“Big Chief” Chino knew he had fucked up.  Hoodoo Brown was the meanest son-of-a-bitchin’ white man he’d ever met.  He had known a couple of loco Apache warriors who could have matched his violence but few could have matched his lack of humanity.  If Brown discovered the gold Chino had hidden; “Big Chief” would suffer the vilest death possible; nobody fucked Hoodoo Brown.

It was the late 1800’s and much of the uncivilized portions of the United States were a dog-eat-dog existence.  That way-of-life was dramatically demonstrated in Las Vegas, New Mexico.  The town had come into being as part of the Santa Fe Trail; but once the railroad reach this at-the-edge location, a whole new level of prosperity arrived.  Great fortune was accompanied by some of the worst elements in all of humankind.  Each one looking for a fast buck, or at least a moment of guilt free pleasure. 

Some of the most notorious characters of their time found their way to Vegas.  The lure was money and sex.  Often it was also a place to hide.  No lawman entered Vegas without the permission of Hoodoo Brown, who was the Justice of the Peace and County Coroner.  He ran everything with the help of his gang.  He was the law and the law breaker, all wrapped up in one package.

The railroad executives eventually brought a certain form of law and order, but for a time this was a wide open town; with Brown in charge.  It attracted the famous and worst the country had to offer; Doc Holliday, Big-Nose Kate, Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Bob Ford, Wyatt Earp, Rattlesnake Sam, Cock-Eyed Frank, Web-Fingered Billy, Hook Nose Jim, Stuttering Tom, Durango Kid, and Handsome Harry the Dancehall Rustler. 

That is the beginning of a new book Vegas Dead-End, # 4 in the Pacheco & Chino series.  My whole attitude toward this book goes back and forth; from enthused to tired.  I like the characters, but made a decision to end this series after a very difficult time finishing the last book, Four Corners War.  I was going to concentrate on the Vincent Malone books and let Ray Pacheco retire and spend his remaining days fishing.

It was a good plan for all concerned.  The flaw in the plan was that the Pacheco & Chino books sell better than my other books.  That’s good, but also bad.  I can claim my goal in writing books is to produce fine literature; or I could admit my goal is to sell books.  If selling books is the goal, it makes no sense to stop the P&C series since that is what the readers want.  Okay, yes; my goal is to sell books.  So, Vegas Dead-End is in the works.  Full time—whatever in the hell that means to me. 

I have no idea how many books indie authors sell.  As far as I know there is not a source for that data.  What I do know is that there are a ton of indie authors.  One way of knowing that is the amount of service businesses that cater to that audience.  My guess is that the only people making money off of indie books are those service providers.  If the indie book industry is not profitable, why are there so many people selling things to them?  It’s ego.  Indie authors are optimistic to a fault.

The number one marketing tool for indie authors is to give-away books.  Brilliant marketing scheme, spend money with advertisers developing a huge number of readers who only read free books and feed that audience an un-ending supply of such books.  It is embarrassing to me that I’m part of that madness.  Now you can make a case that free books grow an author’s brand, or that other books at full price will be sold because of the free book promotions; and I’m sure some of that is true.  And, of course, there is always the one example of a writer who gave away books and suddenly was discovered by the wider book audience and became an “instant” success.

Can’t blame free book readers—if the authors are dumb enough to offer their books for nothing, it isn’t up to the readers to say no—and complain; I would rather pay you something for your effort.

Then why do authors give away books?  Because it is the most affordable marketing tool available.  An indie author can run ads on Amazon, Facebook, or even Google (or a full page ad in the New York Times—there goes my retirement stash)—but it is expensive and without some kind of hook or name recognition, difficult to cost justify.  Free book sites are cheap and you get results.  It’s just that the results have questionable value. I now have another free book reader who only reads free books. Yippee!

The people who know what an author should do to sell books advise much of the same type of stuff.  Even this blog is considered an essential part of establishing a “brand.”  I’m starting to think a bunch of this is just nonsense. 

My plan right now is to spend time writing books.  The one piece of advice I have received about achieving goals in writing that I believe in the most, is to write.  Just write the best book you can and let the chips fall where they may.  I’m going to discontinue this blog on a regularly scheduled basis and devote the energy associated with this effort towards creating new books.

Not sure if I will be writing a blog a month or just when something occurs that I want to comment on; but not every week.  My monthly newsletter will continue.  If you have not signed up for the email releases, please do so by going to my web site at www.tedclifton.com.

Thanks for being a reader.

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Hope isn’t a strategy

As you get older you tend to stay at home; maybe out of necessity or perhaps desire.  If you’re no longer going to work, it becomes the new normal to stay put; except for trips to the doctor or grocery store.  Even before coronavirus, groceries were being delivered and medical advice was available via telehealth.  Without much thought I had become something of a hermit in the middle of millions of people.  And, it was essentially okay with me.

I have worked within many different business environments; from large corporations to small family operations.  One common thread between these very different worlds was meetings.  Meetings in the massive corporate world often became the job.  Your entire reason for being is to attend or conduct meetings.  The first thing I don’t miss about business engagement is commuting; the second is meetings.  Meetings are normal in big companies but it might surprise you to know they also are normal in small companies.  The amount of time and effort wasted related to meetings must be huge.

Scattered throughout my working life have been periods where I worked for myself.  Except for the lack of financial security, these were my best jobs.  One of those jobs was as a financial consultant.  I helped businesses, large and small, deal with problems.  Usually this was a lack of cash problem and the owner was basically looking for someone to perform magic and fix his poorly run company.  While voodoo may have some benefit for particular ailments it is not very useful for bad management.

If you follow this blog you know that I’m a baseball fan and I’m currently following my favorite team, the Colorado Rockies, in their simulated season.  This is a computer generated simulation of the games based on historical statistics.  So the simulated 2020 season will look much like the 2017-2019 seasons because it is based on that data—interesting but not a real prediction because you cannot predict the surprise outcome—which happens in sports all of the time.  Businesses also use the past to make decisions about the future-even when the past is not good. Just like baseball and the surprise MVP no one expected; businesses are now dealing with a surprise of mega proportions. A pandemic that has shut down a significant portion of economic activity. Planning a strategy for this circumstances is almost impossible. Hope is the strategy.

A financial consultant for a troubled company is being asked to recommend changes that will correct past errors—and almost always the company will retain the bad management that caused the problems in the first place.  No consultant recommends the owner/CEO be fired and replaced with someone halfway competent—because it is the owner/CEO who hired you.

So the consultant recommends the same ol’ “improvements,” holds a bunch of meetings, writes a report—and leaves with a check.  Knowing that nothing will change and soon the company will be bankrupt.  It’s just a game; because the one recommendation that makes sense is not an option.

Today we are in a financial situation for all businesses that has never been seen before.  There is no historical reference.  There are no proven methods to form a basis to establish a game-plan.  Even firing the current management would not fix this problem. 

The businesses that are thriving right now (Amazon, Walmart, Netflex, Instacart, Dominos Pizza, Clorox) will dominate the recovery.  Every other business will be on the ropes.  While I believe that to be true it is not based on any analysis of past experience because there is no data from the past to use as a basis of forecasting the future.  My best guess is that staying at home becomes the new normal.  We give up freedom and unlimited options for security and comfort. 

Meetings, the true lifeblood of so many businesses, become less frequent. Sure you can teleconference but you need good equipment and patience to make it work without glitches. It might start to occur to everyone that the point of the meeting was no longer relevant. Plus everything is so depressing. The owner/CEO never listened anyway.

Business activity will change forever, our interactions with fellow humans will not be the same, congregating will become taboo.  Nothing will stay the same.

While that new world might fit me—for many it will be difficult.  Human connections had become more tenuous before the coronavirus; but after, they will become frayed to the point of breaking.  What that brings may be worse than the virus.  Let’s hope not.

For a rather bleak analysis of the science behind the modeling for this pandemic and how that will impact reality going forward read this Defense One article


Ignoring the top portion of this blog, I think my best attribute as a writer is my humor.  Every book I have written, even the droll Muckraker series, has humor. 

One of my favorite series of books was Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series.  I couldn’t wait to buy the next book (often in the overpriced hardback version) to read the latest exchange between Spenser and Hawk.  It was just great.  Often these books had a very thin (I’m being kind) plot, but the dialog between the two characters was worth the price of admission.

I’ve tried to capture some of that goodhearted but pointed humor in the exchanges between Ray Pacheco and Tyee Chino.  Their relationship grew in the books, and I think in the last book in the series (so far) Four Corners War reached close to the level of Spenser and Hawk—maybe not there yet; but getting closer.

Thanks for being a reader!

Simulated Realities for Unreal Times

I’m a baseball fan.  My team is the Colorado Rockies.  Obviously baseball is not a very high priority considering all of the consequences of the pandemic; but it may be what I miss the most.  It’s okay with me to stay at home (I would have mostly done that anyway) and to social or physical distance.  But, no baseball; that is hard.

The latest proposal is to have games begin in Arizona spring training parks with no travel and no fans.  Not sure about the issues that brings up about health, logistics and adequate lighting in those parks (can’t play many day games in Arizona in July unless your inside or have a death wish)—but if that can happen, that would be great.  Baseball on TV would suddenly make the world seem more normal—even if it isn’t.

One of the Rockies’ blogs is running a simulation season.  So far the Rockies are 6-4 while underperforming offensively.  If this was the real Rockies, it would be a great start.  Even knowing it is just computer magic, I’m following the results of the games.  It can be watched on Youtube, although I have not done that yet.  My guess is that I could be just as engrossed in the make-believe game as the real game.  Why is that?

First it is because I’m already familiar with the players.  Their strengths and weaknesses and their prospects.  If this was just fictional players, would it be the same?  Probably not.  But, on the other hand, if I had enough background information and history, would I get to know fake players just as well as real players; the obvious answer is yes.  I’ve never met a real player, and you might even say I don’t know if they really are “real” players.  Maybe the sports people on TV or the sports writers for newspapers all made up these players and their histories.  Okay, of course, that is not true—right?

If the future is that we never congregate again, would make-believe sports become a computer generated reality?  Could be.  Obviously car companies and beer makers need something to feature their ads.  Why not simulated games?  The graphics would keep getting better, and with more money tossed in that direction, they would no doubt improve to a new level of reality. 

If sports can be simulated how about government?  I know government does not have the huge database of statistics to support a computer simulation like the numbers crazy sports world, but couldn’t it be done?  Rather than have real people deciding our fate let’s have computers make decisions based on some ideal objective.  So elections would not be about politicians but we would vote for the simulation model.  Running this year is the “profits at all costs” model verses “justice for all” model.  So the election would be about picking the logical basis for the simulation—a team of programmers.  They could still be labeled the Red and Blue teams, or we could pick different colors.

Of course, this would mean that on occasion we would have to unplug our government and plug it back in hoping that it would reboot.  Or maybe if the computer died, the head IT guy would have the authority to run the government until the computer was fixed; but what if he liked the power and never turned the computer back on?  Yeah, a few issues to resolve; sort of like baseball.


In the processes of having some of my books proof read, again.  I know I should not tell you this since I would prefer that you believe my books are grammatically and in all other ways perfect.  Well, if you believe that, I would like to talk to you about the magic beans I have for sale.

I’ve often defended some of my “typos” with the caveat that I’m a story teller and not the best proof reader.  And that is the truth—but still a bad excuse.  It’s not that I haven’t hired editors or proof readers, I have; it is just a difficult task to find every last misplaced comma or missing quotation mark or any of the other annoying mistakes. 

This is about the third round of proofing for my books; and still we are finding a few oopses (don’t believe oopses is a word but what the hell it’s my blog).  I say “we” in the royal sense of someone else doing it while I watch.  How can this be with so many readings?  It seems the human brain can self-correct as we read.  Humans are smart in some things and dumb in others.

Computers once again help us by pointing out the most obvious mistakes.  Word or other programs highlight our faults.  Of course writers will do things Word does not like, and we ignore the highlighted problem because the “mistake” is intended for creative reasons.  Writing is more than grammar or even spelling– it is art.  I like that line and I’m sticking to it.  Not sure I want computers replacing real baseball or sloppy government, but I’m damn sure I don’t want them replacing writers.

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