Thursday, July 24, 2014

Farewell Melvin Powers, Thank You

Melvin Powers of The Wilshire Book Company passed in 2013.  He was an author, a publisher, an inspiration and much more.

The stories of him being a personally available hands on man at his company and in life are true.  I know because I had my own experience.  At his company website, there is a link for those who wish to write of their experience with the great publisher.  The following is what I wrote.
About 15 years ago I wrote to Melvin Powers seeking a particular copy of The Magic In Your Mind by U.S. Andersen.  The particular copy I sought was the one with the red cover.

During this time I was ill, although I did not mention it, and spent much time reading and writing, and trying to get well.

Melvin Powers wrote back and sold me a copy with the red cover for the price of $7.00.  The price was higher at the time, but that was the price printed on this older covered version.

As well he sent me a free copy of The Knight In Rusty Armor by Robert Fisher.

I was really delighted to have received that generosity and personal communication with Melvin Powers, the man at the top.  I sent him a letter telling him so, and thanking him.

Long since then I have become well, and even entered writing and publishing myself.

Sadness, tempered with an unbelievably great memory is how I feel upon learning of the passing of the great Melvin Powers.

As well I would like to mention that his book Dynamic Thinking was a very helpful and powerful influence to me.

I wish that it was possible to say hello to him in person, today, and thank him again.

Farewell Melvin, and thank you for being an inspiration.

Stephen R. Winter

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

If You Want To Write A Book, Write A Book

Society has developed in such a way that independent thought and action is rarely understood.

Schedules and expectations are laid out from high above.  Titles and positions are the shaped lumens which one is expected to form into for a tight fit.  Respect the other shapes.  Know and do not exceed your shape.

Anyone who tries to rise above the crowd is bound to incur the wrath of those who are challenged.

Rise anyway.

You will have to navigate the seen as well as the unforeseen; the fair and unfair.

Life and publishing is not based entirely on merit.  Often in fact, it is rarely so.  That is why it is important for you to pay attention to this:

If you want to write a book, write a book.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Kindle Unlimited, Angry Authors, Shoplifting, and Tantric Sex

Kindle Unlimited has begun, and some authors have expressed anger at Amazon.  Before pitchfork wielding authors  hit the streets with chants of "they're taking the bread out of our kids mouths" let's consider a few things.

(Keep in mind the number of people who were shocked at the concept of KDP free days, but a lot of authors have received much benefit and exposure from them.)

I used to shop at a particular K-Mart in New York which one day decided that shoplifting of movies on videotape and dvd was to be halted.  Their solution was glass cases with silver key locks.  Go get the clerk.

Shoplifting was halted.  So were sales.

The nature of shopping for movies in a store revolves largely around the ability of a customer to be able to pick up one item after another as they work out their particular interests at that moment.

Since the customer's ability to peruse and examine products was effectively removed, the movie customers were de facto removed.

The foolish retail attitude was more concerned with not losing product, than selling it.  Making money does not work like that.  Certainly not in a mass product retail environment.

Even though everyone gets their own personalized shopping experience based on their history, authors especially must keep in mind that Amazon is a mass product retail environment.

Now let's go back a few years to when the internet was newer than it is today.  Many free website builders, bloggers and the like were hysterical about protecting their content.  At some point many realized that some piracy is to be expected (and dealt with as one can) but that absolute obscurity is worse.

As time goes on I would not be surprised if Amazon priced Kindle Unlimited with Prime, or finds some other way to increase greatly the number of participating customers.  It is entirely possible that authors who have something worth reading, will find that their exposure and customers increase in quantity.

We authors are not competing with Amazon, it is just the field on which we are playing.

A better concern is to create product that people actually buy.  Outright purchases are still paid proper royalties.  And the fear of Kindle Unlimited and the 10% read through should be overpowered with the drive to obtain customers and read throughs.

The current monthly fund is set at 2 million.  Think you even need a half percent read through of all read throughs in order to have a decent check?

Okay, okay, let's talk about tantric sex and see what authors might learn.

Readers want an experience; something they can remember.  Something they want to talk about.  Something of which they want more.  Much like tantric sex, authors who really want to make money, need to focus on what they are doing and focus on their partner.  The potential reader is your partner.  Blow their mind.  Make them love you by loving them.

Amazon has been fairly sharp, generous, and helpful thus far, they might know what they are doing.

Stephen R. Winter
author of Write Like A Ninja
contact at

Writers Do Not Wait To Be Discovered

A man had a young daughter who expressed that she wanted to be a professional singer when she grew up.

The father explained to the daughter that she would just have to wait and see if she would be discovered.


When trying to make it at anything it takes effort and push.

Sure anyone might just happen to be discovered through a lucky unbelievably fortunate moment.  But how would the young girl be discovered as a singer if she was not heard singing?

Writers too.

You get better at writing, by writing.  When your material is good enough to be published, make it happen.  Escalate it from there.

Never stop.

Monday, July 21, 2014

How Barnes and Noble Traded A Cutomer

Barnes and Noble messed things up late 90s and early 2000s.

Their brick and mortar stores used to automatically offer discounted prices on items.  Then that was halted in favor of charging a fee for a discount card.

While such a method can be shown as having value to the customer, it still requires an up front payment.

Stores like to refer to such business practices as customer loyalty.  I viewed it as store disloyalty.  It's enough that I must put gas in the car and drive to the store.  My wallet does not need another loyalty card fattening it up until busts.

Another unhappy incident I had with Barnes and Noble was an occasion when I ordered a physical book by internet from their website.  I wanted expedited delivery and paid for it.

Tracking info told the rest of the tale.

The book was being delivered from New Jersey to New York.  Not much more than across the river.

Instead of sending it via priority US mail, they chose UPS.  Doing so took longer for the book to arrive to my hands.

While I did not seek a refund, I contacted Barnes and Noble as a concerned customer to let them know how they could provide better service to me.

The response was defensive.

They got the book to me in the small print identified timeline and therefore I had no complaint.

Even after explaining that I was not seeking remuneration for shipping, only an open ear that they might learn how to better serve customers, the response was dogmatic and ignorant.

That was when I wished them well and began doing business with Amazon.

There is little more foolish than not finding the quickest way to get a physical product to a customer who has already paid.  Well, for the store to argue the issue instead of acknowledging that a customer has raised a concern which they hope to improve from, is probably more foolish.  After all, they had a chance.

First they essentially annoyed me from their physical store to their website.  Then they annoyed me from their website to Amazon's website.

That's how a book customer was traded.  Amazon got me, a customer and author; and Barnes and Noble got to be right.

So There Pithy Writer

Recently I read an article in which the pithy writer described the odds of achieving success as an author on Amazon.  It was compared to the odds of winning the lottery.  As well it was incorrectly stated that there are at present over 10 million ebooks on Amazon.

Load of garbage.

The number of ebooks available on Amazon can be found on Amazon.  While the number is large and increasing at a rapid rate, that writer was inflating the figure by between 3 and 4 times.

Furthermore, unlike a lottery, in which everyone is hoping to be the one individual who gets the winning ticket, writing and selling books is a continual thing, and has levels of return which range from nothing, to unbelievably large.

If an author makes a few grand a year, well that can be money for food, or  a car payment.  If an author makes 10 or 20 grand a year, well that can be considered rent.  And if an author makes 40 to 100 grand a year, I guess that can be considered a job.

A lot of people work long hours for less than that.

The numbers do not have to stop there but for my purposes here, that is far enough to have made the point.

Of course everyone would like to have a one hit home run which carries them financially for the length of their life; much as the character William Forrester did in the movie Finding Forrester with his famous book Avalon Landing.

It's possible.  It's more likely than hitting the lottery.  But it does not even have to reach that magnitude in order to be financially rewarding.  So there pithy writer.