Writings of Stuart Whitmore

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Do Trees Speak Esperanto?

What do the Esperanto language and trees have in common? Unfortunately, the answer is not that trees speak Esperanto. If they did, I'd be more diligent about learning to speak it!

There is a little real-world connection of sorts, though, now that I've released my first fantasy novel (The Ambitions of Kreltahk). That connection comes in the form of "back matter," the pages in a book after the end of the book. I first learned about Esperanto, and was inspired to learn to speak it, via the back matter in the Stainless Steel Rat series by Harry Harrison. Long before the first book in my fantasy series hit the market, I was inspired by that use of back matter to share something real that is relevant to the fiction in the book. It didn't take me long to decide that I wanted to use the back matter in at least one of my books to increase awareness of the need to plant trees, and how The Arbor Day Foundation will plant trees on your behalf in forests that have been damaged by fire, disease, or other problems.

NB: Today I put my money where my mouth is. I decided to start off the 2018 holiday giving season by arranging to have The Arbor Day Foundation plant 20 trees in Klamath National Forest, in honor of my kids and in celebration of the winter holidays and new year.

Read on to see why I decided to support this mission and that organization in my fantasy novels!

The ePUB Format and You

It is 2018, and the variety of electronic book formats has narrowed to three main contenders. There is the old standby of PDF, there is the "Kindle" format (which is actually a combination of formats), and there is the ePUB format. The ePUB format is supported on many devices, and this blog post will help you find a way to read e-books in that format on your preferred device.

Not only is the ePUB format convenient for you to use as a reader, it is also convenient for publishers to make books available. There are large projects, such as the Gutenberg Project, that make many books available in ePUB format. Writers like me can post ePUB files to our own sites easily. For example, you can pick up a free copy of my short story "No Fanfare" by downloading it from my author site.

There are two tools that I will refer to several times because they are so frequently used to read ePUB books, especially on devices that may not have a native ePUB reader such as desktop computers. One of those tools is calibre, and the other is Adobe Digital Editions. Both can be downloaded for free and are available for multiple platforms. In fact, if you read nothing more of this blog post, just knowing about those two tools may be enough to get you started reading ePUB books that you obtain from a variety of sources. Read on for more options!

Traction, Tail, and Selling Books Wide

I think "traction" and "tail" are fundamentally different concepts. I see people using them interchangeably, but I believe that understanding the difference and using the terms consistently is important when trying to sell books on a variety of retailers (i.e., "wide"). Understanding the difference is important because not all retailer sites are equal and it's important to understand what can be expected on any given site.

So, what do these terms mean? The following is how I would define them. Feel free to leave a comment to disagree, suggest refinements, etc.

"Tail" can refer to a couple things. It can mean the long-term residual effect from a marketing tactic, and it can refer to long tail distributions. See "Long tail" on Wikipedia for an in-depth discussion of the latter. Although long tail distributions definitely matter to indie artists of all kinds, in indie book marketing most people will use "tail" to mean the former, i.e., the ongoing positive impact from a specific marketing tactic—maybe a BookBub feature, maybe a blog tour (does anyone do those anymore?), or whatever.

Traction refers to making lasting progress. Think of hiking up a steep or snowy slope. If you eventually slide back down, you didn't have traction. That's why I say that a tail is not traction. A marketing tactic (BookBub, etc.) might be the start of getting traction, but it might not, even if it has a good tail.

Read on to see why this matters when selling books "wide."

Making Strides in 2018

In my last blog post I talked about a renewed sense of determination to get things back on track after a very destructive year. So far, 2018 is off to a great start and things are looking up, although I certainly can't take anything for granted. It's early still, but if I can get things to continue snowballing in a good way instead of a bad way, this year should be a stark contrast to the last one! I've already released one new work (The Vengeance of Mirickar) and I have more on the way. Continue reading to find out more about what has been keeping me busy in recent weeks.

Determination, Coolidge, and My Publishing Career

It is finally the last day of 2017. And what is on my mind? Something my father had posted in his home office:

"Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."

Calvin Coolidge

I don't think I've ever been so focused on leaving a specific year behind, as opposed to looking forward to the new one, as I am this time. Of course the completion of another orbit around the sun doesn't magically change things any more than the completion of another rotation on the planet's axis, but symbolically this particular calendar change matters a lot to me. Continue reading to see how this all relates to the quote shown above.

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