Stephen King

Having a Howl of a Time Talkin’ Horror with Glenn Rolfe

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When you meet Glenn Rolfe, the first thing you think is “Why is this 12-year-old kid trying to sell me a werewolf book?” That’s my way of saying that Glenn looks young (and he is—still in his 30s; when you’re 40, like me, anybody in their 30s is young). In all honesty, when I first met Glenn in person last year in Cincinnati at HorrorHound, the first thing I thought was “Glenn really loves horror.” His love for the genre is infectious. He’s tremendously supportive of his fellow writers too. So when I learned Glenn had a werewolf book, Blood and Rain (Samhain Publishing), scheduled to drop in October, I couldn’t wait to help him try to promote it to all 4 readers of my blog. And Glenn’s take on the age-old legend defied my expectations—it wasn’t what I was expecting at all! But that’s not a bad thing. I’ll let Glenn explain it. Here’s my Q&A with him. Enjoy!

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Q. Many werewolf stories revolve around not knowing who the monster is until the big reveal at the end of the book, but not so in Blood and Rain. We know full well the identities. Did you ever toy with keeping the identities hidden? If so, what made you change your mind? If it was always your plan to reveal who’s who up front, what was the reason?

A. I changed it in my re-writes last summer. The original manuscript was about 60% different. It was a mystery that I ran to have people guessing whether it was one or the other and then the big surprise was that it was both. I liked it, but I ended up completely changing one of the characters. When I sat down to get real last July, I started by writing the prologue. I revealed it right there. And I liked it. To me, it doesn’t matter if we know or not. If you want to do that, go for it. I decided to run straight ahead and just have a lot of fun with the story and these creatures. So, to answer that one, I guess the story demanded that I reveal the identity of the beast right off. I love how it came out.

Q. You’re a Stephen King fan. Publisher’s Weekly even likened your approach in Blood and Rain to the horror master. How did King’s Cycle of the Werewolf influence you? I know it did because A.) you’re from Maine and pronounce lobster entirely different from New Jerseyans, and B.) Blood and Rain is set in a small Maine town much like Cycle. Am I correct in these observations (don’t worry about the lobster one)?

A. Of course. Yeah, I’d seen Silver Bullet a million times growing up and in 2004 I finally read Cycle of the Werewolf. When I finished it I knew I wanted more! I wasn’t a writer at that time, but I jotted down an idea for a story. Years later, that idea became the first few original chapters of my first real work, Blood and Rain. I love small towns. I’ve lived in them almost my entire life. It’s what I know best, so it’s what I use to paint with. King’s beast is bad news, too. I made sure mine was also going to be mean and nasty.

Q. How come your werewolf isn’t a shirtless teenaged Native American boy who can’t act? You do realize you’re alienating 99% of the high school-aged female readership by going out of your way to make your werewolf a vicious, man-devouring monster.

A. Ha! Hey, Taylor Lautner is a good looking kid. But, yeah, no. I had no romantic notions circling my brain during this one. No way were my monsters going to be pretty and lovely.

Q. Werewolf novels you’d recommend to your fans?

A. The Howling by Gary Brandner (if you go to the movies, The Howling IV is actually the story from the first book). Cycle of the Werewolf. I also loved what Ray Garton did in his book, Ravenous. That one had a lot of influence over the original manuscript, too. Outside of Garton and King’s books, I hadn’t read that many werewolf books prior to writing Blood and Rain. I’m catching up now. W.D. Gagliani has an interesting take with his Nick Lupo series, too. I’m getting ready to read book 3 of his saga. Jonathan Janz’s new one, Wolf Land, is pretty vicious, too.

Q. What’s the most difficult part about writing a werewolf novel compared to your earlier works (Abram’s Bridge, a ghost story; and Boom Town, aliens)?

A. It wasn’t any harder than the others. It was a lot of FUN. The most difficult part was re-writing it. It was the first real thing I’d written. The manuscript had all of my “I have no idea what I’m doing” bits in there, but I knew the heart of the story and the characters I’d created were good enough. I refused to give up on them. I did a crazy re-write marathon for about three and a half to four weeks at the end of last summer. I was lucky to have my friend Ben there to tell me yes or no on the changes. He beta read both versions. Once he said “Dude, this is it”, I knew I had it. Then I let Erin at it and she cleaned up the rest of my mess (Thanks, E!) and helped me tweak the last couple of pieces I wasn’t comfortable with. So, much much kudos to Ben and Erin!

Q. I read Blood and Rain and will say this, you spare no one. I won’t spoil anything, but my god! I will tell the reader not to get attached to anybody. What compels you to kill off characters (some the readers might like) or keep them alive? I must admit there were some characters I wish had survived.

A. I don’t worry about whether it’s going to upset anybody. I let the story do what it wants. If they live or die, that’s whatever I felt the scene wanted. It’s not plotted out at all. I just go with the flow when I’m writing. I like to think if this was real life and this shit happened, it wouldn’t be pretty. You’re lucky if you come out in one piece or at all. I write for myself. If anyone else enjoys it, awesome! But you have to write for yourself first. Looking back after I’ve finished at a piece like this, or my other novel, The Haunted Halls, when I see the carnage and death toll….I like it. In real life, shit happens. Life doesn’t play by the rules. There’s something about going into a book or a movie where you don’t know who is or who isn’t going to make it out. I never understand why some writers choose to play it safe every time out. It is what it is. And I dig it. ###

I wish Glenn the best of luck with Blood & Rain. And for those of you in Maine who are eager to meet him. He’s having a book signing at the Barnes & Noble in Augusta on Saturday, August 24, from noon to 2 p.m. So get out there to pick up a copy, and talk to the guy about horror. You’ll learn a lot and have a great time doing it!

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Lessons in advertising my eBook (what worked, what didn’t)

How many books do I need to sell to make a bestsellers list?

Every author at some point has Googled a variation of that question. Because let’s face it: most of us want to see our name on The New York Times bestsellers list right above or below whichever 50 Shades book is befouling that list, and there’s no shame in admitting that. (Yes, technically it would be nice to be #1, but you’ve got to start somewhere.)

So how do I get on the bestsellers list without cashing out my 401k and buying 9,000 copies of my book? (I read somewhere that 9,000 is the number of books you’d need to sell in a week to get on the NYT list. Whether that’s true, I have no idea. God bless what you read on the Internet.)

My point is you need people to buy your book. And for a majority of us unknown newbies from midsize to small presses, you’re not going to have huge advertising budgets. So it’s basically up to you to spread the word. I wrestled with the idea of paying to put a click-ad on Fangoria’s website (my book is in the horror genre), and it probably would’ve cost around $300. And what would I get? Probably not much—you’re hoping someone who wasn’t looking for the ad in the first place clicks on it to maybe buy a book from a complete unknown author. Time and again I’ve been told there’s little return in investment, so I scrapped the idea. And then late last year I read in the Wall Street Journal what Darcie Chan did. Chan self-published The Mill River Recluse, which went on to be a massive ebook bestseller. To summarize, she budgeted $1,000 to advertise and selected companies that target readers, especially readers who wanted inexpensive ebooks, with email blasts that contain books from the genres selected by the subscribers. One of these companies was Digital Books Today, which offers to feature your book for free on its Weekly Featured Great Read list. Another company is called EReader News Today, which for $60 allows you to be featured as the Book of the Day. Chan availed herself to this, and it got her good exposure. And that’s how it started for me. I checked out these two sites and learned that you need to sign up way in advance to hopefully be selected for these promotions. And there’s your first rule: Plan your promotion in advance, sometimes months out. The quality advertising websites fill up quick. (I’ll list what I think the best ones are at the end of this post.)

I planned for my promotion to take place beginning March 25, 2015. It’s not like late March was an ideal date for a book (The Dark Servant) with a demented anti-Santa Claus theme—that was the time when the first Weekly Featured Great Read slot was available for me. I also attempted to land the Book of the Day slot, but wasn’t successful. I contacted my publisher and explained that I wanted to drop my ebook price from roughly $5.50 to 99 cents. That’s the second rule: The best price points are free (duh) and 99 cents. I don’t believe in giving away free content, especially because I only have one book out. But I’m fine with limited-time discounts. It’s a way to grab readers for less than the price of a cup of coffee (in New Jersey that’s $1.49 for a refill at the Quick Chek, but I digress). And at this point in my career, as much as I would like to earn a lot of money writing books, I need readers first.

Samhain Publishing agreed to drop the price and I waited for March to roll around, and as it did, I realized I hadn’t yet paid any service to promote my book. I was putting my eggs in one free basket. It was then that I fully realized that if I really wanted to sell books, I’d have to open my wallet. And I did. I researched the sites you’ll read about below and ultimately decided to go with them. Samhain dropped the price to 99 cents on March 21, a few days ahead of time, and that actually is important. You want to make sure your book is at the price you tell advertisers it will be on the day of your promotion. So I actually got a few sales before the 25th just by telling people about it, and people stumbling across it. I decided to get the ball rolling earlier than the 25th and officially began promoting my book on Tuesday, March 24. Here’s a chronicle of the sites I used, how much I paid, the size of the email subscription base, the dates of the promotion:

March 24, 2015

Free Kindle Books and Tips ($25). Reach: 750,000 readers. (The website’s operator is very up front and says that while that number sounds like a lot, only 100,000 or so subscribers might take action [i.e., read the post, and not necessarily buy a book].) But it’s a big pool. My results, according to KFBT, I had 65 clicks and 21 sales (a 32% conversion rate), but that was only for Amazon in the USA. It stands to reason I sold a few more from B&N, for instance.

Bargain Booksy Horror Feature ($25). Reach: 40,913 Horror subscribers. Results: 87 clicks, 15 sales.

March 25, 2015

Digital Book Today’s Weekly Featured Great Read (Free, expired on March 31). Reach: hard to say. According to the site, as of March 15, 2015, there are between 20,000 to 24,000 visits per week (my book was one of seven displayed on every page); 80,000 to 110,000 visits per month; 205,000 to 265,000 clicks into Amazon per month; and a daily email subscriber list of more than 13,400. DBT does not provide click/sales data. I figure, it was free, so I really can’t complain. Thank you DBT!

BookSends ($15). Reach: 100,000 overall subscribers, 17,000 in the Horror category, although the web operator said those numbers are a little outdated and should be 15% to 20% higher. Results: 125 clicks, 47 sales. Put BookSends on your advertising list right now. I mean it. It cost me $15 and I more than made that back in sales.

Ereader News Today ($15). Reach: 118,000 subscribers (I don’t know if that consists entirely of horror fans or is the overall subscription base—I’m assuming the latter). Results: 215 clicks (23% conversion rate) with 50 sales, although the site operator said I probably sold more than that number. (I know what you’re thinking: Wait, wasn’t Matt unable to secure an Ereader News Today Book of the Day slot? Correct. But ENT offers other paid advertising options, and for $15, I’d go with them again.)

I should note here that my book was hovering between 50,000 and 60,000 on Amazon around March 21, when the 99-cent sale started. On the morning on March 25, my book hit 3,074 on Amazon’s paid Kindle list, and on March 26 it his 2,516, a number that bumped me into the 60s for Amazon’s Bestselling Kindle Horror, and in the low 90s for Amazon’s Literature/Fiction Horror category, which means, if various websites that estimate rank compared to book sales are to be believed, I was selling somewhere around 70 to 100 books a day. At this point I’m thinking, awesome! I hit the Amazon bestsellers list only a few days into my promotion! Everything’s going according to plan. I’m going to keep building, one advertisement after the next, that 2,500 will turn into 1,000, then to 500, then to 100 and then I’ll hit the NYT bestsellers list with that crappy 50 Shades book(s)! Not so fast. What happened over the next few days was indeed humbling. Let’s continue.

March 26, 2015

The Fussy Librarian ($10). Reach: 48,000 readers. Results: 30 clicks, 9 sales. Readers that downloaded a free book first, and then purchased mine, aren’t reflected. So the number could be higher. OK. That was my first moment of queasiness. I had read good things about The Fussy Librarian, and that’s why I decided to try it (hell, it was $10). But I took a bath on that one. More baths would come.

Buck Books (Free; in exchange for you becoming an affiliate and pimping them on your website and social media, they include your book in an email blast to subscribers who want 99-cent books). Reach: they don’t provide subscriber numbers. Results: 67 sales. I actually believe they ran my promotion on the 25th (because that’s when I noticed it) instead of the scheduled 26th date, and that would help account for my book doing as well as it did on Amazon. But whatever the case, I’d go with them again, and you can see how I pimp them on my website.

BookLemur ($56). Reach 9,200. Results: 16 clicks, 7 sales. This one hurt. The guy who operates the site couldn’t have been kinder. There wasn’t a specific horror category on BookLemur, so I picked two genres I thought would work: sci-fi/fantasy and thriller. Here’s the third rule: Do not advertise with sites that do not specifically offer your genre. It’s my hunch that thriller and sci-fi/fantasy fans are a picky bunch, and if a cover doesn’t look like it belongs in their genre, or if jacket text doesn’t read like it’s in their genre, they won’t buy. (And this easily applies to other genres too.) Also, more important than that: the promotion reached only 9,200 people. If you’re going to pay $56 (or any sum of money that equals the power bill) make sure you’re reaching at least 92,000 people, not 9,200.

March 27, 2015

Choosy Bookworm (Free, you have to sign up for it and hopefully get picked. There are paid options too. I managed the free one.). Reach: 36,000 newsletter subscribers. Results: I don’t know. The Choosy Bookworm people never got back to me. So, my advice, if you can land the free spot, why not do it? The government already has your sensitive information stored somewhere for future use, so it’s not like anything’s private anymore. The paid option prices aren’t too bad: $8, $20 (although I’m not sure what they get you). I’m not inclined to return. That’s just me.

March 30, 2015 (I took the weekend off)

More For Less Online ($25; there is a $15 option). Reach: 3,200. Results (get ready): 106 clicks, 1 sale. You read that right. One sale. Now, the reason I signed up with them is because I read some good things about them. But when you realize that you’re playing the percentages of how many people will even open the email blast, you can’t expect much when your book is going out to only 3,200 readers.

Rule number four: Really research the sites you’re considering. By that I mean find out up front how many subscribers a site has. Some sites make the information readily available. Others don’t. But most of the operators will respond to you. So ask.

Hot Zippy ($45; it’s a service that feeds to Pixel Scroll and Bargain eBook Hunter). Reach: I don’t know. The information wasn’t readily available on the website. I emailed the site twice asking for subscriber numbers and click/sales data and have heard nothing back. My promotion ran on both the 30th and 31st. I signed up to receive both Pixel Scroll and Bargain eBook Hunter email blasts and I only received Bargain eBook Hunter. Hot Zippy was a gamble. I’d read one author had success with them, while another did not. I hit on twelve and was dealt a king. What can you do? I won’t be returning.

March 31, 2015

ebook Soda ($10). Reach: 1,662 Horror subscribers. Results: a 3.1% click-through rate. That’s all they could offer, so I have no idea if I even sold a book. I picked eBook soda because it was cheap and I didn’t have anything else for March 31. Here’s where some research would’ve really come in handy. Fortunately, it was only $10. Lesson learned.

April 1 and 2, 2015

Discount Books Daily ($35). Reach 25,000 subscribers. Results: No sales data, but the following comes from the site’s operator: I had an average open rate of 8% and 57 clicks. The email went to 20,711 on April 1, and 18,552 subscribed to the Thriller category on April 2. DBD also didn’t have a Horror category, so I believe I picked General Fiction, and Thriller as target audiences. I’m not so sure it worked out. Here’s why:

By April 2, my ebook had reverted to roughly 25,000 in sales rankings. That’s a far cry from the 2,500 I’d hit a little more than a week earlier. Essentially I was hoping for a snowball of book sales that would propel me to even greater book sales. That didn’t happen with the assortment of advertisers I selected from March 27 through April 2. But everything changed one day later.

April 3, 2015

BookBub ($245). Reach: 720,000 Horror subscribers. Results: See below. You read that right. I spent $245 on one advertising website. That email blast went out sometime Friday afternoon, and by that evening I was able to post photographs like this one.

OK, look. I realize that by the time you read this, my Amazon rank will no longer be #27 on the overall Horror/Literature Bestsellers list. But please allow me a little room to smile for being ahead of 29, 30, 31 and 33. (My fantasy: Somewhere in a dark man cave in Maine, Stephen King is hovering over his computer, glowering at the screen, gritting his teeth, saying "Who the hell is this Manochio guy? Release the Cujos!")

OK, look. I realize that by the time you read this, my Amazon rank will no longer be #27 on the overall Horror/Literature Bestsellers list. But please allow me a little room to smile for being ahead of 29, 30, 31 and 33. (My fantasy: Somewhere in a dark man-cave in Maine, Stephen King is hovering over his computer, glowering at the screen, gritting his teeth, saying “Who the hell is this Manochio guy? Release the Cujos!”)

And that wasn’t even my best showing on Amazon. By Saturday morning, April 4, I hit #411 on the paid Kindle list (Author Central had me at #409), #10 on the Literature/Horror list, and #5 on the Kindle Horror Bestsellers list. And on B&N.com, I reached #73 overall. People were buying my book. How many?  BookBub got back to my publisher and provided the following click/sales data. While my book was feautured in one initial email blast on April 3, the book was still visible on the BookBub website through April 8. Here are the figures that encompass US/UK/Canada sales:

1. Amazon: Total clicks: 1,747; Sales: 583.

2. Nook: Total clicks: 392; Sales: 64.

3. Apple: Total clicks: 218; Sales: 72.

4. Google: Total clicks: 249; Sales: 83.

5. Kobo: Total clicks: 124; Sales: 25.

Total combined clicks of all USA/UK/CA sites: 2,730; Sales: 827.

NOTE: Apple, Google, and Kobo do not provide hard sales figures, so BookBub extrapolated the sales numbers based on clicks.

Now, how this translates into overall sales, I won’t know until I get my royalties statement from my publisher, and that won’t be for a while because statements always reflect what happened two or three months ago. As I write this, my book is 3,696 on Amazon and #89 on the Kindle Horror Bestsellers list. So it’s still selling. And I’m getting readers. That’s what I wanted all along. All totaled, I spent $506 advertising my book to readers. I’m thinking I will break even and perhaps come out ahead based on Bookbub alone. BookBub estimates Horror authors can expect to sell anywhere between 180 to 2,670 books (this applies to discounted books at 99 cents, books priced between $1 to $2, and books priced in excess of $2). I’m confident I sold somewhere around 1,100 books, hopefully it’s more than that. But my gut tells me I did OK.

Sites I hope to use again in the future:

  1. BookBub ($270 [the price went up])
  2. BookSends ($15)
  3. EReader News Today (hopefully for their Book of the Day, but certainly for their $15 advertisement)
  4. Buck Books (Free)
  5. Free Kindle Books and Tips ($25)
  6. Digital Books Today (Free weekly feature)

I’d avoid the rest, and not necessarily because the sites were unprofessional. Some just didn’t work for me, others were overpriced for what they were offering.

What I learned:

  1. The more subscribers to an advertising site, the better. Find that out ahead of time. I’d say anything lower than 75,000 overall subscribers isn’t worth the money. I pulled that number out of the air, but you get my drift.
  2. Does the advertising site look professionally done? If it looks like a glorified blog, perhaps look elsewhere. One of the sites I looked at had updates from last year, nothing current.
  3. The more reviews you have, the better your chances of being selected by some of these sites to be featured. Many of these sites set requirements for your book: length, a minimum number of Amazon/BN reviews, a minimum 4.0 review rating, professional-looking cover. Get as many reviews for your book as you can. If you have endorsements from bestselling and/or award-winning authors, play that up wherever you can. Numerous unknown writers are submitting books every day to these sites for selection. Try to make yourself stand out.
  4. If the site doesn’t feature your specific genre (like horror), don’t risk including your book in genres that might not apply. Move along.
  5. Be realistic. Yes, you want to make the NYT bestsellers list, but not everybody can be Darcie Chan. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try advertising like her.

HorrorHound has something demented for everyone!

HorrorHound Weekend has just concluded in Cincinnati, and if you’re like me, you were supremely grossed out upon seeing this:

If you really want one of these (and lord knows, I'm certain some of you do) visit www.scarebears1.com.

If you really want one of these (and lord knows, I’m certain some of you do) visit http://www.scarebears1.com.

Those were selling like bloody, disemboweled hotcakes at the popular horror convention that features movie and television stars, authors, artists (tattoo and otherwise), and vendors galore. All of them in some way affiliated with the horror genre.

This was my first go-around as a Samhain Horror author. My Cincy-based publisher helps to sponsor the convention, and provides plenty of books for its

authors to sell to fans. And that’s exactly what my fellow authors and I did over the last three days, and it was fantastic fun getting to interact with new and prospective readers.

Yes, I'm experimenting with a beard. And yes, the Krampus mask goes everywhere with me.

Yes, I’m experimenting with a beard. And yes, the Krampus mask goes everywhere with me.

HorrorHound is probably one of the best conventions for authors to reach readers, and our booth was busy (and that’s good, given the state of the publishing world). Now, when you consider the hotel bill ($130), gas (at least $100), entirely too much fast food ($20) and souvenirs (I’m not saying how much because my wife might read this), you’re not going to break even by selling 25 books priced at $8 each. But making money at this point in my career isn’t paramount. Sure, I’d like it to happen, but to me this convention was all about getting my name out there, meeting the people who actually work for my publisher (they’re based in Cincinnati), and meeting my fellow authors, most of whom I’ve corresponded with on Facebook and Twitter, but never met in person.

Samhain Horror authors who attended HorrorHound (from left to right): Jonathan Janz, Mark Rigney, Me, Brian Pinkerton, Russell Kames, Tim Waggoner, Adam Cesare, Glenn Rolfe, Kris Rufty, and Tamara Jones. Please, visit Samhain Publishing.com and check out their stuff.

Samhain Horror authors who attended HorrorHound (from left to right): Jonathan Janz, Mark Rigney, Me, Brian Pinkerton, Russell James, Tim Waggoner, Adam Cesare, Glenn Rolfe, Kris Rufty, and Tamara Jones. Please, visit Samhain Publishing.com and check out their stuff.

The other fun part of HorrorHound is slipping away from the table to see which stars of the stage and screen are milling about, and to digest some of the perverse memorabilia up for sale. Case in point, this:

Wait, how did my son somehow slip away from tormenting his mother in New Jersey to wind up on display at a horror convention? I know it’s just a doll (and this was one of the tamer ones) but those of you with children, especially toddlers, know what I’m talking about.

Wait, how did my son somehow slip away from tormenting his mother in New Jersey to wind up on display at a horror convention? I know it’s just a doll (and this was one of the tamer ones) but those of you with children, especially toddlers, know what I’m talking about.

Also fun, seeing movie stars who are 30 years past their prime. Let’s play a game: Name this actor:CT

Sorry it’s grainy. Celebrities now charge you money to take photographs of them, so you have to kind of do it on the sly. So I’ll give you three hints: E.T., Red Dawn (Wolverines!), and a somewhat recent episode of Criminal Minds. OK, one more: The Hitcher. That’s right, it’s C. Thomas Howell! (And it looks like he’s seen better days, and he has—back in the 1980s.)

Here’s another one, and if you can’t guess this, then you weren’t an avid moviegoer in 1984:zg

Yup, it’s Zack Galligan from Gremlins, Gremlins 2, and Not Much Else. I don’t fault these guys (and gals) one bit for hitting the convention circuit. It’s how they make their livings (and they make a lot more than you and me combined by doing it). And if they can help people relive some of their favorite TV and movie memories, then I’m all for it.

Now, as you might imagine, this was the line of people waiting to meet me:IMG_3630

Ha! Of course they weren’t queuing for me! This was for Norman Reedus, of Walking Dead fame. Daryl-Dixon-daryl-dixon-32601352-500-385

I did not see Norman. Although he must’ve been in the building because, and I am not kidding, thousands of people came to see him. That crowd picture doesn’t come close to portraying how many Norman Reedus fans swarmed that convention hall. I think some of them are still there. By the way, one Norman Reedus autograph: $80. You do the math.

Another fun part of HorrorHound: checking out all the creepy costumes people donned.

One second after I snapped this photo, the monkey man suddenly slapped his cymbals together, scaring the hell out of everyone.

One second after I snapped this photo, the monkey man suddenly slapped his cymbals together, scaring the hell out of everyone.

Everypne kept saying "It's Nosferatu!" Nope, any discerning Stephen King fans knows it's Barlow from the late 1970s Salems Lot TV miniseries.

Everyone kept saying “It’s Nosferatu!” Nope, any discerning Stephen King fan knows it’s Barlow from the late 1970s Salem’s Lot TV miniseries.

There's nothing especially stunning about these costumes. I just couldn't help but think that the Big Bad Wolf and Grandmother suddenly had the urge to fill out their 1099s. I mean, it IS tax season.

There’s nothing especially stunning about these costumes. I just couldn’t help but think that the Big Bad Wolf and Grandmother suddenly had the urge to fill out their 1099s. I mean, it IS tax season.

Here are some things that were for sale at HorrorHound that I did not buy:

That’s right, a hand-burnt casket that’s light enough to hang on the wall! The sheep heads were separate (and $150, judging by the price tag). I’m thinking you can probably buy a living sheep on Craigslist (face it, everything’s on Craigslist: used treadmills, meth lab components, prostitutes—so it’s not a leap to think that livestock’s floating around somewhere in there).

That’s right, a hand-burnt casket that’s light enough to hang on the wall! The sheep heads were separate (and $150, judging by the price tag). I’m thinking you can probably buy a living sheep for that same amount on Craigslist (face it, everything’s on Craigslist: used treadmills, meth lab components, prostitutes—so it’s not a leap to think that livestock’s floating around somewhere in there).

And here’s a cool skeletal carnivorous plant that costs almost as much as our monthly mortgage payment:plant

I did not purchase anything nearly as expensive as that. Just a Majestic Demon bust cast in resin. 

It was my one splurge to mark my first horror convention and first time ever stepping foot into Ohio (those billboards advertising “GUNS! This Exit!” is a clear reminder you’re not in New Jersey). Oh, check out http://www.alter-ego-dezines if you want your own demon.

It takes roughly 9 hours to drive from North Jersey to Cincinnati. That was the only downside to the weekend, but not bad enough to keep me from wanting to attend next year’s convention. I cannot wait.    

 

What to expect from your first author appearance …

Excited Krampus fans queue in front of the Barnes & Noble bookstore on Saturday, Novermber 22, 2014, in Bridgewater, N.J., for Matt Manochio's first-ever author event: a launch party for his debut supernatural thriller, The Dark Servant (Samhain Publishing). OK, no, that didn't happen. Well, the breadline did some 85 years ago. Chances are, if you're a debut author, you won't be seeing lines like this. But that's OK! If all goes well, you'll see a line, and you'll likely recognize the faces.

Excited Krampus fans queue in front of the Barnes & Noble bookstore on Saturday, November 22, 2014, in Bridgewater, N.J., for Matt Manochio’s first-ever author event: a launch party for his debut supernatural thriller, The Dark Servant. OK, no, that didn’t happen. Well, the breadline did some 85 years ago. Chances are, if you’re a debut author, you won’t be seeing lines like this. But that’s OK! If all goes well, you’ll see a line, and you’ll likely recognize the faces.

Back when it appeared that The Dark Servant (Samhain Publishing) would publish–and a comet the size of Canada wouldn’t strike the Earth, probably pushing publication back a few million eons–I decided that I wanted to have one author event, which occurred on a brisk November Saturday night. I wanted this not so much to sell books, although that’s certainly a part of it, but more to mark an accomplishment that was years in the making. Here’s how it went:

Barnes & Noble's Bridgewater (NJ) team created posters and displayed them around the store. Honestly, it was surreal seeing this when I walked inside a half hour before the 6 p.m. start, carrying a dozen donuts to give to the staff. First bit of unsolicited advice: Treat the staff well! They'll be working with you throughout the night, and you might even have a potential customer or two among them. (And they ladies who took the donuts said booksellers indeed get appetites during the day, and were genuinely surprised [and pleased] to have recieved them.)

Barnes & Noble’s Bridgewater (NJ) team created posters and displayed them around the store. Honestly, it was surreal seeing this when I walked inside a half hour before the 6 p.m. start, carrying a dozen donuts to give to the staff. First bit of unsolicited advice: Treat the staff well! Talk to them. They’ll be working with you throughout the night, and you might even have a potential customer or two among them. (And the ladies who took the donuts said booksellers indeed get appetites during the day, and were genuinely surprised [and pleased] to have received them.)

Next up, the display. B&N set me up in the back of the store in an open area where they placed 25 copies of my book.

Barnes & Noble did not provide the Krampus mask. I bought that months ago thinking it would draw attention (and it did) during any events I might do. What I didn't know was that the store would set me up directly in front of the CHILDREN'S SECTION. Imagine little jimmy scampering to the bag of the store to get some Doctor Who Legos (or whatever) and coming face to face with a howling head of death. Life is scary, Jimmy. Get used to it.

Barnes & Noble did not provide the Krampus mask. I bought that months ago thinking it would draw attention (and it did) during any events I might do. What I didn’t know was that the store would set me up directly in front of the CHILDREN’S SECTION. Imagine little Jimmy scampering to the back of the store to get some Doctor Who Legos (or whatever) and coming face to face with a howling head of death. Life is scary, Jimmy. Get used to it. Oh, not pictured, but off to the right side, was a table of cookies and brownies. It’s a party, right? Feed the crowd, get folks to mingle. My wife suggested that food be served, and she was right as always.

Six o’clock rolled around and people began filtering in! And the stack of books quickly vanished because my friends and family members were buying multiple copies. I didn’t do any fancy advertising. Weeks, even months, before my release date I printed (don’t worry, it’s inexpensive) bookmarks featuring my cover and contact info and left stacks of them in multiple bookstores. Book sellers love getting things like that and don’t mind customers taking them. Spread the word, baby! Perhaps the most worthwhile thing I did was create an Event on my Facebook Author page and invite every friend on my feed, knowing full well a vast majority wouldn’t show–and that was fine! Honestly, people live in other states, don’t really know you well, or have better things to do on a Saturday night, like getting a tongue stud or maybe getting married.

Here's the line! It didn't wrap around the store, but it was long enough so that all 25 copies were off the table and in customers' hands! It took about 15 to 20 minutes for this to happen. I didn't even get a chance to try to convince a complete stranger to take a chance on me (and that's gonna be the tough part--a live-and-learn, get-a-thick-spine trial by fire). Notice the gentleman speaking to me in the lower left hand corner? That's the store manager informing me that the 10 author copies I brought along to put up for consignment--just in case the store ran out of books, which it did--were NOT allowed to be sold on consignment because B&N doesn't do that. At least this store didn't. Only copies ordered by the store could be sold. This led to the part of the evening I'll remember as long as my brain works.

(Good lord, is my hair receding that much?) Oh! Here’s the line! It didn’t wrap around the store, but it was long enough so that all 25 copies were off the table and in customers’ hands! It took about 15 to 20 minutes for this to happen. I didn’t even get a chance to try to convince a complete stranger to take a chance on me (and that’s gonna be the tough part–a live-and-learn, get-a-thick-spine trial by fire). Notice the gentleman speaking to me in the lower left hand corner? That’s the store manager informing me that the 10 author copies I brought along to sell on consignment–just in case the store ran out of books, which it did–were NOT allowed to be sold on consignment because B&N doesn’t do that. At least this store didn’t. (More unsolicited advice: find out whether the bookstore sells books on consignment before your event. I was under the impression I could, but it was never explicitly stated.) So now I was faced with the prospect of having copies of my book to sell in a book store, but I couldn’t because only copies ordered by the store could be sold. This led to the part of the evening I’ll remember for as long as my brain works. (Thanks Bob Karp for taking photos!)

Now, I couldn’t sell my author copies in the store. But I was never told I couldn’t sell them outside the store. Which led to me acting like a young Henry Hill from Goodfellas, selling non-taxed cigarettes in broad daylight before he gets pinched (“Never rat on your friends, and always keep your mouth shut.”).

Yes! That's right! Ghetto book-selling from the truck of my car! It's my goal to never leave a customer unsatisfied, even it if means somewhat illicit cash-for-book deals going down near the Men's Warehouse in Central Jersey. I felt like Walter White, but without (fortunately) the cancer, rage, crystal meth.

Yes! That’s right! Ghetto book-selling from the trunk of my car! Although in fairness to me, my product isn’t illegal, to my knowledge, officer. It’s my goal to never leave a customer unsatisfied, even it if means somewhat illicit cash-for-book deals going down near the Men’s Warehouse in Central Jersey. I took a few trips outside with folks to, ah, take care of business. I felt like Walter White, but without (fortunately) the cancer, rage, and crystal meth. (Thanks, Maria Armental for snapping the photo!)

The fun part of the evening wasn’t signing books:

Things I've learned signing books (trade paperbacks, in my case) early in my fledgling career: Being left-handed is not ideal--you don't want to crease a customer's book with your left arm; a good pen helps--Stephen King (yes, that guy) has a wonderful staff that answers questions if you're professional about it. I wanted to use the kind Stephen used during his recent Revival book tour because, well, you figure that by that point in the guy's four-decade-plus career, he'd know what to use: a Uniball Elite Vision pen with blue ink; and, lastly, it feels odd signing your name to your book. It just does. The only time you sign your name is on checks or when police take off the handcuffs so you can give written consent to search your trunk. You don't really think about it when you're doing it because the cops will NEVER find what they're looking for--oops! I mean, it's routine. Do I want to create an autograph with a flourish? These are things you think about during the down hours at work.

Things I’ve learned signing books (trade paperbacks) early in my fledgling career: Being left-handed is not ideal–you don’t want to crease a customer’s book with your left arm; a good pen helps–Stephen King (yes, that guy) has a wonderful staff that answers questions if you’re professional about it. I wanted to use the kind Stephen used during his recent Revival book tour because, well, you figure that by that point in the guy’s four-decade-plus career, he’d know what to use: a Uniball  Vision Elite pen with blue ink; and, lastly, it feels odd signing your name to your book. It just does. The only time you sign your name is on checks or when police take off the handcuffs so you can give written consent to search your trunk. You don’t really think about it when you’re doing it because the cops will NEVER find what they’re looking for–oops! I mean, it’s routine. Do I want to create an autograph with a flourish? These are things you think about during the down hours at work.

As I said, the fun part wasn’t the autographing, it was talking with friends I’d not seen in a long time–months or years, truly thanking them for supporting me. It’s not easy asking someone to part with hard-earned money. It was thanking my wife for putting up with me in the weeks leading up to the event. And it was the goofing around:

I'm thinking Stephen King didn't don a rabid, slobbery Saint Bernard dog mask during the Cujo book tour in the early 1980s. But what the heck? Thanks again, Bob Karp!

I’m thinking Stephen King didn’t don a rabid, slobbery Saint Bernard dog mask during the Cujo book tour in the early 1980s. But what the heck? Thanks again, Bob Karp!

In the end, the event was fun and we sold every copy! I’d heard that a Houghton Mifflin cookbook author, who was in the middle of a multi-city, nationwide book tour, was there earlier in the day for a signing and that our crowd blew hers out of the water. That made me feel good, not because I’m malicious or hold ill will toward cookbook authors, but because I wanted my event to go well, to hopefully make an impression on the store: Authors from smaller presses can do good work and can bring people into the store. I’m not sure what Barnes & Noble was expecting, but I don’t think they expected what happened that Saturday night. My tip to any bookstore manager: if you see an author who wants to schedule a signing and who has an Italian last name, immediately order an additional 15 books. I am grateful that the good folks at Barnes & Noble in Bridgewater gave me a chance there. I also paid my respects by buying a book: Stephen King’s Cell. I walked out of the store that night feeling good about my first event. Hopefully more events, and more fun, await.

The Stephen King and I

Perhaps you’re upset that you missed the opportunity to sleep on a New York City sidewalk during a chilly November night just to have a brief audience (I’m talking about five seconds) with Stephen King to get a book signed. If you are, and you want to know what King’s Tuesday (November 11) appearance at the Union Square Barnes & Noble was like, this is for you.

Stephen announced his six-city Revival book tour a few months ago, with New York being the first stop. I live in New Jersey, less than an hour away, and arrived at Union Square at 8 p.m. Monday with my sleeping bag. (My wife was not at all pleased that I willingly opted to sleep on a sidewalk that likely has been peed or puked on at some point, and that I might sit next to someone who would say “Hi, I’m the Liberian Minister of Handshakes and I flew into New York and bypassed security—which was remarkably easy—just for this event! Pleased to meet you!” I justified it this way: I’d get a night away from my 3-year-old toddler and might actually get to sleep soundly for a change; and I’d be surrounded by like-minded King fans and we’d all look out for each other. And that’s exactly what happened. Meeting fellow travelers always adds to the experience.)

It might not seem long--well, it wasn't at the time of me taking this photograph--but this line to see Stephen King in NYC would literally wrap around an entire city block. I'm glad I got there when I did and would like to thank the hobo who kept me warm in my sleeping bag. His rates were very reasonable.

It might not seem long–well, it wasn’t at the time of me taking this photograph–but this line in front of the Barnes & Noble in Union Square to see Stephen King would literally wrap around an entire city block. I’m glad I got there when I did and would like to thank the hobo who kept me warm in my sleeping bag. His rates were very reasonable.

 

The store opened at 9 a.m. and I entered, purchased a copy of Revival, got a wristband that guaranteed I’d get an autograph, and then was herded upstairs to sit with my newly made friends in rows of folding chairs before an empty elevated stage with the Barnes & Noble logo emblazoned in the background.

The time was near! Some attendees had other books they wanted signed. Others, like me, hoped to snap a selfie while King signed. Our hopes were quickly dashed by event organizers. We were told in no uncertain terms:

1. Only Revival will be signed. No other books. Don’t even try. Representatives from the publisher will be present and armed with rattan canes to make sure you comply.

2. Mr. King will not personalize anything. No names. No “Happy Birthday” or “Best Wishes” or “Give me a Lock of Your Hair or I set off the Bomb under My Coat.” No dates. Mr. King will sign his name, and that’s it.

3. Mr. King will not pose for photos, although you may take them from where you’re seated or from where you are on line. No flash photography. You will be asked to pocket your phone when you get on stage. Don’t make us ask you to put things away. We deliberately didn’t feed our pit bulls. No selfies.

Now, I don’t have a problem with the whole no-posing-for-photographs rule. Essentially the author will sit, sign the book, stand up and pose for the photo, sit back down, sign the book, stand up and pose for the photo, sit back down—that indeed takes time, and it’s a bit unfair to ask a 67-year-old man who was hit and seriously injured by a car to do this more than 350 times. And the flash photography rule’s fine too. But, honestly, the author need not do anything for a selfie—it’s all on the fan, whose job is to stoop, line up the shot, hope the author is looking, and then snap it. Yes, it would take time, but not nearly as much as taking a traditional photo. But this wasn’t allowed. So be it.

It would’ve been nice, however, if we had been allowed to get a book other than Revival signed. My favorite King book is Salem’s Lot and there were plenty stocked on the store’s shelves. I’d have gladly purchased one, along with Revival, with the signature going on Salem’s Lot. The store (and author) would’ve made more money, and the fan would’ve gotten the signature on the preferred book. But this was verboten. The rules were hard and fast and enforced so the event would run fast. And boy did it.

Stephen promptly appeared at noon on the store’s 4th floor to a rousing ovation from the more than 350 people who braved the cold to be there. Stephen graced the stage, thanked us for being there, cracked a joke about how he could go home now, and said, “Let’s do a signing.”

Stephen King addresses his adoring minions before signing copies of his newest book, Revival.

Stephen King addresses his adoring minions before signing copies of his newest book, Revival.

And just like that, we took whatever photos we could, got on line, took the stage, had our books placed before Stephen, and were able to interact for a few seconds.

I didn’t pre-plan a question. My comment would be one of at least 350 Stephen would hear that day and probably promptly forget. No biggie. We greeted each other, and I said that I know he’s probably heard this before, but please write a sequel to Salem’s Lot. He looked at me somewhat quizzically, cracked a sly grin and said he’d think about it. I thanked him, he said you’re welcome and that was it. Off the stage and out of the bookstore, the I Love Lucy chocolate conveyor kept moving.

Sorry about my big ugly mug taking up 90 percent of this photo, but this was the best selfie I could snap at the King signing. Cameras were forbidden on stage, and I'm pretty sure security would have broken my kneecaps had I attempted one.

Sorry about my big ugly mug taking up 90 percent of this photo, but this was the best selfie I could snap at the King signing. Cameras were forbidden on stage, and I’m pretty sure security would have broken my kneecaps had I attempted one.

Was it worth it? To meet a writing legend who rarely does book signings? Yes. It was. Stephen King was who I expected him to be: pleasant and professional. Revival now sits on my bookshelf next to signed Michael Crichton, Dean Koontz, and Dave Barry books, among others. Clearly it’s the highlight, one that will be passed down to my son and not sold on eBay—at least it had better not! Harold Bloom’s crankiness aside, King will go down with Shelley, Lovecraft, Wells and Stoker. All of us have read a King book at some point in our lives. And his works will endure long after he decides to throw the sink through the window and bound off into the darkness like the Chief from Cuckoo’s Nest.

Had Stephen allowed personalizations, I would've suggested "Ebay Auction Winner," just to see his reaction. But the rules stated no names, and if I were to sell this book on eBay, Stephen made the job easier by NOT personalizing anything. But this book won't be sold, auctioned or anything of the sort. It's a special book that sits next to my signed copies of Dave Barry's Money Secrets, and Michael Crichton's Jurassic World.

Had Stephen allowed personalizations, I would’ve suggested “Ebay Auction Winner,” just to see his reaction. But the rules stated no names, and if I were to sell this book on eBay, Stephen made the job easier by NOT personalizing anything. But this book won’t be sold, auctioned or anything of the sort. It’s a special book that sits next to my signed copies of Dave Barry’s Money Secrets, Dean Koontz’s Innocence, and Michael Crichton’s Jurassic World.

I’m not one for transitions, so here we go: My first-ever bookstore event will be held on November 22 at 6 p.m. at the Barnes & Noble in Bridgewater, New Jersey. It’s a book launch. Plenty of family and friends, and yes, you’re invited. Here are my rules:

1. If you want to take a photograph with me (although I don’t know why you would want to), I’m fine with it. Just ask.

2. I will be happy to personalize and thereby devalue the book, making it harder to sell for 2 cents on eBay.

3. I don’t have a backlist. The Dark Servant is my first book. But if I ever get to the point where I have a bunch of different titles floating around, and you want to get one signed, in addition to buying whatever one just went on sale, by all means, bring/buy it. Hopefully there will be a next time, and a time after that. I figure, it’s the least I can do if you took the time to sleep in front of the store just to meet me.

Oh, that’s the other bit of good news: you won’t need to sleep in front of the B&N the night before my event. But if you want to, well, I’d be honored. Hot cocoa on me.

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Glenn Rolfe and Francis Xavier are awesome!

I’m adding these posts as I go to my Blog’s media page, but I want to call attention, and profusely thank, both Francis Xavier and Glenn Rolfe:

Francis Xavier posted a great interview with me on Examiner.com. Francis also interviewed my editor, Don D’Auria, a few years ago and likewise did a fantastic job.

Horror fanatic and author Glenn Rolfe reviewed The Dark Servant for iHorror.com and has been very supportive. Check out his review, and also check out his new short story collection, Slush.

CDC’s top doctors enter NYC to fight Ebola!

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I’m officially on the fence about going to NYC to meet Stephen King on November 11. Especially after hearing Mayor de Blasio tell us to trust these guys when it comes to following medical protocols.