Thursday, April 15, 2010

Today is the day! Freedom Island goes on sale with terrific bonuses for buying

 I can't believe it's been more than a week since I had a moment to update the blog. We've been scrambling to put finishing touches on the website, making sure all the bonus gifts are ready and accessible. So much to do!! We ended up with a great set of free books for anyone who orders Freedom Island today--more than $80 worth. Several historic documents will make a terrific addition to anyone's library, plus there are motivational and inspirational products as well. And the site looks great!

I didn't sleep last night. I don't think anyone in the office did, nor did the author. We talked at 5:00 a.m. We all have Amazon's Freedom Island sales page up on our computers. I've clicked the refresh button three times in the last hour--silly, because the sales figures are only updated once each hour. But I can't stand the suspense! Keeping positive thoughts....

I'll keep clicking!!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Bestseller campaign details -- can you participate?

Thanks to JR's inspiring words last week we've seen a big surge of interest in the book. Sales on Amazon and Kindle are up dramatically, as are other e-reader formats on Smashwords. Partners are starting to spread the word and others are joining up because they've heard about Freedom Island.

I always felt that JR had something here--the manuscript came to me within just a few weeks after I first heard of the Tea Party movement and other citizens groups who are fighting mad about the attitude in Washington, the feeling of so many of us that our politicians are completely out of touch. People are realizing that the status quo, career politicians, and a president who is clearly more interested in being a celebrity than a leader--those values aren't working for us anymore. Without giving away the ending to the book, for those who haven't read it yet, I just have to say that I'd love to see the Island lifestyle adopted here and now!

We're just ten days away from our Bestseller Launch Campaign. The excitement here in the office is palpable. If you know anyone--a person or an organization--whose values go along with the concept of smaller government, lower taxes, more freedom for our citizens, please have them contact me. We want to spread the canopy wide and get as many participants as possible.

To help with the campaign, all you have to do is be willing to send an email blast to your personal, business or organization mailing list. Please note that to avoid being accused of spamming, these need to be opt-in list subscribers or personal contacts. Do not contact us with offers of broadcast emailing to unknown people--no one wants spam! If you have an opt-in list, we will provide a letter for you to send. You may want to add a short personal introduction, then you just send the message out to your list. That's it. I'll provide complete details if you want to contact me. As I mentioned in an earlier post, there will be some nice bonus publications (Five free books and several other documents at last count) for everyone who purchases Freedom Island on the campaign day, April 15th.

The excitement builds!!
Lee Ellison
Editor, Secret Staircase Books

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

JR Sinclair, Guest Blogger

Hi all,
JR Sinclair here. This is my first time to visit Lee's blog, although I've been following her comments all along. What a ride it's been since November, when I first got word that Freedom Island would be published, right up to this week when we saw government move into control of our health care options--just as predicted in my book.

I first had the idea for a story like Freedom Island a couple of years before I actually began writing. I remember being so inspired by Ayn Rand's teachings and particularly her wonderful book, Atlas Shrugged. The warnings she offered--about how easily a nation can slide into socialism, and then further into communism once we become entrenched in the notion that government can take care of our needs--those ideas have stayed with me my whole life. I saw so many of those things happening again--the New Deal under FDR, the war on poverty that started in the 1960s, the increasing rules and regulations that federal, state and local governments tried to impose in an effort to equalize incomes and keep all citizens safe from every eventuality--all with a heavy price to pay in the loss of freedom for all of us. It scared me.

The ideas of freedom, of individual choices and consequences, of personal responsibility were what I wanted to convey in a book. I observed how during periods of lower taxes the country thrived, how higher taxes brought about job losses as business people struggled to make ends meet and keep their companies alive. I used my father's experiences as a businessman, and my own entrepreneurial ventures, as the basis for the characters of Patrick Dane and Bert Alexander. Friends in the medical profession, who confided their frustration with insurance claims, the Medicare system, and a couple of other friends who receive their own medical care from the Veterans Administration gave me the background and wealth of experiences that I used for Dr. Regan Rafferty in the book. Teachers came forth with stories of the difficulty in educating kids under a system that tries to instill values that are better taught by religion or families, while skimping on the type of basic learning that assures every kid can at least read and write. I used many of their stories to build the character of Amy Alexander in the book. And there had to be the character who offered the answers--the visionary. That was Sam Ryker. He comes from a combination of many people--my father, my teachers, my neighbor who once held local office, and myself.

It's one thing to paint a bleak picture and point out the problems in society, quite another thing to offer a solution. We can hear about what's wrong with the world simply by turning on the many 24/7 news channels that exist today. We can get the opposite side, the idealistic view of how it all "should" be by listening to political promises or eavesdropping in coffee shops. But I wanted more. I wanted to write of a way of life that could actually work, solutions to problems that are based on things we can really do. And I believe I've done that with Freedom Island.

We Americans are so very fortunate. We have a well-constructed system, if we just pay attention and not let it get out of control. And to do that we have our votes. I wanted to make the point in the story that we can never underestimate the power of our votes. We cannot get lazy. We must make it clear that it is every citizen's responsibility to provide for him- or herself and to take responsibility for our decisions--the wrong ones and the right ones. By combining my studies of eastern philosophy, my own practices of positive thought and healthy lifestyle, with the fundamentals of limited government, I think I've come up with a story that offers hope for the future. I want to introduce people to the ideas of taking charge by taking responsibility for their actions. I would love to see Freedom Island reach every voter in America within these next two election cycles, because we are truly at a tipping point. Once the balance swings so that there are more folks receiving government aid than not, it will be a nearly impossible task to ever swing it back the other direction. We must be vigilant about not letting that happen.

I am so grateful to everyone who has supported the effort to get Freedom Island out across the country. There are too many to name, from those who read and offered suggestions at the early stages to the many people who are now helping to spread the word by email, by personal recommendations, and by passing books along to their friends and family. Thank you all--so much!

I feel like the extra guest at the party at this stage of the game. The real excitement is back at the office. Lee and the gang are in contact with so many organizations and great folks from all over who want to be part of helping us to get Freedom Island out to the world. Again, thank you all for your participation!

JR Sinclair
March, 2010

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Less than three weeks to Book Launch--Will We Be Ready?

People are starting to contact us, sharing their willingness to get news of Freedom Island out to their own email lists of subscribers and customers. I'm so thrilled with the response!!

And...we are getting bonuses we can offer as an extra incentive for people to order Freedom Island on The Day--April 15th. This is exciting. A few of the bonuses will require some work by our staff here--layouts to make the material more attractive, covers for publications that will be delivered electronically. I want everything to be first class.

But all that is easily done. I've got someone already on the assignment of finding the right artwork for those covers, and another designer working on the interior layouts. The staff is pitching in with devotion and extra hours. Once I get cover art in hand, the web designer can set up the Bonus section of the website and the whole promotion will really start to look great.

Now for more partners--we really want to see this book in the hands of every voter over the next few months, and that means getting the word out to a LOT of people!
Lee Ellison
Secret Staircase Books

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Partner, partner, where art thou?

This week marks our first earnest push to find partners for our bestseller launch. I've spent many hours online looking for likely organizations and people who will love Freedom Island as much as we do. And there are hundreds--each representing hundreds more folks. We've set out to contact as many as possible.

Books are stacked all over my office, and mailing supplies have accumulated as well. Now it's a matter of packaging, labeling, and getting them mailed. The books will be on their before the end of the week, and we are starting an office-wide "vision" to picture positive responses from everyone we contact.

In our preliminary set of email queries, the first day, we got one very abrupt (I'll say rude) rejection, but everyone else has been very polite. We are now on the Tea Party calendar as an official April 15th event--that's exciting! They are planning a bunch of nationwide events to promote taxpayer awareness and speak to voters. I'm amazed at the energy of the movement. It's as if most of the nation is in some kind of psychic sync with JR's message in the book. I'm jazzed!!

Lee Ellison
Senior Editor
Secret Staircase Books/ imprint of
Columbine Publishing Group

Next up: Let's see those numbers!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Book partners and endorsers

Some great news this week. After sending requests to several celebrities asking for endorsements for Freedom Island, we've had positive responses from a couple. At this point, just requests for copies and a promise to take a look. Crossing fingers that they'll love it as much as we here at Columbine did.

Meanwhile, our inventory of books is on the way to us--we'll use the first few boxes to provide review copies to print media, online, and promotion partners. And I'm happy to say that the book just went up on sale on Amazon in print and as a Kindle e-book. For those with other types of e-book readers (Sony, Apple, Palm, etc) you can click this link to find Freedom Island in other formats.

Next week--the earnest push to locate and sign up partners to help with the marketing of the book. It's going to get busy around here--at this point we have more ideas than time to implement them. But it's coming together really well.

Lee Ellison
Senior Editor
Columbine Publishing/Secret Staircase Books

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Partnering on a book launch

Naturally, everything is moving along a bit more slowly than I'd hoped. And I've now got houseguests for a week, which isn't giving me the desk time I need. But I'm sneaking the time to blog after they've gone to bed.

Review copies of the physical books are on order. We're reaching out to people with politically oriented email lists--those tea party groups and others who are sharing the buzz about changing the way government operates today. There are a LOT of folks with this viewpoint. Now we just need to find them. They are going to love JR's book and I truly believe they will help spread the word.

Next step....the books will go on sale on Amazon and in several e-book formats. Talk about a FAST way to get a book into the hands of a reader!! I absolutely love e-books!!!

More later....
Lee Ellison

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Every book project has a hiccup, doesn't it?

Well, I had intended to write about how smoothly everything was rolling along at this point . . . then we got the hiccup. The proof copy of Freedom Island that should have been here two weeks ago didn't show up on time. And of course the delay happened with me out of the country. International phone calls . . . getting a courier service to check on it for me . . .  I'm ordering a second one, staying in touch with the post office (a hard fact of running a business in a very small town is that not many overnight services are truly "overnight"). But we're clicking along again.

Meanwhile, JR has done a wonderful job of finding folks to contact for endorsements--luckily, in today's world not everything depends upon there being a physical book in our hands. We are offering PDF copies and able to get those out to everyone who needs them.

Choosing the book's official publication date and the time for the publicity launch has been puzzling me. I wanted a date with relevance, a date early enough in the year to get a buzz going well before the November elections. Remember, the story is about a group of people who are coping with the very things we are seeing on the news today: higher unemployment, bigger government, and the prospect of rising taxes to cover the costs. So, it finally hit me that what better date to launch Freedom Island than . . . April 15th.

It's tax day for the majority of Americans, when a lot of us grit our teeth and sign our returns, the day that it really sinks in just how much of our income went to feed the huge Uncle Sam machine. If there is ever a time when taxpayer awareness hits a high point, it's that day!

We've got just at two months to get books printed and distributed, endorsements gathered, website finalized, reviews, ads and tweets at the ready--Can we do it?  I think so!

I've got to make myself another cup of tea!
Lee Ellison

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Freedom Island - Holding the book in our hands

Fourteen weeks since the arrival of the Freedom Island manuscript on my desk. Three weeks since the edits and revision were finished. Now I'm on pins and needles, waiting for a proof of the finished book to arrive. Kicking myself, just a little, because I didn't request express shipping--why did I think standard would be good enough? Argh! Like a kid at Christmas, I just want it to get here faster!

Not that there is any shortage of things to do. We are gathering names of celebrities and authors we'd like to contact for endorsements. And a number of potential sales outlets have come onto the radar. Topics related to Freedom Island are hitting the news daily:  people in America are fed up with the political direction the country is taking (so are the characters in the book); issues like joblessness, higher taxes, and out-of-control government spending are the hot topics in the blogosphere and social media (the same topics addressed in the book). We're getting very excited that J.R. Sinclair's book is going to be hitting the market at this time. And with the mid-term elections coming up in November, we think we have an enormous potential audience.

Excitement is building . . . we're ready to start rolling. Once the galley copy is approved, we will get advance reading copies out to the world. Then the real fun begins!

Lee Ellison
Secret Staircase Books
Next:  Rolling!!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Freedom Island: Publication dates and other tedious schedules

Manuscript arrives in house, is edited, finalized. Cover art designed. Now we must make decisions about our publishing format and schedule. I'll be quite candid in saying that we have no idea how many books this first-time author will sell (actually, no publisher ever knows that). The fact that most of our marketing is going to be done online, rather than through traditional bookstores is one of those good thing/bad thing scenarios. Bad because there will be no pre-orders upon which to base our calculations for print runs. Good because most of our sales will be directly to readers--we'll have very few bookstore returns (a practice that seems unique to bookselling, among retailers).

Our decision is to start with an initial short run using Print On Demand (POD) technology. And we'll go heavily into the e-book markets. Experience with several other titles shows us that e-book sales figures are at least equal to, and sometimes higher than, print books. Toward that goal, we get  Freedom Island - Kindle edition immediately set up on Ta-da! We have a place where people can actually receive the book--now.

Within the week, we also plan to upload the book to our supplier for all other electronic formats--Barnes & Noble's Nook reader, the Sony Reader, and others, including PDF formats that can be read on any computer. We can now easily get copies of the book out to reviewers and to fill any early sales that might come in from word-of-mouth contacts. In the meantime getting busy on Twitter and other social media sites.

Although the book is now available in some formats, we still need to get actual printed copies in our hands. And we need to set an official "launch date" toward which we will gear our main marketing push. Did I mention that it's getting a little crazy here in our offices?

Lee Ellison
Secret Staircase Books
Next: Holding that book in your hands!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Freedom Island: Marketing a Book With a Shy Author

Over the years I've worked with authors with a variety of personalities. While writing is a solitary pursuit, the extrovert must come out once the book is finished. Contacting agents or editors requires a fair amount of nerve, and once the book is slated for publication there is always a lot of promotion involved. Most of the writers I've worked with eagerly await the chance to do book signings. However, once in awhile they don't. I've got one of those now.

J.R. Sinclair, author of
Freedom Island, isn't a "difficult writer." He's just shy (so shy that 'Sinclair' is actually a pen name). He doesn't like travel. He doesn't like to talk about himself. He just wants to stay home and write. Okay. I get that. But it presents a challenge for a publisher. Especially for a small press, where we depend upon our authors to do lots of the promotion, along with us. So . . . what to do?

We analyze everyone's strengths. J.R. would hate doing a traditional book tour but he is great at internet research, and we're going to make the most of that as we find potential markets for his book. Remember that I mentioned that Freedom Island is political fiction? With the mid-term elections happening this year, interest in the election process is ramping up again. So, we want to find readers who are interested in politics and in what this election is all about. We know there are millions of them. Now we have to figure out how to reach them as we strive for our goal of creating a bestseller. J.R.--this is where you shine. Get me those names!!

On the production front, I'm excited to say that the cover design for Freedom Island is done. Here is a picture of it---simple, basic, and it conveys the theme of the book--that freedom is the most important thing we have. I'm getting very excited about the upcoming introduction of it. Advance reader copies pretty soon!

Lee Ellison
Senior Editor
Secret Staircase Books

Next: Publication dates and other tedious schedules

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Taking a Book From Here to There

This is probably an audacious idea, one that hit me a couple of months ago, but I haven't been able to get it out of my mind. Could a very, very small book publisher actually produce a nationally best-selling novel? My 16 years of experience in publishing says that the odds are strongly against it. Distribution and getting books into the big chain stores are usually the stumbling blocks. Nonfiction books, yes. Some of those have made it to the big time. But the realm of fiction has belonged almost exclusively to Big New York Publishing. However . . . in 2009 a book came across my desk that I felt had that "special something," the combination of good solid writing and a theme that would resonate.

November 2009 marked the one-year anniversary of the election of a very liberal president and legislature. It was also the month in which J.R. Sinclair's manuscript came across my desk.

Freedom Island reflected so much of what has happened in America since that historic election--it showed a future that included larger bureaucracies, government controlled health care, higher taxes, out-of-control government spending at all levels. J.R. told me that he'd had the vision for this story more than two years earlier. I was amazed that he had seen so clearly the direction the country was headed. I felt such a strong affinity for the characters in the story--they reflected a variety of American people, many with my own values and ideas about smaller government. I committed to publish the book.

We immediately began the editing process, a team of three editors working with the author to polish and make it the best book possible (interestingly, the most liberal of the editors actually loved the story--thought it was SO timely). The rewrites went well and we had a final manuscript in hand the first week of January, 2010.

This was the point at which we decided to give the book an unusual launch and do everything we could to propel it to bestseller-dom. Will it work? Perhaps I should ask, How will it work? We aren't sure. We have a vision. And a goal: to see Freedom Island on a national bestseller list within one year--by the time of the 2010 mid-term election.

And now we are taking the risk of sharing the entire journey with the rest of the world. As senior editor on the project, I will be hands-on with all aspects of its publication and promotion. And I will detail the experience here on my "One Year Challenge" blog. I invite you to join me and see how it all turns out.

Lee Ellison
Senior Editor
Secret Staircase Books

Next up: Working with a shy author