Monday, October 14, 2013

Can Scrivener Really Help the Writing Process?

I'm always looking for a "magic" assist to get me off my delaying tactics and help me to buckle down to serious writing. Last year I bought the Snowflake method software created by published novelist, Randy Ingermanson.  I actually used it to write "The Witch of Maple Park" and now I can sincerely recommend it.

Now, with this positive experience to build upon, I began to explore other software for writers.  I recently came across something called "Scrivener" which I downloaded as a 30 day free trial. I've used 2/3 of that time to read the lengthy tutorial twice and to watch the video version multiple times. At first, it seemed like the most complicated software ever to be devised for writers, and it made MS Word seem like kindergarten stuff.

But every time I've been tempted to forget Scrivener and just get on with writing my next novel, I've Googled "Scrivener" and found dozens of writers praising it and virtually no-body panning it. So I've stuck it out and the light is beginning to shine on the potential value of this product and of the time I've spent trying to get my brain around this software.

Have any of my readers encountered and used this product? All advice and suggestions will be cheerfully received by me and by other readers of this blog. Thanks in advance for your thoughtful comments.

Robert Tell
Novelist, Poet and Wannabe Golfer

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Is Marketing Fiction a Waste of Time?

What writers haven’t wrestled with this question? Especially today’s Indie Writers who have to do everything by themselves. Write the fiction, publish it somewhere, and attract readers to the work? 

It’s a dilemma. The competition is fierce and who wants to stand on the metaphorical equivalent of a freeway exit ramp with a chest sign reading “Buy My Book (Please).”  

How to balance all this? More cogently, how to justify hours and hours of Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ time sending out low key posts (“Pretty Please!”)? And if, in abject frustration that no-one is buying, low-key becomes high-key shameless marketing…well, you know what happens then. We’re advised that everyone in Cyberspace will be turned off and we might as well pack it in. 

Hoo boy! What’s a writer to do?

Published novelist, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, has blogged about this at great length in a post about a year ago called: “Hurry Up. Wait.” Here’s the link: Rusch says she spent over 30 years in the traditional publishing industry so her comments come with the benefit of real expertise. Every writer should read it.

Her thesis? Basically, that marketing activities are generally a waste of time that’s more profitably spent in writing your next book. 

An excerpt: “Publicity doesn’t work for books. It really doesn’t. All it does is get your name in front of a reader who might then glance at your book…I buy (books) because of word-of-mouth, just like every other reader on the planet…So indie writers who promote their book instead of writing the next book are wasting their time. The more books you’ve written, the more books you’ll sell. That’s how it works. That’s how it’s always worked.”

Rusch also devotes much of this blog to the differences between the traditional publishing route and the Indie Route. I know you’ve read tons of stuff about this. So have I. But this one really makes the processes clear in both cases and I found it extraordinarily helpful to my own publishing goal. For me, it justifies my commitment to Indie publishing, but each writer is different so what works for me may not work for you. 

Whatever, the bottom line is this. Keep writing. Don’t let anything get in the way.

Robert Tell
Novelist, Poet and Wannabe Golfer

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Have You Published An Interview At Smashwords?

I just did at

What do you think of it? I hope you'll check it out and comment on this blog. If there are additional questions you'd like to see me answer in the interview, please feel free to suggest them and I will answer them. I promise.

Smashwords makes creating a personal interview easy and fun. Not just for authors, Readers too are welcome to publish an interview on the Smashwords site. Take a look.

Happy Labor Day, one and all.

Rober Tell
Novelist, Poet and Wannabe Golfer

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


—in a new mind-teasing adventure in crime literature—

A Novel by Robert Tell    © 2013

"The Witch of Maple Park" is compelling fiction inspired by a true story.

The True Story: On Christmas Eve, 1843, on Staten Island, N.Y., Emeline Houseman and her baby are gruesomely axe murdered and dismembered. Her sister-in-law, Polly Bodine is accused of the crime and branded "The Witch of Staten Island."

The New Story: On Christmas Eve, 1993, in a Detroit suburb, Kathy Black Marlowe, a blind jazz singer and her dog, are similarly axe murdered and dismembered. Her sister-in-law, Polly Marlowe, is accused of the killing and branded "The Witch of Maple Park."

The cantankerous private eye, Harry Grouch, and his attractive lover/sidekick, Judy Pacas, are one gut-wrenching step ahead of a ruthless Prosecuting Attorney and Police Chief, both of whom are conspiring to pin the grisly slaying on Polly Marlowe.

And how to explain the astonishing parallels between the tales of the two Polly's? Coincidence? Reincarnation? Prevarication? Harry Grouch must decide.
Preview the novel (or buy it now) in print or e-book format at:

   Barnes & Noble

Soon to be available at Nook and all on-line e-book and print booksellers. 

Information about Robert Tell's growing catalogue of work can be found at:

Friday, June 28, 2013

What is the "Rust Belt" Anyway?

So several days ago the Head and the Hand Press of Philadelphia ( was in my town (Detroit) promoting its new book: "Rust Belt Rising Almanac." I was there enjoying the music and storytelling and was asked to read my included poem, "The Straits," which was well received by a supportive audience.

"Rust Belt" is like the term "Midwest." Words which everyone thinks they understand until they are asked to define them. Then the precise meaning tends to slip away. I used to think that Michigan was Midwest until I lived for a time in Kansas City which I always thought of as "out west." Residents of that town told me that, without a doubt, KC is Midwest and Detroit is "back east." No way, I said. Way, they said.

"Rust Belt" is like that. What is the "Rust Belt" anyway? What cities qualify for that title? The Head and the Hand Press includes Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Philadelphia. Philadelphia? Since when? But why not, if the criteria is an old manufacturing town where the manufacturing base has declined along with the population base and the infrastructure (another word that defies definition).

In any event, other than my small contribution, the content of the "Rust Belt Rising Almanac" is fantastic and you should all get a copy, especially if you think you live in the Rust Belt.

Robert Tell, Author

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Why the huge difference in prices for e-books vs. print books?

This is a question I've been asked by many of my readers. I thought the answer should be obvious, but that may be because I'm immersed in the topic. And of course, we're addressing mainly the issue of indie authors. Traditional publishers continue to charge high e-book prices that cannot be justified, in my opinion, by their costs of publication.

Let me explain.  When a self-published author sells a paperback book through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc., there are all sorts of expenses that must be met right off the top. The printer must be paid for printing the book. The retailer must be paid for featuring and distributing the book. The shipper must be paid for shipping the book. And royalties must be split with some of these partners.

On the other hand when an e-book is published, there is no cost for hard copy printing, and no cost for shipping. All that remains is the on-line retailer and the author to split the royalties. In many cases, an author can actually receive a larger reward from selling an e-book at, say, $4.99, than from selling a print book at, for example, $12.

Of course, when a traditional publisher sells either a print book or e-book, its expenses of doing business plus a profit margin, must be added to the cost the reader pays, or the author's royalty must be further diminished. The theory is that this author will make it up on the volume of sales. This is becoming less and less true as e-book publishing continues to outpace print book sales.

The above is a somewhat simplified analysis, but I hope it will help with an understanding of this issue.  This marketplace will continue to evolve and change as will the technology of publishing.

Robert Tell, Author

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Chicken Soup for the Soul and other good news

I can't resist shouting about the honor I just received from a reader's comments about my poetry in the latest Chicken Soup for the Soul anthology. 

1) My poem, "Mushy Face is No Disgrace," was just republished by Chicken Soup for the Soul along with a companion piece from a woman writer in Seattle who was dramatically affected by her reading of the original work. She wrote that my poem had a life changing and uplifting impact on her attitude about aging. This anthology is the "20th Anniversary Reader's Choice" publication from Chicken Soup for the Soul and was just released to bookstores.  I was thrilled to be included in this way.

2) My poem about Detroit, "The Straits" is included in The Rust Belt Rising Almanac, a new anthology whch will hit the street on June 7th. This is the first title for the Head and the Hand Press in Philadelphia. It's focus is on meaningful stories and poetry from locations throughout the rust belt.

3) I recently published an e-book of short stories and poetry on hospital and medical themes called "The Medical Director's Divorce and other stories." These are based on my 25 years as a hospital administrator. It is available from all e-book retailers and through my website:

I will have some more news for you in a few weeks about my soon to be published new novel. It will bring my catalogue of published books to five.

Happy reading and writing.

Robert Tell, Author

Saturday, May 18, 2013

What is it about a book...

...that makes it so precious? When I was a kid, the gifts I most treasured were inscribed books from a favorite uncle or parent. I think of favorites like "Black Beauty," "A Child's Garden of Verse," "Red Ryder," "Bob, Son of Battle," and others that I saved for decades.

When my son was around seven years old, my parents gave him four books of Walt Disney tales, each  lovingly inscribed with a birthday message and a hope that he'd pass them along to his own son someday.  Well, someday just came, as his son just turned seven and is glued by the hour to the pages of these four volumes, which are surprisingly fresh and sound after four decades.

And this kid, like his contemporaries, is rarely apart from a screenful of entertainment, none of which will ever be as precious to him as the aging pages of those four old Disney books. What will he leave to his son (or daughter) someday? An autographed Kindle?

 How sad!

Robert Tell
Author of Ebooks (lol)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Are E-book Sales Slipping?

"After three years of triple-digit increases, the number of e-books sold last year grew by only 43%."

So begins an article in today's USA Today.  Grew by only 43%.  Like that's bad? What business would weep over stats like that? The point is that ebook growth may be beginning to trend down. 

Wasn't that inevitable? Of course. But is it a crisis? I think not.

Even though ebooks represent 20% of all books sold, the USA Today article points out that the rate of growth seems to be leveling off and that many readers still prefer the feel and look of printed books.

I suspect that will always be true. I have my Nook and a print book on my bedside table and I alternate reading each one. Most of my own book sales are e-books and I sell 10 ebooks for every print edition of my books. But the print editions do continue to be preferred by some readers. That's fine with me.

When TV was created, pundits predicted the end of radio. Of course, that didn't happen. Radio just morphed into a new style of delivering music and news. The same thing will happen with books. Print will always be with us, in my opinion. But there's no stopping, also in my opinion, the tsunami of ebooks flooding cyberspace. 

Readers will continue to have an expanding choice of what to read and how to access books. And that's a good thing, also in my opinion. What's yours?

Robert Tell, Author

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Why Do Writers Write?

I ask myself this question all the time, even though I've been lucky enough to attract many readers to my books. Still, we writers know the huge time and effort involved, and few of us will make the NY Time Best Seller List. 

I suspect you book readers will admit to having curiosity about this question too, even if you don't harbor a secret desire to write your own book some day (although I bet many of you do).

The answers for some of us may lie in the following excerpts from "The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success," by Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords ( 

Here's what Mark says:

"Much of the discussion about what constitutes a 'successful author' invariably goes to a
discussion about book sales and earnings. The danger of this myopic measure of success is that most writers won’t sell a lot of books. This holds true for indie authors as well as traditionally published authors.

"Does this mean most writers are failures? Definitely not.

"Don’t allow your definition of success to be defined by others.

"Why do writers write? Why do you write? It’s a fascinating question because the
answers reveal a more open-ended spectrum by which you might measure your success.

Most writers write first and foremost because they feel compelled to write. Writing is a
deeply emotional process of self-discovery. Writing is one of the purest, most profound
forms of creative self-expression.

"We writers are often driven by a passionate desire to share our stories, knowledge and
ideas with the world. It takes great bravery for a writer to expose their writing to public

"Most – but not all – writers want to reach readers with their words. I imagine that’s why
you’ve invested your precious time to read this book.

"For many writers, simply getting their book out there – either self-published or
traditionally published – is the ultimate reward. Most people dream of writing a book, but
few ever complete one.

"For other writers, reader feedback is the ultimate reward. I remember how touched my
wife and I were when we received our first fan mail and reviews from readers of our
novel, Boob Tube. There’s something very cool about a complete stranger enjoying your
labor of love.

"Remember why you’re a writer. If you write simply to make money, odds are you’ll
probably make more if you get a part-time job at McDonalds. Few of us will hit the
lottery of bestsellerdom (though some of you will – for the rest of us it’s fun to imagine
that brass ring and reach for it). For those who do become best sellers, success requires
years of hard work toiling in obscurity.

"Write because you love to write. Never stop growing as a writer. Push yourself to always improve your craft. When each success comes, relish it because you earned it!"

If you enjoyed the above excerpts, you can download your own free copy of Mark Coker's entire document at: 

Happy reading, writing, or both,

Robert Tell, Author,

Saturday, May 11, 2013

How can ebook authors increase sales?

I know you've heard about Smashwords, the major distributor of ebooks, but if you haven't see the latest Smashwords blog post, you are definitely missing out on lots of important marketing ideas.

If you are pressed for time, here's the essence of it in a nutshell. Based on a review of 120,000 of its ebook sales, Smashwords did an analysis of potential factors that could help authors sell more ebooks. 

Their analysis provided answers to the following questions:
  • Do frequent price changes help authors sell more books?
  • Do longer or shorter book titles sell more books? 
  • Do longer or shorter book descriptions sell more books?
  • How do sales develop over time at a retailer, and what factors might spark a breakout?
  • Do longer or shorter books sell better?
  • What's the average word count for the 60 bestselling Smashwords romance books?
  • What does the sales distribution curve look like, and how many books sell well?
  • How many words are the bestselling authors selling for a penny?
  • What are the most common price points for indie ebooks, and what changed since last year? 
  • How many more downloads do FREE ebooks get compared to priced ebooks?
  • How have Smashwords sales grown at the Apple iBookstore in three years?
  • How does price impact unit sales volume?
  • What price points yield the greatest overall earnings for authors and publishers?
  • What does the Yield Graph portend for the future of publishing?
To read about the findings, I recommend checking out the link to the Smashwords' blog post:

Mark Coker, the guy who created Smashwords, has asked for the word about this study to be spread . Smashwords has my own books in its inventory and, very possibly yours as well. I will be applying the lessons learned to the marketing of my work.  I suggest you read the findings of this study and apply them to your own strategies too.

Good luck!

Robert Tell

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

What the heck is this all about?

Well, I'll tell ya! In fact, I'll Robert Tell ya!

I'm an author of novels, memoir and poetry, but please notice that I'm not listing or promoting my work here right now. That's deliberate. I want readers and fellow authors to feel comfortable about participating in these discussions without fearing a hard sell whenever they tune in.

If you really want to know about me you can find my profile and my work described at Goodreads, Smashwords, Amazon, and all on-line retailers of books and ebooks. And that's all I'll say about that right now. Do you like that, or would you prefer to know more about me right here on this blog?

I envision this blog as a clubhouse where everyone interested in books can mingle and chat. So let's talk about what makes a good read, about publishing alternatives in the new world of publishing, what turns you on and off about writer and reader forums, and how we can make the dialogue in a blog like this meaningful to everyone who loves words, stories, cereal boxes,  or whatever format consumes your literary interests.

How can a blog like this be useful to you?

For starters, do you own an e-reader?  If not, why not? If yes, which e-reader do you own and would you by it again? Do you still read hard copy books sometimes?

Here's my take. I own a basic Nook. All I can do on it is read. That's good. When I read, I don't want a gadget that will tempt me to surf the web or check my email. All in all I'm happy with it. My wife has a basic Kindle and, truthfully, I like it too. Right now I'm reading the complete works of Agatha Christie which I bought from B&N for a buck. I love it.

I'm also reading a regular hard cover edition of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's "Majesty of the Law," and I love that too.

What about you? Let's hear from you.

Robert Tell, Author