Whew, that was close!

I experienced one of every computer user’s worst nightmares two days ago--hard drive failure.

Lesson: Always perform a complete backup, preferably in Time Machine, before upgrading your Mac’s OS.

As one might expect, I had become lax in recent months in my backup regimen as well.

Lesson: Automate your backups. You can try invent your own routines, but eventually you’ll get lazy.

Fortunately, on the first day I was able to grab an image of my user file before erasing the drive and starting from scratch. I spent the majority of the second day installing the latest version of OS X on my computer and restoring files from the disk image. Unfortunately, I was unable to grab a disk image of the Library, which holds important information such as your keychain, e-mail archive, and custom website themes.

Lesson: Use Time Machine to perform complete backups of everything, not just your photos, videos, and documents.

Fortunately, I was able to retrieve my custom Rapidweaver template from an old back up I had done more than a year ago. Talk about lucky. Today is the first day I’ve tried updating my website using my fully restored template. I’m praying it works seamlessly. If you notice anything that looks out of sorts, please be forgiving and notify me so I can try get it back to normal as soon as possible.

Lesson: If you spent a lot of time customizing a Rapidweaver theme, save it multiple times in multiple locations along with your website itself. If you integrate albums created in iPhoto, you’ll want those fully backed up for easy retrieval too. From what I gather, you cannot reverse engineer a Rapidweaver website from what you have uploaded, so make sure you have everything related to your website backed up so that you will never find yourself having to re-create it from scratch. My next step should be creating an off-site backup for that matter.

Hopefully nothing I just experienced these last three days ever happens to you. Take precautions and you can save yourself a lot of stress and work.

Don't Judge a Book By Its Price

Pricing The Samurai Poet was a difficult dilemma. I’ve created a short FAQ here to explain why $3.99 seems like the sweet spot for an independently published ebook. For readers, I hope it gives you a sense of what price range is fair for ebooks. For writers, I hope to provide food for thought when setting the price of your own ebook.

Q. Publishers sell the ebooks of well-known authors for between $10-14. Is the low price a reflection of its quality?

A. Not at all. Given the fair percentage cut my distributor pays, I receive a royalty that is competitive with what a mainstream author would receive for a hardcover sale.

Q. Why don’t you give your book away for free?

A. The Samurai Poet took me a long time to research, write, and edit. Besides time, I invested a lot of money in computers, software, travel, advertising, and hosting this website. I believe the value proposition for the novel is sound and that it will be well worth your time to read it. While gaining a reader matters more to me than the sale itself, I also feel like I have earned the right to a royalty. That said, like any publisher, I do make an exception for book reviewers.

Q. Are you concerned about piracy?

A. Absolutely. Every illegal download is one less legitimate sale that could give my book credibility in the eyes of ebook retailers planning book promotions. By keeping the price of the novel low, I am hoping to make the thought of piracy irrelevant. If you did read a pirated version, it’s not too late to buy a legitimate copy and post a review to help spread the word.

Q. I’ve seen your book listed at $4.99 at Apple’s iBookstore. What gives?

A. The Samurai Poet is priced in U.S. dollars. When Apple’s Canadian iBookstore performs the currency conversion, it automatically rounds the price up to the nearest .99. I have no control over this. For what it’s worth, Apple keeps a larger percentage too, so once my royalty from them is averaged out with my total royalties, it keeps the final amount in the range of industry standards. For the extra dollar Apple charges, at least you save the hassle of creating a new account with another ebook retailer you might only use once.

Q. Does your book ever go on sale?

A. The regular price of $3.99 does give me the flexibility to join promotions. I occasionally participate in coupon offers on Smashwords and ebook retailers sometimes offer discounts of their own. At $2.99, I still receive a royalty equivalent to a paperback sale, so I don’t mind trying to reach readers who are a bit more price sensitive. Have a look at The Samurai Poet page on this website. You never know if there is a new offer to be found if you search a little.read an e-book week train

Fauna Gallery Added

Last month, I added a gallery of photographs featuring seasonal plants and flowers that can be seen at Shisendo in July. Today, I have added the companion gallery that shows all the animals I saw that day. One bird photo is a bit out of focus, but I included it in the interests of completion. I was hoping to see something a little more rare like a snake, but had no such luck that day. I did hear an uguisu, the famed “Japanese Nightingale,” but this notoriously reclusive bird now known as the Japanese Bush Warbler did not emerge from cover either. I hope you enjoy the photos.

A Potpourri of Booksellers

The distribution net for The Samurai Poet seems to get cast ever wider. It is now available through Blio, Flipkart, and Whitcoulls. For people who prefer to pay monthly subscriptions for their books, apparently Oyster and Scribd are both distributing the novel now. Since I am not a member of either service, I’m unable to confirm the listings to provide the direct link to TSP. If you happen to be a member, I encourage you to search it out. I don’t understand all the fine print, but apparently a percentage of royalties are paid out for even partial reads, so your support would be appreciated.

For links to all of these booksellers and more, click here for the most up-to-date list.

Maiko Images Added

I finally added a couple images to my “In Search of the Geisha” travelogue. It was long overdue. I gave the photos different art treatments with FX Photo Studio Pro to hide some imperfections in the scanned photos that were taken with an old 35mm camera. Please forgive me.

Flora Gallery Added

Just a small website update to share today. I have added a gallery with some of the pictures I took last summer at Shisendo. The theme of this gallery is “Flora.” It’s a modest update, but it is also the beginning of a series of planned monthly additions, hopefully culminating with at least one video gallery. If this is your first visit to the website, you’re invited to explore beyond the new gallery. Thank you for visiting.

Bookseller List Update

Since I’m trying a new price point for The Samurai Poet during the month of February (only $2.99!), I tested all the bookseller links to see if it was being reflected on their sites yet. During the course of this test, I found that a handful of them were showing the book out of stock, so the links have been removed. This shouldn’t be a major issue since the novel remains available on all major eReader platforms: iBooks, Kobo, Nook, and Kindle (via Smashwords). If you discover a broken link or a new listing of the novel somewhere, please contact me and I will update this site to reflect the changes. As always, thank you for your support. I am gratified every time the novel finds a new reader.

Social Networking Page Added

I’ve added a new page to the website as an experiment. Rather than putting “Follow Me” buttons on every page (possibly confusing visitors looking to share a link), all social networking follow buttons have been placed together on their own page. The two networks I’m most active on publicly--Google+ and Twitter--can be found there. I also included the Flickr button just in case you are looking for followers of your photostream.

I’m not sure if this page will expand my circles or not, but it seems like it is a worth a try.

New Year Resolutions 2014

Happy New Year!

2013 was a busy year for the website. With the publication of The Samurai Poet in October, the real value of having a site already up and running became clear. Not only did I have a destination to list in the many author profiles I had to fill out, but having this announcements page proved to be the best way to share links as booksellers around the world added it to their sales lists.

As important as it is for an independent author to have a web presence, I did not neglect Ishikawa Jozan or Shisendo either. During my July trip to Kyoto, I was able to shoot video and new photographs. This allowed me to add a new site feature that gives easy to follow visual directions to Shisendo--an idea I got from Japanese travel guides that tend to be far more visual than English ones. As I organize the photos and edit the video, more content will be added throughout the year, so check back for updates.

Lessons Learned in 2013

While publishing a novel is an accomplishment, having an audience of readers is necessary to really bring it to life. The initial response has been slow (as expected), but I still learned some lessons that might be of benefit to other authors considering indie publishing.

1) Manage your expectations and it will be easier to avoid disappointment. The general consensus is that 100 book sales is a meaningful milestone for an indie author. The Samurai Poet is not there yet, and I know how much it will mean to me when it makes it.

2) Don’t expect a huge response from your personal network. Your friends will buy you a latte, treat you to lunch, and lend you twenty bucks without expecting you to return it. That doesn’t mean they want to buy your novel--even if it costs less than the proverbial latte. Can you blame them? Buying a novel implies a time commitment to read it and makes a statement about a person’s taste. Have you ever felt burned by a bad book and hesitant to try another based on the experience? So have your friends.

Based on an earlier experience at the website Authonomy, I was prepared for approximately 10% of my personal network to support my writing career by purchasing TSP, and that’s about what happened. Will more of them buy it after reading a review or hearing a recommendation from a mutual friend? No doubt. Just be prepared if your friends don’t all open their wallets right away.

3) Reviews are important. If you can find unbiased reviewers willing to write up your book in exchange for a free copy, offer it to them. If you are a reviewer or a book blogger, contact me and I’ll set you up.

Looking Ahead

Normally, I make a New Year’s resolution that is within my power to realize. This year, they are mostly beyond my control. I’ll call them resolutions; you might call them wishes:

1) Be discovered. I try, but I am just not a social networker. What I really need in 2014 is for some well-connected Tweeter, Facebooker, blogger, or Goodreads reviewer to discover my website, blog, or novel and then share their discovery. I have a feeling that this is the only way to experience a breakthrough short of publishing another novel that catches someone’s eye.

2) Get more likes and +1’s on my website and blog. Google+ has recently emerged as my favourite public social network ahead of Twitter for the following reasons:

+1’s seem to help move links higher up on Google’s search pages--more of my blog posts are appearing on page one searches than ever before
Google will display your profile photo and post introduction on the search page--seeing the writer’s face seems to entice more clicks and consequently drive traffic to your website or blog
Posts on Google+ are “stickier” and more discoverable than tweets that disappear as quickly as they are posted

3) Sell a copy a day of The Samurai Poet. One book per day means nothing to Stephen King, but I would take 365 sales by the end of the year. If the book has merit, those 365 readers are sure to tell someone and it will find its audience.

Thanks for reading! Have a great 2014 everyone.