Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Guerrilla Marketing -- Anatomy of a Free Promo

As part of this whole book thing, I've been working out a marketing campaign.It was Katherine Brooker, A California-based publicist and book editor, who gave me the shove into the world of Tweets and Google Plus and other virtual world realms where I have been spending excessive amounts of time polishing my marketing chops. Anyway, I just finished a five day free promotion of French Pond Road on Amazon and was consistently on the top 100 list for contemporary fiction for all five days, most days better than 75. That sounded wonderful to me, but I got an email from Katherine earlier today suggesting I trumpet the news. So I wrote up a press release and here it is. Feel free to do with it what you will. i already sent it out on some Press Release Submission Site that promised to trumpet it virtually:

Independent Author Breaks Into Best-Seller Ranks With Dark-Horse Story
As the publishing industry continues to reel under the weight of technological and cultural change, and professional book marketers seem ever more flustered by the vagaries of literary fortune, independent writers are seizing the revolutionary moment, using social media and word of mouth marketing to reach a hungry reading public. Over the Memorial Day weekend, Anthony Caplan launched a stealth attack on the Amazon bestseller ranks. Today, French Pond Road finished up a five-day free promotional offer on Amazon's Kindle Select program as fifty-sixth on Amazon's contemporary fiction list, out-competing titles from such established industry behemoths as Simon and Schuster and Little, Brown and Co.  On the strength of over 100 downloads per day of his book, Caplan expects to enjoy future sales to grow from his initial grass roots marketing. Is this the future of book selling?
Henniker, New Hampshire – June, 1, 2012 – FRENCH POND ROAD, the unlikely road story of a father and son reunion, Wednesday finished up a five day run in the top 60 best sellers on the Amazon Contemporary Fiction list on the strength of a word-of-mouth marketing campaign that its author Anthony Caplan hopes will propel the book's future sales and advance the cause of independent publishing.
The title, published this spring on Amazon's Kindle Select eBook program, was initially released in 2008 in paperback. Caplan decided to market it as an eBook this year as he prepared to launch another new book, a coming-of-age novel called LATITUDES- A Story of Coming Home, to be released on June 30.
"The difference this time around was the model I had on how to market using social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook," said Caplan. "But the truth is I decided on Friday night to launch the free campaign, and it wasn't until Saturday morning that I figured out how to tweet about it effectively. The whole idea was to do a dry run for the launch of LATITUDES."
Authors using the free promotional campaign on Amazon have been reporting declining gains in sales boost from the free campaigns, but for Caplan the benefits are numerous.
FRENCH POND ROAD, a story of a roofer reunited with his autistic teenage son after a 16-year separation, had sold virtually no copies in paperback before the free offer. Now, with the exposure on the well-publicized Amazon best-seller list, Caplan has a readership familiar with his name and his previous books as he prepares to release his latest title.
"My stories are about outsiders, so it's appropriate that my marketing techniques are guerrilla," he said. "I just want to inspire other people to follow their dreams. In today's world, anything can happen."

Anthony Caplan is a writer, blogger, teacher and homesteader in New Hampshire. He is the author of the novels Birdman, French Pond Road, and the forthcoming Latitudes - A Story of Coming Home, due out at the end of June from Hope Mountain Press. Find out more about him and his work at 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

FREE KINDLE Books I and II of Billy Kagan Series

FREE                                  FREE                                   FREE                               FREE

This weekend and until May 30 I'm running a special free Kindle offer on Birdman and French Pond Road, the first two books in the Billy Kagan road series.

In exchange for the free books, I want to get some reviews posted of the books on the Amazon site, so here's the deal:

1. Get free Kindle books while the offer lasts.
2. Post a review of either book on Amazon.
3. Email me -- tcaplan(at) and include a link to the review on Amazon.
4. You will receive a free Kindle of the forthcoming Latitudes - A Story of Coming Home.
5. Extra special offer -- post a review of both Birdman and French Pond Road and you will also receive a free copy of my short story collection Tumble.

So go now and load up with Birdman and French Pond Road, two quality reads guaranteed to entertain and entrance you this Memorial Day weekend and for years to come.

Here's what readers say about Birdman, the story of Billy Kagan's wild days in Ireland.

"Whimsical, even sublime..." Sandra Townsend -- Hippo Press
"Brilliantly evocative..."  James Woolridge -- Earthwatch Magazine

In French Pond Road, Billy Kagan is reunited with his son Mickey on the back roads of New Hampshire. An inspirational tale of love and redemption, this story is the sequel to Birdman.

Here's what readers have to say about French Pond Road:

"The characters are interesting and complex and the many strands of storyline kept my interest from beginning to end. In fact, I didn't want to put the book down!"    Carole Walker

"I loved the relationships in this book. It's about learning to live together."    Andrew Gammel

So for an unbeatable price you can support Indie writing. Be part of the Indie revolution. Get Birdman and French Pond Road, review one or both and get more free books. What are you waiting for?
Don't have a Kindle? Download the free Kindle app for your computer, smart phone or tablet.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wicked Sick, Jen Smith Riffs on Non-fiction and Perception

Today we have a new author in the second installment of the series The Virtual Writing Scene: Everywhere and Nowhere. Jen Smith is the author of Sick, a memoir of addiction and recovery,  blogging about truth and perception from a writer's point of view. Here she is, Jen Smith, with links down below to her blog and website.  

Is Truth in Non-Fiction Really Just Perception?

What is truth?  Is truth a fact?  I can look at my car and say there are four tires.  That is a fact.  I can look at my car and say it’s red.  That is a fact.  Or is it?  Another person could look at my car and say that it is burgundy.  Is burgundy red?  Some would say yes and some would say no.  So then, what is the true color of my car? 

Truth really is a grey area.  Recently I attended a writer’s workshop at Grub Street Boston about breaking the rules in non-fiction and a great discussion formed around this topic.  At one point the instructor gave us an example of an author that took the liberty to change the number of heart attacks that happened during a particular time, in a particular state, and also the name of a bar in a journalistic piece.  The author’s reasoning was that the number four sounded better than eight and Bucket of Blood, as a bar name, was cooler than the actual name of the bar.

Interestingly there was a student in the class that was fine with the number change but thought changing the name of the bar was outright wrong.  I felt the opposite.  Changing the name of the bar was fine to me but changing a statistical number was appalling to me.  I found our contradicting views fascinating.  Neither one of us was right nor wrong, we just had different perspectives based on our experiences with the world.

As the author of a memoir, SICK, I write about the memories of my past.  I do this to the best of my ability but in all honestly my memory is not the greatest especially when it comes to the time frame of events.  Sometimes I’m not sure if an event happened before or after another event so I have to make my best guess.  There is also the matter of perception.  I’m well aware that I may perceive a past event very differently than someone else that was there.  Does that mean one of us is wrong and one of us is right?  The reality is that probably both of us are wrong and perceive the past event based on our personal views and experiences.  That’s usually how it works in my opinion.

So is what I’m writing not the truth?  I don’t think so.  It’s my truth, my perception of the world as I understand it.  We have a genre called creative non-fiction.  This is when writers take true events and makes them more interesting by adding detail and dialog that may not necessarily be true or accurate.  I get this.  Then there’s the controversy over Jeff Frey’s book A Million Little Pieces that he originally claimed was a memoir but later came clean that the book contained fictionalized events.  If you look at this from a business perspective, Frey couldn’t get representation when he tried to sell the book as fiction.  Non-fiction is where it’s at now, it’s what sells.  So Frey changed his tune and said his book was a memoir and got on Oprah and sold millions of copies.  I’m not saying what he did was right but I definitely get it.

What do you think?  Is there such thing as truth? Is non-fiction merely one person’s perception of the world?  Is creative non-fiction ok?
Jen Smith SICK Blog

SICK on Amazon 

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Twitter @JenSmithSick

Saturday, May 19, 2012

There's exactly six weeks until the publication launch of Latitudes - A Story of Coming Home. I'm going to blog one excerpt a week between now and then.

This one takes place when Will's mother takes the kids back home after years of living abroad. She's hooked back up with an old boyfriend and Will is trying to get used to his new situation before going off to camp in Maine, a mysterious location to him.

Mother came and went often with Meehan, looking for work, arranging things, and at night they went to movies and out on "dates". There was a babysitter, a teenage girl from Manhasset. Her name was Kiki, and she had a brother, a Marine lieutenant in Vietnam. Will lived out in the front yard and the sidewalk. The openness, no fences, was new and vaguely threatening. Sometimes he found himself wishing there was a mango tree he could climb to get a view of the horizon. There was no mountain in the distance to measure the clouds by. But it was easier here to be a child. They were not hidden behind walls and barbed wire from the dangers of the street. It was like getting a taste of something long promised, a sense of security, of belonging. Will wanted to be strong enough to get to the top of the hill on the lemon-colored Schwinn. He wanted to make friends. What was beyond the hill? The newness of everything was a little frightening.
The day came he was going off to camp. He didn't sleep, happily anticipating this adventure. He had a trunk stuffed with a brand-new wool blanket, new tennis sneakers, a wooden tennis racket, flashlight, bathing suit, towel, toothbrush in a little case and soap in its own container. Mother had sewed nametags into all his clothes, even the towels, cutting them off a roll, an impressive litany of his name repeating in a loop. An eight-week sleep-away camp deep in the heart of the Maine woods. Will imagined the pine needles under bare feet, the life-and-death adrenaline rush of sleeping under the stars. Just as the bicycle was the vehicle of entry into the life of the suburbs, camp in Maine would be his rebirth as a native of primeval forests, the life stream of the mysterious Earth.
They gathered on the Upper East Side. A bus was pulled up on the street. The driver loaded the trunks into the cargo space above the curb. There was a deli three doors down. Mother bought Will a sandwich with a couple slices of pickle in a waxed paper bag for lunch. The knot of boys on the sidewalk said goodbye to their parents. Mother hugged him and kissed him on the cheek.
"See you in four weeks," she said.
The excitement level on the bus was high, and snatches of conversation between the returning campers promised an eclectic club of adventurers. The sleek air-conditioned bus was way more comfortable than the steamy sidewalks of the city. Will waved one more time to Mother, and then they were off, rumbling through the Bronx and onto the highway bound for the northern forests.
His traveling companion was George, a phlegmatic dark-skinned boy who seemed to relish good humor and adventure even if he didn't say much. It wasn't long after they'd started that the bus passengers began to break into the deli lunches everyone seemed to have carried on board. In a burst of Dale Carnegie inspiration, Will took his slice of pickle, showed it to George and whipped it over his head, spinning into the seats a few rows behind.
"Food fight. Food fight," instantly reverberated up and down the bus.
George and Will watched with bemusement as lunch items flew through the air. Reluctantly, the adults at the front of the bus walked down the aisle, imposing order, clucking distantly. The bus was a stinking mess for the rest of the journey, but Will savored it as the odor of triumph. Hours later, they pulled off onto a dirt road through thick stands of pine trees and emerged on a roundabout driveway in front of a large, freshly painted barn. It stood on a hill above a small blue lake. A flagpole in front of the barn flew the Stars and Stripes. The sun was high in a cloudless sky. 

Anthony Caplan is a writer, blogger, teacher and homesteader in New Hampshire. He is the author of the novels Birdman, French Pond Road, and the forthcoming Latitudes - A Story of Coming Home, due out at the end of June from Hope Mountain Press. Find out more about him and his work at 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Tonight i did the unthinkable. I sprayed the apple trees. Merryl Streep forgive me.

I planted the first trees when we first moved here about ten tears ago, five trees I ordered from Fedco in Maine. Two were Northern Spies, one was a Golden Russet, and two were Cox's Orange Pippins in honor of Susan my wife, because she's English and they are a venerable old English apple variety. Over the years I figured out how to graft and planted about fifty more trees of about eight different varieties. The oldest trees, all in a row near the house, have started to get heavy blossoms, but we have yet to get any fruit to speak of. You see, we are died-in-the-wool organic farmers, and there is an insect pest of apple trees here in the Northeast called the plum curculio which knows no bounds in its greed for apple fruits to lay its grubby little eggs in. The only organic solution is to spray heavy coats of a clay compound called kaolin, coats and coats of it, but as far as we can tell, the curculio just laughs at the clay. It isn't even bothered by it. The Cornell agriculture experts term kaolin clay "virtually useless" or words to that effect. In other words, if you want apples, you won't get them using organic methods in the Northeast. Even out west most of the organic apples are grown in blocks on the inside of large orchards, the outer perimeters of which are heavily sprayed against insects. So though they are technically organic, the term is slightly misleading.

This year I decided to compromise, and tonight I went ahead and sprayed the fruit bearing trees with Imidan, a heavy duty, broad spectrum insecticide. Compared to other insecticides, it is relatively inert, but it's still bad stuff. I put on protective clothing and donned backpack sprayer with a heavy heart. My wife stood at the backdoor and glared. She would rather not have apples if it involves poisoning the land. I'm not sure I'm as much of a purist. I'd rather get some apples after all the work I've put in. Was it the right choice? Only time will tell. If I can kill the curculio back, by the time all fifty trees start to bear, the kaolin clay may be enough of a bother to them that I can live with 20 percent damage, as opposed to the total annihilation we have been suffering at the insect world's hands.

When you're young you have pure ideals and you sense the world's demise with any deviation. I used to side with the anarchists at the conventions of the world's powerful bankers, trying to throw a monkey wrench in the system to bring it down. Now I see things differently. The world is more resilient than we know or sense when we are younger. That doesn't condone wanton destruction. We must always strive to live within our means, but despair and wringing of hands when your ideals are breached is akin to panic. I hope Susan comes around, but she might not. I'm thinking the sight of apple trees laden with fruit will gladden her heart.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Uncharted Territory of Creativity

I heard an interview with the alternative rock musician Beck yesterday on NPR which got me thinking about the creative process in general. In the interview he was talking about how he liked to put himself into situations for which he was not fully prepared and force himself to come up with something that would work. The interview made the assumption that he was talking about performance, but he was not that explicit. I took it to mean his general approach to writing songs, in which performance played a part in the formation of a finished piece.
At first I was a little aggrieved, because despite his laid back California accent, I found his rock artist persona a little bit pompous and special. Upon further reflection, I realize that what Beck represents is the artist as a true creative creature, open to improvisation at every moment of the day in order to feed his creative vocation.
I consider myself a pretty creative guy, no genius, but nevertheless there's a spark that I try to nourish in my writing and in my daily life. But in order to survive and raise a family, I work. And in most work places, no matter what you do, there's a certain concern with a finished product, be it a manufactured widget or a sales target or a specific service provided to hard-to-please human clients, that precludes the type of approach Beck was talking about.
For me, as a teacher, the craft involves management of the students in the class by a combination of engaging presentation, efficient use of time, and the illusion of the total control of a circus ringmaster. This involves a certain amount of preparation and planning. You can't be thinking of winging it and seeing what happens and accepting that some days, maybe many days, you'll fall flat. Learning would suffer and you'd quickly get a reputation as a dud. But, and here's my point, there's still a big role to play for the creative process Beck described in his interview. I know that my best classes invariably come when I ditch a lesson plan on the spur of the moment, based on some intuition of a better way, and opt for doing something completely different, say a game made up on the spot, evolved as it is presented, and the students usually eat it up.
I would wager that the same holds true in other work places, that there are breakthrough moments that occur that are unplanned, against the grain of quality control processes and procedures. However, we find it harder and harder to replicate those moments because our nature as a society is to rely entirely on automated process and not trust human instinct and creativity in the least.
In education circles there's a concern that measurable levels of creativity, as reflected in standardized tests, seem to be falling back in students in recent years. Let's accept the fact that you can even measure something as elusive as creativity. It seems ironic that the minute we try to measure it, the evidence for it seems to vanish. But certainly the overly planned and structured childhoods we provide our children, the emphasis on safety and stigmatization of risk-taking, would seem to be factors in the decline of creative thinking in our population.
Bring on the Becks of this world, the non-conformists who welcome improvisation and do not fear failure in the interests of exploration and discovery. You can't discover something you've already found. In order to create we need to be like Beck, leading out to the darkness of what we don't know or understand.

Anthony Caplan is a writer, blogger, teacher and homesteader in New Hampshire. He is the author of the novels Birdman, French Pond Road, and the forthcoming Latitudes - A Story of Coming Home, due out at the end of June from Hope Mountain Press. Find out more about him and his work at 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Virtual Writing Scene, Everywhere and Nowhere

This week I'm kicking off a new series of guest posts. At the moment, we're going with a geographical theme: The Virtual Writing Scene, Everywhere and Nowhere. Our first guest is Katherine Gilraine. (Off camera applause. Some whistles.)

A New York City-based writer, Gilraine finds inspiration in the city streets, its jazz music and entrepreneurial buzz. Aside from writing, she also heads KG Creative Enterprises, a boutique company that encompasses her various creative skills, from writing and editing to graphic design and photography.

Influence in the City

It seems almost cliché when people find out that I’m a writer living in New York City. I must be published through a big house! (I’m not) I must have a caffeine habit! (Guilty as charged) I must be so inspired living there!

You know, that last one is right. I am very much inspired by the city; living in it on a day-to-day basis is an adventure. It’s a challenge. And sometimes, you have those “Only in New York!” moments that you can’t help but write into your story.

When I first started writing my series, I was in college, working night shift, and I would sometimes fill the gaps between school, homework, and working by walking all through Manhattan, without being picky as to which hours I would go walking in. I’ve walked up Broadway at midnight, and on those walks, with the lights of my city wrapping me up, I would start imagining different scenes. How would a character from my story feel about being caught in this “bright lights, big city” environment? What other, similar cities could I grow out of my words?

I won’t lie; I have a lot of New York City in my past 4 books. The major place on Earth that the storyline always comes back to is New York, both in its current and futuristic incarnations. The places that my characters go to are all places that I love and adore, down to the subway tunnels that most people either nap through on the train or simply accept as a Part of Life. It’s the sort of place that gets under your skin and it does so in such a way that no matter where you go or how long, you will have a hard time getting it out. You may’ve heard of people not being able to sleep without the usual street noise of NYC, and I will be the first to corroborate the fact. The subway, with all its dirt and rattling, is one of the oldest landmarks of the city, and the abandoned subway stations in the system are the finest of time capsules. The food. The lights. It seeps into your skin.

But the best inspiration, and this I will make no bones of, is the music, and I speak of jazz on this one.  New York City loves its jazz music, and contemporary jazz is my lifeblood.

Yes, contemporary. For all my love of Miles, Coltrane, Brubeck, Ellington, and Sarah Vaughan, you would need few things short of a miracle to get me to glance away from Special EFX, the Rippingtons, Boney James, Chris Botti, and the other mainstays of that genre.

Considering that the genre I’m writing is urban fantasy with adventure and sci-fi elements, the absolute last bit of music that you’d expect as an inspiration/soundtrack would be contemporary jazz. It just doesn’t seem to compute, does it? But I tell you, you would be surprised. What better music for a space flight than The Rippingtons’ searing rock-guitar on Road Warriors? Don’t discount the unexpected. Even right now, as Craig Chaquico and Russ Freeman join two guitars on Riders of the Ancient Winds  (gotta love Pandora!), I’m thinking of the next couple of manuscripts, and I think of a new character going out for a walk and some perspective.

As writers, we can agree that there’s a soundtrack to our books. There’s always that something that we hear that could match to a scene. Sometimes we write to music, or it just creeps up on us and has us scribbling down an idea on a napkin in a restaurant, leaving us to later wonder what, exactly, brought on the idea to begin with.

But hearing that music in a city like New York…well, that’s an inspirational recipe that defies any rules of logic. No one said that Special EFX’s Cruise Control is genre-specific, after all. : -)

With a cup o’ joe in hand, as ever,
Katherine Gilraine

Photo credit: Christop W. Sensen

Friday, May 4, 2012

The art world and its marketing mavens scored another major coup this week with the record breaking sale of Edvard Munch's "The Scream," one of the most recognizable art works ever produced. The price $120 million, is hard to fathom for most people, but the wealthy art collector, whose identity has not been released, is sure to get what he paid for. The painting is one of the few works of art to have passed into the iconography of popular culture, instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever seen it as a symbol of existential horror and soullessness. Like Picasso, whose "Nude, Green Leaves and Bust" was the previous record holder for most money raised at auction, Munch would most probably be either horrified, or releasing maniacal laughter at the mountains of disposable income paid for his masterpiece. Although purists will argue that art, being the highest expression of man's spiritual longings and intellectual yearnings, is essentially priceless, the truth behind the figures is a little more mundane. The people running Sotheby's aimed high and pulled in marketing muscle to break the bank for this sale. With multiple catalogues published ahead of time and designer staging effects used to display the pastel crayon drawing for the press, they managed to elicit a feeding frenzy of art world interest ahead of the auction. Even the most dedicated collectors do not part with nine figure sums unless there has been some elbow grease applied to the effort. The lesson is clear for us mere striving and starving artistes. The world of art and the world of money are mediated by the world of advertising. If you can't massage the messaging, you can at least take heart from the fact that Munch, like many artists, suffered social stigmatizing at the hands of the powerful, in his case the Nazis, who categorized his work as degenerate. But Munch's work ethic was formed not by a motivation for wealth, but in his own words "the compulsive result of Man's urge to open his heart."