“This podcast is guaranteed”

door-to-doorSalesmanMy email inbox is getting crowded with a lot of surefire offers lately.

So many people offer online courses to help me learn marketing so I can sell more books. Here are some examples from my inbox.

  • Nick Stephenson’s Your First 10,000 Readers
  • Bryan Cohen Selling for Authors
  • Joanna Penn, the Creative Penn—three courses, including “How to Make a Living with your Writing”
  • Juliet Dillon Clark of the Winsome Media Group has a number of courses and packages on “building your author platform” and using that to increase sales, and on how to launch a new book
  • Mark Dawson has Advertising for Authors courses as well as shorter tutorials and lots of videos.

These are just some of the online courses targeted specifically at marketing for self-published authors. They join a huge list of similar online programs:

  • Ray Edwards offers the Copywriting Academy, a series of online seminars on writing effective advertising—not just for writers, but for any business.
  • Rebecca Dickson, once a professional editor with a spicy vocabulary (she edited a book of mine, Army of Worn Soles), has the Entrepreneur Incubator program
  • Wilco de Kreij teaches e-commerce
  • The most recent to my inbox is Joei Chan’s branding blog and courses.

They may have different names and slightly different foci, but they have a lot in common, too. They claim to have found a formula for increasing book sales. The blog posts contain a tip that I usually know, but mostly they’re long ads for the courses, webinars, videos, books or other materials that make the same promises: more book sales for independent authors.

There are often videos, some free, some behind pay walls. The free videos and free webinars, however, are usually more drawn-out ads for the courses. What’s most annoying about them is that they always promise a free, bonus, sure-fire tip, one thing you can do to boost your sales, or your email subscriptions or whatever, if you watch the whole thing to the end. Some have disabled the fast-forward function (I hate it when TV shows do that in their on-demand versions.) And most of the time, when I do watch till the end, it’s not worth the wait.

The course is the whole point of all this stuff. It’s presented like a university-level program with several hours of video, whiteboard animations, info-graphics and support materials like workbooks in .pdf format. There are often downloadable videos, too, to help you remember some of the information (I guess).

What’s wrong with that? you ask

I suppose these must work, because more people seem to be doing them all the time, and the people already doing them seem keep publishing their teaser videos.

They remind me of late-night infomercials, with some sketchy guy or overenthusiastic woman hawking a product that, even with good lighting and photography, looks too flimsy to last more than day if used for whatever the hawker tell us to use it for.

Or like a timeshare salesperson, with a sales pitch that promises you a free TV or car just for listening. And goes on and on and on…

They’re expensive, too

But the worst part is the cost. Joanna Penn’s Self-Publishing Success course is one of the most reasonable, at under $300. And for the time and materials, and if it actually delivers results, it might be worth it.

Nick Stephenson’s Your First 10,000 Readers is even more expensive, at about $80 a month for a year. Ryan Deiss’s Digital Marketer courses are just under $1000. Others don’t tell you how much they cost until you already agree to give them your email address.

Do they work?

The marketers tell us they do. And they all provide testimonials.

But I signed up for one—I won’t say which—and soon dropped it, because I already knew most of the content: write a good book, know your audience, stay focused; use email to engage readers, make sure you have a full “author’s platform,” meaning a blog, website and a presence on just about every social medium.

I’m in a quandary. I’d like to know the secrets to selling books, but I just don’t see anything from these courses that convinces me that the authors know, either.

What do you think?

What’s your experience, if any, with online courses or programs that guarantee you the ability to sell to strangers? Leave a comment.

A look back at a tough year

To many, 2016 has been a horrible year. The war in Syria, the loss of refugees from that conflict and others, the record number of celebrity passings, record homicide numbers in my home town, Brexit, the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. Presidency … I won’t go on. It’s too painful.

For me, it’s been a turbulent year, too. I broke my knee in May and went through months of intensive physiotherapy and exercise to get back the range of motion and strength I needed for my two-week whitewater canoeing trip. My son had appendicitis, my other son had some issues with school and work.

In the fall, I came down with a wicked case of pinkeye. There were more problems in this single year than in many that I can recall.

On the other hand, there were some “ups,” as well.

  • I published three books this year:
    • IMG_0020.jpgUnder the Nazi Heel, Book 2 in my Walking Out of War trilogy based on the World War 2 experiences of my father-in-law, Maurice Bury.
      It won Second Prize in the East Texas Writers Guild 2016 Awards for nonfiction/memoir.
    • The Wife Line, a Sydney Rye Kindle World book that features my spy-thriller characters, Van Freeman and Earl LeBrun.
    • Dead Man Lying, my third Lei Crime Kindle World title, featuring my FBI Special Agent character, Vanessa Storm. It won First Place in the 2016 East Texas Writers Guild Mystery Awards.WifeLine-final-small
  • I edited three very strong books by independent authors:
  • I participated in some group publishing efforts along with other members of BestSelling Reads, an authors’ group that cross-promotes members.
  • New members joined Independent Authors International, a collaborative publishing venture where members share skills to provide all the functions of a full, commercial publishing company.
  • PaddlersI canoed 325 kilometres down the Missinaibi and Moose Rivers in northern Ontario to Moose Factory on James Bay, and capsized only once.
  • I visited the Finger Lakes in New York, and met some very nice, interesting people and drank some excellent wine.
  • I crafted an outline for The Triumph of the Sky, the follow-up to my first full-length novel, The Bones of the Earth.
  • I outlined a new Lei Crime novel featuring Special Agent Vanessa Storm: Echo of a Crime, and have so far written about half of it.
  • And I came up with a concept for a new Sydney Rye Kindle World novel which will feature Van and LeBrun.

So 2016 has been a year with ups and downs, and now that I look at it, for me at least, there were more good points than bad. And for the family, too.

But for the world, it’s been a tough year. For Aleppo and the rest of Syria, for Iraq, for France, Belgium and the U.K., for Japan, Italy and Fort McMurray. For the U.S., 2017 is going to be … interesting politically.

I wish you all a healthy, happy, loving, peaceful and plentiful 2017.

Happy New Year!

Happy-New-Year-2016-Vector-Illustration2015 was a great year for The Written Word Communications Company.

2016 will be even better with expanding horizons. Stay tuned to Written Words to keep up with new books, new stories and more.

Sign up to get Written Words in your email and get a free info-graphic to help you with your writing. And if you sign up before January 4, I’ll include a free e-book: Dark Clouds, my critically acclaimed occult-thriller short story. Use the form below or the one on the right (they’re the same thing). And I promise never to sell or give away your private information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

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What are your plans for 2016?

Leave a comment and I’ll send you another free e-book.

Sunday sample: Money Makes it Deadlier—a new Lei Crime Kindle World story

By Julie C. Gilbert

Money Makes It Deadlier by Julie C. Gilbert

Even as Marcella’s eyes widened in alarm, Matt triumphantly stabbed the button to place the call on speaker.

Her mother’s excitable voice filled the car. “’Cella! Why you no call? Your papa and I, we wait days to hear from our baby and no calls!”

“Hi, Ma,” Marcella said, trying to rub away a tension headache. She reached for the volume button since conversations with her mother tended toward the loud side. “I meant to call yesterday.”

And the day before. There just wasn’t much to say. And I didn’t—

“What you think more important than family?” The question held the warning signs of a high-strung Italian mama about to launch into a well-loved lecture.

Suppressing a sigh, Marcella weighed the options of protesting her innocence and settling in for the scolding. Whenever her mother’s accent thickened this much, she knew she was in for it.

“You have boyfriend? That only good reason a girl have to forget to call her mama.”

Matt’s face twisted as he tried to keep from laughing aloud.

“What? No!” Marcella sat up straighter, shocked into better posture. “Ma, I don’t want a boyfriend. I have a job, a very busy one. I don’t—”

“Tut. You must make time for such things, ’Cella! You late twenties, mi amore. Make time for a nice boy to sweep you off your feet and …”

Where is that blasted warrant?


The laugh lines disappeared from Matt’s face, and Marcella was pleased to note he too straightened in his seat.

“Yes, Mrs. Scatalina?”

“You must help my ’Cella. She needs a man! Hawaii beautiful place. Is not right her being alone there!”

“Oh, I don’t think Marcella needs any help from me, ma’am. It’s all I can do to keep the wrong sorts at bay around here.”

“Thanks for calling, Ma, but we’re working. I’ve got to go. Love you. Kiss Papa Gio for me.” Before her mother could respond, Marcella ended the call.

As blessed silence fell, Rogers blinked at her. “Did the warrant come through?”

“Not yet.” Marcella’s eyes dared him to question how she handled the conversation. “But it’ll be here any second. I can feel it.”

“Did you just lie to your ma?”

“Not exactly. We are working.”

“Marcella—what’s your middle name?”

“That’s irrelevant.”

Matt shrugged. “I’ll look it up later.”

“If you’ve got enough time to poke around in my file, you clearly have more time than I do, so you should write up both reports for this takedown.”

“Nice try. I—”

The tablet in Marcella’s hands pinged and flashed with the warrant and confirmation from their boss that they could make an arrest. Marcella let a war whoop fly and reached for the door handle.

 About Money Makes it Deadlier

Money can buy many things, but can it purchase a permanent solution to divorce?

Martin Cantrell would like to know the answer to that question. He has money, respect, and power, but he also has a monthly alimony payment that’s making him miserable. When a friend offers to deal with the “ex” problem for a fee, he can hardly say no. Time is of the essence. The life insurance policy on his ex-wife expires in less than two months.

Unaware of the plans set in motion, Special Agent Marcella Scott goes about her business as usual, only now, she finally has an excuse to dress up on the job. She’s been asked to go undercover to check out some banks. One of the branches just happens to be managed by Martin Cantrell’s ex-wife.

What’s an agent to do when a perfectly peaceful morning turns into a hostage-taking standoff?

The Lei Crime Kindle World

Kindle Worlds is an Amazon initiative that allows authors to publish stories set in another author’s fictional universe. The Lei Crime series is the best-selling creation of Maui-based Toby Neal. So far, Toby has published nine novels about the Hawaiian police detective Leilani Texeira, plus companion novels featuring other characters from the books.

Julie C. Gilbert was part of the launch of the series with her first Defining Moments book, Never Again

About Julie C. Gilbert

Julie C. Gilbert

Julie is a high school chemistry teacher who spends all summer writing. Her stories tend to fall in YA, YA sci-fi, sci-fi, or Christian mystery genres though on a challenge from a friend, she’s also attempted YA paranormal.

She has had the recent privilege of working with some extremely talented people: Timothy Sparvero (artist – book covers), Kristin Condon (actress – narrator for audiobooks), and Matthew Tanner (music composer for audiobooks).

She enjoys warm (not hot) weather, tea, coffee, reading, writing, teaching, and listening to books on CD.

Visit her

And follow her on Twitter @authorgilbert.

A second book launch in a week: Torn Roots enters the Lei Crime Kindle World

LCKW-2ndwaveLimageIt’s here—launch day for my fifth book-length fiction, Torn Roots.

Torn Roots joins the Lei Crime Kindle World, a set of short stories, novelettes and novellas based on characters, settings and situations created by bestselling author Toby Neal in her Lei Crime series.

The series is about Hawaiian police detective and sometimes FBI agent Leilani Texeira. Neal has published nine books in the series, as well as “companion” novels about other characters in the main books.

In April, eight other authors published books in the Lei Crime Kindle World. Today, that world gets bigger with six new books, two by author who wrote for the first wave.

Torn Roots features as a main character Pono Kaihale, Lei’s former police partner. Other characters from Toby Neal’s work include Pono’s wife, Tiare, and their children, as well as Lei’s best friend, FBI Special Agent Marcella Scott.

New characters include a brilliant Hawaiian geologist named Sam and a fiery environmentalist from away, Rowan, plus a new FBI Special Agent named Vanessa Storm, a woman who never gets tricked by a lie.

There are fires, chases through the jungle, a volcano and the unmatched beauty of Maui.

TornRootsMidResWhat are the reviewers saying?

Scott’s narrative regarding the Hana area of Maui made me feel like I was actually visiting there”—J. Felix

Wonderful addition to the Lei Crime world! If this is a good indication of his writing, I will definitely check out his other books.”—J. Alexander

I will certainly be back for more!”—Amazon customer

Pure enjoyment!”—Frederick Brooke

Check out all the books in the Lei Crime Kindle World and enjoy!


IT’S ALIVE! JET – Stealth launches with the JET Kindle World

The JET Kindle World has launched! I feel both proud and humble to be included in this group of bestselling writers. JETworldimage

The Kindle World is an Amazon initiative where writers can contribute to the fictional world of another author. Russell Blake invited me and other authors to write stories based in the blistering-paced world of his Mossad-agent-turned-Mom, Maya, code-named Jet.

I’ve had a lot of fun writing JET – Stealth, a story that features the title character and introduces two of my own, Van and LeBrun.

JET - Stealth - 500 x 800

 Here’s a sample:

Maya heard an odd buzz from the gun as the flight attendant flew backward and fell onto the passenger in front of Maya. She saw blood bubbling out of his mouth and spreading down the front of his navy-blue uniform.

The first flight attendant’s continuous wails were joined by screams from nearly everyone in first class. “Quiet!” shouted the gunman. He leveled the gun at the flight attendant, who clamped her mouth shut even as her eyes seemed to be trying to pop out of her head.

The wounded flight attendant fell off the passenger and onto the floor, gasping for breath. Maya undid her seat belt and reached for him, ripping his uniform shirt open.

“You! What are you doing?” shouted the gunman. Maya looked up into his brown eyes and said calmly, “I am going to try to save his life.” She tore two strips off the wounded man’s shirt and pressed them against the wound. The bullet, probably a .32, had punctured a lung, and it was a toss-up whether the man bled to death or suffocated first.

The gunman turned his attention to the female flight attendant. “Take me to the pilot. We’re changing our destination for Columbia.”

This can’t be happening, a part of Maya’s mind thought even as she struggled to keep the wounded man alive. She grabbed the collar of his shirt and ripped off half of it, then tossed it to the passenger he had fallen on, another businessman who was watching the goings-on with his mouth hanging open. “You,” she ordered. “Tear this into strips for bandages.”

A useless order. The flight attendant was bleeding out in front of her.

She heard pounding footsteps from behind and turned to see the rest of the cabin crew running forward to the first class compartment. A man in the last first-class row stood and blocked their way. “Stay back, or you’ll get what he did,” he said with a nod of his head toward the dying man.

How could anyone hijack a commercial jet in this day and age? Maya wondered.

I would like to say thanks to Gary Henry and Roxanne Bury for editing the manuscript, my good friend Thane Brown for excellent advice, and of course David C. Cassidy for such a great cover. (I think it’s the best in the series, but I’m a little biased.

Find it on Amazon. And while you’re there, check out the JET Kindle World and all the great new titles. If you like one, write a review!

Preview: Torn Roots

Torn Roots, my first Kindle World title, publishes July 31. For you, my faithful readers, here is a preview:


“They’re after me.”

Sam rubbed his eyes and looked again. No, I’m not dreaming. “Rowan?”

The tall woman pushed past him and shut the door. “Geez, will you ever clue in. What do you think it means when someone says ‘They’re after me’? Think they want to stand on your doorstep?”

“Who’s after you?”

“I didn’t see their ID, but obviously, the government or the corporation. What difference does it make?”

“What are you talking about?”

Instead of answering, she went into Sam’s kitchen, where his dinner, just prepared, sat on the table. She picked up his big glass of ice water and drained it in one long drink. “So thirsty. I’ve been running all day. Do you have any wine?”

“Not since you left, no. Do you want a beer?”

Rowan made a face, but when Sam handed her a bottle from the refrigerator, she cracked the cap and downed half the bottle in three fast swallows. Then, still standing, she picked up Sam’s fork and began eating the vegetables on his plate.

“Hungry?” Sam asked.

“I haven’t eaten all day. I’ve been running for hours. It makes a girl hungry. You got anything else to eat? What am I saying, of course you do. You’re a foodie.” She looked in the fridge and pulled out a plastic container. “What’s in here?”

“Leftover kalua pig from last week. It’s still good, but maybe a little dry.”

Sam smiled as he anticipated pushing Rowan’s buttons. “Pigs are an invasive species and a bit of a problem here. I killed, butchered and cooked that one myself. Go ahead, eat it up. I’ve got plenty more in the freezer.”

“You know I don’t eat meat.” She practically threw the container back into the refrigerator and brought out a head of lettuce and a mango. She bit into the mango. Juice ran down her chin and onto her shirt. “Damn. Do you have a clean shirt I could borrow? My clothes are soaked with sweat.”

“They might be kind of big for you. But what are you doing here, Rowan? I mean, it’s nice to see you again, but …”

“What were you doing at the marina construction site this morning?” she interrupted.

“I came to complain about their workers joy-riding in the national park yesterday. They started a forest fire. What are you even doing on Maui? I thought you went home months ago.”

Rowan shrugged and took another bite of mango. “There’s important work to do here, protecting the environment for the Hawaiian people.”

“I thought you were out of money.”

“We got a donation.”

Sam didn’t know which of the hundred questions swirling in his head he should ask next, but then he heard a clattering, chopping roar accompanied by rapid clicking. A sudden wind blew dust and stones against the windows and walls of his house. “What’s going on?”

Outside the window, a small, black helicopter settled onto his front lawn.

Like that? Torn Roots will join nine other top authors in the Lei Crime Kindle World at the end of the month. You can find it on Amazon.