Thursday, January 30, 2014

Creating a Best Selling Book

 I’ve written several best-selling books, (including a book on how to write a best- selling book,) but here’s the thing…

   Sometimes a book I expect to get moderate sales takes off and a book that I expect to be a best seller and is an example of my best work doesn’t do well.

   And I’m left shaking my head.

   I believe this happens to most indie writers and publishers, at least until they’ve developed enough of a following that their fans simply pick up a copy of each new book as soon as it’s published.

   But in order for that to happen you first must find a way to attract those fans. Meaning you have to convince people to take a chance on you, an unknown writer. And this isn’t easy. People aren’t fond of change. Over time they’ve come across certain authors whose work speaks to them and they remain life-long readers.

   So how do you make this happen for you?

   Well the first thing I suggest you do is learn marketing. “But I’m a writer, not a salesman!” you say.

   And here is where I remind you that aren’t a writer or a salesman until you can support yourself with the money you make from either endeavor. AND by learning marketing you greatly increase your chances of being a successful writer.

   Here’s why. As a marketer you know what books people are likely to buy, you know what type of cover they are attracted to, you know what type of blurb will likely ignite their interest. And most importantly what keywords to include in the title! *Note* if you don’t know what I mean when I say include keywords in the title download this audio book and find out.

   Seriously, by learning this simply step can mean the difference between selling a few books and a few thousand.   

   Here’s another trick. It’s called the ‘first five pages’ rule. If you’re looking to be published, you have approximately 5 pages to engage your reader enough that they NEED to read more. So if the best part of your story begins on page 23, odds are you’re getting a rejection notice.

   But here’s the most important factor when it comes to attracting readers, and that is the cover. As mentioned earlier, I’ve written books that should have been instant best sellers but only did moderately well. Then I went back and changed the cover and sales took off!

   So, I’ve decided to do that with a book I think is one of my very best. It’s called The Dead Machine. It’s a terrific read from start to finish. Here’s the original cover.

At the time it was published I thought it was pretty good. Big DANGER to grab your attention Plus the DO NOT ENTER to rouse curiosity but  as good as I thought the cover was it only generated mediocre sales. So I created a new cover that I think is a bit more in sync with the image I was trying to portray.

   So what do you think?

   And as for grabbing the reader’s attention and making them NEED to read more by the fifth page…

    I did it . Have a look here. 

The Dead Machine


Zackary Richards

Chapter One

“Virgil? Good heavens, Virgil, is that you? Is that really you!?”         
Virgil’s eyes immediately widened and his heart leaped at the sound of her voice. His hand trembled on the dials as he fine-tuned the transmission.
When the hissing lessened he replied with unrestrained excitement, “Yes, yes it is me! It’s Virgil!”
There was a moment’s hesitation, then she asked, “How…how is this possible?”
He stared at the speaker, imagining her face, longing to see it again. He paid no attention to the cold or to the steamy vapor escaping his mouth as he breathed. Nor the drafts that bit into his fingers and snaked up his pant leg. He even ignored the acrid smell permeating every inch of the barn.
Nothing mattered, nothing but this moment, this incredibly special moment.
 Shaking with excitement, Virgil leaned into the microphone. “Do you remember, just before you were taken away, me telling you that no matter what, I would find you, and that we’d be together again?”
Through the crackling static came a reply. “Yes, but that… many years ago. And in th… situations people say things, knowing that… comforting things… lessen the hardship, to lessen…pain. I never thought that …”
“That I’d actually find you?”
The static grew louder and panic gripped Virgil. He jumped out of his seat and scanned the computer screens, recalibrating and synchronizing the feed.
“…have found me. Oh, Virgil, somehow you‘ve done the impossible!”
“Nothing is impossible!” Virgil shot back. “They all scoffed. They ridiculed and dismissed my work as a delusion, as fantasy. My grants dried up, my investors backed out; even the military gave up. But I never gave up! I made you a solemn promise and today, that promise has been kept.”
“Virgil, I don’t know what to say, I…”
Virgil interrupted as he scanned the computer screens. “What are your surroundings? Describe them for me. Can you see the stars?”
The static increased. The reply broke up. All four computer screens flashed Recalibrating…
“…The horizon in the morning…when I look out…the lights are always on… when we gather as a group…”
The hissing overwhelmed the rest of the sentence.
Virgil’s hands flew over the controls.
 “Mostly, we have a…”
Some background noise seeped into the transmission, then a stranger’s voice. “Virgil…? Lillian, did I just hear Virgil? Where…it coming from?”
“Bert, this is…private conversation and…”
The man ignored her. “Virgil? Is that you? Where are you? It’s me, Bert Langley. Remember me? I…science teacher…down…block? You used…newspaper to my…when you…kid. And I… tip you a whole…”
“Get out…here, you bastard,” Lillian bellowed. “Virgil doesn’t…about you! He wants…talk to me!”
Virgil heard a grunt, a huff and a shuffling of feet.
“Okay, he’s gone, and yes, we... several times a week… socialize and talk about ….back home.”
Virgil felt a lump in his throat. “You still miss us? Even after all this time?”
“Of course, Virgie! It’s knowing that our… care for us is…keeps us together. You are… thoughts each and every day.”
Tears spilled down Virgil’s cheek. “You are in mine each and every day too and…”
Virgil stopped when he heard Bert Langley’s voice again. It grew louder as he moved back into the transmission field. “Over there, see? I told you! Lillian is…with the outside. What? No! She’s not sending signals, she’s receiving them! See for… apparently…is possible…”
Lillian’s voice broke through in sharp hushed tones. “They’re coming Virgil! Disconnect! I don’t want them to know what you’ve accomplished. Get…to me in…few days!”
“Who’s coming? What are you talk…”
“Disconnect! Disconnect!” she shouted.
Virgil did.
He bowed his head and his hands fell into his lap as the level indicators on the array of computer screens slowly dropped, then flatlined.
 A few moments later, when the shock started wearing off, he said in a shaky voice, “I did it! After eleven years of ridicule from those jealous miscreants, I did it! We actually spoke.”
He wrapped his arms around himself, breathed deeply, then shot his fist into the air. “And this,” he said, bursting with confidence, “is just the beginning!”
Virgil rose from his chair at the control panel, walked over to his desk, reached down and picked up the framed photo that had accompanied him everywhere he went. He gazed at the picture, smiled, kissed it and placed it back on his desk.
The photo was of his mother, Lillian.
A woman dead for the past eleven years.

Want to read more?

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Marriage Rules

   The Marriage Rules is about the realities of marriage and having done considerable research following my own divorce (after 25 years of marriage) I discovered a fatal flaw in the “Love, Marriage, Baby Carriage” formula.
   I would also like to point out that although my own marriage crashed and burned, I still think it is a wonderful institution. The happiest years of my life were spend with my former wife and two kids. So this won’t be some marriage bashing blog post.

   Here is fatal flaw number 1. The idea that “After we’re married we’ll get to know each other better as the years go by.”

   Stupidest plan ever.

   The most dangerous thing about getting married is that it’s similar to deciding to do something you would only do when you’re drunk or high.

   Because when you are in love you are high! You got those rose colored glasses on and their very voice is a sedative for your soul. They complete you, they make getting up in the morning worthwhile, your love will grow stronger as the years go by.

    No it won’t.

    Because as Bryan Ferry once sang, “Love is a drug”.

    And it is, but that doesn’t mean that once the love drug wears off, you’re in for a life of misery and heartache. What you will discover is whether your spouse is your best friend or your worst enemy.
     I can’t think of anything better than spending your life with your best friend.

    Or anything worse than spending it with your worse enemy.
    Unfortunately too many people discover they made the mistake of marrying the wrong person AFTER they’re married. And this mistake could have been avoided if they had only taken the time to do one thing.

    And that is to ask specific questions on every issue they consider important.

    In my research on divorce I discovered the main reason new marriages fail is because the two future partners hadn’t taken the time to REALLY get to know one another. Because in their love drugged condition, the warning sign weren’t noticed or acknowledged.

    Imagine this conversation shortly after being married. “Wait! Are you actually telling me you’re a Satanist? And that you worship Satan?

    “Of course I am! Why do you think I wear this upside down cross all the time or start each morning with the words, “Hail Satan?”

    Might cause a little tension in the marriage, don’t you think?

    Or this one. “I really like Kyle and Tiffany. They’re so much fun to be around and hang out with. You know what would be fun? Us having sex with them.”

    “What!!??? Are you out of your mind?”

    Yeah, I see trouble down the road for those folks too.

    No marriage is destruction proof. (I thought mine was.) But if you want to really increase the odds of your marriage going the distance then the both of you need to sit down and ask each other specific questions on how he or she feels about things that are important to you.

   Don’t know what questions to ask?

   I do. And I put them in a book I wrote called The Marriage Rules: The 100 Questions You and Your Future Spouse MUST Answer BEFORE Getting Married.

One of the great tragedies of life is marrying someone, finding out he or she is not the person you thought they were and then divorcing, severing all ties with someone who, had you not married them, could have remained a close friend throughout your life.
That old saying “Marry in haste, repent in leisure,” is one the great truisms. 

So don’t let it happen to you. Download a copy of The Marriage Rules: The 100 Questions You and Your Future Spouse MUST Answer BEFORE Getting Married. Then sit down with your future partner, answer all the questions and know for sure that you’re marrying the right person.

And if your life is too hectic to sit down and read, no problem, The Marriage Rules: The 100 Questions You and Your Future Spouse MUST Answer BEFORE Getting Married. Is also available as an audio book. So you can hear the questions you need to ask while you are busy, say during you daily commute or jog.

Deciding to get married is likely the biggest decision you will make during your life. So it’s important that you do everything possible to make sure your decision is the right one. So download The Marriage Rules: The 100 Questions You and Your Future Spouse MUST Answer BEFORE Getting Married.


Monday, January 20, 2014

How to Start an Online Business Video Tutorial

*Note* This was originally posted on my business site but then I realized that most people visiting my business site would already know how to set up a business website whereas those on my social site might not, so I have copied and pasted the tutorial link at the bottom of the page
As most of you know, I have been a voice in the wilderness crying out about the slow destruction of the middle class, and because of that, one of the most necessary things to have in today’s internet economy is a website from where you can make the world aware of who you are and what you have to sell.
There are a number of videos on YouTube that feature tutorials on setting up a word press site but most are out of date as are the methods of construction.
Fortunately, one of the best internet marketers in the business, Brian Johnson (I subscribe to his newsletter,) has created a brand new video that not only shows you exactly How to install a WordPress website he also show you how to optimize it with the best traffic getting plug-ins.
People who subscribe to my newletter regularly receive information like this so if you find this info useful you should sign up. The opt-in box is on the right. 
As a newsletter subscriber I received the link and was about to ask Brian if I could share it on my site, when I noticed that he gave his full permission to all his subscribers.
There are a number of videos included so you might want to get a piece of paper and a pen (and a cup of coffee).
If you’re doing the smart thing and preparing to create an online presence for yourself, this is a great way to get started and be taught by someone who is already very successful as an internet marketer. Here’s the link, enjoy

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

How to Start Over

   We’ve all thought about it during some point in our lives. Just wanted to chuck it all and start fresh. Sometimes life becomes so miserable and exhausting that you wish you could put it all behind you and begin a life where there wasn’t so much non-stop stress and pressure. A life where you could be happy and fulfilled, a life where you weren’t so damn unhappy all the time

   But that only exists in fairy tales you tell yourself and drag through one soul crushing week after another.

   The thing is, it doesn’t have to be that way.

   You have the power to turn it all around. I know because I’ve done it.

   Several years ago my life was a non-stop horror show. My wife and I divorced after 25 years of marriage, all my savings and investments disappeared in the 2008 meltdown, Then I lost my job, went through a cancer scare, my dog died, the car died, then got involved in an extended battle over the house with my wife’s attorneys. I contracted ulcers, heart palpitations, chronic anxiety and high blood pressure. I couldn’t sleep and couldn’t land a job.

   And each day seemingly brought another emotional, physical and financial disaster that would take years (if ever) to dig myself out of.

   I have come to learn that I am far from being the only person to have gone through situations like I just described.

   Back in those days I often recalled the line from the movie The Shawshank Redemption in which Morgan Freeman’s characters says, “In life you got two choices, you can get busy living or get busy dying.”

   And back in those dark days it could have gone either way.

   Then I came to the realization that for things to have gone so bad so fast there must have been something I was doing (or wasn’t doing) that made such a cataclysmic crash & burn possible.

   So I decided to look into that possibility. And over a period of several years and a lot of hard work I discovered exactly what I was doing wrong and slowly but surely began changing those things permanently so I will not be a victim of those horrible circumstances again.

   And as things improved I realized that I had learned a number of things that were directly responsible for the sudden positive upswing my life was taking.

   It’s been a rough few years. And many are still stuck with seemingly no way out.

   There is a way. I found it, used it and it turned my life around. It will likely do the same for you.

   So I wrote a book on how it’s done.

   The title is How to Start Over: Rebuilding your Mind, Body & Finances.

   In it I explain how the way we think deeply affects every aspect of our daily lives. So many of us fail to realize that certain actions, (many that the majority of us unconsciously do every day,) are responsible for ruining our social lives, our chances for job advancement and the possibility of having a happy, successful life. How, by not eating certain common everyday foods, we are making ourselves obese and a likely candidate for an early grave.

   And most importantly, how drastically the economy has changed (and the very dangerous ways that it has that you aren’t yet aware of) and WHAT YOU NEED TO CHANGE NOW so not to become unemployable.

   This book does two things. It can drag you out of the miserable circumstances you’re presently in AND it can show you how to become the person you always wanted to be and have a life that you enjoy.

   Here’s the link. Go on over and read a free sample

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

How to Write Well

   Having just reached my second decade as a published author there are some lessons I have learned and have shared them with my readers. I have even written a book on the subject because so many young talented writers are shooting themselves in the foot by not knowing the skills they need in order to be taken seriously. Here are the links for the ebook & audio book versions.

   I also moderate a writers group and if you’re a writer and don’t belong to one, you are again shooting yourself in the foot. Interacting with other writers will provide you with the opportunity to master the craft much faster than by going at it alone.

   The thing is, if you have talent, drive and imagination you can become a writer and if you’re lucky, make a living at it.

   But there is one obstacle that will cripple you and prevent you from becoming a well-known and respected novelist.

   And that, my friends, is your ego.

   And here’s the Catch-22. The more talent you have the more ego there is to overcome.

   All modestly aside I’m a pretty talented guy. But I take no bows for that because I was born with talent. I got it free. No effort was required, no obstacles to overcome, no herculean tasks to perform.

   No charge, buddy. Enjoy!

   But unbeknownst to me, that talent came with a silent, sadistic partner. And that partner threw a monkey wrench into every artistic endeavor I attempted throughout my life.

   And yes, you guessed it. The culprit was my monstrous, Hulk sized ego.

   The problem is, if you can learn things easily, you start believing there isn’t anything you can’t learn and therefore have no need of teachers. And to make matters worse any attempt to show you how to do something better, is taken by you as a personal attack and a hate crime.

   And yes, my ego is just that crazy.

   It took me years to learn to lock that lunatic away and to shut up and accept instruction from those more experienced and better trained.

   Want to save yourself years of frustration, heart-break and disappointment? Here’s what you do. When you are with someone who has similar goals or talents, ask questions. Because even if you are more talented, or more successful, they may have mastered or discovered a method that will greatly improve your own skills.

   Case in point. After starting my own publishing company I met a man in a bar and we started talking. I should point out that not only do I have an enormous ego I am ALSO anti-social as hell. I don’t say nothin’ to nobody. No way, no how, unless I’m on stage or doing a presentation.

   But this guy was very personable. So I opened up a bit and discovered he was an inventor who had created a very innovative product that he sold over the internet. So I told him about my fledging publishing business and compared notes.

   He listened attentively and when I finished he said, “Sounds good, but here’s what you’re doing wrong.”

   Fortunately I had a couple of beers in me or I would have slapped him with my glove and challenged him to a duel. I mean, who was this clown, telling me how to run my publishing company? The guy wasn’t even a writer!

   So I ignored his suggestions and kept doing what I was doing. He was a very interesting guy however, so we continued to meet at that bar once a week.

   But my business wasn’t making any progress. Yes, the books were selling but we weren’t increasing our reader base and so sales were flat. So I started looking into marketing to try and find a way to beef things up.

   And the more I learned the more I realized what that guy had told me so many months earlier was exactly what this marketing course was teaching!

   So I went back to my buddy and started asking questions, which he, ever the professional, kindly answered.  Turns out, he was one of those Millionaires next door types you read about and had more money than he could spend in two lifetimes.

   So I implemented his ideas and sure enough, sales picked up and things turned around. Lesson learned? Don’t reinvent the wheel. If you are a writer but aren’t making progress, the buy my book. It’s that simple. My books are selling well, are yours? If not, then it’s likely I know something that you need to know. Don’t let your ego try to convince you otherwise. Here are the links again

Saturday, January 4, 2014

My Sledding Adventure

Once we reach that age where supposed to be mature, clear thinking adults, a truly enjoyable part of life is somehow sucked out of us. We dismiss goofball fun as childish and beneath us.

And that’s too bad. Because what’s the point of life if you’re not having at least some fun? As I sit in my house with the outside temperatures hovering around -10 I think back to just a few years ago. (Now that I think about it, it was 20 years ago) Time flies so fast!

Anyway, my brother, the infamous Beerculees, came up from the Bronx for a visit and we decided to take my daughter sledding. At the time the nearby golf course was allowing the locals to sled on their property (which had a surprising amount of hills for a golf course.)

When we arrived the place was packed. It was perfect day for sledding. So my brother and I watched and caught up as my daughter and her friends had fun in the snow.

But as we watched we heard shouts and shrieks and raucous laughter coming from behind the adjacent hill. Once my daughter had enough of sledding and was cold enough to want to call it a day, I took her hand and her little pink plastic sled and started toward the car.

That’s when I heard the shouts and shrieks and laughter again and just HAD to find out what was going on.

So we made the trek over the hill and there I saw the most jaw-dropping slope I had ever witnessed from the top side. I looked at what I imagined the top of an Olympic ski jump looked like. And to top it off, half way down the snow curved upward forming an actual ramp that jettisoned the sledder into the air.

My daughter immediate asked me if she could sled down it. (she was always fearless, still is) I looked around and saw most of the sledders were adults although there were a few kids my daughter’s age in the mix.

I’m not a big fan of heights but I needed to try it myself before letting my daughter try.

So I got into her little pink sled with my brother looking at me as if I lost my mind and, after taking a deep breath, told my brother to give me a push.

“You sure you want to do this, Bro?” he asked eyeing me carefully.

“I’ll do it!” my daughter chirped enthusiastically.

I turned to my brother and said. “Wish me luck.”

So he did and gave me a shove.

DEAR LORD! To this very day I have never experienced anything like it. I felt like I had been shot out of a cannon and when I hit that ramp I took off into the air like an F-18 fighter jet.

With my hands tightly gripping the edges of that little pink sled I finally touched down and slowly came to a stop.

It was fantastic!

No way in hell was I going to let my little daughter do it.

When I got back to the top of the hill, Beerculees grabbed the little pink sled and quick took off down the hill. My daughter was talking with a school friend who was about to make her first trip down.

Now I had a problem. If her school friend was allowed to do it why wouldn’t I let her? On the ride home there would be wailing and gnashing of teeth and a silent treatment that would go on for weeks.

Just then, Beerculees rockets into the air with a rebel yell, apparently having the time of his life.

“I’m going next!” she said as her friend started down the hill.

As my brother trodded back and I pondered my next move my daughter’s friend hit the ramp at the wrong angle. The sled flipped and the girl crashed into the packed snow shoulder first.

I can still remember her scream.

An ambulance was called and the girl was taken to the hospital. She had a broken arm and collarbone.

Her parents sued the golf course (the bastards) and consequently all sledding there was prohibited.

Which is a shame because I still have that little pink sled in my garage and after looking at all the snow outside I know exactly where I’d like to go with it.