April Sales No Fooling!

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Monday, April 6, 2020. What the following indicate is that I sold a hardcover on April 1st and a paperback yesterday, hooray!

Hardcover sale, April 1!
Paperback sale yesterday, April 5th!

Pure joy! I notice that somebody (Amazon, B&N, whomever) put the hardcover on deep discount which may have prompted a curious shopper to pull the trigger but the paperback sold at the original price. I make a mere two buck per sale at these prices but so be it, the discount on Amazon doesn’t affect my author percentage. Amazon has price matched for years and it looks like B&N is trying to do the same, so be it, if it kicks a click into a click-thru, I’m good with it.

Meanwhile, this is a big deal, a very big deal because these two Amazon sales represent the very first orders generated by my Amazon advertising which I’m losing my ass on but, yay – little victories! They also represent my very first “anonymous” sales, so to say; namely, sales that are independent of any family, friends, contributors or, in the case of the last eBook I sold, an interested editor that had pitched to me that I had followed up with. I henceforth spent the whole morning drilling into the sales and advertising report data trying to pin down the details. Exactly who? Where? Why? What happened? Via the data, I know that each sale came by way of my USA “debut author” ad, the one that costs me the most and has generated 140 clicks or so since I started it a month or so ago. Also, the hardcover buyer searched “science fiction anthologies” before clicking and buying Time Crime whereas the paperback buyer searched “science fiction books.” You can even generate reports on the books that people who clicked on your ad but didn’t but your book went on to actually purchase. It’s a crazy amount of shopper data that is worthless until you get some sales and then you can put it to use – sales beget more sales, here’s hoping. Otherwise, I hadn’t checked my sales in a couple of days and I’m so used to seeing zero in the sales field on all the campaigns, USA, UK and France, that I may have just overlooked the Wednesday success. Of course my ACOS (advertising cost of sales), impressions, click-thru rate, cost per click, all that data that is still in the tank but who cares today? And the hardcover rocketing to a sales rank of 120-something thousand (Amazon updates this hourly) briefly last Wednesday out of some 8M books, that was great. Likewise, the paperback shot up to something like the top 140,000. Rarified air to be sure! Anyway, as the rankings once again plummet, I cherish the spectacular peak performances! And I think, gosh, what must it be like to sell more than one copy in a day?

Very seriously, however, I’ve obviously been despairing and was intending to kill the ads at the beginning of April, the only thing holding me back being the idea that while I’d be saving us money I would be also killing any and all exposure – the handful of clicks per day that I’m getting – therefore resigning myself to letting the book languish until the audiobook is released and/or I get around to the TC2 publishing. I’m beyond thankful, then, to not have resorted to quitting on my ads. And who knew the sellers would put the hardcover on sale? I’ve been keeping myself going with the idea that if I can just manage a little success of some type, an indicator that feels like progress each month, just one good thing per month so that sales and progress don’t ever zero out or otherwise flat-line for an entire month, as if the book has died on the table, I would be happy. So far, so good, perhaps by a hair’s breadth but a sale is a sale.

Now, the next thing, the stretch goal this month or next (I have to give my readers some time to read and write), is to achieve reviews out of these sales. Both of them. And definitively positive ones – four or five stars each. It’s another long shot – I don’t recall the percentage of buyers who post reviews but it’s goddamn low. So that two sales and two reviews, let alone positive ones would be a remarkable, uncanny statistical achievement. Two glowing reviews from “authorized Amazon purchase” reviewers… imagine what that might do for sales! Gosh, I hope so much that I’m not a disappointment; I couldn’t bear it if I did get thrashed or perhaps suffered faint praise. No, I’d bear it because I’d have to and be careful what you wish for and all that I nonetheless am envisioning good things. If not reviews, then good word of mouth.

It struck me that TC1’s having been listed in Locus Magazine this month may have sparked some interest – what else could have done it? – but I don’t know, I really doubt that readers scan those “Books Received” lists with the intention of discovering titles. And I would’ve seen “Time Crime” or “Carnegie Olson” in the search terms. The other data available has to do with geography and Amazon’s chart shows sales without dates in the Detroit area, one in North Carolina (that would be Robin V.) and a sale in other regions that are outside the major metropolitan areas and hence commingled without reference even to a specific state. Without any feedback from a reader via my website or Facebook, I’ll never know anything more about them.

What next? Scrubbing floors. In other words, more TC2 editing, more managing the audiobook process, trying to earn some cash, etcetera. And regarding cash, apparently some additional unemployment benefits came my way via the impact of the virus on State unemployment – five more weeks as a kind of gift though I’ll likely only be capable of accepting three weeks by the time this job starts up. So be it.

DOP1 (2010-11) VINTAGE POST:

September 16, 2011. I’m sort of wrecked. Bad news. A bad outcome to what I had planned on being a day of true biophycomythological celebration. Today was the second USDA visit to Union Hall Kitchen to review my documentation for the Grant of Inspection and both me and the USDA Front Line Supervisor thought I’d get the conditional Grant, which provides for a 90-day observation period. The EIAO (Enforcement Investigations and Analysis Officer) guy hasn’t been as keen to get this done. He apparently has no vested interest in making it happen. On top of that I think he’s quite inexperienced and doesn’t seem to have a clue regarding my headcheese process. As such, he just realized that I’m adding fresh parsley, lemon juice, salt and pepper to the pork at the stage they call “post-lethality” for microbial contamination, i.e. “cooking.” So there’s this January 5th 2011 new FSIS Directive 01-11 that hammers the point of post-lethality ingredients all based on the fact that one person somehow got “sick” from crushed black pepper added to food. Anyway, this was a deal-breaker, at least today, and they left me with the obligation to somehow obtain letters of guaranty or something else that documents the absence of microbial contamination in the parsley and lemons that I use. They’re all confident I can get such documentation for the salt and pepper because most producers apparently irradiate their stuff. The parsley and lemons are not so easy. I’ve already found a guidance document from the FDA (as opposed to the USDA) that speaks to the entire issue and I’ve forwarded it to FSIS and Frog Holler, Plum Market and Whole Foods in an effort to help them help me get this documentation done.

Meanwhile, I am NOT FUCKING HAPPY. After getting shot down, I got pissed but held my tongue pretty well. I told the Feds that I knew there’d be some hurdle I’d have to work out, but I never expected THIS. Fucking worrying about fresh parsley, lemon juice, salt and pepper. All while the kitchen is full of folks happily chopping, dicing and otherwise prepping fresh foodstuffs for the day’s cart service to the public, dumping piles of fresh herbs and seasonings being in everywhere and everything. Such is the difference between food service, regulated by the County, and food production inspected by the USDA. It matters not a jot that I’ve been safely selling headcheese since May and could in fact, if I wasn’t tied up dealing with regulators so that I couldn’t open for business, sell some this very afternoon, legally. FUCKING CRAZY REGULATIONS. Now I really am convinced my previous life in the regulatory field was a fucking total joke and practically useless occupation. It just all gets taken way too far in the U.S. – it’s practically crippling me. The inspection ended; there was nothing more anybody could say. I was done. The regulators left, I put my binders and equipment away, I walked out of the kitchen and I just wandered the streets of Ann Arbor in a daze. I walked for several blocks not knowing what the fuck to do or where to go – the shock was so cataclysmic to my heart and brain. It was like a physical blow. Like getting drilled by an F150. I was crumpling like a piece of paper. So much expectation shattered over such crazy bullshit. Having the expectation is what screwed me too – I should’ve known better, but the feds seemed, and still seem, more confident that I do that this will all work out. The inspector who’ll be showing up each day I’m in production sent his info to me by email and said he’s sure it’ll all work out.

It’s the next day. It’s day two of not opening the cart – there’s another UofM football game, this time with EMU, but anyway, I’m not wasting my time making food to sit there while everybody’s at the afternoon game. Me and Angie will just go for a big walk. I’m already working through the events of yesterday with the feds – I’ve got my inquiries in to the vendors and I’ve dug up some support docs, one from the FDA that talks all about the issue of post-lethality and fresh fruits and vegetables, blah, blah. I got the stupid thermometer bullshit procedure finally and all that tiny, itty bitty bullshit can be brushed away just by shutting up and doing it so I’m not arguing and just doing it. Give them exactly what the fuck they want. I am going to play this out until the very end and it will turn around and bring me back from the edge of another fiasco or it won’t and it may end and I’ll be o.k. with not compromising the quality and flavor of the finest headcheese in the world. It’s not over, I won’t flinch again – I also won’t expect Est. 989 to happen on any particular day – I’m just going to keep hammering – pressure and time and I may be so close to success that giving up now is stupid. I’m going to impose and the world can dispose as it sees fit – to borrow from Stryker’s book. Like Socrates who was faced with the choice of stopping his Socratic dialogue or death, he, like Stryker says, chose death without a second thought. So faced with making a shitty headcheese so I can get it USDA approved, or not making headcheese at all, I’ll choose without hesitation to let that dream die. But only when it’s apparent that it’s time to move on – we are not there yet. From Stryker’s book:

Paramahansa Yogananda once wrote, “It is better to die struggling than to abandon your efforts while there is still a possibility of accomplishing something more….Analyze what you are, what you wish to become, and what shortcomings are impeding you. Decide the nature of your true task – your mission in life. Endeavor to make yourself what you should be and what you want to be.”[1]

When your biophycomythology is challenged; when the unforeseen blocks your way; when you can’t see or hear your guides; when resistance to your goals seems to increase commensurately with your efforts, leaving you exhausted, exasperated, frustrated, confused, bewildered and pissed off; when the “bliss cuts off,” as Joseph Campbell says “try to find it again.” While you live, there is hope. Don’t “redouble your efforts while losing sight of the goal” either. That’s a phrase that bears repeating. You must focus in on your personal myth. A problem that I encounter over and over again is that the playing out of my personal myth – the engagement of my biophycomythology – has no identical reference in history. This seems obvious; that your hero’s journey, your mission, your purpose, your reason for being, your biophycomythology is unique, but the obviousness doesn’t make it any easier to cope with, especially under duress. It would be fantastic, when the shit hits the fan; when the storm hits, or, like Ari Weinzweig might say, you’re in the car wash, that you could whip out your all-purpose universal hero journey guidebook and know instantly what to do next base on what somebody else did in the same situation. But the uniqueness of your myth demands that it play out in a unique way, in “real time” so to say, so that you can’t look ahead to the end of the story or even into the next chapter to gain any confidence into how things might be going at some later stage. It would be nice. It would be comforting. Like re-watching a favorite movie – we take comfort in knowing how the whole thing goes and we can enjoy taking the time to discover new details and aspects of the story. It’s tougher to enjoy the ride of your own life precisely because you’re forced to invent every moment of it – you’re creating it and trying to enjoy it at the same time.

“Everything is as it should be.” A Hindu or Buddhist phrase I think. But it’s not easy to swallow when it seems like following your bliss is leading you straight into a fiasco. Like getting my headcheese process approved by the USDA. I need to heed my own advice and stop, drop, look and listen to my heart and trust my guides. If I’m that lost, which I probably am not, then some meditation to still the mind and get above it all will help. My heart knows. My guides are there. Maybe I haven’t been listening closely enough and I’ve gotten off track and I can’t see or hear my guides. They are there, I just need to carefully find them. They don’t abandon you, although that is the sensation one gets when things hit snags and plans disintegrate. Dreams don’t vanish as much as clarify – they distill into what is most important to you, which is really the dream after all. My myth is often leading me well outside my comfort zone – I get some confidence that I know how this is working and then I guess that confidence turns to over-confidence and I quit being mindful about this process. It’s not so much that I make mistakes now, but that I make assumptions as to how things will play out. There is the vision of greatness, the sankalpa, the short-term goal or the dharma, the life’s purpose, but being alive is experiencing the middle part of all of this – the experience of having it play out within the influence of reality.

How badly do you want something? How much time and effort are you willing to invest, how much resistance will you tolerate to get what you want? For me, time is one of the most challenging aspects – your myth doesn’t play out according to my time clock, even when time periods are specified within a vision-of-greatness. Specifying time periods does foreshorten their outcome I think but still, like Ari W. warns in Building a Great Business,

My experience…is that it takes about two years for us to achieve some level of equilibrium for any meaningful change or new business. It then takes another year or two to get good. And it’s only then – three or four years after we started – that we’ve got ourselves in position to go after greatness.[2]

It makes sense then that any HH troubles just fit in with the time-line that Ari describes. Also, I’m thinking that while my vog is solid, my strategic plan is almost non-existent at this point – I guess we had one that got our asses where we’re at now, but I don’t recall writing it down. Ever since the Mark’s Carts application got accepted, I think we just focused on getting up here and getting started. That’s an accomplishment to be proud of, but with the season approaching its final weeks, I’m realizing that we need a strategy to move forward towards the vision. I sort of feel like an idiot for not having a sound strategic plan, and I’m baffled now as to why we don’t have one that I can reference, but there you have it – even with all the reading and writing I’ve been doing all this time, we got wrapped around the axel and didn’t write down how we’re going to make this continue to happen. I’m not alone – I don’t think any of the other carters, with the exception of Sans Street who has ZCoB support took a breath to work out a strategic plan beyond November – we got caught in the “car wash” and we’re just now all crawling out into the next stage of the process. My vog and biz plan incorporated how the future will look but not how we’ll get there. I agree with Angie that the strategic portion is typically what she focuses on and since it’s been lacking, it’s been at least one major source of our relationship struggles – I’ve been stuck in the clouds and she’s been stuck on the ground. The place we need to be is somewhere in between. In a plane with a full cargo hold and a flight plan or in a boat with a crew, provisions, a compass and a sextant, whatever, so that we can actually get where we’ve seen we want to be.

Money always seems to come up as a limiting factor. It’s probably very common. I’ve yet to really figure out, even after completing the exercises from Canfield, what it is about money that I indeed find so fucking limiting. Is it that money of any magnitude makes me false, fake, insincere, inauthentic, weak, boring, isolated, frustrated, trapped, scared, lucky (haven’t earned it, don’t deserve it), disconnected from real life, soft, selfish? Yes. Why? Are these things true about people with money? As Canfield or anybody else can tell you the answer to that is yes and no – it depends on who you’re talking about. I KNOW THIS STUFF, but why do I continue to struggle with it? I’m concerned because I see myself stalling with hh and to me I’m right at the point that I see most fucked up businesses stall, fail and die. So am I just another biz failure? Do I WANT hh to fail? No. But the food cart is not jazzing me at all. It seems so doomed to connect with only a tiny section of frustrated foodies who want something different than a restaurant experience but who cannot, on their own, support a group of food carts.

I’m just convinced that it’s destined to be a lunch experience only. Dinner, though folks like Mark and Phyllis push it as the only way to financial viability for the carts, just doesn’t seem to make sense to me – why the fuck would I eat dinner at a food court? I don’t like the idea. Plus, it’s amazingly difficult to prep and work two services per day with just me and Angie working the cart. Everybody else has this team of people that they continually tap to make up for the devastating work load it creates. I open and close my cart by myself three of five days per week, which leaves me exhausted and tapped out. Nobody else does this and they’re still tired and burned out. It’s not the cooking, it’s the cleaning and hauling shit back and forth to and from the kitchen. It’s not so bad now that EAT is gone because the battle for getting into the dish sink isn’t as tough to manage – if you close your cart, then you had to jockey for position to wash dishes so you could fucking go home. When you work the cart by yourself like me, you end up washing dishes at least twice just for lunch service. Here’s how it plays out:

  1. Prep and cook mac & cheese.
  2. Prep other tray (braise, roast, whatever).
  3. Prep veg for headcheese hoagie.
  4. Wash all those dishes.
  5. Haul everything (food, trays, utensils, condiments, ice, etc.) out to cart.
  6. Serve food with passion and love.
  7. Haul everything back to Kitchen.
  8. Clean Cart.
  9. Wash all the cart-dishes and anything you didn’t have time for from the morning prep.
  10. Put it all away.
  11. Close cart (make sure it’s clean, drained, shit put away, sign removed, tarped).
  12. Have food ready (or a plan for it to be ready) by tomorrow morning for the next lunch service.
  13. Shop or order food & supplies.
  14. Pay bills, track biz expenses.

Whew, all this just for a little food cart serving lunch. On a good day, I can get all this done, with Angie’s help, and my brother’s help on the Thursday I have to clean the whole fucking kitchen (which I’ve done on my own) and get the fuck out of there in an eight or ten-hour day. Not including picking up food, ordering food, emailing or calling vendors, blah, blah. And definitely not including doing a dinner service on Friday night so that we finish dishes (AGAIN) at somewhere approaching 10 or 11PM. So I need to enjoy this drudgery I know, but something doesn’t seem right about it. First of all, nobody else amongst the carters does all this with one or two people – there’s always this mini “crew” of support that they’re all, to me, underpaying to do the shit work. That’s not a biz that I want to be involved in – one that needs volunteer help, or really cheap labor from somebody who has no other option in life and who will work for less than minimum wage, under the table, illegally, etc. It’s a bullshit way to work and do biz and I don’t want any part of it.

So where is this taking me and Angie? I thought I knew, but when I look at the 2015 vog now, it’s not jazzing me. WHY? We’ve accomplished so much on it. The financial sustainability portion is NOT realistic however, and I’m thinking the gastro-farm is also not realistic because I can’t physically or financially do that and run some retail food biz. Maybe I just have to choose and pare this 2015 vog down to a more realistic, tighter concept. Maybe that will restore its jazziness. I’ve actually started to feel like I’m back up on that “ridge,” pacing, chucking metaphysical rocks out of my backpack and gazing down to the valley I want to get to but not seeing the way down. The ridge is a cold, windy, rocky, uninviting transitional space and place that represents my schism. I was just thinking my biophycomythology was getting more solid and reliable – that I’d indeed entered the green valley, but now I’m not so sure that this last six months wasn’t just me still walking the ridge, searching for my way down. So I guess I need to listen to me heart and trust my guides. I can’t panic and start running around the “woods” to mix metaphors, and get myself more lost. Maybe I’m just a little bit lost, I know this feeling and yes, I think that’s what it is. I’ve lost the trail, but again, I shouldn’t be looking for a trail or path and that’s what has me full of anxiety – some triggers or whatever have me acting in old ways, in old patterns, shaking things up chucking everything onto the table and starting over – that is one of the things I do too often – start over. I need to stick with what my heart tells me is right. I’ve got some work to do – and I’m going to work to still my mind and get back to the bliss, because it does seem like it’s been cut off, at least somewhat, so that I’m doubting my myth. Let’s just hold fast, stop, drop and listen. I’ve asked myself and the universe the questions and I need to be open to the answers whatever they are. I’ve got some expectations and desires holding me up; trying to shape the future instead of letting it develop. This fucking sucks – I keep making the mistake of assuming that I’ve gotten past the hard part. “When the bliss cuts off, try to find it again” (Campbell). That’s where I’m at.


[1] Rod Stryker, The Four Desires…307.

[2] Ari Weinzweig, Guide to Good Leading 1…, 57.