August 31, 2014

The Importance of Transylvania And Romania

There will always be someone who will argue that a place such as Transylvania isn't important, but I will argue that it is.  It is an area which could have be bitterly divided along cultural or ethnic lines, and it hasn't.  There is tension in the area, but never a civil war between the people who lived there to the extent of other area in central Europe.

The importance of Transylvania is that it fosters several streams of income for the country of Romania, tourism and natural resources being the two which have the most potential to help create a powerful economy for the people of both Transylvania and Romania.  

Take for instance Bran Castle, which is privately owned but allows for extra growth in the area of Brasov. Brasov has built a business out of Dracula and out of other historical figures who have lived there. In my own book, I talked about the Saxons of Transylvania, and Brasov was one area where the Saxons and Romanians had influence and power.

The importance of Transylvania comes from it culture.  There still are cities where Hungarian or German populations live and use their own languages.  This comes about because of centuries of people living in the same area and with many small freedoms granted to them.  Unlike many places where the tension boiled over, Transylvania has remained a peaceful area.  With Hungary and Romania working together, many cultural Hungarians of Transylvania hold dual Hungarian and Romanian citizenship as part of a deal between the two countries.

There will always be a place for the people of Transylvania. In history, it is easy to see how much influence Transylvania had on its people.  It was so important to the Romanians of this area to make it a part of the Greater Romania that they allowed more of its people freedoms than it would have otherwise done to keep the people happy after the end of World War I.

In doing so, the Romanian government did not push for more land to incite hatred for the the Romanian government.  It took land as compensation for Transylvania having been a part of Hungary, but it made certain that people were still allowed some freedoms such as choosing to remain Catholic or Lutheran.  It did not mean that these people lost everything, but many Saxons and Hungarians lost a lot of power.  The good part was that over time, Romania has attempted to allow for greater cultural recognition, but this was possibly because this is also the direction in which other countries in the European Union are moving.

As an author, the success of Transylvania means that more people discover this wonderful jewel hidden in Romania.  This goes beyond simply Dracula, and it celebrates the history of the people and of the land.  The importance of Transylvania's economy can not be underestimated; it creates jobs and income for Romania, and it allowed more freedoms before many of the other European countries did.  This does not mean it was all good. It simply means that it makes Transylvania different from other areas with similar land and people.

August 25, 2014

Successful Author Book Signing

I am amazed by the number of people who came out to cheer me on or buy my book at my most recent book signing for my book about Transylvania.

I was even more pleased to note that many people knew about Transylvania — and not about vampires, who were not from Transylvania. A few people were originally from Brasov, and it was a delight to greet them.  I can say "Buna Ziua" with a more correct pronunciation thanks to a local Romanian gentleman who not only got a good laugh at my rather valiant first attempt at speaking it, but took me under his wing so that I might be able to speak Romanian — at some point in time.

Part of a successful book signing comes from experiences such as these, and also a willingness to learn more about Transylvania.  It's not as if I don't know anything (I know a lot about the Saxons), but rather, I continue to share and learn from others.

Because this is a niche market, most people who did buy a book were either history buffs or knew of Transylvania, or myself as an author.  Many didn't know much about me, but they loved the concept of my book.  A few wondered about publishing in general.  With all this experience, there are a few points I'd like to share.

1) Have fun: I know you've probably heard this already, but really have fun. There were possibly 100 people who approached the author table, but only about 20 percent bought a book this time, but next time they see me, and know I'm a local author it will make a difference.

2) Say Hello, and how are you?: Most people who came to look at my book came because I engaged them.  I said hello and asked them how they were doing.  I'm not generally a person who does this, but it works.

3) Don't get discouraged: I was happy with what I sold, so I can't complain.  I might wish for more books sold, but there is always next time.  A number of people were very interested, but they weren't out looking for a book at that moment.  When they see me next time, they might get it.  That's a powerful thought.

4) Remember your smile: Smiling goes a long way.  I heard more than a few people comment I was smiling.  I asked the manager who said, it does make a difference to potential buyers that you are smiling at them, so why not?

5) Know and Learn:  Yes, I know things about Transylvania.  I still can learn a lot more things.  So here's to my new reader!  They are already asking for more from my writing. Because of my readers, In Search of The Lost Ones will be a success.

August 20, 2014

Maps of Transylvania, Romania, Pre 1919 and Post 1919

Looking at older maps is a great way to learn about how people viewed an area.  In times past, map-making was an art, and the attention to detail was incredible.  The image on the page had to tell the person looking at the map not only the shape of the area, but what to find while there.

In some of the older maps, "colour coding" was used.  A good example is shown here with Transylvania in yellow and "Romania" (they call it Wallachia and Moldavia in this map) in pink.  Before World War I, Transylvania was a part of Hungary, and you can see this in the details of the original map.  On this map, they refer to Transylvania as "Transylvanie Principat."

Map-making was precise, and yet, it needed to share with the person looking at it a sense of wonder.

This map of Transylvania focused more of the rivers and mountains around the region.  This map was possibly created by someone of German origin since some of the names are not Hungarian or Romanian.  In the upper left corner, one can make out the title in German which is roughly translated to "Northernland."  This map is not as detailed as the map above, but it does give clues to the person who needs it.  Probably, this was used as a "travel guide."

Many people who travelled to Transylvania needed some sort of a guide, since it had many dense forests, and it was ringed by mountains.  Inside the plateau, there were many rivers, and people who didn't know the area would be lost.

More recent maps can be compared not so much as much art forms, but more as givers of specific pieces of information.  People can find new places to explore in travel guides, and then they would need road maps to travel to those places. A good example is Transylvania (Bradt Travel Guides (Regional Guides)).  This map gives the potential traveller some idea of where Transylvania is within Romania, and also what the region's physical geography looks like, with the Carpathian Mountains ringing it.

To a person needing simple information, this older map (Yugoslavia no longer exists as a state) helps to answer the question, "Where is Transylvania?" In this map, the answer is shown clearly with the Romanian borders surrounding the area.

This map is older than the map above, but it is designed to give a person a political understanding of Romania around the time of the "Great Union" between Transylvania and the Kingdom of Romania.  Here, the map makers had the goal of showing Romania and the Romanians.

Each culture is listed; German, Hungarian, Romanian, and many others, to give a person looking at it an idea of the reason behind creating this particular map, in this case showing the cultural diversity of the area.  It is, just like the top two maps, a work of art.  The details in it are wonderful, and it gives a person understanding about the culture and languages of the people who lived in the area at that time.

The maps of Transylvania, Romania both pre and post 1919 are historically powerful.  All of them had a specific goal in mind as to the recipient of the maps.  Each one was created so that people could look at them and could learn about the place, the people, and the culture.

August 18, 2014

Is Transylvania Getting the Most Out Of A Blog?

Blogging about Transylvania is not hard; there is a wealth of information on the web and in libraries that any smart blogger can find.

Blogging is a natural form of sharing, in writing, a passion for a subject or a place.  The person who writes a blog always hopes for people who will come and read it.  When this is a niche-style blog, every visitor and comment means something to the author.  The regular reader who takes a moment to comment should be highly valued.  If only one person comments, or just a few do, the best question to ask yourself is, are they getting the most out of a blog?

Sadly, the answer is NO.

You can put a lot of of effort into writing a blog post each day, and you can spend hundreds of hours trying to build a better blog or trying to figure out how best to brand it, and then hope that people will come. (Some people have suggested I read Marketing in a Web 2.0 World Using Social Media, Webinars, Blogs, and More to Boost Your Small Business on a Budget, but I haven't yet.) In theory, you are supposed to use some type of laser focus and get people to read your blog.  They won't. If they can find the information elsewhere they will.  You have to "engage" your readers into developing warp speed interest. (My apologies to Sir Patrick Stewart for the use of his famous line.)

Readers also probably don't care much about what you have to say about Transylvania in general.  Some of the better blog posts on this website are older, but because they are older, some people say they've seen and heard it all before.  And, they aren't far off the mark.  At some point you might find yourself repeating things you've said a while ago.

Since this website is about Transylvania, the idea that I should think about social media seemed, on the surface, to me to be a bit too much.  I was sure that readers would come and read my writing the moment they knew that there was a blog about Transylvania.  They didn't, and I couldn't understand what was going on.  I had a Facebook account and I was tweeting away, but I wasn't drawing people to my pages.  The blog was there, but I wasn't getting the most out of Things About Transylvania.  I wasn't getting the most out of the blog until I was able to give it more personal touches, and added another writing partner to the mix.

I thought that what I wrote was good, and it is to a small percentage of people, but as I've matured as both a writer and a person, I realize that surface writing is holding me back as much as anything else. People want substance, and substance isn't 300 word blog posts which happen once a week.  It's a lot more than that, and it's a daily task to make this blog grow.

Part of what can hurt or hinder a blog is writer burnout — not so much burning out personally, but losing interest in writing about the subject when people don't come to read it.  Writers need to feel valued, but they also need to know when they are in need of a tune up by way of polite comments given to them.  It's a lot harder to get yourself writing when you feel that you are the only one talking about a subject like The Rise and Fall of Saxon Transylvania, or learning about Romania - Culture Smart!: the essential guide to customs and culture, which are both in a niche market.  In each case, the readers know a lot about your subject.  A small blog post won't help, and you are not getting the most out of a blog about Transylvania.

Transylvania is an important topic, and one readers should know about since it is in Eastern Europe and Romania is close to the Ukraine — which can give a new perspective on your blog posts.  However, this fact is clouded over when it is more likely that your readers glance your blog over and leave.  It's vital to get constructive critiques and praise.  This motivates writers in a niche blog, and it allows them to get the most out of their blogs.

August 14, 2014

Making Connections Writing, Selling and Publishing A Book About Tranyslvania

Is there something more to writing a book, or selling a book?  Is there something to the fact some people make money with their books and others don't?

You need to earn money from your book — this is the simple truth — but, rather than worrying about how you can make money, it's best to spend the time asking yourself if you are making the best of the connections you already have. I am referring to the goal of writing with the bottom dollar in mind — and if that is really a good thing when it comes to a niche market where people know who you are.  Does it help you to focus on money or on writing and publishing?

My writing friends and I spend evenings together where we talk about our goals and our dreams, where we've been and where we're going. At one gathering, the theme of money came up, and of course everyone had a point of view.  Some were negative about the concept of making money with blogs, whereas others viewed writing a blog alongside all one's other work as "not keeping all your eggs in one basket" — especially when it came to niche market websites such as the ones about Transylvania.  I'm not talking about the Gothic market which focuses on Dracula as a part of Transylvania but the history market, which focuses on that part of Transylvania.  This was when I was asked, since I write in a niche market, what is my long term goal?

I shared my views with them, and I'll share them with you: Writing and publishing several books is a long term goal of mine, and since the next book is nearing the final stages, this means I have to create a new goal.  My new goal is to learn more about the art of writing and selling books by using the connections I have with my readers.  I've learned that they are the ones who will buy a book, not me pushing the book on them.

The important thing is to focus on the writing and not on the money — selling one book a week won't help me in the long term, but it does make some nice spare change over time. I think that once you only focus only on the material things, like how much money you can earn, you lose the quality of your writing or the passion that you have for your subject matter.  I feel that if you publish simply to make money, you will find you get that but not the happiness you wanted.  To me, writing and selling a book about Transylvania is about the people who make the money come to me: my network of readers.

The best way to go about it is to ask if I've created a network worthy of the people reading my work.

The idea behind this is that while you have made more than what you thought possible and have earned great reviews on Amazon, you might still wonder if it was all worth while in the end — if you lose your network of readers and friends.  The reverse is also true, if you only focus on writing, you might feel much the same, or worse if you can't get anyone to buy the book.  You need to find that balance, if you want to see more success in your writing career.

Going back to writing in a niche market and self-publishing, it's even more important to focus on what will work for both you and your readers.  I find the video on publishing with CreateSpace to be useful for those who might have trouble finding a traditional publisher for their writing.  Many authors who write in niche markets use CreateSpace, and it does offer some choices for you.

That being said, it still won't sell your book if you haven't written it or are not sure if there is a market for your book about Transylvania.  I believe that there is a market for this books about this subject, and it is one which is needs to be focused and worked with correctly for you to see results.

August 9, 2014

Did You Think Transylvania Was About Vlad Tepes?

Most people still think that Vlad Tepes had a large influence on the people of Romania.  In a sense, he did.

He was born there, but he was a Prince of Wallachia. Most people don't realize that at that time, though, Transylvania and Wallachia were two separate principalities that didn't unite for centuries.  However, since Bram Stoker chose Bran Castle as the home of the main character of his novel, it's become a common (mis)perception that Vlad Tepes was Transylvanian.

Transylvania is not about Vlad Tepes, but it is about his influence on the people who have read Dracula seem to want it to be this way.  This doesn't mean that this influence is good or bad, but it does make one pause and think because Transylvania is not about Tepes, but about the people who lived there.

After watching this video, I found some more things to think about with regard to how people portrayed themselves and the people who saw him as either good or evil.  He wasn't either one; he was a manipulator and a person who wanted power, but he was to some a hero and to others a murderer.  Many people have written volumes about Dracula or Tepes, and the price seems to be right when it comes to publishing a book about this man.

It isn't as if there weren't others who had more influence, but these other men and women have been consigned to the mists of history.  This is not because of their deeds (or misdeeds), but it is because they weren't used as the main character for a Gothic horror novel.  This is the price that Transylvania pays for having a popular character being a part of its history and also a part of the culture of some who live in North America.

August 3, 2014

Is the Price Right? Selling an E-book About Transylvania

It is important to understand that how you price your e-book can affect how you build your audience. This is more true when it deals with a market similar to that of Transylvania. Price your book too high, and you will have a hard time seeing sales, but if you have self-published a book, and if you have marketed this book correctly, this will not make a difference, since you will already have people who want to purchase this book.  

If it is a first book, the price should be lower so that you can grab more readers' attention, especially if you have a self-published book through Kindle Direct Publishing.  I published my e-book about Transylvania this way, and I have discovered a few things along the way.

There is an ongoing debate about royalties. With some quick math, you can calculate the price and how many books you need to sell so that you can earn a profit on your book. The royalty isn't hard to calculate, but I'll give an example of a self-published book and royalties. My own book, In Search of The Lost Ones: The German Soldiers of Transylvania in the Second World War  is available in both paperback and e-book format, but the numbers remain true across both editions.

You have self-published your book in paperback, and you plan to sell this book for $16.00. You have a small following of people on your blog and website but also on your other online writing sites, and social networking sites. Your royalty is calculated to be $3.00 per book, that you sell on Amazon, and you have spent $500 on other items related to this book. In this case, you will need to sell close to 200 books to either break even or make a profit. ($3 X 200= $600-$500= $100 (approximately))

However, if you sell this same book at $12.00 and the royalty is $2.00 then you will need to sell at least 250 books to do the same in the above example. On Amazon, a price of $12.50 is a marketing strategy many other authors have used, as a person is more likely to purchase your book as an add-on at $12.50 as opposed to $16.00 all because they can get free shipping. The lower price can mean better sales with possibly more expenses. ($2 X 250 = $500 - $500 = $0)

With e-books, potential readers might shy away from your work if you price it too high, and if it is priced too low, then you will have to sell more to break even. For some writers, mostly ones who self-publish, 99 cents is a magic number, since they believe they get a lot of sales this way, but this is also one of the hardest ways to keep earning money. If you self-publish on Kindle, this price point is possibly one of the most effective ways to get your message across, since more readers are willing to read a new author whose book is available at a lower price point.  If your niche market is Transylvania, there is still a mountain to climb to earn the return on investment.

However, the drawback to this is that, should you decide to sell your Kindle e-book at the 99 cent price point, you will have to more than double your online marketing efforts and have to sell about six times as many books to make the earnings that you would have if you had set a price of $2.99, which gives you the option of 70% royalty.

Selling a book does take longer in a niche market because there is less exposure, and most readers will already want it initially, so your 99 cent book might not sell as well as you hope it does. The price needs to work, and the numbers need to work for you. If you don't have time to market your book, then sometimes a lower-priced e-book is better, since people will look for a deal for their books.

While some people talk about about pricing your self-published e-book lower, there is also the counter-argument presented, which is that you have priced your e-book too high. There is now a "boycott" of e-books with a price of 9.99 when the paperback is not that much more expensive. Some authors have priced their e-books beyond $9.99 and they have seen success by doing so, but to make money when you are a smaller-market author it is best not to have your potential readers purchase your book at a high price point. The subject of Transylvania seems to not sell as well at higher prices.

Some writers have since commented that sales also dry up at a higher price point since people do not want to risk money on a new author. This is more true if you self-published your book, since there is a question of writing quality, credibility, and content in the minds of many readers. Even if you had your work professionally edited, there will still be challenges in selling that e-book.  Transylvania is a challenging subject, but it is one that is worth-while to write about.

Marketing is a huge factor since, if you self-published that book, you will have to market it more, and to the people who don't know about your pride for Transylvania, to sell your book, if you had priced your e-book at $2.99 rather than $5.00 or $6.00 more readers might be willing to part with some of their money. The larger your network, the more chance you will have at gaining a larger audience, which is why you will also have to spend time on various sites to promote your work.