Monday, April 11, 2016


Robert F. Dorr is a writer’s writer—A man who has consistently put words on paper and been paid for them since he was sixteen years old. He has been a roving wordslinger for over six decades. His prodigious output includes 80 books, over 6,000 magazine articles/stories, and 2,000 columns. Almost all of his writing has been non-fiction featuring wartime aviation or military history.
Last year, he completed and published two novels, Hitler’s Time Machine and Crime Scene: Fairfax County. These have been his first forays into the realm of fiction—if you don’t count the numerous "true stories" he wrote for the men’s adventure magazines.
Now 76 years old, Bob was diagnosed in the latter part of 2015 with Glioblastoma Multiforme—a fatal form of brain cancer. Successful surgery removed the tumor, but the procedure only gave him a little more time before the inevitable. Bob, however, distains self-pity. He is upbeat, positive, and determined, continuing to promote his latest novels, reaching out to support other writers, while fearlessly interacting with the social communities made possible by new technologies. He regularly talks on the phone with well-wishers and fans, but knowing his time in mortality is short, he spares his deteriorating typing skills for writing notes of gratitude and love to friends and family.
I first became aware of Bob though my interest in the Men’s Adventure Magazine Blog website and the associate Men’s Adventure Magazine Facebook Group. With his history of writing for the men’s adventure magazines, Bob was an active presence and knowledgeable contributor to both the website and the Facebook group.
Moderated by Robert Deis, the Men’s Adventure Magazine Blog is the premier resource for collectors of the post-WWII men’s adventure magazines. The website presents an in-depth examination of the various aspects specific to the genre—the covers; the artists; the writers; the pulp-fiction style stories; the true (in the loosest sense) non-fiction articles; the vintage ads; and all other aspects of this style of magazine, which proliferated on America’s newsstands from the 1950s through the mid-1970s. On the allure of these publications, men’s adventure magazine guru Deis proclaims, “Grandpa didn't read Twilight…”
With titles such as Men, All Man, Man’s Action, For Men Only, Male, Gusto, Untamed, an Man’s Life, the men’s adventure magazines left no male fantasy or interest unexplored. They are best remembered in pop culture for their vivid, lurid, and often titillating covers depicting bare-chested, all-American he-men, in close combat with sneering Nazis, savage island natives, wild beasts, and even wilder women.
As an offshoot of the website, Deis—along with his partner in crime and publishing, Wyatt Doyle—created a series of beautifully crafted anthologies of stories torn from the pages of the men’s adventure magazines. Under the umbrella of The Men’s Adventure Library, Deis and Doyle have made some of the best of these great stories accessible again in three collections, WeaselsRipped My Flesh, He-men Bag Men And Nymphos, and Cryptozoology.
While two of Bob Dorr’s stories made it into Weasels Ripped My Flesh, Deis and Doyle decided a standalone collection of Dorr stories was a must. The resulting anthology, A Handful of Hell, was published in January. The stunning cover and beautifully reproduced illustrations from the original magazines make an inspiring canvas for the dynamite explosion of war action, valor, heroism, and down and dirty combat Dorr’s stories deliver.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Bob about A Handful of Hell. Due to the cruel machinations of the brain cancer, he spoke slowly, but clearly on the phone from his home in Oakton, Virginia, where he lives with his wife, Young Soon, and keeps track of his two sons and their families. He can be blunt and irascible, not suffering fools gladly, but if he considers you a friend his generosity abounds.
Since five years old, Bob was fascinated by the Air Force and military airplanes. When he was twelve, he bought a battered typewriter with money from his paper route, and began writing his first stories about planes.
In 1962, after a four year tour with the Air Force where he became a Korean language expert, Bob began to pursue writing professionally.

"The men’s adventure magazines were very visible on the drugstore racks, so I felt they must need somebody to write this stuff. I used Writer’s Digest to track down the editors and what the magazines were interested in. I then read the magazines to learn their style..."
In 1965, he was attached to the Foreign Service arm of the U.S. State Department.

"When I started with the State Department in my frivolous youth, I wasn’t thinking about retirement. But I fortunately picked one of the two careers in the State Department where you could retire at age fifty." 
His duties with the State Department included becoming President Carter’s top expert on North Korea. However, none of his real world responsibilities stopped the pages flowing from his typewriter.

"When there was nothing else demanding my time for either job or family, I was at my desk with cigarettes and booze writing stories."
Wherever his State Department duties took him, Bob’s typewriter and writing records went along.

"I had a file folder for every story I sold. That folder contained all the correspondence related to that particular article or story. I kept a file drawer filled with these folders. When I moved on, so did my files..."
Bob also wrote for the confession and love magazines, cranking out true exposés of the intimate secrets of airline stewardesses and other salacious sounding subjects, their content tame by today’s standards. However, it was Bob’s action-based "true" war stories for the men’s adventure magazines that kept him in cigarettes and booze until the mid-seventies.

"I often made up characters and events, but always tried to be true to what the men who read these magazines (mostly combat veterans) experienced."
When the men’s adventure magazines disappeared from the newsstands, their hyper-action stories of combat, wild beasts, replaced by the "girly mags," which were more interested in nudes than words, Bob turned his skills to writing books about aviation.

"I would like to feel, if I was called upon, I could write about anything...But the Air force and military aviation became my specialization..."
His first book was a history of the Swedish Vinneg fighter plane, a standard fighter of the era built by SAAB. He received an advance of three hundred British pounds (approx. $750).

"I didn’t realize there was a new book about the F-16 being published every two weeks. I thought I had to write about something original…"
More aviation related books and articles followed until leaving the Foreign Service in 1989.

"The same day I retired from the State Department, I started writing full time. For a while, I had the idea I was going to achieve the goal of a million words a year. I never quite made that level, but I tried. I wanted to be the next Norman Mailer...the next Hemingway, or James Jones, but It was not to be. I still have pieces of the Great American Novel all over my house, but I could never pull them all together..."
In 2000, Bob found himself writing editorials for the Air Force Times. Known to be outspoken, he was a staunch defender of the military everyman. His op-ed pieces were never afraid to expose harsh truths senior military and Defense Department leadership might not want to hear.

"I interviewed the big guys to convey to them what the little guys wanted. Base visits were orchestrated and rarely told the brass what real airmen wanted and needed. My columns were for the ones doing the work. They have always given us better than we deserve…we owe everything to them."
Bob is delighted and proud of A Handful of Hell making the best of his stories from the men’s adventure magazines available again.

"My favorite is Night Intruders, which appeared in Real Magazine. It was real wartime fiction. It wasn’t a blown-up exaggerated topic, or overly hokey like other men’s adventure magazine stories."
In typically generous fashion, he has recently donated his archives—140,000 8x10 photos, 100,000 color slides, 6,000 books—to the Glenn L. Martin Maryland Aviation Museum (along with several other charities) in Maryland, making them  accessible to researchers.
Bob says the secret to his writing success is easy.

"You have to put your bottom in the chair. It didn’t matter whether the sun was shining, whether I had the flu, or any other type of distraction, I sat at my desk and put words on paper. I tell young writers the same thing I tell my dog...Sit...Stay..."
During the thirty-five years I spent as officer, detective, and detective supervisor in the trenches of the Los Angeles Police Department, there was a question we asked each other whenever a new lieutenant, captain, or deputy chief imposed themselves into our orbit—would you follow him or her up the hill?
The question has its origins in military combat, but for all its simplicity, the answer is complex...Is this an individual who will lead from the front or sit behind the lines letting others face the bullets? Is this an individual whose actions will bring out the best in those for whom he or she is responsible? Is this an individual who will stand-up, or will they throw you under a tank at the first sign of trouble? Under pressure, when it all hits the fan, is this an individual you can trust to make hard decisions with lives on the line?
Very few individuals met this criteria—the men and women you would follow up the hill into hell and beyond are diamonds amongst pyrite.
I would follow Bob Dorr up the hill...


When Andrew Salmon told me he was preparing a three day free giveaway promotion for his book Sherlock Holmes: Work Capitol, I asked if he would document the process for an article and then later report on the results in a second article.  He has graciously complied…While this process has been in place for quite a while, and has been written about and explored by experts for whom book promotion comes naturally, there are always writers new to the field who look to kindred spirits who are bravely going where they themselves wish to tread and who are willint to act as a guide or mentor...
Well, the 3-day promotion is over, the dust has settled and it's time to tally up the results and recap the adventure. Here's how it all played out:
As mentioned in Part One (Casting My Book Upon the Waters), I had put the time in to set up my promotion of Sherlock Holmes: Work Capitol. Free sites and pay sites had been contacted, book info sent and dates reserved. I was ready. So just after midnight, I began spreading the word via the first of the ads I'd created to promote the promotion. What was encouraging was seeing 80 downloads of the book before I'd pounded a key. So, yes, the reservations I had made at various sites were being honored. 
I decided to hit the ground running right at midnight because the promotion ran on all amazon sites in North America and overseas. Midnight on this continent is daytime elsewhere, right? And Facebook provides the incredible opportunity to promote all over the world. I didn't release the hounds at this point. Rather, it was a matter of getting the ball rolling, getting the word out as the sites I'd booked earlier were doing. Then hit the hay as a busy few days lay ahead.
When I stumbled out of bed hours later, I discovered 100s of readers had downloaded the book. Great! And I hadn't even started the full-on promotional juggernaut yet! I got to it. As I was offering a Sherlock Holmes book for free, my first contacts were the plethora of Holmes Facebook pages. I posted the first ad I'd created, with a direct link to the amazon page (always include a link) and announced a FREE Holmes book for their reading pleasure. Then I tweeted the news (with link) and as many hashtags for free e-book sites as I could squeeze into the tweet. Then it was back to Facebook and contacts (through dozens of book promotion pages) to 100,000s of readers. I posted on my wall of course. And I hit my friends and relatives up to not only encourage them to download the book, but also to help spread the word to anyone they might know who would be interested.
And the numbers jumped! 200! 300! 400! The word was definitely getting out. I spread out my contacts, posts and tweets over the course of the day. This is important to remember. If you want the promo to work, you've got to work it. Sure, you can set it up, book the sites, send a tweet, post something on your wall, and just hope for the best. 
But if you want to be pro-active and increase your results, you've got to put the time in to utilize every avenue you can use to spread the word. There are 1000s of free e-books offered every day, everywhere! To get noticed, you can't just cross your fingers and wish. You've got to work. And the contacts have to be spread out: morning, noon, night. Yeah, it's an all day job.
(One each of books #2 and #3 in the trilogy)
Back at it right out of the gate. A good 60 downloads while I was in the land of nod was an encouraging sign. I was more prudent this time out as I knew I'd be hitting contacts I'd already swamped on Day One. Finding the fine line between keeping things interesting and annoying your contacts, is the key to these things. I had a second ad prepared, a second pitch so as not to repeat myself. I hit different pages in the morning for a different international audience. A strategy of flipping the contacts (Day One morning folks get contacted again in the afternoon or evening of Day Two, Day One night folks get the word in the morning or afternoon on Day Two—you get the picture).
And so it ran. Received some contact from downloaders, a thanks here, a looking forward to reading it there, the promise of a review every now and then. Great stuff! To keep things short and sweet here, it was more of the above. Tweeting with hashtags, posting on Facebook, letting the booked sites do their thing. As I had exhausted my contacts by this point, the results dropped off as folks had either downloaded the free e-book, were going to download it later, or weren't planning on doing so.
(My Black Bat adventure, DEATH RIDES THE VALKYRIE)
This was a Saturday and I had high hopes for the results. Everyone's home, everyone's surfing, everyone's got free time to think about reading a free e-book.
For me, I was making myself sick with all the promotion I'd been doing and couldn't help but fear I was making my contacts sick as well. Still, you've got to press on, keep things interesting (change the pitch, change the pictures you include with each post, change the hashtags on the tweets, etc.) and hope you don't turn too many people off your promotion. It has to be a blitzkrieg, but a considerate and considered one.
Again, I flipped the Facebook posts, mixed things up, but hit each of my contacts again while letting the free e-book sites do their work. I also stayed in touch with anyone who contacted me concerning the promotion. A quick side note: I wasn't glued to my computer throughout the promotion. You don't have to be a hermit during the free days. But you do have to spend more time than you would normally working the phones so to speak.
The results demonstrated what I had learned during my research into these promotions. Always have at least a Saturday as part of your free days. Mine ran from Thursday—Saturday.
(One copy of the last book of the trilogy, A Congression Of Pallbearers)
And that was it. I stepped back, took a deep breath and got to figuring. Here are the results:
Safe to say folks prefer things for free.
Day 4 of a 3-day promotion? Yes, because things got interesting on Sunday.
The promotion was over. And yet, Amazon showed 10 more downloads early Sunday. I'm guessing these happened right under the wire and carried over into the next day. But it upped the total number of free downloads to 1,123.
But Sherlock Holmes Work Capitol also sold 11 copies on Sunday! 
Folks who came late to the show, hopefully eager to see what all the fuss was about—remember me making myself and everyone on Facebook sick—found the book, realized they'd missed the promotion and shelled out the $2.99 to get in on the action. Or maybe, they just decided they wanted to help me out and buy the book instead of downloading it gratis. I'd heard of this happening and was gratified to be the lucky recipient of readers willing to buy the book after losing the chance to get it for free. A hearty thank you goes out to each and every one.
It's important to remember you're playing the long game here. Looking at the above numbers, one can't help but do a little math and see what the royalties would have been if readers had bought the book rather than downloading it for free. Sure, those sales would have been nice—all right, I'll admit it, very nice—but immediate results are not what these free promotions are about.
The key here is that 1,123 readers have my book who didn't have it before. Hopefully they will read it, like it, and want to read the next two for under $6 total. Maybe they buy a copy for a friend, want a print copy for themselves or to give as a gift, leave a review, tell their friends about it—these are the goals of free promotions. What I attained with the giveaway was 1,123 chances for the book to reach new readers, both Holmes fans and general readers alike, who may become fans of my work and willingly throw a few dollars my way for my other books. As this was the ultimate goal of the promotion, I can declare a big mission accomplished.
Also, the 15 sales I picked up are not going to give James Patterson anything to worry about, but every sale is important. Free downloads aside, Sherlock Holmes Work Capitol came out a few years ago and had its moment in the sun with a couple of award nominations and positive reviews from readers and critics alike, so any bump in sales is welcome. At the very least, the sales allowed me to recoup the $20 I paid to set-up the  promotion. In fact, I came out a few dollars ahead. I'm happy with that result, because who knows what future sales the promotion will create. With over 1,100 new readers, I'm bound to hook some of them with my ability to bump one word up against another. I'm already ahead of the game, if only slightly. I cast my book upon the waters and time will tell if it comes back to me a thousand fold—so far, so good.
The next article was written after the results of the giveaway promotion of Sherlock Holmes Work Capitol  were in...



When Andrew Salmon told me he was preparing a three day free giveaway promotion for his book Sherlock Holmes: Work Capitol, I asked if he would document the process for an article and then later report on the results in a second article.  He has graciously complied…While this process has been in place for quite a while, and has been written about and explored by experts for whom book promotion comes naturally, there are always writers new to the field who look to kindred spirits who are bravely going where they themselves wish to tread and who are willint to act as a guide or mentor...

I've been reading for years about how giving away books leads to more sales. This made no sense to me, so I decided to dig a little deeper. Everybody knows people love free stuff. Because of this fact, the reasoning behind free e-book promotion is thousands of readers will download your book if it is free. These are people who wouldn't normally buy your novels because they have no idea who , or they would rather spend their reading dollars on works by other authors with whose work they are familiar.
Once these readers have downloaded your book for free, the hope is they will read it and enjoy it enough to buy a copy for themselves or a friend, and/or buy another of your books, novellas, stories, or anthologies because they like how you bump one word up against another.
The other side of this, of course, is they will download your book because it's free and you'll never hear from them again. It's a gamble, but unless your last name is King, Rowling, or Patterson, it's worth taking as you can do so without breaking the bank.
This is how I went about it...
The first thing I did was decide which book to make free. I chose Sherlock Holmes: Work Capitol, because it is the first of my three Fight Card Sherlock Holmes books and the third—Sherlock Holmes: A Congression of Pallbearers—was just about to be released. 
There's a common strategy of hooking readers on a series by letting them have the first book gratis. My third Fight Card Sherlock Holmes book incorporated characters from the previous volumes—plus, it's Sherlock Holmes! Also, Sherlock Holmes: Work Capitol had received many excellent reviews from Holmes fans, book review sites, news sites, and readers—so the material had been road tested successfully. This last bit is not necessary for a free promotion, but if you have a lot of titles available, with some receiving more positive responses than others, you can use those reader reactions to aid in your selection process.
Even being part of Amazon KDP, I had no idea I had only 5 free days per month to utilize. Starting out, I’d imagined the title being offered free for three weeks, so this was disappointing. However, we work with the tools we're given.
Seeing now how much work goes into promoting a free book (more below), my advice is to book those days weeks in advance, even a month in advance if you like to have a cushion. Amazon allows you to break up a book’s free days, so you can do as many as five separate promotions a month, use all five days at once, or use two or three day bursts of free book promotion. I chose a three-day stretch (March 31st—April 2nd), leaving two days in my back pocket to run a free promo again on a smaller scale. Once Amazon has confirmed your promotion days, then it's time to start getting the word out.
This is where it gets scary. There are a lot of sites that promote, link to, offer, and talk about free e-books. Let me stress the term, a lot! If you Google promote your free e-book be prepared for an avalanche of results. This is good and bad, but let's stick to actual promotion procedure. 
Start by compiling a list of every site at your disposal. This means pouring over endless links looking for the sites that will work best for you. Next, you need to look at Facebook pages—there are dozens where you are allowed to post links to your free books. These are valuable supplements to your own sites and pages when advertising your promotion. There are also dozens of hashtags (#) to use on Twitter, so you'll need a ready list of those as well.
You need to be aware some websites require a month's advance notice before they promote. Others one to two weeks. There are many, however, that operate on a couple of days’ notice, and even a few you can let know on the day. You'll want to break down these sites into three groups: Free, Paid, Lead Time—Longest to Shortest.
There are free promotional sites, but far more charge expect considerable coin to get your free book promoted. Many will only guarantee your listing if you pay in advance. Even some free promotional sites will give you better coverage if you are willing to part with cold cash. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to know paid placement will get the lion's share of space on any given website or blog, so it's up to you to decide how much you want to spend to give away your book.
My decision was based on this being my first attempt at s promotion tied to giving away a free book. Since my last name is not King, Rowling, Patterson or Konrath, I decided to dip a toe into these waters rather than cannonball. In other words, I kept my wallet shut while working the free pages or taking advantage of the free option on pay promotion sites. 
I actually did throw $20 into the effort (not exactly a big spender), but I wanted to see if anything worthwhile would happen for a small investment. If it worked, I’d consider spending more next time out.
All of this research, set-up, and planning is time intensive, which is why deciding at the last minute to run a promotion is not a good idea. You're looking at potentially hundreds of sites, hashtags, and Facebook pages you need to hit if you want your free giveaway to reach as many readers as possible.
Now comes the even more time consuming procedure of going to each of the sites on your list and letting them know about your free e-book—in accordance to their lead time of course. They seem to all have a standard submission form for you fill in the details of your book—be prepared to copy and paste a lot—and the dates the book is going to be free. Many make it obligatory for you to sign up for their newsletter, create a site profile, and sign up for updates. Others won't place your promo unless you get friends to join the site, like and/or promote their Facebook page, etc. Each site is a mixed bag of these elements. Many free sites, of course, offer you the chance to pay to promote your book after submitting your book info. There is a price to pay for free promotion of your free book—even if it’s in aggravation.
For your list of Facebook pages you want to use to announce your free promotion, consider creating an eye-catching ad. Just slapping on a link is not going to create any kind of buzz or interest. The link has to be there, obviously, but a great ad will get browsers to stop and look, see the word free, and hopefully respond by downloading the book.
There are most likely an infinite number of hashtags one can use to spread the word about your free book. Far too many to list here, but using #Kindlefreebook, #FreeKindleStuff, #FreeReadFeed, #freebookdeal would be a good start. However, there are an almost infinite number of hashtag combinations and variations that will help make folks aware of you free book. Tweet the ad, tinyurl (link), or whatever pitch you think will work and see if readers will take the plunge.
The day the promotion begins, you will begin tweeting (see above) and posting the news about your free book on every book promoting site and Facebook page you've collected, as well as your own walls. Urge your friends and associates to pass along the word to all their friends. The promotion will not run itself. Ideally, you'll be working the phones on the promo days, interacting with Facebook contacts who may get in touch with you after they've downloaded your book or send along encouragement. You can even host a virtual book promotion party on Facebook with everyone on the planet  invited. 
Anything you can think of to spread the word, you should be doing, but beware of becoming annoying or repetitive every day of the promotion. Use you ad(s), the books Amazon link, the cover image, review quotes, sample passages—anything to pique enough curiosity for a reader to snag the book. Remember, it costs them nothing so you're halfway there from the outset. Thing is, there are tons of free e-books available these days so you have to showcase yours to get the attention of readers.
I wrote the above analytical breakdown of how to run a free book promotion as I went through the process the first time. My free book promo of Sherlock Holmes Work Capitol, was set to begin in a couple of days. As a result, I had to wait to see how everything shook out.  
I was excited and curious to see how the work I'd put in would affect the number of downloads. Sure, I was hoping for 1000s of free downloads, but I didn't really know what to expect. If I was to get the book into the hands of new readers, I’d consider the effort a win as the book was well received by readers who paid for the experience when the book was first published. If the promotion of one book leads to the sale of others, then the effort would pay off even more.
The next article was written after the results of the giveaway promotion of Sherlock Holmes Work Capitol  were in...