Sunday, September 28, 2014

How To Sell Books And Grow Your Writing Career- Exhibit At Art & Wine Festivals

If you're a writer and you want to get some attention for your books, there is simply no better way than exhibiting at a popular art & wine festival. Specialty book festivals like the L.A. Times Festival of Books or the Tucson Festival of Books are good, but you are competing for readers' attention with 650 other authors. Much better to be the only author at an Art & Wine Festival. Thousands of people attend these things, and the readers will notice you and remember you. 

This is the Mountain View Art & Wine Festival where I recently exhibited.
The crowd was huge, and people were buying books! 

Yes, it is expensive to get a tent ($200) and banner ($100) and pay the entry fee ($250). But I know authors who spent $6000 on a publicist and got a few radio interviews, a newspaper column, and no book sales that they could attribute to the expense. Are publicists bad? Of course not. Many are good, and many produce good results. But if you want serious results for nowhere near as many dollars, getting in front of readers at a festival can't be beat.

This is my display tent, a 10' X 10' EZup tent. You can get cheaper versions at Costco.

You will sell books at a festival. How many depends on many factors like whether or not you have professional covers, whether or not you smile and are friendly, whether or not you have just one book or an entire series, whether or not you have some free handouts like color postcards that advertise your books, whether or not your books are available cheap on Kindle. (While many people buy paper copies, many people also take my card and order them on Kindle. I know because I can see the bump in Kindle sales starting the very first night of the festival.)

You can get your books in front of more people at a popular festival than any other way.

The bottom line is that you will sell books because lots of people simply love to meet authors and support their books! (Yes, you will also notice that hundreds of people won't even notice your tent. Those are the people who don't read. But the addicted readers will absolutely stop and check you out.)

I have a 10-foot-long colored banner and a few smaller banners with review quotes.
I have a tablecloth on a cheap folding table from Costco,
and I put my books on wire stands that you can buy from Amazon.
I get cheap, over-sized postcards from Vistaprint with my book covers printed on them.
Hundreds of people take them. Often, they look my books up on Amazon and buy them for their Kindle

Will you make expenses and lots of money on top of that? Not at the beginning. I certainly didn't. But unlike paying for advertising or a publicist, at a festival you will absolutely find people who will buy and try your book/books. If your book isn't very exciting or professional, they won't spread the word. But if you have a top-quality book, your rep and cred will grow, and your career will expand. 

The thousands of dollars that you might otherwise spend on publicity will get you an entire season of weekend shows including hotel costs. Compared to investing in any other business, it costs very little to do a summer's worth of festivals and get yourself out there in front of hundreds of thousands of readers.

I've been selling books since 2001. From my experience I am confident about what are the best things you can do to jump-start your writing career.

First: Write some great books that make people email their friends and rave as soon as they turn the last page. If you don't do this, you will have a serious uphill battle. But if you do this, you've done the most important thing of all.

Second: Get out into the crowds and show people your books. And the single most effective way to do that is to exhibit at art & wine festivals. I've done them for years. My audience is now large enough that I could quit doing festivals and just focus on writing. But I won't because they are simply too effective at finding readers. 

Go for it. If you don't know how to scrape up the money, skip your annual vacation or eating out for a year. You put an enormous amount of time into writing your book. Now invest in your writing career. What have you got to lose?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Up, Up, And Away - Ballooning At Lake Tahoe

When I was a kid, the 5th Dimension had a huge hit with the Jimmy Webb song Up, Up, And Away. It was about hot air ballooning, and it fueled fantasies about what it would be like to go up in a balloon.

Years later, ballooning became popular, and you can now do it all over the country. 

But where might be the most beautiful place to go ballooning? Tahoe ain't a bad candidate...

The balloon takes off from a large boat.

You can hear the whoosh of the burner, which heats the air and makes the balloon rise up.

By controlling the altitude, the pilot can take advantage of the onshore and offshore breezes and go over the land or come back over the water.

When the pilot turns off the burner, the balloon is completely silent. Gradually, the air in the balloon cools, which makes it contract, and the balloon loses some of its buoyancy. The balloon slowly drops down toward the lake.

For thrills, the pilot brings the balloon right down to kiss the water. Then, with a blast of the burner, the balloon rises back up. Eventually, the pilot brings the balloon back down, and the mother-ship boat comes underneath it for landing.
If you are interested in one of life's great experiences, here's the link to our local ballooning company.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Lunch At Emerald Bay!

Most Tahoe locals have this experience. We go through our weeks working, working, working. And every time we see the mountains or lake we think that we never get enough time to enjoy this amazing place. We're sometimes envious of tourists who manage to take an entire block of time to experience Tahoe. (Of course, we could do that, too, but like most people, we usually go somewhere else on vacation.)

The problem in enjoying Tahoe is that we tend to think that, as with tourists, to really enjoy hiking or skiing or boating requires a day or six off, and how are we going to do that?

So it was a real gift when our friends Alice and Gary called us up and asked us to have lunch at Emerald Bay.

They weren't inviting us for something that required an entire day or more. Just lunch. Wow, what a concept.

So we made sandwiches and jumped into their speedboat. Tahoe is a big place, and many boaters talk about how long it takes to get across the water. But at 45 knots, you can get from the Tahoe Keys to Emerald Bay in just a few minutes.

Here, we're approaching the entrance to Emerald Bay.

Mt.  Tallac is behind us to the left.

Maggie's Peaks are up at the head of Emerald Bay. The gray triangle is the Rock Slide
where part of the mountain slid down to the bay back in 1955. 

Our hosts found a perfect cove to drop anchor.

The moment we pulled out our sandwiches, this girl showed up, hoping for a treat, which,
in accordance with best wildlife management science, we denied her. Sorry, girl!

When lunch was over, it was a fast trip to the South Shore and back to work!

Thanks to Gary and Alice for a world-class lunch!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Is This The Coolest School In Tahoe?

As kids get ready to head back to school, parents sometimes wonder if there is a better way to get them motivated, interested, or even - dare I say it? - excited about school.

Located in Kings Beach on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe is a school that I guarantee will do all of the above for your kids.

It's called the Tahoe Expedition Academy, and it's open to kids from preK through high school. TEA features all the best of many good schools, but it adds a fantastic range of experiential learning, especially through outdoor activities. 

TEA has small student-to-teacher ratios, and it gives those students many ways to learn through "doing." There isn't anything inherently wrong with sitting in a classroom listening and watching. But when your kid participates in fun activities that are designed to be instructional and not just playtime, their interest soars.

TEA addresses all aspects of your kid's learning experience, even including good nutrition. 

It isn't cheap, around $13,000 for annual tuition. This is always a major barrier for many kids who might benefit from a private school, especially one in a spectacular environment. However, TEA does have some scholarship money available. 

(I encourage parents without much financial means to think creatively regarding raising money for tuition. You may be able to get a low-cost loan. Better yet, you may be able to put together a fundraising presentation and approach potential donors. For example, I know people who would consider funding the education for a relative's child or a friend's child if only the family demonstrated the child's need, ambition, hunger for education etc. and combined it with obvious frugal habits. Few things dampen a potential patron's generosity like seeing the people asking for help eat out in restaurants, drive new cars, buy fancy clothes and spend money in non-frugal ways. In fact, simply foregoing these kinds of unnecessary expenditures might save more than enough to pay the tuition.)

Like any great experience, it requires some planning. The application deadline is May 1st for attendance the following fall. If you'd like to consider the Tahoe Expedition Academy for your child next year, you have eight months to make plans before you have to apply. (Although you may want to apply early.)

Click through to the TEA website and spend some time exploring.

Here is their TEA FAQ page.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Best Hikes In Tahoe - Bayview Trail To South Maggie's Peak, Southwest Shore

Category - Strenuous - This hike is only for experienced hikers in good shape
View Rating - 10 out of 10!
Distance - 5 miles round trip
Elevation Gain - 1800 feet
Highest Point - 8700 feet

Do you want to know what may well be the single most spectacular hike in Tahoe? Better, even, than Mt. Tallac or the Sand Harbor Overlook near Herlan Peak? A hike the summit of which is almost deserted? Try the Bayview Trail up to South Maggie's. 

"Wait," I hear you saying. "What could possibly be more spectacular than hiking Mt. Tallac?"

A reasonable question, especially since Mt. Tallac's summit is 1000 feet higher. But Mt. Tallac is twice as far from Lake Tahoe as is South Maggie's. And South Maggie's looms directly over Emerald Bay, which many people think is the most spectacular part of Lake Tahoe. Ask people who've done both hikes, and you'll find that many agree with me. South Maggie's Peak simply offers a more dramatic view, which happens to also include a great look at Mt. Tallac!

This is what Maggie's Peaks look like from the highway just south of Emerald Bay. The north peak is the one on the right. Our target is South Maggie's on the left. It is only 200 feet higher than the north peak, but it has a nicer summit and is much easier to get to.

The beginning of this hike from the Bayview Trailhead is in most trail guidebooks. But the end - the last portion up to the summit of South Maggie's Peak - is not. The likely reason is that the final portion isn't a well-constructed trail, and the Forest Service doesn't like hikers to go just anywhere because that leads to erosion. In fact, they won't like that I'm telling you about this hike. (But I'll also tell you how to mitigate your impact so you don't have to feel guilty!)

Here's where to go. At Emerald Bay, don't park at the Vikingsholm lot or the Eagle Falls Trailhead lot. Instead, drive to the southernmost part of the highway around Emerald Bay and pull into the Bayview Campground lot directly across from the popular vista point overlook.

Drive in past the campground and go to the end where the trailhead parking is. (Remember to avoid weekends and always get there early. 8 a.m. is a good time to arrive if you want to find a parking place.)

This hike goes into Desolation Wilderness, so you'll need a permit. Because you're just going for a day, you can fill out your own permit at this sign. They're in the box to the right. (Bring your own pen.)

When you get to this sign, go right. (The Cascade Falls Hike is detailed here.)

The initial trail is a strenuous single track that climbs up a forested slope. It is work and it doesn't have a lot of views, setting you up for the big surprises to come.

Soon, you will pop out at the top of the Rock Slide, where a big chunk of mountain slid down into Emerald Bay in 1955. Don't worry, you can walk up and look down at the view without fear of falling. (This area was featured in Tahoe Deathfall.) Fannett Island (Tahoe's only island) with its stone Tea House is easy to see. The big boat on the left side is the Tahoe Queen, hovering just out from the Vikingsholm Castle, which is hidden in the trees just in from the swimming beach.

Here's a zoom shot of the Queen.

Continuing up the trail, you come to Granite Lake, hiding at 7500 feet below Maggie's Peaks. Granite Lake is a great place to take off your shoes and cool your feet on the way back down.

As the trail rises above Granite Lake, you move into a forest of giant California Red firs. These grow to 6 or more feet in diameter as you approach 8000 feet of elevation (their climate sweet spot).

Here's a Red fir with a giant burl that allowed me to pretend for a moment that I was King Louis the Sixteenth, sitting on his throne.

The trail zig-zags up a serious slope to the saddle that lies between North and South Maggie's. To the north and west, you can see much of Desolation Wilderness spread out below you. Don't go too close to the overlook (BE CAREFUL!)  

Here, I'm trying to channel John Muir. 1000 feet below me is Eagle Lake, a popular destination up the Eagle Falls Trail.

From the saddle, the trail continues southwest. In just 100 yards or so, we are going to leave the trail and strike up the open forested slope to the left.

Turn left off the trail and just head up. If you only go up, you can't miss the summit. Because there isn't a formal trail, erosion is a concern. You can avoid creating a path that would channel water and cause erosion by simply walking carefully up at a gentle angle, zig-zagging up the slope as you would if you were climbing on cross-country skis. It is the more direct, steeper paths, caused by hikers and mountain bikers alike, that contribute to erosion. A "Leave No Trace" philosophy prevents erosion just as it prevents litter.

When you near the summit of South Maggie's, head for the north (left) portion. The views are better, and the perfect lunch spots more numerous. To the left rear is Lake Tahoe and the town of South Lake Tahoe adjacent to it. Front left is Cascade Lake, a private lake where John Steinbeck once wintered and wrote (and did some serious drinking!). Rear right is Fallen Leaf Lake. In the distance is Heavenly in the center left and the Freel Peak massif on the right. At 10,880, Freel Peak is the highest mountain in Tahoe.

Speaking of lunch...
Turkey, tomato, spinach, and cheddar on a whole wheat ciabatta roll. 
If that sounds too healthy, don't worry, we took the edge off the health
quotient with a whole lotta chips!

As you look down from the summit, Granite Lake is 1200 feet below you, and Emerald Bay is 1300 feet below that.

After lunch, plan to take some time to memorize the view. And what a view it is!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Best Beaches In Tahoe - Pope Beach

Pope Beach – (Southwest corner of Tahoe)
Parking – Plenty, but always a good idea to get there early!
Fee - $8 per vehicle
Dogs – Sorry, not allowed, not even in vehicles!
Boat Launch – No, unless your boat is a kayak, paddleboard, or canoe that you can carry to the water. (Remember to get your boat inspection.) You can also rent a kayak or paddleboard during much of the season here. Give them a call for schedule.

One of the greatest beaches in Tahoe is only a short distance from the "Y" intersection in South Lake Tahoe where Hwy 89 (Emerald Bay Road) goes north from Hwy 50. Turn north at the Y and drive 2 miles toward Emerald Bay.

 Look for the sign.

Pope Beach is huge, and although very popular, we stopped by on a weekday morning in August and the place was almost empty!

There are many picnic tables and barbecues.

You will see some waterfowl, and the lake and mountain scenery is in the Wow range.

The parking lot accommodates many cars, so even during the height of the season, you'll find a place if you get there early.

Another great benefit for a day at the beach is plenty of restroom facilities.

Note that these pictures show the beach when Tahoe's water level is low. After a big-snow winter, Tahoe's level goes up six feet, and the beach becomes quite a bit narrower!

Bring your hat and sunscreen and sunglasses, and have fun!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

An Early Kayak Ride - Is This The Best Workday Morning In Tahoe?

During the busiest season of the year - continuous book launch events, book and art exhibits at art and wine festivals, and my wife's artist-in-residence at Valhalla - we often end up working from the time we get up to the time we go to bed. The idea of an entire day off isn't workable. 

But what about an hour or two break to go kayaking in the morning?

Last week, we were at the gate to Baldwin Beach at 8 a.m. when they opened. The morning was cool, and the clouds were spectacular.

We hauled our tandem kayak down to the beach and took off up the West Shore. There wasn't enough time to go to Emerald Bay, the standard destination for Baldwin Beach kayak paddlers. But the experience was wonderful just the same!

All aboard our grand ship.
Nice views from out on the water.
The water is so clear, you can't tell if it is 10 feet deep or 40 feet deep.
Lots of birds along the West Shore. These might have been Mergansers,
but before we could get close enough to tell, they performed their vanishing act
and disappeared into the depths.
Kayaking is a great way to sight-see the lakeside houses.
Here's a sailboat just like the one where Owen and Gertie take refuge in Tahoe Ghost Boat.
There are many good places to stop for a  picnic lunch, but we have to get back to work.
Mt. Tallac pops into view through the forest.
Now it's time to head back to work through the scintillating waters. Quite the beautiful morning break!
There are uncountable ways to have a great Tahoe morning, and kayaking is certainly a contender!

P.S. If you want to rent a kayak at Baldwin Beach, check out Kayak Tahoe. They have kayaks and standup paddleboards on the beach during much of the summer.