Thursday, July 24, 2014

Genealogy Discoveries

In my spare time, I have been on a genealogical expedition in a quest for finding the first Allison male to come to America. I was born Richard Mark Allison and my name changed when I was 14 to Richard Allison Johnson. My biological father, Billy Joe Allison died when I was a senior in high school and there has always been this black hole in my life as a result. I have always wanted to know more about my Allison family, so I decided to begin an expedition to find out.

There are several sources on the Internet where you can get information, but most of them charge you money every month. Personally, I am not a big fan of paying for information when I might be able to find it for free. There are some free sites that I used to gather the information. One of them is and another is which is the free side of Yet another free site that was very helpful is

With all of these sites, you have to keep in mind that some of these records can be a little inaccurate with misspellings of names. In addition, back in the days of when the census people came around and beat on the door, then took down what you told them and wrote it on a piece of paper. A lot of times, the people being questioned didn't want to give the government their full names, so they would just say R.M. Allison, instead of Richard Mark Allison, for example.

Also, on the Find a Grave site, there are these wonderful people who go through cemeteries and take pictures of the graves. Sometimes, they are family descendants and sometimes they are not. They may not know that another relative who died might be in a different cemetery and the link is missing from Find a Grave. I know in my own search, a lot of times the parents would be listed with some of their children, but not all of them. This could be because they are still alive, or it could be that the person who put the information on Find a Grave didn't know that there was more children.

Anyway, I was able to find the first Allison male to come to America who was born in 1675 in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. After that, I was able to trace the family tree all the way down to me. It was an arduous task, but it has been well worth the effort. That black hole that I had is filled in a little bit now.

I discussed doing genealogical research in my book, Meet Wally Street. The Reason You're Stupid as being a good thing to do if you are retired and bored to tears. If you need any pointers or tips, then don't hesitate to ask me.

Friday, July 11, 2014

All Good Things Must Come to an End

This is an opinion blog and today I am giving my opinion based on my own experience of writing a book. When I wrote my book, Meet Wally Street, I did it with a company owned in some manner by Amazon. I wanted to be able to offer it both in print and as an eBook on the Kindle. At the time, I'll admit that I was a little green about self-publishing. Luckily however, I stumbled across the eBook publisher Smashwords. Smashwords is a company that promotes independent authors like me. They have eBook publishing relationships with Apple, Barnes & Noble and a host of other companies, in addition to selling eBooks themselves.

After I came across Smashwords, I realized what a great American business idea that Mark Coker, the founder had come up with. For someone relatively unknown as an author like myself, there is almost no possible way to get a large publishing house to agree to publish my book. Only the really famous authors get those opportunities. However, this exclusivity is now turning against these big publishing houses. They have a major and I do mean major problem. Authors like me and others want our books to be published and also we want to be able to set our own pricing. With the large publishing houses, this was not possible. Now, however it is thanks to Smashwords.

Smashwords has given me all the tools necessary to sell my book across multiple eBook retailers. They also make it easy to put my eBook on any computer, phone, tablet or other reading device. Mark Coker realized early on that by making arrangements with Apple, Barnes & Noble and others, he could help any and I do mean any author publish their eBook and have it for sale on the top eBook retailer sites. This was a brilliant decision.

Not long after I hit the button with Amazon, I discovered that Amazon wants to try and force you into exclusivity with only their firm and their Kindle Select program. As an author, I want to have my book on Apple iBooks or Barnes & Noble's Nook, too. Amazon however tries to get authors to agree to exclusivity. In fact, I agreed to it before I realized what a bad deal it was for me. I had to wait 60 days for that to expire, then I moved full bore with Smashwords. Now my eBook is pretty much available everywhere.

The large publishing houses would not allow me to give away my eBook for free if I wanted to, but Smashwords will. The large publishing houses will not let me offer discount coupons that can be tracked to specific sales, but Smashwords will. The large publishing houses are going to become much smaller and there will be a lot of consolidation, because they have failed to adapt to a changing marketplace. They are going to find it tough to survive.

This is the way these publishers work today. Suppose you are one of the lucky authors who has a large publisher agree to market your book nationwide at the major bookstores. You basically have two or three weeks in these bookstores to sell your new book. If it doesn't sell, then the bookstores can send them back to the publisher without having to pay anything for the books that didn't sell. As an author, even a well known author, you get two or three weeks. Further, if you as the author want your book to sell, then you have to make the rounds. Get on television, do radio interviews and be interviewed for print publications. All of this needs to happen fast and in concert with your book release. There is a lot of time commitment and cost to doing this without any guarantee of success.

With Smashwords, my book is available for as long as I want it to be for sale. Now from the author's point of view, which is better for the author? Do you see why these publishers are in trouble? That arrogant attitude of turning down author after author over the years is coming back to bite them. Oh don't get me wrong. You will still be able to buy hardcover and paperback books. It will just not be as large a market as eBooks. After all, you can keep a ton of eBooks on your iPad, Nook or Kindle as opposed to a book shelf in your house.

The eBook market is exploding with growth. As more and more authors use Smashwords, and trust me, they are spitting out a bunch of new eBooks everyday, then you will find that Smashwords is liable to be the dominant player in the eBook marketplace for authors. Their growth is astounding and I highly recommend them for any author, even the popular ones.

Pretty soon, you will see hardback books at the antique store instead of Barnes & Noble. Mark my word on it.

By the way, Meet Wally Street, The Reason You're Stupid is only available for FREE for about one more week. After that, I am jacking the price all the way up to $3.99. All good things must come to an end.