Another signing event tomorrow!

Posted on September 23rd, 2011

If you missed my book launch party and are in the Rochester, MN area, I will be signing books at:

Rochester Family “Y”
709 1st Ave SW,
Rochester MN

I’ll be there (and dressed as a pirate) from 10am-3pm. My books will be $10 apiece.

There will be other local and talented authors there also, including:

o Elsie Dunn
o Divine Rhubarb Committee
o Helen Chen
o Joan Sween
o Jen Brewer
o Ann Schultz
o Tom Harper
o David Fingerman

As well as some local and talented artists:

o Brenda Kline
o Leisa Luis Grill
o Mary Lou Devlin
o Loretta Verbout
o Andrew Neville
o Deb Zipse

It’s going to be a great time!

Throwing a Book Launch Party

Posted on September 21st, 2011

Yesterday, I hosted a launch party for my debut novel, The Caldarian Conflict.  I invited virtually everyone I knew within a 50-mile radius to come to the signing event hosted at a local Rochester MN attraction, the Plummer House.  Overall, it was a huge success from my standpoint, with sales exceeding expectations.

As such, I want to share what I learned with others and record what happened so I can hopefully repeat the success next time.

Since my own book launch was the first I’d ever attended, I had little information to go on when my wife and I planned this event.  Brenda found lots of ideas, and we talked about a lot of different options.  What follows is a list of decisions, why we went with it, and what I think about it now.

Attracting attention

There were lots of things to consider as we marketed the party. We tried lots of traditional marketing, like:

  • The Minnesota Writers Alliance newsletter included us in their event list and included an excellent article about me.
  • The Rochester Post Bulletin was kind enough to mention the launch party not once, but twice in the days preceding the party
  • Robin Wolfram, one of the anchors for KTTC, a Rochester TV station, interviewed me and helped get the word out about the party

Beyond that, we carefully considered what things would draw people to our party.  For example, we knew that these things would help people say “yes” to coming:

  • Book signing
  • International Talk Like a Pirate Day theme (more later)
  • Location (Plummer House, more later)
  • Pirate costumes!
  • Seeing my 3-month-0ld son (hey, it’s for a good cause)
  • Door prizes
  • Family friendly
  • Food!

With all of these reasons to say yes, who could say no?  🙂


Timing was pretty easy.  After I’d written the first couple of chapters of my novel, I knew I was going to finish.  I set a target completion date of September 19, 2011–which is International Talk Like A Pirate Day.  Since my novel has a pirate theme, it was a perfect fit.

The pirate theme allowed us to have a second reason to celebrate the day: if nothing else, we could have a Pirate Day party.  This helped create another reason for people to say yes to coming.  Plus, since it related to the theme of the novel, we were also pulling in the target audience likely to be interested in the novel.

The location was more difficult.  Originally we wanted something located downtown so we could maximize parking ability, random walk-bys, and the likelihood that people could find the place.  After looking at prices and a couple of options, we were concerned about the costs.  Thankfully, Brenda came up with the option that the Plummer House and grounds could be rented for significantly less than any space we’d looked at.

There were several other advantages of the Plummer House that we discovered:

  • Though it’s a local attraction, few locals ever make the time to go up there (it’s situated at the top of a large bluff).  This created an attractive draw for people who might have been more neutral.
  • The Victorian feel of the house melded well with the pirate theme of the novel.
  • Since we held the event on International Talk Like a Pirate Day, we suggested that people wear pirate costumes.  The more remote location helped save people any embarrassment they might have felt about walking around in costume.

So, in short, the location and timing was a big win that helped this event succeed.

Giveaways (door prizes, etc.)

To avoid hurting sales, we didn’t want to use giveaways that included the novel.  Brenda did a wonderful job creating lots of different door prizes, including this one:

It included some cashews, a pair of mugs engraved with the title of the novel, and a copy of The Pirate Primer, so the winner could learn how to better talk like a pirate.

Other door prizes were targeted for children and teens, with special consideration given to each age group.  Being new parents, we wanted to make the event as family-friendly as possible.

Also, we had lots of little gift bags, special bags for the first ones to arrive, and a free eye patch.  My talented mother also created custom-made bookmarks for the books.

We received a ton of positive feedback around all the giveaways and ideas designed to keep the party a positive experience.

Overall, the giveaways were a definite win.


Brenda found a plethora of pirate-themed decorations from Amazon, Oriental Trading, and others.  We may have helped keep some of these businesses afloat in tough economic times.

While we found lots of things we liked, we overbought.  Due to time restrictions, we didn’t use all of the things we purchased.

Also, for every item we put up, we extended our tear-down time at the end.  When I release my next book, assuming we do a party, I’m planning to take a minimalist approach to decorations.  Not only will this reduce costs, but it will also help save us time in setup and tear-down.

In summary, while the decorations were cool, I think we overdid it.  It’s an opportunity for us to improve for next time.


We purposely bought much more food than we thought we needed.  We had a few friends volunteer to make things for us, and a talented friend of ours volunteered to help make some fancy hors d’ourves.  We had shrimp on guacamole and crackers, salmon on a custom blend of herbs and cream cheese, and many other seafood-themed snacks.  For the adults, we included rum balls as a tasty dessert.

For the kids we knew would come, we cooked pizza rolls and chicken nuggets.  For dessert, we had cupcakes, cookies, and candy readily available.

Everyone loved the food.  A definite win, and something I’d do again.  Next time, I might buy a little less, but I’d rather have too much food than too little.  A side benefit: my coworkers at my day job got to help me take care of the leftovers.  I think they’d declare it a win too.


From a strict income/amount spent perspective, a launch party is not likely to be worth it for a first-time author.  Unless you’re selling hundreds of books, the income from the party will not cover the costs.

That said, there are many intangible benefits of hosting a launch party beyond selling books.  In no particular order, here are some of the benefits we found:

  • I enjoyed celebrating the completion of a large project with friends who care and want to see me succeed.  We had a great time, and it sounds like our friends did too.
  • I found the Plummer House inspirational.  There are lots of story ideas lurking within those walls, and I expect I’ll incorporate some aspects of the house into future stories.
  • This event is something I think people will talk about for a while.  If nothing else, this party offered a great advertising opportunity–I think people will be talking about it for at least a couple weeks.
  • We took lots of pictures throughout the night (unfortunately, I don’t have access to them right now, but I’ll update this later with pictures), which we can use to continually advertise.
  • We loved the opportunity to have a historical landmark all to ourselves for a full day.  What an excellent opportunity to explore!
  • I’ve found no other way to feel more like a successful author than to have lots of people coming in to receive my autograph.  If nothing else, this made the whole party worth it.

Things we thought of during/after the party

In no particular order:

  • Post signs suggesting that people consider buying additional copies for custom gifts
  • Make it easy for people to prepay for autographed novels so we could have the books ready and waiting for them
  • Let people know that we’ll have plenty of additional copies available for purchase

Bottom line: This is something I’d love to do again.  All I have to do is finish writing another book!

What I’ve Learned So Far as a Self-published Author

Posted on September 15th, 2011

I’ve been a self-published author for about three weeks, so it’s time to take my wealth of wisdom and share it with the world.


There are a few steps you need to take before you can make your book available to the world.  Beyond the obvious revisions and editing, you also need to format your manuscript so it looks correct on ebook readers and print versions.  In my case, I have separate files for each format.  If a reader tells me that there’s a typo, I’ll need to update each file with the fix and submit it individually to each publisher.

That brings me to my next point.  Even before you can format, you have to decide where you’re going to release your book.  I have four places in my case: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, CreateSpace, and Smashwords.  Each one needs a different ISBN, so I ended up buying a block of 10, which allows me to prepare for my next book that will be released sometime next year.

After you’ve got your work in finished form, you need to register your copyright.  Go to to do so–if you’re creating a print version, you’ll need to mail two copies of the book in order to register your copyright.  ebooks can simply be uploaded after you’ve paid the $35 fee.


This is the biggie.  I’m trying several different avenues, including:

  • obtaining a live TV interview with KTTC (link to come)
  • creating a YouTube book trailer
  • posting on social websites, including Reddit and Twitter
  • participating in a Facebook group for my book
  • submitting to multiple book reviewers
  • hosting a launch party in Rochester MN on September 19
  • signing at an author event in Rochester on September 24
  • sponsoring a Goodreads giveaway of 5 signed copies of my novel
  • spreading my press release to several area newspapers, many of whom published it verbatim
  • securing a feature article in the Minnesota Writers Alliance newsletter
  • accepting preorders on my own site, and including a free ebook with purchase of an autographed novel
  • requesting honest reviews from family and friends
  • reviewing indie books and connecting with other indie authors

There are many other opportunities (and probably a few things I’ve missed that I’ve done), and I’m trying a lot of different things.  However, by far the best way to get additional sales has been for those who enjoy the book to talk about it with others.  Word of mouth is amazing at selling books.  A few vocal readers have done a lot to help get my work out there.

As a related aside, I’d love to get my novel into book clubs (The Caldarian Conflict is a fantasy novel, so fantasy book groups would be best for me), so if you have any advice on that, let me know in the comments below.

The biggest issue I’ve found is that many people presume a self-published novel will be low quality.  This is hard to change.  However, since I know people are concerned about quality, I offer them a free preview of the book so they can decide for themselves.  Many of those who read the preview ended up buying the book.

Keep writing

By my estimation, it’s possible to make a reasonable living by selling between 75 and 100 books per day.  Since at the moment I’m only selling about 2-3 books per day, that’s a pretty far stretch.  However, by writing more books, suddenly it becomes much easier to achieve that goal.


  • With one book, you might need to sell 75-100 copies per day.
  • With two books, you might need to sell 35-50 copies of each book per day.
  • With ten books, you only need to sell 7-10 copies of each book per day.

And so on.

So while I’m spending a majority of September taking advantage of the time to market my debut novel, I’m going to spend October and November finishing up the draft of a second. With a little luck and a lot of work, I should be able to release the new novel by mid-next year.  I also have a few short stories I may decide to release in the interim.

That’s all I’m planning to divulge tonight. What do you think?  Am I missing something? Or are there other areas to explore?

Bad Radio – Review

Posted on September 11th, 2011

Taking a break from posting about my own novel today to talk about another book that deserves some attention.  Bad Radio by Michael Langlois is a contemporary fantasy novel that gets a full five stars from me for enjoyability and thrills.  Read more below!

Bottom line:

Fast and compelling read for any fan of contemporary fantasy. Great elements of a thriller thrown into every chapter.


Abe Griffin obtains eternal youth during a secret mission in World War II.  Now, sixty years later, an old enemy returns to kill Abe’s surviving squad members and reclaim the relics obtained during that secret mission.


o Loved the bait bags.  They’re the perfect enemy.
o While Abe is immortal, he’s not impervious to pain.  Several times throughout the book, his weaknesses are shown.
o Virtually every chapter ends on a cliffhanger.  Each one is well done.
o Good use of foreshadowing and slowly revealing layers of truth throughout the story.
o Overall, very smooth writing style, and plot points flow smoothly from one to the next.


o Very few. Only a few places of confusion, caused in part because I was reading too fast, wanting to find out what happened next.  This book definitely kept me up late a few nights.
o There were a couple of points that were over-explained or hit just a little too hard (<spoiler>Abe not wanting Anne to get hurt.</spoiler>)  However, this didn’t take away too much from the overall story.

Full disclosure:

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  When the paperback becomes available, I plan to purchase a copy.

Goals for The Caldarian Conflict

Posted on September 10th, 2011

As a writer, I have to set goals in order to keep myself motivated.  On a rough draft, it might be that I set a goal of 500 words per day of new content.  For editing, I might want to revise a chapter a day.

Since I’m just starting out on selling books, I’m not sure what’s really achievable, so these goals may be too high or too low.

My near-term goals for The Caldarian Conflict:

Sell 100 books by the end of September

I’m actually not doing too badly here.  I have already sold:

  • 17 paperbacks (plus 2 review copies requested from book reviewers)
  • 30 ebooks (note: some who bought ebooks also bought paperbacks)

With my launch party on September 19, and another signing event on September 24, I have a pretty good shot of making the 100 copy mark.

Obtain at least 5 reviews by the end of September

So far,  The Caldarian Conflict has received two reviews–one 5-star, and one 4-star.  Both are excellent reviews, and I think they’ll help me sell books.  However, prospective book buyers aren’t impressed by two good reviews (as awesome as they are).  I really need to have several, and for the end of September, I think 5 is doable.  That would require a 5% review to purchased rate, which is high–my understanding is that it’s more typical for 1% of purchases to actually receive a review.

I know I have a couple of book reviewers scheduled to publish their reviews in October, so hopefully these are just the first of many to come.

Obtain 15 photos of readers with their copies of The Caldarian Conflict

Perhaps it’s a little silly, but I’d love to see readers holding a copy of my book…be it the physical version or the cover displayed on their Nook or Kindle (or any other eReader, really).  I was pretty excited to receive my first shipment of books, so I’m hopeful that others will be willing to share their photos too.

What do you think?  Is it wise to set (and make public) goals like this? What would you set your goals for?

First shipment is in!

Posted on September 9th, 2011

I received the first shipment of my books today. Wow, that’s a lot of books.

Pyramid of Books

And I’ll be signing every one of them. Holy cow!

Here’s me standing next to the pyramid:

Proud author with pyramid

And me trying not to knock over the pyramid:

Proud author trying not to knock over pyramid

I’m excited.  Now I’m off to go sign them and get them ready for shipping!

Video book trailer now available!

Posted on September 5th, 2011

The book trailer for The Caldarian Conflict is now available. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Comments are welcome!

First Fan-generated Art!

Posted on September 2nd, 2011

Yesterday, I received the first fan-generated art for my novel from Joan Sween.  I think it’s a pretty cool concept, and would love to hear from other fans who want to submit pictures.  I’m flattered that someone would take time to create art for my novel and share it with me.

Fan Art by Joan Sween

Press Release for The Caldarian Conflict

Posted on September 1st, 2011

Wanted to share my latest press release with all of you: My novel is now available!

For Immediate Release:

Just in time for International Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19), author Mike Kalmbach has released his debut fantasy novel, “The Caldarian Conflict” (ISBN:978-1466246812).

This isn’t your typical pirate novel. Of course, there’s plenty of swashbuckling adventure as a corrupt military deals death to enraged pirates using questionable methods. However, this story follows Brother Mendell,a monk caught in the crossfire as he seeks justice for an unfairly executed prisoner.

No one is safe as Admiral Cain and his ruthless assistant Krell struggle to maintain complete secrecy over their plan. Their goal isn’t merely to rid Caldaria of pirates; they have much loftier ambitions. Anyone with too much knowledge must die.

Mendell struggles to unravel the mystery before he, too, becomes a casualty of”The Caldarian Conflict”.

“I wrote a book I’d enjoy reading,” says Kalmbach. “Full of plot twists, complex characters, and a protagonist who sees the world differently from most people.”

Reviewer Danielle Allen agrees. “Telling the story from the perspective of a monk gives the reader a unique viewpoint of the moral dilemmas that Mendell faces and a fresh angle on pirate novels in general…Characters’ motivations and plot twists are slowly revealed throughout the novel, always keeping the reader engaged. The novel ends on a bit of a cliffhanger and I’ll be eagerly awaiting the sequel!”

“The Caldarian Conflict” is available at,,, and other channels.

About the author:

Mike Kalmbach lives in southeast Minnesota and has a Master of Science degree in software engineering from the University of Minnesota. Moonlighting as a freelance editor, he has edited numerous full-length manuscripts as well as countless shorter works. He also leads the Rochester MN Writing Group and is a founding member of the Rochester Writers Collaborative.


Mike Kalmbach
Email: [email protected]
Book cover and author images available by request.