Month: <span>January 2016</span>


This digital age makes it possible to preserve much more than people ever could preserve before, including some of our basic public records.

Just because we can does not of course mean we will. Ask the people at the state historical society about trying to preserve, record and make available the masses of records about Idaho’s history. In the context of overall state budgets, the amount spent on that effort is a drop in an ocean, and not nearly enough to do the job comprehensively. But you never know when those efforts can turn out to be critical. Or at least useful.

Here and there, individual efforts are made, and one announced last week by Attorney General Lawrence Wasden is worth some attention – and credit.

Ever since statehood, the obligations of the attorney general have included publishing each year the office’s collected opinions, case activity and related documents. These reports get almost no news attention (they’re a formal compendium of things that have already happened, after all) and probably few people outside the legal system, and only some within it, are even aware of them. But they can be a vital resource for tracing the state’s legal history, and its history overall.

Finding recent copies has usually been easy enough, and sometimes they’ve even been elegantly bound. Law libraries often have copies. But even the state law library doesn’t have all of them. In fact, no one does.

Wasden’s office said their own internal collection starts with the 1891-92 report – the first – and runs to this year. But, “The missing volumes are scattered across the decades and include: the biennial report for 1895-96; the annual report for 1953; the period covering January through June 1954; the period for July through December 1973; and the 1974 report.”

Wasden said, “We searched my office, the historical society, the state law library and even former Attorneys General for these missing publications. It’s unfortunate the set is incomplete, but I’m hoping with public help we can recover these missing volumes.”

Those they do have have been posted online, at They’re scanned in as images, so they aren’t always easy to search by text.

Some of them actually make for lively reading, maybe the first one especially.

AG George Roberts wrote an overview that seemed to betray some exasperation with the job. At that time the state had local district attorneys, and Roberts seems to have been disgusted with many of them. “I requested one of the District Attorneys in this State to attend the preliminary examination of a person charged with a peculiarly aggravated and brutal assault upon a woman with a deadly weapon,” he wrote. “He replied by challenging me to show him the section of the law which made it his duty to do so. I admitted that the law did not compel him to, but that a sense of public duty should impel him to do so . . .” The resulting trial, he said, was “a travesty.”

Roberts indicated he was hammered for those local foulups: “This office has been perpetually harassed by questions affecting the performance of public duty, not only by Boards of County Commissioners, but by Precinct and County officers, and School District officers as well.”

A candid review. Maybe attorneys general of today could follow in those candid footsteps. You wonder what they might say.

The release of these past records might even give them some encouragement.


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It’s no mistake that one of the top forums (on Yahoo) for mystery writers is called Murder Must Advertise.  Book advertising belongs in a fiction writer’s marketing toolbox.

You’ll see ads for fiction in the review pages of the New York Times and some national magazines, but purchasing those ads is a high-priced and broad-based way to promote a book.  Indie authors need something lower priced and more tightly focused.

Fiction Book Advertising on the Webadvertising

Advertising that works effectively for indie fiction writers, without breaking the bank, mostly falls into two categories: book promotional web sites and social media.

Among the book promotion sites (with their associated services), probably none comes more strongly touted among both indie and traditional authors than BookBub.   Each day it sends out targeted emails to thousands of readers (I’m one of them), listing book bargains with prices up to $2.99.  Many authors have reported big spikes in sales after their book appears in BookBub.

Authors can easily and without cost, submit their books for consideration there, but acceptance is a steep climb.  BookBub’s standards are stringent, and even many well-established traditional authors have seen repeated rejections from BookBub.  If your book is approved, be prepared to pay substantial fees, which vary by genre and by book price.  The most costly currently is “crime fiction,” with 3.3 million subscribers; a book in that category priced at “free” will cost $470 for placement, and a $2.99 book, $2,350.  (BookBub said that the average number of non-free books sold in that “crime fiction” category as a result of the listing is 3,930.)   The lowest ad rate is $40 for a “humor” book priced for free.bookbub

Many young adult and adult fiction authors reported good results with the popular Midlist, which operated in some ways like BookBub.  In October, the big publisher HarperCollins bought it, and Midlist, at least under its old name, apparently has vanished from the web.

The firm that sold it, Libboo, is still active, however, and now offers an innovative tool for free eBook giveaways called Instafreebie.  It integrates directly with the author’s email list . Basic service is free with more options available in plans for $40 or $50 per month.

Another popular book promotion service is Ereader News Today, which like BookBub charges varied rates (according to genre and book price) for a spot in its newsletter.  There’s also a more expensive, and higher visibility, book-of-the-month program.  That monthly program is popular enough that all spots available for the first quarter of 2016 have already sold out.

The Ereader Cafe, which also leans heavily toward fiction and has some similarities to the News Today, has a $35 program for book-of-the-day.

If the cost of book advertising on these sites seem roughly in your ballpark but not quite the right fit, there are plenty more to check out, including several that have yielded good responses from authors.  The Fussy Librarian (which matches people and books something like a dating service) lists eBooks only, and charges relatively low listing prices (but again, these vary by genre).  Robin Reads, which offers a $30 package, has loaded its site with statistical information about exactly what kinds of readers frequent it and what those readers look for.

These book promotion sites allow fiction writers to hone in on readers looking for books in their specific genres, which is helpful.  Social media, used carefully, can offer even more precise targeting.

Fiction Book Advertising on Social Media

“The best advertising is word-of-mouth, reader-to-reader, friend-to-friend,”  BookWorks contributor Carla King pointed out, and that is where social media shines.

Not only Facebook, but most other social media, including Twitter, LinkedIn and Snapchat, offer targeted advertising options.  They usually scale widely, and can be inexpensive at the low-entry level.

aer.ioA $99 investment in the socially-connected and mobile friendly Flyer service to deliver samples and run giveaways can really give your book a boost,” King said.  “The service is so good, it was recently purchased by Ingram as I mentioned in .”

I also like Facebook ads. They’re very inexpensive and you can target particular audiences. An IBPA (Independent Book Publishing Association) membership gives you access to their marketing programs, which will advertise your book in periodic theme- or target market-based IBPA Cooperative Catalogs for bookstore buyers, librarians, and book reviewers and IBPA Trade Show Exhibits for domestic and international trade show participation.” (Note that BookWorks offers a discount on IBPA membership to our premium subscribers).

When other forms of book promotion aren’t quite enough to generate strong sales for your book, carefully chosen advertising in book promotion sites and social media can help.

Next: Book advertising for nonfiction indie authors/self-publishers.

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Barring a rough patch of weather, I’m planning to head over to southern Idaho soon – in early February, probably around the week of the 7th.

Plans are still in development (and the dates could be adjusted). If you have any thoughts about what I ought to see and do around that time, shoot me an email.

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Education was the centerpiece of Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter’s state of the state address last week, and that unexpectedly included an element little-heard from in Idaho SOS speeches for a generation: Higher education.

Higher education has been on state policymakers’ back burner for a long time. Up to this year, it has gotten only peripheral mention in Otter’s state of the states; the biggest references have been to his support for local creation of the College of Western Idaho). But by the time Otter took office that had been the norm. Governors Dirk Kempthorne and Phil Batt did much the same.

In 2015, the higher ed reference consisted mostly of a passing reference to “more pronounced, targeted and sustainable investments in such programs as the computer science initiative at Boise State University, an employee readiness initiative at the University of Idaho, career path internships at Idaho State University, and the Complete College Idaho program throughout our higher education system.”

In Otter’s first state of the state he remarked, “ I am recommending that we neither significantly expand
existing programs nor add any major new initiatives would require a continuing revenue flow” – and that certainly seemed to apply to higher education. (His major reference to colleges and universities then was, “Speaking of our universities – how about those Broncos!”)

Last week’s speech was vastly different. To begin, he proposed a good deal of additional funding, a 9.6 percent increase for community college and 8.8 percent for the four-year institutions.

He spoke at some length again about the College of Western Idaho, reasonably since it’s been growing extremely rapidly. He also got the point behind that growth: “That speaks to a huge pent-up demand for the kind of lower-cost, relevant and responsive education and training programs that have been created at CWI.”

But he also delved into activities at other colleges and universities: “Besides additional funding for our college completion and high-demand academic and professional-technical programs, I recommend expanding Boise State University’s materials science program, the University of Idaho’s ‘Go On’ initiative to increase enrollment, and Idaho State University’s health science programs.”

These are major efforts at these institutions, not the small or peripheral programs so often mentioned,

Higher education has been taking a hit in recent years in many states and certainly in Idaho. That is a central, and not often enough mentioned, reason behind the explosion in college tuition and fees.

But Otter had something to suggest about that too. He proposed a “tuition lock” to hold costs steady through the fours years of a standard academic run through the major institutions. He suggested a $5 million increase in the Opportunity Scholarship, which likely will have only modest overall effect.

But then he proposed something new: “that another $5 million be allocated for the new “Completion Scholarship.” It’s designed to encourage Idaho citizens who have some post-secondary education to return to the classroom and finish up. It will provide a real benefit for financially strapped adults who are trying to upgrade their job skills.”

Higher education has been waiting a long time in Idaho for a chance to catch up. Maybe, just possibly, this is the legislative session when it happens. We’ll begin to know as lawmakers weigh in.



When Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, said last week, “It’s not lost on us that we’re dealing with people’s lives here,” he was saying something that needed to be said . . . in that, a lot of Idahoans probably do think concerns about their health care have been lost on the legislators. Or at least on many of them.

When the Idaho Legislature has in recent years discussed establishing a health insurance exchange, something many other states have, the debate has tended to center on a discussion of just how evil the federal government is. The health of Idahoans wasn’t a factor, at least in their debate. Sometimes didn’t come up at all.

Lawmakers will get another chance to consider all this beginning Monday, when the legislature returns to town and starts to review a proposal on health care from Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter.

Otter has asked committees to look into the subject of expanding Medicare in Idaho as many other states have, and from those panels has gotten back responses in the affirmative. Actually following through remains politically problematic, mainly because the Idaho Legislature has given no indication it wants to go there. Evidently by way of trying to do something that might win legislative support (and it may), Otter proposed last week a $30 million program intended to address the medical needs of the 78,000 or so Idahoans who have no affordable health coverage.

The plan would cover enrollment at a clinic near where people live, and patients there could get an assessment and a plan for meeting their health needs, and maybe a prescription discount. Those are not bad things, and could help some people’s health and maybe reduce emergency room use. But actual substantial medical care, meaning more significant (or expensive) care such as hospitalization, the core of what an expanded Medicaid would provide and the kind of issues that have ruined many lives financially and otherwise, would not be covered.

Idahoans would get a health service some of them don’t have now. But the proposal drew a quick response from a large group of health care providers which pointed out its severe limitations.

Neva Santos, Executive Director, Idaho Academy of Family Physicians, said, “While investing in primary care is useful, as offered by PCAP, it will not provide the needed diagnostic or treatment options to maximally keep patients out of the emergency room or from costly hospitalization.”

Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett: “We’re still paying into the Medicaid expansion program we don’t receive any benefit from, so the dollars go to other states. We’re still taking care of CAT fund and indigent funds in our counties and cities, and now we’re being asked as taxpayers to pay $30 million for a new program.”

Expanding Medicaid would, by some estimates, save state taxpayers $173 million over the next decade.

Hill acknowledged that Otter’s proposal wouldn’t cover near what Medicaid would, but “There are other states that are looking at other alternatives that we may learn from, that we may be able to emulate somewhere down the road. We’ve gone 100 years without providing this service, we want to do it right. And this seems like a good step.”

He and Health & Welfare Director Richard Armstrong pointed out too that enacting this program wouldn’t mean Idaho couldn’t do more – such as a Medicaid expansion – later. And that’s true.

But it’s not hard to image future legislators saying, “We already took care of that,” whenever is raised the subject of actual serious medical coverage for the 78,000.


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A Bookworks member has asked about targeted advertising strategies: what works (or doesn’t)?

Here’s the first in a series of posts we hope will help answer that question.

Targeted Advertising Strategies

Advertising of some kind or another is all around us, and many people develop strategies for tuning out much of it.  At least one web browser, Firefox, has a one-button tool allowing readers to crop out everything but the main core of text on a web page: Great for reading news stories, not so good for the advertisers who pay for space there.  In many ways, this is becoming a more challenging age for advertising.

Should indie authors nevertheless look seriously into advertising?

They should, although that doesn’t mean throwing money at whatever mass medium comes your way.  A great deal of advertising is wasted, but very carefully targeted advertising can help you sell your books.  Sometimes good ideas can come in unexpected places.

I’ve pondered, for example, the idea of using a billboard to sell a book – a very specific book that doesn’t yet exist.billboard

I live about an hour inland from Oregon’s highly popular ocean beaches.  Two highways leading there bear almost all the heavy traffic from the east, sometimes enough to create jams, as people head to the coast in search of something to do.

Suppose you had published a travel guide to the Oregon coast, and made it available on eBooks as well as print.  Now suppose you rented a billboard along one of those two highways advertising that book, offering an inexpensive, coast guide eBook available by wireless download to travelers right now, minutes in advance of arriving at the coast?  Might that sell enough copies to make a profit?

It might, because that billboard would be precisely targeting the exact audience of that particular book, at a moment when the subject is of great interest, and in a way that would allow immediate purchase.

One of the most important points about advertising (for books, but not only books) is to reach your specific audience, without wasting money reaching the masses of other people who aren’t and never will be your readers.

It can be done.

Facebook, for Example

Selection_412Indie novelist Mark Dawson, who is estimated to have sold more than 300,000 books, has done it.  He uses a number of marketing approaches but has doubled down especially on advertising in Facebook.  An article in Forbes reports that he spends substantial amounts daily on Facebook advertising for his books.  His advertising is so carefully targeted that he more than makes the money back while building a long-term reader base.  The precision of his advertising is the key: He has worked out in detail what his readers have in common, and sends his message to those people.

Dawson expanded his reach by using a feature in Facebook called “look-alike audiences.”  This allows him to submit an audience list to Facebook, which will find a second base of people whose attributes closely match those of the first.  It’s almost like replicating a highly responsive audience. The potential sizes of these audiences that Facebook can provide ranges up to the millions.  (As they get larger, of course, they also get more expensive.)

He has used that advertising strategy to help create a growing fan base, with which he keeps in close contact.

To use some of these advanced Facebook features, you first need to create a Facebook business account, which is separate from your individual account.  If you want to set up an author page, choose “Artist, Band or Public Figure” and if you want to set up a page for your book, select “Entertainment”.  From your account page, click “create ad” which takes you to an “ad manager” page.  The Facebook ads creation tools, also let you target (and test) your intended audience by location, interests, behaviors and demographics.  However, people who have used these features point out that either a considerable time or money, or both, is often needed to get good results.  Extensive market testing is equally important.  This may not be a form of advertising practical to newcomers, but is worth bearing in mind (and exploring further) for future possibilities, since Facebook is a vast potential pool of readers.

Other Places for Advertising

Not every form of useful and highly targeted advertising is as well-known or high tech.

One writer remarked in an online forum that, “I actually like placing ads in conference program books like Sleuthfest, Bouchercon, RavenCon (I write cross-genre so try to mix it up), horror conferences, etc.  Sometimes it’s difficult to determine the outcome since sales sometimes aren’t always the day or week the ad comes out, but for the nominal fee I think it’s worth it.  By nominal I’m talking under $250.”

Targeted advertising works differently for different kinds of books, of course.  I’ll be back soon with more on targeted advertising strategies for fiction and nonfiction books in Part Two of this series.

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2016 should be one heck of a national election year, if the evidence of 2015 is any indicator.

But what sort of year is it likely to be in Idaho?

Here, as we transition from one to the other, let’s pause to consider what sorts of subjects may be defining the four seasons ahead of us, in the Gem State.

Idaho’s Republican choice. Who will Idaho support out of the large field of candidates seeking the Republican nomination for president? Polls have offered various answers (Ben Carson, Donald Trump, and Ted Cruz have at various points done well.) Idaho’s elected officials, unusually, aren’t united on the question. The primary is set for March 8, which could come at a pivotal period in the selection process. Idaho could become a serious stomping ground a couple of months from now.

Few Idaho choices. Things could change, but Idaho’s Republicans seem not to be gearing up for the kind of party-rending internal battle they had in 2014, when competing slates of candidates went to war over almost every significant office. How will Idaho’s many Republican insurgents react to that situation this year – and what sort of inspiration might they get from the presidential contest?

More fires? 2015 was a rough wildfire year for Idaho, though in truth many recent years have been. (Wildfires have been around the top of end-of-year news story lists for some time now.) This winter so far has been encouraging for keeping those fires down in 2016, somewhat at least. Will Idaho get a reprieve next year, and maybe use the opening for more extensive rehabilitation in places like the massive Soda Fire burnout? Or will 2016 be yet another hot spell?

JUMP and urban renewal. 2015 could be an important year for Idaho cities, at and near the legislature. Nearby, the opening of the massive JUMP (Jack’s Urban Meeting Place) center, which held an opening in December, will start to kick in, amid a batch of other downtown development projects. At the statehouse, meanwhile, legislators will be considering major overhauls – and maybe major limitations – in Idaho’s urban renewal laws, a situation that has city officials far from Boise highly concerned. City issues may be front and center this year.

Central wilderness. 2016 will be the year when the development of the Central Idaho wilderness really hits the road too. The idea of wilderness may be of an area that people don’t change, but in fact they do and so do their uses over time. A lot of how the wilderness in Idaho’s center develops will become more settled in this coming year.

Medicaid expansion. The expansion of Medicaid that was contemplated in the Affordable Care Act started mostly with some blue states, but has been expanding apace to include many of the reds as well. In Idaho, that would mean bringing coverage to about 78,000 people.

Boise minister Jon Brown noted in a newspaper guest opinion, “In a nutshell, we are leaving $178 million of federal money on the table, and pay out state money for inadequate health care for the distressed. And who pays for this? You and me in poorly directed tax money, and part of our federal taxes. But the low-income, poorly educated, and especially the 6,700 white Idaho citizens, pay with their lives.” The legislature has been resistant so far; whether they hold out again in 2016 may be one of the big fights of the session.

One more quick note. A year ago I highlighted a half-dozen topics as prospective important stories for 2015. Most of them were – Boulder-White Clouds, health care consolidation, developments in Boise’s downtown core, changes in education policy and battles over storage of nuclear waste. (The sixth I highlighted as “new adjudications,” which weren’t a big story, though water and water rights certainly were.)

Note here how many of those stories will still bleed into 2016. How many of those 2016 stories will carry over into the year after that?