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Friday Funny: Preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse is a Good Idea. No, Really!

I have a confession to make. I don’t believe there’s going to be a zombie apocalypse. I do, however, believe in pandemics, floods, hurricanes, huge power blackouts and slow government responses.

A fellow writer once commented on my apocalyptic stories by saying, “It wouldn’t all fall apart so quickly. We have governments that would intervene.” After Katrina hit New Orleans, and the stories of a city in chaos from the flood hit the 24hr news cycle, he apologized. He was amazed that a huge country with an operating federal government couldn’t seem to come to grips with the disaster for weeks. It wasn’t just that stores were looted, it was that people weren’t being rescued, were totally left to fend for themselves.

I also remember the great blackout of 2003. The phones still worked, but I discovered I had no way to get news about the size and scope of the black out. I got lucky and managed to find eight batteries in my “dead” battery bin that had enough charge to power a radio. I had absolutely no other supplies. I was totally unprepared.

But not anymore. The Zombie Survival Crew tweet to me about having an escape route in case of attack, and I think it’s a good idea. Seriously, what if a bigger, longer blackout hit my city? How would I get my family out of the chaos? I’ve come up with a plan.

First, the highways will be blocked. Hey, they’re totally blocked during morning and afternoon rush hour now, why would the apocalypse be any different? So instead of trying to head north out of the city, I’d head south for the lake, which isn’t that far from my downtown Toronto home. No, I don’t own a boat, but if it is a true apocalypse and my family were in danger, I’d either negotiate with an owner, hitch a ride, or liberate a boat. I’ve already picked out a convenient marina. Then I’d head east, making for the coast of Lake Ontario near the Trenton Air Force Base. If there is any order left in the province, it will be there. Trenton also has a power dam and may actually have electricity. If not, there are two highways that head north from that area into very sparsely populated countryside, mostly through farmland at first, but after that rugged cottage country. Yes, remote empty cottages.

But is that enough? People send me stuff, and this one made me laugh. How to survive the zombie apocalypse from your pole barn. Yes, they’re trying to sell prefab barns, but at least they have a sense of humor about it. The best part is at the end, when they list one of their sources as “a coworker who has watched Shaun of the Dead too many times.” I also loved their comments on who you don’t want with you: “People in the entertainment industry (actors, singers, models, etc.), People in useless white collar trades like SEOs, marketing professionals, accountants, and salesmen.” I actually would take one salesman with me, but that’s because he’s family and he’s actually pretty savvy.

So prepare for the Zombie Apocalypse. Keep some water and canned food ready. Plan an escape route from your city. And if it actually turns out that I’m wrong and it is a zombie apocalypse, remember that your shed full of gardening tools like axes and shovels is your best source of anti-zombie devices.  Have a great weekend.

Thanks for a Great Day

The film industry is a great place for a writer who doesn’t want a full time job. I loved it because I spent a lot of time as a daily, going from show to show on a moment’s notice, working on everything from big feature films to YTV kids’ shows. One tradition I noticed was that when the day was over, the regular crew often said to me, “Thanks for a great day.” There was always a sense of relief and it was a sincere compliment. They were happy that I was the guy the union dregged up, and they wanted me to know they appreciated my work. Eventually I did succumb to the lure of money and worked full time on a bunch of shows, and I always continued that tradition when I had extra crew out to operate extra cameras. Thanks for a great day.

29 for Action/Adventure, 51 for Horror! Yeah!

So hey, to all you wonderful people who downloaded Generation Apocalypse last Friday during my promotion day: Thanks for a great day! We reached 29 on the free bestseller list for Action/Adventure and 51 for Horror.

But I’ve been reading Cheryl Kaye Tardiff’s book on how she spiked her sales, and she warns that just doing one free day in a row is wasting momentum. She shows that from her experience, it’s best to break up the five free days granted by the KDP Select contract into two promotions-one for three days and one for two days. Full disclosure here: Tardiff was a fellow member of the Crime Writers of Canada, and while we’ve never met in person, I’ve communicated with her in years past via the CWC Yahoo group, and we’ve probably been in the same room a few times at the Bloody Words Mystery Convention.

I’ll learn from her success. My next promotional day will be two days long. I just have to pick the days and start promoting to ensure another great day.

Marketing Lessons from Missoula, Montana

Pearl Jam Ten Guy found alive and well at U of Montana Campus

I have a confession to make: I’m not as big a Pearl Jam fan as my wife, or at least I wasn’t until I went to Missoula, Montana. I liked their music before, and I thought they were talented, but I wasn’t a dedicated fan. I didn’t go looking on iTunes for their music.

But excellent marketing changed all that. I’m a lousy marketer, but here’s what I learned in Missoula:

Lesson One: Love what you do. Pearl Jam loves to play music, especially when in the presence their fans. I know that sounds obvious, but friends still speak bitterly of an R.E.M. concert they attended during which the band made it plain that being up on stage was a nuisance that had to be gotten through as quickly as possible, like painting a bedroom or mowing a lawn. Perhaps they were just too exhausted from all the touring. I bet they lost fans at that concert.

Pearl Jam’s performance in Missoula was the opposite. They were having a blast, as if they had just made it to the big time, as if touring was a new adventure. They played their music excellently, better live than even their studio recorded songs. By the end I had changed from a lukewarm fan to a dedicated fan. I want to go to another concert to hear songs they didn’t play in Missoula. I want to buy more of their music.

Lesson Two: Be dedicated to your fans. Pearl Jam runs a fan club, the Ten Club, and those fans pay to be members and get perks, not freebies, but perks, like early access to ticket sales and discounted merch. In Susan’s case, they had a lottery for good seats in Missoula, and she was one of the lucky winners. We still had to pay for the seats, which weren’t expensive, and we had a great view of the stage. We felt special.

Lesson Three: Market to your fansPearl Jam marketed the Missoula concert first to their Ten Club members, and they sold the tickets in pairs. We needed I.D. to pick up these tickets at the Will Call, so the scalpers were totally knee-capped. I met people from all over America and Canada, and many were like Susan and I, one rabid fan, and one lukewarm–soon to be rabid–fan. Not only did this increase their fan base, but at the concert they were surrounded by an exceptionally receptive audience. The local newspaper, the Missoulian, described it as a 6000-voice-strong sing along. Dedicated fans know all the words.

But the band was also fair and reserved a block of seats that had to be purchased in person, so that people from Missoula could also attend the biggest event in town that weekend. Once in the Adams Center, which is on the University of Montana campus, they were very likely converted from curious onlookers to music purchasing fans, which explains why a band that just celebrated its twentieth anniversary has fans that weren’t born when Pearl Jam performed their first concert.

Lesson Four: Reward Your Fans: The lights came up and the band played on, rewarding us with several more songs. Eddie tossed tambourines into the crowd, but not randomly. He chose each recipient with care. One man in a wheelchair couldn’t possibly compete for one, so Eddie talked to a closer fan, tossed him the coveted tambourine, which he in turn tossed high up the seats to the man in the wheelchair. But Eddie wasn’t done. He called to the go-between fan and followed up with one for him, a reward for being cool and giving up the tambourine as requested even though he had briefly held it. I loved it. The crowd loved it.

How will I apply all these lessons to marketing my novels? I’m still working on that, and I’m open to suggestions, but the biggest lesson I take from that concert is to be genuine. None of this felt contrived or engineered. It just was. That’s what makes it great.