Friday, April 26, 2013

Scenes from "Valley of Thracians": Varna

During the two years we lived in Bulgaria, my wife and I vacationed twice in Varna on the Black Sea. Varna is quite an ancient city, as the oldest golden treasure in the world was discovered there. Today it is a major tourist destination, with sandy beaches and hotels, including the nearby Golden Sands resorts.

In my suspense novel, Valley of Thracians, the Peace Corps volunteer at the center of the story is last seen at Golden Sands. “The wallet and passport of twenty-three-year-old Scott Matthews were discovered on a beach at a resort north of Varna three years ago. The Bulgarian police investigated, and your grandson was never found. Possibly he was washed out to sea; it’s not clear.”

Join me today on a virtual visit to Varna, with pictures of some of the locations where scenes from the book take place.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Poison Pill, a Book Review

Poison Pill, the debut suspense novel by M. A. Granovsky, deals with an obesity control drug that could be worth millions of dollars and efforts by the brother of the scientist who invented the drug to reclaim the company that will benefit from its discovery. The action transports us into the world of venture capital, high finance takeovers, and the medical laboratories where next-generation drugs are being developed.

The title of the book is extremely fitting. The term "poison pill" refers to a strategy used by corporations to discourage hostile takeovers. By employing a "poison pill", the stock of the company becomes less attractive to the entity trying to acquire it. Poison pill also refers to a medicine that ends up causing damage to the person who swallows it.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Who Were the Thracians?

It's a logical question that I'm asked from time to time. The name of my suspense novel is Valley of Thracians, and the action takes place in modern day Bulgaria, so who exactly are the Thracians?

“The Thracians? I don’t know much about them. Was that a culture here in Bulgaria during the Roman era?” the main character of the book asks.

So, here is the answer. With pictures of typical Thracian treasures similar to those depicted in my novel.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Israel Remembers Its Fallen, Celebrates Independence Day

2016 Update - Israel celebrates its 68th birthday this year and we pay tribute to the brave soldiers who gave their lives as they fought on our behalf. These days we are still fighting for our existence, combating terrorists and their supporters - the battle for our independence has not yet been one.

Today we bow our heads solemnly and tomorrow we will celebrate. Life goes on.

It is always quite hard - the sudden shift from Israel's Memorial Day (which starts Sunday night, April 14), to Israel's Independence Day (which commences just 24 hours later). One moment we are solemn, our cinemas are closed and we are visiting the country's many military cemeteries, remembering our fallen soldiers. Then, hours later, we are dancing in the streets, wildly celebrating our Independence Day. This year Israel is marking its 65th birthday.

Without the efforts of our brave soldiers who fell in defense of our country, Israel would not be the free, democratic nation that it is today. Before we can celebrate, we must give proper tribute to those who helped bring us to this day.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

How My Book Became an Amazon Bestseller (for 3 Days)

There has been a lot of discussion lately about the merits of the Amazon KDP Select Program, which allows authors with e-books available exclusively on Amazon to offer them for free for a limited time. In the past, I learned, the free days of these promotions (maximum of 5 days during every 90 day period) resulted in a significant rise in the books' rankings when they went back on sale. Since then Amazon has changed its algorithms, so some authors claim there are no advantages of a free offering.

Why did I even consider making Valley of Thracians available for free? The book was published at the end of January. Sales during the first six weeks were not encouraging. Despite my efforts to promote my book via email, on Facebook and Twitter, through guest posts on other blogs, and even in a newspaper interview, I had failed to generate enough marketing buzz to sell the book. In short, readers didn’t even know that the book existed.

Get the book to as many readers as possible

My immediate goal was to get the book into the hands (and Kindles) of as many readers as possible. This would result in additional reviews posted on Amazon and Goodreads, and that would create the buzz that would generate future sales.

Following the advice of self-published author Joe Konrath, I decided to run a five-day free promotion in mid-March. EBookBooster listed my book at 50 websites, blogs, and newsletters that provide readers with information about free Kindle books. I patiently waited for the promotion to begin.

What were my expectations of the free promotion? One author told me that the average number of downloads was 800 copies. "We're just a droplet in the ocean of free Kindle books," she told me. Another author, I learned, had given away 30,000 copies of a suspense novel in a 2-day promotion. I won't even mention how successful Konrath has been, as he has a long list of titles and always has something available for free on Kindle.

The first day of my promotion arrived. I kept checking my book's Amazon page, waiting for the price of the Kindle edition to drop to $0. Finally, the book was available for free. I posted an announcement on my blog, which also appeared in my Facebook news feed, and waited for downloads to begin.

Valley of Thracians is a suspense novel, so it might not appeal to all readers. On the first day of the promotion, a total of 494 copies were downloaded, which led to its being ranked in 523rd place on the Free for Kindle bestseller list at Amazon. I was quite pleased.

The second day was a Friday. Another 300 copies were downloaded, raising the rank of the book into the top 200. I had hit nearly 800 downloads, which was average. Maybe I would reach 1,000?

A bestseller is born

On Saturday, I got very lucky. My free Kindle book was featured in the EReaders News Today newsletter, which is mailed to tens of thousands of readers. Many of these readers were intrigued by Valley of Thracians. They downloaded, and the book climbed higher and higher in the ranks.

Valley of Thracians peaked in 27th place on the overall Free for Kindle bestseller list. At one time it was running neck and neck with the Bible, which is worthy competition.

In the Suspense category, the book was ranked in 1st place for two days, until it was dethroned by Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, which was offered for free as part of the marketing campaign for Brown's upcoming new novel.

After five days, the free promotion ended and Valley of Thracians again went on sale at its regular price. I went to my Kindle author's dashboard to see the final number of downloads of the book. Even though the promotion had ended, the number kept rising, until Amazon's records were fully synced. Not only were there downloads at, there were also downloads at Amazon's sites in the UK, Canada, Italy, Spain, Germany, and France. There was even one free download at Amazon in Japan.

The final number of free downloads of Valley of Thracians was 8,440. This was much higher than I could have ever expected. My book was an Amazon bestseller! It was being read, or at least it was available to be read, on Kindles all over the world. I felt a huge sense of satisfaction in this accomplishment.

What happens next?

The book sold a few dozen copies through the end of March, and then the buzz of the promotional campaign finally died out. But the results are continuing to appear, weeks later. The book now has 14 favorable reviews on Amazon, and it appears on many "To Be Read" bookshelves at Goodreads. I have received many compliments on the book, including from Bulgarians who said that they learned a lot about Bulgaria from reading it.

I fully believe that the results of my five-day promotion in March will continue to be felt for many weeks to come, in ways that I cannot yet imagine. I never expected that Valley of Thracians would become an international bestseller. Offering it for free on Kindle gave me an incredible, unforgettable experience.

Related article:

How I Sold 910 Copies of My Book in One Week

Sunday, April 7, 2013

What Happened to Macedonia's Jews during the Holocaust?

Israel tonight and tomorrow commemorates Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day with ceremonies at Yad Vashem and elsewhere honoring the memory of the six million Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust.

During the two years that my wife and I lived in Bulgaria, we were aware of the fact that Bulgaria's entire Jewish community was spared, despite the fact that Bulgaria sided with the Nazis and its government passed anti-Jewish legislation and planned for mass deportations.

There is one sad footnote to this story, and it should not be forgotten. The Jews of Macedonia, which was under Bulgarian control during World War Two, were transported to the death camps. An entire Jewish community perished.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Scenes from "Valley of Thracians": Sofia

My wife and I lived in Sofia, Bulgaria, for two years, 2009 - 2010. We lived in a furnished apartment, worked in a modern office building, and spent the weekends exploring the city. We walked Sofia's cobblestone streets, strolled through its parks, explored its markets, ate in its restaurants, and visited its museums. While not the most beautiful capital city, Sofia still captured us with its eastern European charm, a combination of old traditions and a desperate attempt to catch up with modern ways.

Sofia also served as our base for traveling around Bulgaria. We traveled out by bus, train, and plane, and on occasion rented a car. At the end of our travels we returned to our Sofia apartment, which very much felt like home.

It made sense to me that the adventure described in Valley of Thracians should begin and end in Sofia, as it is the gateway to Bulgaria. The pictures included here will only give you but a taste of Sofia and its charm. Join me today on a virtual visit to Sofia, with texts from Valley of Thracians and pictures of some of the locations where scenes from the book take place.