A marketing lesson for self-published authors


Even though you don’t know if the seed will sprout, you should still plant it. That’s the lesson I learned recently in my self-publishing journey.

My first self-published book

In October 2019, I published my first book: Arizona Bucket List Adventure Guide & Journal. I followed all the advice from the “experts” on how to promote my book.

My goal has never been to earn a top spot on any lists, but rather to get the book into the hands of as many people as possible who are looking for tips on discovering some of the many natural wonders in Arizona.

Any good marketer knows that one of the simplest ways to get free publicity is to send a press release to media outlets.

I sent out press releases a few times within the first year that the book was in print.

The result? Nothing. At least not right away.

My last attempt at a press release was in October 2020. Rather than follow the traditional who, what, where, why format, I tried a different approach. I repurposed one of my blog posts as a story that could be published as authored content by any of the publications that chose to run it.

Still nothing; until seven months later.

I was more than a little surprised when, a week into the month of June, I noticed book sales were on pace to be stronger than any month since December. Summer months in Arizona are generally so hot that people don’t like to travel here during that time of year. As a result, my book sales and blog traffic usually slow to a crawl in the months of June, July and August. I had no idea what was driving the extra interest in June and frankly, I was too busy to delve into it and find out.

Sales spiked unexpectedly

A few weeks later, I happened to search my name on Google and saw a result that I had never seen before. Although the source was a new one, I recognized the headline: 8 Free and amazing places you should add to your Arizona bucket list. It was the headline of the blog post I repurposed.

It turns out that a hyperlocal newspaper in Phoenix called CITY Sun Times published my article on May 30. Sales began to spike a couple of days after that.

One of the drawbacks to media publicity like that is you lack the ability to track clicks and sales like you can with other forms of marketing. Therefore, it’s hard to determine exactly how much lift I received from the article. But, who can argue with free publicity?

When I compared year-over-year sales, they were roughly 225% higher for the week immediately following the article in the CITY Sun Times than for the same seven-day period a year earlier. In fact, more books were purchased in that week than in the whole month of June in the prior year.

After sending at least three press releases to over 75 media outlets in Arizona and not getting anything published, I had pretty much given up on the practice. All it took was one publication to run my story to restore my hope in press releases as a viable marketing tactic.

The takeaway

Here’s the moral: When you feel like the stuff you’re doing to grow your business is a waste of time and energy, do it anyway. You never know when the seeds you planted are going to sprout and grow.

The whole experience has me considering what other nuggets from my blog that I can package into other press releases in the future.

A eulogy: All I need to know I learned in a ten minute call with my dad

All I need to know I learned in kindergarten. That was the title of a popular book back in the early 2000s. Ever heard of it?

I’m going to borrow from that title as the theme for my remarks. My theme is “All I need to know I learned in a ten minute call with my dad.”

Note: This is the eulogy I delivered at my dad’s celebration of life in March 2019.


I’ll come back to the main message, but for now let me just talk about who my dad was.

“All I need to know I learned in a ten minute call with my dad.”

John held many roles over his time on earth. Some he dabbled in; some he mastered. He performed all with passion and to the best of his abilities.

Here are some of the roles he played over his lifetime:

  • Son
  • Brother
  • Husband
  • Protector
  • Father
  • River rat
  • Salesman
  • Hustler
  • Airman
  • Sergeant
  • Master Sergeant
  • Sarge
  • Manager
  • Mailman
  • Entrepreneur
  • Inventor
  • Marketer
  • Accountant
  • Counselor
  • Physical therapist
  • Coach
  • Fisherman
  • Hunter
  • Tour guide
  • Lifeguard
  • Author
  • Photographer
  • Cattle rustler
  • Retiree
  • Story teller
  • Gardener
  • Scientist
  • Philanthropist
  • Church choir
  • Volunteer
  • Friend
  • Financial advisor
  • Banker
  • ATM
  • Hibachi master
  • Explorer
  • Pioneer
  • Shell collector
  • Planner
  • Activist

No matter what role you knew John best for, today we remember him and the impact he had on each of our lives.

For me, John was mostly the role of father. However, we were also business partners at one time. That’s when I learned many of the skills to be successful in business.

He taught me how to camp, hunt, fish and in general just to “rough it“. But more important than anything, this man taught me how to grow my faith.

He always insisted that our whole family went to church when we were kids. He even went so far as to send us to a Catholic grade school.

I never knew dad to quote scripture in his everyday conversations. But he showed his faith in his actions.

Now for that ten minute phone call

It was the night that Hurricane Harvey was coming on shore in 2017. It would make landfall within a few miles of my parents house in Rockport, TX.

Mom and dad had evacuated to a hotel about 4 hours away. I called my parents while I was watching the hurricane hunters share live footage and reports from Rockport in social media.

Dad assured me everything would be okay for them. I was convinced he was in denial.

He then told me that God has taken care of him through all sorts of storms in life and he will take care of him this time too.

They couldn’t return to home for about four weeks, due to all the down power lines and trees and such. They came home to a house with a few missing shingles and a ripped screen on their porch from a tree branch that had fallen.

All around them was devastation. Many homes an buildings looked as though they’d been hit by a bomb. It took nearly 18 months for the town to get fully cleaned up. And the rebuilding is still happening today.

The lesson he taught me in that ten minute phone call was that no matter what storms of life you find yourself in, always trust in God to get you through it.

Dad, I love and miss you. But I know you’re in a better place. I’ll see you in Heaven.

Good times on the Verde River in Arizona

Stream of kayakers on gently flowing river

Yesterday I paddled the Verde River in Central Arizona with a Meetup group of about 53 others I’ve never met. We all had one thing in common: Love of adventure.

Verde means green in Spanish. I suggested we rename it Marron River after the Spanish word for brown. Check out the pics and video below to see what I mean. One of the locals guiding us on the trip said, “Na – it’s always like this for a few days after a big rain. We just call it dirty Verde.” Cracked me up and stuck with me.

Verde means green in Spanish. We just call it dirty Verde.

This was about the halfway point of our float. I’m on the down river side of a large chunk of rock that created a nice eddy where I could sit still and take a break. The other kayakers are resting near a rock formation one local told us is called Salamander Rock.

This was about five minutes after we all launched and I was near the front of the pack. Look at the parade of kayaks that contnue as far as you can see up river.

Shady spots like this provide periodic reprieve from the intense Arizona sun.

Nothing fancy about the shuttle ride for this trip. We just piled as many people as we could into pickup trucks to go from the end point where we left our cars back to the starting point where we left our kayaks.

Had a great time with cool people and saw some amazing sights. My favorite was an array of ancient cliff dwellings. Actually had a little fish jump into my kayak too. By the time I realized it and tried to help him back into the river, he jumped back out of the kayak.

I’m working on a more detailed write up with more pics and video for my new blog. Be sure to follow AZ Wonders if you’re not already, as I’m quite a bit more active with that one.

Only the Brave: Harrowing tribute to 19 Granite Mountain hotshot firemen

Only the Brave is a Hollywood movie that tells the harrowing story and pays tribute to the 19 Granite Mountain hotshot firemen who lost their lives protecting the town of Yarnell, AZ from an out of control wildfire in 2013.

Last weekend, I hiked to the site where the men died. What a solemn experience. I posted some pics and a write-up of the experience on my AZ Wonders blog. Have a look…

Tokens of tribute left by visitors to the Granite Mountain fatality site

It takes a special person to fight fires; especially wildfires in remote mountainous areas. On June 30, 2013, Arizona lost 19 very special men in the Granite Mountain Fire near Yarnell. The tragedy gained nationwide attention and became the plot for the 2017 Hollywood movie: Only the Brave. In an effort to help others honor […]

via Granite Mountain Hotshots memorial — AZ Wonders

How this little blue shed in Rockport, TX was made famous by storm chaser Jeff Piotrowski


Yes! It’s the blue shed made famous around the world by storm chaser Jeff Piotrowski on August 24, 2017 as he lived-streamed the ferocious arrival of Hurricane Harvey from one of the car wash bays.

While a flurry of building materials bounced and rolled by in the camera’s view as nearby buildings were torn to shreds, the LITTLE BLUE SHED stood firm and steady, suffering only minor abrasions as its witness to battle.

My sister lives in Rockport and she took this picture once it was safe to return back to town – about three weeks after being evacuated the day Harvey made landfall.

Update: I went to Rockport October 7 – 12, 2017 to help my family with roof repairs. I had to take my picture with the blue shed.


Get the background and hear live account from Jeff himself in this video clip from Fox 26 posted to YouTube by Meteorologist John Dawson:

Sadly, the Rockport community has a long road to recovery ahead of it. Here are some pics of the devastation that remains more than six weeks after Hurricane Harvey hit.


Update as of December 2019

The car wash is back in action. It’s back to 100% functional and management has changed the name to Little Blue Shed Car Wash. Check out the updated pics below.

Superstition Mountain blooms

Hello friends. I hope you’ll check out my latest project: azwonders.com. It’s definitely my funnest one yet. Here’s a sample of what I’m doing there:

AZ Wonders

Just east of Mesa, AZ sits an awe-inspiring mountain range known as the Superstitions. Legends abound of gold stashes, including the “Lost Dutchman” mine that continues to attract zealous modern-day prospectors.

Less legendary are the flowers that put on a show usually seen only by those who brave the steep, rocky trails in the blistering Arizona sun. Here are some blooms witnessed on a springtime hike on Siphon Draw Trail en route to another Superstition legend – The Flatiron. (Click for larger view.)

Watch History Channel’s Legend of the Superstition Mountains on Amazon Video:

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Mission trip to Rocky Point, Mexico

Nov. 21, 2016 – Yesterday I returned from a mission trip to a barrio in Rocky Point, Mexico. The work crew I was on built a nice little home for a single mom and her 5 year-old son. No plumbing or electricity, but still a huge step up in their living conditions.

As a result of the trip, I became more familiar with the great work being done by the folks at 1Mission. They’re bringing the awesome love of Jesus Christ to who people born into poverty by providing them with employable skills and giving them opportunities to earn a home by logging service hours for the mission.

What a great reminder of all that we have to be thankful for here in the U.S. It was a humbling honor to work alongside my brothers and sisters in Christ in a service act of of love for someone in need.


A building that shades itself

By Paul Fiarkoski

My office is in Downtown Tempe AZ. I often walk by this building designed as an inverted pyramid. Seems like such a smart design for the Valley of the Sun.

Unlike most office buildings that get super hot from intense sunlight beating on them, I never see any sunlight directly hitting the glass on this building. I’d like to know more about the energy efficiency of the design, such as how does it compare with more modern buildings with good LEED ratings.

About the building

  • Tempe Municipal Building
  • Construction completed 1971
  • Designed by the architectural firm of Michael & Kemper Goodwin

It’s okay for stores to be open on Thanksgiving and Christmas

I used to be one of those people who grumble every year that stores shouldn’t be open on major holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Before I tell you the key event that shifted my thinking, here are a just a few of three reasons why I think it’s okay for stores to be open on holidays:

  1. Not everybody celebrates Thanksgiving and Christmas
    As much as many diehards would like to mandate that all Americans recognize these holidays as days to spend at home with family, it’s just practical for everyone. One year, on the day before Thanksgiving, I told the one woman working at the checkout stand of our local supermarket that I hope she has Thanksgiving off. She informed me that she will be working the holiday, then quickly assured me she’s okay with it because she’s in the U.S. on a study visa and it’s not a holiday she’s used to celebrating. And since none of her family is in the United States, she wouldn’t be able to celebrate it with them any way.
  2. People celebrate in different ways
    Not everyone celebrates Thanksgiving and Christmas in the same way. Given how diverse and mobile our society is these days, it’s more common than ever for family members to converge in one location from around the country in order to celebrate. In 2015, my family of four drove 13-plus hours from Phoenix to San Antonio the day before Thanksgiving to attend a reunion dinner planned for Thanksgiving day. We arrived at our hotel at 1 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning. If not one supermarket were open that day, there is no way we, or many of the other guests, would have been able to bring anything for dinner.
  3. Some people enjoy working on the holidays
    Believe it or not, there are some people who actually enjoy working on holidays – especially when they can earn 1-1/2 to 2 times their normal pay. I personally know several people who count on holiday pay so they can survive the holidays financially or pay off bills. For others, it’s not so much about the money, but they’d just rather be around people than sitting home alone dwelling on the fact that they have nobody to celebrate the holiday with. This was definitely the case for the woman I mentioned earlier.

Like many people, I once thought it was sacrilegious for stores to be open on Thanksgiving or Christmas. That all changed the year my young daughter had a painful ear infection on Christmas morning. Were it not for the cheerful staff of the local Walgreens committing to be at work that day, the outcome of our holiday might have quite miserable.

Unless I hear of people being forced to work on a holiday or face consequences, I will forever support the right of businesses to open their doors on Thanksgiving and Christmas.