Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Guest-blogger Greg Niemann on his Baja Books, Big Brown, and Five Favorite Websites

To date, "Madam Mayo" has hosted Baja Buff writers Graham Mackintosh and Jennifer Silva Redmond. Now it's a trio with Greg Niemann, who is not only one of the most prolific of the Baja Buff writers, but also the author of a fascinating book on the history of UPS, Big Brown. I'll let him tell you how we met. Over to you, Greg!
I met C.M. Mayo in San Jose del Cabo while we were both promoting our Baja books. Because I feel that Miraculous Air is one of the best Baja books written, I later took her writing seminar in Mexico City this past January and continued to be impressed with her knowledge and writing ability. When she asked me to guest blog, I really didn’t know what she meant, nor exactly what a blog was, so I read a few other on-line blogs and offer this. Sometimes an old dog can learn new tricks. Thanks, Catherine.

My vast myriad of interests is partially reflected in my writing. After publishing two books about Baja California, Baja Fever and Baja Legends, one might assume my future books would be somehow connected with that Mexican peninsula. After all, my colleague Graham Mackintosh now has four Baja books and a host of fans. My own Baja publicity and marketing has long been set up, in place, and effective. In fact, Sunbelt Publications expects to do a third printing of Baja Legends this year.

Another Baja book from me would almost be expected. Too easy! Somehow, I always take the hard way. Just like in my real estate investing I have sometimes worked harder for not heeding the experts. For example, they said to have all your properties in the same general area. Mine are scattered all over the place, necessitating multiple vendors, plumbers, maintenance workers, gardeners, etc. Maybe I got deals, but I created headaches at the same time.

For my third book, my interest shifted to the desert oasis of Palm Springs, California. My curiosity about the place led to Palm Springs Legends, now already in its second printing. Of course, it opened a new chapter of distribution, retailers, libraries, bookstores, gift shops, signings, presentations, and media, but I said I didn’t want it too easy.

Before becoming an author, I had retired from United Parcel Service after 34 years and spent most of that time editing company publications. Knowing the worldwide company would be 100 years old in August 2007, and knowing no one had written about the huge shipping firm, well, I felt somebody had to. I got busy. It took the finding of a bright, hard-working agent in Sally Van Haitsma of Castiglia Literary Agency who really believed in the project, and several years of hard work, but my fourth book became a reality. The result is Big Brown: The Untold Story of UPS, published by Jossey-Bass, an imprint of Wiley & Sons. Potential readership suddenly leapfrogged from regional to worldwide audiences. Now I really had to scramble to market the book. With Wiley’s assistance and direction, and hands-on involvement from my agent, it too is already in its second printing, and rights have been sold to Korean and Chinese publishers.

What’s next? Who knows; for my Baja fans, well I do have a few stories that have never been published. But I’m also working on several other projects right now, and I’m not sure which one will muscle its way to the forefront. I will venture this, it most likely will not be easy.

As far as my favorite web sites, I do check some specific-to-me sites, including some for UPS retirees, real estate, the stock market, the Outdoor Writers Association of California (OWAC), or even fishing sites. For example, I like to know when trout are stocked nearby. Some of my sites require membership. Thought I’d share some of my favorite web sites that are more general in nature. The popular web sites I’ve listed here, however, are probably no great revelation to many of you.

#1. Wikipedia
We all have spell checks and thesaurus capabilities on our software these days, but when I’m busy writing, really creating, I seem to constantly pull up Wikipedia, the on-line dictionary. It’s awesome. It seems to have everything. If you’re writing an article about Cocaine, for example, just pull up Wikipedia, type in Cocaine and take your pick from history, pharmacology, use of, types of, or whatever it is you want to know. Real helpful.

#2. Abebooks
My wife and I both use this site regularly. If we’re traveling and don’t want to lug books around, we’ll write the info down and order the book from AbeBooks when we get home. Over 13,500 booksellers have 110 million books listed, and they’re listed by price, condition, edition, etc. Hard-to-find used books and bargains can usually be found.

#3. Baja Nomads
To keep my finger on the Baja pulse, so to speak, I do regularly check the Baja Nomad Forum, run by Doug Means. Unlike other Baja forums, this one is used a lot, with much new input added each day. Over 6,500 worldwide members have made over a quarter million posts covering 22,000 Baja topics. I personally don’t take the time to post, but keep up by reading it.

#4. Amazon
I check Amazon constantly to see how my books are doing, either by reviews and sales. You can see how a book is selling in relation to all books, or compared to others in the same category, updated hourly. In addition, you can order any book you can think of, and then some. We use it a lot.

#5. Zillow
Where was this site back in the 1980s when I was calling realtors from corner phone booths? Just type in an address and get an instant appraisal, info on comparables, neighboring homes, etc. A real helpful tool, and usually pretty accurate, especially in mid-price ranges. Certainly enough to give you a ball park number before you consider a purchase or sale.

--- Greg Niemann

--->For the archive of Madam Mayo's guest blog posts, click here.