Culture, Mystery

Gone To Press

Self-published books are easier that ever, thanks to digital technology.

A few months back I sat in a shaded bedroom with a gaggle of kids all waiting for a bedtime story. Not being that spontaneous, I resorted to an old campfire story game to get these primary schoolers ready for bed. Yesterday I published the entire story “Roarg– A Dragon’s Quest” in paperback form.

This was not in the plans, actually.

The kids, count six of them, all huddled on two bunk beds staring at a flash light in the middle of the floor, which was our token campfire. I led them on a tiger hunt. In this story game, there’s lots of slopping in swamps, swishing through tall grass, crunching over rocky terrain, jumping away from gators, all in pursuit of a hungry, giant cat which is trying to eat us. Much slapping of hands, raspberry sounds and other bodily noises punctuate the dangerous trek.

The story was begun to put them to bed. But that’s not where it ended.

The scene is reminiscent of the new movie “The Battle of the Sexes” starring Steve Carrell and Emma Stone.    There is a delicious moment early on where his character, Bobby Riggs, is noisily and boisterously guiding his son, jumping from one $5,000 couch to the next one in his wife’s expensive and stately living room, all the while loudly warning of the perils of falling off the couches and into the jaws of the gators which swarm the Persian rug below them.

Anyway, in our story, we dumped the tiger in favor a more evil and ominous foe, Magu, who was a powerful monster with a ruthless disposition. Magu threatened the livelihoods of all the kids, and it was their job to get Magu. To compound our perils, enter Roarg, a dragon, who is equally horrific to think of, and before I knew it, we were into a saga.

Chapter V: Trouble On The Mountain. Illustrated by Finn Brown.

After about 15 minutes of much noise and screams and action, I said we would continue another time. Magu and Roarg were in deadly conflict, on the mouth of a volcano, I think, or on a mountain top, or maybe in an ocean whirlpool.

The kids all collapsed, and I figured that was the end of it.

Not so!

Our grandson continually prompted me on every following visit to continue the story…up to the point that he knew it better than me. I felt I had to write it down.

Over the next few months every time we spoke, he brought up the tale, and asked how it was coming along. Well, I took action, and some 15,000 words later, I completed the suspenseful, adventurous and comprehensive tale of Roarg– A Dragon’s Quest.

Self-publishing is easier now than ever. I contracted with a publishing site called, and without a lot of error successfully printed up my book.  As a side item, did you know that there are more than 1,000,000 new books released every year?  Publishing sites like Blurb and Shutterfly make it possible.

Roarg is a good story, complete with danger, suspense and a clever ending.  I have tested it out on our two 11-year-old grand daughters, and they were thumbs up.

If you have kids, grandkids, nephews, nieces or even a nice young neighbor who is a reader, this is an exciting and fast moving tale. You can get a copy of Roarg at

And think of this too, you actually know the author!

Thanks for sharing! I hope you like the book!

direct mail, Marketing, Thank You

Pitcher Perfect Packaging

How Naked Wines Got A New Angel On Hold


Buying in bulk is always a satisfying event.

Last writing, we witnessed the power of the package insert, that targeted brochure in the Shutterfly shipment that talked me in to buying a case of wine online.



$100 bucks. Does it make sense? Who cares. Go for it!

What follows is the recipe for embracing a customer with a story and greeting that is irresistibly compelling.

Remember that 62% of lost customers complain they were simply ignored.   Naked Wines took that lesson to heart.

They pried the door open with a powerful offer: $100 off a case of wine.  I was hooked.

As soon as I had hit “send” I received an order confirmation.  No surprise.


The huge box was designed and written to please the buyer.

But next came an Html, signed thank you letter from Rowan, the founder of, including a short story from one of the NW vintners.


Wine, beautifully wrapped and cradled like dynamite.

The company’s proposition is essentially for “Angels” to pre-fund their member accounts, and draw on the account to purchase wines at 40%-60% off the list price.

Beyond the discount, we are cutting out the wholesale distribution  constraints which small vineyards face.

Thus, ordering Naked Wines warms you twice: once by buying and then once while drinking.

Good News On The Door Step

In a few short days we took delivery of our starter case of wine.   This is where the story gets warmed up with several touches.   Pay attention, because the NW marketing team got it right.


Rowan’s letter hints at acceptance to a special club.

The box is about twice the size of a normal wine case. Hah! Stupendous!  On the top is a greeting, aimed at Gen-Xers, which is especially charming for retirees like me.

The side of the box reinforces the message that wealth is not a requirement for buying good wine.  Great!  Costco can wait.


The embossed envelope is all about celebrating our purchase.

Cracking open the gigantic carton, we find more package inserts, making more ridiculous price offers.

Underneath, four layers of insulated wine bottles are revealed like shining mummies in a newly discovered tomb.

The embossed envelope is stuffed with bumper stickers, window stickers, and most important, a signed letter from Rowan, the founder of Naked Wines.

But Not So Fast…


A good marketer reminds the consumer how good the deal is.

His message repeats the NW positioning–Angels help small vineyards deliver low-priced, high quality wine, and he starts a tease: you are not an Angel yet.

We are in queue to open a member account, but there are 15,289 in front of us, like Clarence, still waiting to get their wings.

Rowan advises we get an NW app to see our place in line move up as Angels before us finally take flight.  Rowan might say, ‘as the eagle flies’, looking at his bank balance.

We aren’t hanging on the edge of our bar stools, but still, Rowan is showing Tom Sawyer-like hesitation in allowing us full Angel status.

Rounding Out the Story


More offers! We can’t save money fast enough.

A well delivered value proposition continually reinforces its message to the buyer, long after the sale.   Rowan’s letter includes a graphic for impatient scanners which pictorializes the deal….oh yeah, that’s why I did this.

Beside that, he includes some family photos of the vintners so we can better relate to the hard-working growers we are supporting.

The final touch is brilliant.   The vintner writes a signed letter on the back of each wine bottle.   Do you read the back of the cereal box while you are munching down your Wheaties?  Naked Wines recognizes that habit, and uses it to embrace the buyer with a thank you.


One of the struggling, purple-footed families we are supporting.

The full complement of printed greetings is supported by @NakedWines Twitter address for those candid remarks that might bloom from a recent sit down with a new bottle.

We are in the preliminary round of testing the Naked Wines.  It is unlikely we will place the “Strip and Sip” decal on our car window, what with driver distraction rules.


Each bottle is labeled with a signed letter from the winemaker.

Meanwhile, we are assiduously staring at the clouds, swishing grape nectar over our palates, wondering when our Angel number will come up.

Today we are 15,181.


Thanks for reading!  I have never got over the excitement of ordering exclusive goods from strangers far away.   Naked Wines does its best to enhance the enjoyment of buying.


direct mail, Marketing

How Naked Wines Grabbed Me Fast


Shutterfly books enclosed, along with some very attractive package inserts.

Attending a direct marketing conference in 2012, a confederate sat across from me at dinner and said, “You know where the real money is? Package Inserts.”

Totally hooked on direct mail through the USPS, I had no idea what he was referring to.

He placed a finished lamb lollipop on his plate, wiped his hands, and drew on a full-bodied cabernet that we had supplied for his enjoyment.

The “PI Guy” went on to describe how he identified ripe consumer markets by the goods they received in their mail boxes and doorsteps.

“A mail order buyer spends $150 on cashmere sweaters and nightgowns from Lands End.   They are a perfect fit for an offer of another product worth $150, say, home furnishings or specialty foods.  You should try these stuffed mushroom caps; they’re exquisite.”

“Yeah, so the buyer…?”

He eyed a medley of greek olives hiding on his plate.  “Well, they clearly trust direct mail, and mail order, and they are willing to spend $150 with a complete stranger by all definitions.”

“You have a qualified, high spending prospect?” I suggested.

“Bing!   So I include a sales offer in those delivery packages from another marketer.  These are called package inserts.   And the buyers are highly responsive.”  The olives were popped into his mouth like Cheerios lining up for the bowl.


My Mom’s book, a prized collection bound into print.

Fast forward to March 2015.   I had just finished designing a book displaying 100 images of my mother’s water colors.   I had sent the files to Shutterfly, and after some edits and second runs, had spent $500 on a number of beautiful editions of “Nancy Brown”.

When the books arrived on our doorstep, I was excited.  Opening the box, I set aside a handful of coupons to get at the books.   Later, as I was collecting all the packaging, I looked at the coupons– package inserts– to see an incredible bargain from a company called Naked Wines.


A ridiculously attractive offer from Naked Wines, by way of Shutterfly.

Naked Wines included a $100 discount off a case of wine.   Shutterfly threw in another 25% if I acted fast on the offer.   Before I knew it, I had registered with Naked Wines, and ordered their starter case.  12 bottles, $75.

Naked Wines immediately sent me an email saying I had joined a select group of “Angels”.   More on that later.  The wine was promised to arrive soon.

Yesterday I found a giant box from Naked Wines on our doorstep.  As promised, 12 bottles were inside.

The power of package inserts can’t be denied.   They are meeting the buyer at the point of actual delivery, who is flushed with the excitement of their purchase.

Visualize the moment:  your shopper, opening a heavily branded container, sees the object of their desires and congratulates themselves for being an independent-thinking, smart spending, shop-at-home consumer.   Simultaneously, they flip through a set of offers targeted at their jugular: quality, self-indulging items that belong beside the initial purchase.


Naked Wines delivers! 12 bottles, $75 bucks.

The Naked Wines delivery did not disappoint when it arrived.  12 bottles for $75 bucks…how could it?  But more about their deal another day.   The big winner was the package insert guy who tied Shutterfly and Naked Wines together to find me in a moment of oenological weakness.

This is a huge business opportunity.  And here’s why: between USPS, Fedex and UPS, Americans received over 7.3 billion packages last year.  That’s about 23 million flushed and excited customers opening their front doors every day to grasp their prize.

The enterprising marketer only needs to find those direct marketing companies who have some cross affinity, and make a deal to provide an inventory of package inserts for every carton that goes out the door.

From there, they wait for the orders to come in.

Thanks for reading!   I have to tell you about the Naked Wines deal.  A marketing achievement, and well packaged too.   But that will wait until next time.   First, I need to examine my purchase.