[Note: This page has been successfully moved to the normal page template, as it didn't belong on the Periodical template. It was originally posted 24 March 2014 - 2:18, as follows]
This is not a real Periodical. Indeed, first I was going to publish this publicly as a blog post, but then I realized that it should first be reserved to our members only (plus, it's somewhat 'nice' to end all this with a 'Periodical'). Now, you may not want to read this, and you don't have to. Nothing on this site ever was mandatory. All happened out of goodwill.
Sadly, goodwill isn't enough to run something like this: By size a business, by content a fountain, but by income a disaster. To make it short: Like indicated in the last email to our members and publicly in Q&A 3, there is no money left to keep up this website, which I would have liked to establish as a permanent online presence of our breed rescue organization, MYGERMANSHEPHERD.ORG. No money left to answer your questions. No money left to solve your dog problems. No money left to send out emails, run the server, pay the bills. I can't pump in any more. Finished.
What's still running is running until the 'credits' are depleted (most monthly, a few quarterly - because it's highly unlikely that the next storm here on the coast brings a downpour of nickels rather than rain). I couldn't write this over the past days as my nerves are in tatters (which is exacerbated or caused by the recurrence of my chronic paralyzing disc inflammation that keeps me in agony). It took me several days to patchwork my nerves to write a simple post like this.
How it all started
This website started out of hope, spirit, and dedication. To help GSD owners and those who wanted to become a GSD owner (namely help them to determine if that was the right choice for them, as for many it isn't). To educate German Shepherd owners and potential owners, as well as breeders, about the true German Shepherd Dog - ie how the GSD was meant to be (at least those site members who got as far as to the Periodical Decline of the German Shepherd Dog definitely learned this, I hope). To save more GSDs from shelters and high-kill kennels.
In short: To save this breed by helping GSD owners to have the best relationship with their dog!
Back in 2010 (quite late) I, the site's "principal" founder, had learned from what's called "internet marketers" how (allegedly) "easy" it is to earn "tons of money" with a website for whatever cause you have. So I then apparently had those half-baked ideas in the back of my mind that "within a year we could even be donating every month $5,000 amounts to other rescues", so much we would be earning with this website.
In retrospect: naive. - Yes: hope, spirit, and dedication as the building blocks of something like this indeed is naive. Although to you, and now to me too, it likely is obvious that "to even donate every month $5,000 amounts to other rescues" requires a clear plan to earn that kind of money first, back then apparently this wasn't as obvious to me (probably because internet marketers like to leave out small details like these when they grab your attention). Indeed I had no plans for such income generation. Although other "co"-founders liked my spirit and dedication, they didn't like that I had no plans, not even support for their plans, for such income generation. They didn't like that I based everything on hope.
By January 2011 this domain name was acquired, and we had quickly put up quite an amount of content. However, we started out with no visitors. Or as the others would call it: no customers. Now, if there is one credit to my name, it is that I know well how to research, and in this case, that includes "keyword research". Accordingly, at least what I myself wrote for this website typically was laden with keywords people used in search engines like Google to find the desired content on the internet. My credit here is: Within months, Google & Co sent increasing amounts of traffic (information surfers) to this very website. So, very soon we had visitors. And loads.
Others were still moaning "But we've got no customers!", and that was true! Bills were accumulating fast, but no money was coming in to pay the bills, because we had no customers, only increasing numbers of visitors: Information surfers who enjoyed (but really rarely appreciated) to find all what they were looking for, and for free. Now, when you have bills accumulating but no income, there's only two things you can do: Pump in your own money, or pump in other people's money. Since other people didn't want to give me their money, I pumped in my own money. Now I was no longer only giving my time, but also my money.
At that time (likely because of personal health problems) I didn't realize that the beginning of 2012 was already the beginning of the end. Because: When you invest time, during that time you can't earn money elsewhere. So I wasn't earning money elsewhere to have more time to put in here. But since I was also putting money in here, both my time and money (and therefore my nerves too!) diminished my resources at logarithmic speed.
In retrospect: mega stupid. Or: still based on hope, spirit, and dedication. Then in August 2012 we opened up subscription to our Periodicals. I guess I don't need to add here that, again, it was all free. But around the end of 2012 I was pretty much alone here anyway. So to say, the last one to turn off the lights - which obviously I didn't realize at that point. In fact, as you can see now, it took me a total two years to realize I was the caretaker who would turn off the lights. Over the last two years this has become too much of a solitary endeavor: No more support from comrades, no financial reward, and rarely a thank-you.
How it all ended
Not pretty. - Well, that is maybe not fair to myself. On the positive side, measured by email feedback etc received over the years, mygermanshepherd.org has saved hundreds if not thousands of GSDs from being put back in a shelter (and, given that it was mostly about aggression and biting, likely this would have meant a high-kill kennel). We also have helped hundreds if not thousands of families to avoid ever more situations of aggression and biting of their dog. And many have said that thanks to things learned here they were able to develop a much better relationship with their dog. So much I know from feedback received.
Further, thanks to the dedication of many (but not all) of our members (time spent to fill in the lengthy dog data form that I had devised), we have built up a database of key characteristics of many thousands of the currently living German Shepherds. Given that even the kennel organizations in the world have very limited data about the actual characteristics of GSDs alive today, this is quite an asset (probably less in terms of economic asset, but certainly a "knowledge asset" that helps to understand the modern German Shepherd Dog breed).
Indeed, being research-driven, personally I would have liked to gather much more data of our subscribers' GSDs (and make that mandatory, so to say as small consideration for the immense number of Periodicals the subscribers would be getting for free over the years). But that was technically not possible, as our "post office" (Mailchimp) can technically handle no more than 30 data fields (and we had to reserve a few fields for the dog owners' address data in case they wanted to get something by snail mail - in which case it always was a present).
Further, we have probably helped many thousands of visitors to decide if a GSD is right for them, and what dog care, dog health, and dog training to provide to their dog when they got one. Probably, because this bit I can't know for sure, since visitors don't fill out our dog database form, and very rarely they send feedback or a thank-you email, or make a page post. Being visitors (information surfers), when they find what they currently need, they leave. Because 'surfers' (visitors) don't understand that they may just have solved their most pressing problem, yes, but that a dog's life is a journey, and that there will be many more problems (likely right now) - which they could prevent if they not only 'surfed' to address their current, most pressing problem symptom, but stayed to cure the cause of each "dog problem".
Speaking of visitors and members: We end this endeavor with members of I don't know how many nations (because after the 50 most frequent visitor nations the others have to choose "other"), and with visitors of over 200 nations (this we know thanks to the "flag counter widget" installed on many but not all pages). Still, with 30,000 unique (different) visitors a month, in numbers we still remained small (even a forum for fans of say yellow butterflies often has more visitors, I heard). However, in terms of helpful content, mygermanshepherd.org certainly is the biggest GSD site (if not dog site) on the internet.
How I know? Because, every week I was researching content on libraries' intranets and on the global internet for the next Periodical (which may then take me several weeks to prepare), and nowhere I found as much and as comprehensive and diverse dog and GSD information as here (and I can tell you, it's not always easy to have to be the first to cover a certain topic!). How often did I wish there were more dog sites like mygermanshepherd.org - not least because I was trying to find suitable sites for that world blog tour I wanted to do this year, you remember? I found nothing suitable! Or, where I first thought it could be suitable, they didn't even bother to reply (hence it really wasn't suitable).
Further, we have accumulated an endless list of dog owner questions (at least a thousand from the question box widget alone). Many I have answered or solved already, and many more were planned to be published (I had planned 7 volumes of Q&A books of the "best?" questions and answers - but, just like with the Training Compendium, Care Compendium, and Health Compendium, it doesn't make sense to waste ever more time publishing ever more books when I don't sell books anyway).
There are probably a few more positive points that could be mentioned here. But before you get bored by this post, I need to mention what it was that confirmed to me that this is the end.
The lid that sealed it all
The final straw was the last book promotion that I ran in the hope (one more time) that it might finally turn the financial situation of mygermanshepherd.org around (I've been pumping all book income back into the site anyway, only 'pumping' is the wrong word, the book income has been minuscule too). Paradoxically, the more books I published, the tinier got the book income. Something never heard of any other author! Right? I have no clue why.
The site's sales referral fees have always been tiny anyway, that is normal: Typically less than half of the members open the email, of these less than half click the link to see the Periodical, a fraction of them click a purchase link, and then a fraction of the last fraction actually buy something - for which we then get a final fraction of the sales price. All that is standard these days, and yes I know "it's a number's game", but my point is: In our case here, the numbers don't add up for mygermanshepherd.org to be sustainable.
So why/how did I hope a FREE book promotion (even two at the same time: Puppy Love Bundle of three books, and Q&A 3) could have brought the long needed financial turnaround for the site?
FREE books don't bring in any income, so much I knew myself, right. However, last year when I ran a FREE book promo for the Puppy Development Guide, some 5,500 (aspiring) dog owners downloaded the book. For FREE, yes. Nonetheless, then afterwards in August the book sold 42 times, ie 1.35 a day. Together with the increased cross sales of all my other books (at the time particularly well was selling the Dog Training Toolkit: 26 times), last August suddenly brought the staggering book income of $586 - I was able to use this to keep up mygermanshepherd.org.
Never achieved before, and never since then! Although I published ever more books, and they all got top or good reviews from you. Most reviews certainly came thanks to you, our members. In fact, I suspect that primarily it was new members who had missed earlier FREE promos and then purchased the books, not ordinary Amazon customers. Amazon seem to have never promoted my books (obviously because I don't sell enough books to be a promising offer to their customers).
Now, given the result of last year's FREE book promotion (free to book 'buyers' - while the author typically pays a few hundred dollars to promote the FREE book through media channels!), I seemingly had in my pain-weakened subconsciousness the crude idea that the FREE promotion of the Puppy Love Bundle (which consists of three books) plus the FREE promotion of Q&A 3 (which together gives four books) would give ... well... seemingly 5,500 times four, ie a good 22,000 FREE downloads! In any case, certainly a five-figure download number (all the more since all my books have great reviews).
And I know (again from internet marketers) that with that amount of sudden customer interest, the Amazon promotion machine would have kicked in - which basically means that Amazon would subsequently promote the books on countless pages to countless customers (eg "Other customers also bought..." etc). Hence I had hoped (probably more subconsciously, given the history it was unrealistic anyway) that ... finally... there could again be a high income month for mygermanshepherd.org from the cross sales after all the FREE book promos.
Boy was I wrong! These are the actual results of my final straw FREE book promotion:
The big Puppy Love Bundle of three books this time gave a meager 1,551 FREE downloads, and the Q&A 3 an extra 701 (both on amazon.com). Even worse: 850 of the downloads of the Puppy Love Bundle happened on the very first promo day, before I had sent out the info email to our members (hoping that thousands of you and your friends etc would download the books, even if again, and catapult the total FREE book downloads into the stratosphere). However, over the remaining four promo days the FREE downloads even declined further from that low starting point, and so much that on the last promo day only a catastrophic 40 something of my books Amazon was "selling" for FREE. Meaning: ZERO momentum at the turn of going back to PAID listing - but with Amazon, momentum is everything.
Of all the book promos I've done in the past, even including the PAID "kindle countdown deals", this last FREE book promotion was the worst ever, and by far (and this, although I had spent the most money to promote this promo). Don't ask me why it all ends so badly. I have no idea. It can't be the reviews: Like basically all my books, the Puppy Love Bundle too did immediately have great reviews, thanks to 7 members. Indeed, it started the promotion with 7 reviews which were all five-star (thus not bad at all), and then gained 4 more reviews during the promotion, seemingly again thanks to 4 members.
You may now be thinking "just 4 of over 2,000 who got the books for FREE?" - yes but, again according to internet marketers, that is a lot. They say "on average one in a thousand leave a review". Here, for me it was one in 550 (because Q&A 3 did not get a single new review). So really, for the Puppy Love Bundle: better than the average. The problem rather is: It was far too few FREE downloads (and accordingly too few new reviews) for Amazon's servers to take notice. They have books that sell far more than one a day, and that get new reviews every day, hence understandably they rather promote those that show momentum.
And remember, the "1.35 book sales a day", that was last August (when apparently many members went to fill their bookshelve). That's behind us. This year, with 12 dog books on the market, and great reviews (only few), many days had zero sales, or a couple of the 99 cent books. Of 12 books not one sale, yes. Amazon don't like that (and I neither).
Another reason why Amazon don't promote my books certainly is that end of last year I had canceled their exclusivity contract for all my bigger books (the Puppy Love Bundle is different) - and Amazon don't like when authors start to 'support' other retailers. But I did that a) because some members had asked me to make available ipad editions, and b) because with Smashwords my royalty-share agreement with shelters is much easier for me to administer, and much more attractive to the shelters.
Other than the above, I have no explanation what is really going on with Amazon, me, and the world. But this is not my world. When books that promote physical harm against dogs literally sell thousands a day(!), something is not right. And I feel too weak to figure it out, all by myself. "When the problems seem unsurmountable, step back, take a break, and do something else."
Okay, this is the situation, now you know (if you've read all the way down to here, you really deserve to know). And this is what I have to do now: "Step back, take a break, and do something else." - Not that I don't want anymore, but because I cannot anymore. The way I've been running mygermanshepherd.org is simply not sustainable. I still have the good cause in my mind and would like to help more current and aspiring dog owners, but at least for now I can't. I am drained in every regard, so I can no longer give up my time and money, and all the time, for free. Like probably you too, I have to earn an income first (or at least at the same time while I work).
A couple of members suggested a couple of things I should do (eg "Stop giving your books away for free", "Charge a small fee to members", etc). I don't know, I can't think clearly at this time (and I can't technically implement things anyway, nor pay for more contract work either). But what I now agree with is: "You shall not give your time to those who don't value it." I gave far too much of my time to those who didn't value it. A business cannot, even