It’s my party and I’ll Palooza if I want to

Welcome to NookBookPalooza

I’m probably way behind the times on the whole Palooza thing. Everything fun, with multiple entries is supposed to be some kind of Palooza, right? Oh, that was in 2005? Well, that’s still progress for me as I am usually 20 to 30 years behind the rest of civilization.

Anyway I’m sticking with NookBookPalooza because it has a nice ring to it and I don’t feel like spending the time thinking up something more hip and modern.

For my NookBookPalooza I am making the Nook versions of all my books free. It’s only three books, but I haven’t found any rules stating that’s not enough items to constitute a Palooza, so you can see I am well within the law.

That’s right, for a limited time, Nook downloads of the following titles will be free.

Click on a cover for more information about that book.

Take me to the free Nook Download.
Take me to the free Nook Download.
Take me to the free Nook Download.

I’m not sure how long this will last; we’ll see how it goes. That’s why I’m using the legal term “for a limited time” rather than giving an end date. I learned this trick from fast food restaurants test marketing their new sow belly sandwiches.

Why not Kindle too?

I would love to do this for Kindle editions too, but Amazon is less flexible about free stuff. I could only make Kindle books free for five days at a time, and then only if I didn’t make ebook versions available anywhere else, like for Nook. I can make Nook editions free for as long as I want, with no strings attached. Hence, there will be no KindlePalooza at this time.

This Amazon business is unfortunate, as I know many more people who download to Kindle than who download to Nook. Nonetheless, I am not letting this disappointment put a dent into my Palooza. The show must go on!

So go ahead and download a free book or three, cause tonight we’re gonna Palooza like it’s 1999! (A 1999 that comes with modern ebook technology.) But hurry, because, as they say on the sow belly sandwich commercials, this promotion is subject to end without notice.

 

Author, Publisher, Promoter, Exporter . . . Exporter?

Since I last wrote about Goodreads giveaways I’ve opened my giveaways up to more countries besides the U.S. This worked fine when the winner lived in Canada, but after trying to get a book to South Africa, I think I’ve hit my limit.

The shipment to Canada I mailed myself. It cost more than I’d expected but it was easy. In the South African case, it would be less expensive to send a copy directly from Amazon.com to the winner.

Shipping cost $14, on top of the price of the book. I was pleasantly surprised at how reasonable this was, and that’s when the surprises stopped being pleasant.

During the ordering process I learned that South African customs requires the national ID number of the recipient of a package. I suspected the recipient could provide this number to customs when the package arrived there, but I wasn’t sure. Not wanting to ship a book that might never get to its destination, I paused to investigate.

Online searches yielded no helpful information.

Since Amazon had alerted me to the requirement, I decided to ask them about the particulars. I called customer support. The representative assured me all I need was the recipient’s address. Great. I asked him why Amazon requested the recipient’s national ID number in that case. He put me on hold. A minute later, he returned with a changed mind: I certainly needed the ID number to ship the package. I decided to try a different Amazon representative.

Via web chat, the next rep told me I could substitute my own national ID number. The only national ID number I have is my Social Security number, and I’m certainly not plugging that into Amazon to buy a book. Besides, it’s hard to see how my Social Security number would do South African customs any good. I hope they don’t have a database of all American’s and their most personal information. When I asked the rep about this, she began answering questions I had not asked, but not the ones I did. I said thank you and goodbye.

The humble, little humor novel that caused all the trouble. According to Amazon's shipping department, it might just be explosively hilarious.

The humble, little humor novel that caused all the trouble. According to Amazon’s shipping department, it might just be explosively hilarious.

Still confused, I broke down and did the unthinkable. I sent a message through Goodreads to the winner of my giveaway. Goodreads strongly discourages this, but under the circumstances, I hope to be forgiven.

The winner was a very nice man, who even apologized for his country’s red tape. Though I’d been careful not to ask for his ID number, he offered it anyway, along with a more specific address than the one supplied by Goodreads. I returned to my Amazon shopping cart. Problem solved.

Or not.

Amazon would not ship to the new address at all. A pop-up box explained that I might be sending something that South African authorities would not allow – for example, weapons or explosives. Well, I have handled hundreds of copies of this book, and it has never yet exploded. What the pop-up box didn’t mention is that the new address contained the phrase “PO Box,” which is more likely the reason Amazon didn’t want to deal with it. But it was convenient to blame it on the South African authorities.

I went back to the non-PO Box, address. Combined with the winner’s national ID number, no warning lights flashed and no gates came crashing down. I was free, as far as I know, to ship a humble, non-toxic, non-invasive, paperback book to South Africa.

What do you guess the odds are of it making it to its destination?

I have 12 Goodreads followers and I still have to do my own plundering. What’s up with that?

It’s been said in many places that Goodreads is not the easiest site to navigate. Be that as it may, I’ve been trying to get more involved in Goodreads as an author. I’ve done a few giveaways and I even broke down and added a photo to my author profile. It’s the same photo on the sidebar here, so don’t rush off to Goodreads excited that I might be any better looking there.

Going to Goodreads periodically to see how a giveaway is doing, there are things I don’t often notice. Today I saw something I hadn’t noticed before. Somehow, I magically have 12 followers on Goodreads. My first thought was, “Wow, that’s awesome! I’m getting so popular. Yay, Me!”

I’ve had one follower since the beginning. This is an author friend of mine who has a very supportive personality and does all kinds of sweet things for other authors, like giving them a follower of their very own. For the longest time, she was my sole follower. And I was fine with that.

A few months ago, I noticed I had picked up two more followers. I link to my other blog on Goodreads (as far as I know I can only link to one, and the other has a more general appeal). I think these two followers had liked posts from my blog on my Goodreads page. Each of my posts gets between zero and two Goodreads views. Honestly, I don’t know how they found me or my blog but it was nice to have followers, with an s.

Today, I was playing on my author dashboard when I happened to see faces of a dozen people boxed off to the side. And guess what? The label over their heads said they are my followers. 12 followers – an increase of like 400% over the three I knew about before. That’s gangbusters, right?

That’s when it hit me that I really don’t know what a Goodreads follower does. They certainly don’t bring me tea or plunder enemy villages at my command. Are they reading my books? All 12 of them? I doubt it. So who is this motley gang of people who are suddenly part of my literary life?

lonely tea party

I still have to pour my own tea. And with all the tea I drink, that eats up a good part of my day.

I did an online search for “Goodreads followers” but it didn’t shed any light on the purpose or activities of my new crew. I even clicked the follow button on my author friend’s page, which I’m ashamed to say I should have done years ago. But after becoming one of her followers, our relationship did not noticeably change. She has many followers so I’m not even sure she’ll notice I’ve joined their ranks.

My best guess is that my followers get some sort of notification about new blog posts. I think they are following my blog (via Goodreads) more than they are expressing some sort of personal devotion to me. I guess I can live with that. It was exciting for a minute to think I had my own band of disciples, but I’m used to getting my own tea, and I don’t really have any enemies with villages right now, so . . .

Amazon giveaways: the best-kept secret from Amazon customers?

This year, Amazon.com has added a new giveaway feature. Here, you can sponsor a giveaway of virtually any product sold on Amazon.

Having done a couple of Goodreads giveaways for A Housefly in Autumn, I was interested in how this new feature could help me promote the book. After doing a little research on Amazon’s official giveaway site, I’m still unsure how this feature would help.

Amazon.com and it’s international incarnations reach hundreds of millions of customers. This makes any tool Amazon unveils worthy of consideration. But after reading up on this new giveaway service, I think it may be more useful to larger vendors with a wider social reach than myself.

The main problem with Amazon giveaways, from the perspective of the small, independent publisher, is that there appears to be no readily accessible site within the entire realm of Amazon where customers can go to peruse the available giveaways. (As far as I can tell, there is only a Twitter hashtag: #AmazonGiveaway.) Instead, the sponsor of the giveaway is issued a unique link to disseminate to interested parties in order to bring them to the specific giveaway.

By contrast, the biggest advantage to a Goodreads giveaway is that readers can browse the entire catalog of available giveaways and thereby find new books that may interest them. The giveaway is a tool to reach potential customers with whom you might not otherwise make contact.

In the case of Amazon, you are left to promote your promotion, which seems like an extra, unnecessary step to promoting your product. Everyone in my network has already received promotional information about my books. I want tools that reach beyond my already-establish network.

Amazon jungle

I went to the Amazon the give away some books, but my books got lost in its immense jungle. (Image: Keystone View Company)

In the description of this service, Amazon says, “Run promotional giveaways to create buzz, reward your audience, and grow your followers and customers.” I could much more easily grow my followers and customers if all Amazon customers were allowed to discover my books by browsing the list of available giveaways.

I can imagine that this service could be valuable to individuals and corporations with large social followings. But for the little guy, it’s hard to spot the advantage. If I want to give a book to friend, I can do that on my own.

Amazon has done a lot of good things for independent authors and publishers, and maybe this new feature was intended for somebody else. Also, the feature is relatively new and perhaps still evolving.

If Amazon opened up a catalog where its customers could browse and enter any of the various giveaways, I believe I would begin sponsoring giveaways for my books in a heartbeat. In the meantime, I think I’ll hold off until somebody can explain the advantages of the system as it now stands.

Would you consider doing Amazon giveaways? Have you done any? How did they go? Whether you’ve tried them or not, can you spot an advantage to the small seller that I’ve missed?