Where did our love go, follower #31?

I lost a Goodreads follower. Even though I’ve never been quite sure what the relationship between Goodreads authors and their followers is supposed to be, I feel a little sad about this. Sure, I didn’t really know that person; but I still feel rejected. The disappearance of their tiny thumbnail image from my Author Dashboard leaves a little, square hole in my life.

As far as I can tell Goodreads followers see pretty much the same side of you as Goodreads friends do, except they are not necessarily people you know.

For the longest time, I had one follower. Then, one day, I noticed I had a dozen. From there my group slowly grew until I had 31 followers. How I got this many followers I don’t know, but I naturally chalked it up to my snowballing popularity. Who knows? Someday I might hit 40, and from there the sky’s the limit.

Yesterday I noticed my followers numbered only 30. Somebody made the conscious decision to stop following me, and like a jilted lover, a part of me longs to know why. Why did you leave me? What could I have done differently to keep your love? – or in this case, your passing interest.

I don’t think I did anything offensive. I did rate The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle with four stars. Was that not enough stars? Too many? Now, I fear I’ll never know what drove my 31st follower away.

How did I end up in a love triangle (technically a triacontakaitrigon) with Sir Arthur and 31 others?

How did I end up in a love triangle triacontakaitrigon with Sir Arthur and 31 others? It’s his bedroom eyes, isn’t it?

Aside from the personal rejection, I’m left to contemplate what this contraction means for my long, but mostly secret career as a writer. Has my popularity peaked? Did 31 followers represent the Golden Age of my appeal? Will they all begin to trickle away now, leaving me clutching at withered laurels as I struggle to regain my renown? I can see it on my headstone:

When this is the height of your fame, they don't even bother with your name, because who cares?

When this is the height of your fame, they don’t even bother with your name, because who cares?

I suppose I’ll never know why I was kicked to the curb. I’m left to piece together speculative theories. The most plausible is that one of the 18-26 people who are following me by accident, ever since they clicked the button next to the button they intended to click, took the unlikely step of auditing the list of authors they are following. Finding no justification for my name on their list, they took immediate corrective action, this time taking care about who they unclicked.

Either that or one of the 6-12 people who followed me as a lark during a carefree, and possibly drunken, moment of web surfing, decided to begin taking their online decisions more seriously and eliminate all their irresponsible Internet relationships.

Either way, it was clearly a mistake. It has now been fixed. Follower 31 and I have gone our separate ways. It’s probably best for everyone involved, with the exception of me. What happens when the other 30 get word that there is a way out of this mess?


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 . . .

Selling it by giving it away

The book has been published. All the hard work of editing, proofing, and layout is done. It’s time to take a break, sit back, and relax for a while.


Anyway, I can take a break from the completed book and turn my attention to my work in progress. Well . . . actually . . . I can’t do that either. The work in progress may have to stay on hold for a while longer.

A Housefly in Autumn may be published, but I’m hardly done with it. There’s promoting to be done.

Promoting can be a hard pill to swallow for someone who revels in the introverted nature of writing. Fortunately, this is not my first trip through the cycle, so I am somewhat prepared to face it. I’m never wholly prepared for promotion, but somewhat prepared is better than not prepared at all.

Promotion can be a slap in the face to the first-time author. It is tempting to think that once a book is released, people will naturally buy it. After three books, I am fully cured of this temptation.

I know how difficult it is to sell a book. That’s why I’m working so hard to give them away.

It may sound counter-productive to give books away, and maybe it is. There’s no guarantee it will result in eventual sales, but the idea is that people who might not have bought the book will be attracted to the giveaway. If they enjoy it, they may review it or tell their friends, or otherwise increase visibility, eventually making the book attractive enough to be worth actual money to the reading public.

Book giveaway

If not for the Internet, I’d be handing them out to passersby down at the docks.

The giveaways I’m working on right now are at Goodreads, for the print copy, and Amazon, for the Kindle version.

The Goodreads giveaway is running now. I am giving away six print copies of A Housefly in Autumn. The giveaway is open to US readers and runs through July 26, 2015, when six winners will be chosen.

The Kindle giveaway will run July 15-17. This is an unlimited giveaway. The Kindle version will be free to all who wish to download during that time. Amazon is in charge of the logistics, but from my experience, I expect this to be open to international readers as well.

Setting up the giveaways is not difficult nor time-consuming. But if you’re giving away your book, you want somebody to take it (if only for self-esteem purposes). The more difficult piece is drawing attention to your giveaway. This involves researching and registering your giveaway on blogs and web sites that advertise such things. All have different rules and requirements. Figuring out where to post and filling in required fields eats up time. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to eat up a lot of money, because it’s hard enough to give so much of your toil away; it would be far worse to have to pay to give it away.

Please take a moment to explore these giveaways and/or mention them to other readers.