The many voices of Eileen

I keep getting phone calls and emails from people raving about my books. Part of the problem with this is I think they’re all the same three people. The bigger part of the problem is they are all telemarketers.

I rarely answer the phone if I don’t know the caller. My persistent fans always leave voicemails. The familiar message starts along these lines:

“Hello. This is Eileen Smith at [some company you’ve never heard of]. We got a very good recommendation on your book, and we wanted to see if we could help you get the word out about it.”

The message goes on to list some vague connections Eileen’s people have in the publishing industry and mention some unspecified opportunities for me, the talented author, to make the most of effective book marketing.

Eileen thanks me kindly and ends by telling me how excited she is to receive a call back from me.

Eileen never gets a call back from me.

I do Google her though. Well, not Eileen herself, but whatever company she claims to represent. I do this if I can hear the name she said. You see Eileen has a pronounced accent. She really doesn’t sound like your typical Smith at all. What makes Eileen even more mysterious is that her accent changes from call to call. It’s almost as if there are several Eileen Smiths with different first languages, who all studied English so they could speak to me about my unnamed, highly recommended book.

“Eileen Smith and Eileen Smith, meet your new colleague, Eileen Smith. This highly recommended book is such a big deal, I need to throw a third Eileen Smith at it.”

When I can Google Eileen’s outfit, it’s always an unknown marketing company, or an equally obscure Print-on-Demand publisher with a typical menu of paid POD marketing services. It turns out Eileen works for several different companies. Or maybe each of the several Eileens works for a similar company. Or maybe each of the several Eileens works for the same company that offers its helpful services under different names as time goes by.

I’m not sure which Eileen Smith works where, and I’m okay with that. The true burning question is who so highly recommend my book to her. I have this image in my head of some discriminating reader turning the last page of a book and saying aloud, “Wow, that was a highly recommendable book! I should let Eileen Smith know about it right away! And while I’m at it, I’ll also highly recommend it to Eileen Smith. And also Eileen Smith. The Eileen Smiths will know what to do about this!”

Once, Eileen Smith actually mentioned the name of one of my books. This impressed me. It showed that somebody was sparing no expense in buying the call list that also had titles on it. That Eileen Smith’s branch of the company went above and beyond.

It made me proud that I, and my highly recommended book, were on her sales sheet that day. I hope the extra effort gets Eileen Smith noticed by the recruiters at Random House. If she worked there, I’d call her back.

Goodreads losing ground to scotch whiskey in the battle for my soul

I mention Goodreads often in this space. The part of Goodreads I write about most is the giveaways. After this, I probably won’t write about Goodreads Giveaways so much. If you are a Goodreads author or publisher, you can probably guess why. If you aren’t, I’ll come right out and tell you.

Goodreads will start charging authors and publishers to give away their books starting in January, 2018. For $119, or $599 for the premium package, you can give away (as in “free”) books to Goodreads members. The difference between this new system and the current $0 giveaways appears to be mostly that Goodreads will hound the winners into leaving reviews of the books they’ve won. This, it should be noted, is the exact activity Goodreads had prohibited the sponsors of giveaways from doing up until now. Perhaps they were just saving all the fun for themselves.

Goodreads has every right to charge whatever it wants for any of its services. Likewise, users have the right to stop using services deemed not worth the price. To me, $119 is way not worth the price to give away books.

Goodreads Giveaways seem mostly a tool to give Indy Authors something to look at besides stagnant sales. The giveaways result in, at best, sporadic reviews. They grow “to read” counts, which may make authors feel a little better, but don’t put any money into their pockets. The correlation between “to read” counts and sales is tenuous to non-existent.

I confess to running Goodreads Giveaways as a pick-me-up in the midst of sales boredom. For this purpose, it is occasionally worth the price of a book and postage to get the book into a potential reader’s hands. If I actually made any money on giveaways, I’d have done them a lot more often.

A short-term morale boost is not worth $119 – $599 to me. I’d rather spend the money on a good bottle of scotch and keep the change. The scotch would last longer than the giveaway afterglow.

For temporary relief of sales anemia. Take as necessary.

I think Goodreads miscalculated how much people will pay for the right to give away their stuff. It may also have misjudged how much money authors who are not selling books have to spend on services that don’t lead to selling books.

But that’s Goodreads’ problem.

My problem is now I really want a good bottle of scotch and I don’t have $119 to spend on it.

Meanwhile, I am taking advantage of the grace period before January to run one last giveaway for old time’s sake. I’m giving away one copy each of three of my books, which is kind of a splurge for someone with my sales numbers, but why not go out with a bang?

So, if you want to be part of the farewell party . . .

Click cover to go to giveaway entry.

 

 

You have been culled

When it comes to book authorship, the stat that matters is sales. There are lots of other stats you can follow, but they don’t mean much if they don’t result in sales. Most of the stats you can watch don’t result in sales.

If you are an Indie/self-published author, and you don’t have lots of time or money to spend on promotion, you might not see much movement in your sales numbers.

There are many reason why you may not have time for promotion: you work a day job; you have multiple family obligations (e.g. children); you need your limited spare time to write more books.

Likewise, there are good reasons you may lack funds for promotion: your day job doesn’t pay well; your family obligations outgrow their shoes every three months; Uber passengers complained because you were typing at a keyboard while you’re driving in your spare time.

Sorry children. Daddy bought a banner ad instead. You’ll just have share the one pair until the sales start rolling in.

Everyone has their crosses to bear, and anemic book sales is one of yours. Compared to keeping your family obligations healthy and in fitting shoes, it’s not even a heavy one.

But it’s the reason you bother to look at other statistics.

Other statistics are less important, but they’re probably more interesting than the drying wall of paint that is your sales total. They can keep you engaged in your own writing career (using career loosely) until that future day when you actually develop a writing career.

Goodreads offers a full menu of ancillary stats. These stats don’t mean much in terms of charting success, but an author can move them without a huge investment of time or money.

It’s kind of an illusion to make you feel better.

If it makes you feel better, it’s a useful illusion.

The easiest feel-good illusion to create on Goodreads is the “to read” line. You can bump this by giving away a single book. When people enter the giveaway, a percentage of them neglect to uncheck the box that puts the book on their “to read” shelf, making it appear as if new readers are getting ready to read your book.

Like all temporary stupors, this Giveaway buzz comes with a hangover. Periodically, Goodreads readers realize their own mortalities, and that no one is likely to read 250,000 books in one lifetime. They turn to their “to read” lists and weed out some of the whims and un-won freebies. This is your book. You have been culled.

Being culled is somewhere below spilled milk on the list of things to cry over. Yes, a number related to your book has gone down, which isn’t good, but it’s a fantasy number. “To read” numbers rarely translate into “currently reading” numbers, which is the only stat in the same neighborhood as sales.

There is no shame in being culled. It means there was a person who at one time was willing to accept your book if it were totally free and delivered directly to their home, and that’s a start. That person has moved on, and so should you, because it’s time to take your family obligations shopping for shoes again.

 

Clinging to life in the Goodreads Emergency Room

I’m haunted by this recurring vision in which I have a sudden crisis. I am rushed to the hospital and hooked up to all the most sophisticated machinery. As the doctor hovers over me and shines a light into my glassy pupils, the nurse hooks up the monitor, displaying all my vital statistics, as found on my Goodreads Author Dashboard.

The nurse starts reading important stats for the doctor to consider. “His average rating is stable at 4.29, but it’s based on only 21 ratings.”

“How many reviews?” the doctor asks.

The nursed scans the screen. “Seven.”

The doctor sighs. “That explains why I’m seeing signs of a collapsed ego.”

“It gets worse,” the nurse explains. “There are four books showing, but they only show up 1200 times on ‘to read’ shelves.”

The doctor shakes his head. “That’s only 300 per book. It’s a miracle he’s still writing.”

The nurse gasps as she continues reading. “Oh my goodness! There’s only one ‘currently reading’.”

“For each book?” the doctor asks.

“One, total,” the nurse replies, stifling the instinct to cover her mouth with her hand. “He’s hanging on by a thread.”

The doctor wipes sweat from his brow. “This is serious. Please tell me he has a few followers.”

“Yes, 37,” the nurse replies, trying to sound up-beat.

“That’s not good,” the doctor laments, “but I’ve seen worse. Is there anything we can use to jump start his writing career?”

“Well, he’s got quite a number of blog posts, but not too many people read them, maybe one view per post.”

“We’re going to have to do something to get his numbers up before his ambition flatlines. Set up some Giveaways, STAT! Let’s start with three and see where that gets us. Then I want him in some groups. Maybe we can get him interacting with people, if it’s not too late. If we can’t get his numbers up, he has no chance of becoming relevant.”

Later, the doctor greets my loved ones in the waiting room. “His writing career is not out of danger,” he tells them. “The good news is we were able to raise his average rating slightly, to 4.32. Also, we got his ‘to read’ shelf appearances up over 1300 and his followers to 39. These still aren’t great numbers, but, as far as his writing career goes, it’s a step in the right direction.”

“Doctor, I have just one question,” my wife says.

The doctor leans forward, showing a large, empathetic ear. “What is it?”

“Why do you keep making air quotes with your fingers every time you mention his writing career?”