Of writers, self-promotion, and Christmas

I’ve always been wary of self-promotion. As a self-published fiction writer, this leaves me in an awkward position.  Self-published and Self-promotion are twins, and though they may not be identical, when Self-promotion stumbles, Self-published falls. They’re close like that.

I have been letting Self-promotion stumble, with the anticipated result to Self-published. But if there’s one time to give Self-promotion a hand, it’s Christmas. At this most Holy and Commercial time of year it only seems appropriate to give alms to Self-promotion.  I won’t go so far as to suggest the Baby Jesus would endorse it, but I think the Three Wise Men would. After all, how could they afford gold, frankincense, and myrrh? They were wise men who built their brands through self-promotion.

I am now going to attempt to be a wise man, though I still probably won’t be able to afford any frankincense or myrrh by the end of the day. Following is an introduction to my books, which just might make decent Christmas gifts for the readers on your list (hint, hint).

Temp

Temp coverTemp is a great book for past or present temporary and low-level employees, and the people who love them. It’s also for people who like a good laugh in general. If you started out at the top of your field, love no one, and hate laughing, it might not be for you. Otherwise, you’re the bullseye of the target demographic.

(Book description/How to buy)

A Smile Through a Tear

BookCover9AA Smile Through a Tear is a collection of short stories, some funny, some serious, covering several different genres of fiction. If variety is the spice of life, this collection is a literary bottle of tabasco. If these stories get into your eyes, tears may result. Remain calm. It will be from your emotions, not physical damage; the hot spice thing was just a metaphor.

(Book description/How to buy)

A Housefly in Autumn

A Housefly in AutumnA Housefly in Autumn fits all sizes from young adult to old adult. If you’ve ever wondered what YA fiction would look like without vampires, post-apocalyptic survival tips, little people with pointy ears, or the ubiquitous love triangle, this is the book for you. Although I can’t promise there’s not just a hint of love triangle, but it’s certainly not beaten like a dead horse. SPOILER: There’s an actual dead horse for that.*

(Book description/How to Buy)

*Just kidding. Nobody beats the dead horse. It’s all very tasteful.

Well, that’s my self-promotion for this year. I hope I helped you get your Christmas shopping done.

I wish I would stop nagging me to join my social network

I admit it. I’m a naughty author.

Despite truckloads of sound advice instructing little guys like me to use every incarnation of social media to our advantage in promoting our books, I don’t have a Twitter account. I am often confounded by Facebook; I don’t understand the usefulness of Pinterest at all; and I don’t even know what Snapchat is.

I wouldn’t have a LinkedIn account except some people who have helped me out with my books invited me to become part of their networks and it didn’t seem right to ignore the requests. Does anyone else find it odd that they could invite me to join their networks when I wasn’t even signed up to the service?

My network is very small. I don’t really get LinkedIn. I guess it’s kind of like Facebook except people comb their hair for their profile pictures.

LinkedIn is spooky to me. It’s the haunted social media. I seem to have two versions of my profile on their servers somehow. Depending upon which browser I use to access the service, I either have the profile to which I added all of my jobs, education, and writing projects, or I have an abandoned-looking profile with little more than my name and a silhouette where my picture should be. It probably even has cobwebs, but I run away too quickly to check.

The camera makes me look 10 years younger.

The camera makes me look 10 years younger.

LinkedIn sends me lots of emails asking if I know certain people. That was merely a minor nuisance until they started getting freaky and asking if I knew Scott Nagele. For those who skipped over the tittle of this blog, that’s me.

I want to tell them I do know Scott Nagele, so quit asking me, but I don’t know how to do that without connecting to myself, which is not something you want to be caught doing beyond the teenage years.

Besides that, I have an eerie feeling that if I were able to tell them I know Scott Nagele, I would get a follow-up email asking, “Really? How well do you really know Scott Nagele?” I’m not prepared, at this time of my life, for that level of electronic soul-searching.

Maybe it’s the ghost of my phantom profile trying to contact me from beyond the Internet. “Know thine own self, lest ye turn to a dead, faceless profile like me.” (In that drawn-out, remorseful, ghostly moan.) (Oh yeah, and rattling chains.)

On the other hand, it could be my (barely) living profile trying to contact the graveyard profile through some sort of séance, using me as the medium. Either way, I’d like to be left out of it. I don’t go in for this kind of jiggery-pokery and I’d prefer it if my profiles would just leave me alone.

I’m afraid they won’t though. I fear worst will come to worst. Therefore, if you will give me a moment of privacy, I may need to connect to myself.

P.S. Click the “About My Books” tab at the top to see what I’m supposed to be talking about all over social media every day.

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?

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?