"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Monday, January 30, 2012

I am the quirk

I'm about three weeks into my 90-day trial of the Kindle Select Program with Are You There Erma? It's Me Gayle. Granted, it's early, but I thought I'd give you all a status report.

I did a five-day promotion. The bad news? I only gave away 535 copies. I suppose that's a lot, but I read about all these authors who give away thousands, yea, tens of thousands, so I was a little disappointed. The good news? In addition to those, I gave away about 150 copies on Amazon UK and 2 copies in Germany. The bad news? I did get one review on Amazon UK, saying my book was so wretched, the reviewer was glad they didn't pay for it. The good news? Since then, I've sold about 10 more copies in the UK and suddenly 3 copies of What Would Erma Do? Perhaps my humor does translate across the Pond.

As far as my American Amazon, after the promotion, the hype, the being #2 on the Humor>Family & Parenting AND the Humor>Essays list for free books, Are You There Erma sunk like a rock. Then, a couple of days later, I sold several more copies and got back up on the nonfree lists. Then this weekend, I'm a rock again. A big, heavy one, sinking, sinking...

One of the enticements of Kindle Select is their "lending program." Every time your book is loaned to someone else, you earn a percentage of their lending fund. This month it's $700,000, which is a big chunk-o-change if you're not in competition with, oh, two bazillion other authors. So far, it's a moot point for me, since I haven't loaned out a single copy yet.

Like I say, it's early yet, so things might turn around. Or they may just stay the same. Or all those people who got my book for free will write wretched reviews comparing my wit to that of a rock's. It doesn't bother me on a professional level, but I do wonder about that "any publicity is good publicity" belief.

While Erma was climbing, I got all a-tingle and decided to make the break with the rest of my books. Unpublished them from Smashwords and sat around, waiting for them to be removed from Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Sony, Apple, and all the little e-bookeries. Finally, they were free, so I enrolled them all in Kindle Select. And then...

I found out from a fellow author (and I verified this in the fine print of the T&C) that while your books are in the Kindle Select Program, you are not allowed to have them in any digital form anywhere else, including excerpts on your own webpage or blog.


I considered, for a moment, hunting down and deleting all my excerpts everywhere. After the dizziness passed, I did what any other thinking control freak would do: I un-enrolled my other books. I realize Amazon is trying to make their select work "exclusive", but I'm not in the mood to have them tell me I can't post a paragraph from Clean Sweep here, or a story from What Would Erma Do there, or a chapter of Hit or Missus every Sunday or so.

They're back on Smashwords, and will be re-populating the e-book stores soon, at 99 cents.

Like I said, it's still early in my experiment, and I may be pleasantly surprised, but I truly jumped the gun with my other books. Lesson learned.

In the meantime, I'm learning another lesson. This one is about myself. I want to continue writing and putting out books. I love to meet potential readers, and I am a good at explaining what my books are about. I got great hooks. But I am not good at promoting my books, and here's why:

1. I don't want to sell you a book I think you won't like. If you only read about vampires, or only non-fiction, you will not only waste your time reading my book, you'll be pissy with me for selling you on it.  If you like humorous mysteries, I want you to read mine. If you read it and don't like it, I sincerely want to know why. If you don't like mysteries, read mine and don't like it, um, okay, did you not know it's a mystery? I'd like your money, but I'm not going to trade my soul for it.

2. It annoys me to No End to see other authors crowing about where their books are on the charts or the great review they just got. It's not jealousy. I have some great reviews. My books are not suffering. I make money every month on them. I've actually tried it myself, but each time it left a nasty taste in my mouth, even though I know I should be doing it. I don't know whether it's my Midwestern Baptist fear of looking too prideful (my mother's favorite verse: "Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall"), or whether at my roots I consider writing a job. I mean, how many times do you see a welder post about how great his welding workmanship is?

It's a rather horrid lesson to learn, because now I either have to figure out how to get past it all or I have to hire someone to promote my work the way I should be doing it. One way or another, it's going to cost me, either in therapy or paying wages.

Does anyone else have this problem, of recoiling at that moment when you should be extending your hand with a book in it, saying, "You'll love this"? Do I have to learn to be a psychopath so I can shout out, "Look at me - I'm on top of the world"?

Or am I just the quirky girl in the room?


Joo said...

Great blog Gayle - thanks for being so open - while I agree that marketing is imperative, I also get turned off by someone over marketing themselves in social media. Same reaction when I go "in person" shopping and a salesperson badgers me - I will leave the store immediately verses being able to browse in comfort - just my humble opinion:-)

Tameri Etherton said...

Oh, the slippery slope of self-promotion. It's a necessary evil, but then again, like Joo said, too much is a complete turn off. What's right? What's wrong? When is it too much? I don't know since I'm not really there yet. I totally pimp my blog, but am I going to be as pimptastic once my book is out? Maybe not for many of the reasons you state. If someone doesn't read fantasy, then it would be silly to suggest it to them.

People are interesting and weird. Beyond that, I got nothing.

Gayle Carline said...

I love my books. I believe in them. What's getting to me lately, I think, is Facebook. An author posts on his/her fanpage that their book is #1 on the Amazon Novels For Monkeys list. Great! Then they post the same info in Every. Group. I. Belong. To. Yes, they're reaching people who aren't on their fan page. But I want to yell, "Shut the F&^% Up!"

Hi, I'm Gayle and I've written a mystery. I think you'd love it.

Anonymous said...

Every. Damn. Group. It's a pain in my backside and clogs my inbox. Sadly, I turn off, and what ever interest I may have had in a particular author wanes. I'm sure this is not what they hope to accomplish. Personally, I've tried mediating on this. While I haven't come up with any great ideas, I'm pleasantly calmer and happier. It's a new road we're on. I trust that we will figure it out, it's just hard not to get discouraged! Hang in there, Gayle. I plan on enjoying "What Would Erma Do?" this evening over a glass of wine. Love ya!!!

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