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Posts Tagged ‘bookselling’

My thanks to those of you who participated in yesterday’s Kindle ebook giveaway of Why We Raise Belgian Horses. Freebies don’t count in the sales rankings of paid books, so the book is back down in the lower midlists after a fun flight amongst the bestsellers – but now it’s in a better position to generate ‘likes’ at Amazon, and reviews, and recommendations, and thus generate sales that will show up (and that put money in my pocket). That’s all I can hope for, from a giveaway.

Well, that, and hope that people who like this one might buy another one of my books, or give this one as a gift, in ebook, trade paperback, or large print.

Or that they’ll link to the book from their website or at Twitter or Facebook, or feature it in their affiliate links, all of which (as I understand it) combine with sales data to drive up the “Relevance” ranking at Amazon.

Welcome to the wacky world of publishing, where everything is a calculated risk, at best.

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1. Yesterday, my back seemed well enough to risk a long drive, the weather didn’t look horrible, I knew my mother-in-law wanted my late husband’s grave decorated for Memorial Day, and I wanted to see the bookstore that’s taking over where I left off (I had to close up shop after David died). So I took the three hour drive up, checked in at the new bookstore (it looks nice), bought flowers, decorated the grave, and came home. The landscape was green, the sky had patches of bright blue, and it was snowing in the mountain passes. Must be spring in Eastern Oregon.

2. I forgot to put a jacket in the car, so after I drove through the snow, I stopped at the first thrift store I came to. I usually stop there anyway. It provides jobs for people who can’t hold regular jobs, whether from mental problems, physical problems, or some combination of that. The young woman who checked me out (with heavy supervision) did a good job, and was calm and cheerful, which is notable with her. When I stopped to buy flowers halfway across town, I crossed paths with her mother in the grocery store parking lot, and was able to make a good report. What the chances are that ‘Mom’ and I would see each other while in pedestrian mode, where we could mosey together for a chat, right after I’d seen her daughter in A-plus mode, I don’t know. But it was fun. Thank you, God.

3. Last Sunday I went to a different church than usual. I ran into people I used to know something like 15 years ago. They had been friends with my husband, but hadn’t heard he’d died. So we had a good cry, and they invited me to a potluck Monday, and to help with a Wednesday afternoon ministry to people who live in assisted living centers. I wasn’t a Christian when I knew them. It’s interesting, picking up with old friends who, for all intents and purposes, knew you as someone else. (If Christianity isn’t transforming you from the inside out, it’s not really Christianity. The changes might be glacial in some cases, but, truly, they happen when it’s the real deal.)

4. I went Wednesday afternoon to the assisted living centers, had a wonderful time, and am signed up to go every week, Lord willing, unless/until I get a job that might require me to work Wednesday afternoons. I think I’ll try to find a job that lets me have that time off, though. I like working with old people. They bless me more than I bless them, I think.

One of the regulars on this Wednesday Bible study ministry is a 13-year-old girl who plays piano for the residents. This week, she brought two kittens for the residents to hold and play with while she visited. I am told that the girl used to be anxious as Wednesday approached, but now looks forward to it. She is certainly a hit with the residents. She’s shy, but poised, if that makes sense.

5. These assisted living centers are not on the industrial model. Both had big aquariums, and one place had a huge bird cage with a pair of what I think were a type of cockatiel. Something like that, at any rate. When we sang hymns, one of them joined in, with a vibrato wordless melody. I can’t sing worth a lick. The bird outsang me.

6. I have several books on Kindle. This week I decided to put them on Nook, too. What worked for Kindle did not work for Nook. The good news is that I’m learning just all sorts of computer skills I never knew I needed to know. The bad news is that it is eating up hours and hours, learning and practicing all these computer skills.

7. I got part of a vegetable garden planted this week. The last time I tried to raise vegetables, deer, earwigs, and other plagues, got all but one green bean. Seriously, my total harvest was one bean. I am hoping for better results this year.

On that subject, nearly every gardening website I’ve visited this year has said, sometimes in capital letters, to be careful not to grow more produce than your household will be able to eat, lest you have to foist some on the neighbors. Excuse me? If you don’t know neighbors who want the stuff, expand your notion of neighbors. Around here, for instance, several churches provide food baskets to poor people, or hold community dinners, or run soup kitchens. If you’re so protected you don’t know people in need, why not find someone who does?

For more 7 Quick Takes Friday, go to Conversion Diary.

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Today, I finished work on a slightly revised version of Not Exactly Dead. Most changes were small, primarily cleaning up little things that popped out at me as I read the original Kindle edition. Chapter 48 probably got the most changes, and the biggest ones, but even it remains much the same.

The new edition – which shows as a 2nd edition – got uploaded today. It shows a publication date of yesterday (I likely hit something I shouldn’t have when I was updating book info). I’m going to leave it like that, I guess. It’s close, and it gets the main job done: it shows that it’s not the same edition as the March release.

I’ve dropped the price to $2.99 for now.

So far, it (and my other books) are only available in Kindle editions. I’m wrestling with Word, trying to get an interior design that I like, so that I can put out trade paperbacks, but so far Word and I still don’t understand one another well enough for the task at hand. (Besides, I’m still trying to get The Smolder finished. Once I do that, I’m through putting out for public review the books I’ve been working on for the past several years. Then we’ll take it from there, I guess. Right now I could use about three of me…)

I’m not quite sure how to describe Not Exactly Dead. It started out as a spoof of spy novels, one that I was writing simply for the fun of it. But it morphed. And it it spawned a sequel. And then another. When I was working on the fourth book in the series, I decided I needed to back up and get the first three in order before I went any further. Somewhere along the way, I converted to Christianity, and that called for more revisions. What I’m left with is a book, and a series, that doesn’t seem to neatly fall into a genre. They aren’t Christian fiction per se, but they have Christians and Christianity in them. They’re romance novels, but that’s only part of it. They’re pro-marriage and pro-life, but not as the main thrust. They’re humorous in places, but aren’t comic novels. Like Chesterton, I sneak in social commentary, but I’m certainly no Chesterton. Help me out here, if you read them. There are good reasons that publishers have marketing people. Marketing’s an art. And I’m not that kind of artist. And I don’t have a publisher, at least not now.

Well, actually, if you could help me out at Amazon, in a review, that would be better yet. I’m looking at modest (very modest) advertising down the road, but for now I’m completely dependent on word of mouth. Thanks.

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Kindle returns

I didn’t know that you could ‘return’ Kindle content that you didn’t like, until I was setting up as an author, and was informed that returns would be deducted from payments. Returns? Of e-books? Whoever heard of such a thing?

I wish I’d known about this a few weeks ago, when I bought a book and found it not as advertised, and rather obnoxious, really. But, well, too late now for me, for that, because returns on content bought through the Kindle Store must be arranged through Amazon’s customer service department within 7 days of purchase.

So, now you know. If you buy one of my books and really dislike it, you can get your money back. How’s that for a deal?

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Our little bookstore sells mostly used books, and we also like to stock regional offerings. So, we draw book scouts. In the old days, most book scouts were mostly looking to buy used books for other bookstores that sell used books. Sometimes they’d be scouting for a collector. Sometimes they were collectors themselves.

These days, we see more and more book scouts who are scouring the country in search of self-published books that they might sell to bookstores, or to big publishers (more and more of which are picking up previously self-published books). Ours is a small store, off the beaten track, and we see something between four and eight of these guys a month, as far as we know. How many of them are professionals, and how many are just winging it, I couldn’t tell you. It’s a new form of gold rush, in its way, with scouts hoping to strike gold with some obscure book or author they can launch to acclaim and bestsellerdom. Like all mining, it draws all types.

So, anyway, a few weeks ago a man who claimed to be a book scout bought one of my books, Why We Raise Belgian Horses. Later, he called my husband, and said that he really liked the book, and in the future it might be hailed as good literature (he said), but for today it was no good because people wanted shorter books. If it were only 130-140 pages long, he could sell it, he said.

We had to laugh. For one thing, in our bookstore, thick books often sell easier than thin ones. For another, of the four books we hope to get out within the next year or so, God willing, all four are longer yet. By quite a bit, in some cases.

For another thing, when we started in this business, we used to tear our hair out when people came into the store and obsessed over the length of kid’s books. We’d be asking what the kid would like to read about, or about what the parent would like the kid to read about, and the mother (carefully drilled by her child’s public school teacher more often than not) would be in anguish that she might buy her precious, fragile child a book that was too long for her, or that had chapters before the child was ready for chapters, or that had words in it that the child didn’t know already. (I did mention, didn’t I, that this made us tear at our hair? And if you’re wondering where I get my deep and abiding dislike of the self-esteem movement, this is definitely one of the reasons.)

But then Harry Potter came along. Overnight, or close to it, nobody cared about the length of children’s books anymore.

I guess these things go in cycles. Over the decades and centuries, the length of fiction has seemed to go through fads, and certainly, many publishers these days have strict guidelines on length for certain genres, or series, or what have you, and that’s their right. If I were writing for them, I’d fit my book-for-them into the template, if that was part of the deal. And I know that, as a reader,  sometimes I gravitate toward thinner books or thicker ones, depending on my mood and my health. But I also know that while the big publishers have a tendency to run in packs on this as on other things, smaller publishers have often bucked the trend, and readers seem to be able to cope with the variety. Imagine that. (Those doggone readers, refusing to fit a mold, after all the time and trouble and money and research that goes into creating that mold…)

Anyway, I’m glad the self-proclaimed scout liked the book. That he thinks that he’s the exceptional reader who can handle ‘longer’ books (of less than 79,000 words, or 160 pages in that layout), well… No comment.

Should I laugh, or cry? (My default mode, if you haven’t figured it out already, is to laugh.)

P.S. Since that book scout told me my books were unsaleable, another scout took copies of my two published books (the second being Trouble Pug) to a bookseller friend of his in Portland, who read them, and then ordered three more of each for stock. This despite the length, and despite the fact that we’re still only putting them out in comb binding. We’re still not setting the world on fire, but it’s no longer simply a hometown effort.

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My husband and I own a bookstore, in which we sell both new and used books, mostly used. Sometimes, going through backstock and trade-ins, I find myself suffering something akin to mental whiplash. For instance, as chance would have it, what I’m sending to The Bookstation in the next box of used books so far includes: Piloting, Seamanship and Small Boat Handling, 52nd Edition by Chapman, et al, The Broken Hearth: Reversing the Moral Collapse of the American Family, by William J. Bennett, Digging Up Bones: The excavation, treatment and study of human skeletal remains by D.R. Brothwell, Nine Lives: The Folklore of Cats, by Katharine M. Briggs, The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Revised Standard Version; Lady of the Lotus, a novel based on the wife of Buddha by William E. Barrett; Utopia, by Thomas More, translated by Clarence H. Miller, and Death of a Doxy, a Nero Wolfe mystery by Rex Stout.

It’s an interesting job, I’ll give it that.

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I am a bookseller by trade, and a Christian by profession, so how can I resist a post full of Christian bookselling humor?

hat tip: Half Pint House (where they are fans of the book)

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