Confessions of a Naked, Shoplifting Hitchhiker and Other Posts

'hitchhiker' photo © 2009, Bradley Gordon - license:

Since I was raised a good Catholic boy, I exercised all the tenets of the faith, including regular confession. Since I’ve skipped a distance from my altar-boy days, I’ve not experienced the pleasures (?) of the confessional in many years. Fear not! These are times of public exposure of the most sordid sorts—entire television networks are built on shows displaying the curdlings of our bestial natures.

In that vein, I’ve put a few posts on the wonderful medium of Medium, one of the more intriguing of the long-form essay sites that have gained solid web readership, even in our time of the sound-bite post. And lucky for you, each one is about salacious events in my past, so that you can use them as a moral lesson for your children or your cats.

First up, though, a different confession: my account of my extended, laborious attempt to promote my collection of short stories using every book-promotion tool at my disposal, until I felt like disposing of them all.

The Book-Promotion Balloon, Where’s the Helium?

Promoting your book without appearing to be a self-obsessed asshat sleazeball, housed at the wonderfully writerly home of WriterUnboxed.

Five-Finger Discounter, Emeritus

I might need two priests to confess this one: my glory-days as a high-school shoplifter, where my first taste of entrepreneurship came to the fore (handcuffs optional).

The Witching Hour

More just-post-high school fun: the imperative lesson here is not to approach your landlords after you’ve been drinking (and happen to be naked).

Playing with Matches

A tale from my hitchhiking days, detailing when your ride goes south—and you’re not even moving. Oh, and the highway was set on fire too.

Anyone interested in a much longer version of hitchhiking madness can read my coming-of-age novel, All Roads Are Circles, where I make the characters undergo even more terrible things than I underwent in these escapades above. Authors, cruel lot all.

PS I have calmed down a bit since high school, and I’m my own landlord, so I can confront myself naked when I please.

Anatomy of a Failed Book Promotion

Top 100 Free Merged

Stand Aside, Literary Poseurs!

I suppose I can forgive Hugo and Dickens for being ahead of me, because they are dead, after all. But man, did I stick it to that Bronte gal! (And her sisters aren’t even here to defend her.) I’m referring to that bit of pictorial whimsy above, where I got to sit at the reading table (even if I had to use a high chair) with a pantheon of literary greats. The whimsy is that this is one of those deceptive snapshots in time, where if the photo is taken at just the right moment, a sedentary couch surfer might be seen to be leaping onto a moving stallion. In the case of my recent Amazon book promotion, my stallion never really left the stall.

The reason my novel, All Roads Are Circles, is seen rubbing shoulders with these writing elect is because of my recent promotion through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing’s (KDP) Select program. I won’t go into deep details about how the Select program works, but here is a pointed post from Jane Friedman (excellent comments too) about the premise behind the program. One of the questions that’s examined is that because of the proliferation of free books, is KDP of much use to authors today?

One of the basics of the program for your enrolled ebook is that you give Amazon exclusive rights to sell your book for 90 days, and in that time you can designate 5 days of free downloads for the book. One of the alleged spurs behind this largesse is that it circulates an author’s work to a wider audience, some percentage of which might be induced to write a positive review, and thus boost actual sales.

Promotion a Go-Go Goes No-Go

I took my first novel, published a couple of years ago, off of Smashwords and B&N to put it in Select. My hope in using the program wasn’t to later sell copies of that novel, but indeed to induce some positive reviews, in the hopes that might promote the sale of my newer, small-press published short story collection. People who have used the program successfully have noted that it’s often helpful in the selling of other works; you will see many authors sell a novel for .99 as a loss leader, while their other works are priced much higher.

I was quite successful in my recent promotion in NOT selling copies of the promoted novel (I’m apparently quite good at that), but not very successful in getting reviews, and not successful in getting new sales of the short story book. Broken down, my recent 5 days of free KDP promotion—which ended on April 24—garnered 3,288 downloads. I had registered it for free on a number of free ebook downloads sites, and on some Goodreads and Amazon free promo forums. You will see in current online discussions of KDP Select that Amazon is no longer giving these sites that advertise free downloads as much latitude and support as they had in the past.

That Stallion Really Was Lame

It’s been almost a month since the promo ended. In that time, there were 0 post-Select sales of the novel. There was probably one sale of the short story book, maybe two. I did get one review of the free novel: it’s titled “Lame,” and its one-star designation says nothing happens in the book except some x-rated language. Wow, I’m going to have to go back and read my own book. I’m almost sure something happens, but I didn’t realize there was so much shitty language.

Granted, literary fiction isn’t a big seller (particularly short-story books), and Oprah and I never dated, so I don’t have that cachet, but them results is slim pickin’s. Other writers report much different results. Author Joe Konrath, who writes extensively about traditional publishing and all the variants of self-publishing, spells out his own profitable experiences with KDP Select; he has an extensive publishing history, which served him well in his promotion.

However, if anyone does need advice on how not to sell books, I am apparently an expert. I’m not sure how well that Dickens guy did on his actual sales after his promo, but as you know, he has a lot of ghosts working for him on his behalf. I’m thinking of engaging the Ghost of Christmas Future to work on my next book promo …