Archive for the ‘self-promotion’ Category

There’s an article in today’s New York Times about shopdropping, or reverse-shoplifting. It’s described as “surreptitiously putting things in stores, rather than illegally taking them out.” There’s a picture of a T-Shirt that features three revolutionaries ( Karl Marx, Mikhail Bakunin and Che Guevara) wearing Santa hats. The point being the commercialization of radical ideas, or something like that. Is this a point that needs to be made? T-shirts with the iconic image of Che Guevara have been around for a long time.

One sentence in the Times article caught my eye. “Self-published authors sneak their works into the ‘new releases’ section” of chain bookstores. As an aspiring writer, I can appreciate the desire to get one’s work out there, and have people read it. I am also aware of the value of having a book placed on the ‘new releases’ shelves or tables at Borders or Barnes & Noble. It’s my understanding that publishers pay handsome sums to have their products displayed in this prime real estate at the front of the stores. Having one’s book prominently displayed where it can get maximum eyeball time is certainly alluring.

I wonder, though, how effective it is to place it there yourself. The self-published book will not be in the computer system of the chain store. What happens when someone takes a copy up to the register and tries to purchase it? Even if it’s marked “Free,” will the employee simply let the person take it? It hardly seems likely. I would think that a manager would be involved at some point. Once it is determined that the book is not part of the store’s inventory, wouldn’t the manager refuse to let the customer take it? Wouldn’t they then make sure that any additional copies are removed from the shelf or table?

At that point, the customer, who was actually interested in your book is, at best, disappointed. At worst, they’re embarrassed or humiliated. What are the odds they will buy your book now? Plus, there’s a good chance they’ll be spreading the story to their friends and family, and perhaps even their blog. Is there really no such thing as bad publicity?

Plus, if the chain store keep a list of authors who try to drop their books in their store, will that harm an author’s chances of having a book placed there if they get published by a mainstream publishing house? Would a publisher / editor / agent have a bad opinion of someone who tried shopdropping their book?

I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I’d really like to find out. If anyone has personal experience of shopdropping their book, or of trying to buy a book that was dropped, I’d love to hear about it.

Competition is fierce in the publishing world. I’m not surprised to read about authors trying unconventional methods to get noticed. Seems to me that shopdropping is the wrong way to go about it.


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While I am still weighing the pros and cons of making my first novel freely available, I’ve found a tool that will help me if I decide to do so. Creative Commons has come up with a system that enables writers and other creative types to generate a custom license agreement and attach it to their work. If I were to give away my novel, for example, I could generate a license that allows people to freely download and read (obviously) the work but also to distribute it, so long as they follow certain restrictions. The license I’d choose would allow non-commercial distribution, so long as the work is not modified and is attributed to me. There’s even a way to embed the license information into the metadata of a PDF (provided you have a copy of Acrobat.) Handy.

Another thing that the Creative Commons people are doing is trying to dissuade people from using the US copyright to protect their work, because that extends to 70 years after the author’s death. (Thanks in part to the Disney company, which is deathly afraid of allowing Mickey Mouse to become public domain, even though most of their billions of dollars have been made off of public domain characters… but that’s a story for another time.) The Founders Copyright was created to provide an author with 14 years of copyright protection, with the option of a 14-year renewal. After that time, the work would become part of the public domain. Interesting concept.

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Giving It Away

The October/November issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction has a column about science fiction writers who are giving away their novels. I am intrigued by this because my general understanding has always been that in order to make a living as a writer, one must get paid for the fruits of one’s labor. I’ve understood for a while that musicians put songs up on their web sites and on myspace so they can create interest in their product and hopefully sell more albums and concert tickets. I even had a few of my short stories posted to my web site, back when I had a web site. It never occurred to me, though, that I should make my novel freely available.

Being an aspiring writer, giving away my novel might be a smart thing to do. Every copy that is downloaded and in someone’s hands is a step in the right direction. Every additional person who reads it increases the odds that an agent or editor will take note.

But is it really better to approach an agent and say that x-number of people have downloaded my novel, which is available for free on the internet? Would an agent be impressed, or would they wonder what they’re going to sell to a publisher if I’m giving the stuff away? I obviously need to do more research into this.

To be continued.

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