Monday, November 10, 2014

My First Time: Kelly Jones

My First Time is a regular feature in which writers talk about virgin experiences in their writing and publishing careers, ranging from their first rejection to the moment of holding their first published book in their hands.  Today’s guest is Kelly Jones, author of Evel Knievel Jumps the Snake River Canyon...and Other Stories Close to Home, a novella and short story collection published by Ninth Avenue Press.  Kelly grew up in Twin Falls, Idaho, and attended Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, graduating with a degree in English and an art minor.  She is also the author of three novels: The Woman Who Heard Color (2011), a story of family loyalty, banned art, and creative freedom; The Lost Madonna (2007), set in Florence, Italy; and The Seventh Unicorn (2005), inspired by The Lady and the Unicorn Tapestries in the Cluny Museum in Paris.  A fourth novel, Lost and Found in Prague will be released in 2015.  Kelly lives in Boise, Idaho with her husband.  Click here to visit her website.

My First Giveaway

After publishing three novels with Berkley/Penguin and selling a fourth for release in January 2015, I formed my own little company to publish a small book, a novella and short story collection, Evel Knievel Jumps the Snake River Canyon...And Other Stories Close to Home.  I knew this would be a completely different experience than publishing through a large internationally-recognized corporation.  I decided to do a promotional giveaway--get the book out there, hope someone will read it and spread the word.

The e-book offer involved little effort and no cost on my part.  The second part of the promotion involved real books (old-fashioned paper) offered through Goodreads.  I had to decide how many to give away and determine the reach of the promotion.  It would be the publisher’s (that’s me) responsibility to send the books out to the “winners.”

I started out thinking maybe five books.  The U.S. postal service has a media rate to send books and I figured I could do that with limited expense.  I would open the giveaway to U.S. residents only.  Then, for some reason, I decided to do a ten-book giveaway, and then, the more I thought about it, I realized I’ve sold books around the world with more than a dozen translations of my Berkley Books (The Seventh Unicorn, The Lost Madonna, and The Woman Who Heard Color), so why not extend my reach on this one, too?  I did a little research, checking online to learn about the experiences of other writers, and determined that maybe a couple of my ten books might go to overseas readers.  The book is written in English, no translations (yet), so I knew only English-language readers would enter.

With anticipation, I opened my email from Goodreads the day after the promo ended to see a list of my winners.  To say I was shocked is an understatement.  Out of the ten books, eight would go to foreign locations!

Several years ago, I’d sent a book to Romania and, as I recalled, the postage hadn’t been ridiculously high, so I went online to set my mind at ease.  Well, postal rates have certainly increased.  For a brief moment, I thought about not sending the books at all.

I packed up one book and headed to the post office to weigh the package, recheck my calculations, make sure it could go, nicely packed, to Israel, New Zealand (two books), Peru, Saudi Arabia, Denmark, the Philippines, and Great Britain.  I also wanted to pick up any required customs declarations.

I spent the better part of a day filling out forms, signing books, bubble wrapping, packing, addressing book-sized manila envelopes with addresses that contained such descriptions as Lower Hutt and Al-Amen Neighborhood.  I started to Google some of the places I’d never heard of, looking at photos, imagining the recipients of my little book, the title story set in my hometown of Twin Falls, Idaho, hoping they would all be delighted.  Then I envisioned one of my “winners” selling the book on the street!  As a fiction writer I make up stories, and admittedly my imagination sometimes takes over as if I’m not the one steering the ship.  I wanted to have some control over this, so I pictured a big-time Hollywood producer on an exotic vacation.  He strolls by the makeshift kiosk, stops and rummages through a stack of old, used, mostly obscure books.  But my little jewel, brand new and brightly colored, stands out.  He picks it up, reads the cover, opens it.  He’s intrigued.  So he buys it, takes it back to the hotel and stays up all night reading the stories.  He loves it!  He tracks me down through my website, emails and says we need to talk.  Within days, we have a movie deal.

Okay, back to reality, I carry my stack of carefully packed books to the post office and hold up the ever-growing line while the patient postal clerk enters all of the information into his computer and processes the customs forms.  I slide my debit card through the machine and barely flinch as I’ve now prepared myself for the cost of this free giveaway.

Then, exhausted, I head to McDonald’s for a cup of coffee.  When I arrive I see that coffee is free that week and, of course, I take this as a sign, a good omen.  Free books.  Free coffee.  I just want coffee, nothing to eat, so I ask at the speaker for the drive-thru window if I have to buy something.  Normally I would feel obligated, but when the girl says, “No,” I can hear the friendly smile in her voice.  I return her smile, reply, “Thank you,” and drive through, taking my free coffee.

Would I do this type of promotional giveaway again?  We’ll see how that movie deal works out.

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