Reflections on Win a Book


I’m trying really hard not to start this post off by saying, “If you follow Win a Book or if you follow me on my Facebook fan page…” but it’s hard.

That’s because the news broke on those two outlets before I could make the time to talk about it here. That’s just how life has been of late. I’m working on correcting that. I am.

Want proof? Go check out the news that broke over at Win a Book and/or the West of Mars Fans page on Facebook.

Don’t feel like clicking? Then I’ll come out and say it. I closed down Win a Book.

It was and it wasn’t an easy decision. The time involved was starting to seriously chafe, as were the e-mails I’d get asking what we did (hello? Check the FAQ page, maybe?) and other things that proved people weren’t really visiting before sending in their links. It made me feel cheap. It took away from the original intent of the site.

The intent went like this: I had some friends who were discovering that giving books away was a great way to build their audience. They were listing their gives at certain sites that posted links to all sorts of gives. I liked hearing about what books people were talking about, but I didn’t like wading through all the gives for diaper bags and board books and other goodies targeted to the Mommy Blogger set. I’m a writer, after all, and a book lover. I wanted books, not items from a stage of my life that’s passed.

That was the idea behind Win a Book. Simple, huh? Since no one else was posting links to book gives, I would. Hopefully I’d gather a team up and we’d be off and running together. We’d be a one-stop shop for gives — and interviews and guest blog posts penned by authors. After all, I have picked up someone’s book because I read an interview or guest blog they wrote. I’ve made friends that way, and I’ve found some auto-buy authors.

At first, it was great fun. I had awesome people helping. It was a party. It was MY party, and people told me they liked the style with which I hosted. I heard from authors about how their sales would spike after I’d do a post for them. I was doing what I’d wanted to do: be a difference. Because part of my mission was to help the authors who had 90 days only for their book to make or break itself. I was tired of hearing stories of authors who’d lost their book deals due to the dreaded bad sales label.

Of course, reality can never match the ideal dream, and while Win a Book took off, I also began to see a downside to it. Not merely the time involved — I called it my labor of love for a reason, after all — but I began to see a real divide. Books that were promoted by the publisher rarely included involvement from the author. And books promoted directly by the author were the exact opposite — you’d see a real Internet savvy among this set.

To be honest, they were my favorite group to work with. They were hungry. They knew how to connect with their readers.

The book bloggers were right up the awesome scale, too. Some became true friends, women I’ve leaned on and been inspired by. Women I look to for book recommendations. But they all, without fail, are on the front lines of publishing, helping get the word out about all different sorts of books. Good books, bad books, books that rhyme with fun. They’re doing it.

I didn’t work directly with publishers, although I’d sometimes get an e-mail from a publicist, asking if I’d host a give on Win a Book. I’d have to explain that no, the site didn’t do that, but I’d be glad to post links to other contests they were involved with. Again, a time drain, but again, a worthwhile one.

That brings us to my least favorite things, and the things that really rankled. It was posting links for gives of books by James Patterson and JK Rowling. You know: books that were already best-sellers. Remember, part of my motivation here was to help the little guy, not the multi-millionaire authors. I did — and still do — believe that if the publishers put more promotion money into the little guy, there would be more best-sellers. I’ve seen it work, seen the power of the very awesome book bloggers. These men and women have clout, folks. Don’t disregard them.

(and, like I said, many of them are some of the most upstanding people you’ll ever meet.)

So… the lessons here:
1. Sometimes, you can’t heal the world. Or the publishing business.
2. You can’t control what people send you, in terms of links to post. Their agenda ain’t the same as yours.
3. There are some of the most totally awesome people out there who love books.
4. And sometimes, moving on is sad, but the road ahead is darn bright and exciting.

For any of you who have migrated over here from Win a Book, welcome. For you who’ve been here a long time, I’m going to do my best to devote more time here, including fiction (it’s been almost 2 months!). I miss Win a Book, but… time to move on.

At least I don’t have to help promote best-selling authors anymore. Not if it means ignoring the little one, the one who’s tomorrow’s best-seller.

Like me.


1 Comment

  1. Jaime

    September 11, 2011 12:18 am

    I hate to think that my dropping off the face of the planet with WaB was part of its downfall, but I see now that this was probably going to happen eventually anyway. I’m just sorry I didn’t make more time to help relieve the burden from you while it was happening.

    I’m glad to see that you’re taking stock of what’s really important to you. Namely, writing.

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