Thursday, August 30, 2012

"Use All The Crayons!" still free, defying biz models

Compelling evidence that I should ignore those who say I should sell, rather than give away my little book, came roaring into my inbox yesterday.

“I enjoyed the crayon-signed copy of "Use All the Crayons!" you gave me. It gave me many LOL moments. Hilarious. Your outlook on life is refreshing. I'd like to purchase 24 copies to give to my employees. Can you direct me to the best option for doing that?”

I met this gentleman at a golf function about six weeks ago. I told him about my book and said I’d like for him to have a freebie copy. His business card said he’s a banker, which was risky of me because the book includes gratuitous banker bashing.

Understand, that day I also gave free copies to locker room attendants, a waitress and a caddie. I make no distinctions between peon and powerful.

I can’t help myself. The book is making people happy. People really love it. The reaction is causing me to reconsider my default position of self-deprecating humility. Think I’m kidding?

One of my early promotional lines was: “I can’t promise you’ll like this book, but I’m pretty sure it won’t make your head hurt.” Talk about your soft sell.

Now I’m thinking of including the line: “This book is guaranteed to make you happy.” That’s not me. It’s a quote from an review.

These days nothing makes me happier than sitting down with a stack of books and my box of 96 nubby crayons because I know what will happen next.

The recipient will feel a giddy little burst of euphoria because everyone loves getting something that sells for $15.95 for free. They’ll begin leafing through the pages and then they’ll start to laugh.

Then there’s this and it is key: They’ll tell friends about it. Or maybe they’ll buy two or three copies for gifts.

Free copies have led to purchases of 5, 10 and now 24 copies at once. I’m convinced I’ll soon hear from someone who wants to buy 100 copies.

How many sales will result from one man giving away 24 books he bought from me? 50? 100? More?

And, yes, the best way is to buy them directly from me. I’ll sell them to you at a $2 discount and every copy includes a cheery note and little smiley-faced crayon self-portraits.

I’ve had some friends who insist on buying it on-line, and I’m grateful. But a part of me is chagrined because those versions seem sterile compared to the ones I bestow with vibrant splashes of Mauvelous, Lazer Lemon and Atomic Tangerine.

The distributor told me two Japanese publishers are vying to publish it there, and they believe interest will spread after an international book fair in Frankfort in October.

Nationally, it’s the top seller of the Open Book Editions, the joint venture between Berrett-Koelher Publishers and Author Solutions, the self-publishing titan I paid to bring this book to life.

That sounds more grand than it is. Self-publishing is expensive and fraught with pitfalls. I still have steep hills to climb to make the book a mainstream success.

But things are happening on a near-weekly basis that rattle my knee-jerk pessimism.

Can you help? You betcha.

If I’ve given you copy, please be sure to tell friends. More than once. Fans in Oklahoma, Illinois and California have told me they’ve barnstormed local bookstores with enthusiastic arguments about why they should carry it. That’s great.

Or you could write an honest review on The marketing gurus tell me this really helps.

You could certainly buy another copy or two, or persuade a civic or philanthropic organization to have me in for a lively address. I’ve got lots of great stories and promise I won’t start drinking until I get there.

Or how about this?

Just get in touch and ask me for another free copy. You can give it to a friend or someone serving in the military.

Either way, it’s an exchange that I’m sure will enrich me in ways I never imagined.

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