Friday, October 3, 2014

On Promotion, and our Mad Giveaway Weekend.

Louis Shalako

In the interest of openness and glasnost, we thought we’d take the readers into our confidence a little bit, and maybe try and win the hearts and minds of the people in conjunction with our Mad Giveaway Weekend.


When I was seventeen, I got a full-time job at K-Mart as a stockman.

What that meant was that we unloaded semi trucks, put the boxes and bales on carts and lugged it either into the stockrooms for pricing by the three old girls that worked in there, or in the case of large items like a couch or a fridge, directly to the department.

In the case of Pharmacy, that was operated by a concessionaire, much like the portrait studio, also in many department stores, or like a Micky-D’s inside of a Wal-Mart. Yet all the deliveries came in the back door.

On arriving at work, M-5, the lady in charge of store security would let folks in, and we would proceed up the centre aisle in my own case.

The centre aisle was the focal point of the store. This was where the big, loss-leader promotions were held, and there would be in-department deals as well. The thing was to get the customers in the store on a Saturday morning, right?

They had $1.44 days and K-Days and all sorts of promotions. The center aisle led the customers deeper into the store, and as any smart shopper knows, by reading the flyers, you can hit a few stores and save a few bucks if you know where things are, if you know who has what on sale.

Promotions can be ongoing. In the case of a department store family portrait studio, a common giveaway is a gift certificate. This requires some cooperation from sales staff in other non-related departments, or the studio staff might take turns as ‘floaters’. They simply wander the store and hand out the gift certificates, which entitles the customer to a free portrait sitting. During the sitting, there are twelve or twenty or however many poses. When they come back to get their free ten wallet-sized and one eight-by-ten photos, the staff allows them to choose which ones they want…this is the chance to up-sell them into a larger package.

In terms of centre-aisle promotions, every department had something in there, although it might be a bit hard on the guy who managed the furniture department. It was tough for him to find something to put in the centre aisle for $1.44, and of course this is why they had K-Days. Everything might be 44 % off, or whatever. Then he could put out a skid of the cheapest plush Ottomans,* or some other loss leader.

There would be wash-cloths, tea-towels, paper goods, party goods, colouring books, cheap shirts, cheap jackets, cheap toys, windshield washer fluid. The Pharmacy folks might have baby formula at $1.44 per can—but only sold by the case at that price. The thing was to have something in there.

One way or another, each department, even the cafeteria, (pecan pie and a coffee, $1.44) might have some kind of product that fit into the store-wide promotion.

When I worked at the Hallmark Auto Centre, a concessionaire of the old Woolco, a big-box department store chain here in Canada a few decades back, we also had promotions.

Customers would read in the automotive section of the weekly store flyer that they could get a front brake-pad replacement for domestic cars for $39.99. They could get the lube, oil and filter special for $10.99 and of course that’s where I came in, as tire and lube guy. The boss would have some cheap and popular tire sizes in stock and as a technician, we could up-sell the customer, inspect his car, try and sell him some fluids. People like the technician, they like the service, they like the price. They keep coming back.

When you open up the mailbox, it seems every day there is a glossy pizza or burger promotion, fried chicken maybe, and of course there’s always a bottle of one sort of soda prominently displayed in the photos. That’s because a parent company owns a whole swath of junk food outlets.

Giveaways work very well in terms of ebooks. It’s the perfect product, in that once created, there are no (or very little) production costs to duplicate an unlimited number of units.

Some industry commentators have noted that giveaways don’t carry the clout they once did.

That may be true.

A few years ago, I set up The Handbag’s Tale for free on Smashwords. I read that having a free first novel or story draws readers into a series. (Provided it’s any good, of course) That book is presently marked at $0.99 but Heaven Is Too Far Away and The Shape-Shifters are yours for the taking. If you’ll scroll down to Product Details you’ll see that Amazon is price-matching somebody. Why they’re not marked $0.00 has always been a mystery and a bit of an irritation.

But if other people can get it for free, why not you? It’s worth a try.

I was shocked one day to open up my Amazon account and find that I had given away 1,400 copies of The Handbag’s Tale ebooks since the day before. That giveaway eventually led to about 7,800 free copies going out the door before I finally got them to stop. 

It sounds like a lot of your money going out the door, but that’s the wrong way to look at it.

Folks have given away tens of thousands of books in a weekend, but it proves what you can do. They also say the sales bump from a free giveaway isn’t what it used to be, but it is still a useful tool.

Giving product away is a time-honoured way of bringing in new business.

Much time has passed, and it is more difficult to give away such large numbers of books. Amazon won’t always price-match, and when they do it’s not always what you yourself had in mind…be that as it may, it is an opportunity to get more books into the hands of more readers and that’s what it’s all about.

If Shalako Publishing and Long Cool One Books can give away five hundred or a thousand books over our Mad Giveaway Weekend Promotion, that would be pretty good.

In general, we promote during March Ebook Week with Smashwords. We set up all titles for free every summer for at least a month or a month and a half. We have random free titles during the rest of the year, and it seems like a no-brainer to have an October promotion when the nights are getting longer and the days grow colder and people settle in for a long winter and maybe one or two good books.

Around Christmas, we’ll set up some more freebies.

Other than that, we’re always working on something new and just trying to have fun with it.

Mad Giveaways:


The Mysterious Case of Betty Blue (science-fiction) will go free at midnight Oct 3 and will be free all day Oct 4 through Kindle Select.

The Fae. A fantasy short story. Free from Smashwords.

Blessed Are the Humble. Mystery, OmniLit. Free, etc.


Falling In Love. Romance and erotica. Free until midnight October 4.

Project: Passion. Erotica. The first in an erotic novella trilogy. Sister Heather takes charge.


Moonshine. Romance and erotica from the man’s perspective. This one’s good until midnight.

Flatbed Ford. Literary fiction with elements of erotica. Free from OmniLit.


A Perfect Fit. Transexual Romance. A short story, free from OmniLit.

The Virgin and the Troll. Gay, erotica with BDSM elements. Free from Smashwords.


A Lesson for Us All. Western/mystery, short story. Free from Smashwords.

The Vatican Caper. Suspense/intrigue/romance. Nazis plot to kill the Pope. Free from Smashwords.

Other free titles available here and there, are simply too numerous to mention by title and store.


*the furniture, not the dynasty.

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