Arisa WhiteArisa White, the widely-published Bay Area poet, Cave Canem fellow, and board member of Flying Object, has decided to self-publish her most recent collection dear Gerald in both print and eBook editions, give away a bunch of copies for free, AND solicit responses from readers that she'll use as source material for another book project.

Why? Well, I asked her.

An interview with Arisa White about the process of self-publishing her latest poetry collection

I know it's unfair to ask you to summarize a book, but if you could, what's the soundbite about dear Gerald?

dear Gerald is a collection of epistolary poems, addressed to my estranged father. There are 35 poems in the collection, if you count the two typographical poems. I started on this project a few years ago when my mother asked me if I wanted to write to my father, who was deported to Guyana for involvement in a criminal case. Last time I remember seeing him, I was three years old, living in Brooklyn, NY. The work tries to make sense of his absence, and all the ways absence shows itself in my life—how absence begets absence, and what does this mean for the quality of our relationships with self and other.

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Free book giveaway helps create a nation of readers

When is FREE the right price?

Last week at the end of an Apple product launch event, the band U2 came on stage and played a song. They then surprised the world by announcing that every single iTunes customer (500 million people) already had a copy of the band's new album in their purchase history, downloadable for free.

The music media went crazy covering the story, but what I found most interesting was that U2's other albums all got a giant sales bump because of this giveaway. By flooding the market with a new product, they created new demand for their older catalog items too.

This music news reminded me of a story I read in The Atlantic about how American publishers gave away almost 123 million books to soldiers during WWII. Not just pulp fiction and comics — which is what many people assumed the troops would want — but also 'serious' contemporary literature, histories, classics, and more. It was both an act of patriotism (giving the GIs books to take their minds off the horrors of war, remind them of home, etc.), and a risky, self-serving maneuver that might potentially create future demand for softcover books.

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How to Run a Goodreads Giveaway

How to run an effective Goodreads giveaway

Many authors claim that when it comes to social media, staying active on Goodreads is even more important than maintaining a presence on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. Why is Goodreads so important? Because that's where avid readers are hanging out already, discussing books, leaving reviews, and making reading recommendations.

One of the best ways to encourage advance reviews for your newest book, build a buzz, and turn those avid readers into fans of your own writing is to host a Goodreads giveaway.

The Goodreads giveaway process is pretty simple:

1) you decide how many books you want to give away (they must be physical books, no eBooks)

2) set a duration for how long the giveaway should run

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Pay me later, but only if you want!

Kristopher Young doesn't want you to pay him for his writing or the writing of authors published by Another Sky Press, the press he founded a few years back (which has since released more than a dozen books) — at least not until you're certain those books are worth your time and money.

Another Sky offers free digital versions of all the books in their catalog. They also price trade-paperbacks at cost. If you like what you read you can make a contribution to the author after-the-fact. As Kristopher says, it's like a museum where you pay an optional admission fee at the exit door — value being based on your own assessment of the experience.

I was intrigued by this pro-artist, pro-audience system (which Kristopher calls "neo-patronage") and wanted to learn more.

In the interview below, Kristopher Young and I talk about Another Sky Press' unique publishing model and how it benefits readers AND authors.

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The other day, a commenter on this blog asked me why they would want to make their eBook available to book-lending and community book review sites for free.

I can't speak to that particular author's sales, but the answer is usually simple: because you're relatively unknown, and that means few people are actually buying your book!

Without the marketing muscle of a big publisher behind you (who, by the way, give tons of books away for free), you've got to generate buzz outside the traditional channels.

Yes, you should still aim for the same targets (reviews from respected book critics, TV media coverage, etc.), but you should also be realistic; some of those avenues will be closed to you, and that means you're going to have to attract attention in other ways. As a DIY publisher and author, your book promotion methods are usually more person-to-person, more grassroots.

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