Archive for the ‘Indie (independent) publishing’ Category

Happy Independents’ Day 2015!

July 4, 2015

Happy Independents’ Day 2015!

Yes, that’s spelled correctly. 😉

In the USA, the Fourth of July is Independence Day (celebrating the country’s founding), but without diminishing that, I thought I’d take at look at e-books published “independently”…what are commonly called “indies”.

Obviously, before we go further, we should have some sort of agreement about what we mean by an “independently published book”…for one thing, that will help me when I look in the Kindle store.

Clearly, books published by the “Big 5” don’t count. Those are the five largest trade publishers in the USA. Trade books are the ones you would have bought in a bookstore…not textbooks and the like.

The Big 5 are:

  • Penguin Random House
  • Simon & Schuster
  • Macmillan
  • HarperCollins
  • Hachette

and all of their various imprints.

However, I would also consider a number of other publishers to be not indies…for example, Scholastic, which has some very significant bestsellers (The Hunger Games and Harry Potter in the USA), but just doesn’t publish that many titles.

What about something like Inkshares, which published one of my sibling’s recent first novel, One Murder More (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)? It’s independent of the traditional distribution system, but they chose whether to publish the book or not…my sibling didn’t publish it on their own initiative  (which is how some people would define an indie…essentially, synonymous with the generally considered to be less attractive term, “self-published”.

I’m going to go with books from publishers I don’t recognize or that don’t show a publisher at all. 🙂

First, Amazon has their own

Kindle Indie Books from Kindle Direct Publishing (at AmazonSmile*)

storefront.

It’s quite full features, with its own categories, bestseller list, and so.

Here’s the first thing to notice. There are

2,104,774

titles listed there at time of writing.

There are

3,641,689

listed for the USA Kindle store altogether.

The indies are 58% of the titles…meaning that indies are now the mainstream. 😉

Next, I was curious about how they compare to tradpubs (traditionally published books) in terms of

USA Kindle Store bestsellers (at AmazonSmile*)

The top four books are the

Kindle First books (at AmazonSmile*)

That’s not a surprise: that’s clearly a very successful program for Amazon, where Amazon Prime members can buy one of a specific set of books before they are released.

While these books are not from the Big 5, I don’t consider the independents. This is Amazon doing  traditional publishing.

  1. Amazon imprint
  2. Amazon imprint
  3. Amazon imprint
  4. Amazon imprint
  5. Penguin Random House
  6. Penguin Random House
  7. Amazon imprint
  8. HarperCollins
  9. Simon & Schuster
  10. Amazon imprint

That’s interesting!

When I’ve looked at bestsellers before, I think indies have had  times when they’ve had more of an impact.

The highest book I can see that I would consider an indie for this purpose?

#16 The Absolute Best Dump Dinners Cookbook: 75 Amazingly Easy Recipes for Your Favorite Comfort Foods (at AmazonSmile*)

I’m sure that two years ago, there would have been indie novels higher than that!

I’ll analyze this more in depth, but I’ll put three hypotheses out there.

One, and I’m quite confident in this, is that the Amazon imprints have pushed indies out of the top slots.

Two is that this is a big time for a release of books by the tradpubs…summer is hot in more ways than one.

Three is that borrows through

Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

are seriously cannibalizing sales of books. That would be true for indies, and not for the Big 5 (the latter aren’t participating in KU…yet).

That’s definitely worth a deeper analysis…and trying to figure out how the new rules of “pay per page read” might be impacting the income of publishers in Amazon’s subser (subscription service…”all you can read” for a flat fee a month).

Enjoy your holiday!

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

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A bookstore just for indies

April 28, 2015

A bookstore just for indies

I’ve seen a lot of bookstores in my time.

From a mega-used-bookstore in San Francisco’s Tenderloin (Albatross) to tiny-hole-in-the-walls that specialize in just one genre to dinostore chainstores, I’ve spent a big chunk of my life in them.

Of course, I’ve got a bit of an advantage there: I managed a brick-and-mortar bookstore. 🙂

One thing I haven’t seen a lot in bookstores, though?

Independently published books.

Oh, I would have authors bring them to me in the bookstore and want us to carry them, but it just didn’t make sense.

One of the first things I would ask them was something like, “If I wanted one hundred more copies here tomorrow, could you do that?” The answer was universally “no”.

In a bookstore, you need that flexibility.

You are fighting three main things in a physical bookstore: rent; salaries; and “shrinkage” (shoplifting, employee theft, and damage).

If something is hot (maybe because the author appears on a local talk show) you need copies…now. Not a week from now, but right away.

Those indie (independently published) authors would sometimes want me to take a book on consignment.

That would mean that I wouldn’t pay anything for it unless it sold.

That seemed to think that would mean that I couldn’t lose anything by having their book on my shelf.

Well, I would.

I still had to pay for the rent. If that book didn’t sell for a week, I paid the rent for that space for nothing.

I still had to pay for salaries. My employees had to shelve the book, merchandise it (make it look neat…people don’t always put books back carefully), dust them, sell them, handle returns…the combination would of the last two would be particularly costly (and not just in money…if a customer really didn’t like the book, it could hurt our relationship).

There was still the risk of shoplifting (shockingly common in bookstores, at least in those days) and damage.

They also didn’t get that the traditional publishers generally guaranteed me I could sell the book. If I didn’t sell it, I could return it for credit. That’s not how consignment functions, but it can be pretty equivalent in terms of risk.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t want to carry indies…it just didn’t make economic sense.

That’s why I’m impressed with the idea reported in this

Publishers Weekly story by Judith Rosen

It’s about the

Gulf Coast Bookstore

which has a different business model.

What happens is that authors “rent a shelf” for three months for $60 (plus a $15 set up fee).

The authors get 100% of the sale price of the book.

It’s sort of like…having a “chair” in a beauty salon. 🙂

I think it’s a cool idea, and it’s a bookstore I would like to visit.

I’m guessing that the owners have figured out their “nut”, what they have to make to make a profit.

Since they are fully booked at this point, I’m guessing they are doing okay. 🙂

For that to continue, though, they’ll need to keep the shelves rented…and that’s going to depend on the success of the indies.

It’s a reasonable price point…but the authors/publishers also have to do the restocking. I’m assuming for most authors/publishers they’ll have someone else (maybe a relative) do that…you can’t do the “hustling” as an indie author if you have to go to the store every day to “face” the books (turn the covers so they face the customers, when there is room).

There’s more to the article, which shows that the owners have thought about this, and how to keep the store interesting. I recommend you read it.

I have to say, though, I don’t think I would enjoy managing a store like this.

I liked curating the collection. I liked recommending specific books to people. I liked the excitement of juggling what was on the shelves…moving something over here, putting this with that, see that constant shuffle of titles, and watching some rise to the top.

Still, I can see a market for shelf-rental locations like this.

One thing I didn’t like?

I couldn’t see a way to buy the books online from the store.

I get that it changes the nature of the relationship a bit to do that, but I don’t see a reason why that couldn’t have a more traditional set up with the bookstore getting a cut of each book sold. You could still make it that the publisher has to fulfill the orders…the bookstore would just provide a link to the books, and get…well, it would be an advertising fee, really.

Seems like that might be an additional factor which would make it more dynamic.

Bonus deal: three Fire tablets on sale

Amazon’s having a limited time sale right now on three Fire tablets:

I’ve seen people describe this as a Mothers’ Day sale…although buying the kids’ edition for your Mom seems…atypical. 😉

These are good prices. The Fire 7 is the larger of the current models, and has a front camera and a rear camera (which mine doesn’t). However, mine does have Mayday (the almost instant onscreen tech help), and the Fire 7 doesn’t. That could be an important feature if your mother isn’t comfortable with technology. Many Moms are, of course, but some aren’t.

The Kids’ edition might be a good gift as we are going into the summer. It’s ruggedized…if you are going on a trip, that might be important. It could also make a great graduation gift…not from high school, but younger. 🙂

I don’t know how long these prices will last, but enjoy!

What do you think? Would you go to a bookstore just of indies? Do you think those will succeed? If you are an author and/or publisher, would you want to try that? Do you see a franchise opportunity here? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Higher rated: indies or traditionally published?

April 8, 2015

Higher rated: indies or traditionally published?

One of the arguments you hear in favor of buying traditionally published (tradpubbed) books over indies (independently published) books is that there is a lot more quality control in the former.

After all, there are important judgments made before a tradpubbed book is in readers’ hands:

  • The author needs to find an agent. The agent makes decisions based on the quality of the book, and the likelihood that it will be purchased by a publisher. This agent (and there have been famous ones) can’t “fool” the publisher, or the companies simply won’t buy from that agent again
  • An editor then has to buy the book for a publisher. That statement simplifies what can be a complex process. There may be “readers” at an initial level (they may even read books not submitted through agents, but it’s uncommon that those would be published). It may go through more than one level of editor. The editor likely needs to take it to an editorial board, where there is a lot more discussion
  • The editor also works with the author to improve the book. That can sometimes result in significant changes (supposedly, To Kill a Mockingbird was originally written from the viewpoint of an adult Scout, for example)
  • Nowadays, there may be beta readers and focus groups

An indie book may simply be published by the author, with no prior editorial review of any kind.

Based on that, many consumers reason that they are more likely to enjoy a book from a traditional publisher than from an indie.

Is that really the result, though?

I could see arguments why it might go either way. Perhaps the tradpub has  saleability as a higher standard than literary quality. Maybe the indie actually does go through a thorough process of review…just not from a publishing company.

I don’t like to just guess (although that can be fun). I thought I’d take a look at the star ratings in the Kindle store for indies and for tradpubs, and see how they compare.

Defining an “indie” can be a bit tricky at times. We can figure that books from the Big 5 (the five largest USA trade publishers…trade books are the books you would have bought in a bookstore…not textbooks and such) are not indies. I would extend that same classification to books from next tier publishers, like Scholastic (American publisher of Harry Potter).

If Amazon publishes a book under one of its imprints (Thomas & Mercer, 47North, and so on), I would also not consider that an indie.

It really would have to do with how the book was selected for publication…and that’s not always obvious. Fortunately, Amazon gives us a separate bestseller list for what it defines as indies.

Best Sellers in Kindle Indie Books (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

For this analysis, I’m going to accept their classification.

Let’s start out with comparing the ten bestselling books on the indie list with the ten bestselling books on the Kindle stores general list. I’m going to start out without weeding out any indies on the general list:

The Indies

Rank Stars Reviews
1 4.1 557
2 4.4 6194
3 4.4 394
4 4.8 463
5 4.7 222
6 4.6 341
7 3.9 950
8 4.7 268
9 4.6 441
10 4.8 33
Avg 4.5 986.3

General list

Rank Stars Reviews
1 4.1 11586
2 4.4 30
3 4.4 38
4 4.5 85
5 3.9 50
6 4.8 136
7 4.2 525
8 4.0 564
9 4.6 441
10 3.7 9
Avg 4.26 1346.4

The indies are quite a bit higher rated…nearly a quarter of a star on a five star range is a lot.

There is one book on the general list which has an anomalously high number of reviews…you might be wondering why so many of the general list have such a low number of reviews.

It’s because four of the top ones are part of the Kindle First program…they are available to get for free for eligible Prime members (one of the four for free this month), and otherwise discounted before publication on May 1st. Those are tradpubbed, but by Amazon.

I want to also look at this as a comparison between indies and the Big 5.

Here are the top ten sellers (paid…free is a different list) in the USA Kindle store from the Big 5 (Hachette, HarperCollins, Penguin Random, Macmillan, and Simon & Schuster):

Big 5

Rank Stars Reviews Publisher
1 4.1 11586 PRH
7 4.2 525 PRH
8 4.0 564 HC
10 3.8 10 HC
11 4.6 6790 Hachette
12 4.5 11700 PRH
14 4.8 3065 Macmillan
17 4.6 10392 S&S
18 4.5 263 Hachette
21 4.5 478 PRH
Avg 4.36 4537.3

The indies are still considerably above the Big 5 titles in terms of stars…but the average number of reviews for the Big 5 absolutely dominate.

It’s important to not here that I am only looking at the bestsellers. It’s quite possible that the best indies are comparable to the best tradpubs…but that there are more “lemons” amongst the indies. In fact, I would expect that to be the case, intuitively…but that’s a bit harder for me to test.

One more comparison…price:

Indies General Big 5
3.99 6.99 6.99
1.59 4.99 10.99
0.99 4.99 1.99
3.99 4.99 14.44
3.99 4.99 5.39
3.99 3.99 1.99
3.99 10.99 12.99
3.99 1.99 12.99
2.51 4.99 9.99
6.99 14.44 10.99
$3.60 $6.34 $8.88

If, and this is a big if, we can say that the average star rating is a predictor of how much you will be satisfied with the book, you get “better books” from indies for less than half the price of Big 5 books.

That’s definitely an interesting finding…

Now, you may not find that your tastes parallel the number of stars. I’m sure I like some books which don’t have great ratings. I will say, though, that if a book has a significant number of reviews and a high star rating, I find that I don’t think it’s poorly written, even if it isn’t particularly my cup of tea.

One thing to remember: Amazon has a generous seven day return policy for books you purchase from the Kindle store. You can “return” a book for a refund within seven days of purchase by going to

http://www.amazon/com/manageyourkindle

There are many people in the Amazon Kindle forums who think it is inappropriate to return a book just because you didn’t like it, but Amazon doesn’t say that themselves. It appears to be that if you return “too many” (whatever that may be), they may take away the option for you to return it yourself by using the MYK page, but you can still contact them and return it.

While that policy is a great reason to shop from Amazon, I think it’s safe to say that most people would rather read a book they enjoy than return one.

Perhaps, instead of looking at the “People Magazine books”, more people should be looking at the bestselling indies…

What do you think? Do you feel like you are more at risk when you buy an indie of getting one you don’t like? Would you be more likely to gift a tradpub you hadn’t read than an indie you hadn’t read? Do you think tradpubs tend to be more in the middle…not the best books, not the worst? Do you use the star ratings as any kind of guide in purchasing? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Round up #265: Signs of the tomes, WorldReader.org

August 23, 2014

Round up #265: Signs of the tomes, WorldReader.org

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

CNN writes about WorldReader.org

I’ve been writing about

WorldReader.org

for years, and I was happy to see them recently get a nice story on CNN:

CNN article by Katie Linendoll

WorldReader is a non-profit (you can donate at the above link) which gets Kindles and e-books to children in difficult circumstances (this article focuses on Africa). They also can help them with electricity and satellite internet.

There are great pictures heading the article, and a good perspective on why this is so important.

First, let me say: reading matters. It helps to read about people who are like you (they do make a real effort in that direction) and people who aren’t. It broadens your horizons, and gives you mental tools which can help you succeed.

So, why not give kids in remote villages paperbooks?

The biggest thing is getting them there. We have friends who say they will never help us move again, because of all the p-books (paperbooks) I own. My books would hardly be enough to keep a school going very long, even though I have something like ten thousand. Most of my books are mass market paperbacks, which are relatively small and easy to transport. It would be a very different story with ten thousand hardbacks.

Another thing is that p-books simply don’t last that long, especially in very humid climates. Most people really degrade p-books when they read them: it’s typically a snap to be able to tell if a copy of a p-book has been read before: the spine will show it, and the pages may have wrinkles and folds.

An e-book isn’t decayed when read.

I found the article heartwarming, and strongly recommend it.

Author backs Amazon: claims it is the best hope for publishing

There have been so many takes on what I call the “Hachazon War”, the dispute between Amazon (a bookseller) and Hachette (a publisher). It’s much more than that, of course…this is really a battle over the future of publishing.

Oh, the future won’t be decided just here…these things go back and forth.

I think it’s important to realize that this isn’t just a price negotiation…there are some basic questions at stake.

It comes down to this: is the current model of traditional publishing the way things will go in the future?

Steve Cohen in the Wall Street Journal

argues that it isn’t…and that the current model is unsustainable.

Cohen says, “I think Amazon is far more likely to come up with innovations that may save book publishing, which is in desperate need of being saved.”

I think we’ve seen a pretty clear split: authors who have been succeeding in the status quo want to maintain it. Authors who have not are interested in change.

In both cases, that might be short-sighted. An indie might eventually get picked up by a tradpub (traditional publisher) and benefit from the current model. The current model could fail, leaving authors who depended on it stranded.

Ideally, author would know how to make it both systems, and there are those “hybrids” who currently both indie publish and are tradpubbed.

The article has some interesting stats, and is worth reading.

“Help me, Jeff-Bezos Kenobi…you’re my only hope.” 😉

Buzzfeed: 13 Clever Signs that Will Make You Want to Buy a Book

This

Buzzfeed article by Aaron Calvin (no relation, as far as I know

reproduces bookstore “signage”…and those can be quite clever.

You should go to see the pictures…I love the one that explains why every book is actually…well, let’s just say science fiction technology, and let you discover why. 😉

The Book-Lovers’ Anthology from 1911

The always reliable EBOOK FRIENDLY

has this

article by Piotr Kowalczyk

about a book which is in the public domain from 1911 about the love of books. They link to sources there.

Sex sells…but not always enough

There is mythology out there that the one absolutely sure business is selling sex, but it just doesn’t work that way.

I’ve listed freebies in the past in this blog from the publisher Ellora’s Cave, which specializes in…um…let’s go with erotic romance.

Well, they’ve recently had to lay some people off (and I am not going to comment on that phrase in this context) ;), due to a big drop in sales…that is only happening at Amazon.

They don’t know why.

It’s interesting to speculate. Amazon does get pressure to not carry erotica, or to make it not appear in search results.

Is it possible the e-tailer has done something which reduces the visibility and discoverablity of Ellora’s Cave, therefore reducing the sales?

Perhaps…but that’s pure speculation.

It could also be that there is increased competition from indies (independent publishers). I took a look, and the books do not appear to be in Kindle Unlimited or the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.

That’s an interesting question (even though KU has only been around a month and isn’t likely to have had this sort of impact on this company yet).

Could it be that small tradpubs are going to be most hurt by new models?

The larger tradpubs are often part of media conglomerates, and simply have more reserves (including the brand name authors). They may be able to batten down the hatches and get through some changes.

Indies clearly benefit from new models, like KU. Many publisher will make more money when there are books are borrowed than they would if they were sold.

The smaller tradpubs, which at first benefited from the more open distribution of e-books, may find that if they are not super discoverable, people who are willing to with a non-tradpub will simply take the ones they find, rather than digging around.

That would be an important turn of events, and perhaps an unfortunate one.

Authors might end up with two choices: go with a huge tradpub, or go it on your own.

Going it “on your own” doesn’t mean that you don’t have an editor and other resources…it does mean you might have to pay for them yourself.

We’ll have to see what happens going forward.

What do you think? Is Amazon the best hope for authors…let’s say ten years from now? Are smaller tradpubs especially at risk? What’s the best bookstore sign you ever saw? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Round up #246: Amazon AFD, $5 extra at AmazonSmile

March 27, 2014

Round up #246: Amazon AFD, $5 extra at AmazonSmile

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

Extra $5 donation from AmazonSmile if you buy by 3/31

Wow!

This is a lot extra!

Normally, when you buy any eligible item at AmazonSmile, your chosen non-profit gets half of one percent of the purchase price.

Spend $100, and they get fifty cents.

With this bonus, it’s the equivalent of you spending $1000!

Here are the details:

  • One donation per customer.
  • Limited time offer. You must complete a purchase at smile.amazon.com including one or more items eligible for an AmazonSmile donation between 12:00 a.m. (PT) March 24, 2014 and 11:59 p.m. (PT) March 31, 2014. In addition, this promotion will expire after aggregate donations have reached $1 million.
  • The $5 donation will be made through the AmazonSmile program at smile.amazon.com under the same terms and at the same time as other donations made through the program, and will be in addition to the 0.5% donation made on the purchase price of your eligible item(s).
  • Offer valid for customers located and with billing addresses in the United States.
  • Offer may not be combined with other offers.
  • Amazon reserves the right to modify or cancel the offer at any time.
  • Offer is non-transferable and may not be resold.
  • If any of the products related to this promotion are returned, the donation will not be made.
  • If you violate any of the Terms and Conditions, the promotion will be invalid.
  • Void where prohibited.

Note that they will stop when they hit $1,000,000…so you’d better get shopping! 🙂

I already bought something, so my chosen non-profit has benefited.

For more information on AmazonSmile (including how to get your qualified non-profit into the program), see:

Smile.Amazon: support your favorite charity by shopping

Don’t Give Them Your Money Back

I suggested that some indies might want to promote using your overcharges from tradpubs (traditional publishers) settlement money to buy indie books…so you aren’t giving the money right back to the people who took too much in the first place. 🙂

Well, I did write about it here:

E-book settlements are here: “Don’t give them your money back”

and based on the comments, it seems to be getting some traction…Facebook, Twitter, that kind of thing. 🙂

You might be asking yourself, how can I find indie books to buy, if I want to do this?

Well, Amazon does have a storefront for

Kindle indie books (at AmazonSmile)

You can probably find something…they have gotten better at discovery on that page. They have top-rated, bestselling, new, and featured books, for one thing.

If you’d rather go with a well-known book, but still want to avoid the publishers that overcharged, you could get books published by Amazon. Amazon wasn’t (and wouldn’t have been) part of raising those prices.

For example, there are the

Thomas & Mercer (at AmazonSmile)

Those are mystery and suspense and include the original James Bond books by Ian Fleming and the 87th Precinct books by Ed McBain.

Books traditionally published by Amazon like that are often relatively inexpensive, and typically have the special features from Amazon (text-to-speech, lending, and so on).

I can tell you: the publishers who agreed to settle after being charged with overcharging (basically) would not be happy if you spent that money with Amazon! 😉

The next holiday is the Fourth of July…April Fool!

My first retail job (I eventually managed a brick-and-mortar bookstore, among other things) was in a “joke shop” called The House of Humor.

I was really there as a make-up expert at Halloween. I did special effects type make-up in the theatre, so I could serve as an advisor to people (and a retail clerk).

Things would get crazy when I worked there at Halloween! We literally might have a line of 300 people waiting to get into the store.

They would come in ten at a time…and get five minutes to shop!

During that time, I would help them pick latex masks, costumes, and make-up…and we’d get them rung up and out right afterwards (they got five minutes, but they were in the store longer than that).

What fun that was!

One interesting thing that most people didn’t realize is that we had to order the “good” Halloween masks…in March. It takes a very long time for them to create the Don Post quality masks.

That’s why we’d always be out of something hot…

A few examples:

  • Darth Vader (almost nobody thought Star Wars was going to be a big success before it was released)
  • Miss Piggy
  • Coneheads

On the last one, it was actually possible to make something, if you were crafty enough, with liquid latex and a plastic football.

We were also happy that Howard the Duck (at AmazonSmile) could be sold as, you know, a duck. 😉 That one did look good on paper in March, having George Lucas, Lea Thompson (hot from back to the future), and Thomas Dolby involved (and based on a Marvel comic…although that wasn’t as big a selling point back then as it is now).

I also remember one “oh oh” for somebody. This poor businessperson came into the store, with an “only slightly” faded red clown nose (drawn on with greasepaint), red cheeks, and red lips. You see, the person had taken greasepaint and drawn directly on their skin…not a good idea with red, especially (red stains the most). That person had a big presentation to do…and all I could really suggest was cover-up at that point.

We also sold all sorts of gags, including things like spaghetti forks (with a crank) (at AmazonSmile) and X-ray Spex (at AmazonSmile).

Well, if you want to get those sorts of things (or books about practical jokes), this year you can go to

Amazon’s April Fool’s Day store (at AmazonSmile)

It’s an interesting collection, including things like we sold, but also clothing, books, and gift cards for comedy clubs.

What do you think? Are you doing anything special with the money you got from the settlement? One of my readers got almost $100 back…how did you do? Do you have a great makeup/mask/costume story? Are you part of an organization that’s been helped by AmazonSmile? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

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Nominate a child to be given a free Kindle at Give a Kid a Kindle.

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* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


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