Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Operation eBook Drop: Indie Authors at their Best



Every now and then, something catches me by surprise. That’s how it was when I was promoting a free book on an Amazon Discussion thread on the first Saturday in September. I was reading the thread and following the posts of a soldier in Iraq who was helping another poster through the perils of downloading eBooks through a router to their Kindle. He knew how, because he couldn’t get books through whispernet, Amazon.com’s wifi kindle delivery system. On impulse, I entered the fray and offered this soldier (Joe Terry) all thirteen of my published works for free, if he wanted them. Just email me. He did and I learned just how important reading is to our troops. I should have known, as I’m an Army veteran (1966-67). I recall the lonely hours away from home and overseas (I was stationed in Germany). What a Kindle or any reading device could have done for me then, I couldn’t begin to tell you.

Operation eBook Drop started serendipitously from that simple gift. The troop told me that there was a need and I created a separate Amazon thread to ask if any other deployed troops had Kindles and wanted my books. There were a few nibbles. I then I created a quick survey of Indie authors that hung out at Kindleboards.com, the web’s most devoted Kindle readers discussion site. The survey was positive, but soon I had twenty authors wanting to donate their books — then thirty — then . . . well, the word went out like lightning across the Internet. Within a week I had an email from Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords.com. Smashwords is a premier on-line eBook distributor, converting Indie books into various eBook formats. Smashwords is also global. Mark Coker decided to back the project, opening up his author network to opt-in if they wanted. This also facilitated the delivery of eBooks, because the actual file would not be sent, but a link to the page on Smashwords and a 100%-Off Discount code. The long of the short of it, after a month we had over 60 authors participating and the troops were lining up also.

Operation eBook Drop is an unstructured beast, and that is the key to its success. There’s no central site, communication blog or layers of organization. It simply replicates my interaction with Joe Terry. I maintain a list of troops and authors. When a new author opts in, I email them the troop list and they are responsible for sending the links and code(s), their own welcome email letter and, in turn, they receive feedback directly from the troops. The troops get what they love most — a library of reading opportunity in a shower of emails. I didn’t want to hog the good feelings and I’m glad I didn’t. Each author takes up the communication gauntlet. They blog, post on websites, networks, discussion groups and even go into print. They volunteer ideas, contact other authors and military points and organizations and even created our logo and now two logos as we have a liaison in the UK.

The program is only twelve weeks old and we have 288 participating authors, 7 publishing site in the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and over 70 Troop points of light, including families preparing Kindles for their sons and daughters. We have a submarine (yes, we’ve adopted a submarine), the eBook Marine Special Forces program, troops in Iraq, Korea, Afghanistan, Japan, Kuwait, Djibouti, Gitmo and at sea (including the Nimitz). I’m astounded and more than a bit surprised by the success, but why should I be? Independent authors brim with generosity. They know struggle and make their own decisions when it comes to their books and whom they give them to. They are in control. Personally, I’m in awe of them and urge readers to support them by buying their books. It’s my estimate that the Indie authors of Operation eBook Drop have made available 20,160 copies of eBooks to the troops on the program (and that’s a low estimate as some of our authors have multiple titles and offer them all). The troops choose what they want to read and use the coupons as they see fit, downloading the eBooks and porting them into their eReading device.

As for the troops — what can I say? Their sacrifice for our freedom is a better gift than any book I could write. However, because of that freedom, I can author my books as they assure my freedom of speech, as well as the very air I breath. It’s a small donation to fill in their hours away from home and, perhaps in those hours I can provoke a smile or a tear or an escape. Small price to pay for heroism. I salute these brave men and women and hope that no one ever forgets their contribution and sacrifice.

Here are some links for further information on Operation eBook Drop:


For information on joining (authors, deployed troops or their families):
http://blog.smashwords.com/2009/09/smashwords-supports-operation-ebook.html

For information on Operation eBook Drop authors:
http://tinyurl.com/ygk8u5o

For the Operation eBook Drop Kindleboards forum:
http://www.kindleboards.com/index.php/topic,13352.0.html

And come join the Operation eBook Drop Fan club at Facebook:
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Operation-EBook-Drop/172002003420



Edward C. Patterson
Edwpat@att.net
http://www.dancaster.com/

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