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DWAA Names ‘The Dog Merchants’ A Best Book of 2016

The Dog Merchants by Kim KavinThe Dog Writers Association of America, at its banquet today in Manhattan, named The Dog Merchants a best book for 2016.

The Dog Merchants tied for the top spot in our category with Reporting for Duty: True Stories of Wounded Veterans and Their Service Dogs by Tracy Libby.

I’m both honored and humbled to win this DWAA award for The Dog Merchants. My 2012 dog book, Little Boy Blue, was a finalist for the top award but ended up being a runner-up, instead winning the DWAA Merial Human-Animal Bond Award. The Dog Merchants is my first time winning a best book of the year award from DWAA.

Thank you to all of the judges, and congratulations to my co-winner Tracy Libby and all the other dog writers who took home awards today. Kudos all around!

Happy Anniversary to CharterWave!

screen-shot-2016-11-06-at-3-36-32-pmA full decade ago—the same year that Twitter went live—I launched a website called CharterWave.

Now, in celebration of the site’s 10-year anniversary and widespread success, I’ve relaunched the site with a whole new look.

CharterWave was one of the first niche websites in the entire marine industry, and the first of its kind to focus exclusively on luxury yacht charter. It went on to win awards from Boating Writers International as well as longtime support from sponsors, some of whom have been with the site pretty much since its launch, and continue with the site today.

The new site design is by Z2 Media, the same company that built DogMerchants.com for me earlier this year, when my book The Dog Merchants came out.

Click over to CharterWave to check out the site’s new look and features.

Join Me at the 2015 ASJA Writers’ Conference

asja-2015I have been asked to serve as a panelist at the 2015 conference of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. I’ll be alongside ASJA Vice President Sherry Beck Paprocki and authors’ attorney Sallie Randolph for the panel “Business Matters: Proposals, Contracts and More.” My role will be to represent the ASJA Contracts & Conflicts Committee, which I chair, and to explain some common contract terms and options for negotiating them.

Please join us for this panel at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 2. Full conference details are at the 2015 ASJA conference website.

Facebook Promoted Posts: False Advertising, Pitiful Reach

ImageI recently tried my first Facebook Promoted Post on the fan page for my book Little Boy Blue. We have a new program in partnership with my publisher, Barron’s, that gives free lesson plans to 11th- and 12th-grade English and Journalism teachers who want to add the book to their student reading lists and meet Core Curriculum Standards. I figured this was a good type of post to promote, as Facebook offers, to “people who like your page and their friends.”

My post was straightforward. It read: “Would you like to see Little Boy Blue and the message of rescue on your local high school’s reading list? Please help us spread the word about our new program of free lesson plans for 11th- and 12th-grade English and Journalism teachers.” It also included a link to the dedicated website for the Little Boy Blue Schools Program.

Facebook offered me three choices to promote the post. I could spend $5, $10, or $15 to reach an increasing number of people. I went for the big time and authorized $15 to reach an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 people.That would be double or triple the number we’ve reached with any of our previous posts that went viral, including one post just three days earlier that reached 2,282 people without any type of paid promotion.

When the Promoted Post phase began, 376 people had seen my post about the Little Boy Blue Schools Program. I expected to see that number jump to about 1,500 the first day, about 3,000 the second day, and at minimum 4,000 the third day, to reach the low end of Facebook’s estimate.

Instead, I watched as Facebook continually adjusted the “estimated reach” downward throughout the three-day promotion. The site was still taking my full $15, but my post wasn’t reaching nearly as many people as originally advertised.

At the end of the promotion, my $15 was fully spent and my post had not reached the high end of 6,000 people, nor even the low end of 4,000 people. It had barely reached half of that low end, just 2,065 people in total—fewer than my own, non-promoted post reached a few days earlier going viral on its own. Even worse, as you can see in the screen shot above, only 1,618 of those 2,065 people who saw my Promoted Post were reached through the paid service. That’s about 40 percent of the low end that Facebook promised in exchange for my $15 investment.

I sent an e-mail last week via the feedback option to let Facebook know that I felt ripped off. The only reply I received came this morning, an automated e-mail letting me know that my credit card had been charged in full.

There is no way to describe my experience with Facebook Promoted Posts as anything other than pitiful. The service is a bait-and-switch con game based on false advertising, plain and simple. I won’t be using Facebook Promoted Posts ever again.

Sears Customer Service: It’d Be Faster for Me to Become a Repairman Myself

My refrigerator went out, along with all my power, when Hurricane Irene hit New Jersey on August 28. When the lights finally came back on a week later, the refrigerator did not. It’s a 2006 Kenmore purchased at Sears, and where I live, Sears is the only company that has qualified repair technicians to service it. So I called them to schedule a repair. Was I upset that a five-year-old appliance had already failed? Sure. But I tried to think positively. It had already been a long week with no power during the storm.

The earliest that Sears could send a repairman was yesterday—a full week and a half after I tried to schedule an appointment. Again, I tried to be patient given the vast number of people with all kinds of storm damage.

As of yesterday, I’d been without a refrigerator for two and a half weeks. The repairman showed up on time, quickly discerned that a basic fan had died, and said he should be able to fix it immediately. It is apparently a common problem with Kenmore refrigerators.

Then he realized he didn’t have a new fan in his truck. He’d have to order one. Apparently, Sears repairmen don’t carry standard parts for common problems.

“It’s going to be okay,” he said. “I’ll put you into the system for another service call at the first opening we have, which is September 21. But you won’t have to wait that long. If the part comes in early, you can get moved back up to this week because you’ve been without a working refrigerator for so long. We can bump you ahead of people who at least have some way to keep food refrigerated.”

He then charged me $201.34 and said I’d owe another $128.40 when he came back to install the fan. I didn’t even argue. I just wanted it fixed already.

The fan arrived today, about 24 hours after he was standing in my kitchen and taking my money. So I called the phone number he’d given me to move up the appointment for installation. I started out with a guy who sounded not-so-American telling me that I had to stick with September 21. I told him I was not going to wait another full week, and that it should not take three weeks to fix a basic fan in a standard refrigerator, hurricane or not. This was about service that had been promised, not parts being unavailable.

I asked to speak with a supervisor. He left me on hold for 46 minutes, and then the Sears phone system hung up on me.

Three phone calls later, after being hung up on once again by the Sears system, I finally got a supervisor on the phone at Sears here in America. She was as polite as she could be as she told me that I would, in fact, have to wait another week to install the part that is sitting on my kitchen counter, despite what the technician told me yesterday. The company has been very busy since the hurricane, she said. I suppose it hasn’t occurred to them to add extra repairmen to their staff to clear the backlog.

So now I’m stuck waiting yet another week, and I’ll still have to pay in full even though I’m not receiving the service in the timely manner that I was promised when I handed over two-thirds of the estimated final charge. Assuming there are no additional problems on September 21—and that’s a big assumption—I’ll end up having to go almost a full month without a working refrigerator. I could take a class and become a repairman myself in the time it’s taking Sears to get this Kenmore refrigerator fixed.

What a joke Sears is when it comes to customer service and repairs. I’ll never buy another appliance from them again.