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Repost: 3 Tips to Help You Spend Your Book Marketing Money Better

Earlier this week I received this wonderful article called “3 Tips to Help You Spend Your Book Marketing Money Better” in my email from Book Marketing Tools.  Great advice, especially for indie authors just starting to get into the business.  To these three tips I want to add one more of my own:  invest in multiple language editions of your books crafted by quality translators.

 

Here is “3 Tips to Help You Spend Your Book Marketing Money Better” in full as presented in the newsletter I received.

Episode 108 of The Author Hangout Podcast featured this amazing advice from bestselling author Ernie Lindsey: Don’t be afraid to spend money early on on good covers, excellent editors, excellent proofreaders. Don’t be afraid to spend money on looking professional. If you don’t have it to spend early on, save it. Save up until you can. Four years ago, we didn’t know that it was going to get to this point. We didn’t know how professional the indie author community was going to get. So make it a top quality product before you even get it out the door.

Ernie is absolutely right — today’s indie authors need to keep up with an industry that’s producing books that are becoming increasingly indistinguishable from the big-time publishers’ output.
But you’re an indie author, which means that you probably need to make a limited marketing budget stretch as far as possible.
So where should you spend your money to make the biggest impact?
Here are three great tips!
Catherine de Valois

Original cover for “Catherine de Valois” (English edition). The cover is good because it’s genre appropriate and features a lady contemporary to Princess Catherine and wearing the same style of gown she wore.

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The small addition of a subtitle to the original cover makes it stand out more and provides more information to potential readers, moving it from simply good to GREAT.

#1 — Cover Design
“Dont’ judge a book by its cover” is great advice for everyday life, but it’s terrible advice when it comes to your books!
People are going to judge your book by its cover, no matter how much effort you’ve put into writing your masterpiece, so we recommend spending any extra money you have on professional, market- and genre-appropriate cover design.
This is really important, especially when you consider the way people browse books online these days!
For more info, check out episode 73 of The Author Hangout with guest Jim Palmer, who shared some great thoughts about how you should prioritize cover design, how much you should spend and who you should hire (not Fiverr!!!)
#2 — Hire an Editor
Maybe you’ve been using your spouse, significant other, close friend or family member to give your books a look before you publish. Or perhaps you’ve been relying on feedback from your writer’s group to polish your prose.
There’s nothing wrong with these methods of getting additional sets of eyes on your work, but we recommend that you hire a professional editor to give your book a thorough scrubbing!
Professional editors can be costly — don’t be surprised to get quotes for more than $1,000 — but an experienced, reputable editor can mean the difference between a bestseller and an also ran.
One of the best ways to locate an editor is to check the credits and thank-yous of books that you’ve enjoyed to see who your favorite writers turn to for editing. Don’t be afraid to reach out!
For more detailed advice on finding an editor, read this article from our friend Jane Friedman.
#3 — Supercharge Your Website
Your website is one of the cornerstones of your author platform, and it’s one of the foremost representations of your brand on the internet. So if it doesn’t look good and help you build your fan base, it can actually hurt your business.
Spend as much money as you afford to make it look great and ensure that it provides users with a satisfying experience. If possible, hire an experienced SEO writer to create copy that drives traffic to your site.
And don’t forget to make your site mobile friendly!
-Shawn & R.J. from Book Marketing Tools

Repost: 10 Brutal Truths About Success No One Wants to Hear

Today I found this article from Inc. on Twitter about finding success–both personally and professionally. I really love it and I think you will too! Author: Jeff Haden.

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“Ask successful people how they achieved their success and you’ll hear words like “hard work,” “sacrifice,” and “persistence.”

Dig a little deeper and you’ll find some other common attitudes and habits, like these:

1. They know their success was only inevitable in hindsight.

Read stories of successful entrepreneurs and it’s easy to think they have some intangible entrepreneurial something–ideas, talent, drive, skills, creativity, whatever–that you don’t have.

Wrong. Success is inevitable only in hindsight. It’s easy to look back on an entrepreneurial path to greatness and assume that every vision was clear, every plan was perfect, every step was executed flawlessly, and tremendous success was a foregone conclusion.

It wasn’t. Success is never assured. Only in hindsight does it appear that way.

If you’re willing to work hard and persevere, who you are is more than enough. Don’t measure yourself against other people.

Pick a goal and measure yourself against that goal–that is the only comparison that matters.

2. They decided to choose themselves.

Once you had to wait: to be accepted, to be promoted, to be selected–to somehow be “discovered.”

Not anymore. Access is nearly unlimited; you can connect with almost anyone through social media. You can publish your own work, distribute your own music, create your own products, attract your own funding.

You can do almost anything you want–and you don’t have to wait for someone else to discover your talents.

The only thing holding you back is you–and your willingness to try.

3. They help others succeed, knowing that ensures they will succeed.

No one accomplishes anything worthwhile on his or her own. Great bosses focus on providing the tools and training to help their employees better do their jobs–and achieve their own goals. Great consultants put their clients’ needs first. Great businesses go out of their way to help and serve their customers.

And as a result, they reap the rewards.

If you’re in it only for yourself, then someday you will be by yourself. If you’re in it for others, you’ll not only achieve success. You’ll also have plenty of real friends.

4. They know that sometimes the best way to finish first is to be the last.

Success is often the result of perseverance. When others give up, leave, stop trying, or compromise their principles and values, the last person left is often the person who wins. Other people may be smarter, better connected, more talented, or better funded. But they can’t win if they aren’t around at the end.

Sometimes it makes sense to give up on ideas, projects, and even businesses–but it never makes sense to give up on yourself.

The one thing you can always be is the last person to give up on yourself.

5. They do what no one else is willing to do.

The extra mile is a lonely place, because almost no one goes there.

Go there–as often as you can.

6. They don’t network. They truly connect.

Often the process of building a network takes on a life of its own and becomes a numbers game.

You don’t need numbers. You need real connections: people you can help, people you can trust, people who care.

So forget numbers. Reach out to the people whom you want to be part of your life–even if just your professional life–for a long time. When you do, forget about receiving and focus on providing; that’s the only way to establish a real connection and relationship.

Make lasting connections and you create an extended professional family. You’ll be there when they need you, and they will be there when you need them.

7. They think, but more important, they do.

Strategy is not a product. Binders are filled with strategies that were never implemented.

Develop an idea. Create a strategy. Set up a rudimentary system of operations. Then execute, adapt, execute some more, and build a solid operation based on what works.

Success isn’t built on strategy. Success is built through execution.

Incredibly successful people focus on executing incredibly well.

8. They know “leader” is a title that is earned, not given.

“Leaders” aren’t just the guys who double the stock price in six months, or the gals who coerce local officials into approving too-generous tax breaks and incentives, or the guys who are brave enough to boldly go where no man has gone before.

(If you don’t get that last reference, you’re too young. Or I’m too old. Probably both.)

Those are examples of leadership–but typically the kind of leadership that is situational and short-lived.

Real leaders consistently inspire, motivate, and make you feel better about yourself than you might even think you have a right to feel. They’re the kind of people you’ll follow not because you have to but because you want to.

You’ll follow them anywhere–and you’ll follow them forever, because they have a knack for making you feel like you aren’t actually following. Wherever you’re headed, you always feel like you’re going there together.

Creating that bond takes time.

9. They see success as an outcome, not a driver.

Ever heard someone say, “If I got promoted, then I would work harder”? Or, “If the customer paid more, then I would do more”? Or, “If I thought there would be a bigger payoff, I would be willing to sacrifice more”?

Successful people earn promotions by first working harder. Successful businesses earn higher revenue by first delivering greater value. Successful entrepreneurs earn bigger payoffs by first working hard, well before any potential return is in sight.

Most people expect to be compensated more before they will even consider working harder.

Incredibly successful people see compensation as the reward for exceptional effort, not the driver–whether that reward is financial or personal or simply the satisfaction that comes from achieving what you worked incredibly hard to achieve.

10. They wish you knew there really are no dirty little secrets.

Except this one: There are no magic bullets. There are no shortcuts. There are no hacks.

Success–in whatever you choose to pursue–is always achieved through hard work and persistence.

It’s easier to assume that other people succeed because they have something you don’t have. But in reality, the primary difference is that they are willing to do something you won’t do.

So go do it.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.
PUBLISHED ON: NOV 21, 2016″

Repost: 11 Things Truly Successful People Never Do

This morning I found this article from Inc. about success.  The information is so good I have to share!

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“1. Successful people refuse to fit in a box.

“Thinking outside the box” is a business cliché writ large. But truly successful people do more than that–they live outside the box.

They don’t let other people define them, whether those other people are malicious or well-meaning. They don’t listen to the jealous boss who tells them that they’ll never be a leader. Perhaps more important, they don’t hedge their ambitions because a parent or a teacher told them that–for example–they’re “good with numbers” but not creative, or an excellent team player but not a leader. They don’t just develop their strengths. They define their strengths.

Challenge: What external expectation do you need to let go of?

2. Successful people don’t bear grudges.

It takes a lot of effort to win a battle. But when you bear grudges, it’s like you’re fighting a war that only one side even knows about.

Sure, if we bothered, most of us could probably dig deep into our pasts and find a time when we were wronged–almost unforgivably wronged. Even thinking about it, however, hands another victory to whoever wronged you. Direct your energy at something else–the things you truly care about.

Challenge: We all hold on to some things too long. What transgression do you need to forgive?

3. Successful people refuse to argue over “nothings.”

Again: wasted energy.

You’re not going to convince that diehard Trump/Hillary/Bernie supporter on Facebook to change his or her mind. Truly successful people spend their energy on things they can truly affect.

Challenge: What deeply held conviction holds you back? Are you prepared to let it go?

4. Successful people refuse to quit.

Successful people are often more successful simply because they work harder. And they work harder in part because the work they do doesn’t feel like work–at least, it doesn’t feel like drudgery. Their work is the kind of thing they’d do even if they weren’t paid for it (and sometimes, they aren’t!).

However, whether it’s rewarding or not, they don’t ignore the important work that needs to be done.

Challenge: You don’t have to say it aloud, but when was the last time you blew off something important and covered it with excuses? Are you planning to do it again anytime soon?

5. Successful people never betray their values.

At the end of everything, what else do you have besides your deeply held values?

Maybe you have a deep religious faith. Maybe you think it’s wrong to eat meat. Maybe you’d never root for an American League baseball team because you think the designated hitter ruined the sport. These are your values, not mine, my friend–and I’m sure they’re tested all the time. Truly successful people don’t have a lot of non-negotiables, but the ones they do have are sacrosanct.

Challenge: Can you articulate your core values? Even more important, are they obvious to others?

6. Successful people never betray friends or family.

Of course, this doesn’t mean letting yourself be rolled over. You have to stick up for yourself. However, truly successful people know that if your close family and true friends can’t trust you, why would anyone else?

Challenge: Um, when was the last time you called your folks?

7. Successful people never lose sight of their goals.

Identifying and pursuing your goals means the difference between spinning your wheels and actually getting somewhere. You’ll put in the same effort regardless of how well you focus on objectives, but if your aim is deficient, chances are that you’ll just be helping someone else achieve his or her goals.

Challenge: Can you articulate your three most important goals? What have you done today to make them come true?

8. Successful people combat self-doubt in all its forms.

Fear is normal, even healthy–but defeatism is a disease. I’m not sure where it comes from, but we all face it. Successful people refuse to give in, but what’s more, they make it part of their mission to help other people overcome self-doubt, too.

The easiest way to do that? Demonstrate respect for others in all that you do.

Challenge: Have you built up someone else’s ego today? If not, is it because you’re afraid that doing so will tear down your own self-worth? (Overcome that!)

9. Successful people refuse to betray their health.

Another non-negotiable. None of us lives forever, yet the temptation is always there to trade fitness, or sleep, or well-being for a pauper’s price–a few extra bucks, a little bit of esteem in a boss’s eyes. Truly successful people have no room for that in their lives. Their health is one of their top priorities.

Challenge: What’s the one thing you should do differently to ensure you have a better chance at living a long time–and well?

10. Successful people refuse to be dominated by others.

We all face bullies in our lives. Truly successful people don’t put up with them. They find ways to prevail. They don’t necessarily fight the other guy on his turf, but they find a way to win.

Beware that you don’t contradict the rule about not holding grudges with this one, but successful people find that standing up for themselves often means standing up to someone else.

Challenge: Who are the bullies you know? What have you done to offset their impact on others?

11. Successful people never give in to competition.

This is a multifaceted element. Successful people never run from competition–but they don’t let themselves be suckered into being measured by somebody else’s rules. They understand the wisdom of the reverse of that old lottery slogan: “You can’t lose if you refuse to play.”

At the same time, when they win, they can take a compliment. Truly successful people don’t gloat, but they also don’t minimize their contributions when other people are eager to offer them praise.

Challenge: What competitions are you engaging in that aren’t truly worthwhile?”

Going Global: A Look at Translation Options for Independent Authors

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received as an author was to publish as many books in as many places as possible and to sell on as many websites as possible.  The writing profession is a numbers game.  To win it (meaning making a living as a writer) you need to be where the customers are and sell what they want to read.  You cannot achieve it with a single kindle book sold exclusively on Amazon.  It won’t happen — or perhaps it could but your chances of winning the lottery or becoming president of the United States are greater if you lay only the one literary egg and sell it from a single basket.

One efficient way of maximising your exposure is to publish in multiple languages, opening your books for sale in more markets with more readers.  As popular as English is with Americans, the reality is that globally there are far more readers outside of the United States, readers who prefer to read in their native languages — not English.

For independent authors, there are three primary methods of reaching this global audience in the form of translated editions 1) contract with a traditional publisher offering translation services, 2) Utilize a royalty share-based translation platform, and 3) hire an independent and professionally certified translator.

I personally use all three.  Here are the pros and cons of each.

Traditional Publisher

My Chinese language editions are published with Fiberead, a Beijing-based fusion  publisher slash translation service using royalty share to pay the translation team.  It works similar to many self-publishing platforms.  You fill out a form about your book, provide Fiberead with both the current and blank versions of your cover art, and upload it to their system.  A team of translators is recruited and eventually your book is published in Chinese.

Pros:  Getting a contract is relatively painless.  It’s a straight forward process setting up your title with them. Publishes to Amazon China, iBooks, and several Asia market retailers unknown to most Americans. No upfront costs to the authors. All the technical details of the publishing process is handled by the publisher; once submitted the author does not touch her book again. Cover art is done by in-house designers from the blank cover provided by the author.

Cons:  Once your title is set up, you have little to no control over the book.  Author has no input on the translators chosen or quality of the translation.  Contract empowers Fiberead with broad editorial powers, including over book content (they can re-write your book if they wish to). Royalty share rate is (currently) 30% for the author — forever.  Fiberead forbids translators from providing authors with copies of the final work.  Authors cannot control or even suggest the sale price.  So for example Boudicca, Britain’s Queen of the Iceni sells for just 1 RMB. Converted to USD the sale price on Amazon China is about 12 cents.  At 30% of 12 cents, the per copy payment to me is 3.6 cents USD.  It takes 55 copies sold to equal the royalty paid on just 1 copy of the book in English on Amazon.com.  Once a book sells, Fiberead does not release any funds to the author until the author earns $50 USD.  As you can see from the above figure, that takes a long time.  Fiberead does not promote your book either — that’s your responsibility.  And if you want a copy to quote from, you must buy it yourself.

Royalty Share Translation Program – Babelcube

Boudicca German webThe second option for independent authors is to use a royalty share translation platform such as Babelcube which is what I use.  Very similar in format to Amazon’s ACX audiobook publishing platform, authors fill out a form with book details and the book copy for consideration by translators in several languages including Spanish, French, Italian, German, Japanese, and Portuguese.  Not every language is offered, notably Chinese, but authors are able to upload books published in any language so long as the book is sold on Amazon. Once the book is completed and approved, authors initiate the publication process on both digital (primary) and paperback options.

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Babelcube’s incremental payment scale.

Empress Wu Spanish webPros: royalty share works on an incremental scale based on royalties earned, no upfront costs to the author, creative control over the final published work, ability to edit pricing and other details by re-publishing after the initial publication, some control over who translates the work. Authors are able to leave reviews for each translation.

 

Cons: authors need the technical ability to custom format their own work and correct certain errors that can come up in the publishing process. Not all the translators are professionally certified nor in possession of appropriate technical skills. Not all desired languages are available.  Some languages offer very few translator choices.

 

Independent Translator

Boudicca Welsh webThe third and final option is, in most respects, the most traditional. Translators are available globally and discoverable online through search engines, social media, or in the case of my work with Gwenlli Haf of Cyfieithu Amnis Translation, through a personal recommendation from a mutual professional acquaintance.  Translation fees are typically word count based, a format familiar to authors who hire professional editors.  A down payment is typically required at the time both parties sign the contract.  At project completion translators then invoice the author for the balance due.  Only upon payment in full is the work released to the author for self publication.

Pros: translators are typically professionally certified with some level of guarantee built into the contract. Authors and translators are able to negotiate precise terms for the project so the details (such as publishing rights) are clear before the work begins. Upfront payment to translator; the author keeps all royalties upon payment of the invoice unless other terms are specified in the contract.  Creative control across the entire process.

Cons:  word counts in different languages are not uniform, making it easy for the author to underestimate the final word count for the translation.  Translators and authors are typically residents of different countries and using different currencies with exchange rates and currency exchange fees varying widely.

Analysis/Summary

Independent authors benefit greatly from expanding into larger, more global marketplaces by offering their books in multiple languages.  In my personal experience with all three options, hiring a translator offered me the most flexibility and creative control which I, like many independent authors, tend to value. The professionally certified skills of independent translators offers security and confidence in the quality of work offered.  However as with any upfront professional service such as editors and illustrators, this option requires considerable pre-publication investment.  Of the royalty share options, the translation publication platform offers a balanced approach.  Though great care must be taken in choosing the translator, the author is able to avoid upfront costs while maintaining creative control.  The royalty share split is typically fair to both author and translator.

One important lesson learned from all of this:  traditional publishing contracts offer less and less value to independent authors.  Therefore 21st century authors seeking to prosper in the new publishing market increasingly thrive by handling as much of the publishing process as possible rather than defer to traditional publishers whose contracts increasingly work against the author’s interest, costing authors more while offering less value.

 

Repost: Book Pricing Tips

The following just arrived in my email from Book Marketing Tools.  I think it contains excellent analysis and information.

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reviews help authorsBook Pricing Tips
Many self-published authors tend to price themselves out of sales.
This happens because:
1) You know how much time you spent to write the book, time or money spent on editing, time or money spent on the cover, time spent on learning to self-publish, plus the priceless view you have of your own work (rightfully so), all which combine to make you put a higher price tag on your book,
2) Self-publishers aren’t making many sales, so they often price their book higher to earn more per sale since their sales are infrequent. We get that… but we’ve always been a proponent of the fact that you can sell more books with a lower price, and while you’ll earn less per book, you will make more in aggregate than you would with a higher price book.
Now we have proof, with numbers directly from Amazon!
Amazon is usually pretty guarded with their stats. They don’t share much, but they recently shared some numbers regarding book sales at different price ranges here.
Here is the quote relevant to book pricing:
“It’s also important to understand that e-books are highly price-elastic. This means that when the price goes up, customers buy much less. We’ve quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000. The important thing to note here is that at the lower price, total revenue increases 16%. This is good for all the parties involved.”
This is directly from the largest marketplace in the world, who specializes in ebooks. How much clearer can it get?
Sure, we would all love to sell at $14.99 or even $9.99, but that’s not the reality for the self-published author. But, you can still make good money selling at $0.99, $1.99, $2.99. Especially for the new author, with so much competition out there, you don’t want price to be the reason people aren’t willing to give you and your books a shot.
Once you have a strong following of readers who love your books and want to buy more (you’re building that mailing list, right?), then, you can experiment with $3.99, $4.99, even $5.99. Many self-published authors are now able to command those prices, but they were not always able to sell their books for those prices. If you try to start at that price, for whatever reason, and you have very few reviews and hardly any fans, you’re going to continue to not sell many books, and you will earn less than you would with a lower price point.
Your goal is to reach as many readers as possible, and to get them to want to buy every other book you come out with in the future. The bigger fan base you are able to build now, the easier it will be to sell books in the future with every new book you write.
Get people in the door with a lower price, build a readership, get them to fall in love with you and your books, THEN price your books higher.
Here’s to selling more books!
-Shawn & R.J. from Book Marketing Tools

Marketing’s Big Lie: Instant Results

SherlockMost writers want to do just one thing:  write our books.  Few of us come from marketing backgrounds.  Still fewer of us think of ourselves as entrepreneurs and business owners.  In the old ages of traditional publishing, authors rarely had to be any of those things.  We slaved away trying to get a publisher to notice our work and/or securing a literary agent who would pimp our work for us — for a fee — while we went off and kept writing.

Self-publishing and the digital age has changed that for both self-published and traditional publishers.  Just as cigarette machines have gone by the wayside and Sherlock Holmes uses nicotine patches instead of smoking his pipe in response to smoking regulations in London, the days of in-house marketing and advertising for books by publishers are gone.  Today authors must do most of the work themselves.

There are no shortage of marketing firms to delegate to, of course, but as I found out across the winter of 2014 when I hired 180Fusion, marketing firms too often care about getting the business — any way they can.

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What this means is that marketing firms promise the sun and moon to you — if you hire them.  180Fusion promised to put me on the New York Times bestseller list within 30 days, using my natural optimism to augment their pitch.  I, like most people, want to believe that people are telling me the truth.  I have faith that everything works out.  I have faith in the quality of my work.  I know these books are well-written and reflect a lifetime of scholarship and dedication to my craft.

180Fusion took that and used that very positive quality against me with their pitch about what they can do with advertising on facebook.

Facebook advertising can and does work for some people.  The essence of their work is to study the numbers to make facebook ads profitable, making adjustments until the ads result in sales.  As Jonathan Gebauer points out, this actually is sound — but with one catch that was omitted from the pitch until I was ready to close my account:  it takes time, often months and years for it to work.

This is not something that can be achieved in the 30 days promised to me back in December 2013 when I signed up.  In fact it was only when I made a fuss about not getting results that I was told, quite condescendingly, that what they promised was actually not at all possible.  Then they said I needed to give it more time.  Just give it more time.

This was the truth in the lie.  It takes time.  Except they never told me this upfront, before I signed up.  They told me when I was ready to cancel, when they knew my patience was at an end.

permission to walk awayNow normally I am a very patient person.  If this service had cost me $10 a month, odds are very good I would have stuck it out.  Except it costs a minimum of $300 a month — when my budget was $10 a month!  This was known from the onset.  So they promised me the sun and moon and instant results.  It didn’t matter that their service was many times more than my budget!  Because I would re-coup what I spent with them very quickly.

It was a lie and they knew it!  It was predatory, disrespectful, and sadly not atypical of far too many marketing firms.

Instead, their focus was on getting me to sign up; it didn’t matter that to pay for their service I would have to plop down hundreds to thousands of dollars on a high rate credit card; as long as they were getting paid, they really did not care about me or my books.

Most people have a word for that and it is not nice at all!

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So what can we learn from this?  

Number one:  NO MARKETING STRATEGY GIVES INSTANT RESULTS.  As Jonathan Gebaur puts it, “Marketing never comes with a red button. 90% of the time marketing means: Work… Frustration… Small Improvements. Working out the little details. Improving little things to improve our results just a little bit. Good results take a lot of sweat and tears.”

Number two:  no matter what a pitch says, do not spend what you do not have in cash right now.  Set your budget honestly and hold to it.  If a company tells you that your budget doesn’t matter and you must spend more than that with them, they do not care about you; they care about getting your money.

Number three:  choose carefully.  Know that whatever do in terms of marketing and advertising will take several months to get results from.  Don’t just throw money at things hoping they will work; approach this with a plan and a clear set of perimeters and goals.  Pick one primary approach (like guest posting) and focus on that.  Don’t try to make everything happen all at once from everywhere.  Chaos works against you and ultimately robs you of your ability to focus, concentrate, and respond to your business and reader’s needs.

Marketing firms are out there to help you and should be used by independent authors.  But as with so many things, the rule “buyer beware” applies.  Ask questions, probe firms for answers, and if you see even a whiff of a hard sell or pressured pitch, run do not walk away.  Any business who cannot respect your budget and your goals is not really interested in working for you; rather they just want your money.

No Excuses: One Star Reviews on Ebooks

permission to walk awayEvery author wants five star reviews.  This is a given.  As human beings we want everyone to love and adore our work, even when we know that is impossible.  Everyone has different tastes in books.  I like non-fiction history, you like a spicy romance.  You want to escape into another world; I want to better understand the one we are already in.  Different tastes make the world go round.

Indeed, critical reviews help authors by offering substance, feedback, and credibility.  No author with more than five or six reviews has a perfect five star average; someone will always find something imperfect about your work.  This is how it should be.  Your work should receive a mix of reviews.

With one exception:  the one star review.

Ghosts of the Past cover webOn books, there is absolutely no reason for a one star review.  Why?  Because all book retailers offer book SAMPLING — try it before you buy it.  The purpose is obvious:  if you like the sample, odds are really good you will like the book and buy it.  If you do not like the sample, odds are equally good that you will move on and not bother to purchase the book.  Sampling helps match books with readers who like and appreciate them so that there is SOMETHING the reader likes before purchase.

If you like a book before you buy it, odds are good you will still like something about the book after you read it.  Yes, there are plenty of examples of books not living up to their promise by the end — those are the ones who receive two star and three star reviews.  But a one star review is different:  it means there is no redeeming quality to the book.  If this is the case, why did the reader download it after reading the sample in the first place?

To this, only one logical answer resonates:  the person did not read the sample before download.  Why not?  In my experience this happens with free books.  A person who pays nothing for a book risks nothing by downloading it (this is often why authors often their books for free).  The flip side to this is that the person who pays nothing invests nothing in the same book; there’s no value to it because no money is actually paid.

When we pay money for something, we value it.  It matters to us.  We are careful about our choices.  We make sure before we buy something that it is something we (or any person we give it to) really want and expect to enjoy.  The more something costs us, the more careful we are to evaluate whether or not we really want it in the first place.  With books, we take our time and read the samples.  We research.  We investigate.  Then and only then do we spend the money and buy.

Every single one star review I ever received came from people who received my book as a gift in some way — a winner in a giveaway, a special sale promotion, or a permafree book.  In paying nothing, the reader invested nothing.  By investing nothing the reader had no inhibitions about trashing my book and hurting its review average with that one star.

That is, if s/he read it at all; I have reviews where it is clear all the person did was skim the sample, then write the review based on a few paragraphs and feign to have read the entire thing.  These too were negative reviews whose content did not match with anything mentioned in reviews written by those who read the books.

Why do people do this?  Give me your thoughts!  Let’s talk about our experiences dealing with negative reviews!  Post your comment here or tweet to https://twitter.com/laurelworlds.

Reblog: An Active Author Brand

Today’s book marketing post comes from Richard Ridley of Createspace.

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If I had to describe the key to succeeding in indie publishing in one word, that word would be “active.” For a profession that involves a great deal of sedentary activities, those who rest on their laurels find it very difficult to sell books on a consistent basis. You have to keep moving in order to grow your author brand. Here are the three crucial areas where you should concentrate most of your activity:

 

ABW – Always Be Writing: If you want to get noticed, you have to have a track record in today’s publishing world. One book will most likely not help you gain widespread notoriety. You need multiple books to create an author brand that will get you noticed and bring in the sales.

 

ABM – Always Be Marketing: You can’t have books on the market today without an author platform. A platform is simply your online presence. That presence in today’s digital age includes your own website/blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. And this presence requires you to be present in order for it to be effective. Contribute to your online presence multiple times a day.

 

ABI – Always Be Interacting: When you have your platform up and running, your readers are going to reach out to you. Don’t ignore them. Interact with them. Let them know how appreciative you are for their support. The more you connect with them, the greater the support they’ll give you.

 

The world of indie publishing is not for the lazy or unmotivated. It requires boundless energy to succeed. It requires that you be active.

 

-Richard

Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

Repost: How Not To Request A Book Review

negative emotion isEarlier this week DA Bale sent me her blog post from BookDaily.com on what NOT to do when requesting a book review.  As always I do not like anything phrased in the negative because that has you thinking in negative terms instead of focusing on everything in the positive.  With that caveat in mind, here is her post in full.  Enjoy!

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You’ve sent out hundreds of emails to reviewers. You wait. You wait some more. Months pass. Impatience grows. You’re tempted to re-contact to ensure they received your request.

Don’t.

Seriously. DON’T DO IT.

Once you’ve sent out that initial request, you’re done. Most reviewers only respond if they’re interested – months later. It goes back to the flood of daily requests and a day’s limitation of twenty-four hours. Cross it off your list and move on.

As a fellow author, I make a point of responding to every request to avoid leaving others hanging in the dark. Yes, my response is usually a canned email (I know yours is too). Yes, I turn down the majority of requests.

Here’s why.

1. Genre: It’s obvious when an author sends romance that he/she hasn’t taken time to read my instructions. I make it very plain I’m not interested in romance, erotica, or horror. My favorites are thriller, mystery, and suspense followed by occasional fantasy. Check a blogger’s likes and dislikes. We put lists out for a reason. Don’t waste time sending romance to a thriller enthusiast.

2. Book title: Missing. If a reviewer has to spend time searching a massive email to discern something that should be in the first paragraph, it’s pretty much going in the trash.

3. Author name: Missing yet again. It’s frustrating not to have any idea to whom you’re corresponding. Even email addresses are just cutesy with no sort of identifier. If you’re going be an author, create an identifiable author dedicated email. Then remember to reference your name at least once, even if only at the close.

4. Book blurb: Excluded! Many authors place a link to the purchase page or website and expect reviewers to click on it. Not happening. Then again, sometimes the blurb is simply boring, long and convoluted descriptions that don’t say anything. I’ve even seen a book blurb with another section to state what the book is really about. Seriously? If you need to describe your description, something’s wrong.

5. Honest review: Telling a potential reviewer you seek an honest review is like telling them all their reviews up to yours have been less than honest. Reviewers try to keep opinions straightforward without outside influences. Saying you want an honest opinion is a slap in the face.

6. Free book: You’re asking me to review your novel. Of course you’re going to give me one. Stating you’re offering a free or reduced price book projects an unprofessional image. I’ve even had authors send me the link to buy their book. Understand this if you didn’t already – if you’re requesting a reviewer to spend personal time reading and reviewing your novel, a free copy is expected. End of story.

7. I’m new: Quick question – would you ever say this to a potential client in your day job? Don’t short-change yourself. You may have been writing novels for five minutes or five, ten, twenty years and just decided to plunge into indie publishing. Approach a reviewer with confidence regardless of how long you’ve been writing. You’re a legitimate, bonafide author.

8. Accomplishments: If you’ve won awards for novels in your publishing quiver, a reviewer would love to know. If you’ve won awards for poetry, journalism, or employee of the month – in other words anything outside of novel writing – don’t mention it. It means nothing to most reviewers. Cold truth.

9. Other reviews: Emails pile into my inbox incorporating excerpts of other reviews a novel has received. Share these with family and friends – not potential reviewers. Goes back to number five about avoiding outside influences. Reviews are subjective, the opinion of the individual reviewer.

10. Links: Unless a reviewer requests website links in your initial correspondence, don’t include any.

11. Attachments: Once again, unless a reviewer’s guidelines specifically state to do so, do not attach your book cover, author image, eBook or PDF file with your initial request. When we want them – if we want them – we’ll ask.

12. Reviewer instructions: Self explanatory. Reviewers put instructions up to help you and save everyone time. Read it. Do it. If you choose not to, shame on you because your request is heading for the trash bin. This leads me to another thing – always check to see if a reviewer is currently accepting reviews. Reviewers close submissions when the reading pile gets too big. If a reviewer has closed submissions, abide by this please. Otherwise it’s a huge time-waster, and your email is another great big delete.

Stay tuned for how to get on a reviewers must read list.

About the Author:
In her previous career, D.A. Bale traveled the United States as a Government Relations Liaison, working closely with Congressional offices and various government agencies. This experience afforded her a glimpse into the sometimes “not so pretty” reality of the political sphere. Much of this reality and various locations throughout her travels make it into her writing.

She dreams of the day she can return to visit Alaska.

You can find out more about her on her website www.dabalepublishing.blogspot.comand on Twitter

Repost: How to Find Book Reviewers on Twitter

Back in September I received a nice email about finding reviewers on Twitter from Book Marketing Tools.  With all the insanity that was autumn 2014, the newsletter naturally filed itself away, not to be seen again until this morning.

Not everything in that newsletter is blog worthy in my humble opinion; here is the section of that which I do think is valuable and useful to independent authors.

Influences upon readers when buying self-published books

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Here is how to find book reviewers on Twitter:
by – Shawn & R.J. with Book Marketing Tools
  1. Load up Twitter, and using the search form, search “book reviewer” “book blogger” “(your genre) reviews” and other topics like that. Be creative! I don’t want everyone contacting the same exact reviewers!
  2. This will show you a list of Tweets. Scroll and find the “People” box, and click “View All”. You will then find all profiles related to your search topic.
  3. Click on each profile and make sure they are a) active with a fairly recent tweet and b) they have at least 100 followers (the more the better).
  4. Then, identify possible matches, click through the Website listed on their Twitter profile, and find their rules for review submissions.
  5. If your book is within the confines of their rules, then submit your book for review!

Top Four Independent Author Mistakes Certain to Drive Away Readers, Potential Reviewers

new-york-times-best-selling-author3As an independent author who is very active on social media (twitter, facebook, and pinterest), I see a lot of book marketing posts.  If you read this blog regularly, you know I have eleven titles out and will be publishing my twelfth, Princess Anyu Returns, sometime before the 28th of February.  So I feel like I know something about this business.

 

Here are the top four mistakes I see independent authors making that are absolutely certain to drive away potential readers.

 

#1 Mentioning you checked spelling and grammar in your book description or on social media.

I am genuinely shocked at the number of times “authors” tout this as a reason to buy their book.  It takes MINUTES to run spell check in a word processing program.  You do not get a gold star or a pat on the head for doing this.  Adults are expected to do this.  Likewise, telling us that you hired an editor to correct your typos only tells us that you do not possess the language skills to write, let alone publish a book.

Writing is a job, a profession.  Treat it that way.  If you need editorial help, hire an editor. That is fine and many experts say you should anyway.  But for heaven’s sake, the only appropriate place to mention you used one is in the credits of your book — quietly and without any noise.

 

#2 NOT correcting spelling, grammar errors

Right after telling someone you corrected your spelling errors, the next best way to drive away a potential reader is to publish with spelling, typing, punctuation, and grammar errors in your book or in the book description.

Why?  Because leaving these errors in your published book screams of unprofessionalism.  It says “I expect you to treat me as a serious writer, but I am not going to bother to fix my mistakes before you read my book.”  It  disrespects readers and it hurts your reputation.

That said, mistakes do happen and sometimes they slip past the best of editors.  What distinguishes the best professionals from everyone else is the response given to locating these errors.  Professionals will quickly and quietly fix any errors they find and resubmit their books to their publishing platforms, knowing that doing so offers future readers a more perfect and more desirable product for purchase.

 

#3 Indiscriminately spamming social media and bloggers

No one likes a hard sell.  As a matter of fact in today’s world we are so accustomed to advertisements across media formats that we instinctively tune out ads in favor of engagement.  We want to be talked to and not talked at.

Enter social media forums and facebook groups, each of them designed around a central theme or purpose.  An effective group offers members conversation and social opportunities.  An effective book marketing group is a place where readers (potential customers) can discover new books without having to sift through a flood of advertisements for books they are not interested in.  This is one reason why I love Tom Tinney’s “Promoting My Published Book,” group.  By enforcing a strict set of rules for posting, readers are able to browse listings relevant to them without having to sift through posts of absolutely no interest to them.

Follow these rules and you are golden; you reach the readers most interested in buying your posts.  But post without care or concern for what the group is about and you alienate not only readers, but the colleagues and potential reviewers most willing and able to get the word out about your books.

#4 Being difficult to reach

For me personally, the number one reason why people buy my books is that I am accessible.  I am easy to reach and I spend large sections of nearly every day on social media answering questions and talking to people. The easier you are to reach, the more people connect with you.  The better they connect with you and the better the rapport you build on social media, the more likable you become and more appealing your books become.

 

Remember:  people buy from people, not corporations.  Be a warm, friendly, accessible professional online and you are certain to see your sales skyrocket.

 

 

 

 

Authors: this form is not rocket science

Keywords: marketing, self-publishing, blogging

It is three in the morning eastern standard time.  Really truly I thought I would be back in bed like a civilized lass by now.  But I am taking out a few minutes in the middle of the early morning because I am utterly baffled on something when it comes to my sister and fellow authors:  why can so few of you follow kindergarten level instructions?

If you follow this blog you know that on Thursdays I run a character profile column based on the Chris Matthews’ Show column called “tell me something I do not know.”  On his show, Chris Matthews gives political pundits about 15 seconds each to tell viewers something they do not know and should know about current events and politics.  I can be a bit of a political junkie at times; Meet The Press is my favourite program on NBC.  And yes, I confess I love the dedicated journalism of NBC London’s Keir Simmons; he is definitely a role model to look up to as a writer.

Taking a page from this journalism, these character profiles are designed to be SHORT.  Firstly, they are completely free to the authors featured — as opposed to book cover reveals which tend to be PAID ADVERTISEMENTS (and no, I do not find those effective from a marketing standpoint).

Secondly and perhaps most importantly, the purpose of these profiles are to get you CURIOUS.  When you as a reader are curious about something, you take the initiative to learn more about it, to explore it.  The discovery process is satisfying for us as humans; we like to sample and try things ourselves. When authors deny us this process by overselling, our instinct is to move on.

 

The First KingThe requested information on my form is therefore no accident.  It is in fact very straight forward.  I ask for the series name (if there is one), the character name, the book or books the character appears in, the Amazon or Smashwords link (permafree flash fiction like The First King tends to be on Smashwords, not Amazon because Amazon does not allow authors to offer free books there), and of course two or three sentences about the character.  This is not rocket science.  In fact, the instructions for the character profiles are many times simpler than those used by Amazon, Smashwords, and Apple to publish on their platforms.

I assume that someone able to self publish on the above is capable of filling out these fields.

Apparently though I am wrong.  This is discouraging because I genuinely want to profile more character from more secular children’s, middle grade, and young adult books on this blog (if you are an author of these, please email me at peersofbeinan at gmail dot com with your inquiry and proposal).  I love working together to bring great independent and small press books out there to readers like you.  But seriously:  this is a favour to you, a service.  I am not your mother, I am not your editor.  Do not treat me as one unless you want to pay me for the privilege.  Do not get cute or think that the rules here do not apply to you.  Because at this point instead of playing mommy dearest and treating you like a child, I am simply now rejecting submissions.

This form is not hard.  It is not rocket science.  If you can pass 2nd grade, let alone write for the 2nd grade, you can follow my instructions — or at least email me back for clarification on what I mean.

Time to grow up, folks!  Self publishing is not for the feint of heart.  If your aim is to fail at this industry, the best way I know is to disrespect bloggers and other writers doing you favours like this.

 

I for one am done playing mommy.

 

 

 

Excerpt: Epilogue to “The Ghosts of the Past”

Ghosts of the Past

The Ghosts of the Past continues the Legacy of Princess Anlei Series as its exciting middle chapter.   Find the Ghosts of the Past in paperback, kindle, and nook editions.

The following excerpt is highly unusual:  it is the final two pages of the book, its epilogue.

 

Epilogue:

“On BE 6961, beinor 154, my mother, Queen Constance the Kind, sacrificed everything to give me my one chance at escaping the weapon systems under Lord Yelu’s control. Hating Yelu as much as she loved Lord Knight Corann, she hid her feelings and played along with Yelu’s whims. It would not be until I returned to Beinan that I discovered Yelu’s plans that beinor; the drug my mother drank was no different than the one Janus gave Lady Ecter when he first raped her, conceiving in Lady Ecter his daughter, the future Lady Priestess Miriam, and through them, the Choire Ar Cerridwen.

“In my mother’s body, a child was quickened by Yelu’s persistence in those last beinors of the Beinarian era. Across Beinan, the fires emanating from the Ten-Arian monastery, from the temple of Abka Biya, and from the palace spread widely, destroying many familiar and sacred places. As I set course in my star craft for D425E25 Tertius, my star craft detected a strange anomaly coming out of the temple where I found so much peace. A small shockwave hit my star craft two xiao-shirs later. In my mind I heard Lady Laela’s voice and knew that somehow she was behind whatever it was my star craft detected, working unseen and unnoticed though for what purpose I would not understand until I returned to Beinan.

“The Beinan I knew was gone. But deep inside me I knew something else: that out of the darkness and cold comes a new spring, a new hope. If I ever doubted it, all I needed to do was listen to the messages left for me on board the Liltaél. The story of my exile on D425E25 Tertius and of my return to Beinan, planet B345A15 Quartus in Beinarian nomenclature took me down many unexpected roads. Many I loved perished in that Great War whose lives I honour across this history of the last yen-ars of the Beinarian Era. Many hidden things revealed themselves at last. I am not proud of what I said and did along the way. But this I affirm forever: in the darkest night, in the deepest snow, in the bitterest sorrow, there is love, there is light, and there is a new life waiting for you if you simply find the courage within yourself to believe.

Why I said goodbye to large print

Gone forever:  the large print edition of Ghosts of the Past goes out of print in favor of a larger texted regular paperback edition.

Gone forever: the large print edition of Ghosts of the Past goes out of print in favour of a larger text regular paperback edition.

Ever since I first published the original edition of The Great Succession Crisis, there has always been a large print edition for my books.  It is something I believe in as a low vision author, an accessible resource making reading easier.

Sadly, large print remains the dark child of the publishing industry.  Retailer websites bury large print editions.  In the 2 1/2 years since initial publication of the initial version of The Great Succession Crisis not once was either GSC or Ghosts’ large print edition attached to or promoted with its digital edition.  Large print editions are not eligible for the Amazon matchbook program.  They are, like many foreign language editions, put away where no one can find them unless the customer is absolutely determined to get to it anyway.

This of course creates a hassle — for both me as the author and you as the reader.  No one wants that.  We want finding a great book in the format we prefer to be effortless.  Buying the book should never be difficult nor should it ever be difficult for the author to offer readers choices.

 

This hassle of course also meant that I was not able to keep up with the updates I am compulsively known for.  Snatch up one of my books early enough and you may well be treated to a collector’s item.  Thanks to the wonders of print-on-demand publishing I am able to tweak and prune and reformat as much as I want to until my inner perfectionist is perfectly happy.

 

And so today I make a compromise:  my paperback editions are now and shall henceforth be printed in 16 point font — larger than the industry standard of 11 or 12 point for traditional paperbacks — and a tiny bit smaller than the 18 point that makes a book large print.

 

Like all compromises, it is perhaps imperfect.  But in taking the middle ground I make buying books simple and easy.  What more can you want?

Reblog: 5 New Years Resolutions for Authors

Here is another gem from Book Marketing Tools.  I do not agree with everything in this blog post, especially this idea that you can and should try to do all/most of this EVERYDAY.  I find focus is very important to my writing and my productivity; do things ONE at a time or you will burn out trying to be everything at once.

 

Here is that post in full:

5 New Years Resolutions for Authors

Happy New Year!

A new year causes us to look back at the previous year and see all that we have (and have not) done.

A new year also allows us to look ahead to the coming year with renewed optimism and excitement for what is to come.

A new year wouldn’t be complete without some resolutions. Some people want to lose weight. Others want to be more productive. Some want to start a new business and others want to take their business to the next level!

As a self-published author, there are some things that you can do to improve your business, further your brand, and hopefully make more money by selling more books. Before we dive into our list of 5 great resolutions for authors, let’s look at what makes a good resolution.

What Makes A Good New Year’s Resolution

Lisa Lahey, a Harvard professor, says, “People in the New Year’s resolution approach are just going directly at trying to change their behaviors. For the majority of people… it is just not going to work because it is not fundamentally a behavior problem: It is a mindset problem.”

The key is to not focus on changing behaviors. Many behaviors are ingrained in us and usually have a deeper root cause that, if not addressed directly, will cause our surface behavior change to be short-lived. You may succeed in the short-term, but you will usually fail in the long-term if you are trying to just change behaviors.

So how can you make resolutions that you can stick to? The key is to focus on what Lahey calls “technical goals”, those that require learning a new skill or implementing a new behavior. Instead of making a goal to “lose more weight”, you can focus on a technical goal such as “walk 1 mile, 4 times per week”. Such a goal is related to “lose more weight”, but this type of goal can be measured, tracked, and is something you are in control of. If you resolve to lose more weight but your body doesn’t cooperate, then you can become discouraged. By creating goals that you are in control of, you can control whether they are accomplished or not.

How does this relate to authors?

All authors wants to sell more books (of course), so that usually becomes the focus of their goals and resolutions. The problem is, you are not directly in control of whether or not you sell more books (unless you are buying them all yourself, which defeats the purpose.) You CAN control the steps you take to help you to sell more books and those are the types of goals that a self-published author should focus on.

What Can You Do To Sell More Books This New Year?

Here are the 5 New Year’s resolutions for authors:

  1. Spend 30 Minutes A Day On Marketing – Marketing is important but it is often neglected. Either authors don’t like the idea of marketing, they don’t know what to do, or they would just rather be writing. Whatever the case is, marketing is often neglected and if you aren’t marketing, you probably aren’t selling as many books as you could be. Marketing is simply telling other people about your product. Resolve to spend just 30 minutes a day finding and adding readers on Twitter, Google+, or Facebook. Work on reaching out to blogs that have a similar subject matter as your book, finding reviewers, or setting up passive marketing mechanisms like calls to action in the back of your book. There are plenty of things to do, so if you can devote just 30 minutes a day to marketing, you will definitely be able to sell more books in this new year!
  2. Write More Books – While I don’t believe in the philosophy of simply writing more books as your only form of marketing, I do think that the more books you have, the more opportunities you have to gain readers and sell more books. Focus on publishing as many books as you can this year (even if it is just 1 or 2), because different books will grab people’s attention in different ways, but once they see and like your writing style, they will want to read more books from you so it pays off to have more books to sell to them!
  3. Set Up Your Mailing List and Send People To It – If you do not have a mailing list set up, read here to learn why you should set up a mailing list. If you already have a mailing list, or after you set one up, work on leading people to the mailing list. Create an enticing offering, whether it is a piece of art, a novelette, or something appealing to get them to sign up to your mailing list. Talk about your mailing list and the exclusive content they can get by joining the list on Twitter, Facebook, on your blog, etc. This is the single most important marketing mechanism you can have in place, so put your focus on growing your list this new year.
  4. Find 2-3 Blogs A Week That You Can Promote Your Book On – Finding blogs that deal with a similar subject matter as your books is one of the most effective ways to market your book. Does your main character love her cat? Find cat-lover blogs and tell them about your book, possibly even offering a free copy to the blog owner. They get a free book, something to write about that their readers will love, and you get a way to promote your book that isn’t saturated with other books and that can drive some solid sales to your book! It is a win-win strategy for all involved: you, the blog owner, and the blog readers! Seek out and find 2-3 such blogs each week and reach out to them (this can be done during your 30 minutes of marketing a day!) Expose your book to new readers at each blog who would love to know about your books!
  5. Connect With 3-4 Other Authors You Can Cross Promote With – The idea of “self-publishing” creates a feeling of having to go at it alone (the word “self” doesn’t help), but you do not need to go on this journey alone! Find 3-4 other similar authors early in the year and reach out to them to see if you can work together with them to promote each others’ books. You can run discount promos together, you can tweet about and share each others books, and you could even make boxed sets featuring 1-2 of each authors books. Many more promotional opportunities are available when you work together with other authors. You can share your audience, your reach, and get more exposure all from working together! Work together with other authors to help boost sales for each of you this year!

Charging Ahead in the New Year

There is always some type of marketing you can be doing, but there are never enough hours in the day to write more, market more, and do all of the publisher duties such as editing, formatting, etc. But, you can make small, measurable goals or resolutions to improve your marketing this year by resolving to do a few (or all) of the resolutions above! These steps will help you to accomplish the ultimate goal to sell more books and get more readers!

Here’s to a happy and prosperous year!

– The Book Marketing Tools Team

Reblog: How to Get Bloggers to Review your Book

One of the best strategies for marketing books is to get as many people OTHER THAN YOU THE AUTHOR to write about and review your books for you.  In this, bloggers are key.  Today’s reblog comes from BookDaily.com offering some very helpful advice.

How to Get Bloggers to Review your Book

How do you get bloggers to review your novel? That is the magic question. Allow me to discuss the strategies that worked for me and that I believe can work for you.

Querying Bloggers

Speaking as a blogger and a former newspaper reviewer, it’s really annoying when an author sends a form letter seeking a review. It’s also kind of insulting. You want a blogger to spend how many hours reading your book and then writing a review, and the most you can personalize your letter is by adding the person’s name (and not always that)? Oh, no, no, no.

Requesting a review is not unlike querying a literary agent. A certain set of parameters apply to the situation. Well, they do if you want to see results.

#1-How to find book blogs.
If you’re a YA author, your life will be made much easier by the YA Book Blog Directory. If not, that’s okay. Do a search on Google or your favorite social network and try to find a blog that caters specifically to your genre. Most blogs have blogrolls (either a list of links or a cluster of badges that link to other blogs). The blogroll displays blogs that the blog site you are on enjoys—that’s a mouthful! Chances are, the blogs linked in the blogroll will review similar kinds of books. Most blogs have a pretty robust blogroll, which means finding one blog can lead to dozens and dozens of others. It’s a tangled web, but it will get you to your destination.

#2-Approach the right bloggers!
This should go without saying, but, sadly, it doesn’t. Most book blogs have a review policy in place. A little digging through the menu bar or side bar will easily reveal it. If the blogger doesn’t have an explicit review policy, take the time to read through their past book reviews to determine if your book is a good fit for the site. If a blogger says they do not accept your genre, don’t push it. Don’t write a letter that says, “listen, I know you said you hate romance novels, but I think you’ll really love my novel, because… (insert narcissistic idiocy here).” That’s so not cool.

#3-Construct a query letter. Personalize it for each blogger.
Aw, but that seems like a lot of work! It is a lot of work, but again, you’re asking bloggers to spend somewhere in the neighborhood of 10+ hours to read and review your book. You can spend 10 minutes looking around their sites and showing that you care. Really. This is much like querying an agent. You should construct a basic form letter with the relevant information about your book, and then personalize a portion of it. Include the blogger’s name in the title. I even include the blog name in the subject of the email to signal to the blogger skimming his or her email that, yes, this letter was written just for you—it’s not a mass mailing.

I have a template of the letter I sent out to recruit for my tour. It worked very well and may give you some ideas on how to write your own. Click here to see the example.

#4. Follow, follow, follow, follow, follow on social media sites!
Notice how I said “I’m now following you on XYZ sites?” Bloggers often include links to their Facebook, Twitter, and BookDaily accounts on their sites. Whenever I see a link to connect via social media, I do it. I also make it a point to follow any blogs I visit via Google Friend Connect (or G+). This is yet another way to show bloggers that you spent time on them, and as they see your name popping up on their follow and friend lists, that query you sent will become more ingrained in their memory. Besides which, if a blogger is just too busy to feature you or your book now, they’re now connected with you and might (okay, it’s a long shot, but they might) remember the offer and approach you later.

Social Media

Although contacting bloggers through the above query method is extremely time-consuming, it’s far more effective than recruitment via social media. Why? Because you are specifically targeting bloggers who enjoy your genre!

I’ve had pretty good success recruiting via social media as well, but the bloggers I acquired through that method are not die-hard fans of my genre like the ones I got through the query method. That being said, recruiting through social media is super fast and easy, but… it might not be so fast and easy if you have a small following. Yet another reason to build your social media presence, methinks!

Alright, that’s all I have for you today. I might write a post about organizing your own blog tour, if that’s something you guys want. Just let me know!

Editor’s Note: To read Emlyn’s full article click here.

About the Author:
Emlyn Chand is the president of Novel Publicity and a YA author. She loves to hear and tell stories and emerged from the womb with a fountain pen grasped firmly in her left hand (true story). Her first novel Farsighted released in late 2011 and is of the YA genre. Learn more about Emlyn at www.emlynchand.com or by connecting with her on Facebook, Twitter or Google+.

Repost: Sales Lesson Vodafone and Apple: Unhappy Customers Don’t Buy Read

Earlier this week I received this blog post about not selling to unhappy customers.  It is poignant and very sound advice.

 

Read it at  http://blog.thesocialms.com/sales-lesson-vodafone-apple-unhappy-customers-dont-buy/

by 

Last week my smartphone was stolen. It was brand new – only in my possession for 2 days. It was a shiny new BlackBerry Passport – and I loved that phone. For me phones are there for freeing up time because I can get work done on them – not for wasting my free time watching music videos on Youtube. It was perfect for that.

Yet, it was stolen from me. I am also pretty broke right now so I won’t be getting a new one any time soon. I was angry. I still am.

Here Is why Apple Needs A Sales Lesson

The phone was taken from a pocket of my jacket which was originally zipped close – yet my phone was gone. The whole thing happened in the Apple Store in Berlin (Kurfürstendamm 26 if anyone cares…). And that is where I learned the lesson that Apple Store employees don’t learn anything about sales.

Naturally I went back to the Apple Store a couple of times the last few days to check whether my phone had turned up – and the Apple employees tried to sell me an Iphone.

Sales Lesson

Seriously… I just lost a brand new BlackBerry. Worse: It was stolen from me. I am angry. I am sad. I am unhappy!

And: Unhappy customers don’t buy.

What the hell do people tell you when you start working at Apple? I mean – you are working for Apple, are you not? That’s the company that is supposed to be the holy grail of marketing? Don’t you guys learn anything?

They didn’t even stop when I told them I’m not interested. Guys I want a workhorse for … work, not a toy for watching videos.

And that is a lesson you should learn, fast. Because what you achieved that day is the following: Apple could now release the greatest phone ever, let’s say the “IMEGAPhone” and I still wouldn’t buy it. Ever. Because this is always going to remind me of that day. (I will continue buying their laptops – just because I’m already used to them. But phones – hell no.)

Let me write the following in bold: If you want to sell to someone who is unhappy – make him happy first.

In the case of the stolen smartphone that would have meant something along the lines of: Comfort me for my loss, tell me to show up again tomorrow and ask about it. Give me a phone number to call in. Tell me that you are going to look for it. Whatever.

I would return to the Apple Store with a much better feeling in the future – and would probably spend a lot of money in the future.

I know – Apple can get away with this – at the moment. But isn’t Apple also a company that should know that dark times can always come? And that it is how you treated your fanbase during the good times that decides how they treat you during bad times? That wisdom used to be Apple’s Marketing Mojo – seems they are losing it.

Vodafone Needs a Sales Lesson, Too!

On with the story: I went to the next Vodafone store to get a new SIM card for my old BlackBerry. And there it happened again: Seemingly even before my wish to get the SIM card locked and get a new SIM card was being carried out, they had already started to work on me.

If I wanted a new phone – I could simply order a partner card (25€/month) on top of my existing contract. I don’t need a fucking partner card – I just had my phone stolen. I’m angry, I want someone to shout at (I kept quiet for the most part…).

On paper all these people did everything right: They identified that I was in need of something they could provide and sell me, so they jumped right at me. And believe me – Vodafone really tried hard. Wouldn’t my parents be grateful for a new contract (without a new phone – are you serious…)?

Seriously – when jumping shamelessly at unhappy customers you shouldn’t expect great results. This is not the way to start a relationship with customers and even if you manage to sell something, the customer is still not going to be happy with his purchase. He is going to regret having bought from you. He will not come back. He will cancel his contract as soon as he can.

As for me – I left the store and promised myself to never enter this particular Vodafone shop again.

What Happened to Building Relationships?

It is really scary that these big corporations don’t even get these essential things right.

Both of these could have built a relationship to me that day. I’m not asking for freebies – but a little comfort would have done wonders. I expected both of them to do better – and am seriously disappointed. I mean – Apple is famous for its great marketing – but this is really marketing 101. And Vodafone should know better, too – they actually close contracts on cold calls. And do that a lot!

So what is the moral of this? Maybe Apple should ask every employee a question: “Would you sell an unhappy customer an Iphone?” And then fire anyone who says yes.

Just kidding. But they should take that image of being helpful to a new level.

And Vodafone? Well, my contract lasts for two years now. Doesn’t that suck?

Reblog: What Are the REAL Odds of Being a Successful Author?

Okay, you have your new year’s resolution all set!  Now you are ready to go make a splash professionally.  Before you look at site statistics and let yourself feel overwhelmed, please take a look at what Kristen Lamb has to say about the odds of your success and how much control you really have over it.

 

I do not agree with everything in this article, but it is certainly worth thinking about.

What Are the REAL Odds of Being a Successful Author?

didn’t even consider becoming a writer until 1999 after my father passed away suddenly. Funny how death can make us take a hard look at life, right? Anyway, I recall feeling soooo overwhelmed. I mean my odds of even getting published were about as good as winning the lottery. And the odds of becoming a best-selling author? Well, mathematically speaking, I had a slightly greater chance of being mauled by a black bear and polar bear on the same day.

It was all I could do not to give up before I began.

But, after over 14 years doing this “writer thing,” I have a new perspective. Often it feels like we are the victims of fate, at the mercy of the universe, when actually it is pretty shocking how much of our own destiny we control.The good news is that if we can get in a habit of making good choices, it is staggering how certain habits can tip the odds of success in our favor.

Time to take a REAL look at our odds of success. Just so you know, this is highly unscientific, but I still think it will paint a pretty accurate picture. I will show you a bit of my own journey. And, to be blunt, this DOES NOT ONLY APPLY TO WRITERS.

Did you know most entrepreneurs fail at least three times before getting traction? Most new businesses don’t make it a year. They are fortunate to survive THREE years and if they can hit The Golden Six? Smoother from there. But WHY?

The 5% Rule

It has been statistically demonstrated that only 5% of any population is capable of sustained change.

I remember when I was a rather young writer and NYTBSA Bob Mayer introduced me to this idea. I was AGHAST! No, writers just needed nurturing, cuddling, and help. Trust me, it pains me to say he was/is right.

***But Bob is generally right and that is often why it ticks me off to admit this.***

I worked for years with self-professed writers who refused to learn, listen or even work. They had the skin of a grape and wanted to make it in an often undervalued profession that is NO place for the idle or thin-skinned.

Thus, with that in mind…

When we start out wanting to write, we are up against presumably millions of other people who want the same dream. We very literally have better odds of being elected to Congress than hitting the NY Times best-selling list. But I think that statement is biased and doesn’t take into account the choices we make.

As I just said, in the beginning, we are up against presumably millions of others who desire to write. Yes, millions. It is estimated that over ¾ of Americans say that they would one day like to write a book. And that is only ONE continent. Much of Europe, Australia and New Zealand are burgeoning markets in the new digital paradigm.

That’s a LOT of people. Ah, but how many do? How many decide to look beyond that day job? How many dare to take that next step?

Statistically? 5%

So only 5% of the millions of people who desire to write will ever even take the notion seriously. This brings us to the hundreds of thousands. But of the hundreds of thousands, how many who start writing a book will actually FINISH a book? How many will be able to take their dream seriously enough to lay boundaries for friends and family and hold themselves to a self-imposed deadline?

Statistically? 5%

Of that 5%, how many will join a critique group—A GOOD ONE—and learn instead of sulking?

5%

Okay, well now we are down to the tens of thousands. Looking a bit better. But, finishing a book isn’t all that is required. We have to be able to write a book that is publishable and meets industry/reader standards. When I first started writing, I thought that everyone who attended a writing critique group would be published. I mean they were saying they wanted to be best-selling authors.

But did they?

Or, were they more in love with the idea of being a best-selling author than actually doing whatever it took to succeed? I would love to say that I was a doer and not a talker, but I don’t want to get hit by lightning. There were a number of years that I grew very comfortable with being in a writing group as a writer…but not necessarily a professional writer.

I was still querying the same book that had been rejected time and time and time again.  I wrote when I felt inspired and didn’t approach my craft like a professional. I was, at best, a hobbyist and, at worst, hopelessly delusional.

I didn’t need craft books *snort* I spoke English, so I knew how to write. Geesh! *rolls eyes*

I was a member of two writing groups, and had grown very fond of this “writer life.” We hung out at I-Hop and drank lots of coffee. We’d all chat about what we’d do with our millions once we were bigger than Dan Brown. We talked about new ideas for books that never seemed to get written. Or if we ever did sit to write one of these ideas, we would get about 30,000 words in and then hit a wall.

Hmmm…and I thought that idea had so much promise.

Yet, after four years hearing the same talk from the same people shopping the same novels, I had a rude awakening. Maybe I didn’t know as much as I thought I knew. Maybe being a copy writer and technical writer and editor didn’t automatically make me a novel-writing genius. Maybe I needed to take this dream of being a best-selling writer a tad more seriously and not rely on bluster, BS and glitter. Maybe I needed to read craft books and scrape up enough money to go to a conference.

So, of the tens of thousands of writers who write a novel, how many read craft books and get serious enough to take classes, listen to thoughtful critique, and attend conferences?

You guys are good….5%

And of those who attend a conference (and want to traditionally publish), who are asked to send in page requests, how many follow through?

Likely, 5%

How many will land an agent right away?

5%

And of all of those authors rejected, how many writers, determined to impress, are willing to GUT their novel and wage wholesale slaughter on entire villages of Little Darlings? How many are willing to put that first novel in a drawer, learn from the experience and move forward with a new book…which they FINISH?

5%

And of the writers who land an agent or are brave enough to go indie or self-publish, how many of them get dead-serious about building a large social media platform?

Again? Probably 5%.

And of those writers who are published and doing social media, how many of them are effectively branding their names so their name alone will become a bankable asset (versus taking the easy way and spamming everyone in sight)?

5%

Of those who self-publish, how many will keep writing more books and better books until they hit a tipping point for success? (versus beating marketing one book to death)

5%

Of writers who self-publish, how many will invest in professional editing and cover art?

5%

Thus, when we really put this dream under some scrutiny, it is shocking to see all the different legs we control.

We control:

Taking the Decision Seriously

Writing the Book

Editing the Book

Finishing the Book

Learning the Craft

Developing RHINO SKIN

Networking

Following Through

Not Giving Up in the Face of Rejection

Writing Books

Writing More Books

Yes, Writing Even MORE Books

Doing Everything in Our Power to Lay a Foundation for a Successful Career

I am not saying that finishing a book is easy. None of this is easy.

This job is a lot of hard work and sacrifice, which is exactly why most people will never be genuine competition. When we start out and see all the millions of other writers I think we are in danger of giving up or getting overwhelmed. Actually, if we focus on the decisions we control, our odds improve drastically.

This job is like one giant funnel. Toss in a few million people with a dream and only a handful will shake out at the end. Is it because fortune smiled on them? A few, yes. But, for most, the harder they worked, the “luckier” they got. They stuck it out and made the tough choices.

In the Sahara there is a particularly long stretch of desert that is completely flat. There are no distinguishing landmarks and it is very easy to get lost. To combat the problem, the French Foreign Legion placed large black oil drums every mile so that travelers could find their way across this massive expanse of wasteland one oil drum at a time.

Are we there yet?

 

Want to be a successful author?

Take it one oil drum at a time.

What are some oil drums you now see ahead? Does your journey to author success seem easier now? What makes you feel overwhelmed? What inspires you?

Repost: Why Networking Is a Dirty Word

Another very useful blog post from Stage 32.  Today’s is called Why Networking Is a Dirty Word.

 

———————————————

Today’s blog marks the return of one of my favorite people on the planet, Julie Gray.

The author of Just Effing Entertain Me: A Screenwriter’s Atlas, Julie Gray is a script consultant and writer living in Tel Aviv, Israel. A Huffington Post and Script Magazine contributor, Julie is a favorite speaker at the London Screenwriter’s Festival and has taught story at Warner Bros. Entertainment, Oxford University and The San Francisco de Quito University in Quito, Ecuador. Julie directs the Tel Aviv Writer’s Salon, consults with prose and screenwriters all over the world and volunteers with Amnesty International in Israel, helping African refugees to tell their stories, as well as with Natal, a non-profit for survivors of terror and war.

Can you see why Julie is one of my favorite people on the planet?  But wait, there’s more.

Julie has selflessly helped hundreds of screenwriters and other film creatives througout her career both personally and through her recently retired website, Just Effing Entertain Me.  She recently launched her new site, Stories Without Borders (how perfect is that name?), where her passion for screenwriting and those who choose to pursue a life in the craft shine through.

Compassionate, brave and selfless, they don’t come much better than Julie.

And she knows a thing or two about networking too.  The evidence lies below.

Enjoy!

RB

“It’s who you know”. We’ve all heard it.  It is perhaps one of the top three truisms about Hollywood, the other two being, ironically, “Know the rules before you break them” and “There are no rules”.

Networking. The word is both specific and vague. Like – go to cocktail parties with other writers? Invite people to lunch? Go to screenwriting events? Hand out business cards? What kind of business cards? What should I wear? Oh did you hear SO-AND-SO will be there? MAYBE HE/SHE WILL READ MY SCRIPT!

Oy. This is a pernicious and slippery slope. We’ve all done it, the nerves, the desperate feeling… It doesn’t even feel good to think about, right?

Let’s forget that kind of networking. Let’s call it something else.

Let’s call it Relationship Building.

Relationships have two basic building blocks: shared interests and reciprocity. Relationships are the framework within which we share valuable resources, services and information. Relationships are reciprocal – we benefit mutually.

Think of your day-to-day life. You need a lift somewhere, or a cup of sugar, or the name of a good dentist. Who do you call? No – not Ghostbusters, smarty pants – you call friends or family members and ask for help. People with whom you have a relationship. Who do they call when they need help baking a pie or changing their oil or choosing a good vet? You.

“It takes a village” is not a cliché; it is fundamentally important to our well-being and happiness as humans. Not to go all Jared Diamond on you, but man evolved away from being solitary from hunter/gatherers, subject to every whim of nature when
we settled down into a cooperative lifestyle in which we exchanged goods and services.  For thousands of years, humans have lived in a shared economy, an eco-system, if you will, of resources, services and information. It’s how we not only survived but how we flourished. We need each other.

As writers, this is especially true. Writing can be a very isolating occupation, filled with long hours and frustrations. Both the world of Hollywood and traditional publishing can seem like exclusive clubs to which you do not belong. So you wait, standing in line in the rain. How do you get in?

“It’s who you know” does not mean simply that you have met a person who might be advantageous to you, therefore you “know” them and they now help you. That isn’t how it works. That is not relationship building, that is just rude.

Let’s take it back to what we know – in our normal lives:  When a friend or acquaintance – someone who’s company you have enjoyed even just a little bit, asks a favor of you, generally, if you can, you do it gladly, right? I do. If it’s someone else – well, we’re all busy, right?

You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. Another truism. Truisms are called truisms for a reason. If I help you bake that pie, that’s money in the bank for me in two ways: 1) It gives me pleasure to help someone I like and 2) I know that when I need help, I can ask you. And I know for sure I will need help at some point – we all do.

It’s how we humans are wired – for cooperation and reciprocity. Relationship building is mutually beneficial.

So forget networking. A pox on it!

Build relationships with other writers.

Go to events
Bring a business card
Talk with people – actually talk with them
See if there is a favor you can do for someone else
Get to know people who are on your same level or above
Consider mentoring a writer who is starting out (don’t forget another truism of Hollywood: Today’s assistant is tomorrow’s executive).

Apply the same relationship building skills with other writers that you do in your home and your office. Reciprocity, cooperation, sharing of resources.

Relationship building is like dating: you have to kiss some frogs and there will be missed opportunities. That’s okay. There will be other chances.

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, things like this will happen:

You will stumble upon people who only take. Dump them.
You will stumble upon people who do not share your interests or trajectory at all.
You will stumble upon people who are simply not interested in you. That’s okay.
You will stumble upon a GREAT connection – at the wrong moment. Let it go.

Recently, a client of mine wrote a great one-hour drama pilot. I mean – really great. So I hooked him up to have lunch with an HBO/Showtime producer, an NBC/Universal fellow, and a writer on Netflix’s From Dusk Til Dawn. These are all my friends and they are happy to meet this new writer. Because I wrote that letter of recommendation to NBC/Universal. Because I have sent many good scripts to the producer. Because I helped get that writing gig. And my friends have helped me, too, in many ways. All I ask when I connect people to my connections is that they join that circle of giving themselves.  Circle of giving – not circle of taking. Nobody wants to belong to a group of people like that.

When our very own beloved Richard Botto asked me to write an article about relationship building for Stage 32, I did not hesitate for a split second. Because I believe in what Richard does – community building. And because Richard is my friend. He was there for me during a very tough time in my life – you don’t forget those kinds of things.

You’ll find that most people are actually very generous with their time, their resources and their connections – people love helping other people. It’s scientifically proven.

In the world of writing, especially writing for entertainment, which is so collaborative, relationships areeverything.  It’s how you hear about those opportunities before anybody else has heard of them, it’s how you get that recommendation or those great notes. It is how you get introduced to people who are interested in your work.

But relationships don’t happen overnight and they will not blossom at all if you are not patient, sincere and generous yourself.

Here are some common sense guidelines:

1. Meet liked minded people; go to events, participate online, get out there.
2. Primarily think about what YOU have to offer someone else (and no, it’s not your script)
3. Give relationships time to build. Check in. Grab a coffee. Have no agenda.
4. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Don’t network – a pox on networking! Build relationships!

Followup News: Booklinker REVERSES advertising policy

Blogging makes a difference!  After reporting on 4th October 2014 regarding Booklinker’s new plan to charge authors a monthly fee to use their links without intrusive advertisements before customers can reach Amazon.com, Booklinker has JUST REVERSED their decision,

“Laurel A. Rockefeller,

This is just a quick email to let you know that we at BookLinker have reversed our decision to use advertising as a means to fund our service.

This means that all BookLinker links are now completely back to the way they were a few days ago – i.e. no advertising whatsoever.

After having reviewed the situation, we are now uninanmously committed to an ad-free BookLinker forever.

Many thanks to those of you who provided us with feedback, and we have already refunded everyone who had already signed up for the premium plan.

It was at least encouraging to realise just how much our service is appreciated!”

 

Will this change my marketing strategy?  Probably not; I already deleted every viewbook.at link address from my files.  But this does represent a clear victory for the power of  our voices.  Change DOES HAPPEN when we band together and say “no” to something.

 

Let us continue to use our voices together to make the market place more fair to everyone, removing all thoughts of competition from our mind and replacing these with a sense of community.  Together we all sell more books.  Together we all make a difference to our world.

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