It’s Time to End Free Agent Labor

From Bookends:

Nearly every week an agent at BookEnds receives a request to speak at an event, conference, or group meeting. Almost universally there is an expectation that the agent will do so for free. While this has been the norm for generations, it’s time to put an end to free agent labor.

As publishers are raising starting salaries, the rest of us need to do our part. That means dispelling the myth that conference work is a favor to the agent. It’s not. It’s work. A full weekend of exhausting work, missed family time, and travel costs that are not, let’s be honest, worth the reward.

. . . .

Most conferences offer to pay travel expenses–specifically hotel, flight, and most meals (not all) But as anyone who has ever flown knows, that’s never the extent of true travel expenses. You also need to get to and from the airport, eat meals (or snacks) that aren’t included, and you’re expected to schmooze with conference attendees that can often amount to at least a moderate bar/food/snack bill (depending on how you like to schmooze).

I guess what I’m trying to say is that while conferences say they pay travel expenses, very rarely have all my travel expenses been covered. There’s always something that isn’t factored in (a $200 airport parking bill anyone).

. . . .

In the era of Zoom, many see this as a real boon to their agent networking. Now they can have agents attend without any costs. Those pesky travel expenses are a thing of the past.

They are. That’s true. But time is money people and asking an agent to spend an 8-hour day, or a 16-hour weekend, working in front of Zoom is ridiculous. 

. . . .

It’s a myth conference organizers have told themselves for years that conferences benefit agents. A myth that paying travel expenses is beyond generous. Sure, it’s expensive to pay travel expenses, but these agents are driving people to your event. It’s worth the cost, as is paying them for their work.

In my 20 years as an agent, easily over 100 conferences, I can count on one hand the number of clients I’ve found. Most clients come through connections I make after reading or hearing about their work or, truthfully, through Query Manager.

Link to the rest at Bookends

While PG doesn’t do this any more, he used to command nice speaking fees for his presentations at conferences.

For unpaid speakers, as the OP implied, the speaker has to decide whether it’s really worth the time and the hassle to accept these invitations.

Compared to in-store book signing sessions, however, conferences are a gold mine.

Quite often, somebody is making money from a trade conference. Usually, it’s the conference organizers.

How to Introduce Yourself as an Author and Build a Strong Author Brand

From Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris:

A bookstore employee outed Richard Bachman as Stephen King in 1985 despite all his efforts to hide the fact. The clever person recognized King’s style following its breadcrumbs scattered in Bachman books. 

One of the breadcrumbs was the word “mangler.” The characters in King’s and Bachman’s books used it to refer to laundry pressing machines.

This anecdote from King’s life shows that an author brand is every decision that can impact how people perceive you. 

And, when it comes to creating your public image, it’s better to have a branding strategy than bet on blind luck. 

What Is an Author Brand Strategy?

In 1887, Guy de Maupassant paid for a hot-air balloon with the name of his new story on it to glide over Paris. 

At the time, an average person knew about Guy and his personality as much as newspapers wrote about him. Thus, extravagant, grand gestures were great for boosting one’s brand and recognition. 

Today, the situation is drastically different. Your reader may know as much about you as you’re willing to communicate. Like a sculptor over wet clay — you have unprecedented control over your brand. Shape it as you will. 

Doing it blindly can lead to a bad result though. A shapeless mess that harms more than benefits. 

On the contrary, brand strategy can help you avoid such an outcome.

Brand strategy is a set of tools, approaches, and methods that help you achieve desired recognition and convey: 

  • What you stand for;
    • What are your beliefs and principles? Maybe, you want to spread the word of love and acceptance? Or maybe, you believe in the power of imagination to change the future?  
  • What you promise;
    • Each story has something to offer. What about yours? Maybe it’s a great imaginative adventure or a chance for introspection?
  • Your personality. 
    • Let your personality and charisma shine through your branding efforts and win you new followers. 

Now that you have an idea of what the branding strategy is, let’s figure out what makes it good.

What makes a good author brand strategy ? 

There’s a peculiar quote in Charles Dickens’s Bleak House

“As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill.”

First, the prose is great. Second, is that the reference to a dinosaur in a positively Victorian novel? Yes, yes it is. Dickens knew what the public found fascinating and wasn’t afraid to use it. Consider it his brand. 

Most likely, Dickens didn’t have a well-defined brand strategy. His success is the result of hard work, entrepreneurial instinct, and luck. 

For us, mere mortals, relying on luck and instinct is not a viable strategy. We should make plans and stick to them. 

And the first step of planning an effective branding is researching your target readers. Often, it comes down to answering the proper questions. 

Afterward, you should determine how to convince them that you and your writing are what they are looking for. 

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris

What Every Writer Needs to Know About Email Newsletters (They’re Not Going Away)

From Jane Friedman:

You probably remember this one from history class: Thomas Paine, in 1776, dashed off a pamphlet called Common Sense, encouraging the American colonists to revolt against British rule, with the pamphlet supposedly proving so popular that, in its first three months of publication alone, it sold more than 100,000 copies. Also, it helped kick off a war.

Paine himself, it turns out, was the primary source of information regarding those astounding sales figures. If we take him at his word, then Common Sense remains the bestselling book in U.S. history. Stephen King can’t unseat it. Dan Brown? Can’t compete. Danielle Steele? GTFO! But what’s all this got to do with you, one more aspiring, ink-stained wretch, vainly attempting to build your author platform today, some 250 years later?

Everything.

Paine faced the same problem that you and I face. He and his fellow “pamphleteers” couldn’t rely on Buzzfeed and the New York Timesto deliver up an audience. They had to discover it for themselves. Yes, the audience was there, in abundance, but to reach it, they basically had to start a Substack.

I’m not the first to notice the overlap between the pamphleteers of the 18th century and popular present-day mediums. For better or for worse, some 20th-century political operatives not only ran the same play as Paine—bypassing media outlets and instead mailing their messages directly to their would-be audiences—but wrote entire self-aggrandizing books about the strategy. They understood the power of building one’s own means of distribution, one’s own mailing list. In fact, “direct mail” was, arguably, how the right bankrolled the Reagan revolution. It’s how Karl Rove got his start.

Yesterday’s pamphlets and mail packages closely resemble today’s email newsletters. And now, in related news, just about every big tech company is announcing that they’re getting into the newsletter game, too. Both Facebook and Twitter are launching newsletter products, while the CEO of Medium recently declared the platform is pivoting from magazines to focusing on “individual voices,” i.e. newsletter-like offerings. Substack has even started paying six-figure advances to established writers they believe have the power to draw large numbers of paid subscriptions.

. . . .

Even as you and I are witnessing this 2021 crush of both tech companies and individual writers into the newsletter game, it’s crucial to understand that these developments are not new. (Neither are the, uh, sometimes-controversial politics.)

The difference is how newsletters are being reshaped by the internet and related trends in the larger economy, namely:

  • The continued move of advertising dollars away from traditional media and into Facebook and Google, which allow for much more specific ad-targeting;
  • How this is pushing heavyweights including the New York Times and Washington Post to rely more and more on subscriptions, rather than advertising, as their primary source of revenue;
  • The overall rise of the “subscription economy,” in which you and I and everyone else on the planet pay a few bucks each month for access to all manner of media, services, and products, from Amazon Prime to Netflix to diapers—really, we could keep listing things all friggin’ day.

It’s a complex reality, but writers like us will misunderstand it, or attempt to ignore it, at our own risk. You don’t need to grasp the more intricate details, anyway, beyond the fact that Wall Street loves recurring revenue (i.e. subscription-business models, which give a lot of insight into a company’s financial performance), plus the other salient fact: You and I are on our own, here.

In a sense, all writers are “direct to consumer” brands now. Major publishers, from Slate to Simon & Schuster, are relatively risk-averse, reluctant to invest in anything but proven winners. Whereas it’s easier than ever, if also a very crowded scene, to build and reach your own audience through channels such as Instagram, or better yet, your own email newsletter. Picture yourself standing by the side of a choked digital freeway, holding up a little hand-scrawled sign that reads “Drop your email here, and I’ll come to your inbox with tips and updates!!”

Believe me, I don’t love this reality, either. All this self-promotion feels awful, much of the time, but what’s the alternative? 

. . . .

The reason an email list beats every other kind of following

I keep focusing on email and email lists, rather than Twitter followers or YouTube subscribers, because email addresses are the marketing gold standard, widely understood to be more valuable than social-media counts. I know this as a nonfiction writer who’s spent the last decade working a day job in email marketing. But look further out, and the questions answer themselves: Why else would all these avaricious titans of industry be piling in? Why would big-name writers be launching newsletters?

It follows that your own email list is most likely more valuable to you than any other kind of following of similar size, no matter whether your newsletter is free or if you offer paid subscriptions, and no matter if your list remains quite limited. Even a small email list is better than no list at all, because it likely represents your most devoted, true fans, and even one of those (your mom) is better than none.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

How Not To Make A Book Launch Video

From Women Writers, Women’s Books:

For as long as I’ve dreamed of being an author, I’ve also dreamed about the moment I first get to hold a copy of my book. 

The thrill of seeing my name on the cover of an actual book, filled with words that I wrote. The knowledge that a publisher thought those words good enough to be worthy of printing onto paper. Paper that smells like, er, paper, but in that special new book-scented way.

Whenever and however it happened, I just knew it would be magical.

Just a mere 43 years later (I don’t like to rush things), and the moment had finally arrived. My debut novel, Wife Support System, came out as an ebook with Hera Books in July 2020 and the paperback was released on March 11th 2021. A paperback hadn’t been guaranteed when I signed the contract with Hera, so this made its publication even more exciting. 

With Covid scuppering all book launch events and parties, posting videos of book reveals has become one of the main ways of promoting books. Having seen other authors do a ta-da moment, I was excited to film and share my own long-awaited magical moment with the world. (When I say ‘the world’, I actually mean my mum and a few other family members who follow me online.)

. . . .

To start with, my suggestion that playing the Star Wars theme tune in the background as I opened the box would add some atmosphere and fun, was immediately dismissed as “cringe”. To be honest, it probably was a bit cheesy, but I grew up in the eighties so being a bit cheesy is a default setting.

Eve was in charge of filming. The top of my head is missing in most of the footage, which was actually an ingenious way of getting around my lockdown roots. Elena was in charge of telling me off for trying to play Star Wars (she used her own initiative in creating this role), resulting in Eve telling Elena off. So loudly that James had to ask us to be quiet as he was on a work Zoom call. Eve then stopped filming before I’d even opened the box of books.

I managed to get the box open on Take Two, but it still wasn’t quite what the professional footage I’ve seen other authors post on social media. None of them had someone in the background telling them to hurry up or comparing them to the Norris Nuts. No sooner had I got the book in my hand then Eve stopped filming, before I had a chance to even say what the book was called, let alone what it was about or where it could be bought.

. . . .

So, my advice to anyone planning to film their own book box opening / cover reveal / launch party is to ensure you do it in what I believe is called a Controlled Environment. In other words, make sure no one else is around to help (aka interfere and mess it up for you).

On the plus side, my book launch video does sum up the plot of my book – mums struggling to juggle work and childcare. I am a genuine example here of how “challenging” it can be. (“Challenging” isn’t my first choice of word, but I’m not sure it’s professional to swear in a blog. Although the video clearly demonstrates that there is very little professionalism going on in my life.) And, of course, there’s no fear of my new ‘published author’ status going to my head. My family are definitely keeping me grounded!

Link to the rest at Women Writers, Women’s Books

How Crying on TikTok Sells Books

From The New York Times:

“We Were Liars” came out in 2014, so when the book’s author, E. Lockhart, saw that it was back on the best-seller list last summer, she was delighted. And confused.

“I had no idea what the hell was happening,” she said.

Lockhart’s children filled her in: It was because of TikTok.

An app known for serving up short videos on everything from dance moves to fashion tips, cooking tutorials and funny skits, TikTok is not an obvious destination for book buzz. But videos made mostly by women in their teens and 20s have come to dominate a growing niche under the hashtag #BookTok, where users recommend books, record time lapses of themselves reading, or sob openly into the camera after an emotionally crushing ending.

These videos are starting to sell a lot of books, and many of the creators are just as surprised as everyone else.

. . . .

“I want people to feel what I feel,” said Mireille Lee, 15, who started @alifeofliterature in February with her sister, Elodie, 13, and now has nearly 200,000 followers. “At school, people don’t really acknowledge books, which is really annoying.”

. . . .

Many Barnes & Noble locations around the United States have set up BookTok tables displaying titles like “They Both Die at the End,” “The Cruel Prince,” “A Little Life” and others that have gone viral. There is no corresponding Instagram or Twitter table, however, because no other social-media platform seems to move copies the way TikTok does.

“These creators are unafraid to be open and emotional about the books that make them cry and sob or scream or become so angry they throw it across the room, and it becomes this very emotional 45-second video that people immediately connect with,” said Shannon DeVito, director of books at Barnes & Noble. “We haven’t seen these types of crazy sales — I mean tens of thousands of copies a month — with other social media formats.”

The Lee sisters, who live in Brighton, England, started making BookTok videos while bored at home during the pandemic. Many of their posts feel like tiny movie trailers, where pictures flash across the screen to a moody soundtrack.

Link to the rest at The New York Times

Tips for Working With a Social Media Assistant

From Writers in the Storm:

I’ve heard many authors—myself included—express our frustration and dismay at the expectation that we will not only produce wonderful books, but also carry out what amounts to a second full-time job as our own marketing team. Most of us don’t mind holding events, whether live or virtual, where we get to engage with readers. Nor do we mind interviews, written or recorded, where we can talk about our books and our writing process. But what so many of us do hate is the seemingly bottomless pit of social media engagement.

Facebook, with all those reader and writer groups. Instagram. Twitter. Pinterest.

“Likes” and “follows.” Comments and messages and shares.

Wouldn’t it be great if someone else could do all this for us?

Someone else can—for a price, and with a few caveats. Whether they call themselves virtual assistants, social media consultants, or author assistants, there are people who will manage your social media for you.

. . . .

Unlike publicists, who seek media coverage on your behalf, or direct marketers, whom you pay to advertise your book on their sites, a virtual assistant takes over tasks that you could, if you wanted, do yourself or learn how to do yourself. They may do it more attractively, strategically, or frequently—but they have no special credentials like the high-level media connections of a good publicist or special access to important gatekeepers. What you’re buying, in effect, is time—and the freedom to use that time in other ways.

The questions are: How much is that time worth to you, and are there other benefits, besides freeing up your time, that a virtual assistant can offer?

. . . .

I decided to investigate these questions when I thought about how I wanted to launch my second book, coming in April. My debut (April 2020) had a great launch despite the onset of the pandemic, but I wanted to expand my thinking to consider what I did not do—or didn’t do very well.

The obvious gap, for me, was in the realm of social media. Like many others in my cohort, I didn’t grow up with social media and secretly wished I didn’t have to use it. Being both naïve and overly-aggressive (a bad combination), I made some mistakes the first time around that I still regret. For example, having misunderstood the absolute meaning of “no self-promotion,” I am now banned forever from two of the biggest reader groups on Facebook.

I’ve learned a few things since Queen of the Owls made its way into the world. I now understand that social media is a long game, not a quick grab. It’s about the slow, steady development of connection and engagement. Like all relationships, it takes time and commitment. You have to show up every day, not just on birthdays and anniversaries. And that means a serious investment of energy.

Not everyone wants to do that. After all, there’s no end to what we, as authors, might do to reach out to readers! Another thing I’ve learned is that no one can, or should, do everything. I advise those who ask me: “Just do the stuff that’s fun for you, and outsource—or forget—the rest of it.”

. . . .

Sometimes the answer is clear. If you want to pitch to the book review editor at The New York Times, you need a professional publicist to do so on your behalf—and even then, there’s no guarantee. Many authors I know are unhappy at what they now consider to be a poor “return on investment” after hiring a publicist at a cost of anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000. They’re wondering if there isn’t a middle ground between spending that kind of money, which most don’t have, and doing it all yourself.

A virtual assistant—someone who can manage author promotion on social media—can seem like an attractive option.  At a cost far below that of a publicist, with a direct appeal to readers that can actually be tracked, social media assistance is a rapidly-growing alternative.

And for those of us, like me, who do have a publicist, a social media assistant can—maybe—take over an important piece of the book promotion that publicists don’t do and that many of us authors don’t do very well.

. . . .

I encountered a number of models—different ways of working, with different price tags and different strengths and drawbacks.  I ended up selecting someone who seemed to be the best fit for my needs and style. While she hadn’t worked with authors, specifically, she was creative and flexible, which were two priorities for me.  I didn’t want someone with an expensive prix fixe package who required a three-month minimum commitment, as many did. I wanted to be able to explore and ramp up slowly, which this VA allows me to do.

So far, it seems to be working well. I come up with the concepts and she executes them—a division of labor that’s letting me keep to a reasonable budget, since she charges by the hour. On the other hand, there are possibilities I’m electing to forgo, such as analytics, story reels, optimization strategies, and so on—on the premise that no one can do, or cover, everything. For now, I’m simply outsourcing the creative part, which requires skills that would take me too long to learn to do well.

Link to the rest at Writers in the Storm

PG will disclose that he consumes very, very little social media because he finds the signal-to-noise ratio to be much worse than when he wanders around parts of the web that he knows well. (He’s logged into Twitter 3-4 times since it first appeared and logs out in less than five minutes.)

That said, not everyone is like PG (thankfully) and some people enjoy checking into various social media platforms on a regular basis. Some of those social media fans buy books, so indie authors will be interested in reaching them with useful (and professional-looking) information.

Therefore, PG is definitely not a qualified social media guru, observer, expert, etc., of any sort.

He is an observer of humanity in general, however.

As he observes humanity, he can easily discern expert thumb-typists using smart phones. He doesn’t think any can beat his speed when he’s using a proper keyboard, but admits that he uses all ten digits while they use two, so a reasonable person would expect differences in speed.

(PG just tried to visualize a thumb-typist hitting 60-80 WPM which PG could easily do after he got warmed up in former days and could not imagine human thumbs moving that fast on teeny digital keyboards. For five minutes or two hours.)

Having worked with a few extremely intelligent college students over the years, if PG were to hypothetically consider using a Social Media Assistant, he might explore the college population. They’re likely to be intelligent and very familiar with the various platforms and the unwritten norms that govern interaction on those platforms.

Working as a Social Media Assistant for a celebrity like PG is much better fodder for a post-graduation résumé (AKA resume) than hustling for tips at a local restaurant, reshelving books in the university library or acting as a telephone operator for the antiquated university phone system at night when no one used it. (Note – The foregoing are a few of the jobs PG held when he was in college during the Pleistocene Epoch. (Sub-Note – PG never put any of those jobs on his résumé.))

PG is interested in comments from the always-intelligent and aware visitors to TPV concerning the social media challenge/opportunity facing authors these days.

One question just popped into PG’s mind (which was not otherwise occupied) – Can you still buy social media followers?

Several years ago, when you for-sure could buy social media followers and PG was in one of his experimental moods wanting to know if social media was useful or not, he gave someone something like $25 and gained over 10,000 followers very quickly. He didn’t notice any improvement in his life, so he didn’t give the person/organization any money after that.

Then he saw a mention of a small, very cheap little program (he doesn’t remember the name of it) that claimed to be able to increase your social media followers by automatically following people who followed you and following people it found online based on a few keywords selected by the purchaser. He gained another 10,000 or so followers very quickly with that program until it stopped working or was banned from social media in general.

Suffice to say, some of PG’s skepticism concerning social media arises from those two experiences. (He wonders if Kim Kardashian got started doing the same thing.)

(Which lead to PG wondering if the reason he never became a social media superstar was that he never though to post a photo of himself wearing a swimming suit.)

The evolution of pandemic-era children’s book author events

From The Washington Post:

Jeff Kinney needs a shovel: a six-foot shovel, to be exact.

The creator of the extraordinarily popular “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series has been one of the few children’s book authors to host in-person events throughout the pandemic, even if they weren’t his usual raucous affairs. Back in 2019, during what he calls “the old days,” Kinney took his interactive tour to theaters across the United States and to seven countries, selling out huge venues at every stop.

“The travel, the thousands of people,” Kinney recalled, “it just seems so naive now.”

But in early 2020, like all his colleagues in the children’s book universe, Kinney couldn’t go to the corner store, much less a packed theater. And for an author who admits that he needs the payoff of seeing his readers engaged and happy, the thought of not being around kids didn’t sit well.

“Touring gives me closure,” Kinney said last fall. “It’s a lonely business to write and illustrate, and I need that connection.”

Kinney is not the only author who feels that way.

“Oh, I need it,” author-illustrator Jay Cooper said. “Actual interaction with kids is a well of energy. You don’t always realize how empty your well is when you’re writing, but you can sure tell when kids fill it up again.”

Lamar Giles, a young adult author and founding member of We Need Diverse Books, knows that feeling. Giles had packed more than 30 author visits into the first couple of months of 2020 and had a full schedule for the rest of the year, but during the first week of March, he found himself stranded in a Seattle hotel room after his series of school visits in the city was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“My first thought was, how am I going to get home?” he said. “But my second thought was, I am really going to miss seeing these kids.”

But grief gave way to reality: If authors wanted to interact with their readers, they were going to have to get creative.

“It’s difficult to engage on a screen, especially with really young children,” Newbery winner Meg Medina said. “As an author, the last thing I want is to ask teachers and parents, who are already stretched so thin, to take on more work to keep their kids engaged while I am talking into a computer.”

Phil Bildner “has to be a magician” to keep kids engaged when he does his virtual author visits, he said. But Bildner is also a booking agent, so he knows that these virtual events are an absolute necessity, no matter the steepness of the learning curve.

Link to the rest at The Washington Post

PG has opined previously about what a waste of time he believes that traditional city-to-city book tours are for most, perhaps all, authors.

He’ll let visitors to TPV opine about whether book tours by children’s authors are worth the time and strange hotel rooms that may be less than ideal for writing. Including the recovery time following a book tour.

PG just considered how much Amazon advertising could be purchased for the cost of a book tour. The efficacy of that comparison would, of course, assume that the publisher was willing to hire someone who actually knew how to create, purchase and place online ads effectively. (Note: People who are really good at that sort of thing and who can generate results tend to be in high demand and charge accordingly.)

A New Trend I’ve Observed in Covers

From Mad Genius Club:

I want to talk about a new trend I’ve observed in covers, and how it applies to much of the greater world out there. I.e. how the new trend in covers is just a new way that traditional publishing has come up with to screw itself and the entire field of writing over.

They will have these brilliant ideas, and indies need to be aware of them. More importantly, they need to be aware these things are going on in other fields too, and having much the same effect.

So–

If you have been alive a long time, or even if you “just” read books for a long time, you’re probably aware that there are trends in covers, as there are in everything else. In covers, though, particularly in the era of mega-chain bookstores, that “look” not only tended/tends to be more uniform, but it changes completely.

. . . .

In Portugal, for a while, the trend for mystery books was picture of random body part. No, not dismembered, just, you know, so blown up as to be meaningless. Like it might be a picture of some chick’s foot arch blown up till you looked at it wand went “Leg? finger?” against a bold color background and surrounded in a silver frame.

Ages have trends. I’ve disapproved without being particularly affected or interested when Baen decided to try out the new trend on some of their books, the trend at the time being something picked up from literary, which was “part of the image blown up to take up the whole cover of the book. Usually a portion or a woman’s face or eyes.” Tres …. literary and refined looking.

I actually liked the old style Baen book covers, some of which were magnificent (I rather like the original cover for DST) and some of which were appalling, but all of which harked back to the pulp years and carried an implication of “fun”.

. . . .

The newest trend is more …. interesting. I first noticed it with an indie writer, Henry Vogel. His covers look like aged paper covers, down to the creases. And the fact one of his series is called Sword and Planet Adventures, clearly evoking planet stories, it can’t be a coincidence. Note that it didn’t offend me, because I thought “Well, his books are pretty close to those covers in feel and style, so…”

I mean, I know when I went through cover-design-course I was told to make sure that my covers looked like they belong to now and not “they came from Guttenberg!” BUT for a certain type of book, perhaps marketing it as belonging to another era works best?

. . . .

I kept running into more of these covers from other houses. Covers that explicitly try to look like they’re at the latest in the 50s.

Look, as a marketing strategy it’s brilliant. And stupid as heck.

Why?

Well, because now people are getting used to looking at Amazon for books that they remember reading/used to read/etc. they will be drawn to covers that are what they remember when they fell in love with a genre.

The problem is this: for most of the mainstream publishing, the contents won’t match the cover.

And yes, I can see them totally preening and going “if we get the rubes to look at our much superior product, they’ll love it.”

Because, you know, in the industry, it’s never about publishing what people want to read. It’s about “educating” the public. Which has taken them from 100K plus printruns for midlist to 10k printruns for high list.

The problem is it’s not a business plan. It’s a virtue signaling plan. By people so provincial they all graduated from the same cluster of colleges and all live in the same cluster of cities. And don’t know anyone different, even though the majority of the public IS different.

It will pay off. Brilliantly. For a very brief time. People will buy the books thinking it’s just like the stuff they loved. And be revolted. And throw it against the wall.

Link to the rest at Mad Genius Club

Following are a few of the Henry Vogel covers mentioned in the OP:

Amazon Recommendations and Also Boughts

PG put a link to this article at the bottom of a prior post but then realized that it definitely deserved its own post.

From David Gaughran:

Amazon recommendations drive millions of dollars of book purchases every single day, and Also Boughts are central to this system, which can lead to panic when they periodically disappear.

Also Boughts play an important role in Amazon recommendations — that process of pairing books to readers like some literary version of Tinder — but the exact role in Amazon’s recommender system can be misunderstood.

So let’s break it all down today, and show you the exact role Also Boughts play in Amazon recommendations, and why you need to protect yours.

What Are Also Boughts?

Also Boughts reflect the other purchases your readers are making, and also influence which readers Amazon recommends books to next. As a result, Also Boughts have become the focus of attention among savvy self-publishers in recent years.

You can view them on any book’s product page on Amazon, where you may have noticed a strip of books usually placed underneath the product description, headlined with “Customers who bought this item also bought.” It looks like this:

Also Boughts example - customers who bought this item also bought

The Also Bought strip doesn’t update as frequently as some parts of the Kindle Store, but it usually refreshes twice a week, on Thursday and Sunday evenings, which means they are a relatively up-to-date indication of how Amazon’s system views your book.

Meaning that authors watch them very closely.

Amazon’s system is always trying to determine what kind of products each individual customer is most likely to purchase, so it can make more accurate recommendations. One thing which is super important in this process is the connection between products. People who buy printers tend to buy ink, for example, and recommending a printer-buyer some ink to purchase will elicit a lot of clicks.

But it’s not just obvious pairings like leathers and feathers, Amazon’s system is constantly analyzing what everyone purchases and then using that to predict what they will buy next, in its never-ending quest to maximize sales by crunching All The Data.

The net effect when it comes to authors is this: if your book appears in the Also Boughts of a book in your niche which is selling well, this can lead to a considerable spike in sales. Conversely, if something goes wrong with your Also Boughts, it can lead to a measurable dip.

It was understandable that authors would begin worrying when Amazon seemed to remove Also Boughts from book pages, with some speculating that Amazon would stop recommending books organically and only give visibility to those using Amazon Ads.

But that’s not how the recommender system works. And I can show you exactly what I mean.

How Amazon Recommendations Really Work

Amazon makes millions of book recommendations to readers every single day — both on-site in various slots around the Kindle Store, and by email as well. These recommendations take many different forms.

Some Amazon recommendations are very top-down, but most are either personalized for each individual reader, or contextual — based on what the reader is viewing at that moment, or the place they are in the Kindle Store, or an action they just performed. And all of this is completely unaffected by Also Boughts disappearing from book pages.

Let me give you an example.

During the research process for my book Amazon Decoded, I conducted a number of revealing experiments.

Have you ever noticed what happens when you buy a book in the Kindle Store? Specifically, have you noticed what happens on-screen afterwards? Amazon never misses a trick and as soon as you complete payment, a confirmation screen appears recommending more books.

Amazon is split-testing things all the time, so you may see this play out slightly differently each time you purchase a book, but, commonly, you will see Amazon push the book in the #1 Also Bought slot pretty hard.

(Unless there is an audiobook edition which is Whispersynced, then Amazon will often favor that recommendation instead. It can experiment with other approaches, such as a carousel of books, but this will also be heavily influenced by the Also Boughts of what you just purchased.)

If that #1 Also Bought is also the next book in the series, then Amazon will helpfully flag that it is indeed the next in the series – which can really drive that spillover when you are promoting Book 1, especially if you have also discounted Book 2.

(Assuming your Book 2 is that #1 Also Bought, of course, and that your series metadata is in perfect shape.)

This is the kind of thing that doesn’t happen so much on the other retailers, because they simply don’t have recommender systems quite as sophisticated as the one powering the millions of recommendations Amazon makes every day.

Other retailers do have rudimentary recommendation engines, but Amazon is quite literally years ahead of the competition, and it doesn’t feel like that gap is closing because fundamentally different philosophies are at work.

Link to the rest at David Gaughran

6 BookBub Ads Features You May Not Know About

From BookBub Partners:

2. Browse “Related Authors” for your author targets

For many advertisers, choosing author targets is a critical part of creating successful ad campaigns. To help make it easier for advertisers to discover author targets with large audiences on BookBub, we added a tab to the author targeting module of the ad creation form to surface “Related Authors.”

BookBub Ads - Related Authors

After you select at least one author target for a campaign, we’ll generate a list of other authors who share readers with the author(s) you’ve already selected. Of course, you should always test your targets to determine which will be the most effective for your particular books and campaigns, but we hope this will help you find new audiences to test out!

3. View improved stats for individual author targets

When you’ve added more than one author target to a campaign, you can view the impressions, click-through rate (CTR), and cost-per-click for each target under the “Aggregate Stats” tab. These stats are now visible for each target as soon as your ad starts serving impressions.

BookBub Ads data

We recommend waiting to draw conclusions about an author target’s effectiveness until you have at least a few hundred impressions. The more data you have, the more reliable the results.

Note that many of our readers fall into the targetable ad audiences of multiple authors. If a reader who sees an impression of your ad falls into the audience of more than one of the authors your ad is targeting, we include the stats from that impression under each of those authors. This may help you collect data more efficiently than if you were to target each of those authors’ audiences with separate ad campaigns.

Link to the rest at BookBub Partners

PG notes that BookBub is not the only book promo service used by indie authors (there are quite a few).

However, PG included this excerpt because it highlights what can often be a useful principle for marketing and promoting a book (as well as a great many other things) – Watch what your competitors are doing to sell their books and try to determine if it’s working well or not.

One of the common things that advertising agencies do is to carefully monitor all the advertising and marketing activities undertaken by companies that are competitive with the agency’s clients. For example, Coke’s ad agency watches what Pepsi is doing for advertising and promotion and vice-versa.

Sometimes this practice results in copy-cat advertising, but more often, it may disclose something more subtle: the competitor has discovered a consumer segment (let’s use single women over 40 who have a reasonable amount of disposable income as an example) that responds positively to a certain type of message and has created advertisements that carry that message and is placing them in online locations that attract such visitors (or magazines focused on such readers or television programs with a high percentage of such viewers).

BookBub’s suggestion is the same. Very few readers only read books by a single author. One of the reasons that genres exist and are cultivated by publishers and bookstores is that the best way to sell more books to those types of readers.

We’ll take an example: Mystery and Crime Fiction (which are actually two genres, but are often lumped together):

Some basic sub-genres would be:

  1. Detective Novels (Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and Sue Grafton are some well-known examples)
  2. Cozy Mysteries (Dorothy L. Sayers, Elizabeth Daly and sometimes, Dame Agatha again)
  3. Police Procedural (Ed McBain, P. D. James, and Bartholomew Gill)
  4. Caper Stories (W. R. Burnett, John Boland, Peter O’Donnell, and (sometimes) Michael Crichton)

So, if you write detective novels, you might want to see if you can successfully promote your book by targeting readers who like Sue Grafton’s books. In a crude way, you might use an advertising headline that reads, “If you like Sue Grafton books, you’ll really love mine!”

However, as an indie author who has complete control over your advertising and needs no one’s approval to spend some of your hard-earned royalties to generate more royalties, you can be much more sophisticated and cost effective. You can use the techniques described in the OP and also learn more about Amazon Recommendations and Also Boughts.

David Gaughran has written an excellent post on that very subject.

Book Cover 101: Covering A Cross-Genre Novel

From Writers in the Storm:

Here on Writers In The Storm we’ve talked about putting the promise of your genre on the cover and how vital it is for selling your novel. As I’ve said before, a good cover is a contract with the reader that this story fits in the genre they’re looking for.

But what if you’ve written a cross-genre story? 

Here’s the short answer: it’s almost impossible to do both at once. You have to lean one way or another, or you’ll miss both sides.

Let’s say, for example, you’ve written a sci-fi/romance novel. Think carefully about the main story elements. Is the romance really front and center? Or is it more interstellar shenanigans with strong romantic elements?

My latest series, Raegan Reid, is a blend of urban fantasy and sci-fi. When I look at it objectively I see that it’s heavier on the urban fantasy elements. If I put a typical urban fantasy cover, a badass female protagonist standing in a sinister city landscape, and then tried to insert a futuristic element into the background, I would end up with a confused cover and no one would buy my book. It would leave both urban fantasy and science fiction readers scratching their heads, and their main thought would be: “I don’t know what that is, but I’m pretty sure it’s not for me.”

You do not want that reaction for your book.

Steps to a successful cross-genre cover.

1. Take a step back and analyze the major story elements in your novel.

  • What genre do they belong to?
  • Which reader is it going to appeal to more?

Typically, you’ll find you’ve got more elements of one genre than the other.  

For instance, I did not lean into the science elements hard enough in my story to market it to science fiction readers. If your cover incorrectly promises your genre, you’ll end up with angry readers, bad reviews, and a mental cross beside your name when it’s seen on future books.

As a side note, some genres are more accepting of experimentation, while other genres are more purist. If you’ve read within the genres you’re publishing in—as you should have—you’ll know which is which.

2. If your story is truly evenly balanced and you can tip either way, consider which genre has the biggest audience. You are seeking the largest pool of potential readers, because a bigger pool means more potential customers.

For instance, if your sci-romance is equal parts science fiction and romance, I’d lean romance. Biggest. Genre. Ever.

If you’re still not sure, take a look at the covers from your comp authors, and see which genre they’ve chosen to highlight. If they’ve been selling well…it’s a smart move to mimic their approach.

Link to the rest at Writers in the Storm

Book PR and Marketing Questions Answered

From Writer Unboxed:

I spend a good portion of each day answering questions. There are the mom questions…”what did you pack me for snack?” There are the wife questions … “do I have 10 minutes to finish up this deck before dinner?” While the dog can’t speak, his eyes, tail wags, and door scratches are just loaded with questions. And since almost everything is about food, my answers don’t require much thought or even complete sentences. But then I’ll get a client question, which might go something like this: “My publisher got me something called a BookBub deal that’s running early next week in the historical fiction category, and my first question is, what’s BookBub? My second question is what else is it that I should be doing to support that deal? My third question is what will you be doing to support that deal?

These questions require greater thought, a review of the calendar, a discussion with my team, and a strategic plan. Sometimes still a client is having trouble understanding it all and then we make arrangements for a call where I lead him or her to various websites and social media platforms to get a clearer picture.

. . . .

1. [Insert Author Name] is on [Insert National Morning Show like Good Morning America] talking about the same thing my book is about. Why didn’t they choose me and can you go back to them?

We don’t usually get feedback about why a producer went with one author over another, but the reasons can be many including: that particular author may have an already established relationship with the network/show and is called on to be their expert on that topic whenever it is in the news; the author may be more well-known and have a larger following on social media, which is definitely a factor when producers are considering guests; that author may have an affiliation with an organization that can help amplify the segment that others do not; and that author may have clips to past TV interviews that show they would be engaging and have experience on TV. Those are just some possible reasons and publicists rarely, if ever, get feedback as to why a specific author was not booked. The producers do not have the time or bandwidth to report back with that level of feedback. I don’t expect they will be covering this topic again so soon, but I will continue to follow up as is appropriate to be sure you are on their radar as an expert for future bookings around the topic.—Kathleen Carter is a book publicist and founder of Kathleen Carter Communications, a literary p.r. agency.

2. Why did [Insert Bookstagrammer or Book Blogger Name] post that negative review? Can you get them to take it down?

Although it doesn’t happen very often, a blogger will sometimes post a negative or lukewarm review of a book. In my experience, this happens if a character or situation depicted in the novel makes the reader connect negatively on a personal level. More and more we see movies and television shows proactively post trigger warnings, and unfortunately, this has not yet been adopted by the book industry. The reader may have also selected a book to read that wasn’t the right fit after seeing others review it, and then find that they could not connect with the novel.Due to the strong relationships that I have built with the blogger community, typically an open and honest discussion will happen if a reader is not enjoying the book. Sometimes all it requires is a follow up on how negative critiques of a book can change ratings on review sites and what books will work better in the future to feature on social media. As a facilitator of virtual book tours, these situations help me in understanding the types of books that a certain blogger may or may not enjoy in the future and bring me closer to my community of bloggers.—Suzanne Leopold, founder of Suzy Approved Book Tours. 

3. I have a really friendly relationship on Instagram with this [Insert Book Media Professional or Book Influencer] but they didn’t include me in their monthly round-up or event—did I do something wrong? 

Book influencers must diversify their lists based on genre, publisher, time of the year, etc. They simply cannot include every book or author. That doesn’t mean they won’t promote your book elsewhere or that they won’t promote your next book.—Andrea Peskind Katz, founder of Great Thoughts blog and the Great Thoughts’ Great Readers Book Salon on Facebook.

. . . .

5. My book is not selling—the PR nor advertising is leading to sales, what can you do to fix this? 

The job of advertising and PR is to interest someone in a book. Then the book itself must clinch the sale when the potential reader goes to the retailer. Most readers need to read the book’s full description, still be interested enough to read the book’s excerpt, and then usually check other readers’ opinions in the form of reader reviews —both the good and the bad ones. (Many readers say the bad ones are even more important.) And then lastly a potential reader will check out the price. That alone can kill sales if the author is not already a favorite. I’m a writer too and I think a copy of my book should be worth more than a latte — but readers have endless choices of books on sale for $2.99 or less and sometimes a high priced book is what is throwing off sales.So other than price, if the ads and PR were done correctly, the problem is on the retailer’s page. There are so many things on that page that can turn off a reader and kill a sale. Is the book’s description doing its job? Positioning the book correctly? Is the synopsis compelling enough?  Is the book’s excerpt strong enough? The first five pages of a book are its most important.Also are there enough reader reviews on the page? Generally, you need at least 20. If you don’t have those, you need to get them — which can often be accomplished by a $119 eBook giveaway at Goodreads.  A few weeks after one of those, more reviews do appear. I think the hardest thing to accept is not every book finds its audience even when you do everything right because it is not about a book being good or bad — but about the book being appealing that clinches a sale.

When you do everything right and the book still doesn’t sell (and it has happened to me with my own novels) the best advice I can give is to write the next book.

Link to the rest at Writer Unboxed

PG will drop in one bit of information that some visitors to TPV may not understand.

Advertising and Public Relations are two different things.

Advertising is where you pay to put up an advertisement somewhere – online, print, video, etc. Within limits, the person or entity has complete control over the content and appearance of the advertising. Typically, advertising will look different than whatever content the advertising platform produces itself (if it does that sort of thing). An advertisement in The New York Times will likely have some features that make it look different than NYT news content.

A reputable advertising vehicle may decline to run your ad if you claim your book has been #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List for 50 weeks in a row if that’s not a true statement, but most will allow quite a bit of latitude in your description of your book.

Public Relations (sometimes called Publicity) is focused on gaining favorable comments in a variety of media vehicles that don’t qualify as paid advertising in that vehicle. Persuading the New York Times editors to have the Times book review editor accept a copy of your book and write a review of it is typically a public relations or publicity project.

While that sounds free, most of the books the Times includes in its book reviews are pitched to the editors by public relations professionals who have developed a good relationship with the Times editorial staff over a period of time by bringing worthwhile books and information about authors to the Times staff. If Publicist A has a track record of identifying and suggesting books that are going to be big sellers that will be interesting to Times readers, when Publicist A calls or emails an editor, the editor will pay attention to what the Publicist says.

While an advertising agency or advertising professional doesn’t want to get on the NYT list of deplorables, the NYT will accept quite a few different types of advertisements from a wide range of advertisers so long as somebody’s willing to pay the rather large bill the Times will charge to publish the advertisement.

On the PR side of things, there’s a lot more persuasion that goes on and the results are less certain. The NYT may accept a book for review, then write a negative review about the book or defer publication of the review until after the book’s initial introduction push is done or review the book along with several other competing books in its genre in a single article. Typically, the Publicist gets paid regardless of the outcome of her/his efforts with respect to a certain book.

While PG has used the NYT as an example, the same general distinction between advertising and publicity applies to most other large and mid-sized media organizations.

Down on the smaller end of things, some bloggers or websites will write a review for a price or if an advertisement is purchased, likely to appear at the same time or near the same time the review appears. In some cases, a platform will publish an advertisement that looks like a written review.

An indie author can, of course, do both advertising and public relations and a great many have already learned how.

PG would be interested to hear anything that authors would like to share about their experience with advertising and public relations efforts for their books. You can send him info through the Contact PG button at the top of the blog.

The 2020 email marketing benchmarks by industry

From MailerLite:

If you’re an Olympic runner, it’s great to beat your personal best time. But your own time means nothing unless you compare it with the other runners in the race.

In the same way, you need to know the average performance metrics of similar companies to gauge the success of your email strategy.

Every week you open your dashboard with anticipation to see if your email campaign is performing well. Among the most important metrics that you look at first are your open, bounce, click and unsubscribe rates. These email marketing statistics help you determine if your newsletters are breaking through and resonating with your subscribers.

. . . .

2020 benchmarks across all industries

Average open rate: 25.35%

Average click rate: 3.82%

Average unsubscribe rate: 0.39%

Average bounce rate: 0.83%

. . . .

The campaign metrics of MailerLite customers by industry

. . . .

Here’s a little terminology MailerLite provides that may be helpful

Open rates

The open rate shows the percentage of the total subscribers that opened the email campaign.

Click rates

The email click rate shows you the percentage of people who clicked on a link somewhere in your email. These clicks show how relevant your content is.

Unsubscribes

The unsubscribe rate is the percentage of people who click the unsubscribe link in your email. Though it means fewer recipients, you can make the best of it using unsubscribe surveys to improve your email content.

Bounce rates

Bounced emails are addresses that could not be delivered successfully to recipients of email marketing campaigns. For various reasons, the recipient’s server will return the newsletter to the sender, hence the term “bounce“, and it can negatively impact email deliverability.

Your guide to understanding soft and hard email bounces

A bounced email is an email that couldn’t be delivered to the recipient.

A soft bounce is a temporary issue, where the email reaches the recipient’s email server but bounces back undelivered. Soft bounces could be caused by several reasons, such as a full mailbox, an offline email server, or a message file that’s too large.

A hard bounce is an email that couldn’t be delivered for permanent reasons, such as the address doesn’t exist or the server has blocked you. The email is returned to the sender and is completely undeliverable. When this occurs, your email marketing tool will no longer send emails to those email addresses. A high volume of hard bounces is problematic for email deliverability.

There is a great deal of additional information at MailerLite and thanks to Harald for the tip.

PG notes that email is an important marketing tool for a great many indie authors.

If anyone can provide links to other email marketing resources that may be helpful for indies, feel free to include information and/or links in the comments.

A note that if you include a large number of links in a single comment, your comment may be held for review or otherwise intercepted because lots of links in a comment is one of the trademarks of comment spammers.

If you have concerns about a comment with links being blocked, you can email PG directly via the Contact PG link at the top of the blog.

Does Your Cover Work In Book Thumbnail Size?

From Just Publishing Advice:

How well does your book thumbnail cover work? You might think that your cover image is fantastic. In a full-size view, it may well be.

But when it comes to book covers, the truism that people need to see something seven or eight times before they react is probably correct.

Readers looking for a new book to buy first have to notice, and then click, your thumbnail size cover to get to your buy page.

How does your tiny book cover image stack up for attracting attention-grabbing?

. . . .

Book thumbnail images are used on every book-related site you possibly think of, even on social media.

So it is vital that you consider your small image book cover size when you are making decisions about a new book cover. You need to pay attention to how your fonts and color choices look.

. . . .

Even the featured image of your book cover on your sales pages of Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers are reduced to default thumbnails.

On Amazon, your book cover is reduced to approximately 500 x 333 pixels in the top left of your book sales page. To put this in perspective, an extremely low-resolution ebook cover is around 1280 x 720 pixels.

The best way to start analyzing how well your book cover works is to open your cover file in an image editor. Then reduce the size to create a thumbnail.

Thumbnails can be very small. Start with setting your dimensions to 90 pixels wide x 144 pixels tall.

Then view the actual size. You will see your cover in an approximation of an online thumbnail. You can experiment with additional image sizes.

. . . .

It is also important to remember that on top of reducing the dimensions, all sites reduce the image quality or resolution.

It is usually, at most, 72 dpi to make sure the file size is as small as possible.

If you can also change the resolution in your image editor, it will give you a better estimation of how good, or not, it will look online.

. . . .

Quoting Amazon’s recommendations regarding Kindle book cover size, the ideal size of ebook cover art is a height/width ratio of 1.6:1.

This means that for every 1,000 pixels in width, the image should be 1,600 pixels in height.

A cover 1280 pixels wide is generally the minimum size you should use. You can use jpg, gif, bmp, or png file types.

However, the full size of your custom image upload will never be seen online.

Your original uploaded image file will be reduced to a range of additional custom thumbnail image sizes.

Each one to suit different reading devices, on-screen applications, search engines, and different website use.

Amazon automatically generates a lot of different custom thumbnail sizes on its site.

. . . .

Here are a few examples to help you understand the necessity of covers that work in small dimensions.

On the Top Charts page, covers are quite small to give the chart number significance.

New releases are shown in the most common thumbnail medium view size, which is 107px x 160 px.

Recommendations are a little smaller at 90 px  x 135 px.

Series books are usually a maximum of 135 px high.

In the You Viewed pane at the bottom of each book page, books that were viewed by people are squeezed into a 50 px x 50 px box.

That is insanely small.

Link to the rest at Just Publishing Advice

2020 WordPress Threat Report

Since so many blogs, including many that regular visitors to TPV have, use WordPress, PG thought the following might be helpful.

From Wordfence:

90 Billion Malicious WordPress Login Attempts

Over the course of 2020, Wordfence blocked more than 90 billion malicious login attempts from over 57 million unique IP addresses, at a rate of 2,800 attacks per second targeting WordPress.

Malicious login attempts were by far the most common attack vector targeting WordPress sites. These attempts included credential stuffing attacks using lists of stolen credentials, dictionary attacks, and traditional brute-force attacks.

Key Takeaway: Use Multi-Factor Authentication to Protect WordPress

While the vast majority of malicious login attempts targeting WordPress are destined to be unsuccessful, it only takes a single successful login to compromise a WordPress site. The brute-force mitigation provided by Wordfence is very effective, and using multi-factor authentication adds another layer of protection to WordPress logins.

Multi-factor authentication can completely prevent attackers from gaining access to a site via automated login attempts. This holds true even in unfortunate cases where user accounts on a WordPress site are reusing credentials that have been exposed in a data breach and haven’t yet been updated.

. . . .

4.3 Billion Vulnerability Exploit Attempts Targeting WordPress

Wordfence blocked 4.3 billion attempts to exploit vulnerabilities from over 9.7 million unique IP addresses in 2020. Here were the five most common attacks over the course of the year:

  1. Directory Traversal attacks, including relative and absolute paths, made up 43% of all vulnerability exploit attempts, at 1.8 billion attacks. While the majority of these were attempts to gain access to sensitive data contained in site wp-config.php files, many were also attempts at local file inclusion (LFI).
  2. SQL Injection was the second most commonly attacked category of vulnerabilities at 21% of all attempts with 909.4 million attacks.
  3. Malicious file uploads intended to achieve Remote Code Execution(RCE) were the third most commonly attacked category of vulnerabilities at 11% of all attempts with 454.8 million attacks.
  4. Cross-Site Scripting(XSS) was the fourth most commonly attacked category of vulnerabilities at 8% of all attempts with 330 million attacks.
  5. Authentication Bypass vulnerabilities were the fifth most commonly attacked category of flaws at 3% of all attempts with 140.8 million attacks.

. . . .

Malware From Nulled Plugins and Themes Is the Most Widespread Threat to WordPress Security

The Wordfence scanner detected more than 70 million malicious files on 1.2 million WordPress sites in the past year. The vast majority of these sites were cleaned by the end of the year. Only 132,000 sites infected at the beginning of 2020 were still infected by the end of the year, many of them likely abandoned.

The WP-VCD malware was the single most common malware threat to WordPress, counting for 154,928 or 13% of all infected sites in 2020. Overall, the Wordfence scanner found malware originating from a nulled plugin or theme on 206,000 sites, accounting for over 17% of all infected sites. Other obfuscated PHP backdoors made up the remainder of the top 5 most widely detected threats.

Link to the rest at Wordfence

PG says that you’ll spend far more money (or time) either trying to get your site back online or hiring someone to do it for you than any money you pay for malware protection. Also, while your site is down, nobody is able to learn more about you and your books.

Whenever PG reads the standard warnings about removing unused themes and plugins, he always double-checks TPV for any of those. It takes about 15 seconds.

One additional suggestion he’ll make is to update your theme promptly if you see the creator of the theme has an upgrade available. Sometimes updates are released, at least in part, to toughen up the protection of the site or to remove a potential vulnerability in a theme or plugin.

PG has used Wordfence for several years and has had no problems with anybody getting through. Typically, TPV is hit hundreds of thousands of times per month with malware attacks and none has ever gotten through.

There are other very competent malware protection software/service add-ons. Here’s a link to one of many articles you can find online reviewing various security products.

If you don’t use WordPress, it’s easy to find malware protection for other blogging software/platforms.

How to Evoke Emotions with Book Cover Design

From Writers Helping Writers:

Do you remember being a child in a bookstore? 

With shelves upon shelves of books around, you felt positively overwhelmed and full of anticipation. Hundreds of stories waited for you to take a peek behind their covers. And then, you stumbled upon a book that grabbed your attention. Your eyes were glued to its shiny surface. The colors, the art, the beautiful font — they were impossible to ignore. Without even opening the book, you already wanted to experience the world hidden inside. 

That’s the cover every book deserves; it should evoke emotion, whatever the readers’ age. 

. . . .

How Do People Decide which Book to Buy? 

A few years ago, aspiring writer Gigi Griffis decided to conduct a little survey to figure out how avid readers pick new books. Here are her results: 

  • 85% said that they buy books of the authors they already loved
  • A friend’s recommendation was the second most popular reason (77%)
  • 47% and 48% respectively cited book sales and gorgeous cover art

These numbers confirm what we’ve already suspected: people stick with the familiar and they let their eyes guide them. Fortunately, a professional book cover can help us create that sense of familiarity while also attracting readers.

. . . .

Know Your Target Audience 

Most of the time, readers already know what kind of a book they want. More specifically, they know the emotion they want to experience

  • I want to be scared
  • I want to be thrilled
  • I want to explore strange and captivating worlds
  • I want to feel in love

For a cover to “hit” the target audience in just the right way, it’s primary purpose should communicate: This book has the feeling/vibe you’re looking for! 

The first way we can accomplish this is through color.

Color

People have strong, well-defined associations with color and temperature, smell, and emotions. A color can be warm, cool, wet, or dry. It can signal danger or imply coziness. An effective book cover should use associations like these to achieve the desired emotional result.

. . . .

Imagery 

Chip Kidd—a well-known and delightfully eccentric book cover designer—has said that his job in designing a cover is to ask: “What does the story look like?”

The imagery of your cover should answer this question while also communicating the book’s genre (which helps achieve that sense of familiarity). So don’t hesitate to follow the established canons of the genre. If the idea is common, masterful execution and a unique take can still make the visuals fresh

Link to the rest at Writers Helping Writers

Zoom Book Tours: 5 Authors on Publishing in a Pandemic

From Wired:

WRITING A BOOK is a lonely pursuit, one that can take years of solitary work. Selling a book is another story. Authors give talks in cramped storefronts, schmooze at luncheons, and learn to casually discuss their belabored creative project as commercial content. The publicity circuit can be dispiriting, sleazy, and exhausting. It can also be exhilarating, liberating, and fun—a chance for people who spend a lot of time alone with their thoughts to feel like someone’s heard them. This year, releasing a book into the world became another task largely undertaken solo, at home, staring at a screen. The Covid-19 pandemic forced the publishing industry to reimagine its process for convincing people to buy its latest offerings. Even the industry’s fanciest nights, like the National Book Awards gala, took place as digital events, with participants glammed up and sitting at home.

. . . .

Joanne McNeil, author of Lurking: How a Person Became a User

I was lucky enough to have a few in-person events before quarantine. One of the events was recorded for Book TV, on C-SPAN, and because it was one of the very last in-person bookstore events that happened anywhere, it ended up playing repeatedly in March and April at odd hours. The first month of quarantine, I wasn’t sleeping so great, so I would be awake at 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning. I had signed up for email alerts to tell me when it aired and I’d get the emails sometimes just before I’d go to bed. I was staying with my parents, and my dad wakes up really early. The first time it aired, we were both up, and I was able to watch my event with my dad.

It could be a lot worse. The kind of person who wants to hole up in a room and write 80,000 words is not necessarily the kind of person who loves to be the center of attention. So there are some aspects of the virtual events that are less nerve-wracking than doing them in person. But the drawback is that these bookstores aren’t getting the same sales. And you don’t have the conversations you used to have; you’re not meeting in a restaurant and getting to catch up with old friends who show up to the reading. I miss those things. When you log out of a Zoom and you’re just alone in a room. It’s really bewildering.

Just staring at the screen feels exhausting. There are only so many ways to make virtual events different. But one of my upcoming events will be different—it’s a Second Life Book Club, hosted by Bernhard Drax. He creates avatars for authors on request. I asked for a cyborg avatar. I’m excited because it is a creative approach that isn’t trying to replicate the offline experience of a book event.

. . . .

Charles Yu, author of Interior Chinatown

At first I was really nervous about Zoom. What if the connection cut out? Would I be presentable on camera? I got to do an event with the writer C. Pam Zhang, who wrote an incredible debut this year. Her book was picked for the Goop book club—the first pick!—and she invited me to be on a panel. I was really excited, and since it was for Goop, my wife Michelle and I wanted to present our home in a nice-looking way, with me in front of a built-in bookshelf that Michelle had made. But the connection wasn’t good enough, so I had to move to the bedroom. Only afterward did we realize that the dresser behind me was covered in a layer of dust visible on camera. We had moved some books off of it, so there was a negative outline of dust around where the books had been. This only made it more noticeable. So much for a good impression on Goop!

That was probably the worst mishap I had until the National Book Award. [Ed note: Yu won the National Book Award!] It was a mishap of my brain. I really didn’t expect to win, so I prepared absolutely nothing. When they announced my name, I started freaking out. My son was next to me and he started freaking out. My daughter was upstairs, she started freaking out. Michelle and I just looked at each other, freaking out. So I give my remarks, which are totally off the cuff—and I forget to thank my family. When I realized afterward, my stomach dropped. My book is about people who are underappreciated and I forgot to thank the people who’d supported me all those years and were literally in the background when I won. And my parents were watching in their home. I’ll never forgive myself for that.

Going to an awards ceremony in our living room was really fun, though, because afterwards I changed back into shorts and we had pizza.

Link to the rest at Wired

Perhaps PG’s blown out with too much holiday consumption, but the promotional efforts of the publishers in the OP seemed to be very underwhelming.

Why screw around with traditional publishers if they can’t figure out an effective way to promote your book? PG’s not a publishing marketer, but he could think of ten ways to do a better job than was done for these authors.

OTOH, author appearances via Zoom certainly don’t cost the publisher any sort of meaningful money.

Titles and Comp Titles — How To Find the Best Ones For Your Book

From Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris:

A Prince by any other name would still be a Prince. (I hope.)

Meghan by any other name would still be a princess

Ditto Diana.

Lord or Lady. Peasant or serf.

Professor or student.

Beginner or expert.

Titles orient us to where we are and what we should expect next.

Doesn’t just apply to people, either. Also applies to books, because time-pressed readers/editors/agents take only a few seconds to make their buy decision, and authors have the same few seconds to make their sale.

If you’re aiming for a traditional publishing deal including relevant comp titles in your query letter is a must, because comp titles help define the expectations and positioning of your book. If you’re self-pubbing, well-chosen comp titles are a guide for the readers you hope to reach. In both instances, comp titles provide a target in a crowded marketplace, and will affect your cover, blurb, sales pitch and marketing plan.

Agents and publishers ask for comp titles because they need a quick shorthand way to establish the basis for sales expectations and marketing. The agent/editor/potential reader needs a reference point, and, if your book will appeal to readers who enjoy legal thrillers, steamy romance or epic fantasy, you’re providing a valuable selling tool by providing appropriate comp titles that give a solid clue about which market you’re aiming at.

. . . .

According to John Medina of the University of Washington, the human brain requires meaning before details. When listeners don’t understand the basic concept right at the beginning, they have a hard time processing the rest of the information.

Bottom line for writers: The title and the cover—image plus title—have to work as a unit to explain the hook or basic concept first. Wrong image and/or misfit title confuse the would-be buyer and you lose the sale. On-target image plus genre-relevant title and the reader/agent/editor will look closer.

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris

The Secret To This Romance Author’s Success? Breaking All The Rules.

From Amazon Author Insights:

I can safely say that every time I’ve been asked to speak to aspiring writers, afterward, I’ve had not one, but several come up to me and say, “I can’t believe you did what you said you did. I was told never to do that. I was told never to break that rule.” This does not surprise me, but it saddens me. When I started writing, I too had a set of rules for writing romance (my genre) that I was under the impression were unbreakable. And I wrote within the confines of those rules.

It was only when publishing house after publishing house, agent after agent had rejected my submissions, and I’d decided that no one was ever going to read my books, that I threw the rules out the window. I then simply wrote what I wanted to write, wrote how the stories came to me, was true to them and my characters.

Then I published myself … And I’ve sold more than two and a half million books.

What are the rules I broke? First, I didn’t write what I thought people wanted to read. I didn’t research what might be popular — what might sell — and write that. I wrote stories that felt personal to me, that I enjoyed completely from writing to reading. The first book that I did this with was Rock Chick, and with it and the Rock Chick series, I broke all the rules:

I wrote in first person, and at that time, romance novels in first person were available, but not customary.

I wrote my heroine’s thoughts in a stream of consciousness. I had paragraphs — many of them — that were just one word. I put myself, and what would eventually be my readers, in the mind of my heroine, Indy. Not describing what she was thinking, but thinking what she was thinking as she was thinking it. It’s important to note that not everyone could get into that, and that’s understandable, even expected. It’s also important to note that the ones who did, really did.

Link to the rest at Amazon Author Insights

Using Book Promotion Newsletters to Increase Sales

From Mike O’Mary via Jane Friedman:

I ran an indie press for seven years and published thirteen books, including three New York Times bestsellers, three Hoffer Book Award Winners, and a book that was optioned for a film. We averaged 6,000 copies sold of each title—including two titles that sold more than 20,000 copies each.

To put those numbers in perspective, I think a Big Five publisher would consider 5,000 copies sold to be “respectable,” and most small publishers would consider that to be a “home run.”

We achieved success without traditional distribution and on a shoestring budget. And one of the keys to our success was using newsletters and websites that promote books.

There are dozens of book promotion newsletters (more than 100 by some counts), and I used many of them as a publisher. In this blog post, I’ll tell you why authors should include book promotion newsletters in their marketing plans, and why I launched my own such newsletter, LitNuts, despite the crowded playing field.

. . . .

You are probably familiar with some book promotion newsletters. Some of the more prominent ones are BookBub, Bargain Booksy and eReader News Today. And for every prominent newsletter, there are many other smaller ones like Book Basset, the Choosy BookWorm and the Frugal eReader.

Most of these newsletters follow a similar business model in that they are free to subscribers, and authors and publishers pay to have their books featured in the newsletter. The cost to have a book featured in one of these newsletters ranges from as low as $10 (even less in some cases) to several hundreds or even thousands of dollars (in the case of BookBub).

The newsletters are great for readers. In addition to being free, the newsletters mostly focus on bargains, and everybody loves a bargain.

The only problems from the reader’s perspective are (1) the focus on bargains means a limited universe—not every great book is $2.99 or less, and (2) uneven quality because the only requirement for most newsletters is payment—they are not looking at quality, which means there’s a more-than-middling possibility that the 99-cent self-published “bargain” ebook you just downloaded isn’t worth the time you spent to download it, let alone read it.

There are additional problems from the perspective of the author, including convoluted promotion “packages,” tiered pricing structures, and a maze of sometimes complicated order forms.

. . . .

Another thing that can be complicated from the author’s perspective is coordinating promotions. A lot of times, an author will plan (or “stack”) promotions with multiple newsletters in support of a sale—for example, putting the ebook edition of your book on sale for $2.99 (or even free) for a few days or a week. You can set up the promotions yourself with each newsletter, but be prepared to spend lots of hours at the computer filling out online order forms.

There are some economical services that will handle submission to multiple book promotion newsletters and websites if you are giving away free copies of an ebook:

  • Taranko1 on Fiverr: Will submit free ebooks to multiple promotion services for as little as $5.
  • Book Marketing Tools: Will submit free ebooks to multiple services for $29.
  • Author Marketing Club: No charge, but they don’t submit for you. Instead, they have consolidated the links, to take you directly to the order forms of multiple promotion services. You still have to submit the books yourself, but having all of the order forms in one place will save you time.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

5 Tips For Promoting Your Book This Christmas

From Self-Publishing Review:

1. It’s not such a great time to launch on Amazon

Unless you are selling incredibly well, it’s doubtful that over the Christmas period, say from around December 10th through January 5th, you will garner many sales or reviews on Amazon. If you are looking to launch a new title, you may do better to wait for the holidays to be over. This is because at Christmas time, Amazon users are looking to buy gifts that are already wished for, such as perfume and games, and Amazon will be pushing Best Selling books from traditional authors, i.e. authors you can’t really compete with as an independent author, and you could see a very flat release if you attempt it.

2. Editorial Reviews – A Good Time To Buy

Instead of falling on your face with Amazon, you may do better to build up your professional reviews and giveaways during the break. Many services, such as ours, are open all year round, and have reviewers available to review your book despite the holidays. These reviews are great for your author profiles on Amazon and Goodreads, and you will start the new year with a bang.

Link to the rest at Self-Publishing Review

“Buy Now” Book Covers for Independent Authors

From Writers in the Storm:

Practically speaking, a book cover is just a tool to bind and protect the pages of a book. But every writer – and every consumer – knows that a book cover is so much more. Your cover is a visual ambassador for your book: it’s a marketing tool, a billboard for your brand, and sometimes even a small piece of art available to the reading public.

Having a great book cover is an essential for a successful author, so here are ten key book cover design tips that will ensure you’re getting the most out of yours.

10 Design Tips for a “Buy Now” Book Cover

1. Don’t use too many typefaces. Limit yourself to two. Some book covers may require a third typeface; others can shine with just one. Too many fonts cheapen your overall look and make you seem less professional.

2. Don’t overload your cover with ideas. A book cover is a visual elevator pitch—you’ve got literally milliseconds to convince a potential reader. And if you can’t boil your book down to one central concept, you’re in trouble. As a writer, you know about main ideas and supporting details. The front cover gets your main idea. A few supporting details go on the back in your book blurb.

3. Don’t skimp on an illustrator. Seek out a talented professional if your book requires a custom image – and be prepared to pay them for their services. Custom illustration isn’t cheap, but nothing kills a cover like a bad illustration.

Link to the rest at Writers in the Storm

How to Reduce Your Workload with a Facebook Auto Poster

From Hootsuite:

Let’s face it. Facebook is just one part of your marketing strategy. You have so many other things to do, not to mention a life you want to enjoy. And you have only 24 hours in the day.

That means it’s time to look at automating some of your Facebook marketing efforts. One of the first, easiest things you can do right now is start using a Facebook auto poster to automatically publish your posts. You’ll spend less time on the platform and more time doing other tasks.

. . . .

[A] Facebook auto poster is a tool that publishes your Facebook posts at a scheduled time you’ve established previously.

There are many Facebook auto posters out there. You can choose one that satisfies your needs.

But no matter which tool you opt for, make sure it covers 3 essential features:

  • Options to publish now or schedule for posting in the future.
  • Automatically publish scheduled posts on multiple Facebook pages, groups, and profiles you’ve created at the same time or at staggered intervals.
  • Allow to publish all types of content: Text, links, images, videos.

Besides these features, you may also want to consider a clean and intuitive interface, detailed reporting and dashboards, or the ability to manage multiple Facebook accounts from one place.

. . . .

1. Simplify your workflow and save time

If you ever search for time management tips, you may know this quote: “Work smarter, not harder.”

It may be a bit cliché, but imagine this situation: You’re doing Facebook marketing, and have to post a lot on this platform. Are you pleased with continually copying and pasting the same post into different groups?

The answer is a loud No.

By scheduling your posts ahead of time, you’ll save yourself a significant amount of time to do other things. Your work process becomes simpler because a Facebook auto poster takes on the tedious tasks for you.

2. Reach multiple time zones and post at the best time

The best time to post on Facebook is between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. EST on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday.

Note that this can be different depending on geographic locations (9 a.m in the United States is 11 p.m in Australia, don’t you know?).

That means you need an auto poster to ensure your posts will be published at the time with the highest engagement rates. You don’t have to log in to your account at 3 a.m; you can set it up once and let it run, only tweaking once in a while as necessary.

3. Maintain consistent scheduling across all platforms

Consistency is the key to building and growing your followers on Facebook.

Why?

Because if you consistently show up in your audience’s feed, you are more likely engage them with your brand. By doing that, your organic reach can increase, and your posts may get shown to potential new followers.

Whether it’s a slow news week or the biggest holiday season of the year, posting consistently benefits your business.

Link to the rest at Hootsuite

Five Mistakes That Even Experienced Social Media Managers Make

From Agorapulse:

Social media marketing is never done: It is a continuous process that requires constant attention and effort.

There are also no set rules as to what should be done to achieve certain results.

There are things you can certainly do wrong though, even if you think you are an experienced social media manager.

Here are five mistakes even experienced social media managers do (I certainly did all of those!) and how to fix them.

1. Not Scheduling Social Media Updates

I know, for some social media managers reading this, scheduling is an integral part of their workflow.

How can someone achieve a consistent social media presence without creating a well-balanced schedule of social media updates?

The truth is lots of brand-owned social media profiles don’t really have a consistent schedule. Many social media managers fail to create a schedule regularly. (Yikes.)

Scheduling is not that easy to manage if you’re always in a rush or don’t have a strategy.

I’ve been there many times … You schedule creative social media updates weeks ahead and then overlook the day when your schedule has been exhausted. Time flies and a few weeks or even a month may pass before you realize you should have filled your schedule up with fresh updates.

To overcome this struggle, I’ve been using these two tricks:

Create a social content schedule for the following year

I tend to use a slower period for scheduling. This is when I sit down and schedule 1-2 updates a month for as far a year ahead. Usually, these are weekend updates or posts timed for a holiday or a seasonal trend (back-to-school, Black Friday, etc.) This way, I make sure I will not miss any.

. . . .

Set up a routine

Always schedule monthly updates on a specific day.

For example, always on the last Friday of the previous month or always on the 28th of each month. Doing so will help you to keep yourself accountable.

I also create a recurring calendar reminder to never miss the day.

. . . .

2. Cross-Posting the Same Updates Everywhere

As social media managers, we always have to manage more than one channel. At the bare minimum, your active social media profiles to manage to include Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

It is always tempting to create the same update and cross-post it everywhere.

Doing so will, unfortunately, create a few missed opportunities by making your updates less appealing (and hence easier to miss).

There are platforms that support mostly vertical images, and there are platforms that prefer square images. There are channels that tend to respond better to animated GIFs and / or micro-videos, and there are platforms that hardly support them.

I could go on …

Creating an original, well-crafted (visual) update for each of your channels is not only more effective but also very doable. For example, there are image creation solutions that allow you to resize your images with one click of a mouse (such as Snappa) and there are tools that let you create animated GIFs in minutes (like Bannersnack):

Link to the rest at Agorapulse

PG fails to check any boxes as either a social media pretend-expert or a more than a mini-social media user.

In the earliest existence of TPV, PG had a couple of WordPress plug-ins that automatically spit out a short blurb with hash tags on a couple of TPV social media accounts that PG seldom monitored. PG seems to recall that each of the plugins wanted some money to keep doing what they had been doing at no charge and he hadn’t seen any real benefit from the social media world, so he uninstalled them.

One of the fundamental principles of any sort of advertising or promotion activity is to know your audience, which includes knowing what the audience watches, listens to, clicks on, etc., etc.

While TPV is anything but a finely-crafted piece of self-promotion for whatever he’s selling these days, PG thinks he has a pretty good feel for the people who stop buy to check out what’s going on around here. He watches comments and, on occasion, traffic stats for the site and it’s doing what he thinks he wants it to do, at least today.

If PG woke up one morning and decided he wanted to be a social media star, he would probably ask a neighbor who teaches social media marketing at a local university to identify his smartest student, then hire that student on a part-time basis to help set up PG’s social media empire, launch it, then watch what the student did with social media on PG’s behalf for a few months to learn the ropes.

During PG’s online wanderings, he has read a zillion articles about how to be successful in social media, but he senses that he’s not feeling the rhythms necessary to really do it well.

If he were purely pragmatic, PG might conclude that he’s doing fine without social media and focus on the things he knows how to do and knows will work for him, but he has a soft spot for new gadgets (he can see several by just glancing at the far reaches of his large, wrap-around desk), so he still monitors bright objects like social media.

DIY Book Covers Have Come a Long Way — How to Create Professional-Quality Covers with Design Apps

From Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris:

In the early days of self-publishing, authors who didn’t know know coding had to hire formatters to make their books cyber-ready. Since then, formatting has become part of many writing programs. Word processors like MSWord, Scrivener and Pages will output ebook files and apps like Vellum (Mac only) and Jutoh (Pc and Mac) make it easy to create well-formatted, upload-ready files themselves.

The days of the pricey formatter and frustrating waits for edits and revisions or even minor corrections (typos!) are mostly gone.

Ian Andrew, a former Microsoft trainer turned indie author, offers a step-by-step guide to formatting an ebook in MSWord.

As similar transformation has been taking place with book design. Easy-to-use, drag-and-drop apps have made it possible for authors—even those who don’t know PhotoShop or think they don’t have design skills—to create attractive, pro-level, genre-appropriate book covers.

In my decades as an editor and publisher, I’ve spent a lot of time in cover meetings. While editors, marketing departments and sales managers contributed ideas, the art director quickly sketched images (called “thumbnails”) to show us what our ideas would look like when transformed into visual concepts. From that first quick sketch, more ideas would lead to new ideas, second thoughts, and other changes until everyone agreed on a version that would form the basis for the eventual cover.

We made decisions about:

  • Photo or illustration?
  • Poster or type cover?
  • Spot art or full page bleed?
  • genre?
  • color?
  • font?
  • The competition.
  • What’s selling?
  • Why?
  • What isn’t?
  • Why not?

. . . .

Several easy-to-use, drag-and-drop on-line apps (some FREE) will let you quickly transform your ideas into professional-looking, genre-specific covers.

BookBrush, offers customizable cover templates in a variety of genres, quick, easy ways to change fonts and text plus clickable buy buttons and one-click 3-D covers. There’s a user forum to help if you get stuck plus lots of extra templates.

Canva, similar to BookBrush, differs in the details and provides an excellent intro to design principles. Dave Chesson wrote a post about how to design a professional-looking book cover in Canva. He goes into detail about which fonts go with what fictional genres and how to add pro effects to your cover.

. . . .

A veteran (survivor?) of many cover meetings and plenty of follow-up one-on-one sessions standing over a drawing board hashing out pesky details and revisions with art directors, I’m not a designer. But, along the way, I have learned quite a bit about what the pros think about what works—and what doesn’t—when the subject is book covers.

First—and most important—is to put your creativity aside. Now is not the time to Think Different. Instead, you want to do what the other kids do.

Your goal when designing a cover should be to fit in rather than stand out. The reader wants to know at a glance what kind of book you’ve written.

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris

PG notes that there are lots of links in the OP to cover design tutorials and free or low-cost graphics tools to help you make covers.

However.

PG made covers for several of Mrs. PG’s early self-published novels and thought they looked great.

Then, Mrs. PG decided to switch to a professional cover designer.

(PG’s ego was and is just fine. He’s pretty certain nothing can dent it.)

Mrs. PG’s books with professionally-designed covers sold better than her books with PG’s works of art on the front.

When she switched to writing in her most recent genre, Mrs. PG found a cover designer who was talented in designing for that genre and the era in which those books were set (and who charged a higher price than her previous cover artist). Those books have been selling extremely well, enough so that Mrs. PG believes the extra money she’s paid for her covers has generated an excellent return on her investment. Some of the Amazon reviews and emails from reader friends have mentioned how great the covers look.

PG has bloviated about Mrs. PG’s experience with homemade PG covers and professionally-designed covers.

Your results may vary.

While PG imagines himself to be a great artist from time to time, that feeling passes and he’s willing to admit that others are better than he is with book covers and probably a lot of other things as well.

The purpose of a book cover isn’t to be great art. It’s a very important marketing/advertising tool that’s designed to catch a reader’s positive attention, stop them from scrolling on and click on some related link.

If a book cover accomplishes that task, it’s done its job. Some book covers do their jobs better than others do.

Postscript: The OP mentions several online sources for free images. PG cautions that you need to make certain that the website does in fact offer images that have been properly licensed from the creator AND that such license permits your commercial use of the image in which you are interested, such as including it on a book cover and in your blog to promote sales of your book.

PG has a couple of clients who used images they found online that didn’t indicate their source or copyright status and who thereafter received letters from an attorney’s office asking for money.

So far, PG has been able to keep the lawyers away, but has explained to the client that he can huff and puff, but if the creator of the image (or the agency to which the creator has licensed the image) is not permanently intimidated by PG’s huffing and puffing, something unpleasant might happen in the future.

One additional point on this issue that won’t violate attorney/client privilege: PG suspects the law firm asserting the claim may be using some sort of a web search/web spider program to wander around the internet looking for images for which its client has licensing rights, including clicking down through a website or blog to find an image that the owner of the website posted a year or two earlier.

But PG could be wrong about that.

How Do We Market Books Now?

From Publishers Weekly:

Covid-19 has greatly affected the publishing industry across all divisions and markets, and the marketing and publicity divisions of trade publishers have required particularly swift and frequent changes to their ways of doing business. In the opening panel of PubTech Connect 2020, which was copresented by PW and NYU School of Professional Studies Center for Publishing and was held virtually this year through Zoom on November 17, the topic of the hour was new marketing strategies.

. . . .

The panel focused on how to capture consumer interest in a marketplace that has shifted to digital sales, the benefits of virtual events, the importance of fleshing out direct-to-consumer marketing, and how libraries are adapting to an emphasis on digital resources.

The word of the day was “nimble,” and Fassler opened the discussion with an emphasis on adaptation in the marketplace. “We’ve learned a lot this year during a time of distraction and disruption,” she said. “I think one of the biggest challenges has been how to conduct effective outreach when we’re hampered by the way we used to do things, like galley mailings. I used to do a lot of creative partnership work at conferences, pitching our books and explaining how our products are aligned. It’s been necessary to be creative even earlier.”

LaDelle was quick to point out that “consumers are holding publishers more accountable” for their marketing plans and execution. It is no longer enough to share pull quotes or cover reveals, she said: “There’s a need to be present and intentional with our marketing content.”

Martinez stressed the importance of direct-to-consumer interactions. “Now is a great time to build a great consumer list. People are hungry to feel connected to the book community, especially at a time when they can’t go to book events or book clubs.” This is even more the case, Martinez said, for independent presses like Soho, adding that developing a vast and effective email campaign is imperative in making sure a book is successful.

“We really have to be nimble and flexible,” Seyfried said, pointing to the shrinking holiday shopping window as a direct example of the sorts of marketing and publicity tools Covid-19 has affected. Penguin Random House’s internal insights team, she added, conducted a marketing study that revealed that 25% or more of book consumers are doing their Christmas shopping early this year due to Covid-related worries like shipping delays. “We pivoted to launching our gift-giving messaging in mid-October,” she said. “Usually we’re still in planning phase in October, but we’ve had to rush it and be more adaptive.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

“Nimble” is not an adjective PG would apply to traditional publishers and their marketing.

Perhaps the “senior v-p and director of integrated marketing strategy” was speaking in comparative terms. “More nimble than usual.”

Sort of like the winner in a nursing home’s annual wheelchair gymnastics tournament for its over-90 residents.

PG suggests the answer to the question posed in the headline is clear – You market books where people are buying books. Today and for at least several more months (and maybe forever) that would be online.

Based on unstructured observations, PG suspects that Amazon’s ad sales in its book department have skyrocketed. Big publishers and not-so-big publishers are paying the Zon a lot of money to move books. If the reading habits of the PG household and the households of the Friends of PG are any indication, this is a good time to be in the book business if you’re a good marketer and can stand out from the crowd. (It’s a good time to be in the streaming video business as well.)

PG also suggests that traditional publishers might consider lowering their obscenely-high licensing fees for ebooks in libraries so libraries can afford to purchase more licenses. (PG’s online library projects some of the ebooks he has been perusing won’t be available for 3-4 months.)

This is a perfect time for intelligent publishers to build a reader base for their promising authors via greatly expanding their presence in library ebook departments.

But, (Heaven forfend!), that might upset Barnes & Noble!

Speaking of Barnes & Noble:

How To Find Your Target Audience, Part One

From The Book Designer:

Step one: Find Comparable Authors

The first step in my method to creating a reader profile is to find comparable authors. Comparable authors are those who have written books similar to yours.

Click on the following link to download and save a comparable author spreadsheet, designed for you to track the authors you find in your research who write similar books to yours: Author Upscale Academy Worksheet Research Table Revised Digital Version

For step one focus on filling the following columns:

  • Author Name
     
  • Publishing Path (Are they self-publishing, with a small press, with a large press?)
     
  • Example Book (What is one book of theirs that is similar to yours?)
     
  • Book Price (list the price of the example book)
     
  • Category (What category or categories is the book listed in?)

I suggest using Amazon to find your comparable authors as you can find authors from all publishing paths, from those with the big publishers to those who are self-publishing.

While it is great to look at bestseller lists like the USA Today list or the New York Times list you may miss some of the great indie authors who are not always included in traditional lists. That being said, if you want to take things one step further with your research do check out bestseller lists as well and see what is popular in your genre. But for now, let’s focus on using Amazon to gather our list.

Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Go to Amazon.
     
  2. In the search bar click the dropdown menu (By default this says “All”.) and select “Books” or “Kindle Store”.
     
  3. Type in your genre and click the search button. (I used “young adult fantasy”.)
     
  4. On the right hand side you’ll see a breakdown of categories. If you can narrow down your category further with the options given, do so. For my example I picked Swords & Sorcery:
     

     
  5. Look for books with the “Best Seller” banner:
     
     
  6. When you find a book with the best seller banner, click on it and scroll down to the “Product Details” section, here you can click on any of the categories listed to view the best seller list.

     
  7. You can alternatively go directly to best seller lists on Amazon. Start on either the Bestsellers in Books or Bestsellers in the Kindle Store and click on your genre from the right-hand sidebar.
     
  8. For more authors check out who is reviewing the book you already have on your list and giving them 4-5 stars reviews. Amazon will let you look at other products those reviewers have liked on the reviewer’s profile. (Click on their name to view this profile.) This will give you an idea of other authors these readers love. If you have already published a book you can also use this process on your own books to find more comparable authors.
     
  9. Next take a look at “Also Boughts” under your comparable author’s book pages and their Amazon author page. This is another great way to find other comparable authors for your list. If your book is already on Amazon you can also look at the “Also Boughts” section under your book.

Link to the rest at The Book Designer

PG notes that the OP is the second post in a series that discusses the process of finding your target audience. Here’s a link to the first post.

Should You Hire a Social Media Assistant?

From Jane Friedman:

I hate social media. It’s an addictive rabbit-hole.

I just don’t have time. Social media takes away from my precious writing time.

I’m no good at creating those visuals and posts.

I hate all that self-promotion.

I’ve heard many authors—myself included—express frustration and dismay at the expectation that we will not only produce wonderful books, but also carry out what amounts to a second full-time job as our own marketing team. Most of us don’t mind holding events, whether live or virtual, where we get to engage with readers. Nor do we mind interviews, written or recorded, where we can talk about our books and our writing process. But what so many of us do hate is the seemingly bottomless pit of social media engagement.

Facebook, with all those reader and writer groups. Instagram. Twitter. Pinterest.

“Likes” and “follows.” Comments and messages and shares.

Wouldn’t it be great if someone else could do all this for us?

Someone else can—for a price, and with a few caveats.

What is a social media assistant?

Whether they call themselves virtual assistants, social media consultants, or author assistants, these are people who will manage your social media for you. Unlike publicists, who seek media coverage on your behalf, or direct marketers, whom you pay to advertise your book on their sites, such an assistant takes over tasks that you could, if you wanted, do yourself or learn how to do yourself. They may do it more attractively, strategically, or frequently—but they have no special credentials like the high-level media connections of a good publicist, nor any special access to important gatekeepers. What you’re buying, in effect, is time—and the freedom to use that time in other ways.

The questions are: How much is that time worth to you, and are there other benefits, besides freeing up your time, that a virtual assistant can offer?

. . . .

I now understand that social media is a long game, not a quick grab. It’s about the slow, steady development of connection and engagement. Like all relationships, it takes time and commitment. You have to show up every day, not just on birthdays and anniversaries. And that means a hefty investment of energy.

Not everyone wants to do that. After all, there’s no end to what we, as authors, might do to reach out to readers! Another thing I’ve learned is that no one can, or should, do everything. I advise those who ask me: “Just do the stuff that’s fun for you, and outsource—or forget—the rest of it.”

And there’s the heart of the matter: what should we do ourselves, what should we jettison, and what should we outsource?

Sometimes the answer is clear. If you want to pitch to the book review editor at The New York Times, you need a professional publicist to do so on your behalf—and even then, there’s no guarantee. Many authors I know are unhappy at what they now consider to be a poor “return on investment” after hiring a publicist at a cost of anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000. They’re wondering if there isn’t a middle ground between spending that kind of money, which most don’t have, and doing it all yourself.

A virtual assistant—someone who can manage author promotion on social media—can seem like an attractive option. At a cost far below that of a publicist, with a direct appeal to readers that can actually be tracked, social media assistance is a rapidly-growing alternative.

. . . .

Below are five composite summaries of the models I encountered—what they offer, how they work, their strengths and drawbacks.  In all cases, it’s important to remember what a virtual assistant cannot do. Since a VA has no access to your phone, she can’t post photos of you doing book-related things. Her posts will, of necessity, have a certain “artistic distance” to them.

VA #1 is a self-published author of several books who has a side-business helping authors with services ranging from proofreading and editing to developing marketing plans, social media coaching, and query critiquing. Her experience and familiarity with the writing world made her an attractive choice. I also liked the fact she offered three options or levels of service, although her prices were at the high end. However, she also had a full-time job and a book of her own launching soon. I wondered if she would really be able to give me the kind of ongoing support I was looking for.

VA #2 is a polished professional, whose website and proposal were evidence of the strong visual style I was looking for. She also provided references so I could see the Instagram accounts of several clients she manages, and the same quality or “flair” was evident there. She offered an expensive prix fixe package, with no flexibility—although her proposal was comprehensive and strategic, and included features like a weekly Instagram Story Reel that other proposals did not. I was hesitant, however, because she had never done social media for an author, and the demographic that her posts seemed to be targeting was not mine. Her work seemed to be geared to a younger, more style-conscious audience, and I wondered if she would know how to target the kind of readers (and book-buyers) I sought to attract.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

As a preliminary opinion, PG thinks social media savvy is more important than book biz savvy in a good social media helper for an author.

How and when to work the social media platforms is ideally instinctive and intuitive for a helper. Mixing in the book stuff is probably not hard to do for a good social media jockey.

Social media is about grabbing a few seconds of favorable attention and maybe a click-through. If the helper can do that for the author or the author’s book, PG suggests he/she has done the job.

Perhaps careful crafting and curation could improve click-through on a post a bit, but PG suggests that three good-enough posts -not dumb or clumsy-looking – will provide more benefits than one expensive and time-consuming-to-create post. Once a post is up, its sell-by date is probably measured in hours, a couple of days at most.

For PG, social media posts are analogous to a quip. Make one good quip, get a bit of positive attention, then make another quip.

PG suggests that if you want to dip a toe into the social media assistant water, you may want to hire someone on a temporary freelance basis.

If PG wanted to grow larger in social media (he doesn’t), he would contact a friend who teaches digital marketing at a local university and ask the friend to suggest a couple of smart first or second year students who might want to earn some money on the side and create some examples of their work for their portfolio when they are looking for a real job around graduation. Such a student might write a case study or two based on what he/she did on social media for PG.

While most of the visitors to The Passive Voice are not likely to have a professor friend who teaches digital marketing, at least some live within a reasonable distance of a community college or other higher educational institution. PG doesn’t know whether any high schools (public or private) teach this sort of thing, but that’s another place where some talented social media devotees may be found.

If an author were to pursue this path she/he would want to see some examples of the prospective helper’s work and check out the helper’s social media accounts to see their content plus how many followers, likes, comments, etc., the prospective helper had accrued.

If a potential helper was located, the author would likely want to review each potential post prior to it going online to determine whether it looked like something likely to help sell books, gain followers, etc.

Posting something someone else has created to a social media platform is a task even the majorly technophobic can likely learn with the tiniest bit of practice or guidance.

PG thinks it’s also a good idea for the author to “own” their social media accounts – their name and contact info on the account shows they’re the owner, they know the ID/PW for the social media account, etc. When one social media assistant goes on to bigger things, the author changes the password and hires a replacement.

One nice element that comes with a social media helper is that geography means almost nothing. She can leave the big city for small town life and still do everything she did for the author via the Net. A block away or halfway around the world, the working relationship can continue if both parties want it to.

PG admits that some of his attitude concerning the importance of social media knowledge vs. book domain knowledge comes as a result of working with a very large advertising agency in ancient times. (Printed advertising fliers were the latest thing and calligraphers were on their way out).

Advertising professionals often work on more than one account – insurance plus dog food was one of PG’s combos.

Agencies are also prone to move their employees to different accounts when it benefits the agency’s overall financial performance. Client A needs more agency resources, so creative, research, etc., professionals will be assigned spend time on Client A because Clients B and C shouldn’t need a lot of attention for awhile.

An advertising pro can figure out how to sell anything.

Build and Manage Series Pages in the Kindle Store

From The Digital Reader:

For a number of years now Amazon has been making series pages for Kindle ebooks. One of their bots would identify all of the books in a particular series, and then list them all on the same page so that a reader could buy all of the books at once, paying retail.

I can’t find my first post on the topic, but I always thought this idea was a good one because it aligned with how I buy ebooks (when I find a new favorite author, I buy their backlist).

And now Amazon has given authors the option of creating series pages on their own. A couple days ago they published an announcement in the KDP support forums:

You can now publish and update eBook and Paperback series detail pages automatically through KDP. With the launch of series in KDP, you can:

  1. Create a new series: For any titles in your KDP account, create an ordered or unordered series to help readers on Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk and Amazon.de find all the books in your series on a single page.  Learn more.
  2. View and organize your series: Navigate from a series title on your Bookshelf to view and manage books in your series. Review series details and titles to ensure the information is up-to-date for readers. Learn more.
  3. Edit an existing series to control how it appears to readers: Adjust description. In addition, add, remove, re-order or change whether your titles are main or related content. Learn more.

If you already had an eBook series detail page available on Amazon.com, we’ve added that series in your KDP account. You can view existing series in your account by visiting your KDP Bookshelf and checking the box on the bookshelf for “View titles in series”.  If you don’t see your series in your account, you can create a new series by following the steps here.

Not all features are available in every marketplace. Series that contain paperback and pre-order books are available on Amazon.com, but not Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.de. We’re working to add more series features in the future. For more information on KDP series, click here.

Does anyone know how long this feature has been available?

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

Branding 101

From Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris:

Does the idea of “branding” yourself or your work make you cringe? (I’m an artist, dammit—not a corporate sleaze bag!) Are you confused by what “branding” for novelists, essayists, poets, or even general non-fiction writers even means? Or, conversely, are you sold on the necessity of branding your writing and excited about the opportunity, but completely intimidated by how exactly to go about it? 

I confess I was solidly in the cringe camp for much of my early writing life when discussing authors as brands. But that’s because I was (as my above “corporate sleaze bag” comment might have hinted!) operating under misconceptions about what branding is (and possibly being unkind to sleaze bags too . . . but I digress).

. . . .

In a nutshell, [James Patterson] says to think of “brand” as a relationship you have with your readers. What can readers turn to your books for—and never be disappointed? What can they depend on you for that you will always deliver?

I also really benefited from Mike Loomis’ take that “personal branding does not mean a fake façade.” Rather it’s “the public expression of your calling.”

Thinking of brand that way—as a promise and a commitment rather than a hard sell—eased my concerns about seeming overly “salesy” or gimmicky.

. . . .

Why YOU (and every author) needs a brand

First and foremost, having a clear brand finds you readers—who then, hopefully, become loyal, voracious fans.

Regardless of genre or form, Trad published or Indie, the biggest struggle authors face is getting noticed and not having their book(s) fall into obscurity.

Knowing precisely what your brand is (what you offer readers!) gives you an action plan to attract readers, gain visibility, and stand out in a very crowded marketplace.

A strong, clear, consistent brand is:

  • a magnet to new readers (Ooooh, this looks and sounds like my kind of book!)
  • a reassurance to return readers (I really liked his last book—and this one is awesome too!)
  • a comfort to true fans (Insert YOUR name never disappoints!) that keeps them coming back to you book after book

Two side benefits of knowing your brand:

1. It makes almost all aspects of marketing and promotion easier.

. . . .

2. It is a map for deciding future projects. 

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris

Regarding James Patterson, PG will note that the first 25 years of his career was spent working at a very large New York advertising agency. One of the things ad agencies do for their clients is to help the client to create a high-quality and memorable brand.

A good brand is worth a lot of money, whether it’s Coca-Cola (what’s the price difference at your local grocery store between a 2 liter bottle of Coca-Cola and a 2 liter bottle of generic cola that may taste pretty much the same?) or James Patterson or JK Rowling?

How much did JK make on her first book during the first six months after its release? How much does she make now when she releases a new book of almost any sort? What about the difference in the advance she received then and receives now?

You’ll also note that Ms. Rowling is very picky about what products are associated with Harry Potter and friends. Has anyone seen a Harry Potter drag strip? A line of heavy construction equipment named after Harry?

One way to receive a strong letter from a large law firm is to use Apple’s or Coca-Cola’s brand without permission.

Should you ignore the letter and go ahead regardless, you’ll want to have a very good group of attorneys lined up ahead of time. They won’t work for free. A great many top-quality attorneys will turn you down flat absent a huge retainer fee paid upfront because they know how hard Apple or Coca-Cola will work to not only slap you down, but to make an example of you that will intimidate anyone who thinks about following in your footsteps.

On a regular basis Forbes magazine publishes a detailed evaluation of The World’s Most Valuable Brands. The article includes a description of the methodology they use to separate brand value from the overall value of the corporation that owns the brand. It’s definitely a quantitative process.

Here are the top ten on Forbes’ latest list:

RankBrandBrand Value1-Yr Value ChangeBrand RevenueIndustry
1Apple$241.2 B17%$260.2 BTechnology
2Google$207.5 B24%$145.6 BTechnology
3Microsoft$162.9 B30%$125.8 BTechnology
4Amazon$135.4 B40%$260.5 BTechnology
5Facebook$70.3 B-21%$49.7 BTechnology
6Coca-Cola$64.4 B9%$25.2 BBeverages
7Disney$61.3 B18%$38.7 BLeisure
8Samsung$50.4 B-5%$209.5 BTechnology
9Louis Vuitton$47.2 B20%$15 BLuxury
10McDonald’s$46.1 B5%$100.2 BRestaurants

Maximizing Your Amazon Author Central Page

From IndieReader:

When was the last time you gave your Amazon Author Central profile some love? For most indie authors, the answer is “not recently.” And, if you haven’t set it up yet, you aren’t alone, but you’ll want to take the time to do it today. Your Author Central page is possibly Amazon’s best book marketing tool for indie authors. It’s your very own landing page; it represents you as an author, which is really critical, and you should treat it as the important platform it is.

. . . .

Did you know that you can have a custom Author Central URL? You can. And you should take a moment to set this up in your Author Central dashboard. That way you can start using the URL as you’re sending readers to Amazon to preview your books. Does this seem superficial? It’s not. With marketing, you always need to consider what you can do to make it easy for potential buyers to click that Buy Now button. A clean, direct URL on your website, social media, business cards, etc. can play a huge role in making that happen.

You can use your Author Central URL in anything, even your email signature! I often use this URL in the back of my books. It makes it easy for readers to go to my Author Central Page to sign up for author updates, and I always include it if I’m asking them to review the book.

. . . .

One of the first things you should add, after your books, is a bio note. Keep it short! Why? Because while a longer bio might look fine on your book page, it’s a lot harder to read on your Amazon Author Page. It’s tempting to go longer, but most consumers will not take the time to read through to the end – as interesting as the content might be. Save the longer bio for your website and use something short and catchy on your Amazon Author Central Page.

The best bios include a little bit about the author and leave room for your website, social media accounts, even your newsletter sign-up. You can also list upcoming releases, which is a brilliant book marketing technique that proves this is NOT a stagnant promotional strategy. What you really want is to begin your bio with compelling details that leave a browser wanting more, then provide links where they can get it!

Link to the rest at IndieReader

Readings, reinvented

From The Bookseller:

I had been working throughout 2019 on widening out and experimenting with the format of book readings. I took my second novel, Lanny, on the road with two musicians. We did semi-improvised performances, somewhere in between a reading and a gig. Overseas, I re-wrote sections of the book using submitted text from local audiences so the readings became bespoke collaborative one-offs, and the book changed from place to place.

I guess at the root of this is a slight discomfort with the way we put authors on pedestals. I think it’s far more interesting to share the stage. More than that, it’s my basic responsibility. The privilege of having an audience or a readership, the sheer good fortune of that, means one should make every effort to support the work of others and where possible divide any limelight between many voices, many types of work. The old format of author on stage reading from the new book, followed by intelligent questions from a well-prepared chair, followed by audience questions (nine good questions and a mansplain, as the formula goes) can be wonderful, but we have plenty of it. It may be a little tired, and a little limited, as a way of sharing literature. It also perpetuates a fairly simplistic and limited economic model, which can also grate (I love a signing queue as much as the next bookseller) but perhaps not as generative or suitable to our increasingly diversified methods of cultural participation as it needs to be, if we want to keep books and book culture alive and relevant.

To this end we had been planning a project at the Union Chapel called ‘The English Soundwood’. It grew out of a multi-performer project I did when Cheltenham festival kindly invited me to curate events in October 2019. For that first event we had poets, novelists, memoirists and musicians, all performing together. The Union Chapel gig was going to widen it out further to include more musicians, a bigger visual element, audience participation, puppetry, live technological enhancement and so on. And, like everything, this has been postponed.

So this Sunday I will find myself a long way from sharing the stage with others. I will be standing alone in an empty venue, reading not new work, or collaborative work, but old work. In order to support a beloved venue and their extraordinary charity, the Margins Project, I’m reading the whole of my first book, Grief is the Thing with Feathers, as a livestream. The idea being that even if you hated my first book, you could buy a ticket and not watch the livestream, and you would be supporting a great organisation.

Readings are a funny thing, and I don’t know what it will be like to do a whole book in an empty chapel. I’m not an actor, so I don’t even know where to look, if there’s no audience. And will I lose my voice? Not that my book is very long, but still, when was the last time I spoke for over an hour with no break? Also peering over my shoulder like an intimidating crow, is Cillian Murphy, who very much made the book his own when he starred in Enda Walsh’s stage adaptation in 2018. I can hear him in my head. I can literally see him in the text because he drew all over my paperback copy. So I need to banish him, because nobody wants a cod-Cillian, a faux-Murphy.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

PG would love to see a robust analysis examining the economics of a reading/book signing for an author who isn’t a noted celebrity.

How much time does it take to prepare?

How much time and how expensive is it to travel to a bookstore, then return home afterwards? (PG understands that travel times may vary, depending on many circumstances, but he does know of at least some traditional publishers that expect non-famous authors to be willing to drive for 1-2 hours each way to appear at a book signing.)

How does the author feel after returning from a 2-4 hour book signing? Refreshed and ready to write? Or exhausted in the way some introverts are after being coerced into interacting with a bunch of strangers who have never heard of them or their books?

What’s the author’s hourly income generated by a book signing, considering time spent preparing, traveling back and forth, sitting behind a table for x hours, packing and unpacking whatever the author is taking to the signing, recovering after the signing is over.

PG thinks more than a few book signings take at least an entire day during which an author could be sitting comfortably at home working, researching, editing, etc.

Serious publishers pay a lot of money buying ads, pumping up the sales force, reaching out to bookstore owners, etc. In addition to advertising and promotion costs the publisher pays to third parties, the publisher is also paying its employees while they’re doing promotions, marketing, pitching store owners, etc., etc.

An author who is also a skilled public speaker or pitchperson might command high speaking fees or receive a generous commission for using those talents in a commercial venture other than promoting her/his book.

While sales commissions vary widely from industry to industry, it isn’t unusual for a commission sales person to receive 30-40% of the amount the employer receives from a customer who purchases goods after being pitched and charmed by a good sales rep.

No professional sales person would spend three or four hours to receive a commission equal to what a traditionally-published author receives from a book-signing at which she sells 25 trade paperbacks.

PG wonders if an author going shopping or running errands wearing a sandwich board might earn more than an author sitting in a bookstore signing books.

Wikimedia Commons

Anyone who is interested in exploring this marketing system can buy the materials necessary here.

Book Marketing Services/Agencies/Consultants

PG is interested in knowing whether any visitors to TPV have had good experience with a third-party marketing person/agency with respect to their indie book sales.

If you qualify, if you could explain a bit about what the marketing activities consisted of and what you think the marketing person/service did that you could not have done yourself or did better than you could have done yourself.

PG is not inviting a flood of canned pitches from people who work in the book marketing business, but will welcome an intelligent explanation of what a book marketing expert can deliver that most authors could not or could not do as well.

PG understands that many authors treasure their time and would rather write than market. However, many indies who want to earn a living, earn enough to pay the house payment, etc., don’t have excess funds sitting around to spend on some individual or group that doesn’t deliver real value, so PG is looking about information concerning profitable expenditures on marketing services that clearly earn more than they cost.

PG thinks there’s a good financial case for most indie authors to hire a good cover designer or collect a favor from a friend who knows what she’s doing in cover design. Good covers sell books. They won’t make a bestseller out of a mediocre book, but they can catch the favorable attention of people looking for books on Amazon or elsewhere.

He’d be interested in hearing what type of marketing services, if any, provide a similarly reliable return on investment.

Paid Reviews – Good? Bad? Meh?

More than a few indie authors use paid reviews as a promotion tool.

The big dogs in this business are Publishers Weekly and Kirkus.

PG understands that both PW and Kirkus use a lot of freelancers for their reviews. PG is not aware that either company publicizes the amount it pays freelancers for a review, but people who claim to be doing this work now or claiming to have done this work in the past few years report a range of fees earned. PG has not seen/heard of any number above $100 as the amount the freelancer receives. Other numbers bandied about include $50 or $25 per review.

Of course, PW and Kirkus charge indie authors much more for a paid review.

According to its website, Kirkus charges $425 for a “Traditional Review”.

Publishers Weekly says “BookLife Reviews will be written by Publishers Weekly reviewers.” On the Booklife.com website, one learns that the cost is “$399 for a complete review with takeaway, comp titles, and design and production grades, written by an expert Publishers Weekly reviewer, with a six-week turnaround time.” Four-week turnaround costs $100 more.

Seems like a reasonable deal. Including reviews in promotions, advertisements, KDP descriptions, etc., seems to help sell books for indie authors. Basically, the calculation goes something like this: “If I spend $425 on Kirkus, will placing an excerpt from a “Kirkus Reviews” reviewer in my book description sell enough additional books to earn back $425 in increased royalties?

Since both companies are continuing to offer this paid review service, PG concludes that a lot of indie authors are happy with the results they see from their investments.

So, beyond the blurb-quote, what does a PW or Kirkus individual (likely freelance) reviewer deliver for the $50 or so she/he receives?

PG understands that some reviews that indie authors have received have included factually-inaccurate statements about the book’s content. Something the reviewer said was in the book was not, in fact, in the book or other errors of a similar nature.

In other cases, some indie authors have wondered whether the reviewer read the book at all.

Perhaps most troubling, some indie authors have reported that the reviewer included some nasty criticisms about the book that have not seemed justified. The blurb was OK, but the remainder of the review was extremely disrespectful toward the author and his/her book.

According to what people in a position to know have told PG, even indie authors who have sold and continue to sell a great many books and earn very respectable royalties have received this treatment.

On a few occasions, the indie author has suspected that the only one-star review a book received on Amazon (accompanied by a nasty, sometimes factually incorrect description of the book) had been written by the same person hired by PW or Kirkus to write the paid review.

If these sorts of activities are taking place, a few questions arise in PG’s mind:

  1. Does anyone who is employed by Kirkus or PW on a full-time basis actually read the reviews that authors pay for to determine if they have any basis in fact?
  2. Is there any quality control built into the indie author review program?
  3. Is the difference between the $400+ the author pays PW or Kirkus and the $50 or so that the freelancer receives pure profit for PW or Kirkus?
  4. Does PW really use an “an expert Publishers Weekly reviewer” for its paid reviews?
  5. Do Kirkus and PW use the same reviewers for the paid indie reviews that they use for the reviews of traditionally-published authors that appear in the Kirkus (“Trusted since 1933”) and PW printed reviews and reviews that appear on the kirkusreviews.com and https://www.publishersweekly.com websites?
  6. Do Kirkus and PW have any written contracts with the freelance reviewers who write paid reviews of books by indie authors?
  7. If there are written contracts, is there any agreement by the freelance reviewer that she/he will write an accurate review after reading the entire book and not take any actions elsewhere that may reasonably be expected to diminish sales of the indie author’s book?
  8. Are any Kirkus or PW reviewers would-be traditionally-published authors who have drunk the NYC Kool-Aid that says all indie authors are trash?

A couple of additional questions arise in PG’s mind. He suspects he knows the answer, but he’ll ask them anyway.

  1. Do traditional publishers directly or indirectly pay for reviews of their books in PW and/or Kirkus?
  2. If so, how much do such Kirkus and/or PW reviews cost traditional publishers?
  3. Are reviews created for traditional publishers written by the same “expert Publishers Weekly reviewers” that write paid reviews for indie authors or is there a much different group of reviewers that write the TradPub reviews?

End of rhetorical questions.

PG doesn’t know if the descriptions of poor behavior he has heard about are isolated slipups in an otherwise honorable, fair, valuable and well-functioning service operated by PW and Kirkus or not.

He would be happy to hear about good or bad results from these programs from indie authors.

PG will note that some indie authors who are upset by one or more of the questionable activities described above say they will continue to use the Kirkus and PW services because they believe the blurbs still help sell enough books to more than justify the costs.

Feel free to share experiences, reactions, criticisms of PG or anyone else, etc., in the comments.

If you would prefer that such matters not show up in the Comments section of TPV, feel free to send a private message to PG via the Contact link towards the top of the blog. He not post any of the contents of those private messages without the express consent of the person who sent them.

While PG was obviously disturbed by what he heard about the Kirkus and PW programs, he hopes to hear that these are rare aberrations in a couple of publicity services that help indie authors sell more books.

Depending upon the response he receives from this post, PG may make further posts to correct, clarify or confirm what he’s described above.

Indie Romance Books Are Big Business, But Why Aren’t We Hearing About It?

From Shondaland:

Self-published writers are a large part of publishing’s billion dollar romance industry, but they still don’t get the credit they deserve. Here’s why that needs to change.

. . . .

It’s April 2019, and the line to get into Girl Have You Met, a book signing that focuses specifically on Black independent romance novels, is wrapped around the corner in Memphis, Tennessee. Women stand in line chattering, some with large bags they’ll use to hold their mountain of book purchases, others attempting to peer inside the glass windows to get an early glimpse of their favorite authors.

While those who peruse the New York Times to find their next read have probably never heard of most of these writers, the scene in Memphis isn’t uncommon at book signings that predominantly feature independently published romance authors. Pre-COVID, events like Book BonanzaBehind the Pen, Indie Love and a swath of other events held in cities like Los Angeles, Atlanta, and New York were the same — sold out.

To say that independent romance is a beast in romance publishing is a well-known understatement. Indie romance has actually changed the business across the board, setting trends in craft and marketing strategies. But perhaps most importantly, indie romance has reshaped the narrative of what kinds of stories readers really want.

Take, for example, popular book vlogger, Mina Thomas.

“When I read Something Like Love by Christina C. Jones in 2017, I cried over my first ever experience reading about a bisexual Black woman like me,” says popular book vlogger, Mina Thomas of MinaReads. “Indie romances often provide me with representation that is often slow to show up on the traditionally published market.”

. . . .

“People have such antiquated ideas of what a romance novel really is,” says acclaimed romance author, Marie Force, whose independently published novel, 2013’s Waiting for Love, helped set a new precedent for the enormity of the genre when it became a New York Times best seller. She’s sold a staggering ten million books to date, including over 900,000 books last year, the bulk of them self-published.

“Romance is a dynamic, diverse, billion-dollar-a-year genre that celebrates the act of falling in love in so many different ways,” she says. “Of course, the ‘act of falling in love’ is also associated with sex, so that makes the romance genre taboo or racy or ‘porn,’ a word romance authors hate to have associated with our work. It’s just so disrespectful of the width and breadth of what romance really is.”

Nevermind that indies often have scores of faithful readers who, on average, devour multiple books per week, and have tight, vibrant branding, which means they regularly dominate USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestseller lists (those indies would be New York Times best sellers too, if it still counted ebooks).

Link to the rest at Shondaland

Switching authors on to book fairs

From The Bookseller:

Back in March, I was watching Twitter like it was a countdown, waiting like so many others for the inevitable to happen and for the London Book Fair to be cancelled.

And so it was. Covid-19 hit the world and unleashed disruption like no other. The cancellation of physical events at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair comes as another sad but expected result. However, Frankfurt will push forward with an extensive digital programme, as many other book fairs have begun to across the world. The loss of the physical events has been tragic for both organisers and attendees, but as a writer, I think the enforced move towards more digital content is an overdue and welcome development.

The value of book fairs has long been accepted by publishers, agents and booksellers. For writers, not so much. Bookfairs are driven by their marketplace nature, full of business wrangling that revolves around writers but in practice doesn’t directly involve us. Despite this, fairs present a brilliant opportunity for writers to get a behind-the-veil look at how the cogs of the industry turn.

When I first attended LBF, I was awestruck by the sheer size of it all. Thanks to the dedicated Author HQ area, I attended numerous seminars that gave me an insight into the industry’s preoccupations and processes, networked with other writers, and met with representatives of book organisations such as the Society of Authors (which I joined) and BookTrust (which introduced me to BookTrust Represents, an initiative which promotes and supports authors and illustrators of colour).

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

A question occurred to PG while he read this – Does Amazon ever show up for book fairs?

Author Websites: Are You Missing These 5 Crucial Elements?

From BookBub Partners:

A well-optimized author website can help an author brand themselves and sell more books. It’s an important marketing tool that provides readers, publishing professionals, and members of the media vital information. But designing one can be overwhelming — and on top of writing and other marketing activities, remembering to update it regularly can seem like a chore.

So what should an author’s website include (and keep up to date) at the very least? What crucial elements should you ensure aren’t missing from yours?

We scoured dozens of successful authors’ websites to see what elements they include with the most regularity and showcase several examples of each below. This way, you can see different formatting possibilities when you’re deciding how to incorporate these details into your own site. (Some elements may overlap, as authors often include multiple on a single page.)

  1. Books (with retailer links)
  2. Author bio (in the third person)
  3. Author headshot (with photographer credit)
  4. A way to get updates (via email and/or social media)
  5. A way to get in touch (with you or your publishing team)

Link to the rest at BookBub Partners

Pen Pals – Five Ways Authors Can Show the Love

From Women Writers, Women’s Books:

Publishing is a highly competitive industry, with more than 60,000 books expected to be published this fall season alone. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when your book is on the verge of a breakthrough but your efforts to promote it are threatening to break you as well.

Whether traditionally or self-published, we’ve all been there, with experts telling us what to do at every turn. Build your platform on social media, drive readers to your website (why can’t they take a cab?), become a subject matter expert in a world where SME’s are a dime a dozen. So what’s an author to do?

I’d say start with acknowledging that it’s more blessed to give than to receive. With so many authors in the same boat, why not synchronize our rowing? Here are five ways to put this concept to work:

  1. Rachet up the Reviews—If you’ve recently signed with a publisher, contact a few authors with whom you are going to share a catalogue and suggest you exchange reviews, either in advance or after publication. Above all, we are writers – so why not harness our skills in the service of each others’ work? If you are -self-published, you can reach out to authors in your genre on GoodReads and do the same.
  2. Power in Numbers—Form or join an author’s group that meets online bi-monthly. Not only is this a morale booster, it is also a great way to brainstorm ideas. Authors whose books are similar can join forces and offer a presentation to a book club. Someone who needs help with their book cover or wants to explore audio-book recording options can ask for advice.

Link to the rest at Women Writers, Women’s Books

Book Tours – Analyzed

The post that appeared immediately prior to this one included a video in which the author was performing a video substitute for a physical book tour. When PG posted the video from YouTube, it had received 2,594 views.

PG is of the gigantically, perennially and irrefutably humble opinion that traditional book tours where a publisher sends an author out to visit a number of bookstores for an event in the bookstore to which anyone who learns about the event can attend.

Typically, the bookstore staff sets up some chairs for the audience, has several stacks of the book being promoted spread around the store and provides the author a table and a chair.

Thereafter, the author makes a short speech about her/his book designed (almost always by the author) to induce members of the audience to buy a copy of the author’s book. After completing the pitch, the author sits at the table and autographs books that members of the audience have purchased, often with a trite phrase, “I hope you enjoy my book!” or something the purchaser requests, “For Lurlene from her loving granddaughter, MaryJoJean.”

After chatting with strangers and signing all the books that are purchased, the author packs up, thanks the bookstore staff (perhaps leaving them some candy) and exits the store to travel to the next bookstore on the tour schedule. On a large tour across the US, airplane travel and hotels are involved.

For a really, really, really bestselling author, the publisher might send a minder to help schlep the author around from place to place.

To PG, this sounds like a mid-Twentieth-Century marketing strategy. (“Housewives! Have we got something new to brighten your humdrum day! The latest scientific innovation in kitchen cleaners!”)

Let’s break the thinking behind what passes for the marketing strategy behind a book tour.

  1. The author’s time costs the publisher nothing.
  2. We will send one of our authors to a physical bookstore. We’ll have the bookstore create some sort of poster announcing a book signing by Arthur Author for his latest book.
  3. If the publisher is feeling really generous, it might pay to have some cheap promotional brochures printed and shipped to the bookstore so the store will have something for an employee to sprinkle around for most of its customers to ignore. If it’s colorful, children might pick up a brochure to leave in the back seat of the car when they get home.
  4. The bookstore will have its employees set up chairs and a signing table, unpack a couple of boxes of books, place a few books around the store and stack a bunch on the signing table.
  5. In advance of the designated time, the author will leave an inexpensive hotel room, drive a rental car to the store after cruising around a strange city for awhile, walk into the store and start meeting total strangers.
  6. The introverted author who hates speaking to groups of people will thereafter speak to a crowd of strangers which will always be smaller than the author expected to show up.
  7. After trying to be interesting and entertaining for 15-20 minutes, the introverted author will then have to talk to a stream of strangers for about 60 seconds each, try to appear to be enjoying the process of acting like a homecoming queen, and write something trite in each copy of the book.
  8. Emotionally exhausted, after the last customer has left, the author will then effusively thank the book store manager and staff for their efforts, glance at the large stack of unsold books, and stumble out to their means of transportation and try to remember where the next book-signing is scheduled and when she’s supposed to be there.
  9. If the author is sufficiently depressed, she may estimate how many copies of her book were sold at the book-signing, calculate the royalties she will receive from those sales and realize that each of the store employees earned more on a per-hour basis than the author did for the time she put into preparation, travel, getting dressed up, undergoing the introvert’s torture of talking to a bunch of strange people (including some who were stranger than others) in the store, then more travel.

Perhaps PG is missing some giant financial or psychological benefit that accrues to a typical author as a result of a traditional book-signing or series of book-signings, but he doesn’t think so.

Then, let’s consider that Amazon sells more books than any bookstore or chain of bookstores in the world.

And, the author earns a higher royalty when Amazon sells an ebook than when Joe’s Books and Bait Shop sells a paperback.

But, as always, PG could be wrong.

Authors Get Real About Going on a Book Tour…From Their Living Rooms

From The Oprah Magazine:

Novelist Laura Hankin found out that the launch event for her second book was cancelled through a Facebook notification from the bookstore. “I cried very hard. But then I also was like, how dare you cry over a canceled book event? That doesn’t matter,” Hankin tells OprahMag.com. “It was just another bit of uncertainty amidst a whole world of uncertainty.”

Hankin’s novel, Happy and You Know It, was released May 19, about two months after the coronavirus forced much of the United States to shelter in place and work from home—a time when bookstores were cancelling events left and right and authors were forced to call off their promotional tours.

Now, Hankin is one of many authors, publicists, and booksellers who are figuring out the publishing world’s “new normal,” which has meant participating in Instagram Live events, answering questions on moderated Zoom chats, or—like Hankin did—making music videos.

Hankin decided to process her own mixed feelings in a song called “Indoor Book Tour.” Using cheeky lyrics about being stuck on the couch and having the in-person audience of a single cat, “Indoor Book Tour” highlights the solitude of what had once been the active, social act of book publicity.

Link to the rest at The Oprah Magazine and thanks to DM for the tip.

Writer’s block at the signing table

From Murderati:

When I’m sitting in a bookstore, autographing a book for a customer, I dread hearing these words:”You’re the author. Why don’t you sign it and write something clever?”  There’s nothing that kills my creativity faster than having a fan staring over my shoulder, waiting for me to spontaneously write “something clever” on the title page.  I’ve heard that many men are unable to pee in public restrooms while other people are around.  They stand at the urinal and strain and strain, but just can’t get things flowing.  I have the literary equivalent of shy bladder syndrome.  I just can’t seem to produce the expected stream of clever words while anyone else is watching. In the privacy of my own office, I do a lot of hair-pulling and pacing and muttering and grimacing when I write. It is not a pretty thing to see.  In fact, I think writing is sometimes a grotesque affair, and one that should remain out of sight of the public. But when you’re sitting at a signing table in a bookstore, you’re performing in public, and you’re expected to smile, not grimace, while you try to come up with something clever to write in every book.  It’s always a relief when a customer says,”Just sign and date it, please.”  

I’ve learned to come prepared with stock phrases to accompany my autographs.  On my first book tour, for HARVEST, I wrote “thrills and chills” on just about every book I signed.  It was my fallback phrase, pithy and appropriate and somewhat clever.  It allowed me to face a line of customers without panicking that my brain would suddenly go blank.  On later tours, I began to vary it a little, just so I wouldn’t write the same thing for every customer standing in line.  I wrote “Enjoy the thrills!”  Or: “Many thrills!”  or “Great to meet you!”  If the book was for a special occasion — say, a birthday — I”d write :”Happy Birthday!  May it be thrilling.”  But I still fall back on tried and true phrases that don’t require me to wrack my brain for something spontaneously clever.  

Link to the rest at Murderati

The art of the normal

From The Bookseller:

Super Thursday has arrived early this year. Thanks to some overexcited reporting, the annual media frenzy that follows the yearly revelation that a lot of new hardback books are published in the autumn, has been focused on early September, rather than October, as we used to know it.

For numbers people, here are a few. Yesterday (3rd September) around 260 trade hardbacks were released.

. . . .

Come “real” Super Thursday on 1st October, we go again with some 450 trade hardbacks, a healthy increase on 2019, but mercifully down on 2018’s record.

This is not new, of course. For as long as there have been books, there appear to have been more of them than there are readers. Overproduction has often been denounced as a plague, but rarely have we done much about it. For publishers, a book is the thing that can cure all of our ills—just one more, as I’ve been known to say while on my way to the bar. It is easy to scoff, but the media’s fascination with this subject should not be taken too lightly, not least because for all of the smart campaigns that will be launched between now and December, this one costs us not a jot (except perhaps in reputation). In fact, we ought to be revelling in this big moment for books, just as we can take solace from how books kept us entertained and informed during the lockdown.

The trade is not just about big books (though we might like them), but also about the people who write and sell them. As the author Joanne Harris argues, for writers these weeks will likely just be “confusing, stressful and culminating in annihilation”. For booksellers, as pictures circulating on social media of stacks of as-yet-unopened deliveries suggest, it is both a physical and mental assault course.

This time around there is the added spice of having to contend with the new normal. We are often accused, in this sector, of denying the obvious. This year we cannot. In his half-year results address, Penguin Random House chief executive Markus Dohle talked about a world in which online book sales have become more important. He is not wrong; Covid has shown us all how fragile a supply chain can be when it is reliant on customers wanting to visit physical locations together.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

PG wonders if traditionally-published authors ever question whether it’s a good idea for their books to be released on the same day as hundreds of other books are released.

PG also wonders how good a job underpaid publicity people and unpaid interns do with providing excellent support for a massive launch of so many books at once.

PG will note that the OP is focused on the British book business, but large US publishers have similar and often synchronized book release schedules.

If your debut novel is released on the same day as Delia Owens’ second novel is released and JK Rowling’s US publisher releases a new Harry Potter sequel, guess how much attention your book will receive.

For publishers, building up enthusiasm among the literati and press might be a great idea.

For an individual author’s book dumped onto the market along with a bunch of other new books, maybe not so much.

#1 Most Popular Book

In connection with the release of Mrs. PG’s latest book, she ran a price promotion on the first book in this series, featuring a female Oxford professor/amateur sleuth.

Yesterday, early in the evening, she checked the performance of An Oxford Murder, Book 1 of her series, and was pleased to discover that it had a Best-sellers rank in the US Free Kindle Store of #1 for all ebooks, regardless of genre.

A bit earlier this morning, her book was still ranked #1 overall in the US and, on Amazon UK, #3 for Historical Mysteries.

When PG just checked, the book was ranked #4 overall for free books and #1 in Historical Mysteries, #1 in Women Sleuths and #2 in Literature & Fiction, each in the Free Kindle Store. It’s still hanging in as #3 for Historical Mysteries in the UK store.

Mrs. PG has always enjoyed good sales at the launch of a new book and for her free book promos, but this one is particularly good.

With respect to her latest book, Murder at Tregowyn Manor (which is priced at $2.99 for the ebook), most of her sales are coming from the US, as usual, but she’s also generating nice sales numbers from Australia and the UK as well.

PG shares these results for the benefit of other indie authors who may find them useful for their launch plans.

PG thanks all the kind visitors to TPV who have continued to support Mrs. PG’s books over the years since the launch of TPV.

5 Basic Rules of Social Media

From Social Media Just for Writers:

It’s so important to converse with readers, friends, and influencers in your sphere. If you don’t allocate time to chat, you are missing the point.

Because at its essencesocial media is social. So, to engage in social media and not allocate time to socialize, well, it’s antithetical to the very premise of social media.

. . . .

Be a social butterfly, in the best sense possible. Social media was never designed to be a broadcast messaging system the way radio and television are. Conversations are the backbone of social media, and that is what distinguishes it, and that is what has fueled its dominance in marketing. The beauty of social media for authors is that it allows you to converse with your readership in a manner that was never possible before Facebook was created. Indie authors have a powerful medium with which they can market their books, converse with their readers, answer questions in minutes, and further their relationships with their loyal readers, even though it’s all done virtually.

Don’t attempt to be the prom queen; strive to always be authentic and care about others. Don’t talk solely about yourself. Social media is an inclusive media. You will get further and do better if you help others, including helping other authors in your genre. You can interview your colleagues for your blog and share information about their promotions.

Link to the rest at Social Media Just for Writers

How to Make Book “Sales Copy” Feel Like a Simple Conversation

From the Nonfiction Author Association:

You’ve put a ton of time into writing your nonfiction book and now you’re ready to sell a lot of copies, make a positive impact, and gain a loyal legion of fans.

. . . .

With all the social media platforms and digital marketing channels open to you these days, there’s no reason why this vision can’t come to fruition.

However, to achieve this goal you’re going to need an ongoing promotional campaign, the basis of which is strong “sales copy” for your book.

Now, I just put the term sales copy in quotes for a reason.

Over the last 12 years I’ve crafted marketing copy for over a hundred authors who’ve written books they intended to sell to people all over the world. However, many of them felt squeamish when they heard me use the terms “sales copy” or “persuasive sales copy” when talking about their marketing content.

The reason is terms like “persuasive sales copy” sound like a ploy you use when you want to trick or manipulate people into buying your books. And nobody wants to do that. The good news is that you don’t have to.

When written properly, persuasive sales copy can have the same feel as a friendly conversation you’d have in a coffee shop with a potential reader of your book. No hype. No fluff. No razzle-dazzle and no manipulation. Just straightforward honesty and authenticity.

. . . .

Today you live in a global economy that is tightly connected by social media platforms and video conferencing tools that enable you to speak with people around the world as if they were sitting right next to you.

This connectivity empowers you to sell your book to anyone, anywhere, any time. So, if you have a book that can energize, stimulate, enlighten, educate, or entertain, you need to let people know you have something valuable to share with them.

. . . .

In today’s online market it is easy to shy away from writing sales copy and simply substitute it with a large volume of blurbs, posts, articles, and videos that are intended to create “awareness” for your book.

Creating this content is definitely a sound strategy. However, at some point you also need to craft compelling sales copy that motivates readers to buy your book NOW …instead of later, or never.

. . . .

As I mentioned earlier, compelling book marketing copy can be written in the same tone as a casual chat between two friends in a coffee shop. When you understand this, then “persuasive sales copy” should no longer be a phrase that makes you apprehensive.

There is no doubt that marketing copy filled with hype, fluff, and unrealistic promises will turn people away. However, marketing copy with a casual, friendly tone can be highly effective if you lead people through a simple motivating sequence that 1) shows you have a precise understanding of what readers want, desire, or need; and 2) communicates the clear-cut benefits they’ll derive from reading your book.

It really is possible to do this by writing sales copy in a style that mirrors the tone and feel of a casual conversation you’d have with a good friend.

. . . .

To stand out in a crowded market, your book marketing copy needs to have a distinct voice in which it is written. The key here is to avoid writing your marketing copy in a “salesy” voice, and instead write it in a straightforward authentic voice that is true to your book.

For example, if you’ve written a self-development book that has a nurturing tone, write your marketing copy in a nurturing tone. If you’ve written a business book that has an authoritative edge to it, give your marketing copy an authoritative edge. If your book has a witty attitude to it, write your marketing copy with a witty attitude.

Chances are the voice and tone of your book is a direct reflection of you. So if you write your marketing copy through the same authentic voice as your book, it’s going to be much easier for you to give it a conversational tone that resonates with your readers.

. . . .

  • Avoid using worn-out clichés that don’t really mean anything like “second to none,” “cut above the rest,” or “to a whole new level.”
  • Stay away from basic general statements and popular buzz phrases.
  • Make sure your benefit statements are detailed, specific, and to the point.
  • Craft your copy as if you’re going to read it to a potential buyer while the two of you are drinking coffee together.

Link to the rest at the Nonfiction Author Association

Can You Zoom Your Way Up The Bestseller Charts?

From IndieReader:

Tips for Hosting a Virtual Author Event

If you’re stuck indoors, like most of us are right now, it’s time to consider hosting a virtual event. It’s a simple way to market your book from home! I’ve done webinars on Zoom and similar platforms for years. I love doing virtual events and I jump at the chance to do as many as I reasonably can.

Even if you are unsure about virtual events, I encourage you to add this strategy to your repertoire of marketing tools because it’s a solid way to promote a book.

Yes, we absolutely love in-person events, and there’s nothing like meeting readers and attendees and shaking hands (can we still do that?). But in the absence of in-person gatherings – or if you don’t want to travel – virtual events can be really fantastic. So let’s dig into some of the how-to’s for these events, so you’re prepared to knock it out of the park!

1. Check Your Surroundings

Make sure the area behind you on camera is not cluttered! You don’t want attendees to focus on that stack of books on your desk instead of you. Ideally, get yourself a plain backdrop such as a wall or a lovely bookcase. You can even order fun screens from Amazon if you’re really eager to appear in front of a spiffy backdrop.

2. What’s Your Light Source?

The other extremely important element is lighting. You can easily check lighting on your phone by recording a video in the room where you’ll hold your virtual event. I love natural lighting, and I always try to keep the lighting as natural as possible. But if your room is devoid of a lot of natural light, you can try your existing lighting or get a ring light fairly inexpensively (again, on Amazon).

3. Be Sure to Smile!

. . . .

4. Where’s Your Camera?

It’s pretty easy to stare into your computer screen (I have done this a lot) but you really want to look at your camera because otherwise it seems like you’re gazing off and not paying attention. I have a small red dot by my camera to remind myself to pay attention to where the camera actually is.

It’s tricky at first because if we can see everyone, we’re inclined to look at them, but when you do that you really aren’t looking “at” them, if that makes sense. This takes a bit of getting used to, so don’t worry if you don’t get it on the first try. But put something by your camera so you’re reminded to look there. Maybe a big arrow!

Link to the rest at IndieReader

PG would add that it might be a good idea to do a practice run-through with a handful of friends as an audience and record it. Replaying the recording to see how things look and sound when you’re not in the middle of doing the online event can help identify issues you’re not aware of during the performance (and it is a performance).

Additionally, based upon PG’s experience doing presentations in meatspace, no matter how many or few show up online, be upbeat and enthusiastic about communicating with them.

Whether numbering 300 or 3, an audience will sense any disappointment you’re feeling if you don’t consciously plan to be and act upbeat. It’s a performance, not a conversation. (Yes, really. Even if you characterize the event as a conversation, if you perform poorly, it will be a bad performance and a bad conversation.)

If you communicate any disappointment to an audience, you’re communicating the idea that the people who are participating are not very important and/or that you feel like a failure.

How to use simple psychology and basic common sense to sell more books

From Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris:

Do you dream about creating a group of Superfans who will buy every book you write?

Yes? Well, then, do you make it easy for readers to become your Superfans?

. . . .

I want you to keep the idea of “Superfans” in your mind as we talk about today’s topic. To create these Superfans, we need to make sure that we don’t do anything to frustrate our readers. In fact, our job is to make purchasing/following/subscribing as easy as possible.

In order to do that, there are three simple steps:

  • Create content in a reader-friendly format
  • Use simple psychology to help guide readers
  • Harness what we know about e-reader technology to make it easier for readers to find us — and buy more of our books

. . . .

I’m a science grad who became a science prof – so when someone from the publishing industry (in 1995) suggested that textbooks would be converted to electronic format, I jumped for joy!! After decades of lugging around massive science reference texts, the idea of tucking a computer disk into my bag was pretty exciting!

. . . .

Because the first Kindle wasn’t released until 2007, the idea of reading electronic textbooks was still over a decade away at that point. At the time, though, fresh out of university and thinking I knew everything, I was excited, but my fellow profs – who turned out to be smarter than I was – expressed concern about the differences in reading style. Honestly, back then, know-it-all me thought they were over-reacting.

Over the years since, I’ve done quite a bit of research into the differences between how people read via a paper source, like a paperback book, versus how people read via an electronic source, like a Kindle or e-reader.

. . . .

To sum up, people don’t actually read material presented electronically. Instead, they scan.

People “read” in a non-linear, non-continuous fashion. They will allow their eyes to take breaks between paragraphs. They will make use of headlines, graphics, bold text, italic text or lists to guide the movement of their eyes.

Another key finding from the existing research is that the more a person reads on electronic sources, the more they exhibit this scanning type of “reading.” This finding implies that scanning behaviour, or non-linear reading, is more pronounced amongst younger readers than older readers.

. . . .

The “Jars of Jam” study involved creating two different types of displays of jam in grocery stores. One display had many different flavors of jam, number of jars, size and shape of jars and varying prices. The second display typically had 2 flavors of jam and one size of jars, all at the same price. This experiment was carried out in different types of stores and in different locations within the store.

The second display (the simpler display) always sold many more jars of jam than the first.

Some feel this result is counter-intuitive. Wouldn’t people appreciate having more choices? Or are they, in fact, overwhelmed by too many choices with the result that they don’t make any purchase? The research indicates that they are, and that the sale is lost.

What’s the connection between the bread, jam jars, and turning readers into Superfans?

Look at the menu-line of your website. Do you provide numerous alternatives for a reader to choose from? Or do you use the menu structure to nudge people in the direction you want them to go?

For authors, the “Jars of Jam” theory applies in two critical places:

  • Website design – especially with respect to the menu-line and buy links
  • Promotional platforms and & newsletters – think BookBub

Which one below would you think is better for readers to find information?

Example #1

Example #2

If you answered example 2 you would be correct!

Why does BookBub sell so many books?

BookBub is one of the most successful promotional newsletters. Do you think the psychology behind the “Jars of Jam” correlates with the limited number of suggested books in each newsletter?

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris

The Nothing Man

It has been some time since PG has paid any attention to a book trailer. When they first became a thing, he watched a few. They were pretty terrible, so he stopped.

He happened across the book trailer below and saw distinct improvements over prior efforts. That said, he still doesn’t know if they sell any books, but would be happy to read opinions on the topic in the comments.

Giving Back To Your Readers

From Writers in the Storm:

In my last two posts here on WITS I talked in general terms about building your author platform, both online and offline. Today I’m going to dig a little deeper into building a long-term relationship with your readers. 

. . . .

One key piece of information we ask potential readers to give is an email address. This allows us to keep them up to date on new releases, share our creative process with them via newsletters, and send the occasional promotional mailings. But what can we give them in return for this valuable piece of information?

Like many authors, I’ve been giving readers a free story download in exchange for signing up for my newsletter (I admit I stole this idea from the great James Scott Bell). You might think managing all those download requests will eat up most of your writing time, but the good news is the process can be automated.

. . . .

Now that you have something to give to the readers, you’re going to need somewhere in the cloud to store it where it can be easily accessed and distributed. There are many cloud storage providers out there, but Google Docs is probably the simplest solution. I have a specific folder where I upload and store giveaway files. This helps keep things neat and tidy and makes getting the download links a snap.

. . . .

You’re also going to need a way to collect and manage the email addresses you receive. You’ll also be using this same application to automate the delivery of your file. Two of the most popular solutions are Mailchimp and MailerLite. Both are free up to a certain number of subscribers, and both offer delivery automation. I’ve found MailerLite to be the most flexible and robust at the free level, and a good fit for most authors, but do your research and decide what works best for you as you scale up and move toward achieving you ultimate goal as a writer.

Link to the rest at Writers in the Storm