We’re In This Together: How To Help Other Authors Succeed

From Writers Helping Writers:

A common query Becca and I get is, “Why do you do what you do?” It’s a fair question, because in order for us to coach writers through our books, speaking, and our One Stop for Writers site, we’ve had to temporarily put our fiction-writing on hold. Not an easy decision. But the fact is we love to see dreams realized. This is why we do it. As writers ourselves, we know the power of THIS particular dream–a book in hand, our name paired with the title, and the knowledge that readers are losing themselves in a world we’ve created.

We celebrate each time someone we know achieves this dream–and how could we not? It’s so wonderful to see all that hard work pay off! Today, we are celebrating because our friend Kristen Lamb has just released her first mystery thriller, The Devil’s Dance.

. . . .

When an author releases a book, it’s all smiles and excitement…on the outside. What we don’t see is the anxiety going on within: will this book find its readers? Will it become lost in the glut of fiction available? If I share my excitement too freely, will people see it as unwanted promotion?

These worries are universal among authors. And, with the saturation of promotion these days, it’s important we don’t push a book too hard ourselves. Inside, we hope others will step up and help.

. . . .

1: Ask your local library to bring the book in. Many libraries have an online form and they often pay attention to requests. Click here to find a library near you…and why not request Kristen’s book while you’re at it?  If it is an ebook release, first encourage your author friend to make the ebook available to a service like OverDrive.

2: Leave a review. This is the clear obvious one, but often people stop at only submitting it to Goodreads or Amazon. Please cut and paste the review to all the main sites the book is being sold (Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and if it applies, Smashwords.) For example, you can review The Devil’s Dance on Amazon and Goodreads. It wasn’t at LibraryThing, so I added it (if you’ve read this book, please give it some review love?)

3: Place the book on appropriate lists. If you loved reading the book, help others find it. Goodreads has many great lists you can add books to, or start your own. Using Kristen as an example, you’ll see her reviews are excellent. Think of how much it will help her if reviewers add The Devil’s Dance to some of the “best” lists so others also find it.

Link to the rest at Writers Helping Writers and thanks to Julie for the tip.

9 Reasons a Book Was Rejected for a BookBub Featured Deal

From BookBub:

BookBub editors get on average 300 Featured Deal submissions per day and are only able to accept 10-20% of them. Why might we select one book above another? What criteria do we look at?

In this post, we’ll reveal some of the most common reasons why a book is rejected for a BookBub Featured Deal, from unmet minimum requirements to cover design issues and other common pitfalls.

. . . .

1. The book was too short

One of our minimum requirements to qualify for a Featured Deal is that the work should be full length. Sometimes we receive submissions that do not meet our minimum page count requirements:

  • Novels and anthologies: at least 150 pages long
  • Nonfiction: at least 100 pages long
  • Cookbooks: at least 70 pages long
  • Middle grade books: at least 100 pages long
  • Children’s picture books: at least 20 pages long

Any work that is too short isn’t eligible for a Featured Deal.

How to fix: Consider bundling multiple related short titles together to make an anthology (just double check our box set rules). Or, submit other titles that do meet BookBub’s page length requirements.

2. The deal didn’t meet our pricing requirements

BookBub promises readers deeply discounted and free books. We expect these promotions to run for a limited time, although we do accept permafree titles. To qualify for editorial review, a book must meet our discounting requirements, which you can read here. However, we often receive submissions for books that have already been on sale for a month or more, or have not been discounted to at least 50% off the predominant historical price. Unfortunately, these pricing issues will disqualify a submission for Featured Deal selection.

How to fix: In some cases, a book could qualify for a promotion if you submit it at a lower price point. For other issues, since we look at pricing history for the past 90 days, try raising that title’s price and resubmit in three months.

. . . .

5. We found evidence of a bad reader experience

We want to feature great deals on quality books that our readers will love! If we see that readers are generally having a bad experience with a book, we’ll take those factors into account. For instance, if multiple reviews mention typos, grammatical errors, that the book feels incomplete, or that the story ends in a huge unresolved cliffhanger, that will negatively impact a book’s chance of being selected.

How to fix: For typos or grammar issues, make sure to hire a professional editor. If a book has a significantly open-ended cliffhanger, try bundling it with other books in the series into a box set so the story is complete.

6. The cover wasn’t a good fit

They say “don’t judge a book by its cover” — but let’s be honest, we all do. Readers have different expectations for covers depending on the book’s genre, and elements like the image, typeface, featured characters, and colors all impact how readers approach a book. BookBub editors know what types of covers our readers respond to, and if a book’s genre is unclear at a glance or the image does not appear professionally designed, they may be less likely to accept.

How to fix: Examine the covers of popular titles in the book’s genre and decide if the cover needs a redesign. If so, you might want to hire a professional cover designer — you can check out some of our cover design resources here.

Link to the rest at BookBub

Anthologies: Joining With Others In Marketing To The Masses

From Digital Book World:

A lot of people that ask me how I got started marketing my books. There are so many options out there for marketing your books, and as you probably know, some are effective, and some… not so much. I’ll tell you about the number one way I marketed my books early on when I didn’t have a list or a fan base. It’s a way of sharing the marketing effort: joining with other authors in anthologies.

. . . .

One type of anthology is a collection of stories written by various author and complied into one large omnibus. The authors usually come together and create the topic/genre and set up a few standard rules, including due dates for story submission, formatting specifics and the like. They work together to choose the cover, the title, and the blurb.

Everyone pulls a bit of the load, and when you release the book, you PUSH like crazy together. It’s hard work selling a book, as I’m sure you’re aware of, but when you do it in arms with other authors, it makes the load a little lighter.

. . . .

After being a participant in 5-6 of these efforts, I finally stepped up and decided to run several of my own. I pulled together some writer friends who had similar genres as myself, and we did novella short stories for Halloween and then again for Christmas.

There’s some time involved in these projects, but the monetary investment was $25, and we hit number 1 in the holiday section on Amazon and broke through the top 100 for Free with very little effort. It was a fantastic way to share my readers, and have my friends do the same.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World and thanks to Nate for the tip.

When I Worked in Advertising

From The Millions:

When I worked in advertising, I took solace in knowing that my task was, fundamentally, to tell stories. I believe that; our society’s most successful storytellers are probably the people who make television commercials. In one of the 16 or so drafts of my new book, I mention that Folger’s commercial where the guy comes home for Christmas and wakes his family by brewing a pot of Folger’s. If that ends up in the finished book, I’m confident most readers will know exactly what I’m talking about.

When I worked in advertising, one of my clients, one of this country’s largest retailers, used the language of storytelling, which further helped me take solace in my work (the money was quite good, too). They told stories and then sold things, and the story changed every so often, so that the months of the year were like the installments in a collection of short stories. You can guess how some of those stories went: the story was Christmas or the story was Summer or the story was cleaning and organizing or the story was Father’s Day or the story was Mother’s Day and the moral of the story was buy stuff. Only the stuff changed, and even then, not that much, the same stuff month after month, story after story, the way certain writers repeat themselves when it comes to an image or a turn of phrase.

. . . .

When I worked in advertising, I told myself that anything is a learning experience if you insist it be. I think that holds true. On more than one occasion, I had to write for a sign that could only accommodate four words. Four words is not many, but you can, if you need to, if you’re being paid to, get a great deal out of four words. The other day I went to visit an art gallery in Chelsea with a friend, a novelist, and her mother-in-law. My own mother-in-law is an absolutely delightful woman, and other people’s mothers-in-law are almost always my favorite people, perhaps because of my fraught relationship with my own mother. When I worked in advertising and I had to tell the story of Mother’s Day, I never thought of my own mother. At the gallery, apropos of nothing in particular, my friend said How long is your new book? and I tried to remember the page count and she said No, words, how many words? and I told her it was near 80,000, which is true, and quite a bit longer than those four-word signs I used to write.

. . . .

When I worked in advertising, sometimes the art director I worked with (there were many, and this is true for every one of them) would say What does it look like? She (they were mostly, though not always, women) would be frustrated, because I was using words and she did not think in words; she thought in pictures, which was why she had become an art director in the first place. I would describe, say, a Mother’s Day ad, and she would ask What does it look like? I would spin a story about a sweater or a handbag or a lipstick or a stand mixer and she would ask What does it look like? I enjoyed these conversations because they were a bit like the conversations you have with someone on drugs, or a young child; they didn’t have to adhere to any particular logic. She could ask What does it look like? and I could tell her it looked like flowers, and Tina Barney’s photographs, and happiness, and late afternoon sunlight, and the paintings of John Singer Sargent, and a scone on a chipped porcelain plate and an old American standard sung by someone with a Carly Simon-ish voice but not Carly Simon, and the art director would close her eyes and nod her head slowly.

Link to the rest at The Millions

PG also worked in advertising a long time ago and will testify to the intense effort involved in conceiving, writing and shooting a commercial. The cost per minute of a commercial was much higher than the cost of a minute of even the most expensive of motion pictures.

Here’s a classic advertisement that, for PG, displays the art and craft of creating a good advertisement. (click on image for larger version)

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How Steve Vernon leverages Kindle Scout

From Sandra Hutchinson, Sheer Hubris Press:

Sandra Hutchison interviews the ever-entertaining multi-genre author Steve Vernon about his experiences with Kindle Scout, the challenges of publishing across genres, his reviewing habits, and more.

Steve, you used Kindle Scout to successfully win a contract for your book KELPIE DREAMS, but I know that wasn’t your first try. What are your tips for those who want to try that?

First, write the very best book you can write. Try to make it marketable. Kindle Scout is simply a thirty day pitch to the world’s largest digital publisher – Amazon. Kindle Press (which is the publishing arm that actually publishes winning Kindle Scout novels) wants a book that is going to sell. So, if you have decided that you want to write something that is intense and personal and complex and damn near unreadable – DON’T BOTHER TRYING TO PITCH IT TO KINDLE SCOUT!

Or, maybe you should.

Why?

Well, really for me the very best way to think of Kindle Scout is like this. Kindle Scout is the a thirty-day extension to your book launch. Think of it as a pre-pre-order.

It works this way: You enter your book into Kindle Scout. You then have a thirty-day window to try to draw as much attention, in the form of nominations and views, to your book. If it’s selected, you get a $1500 advance and a chance to sell a whole lot more copies. The readers who nominated your book receive free copies – which can lead to a sudden boost in reviews.

BUT – if you AREN’T selected for Kindle Press publishing, you still have a note that you write ahead of time to your readers that can be used to notify them when you actually release your book. If you release it as a KU release you have the ability to set a free giveaway on your first few days of release and thus you have the ability to give away a whole lot more copies, boost your ranking and (hopefully) boost your initial flow of reviews.

I could talk a whole lot more about Kindle Scout – but let me just sum it all up by saying YES, I would do it again. The experience has been a good one for me and it continues to be good.

Link to the rest at Sandra Hutchinson, Sheer Hubris Press

Here’s a link to Steve Vernon’s books. If you like an author’s thoughts, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Bookstores Suffer Unintended Consequences From Mark Hamill’s Campaign Against Fake Autographs

From Reason:

In a galaxy far, far away, Luke Skywalker is the ultimate hero (or is he?), but here’s a note to state lawmakers in this galaxy: maybe don’t trust him to make policy for you.

California is learning that the hard way, as a new law championed by Star Wars actor Mark Hamill has landed the state in court. In that lawsuit, the owners of a California-based book store argue that new rules governing the sale of autographed memorabilia—like books signed by authors at events hosted by their store and scores of others around the state—are overly burdensome, threaten harsh punishments for minor infractions, and above all else are poorly written.

Under the terms of the law, which passed last year and took effect in January, retailers have to provide certificates of authenticity for all autographed merchandise worth more than $5. That doesn’t sound like a difficult burden for retailers, but look at what has to be included on that certificate.

The law specifies that those certificates must contain a description of the collectible and the name of the person who signed it, the purchase price and date, and an “explicit statement” of authenticity. It must also indicate how many items were signed, whether they are numbered as part of a series, and whether any more might be sold in the future. Oh, and there has to be proof that the seller is insured. And, of course, there has to be a certificate number provided by the bureaucrats at the State Board of Equalization (a real thing, believe it or not, tasked with collecting various taxes and fees for everything from gasoline to recycled computers). There’s a separate requirement for an “identifying serial number,” which, naturally, has to match the serial number of the receipt—a receipt that must be kept by the seller for no less than seven years after the transaction. Finally, the certificate of authenticity has to say whether the author provided his John Hancock in the presence of the dealer, or another witness, and include the name of the witness. (There is no word on whether the witness’ first born must also sign the form.)

. . . .

“This law’s expensive mandates — with voluminous reporting requirements and draconian penalties — create a nightmare for independent booksellers that thrive on author events and book signings,” said Bill Petrocelli, owner of the Marin County-based Book Passage, which has three locations around the San Francisco Bay Area. Petrocelli is the plaintiff in the lawsuit seeking a permanent injunction against the enforcement of the autograph law. The Pacific Legal Foundation, a libertarian legal nonprofit, is representing him in the lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed in federal court for the Northern District of California.

Anastasia Boden, an attorney for PLF, says the law does little to protect consumers from the dangers of fraudulently autographed memorabilia. Rather, the lawsuit alleges, the law will have a chilling effect on “truthful, non-misleading speech” protected by the First Amendment, as it will reduce or eliminate book-signing events, like the ones Book Passage hosts hundreds of times each year.

. . . .

“The public is being swindled on a daily basis and the numbers are huge. I just can’t keep quiet when I see people I love being hurt,” Hamill toldThe Los Angeles Times in 2016 as the bill was working its way through the legislature.

Link to the rest at Reason and thanks to Lucy for the tip.

The Bestseller List Box Set Gig

From InsideIndie.weebly.com:

Why does it seem like lately the heavens are raining down hundreds of brand spanking new bestselling authors? They’re everywhere, man, like, it’s contagious and we need a vaccine.  New York Times, USA Today, heck, it’s no big deal anymore, thanks to a handful of individuals who have figured out how to make a ton of cash and inflate sales numbers to shoot 20+ author box sets onto the lists. (Yes, you read that correctly; 20 books from 20 authors in one massive box set). Has anyone ever heard of the authors in these mega-sets? Do they ever go on to sell any other books after “getting letters”? A few shining stars have emerged, but for the most past, the answer is no.

According to one box set Organizer, Amazon assures her that everyone at Amazon is perfectly fine with her methods, and the way she tells it, Amazon’s in her pocket with this gig, and Amazon has no problem with authors gifting thousands of copies of books to readers who then use those gift book credits to purchase the box set, making it look like a legitimate sale. We’re not talking about chump change here, either, folks. The “buy-in” for these box sets is anywhere from $500 -$2000 per author. At 20+ authors per sets, the Organizer is collecting between $10,000 – $40,000 per set, and self-reports 8 sets have made the lists (out of dozens of sets managed). Not counting the sets that did not make lists, 8 box sets have raked in $80,000 – $320,000.  Even more disturbing, the same Organizer says that she spoke with PayPal and PayPal is fine with her methods of asking authors to pay her thousands of dollars of business transactions via “friends & family” transfers (which PayPal does not report to the IRS as taxable income and are not covered by PayPal Buyer Protection), or even worse, Amazon Gift Cards so that customers can not get a refund via PayPal dispute, which has happened multiple times to the Organizer.

Link to the rest at InsideIndie.weebly.com

PG doesn’t know any of the backstory on this and he hasn’t consulted any of the relevant terms of service, but he will point out that, when everybody is a bestselling author, the marketing benefits from such claims decline substantially in value.

CoreSource® Connects 750+ Publishers to Microsoft’s Digital Bookstore

From Ingram’s public relations department:

Ingram Content Group has been working with Microsoft to build inventory for the initial launch of the new books category in the Windows Store. CoreSource®, Ingram’s digital asset management and distribution platform, is already delivering content from over 750 publishers to the Windows Store.

With the Windows 10 Creators Update we are excited to bring books to the Windows Store,” said Alex Holzer, Director, Microsoft Digital Stores. “With books in Windows Store, you can discover and read e-books from your favorite authors across genres you love. We are pleased to work with Ingram’s team and CoreSource technology to bring content to readers.”

. . . .

“We’re always looking to add more distribution channels to CoreSource for our customers,” said Lewis Pennock, Director of Digital Retail Sales at Ingram Content Group. “Offering books in the Windows Store is one of the highest potential sales channels to come to the market in several years; it will be a great opportunity for our publishers to get their books into more readers’ hands across multiple devices.”

Link to the rest at Ingram

PG says there’s an art to writing good press releases. To quickly study that art, compare and contrast this Ingram press release with any press release issued by Amazon.

Which is it: Amazon Ads or Facebook Ads?

From author and TPV regular John Ellsworth:

In reflecting further, it becomes clear to me that the possibility of having my book discovered (albeit maybe not purchased) is much higher in terms of permutations on the Facebook platform than on Amazon ads. With Amazon ads I might choose 2000 keywords to bring up my book. With Facebook I have literally millions of possible sorts (database sorts) that I can create and try with a few simple clicks. For example, I can choose an audience of a certain age, a certain gender, a certain country, with certain interests, with other interests that further include or exclude and etc. ad nauseam. The truth telling, though, comes in the intent of the viewer. With Amazon ads, we can probably presume the viewer is there predisposed to buying a book. But on FB we can’t assume any such thing.

. . . .

Knowing what little I do know about SEO, it can probably be stated that discoverability on Amazon will only happen on the first three pages of ads. After that they fall off tremendously. So discoverability on Amazon depends on being on page one to three of the sponsored ad search results while discoverability on Facebook, while maybe higher because of the defined database sorts Facebook can make, is very achievable but the intent of the viewer will probably be very different (who do you know who goes on FB to buy a book?) than the presumed intent of the Amazon viewer.

. . . .

Amazon, in truly Amazon fashion, is extremely stingy with the data I need to make a business-like choice about advertising. FB, on the other hand, gladly provides me with probably more data than I know how to use, all of which is modifiable in the tabular displays that allow me to choose lots of different variables.

Link to the rest at John Ellsworth

Here’s a link to John Ellsworth’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

John Grisham Returns to the Road for His First Book Tour in 25 Years

From John Grisham’s blog:

Celebrate John Grisham’s 30th novel–CAMINO ISLAND–and his first bookstore tour in 25 years!  Seating is extremely limited–see full tour schedule and event guidelines below.

EVENT GUIDELINES (Please check each individual store listing)

•  Events are ticketed – 1 ticket per person, which will include a copy of CAMINO ISLAND.

•  Ticket costs vary.  Check store listings.

•  Events will be strictly limited to 200 people only.

•  Mr. Grisham will personalize and sign up to 2 copies of CAMINO ISLAND (1 copy included with event ticket, 1 copy purchased on-site only).

•  NO BACKLIST WILL BE SIGNED.

•  Photos will be permitted.

•  The event will be structured into two parts: book signing and discussion/Q&A.

•  Your ticket will gain admittance to both the book signing line AND in-store discussion UNLESS space is limited – check in-store seating guidelines below.

•  The book signing portion of the event will be from either 1 to 5pm or 2 to 6pm only – check timing of each venue.  You must have your ticket on-hand to join the line, which will be first-come, first-serve.

•  All books MUST be signed during the signing window – there will NOT be an autographing after the event.

•  Mr. Grisham’s in-store discussion will begin at either 5 or 6pm – check timing of each venue.  You must keep your ticket on-hand to join the discussion portion of the event.

•  Seating at the discussion will be first-come, first-serve. There will not be assigned seating.

Link to the rest at John Grisham’s blog

Authors need help with their digital presence that they still are not getting

From veteran publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin:

A major difference between book publishing today and book publishing 25 years ago is the practical power of the author brand in marketing. Multi-book authors can not only build their own followings in ways that can be usefully exploited, they now have an unprecedented capability to help each other.

Of course, they can do that best if they’re “organized” in some way. But both of the most obvious potential organizers who deal with many authors — the publishers and the agents — have commercial and structural impediments to being as helpful as they could be, or as authors need them to be, at either of the new needs: helping authors be better marketers of themselves or getting them to act in a coordinated way to help each other.

Building an individual author’s digital marketing footprint is an important component of career development. And, in fact, the foundation of the author’s “brand” footprint has strong influence on the success of the title marketing publishers would see as their principal objective.

But the publisher has a book-by-book relationship, not an assured ongoing relationship, with authors so investing for a longer-term gain is not structurally encouraged. And agents live with pretty strict ethics rules limiting their compensation to a share of the author contracts they negotiate, so they also have a structural impediment against investing money and time in the author’s general welfare beyond getting the best possible deal they can for every book they represent.

. . . .

When you discuss author marketing with literary agents you find that many of them already think of themselves as career consultants for their authors. Many of them build it into their own job description. But, frankly, the skill and expertise agents have to advise on financial management or digital marketing is highly variable. There could be even less consistency to what agents know about digital marketing than there is across publishers.

One agent, expressing what I think is appropriate humility, said she thought of herself as a “coach” for authors on career and digital marketing matters, not a “manager”. It seems likely to me that most agents with a multitude of clients will have some that know much more about digital marketing than they do!

. . . .

But organizing authors to help each other in this way is also touchy for both agents and publishers. For agents, there are two obvious problems. One is that the best marketing partners for any particular author might be represented by a different agency. That makes things complicated. But the other is that the agent’s “job” is to get an author deals. Getting authors engaged in a perhaps-complex marketing consortium requires another level of understanding and persuasion that agents could rightly see as a distraction to what pays the bills: developing proposals and getting offers from publishers. From a publisher’s perspective, organizing the house’s writers and having them communicate directly is a bit like asking big-company management to organize the union. There might be good arguments to do it but for many it would provoke a visceral negative reaction.

One consultant I spoke with in the course of writing this piece made a long list of concerns publishers would have about what authors encouraged to trade war stories might talk about, including contract terms and how much attention they were getting for their marketing efforts. But, of course, the authors’ agents already know these things.

. . . .

Trelstad made clear that authors are talking to each other about marketing and organizing themselves to help each other. With modern digital tools, this is easy. It is also very hard to track. There is one effort that has gotten some notoriety called the Tall Poppies, a collection of writers organized and spearheaded by author Ann Garvin. Their mission statement explains that “Tall Poppy Writers is a community of writing professionals committed to growing relationships, promoting the work of its members, and connecting authors with each other and with readers. By sharing information and supporting one another’s work, we strive to stand out in the literary marketplace and to help our members do the same.”

According to Trelstad (who is herself a “Tall Poppy member”), this kind of collaboration among authors is becoming increasingly common under the radar, like with her “masterminds” groups. It makes sense. The Trump and Sanders supporters didn’t need the party apparatus to get themselves together in common cause. Using the same tools and techniques, authors can also unite in their own interest without needing a publisher or agent to facilitate it for them. And apparently they are.

. . . .

So authors talking to authors is a development we may as an industry not be as aware of as we should be.

. . . .

When I asked Trelstad if any publisher seemed to be getting this right, she said, without hesitation, “Amazon. They are very good at communicating with their authors. They help overcome fear and uncertainty. And they automatically give authors and editors a voice in their covers.”

Link to the rest at The Shatzkin Files

PG should be smarter by now, but he continues to be constantly surprised by how clueless the pillars of traditional publishing are about what’s happening outside their small circle.

Authors are talking to each other!

Authors are helping each other!

Authors are creating websites and blogs – sometimes all by themselves! In every one-stoplight town in America, there are people who know how to build websites and blogs who are happy to be hired by authors who don’t want to do the work themselves.

And then there’s that internet thing that lets an author in Boston hire a digital designer in Anchorage to create the author’s online presence and promotion materials that an internet marketing consultant in Dallas uses to run the author’s book promotions all over the world.

The idea that authors talking to each other, sharing inside information in the process, will only happen if publishers or agents organize such gatherings is truly bizarre. Publishers and agents would be out of business without their suppliers – authors – yet they have huge gaps in their knowledge about what authors have been routinely doing for years – getting together electronically to talk shop, share information about royalties, advances, which marketing techniques work and which don’t, etc., etc., etc.

Of course, Amazon is different. Amazon is a well-managed, highly-efficient 21st century organization. Amazon is obsessively customer-focused and Amazon’s publishing arms – KDP and Amazon Publishing – view authors and readers as their customers.

As many regular TPV visitors know, one of Mrs. PG’s books was selected for publishing via Kindle Scout. For someone who had a lot of books traditionally published, the Amazon Publishing experience is extraordinary. Information is shared, emails are answered, the publisher treats the author like an intelligent human being who wants the same thing the publisher does – a high-quality book. Mrs. PG’s book is likely to be published and selling sooner than a New York publisher could manage to email her a publishing contract.

Also, Amazon knows more about selling books than any publisher and any conventional bookstore because, unlike the English majors running big publishing, Amazon understands the value of data and employs a whole lot of people who are extremely talented at mining big data for its secrets. In Jeff Bezos’ letter to shareholders, referenced in an earlier post, he talks about how much of what happens behind the scenes on Amazon’s websites relies on cutting-edge artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques.

Speaking of data, PG’s impression is that, when Data Guy speaks to a large gathering of traditional publishing folk, 99.9% of the analytical brain power in the room is up on the podium talking and running the PowerPoint presentation.

Meanwhile 99% of the audience really needs a stiff drink because Data Guy is showing them reams of information about their own industry that they didn’t know before the PowerPoint started.

 

 

 

Building Your Writing Career

From Dave Farland:

Many writers begin their writing journey and choose to focus on gaining the skills they need to become publishable. In fact, that becomes their sole focus. They don’t worry about learning how to sell their books. After all, you can’t sell a book that you haven’t written, right?

But what happens when you do sell a book and suddenly find that in addition to learning how to write, you now need to launch a career?

I’ve known many authors who have done just that. They focused on becoming writers and never learned the first thing about building a career. They’ve taken so little thought to the business side of writing that in some cases, they even managed to derail their career before it got started.

So, what are the first steps in building a career?

One of the first steps you need to take is to begin building “your list.” What is your list? It is a list of friends and fans and business associates who want to follow your career. These are people who will go out and buy your books. In fact, a good friend or fan will go out and buy your book on a certain day, a day that you ask them to buy it, in order to help launch your book on the bestseller lists.

Now, if you’re like me, you’ll think, “I don’t know anyone who would do that!” Well, you might be surprised at how many people would be willing to do that, if you just ask them to.

So, how do you ask? You send an invitation to people that you keep on an email list. This list is your most important business asset as a writer.

Who is on your list? How about this: look at your family first, not just your immediate family, but also your cousins, nephews, nieces, and even your crazy uncle. If you’re from a large family, getting the names and email addresses of these people can take some time. But it’s worthwhile. Family members are often eager to buy your books, tell friends what you’ve done, and so on. Even if they aren’t frequent readers, they’re likely to read your work.

Who else is on your list? How about your business associates at the place(s) that you’ve worked? How about old friends and classmates from school—from kindergarten on through college, and even people that you’ve taken seminars with?

Then go to your business associates—other writers, producers, editors, agents, and so on.

. . . .

But what if you don’t build your list? It is possible that a few great reviews will help guide readers to your book, and advertisements in magazines will also help. And if people begin reading and talking about your novel, the “word of mouth” advertising is invaluable. The problem is, that word of mouth is also slow. If someone buys your book and doesn’t read it for a few weeks, by the time that she tells her friends about how great you are, your book might be out of print.

. . . .

My friend Richard Paul Evans has a story about a writer who failed to build his list. Richard went to do a book signing on the East Coast a couple of years ago and was excited to be signing right next to an author whose first novel was a blockbuster—one that stayed on the New York Times Bestseller list for more than a year. He’d sold millions of copies and had gotten emails from tens of thousands of fans. But when Richard got to the store, he found that his own fans were there but the new author had no one in his lines. His publisher had not advertised his second novel widely, and the author hadn’t kept a list of his fans, so he had failed to tell them about the signing. When Richard asked the author what had happened to his fans, the author said, “I guess that they didn’t get the memo.”

Link to the rest at Dave Farland and thanks to Alexis for the tip.

Here’s a link to Dave Farland’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Newsletters and Discoverability

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

 Newsletters Before 2011

Writers have had newsletters long before email newsletter services came into being, long before the internet came into being. The indefatigable Debbie Macomber has done a newsletter for more than twenty years, and she has used it to great advantage. She used a lot of strategies that helped her hit the bestseller list, but also kept her readers loyal.

A May 2010 article on the BookPage.com blog lists three reasons why Debbie Macomber is a bestseller, and they all have to do with her newsletter.  Please note that the post got published just as the indie world was starting to take off. Debbie’s still traditionally published, so she was doing all of this stuff before Constant Contact and MailChimp.

She wrote, printed, and snail-mailed a newsletter.

. . . .

The three things the 2010 newsletter had were:

  1. Coupons for upcoming books
  2. Stickers and bookmarks with her 2010 releases listed on them
  3. Folksy news of Debbie, along with recipes and tips

The coupons and stickers weren’t in the newsletter. They were with the newsletter, in the same envelope.

Here’s what the BookPage blogger said about the coupons:

Here’s the smart part: they’re only valid during the first week of a book’s release, when sales are especially crucial.

. . . .

But in her newsletters, she hasn’t just offer coupons to her fans. She’s done all kinds of promotions. Debbie has been the queen of sharing and promotions as long as she’s published. She published her first novel in 1983. I don’t know for a fact whether or not she started doing newsletters then, but I do know that she’s been an innovative promoter since the early 1990s. A lot of the things you see romance writers do for promotion were ideas that Debbie had first and did better.

. . . .

I’ll be honest. I look at everything Debbie’s done or doing or plans to do, and I get instantly tired. I know how brilliant her promotions are. I know how much work she did from the very start to create this bond with her readers. She’s amazing.

What you need to know about her is that she does not cynically cultivate these connections. She enjoys them, and does them really well. There’s a reason her newsletters resemble the chatty letters that my aunt used to send me.

First, Debbie is that chatty, driven, organized person. Second, the newsletters reflect the kinds of books she writes, the books that appeal to her readers. And third, I’ll bet she can’t imagine doing this work any other way.

. . . .

The newsletters let fans know about upcoming releases. Every newsletter Debbie and Kevin release assumes that the people who get the newsletter are familiar with the author’s work, like the author’s work, and want more of the author’s work.

Keep that in mind.

. . . .

All newsletters—from Debbie’s to Kevin’s to some brand new indie writer’s—are advertising.

And like all advertising, the person who is writing the ad copy needs to know where the ad is going.

If you are trying to use your newsletter to get it in front of people who have never read your book, you’re using the newsletter for a different purpose than Kevin and Debbie do.

To put this in better marketing terms: when you’re using the newsletter to attract new readers, what you’re actually doing is some kind of ad flyer. Or, if you’re a good writer (and I’m assuming all of you are), you’re producing an advertising circular.

. . . .

How to communicate.

It’s all about audience, baby.

If your newsletter is for your constant readers (to use Stephen King’s term), then your newsletter will have information a regular reader wants.

That information includes:

  1. When the next book is coming out
  2. Where you’ll be appearing to sign books or to give a presentation
  3. Special perks

The newsletter for possible readers, which I am going to call the ad circular only for clarity’s sake (not as a judgment because, again, I think it’s a valid way to go), also includes that same information.

  1. When the next book is coming out
  2. Where you’ll be appearing to sign books or to give a presentation
  3. Special perks

But…this is where the content varies.

The old-school newsletter will then have chatty commentary. For Kevin’s newsletter, that includes where he hiked while writing certain novels, inspiration he found in other places, some of the fun trips he’s been on that weren’t writing related.

In Debbie’s case, she often discusses her family or what she’s knitted recently (seriously) or recipes that she loves. One newsletter on her site includes her wedding photo.

These newsletters assume the readers will want to know these personal things about the writer. I’ve seen newsletters that discuss upcoming books which will feature favorite side characters or include some material that was excised from a novel but isn’t a standalone story.

These are things that fans and long-time readers are interested in, but that people browsing the bookshelf for their next read have no patience for.

The ad circular newsletter will have (or should have) basic information. Where can the reader find more books by this author? What order should the books be read in?

The ad circular should be shorter and to the point. But it should also have a lot of voice in the body copy so that the potential book buyer actually reads the newsletter rather than deleting it.

It’s a trick to write that kind of copy, especially on a monthly or quarterly basis.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

eBook Sales Are Dead & Connecting with Readers

From Indies Unlimited:

“My sales have flat-lined. Nobody is selling any books.”

“There are no readers left. We’ve swamped them with too many free books.”

“Print is more popular, eBook sales are dead.”

Have we officially entered the season of dread and negativity? Is there no positive energy left in IndieBook Land? I heard variations of the above statements recently and I didn’t like it. And, I don’t agree.

I ran a contest the other day. It was simple. Click on a free eBook then email me the title and you’re entered to win one of two $10 Amazon gift certificates. I sent it out in a newsletter that also advertised a bunch of free eBooks from various authors. I wasn’t sure whether ten bucks would be enough to entice readers to enter but I thought I’d try anyway. It was enough. It worked. The results were really interesting.

The open rate for my newsletter was 70%, and the click rate was just a shade under 40%. Those are strong numbers. I’ve never sent out a newsletter with those kinds of returns.

. . . .

The readers who emailed me their entries talked to me. Some just sent the title of the book they had downloaded, but many of them sent me messages.

. . . .

“I’m on a limited budget. Thank you for sending me the links to the books.”

“I had already downloaded Pam of Babylon, and now I’ve found another that I liked. Thanks!”

“What a great project for us. I’ve already got lots of books from these giveaways.”

Link to the rest at Indies Unlimited

Author Earnings has also demonstrated that a huge proportion of ebook sales are by indie authors and don’t show up on any of the traditional sales reporting services.

Make the Most of Your Book Back Cover With These Tips

From BookWorks:

You have heard over and over from experts and read online how important your front cover is.  It is true.  How your cover looks is even more important that what you write inside the book. Because if your cover is not terrific, then no one will ever know how brilliant your writing is. It is the front cover’s job to convince a potential reader to flip the book over and read the back cover.  It is the job of the book back cover to convince a reader to flip open a book and read a few pages.

. . . .

Our job as authors/publishers is to convince readers that our books are wonderful. The back cover is one of our best tools to do that. Too often, we try to get EVERYTHING we want to say about ourselves and our books onto the back cover.  We cram too many words into too small of a space and when we want to get it to fit, we shrink the text size. That is not how to entice someone into reading your back cover copy. Think about how magazines use space and headlines and large font sizes to lure their readers in. We should be emulating those same practices.Before you write that back cover copy, ask yourself the following questions:

1 – Does your Bio and picture NEED to be on the back cover? Are your bio and picture going to convince someone that your book is terrific?

2 – Do YOU read tons of text, in small type, smashed together with no line spacing to give your eyes a break? Or do your eyes gloss over the words?

3 – Do you read headlines on Magazines, Newspapers, and Online?

Link to the rest at BookWorks

8 Book Description A/B Tests You Need to See

From BookBub:

At BookBub, we connect books to readers, and readers to books. One of the components that drives this connection is the blurb we write for each book featured in our Featured Deals email. A successful blurb caters to the settings, characters, and tropes our readers love — so to write such a blurb, we need to learn as much as possible about our readers’ tastes.

To do this, we A/B test many of our blurbs, which lets us evaluate the performance of certain words, phrases, punctuation, or other blurb elements. Through this analysis, we can see what our readers engage with — and what turns them away. This post will highlight some recent A/B test results that you may find useful as you write and improve your own book descriptions.

. . . .

We run A/B tests by creating two different versions of a blurb: the A version is the control, and the B version has a slight variation. Most users see the A version, but a randomly selected group gets the B version instead. By comparing each blurb’s click-through rate (CTR, or how likely users were to click on the book), we measure the impact of the change we’re testing.

. . . .

1. Call out authors’ accolades

Readers respond well to mentions of an author’s accolades, including awards the author has won. Blurbs that named prestigious, genre-specific awards boosted CTRs by up to 25%, with an average increase of 5%.

. . . .

2. Avoid including too many characters’ names

It seems intuitive that one great way to help readers connect with a book is to introduce them to characters, calling out the main characters by name. However, test results show that this may not be the case. Especially in books with several main characters, names in the blurb hurt its performance. The example below seems drastic, but the trend is consistent across all of our tests. On average, blurbs with 3 or more names saw a 10% lower CTR than the nameless variations.

. . . .

7. Call out characters’ ages in Chick Lit

If blurbs shouldn’t mention too many characters’ names, what kind of information should they include? The performance of certain character attributes can be hard to predict. Furthermore, readers’ engagement with these attributes often varies by genre — which is why running your own tests with your own readers is so important! Here’s a great example of this: in Chick Lit, mentioning a character’s age consistently helps drive engagement. Including the heroine’s age boosted CTR by an average of 9%in this genre.

Link to the rest at BookBub and thanks to A.R. for the tip.

This Bookstore’s Clickbait Headlines on Facebook Are Actually the Plots of Classic Novels

From AdWeek:

Does the end ever justify a means like clickbait?

That’s debatable. But a new contender in the discussion is Dallas bookstore The Wild Detectives, which is using what it wryly calls “Litbait” … to trick people into reading classic, copyright-free novels.

. . . .

Facebook posts featured witty teases like “British guy dies after selfie gone wrong” (The Picture of Dorian Grey), “Teenage girl tricked boyfriend into killing himself” (Romeo and Juliet), “When it’s OKAY to slut shame single mothers” (The Scarlet Letter) and—wait for it!—”This Italian politician makes Trump look like a saint” (The Prince by Machiavelli … which got as passionate a response as you can expect).

. . . .

“You fell for the bait, now fall for the book,” the video concludes, which pretty much sums up the goal of the campaign—to remind people that there are way better things to read than clickbaity articles on the internet.

Link to the rest at AdWeek and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Your Author Bio: Does it help your Book Sales or Stop Them Dead?

From author Anne R. Allen:

No matter how great a book’s cover and blurb, one thing can stop me from buying yet another ebook for my Kindle: an author bio on the buy page that screams “amateur.”

I spent some time as an editor, so when I pick up a book for relaxation, I want to know it’s going to be a professional work and not something that makes me want to run for my red pencil.

If you start your bio “I’ve always wanted to write a book, ever since I won a penmanship prize in third grade, and now that I’ve self-published, “If My Cats Could Talk” my wish has come true…,” all you’ve told me is you’re a beginner.

Is that really what you want your customers to know?

. . . .

An author bio should not be a chronological report of your whole life. And you don’t want a list of dry facts, like a resume. But it’s also not a personal essay about your hopes and dreams. Readers don’t care about that stuff when they’re deciding whether to buy a book.

What readers do care about  is an author’s competence. We want to know if you’re qualified to:

  • Teach me something.
  • Entertain me.
  • Make me laugh.

If your author bio doesn’t convey your qualifications to do those things, the reader is going to move on.

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog

Here’s a link to Anne R. Allen’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

The Writer as Public Figure vs. the Writer Who Actually Writes

From LitHub:

I’m supposed to be writing a speech about my new novel, The White City. It’s a March morning, no sun. I’m standing by my secretary desk. I’ve shut the doors to the rest of the apartment and have been on the verge of sitting down to begin, but each time I tried someone called for me: my husband, my son, or one of my daughters. I can still hear them out in the hall.

It’s impossible to speak to someone about a book one has written. I’m supposed to be writing, but this is the only sentence inside me. There are mere days before the book comes out. A number of so-called “author appearances” have been scheduled at bookstores and libraries around the country. I have to figure out what to say—draft a talk about this novel that I can give not once but repeatedly. It’s paralyzing. I can barely bring myself to make even this tiny movement: my fingers tapping the keys as I write this text.

The kids are making noise in the hall again; the front door slams behind them. Silence. I breathe through my nose and think of the meditation techniques I should be practicing. I think about what Virginia Woolf said in her speech before the National Society for Women’s Service in London in January 1931: that all the great women novelists in England in the 1800s did not have children. Those words strike me occasionally.

. . . .

When a book has just been published, the author is asked many questions. It’s usually difficult to respond, and there might not be any answers. One of the most common questions—and yet it always blindsides me—is “Why do you write?” When I was young I spent a lot of time trying to answer that question, but however I tried I couldn’t come up with an answer that I knew to be true. It made me feel lousy, like someone who’d never be a writer because I didn’t even know why I wanted to be one.

. . . .

An author appearance is a meeting between the author and the readers who share time and a space and in this way it differs from our usual meeting, the one in which the reader sits alone with the text and completes it by reading. I like our in-person meeting best when it reminds me of the latter. But this latter meeting can occur when we’re in the same room, too, for instance during a Q&A in an auditorium when a member of the audience shares his reading of the novel in a way that allows us to glimpse our usual space of encounter: the true space of reading. I like when this happens; experiencing the closeness between strangers that arises when we recall the fellowship to which we are accustomed, but can’t achieve as long as we are in the same room speaking to each other.

Link to the rest at LitHub

Depth of Growth is More Important than Rate of Growth

From Fine Art Views:

Attracting one new deeply committed fan is worth far, far more than attracting 100 mildly interested visitors to your website.

Consider what Jonathan Mead wrote in this blog post:

I’ve learned that there’s no guarantee that growth will make a difference in your business. You can have more people on your list, and no one actually buying. You can have more traffic, and only crickets in your comments section. There’s a big difference between growth that’s meaningful and growth that’s hollow. The difference is depth….People that buy everything you create…They comment on every post. They tell everyone they can about what you do. – From: The Secret to Attracting 1,000 True Fans 

The problem is, if you do what most articles tell you to do, you’re mostly doing the wrong things or, at best, you’re simply doing what everyone else is doing:  You’re optimizing for hundreds of mildly interested people instead of a few deeply committed people.

Here are the type of articles I generally see that pass as “art marketing advice” these days:

– “Facebook for artists: 20 ways to get more fans”

– “How to use Pinterest to Promote your art”

–  “Instagram for Artists – 5 Ways to Promote and Sell Art on Instagram”

– “Use pop-up forms to increase engagement with your art email newsletter list”

– “SEO for Artists: 7 Website Tips to Help you Rank Higher”

These articles . . . and thousands like them . . . all focus on quantity over quality.

Link to the rest at Fine Art Views and thanks to Felix for the tip.

Writing Prompts by iAuthor

Here’s a link to an interesting Google+ Collection of writing prompts from iAuthor UK.

From iAuthor UK:

iAuthor is an interactive book discovery and promotion platform.

Through eye-catching book profiles, ultra-smart book samples and mind-expanding book themes, iAuthor connects AUTHORS and PUBLISHERS to READERS. iAuthor is global in reach and vision. We aim to give the publishing world something unique: a hub for serendipitous discovery.

Link to the rest at iAuthor UK

Since PG hasn’t paid any attention to Google+ for a long time, he had to look up an explanation of Google+ Collections.

Author Blogs: 5 Bad Reasons for Authors to Blog and 5 Good Ones

From Anne R. Allen’s Blog:

5 Bad Reasons for Author Blogs

1) Getting Rich Quick

Nothing infuriates me more than those books and blogs promising writers they can make a gazillion dollars of “passive income” with a blog in the next month if they take this overpriced course or buy that book of rehashed advice from 2005.

The only people making a lot of “passive income” from blogging are the people selling the overpriced courses and worthless advice. Pyramid schemes always provide “passive income” for the people at the top of the pyramid. That’s not going to be you at this point. The boom is over.

Blogging is work. Writing is work. There’s nothing “passive” about it. Anybody who tells you otherwise is lying.

I used to subscribe to a couple of hype-y “how-to-blog” blogs, but I had to unsubscribe because these people are getting so desperate. One blogger now sends an email 15 minutes after you click through to read his post saying, “You’ve had enough time to read my post. Now share it to Facebook.”

Creepy!! I’d just shared his post to Twitter, but I deleted the Tweet and unsubscribed. You’re not the boss of me, dude. And I’m not responsible for your bad life choices. If you really were making the fortune you claimed to be making a decade ago, why didn’t you invest it?

Another sad truth is that Internet ads pay less than they used to. You’re not going to make more than pennies a day from ads (especially “affiliate” ads that only pay when somebody clicks through and buys something.)

Your best bet is to get a deep-pockets sponsor to bankroll you, but even so, that’s not likely to pay a lot of bills.

Medium, the popular blogging platform started a couple of years ago by Twitter and Blogger founder Evan Williams has not found a way to make money. You probably won’t either.

Author blogs are for promoting your own brand. You’re making money by not spending it advertising elsewhere, but that’s not going to buy you a house in the Hamptons.

2) Overnight Fame

The days of Julie/Julia  over.

Yes, you can still raise your profile with author blogs, and I strongly recommend you use a blog as one tool for getting your name out there.

But nobody’s likely to become an overnight sensation with author blogs in these days when everybody and his grandmother has one.

When Julie Powell started her Julia Child blog in 2002, the term “blog” itself was only 3 years old. Blogging was a whole new concept.

Now, WordPress alone, with about a quarter of the market, hosts more than 76.5 million blogs.

The odds for instant fame are not on your side. I highly recommend that authors blog, but we need to be patient.

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog

Here’s a link to Anne R. Allen’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Why There’s No Perfect Time to Post on Facebook

From Buffer:

There probably isn’t a single best time to share to social media.

There’s a long tradition of studies that have attempted to uncover a ‘best time’ to post to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and almost every other social media marketing channel, with each study finding a wide range of results (we’ve even created our own studies here at Buffer).

Here are just some recommendations on the best time to post to Facebook to get you started:

  • Thursdays and Fridays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. [Hubspot]
  • Thursday at 8 p.m.  [TrackMaven]
  • 1–4 p.m. late into the week and on weekends [CoSchedule]
  • Early afternoon during the week and Saturdays [Buffer]
  • Off-peak times are best [Buzzsum0]

All of these studies are based on sound logic and can potentially be helpful to point marketers in the right direction. But almost every study reveals a different ‘best time to post’ and I believe there’s no perfect time to post to Facebook (or any social channel for that matter). 

The best time to post depends on a number of factors that are specific to every business: What’s your industry? What location is audience based? When are they online? Are you sponsoring your post?

I’d love to flip the conversation and say that instead of looking for a universal ‘best time to post’, maybe we should be focusing specifically on when is the best time for your brand to post.

Link to the rest at Buffer