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Book Reviews: The Ultimate Word Of Mouth Promotion

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This article originally appeared on BookBaby.com

When planning your book promotion and marketing, remember this equation: more book reviews equals more sales.

Excerpted from BookBaby’s latest guide, 5 Steps To Self Publishing, Part V of our series addresses why book reviews should be the cornerstone of your book marketing plan.

Book reviews should be the cornerstone of your book marketing plan. Most authors agree that reviews – good or bad – are critical to promoting your book, and here’s why:

    • Readers use them. In a recent Kindle Board survey, over 85% of all Amazon Kindle readers report they rely heavily on book reviews before making an online order.
    • It’s the ultimate WOM (word of mouth) marketing. Friends don’t let friends read bad books. Everyone wants to know about the next great book and no one wants to waste their time on a terrible one.
    • Reviews count heavily in the booksellers’ algorithms. More reviews and sales page views can equal higher ranking, better inventory position, and exposure to more book buyers. Reviews also affect the “If you liked this, then you may like that” book recommendation features on many sites. This is particularly helpful for a debut novel or authors with a smaller following.

Bottom line: More reviews equal more sales for authors and more invested readers. In addition, authors gain exposure to other book review sites, blogging communities, and book clubs.

How to get reviews

The good news: There have never been more book reviewers available to the self-published author. But before you go hunting for reviewers, make sure you’ve got the essentials you’ll need to attract and engage with reviews. At the minimum you should have:

  • Your book (obviously!). Some reviewers prefer digital copies so you should have both eBook file types (.ePub, .mobi), print copies, and even a PDF version. All must have images of your book cover. (Note: Even if you have Print On Demand distribution, you should fulfill the requests from your own supply of books for the personal touch.)
  • Mailing supplies for printed copies. Don’t skimp here – it needs to look and feel professional.
  • A press release about the launch of your book.
  • A cover letter. This should be a short and sweet introduction to you and your book.
  • Author biography. This is a good place to show your qualifications, particularly if you’re a nonfiction author.

How to find and work with reviewers

There are literally thousands of book reviewers and bloggers online, and most of them review books even though they aren’t paid. A quick search online can provide you with plenty of links, directories, and lists. We recommend sites like Midwest Book Review, Indie Reader, and Self-Publishing Review as a starting point.

Just as important as the “who” is the “how” of working with reviewers. Here are some ideas of how to engage and work with these very important people in your literary career:

  • Choose carefully. If you pick the wrong reviewer – one who doesn’t review your genre, for example – it’s a tremendous waste of time. It’s critical to find out what kind of books the reviewer likes to review and only select appropriate reviewers.
  • Meet the requirements. Some want you to just send the printed book. Some review eBooks, many do not. Conforming to their requirements saves both of you time.
  • Send the book on a timely basis. You’ve got their attention – don’t waste even a moment to get your book out to them. Don’t let them lose interest in your book.
  • Follow-up… gently. Stalking or harassing won’t help your cause. The reviewer is very likely doing this in his or her spare time. If you haven’t heard anything after a few weeks, it’s very appropriate to follow up to see if they still intend to write the review.
  • Thank the reviewer. It’s common courtesy, but it also shows you appreciate the time and effort someone else took to help bring your book to the attention of more people. It’s also something they’ll remember when it’s time to review your next book!

This post was excerpted and adapted from 5 Steps To Self Publishing: All the essential information you need to go from manuscript to marketplace. Download your free copy today.

 

Find your way to self-publishing success in just 5 easy steps with this 62-page book. Yours absolutely free.

About BookBaby

Based in the Philadelphia-area, BookBaby is a team of authors, poets, bloggers, and artists — so they know the thrills and challenges of bringing a book into this world.

Since 2011, BookBaby has helped thousands realize their publishing goals by offering the largest eBook distribution network, including Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and many other popular retailers in over 170 countries around the globe.

Learn more at www.BookBaby.com.

 

 


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When Do You Know Your Book Is Done?

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This article originally appeared on BookBaby.com

Most authors probably wish they had a gauge of some kind to stick into the pages to tell them when their book is done. It’s not just new, inexperienced writers who have that wish. Most published authors I’ve posed the question to say the same thing: it’s hard to know when to put down the virtual pen.

This post was edited and adapted from The End. Now What?! 6 Steps To Take Your Manuscript To Marketplace In 6 Weeks.

Finishing a book is just like you took a child out in the back yard and shot it.

—Truman Capote

Now that’s what I call starting your writing journey off with a bang! But Capote was only expressing the thoughts of many authors who feel a sense of tangible loss when their book is done. The prospect of this sudden void in their lives has led to far too many books being “overcooked.”

I’ve used that metaphor deliberately to help illustrate my point. When I venture into the kitchen to create something for the family, my kids often laugh at the slavish way I follow each and every line on the recipe. Most importantly, I pay close attention to the instructions that tell you when the food is actually “done.”

Want that steak medium rare? I’ve got a little thermometer gauge that tells me when it’s reached 155 degrees. Are the brownies done yet? Stick a toothpick in. If it comes out clean – they’re ready.

Most authors probably wish they had a gauge of some kind to stick into the pages to tell them when their book is done. It’s not just new, inexperienced writers who have that wish. Most published authors I’ve posed the question to say the same thing: it’s hard to know when to put down the virtual pen. It’s human nature to want to constantly improve and tinker with your work. Most authors say if allowed to pick up their work again six months after finishing, they’ll find more than a few things to change beyond some simple typo fixes.

Some signs pointing to the finish line

We’re trying to get your book in shape for the editing it richly deserves – and frankly needs. This post isn’t about fixing those typos or repairing sentence structure. It’s about making sure your book is telling the story you want told, in the way you want it told, and in a way that can make sense to thousands of potential readers. For that to happen, you as the author need to be ready to put down the pen. Here are some toothpicks and thermometers to help you gauge the doneness of your book.

From red to white

One BookBaby author I interviewed uses color to illustrate the progress of his books. After what he calls his “last draft,” he prints out the pages and does some serious self-editing. He uses a bright red sharpie and lays into the pages. After a first ruthless edit, he says the pages look like they’re hemorrhaging, a sea of red. A draft later it’s just a few red slashes. Finally, he says, he’s looking at pages with only the occasional slashes of red. He says to see the progress before his eyes is a satisfying way to know that the book is finally turning into the story he intended to tell.

So obvious. So boring! Authors tell me how sick they get of their precious book. They get to a point where they know more about the plot and story line of their fictional characters than real life family and colleagues. Of course you should – these are the people you’ve been living with for the past weeks and months. Long ago when you embarked on this book project, you thought your plot was marvelous. It still is! You have the curse of knowing where the story leads and ends.

The truth is, the jokes in your story ARE hilarious, as good as the first time you typed them. The plot IS spellbinding; the twists and turns are sure to please. The information I’m relaying here IS solid, professional self-publishing advice. We writers are just bored, which is a sure sign that it’s time to move on.

Change for change’s sake

Look at the last few edits you’ve made to your book. Did you improve it, or did you just change it? You’re not adding value to your book at this point. You’re not making it more interesting or richer or even more readable. You’re delaying the inevitable. There comes a point when the longer you revise, the less return you’re going to get for your effort. You’ve reached a point of diminishing return.

A new story

Every writer has ideas for that next book, or more likely books. Maybe there have been big changes in your life and you’re not in the same emotional place as you were when you started writing. Whatever the reason, your enthusiasm for this current project may be waning. For you to simply say, “I don’t feel like writing this story anymore” is an important sign you can’t ignore. When you lose interest in the book, you’ll stop caring. Your reader will know – who hasn’t read a book where it felt like the writer just lost interest in the project and wrapped it up in an all too fast and unsatisfying manner?

You’re about to enter into a new relationship – actually multiple relationships – with your readers. The reader has entered into the relationship with optimism and interest in your prose. You’re obligated to honor your commitment to entertaining, informing, and delighting your new BFFs. They’re very excited about reading your book. If you aren’t as excited about adding any more to the story, it’s a sure sign that you’re actually damaging your book rather than enhancing it.

Put your book to the test

It’s always good to get some second and third opinions on your book, just as long as they’re not people you spend the holidays with. You should pretty much ignore the comments and less-than-critical critiques from your close friends and family. Beware the praises or critiques of your great-aunt Edna. Few friends or family members can honestly offer you objective feedback. If they CAN, count yourself lucky and listen to what they have to say.

In most cases, you’d be better off joining a local writers group. The authors in these groups can provide tremendous feedback, inspire new ideas, and give great moral support. Writing is often a very solitary pursuit and these groups can be your lifeline at times. Digest their commentary, be surprised at their insights and your blind spots, dust yourself off, and revise if necessary.

Read your book like it’s brand new

You’ve spent hundreds of hours looking bleary-eyed at the characters on a screen. Take it offline for another look. Find yourself a bright highlighter and sit down to read it through as though you’re a reader. Whenever you find an awkward phrase or a sentence – or whenever you want to change or fix something – make a mark and move on. Do not stop to do an edit. Once you get to the end you can go back to your file, start at the last page and work backward, making changes and corrections.

Print a second hard copy, but this time change the font to something visually quite different. If you work in Times New Roman, try printing in Calibri. You’ll see it looks very different and you may be surprised by how many new typos and errors you manage to catch.

Last comes first

On the next run-through, read your manuscript backwards – not word for word, but a chapter at a time. Read the last chapter, then the next to last, and so on until you reach the first. This serves to take things out of context for you and you won’t be as likely to skim over what you expect to be there. It might feel uncomfortable, but it works.

Read it. Write it. Speak it.

When my kids were slogging through high school, I used to tell them, “The best way to master a subject is to learn by the power of three. Read the material, write notes, then speak it out loud.” So get some throat lozenges and find a quiet room. Reading your book aloud can help you “see” it fresh and let you more easily identify awkward phrases or sentences.

Be the reader

The last trick of the trade I’ll share with you is courtesy of Dani Shapiro, the critically acclaimed author of Slow Motion and Devotion. She has also written for magazines such as The New Yorker; O, The Oprah Magazine; Vogue; and ELLE. Shapiro helped put things into context during her keynote address at a recent Writer’s Digest Conference as she described the simple process of sending an email. When you’re composing the note, the words and thoughts express a certain position or point of view. Everything looks right and so you hit “Send.”

As the electrons fly through the ether, you see it: that obvious typo. The one you looked right past 10 times as the author. But what really happened is that the minute you hit the send button you read the message as a completely different person: the recipient.

This is the approach she takes when taking that last critical examination of her book. She actually reads the book as if she’s someone else. She’ll read chapters as if she’s a kindly caring person on one day. On another she reads it as an angry critical person. From the readings of these and other personas, Shapiro is satisfied that her diverse audience is ready to read her next book.

Time’s up. Pens down. You’ve got a deadline.

Maybe the best test of all that your book is done has nothing to do with the words on the page. Maybe it’s the ticking of a clock. As I sit here typing this on a Sunday morning, I’ve put myself into a self-imposed deadline to have this finished by tonight. Time’s up. Got to bake some brownies.

Download your FREE copy of The End. Now What?! 6 Steps To Take Your Manuscript To Marketplace In 6 Weeks today.

book is done

 

About BookBaby

Based in the Philadelphia-area, BookBaby is a team of authors, poets, bloggers, and artists — so they know the thrills and challenges of bringing a book into this world.

Since 2011, BookBaby has helped thousands realize their publishing goals by offering the largest eBook distribution network, including Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and many other popular retailers in over 170 countries around the globe.

Learn more at www.BookBaby.com.


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book promotion promoting your book

Budget enough time and patience for your book promotion

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This article courtesy of BookBaby.

book promotion promoting your bookWhat are the most important elements of book promotion? Here’s my five-part answer!

It’s THE question. The one I’m always asked, whether I’m speaking at author conferences or doing webinars. It’s top of mind for all those would-be authors who are itching to give self publishing a try. Though phrased a little differently each time, it goes something like this:

What’s most important when it comes to book promotion?

My response is always the same – a five-part answer. The first four parts are, quite frankly, pretty predictable. The last one might come as a bit of a surprise.

Here are all of the must-haves:

  • You wrote your best book. Hopefully it’s a great book. But it’s your best effort and you can’t ask for anything more.
  • Your manuscript was edited by a professional. Not by your sister, the part-time English teacher. Your book deserves to be edited by a pro who has devoted her lifetime to the unique craft of book editing.
  • Your book cover is eye-catching and appropriate for you genre. It requires the talents of a graphic artist who specializes in book design. The fastest way to condemn a book to the bottom of the heap is to give it an amateur-looking cover.
  • Your book is being widely distributed. That means creating an eBook, print books and print-on-demand distribution. Maximum eyeballs, and that’s not just Amazon!

Like I said – it’s pretty much the standard stuff you read everywhere. And finally there’s this:

  • You’ve factored time into the equation. Publishing requires patience. Many of the mistakes a novice author makes revolve around time. Either they rush into the marketplace, or they give up too quickly.

Publishing experts like to say, “Publishing is a marathon and not a sprint.” I buy into that, but I like this better: “Good books don’t have an expiration date.” Authors need to realize that overnight sensations are rare. Patience and persistence are essential to a great book marketing plan for self-published authors.

Here are the five ways that you can put time on your side:

1. Publish when YOU are ready.
Of course that means taking the proper time to finish your best manuscript. But it also means you need to allow time for editing (3-6 weeks) and creating a great cover design (2-4 weeks). But there should be a limit to your patience when it comes to picking your publishing path.

First-time authors who want to be traditionally published  should expect 18 to 24 months to pass before their book is on the market. And that’s if they’re successful in finding both an agent and publisher – no sure thing. But if you choose to self publish, it takes only a fraction of that time, in some cases as few as six weeks. An easy choice, don’t you think?

2. Make pre-sales your priority.
A lot of authors miss out on the single most important marketing time period for their eBooks and print on demand books: Pre-sales periods on Amazon and Barnes &Noble. Pre-sales are when books are listed for sale in advance of the official release date. Customers can read sample teasers and place orders (and their credit cards aren’t charged until the release date!)

Pre-sales time frames have tons of benefits, but not all of them are apparent to first-time authors.

  • Collecting these pre-release sales can provide you a better chance of making the best seller lists on many retailers, including iBooks, B&N, and Kobo. (It does not influence Amazon charts).
  • Having a future release date means you can orchestrate the availability of your book, and use this launch date as a centerpiece of some marketing efforts.
  • Behind the scenes, pre-sales activity has a huge effect on your positioning on retailers such as Amazon. Their algorithms measure activity on your selling pages – the more page views, traffic, and sales during that period mean your eBook could come up higher in searches and other referral methods. With print on demand, Amazon will take a more aggressive inventory position based on strong customer activity.

3. Let me be the first to say it: Book Launch, Book Smaunch. It’s not all that.
This goes against a lot of popular book marketing thinking today. What’s the real value of a book launch? It really depends on who you are. If you are an established author with a built-in audience, a book launch can be a powerful selling starting point. But what about the typical self-published author searching for those alpha readers?

I understand that your book launches might be a nice personal milestone or accomplishment to commemorate that first book. Am I advising against having a book launch? Certainly not. But I advise you to put this opportunity to good use:

  • Use the opportunity to interact with your readers – even if only a few – as well as other authors. Get close to them – they can be a tremendous resource.
  • Measure each and every one of your marketing efforts surrounding the event. Try to learn what works and what doesn’t.
  • Don’t get stressed out if your launch doesn’t sell hundreds of books. I’ll tell you right now – it most likely won’t, but that doesn’t mean your book will fail. Don’t let this deter you from future efforts.

4. Take your time when marketing.
Lord knows there are no shortage of book marketing opportunities — getting reviews, going on “blog tours,” sending press releases, posting on all the social media platforms. And don’t forget spending time on Goodreads.

For most authors it can be completely overwhelming to do it all. So don’t. That’s my advice. Focus on one channel at a time. This month you can work on your Twitter campaign, follow the right people, add new followers. Then next month you can devote to Goodreads, and so on. If you buy into the concept of book publishing being a marathon, these short-term marketing targets are like the shorter legs of that long race.

5. When is it time to give up? Never!
A great, and very recent example of how persistence can pay off is the amazing story of The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep. Most folks have heard the story of the self-published book that suddenly shot up the New York Times Best Seller list in late August. Written by Swedish psychologist Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin, the book attracted the attention of all the major traditional publishers, resulting in a reported seven-figure contract for future titles.

And now for the rest of the story. Ehrlin originally published the book in 2013 (with BookBaby) as an eBook. He posted very modest sales from the launch all the way through 2014. This lack of early success didn’t slow his enthusiasm for the book, and he had it converted into five languages and gave away over 45,000 eBooks! Ehrlin called in to the BookBaby customer service team quite often for advice and encouragement. He completely believed in his project and never stopped promoting it.

Later, Ehrlin created a printed book version and added Print On Demand distribution, with modest sales through 2015. Suddenly last summer, his sales started to climb. All of those free eBooks had created tremendous word-of-mouth marketing. A few stories appeared in European newspapers, and the story soon spread across the globe of his unique parenting techniques.

The moral to this story: After three plus years of hard work and effort, this “overnight sensation” was really anything but. Ehrlin used his marketing time wisely and he’s now reaping the rewards.

In the words of French dramatist Jean Racine: “There are no secrets that time does not reveal.” The key to your best book promotional effort could be revealed tomorrow, next week, or maybe next month. Be patient and give your book every chance it deserves to succeed.

Image via ShutterStock.com.

 

About BookBaby

Based in the Philadelphia-area, BookBaby is a team of authors, poets, bloggers, and artists — so they know the thrills and challenges of bringing a book into this world.

Since 2011, BookBaby has helped thousands realize their publishing goals by offering the largest eBook distribution network, including Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and many other popular retailers in over 170 countries around the globe.

Learn more at www.BookBaby.com.


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The First Word from BookBaby

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completing a book

The First Word

Guest post by Steven Spatz
President, BookBaby

Every journey starts with the first step. Every story starts with the first word. Then it’s just a matter of completing a book.

When I wrote my first book, The End – Now What? – 6 Steps To Take Your Manuscript To The Market Place In Six Weeks, I didn’t have any kind of plan or blueprint to guide my journey to completing a book. I pretty much just relied on my home grown “ation” strategy.

What’s my “ation” strategy? I’m glad you asked.

  • It has to start with inspiration. Creating the content that interests me – and hopefully potential reader.
  • The job of writing takes perspiration. It’s work – damn hard work at times.
  • I recognize that I’ll have periods of exasperation when I’m just sick and tired of that whole damn thing and I take (brief) breaks from the process.
  • Ultimately it requires determination. Keep your eyes on the prize.

The result was a 50,000 word nonfiction book cranked out in fits and starts over an eight month period. I learned a lot about the book writing process during that experience. I’ve learned even more from talking to BookBaby authors about how they covered their own journeys. This time around I’ll be better equipped to do the job.

Here are some of the writing tips and ideas I’ve collected over the last year:

Location, location, location.
Find your writing place. Sure it’s possible to be creative anywhere – sitting on the subway or standing in a line – but for the long haul and more consistent creativity, your best work will come out in a space where you regularly write. That primes you to get into the right frame of mind as soon as you sit down. Or maybe it’s more than one place. I have three: a secluded corner in a local library and two different coffee houses. Set aside a particular place that you do nothing but write or create and you can jump start your creativity.

What time is good for you?
Even more important than “where” is “when.” For me it’s probably going to involve getting up 45 minutes earlier and writing a few paragraphs before work. Forcing yourself to write at 5 am isn’t the solution for everyone. It works for me because I have nothing else to divert my attention in those early dawn hours. There are all types of writers – after-hours writers, lunch break writers, mini-block writers, etc. Track your time and energy for a week or two to find what’s best for you – and then block out that time on your calendar as an appointment with yourself.

Add interval training to your writing
Some writers I know incorporate these short sprints into their writing routine. Here’s how: Use a simple kitchen timer to force yourself to just flat out write. Set it for five minutes to write as much as you can. You’ll likely censor yourself less if you can just write whatever comes naturally and edit later. It’s not about quality during this brief burst of keystrokes. Give yourself permission to write a few lousy paragraphs or pages. You’ll have plenty of time to go back and edit later.

Read if you’re not writing
Like many writers, I feel inspired when I’m playing the part of reader. Instead of turning on the TV when you’re on a break from writing, spend your time reading the work of others. The more “I wish I had written that” pieces you come across, the better your work will be and the more motivated you may be to produce something worthwhile. Some authors find other arts to be inspiring – paintings, movies, photography, and so on. Soak up all the creativity you can when you’re not actively writing.

Don’t break the chain
His television show was “about nothing,” yet legendary comic Jerry Seinfeld’s method for success is very much something – and visual. Each January, he hangs a large year-at-a-glance calendar on his wall and, for every day he wrote new material, he earned the right to draw a big red “X” over that day. Drawing those Xs got to be pretty fun and rewarding, so he kept doing it. Eventually, he began to create a chain of red Xs. The idea was to never break that chain. This simple pleasure can turn into a surprisingly powerful motivator.

Never miss twice
If you don’t have the luxury of Seinfeld’s free time, you can give yourself a very small cushion and still be successful. Let’s say you have your new routines and habits in place, your alarm set to signal your writing time… But one day you wake up and simply don’t feel like writing.

So don’t. We all slip up now and again. Don’t beat yourself up, but also don’t slip twice in a row. It’s inevitable you’re going to miss a writing session, but use the “never miss twice” mindset to get back on track.

Be flexible
Your writing schedule might change – often. Life events will throw wrenches in your plans, but you can plan a new schedule. And then stick to that.

Write or die
If all else fails, you can always resort to using the app WriteOrDie, With a tagline of “Putting the prod into productivity,” this program is absolutely diabolical!

Here’s how it works: First, you configure your writing period, word goal, and your preferred punishment should your fingers stop typing. Once the setup is complete, you’ll need to type continuously; otherwise there will be consequences, in varying levels.

  • The gentle mode is quite forgiving. When you pause your writing for a set period of time, a box will pop up, gently reminding you to continue writing.
  • In normal mode, if you pause, you will be played a very unpleasant sound. The sound will stop if and only if you continue to write.
  • For the true author-masochist, there’s Kamikaze Mode: You must keep writing or your work will un-write itself. Simply disappear from the beginning of the passage! Talk about writing with a gun to your head!

As for my own system, I have one more of my “ation” strategies to think about: The exhilaration of finally finishing that book!


Steven Spatz, President of BookBaby

Steven Spatz is an author, marketer, and the President of BookBaby.


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