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Self-publishing, self book marketing: How to tips

So you’ve finished your book! Good news, if you’ve already invested in editing and purchased a pro cover. Now is the time to shoulder the wheel of marketing and distribution. Self-publishing is not real publishing until it includes self book marketing. My concise list gives you tasks to accomplish.

You need to write sales copy. That’s the brief and enticing copy you will find on every book’s page at Amazon. You will also use this copy in a fact sheet (sometimes called a tip sheet in traditional publishing). It’s not all words in a fact sheet. A photo of yourself is essential in one. You send the fact sheet out to reviewers and bloggers you’d like to cover your book. You send the sales copy to Amazon and any other retail outlet you’re using. For example, IngramSpark needs this copy. So does Bowker, where you registered your ISBN numbers for the book.

Try out promoting at Goodreads. You set up an author account there (mostly by “claiming” your book as your own.) Once you have an author status, Goodreads promo tools like giveaways and book feeds (think Facebook-style) will be in your grasp. In the meantime, tell your tribe to review your book on Goodreads. They can put it on their to-read lists, too. Goodreads is the best place to encourage your fans to post their reviews. Of course, if they’re buying from an outlet with a website, a review is good there, too.

Make your website your hub

Double down on your author website. Bare minimums: a fun About Me page (tell a story or two about how you came to create your book, how you decided to be a writer) and links to the places your book is on sale. A blog is super useful to create writing you will offer for free to interested readers. Have links on your website for the social media accounts you will be feeding with delicious snippets. One big plus is a way to take orders for your book from your website. There’s an easy way to take these kinds of orders using Aerio, a service run by IngramSpark. They print your books on demand and fulfill orders. You can also hand-ship signed copies to your greatest fans if they order through your website.

Not only do you make more money per sale by moving books through your website, you also connect to readers (more on that in a minute). Amazon will never tell you anything about who reads a book you’ve written.

Create Advanced Reader Copy files (called ARCs) to send out to reviewers and allies of the book. Digital files should be in PDF, EPUB, and Kindle (MOBI) formats. Have your cover designer help out. You need these copies to help you land some endorsements of the book. Those are sometimes called blurbs. They give your book some validation, and praise, if you’re lucky. Don’t leave home without a few blurbs and endorsements.

Get those ARC files into the world for automatic download. Bookfunnel is a good and inexpensive service to use for this process. In some cases, places like Bookfunnel can even round up a few reviewers. Bookfunnel is like NetGalley but less costly. They both have promotional offers.

Make your outreach

Create and feed an author newsletter. This can be an email with just three links to interesting webpages where something happened that relates to your book. It’s much better if you write a snippet about your writing life and an aspect of your story. It’s best of all if it links to your blog. You create an emailing list of your own to send this newsletter to. Simple ways to build email lists are to swap with other authors in your field or genre. You will be doing a lot of asking with humility while you market. It’s not so bad once you’re used to it

Your author newsletter connects you to fans and readers of your books. Again, Amazon will never do this so you can see who your fans are.

Build a reader magnet to build your mailing list. You might have had good stuff from your book that just didn’t make it into the final cut. Revive it. Write histories of your characters. Write an author’s guide to the best books from your genre. If you’re unsure what a good reader magnet looks like, seek out authors like you who are creating this bonus content. Look over what they’re doing.

Develop posts for social media. People use various kinds, but you’re never far away from connecting to readers and potential fans when you use Instagram and Facebook. Create a Facebook account for your author life, not just your personal Facebook account. Your book is represented by a Page, which lets you attract Likes. Those Likes are a way of pushing your news into the Facebook Feeds of your readers. Instagram works differently — hashtags and listing the accounts of others gets you into feeds.

There is more, always more

Some of the rest will cost you more. Contest entries are the least expensive. Paid reviews will be more, and some people don’t think they’re that important. There is advertising at Amazon and at Facebook you can purchase. Take great care with that, and measure and test as you go. For more connection, you can use YouTube or Facebook for chats with fans: tell them when you’ll be live by putting the date and time in your newsletter. You can even record a little video for use on Instagram, or post one on your YouTube channel.

What, you don’t have a channel yet? It’s easy to set up. Use it to get the word out. Buy a ring light to illuminate your smile for the camera. Tell the world about your book. Then you can revel in the life of a self-published author who is doing their self book marketing.

Photo by Charisse Kenion on Unsplash

How to write a decent review

Lots of us have friends who are authors. Every author needs reviews, and you may be asked to write a review of a book you’ve read: a review that is fair and honest. You might have received the book for free in exchange for a review.

But oh so many of us haven’t written a review. Or we haven’t written anything that’s any closer than a book report. A good review is a mix of opinion and reporting. By good, I don’t mean positive. I mean a review that’s going to help another reader decide to invest the time in the book. The money is never the question these days, with just about everything $10 or less. The worst thing anybody can say about a movie is something like, “Well, that’s two hours of my life I’ll never get back.” There’s even more at stake with a book, which demands a lot more time.

So how to write a decent review? You start with what you remember. Tell us about the one thing that stood out during your reading. Places, maybe, or the smoothness of the storytelling. Language purity, if that mattered to you. Perhaps the surprises made you take note of the book.

Start out with adjectives if you can. Prospective readers remember these opinions when they decide to shop in their bookstore or click an online button. Specific adjectives help the most, but you also want to make room for things like “made me smile.” Below are sentences from an example review from Indie Next, the newsletter sent to booksellers by the American Library Association. I’ll start with each review sentence, then detail what’s going on.

Fresh, irreverent, and funny, Red, White & Royal Blue is a delight and a treasure.

Review the book by name first, then the author. Opening up your review is better when you describe the book by its title, instead of by its author, on the first reference.

With subtle jabs, Casey McQuiston pokes fun at both the public face of the British monarchy as well as the back-door politicking that dominates the U.S. political scene.

This is the high-level story summary, something you can probably take out of the book’s listing or the back cover copy. Make it your own, if you can, with some revision.

The story follows the self-centered Alex Claremont-Diaz (America’s First Son) and his interactions with British Prince Henry of Wales. As hostility increases between two political scions forced into a sham friendship, we see the framework of political destiny and duty begin to fray. Little by little, hostility turns to something else entirely.

This is where a decent review will recap the beginning of the plot. The first line usually mentions the characters by name. After that, we get a sentence or two where we see what the trouble will be inside the story.

This is a story about happiness–and, more importantly, honesty–for those who live their lives in the public eye.

This is where you can wrap up by telling us the big meaning of the book which you took away for your own. If you can rely on the phrase “this is a story for,” then it helps tell readers quickly if the book will be right for them. Point them at something else you’ve read that’s similar to the book.

You can’t ever say the wrong thing in your review, so long as it’s what you believe. You try to avoid criticizing the writer and stick to the critique of the storytelling and the writing.

Reviews are more essential than ever for everything, from shows to movies to books. We all have a platform to stand upon to share our opinions. If you keep your review language to something that you’d be able to repeat to the author, you know you’re in the realm of good conduct while you’re being honest.

How do you self-publish? Market your book.

You’ve been edited and proofread. You have your interior layout and cover done. Your designer has a PDF file ready for a printer someplace (Print on Demand through Amazon, or Lightning Source, maybe) and you have a ebook-ready file in MOBI (Amazon) and EPUB (everybody else) formats. It feels like you’re publishing.

Not yet.

Your biggest job is to get out the word that your book is available. Most writers don’t like promoting themselves, but you can be the exception. You’re the CEO of your book, as they like to tell us all. No matter when the book will be available for sale, the time to start promoting is right now. Actually about 4-6 months ago. Get your book up for presale at Amazon before you can deliver it. This gives you a running start on rankings on Amazon.

A full overview of a book marketing plan is out on YouTube. Draft2Digital, a sales advice company and a distribution provider, did 90 minutes plus questions. The chart below from the webinar below shows all four pieces of getting a platform (sales market base) for your book. The only jargon on this page is CTA: Call To Action. “Buy this book now and have a better life through yoga.” That’s a CTA.

It’s easy to see a marketing webinar like that and get overwhelmed with all that you can do. But you worked hard on your book and it deserves to be seen and used in the world, so it can help others.

Getting people you never met to read your book, review it, and love life a little more, is not something that just happens. You need to make these things happen.

Make a good website for the book (it can be a very good landing page on your existing site)

You build and use a mailing list

You write a terrific book blurb for Amazon and choose the right metadata categories

You can advertise on Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook, and other places, too. You have a great mystery, thriller, science fiction epic, young adult novel. Ads really help, since there are so many books.

Then there’s speaking, in libraries and at book clubs and in bookstores. You can buy a space on a table in the front some stores to sell your book for awhile. The prices at Barnes and Noble, as well as the space, are for high fliers with publishing contracts. But bookstores are advertising hubs now. Every book on a table in front got there when a writer bought the space.

I didn’t know all of this seven years ago, when I was six months away from releasing Viral Times. I wrote a great book and didn’t follow through with marketing. To be fair, lots of the marketing tools of 2018 didn’t exist in 2011, either. It’s an investment of time and assistance and expertise to get a book noticed, read, and most of all, reviewed. The book deserves the attention. Only by doing your marketing can you say you’re self-published in full.