My First Experience with a BookBub Feature Deal & The Last Victim (Nov 5)

Jordan Dane
@JordanDane

I wanted to share my latest foray into a major promotion run. I’d heard good things about BookBub, had researched it before, but never submitted a book until last week. This promo option isn’t cheap. It’s a real leap of faith that you’ll sell more than the feature costs. I made sure that I ticked off the boxes I knew about, to make my submission more appealing to the stringent requirements to qualify.

Founded in 2012, BookBub has been featured in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, showcasing their huge outreach to avid readers with their daily deal emails to millions of subscribers. This is a free service to readers, vetted by an expert editorial team with handpicked recommendations. It doesn’t sell books directly, but offers books from authors that are available through major ebook retailers and devices. It also focuses your feature to readers interested in YOUR genre.

If you’re a published author, you can claim your books and create a profile to grow your followers on a forum for readers that an author can cultivate directly. I had never “claimed” my author profile and didn’t realize I had followers. Plus not all of my most recent books were listed, so I had to update my profile after they authorize me as the author.

BookBub scrutinizes the books it selects, so I knew I had to adhere to recommendations other authors had shared online about their experiences. HERE is the list of requirements from BookBub, but there are other websites and blog posts with more help, too.

The book I submitted is The Last Victim (published 2015) and here are details on what I had to do.

BookBub Submission – TIPS

I had a professionally designed cover that I knew would be acceptable from my experience. BookBub scrutinizes submissions for a well-formatted book, free of typos and grammatical errors. They also want books that have accumulated enough good reviews without sharing how many that is. This can be intimidating. The Last Victim has 26 reviews for an average of 4.4 out of 5. I really didn’t know if they were looking for 50+ but I went for it. Don’t let one deficiency in a selection criteria force you to back down. If you don’t succeed, keep learning and try again.

I had great cover blurbs/praises to pitch on my book and across my branding platforms (website & social media) from well-known authors, magazines, and critical reviews from professional editorial sources. (Don’t let this tip scare you. I accumulated mine over time. You can too.)

The Last Victim is a full novel that has never been discounted. It normally sells for $3.99, but I submitted it to BookBub for a special, limited offer of $0.99 across all retailer platforms that I listed in my submission.

My novel is widely available on all the retailers BookBub features and then some: Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Google, and iBooks. Since it was published by my publishing arm, Cosas Finas Publishing, I had world rights, which I knew would appeal to BookBub.

My BookBub feature will be Nov 5 – 12. They prefer limited offers of free or discounted by at least 50%, rather than books that are perma-free.

HERE are BookBub’s tips.

I also submitted with a flexible promotion date, but when they came back with “Can you do by Nov 5th?” – I found out how much I didn’t have prepared for this type of exposure. This is why I wanted to post my article on the experience. It’s a good problem to have, but very nerve-wracking when I am in the middle of releasing two back-to-back novellas on Oct 31 & Nov 7th. Of course, I had to go for it, even if it only becomes a “what not to do” experience. Below are some of the things I have done to prepare and I’m sure there will be much more as the BookBub feature draws nearer.

MY STRATEGY SCRAMBLE

1.) Since The Last Victim was a 2015 release, I had to update the back material to include my updated Biblio, author bio, and add promo links for my new website mailing list and ads for my upcoming releases, as any traditional publisher would do. I went through my layout formatter to save me time. I use Wizards in Publishing.

2.) I created a spreadsheet of target promotion opportunities, both free and paid for, to expand my reach beyond my mailing list and track costs against estimated revenue. BookBub gives you its estimate for likely sales, but it is up to you to get the word out and set higher goals. I plan to set up my estimates, then compare them to what actually happened afterwards, to create a learning tool that I can refine. Bottom line – It takes a lot of eyeballs for sales to result. I used subscriber numbers, but estimated sales at a fraction of 1% to be conservative. It’s all “pie in the sky” stuff until the dust settles and sales are determined. At that time, I’ll need to do an autopsy to see what clearly worked.

3.) What are the best ways (& sites) to pay for promotion? Good question. Since I needed boosted sales across several retailers, I chose to look at ads at Kobo, Amazon, and the other retailers. These aren’t cheap so I had to make decisions. The bargain books websites that are popular and most effective aren’t cheap either, because they can add up. They also don’t take just any ad that you pay for. Some sites require you to submit your book for their consideration & it could take up to 7 days to hear back. (I won’t know about some until my feature is about to start or has started.) These promo sites’ loyalty is first to their subscribers, so that means you have to allow enough lead time or make due with what you can get.

4.) I submitted to EreaderNewsToday and needed approval. BargainBooksy, KindleNationDaily (& their multiple platforms), EBookLister, and AwesomeGang didn’t require approval and charged only a minimal amount. There are countless sites where they will list your book for free. Some allow you to post once and they will cross post, but since I don’t know how effective this would be for my limited time, I chose certain sites for maximum exposure.

5.) I created an Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) Ad Campaign (access I already had as a vendor through my publishing company) to run during the time of the feature and will up the cost per click but limit the dollar daily total to gain the likelihood the ad will be competitive for placement and exposure. Since this ad will run for a specific time (to parallel my BookBub Feature Deal), I could get aggressive on my budget.

6.) I haven’t considered a Facebook Ad because I don’t know how effective they are in relation to real sales. AMS give you direct access to analytics on clicks and traffic compared to actual sales. If I’m going to spend money, I prefer Amazon where the most of my sales would come from and can be traced and translated into sales.

7.) What could I do to promo without cost? I had access as a contributing author to several fan groups under various Amazon Kindle Worlds. To the credit of the authors who created these groups, they generously allow their authors to promo other books, and we try to give exclusive giveaways back to their readers in return. So the groups that I had cultivated by writing for these Kindle Worlds, I have access to for a post and the reader fans are so much fun and generous with their support. That has value.

8.) I have my mailing list and had just updated my website to WordPress format. This allows me to update quickly and post when I need to. Updating came at a very good time. Even though it was time consuming to transfer content, it was well-worth the effort.

As of this post, I’ll still be prepping for the feature and up to my eyeballs in two releases – Valentine: Steel Heart (Available Now) and Fiona’s Salvation (Nov 7). This BookBub feature for The Last Victim is from Nov 5-12, so the overlap is stressful, but it can help with exposure. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself.

Other Resources

I found these additional links that could be helpful. Here is a link to “Reasons Why Books are Rejected as BookBub Feature Deals.” I don’t normally like to focus on negatives, but there are good points made in this article that could help you succeed.

This link compares BookBub against two other promo sites: Book Gorilla & Fussy Librarian. The costs vary, but so does the exposure and the requirements may not fit your book or your goals.

For Discussion

1.) Has anyone had experience with BookBub? What worked and didn’t work for you? I’d love to hear your experiences.

2.) Besides BookBub, are there other ways to feature your discounted sales that you’ve found to be effective?

Valentine: Steel Heart (Novella 1 of 2)

Love made him vulnerable…once.

After a tragic killing on an Amtrak train, the Phoenix Agency use a mysterious covert operative, Braxton Valentine, as bait to lure a deadly cartel boss from hiding, but grief-stricken Valentine becomes their worst nightmare—a rogue operator with a death wish.

(Valentine: In the Cross Hairs – Book 2 of 2 coming Feb 2018)

8+

Marketing For Writers Who Hate Marketing

by James Scott Bell
@jamesscottbell

A psychology professor was lecturing his class one day, and asked the following question: “How would you diagnose a man who is standing and screaming at the top of his lungs one moment, then drops into a chair and weeps the next?”

A young man raised his hand and said, “A basketball coach.”

Welcome to March Madness everyone. One of my favorite times of the sporting year. Always a great underdog story or two. And some player stepping up his game to become a national star.

But that’s not the point of my introduction. It’s more about stress and a little something we could call Marketing Madness.

I have a number of friends who came up the “traditional” way. After working to hone their craft and going through the typical rejection cycle, they landed contracts with a publisher. They stayed productive, built up a career.

And then, as they say, stuff happened.

Like the Kindle.

Amazon introduced its industry-changing device in November of 2007. Publishers, at first, rubbed their hands in glee, for they could sell books that didn’t require printing or warehousing, but could be priced the same as a hardcover! (O, what a wake-up was awaiting them!)

No one could have foreseen what this was going to mean for writers. It’s a quaint stroll down memory lane to look at blog posts from those early years of the digital revolution. One of the first indie cheerleaders, Joe Konrath, had this to say:

At this date, May 31 2009, agents and publishers are necessary. Any author who wants to make writing their fulltime job can only support themselves by selling print books, and the agents and publishers are a crucial part of this industry.

But how about in 2012? 2015? 2025?

At this same time, however, the economy was in the tank, the long-term results of which would be fewer contracts offered to writers seeking a place inside the Forbidden City. For so-called “midlist” writers, many felt the big squeeze. Some were not offered another contract. Others saw their advances slashed.

Which meant more writers taking a serious look at self-publishing.

By 2013, your humble scrivener was mostly indie, and began to hear from traditional colleagues wondering if they ought to stick their toe in the self-pub waters. I responded, “Come on in! The water’s fine. And there’s room for everybody!”

So some took a tentative step, some dove, a few did cannonballs. And at first it was a giddy delight. But about a year-and-a-half ago I started to hear rumblings from a few of the newly selfed. Things like:

Marketing is taking up too much of my time!

I wish I could just write!

I don’t know what works to get the word out!

I keep trying things, and I’m frustrated!

I can’t possibly do what [the latest indie superstar marketer] does!

Writing isn’t fun anymore …

That’s when I decided write about book marketing––what works, what doesn’t, what needs to be done, what can be largely ignored. The result is Marketing For Writers Who Hate Marketing: The No-Stress Way to Sell Books Without Losing Your Mind.

I wasn’t interested in writing yet another tome listing every marketing idea available to mankind. Rather, this book has two primary concerns:

  1. To relieve writers of the worry that they’re not doing enough.
  1. To show writers how to prioritize the few tasks that do the most good, so they can spend the bulk of their time doing what they love most––writing!

Yes, we all have to do some marketing––be ye indie, traditional, or a mix. Publishers want you out there on social media, but how much is enough? Even more to the point, how much is too much? When does a flurry of marketing activity begin to negatively affect the most important thing of all––your writing?

This book is my answer. The chapters are:

  • What, You Worry?
  • The Single Most Important Marketing Tool
  • The First Impression
  • Cover Copy That Sizzles and Sells
  • The Crucial Opening Pages
  • What Price Is Right?
  • Productivity and Links
  • The Care and Feeding of an Email List
  • Your Website and Amazon Author Page
  • Your Book Launch
  • Short Writing as a Marketing Tool
  • Live Networking
  • Things That Suck Time
  • Things That Cost Money
  • Platform Paranoia
  • Social Media Madness
  • If You Want to Go Further

Here is where you can find the ebook:

AMAZON

AMAZON INTERNATIONAL STORES

NOOK

KOBO

iBOOKS

If you prefer print::

PRINT VERSION

 With the time crunch we all feel, it’s more important than ever to assess our available activities via ROI (Return on Investment). Another was to put it is the venerable Pareto Principle (often called the 80/20 Rule), which counsels focusing on the 20% of actions that make a real difference, and avoid expending too much energy (“the law of diminishing returns”) on the 80% that don’t add enough value.

That observation alone should help you sleep better if marketing your books is causing you too much stress. March Madness, good. Marketing Madness, not.

What are your feelings toward marketing? Does it worry you? Frustrate you? Is it something you bear with quiet patience … or with a primal scream?

7+

It’s Time to Ditch Discoverability

by James Scott Bell
@jamesscottbell

HumptyHumpty Dumpty published a book.

Humpty Dumpty hoped readers would look.

But all of the tweets and all of the ’grams

Didn’t bring Humpty significant clams.

See, Humpty was sitting on that wall waiting for his book to be discovered. Today, he’s a shell of his former self and living in an old yolks home.

Ever since the self-publishing boom took off, authors and industry types have bemoaned the “discoverability problem.” How can a new author, especially a self-publishing one, possibly get discovered in the tsunami of content flooding the market?

As Digital Book World put it back in 2014:

[D]iscoverability is becoming a bigger problem for authors and publishers. More books than ever are being published. Last year it was somewhere between half a million and a million new titles that were published in the United States alone. Self-publishing—mostly in the form of ebooks without a corresponding print edition (digital first)—has greatly added to that abundance.

Ebooks have added to this overwhelming choice in another way, too. Books don’t go “out of print” any longer. They now remain available as ebooks basically forever. Thus the total catalog of books available to readers for purchase or download has swelled dramatically and may now be around the ten or twenty million mark (exact numbers are surprisingly difficult to come by).

A prominent agent (who also happens to be a friend) wrote about the problem. I want you to read the following quote carefully. There is one word that clonked me on the head and has led me to question the viability of that blasted buzzword discoverability. Here is the quote from her post “Solving the Discoverability Challenge.”:

Discoverability continues to be one of the biggest challenges authors face. The market is flooded with books; how are the people who would love your book ever going to find it?

So what do you think the key word is?

Cue Jeopardy music.

Alex says time’s up.

The key word is: book. 

Singular.

That is a major clue as to how we’ve all been thinking about discoverability. And it seems to me that thinking’s messed up.

Because it’s based on an old-school paradigm. The traditional publishing industry does one book at a time for an author. This is called a frontlist title. They hope that title gets discovered. If they really believe in the book or the author, they’ll put some money into advertising and co-op. (In reality, that money now mostly goes to a new title by an A-list author).

But in the new school of self-publishing, this paradigm has at least two major flaws.

First, readers hardly ever “discover” books. Rare indeed is it for a reader to float into a bookstore, spyglass in hand, scan the horizons, and suddenly spot a spine on a distant shelf, and then shout, “Book ho!” Still rarer for an Amazon browser who sees only a few of the gazillion thumbnails in the Kindle store.

The way readers find new authors is, and always has been, overwhelmingly by word of mouth—through a friend, book group, a favorite reviewer.

Second, discoverability thinking fails to emphasize that long-term writing success is not about a single book being found, but about an author building up trust with a growing number of readers.

Which is why I’m proposing we ditch discoverability in favor of trustability.

You should be thinking that each new offering is an opportunity to prove to readers that you deliver the goods. As you do this, time after time, trust in you grows. Consumers buy more from businesses they trust. Readers are consumers and you are a business.

But I’m putting out my first book. What am I supposed to do? I still want people to find it!

Of course you do. Trustability does not mean you don’t market what you publish. It does mean, however, that you have realistic expectations and are patient, knowing that it is going to take you a number of years and consistent production to establish a significant upward trajectory––if your readers trust you.

But to get rolling with a first book, most self-publishing writers would benefit by going into Kindle Select and using the five free promotion days. No less an authority than Author Earnings’ Hugh Howey agrees:

I can also say without reservation that most debuting authors should go exclusive with Amazon until they gain traction and can afford to branch out. The increased visibility offered by Kindle Unlimited makes it worth thinking of Amazon as a writer’s personal publisher. Keep in mind that self-published authors can move their works around. KU exclusivity is only for 90 days at a time. Unlike the decision to go with a major publisher, where you lose all control of your work for the rest of your life—and another 70 years for your heirs’ lives—with self-publishing, you can experiment freely. You can dip in and out and try lots of options.

In fact, you don’t even need a full-length book to begin this process. Write a killer short story or novella and price it at 99¢. Then use the five days of free promotion, along with your social media, to get as many eyeballs on your work as possible. Think of this less as discovery than as the first step in establishing long-lasting trust.

Make it easy for a happy reader to sign up for your email list. You need to build an email list because that’s how you directly communicate with those who are putting their trust in you. Start up a list with MailChimp or a similar service. Put an invitation to join and a link at the end of your story (some are now putting this in front, but I find that quite cheeky. You haven’t proven anything to me yet!).

And through it all, continue to do the following:

  1. Keep up a flow of production

Set goals, write to a quota, have several projects in development. You are no longer in the one-book business.

  1. Keep growing as a writer

Meaning look at your work, have others look at it and give feedback, and figure out how to make your stuff the best it can be.

  1. Keep learning about business

The principles of business are not difficult to understand. In fact, I’ve put the essential in a book. A business thinks ahead, plans for the long term. It knows there are only two ways to grow: a) find new customers; and b) sell more to existing customers. The former is hard. The latter is where the meat is. And that meat is based on trust.

One more note. Authors misunderstand and misuse social media when they make it primarily about discoverability. What is social media really about? Yep, trustability––real content and interaction and positive engagement, so when you do have something to offer, people will listen.

So put your eggs in the trustability basket. Don’t toss them, one by one, over the wall, waiting for a crowd to gather shouting, “Look! What a great egg! Come over here, everyone!”

That’s Humpty Dumpty thinking, and you don’t want your hopes to shatter like his.

Now, scramble up some thoughts and serve them in the comments.

20+

Cast of Characters

Nancy J. Cohen

Do you include a Cast of Characters in your mystery novel? Is this a helpful item to readers? In my experience, some readers like to have this directory. It serves as a refresher or helps to explain the relationships among the story people. Others may view a long list of characters with trepidation. In a mystery, they feel the tale might have too many suspects to remember. So who do we please?

The other thing to consider is placement. If you list your characters in the front of a book, potential new readers who click on “Look Inside” at Amazon will lose a page of text that you could have there instead. Same goes for a Table of Contents. While it may be good to put these in the front of a print book, for a digital copy the opposite might be true. Should we consider putting them in the back where they won’t interfere with that critical first look?

Some authors include entire family trees along with their sagas. This can be helpful if you are writing a series with multiple generations. But what about a single title? Is listing the cast a desirable item?

In my online files, I differentiate between Continuing/Recurrent Characters and the current Cast. The latter includes my main characters and the suspects for this story only. It does not include recurrent secondary characters that only make brief appearances. Those people go on my private list of Continuing Characters. I suppose if your series gets very lengthy, you could insert a guide to all the characters in this particular universe, whether they have blood ties or not. This type of guide should definitely be part of the back bonus materials.

The Cast List that I include for each story is as brief as possible. You can include a teasing question about each suspect or just describe their straightforward role. Be careful not to include spoilers that give away a character’s secrets. There is a short CoC in Peril by Ponytail. Click on the Look Inside feature.

What do readers think?

One reviewer recently said about Peril by Ponytail: “I really liked that at the beginning of the book there was a ‘List of Characters’ outlining everyone within the context of the series.”

Then I asked these questions on my Facebook Page: Do you like a Cast of Characters in a mystery novel? Is it helpful or intimidating? Does it matter if the list is up front or in the back material?

Negative Responses:

“I don’t usually look if it’s included. I like to discover the characters as I read the book.”

“No. It makes it seem too theatrical, like I’m being told right from the start that this isn’t real.”

“I won’t look at it unless I’m having a hard time keeping characters straight or am having long lag times between reading and need a refresher.”

Positive Responses:

“Up front! It’s especially helpful if you haven’t read the previous books in the series.”

“I like it because it gives me a sense of place, especially with a new series. Also, if I get confused, I can go back to the list to figure out who’s who.”

“I like it, and I usually refer back to it as I read and come across each character. I like to know how they relate to each other.”

“If the book is a part of a series, the cast of characters can be very helpful if you didn’t start at the first of the series.”

“I like it if there are a lot of characters, of if you have a character who only appears a few times, several chapters apart. And put it in the front.”

“Up front! I recently read two mystery books that involved several guests at parties and a quick cast of characters guide would have helped.”

“I think it can be helpful if there are a lot of characters or if they have similar/unusual names. Also, no spoilers in the list.”

“I like it in the front. Sometimes new characters are hard to keep straight.”

“I like it at the front. That way I know it’s there if I need to refer back to it. I also love maps!”

“Up front. I always read it and I go back to refresh my memory on who a character is.”

“I like a CoC and a floor plan of the main character’s home.”

And More! This question garnered over 960 people reached. View it here: https://www.facebook.com/NancyJCohenAuthor

As you see, it’s a mixed bag of responses, but the majority appears to be overwhelming in favor of including a list of characters in the front of a book. What is YOUR opinion?

6+

Value of Listserves

I just learned this tip from one of my listserves: Bowker is running a 20% off discount in honor of family history month. The code is Family20 that you apply at checkout. I don’t know how long this discount lasts, so I jumped on it. It’s Sunday morning. I saved $59.00. While on site, I also saw you could buy 10 ISBNs and get a deal to purchase another 10 with it for 50% off the second batch.

This tip came from the Fantasy, Futuristic, & Paranormal Romance loop that I belong to with my RWA membership. I’m not too active there now since I am working only on my Bad Hair Day mysteries at this time, but gems like this one make it worthwhile to keep my membership.

A post on the FRW (Florida Romance Writers) listserve is how I learned about TweetJukebox (http://www.tweetjukebox.com/ ). This site has saved me a considerable amount of time.

What is a listserve? (Note: The trademarked term is LISTSERV) It’s a group email list that you join, usually through yahoo groups. You can choose to receive individual emails or a Daily Digest. The latter allows you to scan the topics and jump to the ones that interest you by clicking on a link.

Much of what I’ve learned about self-publishing, promotion, and business of writing tips has come from the listserves where I belong. I mine them for jewels of information. When I see something relevant, even if it’s not info I need immediately, I copy and paste it into a file. Thus when I am ready to venture out—like into audio books through ACX—I have a complete file with tips and instructions I’ve gleaned from various listserves.

Some of these groups require you to be a member to join. Others are available to all writers. In my view, they might be time-consuming emails but they’re worth their weight in gold—or in this case, in dollars saved. It’s writers helping writers. or writers connecting with readers.

book club

So here are the listserves where I belong. I’ve included the link if it’s open to the public. DorothyL is the only one that is not a yahoo group.

Mystery
Cozy Armchair Group (Readers): cozyarmchairgroup@yahoogroups.com
Crime Scene Writer (Research Questions): crimescenewriter@yahoogroups.com
Dorothy L (Readers): Mystery Literature E-conference DOROTHYL@LISTSERV.KENT.EDU
International Thriller Writers (members only)
Murder Must Advertise (Writers on Marketing) MurderMustAdvertise@yahoogroups.com
Mystery Buffs (Writers & Readers) https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/mysterybuffs/info
Mystery Writers of America: (members only): EMWA, MWA-Breakout, MWA-Self-Publishing
Mystery Writers Promo (private group)
Sisters in Crime: (members only)
Sleuthmail: (Florida Chapter MWA members only)

Romance
Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal RWA chapter: (members only)
Florida Romance Writers: (members only)
Marketing for Romance Writers: MarketingForRomanceWriters@yahoogroups.com
Romance Writers of America: (members only) PAN, Tech, Industry, News
Southwest Florida Romance Writers: (members only)

Other
ELoop: Eloop@yahoogroups.com
Lifeboat Team: Private group – Booklover’s Bench writers
Novelists, Inc: (members only)
Self-Publish: selfpublish-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Publishers
Five Star: (FS authors only)
The Wild Rose Press: (WRP authors only)
The Wild Rose Press (readers) TheWildRosePress@yahoogroups.com

Do you have any other recommendations?

4+

Paid Book Reviews

Nancy J. Cohen

There’s a disturbing trend toward paid reviews. Indie authors may have a difficult time getting their books reviewed, so this is an option for them. But it’s an issue for any traditionally published author who wishes to get more critical reviews for their new release, aside from the places where their publisher has sent advance reading copies. Here are some sites I’ve heard of but am by no means recommending. Do the research on your own.

books2

Kirkus Indie Reviews: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/author-services/indie/ costs $425. You can submit 2 print copies or a digital submission.

Publishers Weekly: At a site called Book Life, you can register your title and decide what services you want, i.e. getting your book reviewed or help with marketing. http://booklife.com/ It appears to be free, but marketing services are available. http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/diy/index.html

RT Book Reviews: This magazine offers a paid service for $425 through RT Review Source: http://www.rtreviewsource.com/

Net Galley: $399 for a six month title listing, or $599 for a listing along with a spot in their newsletter. https://netgalley.uservoice.com/knowledgebase/articles/105722-do-you-work-with-individual-authors . Here your book might attract the attention of librarians, booksellers, reviewers and bloggers.

Edelweiss: If you’re traditionally published, ask if your book is listed at Edelweiss. This is where booksellers and librarians go to browse and place orders. Reviewers can request digital ARCs there too. Publishers pay for listings. The pricing for the catalog is based on the number of titles the publisher plans to feature in a year. An administrative fee is also charged annually for this service. In addition, there’s a digital review service that publishers can participate in either separately or along with the catalog listing. http://edelweiss.abovethetreeline.com/HomePage.aspx

Choosy Bookworm: http://authors.choosybookworm.com/book-reviews/ . For $99, they hint you might get 30 interested readers who will post reviews but no guarantees.

Nerdy Girls Book Reviews: http://nerdygirlbookreviews.com/authors/ Their basic package is $49 for 30-35 reader reviews.

Chanticleer Book Reviews cost $325: http://www.chantireviews.com/book-reviews/

Of course, you have many other options. Go on a blog tour where the hosts offer reviews. Do giveaways on Goodreads and LibraryThing and hope that the winners post their consumer reviews. Or buy inexpensive ads where a review might be part of the package. It’s not easy to attract the big guns but you can still get bloggers on your side.

How do you feel about paid reviews?

7+

12 Tips for a Book Blog Tour

Nancy J. Cohen

If you wish to do a blog tour, determine if you want to offer guest posts, author interviews, reviews, and/or book blasts for your new release. Then determine which hosts you’ll want to solicit. Aim for popular blogs that get a lot of hits and target your particular genre or thematic content. Approach them by asking if you can be a guest on their site. Make sure you study their content and note the length of their typical posts.

I’ve had bloggers approach me to contribute to my site. I’ve turned down some of them because it was clear their business had nothing to do with a writing career. On the other hand, I’ve had cozy mystery or paranormal romance authors query me politely about a guest spot. In those cases, if I feel they’ll have something to contribute to my readers, I say yes. My personal blog readers respond the most to writing craft and marketing articles, so I am selective about guests.

If you don’t care to DIY, you can hire a virtual tour company. However, you’ll still have to publicize the tour, show up on the date of the post, answer comments, and offer giveaways. Send an author photo and book cover image along with your post to the host.

Here are some blog tour companies:
Goddish Fish Promotions http://www.goddessfish.com/tours.htm
Great Escapes Book Tours (Free for Cozy Mysteries) http://www.escapewithdollycas.com/great-escapes-virtual-book-tours
Bewitching Book Tours (Paranormal Romance) http://bewitchingbooktours.blogspot.com/
Buy the Book Tours http://www.buythebooktours.com/#axzz2OqJtoGjs
Partners in Crime (Crime, Mystery & Thrillers) http://www.partnersincrimetours.net/

12 Tips for your Virtual Blog Tour:

  1. Slant your blog to the audience you hope to reach.
  2. Vary your guest posts with a mix of interviews, articles and reviews.
  3. Space the dates out so you don’t clog the loops with your announcements.
  4. Write your posts ahead of time.
  5. Include a short excerpt from your book with your article when possible.
  6. Add buy links to your book along a story blurb, plus links to your website, blog, FB page, and Twitter at the end of your post.
  7. Plan to be available to answer comments all day when your post goes live.
  8. List the tour as an Event on your various social media sites.
  9. Publish the blog tour dates and topics on your website.
  10. Consider offering a giveaway for commenters with each post.
  11. Have a grand prize using Rafflecopter or a random drawing from all commenters.
  12. Thank your host at the end of the day when your post appears.

For next time, write down blog topics as you write your WIP. This way, you’ll have a ready list of topics available when you need them (i.e. research, the writing process, what inspired you to write this story, world building, themes, etc.).

A blog tour can help you gain exposure to new readers who might not have known about your work. It takes a lot of advance planning, publicity, and commitment to make it a success. A blog tour is another tool to raise your readership and possibly garner some reviews. Schedule with the companies listed above or with your selected hosts as far in advance as you can. So decide upon a target date for your tour and go for it.

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Branding Through Cover Art

Nancy J. Cohen

Series branding can be just as important as author branding. What’s the difference? Author branding tells who you are and what kind of stories you write. For example, my works blend elements of murder, mystery, romance, and humor. Readers know they’re in for an entertaining yet suspenseful ride with a satisfying ending. I also write stories set in Florida, and this tropical flavor adds a layer of depth to my work.

Currently, I’m working to revise and reissue my earlier mystery titles. I hired a new cover designer and liked her idea of putting a collage together of photographic images. Similar to an art sheet from a publisher, I filled her in on what might make an appropriate scene and what elements it might include. I looked at the images she subsequently sent me and picked ones that seemed perfect.
All went well until she put them together in a cover mockup. My stomach sank. It didn’t work for me. The images were fine. So were the colors and title placement. But the whole didn’t speak to me as a cozy reader. Where was the humor element? The fun factor that would make me smile and want to buy this book, like these covers below?

ManicureMM    Shear Murder

And so I did a search on Amazon for “cozy mysteries.” The overwhelming majority of them were illustrations, not photographs. I’d given this designer a list of covers that appealed to me, but she didn’t seem to “get” the genre. My original cover artist, who’d had to bow out for personal reasons, had sent me a mockup of a cover that I’d really liked. Looking at them side-by-side, I had a bad feeling about the photo-based imagery. It wasn’t right for the genre.

Even if I rebranded myself by having all my reissued titles have similar designs, would these more realistic covers attract cozy readers? I didn’t think so. It certainly wouldn’t appeal to me. As a cozy reader, I look for a certain style. Normally, you can identify a cozy just by looking at the cover. And so I regretfully parted ways with designer number two. I approached my original artist to see if she was available again, and to my joy she said yes. We’re back to fixing the details on the original cover, and I feel much happier about the process.

What is the lesson learned? It’s not only about your author brand. It’s also about reader expectations. Readers can tell from the cover what type of story to expect. Go for a change if you want to broaden your readership. But if you want genre appeal, stick to the tried and true. Flowers never did it for me as a romance reader. I still like the old-fashioned clinch covers. Remember the old gothics, with a woman in a gown running away from a spooky mansion? You could tell at a glimpse what genre it represented. So yes, your cozy or thriller cover at a glance might resemble others in the genre, but that’s what readers want and expect.

Whichever route you go, plan for series continuity via the same font, author name and title location, series logo, design style and color statement (i.e. pastels or bold and bright).

Does reader expectation figure into your cover art or does this aspect not concern you?

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Conference Overview #Ninc14

Nancy J. Cohen

Having just come from the Novelists, Inc. (Ninc) conference, my brain is fried with all the important information I learned. You can see photos on my Facebook Page under the Ninc Album and read my blogs of each workshop on my personal blog site.

As an overview, here are some of the important points I took away from this event.

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If you indie publish, offer your book at as many retailers as possible. These would include Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Apple, Smashwords and Google Play. Google is growing.

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Indie bookstores will survive the digital age, especially if they offer curating, personal service and community events.

Publishers may cry that they’re hurting but their profits are rising.

The global marketplace is not to be overlooked. There’s a huge market for English language books, plus the translation market is out there. Agents can still have a role with managing our subsidiary rights.

In the future, authors may sell directly to readers. Be prepared for new technologies and to take advantage of opportunities when they arise.

The real threat is the decline of recreational reading. There’s too much competition from video games, TV and movies, and other entertainment pursuits. We need to increase kids’ passion for reading.

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Target your readers. Analyze your data. View your results and modify your business plan accordingly. Make sure you write the best book that you can and present the product in a professional manner.

Series sell better than standalones. Even if you aren’t writing a series, try to link your books with a common theme. Have cover art that ties them together.

Back material is important. Your e-book is a living document. Include links to your other titles and to your newsletter.

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In the photo: Donna Andrews, Carole Nelson Douglas and Nancy J. Cohen

The rest is on my personal blog. Coming next there is BookBub, ACX, legalities for authors and more. Be sure to scroll down to see my previous posts.

For more information on Novelists, Inc., go Here.

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Radio, TV and Podcasts

Nancy J. Cohen

I haven’t ventured far into the world of podcasts, radio interviews or TV appearances. As an author, I’d rather spend my time writing the next book. Nonetheless, I’ve done a few radio spots via telephone, but I don’t seek them out. Somehow the thought of a microphone or camera aimed my way with hundreds of invisible listeners makes me nervous.

A telephone interview can be fun if done with a dynamic host who knows all the right questions to keep things flowing. The interviews I’ve done to date have gone well in this respect. But I’m wondering how these shows serve the reader and if they’re worth the time spent.

Do you listen to these shows? Have you ever bought a book based on an author interview you’ve heard/seen on the air?

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Do any of you listen to podcasts? Do they influence you to follow an author’s social media sites? Buy his books? Or do you just tune in to learn what you can and then move on? Are podcasts essential to one’s media kit?

For those of you who’ve done these types of appearances, have they led to other valuable contacts? Have listeners responded? Besides the publicity, did you gain an upsurge in sales? Or did you merely enjoy the experience?

One of the speakers on “Radio for Writers” at a Florida Chapter MWA meeting recently stressed that the story isn’t about your book. It’s about you as a person and your journey as an author. Finding that unique angle or local slant is what would interest her as a reporter. See her tips for authors here: http://nancyjcohen.wordpress.com/2014/09/30/radio-for-writers/

So what’s your take on this whole live media business? Is it worth pursuing or is your time as a writer better spent working on the next book?

Speaking of radio interviews, I’ll be appearing at http://www.authorsontheair.com on Friday, October 10 at 6:00 pm EDT. I hope you will tune in!

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