Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Guest Blog at the Writer's Shack: Who's Afraid to Market Their Book? Park 2

Happy Wednesday!

Part Two of my guest blog "Who's Afraid to Market Their Book?" over at "The Writer's Shack," is up and running. 

If you're an Indie author in need of some marketing tips, check it out!  By no means are the tactics I discuss meant to be an exhaustive list; hopefully they provide a place to get started and maybe even give you ideas for other strategies!

Check out Part One here. 

Happy Marketing!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Getting to Know...Book Blogger, Ionia Martin

Ionia Martin, book blogger
Anyone who regularly reads my blog posts knows I have nothing but the utmost respect for book bloggers and the support they've shown the Indie author community.  They provide book reviews, host contests, conduct author interviews and much more.  Many of them don't derive any income from their book blogging endeavors—they do it for the love of books.

Without a doubt, one of the most prolific book bloggers on the scene is Ionia Martin, whose popular blog, Readful Things (http://readfulthingsblog.com/) offers reviews (lots of them), helpful posts on marketing, author interviews and whole lot of other fun stuff.
I've been following Ionia's blog for the past year and she was gracious enough to read and review both "Sweet Little Lies" and "Live and Let Die" (I was thrilled that she liked both).  I was also curious to get, among other things, some inside scoop from her about the review process from a reader's perspective, some pitfalls Indie authors should avoid when asking book bloggers for a review and how we can stand out from the increasingly crowded pack.  As I expected, she had thoughtful and insightful advice.

Without further adieu, I give you, Ionia Martin.
1. How did you get into book blogging?

I would like to say something profound here, but I haven’t anything…It was an accident? Yes, I believe that describes it adequately. I have always been a book lover and a writer, so I think writing reviews for the books I read on Amazon and Goodreads led to an interest in having more control over formatting and content. Blogging opened several avenues I hadn’t enjoyed before, such as the ability to converse with other bloggers about what we enjoyed and didn’t about the books we read.

2. I love the title of your blog, "Readful Things."  How did you decide to use that name?
I did what all people in the book industry do. I stole it from Stephen King. Well, not really. Borrowed it without his immediate knowledge and adapted it from Needful Things. I didn’t want another blog out there called “So-and-so’s book blog.”
3. You're an extremely prolific reviewer.  Do you sleep?

I love that you asked me this question. Yes, I sleep. Holding a book. Honestly, I am not as busy as it might seem. Many of the books I read are pre-release titles.  Although it might look like I read ten books that week, chances are good that I read those books many months before and they all just sort of inadvertently grouped together on the blog because they were set for release that week. Also, I rarely watch the telly, so reading is my evening pleasure.

4. When an author pitches you their book, what are some of your deciding factors in whether or not you will read and review?
There are some things that are mandatory. Spell my name right and never begin with “Dear Reviewer.” I will answer to a lot of strange things, that is not one of them. Mainly, I look for people that are willing to put the work into their book to promote it, edit it and really believe in what they have to offer. If it is poorly written and badly edited, I see that as a waste of my time and theirs and certainly that of my followers. I do not put books on my blog that I didn’t like. My followers are friends and I want them to have faith that if I recommend it, then it is worth reading. I take length and relevance into consideration as well. If I know nothing about the subject, I will leave it for someone who does.

5. What are some pet peeves or do's and don't's an author should keep in mind when pitching a book blogger?
See answer four…lol. Seriously, if you approach the blogger/reviewer honestly and with the important information about your book, you have a good shot of getting a review. Bloggers tend to get overwhelmed with requests, so patience is a virtue. If you hear back from them saying they cannot take your book, it is often for that reason.
Nevers: Never get demanding with the reviewer. Never approach a reviewer that you don’t know when their blog is closed to requests trying to give them reasons why you should be an exception. That is seriously annoying. Biggest one: Never approach a blogger that clearly states they do NOT take your genre with a pitch for your book.

Do’s: Learn the difference between confidence and sounding like a pompous arse.

Do: Include your word count, publishing credits, genre, brief pitch and give them options for what format they would like the review copy in.
6.What are your favorite genres to read?  Any genres you don't care for?

I love romance. Always have been a romance fan. Second to that is fantasy. The only genre so far that I have been unimpressed with is the New Adult genre. Still fledgling, perhaps it will improve over time.

7. Favorite author and book of all time?  Or is that like asking who your favorite child is?
You are so funny, Bianca. You think I can pick one? I can. Lighthousekeeping by Jeanette Winterson. So far, no one can take her place, but Oscar Wilde has kissed her heels.
8. Jeanette Winterson is an amazing wordsmith.  I count Written on the Body as a favorite read. 

Your reviews are always so thoughtful and thorough. How do you approach writing reviews? In other words, what's the secret to writing a good review?

I don’t think there’s a formula. I have built my review blog on two principals. 1. Be honest. If you love it, say why. Don’t worry about making it sound professional or like it came from a big review organisation. If the cat was your favourite thing—say so. 2. When doing a negative review, don’t rip the author. It is the book you had an issue with. State what you did like, if there is anything and give supporting reasons also for why you didn’t like it. Just because you didn’t enjoy it is not an excuse to lose all manners.

9. What are your thoughts on the future of publishing?
Actually, I am excited. There are so many more ways to get books into the hands of people of all ages now than there were before. I don’t think that traditional paper books will ever really be a thing of the past, but just in case, I’m hoarding them. As with everything else, I expect a lot of change and much to remain the same.

10. I thought I was the only one hoarding print books.  Glad to know I'm not alone!
It's ironic that even though it's easier than ever before to become published, the competition has never been stiffer.  From the perspective of a reader, what tips can you give to fledgling indies about how to stand out from the crowd?    

Another awesome question. Do what you have to in order to stand out. Bianca—the covers for your books make me want to read them. This is #1 to me on my list of important advice for new authors. THE COVER IS YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION. Pay attention to the first part of that word. IMPRESSion. If a buyer looks at the cover and thinks…amateur, what chance do you have against the big six? ZERO.

Secondly, write a blurb that kills it. Start it out with a one-liner that grabs the attention of the prospective buyer. If you were selling your home, would you clean it first? The light shed upon the contents of your book is all shining from one central location—the blurb. Write a good one, not too long, not too short. Hook that fish and don’t let it get away.  
Thank you, so very much Bianca, for allowing me to do this. It has been different and wonderful being on this side of the questions.

You are quite welcome, Ionia and what a delightful interview—of course!  Thank YOU for taking time out of your schedule to indulge my questions.  I shall let you get back to reading! :-)

 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Newbie Does KDP Select, Part Deux

The single most controversial, hotly-debated, praised and reviled issue among Indie authors is whether or not to participate in Amazon's KDP Select program.  For the uninitiated, Amazon allows authors to offer their books for free for up to five days over a 90 day period, in exchange for being the book's exclusive vendor.  In the early days, this promotional strategy proved to be a goldmine for fledgling Indie authors who were just discovering the joys of Amazon's publishing platform.  Successful free day promotions begat boffo sales and Indies rejoiced at having found a bonafide path to bestsellerdom.

Alas, the secret got out and the marketplace was flooded with free books, which meant the novelty wore off.  "Free" began to lose its luster and those who'd once sung KDP Select's praises decried it as a waste of time that did nothing to boost sales of books and urged others to get out of the program while the gettin' was good.

This past December, I executed (if you could call it that) my first KDP Select run with "Live and Let Die."  To be honest, I completely half-assed it.  My book was new and I had no visibility, no reviews or traction of any kind.  I knew I had these five free days to use, so as I was falling asleep on December 24, I decided to make the book free December 26-31.  After scheduling my days, I promptly dove into the wine and Christmas cookies and called it a day.

I didn't have blockbuster numbers – 773 downloads worldwide – but honestly?  I was happy.  This was 773 strangers in possession of my book, which meant 773 potential new readers.  Above all, it was much-needed exposure.   I didn't get the coveted bounce back in sales, but I was okay with that.  Like I said, exposure is exposure.

When I released my second book, "Sweet Little Lies," I determined I needed to be a bit more prudent and actually develop a strategy around my free days.  I know, I know, what a concept.  As a result of my advanced planning,  here are the cumulative results:
- 10,562 total downloads worldwide
- #35 in the free Kindle Store – the entire store

  - Reached #7 in Amazon's Top 100 Paid Crime Bestsellers (it's kind of bananas to see your book sandwiched between James Patterson)
Reached #3 on Amazon's Movers and Shakers list



- The book has continued to appear on Amazon's Top 100 bestselling Crime and Murder lists.

I was thrilled with these results – beyond thrilled.  I'm still carving out a name for myself, so anything I can do to get my books into the hands of readers, I'm in and I'm in big.

The strategy I followed took a lot of planning, but like I said, I'm thrilled with the results.  Here's what I did:

- Once I released "Sweet Little Lies," I provided copies to book bloggers I had relationships with and asked if they'd be willing to provide an honest review whenever they got a chance.  Unlike when I did my free run for "Live and Let Die," this time, I already had a few reviews.  Fortunately, they were positive reviews.

- I scheduled my first two free days about a month after my book was released.  I scheduled two more free days about a month after that and scheduled the final free day on my birthday in early September, which was a Saturday.  Weekends are notoriously slow days for downloads, so I wasn't holding out hope for a bonanza that day.  I should also note there was a glitch on Amazon on my final day, so my book was only free about 15 hours.  Amazon granted me one extra free day as a "make-good," so I had six free days total (ok five and a half, if I'm being technical).

-  As opposed to waiting until the day before, like I did the last time, I submitted my free days to book sites well in advance of my first free run (about a month ahead of time), which meant I gave myself a greater chance of actually being listed.  I utilized Author Marketing Club's free book submission tool and used this list compiled by bestselling author, Cheryl Bradshaw.  Thanks, Cheryl!

- I didn't pay for inclusion on any sites or do any paid advertising at all around my free runs.

- When I did my second two days, I submitted only to the Facebook sites.

- When I did my final free day, I submitted to a handful of the big sites.  By that point, I had a number of positive reviews (a requirement for most of the bigger book sites), so I was able to actually get listed.

- I purposely staggered my free day submissions among the book sites/ Facebook pages/Twitter feeds.  I wanted to rotate my exposure to different audiences.  Plus, some sites will only allow you to submit your free book every 30-60 days, as they want to provide fresh options to their readers.

While a lot of Indie authors are jumping off the KDP Select bandwagon, I'm hanging on for the time being.  I'll be playing it by ear, though, because for all I know, my next free run could tank.

I don't think KDP Select should be used as a long-term sales strategy.  I think it's a great way to launch a new title and gain much needed exposure, which in turn, will translate to readers.  I'm of the belief that you do your five free days then move on.  Once you complete your exclusivity period with Amazon, upload your book to Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, etc. in order to increase your sales and your exposure (Speaking of which, "Sweet Little Lies" will be available on those outlets starting September 18.). 
Of course, the best way to market your current book is to write the next book.   Because after all, THAT's what it's all about.

And on that note, back to writing.

Guest Blog at "The Writer's Shack" - Who's Afraid to Market Their Book?

For any Indie writers looking for tips on marketing, when you get a chance, check out Part One of my guest blog over at "The Writer's Shack," Riley Bank's awesome site chock full of book reviews, author interviews, contests and much, much more.  Part Two will post next week. 

This is my second guest blog for Riley and I've really enjoyed the opportunity.  Click here for my other guest blog post, "3 Problems with Branding your Books Instead of your Author Name."

Happy Marketing!