Friday, February 22, 2019

Book Reviews: How to Get Them

Reviews. We’re told we have to have them. No one will take a chance on a first time indie author without some reviews. Maybe once you have a few books out there and have established a reader base they are less of a need, but for that first book – you’re going to need them.

But, how to get them? I ask. I recently sent out an email asking anyone who bought Book Formatting Demystified to review it. I see nothing wrong with that. Though, Amazon says that friends and family cannot review your book. When it first comes out, who else is going to review it? I saw the following article recently and the author addresses that issue, and others.

From the article:
"You need to focus on reviews and getting the ball rolling. You don’t need to manufacture hundreds and hundreds, but if you don’t get people to review your book, it will be next to impossible to gain momentum and your book will sink. 
Getting reviews must be a part of your launch and book marketing strategy—plain and simple. 
* * * 
Amazon Verified Reviews vs. Unverified: Verified reviews are the cream of the crop. They show up higher in your book reviews list, and from all that I have seen and heard, they count for more in the mysterious Amazon algorithm that ranks your book vs. other books."
This means that if you send out advance copies, or use giveaways, the resulting reviews are not nearly as valuable. Also, another reason to get people to buy your book online as opposed to attending readings, signings… (KM)
"Amazon’s TOS (terms of service) state that no friends and family can review your book."
How do they know? Social media. (KM)
"Paying for Reviews: Don’t do it! There are definitely people out there that will take your money and leave a review. 
To sum up, don’t pay for reviews, don’t swap reviews with other authors, and don’t heckle friends and family to leave reviews (if it happens naturally so be it). Don’t wait for reviews to come in, go out and get the ball rolling. 
By all means read Amazon’s TOS, but follow the above advice on what not to do, trust your gut if something seems off, and you should be okay."
What should you do? The author lists 7 strategies. (KM)
"1. Put a Call to Action in the Back of the Book 
2. Search for Readers that have Reviewed Similar Books on Amazon 
And ask them to review the book. (KM)
3. Send Emails and Set Follow ups. 
The author recommends Gmass. This only works for 50 recipients or less. I say go with Mailchimp. (KM)
4. Use an Email Follow up Sequence
Incentivize people to give you their email address by offering a “bonus” in the back of your book and then aske them for reviews. (KM)
5. Go Beyond Amazon and Find Book Review Blogs on Google
You find the blogger, send them an email talking about the book and offering to send them a copy if they would review it. (Could be a digital copy. Keep your costs low and send out digital wherever possible!) (KM)
6. Book Review Sites? (Be Wary!) 
There are services that will request reviews for you. But, like everything in the indie publishing world, you have to be careful. There are scammers out there who will take your money, but then not do the work. (KM)
Concept: The reviewer is not compensated other than receiving the free copy of the book, and they are not required to leave a review. 
What’s not allowed is paying directly for folks to review your book, or providing any type of incentive to do so. (Again, any incentive other than a digital or print copy of your book.) 
7. Have an Audiobook? Get that Reviewed Too!"
Seems kind of stupid to me. Indies should not go to the big expense of audio if the ebook or printed book isn’t selling. (KM)

Read the entire article.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Copyright: Protect Your Rights!



Hang on to your rights when you publish your book. Apparently, many traditional publishers are now trying to grab all the rights as part of their arrangement. According to this post, you should avoid that!

Think this isn’t an issue for indie publishers? Wrong. The services I utilize do not take any of my rights. By using KDP or Draft2Digital, I license those services to host and distribute my ebooks. However, I still own the copyrights. Those terms can change at any time though, so when I get an email from them indicating the terms of service are changing, I take the time to go see what they are up to. For those of you who have decided to go with hybrid publishers, check the terms of service or your contracts very carefully! Your copyrights are your property; do not give them away without being compensated!

You do not have to register your book when you indie publish it, and pay the $35 fee. You do have to register it prior to filing a lawsuit for infringement however.

From the article:
"If you have published a novel, traditionally or indie, and you do not understand copyright, you are volunteering to get screwed over and over and over again. I say this often, and I’m saying it loudly again, because the trend for 2019 and beyond is that every organization you do business with will try to take a piece (if not all) of your copyright on each and every one of your projects. 
I recommend publishing indie, because that’s the best way to protect yourself and your writing income. You’ll have a career if you do that. Your career might vanish on you if you try to remain traditional. Or, rather, you will write as a “hobby” while you make your living doing something else. 
The more IP a company acquires, the more its value goes up. Your novel is IP. If they acquire it, their bottom line goes up, even if they never do anything with that IP. 
Those conglomerates put all of the intellectual property on their account books as an asset. So your novel—even if it’s more or less out of print (or has a $19.99 ebook like my novel Fantasy Life)—has a value assigned to it that reflects not only its earnings right now, but its potential earnings in the future. 
*** 
In fact, we just had interest on one of my books from a Hollywood production company. They wanted to “see” the book—from me or my representative. However, before letting them “see” it, I had to sign a document giving them some copyright in the book—even if they chose not to option the book. Not kidding. 
This, a book they could have bought on any one of a dozen sites or stores. They came to us directly so that they could sneakily get a slice of copyright, just in case I wasn’t paying attention to the legalities and niceties of copyright law. 
I refused to let them “see” the book, and did not bother to tell them they could buy it themselves, just in case they would take that as an acceptance of their stupid little legal ploy. 
Sneaky! (KM) 
This, by the way, was not a fly-by-night production company, but one of the largest in the world, fronted by two very famous hyphenates you would recognize. I always wonder, when I see things like this, how many writers were flattered that representatives of these two famous people were interested in their teeny tiny book."
Read the entire article.

For more information on copyright:

Copyright Basics: https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ01.pdf

Copyright Registration: https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ02.pdf

General information about copyright: https://www.copyright.gov/circs/

Friday, February 8, 2019

Writing a Great Book Description

Three things are critical to your success as an indie publisher: the book, the cover, and the blurb. Last week, I posted information I found about cover design. This week I found some good articles about book descriptions. As I said in my presentation at the Elgin Literary Festival, I believe that authors should not write their book’s description. Authors tend to write descriptions that describe the book, not sell the book. So, given we all don’t know a copywriter, or have the funds to hire one, how can we write a better description, one that compels the potential reader to buy the book?

I found three articles that address this issue. From the first two articles (a part 1 and part 2 setup):
"There’s a common bit of advice that authors need to “grab readers by the throat” with the first paragraph. 
I fear writers who take that long are already struggling to play catch up. 
For me, as a reader and now as a publisher, more important to me than first paragraphs are titles and book descriptions. 
It used to be that readers would browse books and pick one up based on a title. They might look at a cover, but after the title, most readers checked either the inner dust jacket (remember those?) or the back cover of the paperback (remember those?). 
Nowadays there’s no such browsing. You get thumbnails and titles, and then a book description, all while that “Buy Now” button hovers so prominently as to be rarely seen at all until you need to click."
The examples he cites in the article are very long descriptions; perhaps descriptions don’t need to be short anymore. I think people are now so used to scrolling that the “keep everything above the fold” advice no longer applies. (KM)
"You DON’T want to give away major plot points. You DON’T want to reveal twists that are going to dig your hook deeper into your readers to ensure the HAVE TO keep turning pages. 
But you do want to allude to them.

You don’t want to give away the ending of your book, or even major plot points. What you DO want to do is two-fold: indicate what’s at stake and why it matters, because that’s where the emotions come from. You don’t want to tell your readers what obstacles your character needs to overcome and how they’ll do so; what your character is trying to achieve that those obstacles are in the way of, and why those achievements matter to your character."
Read both articles: Part 1 and Part 2.

I also came across this great article on the Draft2Digital site. As my blog readers know, I recently put one of my books on Draft2Digital to test the process. It worked great. No sales yet, but without advertising (or a decent book description, do as I say, not as I do), that isn't a big surprise.

From that article:
"You may call it a ‘blurb’ or ‘back cover copy’ or ‘all that text I have to paste into my book page.’ Whatever your name for it, you can’t afford to ignore it. After your cover, the product description of your book is the first experience the reader has with you as an author. So getting it right is the proverbial ‘big deal.’ 
Most book descriptions have less to do with the story of the book, and more to do with the story of the reader. Tell the reader about the journey they're going to take, rather than trying to create a shorthand or synopsis of your book. 
People forget this all the time, but you have to remember that you're writing marketing material, not a short story. And you always have to ask for what you want.
It's a psychological trigger."
Also, the online book description is what really matters, not what is on the back of the book. Since so few indie published books end up in bookstores, the back of the book could be blank! The online description can change as often as needed. It is now what sells the book in our digital age! (KM)

Read the entirety of this great article.


Friday, February 1, 2019

How to Design a Great Book Cover

This is one of the best, and most comprehensive, articles I have read about book covers.
"Covers are the first bit of customer-facing marketing that your reader will ever see. They’re a shortcut—telling the reader in shorthand that they’ll like this book, that it’s in the genre they love to read, and that the person who wrote it is someone they can trust with their valuable (often limited) reading time.
[No pressure though! KM]
We can scan an entire digital page or an entire physical display of books, and in seconds we’ll spot the one or two that make us feel that little twinge of excitement. Something about the cover—the tone of it, the action and drama, the artistic style—gets us to pick it up or click on it, and learn more.

Your cover is its own story, and readers are looking at it as a way to help them make a purchasing and reading decision.

The cover is designed to entice the reader, to get them to pick up the book. But it doesn’t tell the story in and of itself. It provides a scene—a hero in jeopardy, or performing some heroic act, or simply surprised by some off-screen revelation. That cover is there to get the reader to pick up the book and open it, and the story inside takes care of the rest. 
***
… one of the unconscious signs of an “indie published book” is the size and treatment of the author’s name. And though we all have immense indie pride, we still have to try to meet the expectations of our readers. And readers want to think of authors as being grand and larger than life. 
[Don’t make your name too small on the cover. KM] 
*** 
In our digital age, the first time someone sees your cover is most likely in a grid of other covers, and at the size of a postage stamp. That tiny little rectangle is all your reader gets to make their very first decision about you and your book.

So everything else aside, one of the most important aspects of cover design is the answer to this question: How well does it scale down?
*** 
… do yourself and your readers the great favor of letting the professionals do their job. Your cover and your book sales will be the better for it. And you’ll have the even greater benefit of having more time to write books, which is better for everyone."
There is quite a bit more, definitely worth reading. Read the whole article!

Beautiful Fall Day

It's a beautiful fall day here in Illinois. Seen on the Fox River Trail