And while those reviews are still golden, today’s world of self-published authors, Amazon, and online reviews have turned the concept of book reviews upside down.
With that in mind, here are some ways that authors like you can get reviews of their books nowadays (and my commentary at the end):
1. Reach out to reviewers and bloggers in your genre. Submit an e-copy of your book to a reviewer or blogger and explain why his/her readership would benefit from exposure to your book.
2. Offer to exchange reviews with another newly-published author. This type of authors swap is becoming very popular.
3. Email friends and family asking them to post reviews of your book on Amazon. Extra points if that same person has actually purchased it from Amazon; that way, the review is labeled as a “verified purchase”
4. Communicate with people on GoodReads who are interested in books in your genre. Bring your book to their attention.
5. Look for Amazon reviewers who commonly review books in your genre. Tell them about your book and see if they’d be interested in a free copy.
6. Make it easy for readers to contact you. Then, when people send you comments about your book, ask for their permission to use it as a sort of review. You can also ask them to reprint it on Amazon, if they don’t mind.
7. Remind, remind, remind. Do you have followers on Facebook? People who read your blog? Keep reminding them to review your book on Amazon or GoodReads.
8. Pay for a Kirkus review. Yup, you can do that now. Say what you wish.
And now on to #9 … a really interesting (albeit, controversial) method I read about on LinkedIn…
9. Incentivize it for your readers! Here’s the quote from one author, who will remain nameless:
Basically, readers earn points for making recommendations. A reader gets so many points for each recommendation and a larger number of points if the person emailed to purchases the book. Readers then earn a proportionate share in the profits based on the ratio of their points to total points.
In my case, I’m going to share 50% of the cash receipts (instead of profits because I think that works better) hoping that the extra volume of sales will provide me with a greater net return than if I did not share the cash receipts.
Well, that’s …. creative. Is it a marketing tactic? Of course! Is it legal? Yup. Is it ethical? Well, that’s questionable. After all, what reader would write a negative review of a book if he/she has a potential to reap a percentage of the profits?
And that’s where all of this gets sticky. In the old days, you knew that a book review you were reading was a real review. If a review had five stars, that’s because the book was good enough to deserve five stars.
But today, when you read a review, you have no idea about the “agreement” that went into the review. Was the reviewer a relative of the author? Was he/she being paid for it? Is he/she getting a percentage of the profits from the book?
So are these techniques ethical? Well, that’s not my place to judge. But they are techniques that can be used to generate some reviews for your book. Use them at your own peril.
And if you have other techniques for getting reviews, please share them with us!
For the past few months, Publishers Weekly has been printing a monthly report from CoverCake about the most talked about books in social media. And these lists (and the corresponding analysis) have taught me a thing or two!
First, here’s how CoverCake describes itself:
At CoverCake, we are focused on helping organizations, their brands and their products engage with people. Our philosophy is based on a platform that simplifies and cuts through huge amounts of data in the social media universe to provide you with the necessary information you need to have a meaningful relationship with your customers.
And now on to what their stats about books and social media have taught me…
1. It might be nice to have your book turned into a film. This certainly is no surprise, but it is noteworthy. According to Publishers Weekly, and based on the monthly report from CoverCake, “Thanks to the warm critical reception and box-office domination of the film adaptation of Catching Fire, released November 22 and starring Jennifer Lawrence and Liam Hemsworth, the second book in Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy was the most-talked-about book on social media for the month of November.”
2. When a book catches fire on social media, it really catches fire. For the past two months, the book that’s #1 on the CoverCake list far outperforms all the others on the list. “Like Catching Fire in November, Allegiant, in October, was the subject of twice as many social media conversations than the second most-buzzed-about book that month,” Publishers Weekly reports.
3. Men and women talk about different things on social media. It’s no secret that women use social media more than men do. It’s also no secret that women read books more than men do. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that for most of the titles on these lists, women generated more of the chatter than men. But that’s not always true. In fact, according to Publishers Weekly, “Men initiated 61% of the social media conversations about Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard’s Killing Jesus, and 62% of the commentary on Mitch Albom’s The First Phone Call From Heaven, which was released November 12.”
4. Books can hover near the top of the social media list for months on end. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins has hovered consistently in or around the top 10 books in CoverCake’s ranking for the entire year, according to Jeff Costello, v-p of CoverCake. This just goes to show you that good buzz can continue for an extended period of time.
5. A book doesn’t even have to be released yet to be a hot topic of conversation. In the CoverCake report for the month of September, two of the most talked about books hadn’t even hit the printer yet. They were House of Hades, by Rick Riordan (released in early October) at number two, and Allegiant, the final installment of Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy, which was released on October 22nd, at number four. The lesson to be learned here? It’s never too early to start building buzz for your book.
Want do do some analysis of your own? Here is CoverCake’s list of the 10 most buzzed about books on social networking sites in the month of November. Enjoy!
But seriously, we all know that those are the two most commonly-used social networking tools in the digital world. But that doesn’t mean authors should be ignoring all the other social networking avenues out there.
In the past few weeks, I’ve stumbled across a slew of articles about some of the other communities that have been helpful to authors in their efforts to promote themselves and their books. With that in mind, here are some other sites to keep an eye on, and advice on the best ways to use each one.
Yes, it’s a lot like Facebook. And yes, it’s a lot less popular than Facebook. But Google+ offers a whole slew of additional benefits, including improved search engine optimization (after all … Google loves Google+), profiles that tie into your blog bylines via Google Authorship, and “circles” that allow you to have one profile, but separate your messages from family to messages to readers.
According to an article by Jane Friedman:
Here’s what a search result looks like without Google Authorship set up:
Here’s a search result with Google Authorship:
Goodreads is where readers converge to discuss novels, offer book recommendations, write reviews, and keep a list of the books they’ve read and want to read. All told, there are 18 million readers on that site. If you can get 1% of them to buy your book, you’re doing pretty darn well.
So how should an author use GoodReads? Here are some steps, courtesy of Lisa Verge Higgins:
1. Join GoodReads. First, you must join as a reader … later, we will explain how to join as an author. Just make sure you join under the same name that you write with!
2. Connect with friends and fans. Much like other social networking sites, the larger a group you build, the more people you will reach.
3. Connect your name to your books. Start by searching for one of your books. Then click on your hot-linked author name, which will bring up your author profile. Next, look around for a link that asks “Is This You? Let Us Know.” This is where you can identify yourself!
4. Take advantage of your profile. Fill it all out. Include links to your website and your blog. Tie in links to your Facebook/Twitter accounts, and upload video trailers. You can even post your future events and invite friends.
5. Get your book on other readers’ “to be read” list.” Here are some ways that Lisa recommends you do that:
- Widgets. Goodreads will create for you html strings for a variety of widgets that you can insert directly into your website. Some are simple buttons that, with one-click, adds a book to a TBR list. Other widgets are more elaborate and include a scroll of the highest-rated reviews for your book.
- Advertise. The last time did this, it was a beta system, and I ran an ad to support a giveaway I was running on one of my books. I didn’t think it was particularly effective, but the metrics may change now that they’re working with Amazon.
- The Almighty Giveaway: This is Goodreads most powerful offering, and but for the cost of books and postage, it’s FREE. Currently, Goodreads only allows giveaways of PRINT books, but that may soon change. The point of a giveaway is to increase the number of folks who put your book on their TBR list, and to (hopefully) generate pre-publication reviews from the readers who win. The control is all in your hands: You get to choose how many books to offer, the geographical limits, and the time length of the giveaway. When the giveaway is over, Goodreads will send you the names and addresses of the winners which you must pinky-swear to burn after you’ve shipped the books.
- Goodreads’ Greatest Perk for Book Launches. If you’re launching a book, it’s strongly suggested that you run a giveaway three months and then three weeks before the release date. Why? On your lay-down date, Goodreads will send out a targeted email to announce your book’s arrival to everyone who has your book on their TBR list. That’s pinpoint-targeted publicity, and it costs absolutely nothing.
Pinterest is a digital scrapbook that lets you post images you like to your profile. You follow people, and they follow you. Words are few and far between. Pictures — both your own and others you stumble upon on the web — run amok. So why is this a site I’m mentioning for authors?
Well, it’s certainly not worth the time and effort for all authors. But if your book is very visual (i.e. it’s a cookbook with photos), if you have illustrations/graphics in it, or if your book appeals primarily to a female audience (who spend a lot of time on Pinterest), it may be worth your while. Here is some advice on using it, courtesy of Randy Ross.
1. What to Pin
– Your own: photos, blog posts, Youtube videos, audio, Powerpoint presentations saved to Slideshare.
– Other peoples’ images etc: As with all social media, people will tune you out if you’re just flogging your own stuff.
2. Don’t Pin Hundreds of Things at once
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a prescheduling tool, so you’ll have to spend some pinning images regularly.
3. If you Pin a book cover, get the image from a page selling the book or a page with a review of the book. Pin your own book covers — if you have a book. And create a Pinterest page, or Board, for your friends’ books.
4. Create a Pinterest Board for writers similar to yours. The old, “if you liked these folks, you’ll like me.”
5. Create a Board for characters in your novel, destinations mentioned in your travel blog, other background you’ve used in your writing.
So which of these three sites (or the wealth of others out there) are right for you? Well, start by using some common sense. Figure out who your audience is and which sites they spend their time on. Then take your best guess and dive head-first into one of these communities. Give it your time and attention for a month or so. If your numbers improve, then keep it up. If not, then refocus your attention on another site.
As with everything else in life, it’s trial and error.
I’ve worked in the web industry for 15 years. I’ve been talking about SEO and ROI for as long as I can remember. But what I often don’t remember is that most people don’t know exactly what those acronyms mean.
With that in mind, here are the translations of a wealth of abbreviations you might hear as you talk about building and maintaining your author website (and why it’s important to understand them).
- B2B – Business to business
(If you wrote a book for businesses, you’d build a B2B site)
- B2C – Business to consumer
(The large majority of books are for general readers; those authors build B2C sites)
- CMS – Content management system
(We use WordPress, but there are a variety of CMSs used to house website content and allow authors to make their own updates)
- CTR - Click-thru rate
(Let’s say you send out a newsletter to promote your website. The percentage of people who actually click on the link from that newsletter to your site is your click-thru rate.)
- FTP – File Transfer Protocol
(Changes are often made to your site via FTP. It’s basically a way to upload and download files from the web to your computer)
- HTML – HyperText Markup Language
(Many of our older sites — pre WordPress — were built in HTML, or straight web code)
- PPC – Pay per click
(If you were to run a paid ad campaign, you would do so on a pay-per-click basis)
- RSS - Really simple syndication
(This refers to a simple way for people to sign up and receive notification every time you post a new blog entry)
- ROI- Return on investment
(How do you know if your PPC campaign is working? That’s based on how much money you’ve made off of it, or your return on investment)
- SEM – Search engine marketing
(That paid ad campaign I just mentioned? It would be part of a search engine marketing campaign)
- SEO - Search engine optimization
(This is the organic — i.e. free — way to get your site to appear near the top of Google search results)
- SMM – Social media marketing
(This refers to your efforts to market your book and your site through Facebook, Twitter, etc…)
- URL - Uniform Resource Locator
(This is your website address. Every site must have a unique URL)
- WYSIWYG – What you see is what you get
(Have you ever made an update in WordPress, and been able to make changes without having to adjust code? That’s WYSIWYG)
Whew! Are you lettered out yet?
If you’ve heard other terms and aren’t sure what they mean, feel free to post a question in the “comments” section below! I’ll do my best to help!
Picture this. You go to an author’s website. Or you end up on the website because … well … you’re not quite sure how. The homepage of the website includes the author’s name in huge letters, on top of a large, adorable photo of him or her. “Aw … what a nice photo,” you think.
But then what? I mean, what have you learned about this author from that homepage? That he or she is attractive? That he has spent some money on online marketing? What’s most important is what you don’t know: who this person really is and what he or she writes about.
You see, when you stumble across a website that says “Seth Jones” — with no additional information — you have no idea if Seth Jones is a respected attorney who has written a book about his area of expertise or if he is a novelist who writes about alien invasions from his basement.
Enter the idea of an author tagline.
One thing that I frequently recommend for authors is that they add a brief line of text underneath their name to quickly and succinctly let visitors understand whose site they’re on and what they should expect to find there.
Examples of good author taglines we’ve created include:
- Ekaterina Books: Fiction for the young at heart
- Amy Beth Arkawy: Author. Creativity coach. Radio host
- Thomas Richard Harry: Challenging today’s party politics
- Steve Roberts: Action adventure, new characters, new places
- Veronica Tiller: Native woman writing about her native America
- Lauren Bloom: Practical, ethical solutions
- Richard A.M. Dixon: Adventures of an infantry soldier
- Jim Flinchum: Advisor for the rich and author for all
See what these taglines give you? They not only give you an idea of what type of books the author has written, but they also give you an idea of the author’s personality and voice. A funny tagline translates to a funny author. A provocative tagline translates to a provocative author. And so on.
So how does an author go about finding the right tagline? Here are some guidelines…
- Define what makes you unique. Sure, you’re a novelist. But what makes you different from the other millions of people out there who have written fiction? So go beyond just naming your genre and think about what makes you different. Do you offer historical fiction with a twist? Is your book where adventure meets romance? Be as specific as you can about what makes your writing different and unique.
- Sit with it for a while before finalizing it. This is going to be your brand. So don’t make a decision on it too quickly. Make sure the tagline is written in your voice and signature tone. Make sure your personality is interjected into it. And pick something that you can stick with for a while.
- KISS: You know what this stands for. Keep It Simple Stupid. Don’t write an entire paragraph explaining what makes you unique. Keep it memorable and short (think three to eight words). No one is going to read anything longer than that.
Case #1: Kindle Countdown Deals
Here’s how Amazon describes it:
Kindle Countdown Deals is a new KDP Select benefit that allows authors to run limited-time discount promotions on their books, which can help earn more royalties and reach more readers. Customers can see the regular price and the promotional price on the book’s detail page, as well as a countdown clock telling them how much time is left at the promotional price. You’ll also continue to earn your selected royalty rate on each sale during the promotion.
Here are some of the benefits of Kindle Countdown Deals:
2) Customers see the regular price: It’s easy for customers to see the great deal they’re getting, as the regular price is included on the book’s detail page, right beside the promotional price.
3) Royalty rate is retained at lower prices: You will earn royalties based on your regular royalty rate and the promotional price. As a result, if you are using the 70% royalty option, you’ll earn 70% even if the price is below $2.99.
4) There’s a dedicated website: Customers can easily browse active; Kindle Countdown Deals at www.amazon.com/kindlecountdowndeals, providing yet another way for books to be discovered.
5) You can monitor performance in real-time: A new KDP report displays sales and royalties at each price discount side-by-side with pre-promotion performance, so it’s easy to compare.
Say for example your book has a list price of $4.99, and you start a promotion on Monday at 8 A.M. your time, with a starting price of $1.99. You set three price increments to run 24 hours each.
During each promotional day, your book’s detail page will display a counter announcing the promotion, the current price, the time remaining until the price changes, and the next price.
Case #2: Kindle First
As Amazon describes this new program:
Amazon Publishing editors select four new books each month.
Readers can buy one featured book for $1.99 every month.
Okay, so you’ve built an author website. Congratulations! But just because the site is live doesn’t mean that people will find it. Here’s what you need to know about all the ways people can and will find your site, and what you can do to increase the odds of it happening.
1. Search engines. Optimize your site properly and people searching for your name, your book title, or the subject matter of your book will find your website near the top of their search results. This is probably one of the most important efforts you can put in to building your website! A blog can also be a huge tool in terms of boosting your traffic from the search engines.
2. Interviews. Plan to do an interview with your local TV or radio station? How about the newspaper? Always — and I repeat, always — mention your web address. People will undoubtedly go there to learn more about you.
3. Offline materials. Print business cards with your domain name on it. Make mouse pads, pencils, mini-calendars … whatever suits your fancy. But make sure to print your URL in big, bold letters on whatever you have made.
4. Your email signature. Every email you send should include your name, your book title, and your web address at the footer. This doesn’t cost a thing to set up, so it’s a no-brainer.
5. Social sharing. Let’s say you keep a blog on your site (which I highly recommend). Someone will read one of your posts. Someone will like one of your posts. That person may then choose to share your post on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. Voila! A whole new audience has been exposed to your site.
6. Word of mouth. Make sure to talk about your writing — and your website — wherever it’s appropriate. Chat with strangers at the airport. Mention it to colleagues at work, or friends at a birthday party. Spread the word!
7. Cross-promotion. Make sure to include links to your author site from your Facebook page, your Google+ account, etc…
8. Cross-linking. Are there other authors whose works you like? Do you know people who write in a similar genre? Reach out to other authors (or organizations, individuals, etc…) and ask if they’d be interested in linking to your site, and vice versa. This is a great way to expose your target audience to your writings.
9. YouTube. Do you have a YouTube account? Have you uploaded any videos about your writings and your books? Make sure your YouTube account provides a nice segue to your author site.
10. Paid online advertising. There are a variety of ways to “advertise” online — from paid banner ads to Google Adwords campaigns to Facebook “boosts.” But before you start shelling out money for these sorts of things, talk to an expert who can guide you towards the efforts that will provide the best bang for your buck.
Can you think of any other ways that someone may find your site? Share them with us!
I’ve helped build websites for hundreds of authors. I’ve seen the best and the worst. And while I could list a whole lot more than 20 “don’ts” here, I’m going to limit the damage to just the most egregious errors.
Without further ado … 20 things not to do with your author website:
1. Incorporate a blog … and then never update it.
2. Create a Flash-only homepage that isn’t viewable on a mobile device.
3. Make it difficult to actually buy the book.
4. Talk too much about yourself.
5. Have audio that plays as soon as someone arrives (talk about a way to get people to leave!)
6. Promote the book instead of what people will actually get out of the book.
7. Not have a place where readers can submit questions or comments.
8. Use the site like a portfolio that’s never updated.
9. Have a site navigation that is complicated or changes from page to page.
10. Not make it clear upon arrival what your genre/subject matter is.
11. Go too image-heavy in the design. (This can seriously increase load time and hurt search engine optimization.)
12. Go too text-heavy in the design. (Sure, this sounds contradictory, but it needs to be a balance.)
13. Not have a way to collect email addresses. This is a marketing no-no!
14. Keep the site design the same for decades. Seriously.
15. Forget to integrate social media buttons, widgets, etc…
16. Name the site after the first book … and then publish another book. Oops!
17. Not optimize the site for keywords.
18. Design a site that in no way resembles the book cover.
19. Not include downloadable photos, press releases, etc… for the media.
20. Put the most important information on the homepage and only the homepage. (A large percentage of visitors will never see your homepage!)
Okay, I’m out. I’m sure I could come up with 20 more, but now I punt to you. What are the mistakes you often see on author sites? Share them with me!
I came across a really interesting conversation on LinkedIn this morning. The question: What are the most ridiculous myths you’ve heard about writing and writers.
Here are the responses I’ve found (so far). And please use the comments section at the bottom to share your own!
That people don’t judge a book by it’s cover.
Of course, they do. (This includes endorsements on cover etc.)
What else do they have to go on, unless someone has recommended it.
Writing’s easy and we all make as much as Grisham or King
That you will have no trouble talking about it at a party.
They make a lot of money.
Writers are inherently antisocial. The disclaimer at the beginning of every novel: “All characters, locations…are fictional and figments of the author’s imagination.” Well, what inspired those aforementioned figments? Social interactions and life experiences.
I’ll add one of my own here as well. I’ll say that one of the most ridiculous myths is that all you have to do is write a good book and it will sell itself. That is soooo not the case. Being a successful author requires being a good marketer as well. And that’s true whether you self publish your book or go through a traditional publishing house. Writing a good book is just step one. Promoting it is just as important.
Okay, your turn! What is the most ridiculous myth you’ve heard about writers? Share it below!
I tell every client the same thing: each and every author website is different. And an author’s homepage is no exception.
For example, compare the website that belongs to a doctor who writes and speaks about his area of expertise with that of a novelist who writes about alien invasions and doesn’t want anyone to know what he looks like. Different websites? Absolutely. Different homepages? Yup.
With that in mind, here are five types of homepage strategies, and the types of authors they work best for.
1. The author-centric homepage. This type of homepage is perfect for the author who wants to build his or her presence online. The primary picture on the homepage is that of the author, and the author’s name is also prominently displayed. When you arrive on a site like this, there’s no doubt what it’s about: the author.
2. The book-focused homepage. Sometimes, a website is built with the specific goal of promoting a specific book. That homepage includes a prominent photo of the book cover, along with a book description, links to read more about the book, possibly a book trailer, and (of course) links to purchase the book.
3. The series-of-books-focused homepage. Often, a writer has completed more than one book. He or she wants to promote all of those books on the homepage, with very little focus on him or herself. On those homepages, we feature a compilation of books, highlighting each one’s strengths.
4. The information-centric homepage. Maybe you wrote a book about a specific topic that you find very important. The purpose of your website is not only to promote that book, but also to spread the word about this very important subject matter. This type of homepage is chock full of information about the cause, as well as photos of the book, the author, etc…
5. The welcoming homepage. Some authors like to use their homepages as “windows” of sorts into their websites, their books, their personal lives, etc… Sites like these usually have a homepage that features a “Welcome” message (there was even an article about this recently in the Huffington Post), which serves to explain who the author is and what he or she hopes you will get out of the website and the books. This homepage also usually includes links to the various sections of the site, so that a reader can easily learn more about the author, the books, etc…
Now, I have described for you these five types of author website homepages; they are all different and unique in their own way. But remember: you don’t necessarily have to pick one of these and run with it. In fact, these 10 examples that I’ve sent you make up just a fraction of the 200+ author websites we’ve built. And a large portion of those are some hybrid of two or more of these types of homepages.
So before you start building your own author site, I recommend you take a look at these vastly different styles of author homepages. Figure out which ones best match what you’re looking to do. And talk with your web designer (hopefully us!) about how you can create the perfect homepage to meet your needs.