Archive for January, 2012
A GREAT article was released over the weekend in the Houston Chronicle. In it, they covered a variety of authors and the creative things each of them are doing to promote their books. Here are some highlights … don’t be afraid to steal ideas!
Author of Dirty Minds: How Our Brains Influence Love, Sex and Relationships
Release date: January 3, 2012
- We kid you not …Kayt Sukel stimulated herself to orgasm while an fMRI scanner tracked the flow of blood to her brain. Her first-person story about this ordinarily intimate act appeared in New Scientist in May, under the headline “Sex on the Brain.” Talk about a viral book promotion!
- Sukel tweeted questions to her followers, hoping to elicit comments that might provide fodder for the book.
- She held contests on the book’s Facebook page, “This Is Your Brain on Love.”
- When a similar orgasm story surfaced — this time with a video (of someone else) from the same New Jersey lab — Sukel blogged about it from a new angle.
- On Jan. 3, when Dirty Minds was released, Sukel hosted a lively Twitter chat.
- She is currently working on writing another piece for CNN about her research.
Author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Release date: February, 2010
- Fast fact: Rebecca was actually Kayt’s inspiration!
- Rebecca began reviewing books, using her own book’s title in the tagline of her reviews for publicity.
- While she was working on her book, Rebecca started doing some freelance writing for O, the Oprah Magazine. As she got to know the editors, she took every opportunity to chat up her book and — not surprisingly — O agreed to excerpt the book when it was released in February 2010.
- After the book’s release, she did more than 200 speaking events. Two years later, she’s still on tour today.
Author of Pym
Release date: 2010
- Mat built himself quite a twitter following. As a creative writing professor, he built 40,000 followers. As a humorist, he built “a loyal, literary audience made up of magazine and newspaper writers, other fiction writers, even celebrities.” Together, he has a vast audience of fans of his writing and fans of his tweeting … that translates into book sales.
- His humorous tweets, of course, all include some degree of self promotion. And retweeting doesn’t hurt either … many of his posts are retweeted and shared with an even larger audience
Author of A Safeway in Arizona: What the Gabrielle Giffords Shooting Tells Us About the Grand Canyon State and Life in America.
Release date: 2011
- Given the serious nature of the book, Tom decided against using social media to promote it.
- Instead, the former journalist wrote opinion pieces and reported stories for a number of publications. All of them, of course, included elements from the book.
- Several years before, he had appeared on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart to promote his 2009 title, Uranium. And there’s no denying: TV scoops up a broader range of viewers than a Twitter feed or a Facebook page.
Author of The Passage
Release date: 2010
- With the full support of his publisher, Ballantine (which promoted The Passage at BookExpo America, by the way), Justin produced video trailers, and explored alternative advertising — including phone kiosk signs in New York and billboards in Los Angeles.
- Cronin landed an interview on TV’s Good Morning America the day the book was released.
- What he didn’t expect was what happened during the interview … Stephen King would call in to praise The Passage. Cronin says of the unexpected surprise: it was nice to “have the hand of the great father” on his shoulder.
We should all be so lucky. But maybe one or two of these ideas can turn you into the next bestselling author.
The short answer? As little as possible.
We know that you want to make money off of your book. But before you can become a bestselling author, you have to create a little buzz for yourself. The best way to start doing that is to allow people to read your book for dirt cheap. If they love it (as you’re probably pretty confident they will), and the word starts spreading about your book, then you can consider raising the price.
Consider these two separate blurbs that I found on PublishersWeekly.com today…
- The top of the Kindle romance bestseller list favors the cheap. The top five titles are all $1.99 or less, with three of the five priced at 99 cents. The titles are, in order, Wife by Wednesday by Catherine Bybee, Golden Lies by Barbara Freethy, Daddy’s Home by A.K. Alexander, Not What She Seems by Victorine E. Lieske, and Eye of the Beholder by Emma Jay.
- The Kindle Daily Deal, which drastically reduces the price on one Kindle book for a 24-hour period, featured on January 24 A Heart of Freedom by Chai Ling, cutting its price from $10.79 to $1.99. The book immediately jumped to the top of the paid Kindle charts, but what’s more interesting is the book’s staying power: as of January 25, the day after the deal with its price back up to $10.79, Ling’s book is still at number four on the chart, showing that the Kindle Daily Deal helps a book for longer than a 24-hour window.
In her blog, Ruth Ann Nordin argues that you should charge what you think your book is worth, which is most cases is more than 99 cents. That’s a valid argument. But then, in the same post, she goes on to say this:
“Now, if you’re cheap like me, you’ll be scouting out freebies and $0.99 deals. This is why I do that with my own books, by the way. I am not willing to spend more than $1.99 on a new author, and if I have to spend that $1.99, then I better really like the plot idea. If I spend any more than that, then I obviously know the author and really like them. When it comes to supporting people I care about, I’ll throw in the extra couple of bucks. But most of my time is spent looking at free ebooks. So that is why I price my books at no more than $0.99. Fair is fair, right?”
Look, if you’re an author who is already well-known and well-respected, then charge as much as you think your book is worth (after all, an ebook costs you nothing to “print”). But if you’re an author just starting out — as most of my clients are — then you have nothing to lose and a lot to gain by pricing your ebook really, really low. Sure, you might not make as much money up front. But doing so greatly increases the likelihood that you’ll ultimately become one of those authors who can charge $10-$15 for an ebook and still sell a lot of them. Now that’s a profit!
Everybody wants to spread the word about their book. And getting good reviews is the best way to do that.
But getting your book reviewed isn’t always easy. Or cheap. Here are some ideas on how to improve your chances of getting kick-ass book reviews.
1. Reach out to bloggers. This is one of the post-launch marketing services we offer our authors. As part of this package, we target about 20 bloggers who have a history of reviewing books in your genre(s). We then reach out to them, inform them about your book, and really sell the idea of them reviewing it. Generally, we hear back from about 25% of those contacted and they’re interested in following up. That’s one step closer to getting your book reviewed on their site!
2. Offer free e-copies of your book. I hear from a lot of authors who have sent around hundreds of hard copies of their book, and maybe gotten one or two reviews out of it. That’s a lot of money to spend for something that may or may not pan out. Make sure you have a PDF or ebook available, and send it electronically to all of the reviewers you’re contacting. You could reach out to 100 or 1000. It’s an ebook, and it’s free, so it won’t cost you anything more than time.
3. Pay for a review. If neither of the top two options seem to pan out for you, then consider paying for a review. It won’t guarantee you a good review, but that’s another story. Kirkus is the most well-respected of the organizations that accept payment for a review, although it’s not cheap: $425 for standard service (7-9 weeks) or $575 for express service (3-4 weeks). Still, there’s nothing like a good quote from a Kirkus review to put on your homepage.
4. Go Amazon. There are plenty of Amazon reviewers out there who will be happy to review your book if you give them a free Kindle edition. Do some research to find an Amazon reviewer who commonly writes about books in your genre. Reach out to them and ask that they review your book. A great quote from one of those reviews can be a central piece of your marketing efforts.
5. Consider cross-reviewing. I have heard stories about newly-published authors who team up and review each other’s books. True, neither of them are professional reviewers. But it’s nice to have a quote or two from an author about what a great book you’ve written.
Do you have any other great ideas for getting your book reviewed? Share them with us!
We know that self-publishing is the fastest-growing segment of the publishing industry. We also know that the Apple iStore is one of the most common places for purchasing self-published e-books. Well, we shouldn’t be surprised that the two are now meeting … and turning an industry upside-down to boot.
At their most recent presentation, Apple introduced iBooks 2, a new multimedia textbook platform, and iBooks Author, which is being promoted as “a shockingly easy authoring tool to create them.”
And yes, even though the tool seems to focus on textbooks, this incredibly easy system will allow authors to create any type of book and easily transform it into an ebook and put it up for sale on the iBookstore. It’s really that simple.
According to Publishers Weekly, “any author can follow the template or make up a new one and drag-and-drop prepared materials like text and video right into the new book. Once complete, a push of the button places it in the iBookstore in a digital marketplace holding hundreds of millions of credit card numbers.”
And if that’s not enough, here’s another piece of news: both the new iBooks 2 app and iBooks Author app are free. That’s unlike any other self-publishing tool or e-book conversion tool out there.
On a side note, I’m curious to see how this change is going to impact other self-publishing big-wigs, like CreateSpace. Nor do we have any information yet on whether these books created for iPads can easily be transformed into Kindle or NOOK versions. All of that is to come, I’m sure. So stay tuned.
No matter what, though, we have to hand it to Apple. They continue to lead the pack in just about everything.
Remember when blogging was all the rage for authors? Well, it still is an essential (I recommend that all authors blog), but it seems that the latest version of blogging is in the form of audio. They’re podcasts.
According to an article in Publishers Weekly, more and more authors are using podcasts, “as a way to build readership and bring attention to their sites.”
Who’s Doing Them?
There are a bunch of literary sites on the west coast that are doing regular author interviews via podcast. They include Brad Listi’s the Nervous Breakdown, Tom Lutz’s Los Angeles Review of Books, and Tyson Cornell’s company Rare Bird Lit.
Listi believes podcast are a great way for authors to connect directly with readers: “[Authors] are interesting and down to earth, and this is what I want to bring to our listeners.”
Authors can also do podcasts themselves. There are numerous authors who have used podcasts to replace their blog.
Who Listens to Them?
“One of the most obvious markets for them is the commuter market, whether it’s people riding on subways or driving in their cars,” Lutz tells PW. Lutz goes on to add that in his best month, his podcasts received over 100,000 hits. So people are definitely listening.
What Should You Talk About on a Podcast?
Sure, you should mention your book. But try to avoid having that be the bread and butter of the interview. “I see the book as the product and the author as the brand, and podcasts are an ideal way to build that brand,” says Cornell.
In other words, use a podcast to talk about yourself, your career, the humor that you find in everyday life, etc…
How Do They Help Authors?
Much like author websites themselves, podcasts “humanize the authors,” says Listi. Rare Bird Lit takes the personalization of podcasts even further … they’re live. “They’re unique because the listeners feel like they’re in the living room with the author, and since they’re live we can have people call in,” said Rare Bird founder Tyson Cornell.
Make sure to use a podcast as a chance to let people get to know you and like you. At the end of the day, that could be the impetus for purchasing your book.
According to the NY Times, “Penguin Group USA has plucked its first author from its new electronic slush pile.” Slush pile? Really? Do they have to be so snobby in referring to it?
Regardless, this is yet more encouraging news for authors who are trying to get themselves known as respected authors without following the traditional route. See my post from last week about Darcie Chan as another example.
Anyway, according to the report, “Ace Books, an imprint of Penguin, has signed the debut novelist Kerry Schafer to a two-book deal, only weeks after Ms. Schafer posted writing samples on Bookcountry.com, a Web site Penguin introduced in April that invites writers of genre fiction to share their work.”
Bookcountry is described as “a place where readers and writers of genre fiction come together to read original fiction, post work or comments, and make a name for themselves.” But, really, it’s just as much a self-serving tool for Penguin as it is for authors. The creators are hoping that some of the authors who post their work on the site might be good enough for Penguin to snap up. Apparently, that has finally come to fruition.
Kerry Schafer, a resident of rural Washington State, posted chapters of her latest attempt, “Between,” a fantasy novel about a woman named Vivian who must destroy a powerful sorceress on BookCountry.com. Within weeks, her work was discovered by Deidre Knight, a literary agent, who happened to be browsing submissions.
It all happened pretty quickly after that. Shortly after their first conversation, Deirdre Knight had taken on Ms. Schafer as a client and negotiated a deal with Ace Books. The deal even included a second book, “Wakeworld,” a novel that Ms. Schafer is only in the early stages of writing now.
Is this a wild and crazy story that’s unlikely to happen again … like winning the lottery? Or is it something that all authors should aim for? Well, probably somewhere in the middle.
You always hope,” Kerry said. “You always have in the back of your mind that maybe something like this will happen. It was an act of faith on my part.”
We offer her our sincerest congratulations on a job well done!
Most authors today are well aware of the fact that it’s almost a must to have a Facebook presence. But what most authors don’t know is exactly how to measure their performance on Facebook.
In other words, how do you know that the time you’re putting in to social networking is actually promoting your book? Or leading to book sales? The truth is, the majority of authors don’t. Which is why so many of them continue to make the same mistakes over and over again on social networking sites. If there’s no way to know whether or not your efforts are successful, how could you ever determine whether or not it’s worth your time? Or how to improve what you’re doing?
Instead of just looking at how many friends/followers you have on Facebook, use these tools to determine the success of your efforts:
1. Traffic to your website. If you don’t have Google Analytics set up for your site yet, do so ASAP! It’s free, and it’s an incredible way to keep track of what’s working on your site. In the section called “Traffic Sources,” you can determine exactly where the traffic to your site is coming from. That includes Facebook. If you’re not getting much traffic from Facebook, then consider tweaking your social networking efforts.
2. Engagement. Have you been using Facebook Insights? Much like Google Analytics, it’s a great (and again, free) way to factually determine the success of your Facebook campaign. It will show you how many likes and comments your posts are generating, which is super important: the posts with the most engagement will appear higher in the feeds of fans and friends.
3. Shares. This refers more to the content on your website and how you can try and increase the number of people sharing your information with friends via Facebook. First, make sure to include a “share” button throughout your website: it’s especially important when it comes to blog posts. Then, follow how many people are actually sharing each of your posts. If one happens to take off, then try to replicate it in terms of subject matter and tone in future posts.
Facebook recently came out with a list of the most shared stories of 2011. See what you can cull from the list and try to follow the lead of other writers who have had their stories go viral. Some of the ones from this list that I recommend you take a look at include Parents, don’t dress your girls like tramps, Stop Coddling the Super-Rich, and Why You’re Not Married. You don’t need a journalism degree to write a story that goes super-viral.
You just need a good idea, some opinions, and a little bit of wit.
I often deal with authors who are struggling with the issue of whether or not to sell their book themselves: be it an ebook or a paper book. As always, there are benefits and drawbacks of each.
Hats off to Gary McLaren, author of “The Indie Author’s Guide to Publishing Ebooks” for his recent blog entry on the subject. I’d like to convey a few of his ideas about the pluses and minuses of doing so.
- A greater percentage of revenue. Obviously, when you sell your book yourself, you can keep 100% (or close to it … PayPal does keep something) of your profits. When you sell through Amazon, you can end up with anywhere between 35% and 70% of the total (depending on the price of the book.)
- Your own marketing and community. Unless you’re allergic to doing your own marketing, why would you decide to send readers to Amazon or B&N instead of your own site? If you have a following already, utilize it: send out an email blast about your book and promote it to everyone who arrives on your site or follows your blog. Conversely, you can use your ebook to start building your marketing campaign. After all, if someone buys a book from you, you now have their contact information and can continue to reach out to them. If the same person were to buy your book from Amazon or B&N, you wouldn’t have such information.
As with everything, there are challenges that come along with the benefits. In the case of selling your own ebook, those are…
- Customer service. In my mind, this is the biggest time-sucker of all. If you plan to sell your ebook, be prepared to deal with questions from people who don’t understand the different formats of the ebook, are having trouble downloading, etc…
- Formatting. Some authors only offer to sell their ebooks as PDFs (i.e. to be read on a computer). But anyone who really wants to become a player in the book industry needs to have their book available for Nook, Kindle, iPad, etc… If you plan to sell the book yourself, you’d better have it prepared in all of those formats.
- Less of a presence on Amazon. Let’s face it: Amazon is the primary source of ebook purchases today. And while you can sell your ebook both on your own site and on Amazon, you’d be somewhat disadvantaged on the Amazon site. That’s because: a) sales through your site won’t rank as sales on Amazon, which means that your sales rank may suffer and; b) While selling an ebook at your own web site you are giving up the option of enrolling that title in Amazon’s Kindle Select program.
Is there a definitive answer as to whether or not you should sell the ebook on your site? Of course not. But hopefully, this information will help you make a more informed decision.
I thought that title might get some attention. But seriously, a client sent me a link a few days ago to an article titled How I Became a Best-Selling Author, posted on Yahoo Finance.
Here are some of the highlights from the article, which follows one woman’s “unlikely road to a hit novel.”
- Five years ago, Darcie Chan submitted her novel, The Mill River Recluse,” to multiple publishers and agents. It tells the story of a wealthy Vermont widow who bestows her fortune on town residents who barely knew her. It was rejected by … get this … a dozen publishers and more than 100 literary agents. Whew!
- Dejected, Darcie stashed the manuscript in a drawer, and buried herself in her legislative work.
- Then, this past spring, Darcie started reading about the rise of e-book sales and authors who had successfully self published, and decided to give it a shot. She published the book electronically, through Amazon’s Kindle self-publishing program.
- A few weeks later, she also started selling it on Barnes & Noble’s Nook and through SmashWords, who distributed it to major e-book retailers including Apple’s iBookstore, Sony and Kobo. By this point, she had sold 100 copies.
- Darcie made every effort to get the book out there to the general public. She decided to drop the price from price from $2.99 to 99 cents (a great benefit of electronic publishing — you can do that and not take a loss). Several reviewers on Amazon said they bought the book because it was 99 cents, then ended up liking it. Number of copies sold to this point: 700
- Then, at the end of June, the book was mentioned on a site called Ereader News Today, which posts tips for Kindle readers.
- Encouraged by the increase in publicity and sales, Darcie decided to do some marketing for herself. She bought banner ads on websites and blogs devoted to Kindle readers and a promotional spot on goodreads.com, a book-recommendation site with more than six million members.
- Darcie then decided that it would be helpful to get her book reviewed, even if she had to pay for those reviews. She paid $35 for a review from IndieReader.com (IndieReader no longer offers paid reviews) and $575 for a review from Kirkus. She also started using blurbs from these reviews as marketing material on her site and in ads. By now, Darcie had sold 14,000 copies.
- In July, the book was featured on two of the biggest sites for e-book readers, generating even more sales. By August, Darcie had sold more than 77,000 copies and hit the New York Times and USA Today e-book best-seller lists, alongside brand-name authors like Michael Connelly, James Patterson and Kathryn Stockett. It later landed on the Wall Street Journal list, too.
- To date, Darcie has sold more than 400,000 copies of her e-book. A few major publishers have made offers to her, but none matched the digital royalty rates of 35% to 40% that Ms. Chan makes now. To date, she’s made around $130,000 on her book, and that number is only destined to rise.
Basically, Darcie took control of her own destiny, made some good strategic decisions and is reaping the rewards. And her story just goes to show you: authors are now in control of their own destiny. Just like musicians can get around the record companies by selling their music through iTunes, authors can completely subvert publishing companies (and print books altogether) and sell their book digitally.
As the article points out, though, there are some drawbacks to following in Darcie’s footprints. They include….
- Ebooks still make up less than 10% of overall trade book sales.
- It’s hard to get a self-published book reviewed
- Without a print book, you’re not likely to be carried in brick-and-mortar bookstores
- Very few authors have a marketing and advertising budget equal to a publisher’s
All of that said, I hope that Darcie’s story can be an inspiring one to authors like you. I know I’ll steal a few of these ideas….