Tuesday, March 24, 2009

ARC's and Galleys a How to Guide

While I generally enjoy working with Michael's publisher the one disappointment I have is their lack of utilizing ARC's and Galleys. While unconventional, my plan is to take this on myself and for Michael's third book: Nyphron Rising. The mere fact that I'm willing to do this "on my own" as it were should be a testament to their importance.

A galley looks like and is the same size as the final book but has a plain cover. The cover may be white or colored. If you are using a colored cover, be sure the black printing is easy to see on it. (Red or dark colors are not a good idea. Use white, yellow, buff, light blue). The cover doesn’t indicate what the final book will look like instead it contains important information about the book to help the reviewer (genre, page count, release date, etc - more on this momentarily).

ARC stands for "Advanced Reading Copy" it looks almost identical to the finished book (i.e. full color cover etc) except that the first page of the book has all the information that would normally be found on the galley cover.

In both cases the book is usually "still in editing" and the reviewers are aware that there will be mistakes and typos here and there. That's not to say that you can put out complete trash - after all you want to garner a good review, but they do realize that there is still some work to do on the book.

The ARC/Galley has really one purpose only - to get your book reviewed before publication. All of the major reviewers: BookList, Foreword, Publisher's Weekly, Kirkus, etc have zero interest in hearing about your book on release date. They need that information 5 - 6 months so they have time to review and print their opinions. If you send them a "completed" book they won't bother - they really need the additional information that only an ARC or Galley can provide.

Whether the galley cover or first page of the ARC, the information to provide is the same. The format is very straightforward - don't make it pretty - just make it easy to see the facts. The Front (or first page in the case of ARC should include:
  • Name of book
  • Author name
  • Category (e.g. Fiction—Mystery; Nonfiction—Memoir)
  • Size specifications (e.g. Trade paperback 6 x 9, # pages)
  • Price
  • ISBN
  • Publisher (name/mailing address/website address)
  • Primary Contact
  • First print run (number of copies)
  • Promotional plan
  • Promotional budget
  • Available from
  • Statement: “Uncorrected Proof—Not for Sale” (Make this bold and easily seen)

A few of the above need further attention:

  • First print run: many large pre-pub reviewers will only review books of 5000+ copies on the first run.
  • Promotional plan: (i.e. direct mailings, book tours, bookstore displays, book release party, etc.) The competition for reviews is fierce and those with a more comprehensive looking plan will get more attention than those without one.
  • Promotional budget: again this helps to make them decide whether to "spend the ink" on reviewing your book. If you have little or no budget just omit this line
  • Available from: (i.e. a distributor such as Baker & Taylor or Ingram)
  • Primary Contact (publicist, consultant, author—name, address, email address)

The back cover should have:

  • Blurb (The hook—same as on the book)
  • Author Bio

The spine should have:Name of book Name of author Publisher

When sending a copy for review you should put your absolute best foot forward. Again the competition is tough (Foreword Magazine receives 3,000 books for review for each issue and publishes only 85 reviews!) Your "packet" should contain a media folder, press releases, author bio, book data sheet at a minimum. That being said it is common for these materials to get separated from the book itself so make sure ALL the important data is on the Galley or ARC information page.

There are many organizations online that provide Galleys...But they are costly ($40 - $60 a piece). The good news is that POD is again your friend - use CreateSpace or LightningSource (see multiple posts on this forum about them) and get them done for $4 - $5.

A positive review by a major publication is HUGE for authors, especially new and starting out authors. To use this medium effectively takes a dedication to prior planning to ensure you have something readily available 4 - 6 months before the release date.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Direct Selling on Amazon - Advantage vs CreateSpace

If you are self-published, you of course want to be in the Amazon sales channel. I’ve mentioned before that subsidized alternatives such as iUniverse, LuLu, etc are not the best choice for the author since you don’t control price and you are only get a royalty as opposed to the full profit.

The two best options for a self-published author are:
Amazon Advantage – You supply the books
CreateSpace – They print the books on demand

NOTE: It may also make some sense to have an Amazon Marketplace account but I'll cover that separately since it will give you an "ancillary" sales avenue and not a main Amazon page.

In both cases the books can look exactly the same – i.e. no one will know that they are self-published you can use your own ISBN etc. But which one to choose? Let’s start by looking at price.

While not the completely trivial it is actually a pretty easy thing to determine which will yield you the most $ in your pocket. The factors come down to sales prices and number of pages. Let’s look at some of the facts:

  • Create Space has a $40 setup fee
  • Create Space takes 40% of list price
  • Create Space Printing is .85 + .012*pages
  • Amazon Advantage has a $30 setup fee
  • Amazon Advantage takes 55% of list price

I’m going to not worry about the $10 difference in setup fees over time they mean nothing. So the real question comes down to how cheaply can you get your book printed.

If we let:
w = your profit
x = # of pages
y = list price
z = printing cost (when printing yourself)

We have the following formulas:
CreateSpace w = y - .40y – (x*.012 + .85)
Advantage w = y - .55y – z

This results in the final equation:
z = .012x - .15y + .85

So let’s say you have a 300 page book you want to sell for $12.00
Z = .012 * 300 - .15 * 12.00 +.85 = 3.6 – 1.8 + .85 = $2.65

So if you can get your book printed for $2.65 or less then Amazon Advantage is the way to go. If your book costs you $3.50 each to print then you would by better off with CreateSpace as you would make $0.85 more per book.

For Michael’s 2nd book Avempartha the specifications are: 344 pages @ $12.95
Z = .012 * 344 - .15 * 12.95 + .85 = 4.13 – 1.94 + .85 = $3.04. Printing prices vary with quantity and I can get books from $4.00 each to $2.07 each so depending on my quantities would decide which would yield the highest profit.

There are some other things besides price to consider. Books done through Advantage come from your stock of books – so if you are concerned with having a bunch of books you can’t get rid of using Advantage will decrease your books for each one sold where CreateSpace is going to make the books one at a time and not reduce your inventory.

With Advantage you are going to have to pay for shipping the books to the Amazon Warehouse. So you need to account for additional money there in postage and packing material.

In general, books listed through CreateSpace will always be offered to the buying public at full price. When going through Advantage since the discount is so high (55%) Amazon may offer your books at a 10% or even 20% discount which makes it more attractive to the buyer. Your compensation is based on list price so if they decided to discount it you are paid the same amount but it may offer a more attractive price for the consumer and increase sales. Whether a discount is offered is at the sole discretion of Amazon and you have no control over this.

Amazon has some pretty stiff fees associated with it but it is the 800 lb gorilla and you cannot afford to NOT have your books listed on a main Amazon page. The good news is it is remarkably easy to do and they provide some very flexible alternatives for self-published authors

Friday, March 6, 2009

Breaking News: Big Boost for e-Books

Barnes & Noble, Inc. (NYSE: BKS), the world's largest bookseller, announced today that it has acquired Fictionwise, a leader in the e-book marketplace, for $15.7 million in cash. Barnes & Noble said it plans to use Fictionwise as part of its overall digital strategy, which includes the launch of an e-Bookstore later this year. In addition to the closing purchase price, Fictionwise may receive earn out payments for achieving certain performance targets over the next two years.

I think this will mean big things for electronic books. Between this and the Kindle initiative we may finally start to see some legitimacy in the e-book world.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Maximizing Your Exposure on Amazon

I'm sorry it has taken me so long to get this post out - Todd was kind enough to offer to be a guest blogger for me and I just haven't had the cycles to post it.

Anyway, Todd Fonseca has a blog that I found so useful I added it to my Useful websites links "see the right panel". It is called Tag My Book on Amazon and while I did a little intro on Tagging on this blog - he is the real expert on the subject. So without further delay. Here is Todd's guest blog on tagging.


Did you know there is a free way to have your book featured on some of the most heavily visited sites on Amazon? Sound too good to be true? It’s not, and you’re about to find out how easy it is.

Amazon’s customer communities are massively visited pages. For example, with the success of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight books, the “Vampire” customer community on Amazon is huge-over 12,000 customers, 80 discussion threads, and almost 5000 products listed! As you would expect, the top listed books on this community page are Meyer’s novels. But it might surprise you that it is not sales that put Meyer’s books in the top spot. Rather, it is the number of times these books were tagged with the word “Vampire”.

Tags are the only factor that define placement on customer community pages.

What does this mean? If you had your book tagged more often than Meyer’s, your book would be #1 in this community!

The issue – you’d need a lot of “Vampire” tags. Also, each Amazon customer can only tag a word once for a particular book. This means, you would need a lot of friends to tag your book to get to the top spot.

The answer – joining a “tag team”. A “tag team” is a group of authors who work together to tag each others’ books to help them achieve the top spot in their chosen customer communities. “Tag My Book on Amazon” is a blog which currently has approximately 200 authors that are all working together to tag each others’ books. Most of these authors are close to or are already at the top spot in their customer communities.

For more information on tagging, how to tag, how to choose the best tags, read reviews of “tag team” books, and achieve maximum exposure on Amazon, join us at:


Thank you Todd! I highly recommend Todd's site for any published author. It is an important marketing tool that really deserves attention.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Putting your best foot forward

I'm a pretty avid reader, and participate a lot on GoodReads. (NOTE: If you are not on this site - you need to be - at least make an author profile and add your books to it - again I'll make a whole post on this someday.) In any case, many groups allow authors a section where they can tell members about their books - the so called "Shameless self-promotion post". This is an invitiation to advertise your book - so use it wisely. I developed a "kind of template" for Michael's books. Recently when reading someone else's post I was amused to find that they copied my format exactly - GOOD FOR THEM!! It made me realize a few things

  1. I'm appalled at how some authors squander this opportunity
  2. I put a lot of thought into what and how I structure posting
  3. I've never explained my thought processess

So in today's post I thought I would discuss this in more detail.

The following is “pretty standard” – a brief description with a link to the author’s site:
Nurse Geri Lanham would rather be anywhere than helping the doctor take her favorite patient off life support. Something goes terribly wrong and she wakes up in 1888! Trying to find her way back to her time Geri learns once a promise is made from the heart it can transcend time to be Forever Promised. check it out at http://www.foreverpromised.com/

What is wrong with this. Well I can think of several things:

  1. No GoodReads links
  2. No buy link
  3. No reviews
  4. No headline
  5. No sample chapters
  6. No publishing data
  7. No cover graphic

Let me cover in detail the format I've come up with and some of the thinking behind it.

I have a method to almost all my madness and for creating the self-promotion post I divide it into the following sections:

  1. Information Dump - Just the facts mame
  2. Book Overview - headline and blurb
  3. Awards (optional)
  4. Reviews
  5. Other
  6. Book Cover

I usually use "all caps" as headers before certain sections like REVIEWS and AWARDS.

This is the place with all the "facts" and lots and lots of links. It puts everything at the fingertips of the reader so they don't have to go "searching" for something. It is designed to make it as easy as possible for the reader to get at anything related to the book.

First line: Title, Author, and Genre
Make sure that the title is a link to the GoodReads Book Page. These are denoted by [book:The Crown Conspiracy4345290] where the number is unique to the title. If you don't have a GoodReads link to your book - Get one, they are easy to come by and important. Likewise the author should be a link to the GoodReads Author Page designated by [author:Michael J. Sullivan2063919]. Again if you only have a profile and not an author page you MUST get one - otherwise you are missing some excellent marketing opportunities. If you don't know the "numbers" use the "add book/author" link when editing the post and search for it.

As for genre, yes your book must fall into one - if you don't then you are already in trouble. If you can't think of a genre you are probably in "Literary Fiction" so put that. Narrow your focus as much as possible - be very specfic: Don't just say "Fantasy" try to further classify it such as : Epic Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Fanasy Adventure, Erotic Fantasy...you get the picture. This lets the reader know immediately whether they will be interested or not. It gives a context and will act as a way to filter and tarket your audience.

Second line - Publication info (ISBN, Publisher, Publication Date)
The most important piece of information is the ISBN (both 10 digit and 13). Armed with this, readers can search to find your book on the Internet and comparison shop and so fourth. Very savy book buyers will appreciate you putting this information where they can get at it easily.

Listing the publisher serves one purpose and one purpose only - to give credibility. If you are self-published by an easily recognized name (iUniverse, LuLu, CreateSpace etc) LEAVE IT OFF. It works against you. Just don't say anything. If you are published by someone else (even an unknown small press) you will get some credit by listing it here. And of course if you are published by someone really big then you get even more brownie points. Use the "biggest" name you can - If you are published by a imprint of a larger house use the main house as the publisher. If you are self-published through your own company then use it. Sure they won't know who this publisher is but they won't immediately think you are self-published. But of course if you named your publishing company "Michael Sullivan's Books" and you are author Michael Sullivan then again leave it off.

Publication Date - this should be listed if you are within 3 years of publication i.e. 2006 and above when the date is 2009. If your book is "older" than that it is showing its age and you should not not expose this - just leave it off.

Third line - Previews
If you have book trailers - put links to them here. A book trailer will never "make a sale" but again it establishes creditability. I never recommend spending money on a trailer but if you have the skills to make them yourself (or you can get someone to do them for $75 or so - go ahead and get yourself one) people like to see them.

The most important part of the Preview is the Sample chapter. It is so important I wrote a whole post on this and you can find it here. It is important to give the users a "try before you buy" option and the best way of doing this is a good sample chapter.

Fourth line - Links
This contains links to "other places" to find out more - this is where you have links to the author's website, a books website (if seperate from authors), blogs, and also your GoodRead pages (author & book). I know we already have links to them on the first line but it is worth repeating them in this list. I seperate the links by a pipe

There are two other opportunities that GoodReads provides that are worth taking advantage of and having links to: Groups and Giveaways

GoodReads Group - You should make yourself a fan group on GoodReads. This is a place where people can ask you questions, you can post information about upcoming signings, and is basically a forum between the author and their fan base - Don't worry if you don't have a lot of people in the group to begin with - we'll work on that as part of another post but having a link to it will help get other peopel to join.

Giveaway - GoodReads offers the ability for authors and publishsers to give away free books - I spoke about it in this post. In general, even an unknown book will get hundreds of people signing up (Michael's first book had 682 and the second is currently at 802 people and there is still a month until it is awarded). Again this will help give "credibility" to your book. Leave this link up even if the contest is over. If the contest is "on" they can sign up. If it is over they see the large number of people who had signed up and go wow look at all the people interested in this book!

Last line - Buy Links
Usually a book will fall into one of two categories: General Availability (able to buy from Amazon and Retail Stores) or limited availability (able to buy from author and publisher's sites only). Regardless of the category your book falls into you should have links where they can buy. If your book has wide distribution I would list Amazon, Borders, and Barnes & Noble (Amazon first). You don't have to list every store in existance such as Powells and Albris - the big three should be enough. BUT make sure that you link to YOUR SPECFIC BOOK not just the "site" - You can't believe how many times I click on a link like this and find myself on www.amazon.com . I then spend many minutes doing searches with the book name and author name trying to find the right one. Remember you are trying to make it as easy as possible...don't put up a roadbloack to a sale. If you don't know how to find "your specfic link" - do a search on the site with your ISBN then just cut/paste from the address line of the browser and use this as the link address.

Also if you are in "general availability" then provide a comparison shop link that searches across multiple sites. I use DealOz - again use the ISBN and do a search and get "the specfic" page for your site. Doing this on Michael's book I get 20 - 30 sites some from all over the world.

If you are not in general availability it is even more important to have links to buy pages. There have been several times I've tried to "checkout" a new GoodRead's Author and couldn't find anywhere to buy the book - if that is the case why are you even promoting it? It is even more important for a book not in general availability to post a "buy link".

Last, but not least - you should always have a link where people can buy direct from you. Throw in signing and offer a discount. Even with credit card processing charges and a reduced price you'll still make more on a direct sale then through any retail chain. Remember that the distribution channel gnerally takes 40% - 55% off the top. To learn more about selling direct use this link.

After all the links section you need to tell them about your book. This is simple it should consist of your headline and blurb. Period. Remember your headline needs to be short and your blurb should be one paragraph. This has been posted in the past to learn more use this link.

This of course is optional but if your book has won awards then list them here. Put one per line and indicate the date of the award and - here is the important part - put a link to the actual award page where you are listed so that they can "verify" that you indeed won the award listed.

Pick up to 5 of your best "1 sentences" from reviews. Think carefully about the "order" of the reviews based on the "source" not the "content". For instance I put Fantasy Book Debut first for Michael but then put in a "general review" before listing "Fantasy Book Critic" so that I didn't top load all the "Fantasy site reviews". Use quotation marks and italics for the actual quote then use a long dash (em dash) and then list the "source" as a link. That way they can click on the source to read the "full review".

If you have a lot of reviews (The Crown Conspiracy has more than 100) provide a link to the page on your website where you list "all the reviews")

This is of course optional. Since Michael's book is part of a series I usually post a bit about the series as a whole to put the book in context.

Close the post with a picture of the cover. I use a 100 x 145 resolution file as this is big enough to provide good detail but not to big to be austinatious. Of course it should also be "linked" to a relavant page - eithe the GoodReads Book Page or the Author's Page.

Whew - that's a lot but by using good formatting it fits nicely. I'm reproducing the post I use for Michael's book "The Crown Conspiracy" to use as an example.
The Crown Conspiracy by Michael J. Sullivan (Fantasy Adventure)
ISBN: 978-0980003437/0980003431 (Aspirations Media Inc, Oct 2008)
Previews: Author's Book Trailer Publisher's Book Trailer Sample Chapter
Links: Website Blog GoodReads Group Author Profile Book Page Giveaway
Buy: Amazon Borders Barnes & Noble Comparison Shop Signed Copy

They killed the king. They pinned it on two men. They chose poorly.
Royce Melborn, a skilled thief, and his mercenary partner, Hadrian Blackwater make a profitable living carrying out dangerous assignments for conspiring nobles until they become the unwitting scapegoats in a plot to murder the king. Sentenced to death, they have only one way out…and so begins this epic tale of treachery and adventure, sword fighting and magic, myth and legend. The writing style focuses on characters and plot rather than verbose world building. This first book of the Riyria Revelations is a heroic adventure written for adult readers yet suitable for those 13 and older.

2008 ReaderViews Literary Award Finalist
2008 Fantasy Book Critic Notable Indie
2008 Adventure Writers Competition, 5th place
2007 Foreword Magazine Book of the Year Finalist for Fantasy

"The Crown Conspiracy is right up my alley, traditional fantasy, "good" bad guys, a large dose of humor, lots of character development and plenty of surprises."Fantasy Debut

"Michael J. Sullivan has written a book I will read over and over again and it most definitely will always reside on my favorite’s shelf."ReaderViews

"There is so many layers to this story that to explain it in a few words is nigh impossible."Front Street Reviews

"The Crown Conspiracy is great fun and a romp end to end...Highly recommended and another positive surprise for 2008."Fantasy Book Critic

"A fast paced and riveting fantasy, "The Crown Conspiracy" is well worth reading." Midwest Book Review

Instead of a string of sequels, The Riyria Revelations is a six-book fantasy series conceived as a single epic tale divided into individual episodes. All were written before the first was released so that plot elements are intertwined, yet each is self-contained and can be read independently from each other. With this series you will not be held hostage to read the next one--you will simply want to. Coming in April 2009, the second book entitled Avempartha is available for pre-order now from Amazon.com.

The Crown Conspiracy Cover

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

To blog...or not to blog...that is the question

I'm the first to admit that promoting a book takes a lot of time and effort--too much in fact. Many authors barely get a website up, let alone a website and a blog. To further complicate matters, many people today are using blogs as their websites. So I thought it was time for me to blog on….well blogging.

Both myself and Michael are coming to blogging relatively late in the game. We only started to blog this year (I know strange huh). Not surprising my blog focuses on business related activities and Michael’s on the craft of writing and his books specifically. Since I’m by no means a blog expert I’ve brought in a guest to help discuss this important topic: Jo-Anne Vandermeulen. Jo-Anne in a romance writer and also offers professional advice and marketing assistance to authors. I was a guest blogger on her site recently and she has been gracious enough to return the favor. Jo-Anne has two blogs:

I developed a series of questions on blogging and Jo-Anne answered them. Here are the results:

1. What are the advantages of blogs?

  1. Multi-Functional – A blog can work as a website. A tab at the top of the blog site can guide the viewer to your web page.

  2. User Friendly – You feel more in the driver’s seat. A blog is easy to create and you can do it yourself with no html skills. You don’t need software or an expensive web designer.

  3. Timely – By updating regularly, you can stay current with the ‘needs’ of your audience.

  4. Interactive and Personal – A blog is a great way to stay in touch with your readers in a more informal manner. The audience is involved by submitting comments. You can generate a following with this connection, discover what they want so you can delve into the requested direction of their interests or concerns, and YOU get more exposure through marketing yourself/your book(s).

  5. A Showcase of Your Ability – You write and they read for themselves your awesome abilities, style, and voice.

  6. Free – Many blog hosts are free.

  7. Higher Search Engine Exposure – More exposure for you. Using links and tabs, each key word will pop up in search engines.

  8. Easy to Maintain – Through expert technicians, free and quick assistance is there if needed. They will provide answers to any questions and solve any concerns.

2. What are some of the popular blog platforms?
I would need to be experienced in many different blog platforms to recommend the best. I use Wordpress for ‘Conquer All Obstacles’, but we have chosen Blogger for 'Premium Promotional Services. Popular blog platforms are:

  • Wordpress
  • Blogger
  • Typepad
  • Tripod
  • Squarespace

3. What kinds of things should I have on my blog?
You must ask yourself: What type of blog do I want to write? For me to ‘conquer all obstacles’, I want to promote myself. My blog has:

A.) First/Feature Page or Home Page

  • Updated posts with information my followers will find useful. Try and put your feet in your target audiences’ shoes. The key to promoting yourself or your book is to understand your customers and their buying habits.

Depending on what you want as your focus will determine your first/feature page. If you want to promote yourself/book(s), make sure you at least either expose your picture/cover of your book on the sidebar of each page or feature this as your first page. You may even decide to have your bio/synopsis or pitch as your first page. You have control of the steering wheel.

Make sure your blog is easy to comment on—a warm inviting message.
- First impressions are lasting impressions.
- People need to trust you before you pitch your book. This is why I would recommend leaving your “advertising about your book” page out from your feature page.

  • Widgets on your side bar(s). Going from the top down:
    - A friendly and professional picture of you. Link the photo back to your bio page.
    - A badge your followers can click to subscribe. Easy to follow instructions: “Click here for your FREE bi-weekly subscription”.
    - Your book cover. Link this to another page where you can detail information –About/Price/etc. (*Note – Wordpress does not allow you to advertise so you may want to use Blogger as your platform if you are selling your book.)
    - A search space. I use google, plus my own search button for easier navigation.
    - List of Blog rolls
    - List of Groups you belong to
    - Categories. List 3-5 only
    - List of Recent Posts
    - List of Resources
    - List of Writers. Usually fellow writers you share links.
    - Archives
    - Recent Comments
    - Meta or Log In button
    - Subscribe RSS button. Very important so you can link your other blogs together.
    - Blog stats. (This is questionable)

    *Note - View the dynamics of your blog to make everything look user friendly and attractive. Do not clutter the page. More doesn’t necessarily mean better.
    - On white background, print in black. Keep it simple. No fancy flashing buttons, music or slow to download animations.
    - Remember, your audience is there to read your material and they don’t have a whole lot of time. Give the reader what they are looking for right away. The fewer times they have to click to find what they want, the greater the chances they will stick around.
    - Give cohesiveness to each page—same format and structure.
    - View other sites and ask yourself why you like or dislike their pages. Nothing wrong with borrowing ideas.

B.) Other Pages:

  • Bio Page:
    - The most viewed and commented page is my bio page. Sell yourself. Present an eagerness to talk about you and your work.
    - Write in third person.
    - List facts not wishes.
    - Cite relevant information.
    - Write tight. Limit to three to four sentences.
    - Add a hook.
    - The four questions your viewers want answered from your bio:
    1.) Who you are
    2.) What is your expertise;
    3.) How does your expertise address their problem or goal; and
    4.) How can they contact you
    - DO keep your professional bio as short as possible.
    - DO be selective; don't list your entire professional background.
    - DON’T be bland; let your personality show.
    - DON’T include information that isn’t relevant to your audience.
  • Contact Page:
  • Promotional Page:

4. How do I get people to find my blog?
People will discover your blog through:

  1. Search Engines – The key is to get your name listed at the top of these engines. You need a brand, keywords repeated often in your content, links, and tags.
  2. Marketing – Constantly post your “signature” everywhere: in forums, blog comments, and emails.
  3. Promoting - Promote your site – Advertise in MySpace, GoodReads, FaceBook, Ning, BookMarketing, MyLogBlog, Twitter. Promoting is time consuming and must be done constantly to be effective. If you are tight with deadlines or want to focus solely on your writing, you may want to consider paying someone to build your author platform and promote your book. I am the owner of a new company called Premium Promotional Services. My partner, Brian Knight, and I will take care of all your promotional needs.

What are the Top 5 pieces of advice for a successful blog?

  1. Be prepared to market and promote your blog.
  2. Present your blog in a professional and user-friendly manner. It must be attractive for the viewer.
  3. Target Your Audience – Submit relevant, factual, and interesting information where the reader can contribute.
  4. Discover the balance between selling and presenting. Feel comfortable expressing yourself. Have fun writing…this will show in your voice.
  5. Edit – Polish each post. Make sure you have included all widgets necessary for your viewer to navigate and gain the knowledge they seek.

Thank you Jo-Anne for taking the time to help other authors learn more about blogging.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Promote your Signings with BookTour

The release for Michael's Avempartha is about a month away and there is a lot of activity around the book signing tour that will be occurring April - June. There are some tools that I use that I thought I would share with the rest of you. I'll then have a post that "brings it all together". The first item I would like to cover is a great site called BookTour.

BookTour is a site where authors can list their upcoming events: Signings, Lectures, Conventions, even virtual events. Readers who are interested in going to author signings register and get emails and RSS feeds whenever an event is near them. In addition, a number of other sites "pickup" the bookTour feed and you get free publicity by them posting events in their areas (More on this in a minute).

As with many things like this on the Internet there is no cost. This may not always be the case (the site is actually "in Beta" at the moment but I've used it extensively since October 2008 and never had to pay a dime for it.

The whole system is very easy the first thing you do (as with most sites is make your profile. They provide a number of places for you to provide "more content" about yourself that people will see when they click through. For instance:

  • Your head shot
  • An overview of you (Bio, Awards, Reviews, and "blurb" of each book)
  • Book Trailers
  • List your books (Shows cover and provides links to Amazon and local retailers)

After you have a profile, you simply add the events one at a time. It already has in the system most bookstores, but if you find a venue missing (say if you are doing a signing at a coffee shop you can add that

When the reader receives emails, or RSS feeds about upcoming signings if they click on it they will see your profile page along with a listing of all your events. Here is an example from Michael's BookTour Listing:

BookTour provides a great little widget (plug in) that you can put on your site so that your followers can know where you will be when. It provides "real-time" data that you have entered into BookTour so you don't have to update your website every time you add a new venue - simply add it to BookTour and it will show up automatically on your site. The blue box on the left is the widget as it appears on Michael's site.

This is how you do this
  1. Make a 2 column table on your website. In the first column put something simple like "aaa" in the second column put all the content you currently have now.
  2. From BookTour do a search to find yourself, and get on your "profile page". On the right directly below the red "Request a visit from this author" button click on the "on my website" link.
  3. Decide how many events you want displayed at a time (depending on how long your page is).
  4. Where you currently have aaa replace the aaa with the data from the first box. The "number" identifies "your" page as opposed to someone else.
  5. Take the code from the second box and paste it directly above the "/body" of the page.

I'm sure you google yourself or your book from time to time. One of the great things about using sites like BookTour is you get more exposure on the Internet. First there are the listing from BookTour itself and since it is a fairly large site with lots of links it gets a high SEO ranking. This alone is worth listing your venues here.

Another benefit is many newspapers and other websites are "hooked" into BookTour and take content from it. For instance for this article I did a google and found 5 newspapers that were linking to events I had in BookTour and Goodreads also pulls events from it to present to its millions of online readers.

I'm the first one to admit that book signings are not the best way to spread the word about your book - they are time consuming for the amount of exposure and number of sales you actually get. However, they are great for "establishing creditability" for your work. If you are going through the time and effort you need to make the best of it and using BookTour is a great resource to utilize.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Summing it up - Blurbs and Headlines

One of my favorite lines that I quote all the time comes from The Princess Bride. Westley comes back to life and needs to know what is going on. Inigo's response is "Let me explain....No, there is too much...let me sum up". That is the inspiration for today's post: Summing up your book.

It takes a ton of marketing materials to promote your book: Posters for books signings, bookmarks, postcards, ads, online postings. The list goes on and on. In all of these materials there are two things I use over and over again: Headlines and Blurbs.

The headline is probably the hardest to develop because you have a limited number of words. I suggest you limit it to 15. This needs to be short and snappy. It should be featured prominently in the design (Large lettering on a poster or at the top of an ad) and it needs to draw people in to find out more. There are two techniques that I've used commonly in my advertising career and they work well for books.

3 Sentence Technique
This is a great format because it can have a nice rhythm--a kind of meter that rolls of the tongue. The sentences need to be exceptionally short and to the point. We used this technique for "The Crown Conspiracy" it's headline is:

They killed the king. They pinned it on two men. They chose poorly.

Yes, it a bit of a play on Indiana Jones and the Lost Crusade but that's not such a bad thing. It also sums up the story pretty well as TCC is about two guys who are framed but ultimately catch the real killer. We have gotten a ton of people who have said "You had me at...." that headline so I think its proven to be a good one.

2 Sentence Twist
Another technique is the "2 sentence twist". This format uses a very simple straightforward statement and then has a twist that makes go "hmm". We used this for "Avempartha" it's headline is:

She hired them to save her father. The wizard had other plans.

This is designed to illicit questions. What did the father need saving from? What did the wizard want? How did he interfere with the original goal? This book is not out until April 2009 so we'll know if it works or if we have to adjust it as time goes on.

The blurb is a single paragraph (no not 2 or 3...it is 1) that you would typically see on the back of a book. If you were published through a traditional publisher your blurb is probably written for you...but don't feel just because they wrote it that you must use it. I've seen some pretty bad blurbs done by very large publishers. If you are fortunate enough to have a good blurb - your task is easy - enter it into your computer and have it easily accessible for copy and paste.

Keep the cat in the bag
Part of the problem with the blurb is you don't want to "give too much away". We toiled and toiled over the blurb for "The Crown Conspiracy" in it how the two main characters get out of jail is quite interesting. If we had "spilled the beans" on the back of the book we would definitely hook people...but they would also get a "spoiler" to the book and not come across this plot point on their own. In the end we decided not to put it in there but the temptation to "say too much" is tough and you should your best to not go too far.

Less is More
I recently finished a book by a new author (I try to support new authors whenever I can - something I encourage all other authors reading this post to do - we need to help one another) and after reading I went to the back of the book and read the blurb - Oh my God. It was a complete summary of the entire book! It's like some of those movie trailers that you see before the main feature and after watching you go - well good I saved $10.00 no reason to see that movie now. If you follow the first rule - 1 paragraph the likelihood this will not happen but since I've seen it happen too often it is worth pointing out.

Tease, please
The point of the blurb is to get someone to want to read the book. Sometimes the best way to do this is to end the blurb in a cliffhanger or to trail off. Ending in a question also works well. What you want to do is engage the reader so don't be afraid to leave the blurb with a bit of a teaser.

Learn by example
Writing a good blurb is not easy but there have been many of them written over the years and sometimes a trip to a library or a bookstore and reading the back of each book will help you to see patterns and develop a blurb that is compelling. Here are the blurbs we created for Michael's too books:

The Crown Conspiracy

Royce Melborn, a skilled thief, and his mercenary partner, Hadrian Blackwater make a profitable living carrying out dangerous assignments for conspiring nobles until they become the unwitting scapegoats in a plot to murder the king. Sentenced to death, they have only one way out…and so begins this epic tale of treachery and adventure, sword fighting and magic, myth and legend.


When a destitute young woman hires Royce and Hadrian to help save her remote village from nocturnal attacks, they are once more drawn into the schemes of the wizard Esrahaddon. While Royce struggles to breech the secrets of an ancient elven tower, Hadrian attempts to rally the villagers to defend themselves against the unseen killer. Once more, what begins with the simple theft of a sword places the two thieves at the center of a firestorm — but this time the outcome could change the future of Elan.

Think long and hard about your headline and blurb. Work them over and over and if you have one that doesn't work don't be afraid to revise it. They are the main tools you have to get the person to buy the book so invest in them wisely and it will directly effect your bottom line.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Marketing #4: Sample Chapters

I was having a discussion with an author on-line on GoodReads. He was a bit upset because no one was buying his books. I decided to "checkout his books". In just a short time it became completely clear to me a big part of his problem - I could not (even with a lot of searching on my part) find any sample chapters.

Sample chapters are essential, especially for new authors. People would like to "try before they buy" as it were and if you don't give them a place to investigate your work you'll be fighting an uphill battle.

You should not just think about one way for people to get at sample chapters. You should use a series of weapons in your arsenal including:
  • Amazon Search Inside the Book
  • Google Book Search
  • Authors Den Book Excerpts
  • GoodReads Excerpts
  • Author's Website
  • All-in-one Book Page
We discussed this a bit in another post I'll refer you there rather than repeat myself. But one thing I should point out about this source of getting a "sample out" - You have no control over "what" is posted. They are going to do a few pages from the front of the book and where it stops may not be at the best place for your book. For "The Crown Conspiracy" the first chapter is a red herring, because the people you are first introduced to are not the "main characters" but bit players. Many people reading about it on Amazon might get the wrong impression so for the chapters I have control over I actually post an excerpt from chapter 2 which does have the main characters in it.


This is very similar to Amazon's Search Inside the Book Program. An example of Michael's Book which is in the program is shown above. It also indexes the entire book but shows a few pages. Again you have no control over what pages are shown in fact in Michael's version it starts (for some inexplicable reason) on page 2 instead of page 1. One of these days I have to fix this.

One of these days I have to do an entire post about this site as it offers a ton of great opportunities for authors and is highly ranked in the search engines so it is a good way to get your books high up on Search Engine Optimizations. But one thing I'll bring up for today's post is that they you can post your books and in that posting is a place for putting an excerpt of your book. I HIGHLY recommend that you take the time to pay attention to the formatting when putting into this format. When I cut/pasted from Word there were line and paragraph breaks that were not ideal. So I took the time to put it into notepad, make all the paragraphs on individual lines then pasted it into AuthorsDen. This made a much more attractive and easier to read post. (This is where I eventually found the author's excerpt that I stated above and he did not do this - the overall effect was on of "unprofessionalism"). Remember anything worth doing is worth doing properly so take a few minutes to put your best foot forward.

If you don't have an author profile on GoodReads you really need to. Like AuthorsDen this deserves a post of its own but suffice to say they have an area where authors can showcase their writings as well. Here are some tips for when you post your samples chapters on this venue:

  • Description is 2048 characters and will allow for html formatting so use for bolding and for italics. I suggest you put the "blurb" from your back of the book and then select a few "choice" reviews and put them here.
  • Make sure you set the genre drop down to the most appropriate category for your book if you can't find one that makes sense use "Literary & Fiction" for novels and "Non fiction" as your best "generic" categories
  • Tags: On this site tags MUST be single words so take this into account when making your tags
  • Don't forget to add your ISBN for the book that the chapter relates to - this ensures a picture of the cover is included and provides a quick link to the Goodreads page for that book

Again I've already covered the importance of an author's website elsewhere on this blog. But it bears repeating that having a books page with a sample chapter with each book is essential. I always recommend having a page where you have the "Blurb" from the back of the book and THEN a button for the sample chapter - so many people drop the readers right into the sample chapter and without context they are lost. Give them the same information that a reader in a store would have.


This is something that not many people have - but I think it is essential. This is a page that is "independent" of your website (i.e. you would not land on it as a part of your website but it contains everything you would ever want to know about your book in one spot. Again I'll go over this page in more details in a future post but suffice to say that the ability to access the sample chapter must be on this page.

For the pages that you have control over I highly recommend you post them in a .pdf format on 8 1/2" x 11" with ample spacing such that it looks like what it would look like if it were in book form but "blown up" to the larger page size. In other words make it look as much as possible like a real book but allow it to print nicely on their printer. Make sure that on every page you have the following: page number, author name, book title, URL to "All-in-one Book Page". They just might give it to a friend and then they will have all the information required to order their own copy.

When posting a "sample" it is not always necessary to choose the first chapter of the book. Although in most cases this will be the logical choice. When I first posted a sample chapter for "The Crown Conspiracy" I started getting some interesting feedback - people didn't like the characters and were being "turned off". As I mentioned these were not the "real characters" and so it was giving the book a wrong impression. So for that sample chapter I choose a lively piece near the beginning of the book that shows the main characters and the rapport between them.

While I'm not a huge Twilight fan I will admit that I was impressed with the sample chapter that Stephanie Meyers put in the first book. The reason is where she ended it. It definitely ended in a place where someone would want to rush right out to get the book to see what will happen next. Now it turns out that her Chapter 2 was a huge let down from the build up but the technique worked. So choose carefully where you end your sample even if you don't publish the whole thing. In Avempartha there are three sections in the first chapter. The first two are compelling and end with the main characters going off to find someone. The third section is really just them "finding" the person - not much really going on there so I ended the sample chapter for that book after the first two.

When posting sample chapters make it easy that anyone can find them no matter where they "find" your book. Use every avenue at your disposal. The disadvantages of Amazon and Google (can't select which pages you wish to showcase) is a sever limitation so be sure to use the other venues so you can pick "the perfect" pages for showcasing each book.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Writing for Dummies

Today's post is as the result of a request. I love it when people email me with topics to cover. Feel free to email me anytime at robin.sullivan.dc@gmail.com with a suggestion or just to let me know that you read the blog and find it useful (or not so useful). Knowing that people actually read some of what I write here makes it worth writing down. If there are only crickets out there I have better things to spend my time on.

Anyway I was emailing with an author about podcasting and mentioned that Tee Morris (author of Podcasting for Dummies and Advanced Podcasting Techniques for Dummies) is coming to do a guest lecture for my writer's group. They asked if they could use "For Dummies" in the title of their next book - so I did some research for them.

Book titles are not copy rightable (okay not a word but you get my point). An author can not "reserve" a title for them and them alone. Elie Wiesel's "Twilight" was published in 1988, Nancy Pickard wrote "Twilight" in 1995, Meg Cabot has a "Twilight" from 2005, Erin Hunter's "Twilight" is from 2006, Christtie Gordon's "Twilight" was published 2008, and I think there is a s somewhat well known person called Stephenie Meyers who used it in 2005. ;-) These are just a few that I found and I'm sure there are others.

NOTE: Always consider if your title is used by others before selecting it - it is important to have a title that has a good Search Engine Rank - obviously any of the authors above will have a difficult time getting Google's attention against the Meyer popularity. Books in Print (put out by Bowker - the US ISBN agent) is a great resource for determining if your title has been used before. Also a quick search on Amazon is helpful. So no one can stop you from using "For Dummies" in your title. But..


Everyone has seen the hugely popular "For Dummies" books - Their trade mark yellow and black with distinctive font and the triangular headed big eyed geek (known as "Dummies Man"). These images are definitely copy rightable and are - Notice the ® around both the cartoon guy and the "For Dummies". It is not the words that are copy written it is "the look" -those particular words written that particular way - (i.e. colors, font, etc). So if you attempted to "emulate the look" of the For Dummies then Wiley will definitely be coming after you. You will open yourself up for a huge financial liability. This organization has spent millions investing in this "brand" and I'm sure they have a whole department that works on ferreting out people who abuse it and they will have a legal department that is not worth tangling with.

There are over 150 million "For Dummies" books in print and 1,400 titles. More are developed all the time by Wiley (AKA John Wiley & Sons) A leading non-fiction producer of: reference books, text books, and brands such as Cliff Notes, For Dummies, and Frommer's.

The first "For Dummies was published in 1991 "DOS for Dummies". It was initially met with skepticism — most bookstore chains didn't want to carry the book at all, claiming that the title insulted their customers and readers in general. But the publisher prevailed arguing the title was a "term of endearment" that readers would immediately relate to and identify with. Their success speaks for itself.

At one time you could approach the "For Dummies" publisher (the people who owned the brand before selling it to Wiley) with an idea - basically "pitch" them the concept and your credentials and if they liked your idea they would take on the project. If you have an agent you can still do this. If you don't have an agent then the best you can hope for is to be placed in their database. Basically they have a stable of "For Dummies" authors then when they decide a books should be written they look to see who has the best credentials to write it. This is an excerpt from their site.

"It is Wiley's policy not to accept unsolicited proposals for books in the For Dummies series. You may send us a copy of your credentials for our files or contact a literary agent to submit a proposal on your behalf. If you choose to submit a proposal through an agent and do not already have one, we suggest that you consult a publication like Literary Market Place that offers contact information for literary agents. Please be aware that Wiley Publishing, Inc., retains the right to publish a book, at any time, on any topic."

Which basically means if your agent suggests a good idea -- they might do it anyway without you ;-)

Once I talk to Tee Morris I'll learn a bit more about their royalty structure. My guess is it will be less generous then industry standard because they are putting the lion's share of their money into promoting the brand and I'm sure the supply of authors wishing to be "For Dummies" authors is higher than the demand. This is only speculation on my part -- call it an "educated guess".

Being in the "For Dummies" stable would certainly be a feather in the cap of any non-fiction writer. While you "could" use that in your title - I would not suggest it. I did a search on Amazon and didn't find a single book with "For Dummies" that wasn't part of the Wiley offerings. I'm 100% sure that Wiley is very protective of this brand and anything close may be challenged.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Number Please: A bit about ISBN's

I've been having some email exchanges with an author recently on ISBN's. This happens from time to time and is perfect because it shows an area that people need to know more about. So I thought I would go over a few things about ISBN's today.

The ISBN is the number that uniquely identifies a particular book. Prior to 1997 they were 10 digits but now the standard format has 13 - so many books actually have two numbers but they both point to the same book. (There are conversion programs that will generate the 13-digit number from a 10 digit ISBN and visa-versa). The ISBN is specific to the publisher and the format of the book. So the same "content" may have several ISBN's. For instance a paper back and hard back book each have their own number. Because the ISBN is tied to a publisher, a book will have multiple ISBN's if it has had more than one publisher. For instance, if you started out self-publishing then it was picked up by a traditional publisher each would have their own ISBN. If you reprint a book, and the content is primarily the same, you don't need to issue a new ISBN. However, if you have significant updates, like new chapters or content that has changed over time then you should use a new ISBN for that revision.

NOTE: If you are printing the book from multiple sources you do not need to change the ISBN. So if for instance you have a book that you are printing at both CreateSpace (for Amazon distribution) and LightningSource (for Ingram distribution) they both have the same ISBN).

An ISBN is made of 4 parts:
  • Group or country identifier which identifies a national or geographic grouping of publishers
  • Publisher identifier which identifies a particular publisher within a group
  • Title identifier which identifies a particular title or edition of a title
  • Check digit is the single digit at the end of the ISBN which validates the ISBN
Sometimes you'll see an ISBN with an X at the end. For instance the ISBN for Michael's Avempartha is: 098000344X. This simply means that the check digit (modulus 11 with the weighting factors 10 to 1) calculated as a 10 and so the roman numeral of X is used.

Many people confuse the ISBN with the Bar Code on the back of the book - the Bar code is just a representation of the ISBN in a particular font (EAN) that can be read by scanners at the store when the book is sold. You actually need BOTH an ISBN and a bar code. Sometimes you can buy the bar code when you purchase the ISBN, there are also bar code services on the Internet (you give them the ISBN they give you a .jpg with the bar code). You can even create your own bar code with the appropriate software. This is what I do and I'll make a separate post on it at a future time.

In most circumstances when a bar code is created a second bar code is added to the right to indicate the list price of the book. The first digit of the price code indicates the currency type (5=US dollars) and the rest is the price. So the bar code to the left is for a book that costs $24.95.
Every book that is sold by anyone other than yourself would need an ISBN or it could not make it through the various distribution and sales systems. If you are going to market through a traditional publisher they will assign it one of their ISBN's. If you are self-publishing you have a number of choices in getting an ISBN.

If you are using a subsidized publisher such as iUniverse, Lulu, or BookSurge they will issue an ISBN for you but...many of these organizations allow you to give them an ISBN and I highly recommend that you take this option. Remember the ISBN indicates the publisher of the book and if you use their number then for instance iUniverse will be the "official publisher". There is a stigma against self-published books and most reviewers won't accept books from these sources and many bookstores will also not carry them. If you have your own ISBN (for instance I own a block of ISBN's assigned to Ridan Publishing) they will not immediately think it a self-published book (even though it is). They would have to do some research (which they will not do) whereas the moment they see iUniverse they will know it is self-published.

The creation of ISBN's is limited to a single entity per region (there are 160 worldwide). In the United States Bowker is the sole source for all ISBN's. In the past they only sold them in groups of 10 (for $275) although I see now that they offer these choices:

  • 1 ISBN for $125
  • 1 ISBN + Bar code for $150
  • 10 ISBN's for $400
  • 100 ISBN's for $1,120.00
  • 1000 ISBN's for $1,875.00

ISBN's are not transferable so a publisher cannot resell, re-assign, transfer, or split its list of ISBNs among other publishers.

Remember ONLY Bowker can issue an ISBN (in the US) if a subsidized publisher tries to tell you you can have your own ISBN through them they are misleading you and you will probably just have one of "their blocks". It is much better to get one yourself then give it to them.

There is one other option and that is that some companies buy blocks of ISBN's then sell them one at a time over the Internet. For instance Aardvark Publishing sells them for $55 each. I can't say whether this is prevalent enough for reviewers to recognize this as a 'self publisher' service and so I'm not sure if it carries the same stigma as say "iUniverse". But one thing to be concerned about is distribution. Distributors don't work directly with authors -- they work only with publishers so if you are not listed as the publisher you won't be able to enter into a distribution contract for your books. This is really not a problem if you use CreateSpace and/or LightningSource for distribution but if you wanted to print up 2000 books and for instance use Atlas Distributing then it would be an issue. When in doubt...get your ISBN directly from Bowker and then there will be no question.

The ISBN is a necessary number that all books designed for purchase will need to have. Among other things it identifies the publisher of the book and has implications for book reviews, distribution, and selling in brick and mortar stores. If you are self-publishing it is important to consider the various options in obtaining the ISBN. If going through a traditional publisher it is not something you have any control over nor anything you need to worry about.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Tip: Finding Agent's Names

While there are many resources to find the names of qualified agents (See books and on-line resources to the right). Here is a little tip I wanted to throw out: Use Amazon.com's search inside the book feature to find agents of books similar to yours.

Many authors will thank their editors or agents in their acknowledgements. Because Amazon's search inside the book has the entire book digitized you can use this to find the name of agents if they did mention them. Here is what you do.
  1. Find a book similar to yours on Amazon
  2. If it has the "Look Inside" graphic on the cover picture than SITB is enabled
  3. Mouse over the book and a small window will pop up
  4. Type the word "agent" and if they mentioned their agent you'll see their name

You can then look them up in the various agent directories to get address and submission requirements.

For instance if you did this on Stephenie Meyer's bestselling book: Twilight you would see:

Amazon: Making the 800 lb gorilla work for you

I love Amazon! They really know how to do things right. What they have done for book buying is in short amazing. Today's post will be an "overview" of some great things to take advantage of through Amazon. Each of these will take a "deeper" dive but I wanted a top level summary first.

If you are published traditionally, this should not be a problem. I know of know legitimate publisher that doesn't use this channel so it will be automatic. If you are not-self published and you are not available through Amazon this is a huge red flag - make sure your publisher rectifies this immediately.

When selling through Amazon there are two different ways: Directly through them, or through one of the "marketplaces". Marketplaces are "mini-stores" (you can even make one yourself it is really easy) If you are only being sold through a marketplace - that also is a problem you need to be listed on "Amazon" otherwise you risk not looking legitimate.

If you are self-published, you need to make sure you are in this channel. You have two choices: CreateSpace and Amazon Advantage. I highly recommend CreateSpace because there is just a 40% discount rate whereas Amazon Advantage has a whopping 55%. Even if you have a few thousand books printed up and stored I would send your same print file to CreateSpace so you can get the 15% savings in "Amazon's take". You can find more about CreateSpace in my post about publishing 101.

It goes without saying, but I've seen enough without them to make it a point here...make sure your book has a product description. A product on Amazon without a description is practically useless. How can you buy a book when you don't know what it is about? Using the blurb from the back of the book is usually fine. But feel free to augment it with information such as age appropriateness or whether the book is part of a series. The description is controlled by the publisher so work through them if you don't like what you see. For instance if there is too much "given away" of the plot you might want to negotiate with them changing it.


This is one you can do yourself (if your publisher has not). Notice the two product pictures to the left - The Crown Conspiracy has SITB enabled Avempartha does not (it will as soon as it is released). This allows the reader to get a "sneak peak" inside the book and read the first few pages. Sample chapters are an invaluable selling took (arg....another future post - I should make a list ;-)) people will read a bit and if they like what they see they are more willing to buy.

I'll go in full details later as to how you do this but in a nutshell you submit your whole book to Amazon and they make sure that only a few pages are exposed. Once you have enabled this feature they can see the cover, table of contents, copyright page, and 6 - 10 pages of the book.

Getting "your" message on your product page is a huge advantage and Amazon provides a mechanism for writers to talk directly to their audience through Amazon Connect. To use this feature you will have to verify you are the author. An online form provides you a way to specify the publisher contact information and then once they have verified you are who you say you are you can post information in the form of blog posts directly to any products you are the author of. Here is an example on Michael's "The Crown Conspiracy" product page.

This is an area that deserves its own separate post and I will go in more detail in the future. But for now let's just point out that tagging is very important. It gives you (and others) a way of classifying a product into various categories so that when they search within Amazon for a particular subject your book shows up. In order to tag you need an Amazon account associated with a credit card, but you don't have to buy the product (or any product for that matter) to make a tag. You have up to 15 words or phrases that you can identify with your book. For instance Michael's books has tags such as: fantasy, fantasy series, wizards, magic, etc. If enough people have tagged your book you will get a ranking (the top 100 books in each category are designated as shown here)

There is a great blog on tagging that I highly recommend click here if you want to learn more about tagging before I can post in more detail.

The number one thing that sells books is good reviews and thankfully Amazon makes it easy for your readers to tell others what they thought of your book. I bump into people all the time both in person and online that say how they loved Michael's book. EVERY TIME I hear that I remind them to go post a review on Amazon. Even with all my nagging there are only a fraction of the people who actually go do it. Why? I have no idea. The most interesting thing is that even those closest to us rarely post and it is the single biggest thing someone can do (besides buying a book) to help support you. At the time of this blog we have 27 Amazon reviews (21 5-star, 6 4-star) and only 4 of them are from people we actually know (and none of them are family)!

Personally, I say the author should avoid reviewing their own book. Sure you can vote for yourself if you run for public office but that is private and many people take offense at writers "blowing their own horn". It is particularly problematic if there are only 1 - 3 reviews. Bottom line about reviews...ask everyone you meet and you'll get a small fraction of those actually posting.

This is a new initiative for Amazon and it is still in beta. It allows for an area dedicated to a single author where their books can be grouped and it offers: a bibliography, and can include a biography, author photo, and discussion board. I only recently discovered this capability and after I learn more I'll make another post.

Another item that deserves its own post but for those not familiar...a Kindle is a small electronic device that stores hundreds of books and allows Amazon customers to buy books formatted in a special electronic format usually for a significantly less than the standard cover price. Making a "Kindle version" of your book is easy (again I'll take you through it step by step in the future). It is important because Kindle users generally have "given up" on printed books. If you don't have a Kindle version it is unlikely they will buy the print version so if you don't have one for them to download you'll loose a particular market segment.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Authonomy: Get noticed by Harper Collins

I just ran across a great site: Authonomy. It is a social network where writers post their works, people read and critique them and there is a forum for talking about writers and publishing.

So you might say, Robin there is GoodReads, LibraryThing, and Shelfari why should I care about this one? Well there is a great reason why. Harper Collins is using this to find gems for publishing. Think of it as a way to get past the "slush pile".

Each month they take the top 5 rated books and send them to the editors. They have already signed 3 authors from this program and I think it is a great way to get some attention of a major publisher.

It couldn't be easier.
  1. Create an account (free sign-up): Authonomy
  2. Click on "upload" and fill out: Title, Author, Short pitch (25 words), Full pitch (200 words), Cover Image (or use a template) and as many chapters as you wish (must have at least 10,000 words), specify genre, and keywords to help people find your work.
  3. As people read your work(s) they can choose up to 5 books to put on their shelf. At the end of month the 5 books that the most people have shelved will go to Harper Collins editors
  4. Even if you are not offered a contract you will get a review of your work from the editor

So post your book, tell your friends, and you might be able to get your work into the hands of a Harper Collins editor. Heck what do you have to lose?

Friday, February 6, 2009

More Amazon Tracking

In one of my online social networks (can't remember if it was GoodReads or Shelfari) but someone mentioned another site other than titlez. It is called BookAlert. The advantage is BookAlert does its tracking hourly where titlez does their's daily. I just started using it and it looks really good. I'll let you know more after I've had a few weeks worth of data.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Marketing #3: Free books

Things are so busy right now that I'm going to have to keep doing some of these smaller posts - but will do deeper dives on these subjects when I can.

I want to make sure that every author puts in their marketing plan budget free books. I would say you should target 50 - 100 books. These are books you are going to have to pay for out of your own pocket (unless your publisher provides them to you - our publisher has been really good in that they let me send out free books for promotion)

  • Reviews
  • Contest Entries
  • Giveaways

I need to do an entire post on reviews (how to get someone to review your book, where to find reviewers etc but in a nutshell:

  • Pre-release sources (Booklist, Foreword Magazine, Kirkus, Publisher's Weekly) - these sources need copies 3 - 5 months before publication date - in most cases they are looking for a galley proof (more on this in the future)
  • At release sources - some reviewers don't want to have a copy until after the book is available - these are generally website based as anything in print wants that 3 - 5 lead time I'll have to dig up my list and post them
  • Amazon top reviewers - I think it is worth contacting Top Amazon reviewers and sending them copies - for instance Harriet Klausner has been the top reviewer for years and is easy to get a book to (harrietklausner@worldnet.att.net)
  • Blogs - the blog community is great and growing there are many looking for books to review and they tend to talk amongst them selves and are active in social networking sites - they are great for spreading news about a book they really enjoy

Winning an award, or even getting an honorable mention can do a lot to legitimize a new author. I submitted Michael's first book to Foreword Magazine's Book of the Year and he received a "finalist" designation that I use in a lot of my marketing materials. Now, if you know anything about this award it's really not all that great - in that they give out a lot of them. But most people don't know this and see "2007 Foreword Magazine Book of the Year Finalist" and get really impressed. Again I'll post more about various contests in the future.

Can be a great marketing tool. If you are at a book fair, or sci-fi/fantasy convention put out a fish bowl for people to add their email addresses then pull one at random and send it to them. This gets you email addresses for your direct marketing efforts

Also use social networking site. Goodreads has a "free giveaway" section and I had over 600 people sign up to win one of 5 copies. After the contest I contact the people who did not win and gave them a special discount offer - I got a HUGE number of books sold this way and the people really appreciated the discount.

One thing not to do....Don't put a free giveaway on YOUR website. This doesn't help because anyone coming to your site already knows about your book - so you are just throwing away money advertising something they already know about. An exception to this rule is if you are using it as a way to "drive" people to your site - so if you put a free giveaway on your site then are out pounding the pavements sending people to your site to sign up that is fine - but don't do one without the other.

Lastly, use those bloggers again. Many "genre" blogs (For instance Fantasy Book Critic) has thousands of readers and they offer giveaways as a way to keep their readers coming. Contact the blogger and offer the giveaway - you'll get a bunch of free advertising.

Behind your websites and bookmarks this is the biggest bang for your marketing buck - make sure that you minimize your costs by getting the cheapest "per book" price. If you are POD self publishing I recommend you do a short run printing of 100 - 200 books because you will reduce your cost by book by 40 - 60%.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award

Today's post has to be another quick one. The final proof for Avempartha has come in and I have to turn my attention to it. But I wanted to make sure that before the February 8, 2009 I mentioned this award and encourage all authors enter. I'm going to summarize some of the needed information below but here is a link to the award itself.

It is a great opportunity for unknown authors to get discovered. There are great prizes and no entry fee so it is a contest with no downside. This is the second year Amazon has done this. It is for an "unpublished" work so you can't submit anything that has been printed (even self-published) and it must be a novel written in English (50,000 - 150,000) words. There are a few restrictions on content (no pornography, offensive, illegal, or plagrism, etc.)


  • First 10,000 entries or deadline of 2/8/2009 whichever comes first (last year had more than 5,000)
  • Must be 50,000 - 150,000 words (English)
  • 1 submission per person
  • Grand Prize: Contract with Penguin with $25,000 advance
  • 3 first prizes: Trip to Seattle WA for awards dinner (airfare, hotel, and $100 cash)
  • 500 second prizes: Review from Publishers Weekly
  • Submission Fee: None


  • A finished manuscript (will submit it in word format 12 pt Times, double spaced, 1" margins)
  • An excerpt - first 3,000 - 5,000 words
  • The Pitch - 300 words pitching your idea (like you would in a query)
  • Blurb - 300 words that would be on the back of the book
  • Author Picture
  • Biographical Information


  • Submissions are done online by using CreateSpace the word file is uploaded, other information is cut/pasted into text fields
  • 10,000 entries are narrowed to 2,000 by Amazon Editors reading "the pitch"
  • 2,000 entries are narrowed to 500 Quarter-finals by editors and Vine Reviewers
  • Publishers weekly editors read 500 Quarter final full manuscipts for: Originality, Plot, Prose, Character Development, Overall Strength
  • From the 500 Penguin will pick 100 as Finalists (Presumably from reading Publisher's Weekly Reviews)
  • Publisher Weekly Reviews of the 100 Finalists are posted on Amazon
  • Penguin Editors read all 100 Finalists full submission - decide on 3 finalists
  • Amazon Customers will read 3 Finalists and vote


  • 02/02/2009 - Submissions open
  • 02/08/2009 - Submission closes
  • 03/16/2009 - 500 Quarter-finals listed on Amazon
  • 04/15/2009 - 100 Finalists Selected, Publisher Weekly Reviews Posted
  • 05/15/2009 - 3 Finalists posted
  • 05/22/2009 - Judges use their reviews and customer reviews to choose winner

This is an extremely important award that can go a long way to propelling a new or unknown author. There are no down sides to this competition and every author that has a work they have not published should enter.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Reviews - What not to do

So I don't have time this morning to do a big post, and I want to do a through job about reviews so I’ll just post the most important thing (IMO) about reviews.

Never buy a review – period.

Whether it is blatant, like Kirkus Discoveries, ($400 - $550) or some “less obvious” fee where they claim you are just paying for “expedited processing” like BookPleasures ($119). It is just a bad idea. If you get a bad review you are out cash and humiliated, if the review is good you just “bought it” and all creditability goes out the window.

There are some sites (Like ReaderViews and AllBookReviews) that offer free reviews but also chage for expedited processing. In these cases you go "on a list" and eventually someone might review your book. I know Michael's "The Crown Conspiracy" sat on the ReaderViews "queue" for almost 6 months before it was finally reviewed without having to pay. I question though whether this was a good decision as some people may assume it was a paid review. Well too late to do anything about that now but at least I know you can get reviews off these sites without paying - I guess that was with the research.

I remember looking into a book by a fellow author and saw a nice review by someone called Geri Ahern. Since our books were similar I was going to contact her about reviewing my husband’s book. When I googled her I found a blog where she reviews book – which was great until I saw that she charges a fee – Grrrr I just lost all respect for the author and now doubt the quality of the book.

Getting reviews IS important but don’t be so desperate for them that you pay for someone to review your book. The only thing you should ever have to do financially is give the book gratis and pay for shipping. I nice media kit goes a long way as well. But never exchange money when looking for a review.