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