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

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 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 . 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

The Crown Conspiracy Cover


Anonymous said...

Very informative blog Robin. Thank you for sharing your wealth of knowledge.
The Wind Whispers War

Wendy Gillissen said...

Very sound advice Robin! Thank you for sharing.
Wendy Gillissen
Curse of the TahiƩra