Guest Post: Rachel Smith – Four Simple Ways To Get Your Book Noticed

Rachel SmithThe t’s are crossed and the i’s are dotted. Your book is done and you’re ready to publish. And the hardest part is over…but your work is not done. Now it’s time to begin your marketing plan. First, let’s assume that your manuscript is as polished as it can be – you’ve had it edited and maybe even beta read by family and friends. Let’s assume that you’ve picked out a great title, designed the perfect cover and clicked that final upload button to the publisher of your choice. Now what? How do you get the word out about your book? Here’s a quick list of ways you can get your book noticed:

Get your book reviewed. There are lots of different types of reviews. Editorial review are generally the most expensive ($299+). These reviews are by neutral third parties (yes, we do those) where an editor reads and reviews your book. You are then allowed to use that review in your marketing materials, on the cover, etc. But you can also leverage the blogger network.

What does this mean? I call it the ripple effect. If you have an amazing, compelling book – it will be successful. Remember the last time you read a truly excellent book – didn’t you want to tell everyone about it? There are quite a few bloggers that will read and do reviews for books they are interested in, some of them are even free. But it takes time, perseverance and research. There are several companies that will also manage the process of getting these reviews for you (yes, we do that too). Other options include contacting local media, newspapers and television. You’ll have a better chance of being talked about in your local news if you present your story in an interesting way for the editor of that outlet. Media outlets are always looking for more content that they can provide to their readers.

Use your social networks. This seems obvious but you don’t need to spam your friends and family. However, getting a mention to your book, a link, a like, a post can help a friend of a friend of a friend find your book. And don’t forget for every reader you have, your circle of influence expands. Social networks don’t have to be limited to online contacts. I was recently checking out at a store when the woman in front of me struck up a conversation with the cashier. She said something to the effect of, “I think that you would like my music. I just finished recording this and I’d like to share it with you.” She then left a copy of a CD with the surprised and pleased employee. That made an impact.

Donate when you can. There are libraries and schools near you that are always in need of new books. Find out how you can donate a copy or two of your book to them. They may have an area where they spotlight new books or local authors. Take advantage of this free publicity. Many of these library employees are in the business of recommending books on a daily basis. Also, don’t overlook that many retirement homes or senior citizen centers could benefit from your book as well. All donations are tax deductible either as charity or as a marketing expense. Ask your tax advisor for more information.

Sponsor a book club. There are thousands of book clubs all over the world that meet in person and online to read and discuss a specific book. Contact the leaders of these groups to suggest your book as the book of the month/week, donate it or offer to speak to the group personally for a question and answer session. Everyone loves to get a little “special attention” when they are involved in running or participating in a book group. These experiences give you an opportunity to form relationships with people that can become “super fans” and help grow your reputation while increasing awareness about your book.

These are just a few ways to increase awareness for you and your book. Most are fairly low cost but all involve forming relationships with people. You can download more marketing ideas free at http://www.entradapublishing.com/marketing_guide.html to get you started.

You can do this next step! Just take a few minutes to brainstorm your ideas and write them down, including the ones that you had while reading this article. Your book won’t sell itself. It need a little help from you – but don’t forget…YOU CAN DO it!

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Rachel Smith is the lead acquisitions editor and marketing manager at Entrada Publishing. She works with beta readers, editors and authors to get books into selling and award winning shape. She prides herself on having found two authors through beta reading for publication, holding their hand every step of the way and celebrating when they signed their first book deal contract. You can get help with all areas of book marketing, book reviews, beta reading, cover design and more at www.entradapublishing.com.

Review Copies: The Indie Author’s Best Friend

Review CopiesNote: this piece is geared toward writers interested in self-publishing. Find other pieces on self-publishing here.

For any seasoned indie publishers out there, it’s no secret that getting reviews (which fuel sales) is often a struggle. “Why aren’t people buying my book?” they sigh to themselves. “Why aren’t they leaving reviews?”

More often than not, self published books need more than a great cover and stellar marketing. Sometimes, potential buyers need to hear from someone else that this book was great before they invest their money. That’s why, dear indie authors, you need reviews for your book.

But how do you go about getting reviews? How do you get other people to read your book and then take the time to say nice things about it?

The answer lies in review copies.

What is a review copy?

If you’re not familiar with review copies, they’re essentially copies of your book that you send off to people for free. In exchange for the free copy, those readers give a review of your book once they’ve read it.

Who to send review copies to?

Now, as tempting as it might be to just start chucking your book into the social media void and hope that some stranger picks it up and gives you a five-star rating, you’re going to need to strategize just a bit more. Be discerning with who you select to review your book. I recommend giving complimentary review copies to people you know and trust: try your beta-readers, a critique group you belong to, or die-hard fans that have been following your writing (or subscribing to your site)  for a long time. Try close friends and family.

Remember that reviewers are doing you a favor.

Give your reviewers time to complete the review. They need time to read, process, and then review. Don’t bug them incessantly to get the review done. Be respectful of their time. And it’s worth noting that it is possible that your reviewers might only think your book merits 3 or 4 stars. You might not get all five-star reviews. Remember that the goal here is not to coerce people who like you into giving you false, five-star reviews. Their reviews should be honest (because if you have a bunch of phony reviews, customers down the road will figure it out for themselves and feel cheated). But by picking people you think will like your work, you’re stacking the deck in your favor.

How to get reviewers their free copies.

Be as accommodating as possible. Ask which format would be best for your reviewer. Be ready to send them a .mobi, .epub, or .pdf file at the very least.

What if I’m worried about the file getting pirated?

When I first started sending out PDFs of my work to reviewers, I had a fair amount of anxiety.

“What if someone shares it with their friend, who then shares it with their friends? What if no one buys my book because it’s out there for free?”

This is a reasonable thing to worry about. But my advice to you is: don’t worry. I’ve found that if someone really wants to pirate your book, they will (no matter how many precautions you take). But not everyone will take advantage of this. People will buy your work if they really want it or like it or want to support you as an author.

If you still have reservations about sending out free files to your reviewers, try shifting your perspective on pirating: it’s better to lose out on a few sales and get attention and reviews for your book than to waste away in review-less obscurity. Not to say that you shouldn’t take action if you find out someone is giving your property away for free – but it’s just a way to look at it to ease your worries about putting your work out into the boundary-less internet.

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Have any other questions, comments, or tips about review copies (or self-publishing in general)? Leave a comment below!

Driving Book Sales and Visibility by Mastering Key Terms

Driving Sales & Visibility byNote: this piece is geared toward writers interested in self-publishing. Find other pieces on self-publishing here.

So after you’ve uploaded your book, your cover, and product description, you’re met with a page asking you to pick your “key terms”.

“What are key terms?” you think to yourself, scratching your head and settling for a handful of vague words that describe your book. “That should be good enough, right?”

Wrong! Key terms, while short and sweet, are very important! They’re one of the driving factors in how people find your book and where it appears on the platform you’re selling on. Essentially, key terms help the site categorize your book and match it up with people who type in those same (or similar) key terms.

So let’s talk a little about what your key terms should do and how to select them.

Make Them Count

You only get so many key terms (usually 10 or less), so make sure yours:

  • Are accurate and succinct (don’t misrepresent your book!).
  • Help you find your target audience – or rather, help them find you.
  • Place you in a niche category so competition is less fierce and it’s easier to get noticed.
  • Don’t repeat words that appear in your title/subtitle. Those are already taken into account by the platform’s algorithms that you’re selling on. Don’t waste a precious keyword by repeating yourself.

Pick Only the Best

  • Think about how people find books. What terms would someone search that would lead to your book?
  • Browse through the platform you’re selling on by clicking through their categories. See which books come up under certain categories. Are these similar to your book? If so, that’s likely where your book belongs. Make sure to add keywords in that will land you in those categories.*
  • Make a list of key terms for your book, then try to hone them down to about 10.
  • Ask your beta readers or editor to create a list of key terms that they think would best suit your book. They know the book, but can likely give a more objective opinion of it.
  • Test out each keyword on your list by typing it into the platform’s search engine and seeing what results come up. Are these books similar to your book? You’re on the right track! Are there too many results? Try another word that might land your book in a less competitive category.

*Note: some platforms require you to use specific keywords to land your book in niche categories. Research each platform’s rules, guidelines, etc. to get a better idea of what keywords you might need to select.

Remember that you can always change your key terms at a later date! Being a self-published author means you have the power to make changes to your book and its listing at any time. Take advantage of that!

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Any questions or comments about key terms? Let us know in the comments below!

Writing Stellar Product Descriptions: How To Write Back Cover Copy That Sells

product descriptionsNote: this piece is geared toward writers interested in self-publishing. Find other pieces on self-publishing here.

Product description, blurb, back cover copy. It doesn’t matter what you call the text that goes on the back of your book, inside the dust jacket, or on your website – that text is one of the most important things you’ll need to successfully sell your book.

Why is that? Think about what happens when you come across a book you’ve never heard of before. Sure the cover might draw you in, but what’s going to sell you on actually buying that book? The description.

In order to help you write the best possible product description, I want you to ask yourself this question: If you were at a bookstore and picked up your book, what would need to be on the back cover that would entice you to open up the book, flip through the pages, and buy it?

Here’s my list of elements for a successful blurb/product description:

  • Mention any pertinent awards or prestigious publications you’ve achieved as a writer.
  • Got any great reviews or accolades for the book that you can pull from? Stick the best possible quote or tagline on there.
  • The feel of the book should be conveyed through both the description AND cover.
  • For fiction: give a few sentences that describe the main plot points. Introduce your main character(s), your general storyline and the challenge/consequences that the character(s) is facing.
  • For non-fiction: note what the book is about and what it intends to do (answer a question, teach someone something, etc.).
  • The summary should make the genre evident. If the book is a sci-fi book, make sure the summary reads that way!
  • Engaging, vivid language.
  • Tone that is consistent with the book and the marketing language you’ve used so far (like in your launch).
  • Include a call-out to your ideal reader. Is this the perfect book for fantasy lovers? Great for people who enjoy a quick, lighthearted read?
  • Keep it relatively short and very digestible. Potential readers will often skim over this section. Make it skim-friendly with bold terms, italic quotes, headings, paragraph breaks, etc.

If you’re looking for some examples of great product descriptions for self-published books (particularly fiction), I’d recommend checking out books from David Wright, Sean Platt, and Johnny B. Truant. For example, check out their product descriptions for Yesterday’s Gone and The Beam. When in doubt, browse through Amazon or Nook and see what you think works and what doesn’t for different books.

Keep in mind that you’ll want to do a couple different drafts/rewrites of your product description. Give it the time and attention it deserves. If you throw something together last minute, it will show – and your sales will likely reflect it.

You can always hire someone to write your copy, but unless one of your beta-readers or editors is a great copy writer, I’d suggest you write it yourself. After all, you know your book best!

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Any thoughts, suggestions, or questions about writing product descriptions? Let me know in the comments below!

Pricing Your Self-Published Book

$Note: this piece is geared toward writers interested in self-publishing. Find other pieces on self-publishing here.

When you’re getting ready to upload your formatted masterpiece to whichever platform(s) you’re selling on, you’ll come across one tricky question: what will your book be priced at?

Finding the right price for your book might take a little research and experimentation. To take some of the guesswork out of the process, I’ve got a couple points for you to take into consideration.

 

Make Sure Your Price is Competitive and Appropriate

  • Do a little research: check out other books in your genre/niche. How long are they in comparison to your book? What do their ratings look like? See what they’re charging, then price yours in the same ballpark.
  • Keep in mind that, if you’re a new author, it might be hard to get readers who haven’t heard of you to buy your book if it’s overpriced.
  • Ultimately, charge enough to communicate the value of your work, but don’t charge so much as to scare readers away.

 

Should You Consider Putting Your Book on Sale?

  • Some authors benefit from putting their books on sale from time to time (knocking an ebook down to 99 cents – or free – for a day or two to drive downloads/purchases/exposure to new readers).
  • On the other hand, some authors rarely ever put their books on sale because they believe it teaches their audience to WAIT to purchase until the book goes on sale.
  • The bottom line here is: decide what works for you! Running promotions/sales may help grow your readership and audience. However, you don’t want to set a precedent that you might regret down the road.

 

What About the Perma-Free Funnel?

  • Many self-published authors make use of the perma-free “funnel” where the first book in a series/collection is permanently free (or just one book in an author’s body of work if they don’t have a series). The theory is that readers, once they’ve completed the first book, will be “funneled” toward buying other books from the author if they enjoyed the free one.
  • This method sometimes pays off, earning more readers and more sales. But sometimes it doesn’t. Again, make sure that you do what is right for you and what you think will pay off in terms of gaining new readers/fans.

 

Experiment!

  • Keep in mind that, since you’re an indie author, you get to decide how much your book is priced at at any given time!
  • YOU’RE in charge! So play around with different price points, run some sales (or don’t!), and consider giving the perma-free model a spin. See what works best for you and run with it!

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Have any pricing-related questions? Any thoughts? Let me know in the comments below!

To Print or Not to Print: Digital and Print Self-Publishing

To print or notNote: this piece is geared toward writers interested in self-publishing. Find other pieces on self-publishing here.

Your book is edited and done, you’ve got a cover and you’re ready to get your masterpiece out into the world. Well hold on a second, my friend. There are still a few matters you need to attend to before you can launch your book into the world. And first of all is the matter of format. To print or not to print? That is the question.

Are you going digital?

If you ask me, there’s no reason not to produce your book in e-format. Sure, it’s most writers’ dream to hold a print copy of their book in their hands, but you know what more and more readers enjoy? Ebooks. Ebooks are great because they’re typically cheaper than print books and can all be stored in one lightweight reader. You can literally take 100 books with you wherever you go without collapsing under that staggering weight of print copies.

You may have a good reason not to produce your book digitally, and that’s fine. But I am a huge believer in the power of ebooks. So do yourself a favor and put your book out there as an ebook, at least in ADDITION to a print book.

So why should you do print?

When you sell a print version of your book, it helps boost ebook sales. Think about it – whenever you look at a book on Amazon and see that it’s $13.99 (plus shipping) for a print version, but then underneath it is an ebook version for just $2.99, you’re inclined to go for the better (cheaper) deal.

But aside from helping to sell your ebook, some of your true fans might like a hard copy of your book. And maybe you would too? For your bookshelf? To show off to friends?

Ultimately, the perk of selling hard copies of your book is because – since they’re priced higher – you make more money off of each sale.

Why shouldn’t you do print?

Before you dive into getting your book into print, make sure you evaluate whether it would really behove you to do so.

For instance, Is your book short? Is it worth it to print? For example, I do not print my flash fiction collections. They’re short things (only 20 or so pages and priced at just $0.99 per ebook), so charging any more than that for readers to buy a print version would not bring in much revenue for me. Nor would it be doing a service to my readers.

Also keep in mind that it takes time to format the book for printing. You’ll need to be meticulous about doing this if you’re taking the task on yourself. Otherwise you may want to look into hiring someone to take care of this process for you.

You’ll also need to make sure that when you have a cover made, you also get a spine and back cover made along with it. This can get costly, but you will want to keep your book looking professional, and all print books have a cohesive feel from the front cover to the back.

And lastly, it’ll take time. You’ll need to review the sample copies and make sure everything looks right.

How should I approach printing?

There are plenty of options for creating print copies of your book, but I think that the best approach to this for new self-publishers in the Print-on-Demand (PoD) approach. Rather than having to print and bulk and keep stock in your home or office, you can produce your book with a PoD company that can print a copy of your book and ship it whenever an order for it comes through. There are various PoD companies, but the biggest ones are CreateSpace (owned by Amazon) and Lightning Source.

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So that’s the quick and dirty rundown of producing your book in ebook and print formats. Got questions? Or have any tips? Add them in the comments below!

Blast Off! Why You Need A Launch Date

BLAST OFF!Note: this piece is geared toward writers interested in self-publishing. Find other pieces on self-publishing here.

So you’ve got an idea for a book. Maybe you’ve started writing it already. Maybe you’ve already polished the final draft! But what do you do after the writing is done? What do you need to plan for before you’ve even finished your manuscript?

The answer: your book launch.

Indie authors are not JUST authors. We’re also marketers. As a self-published author, you’re responsible for the success of your book. And the first step to success is setting a launch date.

So let’s delve into the basics and discuss why you need a launch date.

Launch Date Basics

What is a launch date?

A launch date is the date that your book is first available for purchase. It’s the publication/release date. It’s the start of your book’s life!

When should I set my launch date?

I like to select a launch date as soon as I’ve started writing the first few chapters/pieces in a book. I suggest you figure out when you PLAN on having your book done, then set your launch date about a month AFTER that date. This extra month allows you time to play around with formatting and marketing – just to make sure everything is perfect. Plus, it gives you a couple weeks leeway in case of any hiccups while the book is being written (maybe you get some serious writers block for a week, or maybe your beta readers take FOREVER to get your manuscript, or maybe you find a plot hole and need to spend an extra two weeks rewriting half the book).

When should I announce my launch date?

This is tricky, and there are a lot of factors to consider, but it basically boils down to how long you’ve been writing.

If you’ve been writing and self-publishing for a while, you know how long something is going to take you to complete. If this is the case – announce your book and the launch date as soon as you start writing the thing! If you’re especially good at marketing and have your method in place, find ways to get pre-orders for your book before it launches!

If you’re relatively new to self-publishing, announce your book a couple months before the launch date – at least after your editors/beta-readers have had a go at the manuscript and you’ve made a round or two of revisions. Writing a book is hard work, filled with a lot of unforeseen pit falls. So make sure you don’t back yourself into a corner by setting a date without knowing that you’ll be able to have the book ready by then.

Where should I announce my book/launch date?

Everywhere!

Really, tell everyone about it. Tell your mailing list and social media followers. Post it on your blog/website. Arrange to have it put up on other people’s blogs or sites. Tell your family and friends and sort-of friends. Tell everyone!

Why You Need a Launch Date

Launch dates create buzz

Just like I mentioned in the basics section, building up to your release with announcements about your upcoming launch gets people wanting to buy the book NOW. Having a launch date gives your fans (and potentially new readers) a concrete date to get excited about and tell others about.

You can start lining up marketing/advertising for your book ahead of time

If you have a launch date, you can schedule posts and ads to go out on other sites on your launch date. It’s much better to have a fellow blogger say that your book will be out on “February 2nd” than “some time in February”. Plus, some sites that run ads require you to submit the date that you want the ad to run – and what better day than your launch date?

You’re accountable

When you announce to the world that you’re going to write a book and that it’s going to come out on a certain day, you’re much more likely to actually have the book ready to go on that date than if you hadn’t announced anything at all. It’s much easier to let yourself down than to let other people down. Having an official launch date keeps you on track.

It keeps you motivated

This is similar to the last point, but having a date that you book NEEDS to be finished by is incredibly helpful. It keeps you writing when you don’t want to. And it forces you to push through any writer’s block in order to get things done on time.

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So what are you waiting for? Go set a launch date for your next project. Then get to work!