Marketing a book with a “Use By” date

This  cartoon circulated on Facebook, and I laughed because it hit me where I was. When I indie published Go Away Home this past July, I geared up for intensive marketing over the long term. I didn’t realize my new book would have a “Use By” date.Simon or Peter Cartoon

I published the novel through Createspace for worldwide distribution, and I also printed a quantity of books through a traditional printer to use locally because the per copy price was significantly better. I also printed bookmarks in quantity. If it took me a year or more to use up the supply, that was okay. It’s not like they were going to spoil.

Then Amazon Publishing came calling, acquired my book, and what do you know? Now there is an expiration date. I can market the current edition of my book and distribute the bookmarks until July. But when the new edition launches, the first edition goes off the market.

I can’t bring myself to recycle them. So, what to do with more paperback copies of the book and more bookmarks than I can use through my normal channels in the next five months?

This month, as I drive to Arizona to visit family and friends, I’m spreading the love with my book and bookmarks. In each town I visit, I find the public library and gift a book. In each rest area and restaurant, I hand out bookmarks and leave a few on tables. I feel a little like Johnny Appleseed, only I’m sowing the love of reading.

This is my idea of the day. Do you have ideas for other uses for books and bookmarks with a Use By date? Let me know. The clock is ticking.

Growing Up Country now an audiobook

Changes in the publishing industry have made life easier for indie authors with every evolution helping us reach more readers. As I launch the audiobook version of my memoir this month, it’s been fun to go back and look at the journey of my first indie publishing venture from the beginning.

Growing Up Country Audiobook Cover

Growing Up Country – Audiobook Cover

In 2008, I published Growing Up Country – Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl in paperback. To my surprise, printing after printing sold, and the paperback version continues to find reader interest eight years later.

In 2010 – after digital books were more than a gleam in someone’s eye – I jumped on the ebook bandwagon and converted Growing Up Country to an ebook format. New marketing opportunities abound.

Now I’m pleased to announced that Growing Up Country is available as an Audible audiobook.

While I know many readers enjoy audiobooks on a regular basis, I’m most pleased about this new format because it makes these stories available to people who have low vision, as my mother did.

The conversion to audio was far easier than I expected. I chose Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) to do production. If you haven’t checked into ACX, I recommend it. There are two key questions you’ll have to answer as you get started:

  1. Do you want to pay for production or do a revenue share with the talent? Cautious soul that I am, I chose to share revenue so I didn’t have to go out of pocket. I will make less on each sale, but it’s a new revenue stream for me, so I’m okay with that. Of course, I hope my narrator makes a ton on this one.
  2. Who will narrate? To find a narrator, you put a sample of your book up on ACX. Interested narrators do a sample read. You can choose one of them or if you don’t like any who apply, you can put the request up again. I found a narrator who was just right on the first try. You can also find a narrator independently of ACX and upload the finished piece through ACX, but staying within the system is much easier and can be less expensive, even free, as it was for me.

Once you choose a narrator, the two of you agree on a production schedule. My book took about two months, start to finish.

While production is turnkey, the author is responsible for making certain the final product is perfect. I listened to each chapter, following along in the book, noting any errors using the time code. I told the producer who fixed the errors and sent me a corrected file to review. Easy.

When you and the narrator are finished, the project goes through ACX review. That can take a couple of weeks. Once ACX approves, they set the price and post the Audible version on Amazon. They also send codes for free copies you can use in marketing.

Back in 2007, I had no expectations of what would happen with this memoir – other than that my mother would read it. So, it’s been fun to see my stories reach new readers as each new format opens the door to more folks.

Speaking of reaching more folks, on to marketing. This is where you, dear readers, come in.

  • Do you know someone who enjoys listening to memoirs, stories of family and childhood, Iowa, history? Please tell them Growing Up Country is not available as an audiobook.
  • Do you know anyone who would be interested in listening to Growing Up Country and doing a review? I have a limited number of audiobooks to give away for just this purpose. If you do, please let me know.

Finally, if you’re an author who’s looking at an audiobook conversion, what questions do you have? I’m always happy to share whatever I’ve learned.

Amazon Publishing acquires Go Away Home – I’m giddy!

Have you ever thought you were as happy as you could be and then something happens to make you realize you could reach a whole new level of happy? It happened to me this month.

When I completed the manuscript for my World War One-era novel Go Away Home earlier this year, the thought of finding an agent and a publisher flashed through my mind for all of a nanosecond. Since publishing my memoir Growing Up Country seven years ago, I’ve been proud to call myself an indie author and an indie publisher. I didn’t hesitate to walk down the indie road again.

Then one morning – six months after I published – I opened an email from Jodi Warshaw, a senior acquisitions editor for Amazon Publishing. Warshaw said, Go Away Home “caught my eye because of all the rave reader reviews. Then I dipped in and couldn’t put it down!”

Warshaw wanted to talk about my interest in partnering with Lake Union “to see the sales match the review intensity.” She got my interest, all right. There’s no organization that knows marketing like Amazon.

I was thrilled – then skeptical. Could this be real? I contacted my go-to person for all things of this sort. Melissa Foster (best-selling author and founder of the World Literary Cafe) confirmed that, “This is great news.”

Lake Union Publishing

Lake Union Publishing

So I am pleased – thrilled – head over heels – over the moon (all cliches apply) to announce that Go Away Home has been acquired by Amazon Publishing and will be released under the Lake Union Publishing imprint in July 2015.

Between now and then, the manuscript will go through an Amazon team of editors (because good can always be better), gain a new cover, and a marketing team will prepare for the launch. All these people working on my novel makes me positively giddy. Can you believe it? I have “people.”

I haven’t made out a Santa wish list in decades. Even if I had made one this year, signing with a publisher would NOT have been on it. That would have been too unbelievable. While I don’t know everything this new affiliation will mean, I do know I’m excited by the opportunity to learn, and I couldn’t be happier.

I would not be here without all the support and encouragement of readers, of writers, of friends, of you. So, I thank you. And I wish you a joy-filled Happy & Healthy New Year.

Does paying for book promotion pay off?

As an indie author, I’ve looked at paid book promotions from time to time and always backed away. There were so many questions for which I had no solid answers. Which promotion site? What guarantee did I have that it would work? How many books would I have to sell to break even? If I did a promotion, when? My novel Go Away Home published in July; was a September promotion too early? My memoir Growing Up Country has been on the market for seven years; would anyone still be interested?

Finally I decided: Do it or stop thinking about it. I took the dive, and scheduled a promotion  for my novel. I had to take a big gulp when it came to paying the bill and I spent a lot of my time holding my breath. Ultimately, I’m glad I did.

Here’s what I did and how it worked.

Go Away Home - BookBub PromotionWith the philosophy If you can’t go big, go home, I chose BookBub – the gorilla of ebook marketing in terms of reach, cost, and results – to promote my novel in September. Electing for as clean a test as possible, I didn’t do any promotion other than that. Not even social media.

Go Away Home Promotion

  • BookBub Cost: $400 for a one-day, $ .99 promotion.
  • Reach: 1,030,000 women’s fiction readers. I’d requested historical fiction, but BookBub recommended women’s fiction. I figured they knew what they were doing and went with it. Plus the women’s fiction promo was $40 less expensive.

Sales & Rankings:
Pre-promotion Amazon Kindle Sales Rank – 55,110

Day of promotion – Sept. 7 – Price at $ .99 – Sales – 1,422 – Author Rank: as high as 69
Day 2 – Sales – 319
Day 3 – Sales – 151
Day 4 – Price at $1.99 – Sales – 52 – Author Rank: between 393 and 1,116
Day 5 – Sales – 66
Day 6 – Sales – 61
Day 7 – Price returns to $3.99 – Sales: 27 – Author Rank – 1,298

Go Away Home - Amazon Best SellerGenre Rankings: In the course of the promotion, Go Away Home ranked in the Top 10 in Coming of Age, Women’s Fiction, Literary Fiction and Historical Fiction

Return on investment: First-day sales covered the promotion cost by 2.5x

On to the next book: Encouraged by the success of the novel promotion, I elected to use paid promotions for my memoir. Again, I let BookBub lead the way and added two other paid promotion outlets: Ereader News Today and The Fussy Librarian. Here are the results.

Growing Up Country Promotion

Sales & Rankings
Pre-promotion Amazon Kindle Sales Rank: 217,307

Day of promotion – Nov. 13 – Price at $ .99 – Sales: 2,504 – Author Rank: As high as 21
Day 2 – Sales: 520
Day 3 – Sales: 388
Day 4 – Price at $1.99 – Sales: 101 – Rank: between 105 and 870
Day 5 – Sales 73
Day 6 – Sales 64
Day 7 – Price returns to $3.99 – Sales: 20

Growing Up Country Author RankGenre Rankings: In the course of the promotion, Growing Up Country ranked in the Top 10 – often #1 – in History, Family Relationships, and Midwest & Women’s memoirs & biographies.

Return on investment: First-day sales covered promotion costs by more than 3.5x

  • BookBub: 2,788 sales; revenue to me $1,951.60
  • Ereader News Today: 146 sales; revenue to me: $102.20
  • The Fussy Librarian: 17 sales; revenue to me: $11.90

Seven observations from these promotions:

  1. It’s a hoot: Okay, just had to get that out of the way. It’s a kick to see my book ranked up there with books by Sue Monk Kidd and Diana Gabaldon. Even if it’s only for a few days. Now back to business.
  2. Scheduling a promotion – BookBub is known for being tough to get into so I gave them as much scheduling flexibility as I could. They responded to my submissions in 48 hours and were easy to work with. I scheduled Ereader News Today & The Fussy Librarian to run in the days after BookBub to extend the news.
  3. You get what you pay for: There were fewer sales through Ereader News Today and The Fussy Librarian, but the cost was much less and they delivered sales proportionally, so I’d use them again.
  4. A long promotion tail: Even though sales dropped precipitously from promotion highs, both Go Away Home and Growing Up Country have sold more copies each day, every day since their respective promotions than they did prior to the promotions.
  5. Holiday cross-over sales: While paperback sales of Growing Up Country have always accelerated during the holidays, this is turning out to be particularly good year. The ebook promotion drove the memoir to the top of the charts as people were looking for gift books. A month after the promotion ended, the memoir still ranks in the Top 10 Midwest memoirs and is selling well in both ebook and paperback formats.
  6. Reviews – A Bonus: Because of the promotions, both books have garnered a healthy increase in reader reviews. Go Away Home picked up 36 new reviews since September and Growing Up Country has earned 54 new reviews in the past month, including its first one-star review (be still my heart!).
  7. Your results will not be the same as mine: BookBub shares the average sales for each category. Women’s fiction: Average sold: 2,120 with a range of 170 to 5,420. Biographies & Memoirs: Average sold: 2,430 with a range of 290 to 6,210. I didn’t quite make the average with my novel but exceeded it with my memoir. Great success since I was holding my breath that I’d surpass 170 and 290. All the usual suspects come into play in whether a book sells well: cover design, title, quality of writing, topic interest, reader moods, the phase of the moon.

I share this report for what it’s worth. Paid promotions are one arrow in the author’s marketing quiver. And this is one for which you can see a clear ROI.

This was a lot of numbers to crunch and I hope I was reasonably clear. Let me know where I confused and where I might yet elaborate. Apologies for the blurry graphics; they’re the best I could get from a screen shot.

Book awards – Worth it or not?

Tis the season – not only the holiday season, but the book award season. Readers’ Favorite and Writer’s Digest, to name just two, announced winners in recent weeks. And with those announcements, author hopes are either realized or dashed.

Like corn sprouting after a spring rain, a debate about the value of entering book award competitions rose up in a Facebook author group this week. The cost of an entry can be hefty when you compare it to how many books one needs to sell to recoup that expense.

"Go Away Home" receives the 2014 Readers' Favorite silver medal in historical fiction from founder Debra Gaynor

“Go Away Home” receives the 2014 Readers’ Favorite silver medal in historical fiction from founder Debra Gaynor

Basking in the glow of having won my first such award this year, I’m inclined to say yes, it’s worth it. Well of course I would, right? But as a marketer (that’s where I spent 30 years of my career), I know neither the question nor the answer related to the value of entering such competitions is simple.

The awards themselves have varying degrees of history and credibility. The judging itself is subjective, regardless of the organization doing it and no matter how they try to make it otherwise. Writing is subjective. Reading is subjective. Award judging is subjective. And then there’s the cost. Would I feel the same if I hadn’t won?

Knowing all this in advance, I felt it worthwhile to enter. Award competitions offer a range of benefits, tangible and intangible. Here are a few that come to mind:

  • Judge feedback – Competitions generally provide feedback on each entry. Whether an entry wins or not, it’s useful to get the input on how to improve.
  • Winning provides validation of yourself as a writer. You’ve slaved away for years on that book; it feels good to know someone else thought all that effort worthwhile.
  • The award on your book cover offers a third-party endorsement for readers. I know I look closer at books that tout an award sticker.
  • The award news is a tool to keep book buzz going – with media, at book talks, in cocktail conversation.

Can any of that be connected to specific book sales? Sometimes, but often not.

The cover of "Go Away Home" sports an award medallion.

The cover of “Go Away Home” sports an award medallion.

I chose to enter my novel Go Away Home in three competitions: Readers’ Favorite, Writer’s Digest Self Publishing Competition, and the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. I chose these three based on the reputation of the organizations and the recommendations of authors with more experience. My total investment in these entries was $250. The results so far:

  • Readers’ Favorite – 2014 silver medal in historical fiction.
  • Writer’s Digest – I did not win, but I did receive thoughtful judge comments that I am using in book promotion.
  • Next Generation – The jury is still out; I won’t hear until May 2015.

While few awards can make an author’s career – the Pulitzer Prize comes to mind – most awards are simply one element in an author’s overall marketing effort.

It’s unrealistic to point to any one activity and tag it with the success or failure of a product. Marketing is cumulative. Marketing can also be expensive. A book competition entry: $75 – $150. A blog tour: $100 – $300 or more. A single ebook promotion: $14 – $1,700.

Each author has to decide what she or he can afford to invest in getting the word out. Then evaluate whether that expenditure was worthwhile in the overall scope of the entire marketing effort. Marketing is part art, part science, and always more effective when it starts with clear goals, a plan, and evaluation that leads to a better plan the next time.

I’ve made expenditures I can tie more directly to book sales than I can the money spent on these awards, but so far I’m not disappointed I made the investment. I enjoyed meeting other authors at the Readers’ Favorite award presentation in Miami. My husband and I piggybacked a beach vacation on the trip. And books are selling. It’s all good.

What do you think? Do awards matter when you buy books? Have you entered award competitions? If so, why and what did you see as the value? If any? Would you do it again? I’d like to hear your thoughts.

Readers vote authors out of publishing slush pile

Authors look for ways to get their writing noticed. Publishers search slush piles for the next hot author. Author Annamaria Bazzi alerted me to Kindle Scout, a new program from Amazon that could help both author and publisher reach their goals by involving readers before a book is published.

Annamaria is testing Kindle Scout with a campaign this month, and she agreed to share what she’s learned.White-Swans-FINAL-Amzn-1

How did you get involved with Kindle Scout?

Quite unexpectedly, I received an invitation from Kindle Scout to submit while they were still hashing out the program. I really thought about this program since I never seem to have enough funds to market and my poor novel is just sitting there collecting cyberspace dust.

What is a Kindle Scout campaign?

Amazon is a publishing company with hired editors and all, but they do things a bit differently with this particular program. Once they accept a novel, it is launched in this campaign and the author has to gather votes. Novels with the most votes are considered for publication. I’m sure they have other criteria they go by since they don’t show how many votes each novel gathers. With this program, Amazon is hoping to publish books that are popular with their customers. A good plan that will equate to profits for the giant.

What was enticing about this program?

Well, Amazon will market the book, which will give the author the opportunity of exposure and possibly some good sales. I thought it would be a good way to get my name out there.

Every submitted novel has a thirty-day campaign to gather support and votes. My Kindle Scout campaign started on November 17 and will run through December 17.

What are enough votes?

I’m not sure of that. The one thing I do know is that each novel, to make it, needs a lot of votes. As a new author I’m at a disadvantage because I don’t have a fan base to support me. Therefore I’m using any means that are legal to gather supporters to vote for my novel.

White Swans A Regency World is a Young Adult fantasy series with a pinch of romance. This is book 1. In the campaign, readers are able to read the first three chapters of all the novels competing to determine the stories they would like to vote for.

To look at all the books in the campaign, click here. Every reader can vote for three different novels. Therefore, if you see more than one book you’d like to vote for, you can. If the books you vote for are chosen for publication you’ll receive a free copy of the published book.

Sound interesting? Readers, here’s an opportunity to help encourage authors and books you enjoy. When you visit Kindle Scout, be sure to check out Annamaria’s book White Swans A Regency World. Authors, you might look into Kindle Scout as a publishing option.

White Swans A Regency World
Book Blurb:

Kendíka’s second chance at life begins as a nightmare. Will the eerie eyes always looking down from the sky reveal themselves? Kendíka challenges the aliens no one has ever seen to bring about a better life for the humans trapped in the surreal Regency world she wakes up in. While getting to know her alien owner, she discovers the aliens aren’t so perfect and have much to learn about humans. Will Kendíka survive or perish, attempting to make life better for the people living on Regency?
 
About the author:

annamaria Bazzi authorAlthough born in the United States, Annamaria Bazzi spent a great deal of her childhood in Sicily, Italy, in a town called Sciacca. Italian was the language spoken at home. Therefore, she had no problems when she found herself growing up in a strange country. Upon returning to the States, she promised herself she would speak without an accent. She attended Wayne State University in Detroit Michigan, where she obtained her Bachelor of Science in Computers with a minor in Spanish.

Annamaria spent twenty years programming systems for large corporations, creating innovative solutions, and addressing customer problems. During those years, she raised four daughters and one husband. Annamaria lives in Richmond, Virginia, with her small family where she now dedicates a good part of her day writing.
You can visit Annamaria at:
Blog / WebsiteFacebook PageEmailTwitter / Goodreads
Check in on Kendíka’s Facebook page

Book marketing – It’s not always about sales

Photo by Larry Baker's wife, Ginger Russell, at an appearance in Cedar Falls in 2009.

Now what?

Author Larry Baker (The Flamingo Rising, A Good Man and others) posted this picture to his Facebook page this week, and I laughed. It captures a fear most authors harbor: ‘What if nobody comes?’

It’s not a groundless fear. It happened to me this week. I spend considerable time in advance of events to help ensure their success. But what I can’t do is guarantee people will come.

Over the past week I participated in six events to market my novel Go Away Home: a writing conference, two bookstores signings, a gift store signing, and two library book talks. The marketing side of the writing life.

Here’s an abbreviated look at how I promote and work events.

Bring my own audience – The event host isn’t the only one responsible for getting people to come. Authors need to work their own contacts, too. I use email marketing and social media to generate interest. A ‘save the date’ mailing three weeks in advance, and a reminder three days ahead of the event. I create Facebook events and invite. I tweet. Results of this effort reinforce the importance of using many ways of reaching people: At one book store event, all but one person came as a result of my email campaign. At one library event, none of my contacts came.

Alert media – I sent news releases to media in each town. To the best of my knowledge, none picked up the news for these events. I’ll keep doing this, though, because particularly in smaller towns, I’ve seen terrific pick up.

Stand and deliver – Even though I could sit down, I communicate enthusiasm by standing. I smile and make eye contact, then I ask anyone who meets my gaze if I can tell them about my books. Most will say yes. I pitch my book in 30 seconds or less. Once I’ve given the pitch, I ask questions to keep the person engaged. I put a book in their hands as we talk.

One of my events was in a gift store that also served lunch. The owner had me set up at a table at the edge of the lunch area. I took my books to the tables as guests waited for their food to be delivered. I kept this pitch very short and made sure not to overstay my welcome. An idea for next time: Create table tents to alert people I’m there and to keep my books in front of them as they eat.

Be flexible – I was on the road mainly to market my new novel, but at one library, the book discussion group had just read my memoir and that’s what they wanted to talk about. So we did. I included messages about my novel when it was relevant.

What if no one shows? In spite of all my efforts, at one library, that worst-case scenario happened. I was all set up and the audience didn’t show. I felt worse for the librarian than for myself. She’d done a lot to get the word out, but for who knows how many reasons, no one came.

I’d whiled away a half hour on my own, then a miracle. One young girl walked in the door. Turns out she was the librarian’s daughter. I learned she’d written a story and in that small town, she had found no writing support. We talked one-on-one about what she was writing. How she could get support from her teachers. How she might engage her classmates.

At that library, I didn’t sell any books. I didn’t share the story of my novel or my memoir. But I did something more important. I encouraged another writer.

Now that I’m back at home, feet up, glass of wine in hand, reflecting on the week, I count all the events a success. Everything that happened is part of the writing life. I reconnected with friends. I made new friends. I sold quite a few books. And I encouraged another writer.

That last achievement? Priceless.

* Photo by Larry Baker’s wife, Ginger Russell, at an appearance in Cedar Falls – 2009.

The big questions: Memoir or fiction? Is the Past ever Past?

Life is full of so many questions. What’s for dinner? White wine or red? Is it time to turn on the furnace?

The writing life is no different. Three events coming up in the next several days let me join other authors in discussing some of the big questions writers face. I expect those discussions to both fun and challenging. Equally fun is that you can join in on some of those discussions even if you’re not in Iowa.

The Big Decision – Memoir or Fiction? – On Thursday, October 15, at 6:00 p.m. CDT, my long-time writing buddy author Mary Gottschalk and I are the featured guests in a free teleseminar hosted by the National Association of Memoir Writers. If you’re interested in exploring The Big Decision with us, there’s still time to sign up. Click here.

Celebrate Writing PosterCelebrate Writing at MPL On Saturday, October 18, at the Marion Public Library in Marion, Iowa, I’ll join other fiction writers in a panel discussion on “The Art of Fiction.” Other panels will explore the Perks & Perils of Self-Publishing, Writing Memoirs, and Selling Your Book: Marketing. After lunch, Mary and I will reprise the Fiction or Memoir discussion in a small group workshop. If you’re in the area, seats are still available for the morning panels and a noontime Lunch with the Authors. The afternoon workshop is already wait-listed. For event details, click here.

Live from Prairie LightsIs the Past Ever Past? – On Sunday, October 19, from 2-3 p.m., I’ll be in Iowa City for a book talk and reading at Iowa’s iconic indie bookstore – Prairie Lights. Reading at Prairie Lights is an honor in itself, but this event is even more special because I’ll be joined by author Shirley Showalter, author of Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets A Glittering World. Shirley and I have more than a little in common even though we grew up 1,000 miles apart. Just one tidbit: we’re both dairy farmers’ daughters who grew up to be authors. We’ve only met online, so it will be great fun to meet in person and share the podium.

Since our three books are all set in the past, Shirley recalled William Faulkner’s quote “The Past Isn’t Dead. It isn’t Even Past,” which we adapted for our talk title. If you’re in the area, join us. If you can’t be there in person but you’d still like to hear what we talk about, you can tune in as Prairie Lights streams readings live.

These events offer a unique ability for in person or live interaction over the airwaves. I hope you’ll join in for one or more.

Since I’m still preparing for these presentations, I’d appreciate your thoughts. What do you consider the major factors in whether to to write about a topic as memoir or fiction? What comes into play for you in considering fiction “art”? How do you react to Faulkner’s quote? Is the past dead? If not, why not? How can it be that the past isn’t even past?

A few of my favorite blogs – One Lovely Blog Award

When I began blogging in 2009, I posted my writing for a full year before telling anyone I was doing it. I was trying out my voice, learning the “rules” of blogging, and seeing if I would stick to it. one-lovely-blog-award_thumbFive years later, I’m still at it, my topics as eclectic as when I began.

Since I could not stick to one topic (one of the rules of successful blogging), I was surprised and honored when author Bernice L. Rocque nominated my blog for the One Lovely Blog Award this past week.

On her blog 3Houses, Bernice shares family history stories, recipes, seasonal crafts. Her topics are eclectic (no wonder I like her) and fun. I encourage you to take a look at Bernice’s blog.

As I reflected on all I’ve learned and the many friends I’ve made in the blogosphere, I thought this an appropriate time to recognize them and say thanks.

Here are the Rules for this Award

  • Thank the person who nominated you and link to that blog.
  • Share 7 things about yourself.
  • Nominate 15 bloggers you admire (or as many as you can think of!).
  • Contact your bloggers to let them know that you’ve tagged them for the One Lovely Blog Award.

Seven (7) Things About Me

  1. I played the accordion for many years as a child. If I strapped an accordion on now today, I expect I could still play “Lady of Spain” and “The Beer Barrel Polka.”
  2. At my son’s urging, I joined him for a day of sky-diving. The thirty seconds of free-falling was a close to flying like a bird as I’ll ever get.
  3. I grew up on a dairy farm and actually enjoyed milking cows. If I could find a B&B that included milking cows, I’d be there.
  4. I have a prairie patch in my front yard where I enjoy learning the lessons of life and the names of each of the native plants. Someday, I plan to study the medicinal uses of each of these plants.
  5. My publishing company Rising Sun Press is named for the small unincorporated village I live in. I would have called it Rising Sun Publishing, but that was already taken.
  6. Enjoying the moment is a skill I continually work on. I work hard to remember, “Just this.” “Just now.”
  7. Oct. 1 – An edit after posting – I frequently miss details, like there were supposed to be 7 things about me 😉 Or maybe this was another rule I broke.

Bloggers I Admire

My Blogger Friends
Many moons ago I vowed to pass on the endless stream of chain mail-like opportunities that come through on social media. It’s a personal decision. No offense intended to anyone who likes them, participates in them, or tags me. Yet here I am. Many thanks to Bernice L. Rocque for nominating me.

I thank each of you for the wisdom and enjoyment I’ve gained from reading your blog. You’ve enriched my life. Please know that I release you from any obligation to continue this award/chain.

My Reading Friends
I find each of the blogs I’ve listed to be well written, interesting, entertaining, and educational. Check them out. You may find them worth regular reading, too.

Five strategies for getting book reviews

Getting book reviews that would be posted on Amazon and Goodreads at launch was one of the marketing strategies I pursued prior to publishing my novel Go Away Home. In April, I blogged my intent. Now, I’ll share the results.

Iowa City Public Library blogger reviewed Go Away Home

Library blogger reviewed Go Away Home

The bottom line first – Though I didn’t have a specific number of reviews in mind (which makes it pretty hard to fail), I felt really successful to have 48 reviews averaging 4.7 Stars posted on Amazon in the first month Go Away Home was on sale. On Goodreads, I had 40 reviews averaging 4.5 Stars.

Here’s what I did.

Pitched review copies to historical fiction authors and bloggers. I made 39 direct pitches. From those pitches, I received 17 reviews. Several people took review copies but have yet to post reviews. I’m contacting them with gentle follow-ups – Have they had a chance to read? What did they think?

LibraryThing Giveaway. Following the advice in a blog from The Future of Ink, I made 100 e-copies available. Sixty-five readers took copies. So far, 17 have written reviews, a 26% review rate. Reviews were 4 & 5 stars, and readers readily placed the reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. A gentle follow-up email resulted in pleasant conversations with several readers as well as immediate reviews.

Three advantages to the LibraryThing contest. 1) I gave e-copies in .pdf, mobi, and e-pub formats so there was no out-of-pocket cost to this contest. 2) LibraryThing provides reader emails, so it’s easy to contact readers directly. 3) From what I’ve read on other blogs, getting 26% to review a book is excellent.

Goodreads Giveaway. I made 20 paperback copies available in a three-week giveaway that attracted 1,874 entrants and caused more than 600 to mark Go Away Home “To Be Read.” So far, 4 of the 20 have written reviews, a 20% review rate. Reviews ranged from 2 to 5 stars. Some reviewers placed reviews on Amazon.

The big advantage of the Goodreads giveaway was getting my book in front of so many readers. The biggest downside of this giveaway was cost of books and mailing. Three copies were won by readers in Canada, where media mail does not apply. Yikes. Plus, since Goodreads does not provide email addresses, it’s not easy to follow up.

Blog Tour. I signed up for a 15-stop blog tour that yielded 7 reviews – 4 & 5 Stars. In addition two other bloggers shared reviews that same month. All were posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Boldly Ask. I’ve been bold in asking people to post reviews. When readers tell me they enjoyed the book, I ask them if they’d be willing to post a review. With little editing, they can usually post what they’ve written in their emails to the review links I provide.

Has all this effort made a difference? I think so – for two reasons:

  • People comment on all the great reviews I’m getting. So I know they’re reading them. Reviews create enthusiasm and encourage buzz.
  • Amazon has promoted Go Away Home several times in direct-mail emails.

Overall, I’m glad I made the effort. There are many ways to generate reviews. What strategies have you found to be successful?