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

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?

Feeling the love – Making the most of local book launch events

As I prepared for the launch of my historical novel Go Away Home, I wondered how much the world had changed. Since publishing my memoir as a paperback in 2008, ebooks have proliferated, social media connects the world. Would local launches even be relevant?

Now that the local events are over, I can say the basic strategies of “events, placement and promotion” I blogged about a couple of years ago for doing local launch events are still sound. I’ve refined a few things, and I’m basking in the glow of a successful launch.

I scheduled four events – three in eastern Iowa where I grew up, an area that serves as the setting for much of the novel, and one in Des Moines where I live now.

Libraries, Bookstores & the Historical Society

Preston book Launch 1

Sharing the history of memoir and fiction at the Preston Public Library.

The library in my hometown hosted a large event where I reconnected with friends who enjoyed my memoir and remembered our family fondly. This was my first change to try out my “Writing History” talk. The book talk and Q&A lasted an hour and a half. Another library event in the next county allowed me to connect with more people and maximize my time in the area.

The Jackson County Historical Society – one of my research resources – invited me to speak at their annual meeting. I refined the talk, read a couple of short sections from the book, and shared tidbits of Iowa history I’d learned in doing research for the novel.

Connecting with friends at a launch party for "Go Away Home"

Connecting with friends at a launch party for “Go Away Home”

In Des Moines, my event was at Beaverdale Books, an independent bookstore that was the first to carry my memoir. This event drew a wonderful cross section of people from my life: neighborhood, church, public relations, reading and writing, plus people I didn’t know who’d come to the event because they’d heard about it in the media. For this event, I pared the book talk to 15-20 minutes. Talking with friends old and new, signing books, enjoying a glass of wine. Wonderful!

Where to buy books?

In addition to having books at the events, I made sure books were available in advance of the events and the media promotion.

My home counties are largely rural, so I placed books with the local pharmacies and the historical society, in addition to the one small bookstore. Many people came to the events having already read the book. In Des Moines, I made sure both independent bookstores had copies on their shelves.

Unlike when my memoir was published, with the launch of Go Away Home, I was already live on Amazon, and Barnes & Noble was able to order.

Getting the word out

My marketing background kicks into overdrive for things like this. I created a media kit and made it available on my website. I started contacting media more than a month in advance of the events. This was important for two reasons. In the rural counties, some of the newspapers are weeklies so the deadlines are further out. In a large city like Des Moines, the competition for space is great and the media book time weeks in advance.

The overall news hook of a woman following her dream is a theme from the novel that is playing out in my life as I write and publish my books. I also added other hooks I hoped would appeal to the media: local author, historical fiction set in Iowa, centenary of WWI, successful memoir.  The scheduled events gave the news urgency – a reason to run the story NOW.

I also increased the sophistication of my email marketing. I segmented my email list, sending out “save the date” and reminder emails to people in each market.

The results?

  • The combined events drew in close to 200 people
  • The major newspapers in Jackson and Clinton Counties carried features in print and online editions. I was interviewed live on radio.
  • In Des Moines, the Des Moines Register included my event in the Sunday Arts & Entertainment section “Pick 6” column; I was interviewed on KCCI-TV at noon, and the Business Record focused on me in their e-newsletter and online editions.
  • Momentum. The buzz around these events has led to scheduling other events. People are reading the book and talking about it on social media. Reviews are getting posted.
  • Best of all? I connected with so many people. After working so hard for so long to bring Go Away Home to fruition, the reward is putting it into peoples’ hands.

Soon I’ll blog about the virtual book launch that’s been going on in cyberspace this month. For now, I’m happy feeling the local love. 

Go Away Home – New historical fiction

Go Away Home Final eBook Cover 4-24-14 Large

Go Away Home – A Novel

Start spreading the news! Go Away Home is now available on Amazon and through bookstores.

I’m excited because of what reviewers are saying:

  • The perfect story of coming home.” – Samantha Rivera, Readers’ Favorite 5 Star review
  • Go Away Home is …  gently compelling and highly believable” – D. Donovan, eBook Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
  • Go Away Home is a coming of age novel that is well-written, compelling, and endearing” – Kara Logsden, Iowa City Public Library
  • “… a heart-warming and heart-wrenching tale” – Paulette Mahurin, historical fiction author
  • A poignant, romantic tale …  characters that tug at your heart strings” – David Lawlor, historical fiction author
  • “Bodensteiner … captured the era … with meticulous historical detail” – J.P. Lane, author

Go Away Home – The Story

Liddie Treadway grew up on a family farm where options for her future were marriage or teaching. Encouraged by suffragette rhetoric and her maiden aunt, Liddie is determined to avoid both and pursue a career. Her goal is within her grasp when her older sister’s abrupt departure threatens to keep her on the farm forever.

Once she is able to experience the world she’s dreamed of, Liddie is enthralled with her independence, a new-found passion for photography, and the man who teaches her. Yet, the family, friends, and life of her youth tug at her heart, and she must face the reality that life is not as simple, or the choices as clear-cut, as she once imagined.

GO AWAY HOME is a captivating coming-of-age novel that explores the enduring themes of family, friendship, and love, as well as death and grief. This novel will resonate with anyone who’s confronted the conflict between dreams and reality and come to recognize that getting what you want can be a two-edged sword.

Celebrate with me at launch events throughout July in Iowa and cyberspace.

In person:

  • July 7 – 7 p.m. – Preston Public Library, Preston, Iowa
  • July 8 – 6 p.m. – Clinton Public Library, Clinton, Iowa
  • July 10 – 7 p.m. – Jackson County Historical Society, Maquoketa, Iowa
  • July 18 – 5:30 p.m. – Beaverdale Books, Beaverdale, Iowa

Follow the blog tour – Dates and link posted in July.

Go Away Home_Tour Banner_FINAL

 

 

 

 

To buy now, click on these links:

Go Away Home in paperback             Go Away Home for Kindle

Thanks for letting me be giddy for a bit. Publishing my first novel is, after all, a once in a lifetime experience. Please share this news with anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

Women’s Fiction – What message does it send?

Consequences of segmenting the author/book market

As a college student in the 1960s, I took a class called “Black Literature.” “Black” being the culturally accepted term of the day for African American. We read works including Native Son by Richard Wright and poetry by Langston Hughes. Though the class was taught by a female professor, we did not read anything by black women authors.file2621283662773

During that same time, courses in women’s literature were offered in the gender studies program.

My thinking at the time was that both “black literature” and “women’s literature” were special and worthy of study. I did not consider that by shining a light on a particular group of authors, the courses may simultaneously elevate and demote those authors.

An article titled “What does ‘Women’s Fiction’ mean?” by Randy Susan Meyers has me thinking more critically of the unintended consequences of segmenting the market.

Meyers observes that: “… to publish on Amazon, you must pick a category from a list of wide ranging possibilities that include ten sub-genres of Women’s Fiction and, zero that are labeled Men’s Fiction. The message is clear. Men are the norm. Women are a sub-category.”

From a marketing standpoint, which given a thirty-year career in marketing is how I think about many things, segmenting the market is a good thing. The closer I can get to finding readers who are interested in my specific product (fiction, World War One-era, United States, family, women), the more efficient my marketing and the more likely I am to achieve a sale.

Amazon marketing is sophisticated, and I’ve benefited greatly from their ability to know that “if you liked this author/book, you’ll like that author/book.” I wouldn’t want them to stop.

At the same time, I know that if Go Away Home is considered “Women’s Fiction,” by default the implication is that men may not find it as interesting. But we can go down the list, if it’s World War One-era fiction, people who do not care about that era may not find it appealing. If it’s United States based, people who want to read about Asia may not choose to give it their time. If it’s fiction, people who only read non-fiction are likely to pass it by.

There is a wealth of good literature out there. How do any of us decide? I admit I’m torn on this topic. I’m not fond of the idea of labeling anyone if it somehow makes them “less.” I am fond of knowing who the reader is because if you market to everybody, you market to nobody.

What do you think readers? Is “Women’s Fiction” denigrating to women authors and even women readers? Or is it a reasonable function of market segmentation?

 

Six thoughts on seeking advance book reviews

Laying the foundation for a strong launch.

The manuscript of my historical novel Go Away Home was edited and ready to publish in February. With today’s technology, I could have had the book on sale in a matter of days. But I didn’t. Instead, I set the launch for July – five months out. The reason? I wanted to secure advance reviews.

Reading takes time. Getting a review does, too.

Reading takes time. Getting a review does, too.

Traditional publishers build lead time into publishing schedules in part to allow time to line up the glowing reviews used on the book cover, in “Praise for …” comments inside the book, and for other marketing. Third-party endorsement for a book helps springboard the launch.

I don’t have evidence that says having a certain number of reviews makes a difference in book sales, but reviews do add credibility. Reviews matter to me personally when I check out a book. Reviews appear to matter to Amazon in terms of marketing they do for a book. Reviews also come into play with many book promotion sites.

As an indie publisher, this is yet another of the decisions I get to make. So, I’m giving the strategy of sending out ARCs – Advance Review Copies – my best shot.  I don’t have a magic target number; my goal is as many reviews as I can get. I found a really useful article on the topic at Your Writer Platform that set me on the path.

Time will tell whether my efforts are successful; I’ll let you know. In the meantime, here’s what I’ve done and how I think about it.

Give yourself time – Reviewers get hundreds of review requests, and you may find yourself in a very long queue. Most reviewers ask for 10-12 weeks. One blogger I contacted wasn’t promising a review before January 2016.

To pay or not to payYou’ll find many sites will review for a price. Sometimes a hefty price. I make no judgement about whether paying for a review is a good idea. I lean toward not paying because I’m giving reviewers time. I also hope the concept of my novel will be strong enough to attract on its own merit. Plus, not paying fits my budget.

Target reviewers in your genre – I’ve sought out people and organizations that specialize in, or have an affinity for, historical fiction. The Indie View has a list of bloggers willing to review.  It’s a long list and you have to search for reviewers in your genre. Morgen Bailey offers reviewers by genre on her writing blog.

It takes a lot of time to identify the right bloggers and to tailor pitches according to each blogger’s specifications. I created a table to keep track of my contacts, format requested, ARC distribution, and follow up. I’ve been meticulous in giving reviewers what they want. No form letters. I’ve made all e-formats available, plus paperback.

Utilize the social networkI put the word out to my social media contacts to see if any were willing to read and review, preferably in time for my launch. Questions have been raised about the value of reviews by author friends, so I’m judicious in asking. I also make it clear to each volunteer that I expect an honest review. That the bonds of friendship don’t apply for this task. I mean it.

Playing the numbers game – Again following the lead of publishers, I’ve created ARC giveaways on Goodreads and LibraryThing. These giveaways run through the month of April. I state specifically that the objective is to give out copies to garner reader reviews.  Of course there are no guarantees. I understand from other authors that if 10-20% of the people who win a copy actually post reviews, that is a high return.

Keep breathing – Seeking reviews is a marathon, not a sprint. Finding the right contacts, sending the right information, waiting, waiting, waiting. Then there’s the anxiety regarding whether any reviewer will actually like my baby. When I began sending out review copies, I realized I spent a lot of time holding my breath.

Kara Logsden reading Go Away Home

Kara Logsden reading Go Away Home

And now for some good news:  I heard from two reviewers this week. “Well written. Compelling. Engaging,” said Kara Logsden of the Iowa City Public Library in a review posted in her blog. She took my book to a radio interview and posted the picture on Facebook. I was in heaven. To read more of Kara’s review, click.  A second, equally positive review, won’t be live until July when the book is for sale and Amazon lets readers post reviews.

The review process can seem arduous. But now I have early confirmation of my effort. Now I can breathe again.

What do you think? Authors: What was your decision regarding seeking reviews? What worked best? Readers: How much do reviews matter to you?