Reviews matter – Here’s how to get them

Have you watched the big five trade book publishers launch a book? They always have an impressive list of reviews on Amazon the day a book launches. When I launched Go Away Home, I tried to have reviews ready to go, too.

Reading takes time. Getting a review does, too.

Reading takes time. Getting a review does, too.

When a senior acquisition editor for Lake Union Publishing told me all the rave reviews led her to read my debut novel, she affirmed what I’d felt in my gut — reviews really do matter.

This post consolidates two previous posts about my approach to getting reviews and includes new learning gained since those posts were written.

How many reviews is enough? – Though I didn’t have a specific number of reviews in mind, 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 and how it worked.

Overall
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. I started seeking reviews five months in advance of my launch.

To pay or not to pay – Many sites will review for a price. I make no judgement about whether paying for a review is a good idea. I leaned toward not paying because I gave reviewers time. I also hoped the novel was strong enough to attract on its own merit. I did pay for an expedited review from Readers’ Favorite only because I wanted to be sure I had it before publication.

Utilize the social network – I 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 made it clear to each volunteer that I expected an honest review. That the bonds of friendship didn’t apply for this task. I meant it. A one or two-star review is no fun, but all reviews speak to credibility.


Actions & Results
Target book bloggers and organizations who review in your genre – 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.

Personal pitches to historical fiction authors and bloggers. I made 39 direct pitches, resulting in 17 reviews, including one from the Historical Novel Society. I also pitched to local media. While I received good media coverage of launch events, these did not include reviews. Of course, not everyone reviews. Several people took review copies but have yet to post reviews. There are no guarantees they ever will.

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 was meticulous in giving reviewers what they wanted. No form letters. I made all e-formats available, plus paperback. Doing this again, I’d cast a broader net to include women’s fiction bloggers. With a year of promotion under my belt, I know that this genre is another good fit for my book.

Lake Union has made Go Away Home available to reviewers through NetGalley. I was not familiar with this service making advance review copies available to bloggers, media and other reviewers, but they tell me books posted here can result in dozens if not hundreds of new reviews.

Blog Tour – I also paid for a blog tour organized by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours. It was well worth the investment to have a specialist with established contacts set up a tour. Go Away Home was featured on 14 blogs, resulting in 3 guest posts and 8 reviews – 4 & 5 stars, all posted on Amazon and Goodreads.

Play the numbers game – I created advance review copy giveaways specifically to garner reader reviews.  I understand from other authors that if 10-20% of the people who win copies actually post reviews, that’s a high return.

LibraryThing Giveaway. Following the advice in a blog from The Future of Ink, I made 100 e-copies available. Sixty-five readers took copies. At launch, 17 wrote 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.

Two 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. 2) LibraryThing provides reader emails, so it’s easy to contact readers directly.

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.” At last check, 4 of the 20 had written reviews, a 20% review rate. Reviews ranged from 2 to 5 stars.

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.

Reinforcing that these giveaways are good for raising visibility, Lake Union Publishing is running a 20-copy giveaway of the new edition now. Click and enter.

Bookbub Promotion. Hands down, the biggest review generator was one I hadn’t even considered for that purpose – a BookBub promotion. In addition to generating impressive sales, readers responded with 36 new reviews in the first couple of months after the promotion.

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

Was all this effort worth it? You bet.

  • People comment on all the great reviews I’m getting. Reviews create enthusiasm and buzz.
  • Amazon has promoted Go Away Home numerous times in direct-mail emails.
  • Just this past week, Go Away Home earned it’s 100th review.
  • And, of course, there’s the big bonus of attracting the attention of Lake Union Publishing. There’s no guarantee that reviews will lead to a contract, but without them it most certainly would not have happened.

I’m so grateful to every reader who reads my books. A special thank you to each of you who took the time to post a review. Reviews really matter.

The value of a blog tour?

RunningWhile I was running fast on the ground to launch my historical novel Go Away Home in Iowa, I was also zipping through cyberspace on a virtual book tour that included 15 blog visits.

In the course of the tour, I participated in two author interviews, shared my thoughts on efficient “just in time” historical research and my inspiration for writing the book, offered my ideas for networking online to promote a book, and made copies of Go Away Home available for giveaways.

A virtual book tour was a new marketing approach for me. My goals were to share my book more broadly and to garner reviews.

Here’s what the reviewers had to say:

Patty @ Broken Teepee: (4.5 stars) “This is a well written story about a young woman, Liddie, who was born on a farm in Iowa at the turn of the 20th century. I felt myself quite engrossed in the story and found it very hard to put down. It wasn’t all sweetness and light and Liddie learns some hard lessons as she grows up. Ms. Bodensteiner has a very strong feel for the era and its mores and I would love to follow the characters further.”

Kathryn @ A Bibliotaph’s Reviews (4 stars): “Bodensteiner draws on familial history within this tale, and her writing leaves the reader with a sense of homesickness for one’s family. Her writing style is detailed but not in a manner that overloads the reader with information. She often leaves them guessing as to what will come next. I highly recommend this book.”

PC @ Writing Whims (5 stars): “The research is impeccable in this novel. Ms. Brodensteiner has proven herself as an exceptional storyteller in her first novel. If you enjoy rich characters and historical fiction, you won’t be disappointed in Go Away Home.

Lauralee @ History from a Woman’s Perspective (4 stars): “Overall, the book is about family, friendship, love, loss, sacrifice, choices, and hope. It is also about a person’s quest for home. The pace of the novel is easygoing, reminiscent of a leisurely Sunday morning. However, it is pleasing and you care what happens to Liddie. I recommend this book to anyone interested in early 20th century America, life in the rural Midwest, and those who face tough choices in their own lives.”

Kathleen @ CelticLady’s Reviews (5 stars): “Go Away Home is written about the daily struggles within a family during a tough time in our American history. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I am not sure if there is to be a sequel, but I think it would be interesting to see what happens to Liddie in the future. I highly recommend this book!”

Jorie @ Jorie Loves a Story: “Bodensteiner reaches back into the classical story-telling grace of giving her characters an encouragement of innocence and an appreciation for learning through their choices. She … fills … the novel with realistic truths and a backdrop of honesty that is refreshing to find in the historical fiction genre. This is a story that knits into your heart as you soak inside its core, giving you a firm realisation that you’ve found a family you’re emotionally connected too. I shall not soon forget this novel and I cannot wait to read more by the author.

Ashley @ Closed The Cover (4 stars): “Liddie is an incredible character, which is essential in a book like this as she is the primary focus of the novel. The book centers around her; her hopes, goals, dreams, passions and eventual understanding. She is everything a reader would expect from a young girl as she is naive, hopeful and passionate yet as the story progresses she grows and understands. Readers will find themselves quickly and fully engrossed in her story. Liddie’s coming-of-age story is remarkable and will take readers on a very emotional journey. In the end Liddie must choose that which is the most important to her and decide on what it is that makes life worth living. This is a beautiful book. Wonderful, lovely and a great read!

There’s no question a blog tour is a lot of work for the author. Posts to write, staying in touch with comments, sharing the posts across social media. I arrived at the end of the month as winded as if I’d run to all those places in real time. I also conclude the month satisfied that the investment in a professional tour company was well made. Kudos to Amy Bruno at Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for setting up the tour and managing it so well.

I couldn’t have asked for more in the reviews. Some of these reviewers expressed interest in a sequel; other readers have, too. A sequel wasn’t in my head when I wrote this novel, but not the seed has been planted. We’ll have to see if it grows. Overall,  the success of the tour was summed up for me in the comment a reader left: “I’m seeing this book everywhere.”

Have you picked up a copy of Go Away Home yet? If these reviews spark your interest, here are links: Print – Createspace           Kindle – ebook

What is Go Away Home about? Readers weigh in.

One of my college professors spent much of a semester dissecting T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Love-Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” I must admit, I left the classroom on most days shaking my head in dismay. I saw NONE of what the professor talked about.

Writers, painters and sculptors go about creating art out of their own souls. When they share their art with the world, readers and viewers apply their attitudes, emotions, and worldview to the art and create something new. They may see some, all or none of what the creator had in mind.

Now that my novel Go Away Home is out in the world, I’m seeing this happen. Recent reviews by bloggers on the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour offered these observations:

Svetlana at Svetlana’s Reads and Views suggested this theme: “There is more to life than satisfying self.”

Svetlana draws comparisons between Go Away Home and stories by Willa Cather and Sarah Orne Jewett who wrote on similar themes of responding to societal expectations versus satisfying self. “… the book is a bit of evolution when it comes to the question of “having it all,” Svetlana says.

“Whether or not the reader has familiarity with the era and what was going on, I found the story to be very resonating as well as relevant and modern,” Svetlana continues. To read more of her comments, click here.

The theme of inequality between women and men and the desire for that to change resonated with Darlene at Peeking Between the Pages

“At a time in history when women were made to accept being only housewives or teachers, she dared to be different and want more for herself,” says Darlene of the novel’s main character Liddie. “Go Away Home will tug at your heart and leave you feeling enriched for having read it.” To read more from Darlene, click here.

Midwest Book Review called it, “… a tale of choices, dreams realized and rejected, and how values evolve.”

Readers’ Favorite said, “Go Away Home is the perfect story of coming home.”

With each reader, I learn more about what I wrote in Go Away Home. Sometimes I find myself thinking, “I had no idea!”

Have you found yourself wondering whether what you took out of a novel or other artwork was what the creator intended? If you’ve read Go Away Home, please share what you think it’s about. I’m curious.

My virtual book tour continues throughout July. For more reviews, giveaways and guest posts on writing historical fiction, check in regularly on my blog tour.Go Away Home_Tour Banner_FINAL

Tips for being in two places at once

The magic of a modern-day book launch.

file0001820510540I’m not in the habit of defying the time/space continuum, but this month I’ll be giving it my best shot. July is the official launch of my World War One-era novel Go Away Home, and the month is packed.

My first event is a library book talk today. The week of July 8, I return to eastern Iowa where I grew up for three events. At the same time, I’ll be zipping through cyberspace making the first four stops on a virtual book tour. The rest of the month repeats the challenge with more blog stops and more in-person events each week. July’s last event (at least that I know about right now) is July 25.

Maybe the best I can hope for is not to meet myself coming and going. I’ve taken these steps to ensure a smooth launch:

  • Written four versions of a presentation that focuses on Writing History. It’s a challenge to anticipate what audiences will want to hear, but my journey from memoir to fiction with an emphasis on the historical commonality seems a good place to start. With four outlines in hand, I can adapt on the go as the presentation evolves based on audience questions.
  • Wrote a multitude of guest posts. Invitations by author/bloggers Shirley Showalter, Annamaria Bazzi, David Lawlor, P.C. Zick (July 9),and Christoph Fischer (Aug 4) to visit their blogs have helped me prepare for interviews, focus my thinking and get the word out. I’m grateful to them for hosting me.
  • Product in place. My eastern Iowa events are in towns without bookstores. Since I know from my memoir experience that people want a local place to buy the book, I’ve arranged with two pharmacies, the county historical society and a library to stock copies.
  • Media outreach. I’ve returned to my public relations roots to prepare media materials and made them available on my website. I’ve targeted pitches to key media for interviews. I’ve made sure local media in the geography surrounding my events have news releases and images well in advance.
  • E-mail marketing. On the theory that people who know me will be most interested in hearing about Go Away Home, I’ve sent a series of targeted e-mails to everyone on my list. The response has been encouraging and sends me forward on a wave of good feelings.

Modern technology is a wonderful thing. Without the Internet, wi-fi, and cell phones, this would not be possible. Time will tell how my body reacts to being in two places at the same time.

No doubt, I’ll arrive at the end of the July exhausted. During the month, I know I’ll have reconnected with old friends, met many new friends, and had a lot of fun.

I think I’m prepared. I hope so. But are there other things I should be doing? If you think of something, let me know. It’s not too late. After all, if I can be in two places, surely three can’t be that difficult 😉

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.

Even fantasy has to be historically accurate – Guest Post – Annamaria Bazzi

WhiteSwansARegencyEra for blogsI want to thank Carol for hosting the tenth stop on my blog tour for the young adult fantasy short story series White Swans: A Regency Era. It’s great to be here, Carol. It’s been quite a different experience scheduling my own blog tour, and not always as fun as doing the research and writing for my book!

The research I did for the first short story of the White Swans series was both interesting and fun. Historical facts are important no matter what genre an author writes, but especially writing for young adults, since teens are impressionable and tend to believe everything they read. Even the accuracy of the details of clothing, which might seem trivial, is essential.

The Regency Era has intrigued me since I was a child, but even more so after reading Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. For many of my facts, I turned to the Jane Austen websites, which are full of wonderful historic details.

One of the more challenging items I researched was how to address people. I had been under the impression that I could refer to a duke as ‘My Lord.’ Boy was I wrong! To do so is quite degrading. A duke is addressed as ‘Your Grace’, and he’s introduced as, for example, ‘Charles Emory, the Duke of Deverow.’ Yes, he is one of the leading characters in my book.

What about the funny little hat maids wore that looked like a shower cap? Well, that’s called a mob hat, and no, it has nothing to do with mobsters and gangsters. It was an essential part of a maid’s uniform.

Speaking of servants, I had to understand what a footman does versus a butler. A footman did a variety of indoor and outdoor jobs. Important to me were the indoor jobs. Learning that a footman laid out the table, served the meal and tea, and assisted the butler helped me determine what Wordsworth’s duties had to be in the book.

During this research, I learned that the butler was responsible for household security and most important, the wine cellar. The butler didn’t wear a uniform, but he wore a black cravat instead of a white one so he would not be mistaken for a gentleman.

I also needed to know the difference between a chambermaid, parlor maid, a personal maid, and a lady in waiting. The housekeeper supervised all the maids including the cook, ordered food and supplies, and took care of the household accounts. She pretty much ran the house. I chose not to give my character Lady Kendíka a lady in waiting. Instead, I gave her a companion, whose duties I describe in the second book.

Another very important servant was the personal maid or “abigail.” A personal maid took care of all the lady’s needs. In White Swans, Cordova is Lady Kendíka’s abigail, Cordova dresses and undresses Lady Kendíka, helps with her hair and also mends and takes care of all her dresses.

Finding out about men’s wear was interesting. I always wondered about the cravat, also called a neckcloth. Worn with high-collared shirts, a cravat is a long, narrow strip of linen or silk wrapped around the neck several times and tied in the front.

Behavior and manners are also important. My character Charles has exemplary manners. While his etiquette is excellent, Kendíka, who is new to the world and comes from the 21st century, has much to learn.

It is my firm belief an author should use the facts of history correctly to leave the proper impressions with the reader, especially when dealing with impressionable teens.

White Swans: A Regency Era

Left an orphan, Kendíka cries herself to sleep and startles awake in a Regency castle. Terror consumes her, and she attempts to escape only to discover the new world is her prison. Having no choice, she attends a ball given by her guardian, Lord Deverow, to introduce her into society. He admonishes her to follow the rules and promises to protect her from the wrath of the strange, hazy set of eyes spying on everything. But when she ignores his warning, Kendíka learns firsthand what it means to be disobedient.

Annamaria Bazzi

Although 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 solution, 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
Facebook

email: annamariascorner@yahoo.com
Twitter

Links to Annamaria’s books
White Swans: A Regency Era — Amazon
A Simple Matter of Justice — Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords
Revelation of AbaddonAmazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords