Book Marketing, Author Publicity, Branding

Thursday, March 31, 2011

John Grisham is Afraid of E-Books

Count author John Grisham among those who are afraid that ebooks will make printed paper books go the way of the dinosaur.  On the Today Show, Grisham says that with deep discounts on paper books being offered by Amazon and Walmart, and ebooks being sold for a fraction of what a hardcover book could bring, it will be harder for authors like him to make money and for new authors to get published. 

With all due respect to John Grisham, I think he may be a bit stuck in the past, or how things "used to be" in publishing.  Publishing is a business, just like any other.  It has used the same delivery method...printed books...to move a product since Gutenberg invented the printing press.   It has been a recent development that publishing companies have embraced a technology to help them move their products...namely ebook readers.  Amazon says they now sell more ebooks than hardcover books. 

About 25 years ago, the music industry was just starting to use a new format to sell its albums:  compact discs.  I listened to a CD in a music store and was blown away.  I had to have one.  I ordered one of the first CD players available, and ordered it directly from a company in Japan.  It set me back $800.  When it was delivered, I raced out and purchased ONE single CD to play on my new CD player.  The reason I only purchased one was because CDs were $30 each back then, and this was in the mid-80s.  That was a lot of money back then. 

Now, you can buy a CD player for $10, and CDs are even cheaper.  As the technology became more widespread and adopted by the consumer, prices for the products came down.  This is what is happening in publishing right now.  As e-book readers become more popular, and more consumers purchase them, the price is going to come down, and that means the end-product...the books...will be lowered in price also. 

Does that mean authors and publishers are doomed, like John Grisham says?  I believe the answer is "no" for several reasons:

Look at the music industry.  Recording artists aren't losing money.  They still make as much money as they ever have, perhaps even more.  They may not make all of their money from selling music, but what they lose to cheap downloads they make up for with tours and the sales of other products, like t-shirts.  Record labels are finally embracing digital technology and making money from it. 

Paper books won't disappear entirely.  Did you know that about 30 percent of all Americans don't use the Internet, Facebook, download music, etc.?  Some people just aren't into gadgets.  Instead of buying MP3 players, they still listen to vinyl albums, and new vinyl albums are still being made, by the way.  Some people will always prefer to read books on paper.  Paper books may not be the main way people get their books ten years from now, but they'll still be there. 

Books aren't going away, but bookstores might.  Remember the corner "record store?"  I used to go to the record store every pay day to buy the latest album releases.  People don't get their music this way anymore.  They either download it or buy it at a discount store like Walmart.  Books will probably wind up being the same way down the road.  You may not see as many bookstores around ten years from now, but you'll still be able to buy books. 

Adapt, or die.  As with everything in business, the authors and publisher who will be the most successful will be those who embrace the new technology and look for new ways to diversify their products and make money from them.  Stephen King was one of the first authors to release a new book in ebook form to the masses, and he continues to be very successful.  He recognized early on that this is the way books were going to be sold in the future.  The authors and publishers who cling to the notion that their hardcover books should sell for $30 new at at the corner bookstore are in big trouble. 

Also, Grisham is mistaken in his notion that "aspiring writers will find it harder to get published."  More books are being published now than ever before.  Some authors are going the traditional route...getting an agent, shopping their manuscript, taking a small advance and hoping their book sells for $30 at the corner bookstore.  Others are self-publishing or cranking out ebooks and selling them online, cheap. 

Printed books may not necessarily be endangered, but authors and publishers who don't adapt to change certainly will be.

You can watch the John Grisham interview here:


Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Establishing an Author Presence on Social Networking Sites

By Tony Eldridge, creator of Marketing Tips For Authors
If you've been online long, you've heard a chorus of experts say how important it is to create an online presence. When you start, you'll see that it's easy to set up many individual sites, but it takes a little more work to tie these sites together into a single unit that works as one. If you don't do this, then you will create an online presence that is hard to manage.

Some authors choose to have a social networking site as their "hub". This, however, is not my preferred method. I'd recommend that your social networking sites be the spokes that feed into your main blog or website. For more on this concept, read a post that I wrote for BookBuzzr called, Creating A Marketing Hub.

Social networking sites ebb and flow with popularity, so what we discuss now may not be the same thing we might discuss tomorrow. That said, let's look at a few sites that authors should consider joining as well as some general principles to keep in mind as we interact with others on these sites.

Tony's List Of Top Social Networking Sites For Authors (And Why)


Twitter and Facebook round out my top two recommendations by far. This is where people are right now and if you learn to use these two sites effectively, you can find a lot of readers for your book.

GoodReads and Shelfari are two sites devoted to books. They are reader driven sites that give authors a great platform to interact with readers.

Author Central is Amazon's site where authors can build out more information for people who are browsing for books. Why wouldn't you carve out your spot on the biggest book-buying place on the planet?

Author's Den is an author driven site where you can network with other authors as well as find readers for your book.

I'll admit that there are other great sites for authors to join. Many of these are niche sites that will be perfect for the book you wrote. For example, if you wrote a gardening book, then it makes sense for you to look for social networking sites devoted to gardening.

Once you decide to create a social networking presence, here are some things to remember:
  • These sites are created to build relationships, not to advertise on. Don't spam your readers or you will be shunned.
  • These sites can help you build a reputation as an expert in your field. Find ways to enter the conversations on them.
  • Keep it professional. While sharing some personal news can help you connect with your followers, too much will turn people off.
  • Give more value than you ask for and people will listen to what you have to say.
  • Don't get ugly. While some people love to watch a fight, most are turned off by rude bickering. A "troll" is someone who gets his or her kicks from publicly fighting. Don't fall into their trap by taking their bait.
  • For more great ideas on this topic, read

I also recommend that you choose one or two social networking sites to start off with. A mistake many authors make is by trying to do too much too quickly and getting overwhelmed. If you want more than an online billboard, then you'll need to spend a little time developing your presence on these sites. Add more once you can handle the few you start off with.

Here are some other posts that will help you with your social networking activities:
I hope this post helps you get started on the social networking part of your book marketing plan. There are a lot of resources out there to help. What I've shared barely scratches the surface. With a little planning, a little research, and taking things one step at a time, you can build an online presence with social networking sites that definitely bring value to you, your books, and to all the people you connect with.


Get your Kindle copy of The Samson Effect or Conducting Effective Twitter Contests for just $2.99 each.


Bio:

Tony Eldridge is the author of the award winning action/adventure novel, The Samson Effect, which Clive Cussler calls a "first rate thriller brimming with intrigue and adventure." He is also the creator of Marketing Tips for Authors, a site that publishes free tips and videos to help authors learn marketing techniques for their books. You can read the serial release of The Samson Effect at http://samsoneffect.marketingtipsforauthors.com/
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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Leveraging National News to Promote Yourself and Your Book

Back in the days before the Internet, e-books, IPods and digital publishing, releasing a book was news.  The mere fact that someone had written a book was worthy of coverage in the newspaper.  Not anymore.  Technology has made it easier to get published, even if someone is merely writing their story in a blog.  The simple act of releasing a book won't garner big press coverage anymore, unless you happen to already be famous.

So how does an author get the attention of the media?  One of the best ways is to tie in your story with a big national story going on right now.  Bill Hanks, the author of Serenity:  It's a God Deal recently did an excellent job of doing just that. 

You have no doubt seen the public spectacle of Charlie Sheen's recent meltdown in which he bragged of his drug use, proclaimed he had "tiger blood", got fired and lost custody of his kids.  Bill's book is a very personal story of overcoming substance abuse, and he wrote an editorial about Charlie Sheen and the symptoms of drug abuse for the Tulsa World newspaper. Not only does this help the newspaper localize a national story and give them content to share with their readers, but it establishes Bill as a local expert on the topic of drug abuse.  The editorial does mention Bill is an author and plugs his book at the end. 

If Bill had just contacted the paper and told them he released a book, would the Tulsa World have given him this kind of space in their newspaper?  Probably not.  But, because Bill was able to tie his personal experience and expertise to a big national story, he was able to get across his message and promote his book at the same time. 

If you have a story that is emotional, informational or sensational, and you are able to tie that information to a national story, you will find it far easier to promote yourself and your book.
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Monday, March 21, 2011

Persistence Pays Off

I have mentioned here previously that one of the biggest mistakes authors make is that they get discouraged too easily and quit too soon.  After running into a few bumps in the road during the marketing process, they through in the towel.  "It's too hard," they tell me.  "Isn't it good enough just to have a good book? "

In short, no.  There are a lot of good, even great, books in the marketplace that are all fighting for readership and sales.  The author that will come out ahead is the one that has done the best job of building their platform and connecting with their book's niche audience. 

I recently received this email from one of the authors I work with that illustrates the importance of persistence:

I have followed up with many of the contacts on the roster you sent. Though a lot of them never respond to my emails, I have found that they do put something in the paper about the book and the event scheduled in their area.
 
One of the contacts on your roster was The Eufaula Tribune newspaper in Eufaula, AL. I contacted them (twice) and finally had a response that they wanted to do an interview.  We just completed the interview and the reporter will post an article in their paper next Tuesday.  She asked for the file with the book cover picture, and pulled an author picture from my website. She also gave me the name of a gift shop in Eufaula that sells Christian fiction.  I called, talked with a lady, told her about the up-coming article in their paper, and requested a book signing there.  She was very encouraging and indicated they'd love to do a book signing for me. The owner was out, but she gave me her name and asked me to call her tomorrow. She said if she isn't in, they would give me her personal number to call.  I will email you when I have a firm date for the book signing. (How's that for positive thinking?)
 
You are right about needing to contact them more than once.  I've found that sometimes you have to be a squeaky wheel.  Whatever works!
 
For a first time author, Barnes & Noble in Columbus went well.  I was pleased. After much persistence the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer put a notice about the book signing in their paper.  Now I have to get busy and schedule some more signings.  I have had some interest from a local book club as well.  I'm praying the signing at Dove Christian this Saturday will do well, also.
 
If this author had not been so persistent, she would not have had as many media or book signing opportunities as she was able to get in a short period of time.  Don't wait for good things to happen to your book.  As an author, you have to make them happen.  
 
 
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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Illegitimate Book Reviewers and How to Spot Them

The Illegitimate Book Reviewers And How to Spot Them



The Illegitimate Book Reviewers And How to Spot Them

By Irene Watson


Authors need book reviews to sell their books, and of course they want great ones. Authors who learn their craft, do their research, and produce quality, well-written books deserve good endorsements, and by putting in the proper time and effort, such authors usually receive glowing praise from reviewers. But even good books can receive bad reviews-and I don't mean reviews that say negative things about the book. I'm talking about ones written by people not qualified, no matter how highly esteemed, to write them. Why are they not qualified? Because they do not read the books.

Let's face it. Books are a business, and reviewers know authors need them. Free reviews are becoming harder and harder to find. Reviewers are now being paid for their services, and they should be; their time is valuable, and reading a book and writing a decent review can take many hours. Authors need to be prepared to pay for the service and to realize it's a business investment, just like advertising and marketing, where money is invested in hopes it will result in book sales.

But unscrupulous people-let's call them illegitimate book reviewers-are willing to prey upon authors' needs. They realize they can make money off an author without providing a legitimate service. Let's say you make $100 for every book you review, and it takes you eight hours to read a book. That's $100 a day. But wouldn't it be nice to make $200 or $400 or $1,200 a day? What if, instead of reading the books, you just skimmed them, or you just regurgitated what the back cover said? Think how many fake ones you could pump out, and how much money you could make, while giving authors what they want. So what if the review is only four sentences? As long as you give it five stars at Amazon, the author will be happy, right? Cha-ching!
Sadly, yes, in many cases, authors have been happy. But mostly they are first-time or self-published authors new to the business who got lucky getting accurate descriptions of their books. I've known many such authors rave about how their book was rated by one of these "esteemed" or "top" reviewers, often one close to the top in Amazon's rankings.

Early on when I started offering book reviews, I realized it was unlikely I would ever be ranked in Amazon's Top 10, not because my reviews lacked quality or I didn't cover enough books, but simply because I was not a robot, and I actually read the books. If you look at Amazon's list of top Amazon reviewers, many of them have reviewed over 5,000 books. If you are a service with several reviewers on staff, that number is understandable, but most of the top ranked are individuals. How can this be? Even if it's your full time job and you could read a book a day, or even two books a day, that's only ten a week or about five hundred a year. You'd have to have been reviewing at Amazon for ten years to break 5,000. Okay, I guess that's possible, but take a look at some of the top ones on Amazon. Some of them have posted on up to fifteen books a day. Yes, some of them are legitimate and write quality write-ups, so I don't mean to disparage those individuals.
Granted, a few of these people might be speed readers, but the jury is still out on the legitimacy of speed reading. I had a friend who claimed to be a speed reader. I gave her three mystery novels to read that she returned to me the next day. When I asked her whether she had figured out who the murderer was in one book, she couldn't remember "whodunit." If you're reading so fast you can't retain the basic plot, you're not really reading the book.

Worse, some of these write-ups have nothing to say that an author can even use. I've seen some that are only three or four sentences of plot summary without anything that states the book is "good, excellent, engaging, or not to be missed." An author can't get a blurb for a back cover if a review only summarizes but does not rate the book's quality.

Still worse, many of what authors hope will be useful endorsements for their books end up, because the books weren't read but text was quickly reworded from the back cover, with characters' names misspelled, factual errors about the plot, and sometimes even mistakes about the theme, content, and whole point of the book-all dead giveaways a book was never read. Sometimes the plot summaries then only result in confusion, and if a reader is confused, he's not going to buy a book or waste his time reading it.

Some authors might not care about such details. If the review is good, it's good enough to sell books, right? But if it's misleading, readers are not going to be happy when the books they buy do not reflect what is said about them. Hopefully, when readers have those experiences, they'll know better than to trust those reviewers again.

Sadly, as long as money is involved, illegitimate reviewers won't be going away any time soon. But as an author who is paying, you deserve to have your book read. Most authors, myself included, want legitimate feedback on what readers think about our books. We write our books as much to entertain, inform, educate, or invoke an emotional response from our readers as we do to sell a few books. As authors, we deserve better.

So what can an author do about this situation? I don't see any point in getting angry over the situation since I don't think it will change anything. You can write to these phonies and complain, but it's unlikely to do any good. A few things you can do are:
  1. Do Your Research. Look at a reviewer's history and what they have written in the past. How well-written is their work-is it more than just plot summary? Ask yourself whether it's worth your time and money to pay for such a service, or even just pay the postage and give away a free book to such an individual.
  2. Request Corrections. If you get reviewed, and the write-up has errors such as misspelled character names or the book is incorrectly listed as a sequel to your last book, contact the individual and request that corrections be made. I have known several authors who have successfully had the review corrected-especially when they paid for the initial work.
  3. Vote. Every review posted to Amazon gives you the opportunity to vote whether or not it was helpful to you. Reviewer rankings are not based solely on how many postings they have. While figuring out how Amazon determines these rankings remains largely a mystery, votes do impact the rankings. Voting may do little to help or hurt a reviewer but it's better than nothing.
  4. Learn from the Experience. You've learned your lesson, and it might not even have been a difficult one, but you now know in the future to stay away from these unscrupulous individuals. If you're traditionally published, your publisher might use such a reviewer anyway but you can request otherwise. Nevertheless, remember that publishing is a business and that makes it a dollars game; sadly, accurate representation of your book may not be as important to your publisher as making a buck.
  5. Share Your Knowledge. Share with your fellow authors your experiences. That doesn't mean you're gossiping about reviewers. You are assisting other authors in making legitimate business decisions about how to spend their money. Legitimate business decisions should not end with illegitimate results.
Many good book reviewers are out there. Find them and build lasting relationships with them; then you won't need to depend on illegitimate ones to find readers and sell your books.
Irene Watson is the Managing Editor of Reader Views, where avid readers can find reviews of recently published books as well as read interviews with authors. Her team also provides author publicity and a variety of other services specific to writing and publishing books.

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

The 20th Century Way of Selling Books

I have been seeing an increase in emails and phone calls lately which go something like this:

"Terry, the release date for my book was two weeks ago. I have been to 12 different major bookstores, and I haven't seen my book in any of them. What are you doing to promote my book?"

Let me answer that question with another question:  why are you so hung up on the 20th Century way of selling books?

I don't know if you have noticed this or not, but bookstores are in trouble.  Borders has filed for bankruptcy and closed 200 stores nationwide.  Barnes & Noble is relying more and more on digital content, specifically for its Nook e-reader.  In 2009, major chain bookstores accounted for just 27 percent of all book sales in the U.S.    While that is nearly one-third of the market, where are the other books being sold?

The rest of the books were sold through other types of retailers, online, mail-order book clubs and through other niche market venues.  The average bookstore can hold about 10,000 titles, and the superstores may be able to stock as many as 100,000 titles.  Last year, more than one million titles were released in the United States, when self-published titles are taken into account.  That means a lot of titles are not going to make the cut and get stocked in a bookstore.

The decision to stock a book in a bookstore is completely up to the buyers for the various bookstore chains or the manager/owners of the locally-owned independent bookstores, not the publishers.  They stock books that either already have a track record of sales or are written by authors who have a track record of sales under their belt.  Bookstores are taking less risks with new, unknown authors, especially in today's economy.  It is up to the authors to prove themselves by bringing in crowds to their book signing events and selling a lot of books. 

Bookstores will give a title a certain amount of time to sell, and if it doesn't it's getting sent back to the publisher.  The photo you see at the beginning of this article shows the books in my office that have been returned by bookstores.  These are the books that did not sell, and they are just a small portion of the books that were returned by the bookstores last month.  Returns cost the publisher and that author money.  That is not good.

I think there are three main reasons authors want to see their book prominently displayed on a bookstore shelf:

1.  They believe it will help them sell a lot of books.  As we have already seen, there are no guarantees this will happen.  Unless the author is actively pushing their readers through their platform to go to specific stores to purchase their books, those books are merely being displayed, not sold.

2.  They believe they aren't a "real" author unless their book is in a bookstore.  This is nonsense.  You became a real author when you published your book.

3.  Vanity.  They want to be able to tell their friends and family "my book is in the XYZ bookstore!"  That's great...if the book is actually selling.  If not, it won't be in that bookstore for long.  It will wind up in that pile you see in the photograph.

I am not downplaying the importance of bookstores.  I happen to sell a lot of books to bookstores, as does my company.  I was disappointed and saddened to see Borders file for bankruptcy.  This is not a good thing for readers or for the publishing industry.  When a bookstore fails, it gives publishers fewer sales avenues and readers fewer choices. 

However, one thing I always try to stress to authors is when it comes to selling their book, bookstores are not the only choice they have available.  Bookstores should be a part of every author's marketing plan, but it should not be the only part.  Authors should be doing book fairs, book festivals, speaking engagements, connecting with their readers via social media, making appearances at other types of retailers, contacting the media, blogging and many of the other activities that I have mentioned here frequently on this blog.  If you are concentrating only on bookstores, you are only going to potentially reach 27 percent of the book-buying public...maybe.

During the 20th Century, bookstores were the main way of selling books.  As we move further ahead into the 21st Century, that is no longer true.
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