Author Archives: Rebecca

Other Pricing Considerations

I’m not going to be able to tell you specifically at what price to sell your book, but I can share some thoughts on the subject with you.

Pricing to low can work against you

The average consumer equates a low price with low quality, so in less they are forced, because of economic reasons, to purchase the cheapest item, then most of the time they won’t purchase it if it’s priced to low.  They will actually move on to an item that costs more.  I know that some self-published authors have sold tons of books at $0.99, but I bet you dollars to donuts that the low price was not that big of a factor.  The major factor would have been that it was good book.  My guess is they would have sold just as many books if they had charged a higher price.  So in my estimation they lost a lot of money.

That is not to say, they will never buy it if it’s priced too low.  You also need to take into account the committment factor: meaning that if it sounds half decent and I don’t have to invest a lot, then I may just say, “What the heck,” and purchase it.  I have purchased books off  the bargain books table, but I usually regret it later. 

However, if you have put no effort into having your book edited and delivering a quality product to your customer, then by all means price it low because that’s all it is worth.

Low prices and sales are not the same

There’s a big difference between an item being priced low and an item that is on sale.  In the first case, it’s cheap, but in the second case, it’s a deal.  And who doesn’t love a great deal?  But, please, oh please, don’t mark your book up, so that you can mark it back down and make it seem like a sale.  You always want to be honest with your customers.  You’re trying to build a customer base for life, and attempting to con them is not the way to do it.  Use the sales option to promote your book or reward loyal customers, not to rook people.

Book purchases are not like other purchases

With other purchases, such as a DVD player, I’m comparing quality, features, and prices.  Book purchases are not like that.  In book purchases I’m going through a bunch of books until I get to one I like, then I stop.  There’s no comparison shopping.  The only reason pricing has come into it is because traditional publishing houses have way over priced their books, and I’m verifying that I’m not being overcharged.  I’m not looking for the cheapest deal.  I’m looking for a good book.

Bibliophiles love books

We not only love reading them, we also love possessing them.  Storage used to be a big issue in keeping my books, but that’s no longer a problem with e-books.  I have over 900 books on my Kindle and I am more than happy to get more.  Keep in mind that if you’re book is priced right bibliophiles are going to be more than happy to purchase that book (a point that I think mainstream publishers have missed).

Price Ceiling

There’s a downside to being an outsider.  Since you’re not privy to the rationale that business decisions are based upon, then you don’t truly understand why they do what they do.  Traditonal publishers charging way too much for ebooks and Amazon trying to push prices as low as possible confuses the heck out of me.  Quite frankly, I think they are both way off point. 

As far as I’m concerned the traditional publishers are shooting themselves in the foot with their prices.  Here is what they, and now, the self-published author need to understand: I do not have to buy your book.  I may want to buy your book, but I do not have to buy your book.   And if you have over-priced it, then I will not buy your book.  I recently decided to load up my Kindle with my all-time favorite books.  I looked up Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea  and the publisher wanted $12.99.  Which is horribly overpriced for a book that has been on the market for this long, so I didn’t buy it.  And I’m not going to buy it until the price comes down even though I would love to have it on my Kindle. 

That was an instance of looking for a specific book, but you’ll notice that price still played a big factor in my purchasing decision.  But in most cases I’m not looking for a specific book, I’m just looking for something to read.  Here is what the seller needs to keep in mind: in the second case I have not chosen your book because I must have your book.  I have chosen your book because  I’m narrowing down the field of  books available for sale.  I do this, as I’ve written in previous posts, by looking at titles and covers, reading descriptions and reviews.  Now, I’m checking out prices, so price is another factor that you need to understand when you go to sell your book. 

Back in the day you pretty much knew how much a book was going to cost.  If it was a paperback, then it was this much.  If it was a hardback, then it was that much.  These days prices are all over the board.  This is where I think Amazon and the traditional publishing houses missed the boat.  They didn’t take into consideration the fact that the consumer already had fixed in their mind how much a book should cost and they were more than willing to pay that price.  In my mind, and I have heard others say this,  the price of an e-book should cost no more than a paperback.  Mainstream publishers are going way beyond that price and are losing sales because of it.  Amazon is going way below that price, and while sales are up, revenues are down, so they’re losing money because of it.  

What the self-published author needs to know is how much I’m willing to pay for that book and not to go over that price.  Otherwise, you’ve just lost a potential customer.

Now, I’ve talked about what your price ceiling should be, and in the next post, or posts,  I’ll talk about other pricing considerations.

Are Fake Reviews Really a Good Idea?

Before I go on I want to say that I do not think that all authors pad their reviews.  But that there are some that do is self-evident.  What I really think of  indie authors is that they are very brave people.  You’ve invested a large amount of yourself in writing a book.  In addition to that, you’ve put it out there for all the world to see and to COMMENT on.  That’s just gutsy. 

I will also admit that there have been times, especially with professional movie reviewers, that what they seem to think is great I thought is awful, and vice versa.  But when you run across a new author and you see one or two 5-star customer reviews and forty 1- or 2- star reviews you get to thinking something is up.   Especially, if the 5-star review was the first one posted.     And it may be tempting to try to increase interest in your book by padding the customer review section with a 5-star review, but is it really a good idea?

I’ve just written a book (hypothetically) and so far no reviews.  To help sales I decided to a) write a 5-star review, or b) have my mother write a 5-star review.  Good or bad idea?

Well, if it’s honestly a 4- or 5-star book, then no harm done.   It it’s not, then you’ve shot yourself in the foot.  Because what you have done is mislead the reader into buying your book thinking that they were going to sit down and have this great reading experience.  What do they get instead: just the opposite.  That’s disappointing in itself.  But now you’ve aggravated the situation by lying to them. 

It’s always unpleasant to get all set to read a good book and find out it’s not to your liking.  But what makes it even worse, is that you’ve built up their expectations  higher then normal, so they have farther to fall when they are disappointed.  Not only is their disappointment greatly increased, but if they get an inkling that they have been intentionally duped by a review, they get angry.  And angry people, a highly motivated people, are more likely to write, what?  Bad reviews. I’m talking mean, nasty reviews.  I have seen them.  If that isn’t enough, the person that you wanted to become a lifelong reader, has probably added your name, in big red letters,  to a list of authors that they will never read again.  And, if they are still angry, are telling all of their friends not to read your books.  You’ve accomplished the exact opposite of what you were set out to do.

Compare this to the scenario where there is no review.  The reader has no idea what to expect.  It may be good, bad, or just okay.  With an unknown, unreviewed author, the reader knows they are taking their chances that it may not be the best book in the world and they understand that.  If the book turns out to be not so good, that was a chance they took, and they chalk it up to experience.  No harm done really.  You may not have gained a fan, but you didn’t create an enemy either.  They may still write a bad review.  But whether they write a bad review no longer depends on their being angry, but depends on how actively they review.  Think about this, there’s a big difference between a disappointed honest reviewer, and an angry reviewer.  The former will, more than likely, just state what they don’t like about the book, the latter is going to verbally rip you and the book to shreds.

Fake reviews: BAD IDEA.

How Does the Review Fit In?

So, I’ve liked your title enough to look at the description.  I’ve read your description, and I’m still interested. Now I move on to the reviews.  Believe it or not, considering this is a review site, I don’t put much stock in reviews.  For the simple reason, other than the technical aspects, whether you like a book or not, is a matter of personal taste.  I might not have the same taste as you do, therefore, I may not like the same books.  So, a bad review is not a deal breaker for me.

So why do I read the reviews?  Partly out of curiosity (this especially applies to personal reviews), and partly to pick up more information about  the content.  There are certain things that I just don’t want to read about, and you can’t always tell from the description whether the book contains those incidents.  But, many times a private reviewer will tell you, and that’s basically why I read them.  However, content excepted,  good or bad reviews are not really going to determine whether or not I buy your book.

So, I’m probably not the best person to write about this subject.  But, then again, maybe I am.  The point of these posts is to give authors information about their readers.   And some of us, don’t base our purchasing decisions on reviews.  With one exception:

The Deal Breaker

The online booksellers have been kind/savvy enough to allow the everyday reader to give their HONEST opinion on the books they have read.  Some authors/publishing houses have tried to turn this feature to their own advantage by posting FALSE reviews.  (I think this has backfired miserably). I have decided in return, not to purchase any books where I don’t believe the review is honest.  In my next post I’ll explain why I think this is bad business.  For now, suffice it to say, it goes against the spirit of honesty, and undermines the entire process.  I want no part of it. 

To sum it up, this consumer reads reviews, but they don’t necessarily affect the purchasing decision.  Again, the reviews are just one part of an entire process.  So don’t let it get to you, if no one has reviewed your book yet.  And please, don’t make the mistake of posting a false review.  It’s going to hurt you way more than it will ever help you.

 

One More Comment Regarding Descriptions

I just finished browsing some books at Amazon.com and I noticed something new in the description field: instead of simply giving a description of the book, there are one or two lines from an article about the book from and entry in Wikipedia.  If you would like to read the entire description, then you need to click on one of the links provided in the description section which will take you to the full article at Wikipedia. 

I’ve only seen this being done on mainstream publisher’s books, and I can’t account for what possessed them to do this.  Normally, and there are exceptions, my motto is that if the mainstream publishers are doing it, then the self-published author should follow suit.  But this is one of those exceptions.  Please, do not copy the mainstream publishers in this.  Because you don’t want to make your potential customers work harder than they have to.  I shouldn’t have to go searching to find out what your book is about.

To me, this is akin to going to a bookstore and  picking up a book, getting one or two lines of the description along with a note directing me to some other part of the bookstore to get the rest of the description.  This makes no sense to ask a customer to leave your product and go somewhere else to get a description.  Not only does it make no sense, it’s a little risky.  What if I’m not in the mood to go that extra click to read about your book?  Don’t forget you haven’t hooked me yet.  I’m still in the initial stages of making a decision and you can lose me at any moment.  Not providing good customer service is one way of losing me.

In addition, for some, like myself, short descriptions are a definite deal breaker as I wrote earlier in the week.  It may just be me, but I personally don’t call this a good idea.

Descriptions Are So Important

What a book description should do is pretty self-explanatory and I don’t have a lot to say about them, other than there are a few things the self-published author ought to know.

Many book descriptions will include the reviews for the book.  In  general, I don’t have a problem with authors doing this.  However, I do get annoyed when the review come before the description.  I’ll tell ya, it doesn’t matter how much people liked your book, if it’s not about something that I’m interested in reading, then I don’t care what they have to say.  Reviews do have their place, but please put them after the description.  Otherwise instead of impressing me, you’re annoying me.  Which is not a reaction you want from a potential buyer.  

That’s a petty annoyance, and one that I can live with, but don’t enjoy.  The next and last is a definite . . . 

Deal Breaker.

I will drop your book like a red-hot potato if the description of your book is a one-liner.  Reason being is that I figure if you can’t write a decent description, then you can’t write a decent book.  And that’s it for me.  I just click right off that page, and start the whole cycle all over again (with someone else’s book).  So make sure you spend that time on the description, it’s worth it.

How Important is that Cover?

Once I’ve found a title that has intrigued me, I next take a look at the cover.

Now that a lot of book buying is done on the internet some people tend to think that the cover has gained prominence over the title.  Reason being is that the cover is the first thing people see, and, therefore, that is what is going to attract them.  I couldn’t disagree more with this.  Although, there are times when I’ve been hit with just the cover, and it has intrigued me enough to take a further look, most of the time I’m presented with a picture of the cover, plus the title and author.    I still tend to the title first, and then the cover after that. 

When I inspect the cover I’m simply trying to garner more information about the book and that’s pretty much the extent of it.  If the cover portrays something that I don’t want to read about, such as a picture of a vampire (I’m really tired of vampire books), then I put it back and go on to the next title.  If it doesn’t give me any information on what the book is about, or portrays something that I do want to read about, then I will move onto the description.  Which I will write about next week.

So what can the self-published author take away from all of this?  One, is the purpose the cover plays.  It simply gives the reader a little more information about the book, but doesn’t necessarily play that prominent of a role in the purchasing decision.  My advice is do not spend an exorbitant amount on that cover.  Your money would be much better spent on an editor, as that is the main problem that I see in self-published books.  Rest assured that I have NEVER purchased a book simply because of the cover, and I have NEVER not purchased a book because of the quality of the cover. 

That being said, the cover should be nice because it’s part of the product packaging and it also shows a level of professionalism.

Ashar’an Rising (Book 2 of the Nexus Wars Saga) by Robert Day

5 out of 5 Stars

Genre: Fantasy    Word Count:  186,000

Where to purchase:

Amazon US: $0.99      Amazon UK: £0.86       Barnes and Noble: $2.49

Smashwords:  $2.49       Sony:  $2.49

Description:

In this second book of the Nexus Wars Saga, the first being Demon Gates,  the scope of the story has been widened to not only include Valderion, but also the struggles of others whose lives are being affected by both the demon presence and the strategic maneuverings of the Ashar’an .

Excerpt:

Valderion barely registered his friends words as a multitude of thoughts and emotions ran through his mind.  Pain, Anger, Sorrow, Guilt, Regret, Shame.  He was reminded of the great weight he carried with him in the form of his quest, and wondered if the fulfillment of it was worth the losses, and how many would pay dearly for being associated with him, or what he was fighting  for.  He still did not have a firm idea of that, knowing it was something he was ‘born to do’, but still he did not have to like it. 

Review:

I cannot say enough good things about this book.  If I had to sum it up in one word, that word would be ‘Wow’.  Robert Day’s talent allows him to write scenes that are simply enthralling. Especially, the battle scenes.  Not only does he include blow-by-blows of the battles that make them very riveting, but he also emphasizes the emotion, and the tragedy that goes along with it.  The result is impressive, and sometimes heart-wrenching.

In addition to that his writing brings his characters alive.  There are so many fantasy novels where the secondary characters are passive or enigmatic, but Day gives all of his characters a personality and life of their own which adds to the depth and breadth of the saga.

If Day can keep this up the Nexus Wars Saga will be one of the best fantasy series ever written.

Content Rating: 

This book is very clean.

Formatting:

it’s nicely formatted, but does not contain a table of contents.

About the Author:

Robert Day was born in Newcastle, New South Wales. His family moved to the small town of Gloucester when he was 10. He was introduced to Fantasy books by a friend soon after, and from then on hardly a day seemed to go by when he was not lost in some fantasy land rather than doing homework or chores. Around age 15 he discovered Dungeons and Dragons thanks to his older brother Jamie, further fuelling his imagination.
It was during a time when he had seemed to have read most fantasy available to him that he thought “How hard can it be?”
The answer being, of course, “Very Hard!”
Twenty years later, after turning what was originally one enormous manuscript into 2 moderately huge ones, he brings you Demon Gates, book 1 of the Nexus Wars Saga. This, his debut Novel, is the beginning of what will eventually be a 5 – 7 book series.
Robert now resides on the Central Coast of NSW with his beautiful wife Kerri, 2 cats, and a border collie dog named Jasper.

If you would like to learn more about this author and his other works you can find his blog at http://robertdaybooks.blogspot.com/ or go to his website at http://www.robertdaybooks.com/

Title is Everything

In the end readers are all about words, so when I go looking for a new book to read, I start perusing titles.  The book is either picked up or passed by based on its title.  Using my experience as a reader,  I’ll try to go through different aspects of titles and how they affect my purchasing decisions and also what I glean from them.

Is the title intriguing?

By intriguing I mean that it speaks of something more.  For me to find out what that more is I have to pick up the book and peruse it.  Now what’s intriguing to me is not necessarily going to intrigue someone else.  All I can say in that respect is know your audience.  Know what attracts them to your genre, and use that information to help title your books.  Here are some examples of titles that I’ve found intriguing.

  • A Land of Ash
  • No Better Place to Die
  • Saying Goodbye to the Sun
  • Call of the Herald
  • The Samurai Strategy

Or quirky?

I’m all for quirky.  I don’t know that this would be a definite rule of thumb for titling every type of book out there, but it does get my attention.  A couple of examples:

  • Bubba and the Dead Woman (Anything that involves a bubba is worth a follow-up)
  • Memoirs of a Vending Machine
  • Jacks School of Shines
  • Please Don’t Eat the Daisies

Does it feature a favorite character?

If you’ve written or are planning to write a number of books featuring the same character, then please put that somewhere in the title or subtitle.  Signifying that this book contains that same character can tell me a couple of things.

  1. If I am already familiar with the character, that this book is about that character, something that I might not have known if it hadn’t been included in the title/subtitle. 
  2. If this is the first time that I’m meeting this character it lets me know that there are other books out there or are forthcoming.  If I then read and like the character I can go searching for these other books. 

Believe it or not I can be a great fan of a character and not be a great fan of the author.  I love Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, but I do not like other books written by the author, so make sure that you include the character name in the title somewhere.  Here are some examples:

  • Harry Potter and the . . .
  • . . . A Donovan Creed Novel
  • . . . A Stephanie Plum Novel

Along the same lines: is it a series?

Again, if you are writing a series of books signify that in the subtitle, this lets me know that there are follow-up books.  It was years before I learned that Dune by Frank Herbert was the first of a series of books. 

Single Word Titles

For the most part I’m not a fan of single word titles unless that single word speaks volumes. 

I hope this helps.

Fire in the Blood: Book One of Last Moon Rising Series by Dale Ibitz

4 out of 5 stars

Genre:  YA Fantasy     Word Count:  58,126

Where to Purchase:

Amazon:  $2.99       Barnes and Noble:  $2.99

Description:

It’s Haley’s seventeenth birthday, and in a blink of an eye her entire life changes.  She finds herself on a strange planet, inhabited by peoples with strange powers involved in a war that has the capability of annihilating all life, even on the planet Earth.  While Haley is completely in the dark as to what brought this war to be, who the players are, and what it will take to prevent it she plays a key role in deciding the fate of this world and her own. But being a heroine is not so easy, especially when everything and everyone is unknown to her, and she doesn’t know who to trust.

Excerpt:

I grabbed the bridle hanging on the stall door, and slid inside.  My fingers shook.  my knees shook.  Even my lips trembled as I talked out loud to calm myself.

“I can’t believe how easy it was to sneak down here, big guy.  I think I even managed to fool Tuggin  Big trick, you know, being that he’s a Menta and has all these goofy powers.  Kind of scary, actually.”

I slipped the bit into his mouth.  “That’s not so bad, is it?”  I looped the reins over my arm, and then flung the blanket and saddle onto his back.  “I mean, not that I’m scared of Tuggin.  He’s just scary-looking sometimes.  I mean, his looks aren’t scary . . . he’s stupid hot . . .but the way he looks at me scares me sometimes.”

Review:

Writing in first person can be both good and bad.  If you need to be in the know, then first person is not for you, but if you can really identify with the protagonist, then it’s actually a great way to make this type story credible because you experience and learn things as Haley experiences and learns them.   As that’s all you know you also get to experience the uncertainties and bewilderment that she experiences.  This makes the storyline of a young girl transported to a strange world of which she knows nothing about much more realistic.

The character Haley is very believable and quite likable.  She behaves as a seventeen year old girl who has been  transported to a strange world and has no idea what is going on and who is trying to assimilate everything being thrown at her should behave.  A young girl who only recently was concerned with her hair, clothes, BFF, and the cute guy at school now has to deal with matters of much greater import.  And  Ibitz portrays this juxtaposition very well in Haley’s character.  It will be interesting to see her evolve in the series.

Ibitz also does a good job a presenting a fantasy world.  Unlike some books of that genre which simply add some magic, horses, and inns and call it a fantasy, Ibitz does create another world which has another reason for being:  various peoples, politics, and power that makes that world run.

The only real problem that I had with this book was the interaction between Haley and Tuggin at the beginning of the book.  It took on a more sexual footing and read like a teenage sultry romance novel, add to this the fact that they have  a “kidnapee-kidnapper ” relationship makes it a twisted sultry romance.

Content Rating:

Other than the first part that I mentioned in the review, this book was very clean.

Formatting:

Does not contain a table of contents.  Other than that it is formatted quite nicely.

About the Author:

Dale Ibitz currently lives in New Hartford, CT with her husband, two kids, and assorted pets. In addition to the YA fantasy, Fire in the Blood, she has penned a mid-grade contemporary novel. She is working on 2 more projects (one of which is Book 2 of the Last Moon Rising series) which will be available in 2012. She’s a fan of hiking, reading, seriously good writing, and chocolate! Music is a strong motivator for her writing, and she tends toward alternative metal, such as Puddle of Mudd, Three Days Grace, and Breaking Benjamin.  http://www.wix.com/daleibitz/daleibitz and http://dalesplace-dale.blogspot.com/

Sorting Matters

When I go looking for a book it’s usually somewhere that someone has amassed a number of books to be sold.  That could be online, a bookstore, a garage sale, or the library.  Depending on how they have been sorted pretty much depends on what type of book that I purchase.

Sorted by Genre:

My favorite genre is fantasy.  If the bookseller has separated the books by genre, then I normally head straight for the fantasy section.  What this means to the authors of every other type of book is that I have immediately eliminated them from my selection process.  What it also means to those selling books is that you want to make sure that you have you listed your book by genre, so when I’m browsing the book shows up.  I think this is especially important in the online sites.  I’ve noticed the genre missing on some books that I’ve looked at on Amazon.  There’s been some talk that even if you’ve classified your book on Amazon, that sometimes it doesn’t show up.  So it just may be a glitch in Amazon programming.  But if not, then make sure you designate a genre for your book.

Unsorted:

Normally where I find unsorted lists of books is at the library, bestseller or editor pick lists, and the Kindle Nation weekly digest of free books.  These types of lists are great ways for authors to reach readers who normally concentrate on a specific genre.  I have discovered some great authors this way.  Authors not in my usual genre that I probably wouldn’t have heard of otherwise.  It’s a nice way to pick up readers who wouldn’t normally read your genre.

Sorted or unsorted are both good the for author, and ultimately for the reader.  Get your book classified so that those that are interested can go directly to you, but also try to get on some unclassified lists to give you a better chance of picking up some new readers.

Which Marketing Campaign is Successful?

If you sales increase as a direct result of your marketing campaign, then it’s successful.  Nuff said.  Post over.

Just kidding.   There’s actually a quick way and a slow way of determing how your marketing efforts are doing.

Quick and Easy: Coupon Codes

Direct mail marketers use a little trick to determine which geographic area or mailing campaign is initiating sales.  They do this by using coupon codes.  They assign a unique coupon code to a geographic area.  They can then tell the response rate per region based on which coupon code is redeemed.

Self-published authors (SPAs) can do the same thing with coupon codes from Smashwords.  The idea here is have a UNIQUE coupon code for each blog or website where you offer your book, so that you can track which sales are coming from where.  It might work something like this:

You come up with a list of blogs or websites that you are going to approach about promoting your book: whether that is a free giveaway to some or a discount to all is up to you.  You are going to make a list of those websites that consent, and for each of those listed you are going to generate a UNIQUE coupon code.  You want to keep track of which coupon code is going where, so notate which coupon code is being sent to which website.  (I personally suggest 50% rather than free if you’re giving the discount to everyone at that site.  Fifty percent off is a great deal.  You can still generate interest and make money at the same time.  I would only use free for a select few as people who may not otherwise be interested may download it just because its free.  Because ultimately you are trying to figure out which website is most likely to generate sales, not which websites have the most people who want free books.)  After that it’s just a matter of keeping track of which coupon code is being redeemed. 

Slow Going

The slow method is going to occur by keeping track of any blip in sales that occur after one of your targeted websites or blogs advertises the book.  It’s slow going because you can only offer one promotion at a time as you want to see how your sales do for each individual site.  If you promote the book at various websites at the same time there is no way to tell which website is generating the interest. 

What you need to do first is figure out your average sales over a certain period of time.  Remember that there are certain buying trends that vary by month, so you need to take that into account.  You can’t compare December to June, so you want to keep track of average sales by month.  If your book has been out for awhile and sales have been steadily increasing, then you are going to want to factor that into the equation.  You don’t want to give a promotion credit for an increase for which it wasn’t responsible.  That will skew your numbers.  For instance, if the average sales for last May was 50 and your sales have been increasing by approx. 10% then you can expect 55 sales in the upcoming May.  Any sales above 55 can loosely (great margin for error in this method) be attributed to your promotion. 

Remember to space your promotions, so that you can give some time for a single promotion to take affect.  And as you add more promotions you may have to increase the base sales number that you use to take into account previous promotion that are still generating sales.  For instance, you run a promotion that gives you a big blip in sales for a week, then it slows down, doesn’t die off, but slows down.  You are now selling 60 books a month rather than the expected 55 a month.  Your new base sales number for June has increased from 55 to 60.  You will use this new number, 60 instead of the 55, to ascertain how the next promotion does. 

What is this Information Good for?

The main reason for marketing research is to ascertain who your audience is.  You can find out if your books are more popular in certain regions, to certain age groups, to particular gender, etc.  Once you have this information, then you can start marketing your books towards those people.  As a reader, the better you market your book, the better off I am because I now have a better chance of finding those books that interest me.

Discovering New Books: Word of Mouth

I have various means of discovering a new book to read, but today I want to concentrate on recommendations from friends, and see if the self-published author (SPA) can use this to get their books into the hands of those that want to read them.  I want to do this because I think this is a great opportunity for the SPA to break from the pack and get that word of mouth going instead of waiting for someone to discover their book among the hundreds of thousand other books.

I heard it from a friend:

On first look a book recommendation would seem fairly straightforward: a friend comes up and says “Hey, you should read this book.”  And I read it.  But it doesn’t always work that way.  I have some friends whose taste in books are so different from mine, that I will go out of my way NOT to read a book that they’ve recommended.  So it’s not enough simply to be recommended by a friend, it’s need to be a someone who likes the same types of books that I do.

Birds of a feather flock together

Fortunately for the SPA people that tend to like the same things tend to congregate and experience those things together.  And with the advent of the World Wide Web they can be easily found. This means that with  little effort and investment the SPA can micro-market their book and gain a large return both in money and feedback.

Micro-Market that Book:

To do this effectively, you’ll need to determine your audience.  This could be based on a number of different factors:

Genre:   The simplest and most generic group.  Target a book club or discussion group about whatever genre it is that you write.

Age:  If you’ve written the books towards a specific age group, then target that age group, otherwise a little more marketing investigation will have to go on before you can use this one.

Gender:  Does your book appeal more to one gender or another?  Find out where they hang out.

Location:  Did you know that Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series sells better in New Jersey than in any other part of the country?  Why?  Because it all takes place in New Jersey. If you’ve written a book that is set in a specific geographic area, then you can target the readers in that audience.

Other interests:  I once bought a book because it centered around a group of friends who quilted.  It appealed to me because I also quilt on occasion.  So if your book is set in a ski resort, or some such than target places where skiers hang out.

Similar authors:  If you write with a style or stories similar to more well-known author, then target their audience.  Find places where people are talking about their books.

What Now:

First off, what I wouldn’t do is start spamming the comments section with a link to your book.  What I would do is simply email the blog- or web-host and let them know that you have written a book that you think may interest (explain why) their readers.  Tell them that you are willing to give the first [insert number here] respondents a free copy in return for their feedback.  Or you may even work with the host in creating some kind of contest. If they turn you down, try another.  If they don’t great. 

One More Thing:

I just want to insert a comment about offering your books for free.  Personally, I think that giving away something free, when done smart, is a great marketing idea.  When I say smart I mean giving away something valued by your current customers as a way of showing your gratitude or to a new audience in order to increase your market share.  And normally, I would say that distributing your book through Barnes and Noble, or Amazon free would be a good idea if so many other people weren’t doing it already.  I’ll tell you, I get an email once a week from Kindle Nation and it lists all of the books that are currently being offered for free on Amazon.  I probably have forty of those books loaded on my Kindle, and since the list is updated every week I could probably get away with never buying another book again.  It might be different if I had read all of them, but so far I’ve only read a handful. 

To me that’s a very expensive ad campaign (I’ve heard some authors get as many as 2,000 downloads) for a SPA.  Think about it:  2,000 x $0.99 = $1,980 * 35% = $693.00 minimum or 2,000 x $2.99 = $5,980 * 70% = $4,186 minimum.  it’s especially pricey when you are not even certain if the book is going to be read by the people that downloaded it.  True, that technically wouldn’t be counted as a lost sale, but it’s also not a gain.  If that’s the case, then you are defeating your purpose which is to get the word out.

This post got a lot longer than I wanted, so I’m going to follow up on Tuesday with a post on how to use this give away to help you determine if your campaign is successful.

Demon Gates (Book One in the Nexus War Saga) by Robert Day

4 out of 5 Stars

Genre:  Fantasy    Word Count:  150,000

Where to Purchase:

Amazon US:  $0.99      Amazon UK:  £0.69    Barnes and Noble:  $1.99

Smashwords:  $1.99     Sony:  $1.99

Description:

An old evil is arising, and the people of Kil’tar are ill-equipped to deal with it.  The ones who should have the knowledge and strength to deal it with it have forgotten and grown weak.  The unsuspecting who are forced to deal with it need to learn and train.  Yet all will need to fight.   Some will live.  Some will die.  This is a story of that time.

Excerpt:

With the evening  came the eventual rise of the brother moons, shedding their mystical luminescence over the land, turning the lifeless scene below into one of eeriness as the orange glow bathed the ruins.  Valdeiron dozed restlessly, waking as the waning moons were almost touching the grey outline of the dawn-filled horizon.  He could not remember how long he waited and watched; only that neither sight nor sound had he seen of Cash or Trolls.  Ruing the missed rendezvous, the shouldered his pack and rose, stretching against the light of the new day.  Turning his gaze again to the south, he pictured in his mind what roads lay beyond the horizon.

Review:

Robert Day is a very talented author whose storytelling abilities are refreshing and, for the most part, unique.    There are some similar scenes between this novel and those in  Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.   And while Day does a good job with the combat descriptions they all tend to end the same way which gets a little redundant  and predictable.  Which is sad because the rest of this book is anything but predictable as Day is a gutsy writer, like George R.R. Martin, in that he is not afraid to kill, or cast off secondary characters.  As a matter of fact, how Day has approached secondary characters in this book is one of the reasons that this book is so good.

Unlike many other novels where the secondary characters reason for being and their actions revolve around the protagonist, in Demon Gates Day has given each of the secondary characters their own stories.  Yes, they are introduced to the reader because they have some connection with the hero Valdeiron, but their fate is not necessarily tied up with his.  It’s more the case of events occurring on Kil’tar and each person has to deal with them the according to who they are and the circumstances in which they find themselves.   While the heroes interests and the secondary characters coincide they stay together, when they don’t they part.  A very rare thing in a novel which makes for a truly good book.   

Content Rating:

The book contains no swearing.  It does have some graphic combat scenes, and there is one disturbing sexual incident.

Formatting:

Weird formatting:  more like its typewritten, then the regular font we’re used to seeing on the Kindle.  It does not include a table of contents, but other than that it’s perfectly fine.

About the Author:

Robert Day was born in Newcastle, New South Wales. His family moved to the small town of Gloucester when he was 10. He was introduced to Fantasy books by a friend soon after, and from then on hardly a day seemed to go by when he was not lost in some fantasy land rather than doing homework or chores. Around age 15 he discovered Dungeons and Dragons thanks to his older brother Jamie, further fuelling his imagination.
It was during a time when he had seemed to have read most fantasy available to him that he thought “How hard can it be?”
The answer being, of course, “Very Hard!”
Twenty years later, after turning what was originally one enormous manuscript into 2 moderately huge ones, he brings you Demon Gates, book 1 of the Nexus Wars Saga. This, his debut Novel, is the beginning of what will eventually be a 5 – 7 book series.
Robert now resides on the Central Coast of NSW with his beautiful wife Kerri, 2 cats, and a border collie dog named Jasper.

If you would like to learn more about this author and his other works you can find his blog at http://robertdaybooks.blogspot.com/ or go to his website at http://www.robertdaybooks.com/

Kudo’s to the Self-Published Author

I know that I previously said that I would normally just post on Monday’s, but as I was falling to sleep last night it struck me what a great contribution the self-published author is making to the reading world and I just wanted to give them kudos.

Fresh Perspectives:

That’s what they are bringing to the reading world.  This is what I’ve been seeing in the books that I have been reviewing.  It’s not the same old stories written in the same old tone.   I’ll tell you I actually stopped buying pop fiction a few years back because every book seemed to be the same.  I got so sick of it I boycotted them and decided to read all of the classics.  Yes, it’s true that the mainstream publishing houses will come out with something new and different every once in a while, but that doesn’t happen very often.  For the most part if they find something that sells, they bring in more authors to write more of those same stories.   But those days are changing.  The market is getting blown wide open to fresh perspectives.

  • The warmth and goodness that Rita Hestand brings to the romance novel in Chief Cook and Bottle Washer rather than that constant tension between protagonists that you find in most romance novels.
  • The great sense of humor portrayed by C. L. Bevill in Bubba and the Dead Woman.  I can count on one hand, and still have some fingers left over, the number of authors that made me laugh as much.
  • The history of and memorial to Torpedo Squadron 4.  What Gerald W. Thomas brought to this in Torpedo Squadron 4: A Cockpit View of World War II, because of his experience, was not only an extensive historical record, or a list of battles, but he added a level of humanity to it and, thereby, memorialized those who flew.
  • Robert Day in Demon Gates:  Book One of the Nexus Wars Saga (review upcoming) with his ability to portray all of his characters with their own stories.

Kudos to you all!

Chief Cook and Bottle Washer by Rita Hestand

3.5 out of 5 Stars

 Genre: Contemporary  Word Count:  86,000

Where to purchase:

Amazon: $2.99              Barnes and Noble:  Free (as of 06/20/2011)

Description:

Emma and her daughter Sammie Jo need a place to hide out.  Deke Travers needs a cook on his family’s ranch.  He also wants to find wives for his brothers in hopes that will settle them down.  Deke decides to kill two birds with one stone and hire Emma as the cook in hopes that she and his brother Clint will fall in love. 

Excerpt:

He liked the sound of her voice, and when she chuckled it tickled his toes.  A cowboys’ toes shouldn’t tickle, he warned himself and straightened the foolish grin on his face.

Review:

This is a standard romance novel, along the lines of the Harlequin Romance stories.  Girl’s in trouble.  Boy ends up saving her, and they fall in love.  And like the Harlequin Romances it’s a short, easy read. 

In the beginning the author seems to have a little trouble introducing new characters.  In addition, and this is only at the beginning of the book, the author tends to assume that the reader knows what she is talking about.  Making the start of the book a little confusing.  But once you get past that the rest of the book just flows.

 The best part of this book was the warmth of the Travers family, and how they welcomed Emma and Sammie Jo into their home.  I especially liked how the author  was able to portray the vulnerability of these cowboys to a baby.  They just melt.  It’s really a sweet romance story.

Content Rating:

This book is very clean.  No swearing, sex, or graphic violence.

Formatting:

The book does not include a table of contents.   There are some other minor design issues, but nothing that should interrupt the reading experience.

About the Author:

Rita Hestand is from Texas, she’s a widow, a mother, and a grandmother. She was an only child, and she traveled the U.S as a child extensively.

What made her a writer was the fact that she was an only child growing up in a age when a kid had to use their imagination to entertain themselves.  She acted out her first books in the backyard all over the countryside.

Rita worked most of her adult life, but one job she’s especially proud of is as a day care provider in her home for twenty years. Helping to raise her own grandchildren to school age, it seemed only natural to enroll in the Institute of Children’s Literature, where she graduated in 1997. Rita writes children’s books, poetry and romance, along with plays and short stories. 

She’s a member of  Books We Love, WRW, and a firm believer that learning should never stop.  But above all, she believes that one should NEVER GIVE UP!

You can find out more about the author and her other titles at http://ritahestand.com/.

 

Book Purchasing Decision

Choosing a book to read is really a process of elimination. Following are the steps that I go through when making that purchasing decision. I’ll expand on most of these in later posts and try to explain what happens in each step of the process, so the self-published author (SPA) will better understand how it fits into the book buying/rejection process in order to help them become better publishers.

The steps:

  1. If I’m not looking for a specific book or author, then normally I’m browsing a selection of titles that someone else has put together: bestsellers list, bookstore, library, etc.
  2. If I’m looking at a list that is broken down by genre, then I will generally navigate straight towards my favorite genre.
  3. Where I will start perusing the titles.
  4. Once I’ve found a title that sounds interesting, I will look at the cover to garner more information about what’s inside.
  5. Next I read the description.
  6. Then onto the reviews.
  7. If I’m still interested then I’ll read the beginning of the book.
  8. Lastly, I check the price.

Like I said it’s a process of elimination. Each step of the way I’m rejecting many books to hone on those few that I’m actually going to purchase. So to increase the chances of me buying their book the SPA should pay particular attention the different aspects of the consumer decision making process, so they don’t lose them along the way.

Torpedo Squadron 4: A Cockpit View of World War II by Gerald W. Thomas

Torpedo Squadron 4 Cover Image

4.5 out of 5 Stars

Genre: Military           Word count: Unknown

Where to Purchase:

 Amazon: $2.99         Lulu (ebook):  $2.99       Lulu (paperback):  $24.99

 

Description:

The author, Gerald Thomas, served in the US Navy Reserve as a pilot for Torpedo Squadron 4.  He gives a firsthand account, along with official reports of the various operations of which his squadron took part in both Europe, and Asia.  Including the invasion of Iowa Jima and Okinawa.

In addition, as a memorial to the men of Torpedo Squadron 4 Thomas includes his own experiences, along with others, as a pilot or crewman of a torpedo bomber plane.  Thomas gives us the entire gamut of what it was like to be a torpedo bomber pilot from that first desire to fly till the end of the war.

Excerpt:

The sudden loss of a cockpit hatch was demoralizing to our crew.  As the pieces of plexiglass flew by, our turret gunners, facing backwards in the dive, never knew if AA fire had killed the pilot or if the plane was out of control.  That few seconds of push-over, dive, and questionable pull-out seemed like an eternity to the crew.

“One time over Manila, I thought Scott, my pilot, had been hit.  I t seemed that he would never pull out — we just kept going down.  I thought he was dead, so I snapped on my parachute, kicked the hatch, but it wouldn’t open (I was too excited to pull the pin.)  About that time, Scott pulled out.”

Review:

Though this book is not without its faults: the transition from commentary to personal experience is not always smooth, and the images do not always match the subject at hand; the author, Thomas, more than accomplishes what he set out to do which was to make a “historical record” of Torpedo Squadron 4 as a “way to recall and acknowledge those who made the sacrifice.”  To that end he has included much, if not all, of the major action that the squadron saw; the tactical organization of each run; operational reports; extensive photos; and occasionally the  contrasting viewpoint of the enemy.

To complete the picture of what it was like to be a torpedo bomber pilot in WWII Thomas includes his own personal experiences.  These range from his first sight of an airplane when he was a young man, through flight school, serving as a pilot on an aircraft carrier, and home again.  It is these descriptions, and those of his fellow pilots and crewman, that enhances the rest of the text by giving a firsthand account of the operations.  As Thomas not only includes  the living conditions on board an aircraft carrier, problems taking off and landing,  the effect of weather conditions, problems with equipment, and morale issues it really brings home what these brave men had to endure to accomplish those missions.  It was a privilege to read it, and I’m thankful the Mr. Thomas took put in so much time and effort to leave this historical memorial.

Formatting (for Amazon Kindle only):

The ebook is formatted very nicely.  It contains hyperlinked footnotes and table of contents.  In addition, navigation points that allow you to move from chapter to chapter are included.  However, while there is an index it is not hyperlinked, and references the page numbers in the paper version, and not location numbers for the ebook version.

About the Author:

Gerald W. Thomas

Gerald W. Thomas was born at home in Small, Idaho, in 1919. He grew up on a ranch during the Great Depression. His rural school went only to the 10th grade, so his Mother took his brother and him to California to finish High School and attend Junior College. He graduated from the University of Idaho  just in time to volunteer for Navy service following Pearl Harbor. After  training, he was assigned as a pilot to Torpedo Squadron VT-4.  Following World War II, he earned a Ph.D in Range Management, and after  stints as professor at Texas A&M University and Dean of Agriculture at Texas Tech University, he became president of New Mexico State University. He retired after serving as president for 14 years.

Thomas was awarded 3 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 2 Air Medals, and 2 Presidential Citations for his combat actions in WWII. He retired from the Navy Reserve with the rank of Lieutenant Commander.He is the author of numerous books, including “A Winding Road To The Land Of Enchantment” and “The Academic Ecosystem.”

While Thomas does not maintain a personal webpage he has set up a site at http://airgroup4.com/index.htm that contains articles by members of Air Group 4 of which Torpedo Squadron 4 was a part.  Having this site available has been instrumental in helping family members learn the circumstances surrounding their loved ones MIA or KIA status.  

You can download a sample of Torpedo Squadron 4 at the following address:

Epub: http://doc45.com/sample-chapter/Torpedo_Squadron_Four-A_Cockpit_View_of_World_War_II-Sample.epub
 
Mobi: http://doc45.com/sample-chapter/Torpedo_Squadron_Four-A_Cockpit_View_of_World_War_II-Sample.mobi

Bubba and the Dead Woman by C.L. Bevill

4.5 out of 5 Stars

 Genre: Mystery              Word Count: 80,000

Where to Purchase:

Amazon:  Free (as of 05/30/2011)          Barnes and Noble:  Free (as of 05/30/2011)          Smashwords:  Free (as of 05/30/2011)

Description:

This is not your normal fast-paced murder mystery.  It’s a small town, southern whodunit.  Whodunit is the question everyone asks when Bubba comes home to find his ex-fiancée murdered in his front yard.  Of course, they don’t ask the question very long as Bubba is the only one with a motive.  So it’s up to Bubba to solve the mystery which he has a hard time doing as he IS the only one with a motive. But Bubba has the inside scoop and knows he didn’t do it, so attempt to solve it he does. Amidst the gossip, falling in love, being hauled into jail, and dealing with various intruders on the Snoddy property where Bubba lives with his eccentric mother.

Excerpt:

Two curious customers later, Willodean was staring at the cameras and rubbing her jaw in an agitated manner.  “I’m going to get fired,” Willodean muttered.  “I’m going to get fired and have to move back to Dallas and into my parent’s house.  Dad’s going to say, ‘I told you not to move down to bumpkinville, honey.’ Mom’s going to make so many chocolate chip cookies that my ass will explode. 

Review:

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  Bevill’s writing shows shades of Janet Evanovich for setting up off-the-wall situations and dialog.  She does a wonderful job developing a screwball  cast of characters, but not so wacky that they lose their charm or become inane.  The only drawback to this book is that the explanation of how the dead woman ended up in Bubba’s yard was a little far-fetched, but although a mite unbelievable Bevill does tie up all the loose ends rather nicely.

Content Rating: 

This book is actually very clean.  No swearing, sex, or graphic violence. 

Formatting (for the Amazon Kindle only):

There are a few minor issues with the formatting in this book.  It does not contain  a table of contents: hyperlinked or otherwise. Occasionally a blank page appears between chapters and the chapter headings could have been formatted a little more attractively.

About the Author:

C.L. Bevill has lived in Texas, Virginia, Arizona, and Oregon.  She once was in the US Army and a graphic illustrator.  She holds degrees in social-psychology and counseling.  She is  the author of Bubba and the Dead Woman, Bubba and the 12 Deadly Days of Christmas, Bayou Moon, and Shadow People, among others.  Presently she lives with her husband and her daughter and continues to constantly write.

If you would like to learn more about the author her webpage is at http://www.clbevill.com/ or follow her blog at  http://carwoo.blogspot.com/.

 

What Does Self-Publishing Mean?

A self-published author is an author who has decided to bypass the traditional publishing route (traditional -Random House- or independent publisher) and handle the publishing process themselves. This  entails the author funding and coordinating the following aspects of the publishing process:

  • Editing (grammatical, flow, copy)
  • Proofreading
  • Indexing (if applicable)
  • Book Design (including cover art)
  • Printing and/or converting to digital format
  • Marketing and advertising
  • Distribution
  • Foreign Rights and subsidiary Rights

With the advent of electronic media manuscript conversion and distribution have become so simplified that many new authors are treating the publishing process as a do-it-yourself project where the author does all of the work.  Some even going  so far as doing their own reviews.    Now I’m not necessarily against authors handling the various aspects of book publishing themselves (except the reviews), if they are going to put out a professional product, but that doesn’t always occur.  Instead what the reading public is exposed to, and expected by the author to purchase and enjoy, is a book that is badly formatted (the most common problem I come across), unproofed, or  unedited.   Otherwise an inferior product from which they would like to make enough money to support themselves, so they can spend their life doing what they love. 

Part of the problem is that authors don’t realize what self-publishing entails.  The other part is that’s an awful lot of hats to wear, and to wear them all well is probably more than one person is capable.  Either way, it’s self-defeating.  As the SPA (self-published author) will get bad reviews, bad publicity via word-of-mouth, and lose potential return customers.  Not the best way to reach their goals.  Now, I’m not saying that authors shouldn’t self-publish.  What I’m saying is that if they choose to go that route, then they need to make sure they are going to follow the steps in the publishing process.