Sunday, December 6, 2009

Annotated List of Books on Book Publication and Marketing

This is a great, annotated list.

From the 15 or so books I've read on publishing/marketing, I've found that each new book I read gives me many valuable insights. It's not like you read one book and then the next is simply saying the same thing in different words. There's a lot to learn, and I'm glad for all the reading I've done on publishing and marketing.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Book Marketing: The Priority of Getting Reviews - Part I

The Need to Prioritize

I've read about 15 books on marketing, particularly on marketing books. I've found thousands of ways to market them, some of which will work better for some books than others. One thing I'm trying to narrow down - out of the thousands of things I could be doing to market my book, where should I put most of my time and effort? My time is limited. What's my best bet for actually selling my books? What keeps ringing through, book after book, as a no-brainer for book marketing? Is it:
  • TV?
  • Radio?
  • Develop a popular blog?
  • Collect a killer e-mail list?
  • Do book signings?
  • Interact in social networking settings such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkIn?
  • Send out regular press releases?
The dizzying list could go on and on. And for any given book, just one of these strategies (like radio) might be the key to sparking the word of mouth that results in a major seller.

Why Prioritize Getting Reviews?

But I'm thinking that, especially for nonfiction, getting reviews stands out as one of, if not THE most effective avenue to get the word out and actually sell books. I believe that all of the book marketing literature I read recommends this approach heavily. Here are some quotes:

"There is no question about whether reviews work. We had more than 500 full-price orders for one of our books when a review by a syndicated columnist broke." "Getting a buzz the result you desire. Do it by soliciting advance blurbs, getting reviews everywhere, tenaciously pursuing feature stories off the book pages, giving aways tons of free review and reading copies. A complimentary book is your cheapest and most effective advertising." (Marilyn & Tom Ross, Jump Start Your Book Sales)

"Send out review copies. Send out lots of them. Send out more than you think you should. Hit every major newspaper and magazine which you think might be at all interested in the subject of your book. In most cases this means sending out somewhere between 300 and 500 review copies. Don't be stingy about sending out review copies. For every hundred copies you send out, you'll get perhaps ten reviews. And those ten reviews will bring you anywhere from twenty to one hundred direct sales and many more indirect sales. Even at a conservative estimate, you'll receive 200 orders for every 100 copies you send out. That's cheap advertising." (John Kremer, 1001 Ways to Market Your Books, p. 138)

Why Do Reviews Work so Well?

1) Solomon advised, "Let another praise you, and not your own mouth." When I tell others about my book on Facebook or Twitter, that's me tooting my own horn. I'm suspect. Of course I think my book's great. Of course I want people to buy it. It's more persuasive when others talk about my book, than when I talk about my book. People perceive the recommendation of others, particularly experts, as more objective and more believable.

2) These experts have followings. Rather than trying to gather a following (e.g., creating a popular blog), go where the people are already gathered. It's generally more effective and easier to get the top thought leaders talking about your book, than trying to become the recognized thought leader in your field and trying to sell your books through that platform.

3) For each field, there are tons of outlets for review. In general, think beyond book review sites. Think of people who write regularly on your topic. In the field of personal finance, for example, there are hundreds of newsletters, hundreds of magazines, hundreds of related blogs and sites, hundreds of related organizations. When you think more broadly, it's not just the publications that target personal finance; Ladies Home Journal runs articles on personal finance. Home school publications recommend books on personal finance. These leads could keep me promoting for years.

I'll follow up this post with posts on finding reviewers and how to approach them.


Monday, November 9, 2009

Writer Insights from Anita Renfroe

Anita Renfroe is a humorist who's been described as "Erma Bombeck meets Carol Burnett, with a bit of Weird Al Yankovic thrown in." As the key note speaker at last week's Georgia Writers Association conference, she kept us laughing as she passed on insights gained from writing seven books. Here are my takeaways (sometimes expounding upon her suggestions):
  • The last five years have turned the publishing industry on its head. The playing field has been leveled. Now it's more "Wild West" out there. More and more, readers and viewers are "voting" their favorite videos and books to greater exposure. Regular people can suddenly catapult to the top. Find ways to take advantage of these tools.

    One day, Anita's children encouraged her to put a video of her "William Tell Mom" presentation on YouTube. People loved it, forwarding it to friends, so that soon, 1.5 million people had viewed it. Then, Good Morning America came knocking, catapulting her to 200 speaking engagements per year.

  • Prior to this, she was primarily in a coccoon, taking care of her family and serving her husband in ministry. Don't worry if you're still in that coccoon stage. It's those real life experiences that give you the writing material for the rest of your life. Relish the stage your in.

  • It took time to realize that she had a talent for humor. She wanted to be a musician, but people kept telling her she was funny. Listen to other people's comments. Sometimes they can see your talents better than you can recognise your own.

  • You don't have to be in love with the writing process. She enjoys "having written," not the writing. While writing for a deadline, she can get excited about doing anything that has nothing to do with her current project. Use "the power of avoidance" to write other stuff for the future.

  • The more you write, the better you get. Her first publisher told her that most artists have to write 1000 bad songs before they write a good one. Keep writing and get those "bad songs" out of your system.

  • Work on your people skills. In the publishing industry, it's all about relationships. Nobody wants to work with a freak. If you put your manuscript into an editor's hand, but you don't come across like a nice person who'd be enjoyable to work with, your manuscript may never get read. Publishers don't want to work with writers who won't work with them on improvements, deliver manuscripts late, won't listen to their suggestions, whine every time they have to rewrite something.

    So, if you go down in your basement to write and pop your head out once a year to relate to other humans, you'll probably find difficulty getting your stuff published.
Thanks Anita, for an insightful, enjoyable presentation!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Dirty Little Secret of Getting Published

Many authors seem to think that, if their writing is good enough, a major literary agent (and ultimately, a major publisher) will sign them up. If they get turned down repeatedly, they assume that their writing isn't good enough. According to this interview, that attitude can show a misunderstanding of the publishing industry.

Today, I listened to Steve Harrison interviewing literary agent Jeff Herman, who's seen over 500 clients get published (primarily nonfiction). His insider insights reveal a lot about the publishing industry. (This isn't word for word. I'm just summarizing and editorializing.)

First, the quality of your writing is just one part of the puzzle. Countless excellent writers aren't getting published, and they don't even understand why. Other writers, not nearly as talented as the excellent ones, are getting published repeatedly and experiencing good sales. So what's the difference?

According to Herman, it's all about platform and marketing. Successful writers (those who get published and sell their books) see their books as products. Without letting people know about these products, they simply won't sell. They see the authors' job as to get the word out about their books.

The authors who don't get signed think that writers write and publishing companies market. After all, don't major publishers have marketing and sales departments? True, but these departments don't work like the marketing of, say, a Proctor & Gamble product. From that standpoint, they're rather anemic. Rather, they focus on coming up with materials to sell it to the bookstores. (They also give you a lot of credibility, since they're very selective.)

But getting it into bookstores doesn't mean that readers will actually walk into the store and buy it. If you're not out there, making yourself and your book visible, why would anyone buy your book? (And if nobody buys it, the bookstore will probably return it to the publisher for a refund.)

So here's the dirty little secret that many authors don't get: publishers aren't just looking for good writing. They're looking for authors who understand marketing and have a strategy for marketing their books.

Says Herman:

"Most of your bestsellers, especially in the nonfiction area, are really being generated by the authors themselves."

These authors have created platforms, such as a busy website, or a significant presence on other well-traveled websites. Or, for example, they build a seminar business, selling books after the seminar. Successful authors don't just bring their content, they offer their own marketing machine.

Herman gets 100 to 300 book proposals per week from people he doesn't know. To set yourself apart, try to meet literary agents personally at places they show up, and convince them that you can market your book.

What do you think? Feel free to comment.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Foreword Accepting Books for Digital Review

Need a review by a big-time, respected reviewer? Consider ForeWord's new (as of this month) review program.

The Need

Libraries and bookstores look primarily to the industry leaders in book reviews. Besides the main book review newspapers (New York Times, LA Times), here's the list:

Booklist (American Library Association)
ForeWord Magazine
Kirkus Reviews
Library Journal
Publishers Weekly
SLJ Book Review (School Library Journal)

So you just submit your book to these organizations and get reviewed, right? Typically, wrong.
An e-mail from ForeWord this week painted the bleak picture. Until this month, ForeWord had only enough space in their magazine to review 5% of the books they received. (To put it another way, we had a 95% chance of rejection. Hey, if there's a 95% chance of rain, it's gonna rain.) Many, many wonderful books simply couldn't make the cut.

The Solution: Offer Digital Reviews to Worthy Books for $99

Since libraries and bookstores tend to search their digital reviews, why not offer authors/publishers an opportunity to get into ForeWord's digital database, which doesn't have their "100 book reviews every two months" restriction? ForeWord thought it was a grand idea. So will many authors and publishers.

How It Works
  • Get the overview here.
  • Mail your book to them (specified to "digital")
  • If they believe the book is up to their quality standards, they'll put it on a page indicating that they'll review it.
  • If and when you see it on that page, let them know you want it reviewed and pay them the $99. (If they don't review you, they refund your $99.)
How Authors Benefit

1. You get a review by a professional reviewer at an organization that's respected in the industry. Use it in all your publicity.
2. "Approved digital reviews will be published at as soon as they are received and edited."
3. "The edited reviews will also be made available to librarians and booksellers at Baker & Taylor’s Title Source III, Ingram’s iPage, Bowker’s Books in Print, and Gale’s licensed databases under the ForeWord Reviews name."

While people who despise change will certainly whine (in King James English) about authors and publishers "paying for reviews," isn't this in reality a win for everyone? Only worthy books get reviewed. Professional reviewers get some money (aren't we looking for ways for professional writers to make money?). Libraries and Bookstores are able to access reviews about many more books.

I say it's a great idea and a good opportunity for serious authors. And if you're a serious writer who was recently downsized from your newspaper job and want to make some extra cash, why not apply for a review job?

What do you think?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Optimizing Your Blog

In looking for high traffic blogs to comment on, I noticed that author Tim Ferris had one of the highest traffic blogs in personal finance. Oddly, his blog isn't primarily about personal finance, although I'm sure he occasionally posted on some financial topics. In checking out his blog, I found a video of him teaching how he optimizes his blog.

It's called "How to Build a High-Traffic Blog Without Killing Yourself"

My Takeaways
  • He blogs once or twice per week (not the 6 times a day that some say you should blog) on his Wordpress blog and analyzes everything he does (Google Analytics) to see what works and what doesn't.
  • He doesn't follow other people's twitters. He tweets only for specific purposes, spending 10 to 15 minutes on it every day or two.
  • He can spend from 20 minutes to 6 hours on a blog post, depending upon its nature.
  • He doesn't blog for income or to directly sell books. Rather, he blogs to access people and resources.
  • Blogging fits his life purpose: to love, be loved and never stop learning.
  • Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday are the days that he gets most traffic to his blogs, so these are his optimum times to post. He may post on Friday night to have the post out on Saturday.
  • He finds interesting pics for his blog, free of charge, by going to the Flicker Commons area and searching the most interesting.
  • He reads all the blog comments, saving the most informative ones in an application like Evernote. Thus, he has a large backlog of information to blog at a later time.
Check it out if you want to get some practical hints on taking your blog to the next level.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Virtual Book Tours

What is a virtual book tour and how can it help authors publicize their books?

What Is a Virtual Book Tour?

Basically, during a time period, say, a month, an author gives interviews, receives book reviews and posts on relevant blogs. It's analogous to the traditional author tour, where you flit about the country doing book signings. But instead of physically traveling, you travel virtually, sitting in front of your computer, surfing from blog to blog.

Radio interviews and podcasts, if done from home, would also qualify as virtual, although I'll concentrate here on the virtual blog tour.

Does It Work?

For some authors, yes. I recall one author who rallied interested bloggers around his book before publication. When it came out, the bloggers made enough noise to make it into a major seller. I'm hearing other authors and experts saying that it's one of their favorite tactics for book publicity.

Would it work for all authors? I'd suggest that it's always good to get out there, making comments on blogs and asking for reviews on relevant, high traffic blogs. Since people blog about every topic imaginable, this should be one of the easiest ways to let people who are already fascinated with your topic find your book. The outcome will probably be dependent on the appeal of the book to bloggers, the author's skill at finding the right blogs, and the diligence of the author in contacting enough blogs to make it work.

Not only should this stir up interest for your tour dates, but since your interviews/reviews/guest posts/comments remain on the blogs with links to your book, surfers may find the posts months or years later and find your book as a result. If you do it right and get enough posts linking back to your book, then your book may become highly ranked in Google for key phrases that multitudes of people search.

According to virtual tour expert Dorothy Thompson, "The key to making your tour successful is to get on as many blogs as you possibly can."

How Much Time Does It Take?

Again, quoting Thompson, "The authors themselves put in an incredible amount of time answering questions and writing guest posts. If you do a month's worth of tours, you have approximately twenty interviews and guest posts to get done."

How to Do a Virtual Book Tour

1) Decide if you want to do it by yourself, or hire a professional. If you do the latter, you'll still need to put time and effort into the initiative. One author who's done both ways told me, "There are definite advantages to going with a PR firm (i.e., hitting hi-traffic blogs and getting the reviews), but if you have a strong network and are not afraid to get out there and ask for guest spots, it's absolutely doable."

2) Brainstorm the types of blogs you want to target. They may be:
  • Book blogs that target your genre.
  • Blogs on the topic(s) covered in your book. Examples: financial blogs for a personal finance book, pet blogs for a dog book, etc.
  • Blogs that aren't on your particular topic, but might include your topic: parenting blogs for a personal finance book, family magazine blog for your dog book.
3) Find key words and phrases that people use to search for your topics.

First, go to Google's tool for finding key words and phrases in Google Ad Words. (If the url has changed do a Google search for a phrase such as "find key words". Several sites have tended to offer these tools.) For my financial book, I did two searches, one on "money" and another on "finances."

I discovered, for example, that the phrase "earn money" was searched 368,000 times last month.

4) Find the most popular blogs in your subject areas. Here are several ways:

  • Visit Technorati , the most popular search engine for blogs. Search some of the key words and phrases you discovered. You'll notice that Technorati tells you the "authority" of each blog, according to how many other sites/blogs have linked to the blog.
  • See if one of Technorati's categories fits your subject matter. Click on the category and you'll find blogs listed according to their "authority."
  • Set up Google Alerts to e-mail you when someone has posted a blog or article on your subject matter.
  • Subscribe (with RSS) to the most popular blogs, so that you'll know immediately when they've posted something new. You'll need a free RSS reader, like Google Reader.
Tip: "I had 20 stops as a goal for my tour, and ended up with 18. Looking back I realize that I could have done less. It really isn't about the number of stops; it is more about the quality you put into each." (Kristin Callender)

3) Incorporate videos and podcasts

4) Make the most of accompanying publicity
  • Send out press releases about your book and the tour.
  • Announce each stop on writer’s boards and social networking sites.
  • Submit the interviews to other publications that might use them.
Helpful Article

Kristin Callender wrote a great article about how she did her virtual tour. Looks like she did it right and has left us with the specifics of how to pull one off ourselves.

Helpful Tools

  • Is a blog getting enough traffic to make it worth your time to pursue or comment on? To find out how much traffic it gets, download (free of charge) Alexa's "Sparky" . This toolbar lets you see the popularity of any blog or site that you're viewing. Warning: if the blogger didn't buy her own url, but instead has an ending like or, then don't get all excited if you see an Alexa rank of #1 to #10. In that case, it's ranking Blogspot or Blogger, not that specific blog.

    To give some indication of how many visits a blog or site might be getting, Alexa ranks my character education site as #741,000. That site gets from 500 to 600 unique visitors ("sessions" rather than "hits") per day.

  • Want to have new blog posts and relevant articles come to one, easy-to-view place? I use igoogle as my opening page in my web browser (Firefox). If you download it, click the "x" on every feature you don't like. Then, click "add stuff" on the right top of your screen to find free applications. Search for "Google News" and then customize it to send you news related to your topic. Download Google Reader so that all your RSS feeds all come to your browser page. Now you're alerted to new articles and blog posts on your topic, all together in one place - the place you first go to when you search the web!

1) Is there really any significance to packing a tour into a month or so? Is it just a way to help authors keep concentrated, or is there some reason that it's actually more effective done over a few weeks than spread out over a year?
2) Any other tips or questions concerning virtual tours?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Many Styles of Writers

No, I'm not talking about their many genres and voices. I'm talking about the many styles of the writers themselves - the wonderfully varied ways that writers learn their craft and complete their manuscripts. If a young writer studies or mentors under only one or a small number of seasoned writers, she might assume that all writers should approach their craft in the same way. Yet, the more I read about great writers, the more variety I see in the way they approach their craft.

Today, I attended seminars by some very successful authors at the Decatur Book Festival - billed as America's largest independent book festival - and was struck by their differences. One spoke of the necessity of great research for his novels. Another said that, in his opinion, it was all about the story rather than the research - that an author, with his slight of hand or wizardry, uses his words to make people believe the story is true. If a person objected that he gave an Atlanta street the wrong name in his novel, he'd reply, "what do I care? It's fiction!"

I've heard some authors say, "Become a writer only if it's the only thing you can do." One author said that this was the case for her. Everything else she failed in. Yet, she had this great urge to write. Conversely, one successful author on a panel was a lawyer by trade. Another was a physician who taught in medical school. Obviously, they had talents besides writing.

Some authors are solitary folk; others love real-life relationships. Some authors write religiously from 6:00 AM till evening with few breaks. Others write at night, like Tolkien, after the kids are in bed. Some writers studied writing in under grad and Masters programs; others never studied writing, but simply one day thought, "I could write a better book than this crappy novel." They basically learned as they went, took criticism gracefully, and learned the craft. Some are in love with the words and the process. Others, like Mark Twain, said he wrote because there was money in it. Some write the novel start to finish on their own. Others, like James Patterson, collaborate.

I think that's a good reminder for all of us. Whenever an instructor or influential writer makes dogmatic pronouncements about "the way all serious writers write," consider that he might not know the wonderfully varied ways that writers approach their craft. Learn from the masters of your genre. Consider what they say. But in the end, do what works for you.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Book Marketing Tip: Participate in Online Discussions

Book marketers, authors, publicists, and social networking gurus all sing the praises of participating in online discussions about the topics and themes of their writing. It's a great way to connect with people who are already interested in your topic. Do it enough, and in the right way, and you'll help your niche audience find your book. Here are some of the reasons:

1) People who blog want comments on their blogs. You're not bothering them by thanking them for their blog post, adding something helpful to the discussion, and ending with your name and book information.

2) People who frequent these blogs and discussion groups are looking for information that you're an expert in. You don't have to interrupt someone (like TV or Radio Commercials) to try to interest them in your book. They're already interested and stopped by the blog or discussion group or newspaper article to find more information.

How to Find Articles and Blogs to Comment On

1. Find key words and phrases that people use to search for your topics.

First, go to Google's tool for finding key words and phrases in Google Ad Words. (If the url has changed do a Google search for a phrase such as "find key words". Several sites have tended to offer these tools.)

For my financial book, I did two searches, one on "money" and another on "finances." I discovered, for example, that the phrase "earn money" was searched 368,000 times last month.

2. Find the most popular blogs in your subject areas. Here are several ways:
  • Visit Technorati , the most popular search engine for blogs. Search some of the key words and phrases you discovered. You'll notice that Technorati tells you the "authority" of each blog, according to how many other sites/blogs have linked to the blog.
  • See if one of Technorati's categories fits your subject matter. Click on the category and you'll find blogs listed according to their "authority."
  • Set up Google Alerts to e-mail you when someone has posted a blog or article on your subject matter.
  • Subscribe (with RSS) to the most popular blogs, so that you'll know immediately when they've posted something new. You'll need a free RSS reader, like Google Reader.
3. Is a blog getting enough traffic to make it worth your time to pursue or comment on? To find out how much traffic it gets, download (free of charge) Alexa's "Sparky" . This toolbar lets you see the popularity of any blog or site that you're viewing.

4. On some popular blogs, you may want to ask the administrators if they'd like a free copy of your book to review. (They may ask for another copy as a give-away.) Also, look at Technorati's list of top blogs in different areas. You might want to sign up for RSS feeds from the top sites so that you're first to know when they make a commentable post.

Other tips:

1) The early commenter gets the most visible comments. Blogs tend to post in order from first comment to last. Thus, if you're commenting on a newspaper article or a popular blog, comment as close to its posting as possible. Otherwise you may post comment #45, which nobody will ever read. That's the benefit of having receiving Google Alerts and setting up syndication from popular columns and blogs. As soon as you receive an alert, you can read the article and comment. Those reading the article all that day will also see your comment. [Maybe its a guy thing with my competitiveness, but I like to think that I've captured the "Poll Position" (first position in a car race or horse race) to motivate me to get that first comment.]

2) Before reading the article, scroll to the bottom of the article to make sure you can leave comments.

3) Realize that some blogs will not allow you to link back to your site or Amazon page. So just put the name of your book so that they can copy and paste into Amazon to search for it.

4) Some say that they allow you to use basic html to add a link. Here's an example. It's a bit more tricky, but not that hard once you figure it out. When a reply box says it allows html, here's the code I put into it to get a live link to our publisher site. (Typically, I link them to the Amazon page for my book, but that link's so long I thought it might confuse the issue.) (don't use the parentheses): (">Enjoy Your Money! How to Make It, Save It, Invest It and Give It)

To make your live link, simply replace my url or web address (shown in bold blue) with your url. Then, replace my book title (shown in bold green) with your book title. Now, keep it handy, like in a saved Word document or a saved e-mail, so that you can find it quickly and copy and paste it into a comment the next time you need it.

Other Benefits of Commenting on Blogs
  • You become more of an expert on your topic and more up-to-date. It's an education in itself.
  • You discover other organizations that need to know about your book.
Do you have experience with commenting on other people's blogs or articles? Let us know what you think!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Submitting to Book Awards

The Benefits of Book Awards

An author friend submitted his book to be considered for an award. Although he didn't win, he was nominated for an award, giving him the right to put a sticker on his book saying something like: "Nominated for Georgia Author of the Year." He says that this sticker really helps him with sales.

For low platform authors who aren't household names, we need all the help we can get. So why not pursue honors, awards and blurbs that tell buyers, "This book is special!"? Authors who win awards can say to a bookseller, "This award-winning book..." which sets it apart from most competing books.

Additionally, winning books are often displayed at ceremonies, given special promotion. Distributors and booksellers may take notice, and finalists and winners often receive cash awards.

So I took a couple of hours to hit the library and peruse the 2009 editions of both Literary Market Place (LMP) and Writers Market, both of which have sections listing book awards. (There's also a section of the Christian Writers Market dedicated to contests.) Don't be overwhelmed by the huge number of awards. You can narrow down pretty quickly which ones apply to your book.

Update on "Benefits," 2/10/10: In November, my book won the "Personal Finance" category for the Best Books award! I ordered a set of gold stars, which paste nicely on my cover. I sent out a free press release, one of which was to an organization that targets press releases to libraries. It may have been this release which caused libraries to start placing orders with a quality book distributor, who contacted me requesting a contract. They're starting to market my book to libraries and make regular sales. Another experience: Last month, I took my book to an independent bookstore to see if they would carry it. Her first reaction was to look at the award sticker and say, "This helps."

Do My Odds of Winning Make It a Worthwhile Gamble?

Your odds are better than you might first think. First of all, you're seldom in competition with best-selling authors. They apparently don't feel the need to compete and big-time publishers focus their marketing efforts on their best selling authors when the book first comes out - not a year later when contest winners are announced.

Let's estimate the odds of winning an award from "
the largest independent book awards contest in the world" - The Independent Publisher Book Awards. They claimed to have 4,000 entries in 2009. Having so many entries, I assume that it's one of my longest shots for winning. But those entries are divided into 67 categories, narrowing down my competition to an average of 60 books per category. But each category offers three awards, thus narrowing down my competition to an average of 20 books.

Now if you're in a specialized category, like "multicultural nonfiction adult", isn't it entirely possible that I'll find myself competing with five other books, three of which are titled "How to Get Rich on the Internet," written in broken English by telephone company support personnel in third world countries?

My conclusion: If I've written a good book that's well-edited and designed, these are good enough odds to pursue.

Caution: There will be much more competition in the broader categories. But the good news is that a first, second, or third place in one of these categories says a lot about the quality of your book. In a February, 2010 letter from The Independent Publisher Book Awards:

"It looks like this year’s entry numbers are similar to last year’s, when we reached 4,000 total entries for the first time. That means the competition is very tough and the judging will be even tougher. Last year we had nine categories with over 100 entries each, and eleven more with over 70 entries each! I feel these large numbers bring credibility to the Awards, and that the more entries we have per category, the more valuable each award becomes."

Narrowing Down Appropriate Contests

Side note: according to Writers Market, contests come and go pretty quickly. Make sure the award still exists before sending your book. New contests are announced regularly in writers publications. These may not be prestigious, but your book would probably have less competition. And does the average book-buyer know a prestigious contest from a non-prestigious one?

My book is a nonfiction personal finance book written in a story form, published by a small publisher, targeting people 16-32 years old. So I can ignore all awards that:

1) Don't accept submissions. (Some contests do their own searching.)
2) Only accept submissions from Canada or Ohio or people born in Texas.
3) Cater to big-name authors and big publishers. (See the winners of past years.)
4) Take only fiction or poetry or books about orchids (yes, there is one like that).
5) Accept only non-published manuscripts.

Here's my narrowed down list, with stars by the organizations I'm pursuing:

* Foreword Magazine Book of the Year - - 61 Categories. "ForeWord is the only review trade journal devoted exclusively to books from independent houses." Foreword is respected by libraries, distributors and booksellers. With 61 categories, first, second and third places in each category, plus an announcement of finalists, there's a decent chance to get some recognition. Even to say your book was "a finalist in the Foreword Book of the Year Awards" could be a huge boost. Jan. 15, 2010 deadline. $75 entry fee per title, per category.

* Benjamin Franklin Awards - - Sponsored by "the largest non-profit trade association representing independent publishers": The Independent Book Publishers Association. 54 categories. "Regarded as one of the highest national honors in small and independent book publishing." Deadlines: Sept. 30 for books published through August; Dec. 31 for rest of books published in 2009. $80 entrance fee for IBPA members. $180 for non-members, which includes a membership. (Good contest, but I'm too cheap to fork out $180.)

* Eric Hoffer Award for Independent Books - - Fifteen categories. "Each category will be awarded a winner, runner-up, and multiple honorable mentions." Deadline: Jan. 21, 2010. $45 entrance fee.

* The Independent Publisher Book Awards (67 categories) - - "Gold, silver and bronze medals will be awarded in each category." Over 4,000 entries ... "the largest independent book awards contest in the world." $85 entry fee per category. Discounts for earlier submission. Deadline: March 20, 2010.

* Nautilus Award - - "Recognizing Books...that Promote Spiritual Growth, Conscious Living, and Positive Social Change as they stimulate the 'imagination' and inspire the reader to "new possibilities" for a better world." 28 categories. Submit August 2009 to Jan. 15, 2010. $165 entrance fee, but discounts for submitting earlier (e.g., $145 before Oct. 16).

* Best Business Books - - Each book will be judged on the originality of its ideas and content. Eleven categories, October 15 deadline. Submit two copies. No entrance fee. (Update: I didn't win or place.)

*Mom's Choice Awards - - Deadline of Oct. 1, 2009. $300 per book, per category. Benefits: book reviews, special promotions, etc. Over 100 categories.

*Best Books Awards - - $69 per book, per category. Deadline: Sept. 30, 2009. 100+ categories. Benefits: special promotions. Update: I won the personal finance division!

*National Indie Excellence Awards - - 100+ categories, $65 per book, per category. March 31, 2010 deadline. Benefits: promotions, etc.

The Writer's Digest International Self-Published Book Awards -

Michael L. Printz Award
- - "an award for a book that exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature." "sponsored by Booklist, a publication of the American Library Association. Actually, this is one of many awards for young adult literature. See the rest of the awards here: . Hurdle: Most of these awards require submission by someone other than the author/publisher/editor, e.g., a librarian. But if libraries are raving about your book, see if a librarian will submit it for you. Note also their category for Outstanding Books for the College Bound.

The Christopher Awards - - No charge for submission, but few categories (less chances to win) and winners seems to come from big presses.

Patterson Prize for Books for Young People -

What Next?

At this point, I'll go to each site and gather more information to help me prioritize. I'll ask questions like,
  • How much do they charge? (I don't have an unlimited budget!)
  • What are my odds of winning or getting at least getting a nomination?
  • Do they subdivide into categories, or is it me against hundreds of others for one or two big prizes?
  • How prestigious is the award?
I'll also want to see if there are smaller awards, open only to people in my region or to books on personal finance. Not all contests are listed in the publications I consulted.

Important: I had falsely assumed that all awards would be for books published in the previous calendar year, thus having deadlines of a couple of months into the next year following publication. But some work on different schedules. Check each contest to find their schedule.

Any other ideas or personal experiences with seeking book awards? If you won one or were nominated for one, did it help you with sales?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Book Marketing Takeaways from Ning Discussion

I've been following Ning discussion in their Book Marketing Network entitled "What's the Biggest Challenge with Your Book?" Many excellent ideas have been shared over the last couple of years. I decided to try to consolidate the ideas, which come from authors and book marketing experts and publishers.

1. My book won't sell itself. I, the author, need to alert the world to it's existence and show them a way to purchase it.

2. I need a distribution system (e.g., through Amazon, traditional distributors, etc.). Typically, people won't turn out in droves to buy from my website.

3. Get with a major wholesaler, like Ingram or Baker and Taylor. Bookstores tend to order through them. I need a return policy with the wholesaler, since book stores expect it.

4. Try lots of things to discover what works for me and my book. Every author is different; every book is different. Thus, what flops for one book may fly for another. When I find something that works, keep pursuing it.

5. Expect lots of failures and dead ends. It's part of the business. If one bookstore turns me down, learn from it and proceed to the next store. Ask what distribution channels they use. Ask what kinds of books they like to stock. The next manager might be delighted to take my book. "In 'The Last Lecture', Randy Pausch reminds us that brick walls are made to separate those of us who really want it from those of us who don't want it enough."

6. Reviews sell books. Get lots of them. Sending out books for review is one of the cheapest and most productive ways to promote books. Example: The MidWest Book Review welcomes small publishers and self-published books. Find other reviewers, particularly by finding publications (like trade journals) and columnists who write on my topic.

7. Do five things every day to promote my book. Most of those efforts will come to nothing, but cumulatively, that's 35 initiatives each week, 140 per month, over 1800 per year. With those numbers, people will take notice and channels will open. In a real sense, it's a numbers game, so do the numbers. It's okay to stumble a lot. It's okay to do things that produce absolutely no sales at all. But doing something trumps doing nothing.

8. Have a Website and/or a blog. There needs to be a place for people to come, meet me, hang out, and find out more about my books. When I send press releases, curious media will check my online press kit to find other reviews, interviews, topics for discussion, etc. Over time, I just might build a following. If I provide a way for them to leave me their e-mail address (to get a newsletter, etc.) then I can alert them to my next book.

9. Book signings aren't dead. The ones that work tend to be the ones where I go to talk about a felt need - some authors might talk about how to deal with an alcoholic family member or how to manage their money. Even if I don't sell many books, I'm likely to meet valuable connectors. One person does signings with a group of authors, which makes it easier for people to walk up and start a conversation.

10. Speak at meetings where people are already gathered. Rather than trying to gather a crowd, speak at civic organizations and to university organizations. They do their own advertising and have their regulars who show up every week. If you're terrified to speak before groups, that's pretty normal. Start small, learn from each outing, and see if it works for you. You might surprise yourself and end up enjoying it.

11. Consider doing a "virtual book tour." Get help from someone experienced in these. "You may want to contact Penny Sansevieri at or Chris Anderson (editor of Wired Magazine). Both have companies that help with virtual book tours." - Bill Frank

12. Participate in web-based discussions where people already gather.

  • Go to Google Ad Words Keywords Tool to find many phrases that people search concerning my topic.
  • Sign up for Google Alerts about your topic. Experiment with several of the key words/phrases I discovered. When it alerts me to an interesting article or blog that speaks on my topic, thank the writer for the article and add a comment, signing off with my name, the name of my book, and a link to my book on Amazon.
  • Go to Technorati. Use my key words/phrases to find the top-ranked (most incoming links) blogs about my topic. Lots of people typically read and participate in these blogs. Start interacting and sign off as above. On some popular blogs, I may want to ask the administrators if they'd like a free copy of your book to review. (They may ask for another copy as a give-away.)

13. Think outside of the bookstore. In non-bookstores, I'm not competing with other books. See if they will sell my books on consignment. "Leave fliers or bookmarks in hospital emergency rooms, doctors offices, dentist, etc. Hotels even let you advertise your book."

14. Give yourself time. Some say it takes as much as three years for a book to catch on. If my book isn't selling well after a year, welcome to the club. Am I still doing my five marketing thingies per day? Conversations start and die if not tended. It's my responsibility to keep the word of mouth going.

15. Keep learning! Read books (Bill Frank's recommended list is here.) Participate in these discussion groups. Readers don't choose books simply because they are well-written. If I want my books to sell, I need to study the industry, which means to learn, learn, learn. "Being knowledgeable about the book business is the best way to be successful in the book business. Armed with knowledge, you can determine what is the best way to go for you and your book." - Bill Frank, Aug. 27.

16. Nominate Bill Frank for any appropriate rewards. He's developed the best conversation I've seen about this topic. The content of this discussion is invaluable and should be read by all authors. If he writes a book on book marketing, I want it. He's humble, knowledgeable and patient with our questions. One practical way we can help him is to go to his recommended book list and check it as helpful (Note: "Rate It" in the right column of his Listmania List).

Bill, if you're reading this, we'd like to know any other way we can assist you.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

On Marketing and Social Media: "Go Where People Are Already Gathered"

This concept, found in a Ning book marketing discussion, caused me to question the conventional wisdom on both social networking and book signings. An author was relating what was working for her. Rather than trying to gather a bunch of people to talk to them about her books (like traditional book signings), she chose to talk to civic groups and other pre-existing meetings that already had followings and publicized their own events.

When I did a recent book signing, I had to publicize the event, e-mail folks, etc. About 10 people came and I sold several books. Perhaps more will sell since I left some at the place of business to try to sell. But that was a lot of time and effort to try to draw a crowd and sell a few books.
Yet, there are many civic organizations and universities that have budgets to bring in speakers. They'd probably pay me something and allow me to sell books in the back afterwards. They already have loyal attendees and they do all the publicity. They gather the crowd and I just show up to speak. That sounds like a great use of my time.

Applying "Go Where the Crowd is Already Gathered" to Web-Based Social Networking

This makes sense and perhaps has application to our use of social media to get the word out about our books.

It seems to me that since social media (and the experts I read) is a "social" thing, where there should be ongoing discussions between people, that any marketing strategy involving Twitter, Facebook and a personal blog would be a pretty time consuming task. I'd not only put out information regularly (perhaps daily?), but would additionally follow others who follow me (time reading) and occasionally comment on their comments. And over time, that may or may not pay off in sales.

In a timeless world, where I could continually add things to my schedule, trying to gather a following would be a no-brainer. It's another way to start conversations about my book, gain a following, etc. But in a time-limited world, I have to think of this versus other ways to get the word out.

Now this goes against the prevailing wisdom of some of the marketing people I read. Feel free to reply if you think my reasoning is off.

Applying This to Writing a Newsletter

According to most marketing gurus I read, we should prioritize collecting e-mail addresses and sending out a regular newsletter. I understand the benefits of this and believe that for an author who has both the time and the passion for it, this can be a good thing.

On the other hand, sending out a quality e-mail can take lots of time and effort. And the newsletter can't likely promote your book every issue, so will the number of resulting sales be worth the effort, if your primary reason for starting it is to sell books? (I publish two quarterly newsletters, but they're not primarily to market my books. If that were my sole intention, I probably wouldn't publish them.)

Applying the "go where the people are already gathered" principle to newsletters, consider contributing to other people's successful newsletters. I just sent a post on a successful networking experience I had to John Kremer, one of the most respected names in book publishing. No telling how many people receive his regular e-letter or follow his blog. But he's putting my article on his blog, linking to it from his newsletter, and putting a link back to my site. All these people will then know something about my book.

Book marketing gurus like Kremer, Poynter and Jud probably each have many, many more people than I could ever gather for a newsletter. By helping them with their newsletters, I expose all of their lists to my books. And what about all the newsletters out there that target family life, personal finances, etc. I could keep myself busy for a year getting publicity through just newsletters!

Applying This to Writing a Column

Some publicists recommend that I try writing a column for a newspaper on my topic. Hey, it gets me out there, helps build a following, and who knows, I just might get syndicated and appear in newspapers around the country!

But writing a great column takes loads of time. And with all the competition out there, what are the odds that I'd win out over all the MBA's in professional writing who are pushing to write the same column?

And even if I win at this game and write a popular column that's syndicated, I can't talk about my book very much, or I become irritating.

I got to thinking about this problem, so I visited the Amazon pages of books written by some of the most popular syndicated personal finance columnists in major newspapers. Their Amazon rankings were 328,000, 612,000 and 353,000. That compares to my Amazon ranking of 132,000! That means that I'm selling many more books than these popular columnists (at least on Amazon). Perhaps it's because I'm going to places that people are already gathered, and each time I go (unlike a financial columnist), I can talk about my book, or at least put it with my signature.

Applying this to social networking, one person on Ning said that she has Google Alerts set up to alert her when anybody's writing on her topic. She clicks through to the the articles or blogs or online newspapers, reads the articles, comments and adds to the discussion, then signs it with her name and a link to her book on Amazon. She said that whenever she does this, she notes an increase in sales. I tried it yesterday with two comments, one on a newspaper and one on a blog. The person replied to the blog, "Thanks for the comment. I look forward to reading your book." Hmmm...that was a pretty quick return. And I didn't irritate anyone. And I didn't have to wait a year to gather a following. And I didn't have to spend many, many hours writing unique, informative blogs.

This blogger was delighted that I commented on his blog. (Bloggers live for positive comments, assuring them know that people are actually reading their stuff.)

This applies the "go where people are already gathered" concept to social media. Rather than spending my days trying to attract a Twitter and Blog and Facebook following that may or may not be interested in my book, a strategy that just might annoy my "friends" if I keep bringing up my book, why not simply go to the blogs and online media outlets that are already discussing my topic and join in the discussion? I get links back from many significant sites. And for the ones that don't allow links back (like many major newspapers), just sign it with your name and the name of the book.

So, regarding social networking, I'm concentrating on "going where the people are already gathered" rather than "trying to gather people". In a timeless world, I could do both. But the tick-tick of my wall clock reminds me that each second has a period after it. I've got to concentrate my limited time on the most likely payoffs.

Your thoughts?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Getting Your Book to Top Bloggers and Top Sites

Want to get your book in front of people? One way is to find the most popular sites and blogs that speak about the subjects you write on. Send an e-mail to the main writers for the blog or site to see if they're interested in reviewing your book.

And how then do you find those popular sites and blogs?

1) Technorati ranks blogs according to number of incoming links, assuming that a blog is more respected and visited if more people link to it. Click "blogs" on their site to find their blog directory.

Now find the subjects that most closely match your topic and click on them to find the most popular blogs that talk about those subjects.

2) Download the free Alexa toolbar to discover how many people visit any given site. Click "Download the Alexa Toolbar" to start the process.

3) Search key words or phrases in Google Blog Search to find more blogs.

4) Of course, search Google to find other popular sites besides blogs.

Other ideas?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Using Press Releases to Promote Books (Part 2)

Considering doing a press release to promote your book? Perhaps my experiences can help. Here's what I've done and the results:

1) I sent a release through several free press release organizations. To see what I did and what organizations I used, click here to my former blog post. This was a general release about the publication of my book, but put in a newsy way that showed how it addressed some of today's issues. I didn't get any response, but did find the release posted on an Atlanta business site.

2) A month later, I sent exactly the same release through a paid service ($175) that claimed to have a targeted list. The company is Bostick Communications, who intrigued me with an e-mail advertising their services. Within 24 hours, I received over 20 responses, including a TV request, a radio opportunity, and requests from newspaper columnists and bloggers who review books.

My contact at Bostick answered my questions promptly and thoroughly prior to taking my money. Then, he approved my release and told me that they'd wait until Monday to send it, since they get less response toward the end of the week. Following the press release, Bostick alerts me via e-mail when and where my book has been reviewed.

Why the Difference?

I'm assuming that media folks don't have all day to read thousands of press releases. Thus, they ignore the stuff coming from free services and pay attention to the services they've learned to rely upon for helpful, targetted stories. That's the service that companies like Bostwick provide authors. If you wrote a book on childrearing, your press release wouldn't go to the editors at Popular Mechanics. That makes sense.

Tips from the Trenches

1. Make your press release newsworthy. Thousands of new books come out each year. Another book isn't news. "Steve Miller's Money Book Was Just Published" makes a bad headline. Try to connect your book with something newsworthy, like "New Money Book Helps Generation Y Avoid Baby Boomer's Mistakes."

2. Choose a company that can target the niche you want to reach.

3. Have an online press kit that compels the media to take you seriously
(blurbs and reviews), gives them example questions and answers, and - if you're shooting for radio or TV - demonstrates that you can handle yourself in that arena. Link the news release to your online press kit. (Example: Here's my press kit.)

4. Realize that sending out review copies can be expensive. If someone half-way around the world offers to review the book, make sure it's worth it to you. It may cost $14 or so. If you're limited by a budget, you could almost send 5 copies via media mail within the USA for that amount.

5. Make the most of your results. I got a book request from two book review bloggers who had a very little traffic to their blogs. (An Alexa application tells me a site's Google Ranking as I view any site.) Was it worth sending her a book? Well, I looked at each profile to discover one worked in the legal industry and another was a home schooler. I sent each a copy for review, suggesting that the book would make a neat gift to lawyer clients and a great home school text (would she give me a blurb on the book's value to home schoolers?). Give these opportunities some creative thought to get more benefits out of each reviewer.

Any helpful advice or questions about press releases?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Marketing Books with Online Video

This week I participated in a seminar on using videos on social media sites like YouTube and Google Videos to market books. Here are some tips I picked up, as well as some questions I have yet to resolve. I'll present the basic strategy here, then add my thoughts and concerns.

How to Sell Tons of Products (According to the Seminar)
Using Free, Web-Based Video

a. Pick a topic that people search for on the Web that ties in with your book. (Example: The topic "How Can I Find a Job?" would tie into your book, "Fool-Proof Career Advice For Recessionary Times")

b. Make short, one to three-minute, inexpensive (you can use a $99 flip camera) how-to videos about the topic. Make these based on frequently asked questions (FAQ's) about the topic.

c. Put the videos up on 30+ free video sites. Since Google prioritizes video, you have a great chance of getting a high ranking for your key words.

d. Link the videos to your website or blog, telling them that you offer more free videos on the same subject.

e. Use the free videos on your site to show them the value of your for sale products.

f. Link them to a page where they can purchase your products.

Does it work? Here's his evidence: 1) He's an expert. 2) He's seen it work for him. 3) His reasoning seems to make sense. 4) He's got quotes from others who say it worked for them.


1) It was a bit sensational - "You're virtually guaranteed..."

I don't believe anything's "guaranteed" to work in internet marketing.

Here are some reasons that this method could fail in any individual case:

2) Many other people may be targeting your niche with videos. If you're all using the same methods, how can yours be "virtually guaranteed" to turn up high in a Google search?

3) Sometimes Google's algorithms are hard, if not impossible, to figure out. (I have a site for youth workers that had more content than any other youth ministry sites (over 150 articles by top youth workers), and more visitors (about 650 per day) than all but about 2 of the top youth ministry sites. Yet, for some reason, using all the best practices for search engine optimization, and even paying an SEO professional, I could never get higher than page five in a Google search for the all-important phrase: "youth ministry." Go figure.

4) Your niche may not be very "sellable".

EXAMPLE SELLABLE NICHE: Someone produces a set of free videos showing unique, proven ways to promote a product on YouTube. He argues convincingly that he's an established expert. He directs people from the video to his site or blog for more free instructions. There, he sells people on a product that enhances their ability to use this method to greater advantage and increase their revenues. As long as he's selling a first-rate product that users will write believable blurbs about, then he's probably on to something.

EXAMPLE QUESTIONABLE NICHE: You've written a biography of your father, who was a nice guy and did well at his business, although the business was not big enough to be generally recognisable. You put some videos up on YouTube explaining "How to Make It Big in Your Business," directing them to your site for more free videos, which in turn tell them about your book.

Here are the problems I see with marketing this niche. First, there are lots of competing YouTube videos about how to run a business. What will make yours rank above the others, many of which are probably optimised by SEO professionals? Second, you're not a recognized expert. Thus, lots of people link to talks by Jack Welch, one of the top CEO's of the last century, making his videos (and dozens of other recognized business gurus) come up before yours in Google search. Third, your product isn't widely compelling. Sure, people who knew your father and his business might want the book. But people in general would be more compelled to read the story of Dell, MicroSoft, Amazon, Home Depot, or a host of other great companies.

5) Producing home-made, unprofessional video footage may work fine for some endeavors, but not for those who need to keep a sharp, professional image.

My takeaways:
  • Put my tv interviews up on more sites. Currently I have them only on YouTube. Why not put them up on more?
  • Since my book is about personal finances - a general topic which many videos cover - look for a niche that isn't crowded, yet people search for it. (Example: "What baby boomers should do after their retirement invesments plummeted in the crash.")
  • Make some helpful videos answering the most frequently asked questions on this niche.
  • Link the videos to my book on Amazon.
To learn more: - a service to help people market their products through online video. - a helpful critique of the above service. - YouTube best practices for non-profits. - As the title says: YouTube Best Practices.

Have you had experiences with online video that you'd like to share?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wise Online Counsel for Book Publishing and Marketing

To get an overview of book publishing and book marketing, read good respected works, such as Poynter's Self-Publishing Manual, Kremer's 1001 Ways to Market Your Books, or Jud's Beyond the Bookstore.

But sometimes I need specific information that most books don't address, or need information that's quickly dated in books, such as:
  • What publishers are currently offering the best services?
  • What are the best blogs to send a book to for review?
  • What book marketing techniques are working best today?
Fortunately, writers and publishers like to write, so you'll find them churning out gobs of great information in various social media. Here are three examples that I've been learning from recently. They have lots of active discussions by knowledgeable people:

1 - Book Publishing Professionals group on LinkedIn. We're having some great discussions on self-publishing vs. traditional publishing vs. vanity publishing. Also, a great discussion on the best uses of social media for book marketing. You'll find input from experienced writers and publishers.

2 - Book Blogs Group on Ning. Book lovers share their favorite books. Authors tell about their books.

3 - Book Marketing Network on Ning. Started by book marketing guru John Kremer, he just started a new discussion on what's actually working in selling books.

What a great time to be writing and publishing! There's so much great, free information available!

Do you have other free places you recommend to learn about writing and publishing?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Right Way for Authors to Use Social Media

I'm hearing all kinds of messages concerning how authors should use social media. Some say very dogmatically that all authors should try to build a platform with social media to ultimately sell their books. If you start a blog and start Tweeting, but don't see any results, they'll chide you that you're not posting enough comments. "You need to Tweet every 30 minutes and post something on your blog 7x per day," they'll say.

Yet, saner voices are saying what many of us intuitively felt all along - that social media shouldn't be about me sending out lots of messages and trying to sell my stuff. Instead, it should be more...well... SOCIAL. Social implies listening as well as talking, commenting on other people's comments rather than just spouting off my thoughts. My wife, Cherie, found these wonderful tips on social media from Chris Brogan, a true thought leader in social media. You'll note that his tips are diametrically opposed to much of the "here's how to sell your product with social media" hype.

19 Presence Management Chores You COULD Do Every Day

June 29, 2009

If you’re looking to establish your online presence, and build relationships, it’s not the kind of project where you show up, build your profiles, friend a few people, and call it good. It’s a lot like tending the farm. Here are seven particular “chores” you could do every day that should prove beneficial to your online interests.


1. Find seven things worth retweeting in your general feed and share.
2. Reply to at least five things with full responses (not just “thanks”).
3. Point out a few people that you admire. It shows your mindset, too.
4. Follow back at least 10 folks. (I use an automated tool, but this is a personal preference. If you want such, I use SocialToo.)
5. 10 minutes of just polite two-way chit chat goes far.


6. Check in on birthdays on the home page. (Want a secret? Send the birthday wish via Twitter or email. Feels even more deliberate.)
7. Respond to any comments on your wall.
8. Post a status message daily, something engaging or interesting.
9. Comment on at least seven people’s status messages or updates.
10. Share at least 3 interesting updates that you find.
11. If you belong to groups or fan pages, leave a new comment or two.


11. Accept any invitations that make sense for you to accept.
12. Enter any recent business cards to invite them to LinkedIn (if you’re growing your network).
13. Drop into Q&A and see if you can volunteer 2-3 answers.
14. Provide 1 recommendation every few days for people you can honestly and fully recommend.
15. Add any relevant slide decks to the Slideshare app there, or books to the Amazon bookshelf.


16. Visit your blog’s comments section and comment back on at least 5 replies.
17. If you have a few extra minutes, click through to the blogs of the commenters, and read a post or two and comment back.
18. While on those sites, use a tool like StumbleUpon and promote their good work.
19. Write the occasional post promoting the good work of a blog in your community.

It’s Not Easy

Maintaining your online presence takes time. If you look at all I’ve listed above, that’s easily more than an hour of work. But it depends what the value of that presence is to you, if you’re doing this as an individual, or to your organization, if you’re doing this on behalf of a brand or product.

We’ve traded dollars for time, in lots of these equations, as we see the return on our advertising spend diminish. It’s your choice whether you want to maintain an active online presence, or if you want to get away with a bit less.

This is the end of Chris' comments. His blog is a great example of what he's preaching above. You can find his blog at:

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Updated List of Nonfiction Book Reviewers

Where do you send copies of adult nonfiction books for review? (Many of these places also review fiction.) I decided to blog this process to save other authors time, since these reviewers change policies, consolidate, and otherwise change over time. Old lists may be dated.

Why send books out to these reviewers?

1) You can use the review in your online press information and various other places.

2) Some submit their reviews to other review sites, giving you links and recommendations from many other sites. (Example: Dead Trees Review sends the review to 17 review sites, including

3) Since many of these people review many books and put their reviews on Amazon, Amazon ranks them highly as reviewers. (For example: one prides himself on being a top 500 Amazon reviewer. This not only means that he's reviewed a lot of books, but additionally that many people checked that his reviews were helpful.) I assume that if a top Amazon reviewer positively reviewed my book, that this would figure into how highly Amazon would rank my book in a search.

Three months prior to publication, I sent galleys to each of these reviewers after reading each of their sites to make sure I knew what each expected (e.g., some want two copies, some want them sent to a specific person, some tell how to contact them to make sure they received copies). I got this list by comparing recommendations from books such as Kremer's 1001 Ways to Market Your Books, Poynter's Self-Publishing Manual, and Bowerman's The Well-Fed Self-Publisher. Unfortunately for small publishers and self-publishers, from what I read, these tend to review only books by major publishers. But the payoff can be so great, I went ahead and sent galleys.

Booklist (American Library Association)
ForeWord Magazine
Kirkus Reviews
Library Journal
Publishers Weekly
SLJ Book Review (School Library Journal)
New York Times
LA Times

After publication, I'm e-mailing the following review companies to see if they will review my book. Basically, I went through the list of "Other Reviewers" at MidWest Book Review, which claimed to list the best of the reviewers (140 of them). It took a couple of weeks to visit each site, see what kinds of reviews they did, and narrow it down to about 25 reviewers appropriate for my book. Each site tells how to submit.

I took a list of 140 reviewers and culled it down to 25 worth submitting to. Another list of 32 reviewers yielded me only two potential reviewers.

I eliminated those reviewers who:
  • reviewed only fiction
  • were apparently no longer in business
  • would only review for money
  • wouldn't review American books
  • reviewed only books by major publishers
Reviewers appropriate for my book (a nonfiction book from a small publisher in the USA)
Good lists of links to reviewers - Midwest Book Review's list of other reviewers. This is the list of 140 reviewers that I culled from. - Links to Big-time reviewers like the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal. - Big-time newspapers that review books. - List of reviewers from Newpages. - Short list of one reviewer's favorite review sites.

Wikipedia Book Review Magazines

Niche Book Reviewers

If your book falls in an area that may attract its own reviewers, search that in Google. For example, if your book is distinctively Christian, search "Christian Book Reviews" in Google to find many reviewers of Christian books. Similarly, some sites/publications may review only financial books or regional books. So search the topic of your book for book reviewers, such as "financial book reviews" or "scientific book reviews."

Other ideas on getting book reviews? Please comment below!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Is Twitter and Blogging Worth an Author's Time?

A recent blog by the CEO of Thomas Nelson (Michael Hyatt) recommended that almost anyone could build a platform with social networking:

"But today, by starting a blog and making use of tools social networking tools like Twitter and Facebook, you can build a big platform with little more that the investment of your creativity and time. I’m not saying it is easy, but I am saying it is within reach. (By the way, I consider my blog to be my “homebase” and Twitter, Facebook, Plaxo, LinkedIn, etc., to be “outposts.”)"

I think that this can be true in some cases, but I'd like to know some hard data on how many authors actually start off as "nobodies" and successfully build a platform that sells books by these social networking tools, even if they put a lot of time into it and do it right.

Don't get me wrong. I'm blogging and I tweet. And I'm sure that many sales have been made through authors Twittering. But that doesn't mean it's for everybody. In my opinion, we need to question the prevailing wisdom that promises all authors that they can build strong platforms through twittering and blogging.

Here are some of my reasons:

1) It appears to me that the ones who build a platform with Twitter, Blogging, etc., are often special cases.

a) Some were already famous (already had a platform) and thus many people wanted to follow them. The president of Thomas Nelson is a prime example. It's a great way to expand his platform, since many people already look to him as a thought leader. I and many others care what the CEO of Thomas Nelson says about publishing. A comparatively minuscule group cares about what I say about publishing. With limited time to read, if we were publishing about the same subject (I'm actually blogging about a different niche than Nelson), would you rather follow Hyatt or Miller?

b) Some do well because they're blogging about themes attractive to bloggers. Someone who becomes a thought leader in blogging or social networking in general will build a following because so many of the people interested in their thoughts search and redistribute blog posts and link back. Also, people need to subscribe to these thought leaders because the industry is developing so quickly. People want to know the latest ideas in fast-moving industries. The same can be true of the publishing industry, which is experiencing such a revolution. But with so many thought leaders out there in these areas, good luck becoming one of the top leaders!

Let's say you're a young writer, hoping to get published. Publishers keep telling you, "I like your writing, but you have no platform! We don't think we can market your book, since you have no platform." So someone advises you, "Go start a blog and start twittering and build yourself a platform!"

So, what will you blog about? Thousands of authors are blogging about their writing experiences. What's unique about your blog that would make people follow you? If you can't answer that question, lower your expectations about getting a following.

2) I don't see any hard data about what percentage of writers achieve significant sales by blogging and tweeting. (If you know any hard data, please let me know!) Sure, I hear many stories of people who made a great contact or made a great sale, but we can't conclude from these success stories that anybody can succeed by replicating what they did. I think it's called "success bias" - we hear the stories of the successes but don't hear from those who worked hard at blogging and reaped nothing. Thus, we assume that it should work for anyone.

Let's imagine that we collect 50 stories of authors who made significant contacts and sales while riding trains. Does that mean all authors should start riding trains? Hardly. Similarly, tell me 50 stories of people who are selling a lot of books through their blogs and I've still got to ask questions such as:
  • "Why are they doing well through blogs?
  • Are these people like me, starting with no significant platform?
  • Are they targeting a niche subject that they've become a recognized expert in?
  • Do they put hours a day into blogging, twittering and commenting on other blogs?"
  • Can I easily replicate what they're doing with their blogs?
3) My track record of sales through Twitter and my blogs has been, well, underwhelming. I think I've achieved approximately 0 sales so far through those efforts. (I've sold many through review articles in newspapers, etc.) (For an article by a person with much more blogging experience than me, echoing my experience, see the article, "Why Blogging Won't Sell My Books." The author concludes: "In terms of visitors received and books sold for the time I put in writing, blogging is the worst return on investment I get."

4) A marketing professional reported dismal results. In a recent article , a twitter marketer, who tracks what happens to his tweets that he sends to his 55,000 followers, reported that his potential sales were rather dismal:

"Now, 6% of them are all I can get to click on a link, and I must assume that if I have anything I wanted to sell to these folks, I would be lucky to sell 6% of them (using 6% as my new social-networking constant). That gives me almost 0.4% from my total “mailing list” of followers, which is about one-fifth of what you get from any real-world direct-marketing effort. This is hardly a revolution in marketing. But it might be what you can expect from the average social-network marketing schemes. And it isn’t much."

5) Blogging and Twittering experts say you have to blog and twitter very often to attract a following. Do we really have that kind of time? A responder to the above article said,

"Three or Four Tweets a day will do absolutely no good. You have to do 30 tweets a day. The life expectancy of a tweet is less than 15 minutes. You need to have a network of twitter accounts that can get your message to over 500K users - not one single account."

So let's see, that means I Twitter something every 30 minutes of my 16 waking hours.

Similarly, I've heard that if you really want to build a following on your blog, you should blog about seven times per day.

That's a huge time investment! So this morning I took a son to school, planned for supper, got my 103-year-old granny up and took her for a doctor visit. I'm raising 7 boys, the flowers in the front yard need watering, I'm setting up a book signing, sending books to reviewers, planning articles to send to magazines. My main business is running an educational resources organization. I need to read more, exercise more, write more books, write more articles about my books, set up more signings, pray more, and water the dying flowers in my front yard. And someone's saying a good use of my time is to put up 7 meaty, relevant blogs each day and twitter every 30 minutes!

None of us have unlimited time. I own an older copy of Kremer's 1001 Ways to Market Your Books. Now with web-based social networking, let's make that 1002 ways. So if I'm blogging and twittering all day, when will I find time for some of the other 1001 marketing tools?

The Bottom Line

I blog about once a week for several reasons: 1) I blog about matters that I will later write books about. 2) Blogs are great ways to get out important information. 3) Blogs can help establish me as an expert in a field, leading to speaking opportunities, a platform, etc. 4) My blogs store important information that I want to refer back to later. 5) My blogs are part of a small web of links from my sites, blogs and other social networking sites - helping me to raise my search engine rankings for my books on Amazon.

I twitter to let people know I've published a new blog or link them to important articles. I'll twitter something once every few days.

Will I ever sell any books through these efforts? Perhaps. But I see them more as parts of my online presence that will pay off in the long-run, since I'm using them for several purposes, not just sales.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Start a Blog Campaign

So someone's told you that, in order to sell your books, you should start blogging to build your following. Here are some questions you should ask yourself:

1) Does the topic of your blog lend itself to bloggers? If your topic isn't a passionate one among a significant niche of people, then don't expect regular readers.

2) What's your competition? So you're an unknown who's writing your first mystery and you start a blog about writing mysteries. How many other mystery writers already have blogs? Why would people follow your blog rather than the writing professors with blogs and the famous mystery writers with blogs? What are you offering that people can't get better somewhere else?

3) Do you enjoy blogging? Would you do it even if it didn't result in many sales? Life's too short to invest a lot of time doing something you hate.

4) Do you have the time to pursue it? I justify posting a blog about every other week. I know that this isn't frequent enough to get a big following, but there are only so many minutes to go around. Additionally, I honestly don't have enough to say of significance on my topic to post more often. To add more posts would be to add fluff.

5) Are you prepared to do the research and writing it takes to become a true expert (thought leader) in your field? If you don't plan to become a thought leader, fine. If you aspire to being a thought leader, you don't get there by posting what you ate for breakfast. You'll need to keep abreast of the top books and periodicals in your field, reading the the most respected bloggers in your field and interacting with them. You don't become a trusted expert by proclaiming yourself a trusted expert. You earn that trust by putting out consistently accurate, helpful, thought-provoking posts. That takes research. That takes a passion for your field. That takes time.

6) Are you already a recognized expert? If not, it may take a lot more than establishing a meaty blog to establish yourself. Most of these folks (recognized experts) seem to speak widely and establish themselves in other ways besides just blogging.

7) How intimately tied to your book is the topic of your blog? My character education site has thousands of subscribers and attracts from 500 to 600 visitors per day. But sending them an e-mail about my book on personal money management provoked very little interest. The fact is, few of my subscribers are teaching personal money management.

So you're writing a mystery and your blog is about writing mysteries, which attracts other mystery writers. Even if you get a steady following of 100 people, or even 1000 fellow-authors who are interested in writing mysteries, how many of them will actually want to purchase your mystery? Probably some, but is it worth the vast amount of time it takes to gain that following?

8) Where do you want to be within the next 5 or 10 years? Does your blog fit into that picture? If, beyond selling books, you see yourself pulling together your blog posts to publish books, or using your blog to show a school that you're the right person for teaching that writing class, then blogging may be for you. If you see it as a quick fix to sell some books, you'll likely be disappointed.

9) Have you defined your expectations for your blog? If you expect hordes of people to start buying your book, simply because of your blog, you've probably got the wrong expectation. Choose one of Kremers other 1001 ways to market your book. First, if you constantly blog about your book, people won't follow you. They'll see you as advertising rather than informing. Second, blogging seems to be more about helping people and establishing relationships than directly selling products. Sure, the resulting relationships can result in setting up a speaking engagement that sells books, but define those expectations beforehand.

In Sum...

With my present state on knowledge, I'd advise authors to blog if they enjoy blogging, have enough time to blog, and have other reasons to blog besides just selling books. If you don't already have a platform and don't relish blogging regularly, don't just gut it out to try to get sales. There are probably other things you could do that would have a faster and more likely payoff.

What do you think? (Feel free to post your thoughts.)