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 Amazon.com.)

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

http://www.midwestbookreview.com/links/othr_rev.htm - Midwest Book Review's list of other reviewers. This is the list of 140 reviewers that I culled from.

http://www.aldaily.com/#bookreviews - Links to Big-time reviewers like the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal.

http://www.angelfire.com/ca4/tela/ - Big-time newspapers that review books.

http://www.newpages.com/NPGuides/reviews.htm - List of reviewers from Newpages.

http://www.dirk-wyle.com/newsl.htm - 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.)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

When Does It Make Sense to Self-Publish?

I was commenting in a professional publishers Linked-In group and decided to republish here.

Think of self-publishing as just another entrepreneurial endeavor. Some businesses can (and must) start out with mounds of start-up cash. But many, many businesses start out in garages or dorm rooms. Think: Dell, Amazon, FaceBook, and thousands of other businesses that started off baking cookies in their kitchens or making yogurt on their farms. They didn't have live audiences to entertain or a huge industry to start them off - just a visionary product that could start local and build.

So let's think of a self-published book as an entrepreneurial effort to create and sell a product.

What made this entrepreneurial effort difficult in the past was the amount of money required for an individual to publish her own book. Although authors still have to pay for good editing, etc., two revolutions have made it easier to "entrepreneur" with a book:

1) Radically less up-front risk because of print-on-demand. (I just received an e-mail that Lightning Source is offering to print your first POD book, if you submit it in digital format, for $199. Imagine telling someone 20 years ago that you'd get their book on the market in a month for $199. You'd have been indited for fraud!)

2) New ways to market books outside of traditional bookstores. (Amazon, social networking, etc.)

So, when does it make sense to self-publish?

(One publisher suggested the first four reasons; I chimed in with the rest.)

#1 - You're a great salesperson.

#2 - You can work with a good team of sales people.

#3 - You teach and use the book as a text.

#4 - You don't plan to sell many copies. Print-on-demand makes sense for those publishing a family history that only relatives and family friends are likely to buy. Also, some publish highly technical books that a few hundred people might pay large sums to purchase.

#5 - No traditional publishers accept your book, but you still believe in it. (We could build a large list of self-published books that ended up becoming best-sellers.)

#6 - A non-fiction book fits in a niche category that would likely come up to the top in an Amazon search. (I've not marketed my book on Christian music in 15 years, but it continues to sell steadily on Amazon. A search for "Contemporary Christian Music" brings it close to the top of a search.)

#7 - The author thinks the book will be a steady, slow seller, but never sell a lot in any given year. I know of a successful author who writes books for other writers, such as "Late-18th-Century American Terminology and Culture" (I made the name up, having forgotten the actual title) to be used by people writing historical fiction. It wouldn't make sense to print 5,000 copies and store most of them for 10 years. But the author might sell 500 copies per year forever on Amazon. If you write 20 books like this, you're making some decent money.

Other ideas of when it's best to self-publish? Please comment!

J. Steve Miller
Author of Enjoy Your Money! How to Make It, Save It, Invest It and Give It

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Posting Video Interviews for Book Marketing

Interested in posting a video to promote your book? I've heard people say that posting to places like YouTube.com can generate a lot of interest in your books and bring in a lot of Web traffic to view your books. Since it's free, I'm all for it. Here's how I went about it. I'll tell later what impact, if any, I think it had on book sales.

1) Get a decent video together. One person who works with video recommended doing something unprofessional, like with a home video set. He said that young people particularly like the realness of it. In under five minutes, tell something about your book or have someone interview you about the book.

I went the professional route, but paid only $40 per video. I was fortunate that my publicist set me up on CBS News and Fox 5 News. The interviews were under five minutes each and looked very professional. All I had to do was to pay a service (ask at the TV station who records and sells rights) to get the rights so that they could e-mail me a digital copy. I'm told that getting it this way gives a better copy than trying to download it from the TV station and putting it directly on youtube. Here are my three videos:

Fox 5 News on young people and finances

CBS News on financial management for teens and college students

CBS News Followup on personal finances for young people and Generation Y

I'd recommend giving viewers unique, useful information. I doubt they'd come just to see you talk about your book, unless you're Steven King. Each of my videos are on something specific, like how young graduates can land jobs and succeed with their finances. (It's graduation season as I write.) Those are topics that people might search for information on in Google. My book and Web address are mentioned unabnoxiously by the interviewers.

2) Brainstorm search terms and phrases that people might use in searching for your video. Put some of them in Google Adword's Key Words Tool to find more terms and to find out how many times different terms/phrases are searched. (Example: do people search more for "personal finance" or "personal finances." To decide which term to use, find out how many times each is searched.) You'll use these terms in the fourth step.

3) Sign up for a YouTube acount at www.youtube.com. (Click "SignUp" on top right menu. Just follow their instructions. My video typically failed to upload all the way the first time or two, then succeeded on the second or third try.)

4) Use the search terms you came up with in my second step. In your YouTube account, on the page where you're uploading your video, use key words in your title, description, and in the box where you can add descriptive words and phrases.

5) Include a link in your description to your author site, media page of your publisher site, blog, or to your book on Amazon.

6) Ask friends and family to watch it on their computers. If they like it, have them rate it on YouTube and tell why they liked it. (If they don't like it, tell them skip the rating process and instead take a film course so that next time around they can recognize real quality when they see it.) The higher it's rated (and the more people who rate it), the better your chances of being found.

7) Link to the video from all your blogs and sites. The more incoming links, the more important search engines think you are. Thus, more people will likely find you in a search.

8) Don't expect immediate results. Google only "dances" once a month, when it updates its algorythms and data.

9) Let me know any of your good or bad experiences. If this doesn't help authors to sell books, we could all save time by not fooling with it!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Using News Releases to Promote Books

Today I start my news release campaign for my book, so I'm reviewing David Meerman Scott's recommendations for press releases in his book, "The New Rules of Marketing and PR" (pp. 167-177).

In the past, news releases were sent to the media to try to get articles in newspapers and magazines and spots on radio. Today, there are added benefits:
  • anyone searching the web for key phrases contained in your release might find you.
  • people who requested alerts to these phrases may automatically receive notice of your release.
  • "Each time your news release is posted on another site, such as an online news site, the inbound link from the online news site to your Web site helps to increase the search engine ranking of your site, because the search engines use inbound links as one of the important criteria for their page-ranking algorithms."
  • Having multiple press releases out there lets journalists know that you're active - things are happening with you and your book.
Here are some tips I consolidated from Scott:

1) Send them regularly - not just when you have big news.
2) Make good use of key words that people would use to search for your topic/book.
3) Appeal to buyers - their problems and needs - not just journalists.
4) Encourage them to respond in some way.
5) Include links to appropriate landing pages on your site or blog.
6) Add social media tags (e.g., Technorati, DIGG, del.icio.us) to help people find it.
7) Post it simultaneously on your website (e.g., in the "media room" or press section of your author or publisher site). Keep it there as long as it's still appropriate.
8) Send it via a news release distribution service so that you reach hundreds of Websites (including news services like Yahoo!, Google and Lycos) with each release.
9) Topics to write releases about: new takes on old problems, interesting information, award received, speaking at an event, product feature added, white paper published, etc.

Recommended (by Scott) news release distribution services:
I believe that all of these are paid services, where you might pay a couple of hundred bucks to send a release to a certain geographic area (like Atlanta).

I've decided to send the first press release of my book to only free press release services, since I don't think the release of a book is something that the media is interested in (unless it was the latest Harry Potter book). As a guerilla marketer, I don't want to spend money that I'm not reasonably sure will have a pay-off. Thus, I'm primarily doing it for the other reasons listed above, which might not require paid releases.

For free press releases, my publicist, Stephanie Richards, recommends sending each release to all of the following:
Offers a free and paid ($25 per release) option. Free press release contains ads. Paid has premium distribution and claims to increase your website traffic (I assume this means that the release will be posted on sites with a live link back to my site.)
Quotes from their site: "the Nations leading Internet provider of local business intelligence, including news, e-commerce services, business tools, and investment and research resources for small businesses.... "...the nation's only comprehensive business resource tool for large, medium and small businesses."

"dBusinessNews is delivered by email every business morning to a large and affluent readership base made up of over 700,000 subscribers. It has rapidly become the news source of choice for professionals, executives, managers, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, civic leaders, government officials, and an extensive network of reporters and news outlets.

dBusinessNews' XML newsfeeds is carried by major news distribution services including the Associated Press, Yahoo, Google, Altavista Moreover.com and 2000+ business web sites."

Their free press releases "receive limited distribution and are not guaranteed to be posted. Links may not be used." The $49 option is recommended for search engine optimization and visibility, distributing to popular newswires like Google News.

The Librarian's News Wire targets librarians.
News Wire Today - "a free press releases & news wire distribution service to corporations, PR agencies, market research, business journalists, freelance writers, news content providers."

I have to sign up for a free subscription to use most of them. I'll post another blog with more specifics, including a link to the press release itself.

[Update: within 3 days of sending the press releases, I've sold 7 books on Amazon. But it's getting hard to know if these sales are due to my latest initiative, or to past initiatives starting to pay off. Last week I also put up three videos on YouTube from my TV appearances and linked them to my book. Perhaps that's paying off as well. Or, perhaps a review came out that I haven't found yet. Harder to say now, as opposed to just after the initial publication three months ago, what's contributing to sales.]

What is your experience with press releases? Any suggestions?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Optimize Your Blog to Increase Book Sales

Today I want to better optimize my blogs, so that more people can find them. Why?
  • The more people who interact on your blog, the more comments (read: knowledge) you get.
  • The more people who interact on your blog, the more people find out about your products and services.

  • The more people who interact on your blog, the more people can find you on search engines (Google favors site that have more traffic and more incoming links and syndications.)
So how can you get more traffic to your site? My blog is hosted by Google Blogger. Here are their suggestions, which I'm trying to implement today: (The links might not work if you're not a member of blogger.com.)

Promoting Your Blog

This is in no way a science or guarantee; it's simply a few suggestions with which many bloggers have found success.

Set your blog to Send Pings. When this setting is activated, your blog will be included in various "recently updated" lists on the web as well as other blog-related services.

Activate Your Navbar. Do this and you might start to see the effects right away! One of the features on the Blogger Navbar is a button called NextBlog - click it to visit the next Navbar-enabled blog.

Install Email This Post. If you use Email This Post on your blog, people will be able to forward your posts to friends. This may not have an immediate impact on your site stats but it enables others to publicize your blog for you.

Turn on Post Pages. By publishing every post as its very own web page with Post Pages, you ensure that your entries are way more link-able and more attractive to search engines.

Turn on your site feed. When people subscribe to your site feed in their newsreaders, they're very likely going to read your post.

Add your blog to Blogger's listings. When you add your blog to our listings it shows up in Nextblog, Recently Updated, and other places. It's like opting-in to traffic.

Write quality content and do it well. If your "style" is bad writing, worse grammar, no punctuation, and an ugly design, that might be okay for a niche crowd. But the idea here is to achieve mass appeal, so fix yourself up a bit.

Publish regular updates. Simple: the more you blog, the more traffic you'll get.

Think of your audience. A good way to build an audience is to speak to one in particular. When you keep your audience in mind, your writing gains focus. Focus goes a long way toward repeat visitors.

Keep search engines in mind. There are a few things you can do to make your blog more search engine friendly. Use post titles and post page archiving. This will automatically give each of your post pages an intelligent name based on the title of your post. Also, try to be descriptive when you blog. A well crafted post about something very specific can end up very near the top results of a search.

Keep your posts and paragraphs short. Strive for succinct posts that pump pertinent new information into the blogosphere and move on. Keep it short and sweet so visitors can pop in, read up, and click on.

Put your blog URL in your email signature. Think of how many forwarded emails you've seen in your day, and just imagine the possibilities.

Sumbit your address to blog search sites and directories. People look for blog content at Technorati every day, are you on their list? You should be. Submit your blog's url to Technorati, Daypop, Blogdex, Popdex, and any other site of that ilk you come across. (jsm note: this list of blogs may be dated. I can't even find daypop today. Perhaps the list of blog search engines in this wikipedia article "search engines" will keep updated.

Link to other blogs. Links are the currency of the blogosphere and it takes money to make money so start linking.

Install a blogroll. It's a very simple yet effective social networking scheme and it has the same result as a simple link if not stronger: traffic! So if you don't have one yet, sign up for a blogroll and get that link-list going.

Be an active commenter. This is in the same vein as linking. Most comment systems also provide a way for you to leave a link back to your blog which begs a visit at the very least. So if you feel inspired, leave a comment or two in your blog travels. It behooves you.

Enable Following on your blog. Following a is a great way to keep your friends updated on the latest activity on your blog. New blogs will have this blog feature enabled by default, but for older blogs you will have to enable it from the Layout | Page Elements tab.

Other suggestions on optimizing your blogs for more traffic?