Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Goodreads Giveaways

So this week in honor of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, I will be giving away several of my books on Goodreads.

I have found Goodreads giveaways to be a great way to get reviews for your books (expect about a 50% return - 4 books given away should give you about 2 reviews).

With these reviews, I am going to try a new tactic I learned from participating in other people's reviews - the nudge. I will include a "packing slip" that has technical information and a note to please provide the book with a review.

There are dangers in Goodreads giveaways. On person, upon not being selected by Goodreads to win immediately gave me a 1 star review of my book - I hadn't even sold one copy so I protested - there was no way this person could have read the book to have reviewed it.

Also, the reviews you get are usually only posted on Goodreads.

Limit your reviews to the United States. The first two giveaways I had were international - I opened them up to all English speaking countries. For one, this is very expensive. It cost more than $10 each to send the books to most of the people who won (not sending prizes will get you banned from future giveaways). I was giving away 10 books, so I spent a lot of money (not including the cost of the books). Second, people in other countries do not always "get" American literature. I have had my  children's book reviewed by several teachers and child educators - all of them thought it was great for the 5 - 7 year old age target. Those from the international community felt it was too difficult for small children to read. My inspirational, historical romance (set in 1739 U.K.) received bad reviews because it was "Christian." One British person gave me 3-stars because I accidentally left one Americanism in the last chapter of the book. I received great reviews from the American community and ho hum to bad reviews internationally. In fact, several people did not seem to understand that "inspirational" MEANS "Christian," which brings me to my final point:

Be sure to spell everything out in your Giveaway (and in your book blurb for that matter). Not everyone knows what inspirational means in the romance community. If you have written a book that could even remotely be skewed as "Christian" be sure to spell it out. If your book contains offensive material - add that to your description. Even if you don't find it offensive - if someone,  somewhere could find it offensive, let people know. In general, people are squeamish about violence, foul language, sex, drug and alcohol use, etc. Basically, go to a movie store and see why movies are rated above "G" and that will give you a good list of things to check for in your book.

As a final note - If you give away 10 books and only have 20 people sign up, you really haven't lost anything. All you needed was 10 people. The number of people who signed up for some of mine were 700 - 900, but I am having far fewer people signup for my latest ones because I am trying to use my description to weed out those who won't like the book's subject matter or writing style. Really, you do not want reviews from people who hate reading fantasy books if that is what you have written.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Should I publish my writing on Amazon or on a blog?

In order to answer this question, you need to answer another: Why are you writing?

If you are writing because you want to build a writing career through self-publishing where you are planning on marketing your own books and constantly developing new books and promoting them, you should edit the book as best you can afford and self-publish it on Amazon.

If you are writing because you enjoy it, or somebody told you that you should write a book about your life and you don't care if you have to give it away for free, you just want it to be available to other people, you should blog your writing.

Here is the problem- when authors who want to make their living from their writing are at a disadvantage because of those who just want to write. These authors will still probably need to give away their books for free in limited supply, but instead of reaching a target audience, they will reach many people who are addicted to collecting free books. These people will never pay a penny for another book no matter how good it is because there are so many free ones. Yes, I have actually met these people in real life. Publishing a book just to give it away free indefinitely is counterproductive. For one, a lot of time, effort, and money go into publishing a book - even if you do if for free on Kindle or CreateSpace. Maintaining a blog does not require as much work.

Some people are interested in making money off their writing, but instead put in on a free blog. If you post your material on a blog, you will not be able to sell it. If people are getting it for free, they will not then pay for it. (Unless you only post part of it, such as a first chapter that grabs their attention.)

Blogs are a great place to start writing, though. The most frequently posted Guru jobs are along the lines of "finish my book." If you are not in the habit of writing, a blog will make you or break you. Blogs also get people interested in your writing before you publish - which is what you want. If you are not sure what category you fit into, you should start with a blog.

What if you have been writing a blog and now you want to turn it into a book? Save all your blog posts in a Word file and remove them from you blog. Removing or reducing the access works just as if you never published it. The posts could still be accessed (probably) by computer savvy individuals, but the number of people going to that trouble would not be great. You should leave a teaser of your work to attract others, and by all means keep blogging - just adjust your theme or focus.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Avoiding Scam Publishing Companies Part II

Now, on the Automat homepage, you can see the submission button loud and clear. This should also be a warning sign. (We are not accepting submissions so you don't need to look for ours- and probably won't unless I decide to go through the headache of royalty reporting.)

Harlequin's is buried. In fact, most major publishing companies highlight the books they are selling and hide submission buttons or bury them in the footer at the bottom of the page (like Simon and Schuster or even the smaller Quirk Books). Thousands of people submit to real publishers every day. Thousands (or more). If you want to submit to them, they are certainly not going to make it easy on you. On the other hand, scam artists, vanity presses, and those who make money off other's ambitions without offering much in return WANT thousands of people to submit to them - that's how they make money. They will have it right out in front.

The purpose of legitimate presses is to make money off the books they sell, so those will always be highlighted on legitimate publishing company websites. However, you would expect even vanity presses would have some way of buying their books. Looking at Automat's doesn't impress me..."Please send check or money order" for $11 to... Uh, okay, that is an epic fail. If you are advertising your books online, you should have some sort of online method of allowing people to buy them. Dreaming Reality does (although I haven't tried it myself, so I really don't know if it works - however, people clicking on the CreateSpace links on the home page can purchase the books through Amazon - my preferred method of business anyway); Harlequin (HQ) allows you to buy from them; Quick books links you to the retailers where you can buy it; Simon and Shuster does both. NONE say - send your check or money order here... although HQ offers a "Bill Me" option, but hey, they also send people free books to get them to sign up to buy more.

In addition, the Automat offers 42 books - 7 of which were written by the Automat founder. Obviously, our website is the same - I have written or helped write all the books on it. Still, if the founder of the publishing company has authored most of the books, it usually means you are supporting their writing habit. And, if Dreaming Reality were accepting submissions as a vanity press, that is what we would be doing, too. I'm sure I don't have to tell you that HQ has so many books you could sink the Titanic with them.

If you further read Automat's submission guidelines, you will see that each book costs $10 (plus shipping and handling) and that you will have to market it yourself. Again - warning bells should go off if any publishing company says you need to do all your own marketing (most vanity presses will offer some marketing, even if it costs). All authors need to do marketing but publishing companies help with that. That is their job. If you want to do your own marketing, publish on Amazon. (Please note - Automat does not sell its books on Amazon - one of the biggest book retailers in the world.) Also, $10, for a paper bound - that's right not even a paperback, but a stapled together (that is what a chapbook is), B&W, light cardstock bound book I could print out and make with my home printer will cost you (and your customers) $10 even if its 50 pages long. Frankly, I could get better quality at Staples for less. It does seem the author will get a discount if he/she buys books to sell, but no royalties. Honestly, even at $7.50, you are going to have a hard time getting anything other than sympathy sales.

One final note: if you scroll to the bottom of the Automat's ordering page, you will see the covers of several (all?) of their books. They do not scream "buy me" or even make me want a cover like that on on any of my books. Some are quite good, but in essence they are all pretty much similar and some have really amateur artwork and design work.