Tag: Book marketing


Show Yourself: All About Amazon Reviews

Waiting around for that first review to come your way after releasing a novel is tough.

It may take days, weeks, months… it might never come. Your sales rank dips, along with sales in general. Then, your book is lost. You have to give it away for free in hopes one of the many hundreds of thousands of readers out there snatches it from the bargain bin and reviews it when they’re done with it. “Come on,” you say to yourself. “Just one. Just give me ONE.” As you pray for that review to come, you cross your fingers that it’s not negative. No, your book isn’t perfect. You couldn’t afford a professional editor, and you have to edit the books yourself. Your only beta readers are your buddies and family whose praise may or may not be disingenuous. There! Your first review! They said they liked it! They actually liked it!

But your sales don’t increase. “I thought more people bought things based on reviews,” you might think. And you’re absolutely correct. But it’s not that reviews themselves matter. It’s how many you have. Someone is more willing to take a chance on a book that has twenty ratings and reviews compared to one with only five. But how does one generate more reviews? From my experience, people rarely review things they read, even if they like it. I’ve been guilty of it many times. What can you do to make them review something?

Honestly… nothing. You have to wait. And wait. And wait. As you’re waiting, you’re probably sitting on a book that took you a year to write, as well as on an empty wallet. Attention from people draws attention from other people. Reviews are what bumps you up to being noticed, because people already think you’re being noticed. But how does one even begin to get noticed if they can’t get noticed in the first place?

Is the answer to simply buy a review?

I’ve noticed something about book reviews: negative reviews are usually the ones rated “most helpful.” Why? Because those reviews are the ones people think are actually being honest about the product, even if it’s emotional, inflammatory, or just plain wrong. I can’t blame readers/consumers for thinking that. The surge of buying five-star reviews is growing. Who knows whether or not that five-star review you just read was from an actual reader? Who knows if those weren’t written by the author’s family or friends? When you only have five glowing reviews (and even fewer books), people are less likely to take a chance on it, because they think you and they are liars. People are less likely to give a positive review than a negative one, so we apply our thought process to other buyers. This is why many authors say that a negative review can help you rather than hurt you.

But bump that number of stellar reviews up to fifty? Not that many people can be liars. That book must be pretty damn good if everyone is talking about it. Hey, Amazon is even recommending it to me. It must be popular for a reason, right?

Studies have shown and proven that people will take the word of a crowd as law. If ten people chant “buy this book, buy this book!” chances are, you’re going to sneer and walk away, assuming their peddling garbage. But if that crowd of ten grows to twenty, then to fifty, you’ll listen to every word they say. Being ranked in Amazon’s top 100 increases your chances of obtaining even more chanting followers. But how does one even get there in the first place? If you answered “write a good book and get lucky,” you’re only a fraction correct.

A marketplace selling reviews, Fiverr, offers five stars for five dollars. But at what risk? Could Amazon close your account for dealing with these unscrupulous individuals? Or do they let it lie, knowing they too could make money off of it? I have yet to see anyone lose their account for this, but I have seen that Amazon will pull a review if they think it’s biased. Even if it’s not. The real question is: does it work?

Buying reviews sure worked for John Locke, who sold over one million copies of his suspense series thanks to investing in five star ratings. It was a marketing tactic, and not an honest one, but since people are so hard to reach, and people are so hard to convince to buy something, it was one of the few tactics that made sense. My friend, who is also one of my biggest fans, spread the word of my book to everyone he knew, not because he was trying to make me money, but because he honestly loved the novel. Not one of the people he suggested it to purchased it, and another few of them said “Meh. I don’t read much these days.” Either he’s in a non-reading crowd, his word-of-mouth technique isn’t practiced, or the book just doesn’t seem interesting. Whatever the case, sometimes word-of-mouth isn’t your best bet. It’s who people hear the news from that matters. People want to hear it from readers. More importantly, readers who review things.

So what does this mean for indie authors?

Other than it says that our job is one of the most frustrating ones on the planet, it also says that those who cheat get ahead, and those who can’t or won’t end up falling behind. If everyone in the market is a cheater, it means you too must cheat to catch up to them. The fact that Amazon does little to prevent this exacerbates the cause and effect. As far as I can tell, Amazon cares more for their business than their authors, but it’s the best avenue for us to take.

Worst yet, this means that people will no longer trust five star reviews. Even if your book is a good book, and even if people enjoy it, they still will never take a chance on you if everyone says they love it. As you can imagine, this is complete and total BS. You might be thinking, “If everyone loves my book, I did my job RIGHT. If I did my job RIGHT, how can I ever prove that if no one trusts me?” The answer is that you can’t. The market has become so saturated with “fake reviews” that people look past five star reviews nowadays. Not only do they do that, but they consider the positive reviews “ignorant” and “nonsensical.” People are more willing to listen to the rants of an angry lunatic than they are of appraisal. You could write a fantastic book that everyone who reads it, loves, but if no one says “this book is garbage,” they are actually less likely to purchase it. However, I’ve also heard people admit to being swayed by negative reviews when they were about to purchase a book they thought sounded interesting. It’s a double-edged blade, and it hurts the author either way. We can’t win. Ever.

So what do we do? Five-star reviews hurt us. Negative reviews hurt us.

Maybe we all just need to write three-star material, and everyone would be satisfied.


Author Corner: When to “Get Professional” With Marketing

The hottest of guys are the ones who wear ties. That’s my motto. Okay, no it isn’t. But shouldn’t it be?

I’ve heard a lot about the benefits of paying to have your book/eBook promoted and featured on various advertising websites. I myself haven’t tried it yet. I’ve also been spending these past few weeks researching and looking into the best types of marketing by following a couple of blogs with some helpful advice.

While researching, I haven’t done much writing, or working on my book cover. I still have the copy of a finished novel ready to launch that I haven’t launched because my cover is still only half-finished. The reason why it’s still waiting in the locked-down pens of self-publishing is because I feel like I need to boost my following and promote the work somehow before releasing it. I need people that are “into my stuff” (namely gay romance) before releasing new stuff.

I’m already beginning to notice how this will only damage me, rather than help me.

How soon should I be worrying about marketing?
What I’ve neglected to say so far here, is that the book I’m waiting to release is my second novel ever. Yes, I have only published one book so far. Some have said that getting into marketing early is advantageous, but I’m starting to see how it’s holding me back. With all of this research and paperwork I’m diving into, how the hell am I supposed to write my books?

Since I haven’t published more than one yet, I can’t state from my own experience what works for me. What I can say is that while I’ve been losing myself in knowledge on how to get my work out there, I’m not getting my work out there. I personally believe there is a good time… and bad time to put all of your focus on marketing.

How many books should be released before marketing becomes your primary concern?
Well, if “more than one” isn’t a good enough answer, I’d be willing to bet that marketing won’t do you much good if you don’t have more than a couple of them out. There’s something that publishers refer to as “phoenix sales,” which means that if people buy your newer book, and enjoy it, they tend to buy your older material, thus boosting the sales of older books at the same time. It makes sense, doesn’t it? After reading one book by an author and liking it, chances are you might enjoy their other stuff.

What about social media?
As of right now, social media is not helping me at all. Granted, I spend very little time on it, but that’s because when I do spend time on it, it doesn’t seem to benefit me. All it seems to do is give me spam that I don’t look at.

I write almost entirely gay romance, and maybe some other genres with gay romance sub-genres in them. When I discovered that this was my label, this was my brand, this was who I was… I sort of got lost in wondering how I’d snag people who were into it. I’ve heard it can be very popular, especially in eBook form, but I have yet to find out how to take advantage of that. I’ve accepted that it’s what I enjoy writing, but I’m not sure how to go about picking an audience for it. All I know is that you can’t wait for them to come to you. I don’t know how to get them to come to me.

Obviously, publishing more books and establishing a brand should be the first step. People should recognize your name when seeing all of the books you wrote. “Hey, they wrote such-and-such, and as I recall I think I kinda liked it.” Well, that’s one thing you’ve got.

My advice, to myself and to others, is to give yourself a bit more breathing room before focusing all of your attention on hooking an audience. The right time will come to show yourself off. Your first book is an introduction to (hopefully) how awesome you are, and to show that this is your brand. I don’t really count my earlier eBooks in this because they were short and pointless and I was still testing the waters. I’m totally serious about publishing now, and it’s all about my best effort.

Remember: establishing yourself as an author will take a while.
Don’t be in too much of a rush. You might get ahead of yourself… and stumble on the way. Like me. And I fall pretty hard.

Author Corner: The Book Marketing Sandtrap

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Since publishing my first novel in February, I’ve been spending a lot of time researching how to market. There’s a plethora of information out there on how to do so, and all of the typical do’s and don’t’s. In doing so, I’ve learned a lot… and I’ve also found that some of the things I’ve learned, if not most, don’t help me in the least.

During my many months of research, I’ve come to understand something. One marketer tells you it’s best to do one thing, and another opposes this idea. It’s no wonder I’m getting so confused about what to do. Who is right and who is wrong in these cases when they so often contradict each other?

For example:

Marketer One: Spread yourself to as many forms of social media as you can! Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, all of it. You need to be able to reach everyone because not everyone uses just plain Twitter, Facebook, or Google.
Marketer Two: Spend most of your time on your own website, and only use one form of social media at a time.

Marketer One: Blog about helpful topics that give people advice. Give them hints on how to improve their technique. If your blog doesn’t have helpful advice posts, no one will give a crap about it.
Marketer Two: Write about you, about your life, and make yourself seem more human so that people are interested in the fact that you are a real person. Showing people that you have a real personal life will make them more invested in your work. Don’t write negative reviews, though. In fact, don’t be negative at all.

Marketer One: Have a budget in which to spend on buying marketing tools and things such as ad space.
Marketer Two: Are you insane? You’re in the business to make some money, not throw it away when you could do it yourself! You can do it yourself… can’t you?

Marketer One: Spam your book title!
Marketer Two: Don’t do that! It makes you look like a robot and people will unfollow you faster than they can say STFU!

What’s most interesting is that many marketers believe mailing lists provide the best form of marketing overall. The problem, however, is that when trying to get an answer from anyone regarding what exactly to put in a mailing list, they just give me a half-assed “well you just have to do it” answer. Yeah, but how do I do it? What do you give people in a newsletter when you’re not important enough to have news? It’s a bit of a catch, isn’t it? If no one cares about you and your website in the first place, what’s going to make them join your mailing list?

Some say “give them something for free in return.” Okay, like what? I don’t have advice, because none of the advice provided for me does me any good. How can I tell them “sign up for some tips” if I have no tips? I’ve heard it might work to give people free samples of stories. If people cared about my stories, they’d be coming here already, wouldn’t they? Again, it’s a catch. You need a mailing list to hook people, but you need to hook people before starting a mailing list. What is one supposed to do when they have no idea what to do. Unfortunately, people have tales of their own misfortune, but their advice is for people already exceeding my own fame and fortune. “Go on radio shows,” I’ve heard. Why would anyone take a no-name author on their radio show? I need to be important first, but I can’t become important unless I do the show.

For an author, this is what it’s like to try to understand marketing. Okay, for an author like me. Some have it easy. They find their golden egg and milk it for all its worth. Some of us don’t have that golden egg. Some of us are just really, really bad at marketing ourselves. I can tell you a novel-length story about certain characters and the life they inhabit, but I have no idea how to tell you that book is worth reading. In my view, if it’s not a famous enough work, I don’t believe it’s good enough. People want to read popular things.

And so, I sit in the sandtrap, waiting to find my own egg. One of these days, it’ll pop out from under me in the form of giant flashing banners and desperation.