Get Reviewers!

Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel on Unsplash

It’s no secret that being an indie author is just as rewarding as it is hard. If you’ve visited my site, you’ve read my posts about the upside of being an indie author…and the ones bemoaning my book marketing journey.

The Downside
The sites that promise to help me reach the bestseller list
The fee-driven promotional opportunities
The herculean effort to get reviews
And on…and on… and on.

But I also promised that if I found something that worked, I’d share it with my fellow authors. And I think I have come to a few conclusions over the course of a year…and that is…REVIEWS REVIEWS REVIEWS are the only thing you should obsessively chase once your book is published. On my sites Marketing Resource Page, there are several sites I have used and they are listed on that page. My newest find is Pubby.co

So why pay for reviews at all and is it ethical?

Yes, it’s ethical if you ask for an honest review. It’s ethical if you don’t violate Amazon’s review rules. And yes, you need to be prepared to pay for a steady stream of reviews so your book doesn’t languish among the millions of books listed on Amazon’s site.

Somewhere I read that out of every 100 people who read your book, only one will leave a review. I’ve come to believe this unverified internet fact to be true enough. It’s not that 99 readers didn’t enjoy your work, it’s that they don’t have time, don’t know how important it is to leave their impressions, or they think they’re not qualified to leave a thoughtful/real review. After all, they’re no judge of literary greatness! They’re just an average person who bought a 2.99 ebook. And the word review conjures up memories of book reports they did back in school. Who has that kind of time?

So yes, YES… YES… YES… !!! If you want to be seen, you need verified book review. If you want to influence potential readers, you need reader feedback. AKA Reviews.

So this is where Pubby comes in.

They’re the new kid on the block and their platform allows indie authors to list their book details and Amazon link for a monthly subscription fee of $29.99. This is a lower price than Dog Eared Review’s $40 (plus cost of ebook) monthly fee for one book review per month.

Pubby’s basic plan works like this… you list your ebook(s) and are given a number of snaps to begin. Snaps are their form of currency. You then spend your snaps every time you press the “get reviewed” button. Depending on what sort of review you are looking for, the amount of snaps it will cost you varies. For instance, a verified review for The Love of Gods by a Pubby reader costs me 2000 snaps. The Fate of Wolves cost me 1930 snaps. When you run out of snaps, you read books by other authors to earn more snaps. Pubby’s algorithm keeps you from reading an author who has read your book which prevents direct review swaps, and that is how they keep Amazon happy.

It’s a pretty simple idea. And is effective thus far. I’ve had my two books listed for six days during their 10-day free trial and have gotten 4 reviews. I also know that 2 more readers are currently reading my books, and they are looking for one more reader. I haven’t even begun to pay the monthly fee yet. That definitely beats Dog Eared Review’s plan.

Of course, you have to set aside time to read yourself in order to earn more snaps. How diligent you work their system is up to you and your schedule. I aim for the longer books who want verified reviews because I can earn over 2000 to 2600 snaps by reading it. I’m a fast reader and can devour a book easily in a day. I’ve listed my ebooks on a site where I know there are readers who are motivated to leave reviews. I’m going to read anyway, so it’s a win-win.

But let’s follow the money to be sure it’s an honest review I’m getting.

Because there aren’t any direct author to author review swaps there is no advantage to being over kind while posting a review. The author that reads your book isn’t an author you will get to read. And by the way, I did get a 3-star view to offset my many 5-star reviews on my book. Just wasn’t that reader’s cup of tea. It happens and you learn not to dwell on it.

Pubby is getting their money through my subscription fee, so there’s no pressure to give any author a five-star review if the book doesn’t deserve it. Pubby got their money. What do they care? By the way, I also gave a 3-star review on a book, though I have to say I am pleasantly pleased with the quality of the majority of the books I’ve read.

You work their system, earning and reading as much or as little as you want while offering your book as often as your snaps earnings will allow. And you can cancel your subscription at any time while not losing the verified reviews on Amazon.

Pretty sweet deal. Even if I only had time to read one book a month and receive one review per month, I’m still doing better than with Dog Eared Review.

If you are interested, give Pubby a try. Click on the referral link. If you sign up, I get a few more snaps.

Good luck out there!

Time for Something Special

February promo

To celebrate the release of the Legends of the Pale books to Barnes & Noble’s Nook, Rakuten Kobo, Apple Books, Thalia, Bol.ed, Scribd, 24 Symbols, !ndigo, Angus & Robertson, and so many more… I am discounting both books. Normally they are 5.99 but until the end of February, they will be available for download for only 1.99. This special is already in effect on Amazon and will begin at all other online bookstores on February 2nd.

There has never been a better time to discover the world of the Pale. Learn what it’s like to be loved by a god or manage a house full of male werewolves. Each is a stand-alone novel and will not disappoint.

Just follow the Universal link. New online stores are being added daily so if your preferred merchant doesn’t appear yet, it will soon.

The Love of Gods

The Fate of Wolves

To keep the party going, I have also scheduled a March promotion for the Darkly Series Boxed Set. Instead of getting all five books and three dark short stories for 7.99 …in March the entire boxed set will only be 2.99.

March promo

These are the romance books that started it all. They are full of magick, legend, and myth. Five couples, five loves that defy time, and secrets that only the gods keep. Settle in and learn all there is to know about the fey and their court.

The Darkly Series Boxed Set

Book Marketing and the Indie Author

I know what I know…and I know what I don’t know.

Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

A few days ago, I and a fellow author sat down with someone who wanted to make a living writing. Our listener was a young aspiring author, soon to graduate with her degree in journalism. After talking and answering her questions about our experiences and the industry as a whole, I realized that without meaning to, I’ve become something of an expert in the realm of indie publishing. The two hours we spent together simply flew by and our captive pupil left with far more information than she ever wanted to know.

I know what I know, but I also know there is so much left to know about how to be successful in this changing industry.

I can, and did speak for hours on the importance of writing that first flawed draft. Don’t stop to edit it. Just write it. Get the story out. There’s plenty of time later to edit and rewrite. I know that it’s the act of writing that makes you a better writer and that your first book is only the beginning of your education. Writing a full-length book teaches you how to craft a story with a clear beginning, middle, and an end. It teaches you pacing and form. It also teaches you that every word on the page isn’t golden or even necessary.

Editing, proofreading, and formating play a huge roll in the success of your book. It’s worth the time and effort to find a support network of readers, editors, and proofreaders that will help you polish your manuscript. It still might make it to publication with an error or two, but that often happens to traditionally published books as well. I know that your cover design and title are crucial in catching the eye of a potential reader. Your indie book must be indistinguishable from other traditionally published works so that the stigma of being an indie author doesn’t have the chance to work against you. Because, let’s face facts, the stigma arose and persists for a reason.

And then, there are the marketing plan choices that must be made. Here’s where I sound like an expert but I realize that I have yet to crack the code to this all-important and mysterious step.

It’s not that I don’t know what to do. I’ve read every article on the web about book marketing. What to do. What not to do. Articles that might be entitled; the five fatal mistakes every new author makes, what you should be doing before you hit the publish button, the importance of author branding and networking, establishing your email list early, the correct marketing strategy for each social media platform, and how do you choose a price for your ebook…along with so many more. The point is, I’m overflowing with information and established methods for reaching readers. And yet, I still don’t know how to rise above the general marketing noise of millions of books flooding the marketplace on a daily bases.

And I know I don’t know.

I blog. I do book reviews for fellow indie authors. I have a social media presence. I share marketing resources with other authors. My books are professional looking and well-edited. I have even managed to garner a few awards. I write in a very popular genre. I give books away and discount my ebooks on occasion. I have a mailing list. I beg for reviews. I have paid for promotions, ads, and joined Facebook groups. The point is, I have followed the advice of all those articles and yet I haven’t hit on that combination of methods to boost my sales into the stratosphere.

I’m not here to complain. I love what I do. I love my author-life. I realize that my books might never be bestsellers. I would like them to be, but that might not be in the cards for me. I love my books and characters. The fact that those that follow my writing love them too is perhaps success enough.

This leads me to the most important advice I gave my young audience..and it didn’t have anything to do with the nuts and bolts of writing or marketing.

And that is…

You have to love what you write because that manuscript will forever be apart of you. You will be talking about that book for years to come. You have to love it because this industry is hard on dreamers. You have to love your work, your story, your book, because others will dismiss it, reject it, and overlook it. You have to love the work because you will read it over and over again during the editing process. No one will read your words more than yourself. No one will talk about your book more than you. You have to have the faith of a true believer.

I love my books and characters. They are forever apart of me. I love what I do though I am not a bestselling author. And, if I ever figure out the secret marketing combination to make me one, I promise to post it here.

Until then, I’ll keep writing.

Fighting Preconceived Notions: Romance

For some reason this week I’ve been running into the same wall. It usually begins with an eye-roll from the other person after I explain that I write romance novels.

Photo by Diego PH on Unsplash

Ah, where to begin…

For some reason this week I’ve been running into the same wall. It usually begins with an eye-roll from the other person after I explain that I write romance novels. Somehow my being a romance author makes me less than in their eyes; less talented, less serious, less theme-based, less thought-provoking. Dismissable.

“Really? You don’t like things like Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Gone with the Wind, Anna Karenina, The Notebook, Time Traveler’s Wife, Outlander…?”

Before I know it, I’m defending the entire genre and explaining that my books aren’t like the princess driven trade paperbacks they might have read in their youth. The entire genre is now woke, where consent and diversity are addressed, and strong female leads are the norm.

If the conversation manages to get past the first roadblock, I’m then justifying the sex scenes in my books and that of other authors.

“Why do they even have to be there in the first place?”

That question usually leads to my explaining the very big genre differences between romance and erotica. Sex as a plot device versus sex for sex sake. I might even launch into a diatribe on the lingering dislike of romance as another subtle form of slut-shaming. Luckily, that usually only happens after a glass of wine…or two.

The final nail in my conversational coffin occurs when I explain that I write paranormal romance.

“Yes, paranormal.”

“No, that doesn’t necessarily mean vampire. It could mean ancient gods, werewolves, shifters, demons, or any other supernatural being.”

“Yes, I realize vampires aren’t real.”

“Oh, I’m sorry you don’t enjoy fantasy. Shame really. Harry Potter, The Hobbit, Narnia, and Alice in Wonderland. They really were fantastic books.”

At that point, the conversation is over. There’s no reason to explain the difference between paranormal and fantasy. They don’t understand me, and I don’t understand them. How do you live in a world without a touch of magick?

Ick.

I’d like to say that these conversations only happen with individuals of a certain age or gender, but I can’t. This week it’s been weirdly random. The fact that I’m running into it more at Christmas time than earlier this year is even stranger since this is supposed to be the most magical time of the year.

Christmas is when we should celebrate love in all its forms. Real or fictional.

So yes, judge a book by its cover and quality of prose but don’t limit yourself by genre. Take a risk. Try something new this season. You just might encounter undiscovered worlds and characters that find a permanent home on your bookshelves.

Lessons from an Indie Author

An impromptu holiday book photoshoot.

I’m not new to writing. I’m not new to marketing. I’m not an extrovert. I’m not a natural salesperson. My books aren’t listed in Amazon’s top 100. Not yet, anyway. But I’ve learned a few simple lessons that I see so many writers ignoring.

You don’t have to be a genius to know that one of the first rules of selling is to tell people that you have a product to sell in the first place. (And by sell, I mean sell. Don’t give your work away without compensation of some sort. If you don’t value you, they won’t value you.) If you’re an author that means you’ve probably got lots of books stored at your house. If you are a blogger, a poet, or content writer then talk about it!

Americans love to ask each other what we do for a living. Your first response should be that you are a writer and not that you are a teacher, accountant, waitress, or whatever you do to pay the bills. You are a writer first! That other thing you do is just a forty-hour a week side hustle to keep food in the fridge and the lights on.

I’ve discovered that despite the fact that I hate talking about myself, most people are fascinated that I write full-length, honest to God books. They immediately want to know what genre and if they sell. My answer is, of course, romance and yes they do. I then try to mention as casually as I can that they have won a few awards and that they are paranormal which is a very popular subgenre of romance.

Look what Santa left under the Christmas tee!

Then comes the next lesson, and that is, to make a sale you have to put the product in the hands of the customer. Authors, bloggers, writers…carry a copy of your book, business card, or promotional something with you at all times. If you are an author, at the very least you need an eyecatching bookmark. The bookmark or postcard-sized whatever should have your book cover and all your contact information on it. You want the person you’re chatting with to take it home with them.

As a woman who is never without her oversized purse, I’ve made it a habit of carrying my latest book with me everywhere I go. I have one of those large makeup bags that has never been used for makeup. Two of my books fit perfectly inside it. I also keep bookmarks and my business card in that bag.

This magical technique works for any writer. If you are still plugging away at your book, carry a business card with your social media contacts listed on it. If you’re a poet, a blogger, a content writer the same thing applies. Every time you meet someone, it is another opportunity for you to gain a follower or a fan. But they won’t remember your web address, the title of your book, or your name in some cases if they don’t have something physical to reference later.

Ho Ho Ho Santa says, “Give romance for the holidays.”

Yesterday a fellow author and I visited our local downtown shops. At first we were just killing time. Neither one of us had been very productive that morning at the coffee shop. But as we ducked in and out of the holiday-decorated stores, I began taking pictures of my books among the Christmas decorations. We chatted with the manager of one shop about the possibility of them creating a section in their store dedicated to books by local authors. We told strangers about our upcoming book signings. And, I walked away with a slew of early holiday promotional pictures I can use across my social media. All that potential possibility in such a short time because I carry my books with me!

A little over a month ago, I helped a friend with her yard sale. I talked about my books as I chatted with shoppers and made sales while sending others home with bookmarks.

I ran into a friend while I was leaving Goodwill last week. She’d been following my progress on Facebook and we spent ten minutes talking about my writing. We exchanged business cards and I know that eventually that encounter will pay-off in some way.

I went to support another author’s book signing last month and after mentioning that I too am an author to those who lingered to order drinks, I sold two of my own books because I carry them with me.

My latest book, just in time for Christmas and looking picture-perfect.

It’s not about being pushy or obnoxious when it comes to the topic of who you are and what you do. The lesson I’ve learned is a fundamental one and I hope you too will embrace it. And that is, dare to put your writing at the forefront of who you are. It’s a change in mindset that I’m talking about. Yes, you’re probably going to have to drag yourself out of bed to punch that damn time clock again today, but that’s not who you are. You’re a writer first. An author first. A blogger and a marketing guru first. Tell the world and yourself that narrative. Be brave. Own it!

Embrace that mindset and then the sales, followers, and readers will naturally come afterward.

The Hard Truths About Self-Publishing

You’ve written a great book. You’ve queried agents and publishers but have gotten no takers. Your beta readers love your book. You love your book. Even a few of your rejection letters declared it to be a good book but they just aren’t looking for (insert genre) at this time. So, do you sit on it and wait? Or do you jump into the world of self-publishing and become an indie author overnight.

Amazon has made publishing easy because they’ve changed the way books are seen and sold. But there’s a big financial catch. If you are going to go it alone, you’ll need to do your homework and prepare your bank account for the hit it’s going to suffer.

First, some backstory. I’ve always been an indie author. With my first book, I sent out query letters in hopes that I’d get that magical email that said, “Yes, please let us publish you!” After lots of rejections, I got that email. But then I learned how much control I’d be required to give up, so being the hardhead that I am, I turned to Amazon and self-published. That was back in 2010 when anyone with a professional cover, website, and social media skills could garner sales on Amazon.

Fast forward to today. It’s not so easy now. Books by indie authors are oftentimes indistinguishable from traditionally published books. The covers are professional, the writing is well-edited, and the formatting is up to industry standards. Self-published books are no longer a joke. They are a viable option. They win awards. They create buzz. And sometimes, they get noticed by traditional publishers. I call it the YouTube effect.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Publish yourself. Retain control over your vision. Make lots of sales. Maybe get noticed by one of the big publishers. In all likelihood, only one of those four things is going to happen. You’re going to publish. And you’re going to watch your sales rise when your friends and family purchase your book…and then nothing, followed by a trickle of sales. Usually.

The hard truth is that you are competing against thousands of books published weekly, maybe daily. How do you stand out? Social media. Promotions. Word of mouth. Reviews. And a willingness to talk about your books with strangers—all the time, anywhere, no matter how uncomfortable it makes you or them.

I just ran the numbers for this year. Granted I am promoting a catalog of previously published works along with my newest releases, but damn! I’ve spent twice the amount I’d initially budgeted and it’s only September. My promotion cost includes; printed material (bookmarks, posters, handouts, business cards), Facebook and Amazon Advertisement, various promotional sites on the internet (many I’d never use again), and paid review services (which do not violate Amazon’s policies) for the books. Other staggering costs include; the editing of two books by a professional, purchased art for covers (thank the gods I have the skill set to design my own covers), proofs, and a physical book inventory for book signings. What’s not included are the smaller costs; folding table, tablecloth, frames and easels for posters, book display stand, rolling cart to safely transport the books, cost of gas to the event, and a 10×10 pop-up tent. Basically, I’m a walking bookstore at this point.

Without throwing figures around, let me just tell you that my book sales are only a quarter of what I’ve spent this year. And my experience is typical. Thank goodness I don’t write and publish with the goal of supporting myself. I doubt that will ever happen. No, I write these books and share them with readers because I love the stories. And I love to write.

So my writing friends, if you decide to become an indie author be aware that the professional editing and production costs are only a third of what you will spend. And check out the marketing page on my website for a list of free Facebook promotional groups for authors.

Facebook Ads

I’m all over Facebook these days. Running ads and making use of groups where I can tell the world about my books.

If you see one of these boosted posts, please share it. I always hear about someone or something going vial. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if the Darkly Series became the next Game of Thrones? It has dragons, swords, and steamy love scenes. And with my books, you know you’ll get a satisfying ending!

All the books are free on Kindle UNLIMITED and the Kindle editions of the Darkly books are .99 cents up to 4.99. And my newest book, The Love of Gods is only 5.99 on Kindle.

You can find all of them on my Amazon Author page.

(I always wonder if purchasing ads with Facebook is cost effective. At least for the next few weeks, I’m betting that they are. I’ll be sure to report back at the end of this experiment.)