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Book Reviewing 101 | How to Ask Bloggers for Book Reviews

Book Reviewing 101 | How to Ask Bloggers for Book Reviews

My previous post discussed how to get honest book reviews (answer: Ask). This week I’m looking at some of the finer points of how to approach potential book reviewers, especially bloggers.

First, and most important …

Don’t ask them to review something completely inappropriate

Please don’t waste the reviewer’s time by asking them to review something completely inappropriate.

If their Amazon profile says they don’t accept book review requests, don’t ask. If their blog page says no vanity publishers and your publisher is Tate or WestBow Press, don’t ask.

And only pitch your book to a reviewer who reviews in the same genre: as a reviewer of Christian fiction, I’m definitely not interested in your polytheistic inspirational, or your raunchy erotica (yes, I’ve been offered both). I’m not interested in your non-fiction, and probably not interested in your picture book.

Follow their review policy

As a general guide, it’s best to send a query first and follow that up with the ebook if the reviewer agrees to review your title. Don’t just send your book and then complain the reviewer never reviewed it. An unsolicited book is like the flyers in your letterbox from the supermarket you never visit: it gets deleted, unread.

I’ve come across authors who say it’s too much trouble to read every book blogger’s review policy and follow it. They’re too busy, and it’s much easier to send a template email. That’s their right. But I’m also busy, and it’s much easier to say no to those requests than to follow up with a request for the information they’d have sent if they’d done a little research.

And on a related note …

Follow the law

Don’t add the blogger to an email list without their consent.

Really.

Don’t.

If you’re stupid enough to do that (or stupid enough to hire a PR company that does), please don’t add to the stupid by having an “unsubscribe” option that requires the blogger to add five different personal details in order to unsubscribe from a mailing list they (I) never signed up for in the first place.

(Yes, I had this happen last week. Twice. It won’t happen again, because I blocked the email address and reported it as spam. No, I didn’t unsubscribe. I’m not giving them unnecessary personal details.)

Offer a free copy of the book

… and state whether your version is mobi (for Kindle), epub (for Kobo, Nook, Sony etc), or pdf (which can be read on any device, although Kindle users are advised to email the file to their Kindle with “convert” in the subject line, to get a readable mobi file).

Ask for an honest review

Remember you are asking for an honest book review, not a positive review (and certainly not a five-star review). And don’t require a review “in exchange” for the free book—all those things are against Amazon’s reviewing guidelines (which I’ll discuss in a later post).

Email the book

Don’t gift your book via Amazon in order to get the Amazon Verified Purchase tag—Amazon may see the gift as financial compensation, and may delete the review (because the reviewer can decline the gift and spend the money on something else). Yes, an Amazon rep might have told you it’s okay to gift a review copy. But ask another rep, and you’ll get a different answer. Don’t risk it.

You can gift copies via retailers like Smashwords (if your book is available there) or use services like BookFunnel, which allows the reviewer to download in their choice of formats. Or just email the mobi or pdf file. Trustworthy bloggers won’t pirate your book (and you’re checking out the bloggers to avoid the dodgy ones, aren’t you?)

What if no one agrees to review my book?

If you find you’re asking a lot of bloggers for reviews but no one is interested, here are a few things to check:

  • Are you targeting the right reviewers? Have they reviewed books like yours before?
  • Do you have a great cover? Does it look professional?
  • Is your book description gripping?
  • Do your opening pages have a compelling hook?
  • Has your book been professionally edited?
  • Is there something about your presentation which is driving potential reviewers away?

These are the main issues that lead to me turning down review requests. Most often, the opening pages of the novel simply don’t grip me. They might be all telling, not showing. They might use too many creative dialogue tags. They might be writing in omniscient point of view and headhopping. These issues show me the book needs more work, and will mean I choose not to review it. Other reviewers will have their own criteria.

If you can’t convince reviewers to read your book, you’re going to have trouble convincing paying customers.

I sent my book, but it hasn’t been reviewed yet.

Some book reviewers agree to review your book, while others only promise to look at it. If they decide not to review it, don’t push. The chances are they didn’t like the book.

If a reviewer agreed to review your book within a specific timeframe and doesn’t, it could be because they’ve forgotten (so one gentle reminder may well be appropriate). However, it could be they didn’t like it. Some reviewers prefer to only review books they like, so don’t push the issue if they don’t review it.

It’s a lot of work!

Yes, which is why it is important to keep track of everything:

  • The reviewers you found who accept review requests (whether you contacted them or not).
  • The reviewers you contacted who didn’t respond to your email.
  • The reviewers you contacted who responded but declined.
  • The reviewers you contacted who said no, but to keep them informed of future books.
  • The reviewers who agreed to review your books and didn’t.
  • The reviewers who agreed to review your books and did.

When a review you’ve requested appears on a blog, it’s polite to visit the blog, thank the reviewer, and respond to any comments. However, I don’t recommend responding to book reviews (positive or negative) on retail sites (e.g. Amazon) or reader communities (e.g. Goodreads), as it can come across as needy and stalkerish.

However, you can like book reviews on BookBub—it’s a newer site which is actively trying to encourage readers to review (to take over from Amazon, perhaps?). Bookbub email authors to tell them when a reviewer has recommended their book, which means you don’t have to stalk the site.

(Authors should be writing their next book, not stalking social media to search for reviews).

Finally, keep special note of those reviewers who enjoyed your book: these are the people you will contact again when your next book releases, which will make this process much easier.

Do you have any reviewing questions I haven’t answered?

How to Get Book Reviews

How to Get (Honest) Book Reviews (An #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop Post)

This post is part of the monthly Author ToolBox Blog Hop, organised by Raimey Gallant. We now have over 40 blogs participating. To find more Blog Hop posts:

How to Get Honest Book Reviews

I often see authors online asking either how to get more book reviews, or how many book reviews can they expect.

My (unstatistical) research suggest authors can expect around one review for every 1,000 copies sold. That’s just 0.1%. Even a bestseller might not do much better: John Green has reportedly sold nine million copies of The Fault in Our Stars and has almost 30,000 reviews on Amazon—a review rate of less than 0.4%.

Yet some authors seem to have dozens, even hundreds, of reviews, out of all proportion to sales. Is there some secret?

How do these authors manage to get so many reviews?

It’s easy enough to get dishonest reviews. We all know them: buying reviews, reviewing your own books, asking family members to give your book a five-star review, swapping reviews with other authors, offering reviewers a gift or an entry into a prize draw.

But these reviews are all against Amazon’s reviewing guidelines. These reviews are why Amazon keep updating their reviewing guidelines, as I discussed in A (Not So) Short History of Fake Reviews on Amazon.

So How do you Get Honest Reviews?

Ask.

Yes, ask for reviews. Many readers don’t realise the importance authors place on reviews. Positive reviews provide social proof for potential customers, they influence Amazon’s book popularity ratings, and a certain number of reviews are required in order for authors to advertise on sites like Bookbub. Yet most readers don’t know or understand how useful reviews are, to authors and other readers.

Amazon now restricts reviews to customers i.e. people who have spent $50 in the last year. The spending requirement is per site, so someone who has spent the equivalent of $50 in a foreign store (say, India) can’t then review on the US site.

So if you’re looking for reviews on Amazon.com, you need to find reviewers who shop at Amazon.com.

Who do I Ask?

Ask your readers

Marketing advisors such as David Gaughran advise authors to ask for reviews at the back of the book, and that’s something David does himself: “Word-of-mouth is cruicial for any author to succeed. If you enjoyed the book, please consider leaving a review at Amazon.”

When I first researched this topic in 2014, asking for reviews was a tactic only indie authors used. Now I often see review requests in the back of books from mainstream publishers.

Does this work? In July 2014, Tim Grahl shared on his blog that he had just sold the 10,000th copy of his book, Your First 1000 Copies (including one copy to me). Those 10,000 sales have netted him over 180 reviews—a 1.8% review rate, which is still low, but is almost twenty times more reviews than my unstatistical ‘normal’.

The other thing to do at the end of your book is ask readers to sign up for your email list, so you can let them know when your next book is due to be published (and perhaps even offer your email subscribers a discount, or ask if anyone would like a free review copy …).

Ask Amazon reviewers

While many Amazon reviewers are simply providing random reviews on books or products they’ve used and liked (or not), a growing number are reviewing books or products they’ve been provided with in exchange for a review. Note that reviewers are required to disclose they have received a free copy of the book for review (as per Federal Trade Commission regulations). Not all do, but they are supposed to.

How do you find Amazon reviewers?

It’s time-consuming, but worthwhile. Some people recommend starting with the Amazon Top 10,000 Reviewers list, as these are the most prolific and helpful reviewers and are therefore most likely to accept review requests.

However, I believe this is a waste of time for most authors, and especially for authors writing in a niche genre like Christian fiction. Why? Because many of those reviewers either don’t review books, or don’t read Christian fiction. (The easiest way to become a Top 10,000 Reviewer is to review the Free App of the Day, as it’s guaranteed to get you a lot of votes, and votes are more important than total number of reviews in improving reviewer ranking.)

Rather than focusing on Top Reviewers, focus on people who have reviewed books similar to yours, especially if they have also reviewed self-published books. Click on the reviewer name, and see if they have a website address or email address on their profile. If they have an email address, it’s safe to assume they are open to receiving requests via email. If they only have a website address, check that out to see if they are open to review requests.

Many Amazon reviewers also have book blogs, which is even better: the more sites a review is posted on, the better for your book. To find out if an Amazon reviewer will accept requests for reviews, simply click on their name, which will bring up their personal profile. If you find an Amazon reviewer who agrees to review your book, you’ve got a 50% or better chance of getting a review (personally, I review over 95% of the titles I accept for review, but I know some bloggers review as few as 30%. However, they make it clear that sending them a book doesn’t guarantee a review).

However, many Amazon reviewers already have all the books they can read through sources such as NetGalley or publisher blogging programmes.

You can use a similar technique to find Goodreads reviewers.

What about paid services?

There are paid tools which can do this job for you. I tried one as a free trial, using a book I’d reviewed as the test book. The list didn’t return me as a potential reviewer, which I found odd. I also receive a lot of template requests that I suspect have come from a service such as this. Fewer than 10% are actually requests to review Christian fiction—which is all I review on my blog. As such, I suggest anyone considering a paid tool do their research. There is no point in paying for a tool that doesn’t deliver actionable results.

Ask Bloggers

There are a number of blog tour companies out there, and many specialise by genre (e.g. romance or Christian fiction).

Visit the tour company’s website, find some books similar to yours, see which reviewers have reviewed them positively, visit those reviewer websites, check out their reviewing guidelines, and contact those who are open to unsolicited requests.

The advantage of using bloggers from these networks is that you already know they are open to reading and reviewing books in your genre. If they have a review policy or similar on their blog, you will know they are open to receiving review requests, so go ahead! As with Amazon reviewers, if you find a blogger who will read your book, you have an excellent chance of getting a review.

Ask in a Reader Community

Sites such as Facebook and Goodreads have groups for people seeking reviews. However, some of these offer unethical review swaps. Check out any potential reviewers before sending your book off to them, to ensure they are the right reviewer for your book. You can also check out sites like Story Cartel, which offers your book free to readers who promise to review.

Ask Social Media Followers

Rayne Hall recommends asking social media followers for reviews in her book, Twitter for Writers, by tweeting that your book is available for review. She asks every eight weeks, with a post like this:
“Would anyone like one of my ebooks for free for posting a review at Amazon?”

Hall likes these reviews, as she finds they are honest reviews from people who are interested in her and her books, and she reports that most people who request a review copy via Twitter do follow up with a review. Note that she is staunchly against automated DM tweets, such as those some people use for new followers: “Thanks for following! Please download a free review copy of my book here: xxx.com”.

I’d add one proviso: don’t ask for reviews on your regular Facebook page, as your objective is obtaining reviews from people you don’t know in real life, not an Amazon page full of “friends and family” reviews.

So that’s who to ask for reviews. I’ll be back next week with some tips on how to ask for a review.

Meanwhile, what questions do you have about book reviews?

Back Matter or End Matter

Self-Publishing Your Book | Writing Your Back Matter

Over the last two weeks, I’ve covered what needs to be included in your book’s front matter, and what needs to be included in the author information. Today we’re looking at what else goes in your back matter (also known as end matter).

Back matter is the information at the end of a book, what comes after the final page of the story. It’s also called end matter (you know, because it’s at the end). Back matter or end matter can include:

  • Author’s Note (covered last week)
  • Acknowledgements (covered last week)
  • List of books by the author
  • List of comparable books from the publisher (for trade published books)
  • About the Author (covered last week)
  • Link to author website
  • Link to publisher website (for trade published books)
  • Social media links
  • References or end notes (non-fiction)
  • Index (non-fiction)
  • Review request (especially in self-published books)
  • Email list invitation (especially in self-published books)
  • Discussion Questions
  • Book Excerpts

Back matter is prime selling space. If your reader has enjoyed the book (and we hope they have), they want to find out more about the book, the series, and the author. The back matter is your opportunity to capitalise on that interest and turn a reader into a fan.

Good back matter sells books. And this starts with the book list.

Book List

There is probably some fancy psychological term for what comes down to pleasure.

If the reader enjoyed your book, they want to replicate that feeling of enjoyment the easiest way possible: by buying and reading another of your books. As an author (and especially if you’re a self-published author) you need to capitalise on your reader’s lack of impulse control.

Your back matter should include a list of all your books, especially if this novel is part of a series.

Include a list of all the books in the series in reading order. You can also include older books, either in series order or in reverse order of publication (i.e. newest first).

If the book is part of a series, make sure you include information sales on the next book in the series (e.g book description and release date). The best time to persuade a customer to buy your next book is when they have happy feelings about the current book. We will not discuss how much money I spend this way.

If your book is an ebook, make this list into hyperlinks to a retail site (Amazon, or whichever site the book was purchased from). If the book is part of a series, include the buy link or pre-order link to the next book in the series. If it’s not yet available for pre-order, direct them to a page on your website where they can sign up for your email list so they are the first to know when the new book goes on sale.

A great book followed by comprehensive back matter is your best marketing tool for the next book. Take advantage of it. Make it easy for your readers to buy your next book.

A trade publisher may also include links to other books in the same genre by other authors from their publishing house. Your objective as an author is to sell your books. Their objective as a publisher is to sell books: yours, and those of all their other authors.

Email List Signup Link

Self published authors realise the importance of having an email list. Savvy authors will include a link to their email list in their back matter. They may also offer an incentive for people to sign up to the list e.g. a free novel or novella.

(You can sign up for my email list in the box on the right.)

Review Request

Positive reviews from customers are an important feature of Amazon, and other retail sites. Less than one reader in a thousand will review a book simply because they enjoyed it—mostly because they don’t know how adding their review helps an author.

Adding a request for a book review on Amazon, Goodreads, or your favourite online bookstore will help boost your review rate. This, in turn, will make your book look more popular (which can help with sales), and will increase your chances of getting a BookBub advertisement.

Discussion Questions

The rise of book clubs means a lot of novels include discussion questions at the back of the novel. These make it easy for the book club host to facilitate the discussion. Discussion questions usually take two pages of a standard paperback.

Book Excerpts

Some authors and publishers include excerpts from other books as a hook to entice the reader to buy now. This is obviously an evil plan designed to part readers from their money. This is a great idea, but don’t go overboard. I’ve read novels with so many excerpts that it affected my perceived pacing of the novel and therefore my enjoyment.

I suggest including one chapter. This could be:

  • The first chapter from the next book in the series
  • The first chapter from an unrelated standalone title in the same genre.
  • The first chapter of the first book in another series.

Publisher Information

A trade publisher may also include their own website information, an invitation to sign up to their email list, or an invitation to join their book blogger/review programme.

References/End Notes

A novel might include a list of reference either in the Author’s Note, or separately. Fiction authors usually include just a simple list of book titles and authors, ordered alphabetically on the title.

References in non-fiction are more complex. They need to include more information—title, author, publisher, year, and the exact page or chapter reference. They are formatted according to the publisher’s style guide. This could be the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS), Associated Press Style (AP), the Christian Writer’s Manual of Style (CMS), another style guide, or an in-house publisher guide.

Paperback or hardcover non-fiction books may include footnotes, but these can mess with the formatting in ebooks. Many newer books use endnotes instead. These may be at the end of each chapter, or at the end of the book, but before the index.

Index

Non-fiction books (other than memoir) need an index.

Indexing is a specialised skill, and should be completed by your publisher or a qualified freelancer. The convention is that the index is at the very end of the book. This makes it easy for readers to find the information they are looking for.

Conclusion

I have come across some small trade publishers which do not include back matter in their books. This, to my mind, is a problem. They are missing out on potential sales. They are also depriving you, the author, from the opportunity to connect with readers.

If you’re trade published, ask (or getting your agent to ask) what information your publisher includes in their back matter, and what you will need to contribute (e.g. discussion questions).

If you’re self-published, you get to choose. If I haven’t convinced you, maybe this infographic from Bookbub will:

Using Back Matter to Sell More Books

What else do you like to see included in the back matter of a book? How much is too much?

Best of the Blogs

Christian Editing Services | Best of the Blogs | 18 November 2017

We’re more than halfway through November already! For those of you attempting NaNoWriMo this month, how are you going?

I’ve flunked. But I have written and loaded a heap of blog posts, almost finished the visual rebranding for a group blog (we’ll roll that out over the Christmas break), and I’m currently doing two online courses with Lawson Writer’s Academy, one on writing craft, and one on marketing. The writing course has shown me how little I know my characters … which is why I’ve flunked NaNo.

Anyway, on with the news …

Writing

Theme

Michael Hauge asks What’s Your Theme? A novel needs an overall theme … but it’s something a lot of authors either skim over, or try and shoehorn in at the end.

What Are You Writing?

David Farland asks Are You Writing a Book, or a Movie? He goes on to explain the differences in point of view for novels and movies. As it happens, I’m currently writing a blog post on this subject, inspired by a course I’m taking through Lawson Writers Academy.

Publishing

Cover Design

Paul Barrett, Art Director of Girl Friday Productions, visits Author Marketing Experts to share Book Marketing 101: 10 Things Not to Do on Your Book Cover. There are so many bad book covers out there! Unfortunately, the authors don’t know they’re bad (because surely you wouldn’t deliberately allow your book to go out with an awful cover?).

I suspect that’s because many newbie authors can’t see beyond it’s a book! With my name on the cover!

They don’t know the principles of good design … and it’s something you need to know before you start designing your first book cover (actually, for many authors, that’s their first mistake. Designing their own cover).

Fighting Piracy

Following Maggie Stiefvater’s blog post about her experience with book pirates, Jana Oliver visits Fiction University to share what she’s doing to fight the book pirates in Why eBook Piracy Matters.

Marketing

Branding

Belinda Griffin of SmartAuthorsLab visits The Creative Penn to share 7 Best Ways to Build an Authentic Author Brand.

If you’re interested in learning how to build your brand from nothing, I have two suggestions:

1. Follow my blog. I have a blog series on branding coming up in February 2018.

2. Click here to sign up to my Kick Start Your Author Platform information list. I’ll be running the programme again in March 2018 … and there will be more information about it coming up soon!

Cross Promotion

Diana Urban visits the BookBub blog to share 14 Ways Authors can Cross-Promote Each Other’s Books. You will note none of them include commenting on blog posts (although that’s always welcome!).

Facebook Chatbots

Louise Harnby introduces Facebook Chatbots in How To Market Your Book and Build Your Author Platform Using a Chatbot. What are chatbots? Are they the next big thing in book marketing? Who knows? But they are currently underutilised, and if there is one thing I’ve learned about book marketing, it’s that it pays to be at the leading edge of the curve.

That’s my top seven posts for this week. What’s the best post you’ve read this week on writing, editing, publishing, or marketing?

Best Book Marketing Websites

#AuthorToolBoxBloghop: 9 Best Book Marketing Websites

This post is part of the #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop, the brainchild of  Raimey Gallant. There are over thirty authors participating in the blog hop this month, each sharing on a topic related to writing, publishing or marketing. There are three great ways to follow the blog hop:

  1. Check out the list of participating websites on the main blog hop page
  2. Follow the #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop hashtag on Twitter and other social media sites
  3. Visit the #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop board on Pinterest

So … on to my 9 favourite book marketing websites.

I’m not yet published. Well, not in a book sense. I’ve got thousands of words published online in the form of hundreds of book reviews and blog posts–my book review blog will hit 1,000 posts in a couple of months, and at least 80% of those posts are reviews.

Even though I’m not yet published, I’ve been studying the art and science of writing, editing, publishing, and marketing for several years. If there’s one thing I’ve learned on the road to publication, it’s this:

Marketing starts a long time before you publish.

Which means everyone who wants to publish should have at least a passing awareness of current marketing trends. And there is a lot of marketing advice out there—some excellent, some good, and some downright misleading.

(I think the worst was the one which advised readers to add everyone they knew to their “opt-in email list”. Had she heard of the CAN-SPAM Act? Did she understand the meaning of the words, “opt in”? I can only assume not.)

Anyway, today I’m sharing the nine websites I find most useful when it comes to identifying book marketing trends.

1. BookBub

BookBub is the gorilla in the room of book marketing. They charge authors hundreds of dollars to advertise in one of their genre-specific daily emails, and turn down more potential advertisers than they accept. I’ve only heard of one author who didn’t make her money back on a BookBub ad (the book was middle grade fiction, so it doesn’t altogether surprise me. My kids are on their devices 24/7, but still prefer paper books).

But the power of BookBub’s featured advertisements isn’t why they are on my list. BookBub analyses their sales and other data to provide detailed articles on what sells, and what doesn’t. And that’s worth reading.

Chris Syme

Chris Syme is the owner of Smart Marketing for Authors, and the author of Sell More Books With Less Social Media, and the soon-to-be-published Sell More Books With Less Marketing. She also co-hosts a book marketing podcast with her daughter, bestselling romance author Becca Syme.

Reading Sell More Books with Less Social Media was a lightbulb moment for me, one of those times when someone says something that seems obvious, yet I’d never seen it before:

Not all authors are at the same level when it comes to writing and publishing, and our marketing needs to take that into account.

Dan Blank

Dan Blank is the owner of WeGrow Media, who help authors connect with readers. He has recently published Be The Gateway, where he shows authors how to research and understand their target audience, then work out how best to connect with those people. It’s about playing the long game in an industry where many people are looking for quick wins.
Be the Gateway
I like Dan’s philosophy of marketing—it’s similar to Tim Grahl, and is one I can embrace as someone who hates asking for the sale (something I’m working on). I enjoy reading his blog posts and newsletters—like his recent post reinforcing the importance of word-of-mouth marketing.

David Gaughran

David Gaughran is the author of Let’s Get Digital (why authors should consider digital self-publishing), and Let’s Get Visible. He was the first author to show me the importance of understanding and using Amazon algorithms to drive sales. The books are a few years old (and I read them both as new releases), so the information may have dated a little.

The other reason I like and follow David is because of his personal war against the vanity publishing, and the valuable information he provides on their various schemes. You might not think so, but this is marketing as well: it’s part of Product, one of the four Ps of marketing strategy.

Joel Friedlander

Joel Friedlander is The Book Designer. He hosts the monthly Cover Design Awards, where he critiques author-submitted covers. He also hosts a monthly Carnival of the Indies, a round-up of what’s new in indie publishing (and writing, and marketing). He also attracts guest posts from some of the top names in digital publishing.

Rachel Thompson

Rachel Thompson of BadRedHeadMedia is the mind behind #MondayBlogs and the weekly #BookMarketingChat on Twitter.

She’s also the author of The 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge, which was the inspiration behind my own KickStart Your Author Platform challenge. Rachel doesn’t pull her punches, and brings twenty-plus years of pharmaceutical sales experience to her marketing advice.

Seth Godin

Seth Godin invented the idea of permission-based marketing, that we should work to grow a tribe of people who support us and our work. He posts a short blog post each day, and all are worth reading.

The Buffer Blog

I love Buffer. I loved their free version, and I love the Awesome plan even more. Buffer enables me to manage my social media sharing without going mad. Hootsuite has similar functionality, but I find the Buffer interface much more user friendly.

But that’s not the reason Buffer is on this list. They’re on my list because of their blog. They share millions of social media posts, and collect information on the performance of those posts. That enables them to write meaty blog posts that answer a lot of social media questions: when is the best time to post? How many times a day should you post? Do you need to use hashtags? Images? Which social media networks perform best?

Buffer knows, and Buffer tells us.

Tim Grahl

Tim is the owner of Outthink Group. He is the author of Your First 1,000 Copies (which preaches the importance of building an email list and using those connections to market your book), and The Book Launch Blueprint (which reinforces the importance of building an email list, and using those connections to launch your book).

He’s not about sell-sell-sell. He’s about building meaningful connections, about getting permission to contact people (through the email list), delivering relevant content, and outreaching from there.

It’s been several years since I read Your First 1,000 Copies. I’ve recently realised that while I’m doing Permission and Content reasonably well, I need to work on Outreach.

That’s my list of the best book marketing websites. What are yours?

 

Six Factors to Consider in Planning an Online Giveaway

Six Factors to Consider in Planning an Online Giveaway via Christian Editing ServicesHave you ever wondered what’s involved in planning an online giveaway? Or how to run a giveaway?

Over the last three weeks, I’ve published a series of blog posts at Australasian Christian Writers. The subject has been email lists and author cross-promotions:

Today I’m going to share six factors to consider in planning an online giveaway.

 

1. Consider Your Strategy

Just because I’ve been extolling the benefits of online giveaways and multi-author cross-promotions doesn’t make it the right tool for you.

The best cross-promotion opportunity for you might depend on your overall marketing strategy. A multi-author cross-promotion to encourage newsletter signups is going to be of little use if you don’t have an email list (although it might be the prompt you need to start one).

Ask yourself: Is this opportunity consistent with my overall marketing strategy?

 

2. Consider Your Brand

With a one-on-one cross promotion with another author, you are effectively endorsing that other author by recommending him or her to your readers. You need to make sure the author is one you want to endorse, in order to protect your own brand—otherwise, you might find yourself in the awkward situation of losing readers if they have an issue with the author you endorsed.

You might need to consider:

  • Genre
  • Content (language, violence, sexual content)
  • Quality of the writing and editing
  • Size of audience—you want the other author to have a similar-sized audience to yours

This is less of an issue with a multi-author cross-promotions, as most allow readers to choose which specific author lists they sign up for.

Ask yourself: Is this promotion opportunity consistent with my author brand?

 

3. Plan Your Giveaway

You’ll need to promote the giveaway to your existing email list, and via your social media channels. You’ll also need to meet any group expectations and requirements in a multi-author cross-promotion. How are you going to do that? Can you schedule a series of social media posts in advance?

Ask yourself: How will I promote this giveaway?

 

4. Plan Your Follow Up

Will your new subscribers be automatically added to your email list, or will you have to add them manually? How are you going to do that? What are you going to do with your new subscribers? Are you going to let them languish on some forgotten list … or are you going to follow up with them right away? Do you have a free download for them, to encourage them to stay on your email list? How are you going to send that to them? Do you have time to individually follow up every email?

This may mean setting up an auto-responder sequence to automatically send a short series of emails to every new subscriber. This needs to written and actioned before the giveaway begins. Note that auto-responder emails aren’t a free feature of most email providers. I’m told they are free with MailerLite, but that tool doesn’t automatically integrate with Instafreebie–so you’ll have to send the emails manually, or pay for a provider like MailChimp.

But the beauty of a pre-prepared auto-responder sequence is once you set it up, it’s there for any future promotions.

Ask yourself: Can I easily set up the appropriate follow-up emails?

 

5. Consider During the Giveaway

The reason I recommend setting up the social media schedule and auto-responder sequence in advance of the giveaway is that you’re likely to get a lot of emails during the period of the giveaway (unless you’ve paid someone else to organise the giveaway for you).

The host of the multi-author Instafreebie giveaway I participated in reported receiving a lot of emails from people who didn’t know how to transfer the file Instafreebie emailed them to their ereader device. Fortunately, she had a relevant YouTube video, so she was able to respond to enquiries by sending the link.

I ask several open-ended questions in my auto-responder email sequence, and several people emailed me with answers … and more questions. Each question was unique, so each response took time (although I will later repurpose several of my answers as blog posts!).

Ask yourself: Will I have time to follow up on individual emails and requests?

 

6. Consider After the Giveaway

Once you’ve run your giveaway (or participated in a multi-author giveaway), you’ll need to find some way of delivering your books to the winners—if this doesn’t happen automatically (e.g. via Instafreebie).

You can:

  • Email the book directly to the winner e.g. epub, mobi or pdf file. Some authors are hesitant about this, because an unscrupulous winner could email the file to their 5,000 closest friends.
  • Gift them the ebook via Amazon, Smashwords or some other online retailer. This is safer, but does cost you money. And you might be unable to gift via Amazon—or the winner might be unable to accept the gift if they’re not on Amazon US.
  • Use a third party such as BookFunnel, Instafreebie or NetGalley.

BookFunnel

BookFunnel is a way of distributing ebooks to bloggers, influencers, reviewers, and street team members. It can also be used to distribute ebooks to your email list. You load up your book in ePub and mobi formats, and BookFunnel creates a link to that book. This can be a unique link for each reader (e.g. for a review team), or a general link.

Prices start at USD 20 per year for the Basic plan. This allows authors to upload up to five books with one pen name, and delivery of up to 500 books per month. This does not include giveaways or MailChimp integration. The Mid-List Author plan is USD 100 per year, and includes giveaways, unlimited books, and up to 5,000 downloads per month. MailChimp integration costs an additional USD 50 per year.

BookFunnel is similar to InstaFreebie, but will provide readers with assistance to get their book delivered to their device.

However, it doesn’t promote giveaways in the same way as InstaFreebie does—it relies on you promoting your book in order to get people to sign up to your email list.

NetGalley

I’ve blogged previously about NetGalley. One of its features is the ability to email a widget that allows the recipient to download the ebook in epub or mobi format. However, NetGalley is expensive, so this is probably only an option if you or your publisher are already paid-up members.

Ask yourself: Do I need to invest in any tools to manage this giveaway?

 

What else might you need to consider in planning a giveaway?