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Posts tagged ‘word of mouth’

IP: Cover Art Licenses

As you all know, Indie authors wear a lot of hats. I have a few extra, because I’m an author and an artist. So this post is going to be me switching hats, and talking about cover art, from both sides of the page. Read more

The Day Job and the Creative

As most of you know, I have a ‘day’ job. The writer/artist/whatever else I am is all on the side of my primary career. This is not because I am secretly yearning to quit my day job, flip desks, and storm off into the sunset to make my way as a full time creative. Rather the other way around, as a matter of fact. I was a full time creative. And then I went back to school, graduated with a BS, and started working toward my dream job. I got it, too. I’ve been a Scientist for a year now, since I accepted the new role at my lab in 2018. (Blinks. A whole year? Dang)

But wait, you might be thinking, you’ve got a good income, you’ve achieved a life goal… Why are you still writing? Well, because I started writing thinking two things: one, I was in college at the time and any money was good money. Two, I was planning on writing being my retirement income. Something you should know before you launch off the deep end into self-employment. There is no such thing as retirement in the way most people talk about it, and there is certainly no handy retirement investment funds that your employer contributes toward (pats her tiny matched fund on the head. You grow up a bit, now). Self-employment is fantastic for freedom and flexibility. It’s not so great for consistent reliable income. After having spent most of my adult life running a micro-business, I knew that the only way I was going to avoid being a burden on society as an old lady was to build something to support myself in my old age. Hence, starting to write. Read more

The 80/20 Rule

I think most of us are familiar with the eponymous rule, so often cited in business. My take on it is something along the lines of 80 percent of the effort makes 20 percent of the work get done… anyway, I saw it cited in a Goodreads article that drew me in with the title, and their take on it reminded me that it’s been a while since I talked straight-up marketing. “The rule of thumb for online marketing recommends spending 20% of your online time talking about yourself and 80% of it talking about other things”

Now, the article was purportedly about what readers want from Authors, which is why I clicked through to read it. What it was, though, was an article about how Goodreads would like authors to act on their site (i.e. A lot more interaction with that site) rather than what readers are really looking for from authors. That’s pretty simple: more books. Read more

Vainglorious

 

Vain-glo-ri-ous

Adjective; literary

excessively proud of oneself or one’s achievements; overly vain.

“this vainglorious boast of personal infallibility”

Synonyms: assured, biggety (or biggity) [Southern & Midland], bigheaded, complacent, consequential, egoistic (also egoistical), egotistic (or egotistical), important, overweening, pompous, prideful, proud, self-conceited, self-important, self-opinionated, self-satisfied, smug, stuck-up, swellheaded, vain, conceited

The most difficult part of this business, for most of us, is promoting ourselves and our books. It’s also the most important, if we want to be read and paidfor our work. This applies to both the traditionally published, and the independent. The book is published, but how are readers to know about it?

There are many paths to a reader. The best is the same in any business, because it is also the strongest. I did it myself, yesterday. I tried to use my First Reader’s 30+ year old Kirby vacuum, and to my great frustration, it left as much on the carpet as had been there to begin with. I hopped on Amazon, looking at the top rated vacuums, reading reviews, and still hadn’t made up my mind. It wasn’t until I made a wisecrack on facebook about vacuums being pushed as Father’s Day gifts, and perceptive friends started recommending vacuums that they had used and loved, that I made up my mind about the purchase. Word of mouth is king, when it comes to marketing and promotion.

Word of mouth can come in many ways. It can come from the mouths of happy consumers. In this case, readers who review, or just rave about their latest read to anyone who will listen, whether in person or on social media are ideal. Those are the readers who sell books. They aren’t trying. They just really enjoyed that book, it stuck out in their mind, so when someone asks for the latest space opera, they say, Oh! You just have to read…

There’s also the word of those who are being helpful. Whether it’s readers who know that if they share their favorite author’s promo post, it helps that author out and therefore they write more books to be read later, or readers who are big fans and see themselves as unofficial street team-members assisting an author. Sometimes it can be fellow authors helping one another out – like the Indie Author sales we host here at MGC. This can be really beneficial when an author with a large fanbase shares the work of a new author. The down side of this can be two-fold: one, the “Name” author is likely to then be hit up with exuberant newbs (see the title of the post) asking him to do the same for them. And secondly, the reputation of the Name can actually be harmed by recommending sub-par works. I’ve gotten very cautious about the work I share and promote (in my Eat This While You Read That posts, for instance. I’ll be rebooting that series in about a week, by the by) because I want to keep the trust of my readers. It might be someone who is young and just doesn’t realize they NEED editing. Or it could be work that’s just not like mine, and my fans would shy away from. I have to use some judicious thought in who I promote, and what I say when I promote them.

Finally, the last mouth that can be talking is… the author themselves. This can be effective, or harmful. Look, we all need to talk about our work. Get excited about it. That’s a great and wonderful thing, because the onlookers will pick up on your enthusiasm for your work, and they will react positively to it. If, on the other hand, you project ‘just another book for another buck’ and you’re not talking about what’s in the book, just how many copies you’re hoping to sell… well, no one likes to be sold a bill of goods.

Excitement is one thing. But keep in mind that no-one wants to see constant self-promotion. If you nominate your own work in every thread where someone is asking for book recommendations, there might be a problem. If you are posting links to your work in every group, forum, and you aren’t paying any attention to the rules about self-promotion… not only are you going to get a bad name as ‘that guy’ and get banned from groups as fast as you join them, you’re going to give other indie authors a bad name, too.

Not that it matters to you. If you’re the vainglorious one, nothing at all matters to you except making a quick buck. You’re not interested in spending any money on your books: need a cover? Grab a quick image online. Doesn’t matter who created it, it’s yours now. Need an editor? Ignore the pros and readers who plead with you to find at least a copy-editor, and publish it anyhow, because rent is due and you don’t care about return readers. Banned from groups for over-promotion? Tell everyone how unfair it is, and then join ten more groups to use for free promotion. Buying ads? Ain’t nobody got cash for that, man! Promoting yourself in another author’s fan group? Well, heck, my book is sorta like that guy’s book…

You all know someone like that. The one that makes you cringe, and wonder if you are overdoing it with your own book. The one that when you admit you’re an Indie Author, people wonder if you’re driving around with a trunk full of copies, flogging them at flea markets or begging people to take a copy just so your garage might eventually empty out.

It is possible to self-promote without being That Guy. Making an ass of yourself only happens if you ignore the feedback from others. Ideally? You’ll grow a group of readers who will turn into fans and they’ll be the ones bringing up your book when a call is put out for a good read. Also, there are paid promotional opportunities to pitch your book, in email lists and ads that are targeted. Dorothy Grant put together a great list of these, and there are more out there if you look.

But first, stop and think. Where did you find the last books you read? Who told you about them? Why did you decide to pick them up?

It’s a tough balance, between blowing our own horns and picking up a damn vuvuzuela. Pay attention to rules, don’t choose to be That Guy, and do share your own links from time to time on your own wall/page/tweet-whatever. I found out today that I have cousins – admittedly, not close ones, but still – that had no idea I was an author. Which amused me highly since I was being approached to write some free content. Um. Thanks?

Remember, guys. Exposure will kill you. And being the one running around flashing your junk will get you attention, all right. It just might not be the attention you think it is!

Networking works for Writers

(Cedar here. I’m sick and slightly incoherent. My dear husband surprised me with something nicer than flowers or chocolates: a post so I wouldn’t have to write one)

Networking, when we think of that word it is usually someone using a network of friends to land a job or contract. We think of it in the realm of business, it can be useful to writers as well. Take today for example. I’m writing this essay on networking because Cedar has been sick for a couple of days and probably won’t be able to write as coherently as she would wish in the morning. While open floors are not unknown here an actual post is preferable, and the schedule doesn’t remember that people get sick. If she does write a Mad Genius Club post this one can go into archives and be pulled out as needed.

Now when I talk about networking for writers there are several areas to network in. This post is from a personal support network. If Cedar wasn’t stubborn about getting well “NOW” she has any number of writing friends that would be happy to do a post for her. Some of them because they are smart enough to be doing their own networking and others because they want a little exposure. Oddly enough those are both the same group, the second one just doesn’t realize it.

Now what kinds of networks should a writer cultivate? I’m not sure. A lot depends on the aims and situation of the individual. Someone who plans to be traditionally published eventually needs to network with editors, while someone who has sworn never to go through a traditional house might not, or so they think. After all, different networks of editors exist and some of them can be vital to the indie author. I’ll tell you some of the networks I’ve seen and why they work. Note, I am not a real writer, just someone who can write and does so on occasion. I am closely networked to a number of them and have been observing.

 Ok, first thing to do is figure out which networks you need. If you are a WriterPseudocoffeehousis  then all the network you need is the social group you are trying to impress. If you are someone who writes and the stuff will never be finished or seen you don’t even need that much. If you actually finish things and are willing for them to be seen you need more.

Your first, and ultimately most important network is your fans. Fans talk about authors they like and do grassroots promotion.  But, but, but I don’t have any fans you wail? Wrong. You have fans, or at least potential fans, they are your seed. Ultimately, if you are successful as a writer this network will consists of thousands, possibly millions of fans, right now that number may be much smaller. Ok, that “may be” is in case someone Like Larry Correia or John Ringo reads this blog. For more normal humans it will be much smaller.

Who makes up this network of fans I was talking about everyone having? Well it depends. Even if you are extremely reclusive you still have your mother, or possibly the old harridan down the street that is thrilled every time you kick the neighbor’s yappy poodle. I can’t say for your exact situation. For most of us the network of fans consists of family and friends at the very basis. Now if you are on social media you will probably have a potential fan base among them. And every one of them is hoping for your success as an author. They all want to be able to name drop that they are good buddies with the next JK Rowling.

Still that is a few hundred at best for most of us, we don’t have such huge networks unless we have had a lot of success already. This is why a John Ringo will have a waiting list of people wanting to friend him and a newbie is sending out friend requests to anyone they think might have some influence with someone who has influence. And those newbies are correct in a way. The larger number of readers on your friend lists the higher likelihood that some of them will buy your work when published.

There are other ways to build your fan base, even if you are not publishing anything soon, if ever.  Guest blogging on a blog with followers can get you exposure and, if they like what you write, fans. Starting your own blog can be another way. I’m no expert on building your fan base, but I know it is something that needs multiple approaches. You can even go my route and marry into a fan base.

Above all you need to be interesting to people. Whether in your actual life or in your public writings. I have become aware that I have a fan base. I’m not really sure how I got one, other than the previously mentioned marriage, but I have one. I developed it by making snarky comments and writing guest blogs with a bit of bitter edge to them. Do not think that snark and bitterness are the way to build a fanbase. Those things work for me in a small way. They would not work for someone else, or maybe they would, thing is, your way of building must suit your personality, not someone else’s. I know of a middling famous author who has horrible personal problems because of the way he chose to build his fan base. He is a tea and crumpets kind of guy who keeps meeting fangirls who think he is a whips and chains type.

So, now you know that you must network your fans, what other networks do you need? Well let’s go back to those editors I mentioned earlier.  If you want to be traditionally published networking editors is very useful. If your manuscript comes across the desk of an editor and she remembers that you are the one who gallantly laid your cloak across the puddle so that she wouldn’t get her shoes muddy she will automatically look with more favor upon your work. On the other hand, if he remember you pinching his butt just before throwing up in his lap you will probably get a less favorable look. This includes public positions taken. A sad puppy will have a higher bar to cross with a Tor editor than Joe Nameless who made no waves.

Now for Indies who are sitting there saying “I don’t need an editor network I’m publishing through Amazon” you are dead wrong. You probably need an editor network more than the traditional guys do. The biggest complaint in bad reviews for indies is usually the editing. Now a lot of that is people finding typos. If the book were traditionally published they wouldn’t even notice the typos. Much traditional publishing contains typos worse than much indie work, you’ll still get the complaints. You need a copy editor, period. I don’t care how much of a Grammar Nazi you are, you will miss stuff in your own work. The copy editor won’t catch all of them either, but it will help. You may also need a structure editor. Some people can write clearly and tell a complete story without needing a structure editor. Most can’t. What a structure editor can do is find that gaping hole in your logic that has the Evil Overlord being so incompetent at something he has already proven competent at. Now it might be that he is just having a blond moment, if so you have to show that. This is where the structure editor can help.

Now that I have shown that you need an editor or two, why do you need to network them?  Why can’t you just hire one from their ad on FailBook and be done? Well all editors are not created equal. And if the one you have been using is busy for the next two years, well, you need to find another one. A network that includes editors will help you find one that does copy editing, maybe a structural editor. More importantly a good network will help you avoid the incompetent. Many people talk a good game at various skills, most of them aren’t all that good. Even if someone is a good copy editor normally, they might be horrible for you. There is a possibly apocryphal story about one of the early twentieth century editors,  Ring Lardner I think, memory is failing me now. A copy editor went through and corrected all his spelling and grammar on a story. Made it unreadable. He wrote in the vernacular and his slang made the stories.

So find a good editor network and join it, find your fanbase network and expand it. Find all your networks and work them. It may or may not help your writing, It’ll damned sure help your business side.

Speaking of networking, there is a new book out you may want to check out:

jade star ebook coverJade Star is now available in ebook and print formats.

So it begins…

Jade is determined to die. She is old, and feels useless, when she points her tiny subspace craft at the cold stars. She wakes up in the care of others who refuse to grant her death, and instead give her a new mission in life complete with a new body.

Jade isn’t happy, and she only gets angrier when she learns that her mysterious new home hides a horrible secret. It’s time for this old lady to kick butt and take names. Aliens, death, destruction… nothing trumps the fierce old woman who is protecting her family.

 

Bought and Paid For

Sometimes I see a review on Amazon that makes me do the puppy thing – you know, cock my head and make that little “baroo?” noise. Amanda shared a link to a book with an improbably high original price (marked down to free, for now, though) and seriously questionable antecedents, and after I laughed at it, I read the reviews. When I found this: “exelene article Delivery time is punctual and responsible for everything that is recommended to all is the best way to shop …” I sat back and thought that’s the first spam comment review I have ever seen. But then again, reviews are becoming suspect.

I do read reviews on books I’m thinking about buying (other products, too) on Amazon. I’ll hunt down reviews outside Amazon from time to time, but they are handy right there, so that is usually what I look at first. But I do this with an awareness that I cannot always trust what they say. I hear from people outside the industry that they no longer trust reviews, either, because they keep hearing about the reviews being paid for, to give a book lots of nice boost.

But, what about the time-honored practice of giving away copies of books in return for a review? Isn’t that the same as say, this? When you can buy five book reviews for only $30, why worry about what the unwashed public has to say about your book? The service even guarantees you won’t get a harsh review, saying “we can’t guarantee all bloggers will love your book but we do ask bloggers to only post fair and professional reviews. If a blogger really can’t get into your book we ask them to refrain from posting anything too harsh as reviews can make or break an authors career! It should also be noted we don’t believe it is ethical to pay bloggers for ‘good’ reviews.”

Maybe this is why we find reviews on the book with, I kid you not, the World’s Worst Cover, praising it to the heavens. Midwest Book Review wrote this: “Ancient curses can be quite the ruiner of one’s day. “The Mystery of the Mummy” is another novel from Roger D. Grubbs following the continuing adventures of Andrew Rogers and Kathleen McGregor as they are tasked with stopping a millennia old curse from consuming the world around them. If they don’t act quickly, the mummy will be more than some ancient sack of bones, but the death of us all. “The Mystery of the Mummy” is a top pick for suspense fans, highly recommended.” In fact, all six reviews on this book are in the 5 star range, leaving me wondering what lies beneath that truly horrifying cover photo. After having peeked inside, I am disinclined to plunk down the money to endure the rest of it. It’s just as bad as the cover.

No wonder then that book reviews are losing ground as trustworthy indicators of a book’s merit. I can generally tell if an Amazon review is sincere – for one thing, any negative comments without being all negative are likely an honest appraisal. Not every reader will like every book. I have a few blogs I read reviews on and trust. I myself review books on my blog every Friday, mostly Indie authors, trying to give an authentic review when I do so. But the concept of shelling out money for reviews strikes me as wrong. What do you, kind readers, think? marketing is hard for us authors, requiring a lot of our time and effort. Reviewers obviously need some reward for their efforts in reading, but is a free book enough? Is even that too much? I’m not a proponent of making anyone work for nothing. But I look at my reviews as a tip after having bought the books and already spent something, the review is worth perhaps more to the author than that money. I’ve accepted some books for review on my blog, but I am wary of doing so, as I feel that by doing that, I’m obligating myself to that author.

Which, as it turns out, there are regulations about (I should have known… aren’t there regs about everything these days?). Shiny Book Review, a site I know and trust (full disclosure, they reviewed Vulcan’s Kittens, giving it a B- for editing problems. Which led to me having a professional editor go over it, but I digress.) has a whole section on the ethics of how they handle reviews. And they have made my mind easier about the whole obligation thing. “One more thing: the FCC now requires that a disclaimer be made regarding books sent to Shiny Book Review and/or any book review sites.   That disclaimer is as follows: we at SBR are often sent free books, but are under no obligation — none whatsoever — to give anything except our opinion, freely stated.

And this led me to do a little more poking. I found a well-written article at a food blog, of all places, which normally I wouldn’t cite, but she does it so well. Included are links back to the regulations themselves, so you can explore to your heart’s content if you so choose. I just don’t have time, a house to clean, homework, and all that jazz. Which means that most people probably don’t bother to look at them, either, and accepting paid reviews might not be a good idea if anyone ever comes looking closely at the sites you are reviewed on. Not a scandal you want your book tarred with. So in the end, trust no one, er, walk with caution, and if you do reviews, make it clear how you were compensated, even if only with a free book.

In the end, after asking around, I’m not sure random reviews are even given any weight by consumers any longer. Goodreads has been plagued by scandal, Amazon has too many sock-puppets, other mass review sites like Library Thing are just too obscure for the general public. As a reader, I have people I trust to review a book which I will buy on their recommendation. Most of them are not in the business of giving out reviews, it’s just a whole-hearted “oh, this one is good!” Larry Correia’s book bombs, Howard Tayler’s blogunderschlock, David Pascoe’s random reviews… those are the books that grab my attention and get me to hunt them down and buy them. I’ve rarely been disappointed that way.

As an author, I’m still mulling over what this means, other than the oft-repeated ‘word-of-mouth’ is the best marketing of all. You can’t beg, buy, or steal publicity like those spontaneous reviews. When you get one, it’s like a standing ovation, and the three I have gotten I am more grateful for than I can express. Buying reviews would only cheapen that, for me.