In celebration of almost cracking the top 100K overall book ranking on Amazon, for TWO DAYS ONLY, my bestselling novella Vindictus, The Dark Lord will be FREE on Kindle, May 29th & May 30th. Don’t miss your chance to finally own the complete story that XNers’ have raved about for years. If you never read the whole story, now is the time to act!
Before I start this, I want to make it clear that this article isn’t really about Bret Michaels having a copy of my book. Bret does not endorse me, he is not affiliated with me, and I can’t say he’s a reader of mine, although it is possible he might become one, if I’m super lucky.
I suppose I should start from the beginning, but to do that would be to go back approximately twenty-seven years, back to when a gawky thirteen year old was living in hell on earth in an abusive home, back when she heard salvation on the radio, a voice, his voice, the voice of the man who would forever change the outlook a scared, abused thirteen year old girl would have on life.
I don’t want to rehash the past because it’s too painful, and I have come too far and wrestled with too many personal demons to start dredging up old pains. So instead, let’s just leave it with saying my home life growing up left a lot to be desired. But no matter how hard things got, my saving grace through it all had been Bret Michaels.
I have often posted about why Bret means so much to me, why he is my mentor. I see in him a kindred spirit, someone who won’t take “no” for an answer and is unphased by rejection. I see my love of music and the creative process mirrored in his eyes, the expression on his face. Because of him, because of his ability and willingness to look adversity straight in the face and say, “I will make it regardless of what you say or do to me,” I too have felt inspired to never waiver in my dreams of becoming a published author. It is through Bret’s courage that I have found my own courage to not only keep writing over the past three decades, but to take that step into the publishing world by creating my own publishing house and becoming a 100% independently published author.
So I know you are all wondering what any of this has to do with this blog article. Let’s fast-forward to January of this year when I came across the Bret Michaels FaceBook Fan Club community. I was already a member of so many groups and communities, but after looking through this one I wanted to be a part of it. So many smiling faces sharing photos of themselves and Bret over the years. It was awesome to behold, so many people who had been touched by Bret much the way that he has touched me over the years.
If anyone has actually read The Red Fang, you know that the book was dedicated to Bret. That’s a photo of the dedication page above. More than anything else, I wanted Bret to know just what he means to me, not only the ‘me’ that has grown up over the years, but the ‘me’ that is a writer, that part of me that can’t stop doing what I love no matter how many rejection letters I get and no matter how many bad reviews I get.
So I took a chance. I posted this photo in the fan club and pretty much confessed my desperation to get my book into Bret’s hands. I work full time, I have 3 kids and a husband, and I write whenever I get a few spare moments. The chances of me actually ever getting to meet Bret, much less be able to give him my book in person, just isn’t likely to happen. So I asked if someone was going to a meet and greet and would be willing to give Bret an autographed copy of my latest novel, the novel I dedicated to him. Would there be anyone out there who would be willing to take a book written by some independently published author, from Mississippi no less, to an uber famous rock star and say, “This book is dedicated to you and the crazy self-published author insists you have a copy”?
That is when I met super cool, totally awesome, I-am-forever-in-her-debt Bret Michaels fan, Connie Saucier-Peck.
Connie, the luckily lady that she is, has been to more meet and greets than I can count. She’s like a Bret Michaels connoisseur. And oh-so-lucky and over-the-moon-happy me, she was willing to use her meet and greet pass, her one shot to speak with Bret, her one time to interact with this man, to actually hand him MY book and tell him he has another crazy author-fan out there who dedicated a book to him. That in itself is absolutely phenomenal. It’s humbling to know that Connie was willing to share her precious seconds with Bret to speak about a no-name author who she met in an online fan club and hand him his autographed copy.
The real kicker is that she not only managed to talk him into taking a photograph holding the book, but that Bret Michaels is the kind of person who was willing to pose for such a photo. She didn’t have to ask, and he didn’t have to agree to it, but damn, when she sent me this photo I started crying, and I was shaking so bad that I had to sit down. There simply are not words to describe how excited, and humbled, and totally awe-struck I was at that moment. I still can hardly believe it. And when she told me that Bret handed over his own personal cellphone to one of the event staff members so he could get a photo of him holding the book as well…I am not ashamed to admit that I might have wee-wee’d myself a bit.
As I said, this article isn’t about the fact that Bret Michaels now has a copy of my book, which Bret Michaels might actually, accidently read it, maybe, hopefully, if I’m really, really lucky. What this article is about is the human spirit, those people who come into our lives and help out strangers out of the kindness of their heart. Connie did not have to waste her time taking that book to him, and she certainly didn’t have to get him to pose with it for a photo, and she didn’t have to send me that photo, and Bret didn’t have to agree to take the photo, but out of the kindness of their hearts, they both agreed to help this unknown, struggling author see part of her dream come true.
And from where I’m sitting, those dreams don’t seem so far out of reach.
Our series on bad marketing ploys continues with a look at additional marketing “ideas” that you may have witnessed in your FB feed or seen rearing its disturbing head on blogs and websites. If you are guilty of indulging in any of these promotional gimmicks, be warned. Your readers are on to you, and so are other independently published authors who are tired of getting a bad rap as an unprofessional because of the actions of a few. Read on for an in-depth look into marketing ideas that you are better off not using if you want to be looked upon by readers and other writers as a professional author.
Marketing Ploy #2: Pity Party!
“I’m being bullied by mean people leaving negative reviews on my books instead of all those 5 stars that I KNOW I deserve.”
“I’m disabled and my book sales are my only source of income!”
“My child is disabled and my book sales help offset her doctor bills.”
“I have a health condition and my book sales help offset my hospital costs.”
“Poor me! No one is reading my books!”
With Facebook being all the rage these days, virtually anyone can not only slap up a book onto Amazon for an instant publication, but they can also create a FB account, a community, group, and author page with just a few clicks of a mouse. The next thing you know, you have amassed yourself a few thousand friends who are picking apart everything you say or post. And herein is where authors apparently have a hard time separating their personal lives from their “professional” lives.
As an author, you will want to always present yourself as a professional just like any other. Even if being a writer isn’t your full time job, and it rarely is, you should conduct yourself as if it WERE your full-time, professional career and conduct yourself accordingly. You want to present yourself as a caring, intelligent, and honest person. Your personal life and events are just that, personal. They should not be broadcasted in minute detail over FB, blogs, and pages in an effort to make people feel sorry for you. You want people to buy your books because they are a good read, not because they are being guilted into buying it. Yet, more and more readers are complaining of seeing this growing trend amongst self-published authors and writers in their FB feeds. People are using their sob stories and personal tragedies to sell more books. Readers are getting wee-wee’d off about it, and rightly so.
While it is perfectly fine to post a quick comment about being MIA for a few days due to personal issues, it is NOT okay to use those personal issues to make your readers feel sorry for you or to try to guilt them into buying your book. No one should even have to tell you that it is dishonest and extremely unprofessional, yet I myself have seen authors on my own FB feeds play up their recent job losses, their or their child’s disabilities, their high risk pregnancies, their divorce, and most recently, their declarations of being “bullied” by readers who would dare to leave a low-star review on their books, among other things. Again, such behavior is very unbecoming of an author. If you are going to claim to be a professional writer, then you better start acting like one. Otherwise, you are going to lose readers and authors who do not want to be associated with anyone who uses such trickery into trying to squeeze a few more sales out of their customers.
Marketing Ploy #3: I’m a best seller!
Nothing will make a reader roll their eyes quicker than seeing an unknown indie author proclaiming to be an Amazon “best seller.” Unless your book has hit one of the other roughly six national best sellers list, the use of this title means nothing to a reader other than you are trying to boost sales by bragging about being on a list that doesn’t actually exist.
For those who have not looked into how the Amazon Best Sellers Ranking is calculated, then you might be surprised to learn that Amazon refuses to tell anyone HOW it calculates that list. Experts have speculated that it is a complicated mathematical equation dealing with total number of copies sold by any one author in relation to total number of copies sold on Amazon by all authors across all Amazon stores. Regardless of how it is calculated, the list itself is updated hourly. So even if you actually did manage to hit it once for that one hour, that doesn’t constitute a best seller. It only means that the specific book in question is selling a lot of copies for that specific moment in time. The reality is that unless you hit that list and can stay on it every single hour of the day for 30 days straight, you are not a best seller, you are merely a best seller for an hour.
Let’s look at the math to better understand this. Let’s say that you do hit the list once and you sell 500 copies that day for that one hour but only sell 25,000 copies for the entire year. Now let’s say another author sells only 100 copies a day. They will never hit the Amazon Top 100 Best Selling list with those kinds of numbers, but if they consistently sell 100 copies per day, they will have sold 36,500 copies for the entire year. So as you can see, from a numbers stand point, the author who sold the most copies in a year would clearly have more right to the title of Best Seller. However, since Amazon produces this list based on hourly sales, the title itself is of little marketing value and readers are not using it as a means to determine whether or not they will purchase a book. In all actuality, a lot of readers will purposely NOT buy a book from any author who is claiming to be an Amazon best seller. Why? Because so many self published authors have been using it as a “catch phrase” to entice readers into buying books that ultimately did not live up to either the authors’ claims or the readers’ expectations. To put it bluntly, the book wasn’t nearly as good as all the “hype” drummed up by the author and their street team proclaimed. Because of this, readers are learning the hard way to steer clear of authors who use the phrase “best seller” as a marketing line.
It has often been said that a book should sink or swim on its own merit. That isn’t to say that authors should not promote and advertise their book. However, more and more self published authors are using the insta-publishing now available like it was the wild west, thinking that anything and everything goes when it comes to self-promotion. This is just not the case. To put it plainly, as an author, you should be conducting yourself as if you were representing Random House. Think about that for a moment. If you had just been picked up by Random House, would you be on your FB trying to guilt people into buying your books because of a disability, or because you were getting negative reviews, or because you were recently divorced? The answer would be no, and the reason why you wouldn’t do that is because you would be too worried that the publisher would drop you because you were not acting like a professional writer worthy of being carried by Random House. So before you start laying on the pity party, astroturfing your reviews, and begging people to buy your books, ask yourself if you would want anyone from any of the big publishing houses to see and judge your professionalism according to that post. Chances are, you wouldn’t want them to see you in that light, so why would you want your readers to see you acting so unprofessional as well?
Continuing on with our theme of bad marketing ideas, guest blogger Brian Wilkerson weighs in on the topic with his article “Reviews, Not Endorsements.”
This article originally appeared here: http://trickstereric.blogspot.com/2014/01/reviews-not-endorsements.html and is being reposted with the written consent of the blog’s owner, Brian Wilkerson.
First, a disclaimer: I don’t have anything against quick or short reviews. My style requires a lot of time and I understand that few people want to spend their leisure writing an essay about their reaction to a book. What I dislike are reviews that sound more like advertisements than reviews.
When strolling through Amazon, I find reviews that disturb me. They’re all composed of the same basic phrases: “couldn’t put it down”, “when’s the next one”, “recommend to all age groups/everyone/anyone that likes reading.” In three paragraphs, it’s easy to overlook them but when a review is one paragraph and made entirely of these phrases it raises a red flag. I think “Is this a paid review?” or “Did this person read the book?”. When I gush about things, I go into detail. I avoid spoilers or warn of them, of course, but I want them to know exactly what I liked about a book so they will understand how great the story is and read it themselves. Generic reviews are a waste because they contain nothing specific about the story and so they could be copied and pasted any number of times.
A reviewer isn’t doing an author any favors by turning their review into a endorsement. It sounds fake. Often times, it sounds cheesy. Posing questions that the novel ‘answers’ or saying that it bucks trends or some such; you don’t sound like a reviewer you sound like a promoter. Nobody trusts a promoter because the promoter is biased. They’re looking for an honest and informed opinion.
When I write a review it is long and it is thorough. If I dislike something about the book then I am sure to include it. I give A+s sparingly and even then I don’t sound like “OMG! This book is awesome!!!!” It’s a point of professionalism. Even for books that are not review requests, I follow the same format. Three sentences of generic praise may bolster the rank but it doesn’t help the reader (at least, it doesn’t help a reader like me) decide on whether or not to read the book.
I use bland language for this reason. Poetic lines are not professional because you sound like you’re trying too hard to impress. By using such language you’re trying to turn your review into something that is more than your personal opinion about a work; you’re trying to make your review into a work itself. I find that silly and arrogant. Reviews are not supposed to be read like a book or a poem. They’re supposed to inform a potential reader (and customer) about the book from the perspective of another reader and customer. Nobody cares how witty or enjoyable your reviews are because they’re interested in whether or not you liked the book. (I recognize there are exceptions: newspaper columnists and bloggers etc can have fan followings of their own, but in that case, what they’re reviewing is less important than the review itself.)
Genuine reviews are more effective promotions than promotions pretending to be reviews because the former has substance. It is unique. A promotion will not be unique and so has no substance. It’s little more than literary junkfood.