Friday, May 30, 2014

A Heads-up Report on GoodReads Book Give-Away

I have never claimed to be the brightest bulb in the box.

When I was setting up my book give-away on GoodReads I never gave much consideration to the cost factor of sending a book to someone in another country. If anything, I was smitten with the idea of having people in other English speaking nations read my novel. After all, the egotistical dreamer in me imagined the label “international best-seller,” to precede the book’s title one day in the future. (I like to practice positive thinking.)

So, after noting that give-away books were to be actual physical copies and not an e-book version, the next choice I had to make was, to which countries other than the U.S. was I willing to ship? With a confident smile on my face I chose Canada and United Kingdom.

My give-away was for three books and lasted a month. Seven hundred fifty-eight people signed up to win. Hopefully, a good percentage of those people read the back blurb and want to read my book. That’s advertising in my opinion. I purchase my books at wholesale cost. How much could postage possibly be, anyway?

The right size bubble pack mailers from the post office cost $1.39 each. Not bad for the convenience.  One book went to North Dakota. Even though it is the beginning of summer, I envisioned the recipient snuggling down in a comfy chair with my book, sipping from a mug of hot cocoa and occasionally looking out their window as a blanket of snow covered the pastoral country-side.

My mind evoked much the same image, but with the addition of huge cedar trees looming nearby when I discovered the second book recipient lived in Alberta, Canada. The third vision differed slightly; a heavy fog rising from the ground in the midst of a cold steady rain and sheep huddled together on the patchwork of rolling hills because the third winner was from Great Britain. (I'm a James Herriot fan.)

My book (just shy of 400 pages) would be shipping from Oklahoma.

The cost to ship to North Dakota was $3.17. Postage to Canada, $13.75, caused my eyes to open wide.  I swallowed hard when I discovered that to mail the small package “across the pond” was a staggering $20.45. The latter two packages also had to have customs forms filled out.  Grand total $40.55. 

Hmm. So how can I best word this? A Community of Butterflies: Chrysalis, Barbara Shoff’s breakout novel, a stalker-thriller, is now received by international audiences. 

Sounds good to me.

Considering my budget, I think I will limit future contest give-aways to the continental U.S. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

In Pursuit of the Elusive Amazon and GoodReads Review

 adjective \ē-ˈlü-siv, -ˈlü-ziv\
: hard to find or capture

A few weeks ago I decided to be more consistent with my blog posts. Blog consistency, I am told by the “experts,” helps build your “platform” and your “brand.”

My brand is me. A no frills, tell it like I experience it, no candy coating, we are all in this together, root for the underdog perspective person.

The “experts” say one’s platform and brand are essential to becoming a “successful” writer. With that comment I suggest we eat a smidgen of salt.

I am further told by those with varying degrees of “success” that one’s platform must consist, at the very least, of various interconnected social media applications, such as:  a private website, a blog, pages on GoodReads, Facebook, Pinterest, Linked-in, Tumblr and Twitter. Don’t forget AboutMe and Instagram. These various parts of your platform should work together in harmony (which I understand means having a button that links to the other sites with a single mouse click) and, when available, transports newly created material added to one site to all the others simultaneously, and includes timed released scheduled materials so one can achieve a broad reach in shouting to the world about new products of your personal brand, and, most importantly, a way to collect the names and emails of all those who hear your shouts because you need to prove you have a customer base and have a way to let customers know when your next product (book) is released so you can achieve more sales, which means greater success. The creation of more books gives you more products to offer. Take a breath.

If you are over a certain age, think about all of this as advertising on ABC, CBS, and NBC, with spots airing during the evening and morning news, Sunday ads in local newspapers, billboard displays on the busiest streets and radio ads on the most popular stations.  

Of course, as I have expressed in the past, this all depends on one’s definition of success. In this particular blog article I am addressing financial success.

To be honest, instead of consistency, I will write articles that are of importance to me and address issues other writers may be pondering and struggling with, rather than simply spewing up anything for the sake of filling a page on a daily or weekly basis.  I prefer to spend more time writing my next book. So, know this - if you subscribe to what I write, I won’t be frequently clogging up your email unless I discover or question something important to you and me as writers. Or, if I have a new release. (Not something I do on a weekly basis.)

According to the dictionary, and expert is defined as a person having a high degree of skill or knowledge of a certain subject.

So, for the sake of this article, it would make sense that an expert is a person who has made a ton of money writing and selling her or his book. This means s/he has obtained hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of reviews. OR has really studied the subject matter.
BECAUSE, as all would-be-successful-writers know, lots of good REVIEWS DRIVE SALES. We know this because we have heard it from the “experts.”

This subject must be important. Consider my search on Google researching for this article. Using the search words “how to get reviews on Amazon” returned “about 941,000,000 results in 0.49 seconds.”

So, I would say I am not the only person pondering the issue of the elusive review.

I have read many of these articles (no, not all of them, goose) and discovered that, of the 941,000,000 results, a large percentage of articles are willing to share the “secret” for the price of becoming a member of a successful writers club, or a writer is selling a book with detailed information answering this question.  Other links offer to sell you reviews, the cost of which breaks down on one popular site to a few pennies shy of $35 per review.

Give me a break.

At that rate, if you are selling books on Amazon in the “sweet spot” (again, identified by experts) of between $2.99 and $3.99 for an e-book, as a writer you are going to be making between $2.50 and $3.25/book. An indie writer without an agent receives 70% of the sales price. So, a writer would need to sell about 10 books for every review s/he receives.

This is not exactly cost effective if it is true that most books don’t sell with speed or consistency until there are at least 100 reviews in the first place.

This is enough to make any writer feel like a dog chasing its own tail.

One answer that I am told works well is to give your book away for a brief period.  Yes, I was sucked in to this way of thinking. I come from the “try it and see what happens” school. I learn by experience. I am sharing my experiences for free through this blog. One day when I am rich and famous I will charge for my lecture and secret sharing abilities.

One writer told me she received a plethora of reviews following such a promotion.

I recently read that an author receives about 1 review per 1000 free downloads. My friend’s freebie promotion last year over Mother’s Day resulted in about 35,000 downloads, after she sent announcements a week in advance to 25 different places that promote free downloads. (Mother’s Day is one of the biggest sale times for e-readers and, according to some, makes the perfect time to offer the free book promotion.)

I banked on getting the word out about my free book offer via a 35 count blog tour that started on Mother’s Day and the two days following. The cost of such a tour is less than $50.

For the three days, I gave away a whopping, or in the eyes of some, a paltry 1057 free downloads.  Hmm. If the ratio of numbers are right on downloads to reviews, I’ll get ONE.

As self-justification, I didn’t know about getting the word out to the freebie promotional sites until I was in the middle of packing for a convention and booking future author sales/signing opportunities.

At the Oklahoma Writers Federation Inc. convention I attended I received mixed messages from the experts.

One successful author told us never to solicit or promote our books via Facebook and GoodReads. It is not considered proper author etiquette.  Another highly successful author explains she does announce her new books on Facebook, but mostly she engages with her fans.

But, darn it, I need fans. To get fans I need reviews. I have been very clear to those who follow me on any social media that I appreciate reviews. Not exactly the same as asking, right? More like a really, really big hint. (I want to sincerely thank those who have already advised me that a review is on the way.)

I have also learned that what worked last year via social media doesn't mean it’s going to work this year.

For instance, Amazon has changed things. At one time, downloads of free books in a promotion counted toward overall book rankings. Not so anymore. Free books are now counted separately from paid downloads. There are so many authors offering free books at any given time, now it is like having a grocery store full of taste test tables. Everyone knows that if you go to the store hungry, you are going to spend more money buying food. However, if at the end of every aisle someone offers something to eat, a consumer might get full before s/he gets halfway through the store.

A study in Publisher’s Review several years ago has remained pretty consistent even in this computer age, "... an author’s reputation impacts 52% of sales, personal recommendations (word of mouth advertising) encourages 49% of sales, book reviews account for 37%, a good back blurb counts for 22% and advertising impacts at about 14%."

Currently, as a writer, I am unknown to the masses so I lack a reputation.Therefore, I find myself asking my friends and those who have read and like my books to please recommend them to their friends (as well as any stranger who passes within a foot of them any time of the day and anyplace they may be). If you notice I am deliberately not asking for a reviews in this article. I want to be maintain professional author etiquette. (The last statement is not to be construed in any way to mean I do not want, need or appreciate every review I receive. I honestly, truly do.) Also, I want to thank those who assisted me with wording for my back blurb. 

 I have no advertising budget, but hey, prayers are free. 
Can I get an, "Amen" ?