Tag Archives: book promotion

Out of the Closet with Author Services

For the past decade, I’ve been an editor first and foremost. My ideal is to help authors make their storylines sing and their characters so three-dimensional, they practically leap off the page. I also aim to smooth out my clients’ dishevelled sentences and slim down their bloated prose. I nitpick to make sure the wrong words aren’t capitalized and the quotation marks are turned the right way around and are consistently curly (or straight, if you prefer). Like most editors I know, my editing work runs the gamut from the big-picture stuff to the finest details. But lately, I’ve been doing more than editing.

As the years have flown by, more and more authors have turned to me to help them promote their books, and I’ve found myself writing for them. I admit, I fell into this–it wasn’t something I actively pursued. Initially, I lacked confidence in my ability to help, but I’ve gained a lot of experience and received plenty of positive feedback from clients about what I’ve written for them.  As I’ve gained self-assurance, I’ve discovered that I love the challenge of this work. And it’s so gratifying to have another way, besides editing, of helping my clients realize their publishing dreams. Until now I’ve been quiet about my writing work, but I’m declaring myself out of the closet. Loudly and proudly, I’m officially adding Author Services to my bag of tricks!

For those of you wondering what writing services for authors I offer, here’s a brief rundown:

Back-cover Blurbs. You’re self-publishing and need a catchy blurb that will hook potential readers emotionally and convey your novel in a nutshell–without giving too much away, of course. Writing a good blurb always gives me a delicious thrill (I’m funny that way), and I love the opportunity to use my words to move people to read your book.

Note: “Blurb” in this case does not refer to critical reviews that may appear on your book’s cover.  It’s unethical to write these for an author when I have worked on their book.

Query Letters. You’re trying to pitch your short story to a magazine or your novel to an agent or publisher and don’t know to tackle the all-important query letter. I’ll craft a concise one that will cover everything it needs to and help get you noticed.

Chapter Summaries. You’ve been asked by a publisher to submit succinct chapter summaries, but you feel much too close to your work and can’t find the forest for the trees. Using vigorous, engaging writing, I’ll zero in on the essential plot threads in each chapter.

Synopses. Boiling a novel down to five or six hundred words is a task most writers dread, and with good reason–it’s tough work, especially when it’s your baby. Your synopsis can’t read like a dull, mechanical account of events; a good one tells your story but in a lively, colourful way. I can help.

Biographies. Whether it’s for the back cover of your book or for your website, tell me about yourself and I’ll help you, Mr. or Ms. Author, present yourself in the most flattering light.

Although I’m delighted to write any of the above, I will edit your versions if you’d prefer. Whether I’m starting from scratch or simply polishing your existing material, we’ll work together to create the best blurbs, query letters, summaries, synopses, and biographies we possibly can.

 

One Approach to Creating a Facebook Author Page

When I was writing my novel Virginia’s Ghost and already thinking of ways to promote it, I felt intimidated by the notion of a Facebook author page. What would I post? I perused other author pages and noticed lots of posts on upcoming public appearances and detailed notes about the progress of books. That seemed all very well for high-profile authors with an established following, but no one knew who I was, so why would anybody give a fig if I announced I was on page 47 of my second draft?

Realizing my self-confidence was crumbling from dwelling on what the literary luminaries were doing, I resolved to find my own strategy. As a new and unknown author, I had to. I decided to focus on drawing people into the various themes of my book, which include antiques, auctions, the 1920s, art deco style, flappers, historical Toronto, and ghosts. I hoped that by posting little informative and entertaining tidbits on these themes–accompanied by appetizing visuals–I would arouse curiosity about the world represented in my novel.

Sometimes I deliberately made the connection for people between the images I posted and Virginia’s Ghost, but often not.  I didn’t want the page to always be about my book, as I thought other people would find this narrow focus pretty tedious. And I especially didn’t want the page to become a platform for blatant self-promotion. I’ve seen far too many tiresome Facebook author pages that hammer people with one message: “Buy my book!!!” This looks amateurish (especially with all those exclamation marks), and my reaction to it is usually “No thanks.”

But because it was an author page, I obviously wasn’t going to neglect the subject of my book altogether, so I did and still do include posts about Virginia’s Ghost. When my book was in production (yes, I started a Facebook page months before I published), I posted the cover image and gave a few updates on how things were going during the design and proofreading processes. Now and then I post excerpts from the novel that are illustrated with some particularly appropriate image, or I chat briefly about where I’m at with the sequel. On rare occasions, I do some sort of giveaway that again puts my book briefly in the spotlight.

What I’m saying is that a wide variety of types of posts–a balanced approach–is critical to creating an interesting page. Personally, I prefer just a dab of promotion, and I like to be fairly understated about it. What I’m really keen on is connecting and engaging with people who like the same things I do because it’s just so much fun. I like being part of my own little tribe, and the bonus is that those who are in it might buy the book someday. But I don’t want to push it on them.

I tend to post several times a week (daily if possible), and I always aim for high-quality content. When I really put a lot of effort into writing a post and finding that perfect accompanying image, more people like and comment on it.  A thoughtful post also consistently reaches a lot more people (for those who don’t know, Facebook informs you about how many people you’ve reached with each post). If you’re lazy and simply repost links to articles that have been making the rounds, especially without giving much additional commentary, you likely won’t receive much of a response. Effort and originality go a long way.

You can increase your followers by sharing your posts with like-minded Facebook groups. One of my favourites is Flappers and Bootleggers, a delightful group of people who are enthusiastic and knowledgeable about anything related to the 1920s. By posting art deco-era fashions and collectibles to this page, I have managed to acquire numerous new Facebook fans, many of whom regularly like and comment on my posts.

What I don’t recommend is succumbing to the allure of Facebook ads to attract new followers. I advertised for a week shortly after I launched my book last September, and while I did acquire the set number of new likes that Facebook had promised me (fancy that), few of the “likers” seemed legitimate. I don’t recall any of these people commenting on my posts, and when I looked at their profile pages, I found it impossible to imagine that they were the sort to be interested in my book. Where Facebook found these people is open to question, but my belief is that most of the likers had dormant accounts. It’s tempting to want to build your numbers quickly and easily through a Facebook ad, but you’re better off being patient and regularly offering compelling content that attracts the right people–the audience for your book.

Once you publish, countless people will come out of the woodwork to offer to take your money and help you flog your new book. The advantage of a Facebook author page is that it’s one of the few promotional activities you can do for free. It’s worth your while to put considerable effort into reaching your audience with a well-thought-out page. Don’t be afraid to express your unique personality through what you post, and don’t be intimidated by the process of creating a page. If you’re anything like me, you’ll ultimately come to see your Facebook page as a labour of love and have plenty of fun working on it. Enjoy the adventure!

Should Authors Participate in Book Giveaways?

In the two months since I’ve published Virginia’s Ghost, I’ve been racking my brains as to how I can best promote it. It’s easy to garner interest in the book from friends and casual neighbourhood acquaintances, and I confess I haven’t found it a stretch to sell hard copies in person to folks I barely know. But online sales are a whole different matter. I mentioned to someone recently that as a first-time self-published author, I’m as invisible on the World Wide Web as a minnow would be in a vast ocean. So how can I become a bigger fish?

Other writers I know have suggested book giveaways. I balked at this initially–would I irreparably cheapen my book by giving it away for nothing? A big voice told me that I would, but feeling desperate for some sort of attention, I overcame my reservations and took the giveaway plunge. I’ve now done a total of three giveaways, with mixed results. Let’s take a closer look at these.

Facebook

For my Facebook giveaway, I told my fans that in order to enter, they had to comment on my giveaway post. Each time they wrote a comment, their name would be entered into the draw, What I liked about this approach was that it engendered lively discussion on my Facebook author page, which is of course something I wish to encourage.  People asked questions about me and my book. And a Facebook giveaway is a lovely way to thank your fans for their support. I gave away one copy, which happened to go to a real-life acquaintance of mine who was very appreciative. I don’t think I sold any books as a result of the giveaway, but I didn’t really expect to. For my efforts, I did receive some psychic pay–a nice glow from all the enthusiasm people expressed. And it only cost me about $15 to do (my cost for the book and the postage).

Goodreads

Every author wants a high profile on Goodreads, as next to Amazon, it’s the go-to site for reader reviews. So it makes sense to participate in Goodreads discussion groups to make your presence known and to do a giveaway to get the word out that you’ve written a book. I opted for a giveaway that ran for about six weeks, and at the end of that period, I gave away three paperback copies of my book. It was a tremendously exhilarating process; by the end of the giveaway, 1,265 people had signed up for the chance to win a free signed copy. The number was higher than I expected and made me feel almost ridiculously popular (more psychic pay). But the apparent enthusiasm for the book also contributed to my expectation that I was probably going to sell lots of copies, which didn’t happen. You see, lots of Goodreads members are pretty indiscriminate about which giveaways they sign up for–they simply “collect” giveaways. Once the giveaway is over with, they’ve probably forgotten all about your book or that they even wanted a copy of it in the first place. As for the three people who received the book, I’m hopeful that I may still receive a review or two in return for the freebie. My cost? About $45 (for three books and postage).

Story Cartel 

Story Cartel is a site that specifically encourages reviews from readers who receive a free download of your book. For the cost of $30 USD, the book appears on the Story Cartel site, where it can be downloaded gratis for twenty-one days. (After the download period ends, Story Cartel then displays your book on their site for another week.) Spend an additional $125 USD and your book will appear in a newsletter that circulates to subscribers. I decided on the newsletter exposure, and a total of sixty-seven people downloaded my book. After participating in Story Cartel, I have received a total of seven reviews on Amazon from people who downloaded it from the site, and some of these reviewers also posted to Goodreads. I expect I may receive additional reviews from people who are still reading the book . If you want to quickly populate your Amazon listing with reviews, then Story Cartel is a good option for you. Total cost: $155 USD.

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My advice for authors who decide to go the giveaway route is to keep your expectations extremely modest or you will end up disappointed. Yes, giveaways do generate some interest in your book, but that interest is very fleeting and doesn’t necessary translate into sales or reviews.  You should view giveaways as only a small portion of your overall book marketing plan.