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Self-Pub Author Tells Readers To “F*** Off!” (or, How NOT to Respond to Reviews)

Author:

With the ease and relatively low cost of today’s self-publishing tools, many authors are going this route rather than going through the much longer process of finding an agent and traditional publisher. It can be extremely lucrative, and even if you don’t make tons of sales, at least you gave it a shot, right?

While lots of awesome authors choose to self-publish, it sometimes gets a bad rap because for every amazing find, there are dozens or maybe even hundreds of books that were…well…self-published for a reason. Sometimes, you can’t find a publisher to take you on because the market is flooded or they just aren’t willing to take a chance on you for whatever reason. But often, publishers turn down proposals because the writing is bad. So, if you’re going to take a chance and purchase a self-published book, it makes sense to read as many reviews as  possible.

A lot of self-published authors are finding success because they go on virtual book tours or offer up their books to be reviewed on book blogs. When you send out your book to reviewers, it’s nerve-wracking. I know; I’ve done it. Thankfully, I didn’t have any scathing reviews of my ebook, but I did get some criticism. No matter how awesome your book, few reviews are 100% sunshine and unicorns. The same is true of even a blog post – not everyone who reads is going to be a fan.

You deal with it. You cry, maybe, if you have to. You learn from it and move on.

What you don’t do is respond like Jacqueline Howett, author of The Greek Seaman. After getting a luke-warm review from BigAl’s Books and Pals, she freaked out. It wasn’t even a bad review – the writer had both good and bad things to say. The bad comments he had were mostly about the fact that he found several grammatical errors, along with a number of confusingly-structured sentences.

I invite you to click on that link now to read the comments. Seriously, I couldn’t believe them. It all starts with this gem:

“You obviously didn’t read the second clean copy I requested you download that was also reformatted, so this is a very unfair review. My Amazon readers/reviewers give it 5 stars and 4 stars and they say they really enjoyed The Greek Seaman and thought it was well written. Maybe its just my style and being English is what you don’t get. Sorry it wasn’t your cup of tea, but I think I will stick to my five star and four star reviews thanks.”

Let’s not even talk about the grammatical errors in the comment itself. She then proceeds to copy and paste a few good reviews from Amazon as individual comments.

It gets better. In subsequent comments, she accuses the reviewer of not downloading the correct copy, being “discusting [sic] and unprofessional,” and leaving anonymous negative comments about the book. She goes on to tell other commenters “stay out of it” and then, my favorite part, she leaves a few comments that simply say, “F*** off!” (Without the stars, on Al’s site, it’s uncensored).

Woah.

The sad part is, without her rants, this review might very well disappeared into the chasm of the Internet. I checked a few of the other posts on this site at random, and it looks like he averages two or three comments per review. Maybe ten at most. On the review of Jacqueline Howett’s book? Over 300 (and counting). He actually gave the plot a good review, so without her crazy comments, some people might have actually bought it on his recommendation. After all, we all make errors when writing, and if you self-publish you might not be able to afford a good editor. To me, it’s more important that the plot is good, and I think a lot of other readers feel similarly. But Jacqueline’s response? No way will I ever read this book.

The reviewer, in my opinion, has handled this with grace. He responded to her accusations and then said that he would not be commenting on the matter any further. I found that overall, he was extremely fair in allowing people with a variety of opinions to post comments.

You’ll notice that I haven’t posted a link to Jacqueline’s website or book on Amazon in this post. That’s by design. While I do think that this is an interesting new media case study and we can all learn from it, I personally do not want to in any way support this author’s work. I’m sure that she is seeing some sales because people are curious as to just how bad her book is, but I don’t want to encourage that. Even if her book is amazing, there are a lot of great authors out there who treat their readers with respect. Use your buying power to support them instead.

Without the community’s support, a writer is nothing. Remember that. It’s something that I think all of us should keep in mind, whether we’re writing ebooks, traditional books, or even blog posts. Community is everything.

For the record, I checked out the reviews on Amazon as well, just because I was curious as to whether or not Al’s review really was unfair. Of the 92 reviews posted, 10 are 5-star…and 72 are one-star. Of the 5-star reviews, a number of them are making fun of the double entendre title and several comment on the fact that the grammar/spelling is bad even though the story is good.

Also, hat tip to my roommate, who told me this was going on.

E-Book Author Signs $2 Million Deal in Traditional Publishing Sale

Author:

You may not have heard of Amanda Hocking – but as a YA author, I certainly have! The 26-year-old author has seen amazing success as a self-publisher of her young adult series. And now she’s about to enter the traditional publishing world.

Hocking began self-publishing her books last year through online retailers, after she reportedly attempted to shop them to traditional publishers without success. In ten months she sold over 900k digital copies of her books.

But now she’s decided she wants to try her hand at traditional publishing and just last week St. Martin’s Press won the rights to publish four books in a brand new series – for over $2 million.

So what’s her reasoning? If she’s doing so well in the e-book space, why does Hocking want to lose a significant portion of her sales?

I do not want to spend 40 hours a week handling e-mails, formatting covers, finding editors, etc,” Hocking said on her blog. “Right now, being me is a full-time corporation.

Hocking admits that it’s difficult and time consuming, and even with her success as an e-book author she stands up for traditional publishing. She writes, “This is literally years of work you’re seeing. And hours and hours of work each day. The amount of time and energy I put into marketing is exhausting. I am continuously overwhelmed by the amount of work I have to do that isn’t writing a book. I hardly have time to write anymore, which sucks and terrifies me.

I think this is an important point to make for those authors interested in jumping into the e-book arena. You can’t just write a book, throw it online, and expect it to do well.

You have to be the publisher. You have to edit your book, market your book, and sell your book (or pay someone to do it). Because your book won’t be visible on display at the bookstore or the library. You’ll be buried in a list of other e-books, so you have to differentiate yourself by contacting book bloggers for reviews, using social media to connect with readers, and much much more. This can be time consuming. Very time consuming as Hocking points out. But it may be lucrative. As Nathan Bransford blogged today – if you don’t have a huge publishing house to back you – it may make more sense monetarily to go with e-book self-publishing.

So in this time when e-books are starting to significantly increase in sales and exposure – an author has to decide if she wants to spend her time writing or publishing. That may be the most important decision.

E-Book Sales Up Over 115% but Overall Sales Are Down

Author:

Last week the Association of American Publishers (AAP) released news regarding January 2011 book sales – saying that e-book sales are up 115.8% since January 2010. Downloadable audio books also rose, but at a much smaller rate (8.8% over the previous year).

Overall, total book sales dropped on all platforms by 1.9%. The biggest hits were to the adult mass market (down 30.9%) and adult and children’s paperbacks (down almost 20%).

The two areas that seemed to grow over last year were sales of religious books and professional/scholarly books.

While e-book sales are definitely still on the rise, they still account for less than 10% of total book sales. I’m sure this will change over the next few years as the publishing industry attempts to work out pricing models and licensing models for the e-books.

Do you use an e-book reader?

Book Review & Giveaway: Tell to Win

Author:

In Tell to Win, executive and entrepreneur Peter Guber shows how to move beyond slides, facts, and figures to create purposeful stories that can motivate, win over, shape, engage, and sell. But don’t just take Peter’s word for it! He provides a diverse number of “Voices” and their experiences as concrete examples and methodologies you can employ. These Voices include:

  • YouTube CEO and co-founder Chad Hurley
  • Film director Steven Spielberg
  • Editor in chief of Wired Chris Anderson
  • Demand Media CEO & co-founder Richard Rosenblatt
  • Former President BIll Clinton
  • Founder of Warner Bros. Jack Warner
  • News Journalist Anderson Cooper
  • And dozens more …

Audience: Large Businesses, Small Businesses, Individuals – Anyone interested in telling and selling their story.
Tone: Conversational with stories and humor throughout. Case in point, Chapter 1 Title: “It’s the Story, Stupid
Takeaways: Each chapter ends with aHHa bullet points and takeaways, so you can begin implementing these strategies today!

An excerpt from the book:

The hardest truth in the art of the tell is a simple human fact: You cannot control other people … All you can control is your preparation, setting, and telling. What your listener does in response will depend on a multitude of factors, which may have nothing to do with you. However, the more your audience feels as if they own your story, the more likely they are to act on it. So once you’ve told your story, you need to intentionally surrender control of it to them.

It may help, instead of thinking about a story as “yours” or “mine,” to consider it as “ours.”

As an author of fiction, a lot of Tell to Win resonated with me because authors are told over and over again to “Show, Don’t Tell” (SDT). Guber uses his Voices to display various stories and showcase real examples of how you can connect with your audience in a powerful, meaningful way. He even refers to using metaphors to illuminate your story – and choosing a hero to fit your goal – both being items I use in my writing.

I see this book as an important tool in a variety of aspect … giving voice to your blog, providing story ideas, helping to pitch your product or business, engaging an audience as a speaker, and more. Definitely pick one up when it comes out in March, or you can even win a copy here! Here are the rules:

  • Leave a comment below, saying what you’d hope to learn from the book, to receive one entry.
  • Tweet about the contest for a second entry.
  • Entries must be received by midnight PST February 25th to be considered.

Authors Using Social Media to Generate Book Buzz

Author:

In my “free time” outside of BlogWorld, I’m an author. I’ve written three young adult novels in the past two years and currently have one out on submission to publishers. As you can imagine, I spend a good amount of time networking with other authors, agents, editors, etc. Topics of interest include a variety of items – especially the use of social media to foster buzz for an author and their book.

I’ve seen several authors generate buzz using Twitter and their blogs – but the most successful ones are those that develop and foster their brand and voice with social media (in all age groups and genres). My favorite example is Kiersten White. For the weeks leading up to the launch of her debut novel, Paranormalcy, Kiersten used social media to showcase her humor, wit, and creativity – building an audience and buzz that took her to the New York Times Bestseller list the week that Paranormalcy hit store shelves!

So what are some examples of Kiersten’s social media efforts and writing style? For weeks prior to launch, Kiersten took to Twitter with tweets that centered on a hashtag she created (#everytimeyoupreorderparanormalcy). Here are just a couple (but there were hundreds of them!)

#everytimeyoupreorderparanormalcy a muggle-born kid gets accepted to Hogwarts.

#everytimeyoupreorderparanormalcy Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella grow a spine, save *themselves*, and head to college.

Kiersten also spent time on her blog – writing posts that featured her book, but also showcased her fun and self-deprecating humor (like this one and this one).

But did this voice translate over to Paranormalcy? Absolutely. And that’s why it worked. If Kiersten’s writing was dark and mysterious, her social media audience would’ve been rather stunned to expect humor and read twisted.

Lastly, Kiersten took time to respond to pretty much everyone who engaged in a conversation – whether it was on Twitter or comments on her blog. She was gracious and caring and never made a fan feel uncomfortable for contacting her.

So my tips for authors looking to use social media to generate buzz for their book: Be Honest, Be True to Your Voice, Be Original & Engage in Conversations

In last night’s #yalitchat (a weekly Twitter chat for the young adult writing industry) we also talked about social media and buzz. Some great tips and thoughts include:

  • @veela_valoom: Social media cannot just be used a “promo-media” should always be a conversation #yalitchat
  • @LauraKreitzer: I noticed that when the social media and reviewers went quiet, so did the sales.
  • @LM_PrestonBLOG TOURs Rock! They are powerful in starting buzz! I’ve bought tons of books from blog tours
  • @AlysonCGreene: ARCS might not sell books, but I think reviews & blog recs do. ARCS allow bloggers and reviewers to read and create buzz pre-pub

Other Related Articles:

Book Review & Giveaway: ‘Perspectives on Social Media Marketing’

Author:

Perspectives on Social Media Marketing isn’t your average social media how to book. It provides easy to digest topics with both an agency perspective and a brand perspective (with a guest perspective thrown in for added viewpoints). Stephanie Agresta (from Porter Novelli) and B. Bonin Bouch (PepsiCo) come together to talk about understanding social media, how it has changed the marketing landscape, how to implement a tactical and strategic social media plan across your organization, how to best measure the ROI of a social media campaign, and more. Each topic has short and concise answers, with concrete examples and tips – so you can start implementing social media marketing in your business today. We have a copy to give away, details below!

Audience: Large Businesses, Small Businesses, Individuals – There’s something for everyone, including start-ups and successful businesses.
Tone: Conversational with some personal views, humor, and case studies sprinkled throughout.

Here are just some of the 89 specific topics included:

  • What is Personal Branding and How Important Is It?
  • How Has Social Media Changed Customer Service?
  • Do Consumers Really Want to Communicate with Brands? Why?
  • What Tools Are “Must Haves” for Every Social Media-Marketing Effort?
  • Should Strategy Come from PR or Marketing?
  • How Can Companies Use Social Media Internally to Improve Employee Morale?
  • Should Your Company Follow People on Twitter, or Just Be Followed?
  • Is There a Direct Relationship Between Social Media and Sales?
  • Is It Ever Too Late to Start Social Media?
  • What Would You Consider to be the Worst Social Media Campaign Ever Run?

An excerpt from the book (reprinted with permission):

Topic #27 What Advice Would You Give a Manager For a Company That Has So Far Ignored Social Media But Now Wants to Get Up to Speed?

B. Bonin Bough: The Brand Perspective
The first step is to make sure you yourself participate in the platform. Don’t kill yourself, though, trying to participate in every platform. Figure out which platforms you care about and focus on those. Also, understand that as an individual, you can be a part of social media without necessarily putting a lot of content into the space. I think one of the best rules of thumb is the 1–9–90 rule. It says that 1 percent of the people create the social media content, 9 percent of people participate in that content, and the other 90 percent are passive. It’s okay to be passive—although as a marketer, you want to be sure you understand the nuances of what it means to participate. I’m not the most prolific Twitter contributor, but I’m a freak about following it, so much so that that I have data visualization in my office that I can follow like a news ticker.

Next, you want to identify people in your business or industry who are influencers and power-users. If you can find folks who represent your passions, that’s even better. Start to fan, follow, subscribe. Search online to find recent articles that talk about the players in your area who are doing social media well and identify experts who discuss social media marketing in general. If you are a brand manager, bring in as many agencies as you can find time for.

I know that becomes very difficult after a while, but bring them in to talk to you so you have a sense of your options. Nobody has the one answer in this space, and you want to understand what all the different players bring to the table. Look for an agency that sounds different and that provides ideas that are not just based around their traditional business structure. And if they are a social media agency, look to see if they understand the scale necessary to drive your business objectives. Do not be afraid to be very clear about the resources that you require to actually make your program successful.

Another important piece that gets overlooked a lot is going to conferences. I spend my life going to conferences—talking to people, mingling with people, meeting new technologies. It’s a great way to be exposed to the culture of the space. For example, if you go to a social media conference, there will almost certainly be a Twitter screen behind the panelists. They are talking and tweeting at the same time. Everybody at the conference has a laptop, and they’re talking and tweeting and reading different things. That level of multitasking is completely lost inside the walls of a lot of marketing agencies right now; that’s a proof point that as a group we aren’t spending enough time at the conferences where new ideas are being formulated and thought about and behaviors are being transformed.

Finally, you want to follow and analyze your competition. You want to identify the best-in-class examples, and you want to find where the gaps and opportunities are. Also, look beyond your direct competitive circles and look at comparative circles. For example, with Gatorade, we are not just thinking about Gatorade and what might be perceived as other beverage competitors; we try to figure out who shares the mindspace of our core targets. In the case of Gatorade, that is elite athletes, athletic directors and coaches, and sideline moms. Who else are they listening to? Are there programs they are part of we can align ourselves with? That’s some of the best advice I can give for getting started.

Stephanie Agresta: The Agency Perspective
If you want to get up to speed with social media, the first thing you need to do is to get started with your own social media efforts. By that, I mean create personal accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. These three platforms are the most widely used. For media consumption, check out YouTube and Hulu and photo-sharing sites like Flickr. If you’re feeling ambitious, try starting a blog and posting a few thoughts. Sites like blogger.com and wordpress.com offer free blogging solutions. Create media and upload it. Share it with your friends. Also, read, read, read! There are so many great blogs out there, and the best part is, the content is free! Check out AdAge’s Power 150 list (http://www.adage.com/power150) for a complete list of top-notch marketing and PR blogs. Also, take note of what people are tweeting and re-tweeting on Twitter. Often, the best content is curated by people who are in your trusted network. Tools like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn basically create a river of news from your friends, colleagues, and family members. More and more, people are using this as a main source of information. Posts on these networks may just clue you into what is going on at a very high level, thereby allowing you to do further research on search engines and professional news sites.


Giveaway!

Here are the rules to win a copy of Perspectives on Social Media Marketing:

  • Leave a comment below, saying what you’d hope to learn from the book, to receive one entry.
  • Tweet about the contest for a second entry.
  • Entries must be received by midnight PST January 18th to be considered.

Why Nobody Cares about Your Free Product

Author:

Creating a free product to give away is a great technique for getting people on your mailing list so you can actually sell them products in the future. Monetization, FTW. Most commonly, bloggers give away ebooks. I’m sure you’ve seen it on blogs before – sign up and get a free copy of “How to Make your Life Perfect.” Or whatever.

So you’ve created a free product. You signed up for Aweber or another list-managing service. You tweeted and emailed and otherwise promoted your product. Fantastic.

And then, crickets. Sure, a few of your friends signed up to get your ebook, and maybe even one or two readers took a chance and subscribed to your making list. But all in all, no one cares about the free product you gave out.

Why not? After all, it is free. Shouldn’t people be lining up at your door, breaking down the door even, to get a copy? People love free stuff! So why doesn’t anyone care about your product?

  • Your product was pointless for your market.

You didn’t solve a problem or help your readers any way with the product you created. Or, you do solve a problem, but it isn’t right for the experience level of your community. If your ebook is too advanced or too 101-level for your target market, it doesn’t matter how well-written it is.

  • Your title was vague.

I once wrote a free ebook called The Rule of Three: How to Reach Salary Goals as a Freelance Writer. Initially, I simply called the ebook The Rule of Three. While this makes perfect sense if you actually read the ebook, it doesn’t tell the reader much about what they’re getting if they download it. If I could go back and do it over with that ebook, I would name my product something better from the start, but the subtitle does get the job done.

  • The information can be easily found on your website.

If you have the information available and they don’t have to sign up for a mailing list to get it, why would they sign up in the first place? People download a free product because they can’t get it elsewhere online. If you’re just repackaging something easily available on your own site or commonly available on someone else’s site, they’ll pass. It’s too much effort to sign up for the product. You can repurpose content, but if the benefit is that all of the information is collected in one place, then don’t also collect it in one place on a single page of your site.

  • The benefit doesn’t justify the costs.

Your product might be free, but there is a “cost” – signing up for your mailing list. Some people just aren’t interested in getting a billion emails a day from you. If you’re not having luck getting people to download a free product in exchange for a daily newsletter, change the frequency of your emails to weekly or even monthly and make sure they know that unsubscribing is easy.

  • Another similar free ebook is available from someone else.

Before you start working on a project do your research. If another person in your niche is releasing a free ebook – or even a paid ebook or print book, releasing one of your own that covers the same topic isn’t going to be as interesting to the community. You can certainly write your own spin on things, but it’s much harder to launch something so similar.

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