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Friday, April 18, 2014

Mini Rant on Paper vs. Digital Debate



Traditional or Digital: Who Wins?
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A reporter contacted me for input on traditional books vs digital. I couldn’t let my reply get seen only by his readers, because I think my retail experience adds something “to the conversation” (as everyone seems to be saying these days), though I think I prefer the phrase “to the debate.” The letter also serves as an example of a casual query—one in which there may have already been contact between reporter and author. Notice that even with contact already made, it is important for people to reintroduce themselves. Reporters are busy people. We want to make it easy on them.

Erik, I am the author of the HowToDoItFrugally series of books--one series for writers and one for retailers. I have nearly 30 years experience as founder and owner of my own retail chain and nearly two decades as a journalist and writer (Good Housekeeping Magazine, The Salt Lake Tribune, my own books and more.)

Those who see e-books and traditionally published books as a competition are way off base. Any retailer (see above) knows you give the customer what they want, when they want it and in the form they want it. You don't see the smart ones refusing to let people pay for things the way the want to pay for them, either.” Will you take a check?” they ask. The answer is always: “Any way our good customer wants to pay for something is good for us.” 

Traditional publishers are starting to see this and some e-book publishers are avid about digital production because they see the possibilities (and perhaps because they like the possible profit margin), but I know of no publisher that wouldn’t benefit by getting both streams of income. One of these book iterations is not going to win a contest as best (or better than!) any more than TV won over radio. Different readers find different formats for different needs, different preferences. Some like to have the same book in both iterations and, obviously Amazon realized this when they started their new Matchbook program.* 

It's time publishers just get over it and give their customers what they want, when they want it, and get profitable in the process.

*Note: Almost all my books on Amazon—from how-to books to poetry—are now available as e-books to those who buy the paper book. They get them--either free or at a greatly reduced price--with Amazon’s MatchBook. I see Amazon's new program as a way to thank my readers for their loyalty and—as an extra stream of income when I don’t mark the add-on digital copy as totally free.


 

CHJ
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Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and how to books for writers including the award-winning second edition of, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to get nearly free publicity on your own or by partnering with your publisher; The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success; and Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers . The Great First Impression Book Proposal is her newest booklet for writers. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. Some of her other blogs are TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor .  Retailers will find my retail blog at http://frugalretailing.blogspot.com.  

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Making the Most of Book Reviews



Recently someone on one of the forums I frequent expressed the idea that readers are impressed by any review--good or bad. I responded to that “good or bad” aspect of reviews with a bit of a how-to on making the best of reviews--good or bad:

I've seen some authors weigh in on positive reviews with negative comments because they're sure the reviewer has an agenda (And that's a really stupid approach to marketing, if I do say so). I've also seen them dispute negative reviews and that isn't a much better tactic in terms of public relations.
 I’ve also seen them pay for reviews, apparently unaware that librarians and bookstore buyers don't give either paid-for review or Amazon reviews much—if any--weight. They may also be unaware that there are other ways to get reviews. Namely by asking their readers for them. Or asking bloggers for them. Or using alternative online review sites (like my http://TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com where you’ll find guidelines for submission in the left column).

That said, we all need good reviews and we can even make the bad ones work for us. We should keep the gems in any review to use in media kits, on our Web sites, etc. Yes, even negative reviews can sometimes be excerpted to find little jewel soundbites.

And as long as we're on the subject, I've heard that a good review on Amazon can up sales by 10%. I don't remember the source. I  suspect that reviews also help with Amazon's logarithms and whatever formula Amazon uses takes hold, they start sending out your book in their mass e-mails for suggested reading--obviously a very targeted advertising campaign we should all aim to be part of.

I also encourage authors to post reviews of others’ books on Amazon. It’s a lovely gift for a fellow writer in 2014.

Here’s a real upside to reviews. Since they have (mostly) moved from the pages of literary journals into the hands of amateur reviewers (meaning—sadly—readers!), we authors have more power over getting reviews for our books. We also can more easily determine how effectively good reviews can be used. There is always a risk factor with reviews, but even ones we might consider bad can be learning tools.
One technique I like is picking up little positive soundbites from a review. Say even a bad reviewer says the characters are dazzling. The author can then quote that one little tidbit in their media kit, their newsletter, their Website. It would look like this:
 "...dazzling..." ~ Kirkus Review
The ads for movies do this all the time. You can, too. 

So have at making the most of reviews. Just don’t pay for them.
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Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and how to books for writers including the award-winning second edition of, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to get nearly free publicity on your own or by partnering with your publisher; The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success; and Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers . The Great First Impression Book Proposal is her newest booklet for writers. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. Some of her other blogs are TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor .

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Hot Off Publishers Weekly Presses! LA Times Concedes Indie Store Battle

I rarely post something on my blog before I run it in my SharingwithWriters newsletter but this news is important--something that will give indie authors insight in the battles being fought and won and maybe some ammunition to use when approaching an indie bookstore for a signing or other event (preferably something more than just a signing!)

IN THE NEWS:  Publishers Weekly made a big deal in an article where they touted a “win” for independent booksellers who wrangled a concession from the LA Times Festival of Books to include a buy button supporting local sales of books instead of exclusively linking to Amazon. Of course the LA Times preferred an Amazon button! They are probably part of Amazon's affiliate program and would reap a small percentage of every book sold that way! (Just as we authors can!). Still the indie stores deserve to be treated well considering their support of book fairs in LA and nationally. I just hope they turn that karma around and treat their indie authors well, too—because most chains certainly aren’t doing that. . .  yet!

Here’s the full link to the PW article. Here’s a link in case the embedded one above doesn’t work for you—this news is that important!
 
http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/trade-shows-events/article/61376-l-a-times-adds-indiebound-buy-button-for-festival-of-books.html?utm_source=Publishers+Weekly&utm_campaign=c6847f01ca-UA-15906914-1&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0bb2959cbb-c6847f01ca-304612053


Those of you who would like to subscribe to my newsletter before the next issue comes out may do so at http://howtodoitfrugally.com. The subscription form in in the upper right corner of almost every page of the site and you will received an e-copy of my much-loved Great LIttle Last-Minute Editing Tips for Writers full of wordtrippers and style-choice wisdom.

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Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and how to books for writers including the award-winning second edition of, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to get nearly free publicity on your own or by partnering with your publisher; The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success; and Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers . The Great First Impression Book Proposal is her newest booklet for writers. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. Some of her other blogs are TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor .

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Letting Amazon Help You with Easy Book Launch


Do you know what Amazon Kindle Countdown program is? How about their Matchbook program? (I have discussed the latter a bit in my SharingwithWriters newsletter and this blog, so the chances you know about this one are somewhat better!)
And what about their 5 day promotion program in which you can discount your book or give it away to kick start your book’s campaign? (It’s been around a while, but there is still a lot of misunderstanding about this “giving a book away” business).

All three benefits are offered by Amazon Kindle through their Kindle Select Program. And I love them all from a pure marketing standpoint.

I’ve seen so many new authors decide on a marketing plan without getting full information first. Obviously getting the full lowdown on book marketing is not a ten-minute project (which is why I wrote The Frugal Book Promoter), but I thought it would help if I gave you—all of you, not just the newbies—a fast rundown on a very good marketing approach to your new book. It may be an especially good, easy, inexpensive launch idea for a second edition or way to remarket a book that’s been around for a while. This plan isn't in any way complete in terms of all the possible exigencies but you might at least consider it.

So here’s a marketing approach-in-a-nutshell you might consider.

1.   Start your marketing campaign for a new book by releasing your e-book first with Amazon’s Kindle.

2.   Use the benefits listed above that are available only the Kindle Select Program (meaning that you must give Amazon your e-book as an exclusive for 90 days—though you may have the print book anywhere else you want to during that time).

3.   Publicize your e-book like crazy using all of Select's benefits. Get it out there. Get the buzz going. Ask for reviews from those who get your book free or at a big discount.

4.   Then, if you want to have your book available across many other e-book programs, withdraw from Amazon’s program at the end of 90 days and get it installed on Smashwords, Nook, etc. But do know that in my newsletter I quote from an article in the IBPA Independent magazine that says most books that use Kindle's program exclusively are more profitable than the ones that are available on many of the other e-book platforms as well. It wasn't clear if they were taking into consideration the costs and time involved with reformatting that may be required for the different programs, but it's something to consider.

5.   Depending on what you decide based on the profit vs. distribution conundrum I mentioned above, you can leave your book in the Kindle Select Program and eventually repeat your campaign (with slight variations) as the terms of your agreement allow (maybe once a year.)

 


PS: I’m using something like the above marketing plan for the second edition of my The Frugal Editor: Do-it-yourself editing secrets for authors: From your query letter to final manuscript to the marketing of your new bestseller. It’s Updated! Expanded! Newly formatted! (Which it desperately needed!) It has a new cover by Chaz DeSimone and a new subtitle. And is available for the moment only on Kindle. Eventually, I’ll reformat the second edition for print, too, but only after I’ve utilized the power of Amazon. (3D book cover by Gene Cartwright of iFOGO .)

 

PPS: If you don't want to miss articles like this one, subscribe to my SharingwithWriters newsletter at http://howtodoitfrugally.com and get an e-copy of my fun and fast booklet, Great Little Last-Minute Edits, also available in paperback. The subscribe window is in the upper left corner of almost every Web site page.
 

 
 
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Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and how to books for writers including the award-winning second edition of, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to get nearly free publicity on your own or by partnering with your publisher; The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success; and Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers . The Great First Impression Book Proposal is her newest booklet for writers. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. Some of her other blogs are TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor .

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Recommended Reading for Career-Minded Writers

This tip is from my newsletter, but when there is good news out there that I know will help my writing friends, well, what can I do but shout it out--as often as possible!  Anyone who wants to subscribe to my SharingwithWriters newsletter can do so on my Web site; the subscription form is in the upper left corner of almost every page.

Favorite Tip: June Casagrande is my favorite grammar guru and former student at UCLA and she has her third grammar book coming out on April 15th.   It is The best punctuation book, period. Yes, no caps. And the title includes the punctuation. It's published by Ten Speed.
June also writes a syndicated column for newspapers, A Word Please. AND she gave me blurbs for my The Frugal Editor, both the first edition and the newly released Kindle version of the second. I think I’m as excited as she is about this. Go by her buy page on Amazon and at least add her book to your wish list. It’s a way to support fellow authors.
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Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and how to books for writers including the award-winning second edition of, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to get nearly free publicity on your own or by partnering with your publisher; The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success; and Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers . The Great First Impression Book Proposal is her newest booklet for writers. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. Some of her other blogs are TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor .