Don’t Hobble Your Marketing Efforts

From time to time, I review books that are related to publishing or marketing of books. Sometimes an author requests that I review their book. Other times, I see a book that might benefit Indie authors or small publishers and ask for a review copy.

Every once in a while, I receive book that has been marked “Review Copy: Not for Sale”. I seriously dislike it when I receive a marred book. A book that is stained in such a manner stops with me. When a book is spoiled, I am not able to pass it along to someone else that could be blessed by it.

book marketing efforts

I believe that authors who mark their books “Review Copy: Not for Sale” hobble their own marketing efforts.

1. A book is a form of compensation for the reviewer’s time.

When you ask for people to review your book (e.g., beta readers, launch teams, influencers, and bloggers) and these people agree to do so, they are doing you a favor. Providing these individuals with a clean, unmarred copy of your book is a form of compensation for these reviewers’ time.

This is not a new idea. Way back in 1916, Publishers Weekly published an article titled “Review Copies and the Trade”. The article stated:

“In other words, the reviewer has a definite and valued place in the selling of books…. The reviewing periodicals are seldom financially able to pay the best reviewers what they are really worth; and by long custom of the craft, the latter have taken partial recompense in the review copies of the books being reviewed…. To see that the reviewer has for his own purposes the copy of the book reviewed seems to him no more than natural justice; and whether the reviewer chooses to keep the book himself or to sell it for what he can get for it seems to him his own affair.”

2. Every book sent out into the world is a marketing tool, not wasted money.

Many Indie authors mark their books “Review Copy: Not for Sale” because they don’t want others to profit off their books. In other words, these authors are afraid that their book will end up being sold as a used or new book by the review individual, cutting the author out of a profit. However, this is twisted thinking.

Whether a reviewer keeps the book, gifts the book to someone, or sells the book, the impact for the author is usually positive. Every book that goes out into the world is a marketing tool. Everyone who sees the book, buys the book, or reads the book has the potential to become a spokesperson for that book. If the reader loves the book, she tells her friends and family, leading to more sales.

Seeding the world with a few books to begin the word of mouth process should be part of every author’s marketing budget. This includes review copies given to readers.

3. Christian authors can operate on Kingdom economic principles.

As Christians, we are to be in the world, but not of the world. Yet, so often we forget this and act just like the world. When it comes to your books, remember Kingdom principles. Luke 6:38 records Jesus as saying:

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Ten, fifty, or a couple hundred books, however many you decide to give out, whether for a review, for marketing to bring awareness to your book, or just to bless someone, remember Kingdom truths. Your free book copies are not wasted in God’s Kingdom economics. It is God who directs the paths and sales of your books. Trust Him.

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Photo courtesy of Manuel Sardo.

A Book Review Surprise

Five years! After five years of not requesting a book to review from BookCrash, a BookCrash blogger just requested a book to review. The previous book this blogger reviewed for BookCrash was in 2013.

For five years, this reviewer received a weekly email from BookCrash announcing a new book available for review. For 260 weeks she passed up each opportunity. Then, one book caught her attention, and she requested a review copy.

After five years, most people would assume that this blogger was no longer interested in reviewing books. Yet, this was not the case.

I don’t think I can say it enough. A glut of books is available, while a dearth of readers exists. Let me show you in numbers.

In the past six years, the number of books published independently has grown 218%—that’s more than doubled. Meaning that in 2011, 247,210 books were published and in 2016, 768,935 books were published.

Yet, the number of books that people are reading each year has remained steady since 2012. Pew Research has found that 73% of adult Americans say they have read a book in the past year. On average, Americans read 12 books per year (the typical American reads four books in a year, voracious readers skew the average).

So, since 2013, the number of books that this particular BookCrash reviewer could choose to read and review has doubled. Not only has the number of books available doubled, but now, almost every book published is offered free in exchange for a review. This means that this BookCrash reviewer doesn’t just have the choices available via BookCrash, she can also choose Christian books to review from all the following services (and more):

  • NetGalley
  • Book Review Buzz
  • BookPlex
  • Goodreads
  • BookLook Bloggers
  • Tyndale Blog Review Network
  • Moody Blog Review Network
  • Kregel Blog Review Network
  • Bethany House Blog Review Network
  • Litfuse Publicity Blog Review Network

With all these options, bloggers that review books can be extremely finicky about which books they decide to read. Of course, these reviewers are only going to choose those books that pique their interest the most. Hence, it has been five years since a book made available for review through BookCrash caught this particular blogger’s attention enough to request to read it.

I am not trying to discourage you. Really, I’m not. I just want you to have the knowledge you need to understand that promoting and marketing books is tough. It takes hard work and perseverance. Don’t give up. It can take years for a book to pick up steam and get noticed.

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To Give or Not to Give?

The Internet abounds with advice. Some of it is good and some of it is not.

When it comes to advice for independently published authors, often what you find on the Internet is contradictory. Some authors assert one thing, while others assert the opposite.

One area where advice given for independently published authors on the Internet contradicts itself is in the area of giving books away. Some advice givers say you should, others say you shouldn’t.

Advice is cheap. Anyone can give advice. The advice taker must discern whether or not the person has the knowledge or experience to give good advice.

Whether you, as an independent author, should or shouldn’t give books away for free is not the question to ask. Rather, you should ask: What is the industry standard?

1. Giving books for free in exchange for reviews is standard in the book publishing industry.

Providing a free book in exchange for a review is a publishing industry practice. In fact, it is such an integral part of the book industry, that when Amazon recently stopped allowing the giving of free products in exchange for reviews on their websites, they exempted books from this policy. Amazon even stated in their policy revision, “The above changes will apply to product categories other than books. We will continue to allow the age-old practice of providing advance review copies of books.

2. Giving away books as part of a book promotional campaign is industry standard.

If you have ever attending an industry convention—think BookExpo (BEA) or CBA Unite—then you would be aware that giving away free copies of books to decision-makers (retail buyers and influencers) is standard practice. Most publishers include a certain number of books to be given away for promotional purposes as part of a book’s advertising budget.

At the recent NRB Proclaim 17 convention, one Member author of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) told me that while he was giving away books for free, he wondered if he was just throwing his books away. I encourage him to consider the investment he was making in giving away free books as part of his advertising campaign. After all, the attendees at NRB are influencers. If they read his book and write a review or recommend the book to someone else, he has not wasted his money.

Henry Ford said, “At least half of my advertising budget works…I just don’t know which half.

The same is true for giving books away as part of your advertising budget. Some of the books you give away will help with your promotional efforts, others won’t.

So, if you need an answer to the question of whether you should give away books or not, the answer is: You should. After all, it is industry standard and as an independently published author, you are now part of the book publishing industry.

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Photo courtesy of Dev Benjamin

Are You Grammatically Correct?

Knowing what keeps readers engaged and what turns them off is important when producing written materials.

Surprisingly, the most often cited complaint in book reviews by BookCrash reviewers (Christian Small Publishers Association’s Books for Bloggers program) is grammar and spelling errors. Reviewers will state things like:

  • “I would have given the book a higher rating if it had been edited better.”
  • “The grammar and spelling errors kept me from enjoying the book.”

Turning readers off through grammar and spelling errors is not just true for books. It is true for your marketing materials as well.

grammar

Boomerang, an email management tool, ran a study on this idea. The company used an automated grammar-checking software to spot errors in email subject lines. The company found that grammatical mistakes in email subject lines correlates with fewer responses to the email. Here are the particulars:

  • Mistake-free email subject lines received a 34% response rate, while those with errors only had a 29% response rate.
  • The more errors in the subject line, the less likely email recipients responded.
  • Response rates fell 14% when subject lines had two or more mistakes when compared with those that were mistake free.
  • The mistake most punished by non-response was not capitalizing the first letter in a subject line sentence.

In addition, a previous study by Boomerang found that email subject lines that were extremely short or long also had reduced response rates. Surprisingly, Boomerang’s study also found that emails sent on Monday were more likely to contain grammatical errors than those sent Tuesday through Friday.

So, if you use emails as part of your marketing efforts to promote your books, you can take a few lessons from this study.

  1. Don’t write your emails on Monday. If you are going to send out an email on Monday, write it the week before and save it for Monday.
  2. Don’t make your email subject lines too long or two short. The six-word rule for headlines is a good one to follow for email subject lines.
  3. Check your emails for grammatical errors before sending. You can use a free online tool like Grammark to do this quickly and efficiently.

Email is still one of the strongest marketing tools that independent authors and small publishers have at their disposal. When used correctly, email marketing can bring good results. Make sure that poor grammar does not get in the way of people responding to your messages.

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Book Review Scare

Reviews drive sales of books. According to one analysis of online recommendation systems: “Review systems have casual and positive effects on sales; to nobody’s surprise, books with more and better reviews are shown to sell better.”

Readers do look for reviews written by other reader to help determine whether a book is worth buying. Therefore, good reviews drive more book sales.

book-review-thumbnail

Recently, Amazon put out an update on Customers Reviews on their website. In the update, Amazon stated, “Today, we updated the community guidelines to prohibit incentivized reviews unless they are facilitated through the Amazon Vine program.”

Incentivized reviews refer to products given for free in exchange for a review.

Of course, this update scared a number of authors. Does this mean that authors can no longer give out free books in exchange for a review on Amazon?

Fortunately, at the end of their announcement, Amazon wrote, “The above changes will apply to product categories other than books. We will continue to allow the age-old practice of providing advance review copies of books.”

So, take a deep breath. Book reviews resulting from a complimentary copy of your book on Amazon are still safe.

As an author, you need multiple reviews to drive book sales. The more reviews your book has on Amazon, the bigger and better it looks to consumers. If you are struggling to secure reviews for your book or just want to learn some tips for getting more reviews, check out my new on-demand seminar Book Reviews: Tips for Getting More Reviews.

This one hour on-demand seminar covers the importance of book reviews, how to ask readers for reviews, how to find bloggers to review your books, how to secure more online book reviews, and how to respond to reviews. You can view this on-demand seminar for just $25 at http://www.marketingchristianbooksinc.com/university.

As always, members of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) have free access to this on-demand seminar on CSPA’s website at http://www.christianpublishers.net/mcbuniversity.

Learn how to get more reviews for your books. More reviews can help you sell more books.

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