FTC Review Disclosure: Positive or Negative?

Back in 2009, rules changed. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) became concerned that companies were using bloggers to promote their products. Basically, companies were giving bloggers free samples in exchange for a review of their product on the reviewer’s blog.

up or down

The FTC wanted consumers to know that the blogger was receiving a “fee” for their review, even if this “fee” was just a sample of the product. In other words, the FTC wanted to make sure that “truth in advertising” was being upheld.

As a result, the FTC revised their guidelines to state that “material connections” (sometimes payments or free products) between advertisers and endorsers—connections that consumers would not expect—must be disclosed. These examples address what constitutes an endorsement when the message is conveyed by bloggers or other “word-of-mouth” marketers.

Now when an author or publisher gives a blogger or reviewer a free book in exchange for a review of that book, the reviewer must disclose that fact. Some authors and small publishers do not like this statement accompanying a review. A few members of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) have chosen to not use the BookCrash book review program because they feel that the statement that the reviewer received a free copy of the book from the author or publisher in exchange for a review cheapens the review.

I can see their point. If a review is mediocre, stating that the book was received free in exchange for a review does not help a reader decide whether to read a book or not. However, if a review is glowing and includes how the book enlightened, entertained, or helped the reviewer, then the fact that they received the book in exchange for a review usually will not lessen the impact of the review.

One excellent example of a positive review that incorporates the information that the reviewer received the book in exchange for the review was recently done by a reviewer of my newly released Third Edition of Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace. In the review, the reviewer states:

I was given this book by the publisher for an honest review. It now sits on my desk right next to my stylebooks and other professional references. I highly recommend it.

The bottom line for authors and publishers is whether the good of having multiple reviews out ways that negative of having a statement in the review that the book was given to the reviewer in exchange for a fair review.

What about you? Do you think that getting numerous reviews and the exposure that goes with those reviews outweighs the impact of the required FTC statement?

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Do You Need a Marketing Template?

I am a list maker. I make a list, check off what I have accomplished, and then revise my list by making a new list that includes the items I have not yet completed and more that I need to complete. I frequently have multiple lists going at once.

Book Marketing Template

Do you like lists? What about a blueprint or template that shows you what to do?

One of the things I find is that I am often reinventing the wheel. Some tasks I do must be repeated weekly or monthly, yet I write them on each list. I find the same is true in marketing a book.

For each book I publish, I reinvent the wheel by creating a new list from scratch. I finally decided that I have had enough of that. To solve the problem, I created a Book Marketing Plan Template in Excel.

This Book Marketing Template is based on the marketing advice in my book Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace. It includes all the important marketing steps from pre-publication through publication and ongoing marketing after publication of a book.
I have decided to share this Book Marketing Template with other authors and publishers. The template is designed to be used as a companion to Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace, but it can be used as a stand-alone tool also.

Here is the best part. I am offering this re-useable Book Marketing Template in Excel for a bargain price. For just $4.99, you can have your own copy to use in marketing your book. Simply click HERE to purchase your copy today!

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Customer Service Matters

A new study conducted by Woodbury University showed that while over 60% of businesses they surveyed were using the Internet to promote their business, over 25% of these businesses did not monitor customer satisfaction. The study also found that half (about 50%) did not monitor online reviews of their business.

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The most interesting find for me from this study was that only about 75% of the businesses surveyed reported that they felt good reviews were important to their business. Yet, in a survey of 1,500 consumers who were asked how they would select a business to do home remodeling, 35% reported that the relied on online reviews.

I am baffled by the 25% of businesses that thought consumer reviews were not important to their business. However, I recently ran into this issue in looking for a printer for the Third Edition of my book, Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace.

To get quotes to compare printing costs, I went online and submitted a request for a quote on five different printing companies’ websites. These are printing companies who I am familiar with due to their current or previous Partner Membership with Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA). I had even used two of the printers that I requested a quote from to previously print a book.

Of the five requests I submitted via these printers’ websites, I only received two quotes. The two printing companies I had used previously to print a book did not even respond to my request for a quote.

I was quite surprised. The only reason I can come up with is that these printers just don’t need any business. Yet, if that is the case, why would they place a “request a quote” on their website? One thing is sure, these printers certainly are not placing a high importance on customer satisfaction.

Fortunately, I did find a printer to print the Third Edition of Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace, and the book is now available for sale for $25.99 (with free shipping) if you order via www.marketingchristianbooks.com.

How about you? Are you providing good customer service? Do you respond promptly to emails, phone calls, and notifications on your social media sites? Bad customer service will drive readers away, while good customer service will ensure that you have readers for your books for years to come.

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What is Your Investment?

Which book would you be more invested in—one that you downloaded for free onto your tablet or e-reader, or an antique book that you paid a fair sum for to add to your collection?

investing

Most people would agree that they would be more invested in the antique book. Interestingly, I have noted a similar theory of investment for independently published authors in terms of marketing a book.

With the rise of zero-dollar entry into publishing a book via POD or ebook, the amount of investment author has in marketing appears diminished when compared with those authors who paid thousands of dollars into an offset print run.

It is only human nature. The more we invest in something (in time and money), the more precious and important that thing is to us. The same is true for an author of a book. The more time and money is spent in producing the book, the more important selling the book is to the author.

Sadly, for many authors, simply producing the book (since it costs them next to nothing) is good enough. These authors don’t see the value in investing time and money in marketing the book.

The old adage “It takes money to make money” is still viable, even with the advent of social media. You have to either invest time (which equates to money) or actual money in marketing a book to sell the book.

I am amazed at the number of authors I talk to who want me to provide them with free advice, or even market their books for them for free. These same people expect others to pay to purchase the books they have written, but do not seem willing to pay to purchase the information they need to market their book effectively to get people to buy it.

Other than the information provided free to readers on this blog, I have two main avenues in which to share marketing information with authors and publishers:

  1. Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA). Membership in CSPA is open to any small publisher or independently published author producing books for the Christian market. One of the benefits of membership in CSPA is the monthly e-newsletter packed with information, resources, and tips on marketing books. A recent survey of the CSPA members showed that 70% of respondents felt that the monthly e-newsletter was the most helpful benefit of membership. Membership in CSPA is just $85 for the calendar year.
  2. Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace. The third edition of this book, featuring updated and expanded information, is releasing next month (Feb. 2014). You can pre-order the book now for a bargain price of $19.99 including shipping. Once the book is released, the price will be $25.99.

This old adage is still true: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Invest some time and money into your marketing efforts and you will reap sales.

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Changes

This year, I committed to updating my book, Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace. That process is well under way, and the Third Edition of the book will release in early 2014.

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What has amazed me in updating the book is the monumental changes that have occurred both in the publishing industry and on the Internet since the Second Edition. For instance, in the past four years, social networking has gone from being a fairly “new” thing to an everyday activity for most people.

In the Second Edition of Your Guide to Marketing Books on the Christian Marketplace, there is an entire chapter devoted to social networking. Within the chapter there is a whole section dedicated to popular social networking sites that are open to everyone, but Facebook, MySpace, and Bebo only received mentions, and Twitter was not even in the mix.

The new Third Edition of the book will feature whole sections within the social networking chapter devoted to Facebook and Twitter, yet the landscape has changed so drastically that most authors will already be using these social networking sites when they read the book.

One of the other huge changes in the industry is the growth of ebooks. While the Second Edition of Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace has a whole chapter on ebooks, back in 2009 digital book sales were only around six to eight percent of all book sales. In 2013, ebook sales make up between 25 to 30 percent of all book sales. That is a large amount of growth. In essence, ebooks have gone from being a specialty book format to a common book format.

With the growth of ebooks, most of the publications that review books now accept review copies in digital format. Also many of the book awards that used to accept only print books now have added ebook categories to their awards.

What do all these changes mean for you?

The Internet continues to evolve. As it does, the way we do things changes with it. The Internet is continuing to change the way we publish, distribute, and market books. As an author or publisher, it is important for you to stay on top of these changes so that you can continue to meet your target market where they are.

Stay tuned to hear more about ordering the new Third Edition of Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace!

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