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How to Use Your Blog to Sell More Books

| Posted in Blogging |

14

Whether you’re e-publishing on your own or being published through a house, you’ve probably heard that a blog is a must for book promotion.

Writers like to write, so it’s not a big hardship for most of us (though one does have to balance blogging time with writing-the-next-book time), and you can usually find a blog on an author’s site. Unfortunately, that blog usually isn’t doing much for the author.

Why? Not many people are visiting it.

Before we talk about how to change that, let me make an argument for why a blog is worth working on.

When I released my latest novella this weekend, a steampunk adventure called Peacemaker, I posted an announcement with an excerpt on my blog. I also sent out an email to my newsletter subscribers (I’ve talked about email marketing and newsletters before), subscribers who originally signed up through the form on my blog (in essence, if I didn’t maintain a blog and invite readers to visit, I wouldn’t have any newsletter subscribers!).

Because of those two quick announcements, 200+ people bought Peacemaker the first full day it was out and nearly half of those purchases came through my links (one on the blog post and one in the newsletter). I know this because, as I’ve mentioned before, I use affiliate links to track sales (and get a little extra of a cut from Amazon). Those sales mean that Peacemaker paid for itself (insofar as editing, formatting, and cover art expenses go) in the first day it was out. I had a similar experience last November when I released my third Emperor’s Edge book (if you’re new to my blog and haven’t tried those books yet, the first one is free at Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes). Though that was a full-length novel, and my expenses were close to $1,500, it paid for itself in the first week.

Of course, lots of those sales came through Amazon and other stores, but a lot of them, especially those immediate ones, came from folks who heard about the new release on my blog or from my newsletter.

So, how can you make your blog work for you? Here are a few tips:

  • Blog regularly about informative and/or entertaining things — Nobody wants to hear about your writers’ block, your cats, or your favorite dinner recipe (sorry!). Save that stuff for your personal diary-style blog. Your author blog is for selling books. Assume a potential fan is stumbling upon your blog for the first time. What’s there for them? News related to the genre? Interviews with your characters? Interviews with other authors in your genre? Tips related to writing or the book world? Inspirational posts? (You’d be surprised how many readers are aspiring authors themselves, so success stories can be popular, especially when they offer helpful tidbits.)
  • Get links back to your blog — I’m not exaggerating when I say maybe 1% of the authors out there do this effectively, and it’s so key. Blogging isn’t a build-it-and-they-will-come-Kevin-Costner movie. You have to promote it, and the best way is by guest blogging or otherwise convincing people to link to your site from theirs. Links are votes of popularity in the eyes of the search engines (make sure to read my old post on search engine optimization), and every link is a potential pathway people can stumble across that leads to your blog.
  • Start a newsletter — I know I already mentioned it, but this is also key. Far more of those early purchases that I mentioned came from my newsletter than from my blog post. You could even argue that the main reason to have a blog is to get people onto your mailing list. Here’s the link to my newsletter basics article again in case you ignored it the first time!
  • Use your ebooks to promote your blog and newsletter — I put my blog address and social media links in the afterword of my ebooks and invite fans to come say hi. I get mail (through my contact form) from these rocking people, so I know it works!
  • Display your book covers prominently on your blog, along with links to Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords (at the least) — I’m amazed at how often I visit an author’s blog or website, only to have to surf through several pages to get to a link that’ll take me to Amazon. I’m a Kindle-gal, and I really just want to get right to Amazon and download a sample, because that’s what’s going to sell me (or not) on the book. Don’t put a lot of page-clicks between your visitor and a bookstore where he/she can sample or buy. You can have excerpts on your site, too, but don’t make people go through them to find the store link — lots of folks prefer downloading samples to their e-readers.
  • Use social media sites to promote your blog posts — Now that you’re writing interesting content, let people know about it. A lot of authors simply try to sell their books via Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites, but people join those sites to socialize, not to whip out their credit cards. They’re more likely to check out free information (and free ebooks, but that’s another story), such as can be found on your blog. And they might just retweet/share those posts, helping you increase the visibility to your blog (other news-hungry bloggers might see your post and include it in a round-up, too — this gets you free links to your site).
  • Do a product launch via your blog — I haven’t talked much about product launches yet (I’m not a hardcore marketer myself, and I don’t do a lot in this arena), but the idea is to get people excited about your new book before it comes out. A couple of weeks before you publish, you might want to post the cover art, then an excerpt, then a longer excerpt, etc. If your snippets are interesting, you might just pick up a few new readers this way, and you’ll have your existing readers ready to go out and get the new book on Day 1.

All right, I could go on (and on and on…), but these are the basics. If you put time into building and promoting a blog, it can pay you back in spades by making it much easier to sell books. Even when I’m not actively promoting a new release, I get a small but steady trickle of sales (measured through those affiliate links) through my blog.

Do you have any blog tips you’d like to add? Please let us know below!

So, You Want a Book Blogger to Review Your Ebook…

| Posted in Guest Posts |

13

Today’s guest poster isn’t an author; she’s a book blogger. Misty Rayburn is someone who encouraged me when I was getting started. She was very friendly on Facebook and invited me to participate in some ebook giveaways. She’s since branched out from Facebook and posts reviews over at The Top Shelf.

Misty’s here today to offer some tips on getting book bloggers to review your book. She’s also hosting a giveaway: Loramendi’s Story by Angela Carlie. If you’d like to enter to win a copy, please leave a comment at the bottom of this post.

* * *

Lindsay graciously invited me to her blog to share some tips that would be helpful for authors regarding book reviewers!  I really must thank her for being here and I hope these tips help you.

First and foremost, be friendly! I like to join author pages or even personal pages of the authors I’m doing reviews for.  When you email a reviewer, make sure to include Facebook page / Fan page or twitter.  It tells me that this is going to be more than a “You throw your book at me and I spit out  a review” situation.

Be sure to include your book’s synopsis in your email.  I don’t know how many times I’ve had to email someone back and say “Can you tell me a bit more about your book?”

Check out the blog of the blogger.  Some blogs are very genre specific and some aren’t.  Don’t limit yourselves to blogs that just fit your genre either.  Branch out a bit!

DON’T be afraid of book bloggers that review erotica! The genre may not be your cup of tea, but that doesn’t mean their audience isn’t open to other material.   The Top Shelf reviews erotica as well as everything else under the sun.  Why?  Because I like variety!

When you’re enquiring about the status of a review, don’t just outright be like “Have you read my book yet!” Or “When will my review be up?”  That’s a tentative thing.  A blogger can tell you around what month and we can try to stick to it but we don’t get to read all the time for one reason or another.  We wouldn’t just shove off your book for any reason that wasn’t serious!

Offering to do something else with the blogger is a great way to integrate yourself more and touch base with fans.  When you’re doing a request, offer to do an interview or a guest blog.  Maybe even a giveaway.

The last and most important tip I can think of is, promote whenever you’re being posted somewhere else.  You’ve given the reviewer a book and they’ve reviewed it for you.  They’ve accepted you on their blog for an interview or an event of some kind.  The least you can do is drive attention to it.  It’s not only good for you but for them too!

I want to thank Lindsay once again for having me over here.  I really hope these tips help you out.  If you have any questions, please comment!  I’ll answer them!  Be sure to check out my blog at http://www.the-top-shelf.com!

* * *

Thanks, Misty!

And, guys, don’t forget to comment if you’re interested in a copy of Loramendi’s Story.

Setting up a Blog Tour for Your Book

| Posted in Book Marketing |

4

When I first released Encrypted and The Emperor’s Edge at the end of last winter (yes, I’ve been doing this almost a year now!), I signed up for a couple of blog tours. This is where you guest post or answer interview questions on other people’s sites. It can help with promotion if the sites have a decent amount of traffic. I ended up paying a little bit for someone else to organize things, but if I were to do it again, I’d probably save myself some money and set up the blog tour myself.

That’s exactly what up-and-coming fantasy author, Darke Conteur, has done. She’s here to talk about how she set things up (and to plug her new ebook–The Watchtower–of course).

Setting up Your Own Book Blog Tour

WatchtowerI want to thank Lindsay for allowing me to take over her blog for a day. I’ve been a fan of hers for a while now, and yeah, I’m the one that did the video reading of her first novella FLASH GOLD (sorry about the cleavage shot, it was just so hot that day!).

When I first heard of a blog tour, I literally thought it was someone driving around blogging while they visited holiday destinations. I know, stupid, right? I couldn’t understand why someone would do that. Wasn’t there better things to do than blog while on vacation? That was then, this is now, and I so totally get it!

If you’re a regular follower of Lindsay’s site, you know there are a pile of new authors coming out of the woodwork on a daily basis; all clawing and scratching to get your attention. Some of their self-promotion is good, and some, well, let’s just say it isn’t and leave it at that. Granted, what works for one person doesn’t always work for another, and if you don’t feel comfortable doing something others say worked for them, then fine! That’s them, not you. For instance, when I posted the video of FLASH GOLD, I had a few people state there was no way they could do something like that. One woman said I was brave for doing it. Brave — no. Crazy — maybe.

I saw videos as a unique way to promote myself. Sure, it took a while to get comfortable in front of the camera, and I must have sent a dozen emails to Lindsay fretting over one thing or another, but I didn’t give up on the idea because I thought, and still do, think it’s a good idea.

Another good idea to promote oneself, is what I’m doing right now — a blog tour. When I first started talking about it, I had a lot of people ask me what it was. Seems it’s a new thing, but I’m seeing more and more authors doing it. Think of it as a virtual book tour, and I think they’re great. If you’re planning on a tour of your own, here are a few things to keep in mind.

  1. What kind of tour do you want to do: There are a number of ways you can go about this; author interviews, character interviews, post about what your book is about, or the genre, or a mixture of all three. I’m doing a character interview tour, but because Lindsay’s site is about marketing, she asked me to do a post along that line. Being prepared for sudden changes in the lineup. Not everyone may want an in-depth analysis of your genre.
  2. How many ‘stops’ should you do: I’ve seen some authors talk about doing thirty to fifty posts on one tour. That’s a lot! Might I suggest a number a little more manageable, say ten to twenty? Especially if this is your first tour. My only concern with doing high numbers tours, is that after a while you may run out of things to talk about. It’s always good to have a fresh post for each blog. It entices the reader to keep an eye out for your next post, and in the end, isn’t that what the tour is about? Gathering interest in our work?
  3. Who should I ask? This is completely up to you. Right now, there aren’t that many people other than  authors/writers who would host a blog tour. This is still a new marketing tool, but I’m sure as it gains more in popularity, more options will become available.
  4. Offer to return the favour. Karma, my friends, is a good thing. With each blog tour stop you make, you’re exposing your work to new and potential followers, but this isn’t just a one way street. Offering to host blog tours will bring in more potential followers, and if they like what they see, they may stick around.
  5. If you’re hosting a blog tour, might I suggest that you inform the guest blogger of any comments on their post. This will allow the guest blogger to reply in a timely fashion.

Alas, my time has come to an end. It has been a privileged to be here today, and an honour to have Lindsay’s blog as a stop on the Paranormal Pit-Stop Blog Tour. So remember, just because it’s dead, doesn’t mean it’s not alive!

* * *

You can read more about Darke Conteur’s ebook, The Watchtower, on her site, or you might want to download it from Amazon.

Becoming a Book Blogger (and getting free books!) with Laurie Lu from Bonafide Reflections

| Posted in Blogging |

6

Last spring, I wrote a series of posts on How to Make Money as a Book Blogger, based on my years of paying the bills with my internet income (before shifting my focus to writing stories and self-publishing, I blogged about everything from home improvement to the cruise industry and actually earned a living that way). As I admitted in those articles, it’s not easy to make piles talking about books, but it’s certainly possible to make enough to cover web hosting and pay for a few new reads now and then. At the very least, book bloggers can snag a lot of free stories to review.

Laurie Lu from Bona Fide Reflections started her blog in February this year and has built up a following and managed to acquire a lot of books to review (traditionally published as well as indie offerings). I thought I’d ask her some questions, in case any of you are thinking of starting a book blog (or have one that you’re hoping will become more popular).

Interview with Laurie Lu from Bona Fide Reflections

What prompted you to start a book review blog?

Well hmmm… *taps finger on chin,* I love to read. And one day I found Goodreads, a book community, online. As I looked around, I noticed that a lot of people had links to other websites. I started poking around more. Looked at what they were doing and realized I could be doing the same thing – blogging about the books I read and interacting with an audience of like-minded individuals. So, long story short: blogging is just an extension of my love for reading.

You’re on Blogger, but you have a custom design and your own web address (www.bona-fide-reflections.com), so it doesn’t look like you’re on Blogger. Can you tell us how much those upgrades cost and how you went about having them done?

I have a friend who is a webmaster and I sought out advice from him on how to take my blog one step further than Blogspot. It is important to own your own domain (i.e., .com, .net, .org) so no one else can use that name. I went to Go Daddy and bought two domain names – bona-fide-reflections.com and bonafidereflections.com. The latter to cover all bases for “search” purposes. I think it cost me all of $12 for a year. After purchasing my domain names, my friend had changed everything over for me from my blogspot addy to my domain name. I have no idea how he did that part.

Bona Fide Reflections

Regarding the design of Bona Fide Reflections… when I first started by blog, I used the blogger templates to use as my blog design. But, I was not able to create the look I really wanted. I knew what I wanted it to look like. I just did not know how to make it happen. So, I enlisted the help of a blog designer whose work I had seen around the blogosphere. I really liked her style of design. The cost of having her do my blog renovation was close to $200. However, she did everything for me: Header Design, Column styling (2 or 3 column design), Background Design, Bloggy Button with grab code, InstallationCustom avatar/illustration, 4 HTML installations, 4 extra graphics (winner, interview, guest post, Teaser Tuesday etc.), Custom Style Sheet, Navigation (drop-down available), Signature. There are other cheaper options. This just what I wanted and what worked for me.

Hmm, maybe I should hire her! Okay, now for the good stuff: what’s the secret to getting free ebooks to review?

Great question. Well, I think networking helps a whole lot in getting your name out there. I made sure I interacted with authors and publishers on Goodreads, Twitter, and Facebook. Interacting with other book bloggers has also been very helpful in this endeavor because they were able to offer advice and introduce me to some authors. Once you get your name out there, the authors and publishers tend to seek you out to help get the word out on their upcoming release or, in some cases, already published books.

Another great avenue to take is signing up with NetGalley. They offer a lot of ARCs (advanced reader copies) in a lot of genre categories. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for a book you’re interested in from the author or publisher. The worst that can happen is that they will say no; but, you are no worse off than before you asked. In other words: nothing ventured, nothing gained.

What do you do if an author sends you a book to review and you just don’t like it?

I approach them first to let them know how I felt about the book and why I felt that way. Then I ask them whether or not they want me to post my review. Most often times…., er, no every time they ask that I not post my review. But, I can completely understand why. Often times, I am dealing with an indie author just starting out and they really don’t need bad press. Just because I did not like the book does not mean they won’t find a following for it and I don’t want to hinder the author’s efforts to sell their work.

I know you’re active on Twitter. What have you done to promote your blog online and pick up followers?

Within the past couple of months I have really utilized Twitter. This a place where like minded folks seem to “congregate” and share information. Once you start socializing, you find yourself developing a larger network. This helps to get your blog’s name out there while having some fun. Plus, Twitter is a platform that can be used advertising your blog when you have got something going on the blog and need some traffic directed there. You pick up followers by putting yourself out there and interacting and following others. Many people tend to follow you back.

I have also gained a lot of followers by participating in blog hops. What’s a blog hop? A blog hop consists of linking up participating blogs which are hosting a giveaway and the blogs link up together allowing our followers to hop easily from one giveaway to another. For followers that means lots of chances to win free books. For host blogs it means lots of new visitors and followers.

Any tips for new readers thinking of starting a book review blog?

Having a blog is a lot of fun. I have enjoyed meeting some really wonderful people who are like-minded in their reading preferences and I have connected with really wonderful bloggers, authors and publishers. However, it has been a lot of work. It is hard not to get discouraged and feel overwhelmed. The most important thing to remember is that you are doing it for fun (or at least, I am) and just focus on that fact. If you have bitten off more than you can chew, always be honest and communicate whether it is with your peers, authors, and/or the publishers when you get to a point where you are overwhelmed. When, you are feeling discouraged, reach out to the peers you feel closest to because often times they have been in your shoes and can offer support or advice to help you get through a rough patch.

Thanks for sharing all that information, Laurie!

New Direction for This Blog + Starting an “Official” Author Website

| Posted in Writing |

19

I’m blogging from Long Beach at the Washington Coast this week, a destination that probably sounds more exciting than it is. Our beaches out here are great if you like remote, cloudy, and windy, but don’t expect to work on your tan or have anyone bring you a tropical beverage with a pineapple wedge perched on the rim. The wifi at the coffee shop here is going in and out (mostly out), so I’ll keep this post short.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know I’ve been writing about my adventures in e-publishing and book promotion with rare entries to let folks know about my new releases. Now that I’m getting more and more people visiting the site because they’re interested in my books (as opposed to self-publishing and marketing), I’ve decided to shift the focus and make this more of a personal/author blog. I’m not quite sure what that’ll cover yet (aside from the obvious book stuff), but I’ll try to keep it interesting (no discussions of the funny things the dogs, cats, or relatives have done).

I’ll still be chatting about my “ebook endeavors,” because I enjoy sharing what I’ve learned, but I’ll be doing it over at Savvy Self-Publishing. I just got that site up and running this weekend, and there’s not much there yet, but you can check out the first two articles over there:

If you’re interested in self-publishing, I hope you’ll follow me over there and subscribe via email or news reader. In the meantime, I’ve got another guest post and an interview coming up here this week (if I can find some decent wifi while I’m out here, which has been a questionable proposition so far!), so it’ll be a gradual transition.

Thanks for reading!

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