PROMOTIONAL TIPS FOR AUTHORS: Reaching Out to Readers, by Jaidis Shaw

I’m extremely honored to have author and publicist Jaidis Shaw to present the first guest blog at Lisette’s Writers’ Chateau. Jaidis is not only multi-talented at all that she does, but she is one of the nicest, most professional, and most competent professionals that I have dealt with in the writing world.

You can read Jaidis’ complete bio at the end of her blog and enter to win a one-week book tour from Jaidis, which can be claimed any time from February to July, 2013. And now:

PROMOTIONAL TIPS FOR AUTHORS: Reaching Out to Readers,

by Jaidis Shaw

      You’ve poured sweat, grumbled in frustration, shed the tears, and ended with one heck of an awesome happy dance. I am, of course, talking about the moments leading up to seeing your hard work turned into a novel that is now published and available for the world to see. For debut authors, that one moment when you see your book cover on Amazon is forever seared into your brain. You are able to float on your euphoric high for days, sometimes even weeks. All of your friends and family have shown their support by purchasing a copy of your book. Then the inevitable happens. Your sales start declining, you haven’t seen a new review in days (no matter how often you refresh the page), your breathing becomes labored, and you’re positive that your heart is showing signs of cardiac arrest. A wave of self-doubt crashes over you and all of the positive comments you’ve received so far are overshadowed by the looming question: Why isn’t my book selling?

If you’re an author and are still trying to navigate the depths of the self-publishing world, you may be struggling with how to promote your book. Where do I start? Do I have to have an agent? Should I have tried finding a publisher to pick up my novel rather than self-publish? It is only natural to doubt our decisions, especially when we are feeling lost and confused. If you did go the self-publishing route, or even if you just want to do your part to promote your work, I’m here to tell you that promoting your book isn’t as daunting as it may appear. Maybe all you need is a little nudge in the right direction.

Most of the tips today say that the ultimate goal for authors is to sell books. Well I do agree that is a good goal to have, I disagree with it being the “ultimate” goal. The reason being is that I believe the most important goal for authors is to have people reading their books. After all, if nobody is reading your book, it isn’t going to keep selling. So what is a good place to start? For the sake of time, let us assume that you have already started making your mark on social media platforms by doing things like creating a Facebook Fan Page, joining Twitter, and having a blog or website. So, before the launch and release parties, before the book tours, it is important to reach out to bloggers and book reviewers.  I’ve put together a list of tips and topics that I believe are important to remember while reaching out to potential reviewers … and just remember … you want them to be “Reading” your book.

      Reviewers: If you are just now stepping into the book world, you may not be aware of how numerous book reviewers are these days. But with a simple search on sites like Goodreads, BookBlogs, or even Google, you will have a list of reviewers at your fingertips. If you happen to know a member of the reviewer community, another option is to reach out to them. Nine times out of ten, they will know of other bloggers that are open to receiving review requests. Several lists have been compiled of book blogs that serve as a wonderful starting point for gathering potential reviewers.

      Email: It is important to have an email that is set up properly. This should probably go without saying but it is one of the main issues that I see repeatedly. I feature between three to five authors a week on my blog and I can’t tell you how frustrating it is when I’m trying to find the author’s materials and have a hard time locating them because their email starts with something random like Bestselling_Author_1 or CrazyWriter4Books. Not only does having an email like that make more work for the blogger/reviewer but is less likely to be remembered. It is best to pick something straightforward and easy to memorize; more specifically your name. For example, my email is JaidisShaw@yahoo.com. Anyone who is looking to email me, feature me, etc simply has to begin typing my name and there it is.

Another issue I see authors guilty of is loading their email signatures down with tons of links and images. It is best to keep all graphics out of your signature. The main reason I think this is important is because the graphics tend to show up as attachments; I know that most times they do for me in Yahoo. When I am searching through for an interview for example, I am looking for the paperclip icon that indicates that email has an attachment and it wastes time having to go through the ones that only have graphics in the signature. Simply having your name, email, blog/website URL, and link to your Amazon Author Page is more than sufficient.

      Ask: If you are still a little hesitant on emailing a potential reviewer, or just want to test the waters first, simply ask if anyone would like to provide an honest review of your book. Send out a tweet, post a status update on Facebook, or even write a blog post about it. It really is as easy as saying “Would anyone be interested in receiving a free eBook copy of my book in exchange for an honest review?”  You will almost always have a few takers and people that will share your post to help spread the word.

      Details: You may be wondering what details to include in your initial email to reviewers. There are two parts to this one. The first part is to attach a media kit. These are a simple way to organize and keep track of all your important details. You can use a template for these so once you have the information gathered; all you have to do is attach it to your email request. Some details that should always appear in your media kit are the following: author photo and bio, book cover and synopsis, a short PG-13 excerpt (300 – 500 words), and links to where you and the book can be found (Amazon Author Page, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads).

The second part is what to include in the body of the email. After your personal opening and initial request, it is nice to provide them with the book’s details including synopsis, genre, total word count, publication date, publisher, giveaway details (discussed later) and any content warnings or age restrictions that the book may contain. You do not need to include your author bio and links (unless you want to) since they appear in the media kit. Your email should focus on the book and not you as an author because the reviewer isn’t judging you as a person, but your book.

Do not include the book you want reviewed! You may think that this helps the process move along faster when in actuality it halts the process and results in you sending out books that will likely never be read. Most unsolicited books may be downloaded for future use but if they didn’t agree to review it, you’ll be lucky to hear back from them. In fact, most blogs have a policy on unsolicited books that are received, a subject I’ll be covering in the next tip.

      Instructions: For the love of books, please follow the instructions for each individual blogger! Each reviewer has their own way of doing things: specific genres they like, what information they include in their reviews/posts, formats accepted for review, etc. With so many requests being received, they will almost always give priority to those who follow the instructions and you don’t want to miss out on the opportunity because you didn’t take time to find out what they want/like.

      No Bulk Requests: I know that it may be tedious to email reviewers individually but it is a necessity. If you want a reviewer to take time out of their schedule to give your book an honest review, the least you can do it take an extra minute to personalize an email to them. Don’t open your email with a simple “Hey,” “Dear To Whom It May Concern,” or with the blog’s title. Show the blogger some courtesy and that you are reaching out to them as an individual. Don’t know their name? Simply visit the blog in question and look on the “About” page. Most have a name that they go by and if they do, use that. If absolutely no name can be found, then you may have to address them by their blog title (but only as a last resort).

      Giveaways: Everyone loves a great giveaway! Featured author posts or reviews posted on blogs almost always receive more traffic when there is a giveaway involved. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant: a copy of your book, swag, or electronic Amazon Gift Card for example. Simply let the reviewer/blogger know in your initial request that you are willing to offer a giveaway to their readers if they’d like. Other than bringing in more traffic, another great thing giveaways help with is bringing you new followers. Most of the time entries for the giveaway will be tasks like following you on Twitter or liking you on Facebook. If you’re offering a copy of your book, it will potentially translate into another review, which is always a good thing – whether it is good or bad.

So there you have it, my “Reading” tips to promoting your book. I hope they will help eliminate some of the confusion when it comes to getting your book into the hands of readers. I am currently in the process of making a series of Vlogs that will expand on the topics above and give some insight to other aspects of marketing your book. You may find yourself wondering why I am willing to share tips when I offer my promotional services through Juniper Grove Book Solutions. The answer is simple. I believe that all authors should have a basic idea of what to do to help them if they want to take matters into their own hands. Everyone doesn’t have the resources to hire help to have the work done for them. Or maybe you just don’t want to trust your novel in the hands of someone other than yourself. Whatever the case may be, you shouldn’t feel like there are no options available for you because with enough work and dedication, you can get your book out there to be enjoyed by readers.

If you have any questions, I am always available and happy to help so please feel free to send a note my way.

Jaidis Shaw currently resides in a small town located in South Carolina with her husband and a beautiful daughter. With a passion for reading, Jaidis can always be found surrounded by books and dreaming of new stories. She enjoys challenging herself by writing in different genres and currently has several projects in the works.

When not reading or writing, Jaidis maintains her blog Juniper Grove and helps promote her fellow authors. In addition to her free promotion services, she uses her experience in publicity to offer freelance author services through Juniper Grove Book Solutions.

Jaidis released her debut novel Destiny Awaits in April 2011. In addition to her novel, she currently has two short stories published with Wicked East Press. You can read her latest story ‘Blind Justice’ in the Wicked Bag of Suspense Tales anthology – now available on Kindle!

CONNECT WITH JAIDIS

Amazon Author Page

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

Blog

Kindlegraph

You Tube

TO WIN A ONE-WEEK BOOK TOUR FROM JAIDIS (to be claimed any time from February to July 2013), please leave a comment below. If you would just like to leave a comment (always appreciated) and don’t want to enter to win, just put #notentering at the end of your post! GOOD LUCK TO ALL! A winner will be selected on January 1, 2013.

CHAT WITH MARIA SAVVA

Maria Savva lives and works in London. She is a lawyer, although not currently practising law. She writes novels and short stories in multiple genres.

Time to chat with Maria!

What is your latest book?

My latest book is Haunted. It’s my fifth novel, a psychological thriller/paranormal suspense novel. I hadn’t written a novel this dark before, so it’s new territory for me, but it seems to be quite a popular one so far. At least three readers have told me that they’ve been unable to put it down and have read it in one sitting. That’s a massive compliment. I always envy people who can read so fast. I was moving more towards the paranormal genre with my novel, The Dream, which includes an element of time travel and also a ghost. If Haunted does prove to be popular, I may consider writing more dark fiction, although having said that, I promised myself I would write a happy novel next because Haunted was so difficult to write, emotionally.

Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?

I never know the ending of a book until I get there. Even if I plan an ending, it never turns out that way. With Haunted, for example, I started off knowing I wanted to write a book about how crime affects innocent victims’ families, but also how it affects the perpetrator. I started off writing it intending to show three different crimes and have them linked in some way. The original title was 3 Crimes. I began writing Nigel’s story and it took on a life of its own. The story developed and became a novel.

As for the title, I go through three or four titles while I’m writing the book, and then reflect on the story at the end and pick a title that suits the finished story. Haunted was called Aftermath for a while, but I settled on Haunted because of the paranormal element and I think it fits.

Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of the editing. How about you?

I usually (maybe because I am mad) write the first draft with a pen and paper. I then edit the story as I am typing it up on the computer. I go through at least 10 edits before I am happy with the finished product. I find on each reread there are things that jump out at you that you had completely missed on the previous reading. It’s so important for writers to make sure they read and reread the book until they are happy with it. You usually know when you are nearly finished editing when you look and feel like a zombie, and could quite happily throw your computer out of the window. Who said writing was easy?

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

Heaps and heaps of advice. In fact I could probably write a book about it. In my 15 or so years as a writer I have made every mistake known to man. I could help authors avoid some of those. However, making mistakes is a good thing as it’s the only way you learn. The most important advice I can think of off the top of my head is DO NOT publish your book without getting it professionally edited. When you are starting out as an author you simply do not have the tools to edit the book yourself. Furthermore, it is much more difficult to spot errors in your own work than it is to spot it in the work of others.

Even after editing, make sure you have as many beta readers as possible, preferably people who will give you an honest opinion of the book.

Do you write anything besides novels? Care to share?

I write short stories, poems when I am inspired, and song lyrics. I have published a few short story collections, and some of my other short stories appear in the BestsellerBound Short Story Anthologies. I haven’t done much with my poetry, probably because I don’t see myself as knowledgeable enough about poetry and feel like a bit of a fraud. I did once enter a poem into a competition and never heard back, so I took this to mean I’m right about me being a crap poet. Who knows, I may find some more confidence later on and publish a few of them. As for the song lyrics, I’ve always written them with the intention of adding music to them at a later date, but have never done that either. Maybe because if I tried, it would shatter the illusion that I have of myself as a fantastic song writer, and would make me realise that I am not destined to be the next big thing in music. I always like to have an unrealistic dream to fall back on.

Were you “born to write” or did you discover your passion for writing later in life?

I was born to tell stories, you can ask my long-suffering younger sister about that. I used to keep her up until the middle of the night telling stories that I would make up. Reading was an addiction for me when I was young and due to this love of the written word, I always had a dream that I would one day write that bestselling novel. I wanted to emulate what my heroes had done. As a child, I used to watch films that were based on novels and fantasise about my own novels being made into films. Writing is now an addiction, and like any drug it’s a hard habit to break. I started writing my first novel in 1997, but before that I always wrote short stories, poems, song lyrics. My earliest writing would have been a comic series that I made up where my main character was a monster named Shag (that was long before the meaning of that word became a bit rude – or at least, I didn’t know it was rude). I used to draw pictures for the comic and write the stories. That was back in the ‘70s, unfortunately, I never kept any of those. When I was in my pre-teens and teens, I used to ‘write’ songs, although this was more me and my Casio organ, and me making up the lyrics as I went along. I wrote short stories at school and always enjoyed creative writing. I suppose I was bound to end up in some kind of job that involved the written word. I studied Law which involves a lot of reading.

If you were to write a non-fiction book, what might it be about?

Maybe I would write my memoirs. But I won’t do that until I’m at least in my sixties or older. I think it’s always good to have a lot of life experience under your belt before tackling writing an autobiography, unless it’s something written about a specific important event or something about you and your life that is different to other people’s lives. I quite like reading memoirs as I think we can learn a lot from each other, and unfortunately people don’t listen much to other people anymore because everyone has busy lives. Sitting down and reading an autobiography is like paying attention to one person and listening to what they have to say about what they’ve learned and experienced.

Having our work out there to be judged by strangers is often daunting for writers. Do you have any tips on handling a negative review?

I like author Darcia Helle’s tip best, she says: ‘Don’t read reviews’. I have heard that advice from others before as well, and you know, it makes a lot of sense. Reviews are after all one person’s opinion. Not everyone is going to like our writing, let’s face it, not everyone is going to like us as people. That’s life. I think the quandary is that reviews are needed in order for an author to gain a following – good and bad reviews- so we tend to obsess over them a bit too much. A tip for handling a negative review is to ignore it. I have a hard time with this but am finding it easier to restrain myself lately. Of course we love our books, but we need to take a step back. The worst thing an author can do is think that his or her own book is perfect. You need to be open to criticism; that is part of growing and becoming a better writer. I have always listened to every negative comment, and after crying for a few days I have asked myself how I can use that to make my next book even better. I will continue to do the same thing.

Writing is a learning process; I am learning new things every day. Contained in most negative reviews will be lovely gifts from the reviewer as to how we can improve ourselves as writers. If we ignore that we are doing ourselves a disservice. Remember, reviewers read a lot of books, other people will probably be thinking the same things about your book; don’t shoot the messenger. Sometimes you should take note of the things said in a review and use it to help you. Of course there are the nasty 1 star reviews written by nasty people. You can pretty much ignore those. Another tip is to go to your favourite author’s Amazon page and take a look at the reviews. There will be 1 star and 5 star reviews, which just proves that what some people love other people hate. I also heard recently that there is a saying that one third of the audience will hate you, one third will love you, and one third will be indifferent. So if you’re only attracting negative reviews, you just haven’t found your target audience yet. And remember, it’s impossible to please everyone, and no one should try to do that.

We all know the old saying; you can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true. However, how much importance do you place on your book cover design?

I actually think that with independently published books you can certainly judge how much effort has gone into a book by looking at the cover. If someone is passionate about their work they will take time to make sure that the cover is something that adequately reflects the book’s content. For example, I design my own covers and put a lot of effort into making sure that it is something I would like to look at, something that would attract me to the book. I often purchase a book based on the fact that I like the cover and for no other reason. Usually, if it’s a good cover, it’s also a good book. I suppose it’s a matter of personal taste. All art is subjective, but if the author has designed their own cover and you like that, chances are you are also going to like the book; they both come from the same artistic spring. I’ve noticed that most big name publishers don’t put a lot of effort into book covers; that’s probably because they know the book is going to sell due to the hype and adverts. As an artist, I appreciate that book covers are a great way to showcase art. I used my own art work for the covers of Haunted, Pieces of a Rainbow, and The Dream; those were inspired by the books. I also took the photograph that is now the cover of Coincidences (second edition). For my other books I have used photographs from Morguefile.com, and have used iPhoto to play around with the original photos and adjust them to suit the book. For example, the photo of the swan on my cover for Fusion was originally in colour, I think, and was not at an angle, but I played around with it to try to get the swan to look a bit more intimidating, as one of the stories is a bit of a horror story involving swans.

What’s your favorite comfort food? Least favorite food?

Favourite: Cheesecake or chocolate, or better still: chocolate cheesecake.

Least favourite: Broad beans

What music soothes your soul?

Heavy metal/rock. I remember once walking out of Metallica concert and saying that I wished life was a Metallica concert… I always get a great vibe when I’m at rock/heavy metal festivals and gigs.

What’s your favorite film of all times? Favorite book?

I have lots of favourite films and books, but if I had to choose one of each, it would be:

Favourite film: Shirley Valentine

Favourite book: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

What are three things you think we can all do to make the world a better place?

Listen more, be kind, smile more

Connect with Maria

Website

Twitter

Facebook

BestsellerBound