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Sell! Sell! Sell!

Sell! Sell! Sell!

 

We are bombarded daily with ads wanting us to buy this product, or that service. The ads come on our televisions, tablets, phones, billboards, and in the venues we frequent for shopping. It seems everyone wants to sell us something, and this can be tiring. Sometimes, it’s even downright annoying.

 

Before I began writing novels, my background was in commissioned real estate and mortgage sales, so I understand the concepts and drills of selling. I was never the “hard sell” type though, which is perhaps why I got out of that business. I loved working with people, and putting pieces of the puzzles together, and although I met some wonderful, conscientious sales reps, I got tired of dealing with so many disreputable “professionals”.

 

I also wasn’t driven enough to succeed. I liked the work, but didn’t love it. So, I quit. I drifted around a bit, unsure of what really fit me, my personality, and my skill sets. I kept looking for something that excited me and drove me to want to succeed. There were plenty of things I could do, just not a lot I wanted to do. As a result, my finances suffered, as did my self-esteem. I just couldn’t seem to figure out what I was supposed to do with my life. I felt like a failure. I pretended it didn’t bother me, but it did.

 

I was asking for a lot; I wanted to do something meaningful to me, but couldn’t figure out what. I wasn’t making the logical connections. Then I discovered writing, and all the pieces finally fit. This is what I’m meant to do. More than that though, I began to realize that all those years in sales weren’t wasted. Before that, I worked as an office administrator, so I can type and organize an office pretty well. I’d need my experience in sales and office admin to help me write, market and promote my books. I already had the basics, and I made another connection; it’s all about building relationships.

 

Making it all fit

Making it all fit

When I’d been in sales before, I loved building relationships with my clients and other industry professionals. I’m good at it, and it comes naturally to me. I don’t have to force it at all. Writing is just another way of building even more relationships. I’ve been able to do this not only through readers, which is fantastic, but with other writers and publishing industry professionals all over the world. Sure, I want book sales, who doesn’t, but I love connecting with others on various levels. I’ve discovered so many people out there who are like me; they’re connectors. They love to share the knowledge they’ve gained, and enjoy the connections they’ve built over time. Seth Godin posted on his blog recently about this very subject, which is what got me thinking. He’s absolutely right; it isn’t about the short term gain, it’s about the long term goal.

 

People like Jonathan Gunson, of Bestseller Labs, Molly Greene, Jane Friedman, and Joanna Penn all share the wealth of their knowledge and experience with others freely and openly on their blogs and websites. Well known writers like Hugh Howey, Sylvia Day, and many others are breaking down the walls and sharing industry insights and hard won know-how with other writers climbing the ladder behind them. They’re actively changing the face of publishing in very real, tangible ways, and are encouraging others to re-examine the options. They’re building relationships by sharing what they know. They provide real value in their writing, and in their websites and blogs.

Believe me when I say that when I see one of these remarkable individuals share something on social networks, I forward and share their words, reviews, comments, and upcoming books and events. It doesn’t matter if I personally read every book they write, although I’ll definitely purchase their work too, because I’ll share with my connections and many of them will.

 

Trust must be earned

Trust must be earned

That’s the power of relationship building. It really goes back to sales 101. We don’t buy things or services because we’re told to, but because we trust that what the vendor has to offer will fill a need we have, or solve a problem we’re dealing with. Books are no different. They educate and entertain readers the world over, and writers work hard to bring them to light. That’s why it frustrates me when I hear writers say they hate marketing and promotion. They haven’t made the connection between the product, which is the book, and the message they are trying to convey, or the story they’re trying to tell.

 

I look at sales from the stand point of making connections and building relationships. That way, book marketing, promotion, and learning about the industry I’ve become avidly interested in, becomes much more fun. Social networks have taken on a new meaning for me. Not only do I keep up with family and close friends there, but I also connect with others interested in the same things I am. I learn and grow from other writers, publishers, editors, and agents. Public speaking has given me a forum to talk about my writing, publishing, and my books, but it’s also opened doors to other topics I’m keenly interested in, such as overcoming the fear of failure, and women’s issues.

 

Again, it’s all about making the connections. First, to figure out what I was looking for in my work career, then how to use what I already know to advance that career and connect with others, and finally, to learn more about writing, publishing, and book marketing. I’m not selling anything; I’m simply sharing my work and my words with anyone who’s interested. I don’t have to do the hard-sell. I just have to be me, and that’s easy, flaws and all.

 

I welcome comments, so please do share your thoughts on this issue. If you enjoyed this blog post, please consider sharing it with your social circles. Thank you.

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Hear ye! Hear ye!

Hear ye! Hear ye!

That is the question, especially if you are a reader and are looking to provide valuable feedback, support, or to help the author raise awareness of their work. If you are a writer, you already know how important reviews are to you and your work. If you aren’t sure, read on.

 

Before I became a writer I had no idea that reviews were so important to a writer. I mean really, I just read a book, and if I liked it I told my family and friends. I didn’t contact the writer and tell them I’d enjoyed their book, and I certainly didn’t even think about going onto Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Kobo to post a review. I’d never heard of Goodreads, Smashwords, or the scores of other reader/writer websites that have sprung up on the net. Why would I? I was blissfully ignorant in the ways of the publishing and writing world.

 

All that changed when I decided to pen my own novel. Suddenly I wanted and needed to learn all I could about this new venture. I never considered it a hobby. I always knew that one day I’d write, and that when I did, I’d give it my all. That’s when I started reading about the importance of reviews. Of course I’d read the reviews posted about top selling writers and their newest work, and sometimes I’d even read those reviews so beautifully and glowingly featured in the book’s first pages or back cover, but I figured the only ones that counted were the ones from the New York Times Best Seller List, or other highly acclaimed and sought after literary professionals and authors. I was no professional reviewer or famous author, so why would what I had to say matter to anyone?

 

The more I read, the more I began to understand, and appreciate, just how much my own little words of support and feedback really could impact a book and it’s potential sales. I realized that the writers really did value reader’s reviews, perhaps more than those oft quoted literary luminaries. I was a real person, who hadn’t been paid anything to purchase the book, read it, and comment on whether I liked or didn’t like it. It doesn’t get more real or grass roots than that, and that’s pretty cool, I think.

 

That’s not to say the other, paid for reviews, such as Kirkus Reviews, don’t matter. They do, and they hold a lot of sway within the industry. But so do ordinary reader’s reviews and comments. As a writer, I can’t tell you how excited I am when someone reads my book, then takes the time to let me know what they thought of it. Of course I love the five star reviews, who doesn’t, but even the ones that come in with three and four stars have value and merit. Those reviews point to potential areas where I may want to tighten things up or give consideration to. All feedback is valuable; you just have to decide what to do with it.

 

Reviews are especially helpful for other readers though. Personally, I always check out the reviews of a new book or author, to get a good overall feel for the story and writer. That doesn’t mean I go by reviews only though. It’s just another way for me to ascertain whether or not I think a book is of interest to me and worth my hard-earned money. In that vein, reviews are extremely valuable to writers and other readers. Honest, carefully written reviews are worth their weight in gold when it comes to selling books, whether ebooks or print. That’s why virtually every online book retailer clearly provides readers with the means and access to provide an honest review of books they’ve read. Some, like Amazon, even go so far as to email their customers a few weeks after purchase to ask how they liked the book and provide a direct link to write a short review.

 

In talking to family, friends, and book signing attendees about reviews, many express the fear that they don’t know how to write a review. They think there must be some grand, magical, or special literary talent you have to have to do so. I remind them that all other readers and writers want is an honest opinion of their reading experience with the book. It doesn’t have to be lengthy. It can be as short as, “I really liked it”. Ideally though, a book review should address three things: whether you liked the book, or didn’t, what you liked/didn’t like, and why. An example of this might be, “I really enjoyed this book because it made me laugh and think about subjects I hadn’t considered before,” or “I didn’t enjoy this book because the characters didn’t seem very realistic, so I couldn’t connect with them.”. Reviews are subjective, meaning each person is going to either like or not like it based on their own internal set of criteria, and that’s perfectly fine. When a book starts gathering more reviews and ratings, patterns begin to emerge, so that potential new readers can see what the “general consensus” is about the book. 

Book ratingThen there’s the rating. Rating is a system whereby there are five “stars”, and each star has a rate. On Amazon, one star is for “I hate it”, two stars for “I don’t like it”, three stars for “It’s okay”, four stars for “I like it”, and five stars for “I love it”. This break down will translate very closely to other sites rating systems, so don’t worry about having to learn a bunch of new systems. To be fair to other readers and the author, if you are going to take the time to rate a book, please also write a short review in the “Share your opinion” section. Without the comment, no one will understand why you gave it the rating you did. This can even be done anonymously, if you’d rather not have anyone know who you are. A few of my readers have done this, and I respect their privacy, while appreciating their time and feedback.

 

Getting lost in the stack

Getting lost in the stack

The final reason reviews are so important is because it affects how easily a book is found among literally thousands of other books in the same genre. You can’t imagine how frustrating it is to have written a book that people are responding well to, but because it doesn’t have enough reviews and/or rankings, it’s virtually impossible to find by potential new readers who might enjoy it and are just doing a generic search. Without those important reviews and rankings, your book falls to the bottom of the list and at the end of countless pages of other books.

 

So, as you can see, reviews (and rankings) are extremely important. Not just to writers, but to other readers as well. Once I started providing brief reviews of books I was reading, I found it not only easy, but enjoyable as well. It was my small way of thanking the writer for penning a good book and entertaining me, or teaching me something I didn’t know before. Other than the five minutes it takes me to write a quick, thoughtful review, it doesn’t cost me a thing, but I know it’s value.

 

What are you reading right now? Have you ever written a review, and if so, what did you take away from the experience. If not, what’s stopping you.

 

Your comments and feedback are important, so please also feel free to comment below.

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So just how importantare rating and reviews to book rankings?

Juding by the information I’ve been able to gather over the past few months and the inside talk-very. To investigate a little further, I Googled ‘how to review a book’, and found an article called, “So you’d like to get your book reviewed on Amazon and boost your sales“. Okay, perfect. This is just was I was looking for. According to Amazon, “Good reviews on Amazon are particularly crucial for books by new authors and for niche books, and it stands to reason that they boost sales not only at that site but everywhere people are buying books, although we don’t yet know what percentage of buyers at brick-and-mortar bookstores made their choice by reading Amazon customer reviews.”. This article also went on to explain how to approach Amazon’s top reviewers, and even provides a sample script to try to elicit the review.

Of course there’s a downside to reviews, and that is the dreaded negative review. In that same Amazon article, they point out, “Yes, negative reviews can hurt sales in the short term, but over the long term, allowing criticism builds credibility and helps shoppers decide what to buy, Bezos says: “We don’t make money when we sell things; we make money when we help people make purchase decisions.”

Rampant Techpress has an excellent article on Amazon Sales Rank Tracking that’s well worth taking a look at, as it breaks down how the giant book seller actually ranks an author’s book. I found this really useful in understanding the mechanics behind rankings.

Opinions seem to vary between “no, not important and it’s just an author’s vanity”, to “yes, extremely important”. With the advent of indie publishing, self-publishing and ebooks, I believe book rankings has become one of those hot topics everyone is trying to figure out. According the big hitters, ranking is definitely important. After all, what is the New York Times Bestseller’s List, but a ranking of books the publisher’s and critics like? Why are the readers’ opinions less important. To authors, they aren’t. In the grand scheme of things, readers buy books, not publishers, agents, critics or even book stores.

Can rankings be padded or faked, of course they can, and sometimes are. Word is spreading that some of the big publishing houses are actually even hiring individuals to post poor reviews for indie authors for the sole purpose of bringing their rankings down. I have no idea if this is true, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Selling books has long been big business, and in today’s highly competitive publishing industry, with the increasing rise and popularity of ebooks, it’s no wonder.

So, are rankings and reviews important. I think so, but hey, I’m an author, so I care what others think of my work. It’s how I plan to grow and improve my craft, as well as how I hope to sell my books.

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The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap

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