Final Thoughts Available on Wattpad

I have uploaded a short story set in The Empathic Detective Universe on Wattpad. Final Thoughts is about a condemned prisoner with a chip in his head that records what he’s thinking in plain text.

Please feel free to visit Wattpad and check it out.

Tiff in Time is Available for Pre-order

I’m happy to announce my newest book Tiff in Time is available for pre-order for 99 cents. You can get it from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple iTunes Store, or Google Play.

Tiff in Time is an urban fantasy, and kicks off The Fae Killers, who battle fae in different timelines on alternate Earths.

Here is the blurb:

In the beginning, God created people, angels, and fae. Creatures existing between the spiritual realm and the physical, fae scattered among parallel worlds spreading magic and chaos.

The Walker hunts fae, killing them, bringing them to justice. On occasion, he recruits followers. He found Tiff, an orphan, and raised her to be one of his best hunters. A skilled killer, she jumps into any timeline on any alternate, and seeks her prey.

A powerful artifact and a mysterious fae crop up in the Roaring Twenties, in Chicago. Tiff is on her way. But this time, after centuries of being hunted, the fae have other plans. . .

Hope you enjoy it! I’m already hard at work on its sequel.

Things I Learned from My Kindle Scout Campaigns

I think Kindle Scout is a great avenue for authors to pursue. In the process of my own campaigns, I’ve come to know several other authors. I’ve been selected twice and honored to promote many books, Scout titles and otherwise, on my promotion site readper.com. Throughout, in both running Scout campaigns and observing the campaigns of others, I’ve had the opportunity to learn some things and pick up what I think is useful information.

The purpose of this post is to encapsulate some of the things I’ve learned and pass them along to others who might be considering Scout for their own books. I’m focusing here on authors who are primarily used to self-publishing, with Scout being their first experience with a publisher.

With that in mind, to win a Scout contract authors should consider the following points. Some of these points are also applicable to self-publishing as well.

1. When submitting to any publisher, realize it’s not about you.
The first thing to do when coming from a self-publishing mindset and submitting to a publisher, is to accept that it’s not about you. Like when a husband and father comes to the realization family life is not all about him, working with a publisher should lead you to the realization they have needs too. Sometimes those needs don’t line up with what you have to offer. When you submit a book to a publisher, if they don’t need another in that genre at the moment, if they published one similar to yours a month ago, or if they just don’t particularly care for your manuscript, it’s not about you. So, don’t take it personally if they say “no thanks.”

2. Find out what the publisher wants.
Obviously, publishers want titles that sell. Amazon has some experience selling books, and in general, Amazon imprints like Kindle Press know what sells. We can glean some clues as to their thought processes by looking at the requirements for Kindle Scout titles. They want books in high-performance genres that are at least 50,000 words, and will be typically priced around $2.99. They are focused on quality covers and blurbs as well as strong openings that draw in readers.

Finding out what a publisher wants and tailoring your manuscript to meet their standards helps when you self-publish, too. If it’s working for a publisher, it should work for you. Strong covers, vibrant genres, and good price points are “universal truths” you can apply to self-publishing.

3. Don’t skimp on the cover.
Speaking of covers, when self-publishing or submitting to Scout, go on and spend the time and money for a quality cover that will attract readers. Your cover is the first thing potential buyers will see. Take a look at the top sellers in your genre for an idea of what a good cover should look like, then spend time on sites like 99designs and find something comparable or an artist willing to work with you. The cover may end up as one of your biggest expenditures, often second behind editing costs, but it also pays the most dividends.

4. Write a fantastic blurb.
One of the great things Scout does is force you to write a condensed blurb and one liner for your book. These require you to summarize things in a hopefully compelling way. Don’t be afraid to ask for help with your blurb. Start a thread on The Writer’s Cafe on kboards (be sure and join the discussion on the Kindle Scout thread while you’re there), or reach out for help in one of the many author community pages on Facebook. There are also services certain editors offer, where for a nominal sum (usually $20-30), they’ll read your book and write a blurb for you.

Whatever you do, spend the time and effort to craft the best one you possibly can before submitting. Blurbs are the second things potential readers will see when looking at your book.

5. Pay for a quality editor.
Yes, a publisher will have your work edited if they accept it. But you want to make a great first impression. You wouldn’t typically show up on a first date in sweatpants and t-shirt, then take a shower and change clothes later. No, you try to look your best from the start. Treat your book the same way before submitting it for consideration. Go on and pay for a good editor. If your book is not accepted by Scout, an editor’s work is not wasted money. You can self-publish it later if you want, and have a well-edited book ready to go.

6. Promote your Scout campaign, but don’t go overboard.
Another great thing about Scout is it gives you an opportunity to spread the word about your upcoming book to a lot of people. I run a promotion site, so of course I’d love if you used my services. But, I don’t recommend going crazy on Scout campaign promotions. For one thing, time spent in Hot and Trending is not the primary consideration for selection. The most important elements of your Scout campaign are (in my opinion), quality of the story followed by the cover, the blurb, and the compelling nature of your first chapter.

Take time to nominate a title on Scout and go through their survey for the book. It shows you right there in the survey what the Scout people think is important. The survey will ask you to rate things like the cover, the blurb, the text. Remember, everybody who nominates your book will take the same survey, and those statistics are likely to be examined at some point in the selection process.

If your story is good and the editors like it, they’ll select it no matter how much time it spent in Hot and Trending. And if your cover is good, people will click over to check it out without you having to spend a lot of money to convince them to click. And if the blurb and first chapter are good, they’ll be more likely to nominate you after they get to your page. So, product quality always comes before quantity of advertising when campaigning, in my opinion.

7. Spend more money on promotion after the campaign.
Whether your title is selected for publication by Kindle Press or not, after it’s published is the time to spend serious money on advertising. During the Scout campaign your ads buy attention. After it’s published, your ads buy purchases. Purchases return far more on your ad dollars than attention. Therefore, the bulk of your spending should be reserved for after the title is released, whether it’s published by Kindle Press or not.

Again this is just my opinion, but there is little point in spending thousands on campaign ads and having nothing to show for it later. If you glean some marketing materials like sign ups for your newsletter from the campaign, that’s good. But especially if you are a novice at marketing, don’t spend the bulk of your ad budget on the campaign. I think it’s better to spend in the three figures during the campaign, and in the four figures after release (or whatever amount you feel comfortable spending so long as the proportion remains heavier on the after published side rather than the campaign side).

But wait, you might be thinking. Why should I spend money advertising after Kindle Press selects my title? Won’t Amazon’s marketing machine start working for my book? Yes it will, but even Amazon’s marketing machine can benefit from some well-placed ads. If you stack some promotions the first week and month after your title debuts, you can leverage Amazon’s algorithms in your favor. Combining that with Amazon’s marketing muscle will help ensure maximum success for your new book.

Conclusion
Those are some of the things I’ve learned in my Scout campaigns and in helping promote the campaigns of others. I hope you found the information useful. If you’ve never submitted a manuscript to Scout, going through the process is enlightening, regardless of selection.

 

JR

 

Beginning Book Marketing Tips for Authors – How to Get Book Reviews

So you’ve got your book up on Amazon and you’ve noticed you have no reviews. But other books have reviews, and some of them have a lot of reviews.

Frustrated? Here are 5 popular tips about how to get more book reviews.

  1. Don’t worry about it. Reviews don’t necessarily correlate to sales. Some authors have books with low sales but they’ve elicited a high number of reviews. Other authors sell lots of a book but have very few reviews. Depending on your genre, your sales may very well not be dependent on the number of reviews you get.
  1. But remember that more sales generally lead to more reviews. Focus on getting your sales numbers up, and the reviews will follow. If one out of 100 readers leave a review, then get 1000 readers, etc.
  1. Hit up the book bloggers. Find the bloggers in your genre, contact them by email, and arrange to send receptive ones a copy of your book to review. This can be time consuming, but it usually does result in more reviews. Check out bookreviewdirectory.com for links to bloggers in your genre.
  1. Use a service like BookRazor.com. Book Razor scours public email addresses of people who have posted reviews for books like yours. You send Book Razor links to books like yours, they send you back hundreds of contacts (the fee varies based on the number of contacts, and hence reviews, you are shooting for). You send a polite inquiry to these people. A percentage respond favorably and you send them a review copy of your book. In a week or two, hopefully, they post a review.
  1. Cultivate your review team. Over time, as your mailing list grows, you can send out a request for reviews to your followers in exchange for a free copy of your latest book. This is one of the reasons developing an email list is beneficial. It’s easy to elicit reviews when you have a group of fans to ask.

Here are 5 “don’ts” you should be aware of when following Amazon’s rules:

  1. Don’t let friends and relatives review your books. This is one of Amazon’s first rules about reviews.
  2. Don’t do review swaps with other authors. This includes “review clubs” or by making one-on-one arrangements.
  3. Don’t ever use a pay service to receive reviews. These will have offers like, “Send us some money and we will guarantee you x number of reviews.” Services like BookRazor are different because they send you public email addresses of reviewers in your genre, and it’s up to you to reach out to them. But services that offer to get you reviews directly if you send them money, where you are essentially buying reviews, are verboten.
  4. Don’t offer to pay or reward anyone for reviewing your book. You can send them a free copy of your book, but it should not be in exchange for the review. It should be in the hope they offer a review. Amazon says, “Book authors and publishers may continue to provide free or discounted copies of their books to readers, as long as the author or publisher does not require a review in exchange or attempt to influence the review.”
  5. Don’t forget to keep abreast of Amazon’s rules. Here’s their FAQ on reviews for authors.

Ghostsuit: An Empathic Detective Novel Debuts

Longtime subscribers to my newsletter and readers have been waiting patiently for this day, and it’s finally here! Ghostsuit: An Empathic Detective Novel makes its debut today on Amazon.

I’d be honored if you downloaded it. If you have Kindle Unlimited, you can read it free. Click here to try Kindle Unlimited free for 30 days and Amazon will send my free and reduced books blog a few bucks for using the link.

If you don’t want to fool with Kindle Unlimited, it’s only three bucks on Amazon.

Epic Worlds Fantasy & Sci-Fi Giveaway

Shout out to Brian Ference for hosting the Epic Worlds Fantasy & Sci-Fi Group Giveaway on his site through March 19. Redwood: Servant of the State is there, along with 75 other books you can download free from Instafreebie. Check it out.

Beginning Book Marketing Tips for Authors – Email Lists


There are several email list enhancement services out there, many highly rated. But this blog post will focus on cheap and simple things an author who is just starting out can use right away. Book marketing need not be daunting, and initially need not be expensive, either. Listed below are some basic book marketing tips for setting up and enhancing email lists.

Email Lists
You wouldn’t think it, but time and again when talking with successful authors, their email list is a major driver of sales. Once developed, it’s a very powerful form of advertising.

It’s a numbers game. If an author has 10,000 subscribers, and 30 percent open her email, she is effectively promoting to 3,000 people. If ten percent who opened her email buy the book she pitches, she sells 300 copies with little effort and no additional ad purchase.

In this hypothetical situation, we see that even with as little as three percent of the total list buying her book, our author sells quite a few in one fell swoop. So if the list is large enough, she’s looking at decent sales from practically every email she sends out. And besides sales, she has the opportunity to interact with readers directly and keep them involved and interested in her work.

Email Marketing Services
You don’t want to send mail to your list using your own email address. You’ll want to use a professional email marketing service. They know how to avoid getting labeled as spam. If you send out tons of email from your own address, it will soon get blacklisted by major internet providers. So, stick with the pros to send out your newsletter.

The biggest and most popular email marketing service is Mailchimp. Some people hate the interface. Others don’t mind it so much. Either way, once you use it to send out a few newsletters, you get used to it.

Mailchimp is free for your first 2,000 subscribers. After that, it gets rather expensive. About that time, authors start looking for cheaper options. Many go to Mailerlite. A few go to Sendinblue. Both provide less expensive options for authors with large subscriber lists. Some people pony up the money to Mailchimp to avoid the hassle of moving their list.

Again, marketing is a numbers game, so in general, the more email addresses on your newsletter the better. However, you’ll spend more money on a bigger list. This often involves a monthly fee to your email marketing service based on the size of your list. So it may be prudent to prune names for inactivity after a while. Your provider will show who opens your mail and who clicks on the links. If you see someone who hasn’t opened your emails in months, maybe it’s time to take them off your list.

Developing an Email List
You can’t just send out a bunch of unsolicited emails saying “Buy my book.” That would be spam. But you can send your newsletter with news and information about your books to people who have opted in to receiving emails from you. So the question is, how do you get people to accept your newsletter in their inbox?

You should have a link to the opt in form on your website in every book. Many authors place the link in the front and back of their books. This will generate some addresses for you. You should also have the link in prominent places on your website. A pop-up form, with an offer for a free book or short story in exchange for visitors’ email addresses, is popular. Many email marketing services provide code you can add to your website that will send the info to your list as soon as someone fills it in on your site.

You can also use Instafreebie, and offer a book, short story, or sample of a book that is free to download. Readers give Instafreebie their address, Instafreebie emails them a copy of your work and then gives you the address. If you use Mailchimp, Instafreebie can send the addresses straight to that account.

Once your product is on Instafreebie, you need to get the word out to readers so they will know to download it. One of the best ways to do this is join a group giveaway.

Instafreebie Group Giveaway
Authors set up group giveaways all the time. Find somebody who is doing a giveaway in your genre, and ask to be included. Often, they will use a Google form where you enter the Instafreebie address and a brief description of your book. The host will take this info and add it to their giveaway page.

Instafreebie often features group giveaways on their home page. During the time it’s featured, participants agree to promote the giveaway on their social media, websites, and existing lists. People flock to the landing page, download the books they want, and everybody’s email lists grow accordingly.

One of the best places to network with authors hosting giveaways across multiple genres is the Facebook group Instafreebie Promos run by Dean Wilson. It’s a closed group and he has to invite you. But once there, you will find people running giveaways in a variety of genres. Find yours and jump in. Your list will grow dramatically.

Conclusion
There are other promotional services out there that will organize giveaways. Some of them involve participation fees that go toward rewarding readers with prizes or swag. Others promise to pitch your book to select groups who are very responsive to your genre. As you get comfortable in developing your list, these services are certainly worth investigating and can be very useful. But for just starting out, using Mailchimp, Instafreebie, and networking through Facebook should suffice.

Addendum
I want to add a great post recently written by Brian Ference that expands on some of the things discussed here, and better than I put it. Click over to his Step by Step Guide to Starting An Author Platform Mailing List.

First Friday Free Fiction

I want to shout out to J. Philip Horne for hosting a link to Redwood: Servant of the State, and The Redwood Trilogy Box Set on his First Friday Free Fiction page. This month he features science fiction and fantasy young adult titles on both Instafreebie and Kindle Unlimited.

Click on over and check out the books.

The Redwood Trilogy Box Set released

I’m happy to announce The Redwood Trilogy Box Set is released. This science fiction bundle features all three Redwood books at a bargain price. As always, you can also read the entire thing (several hundred pages) free through Kindle Unlimited.

 

Many thanks to NerdGirl for reviewing Thieves & Wizards

I appreciate the thoughtful review written by Shelley C – #NerdGirlRed over at nerdgirlofficial.com. Browse through their other content, too. It’s impressive.