Goodreads yanks giveaways from small-time authors, and I’m mad

GoodreadsWhen I first became an author, one of the most vital resources I found to get my books out there and connect with readers was Goodreads. I loved that you could join or create groups to connect with other readers who liked the same kinds of books, find new books through friend suggestions, review books, and so on. I found this platform awesome for book lovers, and I made a lot of friends there.

One of my favorite features on Goodreads was the giveaway section. As a reader, I could enter giveaways with hopes to win (haven’t yet), or just discover new reads. I’ve even bought several of the books I’ve entered to win.

But this section was even more valuable to me as an author. It was my most valuable asset to get my book in front of other people who may not have known about it. I used it to encourage people to put it on their “To Read” list, to test out new descriptions, to gauge how well my books do compared to each other (when I did simultaneous giveaways), and so on. Plus, it just feels good to give your book away to someone who wants it. It was a fabulous marketing tool, and I utilized it with every book launch. Plus, those people who shelved my books (which are in the thousands for some of my titles) are notified whenever I publish a new book. The Goodreads Giveaway was the perfect way to spread the word about my books.

That all changed this year. In January, Goodreads did away with free giveaways and now charges a minimum of $119 for each giveaway. As a small-time author, I was already feeling the pinch giving my books away, plus paying shipping and handling. Each free book runs me around $15, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but each book adds up when you’re still struggling to turn a profit. So to add $119 onto this feels like a slap in the face, and a clear message to those of us who aren’t making thousands off our books – we’re not wanted.

I get it. Goodreads is a business, and an Amazon-owned business, at that. The service they provided for authors with these giveaways was incredibly valuable, and it was quite generous that we could do it for free for as long as we’d been allowed. However, to go from $0 to $119 is a bit high, especially since I don’t believe the outcome will be profitable. I mean, I’ve been disappointed before by giving my money to Goodreads ads. Just look at their poor excuse for advertising. Spend all you want on those little tiny self-serve ads; if you’re not shelling out major bucks for banner ads, you might as well give Goodreads your wallet for nothing and call it a day.

So it looks like my Goodreads giveaway days are over. However, I am due for another giveaway, and would love your suggestions. If you’re an author, what have been some of your favorite ways to give your books away to readers? If you’re a reader, what kind of contest would you like to see? Your answer could result in a new contest, and you’ll get a mention!

P.S. J. L. Greger guest-blogged about this topic on Thonie Hevron’s blog, “Just the Facts, Ma’am,” and offered a few alternative contest ideas. Check it out here.

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Getting personal with book selling

Crissi reading

I remember when I first started publishing my books, my marketing focus was on the whole wide world. With the internet at my disposal, it made sense to me. I could reach anyone, anywhere, and sell to hundreds of thousands of people without ever having to leave the comfort of my own home.

My first book did pretty well. I marketed to everyone in the world, which was a hard sell since no one knew of me yet. However, my family and friends knew me, and they bought wholeheartedly.

My next book didn’t do quite as well in sales. I won a small award and sold to some of my family and friends. But the rest of the world ignored me. The story was the same for my next book, as well. By the time my fourth novel was published, I was worn out and couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. I questioned my career path as an author, and considered throwing in the towel. After all, I was spending thousands of dollars on this dream of mine, and had nothing to show for it except for some books that no one except a handful of people who loved me seemed to be interested in.

This was around the time that I found the inspiration for Reclaim Your Creative Soul. If you’ve kept up with this blog, you remember when I went on a personal soul retreat that changed my life. It was on this retreat when I addressed all of the dilemmas I had with my life path, conferring with God on how to move forward. I came away from that day with answers to my questions and a new purpose for life, and the seed that would become Reclaim Your Creative Soul.

With this last book, I was very clear about my message and the people I was writing to. I wanted to reach other creatives who felt pulled between their busy life and their craft. Most of us must have a day job to be able to afford our lives, especially when our art isn’t make us money. I wanted to show that it’s totally possible to have both, and I wanted to inspire people to NOT give up on their dreams just because they needed to work for a living (or whatever else was getting in the way of their craft).

With this message in mind, I let go of trying to reach the world, and instead just reached the people around me. The message started out small. I, or course, let my family and friends know. But I also started to spread the word to people I didn’t know, but on a more personal level rather than through the anonymous space of the internet. In this, I signed up for readings and read chapters aloud. I verbally shared about my book to those people who wondered how they could fit creativity in their lives. My marketing endeavors weren’t about making money or selling my book at all. Instead, they were about helping other people to make the most of their time so that they could fit more creativity in their life. That was my main objective.

Fast forward to now. A week ago, I read my book in front of a group of writers and sold a bunch of books who were affected by my message. Word about my book reached a podcaster, and our interview will publish on Monday. I’ve been asked to take part in an exclusive sales opportunity with a small group of other authors I admire. Opportunities are coming my way, and all I’ve done is to refocus my intentions and the audience I hope to reach.

Instead of trying to reach the world, I’m starting out with my own community and then going from there.

This not only takes a ton of pressure off me, it also makes things so much more natural. I am now preparing to publish my next book, Loving the Wind, and my hopes are that this book will reach the most readers I’ve ever reached with any of my books. This time, instead of pushing out ads and promoted Facebook posts to a bunch of people I don’t know, I am utilizing my friends and family to help me spread the word. As of right now, a few dozen of the people I know and love are reading this book as first readers. I contacted each of these people personally, handpicking them because I trust them and know that they like many of my books. When the book publishes on Aug. 18, many of these first readers will be key in helping me to spread news about this book because it’s something they read and enjoyed.

If you’re wondering how you can get your book into the most hands possible but coming away with disappointing results, it’s possible you’re trying to market to too many people. Rather than selling to the whole world, consider starting with your own community. Sign up for an open mic or two and read aloud from your book. See if your library is interested in a reading from a local author. Join an active writer’s group that offers events that will help you reach readers. Contact local book clubs and offer to talk with them if they decide to read your book. Think about the people that you want to reach with your book. Who would be interested? Not everyone will like what you write, but there is a group of people who will love it.

Finally, never underestimate the power of being personal. A Facebook post about your book or an advertisement on a web page are easily ignored. A mass email is a little bit better, but can also go unread. But if you talk to someone one-on-one, the power in that is huge. In this day and age, it’s super convenient to socialize on a broad scale, being impersonal through social media, texting, or the like for the sake of convenience. But if you pick up the phone or meet over coffee? That means so much more to everyone.

As much as possible, try and be personal with those people you wish to reach. If your contact has to be done over email or social media, that’s fine. But make it a personal message, and don’t just rely on your social media broadcasts to reach readers. If you take the time to care about the people you wish to connect with, they can’t help but care about you in return. Their loyalty will increase. They may even wish to help you spread the word about your book.

In connecting with a few readers on a more personal level, you have the opportunity to reach the world.

The Road to Hope ~ 99 cents!

I’m trying out the Kindle Countdown deal, and so far, so good. It’s reached #27 in its category, and I’ve had more downloads in one day than I’ve had all month! Of course, a little bit of advertising doesn’t hurt… 😉

If you’d like to download The Road to Hope for yourself, here’s the link: bit.ly/road2hopebook

Today a reader left a review stating that she never cries at books but this one had her in tears, so don’t forget to grab a tissue!

Sale ends on Dec. 2.

The Road to Hope

How to launch a book

A year ago, I was gearing up for the release of “A Symphony of Cicadas.” And the anticipation to actually publish the book was killing me. In fact, my patience was so thin, I published it a week before the date I announced it would be released.

Here was my official announcement. Isn’t that newbie author just adorable (and so naive)?

The truth was, there was no reason for me to wait that extra week. Besides my friends and family, no one else really knew anything about my book at all, or that this really awesome story was about to be revealed to the world. I don’t fault myself, I just didn’t know how to get the word out there.

A year later, and I’m still learning that process. However, this past year I’ve had a few new ways to market my book come to my attention. And because of this, I have actually created a list of things to do from now until the day the book publishes. With a lot of determination (and a little luck), my book should be properly launched by the time March 15th gets here.

For those of you who are curious about my timeline (or if you’re an author looking for an example of what another author might be doing as they prepare for their book release), here’s my proposed calendar for the next month or so. I hope I don’t take too much of the mystique out of my process by divulging all this, lol! The dates are when I’d like each task to be done by. As you can see, I’m early with my blogging schedule. 🙂  (Note: this list will likely change as I remember other things I’ve forgotten to add)

Forever Thirteen to-do list

Feb 1 – Redesign newsletter
Feb 3 – Blog – How to Launch a Book
Feb 3 – Write Feb 6 newsletter
Feb 3 – Finalize cover
Feb 3 – Finalize back
Feb 5 – Upload to Goodreads
Feb 5 – Create Goodreads giveaway
Feb 8 – Create postcards
Feb 9 – Press Release
Feb 9 – Blog
Feb 10 – Write Feb 13 newsletter
Feb 10 – Write acknowledgements, about the author
Feb 14 – Buy $20 Starbucks card
Feb 15 – Re-format edited book
Feb 15 – Order ARCs (advance reader copies) for beta readers, contest winners
Feb 15 – Create ePub, Mobi files of book
Feb 15 – Upload to Amazon, iTunes, B&N, Kobo
Feb 15 – Advance readers?
Feb 15 – Book blog tour (proposed March 24-28)
Feb 16 – Blog
Feb 17 – Write Feb 20 newsletter
Feb 17 – Create blog book page
Feb 23 – Blog
Feb 24 – Write Feb 27 newsletter
Feb 25 – Create blog banner
Feb 25 – Create FB banner
Mar 2 – Blog
Mar 3 – Pick Rafflecopter winner, send out ARC
Mar 3 – Write Mar 6 newsletter
Mar 9 – Contact local bookstore about release party
Mar 9 – Blog
Mar 10 – Write Mar 13 newsletter (reminder about release day, links to sneak peeks)
Mar 10 – Write Mar 15 newsletter (release day!)
Mar 15 – Publish day!
Mar 15 – Add to Amazon FB store
Mar 15 – Announce on FB, Twitter, blog
Mar 16 – Relish in the glory of another published novel. You did it! 🙂
Mar 22 – Blog – Announce blog tour stops
Mar 24-28 – Reblog tour
April – Bookstore release party

P.S. If you’re an author, and there are things you’ve done that you swear by as you prepare for your book’s release, please help an author out (me and anyone reading this) by leaving your tips in the comments. Thank you!

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So you’ve written a book. Now what?

This week alone, I’ve been approached by a half dozen people who were curious about writing books – from the actual writing of the story, to how to get it into the hands of readers. To have people look at me for these answers is kind of incredible. I mean, I remember a year ago, gearing up to publish my first book, and being totally lost in what I was supposed to be doing. I couldn’t wait to get that book onto Amazon and be a real live published author. But, then what? I looked up to those local authors I knew that were publishing books right and left, and I began following them via social media to see what they were doing right. And I began listening to the Self Publishing Podcast (who now have an incredible book out chock full of information called “Write. Publish. Repeat.” Go download it now).

I’m definitely no expert. But because I’ve been consuming every bit of information I can about writing and self-publishing this past year, and through lots of trial and error, I have learned a lot – particularly about what to do (and not to do) to get your book into other people’s hands.

Here are my top 5 tips:

1. Write a book worth reading. This is the first and most important step, and should be the most obvious. However, it’s also advice that’s not always followed. Before a book goes live, it should be free from errors and typos. The characters should be fully developed. The storyline should make sense and be believable. An editor (or at least someone who isn’t you) should look it over and clean it up. The cover should draw people in, the back cover description should seal the deal. Write a book that readers will want to share with their friends, and your readership will begin to grow.

2. Believe in your book. When I first published “A Symphony of Cicadas,” I was so dang shy about it. I mean, I’d tell people I wrote a book. And then they’d ask me about it. Suddenly, I’d clam up and be closely guarded about what my book was about. I was afraid that maybe the story wouldn’t matter. And when it came to knowing who this book was written for, who knew? But the thing is, I was proud of my book then. And I’m proud of it now. It’s this story about life changing in an instant, the grief that comes with that change, and the light that shines through when you accept that change and grow from it. It weaves a story that many people can resonate with who have struggled to hold on to a life that is no longer a part of their path, and the peace that comes when acceptance is changed. Know your story. Know who would want to read it and why. And believe that what you write is something that can change someone’s world.

3. Join a writing group. Last year, I joined my regional writing club, Redwood Writers. I went to the first meeting, and was totally inspired. Here was this group of people who were just as passionate as I was about writing. They held workshops, booked readings, and held events. At the meetings, authors sat at tables around the room with books for sale. Each meeting had a speaker that gave inside tips on a certain aspect of writing or publishing. And then to be surrounded by so many writers… Over the past several months I’ve been getting more and more involved with the club. I’ve gotten to know several other writers, and my face is beginning to be more familiar in the club. I’m learning a lot, both about writing and about getting my books in the public eye. And this group is catapulting me further down the publishing road.

4. Be your best advocate. You know how some local authors seem to be everywhere? They’re holding book signings at several different venues. They’re hosting workshops. Their name is seen all over. You know how that’s happening? They’re doing that. They’re not waiting for people to ask them to read their book at an event. They’re not waiting for people to come to them about their book. Their name is getting known because they’re making sure people learn it. If you sit back and wait for your book to be discovered, it’s not going to happen. Offer to host a workshop on something you’re skilled at. Sign up for local readings. Host an event that maybe the local newspaper may want to mention. Contact the bookstores in your area and ask about how to get your book on their shelves. You have to do more than just write a book to get it noticed, you have to get creative with how to get the word out.

5. Keep writing. So you’ve written a book. That’s great! Now write another. And when your done with that, write another. Give your readers something else to read once they’re done with your first book. Gather more readers with each book you write. If a book garners a lot of attention, consider making it a series to keep the momentum going. There are too many authors out there who are cranking out the books. If you write just one book and stop there, you’re going to be buried under the pile. Keep your name at the top of the list and just keep writing.

P.S. I’m holding a giveaway for an advanced copy of my upcoming novel, “Forever Thirteen,” as well as a few other prizes. Enter here.

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A review on my poetry book that left me stunned

I recently sent my poetry book, Everything I Am Not Saying, to a Kindle Book Reviewer to review my book. He warned me that as a poet himself, he was a very tough reviewer. I admit, I balked a little. But I told him to please go ahead and read it, and then give an honest review. Well, he wrote me back today to let me know about his review. His p.s. prepared me for what he wrote: “you wrote poetry to ‘try out’ for prose? Really? I consider myself an A-plus poet, and I salute your talent.”

review

See the rest of it here —-> http://amzn.to/1arzTVx 

Did you see? I know, right? 😀

In other news, I just started a new giveaway today, which I’m really excited about – an advance copy of Forever Thirteen! Along with that is a copy of my first book, A Symphony of Cicadas. And on top of that, a $20 gift card to Starbucks so you can get your caffeine on while immersing yourself in the story. 😉

You can put yourself in the drawing here —-> http://tinyurl.com/mtx35ur

Third, starting next week I will be giving peeks into A Symphony of Cicadas – like whole chapter peeks – followed by sneak peeks into Forever Thirteen (again, full chapters!). Want in on it? Then sign up for my newsletter to get the link. (Hint: if you take part in my giveaway, you’ll already be signed up for the newsletter).

Now go check out that review! Seriously! And then come back and gush with me. ❤

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Depositing into the karma bank

I saw a homeless guy the other day on my way out of the Trader Joe’s parking lot, the same guy I always see there. He was holding a sign, and I never really took the time to read it.  But on this day, I did. It read:

Karma Bank.
Make a deposit.
Anything helps.

I was already passing him by when I read it, and I never did stop. I had several “good” reasons why…

– I have manual windows and couldn’t roll down the passenger side he was standing at.
– I was tired and just wanted to get home.
– I’m running short on dollars.
– Someone else will help.
– What “karma bank” is HE depositing into?
– It’s not like my dollar will make that much of a difference.

Like I said, I had “good” reasons. Or so I thought in the moment. As I drove away, I realized that my reasons weren’t really that good, that he probably could use my help a lot, that I did have a dollar or so I could spare, and I actually could benefit from a deposit into the karma bank.

That sign did more than make me feel guilty for driving away, it made me think about karma in general – author karma.

One thing I’ve learned in this whole indie author journey is how hard it is to sell a dang book. Some months are good, and the gods of all things downloadable smile down on me while gracing me with a few dozen sales. But most months? I’d be lying if it weren’t bleak. And I know I’m not alone. Judging by the constant barrage of sales pitches on Twitter or other social media outlets, I think it’s a fair assessment that their books aren’t exactly selling themselves.

However, every now and then I do see a pitch by an author that makes me pause amidst all the other dribble, and think “that book actually sounds kind of interesting”. Or a blogger I follow mentions a book they wrote, and I already know I like their writing since I read their blog regularly. Or I’ve fanned someone on Facebook who has written something.

We’re all living our dreams, having actually accomplished what most people only dream of – writing a book. However, we’re also living someone else’s dream because our book hasn’t become so big we can quit our 9-5. With our shoestring budgets, we can’t afford the heavy promotion the bigwig authors get to have. So our promotion is through family and friends, and via social media. And it only goes so far.

If you see an indie author promote a book that looks like one you might enjoy – buy it. You don’t even need an eReader to read it. Kindle has an app, and you can download to the “cloud”. And many other eBooks offer something similar. Most times, these downloads will cost you a mere $3 or less. But that one download helps indie authors to pass thousands of other struggling authors in the rankings, allowing them to become that much more viewable by those searching for a good book. If you enjoy the book, tell others. Even better, spread the word via your blog, Facebook, Twitter, or anywhere else you can get a good reach.  Leave a review where you bought the book. Share the good news on Goodreads.

And here’s where the karma part comes in.

If you’re an indie author and you help promote another indie author, how can the gods of all things downloadable NOT smile upon you? Not only are you making a fat deposit into the Karma Bank, but potential readers will find you easier when word starts to spread about your indie book reviews, etc. They may even check out what what book YOU wrote, download it, and eventually leave a comment.

So take a break from re-reading the masterpiece you just wrote. Kick back from your diligent self-promotion. And start checking out what other indie authors are writing by reading a few of them.

To get you started, here are a few I’ve recently downloaded and am about to dive into:

Forged in Grace, by Jordan Rosenfeld
Class Collision, Fall From Grace, by Allison Mackey
Lucy Green Eyes, by Paulette Benjamin

Or just search for #indieauthor on Twitter to find one of millions of small time authors hoping to one day make it big. 🙂

Make a deposit into the Karma Bank. Anything helps.

xoxo

Crissi Langwell is the debut author of A Symphony of Cicadas. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Are you an indie author? Leave the name of your book and a short synopsis in the comments so I know what to read next!

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How to engage on Twitter as an author

I joined Twitter on May 1, 2009. I then proceeded to Tweet a little here and there, talking to an invisible audience who never really seemed to respond back. I eventually lost interest, and just stopped Tweeting altogether.

Fast forward to now, with a published book under my belt. In efforts to get my book out there to the public, I had to make use of the social media avenues I was familiar with. My Twitter was resurrected, and I became a Tweeting machine.

Except I didn’t really understand Twitter and was using it totally wrong.

You can tell who the newbies are on Twitter. They are the ones who overtweet the same link over and over again. They private message strangers to check out such and such link. They’re all about me, me, me.

“They” perfectly describe ME.

I made a ton of mistakes on Twitter in my first months of promoting my book. I am probably still making a ton of mistakes. But I’m also soaking up what I should be doing on Twitter, based on those I love following or who draw me in. By their example, I am shifting my “newbie” way of Tweeting, and trying to be a responsible Twitterer.

These are the kinds of Twitterers I follow and am trying to mimic in my Twittering experience:

Those who pay attention to others on Twitter. When I am retweeted, favorited, or receive comments from others on Twitter, I am more apt to pay more attention to what they are doing, and reciprocate their kindness. I’ll also tend to keep seeking these Twitterers out to see what they’re up to, because I actually care. As well, I am interested in other Twitterers who are holding conversations with others on Twitter. It draws me in to either follow the conversation, and sometimes even join in. Those who engage on Twitter are interesting.

Those who tweet words of inspiration. Amidst the jumble of links and promotions, inspirational words stand out like a waving flag. They’re a breath of fresh air amidst all the “spam”. Kudos if there isn’t even a link or hashtag involved. It’s like they’re just Tweeting for the joy of sharing their insight – and that’s all. No sell, no promo, just inspiration. And I will likely RT them and share with my followers.

Those who are funny. I am, admittedly, not the wittiest on Twitter. But there are plenty who are, and who are talented enough to make me laugh in 140 characters or less. If I find one of these, RT!

Those who share words or link to posts on advice. When I’m perusing Twitter, it’s my tendency to seek out things that will help ME. That’s what most readers will do – look for something that will help them get further, be better, find inspiration, etc. Authors have a tendency to just tweet and retweet links to their own stuff. BORING. But those that write about how to solve the mysteries of writing or publishing or using social media, those are the links I’m going to click on.

I’ve also learned what NOT to do, correcting my own mistakes when I see certain Twitter behaviors directed at me. For example:

Don’t #1 – The private message link. I don’t know this person. I don’t know what their book is about. I’ve only just started following them. And yet, they are sending me a link to check out such and such. Why? As soon as I started receiving a barrage of these from new followers, I became keenly aware of how much I detested these and chose to NOT click on those links.

Don’t #2 – Repeating the same Tweets over and over again. It’s like they’re yelling at their followers. Didn’t I see that Tweet earlier today? Go to their profile, and, oh yes, there it is repeated five times. If someone is cool on Twitter, I’m going to go to their page and see what else they have to say. If they’re just posting the same thing over and over, I’m going to get bored and move on.

Don’t #3 – Those who just seem in it for themselves. These people are likely not on Twitter at all, but tweeting from a source like Hootsuite or linked to their Facebook and are feeding out Tweets. There’s nothing wrong with using these different avenues to get the words out. But by staying away from the Twitter feed, they’re also denying themselves the opportunity to develop relationships. You can have thousands of followers and still not have your Tweets read, because no one cares what you have to say. People have to care about YOU to care about what you have to share. Make friends on Twitter.

Don’t #4 – Those who autofollow me, then send me an automated message. Hate these! And I’ve been guilty of this! It’s tacky, and it makes me feel like I’ve just followed a robot.

And as one of my favorite Twitterers recently tweeted:

Bottom line: Be HUMAN on Twitter. Don’t treat your followers like dummies. Understand that your followers are (mostly) humans themselves, and appreciate interaction. Share your stuff, but share other stuff too. This is what I’m learning, and I hope you do, too.

xoxo

Crissi Langwell is the debut author of A Symphony of Cicadas. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Have a Twitter account? What are your tweeting pet peeves?

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