Thanks to Robbie for allowing me to share myself on her blog and for the wonderful review!– Leon
Today, I am delighted to host artist, poet and author, Leon Stevens. Which of your own poems is your favourite? Wow. Starting off with the hardest question…I have written about many aspects of my existence, but I think some of the poems about ego and human nature are my attempt at understanding why people act […]
It’s been a while since I wrote about reviews. It’s also been a while since I received any. Coincidence? Probably.
I decided to run a promotion with Itsy Bitsy Book Bits (IBBB) for my poetry book after reading some Goodreads forums on marketing sites. They do rely heavily on social media presence, along with their pool of reader/reviewers. I’m not that active on social media, so I’m probably not taking total advantage of the package, but so far, while it hasn’t translated into any sales, I have received more reviews.
The underlying theme of many of the reviews mirrored one of the reasons for publishing my poems as the forward in my book stated:
I hope that my writing and drawing makes you smile, think, wonder, reflect, laugh, and cry (in a good way-we all need to cry sometimes. It’s not as good as laughing but it serves a purpose). If you can relate to something that I have said, and it makes sense to you, or at least you are entertained, then I have accomplished the second thing that I set out to do.
That was my intent and reason, and these are some of the comments:
“Being a beginner with poetry, this was a great book to start with…The personal points of view which are portrayed are easily relatable and resonates with me on a personal level.”
“It is certainly on book that will make you stop and think… also injecting humour making me laugh. If you are up for something a little different then Leon’s book is just the thing.”
“I have read books of poems before but Lines by Leon touches on topics that really make you think.”
“This is an easy to understand… I know you will find something in one of these poems or short stories you will connect with.”
“These speak to me at this time in my life… You will be amazed as I was at how these short works will grab your heart.”
“… there is something that will connect with everyone.”
As you can see, that goal of my decision to publish has been met, and it warms my heart to get such wonderful feedback. Now the next goal is to reach more readers.
I was looking through my posts, and I had thought that I had posted this here before, but I couldn’t find it (yes, I used the search feature). So, here is a post from my old blog, circa 2019.
Say that five times fast. That’s OK. Take your time. Try again. I’ll wait…
We’ll just have to add that to “Peter Piper” and “She Sells Seashells,” won’t we?
I decided to reach out to some more book bloggers this week. I googled book blogs and came up with sites with lists of book bloggers. As I suspected, there were a lot of them. Why book bloggers? Somebody has to read your book and like (or dislike) it enough to tell others. There are countless blogs out there, and many companies/individuals that set up blog tours, cover reveals, and book blasts. I checked out a few of them, and I wasn’t convinced that it was worth the cost (advertising is always a gamble even if it is a necessity). Sure, you get a fancy banner, and they send out your info to the participating blogs, but I visited a few, and some blogs had tour stop after tour stop that looked pretty much the same. I don’t think you get to choose your site either.
The last point was the most important to me. Now, I’m sure that these bloggers get many emails from authors, so how do I stand out? I wanted to make a personal connection, so this is what I did:
Looked at the review policy. Don’t review poetry? No point in staying…but wait—
I searched their site for my genre. Hey look, they did review a poetry book, and they said they should do more. There’s my in.
Guest posts. If they take them, I read through some to see if my writing fits. I send my request, and let them know that I read their blog.
I also looked to see if their reviews generated comments/discussions. More discussions = more readers
I did discover some interesting things during this exploration:
Bloggers are clever! There are great names out there. Here are some of my favorites: Brooke-reports, Bookedonafeeling, Spinesinaline, Literaryweaponry, Fortheloveofdewey
Book bloggers are 99% female. Why is this? I suspect that what I was told in school is correct, “Girls is smarter than boys” (and thought I was SMRT)…and they have the ability to dedicate themselves to a task and finish it.
I came across several blogs that had been inactive for a long time. I was compelled to peruse through the blog to see if there were any clues to why the site had been abandoned. Not one had closure, no last post saying thanks, or link to follow. Nothing. A ghost in the digital miasma (I learned that word while doing a crossword puzzle…). So, as a writer, I wrote:
I stumbled upon your blog today The place you built to have your say A clever name Graphics much the same Stars twinkled between pages Of poetic thoughts, dreams, and rages Shared part of your life right here For friends and followers to hear But where do you go? The last post was two years ago Why walk away? Was there nothing left for you to say Do you still look the same? Do you have the same name? I hope you left for good reasons Like the changing of the seasons There’s nothing I can do Except hope for you So, I’ll go on pretending That you wrote a happy ending I closed your blog when I was done The visitor count read 3,471
I thought I would share my experience with the tools and programs that I use for writing.
I sprung for Grammarly last year. I didn’t always agree with the Word editor, so it was good to get a second opinion. It does make me aware of some of the common mistakes that I make, and I definitely have improved with my punctuation and clauses.
I do get emails like this that make me scratch my head:
OK. 99%? Is nobody else writing?
Money well spent, I suppose, or I paid attention in English class.
Me do good.
When I write, I’ll usually do a page, then go back and turn it on to check, otherwise I’m constantly looking to the right.
I was looking for a way to organize my drafts and ideas, and Shaxpir seemed to fit the bill. You can create folders, chapters, idea pages, character and setting sheets, and the basic level was free after the 8 week trial of the full program.
Once you put work into it, it saves it on their cloud. I was wary of this but I continued to use it…until…it stopped working.
I tried the community forum but found it a ghost town, and took way to long to figure out how to contact with a CS agent, Finally, someone got back to me saying there was a problem and they’re working on it.
Luckily, I did not have much new work on it, but enough that I’m not pleased. My NaPoWriMo poems were all written on it; those were all reposted on my blog.
I had moved some older work to it, which thankfully I did not delete any originals.
You know how they say good news travels, but bad news travels faster?
Run!, Run away!
Pretty easy to make a Kindle ready book for free. But don’t think you can use it for anything else. What you make can only be opened on your Kindle readers (no MOBI here), or uploaded to KDP.
Free eBook converter. Upload your word doc. and create EPUB, MOBI, of PDF. Then open what you made and realize that Word docs are not “what you see, is what you get”. It takes some experimenting and googling to get the right formatting (hint: page breaks are your friend – sometimes), but overall it is pretty easy to use.
Just remember, readers can set their font and spacing on the reader to what they want, not what you necessarily had envisioned.
I figured that I was going to write more books, so rather than spend countless hours on keywords, just spend money. It’s just money, right? (I dislike spending money, BTW)
It’s a one shot cost, so I’m set. I used it to update my keywords and to maximize my Amazon ads.
Yeah. Not a program, but worth a mention. I had tried Wattpad last year, but got frustrated with the lack of being able to even mention a piece of your own work. I know it’s to limited shameless promotion, but it got a bit too restrictive.
So I turned to Inkitt to see if I can reach new readers. Not much better.
I tried to weigh the positives and negatives.
Wouldn’t let me single space my poems
Formatting is one size and only has bold and italic options
You can import your word doc. but even with page breaks, you still have to manually separate chapters and because of the previous point, no other formatting is transferred
Reaching readers. After posting on some of the community boards (which there are very few), I’m still unclear why the book that I published doesn’t show up on the recently published list.
Hmmm. Haven’t found one yet.
Other tools worth mentioning:
Not recommended. Too scattered and full of glitches. Very steep learning curve (Think years. Many.) Some good ideas if you search through the weird stuff.
Visually dependent and index dominated, despite repeated training. Tend to miss “a” in favor of the “CAPS LOCK”. Visually dependent.
I periodically purge my email subscriber list. I have done three since I started with my mail host. The last purge email was opened by 3 subscribers, so they remained on the list. The others? Well, they get archived and are not counted in my stats. Which means my open rate goes up. I rather have 50 subscribers who are interested in my writings than having a large list and low open percentage.
I do state in my sign-up that subscribers should check their spam folder if they don’t receive the welcome email. Often, the welcome email is the only one that is opened and sometimes it is not even that. I assume that most of the addresses that have no opens are the secondary ones that people use to sign up for free stuff.
Here is what I send:
Ever see the movie, The Purge? Don’t. It’s a terrible movie. I can’t believe they made more than one, two more actually. Anyway, this email is going out to subscribers who haven’t opened any emails for at least 2 months. I may have made a mistake and accidentally added you to this list, so I apologize and you can stop reading now.
I am glad that you wanted to read my books and subscribe to my newsletter. Part of being a writer is to entertain readers. I hope that I have been doing this on a weekly basis.
However, nobody likes unwanted email, and I don’t want to contribute to the digital trash folder. If you no longer want to receive my newsletter and updates, please let me know by unsubscribing at the bottom of the page. If you have any comments or feedback, I would love to hear it.
I’m sad to see you go, but hopefully you will drop by my website from time to time, or follow me on social media. Cheers!
I add “Important Unsubscribe Information” to the subject line. Does that get more opens? If it is opened by a subscriber with no previous opens, then yes. I probably could put “More Free Stuff!” but that would not be nice, would it?
One of the marketing tips I hear over and over is to build a mailing list. That makes sense because the readers of your books are the buyers of your books and have an interest in your career. Just like blogging, it’s a way to make a connection with people who are genuinely interested in what I am doing.
Do I hope my subscribers purchase my various offerings? Of course. Will I continue to inform and entertain regardless? You bet. That’s what I enjoy doing.
I have written several posts about reviews. It can be one of the most frustrating aspects of being an author. Many platforms are set up to guide readers to free review copies, and even though they say that reviews are not guaranteed, one would think that if someone downloads your review copy from a book reviewer site, there should be some expectation of a review. So, I have tried a few sites with limited success. More on that later.
I always sent out a welcome email, thanking the reader. Here is what I say:
To all reviewers,
Thank you for your interest in reviewing my books. As readers, you are so important to new independent authors as your reviews allow us to compete with the multitude of other authors, signed and unsigned. We have found each other through various book platforms. Some of my early subscribers are taking advantage of my free book offer for reviews.
Reviews do not have to be long. Even one or two sentences can attract new readers, and at the very least, a star rating would be appreciated. As for the timeline, I’m hoping that they can be done within 4 weeks of receiving your review copy. (Note: I don’t think 4 weeks is unreasonable)
For some of you, that 4 weeks is getting close. Let me know if you need more time. If you had any difficulty downloading a book, please email me with your preferred format: PDF, ePub, Mobi.
When you have completed your review, please let me know so that I can link it to my website. If you choose not to leave a review for any reason, could you please inform me, and I will remove you from the list.
Here are the review links. Please leave a review on any (or all) of the sites. As my science fiction book is only available on Amazon at the moment, that would be my preference if you are just going to post on one.
I put direct links here to make it easy!
Final Note: Word of mouth is the best form of advertising, so if you enjoyed the books, please tell your friends and family and share the review on your social media!
End of letter.
I think that it covers my expectations and empowers the reviewer to submit whatever form they wish. I added the part about not leaving a review because it is frustrating to not hear from them and I don’t want to keep sending reminders. I appreciate honesty over being ‘ghosted’.
Here are the results:
Platform A: Voracious Readers
Round One - Free trial
20 readers = 3 reviews
Round Two - 6 week promo, now pay/reader
30 readers = 2 Reviews so far
Platform B: Booksprout - Free
3 readers = 1 review
Platform C: StoryOrigin - Free Beta version, transitioning to paid
8 readers = 3 reviews
Platform D: Library Thing -Free
12 readers = 3 reviews
Platform E: Sandra’s Book Club - Free
3 Readers = 0 review
Platform F: Reedsy - Paid
Platform G: Goodreads – Free
7 readers = 5 reviews - GRs takes a lot of work, finding the review groups and threads.
I suspect that most readers are in it for the free books (as you can see by the stats), which is disheartening, as it does feel like you are getting taken advantage of.
What has your experience been?
Not ready to purchase yet?
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Last week I complained a bit about Amazon ads, so to be fair, I’ll give BookBub some airplay.
BookBub operates in much the same way as Amazon does, it that you have to win bids to get your ad shown, and if someone clicks on your ad, you get charged that amount. So, you have to know what your profit margin is for each book and price your bid accordingly-you don’t want to pay people to read your book. But if you don’t bid high enough, your ad doesn’t get shown. Also in the mix is that if someone clicks your ad, the likelihood that your ad gets shown goes up.
Their ad design is straight-forward and there is no vetting like Amazon does, so once you create your ad, it’s live. There are many variables for the ads, so it’s difficult to compare one author’s ad to another. If your ad is not doing well, they email you and suggest that you either up your bid (of course) or redesign. I’ll show the ad that BookBub uses as an example of a successful ad, along with the one I created.
One of the suggestions was to use BookBrush to create ads. I suspect they are owned by BookBub. What is nice about it is the ad is the correct size (300 x 250), so no tweaking required, and you can layer text and images for a professional look.
They give you a chart to show how well- or poorly- your ad is doing:
There are many variables for success. The popularity of the genre, bid amount, etc. The one controllable variable in all this is the cover. People do judge a book by its cover. Since I like my cover, it’s hard to step back and critique, so what do you think? Let me know.
Earlier, I wrote a post about paring down my email subscriber list (The Purge). I went from 97 subscribers to 48. Sounds like a lot doesn’t it. That’s half my list. So yeah, it Is a lot. I started my newsletter to keep my readers entertained between my writing projects and to give them some insight into my writing journey. It’s both personal and professional.
How do I gauge success? I have a few benchmarks:
When my subscriber list had more non-friends and relatives – Check.
50% opens – Check
Subscriber engagement (comments, clicks, purchases) – Check. (This doesn’t count my mom who always replies to my newsletter, “I really enjoy your newsletters. I look forward to them every week.” Thanks, Mom. Love you too.)
100 subscribers – Almost…there…until…
I hope my subscribers look forward to my emails. I went with a weekly newsletter because is I think that once a month is too long between updates. For daily engagement, I turned to this blog. I hope that you enjoy my thoughts, ramblings, and humor.
Most book rating sites will include a rubric-or classification scale-to tell the reader how to rate a book. These rubrics can vary from site to site:
I didn’t like it
Really, not good
It was OK
Not so good
I liked it
I really liked it
It was amazing!
Very, very good
Does this kind of remind you of something? Bingo! School!
Rubric 3 – Consistently meeting grade level expectations 2 – Needs some help to meet grade level 1 – Needs ongoing help to meet grade level expectations N/A – Not applicable at this time
Most students will fall in the 2 category. That’s just the way life works. There are some that excel at everything (20%?), some that constantly struggle (20%?), and the rest (c’mon, do that math) will hang out in the middle. Google “bell curve” if you want a visual.
With so many authors out there, this has to hold true as well, doesn’t it? We can’t all be writing bestsellers-it doesn’t hurt to try, and some authors will just not make it for one reason or the other.
Do I like every book that I read? Of course not. No one does. Does that mean those books are terrible? Written badly? Confusing? Just plain boring? Sometimes, but often it is just a difference in opinions. There are best-selling books out there that don’t resonate with me.
I don’t expect everyone to like what I write. If you don’t like poetry or science fiction, you probably are not going to give my book a chance, or if you do it may warrant a 1 or 2-star rating in your mind. Some reviewers won’t publish a review lower than a 3 star, which I think is fair for both the author and the reader. If someone does not like my books, I do however, like to know why. Feedback always improves a skill. Which reminds me of a true story…
If you are offended by mild profanity, don’t proceed. I’ll say bye to you now.
In my first year back at university, after many years of being in the “real world”, I was sitting in the Intro to Really Hard University Math 101. I don’t think that it was called that, but if you consider all the algebra and calculus high school seniors have to do to graduate, then the next step is the aforementioned course.
Now, I like math. I suck at it, but numbers are fascinating. But that’s beside the point, and I digress. Here is the dialogue that took place on the last day of class:
“I am handing out the instructor evaluations. I would appreciate if you filled them out and hand them back before you leave.”
“Do we have to?”
“No, but it is important for me to know what I am doing well and what I can be doing better in order for me to improve as an instructor. If you think I’m a douchebag, I’d like to know.”
[spattering of laughter]
After a few minutes of students writing, the instructor said:
“I’ll write my name on the board so that you know how to spell it.”
As he turned around, I knew what I needed to say:
“How do you spell douchebag?”
I have never made that many people laugh-including the instructor-before or after. In hindsight, I should have done a mic drop and walked out.
BTW, I got an A in that course. He wasn’t so douchy after all.