Can And Should You Ask For Reviews?

Lately it came up in a writer’s discussion group I belong to on Facebook about whether or not it was considered acceptable to ask friends and family for reviews. One author, who was new to the group, had written a novelette and published it on Amazon, but he hadn’t received any reviews for it yet. He was considering asking for reviews from people he knew, but he was afraid it would come off as tacky or as rude to ask for a review.
The consensus of the group seemed to be that asking for reviews wasn’t a bad thing. In fact, several of us had already done so and had received reviews that way. What mattered, we believed, was how you went about asking for a review. Asking in a nice manner, such as saying, “If it’s not too much trouble, after you’ve finished reading my book would you write a review for it?” is perfectly acceptable and is much more likely to garner a positive response for both you and possibly your book than if you said something like “Give me a review or I won’t ever do anything nice for you!” Remember, people are taking time out of their hectic schedules to read your book, which they are under no obligation to read even if they know you. In a way, they are doing you a favor, and the review is like an extension of that.

However, if you’re still uncomfortable with asking people for reviews, try reviewing the works of authors you are friendly with. If you read their work and you write a review of it, positive or negative, they may want to reciprocate by reading your work and then writing a review of their own. I know a few authors who have received reviews or the promises of reviews that way.

And if you are still uncomfortable, think about it this way: most publishing houses actually pay magazines and newspapers to have their critics read their books and write a review of them. Compared to having to gather up the fees to pay a critic to read and review your work in even a small circulation magazine, asking for a review from some friends or family isn’t too difficult, is it?

Another Way to Make a Table of Contents for Kindle

An author emailed me to say that the previous post on how to make a linked table of contents for Kindle didn’t work for her. I don’t know if it depends on what version of Word you use, or even what mood Amazon is in when you submit, but here is an alternate method. Microsoft has taken a stab at telling you how to do it, and you can try their directions, or you can see what kind of mess I can make.

If you’re familiar with styles, this may be easier for you than the last one was. (To see the images bigger, click on them)

Open your document and scroll to the place where you want your table of contents to go. Depending on what style you choose (we’ll get there in a moment) You may want to type in your “Table of Contents” heading, or not.

Choose the References tab:

1

Click on the Table of Contents to get a drop down box. There are some pre-styled ones to choose from (this is what I meant about depending on what you chose, as you’ll notice they all have a “contents” heading) I just chose “insert table of contents”

2

If you choose that, too, you’ll get a pop up where you can set some things. you want to make sure that show page numbers is UNCHECKED. If you use the drop down box you can choose some different styles, but for the ebook I’d just go with from template and forget it

3

You’ll get a pop up. Just click ok.

4

If you haven’t used any Headings when you formatted you’ll get this error:

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Don’t worry, we’re going to fix that. (If you have headings already, you should see your chapters neatly listed. you’re done. Yay you!)

First we want to prepare our headings by adjusting our style. This is easier than it sounds. On the Home tab choose the Heading 1 style and RIGHT click on it. A menu pops down. Choose Modify.

(yours will look different than this because I have some custom styles saved)

6

This gives you another pop up. here you can adjust the font style, size, etc. You can center your headings (I usually don’t for ebooks). Once you’re done, you may want to click the format button for further tweaking

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I’m going to go ahead and make some adjustments to the paragraph aspect

8

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When you’re done hit OK until all the boxes go away.

Now we need to make those chapter titles into headings! Find your chapter heading, highlight it and choose “heading 1” from the style box on the home tab:

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If your navigation pane is open you’ll see your chapter suddenly appear in it. if it isn’t open or you have no idea what I’m talking about don’t worry about it.

Repeat the last step for the rest of your chapters  including introductions, prologues, conclusions, etc. (I’m only doing six for the purpose of the demonstration)

When you’re done go back to the references tab and click “Update Table”

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And – magically – they appear

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The difference between this and the other method? As you can see they don’t LOOK hyperlinked; no blue font or underline, but if you hover over them you have the option to click them:

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I admit, I don’t know if this method will work for Smashwords formatting, too, as I have never tried it with them (I use the previous method for them). If anyone else has, I’d be interested to know.

*EDIT* be sure to set your Table of Contents and any headings with AUTOMATIC for the text color or you’ll get a nasty notice from Amazon that your color is not readable. Sorry, forgot to mention that earlier 😉

If this method still does not work for you, or if you have another method, please let us know!

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14 Tips to Marketing and Promoting on a Shoestring

Last night I thought about posting a question on the Amazon forums asking readers for help on writing this article. I wanted to know what they liked and didn’t like about Authors’ marketing and promoting their books. I decided against it about three seconds after I did a search on author’s marketing themselves. What I learned shocked me, but didn’t really surprise me that most efforts Author’s utilize to sell their books really annoy readers.

Over the years, I’ve studied different methods of marketing that fit what I’m comfortable with and below I’ve compiled a list of non-aggressive marketing tips that are budget friendly. I hope these helped and good luck all of you.

~Know your target audience and create a brand that appeals to you and projects the image you want for your writing career. With your brand in mind, repeat yourself in all your ads, webpages, etc to establish that brand in the minds of readers. For example: My author brand is “Where myths live, where legends walk, and where love is eternal.” I write Speculative fiction.

~When you finish a book, write the next one, and the next one, and the next one. Keep writing books. Create a backlist. The authors that sell well are the ones that write. It doesn’t cost much more than time, effort, and maybe paper.

~Upload to every book site available and fill out their author profile pages. Some readers like to know the author. My favorites are Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. Not only do you get better royalties by doing this, but you can also track your sales.

~Create a print book to go with your eBook. Some readers still like to hold a book in their hands, or like the eBook enough to buy the print book to have for their collection. You can carry it around with you in your purse and answer people’s questions when they ask about it. You can donate a paperback copy of your book to your local library. (I think most of the SPAL author’s use CreateSpace. This Amazon based service allows you to create a book with no out-of-pocket expense. The paperback will be linked to your eBook on Amazon. Another good printer is Lightning Source.)

~Offer Readers something for free. When readers receive something of value for free, trust and good feeling naturally arise. It is a very effective marketing strategy. This doesn’t have to be a full length book. Write a short story geared toward the readers you want to attract and offer it as a free read or bonus material at the end of a related book. Give the people on your mailing list or newsletter sneak peeks at a story. You can give them a coupon or some type of special they can share with friends.

~Run a contest giving out free e-books. Or have a treasure hunt where they buy the books to find clues and win something big. Or do a giveaway and ask everyone who downloads the book to please leave an honest review.

~Blogs and websites are free ad space on the web that creates a constant link between yourself and readers. It is there 24/7. This doesn’t mean you should treat it like a billboard. Share things that are meaningful to you and your readers. Blog about your book as you write it. Share character interviews, short stories, or news about the book. (There are many platforms to choose from. Weebly offers a blog for your website. Bloggster, Blogger, WordPress, and Tumblr are all blogging sites, some of which can be transformed into websites.)

~Social Networking with Twitter, Facebook, and GooglePlus and the hundred of other sites out there are great ways to stay connected and keep your name active. Also sign up for reading sites like GoodReads and Shelfari, or creating a Youtube channel with a list of songs that go well with your story or author interviews is a great way to get people to notice you. You can then get widgets for all of these sites and place them on your website so people can easily find you on the web.

~Book trailers are a great way to show readers what your book is all about. You can upload it to Youtube and Tweet the link with relevant hashtags to get it out to people with similar interests.

~Join forums if you dare. Forums and group discussions can be great places to meet people. But be sure not to self-promote. Not only will it turn readers off, it can turn nasty fast. Amazon has created a special ‘Meet the Authors’ forum where authors can promote their books and talk about their work.

~Most people won’t give a book a second glance if it has not received any reviews, good or bad. I found that offering your book for free and asking for honest non-biased reviews can get you those reviews. But don’t expect them to be all nice. You can also send your book to bloggers and reviewers.

~Make flyers, brochures, postcards or pens with information about your books. I’ve never tried this but it could be worth it to make a flyer or brochures and place them in public places, giveaway flyers, brochures, or postcards to people who ask about your book, etc. Please make sure it’s okay with the owners first or it’s at a place where it is okay to put them. Bathroom stalls, libraries, and bulletin boards are good places. Network with another author and do an exchange of flyers. Pens can be given away, or left for people to use. I don’t know about you, but I do read the writing on the sides of pens.

~Find creative ways to use your business cards and leave them in unexpected places. Some authors like to print a brief book excerpt on the back, titles of your book or book cover, the table of contents, the characters, a rave review, or your elevator pitch. I prefer the list of books or leaving it blank. If blank you can write a specific book for the person or even write a coupon code for a free or discounted book on it. You can leave your card with the tip for the waitress, in the envelope if you pay your bills via snail mail, in library books, in the change room at your

~Create relationships with readers, writers, reporters, book sellers, book clubs, bloggers, teachers, etc. Word of mouth is still the most cost-effective way to advertise your books.

KDP Select?

Cover of "Kindle Wireless Reading Device,...

On the back of Amazon’s announcement about Amazon.it (Italy) and Amazon.es (Spain) comes a new Kindle program; the new KDP Select program.

Each month, Amazon will make a “pool” of money – $500,000 in December. To get a cut of the money you have to enroll your book. Each time it is borrowed, you get a “point”. At the end of the month, the total points are counted, the money is divided up by that number (for example if there are 500,000 points from all authors and $500,000,  each “point” is worth $1) and you receive your share of the “pot” which would be X$ x How-many-times-your-book-was-borrowed (not purchased, but borrowed through the kindle Library lending program – which only Amazon Prime members can borrow from.)

So if no one borrows your book, you make 0% of the pot.

In Amazon’s press release, several authors such as J.A. Konrath and C.J. Lyons have gone on record, lauding the program. Meanwhile, Mark Coker has posted, explaining why this is a bad thing,  while Writer Beware has warned authors to “read the fine print”.

And you should. While at first this seems like a way to earn royalties on book borrowing, there is one condition: You must have your book (in digital format) EXCLUSIVELY published with Amazon. This means it can not be on Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo or even your personal website or blog (blogs and websites are specifically mentioned in the terms).  This further means that if your book is already published elsewhere you must first remove it so that Amazon is the only person who carries it.  (This does not effect paper back/dead tree versions)

Before you take your books down from B&N, Kobo, Smashwords, etc. and enter the program, ask yourself this question, “Is my book likely to be borrowed enough times to make up the money for those lost sales?”

The answer for me is a simple “No”. Your answer may be  different, but as Writer Beware has cautioned, make sure you know what you’re getting into.

Will you enroll in KDP Select? Why or why not?

You can read the entire FAQ & terms on Amazon’s site 

EDIT: Check out Kim Wolterman’s blog Amazon: Author Friend or Foe where she explains the Kindle Lending Library.

Amazon.fr & Apple iBookstore

I wanted to share this, but I am a bit behind today, so I’m just going to copy in the email I received:

We are excited to announce Kindle Direct Publishing on Amazon.fr!

If you have distribution rights in France for books you’ve published through Kindle Direct Publishing, they are already available in the new Kindle store on Amazon.fr. The list prices and royalty plans for titles sold on Amazon.fr are based on those you’ve chosen for the Amazon.com store.

In addition to KDP titles becoming available for sale on Amazon.fr, sales made to customers living in France, Belgium, and Monaco will qualify for 70% royalty on titles enrolled in the 70% royalty option.

If you would like to review or change your preferences for each title sold on Amazon.fr, please visit the KDP Bookshelf here: https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/dashboard

Also see our press release here: http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=176060&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1614743&highlight

If you have books in the Amazon KDP program you should have gotten one of these.  Yes, it means there is now an Amazon ebook market in the UK, Germany and France. Personally I haven’t sold any books on Amazon.de yet, so I’m not sure the fr is going to make much of a difference to me, but here’s hoping it does for some of you!

EDIT** and speaking of expanded distribution, Apple’s iBookstore has expanded distribution of Smashwords books to 26 new countries – read all about it on Mark Coker’s blog.

Amazon DE?

Cover of "Kindle Wireless Reading Device,...
Cover via Amazon

If your published through Amazon’s KDP program (Kindle Direct Publishing – which used to known ad DTP) you might have gotten a letter from them a few days ago telling you about an exciting new “kindle store” called Amazon.de.

What is Amazon.de? It’s Amazon in German and it’s available to residents in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg.

Snazzy, huh?

So what do you need to do to make sure your book is listed there? If you have already ticked the little checkbox that states you have worldwide rights to publish/distribute your book, then nothing. Amazon has already listed all books that have available rights in Germany, to the tune of 650,000 on opening day.

If you’re not sure whether you’re book is available, then you can go to Amazon.de and look yourself up. (I did! It was fun to see my books surrounded by German. It felt very international!) If it’s not there, or if you don’t feel like a search, then you can log in to your Amazon KDP account and check or edit the book’s settings.

What does this mean? Not only is it a new market for authors already published through Amazon’s KDP, but it’s likely to mean an increase in German authors and German language books, as well.  European authors will be able to choose whether to be paid in pounds, euros or U.S dollars and – more good news – Amazon is now offering European authors electronic transfer royalty payments, so they can get the money deposited directly into their bank account., which makes royalty payments faster and easier.

The opening of the new Amazon.de kindle store leaves me with just one question: What do you think is next?

Kindle Lending

A Picture of a eBook
Image via Wikipedia

We’ve all done it a million times. We finish a great book and loan it to someone else. Maybe it’s a friend, a coworker, or even a spouse. Regardless how close they are to us, there’s a pretty good chance that while we’ll let that paper back out the door, we’re not really interested in loaning them our entire Kindle device.

Amazon has remedied that.

The new Kindle book lending feature allows users to lend out digital copies of books they’ve purchased. But, there’s a limit to this; each digital book may only be lent out once, for no more than 14 days, and while it’s on loan the original purchaser can not access it.

By default, all DTP titles are available for lending, but if you’re signed up for the 35% royalty option you can choose to opt your titles out by deselecting the checkbox under “Kindle Book Lending” in the “Rights and Pricing” section of your title. Anyone who purchased your book before you unticked that checkbox can still lend it, however, but new purchasers can’t. Of note, if your book is enrolled in the 70% royalty option then there’s no way to opt out.

Authors won’t receive notifications (right now, anyway) that their books have been loaned, nor will they receive a royalty payment because no book was purchased. But, before you get angry about that, consider this. when you loaned that paper back to your friend/coworker/spouse, did the author know? Did they receive a royalty payment for it? The only difference I see is that Amazon has capped the number and duration of loans.

For more information, visit the Amazon.com Kindle Book Lending FAQ.