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I attended my friend Miral Sattar’s workshop on voice search at the recent American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) conference in New York City and was so intrigued that I asked her to write a guest post about it for us. Miral, who offers author tech training programs, has worked in media for 15 years, most recently at TIME Magazine where she developed and implemented the digital SEO strategy that enabled TIME to be one of the most trafficked sites in the industry. She has lectured at Yale, NYU, CUNY, Pace, and other universities and helped numerous authors market their books. Miral has an M.S. in publishing from NYU and a B.S. from Columbia University in electrical engineering and computer science. Miral is offering you half off her latest training program from Learn Self Publishing Fast. Get the offer at the end of her article.

Why authors need a voice search strategy By Miral Sattar

Have you ever asked Siri on your iPhone to tell you the time or set an alarm? Do you own a smart speaker, one of those voice-controlled search devices that include Amazon’s Echo and Google Home?

If not, you probably know someone who does.

What they all have in common is that they perform voice search through a voice assistant  on a smart speaker that you speak to.

Here’s what all of that means.

What is voice search? 

Voice search is speech technology that allows users to search by saying the terms rather than by typing them into a search engine.

Voice search is growing in popularity and by next year, 50 percent of all searches will be done through voice.

What is a voice assistant?

A voice assistant is a digital assistant that uses voice recognition, natural language processing, and speech synthesis to help users through phones and voice recognition applications.

Common voice assistants are Siri, Cortana, and Alexa. Built into smartphones and smart speakers (see below), they help with tasks that often include:

  • Listening to audiobooks
  • Requesting information (that’s where voice search comes in)
  • Performing mathematical calculations (like my kids love doing)
  • Playing music
What is a smart speaker?

A smart speaker is a device that processes voice search commands and responds to voice commands. Examples include most smartphone brands plus Echo, Echo Dot, and Google Home.

Why you need to optimize for voice search

Optimizing for voice search is critical to book marketing because a smart speaker and a voice assistant such as Siri are gateways to purchasing in the home.

What happens currently with your book if someone performs a voice search for it?


Does it return your website? Recommend your book?

Getting smart about how to use voice search to your advantage as an author reminds me of what happened with audiobooks. A few years ago, they weren’t the norm, but now, you can listen to almost any book you want in audio format.

You want to leverage the power of voice search in the same way that authors are taking advantage of audiobook popularity, too.

Just like with regular search engine optimization (SEO), there are things you need to do to get your book optimized for voice search SEO.

What you can do right now to prepare for voice search

In fact, there are a couple things you can do right now to make sure you’re prepared for the voice search revolution.

1. Update your meta description.

Having a meta description for your home page is especially important for voice search and voice assistants. The meta description is what voice assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google use to describe your website.

The meta description is hidden text on every page of your website that tells search engines what’s on the page. It’s a snippet of up to about 150 characters.

Search engines display the meta description in search results mostly when the searched-for phrase, such as the author’s name, is in the description. You can make sure yours is as good as possible using an SEO plugin like Yoast SEO.

To see how this works, do a test. If you have an iPhone, ask Siri about your favorite author and see what comes up.

Example: “Siri, who is (favorite author name)?” 

If you have an Amazon Echo or Dot device, speak the following prompts.

“Alexa, who is (favorite author name)?” 

The search results that get displayed on your phone screen or read aloud are often the meta description on the author’s website.

2. Make sure your book is available in audiobook format:

Because smart speakers can play audiobooks, they give preference to books that are available in audiobook format when delivering search results.

That means that if there are two books with the same title and only one of them is available as an audiobook, that’s the one that will be at the top of search results.

To see how this works, if you have an Amazon Echo or Dot device say the following prompts:

“Alexa, read (book title).”

It will demonstrate why you want to make sure your audiobook is available on Amazon and Google Play. That way, the smart speakers can purchase, read, and recommend your audiobook to potential readers.

Authors and publishers stand to lose millions this year because they are not optimizing for voice search. Be prepared for the voice search revolution. It’s already here.

Learn how to leverage voice search for your book

Save 50 percent on my new course, “How to Leverage Voice Search to Sell Books,” with coupon code LAUNCH by May 30 at the Build Book Buzz affiliate link for the course. I will also give you another one of my training programs, the SEO Masterclass ($299 value), for free – but only if you purchase by May 30 at this link: “How to Leverage Voice Search to Sell Books.”

The post Why authors need a voice search strategy appeared first on Build Book Buzz.

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Does your book marketing to-do list seem to get longer and longer every day, while the days seem to get shorter and shorter?

Are you starting to feel overwhelmed by the whole “now that I’ve written it, I have to promote it” process?

Is what you want to do to promote your book starting to weigh you down?

Get a book marketing intern

Consider hiring an intern.

College students and others looking for experience to add to their resumes can relieve you of the more administrative tasks, freeing you up to focus on those that make the best use of your time and talent. And with most just finishing the spring semester and looking for summer employment, now’s the time to connect with them.

With the right person on board, you might actually feel like you’re getting your life back.

How do you find and hire one? Here are a few things to consider.

1. Decide if you want to pay your intern and if so, how much.

This is an important first step because it has an impact on what – and how much – you’ll assign to your intern.

I have always paid my interns because I’m more comfortable paying than not. Plus, I believe that I’ll get a better work product if I pay for it.

If you want to pay, you need to decide what’s appropriate. That often depends on what you can afford, the skill level of your tasks, and what’s typical for your region. Talk to a local college placement office to get a sense of what might be expected and appropriate.

2. Be clear on what you want an intern to do. Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Make a list of the tasks you’d like to outsource. You need this for a job description, but it will also help you focus your thoughts and plan your time (and timing).

Tasks that are appropriate for a book marketing intern include developing media lists, identifying blogs for virtual book tours, sending out review copies, scheduling appearances, pitching radio stations, and finding places for you to speak.

The task list will help you identify the skills and personality needed for the internship.

3. Determine who will be a good fit.

Take into account any past work or classroom experience, availability, personality type, and access to a work space that provides privacy, if necessary.

For example, if you need your intern to spend time on the phone, the individual needs to be able to make those calls during appropriate hours. They should be comfortable calling strangers, too.

4. Tell people you’re looking for a book marketing intern.

Ask friends and colleagues (especially those with college-age kids) if they know someone who would be good. Put a message on Facebook using the “public” privacy setting and ask friends to share it.

Contact local colleges and universities, particularly those with communications, journalism, public relations, advertising, or marketing programs. Starting points are the career development department, job placement office, internship coordinator, or administrative assistant for the department that houses the communications, journalism, marketing, etc. courses.

Your starting point could vary from school to school, but there’s usually a system you can plug into.

You can also post jobs on sites like CraigslistEnternships,  LinkedIn, and Internships.com.

5. Set parameters.

Can the intern telecommute or do you need the individual on-site? The answer to that might depend on how much supervision is needed.

How many hours a week do you need?

What’s the timeframe for the internship?

6. Be realistic.

While outsourcing tasks requiring less skill to an intern can relieve some of your “how will I get all of this done?” stress, you will still have to invest time in your intern, especially in the beginning. You’ll need to educate and guide upfront, then edit any writing, brainstorm solutions to problems, and so on.

Whether it’s an intern or a permanent staff member, we can’t just say, “Do this and call me when it’s done.” What’s more, interns are on the job to learn – they don’t usually walk into the situation with all of the necessary know-how.

What’s stopping you?

I have always been pleased with my intern experiences. One of my favorites was a student I met when I taught a public relation class as an adjunct professor. She turned out to be a “two-fer” – she also babysat for my children occasionally, too!

Here’s hoping you also have positive experiences with any interns you bring to your book marketing activity.

What’s your best tip for hiring a book marketing intern?

(Editor’s note: This article was first published in May 2013. It has been updated and expanded.)

The post How to hire a book marketing intern appeared first on Build Book Buzz.

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Book publisher Tara Alemany and I have crossed paths many times because our professional networks overlap, but we never talked directly until she asked me to blurb her new book, Publish With Purpose: A Goal-Oriented Framework for Publishing Success. (Spoiler alert: I loved it!) I thought the “Dear Reader” exercise she described in the book was so important and helpful that I asked her to write a guest post about it. Fortunately for us, she agreed.

Tara Alemany is a multi-award winning author, speaker, business consultant, and publisher, as well as a serial entrepreneur. Although she’s started many businesses during her career, her favorite by far is Emerald Lake Books, which she co-owns with her best friend, Mark Gerber. This hybrid publishing company provides a unique blend of business coaching with publishing to help its authors succeed. Emerald Lake Books specializes in working with positive people who have an engaging, exciting or entertaining message to share.

Use the “Dear Reader” exercise to focus your book writing and marketing By Tara Alemany

In October 2017, I heard Justin Spizman give a talk where he shared his “Dear Reader” exercise. A ghostwriter and book architect, Justin uses this exercise to help his clients clarify who their book is for early in the writing process.

When you have a clear picture of who your ideal reader is, it allows you to write specifically for them. But it also allows you to feel more connected to them and to write in a more conversational way. Because it’s less formal, it makes for a much more engaging book.

As a publisher, I have since adapted and expanded his exercise for our own clients.

The “Dear Reader” exercise

Here’s how you can do the Dear Reader exercise yourself. The idea is, you’re going to write a letter to your prospective new reader.

If your book is nonfiction, you want to provide answers to the following questions in your letter:

  1. Who are you?
  2. What is this book about?
  3. What inspired you to write it?
  4. Who will it help?
  5. Why are you the expert on this topic?
  6. What makes your book unique?
  7. What promise are you going to make the reader?

If your book is fiction, the questions are slightly different.

  1. Who are you?
  2. What is this book about?
  3. What inspired you to write it?
  4. Why do you love this story?
  5. What do you hope the reader will enjoy most about it?
  6. What promise are you going to make the reader?

Whether you’re a fiction or nonfiction author, write the letter as if you’re speaking directly to that reader, using the first and second person (“you” and “I”).

The completed letter should only be two to three pages long, but it will help you gain clarity regarding the outcome you want for your reader.

Keep in mind, this is not a questionnaire. This is a letter you’re writing to a prospective reader. In it, you want to create a connection that demonstrates you know who they are and what their needs are, as well as why your book is the answer to what they’re seeking, whether it’s entertainment, encouragement, or enlightenment.

Test drive the letter

If you have a coach or someone you trust who can provide honest feedback, share the letter with them. You want to hone and refine the letter until you’re really clear about who the book is for and why this particular book will benefit them.

Your promise to the reader, should they invest their time and money in you, has to resonate as something that particular reader will truly want. Getting feedback from a trusted source for this refining process is crucial. If you find you want more help with this exercise, we are happy to guide you through the process and provide feedback. Simply book a time with us at elbks.com/reader-ex.

When the letter is ready, share it with your editor. This allows them to verify that you have delivered on your promise to the reader as they edit your manuscript, and ensures the book is as strong as it can be. At the editing stage, you can still make changes, if necessary, to help the book achieve your intended purpose.

Reaping the benefits

Here are some of the benefits that come from doing this exercise:

  • You’ll have a clear picture of who your ideal reader is, what their needs are, and how you can serve them, which will help both your writing and your marketing efforts.
  • You’ll have a better idea of what’s “in scope” for this book, and what material you should save for later use.
  • It will give your editor a better understanding of what you hope to convey to your reader.
  • Portions of your Dear Reader letter may work well as marketing material, cover copy, your book listing description, or an introduction to your book.
Simple, but not easy

I have to admit, writing my own Dear Reader letter for my book, Publish with Purpose, was an emotional experience. Writing the letter forced me to reconnect with why I was writing the book and who I was writing it for, instead of what it was that I wanted to write.

“What” is a very intellectual question. But “who” and “why” are all about the connections I was trying to make and the purpose I was trying to serve. And the answers to those questions reside more in my heart than my mind.

So when you do this exercise, be sure to give yourself some space and time to truly process it. I promise, it’s worth it and your readers will thank you!

Have you tried this exercise before? Did it help give you clarity?

The post Use the “Dear Reader” exercise to focus your book writing and marketing appeared first on Build Book Buzz.

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I noticed recently that an author I’ve purchased from before has just self-published another book. Although the book is on a topic I’d like to know more about, I didn’t click through to read the Amazon description or to check the price.


Because the first book of this author’s that I read was profoundly disappointing. It was the length of a long magazine article and lacked depth, detail, and specifics.


I should have known better. There were several warning signs, including a do-it-yourself cover. The “product details” noted the (short) length. But the book’s excellent description hit all the right buttons — it promised the specifics I needed — so I took a chance.

Deliver what you promise

I would have overlooked many flaws if the book’s content had matched its description. All I asked of this book was to teach me something new.

But it didn’t.

Instead, the book was a shallow overview that left me feeling foolish for buying it.

Is this the reaction you want from your readers?

Do you want to give them the impression that you don’t really care about delivering on your book’s promises?

Probably not. I think you want to write a great book that readers will recommend to their friends.

To help make that happen, here’s a short list of what I see on Amazon that sends me back to the search bar for another option.

1. The book’s title is a mess.

Punctuation or spacing is missing. Words run together. A cover blurb is included in the title, even though it’s an endorsement, not part of the title.

For nonfiction, there’s no separation between the title and the subtitle. Almost as bad? There’s no subtitle.

2. It’s obvious you designed your own cover. (And that you’re not a designer.)

Nothing shouts “I don’t really care about my book” more than an obviously do-it-yourself cover.

If you don’t care enough about your book to make sure that the cover is appropriate for the category, why would I care enough to read it? You’re telling me that what’s between the covers will be amateurish, too.

(For tips on how to select the best cover, read “7 tried and true ways to make a book cover decision.”)

3. You aren’t letting me “look inside” the book on Amazon.

The “look inside” feature is the online equivalent of flipping through a book in a bricks-and-mortar bookstore. It gives the reader a preview of content and writing quality.

When you haven’t made it possible for me to peek inside the book, I start to wonder if there’s a reason why. That could mean that a preview might discourage people from buying.

That’s probably not the message you want to send.

4. Your book description is written and formatted like an advertisement.

Nothing shouts, “I’m an internet marketer trying to grab your dollars!” like a book description that looks and reads like a website sales page.

Hype might fool others, but it doesn’t fool me. I want thoughtful text that helps me see what I’ll learn from the book, not a huge, boldfaced font shouting at me.

Major publishers don’t use this approach. Minor publishers shouldn’t either. It’s insulting to the reader.

5. The book description is one long block of text with no paragraph returns.

This is a problem for two reasons. First, I can’t read text with no white space. My brain craves paragraph breaks!

Second, it tells me that you care so little about your book that you didn’t even review your sales page before it went live.

If you don’t care, why would I?

On the other hand … authors have been complaining that the system has messed with their descriptions. To be safe, go to your book’s page and make sure it looks the way you want it to.

6. You don’t have an author bio or the one you’re using isn’t relevant to the book.

Until recently, I was guilty of this. My bio just disappeared — poof! — from my Author Central account. One day it was there, the next, it wasn’t.

So, even if you’ve added your bio to your Author Central Author Page, check your book’s sales page to make sure it’s still there.

You’ll find a lot of helpful information online about to write your author bio (including on this site), but the one thing that most self-published authors overlook is relevance. Novelists write that they’ve fulfilled a life’s dream by writing a book — not relevant — and nonfiction authors use a generic bio that doesn’t shine a spotlight on their best credentials for the topic.

Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, I need you to connect your life (and personality) to this book so I understand why you’re the right author for it.

Help me love your self-published book

I want to read more self-published books. I really do. I loved Karen Inglis’s and Kim Norman’s. I’d love to discover fiction that’s as good as their nonfiction.

But what I’m seeing tells me that many authors don’t care much about quality.

Here’s what Apple founder Steve Jobs says about that.

“Quality is more important than quantity. One home run is much better than two doubles.” ~ Steve Jobs

When someone tells you that what counts is quantity — when they tell you that you need a lot of books in the pipeline to be successful — look at the quality of what you’ve already written first. If it’s not as good as you can make it, don’t move on until it is.

Quality still matters.

Convince me to read your self-published book. What’s the best thing about it? 

The post Why I won’t buy your self-published book appeared first on Build Book Buzz.

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Do you ever feel like you’re in this book marketing game all by yourself? It can seem like a pretty lonely experience at times, right?

Why not counter that by working with other authors to get the news out about your book and how it will entertain, educate, or otherwise help people?

This doesn’t mean that you should approach other authors and ask them to share information about your book with their fans, audiences, and followers. That won’t get you very far.

The golden rule

You want to work collaboratively, always following the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

If you want help from others, help them first.

With that in mind, here are 10 creative ideas for supporting other authors in ways that will encourage them to support you, too. You’ll be much more productive and far less lonely.

1. Create a blog network for your genre.

Identify a handful of other writers in your genre who will join with you to promote each other’s  blog posts. In addition to listing everyone/s blogs in a “blog roll” on your sites, commit to commenting on each other’s posts on a regular basis.

This will build traffic for each site and help generate greater awareness of the books involved.

2. Plan a “local authors night” at a bookstore or library.

The connections you make with other local authors will support you well beyond this fun night of book signings and sales.

Consider solidifying the connections by meeting in person on a regular basis to brainstorm or share information.

3. Form a book marketing group on Facebook or LinkedIn.

Groups built around a shared interest or challenge offer opportunities to get feedback, request opinions, or ask for help solving a problem. You might be surprised at the level of support you can get from a group of like-minded individuals.

Authors are talking about book marketing challenges and sharing their experiences in the Build Book Buzz Group on Facebook. Join that one, or form your own there or on LinkedIn, where there are lots of existing groups to join, too.

4. “Like” each other’s author Facebook pages.

It’s quick and easy. Will it change anyone’s world? Probably not, but it’s the least we can do for each other.

Make it a point to stop by the pages periodically and “like” and comment on the content, too.

5. Form a Meetup group.

Connect with local authors by organizing and promoting a regular Meetup.

Defining in advance what you hope to get from group meetings will help you be specific about the people you’d like in the group. You might want to meet only with novelists or with just nonfiction authors, for example.

Get started at Meetup.com.

6. Guest blog for each other.

This is such a win-win.

It’s one less post for you to write while you support another author. Plus, your blog will benefit from the exposure to your guest blogger’s fan base. Maybe you’ll find a few new fans in the crowd.

To be the best guest blogger ever, download the free Build Book Buzz Guest Blogging Cheat Sheet.

7. Get a little link love going.

Generate backlinks (links that connect one site to another) to author sites by sharing their blog posts and other content on your social networks.

This will help improve everyone’s SEO — search engine optimization.

8. Read and review each other’s books.

Arrange with your network to write honest reviews of each other’s books. Minimize problems by establishing rules in advance about how to handle books that members don’t like.

Also, if you give each other review copies, be sure to declare that fact in your Amazon review. You’re required to state when you receive a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.

For a bonus boost, buy the books on Amazon so your reviews show up as verified purchases. These reviews show up first, ahead of those that aren’t verified as purchased on Amazon.

But always, always, always, write an honest review.

9. Use their books as contest giveaways.

Contests are a great way to expand your social media following or email subscriber list.

You’ll probably want to give your book to the winner, but your friend’s book could be an excellent second prize.

10. Interview each other on your blog or podcast.

Help readers get to know other authors and their work by interviewing them on your blog or podcast.

This will help both of you reach new audiences while it provides content for the host. How can you lose?

John Kremer, author of1001 Ways to Market Your Book, says it best:

Implement even three of these ideas and you’ll feel more connected and less isolated while you move forward with your book marketing.

What other ideas do you have about collaborating with other authors to make the book marketing experience less lonely and more productive?

(Editor’s note: This article was first published in July 2014. It has been updated and expanded.)

Tip of the Month

I like to share a “Tip of the Month,” a free resource or tool for authors, on the last Wednesday of the month.

This month it’s Elementari.

Elementari is a free  online platform that lets writers connect with artists to create and share interactive stories.

The site is home to more than 7,000 illustrations and sounds you can use in your story. Published stories automatically credit and promote the artists involved.

The site’s goal is to promote arts and literacy for all ages, including children. Learn more at Elementari.io.

The post 10 ways authors can help each other with book marketing appeared first on Build Book Buzz.

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How many times have you heard that mainstream media outlets don’t review self-published books?

That statement is both true and false.

It’s true that most mainstream media outlets aren’t interested in self-published books that:

  • Don’t meet traditional publishing standards
  • Use an obviously do-it-yourself cover
  • Name a commonly known self-publishing company or anything else that shouts “SELF-PUBLISHED!” on the copyright page

That doesn’t mean you can’t get your self-published book reviewed by the big guys, though. You just have to know what you’re doing, from beginning to end.

Here’s what you need to get around the “we don’t review self-published books” obstacle.

1. A well-written book that looks and reads like anything coming from a traditional publisher.

This is non-negotiable. If you want trade/literary/media reviews, your book has to be a good read – and look like one, too.

If you’re not a good writer, hire a reputable ghostwriter. Association of Ghostwriters members need documented experience to qualify.

Pay a professional editor.

Work with a cover designer with experience in your genre.

2. A publishing company name that disguises the fact that you’re self-published.

The publisher’s name is printed on the copyright page and in the product details on retail sales pages.

It’s common knowledge that Lulu, BookBaby, Xlibris, and “Independently published” (that’s what Amazon is now using instead of its defunct CreateSpace), among others, mean the book is self-published..

Create a publishing company for your book, using a name with no connection to you, your book title, or your family. Make it as generic as possible.

Do not use:

  • References to where you live (I live across the street from the Erie Canal, but I’d never use “Erie Canal Press”)
  • Anagrams of your first or last name
  • Your book’s topic (a book about spiritual guides by “Spiritual Guide Publishing”)
  • A combination of family names

When you create your publishing company name, make sure it fits the types of books you write. If you plan on publishing several children’s books, you want your company name to be light and fun. Writing business books? Let law firm or consulting company monikers inspire you.

3. Get bookstore and library distribution.

A friend who reviews books for the Christian Science Monitor told me recently that books he reviews for that media outlet “should be widely accessible.”

He went on to say, “The Monitor won’t like it if I review a book and readers go to their local B&N and can’t find it.”

The Last Bookstore, Los Angeles, Calif.

Add to this the fact that bookstores and libraries aren’t interested in carrying self-published books that aren’t well-written and professionally packaged.Now you understand how important it is to meet accepted quality standards.

One major exception to the “we don’t review self-published books” problem

A significant exception to this – in theory – is Publishers Weekly’s (PW) free review program for self-published authors, BookLife.

A BookLife review lets you tout the fact that your book was reviewed by the best-known publication in the book publishing industry. BookLife reviews are attributed to Publishers Weekly and published alongside the other PW reviews in the main part of the magazine.

The only difference between PW reviews of self-published and traditionally published books is the word “BookLife” in parentheses at the end of the self-published book’s review.

Kelsey Clifton’s debut sci-fi novel, A Day Out of Time, was recently selected for a BookLife review. She’s anxiously awaiting the outcome.

She says, “If you look on the ‘Submissions Guidelines’ page, it does say that their process ‘is highly competitive — both for self-published and traditionally published authors…. If your book is chosen, know that it truly stood out.’ Which is always great to read!”

Skip the reviews, go for publicity

Another valid and valuable option is pursuing publicity instead of or in addition to mainstream media reviews.

Publicity is that free media exposure you get when your book is mentioned in the press. It might be:

One advantage of this approach is that the journalist doesn’t need to see or read your book. What counts is that you wrote a book related to a topic that’s interesting to the outlet’s audience.

As with reviews, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get the publicity you seek. But you won’t know until you try.

It’s not hard to get this publicity, either — you just have to know how to do it. Learn now in Book Marketing 101: How to Build Book Buzz. There’s a course for nonfiction and another for fiction.

One of the beauties of learning how to get publicity is that you can secure this media exposure long after the book launch. I once generated three press runs of one of my books on the strength of sales generated soley by publicity. Why can’t you do that, too?

Take action!

If you’ve got a standout, professionally packaged book, go for it.

If it’s too late to do this for your present book, follow these steps for the next one. You’ve poured your heart into that book. Why not give it the best possible chance of success?

Was your self-published book reviewed by any traditional media outlets? Please tell us about it in a comment.

The post How to get around the “we don’t review self-published books” roadblock appeared first on Build Book Buzz.

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Last week, I had a conversation with a client about what he referred to as “peer reviewers” for his next book.

That gave me pause, because peer reviewers are usually used with academic or scientific works, and his is neither. I asked if he meant “beta readers.” While peer reviewers read for factual accuracy, beta readers aren’t limited to “peers” and can be from your target audience.

“Beta readers” was, in fact, the term he meant to use.

Why you need beta readers

Beta readers are invaluable in the writing process because they can help you improve your manuscript. Fiction beta readers will provide feedback on anything from their overall satisfaction with the book to the characters, plot line, and whether the story flowed well. It depends on what you need from them.

Nonfiction beta readers who aren’t experts on your topic provide help when they comment on what they expected to learn but didn’t, where you went into more detail than necessary, or when they needed clarification.

Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, you want to end up with a manuscript that will satisfy the people you wrote it for – your ideal readers. Beta readers can help you reach that goal.

Where do you find beta readers?

You can find your best beta readers in many places. In her short report, The Author’s Ultimate Guide to Beta Readers, Stephanie Chandler, founder of the Nonfiction Authors Association, offers the following sources (section reprinted with permission):

  • Your own social media and mailing list.
  • Ask your colleagues, family and friends to participate.
  • Ask your colleagues, family and friends to reach out to their networks.
  • Online groups that reach your target audience. For example, if you’re writing a memoir on living with diabetes, locate groups for people who have diabetes.
  • Reach out to trade associations, alumni groups and other professional organizations that reach your target audience and ask them to help you get the word out to their members.
  • Goodreads has a public group specifically for finding beta readers, and so does Facebook.
  • Post to writers’ forums and communities, such as Absolute Write, Writer’s Circle or The Writer’s Workshop.
  • Contact Amazon reviewers. Look up competing titles on Amazon and then click on each reviewer to find their public profile. Oftentimes reviewers list a personal email, so you can send them an invitation.

(To download the full report, go to the Nonfiction Authors Association site.)

How many do you need?

The number of readers you recruit depends on how much feedback you want, need, or can handle. For example, I want just a few clear, strong, honest voices providing feedback. I seek quality over quantity.

Still, how many you ask depends on the number of people you think will actually follow through, too. You’re asking for a significant time commitment, so presume that many who volunteer won’t be able to follow through.

If you want six to offer feedback, consider asking 12 – knowing that you might only get feedback from three. Start with determining the ideal number of beta readers, then ask twice as many people as that. Adjust from there.

What do you say to them?

The most important thing to communicate when reaching out to potential beta readers is your expectations.

When the goal is to help improve your book, tell them that. Be as specific as possible.

That means you have to know what you’re most concerned about with the manuscript. The author client I spoke to about this last week will ask one category of early readers to comment on whether or not the concepts he’s presented resonate with them. Can they see themselves implementing them?

I use nonfiction beta readers to identify what I should have covered but didn’t or where I haven’t communicated clearly and effectively. Maybe I’ve presumed that readers know something that they don’t, or perhaps the book left them with unanswered questions.

Feedback from beta readers helps me get the right balance and tone.

Knowing my weak spots helps me get specific with the help I need. It will help if you know yours, too.

Don’t skip this step

It’s tempting to skip this important process.

We’re always in a hurry to get the book done. Maybe the publisher has imposed a deadline; maybe you’ve set your own deadlines that you keep ignoring.

You’ve probably heard many say, “Good is good enough.” But is “good” good enough for your book? Do you want your book to be just “good,” or do you want it to be the best you can possibly make it?

To help make your book better than good, enlist the support of the right beta readers. Sure, it adds to the timeline, but it also adds to your book’s quality.

That’s a good thing.

Did you work with beta readers on your manuscript? How did you find them? Please tell us in a comment.

The post Where to find beta readers for your book appeared first on Build Book Buzz.

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Our guest blogger this week is Beth N. Carvin, CEO and co-founder of JamBios, a free, online collaborative memoir writing platform you can use to create “The Story of You.” If you plan to write a memoir, you definitely need to explore the potential this tool offers to expand and inform your story. 

Collaborating with others on your memoir in 6 easy steps By Beth N. Carvin

Writing a memoir is an exciting opportunity to dig into your memories and create something personal and lasting for your family and friends.

Getting started may feel overwhelming but it need not be, especially if you involve others to help remember with you. By reaching out to important people in your life and asking them to add memories, you can enrich your biography with stories from others that you might never have discovered otherwise.

Collaborating with others on your memoir not only makes your book better, it also makes the process more fun.

Imagine the same feeling you get from reminiscing around the dinner table with family—but the stories are saved and organized online or in a ready-to-print book. Here are six easy steps for writing your memoir collaboratively with others.

1. Throw away timelines and write memories of whatever strikes your fancy.

If you want to start with writing about your ancestors you can, but don’t feel constrained to writing about your life sequentially. You can always re-order your stories later. Some people like to start with the lighthearted—the camping trip where a bear sniffed your picnic basket, the Thanksgiving when Uncle Bob forgot to wear pants, or the greatest puppy in the whole wide world.

Write as much detail as you remember—including the senses. Did it smell a certain way? Do you remember the feel on your skin?

When you paint a clear picture you’re more likely to trigger additional memories from others and make it easier to remember together.

2. Add photos as inspiration.

If you have any photos or related images that match the topic about which you are writing, add them to the text. Your friend or family member might remember all sorts of additional details that were happening at the time of the photo which you know nothing about.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions—”Why were you holding a trophy?” “What was that goop in your hair?” “Who was that kid in the back of the photo?”

Who knows what new details you might uncover just by asking?

3. Who are your collaborators? Anyone who was there!

A memoir is a series of memories, and most memories include other people. When writing a memoir with help from others, you can select who you’d like to add to which memories.

If you’re writing about your school days, who were some of your friends at that time?

If you’re writing about family gatherings and traditions, what relatives might have some zany memories of their own?

If you’re writing about the first pet you ever had, which of your siblings or cousins would remember little Fifi?

For whatever story, event, person, or pet you’re remembering, brainstorm a list of a few people who might have fun anecdotes, fresh perspectives, or new details to add.

4. Request a memory.

Once you have your list of potential memory writers, reach out via email, social media, or an online memoir or writing platform that makes it easy to connect and share stories. Let them know you are writing an informal autobiography and would like their input.

Share one of the stories with a memory they will remember. Ask them specifically, “What do you remember about this story?”

5. Provide helpful prompts if needed.

If you’d like, you can use creative questions to help spur your family and friends’ memory.

For example, if you’ve written a memoir section about the family reunion you attended as a child, you might ask relatives: “Do you remember Uncle Edgar tripping into the punch bowl and spilling it all?” or “Do you know why Grandma danced so crazily that day when she had never done anything like that before?”

6. Have fun sharing details and going through the memories together—and remember to save your stories.

You’ll find that once you get the reminiscing ball rolling, it can be tough to stop. But why would you? Like so much in life, memories are far better when enjoyed together —and your memoir will be so much richer for having included forgotten memories from family and friends.

Make sure that as you’re building your collaborative memoir, you keep all of your favorite stories somewhere safe and secure so that you’ll never forget them again. And most of all, enjoy the memories.

If you’re writing a memoir, are you getting input from others? How are you requesting that help?

The post Collaborating with others on your memoir in 6 easy steps appeared first on Build Book Buzz.

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Want to make a few more pennies every time your book is sold on Amazon?

Use an Amazon Associates link in your book promotion.

Amazon Associates is that site’s affiliate program. An affiliate program lets a company sell products through others — “affiliates” — who market the company’s products for a commission. When you sign up for the Amazon Associates program, Amazon is the company with the products and you’re the affiliate.

Sign up for the Amazon Associates program here.

Get your book’s Amazon Associates link quickly and easily

Once you’ve joined the Amazon Associates program, there are two ways to get your affiliate link for your book. You want to use this link when promoting your book because you’ll make a few more cents per sale when people purchase through this link. This is in addition to your royalties through your KDP account.

You’ll also earn a small commission on anything else an individual buys on Amazon during that visit when they go to the site with your affiliate link.

The video below shows you the easiest of the two methods you can use to get your book’s link.

The quick and easy way to get your book's Amazon Associates link - YouTube

Here’s an abridged version of the video demonstration.

  1. Make sure you’re logged in to your Amazon Associates account.
  2. Get a “clean” link for your book. Don’t know how to do that? Watch the video in “The right way to save your book’s Amazon sales page link.”
  3. Find the “Amazon Associates SiteStripe” at the top of the page, then look in the upper left for “Get link.”
  4. Select the option you need — text (which is what I use the most), image, or text + image.
  5. Copy and share the link or embed the coding for “image” or “text + image” on a web page.

Finally, if you’re new to the Amazon Associates program, be sure to read the operating agreement.

Have a question about this? Please share it in a comment.

Tip of the Month

I like to share a “Tip of the Month,” a free resource or tool for authors, on the last Wednesday of the month.

This month it’s BookBubble, a service that will promote your book for free — no strings attached. (I even asked the owner why he doesn’t charge and he said it was a hobby — “an act of service.” Pretty nice of him, right?)

BookBubble, “a resource for book lovers,” lets readers search for books by category using the list on the left side of the page or by search term in the search box.

Want to add your book to the site? Follow the instructions on the “about/submit” page carefully; email the required materials to the address provided on that page. The owner asks that you keep it to one book per author.

It’s easy to do, so there’s no reason not to. You never know where or how that next reader will discover your book. This site’s owner is doing his best to aid that discovery. I’m impressed and grateful. I’ll bet you are, too.

The post Easiest way to get your book’s Amazon Associates link appeared first on Build Book Buzz.

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While teaching an online book marketing class with an ambitious agenda recently, I tried hard not to overwhelm the authors participating. I wanted to give them information they needed, but not so much of it that they would tune out because they couldn’t process anything more.

I paused about midway through the session to address my concern directly.

“I realize there’s a lot to know and learn, but I don’t want you to get overwhelmed,” I admitted before explaining the secret to avoiding overwhelm.

How to avoid book marketing overwhelm

I’d like to share that secret with you here.

The secret to avoiding book marketing overwhelm? It’s pretty simple — just one word, in fact: Focus.

Zig Ziglar expressed it so well when he said, “Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have 24-hour days.”

One thing at a time

In book marketing, that “lack of direction” also means there’s no focus. There’s so much you can do that it’s hard to know where to start — so maybe you don’t.

The solution?

Pick one book marketing tactic and focus on it.

Learn how to do it well. Do it over and over again.

Monitor what’s happening

And pay attention to what happens after you use that tactic. For example, if you’re focused on using Instagram effectively, do you have more followers? Are they more of the right followers — your target reader? Are you getting reactions to your posts?

Monitor the results, or lack thereof. Be honest with yourself about the outcome, too. Is the problem that the tactic isn’t a good fit, or is it possible that you aren’t using it properly?

If you’ve mastered the tactic but aren’t moving forward, it might be time to shift your focus to a different tactic.

When you’re ready to try a new one, repeat the process. Learn how to do it well, making adjustments based on what you’re learning.

As before, monitor what’s happening to determine if you’re making progress.

What should you focus on?

When several book marketing tactics will help you get your book in front of your ideal readers, it’s hard to know which to focus on first.

You might select one that:

  • Doesn’t intimidate you or look too hard to learn, or
  • Seems like one you might enjoy, or
  • Plays to your strengths, not your weaknesses, or
  • Takes advantage of your skills

In other words, start by taking the path of least resistance. It will be easier to make progress and get results with a book marketing tactic that doesn’t make you anxious or uncomfortable.

Be certain to select a tactic that reaches your readers, too. That will make sure you’re not wasting your time.

This is why it’s essential to know as much as you can about your target audience. It will help you select tactics that reach them both online and in the real world. (The Build Book Buzz training program, “Who Will Buy Your Book? How to Figure Out and Find Your Target Audience,” will help you if you aren’t clear on your audience or readers.)

What one book marketing tactic are you going to focus on this week? Please tell us in a comment. 

The post Focus: The solution to book marketing overwhelm appeared first on Build Book Buzz.

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