How to pick your friends on Goodreads...
Once an Indie Author has published their first book, the most asked question becomes: "now, how do I publicize it?"
I do not claim to be an expert here, but I am going to share a few tips with you on a couple social networking sites that I am familiar with.
There are many more places you can go to promote your books (many genre specific too), but the same rule holds true for all of them. Make the most of it! Make sure you learn the ins and outs of the program/ network/ website and utilize to your benefit.
- Goodreads: There are some fantastic opportunities on this site for up and coming authors. Step one, head on over there and CLAIM YOUR AUTHOR PAGE! Your author page has many advantages over the regular reader pages. The biggest advantage being, people can automatically see all the books you write in one place! Yay! The next thing being, book give-a-ways, and networking with people who read your genre! Speaking of people who read your genre... Something to keep in mind when picking your friends on Goodreads is to pick people who have a lot of books in common with you. Sure Peggy-Sue may have 38 friends in common with you, but if they don't have any books in common what are you going to share? Witty banter only goes so far when you have nothing in common. If I don't have at least 20 books in common with someone I don't go looking for their friendship. Don't think that sounds snobbish of me. I have very eclectic tastes in books. While I may pick up a Clive Custler novel and like it, I'm not a huge fan of the genre! Hence, my 20+ books-in-common rule. This guarantees that I will have something in common with the people I am becoming friend's with. It also means that they may end up being interested in the books that I write as well (since I write in the genres I read the most). Don't forget to link your RSS feed (blog for those of you who have one) and Twitter account to your Goodreads profile. It gives your other pages more exposure when you link everything.
- Twitter: The biggest thing to remember with Twitter is hash tags. #books and #bookreviews are both terrific hash tags for promoting your books, or the latest reviews about your books... or book reviews that you are doing for other people. This will also get your book or review noticed by several paper-li contributors. Also try hash-tagging your genre ( #paranormal #fantasy #mystery) along with your post. Many times you can just throw a # in front of words you are already using!
- Shelfari: Just as with Goodreads, you want to go and check out your own author page, update it with useful information that helps readers learn a little more about you. The important thing to remember about Shelfari is that they are directly linked to Amazon.com. Go to your Author Central Account (if you don't know what I am talking about see Author Central below this) and link it to your Shelfari Account. This will enable you to have the author tag on your Shelfari account. Once you've done that, be sure to go to your book page (all of them) and fill in all the missing information, make sure you are listed as the author. Sometimes, there's more than one Bill Jones out there and books can be accidentally linked to the wrong author (this is also something you need to check on Goodreads!) The added information (character info, quotes, etc) are pulled over to your book's page on Amazon, so make it work for you!
- Author Central: If you have a blog, you can add your RSS feed to your Author Central page, your Twitter feed as well (linking everything gets you more exposure, eventually). Make sure you include an author bio even if it's just a small snippet about yourself. Readers love to learn new and interesting things, if they can identify with you on some level, they may want to read what you had to say!
- Scribd and Wattpad: These are awesome ways to get sample chapters out to people who may not see your book by chance on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or where ever else you may have it for sale. If you write YA books and stories - get your butt over to Wattpad, sign up, and make friends! Your target audience is there, waiting to be dazzled! As with any other social networking type websites, these will require a little time and maintenance to build a following, but it can be well worth your time.
One more parting bit of advice for my fellow authors. Reviews are a fantastic way to get your readers interested in your books, but readers are growing weary of over-inflated reviews in the Indie market! To quote one reader (she commented on a one star review of a book I also recently reviewed) "Initial post: Aug 4, 2011 9:56:11 AM PDTJust as an FYI - I 've found a trend with a lot of the YA books I've found lately. Especially the ones that are under a dollar and are sold by "Amazon Digitial Services," and have very top-heavy ratings (25+ 5-star reviews, only a handful of the others).
These are self-published titles (and this is a total guess), but I think the majority of the 5 star reviews are from acquaintences. I've fallen into this with 3 other books and it's made me a much more leery reader.
While we all want good reviews, we should be trying harder and striving for "real" reviews on our books (not book swaps with pre-determined outcomes). The book in question that received the one star review (mentioned above) garnered a 3 star review from me, because while I found issues in the book that needed attention, I also found a story that was pretty good. And I mentioned both of those reasons in the review. I know we can't help what other people write about our own stuff, but be mindful when you review for others! A 3 and 4 star review is still a "good thing" being honest is even better for sales than you can imagine, because as the reader stated above - all the 5 star reviews are making her a leery reader!
You want your book to stand out in a crowd, don't you?
I know this topic has been hashed out all over the blog-o-sphere, so why do another blog on the importance of book covers? Because I still get requests for reviews from Indie Authors who's book would never cross my radar in a million years. Why? They are either lacking any sort of cover image or it's not the greatest in the world.
Who am I to judge? Well, I am a reader. I am a person who believes that the cover of a book says a lot about it. I am also an author who got her start with a rushed, not so great, didn't sell well cover! I do realize, as in my own case, that not everyone can afford to plunk down a massive $500+ for a book cover that some of the artists are charging. For that matter, I had trouble scraping together the $50-a couple hundred dollars it would take to get mine done. Times are certainly tough, but I am not without resources! Are you planning on making a career out of being an Indie Author (at least till that elusive publishing deal comes knocking on your door)? Then, either you need to scrape together some cash or you need to pull up a beautiful program like Photoshop (the cheap Photoshop Elements version works great) or Gimp (freeware people - money is no issue here) and start learning! Don't think that you will be designing the word's most clever book covers from the start, but with a little practice you can manage something a little better than a monotone background with some words thrown across it.
Now, I know, I just shocked the hell out of some of you. Make my own book covers? *GASP* Learn yet another program? *SIGH* Where on earth will I find the time to do that too? My question to you is why not take your time and put out beautiful books (both inside and out) so that you actually make money off of them, instead of rushing to put out something no one will buy?
And while we are on the subject, go peruse through some of the best sellers lists and take a look at what those people, you know - the success ones - have for covers! I don't see many that look like their six year old helped draw the cover, unless of course the book was meant to be read by a six year old. In other words, if you have a hardcore fantasy novel that is geared towards adults - you better come at those adult readers with a cover that is up to par!
Something else to think about before you get started is this: If you have a series or trilogy you may want to think the entire set through as one item! After all, you don't want people to overlook the next book in your series because they couldn't recognize it. Keep the same font, the same basic theme, that darling little yellow bird at the top corner, whatever, so long as readers can easily identify it as a part of the same series!
Another thing to think over is stock photographs. I have seen on many a blog where stock photos should be used sparingly or not at all. Why? Because everyone has access to them and you may end up seeing the same images on several books. This is where I differ in opinion. Those images need never look much alike. I mean, if you are just going to take the stock photo as is and slap it on your book cover and call it good, you may have issues, but with a little finesse, you can take that plain old photo and make it into something amazing! Something, in fact, that if seen on another cover won't even be recognizable as one in the same. Once again, being able to do this will take a little practice. And if you aren't up for the task, find someone who is!
Do you know someone who's great with photo shop and might doctor up an image for you? Even if you toss them a $20 and buy the pizza while they work, it's got to be better than going with what little Susie made in kindergarten last year!
So, I'm done preaching the importance of book covers and I will leave you with my own mishap of a book cover. While my six year old didn't make it, the cover was rushed and didn't sell well. The new cover - thankfully - is selling daily! :D