Why do you try a new restaurant in your town?
Is it because you’re desperate to get out of the house, have someone else cook for you, or do you like to be the first to try anything new in town, or maybe you’re a foodie?
Or is it because your local paper told you it was good? The food critic on the town Facebook page said it was yummy. The neighbor on Nextdoor said it was a lot of food!
Who are you really? Who knows about you? Are you a former president, co-writing a book with another famous person, and your already overflowing wallet gets a little harder to get into your back pocket?
Or are you just… you? Like me, you could just be a writer, writing quietly at home.
Well, if your book is going to sell, newbie to being published, it’s going to sell online (and maybe 10 copies at your local bookseller). If you pay-to-play, and the “publisher” gives you a box with a thousand books in it, where are you putting them? On a shelf… at home?
It’s not a secret. When your book is available, in print, you have a few days, to a month, where your book is “hot,” meaning the people who know you, or who are local to you, are noticing it. Then, it’s over, and you should turn your focus to your next book.
That ride was short!
It reminds me of when I did community theater as a kid. We would practice almost every Saturday from January to June, and then, two weekend performances, Sat. & Sun., so four total, and it was over. Photos went in the local paper after the fact, and the lights went down until the following January.
You want your book to sell, to be a topic of conversation, to be on NPR! I know I do. But NPR doesn’t know you, and even if they did, there are so many other people who have a track record who also put out books the exact same day and time as you about the same thing, and they are getting on NPR, not you, because they were already on there two years ago.
Okay Captain Bringdown. Now what?
What matter most of all are reviews of your book until you are famous enough not to need them.
What I want most, as an author, is to be read. I want to know someone liked my book/story/poem. And sales would be nice too
Most new authors will generate most of their sales from Amazon. You will probably generate more sales than you will reviews. Our first book sold into the hundreds on Amazon, but got 9 reviews there.
Nine reviews is not building a web. It’s not being suggested to people. “Mary bought Book A and Book B, you bought Book B. Mary gave Book B a high review, and Book A. Would you like to look at Book A? Amazon actually asks me on my Alexa about the authors I buy for my daughter. “Grace Lin has a new book out. Can I put it in your cart for you?”
At somewhere in the neighborhood of 20-50 reviews Amazon will start building the web for you.
Our author sold many many more than that, but those friends/family/random people didn’t review it.
Ahhh, my fellow rugged American individualists…. most people are not like that, and want to read something that has a good review that other people liked, a lot, like 4 and 5 stars a lot.
Who can get those reviews for you?
Well, certainly we tell everyone we know about you and ask, over and over, for reviews, but if people don’t know you, why are they listening to me? They want to see someone else write one. They want to know what to write. Are you going to judge their writing skills? Will some jerk on Amazon judge their writing skills? Will someone blame them if your book turns out to be a flop? (If we publish you, you’re not a flop. We know what we’re doing when we choose a book to publish.)
What is your strategy for getting reviews?
Will you send out a newsletter?
Advanced reader copies?
Will you ask today, and next Wednesday, and the following Thursday, again and again, “Did you write that review for me yet? Can I give you a sample and a bottle of wine to thank you for your effort?”
That is what sales is. Asking, knocking on the door, again, and again, and again.
In the old days you only had to do that with agents. Today, the book industry has blown wide open. And this lets in more older authors, BIPOC, LGBTQ, and women. Great! But, those folks are going through publishers who don’t have an auto-order for a thousand books at Barnes and Noble.
Which book are you going to buy with your limited income? The one with two reviews? Or the one with 30, and Mary, who bought it, also bought The DaVinci Code, which you loved too!
I can’t tell you a magic number: this many reviews = this many sales.
And for that I am truly sorry.
But, one thing we can do, list the Kindle for free. Ask people, and ask them again, and go over to their house and help them to download your book free and then help them write a review.
And if your book isn’t running a free promotion, this does mean, in the case of Amazon, that your friend or relative may have to buy the book on Amazon to be able to leave a review there. It isn’t always the case, but it is sometimes true. And that could end up costing them, or you, if you give them the cost, the price of the book or anthology.
And, so what?
This is the cost of doing business.
This is the cost of a latte, or two.
And you already do it ALL THE TIME anyway. Yes, you do:
When we help each other out through reviewing, we help ourselves out, too. It’s a matter of literary survival.
IS THIS CHEATING?
And what about that local book club you belong to? Are they reading your book and your friend’s book? If not, why not? Have you asked them to? Are they supporting you? It is, really, a small thing to ask, but if you have a mystery book club and you or your friend managed to get a publisher to publish your mystery, then why would they not read it? Maybe they cannot read it until next year, okay, but they put it in the rotation. And then you help them leave reviews.
None of these things is going to transform you into a New York Times bestseller overnight, but I don’t know how else you’re ever going to even begin to head in that direction, or how the indie publishers who do this work on a shoe-string are going to keep being there to give no-name authors the chance they deserve.
So, if this is a serious thing for you, you want to “make it” at this, you’d like to at least make enough $ someday for a nice vacation or a monthly car payment, you have to start digging away at this notoriety problem we all have by taking your eyes off of your manuscript long enough to help each other out.
BY THE WAY: It’s never too late to leave a review. You can start a whole new conversation by the review you post today.
SO BE A MENSCH: get the kindle of Bill’s book, for free, and post a review in the next week:
Can’t read that fast? Skim it, just to see what the writing is like. You’ll be impressed enough to know he deserves a review.
#1. Get Bill’s book for free and review it.
#2. Develop a group of like-minded authors or friends and relatives and book club members who solemnly promise to give you a review in a timely fashion (within a month of publication).
#3. Buy books and give them to your local library and as gifts, etc. (or buy yourself the cheap Kindle version so you can post a review).
#4. Ask that any reading groups you belong to read your books.
#5. Create a budget for book purchases.
#6. Help people who may not know how to post a review post reviews for you, and help them write one.
#7. Keep the reviews short and sweet. “I loved it; you’ll love it too.” “Fast and fun read.” “Great way to spend a day at the beach!”
Thanks so much for your interest in DPP and for reading this blog. We love publishing people who the big guys ignore, and we thank you for helping us do what we love to do.
We’ll be back with more posts about this as we have time during this season of final grades for Dianne’s students, and awards-nomination season for our authors and their books!
Review Bill’s book!