Review: The Busy Author's Guide to Promotional Giveaways

Whether you are traditionally published or self-published, giveaways are part of the publicity machine. So I jumped at the chance to review The Busy Author's Guide to Promotional Giveaways, by Dawn Seewer. Because I'm a busy author, right? Who isn't?

Note: This new publication is more of pamphlet than a book. It's a short read. But if you're new to the book peddling biz, there's plenty to learn.

The first portion of the book scared me into reading further: The Legality of Giveaways. I must admit that it hadn't occurred to me that giving away stuff could get me in trouble with the law. (Authors have enough to fear already, no?) But reading this section was truly a blessing, because it helped frame my thinking around the giveaway styles I see on so many blogs.

Part II, Creating Your Campaign wasn't nearly as opinionated as I wished it would be. There are lots of ideas here, from free copies to swag. But it would be nice to know which items worked, and for which book genres. The information here is quite general. The Busy Author's Guide is at its best when reviewing the rules, offering disclaimer language and explaining the lingo associated with the giveaway language we see every day.

Another welcome inclusion is the tidy review of Facebook's rules for offering giveaways, (found at about the 50% mark.)

Lastly, it is further useful that The Busy Author's Guide beats the drum to remind you to always keep the purpose of your giveaway in mind. By not losing sight of the goal, you will surely remember to tie those giveaway entries to new Facebook "likes," to newsletter sign-ups and website visits!

The Busy Author's Guide to Promotional Giveaways, by Dawn Seewer, is available for $0.99.


New Marketing Tactics in YA

I've recently run across two marketing tactics worth discussing, and both happened to be for YA books. Is it that I pay closer attention to this segment, or is YA the most innovative bit of the publishing market at the moment? (Either could be true.)

The Chunky Preview

Now that readers are used to downloading sample chapters of e-books, the idea of a preview from the comfort of your home isn't so strange. But when A.S. King's new book REALITY BOY was a month away from publication, Little, Brown & Co. made a special preview edition, pricing it at $0.00. The preview edition contained the first 14 chapters of the book, which meant 70 pages out of 350, or 20%.

That's a pretty chunky preview. And it totally worked as far as this reader was concerned. After I read those 14 chapters, I knew I needed to finish the book. The timing, though, was risky. I read the preview a couple of weeks before the pub date, and had to wait. A reader could forget, or move on. I suppose the publisher was hoping that I would pre-order the title immediately after reaching the end of the segment.

The Gift With Purchase

For YA author Miranda Kenneally, Sourcebooks is offering readers a gift for pre-ordering the book. Readers who email proof of pre-order to the publicity department will receive a horse-shoe shaped key chain which is themed to match the equestrian plot line. With this idea, I believe the publisher is trying to lean on pub date purchases to give the book some momentum right out of the gate. (Wait...I made another horse reference! What do I win?)

For fans of the author, it may be a welcome incentive. The risk here seems to be cost. How did they estimate how many key chains to order? It sounds tricky to me. And it would take up the publicist's time, time that she might spend drumming up other sorts of interest in the book.

On balance, I love to see publicity departments thinking shiny new thoughts. I hope both of these ideas paid off for the publishers.


How do Teens Read?

I tell people all the time just how excellent the Random House Author Portal is, and how valuable their author communications are. They've done it again. Check out this fabulous infographic on the subject of How Teens Read.

The data comes from a Nielsen survey of 1000 teens aged 13 to 17 years.

Below is a tiny taste of the data. But be sure to check out the whole thing at RH's website.


The Allegiant Kerfluffle: Amazon Ratings vs. Goodreads Ratings

Have you been following the dust-up about Veronica Roth's Allegiant? In the first place, this is a fascinating exercise in the question of what readers think they are owed.

SPOILER ALERT: Do not read on if you do not want to know how Allegiant ends.

The 3rd installment of Veronica Roth's bestselling Divergent trilogy was published two and a half weeks ago. Immediately, the book garnered several one-star reviews on Amazon. As I watched, those reviews went from 25 one-stars the day after pub date to now 768 of them. This is where things stand now:

Compare that to the series opener, Divergent:
Ouch, right? It's clear that fans of the series felt major disappointment after reading book #3. Readers have been rabid about the series finale. Apparently it is not okay to kill off your main character at the end. Harry Potter lived. Katniss lived. Readers are holding it against Ms. Roth for writing Tris's death, no matter how poignant.

Now, I would have expected the Goodreads ratings to be similar, especially on a bestseller book. But that's not the case. Since the beginning, Goodreads rankings for Allegiant have been kinder. And that trend has held on for the long haul, well past even a generous number of ARC reviews:
Allegiant's Ratings on Goodreads

What do you think is going on, here? Is there something different about the Goodreads audience which diverges from those Amazon? (Pun intended.) Could it be that when people feel cheated, they naturally complain to the vendor?

The scores for Divergent are much closer, as I'd expect them to be: 4.6 at Amazon, vs. 4.40 at Goodreads.

I'm left scratching my head...


Amazon vs. B&N: Where Should My Loyalty Lie?

My first loyalty is to local independent bookstores. But when those aren't an option, I have always tried to support Barnes & Noble over Amazon. I own and use a Nook, and buy Nook books. I have a Barnes and Noble membership card, which costs $25 per year.

My reasoning was simple: Barnes and Noble stocks books! They put cash on the barrelhead in support of authors every single day. To me, that counts for a lot. I don't want to live in a world without physical bookstores. And last Christmas, when Amazon began paying customers $5 to scan a bar code in a store and then order from them? That made me furious.
The world needs brick & mortar stores, because they keep local people employed.

But supporting B&N gets harder every year. The Nook website isn't as fast and resilient as it should be. And their search engine is not very good. Often enough I can't find a book by searching on its title, and must resort to another search method.

And my greatest fear is that B&N will soon give up on Nook altogether. The Nook tablets which came out last year got great reviews in the tech media. But people bought iPad minis instead, at twice the price. And now those Nook tablets keep getting cheaper. And cheaper. That should be a good thing, unless it heralds the beginning of the end.

If my Nook e-reader should meet an untimely demise, I'm not really sure what I'd buy to replace it. I've read over 100 e-books this past year, and I'd guess that about 10% of the time, the book I wanted was not available on the Nook. That's a ratio I can live with.

Many indie authors--and their voices grow louder each year--are staunch Amazon fans. Some say, "there aren't any bookstores around me, anyway." At which point I bite my tongue, because surely Amazon is the reason. But I don't want to be a dinosaur. At some point, what's done is done.

What do you think? Does it make sense to favor B&N over other eVendors, because of their lingering support of physical bookstores?


Review: The Author's Guide to Working with Book Bloggers

We talk a lot in this space about how best to work with book bloggers. If you're new to authorship, Barb Drozdowich's eBook on the subject, The Author's Guide to Working With Book Bloggers, will prove invaluable.

Whether or not it will be your own job (or your publicist's) to set up a blog tour, the book will help you understand what to expect. In the first place, the author is a book blogger--therefore she's seen every author blunder first hand. From the cover copy:

Do you feel out of your comfort zone when dealing with book bloggers? They are the New Gatekeepers to book publishing success – but how can you tap into that source of free promotions by putting your best foot forward? 

The Author’s Guide to Working with Book Bloggers combines the advice of 215 blogging professionals collected in a survey covering all aspects of communication between authors and Review Blogs. Whether you are a new author, or have many titles under your belt, let us demystify the promotion of your book on a book blog.

You’ll learn about whom and where book bloggers are, and the following: 
The Query, 
The Review,
The Giveaway,
The Author Interview, 
The Guest Post, 
The Book Blurb Excerpt and Cover Reveals and more

When the author mentions 215 bloggers, she's not kidding. That's how many responded to the survey she put out. Their quotes add depth and useful examples to Drozdowich's no-nonsense how-to manual.

There is technical information here: the uses of Triberr, the various databases of book bloggers just waiting to be explored. Then there are the more philosophical topics. Chapter Three is all about the etiquette of interacting with bloggers. And etiquette is ever-shifting, lately. Auto DMs for new followers are passe, as the author points out. Also, she points out how tiresome Goodreads "events" invitations have become. (In short, hearing the politely stated pet peeves of a real life book blogger is darned useful.)

Chapter Four covers the query letter, and includes a perfect check list of all the info you need to provide a blogger in order for her / him to decide whether or not to cover your book. Even a seasoned self promoter will find useful tips here.

There are also guest post ideas, and lots of thoughtful advice about offering giveaways. Chapter Eleven helps authors understand and utilize a blog tour.

Yet it's Chapter Twelve which is worth the price of admission alone. The author asked the bloggers she surveyed, "if you could give an author one piece of advice about promoting their book, what would it be?" Hearing their thoughts and motivations is excessively helpful!

If you have a blog tour coming up, it's worth a couple hours of your time to devour this book. An Author's Guide to Working With Book Bloggers is available for Kindle, Nook and at other major eBook retailers.

Disclosure: I received an epub copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.


One Blogger's Rules: The Laws of the (Amazon) Jungle- Eight Rules Authors Need to Know to Stay Safe

I've written recently about Goodreads' brand new policies meant to protect authors and reviewers from each others' sharpest fangs. But Goodreads isn't the only place an author can step in puddles.

Today I read an amazingly thorough blog post by Anne R. Allen. The Laws of the (Amazon) Jungle- Eight Rules Authors Need to Know to Stay Safe is essential reading for those of you who have questions about balancing etiquette with marketing.

Including: where to report abusive postings on Facebook, Amazon, Goodreads and Twitter.

Good luck out there!


Author Joanne Hillhouse Meets a Fan

This post, which originally appeared on the author's blog, moved me to tears. Joanne Hillhouse graciously offered to share it here. This, folks, is why we keep at it. --S.P.

A fellow writer contacted me via phone to say she’d just read my book and needed to see me. I emailed her and she said uh-uh, no email, no phone, she needed to look me in my face while she told me what she thought of my book.

Sounds ominous, right?

Well, I met up with her today and she was, sigh, so effusive in her reaction to the book.

She wanted to know what she supposed to do now, now that the book is done, now that I’ve hooked her on these characters and their world. She wanted me to know that she almost threw away the book at one point because I’d made her hurt so much but as evidenced by its presence on her backseat, she’d resisted the urge. She wanted me to know that she’d lived in Jamaica and she thought I’d hit the right note with Carlene, her favourite character. She wanted me to know how much she appreciated a character like Audrey who for all her rough edges loves her family. She wanted me to know that she even liked that free spirit, Aeden, whom she doubted could go the distance with Nikki. She wanted me to know that she wants to visit Sea View Farm as it is in the book and meet Audrey, and Belle, and Columbus in his garden. She wanted me to know that one of her first exclamations as she read the novel was, this girl is a poet.  She wanted me to know that she appreciated the book, appreciated me as a writer…all this and she was usually neither a reader nor a fan of fiction.

I’m writing this down because she’s not the type to type a reader review online and at some point the memory of this conversation will fade and I’ll probably convince myself it never happened, because the bad lingers and the good goes away. I’m writing it down to remind myself to take the good with the bad, to take it and take it in. It’s one year on from the release of Oh Gad! The book is not a bestseller (far from), it hasn’t gotten a lot of attention from critics in the Caribbean or elsewhere. Not a lot of Caribbean book stores have ordered it (as I’m reminded when readers elsewhere in the Caribbean contact me to ask how they can get it). It’s easy to feel down about stuff like that. But every time a reader takes the time, in person or online, to share how they’ve engaged with these characters, every time they talk about the characters not like creations on a page but real people out there some where, every time they say how parts of the book vexed them or made them cry – yes, she said she cried – I feel so rich, I feel so lifted, I feel so full though as I told her I have to wipe the reader from my mind when I’m writing or else I might be hindered from writing my characters’ truth.

Funny then that on the other side of the experience, the reader reaction should mean so much, but it does.

I still have a lot of growing to do as a writer but inasmuch as one reader felt so moved by something I’ve written, I AM A WRITER and I am grateful that God has given the gift of hearing these characters and rendering their stories; and the courage to render them authentically. And I’m hopeful that She (yes, I call God she sometimes) will show me the way to make the most of it.

You can visit Joanne Hillhouse at or on Facebook.


Ruth Chew's Children's Books to be Reissued. (And my faith in humanity is restored.)

When I was about ten, I used to haunt neighborhood garage sales for paperbacks, which I would purchase for a dime or a quarter. On very lucky days, I'd find something by Ruth Chew. Her books, about underattended children and witchcraft, were a fine use for a summer's day. And a few years ago, when my first son was old enough, I bought a bunch of these out of print titles to read aloud to him.

Luckily, a Random House editor somewhere had the same c. 1980 garage sale habits as I did. The books will be reissued later this month, as $5.99 in paperback or as ebooks. What the Witch Left and No Such Thing as a Witch are the first two titles to release. The covers are new and tastefully modernized.

Why does this make me happy? These books are entertaining in a quiet way. There's plenty of action and mystery, but they are never violent, and never rely on fart jokes to win children's attention. Pure storytelling still counts. I hope they sell like proverbial hotcakes.


Awesome Video about Cover Design

I have often ranted about how great a job Random House does at putting out good content for their authors. Their latest is a video about the cover design process. Not only is it fun to hear from several cover designers about their process, I saw some familiar faces in this video. The first speaker is Marysarah Quinn, whom I met when she designed THE SKI HOUSE COOKBOOK. And another star of the video is Chip Kidd, who is (and there is such a thing) a cover design rock star. I heard him speak during my internship at Random House, and he brought down the house. Enjoy!