Tag Archives: marketing

To Blurb or Not To Blurb

I subscribe to a blog called The Passive Voice, and if you are a writer you should be subscribing and reading this fantastic blog. Yesterday there was a post about blurbs that I found fascinating.

What is a blurb?

blurb    /blərb/
noun
a short description of a book, movie, or other product written for promotional purposes and appearing on the cover of a book or in an advertisement.
or
verb
write or contribute a blurb for (a book, movie, or other product). 
The article was about the second definition.
What we’re basically talking about here are endorsements from other authors and/or celebrities, those compelling “reviews” popped onto a book’s back cover or first few pages, to get the reading public to buy the book.
For a self-publishing writer these acclaims can help sell books, and when you are talking about having to self-promote, every little bit helps. Including blurbs.
For example? Go Google The Martian by Andy Weir. Completely self-published beginning as an online serial then going onto Amazon at $.99 then selling 35,000 copies in four months in 2013. That’s when it got Hollywood’s attention. In March of 2014 the book was no. 12 on the New York Times bestseller list, and by November that same year the book sold 180,000 copies. A huge coup for self-publishers.
But what happens when you get people to read your book and leave reviews on sites such as Goodreads and Amazon?
This became a huge concern of mine just before summer. You see, Amazon, in all its amazing glory, decided to take down any reviews if it was discovered that these reveiws were written by friends of the author. I have put up reviews for writers who, at the time, were not my friends. I met them through blogging and became a source to them for helping their promotion efforts. Eventually, through further interaction we did become friends but does that make my blurb/review of their work any less credible?
What about those well-known authors who seem to write blockbuster after blockbuster? Do blurbs really help them since they are well-known already in the industry? I mean, honestly, what more can you say about a famous author that hasn’t already been said, or read? Critiquing their current work is one thing, but seriously, how many times do we need to hear how he/she is today’s  Tolstoy, Austen, or Shakespeare? And let’s be honest, they aren’t those writers, and their writing resembles the classics the way a goose resembles a swan. They may be birds and have feathers and can swim and fly, but one look tells the truth.
Personally, when I buy a book, whether it is self-published or traditionally published, I ignore the blurbs. I don’t care for them. I’m looking for word of mouth and my own interests. If someone I know tells me I should read a certain book then I am more likely to do so than reading an endorsement from a celebrity or well-known author. Those people do not know me, but my friends and people I talk to often know my tastes or can guess easily. And if there are people I know personally endorsing a book then you can bet I’ll be reading that book. In fact, I have a lengthy list of books on my Goodreads Want-To-Read list thanks to those friends whose books I have read and heartily endorse.
To blurb or not to blurb, that is today’s question? Should blurbs be done away with and the writing stand on it’s own? Or do we like blurbs and think they are a useful marketing tool? Sound off in the comments.
Jesi

Amazon Author Page – by Cedar Sanderson

(Today I’m reblogging a post by my friend Cedar Sanderson over at Mad Genius Club. She has some very good advice for all writers.)

Author page front end

It’s come to my attention that some of you… *looks over her glasses at the desks in front of her* are neglecting a powerful and easy marketing tool. I’m talking about the Amazon Author Page.

Listen up, class, because this is so simple, and it can really help.

Imagine you are a reader who has just learned about a new author. They tried a book, and they want more. This is what we all aspire to. But when they search Amazon for the author’s name, they find very little information, out of order books, no clue as to the rest of the series…

Let’s make it easy for them and collect all the information in one place, shall we? In the process, we may be able to take a casual reader and draw them closer to becoming a fan, someone who will interact with an author and pass the word on to others about that author. Again, let’s make that easy on them. The less clicks, the better. In addition, you see the yellow follow button on that image of my page? When readers click that, Amazon notifies them as soon as I release a new book. It’s like a mailing list, without all the work and time and cost.

Sure, you may have a website, or a blog, or both. Facebook fan page, even. But the Author Page on Amazon has a huge advantage. All the stuff you have for sale is right there. And it’s sortable by publication date, etc. Also, if you don’t have a website, this can be a great place to send people who want to learn more about you (and buy your books). If you’ll recall a while back I mentioned using QR codes on promotional material like bookmarks and business cards, this is one place I send the QR code to, the Amazon Author Page.

You can set yours up from the back end, at the Author Central. If you weren’t already aware of that, you should familiarize yourself with it. There are important tools here, like rank tracking, sales graphs, and all your reviews in one place. Today I’m going to talk about the basics, though.

When you first login to Author Central, you get a homepage with tips and news articles. You want to click on the Author Page tab at the top, and start filling in the blanks. I’m going to tackle the biography in a minute, so we’ll start with the blog section. If you don’t have a regular blog, this can also be your author website. If you do twitter, then you can add that, although there seems to be some uncertainty about the display of the twitter feed on Amazon at the moment.

author page

 

Two important things are the photo, and the bio. I know that most authors hate both of these. Unfortunately, I’m going to tell you that you need both. No, you can’t get away with a cute pet photo unless you only write books about cute animals. Ideally, you will have a professional headshot to put in here. At the very least, a good, crisp, amateur shot will do. Don’t use a grainy cell phone image. Don’t use an old photo that was taken 20 years ago – we can tell. That shirt hasn’t been in style since at least the 80s. (yes, I am thinking of a real example). If you cannot stomach having your face in public, or have reasons that make it unwise, as an alternative you could use art from a book cover or series you write. Not a book cover itself, that’s limiting. But a piece of professional level (not a child’s drawing, unless, again, you are writing children’s books) art would work.

The biography. I suspect all of us dread these. Where to start? How much is too much? How much is too little? I didn’t write mine. I have other versions I did write, but my First Reader wrote mine (and in return, I wrote his) and if you have a partner or friend who is skilled with words, this can be a reasonable compromise. You don’t feel self-conscious about puffing yourself up, and you have something to put out there. How long? Well, as long as it needs to be. You don’t need to include a lot of personal information, but some makes you seem more human to your readers. I recommend injecting a touch of humor into the bio, if you can manage it, or if you must, make it over-the-top funny. You’ll have better reactions to a warmth of personality showing through than to dry facts.

I have three bios I cut and paste as needed – the long one written for me, a shorter version I wrote which is about 200 words long, and a very short 50 word version I originally created for a convention guide and keep as it’s handy. If you’re totally stuck, ask in the comments, and myself, or someone will help out with it.

The bio is just as important as the blurb of a book. Only here, you are the product. You’re selling yourself (hike that skirt up and show a little leg, if you dare…) and you shouldn’t sell yourself short. You are uniquely you, with the voice to back it up, and with some work, that will shine through in the bio.

Finally, make sure that all your books are properly connected to you by clicking on the Books tab. Also, make sure that your series are marked clearly in KDP because Amazon will helpfully link them on their sales listings if they are. Do not, for goodness sakes, list yourself as an editor on your own book if you are the author. Unless your book has multiple illustrations inside, don’t list your cover artist as the illustrator (you can, and should, accredit them in the front matter of your book, instead). Don’t list your editor as an editor in the KDP listings unless it’s a collection of some kind and they were instrumental in pulling the stories together. Ahem… this soap box just appeared under me… *steps down*

Go forth, children, and having learned your lesson, implement it. I want to see links in the comments!