Monday, March 31, 2014

Review of How to Get Good Reviews on Amazon by Theo Rogers

Just finished an interesting read by Theo Rogers, How to Get Good Reviews on Amazon: A Guide for Independent Authors &Sellers. It’s an insightful look at book reviews and how to get them, written by an Amazon, top reviewer. (Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from Mr. Rogers in return for posting an honest review).

The first thing you need to know, it’s a short read – 48 pages. It’s packed with tips about what motivates Amazon’s top reviewers, how to approach them, what to say / what not to say – when you get a bad review and more.

Interesting facts you probably didn’t know.

·         There are certain categories reviewers tend to shy away from – Religion and politics. Why? Because people are emotionally invested in these topics, and they are often magnets for negative votes, which can quickly sink a reviewer’s helpfulness rating.

·         “Most reviewers, even the bad ones, are honestly calling it like they see it.” You may think they’re out to get you, but the truth is – they didn’t like your book. Get over it!

·         “Reviewers take reviewing seriously.” Much like writers, reviewers are serious about their craft. Remember that when you approach them.

Friday, March 21, 2014

When was the last time you updated your book?

It’s a jungle out there. If you want to sell your books, you need to keep them fresh.

Add new information every six months, every year at the least. Write a bold headline, and place it at the top of your book description – new and revised on 09/09/09. This lets everyone know your book is current and up to date.

Let me give you an example. Just over two years ago Kindle gurus cracked the Amazon HTML code. Dozens of books were written proclaiming this one small trick could help you sell thousands of extra books. Six months ago Amazon started sending out notices they were going to enforce HTML standards, and listing that violated their policies would be taken down.

What that means is no more pictures in book descriptions. No more videos.

Ninety-five percent of those books haven’t been updated to reflect the new policies. Why? The authors don’t care enough about their books to keep them current.

Let me give you another example. These same eBook gurus suggested writing reviews in your genre was a great marketing tool to bring readers to your books. To make it work, you just had to change your profile name to “author a. author, author of my greatest book.” It was a great strategy, and it worked for over a year. Then one morning I woke up to discover Amazon changed my signature to “An Amazon Reader.” Again, very few authors have updated their books to mention this change.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Interview with Author Martin Crosbie

Today I'm talking with Martin Crosbie. He is the author of My Name Is Hardly - Book Two of the My Temporary Life TrilogyLies I Never Told - A Collection of Short StoriesHow I Sold 30,000 eBooks on Amazon's Kindle - An Easy-To-Follow Self-Publishing Guidebook, 2014 Edition, and Believing Again: A Tale Of Two Christmases.

The title of your book is How I Sold 30,000 eBooks on Amazon’s Kindle. That’s a lot of books. What’s it feel like to hit that number? Do you feel lucky? Blessed? Or __?

Martin: Both! I’m totally blessed to have been able to connect with so many readers, and part of that was due to being in the right place at the right time. I signed on to Amazon’s KDP Select program at the end of 2011, and my timing was perfect. The program was structured at that point to enable authors to find lots of readers by utilizing Amazon’s tools and programs, and I was able to take advantage of it.

No matter how much we deny it, authors (indie or traditionally published) really are responsible for promoting our own books. When did that realization hit you?

Martin: I knew right away. I was lucky enough to have a couple wise mentors who walked me through the steps. And, my background is sales and marketing so fortunately, it wasn’t foreign to me.

Interview with Author Rob Parnell

Today I’m talking with Rob Parnell. Rob writes thrillers with a supernatural edge. When he isn’t doing that, he’s writing books in his Easy Way to Write series. His latest book is The Writer and the Hero’s Journey.

Both you and your wife are writers, does that create a bit of tension or competition between the two of you? Do you hide your work away from each other, or do you share it as you are writing?

Rob: It’s nice to know my books – and my darling Robyn’s - make a good impression. We’re both very passionate about writing: trying to see clues and connections that might help clarify the writing process for all writers. Storytelling is a curiously human activity that has so many facets that you can never stop learning to master.

I guess Robyn and I are just soul mates. We were meant to be. We’ve never felt any rivalry. We edit and proof each other’s work. We brainstorm story ideas and encourage each other. Fiction wise we have different directions. Robyn’s primarily a children’s writer, and I tend to go for more adult thrillers and horror. We’ve collaborated on writing screenplays, though, that contain elements of each other’s genre. Sometimes we even sit next to each other and type out manuscripts together. I’ve never met anyone else I could do that with!

You’ve been training new authors for ten years now, what’s the hardest part of writing for a new author to get a handle on?

Rob: Probably the confidence to let go and allow the writing habit grab hold of you. Too many new writers let their personality and issues get in the way of creativity. Writing should feel natural and easy, an extension of whom you are. My view is that if you’re finding writing difficult, you’re probably not doing it right! New authors often need to relax and stop being so hard on themselves.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Interview with Author Rob Cubbon

My interview today is with Rob Cubbon, author of How to Sell Video Courses Online, How I earn $1000+ a month while I sleep. Rob is the creator of several online courses, many of which are currently available on Udemy. For authors looking to create an additional income stream from their works, Rob’s advice could be dead on.

Udemy fascinates me. The concept that anyone can record a few videos, prepare an online curriculum, and teach on line. It seems so easy, and yet so hard to get started. What’s your take on Udemy? Is it where anyone who wants to teach online should be?

Rob: On the face of it, yes, you can record a few videos, prepare an online curriculum and teach online, however, you will almost certainly hit a block along the way. But, it's fun, and that's essentially what you do.

Udemy is the market leader in asynchronous career skill learning (recording videos that students view at their leisure, students can ask questions on the site, but this doesn't happen as much as you'd imagine). There are lots of similar sites, and it's a fluid niche. But you can put your courses on other sites if you wish, Udemy doesn't insist on exclusivity.

For now, Udemy has the traffic, but you still have to work to get sales initially. By this I mean create a free course on Udemy which you can market to or use your own following and email list to get you off the ground on Udemy. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Interview with Voice Actor Chuck McKibben

Hey, everybody, I’ve got another great interview for you. This one is with Chuck McKibben, a voice actor, producer, and coach. I really want to thank Chuck for taking the time out to do this today. He shares information on a lot of great stars – Mel Blanc, Kirk Douglas, Jack Benny, Casey Kasem, Vincent Price, and Rod Serling. If everybody is ready, let’s get started. (PS: Full disclosure here. Chuck is currently voicing six audio books for me).

What really stands out for me is the time you spent producing Mel Blanc. Bugs Bunny, Road Runner, Yosemite Sam were all such a big part of growing up in the sixties and seventies. What was it like working for Mel Blanc?

Chuck: I knew that I wanted to be some sort of announcer or voice actor at the age of 6.  That's when I asked my Dad, who was the manager of a truck terminal, if being one of those men I saw talking on TV was a job, in the same way, that he went to a job every day.  "Yes, that's a great job, son" he answered.  And throughout his life, he did everything in his power to help make my dream come true.  He was tremendously supportive, doing things like getting us "VIP" tours of local radio and TV stations back in Dayton, Ohio.

Like every kid of the 50's, I was captivated by the magic of cartoons.  Imagine, working in Hollywood for someone like Walt Disney, or for Warner Bros.  Well, I had some 78 rpm phonograph records by a man named Mel Blanc.  I was amazed that he could sing a duet as both Sylvester the cat and Tweety Bird on "I Taut I Taw a Puddy Tat."  So there I was age 6, knowing that this man Blanc, whose name I also saw in the movie theater, was some kind of magician.  What I didn't know, or even dream of was that just 19 years later, I would work for him!

During about 10 years as a radio DJ, I had become a very skilled audio producer.  Dayton provided a good place to start, on WING radio, a station that also gave birth to the careers of Jonathan Winters and Nancy Cartwright. However, I yearned for the "big time," as those two great talents did.  So I pulled up roots and drove, four days straight, to Los Angeles.  No job waiting, no contacts...I had never even visited the town.

It scares me to death today to think about what could have happened out there, but I met a real-life "guardian angel" named Rod Thibault (tee-bo), a studio owner, who took an interest in my well-being.  It was Rod who invited me to meet Mel at the opening of his voiceover school.  At this point, some of your readers may be thinking, "You mean, I could have studied cartoon voices with the one and only Mel Blanc?" Yes, you could have, during a period of only about two years.  Anyway, I met him and his son Noel at the door.  After exchanging a few nice-to-meet-you's, Noel asked me, "Can you run a tape recorder for us in dad's classroom tonight?  One of our tech guys apparently couldn't find the place and didn't show."  So, three minutes after meeting Mel Blanc, and about 20 years after first being mesmerized by his talent, I was employed by Mel Blanc.

 I climbed the ladder of his audio production company in Beverly Hills very quickly, and when a great guy who held the job of Studio Operations Manager left to work with Casey Kasem, I took over the position.  The title meant that I was now Mel's personal audio engineer and the audio engineer/producer for all of the studio's output.  We created radio commercials that cost the clients a minimum of $10,000 each, and syndicated radio shows, all starring Hollywood's greatest talents. 

Interview with Author Norm Schriever

I recently caught up with Norm Schriever author of The Book Marketing Bible, Prayer Room in Paradise, and South of Normal. I want to thank Norm for sharing a few thoughts on his writing.

 I sort of compare your writing to a young Hunter Thompson without the drugs. Is that a fair comparison?

Norm: Haha that’s a generous comparison because Hunter was a hell of a writer, though I think he’s unfortunately known too much for the drug thing and not enough his words.  When I started out, I had a little gonzo to my writing, but as I kept writing and my own personal style evolved, I think it’s gone away from that a lot.  By now my writing has nothing to do with partying or angst of youth, though there are loud tones of rebellion.  Charles Bukowski is my favorite writer but similarly, it’s not because of any romance to his bar-poet drinker’s lifestyle, but I love that he burns life down to its lowest common denominator and then sifts through the smoke and ashes to find anything that survived – usually hope or salvation or humanity in the most unexpected places.  I’m all about fighting for the underdog, too, but ultimately I’d like to be known for writing like Norm Schriever.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Interview with Buck Flogging - Matt Stone & Rob Archangel

I have a special treat for readers today. I just completed an interview with Matt Stone and Rob Archangel, co-founders of Archangels, Inc. and they’ve graciously agreed to share some of their knowledge about Kindle publishing.

Matt, you pulled the plug on blogging to write Kindle books. Do you have any regrets?

Matt: Dear lord no. I've added almost 100 new direct email subscribers daily since the blog went down. It's steady, too. In fact, yesterday I got exactly 100 new subscribers. It took me 7 years to get 3,500 subscribers. In the last 100 days I've gone from 3,500 to 12,600. I'm selling more books, writing much less, and everything worked out as planned. Plus, I've got way more time on my hands to do other things, which have included launching two new online ventures without hurting my first business at all.

You talk about how easy it was to get started on Amazon. 1) Because you had a catalog of books, and 2) You had a ready audience.

I believe the way you put it was, “Having an established audience to use as rocket fuel for a book launch is, quite simply, everything when it comes to success on Kindle.”

What about the guy who doesn’t have a catalog of books or an audience to drive to his book? What do you think he should concentrate on starting out?

Matt: If you do the work and keep at it, it's almost a mathematical certainty that you will achieve success with a decent strategy in today's modern publishing environment. The formula is simple, create a big loop that builds upon itself with each round. Write a book, get as many free downloads as possible, use your book to drive subscriptions back on your website, then price it low and let it sell some copies. Repeat this process again and again. With each round your mailing list will grow, each free promotion will sell other books in your collection, and the amount of download activity you generate at launch will steadily push each new book release higher and higher in the ranks (as that mailing list grows). By the time you have 13 books you can run a 5-day free promotion every week and subsist on that activity almost exclusively.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

So You Want to Write a Kindle Book

Have you ever kicked around the idea of writing a Kindle book?

It's ok. You can admit it. Let me share a secret with you. I didn't tell my wife, or kids, or anyone I'd written my first book until it had sold over 100 copies.  The day it hit number two in the eBay category on Amazon, I finally figured what the hell - no better time than now.

Can I share another secret with you? It's a year and a half later, and none have read one of my books yet. I'm beginning to think they never will. It doesn't really matter, though. I've written twenty more short books since then and sold over 10,000 copies on Kindle, and another 2400 paperbacks. So I still get the last laugh, there are people out there reading them.

What I'm trying to tell you is that if you've got a book in you - let it come out.

Don't worry about what other people think.

If you're really worried about it, you can publish your book under another name while you're testing the waters. Amazon doesn't care whose name you put on your book.

I recently started two series under different pen names.

It's sort of exciting and even liberating in a way because I can say whatever I want because nobody is going to know it’s me. What I've got to hide, I'm not sure. One of my titles is Get Off Your Lazy Fucking Ass and Get a Job Already. Hard to believe, but one of my reviewers started off their review saying "...despite the cursing..."

Here's a thought. Write your book. If you only sell one copy, that's one more than you would have otherwise.

How to Get the Most from Your Amazon Author Central Page

Amazon created Author Central as an area for writer’s to showcase information about themselves and their works.

One thing we know: If people like your work, they’re going to want to know more about you; what you look like; how you got started writing; where you live; and what other books you’ve published.

To claim your Author Central page, visit the following link:

Upload an author biography to introduce yourself. Add a picture so readers can have a look at your bright and smiling face. Author Central also gives you a place to collect all of your books in one place so readers can browse through them. Each time you publish a new book, be sure to click on Add Book, to add you latest title to your list of books.

Another interesting option Amazon offers is the ability to link your blog and Twitter account to your Author Central Account. When you do this your most recent tweet shows up, along with highlights from your three most recent blog posts. Talk about a great way to engage your readers, and get them to follow you.

You also have a spot to upload book trailers or promotional videos. If you’re photogenic, or good with video, you could create a whole series of videos to allow readers to learn more about you and your books.

A lot of people link their books to Facebook or their author website, but a link to Author Central might pay off better in the long run. Not only does it introduce readers to you, but it also gives you a great opportunity to sell more of your books.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Review: The Plot Skeleton by Angela Hunt

I've been reading a lot of books lately about writing. How to write. How to correct common writing mistakes, How to write better sentences. How to outline your book, so it almost writes itself.

You get the idea. 

Angela Hunt has written a great little series that addresses many of these issues. If you haven't come across them yet, here are a few of the titles in her series.
  • The Plot Skeleton
  • Weasel Words
  • Evoking Emotions
  • Point of View
  • Plans and Processes
It's actually a nifty little series. All of them are short, easy to read and pack a lot of information in a short space. The Plot Skeleton explains how to structure your story, so you are sure to include all of the elements you need to present a great story. Whether you need help with plotting, character development, or another area of your writing, all of the information is here.

Non-fiction writers, don't let the title throw you off, you can still use a lot of the information presented in this book.

My favorite book in the series is Weasel Words.

The title alone makes it worth reading. Again, it's short - only 40 pages, but it's packed with useful information.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Is there an audiobook in your future?

What’s that you say? You never heard of Audible? They’re an Amazon company that makes your book available for readers to download and listen to.

After you’ve signed up with Audible, you can go to your dashboard and start adding projects (Books that you want to have audio versions made of).

I uploaded four titles last night and received offers to record all four of them.

One of the parties who contacted me did an amazing job. He uploaded 10 minutes of spoken content overnight, included a great narrator bio, and called me to discuss the project. It was just amazing for having the project posted for less than twelve hours.

The other three offers, I’m not so sure of. They sent me a two minute audition, with no emotion in the voice, no pauses, just blah reading. I’ve read enough Audible reviews, and one thing I know is a bad narrator can hurt your rankings. That’s why I’m especially happy with the one offer I accepted. He did an amazing job, but what else could I expect. He has close to forty years in the business, trained under the great Mel Blanc (of Bugs Bunny fame), and has a knack for anticipating what readers expect. His name is Chuck McKibben, and I’m excited to have him on my team.

I’m not sure what to expect from Audible, but I’m really pumped up waiting to hear the final book.

Another great thing about Audible, it’s free to get started. When you request auditions for projects you have the option to pay the audio producer outright, or split royalties fifty-fifty with them. Being the cheap ass I am I chose the fifty-fifty split. That gives me the chance to try my first book out for the cost of a book cover.

How cool is that?

When I talked to Chuck about the project I told him this was entirely new territory for me. When I posted my first book on Kindle, I thought it might sell twenty-five copies the first year. My bad! It went on to sell thousands of copies on Kindle, and in paperback. I’m going into audio books the same way. I would be happy with any sales, but I can’t help hoping it will sell thousands of copies too.

How about you? Want to learn more about selling on Audible? Click this link.

****  Update 3/11/2014 ****

Four days after posting my first books on Audible I've signed contracts for nine of my books to be made into audio books. Most of the books received three to seven auditions, so there are plenty of voice artists waiting to record your next book. My suggestion - Give it a shot. See what audio books can do to improve your catalog of books.