As many of you already know (if you signed up for the author alert), e-reader maker and e-book distributer Kobo has just finished beta-testing its self-publishing platform, Writing Life and released it upon a suspecting world.
One of the challenges facing indie writers is how to recreate the editorial support that a traditionally published author receives (or is supposed to receive). If you take your writing seriously, having a handful of volunteer readers isn’t enough; you need true editorial help.
There are many types of editors, however: substantive editing, line editing, copy-editing, proofreading. All of these steps and stages are important, but in my own case, I felt that there was no substitute for substantive editing since it requires a high degree of experience, knowledge of the genre I was writing in (crime fiction), and a kind of understanding of the whole project, not just individual pieces. Consequently, I hired my own at considerable cost and it was worth it.
Since I don’t live under a money-tree, however, I hoped to cut a few corners by looking for proofreading alternatives. This is still an important step, but one I hoped I could look for a more automated solution.
“If you’re reading this,” it said, “I’m probably dead.“
A sick feeling ran from the pit of my stomach to the back of my throat as I read that sentence. I wanted to put the letter down, bury it under a stack of papers, burn it, but you don’t just stop reading something like that and pretend you never got it. I kept reading.
You think you know everything that happened—all those days, months, weeks that went by—but you don’t. You don’t have a crystal ball. You aren’t psychic. You can’t know all the reasons I had for doing what I did. And since you’re the one that killed me, it’s only fair that I set you straight.
Hi folks –
My first crime fiction collection, Three Shorts, is free for a limited time on all the major eBook channels and readers (Kindle, Nook, iTunes, Kobo, Sony). Please take advantage and grab your copy today; I’d love to know what you think about it, so feel free to comment here or on the collection’s page.
This is my first foray into a free promotion and I’m excited to see where it takes me. On the first day it went free (last Friday), it jumped from #377,721 (or so…) to #1,844 on Amazon. Still far from Top 100 material, but exciting nevertheless. Sales of other titles have remained level, but I’m after exposure and reach at this point. We’ll talk money later 🙂
My first Librarything.com giveaway is just a few days over and I’m happy with the results. For those not in the know, Librarything is a great resource for both readers and writers by bringing a librarian’s sensibility to a book fan site. LT allows for reviews, ratings, personal libraries, also reads, and much more.
For the indie author, however, it offers one of the most amazing promotional tools: the Member Giveaway. After becoming an official Librarything author (not a difficult process if you have published or epublished), you can go directly to the Giveaway page at http://www.librarything.com/er/giveaway/list and, in a few minutes, offer free copies of your latest book to all the readers who happen by, and request those same readers review the book on all the major review sites (Amazon, Goodreads, Librarything, Smashwords, etc.). If you do ebooks, this is an especially great deal, with very little cost or overhead to get substantial exposure.
Out of 550 offered copies, I had 67 takers in about 3 weeks. The reason I offered so many and had so (relatively) few takers is outlined below. Generally speaking, however, I’ve been thrilled with the result. Just three days after the giveaway ended, 40 of the 67 had requested their copies. I received 3 Amazon reviews, 3 Smashwords reviews, and 3 Goodreads reviews, 2 “library links” on Smashwords, 1 link on Goodreads, and a blog post…all within the first 24 hours. One of the reviewers became a Facebook fan and a Goodreads review follower, and another reader became a follower on Twitter. Fully half agreed to a followup email in case I had another giveaway or new release.
For those interested in using the LT Giveaway for their own promotional purposes, I learned a few things along the way:
- My copies were all ebooks, so it’s certainly much easier than sending physical hard- or paper-backs. It seems to me that publishers and authors giving away physical copies are limiting their Giveaways to no more than 25 or 30 copies, tops, for the obvious reasons of cost, shipping, and effort.
- If you are offering ebooks, make sure you have every major format: Amazon Kindle, Smashwords, .pdf, .mobi, and .epub. I’ve been asked for all of these formats. You could specify only Kindle if you want (as it’s the easiest) but why limit your exposure? Understand that you foot the cost for a Kindle Gift version (though you’ll obviously get your royalty back).
- Several colleagues have skipped publishing to Smashwords because it takes quite a while to get approved, but it’s absolutely worth the wait, because it’s the only retailer/distributor that will allow you to generate your own “coupons” which can be for any amount, up to and including FREE. When you can offer your Librarything readers a Smashwords coupon, they can use it to get any ebook format they need at their discretion (including all the other formats you might offer, which is redundant, but you’re trying to reach the most people, so why not give them all possible options?).
- Another reason to make sure you have a Smashwords copy: what some authors don’t know is that readers can’t review your book on Smashwords unless they received it via Smashwords (unlike, say Amazon, where you could review a book if you got it out of the library, then went online to review it). Since Smash reaches iTunes/iBooks, Barnes and Noble, Sony, and a bunch of other retailers, this is worth it.
Edit: Smashwords reviews do not convey to their retailers, but are certainly visible on the Smashwords site. Sorry for the confusion!
- If you want to do a giveaway, make sure you allow some time to become approved as a Librarything author before you plan the giveaway. It takes a few days at least to get approval. Check http://www.librarything.com/about/authors to find out how.
- When you set up your giveaway, pay attention to your cover image; mine was not uploaded at first and I had to do so manually. A good picture makes all the difference, so double check your Giveaway entry to make sure it’s there.
- Sneaky trick: the Giveaway page is ordered strangely: by default, it’s by “copies remaining”. In practical terms, what this means is that someone who offers 550 copies (like I did), will always be listed near the top of the page (and certainly be seen before those giving away 30). This has apparently gone to ridiculous extremes with people “out bidding” each other (you can change your copies offered at any time) up to 6-digit figures. There’s nothing you can do about whackos who do this, but if you pick a fairly high number, like over 500, you will probably be at the top of the page and, in reality, only 100 or so people will actually ask for your ebook. Even if the unthinkable happens and 500 people ask for it, it’s a good problem to have, right?
- Don’t be shy about asking for reviews in return for the giveaway. Most people seem happy to do so, although remember they aren’t obligated to do so.
- Unlikely to happen, but…for some reason, my giveaway entry was listed for 2 weeks as “not available in the US”. I didn’t see this until very late when a kind reader emailed me and pointed it out. I could not edit the entry to change this and had to wait a nerve-wracking day while I heard back from Librarything support. When they fixed it (and pretty fast, too), I went from a paltry 6 requests to 68 in a week. Double check your entry and make sure this doesn’t happen to you.
If you decide to try the LT Giveaway for your own promotions, best of luck and share your findings! This is obviously a powerful tool and becomes more so as your reach as an author increases.