Saturday, January 30, 2016

You Need "Honest" Book Reviews

Do you have book reviews for your book? Are they “honest” reviews or something you have orchestrated from friends and family?

It is hard work to write a good book and get it into the market. Whether you work with a traditional publisher or self-publish, I hope you have produced an excellent product. At some point in the process, you are ready to release this book into the market. What will others say about your writing? The natural tendency is to expect everyone to glow about your book and send you accolades.

Yet that expectation is not reality.  Not every review will be five star. These reviews are important social proof from readers and feedback to you as the author. Several years ago, I met a novelist who claimed to have sold thousands of books on Amazon. Yes, this author touted amazing numbers for her book sales. Yet when I looked on Amazon, there was one review—and the author had written that review. If you don't think this result is unusual, take a few minutes and look at any bestselling novel on Amazon. If the book has been selling well, then people enjoy it and write reviews—often hundreds of reviews.

I look at other books (even self-published) which have less than five reviews—even if they have been out on the market for several years. Again this absence is social proof of the quality and feedback from readers. Your book should have reviews and as the author, you need to take responsibility to get these reviews.

As the author, you can create a launch team. Recently I've been involved in the launch of several books. I've filled out applications to be a part of the launch team. These applications ask why I should be included. The launch director creates a private Facebook area with encouragement to read the book and post reviews. Recently I got added to a launch team that said they were only going to let 500 people to be on their launch team. What a huge team but see the social proof these authors are gathering for the launch of their book?

Your team may be smaller than 500. Can you launch your book with 25 reviews on Amazon? To launch with 25 reviews, you will need to gather at least 50 people who agree to review your book and will post a review during the week your book is launched. Why so many more than the 25 you need? Even though you do your work and the person has committed, not everyone carries through with their commitment. Maybe the book doesn't reach them in the mail. Maybe they get ill. Maybe they have some family emergency. Life happens for every person and they don't carry through with their promised review. As the author, you need to recognize this fact and move beyond it with even more people to write the review.

This process takes work and effort from the author. Bestselling author Tim Grahl has written about this process and guided numerous bestselling authors. He has a valuable article here. Be sure and scroll to the bottom of the page and get his Amazon Review Package.  You give up your email address but get an excel spread sheet, sample emails and much more. This package can be a valuable resource for you to gather your reviews—if you use it. Also I encourage you to get this free teleseminar that I created with Dana Lynn Smith about reviews.

In your request to the reviewer, you are asking for an “honest” review. Not every review will be a Five Star Amazon review or glowing. One of my Morgan James authors called me almost in tears a while back asking what she should do with a one star review. My advice: do nothing. Don't comment back. Don't complain to Amazon. Do nothing. The fact that you've received a variety of reviews is good for your book.

Over ten years ago as a frustrated acquisitions editor, I wrote Book Proposals That Sell. The book has hundreds of Five Star Amazon reviews and it has helped many people. I have offered my publisher a revision or update but he has not taken my offer. The inside of this book has not been revised. It continues to be reviewed. About four months ago, I received a detailed One Star review. Did I read the review? Yes. Did I take any action or reach out to this reviewer? No. This book continues to help people. If you want the revision, then get the Ebook version, which has been updated. Or take my Write A Book Proposal course. You need to fix what you can, then let the rest go—and continue working on getting reviews.

Has your book been out several years? Are you still working on getting reviews? I hope so. These new reviews will help you continue to sell more books.

How do you get honest reviews? Read these insights: (Click to Tweet)

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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

5 Reasons to Read Biographies, Autobiographies and Memoir

I have always loved reading biographies, autobiographies and memoirs. I've written more than 60 books and many of the books fall into one of these categories. Also when I read a book, I often write a short review on Goodreads. If you check this page and look through the covers with books and my reviews, you will see many of these books are biographies, autobiographies or memoirs.

1. The Experiences Are Real

While I enjoy reading a good novel, the stories in biographies or memoirs are not created but based on reality. Recently I’ve been listening to Anjelica Huston read her book, Watch Me. She told about being in a car accident in the 70's where she wasn’t wearing a seat belt (not required then). As a part of this accident, she broke her nose in eight places. That little details stuck because I found it fascinating.

2. Personal Encouragement

Last year my biography of Billy Graham was released. Mr. Graham has preached the Good News about Jesus face to face in front of more peple than anyone on the planet. He is currently 97 years old. Some people may wonder if Billy Graham ever doubted his faith. He had doubts and here's a brief excerpt from my book (pages 59-60):
"Several other series of meetings were held that year, and for the summer of 1949, the team prepared for a crusade in Los Angeles, the largest citywide meetings of its kind to date. At the end of August, before the campaign began, Billy attended the annual College Briefing Conference at Forest Home, becoming the youngest college president to speak at the conference."
"One night after the conference’s evening session, Billy pondered a simple question: Can I really trust the Bible? He decided that if the answer was no, he could not with a clear conscience conduct the campaign in Los Angeles. At thirty years of age, it wasn’t too late to quit the ministry and return to his wife in North Carolina. He wrestled with the answer."
"Unable to sleep, he took a walk in the San Bernardino Mountains. Dropping to his knees in the moonlight, he placed his Bible on a tree stump. The moon didn’t cast enough light for him to read its pages, but there at his makeshift altar, he prayed to God: “There are many things in this book that I don’t understand,” he began. “There are many problems with it for which I have no solution. There are many seeming contradictions, and many areas that do not correlate with modern science.”
"Billy was trying to be honest with God about his deepest thoughts and questions. Finally, he felt the assurance of the Holy Spirit, and he said, “Father, I am going to accept this as your Word—by faith. I’m going to allow faith to go beyond my intellectual questions and doubts, and I will believe this to be your inspired Word.” Billy got to his feet and immediately sensed the presence of God and a new source of power within himself. While not every question was answered, he sensed that God was leading him, and he knew that he could depend on the Word.”
I hope you find this story encouraging. It certainly helped me to know Mr. Graham's experience.
3. Discover Memorable Stories

From reading Tom Jones autiobiography, Over the Top and Back, I learned at one point early in his career, he sold vacuum cleaners door to door. Or also in his book, he told an unforgettable story about Elvis Presley and how he carried a six shooter. I would never know these true stories if I did not read these types of books.

4. Gain Insight into the Success of Others

I enjoyed reading Troublemaker by actress Leah Remini about her involvement and escape from Scientolgy. Many people believe a well-known actress like Remini just skyrocketed to her success with shows like King of Queens. But this line in Chapter Seven was revealing and dispels this misconception. "All told, I've been on more than twenty-five eventually cancelled television shows in my career, and have appeared on even more pilots that never made it to air. While I would never complain, I certainly did feel anxiety. This is not an easy business to be in." (page 68 to 69) This quote affirmed to me again that there are no overnight successes.

5. Changes Revered People into Real People

Years ago I wrote a youth biography about Chuck Colson, a much revered person in the Christian market because of his teaching and work in Prisons through Prison Fellowship.
When I interviewed people around Chuck every person wanted to tell me about his practical jokes—something you would not expect on the surface. I built some of those stories into my book. To my knowledge, it is about the only record of this aspect of Chuck’s life and makes him real as well as a hero.

I love reading these types of books. Do you read them or listen to them? What are you learning from these types of books? I look forward to your lessons and comments.

Why read biographies, autobiographies and memoirs? Here's five reasons: (Click to Tweet)

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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Five Ways to Boost Your Writing To A New Level

It's hard for every writer to begin and it takes work for every writer to move to a new level with their writing. I've been pouring words into stories since I was in high school and have had a lot of practice—yet I continue to learn new aspects of the publishing world.

Late one night at a writers' conference, I was sitting with several much published writers listening to their stories. At that point in my career, I had published only a few magazine articles. These writers discussed how each of them has huge doubts and fears every time they begin a new book. I found their honesty encouraging. It is like the actors or public speakers who admit to getting nervous or butterflies right before they walk on the stage. Such feelings are a part of life and these professionals have learned to acknowledge these feelings, accept them and yet move past them to produce excellent work.

If you want to move your writing to a new level of excellence, here's five ways to boost your writing. I encourage you to do as many of these ways as you can in the days ahead. If you take action, then in a few months your writing will be at a new place in the market.

1. Attend a Writers' Conference (cost: varies)

Published authors agree the step which propelled their writing life is attending a writer's conference. If you have never been to a conference, now is the time to plan to attend a conference. I'm going to be speaking at several conferences in the coming months (use this link to learn more details). There are many excellent conferences. Prepare ahead of time and this action will broaden your connections to editors and agents—but also give you key insights into your own writing life. Attend the workshops, take notes and follow the teaching. Also meet one-on-one with different editors and agents, then follow their suggestions and submit your material to them.

2. Read a Book on the Writing Craft Every Month (cost: free or low)

Whether you write fiction or nonfiction or have never written, I encourage you to intentionally read books about the craft of writing.  I have shelves of these books that I have read but you don't have to purchase them. Get them from your local library. I've written a couple of these books like Book Proposals That Sell or Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams. Weave these books into your reading plans then take action on what you learn—apply it to the writing and marketing of your books.

3. Take an online course (cost: varies)

There are many possibilities in this area. Bestselling author Jerry B. Jenkins has launched a FREE three lesson course course. Or another alternative is listening to a number of my free teleseminars on different topics like blogging or book reviews or dealing with the media or special market sales. Also you can take my Write a Book Proposal course.  Finally for this method, you can use my Simple Membership System to create your own membership course. 

4. Read blog posts from respected leaders (cost: free)

A number of literary agents and well-known editors have created blogs. Look for their subscription button on the site and sign up. The updates will come to your email box and you can read them and learn from their expertise. To get you started, here's a new list of the Top 100 Writing Blogs for Authors and Bloggers. Notice how I qualify who you read. Select people with experience and follow their guidance instead of “so-called experts” who when you look at their credentials have published less than five books. I include this reality check to make sure you are taking teaching from real experts.

5. Follow my twitter feed and read the articles in it (cost: free)

At this writing, I've been on twitter since 2009 and tweeted over 28,000 times (almost every hour throughout every day). I'm committed to reading and telling my followers about solid teaching information in the publishing and writing area.  As you follow this information stream, it is a terrific education to help you take your writing to a new level of excellence.

Follow the links and advice in this post and you will take your writing to a new level. It is critical that you do more than read and absorb new information.  It's great to learn but in addition to learning, you need to take action and incorporate what you learn into your daily actions. If I can help you in this journey, don't hesitate to reach out to me. My personal email is in my twitter profile. You can boost your writing with these active steps.

Use these five suggestions to boost your writing to a new level. (Click to Tweet)

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