Guest Post from Author Brae Wyckoff – Are book giveaways effective for authors?

Image courtesy of Brae Wyckoff.

Image courtesy of Brae Wyckoff.

Yes and no. It really depends on how you target your reader base and through which social media platforms you do your giveaway.

Before I tackle the monster giveaway through Amazon’s KDP select program, let’s tackle a couple others.

  1. Personal giveaway program- This is where you set up contests and seek out people to read and review your book. This is greatly effective to start getting those much needed reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Reviews do matter suffice it to say. I typically take the top rating and the lowest rating and discard them before making a sound decision in buying a book. I have done several contests on facebook and through blogging for book giveaways. This generates a buzz as people like to win things…who doesn’t, right? You need to market yourself and in marketing you need to give some books away. Don’t just hand them out like candy to anyone but try to be effective in your planning. Giveaway contests are good to build an audience on FB and on your blog. It is also nice to give books away on other bloggers sites if they are close to your genre (Don’t give a book away on an erotica site when you have an epic fantasy novel…wrong kind of fantasy group to reach, if you know what I mean). Seek out genre specific readers and ask for them to review your book. Your book needs to get traction within that specific genre audience so be selective. Some will say yes and others will say no. I reached out to over a hundred bloggers, emailing them all to get a book review and about ten got back to me, so that is a 10% return.
  2. Goodreads is another great spot for a book giveaway. This is for paperback books only. You can target the USA or several other countries. Most of the time, the winner is a US resident but if you have an out of country winner then expect to pay more for shipping to them. (You can set up an Amazon account in that country and have your book delivered via Amazon instead to save a few dollars on shipping and you get money back for the sale. Just don’t state that you will be sending an autographed copy if you do this option). To be safe, target USA only or your specific country you reside in. Do a single book giveaway as I have not seen the benefit of doing multiple copies at once.  I have done 3 separate giveaways. My first go around was for 3 copies and I had it up for a month before the contest ended. This generated over a 1,000 people entering and placing my book on their to-read list. Not bad. My 2nd go around was for a single book for just five days. This generated over 1,200 entries and more people adding it to their to-read shelf. The 3rd time was also a single book for one week.  I had over 1,400 people enter to win and another thousand placing it on their shelf. I am approaching almost 2,000 people having my book on their shelf to read and in turn people are inevitably viewing my book. Once someone keeps seeing the same image over and over they will eventually check it out. This is a great way to get your book into the public. I am looking forward to having a million people viewing and buying my books. It can and will happen for you to but you have to put your time and effort into it.
  3. Okay, let’s talk about Amazon’s KDP Select program and the five free days that come with this. You must be exclusive with Amazon so you can’t have your book on any other platform. I have personally not seen the benefit of having the free day usage for books. Some have used it to achieve great things but very few, so it begs the question, “Is this really effective for authors?” Some say yes (few) while others will say no. I have been very watchful of other authors and my take is this. There are a lot of people out there that just want free books and won’t spend a dime. I call these people “ebook hoarders”. They collect and download free books but never really read any of them. It is almost like a security blanket, a strange collection if you will. They feel better knowing they got it on their computer or kindle. I have downloaded some free books myself but they just sit there. I made no dollar investment so the perceived value is, “well, I will get to it someday but it is not a priority because I didn’t spend any of my money on it.” I think it can be effective if you strategize and plan on a reason to have a free giveaway of your book or maybe having a sale, but not completely free. My 2nd book, The Dragon God, will be out later this year and it is wise to get my first book out there more so it will drive sales for the sequel. I will strategize with my Orb Street Team and my PR Manager (Aileen Aroma) to make it the best it can be.

With everything that I have said there is one major thing that you must have in place even before you do this and that is having a professional book from top to bottom. Professional cover and professional editing. Your book needs to stand toe to toe with the greats out there. Your book needs to shine and rise to the top of the millions of mediocre novels being shoved into our faces and downloaded onto our kindles. Invest in yourself and do it right. Oh, and make sure you get feedback about your story. You might think it is good but others opinions do matter. IT IS TIME to step up and be that bright star within the book world. People are waiting for the next big thing. Are you it? Are you all in? I am.

Bio: Brae Wyckoff was born and raised in San Diego, CA and is working toward a Psychology degree. He has been married to his beautiful wife, Jill, for 20 years, and they have three children; Tommy, Michelle, and Brittany. He has a beautiful grandson named Avery.

​Brae has been an avid gamer since 1985. His passion for mysterious realms and the supernatural inspired him to write The Orb of Truth, the first in a series of fantasy action adventures. Brae describes The Orb of Truth as a cross between the Lord of the Rings and the Wizard of OZ where you will be swept away into a magical land of Dwarves, Elves, and Halflings. Learn more at his website: http://www.braewyckoff.com/

 

Websites for Indie Authors – Where to Start, Part 4

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In this final installment of my mini-series on where to start in terms of indie author websites, it’s finally time to talk about just what should actually appear on the website. There is a touch of crossover with picking an approach to getting a website up. For example, if you go the DIY route or use WordPress, you don’t need to know everything that is going to appear on the site up-front. If you’re going to hire someone to build it for you, however, you need a pretty clear idea of everything that is going to go on the site in order to get all the work done.

Basic Elements

Author sites vary a lot in terms of complexity, but no author website can do without certain basic elements.

Home Page – The homepage on an author site presents certain problems for authors. Since your primary offering is books, rather than some kind of service, and you probably don’t sell your books directly, there’s a gap straight businesses normally fill with that kind of information. Nonetheless, you should still create a homepage. It can feature things as simple as an author picture and a blurb about your latest book, which is the approach used on Nora Roberts’ website, or it can be a cross-section stuff from several sections of the website, which is the approach used on Stephen King’s website. No approach is fundamentally better, but the Nora Roberts’ website model probably offers the least work-intensive approach for DIY types.

Author bio – If your readers are even sort of committed to your books, there is a distinct possibility they’re going to want to know a little more about you. Author bios provide you with a chance to do some branding, particularly if you write in a particular genre and intend to keep writing in that genre. If you write thrillers, it should probably say something about that in your bio. Is there something offbeat in your background, like spending a year working in a bakery in Paris? Information like that should definitely be in your bio because it gives you some character.

Books – There needs to be a section devoted specifically to your books or areas dedicated to specific series, if you write one or more series. Even if you’ve only written one book, you should still have a spot designated for books, because you’re probably going to write another one at some point. Each book entry should include links to where people can buy the book, especially mainstream outlets like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the iBookstore.

News – There are a lot of ways to handle/title this section, but you ought to have some space dedicated to providing author-centric information, such as links to interviews and press releases, upcoming projects, as well as information about where you might be doing book signings or other appearances. Put this under the mental category of “making it easy for fans.” The harder it is for people to find out about where you’re going to be and what you’re doing, the fewer people there are that will make the effort to show up or find out.

Contact Info – This one is sort of a quandary for indie authors, since they don’t have agents and publicists to handle media contact. The simplest approach is set up two kinds of contact info. One set of contact information is for fans, such as a dedicated email address like fanmail@amazingauthor.com, where readers can contact you. The other contact information should be clearly labeled as Media Contact Information, with an email such as media@amazingauthor.com. There should be an explicit notice stating that fan contact will not receive a response if sent to the media contact address/email.

Even if you do nothing else, these things must appear on your author website. Consider these the baseline for being taken seriously.

Best Practices

Of course, hitting the minimum is not the same thing as knocking it out of the park. There are some best practices in terms of what should be included on your author website.

Integrated Blog – Among a list of other very good ideas, Thomas Umstattd recommends the inclusion of an integrated blog on your website. If you’re using WordPress, this is taken care of for you since it’s a blogging platform. Author blogs are just an expected part of author self-marketing. Having the blog integrated as part of your website makes

it easier for readers and helps keep readers on the site, increasing the chances of them deciding to pick up another one of your books.

Social Media Links – As Caitlin Muir so succinctly puts it in this post: “If you aren’t on social media, you might as well be dead to the majority of the online world.” Your readers want to connect with you and you want to make it easy for them. Since the odds are good that you’ve set up author profiles on most of the major social media outlets, you should have “connect with me” icons that link to those profiles. The other side of this coin is making it easy for your readers to tell people they know about your site/blog posts/etc., which means you need social sharing buttons as well. Be sure to keep your social share buttons separated from your connect with me social buttons.

Images – You may be a writer, but not having images on your author website is a no-go. The internet is an inherently visual medium and you should take advantage of that fact. Put up pictures of yourself at events. Make sure you have cover images for your books up. Another fine suggestion from Thomas Umstattd, have a spot for fan art (if you get fan art). Posting fan art is a two-for-one for an author. One the one hand, it provides you with visual content that you didn’t have to commission or exert any extra effort for, and it helps to entrench your fan base.

There are lots of options for additional things you can have on your site, ranging from fan forums to selling signed copies, but I take the above as the most functional and necessary elements.

Contests and Novels and Twitter, Oh My – The Eric Update

From time to time, I like to step back and offer a little update on what’s going on in the world of Eric. So, without further ado, here’s the top of the pile.

A while back, I agreed to participate in The Iron Writer Challenge.

Here’s is the particularly awesome image from the Iron Writer site that sums it all up

Iron Writer Header

For those of you who don’t know about The Iron Writer Challenge, it’s a flash fiction contest. Each incarnation of the challenge features four writers that must take four, randomly selected elements and weave those elements into a 500 words or less story. Here’s the kicker. You only get four days to complete and submit the story, which is harder than it sounds.

Without giving away too much, my entry features all new characters set in an entirely new universe. Sorry Sam Branch fans, the muse spoke and I listened. 😉 The stories go live later today and you’ll be able to read them here. Please do go, read the stories and cast a vote. It’s good for writers to know people are reading their stuff. It helps keep us sane. 😉

I also put together a gag promotional bit about the contest that you can listen to here.

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As most of you know, I’m working on the third novel in the Samuel Branch series. I gazed into my crystal ball, consulted the cards (maybe snuck a glance at the word count on the document), and it looks like I’m set to crack the 30,000 word mark this weekend. I’d like to think that means I’m somewhere around 30% finished, which is also the point at which I start feeling compelled to settle on a title and start cover artwork, so keep your eyes open for those. 🙂

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In other news, I recently reached a personal goal of accumulating 2,000 followers on Twitter. When I set that goal, back in the dark days of having 200 followers, it seemed like one I couldn’t possibly reach. Yet, over time, the followers appeared and I appreciate them all.

For anyone wondering how I did it, I owe some of that success to having a diverse range of interests. My followers include professional artists, writers, marketers, and people interested in the wonderful world of transmedia storytelling, to name but a few. I do, however, owe a special thanks to the Authors Social Media Support Group for helping me reach this goal. They helped to bolster my numbers, but, more importantly, they retweeted my interesting stuff and helped to get my name out there. Thanks guys, you’re awesome!

Get Your Free Website Assessment Checklist from Agility

As a rule, I don’t send people to places that ask for contact information. Today, I’m making an exception to this to rule. Agility, a media-focused content management solution company, has released a website assessment checklist to help people optimize their sites.

In addition to providing a list of site features to be aware of, the site assessment also links to over 30 resources that provide more in-depth coverage of features, as well as best practices for using them. I think this is a fantastic resource and does a lot of legwork for you in terms tracking down information about good website practices. Not everything on the list will apply to every website, but it’s still a great time saver. The checklist is free and you can get it here.

If you’re concerned about giving over your contact information, there are two reasons you shouldn’t be concerned. First, I contacted the company and the CEO, Michael Assad, got back to me. He assures me that the contact information isn’t being used to build a sales list and you’re not opting-in to an email list either. Second, I downloaded this report myself a few weeks ago and I have not received any spam or sales emails from the company.

(This is an unsolicited recommendation on my part and I am not being compensated for it. I have no professional or financial relationship with Agility.)