Goodreads – A Good Choice for Authors

August 5, 2014 in Articles, Book Marketing, Book promotions

social media for booksIt has to be said there are social media sites and there are social media sites for independent publishers, authors and writers. Goodreads fits into the latter category. Why? Because that is where book lovers hang out, writers and readers.

Now if you are a writer then there is one thing you will be desperate for and, yes, that is readers.

Goodreads then should definitely be on your list of social media sites, because in reality that is the biggest social media site for book readers. Yes of course you will also find them on Facebook, Google+, Twitter etc. But they could be on those sites for any number of reasons. For example they may be there to stay in touch with family or be keeping up to speed with friends old and new or they may simply be promoting their business or looking for services.

But one thing you know for sure, if they are on Goodreads, is that they have either written or published a book and are promoting it, or they are there looking for the next good book to read. They are not going to be there discussing the great family party the night before, or asking you to play Candy Crush. No, there is only one reason people register on Goodreads and that is books.

Don’t get me wrong, you can find groups on all the social media sites that talk about and are interested in books and of course you can try and interact with those groups to see if you can find readers. In fact when you have time you should probably do that.

But on Goodreads you know you have an audience that is genuinely interested in books, a captive audience for all intents and purposes. Plus you have all the Goodreads tools at your disposal, you can for example:

  • add your books with all the relevant information
  • share the status of the book
  • recommend it to groups of friends or followers
  • create custom shelves for specific genres
  • create posts for your own blog
  • start discussions about a book
  • create quizzes for a bit of visitor interaction
  • share your book news using the various widgets that are available to embed it in your own blog or website

All this is completely free of charge. Plus of course you can be talking about, recommending and categorizing the books you like or have published and adding them to Listmania lists so readers can find them, not to mention the review feature of Goodreads which is the most basic function of the site.

Goodreads Social Media for Books

Authors can even sell their books on Goodreads or upload an epub or pdf file to allow Goodreads members to read the whole book or an excerpt from the book. This functionality is found via the author page, which you can only have if you have written and published a book.

Of course you have to remember that the site is primarily intended for book lovers to share and recommend their book experiences and no-one wants to be bored to death by a writer with only one obvious and sole intention - to sell their book.  I am afraid that even on a social site for books you will have to behave appropriately, perhaps even share your opinion about someone else’s book ~ heaven forbid ~ so that people can see you actually have an interest in books beyond your own or just trying to sell them.

I am sure I have probably forgotten some of the services that Goodreads offers to both writers and readers, but you should be getting my gist. If you have a genuine interest in books and want to find other people that share that interest, then Goodreads is a great place to do it. Plus if you approach it in that way i.e. show you have a real interest in books, then you will soon find that people warm to you and, after a while, they might even buy some of your books.

So if you are a writer or publisher and you have books you would like to promote – what are you waiting for. Goodreads is one of the best marketing tools you have available.

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photo credit: boltron- via photopin cc

Book Publishing Options for Independent Authors

August 3, 2014 in Articles, eBook publishing

Author Publishing OptionsIn this world of ever changing technology the mainstay of publishing and the written word, printed books, are under threat. The common, new usurper is the eBook, rapidly becoming the media choice of multitudes of avid readers.

The reason why is pretty clear, the parallel and exponential rise of mobile technology that provides a means of downloading and reading eBooks from the Internet. And we are not just talking about Kindle, Nook or Kobo dedicated ereaders, there are now apps available for any number of tablet devices or smartphones in addition to dedicated ereaders.

Highly powerful miniature computers that can literally be carried in a pocket or bag and that offer virtually all the functionality of a notebook or desktop computer with the advantages that they are small, lightweight and can be taken with you everywhere you go.

You probably only need to observe your kids, or in some cases grand-kids, to find out how they prefer to read a book these days and it is becoming obvious that a paperback version of their favorite book or novel is now much more rarely seen. So whether they are relaxing in an armchair or lounging by a pool, it is usually with their preferred mobile device in their hands. Sometimes they will be reading the latest trend on Twitter, playing games, catching up with friends on Facebook or of course reading the latest novel.

So now we come to why this presents a new and exciting opportunity for wannabe and existing authors. For a start the traditional method for publishing a book was to approach an established publisher, usually through a literary agent, to present a manuscript and then sit back and wait for months to get a decision, usually a rejection.

Then there was the cost barrier, getting a book laid out ready for printing and then actually printed can be very expensive. Even print on demand can be a bit tricky and prices need to be carefully worked out to ensure production costs are met, the books are competitive and you can actually make a little bit of profit.

But all these problems go away with eBooks, they offer a real alternative for new and existing authors. 

Formatting for publication is much more straightforward, especially for a novel devoid of graphics, and even if you don’t have the technical skills yourself there are eBook formatting services available at a much better rate than the equivalent for printed books.

Then there are the online distributors that welcome independent authors with open arms, Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and even Google. They are all desperate for new books and new authors, there is no waiting time. Format your book properly and you can be published in hours.

Just one word of caution however, don’t let standards drop. You may not be being judged by a publisher taking this route, but you will certainly be judged by a paying public and reviews never come faster than when you have got it wrong. Spelling mistakes, punctuation errors and bad grammar will be homed in on and your book rubbished if you get it wrong. So don’t take shortcuts, make sure your book is properly edited and proofread.

Marketing is a big part of independent publishing and it is much harder to market a book full of errors than one that is well written, clear of spelling mistakes and with a story that flows naturally from beginning to end.

Photo – courtesy of PhotoXpress.com

Finding Good Books to Read

June 21, 2014 in Articles

Good Books To ReadYou would think that finding a good book to read in this new world of digital technology would be a synch! Not always the case though, traditional publishing is in decline and the time of the independent publisher is definitely here, but with a few drawbacks.

Love them or loathe them traditional publishers, good ones at least, did tend to ensure that a certain level of quality was maintained in the world of books. They were the gatekeepers and quality controllers of the publishing world. Any book that was not properly edited, proof read and formatted simply didn’t get out of the door. Then of course there is the content to consider, now that’s where things could become a bit subjective. For example Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was rejected by a dozen publishing houses before being taken on by a small publishing house at the behest of the CEO’s eight year old daughter. So basically it took a child to spot the magic of Harry Potter and bring it into the public domain. There have also been plenty of other famous authors that were rejected. So clearly the publishing houses don’t always get it right and who knows how many brilliant authors with fantastic books simply gave up and failed to reach the illustrious position of ‘innovation’ (that means commercial release in the development world).

Clearly then there is a strong case for independent publishing, because authors can in effect bypass the gatekeepers and let the public be the judge of their work. The problem is that they can, to a certain extent, bypass the quality control process as well. Some may decide not to use an editor or even get their book proof read. And as for the formatting, for digital books at least, anyone that has tried to read a badly formatted eBook will tell you, even if the story is a good one, the frustration may just see it thrown to one side and discarded before it is finished.

Which brings us back to the question of how to find a decent book that is worth reading from the content perspective as well as the quality perspective, in what is rapidly becoming an ocean of new independent publishers.

Basically what most avid readers want are books where you can simply enjoy a good story without being driven mad by the spelling mistakes, loss of a story line or complete inconsistency in font type, line spacing or size . Well you will be glad to hear that there are ways in which you can separate the wheat from the chaff, read on below for a few suggestions.

Photos Courtesy of PhotoXpress

How to Find a Good Book to Read

Amazon does have some great tools you can use for finding good books based on your past history, preferences, books you like and what other people bought. But they are not the only game in town, even if they are the biggest. That said the first few tips are for finding good books on Amazon.

  1. Amazon book lists, check out the best sellers or hotest new releases lists
  2. Use the ‘What other people bought’ feature on Amazon to find books that other people have read
  3. Scroll to the bottom of a book page to click on tags or categories to get the highest ranking books with the same tags or in the same categories
  4. Look out for ‘Listmania’ lists, they usually appear at the left hand side of search results and sometimes you can search Listmania so just put in what you are searching for.
  5. Register with book review sites where you can list the books you have read, review them and recommend them to others. And of course visa versa. Probably the best known of these sites is GoodReads
  6. Look for blogs that publish, distribute and/or review books. eBookIssues for example.
  7. You can look on social media sites and search for books or genres of books, sites like Stumbleupon and Delicious are particularly good for books.
  8. Micro-blogging sites such as the famous Twitter remember to use the # when you search e.g. #ebooks #indies #books #romance etc.
  9. Multiple digital format distributors such as Smashwords so that you can get your books in a format to suit your eReading devices.

Book Distributors Other Than Amazon

Not all of these distributors offer ‘look inside’ or free samples but most do and you can always check the books out on the sites that do and then purchase in your preferred format.

Both Barnes & Noble and Smashwords offer free samples to download for sure.

Smashwords
This is the biography page for Moulin Publications. Moulin Publications provides a specialist eBook publishing service to all authors struggling to deal with the file formatting requirements asked of them to get their books published on Smashwords and other popular eBook distribution sites.

iTunes – Books
Get a free sample or buy The Mobius Twist – Alien Abduction and Judgement of the Human Race by Markham Turner on the iTunes Store. You can read this book with iBooks on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.

Barnes and Noble – Books, Textbooks, eBooks and More
Lower Prices on Millions of Books, Movies and TV Show DVDs and Blu-ray, Music, Toys, and Games. Shop online for eBooks, NOOK, and textbooks. FREE Shipping on $25 orders!

World Famous eBook Store | Diesel eBook Store
Millions of free eBooks, New York Times Bestsellers for $9.99, device freedom to transfer between ebook stores, free mobile ereader apps for android, iphone, ipad, smartphone

Kobo eBooks
Free eBooks, thousands of bestsellers for $9.99, millions of free classic books. Read anytime on your Kobo eReader, tablet, smartphone or computer. Sign up for free today.

AbeBooks Official Site – New & Used Books, New & Used Textbooks, Rare & Out of Print Books
AbeBooks is your source for Used Books, New Books, Rare Books and Out of print books. Find classic collectibles, rare signed editions, used textbooks, and inexpensive bestsellers from independent booksellers worldwide.

A New Way to Choose Which Book to Read
Whichbook is a unique site for choosing what to read. Whichbook offers choices which are not available anywhere else – mood, emotion, plot shape, type of main character, country the book is set in.

How You Can Identify A Good Book To Read

  • Read the reviews on the distributor site, note the new ‘verified purchaser’ indicator on Amazon that tells you the reviewer actually bought the book. Doesn’t always mean they haven’t read it if they are not verified because authors do give away free samples to professional or amateur reviewers
  • Use the ‘Look Inside’ feature on Amazon, you can usually read up to 20% of the book before committing to purchase. Should be enough to get a feel for the quality and the content.
  • Use the request a sample feature or download options on distributor sites. This is similar to look inside but you actually get the sample downloaded to your device
  • Join an on-line book club, GoodReads is one example but you can also look for book clubs that specialise in the genre you are interested in so you can really home in on your favourite types of books. You can look at the reviews and recommendations for books of interest.
  • Join Shelfari this is Amazon’s own book club. You can add books add extra information, join specific groups and so on. The information also feeds back to the book in Amazon. Pretty neat resource for authors and readers.

What Makes a Book Worth Reading Anyway

Makes you laugh or cry or both?

Good booksWhat makes a book worth reading is the million dollar question. Why? Because that is totally subjective and depends on the perspective of the reader. Adults have different perspectives to children, men have different perspectives to women, some people are serious and some people are frivolous. You can probably see where I am going here, we are all different and I have pointed out some of the obvious ones, but there are many others much more subtle than the ones illustrated. So is there a common ground?

I actually don’t think there is, not in terms of perspective anyway, but people do read books for different reasons and these can probably be categorised more easily. For example the two clear functions of a book are either to inform or to entertain. Yes you can then delve into those categories and be more specific, some people are entertained by horror thrillers, or psychological thrillers of the paranormal others by funny books that make them laugh or romantic novels that carry them into a world of fantasy. This is why there are so many different genres and categories associated with books and perhaps why some publishers of books can struggle to place their books in the right places for their readers to find them.

That doesn’t really help anyone looking for a good book to read, if a book they would really enjoy is categorised in a way they simply wouldn’t think of searching for it then the likelihood is that they will never find it; other than by accident. I also think that sometimes people don’t actually know what they are looking for or in fact what they will enjoy. So what happens?

Typically people latch onto one author or genre and stick with it or her/him, probably why recently best selling Trilogy’s have been so successful (assuming of course that the second and third are not required reading to find out what actually happened). Everyone is playing safe, sticking to what they know or what the masses dictate is a good book. Best sellers for example are self perpetuating, the more people that read them the more people there are that want to read them, and why not I hear people saying. Because we are all different is what I say, so instead of being a bit of a sheep, perhaps we should get off the main rail and take a side track, even if it’s only once in a while.

I seem to have digressed onto a soapbox for some reason, so I had better hop back down onto terra-firma and just finish by saying that what makes a good book is whether it delivered to you, as an individual, what you wanted. Whether that was in an expected or surprising way. Actually the latter would probably be more enjoyable, the fact that you got what you wanted was a surprise, it even sounds better.

So don’t let someone else put you off a book, read the description and yes take in the book reviews but most important of all take a look at the sample for the first few chapters and make up your own mind whether you think you will like it or not. And of course I do have to take a step back from my earlier statement, if you find an author or a genre you really enjoy, then why not take on more of the same, just don’t forget that sometimes a change is as good as a rest. Plus these days in the world of digital eReaders and eBooks, most literary exhibits are very affordable so the risk you are taking is small.

Of course if you are interested in the books on this site you can click on the BOOKS category and browse away.

EBookIssues | Promote your Page too

How to Download an ebook to Kindle

May 23, 2014 in Articles, eBook Management

Download to KindleIf you want to know how to download an ebook to Kindle, the first thing you need to be aware of  is what file formats a Kindle can use. If you chose the correct file format then the process becomes no more difficult than using a file manager like ‘Windows Explorer’ to move the file from your PC to your Kindle with a little help from the USB cable which normally comes with your Kindle.

Choosing a File Format For Kindle

So here goes, the file formats that can be loaded and read by a standard Kindle ereader are:

  • MOBI – this is the first of two file types designed by Mobipocket and is compatible with a standard Kindle.
  • PRC – this is the second of the Mobipocket file types and is again Kindle compatible.
  • AZW – Amazon’s own proprietary version of what is essentially a MOBI file, only available from Amazon.
  • PDF – this is an Adobe file format and can be read on a Kindle but doesn’t come with anywhere near the flexibility you get with the previous three types. Be aware that you cannot change parameters for these files on Kindle, so if the text is too small then you will be stuck with what you get.
  • TEXT – this covers any documents/books written using any standard word processor. It is an option if little formatting is required but still not as good an option as the two formats that top the list.

If you are using 3rd party suppliers of eBooks for Kindle the best option is to choose either the MOBI or PRC file formats. Assuming they have been formatted correctly they should work as well as Amazon’s own proprietary AZW software.

KF8 For Kindle Fire & Some Newer Kindles

But before we leave file types and just to complicate things a little more, Amazon now provide files in a KF8 format. It is fully compatible with the Kindle Fire but the full range of functionality available with the KF8 format does not work on every Kindle device. For a list of Kindle Devices that Support KF8 use this link.

Downloading An eBook to Kindle

Now for downloading a file to Kindle. If you have chosen one of the compatible files and have downloaded it to your PC, then all you need to do is connect your Kindle to your PC using the special USB cable provided for the task and then use your file management program on your PC to copy and paste the file to your Kindle in the appropriate directory, for books it is the ‘documents’ directory. The video below explains how this is done if you need further guidance.

Also if you need the cable that connects your Kindle to a PC you can get it here for the USA or here for the UK.

Converting Other File Formats to a Kindle Compatible Format

Of course there are ways and means of converting ebook files from one format to another if you are really desperate for that book that doesn’t come in any of the formats your Kindle can handle. This article on ebook management should help you figure out how to turn an ePub into a MOBI or AZW if you really need to. This is relatively easy to do if the file does not have digital rights management (DRM) protecting it, but quite a lot more difficult if it has.

Where You Can Purchase Kindle Compatible Books

My favourite site from the list, as a publisher, is Smashwords and is where you can find most of the books published on this site in multiple formats including MOBI. ** Authors or publishers decide what formats to publish so not all formats are always available, you have to have a look see what you can get.

photo credit: tribehut via photopin cc

Why Shoppers Abandon Online Shopping Carts

May 6, 2014 in Articles, Book Marketing

Good Book Descriptions Sell BooksThis post is for authors that sell their own books from their blogs or websites and are perhaps wondering why they are not making as many sales as they would like.

Before getting started you should probably be aware that the percentage of shopping carts abandoned, according to a white paper I have recently been privy to, is now running at around 72%. That is actually up from a previous survey which indicated around 55% of online shopping carts are abandoned. So the situation is worsening!

Ref: Bronto.com (click on view all to see the paper)

Wow that is a lot of people not making it to the point of sale!

So what did the white paper say were the main reasons people abandon shopping carts?

  • Poor user experience
  • Indecision
  • Technical difficulties
  • Cost build up (total cost, in other words, and how different it is to the starting cost)

Poor User Experience

Shopping cart abandonmentSo what constitutes a poor user experience? In terms of shopping cart abandonment it is mostly about how many hoops the potential purchaser has to go through to make their purchase. The average number of pages an average buyer has to visit to make their purchase online is 5.6; at the time of writing. Hopefully it will be a lot less in the future for anyone reading this.

There is always basic information required by the seller that must be supplied to process a sale, there is no way around that. But what many companies do is they pretty much ask the buyer to complete a marketing survey before they allow them to purchase and sometimes they try and force other products on them by making them reject other offers before they are allowed to purchase the product they want. Compare this to Amazon’s one click option, where a purchaser, once registered on Amazon, can make their purchase with just one click of a mouse. Now considering that Amazon is about the biggest and most successful online retailer, you would have to have a sneaking suspicion they have done that for a reason.That reason is clear….the strategy works.

Click here to buy it on Amazon.comAdmittedly, not every site will have the resources or the level of trust that Amazon has and they will have gathered all the necessary information they need to process the sale beforehand. But having done that they then make the sale as simple as they possibly can.

So if you want to be more successful at selling online, then aspiring to as simple a process as possible to effect a sale has to be a good way to go. In addition it is also a good idea to maintain an image of the product, as the buyer goes through the purchasing process, to help them keep a focus on what they are trying to purchase. It’s also a good idea to make it easy to change decisions on quantity, shipping method and the number of products they ultimately decide to buy.

The reason is that when faced with a final cost, rather than deciding it is all a bit too expensive and abandoning the shopping cart, they have a means of adjusting costs to an acceptable level. Better a smaller sale than no sale at all.

Indecision

Can't Decide Which BookIndecision for online shoppers isn’t really a lot different to shoppers browsing in a store. They may decide that they need the input of a partner before deciding or perhaps they haven’t got the funds immediately available and have to wait until they have been paid or they may simply decide that they are spending too much at one time.

The big difference with shopping online is that having put things in the virtual basket, it is much easier to leave it there without having to face an irate storekeeper who now needs to put things back on the shelf. This is one of the main disadvantages of an online store from a supplier’s perspective.

So yes there are many similarities in the shopping process but there are also differences, some that give the online stores some disadvantages, as mentioned, but equally there are also advantages. For example a shopper that has walked away through indecision can be contacted later and reminded that they still have items in their basket, other items that are similar can be offered, perhaps they can be tempted with a discount or maybe items that they decide to remove from a shopping cart can be moved to a wish list for future consideration. These are all strategies employed by large online distributors and to good effect …only requiring, for the most part, an email address and a means of analyzing  abandoned shopping carts.

Technical Difficulties

Buying Online DifficultiesWhen someone is shopping online one of the primary requirements they have is that they trust the site they are dealing with to protect their financial data and private information. Sites that load slowly, look amateurish or display obvious technical issues will cause a visitor’s trust level to decline and they will feel much less inclined to make a purchase.

As an author selling your own books this is quite important. Probably the easiest way to resolve any trust issues with visitors to your blog or website is to use a trusted online payment site such as Paypal, Google Checkout or one of the other established and trusted Online Payment Systems.

With respect to having a site that looks professional and functions well, my personal recommendation for any author would be to create a WordPress blog and purchase your own domain name and hosting to support it. Clearly this requires that you will need to go through a learning curve in order to manage the blog, but WordPress is one of the best supported platforms on the Internet.

Functionality like adding contact details to the site or even the page where you offering your books for sale becomes very simple and is another way to help ensure you don’t lose a sale. If a purchaser has a problem they can then contact you for assistance straight from your own site.

Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway, you should audit the purchasing process to ensure that it is easy to get from product selection i.e. a book, to the final payment and this should be done as a new customer, a returning customer and a prospective buyer.

Cost Build Up

Cost building factorsThe things that increase the price of products are shipping, taxes and any other associated costs. A buyer may get to that final hurdle, when they are faced with the reality of what they actually need to pay and just decide…. nah! perhaps another day.

If you can illustrate the total cost up front or as soon as possible then there is a better chance they may complete the purchase when they get to checkout. Even better if you can avoid those additional costs i.e. keep them as low as possible or maybe even free. Definitely one of the advantages of selling eBooks over physical books, albeit most buyers are looking to purchase eBooks at a much lower price than physical books. Especially in a technical savvy world.

Online shoppers tend to look for comparative prices, even for small cost items like books.

Basically they want a bargain and because it is so easy to do on the Internet, they search for a better deal.

When it comes to books, especially your own books, then you really should be offering the best price if you are selling directly. Bearing in mind that if the likes of Amazon spot the book at a better price than you set on their site, they retain the prerogative to reduce their price to match. Chances of them finding the books on an independent writers blog will be much less than on a competitor site like Kobo or Barnes & Noble however, so just be aware it could happen.

It’s always worth keeping an eye open to what the likes of Amazon are up to, most of what they do is geared towards making a sale and as easily as possible. Just like this reply to Tweet initiative they have just introduced that allows you to reply to a Tweet about a product and place it in your shopping basket without even leaving Twitter.

Don’t be put off by the sophistication of the tools coming from Amazon et al, the very fact you have got this far through the article will mean you are better informed than many people trying to sell on the Internet, books or otherwise. And if you are selling independently on your own site you are unlikely to be competing with Amazon or the other large distributors. It is much more likely you are broadening your market by reaching out to people that prefer to buy from independents or alternative sources to the mainstream suppliers. So if you can pick up a sale there, it is probably going to be one you wouldn’t have got otherwise.

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