indie marketing

How to get indie books reviewed

booksSo your masterpiece is finally for sale on Amazon or Smashwords. Congratulations! Now the real work begins. You need to start spreading the word about your novel/short story, and one of the best ways to do that is through reviews. Unfortunately this process can be downright torturous — particularly if you’re learning as you go. If you are an indie writer looking for help landing your first reviews, here is my tried-and-true strategy in five simple steps:

1. Write a great book. Easier said than done, of course. Reader tastes will vary, but no matter what you write you absolutely must put out a high-quality product. That means professional looking cover art, formatting and copy editing. Going the indie route is no excuse for shoddy presentation.

2. Research the best markets for your work. Depending on what you’ve written and how big a following you have, sites billing themselves as general book review sites may or may not be the best fit. My short, “Vampire Brides from Planet Hell!“, is a pulp sci-fi story. It appeals to a niche audience. Due to both length and subject matter, I’ve avoided more “mainstream” reviewers in favor of sites like The Extremis Review and The Cult Den. These reviewers and I share the same target audience. You will need to find venues that fit with what you’ve written. Otherwise you’ll end up spinning your wheels.

3. Keep your review request short and sweet. Business writing should be brief and to the point. Here is a sample review request:

Dear Reviewer,

I am writing to ask if you would be interested in reviewing my sci-fi short, “Vampire Brides from Planet Hell!” (http://www.amazon.com/Vampire-Brides-Planet-Malcolm-Chandler-ebook/dp/B00ITC89XG), on your site.

I can provide a free review copy in .pdf, MOBI or EPUB format.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Malcolm Chandler

Don’t get complicated. If you’ve put out a professional product with an eye-catching cover and a compelling blurb, your work will speak for itself. Don’t be afraid to let your buy link do the talking. The longer your review request, the weaker its impact (and the more likely it will end up in someone’s junk folder).

4. Be patient. Reviews don’t get posted overnight. Reviewers are busy people. Many of them are juggling several projects of their own. My rule of thumb is to allow 4-8 weeks before sending a brief, polite follow-up.

5. Be professional. Under no circumstances should you take any part of this process personally. Some reviewers will ignore you, some will decline politely and others will be considerably more blunt. Don’t get snippy in reply, and definitely don’t get into any kind of blog/Facebook/Twitter war. Like it or not you are a business person. Your actions will reflect on your business. The best thing to do when faced with negativity is ignore it.

Hopefully you find these tips helpful. Please share any questions, advice or success stories.

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“Fast-paced sci-fi action”

The first of the three reviews of “Vampire Brides from Planet Hell” I mentioned recently is now online. This one is from Brigit at Escape Inside the Pages. Her review is on the short side (fitting for a short story!), but it really captures the essence of “Vampire Brides from Planet Hell:”

Vampire Brides from Planet Hell is definitely unlike anything you have encountered! It is a fast paced short story filled with scifi action and death at every turn. The storyline pulled me in from the start.

Drakken III provided for a thrilling setting that was equally paired with the narrator. You don’t even have to learn his name to appreciate and be thoroughly entertained by his point of view! The dialogue was witty with just the perfect amount of humor. And the ending line could not have been more perfect! Vampire Brides from Planet Hell was a quick fun read! Too bad it was a “short” because it would have been wonderful to see what happened next!

You can check out the original review here.

A marketing mistake to laugh at

I couldn’t help but laugh at a mistake I made recently. You see I am still soliciting reviews for “Vampire Brides from Planet Hell.” In doing so I have developed a review request template. I copy, paste and customize it as necessary. Perhaps needless to say, the most important part of the customization process is changing the name at the top.

I sent in a review request the other day. Today I received a curt reply along the lines of “my name is Lisa, not Ted, and no, we’re not interested.”

I mention this for two reasons:

  1. If you’re going to use a review request template, REMEMBER TO CHANGE THE NAME! It could torpedo your chances of getting a review or guest post.
  2. If you DO forget to change the name, don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself.

Indie publishing can be an exhausting, dreadfully serious process. It’s important to keep things in perspective. I write because I love to write. In the end it doesn’t matter if I strike it rich or get famous. I will continue to write fiction whether or not I make  money doing it.

If you’re not enjoying writing you’ve got no business writing in the first place.

My self-publishing marketing plan

Writing a great story is easy. The hard part is selling it. With this in mind I have decided to soft launch “Vampire Brides from Planet Hell.” The difference between a soft launch and a hard launch is simple. A soft launch takes place over a period of 1-2 months and ramps up slowly. It is especially common in the tech industry, where there are often bugs to be worked out in early product releases. A hard launch, by contrast, does everything in one shot and is more common in traditional publishing. There are advantages to the hard launch approach for indie authors, too. Mostly that if you can crack a bestseller list early you will gain massive visibility.

To execute a hard launch properly, however, you need a substantial following. Or at least a substantial professional network. I have neither. Thus, my self-publishing marketing plan hinges on ramping up activity slowly over time, building a network (and hopefully a following) for future projects.

My plan consists of two broad phases:

The Review Phase (Month 1)

The goal of the review phase is simple: get reviews. You could also call this the “quality assurance” phase. I don’t because I hate the phrase “quality assurance.” Makes it sound like I’m manufacturing Tylenol bottles or something. My plan is to work outward from my network:

  • Friends and family
  • Then writers I know
  • Then amateur reviewers
  • Then professional reviewers

My goal is to have five reviews by the end of month one.

The Awareness Phase (Month 2)

Here the goal is to push awareness of the reviewed ebook out to readers through various channels. I am not budgeting any ad spend for this project, so I will be focusing on blogs, websites and social media. While I have a couple ideas I still need to do some more research in this area. An update will follow.

Again, my goals:

  • Secure five reviews by April 10
  • Sell 216 units by June 30