Bragging on book covers – Yea or Nay? #WriterWednesday #AuthorMarketing

There are basically two ways to ‘brag’ on a book cover: advertise your status as a bestselling author or include a review blurb. Many, many (times a gazillion or so) experts will tell you this is an awesome marketing tool. I think I’ve proven on more occasions than I’d like to admit that I’m no expert. What I am is a voracious reader. I’m also a reader who is constantly looking for new authors to read. Yes, constantly. I average a book a day, and I’m usually reading several at once. And because I’m a bit of a book freak (duh!), I’m constantly analyzing why I chose to try a new author or a certain book. Book covers have a lot to do with that because we all know that ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ actually refers to humans and not real books. Let’s proceed, shall we?

Bestseller status

I’m going to be totally honest here. The term ‘bestseller’ has lost its glamour in recent years. A bestseller is not a book that made it to the top 100 list on Amazon for a given day. Wouldn’t that be awesome if it were? We’d all be bestsellers. Oh wait! Then, the term would mean absolutely nothing. Here is the definition of bestseller from Wikipedia:

A bestseller is a book that is included on a list of top-selling or frequently-borrowed titles, normally based on publishing industry and book trade figures and library circulation statistics; such lists may be published by newspapers, magazines, or book store chains… Well-known bestseller lists in the U.S. are published by Publishers Weekly, USA Today, New York Times and the Washington Post.

If you meet this definition, you can brag about it on your book cover. Like this awesome author (full disclosure: I just picked the first cover, which had a bestseller status, from Amazon’s top 100 romance ebooks):

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Personally, I’m not a huge fan of this type of bragging. Just because a whole bunch of other people liked your book doesn’t mean I will. I’m a unique individual! That said, I have no issues with the above. It looks classy. It’s honest and discreet. I’m more confused about this type of cover:

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“Bestselling romance author” – who says? It just sends out all kinds of questions for me. Personally, I would hesitate to buy a book with this ‘bragging’ on the cover. (Please keep in mind that as a former lawyer and cop, I’m a stickler for rules even though I LOVE to break them. Some would say that’s the definition of crazy).

Review Blurb

I’m referring here to the phrase or sentence from a reviewer placed prominently on the front cover. Here’s the perfect example:

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Why is this a perfect example? For starters, it’s short. It’s also placed in a manner, which doesn’t detract from the cover picture. But the most important part is the person who made the comment. In this case, Sylvia Day. You don’t have to like Ms. Day’s books, but if you’re a romance reader (and this book is in the romance genre), you know who she is.

Again, I’m not a huge fan of the review blurb. I don’t want anyone telling me what to do and that includes what book I should read. But that’s a personal choice. The above example works, however, and for the most part that’s down to the person writing the blurb. It’s a different story when the review blurb comes from an unknown source. It’s great that you managed to find a blogger who was willing to read your book and write a review before release. But if the blogger is unknown within the reading community, putting the review blurb on the cover just looks desperate to me.

Wrap-Up

What should you take away from this blog article – besides the fact that I have a strange aversion to extraneous information on book covers? It’s simple, really. First: if you aren’t a bestseller, don’t exaggerate the truth and say you are. Second: if your review blurb is from an unknown source, don’t use it on the cover. I’ll talk about the ways in which review blurbs can be used to market your books in a later blog.

Feel free to comment and tell me I have no clue what I’m talking about or that I’m just plain crazy.

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Biking in Holland continued … biking when injured #Expatliving #ThisIsHolland #MondayBlogs

At the risk of stating the obvious, the Netherlands is a biking country. There are, in fact, more bikes in certain cities than residents. Bikes are everywhere – including in canals.

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The Dutch bike wherever, whenever. They bike with crates of beer. They bike with children perched on their bike racks. They bike with bags of groceries balanced precariously on their handlebars. They bike in the rain. They bike in the wind (it can be seriously windy here). They bike when drunk. They bike when injured.

That last one nearly caused my demise – or at the very least a (more) serious injury. It’s like this. I’m always trying to prove that I’m not only a European but a Dutchie. So, after I injured my ankle and was reduced to one crutch after two weeks of being housebound, I decided I could ride my bike to my pedicure appointment. Considering my inability to wear closed shoes due to a swollen ankle and foot, I really, really needed to get to that pedicure appointment!

My hubby – being a native Dutchie – gave me some advice on how to secure my crutch (I should have probably listened to his advice) and off I went. It didn’t take me long to realize that I’m a complete idiot. Still, I nearly made it to the salon before I ran into some scaffolding, get stuck, and caused a little girl to fall and start crying. At least my toenails looked awesome as I slunk home in embarrassment.

Fast forward two weeks and I’m off the crutch. Yes! Naturally, this means I can totally bike. Off I went again. Everything was going fine until I hit a stoplight. Stopping went okay. Slight jarring pain but I wasn’t gritting my teeth in pain so all’s well. Until I tried to start biking again. My injured leg was too weak for me to get my bike going. I hopped and rolled until I managed to get enough momentum to get going.

I can learn from my mistakes. So, at the next stop light, I decided to put my bad foot down so that I could start biking with my uninjured leg. Of course, I forgot that meant I needed to put all my weight on my injured side. I only leaned into another biker. Really, I didn’t cause her to fall over or anything.

I managed to make it to my appointment without hitting any more red lights. That went well so I decided I just wasn’t going to stop for red lights on my bike home. Unfortunately, lights turn red for a reason – like a tram coming across the road. I thought I could balance my bike without moving and without putting a foot down. I couldn’t. Luckily, there was no one on the sidewalk as I wobbled onto it.

The rest of the ride home I just ran through the lights yelling at whoever that I was only trying to integrate. I found myself hilarious. That may have had something to do with the three glasses of wine I drank. For some reason, the hubby was extremely relieved when I messaged to tell him I’d made it home safe and sound.

 

An injured ankle & a physical therapist equals an a-ha moment #MondayBlogs #LifeLessons

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It’s always fun to have an a-ha! moment at a totally inappropriate moment (sarcasm intended). Like last week. I was trying to not kick my physical therapist in the gonads as he ‘massaged’ my injured ankle. While I was successfully ignoring the man, he decided to start a lecture on pain levels and pain management. How apropos! At this point, I lost the battle to not roll my eyes. Luckily, he was paying attention to my injury and not my lack of respect.

So, what was his lecture about? Apparently, pain is universal. No matter your ethnicity or culture, we all experience pain on pretty much the same level. This is the pain scale from 1 to 10 with 10 being extreme pain. The difference is in how we react to such pain. You have a high pain tolerance when you just suck it up until you hit a level 7 or 8. Your pain tolerance is said to be low if you start whining at a 2.

21 aug 2My therapist then went on to explain how much movement I was allowed to make with my injured ankle based on my pain level. Basically, he explained as follows: Pain at a 7 or below won’t permanently damage your body or harm your injury. Pain above a 7 is your body telling you to stop or it’s going to injure itself.

At this point, I had to screw my mouth shut to stop myself from shouting a-ha! Not because I finally understood how much pain is okay when I injure myself (although that is useful information and I did spend last week responding to my every question about my ankle with an assessment of my pain level).

Instead I was thinking about all the obstacles we confront in our lives. From small stuff – a computer crash causing a loss of a day’s work – to the big stuff – the death of a loved one. What if I looked at life’s obstacles on this pain scale? For example, small obstacles are merely twinges of low level pain, which should be dealt with quickly and then simply forgotten as they don’t do any permanent damage to my life.

Take that computer crash example. It’s definitely irritating, but on the obstacles of life scale it’s probably only a 2. Once I get my computer up and running again, I can re-do the work. Sometimes, I’ll even find a temporary file containing the latest changes! The only thing I’ve actually lost is time. Instead of being pissed off, getting completely off track and losing tons of time being irritated, I should just deal with it and move on as if it were a level 2 pain.

I’m not sure successful I will be on my new obstacles of life scale plan but having a plan is the first step to success, right?

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Formatting tips and tricks for the newbie #WritingWednesday #AmWriting

If you’ve already written and published a few books, move on. No need for you to be here. When I say newbie, I mean exactly that – someone brand-spanking new to publishing. Over on my Readsalot blog, I promote self-published authors like myself. I actively encourage self-published authors to contact me for reviews and spotlights. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed quite a few formatting issues occurring on a regular basis.

So, let’s dive right in, shall we?

Double space is D-E-A-D. I know you learned this back in school. I did, too! But using two spaces after each sentence is no longer the standard. And it’s really disruptive to readers. Who needs all that space, anyway?

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Copyright Phreelance Writers 

 

Line spacing is dying a slow death. Line spacing is the space between lines within a paragraph. In hardcovers and paperbacks, you won’t see them. In fact, sometimes I think editors try to put lines too close together in paperbacks! If you’re a self-published author, most of your books will be purchased as eBooks. Line spacing is annoying when reading on an ereader. There’s just too much space! Readers can change the size of font on their ereader so there’s no need to ‘help’ them out with line spacing.

Maintain the same font throughout your novel. It goes without saying that you should try to use the same font throughout a novel. Using different fonts for emphasis (or even different sizes) makes the work look amateurish, and that’s exactly what we’re trying to avoid.

Always, always, check the actual file. Amazon makes this easy. You can download a mobi version of your eBook from the KDP website. Make sure you do! Strange things can happen to your formatting when it gets converted to an eBook. This is especially true if you try to add cute pictures or symbols in between chapters. They almost always end up looking like squiggly lines.

formatting 1Follow the style guides – religiously. Both Amazon and Smashwords have extensive style guides to help the self-published author. Don’t skim through those. No! Read and follow them to the letter. Please, I’m begging you.

Remember, what you find ‘easy’ to read in an eBook or word document may not be the same as readers. So, even if it you have to force yourself to stop making that extra space between sentences (for example), suck it up and do it anyway.

 

I get it now! Why living in Holland doesn’t affect my writing #MondayBlogs #AmWriting

As I’m an American living in Europe, I’m constantly asked how living in Holland affects my writing. To be perfectly honest, I’m always making up some bullshit answer to this question because I have no answer. Why would living in Holland affect my writing? I still sit at a computer every day and agonize over typing out enough words to meet my daily minimum. What difference does where I’m living make?

aha momentBut today I had an Aha! moment. I’m currently working on an historical romance set in Istanbul. I lived in Istanbul for two years, and I’m incorporating small cultural oddities in the novel to set the stage of the location. For example, the sound of the call to prayer, the lack of personnel on Friday after midday during the most important prayer time of the week. Today, I wrote a scene at a fish restaurant where my heroine is introduced to rakı. And as I described this ritual, I realized this is what everyone is talking about! This is why people wonder about how living in Holland affects my writing. They want to know about the cultural varieties, the strange rituals, the various rites of passage. Aha! I thought (and may have shouted at my computer before quickly opening another word document to type out this blog post).

not a touristSo, here it is folks, the reason why I find the question about Holland affecting my writing difficult. Holland is home. That’s right. Home. I don’t see any daily rituals or cultural varieties as interesting, intriguing or foreign, because they aren’t to me. To me this is just how people are. We kiss three times when we meet friends. I find it weird when people want to hug me and have to psychologically prepare for it because to me hugging is weird now!

But now that I’ve come to this realization, I may be able to use my knowledge of Europe and its ‘oddities’ as an interesting background for one of my novels. I just need to look at things like an American. Not like me. (Yes, I realize how weird this sounds.) Can you hear the wheels turning? To be continued …

Looks can be deceiving ~ Tales of Uber drivers #ExpatLife #Iseecolor

 

uberI’ve recently been forced to discover the wonders of Uber. I was hesitant to use Uber as I’ve heard the horror stories from the US where the average Joe can drive a car and call it an Uber. As a lawyer, I had issues with the legality of using Uber as a means to avoid taxi regulations. Turns out that’s not an issue in the Netherlands. If you want to be an Uber driver here, you need to have a taxi license. That gave me the confidence to sign up for an Uber account. And thank goodness I did as I took a spectacular fall while running last weekend and ended up injuring my ankle. With the hubby flying in Turkey (or where ever he happened to be that day), I needed a taxi to take me to the hospital.

Now that I’m stumbling around on crutches, I’ve had to use Uber for a variety of trips in the past week. In addition to becoming a huge Uber fan, I’ve also unintentionally conducted a bit of a social experiment – on myself. It turns out Uber provides the name and a picture of the driver when you order the car. Each of my drivers have had foreign names. That doesn’t bother me. After all, I too have a foreign name, although I consider myself integrated into Dutch society. But it did give me a chance to observe a variety of ethnicities (and my response to them) while getting rides around The Hague.

What have I learned after having several not ethnic Dutch drivers? Once again, I’ve learned that no matter how much we try not to be prejudiced, we all carry with us preconceived ideas. For example, the driver who picked me up yesterday morning had the typical look of a devout Muslim complete with scraggly beard. I wasn’t excited with the idea of this man driving me. How wrong I was!

socialAlthough the man spoke with a bit of an accent, his Dutch was fluent. He was also helpful in getting me and my crutches in the car. Something I didn’t expect as I assumed he was a devout Muslim (because of his beard) and devout Muslims avoid touching women even in a non-sexual manner. Once we were situated in the taxi, we had an interesting discussion about integration and how learning the local language is paramount to such integration. It was a fascinating conversation with a virtual stranger who I had initially pegged as a person I wasn’t going to like just because of his name and his beard! *hangs head in shame*

The return journey yesterday was with another not ethnic Dutch man – a man of Turkish descent to be exact. He asked about my injury and I proceeded to fan girl over the awesome medical care in Holland. He agreed with me and went even further and said the Netherlands was well-organized and he wouldn’t want to live anywhere else! Now, this may not sound shocking to those not living in the Netherlands, but there has been a lot of tension between the ethnic Dutch and those of Turkish descent. Many Dutch believe that those of Turkish descent have not integrated and are more Turkish than the Turks in Turkey! It was uplifting to find that this belief is not always true. *hands head even further in more shame*

So, what am I trying to say with my taxi tales? It’s simple. You may judge a book by its cover (I’m talking literally about a book here), but don’t judge a person by their appearance because appearances are deceiving. You’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times, but sometimes we need to remind ourselves. So here goes: I promise to try not to have any preconceived ideas about my Uber drivers with their foreign names and non-European looks. What about you?

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Aspects to consider when pricing your eBook that no one talks about #WriterWednesday #AuthorMarketing #MarketingTips

When I first started publishing my writing, I wasn’t concerned with how I was going to price my work. I was just excited if someone actually read it! In fact, my first published novel, Unforeseen Consequences, is now permafree because of that philosophy. (Truth be told, that book probably should be free. Not trying to beg compliments here. Just being brutally honest.)

Anyway, when I realized that being an author was about more than writing books, I dove into researching all aspects of the writing profession from author platforms to marketing books to – wait for it – pricing your novels. If you do your research about pricing your novel, you’ll come across a whole bunch of headache-inducing graphs indicating which book prices sell the best. That’s one (of many) ways to price your work. I’m here to offer you another way or at least a bit of guidance.

Newsletter marketing. The vast majority of my sales are the result of newsletter marketing. Not my own newsletter – not by a long shot. No, I’m referring to professional newsletters such as choosy bookworm, the fussy librarian, book bub (although they like to snub me), etc. One requirement for nearly every newsletter worth its cost is sales point. Your book needs to be at least 50% off or free to feature. Personally, I don’t like giving my work away for free. It kind of offends me that people are willing to spend $ 4.50 for a Starbucks coffee but rail against spending more than 99 cents for a book. But a good bargain? Now that’s something I believe in. I now price all of my books higher than $1.99 to ensure I can use the majority of the commercial newsletter services without giving it away for free.

Amazon ads. Being totally honest, Amazon is the reason I started writing this blog. I went to KDP to start a new advertising campaign (I’ve been experimenting with several) and discovered I couldn’t make a campaign for Never Trust a Skinny Cupcake Baker because of its original price point. To be honest, I’m not sure if Amazon ads are worth it yet, but I’d like to at least have the option. (Stay tuned for more on Amazon ads. I’m currently running an expensive ad and watching the result with bated breath.)

Better bargains = more sales. One thing that is painfully obvious to most marketing gurus is that the larger the discount, the higher the sales. In my experience, this is true of eBook sales as well. My books that are priced above $2.50 make more sales when discounted to 99 cents than my books priced at $1.99.

Well, that’s my 2 cents worth of advice today. Go forth and sell some books!

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