Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “Page From A Tennessee Journal”

Reviewing Reviews

I have a friend who is successfully establishing herself as a novelist and doing it by selling books on Amazon.com. Francine Thomas Howard is an Amazon Encore author. This means that her first book, Page from a Tennessee Journal, advanced deep into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest and was selected by Amazon to publish. They were sufficiently impressed to take on her second novel, Paris Noir.

imgresFrancine is a wonderfully modest woman who attends the California Writers Club’s Marketing & Success Group to help struggling authors with her experience. She does this in a way that is neither condescending nor arrogant. She cares about other people. I don’t know how many successful authors there are around like her, but I don’t see many attending author events unless they are the main act.

Francine protests that she is not responsible for her success beyond the writing of her novels and gives all the credit to the folks at Amazon Encore. However much time and energy she invests in marketing her own books, Francine has done a great job at garnering reviews – 83 for Page from a Tennessee Journal and almost 50 for Paris Noir.

I am convinced that reviews are crucial in a world where people purchase novels on the Internet, whether e-book or tree book, without the help of a friendly bookseller or extravagant display at the front of a store. Surveying several friends I have come to the conclusion that book reviews are critical to sales on Amazon and other book purchasing websites.

In particular, when it comes to new authors or authors that the reader has not read before, the reviews offered are scrutinized. Interestingly enough, people seemed more apprehensive about investing their precious reading time in a bad novel over the fear of having wasted money.

I believe that reviews are now the second most important marketing tool. The first is a good old-fashioned recommendation from a friend. Word-of-mouth, even in the digital age, remains a powerful influence. I find this strangely comforting.

The issue I want to raise, however, is how ‘kosher’ are these reviews? I recently heard of a man making more than $20,000 a month generating reviews for authors. He was exposed for not having read the books, and accused of offering a five-star review for cash.

I am struggling to get reviews for Unwanted Heroes. I implore anyone who tells me they bought it to post on Amazon but most people, unsurprisingly, don’t generally write reviews. They are too busy devouring the next novel on their towering ‘To Read’ pile.

Heroes Low Res Finished Cover 11.18I do not want to pressure friends because they will feel they must leave a 5 star review, otherwise I won’t car pool their son to basketball practice. I want readers to leave an honest review and generate a solid collection on my Amazon page, but I am not sure how to go about it.

Do you have any ideas how I can solicit honest reviews? Oh, and if you have read Unwanted Heroes (or any of my other books), please take five minutes and leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or wherever you hang out.

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Alon Shalev writes social justice-themed novels and YA epic fantasy. He swears there is a connection. His latest books include: Unwanted Heroes and At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter.com.

The Debate Continues

Last month I posted about an author making a living  from selling his fiction through e-books. A friend of mine sent me an update about J. A. Konrath from Henry Baum’s excellent blog about self-publishing.

“Amazon Encore is going to release Konrath’s next novel digitally and in print. AmazonEncore is “a new program whereby Amazon will use information such as customer reviews on Amazon.com to identify exceptional, overlooked books and authors with more potential than their sales may indicate.”

While there is much discussion around the self-publishing route, I think the reality is in the effectiveness of marketing and promotion. For the traditionally published author, there is still a lot of work to do to sell your book and see royalties, even more so perhaps than a self-publisher as you see far less money per book sold. Since publishers only really market their A-list authors, any struggling author regardless of how published needs to have a marketing strategy.

Promoting your platform and books can, for the self-published author be more than just royalties. It can also be about creating enough noise to be picked up by a bigger publisher. This is what happened with Konrath and, the fact that it is Amazon picking up the author adds a whole new dimension.

Some shameless promotion – a friend of mine from the California Writer’s Club is Francine Thomas Howard. She is also a recipient of the Amazon Encore with her novel Page From a Tennessee Journal. It is a historical novel dealing with racial tension in the south. Hearing Francine read makes it very memorable.  And I’ve just heard that Amazon Encore have signed Francine’s next novel, Paris Noire.

The only thing for certain in this business, is that nothing is certain, and nothing is going to stay the same.
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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

 

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