Thursday, September 4, 2014

How do I handle negative reviews?

In a previous blog, I posted tips on how to deal with negative reviews but it seems to come up so I am posting a blog specifically about reviews.

I hate this book and wish I had never spent the $.99 I did. I can't believe how bad this book was. I would not even use this book to line my cat box. This book would be best used for kindling. Poorly written. Bad character development and no plot.

Now, tell me that you don't fear seeing a post that really tears into your book. If you are an author, your reviews are critical to you. We all want to see glowing reviews, but no matter who you are, it won't always be five stars. You must be content with the overall review average. The more reviews you get, by the laws of statistics, the more chance that someone will leave you a negative review. There are a few things I suggest. Check with the reviewers history and see if they are fair or if they are just a Simon Cowell wannabe. Yes, he helped pave the way for many reviews to think it is something special to tear apart someones work. Some reviewers can be harsh and even down right mean. Try to see if what they are saying has any validity. I had someone, who wrote like they did not pass third grade, give me a bad review while everyone that appeared to have a high school degree wrote amazing things about my book. That helped me just shake my head and move on.

I hate to say this but when asked by other indi authors to review their work, I cringe. It would blow your mind to see how many authors don't understand that a plot needs to emerge prior to almost half way through the book. Just the other day I had to explain to an author that I need a reason to want to read his book. His character was predictable and very cliche. It was boring and a third the way through the book I would not have cared if the main character died. My point: Some books deserve the reviews they get. I really hope yours is not one of them.

Now, what can you do if you get a bad review? You can respond. Almost all sites allow for comment on a review. The reviewer will get a notice that their review has received a comment. Okay, DO NOT respond in anger. It would surprise you how many people respond harshly. This will only show people that you are bitter. When you respond, be polite and be appreciative, even if you want to lay the most vile curse on them and their entire family line. Here is what I said to someone who was not pleased that my writing style was not like Stephen King.

Thank you very much for buying my book and taking the time to read it in such detail that you were able to give such a complete and in depth review of my work. As for other reviewers and their opinions, their input needs to be respected as does yours. Not everyone is going to like all books. For example, you cite Stephen King as a great read while I wish I could get back the time I spent reading The Eyes of the Dragon. You also rate Ender's Game as a 2 star while it has exploded so much so that it was even made into a movie. This shows it comes down to personal taste, which is the way it should be. With that said, your input gives me some things to consider. I do appreciate it and welcome all constructive input.

Since you took the time to post this review, I would gladly be willing to send you a signed copy of book one, two and three to see if it addresses any of the issues further in the story line that you find fault with in book one. Feel free to go to my website www.allenjjohnston.com and send me an email. I would enjoy receiving your feedback on the entire story line.

In conclusion, I would say that all readers should take a look at my sample chapters and decide for themselves if they like my writing style. Thank you all who take the time to leave honest and constructive reviews.

This got me very positive feedback and some reviewers even stepped up to admonish him for his criticism. I even got emails from people who saw his review telling me how much they love my work and to not let this review bother me. No matter what you do, do not advocate another reviewer tearing into another reviewer. Thank them each for their input. Also, see how I ended my comment? I encouraged all readers to judge for themselves. Feel free to copy my comment and use it yourself. I used this negative review as an opportunity to get people to consider my book themselves. I turned this negative situation into as much a positive situation as possible.

If you use my response, tailor it to your own needs, but do your best to keep any negativity out of it. If you want to be taken serious as a writer, you do not want a reputation for being argumentative or jaded. If readers see that you took the high road, they will respect that. There will be NOTHING gained from being offended and responding in anger. Now, if you read my first paragraph, you will see that I found a way to weaken his review against my book. It is a valid point, but it does allow me the ability to speak up for myself. Be gentle and make certain it is constructive and respectful.

I hope this has helped calm your nerves and relieved some of that sick feeling many will feel due to a bad review.

Please comment below with your input so we all can improve our careers as writers. Thanks for reading and may your writing career flourish.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Book Cover for The Divine Forest

Okay, this is for my cherished followers who enjoy my posts and series.  I have a dilemma and I want your input.  Normally, I have close to two hundred covers to choose from and one just jumps out at me.  This time...I am struggling between two that appeal to me very much.  So, I want to ask your input.  Normally I post things in my blog so as to help others.  This time, you get to help me.  Look at the covers and leave your feedback on which one appeals more.  Feel free to discus it.  Why does it appeal?  Thanks and I can't wait to hear what you all have to say.  Cheers.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Free Download of The Divine Apprentice

My first book has been doing amazing and I have my readers to thank for that!!!  With 4.5 stars on Amazon, it is a hit.  I am giving away my first book FREE as a download from Amazon.  Just click on this link and download the book on August 16,17.  If you have already read my first book, let your friends know.  They will thank you for the heads up.  If you like the book and really want to make my day, like my Face Book page and leave me a review on Amazon and Goodreads.  Fallow me on Twitter to get updates on the progress of the fourth book in my series.  A BIG THANK YOU to my amazing readers!!!  Feel free to send me a message on Facebook or an email.  Cheers!

Twitter:  @AuthorallenJ

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/AllenJJohnston

Amazon link for free download on Aug 16,17

http://www.amazon.com/Divine-Apprentice-Book-ebook/dp/B00I8074YE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1408064660&sr=8-1&keywords=the+divine+apprentice


Thursday, August 7, 2014

HOW TO HAVE A SUCCESSFUL BOOK SIGNING

First, let me answer the question of what is considered a successful book signing.  As soon as you sign one book and put it in someones hands, you have had a successful book signing.  Yes, we all want them lined  up down the block and around the corner, but unfortunately that is rarely the case for 99% of book signings.  You can expect to show up and set up your books with no one even realizing who you are or what you are doing....unless you take a few steps to help make your signing something special.  I can say I have been lucky enough to have people waiting for me, but for the most part, I don't start seeing interest until I am there and ready to go.  So, what will help?  Well, let me give you some tips that I use.  I have a 30X40 poster made up with pictures of my book and some tidbits to entice readers to want to read my story.  If you work with your book store and find that they are willing to post a notice of your book signing a few weeks out, they will probably let you put additional advertising up to help boost the signing.  The next tip is posting on social media.  This can be expensive, but it can be done successfully.  I use Facebook the day before my signing and the day of the signing.  I make certain to target the city I am in or you will just be wasting your money.  When you write your post, write it as if you are someone reporting about this amazing author coming to town.  If you post it as yourself, people will tune it out.  It's human nature for us to ignore self-promoters.  We tend to get more excited when it looks like it is being reported.

Okay, so lets jump to the signing.  You are all set up and ready for people to line up, but there is no one.  This is almost every authors experience unless you have lots of money to throw at advertising.  It's okay.  So what should the 99% of us do?  For me, I have tried many techniques to see what works best.  If you expect to set up your table and sit back all relaxed, waiting, you may be waiting for a long time.  It may work, but what I have really found to be successful is getting out from behind the table and talking to people.  It will blow your mind when you introduce yourself as an author and see people look at you as if seeing you for the first time.  Most people will become interested and will be eager to talk with you and even pick up your book.  DON'T BE PUSHY!!!  You are introducing yourself as an author, and you are just saying hi.  Most of us feel uncomfortable approaching a stranger and trying to find what to say.  Here is how it goes for me.

Awesome Author:  How are you doing today?
Soon-to-be reader:  Blank look or maybe "Good."  Either is okay.  You just want their attention.  If they won't look at you, leave them alone.
Awesome  Author:  I am doing a book signing today and just wanted to say hello.
Soon-to-be reader: "Oh.  Hello."  Most likely, they will be polite and pay attention while you are talking to them.  I have found that 90% will happily engage me in conversation.
Awesome Author:  So what genre do you like to read?
Soon-to-be reader:  "I prefer FANTASY."
(Well, I did walk over to the area of the store that has my genre.)
Awesome Author:  "Oh, I love that too.  In fact, it is what I write.  Feel free to take a look at my book.  I am over there signing books."  I would say 25% will follow me back and half of those will gladly take a signed copy home.

You DO NOT want to be pushy.  People see authors as mini celebrities.  You don't want to be reduced to a pushy salesman.  Say hello to people as they come in the store.  Smile, be polite and relax.  Pretend you are talking to a friend.  I know people get nervous, but once you get in a groove, it's fun.  Try it.

One last tip:  Be strategic about when you do a book signing.  If there is one day of the year where you want to do a book signing, it is the Saturday before Christmas.  The stores are LOADED with last minute shoppers looking for the perfect gift.  What is more unique and special than a personalized book straight from the author?  Otherwise, ask the manager or PR person their opinion.

Please leave a comment and give your opinion so we can all help each other be successful.  Thanks for reading and I would love to hear how your book signing goes.  Cheers.

Allen J Johnston
The Divine Apprentice
The Divine Path
The Divine Unleashed
Next Release Oct 27, 2014

Monday, June 23, 2014

Does social media help book marketing?

This is a tough one.  Social media can help, but it depends.  If you just start throwing your money at Facebook and hope it will get you what you want, you money will flee from you faster than a gazelle from a lion.  I happen to be in a decent position where I can and have tried social media to a great extent, spending lots of money to make sure of my results.  For the most part, it is not worth the money.  The amount of book sales you need to recover your cost for adds on Facebook is tough.  If you have just one book, you definitely are going to have a difficult time recovering your money.  If you have a series, like myself, you can promote the first and see much of it returned as the readers pick up your next books.  Now, where Facebook has made a difference is in my book signings.  Surprised?  This is a very powerful tool for your book signing.  We all dream of showing up to our book signing and seeing people lined up waiting for us.  However, to be honest, it is very rare.  I would even say its around 1%.  Unless you already make millions and have a publicist that gets you all over radio and TV, chances are you will walk up to a table with some of your books already there but no line.  IT'S OKAY.  You are there to meet people and have fun.  Make that your focus.  I will make another post about book signings next week that will help your book signing.

Okay, I am off track a little so lets focus.  Facebook.  What you do is make a post on your author page.  Let me stop for a second and ask a question that should have a positive answer.  You do have an author page on Facebook, right?  Yes?  Okay, good, you are taking being an author serious.  So, you make a post on Facebook about your book signing.  On the bottom, you will see where you can boost the post.  Do this BUT specify where you want this to show up.  If you don't, someone in Australia is going to wonder why they are seeing your post when you are in Detroit.  I suggest specifying a state or maybe even a city.  For roughly $30, you can expect to get 6000 views.  If you are in a small state, someone may enjoy traveling a short distance, but I would consider sticking to a city, if your city is large.  Most book signings are in cities that have a decent population.  If you have a book that is doing well on Amazon and other places, you can expect people to come in and say, "I saw you were having a book signing and wanted to come meet you."  What a great feeling.  It even makes you feel like a celebrity.  So, yes, using social media can be a benefit, as long as you use it wisely.

I hope this has been a help.  Please comment below if you have anything that can aid your fellow authors in making their dreams flourish.

Allen J Johnston
The Divine Apprentice
The Divine Path
The Divine Unleashed
Title To Be Announced and released Oct 27, 2014

Friday, May 16, 2014

How to market your book

Okay, so it is taking me longer and longer to get these darn blogs kept up to date.  I have a good reason; I am working on my forth book in the Divine Series almost every spare minute I have.  I have promised my readers to publish it Oct 27, 2014 and I mean to keep my promise.  Okay, now to focus on this post.

Marketing is easily as important as writing the book if not more so.  Most people search blogs, Google, Bing and everything else under the sun to figure out how to market their book.  You can have the most amazing manuscript, but if you can't get it in peoples hands, its not going to sell.  I cannot tell you how many times I have searched 'How to Market My Book'.  I get sites that give a small tidbit here and there but nothing like what I am going to list.  Well, after six months of intense research and trying different things, I am going to outline what I think are going to be your best options right off the bat.  There will always be more things you can do, but to really turbo charge things quickly, follow my suggestions.  In my opinion, you are going to spend some money or you are going to struggle to get attention.  I have spent $1,200 on advertising, book giveaways, press releases...etc.  I have taken in ten times that much and more.  I won't say exactly how much, but know that it was DEFINITELY worth it.  So, now onto some of what you need to do.

         *Create a business card.  I used VistaPrint.  I love them.  They always have discounts.  Always, always, ALWAYS keep cards on you.  Get an impressive looking case that gives a good impression when you take it out, and keep it on you at all times.  I did my card case shopping on ebay. This link will take you directly to card cases.  I had so much fun with this, I bought eight.  My favorite is a shiny chrome case with "Author Allen J Johnston" engraved on it. When you tell people you are an author, their eyes light up.  When you pull out that fancy looking card case, they will notice.  Then you can tell them that they can take a look at your books as you hand them a card.  Trust me, you WILL feel like a celebrity.  This part alone makes writing books fun!  Use both sides of the card.  Put a picture of your books on the back and your author information on the front.  Have your website and email info on the card.  Do what you can to make your card stand out but don't make it too busy.  I would suggest not pinching pennys here.  Do the card right.  You want people to be impressed when they feel the card along with see it.  By the way, you do have a website or blog, right?

        *Create a web site or blog (Didn't see that coming, did ya?).  A blog (Like the one you are reading) is a great way to get your name out there.  If you are reading this, then it means it is doing its job.  As a self published author (I am assuming here) you can use all the help you can get.  Even if you are published by a big house, you should follow these tips.  It makes a difference.  The more web presence you have, the more your chances are of being taken serious and the more books you will sell.

        *List your book with GoodReads and BookDaily.  These two sites alone have driven so many people to my books, it's amazing.  Let's talk about GoodReads first.  On this site, people can rate your book.  You can also do book giveaways.  I cannot begin to express what a fantastic idea this is. If you have a series, giving away the first book through this site is an absolute MUST!  I believe Amazon owns GoodReads.  Just a little factoid.  Back to my tips.  If you sign up for a book giveaway, your book will receive extra advertising on the site.  I would suggest giving away ten books over a month period.  Put a personal note in the book asking them to write you a review.  When people see a personal, handwritten note from the author, their eyes light up. They may be buying it for a retaliative so be cautious when personalizing it.  I would suggest just signing it and say something short.  I write "Enjoy the book and let me know what your favorite scene is."  Readers find me on facebook and email all the time telling me what they liked.  It makes my ego inflate way too much, but it is fun. You will thank me for this.  Also, the people who run this site are amazing.  If you have any questions, they will respond very quickly.

       *BookDaily:  This site is an advertising site.  If you pay to promote your book, they will feature your book once a month on their site and another popular site.  At this time, it costs me $49 per month.  I believe it is well worth it.  My book sales spike dramatically on the day my book is featured.  I EASILY make my money back and then enough to cover the rest of the year!  Another out there is bookbub.  I must say, I am not that impressed with them.  I would put my time and resources into other avenues.

       *I would also suggest doing a Press Release.  The site I used  is PieceOfCakePR.  I was incredibly impressed with this service.  I wanted to see if they were as good as they claim to be so I sent them a press release I had created myself.  They took what I did and improved it so dramatically that I almost ran out and bought ten of my own books.  These people know how to write a press release.  They also send out that very press release to thousands of sites.  Two weeks later, they send it out again...if you get the higher package.  I think it was $159.  Now, I can't attest to any actual sales based on this, but it is an avenue for advertising.  You need to decide for yourself.  If asked would I do it again, I would say yes.

       *Out of all the companies I used to distribute my books, Amazon won hands down.  I did sell on Apple, Kobo and Barnes and Noble, but Amazon really knows what they are doing.  They are clever and devious at the same time.  They want your book listed with them and them ONLY.  To encourage you to list with just them, they offer higher royalties and a few extra promotional tools.  I have to say, if these other sites want authors to list with them, they better understand capitalism real quick or they are going to dwindle and Amazon is going to continue to grow.  As much as I want my book in all those places, they do not hold a candle to Amazon.  In the end, you must go where the sales are.  Amazon knows how to make those sales happen.  I sell 500 books on Amazon for every 10 I sell somewhere else.  The math here is easy.  Now, I am not saying that you have to chose either Amazon or these other sites.  You can be on all of them, but if you want to use Kindles promotional tools, you must be on just Amazon/Kindle.  Do your research and decide if you want to try their tools. I have decided to try their tools, so for me, it is just Amazon for a short time.  I will know in a little over two weeks if it was worth it.  Send me an email if you would like to know my results.

       *There are a lot of book distributors, but I like Lightningsource/Ingramsparks.  EVERY bookstore knows these people.  This company will take returns so all the bookstores are able to buy from them.  I love the service, but they do have ways of nickle and diming you to death.  Before you submit your book to this company, I would suggest waiting a month.  You do not want to have to make changes to your content or it could cost you extra.  Amazon does not charge for content changes.  It is almost inevitable that you will want to change something.  When you are certain you have the cover and content the way you want it, then submit it to Ingramsparks.  I believe it is $49.  That does seem to be a popular amount, doesn't it?  IMPORTANT:  When you contact bookstores to ask them to carry your book, it will show as POD (Print on Demand).  You MUST tell them that the books are returnable.  For some reason, when bookstores see POD, they assume they cannot return them and won't order them.  Enough about this.

       *If you want to promote your books like the book publishing houses, the secret is thinking like them.  I cannot begin to suggest strongly enough that you contact the major bookstores in your state and ask to talk to their PR person or the store manager.  Tell them you want to send them a book at no cost for their staff to review.  They will put it on their break room table for their employees to read.  If they like it, they will even order it for their store.  It works.  Trust me.  Every Barnes and Noble I have sent my book to has wanted my book in the store and has asked me to do a book signing.  As a matter of fact, I have one tomorrow in Saginaw, Michigan.  At this time, I am selective which stores I put my books in.  Dealing with bookstores can be tricky.  If they decide that they only sold 10 books in three months instead of the 5000 they wanted, they could return your books.  Think about all 600 Barnes and Nobles doing this.  Makes ya think a little, doesn't it.  I would suggest sticking with your home state.  Stores love to work with authors from their home state.  As long as you are on line with Ingramsparks, any store can order your book when a customer comes in and asks for it.

Okay, for now, I have definitely given you enough to think about.  If you have ideas that you believe would be useful for marketing, please respond below.  Although I have definitely hit on some of the most successful, I have by no means covered everything.  These suggestions in this blog for book marketing are the most powerful and successful for someone who wants to jump start their book writing/selling career.

Allen J Johnston
The Divine Apprentice
The Divine Path
The Divine Unleashed

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Self publishing tips for the beginner

Sorry for the delay in getting this out.  I have been very busy working on my fourth book.

WARNING.  READ THIS ENTIRE BLOG BEFORE YOU SUBMIT YOUR BOOK FOR PUBLICATION ON AMAZON!

Okay, back to getting you published.  So, we are assuming you are going the self publishing route.  In my opinion, your absolutely best course of action now is using Createspace from Amazon.  They are incredible.  They make it easy with a step-by-step process, walking you through what you need to do.  There is no out-of-pocket money spent like other vanity presses.  And, they have the least expensive cost when you need to order copies for yourself.  They will even put together a virtual book for you to closely examine before you publish.  After setting up your book, they easily segue you into the Kindle section where you can transfer files over without having to start all over.  For eReaders, you must be on Kindle.  The other outlets are good to be listed with, but you will get over 90% of your sales from Kindle.  Now, the good thing about Createspace is that you can always go back and correct any issues that you find in the book.  You WILL find mistakes unless you write a one word book.

Okay, so you are getting set up on Amazon with Createspace.  Let me make one suggestion, if it is not too late.  Create an account with a name you would be proud for people to see.  While you might love Slayerofthenight@gmail.com as a cool name for gaming, when you respond to reviews and it shows "Slayerofthenight says".... it will raise eyebrows.  Create something that has your name or something that will not make people think you are the next serial killer.  Why might you want a name that you use to reply?  Because you may want to comment on a review.  If your book is not as polished as it should be, you will irritate readers and they will make it known that they are irritated with the reviews they leave, thus, ending your writing career quickly.

People can be heartless when leaving reviews.  They forget (or don't care) that authors are people too.  Your chances of getting negative reviews is very high.  It is part of it.  You can't please everyone.  It's tough to deal with a negative review.  It can ruin your day.  Just focus on what the majority of your reviews are saying.  If you are over four stars, you are fine.  I got my first two star review after getting fourteen five star reviews.  It happens.  He was looking for Stephen King.  While Mr. King may be a great writer, I don't personally care his style of writing so I don't write like him.  It only matters if you start to pile up a lot of them.  As much as this hurts, it might be what tells you that your family members were not being honest when they said your story was better than Lord of the Rings.

Okay, if you get a negative review, for god's sake do not race to respond.  You are going to want to defend your work.  STOP!  You must take some time to think this through.  Trying to convince someone that they are wrong is a tough thing to do.  Your best option is taking the high road and being diplomatic.  I have read what some writers say in their responses, and it ends up inflaming the situation.  Personally, I say let it go and move on.  But, since so many will be itching to have their say, I suggest researching negative reviews on line and see what suggestions are out there.  A great idea would be to go to my book on Amazon, The Divine Apprentice, and see how I responded.  Keep it polite, profession and do not insult the reviewer.  I thanked my review for taking the time to read my book and for leaving a thoughtful review.

Now, you may be wondering why you had to read this whole post before publishing.  Because how you distribute your books decides whether book stores can order your book for customers who come in and ask for it, or even to put on their shelves.  If you set up distribution correctly, book stores can order.  As you are choosing what channels you want to use, consider not selecting the "Expanded distribution".  Here is why.  For bookstores like Barnes and Noble, or any other large book seller, to purchase your book for their store the books have to be returnable and bookstores can't return to Createspace.  What I suggest is doing what I did; set up an account with Ingram Sparks (Lightning Source) and let them take care of your expanded distribution.  If you select "Expanded Distribution" through Createspace, you will not be able to use Lightning Source/Ingram Sparks.

If you talk with a bookstore and ask them to carry your books, they will find that your book is, indeed, listed with Lightning Source (Even if you list with Ingram Sparks, as you will) but it is POD (Print on Demand).  You need to make sure they understand that even though it is POD, it is returnable, and then they will purchase.

Normally, I add my saga to the end of this, but I am going to save that for next time as it covers marketing and there is a fair amount of stuff to share.  Trust me when I say you don't want to miss my next blog.  With over 5000 books now sold, I think I have a very firm handle on it.  5000 is not a record breaker by far, but for a self published book, it is a huge success as 90% of books published sell 50 copies and then die.

Allen J Johnston
The Divine Apprentice
The Divine Path
The Divine Unleashed
Next release, Oct 27, 2014