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This Week in the Blogs, March 16 – 22, 2019

By Shelley Sturgeon

Enjoying your weekend? Why not put your feet up and take a few minutes to catch up on some great articles on self-publishing related topics? You’ll be glad you did.

Don’t miss our latest e-Book Cover Design Awards post here tomorrow, and be sure to check back here next Sunday for our monthly Self-Publishing: Carnival of the Indies post.

Dan Wagstaff on The Casual Optimist
Book Covers of Note, March 2019
“It’s almost the first day of spring, the snow and ice have just about melted in Toronto (for now!), and everything is still awful, so it must be time for March’s book covers of note!”

Dave Chesson on Jane Friedman
Changes to Amazon Advertising: What Authors Need to Know
“On January 7, 2019, Amazon made some significant changes to the AMS features. Although there are slight variations throughout the entire system, most of the major changes can be grouped into three categories…”

Chris Syme on Smart Marketing for Authors
How to Put Together a Killer BookBub Ad
“In this episode David and Chris discuss the tips and tricks to images and targeting on BookBub ads. It’s not like Facebook or Amazon ads, so you need to know the guidelines for maximum results.”

Self-Publishing Review on Self-Publishing Review
When is the Best Time of Year to Release a Book?
“In Hollywood, there’s a pretty set calendar for when movies are released: horror movies are usually released around Halloween, high-concept blockbusters in the summer, Oscar movies start in November, movies that aren’t blockbusters or Oscar contenders in February. Does the book trade follow the same release schedule?”

Jay Artale on How to Blog a Book
Create Blog-Book Synergy to Reduce Content Creation Stress
“By building a synergy between my blogs and books, I’ve been able to streamline a continual flow of content and get maximum leverage out of every piece of content I create.”

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An Interview with John Jay McKey: Author of Leverage the Field for Success

For 28 years John Jay McKey has been a student of success, building and leading data analysis teams in the banking sector, a Big Four accounting and consulting firm, the Office of Inspector General, and a multinational Fortune 50 company. While commuting from Chicago to Washington DC to work for the OIG, Jay had a [...]

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When is the Best Time of Year to Release a Book?

In Hollywood, there's a pretty set calendar for when movies are released: horror movies are usually released around Halloween, high-concept blockbusters in the summer, Oscar movies start in November, movies that aren't blockbusters or Oscar contenders in February. Does the book trade follow the same release schedule? The answer is, more or less, yes. Peak [...]

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Review: Sophia’s Storm by Cara Skinner

The past meets the present in Sophia’s Storm, a gripping historical novel written for young adults by Cara Skinner. It’s fourth of July week during the summer of 79. Sixteen-year-old Sophie Reiter and her extended family have assembled at her grandparents’ Galveston beach house for their annual week-long get together, but this year’s gathering is [...]

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Review: Leverage the Field for Success by John Jay McKey

A data analytics expert has created a new way to look at success in business, both in microcosm and from a universal perspective, in Leverage the Field for Success: Using Quantum Reality to Succeed in the Corporate World. John Jay McKey invites the reader to examine work life, and indeed the whole of life, from [...]

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Books, Bookmarks, Business Cards Or Digital Giveaways. What Should Authors Be Ready To Give Away?

Online marketing is a big part of every author's focus, but we shouldn't forget about the value of meeting readers in person. In this article, C. Penticoff offers four types of giveaways for conferences and other in-person events that will expand your reader base and connect you with those in the book industry.

Books, Bookmarks, Business Cards Or Digital GiveawaysOne of the first things every entrepreneur does after launching their business is to order business cards.

This seems logical, especially since it’s an affordable and professional way to distribute a physical piece of content providing all the ways to find and contact you.

You may have already done this, or you may be thinking about ordering some business cards. But, let me ask you this…

What’s one of the first things you do when you’re handed a business card?

It’s probably thrown away, stuck in a wallet, or tossed into the bottomless pit you call your purse… never to be seen again.

Even though business cards are a very affordable option, what’s the point in spending even a penny for something that is hardly ever effective?

If you’re an author, it seems business cards are even less effective if you’re handing these out to readers. Readers aren’t as interested in contacting you as they are in simply doing what they love to do–read your books!

There’s no doubt having something physical to hand out to readers and other professionals in your industry is beneficial, but let’s make sure every dime spent on your business drives your brand further up the ladder.

So, what can you hand out that will drive your business forward, instead of something that will end up in the trash?

1. Books

One great idea for an author is to hand out a book rather than a business card. Books will cost quite a bit more to hand out, but there is no doubt this can be an effective strategy.

Giving booksThe reader will read your book, and because they’ve met you in person, they are more likely to spread the word about your book and become a serial reader.

Be sure your back or front book matter lists ways they can subscribe to your mailing list. Inserting a separate sheet of paper into the book with that information is a great way to engage your reader, and including a bookmark with that information is ideal!

It’s important to note when you hand out a book to someone you make sure they know right away what is in it for them. When you hand a book to someone and you say something like, “Here is my book you can have for free” — that statement makes the free copy about the writer.

When you say something along the lines of, “Do you want to learn how to double your income as an author?” it makes the statement about the reader.

For my genre, I would say something like, “Do you want to get lost in a magical and enchanting world?” You can come up with a phrase that would best fit your book.


If handing out a book is out of your budget, then handing out bookmarks is a fantastic alternative! What’s great about handing out bookmarks is it will have the useful information a business card would, but it’s something the reader can actually use!

You might be wondering where you can go to get a bookmark design. A Novel Connection creates custom bookmark designs for only $25. After you get your design, head to a website, such as 48 Hour Print or Vista Print to purchase your bookmarks. You can easily get 500 bookmarks printed for less than $80.

Psst…Bookmarks are also great for giveaways on social media or your website!

Your bookmark design should include on the front:

  • Your name/logo
  • Your social media handles and website
  • Eye-catching colors and graphics that matches your brand (Have your designer help you with this)

Your bookmark on the back should include:

  • An easy-to-read link that drives your reader to your mailing list, as email marketing is arguably the best way to reach your readers directly.

Email marketingBonus Tip: My mailing list subscription link is ridiculous in length, which is not ideal for a physical item. Therefore, I created a page on my website that includes my mailing list form that is easy to read: That is easy to read and easy to type into a computer.

Your goal should always be to get readers to your mailing list. For example, I offer my mailing list subscribers a free fantasy book every Friday that I hunt down on Amazon; in addition, I offer free writing tips to writers who opt into that feature.

Read The Creative Penn’s post on How to Build Your Email List for a better grasp on email marketing.

3. Business Cards

If books and bookmarks are out of your budget, then business cards are a good option if you do it effectively.

When you design your business card, consider ordering double-sided cards, allowing you to get everything you need on the card without it looking jammed into a tiny space.

What to include on the front:

  • Your logo (Or just your name if you do not have a logo designed yet)
  • Your tagline

Bonus Tip: Your tag line is a one sentence phrase that sums you up as an author.

  • Western Romance Writer
  • New York Times Best-Selling Author
  • Award-Winning Fantasy Author
  • Teaching Writers How to Build Their Brand

What to include on the back:

  • Contact information: email address and/or phone number
  • Website
  • Social media handles
  • Easy-to-read mailing list subscription link

Remember, the mailing list is the money maker, so the best way to use a business card (or any physical item like this) is to include this link and what is in it for them when they subscribe.

4. Ebooks

It is beneficial to have something physical to offer readers and other professionals, but if books, bookmarks, and business cards are out of your financial reach, then you can always give away an ebook, which will be of no cost to you.

books and ipadThis may not be a physical item that readers can hold in their hands, but it sure beats nothing, right?

Make sure you have their explicit permission and then send them the file to your ebook. In the email, be sure to ask them if they want to subscribe to your mailing list, and what’s in it for them when they do, then provide a link where they can easily subscribe.

[Note from Joanna: BookFunnel also offers Instant Book Giving for ebooks as part of their service features.]

What happens if a business professional asks you for your business card?

At this moment, you would offer them whatever physical item you have to give away.

But, do you stop there?

Oh, no! You’re far too savvy of an entrepreneur to leave it at that.

You ask them for their business card and you contact them. There is a very good and strategic reason behind this. When a business professional asks you for your contact information, there is a great chance you will never actually hear from them.

This is especially true if you met them at an event where they also met dozens or even hundreds of other authors or professionals in your industry and/or they are a well-known figure in the industry who is very busy.

After you obtain their business card, give it a few days (I mean, you don’t want to seem desperate), then email (or call) and remind them who you are, what you discussed, and why they were interested in contacting you in the first place. This maximizes your chances of the professional following through in whatever was discussed.

What do you give away at conferences and other in-person events to connect with readers and others in the book industry? Please leave your thoughts below and join the conversation.

C. PenticoffTo find more useful writing and entrepreneur resources from C. Penticoff, head to her website, and be sure to subscribe to her mailing list for a free fantasy book every Friday. For authors, check the “writer” box to receive writing tips.

This story originally appeared on The Creative Penn

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As the Author World Turns on Amazon Book Review Policies

By Judith Briles

Amazon: Love it … or hate it … but, you gotta deal with it.

“Why are my reviews being removed?” is an ongoing question that authors ask. There isn’t a live program that I do that it doesn’t surface.

Scratching our heads, few of us can figure out what makes the Amazon robots push the yank button, while others stay.

Book reviews, and lots of them, can make or break the success of a book. When it comes to Amazon and its policies—what we do know, at least in March, is that:

  1. Authors need reviews on their books. Lots of them.
    Once, there are 25, the robots warm up. More than 50, expect to see cross promotion: book covers pop up on “like” books … “Customers who bought this item also bought …” meaning that your book cover gets displayed on other author pages.
    As your reviews build up (think more than 75), Amazon does email blast, suggesting your book cover with the live link to viewers of the site that have shown an “interest” in your category with their searches. How cool is that?
    So yes, reviews do count. Big time.
  2. To post a review, a reviewer does not have to buy the book through Amazon.

    One of the myths is that a review can’t be posted on Amazon unless it was purchased from it. Get over it.

    If the reviewer did purchase the book on Amazon, it will be identified as a “verified” purchaser. Meaning, that it will be placed higher on the visibility placement of reviews.

  3. All reviews by “book owners/buyers” MUST be a customer of Amazon. Meaning that you spend at least $50 a year buying “stuff” on the site. This went into effect in 2017. Per Amazon:

    To contribute to Customer features (for example, Customer Reviews, Customer Answers, Idea Lists) or to follow other contributors, you must have spent at least $50 on using a valid credit or debit card in the past 12 months. Promotional discounts don’t qualify towards the $50 minimum.

    My two bits: I read reviews online for a variety of products that I’m considering—I read the pros and cons and have posted multiple comments on products that I’ve purchased, including some bad ones. For me, I value others’ experiences.

  4. There is a difference between an EDITORIAL REVIEW and a CUSTOMER REVIEW.

    Amazon states that an Editorial Review is:

    an editorial review is a more formal evaluation of a book usually written by an editor or expert within a genre but can also be written by family and friends.

    Editorial reviews can be added by the author via Author Central or the page. They won’t have the 1-5-star post.

    And, Amazon does permit payment for editorial reviews.

    Regular readers post a Customer Review and they ones that get the Amazon robot’s attention. A rating of 1 to 5 is added, with five being the highest.

  5. Getting Customer Reviews

    There is still a lingering belief that if someone has a “free” copy of your book, he will be excluded from posting a review. Nonsense. If you are upfront that you want an honest review—pro or con, it’s open.

    Get your book out there—it can be an advanced reader copy (ARC) or books you have in stock. You can send them an eBook if that’s your preference ( has an easy window to use) or just books you have in your personal inventory.

    If you give your book away for the purpose of getting a review, ask your prospect to disclose that it was free at the end of the review or the beginning. It can even be in the title line, such as:

    • I received an advanced copy for an objective review.
    • My review is based on a complimentary copy.
    • The publisher sent me a review copy … I’m glad it did.

    If your book was bought outside of Amazon:

    • I heard _____ speak at a conference and bought her book …
    • I was on vacation and discovered ________ in a delightful bookstore on the coast …
    • Visiting a friend, she said, “You will love this book.” She was right …

What you should know and what Amazon states on its site:

  • Reviewers can remove or edit their review after it is posted.
  • Amazon “says” that just because someone is a friend, or a social media connection, doesn’t necessarily result in a review being taken down. With that said, I suspect that if we lined up all the reviews that have been removed by Amazon, the mileage would be countless.
  • Any reviewer can link to another product if it is relevant and available on Amazon. That means your own book or something else you offer. Amazon does love more sales!
  • When you offer something for a review, you can’t demand a review (although I’m clueless how the robots know this). If you offer anything other than a free or discounted copy of the book, it will invalidate a review, and it will be removed.

Getting Customer Reviews

The belief is that no friends or family can post a review. Amazon says:

We don’t allow individuals who share a household with the author or close friends to write Customer Reviews for that author’s book.

Sharing the household is easily understood. You and I get what that means. The big divide is on what constitutes “close friends.”

My opinion is that all those people who follow you on social media are rarely “close friends.” Close friends are those you:

  • spend physical time with
  • go to events with
  • have over for dinner
  • have phone chats

… not someone that retweets or reposts something you have posted.

Sigh. It’s a dilemma for sure.

  • Start with encouraging all to copy and post to Goodreads—yes, Amazon owns it, but they are different platforms.
  • Second, challenge Amazon.

I love what Rox Burkey, co-author of the Enigma series did. Not only did she challenge Amazon for removing a review of a book she bought, she cited the First Amendment: how dare Amazon void her rights to express her opinion. The review was reposted.

So, what do you do?

  • Don’t have anyone post if they live in your house. No exceptions.
  • Check Amazon daily. It usually takes 12 to 24 hours to pull down a review. Check your Book Page daily and copy all of them to your computer. Thank them and say and mark that the review is “helpful”—if Amazon pulls it down—resend to the poster if you know and ask them to alter and repost.
  • Give this email to the creator of the review who can challenge Amazon directly:
  • If by chance you get a snarky review and you feel that it does violate the guidelines, mark “abuse” by the review. You can email Amazon as well at the email.

Amazon Resources

If you are stuck … or a tad overwhelmed, here are a few Amazon resources for help.

  1. Check out Amazon Community Guidelines. Amazon has multiple pages with this title. Start here.
  2. With the change to KDP, you will be looking for both print publishing and eBook publishing. Start with logging into KDP, and clicking on Help at the top of the page. Under “Promote Your Book,” click Customer Reviews.
    This is the space to watch for the ever-present changes. Lots of FAQs and answers are posted in this section as well.
  3. Most of us sell books on Amazon using one of their book-specific selling tools: KDP, Advantage, or a third-party such as IngramSpark.
    There’s also Amazon’s Seller Central’s Marketplace, which means you can sell books here plus other products. It has its own guidelines and policies.
    And if you have problems, use this email: or try calling Amazon Customer Care: 866-216-1072.

Remember, if you stay within Amazon’s guidelines, you should succeed. Yup, love it or hate … but do it.
Photo: BigStockPhoto

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Review: Son of Saigon by David Myles Robinson

As old age sets in, many people dream of having one more adventure, launching themselves back into youthful vigor for a final exciting run. In Son of Saigon, a new novel by David Myles Robinson, this last-ditch fantasy becomes a reality for Hank Reagan, an old CIA spook that served in Vietnam. When a cherished [...]

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Review: The Irreducible Primary by Rob Taylor

Rob Taylor’s perspective on existence and how to make it meaningful mixes prose and poetry with philosophy, style, and logic in The Irreducible Primary: A Dialogue on Nature, Spirituality, and the Human Condition. In this varied collection, Taylor wishes to show how anyone can find a kind of peace that transcends politics, national boundaries, and [...]

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The Persistence of Memory: Déjà Vu by Karen Janowsky

Any story centered around missing memories provides endless fodder for exploration and wonder, as is proven all too well in The Persistence of Memory Book 1: Déjà Vu by Karen Janowsky. When two attractive, mysterious and "forgetful" protagonists collide, sparks are sure to follow, and here, Daniel Hecht and Nina Asher are those two unstoppable [...]

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