First Sunday Q&A: What Draws a Reader to Actually Buy/Read My Book?
Hint: it starts with getting a certain kind and number of reviews then using those to generate keywords--not as complex as it sounds and definitely worth knowing about!
Hello, all you new paid subscribers! A flood of you came to join us this month and I’m very glad. Welcome to “First Sunday” Q&A, where we dissect and discuss your most gnarly writing and publishing questions. I plan to write this the first Sunday of each month for you, as long as you wonderful people send me your questions. I have a great selection from attendees at my virtual launch on November 10 and I’ll lean on these as we get going, but please feel free to post questions in the comments or email them to me at mary[at]marycarrollmoore[dot]com, and I’ll spend time on them, sharing ideas, tips, and resources from my own experience. I’m happy to keep you anonymous.
My intention is to make this a safe, generous place to exchange ideas and talk about the deepest writing and publishing issues on your mind.
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Q: I’m a new author (thrilled about that!) with a nicely produced book (yay!). I depended on my publisher (a small press) to do most of the publicity, though, which turned out to be a bad move on my part. So much NOT done! Looking back, I can see how sales would’ve been better if I’d gotten more involved, especially with reviews. I got a handful of good blurbs but no trade reviews, not much online either. From your recent book launch, what have you learned about getting enough reviews to make readers click through to buy your book?
A: First, congrats! Being published is a huge victory for authors. And yes, there’s often a gap between what we hope for with our publishing experience and what actually happens. Blame it on publishers’ limited budgets and time to promote us, when other authors are on their list too. I did learn quite a bit about this with my recent launch, so I’ll share what I know and where you might research to find out more.
I was lucky to have a good friend (a New York Times bestselling author) reach out early in my pre-publication months and offer to help me with my book promotion. We both know—she especially, from her experience—that no matter how great the publisher, most authors these days must take charge of their book promotion. She taught me three steps, often overlooked, that make the biggest difference in your ability to reach readers. They are quite simple, and I’ll be talking about the first one today: getting enough and a certain kind of reviews.
Because I found out about this and acted fast, my novel became an Amazon bestseller in three categories in August, and the audiobook is still on two of those lists now in December. I’m beyond grateful to have learned about these steps and I’m hard at work now, putting them in place for my next book.
So today, we’ll talk about the first step: getting a certain kind of review, making sure there are enough solid reviews posted before your book launches, and continuing that effort after it is out in the world.
We’ll also explore why buyers today rely so heavily on reviews. And what kind you, as the author, can reach for and what kind your publisher has to handle.
Reviews are just one of the three steps she taught me; the other two are based on first having enough reviews that teach you how readers describe your book.
Why is this essential? Because you, the author, have a certain way to talk about your book. It may not be how readers talk about it, and readers are the ones buying your book. Bridging that gap is vital.
Once you have a solid number of reviews, you can take the second step: locate the keywords that are most communicative to the readers you want to attract. Then the third step, insert these keywords into all your online book descriptions and promotion.
Why didn’t I know about this? I have solid publishing experience, 14 books in 3 genres. Because I left reviews up to my publisher—who often didn’t do much, like the questioner above experienced—and I wasn’t educated about why reviews mattered or how to use them to make a difference in book sales.
Learning about this important step was one of my biggest ah-ha’s when doing my book launch prep.
This week, I’d like to escort you through what I learned about the first step: how to get the right reviews and establish the foundation for steps two and three.
I’d love to hear both your questions about this and your experiences, so please share in the comments section below.
Book reviews in publishing today
So why didn’t I connect the dots between my own reliance on reviews and how potential readers would find my books? Not until my NYT bestseller friend mentioned the usefulness of reviews did I begin to research this for myself.
Book reviews range wide in the publishing industry. The basic groups are: