Saturday, January 14, 2012

Some notes from author Rita Hestand...

Hi everyone. Today I wanted to talk to you about reviews, contests, and generally promoting your books and what I've learned.  It's a pay it forward kind of thing with me. Lots of others helped me learn a lot here on the web and other places, and I want to pass on anything that might help someone else.

First, I must confess to you that I don't often enter contests. I'm not sure why except I don't like asking a fellow author to vote for me for one thing and this seems to be something that goes around a lot. A vote should constitute what someone really thinks of your work, be it good or bad. It should not depend on whether you are good friends with the author, have known her or him forever, or feel sorry because something bad happened to them. A vote should be honest. A vote should sorta come from the heart so to speak, "Gee, I really loved that book, it was so well written." This to me is sacred and I hate to ask someone to go an vote for me. I have a few times and it made me feel like a heel. I really don't know if an honest voting system can exist because of how we as writers want to see our friends win an honor.  This in itself isn't bad, but when the book does not deserve it, and the author should know if it does, then something is wrong here.  So I try my best to stay out of contests. I will say this, when I do venture out into them, I usually never win even an honorable mention. I figure if the day ever comes that someone is in love with my work, then maybe I can feel elated about it being in a contest. My rewards come usually from a reader who e-mails me or talks to me on facebook, and I gotta admit, I love it when someone says something nice out of the blue.

Reviews, I have learned something very valuable in this business. Something I had only heard and wasn't sure I believed or not, until now.  Reviews are subject to who reviews the books we write. But that isn't the news. The real thing I learned is this, if your book is any good at all, those reviews will eventually even out and be reasonable.  And in a way, they end up serving the author well, why, because let's face it, like 5 reviews with a score of 5, leaves the reader skeptical if they are on the level and honest. So a review with scattered and mixed reactions is more honest and good in the long run.

I like to go read some of mine off and on, and laugh when I find that one person couldn't stand it and threw it up against the wall and the other person can't say enough nice things about it. This tells me that reviews are subject to one thing….opinion!

After all, we don't all write as well as the masters like Faulkner, Steinbeck, O'Henry. 

And these certainly deserve 5 star reviews, so think about this when you are ready to buy a book. Just because it has 5 reviews of 5 does not mean it's that good, all the time. And just because it has mixed doesn't mean it's bad, it's a combination of many thoughts and opinions.  And in the end, if the story is any good at all, it usually averages close to a 4. I have proven this time and time again.

We are selling ebooks now and our promotions have to be geared toward that. Advertising isn't a real necessity. This is the truth and been proven many times.  Although having your book at some of the top locations on the net doesn't hurt at all, it reminds the reader that you have books out there and gives them your name and where to find them.  Places like The Romance Studio, Coffee Time Romance, All Romance Ebooks, Bookstrand are good places. Reviews from places like The Romance Reviews, The Romance Studio, Night Owl Romance and Coffee Time Romance are excellent sources for reviews, and because they do so many reviews are apt to be more honest. Something that does pay off in promotion is traffic. I have found this to up my views on the web, up my sales and get me noticed by more people than anything.  It is expensive so go somewhere that has a track record.  Always make sure you know what it costs before you leave the site. Then pay attention to sales and indicators that your traffic has increased, one way or another.

Exposure to the net in as many ways as you can, helps sell books. Once people know your name they begin to look for you, this means you need to be high in the search engines so they can find your site. You must submit your site to search engines about every 6 months to ensure it stays high in the search.  This is what you want.

What all of this boils down to, is that a good website, placing it in many search engines, buying traffic is the newest and best way to get results. Now the url you use to send people to your site should lead them right to the book you want to sell or a page with all your books and means of buying them there. Make it easy on the customer, so they don't have to figure everything out for themselves.  If you don't follow this through, you can lose a sale.

I hope some of this has helped struggling authors and pointed them in the right direction.

The only other thing that helps you succeed is to check and see if you've formatted your book correctly and how that format looks when you read it.  Just because everything looks good when you write it, doesn't mean that when it's converted it will, and this is where many reviewers don't understand that formatting can really do some damage. I have witnessed that formatting can sometimes remove a word, or even mess a word up in a manuscript.  It can look very bad when it is read in a reader. An author now days has to know this and try to fix it fast. Sometimes they don't get it fixed until some bad reviews come up.  No one is there to tell the self published author that their work has to be checked after they format it into whatever to load it on a site.  Some don't bother to check. But you should check this out. These kinds of problems are not always your fault, but they have to be corrected as the reader doesn't always know this. So check it out, and good luck. 

To learn more about Rita: http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/Redameter


Anonymous said...

I'm going to be in and out off an on today. But wanted to say thanks for stopping by anyone. And let you know that it is appreciated when you comment.
Love and blessings

Tina Donahue said...

Great post, Rita.

I do enter the RWA-sponsored contests. To me, that's a peer review (other authors, librarians, booksellers judging). The judges have to read the mss you send in and vote on it. Winning one of those is awesome because the judges did read and love your book.

Anonymous said...

Now RWA contests are more fair. I just prefer not to do them. When I was a member I did enter a few and got very good feed back from them.
You can learn a lot through RWA, even though I no longer belong.
Love and blessings

jean hart stewart said...

Excellent advice... I enter only the EPIC contest, because I know that here too the whole book gets read by more than one person. It's generally a mix of other authors and readers, so I feel any win there is worthwhile.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Sorry I got here late, Rita. I've been with the family the entire day until now.
I like a lot of what you had to sat here. I don't do contests because I have found them to be more of a popularity contest than a true testiment to your work. There are contests that have nothing to do with reader votes--judges only--that are more eindicative of what a book is worth.
Whe it comes to reviews, you're right about the individual doing the review having an emotional input rather than a literary opinion. I like reviews by companies over individuals and I like when they specify what made them detract points from the review. These reviews can help an author improve their craft. I do not like reviewers who think it's edgy or cute to make snarky comments about a book. That says more about the lack of professionalism in the reviewer than it does about the author's work.
A great posy Rita. It's always a pleasure to see you.

Anonymous said...

I am late coming back in tonight. but glad Jean and Sarah stopped off. We learn from each other and I think it is wonderful that we can.

Yes, contests like Tina is talking about is more on the level and more apt to give a fair judging. Reviews come in all sizes and some are great others aren't. But I have found that most of the time if you book is good, it will shine through even the roughest of reviews. And it does average out, I have watched it on B&N and AMazon and usually it does even out. However, I have constantly been bombarded more by my freebies than any other books. And speaking of which several professional reviewers did the same books and gave the same books high marks, so go figure. But over all, I am pleased to have a mixed review because it comes closer to the mark. And the reader can evaluate for themselves by reading the book and then reviewing it if they want.

As for other things, good luck everyone with your books and I hope everyone sells a million in 2012

Love and blessings