Blog to Book Project–Advanced Reader’s/Reviewer’s Copies (ARC)

ARC stands for Advanced Reader’s (or Reviewer’s) Copy. It’s a copy of your book that you give to someone before your official book launch. The idea is for these reviewers or Beta readers to have access to your writing so that you can gather testimonials, feedback, and even reviews before your book is published.

So how do you get an ARC copy if your book isn’t published yet? Well, it depends on the publishing platform you are using and the formatting template you chose.

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Amazon allows you to order a publisher’s proof before your print book goes live so that you can check for formatting errors. The publisher’s proof is exactly how your book will look once it’s released, provided you don’t make any changes, except there is a message on the cover that states it is a proof and not for resale. As an author, you can purchase up to five copies at a time. You’ll be able to send these as gifts to Beta readers, reviewers, or book bloggers.

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If you are using Pressbooks as your book formatting template, you have a few digital options. You can download your book in PDF, EPUB, or MOBI format to your computer and then just send the file via email. You can also provide the link to your webbook. The address of your webbook is what you see when you click on “Visit Book.”

If you are using Microsoft Word, you can also download a .docx or PDF version you can send to reviewers. Honestly, these are my least favorite format to receive when reading books. When I can, I take the time to use a converter to change the file to MOBI for easier reading on my Kindle. I use Zamzar, which is free online.

You could also publish your book but not publicize the fact. This technique is known as a soft launch. You can gift books to reviewers, or set up a free promotion so that readers can get a copy without buying it just yet. Remember, though, for the review to carry weight with Amazon, it needs to be a verified purchase.

So, another way to provide the book at a discounted is to set the price at $0.99 during the time you are looking for reviews. Then when you are ready for your official book launch, change the price to what you usually would be asking for your book. That way, those reviewers you purchased your book at $0.99 will be able to publish a verified review.

When sending out your advanced reviewer’s copies, be sure to ask what format the reader would like to receive their copy of the book. Also, be sure to include launch day information, so readers have an idea of how long they have to read the book, and any testimonials and reviews will be ready before then. A reviewer should always disclose the fact that he or she received an ARC in their review.

Remember, you can’t force someone to leave a review even if you have given your book away for free. A few reminder emails are ok but don’t start badgering people. Nor can you control what a person might write in a review. You may get some bad reviews. Decide if what the person says is valid or not, then either do some editing or let it go.

Assignment: Decide how you will distribute your ARC.

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Click on the image for a preview!

Blog to Book Project — Blog Tours

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A traditional book tour is when an author takes his or her book on the road stopping at bookstores, coffee shops, and libraries to do presentations or book signings.  A blog tour involves your book being featured on different blogs and websites over a specific time period. The dates are set in advance like a book tour, and each article or post is unique to the site or blog hosting it.  A related idea is the blog blitz. This is when your book is featured on different blogs or websites, but on the same day.

Book bloggers are an excellent choice to include in your blog tour. Reedsy has a large list of book bloggers you can find here. Other places you might consider are websites that are in your niche. For instance, if you write about health topics, perhaps a health blogger would be interested in featuring your book.

You can provide an ARC (advanced review copy) to bloggers and website owners that would like to review your book. You also could provide promotional information or an exclusive excerpt for those that don’t have time to read it before your launch date. Don’t forget about podcasts, giveaways, or author interviews as potential promotional material for your blog tour.

You should organize your blog tour about six weeks before your book launch so that bloggers and web site owners have time to schedule your feature post during the time immediately before and after your launch.  Make sure to include how readers can purchase your book as well as sharing the post on your social media channels. Take the time to visit and comment on the blog or website that is hosting your blog tour that day.

Assignment: Plan a blog tour.

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ebook cover
Click on the image for a preview!

Blog to Book Project — Six-Month Book Launch Timeline

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After you’ve finished your book, done extensive proofreading, had another set of eyes look at it for editing issues, and check your formatting, you should organize your book launch. In this chapter, you’ll find a six-month book launch (six months before and six months after), but you can adapt the timing and suggested marketing to fit your needs.

Before your book launch, you should have your Author Website, Facebook Author Page, Twitter, and Pinterest accounts already set up and be sharing interesting non-launch information regularly. If not, time to get on the stick about it. Continue sharing value-filled content during the entire launch period, with sporadic promotional posts.

Six Months Before Launch

  • Post a cover reveal across your social media sites.
  • Conversely, if you haven’t decided on a final cover design yet, you can poll your followers. Ask them which design do they prefer and why.

Five Months Before Launch

  • Add your book blurb to your Author Website and share it on your social media channels.
  • If you’ve already uploaded your manuscript to the publishing platform of your choice, make it available for pre-order.

Four Months Before Launch

  • Spark some interest in your newsletter.
  • Offer an incentive for readers to opt-in. You could send them a sample chapter, a character description quiz, a useful checklist based on your upcoming book’s topic, set up a challenge for your readers, or offer exclusive content in the form of a webinar or audio file.
  • Make sure to include a reference to your soon-to-be-released book someplace in the newsletter and on the opt-in page.
  • Share the opt-in lead magnet on your social media networks.

Three Months Before Launch

  • Update your author profiles on all your social media platforms. Include information about pre-ordering your book.
  • Continue providing content through your newsletter and Author Website.
  • Share a glimpse of your author’s life while you were writing the book.
  • Talk about the inspiration behind the book.

Two Months Before Launch

  • Create some marketing images. Use images from your book or your book cover. Add quotes from the book, author quotes, or testimonials from others if you have them.
  • Remember to provide a way for readers to pre-order your book as you post them on social media.
  • Send out the call for ARC (Advanced Review Copy) readers. Get your book into their hands as soon as possible.
  • Contact Book Bloggers to see if they would be interested in an ARC to review on their blogs.

One Month Before Launch

  • Create some countdown social posts using Canva. One month, one week, x days until the launch.
  • Share your book trailer.
  • Post an excerpt or first chapter on your Author Website. Generate some anticipation.
  • Create a Pinterest board about the book. Think outside the box here. If you are writing historical fiction, pin relevant facts, locations, even period furniture. If your book is non-fiction, pin articles you used in your research.
  • Begin your book blog tour.

Launch Day

  • Send out a launch day newsletter.
  • Post “Launching Today” posts across your social media networks.
  • Update your social media headers to highlight your book.
  • Email your ARC and Beta readers letting them know the book is ready for verified reviews.
  • Hold a launch party. Broadcast snippets live or share them afterward.
  • Post public thank you for event coordinators and share pictures of you and your book enjoying the party.

One Month After Launch

  • Continue your book blog tour.
  • Contact other authors to do some cross-promoting.
  • Keep posting to your Author Website.
  • Set up a live Q & A session on Facebook or Twitter.

Two Months After Launch

  • Take your book on the road.
  • Do book signings at local bookstores.
  • Talk to libraries about getting your book on the shelf.

Three Months After Launch

Four Months After Launch

  • Publically thank readers who provide feedback or leave a review.
  • Find an organization that relates to your book topic and see if it would be interested in having you speak at an upcoming event.

Five Months After Launch

  • Make recommended reading lists on Goodreads or your Author Website that include your book.
  • Keep publishing engaging content on your Author Website.

Six Months After Launch

  • Release the print or audio version of your book. Use the new format to do another mini-launch.
  • Start generating interest in your next book.

You might not want to include all of these suggestions, but the more publicity there is about your book, the more likely you’ll sell some copies of it. So try to complete as many as possible, as often as possible without being spammy.

Assignment: Plan your book launch.

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Click on the image for a preview!

Blog to Book Project — Using a Book Trailer to Market Your Self-Published Book

There’s no question that people are watching more videos these days. One billion hours of YouTube videos are watched per day. YouTube is the second most popular site on the internet these days (right after Google).

Facebook video is another up and coming option you should be aware of. Statistics show that 11 percent of all Facebook posts are videos and this platform generates 8 billion video views per day.

You can capitalize on all those video hours by creating your own book trailer. It’s a little out of the norm and will get more attention than a traditional book review or social media advertisement.

Now, the thing with a book trailer is you want it to be knock-their-socks-off good. If friends and family cringe when they watch it, well, perhaps it won’t be as successful as you’d like it to be. On the other hand, a professional and interesting book trailer demonstrates that you are a good storyteller across mediums, and prompts more interest in your book.

So here are some tips when designing a riveting book trailer.

  • Think about your typical reader and adapt the trailer to appeal to them specifically. If your book is a romance, then make your trailer romantic. If it is a mystery, then create a suspenseful trailer.
  • Hook your reader with a compelling video, not a summary of your book. You could focus on the problem the character in your book faces or the solution your non-fiction book provides the reader.
  • Keep it short. Aim for at least 30 seconds, but less than 2 minutes.
  • Use professional photos and graphics. There’s a lot of competition out there and you want your book trailer to stand out. Make sure to get permission to use images that are not your own.
  • Consider hiring an expert. Making a quality video, even a short one, incorporates many technical skills. If you aren’t skilled in video production, find someone to help you. Animated videos especially need the expertise of professionals.
  • If your book is nonfiction you could create an author video that demonstrates your expertise on the subject of your book. Consider your personal appearance if you do. Pay attention to what you are wearing, the background, and how well you articulate your words.
  • If you want to enact a scene from your book with real people, get actors to play the parts. Visit your local theater or advertise online. A professional voice actor is another possible way to get just the right tone for your book trailer.
  • Background music is a way to make text and images more memorable. Be sure to get permission to include it or use royalty-free music.
  • Make sure to include a call to action at the end of the trailer. Tell the viewer where your book is available for purchase.
  • Share the video everywhere! Add it to your author website, share it on social media, and upload it to YouTube. The more you share it, the more chance you’ll have to get the attention of potential readers.

There are several free or low-cost sites that can help you create a book trailer. Windows users can download Movie Maker or Photo Story. Mac computers have iMovie software already installed. You can use Powerpoint to create a presentation then export it as a video. Prezi also has a free version.

Assignment: Create a book trailer.

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Click on the image for a preview!

Blog to Book Project — Types of Publishing

You may not be totally convinced that self-publishing is for you, and that’s ok. You have options. There are three main routes to publishing these days, traditional, self, and hybrid. Let’s take a few minutes to highlight the pros and cons of each.

Traditional Publishing

Traditional publishing refers to the process of being given a book deal by a publishing company. It typically involves submitting your manuscript to a number of agents or publishers and quite a few rejection letters. Once your book has been accepted, a contract is drawn up and signed by the author, the publisher, and the agent. A manuscript will go through several more rounds of editing before it is published. 

Some big-name publishing houses are Macmillan, HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster.

Pros:

  • Validation. Your book was deemed worthy to be published by one of the big guns in publishing. 
  • Getting your book into brick and mortar bookstores is initially easier. 
  • You’ll have a team of editors, cover designers, and formatters to work with.
  • No upfront financial costs and sometimes a royalty advance.

Cons:

  • Slow process. It could take years to get an agent. Then it could take more years before your book is launched.
  • You lose creative control over your title, cover, and marketing. 
  • Royalty is reduced by expenses incurred, so it could be as low as 7% of total sales.
  • Marketing may be inadequate to generate sales or not be part of the package deal at all.

Self-Publishing

There are all sorts of self-publishing platforms out there these days, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Lulu, Kobo, and Wattpad among others. When you self-publish your book, you are basically asking a publisher to print your book and sometimes distribute it. You retain all copyrights and ISBN numbers as well as any books you have printed and purchased through the publisher. 

You might do better as a self-published author if you are producing books on niche topics, highly specific themes, rather than general interest works. Remember, just because there are not so many hoops to jump through, doesn’t mean you should aim for the creation of the best book possible. That means editing, proofreading, checking for formatting errors, and so on. 

Pros:

  • You are the final say in your book’s content, design, and marketing strategy. 
  • It’s faster to get from finished manuscript to market and get paid. 
  • You’ll earn higher royalties, usually 35% to 70% of each sale.
  • You can sell your book in other countries while retaining the rights to your work.  
  • If you do well at self-publishing, agents might contact you for a traditional book contract.

Cons:

  • You have to do everything yourself, or hire someone to edit, format, design a cover, and market your book. 
  • There’s still a stigma to self-published work. Writers are often not considered “real” authors until they get a contract. 
  • You’ll need to budget for editing, cover design, and marketing expenses. 
  • It’s more difficult to get your book into brick and mortar bookstores. 

Hybrid Publishing

If you go the hybrid publishing route, you can hire a publisher and keep your copyrights. The publisher will publish your book with their company imprint as well as providing a professional cover and do the editing. Some companies will market your book, while others leave that aspect up to you. It’s important to understand what services you will be receiving for your fee. 

Hybrid Publishing companies include 3rd Coast Books, Page Two Strategies, Greenleaf Book Group, TCK Publishing, Plum Bay Publishing, Rebel Press, and Unbound to name a few.

Pros:

  • The publishing company provides professional printing, layout, cover design, and editing.
  • You retain copyrights.
  • Royalties are higher than standard. 
  • Great for niche books.

Cons:

  • Fees to the publishing company can be substantial. 
  • You are responsible for marketing.
  • It’s more difficult to get your book into brick and mortar bookstores. 
  • Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between a hybrid publisher and a vanity press.

There you have the three types of publishing available these days. Knowing a little about each can help you better decide which route to authorship you’d like to take.

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Blog to Book Project –Author Newsletter

An author newsletter is also an excellent way to market your book. However, don’t be book self-promoting every single time. So if you aren’t selling, what are you writing about in your newsletter?

You should write content that would be interesting to your readers. Providing useful, informative, or entertaining particulars increase the chance that your readers will peruse, read, and maybe even look forward to your periodic missives.

If you are a middle-ages romance novelist, perhaps you could share some historical tidbits you discovered while researching your soon to be released Scottish highland book. If you write about homesteading, how-to articles are always well-received.

Get your readers involved with polls or surveys. What do they want to read about? Which cover is more appealing? What would they do if….?

Share your upcoming promotions. If you had a book signing recently, write about it. Include pictures and links to where newsletter subscribers can get a signed copy for themselves. If you do a podcast, include a link. If you have a Q&A session on Facebook Live coming up, invite them to join you.

Tell an entertaining or embarrassing personal story. Talk about how your cat Fluffy has been helping or hindering you as you write your soon-to-be-released book. Give readers your writing playlist, favorite inspirational quotes, or writer’s block brownie recipe. Bonus points if you can tie in your next book.

You could include articles written from the perspective of your book characters. Or tie in the holidays to an upcoming or past book. Remember when Janie broke Paul’s heart right before Christmas in Jingle Bells, Chrismas Sucks–A Holiday Romance? Well, this Christmas, here’s how you can avoid family drama…

A newsletter helps you make a personal connection with your readers. Those that sign up are already interested in your books, so why not capitalize on it? Unlike Facebook or Twitter, you own the newsletter. You don’t have to worry about changing algorithms affecting the visibility of your posts or having the platform disappear completely. Remember Google +?

Mailchimp has free plans, pay-as-you-go plans, as well as several other monthly plans. With any plan, you can use ready-made templates to drag and drop your content, links, and images. The free plan allows you to contact up to 2,000 subscribers and send up to 12,000 emails per month. Because Mailchimp integrates with Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress, readers can sign up for your newsletter through these platforms as well.

Another email option is Mailerlite. The free plan will let you contact up to 1,000 subscribers and send 12,000 emails per month.

Remember not to spam your subscribers and to include an unsubscribe option at the bottom of the newsletter.

Post a link to your newsletter sign-up page on your Twitter, Facebook, and website. Offer a freebie in exchange for their opt-in. You could offer sample chapters, novellas, checklists, writing tips and tricks, or something else that you think your readers might enjoy.

The key to a successful newsletter is offering content that has value, such as useful information, personal connection, free/bargain books, and so on. If you don’t think you are up to the task, then don’t try to force yourself to create a newsletter. Focus on other methods of social media publicity instead.

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Blog to Book Project — Creating a Lockscreen Ad Campaign on Amazon

Lockscreen ads appear on Kindle and Kindle Fire devices of people that have read a book related to one of your target words in the past. Lockscreen ads are only available for eBook promotions, not paperback. 

They are charged on a cost-per-click. So if no one clicks on your ad, you aren’t charged for it. When readers do click on your ad, they are taken to your eBook’s detail page on Amazon. These types of ads are only available on Amazon.com.

After choosing the Lockscreen ad option, you’ll be taken to the page to set up your ad campaign. Here, you will enter a campaign name to help you keep track of different ads. It’s not information that is visible in the ad. It is for your organizational use only. 

Then choose a start and end date for the ad campaign. The start day will always be two days from the date you submit the campaign to Amazon for review. Amazon recommends you run your ad campaign for at least four weeks. 

To figure out what your lifetime budget is, multiply the number of days you want the ad to run by your daily budget. The minimum lifetime budget is $100, so you’ll have to plan to spend at least that much for each ad campaign. Remember, if no one clicks on your ad, you aren’t charged with this sort of campaign, so that $100 could stretch out quite a while. 

If your goal is to generate clicks quickly, choose the Run campaign as quickly as possible option. If your goal is to make the most of the time you have decided to run the campaign, then select Spread campaign evenly over its duration.

Products

Under products, you’ll see all your current eBooks. Choose the eBook you want to advertise in this ad campaign.

Interest Targeting

In this section, you will choose genres or interests that you want to target with your ad. You can choose as many as you like. Under each category, you can target all or select only the most relevant.

Bidding

Your budget must be 100 times your bid per click. So if you have entered a lifetime budget of $100, your bid per click can not be more than $1.00.

Creative

You can enter a custom text to entice potential readers. It should be at least 50 characters and no more than 150 characters. Below this you can see a preview of what your ad will look like on the Kindle lockscreen and the Kindle home screen.

Submit for Review

You will not be able to edit any part of your ad campaign once you have submitted it for review, so check everything carefully before you do so. Amazon will email you once it has been approved or if you need to make changes. This process can take up to three business days. 

If your eBook ad is rejected, review Amazon’s book ad policies. Your cover might be too racy for all audiences or your book subject might not be considered appropriate for some groups of people.

Assignment: Create an Amazon ad campaign.

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Blog to Book Project — Gifting eBook on Amazon

One way to promote your book is to set up a giveaway, give your book to readers at events, or send it to subscribers of your newsletter. You can purchase several copies or just a single copy to gift someone. 

You can purchase prepaid ebooks that can be redeemed by clicking a link or with a redemption code. To do this, go to the detail page for your title on Amazon.com. On the right, you’ll see the option to “Give as a Gift.” When you select that button, a new page will open for you to complete the order. 

This gifting service is also available on Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, Amazon.fr, Amazon.it, and Amazon.es but only as a multi-copy transaction. The gift book must be purchased on the same site that the receiver will access it. So if you are sending a book to someone in Italy, make sure to purchase the gift copy through Amazon.it rather than the U.S. site. 

If the person does not click the link to download the book within 60 days, you can request a refund or send the link to another recipient. Since this is a purchased book, you receive royalties on the title even though you bought it yourself. However, the royalties are only applied when the book is redeemed.

Gifting a great way to encourage Beta readers to leave a review for your book. Be aware though that if you are purchasing multiple copies at the same time, the recipients will only be able to leave non-Amazon Verified Purchase reviews. Therefore, purchase each Beta review copy individually. 

Single copies gifting is only available on the Amazon.com U.S. site. The recipient of a single copy can return the gift within seven days of downloading as long as it hasn’t been opened on any device. He or she can also exchange the ebook for a gift card. 

Assignment: Send your book to someone as a gift.

Blog to Book Project — Back Up Your Manuscript

I know this step seems like a no-brainer, but today we are going to spend just a few minutes talking about why you should back up your manuscript, even after you’ve uploaded it to the publishing site. 

Let’s start with the book template Pressbooks which allows you to access your completed manuscript, edit it, and download it to your computer. Pressbooks, as amazing as it is, might run into technical issues or be hacked. All your hard work will be lost, unless you have a backup version. This could happen no matter which online book template you use.

Saving to your computer isn’t enough. Be sure to save your manuscript to an external memory device like a USB stick and to a cloud storage platform. Computer can suddenly die. USB sticks can become corrupted. Cloud storage can disappear. However, if you save to all three, odds are that at least one copy of your manuscript can be salvaged. 

Now, let’s talk about Amazon. Although Amazon insists that you retain all rights to your work, that isn’t completely true. When you use the Kindle Create program, your .kpf file can only be used on Amazon. If you decide to move your book to another publishing site, you’ll need to start from scratch. Incidentally, this is another reason to use a seperate book template site like Pressbooks rather than Kindle Create.

Amazon may also remove your book and close your account if it believes you have violated one of its ever-changing policies. If this happens, you can publish your manuscript to another platform only IF you have a copy of your manuscript someplace on file. 

Inexpensive or remote server backup options include:

Even if you are only planning on getting one copy of your book for personal enjoyment, having a backup copy will also make it easier should you wish to run a second printing to give as gifts. 

Assignment: Back up your manuscript.