Tag s | reviews

Overselling Your Book

I recall a television advertisement a few years ago touting a company as “#1 in Chicago.” After seeing the ad a few times, I focused on the fine print at the bottom of the screen and noted the claim was based on a “company conducted internet survey.” I started to feel some skepticism at the validity of the “#1” ranking.

Overselling a product, service, store, company, movie, church, theme park or park district pool can come back and haunt you. Setting the bar so high in an attempt to stand apart from the crowd is rarely effective long term, or short term for that matter, especially if whatever is being sold doesn’t really deserve the high praise.

Similarly, unbridled enthusiasm for their book can lead authors and publishers into the same world of overselling.

Promoting and selling Christian books has the additional element of God’s truth in them, which can dramatically impact a reader’s life. But while God can use anything to accomplish his purpose, no book ever written by a human can claim to have the kind of eternal impact of the Bible.

“This book will help millions achieve their highest aspirations. It will change the world!”

Must be pretty special writing.

But the reverse of overselling is underselling, which could end up becoming rather unappealing.

“My book will help several people inch a little closer to figuring out an answer to the problem. Maybe. I could be wrong. Don’t get your hopes up.”

Can’t wait to read this one.

For those involved in marketing Christian books and authors who promote their own work, the landscape is a dangerous minefield.

While every instinct within the “promoter” wants to communicate a particular Christian book as the most important ever written on a certain subject and will change the world, the truth is more along the lines of the book will “help many people inch a little closer to God.” Maybe thousands if God so desires.

So what is an author or book-promoter to do?

In the description of your work, use as few adjectives and adverbs as you can. The believability of any message decreases the more frequent they are used. Even in objective endorsements or reviews, too many adjectives and adverbs can make a book unreal at best or worse, deceptive.

To claim your book is the best ever for anything, is not true.

To claim your work is more important than anything prior exhibits an acute lack of knowledge for the rich history of books and literature.

Claiming something as “unique” is also untrue. With almost a million books published in the United States every year (traditional and self-published) are you suggesting none of them are even close to yours? This is simply not true. There may be hundreds or thousands of new books in the same vein as yours, competing for the same reader.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned readers buy a promise, a solution to a problem, a special experience or a key to unlock something within them. Use one or more of these when writing your promo copy…a promise, solution, experience or key takeaway. How will a reader benefit?

Instead of adjectives and adverbs, focus on “key words” which fuel the online search for your book. (This is an important issue, be sure to spend some time learning about it.)

To conclude, it appears I suggest a rather non-creative, facts-only, bland method of promoting.

Quite the contrary.

Layered atop all this is the most powerful promotional message of all…the genuine, glowing review by a reader.

The most effective promotion is when someone who is not the author (or related to the author, or works for the author) tells the world the book they read encouraged them, gave them a memorable experience or helped them realize something of importance.

Patting yourself on the back looks strange to others and hurts your shoulder joints. Let others do the patting, replete with well-chosen adjectives and adverbs. Those kinds of compliments are from the heart and other readers know it.


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Appreciating Reviews

While researching my St. Patrick’s Day blog, where I reminisced about writing a novella, I must confess I poked around and looked at the fate of a few other books I wrote as well. I tell authors that a one-star review isn’t as bad as they think because that shows that …

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Reviews: The Spread I Like to See

No, it’s not what Daddy calls, “middle-age spread” but the spread of starred ratings on sites such as Amazon. When I see a book reviewed, believe it or not, I don’t like to see ten five-star reviews and then nothing else. An author might ask, “Why not? Doesn’t that mean …

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Bad Reviews

This post isn’t about what you think. I am not going to address how to handle the emotional sting of a bad review. Instead, I am going to talk about those closest to you, showing how your friends and family can hinder your writing career. If you cannot stand the …

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Avoid Trashing a Book Online

When I’m thinking of buying a book, I do read the one-star reviews. There. I admitted it. But would I write one? No, and here are three reasons why:

The author is not a moneymaking machine, but a human. A mean reviewer won’t see the fallout of posting a nasty review, but writers cry, get angry, sulk and fall into depressions over one-star reviews. It’s not fair to use the Internet to vent at a target you think is safe because you are in a bad mood that day or just angry in general. I know I’m preaching to the proverbial choir because I don’t sense angry dispositions among our regular blog readers, but we’ve all seen reviews from people who need a chill pill. If a book happens to hit all your HATE IT buttons, take your chill pill before bequeathing a one-star review. Wait a day or two before spouting off. Or better yet, don’t.

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Influencers and Etiquette

Recently one of my author friends needed a couple of people to act as influencers. She asked me to give her the names of people who aren’t writers, which I think is a fine idea because readers in other professions will reach new audiences. I asked several people. None of them knew what an influencer is until I explained it. So when you are tasked to find influencers, feel free to direct them to this post.

Is an influencer the same as an endorser?

Not in the formal sense. An endorser is a recognized name, usually a popular author writing in the same topic or genre or a known authority in the field such as a doctor or pastor. That person writes praise for the book that will appear on the front or back cover or inside the book.

An influencer is a person who agrees to read a book with the hope that he or she will spread positive news about it. This person is viewed as a fan or friendly reader and doesn’t need to be a particular expert other than having read the book. Any reader can be an influencer, but librarians, book club members, and people with special interest in the era or topic are great choices.

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Everyone is a Critic

by Steve Laube

One of the burdens an artist must bear is the scrutiny of public opinion. It can either be exhilarating or devastating. At the risk of oversimplifying the issue let’s look at some of the categories that define this topic.

Everyone has an opinion. The problem for the author is to determine how much weight to give to those opinions. One mistake a writer will make is to ask someone or group of someones, “What do you think of this?” with “this” being your work or the cover of their latest book.

Think of it this way, if someone is asking for your opinion and genuinely says they want to hear your thoughts, you will give that opinion…and it is often critical. It is as if we don’t feel like we have been “honest” unless we find something wrong or something we don’t like. We can become overly nitpicky and focus on things that are not vital to the design or the composition of the project. And this is where it becomes dangerous for the author. The tendency is to place too much credence on these type of opinions given by those who may not have the experience or know-how to truly be of service. That is not to say their opinions are wrong or misinformed, merely that discernment must be used when filtering these comments.

The gathering of too many opinions can clutter a sure vision or shake your confidence. It can become like the cynical definition of a committee: “A body that keeps minutes but wastes hours.”

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Paid Book Reviews?

by Steve Laube

You may have read or heard of the NY Times article where an author admitted to using a now-defunct service that wrote positive online reviews for a fee. Unfortunately I was not surprised. There have been many attempts to game the system over the years.

One man bought thousands of his books in various locations to launch it onto the NY Times bestseller list (Read a report about it here). And here is a link to a recent article which helps authors strategize how to get on the Amazon.com bestseller list. I remember back when I ran a bookstore a well-known author refused to let our store run an event’s booktable because we did not report our sales to the New York Times.

Having a system to create fake reviews only reduces our confidence in the reviews we read online. In fact there are laws in place now whereby a reviewer must reveal whether or not they got the book for free in exchange for a review. (Here is the Federal Trade Commission guide concerning the “Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.“) Booksneeze.com is a great source for bloggers to get books in exchange for honest reviews.

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