Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Major Rant to Mr. Marketing Guru.


Hello, Mr. Sales Marketing Guru. (I’ve got a bone to pick with you).

Since you continually besiege me with your adverts, I thought it was time I responded to your claims and declarations.

As an opening salvo, I will tell you right now that I’m not interested in any pay-for-review services. No matter how you disguise or slice it with claims of guaranteed reviews and sales, you cannot convince me that your costly services are worth these extravagant amounts you are asking for. Calling it “fast-tracking”, “special social media services” or individualized marketing plans, will not alter the fact that what you are proposing is a cost-for-service advertisement which preys on gullible and desperate authors.  

You will have to convince me that eager reviewers are alive and well out there, ready to review books. After 1,650 personalized and custom book review requests (pitches), I received 160 requests for my recent release. Out of that acceptance total, I have, so far, received 34 Amazon (foreign and domestic) reviews, and this has been over a five-month period, soliciting for eight hours a day, 24-7, with no let up. BTW, a great percentage of reviewers are buried, quit or have rebranded themselves. You’ll see that notation on their contact or review request page. Most of these listings are not currently tagged as such.    

Simply listing a book as available for review on a database or promo site (for one day in most cases), is GROSSLY ineffective at the present. The one-week or one-month programs are equally ineffective if you lack precise targeting. We are experiencing a swarm/glut of new books in numbers that have never been reached in the history of this industry. If there are willing reviewers out there, I have had to seek them out and then go on a TBR pile that is higher than K-2--backed up two, three and four months or more.

There is no way you can guarantee one review, let alone several, for any book at this time. The last bastion of hope is to give away books to accumulate a half-way decent rank on Amazon, and those are not sales—those are freebies—not deserving of a “Best Selling” connotation. All of these listed (*) below companies have failed in click-throughs for my book when it was priced from $4.99 to a drop of $2.99. After trying again, I garnered no better results at my current KU and .99 cent stage. I can attest to the fact that my book has a great title, cover and hook/blurb—AllAuthor stats are through the roof at over 3,040 views and about 550 clicks in four months, and a first place contest win. Not too shabby, considering it is the first in a series. I’ve had 18 full-length interviews and several guest spots—more ink than a dozen octopi.

Supply has eclipsed demand, plain and simple. AMT is on a southern slide, FB and Twitter booster ads are completely glossed over by readers and ineffective, while the Amazon, FB and Twitter book clubs and genre sites are flooded with the same solicitations—a “buy my book” barrage from thousands upon thousands of members. It is even difficult for GoodReads to keep up with such a relentless showcase of author’s books, stories, series and collections. GRs is for readers anyway.  

People are not buying reading devices like they are buying books, as you so stated. The only way readers can make room for new book purchases (or freebies) is to wipe their inventory of accumulated books they will never get around to reading anyway. Unfortunately, this also seems to be a standard practice for many reviewers who need to “clean house” so they can choose titles for the next year. Out with the old, in with the new.   

I am the owner/poster of Guerrilla Warfare For Writers, an advocacy writer’s/blog site aimed at watching the industry, and I have been doing this type of analysis for 14 years, out of my 30-year career. Roughly (35%) of the current listed review site/blogs are now refusing to review self-published authors. They profess to be swamped. This was not the case two-three years ago. I'm not even an indie author (only a hybrid), but this trend has come around to bite all those who believe that writing to market with quick release has always been the answer to garnering sales and a reader base. I blame not the Indies. I’m upset with a program that allows the world to publish, when we don’t have a world to read the published material.  

The largest feature and most expensive ads on BookBub, are now showing a slow decline in conversions because of a traffic jam to gain access into the program. Albeit, BB still seems to show returns on investment, which is astonishing in itself. Other ad groups have raised their prices and modified their guidelines. Some of these major marketing sites do work—all is not completely lost—but you have to find them first.  

SOME OF THE PROMO AND REVIEW SITES I INVESTIGATED AND USED:
(Forgive my misspellings).

Fiverr*
Fussy Librarian*
Bargain Booksie*
Robin Reads
Kindlebooks Review
Book Barbarian*
Booksends*
BookDealio
Ebook Discovery
E-Reader IQ
Ent
Book Reader Magazine*
Just Kindle Books*
Pretty Hot Books*

Those sites marked with a "*" brought zero results to me—hundreds/thousands of engagements and NO conversions, prompting two of them to refund me in full. Out of pocket loss = aprox $550 before refunds which were in the neighborhood of $70.00. Granted that my price was a straight $2.99, and I was told this was the reason for the lack of interest/response. However, when implementing the Kindle Unlimited and .99 cent strategy and applying it again to several sites, there was zero change in rank and reviews. My sales continued on a flat line. I’m not alone in this festering no-man’s-land.

Why are book tours collapsing now?—Just recently I had two tours cancel on me. There was a time when book tours were popular and worked.  Answer: there doesn’t seem to be enough tour participants to carry an author through an extended promotion period, and that was the reason I was given for the failures. Sure, it depends upon who you are using. But you better have a long gap between appearances with any one given site because you can’t sell to the same readers who’ve already picked you up.

The largest book tour sites are not only expensive and claim to garner successful results, but express the opinion that nothing is really wrong in this slow market, it’s just that the timing and individual book may be the culprit for the lack of sales and reviews. This blanket statement is tired, worn and continuously used as an excuse. Blame the cover, the blurb and the sample pages, or even the author for that matter. That’s much easier to say than we’ve overpopulated the system. What was next on the hit list? “NO SALES? YOUR KEY WORDS ARE RESPONSIBLE!” So now we have apps to hunt down super-selling keywords, guaranteed to get that lost audience you somehow missed. Or was that eager-to-buy audience really there to begin with?   

I hired a promotion manager/PR director who has tried everything humanly possible for sales, but has come up with limited results—prompting us to change our tactics and come into social media circles from a different angle. BTW, this is no fault of the manger whatsoever—she is fighting it out with her own competitors. Again, the problem is glut.

The author population has grown by the millions and the number of books listed with just Amazon are staggering and increasing every month. This is a saturation issue that will not go away and only get worse. We have NOW reached the tipping point.

 Personal reading devices across the board (globally) are overloaded with free books (hundreds or thousands) per device and there is just no room for new books even with the most severe low-cost offers. (Readers jammed up their devices when the freebie gold rush hit—this begat the age of Indie superstars, and this constant rotation has never stopped). Now authors are currently offering complete books for .99 cents and lower for an entire series. Many of the A-list Indie superstars and high-ranking mid-listers are reporting 50% cuts in revenue in the past few years. If this is happening to the best-selling brand name authors, what is happening to the rest of us? In the day, Wall-Mart was cursed for providing loss-leaders. Now we understand their reasoning. Sacrifice. For profit.  

There are so many books listed for free (no gimmicks), via the small trade publishers and Indies, that it is not necessary to purchase a high quality read or audio book anymore—the reader has only to put themselves on a waiting list when the book hits a free or discounted status. This desperation is playing out full-tilt in front of us, forcing authors to compete with each other for even the slightest name brand exposure. We never had a world of “Permafree” before this massive influx. Welcome to costless books, the wave of the future.  

Giving away free books is the surest way to dilute and saturate your reading fan base. And yet you claim this is the ideal strategy. Those who might have bought your book already have it because of free and borrow offers. Your solution: pick another loss leader until you’ve run through your entire inventory. Then what? Write to market with faster releases. Really? Call novellas that are 20.000 40,000 words long, “books.” Give away as many books as you can to draw some type of word of mouth or organic sales. This strategy gives legit Indie authors a bad rap. They can’t sell their books for true value. Small trade publishes can’t recoup their investments on give-away prices.  

Mr. Marketing Expert, I sincerely hope that you address this problem and make some type of arrangements and/or policies that will show some, or any type of success, regarding the horrid situation we are (collectively) encountering at the moment.

I am not a crepe hanger or doom peddler. These are indicators which cannot be swept under the carpet or displaced by claiming this is a cycle or a normal glitch in the book sales industry. If you would like to discuss this matter with me, I would be happy to engage in a truthful and honest disclosure. I feel terrible when I see my fellow authors wallowing in despair because they have no sales or reviews for their midlist or even new titles.

The real crime is author/writers spending money on worthless campaigns that produce zeros on a royalty invoice or check. The newest, debut authors are the worst hit. Their despair is tangible when they express their desperation in the writing groups and forums.   

Sincerely,

CJB

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Contests and Awards


I'm celebrating an unexpected victory at the moment. Trying to grasp what happened. I was just informed that my book Screamcatcher: Web World took first place in the N. N. Light Book Awards contest for best Young Adult novel of 2019. Not a huge event, nor a teeny one either. I must have been auto-entered in this running because I had no idea such a platform was part of their yearly program. I take it that about 1,750 books in 25 categories/genres were considered because of their highest reviews. I wasn't even forewarned as a finalist position. Since this was a no-pay entry contest, it made it all that more significant and relevant to me. I really attribute most of this to luck and timing.


This is the third time I've won or placed in anything literature related in 29 years. I think we all know how impossible the odds can seem. Yet when it happens, you sit there in a stupor and wonder the why of it, rather than the whole "Oh hell yes!" of it. Needless to say, I'm humbled and grateful to be called out for a little book that I thought was nothing more than a little slammer beach read. The heck with me—this is a win for the First Nation’s Tribe, a salute to our North American Indian cultural history.



I would encourage others to adopt the feeling that this could happen to you too when you least expect it. And isn't that always the way it seems to work? Victory always seems to sneak up on you with no pre-warning. I'll have fond memories of this day and time in my life. It felt like somebody wrapped their arms around me after a long period of loneliness. And in the writing world where rejection is 99% of our existence, these are the moments that make it all worth the insufferable effort to accomplish and carry on. On the upside, this contest required no payment or commitment to enter. These types are far, few and in between. Many of them are small and barely register a blip on the “who won what” radar. Yet even the smaller ones can have a huge reader base and attract the curious. 


THE DOWNSIDE OF CONTESTS AND AWARDS


J. A Konrath, the successful Indie guru, is noted for saying that contests “aren’t worth sh.t.” That they have no relevance or significance when it comes to notoriety or impact on sales—particularly sales. He goes on to say that they are a gimmick or scam at best. Nearly all of them. He has a point, to a certain extent, and I don’t and can’t disagree with his logic and opinion. Our senior population is a favorite target of contest campaigns because the contests come in so many venues and guises, covering a multitude of subjects.

   

Contests and awards can be an enticement, and yet they can be an entrapment. Ergo an addiction. This, by the way, applies to just about every contest or award out there for a multitude of products and services—books, jewelry, appliances, gift cards, cars, vacations, artwork, poems and the like. There’s no end to the array of prizes and circumstances by which you can enter with the possibility of placing, becoming a finalist or winning. Wouldn’t you know that many of them include honorable mentions as kind of an afterthought. The more divisions to win in allows the host to pander and cater to many more participants. First, second and third placements are the most common winning sequences, with sometimes a hats off to the overall grand prize winner of the entire field. Honorable mentions usually bring up the rear, and make no mistake about it, those little wins won’t go unrecognized by participants and can be just as important as the larger award positions. What’s important is that you got ink!


We definitely have some legitimate and noteworthy contests that can pull in lots of interest from industry professional watchdogs. These contests are mostly free but require nominations to be included in their lists. They are considered premium awards and are usually sponsored by huge organizations and companies each year. Among the best known book awards and competitions are: (Including fee entries)

General Book Awards Contests


1. TCK Publishing Readers Choice Contest

Website: www.tckpublishing.com Contest details: www.tckpublishing.com2019-readers-choice-awards Fee: Free

2. Benjamin Franklin Awards

Website: www.ibpabenjaminfranklinawards.com Contest details:www.ibpabenjaminfranklinawards.comentry-form Fee: $95

3. Best Book Award (American Book Fest)

Website: www.americanbookfest.com Contest details: www.americanbookfest.comamericanfictionawards.html Fee: $69-$89

4. Beverly Hills Book Awards

Website: www.beverlyhillsbookawards.com Contest details: www.beverlyhillsbookawards.comrules-beverlyhills-book-awards.htm Fee: $75

5. Colorado Book Awards

Website: www.coloradohumanities.org Contest details: www.coloradohumanities.orgprograms/colorado-book-awards Fee: unpublished

6. Georgia Author of the Year

Website: www.authoroftheyear.org Contest details: www.authoroftheyear.org/faq/ Fee: $60

7. Hollywood Book Festival

Website: www.hollywoodbookfestival.com Fee: $75

8. International Book Award Contest

Website: www.internationalbookawards.com Contest details: www.internationalbookawards.com/2020callforentries.html Fee: $69 ⁠–$89

9. National Indie Excellence Award

Website: www.indieexcellence.com Contest details: www.indieexcellence.comentry-form Fee: $75

10. Nautilus Book Awards

Website: www.nautilusbookawards.com Fee: $165–$185

11. NextGen Indie Book Awards

Website: www.indiebookawards.com Fee: $75

12. Reader’s Favorite

Website: www.readersfavorite.com Contest details: www.readersfavorite.com/about Fee: $99 – $119, discount on multiple genres/book

13. The National Book Awards

Website: www.nationalbook.orgnational-book-awards/submissions/ Fee: $135

14. The Wishing Shelf

Website: www.thewsa.co.uk Contest details: www.thewsa.co.uk/enter/ Fee: $89

15. Woodson Book Award

Website: www.socialstudies.orgawards/woodson/nominations Fee: unpublished

16. Rubery Book Award

Website: www.ruberybookaward.com Fee: unpublished

17. 2019 Foreword Indies

Website: www.forewordreviews.com Contest details: www.publishers.forewordreviews.comawards/#why-register Fee: $89

Children’s Book Awards Contests


18. The Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards

Website: www.moonbeamawards.com Contest details: www.moonbeamawards.com38/guidelines Fee: $55

19. The Royal Dragonfly Book Awards

Website: www.dragonflybookawards.com Contest details: www.dragonflybookawards.compurple-dragonfly Fee: $60

20. The Golden Kite Award

Website: www.scbwi.org Contest details: www.scbwi.orgawards/golden-kite-award/ Fee: unpublished

21. Mom’s Choice Award

Website: www.momschoiceawards.com Contest details: www.momschoiceawards.com/apply Fee: unpublished

22. The Purple Dragonfly Book

Website: www.dragonflybookawards.com Contest details: www.dragonflybookawards.compurple-dragonfly/ Fee: unpublished

Christian Book Awards Contests


23. Cascade Contest

Website: www.oregonchristianwriters.org Contest details: www.oregonchristianwriters.orgcascade-writing-contest-2019/ Fee: unpublished

24. Illumination Awards

Website: www.illuminationawards.com Contest details: www.illuminationawards.com/entryform Fee: $85

25. Christian Indie Awards

Website: www.christianaward.com Contest details: www.christianaward.comeligibility-guidelines/ Fee: $45

26. Christian Book Award

Website: www.ecpa.org Contest details: www.ecpa.orgpage/cba_1_overview? Fee: unpublished

27. Carol Awards

Website: www.acfw.com Contest details: www.acfw.comcarol Fee: $45 for members, $115 for non-members

28. The Inspy Awards

Website: www.inspys.com Contest details: www.inspys.com?page_id=1183 Fee: Free

29. Christianity Today Book Award

Website: www.christianitytoday.com Contest details: www.christianitytoday.comct/2019/may-web-only/nomination-instructions-2020-christianity-today-book-awards.html Fee: $40

30. CPA Book Awards

Website: www.catholicpress.org Contest details: www.catholicpress.orgpage/CPABookAwards? Fee: $36 for members, $76 for non-members

31. The Christy Awards

Website: www.christyawards.com Contest details: www.ecpa.orgpage/christy_submissions Fee: $175

Self-Published Book Awards Contests


32. The IndieReader Discovery Awards

Website: www.indiereader.com Contest details: www.indiereader.comproduct/indiereader-discovery-awards-entry-2020/ Fee: $149

33. The Best Indie Book Award

Website: www.bestindiebookaward.com/live/ Contest details: www.bestindiebookaward.com/submit/product/best-indie-book-award-entry/ Fee: $50

34. Foreword INDIES Book of the Year

Website: www.forewordreviews.co Contest details: https://publishers.forewordreviews.com/awards/register/ Fee: unpublished

35. Indie Reader Discovery Awards

Website: www.indiereader.com/enter-discovery-awards Contest details: www. indiereader.com/product/indiereader-discovery-awards-entry-2020 Fee: $150

36. The Independent Publisher Book Awards

Website: www.ippyawards.com Contest details: www.secure.independentpublisher.comcart/?program_id=4 Fee: $75-$95

37. The Eric Hoffer Award

Website: www.hofferaward.com Fee: $60

38. Next Generation Indie Book Awards

Website: www.indiebookawards.com Contest details: www.indiebookawards.com/enter/guidelines Fee: $75

Crime and Mystery Book Awards Contests


39. CWA Daggers

Website: www.thecwa.co.uk Contest details: www.thecwa.co.uk/the-daggers Fee: unpublished

40. The Edgar Awards

Website: www.mysterywriters.org Contest details: www.mysterywriters.org/edgars/edgar-submission-information/ Fee: unpublished

E-book Book Awards Contests


41. ELit Awards

Website: www.elitawards.com Contest details: www.elitawards.com/entryform Fee: $70–$90

42. Global E-Book Awards

Website: www.globalebookawards.com Contest details: www.globalebookawards.com/instructions-for-entering/ Fee: $4.97

43. Digital Book World Awards

Website: www.digitalbookworld.com Contest details: www.digitalbookworld.com/dbw-award-form Fee: $59

Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror Book Awards Contests


44. Bram Stoker Award

Website: www.thebramstokerawards.com Contest details: www.thebramstokerawards.com/submissions/ Fee: unpublished

45. Fanstory Horror Writing Contest

Website: www.fanstory.com Contest details: www.fanstory.com/contestdetails.jsp?id=105611 Fee: unpublished

46. Hugo Awards

Website: www.thehugoawards.org Contest details: www.thehugoawards.org/hugo-categories/ Fee: unpublished

47. Nebula Awards

Website: www.nebulas.sfwa.org Fee: unpublished

Business Book Awards Contests


48. Axiom Business Book Awards

Website: www.axiomawards.com Contest details: www.secure.independentpublisher.comcart/?program_id=1 Fee: $75-$95

50. Financial Times

Website: www.ft.comwork-careers/business-book-award Fee: unpublished

Other Book Awards Contests


51. TipTree Award

Website: www.tiptree.org Contest details: www.tiptree.orgabout-the-award/the-process Fee: unpublished

52. Spur Awards

Website: www.westernwriters.org Contest details: www.westernwriters.org/spur-awards/ Fee: unpublished

53. WILLA

Website: www.womenwritingthewest.org Contest details: www.womenwritingthewest.org/willaCurrentFinalists.html Fee: $65

54. Royal Dragonfly

Website: www.dragonflybookawards.com Contest details: www.dragonflybookawards.comroyal-dragonfly Fee: $60-65

55. Stonewall Books

Website: www.ala.orgawardsgrants/awards/177/apply Fee: unpublished

56. Living Now Book Awards

Website: www.livingnowawards.com Contest details: www.secure.independentpublisher.com/cart/index.php?process=product_detail&product_id=5 Fee: $95

57. Green Book Festival

Website: www.greenbookfestival.com Fee: $50

58. American Fiction Awards (American Book Fest)

Website: www.americanbookfest.com Contest details: www.americanbookfest.comamericanfictionawards.html Fee: $69–$89

59. PEN/Faulkner Awards

Website: www.penfaulkner.org Contest details: www.penfaulkner.orgaward-for-fiction/submission-guidelines/ Fee: unpublished

60. AICP Cookbook Awards

Website: www.iacp.com Contest details: www.iacp.comawards/cookbook/ Fee: $150–$200


Among this list are free contests that carry a lot of weight—the Hugo, Nebulae, Booker Prize, Pulitzer, Bram Stoker and other such notables. However, take note of the fees associated with most of them. Name your category or genre and you’ll probably find yourself eligible in one or more of these offerings. Some are for unpublished manuscripts. How deep are your pockets? What are your realistic expectations?


BUT LOOK AT THOSE ENTRY FEES!


Do you think for one minute those sponsoring agencies are losing money by bestowing huge cash prizes and publication upon you? You would be wrong. They are making money hand over fist. The question you have to ask yourself is…is it worth the expense and nail-biting to anticipate or expect a win of any kind in any of them? With thousands or tens of thousands of applicants, tabulate your odds of picking up a win. It’s worse than a crap shoot in Las Vegas. If you are a contest chaser and think that you can even your odds by entering many or most of these contests, you’ll end up sitting on the curb with your hat in your lap begging for living expenses. If you happen to feel good about your odds in a certain competition, it doesn’t hurt to enter. Just do so with the full knowledge that everyone has the same hopes and dreams and the playing field is level. 


I’m sorry, but I can’t see myself as a wunder talent since I might have edged out a runner up because of a dropped run-on sentence or a POV slip. Final decisions could be that close.   

How much does talent have to do with copping a win? Fortunately a great book will stand out whether it is picked by a panel of judges or a reader’s poll. It is subjective and a matter of personalized opinion. Yet the wheat will win over the chaff. Every time. 


There are and have been instances where an applicant can actually sway the votes by using huge marketing campaigns (more expense) aimed at fans, readers and relatives. This happens a lot with book cover contests. Get somebody to click on you as a favorite and wallah! You start stacking up the votes. This happens. It’s a little desperate, but if the cover really is great, it’s justified. People can go to extreme lengths to win—you’ve heard of those authors who have bought thousands of copies of their own books to hit the NYT, USA Today and Amazon top-seller lists. The same thing happens in the contest and awards arena. 


What’s in it for you if you pick up a substantial or even moderate win? Besides publication and a cash prize (if it’s offered), you have bragging rights. Sometimes you get permission to wear the contest badge, usually a star with the logo displayed prominently on your book cover. Does it help? Money and publication is fine. Wearing the badge? That’s up to you. A little gold star might give you a second look. It is NOT a guarantee that your sales and reviews are going to skyrocket. Your win is not an earth-shaking event and, except for the most prestigious awards, don’t expect front page news, radio interviews or TV spots with the major networks. This kind of news goes over with fans, friends and relatives more than other segments of the populace.


So you won something…consider it a personal best. Take pride, include it in your diary and remember it fondly. You certainly did something right and, no, it really wasn’t all luck. It was pluck and you just happened to be there with a beloved book that made an impact on somebody who cared enough to draw you out of the crowd. Good luck with your future entries, and may we all have our 16 minutes of fame!