Do Something Cool with Your Book Covers

BUILD WITH BOOK COVERS

If you’re an author who has a book cover with visual appeal, here is your chance to raise that visual appeal to a higher level.

Build something cool with your book cover.

Although designing a cover that has strong visual appeal is a challenge, building with a book cover is much easier than it looks.

First of all, you could keep it two-dimensional, and simply use copy/paste to create rectangular blocks. Anything that you can build by stacking together blocks, you could build with your cover.

You don’t have to work with rectangles. You could crop your cover to other shapes.

But even three-dimensional images are relatively easy. There are apps that can help you achieve three-dimensional rotations, and some common picture software programs have this feature built-in.

You could even do this with Word. (Though Word is common and it’s easy to do with Word, one drawback will be limited DPI, in case you’re planning to print the results. You can make the page size 20″ x 20″ in Word with zero margins to maximize the picture size, then later transfer the picture to real picture-editing software to create a smaller image with higher DPI than what Word offers.)

In recent versions of Word, select the picture, go to the Format tab, look for Picture Effects, and choose 3-D Rotation. If you make 3 copies of your cover, you can put the right combination of 3 of the presets together to make a cube. (However, if your cover isn’t square, you’ll need to squeeze the aspect ratio for the “top,” or add a border to the cover to make it square before you start like I did with my astronomy cover above. For rectangular covers, you can make the top piece square after unlocking the aspect ratio in the Size options and then making the width equal the height.)

In the picture above, I rotated my algebra cover two different directions and pasted them together. If I had only used two, I could have added a top or bottom to make a cube, but I wanted to show that the cube isn’t your only option. Use your creativity. You can make anything from dominoes to pyramids.

You can see a pyramid that I created above. That’s the cover for my Kindle Formatting Magic book, which will be published later this month (hopefully), which was designed by Melissa Stevens at www.theillustratedauthor.net. Once you make a box out of your cover, you can use copy/paste and stack the boxes together to make just about anything.

Illustrator Melissa Stevens made the shapes that you see above using a variety of my book covers. She also designed the header for my self-publishing blog using the covers for my self-publishing books. One of the pictures shows a boxed set, which is something you can make when you have a few related books.

Below I have a simple picture of one of my book covers walking down a runway like a model. The judges are holding up scores to judge it (not that there’s much to judge on that cover, as it just consists of text—but that’s a funny thing about covers: especially with nonfiction, something simple like that can be effective).

Another cool thing you can do is take a picture of a city (but be careful, some of the stock photos that you see of big cities have limitations on their usage) and add your book cover to it. For example, Chris the Storyreading Ape (thestoryreadingapeblog.com) made the picture below using the cover for my mathematical puzzle book.

BOOK MARKETING OPPORTUNITY

Of course, the book cover itself can help with (or hinder) book marketing.

But if you make something cool with your book cover, it provides an additional opportunity.

I don’t mean to suggest that if you create a box out of your book cover that your book will suddenly become a bestseller.

I’m saying that there are ways that you could use this effectively, depending on your creativity and marketing skills (but even if they’re lacking, you might get a little traffic from it).

The big problem with book marketing is that you want everyone in the world to learn about your book, but it’s really hard to find strangers who are receptive to marketing that basically says, “This is my book, would you please buy it?”

Thousands of authors are blogging, tweeting, interacting on Facebook, advertising, writing articles, and everything else that they can think of that they might be willing to try to help spread the word about their books. Some marketing is more effective than others.

Simply reminding people that you’re an author and that you wrote a book, or simply telling that your book is the best read ever has limited effect.

Authors strive to find other ways to catch readers’ interest, hoping that once the reader becomes interested, they’ll notice that they’re authors and then be willing to check out their books. This is the heart of book marketing, combined with author branding.

So making something cool with your cover is another way to possibly catch readers’ interest with a cool visual display. Getting people to notice that visual display, well that’s another part of marketing, where you try to widen your reach.

You can use your book cover creation in a variety of ways:

  • in a blog, tweet, or post
  • to make a bookmark (a handy marketing tool, something that may actually get used by readers)
  • add it as a secondary picture on your author page
  • wear it on a t-shirt and see if it sparks any conversations about your book

Some authors have the creativity and marketing insight to really take advantage of a strong visual display, but at the very least, it might help get a short spur of interest.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2018

Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Tips for the New Goodreads Giveaways

GOODREADS GIVEAWAYS

As you may have heard, Goodreads Giveaways have changed.

  • One change is that KDP authors can now give eBooks away.
  • Another change is that it now costs money to create a Goodreads giveaway.

If you’d like to learn more about these recent changes to the Goodreads giveaway program, click here to read my recent article about it.

In my current post, I will offer some tips for making the most of it.

EXPLORING THE GIVEAWAYS

First off, there is the question of how readers will find your giveaway. It’s worth exploring the giveaways as a reader would before you proceed to create a giveaway as an author. This will give you some insight into the process.

Unfortunately, when I visit the homepage at www.goodreads.com, I don’t see any mention of the giveaways there. But that’s okay. Experience shows that thousands of readers already know where to find them.

After I log in, I still don’t see the giveaways out in plain sight. But they are accessible. Hover your cursor over the Browse tab and you will find them fourth on the list. That’s one plausible way for a reader to discover them (aside from the thousands who already know exactly where to go).

Some readers have this page bookmarked in their browser: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway. If anyone uses a search engine to find Goodreads Giveaways, this page will also come up that way.

Once they get there, there are a variety of ways that readers will search for giveaways. Here are some examples. I encourage you to explore these options.

  • By default, you see a list of Featured giveaways. If you were wondering whether or not it may be worthwhile to invest the extra $$$ for a Featured giveaway, browse through this list and check out the stats. Look where it says Availability, and compare the number Requesting to the Start Date. For the amount of money it costs to be Featured, you should have some very high expectations for the number of requests. If you’re not seeing it, I suggest going for a basic giveaway instead.
  • Some readers like to click the Ending Soon tab. Why? Because if they win, they will find out before they forget all about it. If they don’t win, they might still remember the book, and perhaps they will think to go check it out at Amazon. This section is handy for authors, too. Look at the number of requests on the Ending Soon page. This will show you how successful the giveaways tend to be. Today, for example, I see several with 500+ requests and a few with 1000+ requests, but these numbers will vary over time.
  • Another option is Recently Listed. Giveaways get the most exposure on the start date and end date.
  • The last option at the top is Most Requested. Today, I see giveaways that have received over 10,000 requests. These show the potential of a fantastic giveaway (combined with great marketing, and perhaps a great cover or an established name). Back to reality: If you’re thinking about hosting a giveaway, the numbers you see on average under Ending Soon offer more realistic goals.
  • Perhaps the best option is to Browse by Genre. Find the categories over on the right. This way readers can find the kinds of books that interest them. If your book seems to fit into more than one category, I recommend that you explore the giveaways that you see in various categories. This will help you decide where your book fits best, and which categories seem to be more popular.

GIVEAWAY TIPS

(1) Browse through active Goodreads Giveaways.

  • Check out the number of people requesting the book under Availability.
  • Note whether the Format is print book or Kindle eBook.
  • Browse through a few pages of results under Ending Soon to get an idea for the average popularity of a giveaway.
  • Look at the Most Requested books. Try to find some that aren’t popular because of a big author or publisher name. Check out the giveaway descriptions and author biographies: If these giveaways did something right, maybe they will inspire you. Check out the author’s social media pages to see where and how they shared their giveaways (though it may also have been announced via email newsletter).
  • Try to find books similar to yours. A good way to do this is to browse through the categories at the right. How are these giveaways doing? That will help you gauge your giveaway’s potential.

(2) Increase your exposure.

  • You get most of your giveaway traffic on the start date and the end date. However, the days in between matter: The more days your giveaway runs, the more in-between days you will have, and they can really add up. Let’s say your giveaway would get 500 views on the first day, 500 views on the last day, and 50 views per day in between. If you run a giveaway for one week, you get 1250 views, but if you run a giveaway for a month, you get 2400 views, which doubles your exposure. The more days your contest runs, the more views you get. (The drawbacks are that the longer the contest runs, the more people will have forgotten about it, and the longer it takes to get your reviews. However, a contest is primarily about exposure, and longer time equals longer exposure.)
  • Share your giveaway with many of the same ways that you normally market your book. You’re getting double exposure: People are learning about your book and they’re learning about your contest. Share your giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, and your other social media platforms. Share it on your blog or author website (you can start a Goodreads blog, too, by the way). Share it in your email newsletter. Etc.
  • If you advertise on Goodreads (there is an economical self-service option), you can draw additional attention to your giveaway. Of course, this is an additional expense on top of the cost to run the giveaway (and the cost to send out the books if you choose the print option). However, if you occasionally pay for advertising, now is an opportunity to advertise a contest instead of just advertising that you have a book. Again, it’s like a double effect: You’re sending the message that you wrote a book plus the message that people can win a prize.

(3) If you run an eBook giveaway, educate readers and contestants.

  • You don’t have to own a Kindle eBook to read a Kindle eBook that you win through a Goodreads giveaway.
  • Winners can read eBooks using the Kindle Cloud Reader, and Android device (phone or tablet), or iOS device (phone or tablet). (However, there are a few Kindle eBooks, such as those created with the Kindle Textbook Creator or Kindle Kids’ Book Creator, which aren’t available on all devices, notably phones. So if you used one of these publishing tools, you might want to check into the details first.)
  • In your marketing, you can concisely mention how a Kindle eBook can be read even if the winner doesn’t own a Kindle device. There are instructions on Goodreads’ FAQ page, for example: See the second link in Tip #6.

(4) More prizes reduces your overall cost per book, and they make the odds more appealing to contestants.

  • The setup cost is the same whether you offer 1 book or 100 books as the prize. (For a print book, you will also need to purchase author copies and pay for packing and shipping.) The more books you offer, the less the giveaway costs you per book.
  • If you’re offering a print book, I suggest that you not go overboard and offer way too many copies until you gain some experience with how it works and what kind of results you’re able to get. Author copies and shipping can get expensive (and become a hassle at the post office) if you offer a large number of prizes.
  • More prizes also make the contestant feel like the odds are better. Would you rather go to the trouble of entering a giveaway where the odds are 1 in 1000 or where the odds are 20 in 1000?
  • Only a percentage of winners post reviews (and then primarily on Goodreads, not as often on Amazon), so the more prizes you offer, the more reviews you are likely to eventually get. (There is no guarantee that you will get reviews though.)

(5) I.t…t.a.k.e.s…t.i.m.e.

  • The giveaway itself may run for weeks. The longer the giveaway, the more exposure, so if the contest runs for a month or more, you get more views and participation.
  • Reading takes time. Most winners don’t read the book cover to cover instantly. People are busy. They may have other books to read, too. It will take months for some readers to complete the book. (And not everyone may enjoy or appreciate the book enough to read it all the way through.)
  • Reviews take time. People are busy. Even after reading the book, it takes time to write a review.
  • What does this mean? If you publish your book and then run a contest, you should realize that it may take several months to fully realize any results that the giveaway may bring.
  • If, on the other hand, you run a contest months in advance of a book’s release, some readers may be ready to post reviews when the book comes out.
  • Another thing that takes time is packing and shipping books. If you run a print contest, order author copies well in advance (keeping in mind that Murphy’s law might make you waste time getting defective copies replaced by the publisher), and be prepared to spend time (and money) with packing and shipping.

(6) You can include a note with your print book. (But other than that, you’re not supposed to contact winners or entrants.)

  • A short thank-you note that doesn’t violate the Goodreads giveaway terms and conditions is appropriate. (Also check the FAQ’s. Note that it currently has 2 pages.) Note that there are probably reasonable expectations that aren’t specifically mentioned in the posted terms. Use discretion so that you don’t ruin your good standing with Goodreads.
  • You may include a link to your website, blog, Amazon author page, social media, etc. Tip: At Author Central, click on the Author Page tab and create an Author Page URL that will be easier to type than the default URL. For example, I made it so that readers can type amazon.com/author/chrismcmullen to reach my Amazon Author Page, which is easier to type than the default URL which is www.amazon.com/Chris-McMullen/e/B002XH39DS, which includes a hyphen and a jumble of numbers and letters at the end.
  • If you have an appropriate bookmark or business card, you may include it with your book. A nice looking bookmark (that doesn’t look like an advertisement) may actually get used, continually reminding the reader about you or your book, and it’s not too hard to find a place to get these printed economically (they come in handy for many marketing endeavors).
  • After thanking or congratulating the reader, you can politely mention that it would be great if they posted a review. Really, it’s not necessary, as Goodreads already encourages this, and readers loathe to be nagged about reviews (and you’re not allow to bug the winner).
  • Be careful: You want to clearly state that reviewing is optional (it is NOT required by Goodreads), and you want to ask for an HONEST review. Just like Amazon’s terms and conditions, you shouldn’t place any conditions on the review (any review that the winner may choose to write is unconditional).
  • Most readers naturally post a review at Goodreads if they write a review at all. If you’re hoping for a review at Amazon, then you might mention politely (one time) something like this:

Congratulations on winning my Goodreads giveaway. Reviewing is optional, of course. If you decide to write an honest review at Goodreads, Amazon, or anywhere else, I would be very grateful for your time and consideration. Thank you.

(7) It’s nice to hold a prize in your hands.

  • Obviously, it costs you less to send an eBook, but a print book has many advantages for a giveaway. Since there is a setup fee regardless of which format you use, you might want to spend a little more to get the best possible result for your investment.
  • For several years, Goodreads members have become accustomed to winning print books. People who have participated for years may be more likely to enter contests for print books.
  • When you browse through current giveaways, compare the number of requests for print books and Kindle eBooks. See if contests for print books seem to be more popular (all else being equal).
  • Print books provide a marketing opportunity. If your book is engaging enough to get read, it might get read in public. Other people might see your book being read on a bus, train, plane, park bench, restaurant seat, etc. And they might ask that person, “What are you reading?” They’re thinking, “That book sure has captured your interest. Maybe I will enjoy it, too.” So they might indeed ask a stranger about it.
  • You can include a short (appropriate) thank-you note as I mentioned in tip #6 with a print book, but not for an eBook.

(8) Deliver your prizes promptly. You want your winners to be excited about your book. Don’t disappoint them with a longer than necessary wait (for a print book to finally arrive in the mail).

For a print book, use reliable packaging. Make sure the address label can’t possibly fall off. You want the winner to receive your book, and to receive it in excellent condition.

POSSIBLE BENEFITS

Running a Goodreads giveaway comes with an expense. It also comes with possible benefits:

  • A few winners may eventually review your book somewhere. Most likely it will be Goodreads. Occasionally, but far less likely, it is also Amazon (but it won’t show as a Verified Purchase).
  • You should see a lot of activity with your book being marked as to-read. This was always the case, but now it is even more so, since it’s required for entry into the contest. If nothing else, this helps to draw a little interest to your book at Goodreads, as it shows some sign of a little popularity. (Of course, there are many other books that receive hundreds or thousands of to-reads this way. But there are also books that have very few to-reads, and yours won’t if you run a giveaway.)
  • Goodreads will notify your followers about your giveaway. If anyone has marked your book as to-read, Goodreads will notify them, too. This helps draw additional attention to your giveaway. These are new features.
  • Even more people see your book than enter the giveaway. Every time someone sees your book cover, reads your author name, or reads your giveaway or book description, it helps with branding, which is a huge part of marketing. Branding is a very long and slow process. Every little bit helps.
  • Some participants will check our your books and biography at Goodreads. You will get some attention. Maybe not as much as you hoped for, but you do generate a little activity.
  • Hopefully, a few people who saw your book, but who didn’t win it, will visit your book page at Amazon and consider buying it.
  • Between the winners who receive your book and any readers who don’t win but still buy your book, if they enjoy your book enough, they may help to spread the word about it. Word-of-mouth sales are the toughest type of sales to earn, but when you earn it, this can be the best kind of marketing that you can get. There is hope.

The question is whether or not the benefits will outweigh the expense. In regards to that, please read my disclaimer:

DISCLAIMER

Nowhere am I suggesting that a Goodreads giveaway will be successful for you.

Nor am I suggesting that they will be worth the cost for you.

Every book and author is unique, and just like with book sales, results will vary. It will work better for some than for others.

Rather, what I’m saying is this: If you decide to run a giveaway, the above tips are intended to help you make the most of it.

Good luck with your giveaway and with your book.

If you’re a reader and you enter a giveaway, I hope you win and enjoy your prize.

FOLLOW ME AT GOODREADS

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6970004.Chris_McMullen

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2018

Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Marketing a Book Is Like Dating

Date

The Bar

Authors dress their books up with covers and blurbs, and mingle with readers through marketing. Readers are searching for good books, checking out those covers and blurbs, looking for a good catch to take home and bundle up with.

The Pick-up Line

Trying to stand out, authors try to design fantastic covers, promote their books with special deals, or catch interest with a clever strapline. Readers want to be impressed; they won’t fall for a common one-liner. If the line does impress them, they will play hard to get.

The Blind Date

A reader who enjoyed a book sets the book up with a friend. The friend is nervous. If the book doesn’t turn out to be good, he will feel obligated to grind through it so he doesn’t let his friend down. He’s also worried that the book may be too good for him, with more vocabulary and complexity than he’s prepared to handle.

The Courtship

Authors interact with their target audience in person and online through readings, signings, seminars, presentations, blogs, fan pages, podcasts, and interviews. They brand their images over a period of months, hoping to show readers that they are serious about the relationship.

The Kiss

Finally, after weeks of branding, the reader has clicked link to view the book’s product page, read the blurb, and—oh, here it comes, the moment we’ve been waiting for—KISS!—the reader is viewing the Look Inside. It better be a good kiss. If you like it, there are hundreds of more pages where that came from. Come on, kiss this book like you’ve never kissed a book before.

The Commitment

It was a good kiss. The reader invited the book home for the evening. This is the best night ever, a moment the book will treasure for the rest of its life. It’s a dream come true.

The One-Night Stand

What happened? It started with a good kiss. The book went home with the reader. They had a great time. The next thing the book knows, it was returned. The reader is gone. How could this be?

The Dump

Once the reader got home, it discovered that while the book had a handsome face, it was really a scoundrel of a character. Beyond the Look Inside, the book turned into something awful. The book is promptly dumped, confined to sit on a shelf, watch the reader pass by a few times each day, and bear the agony of seeing the reader sit by the fireplace with other books, smiling and laughing gleefully. Life is just unbearable.

The Climax

Just what every book and reader were hoping for, the book was good enough to please the reader, who finally reached the climax of the book. The feeling is just wonderful. For a few minutes. Then the book realizes that this is the end. Well, it was good while it lasted. At least the reader left some change on the nightstand.

The Marriage

Every author dreams about the marriage: Readers who enjoy the first book so much they propose to marry the whole series. It will be a grand wedding.

The Affair

While conversing with a fan, an author learns that she is reading a book in the same genre by a popular author. How could she do a thing like that? What will people think?

The Divorce

It’s that tragic moment when the reader gives up on a series. It was a match made in Heaven. What could possibly have gone wrong?

The Proposal

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles by clicking one of the following links:

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Did You Return the Gift of Reading This Christmas?

Gift 2

Have you enjoyed any good books this year?

There is a simple way to repay the favor: Leave a review or refer a friend. Tell other people why you enjoyed the book so they might enjoy it, too. This way, you can share the gift of a great read with others without spending a penny.

Happy holidays!

Chris McMullen

Read Tuesday would Love Your Help

It’s going to be huge.

What is Read Tuesday? It’s a Black Friday type of event just for books. In 2013, it will be Tuesday, December 10, 2013.

We’re off to a good start:

  • We have an official website up and running, with content.
  • We have a healthy start in terms of followers, especially the Facebook page and Twitter.
  • We have several authors who’ve shown interest and agreed to participate.
  • We have a press release and we’re now at the stage where we will distribute it.
  • We have been advertising on various websites to let both authors and readers know about the event.

Read Tuesday could use your help. If you can help with one or more of the following, your help will be greatly appreciated:

  • We’re looking for any name recognition that may help to promote the event. We have a little to begin with; the more we can get, the better. Any authors (or even indie publishers or booksellers), for example, who have achieved some small measure of success who may be willing to participate in Read Tuesday could help to promote the event as a whole. It’s a win-win situation, as we would include your name with our press release, press release distribution, and other efforts to promote the event (including paid advertisements and social media). This would help to advertise the authors (or entities) who have a little name recognition in addition to advertising the event. This will help to promote these authors along with the event. If you know anyone with mild success, please let them know about this offer. They can contact Chris McMullen at the email in the next bullet.
  • We can always use more participation, especially books and authors added to the catalog. We’ve had many more authors say they will participate than have taken the time to add their books or names to the catalogs. I expect they will be promoting their books on December 10 and participating. It would help the event be better if we could get more books and names in the catalogs. Simply email your ASIN (for a Kindle book that will participate) or a link to your book at a website where it will be on sale to Chris McMullen at greekphysics@yahoo.com. It’s that easy.
  • Tell a friend, or several friends; tell anyone. If you like the idea of Read Tuesday, you can help make it better just by helping to spread the word. Word of mouth, email, blog, Facebook, Twitter, any way you might spread the word will be valued. 🙂

Give the gift of reading this holiday season.

Chris McMullen, founder of Read Tuesday

Follow the Read Tuesday blog: http://readtuesday.com

Like the Read Tuesday Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ReadTuesday

Follow Read Tuesday at Twitter (@ReadTuesday): https://twitter.com/ReadTuesday

Attending a Book Fair

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Allow me to share my own experience, while also providing a few tips for what you might do when you attend an author event.

First, let me provide a little background for the event I attended.

Reading on the River

I attended a local reading-oriented event for children today called Reading on the River. There were a couple of hundred children and their parents. They had several reading-related activities sponsored by preschools and daycare centers, a magic show on stage, and even Smokey the Bear and a D.A.R.E. lion. Authors of children’s books were also invited (even little ole me).

They had given me information and forms to fill out a few weeks ago. They set up the tent, table, chairs, and even prepared the board shown above (it was placed in front of the pole, but after it blew over from the wind, I placed it between the poles; the aesthetic problem of the pole blocking part of the sign is totally my own fault).

What to bring?

First, do a little research to learn more about the event. What will be going on? What have other authors done in the past? Who will be attending? What is attracting these people to the event? Will your target audience be in attendance? This will help you decide what to bring. Past-year average attendance numbers will also help you decide how many books to bring; too many is better than too few.

Order copies of your books well in advance. It may take a couple of weeks to print a large order. It takes more time to deliver it. Order more than you need. Plan for the possibility of needing to replace defective copies. When the order arrives, take time to go through every book. Allow for time to replace defective copies, and defective copies of those replacements. Plan for the worst-case scenario, then you won’t be in the frustrating situation of not having enough books.

In addition to books, print out nice looking informational sheets. These should include your name, your books, pictures of your covers, blurbs for your books, quotes from any editorial reviews that you have permission to use this way, where to find your books (give simple, easy-to-type url’s), the url for your author page, your blog, your website, and your Facebook and Twitter pages, for example. The sheet should visually look impressive and the text and imagery should get your target audience interested in your book.

Tip: On the profile page at AuthorCentral, use the feature to create a simple url for your author page (probably, just your name at the end of it). It will take about half an hour for this to go live. Visit the link to ensure that it works, then copy and paste this into your promotional materials. This will be much easier for people to type than the url you see at Amazon. Note that you can only create one special url like this, so choose wisely. For example, mine is http://amazon.com/author/chrismcmullen (but yours won’t be this way by default; you must create this url from your profile tab).

If you have a promotion going on they day of the event and the day after, highlight this on your informational sheet; or you can include a CreateSpace or Smashwords discount code, for example (but note that some people will prefer to buy from Amazon or Barnes & Noble, for example; if you restrict yourself to one option, you’ll lose some sales).

A bookmark that looks appealing is a great promotional tool. If it looks like a bookmark you’d pay money for, but mentions your name and book and any other pertinent information, it will likely get used, which means your name and book will be seen frequently. If it looks like an advertisement in the shape of a bookmark, it’s less likely to be used. This may be more valuable than a business card, although you should have these, too, since they easily fit inside a wallet or pocket.

Prepare a portfolio. Do you have handwritten notes or hand-drawn sketches from when you were developing characters, working out elements of your plot, or choosing names, for example? These would be cool to include in your portfolio. How about a printed page showing several editing notes? Include your final cover, and perhaps a draft or two of your cover showing how it evolved. Your portfolio will be a handy conversation piece to get people interested in talking to you about your book. It will also help convey how much hard work went into preparing your book.

Think about how to decorate your table or booth with objects that relate to your book. Browse images of book fairs, readings, and signings online and you may get some good ideas to help inspire your own creative design. Small household objects that inspire your writing may be relevant; or souvenirs that relate to your genre (but be sure you don’t mind it getting handled, and there is the possibility of items wandering off). If you know someone who is into arts and crafts, they may be willing to help you decorate your booth or table.

If the venue is outdoors, prepare for possible weather issues. Remember, wind can be very important, too, not just rain or snow. Bring a water bottle and multiple writing utensils.

What else?

It may help to prepare a related activity. Since the event I attended was promoting literacy to children, I brought a large stack of Halloween word scrambles from one page of my latest word scramble book and passed these out. A few of the kids asked me for a pencil (I’m glad that I brought several, just in case) and worked on these at my table. They really got into it. A few of the younger kids needed a couple of hints. They really seemed to enjoy receiving a hint so they could still figure it out on their own.

In addition to interacting with people, passing out materials to your target audience, and perhaps selling some books (ask for their names and then sign the books), there are a few other things you should do. Interact with your fellow authors and exchange business cards with them. It’s important to build local connections and support groups. Meeting other authors in person is a cool experience, too. Also, get photos of the event to display on your blog and author page, especially a photo of you interacting with people in your booth at a busy event.

The most popular person in the author section at Reading at the River was an illustrator, Annabel Jones (check out the illustrations and fine art on her website). She had a portfolio of illustrations that she’d made for books. Annabel is an art instructor and artist. She’s made illustrations for authors who are submitting to publishers and she has an e-book. She had her artist tools with her and was creating watercolor caricatures of children for many parents (I got one, too).

One little girl fell in love with one of my books so I let her keep it. I gave a couple of more books away at the end of the event. I passed out several word scramble sheets. I didn’t sell anything (the spirit of this event was to promote reading and literacy), but several children and parents did browse through my books. If I attend in future years, I plan to bring several more books for younger children and give them away, too. There was a book zone where every child could receive a free book or two. Kids received stickers for engaging in activities, then traded the stickers in for books at the book zone.

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing)

I have some more images of the event below, including a bookmobile (I think it looks cool with the rays of sunshine radiating just before it). 🙂

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Share Your Opinion about the New WordPress Reader

Reader

Don’t like the new WordPress Reader?

Do like it?

Either way, share your opinion. There is an open forum about this at WordPress here:

http://en.forums.wordpress.com/topic/reader-changed?replies=4#post-1503145

Haven’t tried the new Reader? Check it out.

The only way for WordPress to know how people feel about this is if people share their opinions. So if you don’t (or do) like it, let WordPress know. They may not respond to one opinion, but if there are numerous responses, perhaps that will get some attention.

I love WordPress, and I love the old Reader. I want to keep loving WordPress. How do you feel?

Some of the changes that I’ve observed are summarized in my previous post.

Chris McMullen

New WordPress Reader? What Do You Think? (Updated)

Reader

My WordPress Reader has looked much different as of yesterday. I wondered if maybe it was just being haunted for Halloween, but if so, the ghosts aren’t very good at keeping track of the calendar. So, is it just me?

The font size is larger in my reader, I see fewer posts on the screen at a time, and I don’t see the word count.

With fewer posts per screen, I have to do a lot more scrolling to skim through it and find posts that interest me. It just seems like a greater chance of people giving up sooner.

I guess the font is a little more readable. But I was used to it the way it was, so now it just seems too large. I guess I’ll get used to this, too, if it stays this way.

The disappearance of the word count seems interesting. Were short posts getting more attention, and long posts being overlooked (or vice-versa), because people were checking out the word count? If so, removing this will force us to choose the post that interests us regardless of length. Or will it cause frustrations, or less use of the Reader?

I think all of the clicks where people get to the post, then think ugh, that’s too short or too long—all that wasted energy will mean some posts that would have been read won’t get read.

Yesterday, there was a huge gap in posts, from 1 hr ago to 16 days ago. I’m sorry if I missed any posts that I would normally read.

That Follow by Email button is handy for blogs we really look forward to. 🙂

And is there an issue with pictures showing in the Reader? It seems that some posts have pictures (are they smaller?), yet none of the pictures show in the Reader.

If WordPress did make changes to the Reader, I wonder if they were beta tested. (Or is this part of a beta test?) If so, maybe they have already determined that the pros outweigh any cons.

There is a forum on this topic now: http://en.forums.wordpress.com/topic/reader-changed?replies=4#post-1503145

I keep looking for a button on my Reader that I might accidentally have pressed. (Is this all just a big OOPS?)

Have you had the same experience? What are your thoughts?

Chris McMullen

Which Genre Is Best?

Genre Pic

ROMANCE: Everyone knows I’m the best genre. I give readers the happy ending they crave.

EROTICA: Honey, you’re just a tease. I have what they really want.

SELF-HELP: That’s not quite true. What people really want is a healthy relationship with a warm, breathing body. A romance provides an escape from reality. But with a relationship guide, people can have a better reality.

ADULT: It’s not the relationship part that’s the challenge; it’s the intimacy. I’m the three-letter word that everybody wants, but most people are afraid to talk about.

MYSTERY: Relationships are fueled by passion. What kind of romance are you going to have if you need to read a guide to learn how to do it? People want books to entertain them. I give them a puzzle to solve to engage their interest.

SUSPENSE: If you want to really engage your audience, you need elements of suspense.

COMEDY: What’s more entertaining than humor? Everybody loves a good laugh.

FANTASY: Why not have it both ways? I offer the reader a better reality and I entertain the reader.

SCI-FI: But your reality is too far-fetched to be believable. I do it with a better version of the real universe.

HISTORICAL FICTION: Are you kidding? Jumping through wormholes, extra dimensions, aliens, going back in time… Who are you calling unbelievable? What I do is take events that have actually occurred in reality and make them better.

PUZZLES: You’re living in the past. I give people a way to make the present more fun.

COMICS: Exactly. And I do it in color with pictures.

CURRENT EVENTS: What’s wrong with reality? I show readers that the real universe in the present is really quite fascinating. It turns out that the truth is stranger than fiction.

POLITICAL SCIENCE: Ain’t that the case? And there isn’t a more fascinating current event than politics.

ETHICS: Where have you been? Politics is the reason reality is so screwed up right now. If everyone read me, the world would be a much better place.

HOW-TO: People can read you, but you’re not going to change people. The way to make reality a better place is to read a how-to guide. We have a guide for everything.

TEXTBOOK: Technology makes the world a better place. You can’t do rocket science or brain surgery with a how-to guide. You need a technical book deep in knowledge.

SPIRITUAL: Don’t you see the problems in society caused by having so much technology without the wisdom and spiritual harmony to go along with it? Look at the happy children playing with rocks and sticks, and the unhappy spoiled children with cell phones and video games. What we really need to teach is how to get along with other people, how to believe in ourselves, and how to overcome adversity.

RELIGION: And what would be better than the word of God himself to show you exactly how to do that?

PHILOSOPHY: That would be a lot easier if there weren’t so many gods and religions to choose from.

CHILDREN: The important thing is to get kids reading early. Teach them the fundamentals they need to succeed in life. Give them the gift of reading. If they don’t learn how to read as children, every genre will be out of business.

TEEN: The critical stage is when the child turns into a teenager. Most people want to ignore teens, or just punish them for bad behavior. What we need is to understand the problems of the teenager and help them through this critical stage of their lives. It can have a drastic impact on their adult lives.

SPORTS: That’s where I come in. I give them something they enjoy doing, provide plenty of exercise, keep them too busy to get into trouble, and teach valuable teamwork skills.

POETRY: Really? Then why are so many professional athletes getting into trouble with drugs and legal problems? Let’s face it. No matter what you do, people will have problems. I help people understand the human experience better, and I inspire them through creativity.

DRAMA: Nobody can illustrate the tragedies of life better than I can.

TRAVEL: When life beats you up, you just need to get away from it all. I can take them to the perfect place and help them enjoy it while they’re there.

COOKING: You can’t run away from your problems. Everybody feels better after a good meal.

LEGAL: That’s a good idea. I’m starving. Let’s all have a good meal. Besides, if you think you’re better than I am, I’ll just sue you for it.

Copyright © 2013 Chris McMullen

Your Blog Branding—Is It Working?

If you’re blogging, you’re branding an image and building a following. You might not be marketing a product or service. If not today, maybe someday. Maybe never. And it doesn’t have to be product or service to be marketed. Anyone can market an idea. It doesn’t have to be an idea to sell—it could be a cause to support or an awareness to spread.

My point is that everyone is branding an image, and everyone has something of value to market.

Is it working?

  • I recognize many bloggers just by their Gravatars. That’s a visual brand that you’ve created, which other people recognize.
  • Sometimes, I also remember what your header, photo, or product looks like. Your visual branding efforts have gone a step further.
  • I also recognize many bloggers by name. In this case, your name (or pseudonym or user id) has been branded.
  • For some, I know what to expect in the way of content when I visit your site. You’ve branded more than just your image and name.
  • For others, I know there is something special that I will find at your site. Your branding is distinguished in some way.
  • There are some sites that I really look forward to visiting when I see a new post (and sometimes, when I see you’ve left a comment). You have me hooked.

I’m not in everyone’s target audience, yet I have experienced the branding that occurs here at WordPress.

WordPress is an amazing community:

  • There is much supportive interaction available here.
  • In some ways, it’s better than a magazine, yet it’s FREE and isn’t packed with all those obtrusive advertisements.
  • The ambiance has been, in my experience, very positive.
  • Blogging has many wonderful benefits, like creative expression, trying something out, finding your voice, meeting and interacting with fascinating people, sharing your passion with others, getting your mind off your problems, developing confidence, and so on.
  • You get your very own personal space in the blogging universe, and a lot of freedom with what you choose to do with it.

Consider this:

  • You are branding an image through your blogging.
  • There are many wonderful benefits of blogging.

This gives you a golden opportunity.

If your branding is working here at WordPress, then what you want is more traffic on your blog from your target audience. You want more than a one-time visitor.

Spread the word about the many benefits of blogging to others. This will help increase the blogging traffic (and those people will enjoy the positive benefits of blogging). If they start blogging because of you, chances are they will follow your blog and interact with you here, too.

Include a link to your blog at the back of your book, on your other sites, and on your marketing materials. More than just a link, include a line that might attract visitors to your blog. When you interact with people, mention what a wonderful place your blog is. Market the benefits of blogging. Encourage others to read blogs, even if they don’t want to start their own blogs.

You don’t have to be a writer, artist, businessman, salesman, photographer, or celebrity to enjoy the benefits of blogging. Anyone can do this. Everyone has something that he or she enjoys—like a hobby, special skill, or sport—that he or she can share.

You don’t even have to make your own posts to benefit from blogging. Reading posts right on my Reader is, in some ways, better than a magazine. When I read a magazine, I loathe having to sort through all the advertisements to find and read an article. And the magazine costs money, whereas a blog is free. (Imagine if we tried to publish books that were so loaded with advertisements.)

I must also say that I enjoy several blogs which are amazingly well-written. Very often, the blogs that I read are edited better than books. The words and ideas tend to flow very well, too. Many bloggers also excel at making their blogs visually quite appealing.

And there is good reason for this. It’s easier to edit one post than it is to edit an entire book (even if you post several times per week). If you are marketing something, you want your blog to be impressive.

The WordPress community isn’t just awesome in terms of interaction and support, there is a good deal of wonderful content here, too.

Not all of the content will suit everyone. But the beauty of the Follow button is that you can easily find content that appeals to you in your Reader.

I contend that, for me anyway, WordPress is better than a magazine. Here is yet another reason why. Imagine that you’re sitting in an office, waiting to be called. You could pick up a magazine that many other hands have touched recently. Or you could get out your e-reader, iPhone, tablet, or laptop, and check out posts from your favorite bloggers.

Market the many wonderful benefits of reading blogs and/or starting a blog. Many people may appreciate this once they really get started. Remember, there is much to gain even for people who don’t make their own posts. It might just help you get a little more out of your own branding efforts.

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing)

Have you heard about Read Tuesday? It’s a Black Friday type of event, but specifically for books.