Two authors who have published with Bacon Press Books, recently released new titles with other publishers. We're all about helping talented authors find their readers so we're celebrating their new works by offering their BPB titles at 99 cents for two weeks.
JP Bloch has a new novel - Shadow Language - recently released by Pegasus Books. It's written in that same keeps-you-guessing-so-you-can't-put-it-down style that has made Identity Thief so popular.
Load both of them on your tablet and you're set for some great summer reading.
Danny Wynn's new novel - Lucien and I - is just released from Bright Lights Big City Publishing.
With it's international settings and its exploration of what it means to live life to the fullest, Lucien and I is a great companion read to Man from the Sky. They're small enough so you can pack both in your beach bag.
Getting reader reviews has become its own industry. Articles, books, and podcasts tell you how to do it yourself. Review services tell you they can do it even better. There are places where authors can swap reviews. Places where anyone can pick up a free copy, just like a regular reviewer, in exchange for writing a review. And rumor has it that some traditional publishers encourage their authors to get at least 50 reviews. Clearly, a lot of people think reader reviews matter.
As a publisher, I look at them a certain way. Will the author be pleased? Did the reader “get” it? Does the review intrigue people enough to buy the book? (Is it really true if someone mentions “too much sex, violence and adult language” readers are going to be even more curious?) Or will it drive readers away? Are there enough reviews to qualify for listing on certain sites if we decide to offer the book for free?
As a reader, I hardly look at them. Except for non-fiction guides. Then I do want to know if other people found them useful or will I be wasting my time and money. But when it comes to fiction, I’m more likely to look after I’ve read the book.
Even with all the advice, how to generate reviews remains a mystery for many. What I find even more mysterious is that some books reach a certain number of reviews and stay there. Whether it’s 2 or 20 or 200, there seems to be a plateau. One of our best-selling books has been ranked in the top 100 for nearly two years, sales continue to be good every month - sometimes it's even in the top 20 - but the number of reviews has stayed the same. Why don’t all those new readers write something?
Like so much else about publishing, I have more questions than answers. It’s true that readers of certain genres are more likely to share their thoughts. And fans of certain authors are more eager to comment. Which might explain why Stephen King’s books regularly garner more than 10,000 comments, while some versions of War and Peace have less than 100.
In an excellent post by Anne R. Allen - Paid Reviews: Why Authors Should NEVER Buy Amazon Reader Reviews, she notes that getting genuine reviews if your target audience is older readers “can be an exercise in tooth-pulling,” even if those readers send the author an email or post on Facebook about how much they love the book. Making their thoughts public on Amazon just isn’t part of their reading habit.
This has been the experience for many authors we know.
Using that worst of all journalistic practices - the friend survey - here’s what I’ve found.
In no particular order people say they don’t leave reviews because:
Amazon recently started offering more options for readers who do want to comment. In addition to the star rating, Amazon has added extra categories so readers can describe the quality of the writing, the amount of sex and violence in the book, the mood of the book, and the plot.
You can read more about it at Self-Publishing Review.
It’s anyone’s guess whether this will boost the number of reviews for those books that have settled nicely into their own plateau.
© VICTOR PELAEZ TORRES
Every time we publish a new title, we start scrambling all over again trying to get the book in the hands of readers who will love it. So we read lots of marketing advice. Almost all of the experts say the same thing, “Target your audience.” Or else, “Know your audience.” Sometimes, “Really get to know your audience - be specific.”
Easy enough to say, but what does that mean exactly?
Take the book we just published, You Won’t Remember This by Kate Blackwell.
We know the audience is:
• Serious readers of Good Fiction
• People who read Short Stories
• People who read Literary Fiction
• People who read Southern fiction
• People who are curious about authors who’ve received excellent reviews
• Kate’s friends and family
• My friends and family
• More likely women than men, but men have really liked this book
• Probably in the 40-90 age range, but younger readers have really liked this book
This is where it gets tricky. We have the advantage of knowing more specifics about that audience since the book was first published in hardcover in 2007.
And based on a sampling of those readers, here’s what we know:
• They don’t like Facebook. Sure, they’ll use if it they have to but they think it’s unseemly.
• They don’t get Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. Like seriously don’t get it. Don’t even have an account and wouldn’t know what to do if they did.
• Quite a few don’t read on tablets.
• They don’t read blogs, don’t check Amazon reviews, signed up for Goodreads but never went back. Never heard of Library Thing or Shelfari.
• Only use LinkedIn for professional connections.
• Don’t even look at cute animal videos on YouTube
In other words, they don’t use social media, and wouldn’t trust social media when it comes to book recommendations.
They do read the few book reviews left in newspapers and journals.
They sometimes go to bookstores to buy books.
They sometimes attend author events.
So. How in the world do you “target” this audience when it’s made up of people who go out of their way to avoid being targeted?
If I had the answer, I wouldn’t be asking the question.
We live in a culture where the assumption is that we all want to be sold something. We’re all susceptible to the right pitch.
But readers are quirky bunch. Fiercely independent. They like to go their own way. Find their own favorites. As too many well-meaning organizers have found out, you can put them in a book group, but you can’t make them read what someone else selected.
Sometimes it seems we're being sold too much on the value of selling. When you're aiming at a moving target, maybe all you can do is cross your fingers and wait.
It's gotten way too easy to load up the Kindle or other tablet with just any old book that comes along. We know, we've got the long list of titles we may never read. But this is different.
As one of the reviewers of You Won't Remember This wrote, "There's not a clinker in the bunch."
Or as another wrote:
“This, the first book of short stories by Kate Blackwell, a Winston-Salem native, is one of the finest collections I’ve read, and, in my work, I am privileged to read many. Blackwell’s wisdom and subtlety are evident even in the title. By telling us we won’t remember, she ensures that we do . . . .” – Winston-Salem Journal
Now it's available in E-Book. You're welcome.
Great news for anyone who likes really good fiction.
Kate Blackwell's highly praised short story collection - You Won't Remember This - is now available in paperback.
About the book:
Twelve stories about characters who are outwardly unremarkable, but whose fraught inner lives are exposed, nerve by nerve, by the situations they must deal with, along with the strange—but entirely believable—actions they must choose. A young husband deals with his charged, erotic feelings toward his dying wife. A bride composes a list of books to get her through her marriage,” saving Proust for her forties. A married couple is reunited with the man who almost tore apart their marriage years ago. A woman leaves her son in the bathtub while she runs errands. Each character is on the edge of a precipice that is both familiar and dangerous. Some spanning decades, others a few hours, the stories play out their tensions and conflicts with surprising consequences.
Here's just a sample of what readers have said:
"A collection of well-crafted, satisfying stories. The dialogue rings true, the characters are authentic--I'm sure I've met some of them before. I rotated these alongside stories by Cheever, Toibin, Ben Fountain, and whatever I was putting my hands on at the time, and these stood their ground. Ms. Blackwell is a real short story writer."
"A poetic, profound, and masterly crafted collection of stories. Blackwell's writing blends the elegance and entertainment of southern storytelling with her own unique voice. It was one of those books to which I wanted to return and didn't want to put down. No story disappointed."
"A sweet collection of short stories to savor. I highly recommend this book. I loved every story in it. A great read."
"One of those few short story collections you can open and immediately fall into, forgetting everything else. Black's characters are curious, rich and rounded, and the stories are complex but believable, centering around the subtleties of southern life and culture."
Pick up a copy and add your comments.
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