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Advice for aspiring authors

Goodreads has a series of questions on author’s profile pages for us to answer meant to engage readers. They range from what are we reading to where our most recent book idea came from. One asks “What’s your advice for aspiring authors?” The cliche and truest answer is keep writing. Yet, a year and a half into publishing, if I had to go back and give myself one little bit of guidance it would be to understand the importance of reviews. It didn’t seem like anything to focus my attention on at the time. I was “just” a hobby writer looking to use retailers as a platform for distribution. This wasn’t going to be a "business". (FYI as soon as you hit the publish button it becomes one.) I was proving I could write a book and sharing a world unique to my imagination with others. The amount of support that I received from friends and family was encouraging. Downloads flooded in. There are more than enough readers willing to take a chance on the five books I’ve written to date. Somewhere along the way, this turned into my job. I love it, but it’s more than simply post an ebook and sales flow in. The hidden part of the sales process—and the hardest to explain to readers in an instant gratification/what’s-in-it-for-me world—is garnering reviews. I can’t think of another industry that sells a product and then requires the end consumer to do something. Kitschy kitchen gadgets can stay dusty in the drawer for posterity. Expensive dresses get to the second-hand clothing bin with the tags still on. You devour that burger and that’s the end of that. The book industry, though, {requires} follow through. Similar to the rest of the “busy” readers in the universe after scrubbing toilets, volunteering, playing mom’s taxi, getting dinner on the table before bedtime, and helping my kids with their homework, I’m not keen on adding to the list of responsibilities. However, it’s a necessary evil that I’m making a priority because I see firsthand the effect it has on a writer’s success.

In 2015, 85% of Kindle readers used a review to make a purchasing decision. While most bad reviews come from personal preferences, all reviews have a snowball effect. The more reviews a book gets the more people review not only that book but other books by the same author. Without 25, 50, 100 reviews authors are invisible. Amazon, iBooks, Goodreads (any name that you may know) they see both good and bad reviews as part of a following. No book reviews = No reader interest = Why should stores bother suggesting an author to more readers. Here’s the other thing that I’ve learned the hard way: It doesn’t matter how much money is in your marketing budget. The legit venues available to get your book in front of tried and true readers vet the novels they advertise. That’s right! To build new readership a writer has to prove they’re worthy of the opportunity. And how do they do that? By showing that previous readers have reviewed their book! Sure, you can place Facebook ads. There are plenty of companies out there willing to take your money, but the return on investment is minimal. After spending hundreds of dollars you may have hundreds of downloads, but no new reviews. Here’s the hindsight: I’m now working my way backward to figure the process out of getting reviews while the story that I have the most confidence in hooking readers languishes. The longer it stays in this void without reviews the less likely it is to get them. So aspiring writers, if I could give you one piece of advice it is Google every NEW resource to find reviewers. Why am I not telling you what they are? Because the industry is evolving at a rapid pace and what I'm doing today may not work tomorrow. We’re an introverted group and you are going to feel like a used car salesman, but five-star or one-star every one of those reviews is going to get you where you want to be.

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