My name is Andrew Joyce, and to my many fans—both of ’em—I want to say hello. To the rest of you good folks, I’d like to introduce myself.
I’m a writer of little renown. Now, as the title of this piece suggests, who am I to give advice? A very good question, one I’ve obviously asked myself. I have four books out and the fifth should be with us any day now. I have gone through what you are all going through. I’ve sat at my damn computer day after day trying to put into words the sensational story swirling around in my head. When I finally had my story on paper—and more or less coherent—I had to start with the editing. Then, to add insult to injury, once the book was published, I had to demean myself to market it. Well, maybe demean is not the right word, but I do so hate to beg. I only mention my time in the trenches so you’ll know that I’m a veteran and have the wounds to prove it.
I’m here today to relate the little of what I’ve learned over the last four years concerning writing. Some of it will be old hat to some of you. And to you brand-new writers looking for a signpost or two to help you find your way, I sincerely hope what I’m about to convey helps.
Okay, enough of the preamble. Let’s get down to business.
I’m not going to tell you how to write, you already know how. As to editing, well, the only thing I can say—and I can’t say it strongly enough—is that you cannot edit your own stuff. Sure, you can go through it three, four, five times, but then you gotta get another set of eyes to look it over. You don’t necessarily need a professional editor, but if you can afford one, go for it.
Find a friend or family member who will read your manuscript and point out where it sucks. And don’t think otherwise, it’s gonna suck until you, and whoever you find to help, are finished with the editing process.
On a related note: Don’t be in a rush to publish. If you put your story out there with grammatical errors, misspellings, and typos, you’re going to ruin your brand. Yes, you can always pull the book and fix it, but anyone who had bought it in the interim … you’ve lost for life. Remember, it’s your name on the book. You don’t want to be embarrassed by putting out anything less than perfect. One last thing on editing: If you have no friends (like me), then you can try beta readers. They’re easy to find online and in book forums. Some are good and some aren’t, but the good ones will point out stuff that you missed.
Now we can go on to my favorite subject, marketing. And don’t fool yourself, you gotta do the marketing.
Using outfits with mailing lists is a good way to go. For $30.00 or $40.00, you’ll sell some books. When I use those resources, I’ll sell a hundred or so. But you can go down that route only sparingly. They let you promote a book once every ninety days. But after the first blast, you’ve probably made most of the sales you’re gonna make anyway. A few of the best are Ereader News Today, Free Kindle Books & Tips, and Choosey Bookworm. There are others and you’ll find ’em if you look for ’em.
Now, on to the “free” marketing: There is no other way to say this, but ya gotta go out and beg. Ya gotta beg for reviews, ya gotta beg to do guest posts or interviews, ya gotta sit at your computer at least ten hours a day—or as many hours a day as you can afford—sending out the same query letter.
The first bit of advice that I read about when my first book came out was to get the list of Amazon’s top 100 reviewers and send them an email asking for a review of my book. I did that, but I didn’t stop at one hundred. I sent out almost 400 emails. I was into the top 600 by the time I stopped. I did get two of the top 100 to review my book and both of them were kind enough to give it five stars. Subsequently, they’ve bought my other books and gave them good reviews. And that’s good. But … for next two books, I sat down and sent out over a hundred requests to the Amazon reviewers, and I didn’t get one single reply. Not every reviewer has their email address on their page. So, to send out 100 query letters, you have to go through about 300 to 400 profiles. It’s a lotta work.
Next, the book bloggers: This is where the honey is. The people that read their blogs are readers and buyers of books. These are the people you want to know about your book. You can get lists of book bloggers by googling “book bloggers.” Who would have thought …?
BUT (and there is always a but), book bloggers are inundated with requests for reviews. Some get 500 requests a week. At first, I went that route asking for reviews and I got a few. But the return on my investment (my time) was slim. I’ll explain.
Once you have the lists, you have to go through them and get the link to the blogger’s page. Then you have to go to their “Policy” page to see if they are even interested in your genre. You’ll be extremely lucky if you hit 50%. Then you have to go to their “About” page and get their name … if it’s there. If it is, personalize the salutation of your “begging” email and send out your request for a review. Then you go to the next name on the list and do the searching all over again. Whew! Makes me tired just remembering going through all that.
I did that for ten hours a day, seven days a week. For each of my books, I must have sent out 3,000 begging letters. But I finally got smart. Instead of asking for a review, I offered to do a guest post or interview. It’s a win-win. The blogger gets content and you get to promote your book.
To date, I’ve done over 600 guest posts and I’ve sold a fair number of books because of those posts.
One last thing: When you start getting reviews, the best policy is not to respond to them. However, if you want to thank someone for a good review, I reckon that’s all right. BUT … NEVER, EVER RESPOND TO A NEGATIVE REVIEW. Do so at your own risk.
I’ve laid out the ground work; you guys can take it from here. And to answer the original question, “Who am I to offer you advice?” I’m nobody, that’s who.