Category Archives: book marketing

How to Help Your Readers Write the Right Review

By Nora Phoenix


One reason why readers may not leave a review is because they don’t know how to write one. As much as we writers like to talk about reviews, we rarely talk about what a perfect review looks like. We are so focused on getting reviews, preferably good ones, and how to get more reviews, or how to make sure Amazon doesn’t delete our reviews, that we forget to coach readers just a little in how to quickly craft the perfect review.

Hint: it’s not necessarily a five-star review.

Another hint: it doesn’t have to be a long review, either.

I’ve had multiple readers express concern to me that they wouldn’t do the book justice, or that they’d make grammar mistakes. Others said they didn’t know what to write other than that they really liked the book. So how can we help readers in knowing what to write?

It may help if we show readers the anatomy of a perfect review: what you liked in the book + what you didn’t like + whether you recommend it. That’s it.

First, manage expectations. Tell your readers a short review is just as good as a long one, because it is. Secondly, make sure they know that they should feel free to note anything they didn’t like. Stress repeatedly that tastes differ and that they’ll do other readers a service in informing them of aspects they themselves didn’t like.

What can also help, is a little guidance on what they could include, in case they struggle with knowing what to write. Here are some suggestions for questions that could help readers write a few sentences:

  • Name two things you really liked about this book
  • What was one thing you felt could have been handled better?
  • What’s the main trope in the book? (you may have to explain this term)
  • What other books do you feel this book is comparable to?
  • How did the book make you feel?
  • How would you describe the writing style?
  • What did you like about the main character(s)? Was there something you didn’t like about him/her/them?
  • Would you recommend this book to other readers? Why or why not?

Of course, there are dozens of other questions readers could answer, but the goal is not to give them thirty options. The idea is to encourage them and help them in writing down a few sentences for a review.

By the way, it also helps to explain how to actually leave a review. You may have done it a million times (because hopefully, you are as diligent about leaving reviews for books you read as you expect others to be for your books), but for less tech-savvy readers leaving a review may be a challenge. A simple step-by-step tutorial could be the nudge they need to leave a review for you.

Nora Phoenix wears many different hats, and even a couple of different (pen) names. She’s a fiction and non-fiction author, a blogger, and a book reviewer. She will be speaking on “Making Book Reviews a Win-Win at the 2018 Winter Writers’ Weekend.

What to Think About Before Using a Pen Name

By Noelle Stary, Marketing Strategist, 20 Lemons LLC

It has always impressed me how authors come up with such in-depth, detailed stories. How they build the worlds for the backdrop of their story, how they build the depth of characters.

But sometimes there is a conflict between the story written, and the perception the author wants the reader to have of herself.  Sometimes the author’s personal life or business life is in conflict with their goals as an author. For example, an elementary school teacher writing a very sexy book, a corporate executive whose fiction career might create doubts or conflict with his board of directors, an author who doesn’t want family to know that those “fictional” characters hit a little too close to home, or even an author who wants to write in several genres.

Some authors decide a pen name will help keep the goals of their book and personal or business life separate. Each and every case is different and unique, but regardless of why you feel you need a pen name, I always recommend to start with end goal first.

Answer the questions below to help you decide if having a pen name is right for you.

Step 1:  Where do I want to go?  

  1. Where do I want to be in the future, say the next 3-5 years?
  2. How many more books am I planning to write over the next decade? Will my personal brand be important to them.
  3. Do I want to be the brand (as the author), or do I want the book/books to stand on their own?

Step 2: Where am I today?  

  1. How developed is my personal/business brand today?
  2. What type of following do I have right now?
  3. How am I perceived by the public today?

Step 3. What are the pros and cons of a pen name?


  1. I’m looking for a fresh start
  2. I want to write multiple genres, and you don’t want to confuse your core readership
  3. I don’t want to mix my current brand with my new brand


  1. Getting PR is harder – no book signings, no pictures
  2. I’m already working hard to brand myself, do I have time/money to branding a pen name, too?
  3. Future Identity Problems
  4. Contract Problems

Once you have answered all these questions you can more clearly determine if a pen name is the right choice. The decision on keeping your own name or changing it is personal, and everyone’s journey is a little different. Regardless of which road you choose to take, make sure you take time to look at the options so you can make an informed decision.

To learn more about Noelle Stary, or 20 Lemons visit us online.

8 Publishing Trends for 2018

Publishing, particularly self-publishing, is one of the fastest changing industries today.  Techniques that worked five years ago, three years ago, or even just last year, are quickly becoming passé as readers become more market savvy and more overwhelmed by the onslaught of advertising, particularly from digital sources. So what are the top trends for authors in 2018?

  1. It’s the Age of the Indie Author. Because traditional publishers continue to focus on tried-and-true franchises and celebrity authors, the best way for new or niche authors to break into the publishing market is as an independent. Indies have the opportunity to fill the void for readers who are looking for something new and different. But to do this you need to make sure you offer high quality content and production. As an independent author you can beat the traditional publishers in content, pricing, and how fast you get your books to market. You can develop a relationship with your readers. Define your market narrowly and give your readers what they want.
  2. Marketing Becomes More Expensive. That said, as an independent author it is foolish to try to “market like the big boys.” You don’t have their budget, so instead of trying to emulate them, find new ways to connect. While Facebook advertising is more expensive, connecting with your readers through a Facebook page is not. Twitter is a great way to gain name recognition, although it does not often translate directly to book sales. E-reader sale sites such as Fussy Librarian and E-reader News are not as effective as they once were, but still worth considering. Marketing will take more time and involve a combination of blogging, Facebook, Twitter, pay-per-click, and more.
  3. Write More/Write Faster. The more books you have, the more cost effective your marketing as ROI is leveraged over a number of books. Authors such as Diana Gabaldon and George R.R. Martin are dinosaurs—the last of a dying breed of authors who have the luxury to take years to write a book. If you are starting to see success, consider what you can hire out to give yourself more time to produce new products. If you are new in your career, focus on ways to become more productive. Would a short story complement an existing series and give you a new product on the market while working on a longer novel?
  4. Seminars, Webinars and Other Add-Ons. Another way to increase your profitability is to offer a seminar or do personal appearances. This also will give you a way to sell additional, related products. One author I know sells T-shirts and coffee mugs with her book titles and other related slogans, both on her website and at personal appearances. Yes, there are days when she sells more T-shirts than books, but the point is she is promoting herself, her books, and generating income as an author for her family.
  5. More Books Than We Can Read. It’s not that people are reading less, it is that authors are publishing more—and more authors are publishing. The digital bookstore has unlimited shelf space. That means that even books that don’t sell well are “on the shelf” at Amazon. As literally millions of new authors publish each year, it becomes harder and harder for readers to “browse” the online shelf for undiscovered gems. Yes, people are still reading, but the competition grows fiercer every year. The higher your rank on Amazon, the higher your placement on a search page. The trick is to get to the top and stay there.
  6. Readers Look For Non-Fiction. We can thank Trump for it: political books are hot right now. In fact, non-fiction in general is big. Coffee table books with beautiful pictures are selling well. In fiction, genre romance, such as sci-fi and fantasy romance is overtaking the more general romance titles. Hardbacks, particularly those coffee table books, are becoming a symbol of luxury. As one reader put it, “If I just want to check out an author, I buy an e-book. If I really like an author I want a hardback to put on my shelf and keep.”
  7. Amazon Versus the Author. Amazon’s affiliate program continues to be less generous and that trend will continue. Authors saw their Amazon royalties drop drastically in 2017. What is the best way to combat it? Some authors are “going wide,” offering their books on a variety of sites such as Smashwords or Barnes and Nobles’ Nook. Others are developing “direct to reader” sales pages on their own websites. There is no one right way; Amazon still holds a clear advantage, with over 75 percent of the sales of e-books. The best thing to say about this trend is that authors must be on the lookout for new ways to market and sell to readers.
  8. More Indie Authors Will Be Successful. While you may look at the previous items on this list and feel discouraged, the good news is that every year more and more independent authors are becoming successful high-earners. In 2017 the number of authors who reported making over $100,000 from writing grew by 70% over 2016. The percentage of authors making between $5,000 and $10,000 per month doubled. What’s the trick? Don’t give up. Focus on writing and marketing—both your books and yourself. Treat your books as a business that will slowly grow and increase in value over time.