The Author’s Guide to Book Contests

Haven’t you always wanted one of those coveted stickers to put on your book’s cover? A sticker that distinguishes it from the rest of the readers’ choices.  A sticker that may even draw the respected eye of a certain former TV host with the book club we all know and see featured in book stores around the world.  It could happen!
We’re not saying it will happen tomorrow or next week, but if you start small and take the time to promote your book through smaller channels, the prized “O” could be within your reach one day.
Book contests give your book some exposure. And while reviews and social media pages work similarly, exposure from a larger group is always a plus. Awards also provide added credibility.  How many times have you seen or heard of a book being purchased only by virtue of the fact it has won a major award?  As a former bookseller I can honestly say it happens a lot.
There are a wide variety of contests out there and not all of them may be a perfect fit for you, so definitely do some research before you commit to a contest.  Make sure they include your genre as a category, check out the entry fee, how the judging works, and their general criteria for entry.   We’ve complied a starter list of book award contests that we have suggested to authors in the past and have posted it below for the benefit of the literary-inclined.  Best of luck and may the “O” be ever in your favor.

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Notice Me! – The Author’s Guide to a Happy Fan Base

authorIt is a truth universally acknowledged that everyone loves recognition.  You can’t deny it, it’s pretty great when you read that first positive, glowing review of your work. Sometimes it’s even better when a fan comments on how much they loved your work publicly, whether it’s on a blog or Facebook post.
So it’s only natural that said fan would be just as eager to get a response to their excitement. Thus begins our foray into maintaining a happy fan base. 
Don’t Upset or Embarrass Your Readers for Having an Opinion
When posts like this exist on a book blogger’s site – any book blogger mind you, I’m not just calling out Cuddlebuggery – it’s a little disheartening to imagine that an author would ever harass a reader after asking for an honest review.  So first and foremost, don’t harass your readers. It does not look good for you and could very easily affect the way other potential readers see you and your work.
Do Add Fun and Interactive Content to Your Pages
Readers love to see that you’re genuinely passionate about your writing and outside interests so if you love hiking and the outdoors, don’t be afraid to post pictures of yourself on a hike or some images from your favorite place to write/think. If you’re a foodie and love trying new places to eat, post about it! Check in through your author page to great restaurants or give a nice review of your favorite order and post a picture.  You could ask if anyone knows a similar recipe or if they’ve ever been there.
Fans can communicate directly with you and they love being able to interact with someone who they feel has a genuine interest in their thoughts and ideas outside of how it pertains to your book.  This allows your readers to connect with you on a personal level and could very well generate more talk about your books, recommendations, and general internet chatter.
For more ideas about interactive content, visit:
A Prime Example
J.K. Rowling is quite possibly the queen of positive fan interactions.  She Tweets back to her fans, directly replies to their comments, and makes constant references/posts about the books that we all know and love – their world, characters, where are they now, etc.  Her most notable reference to the acclaimed Harry Potter series came on the night of the series’ final movie premiere when she uttered the now famous “Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.” This quote is talked about, reposted, referenced, and/or known by millions of fans all around the world.  Why? Because they love her. They love this author who has always interacted with the fans, understood them, and connected with them through mutual experiences and interests.
So in conclusion, don’t be a Debbie Downer, be a J.K. Rowling!
 J.K. Rowling

Writing with the Masters – Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you” – Maya Angelou
Writing as an art form comes from expression of an emotion, feeling, or idea through the written word.  It has been found to be therapeutic, even used as a form of psychological treatment in the form of journal therapy. describes journal therapy as, “primarily used with people in therapy to increase awareness and insight, promote change and growth, and further develop their sense of self.” By expressing your own emotions and experiences through writing – whether it is channeled through fiction or non-fiction – you create both a personally relaxing and therapeutic outlet for yourself as well as a relatable scenario for your readers.
The old adage to write what you know is truer than you think. There is no interest too obscure to become the basis for a piece of writing. If you have a real fascination with grasshoppers, write about grasshoppers! How they live, what they’re thinking, or how they respond to the world around them.   Maybe you had a truly horrendous first job, why not give it to a character?  Readers respond particularly well to a story that they can relate to and imagine themselves in the midst of.  When you write what you know, you add credibility and appeal to fans with similar interests.
Tell your story, like Maya Angelou!

Simple Ways to Get Book Reviews

AmazonAs many authors know, one great way to improve book sales is to have a large number of positive reviews for your book. The advantage of having reviews demonstrates to potential buyers and readers that they can have confidence in taking a chance on purchasing and reading your book. This is especially true for authors that are just starting out since your name is unknown. Getting book reviews can be a challenge though, so here are some ways you can get more reviews for your book.
Ask Personal Networks Directly
It doesn’t hurt to ask! Some authors don’t feel as though they can reach out to friends and family, or social networking acquaintances, but the truth is, most of the people you’re connected to will want to see you succeed as an author. This is especially true when you release your first book. If you give them clear and easy to follow directions on how to write a review for your book, there’s a good chance that you’ll get a significant number of free book reviews.
To make this strategy work well, email a group of people and offer free copies to each person who is willing to read the book and post a review. Follow up with those that agree to write a review by sending a gentle reminder. Also, if you intend to keep writing, make a note of the people you know who have reviewed your book and contact them when you release your next book.
Ask for a Review in the Back 
This seems fairly obvious, but many authors don’t add a request at the end of the book asking for a review if the reader enjoyed it. This is a great time to share that you’re a new author and tell them that reviews go a long way towards supporting your work. Many readers don’t understand how important a good review can be, but are usually willing to leave a positive review if asked. Be sure to ad a link to make it easy for your readers to find and review your book.
Build a Group with Similar Authors
Create or join a group for writers and authors. Forming a group with other authors is a great way to be successful and form important networks. There are even many author groups available that you can be a part of, either online or in person. Ask for reviews and ensure that you provide reviews for other authors in the group as well. By participating in a group with like-minded authors, you will join forces to create improved results for everyone.
Reach Out to the Top Reviewers
If you’re selling your book through a website, they probably have a list or category of their top reviewers. These are people who have reviewed a large number of products and their reviews have been voted as being helpful. A small set of these people commonly read and review books. One of the advantages of reaching out to this group is that they’re much more likely to write a review than others. Find this list through your site and narrow down the profiles to find those who review books in your genre. Contact them and offer a free copy of your book in exchange for leaving a review. Similarly to asking friends and family, make a note of anyone who follows through and contact them when you release a new book.
These are some key ways to get reviews for your books. If you’ve been struggling to get reviews and get noticed, use these tips to start putting your work out there and gaining more attention.
This article was contributed by Tanisha Williams. Tanisha is the author of two non-profit e-books “501c3 In 12-Steps” and “Simple Internal Controls That Protect Your Assets”. Her desire for more interaction with readers was the key inspiration behind the development of her latest business venture ChatEbooks ( ChatEbooks, launched in October 2014, harnesses the strengths of social media in order to help authors and their readers engage and connect within the context of the selling/reading experience.

Should you try to sell your book in stores?

bookstoreMost bookstores do not typically want self-published authors on their shelves, and in our opinion, the fight for your spot is probably not worth the effort. Putting your book beside the latest release from a major publishing house is not going to attract the sales you want, so we have advice for you on focusing your efforts online.
Nowadays, most people are buying their books online, so having your book available for sale at a bookstore should not be a priority. With online self-publishing being as easy as it is, this is also a great way to launch your book at a low cost and with the best results. Furthermore, your audience is much more likely to invest a smaller amount of money on an ebook and rely on online reviews to make their decision than to spend more on a paperback novel by an unknown author. Focusing on online sales allows you to reach more potential customers and market yourself to a specific audience that you know will be interested in your book, rather than waiting for the right person to stumble upon it in a bookstore.
If your book is regional, like ‘Dining Guide for New Orleans’ or ‘Hiking Trails in San Diego’ it might be a worthwhile investment to sell your book in local bookstores or coffee shops. This market tends to shop for physical copies and seeks a local’s advice on travel, hotspots and eateries. Bookstores may accept your book on consignment, depending on how your book compliments their inventory and how well it sells. To have your book in a store on consignment, you must pitch your book to the bookstore and be willing to surrender copies that will not be paid for until they are sold. It is a bit of a different process than is typical of professionally published books, but it could be a great way to draw attention from locals.
Whether or not you should sell your book in a bookstore is ultimately your decision and definitely depends on your target market; for example, older readers may be more likely to invest in a paperback copy of your self-published book if they are not familiar or comfortable with ebooks. However, it is often more practical to invest your time in online sales to begin with and build an audience that way, targeting a specific market and allowing your audience to grow through online sales and reviews. In either case, publicity is the common thread in gaining sales and is key in building an audience for your self-published book.