Friday, September 20, 2013

Assessing the Value of Tools

by Matt Sinclair

What sells you when you decide to buy a book? Perhaps you were drawn by the cover art. Did the title catch your eye first? Was it a blurb on the back? You may have read a review and decided long before you ruffled the pages that this was the next item for your to-be-read pile.

As an author, all these are valuable tools to employ. Some are harder to come by. Not everyone is going to see their book reviewed by the New York Times. For self-published authors, a mention there might happen only if the book becomes a surprise hit and warrants a news story. To be sure, that’s quite valuable in itself, but again not a likely outcome.

Reviews on Amazon and Goodreads are something all of us should be seeking for our books. But even these might be hit or miss. To be sure, it’s nice when people indicate a book is now on their “Want to read” list, but it’s more significant when “AvidReader123” writes a three paragraph review of glowing praise, especially if Avid has written half a ton of other reviews that people found helpful.

Let’s go back to the blurb. These are certainly nice to have. And for the unknown writer, they can be more than just nice. Imagine how helpful it would be if your publisher got Stephen King to blurb your debut psychological thriller. That could certainly translate into sales. It could even generate buzz.

But blurbs from brand name authors are awfully tough to get, too. Agents know to protect their authors from blurbing too often. I know writers who are kept on a strict one-blurb-a-year diet.

Ok, so Stephen King won’t blurb your book and neither will his son Joe Hill. But what if one of those guys tweeted your book’s debut? Might that be worth something to you? What if George Takei shared mention of your novel on Facebook? Think his followers might take notice? Honestly, I think those might be more valuable than a blurb these days.

Of course, such electronic real estate is also hard to come by. Heck, finding a twenty dollar bill on the ground might be more common. But it still might be easier to get a tweet than a blurb.

Think of your own social media habits. Don’t you share things you found interesting? You’re writers: what are you reading? That’s a form of endorsement in itself. If you tweet out what you’re reading, some of your followers might check it out, too. Perhaps you’d enjoy sharing a bevy of your favorite covers on Instagram.

The key is having a well-stocked toolbox. Some tools are sharper than others, some cost more or have limited use. But assess what each one can do for you -- and for others. In the end, you get back what you give.

Matt Sinclair, a New York City-based journalist and fiction writer, is also president and chief elephant officer of Elephant's Bookshelf Press, which recently published Summer's Edge and Summer's Double Edge, which are available through Smashwords (SE) (SDE) and Amazon (SE) (SDE), and include stories from several FTWA writers. In 2012, EBP published its initial anthologies: The Fall: Tales from the Apocalypse, (available viaAmazon and Smashwords) and Spring Fevers (also available through Smashwords, andAmazon). Matt blogs at the Elephant's Bookshelf and is on Twitter @elephantguy68.

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