All – there are a lot of independent authors who read this blog.  While this post is primarily geared toward them, I’m sure some of you will find it a little bit interesting!

 

Many people have asked me how I pick the free books I tell you about on the blog – I used to do a lot of manual (and a little bit of automation) work with some scripts I wrote that would tell me what the new freebies were each day on Amazon.  I’d wake up pretty early and slog through it, until I finally admitted that was too much for me to do – I still have a day job – when I realized I was pretty tired some days.

Why not have the authors tell me about their freebies, then I could pick and choose which ones I thought people wanted to hear about each day?  So, I did, and if you are an independent author or publisher and have a free Kindle book promotion coming up, you can tell me about it if you give me a lot of lead time and fill out the short form at http://www.fkbooksandtips.com/for-authors; while I am still on the fence on accepting advertising dollars, it costs nothing to the authors for me to tell them about their book (this stuff has to be paid for somehow, but that’s another topic for another day).

Generally speaking, I pick books I think (a) I would like, (b) books my friends and family would like, and (c) books that wouldn’t offend my mother or make her feel embarrassed in discussions with her friends back in my hometown or at church; no matter how old you get, your parents are still your parents (hi, Mom and Dad!).

Despite numerous requests and demands from various blog readers, I refuse to promote titles in the erotica category or those of an overly sexual nature (you can read my thoughts on that subject if you click here or type in http://bit.ly/W2UDyz into your web browser to read a post I wrote about this in 2010).

There are three things that can quickly have me not promote / tell others about your book: this post talks about the #1 annoying thing that will make me avoid your book.  Before I tell you what it is, let me give you a little background or preface material…

You can take what I am going to say below with a grain of salt – you’re not going to hurt my feelings if you tell me to stuff it and go back to blogging.  However, if it helps one of you have increased sales of what you have spent hours creating to the detriment of all else that is important to your life (i.e., that book or those books you have written), then I consider that a win.

For those of you who don’t know me, by means of introduction I am a full-time financial accountant by day and an almost full-time blogger after the kids go to bed and I have completed a thorough review of junior high math homework that gives me fits on occasion; I can barely do my own tax return, so please don’t ask me any tax questions!  Before some of you dismiss what I am about to say out of hand because I said I am a blogger and not an author, I’ve also self-published several how-to books exclusively for the Kindle that landed in the Top 100 Kindle bestsellers of the year in both 2010 and 2011; while I may not be a novelist like many of you I’m comfortable calling myself an independent author.

Two of my blogs primarily focus on the promotion of the independent author and, being a data nut and former Six Sigma kind of guy, I track nearly everything with unique URL’s for clickthroughs in and out of the blogs.  After doing this for a few years, I believe I have a pretty good idea of what is going to work and what is not in terms of reader interest.  Most of my readers are not hesitant to tell me what they appreciate and what sucks (“suck” being a purely technical term sent to me in several emails or comments to posts by readers, often closely associated with respected literary criticism).  That being said, I started developing a “Top Something” list of things to avoid promoting because either (a) similar promotions tell me it won’t be that successful because few people click on it – despite a book being free, (b) my blog readers tell me what they didn’t like about a certain thing or feature, or the somewhat reliable, but not purely empirical evidence, gauge of (c) my gut tells me not to do it.

About two dozen or more independent authors send me notifications each day of their books going free on Amazon wanting me to publish it on my largest blog.  I’m more than happy to do it, as I have been called lazy at times in the past and having someone else tell me about a free offer decreases the amount of time I have to run my manual methods of seeing what is free for a particular day.  I reject about 75% of the book submissions for about half a dozen reasons – if I’m rejecting them from a promotion standpoint, you can certainly bet potential readers would do the same if they saw most of the books being submitted to me.

Tonight I’ll leave it with what I believe to be the #1 mistake of the independent author: a very short or just plain-ole bad and sloppy book description.

You’ve spent months – or longer – writing the next Great American Novel, avoided your friends and family, paid for an editor (maybe), paid someone to create a snappy cover to grab a potential reader’s attention (maybe), but the book’s description on the Amazon or whatever site your selling on is about three sentences long and really doesn’t provide a hook to compel someone to try out the free Kindle sample or, gasp, purchase your book.

And here’s the really sad thing – of the literal 6,000+ books I look at each year to see if I will promote it on one of the blogs, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve rejected books because misspelled words are in the book description, or in the description the author has simple errors like their vs. there or two vs. too (no, I didn’t go back and proof the sentences and words in this post!).  If you can’t spell or demonstrate you have a reasonable grasp of the English language in your book description, should a potential reader take that leap of faith your book will be any better?

You’ve spent a heck of a lot of time, effort, and energy into writing your book so why not do the same thing for the book’s description?  Give the draft description to someone who has read your book – not a friend or family member but someone who will tell you the truth – does it make sense to them?  Does it accurately describe your book’s contents?  Give the draft description to someone who (a) doesn’t know you, (b) hasn’t read your book, and (c) has an appreciation for your genre of writing – does it make that person want to learn more about the book and possibly read (i.e., purchase) it?  If the answers to any of those three questions is “no,” you might want to consider a revision.  If you don’t have that kind of support group or don’t feel comfortable having friends and family telling you the truth, go to one of the numerous author-support discussion boards out there and get their opinion: a good one I like is called Kindle Boards (www.kindleboards.com).  If you do go to Kindle Boards, go check out the Writer’s Café section.

Enough of the soapbox for tonight – I’m certainly not perfect in any of this but I am interested to hear your thoughts and suggestions so if you are on the blog’s website at www.fkbooksandtips.com or the blog’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/fkbooks) feel free to use the comment section.

Have a great night-

Michael Gallagher

 

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Posted in: Misc. and Random Stuff 

20 Responses to “How I Choose the Books / A Post for Authors”

  1. Patricia Greenawalt  Says:

    Thanks for your honesty. Refreshing!

  2. Pam Terry  Says:

    Hmmmm…Interesting!

  3. Steven Stickler  Says:

    Great info Michael. Now, a question about my taxes…:)

  4. Free eBooks and Tips  Says:

    Sure thing, but I will freely admit I am a Turbo Tax user

  5. Randall AndNancy Raxter  Says:

    While not an author, as an avid reader I certainly appreciate your reasoning for not choosing some books. While I don't read books from every genre, I've never been disappointed by ones you have recommended. Nancy

  6. Saul Tanpepper  Says:

    Six Sigma explains everything! I'm a greenbelt from my biotech days – I think they hand them out like candy – but even from that lowly perspective I learned a lot about organization and tracking. Really appreciate all you do, Michael.

  7. Margaret Clark  Says:

    Thanks for not doing the erotica stuff. I've had free books from other sites and ended up with nasty surprises ( Mr.Darcy would NEVER……!!!!) Another reason you're the best!

  8. Theresa Jean  Says:

    You have successfully listed the many reasons why I enjoy receiving your book recommendations. Thank you for continueing a great thing and not letting others sway you.

  9. Mary LeMieux McDonald  Says:

    Thank you for giving us some pointers and suggestions.

    Oh, and I feel your pain on the middle school math. I have a seventh grader who would rather draw anime cats and read/write Warrior Cat fanfiction than deal with integers. When she asks me for help, I'm kind of like, 'Shoot. What's an integer again? And how is it different from a regular old number?" Good thing her big brother is a math whiz and much more patient than I am.

  10. Tanya Collins  Says:

    I very much appreciate you slogging through all these books. I love the fact that you choose books that are much more grammatically-correct than many others out there. I also enjoy the lack of erotica and 'too much romance'. You help me find my daily freebies and sales! :) :) THANK YOU!

  11. Sandi Dewey Keenan  Says:

    You have no idea how much I appreciate your Kindle free books recommendations. You, though, are responsible for my clogged Kindle Fire (lol). I keep saying No More, No More – and my Kindle says "oh please, just one more". I found this posting interesting and it brought up one of my English pet peeves – affect vs effect. It just drives me crazy. Again, thanks Michael for your incredible reviews and the time you put into this reader service

  12. Calvin Rittenhouse  Says:

    I am a writer and a reader. (I'm not ready to sell my writing yet, but I'm getting there.) On top of that, I was a secretarial science student "back in the day"; I took one college course that spent four weeks on commas. Given that background, I judge a book by its description, just as you describe. If the writer's own description of the book, his or her best marketing tool, shows ignorant or lazy writing, how difficult will the book, so much longer, be to read? The few times I have ignored this instinct, I have regretted it.

  13. Vicki Hosman  Says:

    Perfect post for my birthday. Thanks!

  14. Allie O'Connor  Says:

    I would add that to me, a bad book description is more than just technical mistakes. One of the big things that turns me off is overselling or over-explaining. You should both sell and explain your book, of course, but less is more. I don't want to hear 3/4 of the plot and just hope that the promise of a "shocking twist" delivers, or learn the entire back story of the main character ("former cop with troubled past" is enough, I don't need to know why he left the force or what the trouble is). I also don't want you to tell me that "this is the best book you'll read all year" or "Werewolves in Love delivers a unique twist on the paranormal romance genre." If you write a good description, I should be able to work that out for myself, and you spelling it out just makes me fear you don't really understand subtlety. These two mistakes are surprisingly common from what I've seen.

    The exception to the overselling part is if it is a quote from a review or a more established author. If you can include a one- or two-sentence quote that says how awesome your book is, go for it. But that's a whole can of worms that I could probably write an entire blog post on, as I often see some big mistakes there too…

    Thanks so much for this blog. :) I actually wind up reading some great books that I'd probably never even see (as they're not in "my" genres) because they're featured here. It's a great blog!

  15. Diane L Dixon  Says:

    Thanks for all the work you do for us avid readers, you do a great job. I am greatful as others have stated that you leave out the erotica and the books that go into too much detail on the romance end. You give us a wide span of reading and my Kindle Fire is getting full!

  16. John G Smith  Says:

    Jacket Copy is like writing poetry where every single word counts and is very difficult to write compellingly. Can you showcase what you've seen as the most effective book descriptions? The best of the best?

    Can you separate the authors with huge promotion click-through because they already have a following of fans vs the new authors with first books getting click action because of their engaging copy? And reveal what they are doing right?

  17. My Self-Publishing Experience Blog | Black Dwarves  Says:

    [...] a.      You’ve spent a heck of a lot of time, effort, and energy into writing your book so why not do the same thing for the book’s description?  Give the draft description to someone who has read your book – not a friend or family member but someone who will tell you the truth – does it make sense to them?  Does it accurately describe your book’s contents?  Give the draft description to someone who (a) doesn’t know you, (b) hasn’t read your book, and (c) has an appreciation for your genre of writing – does it make that person want to learn more about the book and possibly read (i.e., purchase) it?  If the answers to any of those three questions is “no,” you might want to consider a revision.  If you don’t have that kind of support group or don’t feel comfortable having friends and family telling you the truth, go to one of the numerous author-support discussion boards out there and get their opinion: a good one I like is called Kindle Boards (www.kindleboards.com).  If you do go to Kindle Boards, go check out the Writer’s Café section. – M. Gallagher. [...]

  18. LynneQuisition: Michael Gallagher | Indies Unlimited  Says:

    […] Assuming someone felt compelled enough by your thumbnail to investigate your book, your last chance to grab them is with your book description. You’d be surprised at how many sloppy descriptions I see each week – some are literally just one or two sentences long, or ramble a bit and I have no idea what the book is about, which makes me drive on to the next book. I highly recommend the independent author finding an independent “someone” to review – or write – the book description (your mom doesn’t count). Readers of the blog, and my author sponsors, have heard me rant about this one, also – I’ve blogged about it in detail here. […]

  19. Margaret Skea  Says:

    Hi Michael, i’m not an indie author, but have been published by a small(ish) Scottish publisher. Re book description – I have a few problems with how the information is displayed on Amazon despite having contacted them zillions of times. On Amazon.com the book description appears as sent, but the professional reviews – from Jeffrey Archer (yes, the Jeffrey Archer) and Penny Smith are displayed twice. I feel it looks very unprofessional, but can’t seem to get anywhere with getting one set taken down. Is this something that would stop you accepting my book?
    ( http://tiny.cc/ewzw8w )

    Margaret

  20. J. D. Brink  Says:

    Sounds like you’ve really done your homework and take this seriously, which is great! When I get a few more reviews on my books, I’ll be back!

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