No doubt about it, writing a novel is hard. Many make the attempt, but few stick it out till “The End”. So when I finally wound up my paranormal thriller The 5 with those very words, the feeling was indescribable. What a rush! Kind of akin to how I felt when I muddled my way through completing my first tax return.
Just kidding. Not quite that much of a rush.
But once I finished that final draft, once I’d formatted and uploaded and published and then spent a few hours salivating over my brand new Amazon book page, it hit me. I had a real, honest-to-goodness, digital ebook, out there in the ether, ready for my adoring fans to purchase.
The rush morphed to acid reflux, however, when I realized the slight problem I was facing. I had no fan base.
Well. I knew what I had to do. I had to build a platform. I had to…market.
Marketing. The dreaded “M” word. I knew very little about how to navigate that stormy sea, and what I did know was that I didn’t want to do it. As a card-carrying (hell, a damn deck of cards carrying) introvert, just the thought of marketing was enough to make my underwear bind in my butt crack.
So, as many writers do when they choose to procrastinate, I turned to research. Just what does marketing an ebook entail?
After an exhausting 10 minutes of surfing the web, I thought I’d figured it out. It seemed that getting reviews was the first and most important step in marketing an ebook – the Holy Grail of getting noticed in the world of electronic literature.
Unfortunately, I knew nothing about obtaining reviews. I vaguely sensed that I somehow had to get copies of my book in front of eyes – a lot of them. And that the owners of those eyes had to be willing to review the book. But that was as far as my research-addled brain could comprehend.
I figured the thing to do was to get advice from an expert.
I’d ask Booger.
Booger Sims was a friend from way back, the only person I knew who had actually written and sold copies of an ebook. And sell he did. His book 101 Ways to Cook Opossum Roadkill was within the top 100 paid sales under the cookbook category on the Amazon Kindle store. I won’t divulge how much Booger has earned on his tome, but let’s just say that around here he’s a legend. His royalties are much more than enough to keep him in Skoal and Bud Lite.
And Booger had reviews. At last count, over 500. Most were 5 star, too. For a book on cooking dead opossum.
If he could round up so many reviews, so could I.
I grabbed my journal, and quickly scribbled at the top of the first blank page:
Day One in My Holy Quest for Ebook Reviews
I met Booger in Ellijay, at the Cajun Depot, where he held court at his favorite corner table. He was snarfing down crayfish like Homer Simpson does donuts. Booger was ecstatic to learn I’d finally finished a novel. “Well, shit, I knew you could do it. I was tellin’ Billy Bob jes’ the other day, if that dang Freeland boy would get off his ass long enough to sit ON his ass and actually type somethin’, he’d get that dang spook book writ.”
“But now I’m kind of stuck, Booger. It seems that I need some reviews. Bad. How’d you wind up with so many? What’s your secret?”
He smiled, and spit a piece of crayfish shell on the floor, ignoring the scowl he got from the couple at the adjoining table.
“Heck, Richard, you jes’ got to know your readers. The ones that like stuff in the jen-ray you write in. Then you send ’em a free book, and ask, polite like, for a review.”
“Okay…” I was frantically writing all this down.
“But the real secret,” Booger said smugly, “is you pay for them.”
“Give ’em an incentive, like. Such as cold cash. Works every time.”
“Uh…doesn’t Amazon frown on paying for reviews?”
He sniggered, bit off a crayfish head, spit it out. “Oh, gross,” I heard from the table next to us.
“I figure that what Amazon don’t know won’t hurt ’em – or me.”
“Well…I like your idea of sending free copies to potential reviewers. But paying for them…I’ll pass on that.”
Booger shrugged. “Your literary funeral, bub.”
“Booger.” I hesitated, then took the plunge. “You think you could, maybe, review my book? I’d be eternally grateful.”
He smiled, exposing the gap between his two front teeth, and the wriggling crayfish leg caught therein. “I would be honored,” he said.
“You know, I could probably give you a case of Bud for…”
His smile vanished. He sucked at the crayfish leg caught between his teeth and studied me with cold eyes. “You wouldn’t be tryin’ to bribe old Booger now, would you?”
“Well, as a friend and all, I would think a small token of my appreciation…”
He drew himself up, all indignant. “I ain’t one of those sneaks that takes bribes for reviews. Why, I thought we was friends!”
“We are, Booger, I was just…”
“Hell, I wouldn’t read yer damn book if it was the last one in the library!” He hawked out the crayfish leg, and the woman at the table beside us gagged. “It probably ain’t fit literature no way. Wouldn’t be surprised if you’d plague-erizd it, just stole the whole blame thing from some hard workin’ indie word smith.”
He stood abruptly. A wave of glistening crayfish parts slid from the seat of his pants and washed onto the floor. The lady at the adjacent table threw up in her plate.
He pointed a quivering finger at the door. “Get out. And don’t ask me for nothin’ ever again, you Judas.”
Back in my car, I thought about what I’d learned, and it boiled down to this: Get the book into the hands of potential reviewers. And ask for a review. Politely. And without involving swag.
I spent the next few days researching my genre, where my potential readers and reviewers hung out, what blogs they read, and who had blogs that reviewed paranormal thriller type books. Then I crafted a series of emails and sent out about, oh, a thousand or so. Each one written individually, so they wouldn’t be flagged as spam.
Then, feeling smug, I waited. And waited.
After about a week, I couldn’t wait any longer. I checked my author page.
I had a review!
It works, I thought. Booger’s method works!
Gleefully, I scanned the review. Two stars.
The crash back to reality jarred my spine. Reluctantly, I read the review.
“A well written piece of dooky. Who reads this fiction stuff, anyway, it’s all a bunch of lies. Only fit for sheeple who watch the History Channel. No typos, so, yeah, two stars. Why bother readin’ this panty waist excuse for a novel when you can read an honest to God book like 101 Ways to Cook Opossum Roadkill? And by the way, I wasn’t given no case of Bud to write this!”
The review was signed “Snotty”.
(Read Day Two of my Quest for Ebook Reviews – a too-close encounter with a Russian mobster)
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