Friday, May 30, 2014

A Heads-up Report on GoodReads Book Give-Away


I have never claimed to be the brightest bulb in the box.

When I was setting up my book give-away on GoodReads I never gave much consideration to the cost factor of sending a book to someone in another country. If anything, I was smitten with the idea of having people in other English speaking nations read my novel. After all, the egotistical dreamer in me imagined the label “international best-seller,” to precede the book’s title one day in the future. (I like to practice positive thinking.)

So, after noting that give-away books were to be actual physical copies and not an e-book version, the next choice I had to make was, to which countries other than the U.S. was I willing to ship? With a confident smile on my face I chose Canada and United Kingdom.

My give-away was for three books and lasted a month. Seven hundred fifty-eight people signed up to win. Hopefully, a good percentage of those people read the back blurb and want to read my book. That’s advertising in my opinion. I purchase my books at wholesale cost. How much could postage possibly be, anyway?

The right size bubble pack mailers from the post office cost $1.39 each. Not bad for the convenience.  One book went to North Dakota. Even though it is the beginning of summer, I envisioned the recipient snuggling down in a comfy chair with my book, sipping from a mug of hot cocoa and occasionally looking out their window as a blanket of snow covered the pastoral country-side.

My mind evoked much the same image, but with the addition of huge cedar trees looming nearby when I discovered the second book recipient lived in Alberta, Canada. The third vision differed slightly; a heavy fog rising from the ground in the midst of a cold steady rain and sheep huddled together on the patchwork of rolling hills because the third winner was from Great Britain. (I'm a James Herriot fan.)

My book (just shy of 400 pages) would be shipping from Oklahoma.

The cost to ship to North Dakota was $3.17. Postage to Canada, $13.75, caused my eyes to open wide.  I swallowed hard when I discovered that to mail the small package “across the pond” was a staggering $20.45. The latter two packages also had to have customs forms filled out.  Grand total $40.55. 

Hmm. So how can I best word this? A Community of Butterflies: Chrysalis, Barbara Shoff’s breakout novel, a stalker-thriller, is now received by international audiences. 

Sounds good to me.

Considering my budget, I think I will limit future contest give-aways to the continental U.S. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

In Pursuit of the Elusive Amazon and GoodReads Review

elu·sive
 adjective \ē-ˈlü-siv, -ˈlü-ziv\
: hard to find or capture


A few weeks ago I decided to be more consistent with my blog posts. Blog consistency, I am told by the “experts,” helps build your “platform” and your “brand.”

My brand is me. A no frills, tell it like I experience it, no candy coating, we are all in this together, root for the underdog perspective person.

The “experts” say one’s platform and brand are essential to becoming a “successful” writer. With that comment I suggest we eat a smidgen of salt.

I am further told by those with varying degrees of “success” that one’s platform must consist, at the very least, of various interconnected social media applications, such as:  a private website, a blog, pages on GoodReads, Facebook, Pinterest, Linked-in, Tumblr and Twitter. Don’t forget AboutMe and Instagram. These various parts of your platform should work together in harmony (which I understand means having a button that links to the other sites with a single mouse click) and, when available, transports newly created material added to one site to all the others simultaneously, and includes timed released scheduled materials so one can achieve a broad reach in shouting to the world about new products of your personal brand, and, most importantly, a way to collect the names and emails of all those who hear your shouts because you need to prove you have a customer base and have a way to let customers know when your next product (book) is released so you can achieve more sales, which means greater success. The creation of more books gives you more products to offer. Take a breath.

If you are over a certain age, think about all of this as advertising on ABC, CBS, and NBC, with spots airing during the evening and morning news, Sunday ads in local newspapers, billboard displays on the busiest streets and radio ads on the most popular stations.  

Of course, as I have expressed in the past, this all depends on one’s definition of success. In this particular blog article I am addressing financial success.

To be honest, instead of consistency, I will write articles that are of importance to me and address issues other writers may be pondering and struggling with, rather than simply spewing up anything for the sake of filling a page on a daily or weekly basis.  I prefer to spend more time writing my next book. So, know this - if you subscribe to what I write, I won’t be frequently clogging up your email unless I discover or question something important to you and me as writers. Or, if I have a new release. (Not something I do on a weekly basis.)

According to the dictionary, and expert is defined as a person having a high degree of skill or knowledge of a certain subject.

So, for the sake of this article, it would make sense that an expert is a person who has made a ton of money writing and selling her or his book. This means s/he has obtained hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of reviews. OR has really studied the subject matter.
BECAUSE, as all would-be-successful-writers know, lots of good REVIEWS DRIVE SALES. We know this because we have heard it from the “experts.”

This subject must be important. Consider my search on Google researching for this article. Using the search words “how to get reviews on Amazon” returned “about 941,000,000 results in 0.49 seconds.”

So, I would say I am not the only person pondering the issue of the elusive review.

I have read many of these articles (no, not all of them, goose) and discovered that, of the 941,000,000 results, a large percentage of articles are willing to share the “secret” for the price of becoming a member of a successful writers club, or a writer is selling a book with detailed information answering this question.  Other links offer to sell you reviews, the cost of which breaks down on one popular site to a few pennies shy of $35 per review.

Give me a break.

At that rate, if you are selling books on Amazon in the “sweet spot” (again, identified by experts) of between $2.99 and $3.99 for an e-book, as a writer you are going to be making between $2.50 and $3.25/book. An indie writer without an agent receives 70% of the sales price. So, a writer would need to sell about 10 books for every review s/he receives.

This is not exactly cost effective if it is true that most books don’t sell with speed or consistency until there are at least 100 reviews in the first place.

This is enough to make any writer feel like a dog chasing its own tail.


One answer that I am told works well is to give your book away for a brief period.  Yes, I was sucked in to this way of thinking. I come from the “try it and see what happens” school. I learn by experience. I am sharing my experiences for free through this blog. One day when I am rich and famous I will charge for my lecture and secret sharing abilities.

One writer told me she received a plethora of reviews following such a promotion.

I recently read that an author receives about 1 review per 1000 free downloads. My friend’s freebie promotion last year over Mother’s Day resulted in about 35,000 downloads, after she sent announcements a week in advance to 25 different places that promote free downloads. (Mother’s Day is one of the biggest sale times for e-readers and, according to some, makes the perfect time to offer the free book promotion.)

I banked on getting the word out about my free book offer via a 35 count blog tour that started on Mother’s Day and the two days following. The cost of such a tour is less than $50.

For the three days, I gave away a whopping, or in the eyes of some, a paltry 1057 free downloads.  Hmm. If the ratio of numbers are right on downloads to reviews, I’ll get ONE.

As self-justification, I didn’t know about getting the word out to the freebie promotional sites until I was in the middle of packing for a convention and booking future author sales/signing opportunities.

At the Oklahoma Writers Federation Inc. convention I attended I received mixed messages from the experts.

One successful author told us never to solicit or promote our books via Facebook and GoodReads. It is not considered proper author etiquette.  Another highly successful author explains she does announce her new books on Facebook, but mostly she engages with her fans.

But, darn it, I need fans. To get fans I need reviews. I have been very clear to those who follow me on any social media that I appreciate reviews. Not exactly the same as asking, right? More like a really, really big hint. (I want to sincerely thank those who have already advised me that a review is on the way.)

I have also learned that what worked last year via social media doesn't mean it’s going to work this year.

For instance, Amazon has changed things. At one time, downloads of free books in a promotion counted toward overall book rankings. Not so anymore. Free books are now counted separately from paid downloads. There are so many authors offering free books at any given time, now it is like having a grocery store full of taste test tables. Everyone knows that if you go to the store hungry, you are going to spend more money buying food. However, if at the end of every aisle someone offers something to eat, a consumer might get full before s/he gets halfway through the store.

A study in Publisher’s Review several years ago has remained pretty consistent even in this computer age, "... an author’s reputation impacts 52% of sales, personal recommendations (word of mouth advertising) encourages 49% of sales, book reviews account for 37%, a good back blurb counts for 22% and advertising impacts at about 14%."

Currently, as a writer, I am unknown to the masses so I lack a reputation.Therefore, I find myself asking my friends and those who have read and like my books to please recommend them to their friends (as well as any stranger who passes within a foot of them any time of the day and anyplace they may be). If you notice I am deliberately not asking for a reviews in this article. I want to be maintain professional author etiquette. (The last statement is not to be construed in any way to mean I do not want, need or appreciate every review I receive. I honestly, truly do.) Also, I want to thank those who assisted me with wording for my back blurb. 

 I have no advertising budget, but hey, prayers are free. 
Can I get an, "Amen" ?

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Goodreads Great Opportunity

Start singing to your audience and not so much to the choir.

Any published writer knows the challenge of getting a book in front of readers who will actually spend money to purchase it can be daunting. Most of your contacts are family members or other writers and starving artists on a budget themselves.  Unless your writing targets other writers with miracle "get-published-and-create a million-followers-on-social-media-overnight” books that sell, you may be screwed.

Successful authors make money basically two ways, writing and marketing good books and getting paid to tell how they did it. For this reason, they are too often singing to the choir by establishing a following limited mostly to other writers. To really become successful, an author needs to expand his or her reach beyond other writers. WE NEED TO FIND READERS.

GoodReads gives you the opportunity but with a much greater reach to readers and enough contact with writers to help an author play the “you-scratch-my-back-game” effectively. To quote GoodReads:
"With over 300 million page views and 45 million unique visitors a month, GoodReads offers integrated advertising and book launch packages designed to target and reach readers."
 Note:  I AM the All Things Computer and Social Media Dummie Queen. 
I OWN THE CROWN!

Therefore, if I can do this so can you.

1. Go to Goodreads.com and sign-up for a membership. It is FREE. Give them what they ask for: email, your name and a password. I don’t care what you have been told, write your darn password down, make sure it’s not “password." Try using your first pet’s name and your birth date.

2. Fill out as much of your profile as you are comfortable letting other people know. Be advised:

There are TWO profile opportunities on GoodReads. 

One if you are a reader and another if you are also an author. This threw me for some time. Start with the basic reader profile. Use a good photograph. Take a hundred selfies if you need to, but get a good picture. If you are a professional, get a professional picture taken. This is time to invest in yourself. YOU are your main product, even if you think it is your book(s). Besides, it is tax deductible. If you want others to take you seriously, get serious.

Now as a reader, look for your book. That’s right. Pretend you don’t know you but you heard your name and that you wrote a good book. GoodReads may ask for your ISBN number or a .jpg. If your book is available on Amazon, chances are your book will magically appear. Click on your book to confirm that is the one you are wanting. Was that easy or what?

3. Back to your profile. In the upper right corner you have the opportunity to edit your author profile. By clicking on this choice, your basic reader profile expands and you can add all sorts of fantastic stuff. Add it. If you have a blog, open another search window and go to your blog page, copy the address in the address bar, take it back GoodReads and paste it into the little window. Make sure it has the www and the http:// (it only needs to have one set) and because GoodReads may automatically add that in, if you get the message “invalid address," remove the extras. (I told you I own the crown.)

4. Next, go to the forums at GoodReads. Don't post anything, just read and study what is available. Search for topics and see what comes up. Read “Author Etiquette.” OMG, I'm a professional and I had no idea!  Try searching your state, you may find forums specific to your geographic location. Want reviews? Search "author reviews." You will find forums where writers are looking for someone to exchange reviews with them.  Offer to scratch someone’s back and get yours scratched.

5. Now for the best “free” opportunity I have found yet, (I am still new as an author to GoodReads. It has taken me a bit to figure it all out.) Click under explore and find the book giveaway page. Read about it. To participate you agree to give away a physical book and cover the postage to wherever it is going. You will identify your genre’, book length, a blurb about the book. Again, you will add your book, however, this is so cool, if it is already in the system you just have to add your ISBN and it pops up. You will select the length of time of the promotional in drop-down calendars and the total number of books you are giving away. 

I chose a month so I would have free advertising for a month that people are seeing. These are people who love books. These are readers. People who buy books. And, though not guaranteed, many give reviews because Goodreads, in their wisdom, conduct the “random” drawing for winners and clearly state winners are weighted toward those who have provided reviews in the past. GoodReads will tell you as an author who won and where to send the book! That is why I chose to give away three books and limited my shipping locations. Hopefully I will get at least one review. And, in addition, your book's ranking goes up on GoodReads every time your book is added to someone’s shelf as a "want to read."

6. Now before you leave your GoodRead giveaway page, copy the stuff in the box that looks like gibberish and talks about the giveaway promotional. Open a new search window that has your blog settings if you have a blog,  go to your layout page on your blog. Click on add a gadget where you want to add a new one. A new window with different selections for gadgets will open. Now find the gadget that says html/java and paste in what you just copied at GoodReads. Save and preview. Voila!

You can imagine my amazement when a day after I posted my giveaway promotion, (yesterday) forty-five, that’s 45, FORTY-FIVE people added A Community of Butterflies:Chrysalis to their shelf as a "want to read."

Go to Youtube and watch the video Helping Readers Discover Your books with Patrick Browne, one of the head honchos at GoodReads. He explains this so well. Do yourself a favor spend the twelve minutes and watch it! I can't figure out how to get the video to work here.

Oh, also if you are reading this directly from my original blog site at meanderingmentalmusings.blogspot.com and not from my author's blog on GoodReads which is now directly linked to my blog, (one blog does it all) you will see an icon widget on the right of the blog. Please sign-up for my giveaway on GoodReads and don’t forget to add my book to your want-to-read bookshelf. If you have any questions about how to set up your author profile, GoodReads has great staff who could even help this Dummie Queen figure out how to succeed. But their instructions are the easiest I have ever used. I love followers (I don’t post to my blog very much, so your email won’t be getting clogged with my blogs) and comments are always welcome.

Try GoodReads whether you are a reader an author or both. And lets admit it, the best authors are avid readers.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

What Combination of Social Media and/or “Something Other” Has Provided You the Most Success in Marketing?


Those who know me know my limited talents. I write and I talk. I write and talk about subjects for which I have a passion— be it social inequality, telling a story, the virtues of a new product, or a new way of doing something. I’m also a curious person. I want to know how things work. I am technologically challenged when it comes to what button to push or which program to use. However, I am determined to plow through.

I keep hearing in this world of the internet and all things digital, I need to “build a brand.” I have yet to figure out exactly what that means. I took a hiatus from writing a blog so I could concentrate on learning how to build a website and put finishing touches on two books for publication. And, I am in the process of taking a course entitled “Social Media for Dummies.” (Book 1) (Book 2)

 Now I am back writing my blog. I have decided on a different approach. I want this blog to be an exchange of information, not necessarily me telling the reader about what little I know. I am expanding my curious self. I am looking to my readers and followers to provide answers through their comments so everyone can learn. The question I put forth today is: What Combination of Social Media and/or “Something Other” has Provided You the Most Success in Marketing?” Feel free to add links within the body of your comment to whatever it is you are marketing be it a book or a product. (Links must be suitable for all audiences and links that do not answer the question will be removed.)

So please, share your successes or your what worked "bests!"

Friday, July 12, 2013

On Being a Writer


 I have had many careers in my life and I have always been a writer.

The use of the word “and” in the line above is important. Many people would have chosen the word “but.” The nuance of word choice is important to a writer.

I kept a diary for a while in my youth, until it ran out of pages. I turned to spiral notebooks. My writing became a venting of my feelings, opinions (personal and political), short stories, speculations on spirituality, and drafts for “letters to the editor” of my local newspaper. I also drew things in my notebooks, like room arrangements or blueprints for building something myself.

My early writing relieved me of obsessive thoughts swirling in my brain. After writing it down the all-consuming thought was vanquished, sometime later to be unceremoniously pitched in the trash.

My early political writing often resurfaced in public speeches or everyday conversations.

Sometime along the way, like a kindergartener with a crayon masterpiece, I wanted recognition of my work. My blueprints for a bookcase became one. My garden design sketches resulted in vegetable and flower gardens many people enjoyed.

I began the task of submissions and tracking them for my “articles” to magazines and newspapers. I began a collection of rejection letters, taping them to the wall and keeping count, because somewhere I read you are not a serious writer until you have accumulated at least five hundred.

Having a family, running a business, and simple everyday events kept me busy. The only time I wrote was to get those obsessions out of my brain.

Sometimes a story would form and I would fill spiral notebooks. (This was before I could afford a computer.) I wrote several not-so-great masterpieces. Those fantasy worlds I created are now a part of landfills in places unknown, or living forever on hard drives of broken computers stored in a garage. A few of my stories still live in magazines, most of which I am sure, are also fodder for landfills.

And, my world changed. I now have an external hard drive for back-ups. I have no family at home or job to distract me---only emails and Facebook and the World Wide Web.

With the support and encouragement of my family, friends, and a great writers group, (Bartlesville WordWeavers) this year, two of my books are going to be published. One is non-fiction with a targeted audience for real estate professionals and frugal homeowners. The other is a fiction stalker-thriller geared to women, eighteen and over.

Four of my short stories can be found in Seasons Remembered, an anthology which I will be pimping this weekend as a free giveaway on Amazon.com.

Future posts on meanderingmentalmusings.blogspot.com will be geared toward the challenges of being a writer in this wonderful world of computers when one is computer challenged, the celebration of those writers who have overcome the obstacles, and of course, those times I just have to have a mental dump.

Questions and comments are usually appreciated. And, there is a gadget thingy on the side of this page where you can put your email and follow my posts. To be followed and read thrills the heck out of the kindergartener in me.








Please visit my website at Barbarashoff.com

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Nothing Like Leftovers to Make My Day!

This will be short and to the point. I loved this 4th of July celebration because I spent it with family and friends.

I forgot to get my camera out of the drawer. Bummer.

Everyone cleaned up after themselves.

I went to bed with a smile on my face.

I woke up, dressed, and went outside.

I returned to grab my camera, I have an even bigger smile on my face.


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A Quick Update on My Juicing Adventures


For those who missed my last post, I began juicing about May 18th. I am determined to lose the forty pounds I have put on in the last couple of years. About fifteen pounds jumped to replace the smoking monkey I had on my back. That monkey keeps trying to jump back on, and we have had repeated scuffles. 

I refuse to discuss what my weight was when I started this juicing adventure. Let me just say, the four times I have tipped the scales that high in the past, I was pregnant.

I was only able to continue the total juicing diet four days. I have challenges with will power and I got HUNGRY. 

So, I started eating the swill. That's the pulp left over after one puts the fruits and veggies through the juicer. After four days of only drinking juice, the swill was DELICIOUS cooked as a gruel. The addition of a little Greek seasoning really helped. I lost eight pounds, and used four rolls of toilet paper in four days. 

I continued juicing twice a day, and ate plenty of fresh veggies, fruit, eggs, and tuna.

The juicer died last week... after less than a month of use. Bad news, I threw out the box. No box, no return. Good news. I wrote Black and Decker and got an email saying they will replace it, after I jump through a couple of hoops. I am working to get both feet of the ground... at the same time... without sitting down.

(If you will click on this link, Mary Kincaid has her thoughts this week on gadget boxes.) 

If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would suggest the possibility that manufactures of gadgets implant a data strip thread in their boxes. If that data strip is not within x number of feet of the product, its absence triggers a switch within the gadget, causing the gadget to fail. This theory reveals the truth of the ultimate in planned obsolescence. 

Hey! I write fiction as well as non-fiction. 

However, I already believed everything Snowden said, before he said it. And let me say for the record, to those who know me, I TOLD YOU SO!  

Hmmm. I wonder what Snowden would say about the data strip in the box theory?

But, back to the juicing, weight loss, and getting healthier. 

My sister surprised me with the gift of a fancy-schmancy treadmill a few days after I bought the juicer. 

The treadmill is a way for me to combat peripheral artery disease. When I began on the treadmill, I could only walk two minutes at l mph before my legs cramped, seized up and my calves would become as hard as concrete. I can't begin to describe the pain. Just think, charlie-horses in both calves and feet... at the same time. I have doubled my endurance time, and speed, and have gotten a little smarter. I only walk until it starts to hurt before I quit. A little pain, a little gain. But I would say doubling both speed and time is pretty good in a month.

I have done no juicing for a week. I continue eating fresh fruits, veggies, eggs, tuna, and have added some chicken.

And, as of today, stripped naked, and leaning a little to the left on my scale, I HAVE LOST 17 POUNDS! 

Woo hoo!

My motivation? All the professionals were doing, was telling me to watch my diet and giving me more, and more medications. I wasn't getting any better. My diabetes glucose levels continued to climb, (even with controlling carbs) and I was instructed to increase the volume of insulin,  an additonal kind,was added, and I had to increase the number of injections.  

And, of course, I want to feel better because I have two books coming out soon. One fiction and one non-fiction. I need to be in condition to get out and hustle those babies.

Also, some of my friends suggested we need to become leopards. 

Is that right? Suzanne K? Carolyn B, were you going to join us? 

 I was a Wildcat in high school. A Mighty, Mighty, Wildcat.

By the way, I love reading your comments. You can add yours by clicking on the link below. If the link says NO COMMENTS, that is not an instruction. It simply means yours will be the first for this post. Also, if you enjoyed reading this I would really appreciate it if you share it with others. 

I am working diligently to get up to speed on this social networking stuff. There are still things I have to learn. I have been assured by Amazon, The Dummies books I have ordered, are on the way.