I’m thrilled beyond words to welcome the woman who has taken me under her wing, nurtures me, reassured me, fixes my screw-ups, and makes me look and feel like a professional author. She is Barb Drozdowich. If it involves WordPress, social media, branding, websites, computers, or anything book related, she does it all! She has taken her invaluable knowledge and placed it in six informative and easy to read books. She also provides one-to-one consultations (Thank you God!).
It’s an honor and privilege to have her on my humble little site (which, by the way, she designed and maintains). So, without further adieu, please welcome my computer Guru/Goddess…
You’re a book blogger, among other things, and you’ve written a series of books to help authors navigate the marketing-waters more easily, particularly, working with book bloggers. Tell us a bit about AN AUTHOR’S GUIDE TO WORKING WITH BOOK BLOGGERS, and why you decided to write it.
What prompted me to write An Author’s Guide to Working With Book Bloggers was being a frustrated book blogger! Back in early 2013 – I’d been book blogging for a couple of years – and I was getting frustrated with having to explain how I could promote an author’s book to them over and over and over again. I wasn’t sure if I just wasn’t being clear enough or whether all book bloggers dealt with the same thing.
I decided to do a survey of my fellow book bloggers – thinking I could get some answers from 50 or so and ended up with well over 200 book bloggers answering my questions. As I read through the answers, I realized that the treasure trove of information that I got from my fellow book bloggers just HAD to be shared. I got some guidance from a couple of editor friends and started to write. A couple of hundred pages later, some very strict editing (J), some formatting and a cover graphic and I had a book! It was published in Aug 2013. The book bloggers that read it loved it and recommended it to authors. The authors who read it thanked me for the invaluable help.
I went on to write other books and then last fall I was signed by BookTrope Publishing. Rather than just re-publishing all my books, I decided to give them all a go over. For the Author’s Guide to Working With Book Bloggers, I removed that survey results and put them on my blog for anyone interested to see. I added a few new chapters and updated the rest of the information a bit. What was published a few weeks ago we are describing as a 2nd edition as it is somewhat different from the first book.
When I was reading your book, I noticed you touched on “author platform.” In truth, it’s probably the first time I had come across a true definition of what the term means. Could you share your definition of an “author platform,” and what’s so important about it’s development?
Good question! The Author’s Platform is actually the title of the second book I wrote and is also in the process of being re-published. The Author’s Platform is the collection of a blog/website and all the various social media accounts that an author uses to communicate with their readers. The ‘experts’ in the field suggest that all authors have a blog or a website and a Twitter and Facebook account. My theory is that an author has to have a presence where their readers are. Maybe their audience isn’t on Twitter…so if all their efforts at communication with readers, is on Twitter, it’s like they are talking to an empty room.
What I suggest is to post information about you and your book every where you can that is free, and then spend your time talking to your audience in the locations that they hang out.
I also don’t suggest that you spend all your time selling your book. I suggest that you create a community of friends and your friends will help you tell people about your book.
I hear a lot of authors say that they are too busy writing to chat on social media or to post on their blog. I say you make time for things that you choose to do. Chatting with my peeps is the highlight of my day! And before you tell me that you are shy and don’t have anything to say…I’m the shy, quiet one of any group. But I love to talk about books and I love to chat about WordPress!
The key takeaway is that social media doesn’t need to consume your day. If managed correctly a lot of your work can be scheduled in advance and the rest can be managed into a half hour or so a day.
Could you share how important book blogging is to an author?
Let’s start with who are book bloggers? Book Bloggers are people who love books so much that they have created a blog to talk about what they read. They may be male or female, young or old but they all love books. Most, like you, prefer certain genres. They operate their blogs according to their own rules.
For the most part book blogging is a hobby and because it is a lot of work, book bloggers don’t always stick with it. The ones that do, often have massive audiences! They often have thousands of hits each day and very mature social media networks. A feature from an experienced book blogger – whether it is a review or not – will result in thousands of eyes on your book. This is a big deal in book promotions. Possibly thousands of readers can be exposed to you and your book and have the opportunity to learn about and hopefully buy a copy.
How do you find book bloggers? Is there a “right” and “wrong” way to approach these people?
I have a site called the Book Blogger List (http://bookbloggerlist.com) that I started around the time that the 1st edition of my book was published. It now lists over 1700 book bloggers according to the genre they read. It is reasonably up to date – I go through every 2 months or so and remove the listings for bloggers that are no longer active.
There are other such databases that are accurate to varying degrees. You can also do a Google Blog search for genres or ask fellow authors for recommendations.
One thing to keep in mind is that like you, readers are often very particular about what they read. Trying to get a blogger who specializes in horror to promote your sweet romance is a waste of your time. First of all, likely the blogger will say no as your book doesn’t interest them. Secondly, their audience will be looking for horror stories – yours will be of no interest = no sales!
Every book blogger operates their blog according to their own rules. Most of the experienced ones have a “review policy” or “About me” page that describes what they read/feature and how they want to be contacted. You need to follow the rules! Most experienced book bloggers get hundreds of submissions. Don’t give them a reason to click on the delete button.
A personal note indicating that you have visited their site and are following their guidelines goes a long way. A free book is NOT that big a deal! I’ve been getting free books since 2009 and after a while a free book is an obligation, not necessarily a joy. It generally takes 6 to 8 hours to read a full length book and write a thoughtful review. The day still has only 24 hours in it and the week only has 7 days. Find a way to encourage the book blogger to fill 6 hours of their week with YOUR book. Most book bloggers don’t appreciate form letters!
You did a survey of book bloggers, asking why they blog and what some of their biggest pet peeves are where authors are concerned. Can you share a bit of those results, here?
What I find interesting is that the survey results from several years ago apply even more today than ever before.
The top four pet peeves were (and are still)
- Not following the rules laid out by the book blogger. For example if the book blogger (let’s use me for an example) says they only read Regency romance, do not send them a free copy of your futuristic Zombie horror novel that has romantic elements. As if the “romantic elements” will help me over look the fact that the time period for the book is the future, it has *yuck* zombies in it and it is a Horror! Notice I comment on the genre of the book before I comment on the fact that they author attached a ‘free’ copy to the email – completely overlooking the fact that they don’t know me and are oblivious to the fact that I could just pirate that ‘free’ copy.
- The author does nothing what-so-ever to publicize the review or feature that they asked for. Book bloggers are happy to talk about your book if you ask them but authors need to do their part also. Authors need visit the blog and chat with the readers. They need to send their friends over to say hi! As the saying goes “It take a village to raise a child.’ The same thing is true about selling a book.
- The third issue is a combination of two. Authors not willing to supply all the material necessary to put their promotion post together (researching links is NOT the book bloggers job) and not delivering their information to the book blogger in a timely fashion. Most book bloggers blog as a hobby. We have full-time jobs, families and friends that also occupy our time. We can’t always throw together a post at the last-minute.
- It is not acceptable to ask a book blogger to review your book on ANY social media. The tweet or the post on a FB wall is almost guaranteed to result in a no. Just because a book blogger follows you on Twitter doesn’t mean that they want to read your book.
A lot of new authors, whether self-published or traditional, just dabble in book marketing. How important is Social Media in terms of marketing?
Unless you are famous or have a ready-made audience for your book, you need to find an audience.
You will create that audience mostly likely using social media. There are thousands of books being published every week on Amazon. You need a way to get the message out that your book is available for purchase. The fact that we can publish on Amazon (and other retailers) and make our book available to most countries in the world, is a good thing and a bad thing. There are millions of potential readers for your book, and it is not feasible to visit all those countries personally. Social media allows you to chat about books with people halfway around the world while you are still in your jammies on your couch!
Social media will allow you to form large communities of friends regardless of the country that they or you live and you can do this for free.
Compare this to an author signing or reading. How many people were at the last signing you were at? I typically get hundreds of hits on my blog every day.
I know better than anyone that you’re not just a book blogger. As a matter of fact, you are the creator of my beautiful new website. Tell us a bit about Bakerview Consulting. Can you share what services you offer?
Bakerview Consulting is my business name. It’s named after my favorite mountain – Mt Baker – just south of my home. I work primarily with authors doing a collection of technical things. Yes, I created your blog! I do some blog design. My blogs are generally fairly simple and most importantly, easy for the owner to operate. Too often I see authors with blogs that require a degree in computer programing to operate – not mine! I spend a lot of time teaching. I teach WordPress and I also teach the Author’s Platform and all it’s bits and pieces. I teach authors how to manage their social media – what to do with all the parts and pieces and how to do it efficiently. I specialize in Mailchimp, a newsletter service, and seem to do a lot of work setting up automatic campaigns for authors. I also do a bit of Ebook formatting and I upload books to the various retail platforms for authors.
Essentially, if it is technical and has to do with books and authors or blogging, I can do it!
You not only design and build WordPress websites, but you also teach how to work with WordPress from the backside. How did you get started doing this?
I was in the same position as many authors and bloggers when I first started, but I had the advantage of a technical background to help me. Before I started a family, I spent a lot of years either teaching science or teaching technology. I did some reading and took a few courses, but ultimately blogging and the technology behind it came easily to me. I started helping my friends with their blogs and eventually was encouraged to hang up a shingle and charge people for my help. I’ve been doing this for a number of years, and I love the variety my job brings to my day!
One thing that I’ve realized since I started helping authors and bloggers is that not everyone really knows what they say they do, and many are just downright dishonest.
I have a collection of people who I work with that are skilled, honest, reasonably priced with their services and work almost exclusively for authors.
Authors are a niche group that have specialized needs. If you hire someone to create a blog for you, you need to make sure that they have worked with authors before or they won’t understand the specialized needs that authors have.
Along that same line – just because your neighbour’s 15 year old son is handy with a computer, doesn’t mean that he is qualified to design your blog for you. Just because someone is a retired English teacher, doesn’t mean that they can do a developmental edit on your novel. Developmental editing is a very special skill that isn’t honed by years of teaching.
Look at examples of what the person says they can do. If you are hiring a social media consultant that has only a few handfuls of followers – question why they aren’t setting an example.
Be very careful if someone approaches you to point out a fault that only they can fix. An example is what happened to Taylor. Someone approached her and offered to do a re-edit of her book. Be very careful. Ask for samples of their work, ask for referrals. Someone who is good at what they do has happy customers and is proud of their work.
Ask your friends for referrals – and even more important than the referral is the ‘WHY”. Why did your friend like their editor, for example? Maybe the characteristics that they list describe someone who would drive you up the wall.
Lastly, talk to the person that you are going to hire. Make sure they have the same philosophy as you do. Make sure you are both on the same page. Follow up with them. Most service providers will require a deposit up front, but don’t pay the final bill unless you are satisfied with the product or the service. Using PayPal or a credit card will give you the ability to fairly easily get your money back if necessary.
Most importantly, try to familiarize yourself with the various rules you need to follow. Be very wary of someone who suggests they have a way to game the system. Let’s use the example of reviews on Amazon. Trading reviews with fellow authors is against the rules at Amazon. If someone suggests they can game the system at Amazon – be very wary. You don’t want to find your books removed from Amazon as a punishment.
You’ve written several other books, from navigating Goodreads to the proper ways to utilize Facebook and Twitter, all with the goal of helping authors with their publishing journey. What comes next from Barb Drozdowich?
Although I’m in the process of republishing all of my books with BookTrope, I am trying to put together a Beginner WordPress course directed at Authors and bloggers to be offered at Udemy.com (an online course website) There seem to be too many courses either directed at the tech savvy person, or from instructors that don’t understand the special needs of authors. That is the niche that I’m hoping to fill.
As I have been trying to redo my Book Blogger Platform book, one thing is quite clear – a step by step book complete with screenshots of various WordPress pages is NOT visible on the small screen of a Kindle or the even smaller screen of a smart phone. What I’m hoping to do is to combine the book and the course so that everyone, regardless of skill level will be able to learn to manage their blog from the comfort of their couch!
As you know, I’m a strong advocate of information sharing, especially where “Newbie’s” are concerned (I still consider myself a Newbie, and probably always will). So, what is the most important thing you think a Newbie author should know or do, when starting their publishing journey?
You are your own best advocate. Be aware that there is NO magic bullet – selling books is just as hard as writing them. If you treat people as you would in real life, with dignity, they will help you get the word out about your book! Most of all, just use your common sense.
I know this is a long post, but I wanted all of you to get to know this wonderful woman, and I wanted her to share just a bit of her plethora of knowledge. Her books are #TopShelf of my resource library. She is the real deal…honest, ethical, affordable, and dependable. When in need, we affectionately use the hashtag #CallBarb! She’s always ready to help! I hope all of you will bookmark the links I’ve provided. She is a resource worth holding on to.
Barb, I can’t thank you enough for all you do for me and so many others. I’m honored to have you here, and I’m so blessed to call you sister!
You can find Barb here…
Write with passion…