Loch Awe in spring - Photo courtesy of Neil Donald Photography

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Negotiating the minefield: book promotion in the digital age by Jenny Harper

The other day I spotted what every author dreads – a two-star review on Amazon. Grr! Still, I suppose you can't please everybody. I took a deep breath, opened the review, and this is what I found: "Haven't read it yet, but enjoy all the books I have purchased through Amazon."


So it's there, it's dragging down my averages, and she hasn't even read it!

Well, that's the world we live in. Amazon sends automated emails to purchasers, whether they've bought a carrot slicer, a curtain or a book, asking if they'd like to review the product. Now, it takes a little longer to read a book than to use a carrot slicer or look at a curtain – especially if the purchaser has bought several books – but some people are just plain obliging, I guess.

I talked about the review to friends on various loops, and there was lots of sympathy. One or two told me I could write to Amazon and ask for it to be taken down. Others told me they'd had similar reviews – what to do? Ignore it? Shrug it off?

It started me thinking about the minefield we have to navigate as authors in the digital age. It doesn't really matter whether you have a publisher or are an indie, you will still need to be active on social media, and be savvy about how best to spend precious time on social media when (as I suspect) you'd rather be writing.

I'm very fortunate – I'm a member of a terrific group called eNovelAuthors at Work. It's a resource site for indie authors, and I was accepted into it when a) it was small and b) I was self published. When I landed a contract with Accent Press, I offered to withdraw from the group, but the lovely founder, Jackie Weger, has let me stay on. Even if you're trad published, though, I would urge you to take a look at the site. There's a great resource page and some excellent blogs. Here are links to one or two:

eNovel author resources
eBook promoters - the best and the worst
3 easy tasks you can do for author exposure

Just in these three pages there's a load of great information – because knowing how to work the system and milk social media is a minefield. eNovel authors pool their experience so that we can take advantage.

There are many other resources out there too, of course. Whether you're trad published or an indie, you'll need to have an Amazon author page that really works for you. Here's how: Your Amazon Profile

If you're thinking of putting your books on Facebook sites, how the heck can you work out the best ones to use? Apart from following suggestions in the eNov resources, here are marknpablos suggestions. And here's another blog, from the excellent Indies Unlimited, on how to make the most of your Facebook page.  Just to back it up, try these 8 tips to outsmart Facebook.

Make your links look smart? Here's how.

If you're geeky, and like your decisions backed by research, here's a general article on the reading habits of today. And another useful article on bargain ebook buyers, this time by the god of indies, BookBub.

Talking of BookBub – they posted recently on whether FREE promos work – essential reading for doubters!

So what did I do about that review? One of my fellow eNovellers gave me what I thought was really sound advice – he pointed out it might be the best review I had. Why? Because people often look at the worst review first – and as it's clearly nothing to do with my writing, they would go on to look at the better/best reviews and hopefully buy the book. Good thinking.

There's a huge amount of information out there, and a thousand promo sites waiting to gobble your budget – but a ton of useful advice too.

I think that being an author in the digital age is very much a mixed blessing. Love it or loathe it – what's YOUR view?


  1. Sorry about your 2*, Jenny - so maddening when it's not even a review. However, it prompted an excellent post, full of useful information for authors in the digital age. Love it or loathe it? Well, in the beginning I knew nothing about marketing and promotion and was floundering around so then I would have said I loathed it. When Jackie Weger invited me to join eNovellers, way back when it was starting out I accepted not knowing what a steep learning curve was in store. Now, I actually enjoy it. I love knowing my tweets might be helping another author who, in turn will help me. It's not all about tweeting, though, it's the sharing of information. If I'm interviewed on a blog, I share on social media. This does several things: provides a bit more exposure, tells other authors about the site and if they visit and share that's good for the blogger and other authors might follow up and later be intervewed or have a book reviewed. I actually find it all pretty exciting and I've made some fantastic friends (albeit virtual, the friendships are real) along the way - and sell books. So, I'll never be in JoJo Moyes' league but Amazon puts some money in my bank account every month. Didn't mean to go on at such length, Jenny, but when I started to comment I suddenly realised how passionately I believe in the fellowship of other authors in our digital world.

    1. You are so right about the friendships, Mary. I feel like I know a lot of the eNovel crowd personally, even though they live in the USA, Canada, New Zealand, France ... And it can be great fun. The St Patrick's Day Leprechaun party we both joined in as hosts was terrific. I posed the question, 'What name should I give the Irish heroine in my next novel?' and got 180 emails in half an hour! Don't think I sold many books, though...

      I do enjoy a lot of it. I definitely like being able to help other people. However, I do find it all a huge distraction!

  2. Oh Jenny. I don't love it, but I'm trying not to be scare of all the possibilities - good and bad - that are out there. Very useful post especially all the links. Thank you!

    1. The thing is, the more you learn, the more you find there is to learn. It changes all the time, and the big players like Facebook and Amazon move the goalposts all the time too!

  3. Thanks for the interesting and useful post, Jenny. We're told never to respond to negative reviews or star ratings and I expect everyone will see at once that the 2* can be ignored! I've got used to social media now, and although I still don't enjoy the promotion part, I know it's necessary. I like it from the point of view of getting to know so many people online and I do think we need to remember the 'social' part so that any writerly promotion is only one aspect of us as people. Off to check your links, thanks!

    1. You are good at it, Rosemary. The perfect hostess!

      I find quite a difference between US culture and UK culture. We are so diffident about pushing ourselves here! The Americans go for it. Because tweets go all over the world, most of mine tend to be on the pushy side, America being so much bigger a market than the UK. But what do my followers here think of them?

      Like I say - it's a minefield!

  4. Keep smiling and look professional is the best advice I can give when encountering a negative review. I learned this when promoting my first book, a historical novel. I was approached by what looked like an erudite young man. I though his mother might be the beneficiary of this novel.

    'I wouldn't buy that book'; he said and I was naturally a bit crestfallen. 'I only read sci-fi.'
    'Well that made my day. We knew where each other stood. I certainly don't write Sci Fi. Jenny blogs like yours give a real boost to indie and traditional writers. Networking is the oil of our lonely activity.

    1. Keep smiling - now that IS good advice! Thank you for dropping by, Miller, and for your kind words. You are right - networking is good for us on all levels, and I must make myself remember that when the need to spend long hours on the computer becomes overwhelming.

  5. I've found that being a member of an organisation such as the RNA helps, esp on the promo day. Gilli Allan always picks up topics to Tweet about from the Yahoo group and tweets for other members under 'RNA Tweets'.

  6. The RNA is an incredibly supportive organisation, Julie. I'm always astonished at how people who are essentially competitors share information and promotion so readily. Either it says something really nice about us, or we aren't really competitors at all!

  7. Jenny, as a fellow enoveler, I can only chime in with echoing affirmation about how valuable this group is, under the guidance of our fearless founder, Jackie Weger. And as a group, with everyone's contributions, we are so strong in our combined knowledge of social media and marketing. I couldn't wade my way through the minefield without the digital support of everyone.
    As I'm going to do a very aggressive promo push with my upcoming novel, I really appreciated your post with all of its summarized links of importance. A fine example of sanity-saving networking! Thanks!

    1. Thanks Dianne. There are so many useful articles out there, it's hard to know which ones to pick!

      Good luck with your promo - look forward to hearing how it goes - and of new successes.

      Thanks for dropping by.

  8. Replies
    1. Thanks Georgina - mostly other people's advice, not mine!

  9. This all resonated with me, Jenny. I've had some stinkers and I honestly think some people must get off on writing one star reviews. As most of you will know I'm with Choc Lit and when one of us gets a stinking review we all zap the 'not helpful' icon like mad on the book's page. My skin is getting thicker these days and my spine is stiffening about all of this....but I don't let them bother me, that way madness lies!

  10. Linda, it's better to ignore a bad review. It only gives the reviewer the satisfaction of knowing he/she has got to you if lots of people click on the 'not helpful' icon.