Blog Series – Step #4
Book Reviews, Marketing, and an Interview with author and Night Owl reviewer T.C. Lo Tempio
So we said in our last blog, #3 in our series “A Complete Guide to Self-Publishing Your Book,” that we’d address the topic of editing. It turns out that’s not true. Why, you ask? Because writing about editing is almost as painful as the task itself! Honestly, we’ll touch on editing in our next blog, we promise! (Maybe.) In the meantime, we’ve decided to discuss something much cooler and more exciting.
In this blog, but we wanted to touch on marketing and reviews in an effort to share our experience further, and add our thoughts about getting you prepared early on. (And trust us, when it comes to marketing your book, it’s never too early to start.) Be mindful though, that editing IS imperative to do before you self-publish your novel, and we don’t recommend taking the task on yourself. Hire someone, or find the most compulsive obsessive friends you have to rip it apart. Then fix it again. Then fix it again. (Not a typo!)
The reason that we’ve decided to discuss marketing and reviews is to ensure that you have an online presence waaaaay before you publish your novel. At a minimum, you need Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram exposure, and in reality, a website is also imperative when it comes to self-publishing your book. With so many books out there, marketing is a difficult task and getting your book out there before you publish is a great way to draw anticipation from potential readers. Tweet about it, blog about it, shout about it, prep a local book store for an author’s book signing (that would be you!), set things up with a local newspaper, and build up to your release date. You can do all of this and should do all of this before you are ready to self-publish your masterpiece. Just be sure to give a realistic release date!
After self-publishing, reviews become of the utmost importance. Not reviews form your brother or sister, but authentic, impartial reviews from hard-core readers. Reviews make you stronger, and thick skin is invaluable in the world of self-publishing. Let’s face it: any review is a good thing because people are talking about your book. As a word of caution, never respond negatively to a reviewer; you are an author and need to remain neutral or otherwise, face the potentially damaging social media consequences. Besides, constructive criticism is a good thing. You just need to be receptive to it. It is best to be an author with gratitude rather than attitude.
However, if you have done your due diligence and prepared well edited story that readers will enjoy, you will receive some really positive reviews. But, how do you go about getting them in the first place?
For us, Goodreads and Amazon have the best places for receiving reviews. If you are selling on Amazon, you’ll likely find that their algorithm for setting your selling rank is a bit convoluted (if not secret), but having a good Amazon ranking helps, and that’s achieved through sales, reviews, and whatever else Amazon has in their formula (Unicorns? Everlasting gobstoppers? Who knows.).
We have participated in many Goodreads giveaways, and although a giveaway does not guarantee a review of your book, it certainly increases the chances. We have also participated in blog tours, and as our genre is science fiction (less popular than romance or mystery), our exposure was limited. In addition, many blog tours require that you provide a gift card for the winner. In our experience, we’ve found that many folks (not necessarily all of them, of course!) are searching for these types of giveaways just for the free giveaway card; meaning that your book takes a backseat to the freebie. On Goodreads, however, we give our books away only. And guess what – people actually want them! Goodreads is home to book lovers entrenched in every genre imaginable (bookworms like us!). In other words, what they care about is books – not gift cards –and most of those Goodreads contestants are hard core readers as well as reviewers. With any luck, your book will wind up in the hands of someone who loves to read and has something to say about it. With even more luck, that someone will post a review!
Recently, we had such luck and we were reviewed by Rocco, so we thought we’d turn the tables a bit and interview Rocco’s behind-the- scenes helper T.C. LoTempio. She’s an author and book reviewer, as well as a national bestseller, so as you can imagine, it’s truly a privilege to interview her.
Hi Toni, how are you?
Wonderful, Kurt! Busy! Just finished the edits for Book Number Two in the Cat Rescue series. Hopefully my publisher will like them!
How is Rocco doing?
Ah, ROCCO is fat and sassy as always. It’s a hard job being a premier blogger, a co-writer of mysteries, and King of the Household! But he wears his mantle well.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I live in beautiful New Jersey with my two furbabies, Maxx and ROCCO. I’m currently employed at a full time job during the day, and at night I write two series: The Nick and Nora series for Penguin and the Cat Rescue Series for Crooked Lane. And hopefully many more to come.
How did you start writing?
I’ve been writing on and off since I was ten years old, but I only got back to it with an eye for being published around 1987. There followed many years of searching for an agent, independent submissions, and the biggest magilla of them all: writing the dreaded query letter (it ties with synopsis for the most hated job a writer has to do, in my humble opinion). I self published some paranormal mystery/romances before finally landing an agent in 2011, and making a subsequent sale of the first Nick and Nora mystery to Penguin in 2013. So publishing for me has been a long hard road, but thankfully I saw some light at the end of the tunnel.
We know you have a recent Mystery series, what is it about?
That would be the Cat Rescue series for Crooked Lane. It centers on Sydney McCall, who, after catching her fiancée in the arms of another, quits her job as an advertising executive and heads back to her hometown of Deer Park, North Carolina, where she joins her sister Katherine (Kat for short) working at the local animal shelter, Friendly Paws. She meets an orange tabby there, Toby (nicknamed the Wanderer because, well, that’s what he does) and it’s not long before he adopts her. Syd also runs into mystery when she finds a local businessman who’s been trying to get the shelter closed dead and her sister is tagged as one of the suspects! Her old High School crush, Will Worthington, is the detective in charge of the case, so things get a bit…complicated.
Have you written in other genres?
I actually first started out writing horror ala Stephen King until I was told that unless you WERE Stephen King, there was virtually no market for Horror. I turned my attention to paranormal suspense/romance and eventually to cozy mysteries, but I still want to try my hand at a suspense/thriller someday.
How did you get started reviewing books?
Night Owl Magazine put out a call for book reviewers and I answered it. Shortly afterward, the woman who wrote the Suspense column for the magazine quit and the editor asked me if I wanted that job. So in addition to writing two mystery series and a full time job, I also review cozies for Night Owl and write the monthly suspense column for their digital magazine.
Were you an author first did you start doing book reviews first?
Author first, reviewer second.
Do you prefer to read indie books or traditionally published books?
Having written in both, I read books in both. There are a lot of wonderful indie books out there! I can’t honestly say I prefer one over the other.
What is your favorite genre and why?
Definitely mystery, followed by suspense/thriller and then true crime. I love James Patterson and Mary Higgins Clark and I’ve read every book they ever wrote – which is a lot.
When you first start a new book, what compels you to keep reading?
An interesting plot, and even more interesting characters. Character development is important to me. If I can’t care about them, I don’t want to read about them.
What are some of your favorite books of all time? (We know it’s near-impossible for most readers to pick a single favorite!)
I’d have to say GONE WITH THE WIND and THE THORN BIRDS. (Ha, you thought it would be a mystery didn’t you???????)
Are there any standout titles that influenced you?
The two above, and also the Nancy Drew series and the Perry Mason series. I devoured them when I was younger and they definitely shaped my love of mysteries.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
James Patterson, Mary Higgins Clark, Erle Stanley Gardner….I could easily list a hundred authors.
What are some of your favorite books you’ve read outside your favorite genre?
I like anything by Ann Rule. She’s my favorite true crime writer. And In Death series by JD Robb.
Who is your favorite fiction character of all time?
OMG, that is a tough one. Scarlett O’Hara for female, Perry Mason for male.
How many books do you read per month, on average?
For pleasure, I’d say between 8-10. For reviewing, between 6-12.
Do you prefer reading eBooks or hard copies? Why?
I’m a dinosaur and I like the smell of a book and the feel of it in my hands. So hard copy definitely.
How long have you been doing book reviews?
Many would say too long LOL. About five years.
How do you usually choose the next book you’re going to read? Do you have a backlog of books on your to-read list? Do you make your choices based on recommendations?
If it’s the next one in a series I like, I choose that one. Do I have a backlog? There are about ten books on my TBR list right now and growing. And yes, I do sometimes make a choice based on a recommendation…or a review.
When you’re planning a review, which elements of a novel stand out to you as being most important?
The aforementioned character – gotta love ‘em. Plot is also important. If I can guess the murderer by page 50, well….
Do you connect with other authors or reviewers like yourself? How?
I interact with other authors through the interviews ROCCO conducts on his blog, www.catsbooksmorecats.blogspot.com I’ve made lots of good friends from the blog!
Do you always review every book you read? Why/why not?
Sadly, no. there just aren’t enough hours in the day.
Just For Fun
Which reading snack is better: sweet or salty?
Sweatpants and a night in, or dressed up for a night out on the town?
Hm…depends on who I’m with.
Favorite animal? (Fictional creatures count!)
Water, coffee, or tea?
Iced tea, then water.
Winter or summer?
Beach vacation or mountainside retreat?
Anywhere with a pool
Florida, Arizona, California, or Neverland?
I work in Neverland, so…Arizona!!!!!!
What do you do in your spare time?
OMG, write and plot out my next book! I am SO DULL!!!!!!
We would like to extend a big thank you Toni LoTempio for taking the time to complete this interview.
We hope you enjoyed this step in the self-publishing series! Be on the lookout for future posts on how to self-publish your first book, and in the meantime, happy reading, writing, and/or reviewing!