Author Archives: Jen Talty

The relevance of customer reviews and discoverability

By Jen Talty

ebook_in_ipadThe way in which we buy books is changing. We have fewer bookstores and the major retailers are cutting back on their space of books and racking only the top names. I was at an airport recently where the only books I saw were Divergent and a bunch of books by Tom Clancy. At another airport, just the top 20 from the NY Times and a display case of Tom Clancy books. The sad part for me was that I because of this I got no new ideas for new authors or new books to load onto my Kindle. The last recommendation I got for a book (that wasn’t from Bob or his wife) came from a stranger on an airplane who was reading on his Kindle and asked me what I was reading on mine and proceeded to talk books for about an hour.

Back in the day, before the internet, when we actually had to leave our house to shop for things, books were found in end caps, coop space, recommendations by our local bookstore and perhaps some paid advertising. Browsing was done by walking through the shelves and feeling and touching. Now we browse the digital shelves and it is harder and harder to find books. Actually, that’s not true. It’s easy to find books, but are we finding the books we want? Right now, at a conference is going on across the pond Jon Fine of Amazon was quoted as saying, “ We’ve created this tsunami of content. It’s a high class problem to have too many stories. We, as tech companies, publishers, authors, service providers, have to find ways to help stories find the right audience. This discoverability problem is the next big challenge.” We always love listening to Jon Fine. Smart man and very pragmatic.

One book recommendation I will make to anyone who does business with Amazon or is in internet marketing, internet sales, or the book business is to read The Everything Store. It’s fascinating and really gives the reader a good look into the world of Amazon. One thing the book does talk about is customers and their role. Amazon is very customer-centric.

For authors, our customers are our readers. Readers play a very important role in authors’ lives; besides paying the bills, they have the power to spread the word. They do that in a variety of ways. Telling a stranger on an airplane, gifting or lending a book (ebook or physical book), discussing it in a book club, talking about it on-line at places like Goodreads and of course, writing reviews.

The idea Jon touches on, this discoverability challenge, is one both the author and the reader face. The author needs to be able to get their books in the right “algorithm” so to speak, and the customer needs to know how to search for exactly what they are looking for (especially when they are looking for something new, not necessarily the named author). Sometimes I think I’m the only one who notices small tweaks on the Amazon site or on my Kindle, that are helping me find books I didn’t know exist based on my own unique shopping history on the site (which probably makes those algorithms go, ‘her again? Please not here, she’s not normal’).” Actually, I’ve seen how this works in a tighter, smaller environment with my new Amazon Fire TV. I’m already getting very unique suggestions just based on what I’ve been watching on Prime and frankly, they are right on. I just watched a show this weekend called Orphan Black that I had never heard of and probably wouldn’t have found if Amazon hadn’t given me that recommendation. But, that has nothing to do with Reviews. Back to Reviews.

The first thing to note about reviews is you can’t look at reviews, or anything as author, based on what YOU do. You are not the normal average customer. You are skewed because you have inside information about the business. What is important is that there are different types of customers who look at various things differently, so the moment you think or say, ‘but this is how I find things, or I do things’, let it go. Doesn’t count. There are people who will buy anything that is free or under a dollar or on sale. There are people who will only pay full price. There are people that only buy from the top 10 on any given list. There are a wide variety of customers who make their decision based on something we might have not even thought about.

Reviews are important because they now represent a recommendation during the browsing process, especially when a potential customer stumbles onto your book page while looking for a certain topic. Not necessarily each review is a recommendation, but the overall average star rating along with how many reviews and whether or not you have both good and bad reviews. Yes, they both count in both positive and negative ways. I’m not going to get into the Amazon Algorithms and how reviews may or may not affect them. There are so many things that go into the Algorithms, and yes, reviews are one of them, but only one of many considerations.

Another thing to consider is that not every reader is going to leave a review. Some only do so if they hate it. Or if they love it. And some leave them for everything they buy. Here is something to consider. You don’t exist unless you have pagans (haters). This comes from the book Primal Branding, which I also recommend authors read since “branding” is such a buzz word, but it will help you build your author identity, which essentially is your brand.

The more we shop on-line, the more important reviews become. So how do we get them? That’s an excellent question. Discoverability is the key. Finding the right audience. Bob said something to me early on in our partnership and that was as we go broader on the internet, we need to narrow it down to niche.

From Bob: Sometimes I feel like kryptonite. While we have almost 100,000 subscribers to this blog, we get very few comments. And while I’ve had #1 bestsellers in various categories (science fiction, men’s adventure, thriller) on Kindle, considering the volume of books I sell, I get relatively few reviews. I’m not sure why that is. But I have definitely picked up from my contacts at 47North and Amazon that reviews are very, very important. In fact, the reality is that some decision making on marketing has been taken out of human hands and relies solely on algorithms, which rely heavily on both number and quality of reviews. And I do read them in order to get feedback from my readers. So I invite you—if you’ve read some of my books, stop by on Amazon and leave a few sentences or more. In a very important way, readers are shaping the future of publishing and authors’ careers more than ever before. I think that’s a good thing. We’ve removed a lot of the gatekeepers in between, and it’s ultimately the author-reader relationship that rules!

Nothing but good times ahead.

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A day in the life of an Agile Publishing Partnership

by Jen Talty

In the last two months, we have partnered with two new authors; Mark Chisnell and Sibella Giorello. At Cool Gus, we believe that anyone in between the author and their readers must add value. That is a question we discuss with authors for a long time before both parties decide if this is a partnership that can add value to the author’s career because (one of our other sayings): there are many roads to Oz and Oz means different things to different authors. Publishing is not a ‘one size fits all’ business.

So, what is it like to be me? Never a dull moment when you’re surrounded by 4 screens, three computers, an iPad and surround sound. Who says I need a dog under my desk? The best part is yesterday, amidst the madness, I figured out how to cool down my iMac. Nope. Not telling. You all can sweat it out!

Cool Gus Command Center

Cool Gus Command Center

So, a day in the life…

Yesterday, after finishing up a first read through and sending an editorial note to Jennifer Probst for a short story titled Dante’s Fire, updating keywords for Bob, approving ads for an on-line ad campaign, creating a bundle cover for Mark and Colin Falconer, sending work to one of my assistants, and updating our Kindle Countdown, I began working away on a cover for Sibella for her YA book titled Stone and Spark when I received an email from Sibella letting us know her other publisher had been informed that Amazon would be featuring the third book in her Raleigh Harmon Series: The Rivers Run Dry from 14 to 30 March and she figured it would be impossible to switch gears and get the first book in the series: The Stones Cry Out up and ready for sale by 14 March. Yes, that is she emailed Bob and I on 10 March 2014. And one day later, The Stones Cry Out is available for sale via Amazon partnered with Cool Gus. I use the word partnered because we don’t really view ourselves as publishers, but we’re not a paid service either. Money rolls to the author; always.

A few things had to be in place in order for this to happen. First, we needed cover, which we had, though we are going to be updating it as we work on an over all branding plan with Sibella. Because this is a backlist title, we also had an edited manuscript. I received the email at 11am and by 4pm later that afternoon, I had the book loaded to Amazon and by 6pm that night, all the reviews had been linked. While I did that, Bob and Sibella discussed some other things they could do to promote both books. While I waited for some thing to happen on the back end, I went back to my to do list putting together some bundles we’ll be featuring shortly.


Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we had some missing reviews (49 to be exact) on one title for Mark from Powder Burn. I did what I could on my end (that was sending an email with all the proper ASIN and ISBN numbers) and continued on with my list. The reviews have been found and are now back where they belong. Thank you.

Couple of key things here. First, what other “publisher” would help promote another publisher’s book? At Cool Gus, what is good for the author is good for Cool Gus. We’re not about a book; we’re about careers. Building them. Supporting them. The long tail. We’re hoping Colin Falconer will be picked up by Amazon Publishing and we’re working on making that connection for Colin, getting his manuscript to the right people.

Something else to consider: we don’t want 100 authors. We can’t do justice to 100 authors. There is only one of me and cloning isn’t an option since Bob has sent the mold off with the mothership. Publishing is a business. It’s a people business. We were at a conference last month and someone asked me what we get out of attending conferences. That answer is simple: networking. We have spent a lot of time cultivating relationships with the people at KDP, Createspace, Amazon Publishing, Nook, Kobo, Google, Bookbub, Book Sends, Audible/ACX, Storyfinds, Overdrive, Inkbok, and so many others in this business.

Bob has always said it is nearly impossible to self-publish if you have more than a couple of titles. What can be overwhelming to the new author is all the nuances there are to self-publishing, which has changed drastically just in the last couple of years. Bob has made his living as an author (or is it writer, I forget) since 1991. He knows both camps. His insight into the business comes laced with experience and blunt honesty, which is available to our authors at any given time.

The reason we were able to get the book up in such a short time is because we are a team. We work together to make sure the author (which is who we work for) gets what they need when they need it and in a timely fashion. This is why we are looking for just a couple more authors to round out our team.

It’s a great time to be an author.

Blog Contest for this Week: Sign up for Bob’s Newsletter and get your name put in for a drawing to win an AUDIO edition of The Kennedy Endeavor. Bob sends out a newsletter no more than 4-6 times per year. Besides interesting information about Cool Gus, Sassy Becca and Big Orange (Bob’s new Jeep), Bob also gives his newsletter subscribers exclusive content. You can sign up here.

Also, Bob is doing a Goodreads Giveaway. Here are the details.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Cut Out by Bob Mayer

Cut Out

by Bob Mayer

Giveaway ends March 16, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Please Welcome Guest Blogger Amy Shojai

Please welcome guest blogger and Cool Gus Team member Amy Shojai to Write on the River.

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(Image © Amy Shojai, CABC…Amy’s in house editor.)

When publishing goes KER-FLOOEY, what’s a hybrid author to do? Other than sit in a corner and make the chicken squeak.(Wait, that’s what the dog suggested…)

In my line of work, I always listen to the dog (and the cat) but when it comes to publishing I got much better advice from Bob Mayer and Jen Talty. Bob invented the term hybrid author when New York publishing succumbed to weird-icity. And today, I consider myself a success in no small part because of partnering with the Cool Gus team.

AMY, BEFORE…

A few years ago, I had a high-profile agent, a spokesperson gig with a major pet products company, and a dozen award winning pet books published by “Noo Yawk” publishers. Oh, I worked my furry tail off for years to get there, but thought I’d finally arrived. And then virtually overnight, it all went away.

I tried a new agent and that didn’t work either. So I quit writing. I even took a real job for about six months until I realized it doesn’t matter that “Noo Yawk” doesn’t care. It only matters that I CARE.

Nobody cares more about YOU and your goals than YOU. So ya gotta be nice to you, treat you like royalty, and find ways to say “yes I can” instead of wallowing in “why I can’t.” 

WHO ARE YOU, REALLY?

I am a writer. It’s not what I do, it’s who I am. But the “old Amy” no longer worked in the new world. So I reinvented myself first by brushing the dust bunnies off my backlist and kindle-izing these award winning books. I wrote some new ones, too.

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That led to partnering with Jen Talty and Bob Mayer’s COOL GUS Publishing, who made the titles available in print and all other Ebook formats. Following Bob’s lead again I voiced several of the books for Audible.com. Most recently of all, Cool Gus published my debut thriller and launched the critically acclaimed dog-viewpoint THRILLERS WITH BITE series. The second book in the series HIDE AND SEEK will soon be released. Today, I’m earning more per book sale, and spending less on aspirin that at any time in my publishing career.

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All because publishing went KER-FLOOEY. That’s a techie term. You have my permission to use it. (I’m a writer, so I can make schtuff up.)

BEYOND NaNoWriMo: KNOW YOUR OPTIONS

So, what does this have to do with you? Today there are fewer eyebrows raised toward hybrid authors than when Bob jumped off the digital cliff. He was an early adopter. I followed soon after, but now the flood gates have opened.

How do you become the cream that rises to the top of that flood? Did you complete NaNoWriMo? Are you line at the starting gate, ready to pull the trigger on a spanking-new baby book?

Whether you plan to DIY Ebook, hire POD done, or choose a la carte services for cover design, publishing and more, LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES. Discover the options and make educated choices.

Because do-overs sucketh big time.

EBOOK FOR WRITERS WEBINAR Dec. 7, 2-3:30 NY Time

Cool Gus introduced me to one of their early success stories, author Kristen Lamb, a kick-ass speaker and author advocate and blog-maven extraordinaire who has since create WANA International, based on the book We Are Not Alone first published by Bob and Jen’s publishing team. I have a blast presenting WANA webinars!

Next Saturday, December 7, 2013, join my EBOOKS FOR WRITERS Webinar from 2-3:30 NY time for all the must-know options for publishing in today’s digital age. It’s only $40 (but you’ll get $10 off with the code GO INDIE). Register here.

No hotel, no travel, no makeup required. I love Webinars because I can wear jammies and have a cat or dog on my lap (well, as much of the dog as will fit). The recording makes it possible to revisit the session later—especially helpful for those with a time conflict who live in, say, Australia. Or the wilds of Manhattan. And, if you aren’t yet ready to pull the trigger on your book, the session helps you figure out next steps when you ARE ready. (Hint: Might be a cool early holiday gift for a writer in your life.)

The live Power Point presentation includes lots of SQUEEE! cute animal picture illustrations, answers your questions and gives you a life-preserver to keep you afloat as you dive off the self-publishing cliff. You will learn:

·      Pros & Cons of Ebook Publishing compared to “Traditional”

·      Options Available from DIY platforms to for-hire services

·      Kinds of costs involved

·      What you can (and should) do yourself

·      What you should hire professionals to do

·      Resources for helpful self-publishing software, editorial assistance and cover design help

·      Practical step-by-step how-to “Kindle-ize” your manuscript

·      Formatting tips for illustrations, covers, sidebars and table of contents

·      Promotional must-knows including DO’s and DON’TS!

·      Includes valuable links to further information, available as a down-load/handout.

I got to reinvent myself with help of Bob Mayer, Jen Talty, Kristen Lamb and others who mentored me into creating my BLING, BITCHES & BLOOD BLOG, and breathed new life into my book publishing career. So turn-about is fair play. Besides, it’s just the right thing to do. That’s one reason I jumped at the chance to guest here at Bob Mayer’s amazing blog site. Good karma gets returned so find ways to pay-it-forward, let others know about the seminar (and discount code GO INDIE). You won’t be sorry.

amy5Amy Shojai, CABC is the award winning hybrid author of 26 books who got tired of publishing suck-isity and decided to do something about it. She channels her inner dog and cat, creating nonfiction and thriller books that edu-tain and empower writers and pet lovers.

(Image © Amy Shojai, CABC: Magical-Dawg, Seren-Kitty and the author)

Guest Post by Colin Falconer: Always Take Extra Care When Putting A body Through A Meat Grinder

PLEASE WELCOME GUEST BLOGGER COLIN FALCONER TO WRITE ON THE RIVER
ALWAYS TAKE EXTRA CARE WHEN PUTTING A BODY THROUGH A MEAT GRINDER
Colin Falconer

“Rule one of reading other people’s stories is that whenever you say ‘well that’s not convincing’ the author tells you that’s the bit that wasn’t made up. This is because real life is under no obligation to be convincing.” – Neil Gaiman

Available on Kindle

Available on Kindle

This year I re-edited and re-released a series of novels that I wrote about the genesis of the drug trade in South East Asia. They had never been published in the US before and CoolGus gave me the opportunity to bring them to a wider audience.

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I had trekked the Burmese jungle, and been to Corsican hang-outs in Vientiane and the underbelly of Bangkok for much of the research. But I also needed some inside information on the Triads so I went to Hong Kong, just before the handover. With some persistence I found a detective inspector with the glorious monicker of John Chetwynd-Chatwin, a man of infinite charm and patience who offered to help me.

He introduced me to a number of his friends and colleagues in the Royal Hong Kong police force.

One of his fellow DCI’s – a brilliant character and a lovely bloke who looked a bit like Magnum PI and even had a revolver down the back of his pants – took me under his wing and showed me around. He was great company and also a fantastic story teller.

Air Opium by Colin Falconer

One of the stories he told me was about two triad henchmen who were driving around one night wondering with what to do with the body they had in the boot – as you do– so they broke into a dumpling factory and tried to force the corpse through a mincer.

(Yum cha anyone?)

But the body jammed and when one of them tried to free it he got his own hand stuck in the machine as well and lost two of his fingers. His mate took him and his mangled digits to the local emergency department.

colin4photograph: Eckhard Pecher

But the doctor who tried to re-attach them was quite puzzled. His patient had lost an index finger and a thumb; what they had brought with them to the ER was a pinkie and part of a toe.

His suspicions were aroused, as they say.

And that’s how the cops made the arrest. The two hitmen were caught red-handed, so to speak.

The other story he told me involved a couple who leased a 26th floor apartment in Kowloon and decided to reinvigorate the sadly neglected window box. It was massive, the size of a small car.

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But when they started digging, they discovered to their great surprise that it contained an acquaintance of the previous tenant. Further inquiries revealed that the last occupier – who was “known to the police” – had recently emigrated and left no forwarding address.

Didn’t even try and get his rental deposit back.

Naturally, I found a way to work both these stories into my plot, thinking I was being smart. Or was I?

Godless by Colin Falconer

Several friends who read the book took me aside: “Look, loved that one about the triads …but that bit about the meat mincer … and the window box … wasn’t that a bit far-fetched?

The only things they found unbelievable in the novel were the only two things I never actually invented.

Chasing the Dragon

As Neil Gaiman says, real life has no obligation to be convincing.

I continue in my efforts to make my fiction realistic; but not so realistic that people think that – well … think that that I’m just making it up.

 Colin Falconer is the author of over twenty historical novels. See his blog to find more posts about writing and the writing life.

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