Sunday, February 24, 2019

Book Marketing, Author Branding and the Long Game

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is reviews: do they really do any good?

Serendipitously enough, this topic dovetails with something I'd already noted on my list of Things to Discuss, which is author branding and the long game. I'd been thinking about it since I was interviewed last week on the Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing Podcast. Since it aired, I've received a lot of great feedback and appreciation for my "down-to-earth" marketing strategy and advice.

I found that description kind of amusing - because I don't think of myself as "down to earth" in general - but I also get why they say that. I think it's partly because a lot of my marketing strategy is grounded in author branding and the long game.

I'm also thinking, as one does days later with these things, that I didn't say exactly that in the interview and I wish I had.

What does this have to do with reviews and if they do any good? Well, reviews do three things: they increase your visibility (thus discoverability), build your reputation and author brand, and give you a place in the community of readers.

Now, I'm talking about reviews from real people who actually read books. Not the solicited (sometimes paid-for) reviews intended to elevate Amazon ranking. That's the same short-term thinking that leads to spending tons of money on ads to convince people to try your book for .99 cents or "free" on Kindle Unlimited. Authors focusing on that are looking to boost sales for that day or that month, to maximize income before the book becomes stale and no longer makes money.

You may have seen some authors - particularly self-publishing authors who can aggressively track sales or page-reads - talk about how books peak and then trail off to nothing. I can tell you that my books not only DO NOT trail off, they tend to gain sales over time.

That's the long game at work.

I'm also not talking about reviews like Kirkus or Publishers Weekly. I think those can help, but they tend to be aimed at the industry, not actual readers. An exception is Library Journal, which I think a lot of librarians read and then decide to add the book to their collections and recommendations.

I'm mostly talking about the readers and book bloggers. Those who take the time and personal effort - for free and out of love - to review books on their own sites, on BookBub, on Goodreads, and on the retail sites. These are the people who read and discuss books - and recommend them to other readers. We talk about how word of mouth is still the most effective promotion? THIS is one of the key virtual word of mouth marketplaces. Do these reviews do any good?

Yes, yes, and YES.

But, an author has to be willing to build their brand over time, which means putting out quality work that pleases readers. Writers begin their lives as readers (or should, if you're not a scammer), and thus we all know that we associate our reading experience with the AUTHOR. Despite valiant efforts of publishing houses, we don't buy books by the imprint. Arguably, some authors in subscription programs like Kindle Unlimited are counting on the "free reads" brand to bring in readers. But any author who's in the business because they honor storytelling first will know that their reputation as an author is critical - and they invest in making it clear and recognizable.

So, yes - reviews do a lot of good, but only if they build your author brand.


  1. As a librarian, I can say that I do indeed read reviews (Library Journal/School Library Journal are big ones for me) of all stripes. I will actually check reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, etc., especially if I am looking for certain reactions/information (or it's a less-reviewed work, like Manga). For personal reading, I skim/browse them rather than take them as gospel. I love reading between the lines to see why the work generated that reaction to see if it would appeal to me.
    I will also look for consistent comments that point to a strength or weakness in the book. I love that you believe in the long game-- it shows in your work.

    1. Thank you for saying it shows in my work - that means so much to hear!

      I love to read between the lines in reviews, too. :D Especially the low-star reviews!