An Awesome Tool for Authors to Build Email Lists, Readers to Get Free Books!

voracious readers only screen grab

Happy Saturday fellow readers and indie authors! I recently found an awesome new (affordable) tool  to help build my email list as an author. It’s also fantastic for readers who want to get free books from new authors in exchange for reviews.

And no — it’s not NetGalley.

The name of the tool is Voracious Readers Only, and it’s a start-up based out of the U.S. The company found me after I listed my debut novel, The Apollo Illusion, in Publishers Weekly last year, and offered me a free trial. After receiving around 20 new email subscribers within two days, I decided to sign up for a few months and was thrilled with the results.

Here’s How Voracious Readers Only Works:

As an author:

  • You pay around $20 per month and choose the book you want to give away for free.
  • Voracious Readers Only finds target readers for you and shows them your book.
  • The readers who are interested sign up for your email list in exchange for a free reviewer copy.
  • Voracious Readers Only follows up with the readers to gently remind them to leave reviews. Then, the company notifies you after the reviews have been posted.

As an indie author and debut novelist, building a readership has been imperative, but I don’t have tons of money to invest in ads. I decided to invest about $60 over three months in Voracious Readers Only.

The result? I went from about 30 email subscribers to about 220 subscribers within those three months.

And guys — I didn’t have to do anything. I don’t know about you, but those $60 were well worth it. My new email subscribers regularly open, read, and engage with my e-newsletter, The Readers Club. They will most likely become future buyers of future books.

As a reader:

  • You sign up for Voracious Readers Only FOR FREE.
  • The company will send you book recommendations based on your likes and interests.
  • You choose which books you want to read.
  • Sign up for the author’s email list and download his or her book for free!

Just remember to try and review the book on Amazon and Goodreads, or even your blog. Indie authors give away their books to help build buzz, which will eventually lead to sales. And we LOVE you guys for helping us get there!

So There You Have It

If you’re an indie author, I highly recommend you check out Voracious Readers Only. I think they still have the free trials going on, so you can test it before investing your money.

And by the way, the company doesn’t know I wrote this blog post. THIS IS ALL ME. When I find a great tool that benefits both readers and indie authors, I believe in sharing the good fortune! And I wanted to help Voracious Readers Only find some new clients too, because they were so good to me.

Best of luck, and Happy Reading!

It Snowed in Phoenix! And How to Pitch Magazine Editors

What’s that about global warming again? Oh, right … it freakin’ snowed IN THE DESERT yesterday!

I live in Phoenix, Ariz., and it actually snowed here. Seriously. I borrowed some Facebook images from our local news stations to prove it:

Snow photo_93.3 KDKB
[Source: 93.3 KDKB Facebook page]
Snow photo_KBAQ
[Source: KBAQ Facebook page]
And because I have nothing else to say, I’m re-publishing a VERY old blog post, before anyone even knew I existed (on the social Web). I used to write about professional stuff … really!

So, if you’re a writer, or PR person, maybe these tips will offer something useful. Imagine that!

Enticing Magazine Editors and Media–Successfully Pitch Your Story!

Whether you’re a PR professional selling your company’s story, or a freelancer enticing a magazine editor, understanding how to pitch well is vital.

I’ve enjoyed success as a journalist and media relations professional for a reason:

1. Keep your pitches to five sentences or less.  

As a freelancer trying to get published in a magazine, I received my best advice from a senior editor at TIME Magazine. Here it is:

Keep your initial pitch to one paragraph (I suggest five sentences, tops). 

  • If you’re a freelancer, follow-up with a brief description about your experience (places you’ve been published, years of experience), as well as why YOU should write this story.
  • Cut and paste any additional material, such as a news release, into the email body after your pitch. As a backup, attach the document.

I’ll never forget the editor’s words from TIME, “We are too busy to open any attachments. If it’s not in the email body, we won’t see it.”

2. Forget sounding fancy. Cut to the chase: the five W’s.

As a newspaper reporter, the best way to entice me to DELETE your email, was by developing a fancy first sentence. I only cared about the WHAT of your story—so I could decide immediately if it was newsworthy.

  • My number one tip from my last post on writing engaging content was to keep your article lead less than 30 words. Apply that rule to any story pitch.
  • You will lose the reporter’s/editor’s/producer’s attention if don’t tell them upfront the Who, What, When, Where and Why.

3. Make it relevant!

Is your story timely? Localized? Who’s the audience? TIME Magazine would rather publish a national trends article, whereas Phoenix Magazine (from Arizona) would seek a feature on a high school coach who’s changed the school’s morale.

Regardless of whether you’re a freelancer or PR professional, do your research.

  • If you live in California, but are pitching in Connecticut, run a Google Maps and get an idea of the geography.
  • Read through your target publication to understand its style before pitching (hint hint: you can work that style and relevance into your pitch).

4. Follow up via phone in two to three days–not the same day.

Most editors will get hundreds of emails a day, maybe more. IF they read your pitch, it won’t be the same day you sent it, so give them time. When you call a few days later, start with this:

“Hi ____, my name is _______ and I’m a freelance reporter from ______ following up on a story I emailed you a day or two ago.”  Then immediately launch into your story idea. Most likely, if they haven’t seen your email, now they’ll open it.

Above all else, never forget the WIIFM: What’s In It For Me? Always put yourself in the editor’s shoes and ask, “Why would I publish this story?”

Whatever the answer is … that will be your news hook.

Is Twitter Still Popular (and Useful)?

Pondering BirdMaybe you’ve noticed it too, and you’re asking yourself the question:

Is Twitter still popular enough, that it’s worth your continued time investment?

The Pew Research

The Pew Research Center released its “Twitter Use 2012” findings at the end of May. Among them were:

  • 15 percent of online adults use Twitter, and 8 percent use it on a typical day;
  • The number of online adults who use Twitter on a typical day has doubled since May 2011, and quadrupled since late 2010;
  • The increase in smartphones might account for some of the increase in Twitter usage.

And yet … and yet … I find that the average tweeter’s posts are overlooked, more and more. Is it just me, or do only the news outlets, celebrities and thought leaders benefit from this once-awesome platform?

Twitter’s Evolution: Good or Bad for Writers?

I mention writers here, because I’M a writer, as are many of you. However, this can apply to anyone who is building an online presence.

According to an April, 2012 Mashable article, Twitter is still the number two most-used social platform (falling behind Facebook, which is number one). NBC reporters used Twitter to gather collective insight on public opinion during this year’s Summer Olympics. And I learned about the infamous Osama Bin Laden news on Twitter.

However, I’ve noticed it becoming harder and harder to build a presence on Twitter if you’re not already established. For those of us who are unknown writers (i.e. NOT Stephen King, Judy Blume, or Tina Fey), perhaps building a Twitter presence isn’t as important as … say … two years ago.

Maybe, what’s become more important, is for others to tweet your content, rather than you.

The NEW Twitter: Getting Shared is King

In my own experience, not many people will read a blog post when I tweet the link. However, if others tweet it, Twitter becomes a top traffic driver for my article that day.

Crazy, huh?

Here’s the conclusion I’ve come to: Twitter is important. You should retain a presence on it. However, if you’re not a thought leader, journalist, news outlet or celebrity, you’re better off concentrating on creating content others will share for you. And continue using Twitter as a feed to stay on top of industry trends.

What do you think? Have you noticed any of the trends I mentioned above? Is Twitter still useful for YOU?

Publish Your Blog to Kindle! (I Just Did)

So … did you know Amazon offers a way to publish your blog to the Kindle? If you didn’t, I’m telling you right now. I just published mine!

[Check out Shari Lopatin: Rogue Writer on Kindle!]

I mean, GUYS, this is seriously cool. This means that anyone with one of these nifty little e-readers can absorb the life-altering words of your blog directly from their Kindles. They can read it like an e-book!

If your interest is piqued, here is a list of pros and cons I discovered regarding taking the plunge:

The Pros

  • It expands your reach and offers another way for people to find and read you.
  • You get paid if people subscribe! The more people who subscribe through Kindle, the bigger your paycheck.
  • You can reach your target audience more accurately. Writers want to target readers, and Kindle owners LOVE to read.
  • It’s easy. Once you publish your blog to Kindle, Amazon does the rest. Just continue operating your blog, as if nothing changed.
  • It’s freakin’ cool to say your blog is available through Kindle. Maybe you’re not a published author (yet), but you can officially claim to be a “published blogger” … if it works like that.

The Cons

  • People have to pay a monthly subscription to access your blog through their Kindle, even though they can get it online FOR FREE.
  • Amazon sets the monthly subscription price; you have no control. The prices range from $0.99-2.99/month.
  • You make only 30 percent in royalties for your monthly subscriptions.
  • Not even the most popular blogs have many subscribers. I discovered this upon skimming through the Kindle blogs. So this may or may not be catching on yet.

Is It Worth It?

I’ll tell you in a few months, as my blog just published to the Kindle this Monday. However, my personal take is, “YES.”

I chose to take the plunge because it cost me nothing. Zip. Zero. And while this venture may not exactly pay my mortgage, I’m not doing it for the money. I’m doing it for the exposure.

Interested? Here’s How to Make It Happen

  1. Visit the Kindle Publishing for Blogs website.
  2. Create an account.
  3. Upload your blog. Make sure you have a screenshot of your blog, as well as its masthead.
  4. Save and preview your blog.
  5. Submit!

Be aware that Amazon will ask for your bank account information. This will be used to electronically pay you each month for your blog’s subscriptions.

And when you’re done, head over and see mine. It costs $0.99/month. I must admit, I’m very proud!

WILL YOU GIVE THIS A TRY? I want to hear your thoughts! Would you pay $0.99/month to read a blog on your Kindle? Will you consider publishing your blog to the Kindle? Do you think this additional platform is a good idea? Why or why not?

Are Blogs Dying?

Two weekends ago, I spent my Saturday and Sunday in Washington, D.C. (for the first time—yeah!) at the 7th Annual Military Blogging Conference … and an interesting subject arose during one of the panels.

Are blogs dying?

DeathAnd therefore, subsequently, is the future of sustaining an online presence moving the way of social engagement on Facebook pages and Twitter feeds only?

I found this to be fascinating, because several “old school” military bloggers, who’d been around since 2004/05, mentioned they’d noticed their readership vastly deteriorating. However, some younger bloggers talked about how their Facebook engagement was growing, the conversation therefore moving away from their blog to social networks.

The Social Movement

OK, so here’s what I think: Blogs are not dying (they better not be, or else what the freak am I doing here?). Their methods of drawing website traffic are merely evolving.

Is this a bad thing? Well, that depends on YOU. How resistant are you to accepting change and implementing it? From my personal, as well as professional experience, it appears blogs are not becoming obsolete; however, it’s completely pointless to maintain one if you’re not on Facebook, or Twitter, or both.

I’ve built a readership using my blog. It’s a way for me to write and find readers. I’ve even gained a few freelance jobs through this blog (God bless it!). However, if I relied on my blog solely, would I have reached success?

Definitely not.

I relied, and still do rely, on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and other bloggers to drive traffic to my site. Without the “social platform,” my blog would not—and could not—survive.

Perhaps the bloggers at the conference had a point. Blogs, in their older forms, are dying. They are no longer the go-to hubs for conversation. Maybe it’s time to think of blogs in a different light. Let your social pages drive conversation, and let those conversations drive traffic to your blog, where visitors can delve deeper into subjects or ideas. Best of all, they can learn more about YOU.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Are you seeing less traffic to your blog? Are blogs, in their original forms, dying?

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5 Lessons I’ve Learned from Reporter to PR

I used to hate PR (public relations) people when I worked on the newspaper. And really, I still kinda cringe when someone calls me a PR professional.

“I’m in media relations,” I always correct them.

I don’t spin. I don’t twist. I just educate the public the best I can for a company. Would I love to pound the pavement again as a journalist seeking the truth, living the edgy life? Yea, I dream about it. I’m not gonna lie.

BUT … I will say that I’ve learned several lessons on my road from reporter to “media relations.” And if I ever make it back, I’ll definitely apply them!

So, here are my top five takeaways I’d like to share—whether you’re a writer, reporter, or PR hack:

1) Not all journalists are honest, or accurate.

Trust me, this was a HUGE surprise to me. And quite honestly … a blow. My job on the newspaper was my first out of college, and I truly believed that every journalist was ethical—like me. But after working on the PR side, I realized that some reporters don’t care about the truth; they only care about their angle. Whether from laziness or an agenda, I’ve witnessed journalists report blatantly false information. Lesson? Don’t believe everything you read, always research the facts yourself, and treat ethical journalists like royalty.  

2) Understanding media strategy or content marketing can HELP writers or reporters, not hurt them.

Not to brag, but I believe I’m the perfect example of this. As a reporter, I’d slap you if you mentioned the word “blog” to me. However, after entering the world of media strategy, I started this blog, Facebook, and Twitter. Now, I have a readership … and I haven’t even published a book yet! Lesson? Any reporter who can build an ENGAGED following will more efficiently distribute the news … so don’t run from the concept of content marketing.

3) Multi-media and diverse writing is now a requirement, for anything.

I left journalism right as the newspapers began to collapse in December 2007. I began my new job in PR at the start of 2008, allowing me to witness the media world’s transition from the outside. I used this time to develop my skills in writing for the Web, social media, blogs, magazines, newspapers, e-newsletters, business, and to persuade. No longer can I find a writing job that merely asks for experience in print. Lesson? The more you understand multi-media–as well as writing for different audiences—the better chance you have of landing a job!

4) Learning to pitch well isn’t only for PR people. Freelance journalists need it for editors, and writers need it for literary agents.

I’ve been able to help creative writer friends perfect their query letters to literary agents. And I’ve advised journalists on pitching a solid story to a magazine editor (and landed freelance gigs myself). Why? Because I’ve become an expert in pitching. Understanding “the tease” has become a vital skill in anything media-related today. Lesson? Don’t think of pitching as selling out; instead, embrace what you can learn, and use it to your advantage!

5) The basics ALWAYS apply.

Bottom line, I still attribute information to its sources, even when writing for a company. My leads are always 30 words or less. And I always keep my readers in mind; the goal is still to inform them, regardless of the outlet. Lesson? The basics are taught for a reason. THEY WORK. So … never forget them.

WHAT ABOUT YOU? Do you agree with my observations? Have you witnessed something contrary, or additional? Discuss …

My Secret to Finding New Readers, Followers

I’m going to let you in on a little social media secret.

It’s one I’ve picked up while working as a media strategist for both my day-job, and as my own consultant (not to mention, building MY readership, as a writer).

It’s a very simple concept, really, but a difficult one for many to grasp. Are you ready? OK … here it is:

You need to find new readers or followers where THEY live—and not expect them to find you, anymore.

The Customer-Centric Business Model

Let me take a step back for a moment. Because really, this stems from a business model.

Businesses used to develop their strategies around them. If you wanted a new Verizon phone, you had to drive to the store. If you needed help with your new laptop, you called the tech support number.

If capitalism was a solar system, then the business was the sun, while customers were the planets.

But that’s all changed now. In today’s world of social media, the customer has become the sun. And if businesses want to survive, they’d better turn into planets.

So How Can YOU Become the Planets?

Here’s a tidbit of encouragement. You already know where your customers or readers live: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, WordPress, Blogspot, etc.

  • If you’re an author, many of your target readers may live on Goodreads or Amazon.
  • If you’re a communications consultant, many potential clients probably follow ProBlogger.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

From a business perspective, if a customer has a complaint, they may no longer call the service line. Instead, they may post a “tweet.” If no one is listening and responding, then the customer may start a blog bashing the company. Which could attract OTHER upset customers, forming an angry online mob.

But that’s a whole other topic, on reputation management. My point is, if you want to build an online presence, you need to determine WHO your customer or reader is, and where they live.

Finding Your Reader

So, just how do you find this elusive goldmine? You need to start by listening. Just listening.

For example:

  • Use Twitter’s search function to type in a keyword related to your subject of interest. Are you a writer? Search “writing.” Are you a lawyer? Search “law.”
  • See what people are saying about these topics, as a collective.

Think of yourself as a CIA agent, gathering intelligence. And when you collect enough to understand what people need, you can start reaching out. @Reply to people’s questions on Twitter. Maybe write a blog post about a common concern.

And when you start understanding where your target readers live, make yourself available … there (i.e. become the planets).

About three months ago, I wrote a post for ProBlogger and linked back to my Twitter account, as well as my blog. That gained me several new blog subscribers and dozens of Twitter followers. And here’s the kicker:

They didn’t find me (even if they THINK they did). No, I found them. And you can too …

Content Marketing: What You DIDN’T Know

It’s not just for companies. It’s not just for marketers. Content marketing can be applied to anyone or anything seeking exposure:

  • Authors/writers
  • Business owners
  • Non-profits
  • Newsrooms
  • You name it!

And, content marketing is a GREAT way to increase your audience. Writers, use it to develop a loyal readership. Business owners, use it to create customers. Editors or journalists, use it to increase the number of people reading your articles.

What is content marketing?

For those of you new to the world of marketing, here’s a brief explanation. Content marketing is … marketing your content to as many people as possible.

Content can be blog posts, videos, podcasts … anything YOU produce for people to read or view. e-Newsletters, magazine articles, and even the words on your website.

When you produce content, you want to market it through every channel available.

Here’s the key to content marketing

You want to get the most exposure out of each piece of content.  This means you’ll work smarter, not harder.

So, how do you market content, successfully?

Here’s my philosophy: Every business or entity should treat its website and accompanying social media pages, as a news outlet.

Running a law firm? Your content should relate to updates on the law you practice. A writer (like me)? What’s the latest on the publishing world and the hottest writing tips?

Adding on to that, if you want to market your content successfully, follow these tips:

  1. Get organized and plan. If you know what you’ll write next week, and the week after, you can plan where and HOW to market it.
  2. Consider posting less, but instead distributing your content to more places.
  3. Dedicate time to building a following on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Linkedin. Engage with your followers.
  4. DO NOT set your website or blog to automatically post published content to social media channels. Craft witty or interesting messages to accompany your posts, and publish at a time when you receive the most response. (TIP: Use Hootsuite to schedule individualized posts ahead of time).
  5. Have any affiliates or partners (including blogging buddies)? Ask if they’d consider promoting some of your content on THEIR channels, if you routinely emailed links of your newly published work. If they accept, pump up your promotion of their content, as a thank-you. 
  6. Use the “bit.ly” tool to shorten your links before sending to your partners and posting on social media. Bit.ly tracks the number of click-throughs and will allow you to see which posts get the most traction (TIP: The topics with the most traction show what interests your readers. Write more about those topics).
  7. Submit some content to popular professional development sites, such as Pro Blogger. If they accept your post, market that same content to your channels. You’ll get double the readership!
  8. Aim for quality, not quantity. Bottom line: no one will share your content if it’s badly written or offers poor advice.

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