Monday, August 20, 2018

Is Your Manuscript REALLY at the Editing Stage?

So you’ve been working on your novel night and day for months (or even years) and you’re sure you’re ready to send your manuscript off to an editor. But are you really? Before even thinking about searching for an editor, you need to determine first what kind of edit you think your manuscript needs.

© 2018, Susan Barton Marketing

Know Exactly What Type of Editing You Need

The first thing authors need to know is that there are different stages of manuscript editing. Authors who do not familiarize and educate themselves with the different stages of editing are doing themselves, as well as any professional editors they choose to work with, a grave disservice. Expecting a proofreader or even a copy editor to do the work of a developmental editor is unfair to everyone.

Fully Understand the Role of Author and Editor

Understanding the author's role in the writing and editing process is crucial to the success of any book. A manuscript should never be considered complete until the author himself has edited, revised, corrected and perfected the work as much as possible. It is not the editor’s job to rewrite a poorly written manuscript. Ever. Sending a manuscript to an editor that is full of typos, misspellings, improper syntax, plot holes, repetitious phrases, and unclear dialogue is just plain laziness on an author’s part. Keeping in mind that you’re paying for an editor’s time should keep things in check. In other words, the more you correct your manuscript prior to sending it to an editor, the less expensive your cost will be. Unless you’re prepared to pay dearly for a deep, line by line developmental edit you should take care of any manuscript issues long before submitting it for editing.

Be Prepared to Pay for a Full Professional Edit

Understanding that editors are just as human as authors are is a key factor to bear in mind. Editors are not infallible beings, nor are they are 100% accurate 100% of the time. The only way to ensure that a manuscript is just about perfect is to put it through each individual editing phase. This includes, first and foremost, a developmental edit, followed by a copy edit and then finally a proofread. But be prepared to pay dearly for this multi-stage process. Editing is not an inexpensive endeavor. Expecting to receive a super duper deal from a one-stop service provider and then complaining about it after the fact is irresponsible.

If you don’t understand the difference between a developmental edit and a copy edit or a proofread then you need to find out long before you approach an editor. This is not only for the editor’s benefit; it’s also for the author’s benefit. Why would you pay for a deep edit when perhaps a less costly proofread will suffice?

In Conclusion

The relationship between author and editor can be a collaborative match made in heaven or it can be a problematic endeavor, fraught with misunderstandings and hard feelings. Fully understanding the editing process and knowing your options before proceeding is the first step to ensuring your experience is the former and not the latter.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Could Your Newsletter Get You In Hot Water? How Not to Be a Newsletter Spammer

Chances are you’ve been bombarded with GDPR related emails over the last few weeks. It seems as though everyone is scrambling to be sure their organization fully complies with the new regulations. If you (like many, many consumers) have no idea what the heck GDPR is here’s a super simplified explanation.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation and it was fully enforced on May 25, 2018. The GDPR regulations now mandate that all EU organizations that collect, register and store personal data (emails, names, etc.) complies with several new and much more stringent requirements of how personal data is managed. Organizations that fail to comply with the new requirements could be subjected to significant fines of up to 4% of the organization’s annual global revenue, and further compensation as determined by law. 

If you think you’re exempt from the new GDPR regulations because you reside in the US, be aware that this is not necessarily true. If you collect and store personal information for your author, blog or any other newsletter purposes and you have even one EU recipient you’d better be sure you reach out to that one EU resident and have them update their newsletter preference settings now or you just might find yourself out of compliance with the new GDPR regulations.

This brings me to the methods you may or may not be using to build your newsletter mailing list.

Newsletter Subscribers

Newsletters are AWESOME marketing tools that every author should be using. Newsletters are great for keeping your readers updated on what’s going on with you and your books. However, the way you’re adding subscribers could get you in trouble… and not just with GDPR regulations.

You may be under the mistaken assumption that you can simply add an email address to your newsletter subscriber list anytime you have any sort of contact with someone. This simply is not true. Doing this can get you labeled as a spammer and the consequences can be serious.

Giveaways are NOT a Free for All

As an example, I often run giveaways during my book and author marketing events. During these giveaways, names and emails are collected for the purpose of notifying giveaway winners ONLY. If an author asks me to provide the personal information of giveaway entrants in order to add them to his or her own marketing newsletter mailing list I politely decline. Not only would the author risk being accused of spamming, I would also be taking the same risk since I was providing the contact list. By the same token, I couldn’t use these same contacts for my own newsletter purposes or for any other reason other than notifying the giveaway winner.

Make no mistake about this; unless someone specifically signs up for your newsletter, you do not have the legal right to add him or her to your newsletter subscriber list. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling products or services in your newsletter or not. It’s spam if the recipient hasn’t signed up to receive your specific newsletter. Period.

What MailChimp Says

Chances are you use an email marketing company to write and distribute your newsletter. For example, MailChimp is an excellent email-marketing platform and it’s the one I use for all of my newsletters. Whenever you add a new subscriber to your list, your email-marketing provider specifically asks if the person gave you permission to email them. Take a look at the MailChimp screenshot below:

If the person did not give their permission then you cannot add their name and email address. It’s that simple.

If you go ahead and say they gave permission when they did not and that person ticks the “I did not sign up for this newsletter” box, or even worse “This is SPAM”, your newsletter is considered spam and this alerts your email marketing provider.

How to Ethically Build and Use Your Newsletter Mailing List

Newsletters are beneficial marketing tools for staying in touch with subscribers. As long as you…

  • First define the reason why you want to distribute a newsletter in the first place. (I’ve found many people have no clue why they want a newsletter, much less what information they should include)
  • Distribute valuable, beneficial updates about you and your book or business
  • Don’t spam anyone
  • Bombard people with frequent mailings

... newsletters should be in your marketing portfolio. Just be sure to do everything right or you might end up losing your entire subscriber list and be forced to start all over from scratch.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Five Reasons Why Authors Lose Social Media Followers

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last five or so years, chances are you’re well acquainted with tweets, shares and followers. Social media has become overwhelmingly beneficial when it comes to branding ourselves. Every author should be using social media as a marketing tool.

If you’re not contributing your content to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and all those other social media platforms then stop what you’re doing and sign up for accounts immediately. If you’ve already been using social media to market, brand and promote yourself and your books then kudos to you.

However, are you using those platforms responsibly? If you’re finding yourself losing too many followers then it’s time to check yourself. Here are my top five mistakes that just might be causing you to lose social media followers.

1. Not posting often enough.

Your followers made a conscious decision to follow you. Don’t make them go days or weeks without hearing from you. They’ll begin to think you’ve stopped writing books and you don’t want that. Consistent posts keep followers engaged and involved.

2. Posting too often

Just as there is too little posting, there’s also too much posting. Many people site too many posts as a major reason to unfollow someone. Strive for a happy medium. However, remember that not all social media platforms are created equal. For example, posting several tweets to Twitter a day is acceptable, while one or two Facebook posts per day are best.

3. Being too promotional

If all your social media shares are about you…guess what? You’re going to be dumped. No one wants to hear the same sales pitch several posts in a row and no one wants to read your “buy my awesome book” tweet over and over again. Switch things up by sharing posts that include interesting content that doesn’t relate directly to you or your book.

4. Being political or religious

Unless your book is about politics or religion, then heed the age old advice – don’t discuss politics or religion in your social media posts. Regardless of where your political and/or religious views fall, chances are excellent that you’ll end up alienating someone. That will get you unfollowed in a heartbeat.

5. Being all things to all people

Try to keep your social media posts geared toward a specific theme. If your thing is writing, books, authors, literature…you have plenty of material to work with, without having to go off in several different directions. Your followers will come to expect certain content from you, which will eventually position you as an authority in your field. Posting an occasional photo of your dog, cat or meal is fine, but it’s best to keep those to a minimum.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Why Authors Should Stop Worrying About Book Reviews So Much

You may be confused about the title of this post. Aren’t we, as authors, supposed to be striving to get as many reviews as possible? My answer is yes and no. Don’t get me wrong, reviews are great. Potential readers do still check out reviews when considering book purchases, but not nearly as often as they once did. (More on that topic below) 

My intention with this post is to help authors who are spending more time asking for book reviews than doing actual promotional work. What? There’s more to being an author than writing and publishing a book and then sitting back waiting for the reviews to roll in? YES, there most definitely is.

© 2018, Susan Barton Marketing

First, let’s start with the top two reasons why many authors spend so much time trying to get book reviews:

1. Thinking Lots of Reviews Boost Amazon Rankings

You’ve probably been told that more Amazon reviews mean a higher Amazon ranking, which hopefully transfers to more book sales.

If you know anything about Amazon’s algorithms, then you know that much more than reviews factor into a book’s (or any Amazon product's) ranking. And, when I say reviews, I mean VERIFIED reviews. Unverified reviews do not count toward a product's ranking. Anyway, who says that high rankings on Amazon should be your ultimate goal as an author? There’s more to authorship than pleasing the Amazon gods.

2. Thinking Readers Rely Heavily on Amazon Reviews

At one point, Amazon reviews definitely held a lot of weight with consumers. Amazon was, at one time, the go-to website for consumers who were on the fence about purchasing products. That just isn’t the case anymore. A recent study shows that consumers have become increasingly wary of Amazon reviews for a number of reasons. The persistent issue of paid, incentivized and outright fake Amazon reviews has consumers more cautious than ever.

I've also come across authors who go about getting those oh so golden reviews in all the wrong ways. What are some of those "wrong" ways? Here are my top three:

1. Relying Too Much on Book Bloggers

Far too many authors write a book, upload it to Amazon, and then contact dozens of book bloggers to ask them for reviews. Then they sit back and call it a day. This is an incredibly lazy way to promote your books. There. I said it. This lazy self-promotion never ceases to baffle me. Marketing a book takes a TON of time and effort and expecting busy book bloggers to do it for you is just plain wrong.

Aside from the fact that book bloggers have super busy lives (most don’t simply sit around reading and reviewing books – they have actual 9 to 5 jobs too), their TBR lists are often extremely long AND they almost never charge to read and review books. They’re doing authors a favor, not the other way around. And, remember, unverified reviews do not factor into Amazon’s rankings, so if you’re offering free copies to book bloggers in exchange for reviews it’s not going to do you all that much good anyway. And if you're considering gifting free books via an Amazon gift card that won't do you any good anyway - this is most definitely considered an incentivized review by Amazon. 

2. Relying on Book Giveaways

Many authors resort to giveaways as a way to get reviews. Unfortunately, there are a few reasons for not doing this. For example, there have been indications that Goodreads giveaways are rife with unscrupulous entrants who enter as many giveaways as possible and the books they do win end up for sale on eBay and elsewhere. That means you’ve given your book away so someone else can profit from it. No reviews there. Even honest contest entrants rarely bother to review the books they’ve won.

3. Relying on Book Review Tours and Pay for Review Sites

Similarly, we see authors who opt to take their books on Book Review Tours with any of the zillions of tour service providers who’ve sprung up over the past couple or so years. Guess what? Any reviews you garner via a tour that you’ve paid for (even if the service provider’s hosts do not get any compensation) is considered an incentivized review by Amazon and has the potential of being removed in a heartbeat. It can even get you kicked off of Amazon if they decide to really be meanies.

Then there are the pay-for-review and so-called book award websites, which still seem to be deemed acceptable by Amazon. Award sites like Readers Favorite and pay-for-review sites like Kirkus come to mind. Paying for a book award just doesn't sit right with me, as a reader and a consumer. Besides, do you really want to pay hundreds of dollars for one lukewarm review that's mostly your book's synopsis? And Fiverr? Don’t even get me started on that can of worms.

So then, what are some of the things you SHOULD be doing to get your book some promotional buzz? Here are my top two and as you’ll see, they’re not difficult and they should go without saying but apparently, it still needs to be said here.


I’ve talked about this so many times, but I’ll say it again. You HAVE TO GET SOCIAL on social media. No one is going to miraculously stumble upon your book. It just isn’t going to happen. You need to be active on every social media platform you can possibly manage. And this does not mean every one of your posts should be about you, screaming at followers to buy your amazing new book. It means genuinely engaging in meaningful, mutually beneficial conversations with actual people.

You should also get social in real life as well. One author I know makes a point of telling everyone, everywhere he goes – even cashiers, receptionists and wait staff – about his books. And guess what? It pays off. People check out his books, download them, and read them and sometimes they even leave reviews. When you have media kits prepared, printed and ready to distribute, you can hand them out everywhere you go.

You can still reach out to book bloggers, but offer them something of value in return. High quality, original author guest posts and interviews make excellent blog content for busy book bloggers to share with their readers. 


This should definitely be a no-brainer. The more books you write, the more readers will take you seriously as an author. It really is that simple.


Ask yourself why reviews are so important to you, before you start spending all your time on your book review quest. Are you looking to become independently wealthy? That’s highly unlikely to happen, since independent publishing is filled with writers all clamoring to have their books read. The competition is far too overwhelming. Do you need the praise, accolades and fame that might come with writing a bestselling blockbuster and you’ll do absolutely anything to get it? There are others ways to get there, but they do require a ton of work on your part as an author.

If you really, REALLY want to become a famous author with a huge following then roll up your sleeves and stop expecting everyone else to do the work for you. How?

Every author should do these things long before their books are even uploaded or printed:

  • Make sure your book is amazing and ready for readers. Your plot, characters, dialogue, etc. had better be spectacular or it’s time to go back to the writing board. 
  • Make sure your manuscript is impeccably edited and properly formatted. 
  • Make sure your cover image is eye-catching and accurately reflects your book.

If your book has been passed over by potential readers repeatedly or if, even worse, you’ve been getting negative feedback then it’s time to reexamine your work to see if it really is you and not them. Readers know when a book just isn’t up to snuff and they’re not afraid to tell you. Go back over your book and check to be sure that your book is as near to perfect as it can possibly be. Then it's time to get social and sit down to write another book!

Monday, July 16, 2018

Are Blog Tours Dead?

I contribute to several online writers’ groups and I recently spotted a thread titled “Are Blog Tours Dead?” Savvy authors are always looking for newer, better ways to market and promote their books, and they’re often cautious of using services they’re either unfamiliar with or skeptical of. For years, the Blog Tour aka Book Tour (terms used interchangeably) was the go-to marketing method for authors. Are they dead? In a word, YES.

To clarify my Yes answer, I’ll say this – the traditional book/blog tour is dead. Why? For a couple of very important reasons:

Book bloggers are tired of them.

Traditional tours have absolutely no pay off for the blogger. They’re time-consuming, spammy and have the potential of getting a blog shut down…for good. Google considers the typical cut and paste, HTML-provided tour content to be nothing but spam and punishes them by burying them in Google searches. goes even further. They give no warnings if they find blogs that post this spammy content on blogs. They’ll shut you down, no warning, no questions…period. All your hard work will be gone in the blink of an eye, never to be recovered.

Readers are tired of them.

Readers and blog visitors are tuning them out. Traditional cut and paste tours all look alike. They bring nothing new to potential book readers. Wading through spammy post after post is tedious, uninteresting and boring to readers.

So what is the ideal alternative to the typical cut and paste, spammy book/blog tour then?

Promoting your book with an all-original, custom designed online book marketing campaign is still the perfect way to bring something new, informational and interesting to your potential readers. It provides book bloggers with high-quality, engaging content for their readers, while allowing them a day off from posting. 

Taking the time to share never before published, high-quality content will produce a much higher ROI for you. Sure it takes more effort than simply distributing cookie cutter HTML code to a bunch of disinterested bloggers, but isn’t your success as an author worth the extra effort?

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Five Reasons Why Authors Need Blogs

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned how important websites are to authors. Your author website is the central location for all your information. It’s the primary place to send your potential readers. However, there’s something just as important...

Many authors have websites, but they often forget one primary marketing tool – a blog. Below are my top five reasons why authors need blogs.

1. Blogs provide you with the opportunity to consistently update your content.

Whether your blog lives within your author website, or a link to your blog is prominently displayed in your website menu, you need ways to get potential readers to visit. Consistently posting new blog content is the best way to do this. This keeps potential readers coming back to your website to find out what you’re up to.

2. Blog posts become social media content.

Every single blog post you publish should be shared across all of your social media platforms. Fresh content enforces ongoing beneficial social relationships. 

3. Blogs are a form of engagement marketing.

Your blog posts are marketing tools, designed to attract and maintain reader engagement. Post comments provide you with the opportunity to interact personally with your readers.

4. Blogs are vehicles for giveaways, news announcements and other events.

Blog posts are excellent ways to let your readers know about your latest giveaways, book promos, new book releases, book signings, etc.

5. Blogs are great places to collaborate with other writers.

Inviting other authors to guest post on your blog gives you the opportunity to network and build beneficial relationships with other writers, who will often invite you to guest post on their blogs in return.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Five Social Media Tips for Authors

As a marketer, it’s important for me to stay on top of marketing tips, techniques and trends. It’s important for any business owner to do this, if they wish to succeed. Authors are in the business of writing and publishing books. Therefore, their book sales directly depend upon their marketing efforts. This includes social media marketing. However, time and again I come across authors who do little to no social media marketing.

I can honestly understand the reasons for this. Social media is time-consuming, confusing and at times frustrating. It can feel as though you need to be dozens of places at once or you run the risk of quickly losing your audience. Be that as it may, social media engagement is a critical element to any book marketing campaign.

To break things down, I’ve compiled five social media tips for authors here.

1. Sign Up with As Many Social Media Platforms as Possible

I know this sounds like a no-brainer. It also sounds overwhelming. You may be asking yourself who has time for all that? Probably not you, since you’re already busy writing, editing and publishing your books. But I can’t stress enough how important it is for you to be active on as many social media platforms as possible. If you’re really strapped for time then you should at least sign up for the major platforms: 
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Instagram

2. Use a Posting App

No one expects you to sit at your computer 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, sending tweets and posts. Signing up on Hootsuite or another automatic posting site will make things super convenient.

3. Be Engaging

No one wants to see post after post that screams BUY MY BOOK. If you make it all about you, you’ll find yourself quickly unfollowed. Take the time to retweet and comment on the accounts of anyone you follow, who follows you and accounts you find interesting.

4. Update Content Frequently

Be sure to go over your social media accounts on a regular basis to be sure your account info is updated to reflect your new book, current events, etc. Freshen up your social media headers and profile photos whenever necessary.

5. Prepare Posts Ahead of Time

In your downtime, you can make a list of possible post ideas, create interesting content, take photos to share…any number of things, so that you to have quality content to post at anytime. Having a good supply of quality content at the ready will make social media engagement much more manageable.