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, June 25, 2018

Michael Okon Releases Monsterland Reanimated with Blog Hop and Giveaway

Michael Okon recently released his follow-up novel to the popular "Monsterland". Monsterland Reanimated is available in eBook and print formats. 

We're celebrating the book's release with a Blog Hop and giveaway so be sure to enter below for your chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card and signed copies of Monsterland Reanimated.


June 25

June 26

June 27

June 29


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, June 11, 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, June 4, 2018

Michael Phillip Cash Battle for Darracia Author Guest Post Hop

Author Michael Phillip Cash has combined all three books in his popular Science Fiction series The Battle for Darracia in one affordable volume and we're celebrating with a Guest Post Hop!

The Battle for Darracia Books I, II, and III, are now combined:

Series Description:

On the planet Darracia, an ever-widening social gap between its inhabitants is causing turmoil that is fracturing a once peaceful world. Struggling with his identity, nineteen year old Prince V'sair must harness the power of the elusive Fireblade, the secret to a warrior's heart, in order to overcome his uncle Staf Nuen's lust for supremacy. Will the energy of the Elements guide the young prince to his true destiny or will Staf Nuen conquer Darracia?

Michael Phillip Cash has written and shared a variety of author guest posts and interviews on these fantastic book blogs throughout the week of June 4 - June 8:

Tuesday, May 22, 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, April 23, 2018

Challenge Yourself Every Day to Market Your Book – 31 Days of Book Marketing Tasks

Book marketing is much more manageable if you challenge yourself every day to try at least one new thing to market your book. Sitting around, waiting for readers to first find, read and review your book is a waste of your valuable time. Complaining that sales and reviews are slow is counterproductive to your book marketing efforts. Even when you delegate some of the marketing to outside sources, you still need to be proactive about marketing your own book.

Below are a month’s worth of things you can do each day to market your book. Some are simple and quick and some require a bit more work. It’s up to you to decide how much effort you’re willing to put into your daily marketing tasks.

  1. Conduct a Google search for book blogs that spotlight your genre
  2. Search Amazon for book reviewers who’ve reviewed books in your genre
  3. Schedule a free promotion
  4. Start or work on your author blog
  5. Join a Goodreads group and introduce yourself
  6. Join a LinkedIn group and introduce yourself
  7. Write a LinkedIn article that does not promote your book
  8. Write a character interview
  9. Fine-tune your book blurb
  10. Build your newsletter mailing list
  11. Schedule social media posts
  12. Create a Goodreads giveaway
  13. Write a press release
  14. Write a guest post
  15. Create a media kit
  16. Record a podcast
  17. Make a video
  18. Schedule a bookstore book reading
  19. Search for social media influencers
  20. Create a slideshow
  21. Design bookmarks
  22. Design business cards
  23. Have a photo shoot
  24. Rewrite your Amazon book description
  25. Plan a promo event with other authors in your genre
  26. Update your author website
  27. Update your social media bios and graphics
  28. Update your email signature
  29. Set up a speaking engagement at your local library
  30. Create a Rafflecopter giveaway
  31. Brainstorm new book ideas

If you're overwhelmed with book marketing let me know. I can help! Submit a contact form here to get started. 

Friday, April 13, 2018


When we last saw Wyatt Baldwin and his high school buddies they were battling werewolves, zombies and vampires in Monsterland Book 1. Things got pretty dicey for Wyatt and friends and readers weren't sure what horrors were yet to come.

Just in time for Friday the 13th, evil madman Vincent Konrad is back and he's perfected a slew of unique and dangerous monsters to unleash on a world that's been left in devastation and turmoil. 

Author Michael Okon promises that Monsterland Reanimated is bigger and badder than ever before!



Michael Okon, Author

Author Michael Okon has released the follow up sequel to the monster hit, Monsterland. Monsterland Reanimated will be available today, Friday, April 13 on

Long Island, New York, April 13, 2018 – Author and screenwriter Michael Okon is happy to let readers know that the second installment of the Monsterland book series is available for purchase today. Already a hit series among his dedicated readers, Book 2, Monsterland Reanimated, promises to be even scarier than Book 1.

The cast of characters readers came to know and love (and sometimes hate) are back. Michael assures us we'll hear from Wyatt, Howard, Keisha, Melvin, Jade, Carter, Igor, and of course, head villain Dr. Vincent Konrad. “The gang is all back…bigger and badder than ever. There are even some new characters I introduce that will be integral in the series,” Michael says.

There’s a new collection of monsters for our heroes to contend with. The Glob, Mummies and even a Reanimated Behemoth make a frightening appearance. Readers are also introduced to some unexpected heroes, and taken on several action-packed chase scenes. A few new enemies add to the edge-of-your-seat plot. Readers will also get to see what was underneath Monsterland.

When asked what inspired him to write a sequel, Okon says, “Monsterland is evergreen. It’s never going to end for me or for my faithful readers. I knew once I wrapped up Book 1, I was already ruminating about Book 2. Right now, I’m almost done with Book 3 and hard at work on Books 4, 5, and 6. I already have the names of new monsters for each series.” Okon says there’s also another romantic twist, but readers will have to read the book to find out more on that.


About Michael Okon

Michael Okon is an award-winning and best-selling author of multiple genres including paranormal, thriller, horror, action/adventure and self-help. He graduated from Long Island University with a degree in English, and then later received his MBA in business and finance.

Coming from a family of writers, he has storytelling in his DNA. Michael has been writing from as far back as he can remember, his inspiration being his love for films and their impact on his life. From the time he saw The Goonies, he was hooked on the idea of entertaining people through unforgettable characters.

Michael is a lifelong movie buff, a music playlist aficionado, and a sucker for self-help books. He lives on the North Shore of Long Island with his wife and children.

Readers can connect with Michael via social media @iammichaelokon and on his author website.