Ask PZM – June 2016

Q. Is there anything new with BookBub?
As some of you may know, BookBub is a well-regarded site for paid book promotions to targeted readers. Although the amount an author pays can be pricey, the site itself has a good reputation for delivering on its download promises.
Just recently I noticed something on the site that may have been available for quite some time – “Claim an Author Profile.”
Apparently as I have done two deals with BookBub in the past, I already had a rudimentary profile that included those two books. I have now added more of my books (they are pending approval at this writing) as well as my social media headshot and a brief bio.
Although at this point I’m not sure what the advantage is to having a profile, as it is free at this time why not claim your author profile if available?
Q: Anything else with which you’ve been experimenting?
Recently I’ve been trying to remember to add a photo to my tweets when appropriate – this makes the tweet stand out in a Twitter stream. And I’ve also remembered to “pin” a tweet to the top of my Twitter account (click on the three dots in the right-hand corner of a tweet to “pin” – or “unpin” – a tweet to your account).
My newest experiment is adding more than one photo to a tweet. Although I thought this would take up many more characters of the character limit of a tweet, it turns out Twitter turns the photos into a collage that doesn’t use so many characters.
I tried two different experiments:
First, for #milmon (Military Monday), I created a collage of my military novels/ebooks. Click on the link below to see the tweet – and note that I included that these books are available for free via #KindleUnlimited. (Sometimes my tweets with the hashtag #KindleUnlimited are retweeted by accounts associated with Kindle Unlimited books.)
And then I created a tweet about my new 3-in-1 ebook BRAINS BEFORE BEAUTY: A Trio of Female Protagonist Thrillers. I used the 3-in-1 book cover and the other three book covers.
(Note that at this writing I did not put BRAINS BEFORE BEAUTY on KDP Select – and therefore it is not free via Kindle Unlimited so that is not mentioned in the tweet. The reason for not using KDP Select for a new ebook in this case has to do with another experiment I’m trying.)
(The first photo you upload to the tweet becomes the large photo in the collage and the other photos appear in the order uploaded.)
P.S. If you are wondering where I got the links to share specific tweets – it is the same three dots as for “pinning” only choose “Copy link to Tweet.”
Q. Can we once again revisit the topic of how important reviews are for a book?
I wish there was a magic bullet answer for this question, which I suspect even publishing companies with sophisticated data collection cannot truly answer. But for our purposes let’s look at this in subsets:
Requirements for a certain number of reviews: There are paid and probably free promotion sites that require a certain number of reviews before considering your book for inclusion on that particular site. Obviously without that number of reviews your book is ineligible, but we have no idea how important that site might be to our own book promotions.
Reviews to encourage buying or borrowing as via a Kindle Unlimited monthly subscription: Buying is one thing, even a 99 cent book, and borrowing is another. I suspect for some people it is as easy to borrow a Kindle ebook and stop reading after a few pages if the book does not appeal than it is to read a few pages via the LOOK INSIDE Amazon feature. With no risk to reading via borrowing, many people I suspect may take a chance on an appealing book cover, title and description for a genre they like even though the book is not accompanied by many – or even any – reviews.
Bestsellers with tons of reviews: If friends urge you to read a book that everyone is talking about, do you stop and read the hundreds of reviews that book may have – or even one or two of those reviews? Or do you buy or borrow that book because you want to read it regardless of what strangers have written in their reviews. Remember, your friends urged you to read this book now!
For unknown authors and books good reviews must surely help, but how many are needed? In other words, if the first few reviews that Amazon displays are positive, do you really scroll down to keep reading more reviews? (Remember that here I’m talking about books. Products such as kitchen appliances may have a larger review reading following.) In other words, do you as an author have to make yourself sick worrying over not having some specific number of reviews? I hope not.
Amazon’s rankings of books – how related are these to reviews? Your guess is as good as mine. After studying this question for years, I don’t have a definite answer. We can assume that the number of reviews should have some impact on a book’s ranking, but there are so many other variables of reviews to consider. For example, does it make a difference if all the reviews are years ago and there are no new reviews? What about if all the reviews are only five stars so that appears somewhat fishy to Amazon’s internal tracking algorithms? (Check out very popular books – even the most loved ones do not have all five stars.)
Now the question of getting those reviews: I’ve tried different legitimate approaches and I don’t really have anything to recommend except spending a great deal of time on your own or with an assistant to locate people who might be willing to write an honest review.
I am NOT suggesting your hire people on sites such as fiverr to write reviews for you. Besides the questionable ethics of such reviews, there’s the issue of Amazon tracking for these abuses as well as astute readers noticing these, which could be detrimental to your book.

I’ve actually bought software to help me identify legitimate reviewers on Amazon for a specific type of book. So far the one time I tried using information provided by this software I got some very strange responses. These replies caused me to stop trying this software for now, although perhaps I tried this with the wrong type of book.

(I got feedback complaining that I talked about the clothing too much in my fantasy adventure short story ROAD TO ZANZICA – 99 cents on Kindle at https://www.amazon.com/Road-Zanzica-Fantasy-Adventure-Story-ebook/dp/B015M48QOK Yet at the same time I was myself reading a popular fantasy novel that continually described the clothing. And in ROAD TO ZANZICA I had to describe when the female protagonist was disguised in male clothing and when she was garbed in female clothing.)
One more note regarding offering free books through KDP Select or similar avenues for giving away books in exchange for asking for reviews: You get what you pay for, meaning that you may get reviews with three stars or less that say something such as “I got this book for free and it was okay for a free book.” This is one of the major risks with running a free promotion and asking for reviews – your book is downloaded only because it is free by readers not necessarily in the book’s target audience and they may “thank you” for your free book by writing a rather negative review.
And then there is the unknown question about negative reviews, which probably pull down your book’s star rating yet do add to the total number of reviews. Is it worth risking these negative reviews to add to your book’s review numbers?
In conclusion, I know I haven’t really answered this question of the importance of reviews. So I’m hoping that those of you reading this post will share – in the comments section below – your own views on the importance of reviews for your books and what tips or traps you’ve learned.
Footnote:
In sharing the link to this post on Google Plus, I discovered that the same four-photo collage can be created there as on Twitter. Of course, I couldn’t find the direct link to share this example here. So if you click on my Google Plus profile link (see below) and then look in the middle right below the large profile image you’ll see the four-photo collage on the update — https://plus.google.com/+PhyllisZimblerMiller/posts
Also, in reference to above where I said that my new 3-in-1 bundled ebook BRAINS BEFORE BEAUTY is not on KDP Select, I have now put it on. And when I wanted to try a Kindle Countdown for this ebook, I ran up against strict parameters for when a Kindle Countdown can be run during a 90-day KDP Select period. So I recommend that, if you are thinking of running a Kindle Countdown at a specific time, check the parameters now.
One more note: Now I can share my BookBub profile here as it is approved — see https://www.bookbub.com/authors/phyllis-zimbler-miller
One interesting thing: When I did a search on my name on the BookBub site to find my profile,the search brought up all my books on BookBub plus at the end of the books there were books by two other authors with the first name Phyllis — whose books are decidedly not my type of books! (The link above goes directly to my profile and not the search results.)

Phyllis Zimbler Miller (@ZimblerMiller on Twitter) blogs on book-related topics at www.PhyllisZimblerMiller.com and her fiction ebooks on Amazon can be read for free via a Kindle Unlimited monthly subscription at www.amazon.com/author/phylliszimblermiller and her nonfiction ebooks on Amazon can be read for free via Kindle Unlimited monthly subscription at www.amazon.com/author/phylliszmiller

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