Thursday, June 12, 2014

How to Get Reviews for Your Book

As the president and owner of self-publishing company MindStir Media, book reviews is a topic that comes up often when speaking with my authors. To get MindStir Media books reviewed I usually recommend the following options to my clients (this is a partial yet powerful list):

  • NetGalley: This site puts a digital version of your book in front of 145,000+ reviewers, who can download the PDF. Whenever a reviewer downloads your book, he/she MUST review the book before downloading any other books from the website. MindStir Media authors have the option to get reviewed via this service.
  • GoodReads: Use this website to give away copies of your book in exchange for honest reviews. MindStir authors are encouraged to signup for a Goodreads account and then use the Author Program to participate in the giveaway program. Here's a link that I usually give out to MindStir Media authors: http://www.slideshare.net/GoodreadsPresentations/your-guide-to-giveaways-on-goodreads-15194819
  • LibraryThing: This site is a lot like Goodreads in that you can give away print copies of your book. On LibraryThing, though, you can give away copies of your ebook in exchange for reviews as well. MindStir Media authors have found this very beneficial. 
  • Contact reviewers directly: Sites like The Indie View show lists of book reviewers. Look through the list of reviewers and follow their submission guidelines, etc. Also perform a search on any of the major search engines for something along the lines of "book blog reviewer list" or "book blog directory" and you'll find a wide array of book reviewers for you to contact.
  • Turn fan mail into reviews: You might receive fan mail from time to time. Instead of sending back a dull response, why not send a genuine "thank you" and then ask them if they'd kindly post a book review on Amazon.com? Tell the fan that you appreciate their kind note and would really appreciate their continued support by posting an honest review. You'll be surprised by the response!
  • Run a "Free Book Promo" for your Kindle book: As part of their Select program, Amazon allows authors and publishers to offer their Kindle books for free for up to 5 days during each 90-day period. Readers worldwide will download your ebook for free during that period and many of them will review the book on Amazon. MindStir Media authors have seen great success with this book review tactic. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Self Publish A Book: The Best Way

MindStir Media is a full-service self publishing company, and I'm the owner of MindStir Media, so keep that in mind while reading... There are numerous articles out there that discuss how to self publish a book but many of them talk about self publishing as if you have to "go it alone." The truth is simple: You do not have to handle self publishing alone, and some -- including myself -- would argue that you should not handle it alone...

There are exceptions, of course, but the best way to tackle self publishing is to hire a team of professionals around you. This means hiring a book designer, an editor, printer, self-publishing coach, publicist, etc. You can try to assemble this team yourself, as some self publishing authors do, but that will take a lot of time and patience on your part. The easiest and most convenient way to self publish, in my opinion, is to simply team up with a self publishing company like MindStir Media. MindStir has everything in place for you to self publish a book, including professional editors and book designers, coaching, etc.

Regardless of how you decide to self publish, here's a partial list of things you should look for in your team and/or preliminary questions you should ask:

  • Book designer: A professional book designer should have a portfolio available for you to view. For instance, at MindStir Media we have an entire online bookstore filled with books we've designed. Authors can quickly see the work done and decide whether or not MindStir's designers are a good fit. 
  • Editor: What books has she/he edited? Are they published? How did they do in the marketplace? What kind of background does she/he have? 
  • Printer: You should always inquire about pricing. How much will it cost to print your book? Is the printer equipped to handle large volume? The printer MindStir Media uses is actually the largest print-on-demand printer in the world, printing millions of books for publishers worldwide. 
  • Coach: There are many self publishing coaches out there but many of them are not qualified to be giving advice. A good self publishing coach has experienced strong book sales and understands the ins and outs of self publishing, including marketing. 
You'll also need to look into book distribution and order fulfillment. Ingram is the leader in wholesale book distribution and there are many book fulfillment companies throughout the world but, again, the easiest way to handle these items is to partner with a self publishing company like MindStir Media...

Friday, May 16, 2014

Turn a Book Into a Movie

Photo by MD4Group, Flickr
Throughout the years many authors have approached me and asked how to turn a book into a movie. The starting point is almost always getting a screenplay and/or treatment written. But there are, of course, right and wrong ways to handle the treatment and screenplay. You shouldn't try to handle this alone. You should definitely seek the help of professionals, since you may only get one shot at selling your story to a movie production company. So I highly recommend finding a screenplay writing service, or even more specifically a book to film adaptation service. Because in order to turn a book or novel into a movie you really should generally have both the treatment and screenplay in hand to shop around to the major movie and television production companies. This is so much better than trying to simply pitch an "idea." Imagine how many "ideas" present themselves to those Hollywood studios! You need to stand out and you do that by having both a treatment and full screenplay in hand -- ready to go.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

NH Book Publisher

All you have to do is Google NH book publisher and you'll notice that MindStir Media is a leader among NH book publishers. MindStir has been seen in many New Hampshire publications such as The Portsmouth Herald and Spotlight Magazine. So, naturally, every week I hear from NH authors looking for a book publisher in NH. Although it's not absolutely necessary to work with a local publisher nowadays, many authors in New Hampshire insist on dealing with a local publisher. I do help authors nationwide -- and I do so over the phone and by email -- but for authors in NH I'm able to meet up with them from time to time and consult in person...

For instance, about a month ago I met up with a MindStir author located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and helped her with marketing, specifically book marketing via Facebook. I was able to take her non-targeted Facebook page and help her target pet lovers -- the topic of her upcoming book. She went from very little engagement to receiving a healthy number of likes (and comments) per post. She also attracted many new targeted Facebook fans... There aren't many book publishers in NH other than MindStir Media (if any) that will sit down with you and share marketing knowledge. That's one of the things that makes MindStir so "Mind-Stirring" and different from the rest of the NH book publishers: personal one-on-one support.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Biggest Self Publishing Companies Not Necessarily the Best

It's no secret that MindStir Media is widely considered a medium-sized self publishing company. I discuss self publishing with authors nearly every day and I can tell you that there seems to be an obsession among some authors -- an obsession over the size of self publishing companies. Some authors believe -- or they've been told -- that bigger is always best. They compare self publishing companies, trying to compare apples to apples, but the truth is that MindStir, for instance, is very different from the rest of the companies. For starters, MindStir includes ongoing mentoring from best selling author J.J. Hebert. So MindStir doesn't just offer self publishing services; it offers mentoring as well. No other medium-sized self publishing company offers this level of personalized support. MindStir is small enough to still remain highly personalized and big enough to offer its authors many unique publishing opportunities.

Why not go with a large self publishing company? Based on everything we've heard from other authors, the largest self publishing companies tend to treat their authors like numbers. I don't know about you, but as an author myself I wouldn't want to work with an impersonal publisher. Writing is a very personal journey for the most part, so the best self publishing companies are the ones that will take the time to get to know your book and offer solid ongoing advice. The latter is MindStir in a nutshell. Yes, it's true that many times the largest publishing companies will not give your book the attention it deserves. How can they when they are in the process of publishing hundreds or thousands of other books at once?

Be careful in assuming that biggest is best in the self publishing industry. If you want the most attention with many great opportunities I highly suggest going with a medium-sized self publishing company like MindStir Media. Good luck!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

MindStir Media Review - Sheila Bittick

Children book publishers MINDSTIR MEDIA recently received an overwhelmingly positive review from children's book author Sheila Bittick. Here at MindStir, we strive to make childrens book publishing easy and affordable. We start by assigning each children's book author their very own illustrator. In this case, we assigned Justin (illustrator) to Sheila's children's picture book project. As a leader among childrens book publishers, MindStir was able to deliver to Sheila a finished, high-quality picture book in just a few months. The book, Jeremy's Great Escape, will be available to the public in a couple weeks.

MindStir children's book publishers author SHEILA BITTICK
Here's the review for MindStir Media children's book publishers:

"Thank you, Mindstir Media, for taking such excellent care of me. J.J. was always there when I needed him! Wow, Justin, your illustrations were awesome! You brought Jeremy's Great Escape to life for me. Thank you, Miranda, for taking the time to promptly return my Emails and answering all my questions no matter how small they were. I am so proud to be involved with such a great organization. I look forward to working with you in the future!"

Check out more MindStir Media reviews...

Top 5 Lessons Writers can Learn from The Shawshank Redemption (Film)

Photo by quiddle from Flickr
If you haven't seen The Shawshank Redemption (film), you're missing out on one of the most successful prison movies of all time. The movie centers on Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), a banker accused of killing his wife and her lover. Andy is sentenced to life in prison and during his time there he meets Red (Morgan Freeman), along with a whole cast of unforgettable characters. Andy focuses on something that the other inmates do not dare touch: hope. He hopes to one day see "the outside," but his prison mates see things differently. I think that's a decent brief synopsis. You should know there are SPOILERS below, so go watch the movie (if you haven't already) before continuing to read...

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OK, now I'm assuming if you're reading this far you've watched the movie. Here are the top 5 lessons writers can learn from The Shawshank Redemption movie.

1. Hope is universal. Yes, the film is primarily set in a male prison, but this is not a movie for men. Everyone on the planet can relate to the movie because everyone on the planet either secretly hopes or openly hopes for something. In this case, Andy hopes to remove himself from his situation. Whether you're writing fiction or non-fiction, hope is a universal topic that you shouldn't hesitate to tackle. The same is true for love and death, among others.

2. Everyone has felt trapped in some sense. Again, they're all male inmates but women can relate to this message in the movie. The men are literally incarcerated but don't we all build figurative prisons around us? Some of us work jobs that we hate, spend time with people we don't necessary like, etc. I bet you can think of a few ways you build bars around you... You'd do well as a writer to tap into the natural human feeling of being trapped. I believe it's a terrible feeling that everyone experiences at some point.

3. Each person reacts uniquely. There's nothing worse (okay, maybe that's not true) than watching a film or reading a book in which the characters seem to act or react the same way to a certain set of circumstances. In the The Shawshank Redemption, every single inmate (that we get to know) reacts uniquely to their prison stay. As I noted earlier, Andy hopes to get out. Red has become the "guy who can get things." Brooks, the elderly inmate, has embraced the prison walls and doesn't want to leave. Those are three major examples I can think of.  As a writer, make sure to use conflict to show how dissimilar each character really is. Just like in real life, each person tends to react differently to conflict and dire circumstances.

4. In fiction, the setting isn't as important as the characters. I have to be honest and tell you that I've watched Shawshank probably about a hundred times and each time I discover something new. But one thing that always sticks out to me: The prison itself isn't nearly as intriguing or memorable as the characters. Sure, the prison plays a role but the characters make this film! Fiction, in my opinion, should be character-driven. The characters should move the story along. This means that your characters should evolve and change and move toward a goal or goals, prompting the story to evolve and change. The characters should generally be well-rounded, three dimensional characters. They should have flaws. I can't name any flawless characters in Shawshank. Even Andy (the main character who is innocent, as we know!) admits that he was a bad husband and feels somewhat responsible for pushing his wife into the arms of another man. He also admits that he's a hard man to get to know...

5. Bad guys should be complicated. It's safe to say that Warden Norton is the major antagonist in this film. The Warden is a Bible-thumping and Bible-quoting bad guy who, in his position, should be a good guy (to the right people, he looks and acts like a good guy...but it's an act). He's there to oversee the prison and to be THE authority figure, but he's incredible corrupt. He shows flashes of goodness, by protecting Andy and allowing him to build the library but he only does these things to keep Andy just content enough to continue doing Norton's dirty work (i.e. cooking his books). Norton, as you know, allows Andy to tutor a young inmate, Tommy, but then Norton ultimately has Tommy shot and killed. Norton also does everything in his power to keep Andy in prison despite the fact that Andy has discovered proof that could exonerate him.

Whether you choose self-publishing as your route to publication or traditional publishing, I believe the above writing lessons will be beneficial. They might even possibly improve your writing skills. Good luck!

(Interested in self-publishing? You might want to consider MindStir Media, rated by many as the best among self publishing companies)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Best Self Publishing Companies

Today I was asked a rather complicated question: "What are the best self publishing companies?" Now, of course I'm the owner of self publishing company MindStir Media, so my advice on this matter is definitely biased. She knew that and I didn't want to just come out and say, "Hey, MindStir is the best, of course!" Instead I answered with: "Let's instead discuss the traits of a top self-publishing company in my opinion. There are many self publishing companies on the Internet, but not all of them are created equal..." I then explained the traits she should look for in a self publishing company and also explained that it'll ultimately be up to her to determine which company is the best based on that information. She thanked me for the valuable information and we scheduled another call for the future.

My point with all of this is that "best" is subjective. You must first have a clear set of criteria in place in order to eventually be able to ascertain who is the "best" (my compare self-publishing companies chart kind of does a nice job of this). I think it's important for people to first be educated about the self-publishing industry and then make up their own minds about all the companies out there... What's that old adage? Knowledge is power? I'd have to agree!