Wednesday, July 17, 2019

BookFunnel vs StoryOrigin vs BookSprout vs Google Forms: First Impressions

My goal with my mailing list may be different than most. I am not looking to build a readership that buys a massive amount of books on day 1. My goal with my mailing list is to give away free stuff. The hope is that people enjoy that free stuff and leave reviews. These reviews will then influence other people and algorithms to get people to buy the books. In addition, I hope that I can slowly start making some fans of my work. Up until recently, my mailing list has been unfocused. I’ve told people about new books and upcoming books… but that really didn’t lead anywhere. Instead, I am finding giving away review copies to be a strategy that should work well. To do this, I am trying out several services. Here are my first impressions of these services. I hope to also include another post in August on how this effort went. (I won’t fully know until August 5th or so)

The focus of this service is to build a book advanced reader copy (ARC) and give it away to build up the mailing list. Unfortunately, the free option doesn’t allow email capturing. The lease I could get away with is $10/month plan to see if this works. I joined and started setting things up. In truth, I was a little disappointed in the amount of promotions they have available. I had hoped that they would have more, especially since I paid my $10. However, the group I read in Reddit (r/selfpublish) raves about this service, so we’ll see how well it works.

This is just like BookFunnel, but is free as of the time of writing. I feel like this was a bit cleaner than BookFunnel and had more promotions. Not only did it have more promotions, but then you could do direct requests for newsletter swaps. My favorite part on that was that you could connect your newsletter service to StoryOrigin. This allows your newsletter to be verified (amount of subscribers, open rate, click rate). That way, when you are requesting a newsletter swap, you can ping people that are not only relevant, but have a comparable list. I have high hopes for this one, but again, we’ll see in the near future. (I just recently set this up)

This service I feel like I am doing wrong. I put everything in and set it up, but I can’t find a spot to apply for promotions. My guess is that they do all the promotions for you? I’ve tried this in the past, with limited success. However, the service is free, and the last time I tried it I got a review. This feels like a potential “good to do” but not “essential to do” type strategy. I am trying another book to see if that makes a difference. We will see how well this works.

Google Forms
The purpose of this area was to direct my mailing list to request review copies. What I learned from this is that I prefer an Excel output. I also learned that I need to be more careful in what I provide for free. I didn’t think many people would request free Kindle review copies. Instead, I ended up gifting a number of Kindle copies (which cost me money). I do enjoy how clean this method was, but I also noticed that a lot of people who clicked on the link didn’t actually fill out the form. I wonder if there is a better way to present this form to get more people interacting with it. We will get that determined again in the future.

These are my first impression with these services. I hope to gain more information in the future. Many of these services need time to “blossom”, which I hope to give to them over the next few weeks. Right now I am hopefully that one of these will be well worth it. The “plan B” right now is not looking good. I’ve advertised with NoiseTrade in the past, which really did good for me. However, they’ve had some major events recently which seem to have led the company to be in tatters. I’ve asked about marketing to them, but haven’t heard anything yet. We shall see on that as well.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Five Things Writing Journals are Missing

A recent trend in book publishing is building writing journals. The idea, as far a I understand it, is to build a journaling system that ties into an online platform. The hope is to build a skill enough where you can achieve a specific goal. Some journals focus on writing prompts while others are introspective (such as “burn after writing”). However, when I look at the preview of these journals via Amazon’s sneak peek, I can’t help but be disappointed. Usually these “books” are single questions filled with lots of free space. I don’t see charts, I don’t see a system, and I don’t see anything more than a marketing ploy. Perhaps I am missing the “system” behind many of these journals. Here are five things I think these journals are missing.

Missing Journal Feature #1: Math and Tables

This is my top compliant. It’s easier to build a product that is pure fiction then it is to build a scientifically useful product. How do you make a scientifically useful product? Include calculations and table lookups. This doesn’t have to be super complex and can even relate to a number of published psychology experiments. By building a quiz, and corresponding table, based upon a scientific article you give your writing more credence. Without this, the questions you quiz people on don’t have direct merit. One example includes children and marshmallows. The study mentioned looks into how people behave with instant gratification. If you build a quiz that outlines a quick “go here for a simple answer vs solve this for a complex answer” then you can have a table based upon gratification. If someone is closer to instant gratification, they might need different tools then someone who is willing to wait or work for results. This can then be referenced to the initial marshmallow experiment, which allows people to not only understand themselves better, but understand those around them better.

Missing Journal Feature #2: Focus

The next big problem with many writing journals is focus. A lot of authors just want to pump up word count, and I can’t really fault them for that. However, the audience wants to be heading towards a story ending, even it the subject is non-fiction. Why are they doing this? What is the purpose behind writing all these questions and answers? What do they gain at the end of this? Many writing journals only offer warm feelings of completion at the end. What if the end of the rainbow had more than feelings? What if you could get specific rewards, discounts, and resources? There has to be more of a point to writing journals than simply a feeling of completion. That’s because less than a day after completion, the book is forgotten. What’s next should always have an answer. That answer should start at the beginning of every journey and culminate at the end of the journey.

Missing Journal Feature #3: Dictionaries

Sometimes there are many answers to a question. This is where dictionaries can help. If a person can resolve a task, then dig through corresponding dictionaries or resources, that can greatly improve the quality of their experience. This can be done with a number of dictionary like entries. One of the best examples I can think of like this is “Strength finder”. This book has you solve a timed quiz that has many “no right answer” questions. By digging through these questions, the quiz shows you a number of core strengths you have. While this can sometimes feel like astrological charts, the beauty of this system is in taking the quiz once every year or every few years. By comparing your results throughout the years, patterns can start to emerge. Sure, some strengths may ebb and flow away, but some may stay with your results every year. The great thing about this book is that it then provides a dictionary of those specific strengths. Furthermore, you can see how those strengths interact with others. The point of this is that building writing journals with further areas to investigate can lead to more gain. If a fan of the journal completes the exercise, they need to have a place to further investigate.

Missing Journal Feature #4: Branching Books

If a dictionary entry is not enough to contain all the information, perhaps writing branching books is the appropriate next move. This allows the completer of the journal to have a more tailored experience. Ultimately, the better you can tailor the experience to the consumer of your work, the more they are going to get from it. Bringing value to each reader is extremely important because that’s what writing is all about. In addition, readers who experience good value will leave positive reviews and will tell others. If a reader has an impersonal, this really isn’t for me, moment… they could experience buyers regret. That could lead to negative reviews or less sales in the future. The closer you can tailor your experience to the individual reader, the better. Sometimes this is best done with writing branching books.

Missing Journal Feature #5: Feedback Loops

Finally, many writing journals are written and then left out in the rain to rust. They don’t have a method of being refreshed on a regular basis. This is extremely unfortunate, as reader feedback can be used immediately to improve the writing journal. By building a feedback loop, the author of the writing journal can make something that gets better and better over time. One of the best resources of knowledge is past success. However, most people throw this away when they don’t capture or reuse this experience. This is a massive source of waste that shouldn’t be allowed to exist.

There may be more items missing then just these five. However, I think if a writing journal had these areas, it might be worth investigating. Until someone can solve these areas, I am not sure I will spend any of my cash buying a writing journal.

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