Is writing a book right for you?

Way back in 2010, I started a small struggling business called “Aleweb Social Marketing.” It had started out as a consulting firm teaching small businesses how to get ahead by using social marketing. The problem was, many small businesses were still trying to figure out whether they even needed to incorporate social media into their businesses. (Can you believe it?)

But one segment of my client base was growing organically: speakers who were authors.

It took me a year and a half to clue into the fact that working with small businesses wasn’t getting me anywhere, fast! But when I finally did, the focus of my company shifted to figuring out the best ways to help authors and speakers market their books and presentations.

Knowing that I needed a unique way to reach this target market and convince them that I was the best resource for them, I decided to write a book.

Within three months, I wrote and published my first eBook, The Plan that Launched a Thousand Books, in May 2012.

It took a lot of hard work to pull together the content, get a cover designed, and figure out exactly just how to create and publish an eBook, but I did it. And I was proud of the results! (Although I’m a little embarrassed by the 1st edition of the book these days…)

My primary goal with the eBook was to use it to establish a relationship with my readers–all of whom were potential future clients for me.

I held nothing back. I gave them the best ideas and resources I had at that time, knowing that it would either:

  1. Convince them of the hard work necessary so that they’d hire me to do it instead, or
  2. Help those who couldn’t afford me to make enough progress with their marketing to send the rest of it to me once they’d raised some funds.

And it was actually quite good for that. I started receiving emails and phone calls from readers all over the world who were getting a lot out of my book, and who wanted more.

What I didn’t bank on was the fact that my methods and resources are continually changing, just as the technology and publishing industries are. And some of the recommendations I made in the book were outdated two short years later. So, I updated the book and published it as both an eBook and paperback this time.

What a huge difference that made! Little did I realize at the time, but eBooks would eventually account for only 29% of our sales. The paperback was where it was at! 

And my business continued to grow. I’d learned my lesson well though and I listened to what my peers and clients needed.

More and more, I heard that they wanted help not just promoting their books and creating websites, but also with publishing their books. So, I started a second company to supplement the first, and Emerald Lake Books was born.

Little did I know that in the space of twelve months, Emerald Lake Books would become my primary business, and Aleweb Social Marketing would be absorbed into it.

Yet all of this came from writing a book that served the basic needs of the type of person I wanted to work with most. (I actually went to a couple of my favorite clients and asked them what they needed!)

If I’d never written The Plan and established myself as an expert in book marketing, Emerald Lake Books wouldn’t exist. And one of the most satisfying parts of my life would be missing.

This is how I discovered the power of a strategically written book.

The Plan that Launched a Thousand Books has gone on to win numerous awards, it’s built my mailing list, garnered me speaking engagements, and justified increasing my consulting fees. It’s established my expertise in a way that is genuine and authentic, and that came from a position of service and giving. If a reader was inclined to do all the work themselves, they had enough information in the book to be able to do that. And that made me feel good!

It meant that the readers who contacted me were those I truly had something to offer. I wasn’t keeping the magic ingredient to my awesomesauce secret. Anyone could pick up the book and follow the instructions. But those who felt their time was better spent elsewhere and could afford to work with me contacted me about working together.

I wasn’t out there chasing leads. I was giving back, and feeling good about it, all while building a business that could support my family.

Two years later, I was able to bring in my best friend, Mark Gerber, as my business partner, and Emerald Lake Books has grown even more since then.

We’ve defined a unique process that combines business coaching with publishing so that we can help others do exactly the same thing that I was able to do with my book.

We’ve hired people to help us, both as coaches to help us grow and as team members to support our increased workload. While Mark and I are the only full-time permanent people in the company, we have a team of ten other hand-selected people who work with us regularly on our projects.

Our six-figure business grew from one little book idea that was strategically written, carefully crafted, impeccably designed, and properly positioned.

Just as important, I knew exactly what I wanted my readers to get out of the book and what I wanted the book to accomplish for my business. And I was clear about the overall impact I wanted the book to have.

These three factors have become crucial elements of our Publish with a Purpose framework, which we use with all of our authors as part of helping them create books that get results.

If you have been wondering whether a book is right for you or how to write a book that serves a specific purpose, I invite you to schedule a call with us.

How to Write a Good Review on Amazon

Let’s say that you just finished reading a book that you loved. Perhaps it was even one of Emerald Lake Books’ latest titles. Whatever it was, following it up with a review is a good habit to get into.

Reviews provide encouragement, feedback and constructive criticism for authors, which is something we all stand to benefit from.

But reviews also serve to help future buyers and prospective readers decide whether a title is right for them or not. Your honest review can help them decide whether to invest their time and money in a book.

So let’s take a few minutes to understand how to write a compelling review for Amazon.

Every review consists of three parts: a star rating, the review itself and a headline or title for the review.

Understanding Star Ratings

Every item on Amazon can be quickly critiqued by selecting a star rating from 1 to 5. So as you’re thinking about the book you’ve just read (or any other product you’ve just finished trying), the first step is to figure out what star rating to assign to it.

Amazon’s definition of each of the stars is:

  • 5 – I love it
  • 4 – I like it
  • 3 – It’s okay
  • 2 – I don’t like it
  • 1 – I hate it

Short and sweet, but easy to decipher.

As much as every author loves to receive five-star reviews, it’s also unrealistic to expect everyone to love the same book. A five-star review should be reserved for when the book has everything: strong writing, solid content, great editing, etc.

Ultimately, the test is this: If this is a book that you know all your friends and family should read, and that you know you’ll be reading again, then it’s five-star worthy.

Elements of a Good Review

Once you’ve chosen your star rating, you’ll be asked to write your review. This is the bulk of what you have to say about the book you’ve just read. While you can write anything you want here, you can make your review ultra-useful by including the following information:

  • Write the review as if you’re explaining to a friend why they should read the book. While the author is certainly interested in what you have to say about their book, it’s a prospective reader who’s going to base their decision about whether to read the book based on what you share.
  • Include something about the book itself so that prospective readers understand what it’s about.
  • Share something that stood out to you or resonated with you. What was it? Why did it impact you the way it did?

Remember, your review is about the book and how it impacted you. It is not about you or about any technical difficulties you may have had with downloading it. So make sure that you stay on topic if you want to write a compelling review.

Give It a Compelling Headline

After you’ve written your review, summarize it by giving your review a compelling headline. Some reviewers use this as a call-to-action directed at a prospective buyer. Others use it to accentuate a key point in their review.

Whatever your preference is, use it as a means of capturing the reader’s attention so that they take the time to read what you’ve had to say about the book.

A Word of Caution

Amazon has a clearly stated policy against friends and family writing reviews for an author’s book. In their estimation, if you have a close relationship with an author, you’re unlikely to write an unbiased review.

Therefore, keep your review focused on the book itself and not on the author. Amazon does actively seek out reviews that give the impression of a close personal relationship with the author and removes them without warning.

So don’t let your review go to waste. Keep it focused on the book and its value to a prospective reader.

Want to Learn More?

Amazon has a great set of FAQs for customer reviews that answer many frequently asked questions as well as a clearly stated set of customer review guidelines.

What Should I Say in My Acknowledgments?

Some authors struggle with what to write in their Acknowledgments. Others know exactly what they want to say and how. If you find yourself in the former group and want a quick starting point for writing yours, here’s a brief summary for you.

Essentially, you want to create a list of those “without whom this book would not have come into existence.” It’s common to acknowledge friends who encouraged your research and writing, clients who inspired your specific subject, mentors and idols who set your thoughts aflight, beta readers who helped to improve the book with their feedback, and individuals specifically involved in the production of the book (namely editors, designers and publishers).

The simplest way to do that is to group people together based on the role they played in relation to the book and allow those specific individuals who played a more significant role to have a line or two of their own.

As for the tone, we like the advice of a friend over at Greenleaf:

Overall, the best way to write an acknowledgment is to make it personal, professionally casual, and descriptive (ie: don’t simply say “Thanks to my editor, Gil.” Tell us why Gil rocked.).

As for length, 1-2 pages is great. Any more and it can become too unfocused and rambling. A reader will lose interest quickly. But oftentimes what a reader is looking for in an Acknowledgment is whether they know anyone named in it, and why that person’s contribution mattered to you.

The best suggestion we can give you is to pick a few titles off your bookshelf and peruse the Acknowledgments there. See what resonates with you in terms of tone, style and length, and then endeavor to create your own version of it.

And if you’re still wondering if it’s really worth it, consider this:

Gratitude is contagious …and… No one succeeds alone.

Use your acknowledgments to give your readers a brief insight into who you are, what you value, and to remind them why they like you.

Using Author-Supplied Cover Designs

Occasionally, we are asked if we will accept a cover designed by someone else.

The short answer is, “yes!” But it requires a bit of explanation…

While our preference is to design the covers we use, as long as the covers provided meet our criteria, we’re happy to use them.

Per our publishing agreement, as the publisher, we hold all final approvals of the designs and images used. But your input and approval are significant to us.

Since the cover is a critical element of the book’s marketing efforts, we don’t begin its design until we’re sure of that direction. Therefore, we would ask that your designer coordinates with us regarding the appropriate time to start the design.

If you have a specific designer, illustrator or photographer you’d like to use, please send us relevant samples of their work or a link to their website. We will arrange a conversation to discuss concepts, direction and deadlines so we can collaborate with them on suitable ideas. Ideally, the process will include our approving submitted sketches or initial designs before moving to a final cover design.

The final size of the book (the “trim size”) is often not established until later in the publishing process. However, the design must adhere to the necessary specs for its use. Once the trim size is established, a template will be provided.

The final design must be submitted to us according to the following specifications:

  • The design will consist of the front cover only. Back cover content often changes until just before the release of the book and we require the flexibility to update the cover as needed.
  • The design must be based on the template we provide.
  • The design must be flexible enough to include a high-profile endorsement. Again, those endorsements may not be available until later in the process. We reserve the right to adjust the design to accommodate the endorsement, if necessary.
  • Acceptable applications used to create the design or image are Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. Neither Quark nor Corel Draw files are accepted. Contact us if your designer wants to use a different application so we can determine if it’s compatible with our workflow.
  • Submit all original source files, including fonts. Do not outline the fonts since all copy must be editable.
  • Provide licenses for any stock images used on the cover.
  • The ownership of the copyright is between you and the artist/designer, but the license must grant rights for us to use the design/image for the cover and in any marketing efforts. If you are using an original image or photograph, we can provide a standard license to be signed by its creator.
  • All images provided must be CMYK and have a minimum resolution of 300 dpi at the size used.
  • If the image bleeds, it must be sized to accommodate trim (indicated in the template).

Any cover presented to us must be suitable for the genre of the book and the category in which the book will be listed.

If the provided cover design is approved for use, your overall publishing fees will be adjusted as specified on the Your Estimate page later in this proposal.