Category Archives: Marketing

Ten of the Best Free Press Release Sites

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a proud indie author about to publish a masterpiece must be in want of getting the word out there. Publicity is necessary, or where would you find your readers?

As you write, you can bore your potential audience rigid by talking about your book on social media or by blogging about it (as I do, but one word of warning: if you market through Twitter don’t do it when there’s a football match on or you’ll be tweeting to yourself!). Then, when your book is finished, edited, published and ready to sell, you can think about publishing your press release – or even better, getting the press release out before you publish. A press release is not only necessary, it’s mandatory! An online press release on a site gives you free publicity and you never know where it could lead.

Most authors, musicians and other artists want to find free press release sites. Why pay for it when you can get it for free? The problem is, I’ve noticed over the years that it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to find mainly free sites, especially in the UK; however, there are a few I’ve used that remain free for basic news items, but which do charge for premium ads that can be distributed in the media more widely, so these are also worth considering if you can afford it. Releases are often subject to approval before publication and some sites limit word count and the number of days they will keep a release. The down side for authors is that most of their releases can be lost in the Arts and Entertainment sections; not many have dedicated Book categories, but on the plus side many sites are now tweeting releases and sharing on Facebook, offer global media distribution and your release will almost always show up on the front page for a time.

So here are my ten of the best free press release sites:

Briefingwire – searchable with immediate publication

eNewsWire UK – starts with a note of advice about submitting a press release already submitted through other channels. Searchable via a monthly archive

Free Press Release Center – Covers a comprehensive list of topics

FreePRNow – simply laid out; account required, but completely free

NewsSides – US and Canada distribution only

OnlinePRNews – free and paid; releases are live for 90 days

Press Release Place – looks great on the face of it, but for authors and other artists there are no specific sections and there doesn’t appear to be a way to search for a release

Pressbox – simply laid out; this site doesn’t require an account to submit a release, but once submitted you can’t edit

PR Fire – a searchable free press release service covering a wide range of topics; is the paid service

PRLog – nicely designed site with a search engine optimised web page

Read my press release for Big Brother published on Free Press Release Center.


Book Promotion Sites (or Their Authors) That Have (Probably) Died

One of the best ways to promote your books is to put them onto promotion sites. There are loads all over the web and I’ve done my best to utilise all of them. There are too many to mention and one of my favourites is Readers Gazette: free registration and free tweets on Twitter.

The thing is, a book promotion site is only as good as the human who designed it, like a computer is only as good as the computer operator. Why is it that sites appear then disappear a few years later? There could be a number of reasons: it’s too expensive to keep the site running, the author of the site has got fed up with the hassle of running it and it’s taking too much of their time (or they could’ve died: well, they are human and death comes to all of us, doesn’t it?), or maybe because there are not that many people utilising the site. One of the ways I monitor if a site is still running is by checking the date at the bottom of the home page. and if it is being promoted on Twitter or Facebook, the last time anything was tweeted or posted.

Here are a few sites I think have gone to the wall:

Armchair Interviews still displays its site and I can’t find a date on the home page or any social media presence, but they advertise an interview with Jackie Collins (no longer with us!) and review her new book (published in 2009!)

BookIdeas gone! Shame, got a good review for Goalden Girl 😦

BookPinning still has a presence, but the date at the bottom of the home page is 2013 and the last time they used social media was 2013 and 2014. I have four of my books on there and when I tried to add Goalden Sky it never appeared.

Front Street Reviews now a site for travel reviews

Nothing Binding is just a sad lonely domain name now. It was a platform for new and aspiring writers to put their books on and invite people to review them, but I never saw reviews being added and they were continually advertising for reviewers.

ReviewTheBook is one of the reasons why I don’t like paying for promotion. They made a charge for each book to be taken up by five reviewers and I had good reviews for Epiworld, but the site disappeared about two years ago.

There will be more to add to the list and that’s why when I get a review from any of them I add them to my website, because you never know which one will disappear next.


RIP Feedjit?

I don’t know if I’m jumping the gun here, but it looks like Feedjit – the real time tracking widget that monitors visitors to your website – has pegged it. It’s been down for over a week now. The tracking on my site hasn’t worked for days and it’s not just me experiencing the problem. I completed a contact form to let them know – but I found info elsewhere to say they never reply and I haven’t heard a dicky bird. On Twitter they haven’t tweeted since 2014 and on Facebook they haven’t posted since 2013, so what’s going on?

Rather annoyingly, if you click on their page, their widget is working!

I’ve lost patience, so I’ve been on the lookout for an alternative. The problem is WordPress, the platform I use for my website and blog, can’t support widgets that use Javascript and the widget has to be embedded as text.

Tried the following that looked OK on the face of it:

Who’s Among Us? doesn’t work, all I get is the script showing as text

RadarURL has a non-javascript embedded link for WordPress and other blogs and again it doesn’t work; again only the script displays on the page.

There are others to choose from that people might like and that might work for them: AliveStats, Footprint Live, Clicky…most are free, but some are subscription, most use Javascript, some you have to download, some are just too fussy to look at and if all you want is to display something simple on your menu bar they’re no good. I want something similar to Feedjit and simple to use and does the same job as – well, Feedjit!

I might have found it: Flag Counter.

It’s free (but there is a pro version for $29.99 per year – about £21 in real money) and it’s basically a counter, but it shows the number of visitors from different countries who have visited your site. Every time someone clicks, up pops the number against the country’s flag. You can click on the flag for a more detailed overview and you also get the geographical location of the country and its history! It’s easy to set up and it’s worth registering your counter so you can log in to your management section. There you can ignore your own browser when you visit your own site (that used to work with Feedjit…) and set things up the way you want them. At the moment, I’m using the free version, but the pro has additional features like regional visitor statistics as well as national (though this is standard for visitors from US and Canada).

The other problem with Feedjit was it kept telling me someone from the UK had landed on an ‘unknown landing page’, something to do with its non-javascript version. The thing with File Counter is to get the best out of it you need to create a code for every page of your site, which will take some time, so for now I’ve got one code for my site and one code for my blog just to monitor the counts. It doesn’t matter which page people are looking at, as long as they look!

The Unlikeable Facebook Fan Page Like

As you can tell from my previous posts, like this one back in March, I absolutely love Facebook (not!) and I have a Facebook author page. Blah! Yes, folks, with reference to what I said in that post, I’m still losing Likes, but I bet it’s not just because of lack of engagement or because of buying Likes (which I haven’t done!) as Facebook claims; it could also be possibly because people who have ‘Liked’ have had enough of Facebook, anyway, and decided to close their account for whatever reason. I wouldn’t blame them, either.

There could also be another reason, the elephant in the room: that those who have Liked my page have read my books and not enjoyed them, so they’ve unLiked. OK, fine, I can live with that, except I don’t see the negative reviews, and I’d love the chance to return the favour and unLike back, only Facebook doesn’t give you that facility (Twitter does; well, there are apps that do), which is really annoying. No amount of pleading to the Facebook Help board will make Them Upstairs change their minds and it’s not just me who wants the rules changed.

A couple of months ago I renamed my FB page to Tracey Morait – Author of Fiction for Children and Young Adults to reflect who I am and what I do and overnight I lost six Likes, although some people re-Liked again. Things settled down for a while, then last week I happened across an article giving advice on how to set up an author fan page. It said not to put your book cover on as your profile image – use a personal photo so people can see what you look like – and don’t do the same with your cover photo, so I looked at my page and realised it hadn’t had a facelift for years. The profile image was my recent book Goalden Sky and my cover photo comprised of the four previous book covers. Fair enough. I decided to heed the advice and redesign it, so I did. The new images themselves went down well – but the page lost three more Likes!

When I lost another Like today, I was ready to give up and bin off FB altogether. What’s the point, I thought, of posting to it if people aren’t going to see the posts? Frustrated, I decided to do more research and came across this article:

5 Reasons Why People Unlike Your Facebook Page

I read the points in turn and thought, ‘Is this where I’m going wrong?’

  1. Constantly Self-Promoting

Well, maybe, but I thought that was the whole point of the fan page. I am trying to promote my books and also to provide progress on the new book I’m writing, but am I boring people? Could be. The thing is, I don’t treat my Twitter profile the same as I do my FB page because I read somewhere else many moons ago that your fan page is your business page and so keep it professional (i.e. boring), yet with your Twitter you have to ‘show your personality’. My Twitter is a mixture of book and football tweets; I get lots of engagement on there and RTs and FAVs of my book news. Maybe I should mix things up a bit on my FB page then, but how? That’s what I’ll have to think about. The problem is I find FB kind of, well, boring, really. I have a personal profile, but I don’t post that much on it, unless it’s to share photos of my last holiday.

The other thing I don’t do is use FB ads and I don’t constantly ‘invite’ friends to Like my page, either. This is spam to me and I hate that, don’t I? (Yeah; and I’m still getting those irritating promotion messages on Twitter!) Other authors do it and I find it annoying, and FB frowns on it, sees it as buying ads, and so that’s why they remove the Likes.

  1. Posting Too Much

Not guilty, guvnor. I prefer Twitter to kind of go on a bit and anyway it’s more fun. I remember to post to FB about once a week.

  1. Not Posting Enough

It’s a fair cop (see point 2) and when I do post it’s usually about the books. I looked at my timeline last night and thought no, it isn’t that appealing, really, is it? Hmm.

  1. You’re Sort of a JERK! #Americanslangalert

I say, that’s not cricket, even if it is true!

‘Do you vent your problems and frustrations constantly on your page and post in an arrogant and/or rude way…?’

No, but I do on my blog! Image result for laugh emojiNot on FB*, only on Twitter, and only when I’m talking footie. I’m never arrogant about my books, but I don’t see what’s wrong with blowing my trumpet now and then. I’m self-published, so chuck me a bone.

*Well, actually…I’m about to put this blog post on! #liaralert

  1. Posting Unrelated Items to Your Page

So that rules out a photo of me at New Year with a glass of something 40% proof in my hand then, with my mascara running down my face as I realise the years are rolling on and there’s nothing I can do to stop them (I do that every New Year, it’s a ritual).

The article finishes by saying:

‘So focus on not doing these things and I bet you’ll see better results on your page…’

I bet you any money I don’t!

The way I see it with Facebook, I have one of two choices to make:

  1. Put up and shut up, do my best with it and if I lose Likes, I lose Likes
  2. Delete my account altogether and stick with Twitter.

Right now, I’m inclined to stick with it a bit longer, so it looks like I’ll have to stop moaning, be more ‘engaging’, post more often, but not constantly promote, not rant, and don’t put anything irrelevant on my page – and maybe engage more often with those who do Like me.

It’s just so much easier to do all that with Twitter, though…

Amazon’s KDP Select Rules Suck!

Let’s be honest: despite a lot of misgivings from authors surrounding the ethics of Amazon (lots of anti-Amazon feeling online from authors, just do a search as there are too many to list here, and that’s without Amazon not paying its UK taxes), the majority of readers these days buy their books from them, and it’s the first place an author will go to check their sales rank, especially if they’re an indie author. Without Amazon, where would the self-published, independent author be, especially if he or she has an eBook edition available for download? Hands up those authors who on the onset of the eBook thought, ‘I want to make my book available as a download. I know, I’ll put it on Nook, Kobo (boo hiss!) or iTunes.’ Liar! Unless you published directly to Smashwords (the eBook publishers of blessed reverence for many), if you have a paperback version first, you go to Kindle because it’s heavily publicised and Amazon knows its onions when it comes to marketing its products (we have an Amazon fire stick for the telly you know), because it revolutionised the way an indie author could make their work available to readers without it costing beggar all, and because it got there first. (Actually, I saw an eReader for sale in a WH Smith shop (boo hiss!) long before I knew about Kindle, so that last statement probably isn’t true…)

As a paperback and Kindle author and reader myself, and knowing how Amazon has revolutionised publishing for indies, naturally I check the sales ranks for Amazon first, though my paperbacks are available worldwide in reputable stores like Waterstones, Book Depository and Barnes & Noble; I’m also aware that not everyone has or even uses a Kindle. I know a lot of people prefer Nook (until recently not available for UK and European readers) but for now I’ve had to bin it off (as mentioned elsewhere!) or a Kobo (boo hiss; scroll down to my comment!), or even iTunes and Google Play, and naturally I wanted to widen my scope and reach more readers, so I made plans to upload all my books to those platforms. As I’ve probably mentioned elsewhere, the indie publisher I use automatically uploaded my first two works Goalden Girl and Abbie’s Rival to Nook at Barnes and Noble and iTunes (for overrated prices), which is why I wanted to re-upload them and upload the others so they’re more affordable, and to make them available in the UK and in Europe, but in the case of Nook it all went boobs up, didn’t it? Yes, it did…moving on…

Anyway, Amazon has this KDP Select programme, too enticing to ignore. During certain times of the year when there’s a Silly Book Day going down – like World Book Night for instance – who amongst us will want to ignore the chance to make their titles available for FREE for promo purposes? This year, I jumped on the bandwagon: struggling with paperback sales and with Kindle sales being soooooooo slooooooooow, I thought to hell with it: I’m going to put all my titles onto KDP Select make everything free on Kindle to everyone and his terrier for a limited period, not just for those on Kindle Unlimited and Prime. What happened? Throughout the Kindle-buying world they downloaded: from the UK to the US to Canada to Japan to the Netherlands they went for it! Something for nothing and the books for free! Over 400 downloads I counted, but not one brass farthing in royalty did I earn ‘cos of the free thing (I was never in it for the money, anyway, but you know what I mean…) I even got a review for Goalden Sky out of that promotion on Amazon Canada, albeit one word (and don’t get me started on even trying to get reviews!) but I was given four stars!

Imagine my chagrin when I got a snot-o-gram email from Amazon informing me that because Goalden Girl and Abbie’s Rival are available on iTunes (interesting they ignore Barnes & Noble and Nook!) they have to remove both from KDP Select, but they will still be for sale for anyone who wants to pay 99 p/99 cents for them. I’ve had a few of these emails since, because I’ve sneakily added those two titles to KDP Select again for promos at other times, not least for the Alder Hey Children’s Hospital Comic Con (where I had my appendix out when I was 3 and to which I donated my paperbacks as well). After all, Goalden Girl is the prequel to Goalden Sky, so to offer the latter for free would be daft without offering the former…

It annoys me that Amazon should demand exclusivity for Kindle titles on KDP Select when it comes to promoting eBooks. Why should it? What gives it the right? Why can’t I have my eBook available in more than one place so that I can broaden my readership, then promote my titles for free via all hosts without being told off? In my opinion the answer is that Amazon works more for Amazon’s benefit than it does for the author or the reader; it knows people will go to them before they go to any other online shop for books, because it sells all sorts of other stuff people want but can’t be bothered to go shopping for, unlike its competitors. Indie titles are hard to get in bricks and mortar shops and Amazon knows it.

I hold my hands up here; Amazon is handy and I buy most of my stuff online from OK, ‘fession over.

It has us well and truly by the short and curlies, and why’s that? It’s because we, the indie author, lets it. Right now there’s little we can do about it. Will it stop me adding my titles to other platforms? No; such a shame Nook is a pile of rubbish and those running Kobo are a bunch of losers…

The Ridiculous Prices of Some Self-Published Books

Apologies for the lateness of this blog post! Last week I was prostrate with flu and didn’t have the energy to write my own name, never mind scribble at my blog or books! Suffice to say I’m now way behind and haven’t even started the second chapters of Episode or Owen Goal yet! I’m easing back into it slowly, a page here, a paragraph there; doesn’t matter how little or how much you write, as long as you write something every day.

Anyway, this week I want to gripe about the ridiculously inflated prices of some self-published books.

We all have our own reasons why we self-publish: because the traditional mainstream publishers we tried first told us our work isn’t good enough for them (their loss), or because we found out that actually, being traditionally published doesn’t have all that much kudos, anyway, since these publishers won’t necessarily market for you and will whip your book off the sales’ lists when it suits them. If you self-publish, you still have to market and promote the stupid thing until you’re driven to drink, but at least you can keep your books for sale for as long as you like.

Self-publishing does have its problems, of course. It costs money: money for the ISBN, money for any add-ons like book cover design, page formatting, editing and proof-reading services, money for marketing if you want to go that far, but the main problem I’ve found is the comparison cost of a self-published print book with that of a traditionally published book, making my efforts at marketing kind of like attempting to climb a hill with banana skins stuck to the soles of my shoes!

Take my new book, Goalden Sky, for instance: it has 176 pages and is printed in US format, 6 x 9 inches. In what I would call normal paperback size (5 x 7) the number of pages would work out more, so to charge £5.90 wouldn’t seem so bad then. The problem is, other books in the children/young adult genres cost much less, because most of them are traditionally published and the publishing houses can afford to charge less because they will always sell more, therefore they will glean a better profit. Despite the lure of eBooks, people still like the feel of a paperback. I want all my paperbacks to cost at least £3.99, but when using a print-on-demand platform like Lulu, it won’t allow you to set the price any lower than its recommendation, which is usually pretty high. It insists I get a royalty for every book I sell and it insists on making some profit out of me, so I have to set a price that will allow me to do that, though I do my best to keep the price as low for my readers as I can. I don’t make much out of my writing, but I’m not really out to make a profit, I just want people to read my books. My first book Goalden Girl is set at a very strange price, £6.47; by the time I got to Big Brother (£5.99) I’d learnt to tweak the pricing a bit more expertly. I get excited when I spot a discount for my paperbacks and publicise these as much as I can!

It’s not the same for my eBooks, though: I can set any price I like for those (maximum £1.99), so it’s no surprise I sell more Kindle books than I do paperbacks. There is a school of thought among indie authors, however, that if you set your prices too low you can’t think much of your own work. Sorry, but that’s b*ll*cks. I happen to think books in all genres are overpriced in general, and if you’re writing for children and young adults you want them to be able to afford them, not take out a bank loan first.

Speaking of eBooks, I have temporarily taken my books off Nook. I just got fed up with Nook’s inability to retain the formatting from the epubs I uploaded! Any italicised text was lost, any centring was lost, and I’d had enough of wasting my time trying to solve these problems. Two of the titles are still available, but for the Lulu set price of $3.99 (too much!) and they’re not available in the UK or Europe. I may try to re-upload later in the year and see if the problems have been ironed out. I also want to try and upload to Google eBooks and add the remainder of my titles to iTunes.

So does a cheaper priced book help sales? Well, it could, if you tell people about it. Selling always comes back to that rotten old chestnut – marketing. I’ve just tweeted that Big Brother’s paperback price on has been slashed to £2.95. On the few occasions I’ve done this I’ve sold copies, and personally I would sooner pay £2.95 for a young adult paperback than £5.99.

So I Finally Joined Goodreads, But Where Is The UK Equivalent?

You know how it is: you’re a self-published, indie author and your only real source of book promotion is the internet. If you have the balls to do it, you can go cap-in-hand to bookshops and ask them if you can do a book signing, and you might get an interview with a newspaper looking for a local interest story, but let’s face it, it’s damn hard being taken seriously as a self-published author. People always think: self-published = low quality; so you turn to the review and promotion sites online.

As many indie authors have to watch their budget, including me, you would rather have this sort of promotion for free, but you accept you may have to pay for it once in a while. That’s OK: £13 here, £10 there. I paid a one-time fee for Independent Author Network and Independent Author Index (though for the latter I still had to pay $6 to list Goalden Sky). The annoying thing for the UK indie, though, is the fact that two thirds of these sites want your money in US Dollars. Yep, most of these marketing sites are American, with their weird spellings and readers who don’t have a clue what UK authors are on about half  the time, even though we had English first, mate. What UK promotion and review sites there are tend to charge a small fortune; take a look at this one, for instance. Fine, go for it if you can afford it, but I wouldn’t.

In 2007 I self-published my first book Goalden Girl and back then I was really green when it came to promotion. I didn’t know where the hell to begin, and I still find it a nightmare. In 2009 I registered with Goodreads, but I quickly realised it was mainly aimed at readers, not authors. Readers post reviews on everything they’ve read, and from what I can tell indies get only a cursory look-in. Also, I was put off by a review for Goalden Girl that one of its members poached from a site I had submitted it to. She may well have read it, but she copied and pasted that review from a site called Front Street Reviews. That site has gone to the wall now, like so many other sites I’ve promoted with. Check out my review pages on my site and I have indicated which ones have passed away. That’s the other thing that p’s me off: the people who set up these sites either die, get bored or can’t afford to run them any longer. That’s why, if you get a review, you should save it elsewhere, even though when you advertise it you look a prize idiot because there’s no link to the site to show for it. Scroll halfway down this page to see the original review for Goalden Girl on FSR dear Violet poached for GR. I don’t believe she’s changed a word.

Last week, however, I rejoined Goodreads again, after reading an article about how it could work for independent authors, and knowing from tweets on Twitter that everyone and his dog is on it and rates it. Why not join the bandwagon, I thought. Well, it’s free for a start. Notice in the article, though, how Michelle starts by slagging off Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest; being the cynic I am, I know all she’s doing is pumping her own site, and why not, but people still use Twitter to promote it and GR is on Facebook. Anyway, as suggested, I listed my books on the various relevant GR Listopia listings because, as the article claims, if your book comes up next to a bestseller it might attract a reader’s eye. LOL. I’ve even put Goodreads buttons by my titles on the home page of my site. Soon after joining I made all these ‘friends’ and got an email from one asking to read and comment on his article. Like me, Ellis doesn’t see the point in Goodreads for authors, but is prepared to persist with it in the hope that someone might notice his work. That’s the point: it’s all to do with ‘hope’, it’s all the indie has. My book Big Brother has been on two ‘want to read’ lists since March 2013! I’m still waiting for one of them to say she’s read it!

In order to become a Goodreads author I had to ‘claim’ that status. Before that I put my own books on a shelf I had to create myself: ‘I Wrote’, and before I did that I had to say I’d ‘read’ them; my personal logic is if you write it you have to read it as well, but it’s a clue that Goodreads is aimed more at readers, there’s no preset ‘I Wrote’ shelf. Actually, as an author my books are now attributed to me, anyway. I also thought it would be a good idea to show what I read. To date I now have forty-seven books and over one hundred friends. When I get to fifty books I can apply for librarian status, whatever TF that means. I have this ‘hope’ that if people are directed to what I’ve read, currently reading, or want to read they might also be directed to what I’ve written, but I doubt it.

For the reader, though, it’s a very popular site, so much so that Amazon have bought into it; but what’s its problem? Yes, you guessed it: free or not, it’s still American, though it does appear to know where you live (probably from your email adress) and so it invites you to add more store selections. Furry nuff; but where on Earth are the UK sites offering a similar sort of service?

Well, a few months ago, I stumbled upon iAuthor, which operates something similar to the Goodreads Listopia, known as Themes. The title of the site suggests it’s geared towards the author. Authors are invited to create a theme and other authors add their titles to that theme, the idea being, I think, for other indies to take a look at your book and think, ‘Yeah. I’ll read that one. If I’m feeling generous I might even review it.’ I’ve created a few themes myself, like this one. Guess which theme appears to be one of the most popular of them all, though? Tells you a hell of a lot, really, doesn’t it! It also tells you that there are plenty of indie authors out there bouncing about like molecules in the air vying for space to get noticed, me included.

Again, with iAuthor, only time will tell if it will help me.

Yesterday, I discovered another UK free site created by a someone frustrated by these promo sites being mostly American: Indie Book Bargains. I joined, but it’s geared towards just eBooks (as a lot of these sites are), and if you have few reviews elsewhere your book is given ‘low priority’ for consideration to the review service. Whatever.

Due to the lack of choice in the free UK book promotion world, I’m thinking of setting up my own service. Don’t know how I’m going to go about it yet, but it will be free, and it won’t be geared towards just readers, either.

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