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Finding ARC Reviewers And More Self-Publishing Questions Answered By Michael La Ronn And Sacha Black: Member Q&A Podcast

Finding ARC Reviewers and More Self-Publishing Questions Answered by Michael La Ronn and Sacha Black: Member Q&A Podcast

In the latest installment of the AskALLi Member Q&A podcast from the Alliance of Independent Authors, hosts Michael La Ronn and Sacha Black discuss effective strategies for finding ARC (Advanced Review Copy) reviewers for your manuscript.

Other questions include:

  • Do I need a new ISBN if I change the cover?
  • Do I need to use a different ISBN for each retailer when publishing on Kindle and other platforms?
  • How can I create a legal disclaimer for a memoir written as fiction?
  • Is it possible to retain rights to my characters and book world when negotiating with a traditional publisher?
  • What is the best way to get peer feedback on alternative cover designs for my upcoming book?
  • How does barcode pricing work with short-term or permanent price changes?

Thoughts or further questions on this post or any self-publishing issue?

If you’re an ALLi member, head over to the SelfPubConnect forum for support from our experienced community of indie authors, advisors, and team. Simply create an account (if you haven’t already) to request to join the forum and get going.

Non-members looking for more information can search our extensive archive of blog posts and podcast episodes packed with tips and advice at ALLi's Self-Publishing Advice Center.

And if you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization and become a self-publishing ally.

Now, go write and publish!

Listen to the Podcast: Finding ARC Reviewers

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About the Hosts

Michael La Ronn is ALLi’s Outreach Manager. He is the author of over 80 science fiction & fantasy books and self-help books for writers. He writes from the great plains of Iowa and has managed to write while raising a family, working a full-time job, and even attending law school classes in the evenings (now graduated!). You can find his fiction at www.michaellaronn.com and his videos and books for writers at www.authorlevelup.com.

Sacha Black is a bestselling and competition winning author, rebel podcaster, speaker and casual rule breaker. She writes fiction under a secret pen name and other books about the art of writing. When Sacha isn't writing, she runs ALLi's blog. She lives in England, with her wife and genius, giant of a son. You can find her on her website, her podcast, and on Instagram.

Read the Transcripts to the Podcast: Finding ARC Reviewers

Michael La Ronn: Hello and welcome to the self-publishing advice and inspirations podcast. This is our ALLi member Q&A podcast where we answer your most burning self-publishing questions. I'm Michael La Ronn, joined by Sacha Black. How are you, Sacha?

Sacha Black: I'm good, thank you. How are you?

Michael La Ronn: Hey, I am great. Now, everyone who's listening can't see this, but your office looks different. You want to talk about that?

Sacha Black: I don't know if you ever feel like this, but sometimes when you go through a transition, maybe you finished a whole series or maybe you've had a financial shift, or maybe you've gone through therapy, and you feel like you're in a different position now.

I feel like I need a refresh of my physical space when I've had a mental space change. So, yeah, I basically wanted to redecorate and make it really bright, which is ironic because my bookcase is now black, but it makes the books brighter, I think, like that contrast makes the colour stand out a lot more. So yeah, and the office is this lovely pink colour and I'm just waiting for a bit more furniture, but yeah, I'm absolutely loving it.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, it looks awesome. The pink/purple wall behind you looks good. So, everyone listening, as you go through changes in your writing career, don't be afraid to open up that feng shui.

Sacha Black: Yeah, I don't want to be to woo, but it really does sometimes feel like, that kind of energetic shifting.

Michael La Ronn: Sometimes you need that. Sometimes you just need to reorganize everything. I don't know if it's maybe just that time of the year.

Sacha Black: I think there's some of that, spring cleaning and all the rest of it. I do tend to do that every so often, like a spring cleaning, just bin everything, except the books. Never the books.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, the books must remain. The rainbow bookshelf must remain. Speaking of energy, we got a lot of energy in the questions. So, we've got a number of questions to get through today.

Who should I hire to review my new book?

The first question is from our member Ruth, and Ruth asks, I need to hire the services of a qualified person to review my new book. Any ideas?

Sacha Black: Yes, use our partner services directory, one, but also our search dashboard. So, if you log into allianceindependentauthors.org and navigate to services, then you will be able to find lots and lots of people in there, all of their services. You can search by the type of thing that you're looking for as well.

Then the other thing that I would say is to make sure you go and check the discounts and deals tab because you may find that they have an offering on if you're an ALLi member.

The other thing that I would say is you can always ask other author friends who they've used. That's quite a good one. As well, if you want a personal recommendation then you can ask in the member forum as well, but always do your due diligence and make sure that either you've seen testimonials or reviews, you validated them, that kind of thing.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, absolutely.

I would just also caveat that it's important to not pay for reviews unless it is a qualified review service. So, if you're looking for people to review your books, just make sure you're not paying someone to do that. That's an important element. But yeah, everything that Sacha said is good in addition to just looking and finding avid readers in your space.

Where are your readers hanging out? What kind of genre are you in? Are there places on Goodreads? Can you use a service like Book Sirens or Book Sprout? Those sorts of things.

Sacha Black: Oh, okay. So, when they said review, I assumed they meant like editorial review, not a reviewer.

Michael La Ronn: And I think that's why we have to talk about both.

Sacha Black: Okay.

Michael La Ronn: So, I think between our answer, we covered it.

Sacha Black: This is why we have the glossary.

Michael La Ronn: Yes, remember there is a difference between an editorial review and a reviewer. Editorial Review is a place that publishes a review in a publication, and that's helpful for libraries and other traditional media venues.

Sacha Black: Yeah, that is an editorial review in my brain, and as soon as I said it, I was like, oh, no, that's still not really what I mean. By review, I thought like manuscript review as in an editor.

Michael La Ronn: So, we're going to answer all three pathways here just to make sure we answered your question, Ruth.

Sacha Black: Be a writer, they said. Be good with words.

Michael La Ronn: So, I think we have sufficiently answered that question. To just use the American idiom, we've beaten that dead horse enough.

How can I remarket a republished book?

So, the next question is from Richard. I have republished my book with significant changes and would like to remarket it. What path should I take?

Sacha Black: So, when you say significant changes, what does that mean? Because if you have changed less than 10 percent of the actual words in the manuscript, then you can just re-upload it and continue marketing as you did before.

If you have changed more than 10%, then it is a second edition, and you will, I think, do you need a new ISBN at that point?

Michael La Ronn: Yes, you do.

Sacha Black: Yeah. So, you need a new ISBN at that point. It essentially becomes a new book.

I would follow, in that case, all of the normal book marketing methods for a book launch, and I would run it as if it were a first book launch with the only caveat of, I would add a line on the blurb, possibly on the back of the book, but definitely on the sales dashboards that says, this book was previously published as, and then whatever the title was, just so that you're being clear.

But I would take a run at getting ARC readers, throwing some ads at it, if possible, if it's a complete series. All of the normal book marketing bits and bobs.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, I agree.

If it's fiction, if you have a new cover, you definitely need a new ISBN and you definitely want to throw all the remarketing efforts that we talked about.

Sacha Black: A new cover? I don't think you need a new ISBN for a new cover.

Michael La Ronn: Do you? I don't know if you do or not now that I say that.

Sacha Black: No, I don't think you do.

Michael La Ronn: It's only if it's 10%. So, if you are making interior changes that are greater than 10%, and you have a new cover, then definitely you want to throw in all the things that Sacha just talked about.

I think if it's nonfiction, you may want to have a little button on the cover that says something like new edition. If it's worth people knowing that it's a new edition, I think that probably wouldn't be a bad idea either.

Are you looking up the ISBN thing? Okay. So, I'll keep talking here.

I think republishing the book is an important opportunity. The question I would ask is, are there any things that you didn't do the first time around that you wish you did this time around?

Sacha Black: That's a great question.

Michael La Ronn: I think that's a really good question. If I had asked myself that my first year, I probably would have made more money, probably would have sold more books. So, ask yourself that question and see where it gets you.

Sacha Black: So, I do have a definitive answer in our ISBN guide, and it does say, I'm republishing a book with a new cover design, should I change the ISBN? And the answer is no. A change of cover design with no changes to the content of the book should not need or have a new ISBN.

The rule is if you change more than 10 percent of the interior, you need a new ISBN.

Michael La Ronn: Okay, so cover change with no interior, no new ISBN.

Sacha Black: Correct.

Michael La Ronn: Cover change with more than 10 percent, yes, ISBN.

Okay, you heard it here, folks. So, this is why we're going to share that link. We get ISBN questions all the time, and sometimes we can't even keep it straight. That just goes to show you. We've been doing this for how long, over a decade, and sometimes we can't even remember all this.

So, I think we'll share that link. You can bookmark it and keep it safe.

Where can I find ARC reviewers?

So, next question is from Shushindran. I would like to give my manuscripts to ARC reviewers. Where can I find ARC reviewers? So, ARC stands for Advanced Reviewer Copies.

Sacha Black: It would depend on the genre. It would depend on your business structure. So, if you already have a mailing list, the first thing I would say to you is to go to your mailing list, because those are the people who are engaged enough with your work already that they would want to help you, they're more inclined to help you.

If you don't have a mailing list or maybe you're still writing or editing or whatever, if you have a short story or you have a novella or something, you can actually build a mailing list in the background whilst you're still preparing for launch, and that was one of the things that I did with the first Ruby series.

So, I started with a mailing list, and I used people like BookFunnel, StoryOrigin, and I found similar authors, people in the same genre, and I got a small handful of ARC reviewers and mailing list subscribers from that kind of pool using that novella. The second thing that I would do is go to genre specific reader Facebook groups.

So, rather than author groups, go to reader Facebook groups that are specific to your genre, check the rules, because the last thing you want to do is post in a group that doesn't actually allow it. Sometimes groups have specific days where they'll allow posts about those kinds of advanced topics.

I got a huge number of ARC readers from genre specific Facebook groups when I started Ruby, that really helped. The other thing that you can do then is you can do the hard leg work of approaching people on social media who read in your genre. So, use hashtags to search for people. You can find commenters on people that you follow who look like they're talking about the types of books that you read.

Go have a look at their profiles. Do they read in your genre? This is the hardest of hard ways, but you tend to get the right people when you do this, because they are the people who are reviewing books and posting about them on social media. So, you can do that as well.

The other thing you can do is pay for a book tour. So, I tried that as well and I paid for a couple of Instagram book tours with varying success, but they weren't too much money so it was okay, it was a good experiment, and your mileage may vary.

So, the book tours, essentially you give copies of the book. Some of the tours are more expensive and you have to send physical copies, some of them are less expensive and they'll take digital copies, and of course you're going to have varying success, because you need to partner your book with the right genre book tour, if that makes sense.

You'll also get some social media posts and things that you can repost and share and such like from that.

The only other thing that I would say that you could do is to do some kind of free run where you are giving away copies, maybe advertising the fact that you're giving away copies to try and get those reviews as well. So, I think that's probably quite a comprehensive answer.

Michael La Ronn: That's a really comprehensive answer, I have nothing to add. That was amazing. All right, we're going to drop the mic on that one.

Sacha Black: It certainly makes up for the last one, doesn't it?

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, exactly. Hey, we did some fumbling around with ISBNs, so just have a little bit of mercy on us.

Sacha Black: We're just keeping everybody on their toes.

Where can I find ALLi’s list of services ratings?

Michael La Ronn: Exactly. All right, next question is from Eddie, and this is a perennial question we get all the time.

I'm looking for the database listing where you list out your partners and, on the right, it reads recommended, caution, etc. Where can I find it?

Sacha Black: That is a fantastic question that we can answer.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, you can find it at selfpublishingadvice.org/ratings. That is our service ratings directory.

Now, we do have another directory that, if you're an ALLi member, you can log in to your dashboard that Sacha had mentioned earlier. Log in to allianceindependentauthors.org, and I believe it's called services directory, or partner, we can get the exact name, but I always get them mixed up.

That's our more robust directory that you can find our recommended partners in there as well. We've got two resources for you.

Can I trademark a phrase from my book?

Next question is from Carol, and this is more of a legal question. She says, while I know you cannot trademark a book series title, my question concerns a specific phrase used in a book series. For example, I don't know if you've heard the Chicken Noodle Soup for the Soul books? Is it possible to trademark a little phrase among different books?

So, that's the question, is there a benefit and can you trademark something like, blah, blah, blah, for the soul, blah, blah, blah, XYZ, for a series of books.

Sacha Black: That sounds like a Michael question.

Michael La Ronn: Oh, and the best part in Carol's question is, please don't tell me to go to a lawyer.

Okay, so I can answer this question. I'm going to take this in two parts.

The first part is the first part of the question, which assumes that you cannot trademark a book series title. You actually can trademark a book series title. You cannot trademark a book title, but you can technically trademark a series title.

A classic example of this is Harry Potter, or insert the name of another mega bestselling author.

I don't know if Alex cross is trademarked. I think he is. That was the other one that popped into my head. It's telepathy or something because I was literally about to say Alex Cross. So, Alex or maybe The Hunger Games would probably be another one that would probably be trademarked, if I had to bet some dollars or pounds. So, you can do that. The question is whether you want to do that.

It's a lot of money. Unless you're going to do merchandising or other things, or unless you're really concerned about competition in your space, I don't know that it's necessarily worth it.

Now, the second part of your question, which is around, can I trademark a phrase that goes into my books? The answer is yes, you can. I think if you look up the chicken noodle soup for the soul books, I'm pretty sure that's trademarked.

Again, I think the answer here depends on, it's a kind of a Jurassic Park answer. Yes, you can create the dinosaurs, but should you create the dinosaurs?

If your series is not selling gangbusters, I don't know that it's worth it because you're going to pay a whole lot of money to an attorney. I've owned a trademark. I've been there done that, would not recommend it unless you really know what you're doing I did not know what I was doing at the time, and I fell on my face. I had a lot less money in my wallet at the end of the day.

So, short answer, Carol, yes, you can do it. Is it worth it? It's going to depend on your book sales, it's going to depend on your competition, other people who are working with you at the end of the day.

Also, another thing to remember that nobody ever tells you about trademark is that trademark is only valid in one country. So, if you get something trademarked in the United States, that trademark is not valid in Australia or in South Africa or somewhere else. I wish somebody would have told me that when I started.

Are you really going to go and trademark your book in every single country of the world? The answer is no. The answer is absolutely not unless you're a billion-dollar corporation. Yeah, unless you're Harry Potter, and you have more money than the king of England.

So, I wouldn't go down that route personally, Michael La Ronn's opinion of one, but there's a certain percentage of authors out there where this does make sense. If that's you, then go for it, but if it's not, then I would save your money and put it into other efforts.

What do I need to have to setup an eBook pre-order?

Okay, next question is from Abrar. I am preparing to publish my debut novel in the spring. I want to start a pre-order on Amazon three months prior to the release date. What materials do I need to begin my pre-order? Do I need to have the cover? Do I need to have a partial manuscript? Can any of these materials be changed after the pre-order? I just want to know.

And he's publishing eBook and print copies.

Sacha Black: Okay, so it's the answer's different for eBook versus print.

For eBook, you need metadata. That's what you need for the eBook.

I was going to say cover and then I was like, no, of course not. I've got a pre-order on my book too, which doesn't, I haven't released the cover yet. So, I've just got like a black cover with the font on it. So, you need some kind of cover, ideally even if it's a stand in cover. You need the metadata, but that's it for eBook.

For physical book, it depends where you're distributing. For IngramSpark, you pretty much need everything done and dusted. They want your cover and your interior files.

Now, you can change the file closer to release, but I have known people to have issues, and the wrong versions go out, so that's not ideal.

The other thing is, if you're further than X-many days out from having released or uploaded, then you're going to get charged for changing that file. For IngramSpark, you pretty much need to be done. For Amazon paperback, you have to be done.

The one exception to that is Shopify and working with BookVault. I currently have my book 2 up for pre-order on my Shopify. I'm accepting pre-orders, and I don't have the file, and I don't even have the final cover.

It runs exactly the same way as an eBook pre-order, except it goes through BookVault and I just load up the correct cover and file at a later date.

BookVault are instantaneous acceptance as well. The minute you upload it, the old file gets dissolved in the ether, and you are going to have the correct one in the system. That is what you need.

How can I stop people from stealing my manuscript?

Michael La Ronn: Okay, and Abrar has a follow up question. What is stopping someone from downloading my manuscript and uploading it themselves if I have my book available for pre-order?

Sacha Black: You can't get access to the book until it goes live. After it's gone live, there's nothing to stop somebody doing that, unfortunately, but that's piracy. Something that we all have to handle, or not, as the case may be.

Michael La Ronn: Exactly. Yeah, or not, I think is the key word there.

Could my book be picked up by a traditional publisher?

So, his final question, I'm planning on writing a second book in the series. If I release my first book and it's very successful, is it possible for the second book to be picked up by a traditional publisher?

Sacha Black: Yes, theoretically it's possible. I've got friends where this has happened, but let's just define the terminology success, because successful means not just a few hundred sales, not just a few thousand sales, it means tens of thousands of sales over a prolonged period of time. Sometimes hundreds of thousands of sales, at which point you have a very difficult decision to make, and this is a decision lots of my friends have been facing of late.

If you've already made X amount of money, what else can a publisher offer you that you can't already get? Because publishers tend, not always, but they tend to want to do a rights grab, where they'll have all of the rights across formats for lifetime, blah, blah, blah, and realistically as indie authors, we want to give away as little as possible for as short a time as possible.

So, if you are super mega successful, then trad print deals would be worthwhile for you, but the chance of you being able to negotiate that in the current climate are extremely low. You would have to be like top 100 for some time for that to happen.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah. So, I think the answer is yes, but highly unlikely.

What disclaimer statement should I include in my book?

Next question is from Helen. Helen wants some advice on a disclaimer statement. So, she's writing an adventure set in Greece. It's a memoir, but has been written in the mode of fiction and names and places were changed to avoid legal consequences. Any advice on creating a disclaimer?

Sacha Black: Michael, I'd love to know what you think about that.

Michael La Ronn: Okay. So, just do this to keep it super simple. Find five to seven books that are very similar to yours, memoirs that were written where the names and places were changed, and then look at the copyright page, which will contain the disclaimer statement for those books.

Take all five, take the common denominators from all five, and then make that yours and then season it to taste. I think that would solve it. I wouldn't overthink it. I think this is one you can definitely overthink. Don't overthink it, just do what everybody else is doing.

Sacha Black: Sounds perfect.

Do I need a different ISBN for each eBook retailer?

Michael La Ronn: Next question is from Richard. Do you still have your ISBN resource up?

Sacha Black: I've got it up.

Michael La Ronn: Okay, awesome. Wow, that was fast. Okay, so we have ISBN rapid fire questions.

So, if we can't answer it, then the resource will answer it for us.

So, Richard says, if I'm publishing my eBook on Kindle and then Draft2Digital, question one, do I need to use a different ISBN on each retailer?

Sacha Black: You need to be more specific because Draft2Digital will publish paperbacks and eBooks, so you can use the same ISBN for your eBook on Amazon, use the same ISBN for that eBook on Kobo, Apple, Google, Draft2Digital.

If you then take that eBook and turn it into a paperback, then you need a new ISBN. ISBNs are by format, not by distributor.

Michael La Ronn: Correct. Sometimes we get that question and people think that they have to have it because I think that might be a traditional publishing thing, where they have a different ISBN per retailer, but you don't have to do that. I don't recommend, you'll eat up your ISBNs really quickly. If you do that

Next question, if I don't use an ISBN at Kindle, but I use one on Draft2Digital, is that a problem?

Meaning if I use the KDP supplied ISBN on Amazon, and then use my purchased ISBNs on Draft2Digital, does that create an issue?

Sacha Black: There, I don't think there are any ISBN police, but I can't understand the logic of doing that. If you've gone and paid for an ISBN anyway. I think this question was asked under the assumption that you'd have to use different ISBNs. So, given that we've cleared that up and that you don't need to use a different ISBN, I can't foresee any reason why you wouldn't use the same ISBN on Draft2Digital and Amazon.

Michael La Ronn: Remember that you can change your ISBNs on Kindle books anytime because they use the ASIN as their identifier. It's actually not a bad problem to have. I would just go in and just put your ISBN, update your ISBN on Amazon for your eBook and you could solve the problem.

Now, if it was the other way around, you'd have to republish your book on Draft2Digital, unfortunately.

Okay, next question is, if I added my ISBN to my Kindle book after publishing, will this prevent me publishing my book on Draft2Digital? Okay, the answer to that is no. I'm just going to call that as no.

The answer that we just gave is the answer to this question. You bought the ISBN, use it everywhere.

How do I make my eBook available all over the world?

Final question, by publishing the eBook on Kindle and Draft2Digital, do I get complete world coverage? Meaning is my book available all over the world?

Sacha Black: No, because Draft2Digital don't have the distribution networks in every single country. This is why we end up publishing in multiple locations. Google Play will help. Google has, I get quite a lot of purchases in countries on Google that aren't on, say Kobo or Apple.

The other one that would be good for like African regions is StreetLib. Another one that's good for the more Asian markets would be PublishDrive.

You need to do a bit of digging and a bit of research.

We say publish in the big five Amazon, Google, Apple, Kobo, Barnes and Noble. We say, go direct to those big five, and then add an aggregator for everything else as an easy option for as comprehensive reach as possible.

But here's the thing, if you're publishing in English, then your primary markets are going to be the English-speaking countries. Publishing English books into very obscure countries is not necessarily going to garner you a ton of sales. It might garner you a few sales, but that's really where translations start coming in and then you're going to want to focus on the biggest markets for translation.

Yes, obviously we would love our books to be available in every single country everywhere, but you also have to have a bit of business sense about it and draw the line at where is a good spend of my time.

Because even if you use Streetlib and PublishDrive, you actually still need to market to those people in those countries. How are you going to access them? How are you going to be able to market the book?

So yes, it's more complicated than just how do I get world access?

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, I agree with you. So, there's no such thing as complete world coverage as an indie author.

There's always going to be another market out there that you haven't reached, and the best you can do is just use the aggregators that everybody else is using. They continue to add places over time, and we grow our reach that way.

The other thing I was going to say about that was how many dashboards do you want to have?

Sacha Black: Oh, it's so annoying.

Michael La Ronn: That's the question. I think this life is death by dashboards. If you really want to be a wide author, that's how it is.

Sacha Black: Yeah, and it's not just death by dashboard, it's death by uploads. So, let's say you change a blurb, or you change, I don't know.

Michael La Ronn: Change anything.

Sacha Black: Yeah, exactly, change anything. You have got to keep track of the last time you updated that file on seven different platforms. When you've got seven books on seven different platforms that starts to become quite the number of uploads. Ask me how I know.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, exactly, and then it's in a different spot in every dashboard too.

So, not only do you have to change it, you have to remember where you need to go to change it. It's a lot. It's a lot when you have a lot of books.

So, I think what you said was spot on. You have to weigh your cost and your effort here.

Can I retain my rights when negotiating with a traditional publisher?

Next question is from Sarah. Is it possible to retain rights to your characters and your book world when negotiating with a traditional publisher? If so, how can I work towards that?

Yes, Sarah, it is possible to do that. That is going to require the services of an attorney, unfortunately. I hate to say that. That's my least favourite answer to give. It depends on where you live. It depends on what country you live in; it depends on what the contract language is, particularly the grant of rights in your contract. There's going to be some negotiation between you and your publisher regarding that.

So, short answer to your question is yes, it is possible to do that, but you're really going to have to know what you're doing because usually traditional publishers will take all of your rights, and when I say all, I mean all.

I paid for an editorial review but it’s not good. What should I do?

Next question is from Katherine. I've opted for an editorial review with a reputable review service, and the review is just a synopsis of the plot with no critique of the book whatsoever. What do I do?

She paid for this review. They gave her a review, but there's not really any editorial content in it. What would you do, Sacha?

Sacha Black: I would probably take it on the chin and move on, if I'm honest. You could go back and check the terms of service and what they're supposed to deliver, and if you don't feel it's met what they've said they would deliver, then you could send an email.

But honestly, it feels like one of those hard lessons learned in a situation like that. This is one of the reasons that we don't necessarily recommend going for big nameless companies that I can think of at the top of my head.

Michael La Ronn: That's a tough one, because it's like when you're in a restaurant and there's something wrong with your order, you don't want the chef to spit on your food. Because if you email them and say, hey, this isn't an appropriate review, then they might put something snarky in there and then you're really stuck. So, I don't know. Yeah, I agree with you, Sacha. I would just take it as a lesson learned.

How do I get feedback on my book covers?

Next question. What is the best way to get peer feedback on alternative cover designs for my upcoming book? This person has at least two, potential covers that they want to use. How do they get some feedback on which one they should use?

Sacha Black: So, I'm going to pick up on the fact that you said peer feedback and suggest maybe you need reader feedback.

I think we quite often get stuck asking fellow authors which cover is best, and those authors don't always understand the market as well as possible. If you could spare, say, £30, I would consider running a Facebook ad and split test it and see which cover gets you more traction and which one gets you more clicks.

If you can't do a Facebook ad, maybe pop them on social media, but really there, you're not necessarily going to get the right readers. I don't know, you could ask your mailing list and do a click, which cover would you buy, because really when we choose a cover, what we're actually doing is choosing the thing that's going to convert the most.

That's the most important element, which one converts better. So, just asking for advice from other writers, you could end up with a historical writer feeding back on a sci-fi cover, which is not going to provide the greatest advice.

If you've got some authors who, that you know, who write in the same genre. Say you're in a Facebook group for authors of a particular genre, that would be a good place to go, but again, how well do these authors know the market?

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, I agree. If you're just starting off, I think your biggest problem here is statistical significance. So, if you share your cover with 10 people and you end up with a 50/50 or a 60/40 split, it's not terribly significant.

I like what you said, Sacha, Facebook testing. That's a really good idea.

Finding a reader forum, ask permission and go to a reader forum with people in your genre, like Sacha had mentioned. I think that would also be a good thing, and try to get as many people as possible to look at it.

Don't make the decision with just a single digit number of people. You really want dozens of people to weigh in on this because otherwise, you don't really know if you're making the right decision. Again, statistical significance. So, just be aware of that as well. I remember when I first started, that was a challenge.

Sacha Black: The other thing I'm just going to add to that is you could not get any advice at all and you could do the work of going to the market and looking at the top 100 category on Amazon in your genre, and then placing that book cover in amongst those books and seeing which one fits and looks like it belongs the most.

Michael La Ronn: Good idea, and that doesn't cost you a thing.

Sacha Black: Yeah, exactly.

How do barcodes work with price changes?

Michael La Ronn: We've arrived at our last question, and that's from Ruth. Barcodes require a price for a book. How does this work with short term or permanent price changes?

Sacha Black: Well, we work on print on demand, so I don't put a barcode on my books. I just leave that space blank on the cover, and the printers print whatever.

Michael La Ronn: Me too. You don't need a barcode. You don't have to have a barcode. You can purchase one, but you don't have to have a barcode, and that's probably the best way to do it, so then you don't have to worry about the price changes.

That's probably the answer that's going to apply to 90 percent of the people who are listening to this.

We have arrived at the bottom of another episode. Thank you for listening to the Self-Publishing Advice and Inspirations podcast. I've been Michael La Ronn and joined by Sacha Black. We will plan on talking to you next month. Take care everyone.

Author: Howard Lovy

Howard Lovy is an author, book editor, and journalist. He is also the Content and Communications Manager for the Alliance of Independent Authors, where he hosts and produces podcasts and keeps the blog updated. You can find more of his work at https://howardlovy.com/


This Post Has 4 Comments
  1. Informative blog, loved the answers on getting feedback about potential book covers. Self-published authors really need to stop asking their peers when they aren’t their target market. The best way I found to see if my book covers are genre specific is simply go compare them to the top 10 selling books in my genre. If my cover can be placed next to those that are selling and blends in, thin I know i have a cover that will sell.

  2. Looking for list of recommended and ‘to be avoided’ self publishers. Can you advise?
    Thank you.

    Clark Johnson

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