Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Books & Such Literary Agency Launches Library Insider!

As an author, it's important for me to reach every potential reader I can. One area I didn't know how to approach was libraries. I can't say I've always had pleasant experiences when visiting local libraries. Most have been great, but there is that occasional moment when you wonder why some people are working with the public. It's those times that have made me hesitant to approach libraries about carrying my book.

I subscribe to a great blog, which is run by Books & Such Literary Agency. They launched this exciting new product today that I signed up for. It's called Library Insider. I'm not going to give you all the details, as I feel their website at http://libraryinsider.com/ will explain it much better and more accurately than I can, but why I decided to subscribe is because I felt my fears of dealing with libraries were leading me to miss out on a great opportunity for Little Shepherd.

As they explained today at their blog, there are two parts to Library Insider:

"1) Library Locator, which enables you to connect with 2,500 acquisitions librarians in public libraries and library systems around the country;

2) Behind the Stacks, which is individual training offered by librarian and library market expert Judy Gann."

I subscribed to the former. What this did was provide me with a database of contact information for the states I selected. I chose my home state and one other I felt would be a good fit for the book. I've already downloaded the information into an Excel spreadsheet, which will allow me to make quick work of mailings.

I'm excited about Library Insider and I wanted to share it with you so that you can decide if you're interested. Books & Such doesn't know I am talking about it at my blog. I hope you'll check out their website and let me know what you think.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Spring Titles for Your Young Reader

Here are a few books I've had the chance to review at my kid's book blog that will make excellent Easter reading.

Stubby’s Destiny is an inspirational story about a defeated donkey, Stubby, who feels he was born wrong. He was just about to give up when divine destiny tapped him on the shoulder. He was chosen to carry the King of Kings upon his back. Stubby’s Destiny will bring hope to hurting children who feel their situation is hopeless.

This book is great to read this time of year because it tells the story of how a donkey who feels he will never amount to anything ends up carrying Jesus into Jerusalem on his back, where palms are laid on the ground as they pass by.

You can read my full review at The Children's and Teens' Book Connection.

Purchase Stubby's Destiny by Dixie Phillips at the Guardian Angel Publishing website.

This is a heartwarming adventure of two cherubs, Kennedy and Tristan. They help children understand what the angels might have felt when Jesus came to Earth and was crucified.

This book covers a lot of ground. It starts with the cherubs being upset that Emmaunuel is leaving them. They hear about His baptism and soon turn sad over news of His death. Luckily their sorrow only lasts three days, as Emmanuel's Resurrection means all the people can live in Heaven one day.

You can read my full review here.

Purchase Angel Eyes by Dixie Phillips at the Guardian Angel Publishing website.  

Jordan's Guest is the latest book in Davy Liu's Invisible Tails series. The author tells the story of Jesus’ return to Jerusalem and his arrest and crucifixion from the perspective of the animals living in the stable.

I've read all the books in this series, and I highly recommend them. You can read my review of Jordan's Guest at my kid's book blog.

Purchase Jordan's Guest from Amazon.com.

Here are a few books I found online that I thought looked cute. I haven't read them:

The importance of both family and sharing are emphasized in this board book with simple descriptions about Easter celebrations. Sparkling glitter and velvety flocking highlight Tomie dePaola’s bright illustrations, while his easy-to-follow text explains the special traditions associated with the holiday.

Features of Every Day of Lent and Easter:
48-page booklet packed with colorful illustrations
Games, puzzles, mazes, and activities
Explanation of themes and traditions of the season
Lenten calendar
Helps children focus on the meaning of Lent and Easter in their lives
For children in grades 1, 2, & 3

This book retells the events of Palm Sunday through Easter day (Matthew 21:1-28:10; Mark 11:1-16-8; Luke 19:29-24:12; John 12:12-20:10). The Arch(R) Book series tells popular Bible stories through fun-to-read rhymes and bright illustrations. This well-loved series captures the attention of children, telling scripturally sound stories that are enjoyable and easy to remember. This product is part of the Accelerated Reader(TM) program and carries a point value of .5.

These and more spring titles are available at Amazon.com!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Guest Blogging at Cynthia's Attic

My friend, Mary Cunningham, author of the Cynthia's Attic series invited me to be a guest blogger this week. You can find my post on inspiration from others at http://cynthiasattic.blogspot.com/2011/03/inspiration-from-others-cheryl-c.html

Have you picked up a copy of Little Shepherd yet? If you have, I would love to hear your thoughts on it. My email address is cg20pm00(at)gmail(dot)com.

If you don't have a copy yet, you can purchase Little Shepherd from:

You can also email me at cg20pm00(at)gmail(dot)com if you would like an autographed copy of the book. The cost of an autographed copy would be $10, plus a flat $3 shipping and handling fee for anywhere in the United States. Additional shipping charges would apply outside of the United States.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Judging Your Virtual Book Tour's Success

As a virtual book tour coordinator, I often hear from clients or potential clients, "How can I judge my virtual book tour's success?"

One might say, "If I don't sell books, then my VBT was a waste of money." While one of the goals of a VBT is to increase sales, there's a lot more to consider than that.

I wrote an article in October 2010 titled, "Why Virtual Book Tours Work." I discussed the impact my virtual book tour--which was about 4 weeks in when I penned the article--had on my search engine rankings. As I mentioned in that article, a successful VBT will increase your online exposure.

Now, keep in mind that my second VBT ended on January 26, 2011. Yet, when I type "Little Shepherd" into Google, the first result is my book at Amazon.

I also had two results further down on Page 1 and two results on Page 2.

When I type "Little Shepherd" into Bing, the other search engine I use regularly, the 6th result is the book's Amazon page, and there are 2 other results further down the page. The second page also comes up with 1 hit. We directed buyers to Amazon for sales, which sure made a difference. My book hit the Amazon bestsellers list in its category 7 times between September and December 2010. Most of that time, I was on a virtual book tour.

When I type "Cheryl Malandrinos" into Google, the 4th and 6th results are from  my VBT and there are 5 hits on the second page.

In Bing, the last 6 results on Page 1 are from my tours and 6 more results appear on Page 2.

If I type "Little Shepherd by Cheryl Malandrinos" into Google or Bing most of the results are also from my VBTs. All these results will help me reach potential readers, and I have my VBTs to thank for it.

While I had several contacts prior to coordinating my own VBT, I've meet several new bloggers as a result of touring with my book. Some have become hosts of Pump Up Your Book because they toured my book first, and others now follow my blogs and I follow theirs.

Networking is an important aspect of a VBT that can't be ignored. The more people you know online, the more people you have the potential to reach online. When your next book comes out, you'll also be able to get in touch with these bloggers again, and maybe get some help promoting that book.

Another way to judge the success of your VBT is whether you come away with a few review blurbs that can be used on your website or added to promotional materials. If you can say, "yes," then you had a good tour.

Virtual book tours, just like any promotional tool, can't guarantee sales. They provide the exposure, the networking, and reviews that you need to get your name and the title of your book noticed.

What I Learned about Virtual Book Tours from My Own VBTs

This post is long overdue. I've been wanting to sit down and share my thoughts on virtual book tours (VBTs) after I went on mine to promote Little Shepherd. The first tour with Pump Up Your Book! ran from October 1, 2010 through December 17, 2010. There were some days off, but pretty much for those two and a half months I was appearing somewhere online. My second VBT with World of Ink ran through the month of January.

I handled both tours pretty much the same: I announced my tours and posted the schedules before they started; once they started I blogged here each day, or when I missed a day, I doubled up so that readers could find my tour stops; I used Facebook, Twitter, and several other social networks to promote my tour stops; I visited each blog and left comments; and I held giveaways.

Yes, it was a tremendous amount of work, but one thing you'll learn about me if you hang around long enough is that I never go half way, it's all or nothing. I guess that's a good thing, because the book hit the Amazon bestsellers list in its category (Large Print Children's Books) 7 times between September and December 2010. I doubt my first VBT would have been so effective without me blogging and using social media during that time.

I don't want this blog post to become a novel, so here are a few things I learned from my first VBT:

No Matter How Prepared You Are Something Could Go Wrong

This is something I know from coordinating tours for others, but for those with less experience, I can tell you that it's rare a VBT runs perfectly smooth. Someone doesn't receive their review copy, a blog experiences technological issues, a family emergency arises and a post doesn't appear on time. These are all things you can't control. It's not the end of the world. Occasionally you get a blogger who asks for a review copy and then disappears off the face of the planet, never to respond to any of your follow up emails. Even when that happens now, my blood pressure only rises a few points.

Working in the online world is fun because it allows you to reach more readers than you ever could with an in-store event. It's also frustrating because you have so little control over what ultimately happens. Just know going in that there will be a few hiccups along they way.

A Less Than Positive Review Isn't Worth Losing Sleep Over

I've had to say this to clients once or twice in  my time, but it's a bit different when it's your book. I feel blessed that the majority of reviewers loved Little Shepherd and only had wonderful things to say. I still remember, however, the few bits of criticism the book received. At first, I felt defensive; but then I realized that a few less than positive reviews aren't that big of a deal. Reading is subjective. I've read books that I thought were less than great, but discovered many 5- and 4-star reviews on Amazon for them. The reverse also holds true.

As long as the reviewer was professional in his/her criticism say, "Thanks for the review," and move on. Personal attacks on the blogger aren't going to change his/her opinion, and make it sound like you can't handle criticism.

Remember, anything you post online is visible to tons of people. Make sure what you say is the impression you want to give them.

Comments Don't Buy Books, Readers Do

This was very hard for me to cope with during my VBT because I was running what I thought were some fabulous giveaways. I've told clients not to count on a ton of comments while they were on tour. My own blogging experience has shown that you can have hundreds of visitors a week and only a handful of comments. Why I expected it to be different for me, I can't explain. I knew, however, that I had spent over $150 to put together two wonderful Christmas themed gift baskets, plus I gave away a few copies of Little Shepherd. All readers had to do was a leave a comment with their email address so I could contact them if they won Gift Basket  #1. For Gift Basket #2, they had to email or fax me a copy of their proof of purchase for Little Shepherd.

Despite my promoting each blog stop, Pump Up Your Book! promoting each blog stop, and both of us using social media to draw attention to these blog stops, some blogs had few comments. While I didn't think the giveaways required a lot of effort, I believe a few things stood in the way of the success of this part of my VBT:

1) Perhaps readers thought I was creating a contact database using their email addresses. I wrote a blog post stating that wasn't why I needed them, but people act contrary to their words all the time.
2) My tour ran for two and a half months. Maybe running two large giveaways and selecting winners at the end of the tour had a negative impact on participation. Perhaps I would have been better off having 5 or 6 smaller giveaways, and selecting winners throughout the tour.
3) In a society where identity theft is a real scare, perhaps people weren't too crazy about providing copies of their receipts; even though full credit card numbers are no longer printed on them.

Tracking Your Amazon Stats Can Be Addicting

Before my own book came out, I didn't get why many authors were so into their stats on Amazon. Yes, you want your book to sell, but what was the big deal if your book dropped in the rankings?

I began tracking my rankings on September 1st. Creating a spreadsheet, I checked my stats once a day and logged them in. I was okay when it was in the hundreds of thousands, but as soon as my book crossed the million mark, my heart sank. In case you didn't know it, Amazon rankings are like golf scores--the lower the better.

By this time, I was pretty much convinced that I never should have published a book and that no matter what I did the book wasn't going to sell. What business did I have in writing a book anyway?

On September 21st, Little Shepherd hit the Amazon bestsellers list in its category for the first time. Away went all the doubts, I suddenly knew I was born to write, and there was nothing stopping me now.

What can I say? I'm fickle.

It took about a month for the book to appear as a bestseller again. Every day I would check my stats, hoping and praying that they would go down, not up. For months I rode this roller coaster of emotions. I didn't stop tracking my stats until January 14, 2011. By that time I had accepted my seasonal title wasn't going to sell much more until we got closer to Christmas again. I knew that going in, and I don't believe any VBT could change that. The book is for sale at a local church bookstore, so some local sales might be what will carry me through until this fall.

I've already made some decisions about what I'll do differently when I tour again in the fall. First off, I'll only tour in November and December. Granted, since I am coordinating my own tour I don't have to pay for it, but they are still time consuming to put together.

Second, I won't run huge giveaways. I'll run a few smaller ones. Third, despite the fact that I sent out over 30 books to reviewers, only 12 reviews made it onto Amazon. I might run a significant giveaway to encourage bloggers to post reviews there.

Lastly, I'm only going to track my stats three times during the tour: the day before my tour starts, at the mid-way point, and within a week after the tour's end. I need to focus some time on writing my next book, not be so tied up with Amazon rankings.

I hope you found this information helpful. Feel free to share your thoughts about your own VBTs or ask questions about them. I'll answer whatever I can.