On Monday, Jana posted about book reviews. I commented about being an influencer vs a reviewer and then Vince commented saying he’d never heard of an influencer and suggested I write a post about it. So, here we go…
About a year ago on one of my writing loops, I saw an email with the subject, ‘Looking for an Influencer’. I don’t know if it was a new thing or if I just hadn’t noticed before. But, someone was looking for people to read her book and basically brag about it. At the time, I was a book reviewer and reviewed every book I read. My opinions were truthful and one author even said I had ‘credibility’. But writing reviews takes time away from writing my own stories and as I became more involved in my work in progress (wip), I wrote less reviews. I mean, like Jana said, a review is just my own personal opinion and who cares if I didn’t connect with the book.
The thing that bothered me, however, was when an author sent me a book to review and I didn’t like it. If a book is riddled with errors, I feel other readers should know about them, but I didn't want to hurt the author whom I usually know. Some people only talk about the good points and ignore the rest, but if I don’t think a book is worth my money, why would I expound only its good features? And how will others in the publishing world view my writing if I brag about a mediocre book? And when I accept a book free of charge, I feet obligated to write a ‘nice’ review although I didn't always comply.
An influencer doesn’t have that problem. It’s like a contract: An influencer accepts the book on condition that she/he will do everything they can to influence people to buy it. However, if they don’t like part or all of the book – in which case they can't truthfully promote it – then, they send an email back to the author explaining the reason and they pass the book on to someone else.
I didn’t plan on becoming an influencer and I even kept deleting the emails from authors looking for them until I saw one I couldn’t pass up: Mary Lu Tyndall, who writes those exciting swashbucklers, wanted influencers for her new release, The Raven Saint. A thrill went through me just from that email. I immediately responded and within hours received a response. I was one of the chosen ones.
Since then, I’ve been picked to be an influencer for several more authors. I only offer when I know I’ll have time to read the book within a couple weeks of receiving it as well as time for the actual job of influencing.
So what can an influencer do for an author? Just this morning, I finished reading The Healer, Book 1 in the Brides of Alba series. Linda Windsor has written for both secular and inspirational markets and yet I’d never read any of her books, that I recall. However, when I read the book blurb on her ‘Influencers Requested’ email, I broke my own genre rule and sent my name in even though the book comes under the realm of Fantasy.
Linda sent an eBook copy of The Healer which I started reading on my eReader and found hard to put down.
The Healer is set in the sixth century in the days of King Arthur, when witches and shape-shifters were common words and Christians were the new kids on the block. Between curses and spells came a healer’s touch – a woman who used visions and a knowledge of plants – in the battle of good versus evil. I love this book! I knew the story of King Arthur and Merlin but never have they come so alive through the pages of a book. Nor on a film screen, for that matter. Linda’s penchant for research covers every aspect of the story and made me feel like I really was a part of it. When the print copy arrived in yesterday’s mail, I was delighted to find interesting facts about Arthur, The Grail Palace, even a glossary nestled in the back.
Can you tell how enthused I am about The Healer? I’m so excited to tell everyone about this fantastic book. So, here’s what I’m going to do as an influencer:
I’ll write a review and post it on:
- my blog
- christian book distributers
Plus, I’ll try to work the author onto one of my group blogs like here at Prairie Chicks or over at Inkwell Inspirations.
Award-winning author Deb Raney, posted a whole slew of things an influencer can do for an author. Here’s a compilation of her list and mine:
- Recommend the book to a book club
- Start a discussion on your blog/e-mail loops
- Add the book to your list of favorites on myspace, facebook, shoutlife, or other online communities
- Tweet about it while you’re reading it
- Offer to distribute bookmarks and/or postcards for the author or publisher. (Deb says, “Public libraries, church libraries, bookstores and gift shops are usually happy to have giveaways on their counters.”)
- Leave bookmarks/postcards at each place setting while at a conference
- Hang out in your local bookstore and “hand sell” the book by talking it up to customers shopping in the fiction department.
- Talk to bookstore and library clerks and recommend they order a few copies.
- Send your review to the neighborhood newspaper, community/church newsletter, or any other printed source that might reach readers.
- Organize a book table at your next retreat where you can feature the book among others.
- Offer to organize a blog tour for the author, setting up a week when numerous blogs will feature the book and interviews with the author.
- In a bookstore, turn the book face-out, if you can, without blocking other books
Once you’ve read and reviewed your copy, give it away:
- As a prize on your website or blog
- To your library along with your review
- To someone who’s ill or hospitalized
- As a hostess gift at a party or BBQ
- To a Women’s Shelter or Prison
- In a doctor or dentist’s waiting room
- On a bus
Since word-of-mouth spreads news the quickest, read the book in public places and be ready to share if someone asks what you’re reading. Personally, I’ve found a well-placed chuckle or sigh draws interest.
However, what if I agreed to be an influencer and didn’t like the book? Then I just send an email back to the author explaining the reason.
Influencer books are usually sent straight from the publisher. Some have a bookmark/postcard included. Some have a One Sheet. One had a mini-press kit with interview questions and answers.
Being an influencer has taken the sting out of reviewing books. Yes, I still review books, but I don’t feel the same compunction to review them all.
I receive free reading material in return for my time. I believe it’s a fair exchange.
And finally, if you want to have fun and see what happens to a book, join BookCrossing and ‘Register and release your book’. I found this intriguing website years ago. It’s a free world-wide library and very simple to use. As a member, you’re given a BookCrossing number (BCID code) to write in the front of the book. Then, you leave the book somewhere. Anywhere. And after a few days, check in with BookCrossing to find where it went. Here are the stats for books released in the last 30 days:
1044 in Canada of which 80 are in Saskatchewan. Of those, 1 in Saskatoon and 72 in Regina, released in the following locations:
At an ATM 2
Bus Stop/Shelter 22
Dairy Queen 1
On a bench 6
On the sidewalk 4
Saskatchewan Science Centre 2
Shopping Cart 1
University of Regina 14
Victoria Square 1
Wascana Park 16
At the BookCrossing site, if I clicked on any one of the above locations, the book title and information plus the exact address the book was released would be shown. And that's just here where I live. As of the last 30 days, 7,724 books have been released 'in the wild' in the USA.
So where would you leave a book if you were an influencer and wanted to get the word out?