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Knowledge of our past is our inheritance. What we do with that knowledge will shape our destinies...

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Review Day: Writing How-To Books

I'm trying to read lots of writing/marketing how-to books this year. In fact, I'm trying to read at least two a month. These are small, novella or ebook type things that just give helpful tips either to authors, or to anybody marketing, or running a business in general. Today, I'll be reviewing the last five of these types of books that I've read.


What it's about: As the sub-title says, this is a step-by-step guide to marketing your book. It defines marketing, talks about tools available to the author, and then goes into what the Grahl calls the Connection System, which will help get you "From nobody to bestselling author." (A section heading in the book.)

Did it help me? Yes. There are some excellent tips in here and some great advice on things to watch out for and/or not do. I especially got a lot out of his tips for growing your email list, as that's an area where I struggle. I read it through quickly the first time, taking a few notes but nothing in depth. There's so much information, though, that I plan to read it again, more slowly, and put into action more of his suggestions as I go. A highly recommended read!

(Kindle edition, $3.99. Scroll down for link.)


What it's about: This is a step-by-step guide to KDP promos. Now, this has been on my kindle for some time and, based on the title, I figured it might be out of date. This is the kind of windfall authors used to make on their books after the KDP promos, but that was only with the pioneers in the industry. Since then, Amazon has changed up their algorithms, and authors today rarely see these kinds of results. I was curious, though, and it was a quick read. Turns out I was right. This author had this success years ago, and it no longer applies today. The edition of her ebook I have has a "revised and updated" stamp on the title page. Her updates explain that this doesn't really happen anymore, but claim that her methods are still effective for marketing, which is true. She has a few other updates as well that explain small changes in the industry since she wrote her book.

Did it help me? Not really. As someone who's already done a couple of KDP promos, there wasn't much in it that I didn't already know. But that doesn't mean the content isn't valuable. Her tips are good; her advice, sound. I just didn't particularly need it. For anyone who's a complete newbie to selling ebooks, reading this could be a decent marketing template for your first time out of the gates. For more experienced authors, it will probably seem superfluous.

(Kindle edition, $2.99. Scroll down for link.)


What it's about: This is about what the titles makes it sound like it's about. It's about multiple ways--other than acting, directing, producing, and other things we generally associate with Hollywood--that the average joe can find a job in Hollywood. It's based on the author's own experiences in Hollywood, people she interviewed, and how they ended up where they did. There's a list of jobs that Hollywood needs done, and then interviews/stories about how people got there.

Did it help me? Um, no. Unfortunately, I was extremely underwhelmed with this book. I think I bought it back when I was writing my screenplay, and it was a super-cheap download. But this was by no means an exhaustive list of Hollywood jobs. Yeah, there were like ten, I think. Maybe an even dozen. And the stories she told were single stories about how one person ended up in that job. I was hoping for lots of interesting ideas and jobs that revolve around Hollywood. Instead, most of the jobs were things like hair, makeup, set-designers, and publicists. So other than acting, Hollywood consists of artsy people and marketing people. Shocking! I really wanted more. Don't get me wrong, a few of the stories were kind of interesting, but most were downright boring. In fact, I skimmed a lot of the book, and it's not even long. Not recommended unless you enjoy obscure Hollywood stories from the sets of movies no one's ever seen that involve people no one's ever heard of. (Sorry if that sounds snobbish. This woman has apparently worked in Hollywood for a long time, and I'm not denying her credentials. This book just wasn't awesome.)

(Kindle edition, $7.99. Scroll down for link.)


What they're about: Again, the titles pretty much sum things up. Anyone who knows or follows Nick Thacker knows he's a great blogger and resource who consistently puts out quality content. The "headlines" ebook gives great advice on how to recognize and craft great headlines as well as giving lists of many proven headlines you can borrow from. The "guest posts" ebook gives advice on how to secure guest posts, why they're important, and how to make them great once you've been invited to do one. 

Did they help me? Most definitely. I'm definitely not a headlines genius, but I've found myself going to this guide and reading through his lists of headlines to get ideas for my blog posts. More than once, now, I've seen a spike in pageviews. I use them not only for the headline itself, but to help broadcast on Twitter in different ways. As for guest posts, I've done a lot of those, but I still found Nick's advice useful and even took a few notes. These are the kinds of skills that can still be honed, even in experiences authors and bloggers. Super fast reads, short, but packed with high-quality information. Highly recommended.

(Kindle editions, both $2.99.)

Has anyone read any of these before? What did you think of them?

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