Wednesday, November 4, 2015

IWSG: Ask PZM, repost - Providing Reviews

It's that the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's Insecure Writer's Support Group Wednesday. Thanks to our noble Ninja Captain Alex J Cavanaugh, it's time to share our fears and insecurities, or support and assistance. Doesn't matter which.
If you'd like to join us, click here. Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post.
Our hashtag is #IWSG 
Alex's wonderful co-hosts for November 4 posting of IWSG will be: Stephen Tremp, Karen Walker, Denise Covey, and Tyrean Martinson! 

A S K  P Z M

repost from August 2010

Q:  Should I take the time to do reviews of other people’s books on Amazon?

Absolutely! You’re a book author – and people on Amazon who are looking at other authors’ books are presumably book buyers. And the best books to review are probably ones similar to yours.

The more reviews you write the more you will be getting your name in front of book buyers. And even if your book isn’t yet published, you want book buyers to know about you.

Anyone who has ever bought anything on Amazon (and thus has an Amazon account) can post a review. The review itself doesn’t have to be very long (I personally think less is more) although it should provide helpful information rather than only saying something such as “great book.”

How does this get your name in front of readers?

First, here is Amazon’s explanation for your public name on Amazon:

“Your Public Name is the public name you associate with contributions to the Amazon Community, such as Customer Reviews, Discussion Posts or Seller Feedback.

“You're asked to pick a Public Name the very first time you participate in the community and you can always change it later on your public profile page by selecting Your Public Name & Info from the Profile page settings dropdown menu. Your Public Name appears next to any Customer Reviews, Customer Images, Seller Feedback or Customer Discussions posted by you. You have the option of using your real-world name or a pseudonym”

Thus you can choose which name to appear above your reviews. (I actually dislike that Amazon allows people to hide their identity, but this does work for authors who use pseudonyms.) Obviously you want to use your author name for reviewing books in genres related to the books you write.

Using me as an example, when I sign into my Amazon account (which I separated from my husband's account when I started self-publishing on Amazon), I see at the top lefthand side of the screen "Phyllis's"

I click on that and then choose "Your Profile" in the navigation links that appear below. Then I see my profile page, which has my Amazon public activities including links to all my reviews on Amazon.

Your public name automatically appears at the top of the reviews you write. You can also manually put your name and something brief such as the name of one of your books at the end of the review.

Anyone reading a review by you can click on your name at the top and go to your public profile that also includes an email address and a website link as well as a description of you in the "About" section where you can talk about being an author.

And if you have not yet published any books, you can describe your upcoming book projects in the “About” section.

Note that an Amazon public profile has nothing to do with an Amazon author page.

My Amazon public profile:

My Amazon fiction author page:

Another way to get to your public profile – go to YOUR ACCOUNT (first dropdown link under YOUR ACCOUNT at top of righthand screen under your name), scroll down to PERSONALIZATION, in the COMMUNITY section click on YOUR PUBLIC PROFILE.

  1. And here are Amazon’s instructions for editing your profile: 
  2. Go to your Profile page. 
  3. Click Profile page settings on the drop-down menu. 
  4. Update your personal information by making changes to the Your Public Name & Information tab. 
  5. Click Save.

    One final word: I usually only write a book review when I can give a positive one. As I know how hard authors work to create their books, I am loath to write a negative review. I’d rather just not write a review. On the other hand, if there were a good reason for writing a negative review, such as if I found the material particularly offensive, I might then write a negative review to warn others of the offensive content.

    Bottom line: When you can write a good review about an author’s book that you have read, you should take the time to do the review to help that author as well as help get your name noticed!

    Phyllis Zimbler Miller is a fiction and nonfiction author who blogs on book-related topics at and her most recent Kindle ebook is a fantasy adventure story, ROAD TO ZANZICA, on Amazon at

    Wednesday, October 7, 2015

    IWSG: Ask PZM - Inside Your Book

    It's that the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's Insecure Writer's Support Group Wednesday. Thanks to our noble Ninja Captain Alex J Cavanaugh, it's time to share our fears and insecurities, or support and assistance. Doesn't matter which.
    If you'd like to join us, click here. Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post.
    Our hashtag is #IWSG
    Alex's wonderful co-hosts for October 7 posting of IWSG will be:
    TB Markinson, Tamara Narayan, Shannon Lawrence, Stephanie Faris, and Eva E. Solar!  
    Please stop by and thank them for their time and effort.
    *Don't forget, you need to post for IWSG for Oct 7 to quality for the anthology contest.*

      A s k  P Z M  

    Q: What additional material can be included in a book besides the text of the book?

    First, let’s get a few basics out of the way:

    Obviously there needs to be a copyright line and, for a work of fiction, the standard disclaimer about how this is a work of fiction, etc., etc.  And these probably need to be at the beginning of the book.

    Besides this and your book’s title and author name, much of the additional material can be at the conclusion of the book rather than at the beginning.

    Why?  Because of the way major bookseller Amazon displays the beginning of a book via “look inside.”  If you want to hook people on buying or borrowing your book, better to have the “meat” of the book up front to be sampled and put the additional material at the back.

    Now there are exceptions to this strategy.  For example, if you have a nonfiction book in which the chapter titles are very descriptive of the information in the book, you might want to have a table of contents at the beginning. 

    Or, for example, if your bio is very important to why someone should read your nonfiction book, then it makes sense to put that bio at the beginning of the book.

    On the question of reviews – although I know that many publishers put laudatory quotes at the beginning of a book, I personally find this annoying.  Still, you may want to consider putting two or three short quotes at the beginning of the book.  If so, I would recommend quotes that give an idea of the book’s content rather than simply saying “great read.”

    Now let’s look at some of the additional material that you can share at the end of your book:

    1.   Your bio – choosing what is most relevant for that particular book and perhaps including a photo.
    2.   Title and brief description of your other books plus links to where these can be purchased.
    3.     Your author website URL.
    4.     Your major social media accounts.
    5.     Your email if you want to be contacted.
    6.     Information about your availability for speaking engagements.
    7.     Acknowledgments.
    8.    Sample of one of your other books – the first chapter or so – and links to where this book can be purchased.

    Other additional material depends on your book and what you’d like to share.

    For example, while I wove three kosher recipes into the text of my cozy mystery CAST THE FIRST STONE, for the sequel that I’m working on now – SINK LIKE A STONE – I’m going to put the recipes at the end.  I’m doing this because including the recipes in the actual story impedes the flow of the action.

    Also, I’m trying another experiment with the fantasy adventure story ROAD TO ZANZICA that I just put on Kindle.  At the end of the story I listed the titles of the future stories in the series so that readers know the further adventures I envision.  (The titles are rather explicit as to which adventures are planned.)

    And with a nonfiction book, you may want to share your reference material including photos and original documents or other resources connected to the subject material.  (I am including original documents from 1970 to 1972 in my Cold War memoir TALES OF AN AMERICAN OCCUPYING GERMANY.)

    In conclusion, if you have other recommendations for additional material to be included in a book, do share these in the comments below.

    Phyllis Zimbler Miller – the author of fiction and nonfiction books – blogs on book-related topics at and is active on Twitter at

    Wednesday, September 2, 2015

    IWSG: Ask PZM and "New" IWSG Contest!

    It's that the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's Insecure Writer's Support Group Wednesday. Thanks to our noble Ninja Captain Alex J Cavanaugh, it's time to share our fears and insecurities, or support and assistance. Doesn't matter which.
    If you'd like to join us, click here. Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post.
    Our hashtag is #IWSG
    Alex's wonderful co-hosts for September 2 are: Julie FlandersMurees DupéDolorah at Book LoverChristine Rains, and Heather Gardner! 
    Please stop by and thank them for their time and effort.
    * * * * 

    The IWSG Short Story Contest 2015

    After the success of last year’s IWSG Guide to Publishing and Beyond, we decided to create another book. This time it’s a short story competition with the top ten stories getting published in the anthology.

    Eligibility: Any member of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group is encouraged to enter – blogging or Facebook member. The story must be previously unpublished. Entry is free.

    Word count: 5000-6000

    Theme: Alternate History/Parallel Universe. That’s right, we’ve decided to go the speculative route. This theme has plenty of scope and we’re open to pretty much anything along these lines, except erotica or graphic violence.

    Story deadline: November 1st 2015

    How to enter: Send your polished, formatted, previously unpublished story to TheIWSG at gmail dot com before the deadline passes. Make sure to include your contact details.

    Judging: The IWSG admins will create a shortlist of the best stories. The shortlist will then be sent to our official judges:

    ·    Laura Maisano - Senior editor at Anaiah Press for their YA/NA Christian fiction

    ·    Russell Connor - Author and owner of Dark Filament Publishing Startup

    ·    Candace Havens - Editorial Director for the Covet, Select, Select Otherworld, Select Historical , Embrace, Indulgence for Entangled Publishing. She is also a nationally syndicated columnist and awarded-winning and best-selling author. 

    ·    Dawn FrederickLiterary agent and the founder of Red Sofa Literary

    ·    Alice Speilburg Founder of the Speilburg Literary Agency

    ·    Michelle JohnsonBookstore owner and founder of Inklings Literary Agency

    ·    Kendare Blake - Author

    ·    Lydia Moëd - Associate agent at The Rights Factory

    Prizes: The winning stories will be edited and published by Freedom Fox Press in the IWSG anthology next year. Authors will receive royalties on books sold, both print and eBook. The top story will have the honor of giving the anthology its title. The winners will also receive an exclusive badge to display on their blog.

    We’re excited to see the creativity and enthusiasm that’s such a part of this group put into action. So don your creative caps and start writing. And spread the word!

    The #IWSG short story anthology contest is open! For details - #contest #shortstory#anthology
    * * * *

    A s k   P Z M 

    (repost from July 2010)

    Q:  What are the most important elements for a book author website?

    The most important element of all is the ability for you the author to make changes yourself at a moment’s notice.  If you have an unexpected book signing come up or a fabulous book review that you want to post ASAP, then you need to be able to do that.

    (While you can do this on Facebook and other social media sites, you do not own your accounts on those sites.  If Facebook, for example, decides to take down your account, you’ve lost everything.)

    I personally recommend using (known as just WordPress) for both a blog and a website that puts the power in your own hands. 

    Once a WordPress self-hosted site is up, you can make changes as easily as you make changes in Word.  (Of course, there is a similar learning curve as there was with Word.)

    First, a clarification.  I am NOT talking about, which is a hosted site the same way a blogger site is a hosted blog site.   (A hosted blog site rather than self-hosted has the same issue as in the Facebook example above.)

    Second, it is important to understand that you really need a web person to set up your self-hosted WordPress blog/site.  And what’s more, just any WordPress website isn’t ideal. 

    You need a site built by a person who understands search engine optimization, keyword pages, etc.  Otherwise your site will be way, way back in search engine results.

    Once your site is set up, you are ready to take over (if you want).

    Third, your website address (the URL or domain name of the site) is important.  When you use your website address on social media sites, you want it to reflect what your site is about.  If you have a book title that is not very specific, such as the imaginary “Having Fun,” you might want to get the URL “HavingFunTheBook.”  

    FYI: All is not lost if you have a site now without an effective website address.  You can get a new URL and redirect that to your current site.  In the above example, you would get “HavingFunTheBook” and redirect it to “HavingFun.”  Then you would use “HavingFunTheBook” when you share the link to your author site.

    Fourth, of course, you want to make it very clear where someone can buy your book – and make it very easy for people to do so. 

    You do NOT want to give the link, for example, as  When people get to the home page of Amazon, they can get easily distracted and forget what book they are looking for or actually try unsuccessfully to find your book.

    (Be very careful not to make the mistake I did on purpose in the above paragraph.  I recommend not putting a period after a URL if the URL ends a sentence.  This is because sometimes people who copy a URL pick up the period also and then can’t get the link to the site to work.  Either I just leave off the period or find a way to end the sentence with other than the URL.)

    Make sure that the link to buying your book is very obvious – and have it near the top of the page and not where people have to scroll down to find it.

    Fifth, make sure that people coming to your book author site know exactly what’s on offer.  Is the book fiction or nonfiction?  The first of a trilogy?  An award-winning book?  And the cover of your book should be featured prominently.

    For an example of this, go to my site at and see how I have put FICTION and NONFICTION as top nav buttons.  Then click on those buttons and note my book cover galley for each that allows site visitors to clearly choose which books to learn about.   

    Also, you can include excerpts of your books on your own site or link to your excerpts on other sites such as Wattpad.  (I have utilized both of these options on my author site.)

    Sixth, if at all possible, have a blog as part of your website (using WordPress for a site automatically includes the opportunity to have a blog as part of the site).  A blog is usually the best way to continually add fresh content to a website, and search engines love fresh content.  Thus fresh content on a blog can help your site rank higher in the search engine results.

    (Note that at my author site I have chosen to put my blog on the home page, but this is not required.  You can have other info on your home page and have your blog elsewhere on your site.)

    Also, have a sign-up on your site so that people can automatically get your new blog posts either through email notification or through an RSS feed.  This is what I have automatically at the end of each blog post:

    Want to know when Phyllis writes a new blog post?

    Sign up for email notification. 


    Phyllis Zimbler Miller – the author of fiction and nonfiction books – blogs on book-related topics at and is active on Twitter at