As an independent author, I’m always looking for new ways to promote my books. I recently came across a cool website called Story Cartel. The site is all about finding new readers–and importantly–encouraging them to write reviews on Amazon and other bookseller websites.
I’ve put both of my novels up on Story Cartel in the past few months. Essentially, the book goes up on the site and for three weeks visitors can download it for free in exchange for their email address. At the end of that period, the reader writes a customer review and submits a link to Story Cartel. When they submit the link, they are entered into a contest to win great prizes like an Amazon gift card.
The review itself does not have to be positive–Story Cartel stresses to readers that they should write honest reviews.
I asked Story Cartel founder Joe Bunting about the origins of the site and his thoughts on how authors can best succeed in a time of immense change in the publishing world. Check out his answers below and please leave your own comments.
What was the problem you were trying to solve when you created Story Cartel?
Joe: Out of the millions of books on sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, and all the rest, how do readers figure out which ones they actually want to read? First, they’ll ask their friends, but if their friends aren’t readers or have different taste in books, they turn to reviews.
Not professional reviews in the New York Times or Vanity Fair. Regular readers are much more interested in finding books other people like them are interested in reading.
That’s why getting reviews on their books are the first and most important thing authors can do today to market their books.
We had figured out how to get a lot of reviews on our own books, and so we built Story Cartel to help other authors get reviews on theirs. It’s working out pretty well. Since 2012, we’ve helped authors get over 15,000 reviews on their books. We’re pretty excited about that.
Why do authors need a site like Story Cartel?
Joe: Reviews, especially Amazon reviews, do three things:
- Reviews provide social proof. You’re much more likely to buy a book with 100 reviews than one with 3 reviews, even if the 100 reviews are lower than the book with just 3. We all like to read books other people are reading.
- Reviews build word of mouth buzz. And word of mouth buzz is what sells books the best.
- Reviews work on Amazon’s algorithm. While Amazon is always changing its algorithm, we’ve found that books with more reviews rank higher on Amazon than books with fewer reviews.
How long have you been running, where are you based, and how big is the team?
Joe: We’ve been helping authors since 2012, when we started by launching just one book a week (now we launch over 20 a week, on average). We’re based in Atlanta, Georgia (but we often travel to Santa Barbara, California to escape the heat!), and have a small, busy team of four people.
The publishing industry is in a state of flux right now. Where do you think it’s going, and how well will self-published authors fare against industry published authors?
Joe: From our perspective, publishing has always been about relationship and conversations. Now the conversation is just faster and less centralized.
Publishers in the last model were heavily reliant on book reviewers in magazines and newspapers to generate buzz for their books.
So what do you do when the magazines and newspapers are closing their book review departments and yet the average reader has more of a voice than ever?
We’re doing the same thing publicists have been doing for decades–getting books into the hands of people with influence. The difference is that now everyone has influence!
How can self-published authors match the marketing budgets of the big publishers?
Joe: Honestly, they don’t need to. They just need to make relationships with one reader at a time, one life-long fan at a time. If you have 1,000 fans who are willing to tell all their friends each time you publish a new book, that’s a career. What else do you need?
Besides Story Cartel, are there any other innovative companies in this space you like that are helping self-published authors?
Joe: Story Cartel fits really well with Bookbub, the eBook promotion service that’s helping so many authors sell books online. They require at least 25 reviews before they’ll host your book, so Story Cartel is a good first step before using them.
I like what NoiseTrade books is doing to help authors build relationships with readers by giving away free copies of their books.
There are lots of other great services, but I think it matters less which tools you use and more that you’re developing relationships with your readers online using whatever tools are at your disposal (e.g. email, Twitter, Facebook, your blog, etc).
What are the next steps for Story Cartel? Do you have any plans to expand or improve your services, for example?
Joe: We’re writers ourselves, so I think we’ll always be creating new things to help them. Our sister site, The Write Practice, is all about helping people practice the craft of writing, and we’re in the process of building a publicity agency to help handcraft custom online publicity campaigns, especially for publishers. We just want to help writers, in whatever way we can, and it’s a huge honor to get to do that every day.
Missed the giveaway of my dystopian novel We, The Watched? For a limited time get the book for just $1 at Smashwords with the coupon code JQ73E. Or get it free on NoiseTrade! And please, leave a review!