Five Uses for a Book Gorilla

Book Gorilla Logo
BookGorilla is a site that will Email you daily notifications of free and discount Kindle ebooks. BookBub and BookBlast are two other sites that do the same thing. I recommend you sign up for one or more of them, in the genres that you’re writing in or ones that interest you. Each of them have a slightly different selection of genres, so it’s worth taking a look at all three.

Every day, you’ll be sent an Email with a couple of ebooks that are free or on sale that day. You’ll see the title, author, cover, price, and a short blurb. If you’re interested in reading them, act quickly! Amazon free promotions run for 5 days max, and more often last only a couple of days. Grabbing free books is the typical use for these sites. As a writer of ebooks, you’ll have even more uses for them.

Use #1 – Learn What Works in a Blurb

The blurbs included in the Emails are short; usually only 2-3 sentences. Every word in them counts. “An electrifying tale from a New York Times bestselling author”, “Over 180 five-star reviews on Amazon”, “Today only, get this Amazon #1 bestseller for just $2.99.”, “Now an Amazon TOP 10 BEST SELLER!”. Are those good selling points? Possibly. Would I put them in a 3-sentence blurb? No. It’s hype, not substance. None of those things tells me what the book is about. The only word in those quotes that gives me a clue is “electrifying”. And as a single word, that’s not saying much. Are these fiction? Nonfiction? Romance? Thriller? Who knows! They haven’t left themselves very many words to hook the readers.

“In our world, he was Garan, jet pilot and explorer. In the lost land of… ” — After singing the praises of Andre Norton for two sentences, that’s all that’s left to tell us what the book is about. (Garan the Eternal: An Epic Adventure of Time and the Stars) And that’s Andre Freaking Norton. She shouldn’t need an introduction.

“Read on your PC, Mac, Smartphone, Tablet, or Kindle device.” — Yes, thank you, we know what an ebook is.

Get used to skimming these Emails every day and making note of which blurbs make you want to click through to find out more. What works well? A blurb with a lot of questions? A blurb with keywords you subconsciously look for — ‘forbidden love’, ‘starship pilot’, ‘quick cash’? Which blurbs have convinced you to download the book before you’ve even clicked?

Take a look at Which blurbs leave you cold, or worse, confused. What’s wrong with them? Is it the tone? Is it words you didn’t like? Did they just not say anything useful to you? Learn from them. When it’s time to write yours, do it better.

BookBub Logo

Use #2 – Develop a Discerning Eye for Covers

The more book covers you’re exposed to, the more you’ll learn what works well and what doesn’t; what looks good and what doesn’t; what gets the job done and what doesn’t.

You can judge a book by its cover, and people do it all the time. The cover should tell you, at a glance, what genre the book is. It should tell you, at a glance, what subgenre the book is. It should tell you, at a glance, whether you’re likely to be interested in the contents. At the bare minimum, it should tell you, with slightly more than a glance, what the title is!

If you have a full-feature web-based Email account, these daily Emails should be coming through with cover images. You may have to click something that says ‘download images’, depending on your Email client. The book covers are roughly the size of an Amazon thumbnail. So it’s definitely important to have a cover that looks good at that size.

As practice for developing your eye for book covers, each day, pick one of the covers you don’t like. Try to name 5 things you’d change about the cover to improve it. Different image? What image would you use instead? Different colors? Different font? Larger type? Is there just something wrong with the shadows? (Not every shadow, but any shadow.)

Use #3 – Scope Out the Competition

This one will take a little longer. Start noticing the trends. What types of subjects do you see over and over? Look for the gaps. Are there a lot of books about organizing your home, but none about doing it in an eco-friendly fashion? Do you keep seeing books about cocker spaniels and wonder where all the corgies are?

Take note of names that re-appear. The authors with more than one book in your niche are ones to pay attention to. Check out what other books they’ve written. Chances are they’re only offering one or two of their books for free. For a fiction series this makes perfect sense — offer the first book for free to get them hooked. The same is true for nonfiction books on the same topic. Give the readers a taste for free; if they like it, they’ll be back for your other books.

Look at their author page on Amazon. Look at their website, if they have one. Get to know them and what they’re offering. Then decide how you can do it differently.

Book Blast

Use #4 – Be Inspired

Look for inspiration. Do you like the title of a cookbook, even though you’re more interested in writing about beekeeping? Maybe you can modify it. “101 Pie Recipes For Kids” can become “101 Tips for Child Beekeepers”.

Maybe one day there’s a free book about quilting. You’d never considered writing a quilting book before, but now that you think about it, you know you totally could. And it’d be fun!

Do you really love the cover of one of the books and kind of wish it were yours? Write the book you would write to go with that cover, then get someone to design one that’s similar. This can work really well for fiction. Write the book you wish that book was.

Use #5 – Collect Free Books

Sure, you could check the Top 100 Free Best Sellers lists on Amazon in your chosen niche on a daily basis. Chances are, however, you have other things taking up your time and attention. Signing up for BookGorilla, BookBub, or BookBlast will be a daily reminder to keep an eye on things. Even if you don’t have time to browse the Best Seller lists, you probably have time to skim a short Email and grab any books that look interesting.

Later, when you have time, you can read those books, or at least skim them. Find out what they’re doing, do it better. Learn from them and incorporate some of their ideas. And if you find a really awesome book, share the love. Review it on your website. Tell your Facebook fans. Tweet about it. Buy the author’s other books. Contact them and tell them how awesome you found their book.

Bonus Use – Make Your Friends Happy

Every once in awhile, you’re bound to see a book in one of the daily Emails that you just know a certain friend would be interested in. Especially since it’s on sale or even free. Let them know! Do this enough times, and they’ll think you’re a magic free book genie.

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Checking Out the (Free) Competition

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