Today I wanted to highlight an innovative book marketing site called StoryOrigin, a marketing tool and community of authors that work together to build their mailing lists, increase sales, find reviewers, and stay on top of deadlines. Recently I included StoryOrigin in my blog post: 5 Recommended Resources for Authors During the Pandemic.
Those of you who follow me closely know that my goal is to make editing simple and more affordable for authors, and I do that though my online course Book Editing Blueprint: A Step-By-Step Plan to Making Your Novels Publishable, my Facebook group, YouTube channel, and blog. StoryOrigin is doing something similar for book marketing, trying to break down a big, annoying task (book promotion) into more manageable components while also making it affordable.
You can read my review of the site in the above article, but here I wanted to delve into how this useful community came about and find out more about Evan Gow, the indie developer of StoryOrigin. Below is my interview with Evan. If you’re an active user on StoryOrigin, I’ll bet you find this behind the scenes look quite interesting. And if you haven’t checked out this book marketing site yet, keep reading!
When did you start StoryOrigin?
StoryOrigin launched publicly in April 2018.
How did you get the idea to create it? Are you a writer yourself?
I used to write short stories back in high school, then participated in a tech entrepreneurship program in college, which sparked my desire to build a company. After working for a few years, I decided it was the right time to make the leap and combine my interests in writing and programming. I talked with a few authors about what tools they were using and realized just how much of a pain it was.
Before StoryOrigin, you’d have to use one site for finding reviewers, another one for building your mailing list, spend a few hours on Facebook looking for newsletter swaps, and the list goes on. So, I decided to simplify things and build a one-stop-shop, so authors could save time and manage everything from a single platform.
Why did you decide to make it free? How long do you anticipate it being free?
For the beta period, I wanted to be able to focus solely on building best-in-class features. I also knew that the feature set was going to expand immensely from when it was initially launched, and it wouldn’t have made sense to decide on a specific pricing model at the point.
StoryOrigin likely won’t be free for much longer, but the guarantee I make (and I state this publicly on the front page of StoryOrigin) is that if you join during the beta period, you will continue to get everything completely free for a period of months even after it becomes paid. The continuing free period is also there, so if you don’t like the pricing model, you can migrate to a different set of tools before you start paying. My goal with pricing is to make it affordable for authors at all stages though.
What are your goals with StoryOrigin for the future?
My goals are to continue helping authors grow their audiences and their businesses. My to-do list always seems to be getting longer with lots more to incorporate into StoryOrigin, but I also like to play it close to the vest. 😉
About how many authors have registered for the site?
8,000+ authors have signed up to StoryOrigin and it’s continuing to grow rapidly.
How has the site evolved over the past several months?
When StoryOrigin launched, it had minimal functionality. All you could do was create a reader magnet landing page and integrate it with your email service provider, so emails would automatically be added to your mailing list. Since then, I added quite a few features including:
Universal book links
Audiobook promo code distribution
A content planning calendar
My general method is to work out the main components of a major feature, release it, then iterate and improve upon it with feedback from authors, so it becomes a best-in-class feature.
The latest feature I released was a goal tracker, which you can use to track your word count and calculate daily targets to hit deadlines and stay motivated. There actually wasn’t anyone asking me for this feature, but I got a huge amount of love when I released it, because it meant one less spreadsheet to keep track of for a lot of authors. They could spend less time on managing their business and more time on writing.
Has anything been surprising to you during this journey? Is it growing the way you imagined, or has it gone in unexpected directions?
If you write a bad book, all of the advertising in the world can’t save you. Unfortunately, a great book with no advertising won’t get you anywhere either.
Oftentimes, what sets apart bestsellers isn’t necessarily the strength of their writing. It’s the strength of their marketing. A good book is a checkbox you have to mark in order to be successful, but it’s the marketing that will drive your success. Many authors simply aren’t willing to engage in that part of the business though. That’s why I’m trying to make it easier.
What are some creative and/or successful ways that authors have used the site?
StoryOrigin provides the underlying infrastructure to help you manage your review team, build your mailing list, and send readers to your purchasing page. However, it’s the group promos and newsletter swaps you can find on StoryOrigin that can multiply your reach to thousands of readers.
What are the benefits of group promotions and newsletter swaps?
The main benefit of group promotions and newsletter swaps is that they can massively expand your audience and can be used to find reviewers, build your mailing list, or increase sales. There are lots of ways you can expand your reach though, so why are newsletter swaps and group promotions are rising in popularity? Because they’re:
Free to set up
Easy to arrange
Targeted with other authors in your genre
Do you have any suggestions for authors interested in using the site to build reviews?
StoryOrigin can be used to build reviews for both your audiobooks and ebooks. When you set up a review copy landing page on StoryOrigin, any reader can apply for a review copy and mark where they will leave a review (e.g., Amazon) along with the link to their reviewer profile on that site, so you can see what other books they’ve reviewed.
StoryOrigin also gives you their reviewer stats—the percentage of review copies they’ve received through StoryOrigin and have actually left reviews for. When you receive an application for a review copy of your ebook or audiobook on StoryOrigin, you should check the reader’s stats and reviewer profile to make sure they are someone you trust will leave a review and that they actually read books in your genre.
Below, I’ve listed some resources for writers and readers that I’ve had the time to explore or rediscover during this pandemic. I’m fortunate as my whole family has been able to stay home and social distance. My husband is a high school teacher, so he set up a second desk in my office. The kids are doing remote school work on their Chromebooks. We all have our own separate projects, but have created new family routines also such as playing board games every evening after dinner, baking, and participating in a virtual trivia night hosted Fridays at 6:30 p.m. EST by An Unlikely Story Bookstore & Cafe on their Facebook page while the store is closed.
I’m not writing a book at the moment, though I expect that to change by summer as I’ve been jotting down ideas. For now, I’ve focused on creating content to post on my three blogs and YouTube channel, marketing my fiction books and Book Editing Blueprint course for writers, guesting on numerous podcasts, developing a new online course, working with editing clients, and catching up on tasks that have sat on my to-do list for way too long.
The below resources for writers have helped to keep me productive and distracted during this difficult time. I hope you find them helpful. Please feel free to share in the comments what you’ve been doing during this pandemic and any resources for writers that you’ve found useful.
StoryOrigin is a cross-promotional marketing tool designed to help authors work together to build their email lists, increase sales/page reads, and get more reviews. I’ve been meaning to explore this wonderful resource for months, and I’m impressed! Those who follow me know that my motto is: Let’s make editing simple. Well, StoryOrigin’s slogan could be: Let’s make book promotion simple. Created by Evan Gow, this community is currently free.
You can connect with other authors to swap mentions in one another’s upcoming newsletters, team up with multiple authors to promote your books on a single landing page, collect requests to join your review team and automate review tracking for those you’ve given access, and collect subscribers for your mailing list and automate delivery of a free book or sample. The site has great features including a universal book link that sends readers to your book’s purchasing page at their preferred, country-specific store, automated distribution and review tracking for Audible and Findaway promo codes, and easy downloads for newsletter exclusives, welcome gifts, or ARCs.
So far, I’ve joined several group sale events and done newsletter swaps. A couple years ago, I did newsletter swaps all the time, but got burned out. I arranged them via Facebook and email, and it was a hassle exchanging information and keeping track of all the dates and contact information. Worse, many authors never followed through and didn’t share my book.
With StoryOrigin, you can see on your dashboard exactly what you’ve committed to and gather all the details you need, and you know what date your book mention is slated to appear in someone’s newsletter. Many authors share a link to the published newsletter, so you can see the click rate and find out who is reliable. It’s a user-friendly site, well-organized, and amazingly, it’s free right now!
Making trailers for my books has been on my to-do list for YEARS! Now that I have more time on my hands, I’ve finally sat down to create some videos to promote my books. I used Lumen5, a video creation platform that enables anyone without training or experience to easily create engaging video content within minutes. I use the free plan, which gives you five videos per month with a Lumen5 watermark.
The site is amazing as it offers millions of copyright-free stock images and video clips, not to mention an extensive copyright-free music library. I use some of their images, and some that I’ve gathered from other sites. You have full commercial rights to all the videos you create using Lumen5. You can post your videos to Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, or wherever you’d like. I first learned about this site about a year ago, and although I didn’t do much with it initially, it floored me that Lumen5 offered so much for free.
I even sent an email along the lines of, “Really? Am I understanding this correctly? I can use the music, clips, and images, post the video on YouTube, and don’t have to worry about copyright?” Someone cheerfully responded that yes, I was understanding it correctly. I don’t mind having a watermark at the end of my videos as they deserve the credit! With some of the paid plans, you can have access to even more stock photos and videos, but the free plan has met my needs.
I’ve been adding trailers to my Book Trailer playlist on YouTube. Below, is the trailer for my sweet and sassy chick lit novel, Fooling Around With Cinderella (Storybook Valley #1) so you can see a sample.
If you make a trailer using Lumen5, be sure to tag me on social media!
Publisher Rocket is a simple tool that shows you exactly what Amazon book buyers type into Amazon, as well as how many people search for these things every month. Using Rocket’s Keywords Feature, you will learn: what keywords shoppers type into Amazon; estimated number of times someone types that keyword into Amazon; how much money other books that rank for that keyword are making; and how many books are competing for that keyword.
With the Category Feature, you can quickly find pertinent and niche categories for your books, as well as find out how many books you’d need to sell that day in order to be the new #1 bestseller. You can see your potential competitors, their information, reviews, book cover, and even their daily and monthly earnings. Rocket will also help you find profitable keywords for Amazon’s AMS ads.
This software wasn’t new to me, however, I hadn’t used it in at least a year. Since then, it has undergone updates and gained even more features from when I purchased it. I’ve been using it to freshen up my books’ keywords and categories, as well as to create AMS ads. I also recently became an affiliate of the program, so if you purchase it, I’d appreciate it if you used my affiliate link to help support my blog and YouTube Channel: https://stacyjuba–rocket.thrivecart.com/publisher-rocket/
Dave Chesson of Kindlepreneur is the creator of the software and has many free tools on his website including:
All authors should make sure they take time to read. First, it’s relaxing downtime. Second, it will help you to become a better writer. Although I buy lots of books, I also enjoy browsing the shelves at my local library and borrowing titles that catch my eye. Well, until the pandemic.
I recently discovered Libby, a free app where you can borrow e-books and digital audiobooks from your public library. (Libby works with public libraries that use OverDrive.) You can stream books with Wi-Fi or mobile data, or download them for offline use and read anytime, anywhere. All you need to get started is a library card. The Libby app is free to install from your device’s app store, and all the digital content from your library is free to borrow with a valid library card.
I hadn’t borrowed e-books from the library for a couple years as the previous app I used was a bit clunky. I was impressed with how easy Libby is to navigate and amazed at all the books at my fingertips. Some have been available to borrow and download immediately, and for others, I needed to get on a wait list. It’s always a nice surprise to get a notification on my phone that another book is ready to borrow.
So far, I’ve borrowed: When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger, The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell, You Are A Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero, The Husband’s Secret and What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty, The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren, The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth, and Picture Perfect, Leaving Time, and Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult. Yes, I’ve been escaping with a lot of books, lately!
Is your muse yelling “SOS”? How do you keep the words pouring onto the page when your real life feels like it’s under attack? Every writer knows how stress and personal crises can strangle your creativity. Help is on the way in this brilliantly practical guide. Inside, you’ll find advice that: – Gets you through the thick of your crisis – Gives you tactics that will energize you to keep writing – Teaches you to use your stress to inspire your writing
As the author of over 30 books and the creator of The Chunky Method of time management for writers, Allie Pleiter has met deadlines in the midst of some imposing traumas. With candor, insight, and the wisdom of experience, she shares practical and inventive strategies for how to stay afloat and creative amid life’s stormiest seas.
You can purchase How to WRITE When Everything Goes WRONG on Amazon.
Book Editing Blueprint: A Step-By-Step Plan to Making Your Novels Publishable – This is my self-paced online course for fiction and creative nonfiction writers, and is the resource I wish I’d had available early in my writing career. Most novels need several rounds of editing before they’re ready to submit to agents or to indie publish. Unfortunately, each round with a freelance book editor can cost you hundreds of dollars.
By going through this course, you’ll get the tools to skyrocket your manuscript to the next level without breaking the bank. This course demystifies the editing process, giving beginner and intermediate writers a practical, step-by-step blueprint for evaluating, rewriting, and polishing their manuscript. It’s like having a professional editor standing over your shoulder as you’re editing the novel. The course will give you a solid foundation while also being something you can reasonably finish. It includes examples, practice quizzes, and bite-sized action steps that nudge you closer toward your goal.
By the end of this course, you’ll have prepared a detailed editorial report outlining your book’s strengths, weaknesses, and strategies to fix the problems, and will be armed with a simple self-editing checklist to guide you through your revisions. It’s a proven system that outlines what every fiction and creative nonfiction author should do before approaching an editor. That way when you’re ready to hire a editor, you’ll get much more value for your money and should receive a high level edit rather than one filled with general beginner advice.