How To Boost Your Book Sales

How To Boost Your Book Sales

Sorry. This is just an image.

The sad truth is that there is no magic solution to promoting your book. No one course of action will get it to sell consistently but there are lots of individual actions you can take, both simple and complex, which will help.
You can spend a fortune on promotion and get nowhere.
There are expensive courses available to teach you how to be a ‘bestseller‘ but you’ll be lucky to make more money than you’ve spent even if you are a ‘bestseller’.
Strange as it may seem you don’t even need to write a good book! There have been many best-selling books which are full of mistakes, have a poor plot and will never be acclaimed as literary gems.
The most important factor in author success is one you can’t buy—Luck. Despite that there’s an old saying which applies—The more I practice, the luckier I get.

Here’s what I consider you can do to get lucky as an author:

  • Get a remarkable cover which attracts the attention of readers browsing for books. Few can do this themselves so it is worth spending money on this. A good cover will give a book browser the interest to check out the book.
  • Spend a huge amount of time and effort getting a book description which makes the reader think “Wow! This is a book I have to read.” Your description should use emotive language and use your keywords. Try running the sentences through a headline analyser.
  • Use the right keywords/tags. If you have problems here, steal them from the top selling books in your genre. To do that create a blank book in calibre and in the meta tag ID section paste in the ASIN number of a top ranking book in your genre. Then download the meta data. You’ll get the tags and the book description.
  • Make sure your book starts with a powerful hook to keep the book browser reading. Your book’s first three pages should be gripping.
  • Create promotion pages for your book which get high rankings on Google. If you are not discovered on the first three pages of search results when you enter a keyword and your book’s title, you never will be discovered. Use an incognito browser window when doing this. (See
  • Video, pictures, headlines and subheadings are effective in promotions in that order. Run headlines and sub headings through checkers for emotive language such as and This works for Tweets and Facebook posts too.
  • Make sure promotion pages have a clear ‘call to action‘.
  • Get the price right. If you’ve already published your book at Amazon, try Amazon’s book pricing beta service. To get to that select your book from the Amazon KDP bookshelf. Find the book you want to modify and in the “Book Actions” column, click “Edit book pricing.” Next scroll to the ‘Royalty and Pricing’ header and under KDP Pricing Support (Beta), click “View Service.”
  • Recognise that a promotion at best will produce a spike in your sales but you need to sustain that spike for at least a month for it to produce a rise in your sales rank at Amazon. You’ll need to stagger effective promotions.
  • Know that not all promotions are effective and some are downright scams. There is no point in tweeting to fake accounts or putting book links on sites with no visitors. See this post. Learn how to recognise the fakes and how to use UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) codes to spot those sites which work.
  • Facebook adverts work but NOT ‘Buy my book’ adverts. Instead make an attractive offer which people can get if they add their email address to your mailing list. Email lists are effective at selling books.
  • Twitter posts work but not until you have 10,000 real, active followers. Few will see your posts. People will unfollow if your posts are solely ‘Buy my book’ posts. These should never make up more than 10 – 15% of your feed. DON’T auto follow-back because you’ll end up with fake followers; vet your followers. Never send out ‘Thanks for following me’ direct messages. Aim to get 100 new followers per day. Remember people are only on Twitter for short periods of time so the vast majority of your tweets will be unseen. Make sure you have a pinned post there.
  • Twitter and Facebook are NOT the only social media platforms. Get a presence on Tumblr, LinkedIn (if you write nonfiction), Google+, YouTube also. There are also vital forums such as Kboards.
  • Although I dislike Goodreads, it’s an essential platform for an author to be on if you want recognition as an author. Be careful what you say—lots of Trolls there.
  • Amazon paid advertising appears to work.
  • Preorders work for new books, especially if you follow them with promotion during the release week.
  • If you are not using affiliate accounts you are wasting an opportunity to earn at least 4% extra at Amazon and much more elsewhere. You can use this as a sales tool too.
  • Remember there are only 24 hours in a day and you can’t do all of this at once. Some can be automated though.
  • Ask people to help you promote! Hey if you have not already downloaded one of my free ebooks (Immortality Gene and Raging Storm) please do so. Even if you don’t read them it will help my sales rank.
Darn that all sounds complicated. Maybe there should be a magic promotion button. I’m working on it but it’s not quite finished yet. Take a look here.
Earn money from ebooks – even if NOT an author

Earn money from ebooks – even if NOT an author

It’s easy – Become a Smashwords Affiliate


If you encourage others to get e-books from Smashwords you can get paid by them.
  • It’s easy to set up
  • It’s easy to make the links needed
  • You can earn between 11% and 70% of the book price. The actual amount you get is set by the author, not Smashwords
  • Smashwords say they credit your account within 48 hours and will pay you each quarter (provided you’ve earned $25 at least).
You will need a Smashwords account. Go here to get one and click the ‘Learn what we have to offer readers and authors’ button in the ‘Welcome Guest’ section. It’s free to set up.
Once you’ve got a Smashwords account learn about their affiliates at this plain English page – . Follow their instructions to set up as an affiliate.

Smashwords affiliate fees

Smashwords offers affiliate payments of 11% to 70.5% of the retail price of e-books. The actual percentage offered is determined by the author. I, for example, offer a 35% affiliate rate. The default is 11%. Anyone age 18+ with a Smashwords account is eligable to enroll.
Smashwords encourages the use of affiliate tags on free e-books and the author’s own e-book links. You won’t earn anything on those e-books but if a customer goes on to view and purchase other items at Smashwords, you’ll get affiliate payments for those.
Affiliate fees come from the author’s royalties. The author can choose not to offer affiliate payments. If an author elects to not offer an affiliate program for a book then the author’s royalty is 85%.
Affiliate links are easy to create. My preferred method is to append the ?ref=[yourScreenName] code to links where [yourScreenName] is the bit after on your ‘My Smashwords page’ at Use the links, for example in Twitter, Facebook or other social media.

There are other affiliate schemes for books

Amazon offers one. Amazon offers 4% to 8.5% though. Far less than Smashwords. Their scheme isn’t as simple. To earn 8.5% you would have to sell 3,131 books in a month. Some may do that but most won’t.
If you managed to sell Amazon’s 3,131 books at Smashwords and they were ours, we would both earn an extra $3,298.51 because we offer a 35% affiliate payment.
Give it a go – you can’t lose anything. To get you started here’s a Twitter and Facebook post you could make. Replace the ‘JChapman‘ in them with your own Smashwords affiliate tag.

Twitter post

Get a FREE #technothriller at #Smashwords
It will look something like:

Facebook post

Amazon isn’t the only place to get e-books. Smashwords has them available in all formats. This one is #FREE
For this one you’ll need to click the camera icon and add this image (right click this image to download it to your computer then upload it to Facebook using the camera icon):
On Facebook, it will look something like:
Finally – here are more of our books at Smashwords you can link to, together with more promotional images.
Beware the word ‘Bestseller’

Beware the word ‘Bestseller’

Every day my mailbox is bombarded with marketing emails from people who want to help me become a ‘bestseller’ but what exactly is a ‘bestseller’?

“He’s launched 3 books in the last 12 months and each of ‘em were NO.1 bestsellers.”  was today’s claim – Yeah right. Let’s take a look at today’s ‘bestsellers.’

The overall #1 bestseller in Amazon paid e-books at the time of researching this was ‘Grey’ (Shame on you readers!)

It’s selling 4,000+ copies a day and is #1 Paid in Kindle Store. It’s
#1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Contemporary Fiction > Romance
#1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Romance
#1 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Erotica > Romantic

Now if the promoter was able to say he’d got 3 books in the top 100 paid sales rank I would be very impressed and he would undoubtedly be a stellar bestseller. He didn’t say that though and if his book genre was Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Foreign Languages > Other Languages > Hungarian he could be a ‘#1 bestseller with an overall rank of 1,287,139. That would mean he’s selling about one book every 1-2 months. There a lot of these obscure categories so when you see these ‘#1 bestseller’ claims – take it with a pinch of salt. If the promoter’s system really works well they would quote the Amazon overall sales rank.

You’ll find many authors claim to be a ‘bestselling’ author if they have ever had a book in the top 100 of any category, Look for #100 in some genres at Amazon and you may find they stop at #18. That probably means the book in that rank has sold just a few copies.

Here’s a few of today’s #1 bestsellers chosen from random genres with estimates of their sales:

#1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Arts & Photography > Architecture > Architects, A-Z #11,301 Paid in Kindle Store (about 430 sales in the last 30 days)

#1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Biographies & Memoirs > Professionals & Academics > Lawyers & Judges #3,744 Paid in Kindle Store (about 2,100 sales in the last 30 days)

#1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Business & Money > Taxation > Small Business #32,983 Paid in Kindle Store (about 140 sales in the last 30 days)

#1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Crafts, Hobbies & Home > Interior Design > Upholstery & Fabrics #182,406 Paid in Kindle Store (about 4 sales in the last 30 days)

#1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Education & Teaching > Higher & Continuing Education > College Guides #23,812 Paid in Kindle Store (about 245 sales in the last 30 days)

#1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Foreign Languages > Other Languages > Hungarian #1,287,139 Paid in Kindle Store (Probably no sales in the last 30 days)

#1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Engineering & Transportation > Transportation > Ships > Pictorial #219,700 Paid in Kindle Store (about 2 sales in the last 30 days)

As to me I’ve been #1 bestseller in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Thrillers > Technothrillers with a best ever overall rank of #540 in paid. I’ve also been #1 in Science fiction > Genetic engineering and #1 in Science fiction adventure. I don’t claim to be a bestselling author even though there are 50,000 of my books in circulation.

Beware the ‘bestseller’; it’s a word which can mean little and for an author to use it smacks of desperation.

Are some book marketing sites cheating authors?

Are some book marketing sites cheating authors?

If you pay for promoting your book through Twitter and website posts; how do you feel about these sites having fake Twitter followers and no website traffic?

What is a fake follower?

A fake follower isn’t a real person – just a name  They will never read your tweets, interact, retweet posts and will certainly never follow links or buy anything.

How do you tell if a Twitter account has fake followers? 

There are certain clues:

  • people who have an egg profile image or a scantily clad female image
  • people who don’t have a profile description or one which don’t describe the personality or profession of the person
  • people who don’t tweet in your language
  • people whose tweets are protected
  • people who don’t interact or interact nonsensically/aggressively
  • fake accounts will have a disproportionate follower and following count. Far more people are followed than follow back. A real account will have a more balanced ratio.
  • people who have not tweeted in the last 3 months. These may be genuine accounts but if they are they will be of little value to authors
  • people who tweet the same limited number of tweets endlessly

All of these are indicators only. If a Twitter account has several of these clues it’s an indication but not proof of a fake account.
It’s all too easy to buy Twitter followers. Software exists which generates Twitter accounts. It would be immoral for promotion sites to purchase such followers and unethical to knowingly allow such followers to remain. There are sites normally available which will check for ‘fake’ followers for you. and are two of them. Neither claims to be 100% perfect in that they may wrongly identify genuine followers as fake and fail to detect others which are fakes. You can also use Twitter management tools such as ManageFlitter to help you identify fakes.

What about website traffic?

No matter how attractive a book review on a website is, if the website doesn’t get traffic and the pages are not discoverable by searches then the review will never be seen. You can use to examine the website traffic. If you are using Chrome as your browser you can install a toolbar icon to quickly gauge a site’s traffic. ( A site with an overall traffic rank of more than 2 million is unlikely to be of much help. A website with an Alexa rank of more than 1.5 million will be little use.

Paid advertising

What about paying for your book ad to be displayed? In a recent case Facebook suggested that an ad would be displayed to 420,000 people within a 50 km radius of the advertiser. Yet the total population of the area was only 320,000. You also have to factor in your advert being shown to ‘bots’ rather than real people. Watch the video at and for ‘soap’ think ‘book’

I’m making a list of who’s naughty and nice…

Here’s an example of a group of sites which charge $99 to promote your books by posting them on websites, promoting on Twitter and adding books to emails sent out to subscribers. I’m not identifying these well known sites because there is still some room for doubt about ‘fake’ followers. It’s possible for a troll to skew the results by purchasing fake followers for a site. A site which identifies as having just 14% of real followers is pretty damning though. At the best, in my opinion, the site owner is careless and at worst, dishonest!

Site Twitter Followers ‘Real’ followers Website Alexa Rank My opinion
1 19,094 14% #316,685 Tweets from this site are useless but promotion in the website may be worthwhile
2 1938 93% #23,976,799 Very limited tweet value and website promotion will be unseen
3 11,707 97% #217,001 Moderately useful tweets and excellent website visibility – a site worth promoting on.
4 12,697 31% #5,801,496 Tweets of little value and few people will see the website
5 14,201 51% #8,434,577 Half of tweets won’t be seen and few people will see the website
6 No Twitter account n/a #2,912,361 Website is not very visible
7 7,657 98% #391,624 Few but genuine tweets, good website visibility
8 23,705 97% #1,824,011 Good site for tweets. Website is just ‘average’

In all these sites have a 91,000 twitter following – better than the 60,000 they claim but there are 72,000 unique followers of which 33,000 are likely to be fake.
Of course there is no conclusion to be drawn about how this group of sites promotes your books by email. This can be an effective method. However based on these results would you pay $99 to the group?

Will you help me to ‘check it all twice?’

Have you paid for a promotion and got unspectacular results? If so can you check the site’s ‘Fake’ followers at (You can check them free there) or at (You can check 5 tweeps and yourself there.) Also download the Alexa plug-in for Chrome at and let me know the site’s overall rank. Be cautious of making accusations. Just give the results and your ‘opinion’.

If this post has helped, informed or entertained, will you help me? Download a FREE copy of our book ‘Immortality Gene’ from
Even if you never read it (but we hope you will) – it will help our rankings.
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Your author blog needs a ‘Call To Action’

What’s the purpose of your author blog? Isn’t it to get people to buy your books? If so then at the very end you need a clear ‘call to action’ – something to leave your readers with an immediate ‘Yes, I must do that’ thought.

Want an example? I’m happy to oblige – just scroll down to the end of this post.

So what should be in a CTA?

  • Keep it short
  • Provide a link to what you want your readers to do
  • Add a graphic to draw attention
  • Clearly separate it from the rest of your blog. 
  • Add it at the very end
I use a table for mine. It’s easy to construct using some simple HTML. Uh huh I can hear some of you thinking, I don’t know HTML. How do I do that? Easy. I’ll show you how to do this in Blogger but if you use WordPress, the process is similar.

Adding a CTA as an HTML table

Step 1 – At the position in your blog where you want your CTA add a placeholder – something easy to spot like:
Step 2 – Copy from here the following HTML:

<table border=”2″ style=”width: 90%”>
<table border=”0″ cellpadding=”5″ style=”width:100%px;”>
<td align=”left” valign=”middle”>
If this post has helped or entertained, will you help us? Download a FREE copy of our book ‘Immortality Gene’ from <a href=”” target=”_blank”></a>

<br />
Even if you never read it (but we hope you will) – it will help our rankings.
<td valign=”middle” width=”160″>
<div style=”clear: both; text-align: center;”>
<a href=”” imageanchor=”1″ style=”margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;”><img alt=”Look – a FREE e-book” border=”0″ src=”” title=”Call to action” />

Step 3 – Click the HTML button of Blogger and scroll through the page code until you find the CTA placeholder you added ‘===CTA===’ Highlight just that placeholder. Here’s what Blogger shows

Step 4 – Paste in the HTML you copied so that it replaces the ===CTA=== placeholder
Step 5 – Return to the normal ‘Compose’ screen. You’ll see a CTA box which you can now edit to show your own text and links.
Step 6 (Optional) – If you wish change the blue arrow picture with an image of your own choice which may be more in keeping with your blog style. Here’s a few more which you can copy and use if you wish.

More images


If you use this one you’ll probably have to swap it into the left side of the CTA like this:

Put your call to action and link here

You can even use animated images and put them either side of the call to action:

Put your call to action and link here

Have fun with your calls to actions. Adding one will have an effect on your ‘clickthrough’ rate and get you more sales hopefully. Please feel free to add your comments and if you find this helps with your promotion please come back and tell us about it. (You can even add a link to the page you’ve put a CTA on.

There are two things left for me to add. The first is a ‘thanks’ due to Molly Green, whose blog post ‘How to build a perfect blog post‘ reminded me that I’ve been meaning to write about ‘Calls To Action’ for some time and the second is, of course, my Call to Action.

If this post has helped or entertained, will you help us? Download a FREE copy of our book ‘Immortality Gene’ from
Even if you never read it (but we hope you will) – it will help our rankings.
Look - a FREE e-book

Why are so many authors making things difficult for themselves?

Making things difficult

I periodically return to my list of authors and go through it to add genre and location to my spreadsheet. I also add other authors I come across. I’m amazed at the number of authors who make things difficult for their readers to find out information.

  • Lots of authors don’t have a website or blog
  • Lots of authors don’t use Facebook or have their page set as ‘private’.
  • Lots of authors don’t use Twitter
  • Lots of authors don’t have a Pinterest page
Where an author does have a discoverable website or blog they often fail to mention their Twitter name – mine is @JChapmanAuthor, Facebook page – mine is, Pinterest page – mine is Some don’t even give a clue as to the genres they write in; we are supposed to guess that from the book covers.
Of those who have a discoverable Twitter presence, I’m amazed at the number who hamper their followers by using TrueTwit – If you are one of them, I suggest you read Mary C Long’s ‘How TrueTwit Helps You Help It Make Money – And Waste A Ton Of Time’ at

I’m astonished that some authors make their Twitter accounts private. By all means make a personal account private but your author account should be made public and shouted from the rooftops!

I’m amazed by the authors who think it’s good to respond to being followed with an auto-message promoting a book. While on the subject of automessages, some authors seem to think it’s OK to automatically auto-unfollow those who unfollow and auto-tweet that information. Have they never heard that Twitter sometimes unfollows people? If you are going to unfollow – wait a month or so and autotweeting that ‘5 tweeps unfollowed me. Know who your latest unfollowers are? Find them at…‘ simply proves you are a vengeful person and maybe not a nice person to follow in the first place.

I’m amazed by authors who obviously buy Twitter followers and make that fact public by promoting buy follower posts. I can only think of one possible excuse for buying followers – to get round Twitter’s 2000 followers rule. Any followers you get from purchasing will be otherwise useless and are likely to destroy your reputation. I usually block those who post these messages.

As to Facebook, some author accounts are simply a list of books and ‘What I did today’ posts. No interaction, no sharing. Boring and no fun!
Are you guilty? If so, then I think you are shooting your book sales in the foot. I doubt if I’ve covered everything. Can you think of some other examples of bad author practice?

Editing your book

It’s essential that a book you want to promote is free from the sort of errors an editor would pick out. A book full of typos and grammar errors is an excellent way to ruin your reputation as an author. Line editing services seem expensive to a new author; however, so many will attempt this job themselves. The following is an extract from my book ‘An Illustrated Guide to Getting Published.’

Assuming you produced your manuscript with Microsoft Word, you already should have used Word’s spelling and grammar checker. You might think this step has been covered – right?
Wrong! It’ll probably still be full of mistakes. Here are the steps my wife and I go through before we send a file to a publisher.

  1. Read the book through. Either print it out and read the printed copy, or send the file to an e-book reader and read it that way. (More on this later.) Reading it on your word processor isn’t the best solution. After all – any mistakes were made on that. Make corrections on a copy of the document and save it with a different filename so you can revert to an earlier version if necessary. Keep a backup of your book on something else such as a USB memory stick. Trust me, sooner or later, you will have a computer disaster. You don’t want to lose your hard work. If you’re paranoid keep a copy in a different building or ‘in the cloud’.
  2. Are you sure you used the right word? If you are in any doubt – check it again unless you want to look foolish in print
    Bear-faced or bare-faced?

  3. Watch out for:
    • Unnecessary words? “She gave a loud shriek.” Quiet shriek anyone? 
    • Characters appearing without explanation
    • Minor characters who are named but take no further part in the plot
    • Crossing time zones without time being affected
    • Chronoclasms in historical novels – President Lincoln looked at his wristwatch (not used by men until the early 1900s)
    • Bits of the story that drag because of detailed descriptions
  4. Put the text through a grammar checking program. We use two:
     Grammarly ( It’s a subscription service.
    Ginger ( Needs a slightly more powerful computer. Also a subscription service.

  5. Both Grammarly and Ginger will find mistakes, which you didn’t spot. Not all of these  ‘mistakes’ will be errors just as the grammar checker in Word also  finds false errors. I find it’s best to put no more than one chapter at a time through it.

    Grammarly allows you to set your writing style.
    Ginger is better at punctuation.

  1. Get a text to speech program to read the book aloud while you follow along. We use ‘Text Aloud’ which has a plugin for Microsoft Word, but there are lots of other programs including some free options. This step is essential since when reading it yourself, you read what you expect the document to say rather than what is actually there. Addition 2014 – the text to speech option of Word 2013 is very good now and even better on Windows 8.1.
  2. Get a proofreader to read the document. You can use a professional proofreader or a friend or do a swap with another indie author. Consider using a proof reader on the other side of the ocean at this stage to find those words and expressions which don’t quite have the same meaning.
    e.g. Midgie – midget or small candy in the US.
    Midgie – small biting fly, especially in Scotland.

Sending a file to the Kindle Touch/Fire/Keyboard

If you have an e-book reader such as the Kindle Touch, Kindle Fire or Kindle Keyboard it will do a fairly good job of reading the text to you. The basic Kindle and Kindle Paperwhite do not offer this feature.
At this stage, it’s enough to send the file as a .doc or .docx file attachment to your Kindle e-mail address. Use File > ‘Save and send’. Enter the email address provided with your Kindle. If you don’t know it you can find it from the Home screen menu > Settings > Send to Kindle email (You might have to go to a second screen). A subject isn’t important, but give it the document title + ‘draft’. Once you’ve sent the email it might take a few minutes to show up on your Kindle. Consult your Kindle guide for how to have the document read to you. Expect it to make some terrible pronunciation mistakes though. It will be enough, however, to draw your attention to errors.

Sending a file to another Android device e.g. Nexus 7

Although there is a Kindle reader available for these devices, it does not offer ‘Text to Speech.’ To get round that use an e-reader which offers to read the text to you. One such e-reader is Moon+ Reader Pro which is available from the Google Play Store for £3.10 ($4.99). This reader accepts DRM free .epub files. That means you will have to convert your Word file into an .epub file first. I use Calibre to do this.

  1. Save the Word document as a .doc or .docx file
  2. Open Calibre and use its ‘Add books’ icon to add the .doc or .docx file
  3. Use the ‘Convert books’ icon to convert the file to an epub format – this is probably the default format. You don’t need to add a cover or meta data unless you want to at this stage.
  4. Use the ‘Connect/share’ button in Calibre to start the content server. Clicking the dropdown allows you to find the ip address of the server – enter it in Moon + Reader Pro (Menu > Net Library > Calibre Library > Local Calibre)
  5. Attach your Android reading device and download the e-book you just created from the Calibre Library.

Think you’ve got your book ‘perfect’?

The Wicked Bible mistake

Even after going through this process you are still likely to have made or overlooked errors. Professionally printed books contain them. Take consolation in the fact that errors can be corrected in a print-on-demand book or e-book far easier than in a conventionally published book.
You are also unlikely to suffer the fate of the printer who accidentally missed out a crucial ‘not’, producing the ‘wicked bible’. As a result, he was heavily fined and lost his licence to print.

Save the final document

When you’re satisfied with your document, save it again as your master copy. You are now ready for the next step – formatting.

If this post has helped, will you help us? Download a FREE copy of our book ‘Immortality Gene’ from
Even if you never read it (but we hope you will) – it will help our rankings.
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Blogging to promote your book

What sort of blog post should an author make?

John Locke in his book How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months! suggested that the best method an author could use to use blogging to promote a book was not to write about the book itself but to produce a blog post designed to go viral and which contains subtle links which encourage the reader to find out about your book. Although John is in ‘author disgrace’ over the paid for review issue, he’s spot on with his approach to blogging.

John Locke’s famous blog post

John wrote a post Why I Love Joe Paterno and my Mom! in which he blogged about how his mother encouraged him to find a role model, his choice being Joe Paterno, a longtime football coach at Penn State. The blog makes only a minor reference to John being an author but is hosted on his website where his audience can read more about his work. John promoted the blog by sending the link to it to Penn State University related bulletin boards, blogs and people tweeting about PSU. It quickly went viral, being read not just by football fans. Part of its attraction was his choice of title – we may not all know Joe Paterno but we all have a mother. The post was made before the Penn State scandal became an issue.
John doesn’t post often. Each blog is very carefully planned and aims to tug at the heartstrings. He did it again with a post ‘Fathers and Daughters‘ in August 2012.

My attempt at a John Locke style post

I had a go at writing a John Locke type blog post myself. Here’s what I came up with:

Bio-terrorism and the cure for the common cold

Sooner or later someone will use a bioterrorism technique to release a pandemic which actually helps people! It could be that the common cold is it’s first target.

How to catch a cold

Everyone knows how easy it is to catch a cold but there are some things about the process that aren’t common knowledge. Let’s try an experiment. While you read this don’t touch your eyes!

Imagine someone with a cold gets in a lift. They sneeze and a fine mist of spray spreads everywhere. It quickly settles though. They get to their floor and exit the lift. You call the lift from two floors down and the first thing you do when you get in is to press the button to select your floor. A button covered by a fine spray of cold virus.

So now you have the cold virus on your finger. Not a big problem, it’s unlikely to get through the skin on your finger. Of course you could infect yourself with a cold by now eating something.

Touched or want to touch your eyes yet?

As you’ve probably found out by now, we touch our eyes all the time and as soon as you do, that  virus finds a warm, moist very thin membrane and promptly infects you. Ever noticed how a cold can make your eyes sore?

Deliberately spreading contagion

Now imagine a terrorist intent on using biological warfare. A good way to spread contagion would be to spread their substance on anything which people frequently touch. Lift buttons, push plates on doors, door handles, shopping cart handles, magazines in a shop,  newspapers and books in a library. Money! Forget the idea of sending letters. There are a huge number of ways of spreading any virus using things we touch.

Why there’s no cure or vaccine

Now imagine a genetic researcher who has made a fantastic discovery. He/she has come up with a genetic fix which will forever stop people from catching the common cold.

Would you buy it assuming it’s 100% safe and costs little? Of course you would!

So if this had been produced do you think you would get the opportunity? Frankly you would have as much chance as a celluloid cat being chased by an asbestos dog through the fires of Hell!

“Why?” I hear you ask. “If it was safe why wouldn’t it be available?”

The answer is simple. The people who would be marketing this are the very people who make a fortune  every year by selling cold remedies. Are they ever going to willingly give up those billions of dollars of regular income?

That’s why there are really no serious research projects into curing or preventing the common cold. None of the so called remedies actually cure a cold. If you buy them you might, if you are lucky, get some slight relief from the symptoms …and you can get that effect with a simple home remedy. Here’s the recipe:

A home remedy

In a tall glass:

  • add 2 fingers depth whiskey (cheap stuff)
  • add 2 fingers depth honey
  • add 2 fingers depth lemon juice
  • Fill the glass with hot water, stir well and drink.
  • Go to bed with a good book and relax or sleep it off.

If you find your symptoms are not better after an hour or so repeat.

Now I know what some of you are going to say. “I don’t like whiskey,” but believe me – this tastes nothing like it. It tastes good, relieves a sore throat, relieves congestion and after three of them you won’t care about the cold!

OK – free advice over; now let’s consider something else.

What bio-terrorism has to do with a cure

During the course of researching our ‘A Vested Interest’ books I had occasion to investigate gene therapy. It is possible to alter a virus so that it inserts the genes which prevent a cold. Imagine a genetic researcher has produced that cold cure. It really works and he knows it’s safe. But he/she can’t market it for the reasons explained above. He/she can’t announce it either without putting their life at risk. There’s a multi-billion dollar industry at stake here remember?

The researcher knows the people of the world want the cure though. Does that researcher have the right to deny them it? Should they risk the wrath of the drug companies to make it available?

I think you’ll find that the researcher would adopt the bio-terrorist tactics to release his/her product.

Sooner or later some well meaning person will do this!

So how did my post do?

Well I followed the John Locke formula and wrote a post which replaced the common to all factor of ‘Mum’ with ‘Cold’ – something we’ve all gone through the misery of. Like John I made a subtle reference to being an author and didn’t over emphasise ‘the book’. I used a buzzword ‘Bio-terrorism’ instead of ‘Joe Paterno’ which played on media fear factor rather than hero worship. I even got some well known authors, including John Locke, adding comments – which I responded to. You can see the original post and comments here. My post didn’t go viral however. John Locke’s Joe Paterno post had 100s of comments and mine had 10. Where I failed was in promoting the blog.

  • I failed to seek out people posting about having a cold or bio-terrorism 
  • I failed to use Twitter effectively. At the time John made his post he had 1000s of Twitter followers whereas I, was new to Twitter, had only 200 followers and didn’t know about hashtags or searching Twitter.
  • I didn’t know about Triberr either and wasted the opportunity to have it promoted there.
  • My blog was hosted at blogspot rather than at my own domain and in the original post I didn’t have links to my site.

My post was better than John’s!

In three areas my blog post was better than John’s. 

  1. I included a graphic. People like pictures – they are attention grabbers. Use relevant pictures!
  2. I used lots of sub-headings. Subheadings allow the reader to quickly skim an article to see if it’s what they are really interested in without having to read the whole thing.
  3. I used the Associated Press style of writing in that I started with a quick synopsis and then went into more detail section by section.

What you as an author should do

  1. Write about a blog subject which you know well and which you feel others should know about.
  2. Don’t write ‘Buy my book’ blog posts. Reading those is as popular as sitting down to watch just the adverts on TV.
  3. Include subtle references to your author craft and books. Give the reader the opportunity to find out more if they wish.
  4. Use pictures and break your blog down with subheadings.
  5. Unless you have a massive blog following already, you are probably wasting your time if you don’t have a good understanding of how to use Twitter and Triberr to promote your posts. 
  6. Seek out those who have blogged, discussed and tweeted about similar subjects and make them aware of the link to your post. Don’t be afraid of posting to other authors. Authors are usually prolific readers – I read 64 books last year just on my Kindle.
  7. Your aim is for the post to go viral! If it does people will want more and, the more they see your name, the more likely they are to buy your books.
  8. Add a ‘Call to action’ at the end of your post and make it a prominent feature. Here’s an example:
    If this post has helped or entertained, will you help us? Download a FREE copy of our book ‘Immortality Gene’ from
    Even if you never read it (but we hope you will) – it will help our rankings.
    Look - a FREE e-book

Have I missed anything?

Yes I have #9. Finish with a question which invites comments.

Feel free to comment – If you know of any other technique to promote your book through blogging which I haven’t included, please feel free to add it..