Stop Preachin’ to the Choir! Marketing to our Savvy Readers

Stop Preachin’ To The Choir!

I woke up with this sentence stuck in my head a few days ago.  I had to chuckle too, because in my dream, I saw this phrase as a big blinking neon sign, like a sign you would see flashing outside of a seedy hotel window in an old Dick Tracey movie.


Stop Preachin’ To The Choir!

I had the sudden revelation that I was marketing my promotions wrong.  I had just published my new thriller and was busy marketing (indie authors can’t just sit on their butts and write-they’re required to market now too-grrr).  I’ve heard before that promoting what other people say about your book is more effective than your own claim that your book is the best.

We’ve all witnessed that author who constantly promotes their book with the claim that it “has twists and turns!” “will blow your mind!” “5-star read all the way!” “so exciting you’ll feel like you’re riding a roller coaster!”  Meh. After the same post on their Facebook and twitter accounts over and over, your eyes begin to gloss over and then eventually, ignore them, or worse, unfriend them.  Not the way to end a marketing campaign.


Stop Preachin’ To The Choir! is a simple marketing plan FOR readers.  Listen, our readers are our choir.  Some are leaders of their own Goodreads groups, have thousands of books on their shelves, as well as hundreds of book-lovin’ friends. They blog. They are involved in book clubs. Their tbr (to be read) lists are so long, their Kindles have Kindles. In other words, our readers are savvy.

So, with this being said, why are we preachin’ to the choir (our readers)?  They want to hear what other readers are saying about our books, not what we’re saying about our books.  Of course my book is great, but if someone else said it, then it is truly validated.

After the flashing neon sign slipped through my sleeping noggin and I woke up from my dream, I decided to do a quick comparison via twitter to see if I was on the right track.  I saw that the marketing photo I tweeted with a short sentence from an Amazon Reviewer received double the interaction than the tweet where I said my book was awesome and therefore I’m a fabulous author (not in those exact words but that’s probably how it was read, with possibly the words “pompous” and “boorish” added in for good measure).

(FYI: These tweets were not any part of an ad campaign, just my daily tweeting.)

Top Tweet Comparisons

I think the tweets speak for themselves, right?

So, to recap: Stop Preachin’ to the Choir!   white-male-1871431_640

My new thriller Heads Will Roll is available here:

“What an edge on your seat terrifying thriller, which focuses on people who will do just about anything to have the ideal body, and the doctor who will cross the line, to make their dreams a reality.” ~Amazon Reviewer


The Silver and Gold: BooksGoSocial Quality Mark

The Silver and Gold

BooksGoSocial Quality Mark

BGS Quality Mark Banner

For added credibility for my soon to be published medical thriller, Heads Will Roll, I submitted my manuscript to BooksGoSocial (“BGS”) for evaluation.  Their human analysis combined with the automated software program, AutoCrit, promised to improve and tighten my writing. (The quality marks come in Bronze, Silver and Gold and each quality mark is uniquely numbered.)

I received the Silver and Gold. It sounds like I participated in the Olympics. Instead, I received something better: validation that my book is a quality product. Silver Quality Mark and then, with editing and determination, I turned it into a Gold Quality Mark.

For me, it didn’t come easy to get that coveted Gold Quality Mark (the highest mark).  When I received a 15-page report awarding my manuscript the Silver Quality Mark, I was proud, yet a bit deflated.  Then, I felt a surge of determination. I didn’t spend over year researching and writing my book to not give it my all.  I was going to do this!

AutoCrit Test Novel

The AutoCrit’s analysis is “based on studying millions of successful fiction books.”  To be in the Silver category amongst top fiction books is something to be proud of and if an author wanted to stay there, that would still validate their book to be among the best. 

My report score for the Silver Quality Mark was 77.32.  The Gold Quality Mark score begins at 80.  I knew that if I didn’t try to aim higher when I was this close to the next achievement level, I would be kicking myself for years.

It took me approx. nine hours of editing to get my manuscript ready for the next round.  I went tGold Quality Markhrough each point from the report to improve and strengthen my writing.  My readers deserve quality and so do I! 

The next 16-page report was a shining and proud moment for me. I was awarded the Gold Quality Mark!  My score: 80.94.  Yes, I made it!


For authors who haven’t sent in their manuscript yet for a quality mark, I encourage you to do so. If fact, do it today!  It will be the best $29 you’ll ever spend.  I admit, I was nervous awaiting the results but receiving a quality mark comparing your book to thousands out there in Bookland is a humbling experience and one every author needs to go through.

I will now show you comparisons between the Silver report and the Gold report so you can see what to work towards.  Don’t wait until publication day.  Submit months in advance so you have the time to go through your manuscript and correct the issues.  Of course, you may come out on the first try with a Gold Quality Mark and I applaud you if that happens.  (I would love to hear your good news!) If you come out with a Bronze or a Silver report, then you have some work to do.  Don’t feel ashamed–feel empowered! You can do this!

  1. Adverbs. Overuse of adverbs can weaken your work. 

Silver Score: 232                    After improvement:   Gold: 119


Silver Adverb


Gold Adverb

  1. Dialogue Tags. When dialogue tags other than ‘said’ or ‘asked’ are used they can detract from the dialogue as they draw attention to themselves.

            Number of Dialogue tags said other than ‘said’ or ‘asked’:

Silver Score:  350       After improvement:   Gold:  295

  1. Filler Words. Filler words are often described as fluff.

            This is what took most of the editing time.  As you can see, I had a number of filler words.  Wow!  I hadn’t realized this before.  Even with editing, hiring a proofreader, beta readers, etc. This just blew my mind.

            Silver Score: 676        After improvement:   Gold: 162


Silver Filler Word


Gold Filler Word

  1. Generic Words. Generic descriptions and words can make a book seem dull.

            This was my second surprise.  I was using boring words!

            Silver Score:  293       After improvement:   Gold: 92


Silver Generic


Gold Generic

  1. Frequented Words/Phrases. Repeated phrases will be noticed by the reader and may become tiresome. 

            This is the one that took some time to correct.  Once I edited the phrases, I had to reword the sentence.

            Silver Score: 1364      After Improvement:   Gold: 1293


Silver Frequent Phrases


Gold Frequent Words

  1. Show v Tell. Showing uses description and action to allow the reader to experience the story.

            This is my extra credit. It was not included in my Silver report and now I’m excited to get busy.

Gold Show v Tell


I hope you can use this document to your advantage.  And then get busy preparing for your own quality mark.  I wish you success in your writing.  And nevHeads Will Roll 3der give up!

Joanie Chevalier’s thriller, Heads Will Roll, will be published mid-May and will be FREE May 23, 24 and 25, 2017.  Join her launch page and receive an ARC, or connect via twitter or Facebook.  For more information on her current projects and to read some free short stories, visit her website.

Heads Will Roll – New Book Coming Out Soon!

My new book, Heads Will Roll, is a crime suspense about a doctor who is desperate to get his long overdue fame, fortune, and recognition by performing successful head transplant surgeries. Notice that successful is in italics. That’s because Dr. Farkis and his team have tried this surgery at least twenty-eight times – all without success.

But that doesn’t stop him.

In his words: “Success? Every one of them contributed to the success of knowing more, learning, working towards that goal of someday . . .”

Most of the first half of the story is spent getting to know the rest of the casted characters, but all paths lead to Dr. Farkis. I began thinking about this subject after I had listened to a story on BBC while traveling about a funeral director who sold bodies for profit. Then, shortly after that segment, there was a discussion about head transplants. I was intrigued. What if, in the near future, we could choose the body we wanted? We could visit a store front, much like a neighborhood mom-and-pop shop, and we’d see all the available bodies lined up in a glass-enclosed case. We’d be able to choose the body that we wanted, purchase it, have an operation, and wham bam! wake up with our new body.

Of course, this is all fiction . . . or is it?

While researching for Heads Will Roll, I came across articles about a real-life doctor who is planning a head transplant surgery. Seriously. In 2017. Yes, you read that right.
Who is this doctor, you ask?

His name is Dr. Sergio Canavero, and he plans on performing the procedure alongside a team of Chinese surgeons lead by Dr. Xiaoping Ren, who has reportedly performed “around 1,000 head transplants on mice.” “It will be a success,” he insists. [Link]

Get your wallets out. If you need, or want, such an operation, it will cost you a whopping $11 million. It will take approximately 150 surgeons and at least 36 hours to complete.
Will this procedure end up being another avenue for a quick fix of imagined or made-up flaws for the rich and famous?

Even if Dr. Canavero and his team were successful, a single-word inquiry comes up – Why? The honorable answer is that we’d hope that an operation like this would help those who have untreatable neurological or muscle-wasting diseases; in other words, paralyzed bodies. Most of us couldn’t, in our wildest dreams, even image the helplessness of having such a disease. Some may ask what kind of life it is when one is required to spend all their waking hours in a wheelchair, not even able to scratch the itch on their nose? (Although we all know that many paralyzed people lead productive lives.)

However, as we know too well, human nature is fickle, and narcissism and our instant gratification society wouldn’t allow this to be coveted by only wheelchair-bound, paralyzed people now, would we? This would be a new opportunity for rich people and women who hated their bodies enough to suffer pain (not to mention a huge ugly scar around their neck) and a three-week coma.

A quick fix, if you will.

If a woman could pick out a body, be it skinnier, shapelier, or more athletic than hers, and fuse her head onto it, do you think the new idea would spread like wildfire, or simply smolder like a green piece of wet wood in a campfire?
What about a man who yearns for a woman’s body, or a short person wanting a tall body? Where do we draw the line?

The important question is: Would you participate in the madness?

One such man has volunteered to be the first recipient of the 2017 (real life) human head transplant. He is 30-year-old Valery Spiridonov, who lives in Vladimir, Russia. Spiridonov has Werdnig-Hoffman disease, which affects the spinal cord and causes paralysis. He says that he wants a chance at a new body before he dies, and really, who can blame him? [Link]

In my fictional story, you’ll meet Barry, who has a similar disease. He spends most of his time in a wheelchair, but he is able to walk, albeit stilted and slow, with two canes that attach to his arms. Barry wants a new body, but he’s not quite willing to show his desperation to his co-workers.

After he discovers that Dr. Farkis plans to perform an experimental head transplant surgery, he stalks him until he gets the chance to talk to the doctor privately, pleading with him and assuring him that he’d be the right candidate. Barry is horrified when the doctor discloses that he had already performed many other unsuccessful operations, but in the end, that doesn’t deter Barry from begging to be his first success story.

How many of us would be that determined to get a new body? Imagine what kind of ruckus it would cause. I could image a long waiting list, the participants buying and selling to jockey up to the top positions, and who knows, perhaps even murdering fellow candidates to be moved up even faster. After all, there would only be so many doctors educated enough and willing to perform such an operation, therefore, the operations performed would probably be few and far between.

It’s also a very expensive endeavor, so only the rich could afford it, but maybe it’d become so routine that it would become a grandiose form of plastic surgery.

And, here’s a thought: where would we get these bodies? Not too many people die while they are healthy, unless they are old and die in their sleep. Would people resort to … murder? In my fictional book, we hear about an omnipresent entity called Headbanger, who is rumored to be nabbing some of the young homeless men and women from the warehouse district in Oakland, California.

After all, wouldn’t the doctor need bodies to practice on?

Getting back to the real life scenario, there are many people who say that Dr. Canavero is nuts [Link] and that what he’s proposing to do is absolutely absurd. They report that it’d never work, pointing out its many flaws, but most importantly, pointing out that this type of surgery wouldn’t get ethical approval, let alone backing for the cost of the operation.

Now, I propose another question: How many unsuccessful operations would it take to finally have one successful one? How eager would people in our world, like Valery Spiridonov, be to learn that they may not end up with a new, improved body, but end up only a statistical notation for history?

What’s interesting though all of this research is that I discovered something I didn’t know before. I hadn’t realized that a lot of experimenting had been done in this field already.

In 1908, Charles Guthrie wrote a book entitled Blood Vessel Surgery and Its Applications (which shows up on the dusty shelf in the fictional Dr. Farkis’ study) which apparently shows a photograph of a successful grafting of one dog’s head onto the side of another dog’s neck, creating the world’s first artificial two-headed dog. (Maybe this is where the fictional Dr. Farkis got his inspiration, since it is rumored that he experimented as a kid in his parents’ basement with mice and who knows what else.) Guthrie even noted that there were basic reflexive movements from the dog after the surgery was done.

Not to be outdone, Vladimir Demikhov, in the Soviet Union, transplanted a puppy’s head to a German Shepherd in 1954, and noted that the donor’s head lapped up water and milk from a bowl, bit the finger of a staff member, and bit the other dog’s ear. [Link]

Do you have goosebumps yet?

When I read that the key to a successful head transplant would be low temperatures, I thought of someplace cold where the bodies could be frozen. What better place than at the Tsukiji fish market in Japan, where they hold fish auctions daily? These huge slabs of frozen fish are displayed by the hundreds, and are flash frozen to -30ºC. Japanese fishing vessels that catch and hold tuna (a Bluefin tuna can weigh up to 550 pounds) have freezers that operate at -50ºC. Now that’s cold!

In my book, when the fictional Aiko takes his daughter to the market and lines up with the tourists early one morning, Kaneko is puzzled. (The actual daily tour is at nine am, but it’s limited to only 120 people. It’s first come, first serve, so tourist line up early.) She doesn’t know why she’s there, and her strict, stoic father doesn’t give her any information. When she winds up underneath the market in a maze of hidden tunnels, she still isn’t sure why she’s being tested and later undergoing medical tests. She knows it’s not polite to question her elders, so she stays quiet. Maybe it’s because her father thinks that she can’t find a husband because she’s “chubby.”

Sweet and quiet Kaneko undergoes a head transplant surgery because her father wants her to find a husband, and he feels ashamed by her body shape, convinced that it is holding her back from doing her duty for the family: getting married and producing grandchildren.

From Tokyo, Japan, we head back to Oakland, California, where we meet Baby and Denny. Baby is a spoiled 32-year-old. She has a “sugar daddy,” a married 52-year-old boyfriend who gives her anything she wants. When Denny begins to rethink his life because he and his wife of 22 years now have a few young grandchildren, Baby demands a new body “just because.” She doesn’t really think this decision through, and she and Denny find themselves caught up in the dramatics of a mad scientist/doctor: Dr. Stephen Farkis.

After walking into the warehouse for her “body consultation” appointment, they find that they are not allowed to leave. The doctor locks them inside and forces them to look at grotesque photos of mouse heads stapled to bodies from other mice. Denny sees the doctor as he is: a crazy, mad scientist dreaming of stitching bodies together in a Frankensteinian-style, but oddly, Baby still wants to stay to get her new body.

What kind of hospital is this!?

There are conspiracies abound in Heads Will Roll. Other characters include a senator, mobsters, and three brothers who take over their dad’s funeral business after he dies. They become inadvertently involved with the doctor after they learn their deceased father owed gambling debts to Mobydick, the head of the local gang, and they need extra funds to pay him off. Luckily, they have a few dead bodies lying around to sell . . .

This is fiction, but it has factual elements to it. After reading such articles while researching this fascinating topic, I wondered just how long my book would stay fiction. Might I have to change the categories for my book on Amazon in a few years, from fiction to nonfiction?

Only time will tell.

Would you like to be notified of Heads Will Roll book launch, or be a part of my Reader Team? Sign up for my Newsletter here.

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A New Indie Author: Promotions and Giveaways

Why would anyone give a book away?  Aren’t we here to make money?  I don’t know about you, but I haven’t made any money yet on my book – Surprise!  But, like you, I keep plugging along (singin’ my song; sorry, I couldn’t resist.).  The logical reason for giveaways and promotions is obviously to get our name out there.  If we write a book and do nothing…then how will anyone find it?  Promotions should be a goal for any new writer.  It takes time to build an author’s platform, especially if this is our first book.  So don’t give up!  (I keep telling myself this over and over and over and . . .you get the idea.)

Anyway, in my first six months, I participated in a few promotions and giveaways and thought that maybe someone else could benefit from my experience.

Goodreads:  The important thing to know about a Goodreads giveaway is that you have to give away a physical copy.  So if you don’t have a paperback book, skip on over to CreateSpace and create an actual book.  You have to format it a little differently from an ebook but it’s not that difficult.  Then, order a box of books for yourself so you will be ready to mail them out at the conclusion of the promotion.  You don’t want to keep your readers waiting.  Marketing is everything!  Don’t forget that you are marketing YOURSELF and you want to be thought of as an author who is reliable, efficient and organized.  As a reader, would you want to wait weeks for a promised book?  No!

The giveaway is stress free for the author because Goodreads randomly chooses the names of the winners and you receive their names and address promising not to contact them otherwise (which sounds like a good idea to me).

An awesome advantage of a having a giveaway on Goodreads is that anyone who has your book on one of their shelves will be notified of that book’s giveaway.  Just recently I was notified of a giveaway of one of the books I have on my to-read shelf and I was excited!  I don’t know about you, but when I’m surrounded by excited people, it rubs off and keep me going.

I had two giveaways on Goodreads.  The first one was a few weeks after I published, Nov. 27-Dec. 27, 2014.  763 people requested it and I gave away five copies.  I received two reviews from this.

The second giveaway was March 5-April 5, 2015.  799 requests with three copies given away.  I haven’t received anything from it yet (there is one text review that just came in but I don’t know where that came from, and several people simply rated it without commenting).

The funny thing about this experience is that I found a paperback book for sale from somewhere in Arizona listed as “used” on Amazon “signed by the Author.”  Obviously, it was one of the giveaways.  So, hopefully the book was sold and read by yet another person.  Word of mouth!  Ha  (Newly published authors need to have a good sense of humor or we might end up crying.)

Amazon.  When I published Deadly Dating Games, I was adamant about NOT enrolling in the KDP Select program.  My feeling was that I wasn’t going to give in to such an enormous monster, telling us what to do or when to do it (I’m stubborn that way, ask my boyfriend).  You know what?  Soon after my resolve (after having zero sales through the Smashwords vendors) I gave up and admitted that Amazon must be doing something right.

One of the reasons to stay at Amazon is the KDP Select program where you have the option of giving your book away free for up to five days per each 90 day enrollment (or do a Countdown Deal).  We can listen to the arguments of giving/not giving your book away free, but for the new author, what choice do we have?  We need name recognition.

The trick to the Amazon giveaway is to be organized and plan ahead.  Since there were only five days to give my book away for free, I had to prepare ahead of time.  Once I preset the dates of the free promotion, I had work to do.  In retrospect, when or if I decide to have another free period, I will break it up, three days and then two days some time later.  I noticed that the downloads were significantly lower in the fourth and fifth days.  More on this below.

To maximize exposure of the free giveaway, I contacted sites that promoted free books.  Some required several weeks notice, so I had to plan my freebie days well in advance.  I think I calendared mine three weeks in advance.

To help me with suggestions as to where I should promote, I went to one of my favorite sites for newbies (and/or any indie author for that matter), eNovelAuthors.  They have links to helpful sites where you can promote a free book.

I also found an awesome site with a list of links that promote free and discounted books.  It also included a sample template email message.  Here is the site: TrainingAuthors.

Here is a sample of my email:

Subject Line:  FREE Kindle Promotion 3/18-3/22/15
I wanted to let you know that I have a special promotion on Amazon coming up where my book, Deadly Dating Games, will be available for FREE.

Available free on Wednesday, 3/18/15 through Sunday, 3/22/15.
Deadly Dating Games (ASIN:  B00PJAT2LY)
Four reviews with an average of 4.8 star rating

Here is where you can find me online:

Goodreads Author Page:
Twitter:  @JoanieChevalier

Thank you for letting your readers know about this free book promotion!

Best regards,
Joanie Chevalier

I sent this email to: and  (Steve)

I also contacted about a dozen websites online.  I was promoted on some of them: /included tweets $4.98 / Free Listing / $7.57 U.K. & 8.00 U.S.
Book Goodies / $20 I never knew if my book was promoted
The Reading Sofa (I was on their page and promised a review but I haven’t received one yet).
Kindle Book Review / $20
Digital Book Today / $15 / website/FB $10 website very professional looking
Kindle Book Promos / $20 for 5 days / $15
Book Boost  website/FB/twitter $5.99
Bargain eBook Hunter / tweets
Free / tweets

Click here if you’d like to see several screenshots on the outcome of my promotions and the importance of always marketing.  Ranking Charts  As you will see, I went from being #1,043,240 on March 17  bestseller rank to #528 on 3/18 (first free day); #443 on 3/19, #473 on 3/20; #591 on 3/21; 929 on 3/22; and 1,591 on 3/23 (that’s why I mentioned above that when I do this again, I will only do a 2 day free stint at a time).

My book did go from an unknown to #32 in Top 100 Free Books during this period.  On the down side, I didn’t even think about printing out the page.  <sad face>  Since I forgot to print it out and frame it [did I say that out loud?], I have a goal of doing it again (but this time I want to be #32 on the Top 100 Paid Best Sellers)!

Total downloads for the five day Amazon promotion: 1,410

If you research and read about giving away free books on Amazon and the letdown afterwards of returning to flatline…yes, it is a letdown.  (That is another reason to have only two or three free days: you have more of a chance to ride the wave of people interested in looking at your book and perhaps purchasing it since they missed the free days.)  But that letdown should be the little voice  in our heads shouting, “Keep Going, Keep Going!”

Don’t be like me:  for four or five days after the freebie promotion I would return the the KDP page and look at my reports (don’t blush, we newbies do it at least oh, a <hundred times a day> I say this whispering). Ahem, anyway, I forgot to uncheck the Free box and every time I looked at my report all I would see was the green [flat] line.  Finally, I don’t know why or how I figured it out, but a light bulb went off in my head and my brain told my index finger to uncheck the free box, and Eureka! there were sales lines there, hidden behind the green [flat] line. Free Promotion Chart  Thank Goodness!  I can stop crying now knowing the world doesn’t hate me.

Good luck in your promotions and giveaways!