Authors: Pretend You’re the Customer


Try to put yourself in the shoppers’ shoes. See their perspective.

Search for your book on Amazon. (When it’s first published, the ‘Last 30 Days’ filter on the left, once you’re searching in Books—not All Departments—will help you find it with a wise choice of keywords.)

Study this page of search results. Look at the thumbnails, titles, subtitles, authors, publication dates, and review tallies. For customers browsing on Amazon, this is how they will first see your book. How does your thumbnail look among these others? Try different searches that pull up your book.

They Aren’t the Competition

Realize that these are complimentary titles, not competing titles. Only a fool would view the other titles as obstacles to selling his or her book. (Unfortunately, there are some fools out there.) Rather, these similar books are opportunities for sales. Books tend to sell together as teams much more than solos. It’s usually not the case, “Which one do I buy?” but, “Which books will I buy?” and weeks after the purchase, “Where can I get more like those?” Those Customers Also Bought lists are valuable marketing tools.

Fools who succeed in thwarting the sales of similar titles often shoot themselves in the feet because fewer sales for that team means fewer sales for each title on that team. You don’t get to pick your team; similar titles form their own teams.

Well, you do have control over the packaging. The way to get on a different team is to study a variety of books similar to yours. Look at the covers, blurbs, biographies, product pages, reviews, look insides, and sales ranks. Your packaging needs to be a good fit for your book’s content, but it can also put you on a better-selling team (however, wearing the uniform of a hot team while not having content to match will be a disaster).

What Are You Looking For?

As an author, you love your book, you’re focused on your book, and you’re focused on sales. When you shop for books, you tend to be selective and critical.

Put yourself in the mindset of the shopper:

  • Does your thumbnail appeal to you? Is it easily readable? Do the key words stand out? Do any parts of the cover bother you, even slightly? Pretend you know nothing about the book: Does the cover depict the right content?
  • Does the blurb grab your interest and engage it throughout? Do the words flow well? Does anything bother you?
  • Check out the look inside. How does the cover look on your pc monitor in this large size? Is it pixelated? Do you see any problems here that you don’t see in the thumbnail? Does the front matter, including the copyright page, look professional? (Compare with a variety of other books.) Does the beginning grab your attention? How do the words flow?
  • Also check out your photo and biography. Imagine you don’t know yourself. Do these make a good impression? Does anything bother you?
  • Consider the book as a whole. Will it meet the readers’ expectations? Will it seem like a good value? Will it please the target audience? Is it likely to produce word-of-mouth recommendations?

You should do this every few months. Sometimes you catch a few typos when you haven’t read something for a while. Sometimes your future self can be a little more objective or critical looking back at your former work.


No matter what, though, it’s still your book. While you need to look at it, and need to try your best to be objective, you can’t look at it with the same perspective as a customer.

You really need feedback from other people. Friends and family can give you some, though that won’t likely be completely objective either. However, someone may offer you some helpful suggestions or show you something useful that you hadn’t realized. Try to find people who can be objective to look at your thumbnail, cover, blurb, look inside, and product page. Have them search for your book and see how your thumbnail compares to others. Have them read a few other blurbs and compare those with yours.

Honest feedback can be quite valuable. It can also be self-contradictory. It won’t all be helpful. You’re faced with the task of determining what is worth changing and what isn’t, with the problem of being biased toward things that reinforce what you’d like to hear. However, if you hear the same thing repeatedly, you should be thinking that many customers are apt to feel the same way.

About Me

I’m Chris McMullen. I have a Ph.D. in physics, but don’t let that scare you. I love to read and write. If you just look around my blog or at the books I’ve published, you’ll see that I love to write. I’ve come to understand and appreciate the marketing aspect, too. I didn’t like it when I first started publishing, back when I naively thought marketing meant salesmanship and advertising. Now that I realize that marketing is more about branding, showing that you’re a person and not a name, and letting your target audience discover your passion—and more meaningful and subtle things like these—I’ve come to enjoy it. I hope to reveal the enjoyable and fascinating side of marketing—the parts that aren’t so obvious—to other authors. Focus on this side of marketing, and you may find yourself more motivated to do it, the process more rewarding, and hopefully better long-term results.

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles by clicking one of the following links:

Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

4 Tips to Blog Your Best (and Make Blogging About You): No Matter Your Topic

These are four great tips. 🙂

Creative Writing with the Crimson League

1165446_blog_1Blogs and bloggers come in all shapes and sizes, with all kinds of different interests, but good bloggers share some characteristics in common, and that’s what this post is about.

I happen to be an independent author with a history of dissecting literature in grad school, so I blog about fiction: what makes good fiction, and what things we authors should avoid (for the most part).

That’s just me, though. People blog and read blogs about all kinds of things: some of my favorite blogs are faith-focused or philosophy-based, or comment on current events, because let’s face it, none of us has only one facet.

Now, marketing your blog is a separate subject. To have success marketing, though, you first need a solid product to put out there. Here are 4 quick tips to make your blog the best it can be content-wise:


View original post 1,269 more words

All I Could See From Where I Stood

Here is a valuable perspective on marketing. It’s worth keeping this in mind when sorting out all the marketing advice out there (including the ideas you read on my own blog).


I have come to the conclusion that there are two main philosophies of “self-publishing”.

All broad characterizations are perforce oversimplifications, and this one will be more so than most, so be advised that many–probably most–of self-published authors won’t fit exactly into either category.


Granting the inexactitude of what I am about to say, I believe that there are two basically incompatible ways to define the relationship between self-published authors and traditional publishing.

The first group defines “self-publishing” as “an author acting as her or his own publisher”.  That is to say that authors are emulating the model of traditional publishers.  These authors tend, to be honest, among the most successful financially. They tend to write in clearly defined genres, with traditionally designed covers, and often judge their work against the standard produced by traditional publishers.

Self-publishing, for these authors, is generally a choice made on the basis of time…

View original post 457 more words