Author Central Has Changed

CHANGES AT AUTHOR CENTRAL

If you haven’t already done so, when you next visit Author Central, it will ask you to sign up (even if you are already signed up). This part should be easy. It found my previous information and quickly transferred it over. I checked my biography and author photos, which were the same (although I noticed a couple of duplicate photos and deleted the duplicates). At first, it seemed like my blog feeds were missing, but when I proceeded to add them, I saw that they were still there.

The way that books, reviews, and sales ranks are displayed has changed, and it is not as clear how to edit a book’s information.

(With thousands of authors currently checking out the new Author Central, it’s possible that you will experience delays or that the site will appear to be temporarily down when you visit. This happened to me briefly once, but was working again just a few minutes later. The other times I visited this morning, it was working fine.)

PLUSES

I like the Sales Rank report (but see the Minuses below) and Customer Reviews report. It’s basically the same information that we have seen before, presented in a new way.

Visually, these appear nice, in my opinion.

I also like that I can scroll down to see more ranks; I don’t need to paginate my way back and forth through all of my books.

The sales ranks are displayed according to popularity.

You can also change the marketplace to see how your books are selling in other countries, or to see recent reviews in other countries.

If you are looking for a specific book, the search tool (accessible by clicking All Books) makes it easy to search for one.

Back under Profile, it is easy to visit Author Central in other countries where it is available. You can also add a biography in a new language.

MINUSES

The Sales Rank report and Customer Reviews report can only be sorted by popularity.

In contrast, when you go to the Books page, you can change the sorting to alphabetical, newest to oldest, etc. It seem an obvious “oversight” that you can’t similarly change the sorting of the Sales Rank and Customer Reviews reports. Very often, I like to see how my most recent books are doing (sales rank or reviews), without having to search for each book specifically, so such sorting options would have been useful.

The Books page has changed. I see all of my titles (without having to paginate, which is nice), but with the old Author Central, we used to be able to see the total number of reviews/ratings and the average star value next to each book. Now we just see the book covers, nothing else (without additional clicks). I liked being able to monitor review totals and averages for several books on the page without having to click on one book at a time to access this information.

When I do click on a book from the Books page, with the first click it only pulls up a minimum of information, and it may not be immediately obvious to all authors that they can click again to see more information and get more options. It is necessary to click on one of the thumbnails if you wish to edit your book description or access other fields like From the Author or Editorial Reviews. Most authors will have two thumbnails (one for paperback, one for Kindle). After you click the thumbnail (really, the second time you click on a thumbnail), you will see slightly more information: the full title, the review tally (finally), and a little product information. You will also see an Edit Book Details button. Currently, this takes you to the classic editor. Beware that if you edit your book description, you need to copy/paste the HTML of the description into the book description field at KDP, otherwise the next time you republish your book (even just to change the price or keywords) it will revert to the old description (as KDP now overwrites the Author Central description).

SURVEY

On Home page or the bottom of other pages, you can find a quick Survey.

There was only one place to enter a comment, and it was a small box. It reminded me of the joke where an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper has a tiny rectangle drawn on it, with text above it stating, “Enter your complaint in the space provided.” I partly understand that if they allow thousands of authors to submit comments, they will be overwhelmed with an encyclopedic amount of feedback. Writers love to write, after all. But if they really want to know what needs to be improved and why, the survey really needs more than the few questions it asked.

If you have specific feedback that you would like to offer, there is a Contact Us button at the bottom of the Author Central page.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Do you like the new Author Central better, or the classic one?

What do you like about it? What do you dislike?

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

How Much Did Kindle Unlimited Pay in January, 2020?

The Kindle Unlimited Per-Page Rate for January, 2020

$0.004411 is the per-page rate for KENP read for Kindle Unlimited in January, 2020. It’s down from December’s rate of $0.004664, which was also down from November. It takes a dip around this time almost every year, probably an effect characteristic of the holidays. Fortunately, even after the dip, it’s still significantly above $0.004 per page.

The KDP Select Global Fund rose to a record high of $28.2 million for January, 2020.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

Read Tuesday (and Every Day)

READ TUESDAY

The Read Tuesday website is now active again.

What is Read Tuesday? The idea is to help readers find books that are on sale.

It is starting small. Currently, there is one page for Romance novels. Additional pages for other genres may be coming soon.

The idea is simple. Authors or publishers may add a short comment to the Romance page on the Read Tuesday website to indicate that their romance novel is on sale. Please read the instructions at the top of the page.

Readers interested in romance novels can browse the comments, looking for an interesting book that will be on sale.

The Read Tuesday website will evolve, depending on interest. We may add additional pages for other genres, or we could even have pages with subgenres in the future if needed.

Presently, we’re looking for books that will be on sale in December of 2019.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

Thanks for Reading

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Thank you for reading our blogs.

Thank you for reading our books.

Thank you for writing reviews.

Thank you for telling your acquaintances about what you’re reading.

Thank you for recommending good books.

Thank you for shopping for books.

Thank you for visiting the library.

Thank you for your Follows and Likes.

May you have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

Kindle Unlimited, October, 2019

The Kindle Unlimited Per-Page Rate for October, 2019

$0.0047 is the Kindle Unlimited (KENP) per-page rate for October, 2019.

It’s nearly identical to the rate for September, 2019. (You need more decimal places to see a difference.)

September and October were about 7% better than July and August.

The KDP Select Global Fund reached a new high of $26 million.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

Amazon Giveaway is Retiring. Now What?

Image from Shutterstock

NO MORE AMAZON GIVEAWAYS

October 10, 2019 will be the last day that you can run an Amazon Giveaway. (To do so, visit the product page for any eligible item at Amazon.com.)

October 17, 2019 will be the last day to enter Amazon Giveaways as a customer. Until then, you can find Amazon Giveaways here:

https://www.amazon.com/ga/giveaways

What will you do after that?

Authors can still create contests for free books through Goodreads Giveaways.

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway

I currently have a Goodreads Giveaway for my new Fun with Roman Numerals math workbook. You can enter my giveaway until October 7, 2019:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48192781-fun-with-roman-numerals-math-workbook

Pros:

  • Goodreads is a popular site for readers.
  • Giveaways generate interest, and almost all entrants add your book to their To-Read lists, which adds activity to your book’s Goodreads page.
  • The price per-book for a Kindle eBook giveaway is pretty reasonable if you choose to give away 100 books. You pay a flat fee for the giveaway price, but don’t need to purchase eBooks on top of that. (However, for a print giveaway, you do need to pay for books, shipping, and packing in addition to the giveaway fee.)
  • A successful giveaway can generate significant interest at Goodreads. I’ve run several dozen giveaways (mostly for print books) for books in my name and in pen names, with very often at least 1000 to 2000 entrants, occasionally more. Really popular coming attractions can generate heavy interest, though of course it’s not as easy to have that popular title.
  • You’re likely to receive some reviews at Goodreads (unless you only give away a few books). (You’re less likely to receive Amazon reviews from Goodreads Giveaways, but it does happen, just not as often.)
  • For a print giveaway, you can include a bookmark and a brief thank-you note, for example.
  • You can run a giveaway for a long period of time (like a month). Although you gain the most exposure on the first and last days, the days in between add up when there are several of them. (A recent newsletter from Goodreads, which includes tips for a successful giveaway, suggests having multiple giveaways leading up to publication.)
  • More people get the chance to enjoy your book. 🙂

Cons:

  • Goodreads Giveaways have a significant up-front cost. This is the main con, but it’s a big one.
  • For a print giveaway, you have to purchase author copies, pack, and ship them, in addition to the giveaway fee.
  • Not as many winners review books on Amazon as they do at Goodreads, if Amazon reviews are what you’re hoping for.
  • Currently, you can only run a giveaway for entrants in the United States and/or Canada, which limits worldwide exposure.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

The Amazon Giveaway Experience

 

AMAZON GIVEAWAYS

I’ve spent the past week entering a variety of Amazon Giveaways.

Note: As of October, 2019, the Amazon Giveaway program has been canceled. However, Goodreads Giveaways are still available.

Over the years, I have given away several books through Amazon Giveaways.

So now I have experience with both sides of this program.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

When I was browsing and entering the giveaways, here is some of what I experienced:

  • My first thought was that there are a ton of giveaways. Right now, there are 4000 results showing on 200 pages.
  • But one day, I actually browsed through the entire list in less than an hour. So even the giveaways that are hidden way back aren’t as inaccessible as they may at first seem.
  • There are a variety of products, and several popular products seem to land on the first pages. The value of some of the prizes is higher than I had expected.
  • If you look at the fine print though, you’ll see that the most popular products with the higher price points have much higher odds.
  • Products like books with lower price points tend to have more favorable odds. Some of the Kindle ebook giveaways have odds as good as 1 out of 100.
  • If you enter the giveaways, you quickly learn that some require you to watch a short video or follow an author. If you prefer not to do either of these, you start to look for the label, “No entry requirement.”
  • (Well, nothing prevents you from unfollowing afterward, except that you need to figure out how.)
  • Even if you don’t intend to rack up a large number of Follows, some of the books look so compelling… I followed a few authors I don’t know just because the covers really grabbed me.
  • You only see the picture and title. For a book, that’s the cover and title plus subtitle.
  • Sometimes, I was intrigued by a cover, but the cover and title didn’t really tell me what the genre was, and I didn’t want to take a chance and win a book that might not be in a genre that I read. (And it’s extra work to visit the product page to find out.)
  • In a few cases, the author/publisher had included a subtitle that clarified the genre. This was handy. In the best cases, the cover made this abundantly clear, so it wasn’t necessary.
  • For some products, if you lose the giveaway, Amazon offers you a discount if you proceed to make a purchase. So even if you don’t win giveaways, you can take advantage of discounts.
  • Only one time did I try to enter a giveaway, but receive a message that all of the prizes had already been claimed. With my luck, one second before I clicked the box, somebody else probably won.
  • However, if you come back the next day, you can easily run into a message saying that you didn’t win. That means you already tried to win that product previously. You need to remember which giveaways you entered previously in order to avoid this.
  • There is a simple solution: Look at the top right of the giveaways page for a link called, “Subscribe to never miss another giveaway.”
  • I wish I could tell you what it was like to win, but I wasn’t that lucky. (Maybe someone who has won before will be kind enough to describe this in the comments.)

If you really want to know what it’s like, go check it out. Here’s the link:

https://www.amazon.com/ga/giveaways/?pageId=1

THE AUTHOR’S/SELLER’S POINT OF VIEW

Here are some features that I like about Amazon Giveaways:

  • Your giveaways page shows you how many hits, entrants, and product page visits you’ve had. It’s interesting to compare the product page visits to the hits. It’s nice to get some data for how customers react to your book.
  • Setting up the giveaway is easy. Just visit the Amazon product page. (This works for products sold in the US store, anyway.)
  • Amazon fulfills the giveaway. You don’t have to do anything, except setup the giveaway (and pay for the products and shipping).
  • One time, a customer left a review saying that they discovered the book from the Amazon Giveaways page. That customer actually lost the giveaway and proceeded to purchase the book (I only know this because the customer left a review saying so). That was cool. (But I have no idea if anyone who has ever won an Amazon Giveaway has left a review. I would only know if the person happened to mention this in the review, but that part has never happened. However, a few Goodreads Giveaway winners have mentioned in reviews where they won the books.)
  • For paperback books, Amazon Giveaways are more cost-effective and also more convenient than Goodreads Giveaways. (However, if you give away 100 Kindle ebooks at Goodreads, since you don’t have to pay for the ebooks after paying the giveaway cost, it can be more cost-effective to run Kindle giveaways at Goodreads.)
  • You can require entrants to follow you at Amazon, if you wish. (Usually, I choose “no entry requirement” to maximize participation.)
  • Occasionally, there isn’t a winner. Personally, I prefer to have a winner; I want someone to enjoy the prize. But when there isn’t a winner, you got some free exposure. You can’t complain about that. (But for a Kindle ebook, you don’t get a refund. In that case, you need to run the giveaway again, at no added cost. Which gives you added exposure.)
  • A few authors have found creative ways to use giveaways. I don’t know if it’s worth doing, but I noticed that a few authors list a giveaway for a popular product, and require entrants to follow them. Suppose that your books is similar to Harry Potter in some ways. You could potentially run a Harry Potter giveaway and have entrants follow you. Those entrants potentially have an interest in books like yours. But some authors run a giveaway for an Amazon gift card or even a Kindle. Again, I’m not saying it’s worth doing (and haven’t tried it myself), I’m just noting that it’s been done.
  • You really need an effective cover. With thousands of results showing in a couple of hundred pages, by the time entrants reach your giveaway, your book cover really needs to call attention to people who may have an interest in it. I noticed some amazing covers while I was browsing. Book covers that aren’t so amazing, well, let’s just say that they often appear right beside book covers that look amazing.

Of course, you can always ask for things to be better:

  • Amazon Sellers who sell a variety of products (like housewares) can create promotional codes and offer discounts to entrants. They can also track their sales. But authors/publishers can’t.
  • It would be great if KDP authors/publishers could offer discounts to entrants who lose the giveaways and if they could track sales that result from the giveaway. I submitted this suggestion to KDP. If you have any suggestions (or if you also want to suggest the discount option), feel free to use the Contact Us button at KDP.
  • There are only a couple of options for the odds of the giveaway. It varies from book to book, depending perhaps in part on the value of the prize. The odds used to be much more flexible. I can see Amazon not wanting you to set outrageous odds that would prevent a winner, but why can’t we make the odds more favorable? For a few books, it’s not easy to get a winner. And if you want to have more than just a handful of winners, well you usually can’t make the odds favorable enough to give away 10 or more products in a single contest.
  • Entrants must be residents of the US or the District of Columbia. I believe authors can setup giveaways even if they reside in other countries, provided that they setup the giveaway from the US site, but entrants must be residents of the US. Maybe this is restricted from a legal standpoint; in some countries, the rules governing giveaways may add unnecessary complications. I’m sure someone in another country is thinking, “That’s not the case where I live.” Remember, if you want to make a suggestion to KDP, you’re welcome to use the Contact Us button.
  • Unfortunately, if you’re an Amazon Prime customer, you still have to pay for shipping/handling for physical prizes (but there are no shipping charges for Kindle ebooks) on top of paying for the prizes (and any tax). The shipping/handling is sometimes more than you might expect. (There was a brief period where it hadn’t been charging for shipping if you had Prime. Either that was a glitch that lasted a couple of weeks, or Amazon was testing that out and it didn’t work out well enough to maintain it.)
  • When I click the link to enter the giveaway, I just see the book cover and title. I don’t see the category or a description. Yet I’m often deciding, do I want to follow the author in order to enter this giveaway (because I’m not inclined to follow hundreds of authors just to enter giveaways, which of course makes the Follow more valuable)? It would be nice to see part of the description or the category. Of course, the curious entrant can still find these things by visiting your product page.

MY GIVEAWAY

Here is a link to a giveaway for my Grade 6 math workbook, ending on August 11, 2019:

https://www.amazon.com/ga/p/32efe68a5b58e615

If you enter, good luck.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

Amazon Coupons (even on one of my books)

 

SAVE $1.00 WITH COUPON AT AMAZON (LIMITED TIME)

Have you seen those green (or orange) coupons at Amazon, where you can save a little money by clipping the coupon?

In search results, I sometimes see it in green highlighting, like Save $1.00.

On the product page, below where it says In Stock, I sometimes see Coupon with orange highlighting and a box to check next to green writing.

Be sure to click the box to apply the coupon.

I’ve seen these on a number of household items that I buy regularly, including Amazon Pantry and Amazon Fresh.

It’s nice to save a little money, and the coupon sometimes affects my decision on which product to buy (usually, when it wasn’t an easy decision to begin with).

Yesterday, for the first time, I happened to see one of these coupon offers for one of my books (the paperback edition).

I haven’t seen it for any of my other books yet, and this might not last long for the book it does show on. But it was a nice surprise.

Maybe Amazon is testing this out on a small number of books to see how it goes.

Discounts at Amazon have changed considerably throughout the years.

  • When I published my first book back in 2008 (wow, that was over ten years ago), there used to be 4-for-3 offers on many books (including mine, back then). I often bought 4 books at a time in those days. But then the 4-for-3 program disappeared. That was a pretty big discount, so it’s no surprise if it wasn’t sustainable.
  • Shortly thereafter, many books went on sale sporadically. There were times when many of my books were on sale, and times (like the holidays) where almost none of my books were on sale.
  • The new thing seems to be coupons to clip. (I like this idea better than, say, the Countdown Deal idea.)

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

Word Search Puzzle for Book Lovers (Plus, How to Make One)

 

WORD SEARCH FOR READERS/AUTHORS

I made a word search puzzle for anyone who appreciates books.

Later, I will also show you how I made the puzzle.

First, here is the puzzle.

Here is the word list:

  • AMAZON
  • ANTAGONIST
  • AUTHOR
  • BESTSELLER
  • BLOG
  • BLURB
  • BOOKMARK
  • BOOKSTORE
  • CHAPTER
  • CHARACTER
  • CLASSIC
  • CLIMAX
  • CONTENTS
  • COVER
  • DESIGNER
  • EDITION
  • EDITOR
  • FANTASY
  • FICTION
  • FONT
  • GLOSSARY
  • GRAMMAR
  • HERO
  • INDEX
  • ISBN
  • JUSTIFIED
  • KINDLE
  • LEAF
  • MARGINS
  • MYSTERY
  • NICHE
  • OUTLINE
  • PAGE
  • PLOT
  • POEM
  • POET
  • PROTAGONIST
  • PUBLISH
  • QUOTE
  • READ
  • REVIEW
  • ROMANCE
  • SERIES
  • SETTING
  • SPINE
  • SUSPENSE
  • SYNOPSIS
  • TITLE
  • TRILOGY
  • TYPE
  • TYPO
  • UNIT
  • VOLUME
  • WORDS
  • WRITER

HOW TO MAKE A WORD SEARCH PUZZLE

I will show you how to make a word search puzzle in Microsoft Word or Excel.

I will focus specifically on Word for Windows, though Excel is very similar.

There are a few differences.

  • Word lets you enter the width of the columns and the height of the rows in inches so that you know they are exactly the same. The numerical measures for these values in Excel can be confusing, and unless you research what they mean you need to eyeball it. But you can still get them close enough that it doesn’t matter.
  • Word has a few formatting issues (like line spacing and cell margins) that can be problematic for the table, but I’ll show you how to deal with them.
  • If you’re trying to make a book, Excel can cause trouble trying to get predictable and consistent page margins, page headers, etc. on the final printed product. But a Word file with dozens of tables becomes a complex file prone to being slow to work with and becoming corrupt. For a book, if you can convert the tables individually into high-quality JPEGS (300 DPI) and insert these into Word (after researching the tricks to avoid having the pictures compressed), the file will be much more manageable. You can also separate the book into several smaller files and combine them together into a single PDF if you have access to Adobe Acrobat DC (not to be confused with the free Adobe Reader). Beware that many Word to PDF converters don’t have this capability, so find out what you have access to before working with a bunch of small files.

The first thing I did was come up with a list of related words. I made a list of words that relate to books, like “Kindle” and “poem.”

Next, I inserted a table in Microsoft Word using Insert > Table > Insert Table. My table has 18 rows and 18 columns, but you should pick the size that suits your table. If you need a smaller or larger table, you can easily insert or delete rows/columns as needed.

The default table has unequal column width and row height, so I adjusted this. I highlighted the entire table (but not beyond the table) and clicked the Layout tab on the top of the screen. I changed the Height and Width of all of my rows and columns to 0.25″. Depending on your font size, font style, and what suits your eye, you may need different values.

With the entire table highlighted, I also changed the font style to Courier New and the font size to 12 points on the Home ribbon. You can use a different font style or size. What I like about Courier New for a word search is that all of the letters are the same width. However, the font is a little light, so it’s not perfect. I suggest playing around with the font options, and print out a sample on paper before you commit.

There are two things you need to do in order to have good spacing and centering:

  • With the whole table highlighted (but not beyond the table), on the Layout tab select the center/middle alignment on the tic-tac-toe grid of icons in the Alignment group. This centers every cell horizontally and vertically, but it won’t be perfect unless you also complete the next step.
  • With the entire table highlighted, click the little arrow-like icon on the bottom right corner of the Paragraph group on the Home ribbon. This opens up the paragraph properties box. Set the line spacing to Single, and the Spacing Before and After to zero. Special should be set to None and the Indentation settings should be zero.

I put the CAPS lock on my keyboard since I prefer a word search with uppercase letters.

I started typing in words horizontally, vertically, and diagonally, forward and backward. I challenged myself to see how many words relating to books I could squeeze into the puzzle, and I managed to use words beginning with every letter of the alphabet from A thru W. It’s not necessarily the way to go; I just had fun doing it.

At this stage, my puzzle looked like this:

Next I added letters to the blank cells. I studied my word list, trying to create letter sequences that might make the word search slightly more challenging, and add a few letters that hadn’t been used much (like X). If you’re looking for BOOK and you see BOOI, for example, your eye and mind can get fixated on the wrong sequence and not find the right one as quickly. The more experience you have solving word searches, the more you learn about the kinds of things that affect you while solving the puzzle. But remember that other people may think differently.

Now I highlighted the entire table, went to the Design tab, clicked the little arrow beneath Borders, and selected No Border.

Then I changed the pen thickness to 1 pt (the default was 1/2 pt). If you plan to publish a book, Amazon KDP (for example) recommends a minimum of 1 pt for the thickness of line drawings.

Next, highlight the entire table, go back to Borders, and select Outside Borders. Your puzzle should look like this:

I zoomed in as far as I could and still see the whole table and used the Snapshot tool to take a picture of the table. (Pro tip: Make sure your cursor is below or above the table so that the cursor doesn’t show up in the picture of your table.) If making a book, you could change this to 300 DPI using image software like Photoshop. Beware that increasing the DPI isn’t magic: If it has to invent pixels, the picture may look blurry or pixilated. My computer takes 192 DPI snapshots, whereas some are much lower (72 or 96 DPI). I also have a very large monitor, so when I zoom in, I have a very large picture on my screen. Depending on your computer, you might get more or fewer pixels.

If your picture is larger in inches than you need, when you increase the DPI, if you also decrease the dimensions in inches, you might already have enough pixels that you don’t get a blurry or pixilated image. If you plan to make a book, you need to test this out, especially print out a page on a deskjet printer as a sample.

Since I just did this for my blog, not a book, I didn’t bother so much with this one.

Next I inserted the picture of the table into a Word file and added my word list to it, like the picture below. There is no particular reason that I put words on both sides of the table. I would recommend reading a few word search puzzle books and getting ideas for what formatting appeals to you.

Now there is the issue of making an answer key.

There are a few ways to go about this. You could just highlight the letters in the table and change the colors of those cells (for example, to a shading of 25% gray using the Design ribbon).

If you try to use Word’s drawing tools to create rounded rectangles, beware that some letters may actually move around and row heights or column widths may change slightly.

Well, there is a way around that. Insert the picture of the table into a new file in JPEG format (wrapped In Line With Text, on its own “paragraph”). Then you can make rounded rectangles and lay them over the picture without having to worry about the format of the table changing.

I created rounded rectangles (using Insert > Shapes) with a width of 0.18″. If you use a different font style or size, you may need a different width. For the diagonals, I clicked the little arrow-like icon beside Size on the Format ribbon (when the rounded rectangle was selected) and changed the rotation angle to 45 or 315 degrees.

I used a lot of copy/paste to make other rounded rectangles, trying to be consistent with alignment and positioning.

Here is the solution to my word search puzzle:

It would be very easy to make mistakes trying to make a word search puzzle book.

Beta readers would be great for creating a puzzle book, to help you catch important little details. They could also help you create buzz for your book.

There may or may not be demand for such a puzzle book, but if you really love puzzles, you would surely enjoy making the puzzles and sharing them with others.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

How Do You Search for Books?

 

INTRODUCTION

It isn’t easy to find the “perfect” book to read, and once you read that book, you need to find another.

This question is important from two different perspectives:

  • Customers want to learn about the best ways to find the books they are likely to enjoy the most.
  • Authors and publishers want to know the different ways that customers might search for their books to aid in their marketing strategies.

I will start out by listing common methods that customers use to search for books.

Then I will share a couple of creative strategies for finding a good book to read.

I hope some of my readers will add helpful comments. Don’t be shy.

HOW CUSTOMERS SEARCH FOR BOOKS

Following are a variety of book-buying habits.

  1. Browse bestseller lists. This is highly popular. The idea is that there should be some good books on these lists. Fortunately, for authors who aren’t yet this popular, this is just one of many methods that customers use. If you write an amazing book and succeed in marketing, then you might benefit from this method. Until then, focus on the other methods.
  2. Browse subcategories. This is also common. I’ve scrolled several pages through subcategories, so you don’t always need to land at the top to get noticed. But if your book is way back even in a very narrow category, there is still hope. How? Because some customers will combine methods, like first choosing a subcategory and then searching for specific keywords.
  3. Enter keywords. This is handy when you’re looking for a certain type of book that isn’t easy to find just by browsing a subcategory. If you want to find a calculus workbook with answers, you could type that phrase into the search instead of browsing through all calculus books (which will start out mainly with textbooks). If you want to find a mystery set in a certain era or location, you could use a search instead of browsing all mystery books. Authors and publishers need to choose their keywords wisely; spend much time brainstorming before finalizing these.
  4. Look for new releases. This doesn’t just help bestselling new releases. Many new releases get noticed when customers search for books some other way (like using keywords) and then click Last 30 Days or Last 90 Days on Amazon to help filter the results. It’s surprisingly common how many books sell fairly well for three months and then see a significant decline in sales, often because the Last 90 Days filter suddenly stops helping. You want to find effective marketing strategies before the three months are up to help the book succeed long-term.
  5. Book reviews. Not just those on Amazon product pages. If you find someone who regularly reviews books in your favorite genre who proves to be fairly reliable in their criticism, you suddenly hit the jackpot. It’s not uncommon for publishers to seek out bloggers with large followings who regularly review books, offering advance review copies. I know that some of my followers either review books on their blogs or have had their books reviewed on various blogs. If you’re reading this, you’re invited to leave a comment.
  6. Word of mouth. If you read a great book, do your friends, relatives, neighbors, acquaintances, and coworkers a favor: Tell them about the book. Great stories are meant to be shared. I love it when book titles come up in conversations.
  7. Book marketing. This isn’t so much about the customer looking for the book, as the authors striving to help customers discover their books. Customers discover books through marketing, so it can work. Often, it’s in the form of branding. A customer might see a book cover a few times over the course of months, then one day the customer is browsing for a book to read, remembers seeing that cover, and finally checks it out.
  8. Stores. While Amazon is amazingly popular and convenient, there are still bookstores and customers do browse through the shelves. If you have a paperback book, put together a press release kit and see if local bookstores (and other stores that sometimes carry books) may be interested in purchasing author copies directly from you at a discounted price. A customer who discovers your book in a store might wind up buying more of your books online in the future.
  9. Advertisements. Amazon does this very well. Over the past few years, many ads have been sprinkled onto product pages and search results, but these are fairly inobtrusive. For example, in search results the ads practically blend in with the other books on the list. Many customers do click on ads that interest them. The trick for authors and publishers is not to overspend for their ads, and to use ads just as one of several forms of effective marketing. It also takes a great cover, product page, and Look Inside to get the most out of the ad space.
  10. Indie books. I’ve self-published several books, as have over a million other authors. Like most authors, I’m also an avid reader. When I read, I often search for books by other indie authors. I like to support the idea of self-publishing and the companies (like Amazon and Smashwords) that have been instrumental in making this possible. Many other indie authors (and their friends and family) also search for indie books.
  11. Subscriptions and promotions. For example, many readers subscribe to BookBub, which provides a few recommendations for discounted books every day.
  12. Series, sets, anthologies, similar books. It can take a long time to find a really good book to read. If you can find a set of books to read, or a really long book to read, you are rewarded as a reader for your effort to find that book; you get more material to enjoy reading.
  13. What other methods can you think of?

A COUPLE OF CREATIVE WAYS TO FIND A GOOD BOOK

I have a couple of creative suggestions. These may not be popular yet, but perhaps one will be worth considering. Especially if you’ve spent hours using common methods, but weren’t satisfied with the results.

  1. Suppose that you find a thorough customer review on Amazon, the review really resonates with you, and after reading the book you feel that the comments were spot-on. Well, duh! You need to go back to that review, click on that customer’s name, and see what other reviews that customer has written.
  2. Interact with a variety of authors, see their personalities and their character, and see how well they write informal posts on social media. It’s surprisingly easy to interact with authors in this digital age. Sometimes, once you’ve “met” an author before reading a book, you read the book differently than you otherwise would have. A positive outlook can actually help you enjoy a book more. I’ve read some books this way, and it has often worked well for me.
  3. If you can think of any creative strategies to search for books, I’d like to hear them.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides