Book Giveaways in 2018

Image from ShutterStock.

BOOK GIVEAWAYS

Two of the most popular methods that authors and publishers use to hold contests for book giveaways have changed.

  • Amazon Giveaways have undergone a series of changes.
  • Goodreads Giveaways changed significantly as of January, 2018.

So 2018 is a good time for a new post regarding how to host a book giveaway.

WHY HOST A GIVEAWAY?

A giveaway is one tool that authors and publishers utilize to help with book marketing.

Following are the main goals for a book giveaway.

  • Help create buzz and initial exposure for a new book release.
  • Give the author a chance to call attention (in other forms of marketing) to a contest, rather than always calling attention directly to the book.
  • Hope that some of the winners will write book reviews.
  • Hope that the winners love the book so much that they help with word-of-mouth sales.

When a book is loved so much by an audience that it thrives on word-of-mouth sales, it can really take off. This is the best-case scenario, but often isn’t attained.

Only a percentage of winners will post reviews. A good percentage of Goodreads winners will rate or review the book at Goodreads, but it’s not as common for Amazon or Goodreads winners to review the book at Amazon.

There are a few other possible benefits of running a giveaway.

  • Generate activity. At Goodreads, entrants automatically have your book added to their To-Read lists. (They can undo this, but most don’t.) It helps make your Goodreads book page look more active.
  • Increase your following. At Amazon, you can require entrants to follow you. Note: You don’t have to give away a book. You can run an Amazon Giveaway for a $5 gift card or most other products. For a popular product, you may draw many followers (but keep in mind that most probably won’t be part of your target audience).
  • Help with branding. People see your book cover and read your name. A large part of book marketing involves effective branding. This helps a little.

HOW MUCH DOES A GIVEAWAY COST?

That depends. Of course, it’s free for the entrant. The author or publisher who sets it up does pay a cost.

  • For an Amazon Giveaway for a Kindle eBook, you pay for the current price of the Kindle eBook plus any applicable tax. (They may not show you the tax when you setup your giveaway, but you may notice that it has been added when you view your orders and then select Digital Orders.) If your book is in KDP Select, you can save money by setting up your Amazon Giveaway while a Countdown Deal is in progress. (This also adds a little exposure to your Countdown Deal.) Note: You can’t receive a refund for unclaimed prizes (but you can run a new giveaway for them, gaining additional exposure, or you can turn them into gift cards to send out).
  • For an Amazon Giveaway for a print book, you pay for the current price of the print book plus estimated shipping charges plus any applicable tax. If your book happens to be on sale when you setup your contest, you will save a little money. Sometime after your contest ends, you will receive a small refund if the actual shipping charges are less than the estimated charges. You will also receive a refund for any unclaimed copies.
  • For a Goodreads Giveaway for a Kindle eBook, you pay a setup fee of $119 for a standard giveaway (or $599 for a premium giveaway). However, you don’t have to pay for the cost of the Kindle eBook on top of the setup fee. When the Kindle eBooks are delivered, you will see free copies of your Kindle eBook show up in your KDP sales reports.
  • For a Goodreads Giveaway for a print book, you pay a setup fee of $119 for a standard giveaway (or $599 for a premium giveaway), and after the contest you must also pay to send the books to the winners (which means you must order author copies in advance, package materials, and be prepared to send the books via media mail, for example, at the post office).

In general, Amazon Giveaways cost less to run.

  • There is no setup fee. You just pay for the cost of the book (plus tax, and plus shipping for a print book).
  • If you choose to give away a small number of books (or just one copy), the cost will be fairly reasonable.

For example, if you have a Kindle eBook on sale for 99 cents, you can run an Amazon Giveaway for one book that costs approximately $1, or you can run a contest for 10 books for about $10.

As another example, if you have a paperback book with a list price of $9.99, you can run an Amazon Giveaway for one book that costs around $20.

However, Goodreads is now quite cost effective for giving away a large number of books. Suppose, for example, that you wish to give away 100 Kindle eBooks.

  • If your book’s current price is $2.99, it would cost $299 plus tax to do this at Amazon (and you may need to setup multiple giveaways for such a large number of prizes).
  • At Goodreads, you could give away 100 copies for a total of $119, which in this example would save you $180 (or more, as Goodreads might not charge you tax on the order).

If you want to give away several copies of your book, hoping for maximum exposure, confident that your story will merit word-of-mouth exposure, Goodreads lets you run a contest for 100 Kindle eBooks at an effective cost of $1.19 per book, which is pretty good.

However, if you want to host a contest for a small number of books, the cost per book is much lower with an Amazon Giveaway.

WHAT HAS CHANGED?

With Goodreads Giveaways:

  • There is now a setup fee. It used to be free.
  • You can now run a contest for Kindle eBooks. It used to be for print books only.
  • The book is automatically added to Want-to-Read lists. This helps make the book’s Goodreads page appear more active.
  • Entrants must currently reside in the United States. Previously, authors or publishers could choose to open participation to a few other countries.

With Amazon Giveaways:

  • There is a little automated exposure now. Before, you had to share the link to your giveaway, or at least tweet about it using the #AmazonGiveaway hashtag. Now there is an option to click Public, which gives you some added exposure. This might include the Amazon giveaway listing page, a daily email, or other placements on Amazon.com.
  • Your manage your giveaways page now shows you the number of hits (people who visit the giveaway page), number of entrants (people who enter the giveaway), and the number of product page visits. For example, for one of my more popular contests, I had 4033 hits, 2424 entrants, and 79 product page visits, but for one of my recent contests, I had 290 hits, 124 entrants, and 13 product page visits.
  • You can’t enter a custom message anymore.
  • You can’t require entrants to follow you on Twitter (but you can still require them to follow you on Amazon).
  • You can require entrants to watch a short video.

HOW MUCH EXPOSURE WILL I GET?

It can vary considerably. There are no guarantees.

A popular giveaway can receive 2000+ views over the course of a week or a month. An unpopular giveaway might not receive 100 views.

I’ve run over a hundred giveaways and the results are quite varied. (Keep in mind that some of my books are under pen names.)

When a book happens to be popular among the giveaway audience, it often pulls 2000 to 3000 views without any marketing on my part.

If a book isn’t attracting the giveaway audience, if the contest isn’t marketed by the author, it can really struggle to pull 200 views.

Many books fall somewhere in between.

Results can vary considerably depending on the genre or subject, whether it’s print or Kindle, cover appeal, and whether the book’s audience matches the giveaway audience.

At Amazon, if you require entrants to follow you or watch a video, you will get somewhat less participation.

Note that the Goodreads giveaway audience is changing with the recent changes to Goodreads giveaways. It used to be exclusively for print books, but now many of the giveaways appeal to Kindle customers.

DO GIVEAWAYS HELP WITH AMAZON SALES RANK?

The first thing to realize is that the answer to this question may have changed over the years.

Amazon appears to contradict itself on this very point (perhaps also due to a change having occurred over time).

Consider this quote from the KDP help pages:

“Activities that may not be an accurate reflection of customer demand, including promotional Amazon Giveaway sales and purchases that are later returned, are not counted towards sales rank.”

This states clearly that Amazon Giveaways do not count towards sales rank.

However, consider this quote from the Amazon Giveaway FAQ’s:

“Using giveaways to manipulate sales rank (i.e. by creating multiple giveaways for the same ASIN, rather than creating one bulk giveaway).”

If, as the KDP quote suggests, giveaways don’t impact sales rank, how could creating multiple giveaways for the same ASIN manipulate sales rank?

Perhaps the giveaway FAQ’s page is simply a little outdated. Maybe the giveaways used to impact sales rank, but now they don’t.

Nonetheless, I often see a boost to sales rank after hosting a giveaway. But the effect may be indirect.

The giveaway generates activity on your Amazon product page, it gets customers interested in your book, and it may result in a couple of sales of its own. Thus, if you see your sales rank improve during the giveaway, it’s possible that this occurred indirectly due to that added interest and not directly from the giveaway itself.

For Kindle eBooks enrolled in KDP Select, sales rank is even more complicated. That’s because every Kindle Unlimited borrow helps with sales rank, but your reports don’t show you when your book is borrowed (they instead show how many pages are read, which may occur weeks or months after the actual borrow).

Goodreads giveaways are different. If you run a Goodreads giveaway for a Kindle eBook, when the contest ends, the books show up as free books in your reports, not as paid sales. Amazon has separate ranks for free book promos and paid sales, so Goodreads giveaways definitely do not impact paid sales rank directly (though again their can be indirect benefits). (If you run a free book promo with KDP Select, your free rank looks great during the promo, but that isn’t a paid sales rank. Once the promo ends, it will be replaced by a paid sales rank.)

SHOULD I DO A PAPERBACK OR EBOOK GIVEAWAY?

If either edition is likely to offer a better reading experience, or if either edition is more likely to be appreciated by the customer, that’s the edition I recommend.

For example, if the Kindle edition has color illustrations while the print edition is black and white, I would prefer the Kindle edition.

As a counterexample, if parents are more likely to read an illustrated kids’ book to their children in print format, I would prefer a paperback or hardcover.

If you’re giving away a large number of copies, it’s much more economical to create an eBook giveaway.

If you want to include a brief thank-you note or bookmark, go with a print edition.

WHAT ABOUT OTHER COUNTRIES?

To enter a Goodreads or Amazon Giveaway, the entrant must be in the United States.

HOW CAN I WIN A FREE BOOK?

Enter for a chance to win my latest book, 50 Challenging Algebra Problems (Fully Solved).

https://www.amazon.com/ga/p/1b25ef65c4b48278#ln-en

Explore the Amazon Giveaways page.

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

Explore the Goodreads giveaways page.

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway

TIP

Spend a little time as a customer exploring giveaways before creating a giveaway as an author.

For example, at Goodreads, this will help you get ideas for writing an effective contest description, and it will show you which types of giveaways tend to be more popular.

If you’re thinking about paying extra for a premium giveaway, spend some time researching active giveaways to see whether or not the premium placement seems to be bringing in the kinds of results that you would expect. If you find premium giveaways on the main landing page that have been out for over a week, but don’t have several thousand views, it’s not likely to expect huge results for your own contest.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Copyright © 2018

Chris McMullen

Author of:

  • Kindle Formatting Magic (new release)
  • A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon (also part of a Boxed Set)
  • The Improve Your Math Fluency series of workbooks (algebra, fractions, arithmetic, trig, long division, and more)

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

 

Kindle Formatting Magic

WORD TO KINDLE FORMATTING MAGIC

I will share some Kindle formatting tips and also introduce my newest book, Word to Kindle Formatting Magic, which is available in both paperback and Kindle editions.

  • Kindle ASIN: B07BL5K6DH
  • 522-page Paperback ISBN: 978194169122

KINDLE DESIGN

The beginning of Kindle design comes from understanding the semi-reflowable nature of eBooks. A typical eBook isn’t quite reflowable in the same way that a scrollable webpage displays (although the Look Inside feature displays that way), but it also doesn’t have a predictable fixed layout like a print book.

Since different customers will read the eBook on a variety of screen sizes and aspect ratios, from cell phones to HD tablets, and since the customer can adjust the type face, font size, background color, and internal margins, you can’t predict which information or how much information will show on any given screen.

The main idea is that a typical eBook doesn’t consist of well-defined pages like a print book does.

This impacts the design of Kindle eBooks in various ways. For example,

  • You need to choose the size and aspect ratio of your pictures wisely so that they look fine on any size screen. You also need to make sure that they look fine on white, black, cream, or green reading backgrounds.
  • A blank line could seem to vanish, since there is always a chance that it will show up at the very top or bottom of the screen.
  • Tall figures may be forced onto the next screen and may leave a lot of white space on the previous screen.
  • Subheadings may happen to fall at the bottom of a screen, unless you apply a page break to them, but a page break may waste a lot of white space on the prior screen.
  • Page numbers don’t make any sense in your eBook. Anywhere your text says something like, “as shown on pages 23-28,” you need to rewrite it.

Another important element of Kindle design is to understand the limitations of what Kindle can and can’t do, especially on older devices, including the limitations of the online and downloadable previewers (for example, in displaying tables, pictures, and special symbols). Following are some examples.

  • Use of the tab key to attempt to control paragraph indentations can be a disaster. The best way to control paragraph indentations is by applying clean paragraph styles (or style definitions) without direct paragraph formatting.
  • Some devices may automatically indent paragraphs that you wish to be non-indented. You have to trick the device into not indenting justified or left-aligned paragraphs.
  • Left alignment may automatically appear justified full unless you go a step beyond Microsoft Word.
  • Kindle’s justification isn’t perfect, although it has improved tremendously with Amazon’s new Enhanced Typesetting. If you try to prevent a runt (or orphan)—a short word at the end of a paragraph appearing on the last line all by its lonesome—with a non-breaking space, if the string of text has more than about 6 characters, you could wind up with an undesirable automatic hyphen or a large gap at the end of the previous line.
  • Bullet points come with a variety of limitations. The bullet symbol itself appears subdued. Negative indents, hanging indents, and multi-level indents pose problems, especially for older devices. Word’s automatic list tools automatically result in a large indent, and if you try to change Word’s indent size, the list looks worse in other ways. Even the simple ordered and unordered list tools with basic HTML have problems. To top this off, lists exaggerate the justification issues.
  • If you know how to avoid widows and orphans in your print book, you need to exercise self-discipline to avoid trying to control them in your Kindle eBook, and accept the fact that occasionally there may be just a few words on the last page of a chapter all by themselves.

Related to this is a degree of quirkiness, meaning that some features (like tables or special symbols) display differently on first or second generation Kindle Fires and older Kindle eReaders than they do on the most recent generation of Kindle devices.

For example, suppose that you wish to incorporate a page break into the paragraph style for the first row of a basic table, in order to prevent the table from starting near the very bottom of a screen (which would otherwise sometimes happen depending on the screen size and customer settings). On first and second generation Kindle Fires, this may result in ghosting, where you see the outline of the table on the screen prior to the table, and on at least one of the early Kindle Fire devices the table itself may appear to get stuck, taking a dozen swipes to advance past the table. It will appear to work fine in the previewer, though (but the previewers don’t display tables accurately for how they will work on all possible devices).

As another example, the most recent Kindle devices and the previewers will show more special symbols than older devices actually support.

A FEW FORMATTING TIPS

Following are a few tips that help to format a Kindle eBook.

  • Use paragraph styles in Word (or call style definitions in HTML) for all paragraph formatting. Do this religiously.
  • Don’t apply direct formatting to an entire paragraph (or more). If you want formatting to apply to an entire paragraph, create a new style for that.
  • A common mistake where direct formatting is applied is to highlight multiple paragraphs and change the settings, or to change the settings on the Paragraph or Font menu in Word and proceed to type one or more paragraphs.
  • Don’t use the tab key in your eBook. Too late? Use the Replace tool to remove every instance of ^t.
  • Avoid blank lines. Use Spacing After with an appropriate paragraph style in places where you need to add vertical space.
  • Keep it simple. If you try to do something complex, it may backfire on one or more devices or apps. You’d hate for part of your book to be totally unreadable on an older device, or for an indent to be huge on a small screen, for example.
  • Be careful not to introduce a worse problem by trying to fix a subtle design issue. Again, keeping it simple is a good Kindle philosophy.
  • When the content of your book is 100% complete (proofreading too), save your Word file as a filtered webpage. If your book includes any pictures, right-click on the resulting HTML file and send it to a compressed zipped folder. Find the image files folder that this process makes and drag it into the compressed zipped folder.
  • You can make some subtle improvements to your HTML file. For example, you can set text-indent to 0 instead of 0.01″ for non-indented paragraphs (but don’t remove the text-indent line or the paragraph may automatically indent). For indented paragraphs, you can change the text-indent to 2em or 3em so that it matches the font size. (Keep your indents small. Word’s default value of 0.5″ is larger than most traditionally published books and would look very large on small screens.)
  • If you know what to look for, the HTML file can help you see formatting that is hidden in Word. (Are you thinking about the Show/Hide button? I’m talking about formatting that’s so hidden that even Word’s Show/Hide button doesn’t reveal it.)

THE STORY BEHIND MY NEW BOOK

My other self-publishing books primarily focus on how to self-publish a paperback book. Although they do mention eBook formatting, the eBook is only a small component of those books.

I wanted to create a guide specifically for Kindle formatting.

When I was thinking about the title, it occurred to me that the behavior of Kindle eBooks as perceived by a new author sometimes seems mysterious (“Why did that happen?”), so I came up with the title, Kindle Formatting Magic. I added two words to make it Word to Kindle Formatting Magic because most authors have access to and familiarity with Microsoft Word, and since Kindle formatting can be very Word friendly (once you learn how to control hidden formatting in Word).

I originally had a 100 to 200-page book in mind. A couple of years back, I hired illustrator Melissa Stevens (www.theillustratedauthor.net) to design the cover. Her design seemed really magical, and it motivated me to try to make the inside of the book as magical as the cover.

I completely reorganized and rewrote the material. I did this a couple of times. At one point, it was going to be two separate volumes. In the end, the paperback edition has 522 pages on 8.5″ x 11″ pages (it’s also available in Kindle format, of course).

A few months ago, I wrote that I had spent 1-2 years working on this book, but a few weeks ago I dug up my old files and discovered that I’ve been working on this book for nearly three years. Time flies!

I spent much time experimenting with Kindle formatting, trying out a feature, uploading the file to KDP, and testing it out. This was very time-consuming, but also enlightening. I took several snapshots and included these pictures in my book to help illustrate many of the issues faced with Kindle formatting.

Much has changed at KDP in the past couple of years. A lot of these changes occurred as I was writing my book, so I had to constantly rewrite sections that I had previously written. For example, the Kindle previewer has been updated to include Auto-Advance, there are new Kindle reading apps, there is a new X-Ray feature, KDP’s print option has expanded, the 127 KB rule for GIF images has been updated, and some of the KDP help pages have been extensively revised.

My book covers the following topics:

  • The basics, like removing tabs, extra line breaks, extra spaces, page numbers, unsupported symbols, etc. One appendix lists every symbol that is fully supported across all devices (there are even notes about correct and incorrect ways to insert supported symbols). A handy checklist helps to ensure that you’ve implemented all of these steps.
  • A detailed guide to using Word’s paragraph styles to format your eBook. There is even a step-by-step tutorial in an appendix at the back of the book to walk you through it with a specific example. I provide several specific recommended paragraph styles commonly used in eBook design. I show you how to create new styles, modify existing styles, deal with hidden styles (like TOC or Footnote), manage your styles (like Disable Linked Styles and what the confusing Automatically Update box really means), and use the Style Inspector to check for common problems.
  • One chapter is devoted to picture size, aspect ratio, format, file size, image design considerations, captions, tables formatted as images, padding, transparency, and everything related to pictures.
  • Multiple sections discuss a variety of Kindle design concepts, like the challenges of formatting bullet points, issues related to left and full alignment, how pictures affect design, the helpfulness but also the dangers of the non-breaking space, and much more.
  • Another chapter shows you how to go a quick step beyond Word. I tried to make this as friendly as possible, even showing how you could be an HTML minimalist. You really don’t need to learn HTML, and that’s the beauty of it. You don’t actually have to write HTML. It’s already written. All you need to do is make small changes to a little of the HTML that’s already there, and I show you exactly which changes to make and how they should look with specific examples (I even have several complete recommended style definitions that you can copy). You can keep this simple and make just a few helpful changes, but for those who want I offer many other optional changes that you can make (for example, how to use media queries to format drop caps that work well across all devices). This chapter shows you how what you do in Word affects the HTML, which helps you learn how to control hidden formatting from Word. For those who want to work more with HTML, I show you the HTML that relates to Kindle formatting to help you better understand your HTML file, which can be helpful if you want to make extensive revisions (this is easily skipped by authors who want to avoid HTML as much as possible).
  • Learn how to preview your Kindle eBook thoroughly using the online previewer, the more reliable downloadable previewer, and actual devices or apps. For example, you can preview your eBook on a PC, laptop, tablet, or cell phone using a free Kindle reading app. Detailed checklists help you with proofreading, editing, and a variety of specific features to look for and test in the way of formatting.
  • A troubleshooting section includes several common Kindle formatting issues with possible solutions. Find detailed explanations whether you used Word exclusively or went beyond Word to use HTML (each issue offers solutions for both cases). This isn’t like a troubleshooting section that you find in the owner’s manual of an electronic device: I tried to make this readable and understandable for everybody.
  • An appendix provides a short sample eBook. Labeled pictures show you which paragraphs have which styles in Microsoft Word, and I included the full HTML for the sample eBook so that you can see the style definitions and everything else.
  • I spent much time testing out various features, and I included several pictures in my book to demonstrate a variety of formatting challenges.
  • For those who would also like to publish a paperback version of their book, I walk you through the steps involved in converting your eBook to a print-ready PDF.
  • Also find valuable tips relating to sales rank, keywords, categories, customer reviews, marketing, promotions, giveaways, and more. (Authors often tell me that the marketing advice that I include in my books on self-publishing is easily worth the price of the entire book. One section is dedicated to marketing and premarketing tips, but a few other sections also relate to marketing.)

YOU COULD WIN A FREE COPY OF MY BOOK

Enter my Amazon Giveaway (which expires at the end of March 24, 2018 in the US), which will have 50 lucky winners. That could be you, and the odds are favorable (as of now, there are about 70 entrants for 50 books, which gives you amazing odds). It’s a sweepstakes, so all 50 books will be given away, and you’ll find out if you win at the end of March 24.

https://www.amazon.com/ga/p/29e81d46a95ba752

I also have a Goodreads giveaway beginning soon with 100 lucky winners which will last for a couple of weeks.

The Goodreads giveaway doesn’t start until March 26 and ends on April 10, 2018. Once March 26 gets here, you can find the Goodreads giveaway at:

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/278710-word-to-kindle-formatting-magic-self-publishing-on-amazon-with-style

If you buy the paperback version directly from Amazon, after doing so, you will be eligible to purchase the Kindle edition free through MatchBook. You could give the print version as a gift and keep the Kindle edition for yourself, or you might find it handy to have the paperback spread out on your desk while you’re formatting your next book and also have another copy that you can access from your phone or tablet.

If you have a Kindle Unlimited subscription, you can also borrow my book for free. (Amazon Prime customers can also borrow one free book per month.)

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Copyright © 2018

Chris McMullen

Do Something Cool with Your Book Covers

BUILD WITH BOOK COVERS

If you’re an author who has a book cover with visual appeal, here is your chance to raise that visual appeal to a higher level.

Build something cool with your book cover.

Although designing a cover that has strong visual appeal is a challenge, building with a book cover is much easier than it looks.

First of all, you could keep it two-dimensional, and simply use copy/paste to create rectangular blocks. Anything that you can build by stacking together blocks, you could build with your cover.

You don’t have to work with rectangles. You could crop your cover to other shapes.

But even three-dimensional images are relatively easy. There are apps that can help you achieve three-dimensional rotations, and some common picture software programs have this feature built-in.

You could even do this with Word. (Though Word is common and it’s easy to do with Word, one drawback will be limited DPI, in case you’re planning to print the results. You can make the page size 20″ x 20″ in Word with zero margins to maximize the picture size, then later transfer the picture to real picture-editing software to create a smaller image with higher DPI than what Word offers.)

In recent versions of Word, select the picture, go to the Format tab, look for Picture Effects, and choose 3-D Rotation. If you make 3 copies of your cover, you can put the right combination of 3 of the presets together to make a cube. (However, if your cover isn’t square, you’ll need to squeeze the aspect ratio for the “top,” or add a border to the cover to make it square before you start like I did with my astronomy cover above. For rectangular covers, you can make the top piece square after unlocking the aspect ratio in the Size options and then making the width equal the height.)

In the picture above, I rotated my algebra cover two different directions and pasted them together. If I had only used two, I could have added a top or bottom to make a cube, but I wanted to show that the cube isn’t your only option. Use your creativity. You can make anything from dominoes to pyramids.

You can see a pyramid that I created above. That’s the cover for my Kindle Formatting Magic book, which will be published later this month (hopefully), which was designed by Melissa Stevens at www.theillustratedauthor.net. Once you make a box out of your cover, you can use copy/paste and stack the boxes together to make just about anything.

Illustrator Melissa Stevens made the shapes that you see above using a variety of my book covers. She also designed the header for my self-publishing blog using the covers for my self-publishing books. One of the pictures shows a boxed set, which is something you can make when you have a few related books.

Below I have a simple picture of one of my book covers walking down a runway like a model. The judges are holding up scores to judge it (not that there’s much to judge on that cover, as it just consists of text—but that’s a funny thing about covers: especially with nonfiction, something simple like that can be effective).

Another cool thing you can do is take a picture of a city (but be careful, some of the stock photos that you see of big cities have limitations on their usage) and add your book cover to it. For example, Chris the Storyreading Ape (thestoryreadingapeblog.com) made the picture below using the cover for my mathematical puzzle book.

BOOK MARKETING OPPORTUNITY

Of course, the book cover itself can help with (or hinder) book marketing.

But if you make something cool with your book cover, it provides an additional opportunity.

I don’t mean to suggest that if you create a box out of your book cover that your book will suddenly become a bestseller.

I’m saying that there are ways that you could use this effectively, depending on your creativity and marketing skills (but even if they’re lacking, you might get a little traffic from it).

The big problem with book marketing is that you want everyone in the world to learn about your book, but it’s really hard to find strangers who are receptive to marketing that basically says, “This is my book, would you please buy it?”

Thousands of authors are blogging, tweeting, interacting on Facebook, advertising, writing articles, and everything else that they can think of that they might be willing to try to help spread the word about their books. Some marketing is more effective than others.

Simply reminding people that you’re an author and that you wrote a book, or simply telling that your book is the best read ever has limited effect.

Authors strive to find other ways to catch readers’ interest, hoping that once the reader becomes interested, they’ll notice that they’re authors and then be willing to check out their books. This is the heart of book marketing, combined with author branding.

So making something cool with your cover is another way to possibly catch readers’ interest with a cool visual display. Getting people to notice that visual display, well that’s another part of marketing, where you try to widen your reach.

You can use your book cover creation in a variety of ways:

  • in a blog, tweet, or post
  • to make a bookmark (a handy marketing tool, something that may actually get used by readers)
  • add it as a secondary picture on your author page
  • wear it on a t-shirt and see if it sparks any conversations about your book

Some authors have the creativity and marketing insight to really take advantage of a strong visual display, but at the very least, it might help get a short spur of interest.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2018

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

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

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

Tips for the New Goodreads Giveaways

GOODREADS GIVEAWAYS

As you may have heard, Goodreads Giveaways have changed.

  • One change is that KDP authors can now give eBooks away.
  • Another change is that it now costs money to create a Goodreads giveaway.

If you’d like to learn more about these recent changes to the Goodreads giveaway program, click here to read my recent article about it.

In my current post, I will offer some tips for making the most of it.

EXPLORING THE GIVEAWAYS

First off, there is the question of how readers will find your giveaway. It’s worth exploring the giveaways as a reader would before you proceed to create a giveaway as an author. This will give you some insight into the process.

Unfortunately, when I visit the homepage at www.goodreads.com, I don’t see any mention of the giveaways there. But that’s okay. Experience shows that thousands of readers already know where to find them.

After I log in, I still don’t see the giveaways out in plain sight. But they are accessible. Hover your cursor over the Browse tab and you will find them fourth on the list. That’s one plausible way for a reader to discover them (aside from the thousands who already know exactly where to go).

Some readers have this page bookmarked in their browser: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway. If anyone uses a search engine to find Goodreads Giveaways, this page will also come up that way.

Once they get there, there are a variety of ways that readers will search for giveaways. Here are some examples. I encourage you to explore these options.

  • By default, you see a list of Featured giveaways. If you were wondering whether or not it may be worthwhile to invest the extra $$$ for a Featured giveaway, browse through this list and check out the stats. Look where it says Availability, and compare the number Requesting to the Start Date. For the amount of money it costs to be Featured, you should have some very high expectations for the number of requests. If you’re not seeing it, I suggest going for a basic giveaway instead.
  • Some readers like to click the Ending Soon tab. Why? Because if they win, they will find out before they forget all about it. If they don’t win, they might still remember the book, and perhaps they will think to go check it out at Amazon. This section is handy for authors, too. Look at the number of requests on the Ending Soon page. This will show you how successful the giveaways tend to be. Today, for example, I see several with 500+ requests and a few with 1000+ requests, but these numbers will vary over time.
  • Another option is Recently Listed. Giveaways get the most exposure on the start date and end date.
  • The last option at the top is Most Requested. Today, I see giveaways that have received over 10,000 requests. These show the potential of a fantastic giveaway (combined with great marketing, and perhaps a great cover or an established name). Back to reality: If you’re thinking about hosting a giveaway, the numbers you see on average under Ending Soon offer more realistic goals.
  • Perhaps the best option is to Browse by Genre. Find the categories over on the right. This way readers can find the kinds of books that interest them. If your book seems to fit into more than one category, I recommend that you explore the giveaways that you see in various categories. This will help you decide where your book fits best, and which categories seem to be more popular.

GIVEAWAY TIPS

(1) Browse through active Goodreads Giveaways.

  • Check out the number of people requesting the book under Availability.
  • Note whether the Format is print book or Kindle eBook.
  • Browse through a few pages of results under Ending Soon to get an idea for the average popularity of a giveaway.
  • Look at the Most Requested books. Try to find some that aren’t popular because of a big author or publisher name. Check out the giveaway descriptions and author biographies: If these giveaways did something right, maybe they will inspire you. Check out the author’s social media pages to see where and how they shared their giveaways (though it may also have been announced via email newsletter).
  • Try to find books similar to yours. A good way to do this is to browse through the categories at the right. How are these giveaways doing? That will help you gauge your giveaway’s potential.

(2) Increase your exposure.

  • You get most of your giveaway traffic on the start date and the end date. However, the days in between matter: The more days your giveaway runs, the more in-between days you will have, and they can really add up. Let’s say your giveaway would get 500 views on the first day, 500 views on the last day, and 50 views per day in between. If you run a giveaway for one week, you get 1250 views, but if you run a giveaway for a month, you get 2400 views, which doubles your exposure. The more days your contest runs, the more views you get. (The drawbacks are that the longer the contest runs, the more people will have forgotten about it, and the longer it takes to get your reviews. However, a contest is primarily about exposure, and longer time equals longer exposure.)
  • Share your giveaway with many of the same ways that you normally market your book. You’re getting double exposure: People are learning about your book and they’re learning about your contest. Share your giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, and your other social media platforms. Share it on your blog or author website (you can start a Goodreads blog, too, by the way). Share it in your email newsletter. Etc.
  • If you advertise on Goodreads (there is an economical self-service option), you can draw additional attention to your giveaway. Of course, this is an additional expense on top of the cost to run the giveaway (and the cost to send out the books if you choose the print option). However, if you occasionally pay for advertising, now is an opportunity to advertise a contest instead of just advertising that you have a book. Again, it’s like a double effect: You’re sending the message that you wrote a book plus the message that people can win a prize.

(3) If you run an eBook giveaway, educate readers and contestants.

  • You don’t have to own a Kindle eBook to read a Kindle eBook that you win through a Goodreads giveaway.
  • Winners can read eBooks using the Kindle Cloud Reader, and Android device (phone or tablet), or iOS device (phone or tablet). (However, there are a few Kindle eBooks, such as those created with the Kindle Textbook Creator or Kindle Kids’ Book Creator, which aren’t available on all devices, notably phones. So if you used one of these publishing tools, you might want to check into the details first.)
  • In your marketing, you can concisely mention how a Kindle eBook can be read even if the winner doesn’t own a Kindle device. There are instructions on Goodreads’ FAQ page, for example: See the second link in Tip #6.

(4) More prizes reduces your overall cost per book, and they make the odds more appealing to contestants.

  • The setup cost is the same whether you offer 1 book or 100 books as the prize. (For a print book, you will also need to purchase author copies and pay for packing and shipping.) The more books you offer, the less the giveaway costs you per book.
  • If you’re offering a print book, I suggest that you not go overboard and offer way too many copies until you gain some experience with how it works and what kind of results you’re able to get. Author copies and shipping can get expensive (and become a hassle at the post office) if you offer a large number of prizes.
  • More prizes also make the contestant feel like the odds are better. Would you rather go to the trouble of entering a giveaway where the odds are 1 in 1000 or where the odds are 20 in 1000?
  • Only a percentage of winners post reviews (and then primarily on Goodreads, not as often on Amazon), so the more prizes you offer, the more reviews you are likely to eventually get. (There is no guarantee that you will get reviews though.)

(5) I.t…t.a.k.e.s…t.i.m.e.

  • The giveaway itself may run for weeks. The longer the giveaway, the more exposure, so if the contest runs for a month or more, you get more views and participation.
  • Reading takes time. Most winners don’t read the book cover to cover instantly. People are busy. They may have other books to read, too. It will take months for some readers to complete the book. (And not everyone may enjoy or appreciate the book enough to read it all the way through.)
  • Reviews take time. People are busy. Even after reading the book, it takes time to write a review.
  • What does this mean? If you publish your book and then run a contest, you should realize that it may take several months to fully realize any results that the giveaway may bring.
  • If, on the other hand, you run a contest months in advance of a book’s release, some readers may be ready to post reviews when the book comes out.
  • Another thing that takes time is packing and shipping books. If you run a print contest, order author copies well in advance (keeping in mind that Murphy’s law might make you waste time getting defective copies replaced by the publisher), and be prepared to spend time (and money) with packing and shipping.

(6) You can include a note with your print book. (But other than that, you’re not supposed to contact winners or entrants.)

  • A short thank-you note that doesn’t violate the Goodreads giveaway terms and conditions is appropriate. (Also check the FAQ’s. Note that it currently has 2 pages.) Note that there are probably reasonable expectations that aren’t specifically mentioned in the posted terms. Use discretion so that you don’t ruin your good standing with Goodreads.
  • You may include a link to your website, blog, Amazon author page, social media, etc. Tip: At Author Central, click on the Author Page tab and create an Author Page URL that will be easier to type than the default URL. For example, I made it so that readers can type amazon.com/author/chrismcmullen to reach my Amazon Author Page, which is easier to type than the default URL which is www.amazon.com/Chris-McMullen/e/B002XH39DS, which includes a hyphen and a jumble of numbers and letters at the end.
  • If you have an appropriate bookmark or business card, you may include it with your book. A nice looking bookmark (that doesn’t look like an advertisement) may actually get used, continually reminding the reader about you or your book, and it’s not too hard to find a place to get these printed economically (they come in handy for many marketing endeavors).
  • After thanking or congratulating the reader, you can politely mention that it would be great if they posted a review. Really, it’s not necessary, as Goodreads already encourages this, and readers loathe to be nagged about reviews (and you’re not allow to bug the winner).
  • Be careful: You want to clearly state that reviewing is optional (it is NOT required by Goodreads), and you want to ask for an HONEST review. Just like Amazon’s terms and conditions, you shouldn’t place any conditions on the review (any review that the winner may choose to write is unconditional).
  • Most readers naturally post a review at Goodreads if they write a review at all. If you’re hoping for a review at Amazon, then you might mention politely (one time) something like this:

Congratulations on winning my Goodreads giveaway. Reviewing is optional, of course. If you decide to write an honest review at Goodreads, Amazon, or anywhere else, I would be very grateful for your time and consideration. Thank you.

(7) It’s nice to hold a prize in your hands.

  • Obviously, it costs you less to send an eBook, but a print book has many advantages for a giveaway. Since there is a setup fee regardless of which format you use, you might want to spend a little more to get the best possible result for your investment.
  • For several years, Goodreads members have become accustomed to winning print books. People who have participated for years may be more likely to enter contests for print books.
  • When you browse through current giveaways, compare the number of requests for print books and Kindle eBooks. See if contests for print books seem to be more popular (all else being equal).
  • Print books provide a marketing opportunity. If your book is engaging enough to get read, it might get read in public. Other people might see your book being read on a bus, train, plane, park bench, restaurant seat, etc. And they might ask that person, “What are you reading?” They’re thinking, “That book sure has captured your interest. Maybe I will enjoy it, too.” So they might indeed ask a stranger about it.
  • You can include a short (appropriate) thank-you note as I mentioned in tip #6 with a print book, but not for an eBook.

(8) Deliver your prizes promptly. You want your winners to be excited about your book. Don’t disappoint them with a longer than necessary wait (for a print book to finally arrive in the mail).

For a print book, use reliable packaging. Make sure the address label can’t possibly fall off. You want the winner to receive your book, and to receive it in excellent condition.

POSSIBLE BENEFITS

Running a Goodreads giveaway comes with an expense. It also comes with possible benefits:

  • A few winners may eventually review your book somewhere. Most likely it will be Goodreads. Occasionally, but far less likely, it is also Amazon (but it won’t show as a Verified Purchase).
  • You should see a lot of activity with your book being marked as to-read. This was always the case, but now it is even more so, since it’s required for entry into the contest. If nothing else, this helps to draw a little interest to your book at Goodreads, as it shows some sign of a little popularity. (Of course, there are many other books that receive hundreds or thousands of to-reads this way. But there are also books that have very few to-reads, and yours won’t if you run a giveaway.)
  • Goodreads will notify your followers about your giveaway. If anyone has marked your book as to-read, Goodreads will notify them, too. This helps draw additional attention to your giveaway. These are new features.
  • Even more people see your book than enter the giveaway. Every time someone sees your book cover, reads your author name, or reads your giveaway or book description, it helps with branding, which is a huge part of marketing. Branding is a very long and slow process. Every little bit helps.
  • Some participants will check our your books and biography at Goodreads. You will get some attention. Maybe not as much as you hoped for, but you do generate a little activity.
  • Hopefully, a few people who saw your book, but who didn’t win it, will visit your book page at Amazon and consider buying it.
  • Between the winners who receive your book and any readers who don’t win but still buy your book, if they enjoy your book enough, they may help to spread the word about it. Word-of-mouth sales are the toughest type of sales to earn, but when you earn it, this can be the best kind of marketing that you can get. There is hope.

The question is whether or not the benefits will outweigh the expense. In regards to that, please read my disclaimer:

DISCLAIMER

Nowhere am I suggesting that a Goodreads giveaway will be successful for you.

Nor am I suggesting that they will be worth the cost for you.

Every book and author is unique, and just like with book sales, results will vary. It will work better for some than for others.

Rather, what I’m saying is this: If you decide to run a giveaway, the above tips are intended to help you make the most of it.

Good luck with your giveaway and with your book.

If you’re a reader and you enter a giveaway, I hope you win and enjoy your prize.

FOLLOW ME AT GOODREADS

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6970004.Chris_McMullen

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2018

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

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

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

What Cool Word Have You Read in a Book Recently?

I was reading The Secret of Spellshadow Manor today by Bella Forrest, when I came across the word

—susurration—

meaning soft murmuring or rustling sounds.

It’s not a word I read or use every day. I enjoy coming across a cool word when it happens once in a while.

I don’t like it when an author goes out of his/her way to use uncommon words. I like the book to read well (for me).

But when the best word to use happens to be uncommon, the ‘best’ word is still the ‘best’ word.

When I don’t recognize the word and the author includes a little clue to help deduce the meaning, I like it even better.

In the case of the book I was reading today, it was great: The book is quite readable, the word felt (to me) like it belonged, and I could tell what it meant from the context.

(If you want to check out Bella Forrest’s—who I expect has never heard of me, and who certainly has no idea that I’m writing this post—novels, I recommend that you start with The Gender Game.)

Please share a cool word that you read in a book recently, including the title and author of the book. Surely, the author deserves a little publicity for helping you enjoy the word.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2017

 

What Makes Shopping for Books so Wonderful? #PoweredByIndie

Background image from ShutterStock.

Background image from ShutterStock.

SHOPPING FOR BOOKS

Consider the following Tale of Two Stores.

You walk into a department store. What do you see? Sony. Levi’s. Apple. Nike. LazyBoy. Everything is branded. You’re in a big business. Many of the products for sale were manufactured by big businesses. Ultimately, people were involved at some stage: design, manufacture, assembly, shipping, merchandising, advertising deals, etc. Much of the work may also have been automated.

Now you walk into a bookstore. Obviously, you see thousands of books. And there are big brands around, if you look closely enough to see the names of the popular publishing houses. Yet the experience is vastly different.

Most of the books were conceived of and written by, to a large extent, a single human being. You’re surrounded by thousands of such works. They share unique experiences. They store knowledge. They weave words together in unique ways.

Shopping for books, and reading, these are very personal experiences.

Think about that the next time you’re browsing for a book to read.

Even if it’s not in a bookstore. At Amazon, for example, when you’re searching for a book in your pajamas, you have millions of books at your fingertips. And each work offers a personal experience for you.

Not all of the books are published by the big publishing houses. Many are published by small, even family run publishing houses.

Well over a million are published by indie authors. When a single author handles not just the writing, but also plays the supervisory roles of cover design judge, editing overseer, interior design judge, marketing coordinator, etc. (perhaps even doing much of this work independently), the experience is arguably even more personal.

I’ve read several indie books lately, and I enjoy that personal touch. From unique chapter headers to the little thank-you notes in the back of the book, I appreciate how their personal touches spread from cover to cover and even show on the product page (not just in the author’s biography, but in the product description and selection of editorial content).

Many indie authors have learned, through experience or by necessity or by motivation (or probably a combination of all of these), a great deal about marketing. One of the points that many authors agree on is that the author himself or herself can become a very strong brand.

That’s because readers aren’t just looking for a story or knowledge.

Readers like to feel a personal connection with the author to some extent. Learning more about the author, the person, the man or woman behind the words, even little personal notes… all of these things can help to enhance such a personal connection. (So, authors, you have the chance to begin this personal experience in your marketing.)

Shopping for books and reading can be personal experiences.

A book is much, much more than a mere product.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2017

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

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

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

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Organic IS Better (for book marketing)

Image from Shutterstock.

Image from Shutterstock.

ORGANIC BOOK MARKETING

I take a long-term approach to book marketing.

My goal is to generate periodic sales over the course of several years.

I’m more interested in how well the book sells years after its release than how well it says when it makes its debut.

Granted, a book often gets its best traffic in the beginning, so anything you might do to improve that could be a significant boost.

But if you can get the book to sell consistently for years instead of tailing off, time can provide a huge boost of its own.

That’s the potential of organic book marketing, if you can pull it off effectively.

Organic book marketing also doesn’t tend to be depend as strongly on the latest marketing trends.

There are some fundamental marketing strategies that work long-term even in a dynamic market, whereas short-term strategies tend to be trendy.

We’ll consider several aspects of book marketing, and what it might mean to be organic.

BOOK REVIEWS

As a customer shopping for products at Amazon, if you read customer reviews, would you prefer to read organic reviews? I would.

What makes a review organic?

It can’t get any more organic than this:

  • A customer discovers a book.
  • The customer takes the initiative to review the book.
  • The customer leaves genuine feedback for the book.

Amazon considers a review to be more organic when the customer discovers the book on Amazon.com and the review shows the Verified Purchase label. Amazon’s new machine-learning algorithm, which determines which reviews get more exposure, favors a Verified Purchase.

The machine-learning algorithm looks at more than just whether or not the review is Verified. For example, it also looks at Yes vs. No votes. There are multiple factors. In general, most of these factors favor organic reviews.

Obviously, when a customer discovers a book in a bookstore, reads the book, and leaves a review on Amazon, it’s just as organic. Although it won’t have that Verified Purchase tag, potential customers will see an honest opinion to help them with their purchases.

Even if the customer discovers the book because the author employed effective interpersonal marketing skills, it’s still an organic review if the customer leaves unbiased feedback. In fact, customers are more likely to review a book having interacted with the author.

The problem, of course, is that customer book reviews often come at a very slow rate. It can take 100 to 200 sales, on average, to get a single review. (These numbers may vary considerably, depending on subgenre, for example.) And if the book is selling one copy every few days, that may very well seem like never.

And some book promotion sites, like BookBub, require a minimum number of reviews.

Thus, authors are tempted to look for less organic methods of seeking reviews.

Most customers think they can tell, to some extent, organic reviews from inorganic ones:

  • Suppose a book has a sales rank of 1,000,000, was released 30 days ago, and already has 20 reviews. It may seem suspicious.
  • Organic reviews tend to show a degree of balanced opinions, and a few tend to be off-the-wall. There is a certain variety of opinions and the expression of them typical of Amazon.
  • Checking out what else the reviewer has reviewed can also seem to tell a tale.

Amazon’s SEO can probably tell organic reviews from inorganic ones, to some extent. (Even if it doesn’t do this well now, it probably will in the future.)

If you can find effective ways to generate more sales, that will help to generate more organic reviews.

And then there is always review karma. This philosophy is to post reviews of books you have read, and hope that the universe returns the favor.

But that’s different from swapping reviews with fellow authors, which is not organic (and Amazon may choose not to support).

CONTENT MARKETING

The idea behind content marketing is to post valuable content for your target audience on a blog, website, or social media.

Organic content of high quality can generate significant traffic long-term, and is less susceptible to the latest trends in SEO.

In fact, SEO trends tend to adapt toward identifying organic content and eventually penalizing any SEO tactics that aim to “fool” search engines.

Also, organic content is more likely to please its target audience, and result in organic followers.

And no followers are better than organic followers.

An organic follower is someone who discovers your content, enjoys it or finds it helpful, follows you, and is actively aware of your future articles over a long period of time.

My free WordPress blog just passed 300,000 views. It generates about 1000 views per day, presently, with most of the visitors discovering articles through search engines. And if you look around, you can find many other sites far more successful than mine.

It takes months to make content marketing work, but if you deliver valuable content to your target audience, there is much potential to get 100+ strangers to organically discover your site every day.

UNKNOWN ADVOCATES

This is what organic book marketing is all about.

When several people you have never met advocate your book on your behalf, organic book marketing can pay big long-term dividends.

But while it can be the best kind of marketing a book can get, it’s extremely hard to generate.

To get valuable word-of-mouth sales, referrals, and recommendations, you have to approach book marketing backwards.

Short-term book marketing says you need a great cover, then you need a blurb that hooks, then a Look Inside that compels the customer to buy the book, and last on the list is the actual content.

Organic book marketing says that the most important part of the book is the content, and everything else revolves around this.

Fiction authors need storytelling talent. Nonfiction authors need compelling information.

All authors need to write in a way that pleases readers.

And the book needs to be well-edited and formatted in order to be worthy of a recommendation. But the content is still foremost.

True, nobody will enjoy the book unless they first discover it, so the Look Inside, blurb, and cover figure into this.

But the approach is to first develop compelling content that will pay long-term dividends, and then build the packaging around that.

AMAZON SEO

Organic book marketing also tends to be favored by Amazon SEO.

For example, many customers search for books by typing keywords into the search field at Amazon.com.

There are several factors involved in determining the order of search results.

Some of these factors specifically favor organic book marketing.

For example, when customers search for books by keyword, click on your book, and then purchase your book, that organic sale establishes relevance for your book with that keyword.

The more organic sales you generate through keyword searches, the more exposure your book gains this way.

That’s why it’s so important to research (by that, I mean type a variety of keywords into Amazon, to see not only what’s popular, but where you have a chance of standing out among the crowd) which keywords have the best potential to give your unique book exposure.

If your keywords also appear organically in the title, subtitle, and book description (especially in bullet points)–though repetition may not help (other than the keyword from your keyword list matching a keyword in your description)–this may help your book compete in keyword searches (but remember, there are other factors too).

A keyword dump in your title or description will backfire. That’s not organic at all, and customers see that something is fishy. If you want to sell books, your title and subtitle need to make sense, and the description needs to read well and hook the reader without giving the story away.

Amazon wants to have satisfied customers. Amazon’s algorithm can tell such things as:

  • How well does this book sell when a customer discovers it for the first time on Amazon?
  • How satisfied are the customers who buy this book?
  • How many customers who buy this book go onto buy more books like this one?
  • Maybe it can even differentiate among customers, i.e. which kinds of buying history appears to be a better fit for a given book.

When a customer is searching for a book on Amazon, obviously Amazon would prefer to show customers books that perform well in these areas.

For this, you want to have a good conversion rate, which means the cover > blurb > Look Inside need to correlate well and be quite compelling, but you also need good customer satisfaction, but delivering exceptional content.

An organic approach to book marketing oriented around these points can pay significant long-term dividends.

WHAT WRITERS REALLY WANT

Many authors say things like: “I’d rather spend my time writing than marketing.”

Organic book marketing places more emphasis on the writing.

For marketing, there are ways to go about it that appeal to writers, like preparing content-rich articles relating to the topic of your book or writing content-rich emails for a newsletter (which allows you to send an announcement for your next book when it comes out).

Much of organic book marketing consists of writing your next book and writing content for your site or email newsletter.

Not 100%, though. You also want to widen your marketing net. But you can devote a little time each week to this, while still putting most of your time into writing.

You also need to do a little personal marketing, especially in the beginning, as that personal touch can go a long way toward getting the ball rolling in the beginning.

Organic book marketing can start out very slow, with no guarantee that it will ever pick up.

If sales do start out very slow, it takes strong faith in your writing to keep believing that the content is compelling enough to pay off several months down the road, if only you can weather the storm, keep writing, and drive enough initial sales to eventually get there.

But this approach does let writers focus on what they love to do most: write!

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2016

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

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

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

Comments

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Relevance: The Key to Advertising/Marketing

Relevance

RELEVANCE

Many advertising and marketing concepts can be understood, and then applied, by considering this one word: relevance.

And what a difference relevance can make.

Yet, very often, the advertiser or marketer hasn’t given this concept due consideration.

In your wildest dreams, your audience is anyone who has a head.

But in reality, you throw your money away with such thinking.

Unless maybe you’re selling hairbrushes.

But even then, you’re wasting money showing your advertisement to people who are bald, strongly prefer combs, or don’t care about their appearance.

Let’s look at some specific examples of how the word relevance impacts advertising and marketing. (Many of the examples are specific to self-published books, but the same principle can be generalized to the sale of other kinds of products or services.)

BOOK COVER DESIGN

Can you imagine walking into a covenant to sell a book about how to plan the perfect spring break vacation?

Well, it’s not much different when 80% of your audience glances at the cover of your sci-fi thriller and expects it to be a western.

(If you’re thinking about the movie Cowboys & Aliens right now, you’re totally missing the point!)

If it looks like a western, it probably is a western, so if you’re looking for sci-fi, why waste your time checking it out?

When there are other sci-fi books that actually look like science fiction.

The most important goal of book cover design is to create a cover that is relevant to your specific target audience.

WRITING <—> MARKETING

There are two ways to approach the combination of writing and marketing that have good prospects for success.

If you can execute your approach well.

  • You can find an existing target audience* and write a book relevant for that audience. (Where you are interested in the topic and have the right experience to write it.)
  • Or you can write what interests you (and where you have the right experience), then find the audience relevant for what you’ve written and market to that audience.†

* You don’t have to write for the most popular audience. It can be a niche audience and still be quite successful.

† The latter carries more risk. The worst-case scenario is that the audience perfect for your book doesn’t even exist. It happens…

AMAZON MARKETING SERVICES

Billboard advertising doesn’t make sense for most books. Even though many people do read, only a fraction read any particular genre, and some of those readers are biased towards certain authors or subgenres, so that the majority of the people who see the billboard advertisement result in wasted impressions. On top of that, the sale of a single book usually results in a low royalty, so you can’t afford wasted impressions.

But if you sell automotive parts and advertise on a billboard overlooking a highway, nearly 100% of your audience drives a car, so even though many prefer to get their service done by a dealer or a mechanic, the advertisement is more effective because of the greatly improved relevance.

On top of that, most advertising largely involves branding, which requires repeated impressions over a long period of time. With advertising, the importance of relevance gets compounded through this repetition.

Where should you advertise your product (or service)? Think long and hard about where it would be highly relevant to show your product.

One reason to use Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) to advertise products that you sell on Amazon has to do with relevance:

  • Customers are already there browsing for similar products.
  • You’re not trying to persuade them to stop what they’re doing, leave one site, and visit another site.

To get the most out of AMS, focus on relevance.

For example, when advertising a KDP Select self-published Kindle e-book through AMS:

  • All else being equal, Amazon is more likely to show AMS ads that generate and maintain a high click-through rate. That’s a strong indication of relevance.
  • Precise targeting makes your ad more relevant to the customers who view it.
  • A cover that conveys the precise subgenre/subcategory and content at the tiny size shown in the ads is a big plus.
  • The short marketing pitch shown with the ad can also help to convey relevance.
  • Thus, relevance can help you generate impressions without raising your bid sky high.
  • Ultimately, the blurb, the rest of your product page, and the Look Inside must also be relevant to convert clicks into sales.

CONTENT MARKETING & SEO

I use a free WordPress blog. I will soon pass 300,000 views (if I haven’t already), as I average 500 to 800 visitors per day finding my blog through search engines.

Yet I don’t employ any SEO “tactics.”

My goal has always been simple: Provide helpful content to anyone interested in self-publishing.

If the content is relevant to your audience, you have a strong organic marketing edge with much potential for long-term success.

Relevant content will naturally include the right keywords and keyphrases, lead to recommendations and referrals, generate followers, and encourage discussion.

You can blog successfully with short articles. What matters is that the content is relevant and helpful.

Trying to “fool” search engines into thinking that an article is relevant when it’s not won’t lead to long-term success.

THE DREADED BLURB

To help close the sale, the blurb needs to implicitly convince the customer (with help from the Look Inside) that the content is relevant to the buyer.

It must reinforce the subgenre/subcategory and content conveyed by the cover, title, category, and keywords.

The style of writing and storytelling must also be relevant to the customer.

It needs to be the kind of story and characters that the customer wants to read.

Without giving the story away. Because once the customer knows the story, it’s no longer relevant.

Fiction blurbs need to be short, while nonfiction blurbs should highlight important points with bullets, since the customer doesn’t want to waste time—not yet sure if reading the blurb is relevant or not.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2016

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

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

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

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What to Do about Reviews Disappearing from Amazon (Proactive Solutions)

Review Removed

REVIEWS REMOVED FROM AMAZON

It’s a well-known fact: Amazon blocks and removes numerous four- and five-star reviews, but almost never removes a one- or two-star review.

You have two choices:

  • Get upset about it.
  • Find a proactive way to make the most of it.

I have proactive suggestions for:

  • Customers who have had their reviews removed.
  • Authors who have seen reviews vanish without even so much as a puff of smoke.

Suggestions for customers are first. If you’re an author, just scroll down to your section.

If you’re concerned about the WHY, I’ll address this at the end of my post.

SUGGESTIONS FOR CUSTOMERS WHOSE REVIEWS DISAPPEARED FROM AMAZON

(A few customers think that when they click the star rating at the end of a Kindle book that they are reviewing it on Amazon, when instead they are rating the book on Goodreads. A few customers think they’ve submitted a review, but what they’ve actually done is just reach the intermediate page where they check their review before submitting it. The first step is to make sure that you’ve properly and fully submitted a review.)

Why did you write the review in the first place?

  • You felt strongly about the book.
  • You felt that the book deserved recommending.
  • You wanted to help other customers make wise shopping decisions.

So, you typed up a review and submitted it to Amazon, but discovered later that the review was gone. (Wait a minute. No, wait a day or two. Sometimes, when you post a review, there is a delay of 1-2 days before it shows up.)

That doesn’t prevent you from accomplishing your original goals.

Here are some proactive suggestions:

  • Recommend the book to people you know. Word-of-mouth recommendations are like GOLD. They can be better than writing a review on Amazon. If your goal was to recommend the book, nothing is stopping you from doing so.
  • Review the book on Goodreads. It’s the next best thing to reviewing it at Amazon.
  • Contact the author. Not to complain about the missing review. Authors appreciate feedback and hearing from fans. Offer to let the author use your positive comments on his blog, in the front matter, or anywhere else the author might be able to benefit from a review snippet. Reviews have many other potential uses besides sitting on the Amazon product page.
  • Do you have a blog, Twitter account, or Facebook account? Share your review with your followers. Since Amazon DIDN’T publish your review, they can’t prohibit you from sharing it.
  • Follow the author on Amazon. Just visit one of the author’s books, scroll down to the author’s biography, visit the author’s author page at Amazon, and click the big yellow Follow button on the top left. If you liked the book, you might appreciate having Amazon send you an email the next time the author publishes a book.
  • Follow the author’s blog, social media, or email newsletter. You can be one of the author’s fans.
  • Review the book on Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository, or other retailer where the book is sold.

Although you could contact Amazon to ask why your review was removed, this really isn’t proactive. You’re probably going to get a vague response, if any. You’re probably not going to convince Amazon that they made a mistake and reinstate your review. Most likely, you will waste both your time and Amazon’s.

(If your review violated any of Amazon’s guidelines, before posting your review elsewhere, you should first read the other site’s review guidelines to ensure that you’re not violating them.)

SUGGESTIONS FOR AUTHORS WHOSE REVIEWS DISAPPEARED FROM AMAZON

Very often, the author doesn’t even know that it happened. Amazon automatically blocks many reviews, such that they are gone before the author has a chance to see them.

And if the author “knows” that a review was blocked by Amazon, chances are that the author has some connection with the reviewer and Amazon “knows” of this connection.

Here are some proactive steps that authors can take regarding customer reviews disappearing from Amazon:

  • If a customer informs you that they posted a review, but Amazon blocked or removed it, you can offer the suggestions that I listed above (like posting the review on Goodreads).
  • If the reviewer has any authority, experience, or expertise relevant to your book, you may be able to include it in the Editorial Reviews section on your Author Central page.
  • With the customer’s permission, you might be able to use a review snippet in your front matter, back matter, on your blog, etc.
  • If the reviewer is an author in a related genre, they might be willing to write a foreword, for example.
  • If you were able to see the review before it was removed, or if the customer contacted you directly, you may still benefit from the feedback.
  • Thank the customer for trying. Thank the customer for contacting you. THANK the customer if he or she does any of the alternatives that I suggested in the previous section.

Contacting Amazon to complain about it probably won’t be helpful. Amazon will only offer an explanation to the customer, not to the author, and the explanation given to the customer will probably be vague. You’re probably not going to convince Amazon that they made a mistake and get them to reinstate the review.

Arguably, the best way to get reviews is to (a) write the book as well as you can, and polish it as well as you can (b) learn how to market your book effectively. The more sales you earn through marketing, the more likely customers will leave the variety of genuine reviews typical of Amazon customers, and those are probably the best reviews that you can get. You might only get about 1 review per 100 sales, on average.

(Friend, family, and recruited reviews invite their share of problems, aside from potentially being blocked and removed by Amazon. For one, if you have a lot of reviews, but the sales rank and publication date don’t suggest many sales, this may look suspicious to wise shoppers. For another, reviews that just praise the book without offering explanations or examples tend not to carry much weight. Yet another reason is that it may seem suspicious if there doesn’t seem to be any balance to the customer reviews.)

WHY DOES AMAZON REMOVE FIVE-STAR REVIEWS

Friend and family reviews (and worse kinds of reviews) plagued Amazon several years ago. Things got so out of hand that there were prominent articles featured in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. This prompted Amazon to take action. It’s estimated that millions of reviews were removed, and many more have since been blocked.

It’s much better now, from the customer’s perspective, than it had been just before Amazon began blocking and removing suspected customer reviews.

Yes, there are a few casualties, i.e. reviews that shouldn’t be removed. In order to market their books effectively, indie authors must interact with customers online and offline, and those online interactions occasionally confuse Amazon into removing a review that they really shouldn’t have removed.

Another perspective comes from sales, both short-term and long-term sales.

Amazon doesn’t want recruited reviews to FOOL customers into buying BAD books, as that would cripple long-term sales.

Authors seem to think that they need more GOOD reviews to sell more books in the short-term, but this may not actually be the case. Amazon has the real DATA. Maybe, in general, Amazon not only sells more books in the long-term, but even sells more books in the short-term with their current block-and-remove suspected favorable reviews policy. We can speculate. Amazon has the actual data. And Amazon is highly effective at selling books. Amazon is highly effective at selling indie books, too.

But again, it doesn’t help to get upset about it or complain about it. Find something proactive that you can do instead.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2016

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

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

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

Comments

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Book + Hook = Sales (Marketing Recipe for Authors)

Book Hook

BOOK MARKETING TIPS

Is your book full of hooks?

If you don’t understand the question, don’t worry. I’ll explain it shortly.

After I ask a different question.

Why did you read this article?

I realize that you haven’t committed yet. At any moment, you could walk away.

And so could customers when they check out your book. Remember that.

The hooks make the difference:

  • Did the title or image with this post grab your attention?
  • Did it make a promise, like more book sales?
  • Obviously, the beginning held your interest long enough for you to reach here.

YOUR BOOK NEEDS HOOKS

What is a hook?

A hook is something that catches your potential reader’s attention, arouses a reader’s curiosity, or engages your reader’s interest, for example. Anything that encourages potential customers to read your book effectively serves as a hook.

Your book should have several hooks:

  • Your title can actually have three hooks. (1) One hook comes from making a catchy title, a phrase that snaps the customer out of a trance. (2) Another hook conveys what the book is about, so when the customer reads the title, the customer knows the genre or subject. Be sure to put the right bait on your hook. (3) Any keywords in your title, subtitle, or series name help to hook readers through keyword searches. But you must balance this with 1 and 2. Also, shorter titles tend to sell better in fiction.
  • Your cover is another hook. For every 1000 or so customers that see your book cover, 1 may actually check out your book. It could be 1 out of 100. Or it could be 1 out of 10,000. But the difference can be huge. A cover also has multiple hooks. (1) What kind of book is this? That’s what every customer wants to know without having to work for it. Make it so easy that a customer can tell at a glance. (2) Even subconsciously. The right color scheme and font actually impact shopping behavior. It’s worth a little research. (3) Reinforce the title by making the most important keywords stand out even on a tiny thumbnail.
  • Your blurb is all about hooks. A customer reading your blurb is not committed. Not even to the first line. (1) The first line of your blurb can send 90% of your potential customers out the door. It’s your pick-up line. Pick this book up, please. But you have to be subtle. You need to arouse curiosity. Wake the customer from a trance, but use language the customer wants to hear. Make your blurb the dream date the customer has been yearning for. (2) You need to reinforce the subgenre or subcategory. The customer isn’t sure what kind of book this is. The title and cover create expectations. Don’t forget to make this clear in the blurb. Early in the blurb. (3) Concise is your friend, especially for fiction. Short sentences. Short blurb. Yet containing all the info the customer wants to know: What subgenre (implicit, but clear)? Engaging content (show it by example). What features will sell your book? Make these features—no, make the benefits of these features—clear, but be concise. For nonfiction, bullet points help break a long description into easy to identify points. (4) Cut out the material that customers don’t need to know, so only the hooks remain. For example, does the customer really need to know the names of multiple characters when just checking the book out? (5) Whatever material remains, make it seem more engaging. Trim and engage. Repeat. (6) Don’t spoil fiction. Definitely, don’t give away the ending. But don’t give away anything if you can avoid it. You don’t want the customer to feel like he or she already knows what will happen at some stage. Not knowing can help you sell books. There are words for this: Curiosity. Suspense. They are sales tools.
  • Your Look Inside is that last hook between the customer and a sale. Or walking away. And again, it should be full of hooks. Minimize the front matter to essentials that help sell your book, so the customer can reach the “hooks” without distraction. (1) The opening line is like the first line of your blurb. Many shoppers don’t get past that first line. (2) The customer isn’t committed to your book. The beginning needs to arouse curiosity and engage interest. Come out with your best stuff. Will a non-committed shopper read a lengthy build-up? You want the beginning to be so good that the customer clicks the magic Buy Now button. (3) Send a consistent message. The title and cover create expectations for a particular subgenre or subcategory. The blurb must reinforce the same message. And the Look Inside must also make this clear. Tell the customer (implicitly), “Yes, you’re in the right place. Now please make yourself at home.” (4) What will sell your book? Suspense? Curiosity? Fascination with a character? Language that flows well? Comb through your Look Inside to remove stuff that may inhibit sales, so that what remains will hook the reader.
  • It doesn’t end there. You don’t just want a purchase. You want the reader to continue onto the next chapter. You want the book to deliver on its promise so that the customer is already hooked on your next book. So that the customer helps you hook new readers. Word-of-mouth hooks are among the best hooks in the business. And the hardest to get.
  • Even the back matter can contain a hook: A captivating sample of one of your other books.
  • Let me back up a bit. Wise choice of keywords (or keyphrases) and categories can help you throw more hooks out into the sea of readers.
  • Hooks are everywhere. If people discover your blog, you want your blog to hook new readers, right? Well, then, your blog needs to be full of hooks. All of your marketing should have hooks. Even a catchy strapline—a phrase or sentence that helps create interest in your book (and also convey the right expectations)—can be used anywhere, even in daily conversations.

PRACTICE HOOKING (!)

(I really hope you don’t take this the wrong way!!)

Practice hooking your readers.

A great place to practice is with social media.

Every blog post, tweet, or Facebook post is an opportunity to practice hooking readers.

Learn how to write a title that achieves all of its three goals.

Learn how to find images that attract the right audience.

Learn how to say a lot in a little by learning how to use tweets effectively.

Social media offers a great way to practice, experiment, and learn the art of hooking readers.

But also practice from the other side. Practice getting hooked. Practice trying not to get hooked, and find yourself getting hooked despite that.

Check out successful books. Books that don’t sell because of name recognition or preexisting fan bases. Find new indie books that grow quickly, for example. Discover books with great hooks.

That can help you learn the art of hooking readers. See what kinds of hooks other authors use to hook their readers.

MARKETING WITH BOOK HOOKS

Think of writing as fishing.

You’re just one of millions of fishermen.

  • Location matters. You want to fish in a spot where there are plenty of fish. So you want to write a book that will attract readers. So write it with the customer in mind. What does the customer want? This question impacts your choice of topic, how you begin your book, how you write your book, how you package your book, etc.
  • There are a million fishing poles out there. You need lures and bait that will attract fish to you. Your title, cover, blurb, and Look Inside need effective hooks.
  • Authors wait patiently for readers to find their books. You need readers. You need them to discover your book. You need them to want to read your book once they discover it. The hooks on your product page and the hooks in your online and offline book marketing all help readers discover your book and decide to read it.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

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

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

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

Comments

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