Book Marketing Magic: What You Can Learn from Amazon

Image from ShutterStock.

Image from ShutterStock.

BOOK MARKETING MAGIC

It would be hard to find anybody who can sell books better than Amazon.

At first, this seems like a great benefit of self-publishing. Just throw your book on Amazon, and the word’s greatest bookseller will sell your book for you, right?

Too bad it doesn’t work that way. Even though you may have heard others speak of book marketing, you stubbornly cling to the hope that you won’t need to learn it.

You just have to see for yourself to realize that you need to market your book.

And then book marketing seems like magic. Only you can’t find the right magic words. Or if you do, apparently you don’t pronounce them quite right. When you try using smoke, mirrors, and sleight of hand, it just doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to.

But it’s not really magic. You want easy and instant success. That really would be magic. That’s not marketing. That’s too-good-to-be-true luck that will never happen to you.

Book marketing is work. Think and plan long-term, learn effective long-term book marketing strategies, keep writing, and gradually add to your marketing with sights on a professional author platform several months in the future.

You can learn by watching others. And who better to watch than Amazon?

LEARN FROM AMAZON

It’s amazing how much you can learn about book marketing from Amazon.

This is where the fact that Amazon is an exceptional bookseller can help you.

You’re trying to sell books. You want to learn how. Watch the pro.

Obviously, I don’t mean you should create a website, pour millions of dollars into website development and advertising, and sell books yourself.

I mean to study Amazon’s marketing and make connections between how Amazon markets and what you can do to help market your own books.

Some examples follow.

CONTENT ENGAGEMENT

In my opinion, this is Amazon’s #1 marketing asset: content engagement.

The first step is that Amazon has amazing selection, convenience of shopping at home, and good prices.

With all that, plus good customer service, and already the top bookseller, you might think Amazon wouldn’t need to market at all.

Yet, Amazon does market, and markets very well. It shows you that even if you have a great book, you still need to market.

Amazon is exceptional at motivating customer engagement. Here are a few examples:

  • Customers engage with the website as they browse Look Insides and read customer reviews.
  • After the purchase, they are further engaged with customers-also-bought list recommendations.
  • The customer review platform brings customers back to Amazon after the purchase to engage with the site again. A few customers return again to check on voting and comments.
  • Kindle Unlimited motivates customers to return time and again to browse for books. With the habit of shopping at Amazon, some subscribers begin to check Amazon first when they need to buy other products besides books.
  • Amazon Prime similarly engages customers. Although Prime customers can only borrow one book per month, Prime also engages customers with Amazon Prime Video, for example. Prime customers also tend to shop at Amazon first to take advantage of fee two-day shipping.
  • Amazon frequently releases new programs or revises current programs. Each revision or new program is news, so Amazon is often in the media. Many of the programs spark debate among authors or publishers, which creates additional free publicity. The internet is almost always buzzing with the latest developments at Amazon.
  • Customers (and authors) can subscribe to a variety of email newsletters. If those emails engage your interest, well, you’re hooked. You’ll be aware of the next development. You’ll see an advertisement for a new service. But the emails aren’t just advertisements. The KDP newsletter, for example, includes a variety of tips and success stories. Good content is needed to make these work.
  • Promotional prices and exclusive offers bring customers back to Amazon. I’ve received offers such as: free $20 gift card when you buy $100 in gift cards, exclusive offer for $15 appstore credit, and great sale prices on Kindle devices. Amazon offers a one-time discount on something that’s likely to hook customers by engaging them. Selling a Kindle device at a discount may lead to regular reading of Kindle ebooks, and a free appstore credit can hook you on apps—or just get you in the habit of using Amazon from your phone.
  • Customer discussion forums encourage customers to return and engage on the site.
  • The KDP community forum engages many self-published authors. It’s not just readers Amazon is engaging.
  • The sales and royalty reports also engage authors. Once you dive into self-publishing, it’s a challenge to not check on those reports constantly. Kindle Unlimited’s new pages read policy makes the reporting even more engaging, since pages are likely to be read throughout the day. Sales rank is another number that engages authors.
  • Although Amazon has Twitter and Facebook accounts both for customers and for authors, direct social media posts are a minor component of Amazon’s marketing platform. These seem to be there more for the customers who love social media or who want some way to engage with Amazon. Though if you explore Amazon’s Twitter and Facebook accounts, you will see that they post regular content and there is customer engagement there. And although the following is large by a typical author’s standards, compared to how many hits Amazon gets per day, it’s tiny in that regard.
  • Amazon launched a new Amazon Giveaway program, where anyone can run a contest by purchasing a new product and having Amazon ship the product directly to the winner. Contest sponsors (for books, usually these are authors) tweet to announce the giveaway with the #AmazonGiveaway hashtag, and often other Twitter users retweet the contests. This way, authors and Twitter users who love to promote contests do all the promotional work, while the hashtag attracts contest lovers through Amazon’s name. It’s a clever and effective use of Twitter hashtags.

HOW DOES THIS HELP YOU?

For one, you too can thrive on content engagement. Obviously, not in quite the same way.

To start with, you should have more than just one kind of content:

  • Your books are content, of course. That’s your main content.
  • Additional content can come in the form of a content-rich website, for example.

Creating a content-rich website is relatively easy, and you can find relevant nonfiction content even if your book is fiction.

Start out with a simple free blog and make regular (don’t have to be too long or too frequent) posts that have content relevant for your target audience. Blogging can start out very slow, but after months things can really accelerate. If you succeed in generating search engine traffic, you can pull in 100+ visitors per day from your target audience who didn’t already know about your book. My website began as a simple, free WordPress blog, and after a couple of years of growing, it nets hundreds of visitors per day.

Content is king. That is, what really matters most is quality content that your target audience will appreciate. That’s true about your books and also about your website, and any other kind of marketing content that you create. Some people can fool search engines with SEO tricks in the short run, but content rules in the long run.

Once you have the content, you want content engagement. You want your target audience to interact with your content.

Engaging your target audience brings multiple benefits:

  • If your readers regularly interact with you, they will be aware of your future releases. But you need engaging content to attract them and hold their interest.
  • Lively interaction looks good to newcomers, and helps invite their participation, so that your engaging content reaches beyond your existing fan base.
  • Branding, a huge part of marketing, requires repetition. Content engagement gives you that repetition, helping your brand your name and image as author.
  • Your audience gets a chance to see your personality. That personal touch can help drive sales, and is more likely to inspire reviews.

Here are some examples of how, like Amazon, you can engage your customers with content:

  • It’s kind of funny, but creating new content also helps with content engagement. Each time you release a new book (or even a story), it gives you another chance to engage your audience with it (and grow your audience, too). It’s another chance to create anticipation, do a cover reveal, and invite feedback. You also get new exposure in Amazon’s new release categories each time you release a new book (or a different edition of the same book).
  • Blogging provides a regular supply of new content to help engage your audience. Amazon is constantly engaging customers with new products or new programs. Your blog helps you regularly (even once a week is regular) provide opportunities to get discovered by new potential readers and to interact further with current fans. If the content is rich, you have good long-term potential for search engine discovery.
  • Another way to engage your audience is to request feedback. Amazon seeks feedback from customers via reviews. Authors can ask for feedback on cover reveals, blurb reveals, ideas for future stories, etc. In addition to engaging your audience, this can help create buzz for new releases or works-in-progress.
  • You can create an email newsletter, following Amazon’s example. Amazon includes valuable content, like tips, stories, or promotional discounts, in its email newsletter to make it worthwhile to join the newsletter and to check it out. That’s what you need: an incentive for fans to subscribe and to keep checking it out once a month or so.
  • Amazon provides good customer service, with a good return policy. Authors can also supply good personal service. Content engagement lets you provide that personal touch, and show your personality and character. Personal interactions, online and in person, improve an author’s chances for sales and reviews.
  • Much like Amazon, authors can offer short-term promotional prices. But, unlike Amazon, which already has a large following, authors must either externally advertise their promotional prices, or must grow a large subscriber base (such as through an email newsletter or an engaged online following). One thing Amazon likes to do is offer a discount on a product that’s highly likely to lead to additional sales. Series authors, for example, can discount the first in a series, hoping that readers will want to read the rest of the series.
  • Amazon is often creating buzz. Some new program or revised program has Amazon in the news much of the time. What are you doing that’s new? What are you doing that’s newsworthy? If you get yourself some media coverage, you also get to mention your book in the news. Good old-fashioned media coverage can offer nice exposure. Start small and local, where you’re more likely to have opportunities, and work your way outward as you gain experience.
  • You can hold contests. You can run an Amazon Giveaway for a print book, or a Goodreads Giveaway, or hold some other kind of contest.
  • Follow Amazon, Amazon KDP, and CreateSpace at Facebook and Twitter. You’ll get good ideas for ways to use these tools to engage your audience. Study how often they post, whether to include images, how they use images, what size images they use, etc.

OTHER MARKETING YOU CAN LEARN

There is more you can learn from Amazon about book marketing. Here are a few more examples:

  • When you shop at Amazon, what you see are pages of cover thumbnails. Amazon strives to create visual interest. It’s a strong part of marketing. Your own cover thumbnail can help you with this. But so can the images that you use for blog or Facebook posts, for example.
  • If you read a long book description at Amazon, you’ll note that it often gets cut off. Customers must click a Read More link to read the rest. What Amazon is telling you is that customers have a short attention span, and won’t read too much just to decide which book to read. The Read More flag is saying, “Make sure your most important information comes before this part of your description.” (Otherwise, most people won’t see it.)
  • By organizing the bestsellers in subcategories, Amazon is the perfect repository for you to research how to write and sell a book in the genre or category of your choice. Study the covers, titles, blurbs, Look Insides, biographies, author photos, and product pages. Find those authors online and see what their author pages look like and learn their marketing strategies.

The next time you find yourself interested in a new product at Amazon, stop and think about how you got interested in that product. Is there a lesson that you can learn here? There probably is.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, 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.

Comments

Click here to jump to the comments section.

Short Stories & Kindle Unlimited: The good, the bad, and the whacko

Short

INTRODUCTION

I will make two points in this article:

  1. Don’t sweat the myth that Kindle Unlimited promotes shorter works. It doesn’t.
  2. There is an opportunity to market shorter works through Kindle Unlimited. But it won’t be easy.

If you have short stories that you want to market on Kindle, the second point will present ideas for how to do this effectively.

However, as the first point will stress, Kindle Unlimited won’t open the door for the get-rich-quickly-through-short-works bandwagon.

I’ll explain why I believe that Kindle Unlimited doesn’t actually favor short fiction, while at the same time showing that it is possible to market short stories.

It’s not really contradictory: The key is that selling shorter works is neither easy, automatic, nor obvious. This explains why most short pieces won’t take off, even though it will be possible to market them effectively.

SHORTER BOOKS, BIGGER PROBLEMS

A big myth going around presently is that Kindle Unlimited favors shorter books.

The underlying idea seems to be that it’s easier for customers to reach 10% of shorter books, and 10% is the critical number for getting paid for Kindle Unlimited downloads. (Need an introduction to Kindle Unlimited? Click here.)

Customers could easily get 30% through a short story before realizing that they don’t actually want to finish it, but for a 200,000-word book, they must read 20,000 words before the author will get paid.

But here’s the thing: All books aren’t created equal. There isn’t equal likelihood of customers downloading shorter books and longer ones. This is where most short books are greatly disadvantaged.

Here are several hurdles that authors must overcome in order to succeed in the short reads market with Kindle Unlimited customers:

  • Kindle Unlimited customers tend to be avid readers. It costs $9.99 per month, which amounts to $120 per year, to subscribe to Kindle Unlimited. This will attract avid readers, who will easily get their money’s worth. Spending $10 per month to read short stories won’t seem like a good value to many customers.
  • Avid readers tend to be smart book shoppers. They aren’t likely to be fooled by authors trying to game the system. They are likely to consider the value of books when they shop. Page count will be a factor. So will price.
  • Kindle Unlimited customers may prefer to download higher-priced e-books. It takes ten 99-cent e-books just to get your $9.99’s worth for the month, but if you download five $6.99 e-books, you get a $35 value. Short books are likely to be priced at 99 cents. Simply raising the price of a short story to $5.99 won’t work: Customers will see a large price on little content… and… remember, avid readers are smart book shoppers.
  • Shorter books require even better writing. A few mistakes in a 300-page novel: no problem. One mistake in a 20-page short story: ouch! It’s not just the mistakes, but the mechanics of the writing, the flow of the story, the characterization, the plot, a satisfying ending… the idea has to be fantastic. When you write 100,000 words, you can have a few weaknesses provided that your strengths make the bulk of the book intriguing and enjoyable. In a short work, mistakes of any sort really stand out. The challenge of writing an effective blurb shows how much harder it can be to write much less and do it very well.
  • Writing that works for short stories is different from the kind of writing that works for novels. So if you simply produce a very short version of novels that you’re familiar with, it probably won’t work. You have to research which kinds of short works sell and come to understand how they are effective. (Now the devil’s advocate will say that all writers should try writing short stories—despite the fact that they might be much harder to sell, in general—because learning how to write a short piece well can be highly instructive for writers. Write a short story for what you can gain from it in the long run.)
  • Although readers could take a chance on a short story since little commitment and investment is involved, it’s also true that readers may be pickier when choosing which short stories to read. There certainly are enough short stories out there to choose from. One story doesn’t satisfy a reader for long. What’s the reward for liking the short story? Will there be another 200,000 words worth of writing to enjoy by the same author? You see, when you find a novel that you like, if the author has a few other novels, the reward is a lot more where that came from. If you just have a dozen short stories out, a reader could blitz through the whole collection in a day; you aren’t offering a huge supply of reading material as a potential reward if the reader likes your style.
  • There is much competition from free and low-priced stories. Why should people read your short stories when they can get the entire Sherlock Holmes collection for 99 cents or free? There are many classic short story collections out there at great prices. This comes back to my last point: If you like Sherlock Holmes, or any other classic short work, there is a ton of similar material to satiate your craving for it. If you like a short story by a modern author, often there are just a few more short stories—not enough to satisfy a reader for long.
  • Visibility is a huge issue. Suppose, for example, you want to write a short romance story, hoping to take advantage of the huge romance market. Do you think Amazon wants your short story to show up among hundreds of popular novels when customers search for romance? That could create confusion. So instead your short story should be listed among Short Reads or short story collections. 99% of romance readers will instead be browsing the romance category, looking for novels. There is a marketing challenge here: You’re not just selling a book to romance customers, you’re selling a short story specifically to the very few romance readers who want to read a short story. There is a market for that, just not nearly as wide as the romance novel market.
  • Another marketing challenge is the Look Inside. The shorter your ‘book’ (if you can call it that in this case), the shorter the Look Inside. The Look Inside is a valuable sales tool. A short story has a very short Look Inside. There may easily not be enough there to catch the reader’s interest. You could just give the title, author name, and start the story, moving the copyright notice to the end, but you still need the Look Inside (10%) to be long enough to sell the book.
  • Effective marketing is more costly and time-consuming for a series of short works. It’s fairly affordable to hire out quality cover design and editing for a full-length novel, but can be quite expensive to buy several covers for short pieces or have several short works edited.
  • For those hoping to game the system with short works, customer reviews will be an equalizer. Especially, if they are hoping to benefit from Kindle Unlimited, as avid readers tend to be smart book shoppers.
  • Another equalizer is experience. Customers don’t have to get ‘burned’ too many times to become wiser shoppers. Time favors quality and good value.
  • Even if short works do gain traction, as soon as it becomes popular and fashionable, the market will be flooded with short works. (This really doesn’t affect other authors, as the cream rises to the top. It’s always easy to find books that have achieved success; the not-so-good stuff really isn’t in the way—it falls to the bottom, out of the way.) The thing is, the flood will make it ineffective for authors hoping to generate high rewards with little effort, which means the flood won’t last. Those who succeed through quality writing, satisfying a niche audience, will continue to thrive—hard work, good ideas, and effective marketing will always help such authors thrive.

There are different kinds of short books. Let’s do authors a favor and not generalize them. Some authors slap something short together quickly, hoping to get rich. Other writers craft short pieces with masterful storytelling. These are the two extremes, then there is much in the middle. We would do a great disservice to masterful storytellers who specialize in short fiction by saying bad things about all short works.

A few of my points above specifically address the gamers, but the rest are hurdles that all short works authors must overcome in order to thrive in the short reads market.

BOOK CHOPPING

Okay, there is another extreme that I should address: book chopping. Again, I can’t imagine this being effective, and I will explain why.

Here is what I mean by book chopping: An author takes a regular-length novel and divides it up into smaller chunks (as short as a chapter, perhaps, or it could just be a few parts).

The idea behind this ‘strategy’ is that Kindle Unlimited customers can download several books without paying an extra penny, while the author earns a royalty every time a customer reads 10% of one of his or her books.

So, you could sell a novel and earn $1.80 or so for one download, or you could split that same novel into 5 parts, earning $9 from every customer who finishes the novel. Why stop there? Split it into 20 parts and you make $36 for that single book, right?

Except… Kindle Unlimited customers aren’t likely to reward this behavior, for the many reasons listed above.

On top of that, you have several ‘chapters’ cluttering up your Kindle, and you can only store 10 Kindle Unlimited downloads at a time. Suppose you’re reading Chapter 32 and would like to go back to Chapter 4 to refresh your memory of something that happened earlier. INCONVENIENCE doesn’t sell books!

Sure, some unscrupulous authors might find a way to abuse the system in the short run with this, but (A) they won’t find substantial or long-term success by chopping books and (B) Amazon tends to learn how to prevent authors from taking advantage or catch and provide a fit punishment for those who game the system. It’s not going to work to achieve anything significant, and even for those who are so unscrupulous, the benefits definitely don’t outweigh the risk.

Series are an exception. When each volume of a work reaches a natural division, and where each volume provides a complete, satisfying reading experience, then it’s not a chopped book—it’s a series. Many customers appreciate series, and series authors often do well. You can be a successful series authors, and marketing a series has many advantages. It’s even possible to develop and market a series of short pieces, but this won’t be a chopped novel—each piece will be effective by itself.

MARKETING SHORT WORKS

It is possible to succeed with short fiction or nonfiction pieces.

It’s not easy. You have to overcome the many challenges that I’ve outlined above.

It will take hard work and effective marketing. Find ways to use hard work and brain power to overcome these challenges, and you can stand out from the crowd and succeed with short pieces.

Following are some ideas to help you with this.

  • You need to cultivate a culture for your series of short works. You need to play an angle that gives your short reads an edge. You need to find a concise way to announce this clear and up front, e.g. in a subtitle, through a strap line, as a cover byline, in your blurb, with a slogan, on all of your marketing materials, etc. It’s the card you have to play. Take full advantage of it. Sometimes, it’s not enough to fill a need: You have to show people that they have a need, and you have what they didn’t know they needed. See my next bullet for some specific suggestions. But, whatever angle you play, focus on fostering a culture. This is the key to long-term success.
  • Here are some possible angles. Commuter fiction—read on a plane, subway, or train: Market to commuters, show how your series is tailored for this. Lunchtime reading—have some free time at lunch, but can’t really go anywhere to enjoy it. Morning inspiration—short motivating reads to help people get their days started on the right foot. Bedtime reading—a leisurely way to wind down for a good night’s sleep. People aren’t going to think of the angle for you. You need to find the angle that suits your short works best, and make this point abundantly clear. Don’t sell the book: Sell the benefit.
  • You can get good visibility through wise choices for your categories and keywords. The problem is that you only get to choose 2 categories and 7 keywords, so you must do some research and choose wisely. Find short works similar to yours selling well on Amazon and see which categories they are listed under, and see which keyword searches they show up in. The most relevant category may be Kindle Short Reads (click here) at Amazon.com, but this category is not available through the publisher’s choice (see here); yet there are 700,000 Kindle e-books in this category (with 250,000 in KDP Select), so although it’s said to be ‘restricted,’ evidently it’s easy (or automatic) to get in just by having your book the proper length.
  • Check out the Kindle Short Reads page, as it provides a useful guide for how long it takes to read how many pages. You need to know this. If you’re selling your book as commuter fiction or lunchtime fiction, for example, you need a reliable estimate for how long it will take to read your book. This number is valuable. “Have 30 minutes to read on your lunch or on a train ride? This 15-page book will hit the spot.”
  • Research a couple of specific keywords that may be relevant for your short work. Start typing in the search field at Amazon and it will show you popular matches. You want matches that are both popular and specific to your book; that helps you gain visibility (it doesn’t help to be the last book in a search with many results). Note that popularity varies whether you search in all departments, books, Kindle, Short Reads, or a specific category: So test them all out. Note that “commuter fiction,” for example, doesn’t even pull up a match presently, so don’t waste your keyword with things like this that are never searched for. “Short reads,” on the other hand, is a popular search (with 1250 results, though, so you need to be high up on that list).
  • You want to create a series of short works that stand out and are easy to find. You could put “commuter fiction,” “lunchtime fiction,” “Lisa’s shorts,” “inspirational stories,” or something in a subtitle or series title (though you have to number series with Kindle) or in parentheses, making it easy to find your brand—while also declaring it a short work. If the subtitle or parenthetical note, which will be visible in search results, also emphasizes the advantage of your book’s length (e.g. Commuter Fiction), even better.
  • The covers of your series need to send a clear, unique brand. Have a dozen short stories? You want them all to look uniform. You want them all to be very easy to find. A customer sees any of your short books and immediately recognizes the series. Branding is vital. You want new customers to see that you have a wealth of similar books, i.e. the reward for trying you out and liking your writing is much more where that came from. You want old customers to easily find your other pieces. An appealing (to your target audience) visual brand that creates a unique signature, that’s what you want.
  • Write several similar short books. You’re not likely to sell a ton of short books if you only write one or a few; one-hit wonders aren’t likely in short fiction. If you succeed in hooking some customers on the benefits of your short works, where you really stand to benefit is when you get customers to buy several of your books. It also shows new customers that you’re a serious author, and that there is plenty of reading material similar to any of the short pieces that you offer.
  • Once you succeed in growing a fan base, you want timely releases. They’re short, so you can write, say, one a month. (Say, you spend a month writing. You pass it onto your editor, getting it back weeks later. You also wait for your cover designer. It might take a few months before it’s publish-ready. But once the train gets started, you can have one to publish every month.) You want to publish regularly, so fans start to look forward to the 15th of every month (or whenever, but they know when to expect it). An advantage of releasing a short piece in 30-day intervals is that you always have a book in the Last 30 Days new release category.
  • Amazon tends to help authors who (scrupulously) help themselves. Effective premarketing and marketing can pay big dividends, not just in immediate sales. Another factor on your side is word-of-mouth. Learn the craft and produce quality short reads, and it can lead to long-term success.
  • Look for marketing groups, e.g. in Facebook or at Goodreads. Some groups will correspond to your genre, e.g. fantasy or romance. Also look for groups dedicated to short reads (heck, you could start a group). If you’re using Kindle Unlimited, look for groups associated with this, too.
  • Make one short read free. You should plan to publish dozens of similar books, so, really, why can’t you afford to make one good one permanently free? The freebie won’t be in KDP Select. Publish it on Kobo, Smashwords, etc. At Kobo and Smashwords, you can make it free, and then you (or customers) can notify Amazon of the lower price, politely requesting a price match. The hope is that your freebie will encourage many readers to try out your other stories. Remember, your work has to be good enough to make readers want more of the same. Making junk free isn’t helping anybody.
  • Educate your audience. Show them the benefits of Kindle Unlimited, e.g. how for $9.99 per month they can read your series of dozens of books without paying an extra penny. Show them how to find short reads (include the link to the Kindle Short Reads category). Explain how they might benefit from short reads, e.g. during commutes or lunchtime. Of course, you mention your series at the end of your marketing endeavor. If you’re promoting commuter or lunch fiction, remind your readers to stock up on the weekends, so they don’t waste precious time during their commutes or lunch breaks just searching for the next read.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, 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

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

Comments

Click here to jump to the comments section:

https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/2014/08/18/short-stories-kindle-unlimited-the-good-the-bad-and-the-whacko/#comments

How to Cook the Look of Your Book

Total IndieChoosing Your Book’s Style

Consider a few things you know about style and perception:

  • A suit makes a more professional impression, right? Yet many consumers are more apt to trust a t.v. model in blue jeans and a t-shirt.
  • Worn clothes with holes reflect poor quality, yes? But have you ever seen anyone pay extra money for designer jeans that look worn and feature holes? And there is a famous tale where Ed McMahon sat down during a sales pitch, when the clients spotted a hole in the sole of his shoe and things began turn around favorably for him.
  • Would anyone be caught dead wearing outdated fashions? Yes! It happens all the time. Not everyone thinks the same way.

Now think about some things you may have heard regarding self-publishing:

  • Don’t include the word ‘by’ on the cover or the words THE END on the last page.
  • Justify full. Don’t use ragged right.
  • Times New Roman looks amateurish.
  • Show more, tell less.
  • We could make a really long list. Some designers are very picky.

There are reasons for these perceptions:

  • There are beautifully designed books that are recognized as top brands, like a Mercedes of books.
  • Some of the perceptions reflect what is typical of many traditionally published books.
  • Book designers want to sell their services, so they want authors to believe that they can’t design books well enough on their own.
  • Publishers, agents, and traditionally published authors want consumers to prefer traditionally published books, so they want to market the perception that their books are better.

Is It Really Better, or Is It a Matter of Style?

Here’s the funny thing.

Many readers may actually prefer to buy books that look a little self-published.

Who is your target audience?

  • If you expect to receive a lot of support from the millions of indie supporters—which include indie authors and their friends, family, acquaintances, coworkers, fan base— then you should design your book around people who will support self-publishing. They expect your book to look a little self-published. They expect your book to list CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform as the publisher; heck, many indie supporters specifically search for CreateSpace on Amazon, since they know they are supporting indie authors when they buy CreateSpace books (or when they buy Kindle e-books for which the paperback is a CreateSpace book).
  • Most readers who prefer model books buy traditionally published books. Starting your own imprint that nobody’s ever heard of isn’t likely to drive those readers away from the Big 5 publishers. (Though it is possible to come out with dozens of professional looking books and establish a significant small publisher label. If that’s your long-term goal, keep that in mind as you read this article, as things may be somewhat different for you.)
  • If your book is an apple, maybe you’ll have more success by making it look like a delicious apple, instead of trying to make it look like an orange. Even if you do persuade people to buy your orange, as soon as it tastes like an apple, your marketing will backfire. That is, dress your indie book up as an indie book and play the indie card; trying to make it look like something it’s not may actually backfire.

There are several reasons that indie supporters might prefer their books to look a little self-published.

  • If it reads a little self-published, it might be easier for indie supporters to read. Much of this audience isn’t looking for Pulitzer-Prize-winning fiction. Rather, they’re looking for easy reading, easy comprehension, vocabulary they can make sense of, and grammar that makes sense to them. Sometimes, the rules of grammar seem like they’re wrong when they’re right. For example, it’s correct to say, “It is I,” and incorrect to say, “It is me,” because conjugations of the verb “to be” take a subject instead of an object. But if you know and follow this rule, it might upset much of the indie support system.
  • Not everyone has the same style. People who favor the style of traditionally published books are more likely to favor those books. People hoping for something different are more likely to support indie books.
  • If your Look Inside appears too professional, it might seem that you’re already successful. Some readers are hoping to find a diamond in the rough—i.e. one that doesn’t look like a diamond, but turns out to be. They’d like to support someone who could use a boost.
  • If your Look Inside appears too good, it might be confused for a published book. Not by people looking for published books; they know the real thing when they see it. But by people looking to support books that appear to be self-published; they might get confused by the difference. (Naturally, there will be some exceptions.)
  • If your book has a bunch of five-star reviews early on, it may deter indie support. Traditionally published books are expected to have a lot of five-star reviews, and they send out hundreds of advance review copies to get them; their customers expect it. Indie supporters expect to see some criticism, and know that reviews are hard to come by (and that’s OK). While many readers will support indie authors, many change their attitude where they suspect abuse of the review system (keep in mind they are suspicious of critical reviews, too). Many stellar reviews, with no bad ones, without a sales rank (relative to the publication date) to suggest many sales, arouses customer suspicion.
  • If your book has a bunch of review quotes, you’re playing the same game as traditionally published authors. Readers of traditionally published books know those quotes will be there, but tolerate it. A great thing about indie books is that you often don’t have to put up with that. Talk about hand-picking just the best reviews, this common game among traditional publishers takes that to an extreme.

Notice what I didn’t say. I didn’t say that you could make your book very self-published. I didn’t say that editing, cover design, formatting, and such aren’t important.

I’m saying it’s okay to be different in some ways, but there are some ways where being different can really kill your sales. It’s important to learn the difference.

Don’t Take This the Wrong Way

There are, of course, very important exceptions:

  • The cover is vital. When I say it’s okay to look a little self-published, I mean in every way except for the actual ‘look.’ The cover absolutely has to please your target audience. It doesn’t need to be a cover cliché—like a hunk on a romance cover—but it does need to appeal to the style of your potential readers. Cover appeal is critical. Not everyone wears the same kind of clothing, but everyone has a sense of style and wears clothes that appeal to them. Design a cover that appeals to nobody and you’ll sell books to… nobody. (But you can get away with more in nonfiction. For example, it’s very important for the keywords of nonfiction books to stand out well, and this can make up for otherwise looking a little self-published. For fiction, visual appeal can be everything.)
  • Consistency is key. The most important factor in the design and writing of your book is consistency. Whether you use justified or ragged right isn’t as important as consistent formatting. If some paragraphs are justified, while others are ragged right, that book won’t appeal to anyone. Your book needs to have a definite style.
  • Editing does matter. It’s not so much about having perfect grammar, as it is about (A) having consistency, (B) knowing which rules you can or can’t break, and (C) not having many obvious mistakes. If you’re a writer, everyone who knows the difference between “your” and “you’re,” for example, will expect you to know such basic rules, too. The subtle rules you can get away with to some extent. Occasional mistakes are okay; frequent mistakes can be a disaster. And often the mistakes are far more frequent than the author realizes.
  • Bookstores are different. If getting bookstores to stock your book is important to you, then it’s very important to bring a highly professional looking book with you.
  • Image is everything. You’re trying to gain publicity, so you must be careful not to get negative publicity. For example, one of the big no-no’s is commenting on reviews. Reacting emotionally in the comments section can destroy your reputation even among indie supporters. You don’t have a free license to do whatever you want, if you wish to sell books successfully.

There are some highly popular self-published books (I won’t name names, but I bet you can think of a few) that gained their success while looking a bit self-published. There are some highly professional looking self-published books that are struggling to get by. Just making the book look professional isn’t, by itself, a sales magnet. Just like a salesman with a hole on the sole of his shoe, sometimes it might be best to look a little self-published. Not a lot. Just a little. In the right places.

Be Proud of Who You Are

  • I’m an indie, and I know it.
  • I’m proud to be an indie.
  • I wear the indie badge.
  • See my name. It’s right there.
  • I wear the name proudly, but I wear it well, too.
  • I work hard at it. I’m not lazy.
  • I strive to do my best. I learn more each day.
  • But I have my own style. And that’s okay.
  • I don’t go overboard.
  • I don’t try to be what I’m not.
  • I simply carry out my own style as best I can.
  • It’s not a solo act.
  • We indies are a team.
  • We support one another. Scrupulously, of course.
  • We hear your criticism. It motivates us to do even better.
  • Go, indies!

Badge

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, 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

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

Comments

Click here to jump to the comments section:

https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/2014/07/28/how-to-cook-the-look-of-your-book/#comments

#Free #ebook w/ #KindleUnlimited (**New** Twitter Amazon Hashtags for Kindle Unlimited) #AmazonCart

Kindle Unlimited Hashtags

Amazon recently launched Kindle Unlimited, a subscription service where customers can access 600,000 titles (including all 500,000 KDP Select tiles plus 100,000 more from small presses, with some popular series like Harry Potter in the mix) for $9.99 per month. A customer can borrow up to 10 books on the device (which doesn’t have to be a Kindle) before needing to return one to make room for another. Authors receive a royalty in the form of a KDP Select borrow for each Kindle Unlimited download after the customer passes the 10% mark. You can read more about Kindle Unlimited by clicking here.

Like it or hate it, neither praising nor complaining are marketing strategies. If you enroll in KDP Select, you want to find marketing strategies that help you benefit from the program; if you opt out of KDP Select, the presence of Kindle Unlimited still impacts how to market your book effectively. Adapting to change and finding effective marketing strategies are proactive ways to reap benefits while others idly watch, wait, and remark.

For example, you could be using hashtags to help with your Twitter marketing. If you have already built a large fan base and release a new book, Twitter can help with that, but some authors use Twitter effectively to do far more than that. For one, you can use hashtags effectively. For another, if you become an active, appreciated member of a Twitter network, you can garner much support for your occasional promotions in the form of retweets, for example.

Here are some hashtags that you might be using to market your KDP Select e-books in the Kindle Unlimited era:

  • Hashtag #KindleUnlimited. Make it easy for Kindle Unlimited customers to see that they can get your Kindle e-book for free.
  • Hashtag #Free. Like the example I made with the title of this article, you can combine these hashtags (#Free with #Kindle Unlimited). You might also include Reg. $5.99 (or whatever the list price is).
  • Hashtag #AmazonCart. This new feature helps Twitter customers quickly add your Kindle e-book to their carts to buy later, and offers you the ability to monitor the effectiveness of your promotional tweets. Click here to learn more.

You don’t want to spam your followers to death, but if you learn to use Twitter effectively, build a following, and become a respected member of your network, it is possible to use Twitter effectively to promote your e-book.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, 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

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

Comments

Click here to jump to the comments section:

https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/2014/07/23/free-ebook-w-kindleunlimited-new-twitter-amazon-hashtags-for-kindle-unlimited/#comments

Marketing Children’s Books with Kindle Unlimited

Childrens Reading

Marketing Opportunity for Children’s Authors

Children’s authors—and to some extent, even tween and teen authors—have the potential to use Kindle Unlimited as a marketing opportunity.

There are many parents, teachers, educators, and librarians who would love kids to READ much more.

Kindle Unlimited is an incredible value for parents:

  • Bedtime stories. Kindle Unlimited gives access to a huge collection of children’s stories, far more than can be stored on a bookshelf. Some of those children’s book are pretty expensive, too, but Kindle Unlimited offers an amazing selection for $9.99 per month. Kids will love the opportunity to read along on a Kindle Fire (or another device) as the parent operates the device.
  • Reading fluency. From elementary school to young adults, access to tens of thousands of children’s, tween, and teen stories for $9.99 per month is a great opportunity to encourage kids to develop a love for reading by finding books that interest them. Get a book they didn’t like? No problem: Find another! The more they read, the more fluent they will become (it helps not only improve English, but also writing and vocabulary—years of practice will be valuable on standardized exams), and the more they will want to read as they get older. Help make reading a habit.
  • Educational resource. Need homework help? Need more practice? Want to learn more about a topic that caught your interest in school? Kindle Unlimited provides access to numerous Kindle educational titles that can help with learning, study aids, and nonfiction reading. Parents can learn more, too, or discover books that help them teach particular skills. All that at your fingertips for $9.99 per month.
  • Access to a library on your fingertips. Would you rather have your child searching on the internet—where they can find lord knows what—for school help, or would you rather have access to a huge library of published e-books for $9.99 per month? You can check out up to 10 titles at a time. Then simply return one title to check out another.

If every parent takes full advantage of Kindle Unlimited there would be an astronomical amount of downloads (thereby diminishing the KDP Select download royalty). But many parents won’t realize the full potential, and there are many people subscribing to Kindle Unlimited who aren’t parents or who aren’t subscribing for the benefit of their kids. There also is a Restrictions paragraph in the terms of use. Amazon didn’t specify a number, but if you go overboard downloading books, that paragraph might become applicable.

But Kindle Unlimited is an amazing resource for parents. I’m certainly subscribing.

Authors of children’s, tween, and even teen books can take advantage of this. Show parents what a value this is for their children, with examples of how they can use it well. Emphasize how it can help with reading and learning.

The more parents who use Kindle Unlimited to help build reading fluency or improve learning, the more children’s authors in KDP Select who will be benefiting from more downloads through Kindle Unlimited.

You have the opportunity to gain visibility among parents while advertising the educational benefits of Kindle Unlimited. Surely, many parents will check out your children’s books for helping them see the benefits.

All authors enrolled in KDP Select need to be thinking about possible benefits of Kindle Unlimited for their books, and striving to find marketing strategies to help realize these benefits. For example, if you’re a flash fiction author, you want to advertise to flash fiction readers how they can get a great value from Kindle Unlimited.

It’s not just KDP Select books or just indie books. There are 100,000 books from various (mostly small publishers) in addition to 500,000 books from KDP Select. Harry Potter and many other books that your kids may want to read are in the mix.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, 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

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

Comments

Click here to jump to the comments section:

https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/2014/07/22/marketing-childrens-books-with-kindle-unlimited/#comments

Kindle Unlimited & Marketing Strategies (for A-L-L Authors)

Unlimited Books

Kindle Unlimited Affects Every Author

Whether or not your books participate in Kindle Unlimited, this new Amazon program impacts how you should market your books.

Kindle Unlimited allows Amazon customers to read an unlimited number of books—with 600,000 to choose from—for a monthly fee of $9.99. You can learn more about Kindle Unlimited by clicking here.

Some authors are for it; others are against it. Either way, it changes the effectiveness of traditional marketing strategies, and will bring about new marketing opportunities.

Complaining doesn’t help. Cheering only helps a little. Realizing how this impacts marketing, planning for it, and making the most of it right out of the box—that can give you a marked advantage.

When a new and big program comes out, there are always some authors who take advantage of it. Months later, you hear success stories. Then many other authors try those things, but it doesn’t work quite as well.

It isn’t months later yet (unless you happen to be reading this post many months after it was written). Here is your opportunity.

Changes to Marketing Strategies

Part of your potential readership will be in Kindle Unlimited, but part won’t be. That’s why every author will be affected by this.

Some marketing strategies that used to be effective may become less effective now.

Here are some book marketing strategies that may lose their effectiveness:

  • Promotional prices. Whether it’s a Kindle freebie, permanent free price-match, Kindle Countdown Deal, MatchBook offer, temporary price change, or a Smashwords discount code, it won’t look attractive to thousands of readers who have access to Kindle Unlimited. Even if you aren’t in Kindle Unlimited, some of your potential readership is. Thus, Kindle Unlimited may dampen the effectiveness of promotional pricing.
  • Omnibus. A boxed set won’t have the same value to a customer with a subscription for unlimited reading. Kindle Unlimited authors should remove the omnibus from KDP Select; it only has value to readers who aren’t in the program. Again, since thousands of your potential customers are now in Kindle Unlimited, it will impact the effectiveness of the boxed set.
  • Series. Many series authors make the first book free or 99 cents. That’s not such a good value in the Kindle Unlimited program. If the series isn’t in Kindle Unlimited, a low price of the first book won’t appeal to as many readers as it has in the past. If the series is in Kindle Unlimited, a higher price may seem like a better value to those customers.
  • Low prices. Many 99-cent, $1.99, and $2.99 books have appealed to readers through low prices. They’re cheap, so it’s easier to take a chance on them. But in Kindle Unlimited, higher price-points may be more attractive, as more expensive books won’t cost customers more money; they want to get a better value. Some of your potential readers are in Kindle Unlimited, others aren’t. Fewer customers overall will now be attracted to lower prices.
  • Advertising. In the past, you could advertise a promotional price effectively through BookBub, E-reader News Today, and many other paid and free advertising services. These may lose their effectiveness with many customers moving to subscription pricing. Higher prices may be perceived as a greater value, without the added cost, to Kindle Unlimited customers. There will be fewer customers attracted to promotional pricing.
  • Sales rank. Books in the Kindle Unlimited program that are receiving downloads will benefit in terms of sales rank. This gives books that thrive in the Kindle Unlimited program an advantage over books that aren’t in the program.
  • Reviews. You might think that Kindle Unlimited customers will tend to be more satisfied, since a book that doesn’t suit their needs won’t be a waste of money—just go out and get another book. However, like KDP Select freebies, many customers will stop reading the blurbs and Look Insides and just download books without knowing what to expect, and, unfortunately, Kindle Unlimited books will occasionally receive some crazy reviews from these customers. Every book eventually gets some crazy reviews; maybe reviews where the customer clearly didn’t pay attention are better than some other critical reviews. And once a bad review is posted, it sometimes deters other would-be reviewers from piling it on.
  • Traffic. Kindle Unlimited books may take away traffic from books that aren’t in the program, in addition to helping to boost the sales ranks of books that are in the program. Books that aren’t in Kindle Unlimited need to become more effective at reaching customers who aren’t in Kindle Unlimited.
  • Print books. Customers who prefer print books are less likely to subscribe to Kindle Unlimited. Authors who aren’t in KDP Select may now want to market their print books somewhat more.

Kindle Unlimited Marketing Opportunities

Once you understand how marketing strategies are impacted by Kindle Unlimited, you can take this into consideration with your planning.

Here are some suggestions for how to market books enrolled in KDP Select in the Kindle Unlimited era:

  • New groups. Start a new group on Facebook in your genre specifically for Kindle Unlimited readers and/or authors. Or join a new group. There is a new Kindle Unlimited target audience. You want to find ways to reach this audience. Be among the first to do this effectively and it will be a sweet advantage for you.
  • Advertising. Look for new clubs and advertising services specifically geared toward Kindle Unlimited. It won’t be about sale prices, it will be about matching books to readers. It might be a new release email newsletter for Kindle Unlimited customers. Perhaps editors selectively screen submissions for quality content. There are many possibilities. You could even start such a service yourself (which gives you added publicity). The time is ripe.
  • Children’s books. Children’s authors should be marketing the potential of Kindle Unlimited to parents and teachers. Parents may not have realized how easy it would be to read a different bedtime story every night from a huge collection for just $9.99 per month. That’s a steal. Since kids’ books tend to be short (but not cheap), parents and children (and teachers) can really get their money’s worth out of Kindle Unlimited. Parents are likely to read books by authors who help them realize what a value this is.
  • Holiday gifting. This is one promotion that will still appeal to Kindle Unlimited customers. Since they still have to buy gifts for friends and family, promotional pricing for gifts will entice all readers. So you can still market promotional pricing toward gifts. Be sure to mention the gift part in your promotions. Kindle Unlimited subscribers will see the promotional price and think, “No big deal,” until the gift part reminds them, “Oh, yeah, that will cost me money.” Check out Read Tuesday, a Black Friday type of event just for books. This will be a great opportunity to gift e-books for the holidays.
  • Pricing. Consider raising your price. It won’t deter Kindle Unlimited customers; it may help establish higher value. However, keep in mind that if the price seems higher than the book is worth, customers (even in Kindle Unlimited) are more likely to feel dissatisfied (i.e. they didn’t receive the expected value), perhaps leaving a critical review. Rather, if your book is currently priced lower than it’s value based on how the market has been prior to Kindle Unlimited, you may want to reconsider this. Remember that you will still have readers who aren’t in Kindle Unlimited. Also, any downloads you get through Kindle Unlimited will help your sales rank, so you may not have to sweat your sales rank with a higher list price. There are a lot of things to consider regarding price (you can always try out a price change temporarily to see how it works). You might keep your UK and other countries’ prices low, since Kindle Unlimited is presently only available to US customers.
  • Paperbacks. A higher Kindle price may make your paperback look somewhat more enticing, too. Previously, a low Kindle price versus a high paperback price made the Kindle edition seem like a better deal—and it still will to customers who aren’t in the program—but the lower price won’t attract Kindle Unlimited customers. For some books, this might be a good time to push more paperback sales to customers who aren’t in Kindle Unlimited. In fact, some of the readers who won’t be joining Kindle Unlimited are those who prefer print books.
  • Opportunity. Kindle Unlimited is new. There are many opportunities to creatively market your book specifically to these customers. My list may help you get started, but surely I haven’t thought of everything. Put your thinking cap on and you may be among the first to try out and effectively use a new book marketing strategy.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, 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

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

Comments

Click here to jump to the comments section:

https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/2014/07/20/kindle-unlimited-marketing-strategies-for-a-l-l-authors/#comments

Get the Most out of Kindle MatchBook

Matchbook 2

Cover design by Melissa Stevens at http://www.theillustratedauthor.net.

Is Kindle MatchBook Working for You?

If you have a print edition (e.g. through CreateSpace) and Kindle edition for the same book, you may be eligible to participate in the Kindle MatchBook program. (Scroll down to learn more about what MatchBook is and how to participate.)

Authors who are eligible almost always check the box to enroll in the MatchBook program. Why not? Nothing really to lose, but you might generate a few extra sales.

But many authors aren’t getting as much out of this valuable marketing tool as they could be.

If the only thing you do with MatchBook is check that box to participate and select a MatchBook price, you probably won’t get much out of the program.

Why not? Because most people aren’t going to see the offer, and many who do won’t fully realize how beneficial it can be.

  • You can’t see the offer from the Kindle e-book’s product page (unless you’ve already bought the paperback edition). So if the customer was shopping for the Kindle edition, the customer will just buy the Kindle edition without even realizing that MatchBook was a possibility.
  • It’s not very visible on the paperback product page. There’s a little note about it on the right-hand side a ways down, overlooked by most customers.
  • You can only see the MatchBook offer on Kindle e-book’s product page in the following circumstances: (1) the book is participating in the MatchBook program (2) the customer has already bought the print edition from Amazon (3) the customer is presently logged in, using the same account used to purchase the print edition (4) the MatchBook offer is the lowest available price to the customer (e.g. if your book happens to be free or on sale for a price lower than the MatchBook price, then the MatchBook offer won’t be shown).

Among those few customers who do see the MatchBook offer, many won’t realize on their own how they could really benefit from it.

This doesn’t mean that Kindle MatchBook is of little importance and can only add on rare sales.

Rather, it means, just like almost everything else about selling books, you have to learn and apply effective marketing strategies to get the most out of the tool. (The same is true, by the way, regarding freebies and Countdown Deals: Effective promotional strategies help to get the most out of these tools; simply running the promotion might turn out to be a dud, but effective marketing can yield significant results.)

Let me first back up and give an overview of what the Kindle MatchBook program is, then I’ll provide some concrete suggestions for how to take advantage of this promotional opportunity.

What Is Kindle MatchBook?

Kindle MatchBook is a promotional tool available to authors who have both print and Kindle editions of the same book.

The author or publisher can then choose to enroll the Kindle edition in the MatchBook program. A promotional price is set for the MatchBook offer.

When a customer buys the print edition of the book from Amazon, that customer becomes eligible for the MatchBook offer. The customer can then buy the Kindle edition at a special price.

Essentially, the MatchBook program provides an incentive to customers to buy both print and Kindle editions of the same book: Buy both editions and save.

If you would like to learn more about Kindle MatchBook, follow this link to the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) help page for MatchBook:

https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=AVJCUBZXDNUM4

How to Get the Most out of Kindle MatchBook

One way to inspire more MatchBook sales is to learn some effective techniques to sell more paperback books. The more paperback books you well, the greater the chances of customers discovering and taking advantage of the MatchBook offer. I sell 8 to 15 times as many paperback books as e-books, and every month some of my Kindle purchases are through MatchBook.

Obviously, some types of books tend to sell better in paperback than others. Many kinds of nonfiction books, for example, tend to sell better in print; many fictional works sell much better as e-books.

But even with books that tend to sell better as e-books, there are still many customers who prefer printed books to e-books. There is a market for print books. You just need to find ways to tap into this market.

Here are some ideas to help you think of ways to market your paperback books:

  • When you include a link to your book, do you only link to the Kindle edition? Well, try including two links, one marked ‘Kindle’ and the other marked ‘paperback.’
  • Or include just the link to the paperback. Yeah, it’s the higher price. Think about it. The customer is considering buying a $13.25 paperback. Then they see there is a Kindle edition for $3.99. Having just seen and considered a $13.25 paperback, your $3.99 e-book looks like great savings.
  • Do a book signing. Gee, customers will need to buy some print editions in order to get their autographs. You make a higher royalty when you sell author copies. Customers who buy author copies aren’t eligible for MatchBook, but these paperback sales may help inspire more sales (see my point about how print sales help with marketing below).
  • Get local bookstores to stock your book. Get the local library to keep a copy of your book. Again, these won’t be eligible for MatchBook, but can help inspire more paperback sales (even on Amazon, through the marketing effect of having more paperback books out there).
  • Perhaps you can find a local or online book club that uses print books to use your book. There are many ways to use your creativity to help market your books; what you really need to do is get your brain churning and focus on where to find your target audience.
  • Use MatchBook to help inspire more paperback sales. It’s an incentive to buy both editions. Buy the paperback and get a discount on the Kindle edition. You just need to let people know about it. (See below for ideas.)

You might be wondering whether or not you want to sell more paperbacks. Suppose you’re making a $4 royalty for Kindle sales and a $3 royalty for paperback sales. That Kindle sale seems better, doesn’t it? (Well, maybe you didn’t price your paperback high enough.) There are other things to consider. For example, if you sell more paperbacks, your paperback sales rank will improve. Plus, you’d ideally like to sell both paperbacks and Kindle editions together using MatchBook. Finally, there is a marketing benefit to selling more paperbacks:

  • Paperbacks are good marketing tools. Every paperback you sell can potentially be seen by a customer reading the book on a bus, or lying on a coffee table when friends come over. If you have an amazing cover, this can really pay dividends. “Hey, what’s that book you’re reading?”

The real ‘trick‘ to inspiring more MatchBook sales is to turn this into a promotional tool:

  • With all the marketing you already do, just add a brief note at the end of it to the effect of, “Get the Kindle edition for 99 cents (or whatever it is) when you buy the paperback from Amazon first.” Or you can shorten it something like, “Kindle MatchBook price: 99 cents,” then describe briefly what the customer needs to know about MatchBook in a footnote or endnote.
  • Even better, advertise an incentive for customers to buy both the paperback and Kindle edition together through MatchBook. Show customers how this can be handy. For example, you can buy the paperback edition as a gift and read the Kindle edition for yourself.
  • That’s perfect for Christmas and birthdays. Advertise this during the holiday season: “Give a great gift and keep a copy for yourself.” Mention how MatchBook allows you to gift the paperback and keep a Kindle edition for yourself at a discounted price. MatchBook is a great Christmas marketing tool.
  • This year, one way authors can participate in Read Tuesday (a holiday marketing opportunity—it’s free—that I created; it’s like a Black Friday just for books) is by making the MatchBook price free. I’ll promote the gift potential that MatchBook provides as part of the Read Tuesday marketing. Check out www.readtuesday.com. (It still has the 2013 info there, but that will update in the coming weeks. I have some new ideas for making Read Tuesday even better, and it started with a nice bang last year.)
  • Set the MatchBook price to FREE for a limited time. Run this as a promotion and spread the news: “For two weeks only, you can get the Kindle edition free through MatchBook when you buy the paperback edition.”
  • A free MatchBook offer (even if it’s temporary) can help you stimulate more paperback sales. Provided that you advertise the offer. (If you want to improve your paperback sales rank or take advantage of some of the marketing that paperback sales bring, MatchBook can help you do it.)
  • When you interact with people in your target audience (something you should be doing as part of your marketing anyway), mention how they can take advantage of MatchBook and show them why this may be useful (i.e. mention the gift idea).

MatchBook isn’t the magical tool that will do all the work for you and end your marketing woes all by itself.

But MatchBook does have amazing potential as a marketing tool. You really don’t have to do additional marketing to take advantage of MatchBook. You just need to briefly mention the MatchBook potential in the marketing you already do.

Some authors excel at making the most of the free marketing tools at their disposal. You could be one of those authors. What it really takes is the determination and motivation to succeed at it.

Check your MatchBook royalty on Page 2 of the publishing process at KDP. Make sure you’re happy with the royalty (and realize that this will be in addition to the paperback royalty.)

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, 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

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

Comments

Click here to jump to the comments section:

https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/2014/07/17/get-the-most-out-of-kindle-matchbook/#comments

Marketing Books with QR Codes

author-2

QR Codes

Why should you care about them?

Three good reasons:

  • Humans are more likely to pursue an option that allows them to be lazy. Extra work deters sales.
  • People can easily make mistakes when typing a website address. Typos cost sales.
  • Many of your potential customers are into the latest technology. Give them an opportunity to play with their toys.

QR codes make it easy for your customers to find your Author Central page, book’s product page at Amazon, Facebook author page, Twitter page, WordPress blog, Goodreads author page, or other websites.

What Is a QR Code?

A QR code is a two-dimensional barcode. QR stands for Quick Response.

It’s very common in the consumer industry for a QR code to contain the information for a website url.

You can see a sample QR code above in the image I used for this post.

Here’s how the QR code works:

  • You visit a website that allows you to generate a QR code for your website. Some QR websites do this for free.
  • Then you download the JPEG or PNG file for your QR code.
  • Include your QR code on your book marketing materials.
  • Smartphone users can download free apps that scan QR codes.
  • The customer uses the QR scanner on his/her smartphone to scan the QR code. It’s just the phone’s camera reading the QR code.
  • When the QR code is scanned, the phone’s browser opens the website address associated with the QR code.
  • You can even track statistics associated with QR code scans, which is great for marketing.

Quick and Easy

Really, it’s incredibly easy.

If you have a smartphone, you just open the app, which opens your phone’s camera, point the camera at the QR code, and that’s it. The phone beeps, the phone’s internet browser opens, and the webpage appears on the phone.

Many smartphone owners have already installed free apps on their phones to scan QR codes. Many people recognize QR codes when they see them and scan them.

If you’ve never scanned a QR code before, what are you waiting for?

  • Get your cell phone out and search for apps.
  • Type QR code into the search query. Browse for free QR scanners.
  • I have an android phone. I tried a few. I like one called QR Droid.
  • Install the QR scanning app on your phone.
  • Test it out. You can scan the QR code above if you like (it will take you to my Amazon author page). Or the next time you buy a soft drink in a fast food restaurant, see if there is a QR code on the cup.

It’s just as easy for authors to generate free QR codes to help market their books. You just find a free website, enter your website url, and download an image file with your QR code.

Marketing with QR Codes

There are several websites that specialize in generating QR codes. Many offer free QR codes. Many allow you to track statistics.

I tried scanova.io and really liked it. I tested out Scanova and some other popular QR generators, and found Scanova most suitable for my needs.

When searching for a QR code generator, consider these features:

  • Will customers see advertisements on your website? Some of the generators require you to pay a monthly fee to avoid this.
  • Do the QR codes work reliably? Make a free one and test it out.
  • Do they offer free tracking of statistics?
  • How many trackable QR codes can you get?
  • How many trackable QR codes do you need?
  • Do they offer color or visual QR codes?
  • Is there a limit to how many QR scans customers can do per month? Some charge a fee to raise or remove this limit.
  • One of the fancy paid QR services that I explored in my research offered you the chance to create a QR code that goes to one page that shows your website, Facebook, blog, Twitter, etc. It was an all-in-one page. Of course, you could create your own free webpage somewhere and put all this together on that page, then use a free QR code to go to that page instead of paying for this special feature.

Don’t like the way QR codes look? Not a problem. Scanova and other QR code generators offer visual QR codes. You upload an image, such as a logo, and they turn it into a visual QR code.

Plain QR codes are more likely to be instantly recognized as QR codes, and it’s possible that they will be easier to read. You can test out a visual QR code and a plain one to compare them.

Book Marketing

You want customers to visit your author page, blog, social media sites, Amazon product page, etc.

So make it easy for the customer to do this. That’s what QR codes are for. Why type that url when you can just scan it.

Online, the customer would simply click on the link. That’s easy. But what about when it’s not online?

Anytime you print your url, add your QR code, too:

  • On the author page of your print book, include the QR codes to your WordPress blog, Facebook author, and Twitter pages.
  • When you print bookmarks for your book, add the QR code to the book’s product page at Amazon.
  • Add a QR code for your Amazon author page to your business cards.
  • Create flyers for a Goodreads giveaway or Rafflecopter contest. A QR code makes it easy to enter.
  • Send postcards to your client lists, notifying them (with a personal touch!) when your new book comes out—with a convenient QR code.

If you want to go overboard, you can even tattoo a QR code on your forearm or paint one on the door of your car! (Hey, you just might get the local news to make a story out of it for extra publicity.) Be sure to put a QR code on your pet’s id tag! 🙂

Really, you don’t have to do extra work to use QR codes in your book marketing. Just add a QR code to anything you’d ordinarily print, including your book, bookmarks, business cards, etc.

It’s free. It’s really not extra work. So why aren’t you using QR codes? What’s there to lose?

In addition to helping you generate additional traffic, QR codes offer tracking statistics. If you succeed in getting customers to scan QR codes that take them to your book’s product page at Amazon, you get tracking data that you wouldn’t ordinarily obtain.

Are QR Codes Dead or Alive?

I’m not saying that QR codes are so popular that everyone is scanning them, and that this is the easy solution to all your marketing woes.

What I am saying is that QR codes are easy to make, easy to use, and can help you generate additional traffic without much extra work.

Who can’t use extra traffic without extra expense and with very little work?

QR codes are in use. Many big-name fast food restaurants include QR codes on their disposable products, such as soda cups. Big retailers are keeping QR codes alive. You can take advantage of this.

There are alternatives to QR codes, but again, there are many people who recognize and use QR codes, you can make them for free, it makes it easy for customers to find your website, it offers you tracking data, and it requires almost no work to take advantage of this free marketing resource.

You

That’s right! You! 🙂

What can you do?

Install a free QR scanner on your smartphone.

The next time you come across an author’s QR code and you’re curious about the author or the author’s book, scan the QR code and check out the website.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, 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

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

Comments

Click here to jump to the comments section:

https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/2014/07/13/marketing-books-with-qr-codes/#comments

Most Valuable Marketing Tools for Self-Published Authors

Tools

1 Word of Mouth

What it can do for you:

  • It can generate sales even when you’ve had a couple of recent unfavorable reviews. What a reader’s buddy tells them about your book carries more weight than what some random stranger writes on your Amazon product page.
  • It doesn’t rely on Amazon to sell your book through search results or customers-also-bought lists. Those can change over time. Word-of-mouth sales can yield traffic during times when Amazon’s marketing isn’t helping your book.
  • It helps your book get discovered. Instead of having to hunt your book down amongst thousands of others in that genre, your book is reaching readers’ ears directly.
  • It lends credibility to your book. Somebody that readers trust is recommending your book.
  • It gets readers interested in your book and puts them in a positive frame of mind at the outset. Readers discovering your book on Amazon often approach it with concern.
  • It can lead to a very long-term chain reaction. A few readers hear good things about your book. It may take weeks for them to buy and read your book. If each of them recommends it to their buddies, the number of readers and recommenders has grown. Many months later, what starts out small can lead to something much bigger.
  • It can build your reputation as an author. This helps not only to sell one book, but to generate interest in your full line of books.

Word-of-mouth sales can be the most valuable, but also the hardest to get.

How to earn them:

  • Your book has to have a wow-factor. When strangers pick up your book and feel impressed with the read, you really have something. Your book’s strengths need to compel readers to want more of that. Give readers more than they expect; much more.
  • Fiction books need to evoke strong emotions in readers; they need to also deliver on readers’ expectations for the genre. Nonfiction books need to fulfill the range and depth of information that readers want; they also need to be well-organized, communicate ideas clearly, and present the information at the right level.
  • You need to shore up your book’s weaknesses. Even if the storyline or characters are incredible, readers find it hard to recommend books with editing, formatting, or other issues. Their reputation is on the line, too, in the recommendation. Your book needs to earn it. You’re charging money for your book; it needs to appear professional.
  • If your book has that wow-factor, get it into the hands of readers. Run promotions, find bloggers who review books in your genre, and find and interact with your target audience. Find experts to read your book and politely request an editorial review or a quote that you can use in your book’s blurb—that’s a professional recommendation that carries weight with some customers.

When the author goes the extra mile to impress readers and produces a book worthy of word-of-mouth praise, this can have a huge impact on the long-term success of the book.

2 The Horse’s Mouth

What’s the next best thing to hearing positive things about a book from a trusted source?

Interacting directly with the author, of course.

Even in today’s world where millions of authors are getting books out there, it’s still a treat to meet and interact with the author.

Why does it matter? This personal interaction can do things that your product page can’t:

  • Show your passion and enthusiasm for your book.
  • Make the reader feel special. Don’t just draw interest in your book. Get interested in your readers, too.
  • There is greater potential to establish credibility as an author.
  • Answer any questions that the reader has.

Of the most common ways for books to sell, personal interactions with the target audience is the one big factor that is most accessible to self-published authors. (The other big factors include shopping the bestseller list, shopping by the name of an established author, browsing through the gigantic haystack of books on Amazon, professional book reviews, and bookstore recommendations.) When you aren’t dealt a good hand, you better play the one good card you do have. If you do play your cards right, you can eventually benefit from the other popular ways that books sell, too.

Think long and hard about where to find your target audience. Go out and interact with them. Charm your potential readers.

While you can reach greater numbers online, interactions in person are more likely to result in sales and reviews.

3 Flash It

Your book needs attention.

Shoppers will be browsing through hundreds of thumbnails in search results. Others will see your cover when they come across your marketing efforts.

Your cover needs to stand out.

It also needs to look the part. If it looks like a mystery, but it’s really a fantasy, your sales will be a bad romance.

A fantastic cover won’t provide long-term success for a lousy book.

But a fantastic cover can have a significant impact on the sales of a quality book.

For a highly marketable book (i.e. there is demand for the book and the content delivers on expectations), investing a modest amount toward a fantastic cover can pay nice dividends in the long run. And what you might lack in terms of financial investment, you can make up for in time. After all, time is money. Take the time to learn the how-to, get feedback, and get it right.

There are no guarantees in the publishing business, but most successful self-published authors credit their covers for being valuable players on their books’ sales teams.

4 Talk to Me, Baby

An effective cover grabs the attention of the target audience and brings shoppers to the product page.

Now it’s time for the only salesperson you have at the point-of-sale to close the deal.

“Who’s that,” you ask? It’s your blurb.

The description of your book isn’t a summary. It’s a sales tool.

The blurb needs to attract attention right off the bat. It needs to engage interest in the first line and hold that interest until the customer clicks to Look Inside.

Many effective blurbs are very concise, especially in fiction. Too much text there can be intimidating. If you’re exploring hundreds of books, you don’t want to read a long description for a book you might not even buy. In nonfiction, you can make important points easy to read by using bullet points (such formatting is possible through Author Central).

If the reader gets bored, it’s no sale. If the blurb doesn’t reinforce the genre depicted by the cover and title, it’s no deal.

Once the blurb generates a click to Look Inside, the Look Inside needs to wow the customer into making the purchase. Like the blurb, the Look Inside needs to engage interest immediately and keep it throughout. It must also look professional and read well.

Finally, the book must deliver on the promise made by the cover, blurb, and Look Inside. Otherwise, you get returns and frustrated readers.

5 Hunt ’em Down

Your book is out there, but who knows it?

You want to find your target audience. The word for this is marketing.

A great cover and blurb help, but first people must find your book. Recommendations are great, but first people must read your book. First, you need to get your book discovered.

Paid advertisements probably won’t be cost-effective for marketing a single book. Unless you have an amazing promotion going on and you supplement the paid advertising with much free marketing. In that case, a BookBub (click the link to learn more) or other type of promotion may come in handy.

There are many free marketing strategies, which are often more effective for books than paid marketing. Blogging, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites help you build a following and interact with your target audience. The key words here are target audience, which means posting content that will be relevant for them, using appropriate hash tags, and finding relevant Facebook groups.

Social media is a slow process. Now you go from just getting your book discovered to getting your social media pages discovered. You can do this through months of effective posts, interacting with people in your target audience, and directing readers to your social media pages in an About the Author section in your book. Then you’re kind of going in circles. But your social media helps two ways: You want people to discover you and your book, and you also want to attract fans so you can tell them about your next book when it comes out.

Don’t forget old-fashioned media: newspapers, magazines, television, and radio. Local papers often have column inches to fill and local radio stations may have minutes of air time to fill. Think about what can make you interesting to their audience. You’re selling yourself to sell your book. Learn how to prepare a press release package.

Remember, personal interactions are valuable to self-published (and all) authors. See if you can put together a successful reading or signing. Visit local libraries to see if you can get a paperback copy in circulation there or volunteer to read (appropriate material) to kids or senior citizens (visit a senior citizen center, too). Try to get stocked in local bookstores, and antique and other kinds of stores that sell books, but don’t specialize in books.

You need to work hard to find your target audience. But you can also help your target audience find you. Over time, turn your blog into a content-rich website with nonfiction material (even if you write fiction) that will attract your target audience through search engines. Your goal is to get 100+ visitors daily to your site through relevant search engine queries after a year of posts. That’s a lot of people discovering you and your book. It starts out very slow, but if you do it right, it can be very effective toward long-term success.

6 Can’t Get Enough

It’s easier to market several similar books than it is to market a single book.

It’s also easier to buy a book from someone who looks like a committed writer. When readers try out new authors, they’re looking for someone with the potential to provide a lifetime of good reading. If you just have a couple of books out, there isn’t much potential reward even if the book turns out to be good (i.e. comparing a reader who likes your book to a reader who likes a book by an author who has a dozen books out, this second reader will be enjoying many more books).

You also look like a professional writer when you have several books out.

And then each book that you sell helps to sell your other similar books. A hot promotion on one book helps to sell all your other books. More books, more readers, more recommendations, multi-book sales… If you’re looking to grow your sales, you need to publish a full line of books.

Don’t try to build Rome in a day. Take your time and get your books right. Just look ahead to the future. Your long-term goal is to have several good books that all help one another. It won’t help at all to have several books out unless readers enjoy them.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

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

Comments

Click here to jump to the comments section:

https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/2014/06/22/most-valuable-marketing-tools-for-self-published-authors/#comments