The definitive guide to SEO for authors

15 August 2017

From Nathan Bransford:

What if there was a way to virtually guarantee your book hits all the bestseller lists without being a “big name” author or buying your way onto the lists?

Sound impossible?

People have done it. And here’s the secret…

You need to build an AUDIENCE of people ready to pre-order your book.

It’s the exact strategy that Tim Ferriss used to become a four-time New York Times best seller.

In this article (NB note: written by SEO expert Michael Tesalona) we’ll break down exactly how it’s done. Spoiler alert: you’ll need to get very good at blogging and SEO.

. . . .

Building an audience online is about:

  1. having a blog and
  2. getting thousands of people to that blog

If you have thousands of people visiting your blog every month and reading your content it is possible to get those same people to buy your book.

How do you get thousands of people to your blog?

Search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing send them.

The process of getting your blog  – or any website –  to appear higher and more often in search engines is called search engine optimization, or SEO.

. . . .

Your blog should be about the topics related to your book.

If you write zombie horror fiction like David K Roberts, you blog about zombie stuff.

If you write self help like Tim Ferriss, you blog about human performance.

Define your category and think of blog topics related to that category.

Once you know your blog topics it’s time to do a little keyword research.

. . . .

Keywords are the words people type into search engines.

. . . .

You need to find out what keywords are related to the topics you discuss on your blog.

My favorite tool for keyword research is Moz’s keyword explorer.

We simply type in our main topic, in this case our topic is “zombie apocalypse”

. . . .

The Keyword Explorer gives us a list of one thousand keywords related to our topic.

. . . .

By reading through this list we can easily come up with a few blog ideas

  • “zombie apocalypse movie” – post about one zombie movie or maybe a list of the best ones created
  • “zombie apocalypse quiz” – post about signs we are heading towards said apocalypse
  • “zombie apocalypse survival kit/guide” – post about everything you need to survive brain eating zombies

. . . .

Your blog posts need to be the perfect article for the keyword you are targeting.

If your keyword is “zombie apocalypse survival guide” the post needs to be 10x better than any other blog post around covering a zombie apocalypse survival guide.

Link to the rest at Nathan Bransford and a link to Moz Keyword Explorer


Aggressive Growth (Branding/Discoverability)

12 August 2017

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

Here’s the surprising post. Many of you who read this blog regularly probably think that I’m opposed to major marketing campaigns. I’m not. I’m opposed to them when they’re done incorrectly.

What’s incorrectly?

Pretty much everything you see from traditional publishing to most indies. You have to look outside of publishing to see how to do a smart, aggressive growth campaign designed to grow an audience.

Why do I say traditional publishing and most writers do it wrong? Because…(wait for it)…an aggressive campaign to grow your target audience is part of a long-term strategy.

Publishing has turned aggressive growth campaigns into a short-term strategy, one that has no real upside.

Here’s what I mean.

Traditional publishing in modern times is based on the velocity model—selling a lot of books fast, then ignoring the product, and moving to another product.

Standard business growth is the exact opposite. You develop your company, develop your brand, cultivate your consumers, and then, once your business is large enough, consider making that business bigger.

When you decide the time is right to aggressively grow your audience, you should pull out every trick in the book and design a few of your own. You will work very hard on getting people to sample your wares. Most of the people who try your books will not continue reading them. Most people—because they didn’t like the book they sampled or they have only so much time or other favorite authors—will not return to your other work right away. And that’s okay, because your efforts here should have netted you 5-10% of the readers you targeted.

In other words, a properly done aggressive growth campaign, will get you more readers. Just not all the readers you expected.

. . . .

Readers are not predictable folk. So, of the 100,000 new readers who bought the book, 50,000 actually read it in a timely fashion (meaning the first three months). 25,000 read it eventually, and 25,000 more might get to it one day.

Already your “readership” is down to 75,000, and one-third of them might not have read the book they own by the time the new book comes out. Generally speaking, the release of a new book reminds slow readers that they already own one of your books, and they should read it now.

Of the 50,000 who’ve read book six by the time book seven comes out, 10,000 were unimpressed and will not buy your next. Another 10,000 liked it, but not enough to run right out and get another book with your byline. The remaining 30,000 split in a variety of directions.

Some read the series from the beginning. Some go back to book five. Some buy book seven and forget all about books one through five.

You can measure some of this. After a huge marketing push on book six, you will see a lump of readers work their way through the entire series. Even if the series is compelling, the lump will spread out over time. Why? Because some readers don’t like binging. So they’ll read one of your books, then five books by other writers, then another of your books, then ten books by other writers—and so on.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.


Social Media for Children’s and Adult Books: Who Posts Where?

9 August 2017

From Publishing Trends:

Look at some of the top authors on Twitter and you’ll see that the list is pretty evenly divided between authors of books for children and adults.  Paulo Coelho weighs in at 12.2 million, followed by JK Rowling at 11.3 million.  Then a steep fall to Anthony Bourdain (6.1) and John Green (5.33), Stephen King (3.52) and Neil Gaiman (2.62), and Chris Colfer (2.52) and Margaret Atwood (1.7).  You get the idea.

Facebook mirrors Twitter in that Coelho is still at the top, but with 20.5 million followers.  Others are closer to parity with their Twitter followers, e.g. Stephen King has five million on Facebook while John Green (who’s on every major platform) has three million-plus on Facebook. James Patterson has a healthy 3.7 million.  Lemony Snicket has a half million under A Series of Unfortunate Events and Rick Riordan has more than three million under Percy Jackson.

Beyond Twitter and Facebook, the numbers are generally much smaller and harder to track.  Still, in conversation with agents, publishers, social media gurus and writers, it’s clear that authors are generally encouraged to embrace one or more social media platform. However, what they really accomplish in promoting themselves differs depending on what their goals and expectations are their level of commitment and skill.

. . . .

Most agree that authors should engage with social media only if they are comfortable. Rachel FershleiserHMH Executive Director of Audience Development and Community Engagement, says she’s a “huge believer in authors setting their own boundaries,” both in terms of where to post and what to write about.  She encourages authors to try Instagram, because it’s generally the least contentious, and allows an author to express his or her personality “without the stress” of a network like Twitter. Writers HouseDigital Director Daniel Berkowitz thinks that, for many, how one interacts on social media “almost runs counter to how an author operates.” Authors want their posts to reflect the same level of writing that their books exhibit, and so are anxious about achieving that, especially on “of-the-moment” platforms like Twitter.  In her blog post, So You’re An Author Without a Social Media Presence: Now What?, Jane Friedman warns that, while engaging in social media offers “an opportunity to learn about your readership as well as better establish your platform,” it’s “not necessarily an opportunity to hard sell the book you’re about to release.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Trends and thanks to Laine for the tip.


Adobe Spark

8 August 2017

Adobe makes some of the most complex software available for personal computers.

PG is familiar with Photoshop and Lightroom and has used them regularly for several years, but is convinced that he and 99.9% of the users of each program don’t utilize more than 5% of the features Adobe has baked into the programs.

Adobe has recently announced Adobe Spark. Spark is focused on the creation of attractive social media graphics. It is a very unusual product for Adobe because:

  1. Spark is easy to use; and
  2. Spark is free (at least for now and maybe forever)

PG is not a big social media guy, but, over the past few months, he has been doing some work in that area for projects unrelated to TPV.

Here is a Spark graphic that PG created in a format suitable for Instagram:

And here’s the same graphic sized for a Facebook post:

And for a Twitter graphic:

And for a Pinterest pin:

Changing the formats for various social media platforms was usually accomplished by a single click to choose the social media format. On a couple of occasions, PG tweaked the placement and size of the subhead. In each case, the tweaks took less than 20 seconds.

Spark also permits you to change the look of a message very quickly. Here’s a new look with the same copy that required about 30 seconds:

You can also cycle through a lot of different layouts/text looks quickly.

Here’s another take on the original ad:

And here are some quick changes in text treatments using the ad above:


Or, in about 60 seconds, you can change the background photo, layout and color palette:


You can also use Spark to create cool web stories and videos. That’s a touch more complex than social media, but still much easier than with other tools PG has tried.

If you want to try out Spark (remember, it’s free), here’s a link.


Is There Anything Better than BookBub?

7 August 2017

Mrs. PG and PG held a meeting this morning to discuss Mrs. PG’s sales results and her future marketing plans. As usual, Mrs. PG has lots of good ideas.

Among many other topics, the PG’s discussed BookBub and Mrs. PG’s generally favorable results from her BookBub ads. Mrs. PG’s experience mirrors that of other authors who have shared their feelings about BookBub online or otherwise with PG.

Two related questions floated into PG’s mind during the discussion:

  1. Is there any paid advertising/marketing service that is as consistently effective as BookBub for indie authors?
  2. Has anyone put together a credible knock-off of BookBub’s service? If not, why not?

PG understands that not every BookBub promo works and some authors haven’t had positive results, but his general impression is that many indie authors regard it as an important marketing/promotion tool.


Note to All Creatives: Marketing is Your Job

7 August 2017

From The Mission:

In an interview, the novelist Ian McEwan once complained light-heartedlyabout what it was like to go out and market a book after spending all the time creating it: “I feel like the wretched employee of my former self. My former self being the happily engaged novelist who now sends me, a kind of brush salesman or double glazing salesman, out on the road to hawk this book. He got all the fun writing it. I’m the poor bastard who has to go sell it.”

Every artist can relate. Very few of us got into this business because we wanted to have to manage social media accounts or approve an advertising campaign. Writers became writers because they wanted to write. Actors want to act — not spend two weeks on a grueling press tour. The founder wants to be working on their product, not polishing blog posts for some content marketing side hustle.

But considering how few people get to produce art for a living, and how much drudgery and “hawking” is involved in almost every other industry and profession, this seems like a rather privileged complaint. Who is going to sell your movie, your app, your artwork, your service if not you? Even if you pay someone else a lot of money, how hard are they really going to work?

Nothing has sunk more creative projects than this silly, entitled notion that “I’m just the ideas guy.” Or that McEwan put it, that there is a difference between being an artist and a salesman. In fact — they are the same job.

. . . .

Who should make the time for your art if not you? What does it say that you’re not willing to roll up your sleeves to get to work telling people about this work you have made? Name one person who should be more invested in the potential success of this project than you.

Link to the rest at The Mission


The Clockwork Dynasty

5 August 2017

PG wonders if book trailers work or not.


As Amazon’s Influence Grows, Marketers Scramble to Tailor Strategies

2 August 2017

From The New York Times:


Amazon’s rapidly expanding influence on a wide portion of the American public has become impossible to ignore — and it is giving rise to a whole new side of the advertising industry.

As more people live large portions of their lives in Amazon’s ecosystem, ad agencies are increasingly offering specialized services to help brands take full advantage of the company’s universe.

That means adding flourishes like recipes and magazine-style images to product pages, coming up with creative ways to get customers to post reviews on Amazon and plotting how companies can best connect with people who are using devices like the voice-activated Echo.

And Amazon itself, aware of its growing power, is encouraging companies to buy more ads through its own media group. Its argument: When an ad is on Amazon, a direct connection can be made between people seeing it and then making a purchase.

“How your product is perceived on Amazon and in the Amazon community in ratings and reviews has such a powerful impact on the future of you as a brand,” said John Denny, vice president for digital and e-commerce at Bai Brands, the beverage company. “Increasingly, if you win on Amazon, you win, period. And this is the world marketers have to wrap their brains around.”

. . . .

Take, for example, the Amazon product page for a whey protein powder from Optimum Nutrition. It was put together with help from the Tombras Group, based in Knoxville, Tenn., which recently started an Amazon-focused division.

. . . .

Dooley Tombras, the firm’s executive vice president, said it sent products to influential Amazon reviewers in hopes of soliciting positive feedback and conducted “guerrilla sampling,” like holding events “where we’re handing out a product and we’ve got teams there with iPads and we’re encouraging people to write reviews of a product on the spot.”

There are more than 14,000 reviews of the powder. The page also has more than a dozen images of the powder taken from “multiple angles” against a light background to look clean and professional, Mr. Tombras said, along with short videos extolling the powder.

Brands can pay Amazon to customize the middle of pages with large advertorial images and information — which in the protein powder’s case included photos of men working out; a recipe for “birthday cake pancakes” made with the chocolate-flavored whey; and a chart featuring six of its other products, like Micronized Creatine Powder, explaining when and how they should be consumed.

Link to the rest at The New York Times


How to Judge a Book by its Cover

24 July 2017

From Design Observer:

AIGA and Design Observer’s 50 Books | 50 Covers competition, which reviews and awards the best of book and cover designs published within the past year, has just concluded its 94th cycle. We’re pleased to announce this year’s winning cover and winning book selections, along with a few trends the judges couldn’t help but notice while digging deep into the stacks to pare nearly 700 submissions down to 100 final selections.

. . . .

As popular as the ebook (supposedly) is these days, to our judges—Gail Anderson, designer and professor at the School of Visual Arts in New York City; Michael Carabetta, Creative Director of Chronicle Books; and Jessica Helfand, Co-Founder of this publication—the strongest trends from the hundreds of selections they reviewed were of the tactile variety.

. . . .

Carabetta, who has previously juried the competition, noted after a full day of reviewing entries that the final books selected were excellent “not only in design—[but] in production; in paper, mixing coated and uncoated… People are getting into the real, physical qualities of the book.” He went on, “Maybe it’s because of the screen age we live in that they are appreciating the tactile quality.”

The book, in the mind of the bibliophile, has been threatened for some time now: due to the adoption of radio, or tv, or the direction that the current political wind is blowing. And book designers responded to these influences in the way designers know best—visually. In one particularly symbolic example, author Ray Bradbury ensured his 1953 book, Fahrenheit 451, would avoid the untimely demise experienced by those books of his plotline by binding the second edition in fireproof asbestos to prevent its burning.

With the adoption of ebooks, it seemed book lovers everywhere were not able to shake the fear that the humble object of their affection–a book created by the art of ink on paper (no battery required)–was similarly under fire. But the book has persisted in new forms, designed in even more inventive and delightful ways with each passing year. After reviewing one cover design, Anderson said, “This is one of those covers that I wish I’d done, but can now never attempt because the designer executed it perfectly.” If that’s not a high accolade, I’m not sure what is.

Link to the rest at Design Observer

PG is not an expert on cover design (plus a great many more subjects), but he had a difficult time picking a couple of award winners that he actually thought were well-designed for inclusion at the bottom of this post.

From the photos and descriptions in the OP, PG surmised that the judges of the design competition may have performed their duties entirely with physical books without examining how those covers translated to a computer or smartphone screen.

He has no doubt that the tactile qualities of the paper, etc., were lovely in person. However, a book cover is, first and foremost, a marketing and promotion tool. Tactile qualities only contribute to book sales in physical bookstores.

If the covers are only attractive and attention-getting in their physical forms and fail electronically, PG suggests they have also failed in their principal business purpose. Cover designers can probably have a lot more fun with a physical instantiation of their creations, especially with interesting papers, textures, etc., but if the objective is to enhance sales of the book, the cover will fail if it flops on Amazon.


Some Rain Must Fall and other stories
AUTHOR: Michel Faber
PUBLISHER: Canongate Books
OTHER CREDITS: Illustrator: Yehrin Tong

The Children‘s Home
AUTHOR: Charles Lambert
DESIGNER: Jaya Miceli



Will Facebook Become the Ultimate Online Book Club?

23 July 2017

From Book Riot:

I’ve noticed a trend that I’m not sure I like. Many friends are spending more time on Facebook and less elsewhere on the internet. If they jump out of Facebook it’s because someone shared a promising link.

Bookworms have discussed books online since computers were networked in the 1970s. It began with email, mailing lists, and forums. Usenet News and Bulletin Board Services (BBSes) always had groups devoted to book talk. Book clubs formed on CompuServe, Genie, The Well, Prodigy, AOL and other online services. After Mosaic, web browsers made virtual book clubs easier, more fun, and better looking, replacing those older technologies.

. . . .

Two years ago my co-moderator of an online science fiction book club started a Facebook group to generate traffic for our club. It didn’t. But that Facebook group now has 3,500+ members. Our old group has less than a dozen active participants. Of course, most of the Facebook members are lurkers, but it’s still a thriving online book club. I found another science fiction Facebook group that had over 7,500 users.

Smartphones may account for much of Facebook’s activity. Facebook just passed 2 billion users. I knew Twitter, Facebook, and other social media services worked well from smartphones, but it never occurred to me that online bookworms were moving to those services in droves.

I expected Goodreads to become the ultimate online book club, but I might be wrong. My blog gets most of its traffic now from Facebook. It used to come from other blogs, websites, Twitter, and sometimes Flipboard. Facebook is how Book Riot gets most of its traffic. I assume most online newspapers and magazines get much of their traffic via Facebook too.

. . . .

I recently joined Space Opera Pulp on Facebook, an online book club for readers who love the old pulp magazines. It’s enthusiasm and energy makes my Yahoo book club seem like a funeral where the coffin’s occupant had few friends. Is Facebook becoming the popular site for popular people to talk about popular reading?

Last week I joined a Facebook group with 25,000+ westerns fans and it answered a question in minutes that I had been Googling off and on for days. That same post got a bunch of comments, whereas my blogs and essays here get few.

. . . .

Will social media sites consolidate around one company? Response to my tweets has fallen off this past year. They are usually about books.Will Facebook be the T-Rex that eats all the competition? What if Facebook gets to 3 or 4 billion users? Will there be any way to resist it then?

Link to the rest at Book Riot

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