Maximizing Your Amazon Author Central Page

From IndieReader:

When was the last time you gave your Amazon Author Central profile some love? For most indie authors, the answer is “not recently.” And, if you haven’t set it up yet, you aren’t alone, but you’ll want to take the time to do it today. Your Author Central page is possibly Amazon’s best book marketing tool for indie authors. It’s your very own landing page; it represents you as an author, which is really critical, and you should treat it as the important platform it is.

. . . .

Did you know that you can have a custom Author Central URL? You can. And you should take a moment to set this up in your Author Central dashboard. That way you can start using the URL as you’re sending readers to Amazon to preview your books. Does this seem superficial? It’s not. With marketing, you always need to consider what you can do to make it easy for potential buyers to click that Buy Now button. A clean, direct URL on your website, social media, business cards, etc. can play a huge role in making that happen.

You can use your Author Central URL in anything, even your email signature! I often use this URL in the back of my books. It makes it easy for readers to go to my Author Central Page to sign up for author updates, and I always include it if I’m asking them to review the book.

. . . .

One of the first things you should add, after your books, is a bio note. Keep it short! Why? Because while a longer bio might look fine on your book page, it’s a lot harder to read on your Amazon Author Page. It’s tempting to go longer, but most consumers will not take the time to read through to the end – as interesting as the content might be. Save the longer bio for your website and use something short and catchy on your Amazon Author Central Page.

The best bios include a little bit about the author and leave room for your website, social media accounts, even your newsletter sign-up. You can also list upcoming releases, which is a brilliant book marketing technique that proves this is NOT a stagnant promotional strategy. What you really want is to begin your bio with compelling details that leave a browser wanting more, then provide links where they can get it!

Link to the rest at IndieReader

Readings, reinvented

From The Bookseller:

I had been working throughout 2019 on widening out and experimenting with the format of book readings. I took my second novel, Lanny, on the road with two musicians. We did semi-improvised performances, somewhere in between a reading and a gig. Overseas, I re-wrote sections of the book using submitted text from local audiences so the readings became bespoke collaborative one-offs, and the book changed from place to place.

I guess at the root of this is a slight discomfort with the way we put authors on pedestals. I think it’s far more interesting to share the stage. More than that, it’s my basic responsibility. The privilege of having an audience or a readership, the sheer good fortune of that, means one should make every effort to support the work of others and where possible divide any limelight between many voices, many types of work. The old format of author on stage reading from the new book, followed by intelligent questions from a well-prepared chair, followed by audience questions (nine good questions and a mansplain, as the formula goes) can be wonderful, but we have plenty of it. It may be a little tired, and a little limited, as a way of sharing literature. It also perpetuates a fairly simplistic and limited economic model, which can also grate (I love a signing queue as much as the next bookseller) but perhaps not as generative or suitable to our increasingly diversified methods of cultural participation as it needs to be, if we want to keep books and book culture alive and relevant.

To this end we had been planning a project at the Union Chapel called ‘The English Soundwood’. It grew out of a multi-performer project I did when Cheltenham festival kindly invited me to curate events in October 2019. For that first event we had poets, novelists, memoirists and musicians, all performing together. The Union Chapel gig was going to widen it out further to include more musicians, a bigger visual element, audience participation, puppetry, live technological enhancement and so on. And, like everything, this has been postponed.

So this Sunday I will find myself a long way from sharing the stage with others. I will be standing alone in an empty venue, reading not new work, or collaborative work, but old work. In order to support a beloved venue and their extraordinary charity, the Margins Project, I’m reading the whole of my first book, Grief is the Thing with Feathers, as a livestream. The idea being that even if you hated my first book, you could buy a ticket and not watch the livestream, and you would be supporting a great organisation.

Readings are a funny thing, and I don’t know what it will be like to do a whole book in an empty chapel. I’m not an actor, so I don’t even know where to look, if there’s no audience. And will I lose my voice? Not that my book is very long, but still, when was the last time I spoke for over an hour with no break? Also peering over my shoulder like an intimidating crow, is Cillian Murphy, who very much made the book his own when he starred in Enda Walsh’s stage adaptation in 2018. I can hear him in my head. I can literally see him in the text because he drew all over my paperback copy. So I need to banish him, because nobody wants a cod-Cillian, a faux-Murphy.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

PG would love to see a robust analysis examining the economics of a reading/book signing for an author who isn’t a noted celebrity.

How much time does it take to prepare?

How much time and how expensive is it to travel to a bookstore, then return home afterwards? (PG understands that travel times may vary, depending on many circumstances, but he does know of at least some traditional publishers that expect non-famous authors to be willing to drive for 1-2 hours each way to appear at a book signing.)

How does the author feel after returning from a 2-4 hour book signing? Refreshed and ready to write? Or exhausted in the way some introverts are after being coerced into interacting with a bunch of strangers who have never heard of them or their books?

What’s the author’s hourly income generated by a book signing, considering time spent preparing, traveling back and forth, sitting behind a table for x hours, packing and unpacking whatever the author is taking to the signing, recovering after the signing is over.

PG thinks more than a few book signings take at least an entire day during which an author could be sitting comfortably at home working, researching, editing, etc.

Serious publishers pay a lot of money buying ads, pumping up the sales force, reaching out to bookstore owners, etc. In addition to advertising and promotion costs the publisher pays to third parties, the publisher is also paying its employees while they’re doing promotions, marketing, pitching store owners, etc., etc.

An author who is also a skilled public speaker or pitchperson might command high speaking fees or receive a generous commission for using those talents in a commercial venture other than promoting her/his book.

While sales commissions vary widely from industry to industry, it isn’t unusual for a commission sales person to receive 30-40% of the amount the employer receives from a customer who purchases goods after being pitched and charmed by a good sales rep.

No professional sales person would spend three or four hours to receive a commission equal to what a traditionally-published author receives from a book-signing at which she sells 25 trade paperbacks.

PG wonders if an author going shopping or running errands wearing a sandwich board might earn more than an author sitting in a bookstore signing books.

Wikimedia Commons

Anyone who is interested in exploring this marketing system can buy the materials necessary here.

Book Marketing Services/Agencies/Consultants

PG is interested in knowing whether any visitors to TPV have had good experience with a third-party marketing person/agency with respect to their indie book sales.

If you qualify, if you could explain a bit about what the marketing activities consisted of and what you think the marketing person/service did that you could not have done yourself or did better than you could have done yourself.

PG is not inviting a flood of canned pitches from people who work in the book marketing business, but will welcome an intelligent explanation of what a book marketing expert can deliver that most authors could not or could not do as well.

PG understands that many authors treasure their time and would rather write than market. However, many indies who want to earn a living, earn enough to pay the house payment, etc., don’t have excess funds sitting around to spend on some individual or group that doesn’t deliver real value, so PG is looking about information concerning profitable expenditures on marketing services that clearly earn more than they cost.

PG thinks there’s a good financial case for most indie authors to hire a good cover designer or collect a favor from a friend who knows what she’s doing in cover design. Good covers sell books. They won’t make a bestseller out of a mediocre book, but they can catch the favorable attention of people looking for books on Amazon or elsewhere.

He’d be interested in hearing what type of marketing services, if any, provide a similarly reliable return on investment.

Paid Reviews – Good? Bad? Meh?

More than a few indie authors use paid reviews as a promotion tool.

The big dogs in this business are Publishers Weekly and Kirkus.

PG understands that both PW and Kirkus use a lot of freelancers for their reviews. PG is not aware that either company publicizes the amount it pays freelancers for a review, but people who claim to be doing this work now or claiming to have done this work in the past few years report a range of fees earned. PG has not seen/heard of any number above $100 as the amount the freelancer receives. Other numbers bandied about include $50 or $25 per review.

Of course, PW and Kirkus charge indie authors much more for a paid review.

According to its website, Kirkus charges $425 for a “Traditional Review”.

Publishers Weekly says “BookLife Reviews will be written by Publishers Weekly reviewers.” On the Booklife.com website, one learns that the cost is “$399 for a complete review with takeaway, comp titles, and design and production grades, written by an expert Publishers Weekly reviewer, with a six-week turnaround time.” Four-week turnaround costs $100 more.

Seems like a reasonable deal. Including reviews in promotions, advertisements, KDP descriptions, etc., seems to help sell books for indie authors. Basically, the calculation goes something like this: “If I spend $425 on Kirkus, will placing an excerpt from a “Kirkus Reviews” reviewer in my book description sell enough additional books to earn back $425 in increased royalties?

Since both companies are continuing to offer this paid review service, PG concludes that a lot of indie authors are happy with the results they see from their investments.

So, beyond the blurb-quote, what does a PW or Kirkus individual (likely freelance) reviewer deliver for the $50 or so she/he receives?

PG understands that some reviews that indie authors have received have included factually-inaccurate statements about the book’s content. Something the reviewer said was in the book was not, in fact, in the book or other errors of a similar nature.

In other cases, some indie authors have wondered whether the reviewer read the book at all.

Perhaps most troubling, some indie authors have reported that the reviewer included some nasty criticisms about the book that have not seemed justified. The blurb was OK, but the remainder of the review was extremely disrespectful toward the author and his/her book.

According to what people in a position to know have told PG, even indie authors who have sold and continue to sell a great many books and earn very respectable royalties have received this treatment.

On a few occasions, the indie author has suspected that the only one-star review a book received on Amazon (accompanied by a nasty, sometimes factually incorrect description of the book) had been written by the same person hired by PW or Kirkus to write the paid review.

If these sorts of activities are taking place, a few questions arise in PG’s mind:

  1. Does anyone who is employed by Kirkus or PW on a full-time basis actually read the reviews that authors pay for to determine if they have any basis in fact?
  2. Is there any quality control built into the indie author review program?
  3. Is the difference between the $400+ the author pays PW or Kirkus and the $50 or so that the freelancer receives pure profit for PW or Kirkus?
  4. Does PW really use an “an expert Publishers Weekly reviewer” for its paid reviews?
  5. Do Kirkus and PW use the same reviewers for the paid indie reviews that they use for the reviews of traditionally-published authors that appear in the Kirkus (“Trusted since 1933”) and PW printed reviews and reviews that appear on the kirkusreviews.com and https://www.publishersweekly.com websites?
  6. Do Kirkus and PW have any written contracts with the freelance reviewers who write paid reviews of books by indie authors?
  7. If there are written contracts, is there any agreement by the freelance reviewer that she/he will write an accurate review after reading the entire book and not take any actions elsewhere that may reasonably be expected to diminish sales of the indie author’s book?
  8. Are any Kirkus or PW reviewers would-be traditionally-published authors who have drunk the NYC Kool-Aid that says all indie authors are trash?

A couple of additional questions arise in PG’s mind. He suspects he knows the answer, but he’ll ask them anyway.

  1. Do traditional publishers directly or indirectly pay for reviews of their books in PW and/or Kirkus?
  2. If so, how much do such Kirkus and/or PW reviews cost traditional publishers?
  3. Are reviews created for traditional publishers written by the same “expert Publishers Weekly reviewers” that write paid reviews for indie authors or is there a much different group of reviewers that write the TradPub reviews?

End of rhetorical questions.

PG doesn’t know if the descriptions of poor behavior he has heard about are isolated slipups in an otherwise honorable, fair, valuable and well-functioning service operated by PW and Kirkus or not.

He would be happy to hear about good or bad results from these programs from indie authors.

PG will note that some indie authors who are upset by one or more of the questionable activities described above say they will continue to use the Kirkus and PW services because they believe the blurbs still help sell enough books to more than justify the costs.

Feel free to share experiences, reactions, criticisms of PG or anyone else, etc., in the comments.

If you would prefer that such matters not show up in the Comments section of TPV, feel free to send a private message to PG via the Contact link towards the top of the blog. He not post any of the contents of those private messages without the express consent of the person who sent them.

While PG was obviously disturbed by what he heard about the Kirkus and PW programs, he hopes to hear that these are rare aberrations in a couple of publicity services that help indie authors sell more books.

Depending upon the response he receives from this post, PG may make further posts to correct, clarify or confirm what he’s described above.

Indie Romance Books Are Big Business, But Why Aren’t We Hearing About It?

From Shondaland:

Self-published writers are a large part of publishing’s billion dollar romance industry, but they still don’t get the credit they deserve. Here’s why that needs to change.

. . . .

It’s April 2019, and the line to get into Girl Have You Met, a book signing that focuses specifically on Black independent romance novels, is wrapped around the corner in Memphis, Tennessee. Women stand in line chattering, some with large bags they’ll use to hold their mountain of book purchases, others attempting to peer inside the glass windows to get an early glimpse of their favorite authors.

While those who peruse the New York Times to find their next read have probably never heard of most of these writers, the scene in Memphis isn’t uncommon at book signings that predominantly feature independently published romance authors. Pre-COVID, events like Book BonanzaBehind the Pen, Indie Love and a swath of other events held in cities like Los Angeles, Atlanta, and New York were the same — sold out.

To say that independent romance is a beast in romance publishing is a well-known understatement. Indie romance has actually changed the business across the board, setting trends in craft and marketing strategies. But perhaps most importantly, indie romance has reshaped the narrative of what kinds of stories readers really want.

Take, for example, popular book vlogger, Mina Thomas.

“When I read Something Like Love by Christina C. Jones in 2017, I cried over my first ever experience reading about a bisexual Black woman like me,” says popular book vlogger, Mina Thomas of MinaReads. “Indie romances often provide me with representation that is often slow to show up on the traditionally published market.”

. . . .

“People have such antiquated ideas of what a romance novel really is,” says acclaimed romance author, Marie Force, whose independently published novel, 2013’s Waiting for Love, helped set a new precedent for the enormity of the genre when it became a New York Times best seller. She’s sold a staggering ten million books to date, including over 900,000 books last year, the bulk of them self-published.

“Romance is a dynamic, diverse, billion-dollar-a-year genre that celebrates the act of falling in love in so many different ways,” she says. “Of course, the ‘act of falling in love’ is also associated with sex, so that makes the romance genre taboo or racy or ‘porn,’ a word romance authors hate to have associated with our work. It’s just so disrespectful of the width and breadth of what romance really is.”

Nevermind that indies often have scores of faithful readers who, on average, devour multiple books per week, and have tight, vibrant branding, which means they regularly dominate USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestseller lists (those indies would be New York Times best sellers too, if it still counted ebooks).

Link to the rest at Shondaland

Switching authors on to book fairs

From The Bookseller:

Back in March, I was watching Twitter like it was a countdown, waiting like so many others for the inevitable to happen and for the London Book Fair to be cancelled.

And so it was. Covid-19 hit the world and unleashed disruption like no other. The cancellation of physical events at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair comes as another sad but expected result. However, Frankfurt will push forward with an extensive digital programme, as many other book fairs have begun to across the world. The loss of the physical events has been tragic for both organisers and attendees, but as a writer, I think the enforced move towards more digital content is an overdue and welcome development.

The value of book fairs has long been accepted by publishers, agents and booksellers. For writers, not so much. Bookfairs are driven by their marketplace nature, full of business wrangling that revolves around writers but in practice doesn’t directly involve us. Despite this, fairs present a brilliant opportunity for writers to get a behind-the-veil look at how the cogs of the industry turn.

When I first attended LBF, I was awestruck by the sheer size of it all. Thanks to the dedicated Author HQ area, I attended numerous seminars that gave me an insight into the industry’s preoccupations and processes, networked with other writers, and met with representatives of book organisations such as the Society of Authors (which I joined) and BookTrust (which introduced me to BookTrust Represents, an initiative which promotes and supports authors and illustrators of colour).

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

A question occurred to PG while he read this – Does Amazon ever show up for book fairs?

Author Websites: Are You Missing These 5 Crucial Elements?

From BookBub Partners:

A well-optimized author website can help an author brand themselves and sell more books. It’s an important marketing tool that provides readers, publishing professionals, and members of the media vital information. But designing one can be overwhelming — and on top of writing and other marketing activities, remembering to update it regularly can seem like a chore.

So what should an author’s website include (and keep up to date) at the very least? What crucial elements should you ensure aren’t missing from yours?

We scoured dozens of successful authors’ websites to see what elements they include with the most regularity and showcase several examples of each below. This way, you can see different formatting possibilities when you’re deciding how to incorporate these details into your own site. (Some elements may overlap, as authors often include multiple on a single page.)

  1. Books (with retailer links)
  2. Author bio (in the third person)
  3. Author headshot (with photographer credit)
  4. A way to get updates (via email and/or social media)
  5. A way to get in touch (with you or your publishing team)

Link to the rest at BookBub Partners

Pen Pals – Five Ways Authors Can Show the Love

From Women Writers, Women’s Books:

Publishing is a highly competitive industry, with more than 60,000 books expected to be published this fall season alone. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when your book is on the verge of a breakthrough but your efforts to promote it are threatening to break you as well.

Whether traditionally or self-published, we’ve all been there, with experts telling us what to do at every turn. Build your platform on social media, drive readers to your website (why can’t they take a cab?), become a subject matter expert in a world where SME’s are a dime a dozen. So what’s an author to do?

I’d say start with acknowledging that it’s more blessed to give than to receive. With so many authors in the same boat, why not synchronize our rowing? Here are five ways to put this concept to work:

  1. Rachet up the Reviews—If you’ve recently signed with a publisher, contact a few authors with whom you are going to share a catalogue and suggest you exchange reviews, either in advance or after publication. Above all, we are writers – so why not harness our skills in the service of each others’ work? If you are -self-published, you can reach out to authors in your genre on GoodReads and do the same.
  2. Power in Numbers—Form or join an author’s group that meets online bi-monthly. Not only is this a morale booster, it is also a great way to brainstorm ideas. Authors whose books are similar can join forces and offer a presentation to a book club. Someone who needs help with their book cover or wants to explore audio-book recording options can ask for advice.

Link to the rest at Women Writers, Women’s Books

Book Tours – Analyzed

The post that appeared immediately prior to this one included a video in which the author was performing a video substitute for a physical book tour. When PG posted the video from YouTube, it had received 2,594 views.

PG is of the gigantically, perennially and irrefutably humble opinion that traditional book tours where a publisher sends an author out to visit a number of bookstores for an event in the bookstore to which anyone who learns about the event can attend.

Typically, the bookstore staff sets up some chairs for the audience, has several stacks of the book being promoted spread around the store and provides the author a table and a chair.

Thereafter, the author makes a short speech about her/his book designed (almost always by the author) to induce members of the audience to buy a copy of the author’s book. After completing the pitch, the author sits at the table and autographs books that members of the audience have purchased, often with a trite phrase, “I hope you enjoy my book!” or something the purchaser requests, “For Lurlene from her loving granddaughter, MaryJoJean.”

After chatting with strangers and signing all the books that are purchased, the author packs up, thanks the bookstore staff (perhaps leaving them some candy) and exits the store to travel to the next bookstore on the tour schedule. On a large tour across the US, airplane travel and hotels are involved.

For a really, really, really bestselling author, the publisher might send a minder to help schlep the author around from place to place.

To PG, this sounds like a mid-Twentieth-Century marketing strategy. (“Housewives! Have we got something new to brighten your humdrum day! The latest scientific innovation in kitchen cleaners!”)

Let’s break the thinking behind what passes for the marketing strategy behind a book tour.

  1. The author’s time costs the publisher nothing.
  2. We will send one of our authors to a physical bookstore. We’ll have the bookstore create some sort of poster announcing a book signing by Arthur Author for his latest book.
  3. If the publisher is feeling really generous, it might pay to have some cheap promotional brochures printed and shipped to the bookstore so the store will have something for an employee to sprinkle around for most of its customers to ignore. If it’s colorful, children might pick up a brochure to leave in the back seat of the car when they get home.
  4. The bookstore will have its employees set up chairs and a signing table, unpack a couple of boxes of books, place a few books around the store and stack a bunch on the signing table.
  5. In advance of the designated time, the author will leave an inexpensive hotel room, drive a rental car to the store after cruising around a strange city for awhile, walk into the store and start meeting total strangers.
  6. The introverted author who hates speaking to groups of people will thereafter speak to a crowd of strangers which will always be smaller than the author expected to show up.
  7. After trying to be interesting and entertaining for 15-20 minutes, the introverted author will then have to talk to a stream of strangers for about 60 seconds each, try to appear to be enjoying the process of acting like a homecoming queen, and write something trite in each copy of the book.
  8. Emotionally exhausted, after the last customer has left, the author will then effusively thank the book store manager and staff for their efforts, glance at the large stack of unsold books, and stumble out to their means of transportation and try to remember where the next book-signing is scheduled and when she’s supposed to be there.
  9. If the author is sufficiently depressed, she may estimate how many copies of her book were sold at the book-signing, calculate the royalties she will receive from those sales and realize that each of the store employees earned more on a per-hour basis than the author did for the time she put into preparation, travel, getting dressed up, undergoing the introvert’s torture of talking to a bunch of strange people (including some who were stranger than others) in the store, then more travel.

Perhaps PG is missing some giant financial or psychological benefit that accrues to a typical author as a result of a traditional book-signing or series of book-signings, but he doesn’t think so.

Then, let’s consider that Amazon sells more books than any bookstore or chain of bookstores in the world.

And, the author earns a higher royalty when Amazon sells an ebook than when Joe’s Books and Bait Shop sells a paperback.

But, as always, PG could be wrong.

Authors Get Real About Going on a Book Tour…From Their Living Rooms

From The Oprah Magazine:

Novelist Laura Hankin found out that the launch event for her second book was cancelled through a Facebook notification from the bookstore. “I cried very hard. But then I also was like, how dare you cry over a canceled book event? That doesn’t matter,” Hankin tells OprahMag.com. “It was just another bit of uncertainty amidst a whole world of uncertainty.”

Hankin’s novel, Happy and You Know It, was released May 19, about two months after the coronavirus forced much of the United States to shelter in place and work from home—a time when bookstores were cancelling events left and right and authors were forced to call off their promotional tours.

Now, Hankin is one of many authors, publicists, and booksellers who are figuring out the publishing world’s “new normal,” which has meant participating in Instagram Live events, answering questions on moderated Zoom chats, or—like Hankin did—making music videos.

Hankin decided to process her own mixed feelings in a song called “Indoor Book Tour.” Using cheeky lyrics about being stuck on the couch and having the in-person audience of a single cat, “Indoor Book Tour” highlights the solitude of what had once been the active, social act of book publicity.

Link to the rest at The Oprah Magazine and thanks to DM for the tip.

Writer’s block at the signing table

From Murderati:

When I’m sitting in a bookstore, autographing a book for a customer, I dread hearing these words:”You’re the author. Why don’t you sign it and write something clever?”  There’s nothing that kills my creativity faster than having a fan staring over my shoulder, waiting for me to spontaneously write “something clever” on the title page.  I’ve heard that many men are unable to pee in public restrooms while other people are around.  They stand at the urinal and strain and strain, but just can’t get things flowing.  I have the literary equivalent of shy bladder syndrome.  I just can’t seem to produce the expected stream of clever words while anyone else is watching. In the privacy of my own office, I do a lot of hair-pulling and pacing and muttering and grimacing when I write. It is not a pretty thing to see.  In fact, I think writing is sometimes a grotesque affair, and one that should remain out of sight of the public. But when you’re sitting at a signing table in a bookstore, you’re performing in public, and you’re expected to smile, not grimace, while you try to come up with something clever to write in every book.  It’s always a relief when a customer says,”Just sign and date it, please.”  

I’ve learned to come prepared with stock phrases to accompany my autographs.  On my first book tour, for HARVEST, I wrote “thrills and chills” on just about every book I signed.  It was my fallback phrase, pithy and appropriate and somewhat clever.  It allowed me to face a line of customers without panicking that my brain would suddenly go blank.  On later tours, I began to vary it a little, just so I wouldn’t write the same thing for every customer standing in line.  I wrote “Enjoy the thrills!”  Or: “Many thrills!”  or “Great to meet you!”  If the book was for a special occasion — say, a birthday — I”d write :”Happy Birthday!  May it be thrilling.”  But I still fall back on tried and true phrases that don’t require me to wrack my brain for something spontaneously clever.  

Link to the rest at Murderati

The art of the normal

From The Bookseller:

Super Thursday has arrived early this year. Thanks to some overexcited reporting, the annual media frenzy that follows the yearly revelation that a lot of new hardback books are published in the autumn, has been focused on early September, rather than October, as we used to know it.

For numbers people, here are a few. Yesterday (3rd September) around 260 trade hardbacks were released.

. . . .

Come “real” Super Thursday on 1st October, we go again with some 450 trade hardbacks, a healthy increase on 2019, but mercifully down on 2018’s record.

This is not new, of course. For as long as there have been books, there appear to have been more of them than there are readers. Overproduction has often been denounced as a plague, but rarely have we done much about it. For publishers, a book is the thing that can cure all of our ills—just one more, as I’ve been known to say while on my way to the bar. It is easy to scoff, but the media’s fascination with this subject should not be taken too lightly, not least because for all of the smart campaigns that will be launched between now and December, this one costs us not a jot (except perhaps in reputation). In fact, we ought to be revelling in this big moment for books, just as we can take solace from how books kept us entertained and informed during the lockdown.

The trade is not just about big books (though we might like them), but also about the people who write and sell them. As the author Joanne Harris argues, for writers these weeks will likely just be “confusing, stressful and culminating in annihilation”. For booksellers, as pictures circulating on social media of stacks of as-yet-unopened deliveries suggest, it is both a physical and mental assault course.

This time around there is the added spice of having to contend with the new normal. We are often accused, in this sector, of denying the obvious. This year we cannot. In his half-year results address, Penguin Random House chief executive Markus Dohle talked about a world in which online book sales have become more important. He is not wrong; Covid has shown us all how fragile a supply chain can be when it is reliant on customers wanting to visit physical locations together.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

PG wonders if traditionally-published authors ever question whether it’s a good idea for their books to be released on the same day as hundreds of other books are released.

PG also wonders how good a job underpaid publicity people and unpaid interns do with providing excellent support for a massive launch of so many books at once.

PG will note that the OP is focused on the British book business, but large US publishers have similar and often synchronized book release schedules.

If your debut novel is released on the same day as Delia Owens’ second novel is released and JK Rowling’s US publisher releases a new Harry Potter sequel, guess how much attention your book will receive.

For publishers, building up enthusiasm among the literati and press might be a great idea.

For an individual author’s book dumped onto the market along with a bunch of other new books, maybe not so much.

#1 Most Popular Book

In connection with the release of Mrs. PG’s latest book, she ran a price promotion on the first book in this series, featuring a female Oxford professor/amateur sleuth.

Yesterday, early in the evening, she checked the performance of An Oxford Murder, Book 1 of her series, and was pleased to discover that it had a Best-sellers rank in the US Free Kindle Store of #1 for all ebooks, regardless of genre.

A bit earlier this morning, her book was still ranked #1 overall in the US and, on Amazon UK, #3 for Historical Mysteries.

When PG just checked, the book was ranked #4 overall for free books and #1 in Historical Mysteries, #1 in Women Sleuths and #2 in Literature & Fiction, each in the Free Kindle Store. It’s still hanging in as #3 for Historical Mysteries in the UK store.

Mrs. PG has always enjoyed good sales at the launch of a new book and for her free book promos, but this one is particularly good.

With respect to her latest book, Murder at Tregowyn Manor (which is priced at $2.99 for the ebook), most of her sales are coming from the US, as usual, but she’s also generating nice sales numbers from Australia and the UK as well.

PG shares these results for the benefit of other indie authors who may find them useful for their launch plans.

PG thanks all the kind visitors to TPV who have continued to support Mrs. PG’s books over the years since the launch of TPV.

5 Basic Rules of Social Media

From Social Media Just for Writers:

It’s so important to converse with readers, friends, and influencers in your sphere. If you don’t allocate time to chat, you are missing the point.

Because at its essencesocial media is social. So, to engage in social media and not allocate time to socialize, well, it’s antithetical to the very premise of social media.

. . . .

Be a social butterfly, in the best sense possible. Social media was never designed to be a broadcast messaging system the way radio and television are. Conversations are the backbone of social media, and that is what distinguishes it, and that is what has fueled its dominance in marketing. The beauty of social media for authors is that it allows you to converse with your readership in a manner that was never possible before Facebook was created. Indie authors have a powerful medium with which they can market their books, converse with their readers, answer questions in minutes, and further their relationships with their loyal readers, even though it’s all done virtually.

Don’t attempt to be the prom queen; strive to always be authentic and care about others. Don’t talk solely about yourself. Social media is an inclusive media. You will get further and do better if you help others, including helping other authors in your genre. You can interview your colleagues for your blog and share information about their promotions.

Link to the rest at Social Media Just for Writers

How to Make Book “Sales Copy” Feel Like a Simple Conversation

From the Nonfiction Author Association:

You’ve put a ton of time into writing your nonfiction book and now you’re ready to sell a lot of copies, make a positive impact, and gain a loyal legion of fans.

. . . .

With all the social media platforms and digital marketing channels open to you these days, there’s no reason why this vision can’t come to fruition.

However, to achieve this goal you’re going to need an ongoing promotional campaign, the basis of which is strong “sales copy” for your book.

Now, I just put the term sales copy in quotes for a reason.

Over the last 12 years I’ve crafted marketing copy for over a hundred authors who’ve written books they intended to sell to people all over the world. However, many of them felt squeamish when they heard me use the terms “sales copy” or “persuasive sales copy” when talking about their marketing content.

The reason is terms like “persuasive sales copy” sound like a ploy you use when you want to trick or manipulate people into buying your books. And nobody wants to do that. The good news is that you don’t have to.

When written properly, persuasive sales copy can have the same feel as a friendly conversation you’d have in a coffee shop with a potential reader of your book. No hype. No fluff. No razzle-dazzle and no manipulation. Just straightforward honesty and authenticity.

. . . .

Today you live in a global economy that is tightly connected by social media platforms and video conferencing tools that enable you to speak with people around the world as if they were sitting right next to you.

This connectivity empowers you to sell your book to anyone, anywhere, any time. So, if you have a book that can energize, stimulate, enlighten, educate, or entertain, you need to let people know you have something valuable to share with them.

. . . .

In today’s online market it is easy to shy away from writing sales copy and simply substitute it with a large volume of blurbs, posts, articles, and videos that are intended to create “awareness” for your book.

Creating this content is definitely a sound strategy. However, at some point you also need to craft compelling sales copy that motivates readers to buy your book NOW …instead of later, or never.

. . . .

As I mentioned earlier, compelling book marketing copy can be written in the same tone as a casual chat between two friends in a coffee shop. When you understand this, then “persuasive sales copy” should no longer be a phrase that makes you apprehensive.

There is no doubt that marketing copy filled with hype, fluff, and unrealistic promises will turn people away. However, marketing copy with a casual, friendly tone can be highly effective if you lead people through a simple motivating sequence that 1) shows you have a precise understanding of what readers want, desire, or need; and 2) communicates the clear-cut benefits they’ll derive from reading your book.

It really is possible to do this by writing sales copy in a style that mirrors the tone and feel of a casual conversation you’d have with a good friend.

. . . .

To stand out in a crowded market, your book marketing copy needs to have a distinct voice in which it is written. The key here is to avoid writing your marketing copy in a “salesy” voice, and instead write it in a straightforward authentic voice that is true to your book.

For example, if you’ve written a self-development book that has a nurturing tone, write your marketing copy in a nurturing tone. If you’ve written a business book that has an authoritative edge to it, give your marketing copy an authoritative edge. If your book has a witty attitude to it, write your marketing copy with a witty attitude.

Chances are the voice and tone of your book is a direct reflection of you. So if you write your marketing copy through the same authentic voice as your book, it’s going to be much easier for you to give it a conversational tone that resonates with your readers.

. . . .

  • Avoid using worn-out clichés that don’t really mean anything like “second to none,” “cut above the rest,” or “to a whole new level.”
  • Stay away from basic general statements and popular buzz phrases.
  • Make sure your benefit statements are detailed, specific, and to the point.
  • Craft your copy as if you’re going to read it to a potential buyer while the two of you are drinking coffee together.

Link to the rest at the Nonfiction Author Association

Can You Zoom Your Way Up The Bestseller Charts?

From IndieReader:

Tips for Hosting a Virtual Author Event

If you’re stuck indoors, like most of us are right now, it’s time to consider hosting a virtual event. It’s a simple way to market your book from home! I’ve done webinars on Zoom and similar platforms for years. I love doing virtual events and I jump at the chance to do as many as I reasonably can.

Even if you are unsure about virtual events, I encourage you to add this strategy to your repertoire of marketing tools because it’s a solid way to promote a book.

Yes, we absolutely love in-person events, and there’s nothing like meeting readers and attendees and shaking hands (can we still do that?). But in the absence of in-person gatherings – or if you don’t want to travel – virtual events can be really fantastic. So let’s dig into some of the how-to’s for these events, so you’re prepared to knock it out of the park!

1. Check Your Surroundings

Make sure the area behind you on camera is not cluttered! You don’t want attendees to focus on that stack of books on your desk instead of you. Ideally, get yourself a plain backdrop such as a wall or a lovely bookcase. You can even order fun screens from Amazon if you’re really eager to appear in front of a spiffy backdrop.

2. What’s Your Light Source?

The other extremely important element is lighting. You can easily check lighting on your phone by recording a video in the room where you’ll hold your virtual event. I love natural lighting, and I always try to keep the lighting as natural as possible. But if your room is devoid of a lot of natural light, you can try your existing lighting or get a ring light fairly inexpensively (again, on Amazon).

3. Be Sure to Smile!

. . . .

4. Where’s Your Camera?

It’s pretty easy to stare into your computer screen (I have done this a lot) but you really want to look at your camera because otherwise it seems like you’re gazing off and not paying attention. I have a small red dot by my camera to remind myself to pay attention to where the camera actually is.

It’s tricky at first because if we can see everyone, we’re inclined to look at them, but when you do that you really aren’t looking “at” them, if that makes sense. This takes a bit of getting used to, so don’t worry if you don’t get it on the first try. But put something by your camera so you’re reminded to look there. Maybe a big arrow!

Link to the rest at IndieReader

PG would add that it might be a good idea to do a practice run-through with a handful of friends as an audience and record it. Replaying the recording to see how things look and sound when you’re not in the middle of doing the online event can help identify issues you’re not aware of during the performance (and it is a performance).

Additionally, based upon PG’s experience doing presentations in meatspace, no matter how many or few show up online, be upbeat and enthusiastic about communicating with them.

Whether numbering 300 or 3, an audience will sense any disappointment you’re feeling if you don’t consciously plan to be and act upbeat. It’s a performance, not a conversation. (Yes, really. Even if you characterize the event as a conversation, if you perform poorly, it will be a bad performance and a bad conversation.)

If you communicate any disappointment to an audience, you’re communicating the idea that the people who are participating are not very important and/or that you feel like a failure.

How to use simple psychology and basic common sense to sell more books

From Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris:

Do you dream about creating a group of Superfans who will buy every book you write?

Yes? Well, then, do you make it easy for readers to become your Superfans?

. . . .

I want you to keep the idea of “Superfans” in your mind as we talk about today’s topic. To create these Superfans, we need to make sure that we don’t do anything to frustrate our readers. In fact, our job is to make purchasing/following/subscribing as easy as possible.

In order to do that, there are three simple steps:

  • Create content in a reader-friendly format
  • Use simple psychology to help guide readers
  • Harness what we know about e-reader technology to make it easier for readers to find us — and buy more of our books

. . . .

I’m a science grad who became a science prof – so when someone from the publishing industry (in 1995) suggested that textbooks would be converted to electronic format, I jumped for joy!! After decades of lugging around massive science reference texts, the idea of tucking a computer disk into my bag was pretty exciting!

. . . .

Because the first Kindle wasn’t released until 2007, the idea of reading electronic textbooks was still over a decade away at that point. At the time, though, fresh out of university and thinking I knew everything, I was excited, but my fellow profs – who turned out to be smarter than I was – expressed concern about the differences in reading style. Honestly, back then, know-it-all me thought they were over-reacting.

Over the years since, I’ve done quite a bit of research into the differences between how people read via a paper source, like a paperback book, versus how people read via an electronic source, like a Kindle or e-reader.

. . . .

To sum up, people don’t actually read material presented electronically. Instead, they scan.

People “read” in a non-linear, non-continuous fashion. They will allow their eyes to take breaks between paragraphs. They will make use of headlines, graphics, bold text, italic text or lists to guide the movement of their eyes.

Another key finding from the existing research is that the more a person reads on electronic sources, the more they exhibit this scanning type of “reading.” This finding implies that scanning behaviour, or non-linear reading, is more pronounced amongst younger readers than older readers.

. . . .

The “Jars of Jam” study involved creating two different types of displays of jam in grocery stores. One display had many different flavors of jam, number of jars, size and shape of jars and varying prices. The second display typically had 2 flavors of jam and one size of jars, all at the same price. This experiment was carried out in different types of stores and in different locations within the store.

The second display (the simpler display) always sold many more jars of jam than the first.

Some feel this result is counter-intuitive. Wouldn’t people appreciate having more choices? Or are they, in fact, overwhelmed by too many choices with the result that they don’t make any purchase? The research indicates that they are, and that the sale is lost.

What’s the connection between the bread, jam jars, and turning readers into Superfans?

Look at the menu-line of your website. Do you provide numerous alternatives for a reader to choose from? Or do you use the menu structure to nudge people in the direction you want them to go?

For authors, the “Jars of Jam” theory applies in two critical places:

  • Website design – especially with respect to the menu-line and buy links
  • Promotional platforms and & newsletters – think BookBub

Which one below would you think is better for readers to find information?

Example #1

Example #2

If you answered example 2 you would be correct!

Why does BookBub sell so many books?

BookBub is one of the most successful promotional newsletters. Do you think the psychology behind the “Jars of Jam” correlates with the limited number of suggested books in each newsletter?

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris

The Nothing Man

It has been some time since PG has paid any attention to a book trailer. When they first became a thing, he watched a few. They were pretty terrible, so he stopped.

He happened across the book trailer below and saw distinct improvements over prior efforts. That said, he still doesn’t know if they sell any books, but would be happy to read opinions on the topic in the comments.

Giving Back To Your Readers

From Writers in the Storm:

In my last two posts here on WITS I talked in general terms about building your author platform, both online and offline. Today I’m going to dig a little deeper into building a long-term relationship with your readers. 

. . . .

One key piece of information we ask potential readers to give is an email address. This allows us to keep them up to date on new releases, share our creative process with them via newsletters, and send the occasional promotional mailings. But what can we give them in return for this valuable piece of information?

Like many authors, I’ve been giving readers a free story download in exchange for signing up for my newsletter (I admit I stole this idea from the great James Scott Bell). You might think managing all those download requests will eat up most of your writing time, but the good news is the process can be automated.

. . . .

Now that you have something to give to the readers, you’re going to need somewhere in the cloud to store it where it can be easily accessed and distributed. There are many cloud storage providers out there, but Google Docs is probably the simplest solution. I have a specific folder where I upload and store giveaway files. This helps keep things neat and tidy and makes getting the download links a snap.

. . . .

You’re also going to need a way to collect and manage the email addresses you receive. You’ll also be using this same application to automate the delivery of your file. Two of the most popular solutions are Mailchimp and MailerLite. Both are free up to a certain number of subscribers, and both offer delivery automation. I’ve found MailerLite to be the most flexible and robust at the free level, and a good fit for most authors, but do your research and decide what works best for you as you scale up and move toward achieving you ultimate goal as a writer.

Link to the rest at Writers in the Storm

There’s no excuse for not knowing where your book fits in the market

From Nathan Bransford:

I know that the vast majority of authors haven’t worked in the publishing industry and aren’t spending their days acquainting themselves with its ins and outs. I know that for the uninitiated it’s increasingly difficult to tell the difference between traditionally published books and self-published books. I know you would rather just write your books and coast to fame and fortune without lifting another finger.

But real talk: If you don’t know where your book fits in the market and can’t come up with some comp titles published in the last 5-10 years, there’s really only one reason: you just haven’t done the research.

It takes hundreds of hours to write a novel. You can afford to spend an extremely important 2-3 hours clicking around on Google and Amazon to research what else is out there.

. . . .

it’s not enough to just write a good book and then let the magic of publishing take care of the rest. There was never a time when someone could “just be a writer” and it’s certainly not true now.

There are many, many reasons it pays to know where your book fits in the market, but they all really boil down to this:

  • You must know what differentiates your book as you’re pitching and promoting it.

If you’re pursuing traditional publishing, you’re going to have to write a query letter. If you’re pursuing self-publishing, you’re going to have to write good jacket copy, or at least know what good jacket copy looks like. If you’re planning a marketing campaign or social media presence, it’s helpful to know where your audience is and what they’re reading.

In order to really know why your book is special, you should know what else is out there. You should know who your potential readers are. And in order to do that, you have to have a sense of the landscape.

Link to the rest at Nathan Bransford

It’s Time to Radically Rethink Online Book Events

From Electric Lit:

Before the stay-at-home orders came down in Baltimore, the last thing I did in person was participate in a panel conversation about—ironically—“art and the apocalypse.” In retrospect, we should have cancelled, but the threat in Maryland still felt surreal; those were the days when it seemed like we could beat the pandemic by washing our hands.

I’ve been thinking about that panel a lot lately because my first novel is coming out in August, and I’ve been trying to envision a book launch without an in-person event. I’m embarrassed to be grieving for this tiny problem, which is less than negligible compared to all we have witnessed this year. But publishing a novel has been a lifelong dream for me, and book events have been an important part of that dream—because other authors’ events have been such meaningful parts of my own inspiration. I have vivid memories of electric readings by Victor LaValle, César Aira, and Tim O’Brien. I got teary-eyed watching a hundred public school kids crowd in to see D. Watkins at the Baltimore Book Festival. After hearing Valeria Luiselli speak about The Story of my Teeth, I was so inspired I wrote an entire short story in an afternoon. When my dreams have felt far away, when my fiction has seemed meager and hopeless, I have gone to a bookstore and sat on a folding chair and been reminded that books are my spirituality—they are my connection to my own humanity, and to my understanding of grace in others. The magic of a book event is in the revelation, fresh every time, that my very favorite thing to do, a thing I do mostly alone, is also the thing that connects me most closely to other people. 

As COVID has become our new normal, book events have started up again, in virtual formats. But like every other online substitute we’ve instituted—family Zoom calls, Instagram birthday wishes—these internet readings have lacked some of the magic of human connection. Is there a way to recapture that magic online?

. . . .

By the third week, I had swung from denial to despair at the never-ending stream of news of illness and death, health care system failures and government malfeasance. The experience of these months reminds me of when I fall asleep on the couch watching a movie and then refuse to get up to go to bed. I know that I will feel terrible sleeping on the couch, but all I want to do is keep sleeping on the couch. My friend Nicole calls this feeling “special features,” because back in the days of DVD, she would demand her partner play the special features after the movie so that she could continue to sleep. By my fifth week of staying at home, I felt like I was living in special features.

To alleviate the loneliness, I found solace in online book events. Bookstores and literary festivals, podcasts and grassroots publicity efforts, and publishers and authors had intrepidly brought their work and energy online, gathering readers together despite the pandemic with heroic success. I went to more book events online in April than I have ever been to in a physical month; there were nights I hopped between three different conversations, from Zoom to Crowdcast to Instagram Live; it was like wandering through a literary night market, the tents all patchwork-stitched together but the doorways tacked open to warm, inviting fires inside. In those first three lonely months, wandering through this nightly market has been a comfort.

But lately, I’ve started to wonder why these events have not yet evolved. Most events are still following the old-fashioned format of the in-person bookstore event, where two authors have a conversation, maybe with a short reading, maybe with an audience Q&A. Rather than developing new ideas for book events to suit the technology we’re using, the literary community is by and large continuing to do what we’ve always done. 

Don’t get me wrong—many of these events have been truly excellent. But the internet, which can be thrilling and inspiring and creative, rarely mimics the conventions of the physical world. So why are we still circumscribing book events according to the limits of what is possible in person? 

These restrictions are not ideal for digital space. In bookstores, the “in conversation” model works because it gives you the inspiration of being in the same room as the author, as well as the excitement of being part of an audience. Neither of those translates organically to Zoom or Instagram Live, where it doesn’t really feel like you’re in the same room. And while there is often a chat box, or little hearts floating up the screen when people “like” something, the sensation of being part of the crowd is abstract. Without this sense of community, some online book events have left me feeling lonelier than I was before. 

It’s time to start experimenting—and to try radically reinventing what a “book event” can be, in this radically different year. 

Link to the rest at Electric Lit

PG has six reactions to the OP.

  1. Don’t look to traditional publishing for technological innovation. Not in their DNA, not in their bloodstream, not in their frame of reference, not in their world.
  2. A great many authors are introverts and speaking to a large group of people, let alone pitching their books to a large group of strangers is akin to medieval torture. Some will put together a schtick-style personality to use in signings, but they still may not enjoy the experience, particularly if they have to repeat their schtick night after night. It’s even more depressing if they spend all prime writing time away from their keyboard and don’t sell very many books.
  3. What portion of readers will buy books in physical bookstores in the future? The historical origin of book signings is based upon the belief that if you can draw a lot of people to a physical bookstore and they hear an author talk about a book, they’ll pick up a copy before they leave. This assumes that they 1) prefer physical books to ebooks and 2) won’t pick up their cell phone and order the book from Amazon for a lower price, perhaps even while they’re listening to an author talk about the book.
  4. If Amazon is the preferred place for a lot of people to purchase books, why not focus energy and money online, where purchasing a book is a click away?
  5. If you catch a bookseller in a candid mood, they’ll admit that book signings are a pain to deal with. They have to keep at least one more person working in order to handle a crowd, which costs money. You have to order more copies of the book than you ordinarily would to make certain you have something to sell to people who attend, but you also probably have to pay someone to return a bunch of unsold books so you can use your limited budget to buy different books that people will buy. If someone outside the store wants to make a quick visit to buy a book and sees a mob of people in the front window, isn’t it possible that they may skip the purchase or go elsewhere because they don’t want to spend the time necessary to work through the throng to locate and purchase their book? Plus, maybe have to track down someone to take their payment.
  6. With regard to online gatherings, PG notes that human beings are marvelously adaptive creatures. Certainly, we like to physically gather with kindred spirits, but we can also become more accustomed to seeing someone’s face on an iPad. PG has already seen improvements in the quality of online presentations and meetings because a perceptive individual will try to improve her/his performance in a business/commercial setting, whether it’s a conference room, bookstore, coffee-shop interview or in a video conference. At the beginning of this pandemic, nobody seemed to think about their cat playing in the background during a video call. Now, only the terminally clueless fail to put pussy into another room and shut the door. And, if you’re dressed properly only from the waist on up, you should expect to show up on YouTube in your underpants, you idiot.

PG suggests that the book signing is an outmoded publicity technique whose time has past. If an author values his/her time, it is unlikely to be worth the time, effort and queasiness involved in talking to a bunch of strangers while worrying about flop sweat on your forehead and in your armpits.

Don’t Fall Into the Trap of ‘Precrastination’

From LifeHacker:

We live and work in a culture that values productivity (and in turn, profits) above pretty much everything else. But we’re also big fans of instant gratification. (Isn’t the best part about making a checklist adding a few things you’ve already done, just so you can tick them off right away?) As it turns out, when you mix the push for productivity with our love of instant gratification, you can end up falling into the trap of “precrastination.” Here’s what that concept means and how to avoid it.

Dr. David Rosenbaum, a psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside, first coined the term “precrastination” in a 2014 article in the journal Psychological Science. He describes it as “the hastening of subgoal completion, even at the expense of extra physical effort,” but it can apply to tasks (like office work) that don’t involve physical labor.

Basically, you precrastinate if you opt to put in extra effort in the rush to complete a task (and tick it off your to-do list) that may end up being unnecessary with a little more time and planning. Chris Bailey, writing for CNBC’s Make It vertical provides this example:

You and your team are gearing up for a complex project, and they’ve sent a number of emails asking for clarification on certain points. Rather than taking the time to write back in a thoughtful and deliberate manner or schedule a call to discuss, you send back a series of half-baked replies.

Task complete, right? Not quite. While you may have temporarily dealt with a few items on your to-do list, your lack of clarity generates further questions. As a result, more effort is needed to get everyone back on track.

How to avoid ‘precrastination’

The key here, Bailey says, is to identify when zipping through tasks is a good idea, versus when it’ll actually end up costing you more time in the end. 

Link to the rest at LifeHacker

Both the supply chain and book marketing are forever changed by Coronavirus

From veteran publishing consultant, Mike Shatzkin:

Just before the world changed, about five months ago on February 18th, we wrote in this space about two initiatives that made sense for all publishers to employ to raise revenues and profits.

One was Ingram’s Guaranteed Availability Program (GAP), which connects their Lightning print-on-demand capability to their ability to ship within 24 hours, delivering just about any quantity of books to justabout any account in the world. With just about any return address you want on the package. By mid-April, it was clear that the supply chain was already adjusting.

The other was Open Road’s “Ignition” marketing program, a highly automated way to sharply improve the performance of ebook titles. The tactics employed include metadata improvements, pricing adjustments, search-optimized discovery that brings in tens of thousands of new readers every day, 8 unique newsletters touching millions of consumers (about whom more and more is known every day), and an array of genre-specific websites that funnel readers to books they love. Building this capability involved many thousands of ebooks tracked across millions of consumers for more than five years.

Both of these capabilities required tens of thousands of titles, millions of dollars of focused investment, and laboriously constructed system support to build. Ignition required a commitment to build an automated marketing effort that works across many thousands of titles. This is not a good fit with a publishing business model that has always focused on a few new titles, not the thousands on the backlist, with dedicated efforts that are largely driven by hands-on human marketers.

It is not likely that any publisher, even the very biggest ones, could build what Ingram and Open Road have created. But beyond whether they could, it is even less likely that they would.  It took Ingram seven years to make Lightning Print efficient and tie it to “third party distribution”, the ability to ship the book “as” coming from somebody else. And Open Road, by dedicating massive marketing resources to build an automated capability that hardly connects at all to the marketing that publishers have always done, built something that it is almost impossible to imagine any of the biggest publishers shifting their focus to attempt.

The timing of the February 18 piece was accidentally prophetic. The world of publishing pretty much shut down less than a month after it was written. It is evident to many publishers that Ingram’s GAP capability has been a lifesaver. In a recent week, five of the top ten New York Times paperback bestsellers were being printed by Lightning. Those publishers know that they wouldn’t have been able to grab those sales with the normal book supply chain.

. . . .

Indeed, sales at Ignition are up 75% in the four months since we published that first piece. Forced lockdowns are good for online sales, and especially good for ebook sales.

. . . .

Publishers market manually. They use humans to examine their metadata and change it. They assign titles to marketers, who are charged with making them more visible to buyers and today that means online visibility for online buyers. They are experts at “publicity”, which means getting their titles featured to other people’s audiences. They have, to varying degrees, built lists of book consumers they can address directly with newsletters and emails. Some have “vertical” websites that give them billboards to feature their books.

But all of those devices are applied book-by-book by human marketers who are directed, intentional, intelligent, and extremely limited in how many moves they can make and how many titles they can touch. And, therefore, very expensive.

This is a very poor match even for a publisher with 5,000 or 10,000 titles on their backlist. The publishers’ standard approach is not at all useful for lists of 20,000, 30,000 or 50,000 titles. And that’s why what Open Road has created, the only truly automated book marketing program in the industry, is of such extraordinary value. And unless two or three very big publishers get together to build something that will require millions of dollars and years of work as a joint effort, that will not change.

. . . .

For a variety of reasons, the biggest publishers have been the slowest to join the party. For one thing, Ignition is designed for large and difficult-to-manage backlists. Even though it works for new titles as well, it performs a function — marketing backlist — that publishers with enormous lists built over decades always got along without. The reflex reaction of a publisher seeing the virtue in marketing backlist (and, in the online sales era, everybody does) is to do it the time-honored way: allocating scarce (for backlist) marketing resources where they would seem to provide the most benefit.

Link to the rest at The Idea Logical Company blog

PG will lay out the problem with big publishers.

They don’t really want to change.

And, if a Big Publishing CEO takes a wiggle toward change that costs any significant amount of money, the large international conglomerates that own four out of the five largest US publishers (ViacomCBS, which is all about TV and video, owns the fifth), will shut down that foolishness in a New York Minute or a Gütersloh Minute (Bertelsmann), Paris Minute (Lagardère), Stuttgart Minute (Holtzbrinck) or a New York Minute with an Australian accent (News Corp).

In these conglomerates, publishers play the strategic role of cash cows (not terribly fat cash cows, but, still cash cows). If conglomerate management wants to take a flyer on risky booming growth and capital appreciation, it will invest in something in Silicon Valley through its separate venture capital investment arm. No book persons will be involved.

Furthermore, to the best of PG’s knowledge, none of the five conglomerates which own the Big Five US publishers have made even baby waves in the tech world. The founders of next Google or next Amazon are not looking for money in Stuttgart. Palo Alto, Menlo Park and San Jose are just a few freeway exits away and everybody there is already fluent in geekspeak and moving very fast is how those investors thrive and survive.

PG hadn’t heard about Open Road’s “Ignition” marketing program as mentioned in the OP.

However a quick look gave him the impression that the organization is primarily a collection of book-oriented e-newsletters – see Our Portfolio.

The company touts:

Ebook Promotions

Feature your books in a newsletter that reaches over 1 million book lovers looking for their next favorite read.

Content Marketing

Showcase your brand, product or creator on one of our targeted digital properties. Smart, search-first, audience-focused opportunities.

Maybe there’s some magic juice happening behind the scenes, but Early Bird Books, the company’s largest email newsletter with a claimed circulation of 2.6 million doesn’t seem too special:

Early Bird Books provides a great service to ebook aficionados looking for free and discounted ebooks written by authors they love—and by others that they’re willing to try at a special price.

The Early Bird Books web and social channels provide fun articles, book lists, product recommendations, and other highly relevant content to keep consumers engaged on all of their devices.

Email newsletters, social media marketing and search-engine optimization are standard vanilla services, provided by any number of internet marketing agencies. Analyzing the results of such activities typically comes with the package as well.

But this may be news for New York publishers.

Self-Cancel Culture

PG doesn’t usually include two items from the same source on the same day, but he’ll make an exception for this one.

From The Wall Street Journal:

Every day brings news of another “cancellation”—a celebrity’s tweet incites an online mob, an article written in 1987 gets a corporate executive fired. The latest trend is self-cancellation, in which the offending party, rather than enduring the coming onslaught, self-flagellates and hopes for absolution.

Consider the case of Alexandra Duncan and her would-be novel “Ember Days.” The book was all set to be published by Greenwillow, an imprint of HarperCollins, when the author withdrew it. The problem? Parts of the book were written from the point of view of a black American, a person of Gullah heritage, from the Georgia and South Carolina Low Country—and Ms. Duncan is white. 

The book’s prepublication description led some of the novelist’s online acquaintances to question the propriety of a white woman writing from the perspective of a black American, and so she decided to cancel the book.

“My own limited worldview as a white person,” Ms. Duncan wrote in a statement, “led me to think I could responsibly depict a character from this [Gullah] culture. Clearly, the fact that I did not see the signs of the problem with my book’s premise . . . is evidence that I was not the right person to try to tell this story. I am deeply ashamed to have made a mistake of this magnitude.” 

. . . .

Evidently being criticized, in the world of literary wokeness, is the same as being canceled, so PW felt obliged to kill the article. “We regret the damage the publication of this story has caused this individual,” PW proclaimed, “as well as any other instances of violence enacted upon Black, Indigenous, and other people of color.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Sorry if you encounter a paywall)

PG has never been consulted by the management of HarperCollins (although he does recall conversations with an attorney or two working there), but he wonders if anyone thought of a pen name.

Additionally, Ms. Duncan would not appear to be on the wrong end of the political spectrum for a New York publisher. She appears to be a contributor to Our Stories, Our Voices: 21 YA Authors Get Real About Injustice, Empowerment, and Growing Up Female in America.

Perhaps the takeaway from this episode is that, in mid-2020, only authors of Gullah descent can write fiction that includes Gullah characters. Authors with a tendency to display paler shades of skin in public must only write about characters who are white.

As PG’s mind wandered about this issue, he asked himself whether authors of indubitable whitishness are permitted to write novels deriving from the Star Trek universe which include Worf, Tuvak, Guinan, Uhura or Geordi.

Must we begin the process of segregating black and white characters and authors to avoid giving offense to anyone?

For safety’s sake, perhaps we should have black publishers and white publishers as well. After all, the New York publishing world is between 97% and 98% white. What right do all those white publishers have exploiting black authors with advances and royalty rates equivalent to slave wages?

Back to pen names, people of all sorts have been using them for centuries to conceal their true identities.

From Powell’s:

Ever heard of Charles Dodgson? Or Samuel Clemens? Maybe Eric Blair? What about some more contemporary names like Madeline Wickham, Jim Grant, or David Cornwell? Award yourself a cookie for every one of those you recognized. They are, of course, the alter egos of world-famous novelists. They are the Clark Kents and Diana Princes of the literary world. In case you didn’t get them all, they are: Lewis CarrollMark TwainGeorge OrwellSophie Kinsella, and John Le Carré.

Authors have been using pen names since there were, well, authors. They’ve done it for many and various reasons, but it’s most often a pragmatic decision. Let’s talk about a few approaches to this.

Probably the least likely reason to use a pen name is the Reginald Dwight tactic. Or the Maurice Mickelwhite. Or the Chaim Witz. Elton John, Michael Caine, and Gene Simmons just sound a bit sexier, don’t they? Unlike other art forms such as music and thespianism — proper showbiz, in other words — there’s less disadvantage to a slightly nerdy name for an author. Lee Child is a little more striking than Jim Grant, but I doubt that was Lee’s reasoning. In fact, if you’re using a pen name to sound more rock ’n’ roll, then you’re probably in the wrong business.

. . . .

Gender swapping does, however, cut both ways. The rise of domestic noir — or, God help us, grip-lit — has seen women like Paula HawkinsGillian Flynn, and Ruth Ware come to dominate this particular field. Given that something like 70 percent of crime fiction is read by women, it’s hardly surprising that there is a thriving market for thrillers by women for women. But, like women had to do for the last couple of centuries, men are sneaking in with crafty pseudonyms: the gender-neutral S. J. Watson, for example, or my good friend Martyn Waites, who writes commercial thrillers as Tania Carver. Literary cross-dressing has been with us for hundreds of years and doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon.

. . . .

A much more common reason, and possibly one of the oldest, is good old sexism. The history of literature is well populated with women who either used men’s names or fudged it with some androgynous initials. Even some female authors that are household names today were first published under masculine pseudonyms: the Brontë sisters, CharlotteEmily, and Anne, were first published as Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. Others continue to be recognized by their pen names, like Middlemarch author George Eliot, known to her friends as Mary Ann Evans. These women chose male pseudonyms because it was felt they could not otherwise be taken seriously by readers. 

Speaking of Stephen King, the grandmaster of horror is part of a venerable tradition of big-league authors adopting pen names just because they wrote too damn much. King published a string of novels as Richard Bachman because his publisher felt readers couldn’t handle more than one a year.

. . . .

When I first had the idea for Here and Gone back in 2014, I knew this was something different. While I didn’t set out to create something more overtly commercial than my previous work, there was no denying that it sat closer to the likes of Harlan Coben and Linwood Barclay on the crime spectrum.

. . . .

Given the shift in subgenre and setting, a pen name became an increasingly obvious route to take. After much discussion, my agent and publishers agreed. In my mind, Haylen Beck is an entirely distinct entity from Stuart Neville.

Link to the rest at A Brief History of Pen Names, Powells

What is Typography, And How Can You Get It Right?

From Reedsy:

Typography is the art of arranging text in a legible and visually pleasing fashion. It’s not to be confused with typesetting, which describes the technical process of getting text onto a page.

From the lettering on a road sign to the flourishes on a Coke bottle, we see typography at work everywhere. Books, of course, are no exception. Whether you’re looking at the content or the cover, typography makes our favorite stories both readable and memorable. That’s why every indie author should keep it in mind when thinking about book design.

. . . .

Typography encompasses far more than choosing a font — and there’s a lot more at stake, too. Done right, it’ll draw readers’ eyes and get them to click “buy” on your product page. But if you phone it in, it can make your book stand out for all the wrong reasons, resulting in a sloppy-looking volume that’s a headache to read.

. . . .

1. Clear typography lets people access your story

If you say the words “book typography,” most authors will probably think of the title emblazoned on the front of their masterpieces. But before we start judging books by their covers, let’s take a look at the most important part of any volume: the text itself.

One of the less glamorous functions of typography is making a text easier to read. Clean and consistent type allows the reader to disappear into your words. Bad typography, on the other hand, diverts attention away from your writing, to the way it’s arranged on the page.

Worst case scenario, you might use a typeface that doesn’t pass the basic test of legibility. In that case, your readers will end up squinting at the page, using all their brain-space to decipher your words instead of enjoying them. Odds are, they’ll stop reading long before the book is done.

2. Beautiful typography draws readers’ eyes

Now, let’s talk about covers, an area where bold and beautiful typography can really shine. If you’re an indie author jostling for attention in a crowded marketplace like Amazon, an eye-catching title can make a reader zero in on your book.

. . . .

Choosing the right typeface for your book cover requires you to think beyond mere beauty. In addition to visual appeal, all the text on your cover needs to be:

  • readable
  • appealing at thumbnail sizes
  • genre-appropriate

Even the most gorgeous font won’t cut it if it’s illegible, confusing at thumbnail dimensions, or suggestive of, say, high fantasy when your book is a contemporary romance.

Link to the rest at Reedsy

PG suggests that, in the online book purchasing world (yes, he’s thinking mostly of Amazon), the cover is an advertisement for the book, plain and simple.

Yes, it needs to look like a book, not a microwave, but the purpose of the cover is to catch the eye of a prospective reader.

There’s a balance going on with every cover.

If your book is a romance, something about it needs to imply romance instead of science fiction. But if your cover looks almost identical to every other romance cover, it’s not likely to catch a reader’s eye in the sea of guys with their shirts unbuttoned or women in long dresses standing in front of mansions.

Yes, you can design your own cover. However, PG (who fancies himself as more appreciative of the visual arts and possessing a more nuanced eye than your typical plumbing supply shop owner) tried his hand at designing some of Mrs. PG’s early indie covers.

The covers were artistic triumphs (well, maybe artistic participation prize recipients), but they didn’t sell many books. Mrs. PG decided cheap labor wasn’t doing her very much good, so she hired a professional designer who had other clients writing in Mrs. PG’s genre and sales picked up nicely.

Communications in 2020: What Do Authors Value?

From Writer Unboxed:

I decided to ask a few authors and a veteran literary publicist—with many books to their credit—their their thoughts about value. Specifically, how have their marketing communications efforts evolved through the years, and what are some of the big differences between their various book releases.

. . . .

ROBYN HARDING, Internationally Bestselling Author of THE SWAP, out now

I published my first novel in 2004, before social media was widely used (or even created in most cases), so I was at the mercy of my publisher’s in-house publicist to promote my book. She arranged local television, newspaper, and radio interviews for me, and put me in touch with several online book bloggers. (I still remember being asked: What do you consider to be your best feature? I didn’t bat an eye then, but I would now.) My next few novels were promoted the same way. After taking a break to explore screenwriting, I returned to publishing with my first domestic suspense novel, THE PARTY, in 2017. The world of promotions had moved almost completely online, and I had much more opportunity to participate in my own publicity. Now, my in-house publicist gets my book into the hands of print and online publications for inclusion on lists and round-ups, which I share on social media to amplify their reach. (I’ve had my books in big traditional publications like People and Entertainment Weekly, but it didn’t seem to impact sales.) I usually write a few articles that tie into the theme of my book, and my publicist will place them. In 2017, I didn’t have Instagram or Twitter, so I was trying to promote a book and develop a following at the same time. Since then, I have found an amazing book community online, and have developed friendships with many bookstagrammers. When my latest novel, THE SWAP, was published on June 23, I felt such incredible support. I spent the entirety of pub day thanking people on social media. It was pretty great.

. . . .

CHRIS BOHJALIAN, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author of THE RED LOTUS (which came out on March 17, 2020 when the world shut down); look for the special 25th anniversary edition of WATER WITCHES on June 30

My 21st book was published on March 17, 2020, so the differences between my most recent release and the twenty that preceded it is like comparing apples and oranges.  It makes more sense to compare (for instance) my 20th novel with my first.  I have been writing since the Mesozoic era, and the big changes between publishing a book in the late 1980s and the present include:

— The dramatic decrease in newspaper and magazine coverage of books;

— The decrease in television coverage of books;

— The rise of the online book sites and the way readers give books one to five stars;

— The rise of thoughtful book bloggers and passionate book blogs;

— The rise of the social networks to sell books;

— The increase in small, dedicated book groups that meet in living rooms across America;

— The increase in national book clubs hosted by smart celebrities who care passionately about good books;

— The way digital audio has fueled monumental growth in audiobooks;

— The way eBooks have rendered book tours less fiscally viable;

— The way streaming networks have adapted books into limited series that really give a book a chance to breathe on the the screen;

— The way that online bookstores have made ‘discoverability’ of a new book more difficult for book browsers, because there are fewer bricks and mortar bookstores and they have smaller inventories.

Link to the rest at Writer Unboxed

How to Create Amazon Ads that Convert

From The Independent Publishing Magazine:

1. Know Your Audience

An overlooked aspect of your marketing campaign is the people who’ll be looking at your ads–your audience! You can spend hours on the rest of these steps, but they’ll be useless if you don’t know who you’re trying to target.

Your book won’t be for everyone, and that’s okay. Rather than trying to reach everyone, target your marketing directly to those who are most likely to read your book.

One great strategy you can use for getting to know your audience is to create ‘reader personas’. A reader persona is a short bio of a reader avatar that represents large sections of your audience.

With a reader persona, you’re basically writing to one person, which is a lot easier than writing general statements in your ads.

Here are some ways you can find information out about your audience and create your persona.

Use Google Analytics: If you have a website, you can find information about your audience through your Google Analytics dashboard. This will tell you a lot about your general audience including interests and nationality. Just check out the ‘audience’ section in your Analytics menu.

. . . .

Use Reddit: One cool way to find out more about your target audience is to use Reddit, which is basically a hub for a wide range of online forums. The site is incredibly popular too and some subreddits (the particular forums) have great participation numbers. 

. . . .

You can also use a Reddit Keyword Tool that will scrape popular phrases from a subreddit.

. . . .

Ask Your Readers: One of the easiest ways to get information about your ideal reader is to get info from the readers you already have. You can do this through email surveys, or even start a Facebook group to better connect with them.

Once you’ve got information written down, you can build a buyer persona on a Google Doc, Spreadsheet or any other way you see fit. HubSpot has a dedicated buyer persona builder that’s free to use. While the tool is built for B2B sellers, you can delete sections and add your own, so you can make it fit an indie author.

Link to the rest at The Independent Publishing Magazine

Online Marketing Doesn’t Have to Mean Lying, Cheating, or Gaming the System

From Anne R. Allen’s Blog:

A lot of authors get that deer-in-the-headlights look when I mention marketing books online.

But it’s pretty much the only way to promote books during this “stay at home” pandemic.

So we gotta do it. I understand your reluctance. Social media is full of trolls, scammers, and vast herds of bellicose morons.

And there’s also a lot of unethical and downright criminal behavior that gets labeled as “online marketing”.

Some online marketing “gurus” teach (expensive) lessons in manipulation, lying, cheating, and general flimflammery. I had one contact me just this week. He’d put a Google Alert on “guest blogging” and this blog came up, with my piece complaining about unethical behavior in requesting guest blogposts.

He’s such a lazy idiot that he hadn’t bothered to read the passage of the blog he cut and pasted into the email. But because I used the magic keyword phrase, he expected me to link to his website that teaches people to send unethical guest blogpost requests to bloggers like me.

Um, sure, right, dude. I’ll send my readers to Moron McSleazy University, so they can learn to use Google alerts to harass me.

Here’s the thing: trying to sell your books or services by gaming the system, abusing bloggers, and lying is a very bad idea. Even if you’ve paid a lot of money to learn how. What you want to do is establish a brand that people trust, like Stephen King, Doris Kearns Goodwin or Lemony Snicket—not Scams “R” Us. How do you do that? As Ruth told us last week, you reach success with patience and persistence, not tricks and gimmicks.

. . . .

1) Some Authors Claim Scams are “Genius Marketing.”

Some indie author left a Facebook comment on one of my posts about how Amazon scams are robbing real authors of royalties. His comment:

“What’s wrong with selling a 500-word book for $9.99? I call that good marketing.”

I naively tried to explain, “The reader is going to be angry and disappointed at being scammed and they won’t buy any more of this author’s books.”

The man replied, “Is this book plagiarized? Otherwise, this is genius.” 

I was gobsmacked. This “writer” equated “marketing” with “sleazy, dishonest behavior.” And he admired it.

You know, those Old West snake oil guys only succeeded because they left town the next day to escape being strung up by a posse of disgruntled customers. Not so easy to do on the Internet where you can be doxxed.

There are also “genius marketing” companies that charge thousands of dollars to authors to “buy in” to  99c boxed sets that may possibly get the author “USA Today Bestseller” status. But there’s also a guarantee of no income–because all the money is supposed to go to marketing. But…

  1. Most of these don’t work anymore because readers have bought the sets and found most of the books sub-par.
  2. There is remarkable bad will, bullying and squabbling in these boxed set groups.
  3. Often the companies simply take the money and evaporate. Maybe to teach at McSleazy U.

David Gaugrhan tweeted about a new one just this morning. $5000 to buy in for “guaranteed” USA Today status. Might we say “caveat emptor”?

Online marketing should be about establishing a brand and growing a readership, not getting fake credentials or making a quick buck and skipping town.

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog

PG will add that, for most authors, success is a journey. Overnight success is a rarity. There has been more than a single one-trick pony who bombed with the second book in the book world. Overnight success that leads to long-term success is even more rare.

An audience of readers who are anxious to check out an author’s next book is the closest thing to gold PG has found in the writing biz. If the author treats them right, they will buy the next book right away when it’s released, giving it a great boost under Amazon’s algorithms. These same readers will tell their friends, post on their blogs, Facebook, etc., about the new book. They’ll post positive reviews with thoughtful comments germane to the book and, often, talking about why readers with similar interests will like this book.

Theoretically, it’s possible to buy a service that will post fake reviews that are convincing, but, to PG’s knowledge, this has never worked. Too many similar reviews, too many generalities, too many exclamation points and a general odor of inauthenticity.

At some point in time, an artificial intelligence engine may be able to digest the text of a book and spit out phony reviews, but, to the best of PG’s knowledge, that hasn’t happened and isn’t likely to happen in the near future. For one thing, there are much better ways for an artificial intelligence operator/programmer to earn way more money than by selling fake reviews.

For this reason, smart authors work hard to build groups of readers who like their work. Email lists, advance review copies sent to people the author knows personally who won’t grind out something phony or formulaic, engaging blogs with regular visitors, writing reviews of quality books by other authors in the same genre – basic literary marketing blocking and tackling.

Readers who buy well-written books aren’t dumb. If an author exhibits an online personality that’s a genuine reflection of who she is, a personality that may well show up in her characters and her books, people who like the way she writes, thinks and is will tend to stay connected and want to read the next book.

Unless the book promotion shill is a lot smarter than the author’s readers, she/he won’t be able to fool those readers.

But PG could be wrong.

Lockdown diaries: the book marketer

From The Bookseller:

If you’d asked me how I was coping a month ago, the truth would have been not so well actually. I let the anxiety that so many of us have been feeling overwhelm me, and I was tired of all the Zoom. SO TIRED.

I was pretty good at keeping ‘work’ at ‘work’ before all this – I’d just stay in the office late before going to the theatre, a gig or dance class. I worked late a lot. My brain likes being alive in the evening. I was made for the London culture life! So what happens when that’s taken away? The PMS Pandemic breakdown is what happens. And what a rollercoaster of emotions that was.

Today I’m working hard on keeping balance and boundaries in place. I’m grateful for the new ‘hide self view’ update in Zoom – I love seeing other people but I found it tiring to see myself, I know I’m not alone in this. I never really took proper lunch breaks in the office, now I’m militant about that full hour. Ten minutes of morning yoga has become such a habit that I automatically roll out my yoga mat after making my bed now. Every morning. WHO am I?!

Usborne recently held a well-being seminar as part of Mental Health Awareness week, and I discovered the word bibliotherapy. Isn’t that lovely? I’ve never really been that much of a self-help reader but that’s what I’ve found myself steering towards during these times. I’ve felt the need to educate and reflect. If you’ve been feeling similar, I’d highly recommend listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED Talk on overwhelm in the time of Covid19. It’s wonderful, and might just be the conversation you also need to hear today.

Speaking of conversations, have you found that we’re having more valuable ones? As a marketer, the audience is always at the forefront of your mind, however, never have I felt such a strong desire to be truly connecting with them. I run a niche YA Instagram channel, which I often just about found the time to fit it in around campaigns, however the moment lockdown was announced my approach to this social channel changed. I officially introduced myself as a person to our followers in week 1 by sharing my private collection of comfort reads, and the conversations have blossomed from there. We’re ten weeks into the Usborne YA Social Distance Bookstagram Bingo and I cannot begin to express just how amazing these discussions have been.

Although I may be struggling to get through books at the pace I once did, I’m certainly not finding it difficult to talk about them. And that’s a marvelous thing. Thanks to the conversations I’ve had with our readers the last few months, we’ve collaboratively built The Usborne YA Book Club. It launches in a few weeks and I’m really excited to see how this grows and what learnings crop up.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

“a life saving growth of 300% in our D2C e-commerce sales during lockdown” – Verso

From The New Publishing Standard:

While many publishers have this past decade continued to rely heavily on bricks & mortar bookstores as a buttress against Amazon’s dominance of the online print and ebook market, UK publisher Verso has long since put its efforts into building a D2C (direct to customer) relationship with its audience.

And that has paid off handsomely, not just with a 25% increase on global sales year on year, but a massive 300% increase in its e-commerce sales in 2020’s first quarter while other publishers were hit by lockdown closing bricks & mortar stores, distributors like Bertrams, Gardners variously operational or closed, and Amazon prioritising non-book goods distribution.

Link to the rest at The New Publishing Standard

Marketing to kids in difficult times

From The Bookseller:

Many months ago, when we all sat in our meeting rooms, sipping coffee and bouncing campaign ideas around, I don’t think any one of us marketing folk could have predicted just how much our plans would be forced to change. The effects of the national lockdown on marketing campaigns and the publishing industry in general has been monumental, but when it comes to children’s books, there’s a whole extra layer of complexity. 

In the current climate, how can we ask parents to find the money to spend on books? What about those who don’t have time to read their kids a bedtime story? How can we reach kids and their parents in a sensitive, positive way? Many marketeers in publishing houses (or their own houses) will be wondering where to start. Here are some ideas for what seems to be working well right now.

1. Think audio

There are some new opportunities that have presented themselves during lockdown. Individuals are spending more time than ever with digital audio. Fun Kids Radio launched their ‘Stuck at Home’ podcast during the first week of lockdown, and have observed a 44% rise in streaming, with webpage views are up 126%. This is because they are creating useful, entertaining content for children, occupying them and which providing parents with a snippet of free time.

I’d highly advise creating an audio ad and distributing it across a network of interest-based children’s podcasts. Better yet, if you can get your author to record the audio (even on their smart phone) they can capitalise on their author brand, making the ad more sentimental and genuine. By utilising interest focused podcasts, you are sure to speak to your listeners at a time when they’ve chosen to engage. This is a tactical way to maximise on pester power.

Francesca Simon, the author of the wonderful Horrid Henry series, is also featuring on a podcast all about her title character. Her involvement will encapsulate children, those who are familiar with Henry’s adventures will relish in it, and the few that are yet to encounter his mischief will be begging their grown up to buy it for them.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Maxing Out Your Readership

From Dave Farland, Story Doctor:

Certain books don’t just sell well, they sell far more copies than there it would seem that they have audience members. They aren’t just hits, they become a “phenomenon.” You know their names: Harry Potter, Twilight, 50 Shades, etc.

Before Harry Potter was released, I’d read an article talking about the Goosebumps novels. Analysts believed that there were 2.5 to 3 million fans of middle-grade novels. But Harry Potter “broke out” of the middle-grade bestseller list and was read by adults and teens and even kids who were younger than the intended audience. As a result it sold 130 million copies worldwide—and garnered an audience 50 times larger than logic dictates it should have.

It happens over and over. We eve know how that happens. Sometimes an influencer, someone like Oprah, will champion a book. Bill Clinton will walk into a press conference with the book in hand, or a superstar actress will be spotted reading it on a beach, and suddenly a novel like The Alchemist gets extraordinarily wide press coverage and surges into the “phenomenon” range on the bestseller lists.

Most of the time, it happens when publishers pay large bookstore chains to make nice displays of a book in their store windows, and the displays attracts wide attention from avid readers.

On other occasions, critics and reviewers on television take notice and create a hullabaloo, promoting the books with news articles.

Once a book gets enough sales, it will often glean Hollywood interest and get a movie tie-in, and the publicity for the film—which may be worth tens of millions of dollars–drives millions of more fans to the books. Thus you get a hit like Lord of the Rings that has great sales, but sold a hundred million more copies after the movies based on it came out. The same thing happened with Game of Thrones.

That’s the way that it has been done in the past, but I’ve been thinking about how we might create a phenomenon novel for Indie writers now, or in the near future. It wouldn’t be as expensive as some of the traditional ways, but it would be completely possible.

. . . .

The big problem with authors is that our books are so inexpensive, we don’t have enough profit margin for big advertising campaigns. It’s not quite like we’re selling yachts or cars.

But there are a number of ways to get inexpensive advertising—enough to create a big enough hit to justify expanding the campaign in stages. So you focus on going onto Goodreads, then creating a fanbase on Twitter or Facebook. Maybe you start a channel on Twitch, or put up some videos YouTube.

Many authors develop what we call “Street Teams” to help in such efforts. These are fans who help advertise on platforms where they have a presence, and I don’t know a really successful author who doesn’t have a couple of heroic fans who help out in that way. Of course, as an author you don’t want to take advantage of other people’s goodwill, but there are ways to thank your Street Team without paying huge sums of money.

Authors who don’t grow their audience may soon find that they have a shrinking audience, and most of us usually come to realize that the best way to grow our audience is to write another book.

Link to the rest at Dave Farland

6 Ideas for Promoting Your Book While Watching TV

From The Book Designer:

I’m one of those people who likes to watch TV to unwind, but just can’t sit there and watch TV. Know what I mean?

I don’t really like that about myself, but I’ve not only accepted it, I’ve learned to take advantage of it. I try to do something productive while sitting there – knitting, cleaning out my inbox, promoting my books, and so on.

That’s right. I promote my books while watching TV, and you can, too. If you’re a like me and find it difficult to just sit and look at the screen, try doing one of these book promotion activities the next time you’re sitting still in front of your favorite show.

1. Follow people on social media

Pull up the Twitter app on your smartphone and scroll through your notifications to find who has followed you recently — and follow them back. When you’re done with those, find a popular author in your genre on Twitter, and follow the people who follow her.

Do the same thing on other social networks, including LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram if appropriate.

2. Schedule tweets

Use a desktop tool such as Hootsuite or Tweetdeck or a phone app like Everypost to schedule your tweets several days out — all during commercial breaks.

You can also retweet what others share either from your computer or smartphone — all without missing any of the TV action.

. . . .

4. Create tipographics and share them on Pinterest

Tipographics — also known as tip-o-graphics — are tip lists presented as images. I create them from my blog posts.

Each tipographic image features just the tips from a specific post. I add each image to my “Book Marketing Tipographics” board on Pinterest, and link each image back to the original blog post with all of the details. 

Link to the rest at The Book Designer

9 Tips for Creating Amazon Ads that Convert

From Indies Unlimited:

Amazon ads can be a big opportunity for authors looking to up their sales especially during a time where it’s difficult to write the next book (like now, for instance). But if you don’t know how to use them intelligently, they can also be a big waste of money and time.

In this article, we’ll look at 9 tips all authors can use when advertising on Amazon, including:

  • How to get your book appearing next to the biggest authors in your genre
  • Why it’s okay to lose money on some ads
  • How you can make sure your book doesn’t end up in the wrong hands

. . . .

1. Choose Manual Keyword Targeting

Keywords play a huge role in ads because they help you control where your ads appear and who sees them. By default, Amazon chooses keywords for you to target–but you can select your own keywords for your Sponsored Product ads. You can do this by selecting ‘Manual targeting’ and then scrolling down to add your keywords.

. . . .

Sure, you can let Amazon do the targeting for you, but doing it yourself will allow you to explore more options and find better opportunities. You can find ad keywords in plenty of the same ways you’d find regular keywords, there’s even a dedicated tool inside Publisher Rocket to help you do just that.
It’s important to have at least 200 keywords in each of your ads–yep, you heard right… 200 keywords.

2. Target the Books of Authors in Your Genre

Using your ads to target a popular author in your genre can be an effective strategy.

If shoppers are already searching for the author, and your books have some similarities, you can use ads as a chance to get in front of your ideal readers.

Selling books through these keywords can also be a way to get yourself on the ‘also-bought’ section for that author. Though, that’s entirely dependent on whether the person who’s on another author’s page buys their book and then clicks on your ad and buys your book too.

If you’re targeting authors who write books like yours, and you understand your target market and have books that fit it, this could work out for you. Especially in markets with voracious readers.

. . . .

You may be wondering why “also-boughts” are important. Well the “also-boughts” are one of the main ways Amazon suggests new books to their readers. So, if your book makes the “also-bought” section for a well-known independent author in your genre, there’s a fair chance that you’ll get sales. I wouldn’t suggest you go for traditionally published authors like J.K. Rowling, though, as those types of keywords will be highly competitive and cost you too much for little return.

3. Target Books on the BookBub List

In a similar way to the previous tip, you can target books that have been recently featured on the BookBub daily email — these books get thousands of downloads, and you can take advantage of that.

Also, books that appear on BookBub will more than likely be less

competitive than the big-name authors in your genre. For example, it’s going to be cheaper to target an indie author who writes vampire fiction than it would be to target the Twilight series.

Thanks to BookBub promotions, there’s a good chance these keywords will lead to traffic.

Link to the rest at Indies Unlimited

The World of Books Braces for a Newly Ominous Future

From The New York Times:

In these isolated times, many people are inside reading, but the book business, like others, is bracing for catastrophe. Major literary festivals and fairs around the world have been canceled. Public libraries have closed. Author tours, signings and bookstore appearances have been scrapped.

As the severity of the coronavirus outbreak continues to intensify, authors, publishers and booksellers are struggling to confront and limit the financial fallout. Many fear the worst is yet to come, including more store closures and potential disruptions to warehouse and distribution centers, as well as possible paper shortages and a decline in printing capacity.

“There’s no question we’re going to see a drop in sales,” said Dennis Johnson, co-publisher of the Brooklyn-based independent press Melville House, who has directed staff to work from home. “It’s unprecedented. Nobody knows what to do except hoard Purell.”

. . . .

The potential long-term effects for book retailers are sobering. Many in the industry are worried that independent bookstores will be devastated as local and state officials mandate social distancing and order some businesses to temporarily close.

. . . .

Mitchell Kaplan, the founder of Books & Books, an independent chain in South Florida, said sales have fallen at the company’s stores and cafes, and author appearances have been canceled.

“The irony of all this is that what makes bookstores so potent, our ability to be community gathering places, has become our biggest liability,” he said.

. . . .

Some independent booksellers, including Powell’s, have already begun cutting staff. On Monday, Powell’s announced to employees that it will begin involuntary layoffs after determining the minimum number of employees it needs to keep the online store functioning. A representative of the local union that represents 400 Powell’s workers said that about 85 percent of them had already been affected by temporary layoffs, and that the company has signaled that permanent layoffs are likely to follow.

McNally Jackson, an independent chain in New York, let a substantial number of its employees go after deciding to shutter its stores for the time being. On Twitter, the company said it had temporarily laid off many of its staffers while “facing down a massive, unprecedented loss in revenue,” and added that “we intend to hire back our employees as soon as we can.” A note on the company’s website said that it is still accepting phone and online orders while the stores are closed, and offering delivery.

. . . .

The American Booksellers Association said it has been lobbying publishers to support independent stores by offering discounts, free shipping to customers and a removal of the cap on returns of unsold titles, among other measures. Other groups have been raising money to donate to hard-hit independent stores. The Book Industry Charitable Foundation, which gives financial support to independent stores, released a statement offering potential assistance to stores that have been impacted by the epidemic and are unable to pay their rent or utilities bills as a result of lost sales.

Still, many in the industry worry that financial losses stemming from the outbreak will cripple a significant number of stores and cause them to close permanently. Others fear that the lockdowns and government guidelines mandating social distancing will give an even greater advantage to Amazon as more homebound customers turn to internet shopping.

. . . .

The art critic Jerry Saltz was scheduled to launch his new book, “How to Be An Artist,” at the Strand in New York on Tuesday, but will instead appear in a livestream conversation broadcast on the store’s Instagram account, which has 225,000 followers.

Some stores see virtual events as the best alternative for the foreseeable future, and perhaps the only way to stay connected with readers and their communities as more physical spaces are forced to close.

Politics and Prose, in Washington, is aiming to turn all of its scheduled author appearances into virtual events, with writers hosting a conversation about their books remotely by web video through the platform Crowdcast. “Authors are self-isolating along with the rest of us,” said Liz Hottel, the director of events and marketing at Politics and Prose. “I’m sure they are as starved for meaningful dialogue as readers are.”

Link to the rest at The New York Times

PG notes that there is nothing that prevents indie authors from using web video to promote their books in the same manner as described in the OP.

India’s Juggernaut Opens #ReadInstead, a Campaign and Literature Fest

From Publishing Perspectives:

Known in the industry as one of world publishing’s most resourceful thinkers, New Delhi’s Chiki Sarkar has alerted Publishing Perspectives this morning (March 26) to her sure-footed adaptation to the COVID-19 crisis.

“As you know,” she says, “the coronavirus has closed down print business–so that part of our business is making zero money, as it is for all Indian publishers.”

Indeed, as Jeffrey Gettleman and Kai Schultz have reported at The New York Times, India’s prime minister Narendra Modi gave his nation just four hours’ notice before locking down all 11.3 billion people for three full weeks, “the biggest and most severe action undertaken anywhere to stop the spread of the coronavirus.”

. . . .

So it is that in announcing the shuttering of India on Tuesday night, Modi said, “There will be a total ban on coming out of your homes … Every state, every district, every lane, every village will be under lockdown.”

Sarkar, whose Juggernaut publishing company is two years old and presents more than 5,000 titles by some 2,000 authors, is, fortunately, a publisher whose grasp of digital marketing capabilities has defined her success. Supported by her CEO Simran Khara and a strong editorial staff, she’s been carefully watched for her understanding that making books less intimidating to many in her culture has meant also making Internet retail and development less intimidating in a tradition-bound industry.

You see how she puts across an aggressive appeal to readers on her site. The first banner in her slider at the top is a massive ad for a book offering the World Health Organization’s guidelines on safety in the pandemic. And after a single line of “Readers Club New Releases,” she’s showing potential customers an entire “COVID-19 Reading List.”

This is the sort of adaptive, social response she uses to reach into consumer interests, and as her enormous market’s physical retail channels went dark on Wednesday morning—and with some foresight—Sarkar was positioned to take advantage of her online fluency.

“Last week,” as the contagion’s approach grew, she tells us, “we initiated a massive #ReadInstead campaign.

“We made our app go free, which has been huge for us. Our installs doubled and our ebook downloads have grown four times. The campaign is also being extremely well received on social media.

. . . .

With the #ReadInstead campaign moving, she says, “We launched a massive online literature festival with Scroll.in“–the news and entertainment site that registers a reported 12 million unique users’ visits daily.

. . . .

The festival opens Friday (March 27), and Sarkar says, “We’ll run it for a month, and most of India’s top writers are taking part. The festival has talks, dialogues, and writing workshops, and some of India’s most respected actors are doing readings.”

She’s not kidding about the level. Author Amish Tripathi—who can pull seven-figure advances for his work based in Indian mythology—leads an impressive array of authors whose headshots have gone up in advance of a timed announcement coordinated with Scroll.in.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

PG noted the statement that ebook downloads have increased four-fold.

Given the lack of perceptible marketing (and marketing talent) in American publishing, particularly now, it was nice to see some innovative promotion and marketing on the part of an Indian publisher in the face of difficult business conditions. Not all publishing minds are sheltering in place.

Distillers Turn Whiskey and Gin Into Hand Sanitizer

Absolutely nothing to do with books or publishing and not something PG thinks is a good idea for you to try yourself, but he was impressed that distillers want to do their part to fight the coronavirus pandemic (besides helping harried medical personnel unwind after a long day).

From The Wall Street Journal:

Distillers around the country are using their alcohol supply to churn out hand sanitizer as Americans scramble to find the cleaner, a tool in fighting the coronavirus.

U.S. consumer demand for hand sanitizer outpaced supply weeks ago, as Americans raced to stock up and the biggest U.S. brand—Gojo Industries Inc.’s Purell—focused its supply on hospitals and other establishments.

“We have the processing equipment, and we know the skill sets, and we have the people,” said Chad Butters, chief executive of Eight Oaks Farm Distillery in New Tripoli, Pa. “Let’s get to work making this. We are just going to push it out.”

Eight Oaks recently turned its production line from whiskey and vodka to hand sanitizer. The company is giving out its hand sanitizer to local nonprofits and community members for a donation.

The distillery joins a growing number that have set up sanitizer-making operations, either using excess alcohol or temporarily halting production of their spirits. Companies in towns from Portland, Ore., to Durham, N.C., are churning out sanitizer.

In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration regulates production of sanitizer and generally requires the product be inspected before it is sold to the public. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends hand sanitizer contain at least 60% alcohol, a far greater concentration than liquor sold to consumers.

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau has exempted spirits companies from getting authorization typically required to manufacture hand sanitizer. The FDA said last week that it wouldn’t take action against any company that produces alcohol-based hand sanitizers for use by consumers or health-care personnel.

Distillers had been finding ways to work around restrictions, including donating rather than selling sanitizer, or calling it something other than hand sanitizer.

For instance, Los Angeles spirits maker Amass was selling “alcohol-based hand wash” on its website, alongside dry gin and Copenhagen Vodka. The company will now call the product hand sanitizer.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (PG apologizes for the paywall, but hasn’t figured out a way around it.)

Change Your Author Blog into an Author Website

From Nate Hoffelder via The Book Designer:

In the “olden” days, many author websites were set up as blogs first, with a few pages tacked on almost as an afterthought. Web design was easy in that era; you put a column of blog posts on the left, and a sidebar on the right for things like sign up forms, related posts widgets, etc.

That was the era I, and a lot of bloggers and authors, got started in but that era ended about 5 years ago. Web design has moved on since then; now the column of blog posts is on its own page, leaving the homepage to serve a whole new purpose.

Homepages

Homepages are now designed with specific goals in mind. The goal will vary between sites and between industries (not everyone wants to accomplish the same thing) but almost all homepages are designed with goals in mind.

Updating Your Homepage

While it’s okay to keep your site’s homepage in the old style, if you want to switch to a new homepage, I have a few tips on how to make the switch.

The trick to designing a homepage is to understand what you want to accomplish. That can be quite difficult to do; in fact, my blog stayed in the old style for years because I couldn’t figure out how to move forward.

Fortunately for you, I have since learned not just the concept of goal-oriented homepage design but also I have figured out the questions that will help you understand what your goal is.

Organizing Your Homepage

The short version can be boiled down to a few simple questions. The first question tells you what you want to put at the top of your homepage. The second and third questions help you decide what you want to put below that.

1. What’s the one action you want visitors to take?

There are a bunch of ways to answer this question, so let me help you narrow it down. What is the one simple small act that you want your visitors to take? The answer is not “buy your books”; that is a big act. No, what we are looking for is something easy for your visitors to do so that you can connect with them.
For many sites, that simple act is signing up for a mailing list, but that doesn’t have to be your only choice.

2. What do you want from your visitors?

I may not have phrased that very well, because what I am asking is for you to define your long term relationship with your site’s visitors.
Since we’re talking about author websites, the general answer to this question is that you want them to become readers of and buyers of your books. That answer does not apply to all author sites, however, and you might find it doesn’t fit your goals. A non-fiction author, for example, might want to use their site as a springboard to paid speaking gigs.

Your homepage needs to be designed with that long-term relationship in mind, and ideally you should only include sections that support this goal. For example, visitors should be able to tell what genre you write so that, say, the SF readers know they won’t be interested in the work of an epic fantasy author.

3. What parts of your site do you want to showcase?

Your homepage should be designed with your goals in mind, but sometimes your goals are fuzzy. Sometimes you have several conflicting goals. Sometimes you have a passion project that you want to promote even though it doesn’t serve your business goals.

Link to the rest at The Book Designer

Transworld postpones launch of Ruth Jones’ second novel until September

From The Bookseller:

The publication of Ruth Jones’ second novel Us Three (Transworld) has been postponed from 14th May to 3rd September to avoid jeopardising promotional plans for [the] book following the coronavirus outbreak.

Transworld was clear that Jones’ book tour, originally scheduled for 10th–19th May in collaboration with FANE, has not been cancelled.

Given the current circumstances, with events being cancelled across the country, a spokesperson for Transworld said it was “mindful” of the fact that a huge proportion of Jones’ promotional platform is through events. To avoid jeopardising this, the decision to postpone publication of the book has been taken pre-emptively by Transworld.

Jones’ agent, Jonny Geller, c.e.o. Original Talent and chairman, Curtis Brown, commented: “We took the decision to move Ruth‘s publication date because so much of the success of her debut novel, Never Greener, was as a result of her meeting readers, supporting bookshops on tour and having the space to talk about her book at public events. Ruth wants to do the same again for her new novel, Us Three, and support the trade as much as she can and looks forward to launching this joyful novel in September.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

4 Steps to Your Author Branding Statement

From The Book Designer

One way to do [get more book sales] is to create your author branding statement: a concise, one-sentence description of your book or of your body of work.

Firstly, your Author Branding Statement is meant to engage. Not to explain your story. It’s a hook, not a story summary.

Secondly, you don’t want to bore your listener or reader. You want them to get excited and come closer, or say, “Not for me.”

Next, I’ll walk you through how to nail down the four ingredients, which are:

  1. Your genre
  2. Your audience
  3. Your audience’s desired result or experience; what they want
  4. Your intended action upon your readers

. . . .

In some Author Branding Statements it may be useful to explicitly state who your books are for. But in most cases, you may just want to state your readers’ desired experience.

As a starting point declare who your intended readership is. You could say: men, women, children, but be specific. You could say women over forty; or children between the ages of eight and eleven; or men just out of high school.

Good. That’s a start.

But what’s really important is what they want from a book like yours.

Let’s put together your audience and what they want and create phrases like this:

  • women who want an out-of-this-world adventure
  • middle-age Midwesterners looking for a sweet escape
  • savvy women desiring a smart adventure
  • young women who want to be the hero of their own lives
  • men looking for new definition of being a man in the modern world

If you’re not sure who your readers are because you haven’t published yet or because you haven’t connected with your readers, then describe yourself.

Link to the rest at The Book Designer

8 Social Media Scheduling Apps for Writers

From Social Media Just for Writers:

If you don’t want to be online all day posting your tweets and images, you need to check out this list of eight social media scheduling apps.

The beauty of scheduling apps is that you can spend a few minutes each day or a week uploading your images, messages, captions, hashtags, and status updates.

Once you schedule your posts, all you have to do is check your social media accounts a few minutes a day to engage with your readers.

These apps help you stay regular with your posts and also improve your account growth. If you are starting with social media, apps on the lower end of the price range are an excellent option for you. 

. . . .

The Social Media Scheduling App I Use

#1 SocialOomph

SocialOomph is a social media scheduling app that lets users plan their posts on various social networking platforms. Use it with Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, Reddit, Discord, and others. 

However, the free services are only active on Twitter and are very limited. The subscriptions start at $15 a month, and the app also features annual subscription options.

Pros: It’s easy to use and set up with Twitter. You can use this app to schedule recurring tweets. For example, if you create an image with a quote, you can set up the tweet to repeat every 24 weeks, once a year, or every 12 weeks or even more frequently. It is a useful feature that other apps don’t offer. I also set up recurring tweets for specific blog posts.

Cons: You can only use certain features on twitter for free. It isn’t straightforward to connect the app to LinkedIn. Also, the recurring post feature is available at an additional cost. Although I use and like this scheduling app, most writers will want an use one that is easier to set up.

Link to the rest at Social Media Just for Writers

How To Use Keyword Research To Sell More Books

From Indie Reader:

To get your book noticed by potential shoppers, you have to learn what kind of phrases customers search for on Amazon when they’re shopping.

Luckily, there are easy ways to get this data. In their search box, Amazon has created a function that guesses what you’re typing; their suggestion is based on the popularity of what other shoppers type when they shop–the autofill function.

Today, we’ll look at how you can use this free feature and a few free tools–along with a trusty notepad and pen–to gather your keywords and, ultimately, promote and sell more books.

. . . .

Part One: Find Your Keywords

Prepare Your Browser

The first step is a short and very important one. I made this its own step to ensure you wouldn’t miss it. 

When you go to do keyword research, you need to put your browser on incognito mode, or private mode, depending on what browser you use. Here is a quick video on how to set your browser to private mode. 

We use incognito mode because, on your regular browser, your search history is used to match your search results to your needs. That’s great for everyday use, but when doing keyword research, you want the results to be as objective as possible. 

[PG Note: If you search on the Google Chrome Web Store, you’ll find some Chrome extensions that allow you to go into incognito mode with a mouse-click.]

Visit Amazon and Start Searching

Before you start typing anything into the search bar, make sure that you’ve selected the ‘Kindle Store’ from the list of browsing categories in the drop down menu on the search bar. Or, if you’re looking for hard copies, you’d select ‘Books.’ That way, you’ll know that any result that comes up is relevant to books and not other products on Amazon.

Now, get out your notepad and pen. 

Start typing phrases into the Amazon search bar that are related to your genre and to your book. Note down what Amazon instantly pre-populates in the search box. The goal in this step is to narrow your search down to specific examples. So, rather than generic phrases like ‘how to write’ or even ‘how to write a book,’ you’ll want highly targeted phrases like, ‘how to write a horror novel’ or ‘how to write a good business book.’ Write down all the potential keywords that suit your book. 

You can add a single letter to the end of each phrase and note the auto-fill results, as well. For example, ‘how to write an a,’ ‘how to write a b,’ ‘how to write a c,’ and so on.

. . . .

I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what Amazon gives you as a suggestion. Keep in mind, it’s important that you don’t choose keywords that violate any of Amazon’s Keyword requirements (it’s under the “Keywords to Avoid” section). 

. . . .

Part Two: Honing Your Search

Now that you’ve got your keywords, let’s zero in on which of those keywords are selling books. There could be popular searches that won’t bring as many sales as you’d like. 

To discover which keywords are ‘buyer’ keywords, search for that phrase on Amazon–again, using incognito mode–and open the top three results. From there, you’ll need the book’s ABSR–the Amazon Best Seller Rank. Basically, the ABSR is a store-wide ranking that updates hourly. It takes into account the amount of sales and borrows that a book has had in the past day and the current one. The better the rank, the more books it has sold. 

To figure out how many copies of a book have been sold, you can use my free Kindle Calculator. All you need to do is copy and paste the ABSR into the calculator and it’ll do the rest. 

For example, if the book has an ABSR of 23452, it’s sold approximately 12 copies per day. If it’s in Kindle Unlimited, this number counts the borrows, as well.  

Calculate the average number of books sold for the top three results for your keyword. You’ll want a keyword that is selling something, but that isn’t too competitive. If you happen upon a keyword that’s hardly selling any books, one of two things is happening:

  1. Not many people are looking for that keyword.
  2. All the book results for that keyword aren’t relevant, so searchers aren’t buying the books because they don’t match expectations. You can use your judgment to decide if this is the case or not (more on that in the next step). 

Do this same process for all of your keywords. It will take time, but it will be worth it in the end. 

Link to the rest at Indie Reader

About 15 years ago, PG got tagged with marketing in addition to legal duties in a tech startup and got into Google Search Engine Optimization (SEO) as a cheap way of drawing prospective purchasers of the company’s products to the company’s website.

The principles for Google were about the same as Amazon SEO for books, but with Google, you could construct different web pages to optimize for different search terms instead of being limited to an Amazon book product page. The Google search engine was capable of very precise targeting as well, more so than Amazon’s (in PG’s experience).

If you want to take a quick look at the current state of Google SEO, here’s a link to a Beginner’s Guide to give you an idea of its complexity and sophistication.

While the large majority of those searching for a book on Amazon search using Amazon’s built-in search function, Amazon permits Google to crawl its book listings as well, so a search on Google can pull up a product on Amazon. For example, searching for “Hercule Poirot books” on Google will include a link to those books on Amazon a few spaces down from the top.

PG has not thought through the implications of a Google/Amazon SEO or paid search strategy, however. If any visitors to TPV have knowledge of anyone who has, PG would appreciate a link in the comments.

Barnes & Noble Cancels Black History Month Covers After Backlash

From The Huffington Post:

Major bookseller Barnes & Noble canceled a Black History Month initiative at its flagship Fifth Avenue store in New York City after public backlash. 

The store planned to host an event Wednesday evening launching its new “Diverse Editions” project, which would showcase ”classic” books ― like “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” and “Moby-Dick” ― with new covers illustrating the main characters as people of color. The store planned to feature the newly jacketed books in its window display all month.

But after significant outrage online, the company canceled the initiative midday Wednesday.

People on Twitter suggested Barnes & Noble promote diversity by featuring works by actual writers of color. Most of the books the bookseller created new covers for, including “Emma” by Jane Austen and “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll, were written by white authors and feature white protagonists.

Link to the rest at The Huffington Post

PG wondered if B&N’s brilliant marketing/virtue-signaling strategy included a black Moby Dick.

‘American Dirt’ was supposed to be a publishing triumph. What went wrong?

From The Los Angeles Times:

It was poised to be a blockbuster long before copies arrived in bookstores last week: a thrilling contemporary migration story following a mother and her son, desperate to cross Mexico and reach the United States.

Its publisher, Flatiron Books, an imprint of Macmillan, paid a seven-figure advance after outbidding several competitors for the novel. It snagged a coveted selection in Oprah’s Book Club and had been shipped to key celebrity influencers, including Stephen King, Sandra Cisneros and Salma Hayek. A reported first run of 500,000 copies was printed. The film rights were sold.

But by week’s end, the novel “American Dirt” had garnered attention that its boosters likely didn’t expect: angry charges of cultural appropriation, stereotyping, insensitivity, and even racism against author Jeanine Cummins, who herself said in the book’s author’s note, “I was worried that, as a nonmigrant and non-Mexican, I had no business writing a book set almost entirely in Mexico, set entirely among migrants.”

Despite the backing of towering figures in American media, Cummins’ page-turning portrayal of a mother on the run is now at the center of the first bonafide literary controversy of the year, and is forcing a hard reflection on the state of Latinos in a cultural field that remains overwhelmingly white.

In the face of critiques, Cummins is pushing back in public. Her publisher released a statement encouraging discussion around the title, while some authors and booksellers have come to Cummins’ defense. In a culture that is used to debating black and Asian representation and stereotypes, the entrenchment around “American Dirt” is fueling even more complaints over the ease with which popular culture still employs Latino-related stereotypes in contemporary movies, television and fiction.

“American Dirt” is also highlighting factors that observers say have contributed a near shutout of contemporary Mexican and Mexican American voices from the top tier of the publishing publicity machine — the sorts of books that are guaranteed handsome sales by virtue of projection.

What went wrong?

As passages from the novel began emerging last month, Mexican and other Latino voicesbegan raising red flags. The author’s portrayal of Mexican culture was called outlandish, littered with stereotypes, stilted bilingualism and an awkward peppering of italicized Spanish phrases.

. . . .

“American Dirt” has also sparked an emotional discussion about how far the publishing industry still must go to more richly represent the scope and diversity of the Latino experience, said authors, literary agents and other industry figures in interviews last week. It’s a discussion focused on a complicated question: Who gets to frame others’ stories, and how?

. . . .

“American Dirt” has opened a window into the ways a few select books are brought to the public’s attention at a time when many authors have to hire their own publicists or arrange their own book readings and events. The roll-out to some took on the veneer of insult to Central American trauma and pain surrounding the treacherous passage through Mexico.

“They’re handling it like they handle a Marvel comics movie,” said Roberto Lovato, a Salvadoran American writer in San Francisco, who is finalizing an upcoming memoir. “But this industry will make you dance the minstrel salsa dance or the minstrel cumbia dance,” he added, in reference to the tenor of Latino-themed titles that are deemed palatable to wide audiences.

Indeed, the operation behind “American Dirt” made what many describe as cringe-worthy errors even before the book hit stores.

. . . .

More criticism followed among Latino writers, from the fringes to the center of the literary power establishment. Mexican author Valeria Luiselli, a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant recipient, called the book the “worst possible” pick for Oprah’s nod. Francisco Goldman, the celebrated Guatemalan American novelist and journalist who divides his time between New York and Mexico City, said in an interview he was “shocked” by the “tone-deaf” publicity roll-out. “And these are supposedly sophisticated people.”

. . . .

Kate Horan, the director of the McAllen Public Library in Texas, posted portions of a letter she sent to the American Library Assn. and Oprah’s Book Club, declining to participate in a recorded “unboxing” event meant to push “American Dirt.” Horan said she felt compelled to turn down the offer from Oprah’s Book Club after seeing the reactions among Latinx writers she and her staff admire

. . . .

“When we took the book out, our hearts dropped,” Horan said in a telephone interview from Philadelphia, where the American Library Assn. is holding its mid-winter conference. “There followed many conversations with people in my community, and of course reading the book, I can only compare it to a telenovela. It’s so hyper stereotyped, that it’s harmful.” 

. . . .

By week’s end, as the U.S. commercial publishing industry was reeling from the expanding maelstrom over what its critics called a cartoonish melodrama about contemporary Mexico, Cummins still hit the road on a book tour. At an industry conference last week in Baltimore, she defended her right to write the novel from the perspective of the Mexican woman at the heart of her book.

Her character Lydia, 32, is middle-class, college-educated wife and mother who owns a bookshop in the resort city of Acapulco and survives a bloody massacre at a family quinceañera. With her journalist husband and other family members killed, the bookish protagonist and her 8-year-old son make a desperate run for the U.S. border, partly on the freight train La Bestia. Critics have mocked the narrative ploy as implausible for anyone of Lydia’s class stature, who can usually buy airline or bus tickets.

In Baltimore, Cummins said the migrants she met during her research for the novel “made me recognize my own cowardice” as she grappled with early failed drafts and doubts about authenticity. “When people are really putting their lives on the line, to be afraid of writing a book felt like cowardice,” she said, according to a report for the trade site Publishers Lunch.

The author, who did not respond to a request for comment for this article, identified as white as recently as 2016. On Wednesday, Cummins, whose grandmother was from Puerto Rico, said she was “a Latinx woman” while addressing the negative reactions to the book among Mexican, Central American and Chicano readers who have vigorously questioned her authorial integrity. “Not everyone needs to love my book,” she said.

On Friday, Cummins turned up her defense during an interview with NPR: “I am a white person. … I am a person who has a very privileged life. I am also Puerto Rican. … That fact has been attacked and sidelined by people who, frankly, are attempting to police my identity.”

But her critics weren’t buying it.

Gurba and others accused Cummins of profiting off Latina identity and transforming her own ethnicity over time to suit professional interests. “She became a person of color for the sake of financial convenience,” Gurba told The Times. “I call that POC, a person of convenience.”

Another set of earlier photos of Cummins with barbed-wire decorated fingernails brought even more criticism. “Every day I see something new that pertains to this, that it seems like it can’t get worse, and it gets worse,” said YA author Rivera.

Cummins’ somewhat apologetic author’s note also fanned the flames. In it, she says she wished someone “slightly browner” than her had written her book. She also argued that her effort seeks to counter depictions of immigrants as a “faceless brown mass.” Goldman, reached in New York, called the phrase an admission to the book’s “pornographic feedback of violence.”

“It’s just unbelievable,” he said Thursday. “How mediocre, third-rate and sleazy it is for a fiction writer to appropriate violence and suffering that way.”

In her note, he added, Cummins also writes, “we seldom think of [migrants] as human beings.”

. . . .

The controversy doesn’t look to go away soon. On Saturday, a group of writers including Lovato, Gurba and others said they sent a letter to Macmillan promising more “action” if the publishing house doesn’t respond more directly to their critiques. Industry players are abuzz with the topic, book agents said, as a string of “American Dirt”-inspired Twitter parodies by brown writers took flight, mocking the publishing industry’s devotion to tired Latino tropes involving gangs and grandmothers.

Eddie Schneider, vice president of JABerwocky Literary Agency, and who represents author Rivera, said Flatiron Books made a string of mistakes in rolling out “American Dirt” and isn’t correcting them. On Thursday, the publishing house defended the title in a statement to The Times.

“I’m baffled I haven’t seen any apology yet,” Schneider said. “Maybe not for the book, but certainly it seems like an apology is in order for the insensitivity of the roll-out.”

Link to the rest at The Los Angeles Times and thanks to Karen and Elaine for the tip.

PG says that indie authors must admit that, for executing a really big book release, nobody can match the world-class talent and savvy that a major New York publisher brings to the task.

The 9 Best Apps to Create Fast Graphic Designs

PG recently posted some links to discussions about online graphic design programs for authors. Here are some other possibilities

From Makeuseof:

In today’s world where selfies rule and videos are king among content, there’s no doubt killer visuals are important. But adding visual elements to your written content can feel like a major time-suck, especially when you don’t have any design skills to lean on.

Here are the best apps to create fast graphic designs.

1. Klex

klex editing app

Want to create beautiful graphics at warp speed? Well, Klex has got you covered. This application is best used to customize visual assets with stock photos, vectors, and illustrations, and add in text, fonts, and backgrounds that meet your needs.

Add your own photography or use the stock photos they provide. What I like about Klex is this platform gives you some space to mess around with a whole host of effects. It’s also not hard to use.

Klex uses the same technology behind Gravit Designer, but the aim here is to give users something much easier to work with. The app includes templates for everything from properly sized social graphics to posters, cards, and blog graphics.

. . . .

5. Desygner

Desygner Templates

Desygner is one of the best web-based apps for graphic design. The process is much more smooth than you’ll find with some of the other apps, such as Pixlr, which can feel a little clunky at times.

Where Desygner shines is in its mobile functionality. It’s perfect for social media users designing on the go, as Desygner has virtually eliminated the frustrating dragging and pinching process you’ll find in other tools.

We like that there’s a web app and a mobile version, as this potentially can save you a lot of time if you’re sick of wasting time on graphics when that’s not your main job, or it feels like a chore.

But as far as features go, this app is similar to Canva, but not as robust. Meaning, you do miss out on some features, but you also get a simplified experience where you can rearrange items, add layers, text, and customize photos with ease.

Desygner is free but offers a $6.95 monthly plan for access to more templates and features.

6. Google Drawings

Google Drawing interface

Want to create a customized PNG image with a transparent background? All you need to get started is a Google account, and who doesn’t have one of those?

Now, Drawings isn’t the most sophisticated tool; you’re essentially working in a Google Doc. However, it’s quite convenient. All you need to do to get started is install the extension. From there you can edit photos and create little graphics just as easily as a Google Doc.

Still, adding little labels or designs on top of a photo or plain backdrop can be a great way to incorporate humor or helpful instructions into your visuals. And once you get the hang of the “drawing” aspect, you’ll realize just how incredibly intuitive this tool is.

Link to the rest at Makeuseof

OverDrive Reports Record Digital Borrowing in 2019

From Publishers Weekly:

Public libraries around the world generated a record level of digital content circulation in 2019, providing patrons access to more than 326 million e-books, audiobooks and digital magazines, a 20% increase over the previous year, according to a report by Rakuten OverDrive, a digital distribution vendor for libraries

According to the report, 73 public library systems in five countries each loaned over 1 million digital books over the past year, including eight systems that hit the million loans mark for the first time. Among the top digital library lending systems are the Toronto Public Library (6.6 million digital loans), Los Angeles Public Library (the top U.S. library with 5.9 million digital loans); and the National Library Board of Singapore (the top lender outside of North America with 4.2 million loans).

According to the OverDrive report, the increase in digital borrowing represents the “library’s role as a valued discovery channel” for publishers and authors. Nevertheless, the OverDrive report on digital lending comes in the wake of continuing concerns by publishers that digital borrowing may undermine book sales. These concerns have led to a continuing dispute between publishers and libraries over efforts by some publishers to restrict the ability of libraries to offer digital access to their titles.

According to the OverDrive data, the number of e-books borrowed rose 15% in the year to 211 million; digital audiobooks borrowed jumped 30%, to 114 million, and 59 million children’s/young adult checkouts took place, a gain of 27% over 2018.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG thought publishers’ concerns about consumers borrowing physical titles from the library instead of buying them at bookstores had been resolved a long time ago. If lending libraries and the consumer behavior they enable were dangerous or fatal to publishers and physical bookstores, such damage would have manifested itself long ago.

If it makes sense for publishers to sell physical books to libraries with the understanding that the library is going to lend the book and the publisher will receive no incremental income from such loans, nothing about ebooks should really change the underlying business considerations. With the specialized software the library uses to lend a copy of an ebook and delete it from the reader’s device at the end of the loan, the likelihood that ebooks lent through the library are going to be pirated is lower than those sold (licensed) through Amazon where no such automatic deletion function is built into the ebook management system (at least to PG’s knowledge).

Here’s an excerpt from the help file of Libby, a popular (the most popular?) lending software used in the United States:

Books are automatically returned to the library on their due date. When they’re returned, they’re also removed from your Loans and deleted from your device (if downloaded).

PG has noted before that on a scale of most to least sophisticated marketers and advertisers, traditional publishers are at the bottom, just below used car lots and payday lenders.

Why?

Free samples are a long-time staple of advertising and promotion campaigns for a variety of products.

Perhaps there are physical bookstores that do not allow visitors to leaf through and read parts of books as part of the shopping process, but PG is not aware of their existence. Such consumer behavior is sampling. Amazon permits the same behavior in its bookstore. No one expects that everyone who samples a product will purchase it.

If sampling was not a reliable method of increasing sales, PG expects retail establishments would end the practice.

If a reader borrows an ebook from a library by an author she hasn’t read before, from the reader’s perspective, that’s another form of sampling. (In this case, the publisher receives some compensation from the library for licensing the book in the first place.)

If this instance of book sampling is successful and the reader enjoys the book, then returns it to the library and looks for the next book in the series or another book by the same author and finds a two-month waiting list to borrow that next book, the reader is only a few clicks away from buying the next ebook by that author on Amazon and starting to read it in a couple of minutes. The reader may even purchase a printed version of the book she has borrowed and enjoyed for her own physical library, sign up for the author’s and/or publisher’s email list, etc.

Discovering a great new author and buying other books written by that author is a far more frictionless process with ebooks than it is with physical books. Going to a physical bookstore to buy that book requires transporting oneself to that store, hoping the store stocks the book, etc., etc. Buying a physical copy of the book from Amazon involves a wait of at least one or two days.

The incremental cost of goods for the publisher in creating, storing, transporting, etc., a copy of the second ebook is probably zero. The same costs for a physical book are definitely more than zero.

A sophisticated seller would be overjoyed to sell products with no incremental costs of producing and transporting those products instead of dealing with the costs and friction involved in selling physical products. Bill Gates, Microsoft and a lot of other people and business organizations have become extremely wealthy from selling organized collections of electrons.

Harrogate stands by author exclusion clause

From The Bookseller:

Harrogate International Festivals has stood by its author exclusion clause, saying the exclusivity option only applies to 5% of its authors.

On Friday, The Bookseller reported that Harrogate’s special guest authors are required to appear exclusively at Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival and not as a special guest at other crime fiction festivals taking place in the same calendar year. The requirement was branded “predatory” by crime fiction event CrimeFest.

Now, Harrogate has clarified its stance saying: “While 95% of authors who take part in the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Festival are not subject to an exclusivity option, for our special guests we make this request at invitation stage to ensure that our offering for both authors and visitors is protected, and this is something which is carefully discussed and considered on an individual basis in conjunction with each author. As a not-for-profit arts charity, rather than a convention or commercial venture, Harrogate International Festivals relies heavily on ticket sales to deliver our year-round literacy development programmes, and our curated offering therefore must be as distinctive as possible, ensuring authors and guests alike enjoy the best possible experience.”

The statement added Harrogate’s policy is to “offer authors fees and accommodation, and to support smaller publishers in taking part—something which some other events do not provide”.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

The Best Book Covers of 2019

From BookRiot:

It’s the season of best of lists, and with the bonus of this being the end of a decade, we’re being treated to double the number of best of lists this year. What shouldn’t be overlooked among those lists are the incredible book covers that graced shelves this year. Works of art in and of themselves, it’s an outdated belief that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. The reality is we do and that we should. In honor of that, let’s take a peek at the best book covers of 2019.

 

 

The Ash Family by Molly Dektar

Cover design and illustration by Kimberly Glyder.

This is one of those covers of which I would happily buy a print and hang on my wall in the center of the living room. The shades of blue and orange contrast against each other beautifully. That stark contrast gives off the feeling of turmoil amidst the calm of the forest—imagery that aligns with life in the Ash Family commune.

 

 

 

 

. . . .

 

 

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

Cover Art by Noah Saterstrom.

I saw Patchett speak in Chicago shortly after her new novel’s release. She said: “Book jackets are like your birthday.” A week before, you insist you don’t know what you want to a friend and say you don’t want anything, “and when that person gives you nothing, and you go to bed on your birthday hurt and bitter, it’s only your own fault.” So she fought for her version of the cover. She didn’t want a house—she wanted that to exist in the reader’s imagination—but she thought it would be wonderful to have it feature the portrait of 9-year-old protagonist Maeve, an object that is important within the novel. Her first choice for artist, Noah Saterstrom, delivered the art that would become this gorgeous, richly colored cover.

 

. . . .

 

Medieval Bodies by Jack Hartnell

Cover Design by Peter Dyer.

I found this in a book fair. It was the only copy in show and it caught my eye instantly. It is printed in a silky paperback, with lots of different textures and gold foiling. Plus it is an amazing piece that incorporates both amazing graphic design and medieval art work.

(PG note: Evidently somebody with influence didn’t like the original cover. Here’s a link to the more predictable current cover he found on Amazon.)

 

 

 

Link to the rest, including lots more covers, at BookRiot

PG was struck by the note that Ann Patchett had to fight for her preference for a cover. Ms. Patchett has made a great deal of money for her publisher(s) and PG expects she would be well-connected with the thoughts and feelings of her readers.

PG suspects that an author who hadn’t sold as many books might well have been less successful in a fight for a good cover. It’s not difficult to find a prolific traditionally-published author who has one (or more than one) horror story about being saddled with a terrible cover that doesn’t do anything useful to sell the book.

Absent a quite unusual clause in a traditional publishing contract, the author has no say about what her/his cover looks like.

Indie authors, on the other hand, hire their cover artist, share their ideas and collaborate with the artist to develop a cover the author really likes.

Do all author have great tastes where covers are concerned? Of course not. Do all underpaid editors at traditional publishers (who are almost always dealing with a limited production budget) have greate tastes where covers are concerned? Ditto. If the editors are familiar with the applicable genre (not always the case), they may be more concerned with a cover that fits in rather than stands out on the shelf or Amazon product page.

One additional point PG will make is that it is very, very difficult to persuade a typical publisher to pay for a cover refresh for a book once it has been published. The experience of many authors who are able to wrangle back their rights to a traditionally-published book is that their new cover choices for the indie version can have a very beneficial effect on sales.