Thursday, December 29, 2016

Headtalker as a FREE Promotional Tool for Authors

In my ongoing efforts to find affordable, namely FREE, methods of promoting my books and novel, I discovered Headtalker. The closest description I can find of what Headtalker is would be a crowdsourcing site.

It allows you to send a message to an enormous number of at one time. This can lead to a huge spike in whatever behavior you are trying to encourage. If you are trying to promote a book, we all know Amazon rewards steady sales, but a big spike can help you climb in the rankings long enough to really generate some notice for your book.

To make use of Headtalker you have to set up a campaign on their website. You schedule a date in the future and create the message you want to promote your campaign. The next step is to invite people to join your campaign.

Anyone who wants to join then picks the social media outlets they want to send your message to. They can pick one or more of their social media accounts to support your message.

On the selected date at the appointed time, the message goes out to all of their followers.

The potential to reach thousands via social media outlets is considerable, making it worth your time to check out Headtalker.

Headtalker provides metrics for each campaign, allowing you to evaluate your campaign. Metrics include:
  • Message Analytics
  • Headtalker Updates
  • Supporter Dashboard 
Possible social media sites include:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Tumbler
I have started my own campaign in an effort to generate support for my Amazon Kindle Scout campaign for my novel The Predator and The Prey.

While I would greatly appreciate your support with either of my campaigns, click here to check out what a campaign looks like on Headtalker.

Please Note: It takes a minimum of twenty-five people to commit for your campaign to be launched on the launch date. Having said that, if one person commits to using four platforms (Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest) that counts as four of the required twenty-five commitments.
To learn more about the FREE and paid for support, along with anything else you might want to know that I didn't answer visit the FAQ page which answers more questions than most FAQ pages.
I found several writing groups on the site as well that have been good sources of information. The site is worth browsing for a little bit just to see what others are doing to promote their books, music or films.

When my campaign on Headtalker is finished, I will offer my opinion on how I think it went and what I learned in a future post. I am optimistic about the potential for this site. In less than twenty-four hours I have received a commitment from seven supporters.

Since I'm asking for support, please consider participating in one or both of these campaigns.

Click here to nominate my novel for its Amazon Kindle Scout campaign.

Click here to support my Headtalker campaign.

This seems to be a site with great potential to expand your social reach to promote your book or other campaign using social media.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Plan Your Marketing Approach In Advance - Narrow Your Audience First

Indie and self-publishing authors often take two approaches to marketing their books, neither of which are very successful. Many authors are more than happy to upload their files to CreateSpace and Amazon KDP and let Amazon do it's magic. I've been guilty of that myself.

Others don't like the idea of marketing their books. It seems somehow, beneath an author. 

If you want to make money with your writing, you must accept the fact self-publishing is a business and treat it as such.

If you don't like the idea that self-publishing, or being an indie author, is a business, then you need to stop and ask yourself do you want your books to be read or readers to find and fall in love with your stories?

Besides, marketing for authors is not the same as large corporations. In fact, I have learned the hard way, it shouldn't be.

Large corporations engage in massive campaigns designed to create brand awareness. They have time and money individual authors will never have. Can you really answer the question of which commercial convinced you to buy that pair of running shoes? Or what made you decided to be a Mac instead of a PC?

On the other hand, I bet you can point to a specific add or promotion that led you to a small or medium sized business that solved the exact problem you needed solving or pointed out a book to you that was exactly what you wanted to read.

Amazon, yes, the giant Amazon, engages in both types of marketing and do it extremely well. In fact, they are so good at pointing out books we want to read to us that as authors it is tempting to leave all the work to Amazon.

Let me point out why neither approach, doing nothing at all or leaving it all to Amazon, is not a good idea. Both approaches fail for some of the same reasons.

First, ask yourself, how does Amazon know what I want to read?

It collects data and it's algorithm's figure out what you're interested in over time. The more data Amazon can collect, the better it can predict what you will be interested in considering buying.

If you do nothing to promote your book, nobody will ever discover it. If nobody discovers it, how can Amazon collect any data about your book?

What's more, you want the right people to discover your book. If Amazon gets the wrong data, it will suggest the book to the wrong readers. Nobody will buy your book and Amazon will move on, letting your book fall in sales ranking, never to be suggested again.

Chris Fox, in his outstanding book The Six Figure Author: Using Data to Sell Books, points out the need to drive early sales and reviews for your book to a targeted niche of customers. This way, Amazon can hone in like a laser on the right niche of readers!

Using the broad marketing approach like major corporations is like simply scattering seed everywhere. Some of the seed will fall on fertile soil. The rest won't. When it comes time for the harvest, the farmer won't have enough to live on for the year.

Zeroing in on your ideal reader and doing everything you can to drive early sales and draw reviews from those very readers gives Amazon the right data to target the largest possible audience of ideal readers for your book.

Having said that, how does an author identify the ideal reader?

For my non-fiction books, it was easy. I knew exactly who my reader was, what problems needed to be solved, what the source of their pain was and the jargon they spoke. I still missed the mark at times and in doing so, missed readers and sales.

Fiction is even more difficult, at least in my mind.

To get the process started, you have to research who your intended reader is. I had a good idea for my non-fiction books. I had at best a fuzzy idea for my novel.

Knowing I had to zero in on my target audience before I launched my novel prompted me to try to find ways to identify my ideal reader.

The Predator and The Prey is a mix of SciFi and Hardboiled Crime Noir. 

When I started the novel, I had no idea if there would be an audience for a cross genre story like mine. I counted on the fact the cult TV show Firefly, a Space Western, found an audience, even if too small and too late. If the millions of Browncoats out there found Firefly, there has to be some readers who love The Maltese Falcon AND Star Wars.

But how was I supposed to identify the actual reader who would want to read my story?

CreateSpace requires the selection of a BISAC, an industry standard category to fit your book into. The closest BISAC category The Predator and The Prey falls into is Fiction / Mystery & Detective / Hard-Boiled.

It's certainly written in the style of books that fall into that category and my protagonist, Inspector Thomas Sullivan is as cool and ruthless as Sam Spade or Lt. Harry Callahan of Dirty Harry fame. The problem is, I don't know if readers who enjoy that type of book will want to read a crime noir story with a science fiction twist to it.

The BISAC categories for Science Fiction and Fantasy don't include an option for Mystery & Detective/Hard-boiled. This led to a series of e-mails back and forth with CreateSpace who finally provided me with good advice on how to get The Predator and The Prey listed under Science Fiction and Fantasy as well. The one catch, I have to wait until the book has been published and listed on Amazon.

Why is that an issue? Remember the targeting of early sales to specific readers? The need to garner those all important positive Amazon Reader reviews as early and frequently as possible? That missing category will delay readers who may love my book from finding it, providing Amazon with the data it needs to find other readers in the same niche.

More frustration.

I moved on to Amazon keywords. Here was where I found a way to zero in, regardless of Category to the ideal reader for my book! CreateSpace will allow you up to five keywords and Amazon KDP seven. The only problem was I didn't know what keywords to pick. Here is what CreateSpace had to say about keywords:


Not much help. Here's what Amazon KDP says about keywords:


Still no closer to having an exact idea of how to narrow my search for the best keywords.

Fortunately, I stumbled across a great blog post by Dave Chesson, the Kindlepreneur! This led to a software program named KDP Rocket. I reviewed this in an earlier blog post on The Self-Publisher's Notebook.

KDP Rocket sells for $67 and was money well spent in my opinion. Keep in mind, I've wasted a lot of money on a wide range of gimmicks and scams, so I hope I'm not leading you astray if you decide to purchase this product (I am not an affiliate for this product).
The learning curve is not terribly steep. In a short period of time you can start researching keyword results based on data from Amazon. After several hours of doing this, I had a long list of over 100 keywords with data about each keyword.

I shortened the list to ten and finally narrowed it down to seven by testing all ten. By typing in the targeted keyword I was able to generate Amazon search results for each. Using the Check the Competition feature I researched each of the first titles that Amazon pulled up.

I was delighted to discover there is a market for SciFi Crime Noir Thrillers!

This entire approach took some time on my part. Hopefully, by sharing the process I went through I will save you hours of thinking and surfing the net to arrive at the same point I did.

Armed with my two Categories (well, one category and the knowledge of how to get CreateSpace to get Amazon to add another category) and lists of keywords, I am that much closer in my marketing plan to being able to target those niche readers for my book when it goes on sale.

Despite the fact the files for both versions of the book, POD and ebook, have been finished, checked, double checked and are ready to upload, I am glad I have waited to publish until I had a better handle on the marketing for the book.

If you found this post helpful, please take a moment to nominate by novel, The Predator and The Prey, on Amazon Kindle Scout. If the book gets enough nominations, the "Scout Team" might consider purchasing the Kindle/ebook rights!

The process will take less than a minute. Just click here to nominate my book! You'll need to use your Amazon account.




I described this process in an earlier blog post.


Sunday, December 25, 2016

Please Nominate The Predator and The Prey for Kindle Scout!

With a few simple, easy clicks you can nominate The Predator and The Prey for publication by Amazon's Kindle Scout!

The "nomination campaign" runs from December 26th to January 24th. I would appreciate it a great deal if you would take a few moments to click on any of the links in this post to visit the preview page for The Predator and The Prey on the Amazon Kindle Scout site.

The Amazon Kindle Scout program gives readers a chance to nominate books they would like to see published. Each title has a 30 day run in the program, giving readers a chance to review each title and nominate three books they think are worthy of being published by Amazon Kindle.

At the end of the 30 day period, if a book has enough nominations, the Amazon Scout Team will decide if the book is worthy of being published by Amazon Kindle.

If a book is selected, the author receives a $1500 advance and 50% royalties on each Kindle unit sold. At the end of five years, rights revert back to the author. The author retains paperback rights.

If the book is not accepted, I can still publish it myself on KDP.

This is a great opportunity and I hope The Predator and The Prey makes the cut and is selected by the Scout Team for publication via Amazon Publishing. The smaller royalty is more than worth it to me. Amazon will be the entity promoting the book during its initial 90 days.

Because The Predator and The Prey is the first in a series, good initial sales should help the launch of the second book in the series, currently with a working title of Last Train to Nowhere

What's in it for readers? Free BOOKS! If one of the books you nominated is selected for publication by Amazon Kindle Publishing, you will receive a FREE copy.

For the readers of this blog who have not heard of the Scout program before, you can read all the details here.

Be sure to read ALL of the details in the author agreement as I did not list the bulk of them in this post.

So, for a final time, I would appreciate it a great deal if you would take just a moment to go to the Amazon Kindle Scout page for The Predator and The Prey and nominate my book!

Also, if you really feel like helping, please post the link to the nominating page to your social media accounts and tell your friends.

If my book is fortunate enough to be selected for consideration by the Scout Team, I will know within 15 days of the end of the 30 day nomination period if it will be published or not.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Fiction, Keywords, Amazon Searches and KDP Rocket

The non-fiction books I authored are very niche in their nature and I had a specific target audience in mind when I wrote them. The keywords I provided to CreateSpace and KDP when I uploaded my files for publication where jargon specific to the targeted audience. Several of my books became Amazon Number One Bestsellers for specific categories and keywords. I was lucky in a way due to the nature of the niche audience and the fact I was well versed in the professional jargon.

Fiction is an entirely different animal.

I am a huge believer in proactive planning. You cannot control everything nor can you prevent every problem that might crop up from happening. But sound planning and proper execution of that plan can go a long way in creating success for your endeavor.

It has been written repeatedly that for a book to be successful the author must start marketing it before the book is completed. 

Taking that statement to heart, I began planning the marketing for my first work of fiction, The Predator and The Prey. I'm not as far along as I need to be despite the fact the book's cover is done, the manuscript is finished and the interior files uploaded. All that needs to happen is hit submit and publish and if a few days the book will be available for sale to the general public via Amazon.

Unfortunately, I still have a lot of work to do. Work that stops me from clicking on submit and publish.

I have been focused on learning as much as I can about two very specific topics. The first is obtaining those all important Amazon Customer Reviews. My goal is to obtain 100+ Reviews, preferably of a nice 4 or 5 star variety. One piece of research I stumbled across was fairly disheartening. For every 100 Amazon Reviews, the author needs to ask for 900 reviews. 300 hundred readers will agree to read the book (a free copy) and of those 300 only 100 will actually write a review. 

That's a lot of free copies of my book. It's also a lot of e-mails and thank you notes. Nor is it easy to control the timing and effort of people who are doing you a favor for the price of a free book. A book they may or may not have wanted to read if it were not for the fact you gave them the book.

On a more positive note, Amazon's use of keywords is something you, as the author, do have more control over. Selecting the right keywords is essential for the successful marketing of your book. Amazon after all, is essentially just a big search engine for books and other products that are for sale.

As I mentioned earlier, selecting the keywords for my non-fiction books was easy. The topics were very niche and had a specific jargon that buyers would use to search for books related to that niche.

Selecting keywords for a cross-genre fictional novel? That's a different matter. How do I get my book in front of the Amazon customers most likely to want to read my book?

After quite a few hours researching the topic with no success, I stumbled across a website run by a self-published, entrepreneurial author of both non-fiction and fiction by the name of Dave Chesson. The website is Kindleprenuer.com.

Dave had written an excellent post on his blog about the use of keywords as a selling strategy on Amazon.


Dave makes an excellent argument for his strategy and I decided it was worth trying. The problem is, it takes a lot of data to discover which keywords will produce the desired results and I had no way of generating and collecting that data.

Enter KDP Rocket.

Let me say right now I don't get any affiliate commissions if you decided to invest in this tool. It will cost you $67.

Having wasted a LOT OF MONEY trying to learn how to run my tiny self-publishing business, I have learned the hard way to always be skeptical. 

After several days of considering how to generate the best possible list of keywords and not being able to come up with a single strategy, I finally broke down, got out my plastic and made the purchase.

One very long night later (the software is very easy to learn how to use), I had seven pages of possible keywords, along with the number of competing titles, the average earnings in the sales of the top five selling titles and a score indicating how difficult it would be to compete for that keyword.

$67 and all those hours later, I was still not completely sold this KDP Rocket thing was worth the time and money I had invested.

Culling out the ten most promising keywords from the several hundred I had collected the data on, I pulled up my Amazon account and typed the first keyword in.

Instantly a scifi crime noir thriller appeared. Along with several pages of other books in the same cross-genre vein.

Another keyword and the same result.

Did I mention that eight of the top ten keywords I would NEVER have thought of on my own? In the process of testing the keywords you type in, other similar keywords come up and you start to generate keywords on your own you would never have thought of.

It gets better.

You can research the competition with a feature specifically designed for that!

So, how did I do selecting the keywords for my non-fiction books?

Actually, pretty good, but not as good as I thought for several of the titles. I'm happy to report since changing some keywords, a couple of those titles have sold a few more copies than normal this past month.

Check out KDP Rocket yourself and make your own decision.

While I'm pretty sold at the moment, the real test will come when my novel goes on sale. I'll report back then when I have enough data to determine if my investment was worthwhile.

Monday, December 19, 2016

There's a Novel In All of Us

When I published my first non-fiction book I never thought I would write, let alone see published, a novel. My wife was the first to put the idea in my head and encourage me to take the plunge. I think she mainly just wanted to keep me occupied and out from under foot around the house, but that's okay.

Now, some ten years later, I find myself working through my list of tasks each day in order to have everything ready for the book's launch sometime in early February. Today, I was asked a couple of questions about the book and after some reflection answered a few of them on my author's site.

If you are interested in learning a little more about how The Predator and The Prey came about, please feel free to read the few questions I responded to in writing. To read more...

Anyone who reads this blog who writes non-fiction, if you feel the itch to try your hand at a novel, go ahead. Scratch that itch! It was a fun challenge for me and if I can do it, you certainly can too.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Cover Design by Robin Ludwig - Final Cover Art Is Ready for The Predator and The Prey

Things are coming together slowly but surely for the February 2nd release of my first novel, The Predator and The Prey. I received the cover proof for approval for the final design from Robin Ludwig of Robin Ludwig Design. Her website can be found at http://www.gobookcoverdesign.com/index.html.


Ms. Ludwig produced a design that was better than what I had envisioned. Of course, I'm not that creative visually so that might not be the best recommendation for her work. Having said that, she was faced with the challenge of producing a cover that conveyed the gritty sinister feel of a classic crime noir novel with a hint the book was a science fiction story as well.

Fog and snow are used regularly in the story to foreshadow an attack on the streets of Capital City by the story's villain. The two moons of Beta Prime appear in the star filled sky, giving a nod to the novel's science fiction component. The sinister appearance of the villain and the woman who seems to be the titular prey communicates the story's potential for violence and crime in the great tradition of crime noir storytelling.

Somehow, Ms. Ludwig managed to capture the feel of both genres. Not an easy task to accomplish in my opinion.

A visit to her website will give you a chance to look at other examples of her work as a cover designer and graphic artist. In addition to book covers, both POD paperback and ebooks, Ms. Ludwig designs a wide range of items for authors ranging from bookmarks and business cards to graphics for your author website.

Even better, her prices are very competitive and for this author, a bargain for what I paid for. She was very patient with me, a novice at this type of cover design (all of my previous 20+ book covers were for non-fiction - a different animal entirely) and steered me to the final design, which was much better than my original vision for the cover.



Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Resources for Authors

Time is something authors have too little of. Most of us have full time jobs that prevent us from being full time writers (if only we could have that one big best seller!). For those of us who self-publish, there is the not so little matter of having to do almost, if not all, everything ourselves. 

Simply taking the time to find the information and resources necessary to make the entire enterprise work can cut into already limited time for writing.

Here are some new sites that provide valuable information and/or services for authors. Let my time spent looking for and finding these sites save you some time.

How To Do It Frugally - Carolyn Howard-Johnson's site

I always find myself returning to this site. Carolyn keeps it updated and is constantly providing valuable information on a wide range of important topics for indie and self-publishing authors. To name just a few:
  • The process of ethically (and frugally) obtaining book reviews.
  • Editing your own work effectively.
  • Promoting your work (frugally as always).
  • Background information on how the publishing industry, self and traditional, works.
  • Educational/learning opportunities for writers.
Writer Advice - Managed by editor Lynn Goodwinn

This site is worth spending some time surfing around. You'll find:
  • Information on writing contests.
  • Author resources - lots of them.
  • Brag Board and Announcements page.
  • Markets
  • Author interviews - archived
  • Manuscript consulting
Writer to Writer - Award winning site devoted to providing information about earning a living as a writer.

Newsletters for authors:

Peter Bowerman's The Well-Fed Writer

Once a month I get this newsletter. While I'm not a professional copywriter, there is a lot to be learned about making a living as a writer in this newsletter.