Friday, February 26, 2010

Niche Marketing and Book Writing - Part I

How many times in the history of the publishing industry and writing has an individual sat down and said to him or herself, "I want to write a book! What shall I write about?" It might seem humorous, but is a valid, and important question. Conventional wisdom is to write about what you know. Fair enough.

A more important question is will the book have an audience and will I be able to sell the book to that audience? Why write the book if it will never be read?

Fiction seems to be much more difficult to write and successfully market and sell than non-fiction. People want to be entertained, but they also want, and need, information and learning about topics of interest can be just, if not more, entertaining than fiction. For authors who desire to write a non-fiction book, finding a niche to write about might be the most important bit of research the author conducts before the first sentence is written.

Why target a niche and not the population at large? Would a general book on a broad topic have the potential for more sales? Numerically speaking, yes. But how do you market such a book? The competition from so many other factors make it harder to grab the attention of the general consumer and convince that individual to purchase the book.

A niche market book is different. The niche can be identified, quantified and located. The people who are interested in this niche topic can also be identified, quantified and located. This makes marketing much easier.  The message can be tailored and carefully crafted to fit the audience. The brand can be carefully identified with the book and the niche.

Targeted marketing and sales efforts get better results and rate of return on investment than a broad, scattered and haphazard approach does. Why waste time, effort and money in an attempt to get the message about your book to someone who has no interest in purchasing it? Wouldn't those limited resources be better utilized by getting the message about your book directly to the people who are interested in the topic you have written about?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Letter Writing to Build an Author's Platform and Increase Sales

Letter writing seems to be a dying art these days.  It is a shame really.  We send e-mails, we send text messages (well, my children do), we make cell phone calls, but we seldom sit down and write an old fashioned pen to paper letter any more.

I teach history and coach basketball in my real job.  I have learned a lot of family history, and so do real historians, by reading old letters. I always admired my grandfather as a young boy, but it was not until he passed away and we had to move my grandmother to a nursing home that I got to read the letters he wrote her. I learned things I had never known about him.

I knew he was in the Army during WW II. I did not know he was an officer in Military Intelligence and was caught in the Battle of the Bulge. Nor did I know he was in Berlin during the start of the Cold War and the Berlin Airlift.  I also learned he had a brother who was a bomber pilot who was shot down over Europe and killed. I also learned he spoke and read fluently five languages (must have been why he was in military intelligence).

My first coaching job was as an assistant coach at my college alma mater, Greenville college. I did the bulk of the grunt work of the recruiting for two years. I learned that the single most effective thing we did was write hand written notes to key recruits. It showed a personal touch.

My wife still has our "love letters" from when we were dating. She is not a pack rat and regularly purges anything that she has not used once in the last three months and frowns upon the fact that I do not practice the same habit. Yet those letters remain carefully tucked away in a box on a shelf and are never considered as an item worthy of disposal.

So why is it that if letters seem to be objects of value to us that we save that we don't write them anymore? Is electronic communication really that much better? It might be more efficient, but it can never convey the same message as a note, on paper, that was delivered by the postman. 

What has letter writing got to do with selling books? We all hate direct mail that attempts to sell us something. Largely, I think, because it is so impersonal and comes in the form of a carefully worded form letter that looks and reads like a form letter.

Imagine how a book reviewer feels when he or she opens yet another package with a book to review and a form letter written to all of the potential reviewers falls out. How personal of a request is that? More junk mail it would seem.

Reviews, particularly online reviews by bloggers, today still sell books. If you are going to send a physical copy to a reviewer, why not accompany it with a nicely written letter that is personalized and shows you know something about the reviewer and explain why you think this particular book will be of interest to that particular reviewer.

If you are fortunate enough to obtain a review, be it positive or negative, take the time to put into practice another dying communication form. Write a thank you note. You should. The reviewer took time to read at least part of your book and write the review. You can take another few minutes to write a follow-up thank you note. People save thank you notes.

Sometimes the old ways are still the best way to do things.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Writer Watchdog Cover Contest Winner!

I rarely win anything. Well that's not entirely true, I have won a lot of games as a basketball coach and player. What I really mean is I rarely win contests of any kind. But this time I did and I want to thank Deana Riddle of Writer Watchdog for sponsoring a contest for a free book cover design. I was the lucky winner and the cover design I won now graces my new book, The Game of Basketball. You can see the cover below. I am really pleased with the cover!

The Writer Watchdog Directory is a great resource for self-publishing authors.


FREE cover design! Enter now!

Announcing the Winner of the Writer Watchdog Free Cover Design Contest:
Kevin Sivils

Guest Blogger - Dana Lynn Smith - Promote Your Book in Your Own BackYard - 10 Steps to Success

Online marketing is a terrific way to promote your book to a worldwide audience, but sometimes authors overlook book marketing opportunities in their own backyard.

In your local area and region, you have the opportunity to stand out as a bigger fish in a smaller pond. Here are ten tips to promote your book in your own area:

1.      Always carry books and literature with you. Keep a case of books and some flyers in the trunk of your car, and business cards in your wallet. You never know when you will run across a potential customer or marketing contact.

2.      Look for opportunities across your region. Headed for a weekend getaway or off to visit grandma? Do a little research ahead of time to identify bookstores, retailers and libraries in the area that you can call on. Or plan your own book tour, staying with friends and relatives along the way.

3.      Promote yourself as a local author to bookstores and libraries. Many bookstores and libraries have a special section where they showcase the books of local or regional authors.

4.      Look for other retailers that are a good fit. Think about what type of retailers relate to the topic of your book, and promote your book as written by a local author.

5.      Put "local author" stickers on the books that you sell in your area.

6.      Speak at libraries. Contact libraries about doing a presentation on your book's topic. This can be especially effective for children's books and for nonfiction titles that have a broad appeal (such as travel, business, or fitness).  Many libraries will let you sell your books at your presentation, and some have a budget for paying speakers.

7.      Find other speaking opportunities. Speaking is a great way to promote your book, and you may even get paid to speak once you get some experience. There are lots of organizations looking for interesting speakers for their meetings, including business and civic organizations, church groups, schools and universities, trade associations, and more.

8.      Seek publicity through local and regional media. Send a book announcement press release to media in the town where you grew up and where you live now.  The "local girl makes good" angle works especially well in smaller towns. Create press releases based on local tie-ins, such as a novel set in the region, and on current news events. Don't forget your college alumni newsletter and any civic or professional associations you belong to. Nonfiction authors should consider radio and television talk shows.

9.      Exhibit at book fairs and festivals. These usually work best if your book is related to the theme of the event, or if the book has appeal to a broad audience.

10.  Market children's book through schools and youth organizations. School visits are a great way to reach kids. For tips, see Melissa Williams' article at

Dana Lynn Smith is a book marketing coach and author of The Savvy Book Marketer Guides. For more book promotion tips, follow @BookMarketer on Twitter, visit Dana's book marketing blog, and get a copy of the Top Book Marketing Tips ebook when you sign up for her free book marketing newsletter.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Guest Blogger - Dana Lynn Smith - Increasing Your Books Visibility On Amazon

How to Increase Your Book's Visibility in Amazon's Search Results

by Dana Lynn Smith customers typically search for books by author, title, or keyword. Like search engines, Amazon uses several criteria in deciding which products to display on the search results page and in what order to display them. Popularity (the number of books already sold on Amazon) and how well the book matches the keywords are major factors in determining the results of keyword searches.

The more books you sell on Amazon, the more books you will sell in the future, because your book will appear higher in the search results. In addition, many customers assume that the best-selling book must be the best one on the topic.

One way to increase your book's "popularity," and therefore its search results placement, is to direct all of your online book orders to

It's also important to make sure your book matches popular search terms entered by customers. If your book is not yet published, you can add important keywords to the book's title and subtitle. Some publishers use long subtitles in order to pack in as many keywords as possible.

To capitalize on searches for keywords not contained in your title and subtitle, enter important keywords into Amazon's Search Tag feature.  Near the bottom of the Tags section (about halfway down your book page), look for "Help others find this product - tag it for Amazon search" and click on the "suggest" button.

You can't use keywords that already appear in Amazon's search function, such as the book title or author name. Word order matters, so create different search tags with variations on your most important keywords. After you enter a keyword, you must to tell Amazon why you think the book should be indexed under that particular term.

Amazon staff members approve Search Tags, so make sure your tag and your explanation are relevant and don't sound like a sales pitch. It's best to use the keyword phrase within your explanation. You can personally submit up to ten search terms for you book. If you have additional search terms to enter, ask a colleague to enter some for you.

Another way to increase your "popularity" on is do a virtual book tour or an "Amazon best-seller campaign," designed to push up your Amazon sales rank by generating a large number of orders on a single day.

There are a number of other ways to promote your book on, including getting lots of good Amazon reviews, writing reviews of other related books, participating in the Look Inside program, creating an Amazon Connect blog, enhancing your book description, participating in Amazon forums for your book's topic, and creating Listmania lists and So You'd Like To guides.

For a more in-depth look at Amazon promotions, I recommend
Aiming at Amazon, by Aaron Shepard.

Dana Lynn Smith is a book marketing coach and author of the Savvy Book Marketer Guides. For more tips, follow @BookMarketer on Twitter, visit Dana's blog at , and get a copy of the Top Book Marketing Tips ebook when you sign up for her free newsletter at

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Guest Blogger - Dana Lynn Smith - Promoting Your Book on Blogs

Promote Your Book by Commenting on Blog Posts

by Dana Lynn Smith

Commenting on other people's blogs is a great way to get visibility, build relationships with bloggers, subtly promote your book, and get links back to your site (if the site gives "do-follow" links). But you will only hurt your credibility if you go about it the wrong way. Here are some tips for successful blog commenting:

Actively look for relevant blogs to comment on. Subscribe to the feed of the most important blogs in your area of interest, and use tools like Google Alerts to keep an eye out for relevant posts. You can also use Google Blog Search or blog directories like My Blog Log to find blogs that are a good fit.

Contribute to the conversation. Don't just drop by and say "great post." Instead, make a thoughtful comment that contributes something. You might offer an additional tip or real-life example, or expand on a point the blogger made. Your comment doesn't have to be long, but you do need to say something useful and relevant. Do not give the impression that you are just there to promote your book or leave a link to your site.

Don't make inappropriate comments. There's nothing wrong with disagreeing with a point that someone has made (and many bloggers encourage disparate views), but do so in a polite, respectful way.

Don't be overly promotional.  Commenting on someone else's blog is not the place to blatantly promote your book or services. However, there are subtle ways to convey that you are an expert on the topic being discussed and encourage people to click on your name to visit your website.

For example, you might work in a reference to your book related to the comment you are making. Here are some examples:

"Twitter is such an important tool for authors that I devoted an entire chapter in my book to promoting through Twitter."

"In researching my book, Selling Your Book to Libraries, I discovered that . . ."

Depending on the topic under discussion, I sometimes sign my name as "Dana Lynn Smith, The Savvy Book Marketer" or "Dana Lynn Smith, author of Facebook Guide for Authors."  Some people include their website address in their signature, but many bloggers frown on this. Creating a signature that's several lines long and blatantly promotional is not appropriate. Some people will think that including any type of signature or reference to your book is too promotional.

You will have to use your judgment to determine what is appropriate, but you might look at what other commenters on the blog are doing as a guideline. Just remember that you are a guest on someone else's site and mind your manners.

Dana Lynn Smith is a book marketing coach and author of several book marketing guides, including The Savvy Book Marketer's Guide to Blogging for Authors.  For more tips, follow @BookMarketer on Twitter, visit Dana's blog at, and get a copy of Top Book Marketing Tips ebook when you sign up for her free newsletter at

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Game of Basketball is finally available!

My latest book, The Game of Basketball, is finally available on Amazon! If you are like me, you never get tired of seeing your latest book appear on Amazon or holding that first physical proof copy confirming that your creation is in print.

Well, the easy part is done. Now the work of marketing and selling the book continues!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Building an Author Platform to Market Books Using iMovie

I use a Mac for my real job.  After years of learning how to use a PC, it was a bit of a struggle at first to adapt to the logic involved in using a Mac.  Mac fans claim it is more intuitive than a PC and perhaps it is, but after years of using Windows on a PC, this old dog has had to unlearn some habits.  I have finally reached the point where I can find where I put my files, use the essential features and software I need and get my day-to-day work done.

My Mac comes with a tiny camera mounted just above the top of the screen in the frame. I also have iMove installed as part of the basic software package.  My first few attempts to make a simple video were so bad even I was amused at my futile efforts.  I have since obtained a pair of very useful books  (iMovie '09 and iDVD: The Missing Manual and iMovie '09 and iDVD '09 for Dummies) about using iMovie and am slowly working my way through both copies. The potential of this software to make promotional videos for books is incredible! I doubt I will ever use more than 5% or 10% of capability of iMovie's capability, but once I have learned the features essential to produce the short videos I envision, I will have added a valuable tool in my author platform to promote my books.

With youtube and the internet I can easily make my videos available to anyone interested. The videos can have the added benefit of establishing my credibility as an expert in my field (I write non-fiction books). For authors who write fiction, short videos posted on the internet are a great opportunity for the author to dramatic readings of certain portions of their novels in an effort to generate interest in their books storyline or key character.  I even envision fiction authors using this device to write short stories about key characters that are not part of the novel but add depth to the character and then reading the stories for production of a short video to post on the internet.  These videos can fill in gaps in a character's background or just be a way to have fun stories about specific characters.

I will keep readers of this blog updated on my efforts to learn yet another computer software and its uses and how it can be used to build an author platform and market books.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Forgotten Online Book Retailer - Barnes and Noble and CreateSpace

Amazon is clearly the 900 lb. gorilla. Barnes and Noble appears to be firmly locked in second place as an online book retailer. The problem for Barnes and Noble, the giant of brick and mortar chain book stores, is its second place ranking is not close to Amazon when it comes to sales volume.

I have spent a lot of time researching how to maximize sales for my books on Amazon and certainly follow the POD publishing model of trying to drive the bulk of my sales to Amazon to take advantage of the virtuous cycle and the long tail. I am still trying to figure out how to use the features for authors on Barnes and Noble to maximize the opportunities for selling books on Barnes and Nobel. There are no books such as Aaron Shepard's Aiming at Amazon to provide the details on how to maximize sales on Barnes and Nobel, probably because Barnes and Noble's market share is not large enough to justify writing a book on the topic.

Still, I do believe in the concept of providing your potential customers with as many different options to purchase your product as possible.  In an effort to expand the options available to potential customers, I  have expanded several of my titles distribution by signing them up for Createspace's Expanded Distribution Channel.  My book on self-publishing using CreateSpace, Self-Publishing with Amazon's CreateSpace, is now available on Barnes and Noble. My share of the profits from sales on Barnes and Noble will be less than if the same title sold on Amazon, but the sale would be one that I would not have made otherwise.

While I am an advocate of using CreateSpace, the same option of selling books to online distributors is available when using Lightning Source and this approach has the advantage of your, the author, setting the discount you want to provide to the online retailer.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Using CreateSpace to self-publish

My fifteenth book will be available on Amazon and Barnes and Nobel within a week or two.  All but one of those fifteen have been published using Amazon's CreateSpace. In fact, I have written a guide to using CreateSpace titled Self-Publishing with Amazon's CreateSpace: A Resource Guide for the Author Considering Self-Publishing.

CreateSpace has a lot of features available to authors who want to use CS to self-publish.  Depending on what you want, CreateSpace will provide you an ISBN and will be the publisher of record or you can provide  your own ISBN and CreateSpace will simply act as your POD printer and distributor of your book. CreateSpace recently added author services as part of the offerings and services for authors provided by the company.

The entire process starts with creating an account and then working through the steps required to create the publishing records and upload the files to publish your book.  For an additional $39 fee the author can purchase the Pro Plan and I strongly urge you to do so. The purchase of this plan will dramatically lower the cost per copy and increase the percentage of the sale of the book Amazon for the author. In other words, you will make a lot more money in the long run by spending $39 up front.

The details of the step-by-step process are explained in my book which also contains considerable reference material designed to shorten the learning curve for an author exploring self-publishing and desiring to learn as much as possible. There is a lot to learn if you plan to become a true self-publisher with an eye to actually making some kind of a profit and not venture into an expensive hobby.

Will Amazon become a publisher? Only the future will tell!

Self-publishing authors have discovered they can sell their books successfully despite the fact that bookstores by and large will not sell self-published books.  Amazon is perfectly willing to do so and with the purchase of both BookSurge and CreateSpace and the merger of the two companies, has created a larger division for providing self-publishing authors access to the largest online book retailing store in the world.

Recent e-book deals that Amazon has signed with prominent authors such as Stephen Covey has to make one wonder a bit just what is Amazon thinking long term.  Amazon owns its own POD house CreateSpace and has a close relationship with Lightning Source Inc., the largest POD printer in the U.S. and the U.K. Eliminating publishers as the middleman leaves more of the pie for the author and Amazon.

Why would a successful author with an established reputation and ability to create an author platform quickly and effectively independent of an established publishing house want to make less money when the author could form a partnership with Amazon. The author could self-publish through CreateSpace and distribute and sell both the p-book and e-book versions of a new title using Amazon's online presence to sell the book to internet shoppers and CreateSpace's new Expanded Distribution service option to sell books to books stores and other online retailers. Just as "regular" self-publishing authors hire free lance editors and book designers, so could the big name authors, producing a self-published book of equal design and production quality as one done by a traditional publishing house.

Fewer fingers in the pie means more pie for Amazon and the author.  It does make you wonder what Amazon is thinking? How valuable an asset is CreateSpace in Amazon's eyes? Only the future will tell.

Book Marketing and Aiming for Amazon Part IV - Using Newsletters

Content and entertainment seem to be the two driving forces on the internet.  People either want information or they want to waste time and be entertained. I do not write fiction nor do I think I would be good at it either, so I have focused my self-publishing efforts on non-fiction and followed the age old adage write about what you know, in my case that has been coaching and basketball and as of late, sharing my knowledge I have gained about self-publishing.

Blogs and websites are a passive means to provide readers content. An e-newsletter is a method of sharing or providing content that allows the author to reach out to potential customers,  making an e-newsletter a valuable tool in building an author platform. The e-newsletters I subscribe to have been valuable sources of information for me and I subscribe to about a dozen. I look forward to seeing the e-newsletters arrive in my in box.

Before you start an e-newsletter to share content with your readers, there are several things you must know.  Federal law prohibits spam.  You cannot simply round up a couple of thousand e-mail addresses, create an e-mail list, and start sending the owners of the e-mail addresses your newsletter. Besides violating anti-spam laws, most people have filters that will recognize the e-mail as spam and block it. Another segment of your list will simply look at the subject heading, not recognize who the e-mail is from and hit the delete key without ever opening the e-newsletter.  You could be giving away money and it would not matter.

Right off the bat there are several things you can do to comply with federal anti-spam laws and to encourage individuals to open your e-mail and read it.  Use a double opt-in sign-up feature for individuals to subscribe to your e-mail list and with each e-mail you send to your list, provide a means for the recipient to unsubscribe. 

For those of you who are tech savvy, you can probably create your own double opt-in sign-up feature on your website and/or blog. I use iContact, an e-mail service that charges a monthly fee based on the total number of e-mails on your assorted e-mail lists.  The advantage of this, to me, a non-tech savvy individual, is that iContact manages the lists for me, tracks how many e-mails bounce, are opened, ask to be removed, etc.  iContact also provided the code for my opt-in feature and the company makes sure  all federal laws are complied with. 

An e-newsletter list needs to be as large as possible or it will not serve the purpose for which you intend it, to share valuable content establishing you as an expert and thus making your book a valuable item to purchase. Having an opt-in feature on your website and blog is necessary, but it is only a start.

You have to promote your e-newsletter just like you would your book. More people will take advantage of the e-newsletter than the book because it is free.  Offer incentives to sign-up and for individuals to forward your e-newsletter to others who might be interested. Have a means in your e-newsletter to either direct people to your on-line sign-up or to be able to actually sign-up via the e-newsletter.

If you speak to groups, have them sign-up at the event. Be sure to mention both your website, blog and e-newsletter. Include a link to the sign-up in your e-mail signature for all e-mail you send related to your book, business or publishing ventures.

The newsletter itself must have valuable content.  If it does not, you will find a lot of your subscribers will either opt out of the subscription or will never open the newsletter and simply hit the delete key.

Be consistent both with a publishing schedule and quality content. You want your subscribers to look forward to receiving the newsletter.

Don't use the newsletter as just a promotional tool. Make sure it is content driven. Give so much valuable content away that after 12 to 18 months you could edit your newsletters together and have another book ready for publishing. If all you do is promote your product or book, your readers will soon grow weary of the newsletter and unsubscribe or just hit the delete key.

Some e-mail formats will even allow you to insert code for a product link to your book's product page on Amazon.  If so, simply insert this link and often it might be the only promotion for your book you want to include in your newsletter.

How you want to promote your book in your newsletter is a matter of salesmanship and that is an entirely different subject. Book promotion aside, always remember to provide content and show your readers you are an expert on the topic you write about. Build trust in your expertise and in time that trust will translate into sales.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Amazon v. Macmillan: Authors, Are You Backing The Right Horse?

I have been watching the feud between Amazon and MacMillan Publishing with some interest.  I do not have any books for sale in Kindle or ePub formats but have been considering converting one of my books as an experiment to see its impact, good or bad, on sales and more importantly, on net income from the title.

For those who are interested in an insightful and informative piece on this feud and the ramifications of its possible outcomes for authors, I suggest you visit the Self-Publishing Review to read an article by April L. Hamilton is the founder and Editor in Chief of Publetariat.

Disappointment With CreateSpace's Newest "Improvement"

Having used CreateSpace to publish a total of 14 books, I am disappointed with the latest "improvement" to the Member Dashboard.  In the past, after signing in to your Member Dashboard, a list of your books was displayed along with the sales of each book for that month with the accompanying profits resulting from each sale.  A total profit amount was listed at the bottom of the display.  With the start of each new month, the numbers were cleared and a fresh start was made. It was easy to track your sales, your marketing efforts and your income. 

No longer is this true.  Now you must click on a link for each book that will take you to your sales for that book for the current month.  You must also sign in to your account each time you click on the link to view your sales. No longer can you simply take in all the relevant information in one quick glance.  You have to work your way through each book and sign-in each time.  For one or two books this is not a real problem, but for 14 books, it is a nuisance and a waste of time.

I have no idea why CreateSpace made this change.  In order to get to your Member Dashboard you had to sign-in so your data was safe from prying eyes unless you leave your username and password just laying around for everyone to see.  CreateSpace gets an "F" for this supposed improvement.  I intend to voice my complaints and encourage you to do so as well if you are a CreateSpace user.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Marketing Books and Aiming for Amazon Part III

I have invested a significant amount of time and energy in learning about self-publishing. My primary efforts in writing are not about self-publishing, but instead are about coaching basketball, teaching the skills of the game and improving one's ability as a coach. I have other projects in the works that are related to coaching but are not directly tied to the sport of basketball. I do have a book about self-publishing using CreateSpace and I do believe it is a useful guide. But self-publishing is not my primary topic to write about but I do enjoy learning about it and sharing what I have learned, both through research and experience with others who aspire to become authors.

Much of the research and advice I have read states that an author platform is essential and I have found that to be true. In Part II I discussed briefly the value of having a blog to connect with readers. In this part of the series I want to encourage authors to give away content for free.

I realize this sounds contradictory for someone who is trying to earn money by selling books. But how else am I to convince other coaches that I know what I am talking about? I convince them by showing them and I do so for free so they will make an effort to determine if I am the expert I claim to be.

I use Google Analytics to do research on the traffic to my coaching website. Hands down the two most heavily visited pages are my downloads page where I give away content for free and my blog. The third most frequented page is the page to register for my free e-newsletter. Coaches come to my site to obtain free material on a range of topics that interest coaches. They check out the blog and sign-up for the newsletter to get more free content.

A small percentage of them also buy my books. I have Amazon product links sprinkled throughout the website to take them to a given book's Amazon product page. I also have a store where visitors can purchase direct from me using their PayPal account. I also mention the coaching product retailer who carries my books in my e-newsletter so they can purchase from that source as well. I do this in an effort to allow potential customers to purchase my books from a variety of sources all the while trying to politely drive traffic to Amazon so I can take advantage of Amazon's virtuous cycle to increase my book sales.

Without the free content, I would have little traffic to my website denying me the opportunity to convince coaches I am an expert and to market my books. The content must be of value as well or coaches won't come to the site to obtain it.

A quick summary of this series so far is to drive sales to Amazon to take advantage of the virtuous cycle, make sure you have done all you can with the Amazon features that allow authors to promote their books within ethical boundaries, start a blog and give away good content from your website. I would also suggest making it as easy as possible to use Amazon through the use of Amazon product links and to provide other venues of purchasing your books or products for those customers who do not want to use Amazon.

In Part IV I will discuss using an e-newsletter to help promote your book and website.

Self-Publishing with Amazon's CreateSpace: A Resource Guide for the Author Considering Self-Publishing

The Independent Self-Publishers Alliance - A New Professional Organization for Self-publishing Authors

The Independent Self-Publishers Alliance is a relatively new professional organization for authors who self-publish. Of the organizations I have reviewed thus far, it also the one I find the most interesting.  Also of note, it is an organization that has a subtle sense of humor which I think has a lot to do with the individuals who founded it.

Its membership requirements are also different from the other professional organizations for small publishers and self-publishing authors.  You must have self-published either a paper book or an ebook. The requirements for membership below were taken directly from the ISPA's website.

The membership requirements for the Independent Self-Publishers Alliance are very simple, and there are two classes of membership with equal benefits:

(1) Self-publisher (i.e., author and publisher) of at least one printed book ("pBook") or electronic book ("eBook").

(2) Non-self-publisher who supports self-publishing (such as a designer, editor, publicist, consultant or author of a book or operator of a website that will help self-publishers). 

To prove that you are the publisher of a printed book please send an email to with a link to a bookseller's website that shows you as the author of the book, as well as some means of identifying you or your company as the owner of the ISBN associated with the book.

Because ISBNs are not necessary for eBooks, membership requirements for  people who self-publish eBooks but not pBooks are simpler. Please send an email to with a link to a bookseller's website that shows you as the author of the eBook, as well as some means of identifying you or your company as the publisher.

Books that identify vanity presses as publishers are not acceptable. The officers of the association have the final say on such determinations.

For a type-2 membership, please send an email with an appropriate link to 
As an author who self-publishes, I found this site to be very helpful. It contains much of the usual information that one can expect to find on the website of a professional organization. It also has a great deal of information that is actually useful to an author, regardless of whether or not the author is self-publishing for the first time.
One of the stances ISPA takes also makes it unusual. The organization clearly makes a determined effort to educate aspiring authors who are planning to self-publish to be aware of the pitfalls of vanity publishing companies. The organization also provides information about how to truly self-publish.

There is too much specialized information on the site to cover it all in this short summary so I suggest you simply visit the site at

Friday, February 5, 2010

CreateSpace versus Lighting Source - CreateSpace Wins for now

For those who have been following my comparison of the two companies, CreateSpace and Lightning Source, the experiment has been put on hold until my next book. Simply stated, it makes more sense to use CreateSpace to self-publish The Game of Basketball than it does to use LSI.

The reasons are simple, at least to me. The first is LSI is dragging its feet setting up my account.  I have no doubt that LSI will eventually get it done, the problem is the month of March is fast approaching.  I really want the book ready to go so I can tie in my early promotional efforts with the annual March Madness of the NCAA basketball tournament and the all the various state tournaments for high school basketball.  I know how long it will take from start to finish to get the book listed on Amazon with CreateSpace and time has run out in my mind for me to be able to use LSI to get the book to printed, distributed and to market in time.

My sole reason for wanting to use LSI instead of CreateSpace is the ability to set a short discount. By using LSI as the POD printer and distributor I can make more per copy for sales on Amazon than I can using CreateSpace. Since Amazon owns CreateSpace, Amazon controls the discount the author sets for the book. 

The difference winds up being a little over $1 per sale on Amazon.  That $1 can add up pretty quickly with a lot of sales on Amazon. CreateSpace will provide me with a lower per copy price than LSI will, both for wholesale distribution and sales to the publisher.  This is an issue for me.

Because most of my books are written for basketball coaches, I sell books to specialty retailers whose market is made up of coaches.  The lower per copy price allows me to make more money from that source of sales.  I sell books at coaching clinics I speak at and direct sales are more profitable with lower per copy pricing.

Finally, this particular book, The Game of Basketball, is meant for players as well as coaches. Part of my marketing strategy is for coaches to be able to use this book as a textbook of sorts for their players, to help the players understand the game on a mental level and to learn about the finer points, the intangibles of the game, that will make them a better player.  I plan to offer heavily discounted pricing for bulk orders for teams.  Thus the need once again for the lowest possible price per copy.  CreateSpace wins again.

I am willing to make less money on Amazon on each sale because I will make more money on other important sources of sales.  I also want to launch the book with the onset of March Madness.  Even Aaron Shepard says not every book is well suited for being printed and distributed by LSI.

I do plan on using LSI for my next book that I am working on.  So the experiment will be completed then and I will update my findings on using the two companies at that time.

Marketing Books and Aiming for Amazon Part II

You have written and self-published a good book. You have obtained your mandatory copy of Aiming at Amazon by Aaron Shepard. You have done everything described and your product page and other Amazon marketing tools have been maximized.

What more can you do to promote your book on Amazon? 

The answer is quite a bit. The internet allows authors to connect with potential readers at almost no cost in ways that just a decade ago would not have been possible.  Authors can build what is known as an author platform, a means by which the author promotes his or her book and connects with readers.

This blog is on part of my author platform for my book on self-publishing using CreateSpace. I have a blog on my website for my coaching business. To follow trends and determine if your blog is being read you should use Google Analytics to track how many visitors your blog has, what posts are being read and to determine the reading habits and trends of your visits. If for no other reason, this information can be helpful in determining the topic of your next book or guiding the content of the book you are currently writing.

Blogs can be trendy, topical and up to the minute. They can also provide additional information that is more up to date than when your book was published, allowing readers who purchased your book to visit your blog and be kept current.

Blogs can cover detailed issues either with long posts or posts broken up into segments or parts like this topic. By breaking the information up into parts, you can generate follow up traffic to your blog.

Authors have posted parts of the book they are are currently writing and asked for their readers to provide feedback.  Many of these authors have commented on how valuable that feedback was in creating a better finished book.

What does having a blog have to do with selling books on Amazon? Aaron Shepard discusses the business model, or strategy if you like, of steering your sales to Amazon. The more books you sell on Amazon, the more Amazon's computers will promote your book. The more your book is promoted, the more books you sell. The more books you get the idea. This approach has the added benefit of these sales all being hands off. You don't collect the money, maintain inventory, handle shipping, etc, thereby lowering your overhead as a publisher.  

By creating interest in your book through your blog, you increase demand for your book. Send your readers to Amazon to buy the book and feed the virtuous cycle.

In Part III I will discuss other ways to promote your book, build your author platform and thus generate more sales on Amazon.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Marketing Books and Aiming for Amazon - Part I

Authors who self-publish know Amazon is their friend. Author considering self-publishing learn this fact pretty quickly in the game.  Aaron Shepard's book Aiming at Amazon should be mandatory reading and so should Morris Rosenthal's POD Book Publishing.

Simply put, both advocate driving your business to Amazon as your primary point of sales. The reasons for this are spelled out clearly in both books, particularly in Aiming at Amazon. The Long Tail and the so called virtuous thinking of Amazon's search engine which moves a book up higher in the results based on sales make this a sound business or marketing plan.

So, every POD author who self-publishes or uses an Author Services company to get their book in print and listed on Amazon is interested in marketing practices to improve their sales on Amazon. If you are interested in using Amazon's own CreateSpace, you may be interested in my own book on self-publishing, Self-Publishing with Amazon's CreateSpace.

I have come to the following conclusions about this process that might be helpful to others.

1) You have to have a good book for which there is a market.  Otherwise, this is all a waste of time.

2) Ignore the book Sell Your Book on Amazon.  I did not and wasted a lot of time and had no results to show for the time spent.

3) Take your time and work your way through the myriad of details in Shepard's Aiming at Amazon.

4) Understand that there is very little you can do once you have worked at the features of Amazon to improve things for your book by continuing to direct all of your time and energy JUST on the features on Amazon.

5) All of the real experts say it takes time for a good book to reach its full potential on Amazon and for the Long Tail to kick in and boost sales in the virtuous cycle.

Having tweaked all that can be tweaked on Amazon, what more can author do?

The answer is quite a bit actually, it just cannot be done on Amazon.  This does not mean you can ignore Amazon.  You will need to check your product page to make sure quirky things don't happen, to make certain the book is listed as in stock and available and to monitor sales ranking and estimated sales.

But your primary marketing efforts will have to take place somewhere else in order to create demand for the book. Then you must successfully drive your customers to Amazon to purchase your book.  The more customers go to Amazon to purchase your book, the more Amazon will boost the book up the list when the book's topic is searched for.  Amazon's other features will start kicking in, presenting the book more often to potential customers and best of all, many of these customers will be predisposed to purchasing your book.

More about marketing your book away from Amazon in Part II.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Independent Book Publishers Association - Professional Organizations Part III

Here is the third overview of four professional associations mentioned in an earlier blog about the value of professional associations.  Unlike the organizations SPAN and SPAWN who have as part of their mission helping authors, the Independent Book Publishers Association, IBPA, is geared to serving publishers although authors are permitted to join. Authors who self-publish their works will find the educational aspects of the association helpful. The following excerpt describing the  mission of the IBPA was taken from the associations website.

IBPA, the Independent Book Publishers Association is a trade association of independent publishers. Founded in 1983, it serves book, audio, and video publishers located in the United States and around the world.

Its mission is to advance the professional interests of independent publishers. To this end, IBPA provides cooperative marketing programs, education and advocacy within the publishing industry.

IBPA's membership of more than 4,000 publishers continues to grow. It is governed by a voluntary board of directors that meets regularly to discuss and plan the association's business. Board members reflect the varied membership and serve two- to four-year terms. 

IBPA offers beneficial programs and information to all member publishers, regardless of their size or experience. 

Membership dues are listed below:


Employees / Cost
1 - 9 Employees / $119.00
10 - 19 Employees / $165.00
20 - 49 Employees / $210.00
50 - 99 Employees / $300.00
100+ Employees / $425.00

Employees / Cost
1 - 9 Employees / $175.00
10 - 19 Employees / $230.00
20 - 49 Employees / $315.00
50 - 99 Employees / $430.00
100+ Employees / $605.00

The final association I will provide an overview for is the Independent Self-Publishers Alliance.

The Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network (SPAWN)

In an earlier blog post I discussed the value of joining professional organizations as a self-publishing author. I promised brief overviews of the organizations listed in that blog post. The first organization covered was SPAN. In this post I will be providing an overview of the Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network or SPAWN.

The organization states its mission on the homepage of its website,, and I have posted it below:

The Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network (SPAWN) provides information, resources and opportunities for everyone involved in or interested in publishing, whether you are an author, freelance writer, artist or you own a publishing company.

SPAWN also encourages the exchange of ideas, information, and other mutual benefits. On this Web site you will find information on writing, marketing, and publishing. It also offers links to research sources, publishers, printers, and the media.

Membership dues are $65 per year.

SPAWN has a free e-newsletter that interested parties can sign up for by clicking on this link.

The organization is open to creative people who are writers and artists but from the bulk of the information on the site it appears the organization is heavily tilted toward writers but does have a lot of material and opportunities that benefit artists as well.

The focus of the organization is towards how to make a living as a creative individual with information on marketing and diversifying creative efforts in ways that allow the writer or artist to generate income. The organization is an intriguing one that authors should take the time to examine thoroughly.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

CreateSpace versus Lightning Source - Creating An Account

CreateSpace wins this round hands down. It is never a lot of fun to fill out forms, on-line or paper and this is no exception when creating your account with either company.  But CreateSpace wins this battle going away. When you finish submitting your information with CreateSpace, you are done.

With Lightning Source you have to submit your information in stages and then wait for approval from Lightning Source at the end of each round of submission. This is really not that big a deal in the grand scheme of things, I just don't like to wait and given that CreateSpace is able to handle the entire process on-line and in one step, it makes me wonder what is going on with LSI.

Perhaps the sheer volume of individuals desiring to set up accounts with LSI requires they check each application at length and that the process have a time lag built into it for the employees who have to do the work. CreateSpace simply does not have the sheer volume of clients that LSI does.  I would imagine CreateSpace is able to take advantage of Amazon's computer network in dealing with applications to use its services.

I still plan on using LSI for my next book but the only reason I am committed to doing so is because I can set my discount that Amazon will take lower than the 40% that CreateSpace automatically sets for any book published through CreateSpace and sold via Amazon.