Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Book Marketing Blogs - Worthwhile Posts to Investigate

With several new ideas for ebooks in the works I have been spending what free time I have lately researching more about successful book marketing. Here are a few blog posts I have found interesting and worth sharing.

The focus in my latest search for information on book marketing has been focused on using the internet and anything that helps sell books on Amazon.

The Good Book Marketing Blog

Basic Blog Tips

The Savvy Book Marketer

The Creative Penn

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Marketing Your Book - Keyword Searches and Amazon's Auto-populate Feature

Amazon is the 900 pound gorilla in the retail book industry. There is nothing you can do as an individual to sell as many books as Amazon can sell for you. For self-published authors, Amazon is the best venue to reach as many potential customers as possible.

To say it is critical for a book to show up in the first page of Amazon search results to maximize sale potential is not an exaggeration. Countless authors have tried to "game" the Amazon search engines through a wide variety of methods, many of which Amazon considers to be "black hat" techniques. 

If Amazon deems an author has used a black hat approach, it will penalize the author and the book and the results are not pleasant.

Using keywords though is an approach Amazon not only approves of, but when an author is going through the process of uploading their book files via either Amazon owned CreateSpace or Amazon's KDP Kindle platform, Amazon will allow an author to provide up to seven keywords in the book's metadata.

These seven keywords, when combined with a well worded title and the correct choice of categories for the book, can do wonders for a books search results.

It is worth noting, Amazon is beginning to crack down on the words inserted in book titles. Why? Here is the information Amazon provides during the process of uploading a book for sale on the Kindle platform. It is straightforward.

Some authors evidently have been adding words to a books title in an effort to add additional keywords and enhance the book's chances of rising higher in the search results.

Since Amazon only allows seven keywords and two categories per title and both are critical in producing the best possible search results, just how can an author determine what are the best possible choices?

First, search for as many books as possible that are similar to your book. See how these books rank in the search results. Check which categories these books are listed in. There are lots of factors in making a final choice concerning category selection, but this is a good start. In some instances, it is better to list a book in a category that receives fewer results but has significantly less competition.

Determining keywords for your book on Amazon is a bit different than searching for keywords to promote a website. There are no keyword search tools as such for Amazon.

Don't worry, Amazon provides just such a tool, albeit one probably not designed for the purpose of providing optimal keywords for a book.

When doing your own search for books similar to your own, take note of the words that appear in Amazon's search box as you type in words for your search. I have been reading an entertaining series of thrillers set in the 1880s and 1890s by Kim Wright. The stories include actual historical events and figures and are both informative and entertaining. 

The current novel I am reading in the series is City of Silence, set in St. Petersburg, Russia. Here is the search result Amazon's auto-populate feature produced when I typed in Russian.

Amazon will provide you with ideas for keywords for your book. You simply need to take the time to work you way through a variety of searches for books similar to your own and make lists of keywords suggested by Amazon's auto-populate feature. Track which words produce the best results in producing the highest search results for the books you are researching. Narrow the list to the best seven words and you'll have a good starting point for your seven keywords when uploading your book's files.

If you have yet to determine a subtitle for your book, it is a good idea to do this research prior to the creation of the interior and cover files you will upload to Amazon for the book. This will allow a white hat approach for you to include one or two essential keywords in your books title and subtitle and avoid the displeasure of Amazon.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Kudos to Barnes and Noble for the New Nook Press!

It might be old news to some of the readers of this blog, but Barnes and Noble recently replaced its old ebook publishing interface, PubIt, with a new one, Nook Press. While BN may be struggling to compete with its combination of brick and mortar stores and to carve out market share in the Amazon dominated ebook market, the company certainly took a step in the right direction with Nook Press, making it much easier for authors to self-publish their books for BN's Nook ereader.

I recently finished three new ebook conversions and uploaded them to the Amazon Kindle ebook store. I have long ago stopped worrying about BN's Nook store. I sell very few books for the Nook. But, since I had three new files ready to go, I thought I might as well take a few minutes and load them on the BN site for sale. I am glad I took the time.

The new interface is much easier to use, has more features and actually has some features Amazon's KDP does not!

Here are two I have discovered so far that I wish Amazon made available to authors:
  • You can list your book in up to five categories, making it possible to reach as broad an audience as possible via the search process in the BN search engine. Amazon limits you to two categories when you upload your Kindle file.
  • You can actually edit your interior file! I really wish Amazon would let you do the same, making it much easier to correct errors or update your book.
Competition is good and I am sure the need to carve out more share of the ebook market is what forced BN to improve its ebook interface for authors. It is now easier to use than the Kindle interface, at least in my opinion.

While I doubt my sales will take a big jump at BN any time soon, I will certainly be uploading all of my new ebook files at BN as well as Amazon's KDP in the future.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

KDP Feature - Spell Check for Your Kindle File During Upload

For many who read this blog this news might be old, but I still think it bears mentioning. Having recently successfully converted one of my titles formerly available in a POD paperback version only to a fully functioning Kindle edition using Book Design Templates, I was intrigued by the new, to me at least, spell check feature.

Since the book was already available from CreateSpace, I used the Kindle conversion function for the book as made available in the CreateSpace Member Dashboard.

This allowed me to use the cover of the POD version for my Kindle edition. The less I have to do in this process the better.

After uploading my file to KDP, the file was converted to a Kindle edition by Amazon's computers. In addition to being able to preview the conversion, up popped the box below. The word the Amazon computer thought was misspelled is actually jargon and spelled correctly. After clicking on Ignore I received another message concerning spelling.

After having been told to ignore the questionable word the spell check ran through the entire book again and found no misspelled words. I hope, one can never be completely sure with computers.

Hardly earth shaking news. Still, it shows an ongoing effort on the part of CreateSpace and Amazon's KDP to continue to improve the quality of the books authors self-publish and as an author who wants to put the best possible product out there in the market, I appreciate that effort. 

The process is easy to use and serves as one last quality control check before the new Kindle title becomes available to the reading public.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Easy, Attractive, Low Cost Kindle Book Conversion For Do It Yourself Authors!

In my never ending quest to find ways to make my self-publishing efforts more profitable I have tried to learn how to do as much as possible myself in order to save costs. At times that approach has been costly due to the amount of time lost or wasted. Other times I have spent money to have work done and, while the work was worth what I paid for it, it was money I could at times ill afford to spend.

Since eBooks appear to be the future of self-publishing, I have been struggling with how to convert as many of my titles as possible into Kindle editions. As I have often mentioned in this blog, if you are willing to pay to have conversions done, I recommend eBook Architects.

But, if you're like me and need to save money and are willing to do the work yourself, converting your print edition file to Kindle is a hugely daunting task.

I am happy to say, I no longer feel that way. 

I spent over $100 on books telling me how easy it was to convert my Word document into a Kindle file. The only one I ever understood was Aaron Shepard's book on inserting photographs and diagrams into a file for Kindle. I don't want to add up the number of hours of frustration I spent trying to convert files that would look reasonable, just reasonable, in Kindle or ePub format.

What's changed?

After using one of Joel Friedlander's new Book Design Templates for my latest non-fiction book's POD release and being so pleased with not only how the interior of the book turned out but how easy it was to use after about 30 minutes of playing around with the template, I decided to give the ebook template a try.

I spent the money to purchase a multi-title version of the ebook template I wanted to use. I spent two long days cutting and pasting the book I was converting into the ebook template. Don't let this statement discourage you. I had to learn a little about using the template, remove formatting that got transferred and correct the format in the template (very easy to do, just time consuming) and position the 200+ diagrams the book contained. The big time consumer was the diagrams.

I then converted the file to HTML. Uploaded it to the FREE program Calibre, converted the file and uploaded it to KDP.

When I previewed the file before publishing it I was stunned. For the first time I had created a book in the Kindle format that looked like I wanted it to!

Of course, I plan to purchase a copy to make sure the Table of Contents and the links in the book work. But, the interior turned out great! It looks just like it did in template form as a Word document before starting the conversion process!

If you have books you want to convert to Kindle editions and desire to do the work yourself, take the time to investigate these templates. Joel offers a lengthy guide on using the templates for both POD and eBook file creation and offers customer service via e-mail if you have a question concerning the use of the template.

I have already started converting another book using my template and the process is going much faster as this book does not have diagrams. 

You owe it to yourself to investigate these templates!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Be Prolific - A Key to Prosperity as a Self-Published Author (Warning Math Involved)

I would love to retire from my "day job" and just write and engage in activities I want to but cannot because of the need to support my family, the time spent doing so and the lack of money to retire.

As a non-fiction author, I am probably not going to make that happen. There simply is not a large enough market for my books. But I can certainly pay for a lot of things I would not be able to  and possibly have a better, and perhaps earlier, retirement than I would otherwise.

Since I view my writing as part of a business, I also view it as a means to maximize my income. Since each of my titles will not sell thousands, but rather hundreds of copies (there have been three exceptions thankfully) how can I maximize my income through writing?

By being prolific. In a variety of formats.

The more books I have available for sale in a variety of formats, the more books I can sell. Of course, this requires effort and more time spent marketing, but it also means more income and the possibility of reaching more readers.

As I type, I have a total of 35 titles available in paperback. I have a total of 14 available as ebooks. Three of those 35 titles account for the majority of my sales. But those other titles, even while only selling one to five copies a month, add up financially.

I have also discovered via corresponding with the individuals who buy my books they don't buy just one, they usually by 7 to 8 total copies. Yes, the three most popular books I have are almost always in the mix of those 7 or 8 books, but the other various titles fill a need or an interest for these readers.

If those books were not available, I would not be earning as much income from the sales of my books.

It would seem my two most valuable marketing tools are my newsletter and those three books. Once I convince someone to buy one of those books, they buy more. They tell others and they buy books.

Following my own advice, I am working on a single new book this summer. The rest of my "writing time" is being spent learning how to use Calibre and the ebook template from Joel Friedlander's Book Design Templates.

My goal is to convert as many of my 35 paper titles to eBooks as I can myself. While I have used eBook Architects in the past and been very happy with their work and pricing, I am not willing to risk the investment in many of the books I am planning to convert myself to eBooks, particularly Kindle books.

I am certain all of my books would earn out their conversion cost. That is not the point. I can't afford to pay for the conversions at this time. I actually need the income from my book sales right now due to an impending wedding, medical bills from reconstructive shoulder surgery and the youngest daughter's travel team gymnastics costs (at least her other sport, distance running, is relatively inexpensive).

So my goals in terms of being prolific this summer include finishing and releasing one new title while converting another 7-10 titles to ebooks myself at no cost other than the ebook template and my time.

Hopefully the additional ebook titles will translate into 1 to 5 sales per title each month. Why invest the time?

Here is the part where I warned about math being involved. If I manage to achieve the minimum of my goal and covert seven titles to ebooks and sell them on KDP for $2.99 each, I will earn roughly $14.99 per month if I only sell one copy of each title. If I average selling three copies for all seven titles at $2.99 I will earn roughly $45 a month. Multiple that times 12 months and you have $540 a year.

Not exactly an amount of money to brag about. But that is $540 I would not have earned if I had not "been prolific" in the number of ebook titles as well as paperback titles I have available.

Keep in mind most of my readers buy more than one of my books after they buy the first one. My average customer buys 7-8 copies of my titles. By making my titles available in as many different formats as possible I increase the chances of reaching more readers and selling more copies.

More math. My books sell seasonally. Four months out of the year my sales have a huge spike. Titles that sell 2-5 copies a month for eight months out of the year will sell 25-80 copies in a month.  Let's take those same seven titles now.  

On average those seven titles will earn $360 for 8 months of the year. Even if those seven titles sell an average of just 25 copies each per month for the other 4 months of the year, at a price of $2.99 I will earn roughly $1450. Add $360 to that amount and I will have earned roughly $1800 for the year.

All for books I have already written, had edited and are in print.

Will I earn that much money as a result of my efforts this summer? I have no idea. But if I don't make the effort to produce a "prolific" number of ebooks from books I already have in print, I have no chance to earn that money.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

IngramSpark Update - Is the New Company User Friendly?

With a wedding coming this fall, the youngest on a traveling gymnastics team, still paying for child number two's college and hoping to have some money set aside one day to retire, I am always looking for ways to make more money in my "second job" as a self-published author. Anything I can do to increase sales and do so with as little actual monetary investment (other than my time) is a topic I am constantly researching.

Broadening my distribution in hopes of increasing sales is one of avenues of investigation. When I first heard of Ingram's decision to launch IngramSpark, I took note. I even shared my initial ideas on the subject on this blog.

What were my hopes? Simple, actually. They included:
  • easy to use
  • no cash outlay, or at least minimal
  • an greater access to the reading public
Upon IngramSpark's launch, I was well, dismayed. To put it simply, I don't really have time to master the learning curve to use Ingram's new division. Lightning Source, which I do use for POD and distribution for one book, was complicated enough to make me publish the other 30+ non-fiction books I have authored on CreateSpace.

Rather than summarize my frustrations with trying to gain some insight into the IngramSpark site, I will encourage you to read a masterful review by none other than Aaron Shepard, one of the foremost advocates in the self-publishing field in using LSI and Ingram as key components of a business model.

Why take the time to investigate IngramSpark? 

If you are looking for print-on-demand services, ebook and paper distribution on a global scale and don't mind dealing with the complicated procedures, by all means, investigate further.

I all have to say in judgement is I have come to value my time a little more. I am still very willing to invest time, effort and frustration in learning something that will help my tiny business achieve my goals for it. But my limited business time has become valuable enough to me financially that there are limits.

I use CreateSpace for my POD and distribution, both in North America and Europe, via Amazon. I use Amazon KDP for my Kindle books and BN's Pubit to sell ebooks for the Nook. Recently I even expanded my ebook distribution to Kobo.

I don't have to learn any new skills to make my books available using these companies as my distributors and purchase points for readers. Not so for IngramSpark. 

CreateSpace and KDP, and KDP's competitors, are simply too easy to use. If I had one goal for IngramSpark it would be to match that ease of use for small publishers and self-publishing authors. That would ignite serious competition for Amazon's companies and the others, which would benefit authors, small publishers and the consumer public as well.  I simply see no evidence using IngramSpark would make my life easier as a an author and publisher by using its services.

If the company will work to become as userfriendly as CreateSpace, KDP, Pubit and Kobo, I will certainly revisit the idea of using IngramSpark. Until then, I have other ways to invest my time.