Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Author Platforms, Blogging and Other Necessary Tools

By no means am I any kind of a computer expert, internet guru or expert on SEO. What I have learned has been through, as usual, lots of reading and trying to sort out, to me, confusing terminology and ideas.

With a recent decline in my sales that has taken place over the last month, something made me decide to do an SEO audit on my primary website for my business. Two years ago, before the Panda and other Google updates, I had a page rank of 3, which is not too bad.

To my horror, when I did the audit using a free online tool, I had a page rank of 0! Yes, zero. I quickly checked my Google Analytics, something I don't do very often, and to my surprise, found a steady decline in the number of visits to my site.

It would appear I have neglected two things, my author platform and the SEO of said platform. Of course, one can never be totally sure of why book sales decline (in this case a decline over sales during the past month compared to the previous two years of the same month), but I have to consider there might be a real connection.

In viewing the audit results, it would appear I have a lot more to learn. There are quite a few new items that are now part of the SEO process. At least they are new to me.

I had planned on taking a break from writing new books for an extended period of time. It looks like that break from writing will now be spent working on rebuilding my author platform. At least it will be new and different and as they say change is as good as a vacation.

If you have a blog, website, or other successful online author platform, don't make the mistake I did and fail to monitor your SEO. It takes so much hard work to build a presence and develop a following that you don't want to waste the time and effort through neglect.

Anyone who has any similar experiences and has managed to bounce back, I would greatly appreciate it if you would share your experiences with the readers of this blog by commenting.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Using Keywords to Make Your Kindle Book Easier for Readers to Find

Amazon's store is also a search engine. It makes sense then to practice good SEO like you would for your own website or blog and this includes the best possible use of keywords in the book's description.

In the most recent issue of the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing Newsletter, Amazon has provided some excellent suggestions on how to provide the best possible book description using keywords. The first suggestions provided include the best practices listed below.

Best practices with keywords:
  • Combine keywords in the most logical order: Customers will search for military science fiction but not for fiction science military.
  • Use up to seven keywords or short phrases. Separate them with commas, and keep an eye on the character limit in the text field.
  • Experiment. Before you publish, search for your book's title and keywords on Amazon. If you get irrelevant results, or results you dislike, consider making some changes—your book will ultimately appear among similar results. When you search, look at the suggestions that appear in the Search field drop down.
  • Think like your customer. Think about how you would search for your book if you were a customer, and ask others to suggest keywords they'd search on.
More suggestions for good keyword use include specific use and types of keywords:

Useful keyword types
  • ● Setting (Colonial America)
  • ● Character types (single dad, veteran)
  • ● Character roles (strong female lead)
  • ● Plot themes (coming of age, forgiveness)
  • ● Story tone (dystopian, feel-good)
Amazon even provided suggestions of what NOT to include in keywords:

  • ● Information covered elsewhere in your book's metadata—title, contributor(s),  category, etc.
  • ● Subjective claims about quality (e.g. "best")
  • ● Statements that are only temporarily true ("new," "on sale," "available now")
  • ● Information common to most  items in the category ("book")
  • ● Common misspellings
  • ● Variants of spacing, punctuation, capitalization, and pluralization (both "80GB" and "80 GB", "computer" and "computers", etc.). The only exception is for words translated in more than one way, like "Mao Zedong" and "Mao Tse-tung," or "Hanukkah" and "Chanukah."
  • ● Anything misrepresentative, such as the name of an author that is not associated with your book. This type of information can create a confusing customer experience and Kindle Direct Publishing has a zero tolerance policy for metadata that is meant to advertise, promote, or mislead.
Don't use quotation marks in search terms: Single words work better than phrases—and specific words work better than general words. If you enter "complex suspenseful whodunit," only people who type all of those words will find your book. You'll get better results if you enter this: complex suspenseful whodunit. Customers can search on any of those words and find your book.

Other metadata tips
● Customers are more likely to skim past long titles (over 60 characters).
● Focus your book's description on the book's content
● Your keywords can capture useful, relevant information that won't fit in your title and description (setting, character, plot, theme, etc.)
● You can change keywords and descriptions as often as you like
● If your book is available in different formats (physical, audio) keep your keywords and description consistent across formats

All of this information is helpful and making me take a look at all of my book descriptions.  I am glad I took the time to read all of this month's newsletter from KDP!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Jeff Bezos Explains Why Amazon Does Not Worry About Its Competitors

Since so many self-published authors rely heavily on internet giant Amazon, it is always worth learning more about the company and its CEO, Jeff Bezos.

Here is a link to an interesting article about why Amazon does not worry about its competition.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Technology Offers New Opportunities for Non-Fiction Authors - Online "Mash-ups" - A New Kind of Book?

I have spent a lot of time learning as much as possible about the industry of publishing in general and self-publishing specifically. I am certain I have barely scratched the surface of what there is to learn and the target seems to keep moving.

The first big boon for self-publishers was the advent of the internet along with Amazon, opening the door for self-published authors to have access to customers. Print-on-demand technology combined with a business model relying on POD made self-publishing financially viable for authors.

eReaders were the next big technological shift. It took a while for the device and concept to catch on but Amazon's Kindle has changed things in a big way, making it even easier for authors to publish and sell their work.

More changes are in store, of that I have no doubt. The future will be interesting in the field of self-publishing.

One of the challenges I currently face, and I am not alone, is I am selling more books than ever before, both paperback (POD) and ebook (95% of which are Kindle sales). Yet I am not earning the income I need to earn.

Even with a 70% royalty, I earn less for a Kindle edition than I do for the same title as a paperback. The pricing structure required by Amazon to receive the 70% royalty puts a cap on what I can set as the list price for the book. I am not complaining mind you, just stating a fact.

The pricing structure combined with the fact customers are not willing to pay nearly what the information is worth for in a Kindle book edition, forces lower list prices to generate sales. Again, I am not complaining, just stating the market forces at work for MY BOOKS. I do not want to speculate how market forces are impacting list prices of other authors.

The challenge as I see it, is how do I provide enough perceived value for the information I am selling for the customer to decide the price is in fact a reasonable one for the value received by the customer.

Technology has been the driving, and disruptive, force behind the changes in publishing and self-publishing. It make sense to look to technology for a solution and I believe I have found one, at least for me and possibly other non-fiction authors. It might even be a possible solution for the right fiction author who has the creative vision and technical skill required to pull it off.

On-line "mash-ups." 

Mash-ups are a combination of video with on-screen print information. Think You-Tube with printed information embedded in the screen along with the visual content.

School teachers who teach via distance learning or a lap top schools have been doing this for awhile. Since I teach at a lap top school that offers its summer school classes as "blended courses" (three days on campus and two days via distance) I have some experience in dealing with mash-ups.

It occurred to me this is the approach I need to earn what my non-fiction books are worth. Writing the book is the time consuming part. It can still be sold as a stand alone item or given away as a marketing item in the case of an ebook.

The real value is in the author's knowledge. The online mash-up allows the author to create online "class sessions" while offering downloadable print information at the same time. Even better, the author can offer "action steps" or guided projects to help readers/students through the process of taking the information presented and actually using it.

This is a lot more work than just writing the book. But, it gives the reader/customer much greater access to the author's knowledge base and provides a guided means to actually utilizing the information. 

Yes, it is more work for the author, but this approach dramatically increases the perceived value of the information to the reader/customer, allowing the author sell the information for a much higher price.

How does one go about doing this? You'll have to stay tuned in for a future post on how I am going to do this!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Another Use for The Book Designer's Book Design Templates

I really value my time these days. I am more than willing to learn new technologies if they are helpful and of value to my business and writing efforts. But if they are going to be huge consumers of my time and may or may not be worth the effort to master on my part, I am no longer willing to go the extra mile.

I have been trying to motivate myself to learn how to use some of the writing software packages available such as Jutoh or Scrivener. I have come to the conclusion these are certainly good products and the people who like using them have valid reasons to do so.

It is just not a wise use of my time to learn to use these products. I have been using Joel Friedlander's Book Design Templates for the last few months. I successfully completed several short e-books/Kindle books as well as two large POD projects.

To teach myself how to use these templates, I decided to actually write a book using the template as a time saver. I would learn to use the templates at the same time I finished the project. What I learned was with a single Word document open for a variety of uses ranging from making notes to test writing passages, it was much easier for me to write the book directly into the template.

I was able to see the book as it would actually appear form before my eyes. Since I write non-fiction and my books involve graphics and photos, this made the writing process much easier for me. I am not certain if the same would be true for fiction authors, but these templates have been a wonderful tool for me, both in terms of producing a professional book interior in terms of appearance and a time saving writing tool.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Amazon to Offer Smart Phone - For Free?

My two daughters think I am a technology relic and so does my wife. My son encourages me to hang in there. He is, like I am, very interested in history and the role old technologies played in history. My current phone is over five years old, paid for and works just fine. I can call people. My daughters and wife can send me texts. My son calls me. What more could you want?

Evidently I need to be prodded into action. My girls tell me not to get my phone out when I am with them in public. They claim it is embarrassing. Of course, they drop the subject when I tell them they could get me my own smart phone or I remind them who paid for theirs.

Still, if the story is true, I might bite. I mean, a smart phone for FREE, and I might be able to continue to use my same cell phone contract? That got my attention. I mean, a dad has to be cool right?

My guess is Jeff Bezos sees this as a way to sell more stuff. There has to be a catch. You get the smart phone for free but you have to shop at Amazon and put up with the advertising. I am OK with shopping at Amazon. I do that anyhow. I just avoid advertising like the plague.

I draw the line at reading books on a phone though. I am not, nor will I ever be, that cool as a dad.

To read a detailed account of Bezos' latest gambit with technology visit the link below.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Amazon Announces Kindle Matchbook!

 Amazon has announced a new program to help Kindle authors sell more books. In Amazon's own word:

We are excited to introduce Kindle MatchBook, an innovative new program which enables you to offer your Kindle book at a discount when readers purchase your print book, so you can sell more books. It's easy to enroll.
Here's how it works:
  1. Select your Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) title on your KDP Bookshelf and check the Enroll box for Kindle MatchBook on the "Rights & Pricing" page.
  2. Set the discount for your book by choosing a promotional list price of $2.99 or less.
  3. Save your Kindle MatchBook preferences.
By enrolling your book, you will be among the first to be able to take advantage of this new program. The Kindle MatchBook discount you select will not appear on until the program is fully launched in the coming weeks. We will notify you by e-mail as soon as your Kindle MatchBook discount is live. Your readers will soon have an easy and affordable way to read your book in both print and digital formats.

Visit your KDP Bookshelf today to enroll your books in Kindle MatchBook.

Best regards,
The Kindle Direct Publishing Team