Welcome to the first in a series of video tutorials!
The series will cover best practices for today’s author. I don’t want the information to be useful to one type of writer or another. I don’t care if you’re self-published, small press-backed, big publisher-backed… good info is good info. Authors are in this thing together. The more we share our common experiences, the better we’ll steer our own boats.
Let me know what you think in the comments!
Cheat sheet. Use it once you’ve read the rest of this post!
In my last post, I covered the general rules of choosing the right genre for your book. I spoke briefly about Amazon’s categories. I’ll go into more details now.
The ground rules for Amazon categories are simple:
Every genre on Amazon gets to have its own tidy list of popular titles.
Each of these lists is often visited by fans of those genres.
Amazon scours their popularity lists for books to promote.
So how do you show up on a popular Amazon list?
Choose the right genre when you publish your book on Amazon.
Once you’ve identified which genres you belong in, you need to decide which genre is easiest for you to get in the Top 20. We’re shooting for the Top 20 because that means your book would show up on the first page of that genre’s Amazon page.
Good place to be…
After we find the easiest genre to place in, we’ll shoot for a tougher genre. Just to keep things interesting!
How to choose the right genre for your book on Amazon
Okay, let’s say we write a Mystery ebook for kids with a female detective (like oh, say, Shirley Link). Here are some of the possible categories on Amazon. I dug these up by rummaging through Amazon’s genre lists (seen on the left hand side of this page)
Kindle ebooks/Children’s ebooks/Mysteries & Detectives
Kindle ebooks/Children’s ebooks/Mysteries & Detectives/Detectives
Kindle ebooks/Children’s ebooks/Action & Adventure
Kindle ebooks/Children’s ebooks/Literature & Fiction/Beginner Readers
Kindle ebooks/Literature & Fiction/Chapter Books
Kindle ebooks/Literature & Fiction/Women’s Fiction/Mystery, Thriller & Suspense/Women Sleuths
Any of these genres would work for the book. So how do we choose which genre we can get to #20 in?
Using Theresa Ragan’s sales estimator, I get a ballpark idea of how many books I’d need to sell to crack the top 20 of each possible genre.
So the #20 book in Kindle ebooks/Children’s ebooks/Mysteries & Detectives/Detectives is Nancy Drew & The Bungalow Mystery.
But, more important to us is the book’s overall Kindle rank of 39,589 (see image below).
Checking Theresa’s sales estimator, this means the book sells between 3-15 copies per day.
Nancy Drew: The Bungalow Mystery sales rank info from the book’s product page on Amazon:
On the other hand, Kindle ebooks/Children’s ebooks/Mysteries & Detectives is a tough one. The 20th ranked book has an overall Kindle sales rank of 3,239. This means the book sells between 30-50 books per day.
Spirit Animals Book 1 sales rank info from the book’s product page on Amazon:
I think I can manage to sell 3-15 books per day, but 30-50 will take some ingenuity. If I can find a way to crack the tough Action & Adventure Top 20 list then that will mean much more exposure to more people. I’m willing to claw my way up that genre’s listings over the long haul. One good sales day could be a game changer.
It’s fine to choose low-popularity genres for your picks. You’re more likely to be seen by fans of those genres if you rank high! But don’t be afraid to experiment if you’re not happy with sales. Yes, it’s possible to lose sales because you’ve changed genres, but if you do it with a marketing plan to back it up then you can gain crucial customer knowledge.
If you have any questions, please ask them in the comments. Don’t forget to use the cheat sheet above. And pass it on to a writer friend.
Thanks for reading!
By Ben Zackheim
Helpful tool: Sign up for EBookTracker to get details on any book’s ranking over time. The tool won’t help you see actual sales, but it will give you insights around your favorite genre’s movers and shakers.
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As usual, I’m at my standing desk doing squats (poorly). I’m in the throes of marketing bliss as I find ways to promote my book.
I check on the sales of my book Shirley Link & The Black Cat.
Time for a promotion.
So I plan until my brain stem hurts: the right day, the right level of social sharing, the right promotional materials… You know the drill.
Now all I have to do is post my book to the book listing sites! Wheee! So let’s see. That means I get to…
… scour through my bookmarks to find sites that still exist.
… excavate the correct submission page and read through the site rules that run, on average, 4,987 words.
… enter the same information over and over until I hate my name/book title/genre/sub-genre/description…
Of course, even with all of this work, there is no guarantee that my book will actually appear on the promotional site.
Can I lick the floor instead?
So when I heard about Book Marketing Tools’ ebook submission tool I stopped doing my lame squats. Book Marketing Tools promises to let you easily promote your book on 30 of the top free/deal sites. How easy? Like one-click per site. Fifteen minutes from start to finish.
This isn’t like Authors Marketing Club’s tool where they list out the links and send you off to fill out the form to promote your book. It’s a service that promises to make the submissions easy. That’s a promise I’m delighted to take them up on.
How does the ebook submission tool work?
I headed in with high hopes and low expectations. I’ve been burned by promotional tools before.
So I was pleased to find a good-looking site that told me what it did and got me into work-mode fast. The service asks you to enter some basic data about you and your book. It’s the same info you’re usually asked to enter on the deal sites. ASIN, Title, Author, Genre, Author bio. The idea here is that you should only need to enter the data once for all 30 sites.
When you finish with that step, you get this…
See the list of sites with the light gray backdrops? Those are the ones that you can submit to automatically. All you have to do is click on the first site (Awesome Gang) and a pop-up window appears. You verify the pre-populated info and click on the ‘Next’ button.
Repeat 29 times.
Did it work? Yup. Some of the steps required an extra few seconds of data entry, but the process took only 15 minutes! Fifteen minutes to promote your book on 30 sites. Wow.
I think my favorite part was watching dozens of verification emails flood my inbox one after another.
Unfortunately, the blue-button sites at the bottom of the dashboard screen cannot be filled automatically. They act more like the AMC tool — sending you off to the correct submission pages where you do the heavy lifting. Still, it’s nice to have the list in one place.
With all of its strengths, I’d like to see the tool track two things:
1) Which of the sites under the “Additional sites you can submit to” header did I submit to already? I’d like to check it off my list once I’m done submitting manually.
2) What’s the success rate of the submissions? Did Edreader News Today show my book on promo day, or not? I’d use this service to track my progress if it had the tools.
But won’t the submission sites be angry about this new service? Not if they think it through. I discovered a bunch of sites I’d never heard of before on the dashboard. Besides, when I submit to a promo site I’m not there to browse. I want to submit my book and move on. That’s not the behavior of a valuable visitor. In my opinion, promotional sites should work with Book Marketing Tools to make things as easy as possible for us. It’s a logical way to strengthen their services and their brands.
So yes, the ebook submission tool can help you promote your book to 30 sites in 15 minutes, as advertised. If I could track details of my promotions then Book Marketing Tools could become one of my default browser tabs.
The price is $29 per book promo. That seems a little steep to me, but I might do it to save myself a couple of hours of work.
Give it a try and let us know how it works for you.
By Ben Zackheim
Disclaimer: Book Marketing Tools reached out to me and offered me a $5 credit to test their new tool. I’m posting my experience, which was a good one.
Isn’t it fun to write about yourself? Wouldn’t you love to make a career out of coming up with new ways to talk about how interesting you are? Me neither.
Can author bios sell books? If you believe that a great cover, glowing reviews and a spot-on book description can sell books, then you’ll believe me when I say yes. The author bio is a featured data point all over the web. If a reader loves your bio, then imagine what they can get out of an entire book! Yeah, author bios sell books.
The fact is, author bios are the best way to make yourself compelling to a complete stranger who’s thinking about buying your book. Very few authors over the years have enjoyed crafting bios. But we still need them.
And we need to write more of them! For example, you need to tailor unique bios for your marketing efforts. Blogs, newsletters, deal sites, listings… many of them want a unique bio and book description when you submit. It’s frustrating but it makes sense. They don’t want their audience (or Google) to see them as redundant.
So here are some best practices that I’ve discovered on my journey. They’ve saved me time. They’ve made promotion just a tad bit easier just when I needed it most. And they’ve sold a few books!
Author bio tip 1. Your bio isn’t about you. It’s about your audience. Okay, technically that’s not true, but think about it. You’ve caught someone’s attention! That’s a big win! Don’t lose it by taking your eyes off of your goal here.
So make the bio appeal to your target audience. If that means showing off your snappy, friendly and entertaining self to sell your kids book, then cool. If you’re going for insightful, deep and intelligent for your paranormal romance then let it fly.
But please, whatever you do, don’t neglect your bio. It’s not below you. Some readers consider it a key part of their decision to buy, so treat your bio with the respect it deserves.
While all five of these tips will help you make a better bio, tips 2 and 3 are the best advice for how to write an author bio that sells books.
Author bio tip 2. Write the bio for the site where it will live, and mention your reading interests. As I’ve advised before, you should dig into the online store that you’re selling on. Even a smattering of research can yield insights that will help focus your bio.
What kind of books do you enjoy? Mystery? On Amazon you get the following drop-down results when you type that term in the search window:
My advice for this genre is to mention you like “mystery series” on your B&N bio. Mention you enjoy “mystery books” or “mystery and thriller” on your Amazon bio.
See what I’m doing there? I’m leveraging the site’s search engine to tell me what customers search for. All the terms that you see in the drop-down are arranged by popularity, so it’s great info that you can use to connect with readers.
I’ve written on this method of finding your target audience before, so I won’t belabor the point.
But one last thing, don’t get bogged down on this step. Really, what you should do is…
Author bio tip 3. Be passionate. When you write about your passions, your writing gets better. So mention your passions — hobbies, family, travel stories. It will help you connect with the reader.
Author bio tip 4. When you do finally get in the mood to hammer your way through your author bio, don’t just write one! Hey, you’re on a roll, so take advantage. Write five to ten quick and dirty bios that you can adjust later. Keep it in one file, somewhere safe. Then when you run into one of those sites that requires you to give them a unique author bio, you’ll have some fresh ones to choose from. Tighten it up and you’re done.
Author bio tip 5. First or third person? Great question. More independent authors are choosing first person. I think the reason for this is two-fold. One, it’s more comfy. Two, they want to convey their brand in a more casual way.
The counter argument is “first-person is amateurish and third person is professional.” The bios you read on books in the bookstore are rarely in first person, after all.
But I think most bios sound dull. And I’ll bet they’re dull because they’re written by authors who aren’t comfortable writing about themselves in the third person. Or they’re written by a hired hand who doesn’t know the author. Either way I lean toward first person myself because that’s what comes naturally.
How about you? Go ahead and paste your author bio in the comments section. We’d love to hear your thoughts on how to write an author bio that sells books!
By Ben Zackheim
We need to eat. Forget it.
We need to go pee. We won’t.
We need to sleep. Yeah, right.
Writers go from one discomfort and life-draining behavior to another when we work on our stories. But then comes the dreaded moment when we must write a book description.
Suddenly the pain is too much to bear.
Most of us choke. But why? Maybe we feel that explaining the book will make it sound so bad (to us) that we’ll question why we even began writing it in the first place?
The problem with such a bad habit is this.
The fourth most important step to sell books online is the book description.
Fourth, huh? How do I figure that?
1) Write a great (professionally edited) book.
2) Have a great cover.
3) Put a few glowing reviews directly above the…
wait for it…
4) Yup. The book description.
The reader will know they’re on to something special when they spot a cool cover and enthusiastic responses from real readers. But the book description is where you’ll either close the sale or lose them. That means you need to treat it with the same respect you showed your story.
I want to talk about some critical steps we can all take to craft the best possible book description. And at the end of the post I want to share a new idea I had. I’m trying it out now and I think you should too.
Why is a great book description important?
Let’s first define what I mean by a “great book description.”
A great book description will help you sell books.
That’s why it’s so important. So for this post we’ll be honing in on the actual sale like a (super-friendly!) sniper.
Be warned. Part of what I’m talking about is number-crunching. Part is craft. There may even be some art to it. But the goal here is to give you all the info you need to produce an effective book description that sells books.
So. Rubber, meet Road.
How to write a book description that sells books
Get reviews before you launch your book. What do reviews have to do with a good book description? We’ll get to that in a sec.
Reviews should live right above your product description. Don’t rely on the retailer’s reviews section to sell books. They build their product pages to sell a variety of products, not just books. Book pages need testimonials in a clear and obvious place — just like the back cover and flaps of real books.
Using the reviews, craft your description. Show the potential buyer just how right the reviewers are! Act as a mirror to a couple of the key terms/phrases that your reviews use. If a review calls your book “an enlightening romp through one man’s middle life” then you can verify that in the book description by using words like “enlighten” and “middle life.” It’s a great way to subtly say, “That reviewer is so right!”
The first sentence should be as good as your book’s first sentence. Remember how you pounded on the first sentence of your book until it was just right? Do that with your description too.
Use terms that the online retailer’s search engine will love. Yes, we’re getting into uncomfortable territory here. Where’s the art in all of this, Ben? That’s up to you to find. But I’m obligated to tell you that Amazon scans your book description for terms that help its search engine find your product.
So be sure to include terms that reflect the genre you’ll be placing the book in. If your book is the story of a reporter investigating the death of her cousin at the hand of a serial killer at the start of World War II, then be sure you include terms like investigative journalism, World War II and serial killer in your description.
By the way, that’s my mom’s book, The Last Train to Paris. Go Mom!
There’s a cool way to check on what terms Amazon readers like to search for. Just use Amazon search! Enter a term that applies to your book. You’ll see a whole bunch of suggestions. Amazon is essentially telling you that these terms are what their readers are searching for. Use that to your advantage and find a word or term that’s a good fit. Choose a couple and put them in your book description.
So I should advise my mother to include the terms World War 2 historical fiction in her description. It’s appropriate to her book and it ranks high when people begin to type “Word War 2”. Of course, being my mother, she will ignore my advice.
Target the shopper, not the reader.
Aren’t they the same? Probably, but not necessarily. I learned as a writer of books for young people that the book description must appeal to the adult who’s buying the book. Not the kid who’ll read it. A cousin of mine, Nerissa Nields, wrote a book that has “gift” written all over it, titled How to be an Adult. Yeah college graduates’ parents might want to jump on that one.
Test! Post the description to your favorite online hangouts and ask for feedback. Send an email to trusted resources. Yes, that includes family and friends, as long as they have a good track record for giving constructive criticism.
I’ve found the community for BookGoodies on Facebook and the Createspace forums to be packed with people who love to give useful feedback.
If you’ve read this far then you might want me to cut to the chase and just get to this “new idea” I mentioned earlier.
Here it is…
Don’t write an excellent book description. Write two excellent book descriptions.
The first will be for your launch audience. The second will be for the long-run.
What’s a launch audience? It’s the audience you know you have access to from the get-go. It can include your email list, your Facebook followers, etc. Did you read my post about Twitter analytics that help you identify your target audience? In a nutshell you can use Twitter to find out the specific interests of your followers. If you can identify specific interests of your followers then you can use words and terms that resonate with them.
Yup. That’s a breakdown of my Twitter follower’s interests.
Go read the post. It lays out just how incredible this data is. It’s key to our never-ending quest to reach people who might be interested in our books. I wish Facebook offered the same robust insights, but they took the opportunity to charge us for targeted marketing.
Tweak! Never stop adjusting the book description of your books. The beautiful thing about self publishing is that it allows you to make fast adjustments based on good data. If your book is suddenly newsworthy because of world events, then by all means head in and edit it! If a new term starts catching on that applies to your book, use it! You get the idea.
A book description isn’t some alchemical element that could blow up in your face if you call forth the wrong incantation. It also won’t work if you just write, “Me book be gooder than your thinking it could of!” Find a process that works for you. Use your talent to write and use your curiosity about your audience to dig into what will make them more likely to click the Buy button.
By Ben Zackheim
Note: This post contains two affiliate links (in Tips 4 and 5), both of which are links to books on Amazon. One book is by my cousin, the other book is my mother’s. They’d better be fine with this, or Thanksgiving is going to be very uncomfortable this year.
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Amazon has a bridge to sell ya!
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