Poetry is my thing. It lets me express myself in the most creatively captivating way. In poetry, every word is heavily pregnant, and can be beautifully understood in different ways; even in ways different from the poet’s, but equally beautiful. As a poet, I can express myself and still be my non-talkative self.
Introvert Press, LLC is now accepting submissions for its annual short story contest. Submissions must be between 1500 and 10,000 words. The theme for January is HUMANITY / DIVERSITY. You may interpret this theme however you desire. We accept all genres, including poetry. We have no prohibition about profanity, but please understand we want your words to transport us to somewhere interesting – not just be gratuitous for shock value. Please make sure your submissions are fully edited.
Each month there is a new theme, so stay in touch with the Introvert Press blog or the Twitter feed @IntrovertPress. There is no submission fee. As with all Introvert Press submissions, you retain rights to all of your content. The winner will be included in the Annual Anthology printed by Introvert Press. All entries are eligible to be printed in MOTIF, the quarterly newsletter published by Introvert Press. Best of luck!
I’m not the type of person to tell people what to do or what they should read.
Two weeks ago, I had come across a blog post by an author I follow had posted relating to new authors. I thought there were plenty of valid points all new authors should know when they are starting out in the industry.
The author I am talking about is Kristy Bromberg. She is a New York Times Best Selling author of 13 novels. She is a contemporary romance author who knows what it is like to have to market herself. She is an indie author and knows the business very well. I had asked her permission to post her blog post for our group. I hope everyone reads the post and takes away from it all of the points I did.
Thank you to Kristy for letting me share your blog post.
We can’t do this alone. We need to help each other if we are going to become successful. Kristy’s blog post…..
It’s tough love time. Seriously. You need to get organized and realize it takes so much more than a great book to make it these days. If you’re confused on what to do, please feel free to keep reading.
The market is inundated with books right now. It’s not just affecting you as a new author trying to break through in this chaotic world, but it’s also affecting us ‘oldies’ who have been doing it for the last five – eight years.
I’m not posting this from a stance of ‘holier than thou’ but rather a ‘tough love’ one. I recently offered my Facebook page up to 180 new authors. I would do a party and give them each a post to showcase their release to my readers. A small hand that might not do anything but was worth helping them get some extra visibility. Like I said, this world is tough now and every little bit helps.
In the course of gathering their information, I realized that a majority of them didn’t know the following (please note: I am saying some, not all):
They didn’t know what I mean by ‘write me a post’ for Facebook
They didn’t know what I meant when I asked for their ‘links’
Some emailed me upwards of ten times asking ‘is this what you mean’ or ‘what what is xyz’
I don’t mind answering questions for new authors. I never do. But there comes a fine line between asking questions and the you being too lazy to figure it out yourself. As a new author, when a blog or fellow author or a reader offers to give you help, you need to be professional. I can’t stress this enough. This is a business. You may be the most talented author in the world, but if you don’t have a business sense and approach it as such, you are going to miss A LOT of opportunities. You need to come with your best foot forward on the first try because we (us, as authors and our books) are all a dime a dozen these days. If you don’t have your shit together, a blogger might not want to wait for you to get it together and will move on to the next author waiting in line. Because believe me, there is a line.
Another thing (and this may just be a personal pet peeve): You are new, so that means you are in the stage of building relationships. And believe me, your relationship with other authors and bloggers is just as crucial to your success as your relationship with readers… so please, email me yourself. If you’re trying to create those relationships, don’t have your ‘PA’ make the initial/introductory email. To many, that says you think you’re too important to reach out and make the connections yourself. It tells the recipient that you just want ‘something’ (i.e. posting your links) from them for free. They want to get to know you, not your PA. You are the creator of your product and therefore your best sales tool. I’m not saying once there is initial contact, your PA can’t intervene, but for the introduction, being personable, being you, is what is going to get the best response from me or another blog/author. I get that we’re all busy and you might have a PA to help you market your first book . . . That’s perfectly okay and understandable, but remember, this is about building long-term relationships. And if you don’t take the time to talk with the author/blogger, their relationship is being built with your PA, not with you. So when your PA moves on to the next author or becomes an author themselves (which often happens), their loyalty and relationship is with the PA, since you didn’t invest the time…so guess who they move on with? Yep, your PA.
So I’ve said all that and you’re nodding your head agreeing that you don’t know some of these things, but you’re new, so how do you learn? Here’s a few pointers and suggestions:
-Act like this is a business. First and foremost. Be professional at all times.
-Study those authors you like or want to be like. Stalk their social media. See how they construct posts. Notice how often the author you are following posts.
-Notice their teasers are not pirated pictures with text slapped on them (because the last thing you want is to be sued by a photographer).
-Notice their interaction with their readers.
-Learn how to shorten links. This sounds somewhat silly, but no one likes seeing a three line URL link. The short links are more professional. And if the blogger/author wants to add their own affiliate links, they can do so whether the links are long or short (See Bitly. Owly. Smarturl, etc. to shorten links).
-When you reach out to blogs or authors, you make sure you know their name, and don’t just cut and paste the same damn form letter 100 times without changing a thing. You act like you care to know them even if you really don’t. I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve gotten from new authors in this promotion I’m doing, where they have called me Katy, Kathy, Karen, and Kristen. . . I get it, I use my initial K. so it can happen. Personally, I’m not offended by it, but if you’re emailing a blogger to read an ARC (i.e. an advanced copy) and don’t know their name when their name is part of their blog title, I assure you they won’t give you the time of day. Research the blog beforehand and make sure you personalize your correspondence instead of using ‘Hey babe’ or “Hey chick!’
-Create relationships with other up and coming authors and/or bloggers. Band together and cross promote with them. Make them your tribe because they are the ones who are going to help push and promote you long term.
–YOU put the leg work in and don’t expect an email asking an author/blogger you’ve never communicated with before to post the links for you. We’re asked daily to do that. Besides, it’s going to take a lot more than another author/blogger posting your book to find success.
-This is YOUR DREAM. You are the one who is going to make it for yourself. Not someone else.
-Communication is key. Think before you hit send. Make sure your emails and messages are well thought out so that you don’t have to send ten more to explain each subsequent one. Just like you, we are all crazy busy…and so trying to piece together ten emails and what you mean from one to the next is not always our priority. A blog gets a hundred emails a day asking about reviews and ARCS. They like all the information in one place. Not ten emails. Believe me, they favor authors who make their lives easier, not harder.
-No one owes you anything. Just like no one owes me anything. I don’t care if you’ve been doing this ten years, ten months, or ten days – no one owes us anything. Not a sale. Not a page read. Not a review. Is that what you’re striving for? Of course. But at the end of the day, no one owes it to you. Regardless if you are a new or an ‘old’ author, entitlement in any form is ugly and a major turn off.
-A simple THANK YOU goes a long way. Sure you’re busting your butt and are tired as hell, but when someone helps you, a simple thank you is appreciated. It’s sad that they are so few and far between these days that it gets noticed when you give one, but it does. It truly does.
-Treat readers with respect. Treat bloggers with respect. Treat reviews –both good and bad – with respect. Treat other authors with respect. I can’t stress this enough.
-If you don’t succeed, try again. Lame? Yes. But I’ve failed a hundred times doing this writing thing. You need to learn from your mistakes. Move on. Better yourself and your writing with the knowledge you gain.
-Mistakes happen. I’ve published a book with errors in it before. We all have. To err is human and you will NEVER catch all the mistakes… but heed this warning: It is not your editor’s fault. It is not your proofer’s fault. It is not your beta’s fault. There is nothing uglier than an author going on social media blaming others for something wrong with their book. Remember what I said before – be professional at all times.
-Don’t ask other authors about lists (i.e. NYT, USA Today, etc) . I get emails all the time from new authors who have yet to publish their first book, asking me how many sales they need to hit the lists. So . . . if you’re publishing to hit a list, then your writing for the wrong reasons. Yes, it’s easy for me to say when I have hit the lists . . . but they were never even a thought when I first published Driven. I would have laughed at anyone who had even mentioned the possibility because it wasn’t even on my radar. So please, don’t publish to hit a list. Publish because you love to write, you love what you’ve written, and you want others to fall in love with it as well.
Is this the holy grail of what to do? Hell, no. Do I know everything? Absolutely not. I’m still learning every day. I’m still listening to my tribe and learning from them. I’m still putting the time in to watch trends, adjust, change, and reinvent. That’s how this industry works – but I know it is not a measure of my success. Have my last books been as successful as the Driven Trilogy? No. And they probably never will be. The times have changed. The market has more choices for readers. The competition is more abundant. But that doesn’t mean you stop trying. If this is your dream, you learn every day, with every chat you have, with every post you read, with every new thing you write.
I’m far from perfect. I struggled at the beginning and still do in some aspects right along with you. I knew no one when I started, but I knew how to hustle and work hard and studied other authors. I didn’t copy them but rather took in the things they did and reinvented them to work for me. And yes, a little luck meeting opportunity at the perfect time helped as well.
So read this, take what you want from it, or completely ignore it and forge your own path… but after trying to organize this party for new authors, I realized how many people were struggling with knowing what to do or where to go after typing THE END.
So congrats, your book has been written. The easy part is over. Now the hard part begins.
I wish you luck!
(aka Kristy. It’s Kristy. Not Karen. or Kathy. or Kristen. )
And if you’d like to meet some of these new authors and find a new book to read, make sure to head over to my Facebook page this Friday, July 21st starting at 9 am EST to check them out. A new book/author will be posted every 10 minutes throughout the day.
The origin of IntrovertPRESS is a selfish one. Upon completing my novel and not having a traditional publishing contract I was faced with the Indie Author conundrum:
I wrote a book
I now want to sell the book
Commence bashing head into desk
It’s a bit like getting yourself all gussied up on a Saturday night and then hoping a date will materialize at your door. It is infuriating, even Carrie had a prom date.
So I created IntrovertPRESS to accomplish a few things:
Make me feel like I’m actually DOING something to market my book
Give my book a traditional publisher feel
Create a network to put my book in front of buyers
Garner a peer review of my novel until I land a qualified industry review
In addition, I’m going to purchase my own ISBN so I can put my book on local bookstore shelves. The local paper has agreed to do a book review of my novel, so — assuming it is positive — my book will have a local push. If anyone else is interested in purchasing ISBN’s for their work, the costs are far more reasonable when you purchase in bulk:
$125 – 1 ISBN
$250 – 10 ISBNs – if IntrovertPRESS buys 10, super cheap to IP members
$575 – 100 ISBNs – super cheaper here!
$1000 – 1000 ISBNs – super cheapest…ISBN’s all around bartender!
Apparently buying ISBN’s is like buying mayonnaise, the 5 gallon vat of condiment is cheaper in bulk — and so it goes for literary birthmarks.
Respond if you are interested in joining our band of merry authors.
Self publishing has many steps. I’m currently preparing for a book launch in May. I’m working on my Amazon Preview with Create Space (the facilitator of book prep for Amazon). This feature allows you to preview your book on their website. They provide options for the intended audience of your preview. Essentially you can create a Private Preview available only to people you select; or there are two types of Public Previews to target audiences or to the whole of the Amazon readership.
I chose the latter.
If you want to see what the Preview feature looks like, I shamelessly give you the link for my PREVIEW of SHELTERED, the story of Joe a homeless man with mental illness as he finds his way back to security. It is due out in May
The thoughts come to me about my next victim. I know where she goes for coffee after her run. I know where he picks up his fifth of Bourbon after work. I see the silhouette of a family playing board games at their kitchen table through their drawn shades. I have groomed them all with love and care.
I know my weapons. I know how they feel in my hand. I see them on my basement table, gleaming in the light from the single exposed bulb shining down from the ceiling.
It’s just a matter of time now. I know their routines. I know the date they will die. I know which weapon will undo their lives. I know I will kill them. I revel in the upcoming slaughter. The woman I kill slowly. The man I kill quickly. The family — oh that precious, sweet family — I will kill one at a time starting with the youngest as the others watch.
It’s my passion. I savor their struggle at my hand like I the salty taste of a fine caviar on my tongue. People die to sate my longings. Their pain, to me, is sublime beauty
I am a serial killer.
Or perhaps I should say, my character is a serial killer…
If your book is on Amazon, your primary goal will be to sell more books on Amazon. Selling books on Amazon is all about optimizing for the Amazon algorithm. Sound complicated? It can be, but don’t worry we have 5 easy-to-follow steps with detailed instructions that will help you make the most of the Amazon Algorithm.
The Amazon Algorithm Explained
Before we get into the steps, let’s explain the algorithm a little bit. The job of the Amazon algorithm is to best serve Amazon customers (aka readers) who are searching for something, AND to make relevant recommendations to Amazon customers on products they may like.
In order to do it’s job, the Amazon algorithm needs lots of data (called data inputs) about each product (which in your case is a book). The more data about your book the algorithm has, the more it will surface or recommend a product to a customer. When it comes to books, the primary inputs the Amazon algorithm looks for are: Keywords, genres, reviews, sales, downloads, sales rank, and browse activity. To optimize your book on Amazon, you need to optimize all these inputs for the algorithm. In this article we will show you how to do that so you can sell more books on Amazon. Now let’s get started!
1. Write a Comprehensive Book Description
Your book description is an important component in educating the Amazon algorithm (and human readers ) on what your book is about, and who will enjoy reading it. Below are the elements we recommend that every good book description has:
Accolades – If you or your book have won any awards or distinguishing titles (like bestseller), be sure to mention that in your book description. Anything and everything is worth mentioning. Now is NOT the time to be bashful about your accomplishments.
Comparables – Language that compares your title to best-selling authors and titles will let fans of those popular authors know that they should check your book out next. The basic construct is “if you like [famous book] then you’ll like [your book], but you’re a writer, mix it up a bit. Here’s an example from Sleeping Giants, where they use “In the tradition of…” to drop a few well-known books and authors into the description.
Emotional, gripping language – Be sure to use language that is evocative. Make readers feel something by simply reading your description, and leave them yearning for more. One strategy is to use the first few sentences from a particularly gripping scene in your book which tends to work well. However, don’t limit yourself, you can write evocative questions “Will she make it to the volcano in time?” or statements “Find out if Mike is truly her soulmate or if he has an alternate motive”, But don’t limit yourself to cliches; now is a good time to be creative.
Keywords for your genre – Different genres have different tropes that readers learn to look for. For example, in romance, HEA (happily ever after) stories are popular. If there are keywords that you know readers in your genre are going to be looking (and searching) for, be sure to include those in your description.One thing that you don’t want to do in your book description is to give away the plot. Don’t make it into a spoiler-filled trailer for your book. Instead, tease readers with just enough to make them curious.
2. Research your Categories and Keywords
Both categories and your keywords are important inputs to the algorithm and serve to help new readers discover your book when they are browsing Amazon. You set both your categories and your keywords in your Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) account.
Let’s start with categories. On Amazon your categories are basically your genres, and you can only pick two for each book. When picking a category, be sure to pick the ones that most closely align with the content of your book. In Amazon’s own words:
“A browse category is the section of the Amazon site where users can find your book. Think of the browse category like the sections of a physical bookstore (fiction, history, and so on). You can select up to two browse categories for your book. Precise browse categorization helps readers find your book, so be sure to select the most appropriate categories for your book.”
Why is this important? Well, these categories are the basis for Amazon’s charts. You want the category to match the type of reader you are looking for. If you are writing a spy thriller, don’t pick romance as a category (even if there is a romantic element to your book) because readers browsing the Romance charts are not looking for spy thrillers. In order to see where your book will best fit in, peruse through the top charts for your potential categories, and see where your book would be the best fit. In the example below, we logged into our KDP account (kdp.amazon.com), selected the book we are working on (in our case a Non-Fiction Thanksgiving Cookbook), and scrolled down to the categories section. We then navigated down the categories and checked Seasonal and General under Cooking. This means that our book ranks first in those categories.
Next up: keywords. Optimizing your keywords is a fancy term for picking words you think people are going to search for. Imagine you are a reader, and you go to Amazon to find a book, what will you type in the search box? Get inside the mind of the reader and think about what words to add that will make your book easy to find. You will want to do two sets of research for keywords for your title.
First, you will want to research the main keywords that are associated with your book’s subject matter. These are the words that you will want to use in your title and on your book description page. Keywords that you use in your title will show up in the URL for your book, making it easier for your title to show up in searches for those words. In the example below, when a reader searches for Thriller, the algorithm knows that Hit for Hire is a possible result it can show the reader as Hit for Hire contains “thriller” in the URL, the title and the description.
To do this research, you can use the free functionality of KWFinder, or, if you’re running AdWords, Google’s keyword planner.
For example: Let’s say you’re writing a book on How to Make Dog Treats. When you search for related keywords, “Homemade Dog Treats” has almost 10 times the number of searches (aka Search Volume) that “How to Make Dog Treats” does. This means that you will want your title and book description to use the phrase “Homemade Dog Treats”.
Second, you will want to research the Amazon specific keywords that you will enter for your book. You get to choose just seven keywords for your title, so you want to choose them wisely. Dave Chesson over at Kindlepreneur has a fantastic step by step guide on how to research and select keywords that will allow Amazon to sell your book for you.
Amazon also has a useful resource on how to set keywords for your title, and they recommend focusing on five types of terms:
Setting – for example, “1800’s France”.
Charactertypes – for example, “single dad” or “veteran”.
Characterroles – for example, “female sleuth”
Plotthemes – for example, “coming of age” or “family saga”
Storytone – for example, “dystopian”
When your book is categorized under the correct genres and supplemented by the correct keywords, Amazon will do a better job of getting it in front of the right readers.
3. Get Reviews
We spoke above about how adding a review to your book description can help make your description more engaging to readers. More broadly, having many book reviews gives readers confidence in the quality of your work which will result in more readers purchasing your book. Book reviews are an important input to the algorithm, so this is another area where it’s worthwhile to focus. In our research, we found that the number of reviews is more important than the overall average review rating (as long as your average rating is over 3.5 stars). This means having 25 reviews with an average rating of 4.0 is better than having 5 reviews with an average rating of 5.0 stars. There are two key strategies for getting reviews for your titles:
Ask Your Readers – Do you have a mailing list? You should. If you don’t read our article about email marketing for authors. When your book comes out, email your readers and ask them to help you build reviews. Additionally, always include a link in the back of your book that asks readers to leave a review.
ARC (advance reader copy) Reviews – If you really want to make the most of reviews, try to get them before your book comes out on Amazon. How? Reach out to your most engaged readers and ask them to leave a review in return for an ARC. An ARC is a copy of the book you provide to readers BEFORE the book is actually published. This way, you are lining up reviews that can be posted to your Amazon book page on the day your book launches, and you don’t have to wait days, weeks, or even months, before gaining enough reviews to make a difference.
4. Update your Author Page
Once you have your book listing squared away with a good description, appropriate keywords, and favorable reviews, it’s time to take a look at your Author Page. Amazon gives authors the opportunity to set up a page that acts as a central location for all of their titles on Amazon. You can set up your author page through Author Central. The author page provides more valuable information to the algorithm: which readers follow your author page, which readers browse your author page, which other titles are in your catalog. On your author page you want to have:
A compelling biography – Tell your story in an engaging way. Why do you write? How long have you been at it? What is your inspiration? Do you have a pet, is it cute, and what is its name? These are all questions to which readers want to know the answer.
A professional author photo – It is worth getting professional headshots done so you can have a professional grade photo to feature around the web, It lets readers know that you take your writing, and the business of writing, seriously. Do a google search for local photographers in your area and plan on paying about $100 for a professional portrait. It may seem expensive, but it’s worth it.
All of Your Books – If you have all of your titles linked to your page, then it is much easier for readers who have found and enjoyed one of your titles, to find more!
Book Trailers or Other Promotional Videos – Amazon lets you link in all sorts of content. If you’ve paid to have a book trailer produced, be sure to feature it here.
Feed to Your Blog Posts – If you have a blog, be sure to sync it up with your author page. This way readers who discover you through Amazon can then discover your blog and all of its fun book news as they peruse your books on Amazon.
+Follow Button – If readers are “following” you on Amazon, then they get an automated alert every time you publish a new book. That’s nifty.
Social Media and Website Information – Be sure to link to your other presences around the web so that readers can follow you there as well and see what all you’re up to!
Customize your URL – Make sure that your URL has your author name in it, so that your Amazon page shows up when people search for you on the web.
5. Drive Sales and Downloads of Your Book
The final step to sell more books on Amazon is to generate the data inputs for sales, downloads, and sales rank. To achieve this you will need to market and promote your book. The goal of promoting your book is to:
Drive sales of your book – Good marketing will help drive sales / KU borrows of your book, or free downloads if your book is free. The algorithm is more likely to recommend books that are being downloaded or purchased by readers.
Make your book start showing up in also-boughts. – On every page on Amazon there is a section that says “customers who bought this also bought”. When you promote your title, your book will start showing up in this section on other book’s pages, increasing the numbers of readers who will discover your title. If you do not have enough readers browsing your page, then the algorithm won’t know which similar products to link with your book.
Make your book start showing up on the top charts – Amazon ranks the eBooks they sell according to popularity. When a title is downloaded by a large quantity of people, it will show up on the Amazon Best Seller chart. Many readers come to these charts to discover new books, so if you’re ranking here, you’ll be getting in front of plenty of new readers. Getting in front of new readers means that more people will buy your book, which means that ranking on the charts will help increase your sales rank, which is another input for the algorithm. You can wait for your book naturally to get on the Best Seller chart, but after working with thousands of authors, we’ve found concerted marketing is the best way to get on these charts.
At Written Word Media, we’re huge proponents of running price promotions. It’s one of the things we do best, and we know it works. We recommend running a price promotion and promoting your title to our large audiences of new readers. With over 600,000 readers across Freebooksy, Bargain Booksy,Red Feather Romance, and NewInBooks, running a promotion on one of our sites will be sure to get your title into the hands of readers.
It requires time and effort to optimize your Amazon presence. We understand that for authors, time not spent writing can be difficult to find. However, this is an investment worth making. Amazon is one of the most important places to sell your book, and if you follow these five steps you will have taken the first steps to sell more books on Amazon.