A slightly different take on DTNT this month… Please, authors, if you are on social media or TRYING to get on social media, read this month’s edition of DO THIS NOT THAT.
What I Did
I unfollowed and deleted a romance author from all of my social media platforms.
Why I Did It
This author is a terrific lady whom I have spent time with on the phone and in person with her. Her genre (historical romance) is one of my favorites. I like her characters, I have read her books in the past, and I like her personally. SO WHY would I unfollow her everywhere?
What She Did
This charming and talented author posted several times a day about her book. Relentless, constant posts about her book, and nothing else. Her posts were teasers about her next book, excerpts and character dialog lines. The posts were clever, but overwhelming. After a few weeks, I could not take any more. I felt beaten about the head and shoulders with her promotion of her books.
How I Felt
I felt terrible and guilty, but I was seeing 5-6 posts a day about this one book and it was too much. I started to feel annoyed and quit while I was ahead.
How Would YOU Have Felt?
Be honest… how do you feel when you are being “sold” relentlessly?
What She Should Have Done Instead
She should have varied her type of posts and mixed the approaches with the promo posts. Let me set you a sample schedule:
Share an article about a romance-comedy movie that is releasing soon.
Share a blog that reviews a best-selling romance author.
Post a picture of her dog, cat, kid, garden. SOMETHING personal.
Share a fun meme poking fun at romance novel covers.
Retweet tweet posted by best-selling romance author.
Pose a question to followers like: “How many hours a week do you spend reading?”
Post a rave line from a reviewer of HER book.
Thank folks who answered question and give the results/answers.
Google US standard reading habits and post article about average reading habits.
Post a link to an interview about HER book.
Post a funny complaint about her husband or kids. (NOTHING SERIOUS… lighthearted)
Another funny meme that is connected in theme to her book topic.
Post an article about authors who write romance.
Post a visual picture advertising a line from the book and the cover.
Support another author by posting an interview or review of THEIR book.
Ask another question such as “What are your pet peeves in novels?”
Tell folks what she plans on doing that weekend.
Send an Amazon link to her book quoting a recent Amazon 5 star review.
What She Should Do Now
I would be thrilled to reconnect online if her social media outreach was not so self-centered and self-focused. The most popular people at a party are those who entertain and make people feel good. Those at the party who only talk about themselves are branded bores and people tend to wander away from them. They are rarely invited to more parties. The same is true in social media.
What I Recommend to ALL Of Us
We need to remember that social media exists to entertain and educate. If we are only blarting about our books, we are neither entertaining nor educational. We are boring. REALLY boring. I would ask that we all work on scheduling and balancing our online persona and outreach. It is NOT insincere to plan our social media posts… it is actually quite respectful to our followers when we put some thought into what would make THEIR time on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other platforms.
I would love to connect with you on Social Media, PLEASE find me on Twitter at @newshelvesbooks and on Facebook at AmyCollinsNewShelves. I am also on Instagram at NewShelves. I would love to follow you and see how your posts are unfolding!
It is our pleasure to welcome back guest author Nate Hoffelder. You can find Nate’s last post, Authors: Take these Five Basic Steps to Secure Your WordPress Website Today! here and be sure to leave any questions in the comments.
When it comes to marketing material, many authors get flyers printed, a lot also get bookmarks, but few authors will invest in swag to give away or sell to fans at book fairs and conferences.
And that is a shame, because authors are leaving money on the table. When done right, swag can give your readers a strong connection to your work – one that fans will pay for.
Yes, they will pay. An author’s most avid readers are fans, and if there’s one thing I know from SF fandom it is that fans love buying merchandise related to their favorite show, book, movie, etc. If you can identify the swag that your fans will covet you can sell it on your site or at book fairs.
In the past 8 years authors have gone from the disreputable fringes to competing with the big boys. Best-selling authors have learned all the tricks of the major publishers; they now hire pro assistance, including cover designers, editors, and marketers, and a lot of best-selling authors are even buying adverts.
Investing in swag to sell to fans is the next big step. Yes, some already are, but this is still a new concept to a lot of authors.
1. Cheap is bad
When you go to order swag you will usually find a vast number different options in just about any category. You’ll find as many as a hundred different pen options, dozens of folders and notepads, and more water bottles than you can shake a stick at (just to name a few).
Whatever you do, don’t choose the cheapest option. This might be obvious to some, but I had to learn the hard way that choosing the cheapest option on the page was a waste of my money. I threw my money away on merchandise that no one was going to use for more than a hot minute, and that completely defeated the purpose of the exercise.
It pays to invest in a good pen to give away; people will carry then around for months
My very first piece of swag was pens. I ordered five hundred pens with my tagline and brand name, but when they arrived I realized I had made a terrible mistake. The pens were so flimsy that they lasted maybe two days in your pocket before breaking, and they looked so cheap that you would think a used car salesman was giving them away.
2. Know your goals
When I started writing this post, I approached it from the mindset of a tech who wants to sell website services, and so I wrote the first draft under the assumption that one orders swag to give to potential customers. That is a perfectly valid position, but authors might have a different goal in mind.
Authors might want to use swag not to attract readers but to reward existing fans. They also might want to order swag to sell at conferences and book fairs. It is important that authors understand their goals because this will drive their decisions on how much they will invest on swag and what they order.
3. Know your audience
Before you buy swag, take a few days or weeks and figure out what your potential audience would like as a gift. The best type of swag are items that your potential audience will use again and again. You want them to see your name over and over so that they will one day search for your name and visit your site.
While you are at it, be sure to choose swag that ties in with your books. When it comes to the more common types of swag, pens are always good, and so are notepads and t-shirts.
But if you wanted to get inventive, a fantasy author might give away sword-shaped letter openers while an SF author might give away custom spaceship figurines modeled after ships in the author’s books. Or, you could choose swag that ties in with your main character; if your main character has a temper, perhaps you could give away branded stress balls.
You won’t slay Smaug with this sword, but you can use it to make quick work of your letters
I didn’t put that much thought into my second piece of swag, which was an order of lanyards. Yes, I got branded lanyards for a local conference before I realized that almost no one keeps lanyards around, and most of the people who do keep all their lanyards are hoarders of one kind or another.
Like sunscreen in Seattle or a scarf in Arizona, lanyards are one of those things your audience will only see once before tossing it aside. If you are lucky they might stick it in a drawer, only to find it years later, but there is a good chance they will toss your swag in the trash as they are cleaning up their hotel room before they check out.
By the way, if you do have one of my lanyards, I’ll give you a discount on your website.
4. Samples are good
Merchandise retailers want you to know what you are buying before the credit card charge goes through. Their websites included high-resolution photos and detailed specs which will give you a good idea what you are buying, but there’s still something to be said for holding a product in your hand before making a decision.
That is why many companies that sell the usual selection of branded swag will ship you sample products. Some will charge for shipping, but others will send the samples for free. While it won’t have your logo on it, the free samples will still give you a chance to hold the items and make a decision.
The rule about free samples mostly applies to companies that supply the more standard types of swag. If you want something custom-made, or if you are working with a niche supplier, you will probably have to pay for that sample.
And that can be worth the cost; if you order multiple samples, you can show them to friends and colleagues and find out which one is the most popular.
Samples of branded swag
My third piece of swag is a post-it note folder with my logo on it. It looks great, but before I placed the order I ordered samples of 3 different folders (but only two were shipped). They each had a different selection of sticky notes and a different case, and for about a week and a half I carried them around and asked everyone what they thought.
Almost everyone liked the one folder. It didn’t have the best case (I liked the folder with the hardback case and a clasp) but the popular folder did have 3 sizes of post-its, including little arrows that you could use to call attention to specific points on a document.
The tiniest detail matters, including minor imperfections in the print job
5. Shop around online to find a cheaper price
If there is one company that will put your logo or artwork on a product then trust me when I say you can find a dozen more online. All of these online retailers place their orders with the same Chinese suppliers, and some are willing to shave their margins to undercut the competition.
If you shop around you will find suppliers who will charge less, and you might also find more product options. For example, I am getting pens that I found on the third site I visited which weren’t sold on the first two.
So yes, shop around, but you should also know that one way they can cut their costs is by skimping on their art department. The discount retailer where I got my post-it note folder did not have an art department, which is why I had to make sure that the logo design worked before I gave it to them. (Their print team was good enough that they could tell me my font size was too small to be legible, though.)
Also, this advice doesn’t necessarily apply to the more unique types of swag you can buy through Etsy and other marketplaces.
6. Artwork & design is important
If someone can’t make out your logo/brand then they won’t think of you every time they see it. And if they see some off-color, amateurish, pixelated mess then they won’t want to look at it, but when they do they will not be moved to find out more about you.
Artwork and text are printed onto merchandise at 300 ppi – just like most inkjet printers. That is pretty sharp compared to the typical computer monitor, and you might think that you can use incredibly detailed artwork just so long as the image has enough pixels. You could do that, but before you try it you should know that packing a highly detailed image into a small space is a great way to end up with a fizzy blob.
When I had the artwork designed for the post-it note folder, I asked the artist to remove most of the smaller accent details and make the new design simpler and monochrome. While I could have used the high-detailed logo as it was, I was pretty sure it would not print well when shrunk down to two inches tall.
And I was right.
While it is easy to predict how text will look when printed at various font sizes, it’s hard to tell how artwork will look when it is only two inches tall on the side of a water bottle. The printer might not be able to correctly match the colors, and the artwork might prove to be incompatible with the printing tech used to apply the artwork to the merchandise.
That is why unless you are an expert on printing or happen to know someone who is, chances are you will want to revise the artwork after the first order. (Or even better, order a small number of samples so you can check the art work. This will cost a lot but it’s worth it.)
I am sitting here with one of those post-it folders I mentioned above. It looks just fine, but I can also see how the artwork could be improved. There are three or four places where the ink bled together. I am going to have the artwork tweaked so that the artwork on my next swag doesn’t have the same problem.
Where to Find Author Swag
At this point I’m sure you are all fired up and ready to order swag. Here are a few places you can order it.
Etsy – This marketplace is a good place to find creators who can make unique swag for you to give away or sell. They won’t be cheap compared to the mass-produced swag, but the designs will be special. Southwest Sky Jewelry can also create custom designs for you.
Vistaprint is one of the more popular suppliers of business cards and office material. They can print bookmarks and flyers for you, and they can also make t-shirts as well as other promotional products.
Stickers and More can make anything from wrist bands to magnets to smartphone accessories. They have dozens of competitors, but I like this supplier because their website is clean and easy to navigate.
CafePress is a well-known supplier of custom t-shirts and other promotional material. They are expensive compared to the companies that sell volume orders.
Any Promo is the company I most recently ordered from. They were cheap and their support was pretty good, but I ended up having to supply all my own artwork (their designers weren’t up to the task).
Adco Marketing comes highly recommended by Joel Friedlander, who has done a lot of business with them.
Judith Briles on The Book Shepherd 12 Book Marketing and Book Selling Goosers for Authors
“Is there one true way to do market books? Nope, with the exception … do something–not just anything–something that the target marketing is receptive to. And that means YOU, the author need to do some homework.”
Victoria Strauss on Writer Beware Vanity Publisher Alert: Novum Publishing, United P.C. Publisher
“Novum Publishing is an Austria-based publisher that has expanded into several countries, including the UK and the USA. It also does business as United P.C. Publisher, and is incorporated in Florida as WSB Publishing Inc..”
Brian Jud on Nonfiction Author’s Association Hints for Conducting Radio Shows by Telephone by Brian Jud
“Performances on radio talk or news shows are the workhorses of book-promotion activities.Hints for Conducting Radio Shows by Telephone by Brian Jud With radio as part of your communication plan, you can reach hundreds, thousands or millions of people at little or no cost. You can even sell some books, if you do it right.”
Nate Hoffelder on The Digital Reader Amazon Updates KDP Rules to Discourage Book-Stuffing
“Amazon has finally taken steps to squash the cheating in Kindle Unlimited once and for all. They just updated the KDP content guidelines with new rules about compilations, collections, and other multi-work ebooks”
That is … if you are going to thank anyone. First of all, do you need an Acknowledgment page? Maybe. Most books, fiction and nonfiction, have one but it doesn’t mean it’s a must have. My preference? I always include one. I’ve never created a book where there hasn’t been input, encouragement, support and work to create it. I bet yours is no different. So, I’m all for doing a shout out to those who have been with me on the book dance floor.
Acknowledgments are usually one of the last items on the book publishing “to do” list … the Thank Yous to the friends, family members, and the team that supported and assisted you in creating your masterpiece. My two bits: don’t ignore them.
When writing you can be quite simple, as in Thanks to George who believed in my idea and me from the get go; to broad, creating quite a spiel about what the person did for you. Think in the narrative … Many readers never read the Acknowledgment page (I’m one of those who does), it’s more of a “heartfelt note” from you to each one on your list who participated in some way to get your book birthed.
Note: An Acknowledgment Page is not a Dedication Page—dedications are usually short with minimal words and to one or just a few people.
Where do you place it? Today, I usually see them in the back matter of a book.
Many authors start with their family and friends, and forget the designers, consultants, printers and anyone who was a massive encourage in getting their book done. Don’t.
Let’s Start with Who’s in Your Village?
Part of the cheerleading team, friends are as critical as family members. Friends assist in doing reality checks—sometimes family members may be too nice—Mom is less likely to say that what she is reading is garbage. Friends can be a bit blunter—but not always. What they are is encouragers—and we all need them.
Parents, kids, siblings, aunts, uncles. Family. They are a tremendous part—from giving you “time away” to create and finish your book—to doing errands for you so you can stay focused—assisting with research—bringing food—even the pets can get into the picture.
Spouses and Partners
Certainly family, yet these individuals are special and are rarely clumped into the “family paragraph.” Many land on the Dedication page as well.
You love them … and sometimes cringe when they want to/tell you to delete and change. A good editor will make your thoughts, ideas, and words sing. ID the ones who helped you—you may have more than one. Let your readers know what she or he did—editors are often invisible in the process, and are so critical to your book’s success.
Assistants and Researchers
Did you have interns doing work or anyone that tracked down info or items for you?
Did you use the library?
Was a librarian helpful?
Sometimes they are IDed in your book; others, the name and place are changed. You may do a “blanket” thank you or you can ID—space and circumstance will dictate which way you go. But, do acknowledge that they were part of your book. And, by the way, they can quickly become super fans of yours, shouting out to others that they were part of the book and to get a copy.
Graphic and Interior Designers
Here’s to those who create what’s between the covers. Their work is critical for visual sellability of your book, not to mention creating a book that can compete with anyone … a book that does not look “self” published.
Sometimes the Interior and Cover Designer is one in the same; sometimes not. The cover is all about getting the buyer’s attention—”pick me up”—the seven-second grabber to the buyer that you want (and need). The back cover really stands as the key marketing piece where many of the decisions are made to buy your book. Who created your design and copy and should get honors?
If you have photos or any type of art work, make sure you acknowledge them. It’s more common than not—photos and other art arrive in not top quality and low resolution. Your Illustrator and Photographers become your ally in fixing them up! For my AuthorYOU Mini Guide series, it’s the illustrations that cartoonist Don Sidle and my virtual assistant Leah Dasalla whip up that adds the eye-candy I’m looking for. Huge kudos always come their way from me.
Who are your role models, heroes and mentors who took you under their wing or influenced you (and often don’t know it)? One of my clients traveled to Florida to personally thank Tony Robbins for the impact he had on his life when he first came to America, giving him a copy of his book. Kudos to them for teaching you the ropes before you got tied up in them. Big thanks go here.
It’s common to have friends and professionals read your book—bravo to them (especially when they hung in with you through many drafts) … and thank them.
If you were able to get them—fabulous. Now thank them again.
Publishing and Writing Coaches
If you used a Book Coach, Writing Coach or Publishing Coach, say so and tell what they did and how they worked with you.
If you used a publisher, make sure you ID all the players that you interfaced with on the publisher’s team and what they did. It’s a good thing to do.
Some books have a Foreword. Sometimes they are written by the Author (in my opinion, they shouldn’t be). Forewords should be created by someone with a “name”—a name that would carry credence by the market you are targeting for your book. Thank them—their name just may be why your book is bought or picked up. By the way, please, please spell Foreword correctly … It’s not “forward”—something I see too often and not caught, especially from the self-published author.
Do you have a writing group that you relied on? What about a co-author … all this belongs here. Even the UPS, FedEx, postal carrier just might have earned a kudo or two. Heck, my friend Mark Sanborn built a multi-million dollar writing and speaking career around Fred, his postal carrier for years who delivered excellent customer service. You never know.
Indeed, it does take a village to create a book. Sometimes, it’s a big one; sometimes quite small. But it’s there. Share the good news in who brought yours to light. As I mentioned, many book buyers read the Acknowledgment page to see who was on your team.
Who knows … you just might find the “publishing pro” that you’ve been looking for to assist you in your next book. I have—I’ve connected with editors and others in the publishing field … pros that I’ve worked with just because I discovered them on the Acknowledgment page of a book or author that I admired and might be a fit for my next project.
What say you? Who’s on your list that makes you and your words shine?
Anyone like me, whose career as a designer, typesetter, author, and book publisher has spanned all the years of the digital revolution, have used a succession of tools to do our writing and editing.
Since the advent of personal computers, we’ve moved from the typewriters that writers used in the twentieth century to the ubiquitous computer keyboards of today.
One thing about the tools we use has always puzzled me. Since letting go of our typewriters, each of which had a very distinctive feel to their operation, we’ve pretty much ignored the interface between our thoughts and our writing: the keyboard.
While there are frequent roundups of “writer’s tools” appearing all the time, they invariably focus on software tools and coffee mugs, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen one that mentions the writer’s primary physical tool—the keyboard.
Hands flashing along the rows of keys, authors convert their imagined worlds, heroes and villains, monsters and majestic landscapes into documents via these physical-to-digital coding devices.
Yet, if I asked you to describe the keyboard that’s sitting in front of you right now, would you be able to?
Did you actually choose this keyboard because it particularly suited you?
I’m betting the answer to both questions would be “No” for most people.
Painters take great care in picking their brushes, musicians can be fanatical about their instruments. The list goes on and on.
So don’t you think it’s a bit odd writers pay so little attention to what they are typing on?
I’m betting ninety-nine percent of the time, the answer is “whatever keyboard came with the last computer I bought!”
Paying attention to the part of the computer that we actually touch might yield benefits to you as a writer.
Searching for the Ideal Writing “Tool”
Having written about my memories of typing on mechanical keyboards of the past, and the IBMs in particular, I still remembered how good it can feel. Apple’s keyboards, which I’ve been using for years, are marvels of design and minimalism, but I started to wonder—especially when my fingers would get tired and strained after a day’s work banging away in my prehistoric way—if these keyboard were truly progress.
Using the links in my old post, I obtained the updated version of the IBM Model M keyboard, one made from the original designs and molds, now updated for use on today’s computers. In fact, you can buy one set up for the Mac OS.
Here’s what I wrote in that earlier article about this keyboard:
“The Model M would become one of the most popular and widely-used pieces of business equipment in the history of the world. I spent many hours banging on these keyboards, and they are not like what you know today. They are mechanical with actual springs under each key that give a very crisp “click” when they break into action. The solid feel of the keyboard, the excellent materials, and the audible feedback combine in this keyboard to create a classic of the art. These keyboards are so revered, you can even buy one today, retrofitted for today’s USB connectors.”—The Keyboards of Our Lives
The Unicomp keyboard is a pretty faithful replica of the keyboards I typed on in the 1980s and 1990s. However, it’s also really large, heavy, and not 100% compatible with today’s operating systems and hardware, although it’s still a delight to type on.
Keyboards that come with today’s PCs are usually low cost “membrane” keyboards: “A membrane keyboard is a computer keyboard whose “keys” are not separate, moving parts, as with the majority of other keyboards, but rather are pressure pads that have only outlines and symbols printed on a flat, flexible surface.”
Others use a “dome” technology in which, “in some cases the keys themselves are integral to the backing membrane and deform when pressed to complete an electrical contact, while in other cases the keys have individual low-travel scissor switches.”
Using either of these kinds of keyboards can feel very unsatisfying. Typos can be more frequent because users are not always positive the key has been depressed sufficiently to register.
But they are cheap, which is why computer manufacturers love them. An Amazon Basics keyboard today sells for $12.81, and that’s the retail price.
On the other hand, mechanical keyboards like the IBM Model M of years gone by, have individual switches with springs and mechanisms for each key. They give more “tactile feedback” while you are typing, and also produce more noise.
But mechanical keyboards have significant advantages:
You’ll make fewer typos due to the positive feedback from the keys.
You’ll type faster because the key action of a good mechanical keyboard is very crisp, constantly communicating with you as you type. This becomes apparent the faster you type.
You’ll find typing more satisfying due to the feedback you get from the keys as you type.
You’ll never wear out a keyboard again, since mechanical keyboards are far more robust.
For all these reasons, the biggest markets for high quality mechanical keyboards are coders, who type millions of characters at high speed, and gamers, who stress their keyboards’ ability to handle rapid keystrokes for hours at a time.
But I’ve written over 1,000,000 words on this blog in the past few years, and I’m betting quite a few of you hammer away at draft after draft of your books. And that doesn’t even take into account November’s NaNoWriMo, when millions of writers are pounding out 50,000 words in 4 short weeks.
Looking for the Modern Mechanical Keyboard
While I enjoyed the Unicomp keyboard and the memories it brought back, it is larger than I’d like, and a bit clunky. Since I have 2 computers on my desk, I began to wonder what advances there had been in mechanical keyboards since the Model M was developed 30 years ago.
After some research and watching dozens of videos on Youtube.com, I decided to buy a modern mechanical keyboard from WASD Keyboards.
WASD keyboards come in 3 sizes, and I picked the 87-key “tenkeyless” version, which was the perfect blend of size and functionality for the kind of work I do. (“Tenkeyless” refers to the lack of a dedicated number pad on the right side of the keyboard.)
Three sizes of keyboards
Here’s what WASD says about choosing a mechanical keyboard:
“The main benefit of a mechanical keyboard is the way it feels. If you have never typed on a mechanical keyboard, you will be in for surprise. Almost all people that switch from a rubber dome to a mechanical keyboard would never switch back. With rubber dome style keyboards, you have to “bottom out” a key, meaning you have to fully depress the key, for it register. With mechanical switches, the actuation point is much higher in the key stroke allowing you to quickly change keys without pressing the key down all the way. This allows for less finger fatigue and faster transitions to the next letter. Of course, this is not something that is developed overnight. Like a high end musical instrument, it will take some practice before you appreciate its finer qualities.”—WASD mechanical keyboard guide
These are beautifully made and highly customizable keyboards backed by a great guarantee and excellent customer service. WASD allows you to choose the exact kind of switches you’d like from the popular line of Cherry MX switches.
These color-coded switches allow you to pick the exact characteristics you’d like when you hit those keys: clicky or very clicky, smooth key travel or ones with a “break point” in their action, and the amount of resistance the keys provide.
If you get really obsessive, you can even order from WASD a set of 6 switches so you can play with them at home before you decide. These switches are guaranteed for 50 million keystrokes, by the way.
Cherry mechanical switches
Another unique feature of WASD keyboards is the ability to customize how your keyboard looks. You can change the colors of the keycaps individually, and on their site you’ll see some pretty amazing-looking keyboards.
Since I’m more interested in output of my typing than the keyboard itself, I also liked the fact that the sturdy WASD keyboards themselves have no branding on them at all.
However, since designers like me live to “tweak” the way the world looks, I took the opportunity to customize my keyboard. Here’s the layout as it appears on WASD’s site:
Custom keyboard layout
And here’s the actual keyboard once I had it set up on my desk, and where I’m typing this article:
Custom WASD 87-key “Tenkeyless” keyboard on my desk
The Sound of Success
If you’ve never typed on a mechanical keyboard, it might take a bit of getting used to. I’ve been using my WASD keyboard for a couple of weeks now, and I’ve completely reacclimated to the way the mechanical switches work.
Where I used to get fatigued by typing a 1,000 word article, I actually look forward to an opportunity to really whale away on my sturdy WASD keyboard. Maybe that’s because I learned to type on manual typewriters, but for me typing is a visceral activity in which a lot of emotion comes out in the way I attack the keys.
This simply doesn’t work with “chiclet” style keyboards.
However, one thing you might not suspect is that mechanical keyboards are quite a bit noisier than membrane or dome keyboards.
Well, let’s say that they might not work if your workstation is in close proximity to lots of other people.
WASD will also install sound dampening O-rings for a small fee, and those might be a good idea.
Personally, I love the clicky sound of the keys and would not go back to Apple keyboards for serious typing work.
To give you an idea of the difference, here are 2 short recordings I made. In the first you’ll hear the desk-level sound of typing on an Apple keyboard. The second is typing on my sound-dampened WASD keyboard with its Cherry Brown switches. Keep in mind I have a wooden desk and the recordings were made with my phone sitting right next to the keyboards:
I hope I’ve given some of you fast typists and volume writers a reason to go check out mechanical keyboards.
I can’t tell you what a difference it has made for me in comfort, speed, and enjoyment spent at my computer. While they won’t be right for all, as a writer, take your interface with the digital world seriously, and don’t just settle for “whatever came in the box.”
Rachelle Gardner on Rachelle Gardner 12 Mistakes Authors Make in Connecting with Readers
“The whole idea of “building a platform” and “marketing your book” is to get people to read what you’ve written. Whether you’re traditionally or self-published, connecting with potential readers is crucial.”
Therese Walsh on Writer Unboxed 13 Ways to Promote Before Publication
“For a self-published author, a swell of preorders can trigger algorithms that wake retail sites like Amazon to your book’s presence.”
Earlier this month the Association of American Publishers reported that audiobook revenue surged 29.5 percent in 2017, compared to the previous year. For some writers, audiobook sales are outpacing other formats.
Clint Watts, a cyber-security expert and author of Messing with the Enemy, used Twitter for his counter terrorism work with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
On Twitter, he met communities of people he could talk to about counter terrorism as well as terrorists and terrorist sympathizers. For example, he might pose a question about where Al Qaeda was going and terrorists would provide feedback.
In his blog posts, he would sometimes purposely write inaccurate information so that the terrorists would correct what he said and provide additional information he couldn’t find otherwise.
By using Twitter he built a community, sought comments, and learned a lot.
Authors can learn from his example. No, we won’t solve terrorism, but we can connect more deeply with our readers and colleagues.
Build Your Community on Twitter
So how do you build a community? Ask questions, answer questions, leave comments, and share people’s content.
I put this graphic on Twitter and asked my followers to ask me any question that I could answer in 280 characters.
I received this question and answered it.
I posted a fun image and received a number of responses.
I also received this response:
And this one.
Or leave someone a compliment. In this case I referred to Louise Myers as the “visual queen” since she’s a phenomenal graphic artist.
I even shared information about my sleep apnea.
Then there was another comment on this topic.
After Sandra Beckwith thanked me for sharing a post she wrote in my Indie Author WeeklyUpdate, I expressed how much I enjoy her blog posts, which happen to be great.
Or just give someone a shout out for posting a great quote image.
And, of course, thank others when they share your posts, as I did in this tweet to Brant Forseng.
Similar to Jeff Goins, don’t forget to ask a question to start a conversation. Jeff asked this question and at last count he received 78 answers. I’m sure he accumulated many more answers after I took this screenshot. He’s also developing a community by asking people to share links to their content.
When people praise you, thank them. And as you thank them, don’t hesitate to point out a colleague.
10 Ways to Build a Community on Twitter
Wanted to get started on building your community? Follow these tips:
Praise other people.
Don’t hesitate to share something about yourself.
Thank others for sharing your content.
Share people’s content.
Remember that you’re never too popular or have too many followers to help other people along.
We’ve been concentrating on learning how search engine optimization—although it sounds intimidating—can be crucial in helping you sell more books. Today, we have for you a different perspective on how this applies to Amazon specifically, by bestselling author and publishing consultant Alinka Rutkowska. Here’s her article.
What if you could significantly increase your chances of becoming a best-selling author by mastering the Amazon algorithm?
You can and in this article I’ll show you how.
Amazon is not a bookstore – it’s a search engine
Before we get started it’s important to realize that Amazon is not a traditional bookstore, rather it’s a search engine, in many ways similar to Google.
To be more precise, the Amazon algorithm is a product search engine created by a company called A9 (https://www.a9.com) located in Palo Alto.
Next, it’s important to understand what Amazon’s number one priority is, and that’s to make Amazon the most money.
Now that we know that we need to figure out how we can align with Amazon’s objectives to reach our own.
How you can get on top of Amazon’s search results
In order for Amazon to help us reach our goal of becoming a best-selling author, we need to help Amazon reach its goal of making the most money.
To do that we need to take into consideration the 4Ps of the marketing mix: product, place, price and promotion, which I elaborate on in detail in my award-winning guide How I Sold 80,000 Books.
Let’s dive into the most critical elements of the 4Ps Amazon takes into consideration:
Product—Your Book Interior, Cover, and Metadata
You must make sure that your interior is free of any typos or grammatical inconsistencies. In short, you must have the book professionally edited or else it will impact your ranking.
The cover and the title are the two most important elements of your marketing package so make sure your cover looks like it came from the same place the other best-selling books in your genre were created.
Next, focus on your metadata. Metadata is a set of data that describes and gives information about other data (your book).
In our case metadata is our keywords, description and reviews.
Let’s start with your title. You have to make sure that apart from having your reader say “I want that” when they hear it, it must also have strong keywords in it. If you can’t come up with a title with a good keyword, make sure you at least add it in your subtitle.
Then comes the description, which is another place that you need to add relevant keywords.
And make sure your product page is complete with editorial reviews and verified reviews because that impacts your click-through rate, which impacts your ranking.
I understand that you may feel lost when I talk about keywords, so let’s dive into this for a moment.
One way you can figure out which keywords to use it to go to Amazon in incognito mode and start typing. See what Amazon suggests to you, but bear in mind that regular readers don’t search for books in incognito mode. They search in the standard mode, and so the algorithm learns about their individual preferences and suggests books relevant to them.
For example, when I start typing “book” in the Amazon search box, I’m suggested to look for “book marketing,” because my search and purchase history indicate that’s what I’m interested in.
However, when I start typing “book” in incognito mode, I get “book light” because that’s what a generic Amazon user would be looking for.
In order to understand what people are searching for I use KDPRocket.
Place—The Essential Categories
In How I Sold 80,000 Books I discuss the different places you should distribute your book in detail, but for the purpose of understanding and using Amazon’s algorithm to your advantage, we need to dive into Amazon’s book categories.
When the algorithm notices that it’s doing well in “writing skills” it pushes the book up and it starts ranking higher in the broader “writing, research & publishing guides” category. And so on.
It’s essential that you niche down as much as possible, so that the algorithm sees how well you’re ranking and can reward you by giving you increasing visibility.
Price—Making Amazon Money
You might have various goals when it comes to your book. You might be aiming for visibility and want to make your book permanently free and then get your return on investment on the backend through your business.
You might want to aim to hit the New York Times or USA Today list and price your book at $0.99 to sell the highest number of units.
But if you want to make the most of the Amazon algorithm, you need to aim for profit. The more profit your book is making Amazon, the higher you’ll be in the rankings.
Promotion—Staying on Top of the Charts
This section could be a book on its own but for the purpose of using the algorithm to impact sales, we need to focus on reviews.
The algorithm takes into account verified reviews, new verified reviews and reviews which have been voted as helpful.
That’s why every author’s strategy needs to be to get as many verified reviews as possible, aim for new ones every month and have them upvoted.
One way to do this is to simply ask your audience.
If you get my book and join my list, you will get an email where I ask you to leave a review. That gets me new verified reviews every month and keeps my book on top of the charts.
Now that you understand what the Amazon algorithm is and how it works, I bet your next book will outperform your previous one!
Alinka Rutkowka has sold more than 80,000 books and she teaches others how they can do the same. She’s helped USA-Today best-selling authors, CEOs and movie stars with their book marketing. She created multiple 6-figure funnels that start with a book and she can help you do the same.
Go to https://authorremake.com and sign up for Alinka’s free book marketing class to discover the #1 mistake you might be making that’s preventing you from achieving author success.
Welcome July! We’re officially half way thru 2018. Are your writing and self-publishing plans for the year on schedule?
Don’t forget that you can always access past posts from The Book Designer by topic here.
Patrice Williams Marks on Writer Unboxed What Is a Sensitivity Reader and Can I Become One?
“A Sensitivity Reader is someone who specializes in a specific niche (African-American, Muslim, Physically Challenged, LGBTQ, Little People, etc.) and is a part of the specific marginalized community that the author is writing about.”
Stephanie Chandler on Nonfiction Authors Association 5 Online PR Strategies: How to Locate and Pitch Internet Media Sources
“Traditional media has set, long-established rules about how to pitch newspapers, radio, magazine, and television sources.5 Online PR Strategies: How to Locate and Pitch Internet Media Sources The world of online media, however, offers more flexible opportunities for pitching sources.”
RJ Crayton on Indies Unlimited A Survey of Your Newsletter Readers Provides Info, a Sense of Community
“Author newsletters have been a topic of conversation here before. These newsletters let you communicate with readers, telling them about upcoming books, sales or appearances, and a variety of other fun topics you choose. However, your newsletter doesn’t have to be a one-way street.”
Anna Castle on Self Publishing Advice From The Alliance Of Independent Authors Running an Author Business: Top Tips on Managing Research Trip Costs
“Running a successful effective author business includes setting allowable costs against your tax bill. Whatever kind of books you self-publish, there may be times when you need to travel for the sake of writing research.”
For most of us, Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing or KDP is the first and most important retailer we submit our ebooks to. (For some, it’s the only retailer they submit to — especially at first.)
Each retailer site has its own proprietary system for uploading ebooks for sale and distribution. Each requires that you enter your financial and tax information before you can publish to their site. Below we will lay out how to log on to and manage each account. Here’s a look at how to get onto KDP and get your first book up for sale.
Use your username and password to log into your account. You can use the same account you use to order books, groceries, etc. from Amazon if you want — or you can choose to create a different identity. The one thing you can’t do is have more than one KDP account for your own use. According to Amazon’s terms of service, that’s cause for immediate and permanent expulsion. [ii]
You may be asked to confirm the account that you’re signing in on — click on the Sign In button. If you were already signed into a different Amazon account, click on the link reading Click here to sign in as a different user.
Once you have logged in, you will be presented with your Bookshelf screen. This is where you add titles, and where you manage the titles once they’re published.
You will be asked to sign in again as a precaution.
Check the information that we have entered regarding your name and address and make any changes that you wish. Below that form, click on the button reading Complete Tax Information. You will be led through a short series of questions that will give Amazon the information that they need in order to track your payments from a tax standpoint.
Next, click on the link reading Add a bank account. You will need the name, routing number, and account number for the account into which you wish Amazon to pay your royalties.
By the way, if the idea of sharing your banking and tax info with Amazon makes you nervous… Well, that’s sensible. However, if you want them to pay you, they need your tax info. And if you DON’T want them to pay you (because you’re not planning on charging), they don’t want your book.
If you are nervous about revealing a pen name, don’t be. They don’t consider people who sign up for KDP to be the authors of the work, but rather the publishers.
If you’re worried about them having personal information about you… Sorry. It’s the cost of entering a business arrangement with them. They’re going to generate a 1099 at the end of every tax year, so they need your tax ID.
Once you’ve entered that data, you may choose to designate how you wish to be paid by Amazon’s various international units. By default, the account is set to pay by check in the local currency. You may choose instead to pay by electronic fund transfer (EFT) either in the local currency or in US dollars.
Now that you’ve completed the financial information, Amazon will allow you to publish your book!
Click on the button at the top of the screen reading Bookshelf. This will return you to your list of titles. Click on the +Kindle eBook button, and you will be taken to the page to add this book to Amazon’s database.
The first page (Kindle eBook Details) is where you add all of the metadata that you have pulled together. Go through and make sure you fill in all of the appropriate entries. Remember — more detailed, more accurate metadata is how potential readers will find and buy your book.
On the second page (Kindle eBook Content), you upload the ebook file and cover image.
By the way, I never bother with digital rights management (aka DRM). As I’ve discussed, it’s not an effective anti-piracy tool; it’s mostly a way for retailers to enforce customer loyalty by making it harder for them to bring their purchases with them to a different platform.
The cover image needs to be a JPG or TIFF file; the ideal dimensions, according to Amazon, is 2560 pixels tall by 1600 pixels wide. Again, if there are problems with the file, the page will tell you.
Once you’ve uploaded both files, the page will convert your files into a .mobi file. [v]Once the conversion is complete, you can use KDP’s online previewer by clicking the button reading Preview book.
You’ll be able to see what the book will look like on various Kindle devices using the Device pop-up; you’ll even be able to check out the navigation by checking out the Table of Contents pop-up. You can toggle between landscape (wide) and portrait (wide) views, and see how the text looks if the reader chooses different font sizes. Look through the whole book as it would look on different devices. [vi]
Once you’re done, click on the link in the upper-left-hand corner reading Book Details.
You can also click on the link reading Preview on your computer to download the .mobi ebook file. Once it’s there, you can open the file in your favorite Kindle app or load it onto a Kindle. My recommendation is to do all of the above — the ebook will look different in each. Make sure the ebook looks the way you want it to. If not, go back to editing your ebook and fix what isn’t working.
At the bottom of this page, you can add the last bits of metadata: the ISBN (if you have one — it’s thoroughly optional for ebooks at this point) and your publisher name. [vii] Why are these pieces of metadata on this page rather than with the rest of the identifying details about your book on the Kindle eBook Details page? No idea. But there they are.
Once everything is up to snuff, click on the button at the very bottom of the page reading Save and Continue. It may take a few seconds, but you will come to the final step in the process, the Kindle eBook Pricing page. First decide whether you want to sell your ebook exclusively through Amazon (for the next 90 days, at least). Click on the check box in the KDP Select Enrollment box if you want to go steady with KDP. If you’re not sure, check out my pros and cons for enrolling in the program.
Next, verify your rights — whether you have the rights to sell the title world-wide, or in any particular country. [viii]
Next, choose your royalty share. Ebook pricing has a number of variables. If you wish to earn the higher 70% royalty (minus $0.15 per megabyte) you must price the book between $2.99 and $9.99 — or the equivalent in the other currencies. If you wish to charge more or less, or you wish to avoid the “transfer fee,” select the 35% royalty option.
Next choose your price. You may either allow Amazon to convert automatically from the US price that you have set to prices on their other local sites, or you may click on the Other Marketplaces link to select your own price for each. Accepted wisdom is that it’s better to have a “pretty” local price (i.e., £2.99 or €3.49 or ¥300) than an automatic conversion (i.e., £3.27 or €3.37 or ¥282).
Once you have completed the pricing section of the page, we only have a few check boxes remaining. If there is a print edition of your book, you should select the MatchBook option, which allows purchasers of those editions to buy the ebook at a steep discount. You can decide whether to reward print buyers buy giving them a free copy, or charging $0.99, $1.99, or $2.99 — so long as it’s lower than half the actual price.
The Lending option allows buyers to “loan” their copy to another Amazon customer for a week; this is, in fact, a good way to encourage purchases; we recommend that you select it. If you chose the 70% royalty, you must offer your title for loan.
Ready? Now comes the fun part!
Click on the button reading Publish Your eBook. Congratulations! Your book should be available soon — most likely in a half a day or less. [ix]
You will be returned to your Bookshelf page. Your title will be greyed out; you won’t be able to edit any of the settings until it has been published. From that point on, however, you can change any of those settings — subtitle, keywords, categories, cover art, prices, even the book file — as often as you wish. Experiment! See what works!
[i] I’m using the Amazon.com address here — if you’re publishing outside of the US, use your local domain.
[ii] I have created multiple KDP accounts for other publishers — but have only one for myself. Remember that you can list different authors (pen names) and publishers (imprints) for different genres, if you’re trying to keep them distinct. My KDP account has books by 20 different authors (and several pen names) that are published under six imprints.
[iii] Not all are equal, however. I don’t recommend submitting a plain text file, and converting from PDFs is a terrible idea.
[iv] It may not explain what’s wrong terribly well. If you don’t understand what’s wrong, try searching in Amazon’s voluminous (if not very clearly laid out) Help pages, or search in the very helpful Kindle developer community forums. Just make sure to search before you post a question; the answer is almost certainly there already. If you uploaded an ePub file, you may also consider running your ebook through validation.
[v] Okay, actually a smooshed together package containing an ePub file (aka KF8) and an old PalmPilot ebook file (aka MOBI7).
[vi] Know that the previewer is not 100% accurate. For that, you need to download the file and check it on every possible Kindle or Kindle app. Consider asking your friends and betas to field test the file for you.
[vii] Come up with one. Use it. Don’t use your own name.
[viii] Unless you’ve either licensed the right to the title from someone else or licensed away the rights to the book in certain territories for certain languages, you almost always want to select All territories (worldwide rights). This will allow Amazon to sell your book to anyone in any country who wants to buy it.
[ix] First-time publishers may take longer, as may publishers in some more risqué genres.