These Amazon Category Hacks Can Boost Your Book Sales

Choosing the right Amazon categories for your book can greatly increase your visibility in the Kindle Store, making your work more likely to be discovered, purchased, and recommended.

But if you make bad decisions here – or opt to do nothing at all – you can limit your book’s success in surprising ways. Sometimes you can even nudge Amazon towards recommend your book to all the wrong people! Which invariably fails, of course, and causes Amazon to think you have written a dud. Meaning Amazon is less likely to recommend your book at all. This is something you really want to avoid.

Many authors don’t realize they should revisit their categories on a regular basis – not just to ensure they are maximizing visibility, but to check Amazon hasn’t placed them in a bad category. You need to know exactly which categories and sub-categories your book is in – Amazon doesn’t make that part easy – and then keep on top of changes to the category system as well. Read More…

How To Self-Publish A Book In 10 Steps

This fourth edition of Digital has been completely revamped to reflect the needs of self-publishers in 2020. The structure has been completely streamlined to reflect the ten steps involved in publishing your work like a pro.

Reflecting the specific challenges that writers face today, the advice on each step goes much deeper than before. Instead of just showing you how and where to find a cover designer, for example, Let’s Get Digital will show you how to brief your designer effectively, and learn what effective commercial packaging is for your niche, so that you end up with a cover which isn’t just pretty, but also very effective at appealing to your specific target audience.

And the same goes for writing, editing, formatting, pricing, metadata — all the areas where an author must make crucial decisions which affect the viability of their book.

Of course, the largest section of the book, by far, covers the entire topic of marketing from the ground up, showing authors not just how to find their first readers in the most cost effective way possible, but also how to construct a real author platform, one that will capture interest from readers and use those seeds to grow a community of fans around your work, who will send each new release higher in the charts. Read More…

How To Design A Book Cover That Sells

Getting your book cover design right is the arguably most important stage in self-publishing a book. Handle this delicately if you want to have any chance of success — this is not an area where you can skate by.

Without the right cover, no one will give your book a chance, no matter how well-written it is, or how diligent your editor.

This comprehensive guide will break down the anatomy of a great book cover so you know what you’re shooting for, but that’s just the beginning.

It will also show you how to research your specific niche so that you know what readers are already responding to, where to find your very own cover designer and what they might charge, and also how to write a design brief so the cover you get is exactly right for your niche — the secret sauce that many beginners miss. Read More…

The Great Ebook Pricing Question

Do bargain basement prices indicate low quality? Will a 99c price tag actually reduce the value a reader places on a book? That’s a harder question to answer. I think this is true in some cases for some readers, but I also think it’s massively overstated.

It’s hard to sell a book at any price if you have a crappy cover, insipid blurb, wonky formatting, a flaccid sample and tons of terrible reviews (which are all cues to the reader about the value of the product).

But if you have a striking, professional cover, an enticing blurb, clean formatting, a sample which grabs readers right away and lots of great reviews, then you can avoid any negative association with a lower price. Or, at least, the number of readers you will gain through lower prices will greatly exceed any you might lose through such negative associations. Read More…

What The Big Tech Hearings Mean For Indie Authors

The CEOs of Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple were grilled on Capitol Hill yesterday, stepping up the anti-trust chatter that has been percolating over the last few years. While some of you might be tempted to reflexively dismiss these hearings as political theater, many commentators seem to agree that this time feels different.

Political sands have shifted. Public sentiment towards tech companies has soured — companies who were once almost universally loved. Well, at least in the case of three of them; Amazon always attracted some measure of criticism, I guess, probably given the particular companies it disrupted.

Indie authors, in particular, perked up at the news of these hearings, given that three of those places are where we sell most of our books, and the fourth is what many of us predominantly use to drive sales of those books.

Whatever your feeling on these individual companies, their effects on society, or the forces driving these hearings, the mere prospect of anti-trust actions creates uncertainty in business terms, at a time when we already have a significant amount of it. Which makes this an excellent time to examine how well your author business is future-proofed, given the average indie author’s dependency on this set of companies currently in the anti-trust spotlight. Read More…

Formatting An Ebook: A Step-by-Step Guide

After clocking up ten years’ experience making my own ebooks, I do a few things differently – but these are predominantly stylistic preferences, or my preferred best practices in terms of ebook layout, or the odd policy change from Amazon here and there.

A caveat: you will need a fair bit of patience to get through the DIY formatting process. At least the first time. It becomes much less of a head melter after you first format an ebook successfully, but you will be tearing your hair out that first time. Be warned! That said, I actually love formatting my own ebooks; I find it weirdly soothing.

I can fix errors at the drop of a hat, fiddle with my end matter to my heart’s content, and I could even hang out my shingle as an ebook formatter now, if I needed a side-hustle. It’s a useful skill, if you are willing to work through the many frustrations that will accompany your first efforts.

It might take you a whole day to do this the first time. It could even take longer! But after doing this a few times, you’ll be able to whizz through the process in an hour or less. And it doesn’t take much “practice” to reach that point. That first time is a bear though! You have been warned. Read More…

Apple Books For Authors – Now With PC Access

Apple Books For Authors has launched and the all-new site now provides help to authors for every stage in their publishing journey. And here’s the biggest news of all: PC users can now publish direct with Apple Books. That’s right!

Before now, anyone using a PC device could not publish direct with Apple Books (unless they went to the trouble of using a Mac emulator) and had to use a distributor to reach all of Apple’s customers. Now that has changed, and the new Apple Books publishing portal is accessible by web browser, and on a PC too.

That’s going to be the headline news for many people, so I just wanted to get that out of the way up top. But before we dig into that a little more, let’s take a look at some of the other aspects of Apple Books For Authors – which only threw open its doors to the public this very morning.

Hot off the presses, people. Read More…

The Combined Book Exhibit Scam

The Combined Book Exhibit has been taking its traveling bookshelf, packed with hopeful authors’ books, to trade events and book fairs around the world for 85 years. But while it may have started as a vehicle for genuine publishers and authors to showcase their wares at far-flung events, today it is notorious for enabling a very particular kind of author scam.

If an author approaches the Combined Book Exhibit directly via its website, they can display their ebook or print book at prestigious events like the London Book Fair or BookExpo America for $325. This is a considerable fee when you consider what the author gets in return, especially if you have seen these tired, unloved bookcases at industry events. The idea that an agent or editor or movie producer would peruse these shelves, let alone actually acquire something from them, is risible.

Package deals are also flogged to authors. For example, to have your print and ebook edition displayed in the New Title Showcase at the London Book Fair and BookExpo America next year costs the considerable sum of $900. And then something called the 2020 International Package will take your hopefully sturdy paperback to the London Book Fair, BookExpo America, Beijing Book Fair, Frankfurt Book Fair, Sharjah Book Fair, and the Guadalajara Book Fair, at a cost of $1400 or $1650 if you want to include the ebook also. Read More…

Innovation and The Audiobook Market

When I was at NINC last year in Florida last year, I was telling my mailing list that all the exciting developments in audio are coming from outside Amazon right now, from people like Findaway, Kobo, Chirp/BookBub, and various companies serving the library market.

This is a most welcome development because it also feels like many of the moves (Amazon-owned) Audible has been making lately have been quite negative: the royalty cut, the new subscription service and its low pay rates, and Amazon’s controversial and brazen move to start captioning audiobooks without compensating publishers and authors – which resulted in an immediate lawsuit from the Big 5.

Those large publishers have themselves been making no friends with libraries recently, offering ever-worsening terms for audiobooks, to match those for ebooks. Which is an opportunity for indies, of course, especially those using companies like Findaway to better serve that market. Read More…

How To Find Your Comp Authors

Knowing your comp authors is increasingly important these days, but writers tend to tie themselves into knots with the concept. Today, I’ll explain a very simple way to cut through all the noise and determine your true comp authors, but also detail why that line-up should change considerably depending on the context.

Comp Authors Explained
Let’s start with the basics before scaling up the complexity and getting deep into ads: “comp author” is publishing shorthand for “comparable author.” You might also hear people these days in indieworld using it in phrases like “know your comps,” or “target your comp authors.” Or you might come across the phrase “comp title” more frequently in traditional publishing.

Originally, the phrase was used by publishing professionals as shorthand to describe a given author’s voice in marketing communications and sales pitches. An agent might shop your book to a publisher describing your sizzling romantic suspense as “EL James meets Lisa Jackson,” and the acquiring editor will know right away that she’s in for a dark, twisty story where the sex isn’t just open door – the windows are probably open too. Read More…

Time To Ditch Mailchimp?

Mailchimp attracted extreme criticism this week when it became clear how its new marketing services would impact its core email offering — particularly in terms of pricing — leading many long-time users to start explore alternatives (including this one).

I have been a loyal and happy Mailchimp customer for over eight years. I have also recommended Mailchimp to thousands of other authors. There have always been cheaper services, or those with more bells-and-whistles when it comes to advanced automation options and the like, but — for me at least — Mailchimp was always the perfect combination of price, user friendliness, and reliability.

Until yesterday. Read More…

Reader Targeting Influences Everything

Reader Targeting is yet another concept we have to juggle. It’s no wonder many writers take to the drink, or otherwise lose the run of themselves. Or can be a little… kooky. We have to wrestle with a number of contradictory notions all the time — it’s enough to make anyone batty.

The most obvious is with the writing itself: we need at least some level of ego to push something out into the world and ask money for it. But we also must have the requisite critical faculties to see what’s wrong with it and to motivate ourselves to fix it, and to otherwise work on our craft until the things we make are as good as we need them to be.

(As a famous editor once put it — Nan Talese maybe? — those first few years, when our taste is much more developed than our skills, are tough.)

The experienced author isn’t done with these trying dichotomies though; one in particular that we all continue to struggle with is between our artistic natures, and our commercial sensibilities. It’s not so much about what to write or how to write it — most pros can navigate that part. The battlegrounds are elsewhere, things like cover design, series titles, descriptions, branding.

And one more surprising, perhaps: reader targeting. Read More…

How To Build An Author Platform

What is an author platform? Which elements should it contain? And is any of this stuff more important than just writing another book? Perhaps not. But certain aspects of an author platform are important tools for reaching readers and, especially, for holding on to them.

The topic can be confusing as everyone seems to be mean something different by the term. And then this problem is compounded by a lot of terrible advice proliferating, quite frankly. Number-chasing nonsense which doesn’t serve anyone.

Even the term “platform” seems to be quite nebulous and elastic — fertile ground for snake-oil salesmen. Let’s nail that down first: Read More…

CreateSpace Has Closed • KDP Print Is Here

It’s official! Amazon is closing CreateSpace “in a few weeks” and seems to be nudging people to move now. More on that below, including how the process has been simplified further – significantly in fact, especially for those with large catalogs who can now move the whole lot at once.

As I said in my post two weeks ago, it’s probably wise to get ahead of the big migration in a few weeks. Amazon has 2m titles to move; stuff is bound to go wrong. And my own experience with KDP Print customer service indicates that you might not want to get stuck in that queue with everyone else.

To encourage you to move now, Amazon has further streamlined the process and you can now port your entire catalog in one go right here. There’s also a pop-up which will initiate the process for you when you log into CreateSpace, but reports this morning suggest both are getting slammed right now. Don’t panic if you can’t get in today – you have “a few weeks.” Read More…

Vanity Press Victims and Media Culpability

Experienced authors tend to chastise vanity press victims for not doing sufficient research, but the murky web of vanity partnerships — and the uncritical coverage which invariably accompanies same — makes it exceedingly difficult for newer writers to chart a safe path.

Some vanity presses are very good at crafting a veneer of legitimacy, one which can be very convincing to those starting out. Infamous vanity press conglomerate Author Solutions figured this out very early on, creating partnerships with Penguin, Harlequin, Writer’s Digest, Random House, HarperCollins/Thomas Nelson, Hay House, Reader’s Digest, Lulu, and Barnes & Noble.

These partnerships served two purposes. First, they delivered an endless stream of victims directly from the companies themselves who would refer business to Author Solutions in return for a cut. Second, they helped Author Solutions whitewash its past, acting as a reputational fig leaf, hiding its seamy nature until it was too late. Read More…