Tag Archives: Amazon

To Blurb or Not To Blurb

I subscribe to a blog called The Passive Voice, and if you are a writer you should be subscribing and reading this fantastic blog. Yesterday there was a post about blurbs that I found fascinating.

What is a blurb?

blurb    /blərb/
noun
a short description of a book, movie, or other product written for promotional purposes and appearing on the cover of a book or in an advertisement.
or
verb
write or contribute a blurb for (a book, movie, or other product). 
The article was about the second definition.
What we’re basically talking about here are endorsements from other authors and/or celebrities, those compelling “reviews” popped onto a book’s back cover or first few pages, to get the reading public to buy the book.
For a self-publishing writer these acclaims can help sell books, and when you are talking about having to self-promote, every little bit helps. Including blurbs.
For example? Go Google The Martian by Andy Weir. Completely self-published beginning as an online serial then going onto Amazon at $.99 then selling 35,000 copies in four months in 2013. That’s when it got Hollywood’s attention. In March of 2014 the book was no. 12 on the New York Times bestseller list, and by November that same year the book sold 180,000 copies. A huge coup for self-publishers.
But what happens when you get people to read your book and leave reviews on sites such as Goodreads and Amazon?
This became a huge concern of mine just before summer. You see, Amazon, in all its amazing glory, decided to take down any reviews if it was discovered that these reveiws were written by friends of the author. I have put up reviews for writers who, at the time, were not my friends. I met them through blogging and became a source to them for helping their promotion efforts. Eventually, through further interaction we did become friends but does that make my blurb/review of their work any less credible?
What about those well-known authors who seem to write blockbuster after blockbuster? Do blurbs really help them since they are well-known already in the industry? I mean, honestly, what more can you say about a famous author that hasn’t already been said, or read? Critiquing their current work is one thing, but seriously, how many times do we need to hear how he/she is today’s  Tolstoy, Austen, or Shakespeare? And let’s be honest, they aren’t those writers, and their writing resembles the classics the way a goose resembles a swan. They may be birds and have feathers and can swim and fly, but one look tells the truth.
Personally, when I buy a book, whether it is self-published or traditionally published, I ignore the blurbs. I don’t care for them. I’m looking for word of mouth and my own interests. If someone I know tells me I should read a certain book then I am more likely to do so than reading an endorsement from a celebrity or well-known author. Those people do not know me, but my friends and people I talk to often know my tastes or can guess easily. And if there are people I know personally endorsing a book then you can bet I’ll be reading that book. In fact, I have a lengthy list of books on my Goodreads Want-To-Read list thanks to those friends whose books I have read and heartily endorse.
To blurb or not to blurb, that is today’s question? Should blurbs be done away with and the writing stand on it’s own? Or do we like blurbs and think they are a useful marketing tool? Sound off in the comments.
Jesi

Amazon Author Page – by Cedar Sanderson

(Today I’m reblogging a post by my friend Cedar Sanderson over at Mad Genius Club. She has some very good advice for all writers.)

Author page front end

It’s come to my attention that some of you… *looks over her glasses at the desks in front of her* are neglecting a powerful and easy marketing tool. I’m talking about the Amazon Author Page.

Listen up, class, because this is so simple, and it can really help.

Imagine you are a reader who has just learned about a new author. They tried a book, and they want more. This is what we all aspire to. But when they search Amazon for the author’s name, they find very little information, out of order books, no clue as to the rest of the series…

Let’s make it easy for them and collect all the information in one place, shall we? In the process, we may be able to take a casual reader and draw them closer to becoming a fan, someone who will interact with an author and pass the word on to others about that author. Again, let’s make that easy on them. The less clicks, the better. In addition, you see the yellow follow button on that image of my page? When readers click that, Amazon notifies them as soon as I release a new book. It’s like a mailing list, without all the work and time and cost.

Sure, you may have a website, or a blog, or both. Facebook fan page, even. But the Author Page on Amazon has a huge advantage. All the stuff you have for sale is right there. And it’s sortable by publication date, etc. Also, if you don’t have a website, this can be a great place to send people who want to learn more about you (and buy your books). If you’ll recall a while back I mentioned using QR codes on promotional material like bookmarks and business cards, this is one place I send the QR code to, the Amazon Author Page.

You can set yours up from the back end, at the Author Central. If you weren’t already aware of that, you should familiarize yourself with it. There are important tools here, like rank tracking, sales graphs, and all your reviews in one place. Today I’m going to talk about the basics, though.

When you first login to Author Central, you get a homepage with tips and news articles. You want to click on the Author Page tab at the top, and start filling in the blanks. I’m going to tackle the biography in a minute, so we’ll start with the blog section. If you don’t have a regular blog, this can also be your author website. If you do twitter, then you can add that, although there seems to be some uncertainty about the display of the twitter feed on Amazon at the moment.

author page

 

Two important things are the photo, and the bio. I know that most authors hate both of these. Unfortunately, I’m going to tell you that you need both. No, you can’t get away with a cute pet photo unless you only write books about cute animals. Ideally, you will have a professional headshot to put in here. At the very least, a good, crisp, amateur shot will do. Don’t use a grainy cell phone image. Don’t use an old photo that was taken 20 years ago – we can tell. That shirt hasn’t been in style since at least the 80s. (yes, I am thinking of a real example). If you cannot stomach having your face in public, or have reasons that make it unwise, as an alternative you could use art from a book cover or series you write. Not a book cover itself, that’s limiting. But a piece of professional level (not a child’s drawing, unless, again, you are writing children’s books) art would work.

The biography. I suspect all of us dread these. Where to start? How much is too much? How much is too little? I didn’t write mine. I have other versions I did write, but my First Reader wrote mine (and in return, I wrote his) and if you have a partner or friend who is skilled with words, this can be a reasonable compromise. You don’t feel self-conscious about puffing yourself up, and you have something to put out there. How long? Well, as long as it needs to be. You don’t need to include a lot of personal information, but some makes you seem more human to your readers. I recommend injecting a touch of humor into the bio, if you can manage it, or if you must, make it over-the-top funny. You’ll have better reactions to a warmth of personality showing through than to dry facts.

I have three bios I cut and paste as needed – the long one written for me, a shorter version I wrote which is about 200 words long, and a very short 50 word version I originally created for a convention guide and keep as it’s handy. If you’re totally stuck, ask in the comments, and myself, or someone will help out with it.

The bio is just as important as the blurb of a book. Only here, you are the product. You’re selling yourself (hike that skirt up and show a little leg, if you dare…) and you shouldn’t sell yourself short. You are uniquely you, with the voice to back it up, and with some work, that will shine through in the bio.

Finally, make sure that all your books are properly connected to you by clicking on the Books tab. Also, make sure that your series are marked clearly in KDP because Amazon will helpfully link them on their sales listings if they are. Do not, for goodness sakes, list yourself as an editor on your own book if you are the author. Unless your book has multiple illustrations inside, don’t list your cover artist as the illustrator (you can, and should, accredit them in the front matter of your book, instead). Don’t list your editor as an editor in the KDP listings unless it’s a collection of some kind and they were instrumental in pulling the stories together. Ahem… this soap box just appeared under me… *steps down*

Go forth, children, and having learned your lesson, implement it. I want to see links in the comments!

You’ve finished. Now what do you do?

Unfortunately, that’s a question you need to ask yourself long before you actually finish your novel or short story. It used to be that while you were writing your novel, you were researching the market and deciding what agents or publishers you could send it to once you were finished. But, with the advent of e-books and small presses, that has changed. Now you have the options of trying to go the traditional route, trying to find a small or mid-sized publisher for your work or bringing it out yourself. The ultimate decision is yours but there are a number of factors to consider in making that decision.

Ten years ago, traditional publishing was really the only game in town. Self-publishing wasn’t a viable option for most authors and it brought a really bad taste to the mouths of readers and others in our field. The reason was simple. Most of those going the self-publishing route were really simply falling victim to the vanity press scams that had been around for so long. Authors who had tried finding a traditional publisher and who couldn’t understand why their wonderful work hadn’t been accepted would fall for the promises of the vanity press. It wasn’t until they wound up with a garage full of books the author herself had to buy and now had to go out and try to sell that they realized they had been taken. It was expensive and very few ever managed to make their money back. Going this route was considered the death knell for anyone who really wanted a publishing career.

Then along came e-books and Amazon’s Kindle. Smashwords and a few other sites had been around before but none had captured the market the way Amazon did. Then Amazon did the one thing traditional publishing still gnashes its teeth over — it opened the Kindle Digital Platform to indie authors and small presses.

And thus began the publishing revolution that is still causing ripples and waves throughout traditional publishing and reader buying patterns.

So what do you do to get your book out there if you are going indie?

BookBub has a pretty good article about the various sites you can use to distribute your books as an indie author. (Note: the same information is valid for small presses.) I don’t agree with everything in the article and there is one piece of information that is a bit misleading, but it is a good place to start looking for information.

a bookbub-distributor-comparison-chart

The misleading information in the chart is where it says Amazon pays every 60 days but that Draft2Digital pays every month. Both are correct but with explanation. Amazon basically pays two months after sale. So, when Amazon pays royalties at the end of this month, it will be for sales made in June. But, and here is where the chart is misleading, if you have sales each month after the initial 60 day waiting period, you will be paid every month.

Regarding Draft2Digital, it pays every month — once it receives payment from the outlets you have said to distribute your work to. That doesn’t mean you get a payment the first month you are with D2d. It depends on the rules of those outlets and I’m not familiar with any of their affiliates that pay out the first month you are in the store. So, be prepared for the same 60 day delay you get from Amazon.

I will admit that, for my e-books, I am exclusively with Amazon right now. The reason is simple. After looking at my sales from the other outlets, I realized I was basically losing money by having to deal with the conversion and accounting for the other outlets. A minimum of 95% of my sales were coming from Amazon and those few sales I was getting everywhere else simply did not justify the time and effort it took to convert to the appropriate formats and the time and effort it took to keep track of the financial end of things.

Yes, I know I could upload a DOC file and let Smashwords or D2D convert it to the appropriate formats. The problem with that is you have no control over the conversion and you have to be particularly careful with checking every page after they convert it to make sure everything look good. By converting to ePub myself, I had full control and I could tweak the file as needed before uploading it to the site for distribution. Yes, I still had to check to make sure nothing went wrong — always assume Murphy will come visit — but not to the detail that I had to using another format.

For print, I use Createspace. Part of the reason for that is the ease of use. Part is the lack of cost — unless I buy an ISBN from them. Then it is only $10 — and the ease of getting the book listed with Amazon. I am considering trying IngramSpark and will update everyone if I do. However, as an indie, the vast majority of my sales come from e-books and that is where my focus remains, at least for the time being.

All that said, the BookBub article is a great place to start when considering how to get your book into the hands of your readers. From there, it will be trial and error as you upload your files, check them and then track them for awhile to see what sales outlets are best suited for your work.

Saturday morning thoughts

Real life this week has taken priority over everything. Not that I’m complaining. For once, I have been thrilled to put aside everything else while real life upsets my schedule and puts my writing on the back burner. The downside, however, is that I don’t have much of a blog for today. I promise that will change next week. But for this week, well, I’m enjoying having my son home after more than a year and family always comes first.

Still, I won’t leave you guys in a lurch. There are several posts that caught my eye this morning. The first is a guest post over at According to Hoyt by indie author Christopher Nuttal. Chris is a prime example that authors can make good as going the indie route, if you work hard and remember that this is a business. His post is especially important, in my opinion, because he reminds us that we have to keep an eye on the economics of writing.

I agree with almost everything Chris has to say. I would only add, or perhaps expand, on one thing. When talking about how much conceptual editors cost as opposed to line editors, he notes that the conceptual editor is usually less than the line editor. That is true if you are talking, as he is, of only a basic conceptual edit job. But if you are talking a full content edit — where the editor not only spots the potential problems but offers suggestions on how to correct them, where the editor makes suggestions about the actual structure of the novel, etc., — you will pay much more for that sort of service.

I also agree, at least substantially with what he says about the paid promotion sites. I have used a couple and have seen a small spike in sales but I haven’t been able to track anything long term coming from them. Now, there may be one more factor to the success of the use of these services that may play a role in whether they are worth the money or not. It could be that the author needs to have a recurring presence in the service’s email to its customers, on its website, etc., so a name recognition of sorts builds up. I’m not sure but it is something I’ve been wondering.

Now for something I disagree with totally and completely. It seems Ursula K. Le Guin is still on the “Amazon is evil” bandwagon. This isn’t the first time she has railed against Amazon. She, like some other traditionally published authors, blame Amazon for most, if not all, of traditional publishing’s problems. While I will admit that Amazon is competition for bookstores and it has taken stands against publishers in order to keep the cost of books and e-books lower than publishers would like, there are other factors that have led to the state traditional publishing finds itself in now.

Failure to adapt to changing customer demands and to changing tech is one of those factors. The genesis of the big box bookstores, like Barnes & Noble and Borders, pushed the locally owned bookstores out of the market. Poor business planning and over-expansion, combined with the failure to recognize the importance of e-books, helped run Borders out of business and has continued to haunt B&N. Instead of railing against Amazon and claiming it doesn’t remember the past and doesn’t see the future, she should look closer at what her beloved traditional publishers have done — and not done — over the last 50 years. They have been so mired in the belief that if something has worked in the past, it should now. The problem with that is our technology and reader expectations and desires have changed. So, instead of adapting, traditional publishing cut costs by cutting loose many of their mid-list writers, writers who were the backbone of the company because they could be counted on to sell X-number of copies each and every time.

Finally, for those who are looking to go indie and want to put out print copies of your books, my friend Cedar Sanderson has a very good article, the first of two, on formatting your print cover. You can find it over at the Mad Genius Club.

Now, to find food and coffee and maybe write a little bit this morning before real life decides to resume again.

Promotion

I remember when I was younger, there was a locally owned bookstore that I loved to frequent. The owners were always there. The employees knew the stock and could carry on an intelligent conversation about books. They knew the different genres and could make informed recommendations about what to read. After your first visit or two, when you returned, you would be greeted by name and whoever was on duty at the time would ask if you had read the latest in your favorite genre.

But there was something else about the story that stands out. This little hole in the wall often had well-known authors in for book signings. I didn’t think much about it then but now, as a writer, I do. Back then, I simply appreciated the fact I would get to meet a favorite author and have her sign a book — or three. Now those memories are merely a sign of how things have changed in the publishing industry.

Word of mouth in publishing is just as important, maybe moreso even, than it is in any other industry. You see, when a publisher says it will promote your book, tat doesn’t mean you get to go on a book tour or that you will have TV and radio ads or even print ads. Not unless you have been tapped to be the next Stephen King or you are already a best seller. What it means is there will be the basic information sent to the buyers for bookstores and maybe a few trade ads and reviews. A number of authors I know have had their publishers say they want the author to go on a tour but that it will be on the author’s own dime.

That is one reason why, as an indie author, I tend to smile and shake my head when someone tells me I would get so much more promotion for my work if I went the traditional route. I know better. But it does leave me, and all the others like me, having to find ways to get that word of mouth going. The problem is, I would much rather be writing.

Fortunately, Amazon has offered writers a couple of ways to promote our books. The only catch is that the title has to be exclusively on Amazon for it to qualify. If a title is enrolled in the KDP Select program, those Amazon customers who are members of the Kindle Unlimited program can borrow our books for free. The nice thing about this is, we still get paid as long as the customer reads a certain percentage of our book. The icing on the cake is that some of those customers will turn around and purchase the book, so we get paid twice.

KDP Select also allows us to offer our books for free or put them on what Amazon calls a countdown program for up to five days every three months. While I don’t recommend putting the same titles on sale or for free that often, it is a good promotion tool. It can help spur lagging sales and it can help by allowing you to temporarily drop the price of a book when you have a new book in the series coming out.

So now I can hear you asking why I’ve taken time to tell you all this. Well, that’s simple. This is my word of mouth to you. I currently have three books I’m doing a promotional deal on. The deals run through tomorrow. Each of the three are first books in a series. Each series will have new titles coming out between now and the end of the year. Besides, after Tax Day, I figured everyone needed a break  😉

HuntedHunted (Hunter’s Moon Book 1)
(Written under the pen name Ellie Ferguson)
Free through Sunday

When Meg Finley’s parents died, the authorities classified it as a double suicide. Alone, hurting and suddenly the object of the clan’s alpha’s desire, her life was a nightmare. He didn’t care that she was grieving any more than he cared that she was only fifteen. So she’d run and she’d been running ever since. But now, years later, her luck’s run out. The alpha’s trackers have found her and they’re under orders to bring her back, no matter what. Without warning, Meg finds herself in a game of cat and mouse with the trackers in a downtown Dallas parking garage. She’s learned a lot over the years but, without help, it might not be enough to escape a fate she knows will be worse than death. What she didn’t expect was that help would come from the local clan leader. But would he turn out to be her savior or something else, something much more dangerous?

nocturnaloriginscoveralternatenewNocturnal Origins (Nocturnal Lives Book 1)
(Amanda S. Green)
99 cents through Sunday

Some things can never be forgotten, no matter how hard you try.

Detective Sergeant Mackenzie Santos knows that bitter lesson all too well. The day she died changed her life and her perception of the world forever.It doesn’t matter that everyone, even her doctors, believe a miracle occurred when she awoke in the hospital morgue. Mac knows better. It hadn’t been a miracle, at least not a holy one. As far as she’s concerned, that’s the day the dogs of Hell came for her.

Investigating one of the most horrendous murders in recent Dallas history, Mac also has to break in a new partner and deal with nosy reporters who follow her every move and who publish confidential details of the investigation without a qualm.

Complicating matters even more, Mac learns the truth about her family and herself, a truth that forces her to deal with the monster within, as well as those on the outside.But none of this matters as much as discovering the identity of the murderer before he can kill again.

coverforvfaVengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1)
(Written under the pen name Sam Schall)
99 cents through Sunday

First, they took away her command. Then they took away her freedom. But they couldn’t take away her duty and honor. Now they want her back. Captain Ashlyn Shaw has survived two years in a brutal military prison. Now those who betrayed her are offering the chance for freedom. All she has to do is trust them not to betray her and her people again. If she can do that, and if she can survive the war that looms on the horizon, she can reclaim her life and get the vengeance she’s dreamed of for so long. But only if she can forget the betrayal and do her duty.