Before I start with my topic for the day, I want to announce a new Novel Matters book club. I'm reading Writing 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling by Donald Maas. I'm loving what he has to say so far about the death of genre, and I would love to chat with you, my most respected writing friends, about his ideas. The next couple of months aren't the best time to start a new project like this, so I'm thinking January. You can ask for the book for Christmas and read chapter one while munching on Christmas-tree shaped cookies. We'll talk in January.
Last time I posted here, I highlighted James Scott Bell's marketing book for ebooks. This is the journey I'm on with my next novel, so I'm happy to share what I'm learning along the way. After all, authors do most of the marketing for their books whether they're working with a legacy publisher or going indie like me.
Bell echoed the approach many of us have heard at writers conferences--building a platform and social media networking, plus pricing strategies and more--but with the knowledge to do a great job for our books. The book is full of wisdom I intend to use in marketing Goodness & Mercy.
But to become a market genius before March--that's my goal--I can't stop at one book or opinion.
Trust me, there are tons of ebooks out there to help you sell your ebooks on Amazon. And you have to be careful which ones you bet the success of your book on. Some of these how-to books are written by authors who have experienced major success with their Kindle ebooks. One book. One big success? Is their success a fluke? Do they come from a large family that owns many Swiss bank accounts?
Phew! Of course, we have to ask, "Just how do you sell books on Amazon without social media or full-page magazine ads?"
Alvear believes it's all about understanding the ecosystem of Kindle with the objective of optimizing the position of your book. That way the readers who are most likely to buy the book will see it as they browse.
This kind of thinking is so rare in book marketing that Alvear gives an example with his own book. At first, he tried to market conventionally through social media. After five years of work, he got 25,000 unique visits to his blog per month. Of those, 5,000 went to his book page. To determine the "conversion rate," meaning how many views it took to make a sale, he divided the number of sales by the number of visitors. Alvear came in right in the middle of the industry average at 1%.
That's only 50 books per month for all those years of work.
And so, Alvear systematically goes through every aspect of developing your book for market to make it rise to the top of pile. He promises everything can be done in 18 hours. This also appealed to me. But you have to start with a stellar book that you believe in. Otherwise, all the marketing in the world won't produce satisfactory results.
So far, I'm listening carefully to this guy.
Here are some of the topics he examines in his confident, been-there-more-than-once voice. I should tell you that he has 20 years of marketing experience. Ya gotta love credentials.
Okay, let's get on to the topics:
1. Create an attention-getting title. If the title doesn't work, you can always change it. That's one nice thing about digital publishing.
2. Hire a professional to design you book cover. Really? In an ideal world, yes because your cover in all of its 7/8" x 1" glory in Kindle-land needs to make a punch, a promise, and a come-hither message.I hired a photographer and a graphic designer, but I'm the art director. Probably a bad idea. I'm hoping not.
Alvear does give guidelines for hiring these professionals, depending on your budget from low to high.
"If you have already passed that hurdle of having a customer be attracted to the cover, and then they pick up the books," said Patricia Bostelman, vice president for marketing at Barnes & Noble, "an enormous battle has been won."
3. Once you have a visual hook for your potential reader, you want to set up your book to gain top search engine results every time someone looks for a book in your category. I sure hope I understand this better by the time I'm launching my book. Alvear isn't stingy on pointing authors to places where keyword phrases can be embedded, so the chances of your book popping up in the first page of results increase. Keyword phrases, who knew?
"You are destined to fail if you don't use keyword phrases that lead to your book."
So, I guess I better learn.
4. Beyond keyword phrases, Amazon lets you choose two categories for your book. "Think of [categories] as the section of the bookstore you'd like your book placed (literature, fiction, history, etc.)." From working in both a bookstore and a library, I know how important these categories are. Most reader beeline to their favorite genre and do very little browsing. There are browsers--God bless 'em!--who wander the whole store. That makes your cover and title even more important.
Alvear's book gives me hope. There are things I can do to get my book before the reader. For instance, he explains how to put a billboard for your book on a competitors pages. And he talks about the power of great reviews, even how many you need to make your book page a powerful selling tool.
One chapter deals with how to write ocean-front book descriptions, another highlights the importance of formatting and using the "Look Inside" feature.
And then he tells about a feature in Kindle I'd never seen before that will definitely effect the way I format my book. It's the "Before You Go" feature. If your reader's Kindle or other reading device is set up to Facebook and Twitter, you can ask your reader to kindly rate the book and share with their friends right there and then.
Aha, there is a place for social media!
Alvear does recognize the value of social media once the book is successfully launched and selling. Your readers will be curious about you and will want to find you online. Then a blog makes tons of sense.
I plan on using Alvear's ideas to optimize the chances that Goodness & Mercy will have its best chance of finding an audience.
Michael Alvear doesn't write the kind of books (other than this one) most of us read, but he seems to have a good handle on what it takes to sell on Amazon. I appreciate that about him very much.
Next time, I'll be talking about yet another marketing philosophy. And then I'm formulating a plan for full speed ahead marketing. My brain is getting full.
Have you worked with a graphic professional? What's your take on Alvear's approach, knowing that I was only able to present the briefest details? I'm looking at this information as power, not an insurance police, success isn't following a formula, but it is knowing how the game is played. Can you recommend what I should read about marketing next?