Friday, 12 April 2013

The Importance of Measuring Trends

In an earlier post I highlighted the importance of using Google Analytics to measure the activity on websites and blogs. Also, in another post, I discussed the importance of being able to pass the 8-second test.

Today's post is looking at how the first, Google Analytics, helps to measure whether the second, the 8-second test, is being achieved. Plus it considers if performance is going in the right direction.

In the diagram below is a trend analysis taken from my Google Analytics report. 


This part of the report provides some useful data. Not only does it tell me the result from each performance indicator, but also the trend of that indicator. Apart from the page views, which are on the increase, the other four indicators are also improving. On three I'm looking for an upward slope, and the the fourth (Bounce Rate) a downward slope. The 8-second test I mentioned earlier is about a website's 'stickiness' - the ability to keep a visitors attention for more than 8-seconds. 50% of websites loose their visitors before 8-seconds is up. My results show that visitors are staying on this site for almost two and a half minutes, on average. That isn't too bad as an average, particularly for a relatively new site, and the trend is increasing. They are also viewing on average three postings per visit. The site is also attracting plenty of new visitors, but also 30% of the activity is people returning. Currently the number of visitors is growing rapidly, but as it matures I'll expect to see the 'New Visits' drop slightly as the returning audience grows. Finally the bounce rate. This is a very important indicator. The bounce rate is calculated my measuring the number of visitors who leave a site from the same page they entered the site, without visiting any other page. Poor 'landing pages' push up bounce rates, so make sure your audience is sent to the right page. (Again, the 8-second test post discusses this issue.)
Depending on which research you read, the average bounce rate for a website is just over 40%. My current bounce rate, from my Google Analytics report is showing it to be under 16%, and the trend downwards, which is also very positive and encouraging. 

A final point on why trends are important 
Let's say you have a website where the bounce rate is currently 30%. That's better than average, and you may be happy with that result. But what was it, say a month ago? If it was higher than 30% then the performance of the site is improving. If it was lower than 30%, the performance of the site is dropping off. Current performance is just an indicator of what is happening now. A trend indicator helps to identify if things are getting better, or worse. 

One key tip with lowering bounce rates is to ensure all links on your site, which go to another website, open the other site in a new window. If they don't, clicking the link takes your visitor away from your site, perhaps never to return.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

How to add a link to an image in Blogger

When you add an image into your blog posting within Blogger, the software has a built in default. If someone clicks on the image, it just opens up in a lightbox. Just click on the image below to see what I mean. But before you do, remember to click the cross in the top right hand corner of the lightbox to close the image.


So as you saw, if you did click the image, it essentially opens in the same window, which in turn increases the chances of someone incorrectly closing the page. 

One thing you may want your reader to do is go to another location, using the image as a link. To help overcome this problem, I've written a tutorial on my author website explaining how to set up an image with a link when using Blogger. And to prove it works, and to read the tutorial, just click on the image below to be taken to it. You'll also note the link opens a new window.


If you read the tutorial I hope you found it useful.





Wednesday, 10 April 2013

The best marketing campaign ever?

Sometimes humour is a great way of getting a message across.


Apart from being an amusing cartoon, it does demonstrate that the window repair company understand what the 'A' in 'AIDA' stands for, although their unorthodox marketing strategy will probably start to untangle at the 'Desire' stage. (Who would have the desire for their products after that 'intro'?)

As authors our first objective is to gain attention for our book(s). If we are using tools such as Twitter to grab that attention, then the message has to stand out from the crowd. That is a huge challenge with only 140 characters to play with, particularly if 20 of those characters are being used to create a link to your book. 

Three strategies often adopted to grab attention, which utilise an approach called disruption, are:
Location: Placing adverts or messages in very unexpected situations. I once ran a full-page newspaper advert upside down. It certainly created a spike in sales, but after requests from other advertisers, who wanted to do the same thing, the paper refused to run any more adverts upside down again. Coming up with an idea before your competitors is always an advantage, as ideas can quickly go stale.
Shock factor: Grabbing people's attention can be done easily with a shock. The cartoon above being an example. Shock is a dangerous strategy if it goes wrong, but get the balance right, and it can have dramatic results on sales.
Personalisation: It's hard to ignore something if it is aimed at you specifically. Many authors run blogs similar to daily newspapers, and their tweets state 'top stories today from ________' Imagine the blank space contains your Twitter handle. Will you click the link? You bet.
I hope this post has inspired you to think of different ways to grab the attention of your target market.



Sunday, 7 April 2013

Get exposure on 'Awesome Indies'

One of the drawbacks of seeking a good read from an indie author is sorting the wheat from the chaff. Even the main stream publishers don't always get that right, but as a reader you know the book has at least gone through a thorough review system. This of course isn't necessary the same with self-published books. Some do get professionally edited, and others don't. If you have one of the former, and want to give yourself an edge in the marketplace, then you should consider submitting it to Awesome Indies


Why?, you may ask. The answer to that is simple. Awesome Indies will not promote a book on their site unless it has been extensively reviewed by one of their approved book reviewers. They have a strict criteria, and here are the headlines. (Their site gives a more in-depth description of each.)

Plot and Structure — the plot is well structured, well paced, conceptually sound and engaging.

Characters — the characters are well developed and their dialogue and interactions with others are believable.

Wordiness or overwriting — the book is not excessively wordy, particularly, no rambling descriptions, dumps of information, unnecessary repetition or irrelevant scenes.

Point of view — changes in the point of view of the writing are clear, specifically no confusing quick jumps from the thoughts of one character to another and back again. (head-hopping).

Engaging writing — the writing is immediate and engaging. This means that the story is generally shown rather than told, and the writing is active rather than passive, eg doesn’t overuse forms of the verb, ‘to be’.

Grammar, spelling and punctuation  the grammar, spelling and punctuation are correct for the author’s country of origin.

Give the Awesome Indies site a visit. It's a goldmine of interesting ideas and tips. Once your book is submitted, reviewed, accepted and gets featured on the site, you know you have a product which you can market with added confidence.


HootSuite: Manage and Measure your Social Media

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Does your website/blog tick all the 5Cs?

This neat little marketing model will help you to do a quick sanity check on certain aspects of your website/blog. Some may sound very obvious, but in our busy lives sometimes the obvious can get overlooked.

  • Context : One thing I often see with many websites is lots of clutter which hide the key messages. It's almost as if some people want to put everything on one tiny page. Removing some of the clutter, particularly from 'above the fold', can help deliver the key messages with more force. (See more about 'above the fold' with my post about the 8 second test for websites.) So the sanity question here is - Is my site uncluttered, easy to navigate around, and does it have some white space (or at least one colour space) to aid readability?
  • Commerce : If you are selling your books directly from your site is it fully secure, from the buyers perspective? Any pages which require customer details, which are sensitive, need to be fully encrypted. If the page doesn't start with https in the address bar, then it's not secure. 
  • Connection : If you have links to other sites, what happens when the visitor to your site clicks them? If they are taken directly to another site in the same window, and they find something more interesting, you've lost them. All your external links should be set to open in a new window, leaving your site still on view.
  • Communication : How does your site visitor communicate with you? If it is via a comments box be sure to place a disclaimer next to it. Many website owners harvest email addresses for financial gain, and therefore a disclaimer is important. I use "IMPORTANT - email addresses are ONLY used to respond to messages, and are NOT sold or used for any other purpose" on my site. Also, avoid putting your email address on your site, unless of course you enjoy your inbox being overloaded with junk emails. Unethical people harvest advertised email addresses, often via a bot, and sell them on in large numbers.
  • Content : Is all the content relative to the information and/or message you are trying to deliver? Is the text easy to read (not too small, but equally not too big) and are there sufficient pictures/graphics to add interest to the site? Again, the post regarding the 8 second test may be of further help.
Maintenance of a website is important, and should be viewed as an ongoing task. Think of it like an F1 racing car. The designers are constantly making adjustments to the cars to gain extra performance. The better a website performs, the better it does its job.


Friday, 5 April 2013

Where are your customers on the loyalty ladder?

All of your readers, and potential readers, will be somewhere on the ladder below.

Sadly, most will be still on the ground, having not heard of you, or your book. But at one level, that's good news, as you haven't yet run out of readers. Many in the 'suspect' group, in time, could be 'customers' at the very least, if not 'raving fans'. Your job as an author is to guide people up each rung of the ladder. The more people you get nearer the top, the more success you will experience. Some people will move up the ladder quicker than others, often several rungs at a time. For a 'suspect' to become a 'prospect', you need to take every opportunity of getting your message across. This can be achieved via social media, websites, blogs, forums, online groups, the list is almost endless. Once the 'suspect' is aware of your presence then AIDA needs to come into play, to convert a 'suspect' into a 'shopper'. (Check out the previous posts on AIDA - Part One and Part Two.) If you have published more than one book, the 'shoppers' need to be convinced to be 'customers', and even the 'customers' need to be encouraged to take further steps up the ladder. Your marketing machine must never be 'switched -off', and the more creative and innovative you are, the more likely success will follow.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Creating a USP for your book

USP stands for Unique Selling Proposition (or Unique Selling Point). It is about differentiating your product (in this case a book) from the rest.

Consider this question. Why should someone buy YOUR book? What makes it different from all the other books in your chosen genre? Sadly, if you don't know, then how is your potential reader? So far that's more questions than answers, but let's look at a few things we can consider. In an earlier post I discussed the importance of a book cover. The right cover does sell a book, or at least grabs the attention of a potential reader. So how can you differentiate between your book and others, if both have similarly attractive covers? Most book covers on the Internet are flat two-dimensional images. By producing a 3D cover, and perhaps adding a review, you can make the book stand out. Below are two views of the cover of my book - The Pyramid Legacy. The one on the left is the standard flat two-dimensional image I have to use on Amazon, but the one on the right is a 3D version, complete with a book review, which I use on my website, and any other site which will accept 3D images. 




As I'm trying to sell a book, I want it to look as much like a book as possible. I use 3D images of both the current book, and its sequel, in my YouTube book trailer, which is another good marketing media for helping to differentiate between your book and others. (Check out www.simplybookish.com for an inexpensive book trailer,)

Sometimes the title of a book doesn't convey the full story, so one or two short sharp sentences are need as attention grabbing headlines. I use "A sci-fi plot twisting the fibres of history together with those of the future . . ." and "For over four millennia the Great Pyramid of Giza has guarded a secret image; until NOW!" on my website, as an introduction to The Pyramid Legacy. Now, I'm not saying for one minute they are perfect one liners, but I think they do convey the link between the past and the future, together with some level of mystery. By creating even the smallest USP you can help your book stand out from the crowd.


HootSuite: Manage and Measure your Social Media

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

How to use the Windows 'Snipping Tool'

If you write a blog, or have have a blog within your website, pictures are a great way of adding extra interest, and if you are trying to illustrate steps in a process, again it is great to be able to produce pictures to show this. In the past it was always possible to take a screen shot, and then use a programme, such as 'Paint', to crop a picture. But now there is a neat little programme within Windows called 'Snipping Tool' to allow you to copy part of the screen without having to use multiple programmes to get the image you want. Take the image below as an example:





This is just an image selected from my 'Contact' page within my author website. I used the Windows 'Snipping Tool' to capture this image, straight from the website. If you'd like a full tutorial on how Windows 'Snipping Tool' works, then just visit Bleeping Computer. They have produced an excellent step by step explanation.

Another 'clipping' tool is available in Word. If you want to paste a selection of a picture directly into Word, then this can be done using 'Screenshot' within Word. It can be found under the 'Insert' tab of the main menu.


If you click on the small arrow below the word 'Screenshot', an extra window will open, which shows all the main windows open on your computer at the time. You can then take a screen shot of any of the windows open, by clicking the specific window you want. If you want a small sample, this can be done by clicking 'Screen Clipping'.


This will allow you to select part of the window which is currently open. You then simply hold down the mouse, and select the area you wish to copy. So that's a short overview of two very useful tools for quickly selecting images to copy and save.


Monday, 1 April 2013

Amazon to stop selling ebooks

Sorry, only kidding. It is 1st April after all. However, there is a more serious side to this post, and if you arrived here via my Twitter message, then you will have realised the importance of creating an attention grabbing message when marketing your books. So therefore the real purpose of the above headline - 'Amazon to stop selling ebooks' - was to demonstrate how important AIDA is within your marketing activities. So as a brief reminder please visit my post AIDA Part One to fully understand the principle.


In the meantime, enjoy Easter Monday wherever you are, and remember to use AIDA within your marketing strategies.


HootSuite: Improve Your Social Media Efficiency

Friday, 29 March 2013

Social Media Tools - Part Two

In the last post I looked at TweetAdder, a very useful tool for gaining additional followers, without being over aggressive. Now I'm going to turn my attention to the tool I use on a daily basis to manage my tweets, namely HootSuite. One of the key advantages of HootSuite is the ability to manage all social media on one platform. On one dashboard you can manage Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ as well as other sites such as FourSquare, WordPress, MySpace and mixi.  

Let's start by looking at how incoming tweets can be managed. The Twitter element of the dashboard has a number of feeds, either already set up, or those that you can add later. The first feed is the 'home feed', which is the same as Twitter itself, in that you can see all tweets sent out by the people you follow. Once your following runs into hundreds, managing this feed becomes almost impossible, but more about that in a moment. The second feed is your 'mentions'. These are all tweets being sent out by other people, but which include your Twitter handle. This again you can view on Twitter, but you need to keep jumping around and changing pages to see this information. With HootSuite it's all there in front of you. Next in line are your 'direct messages' - DMs, then next to the DMs are the tweets you've sent out. So four feeds of data on one screen. Much more practical than using the Twitter site. But it doesn't stop there. You can now add your own feeds, enabling you to cherry-pick from the overactive 'home feed'. This part of the system can be as bespoke as you want it. For example, let's say you join The Independent Author Network and want to follow tweets which include their hashtag #IAN1. With HootSuite you can set up a feed to do just that. This would then sit neatly next to the other four feeds I have just described. Once the number of feeds increases, as you add to them, some will begin to move out of sight on your screen. However, it is simply a case of scrolling across the screen to look at them. So that is a quick overview of the incoming tweets.

HootSuite: Improve Your Social Media Efficiency 


The other element of HootSuite is of course sending out tweets. This can be done one of two ways. Manual or automatically. You can also set the time the tweet will be sent, depending upon when you believe your target audience is most likely to see it. I'm based in the UK, so if I have tweets specifically for a UK audience I don't want them going out in the early hours of the morning. You can schedule future tweets by using the HootSuite Publisher. HootSuite Publisher also allows the bulk uploading of future tweets. This will require the use of very specific CSV files. If you would like a tutorial on how to create these, then please visit my author website which describes, step by step, on how to build a HooteSuite Bulk Uploader CSV file. Using the CSV file I developed, I can now upload tweets in bulk, and it only takes a few minutes each day. So your presence on Twitter can remain, even when you are sleeping.

So that is a quick whistle stop tour around HootSuite. Happy tweeting!

HootSuite: Manage and Measure your Social Media

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Social Media Tools - Part One

Over the coming days I'll be looking at a number of tools to help with the management of your social media accounts. Today the focus will be on a highly popular product called TweetAdder.

As you can probably tell by the name, it is orientated towards Twitter. I've used the product for some months now, but like all the tools available, it has its advantages, and disadvantages. As yet I haven't found that one piece of software which does everything I want it to do. On a day to day tweeting basis I use HootSuite (which I'll be discussing the merits of in a later post) but TweetAdder has a place in my social media arsenal.



As with any worthwhile product, there is a cost. With TweetAdder it is a simple one-off cost, with no monthly fees. Many social media tools are free, but they generally only give you the basic operations which Twitter themselves provide. To get the added value features, there is normally a cost involved. Let me first outline what TweetAdder can do, then I'll discuss the features which will give you a time-saving advantage. TweetAdder can:
  • Follow new accounts
  • Unfollow accounts
  • Identify accounts via bio key words
  • Send automated tweets
  • Send automated tweets via RSS feeds
  • Auto retweets
  • Automated tweet search
The entire list is far greater than I've outlined here, and details of the total functionality can be found on the TweetAdder website

The main feature I tend to use it for is to find suitable accounts to follow. One problem with having a Twitter account is that it can easily be suspended by aggressive following/unfollowing. TweetAdder gets around the problem by doing this process gradually throughout the day. Rather than follow 100 new accounts in the space of a few minutes, and unfollow a similar amount in the same manner, the following and unfollowing can be automated over several hours, with random times between each new follow etc. Also, to make the following less random, TweetAdder allows you to search for potential new accounts to follow using keywords. Type in the phrase 'avid reader', and it will find all those accounts, which you don't currently follow, with that specific term in the bio. Want to connect with more authors? Then simply use the keyword 'author' (or 'writer') and TweetAdder will find all the relevant accounts. Also, you can select 'recency'. This filters out all those accounts which haven't been active within the time scale you set - therefore you won't be following accounts which have been inactive for months. If the accounts don't follow you back, you can unfollow in the same gradual way, 'releasing' accounts over a period of hours, at random intervals. You can also automate when the unfollowing will take place. If the account, for example, hasn't followed back within, say three days, TweetAdder will gradually start releasing the accounts automatically after that time has elapsed. If you are new, or relatively new, to Twitter, it is important to understand their 2000/10% 'unwritten' rule. Details can be found on an earlier post here.

There are of course many other advantages to the product, but the above advantage is my primary use. One final point, TweetAdder will only 'unfollow' those accounts which it follows in the first instance. If you follow accounts directly via Twitter you'll need to use another tool to identify if they follow back. Again, my post regarding Twitters 2000/10% rule will provide you with details.


Tuesday, 26 March 2013

How to monitor hashtags and interactions

Have you ever wondered if specific tweeps on Twitter are interacting with you in terms of retweets etc? Perhaps you are part of a group which has been set up to support one another. Often in these cases there will be some very supportive members, and then there's those who are looking for support, but are not so inclined to reciprocate. To weed out the less supportive ones is not that easy just using Twitter itself. However there is a tool, which I've been using, which does just that. You simply enter a Twitter handle, and within moments it shows you the tweets that particular account has sent out which include your Twitter handle. You can elect for the results to either include, or exclude, retweets.

That tool is hashTag Monitor



hashTag Monitor has other useful functions. It allows presetting and saving of certain scenarios. For example, you may have hooked up with a number of people who share a particular interest, say Formula One. Rather than seeing every Twitter user who uses the hash-tag “#F1”, you can select to see just the tweets of a select few who tweet about F1 using that particular hash-tag. There are many uses for hashTag Monitor, and at a level, the biggest limit will be how creative you want to be with it. 


Monday, 25 March 2013

Why Amazon book reviews are important

Reviews are vitally important as they provide a view of a book, other than the author's. Every book has 'blurb' on the back cover, which tries to draw the potential reader in, and encourage a purchase. A good review, however, is far more powerful, and will greatly assist in selling the book. Equally, bad reviews can have the opposite affect - and bad reviews are what most authors fear. However, so long as the good reviews outweigh the bad ones, there isn't a serious problem. Take this product:


The marketing campaign revolves around the fact that it divides opinion. People either love it, or hate it - and I'm talking about the product, not the marketing campaign. Personally I don't like the flavour of Marmite, but that doesn't make it a bad product - it's just down to personal taste (no pun intended). Marmite is probably the most famous product for splitting opinion, and the manufacturer plays on that point. 

The same can be said about books. Let's take one as an example - The Da Vinci Code. At the time of writing this post it had 4,276 reviews on Amazon.com. 18% of those were one star. Yet it is a book which has sold in its millions. Even with so many negative reviews, Dan Brown's next book, The Lost Symbol, was a big success in terms of sales, and looking at the reviews on Amazon, had as many bad as good reviews. Many of the negative reviews were perhaps as a result of all the pre-launch hype (there was a six year gap between the two books, and The Da Vinci Code had created a certain expectation for what was to follow), but that said, there were equally as many good reviews. Later this year Dan Brown's latest novel, Inferno, will be released. It too, I predict, will receive mixed reviews, because like everything in life, it will divide opinion and taste. But I also predict it will sell in large volumes, as Brown has now created a solid fan base, and most of that will have been achieved via reviews and recommendations in the past. As authors we need to accept we will get negative reviews (see my post about how to handle bad reviews) and realise not everyone will enjoy our work. The alternative is that nobody reviews our books, and the good reviews are not written, which in turn means there's no one to help light the all important sales fuse.

To end this post on a light note, here is possibly the best (and shortest) book review of all time from Ambrose Bierce (b 1842 d 1913) - "The covers of this book are too far apart."


Sunday, 24 March 2013

Facebook promotion for your book

Early this month I introduced a very useful site which creates single universal book links to all Amazon websites. Your potential customer, regardless of where they are on the planet, gets taken to their 'local' Amazon website. The company offering these links, Viewbook.at, are now providing a Facebook promotion for books, in return for generating referrals to their site. In essence they'll give you a promotional link to use, and then if 10 authors you introduce sign up, to use their FREE global Amazon links, they'll promote details of your book to their 10,000+ Facebook fans. The link to this promotional page is - Viewbook.at book promotion


Another useful universal link they have now introduced is for Amazon author pages. Again the idea is elegant in its simplicity. You are provided with a bespoke shortened URL which is linked to your Amazon author page, and regardless of where your potential customer lives, they will be taken directly to their 'local' Amazon website. The link to create your own is - Viewauthor.at These links are very useful when promoting your book and author page on both the global platforms of Twitter and Facebook, as they provide all your followers the ability to go straight to their own 'local' Amazon site.

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Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Should you judge a book by its cover?

Consider these two sayings:

'Never judge a book by its cover'

'You only get one chance to make a first impression'

Both make sense, in isolation, but when put next to each other, there seems to be a slight conflict. If your book cover fails to impress, it may get overlooked, and regardless of how good the content is, may not get read by as many people as it deserves. 

In an earlier post I discussed the marketing concept AIDA - Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. A book cover needs to help you achieve the first two elements. If the cover doesn't grab a potential readers attention, and create  interest, it has essentially failed to do its job. The front cover of a book has three key components - a title, an illustration, and the author's name. Now unless your name is JK Rowling, Dan Brown, etc., it probably won't have a huge amount of impact on the buying decision. That leaves the title and the illustration to do the lion's share of the work. Putting the illustration to one side for the moment, let's consider the title. Assume you have just written a book and titled it 'Wanted!'. This could suggest a number of themes and genres. It could be erotica where one woman is wanted by many men. Alternatively a romantic theme, about a woman who only ever wanted to be loved. What about a thriller, where a dangerous fugitive is wanted by the authorities? To help the potential reader better understand the title, a well crafted illustration is required. So if you are on the look out for an entertaining thriller, and the book 'Wanted!' is about an armed and dangerous criminal being hunted by the police, an illustration depicting this theme will be needed to grab your attention. Below are two possible book covers for the same story. Which one is likely to grab your attention?



The book buying process goes something along the following lines. See a cover and title you like (Attention), pick it up (Interest), and read the blurb on the back cover. You like what you read (Desire). You then look at the price, and when you realise the benefit of reading it outweighs the cost, take it to the check-out (Action). What you don't know, until you've read it, is whether or not you think it's a good story. But that is now too late, you've already judged the book by its cover. . . and as authors, that is very important, because your thriller of the year could have been easily overlooked if the cover just didn't deliver.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Sell more books with CreateSpace

What is stopping so many self-published authors, who are now selling their ebooks via Amazon's Kindle platform, from offering a paperback option? This question has puzzled me for sometime. Having gone to the trouble of getting the book formatted, and a cover designed, it seems to me the next logical step has to be developing another sales channel in the form of a paperback edition. Many pundits have predicted the demise of paperbacks due to the popularity of ebooks, but then other reports state paperback sales are still healthy. It doesn't really matter which report is correct, the simple fact is, BOTH formats sell in large quantities. With Amazon accounting for about 85% of ebook sales globally - again figures depend on which source you believe, but those I've read all believe they take the lion's share by some sizeable margin - it clearly makes sense for self-published authors to use their Kindle platform. The reluctance to go down the paperback route may come from a number of perceived problems, such as setting up the book, choosing which publisher is best, etc. However, these are not insurmountable obstacles, and once overcome will open up a unique client base - namely those who still prefer the feel of a traditional book in their hands, as opposed to an e-reader. 

Manufacturers of e-readers will talk of the benefits in owning one - 'x' thousand books conveniently stored in one place, downloading the book and having it immediately available, and so on. But it's not all doom and gloom for the good old paperback. You can read them safely in the bath, also on take-off and landing when flying, and they don't need to spend a lot of their time 'tied' to the wall, as they don't have batteries. 

With regard to choosing a publisher, opting for CreateSpace makes a lot of sense. To start with it is owned by Amazon, and therefore it's in their interest to make the interface with their website as efficient and effective as possible. As printing is done on a demand basis, there is no need to hold any inventory. Their set up programme is totally free, and the royalties very generous. My own personal experience is I sell many more ebooks than paperbacks, but the simple matter is, I do sell paperbacks, which wouldn't necessarily convert into ebook sales if I didn't offer the paperback option. I also gained a lot of exposure for the book when I offered a number of free copies via Goodreads 'giveaway' promotion. Over 1800 requests for the book, and several hundred people adding it to their 'to be read' list. This promotion at Goodreads is only available for physical books, and not ebooks.

If none of the aforementioned convinces you to offer a paperback version of your ebook, then hopefully this will. Ask any self-published author what it feels like to hold a physical copy of your own book in your hands for the very first time. It's a very special moment I can tell you.

Authors, Share Your Book with Millions of Readers

Monday, 18 March 2013

Is your name on this database?

There are many free sites on the Internet where you can place your details, but one particular site is growing exceptionally quickly - namely AUTHORSdB. I mentioned them in an earlier blog, but think they are worth giving a further shout out. Not only are they building a database of authors at a remarkable rate, but they also offer some exciting benefits for those same authors, such as:
  • A blogger of the week - with free banner advert
  • Featured author - with free banner advert
  • Author of the week - again, with a free banner advert
  • Regularly sending out personalised tweets about their top 25 rated authors
As an author you can also add book reviews, a book synopsis, social network links (including Goodreads), book trailers, book covers, Amazon links, and links to blogs/websites. AUTHORSdB also provide a variety of 'badges' you can download to promote yourself with. Here's an example:



AUTHORSdB is growing by the day, and as an author I suggest you get your details on their database. It's free, so really there is nothing to lose, and everything to gain.


Sunday, 17 March 2013

What is "Social Media Jail"?


At some point in your time on Twitter (or Facebook) you are likely to end up in a 'social media jail', without knowing why. So why does a post on 'Social Media Jail' feature on a marketing tips blog? The simple answer is that whilst you are being served prison food, and left feeling like a social outcast, your marketing machine is slowly grinding to a halt. Social media is very similar to a production facility in a factory – if the production line comes to a standstill, so too does the business . . . in your case, book sales.



Marketing is all about getting the message out on a constant basis. Companies such as McDonalds, Coca-Cola, BMW etc., are all well-known global companies, but they too need to constantly market their product. So, if you do end up in a social media jail, you can’t be getting your message out. The first sentence you may face is with Twitter. There are two aspects here. The first is a short block from the system, based upon the transgression, and the other is suspension, which can last for several days. A short block occurs when one of the technical limitations is surpassed.

The current technical limits for Twitter accounts are:
Direct Messages: 250 per day.
Updates/Tweets: 1,000 per day. The daily update limit is further broken down into smaller limits for semi-hourly intervals. Retweets are counted as updates.
Changes to Account Email: 4 per hour.
Following (daily): Please note that this is a technical account limit only, and there are additional rules prohibiting aggressive following behavior. The technical follow limit is 1,000 per day.
Following (account-based): Once an account is following 2,000 other users, additional follow attempts are limited by account-specific ratios. (see my additional post about this ruling.)

Suspension from Twitter occurs without any warning. One minute you can be using the system, the next you just get a message to say the account is suspended. Also, your followers will appear as ZERO! Don’t panic though, because if you successfully appeal the suspension then they will be re-instated, but you may lose a few. The biggest cause of a Twitter suspension is aggressive following, or using prohibited third-party software. The ‘guidelines’ Twitter provide are very ambiguous and don’t come with any true guidance. If they don’t like it, they’ll suspend the account. It can be best be likened to speed limits on the road. If you exceed the limit, you’ll get a possible ban. However, in Twitter’s case, they won’t tell you specifically what the ‘speed limit’ is, which isn’t particularly helpful. More details about Twitter’s rules can be found here.

It seems Facebook also provides a similar ‘service’ to Twitter, and this happens when you ask too many people to be your friend. Again, limits aren’t made transparent, and if you try to befriend too many people in a short period of time, you could be serving a sentence of several days, or even weeks. In fact, the latest joke doing the rounds is that Facebook is an actual jail. You sit around, waste time, have a profile picture, write on walls and get poked by people you don’t really know. You have been warned! Smiley


Saturday, 16 March 2013

Handling bad Amazon book reviews




If you haven’t already had one, you can rest assured at some point soon you’ll get one. What am I talking about? That one star Amazon review where the reviewer has gleefully ripped your novel apart in public. Most reasonable people who don’t enjoy a novel will either choose not to provide a review, or if they do, will attempt to be as constructive as possible. However, as in all areas of the Internet world, trolls lurk around every possible corner, ready to pounce. If you only have five and four star reviews they’ll be eager to drag your average down. They’ll love saying things such as - ‘If I cud give no stars, or even better, minus stars, then this pile of rubbish would of got em. My advise is dont read it !!!’  Yes, so often they are littered with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.

So how do you handle a negative review of this sort? My personal opinion is to completely ignore it. Don’t in any circumstances try to challenge what has been written by entering into a war of words. I have one character in my current novel who has a personality disorder. One reviewer commented that no one would behave in the way my character did in the novel. Part of me was tempted to say something, but I resisted the urge. What the reviewer didn’t know is that I sought advice from my wife about personality disorders, when developing the character . . . as she is a consultant clinical psychologist, and is well versed in dealing with people who have such disorders. So often a reviewer will make a comment, not knowing what they don’t know. All of which leads me on to perhaps the most irritating comment reviewers so often make - ‘It was too far-fetched’. Fellow author Jill Edmondson invited me to write about this very subject on her blog, so I won’t repeat verbatim here what I said, but suffice to say, people who think in black and white will very often not understand creative concepts, ideas or anything out of the ordinary. They’ll not see one shade of grey, let alone fifty, and will often write a review in total ignorance.

One other good way to make yourself feel better about the review is to look at other products on Amazon. Search for something you've purchased, and are delighted with. There is a very high chance that someone will have a totally different opinion. Just consider the music you like, and others don't, and vice versa. Opinion is totally subjective.

Finally, just remember you are one of a select few . . . a person who has actually written a book, and published it. Many people have the desire to write a book. Very few start one, and even fewer finish one, let alone publish it. It is very easy to criticise another person’s efforts, but it’s a lot harder, as all authors will testify, to provide other people with the opportunity to read something in the first instance. If the vast majority enjoy your work, then feel satisfied you’ve done a good job. Satisfying everyone is an impossible task.

Here is a clue about tomorrow's post.  Smiley


Friday, 15 March 2013

Every author should be on Goodreads!


Well, I’m sure you’ll agree that is a very bold statement, but I stand by it, and here’s why. Goodreads is the single biggest website on the Internet for bringing authors and readers together. Currently over 16 million members use the Goodreads website. It provides a platform both to share your books, read the books of others, enjoy engaging forums, promote new releases with a giveaway, link up with your followers from Twitter/Facebook etc etc.

I want to use this post to highlight three aspects of Goodreads (and there are plenty more) which you can use to help with marketing your book.


1) Giveaways
When I initially published my book I decided to give away a few paperback copies. I thought, optimistically, a hundred or so people on Goodreads would be perhaps interested in receiving a copy. I was staggered when over 1,800 people requested one of the free copies. That, straightaway, meant 1,800+ people (and all those who saw it, but didn’t request it) knew my book now existed. I also had over 300 people place it on their ‘to read’ list. There are a few rules regarding the 'giveaway' programme on Goodreads, but it certainly will create some immediate exposure.

2) Harvesting Twitter followers
This is a tip I was given by an author friend. You’ll find with Goodreads you’ll only be permitted to add a certain number of friends per day, before the system blocks you until you enter a new day. However, Goodreads do appreciate you may have Twitter followers on Goodreads, which you currently haven’t yet befriended on the site. These they will allow you to add as friends in bulk. You can do this by going to your profile page, scrolling down to your Friends list, clicking where it indicates how many friends you have, and then clicking on ‘Find Friends From’. Then select Twitter (and you can use the other social sites too) from the choices available. The system will then tell you how many Twitter followers you have on Goodreads that you can send a friend request to. Those who do agree to be friends on Goodreads will then slowly start to populate your 'friends' list.

3) Listopia
If you have a book riding high in one of the Listopia ‘lists’, it provides a good opportunity for further promotion. Currently I have a book which has been in the top ten ‘Thrillers You Must Read’ category for over 16 months, of which for two months during 2013 it was #1. This particular listing on Goodreads has given the novel some excellent exposure.  (I’m sure, now that I’ve just said that, one or two will see it as their duty to topple it, sooner rather than later. C'est la vie. However, any additional votes will be gratefully received.Smiley) 

In tomorrow’s post I’ll be looking at the painful issue of poor book reviews.


Thursday, 14 March 2013

Access ALL Amazon websites with just ONE link


With Twitter being limited to 140 characters per tweet, each character becomes precious, and if, as an author, you are trying to access a wide audience, it can create an issue as to where you focus your pitch. This is particularly problematic with Amazon.  My novel is currently on nine different Amazon platforms - .com, .co.uk, .fr, .it, .de, .ca, .es, .com.br, .co.jp – each of which has a unique link for my book. Clearly .com and .co.uk provide the biggest combined audience, but I also get sales from the other country platforms. Thankfully there is now a way around the problem of multiple links, namely - viewbook.at


This website helps you create ONE link that accesses ALL territories. I’ve used it, tested it with fellow authors in different countries, and it works. So, if you happen to be based in Canada, and click on this link – all territories – you will be redirected to Amazon.ca. If you are in France, and click the same link, you will be directed to Amazon.fr. This is great for using with Twitter, as it doesn’t then matter where your potential customers live, because once they click on your link, they’ll be taken to the most appropriate Amazon store. This is particularly important for books. I wouldn’t, as a customer, want to set up nine different Amazon accounts to make purchases. If I click on an book on the Amazon.com website, invariably I get redirected to Amazon.co.uk (because I reside in the UK). That’s fine, if I were always taken to the specific product page. On most occasions I get redirected to the Amazon home page. As an author I don’t want to put any unnecessary barriers in the way of my potential readers, so a ‘global’ link is an elegant way of overcoming that problem. (This service only works with links, and not the html code needed to create pictorial Amazon links, such as those on the right hand site of this site.)

So how does this all work? Viewbook provides you with a link, which directs the customer to the appropriate Amazon site, via their site. It is a seamless operation, and the customer isn’t aware of this happening. The next question you’ll probably want to ask is this – ‘Is this service free?’ – and the answer is yes . . . and no! Yes, the service is actually free, but if you have an Amazon affiliate account, you won’t be the one making the money if a sale is made – Viewbook will, via their affiliate account, which isn't unreasonable, as they are offering an excellent service. So you have to make the choice, a very small percentage of the sale lost, or the possible potential of more sales. Your royalties, by the way, will remain unaffected. It is just affiliate commission you’ll lose, paid by Amazon. Personally I’ve chosen to use the one global link, and not lose any sleep over lost affiliate commission, as I believe my chances of making sales significantly increases with the reduction in customer barriers.


Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Why you need to create a BRAND


As authors we generally have one goal, apart from writing books . . . and that’s to sell them. If you accept that as a key goal, then one thing is vitally important, and that is getting the message out there that your books exist. Without some form of marketing, your book will just reside on Amazon’s server as a Kindle file, and do nothing more. So what do I mean by an author having a brand? The picture below represents arguably the best known brand on the planet.


Certainly, if a company called Interbrand are to be believed, the Coca-Cola brand is the most valuable in the world, with a current estimate, for the brand alone, in the region of $67billion. No, that’s not a typo. It’s valued in billions of US dollars. Why? The answer to that is quite simple, although the calculation Interbrand use is very complex. Wherever you go in the world you’ll generally be able to buy a bottle, or can, of Coca-Cola. Compared to a ‘local cola’ or supermarket ‘own brand’ cola, Coca-Cola is more expensive. So it sells more than any other cola, and sells at a higher price than any other cola, and the logo is recognised the world over. That’s the value of the brand.

Now as an author you’ll never compete with Coca-Cola. Not even JK Rowling comes close, and neither should she. It is a different product, in a different market. But let’s get back to the Coca-Cola logo for a minute. It has remained unchanged for decades - hence why we immediately recognise it. So if Coca-Cola advertises on the TV, in the press, on poster sites, the logo is consistently the same. I now want to raise the question . . . what is YOUR logo? It can’t be your book cover, unless you only write one book, and most authors write several. Most marketing of books, particularly indie books, is done on the Internet, using, in the main, social networks, such as Twitter and Facebook. If you do use Facebook, make sure it’s an ‘author fan page’ you use to market your book, not your page which family and close friends connect with you. Sure, mention the odd success on the latter, but leave the marketing to your author page. I digress slightly, but within intent. Your logo needs to be YOU! Until your books become a brand in their own right, like Harry Potter, the only common theme running across your books is you.

So how do you build a brand around you? The first thing is create consistency across all marketing platforms, and one way to do this is use the SAME photograph of yourself on EVERYTHING related to your books. Now, I loathe having my picture taken, and the photo I use is one taken by my youngest daughter (using my camera!) when I wasn’t looking. It probably looks posed, but I can assure you it wasn’t - but it’s the one I chose to use. You’ll not see another photo of me on anything linked to my books. I use it on Twitter, Facebook, my website, other websites which promote my book, etc. I know other people who do the same, and it helps me enormously. If I’m interested in their tweets, and I can see their face on my Twitter feed, I’ll click on the tweet. The same goes for Facebook, when I’m scrolling through the latest updates. However, if they change their profile picture, and many do, I’ll easily miss their message, and what’s the point of messaging in the first instance if you give people a barrier to seeing it.

So for me, rule number one is - select a picture you are happy with (or in my case find acceptable), and STICK with it. (Leave the profile picture changing for your family and close friends on your personal Facebook account.) Don’t hide behind a book cover, or some other artwork. People interact best with people, and are more likely to trust you if they can see what you look like. I very rarely follow back ‘Eggs’ on Twitter, and I certainly don’t start the following process with them.

Rule number two is - ensure you maximise the potential of your bio on Twitter. If you are an author, tell people that. Use the limited number of characters wisely, and also come across as a real person. I’ve had many people tweet me after following, making an observation about my bio, and in particular my comment about getting 100,000 words in the correct order. (Although that has since been updated to promote this blog.) I’ve seen some authors with just the word ‘author’ in their bio, and nothing more. If that’s as creative as they can be, do I want to look at their books, let alone read them? Probably not. Your bio should also provide a link to your website, not your book on Amazon. Your website gives people the chance to find a little bit more about you and your work. They can always go to Amazon from your website, if they like what they see/read. (See the post about AIDA to understand more why an Amazon book link on your blog isn't ideal.)

By creating a common ‘theme’ across all the marketing platforms you use, you will start to become more recognised, and recognition will, if established correctly, build a good reputation. That good reputation will then help to sell your books.

Finally, at the beginning of this article I drew your attention to the Coca-Cola logo at the top of the page. So ingrained is that logo in our brains, you probably didn’t spot the subtle mistake in the one I used. (See if you can spot it.) When you can see and recognise a logo, and not immediately see a subtle mistake, you know that logo is part of a very strong brand. 

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Do book trailers provide a benefit?


In this short post I want to consider the benefit of book trailers. Let’s first of all look at the benefits. If done well, they can help create exposure, in the same way as trailers to movies stimulate your desire to watch a movie . . . or not, as the case may be. Not everyone will want to watch the same movie, or read the same book – but if your target market see it, and like what they see, then it will definitely generate readership.

If you recall my earlier post about AIDA – Attention, Interest, Desire, Action – a good book trailer, like a good movie trailer, will deliver on all four counts. Once your viewer's attention is grabbed – either through something visual, or audible, the trailer should try to build on this interest and develop a desire for the him/her to want to read the book. Finally, there should be some form of call to action. In other words, details of where the viewer can obtain the book, or at least give them more information about it.

So the major benefit is additional exposure, and potential extra sales. But what about the negatives? The biggest negative is cost, and this is where a minefield exists. Some companies charge huge prices for the creation of a book trailer. An expense you need to re-coup from additional book sales.  Yesterday’s post outlined the number of hits you need to generate to make sales. However, if a book trailer can be created for a modest cost, then it reduces the number of sales required to cover the cost. My own book trailer, below, was produced by Tracy Stewart (www.allaboutthecover.com) for a very modest $50. (Tracy’s normal price is $75, which includes the sourcing of graphics – but I provided my own.)




Once you have a book trailer it can be used on any website, without the need for the website to upload a huge file. My book trailer is on a number of sites, including, for example, my author page on the Independent Author Network website. I’ve already had a number of people inform me directly that they have purchased the book as a result of watching the trailer. I took the view that the cost was low enough to warrant taking a small gamble, primarily due to the flexibility of being able to have the trailer on more than one website.

So in summary, book trailers can help create additional exposure, but you need to be very cautious about how much of your hard earned royalties you are going to invest in them.