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Archive for June, 2009

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Making the Most of Your Amazon Listing

Amazon is a great resource and selling tool for all authors, but there is much more to it than just listing your book and hoping for the best. Here are ideas for making the most of your Amazon listing and improving your sales:

1) Start an Amazon connect blog

2) Do a Listmania and title the list well so that others will find it.

3) Write a good product description, list review blurbs, have a "from the publisher" and "from the author" with different information

4) "Tag" the books

5) Assign a "search term"  You can have up to 10 search terms per book

6) Apply for an Amazon review

7) Post reviews on books similar to yours with your "signature" including "author of XYZ" - others will look at your book too.

8) Use the images feature just below the book cover to add related pictures of yours to related books - see an example here: - my images are below Jamie’s book  (don’t ask me why the smiley face, but I can’t get rid of it - gremlins!)

9) Write a "Wouldn’t you like to" story that includes your book.

10) Post on their discussion groups relevant to your book

11) MOST importantly - make sure the search paths (you can have three) are correct for your book - on the book above, scroll down to Product details and look at "Popular in these categories" - those are the search paths people use to find your book.

Have fun, Amazon is a great tool.

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Publishing University and BEA both “downsized” this Year

PubU and BEA are two events that I look forward to attending every year. Not because I love to travel, but because you can learn so much about the industry in which we all participate. This year was especially exciting not just because I was on a panel (Kate Bandos’ Pub102 presentation), but because I was asked to moderate a session for the first time. We titled it “Become a Media Magnet – Top Pros Reveal Secrets to Use Every Day” and the panel I assembled using HARO was awesome. Part of our session was called “speed pitching” – audience members volunteered to stand up and spend one minute pitching the panel on their book, then the experts gave them feedback. Everyone loved it and learned so much.

If you haven’t been to PubU and BEA, you really need to figure out a way to go. You will learn so much in such a short time and the networking with other authors, publishers and industry insiders can’t be beat. Where else could you have lunch with Dan Poynter, John Kremer, Brian Jud, Penny Sansevieri and more? Where else could you talk to Random House staff, make an appointment to talk to distributors, see what Amazon is up to, learn about selling foreign rights and so much more. This is where decision makers hang out all in one place, once a year.  

Publishing University was held at the lovely Roosevelt Hotel in midtown Manhattan which created a regal backdrop for the three days of non-stop classes with events each evening to provide time for socializing and networking. Of course the big focus of the classes this year was on Web 2.0 and social media, with e-books also a hot topic. Virtually every session talked about those topics from one point of view or another. Although attendance was down, those who came were really engaged in learning to make their publishing businesses better and more successful. The 7AM “Ask the Expert” forum each morning was well attended by early risers with coffee in hand. This is where you can go to seek one-on-one advice on subjects ranging from printing to marketing to publicity and more.

The economy cast a distinct dampening on both events.  Attendance at BEA was down, booths were smaller, the flamboyant displays and wandering entertainment were all but absent, yet there was a certain earnestness about the event that was refreshing. The Javits Center was eerily empty of both booths and people. However, there seemed to be more serious conversations happening in many of the booths and in the IBPA booth where I took a turn working, the usual cadres of librarians were making notes about books they liked and wanted to order. Hopefully the smaller turnout meant more serious buyers.

The real highlight of the show was the Expresso Book Machine in the Lightening Source booth. A somewhat “Rube Goldberg”-looking device, this machine can pump out a completed book every four minutes. True “on demand” printing. It is basically two copiers (one black and white for the interiors and one color for the covers) with a book binding machine sandwiched between them and a computer monitor to select your book. You can watch a video of it here. Just think of the applications beyond the book store – cruise ships, hospitals, resorts, large businesses – any place where people congregate, want to read, and may not be convenient to a book store.

Next year both events will again be in New York with BEA downsizing by one day and moving the event to mid-week. How that will effect Publishing University is unclear at this time, but now is the time to start setting some money aside to go – I flew for $129 each way, shared a room with a fellow author, took advantage of all the free food included in your admission, and walked or took van transportation – all to save money and make the trip economical. The experience and knowledge were, well, priceless.




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Expresso Book Machine

I saw this machine at BEA in NY recently. It cracked me up!  It really is "rube goldberg"-looking - clunky, yet fascinating.  They said that there are 12 currently deployed - mostly overseas.  The longest-lived one has been in operation for about 3 years in Australia.

I know that this is just the beginning - remember when there were only 4 computers in the world and someone famously said "and we see no need for any more." (circa 1954)

I love new technology and trying to envision where it might go. I don’t believe that we’ll all have one in our homes in our lifetimes, but once they make it into the size of today’s desktop printers - who knows. But will we print books at all in another quarter century? Will we all have some type of e-reader?  Even today when my kids come to visit, Phil and I read the morning Oregonian with our cup of coffee - the kids are on their laptops sitting right next to us and chatting as they are reading the WSJ, the London Times, the NY Times — anything but the local paper and no trees were killed to accomplish their morning newspaper addiction. Who would have thought that even 20 years ago?

I think the Expresso machine is an exciting new development in the evolution of print media - it will get better over time and not be the funny-looking contraption it is today (it is slightly larger than a big, commercial copier). I can envision them in Starbucks, Borders, gift stores, maybe even resorts, hospitals, cruise ships - any place where people congregate and have time on their hands and may want to read.

But it does nothing to make our books more well known - only somewhat more accessible for impulse buys. So get doing that good marketing work and maybe one day someone will buy your book from an Expresso machine with their morning latte.


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How do you define a successful book?

A fellow author and I were having an email discussion about writing and publishing last week and came upon the question - what makes a book successful?

Here is my answer:

Ahh yes, every book has its own definition of success and I totally agree that you must have a product that makes you proud.  That is why so many are disappointed when they use some of these online "book mills".  There is nothing better (well, maybe getting married and having your children!) that is more special than holding that first book in your hand - I’ll never forget that day - I was so thrilled. 

IF you define success with sales, then here are the order of important things that I often hear and agree with:

#1 cover - first thing people see, still generally acknowledged to have the most single impact on sales;

#2 Title - pulls the reader into the content and what people see first on the bookshelves - must be easily readable on the spine;

#3 Marketing and personal connection with the author - the author’s willingness to promote the book as long as it is in print - most give up too quickly and the book never gets "legs"

#4 Either the back cover copy (what I think) or some people say the introduction - either way this is where you tell the reader what’s in it for them.  All of these things happen before the reader has read a single word of the book (most likely) or no more than  just a few lines glancing though it.  The decision to buy is made on these first 4 things before the reader ever delves into the book.  I would submit that another item that is in the early pre-sale mix is also reviews - what others think of the book - whether it is readers reviewing on Amazon, word-of-mouth from friends or professional reviewers in magazines and newspapers and now bloggers.

#5 The content. If they don’t get through the above four items, they will never open the book to read your beautiful words.

If you define success in terms of personal satisfaction, doing a service for the world, or some other non-sales related definition, then I would agree that each person’s success definition will be different.  My definition though was sales first and helping others access the information as a result of good sales.  If nobody gets to read what you have written (via buying the book), then what good is having written wonderful words, crafted carefully - your personal satisfaction will be greater if you get to share that joy with your readers.

My friend’s answer tended to focus on the writing aspect itself - which, of course, is a necessary and valid perspective. Her top 5 were:

My personal order of importance for a ’successful’ book

#1 the story idea  #2 the writing  #3 editing/graphics/cover  #4 marketing #5 successful follow-up book

So, what do you think makes a successful book?

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Top 5 Marketing Tips for Small Publishers

Marketing is such an intimidating topic for most authors and small publishers, but it is really just about letting the world know that you have produced this incredible source of information or entertainment.  So how do you do that?

Here are my Top 5 Marketing Tips for Authors and Publishers

  1. Set Google Alerts for "your name", "your book name" and all "related topics of interest" Go to and query for Google Alerts. Always enclose your search topics in quotes. Google sends you everything about your topics each day. use the information to thank people, expand your media list, and know what is going on with your book and industry.
  2. Have a Marketing Plan written down - "if you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there!"  Know what things you are doing - and not doing.
  3. Do something marketing every day - get in the habit of working on your business, whether it is doing a blog post, looking up potential contacts, writing an email to a reporter, - do something to move your project forward
  4. Keep up with the Industry - things are changing fast in publishing - subscribe to a few newsletters, attend a conference, read a magazine - keep learning and stay abreast of what’s new.
  5. Follow up, Follow up, Follow up - everyone is so busy these days that you have to stay on top of things in order to make them happen.  If you send a review copy - follow up, if a reporter is using a quote from you - follow up, if you leave a message with a book store - follow up. 
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"And I thought after 40 years of writing, I could write a sales letter... WRONG! Carol White's letter went beyond my imagination and into the sales stratosphere. Thanks, Carol! " -- AD Walker