Summer Series — Marketing Your Book on Amazon Part 1 of 3

Welcome to Part One of a three-part summer series focusing on successfully and efficiently marketing your book on Amazon. Part one will discuss writing reviews for other products and books and explain why it is an important part of book marketing. Part two will discuss soliciting reviews for your book and how to do it properly. Part three will explain why reviews (both giving and receiving) can “tilt” Amazon search algorithm in your favor and how you can tilt it further by taking other simple steps.

Part One: Writing Reviews on Amazon

Writing reviews for other books and products is an important step for your own book marketing efforts. Now only does it allow you to put your name and book title in front of thousands of new people every day, but every review you write is linked to your customer profile (so if you haven’t taken advantage of your customer profile to market your book, do that now at: www.amazon.com/gp/pdp ).

You may be tempted to write a review of your own book. That is not a good idea since Amazon and its community frown upon such tactics. Instead, find books and products that you are familiar with and write reviews for them. If these books and products appeal to your target reader, all the better.

Here are the steps to writing an effective review:

Step 1: Find the book or product you are reviewing on Amazon and go to its sales page. Again, try to pick books or products that will appeal to your reader. After all, the whole point is for them to read your review and notice your book title.

Step 2: Scroll down the Amazon page to the section that says “Customer Reviews” and you will see a button that says “Write a customer review.” Click on that button.

Step 3: If you are not signed-in to your Amazon account, you will need to sign in to your account to write a review. If you do not have an Amazon account, you will need to create one. It is imperative for your book promotion that you have an Amazon account to write reviews and participate in the other promotional tactics we will share with you. But who doesn’t have an Amazon account in this day and age?

Side Note: In order to create an account that is “qualified” to write reviews, you need to have purchased something on Amazon. This is Amazon’s way of preventing review-fraud by ensuring that each review is written by a unique, real person. You’ve most certainly purchased something on Amazon already, but if you haven’t, here’s what you should buy: A copy of your book. You should do this anyway; a book needs at least one Amazon sale to trigger an ABR (Amazon bestseller rank), which is required for Amazon’s search algorithm to kick-in.

Step 4: Once you have an active Amazon account, you can write your review for the book or product you’ve selected (NOT your book). It should be at least 5-10 sentences long and it should end with your author name and a link to your book. That gives your review credibility, in addition to valuable exposure, because you are also a published author. And would Amazon have a function that so easily allows you to create a link to your book if they didn’t want you to use it? Of course not.

Step 5: Before you wrap up your review, don’t forget to use the “Insert Product Link” button. This allows you to add a link to YOUR book in the body of your review. In an alternate browser window, find your book and cut and paste the URL into the field that presents itself after clicking that “Insert Product Link” button. Amazon will use that internet address to find your product, and it will show up for you to confirm. Therefore, your review will end with “Your name, author of such & such” and the best news is, your book title will be clickable!

Write as many reviews for as many books and products as you can. The more reviews you write, the more instances your Profile Link is exposed for others to click on and the more links to your book are in your reviews. It is therefore in your best interest to review books that are related to your subject matter or topic (since customers browsing those reviews will be interested in your book, too).

Stay tuned for Part Two where we discuss the art of acquiring reviews for your own book…

Marketing Your Travel Book in Five Simple Steps

If you’ve spent much time reading the literature of travel, you’ll already know that there are many handy quotes about the process. St. Augustine, for example, is credited with saying that “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” If you’ve recently self-published a book on travel, clearly, you’ve seen more than one page of that book … but what about your readers? How do you ensure that they move from the shelf to the checkout line with your book in hand? How do you ensure that your book meets the readers it needs out there in the world?

We have a few ideas to get you started, exactly five of them in fact. Take advantage of them all and you’ll put your travel book, so to speak, on the map.

ONE: Consider the “Who?” Who are your readers, really? Are they travelers like you, in that they actually move through the physical world and are looking for templates to follow? Or are they what publishers used to call “armchair travelers,” those readers who much preferred to live vicariously through others than to conduct the trips (and endure their hardships) themselves? This being 2018, the conversation about ableism is now well-developed, and we now know that many readers pick up travel books to empower them, and to enable them to experience the world in a way that maybe they couldn’t otherwise. So, with your readers in mind, share content that gets them excited about travel, such as quality social media content, engaging lists and articles; also provide content that helps your readers plan, including itineraries and how-to videos; and lastly, provide content which will help them take an action, such as booking a trip, making a reservation, or accessing their local wildernesses.

TWO: Consider the “What?” As in, what’s your niche? Travel books happen to occupy a difficult niche, as do many other genres, in that they’re read heavily but only by very specific audiences, and sales numbers only occasionally make them blockbuster successes. (Cheryl Strayed’s Wild is a great example of an exception, however.) What this means for self-published authors is that you need to find people who are already interested in your book’s subject, even if they read in different quantities than they might in other genres. Once you find these people, they are an easy sell. And in the age of information, finding them is easier than previous generations could even dream about. Look for those Facebook groups dedicated to travel and ask if anyone is interested in reviewing your travelogue. Hop on Reddit and start a conversation about the destinations you cover. Use your niche to your advantage!

THREE: Consider the “When?” When it comes to travel, the time of year really matters. Take care to highlight seasons in your marketing, especially on visually-driven platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook: fall colors, winter activities, and seasonal foods go over really well in framing your marketing strategies! Also highlight local holidays, and ways for your readers to celebrate, which festivities to attend, and so forth, and tackle other timely elements that can become the focal point for effective marketing content. Extra content to include on your blog, social media, or website might include a local events guide or seasonal restaurant menus.

FOUR: Consider the “Where?” As with the time of year, your destination really, and truly makes a difference in your marketing strategy! In your marketing materials, make sure to explore destination-specific highlights such as exclusive events and local sights. Take care to showcase the local food and beverage scene, as mentioned earlier, including restaurant recommendations, wine tastings, and foodie-favorite festivals. And lastly, intentionally acquaint your readers with little-known travel tips such as where to find off-the-beaten paths and materials which will enable them to replicate your favorite experiences.

FIVE: Consider the “Why?” Why do your readers read? Why do you write? And most importantly, why do we travel? Remember, the art of a travel book is evoking the feeling of expansion, of exploration, in those who have not had the liberty or means or luck to travel the way that you have. In a sense, this puts a burden of responsibility on you. What can you say and do in your marketing to embrace those readers of limited mobility, who are perhaps constrained by money or by their own bodies and prevented from conducting a trip like yours? You have the ability–and the opportunity–to bring the book of this grand world of ours to your readers and help them flip through a few of its pages. If there’s a more beautiful idea, we haven’t heard it yet.

As Henry Miller put it, “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” What better way of helping make the world a better place than by making it possible for your readers to see our beautiful planet through fresh eyes? We hope you’ll take the time to invest in your book’s marketing success now that it exists in this beautiful world of ours.

Still not sure where to start in marketing your book this month? There’s never a better time than now to inquire. Log into your Publishing Center to view all of the marketing services that Outskirts Press offers.

To see our staff picks of amazing travel books from many of our authors, visit our Pinterest page by clicking here.

6 Keys to Promoting Your Self-Published Book on Google

The more time you spend among self-published authors, the more likely you are to realize that book promotion is just as often about finding the time to devote to the process as it is about who you know. When traditional publishing was the only route to publication, this may not have been the case, but in 2018 elbow grease and time are among the most important ingredients to successful book marketing.

With that in mind, wouldn’t it be great if there was a simple, easy, and quick way to find the people or places which were good fits for your book? Knowledge is power, in that spreading the knowledge of your book far and wide and making it easy to discover is a powerful element of your promotional arsenal. Google and other search engines have put the power of advanced Internet search algorithms at your disposal, but not all searches are created equal. In fact, Google makes it possible to promote your books using their search engine for free.

Here are six ways to make Google your ally in promotion:

  1. Help users discover your books by matching the content in your books with user searches. This ties into the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) process, which we have written about on our blog before.
  2. Keep your content protected. Users are able to preview a limited number of pages on Google Books using the preview function and determine whether they’ve found what they’re looking for. It’s useful to use Google to search for those unconscientious websites which mirror, or duplicate, the content of books and offer them for free download. Every few weeks, search your book’s title (with and without the additional term “free”) and double-check that no one is doing this. If they are, it’s time to send a cease-and-desist letter.
  3. Drive book sales by providing links to bookstores and online retailers at every opportunity when generating your own original content, whether on your blog or your website or your various social media platforms. Each link and mention you make of your book online is tracked and incorporated into the algorithms that decide search rankings, and search rankings determine what pops up first in the list of results whenever someone searches for your book or subjects related to your book.
  4. Become a Google Books Partner. Did you know Google is actively seeking partnerships with authors, and that they provide all sorts of resources for promoting your books on Google? Your new one-stop shop for know-how as an author interested in Google’s partnership program is: www.google.com/googlebooks/partners. If you visit this page, you’ll find links with recommendations for self-promotion, resources for authors and publishers, and a collection of success stories. (And let’s face it, we love tapping into the glow of success, if only to learn how others are finding ways to make it work.)
  5. Check out Google Play’s “Book Partners Center,” a separate (but linked) resource which provides step-by-step instructions on how to publish your book as an e-book in the Google Play store, and put your story on Android devices the world over. Of course, if you’re short on time, all the knowledge in the world won’t help you overcome that deficit. In that case, our last recommendation is to …
  6. Consider Outskirts Press’s various Google-related services, including the Google Books Preview Program Submission service, which interfaces directly with Google in order to render your book preview beautiful and findable, and the Amazon Listing Optimization service, which utilizes the latest advances in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategies in order to boost your Amazon book listing in Google search results.

These six tips will help Google users discover and access your book, as well as help you protect your rights and maintain creative control, and drive book sales. Google is so much more than a search engine, now! Have your book sales been flagging and you can’t figure out why? Visit your Author Center account online at www.outskirtspress.com to explore more marketing options and resources, including the chance to book 5 hours with one of our award-winning Personal Marketing Assistants!

4 Fresh Ways to Market Your Spiritual or Christian Book

No matter what a book’s genre might be, an age-old question emerges: “What makes my book unique? How do I find my ideal readers?” When it comes to Christian and Spiritual books, however, whether fiction or non-fiction, the answer seems deceptively simple. After all, who reads books with a Christian focus? Very likely, people who are Christians themselves. And what about, more generally, Spiritual books? As with Christian literature, works with a spiritual bent tend to appeal to a specific slice of the population. Simple. Straightforward. Easy. Right?

The difficulty with taking this simplistic approach is that both populations (people of faith and people who are spiritual) are enormous! This offers both unique challenges and opportunities for authors looking to market their books in these categories. There are a lot of potential readers out there, and they’re just as diverse a group as any other, in age and origin and interests. Here are four ways to refocus your marketing strategy and reach your ideal readers!

ONE: Don’t be afraid to go social.

You’ve probably heard about the benefits of a well-developed social media campaign before. But did you know that most social media platforms have built-in as well as grassroots options which will give your book, specifically, the boost it needs to reach more readers? Consider Facebook, which has countless book groups you can join, from Avid Readers of Christian Fiction to Christian Fiction Writers to Christian Fiction Fans, and many, many more. Goodreads, too, offers book clubs and social groups along these lines where your book can find a home. Meanwhile, Twitter features a number of important hashtags you can use in your tweets in order to promote your book on that platform, including #InspirationalFiction and #ChristianBooks. Readers of these genres know to follow tweets which are gathered under these hashtags, and to parse them for new books they might be interested in. Instagram works the same way! Many readers, writers, and fans are already collecting Christian and Spiritual books and pinning them to their boards (see our links at the end of this piece for an example!), and this creates a uniquely sharable digital space for promotion. Don’t be afraid to experiment and find the platforms which work the best for you, and generate the most traffic!

TWO: Find those niche bookstores.

At this point, you’re probably already aware of the thriving Christian book industry, and Spiritual bookstores like Namaste in New York are also doing very well for themselves. Work on getting your book placed into these bookstores! Start with your local indie bookstores, both Spiritual (they often have “metaphysical” in their name!) and Christian … and don’t forget about your local church bookstores, which are often embedded with coffee shops in large church buildings. As with any indie bookstore, the worst the manager can say is “no,” but very often they’ll be excited to feature local talent. They will be much more open to give local authors shelf space, especially if you can pair your books with a book signing or reading event. Once you have your book in one store, encourage as many readers as possible to buy it from that store … and then, use those sales numbers as justification when contacting other bookstores to join your sales team.

THREE: Break out the press release!

Get the word out in the news! Send out a news release to Christian media outlets, not just the standard universal press release indices. The websites associated with pretty much every Christian or Spiritual newspaper, TV show, and radio program have links to where you can submit a release for your book. You can also send out news releases to other media that have Christian or Spiritual sections, even if the whole institution is not dedicated to faith-based material. If you feel a bit out to sea when it comes to writing and distributing press releases, don’t worry! Outskirts Press offers a fantastic and thorough press release service which will ensure news of your book reaches exactly the right ears.

FOUR: Craft original content for your blog.

Your author website is an oft-untapped opportunity to reach readers specifically interested in Spiritual and Christian topics. Readers with an interest in these subjects are already well-trained in locating and reading original content, and amongst these readers longform blog posts are a perennial favorite. Consider crafting original blog posts, reflective or faith-based or inspirational in tone, and posting these to your personal blog and author website. Don’t replicate the content of your book, but write materials which complement the content of your book, and whet readers’ appetites for more! Make sure to use keywords and enrich your metadata so that your audience will find your blog easily when searching on search engines like Google and Bing for Christian and Spiritual topics.

Still not sure where to start in marketing your book this Spring? Log into your Publishing Center to view all of the marketing services that Outskirts Press offers.

To see our staff picks of amazing Christian books from many of our authors, visit our Pinterest page by clicking here. We keep a separate Pinterest page for additional Spiritual books, which you can find here.

6 Ways to Make Your Library an Ally During National Library Month!

April is National Library Month! And let’s face it, if there’s one place we go to find out information about books, it’s our local public library. At a library, the act of browsing is elevated to an art form, and you can feel free to study the shelving arrangement, the genres, the popular nooks and crannies, the competition, and the various ways and means librarians “sell” their collections to the public … all without feeling guilty for not buying something! In fact, if you’re “caught” browsing in a library and the librarians find out you’re a local author, you’re likely to get hooked into giving a book reading as a way to promote both your book and the library’s services.

Libraries mean unlimited books and unlimited resources for free. And one of the best resources is the librarians themselves. Libraries and librarians are among some of the most powerful advocates a self-publishing author could hope for! Your local librarian can provide help with, yes, possibly setting up a book reading event to help you market your book, as well as finding answers to questions on how to have your book stocked in that library and much more.

What are some other ways you can promote your book by using the library?

  1. Donate a copy (or several copies) of your book to the library. Be sure to go through the proper donation channels.
  2. If your book is geared towards children, give a school library presentation on your book’s subject. School libraries are always looking for new books! Just make sure to reach out through the proper channels (i.e. through the principal and administration, as well as the librarian).
  3. Connect with librarians via social networks. Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are powerful ways to network!
  4. Stock promotional materials such as flyers and letters at local libraries. Be sure to include of the essential information about your book such as subject, genre, audience and purchasing information. It’s best to ask if they’d be willing to stock these supplies on their “freebies” counter or in their brochure pocket wall first, just in case they need to check their policies.
  5. Ask a librarian to review your book in a local publication. This will bring positive attention to your book and encourage other locals to buy it! You might even be able to get a librarian to review it in your library’s state or regional newsletter, which would encourage other librarians to buy it.
  6. Reach out to your state and regional library association newsletters. If you’re willing to write a brief and submit a brief description of your book, some editors will include your book in their newsletters for free, and others will ask for a reasonable fee. Since librarians are active and invested allies, this makes for an efficient way of raising awareness among all of the libraries in your area. You can find contact information for most library association newspaper editors on each association’s website.

Libraries are a powerful part of your book promotion strategy. Creative marketing tactics can increase your chances of a library stocking your book, and can also lead to great relationships with librarians and readers. Not sure where to find your local library? Hop on www.publiclibraries.com and search by city, state, or zip code. You can also visit the American Library Association (ALA) website at www.ala.org, where you’ll find information on the current state of libraries and how you can get involved, both as a self-publishing author and a lover of books!

The best news is this: libraries are taking note of your interest. It’s not just a one-sided relationship! The Springfield-Greene County Libraries of Missouri, for example, had over 300 self-published titles in their collection by 2014, and were working to continue building their catalogue of these specific kinds of item because they recognize that there’s a serious demand for them. The bookstore is where you sell your books, and libraries are where you raise awareness about your books. Exposure at the library can help drive sales. Libraries have demonstrated they’re ready, eager, and waiting in the wings with a lot of innovative strategies to be your partners in promotion, and you can return the favor by celebrating your local public library during National Library Month!

Celebrate Your Book This April During National Poetry Month

Are you celebrating National Poetry Month? Each April, the Academy of American Poets sponsors this event, wherein authors and readers of poetry alike are encouraged to raise awareness about poetry and leverage its inspirational potential to spark new and beautiful works of artistry in the world.

This year, National Poetry Month includes Poem in Your Pocket Day on April 26th. On this day, the Academy encourages those of you who love poetry “to select a poem, carry it with you, and share it with others throughout the day at schools, bookstores, libraries, parks, and workplaces. Then, please join the conversation on social media by posting a link or screenshot and on Twitter using the hashtag #pocketpoem.” So not only is there an entire month dedicated to promoting poetry in general, there’s also a day set aside specifically for the sharing of poetry in tangible physical form through in-person contact? This is one month you do not want to slip by unnoticed!

The Academy of American Poets provides a number of resources on their website to make participation easy for readers of poetry, but what about authors? And what about, specifically, self-publishing authors? Inspired by the “Other Ways to Participate” of their website, we’ve adapted their list to be more inclusive of those of you who have already published a work of poetry and are looking for ways to tap into the energy and theme of National Poetry Month to better market your own books.

10 Ways to own National Poetry Month as a self-published poet:

  1. Put together a printable file of a few of your best short poems and email it out to your friends, family, and fans in the same spirit as the downloadable resources provided by the Academy on their website.
  2. Recruit a team from among those friends, family, and fans who reply to hand out your pocket-sized poems in their local communities, and watch as your geographical reach multiplies exponentially!
  3. Host a “poem in your pocket” giveaway at your workplace or your local public library.
  4. Print off letter-sized posters of a few of your best short poems and ask local businesses to put up them up in their front windows or on their bulletin boards.
  5. Make it a treasure hunt by numbering each different poem. Encourage those residents of your town who manage to spot three or six or ten of these poems to take pictures and post them to social media and to tag you. Provide some special incentive or reward for those who collect the most, like a special limited-edition bookmark featuring your book.
  6. Be a ninja! Leave small, pocket-sized verses in public places, like libraries and bookstores and restaurants and businesses. Unlike the posters, these are easy to slip in a pocket and carry away.
  7. Design or order and distribute bookmarks with your favorite lines of your own poetry, as well as an image of your book’s cover.
  8. Add one of your own poems to your email footer … as well as a link to your book’s sales page! It may seem subtle, but it’s the kind of subtle which might just catch somebody’s eye.
  9. Every day, or even several times every day, make sure to post lines from your favorite poems on your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Tumblr. There are dozens of apps which you can download for free or a small fee which will convert text into beautiful images which you can then post to your favorite social media platform.
  10. And yes, you really ought to send a poem to a friend. A poem you’ve written. Unlike these other suggestions, this one is intimate. It’s personal. It’s not about selling books or building your brand. It’s just about … you. You and your friend, who means so much to you. After all, poetry is the form language takes when simple words are not enough.

Still not sure where to start in marketing your book this April or at any time of year? It may be time to lean on an expert! Log into your Publishing Center to view all of the marketing services that Outskirts Press offers.

To see our staff picks of amazing poetry books from many of our authors, visit our Pinterest page by clicking here.

Market Smart: On the Acquisition of High-Quality Book Reviews

When it comes to book reviews for self-publishing authors, much less the acquisition thereof, authors have to prepare themselves to deal with a moving target. There’s simply no one-size-fits-all understanding, much less solution, for your average self-publishing writer, and there’s no rulebook which states that the best ways to get and give reviews are set in stone.

But first, just in case you’re skeptical of the need to acquire reviews of your book, we must answer the question: why are book reviews important in the first place? First of all, the number of reviews you receive on a website like Amazon, paired with its star rating, leverages a lot of weight on new readers. If all you had to go on was two or three lines of text and a star rating when it came to picking out a new kitchen appliance or nonprofit organization to support, you’d pay a lot of attention to what past customers or supporters had to say, wouldn’t you? A book with no reviews, like a fancy gadget that might just make a mess of your kitchen, is often passed over in favor of a “sure thing” … that is, a book others have already confirmed is excellent. Other factors, such as an eye-catching cover design, may play a role. But reviews simply can’t be ignored as the engine of book sales!

And those first reviews are the hardest to get.

This is where things get complicated. There’s no easy answer to the question of how to acquire those first, most difficult reviews. Or rather, there’s a short answer (any way you can!) but it doesn’t provide much in the way of practical advice. Our suggestion is to start small and build from there. Query book bloggers that you follow, and authors that you admire, and of course your friends and family. They’re your built-in audience, so take advantage of them! Just, you know, not too much. You don’t want your reviews to radiate desperation. While there’s no one single right or wrong way to go about querying for reviews, do keep in mind that reciprocity is an important part of the publishing world, especially the world of self-published authors, who have to build digital communities and networks for themselves. It’s a great idea to offer to review another author’s book in exchange for a review of your own; that way, both authors benefit, not to mention avid readers of indie literature!

There are, of course, other reliable places where book reviewers hang out. Amazon’s top reviewers make up one such group, and the best part is, it’s their job to review new products, and they tend to love it! Some may have specific product and even genre preferences, but you should definitely consider turning to them when you’re looking to build your reviewer base. And don’t forget about Goodreads! Dedicated, socially-connected readers gravitate to Goodreads, even while avid book-buyers will head to Amazon, its parent company. Consider hosting a Goodreads giveaway to bolster both the visibility of your book and the number of reviews! Best of all, Outskirts Press offers services which will set up accounts on both Goodreads and Amazon to make this process a whole lot easier!

The best thing you can do for your self-published book is to keep writing. The more books you write and publish, the more linkages you will build between texts, and the larger your circle of influence will grow. In the long run, your book’s visibility will benefit if you put in a little time here and there, and keep working on new ways to give and gain book reviews and boost your sales numbers!

Looking for more information on marketing strategies that might just work for you? Visit us online at www.outskirtspress.com and check out the options available on the Marketing Solutions menu. You can also access your Free Marketing Resource Center by logging into your Publishing Center where you’ll find countless further recommendations to suit your marketing needs!

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