The Best Ways to Sell Books Online And Elsewhere

January 17, 2015 in Articles, Book Marketing

I came across an article the other day titled The Top Seven Ways to Advertise Your Book and credit where credit is due, it wasn’t a bad list at all for anyone looking for the best ways to sell books online. In a nutshell the information came under the following categories, seven of them, which I would think is what you would expect given the title.

  1. using an email signature line to promote your books every time you send an email
  2. book tour sites, where you take your books on a virtual tour
  3. promotional sites that exist entirely to promote books and are known for that
  4. generic specific promotional sites i.e. sites that promote very specific genres. Presumably genres that are in high demand in their own right
  5. through your own blog and website. There are free ones available as well as ones which you have to pay for, so it can be a cheap option in terms of cash, if not time!
  6. by creating social media profiles and engaging with people interested in your writings
  7. using a newsletter and generating an email  list of people that subscribe to the newsletter
best ways to sell books online

Image courtesy of photoXpress.com

Obviously the article goes into these different suggestions with a bit more detail and suggestions, so if the list is in anyway appealing it might be worth having a look at what the suggestions are, bearing in mind some of it is self promoting of sites set up for the purpose of generating advertising revenue, but we do live in a commercial world. Personally I don’t have a problem with that and you never know, you may generate more money than you spend. Only one way to find out unfortunately.

I did think it was quite a good article for anyone thinking about self publishing a book to market over the Internet and there are articles on this site that have taken a similar stance:

So we have talked about the best ways to sell books online, but what about the old ways of working, book publishers, newspaper & magazine articles, straight forward advertising in journals, magazines and the papers. It does beg the question… do these methods still have a place in the modern world?

If you consider that the trick to selling books is visibility i.e. getting the cover in front of as many potential customers as possible, then there are at least two aspects to consider:

  1. produce the book in as many formats as possible, ebooks, hardcopy and audio for example
  2. utilising as many media channels as you can

It is the second of the two that brings us back to how you sell books offline and for this I am going to refer to another article I found discussing advertising via magazines and newspapers. The article asks the question Is newspaper and magazine advertising still a viable option? The conclusion seems to be that it certainly is and it goes on to provide the following 10 tips for advertising in hard copy:

  1. make the headline the advert for the advert. I really like that and to be honest it applies to all types of publishing and advertising, the headline simply has to grab the attention of the reader
  2. where your advert is placed in the publication. You may think this simply refers to it perhaps having to be on the front or back page, but not always the case apparently. Sometimes it pays to be in with the crowd or in this case the section that talks about books, authors and reviews
  3. getting the copy(text) right, again a universal requirement I would say, wherever copy is being being published
  4. key feature, i.e. what your book offers and the reason the customer should buy it
  5. using positive customer reviews, someone else’s recommendation is always better than your own. Especially if it is a happy customer
  6. including a picture, perfect for books and emphasises the need for a professionally designed cover that demonstrates a quality product
  7. use a call to action, tell them what to do and often they will
  8. solve their problem e.g. do you need entertainment on holiday, what about a book that is easy to read and  can be put down and picked up when you have a hour or two to kill
  9. promote your offline presence through your online presence and visa-versa
  10. test and test again, you may not be able to that in real time as there are costs associated with advertising, but you can ask friends, family and colleagues what they think of your advert and use their feedback to help you get it right

So once again another very good article with some great advice and, as before, you can of course get more detail in the article itself by going through the link above.

So what of publishers? A good publisher will be employing all of the techniques discussed here to get their authors that all important visibility, so what is good for the goose tends to be good for the gander.

Of course another way to use newspapers and magazines is to get an article published for free. There are likely to be many editors actively searching for copy for their publications, so with the correct format and written in a way that a professional journalist would write, there is a possibility that publicity can be gained for free or perhaps might even pay. The subject of another post possibly.

 

A Book Marketing Guide – Are You Using Hashtags on Twitter?

November 12, 2014 in Articles, Book Marketing, Book promotions

Twitter & HashtagsI am pretty sure that most people involved in any online marketing, whether that is for books or any other product, will have heard of or even use Twitter. But many will perhaps not be so familiar with the practice of using hashtags on Twitter to ensure their tweets can be found by the people interested in the topic they are tweeting about.

To sum it up, putting a hashtag (#) before a word in a twitter status is a way of identifying the topic being tweeted about. What this means is that when another user searches on Twitter for that subject, they are likely to use the ‘hashtag‘ search term to really home in on the topics of interest.

Just for clarity I should point out that using the # (hashtag) is not an official Twitter function, it was started, allegedly, by a Twitter user who thought that it was a good idea to add some sort of identifier to a keyword (a term people search for) to make it easier to find. And it just took off. So now anyone can create a hashtag and they can try and make it into a Twitter standard. For example if I added #ebookissues to every tweet I posted, people would be able to use that hashtag term to identify any discussions about this website or the tweets posted about this website. The aim of course is make the term go viral and to see it trending on Twitter, in other words to have thousands of people talking about and discussing the topic.

Why would you want to be using hashtags on Twitter As a Writer?

Why is this useful for writers and authors that use Twitter? The answer is twofold:

  • Firstly you can create a hashtag for you as an author, or your book title or your book series. Effectively creating a brand and a way for your readers to find your book related tweets easily. There is work involved in this option and you will need to persevere, but it is certainly possible
  • Secondly you can use established hashtag terms to bring attention to your tweets for the right reasons and to attract the people looking for the books you have published

Using hashtags on TwitterThere will of course be very broad and generic hashtags, as there is for any search term (keyword). But be aware the broader the term the more results there will be and the higher the level of competition against you. So it is often a good idea to be more specific. Using book categories is one step in the right direction but there are other ways as well.

For example if you are writing a book for expats or about expat life, then rather than use the #book option you could use something like #expat or #expatlife. Both these are terms that are predicted by twitter when you are writing a status as shown in the image.

To find the predicted hashtags it is easier to actually be posting in Twitter rather than tweeting from a 3rd party social media share program, this is because the predictive hashtags are rarely available through 3rd party software.

You will also see from the image that there are a combination of capital and lowercase letters, but hashtags are not case sensitive so it doesn’t really matter whether you use capitals or not. It is important however to make sure you use the hashtag at the front of your chosen term and with no spaces in between the words.

For some general guidance on how to use hashtags on Twitter you can review Twitters own advice https://support.twitter.com/articles/49309-using-hashtags-on-twitter

Pinterest-Pin-Image

You will probably find that most Twitter hashtags on book related topics already exist, the list above is anything but exhaustive, it is there only to give you a bit of a head start on what hashtags are available. Using the predictive method described earlier is where you will be able to home in on the specific hashtags available that will describe your particular book. Remembering that it doesn’t necessarily need to be book related, sometimes a location,  an industry or any other relevant topic the book covers may work better for you. Just experiment to see what gives you the most exposure and, even better, sales.

Also don’t fall into the trap of simply stuffing lots of hashtags into a single tweet, you only have 140 characters so use them wisely to grab the attention of your audience and always remember you are writing for humans not search engines.

It is also worth noting that the #standard has now been adopted by other social media sites, Facebook, Google+ and several other major players have jumped onto this particular bandwagon. So don’t be shy about using your chosen hashtag term across all your social media sites that utilise them.

So all that there is left to say now is:

Twitter with HashtagsTwitter with HashtagsHAPPY TWEETING

The First Rule of Marketing – Never Give Up

October 2, 2014 in Articles, Book Marketing, Book promotions

virtual book shelvesHow many authors put true blood, sweat and tears into writing their books. Hours of research, editing and re-editing, proofreading and formatting. Finally their book is ready to publish and then it is all systems go.

Friends and family are enlisted to help promote the book, reviews are sought and provided (hopefully of the verified purchaser variety) and some initial sales are made. Then the ideas run out, the social media buzz goes quiet and what looked like a promising start seems to wither on the vine……sales stop altogether. Months go by and there isn’t a single sale.

So what do you do now, Give Up?

For a hard copy book sitting on the  shelves of book stores, this would have been the death knell, the books would be removed from the shelves to make room for more popular varieties, books that are actually selling. Even publishers and bookstores need to make a living and a book that is not selling does not turn a profit – they have to go.

Traditional publishing is where books, printed in large quantities at equally large cost, must either sell or become door stops. Also if the demand for these books has waned, a commercial decision has to made about whether a further print run is likely to result in a profit or it is simply time to take them out of print.

But that is not the case for ebooks or print on demand, there is no physical stock to carry or to take prime spot on a bookshelf. These books sit on a virtual bookshelf that is of unlimited size and are always, as they say analogically…..in print.

Authors and publishers of ebooks and print on demand books have a huge advantage over traditional publishing for this reason and that is why you must never give up promoting books that are still available in digital format or can be printed on a one off basis at reasonable cost.

It has to be said, the best chance you have of taking a book to best seller status, with Amazon in particular,  is in it’s early days after initial publication, getting a second or third wind underway is always more difficult. But not impossible.

Marketing ebooks successfully is about having a marketing plan, one that takes into account the initial launch and then, equally importantly, ongoing and long term promotion.

Initial Considerations for Marketing eBooks Successfully

eBooks are like any other products that need to be sold, they have to appeal to a specific market and be visible to that market. So how do you do that exactly?

First of all, whether you are writing a reference or a fictional book, you need to think about exactly who will want to read your book. In many ways that is easier to do for reference books, because you are writing about a topic of specific interest and if you do it well, so that you answer questions and solve problems, then there is a good chance with enough visibility that people will buy those books, especially in a highly sought after topic.

Fiction is a little more difficult because they are made up stories, but they still need to be approached in the same way. For example, if you are writing for children, young adults, lovers of horror or action adventure. The book should be written to appeal to those audiences and not alienate them in any way. For example you cannot write a children’s book and then include some explicit sexual content, a bit of an extreme example admittedly but used to make the point. Mistakes of this type will mean you cannot market to your intended audience. So when you are writing a book, stay true to the theme, if it is intended for young adults or is in a specific genre try and make sure it meets that objective for the entire book.

Identifying Search Keywords

The second aspect of book marketing is about visibility, or being found by your target audience. Here there is a need to consider a little bit of search engine science i.e. it is necessary to think about how people search for books on the Internet, even on sites like Amazon or Kobo.

One of the simplest ways to find a book is to search using specific words. In search engine world, these are called keywords (or sometimes tags). It is always a good idea to identify keywords that people use to search for books that are relevant to your book. One way to do that is to make a list of keywords that you think are relevant to your book and then go to an Amazon site and start to type those words into the search box. Below there is an example of how Amazon use predictive text, based on previous searches, to try and lead you to the product you are searching for.

Marketing Ebooks

You don’t know how many people type the specific search terms listed, but you do know they are real searches that have been entered previously. So if you can find the best ones i.e. the ones highly relevant to your book, you can list them ready for potential use confident in the knowledge that people are using those terms to look for products. I say products because the searches relates to all of Amazon not just books, so just be sure you are selecting book related terms.

The second part of this exercise is to find out how much competition you are up against. So when you have your list of keyword phrases you should go back to Amazon and find out how many search results the keywords return.

Successful book promotion You can see from the result for the search term ‘The Whistleblower Affair’ that there are 49 results for that term.

Why is that important?

It is important because that is the number of books you are competing against for that specific search term or keyword phrase. What you should be trying to do is to find a mix of low to medium competition, especially for a new book. In other words you want to be more visible in the search results and a way to ensure that is not to be competing against too many other books.

Clearly as you make more sales, get more reviews and achieve more success for your book, your sales rank will increase and then you can consider going up against more competition. But until then it is better to operate in the low to medium competition arena.

A further aspect of this exercise is ensuring that your book is associated with a search term or keyword phrase. There are a couple of ways for doing that. The first is to use an allocated ‘search keyword’. Amazon allow you to add seven search keywords to your book details when you add it to the bookshelf. When you do this you will always be returned for that search keyword in the search results, although the critical aspect… is in what position?

This, as previously alluded to, will depend on the competition you are up against. Both in terms of how many but also in terms of sales rank. Amazon like to push books that are selling to the forefront, for obvious reasons the better sales rank books will be returned first. So the fewer books you are competing against the more likely it is you will be listed in a more visible search position.

The second way to get your book associated with a search term is to use those search terms in titles, headings and descriptions. There is no guarantee with this method, but it is a way to get your book listed beyond the seven allocated ‘search keywords’. Don’t be tempted just to stuff keywords into your descriptions and titles however, because you still want to appeal to a human audience and not alienate the people who actually buy the books. Just use this technique if it can be done naturally and, even better, provide you with an attention grabbing title or description.

Choosing Categories

Amazon allows independent publishers to select 2 categories from their large list of available categories. This is another key area for gaining much needed visibility. The best way of gaining a good position in a category is by being specific rather than adopting general categories. As with ‘search keywords’ you need to consider what is relevant to your book and how much competition you are up against. The reasons are once again to try and ensure you get that critical level of visibility where enough people actually see your book and are hopefully drawn into making a purchase.

romance competition Take ‘Romance’ as a category for example, you can see here that there are 170,462 books in the romance category. That is a lot of competition and unless your book is a top best seller it is unlikely that it will ever be given the light of day if this category is chosen.

romance-military-competition Military romance on the other hand immediately brings the competition level down to a more reasonable 3,186 books in competition. Still a big number but at least a half chance, if you get some sales, of being visible and there are other categories with even less competition. But remember you book does need to fit under the category chosen, so go for at least one category that is relevant with the least amount of competition and select another that is possibly even more relevant but has more competition. That way you get a good mix for advancing the number of potential sales and for ensuring you gain at least some visibility.

Also don’t constrain yourself to fiction only, if your book is relevant to a non-fiction topic and that looks like a better opportunity, give it a try. If it doesn’t produce any sales you can always change it after a reasonable trial period.

Why this is important, for Amazon anyway, is that you may be able to achieve  the much coveted top 100 listing, that gives your book higher standing and extra visibility through being included in list promotions for Amazon’s best sellers.amazon-best-sellers

If your sales are flagging or have dried up completely it is not too late to go back to basics and if you haven’t performed these exercises then why not do it now? You may just stumble on some way of sparking sales, even if it means a new title, description or choice of search keywords and categories. It really is never too late to get these basics right.

More information on successful book marketing can be found in these articles:

 

photo credit: Zenobia Gonsalves via photopin cc

Goodreads – A Good Choice for Authors

August 5, 2014 in Articles, Book Marketing, Book promotions

social media for booksIt has to be said there are social media sites and there are social media sites for independent publishers, authors and writers. Goodreads fits into the latter category. Why? Because that is where book lovers hang out, writers and readers.

Now if you are a writer then there is one thing you will be desperate for and, yes, that is readers.

Goodreads then should definitely be on your list of social media sites, because in reality that is the biggest social media site for book readers. Yes of course you will also find them on Facebook, Google+, Twitter etc. But they could be on those sites for any number of reasons. For example they may be there to stay in touch with family or be keeping up to speed with friends old and new or they may simply be promoting their business or looking for services.

But one thing you know for sure, if they are on Goodreads, is that they have either written or published a book and are promoting it, or they are there looking for the next good book to read. They are not going to be there discussing the great family party the night before, or asking you to play Candy Crush. No, there is only one reason people register on Goodreads and that is books.

Don’t get me wrong, you can find groups on all the social media sites that talk about and are interested in books and of course you can try and interact with those groups to see if you can find readers. In fact when you have time you should probably do that.

But on Goodreads you know you have an audience that is genuinely interested in books, a captive audience for all intents and purposes. Plus you have all the Goodreads tools at your disposal, you can for example:

  • add your books with all the relevant information
  • share the status of the book
  • recommend it to groups of friends or followers
  • create custom shelves for specific genres
  • create posts for your own blog
  • start discussions about a book
  • create quizzes for a bit of visitor interaction
  • share your book news using the various widgets that are available to embed it in your own blog or website

All this is completely free of charge. Plus of course you can be talking about, recommending and categorizing the books you like or have published and adding them to Listmania lists so readers can find them, not to mention the review feature of Goodreads which is the most basic function of the site.

Goodreads Social Media for Books

Authors can even sell their books on Goodreads or upload an epub or pdf file to allow Goodreads members to read the whole book or an excerpt from the book. This functionality is found via the author page, which you can only have if you have written and published a book.

Of course you have to remember that the site is primarily intended for book lovers to share and recommend their book experiences and no-one wants to be bored to death by a writer with only one obvious and sole intention – to sell their book.  I am afraid that even on a social site for books you will have to behave appropriately, perhaps even share your opinion about someone else’s book ~ heaven forbid ~ so that people can see you actually have an interest in books beyond your own or just trying to sell them.

I am sure I have probably forgotten some of the services that Goodreads offers to both writers and readers, but you should be getting my gist. If you have a genuine interest in books and want to find other people that share that interest, then Goodreads is a great place to do it. Plus if you approach it in that way i.e. show you have a real interest in books, then you will soon find that people warm to you and, after a while, they might even buy some of your books.

So if you are a writer or publisher and you have books you would like to promote – what are you waiting for. Goodreads is one of the best marketing tools you have available.

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photo credit: boltron- via photopin cc

Why Shoppers Abandon Online Shopping Carts

May 6, 2014 in Articles, Book Marketing

Good Book Descriptions Sell BooksThis post is for authors that sell their own books from their blogs or websites and are perhaps wondering why they are not making as many sales as they would like.

Before getting started you should probably be aware that the percentage of shopping carts abandoned, according to a white paper I have recently been privy to, is now running at around 72%. That is actually up from a previous survey which indicated around 55% of online shopping carts are abandoned. So the situation is worsening!

Ref: Bronto.com (click on view all to see the paper)

Wow that is a lot of people not making it to the point of sale!

So what did the white paper say were the main reasons people abandon shopping carts?

  • Poor user experience
  • Indecision
  • Technical difficulties
  • Cost build up (total cost, in other words, and how different it is to the starting cost)

Poor User Experience

Shopping cart abandonmentSo what constitutes a poor user experience? In terms of shopping cart abandonment it is mostly about how many hoops the potential purchaser has to go through to make their purchase. The average number of pages an average buyer has to visit to make their purchase online is 5.6; at the time of writing. Hopefully it will be a lot less in the future for anyone reading this.

There is always basic information required by the seller that must be supplied to process a sale, there is no way around that. But what many companies do is they pretty much ask the buyer to complete a marketing survey before they allow them to purchase and sometimes they try and force other products on them by making them reject other offers before they are allowed to purchase the product they want. Compare this to Amazon’s one click option, where a purchaser, once registered on Amazon, can make their purchase with just one click of a mouse. Now considering that Amazon is about the biggest and most successful online retailer, you would have to have a sneaking suspicion they have done that for a reason.That reason is clear….the strategy works.

Click here to buy it on Amazon.comAdmittedly, not every site will have the resources or the level of trust that Amazon has and they will have gathered all the necessary information they need to process the sale beforehand. But having done that they then make the sale as simple as they possibly can.

So if you want to be more successful at selling online, then aspiring to as simple a process as possible to effect a sale has to be a good way to go. In addition it is also a good idea to maintain an image of the product, as the buyer goes through the purchasing process, to help them keep a focus on what they are trying to purchase. It’s also a good idea to make it easy to change decisions on quantity, shipping method and the number of products they ultimately decide to buy.

The reason is that when faced with a final cost, rather than deciding it is all a bit too expensive and abandoning the shopping cart, they have a means of adjusting costs to an acceptable level. Better a smaller sale than no sale at all.

Indecision

Can't Decide Which BookIndecision for online shoppers isn’t really a lot different to shoppers browsing in a store. They may decide that they need the input of a partner before deciding or perhaps they haven’t got the funds immediately available and have to wait until they have been paid or they may simply decide that they are spending too much at one time.

The big difference with shopping online is that having put things in the virtual basket, it is much easier to leave it there without having to face an irate storekeeper who now needs to put things back on the shelf. This is one of the main disadvantages of an online store from a supplier’s perspective.

So yes there are many similarities in the shopping process but there are also differences, some that give the online stores some disadvantages, as mentioned, but equally there are also advantages. For example a shopper that has walked away through indecision can be contacted later and reminded that they still have items in their basket, other items that are similar can be offered, perhaps they can be tempted with a discount or maybe items that they decide to remove from a shopping cart can be moved to a wish list for future consideration. These are all strategies employed by large online distributors and to good effect …only requiring, for the most part, an email address and a means of analyzing  abandoned shopping carts.

Technical Difficulties

Buying Online DifficultiesWhen someone is shopping online one of the primary requirements they have is that they trust the site they are dealing with to protect their financial data and private information. Sites that load slowly, look amateurish or display obvious technical issues will cause a visitor’s trust level to decline and they will feel much less inclined to make a purchase.

As an author selling your own books this is quite important. Probably the easiest way to resolve any trust issues with visitors to your blog or website is to use a trusted online payment site such as Paypal, Google Checkout or one of the other established and trusted Online Payment Systems.

With respect to having a site that looks professional and functions well, my personal recommendation for any author would be to create a WordPress blog and purchase your own domain name and hosting to support it. Clearly this requires that you will need to go through a learning curve in order to manage the blog, but WordPress is one of the best supported platforms on the Internet.

Functionality like adding contact details to the site or even the page where you offering your books for sale becomes very simple and is another way to help ensure you don’t lose a sale. If a purchaser has a problem they can then contact you for assistance straight from your own site.

Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway, you should audit the purchasing process to ensure that it is easy to get from product selection i.e. a book, to the final payment and this should be done as a new customer, a returning customer and a prospective buyer.

Cost Build Up

Cost building factorsThe things that increase the price of products are shipping, taxes and any other associated costs. A buyer may get to that final hurdle, when they are faced with the reality of what they actually need to pay and just decide…. nah! perhaps another day.

If you can illustrate the total cost up front or as soon as possible then there is a better chance they may complete the purchase when they get to checkout. Even better if you can avoid those additional costs i.e. keep them as low as possible or maybe even free. Definitely one of the advantages of selling eBooks over physical books, albeit most buyers are looking to purchase eBooks at a much lower price than physical books. Especially in a technical savvy world.

Online shoppers tend to look for comparative prices, even for small cost items like books.

Basically they want a bargain and because it is so easy to do on the Internet, they search for a better deal.

When it comes to books, especially your own books, then you really should be offering the best price if you are selling directly. Bearing in mind that if the likes of Amazon spot the book at a better price than you set on their site, they retain the prerogative to reduce their price to match. Chances of them finding the books on an independent writers blog will be much less than on a competitor site like Kobo or Barnes & Noble however, so just be aware it could happen.

It’s always worth keeping an eye open to what the likes of Amazon are up to, most of what they do is geared towards making a sale and as easily as possible. Just like this reply to Tweet initiative they have just introduced that allows you to reply to a Tweet about a product and place it in your shopping basket without even leaving Twitter.

Don’t be put off by the sophistication of the tools coming from Amazon et al, the very fact you have got this far through the article will mean you are better informed than many people trying to sell on the Internet, books or otherwise. And if you are selling independently on your own site you are unlikely to be competing with Amazon or the other large distributors. It is much more likely you are broadening your market by reaching out to people that prefer to buy from independents or alternative sources to the mainstream suppliers. So if you can pick up a sale there, it is probably going to be one you wouldn’t have got otherwise.

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