My First Meet and Greet

 

5336974089_45f8c73b06
Purple Gallinule on the St. Johns River

Since my doctor declared it was safe for me to go out into the world again, without fear of spreading the flu virus, I was able to avoid cancelling my first opportunity to speak to a local group about writing a book set in Florida and featuring the wildlife of the St. Johns River basin. I was a bit nervous, I’ll admit, since it’s been years since I did any kind of public speaking, teaching, or presentations. I shouldn’t have worried. It was sort of like riding a bike, only with less huffing and puffing.

The group was small, which I was grateful for, since it let me get my feet wet without facing a ton of people. We ended up in an informal chat configuration, with me sitting comfortably, chair angled so I could talk to the group and still operate the slide presentation I’d put together. And guess what? It was FUN! I’m a person who really likes to laugh, and I love it when I can make others laugh, too, so that was my approach. None of these good folks was seriously interested in writing a book themselves, which had been the general focus of the talk (as suggested by the programs director), so I made it more about the wonders of Florida wildlife, and the suggestion that it’s never too late to pursue a dream.

I did talk a bit about what goes into writing a book and how much research is involved, even when you think you know your topic fairly well. And because the group was small, there was plenty of back and forth, as they asked questions, sometimes on things like snake ID. One woman wanted to know just how aggressive water moccasins really are, and I was so glad I’ve actually had enough experience through working at Florida Audubon back in the day, and at the Central Florida Zoo, to be able to answer those kinds of questions with a modicum of intelligence.

I sold some books, and had a chance to leave some for the gift shop. But I think more importantly, I made some friends who will probably be keeping an eye out for my future books. If word of mouth is the biggest seller of books, and they say it is, then surely having one on one face time with readers is a great way to garner more of it.

One last thought. There was a gentleman there who admitted he didn’t own a computer nor a Kindle, and who generally gets his books from the local library. This man was not ever going to buy an eBook, nor was he likely to be buying print books, either. I believe he reads a lot, and using the library is a better option for him and his budget. He stayed behind after the group was gone, chatting with me about local birding spots and hiking areas. I gave him a signed copy of my book, and the look on his face was all the reward I needed. However, I believe I’ve made a friend for life, and I’m sure he will tell others about my books. SO totally worth the miniscule cost of the book!

All in all, I think the long term dividends of a small, local event like this one are well worth the effort. New readers, new contacts for future events, getting my books in the gift shop, having fun chatting about books and related topics, and making someone happy–well, what could be better?

How many of you have pursued your local resources in this way? I’m interested in hearing from you. Have you contacted any local bookstores, libraries, gift shops, or other business that might enjoy having you do a presentation? In my case, this was a very nice environmental center, with a facility for educational presentations and slide shows. In short, perfect for my needs, and for an audience already geared to be interested in anything nature-related. It doesn’t have to be a large venue to work for you, so if you haven’t thought about it before, I highly recommend checking out your local resources for new ways to get your books in front of readers. 

I hope you’ll share your experiences and ideas with us.

 

When to go wide

KDP Select

One of the thorniest decisions in self-publishing today is — enroll in Amazon’s KDP Select program (which requires that your book remains exclusive to Amazon) or go wide and try out all of the different publishers. So far, I’ve used the first approach, which has lots of benefits:

  • 5 free days or 1 countdown deal every three months, which (if done right) can really increase your exposure to new readers while also keeping the rank of your book high
  • Eligibility for being borrowed via Kindle Unlimited, which helps with exposure and can also increase your income (although the amount you get per borrow has been dwindling rapidly in recent months, from $2 to $1.50 to $1.33 and some authors report lower overall income as a result)
  • Keeping all of your eggs in one basket means that all readers have to go to Amazon to buy your book, which means your book is likely to have a higher rank than if some of your readers bought elsewhere
  • Simplicity, with only one file to upload, one system to learn, etc.

On the other hand, you’re obviously eliminating the possibility of making sales on other retailers if you go all-in with Amazon. And, while the majority of indie authors find that Amazon is the much easier nut to crack and thus that they make most of their money on Amazon even if they go wide, you might just be the exception to that rule. I hear rumblings now and then of authors who sell more books on non-Amazon sites, particularly All Romance Ebooks (if you write romance), Google Play (for children’s books and perhaps some other genres), and Barnes and Noble (for erotica and romance).

And then there are international sales. While Amazon does have branches nearly worldwide, if you appeal to a Canadian market, you’re shooting yourself in the foot by staying out of Kobo, the dominant Canadian ebook retailer. Similarly, iBooks and Tolino are reported to be big in Germany, where Amazon only has 40% of the ebook market according to Joanna Penn. Of course, once you start branching out beyond English-dominant countries, you also have to start considering whether it’s worthwhile to get your books translated, which is fodder for another post. But 7% of my Amazon income last month came from outside the U.S., making me wonder if I could turn a couple of hundred dollars a month into much more if I learned to leverage other platforms.

Burgling the DragonThe final point in favor of going wide with your book distribution is perma-free. The accepted method of getting a book listed for free on Amazon is to list it through Smashwords or Draft2Digital (both of which distribute to many of the non-Amazon retailers), setting the book at a price of $0 through the distributor and waiting for Amazon to price match. But if you’re going to have the first book in your series up for free on other platforms while keeping the other books in the series only on Amazon, you’re spitting in reader’s faces. I know that if I was a nook user, if I downloaded and loved a free book, and then I found out that I’d have to change devices in order to read the rest of the series, I wouldn’t be very pleased.

Which is probably why most of the self-publishing heavy-hitters recommend going wide once you have more than one or two books in your arsenal. I thought long and hard about that decision as I prepared to launch Pack Princess, the second book in my Wolf Rampant series, and I’ve decided to stay in KDP for now…at least until I publish book three. At that point, I might decide that making the first book perma-free is the best way to get exposure for the growing series, making it worthwhile to pull out of KDP Select and explore other retailers.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic. Are you in KDP Select? Why or why not? And, if you’re still reading, I hope you’ll take a minute to snag my middle-readers fantasy novel, Burgling the Dragon, which is free today. (Gotta take advantage of those KDP Select benefits!)

Preorders make sense for series

Preorder ebook

I wrote previously about my trials and tribulations with preorders, so I thought it was only fair to post again with the results of a much more successful preorder experiment. I decided to put the second book in my Wolf Rampant series up for preorder because the first book had gained so much attention, selling 4,000 copies since March in addition to giving away thousands more over two free runs. Both in reviews and in emails, I kept hearing from readers who wanted book two. So I was confident that at least a short-term preorder would make sense.

I didn’t want to get in trouble with Amazon if delays occurred during the holiday season, so I set the preorder release date to January 15 on December 4…even though the book just needed to pass through my copy editor’s computer and then enjoy one more read-through of my own. I emailed my list and immediately sold nine preorder copies, then managed to move about one copy per day over the next few days just by having the book available on Amazon.

Also Boughts

At that point, my copy editor got back to me much sooner than expected and I had a final copy of the book ready to go, so I moved the launch date back to today (December 15) on December 12. When I did so, I noticed that I’d sold enough copies of Pack Princess that the also-bought section of the book page had populated, which meant my book began showing up on other titles’ pages (although not within the first six, so readers would have to hit the scroll buttons to see my title). This combination of factors (without any extra shout-out on my part), meant that my preorder sales increased to about two per day (a 21% sell-through rate from Shiftless, the first book in the series).

A kind fan let me take part in a facebook giveaway this past weekend, which sold a few extra preorder books and helped move the book up the charts. As a result, even without any reviews in place yet, the preorder book went into its launch period already ranking in the top 100 in its two smallest categories (Women’s Fiction Fantasy and Women’s Adventure).

What’s my takeaway? If you have a popular series, you’re losing money by not setting up a preorder (which you can do up to 90 days before the book’s launch date). In fact, I noticed that Shiftless saw a moderate uptick in sales after the preorder page for Pack Princess appeared, suggesting that the second book was serving as an advertisement for the first. My goal at the moment is to have book three ready to publish in June, which would mean a preorder in March — stay tuned for more updates on this further experiment in the months to come!

Have you found Book Goodies yet?

Book Goodies for authors

Yes, it’s yet another avenue for getting your work out there – you know the advice, be everywhere!

And its fun to do too. It’s taken a while, but my author interview on the site just went live, and you can do one too, or even a podcast if you feel so inclined.

http://bookgoodies.com/interview-with-author-deborah-jay/

Here’s a little snippet:

DeborahJay

What inspires you to write?
Inspiration is the wrong word for me – I have a wildly overactive imagination that simply demands an outlet.
If I’m not writing, I’m daydreaming, and I really love to share my stories with other people.

Tell us about your writing process.
My process is evolving all the time. I began as an out-and-out pantser, starting with an idea and running with it; by far the most fun as I get to watch the story unfold for the first time, just like a reader.
Unfortunately (for me) these days, as I’m writing series and handling multiple on-going plot strands, I have to do at least an outline before I set off, otherwise it would become so tangled and mired with tangential plots and dead end ideas that editing it into some form of readable book would be too time consuming.
At this time, I outline on post-it notes stuck on a big board, just putting down major plot points and character arcs, and once I have a firm starting point, I set off. The ending is a little more fluid in terms of detail, although I do know roughly where I’m going.
Character sketches are my latest distraction; I know a fair bit about my main characters before I start, but sometimes one of my minor characters suddenly decides to transmute into a major player, and then I have to sit down and detail their back story before I can continue – essential if they are to interact with plausible motivations.

 

What are you waiting for? Give it a go – you never know where your next reader might find you 😀

 

Teaser Tuesday: Siren

I have been dreadfully absent for the last week. I took a little stay at home vacation from the internet and writing to indulge in a video game I’ve been waiting for what felt an entire lifetime to play. It was incredibly inspiration and my mind is abuzz with so many plots and plans.

Now I have so many things that need to be done, I have no idea how I will find time to do them all. It’s kind of thrilling when that happens, though, right? Inspirations knocking at the door, all the little voices clamoring to be heard and done justice on the page. I also have a ton of editing to do, but I’m easing my way back into it all, and while it’s always a dread leaving a vacation atmosphere, even an imaginary one, it’s good to be back to work.

I wanted to share another Teaser Tuesday with you all. I think this one is, by far, my favorite of them all to date.

siren promo 3

If you’re interested, you can pre-order your copy of Siren from Amazon, or grab a signed paperback from my site. If you do pick one up, I’m holding a weekly drawing, which you can find out more about over on my site.

 

Paid book promotions worth their salt, part 2

Despite the Billionaire's RichesIf you missed my first post on the subject of paid book advertising, head over here first to get caught up. The short version is: the most sure-fire way to advertise books is to get your title included in one (or more) of the email lists that go out to thousands of readers on a daily basis. My previous post mentioned a few websites that will list your book for free, while this second installment will delve deeper into the paid sites that are most likely to provide a return on your investment.

 

The big dogs

If you hang around with other independent authors for long, you’ll soon hear them singing the praises of Bookbub. Although this advertising service costs hundreds of dollars a pop, most folks find that Bookbub provides a positive return on your investment, and if you play your cards right, your book might even end up in the top 100 in Amazon’s store after being listed! Unfortunately, there are big hoops you need to jump through to be eligible, and Bookbub rejects a lot more submissions than they accept. So, if you can’t get into Bookbub (or can’t afford their high fees at the moment) where do you turn next?

In Write. Publish. Repeat. the authors explain: “We’ve had the most luck with BookBub.com, EReaderNewsToday.com, and FKBooksAndTips.com’s 99-cent promotion programs. We’ve also had lesser but substantial success with Bookblast.co (.co, not .com) and BookGorilla.com.” Let’s Get Digitial Author David Gaughran weighs in as follows, “After BookBub, the next biggest sites are Ereader News Today, Pixel of Ink, BookSends, and Kindle Books & Tips,” before warning that the value of promotional opportunities changes fast, and to do your research before plunking down any money. Sure enough, Pixel of Ink is not currently accepting submissions at this time.

There are also a lot of smaller advertising sites that I’ll mention later, but the smart thing to do if you’re committing to a paid promotion is to combine several promotions in short succession in an attempt to move up the ranks and stick there. The accepted wisdom is that you should first try to bring one of the big dogs on board, then you should plan the other services around the main event.

 

Preparing for the sale

Now it’s time for a healthy dose of “do as I say, not as I do.” The reports I’m going to present below are based on a promotional push I ran around the launch period of Despite the Gentleman’s Riches, and, with twenty-twenty hindsight, I’d do a lot of things differently. All of my previous books have been in the fantasy genre and (in contrast) Despite the Gentleman’s Riches is a contemporary romance, so I wasn’t prepared for my fans’ complete lack of interest (or outright disdain) for the new book. Previously, I’ve emailed my list to find interested readers a couple of weeks before launching a new title, had sent out review copies when I got the manuscript back from the copy editor, and had been able to count on at least 15 reviews averaging about 4.5 stars trickling in during the first week. Since you have to plan your promotions at least 14 days in advance, I just assumed similar reviews would appear on my new book in time for the blitz. Instead, several of my advance reviewers gave the book three stars, one of my preorder fans gave it one star (ouch!), and I went into the promotional period with a 4.2-star ranking. That doesn’t sound bad, but there’s a big visual difference between only four stars filled in versus four and a half, and fewer glowing reviews meant my new book had less perceived social capital. So, lesson 1 — don’t assume that you’ll have a great-looking product page soon after launch. A better idea would probably have been skip soliciting reviews from my fantasy-loving fans entirely, to let the book build reviews organically, then to pay for a promotional period at a later date when the book’s perceived social capital was high.

Similarly, I should have managed my pricing so that I was eligible for a countdown deal during the promotionary period. Most sale sites won’t accept your book unless it’s marked down to 99 cents, which you can either do manually or with a countdown deal, the bonus of the latter option being that for the five days of the countdown deal, you’ll receive a 70% royalty on the reduced-price book. However, since I’d been trying to get fans to consider a title outside their main genre during the preorder period, I launched the book at 99 cents, meaning that I had to make twice as many sales to break even with each ad (due to the 35% royalty). Again, raising the price to $2.99, waiting for the 30 days Amazon requires between price change and countdown deal, and then setting up a real sale would have been a better bet. As an added bonus, the countdown deal would have shown the higher price with a slash through it, so the customer would have known they were getting a great deal.

Summary: More patience on my part would have made this sale period go much more smoothly!

 

My experiences

Mistakes aside, my paid promotions are still likely to break even by the end of the month. I chose 13 paid promotional sites spread out across 13 days, paid $370.50 for the privilege, and (if borrows bring in $1.33 like they did in October), I will make $260.51 for the first 18 days that the book has been live. I could have brought in quite a bit more, though, if I’d focused on the winning sites and avoided some expensive losers, so I thought I’d report my results to keep your own costs down. (Of course, keep in mind that the results of each promotional site is likely to be genre specific, and that some sites probably attract readers who were more turned off by my lack of perfect reviews than others. But, still, this should help you get started.)

Results of paid book promotions

Okay, the chart above might look a little daunting, so let me give you a quick text rundown. The two sites listed in green (Ebookhounds and Naughty List) were both free, but their results were quite good, so I added them to the chart. The other advertisers were all paid, and I listed the net earnings from each, using the assumption that I wouldn’t have sold any other books that day without their help (not a big stretch since the book basically started at nothing). As you can see, some of the cheaper promotions — Awesome Gang ($10), Bkknights ($5), and Sweet free books ($5) did better than the more expensive options. I added the little guys on at the last minute as a way of bringing up the rank of the book before the supposed big dogs hit, since Amazon is supposed to reward slow, organic growth of a book’s sales better than a spike in the rankings from one big advertising blitz. (The former results in a good sales rank that is supposed to stick around longer than the latter.) But now I’m starting to think that lots of these little guys might be a better financial investment than a few of the supposed big dogs!

Because, unfortunately, I was much less impressed by the more expensive promotions that I paid for. I stacked most of the big dogs together, so I have to guess which ones were and weren’t worth the money, but I’ll give you my informed opinions here. Having tried two different $15 promotions through Hotzippy on two different books and lost money on both, I’m now relatively convinced that Hotzippy is not a good use of money (for me at least). I also suspect that Book Gorilla and Kindle Nation Daily (both by the same company) are too overpriced at $50 and $100 respectively to be worth the cash. Finally, since so many people sing the praises of Ereader News Today, I’m going to assume that the expensive My Romance Reads ($75) that I layered on the same day is why that period’s advertising didn’t break even.

And, finally, here’s the cheat-sheet version of the advertisers I at least tentatively recommend:

Ereader News Today — Prices range from $15 to $45 at the moment, depending on genre. Sometimes called “the little Bookbub”, ENT is pretty choosy but is usually considered to be worth the price tag.

Free Kindle Books and Tips — 99-cent books cost $25 to advertise. They do waive their review restrictions for new releases, but they only send out new-release notices on weekends. I didn’t sign up for these guys because I didn’t notice the new-release option when I was first researching, so I have no first-hand data to report.

Booksends — Costs $10 to $50 for a 99-cent book depending on genre. They rejected me, so I can’t report any results.

Awesome Gang – $10

Bknights – $5.50

Fussy Librarian – $5 to $14, depending on genre. I somehow got my wires crossed on setting up my ad for this particular book, but have used them before and broken even.

Sweetfreebooks – $5

 

The good news of a “failed” promo blitz

Even though I came out a hundred bucks in the hole, I would definitely repeat this experience, with all of the caveats listed above (and a few more that I’ll mention in a minute). I’ve had nine new subscribers join my email list during the promo period, have already landed two new reviews (a four star and a five star — so my book doesn’t suck after all!), and the book seemed to be sticking pretty high in the rankings for at least a while after the promo period ended. Plus, more borrows have been landing in my dashboard daily, suggesting that I’ll be raking in the results of the sale-period visibility for at least a few more days to come.

Sales rank during a promotional period

Aside from dressing my book in its Sunday best before the promo, doing a countdown deal, and skipping the overpriced advertisers, what else would I do differently? Paid promotions are most likely to actually make money rather than just break even if you advertise the first book of a completed series. I’ll try out this hypothesis on Shiftless once Pack Princess comes out in about a month, and for this second experiment I’ll see if Bookbub will take my novel to the prom.

That said, I’m starting to think that a free period might have been a less expensive way to get Despite the Gentleman’s Riches off to a good start…and without spending a penny! So, perhaps the moral of the story here is to be patient, to use a free period early on to give your book legs, and to save the 99-cent advertised promotions for later in the life of a book.

Okay, I know this post got way too long (again!), but if you’re still with me, I hope you’ll leave a comment with your own advertising results. Do you agree on which promotions are and aren’t worth your money? Did you advertise a book in a different genre and see different results? Let us know so we can all save some cash next time around!

Utilizing Goodreads As An Author

Whether you’re independent or traditionally published, a good chunk of the promotion for your novels is going to fall to you, and while I live by the philosophy that the best promotion is your next book, I do enjoy some of the little things I get to do as an author to help spread the word about my stories.

goodreadsOne of my favorite tools is Goodreads because I don’t just love to write books, I also love to read them. I love to talk about the books I’m reading, and if I am really into a book and want others to know all about it, Goodreads is a great place to do that. There are communities and forums on Goodreads for every type of reader, which means you can virtually gather with fellow fans, share good conversation and recommendations, and even make new friends.

From an author standpoint, Goodreads has a lot of neat tools to help you connect with your readers.Maybe you already know about them, maybe you don’t, but here are a few of the things I love about being an author over there!

Once you establish yourself as a Goodreads author, you take control of your author page and gain access to some of the perks that come with being a Goodreads Author. You can add author pictures, your biography and links to your online sites. Encourage fans to add you to their favorite authors list. There is an “Ask the Author” feature, which allows fans and readers to submit questions for you to answer and then display on your page. There is an option to either blog on Goodreads, or link to the RSS feed on your blog, so every time you post it goes into your Goodreads feed and draws more attention to you, your work and your website. And, of course, there is a space to add samples and excerpts with the potential to draw others to your existing work. You have the option to add intriguing and/or profound quotes from your books. You can host paperback book giveaways, which often draws hundreds, if not thousands of potential readers to your page. The options are limitless.

This morning I set up the Goodreads page for my upcoming urban fantasy book, Siren so people can add the book to the ‘Want to Read’ shelf. I can start gathering potential fans and readers to the page, improving my visibility and potentially reaching a wider audience for a book that will be released in January.I can offer samples and snippets, post about giveaways I’m hosting and get people excited about the release. Because I’m excited about the release, and I want to share that excitement with others, so having a place beyond my blog and Facebook Author page to do that is a beautiful thing.

As with any promotional effort, it can be a lot of work, but connecting with your readers on the social front in a place where you can talk about the one thing that brought you together–books–is a beautiful thing. Readers love being able to see who you are beyond the pages of your books, and Goodreads is a great place to start.

It’s worth the effort, in my opinion, because one of the things I miss the most about university days is sitting in a classroom full of other people who love words as much as I do and having good discussions about the books we were reading.

What are your writing rewards? (And a keyword bonus)

Writing notebookWe all live for those days when the virtual ink is flowing so fast it seems to stain our fingertips as we pound away on the keyboard. But what about the slow days when you think you’re stuck and your novel is never going to get itself finished? What about when you’ve written through the glow of the first quarter and are still climbing that story-telling mountain? Or how about (my personal problem for much of this past summer) if you’ve promised your fans a sequel…and you just can’t figure out where to start?

Ever since I was a kid, a brand new notebook has seemed like one of the best presents imaginable. There’s so much potential on those blank pages — I could almost write a novel about the stories that call to my pen. The first word I place on the first blank page fills my heart with so much glee, I often have to open up a word processor so the words can come out of my head as fast as they go in.

Of course, I’m a total cheapskate, so I buy my writing rewards in bulk. That’s right, I haunt back-to-school sales and pick up a dozen one-subject notebooks at five for a dollar. (Of course I opt for the one-subjects — more gleeful beginnings for the buck!) Then I hoard my stationary as if I could never afford another notebook, and when times get really tough, I pull out a new notebook and get to work. (Finally, if all else fails, there’s always chocolate….)

How about you? What do you use to unstick your wheels when you seem to be mired in the mud? Or how do you reward yourself when you reach your daily word count?

Supercharge Your Kindle Sales(As a side note, when I started this post, it was totally going to be a keyword followup. But I realized I didn’t have enough to say, so here’s the cliff notes version:

  • Supercharge Your Kindle Sales includes more nitty-gritty information than I’ve seen anywhere before on the topic of keywords for ebooks. I knew most of it, though, so am glad I only borrowed rather than bought.
  • The author’s method of determining whether enough readers are searching for your keyword phrase involves typing in the beginning and seeing if Amazon autofills. No autofill = nobody cares.
  • As my husband also told me after I set him to work harvesting new keywords for my books, you can find new autofill suggestions by starting with one word on amazon, adding a space, then running through the alphabet. For example, type in “werewolf a” and they’ll suggest “werewolf academy,” “werewolf b” and you’ll get “werewolf books for teens,” and so forth.
  • Finally, from my husband only and not from the book, try using Google’s autofill feature as well. You might find a phrase that will carry over well to Amazon!)

So, there you have it, two posts accidentally merged into one. Clearly, I should have read Ned’s eye-test post more carefully!

And, as a final P.S., don’t forget to go borrow your copy of my sweet billionaire romance! It’s on a roll, but could use more eyes!

Things I Learned About Keywords

I wanted to post an update related to Aimee’s post last week about using categories and keywords on Amazon. These are a few things I learned over the weekend:

1. The categories I picked do not match the categories that actually show up on the bottom of the book page. I chose FICTION>GHOSTS and FICTION>FANTASY>DARK FANTASY. At the bottom of the book’s page it says:

HORROR is one of my keywords, but not one of my categories. I don’t think this is related to the keyword though so much as how screwy their categories are: the ones you can pick don’t match the ones you can browse, and neither seem to match the ones they use on the book pages themselves.

However, if you browse to FICTION>FANTASY>DARK FANTASY, it will show up there.

2. You can use keywords to get into the smaller, more specific categories. I used HUMOR as a keyword. If you browse to FICTION>FANTASY>DARK FANTASY>HUMOR, it will show up there.

3. But not the bigger ones. Using PARANORMAL and WOMEN’S FICTION as keywords did not put me in those categories. That meant WOMEN’S FICTION wasn’t doing me much good, so I took it out and added DEMON instead. I kept PARANORMAL though because I think there’s still some benefit to having that as a search term. People might type “paranormal ghost story” into the search box, but I don’t think many will type “women’s fiction ghost story.”

ebooksmAnd yes, Ghost in the Canteen is in the store! But not officially “launched” yet. Amazon and CreateSpace both did everything so much faster than they said they would that I was a bit taken by surprise to have it available so quickly. After 24 hours I sent Amazon an email to link the two formats (didn’t happen automatically in that timeframe), and they did that within a few hours as well.

I hate the idea of starting my release announcements on a weekend rather than the nice tidy Thursday I planned, but I’m going to anyway because I think it’s the lesser of two evils. The way I figure it, you only get 30 days in which you qualify as a New Release, and you want to make them all count!

Per David Gaughran’s advice in Let’s Get Visible, I’m spreading the love a bit on launch communications. Newsletters/my mailing lists today, then blog/Twitter/Facebook tomorrow, then my other blog the next day.

Of course, you guys should, like, totally check it out now. 😉

What I learned from erotica writers

Amazon keywords

I know, I know — that subject line is totally unfair. Except that I did learn everything in this post from reading the thoughts of erotica writers on kboards..then I decided to try out their techniques in my far-from-erotic works.

The hot topic among erotica authors at the moment is keywords. Remember typing in those seven words or phrases on Amazon when you were publishing your ebook? I’ve added a screenshot at the top of this post to jog your memory.

If you’re like me, you probably went for the obvious and perhaps also added in keywords that Amazon uses to put your book into categories you can’t choose out of the dropdown menu. This latter technique is especially useful for new authors like me, who can only dream of selling enough books to make it into Amazon’s Paranormal Fantasy category…but who can find some new readers in New Adult Fantasy in the meantime.

But, beyond getting me into book categories, I have a feeling the rest of my keywords were a total waste of my time. Why? When you search on Amazon for “werewolf,” 32,920 results pop up. Who’s going to page through those endless covers and stumble upon my book? Nobody!

Amazon search resultsWhich brings me back to those wily erotica authors. I’m not going to mention some of the keywords they suggest because I think I need to wash my brain out after reading them and don’t want to share the joy. But here’s the G-rated version. Rather than using the keyword “werewolf” for my book, why don’t I try out something like “werewolf kindle unlimited”? That phrase only turns up 504 results, or 20 pages of books. Someone who has enrolled in kindle unlimited and is looking for a werewolf novel to read just might pick up Shiftless if I was listed under that keyword phrase, so I decided to give it a whirl.

Adding “kindle unlimited” to one of your keywords is a no-brainer if you’re enrolled in KDP Select, but should you go all-out and add the term to all of your phrases? Probably not. Amazon will mix and match words from different keyword phrases when indexing your book, so you’d probably be better off choosing other terms entirely so you get more bang for your keyword buck. After all, you do only get to choose seven phrases for your book, so it’s best to make each one count!

Now, let’s talk numbers. What’s the sweet spot in terms of keyword search results — are you looking for a phrase that turns up as few results as possible or as many as possible? The answer is: neither. As I mentioned above, if your keyword phrase is too vague, you’ll get lost in the shuffle. But, at the other extreme, a keyword so specific that only five other books turn up is totally useless if no one searches for “basket weaving with werewolves.” This is where keyword choice becomes an art, but as a rule of thumb, I generally aim for phrases with 50 to 500 results, hoping specifically to find those that clock in around 100 to 300 books.

One erotica author swears that you can make $100 in your first week with an unpublicized 5,000-word erotica short if you get the keywords right, and while I suspect less-sensational fiction won’t get you that far, it can’t hurt to play with those keywords and see how far they’ll help your book rise in the rankings. I’ve just updated Shiftless‘s keywords and will keep you posted about the results, and I’d also love to hear from other authors who have gotten more scientific with Amazon’s keyword options. Have you found keyword phrases that helped your undiscovered book see the light of day?