Thomas Umstattd hosts the Novel Marketing Podcast and the Christian Publishing Show.
Recent episodes featuring Thomas Umstattd Jr.
The Kindle ebook market is a fascinating topic for authors in every genre. Writers around the world are guessing about what’s hot and what’s not in 2020. If you want to write in a genre that sells, it’s a great question to ask. What’s hot in the Kindle market? To find out, I interviewed Alex Newton. Alex is the CEO and founder of, which is a leading Kindle market research resource for authors and publishers. He spent 20 years at a top management consulting company creating strategy guides and market analysis that cost millions of dollars for companies that would pay for it. Now he uses that same expertise to analyze the Amazon marketplace. He knows what’s going on in the Kindle market because he has analyzed the data. Thomas Umstattd Junior: Alex, what is K-lytics, and what does it do for authors? Alex Newton: We are a market research company, and we provide data on the book market to authors, agents, and publishers. Our purpose is to provide more transparency in a market that has lacked transparency. We want to help authors make better and faster publishing decisions so they can sell more books. Is the ebook market growing? Thomas: In the big picture of the 2020 Kindle market, is the ebook market growing or shrinking? And are their sales increasing or not? Alex: In order to tell, we must look at the facts and then extrapolate. The first thing to know is that it has always been a matter of perspective. Who do you ask about the data? From the traditional publisher’s view, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) reports the quarterly trade publishing numbers in the U.S. The mainstream media picks up on those numbers and quotes them and says, “Hey, ebooks are shrinking again.” We took an extrapolation of their Q3 numbers in 2019, and their ebook sales are shrinking, another 3.8% per year, roughly. Once you dig into it, you find out their statistical sample—the companies they asked about ebook sales—was made up of 1,300 traditional publishers in the U.S. But the leading company in the ebook market, Amazon, was not included in their sample. How can you discuss these market numbers if you are using a sample that represents probably less than 20% of the overall ebook market? If you ask traditional publishers, ebooks are shrinking. But if you ask me, with a view toward Amazon, I’m going to paint a much different picture. Thomas: I interviewed a representative from the NPD Group, which is a big publishing research firm. They collect their data by polling the top publishers, as you’ve said. Then they get retail data from the retailers. But they do not get data from Amazon, and so they have this big hole in their data. I’ve spent enough time with publishing executives to know that they don’t consider the indie market to be producing many sales at all. But I know from having looked at your data, and Amazon’s data in general, that in a lot of categories, the bestselling authors for Kindle are indie authors. Not only do they hold a big part of the market, but the number-one bestselling authors in certain categories are independent authors. That’s a huge chunk of sales that those big press release companies like NPD Group or AAP aren’t seeing. When they claim the market is shrinking, they’re not counting indie authors. When you include the indie authors and their data, is the market shrinking or growing? Alex: If you look at the U.S. ebook market, about 85%, if not more, of the ebook market is held by Amazon. When you look at the whole ebook market, and when you include the Amazon data, you get a much more representative view. Does Amazon publish their data? Amazon does not officially publish their ebook numbers. They are very restrictive on what they disclose when it comes to individual commodities. But if you look at their annual reports, one indicator of the ebook growth is the growth of the Kindle Global Select Fund. The Kindle Global Select Fund includes all the royalties that are paid out to authors who have signed up to the Kindle Unlimited program, which holds a significant share of this 85%. That pot of money grew by another 13% last year to more than $300 million by now. If you look at the payouts and what they now pay per page, you can extrapolate what that means for the ebook market. Our numbers suggest that growth since 2016 has been 19% per annum. Last year it grew again by 14%. Whoever says ebooks are shrinking is, in my mind, completely missing the boat. Thomas: It’s important to understand that when traditional publishers say ebooks are shrinking, they’re saying our sales are shrinking. In contrast, overall Kindle sales are growing. That means all the growth in ebooks is coming to independent authors grabbing market share from traditional publishing companies. Alex: And it’s no wonder because if you look at the trade revenues of traditional publishers, their priority is obviously not ebooks. They make about $8 billion in the U.S. in trade revenues across all formats. But of these $8 billion, about $3.1 billion are hardback, and about $2.7 billion are paperback and mass market. The famous ebook number is close to $1 billion, and then audio is over $600 million per annum. Those are their trade numbers, and close to $1 billion in their ebook numbers has been shrinking. But the Amazon numbers have been growing. Where does that growth coming from? Who is truly earning the money? We made an informed estimate based on looking at 50,000 books. We ran all those individual books against the names of Amazon imprints, Big Five imprints, and indies. At the top of the mountain of that data, where all the money is being earned, we saw about 38% of all the top 100 rankings across all the bestseller lists being taken by indies. The next biggest shares, and steadily growing, were the Amazon imprints. And after that come the Big Five, and only then all the others. So that is how we view the market. That’s the market picture for those who earn money on a monthly basis based on Kindle Publishing and other platforms. Thomas: So, traditional publishers are making $8 billion dollars collectively, and only one billion of that is from ebooks. For them, ebooks are only a small piece of the financial pie. But for your typical indie author, maybe 80% of their money comes from ebooks. They care a lot more about ebooks and Kindle. I’ve actually seen traditional publishers price their ebooks high to make them unappealing so it will drive people to buy the paperback. A well-known author with an ebook listed for $12.99 will not have a high rank in the Kindle store where most books are priced around $2.99. Part of the reason traditional publishers aren’t doing as well in the ebook space is because they are not trying to. It’s not a priority for them like it is for independent publishers. What are the new trends in the Kindle market? What are some of the new trends you see evolving? What’s changed over the last year on Amazon? Alex: First and foremost is what we call ‘pay to play.’ Everyone is worried about visibility and wants their books showing up in the rankings. They want to know what they can do. The fact of the matter is that in 2019 Amazon changed some things in their interface, so fewer books are showing up. For example, if you’re on a desktop, you’ll see a list of about 16 books per page plus one prominent book at the top. Of those 17 placements, about seven positions are sponsored results. That means that about 41% of the real estate on an Amazon page is now paid advertising. If you want to show up there, you have to pay. So, one big factor is learning to manage your ads, and the way to get visibility on Amazon is with a paid advertising strategy. It will be a bit like the winner takes it all in the end because they can afford to reinvest their money into more ads. So that’s potentially one effect of the changes in their interface. Thomas: I want to point out, though, this is how advertising has always been. You’re going to Amazon because you want to purchase something. It’s just like when you’re at the grocery store. The placement of the products on the grocery store shelf is paid for by the vendors. If you see a big display for a particular brand of toilet paper, that toilet paper company paid to have a display put there, and that’s a form of advertising. It doesn’t feel like advertising because you may have gone to the store to buy toilet paper anyway. But if the display product is a little bit closer and a little bit cheaper or if you have a coupon, you will probably put that product in your basket. What genres perform best in the kindle market? Thomas: What are some other trends that you’re seeing? Alex: The other trend is the gain of Kindle Unlimited. Kindle Unlimited is where the author or publisher sells exclusively on Amazon. There have always been conspiracy theories that Amazon is giving particular weight in the rankings to Kindle Unlimited books. Do Kindle Unlimited books rank higher? I do not believe that is the case. But the fact of the matter is that Kindle Unlimited has gained significantly in share.  We looked back at the numbers in 2016, and out of all the top 100 rankings across the 30 main categories, only about 45% of these top-ranking positions were taken by Kindle Unlimited books. At the end of 2019, we saw 62% of those top-ranking positions taken Kindle Unlimited books. That’s a huge jump. But it does differ by genre. If you look at the Romance genre, about 80% of the ebooks are Kindle Unlimited. It’s the same in SciFi, Fantasy, and Teen Young Adult. So, in some major genres, Kindle Unlimited is dominating the game. This causes people to think that Amazon is gaming the system and giving preference to Kindle Unlimited. But I believe there is a simple explanation behind that phenomenon. If you are an end-customer and you sign up to Kindle Unlimited (K.U.), you pay a monthly subscription. But once you’ve paid, you go to the site to download a book it feels like it’s free because you’ve already paid your subscription fee.   But the irony is that the Kindle Unlimited download drives the sales rank of a book in exactly the same way as a paid purchase. So, it’s like a free ebook competing with a paid book. Over time, the relatively higher conversion that is baked into a virtually free ebook, like a K.U. download, will outpace and outperform the paid books. That’s why we have seen this huge gain in Kindle Unlimited. Thomas: That’s right because Amazon keeps two bestseller lists. They keep a bestseller list of free books, and they keep a bestseller list of paid books. You might think that Kindle Unlimited downloads go into that free category. But that’s not the case because technically it’s not free. You’re paying your monthly $10 subscription if you’re a reader for Kindle Unlimited, and that counts toward that paid list. Let’s talk about Amazon imprints. Amazon is kind of having their cake and eating it, too, because they’re not just a retailer. They’re also a publisher. They publish their own books. I have often thought that they would just dominate the market because they have such useful data. Since they know who’s finishing which books, they can identify which authors are good from an objective perspective. How are the Amazon imprints performing? How are the Amazon imprints doing? Are they gaining or losing market share? Alex: They’ve gained market share. By purchasing these publishers—there are three big ones and about 20 others—they have more than 26% in share. That is significant. As an Amazon company, you will have some advantages. If you talk to individual authors of those imprints, they’ll tell you Amazon knows e-business, and their imprints thrive much better in the Amazon ecosystem. The Amazon imprints have become a major player. How do audiobooks impact the Kindle market? Thomas: Let’s talk about audio. I’m a big advocate for audiobooks. How is audio growing? How is the growth of audio impacting Kindle? Alex: Again, there are two perspectives. There is the Amazon view, and then there’s a traditional publisher view. But this is probably the one item where both worlds agree. Out of that $8 billion we mentioned earlier, more than $600 million a year in 2019 was audiobook sales for the traditional publishers. For them, that’s a growth of about 33% in 2019. That is significant. Now, Amazon doesn’t publish its audio sales. But over the years we have monitored the overall book bestseller lists on the Amazon store by genre. We looked at the penetration of the various formats across those bestseller lists. And although I cannot give you a percentage, if you look at it graphically, the area of audiobooks has grown significantly since 2017. If you look at some of the top bestseller lists by genre, you’ll see that in SciFi and Fantasy, 35% of the top 100 books in SciFi have become audiobooks. In Literature and Fiction overall, 25% have become audiobooks. Romance was surprisingly low at less than 5%. I found that surprising. There is an interesting phenomenon in audiobooks. Thomas: Part of the reason is a gender difference. Women are the majority readers of romance. Men are the majority listeners of audiobooks. The genres that tend to do well as audiobooks are male-reader targeted genres. The Business genre is really big for audiobooks as well as SciFi and Fantasy. Audible has made some efforts to grow their female listenership, and I think it’s helped to a certain degree. But it’s still the one format where there are more men than women. Normally, women dominate the reading market. Women are more likely to be readers and bookstore visitors. Ebook readers are mostly women. But audiobook listeners are predominantly men. It’s a weird phenomenon, and I’ve never heard anyone explain the why behind it. But what’s interesting to me is how little of the money is going to traditional publishers from audiobook sales. You mentioned that $600 million is going to the actual publishers– that’s what they’re reporting as their profit. But if you look at the Audio Publishers Association (those who narrate the audiobooks), they reported in 2013 that they had already passed $1 billion in revenue. What’s happened is that Amazon completely dominates or had previously dominated the audiobook Space because Audible is just such a huge player. What do traditional publishers think about Audible? Even when you buy an audiobook on iBooks, you’re purchasing it from Audible, which is owned by Amazon. Amazon can use that market position to create really unfair deals with the publishing companies. Very little of that $15 you spend for an Audible credit goes to the publisher, and even less goes to the author. To offset that, publishers have teamed up with Book Bub and launched a new audiobook publishing service called Chirp. Chirp is a much better deal for publishers. And that’s why they’re there backing it so aggressively with a lot of their top content. They have some indie books, but it’s a lot of top-name authors, and their books are aggressively discounted. It’s only $2 to $5 sometimes for a book on Chirp. The publishers are willing to give a big discount because they’re still potentially making more money selling the $5 book on Chirp than they are selling a $10 book on Audible. Alex: That’s very interesting. I concur with the genre and gender domination. When I look at our emerging genre stats on the audio side, SciFi, Business, and Self-Help books are the types of things guys typically listen to. It’s going to be interesting to see how the Audible subscription model does against these new emerging platforms. What is the future of audiobooks? Thomas: My prediction is that over the next five years, the gender gap will even out. I base that prediction on what has happened with podcasting. Men dominated the first ten years of podcast listening. Most podcasts were made and consumed by men. But that has changed in the last two years. There has been a flood of new female podcasters and listeners. I think podcasting is the “gateway drug” to audiobook listening. You listen to some free podcasts, and then you hear some commercials for an audiobook service, and suddenly you’re starting to buy audiobooks. That’s why I think opportunities will open up in the audio space for books with a predominately female readership. Previously romance audiobooks have struggled to reach female readers. The romance audiobooks are not making the fortunes that they’re making on Kindle Unlimited. But I think that will change. Alex: I got one fascinating hypothesis on that from a romance author. She said romance readers are so voracious, and they consume the books so fast, that the speed of the audio narrator is too slow for many consumers of romance novels. I found that interesting. Thomas: Audible launched a special romance subscription program, and they have ways of speeding up the audio, but they still haven’t quite figured out how to solve that problem for romance. What is happening in other genres in Kindle? Which genres have gained, and which have dropped off in the last year? Alex: The overall trend has been surprisingly stable when it comes to the overall share that we see in the genres. Romance is still the number-one genre, and it is followed closely by Mystery Thriller and Suspense. SciFi is third and is often competing with Teen Young Adult. Then comes Nonfiction. Those are the big ones. But once you dive deeper—which we’ll do extensively in the webinar we’ll host together—you find that within those main genres are subgenres where we can see trends of Paranormal Romance going up or down. We can see what the Dragon Shifter subgenre is doing. Those are the areas our data allows us to explore in endless granularity. What will the Kindle trends do this year? Thomas: Your K-lytics reports inform authors of which genres and subgenres are currently the best space to be writing in. You can see the trends.   Where do you see the trends going in the future? Alex: I think two things are going to happen. I think we’re going to see a continued gain in share by Amazon imprints at the expense of traditional publishers. And I think within the indie space we’re going to indies hanging in there, holding their share, and potentially slightly gaining. But we may see a bit of shift within the indie landscape. Within the indie landscape, we are seeing authors move to more of a collaborator and publisher model. That allows those indie publishers and authors to invest in advertising in smarter ways collectively. There is potential for authors to collaborate and potentially create trends. Can authors create Kindle trends? A couple of factors impact what readers want. If we look back in time, we saw the rise of Vampire Romance and Paranormal Romance. This year in Mystery Thriller and Suspense, there is huge growth in Psychological Thrillers that is way over the market average. So, there are these individual pockets where there are some underlying megatrends. However, you also have factors where authors get together and ask what trend they want to create. I think there is a lot of potential there because since so much of the shelf space is paid, as we discussed earlier, then those who pay can create the trend. You may suddenly see dragon urban fantasy novels all over the place because urban fantasy authors get together and decide this will be the year of the dragon. Maybe next year will be the year of the female superhero. That is how trends will be created in the time to come. Thomas: It will be interesting to see if that works. So often trends happen because there’s some super big hit book. The Vampire Romance trend was kicked off by the epically successful Twilight books. Especially voracious romance readers, who read three to ten books per month, will get through the whole Twilight series in a month. Indie authors are really good at letting those voracious readers know about books that are similar to Twilight. Suddenly you’re creating a genre and a category on Amazon that is very vibrant. It all started with a hit book. But you never know what those big hits are going to be. It’s hard to predict. But I have noticed that indies are much more responsive to those trends. Alex: Indies are agile. Sometimes the reactive game works, sometimes it doesn’t. For example, long after the Twilight series had died down, we still had Bella Forrest writing more than 60 books in her Shades of Vampire series. There were probably 50 other authors who jumped on that bandwagon and made a living on it for over ten years.  Twilight came out more than ten years ago, and the vampire still don’t die on the Amazon platform. Other categories don’t seem to have the same longevity, though. In 2019 we did a superhero study to update our data. In 2019 we saw the highest number of superhero movies released in a year. We saw the iconic Stan Lee pass away end of 2018, and there was a lot of media hype surrounding his death. You would think that may have helped the Superhero Fiction genre, but in fact, it has not come out of niche status. It was the same with Ready Player One, the lead RPG Game Lit book. The genre has grown significantly, but I don’t think it will ever be as big as the vampire thing. The market is just too niche. Join us for our free K-lytics webinar. Thomas: It’s important for authors to know where the market is heading. If you want to write the kinds of books people like, you need to write the types of books people already like. To do that, you must familiarize yourself with market data. For authors who are wondering about trends in their subgenre, we have good news. Alex and I are hosting a free webinar to dive deeper into specific genres. It’s an exclusive event for our Novel Marketing listeners, and we’re going to answer listener questions. Register for our FREE Webinar on February 26, 2020, at 3:00 p.m. Central Time in the U.S. Sponsor: Our sponsor today is the Novel Marketing Mastermind Groups. Get personalized, interactive training and encouragement from me and a small group of other masterminds. Once you join a Novel Marketing Mastermind Group you get access to the Mastermind Slack Channel and the monthly mastermind video hangout. Which is right for you? Pre-published Fiction MastermindPre-published Nonfiction MastermindPublished MastermindPodcasting Mastermind Featured Patron Our featured patron today is Peter DeHaan, author of 52 Churches. Peter and his wife visited a different church every Sunday for a year. This is their story about what they learned. Discover more about Jesus, his church, the people who go there, and just how vast our practices and worship are.  Thank you to Peter for being a patron of Novel Marketing. You can become a Novel Marketing Patron here. If you can’t afford to become a patron, but still want to help the show, you can! Just share this episode on a Facebook group of authors who you think would benefit.  Have a novel marketing question? Do you have a question you would like us to answer on the show? Call our listener helpline! 512-827-8377‬. You can also send us a high-quality recording on Encouragement Last week during lunch, totally out of the blue, Mercy, my 15-month-old daughter, had a seizure. She had no previous events and no family history that we knew of. My wife called 9-1-1 while she held my seizing daughter. As you can imagine, it was incredibly scary. The EMTs, ambulance, and fire department all came to the house. I was at an author event in the middle of a session when Margaret called me. Normally Margaret messages me and rarely calls, so when I saw her calling, I knew it was a big deal. Thankfully I answered, and she said, “Mercy has had a seizure. I need you to come home right now.”   So, there I was, stuck in traffic, stuck at red lights, worrying about my daughter, and hoping that she was okay. Finally, I got home and saw an ambulance parked in front of our house. I rushed inside. Nobody was downstairs. Nobody was upstairs. No one was outside in the back yard. I was calling out for my family, but no one was there. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Finally, I ran out to the ambulance, and when I opened the door, a paramedic was holding our newborn son. Mercy on the stretcher just shaking and weeping in a way I’ve never heard before. My wife and another paramedic were beside Mercy.   I got into the ambulance and were discussing whether we should go to the hospital. They said, “There’s a chance that this is a febrile seizure, which is common in toddlers. It’s not a very big deal. But there’s also a chance that it’s something else that’s far worse. We have to go to the children’s hospital to run tests.” Our medical plan doesn’t cover ambulance rides, so we decided to take her ourselves. But as we were taking Mercy out of the ambulance, she got stiff and shaky again. I’m not sure if it was from the cold or another seizure, but I quickly changed my mind. I decided to ride with Mercy in the ambulance because the baby was hungry. So, I told Margaret to follow us in the car after she had a chance to feed the baby. But I was not thinking clearly. A a children’s hospital in the middle of flu season is a terrible place to take a newborn. On the way to the hospital, Mercy’s fever came down. While we were sitting in traffic in the ambulance, she started to feel better. By the time we get to the hospital, my wife and I both realized we didn’t my wife coming into the hospital with the baby. So, Margaret ended up sitting in the back of our in the parking lot of the hospital for hours while doctors did various tests on Mercy. Inside the hospital, I played Baby Shark over and over for Mercy, hoping she’d feel better. Eventually, the tests came back negative. Mercy didn’t have any of the scary things that it could have been. And it turns out that she had contracted a virus called Roseola, which is a very common virus that young children get. We are thankful the tests came out negative, but the seizure was terrifying. The whole event was very disruptive. Eventually, we all got home, and Mercy’s doing better. One lesson that came from the whole event is something authors can apply to their writing. Normally, I feel like I’m pretty good at putting plants together and thinking through logistics. But in the heat of the moment, in terror and concern for my daughter, I felt like I was making nothing but sub-optimal decisions. I felt terrible for my wife. We both decided it wasn’t a good idea for her to bring our five-week-old into the hospital during flu season. But neither of us had figured that out before we left. If we had, she could have stayed at home in a much more comfortable place for her and Baby Tommy. Often our books are our book babies. It’s easy to get into that same frantic place where we’re so emotionally charged. We get so excited or so scared that we make poor decisions. There are a lot of con artists in this industry who are very greedy. They aim to scare writers so that they can take advantage of frightened people. One nice thing about a book-baby, as opposed to a real-life baby, is that you’re never in a rush to decide. It’s never a life-or-death decision. You don’t have to decide immediately. Any time somebody pressures you to make a rushed decision that is a huge red flag. There’s no reason you can’t sleep on it. In fact, you should. You should Google it and take a deep breath. In publishing, your book is not going to die because you wait. So, the one takeaway I have for you is to avoid making decisions in a panicked state. The post 228 State of the Kindle 2020 appeared first on Author Media.
As authors, it is easy to get destination fever, where we are so focused on the destination that we fail to enjoy the journey. What does it mean to be a success as a Christian author? Should we measure ourselves the same way secular authors measure themselves?  To help us answer this question, we will be talking with the bestselling and Christy hall-of-fame author James L. Rubart. Links: 7 Tips for Pitching Editors and Sponsor: Christian Writers Institute The Course of the Week: I Don’t Write for the Money As a Christian author, what motivates you to write for publication? Is it money? Or something greater? Novelist Jack Cavanaugh explores the motive beyond financial gain and offers insight into true success.Normally I would say use coupon code “podcast” to save 10%, but this course is 100% free! The post What does success look like for Christian authors? appeared first on Christian Publishing Show.
A patron of the Novel Marketing Show recently asked a great question we’re going to answer in this article. “How can I collaborate with other authors so we can help promote each other’s work?” But first, why is this something you should consider? Why work with other authors? Reason #1 Writing is the Opposite of a Zero-Sum Game Gambling is a zero-sum game. If I win chips, it means you lose chips.  In the real world, most things involving money are not zero-sum. In almost every area, value can be created. For example, if I build a mansion next to your house, it makes your house more valuable. The total pie is bigger.  Writing is the same.  “When people love a book, they want to read more books like it, even if those books are by other authors.” Click to Tweet When you help fellow authors succeed, you help yourself succeed as well. As the old saying goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”  Remember: Faster alone, further together.  Your competition as an author is not other authors. Your competition is Netflix.  Reason #2 Writing is Hard Non-writers don’t understand that you suffer when you kill off one of your characters, or even worse when you have to edit them out of your novel altogether. “Authors who “go alone” almost always give up before they reach the finish line.” Click to Tweet Reason #3 Publishing is Hard Finding an agent, a publisher, and a good book deal is hard. Indie publishing is the same amount of work. It’s simply a different path. There is so much to learn and many potential mistakes to make. If you are going alone, you won’t have the advantage of learning from someone else’s mistakes. You’ll have to learn by making the mistakes yourself.  Reason #4 Marketing is Hard Promoting your book requires hard, ongoing work. Not only must you accomplish various marketing tasks, but you must also learn what works and what doesn’t for you and your book.  Collaborating with other authors makes the writing, publishing, and marketing processes. Each stage becomes easier when authors collaborate. I have been working with bestselling authors for over a decade, and I can’t think of a single writer who made it to bestseller status without a community of other authors helping out. Now that you know you need to work with other authors let’s talk about how to work with other authors.   There are three levels of author collaboration.   Level 1: How to Connect with Other Authors  At this first level of collaboration, the goal is to connect with other authors to learn from each other’s experiences and to encourage one another to go further. We recently released episode 217 about mentorship, and we explored several types of level-one collaboration.  Level-one collaboration can take several forms: Online Communities Facebook groups, Slack groups, online forums, and other online writers groups fit into this category. Online communities have the lowest barrier to entry, the least time commitment, and are the least valuable form of collaboration in this list. Little is sown, and little is reaped.   Tips: Be picky. It is better to focus on fewer communities where you genuinely contribute than to dabble in many groups you never check.Ask questions! Don’t just lurk.  Answer questions. Online communities are about give-and-take. Comment unto others as you would have them comment unto you.  “In Facebook groups, comment unto others as you would have them comment unto you.” Click to Tweet Conferences Conferences are a great place to meet other authors in real life. Many of the following collaboration techniques assume you already know the authors in real life. Writers conferences are where you make those connections.  Tips: Listen to Episode 063 – Six Proven Methods for Creating Maximum Impact at Writing Conferences.Start with small, local conferences before attending big, national conferences. Focus on getting to know other authors in attendance. Don’t be overly dazzled by the agents and editors.  Critique Groups In the five-year plan, we talk a lot about the importance of joining a critique group, or better yet, starting your own. Episode 135 talks all about how to start your own group. I also have a course on how to start your writer’s group.  Tips: The best way to find the perfect critique group is to start your own.Look on for other writers’ groups in your area.Ask your local librarian. They sometimes know about critique groups you can’t find anywhere else.  Mastermind Groups Mastermind groups are a lot like critique groups, but they focus more on the publishing journey and less on the craft of writing. Participants find motivation, accountability, marketing tips, publishing advice, and more. In episode 101, we talk about how to start your own mastermind group. I also host a couple of mastermind groups for Novel Marketing patrons. One of the groups is already full, but the other currently has a few openings. Tips: Dig your well before you’re thirsty. It takes time to get to know the masterminds in your group and build trust with them. Join a mastermind group before you need one. Commit to being as encouraging and helpful as possible.Show up! It doesn’t do you any good if you don’t attend the meetings. Buddy System Calls I know a lot of professional authors who have a weekly buddy system call with another author. These function like mini masterminds. One Tip:  Pick a good buddy. Find a buddy who will encourage and challenge you. Level 2: How to Cross-Promote with Other Authors In cross-promotion, authors promote each other’s work. The more authors you cross-promote with, the more readers you will reach. The key to success is to apply the Golden (Author) Rule: “Promote for other authors as you would have them promote for you.” Click to Tweet The more you bless other authors, the more they will want to bless you when the time comes.  You will find authors at nearly every level of success using one or more of the following cross-promotion strategies.  Email Newsletter Swaps When you swap newsletters with another author, you email your list of readers to promote another author’s book. In return, they email their list promoting your book.  Tips: Stick to authors who write books like yours. Audience match is also important.Read the book before recommending it! This will make you a better writer. Your reputation is on the line. Only promote books you would personally recommend. It only takes one bad recommendation to ruin your reputation.  Blog Book Reviews A lot of novelists ask what they should blog about. The one thing you should never blog about is writing tips. It attracts the wrong crowd. Instead, review books by similar authors. If you write Amish fiction and your blog is the source for Amish fiction reviews, you will build an audience of Amish fiction readers, and you’ll cultivate goodwill with other Amish fiction authors. (Assuming you are fair in your reviews.)  Pick a very narrow genre to start. Don’t review a broad genre like “fantasy books.” Review a microgenre like “female protagonist dragon-riding books.” Once your blog gets traction in that microgenre, you can expand.  Tips: Include an affiliate link to buy the book, even if you give a negative review. Always show the cover on the blog post or in your review. Be as specific as possible about what you like and don’t like about the book. Goodreads Cross Promotion While Amazon does not allow authors to review each other’s books, Goodreads encourages it. Goodreads does not allow an author to add their own book to a list, but authors can add someone else’s book to various lists. Just like you swap email newsletter promotions, you can also swap Goodreads promotions.  Launch Bundles We’ve been talking a lot about launch bundles recently. They are a great way to create Urgency (Episode 223) and Scarcity (Episode 225). In short, a launch bundle is a collection of bonuses that readers receive if they purchase the book in the first few weeks of launch. A great way to collaborate with other authors is to contribute to each other’s launch bundles. For example, you can offer your e-book as part of a fellow author’s launch bundle, and she can provide hers as part of your launch bundle. This is one reason it’s helpful to have lots of short stories on hand.  Blurbs Writing blurbs for book covers is the classic way of cross-promoting in traditional publishing. But remember, blurbs only work if readers already know the person who has written the blurb or their title like “bestselling author” or “senator.” Cohosting Webinars & Facebook Lives This is a classic for nonfiction authors. Cohosting a webinar or Facebook Live is a great way to introduce your different audiences to each other. We talk more about this in Episode 153 – How to Host a Facebook Live For Your Book. Podcast Guesting If you have a podcast, you can invite authors to be a guest on your podcast and vice versa.  For more on podcast guesting listen to: 209 How to Get Booked for Guest Podcast Interviews OverviewAlso, check out my course on doing podcast interviews.  Level 3: How to Collaborate with Other Authors  If level-one is the singles mixer, and level two is dating, then level three is marriage. This is the ultimate form of collaboration. Foreword Writing If you write a foreword for someone, they can add you as an “author” of their book on Amazon. If a reader views your Amazon author page, it will show the books you’ve written as well as the books for which you’ve written forewords. Writing foreword is a time-tested tactic. If you don’t have a foreword in your book, you are leaving book sales on the table. Click to Tweet  Writing a foreword is a big commitment for the author who writes it. Having a great foreword is a result of having a great relationship with the writer. You’ll find these relationships can be cultivated in person as well as online. The forward for my book Courtship in Crisis (affiliate link) was written by Debra Fileta, the author of the popular book True Love Dates (affiliate link). She read my viral blog post and reached out to me. We corresponded by email about our topic, and I eventually invited her to be a guest on my radio show.   Because I got to know her through correspondence and conversation, I felt comfortable asking her to write the foreword for my book. She agreed. But if you click on her name in Amazon, you will see three books: the two she authored and the one for which she wrote a foreword. Everyone who looks at my book sees her name listed in the author line as the forward author. Short Story Anthology I’ve noticed that urban fantasy authors make good use of this technique. A group of authors will publish a short story anthology. I buy a lot of these because Jim Butcher puts Dresden Files (affiliate link)  short stories in these anthologies. Anthologies introduce me to new writers. This type of collaboration requires more work. But it can be worth it. A group of authors working together can provide more value than just two authors working alone. Co-Authoring a Book Together Co-Authoring is a major commitment. Don’t go into an agreement lightly. That said, this is perhaps the most powerful technique because it allows both authors to fully leverage their readerships.  Sharing a Literary Universe Sharing a literary universe has many of the same benefits as co-authoring a book together. But it doesn’t require authors to work together as closely as co-authoring does. However, this could be a more long-term commitment as multiple books develop from your shared universe. When authors share a literary universe, characters from one story can appear in the other author’s story and vice versa. To learn more about sharing a literary universe, listen to episode 216–Literary Universe Marketing.  Creating a Pen Name Together Sharing a pen name is the ultimate commitment. Instead of co-authoring a book with another author, you can create a pen name with them. Creating a shared pen name works when two authors, who write in different genres, work together. A romance writer may team up with a suspense writer to create a masterful romantic suspense novel under their collective pen name. How else can authors work together? Let us know in the Novel Marketing Facebook group. Sponsor: How to Start a Local Writers Group Most authors want to join someone else’s writers group. When everyone thinks someone else will do something, it doesn’t happen. The result? Most authors are not in writers groups, even though writers group membership is one of the things that separates bestselling authors from authors struggling to make it. Don’t let that be you! In this course, you will learn how to start your very own writers group.  Thomas has started nearly half a dozen writer’s groups over the last ten years, and he has learned a thing or two in the process.  Patrons save 50%, and students of the 5 Year Plan get this course for free! And that’s a good price!  Learn more at  Featured Patron Mary Demuth author of We Too (Affiliate Link)          Advocate Mary DeMuth unpacks the church’s response to sexual violence and provides a healthy framework for the church to become a haven of healing instead of an institution of judgment.                                                        You can become a Novel Marketing Patron here. If you can’t afford to become a patron, but still want to help the show, you can! Just leave a review on Apple Podcasts or Podchaser.  Do you have a question you would like us to answer on the show? Call our listener helpline! 512-827-8377. You can also send us a high-quality recording on our contact page. Encouragement It is fun to watch Mercy, our toddler, with our new baby, Tommy. Mercy is so excited about this new little person in the house. She only knows a handful of words, but we’ve been teaching her baby sign language, and she uses the sign “sleepy” to refer to the baby. One time she used the signs “sleepy” and then the sign for “bird” to refer to him. “Sleeping Bird” has become his new nickname.  Mercy wants so much to be able to play with Tommy, but they are both too small. The best she can do is kiss him. Pretty much everything else is too rough. We have to watch Mercy like a hawk while Tommy is having “tummy time” because Mercy will step on him or try to hug him too hard. As they grow, they will be able to interact better. When it comes to interacting with readers, a lot of beginning authors are like my daughter. They want to interact with their readers, but the know what to say or how to get readers to want to join their email list.  If that is you, don’t give up! Keep listening to this podcast and keep getting better at your craft. Keep growing. You won’t stay at the “toddler level” forever.  The post How to Work With Fellow Authors To Sell More Books appeared first on Author Media.
Impostor syndrome is when you feel like you are faking it. Do you feel like a charlatan and that everyone might find out you have no idea what you are talking about?  Here is the crazy thing: There is a chance it’s true. You may be an impostor. It may also be a lie.  Dunning–Kruger Effect This effect is often described with a story about McArthur Wheeler, who robbed banks while his face was covered with lemon juice. He believed the lemon juice would make him invisible to the surveillance cameras. You know, since lemon juice was used for invisible ink. McArthur Wheeler had just enough knowledge to think he was brilliant. The Dunning-Kruger Effect is a cognitive bias in which people think they know more than they really know. Dunning and Kruger won Nobel Prizes for their discovery of this effect.  Many of us see ourselves as having above-average intelligence.  The more you learn, the more you realize you still have to learn. So the more of an expert someone is, the less of an expert they feel they are.  Image Credit: Wikipedia. (Yes, Wikipedia has a typo in the image.) Humility is having an honest assessment of yourself. Claiming to know: more than you really know is a form of pride.less than you really know is also a form of pride. This is false humility.  As Christians, it is important for us to be honest with others and with ourselves as to our true abilities.  Lying about yourself in a deprecating way is still lying. It is exactly the kind of lie the enemy wants you to say in order to mute your influence. Speak the truth–even the truth about yourself.   Don’t Be a Bozo “Bozo” is the term Steve Jobs used to refer to people who didn’t know they didn’t know what they were talking about. He was famous for publicly firing people he thought were bozos during meetings. Steve Jobs feared that if he allowed them to stay working at Apple, they would hire other bozos, leading to a bozo explosion and resulting in mediocrity.  Bozo Warning Signs Bozos can’t see past their own story. Your powerful story makes you an expert on you. It doesn’t make you an expert on your topic. Everyone is different, and every story is different. Bozos rarely question their own competence. They assume they know what they are talking about. Bozos think they are called by God to write and, therefore, don’t need to study the craft of writing. Bozos think they know enough and don’t need to read. Bozos tend to have black-and-white thinking. The one way that worked for them is the only way that will work for others.  Look in the Mirror No one is born an expert. You may not be an expert yet. That’s okay. You can always learn more. The apostle Paul spent years in obscurity learning about God before he started penning his epistles. But you may be an expert who is believing (and perhaps even speaking!) lies about your own inadequacy. Stop speaking lies. So, let’s take a look in the mirror, shall we? Here are some questions you can use to assess yourself. Even better, ask a trusted compatriot their thoughts as well.  How many books do you read on your topic? Keep reading books on your topic until you read one where you know everything presented in a book. Then read books around your topic.Read the academic literature on the topic. Read the Bible yourself and not only commentaries. Read commentaries, so you can learn from those who have gone before. Completely new doctrines are looked upon with distrust by a lot of Christian communities.   Are people helped by your message?  Do you have examples of people who have been helped by your message? Measure the results that people who take your advice see. Do people tell others about your expertise? What do people say about your writing behind your back? Social media allows you to eavesdrop. Accept the facts that you may be an impostor and you can still become an expert in the future.  How to Become an Expert Read Books Once you have read all the books on your topic, you will know more than most. So few people persist in reading these days. They give up after two or three books on a topic.  Read a dozen books, then read a dozen more. Start a Blog Blogging gives you a good place to work through your thinking.Do people find it helpful? Are you able to rank on Google for answers to the questions people are typing in about your topic? Listen to Podcasts Podcasts are a great way to learn from experts who have not yet written books. Start a Podcast Hosting a podcast allows you to interview other experts and learn things you can’t find in books.  Consult If you can coach other people into having good results, then you know you are well on your way. If you can’t help someone in person, how will paper from dead trees help? This is one of the reasons pastors and counselors are so successful in Christian publishing. They counsel people in their congregation and see if and when that counsel works. They get to learn from the stories of others.  Find out who you are an expert for  You don’t know everything and can’t help everyone.  My wife and I talk a lot about best practices when teaching our toddler. This is a holdover from the days when we used to work together. Corporate speak can be hard to kick. Just a few days ago, our daughter was holding her fork backward. Using this method, she had to put her body into a pretzel position to get the fork to her mouth. My wife said, “Mercy, that is not the best practice,” and put the fork in her hand the correct way. My daughter then had this amazing smile of “aha!” She went from getting 0% of the food in her mouth to 10% of food in her mouth. It was a huge improvement! Knowing how to hold a fork correctly is something you already know to do. But for a toddler, it is a groundbreaking insight. As far as my daughter is concerned, my wife is gifted with divine knowledge and insight.  How to Be Seen As an Expert Being an expert and being seen by others as an expert are two different things. “Some who are poor pretend to be rich; others who are rich pretend to be poor.” Proverbs 13:7 NLT Admit What You Don’t Know Be honest with what you do and do not know. Be honest with who you can and cannot help. This is not only important for Christian humility, it is also a best practice in the secular world as well. You will notice that doctors and lawyers are quick to point out when they are talking about an area outside their specialty.  If you ask a cardiologist about your foot, the first thing she will say is that she is not a podiatrist. This response actually enhances her credibility when she talks about your heart.  Have Other Experts Speak Well of You Trust is something one trusted person can extend to another unknown person. If my pastor speaks well of you, I am much more likely to think well of you.  So how do you get other trusted people to speak well of you? Spend time with them, in real life, so they can get to know you. This is one reason why writers conferences are so valuable for writers. Authors write blurbs for authors they already know, like, and trust. Go on a Podcast Tour  Guesting is a great way to raise your status in the eyes of others. It is also a great way to get the word out and build your platform and connect with other trusted people.  Write a Good Bio There is an art to writing bios. We have episode 79 on my other podcast, Novel Marketing, which is all about doing this.  Write a Book You already know this, but writing a book on a topic makes you look like an expert.  This is the final step! Writing a book is not the beginning of your ministry. It is the culmination of years of faithful service. If God has called you to minister, then minister! Don’t wait for an agent or editor to give you permission. You serve the Almighty God, not the publishing industry. As God blesses your ministry, the opportunity to write a book will come out of that. Don’t Forget  Who You Are  God formed you. He made you in his image. God gave you your passions and desires for a reason. His Holy Spirit is shaping you and making you more like him. The areas where you are weak are the places where he will show himself to be strong.  God is making you into who you need to be, to do what he has called you to do. Don’t throw mud on his masterpiece by pretending to be something other than what you are. If you are an eye, celebrate your sight! If you are a foot, rejoice in your speed!  Who God Is God will give you everything you need to do everything he calls you to do. If there are giants in the land, God will give you the courage to defeat them. If you need knowledge, he will give you opportunities to learn. God is a good Father. He knows what he is doing. He knows how to fill our jars of clay with his Spirit.  Sponsor: Christian Writers Institute The Course of the Week: Prepare Your Heart to Be a Writer by Karen Ball & Erin Taylor Young  Give Yourself a God-Based Anchor for Whatever Comes Your Way. How much time—and money—have you spent chasing your dream to be a writer? Don’t spend one more minute—or cent—until you KNOW that your dream is really from God. This course will help you be sure, one way or the other. And that will enable you to move forward with confidence and peace, both of which you will need because whatever your writing career brings you, you will encounter obstacles and struggles along with joys and delights. What’s more, you can be sure, when you undertake this journey of writing with God, that the enemy will attack. Your most powerful weapon against any and all disappointments, obstacles, and attacks; the most effective tool to help you keep going when all you want to do is give up is a heart that’s grounded in the foundation of God’s truth. Use coupon code “podcast” to save 10% or click the link in the show notes to activate the coupon code automatically.  The post How to Overcome Impostor Syndrome appeared first on Christian Publishing Show.
Many authors believe search engine optimization (SEO) is a cryptic mystery average humans cannot solve. But SEO is simply crafting a page in such a way that it ranks high in search rankings. In this article, we’re going to explore Amazon SEO. We’ll explain why it is essential and how to apply it to your marketing plan. Dave Chesson is one of the top Amazon SEO experts. He’s the creator of, a website devoted to teaching advanced e-book marketing, which even Amazon KDP acknowledges as one of the best resources on optimizing your book’s marketing. Why Is Search Engine Optimization Important for Authors? Thomas Umstattd Jr.: Why is Amazon SEO so important for authors? Dave Chesson: Amazon, SEO, is about getting your book in front of the right shoppers. A shopper goes to Amazon and types what they’re looking for into the search bar. When they hit the “search” button, Amazon decides whether to show books, which books to display and the order in which those books appear in the search results. We have found that 20% to 30% of the shoppers will click on the book that appears at the top of the search results. That percentage quickly drops to single digits the farther you get from the top. Appearing at the top of the list increases your ability to get seen and your ability to make sales. Thomas: A lot of people think Google is the dominant search engine, and it is for certain kinds of searches. For example, if I’m searching for a dentist, I’ll use google. But when people are searching for products, over half of the searches happen on Amazon. More people are searching for products on Amazon than on all the other search engines combined, including Google. No one is going to Google and typing “mystery suspense writer” or “Amish romance.” For authors, Amazon is where you want to rank at the top. Dave:  More than 197 million people have an Amazon account, which means it’s easy to make that purchase right then and there. If I find a book I want to buy on another website that sells books, the problem is that I’ve got to create an account, make a password, and enter my credit card information on a website I don’t fully trust. A lot of people will leave that website, search for it on and buy it there because they already have an Amazon account all set up. It’s a wonderful marketplace people trust. They know Amazon will always have what they want. Thomas: Amazon took over the market by simply caring about the customer—the book readers. The traditional publisher’s customers are Barnes and Noble and Amazon and other retail channels, but Amazon customers are the actual humans who are reading books. That has been their secret sauce. Why is SEO so hard or scary for so many authors? Three Keys to Amazon SEO Dave: SEO for Google seems to be a hard-core, billion-steps task. Amazon is more straightforward than Google. There are three keys to Amazon SEO: Identify the target that you want your book to be shown to. When a customer types a phrase into that search bar, what are the phrases you want your book to show up for?Identify where you want your book to be indexed. To be “indexed” means that you are convincing Amazon that your book should show up somewhere in the search results. It might be the first book in the list of search results, or the then-thousandth book. Increase the ranking of your book so that it appears at the top of the list. A higher percentage of people are going to click on the first book than the fourth one listed. A lot of authors might do one step, or they might do two steps, but they rarely do all three. Thomas: The one I see the most often that authors miss is identifying their target. Everyone wants to rank on Google or Amazon, but they never think about what they want to rank for. What tips do you have for the author who doesn’t know who to target? How do you identify that target audience? How do Authors Determine What to Rank For? Dave: There are three things to care about when it comes to keywords. Make sure it’s a keyword people actually type into Amazon’s search bar.Make sure the books that show up for that keyword are actually making sales.Make sure the keyword is not too competitive. Too much competition means it’s unlikely your book will be listed near the top. For example, you might want your book to show up when someone types “thriller novel.” Lots of people are typing that phrase to search for their next thriller. Books that show up for those search words are making sales. But is there any chance that my debut thriller novel is going to rank number one in Amazon for the term thriller novel? No. I think that’s why a lot of authors get scared. Without software or paying for tools, here are three ways you can figure out how to identify targets, get indexed, and increase your rank. Find out what phrases people are already typing. Amazon has an auto-suggest system in its search bar. You can start typing the phrases you’re thinking of, and Amazon will try to guess what you’re going to finish typing by looking at what other people have typed in the past. As you type, you’ll see a dropdown list of phrases people have actually typed. You’ll want to make a list of these auto-suggested phrases. You won’t know how many people typed that phrase. You just know that enough people have typed it, and Amazon thinks it’s a good guess. That’s how you build a list of phrases that people use. Figure out how much money those books are making. Once you type in that phrase and hit search, you can click on the books that show up, and you can see their Amazon bestseller rank. And we have a free calculator on Google which you can find by searching for “kindle calculator.” Take the Amazon bestseller rank, put it into the calculator, click, and it will calculate an average of that book’s daily sales. You’ll be able to see a particular book made $48 or $4000 today. You’ll know which books that show up for that keyword or phrase are succeeding and selling. Find the competition. This part is more subjective. Look at that list of books and ask some questions. How good is the cover?How well does this book fit that search term?How popular is the author’s author famous, or have I never heard of this person?How many reviews do they have?How frequent are those reviews? You can also do a Google search to find out more about the authors of those books. Maybe they also write for Forbes magazine, or perhaps they’ve won an award for Best Fantasy. Gather all that information and ask: Did Amazon present the right books? Can I beat those books? Once you have those three things, you can start to know which keywords are going to be most beneficial. Thomas: There’s a sweet spot where you don’t want to target something too popular, and you don’t want to target something too obscure. For example, if someone searches for your name, your book will probably appear at the top of the list. But if no one is searching for that term, it does you no good to appear at the top. Are there paid tools to help make that whole process easier?  How to Find Amazon Keywords for Your Book Dave: We developed Publisher Rocket software. Its sole purpose is to help you accomplish those three steps quickly, and that’s just in our keyword feature. You can type phrases into Publisher Rocket, and the software will pull even more phrases for you that customers have searched for. It will tell you how many people per month typed that phrase. That number will give you a competition score from 0 to 100, with 100 being impossible and 0 being easy to rank for. That takes out the guesswork and saves people a lot of time. How Does the Amazon Search Engine Work? Thomas: Let’s talk about how the Amazon search engine works. Because a lot of people think it’s just like Google’s search engine, but that’s not true in some ways. Amazon can see how many people are buying books, and Google can’t. The dollar signs are far more important for Amazon’s search engine than for Google’s. How does Amazon’s search engine work, and what is it looking for on a page? Dave: We talked about how to identify the right keywords you want to target. The second part is convincing Amazon’s algorithm that your book should show up for that term. When you publish a book, you have seven Kindle keywords that you can enter. We have done experiments on this. We found that the words included in your title and subtitle have a more significant impact on whether or not you get indexed. You don’t want to awkwardly stuff keywords in your title, but understand that when you put that keyword phrase in your title or subtitle, it sends a strong signal to Amazon that your book should be showing up in search results for that term. Keywords aren’t a magical thing. They’re simply the words your target market is using when they’re thinking of the book they want. Those words and phrases make great sales copy. Use the wording people use to describe their pain-point and think about putting that in your title or subtitle because it connects with that searcher. Amazon has said they use the title and subtitle to index, so we know it’s effective. Thomas: Let’s talk about the title and subtitle because this is where the marketing and strategy overlap with the craft. I think this is easier with nonfiction. You can have a short title and use a longer descriptive subtitle that includes a number of your keywords in a natural way.   For fiction writers, what do you recommend for a title and subtitle that is compelling for humans and still has keywords people are using to search? Dave: You want to convince the searcher that your book is the book they are looking for. There are three things that an Amazon shopper will look at before they click: CoverTitleSubtitle You need to make sure that those three things answer certain questions. How to Title Your Book People searching for a nonfiction book are asking these three questions: What will this teach me?How will I benefit from it?And who is this for? Fiction readers are asking different questions: What genre is this?What subgenre is this?What can I expect? A GameLit Example For example, I am a hard-core fan of the GameLit/LitRPG genre. Game LitRPG is literature about role-playing games, and it is a subgenre of GameLit, which is usually where the person is trapped in a video game and has to fight his way out. If I look at a book cover for a GameLit book, there is no image or symbol you can place on that cover that tells me immediately that this isn’t just another fantasy book. You must communicate it somewhere else. That means you must tell me in the title or subtitle. For instance, the cover of one of my favorite GameLit books has an image of a female character fighting a giant spider that’s trying to kill her. The cover might indicate it’s fantasy, but it doesn’t tell me it’s GameLit. This author used a one-word title, and between the cover and the title I knew it was fantasy, but it was her subtitle told me what I wanted to know. The subtitle was “Epic GameLit RPG.” Those are probably keywords she has investigated. But more importantly, to me as a searcher, when I typed “GameLit” into Amazon, I couldn’t tell if the first couple books were GameLit. But this author informed me right there in the subtitle. I knew right away this was my genre and sub-genre, and I knew what to expect. She had a good blurb and got my click. I bought it on the spot and enjoyed it. Thomas: This is a pro-human technique because it helps you, the reader, make the decision. It also helps the fantasy reader who doesn’t like GameLit. They’ll know it’s not what they’re looking for. Plus, they won’t read it if it is not what they are looking for and therefore won’t be disappointed. Often disappointed readers leave negative reviews when they read something they were not expecting. What SEO Techniques Should Authors Avoid? In the traditional SEO world, there is Black Hat SEO and White Hat SEO. Google has a lot of rules, and if you’re breaking them, it’s called Blackhat SEO. Are there any black hat SEO techniques that authors should avoid on their book pages, or does Amazon control it so that authors can’t do what they’re not supposed to do? Dave: You can do several things to give your book a chance to rise above the rest and improve its ranking. But the deciding factor on which book ranks higher is which book makes Amazon more money. Amazon has information on which book ended up with a sale, and therefore they know which one made them more money. Even though Amazon uses your keywords to index you, they’re using the shopper’s decisions to decide your rankings. That’s why you can’t use black-hat techniques. And that’s why Amazon isn’t being destroyed by black-hatters and people trying to game the system. What Does Amazon Index At For Search Purposes Thomas: Does Amazon use the book’s description (or blurb) to index the book?  Dave: Yes, it does, but there are two conflicting beliefs on it. One side says the book descriptions aren’t indexed. They will point to a tactic where they typed or copied a sentence from their description, then pasted it into Amazon search, and the book did not show up in the search results. Other people will type in some crazy word that only appears in their book description, and when they searched Amazon, their book didn’t show up. But Amazon has reported that they read the descriptions you use, and they use it to choose whether or not your book shows up for the description words. But here’s why the two things mentioned above don’t work. I believe Amazon doesn’t index full sentences because that’s not how shoppers type. We do not type complete sentences when we search. We type descriptive words, phrases, or nouns, and it’s never grammatically correct. It’s they’re way to crawl and pull the information. It’s not about using a full sentence or some made-up word it’s never seen before. It’s looking for things that it thinks it should see. Here’s a great example of this in action. When you go to your book sales page on Amazon, scroll down to the reviews. They now have this like density cloud at the top where they’re listing certain words that reviewers have used to describe your book. You can click on one word, and they’ll show you reviews that include that specific word or phrase. Those review phrases are not crazy words. They’re usually specific to the book’s title, a type of review phrase, or a genre/sub-genre specific phrase (a.k.a. keyword). That is because Amazon has said this is a Lit RPG book. Therefore, they’re going to crawl and index all the words reviewers are using. They’ll use the most common phrases. Thomas: We should be clear and state that humans are not making these decisions. There’s an artificial intelligence neural network at Amazon that is using machine learning, and it’s training itself based on Amazon data on how to better rank books. It’s looking at that text, and it’s running it through these ever-changing algorithms. It’s getting smarter and better at identifying words that matter, which is great. Machine learning finds a thousand words that people said about this book in the description or in the reviews, and it determines which are the ones that matter. It uses complicated statistical methods to identify what those words are and aren’t and it’s shockingly good. Dave: If they can increase conversion rates by just 1 percent, that means billions of dollars with Amazon, so they’re trying to learn everything and make sure they provide the best products possible based on the search. How to Improve Your Book’s Amazon Ranking The number one thing that boosts ranking is if somebody goes to Amazon and types in your keyword, scrolls, clicks, and purchases. If that happens, that shopper just sent a direct signal to Amazon, telling them that when this phrase is used, that book was the best choice. Now, here is a hack I feel safe giving because you can’t “black hat” the system. When you do a launch, you have people who are enthused about your book and planning to buy it. Instead of sending people a link to your book, ask them to search for it on Amazon using a specific phrase. If they’re the first person to type it in, it might take a bit to find it. But when they finally find it, and they click and purchase, your book’s ranking will jump up immediately. I’ve noticed that about four or five people doing this will help drive your book right to the top for that keyword. Thomas: That is a brilliant, solid strategy. Dave: This is just a tactic to give you that push to the top so you get a chance at being where you should be. Thomas: That’s an easy strategy to implement. You’re rewarding Amazon because ultimately, their goal is to sell books, and they don’t care which books sell. If you’re sending people to Amazon to buy books, why not have them do a search instead? Does Amazon Customize Search Results Per User? Dave: Yes, and they’re hard-core about it because it provides much better search results. If they know what I’ve already been buying, and they know, they’ll show me things related to what I’ve already purchased. Over time, Amazon will show you products based on what they know you buy. They also know that if I bought three books in the same series, I’m going to want the fourth book when it comes out. I’m going to see that fourth book more often than somebody who hasn’t bought any of the series. This is how they make themselves more money. Because remember, rule number one is what makes Amazon more money. In the end, providing the right product to the shopper is not only a great way to make the shopper happier, but it’s also a great way to make more money. So, yes, Amazon takes your previous shopping attitudes and habits and buying habits, and it customizes what books and products it shows you based on that. Thomas: So just because you’ve typed a search phrase six times and you see your book as number one in your search results, that doesn’t mean other people doing that same search are seeing the same things. Dave: That’s right. One way you can see what other users will see is to use Chrome’s incognito mode when checking Amazon. If you have Chrome on your computer, right-click it and then select “open in incognito.” Incognito Mode prevents Amazon from knowing it’s you logging in. You’re browsing with a blank slate. They only know you’re in the United States. When you’re doing keyword research, use your browser’s incognito mode so that your previous buying habits and search habits do not affect what Amazon shows you. Thomas: That’s a great tip. Firefox, Safari, and Opera have the same feature but it is called “private window.” A Common Myth about Amazon SEO Thomas: What is a common myth about Amazon SEO that you want to debunk? Dave: People say nobody knows any of the information about Amazon and that everybody is just guessing. When I talk about these things, I try to clarify that “I think” or “I know” because I want people to understand which things we know and which information is our best-educated guess. There are a lot of areas where Amazon does report what influences their decisions. You can find out by filing through a bunch of information. When it’s a fact, I refer to the source. When it’s my subjective opinion, I let people know. Thomas: Any final tips? Dave: An author’s best strategy is to answer those three questions about your cover, title, and subtitle. Not only will that help you with what we talked about–national rankings, people clicking and buying–it will also help you with all your other marketing efforts. Confusion leads to no sales. If you confuse, you’ll lose. If somebody can’t look at your cover, title, and subtitle and understand those three answers, then they’re probably going to walk away. Do some work there, and you’ll see some significant changes across the board, not just in SEO rankings. Thomas: Dave, where can people find out more about you? Dave: You can find me at Ask questions when you visit my Contact Me page. I’ll be more than happy to reply. Or you can listen to my Book Marketing Show Podcast. Links: Calculator Sponsor: The Art of Persuasion Persuasion is one of the most important things we do as authors. Persuasion is not only part of the selling process for fiction it is also at the heart of good nonfiction writing. Yet, persuasion is hard to do well and easy to botch. In this video course, I break down the science of how to help your readers to truly change their minds for good. This is one of my most popular and enduring talks. This course is ideal for: Bloggers wanting to make a difference in the world.Non-Fiction Writers wanting to change minds.Authors wanting help persuading people to buy their book. This course sells for $49 but through the end of February, patrons of the podcast get it for free.  Featured Patron The January 2020 patrons-only episode is live! In this episode we talk about: Where to get hardback books printed Animated book covers Reader magnet formats Buying reviews from Kirkus When you need an audiobook ISBN Numbers and more! This episode is available for all $3 patrons and up. You can also subscribe to the patrons-only episodes in the same app you listen to this podcast in.  Featured Patron Jennifer Lamont Leo author of You’re the Cream in My Coffee In 1928, small-town woman Marjorie Corrigan travels to Chicago and thinks she sees her first love–believed killed in the Great War–alive and well in a Chicago train station. Suddenly everything in her life is up for grabs. You can become a Novel Marketing Patron here. If you can’t afford to become a patron, but still want to help the show, you can! Just leave a review through The post How to Rank in Amazon Search Results with Dave Chesson appeared first on Author Media.
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