Self-Publishing & Merchandising : Working with Amazon.com

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Much of the merchandising that we’ve examined over previous weeks has to do with the book as its own complete product, the sum of its parts (see: book covers and jacket design, interior design, special additions, and the blurb), feathered out around the edges with paraliterary addendums (see my posts on the book review, as well as how to get and give blog reviews).  But what about retailers?  Is there any work to be done there, when it comes to merchandising your self-published book?

Yes, absolutely!  Each retailer–including Amazon and Barnes & Noble–has its own built-in set of perqs and pitfalls, as well as its own custom-developed features designed to set it apart from the herd and create a better, more salable product.  I’m going to start with Amazon because it is, for better or worse, the most recognizable name in book retail and self-publishing right now.  And since it now owns CreateSpace, Amazon is even more a force to be reckoned with.  You want a starting point for launching your merchandising strategy?  Start with Amazon.

And, handily, Amazon has created a system which makes it easy to centralize all of your hard labor in merchandising.  It’s called “Author Central,” and every author gets one, whether you’re in the business of publishing physical books or ebooks or both.  Author Central allows you to create a biography, list your books, connect your blog and social media feeds, and generally create a polished platform for presenting yourself to the reading public.  Most of us know how to centralize our own personal digital presence using apps or other programs that condense down all of our different presences–Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and Flickr and Goodreads and Skype and iMessage and blog feeds from WordPress and Blogger are so interconnected that a post to one will ripple out through the others without any additional effort.  Author Central allows you to centralize your public presence in much the same way.  Readers will have incredible access if you take the time to set it up right early on–take advantage!

The second feature of Amazon you can use to your benefit is the book page.  Every book you publish through or list on Amazon will have its own unique book page, and the more information you input, the more findable you will be, as Amazon’s smart algorithms scan and index them to generate their internal linkages.  (Those “If you like …. you might try …” recommendations?  They happen because authors maximize their use of book pages and Author Central, among other things.)  The book page also has the power to make or break a reader’s decision to purchase–the more eye-catching, the more polished your book page, the more likely a reader is to click a button and buy your book.  It’s never a bad idea to use high-resolution images, strongly written excerpts, blurbs, book trailers, and the like.  It’s also worth checking into Amazon’s various “deals” features, including Amazon Associates and the Kindle Countdown promotion, though you must be willing to sacrifice some revenue in the short term by running specials to do so.  Amazon also allows you to offer pre-orders on your Kindle books, which is handy for generating preliminary interest.

The long and the short of it is, Amazon sells so many books because its interface and its algorithms really, for the most part, work well.  Now, Amazon may not always be working for you, the self-published author–and especially you, the brand spanking new self-published author without a wide reading base–but for the majority of authors, Amazon is the Starbucks of the indie book world.  It works well for most people, and exceptionally well for a few why pull the right strings.  Which isn’t to say it’s an irredeemable system–after all, just as Starbucks made mostly-delicious whole-bean coffee affordable for most people, Amazon has created a mostly-viable self-publishing program and made it possible for most authors to sell books through it.  It’s well worth studying their model before you decide how else you can elevate your game!

“Thinking outside of the box” will only take you so far if you think book trailers and social media connectivity is avant-garde.  You can bet that once a feature comes built-in with a company like Amazon, it’s assumed that these are just the “done things.”  They’re no longer innovative–they’re expectations. To be truly creative in your merchandising, you’re going to have to take the box apart and play to your strengths.  Do the “done things,” yes, but also the undone things.  What isn’t everyone else up to?  There may be an unexplored opportunity there. ♠

I’m realistic, or I like to think I am.  This topic is bigger than just me and my own thoughts.  I’d like to open the floor to you, dear reader.  If you have any thoughts to share on the topic of merchandising, or questions you’d like answered, send them my way via the comments box below!  I want to hear from you, and I love nothing more than a good excuse to do a little research if I don’t know something off of the top of my head.  Jump on in!

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog at http://kellyschuknecht.com.

Self-Publishing Week in Review: 05/24/2015

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As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry. This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog every Tuesday to find out the hottest news.

Self-published photo books go from last resorts to treasures at MOMA

According to this article,  photo books, particularly self-published photo books, are flourishing. Books sell out in weeks, sometimes even days. This is an interesting read for those considering self-publishing a photo book.

uPublishU 2015 Preview: The Best of Both Worlds

This year’s uPublishU encourages self-published authors to gain insight from both self-publishing and traditional publishing. This is a good read for all writers.

11 Ways to Guarantee a Successful Author Talk

This Huffington Post article shares 11 ways to guarantee a successful author talk. This is a must read.

If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog at http://kellyschuknecht.com.

Happy Memorial Day!

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Today is Memorial Day — a day for remembering those who have died while serving in the US Armed Forces.

I didn’t grow up in a military family, although my father was in Civil Service for 40 years.  When I was 22 I moved to a military base in Germany, where I acquired gainful employment and enrolled in college.  I remained tightly associated with the military for the next 21 years.  Wow, did this change my perspective about those who serve!  I am in awe and so very, very thankful for those who answer the calling to serve our country.

I lost friends to battles, and I make a point of reflecting on them each Memorial Day.  I’ve visited Arlington National Cemetery and had the eerie and yet peaceful heaviness descend upon me as I observed ceremonies for soldiers I didn’t know.  I’ve donned helmet and Kevlar and flown into Bosnia where I observed hundreds of soldiers living without modern conveniences and very little privacy because they were on a mission; a mission they may not return from.  They are all very special people.  I think about them too.

Prior to my close association with the US Armed Forces, when I choose a book to read purely for pleasure, I tended to navigate toward the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres, but during and after my association with the military, my tastes turned to historical and military fiction novels.  I love a well-written book I can read that has the entertainment value of fiction combined with the historical basis that I can learn from.  Many of the novels I read really drive home the statement that, “Freedom isn’t free.”

Maybe some of you have a story to share about a soldier you loved and lost.  Consider presenting the story as fiction based on a true-story. Self-publishing can help you honor that special person and share their story with the world.

ABOUT JODEE THAYER: With over 25 years of experience in sales and management, Jodee Thayer works as the Director of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Jodee Thayer can put you on the right path.

Friday Conversations With A Self-Publishing Writer 05/22/2015

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COLLIDING PLOTLINES AND CHARACTERSlogging

When character plotlines collide ACTION happens. Today I hope to share a concept about plot and character development that is not in most writing textbooks.  It is something I’ve discovered while reading Best Seller Novels and working with very creative writers who have brought me online with them to get their book projects finished. Most teachers of creative writing divide the elements of developing PLOT and creating CHARACTERS into two separate study/working categories.  What I offer you today is the idea that these novel pieces need to be joined at the hip to the point of quite literally colliding while your novels are written
What comes closest to my suggestion is discussed by language arts professors as “creating the character’s backstory.” The log illustration I’ve selected is my visual representation of their backstory concept and my altered perspective of Colliding Character Plotlines.

Have you ever been to a logging camp and observed the lumberjacks in the tree-cutting process or witnessed a logger stacking recently cut trees in preparation for transport?

  • The lumberjack’s term “widowmaker” expresses the danger of being near a tree that has not yet fallen to the ground yet is about to do so at any moment. This creates “situational awareness” that often means life or death for the L-jacks in the area—and is compared to the situational and observable actions and events that are set in place to move a story from beginning to end.
  • Once the trees are on the ground, they are trimmed. Painful though it may be, this is also a necessity when selecting which events (and which characters) stay—or go—in your novel.
  • Then the tree trunks are dropped one-upon-the other—often from a significant height—and the landing upon the logs below is anything but soft. Characters colliding to form a specific unit of storytellers for your book will experience similar interactions.
  • The bark (their skin) is often ripped off in this process as if creating yet another open wound. IF a tree remains connected to its roots there is the possibility of healing—also a potential with character development.
  • The visible tree-rings expose the backstory of each log (character histories) and they are now jammed together on flat-bed trucks, railroad cars, or horse-drawn wagons. Many are rolled down mountainsides into cold rivers for “timber-rafting” travel.

WHERE will these tree-trunk-logs end up? The saw mill or paper mill or possibly a firewood pile. I know there will be conservationists out there reading this blog, and I encourage you to keep writing about the abuses of some logging companies. However, when I joined a friend in doing research about the paper mill industry, we wrote a paper about how several big companies have joined conservationists in re-foresting lands and educating the public about being “responsible environmental citizens.” This in turn encourages me that (for the foreseeable future) I will continue to enjoy holding books made of paper in my hands.

Where will your trimmed and stacked and transported and colliding CHARACTERS end up? Only you can answer that question.  However, I suggest that you might also ask them. They—and their tree-ring-backstory—will be of great assistance in building your plot/story line. And when you reach that last page of the manuscript, PUBLISH! If you don’t, those characters will collide with other stories you’re writing for quite a long time.

Royalene ABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene Doyle is a Ghostwriter with Outskirts Press, bringing more than 35 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their writing projects. She has worked with both experienced and fledgling writers helping complete projects in multiple genres. When a writer brings the passion they have for their work and combines it with Royalene’s passion to see the finished project in print, books are published and the writer’s legacy is passed forward.

Weekly Self-Published Book Review:Healthy Shame! …How to Spank Your Inner Monkey

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Book reviews are a great way for self-publishing authors to gain exposure. After all, how can someone buy your book if he or she doesn’t know it exists? Paired with other elements of your book promotion strategy, requesting reviews is a great way to get people talking about what you’ve written.
When we read good reviews, we definitely like to share them. It gives the author a few (permanent) moments of fame and allows us to let the community know about a great book. Here’s this week’s book review by Midwest Book Review:

Healthy Shame! ...How to Spank Your Inner Monkey

Healthy Shame! …How to Spank Your Inner Monkey
Joseph W Dopp
Publisher: Outskirts Press
ISBN:9781432769420

We torment ourselves because we love ourselves. “Healthy Shame: How to Spank Your Inner Monkey!” is a guide to dealing with our own self-sadism of torturing ourselves and how to turn that into a healthy self-love and use it to make our lives and the lives around us better and more complete. “Healthy Shame” is a strong read for inspirational and self-help collections, highly recommended.

Self-Publishing & Merchandising : How to Give and Get a Blog Review

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We’ve examined several facets of the merchandising machine in light of our platform as self-published authors: the background, extras and special editions, book covers and jacket design as well as interior design, the all-important blurb, and even, in summary, the book review.  This week, I’ll be examining the book review–or more specifically, the book blog review.  As I promised in last week’s review, I’ll be examining the blog dos and don’ts, the ins and outs of diving into the pool of self-published authors looking for a good review in the blogosphere.

Perhaps I should preface the body of this post with a quick proviso: getting and giving book reviews is an incredibly simple process.  It is so very simple, in fact, that it almost seems too simple, deceptively simple, the kind of simple that an incredibly obvious villain in an incredibly obvious film might whisper into the ear of incredibly obvious innocent.  The fact of the matter is, there is only one rule to blogging book reviews, both as giver and receiver.  And that is ….


The Golden Rule of Book Blog Reviews:

Review others as you would have them review you.


Everything else follows from this one precept.  For example, if you’re looking for a good blog to request a book review of your own novel, look for fellow authors and bloggers who deal with the same sort of material as you, or evidence a similar perspective on key issues you’re concerned with.  Look for other authors and bloggers who are in the same position as you–self-published or otherwise independent writers with a need to raise publicity about their work.  Shoot them off an email suggesting a book and book review exchange, whereupon you will review that person’s book in exchange for that person reviewing your book–and honestly.

Honesty is important, here.  Remember that Golden Rule?  Something in you, something deep and inherent, rebels against the notion of a falsely enthusiastic book review even as it similarly rebels against an unnecessarily harsh and critical book review.  We, as humans, don’t enjoy being misled.  So how can we pursue honesty, even when a book we’ve been asked to review isn’t to our tastes?

First of all, we can admit the reality of the situation.  Saying, “This book isn’t my cup of tea” is, in the end, an acceptable alternative to florid prose or undue despair over a book’s failings.  A better response still might be to forego expressions of taste and opinion, and instead fasten upon elements of the book you’re reviewing that you can engage with.  Analyze the scope, subject, genre, and context of the book.  How does it fit into current social or cultural trends, or intersect with the greater publishing world as it exists in this moment?  Your personal reactions may find a more fitting framework in this sort of big-picture review.  A lot of book bloggers right now are turning to what’s loosely called a “reaction gif” or Graphics Interchange Format file that serves as an emotional touchstone for their reactions to different plot twists and so on.  This sort of out-of-the-box angle on the book review can infuse an otherwise ho-hum post with a zesty stab at storytelling (but do watch out for copyright issues!).

So where do we look for fellow authors and book blog reviewers?  We look to the internets, of course!  The first step is to make yourself “findable,” and the second is to stake your claim as a voice with something to say.  You can get your own blog listed at places like bookbloggerlist.com if you review other peoples’ books more than once a month, and there are simply loads of websites that serve as compendiums of book bloggers.  Book bloggers also tend to hang out in one of three places: Twitter, Goodreads, and WordPress.  (Though this isn’t to say there aren’t quality book bloggers on, say, Tumblr or Facebook.)  The third step is to take the time to go through these websites looking for bloggers with similar tastes and concerns–to put in the research legwork, so to speak.  And last but not least, the fourth step is to go out on a limb and initiate contact.  Fire off a tweet, an email, or a message by carrier pigeon, to all kinds of writers from all walks of self-published life.

The key is not to be afraid–literally, every indie or self-published author is coming from the same place, and both understands what you’re trying to do and the reasons why you’re doing it.  People, for the most part, want to help.  And if a book blogger is extremely popular and overburdened with requests, their silence or quiet nay is not meant to sting.  As you know, life sometimes doesn’t allow us to be as generous as we’d like; still, for the most part, you’ll find that your fellow self-published strugglers are eager to welcome you into their networking communities.

I’m realistic, or I like to think I am.  This topic is bigger than just me and my own thoughts.  I’d like to open the floor to you, dear reader.  If you have any thoughts to share on the topic of merchandising, or questions you’d like answered, send them my way via the comments box below!  I want to hear from you, and I love nothing more than a good excuse to do a little research if I don’t know something off of the top of my head.  Jump on in!

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog at http://kellyschuknecht.com.

Self-Publishing Week in Review: 05/19/2015

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As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry. This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog every Tuesday to find out the hottest news.

A Complete Guide To Self-Publishing Comics: Comfort Love And Adam Withers Talk Shop, Plus Review

This article includes a review of  The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing Comics: How to Create and Sell Comic Books, Manga, and Webcomics. It also features an interview with the authors. This a great read for self-publishing comic authors.

Is the self-publishing stigma fading?

For a long time, going the DIY route repelled critics, publishers and readers. But as its successes accumulate, so the shame falls away. This is an interesting read for self-publishing authors.

Kick Ass Book Launch Tips (from Two Authors Who Really Know)

This article offers book launch tips from an indie author and a traditional author. This is a must read for all authors.

If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog at http://kellyschuknecht.com.

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