4 steps to making Kindle work for you as an independent author
Kindle revolutionised the self-publishing industry. It meant writers didn't need to pursue the traditional route by submitting to agents and forging deals with publishers. They could publish their work, make all the decisions and retain control over their book. Now the industry is well established, it can become a source of income for the writer - admittedly just not enough to buy that yacht and the mansion though!
That said, the independent writer needs to be well informed about the publishing process and how to make it work for them. This post offers some advice and a few tips. There's nothing new here, this article is an amalgamation of information found across the internet, hopefully, it's concise enough to get you started.
Step 1: Get the title right
It was Emanuel Haldeman-Julius, the US publisher in the 1920s, who proved the importance of getting the title of the book right. This is where book marketing really began. Before he discontinued a book, he'd take it into 'The Hospital' where he'd change its title, find one that was more attractive to the reader. The result was often highly profitable. For instance, Guy de Maupassant’s The Tallow Ball sold 15,000 copies, after its trip to The Hospital, it turned into A French Prostitute’s Sacrifice and sold 54,700! Hmm, I wonder why? Oscar Wilde’s Pen, Pencil and Poison sold 5,000 copies, with a title changed to The Story of a Notorious Criminal it sold 15,800 copies.
There are a few tips here to follow:
Titles need to describe key features of the story, capture its dramatic essence
Avoid poetic and esoteric language - it can put the reader off!
What's in it for the reader? How are they going to be intrigued/entertained/frightened etc?
In genre fiction, try to capture language that defines it as such (even without the book's cover the reader gets a clue as to what to expect - sorcery, battles, demons, dragons, aliens, spaceships etc)
At one time you could analyse potential titles via the book creation service, Lulu. They've stopped doing that now. But there are lots of sites that help generate potential titles for you here. According to the Lulu tool, the best title was 'Sleeping Murder'. It sums up the previous 4 points well.
It's worth searching Amazon in your chosen genre to find 'key words' that help define both the story and its genre which include that 'what's in it for the reader' element too. (More of that later!)
Step 2: Design a best-selling book cover
The old adage, "never judge a book by its cover" needs to be ignored! It's fine when it comes to people but not for books. Everyone DOES judge the book that way. When I published my first novel I made that mistake. Look at the two of them here - which one would provoke your interest? Not the one on the left certainly. It doesn't 'hook' the reader. And it must. When I swapped the covers over - a surge in sales followed. It provoked lots of compliments on social media which, in turn, helped to promote the book further. People need to talk about covers.
Tip number one - hire a designer. They know what they're doing! I used illustrator Tom Parker.
An alternative is to go to 99Designs. Designers from around the world review your design brief and submit unique ideas. You provide feedback, hone your favorites and choose a winner. Fixed price packages start from £239. (£159 for an ebook). Or you can use The Book Cover Designer where there are pre-designed covers that you can adapt with the help of the designer, prices vary greatly here. Or, at the economy end of the market, there is Fiverr which offer a massive range of services, including book cover design.
It's always worth testing your covers by getting reaction from other people. You can do this via Facebook ads which will let you target prospective markets - make sure the advert text/message is identical. Or get reaction on social media if you have a sufficient following. If you know a few bloggers you might persuade them to display your covers and generate reaction. This is a good way to generate pre-orders.
Step 3: Write your book description
After checking out your cover on a website such as Amazon, the next place potential readers will go is to your book description. Not only do you need to consider 'selling' the book by describing it in exciting ways but the language itself will generate action - via the SEO (Search Engine Optimisation).
Let's deal with the SEO factor first. Up until a couple of years ago, Google et al used algorithms which reacted to 'keywords', so you needed to 'stuff' selling language with them. Everything has moved on from there now but identifying the right language still remains important. It will pick up the genre, the kind of setting of your story, types of characters and its themes. But readers need to know that too. Choosing how you use the 4,000 characters that Amazon allocate to your book means targeting the language precisely and in a compelling way. Every word must count. Make the language dynamic (not passive voice), pose questions, identify a trope or two, define the protagonist(s). If you've got a fantastic quote by someone others will recognise, that's worth including too.
It's worth creating/logging into your Google account to search keywords for the kind of book you're selling. Make sure you get an Exact Match so search engines know what to look for. Next you need to identify which of these words are popular in searches. These popular words will be what you need in your descriptions. It might be: fantasy > epic fantasy > elf > fairy > dragon > magic > dystopian > and so on. Once done, you move over to the Kindle Store and type in these words. Hopefully, Amazon will recognise them and offer them to you as a keyword in their system. Your goal is to match as many of these words as possible, the higher the number, the more often Amazon will highlight your book to potential readers. With luck, if you've got sufficient numbers, those same keywords will appear in Google searches. So, if someone types into Google - "epic fantasy stories with fairies, dragons, magic" - your book pops up!
Step 4: Getting found on Amazon
Word of mouth remains the best way to sell books. This is especially true if you're a debut author. No one knows anything about you so why should they risk buying your book? Getting people to buy your book primarily lies in getting it reviewed.
Tip 1: At the end of your book, make sure you include a plea to your reader to write a review. Include a link to your website, your email subscription account so you can tell them about other books you're publishing. Emphasize how important that review is - it is your lifeblood. Others depend on that person's opinion.
Tip 2: You can approach committed reviewers - type into Google "top 1000 reviewer" and your genre. You will get hundreds of people, with contact details, who may decide to review your story. They may not. They will receive hundreds of requests so be prepared for rejections. However, you can't guarantee these people will be your kind of audience. You run the risk of negative reviews if you don't target the right people.
Tip 3: Find people who are a) supportive of you (friends etc) or b) people who like your genre/style. Offer them an ARC of your book (Advanced Reader Copy). Send it to them as a epub or mobi file so they can read it on a digital device. Ask them to provide a review in return for this free copy. Emphasize the review needs to go on Amazon and Goodreads.
Tip 4: You need to be established on social media. Twitter is a strong platform for authors. Search for bloggers who review your genre of books, check their submission criteria. Check their site to see what kind of work they review - are they really your typical reader? Ask politely if they are willing. (You'd be surprised how many people demand, rudely!) Be prepared to wait, these people get lots of requests. They are also the author's best friend! Promote their reviews - and them! Show your appreciation.
Tip 5: Create an author page on Amazon which will be your anchor point for anyone searching your work. There is a chance to write a biography plus a Follow button that allows readers to engage with you. All your works can then be found via your author page. Plus - use Booklinker to give you ONE URL that takes people to your Amazon page - regardless of the country they're in. It saves listing the Amazon URLs for every country. You can choose the preface for the URL: domains include myBook.to, viewBook.at, getBook.at, viewAuthor.at, and Author.to. It will save you so much time and increase traffic.
Tip 6: A couple of 'do not' tips! Be wary of the people who will contact you offering to review your book. Seeking reviews involves an element of trust, make sure you choose people who understand what your book is trying to do. A misunderstood book leads to 1 star reviews! Also, don't promote your book across social media endlessly. It annoys people. You will lose followers. Twitter especially benefits from forming relationships. Facebook has lots of groups you can join that are full of people like you. Some groups are entirely about promotion - use them, but do so sparingly. Don't flood them - you will look desperate!
Tip 7: Promote the best parts of the best reviews. Take statements and create a publicity campaign based on what has been said. Link it back to your Amazon page (and your website). Use these quotes if you create adverts of Facebook (quotes establish your validity and credibility as a writer). Create trailers for your YouTube channel with these quotes. Finally, accept there will be negative reviews. They will hurt, you won't be able to avoid taking it personally but it will get easier. Just don't react to them!
This is a broad summary of the process of publishing on Kindle. I hope it helps anyone who is starting out on their self-publishing journey. Retaining control over your book is a wonderful advantage. These days, where publishers restrict their budgets for debut writers, you finish up doing much of the marketing etc yourself anyway. This way you get to decide your title, the cover - the identity of your book. It makes for great fun! Over time you will learn so much and become a commercial whizz-kid in selling books. But it will take time. For now, you're taking your first steps. Don't expect to start sprinting straight away!