Hear Your Book on Amazon

We launch one or two new options for our current and future clients about once a quarter. Some are more exciting than others.  Our new upcoming option falls into the “very exciting” category! This quarter we’re launching our new Audio Book option, which has topped several surveys sent to our client-authors as the most requested service they wish we offered.

As I’ve often said in the past, I’m the “guinea pig” for many of our services, to make sure they provide the necessary value for our authors.  The Audio Book option is no exception.  Allow me to be the first to introduce the new Sell Your Book on Amazon Audio Book, available soon through headphones near you.

You heard it here first!



Sell Your Book on Amazon is newly revised for 2016

In 2007 I wrote a little book titled Sell Your Book on Amazon, which immediately climbed to #29 on the overall Amazon bestseller list, and won multiple awards, including the BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR award from the Royal Palms Literary Awards.  (It also won First Place in that contest’s Educational/Informational category).

The problem with writing about a topic like Amazon is that their website changes so quickly and frequently.  So, by 2010, a revision to the book was necessary, and the second edition was published that year.

Now, the “newly revised for 2016” paperback edition of Sell Your Book on Amazon is available at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Say good-bye to forgotten features on Amazon like “So You’d Like to… Guides”, “Amapedia”, and “Listmania.”

Say hello to new opportunities like Amazon Giveaways, Author Central, and Kindle Unlimited (which is more of an obstacle than a benefit … unless you handle it properly — and this book tells you how!).

I hope you enjoy this new edition. Please let me know what you think by writing a review.

How to market your book (or your business) on Amazon

I recently conducted a webinar for the Internet Marketing Club on the topic of using Amazon to market your book or your business. Rather than getting into the nitty-gritty or summarizing it, I’ll just provide the entire webinar here in its entirety. I hope you all find it helpful. It’s long — 60 minutes — but filled with content about how to establish your presence, your content, and your expertise on Amazon in order to promote your book or business.

Just click on the image below to watch. You’ll be taken from WordPress to MetaCafe’s website, since WordPress doesn’t support embedded MetaCafe videos and YouTube’s maximum video length is 15 minutes… 

Here’s also a convenient way to purchase the two products mentioned in the video.  You can save 10% on my book, Sell Your Book on Amazon, by clicking here.

And you can save 25% off a la carte pricing on three specific Amazon Marketing options (Kindle, Search Inside, Keyword Tagging) we offer with the Amazon Extreme package by clicking here (and in that case, we’ll include a free copy of Sell Your Book on Amazon).


Amazon search results and cover colors

 Now let’s discuss the color of the covers in this screen shot below:

 This exemplifies the importance of cover design, and specifically, the importance of planning ahead when designing your cover, or working with a cover designer.  You want your book to STAND OUT on search results pages like this, which means you want to avoid having a white cover.   After all, let’s look closely at the screen shot above. The only cover that is harder to see and pay attention to than the 6th cover is the 8th one, and that’s because the 8th cover is missing!

Does this mean you should never design a white book cover?  Well…. maybe.  I would challenge book cover designers to rise to the occasion in the “Amazon world” and create covers that are specifically designed to be seen on visual search results pages like the one above.  That means, no white covers.  But, even if the book cover for the physical book itself is white, that doesn’t mean your Amazon cover has to be.

Gasp! Change the cover image just for Amazon?  Yes – and in past posts I’ve given specific examples of how I’ve personally done that with my Sell Your Book on Amazon listing.  The actual cover is 2/3 orange and 1/3 white. That’s too much white for me, so for the Amazon cover image, I replaced the white with an obnoxious bright yellow.  You know what? It works.   In fact, if you look at the screen shot above, there’s a chance the most noticeable book cover among ALL the books on that page is that big bright yellow cover along the left, which, not coincidentally is for SELL YOUR BOOK ON AMAZON.  I say “not coincidentally” because that is actually the result of quite a bit of planning and effort on my part, but as you can see on this Amazon search page, it pays off.

And we can talk about that more in the future, along with why you would want to create a cover image specifically for Amazon (and how you do that).

Sell Your Book on Amazon – Second Edition updates

For those of you who purchased the first edition of Sell Your Book on Amazon and are wondering whether it is worth buying the second edition, here is a quick rundown of the major changes. I already discussed in a previous post the cover changes, table of contents changes, and indexing changes — although none of those changes apply to the actual content of the book.

The first major change was Amazon’s migration from AmazonConnect to Author Central and how that affects methods for updating your bibliography, your author profile, your blog, and other features on Amazon.  Some of those features previously existed in your Amazon account profile and others previously existed on the product sales page for your book, like the blog, for instance.  With Author Central, much of the specific functionality geared toward authors was consolidated in one place. Does this mean you can focus solely on Author Central now, instead of your Author account profile?  No, because Listmania, Guides, Reviews, your signature header, and other important elements of Amazon promotion still exist in your Amazon account profile.  Author Central just means that now you have to keep two different accounts updated. Isn’t that nice?

The second major change involved Amazon’s launch of the Kindle and Amazon’s subsequent migration from their previous ebook system to their current Digital Text Platform system. Do I recommend a Kindle edition for every book? You betch’a.

Other smaller changes were made to bring the second edition in line with current Amazon guidelines and functionality. These include:

  •  minor alterations to the recommendations I make regarding reviews in light of Amazon’s guidelines changes
  • minor alterations to the process for creating a Listmania list in light of Amazon’s guideline changes
  • minor alterations to the process for creating an Amazon Guide in light of Amazon’s guideline changes
  • several minor alterations to the Book Detail Page chapter in light of moderate changes Amazon made to the sales detail pages — mostly involving analytic information available for the book after it undergoes Search Inside scanning
  • minor alterations to the procedure for using tagging and “search submissions” for promotion since Amazon has since migrated all manual search submissions into their tagging engine
  • alterations to the BXGY promotion since Amazon no longer offers that to non-Advantage members
  • minor alterations to the Publisher’s and Book Sellers Guide analysis since that page is largely out of date even on Amazon’s own site

That’s about it. So if you want to purchase the second edition of SELL YOUR BOOK ON AMAZON, click here.

Sell Your Book on Amazon – cover tactic

Previously I discussed some of the cover issues to consider when publishing a book and marketing it on the internet, particularly Amazon.  I encouraged authors to consider altering the cover image they submit to Amazon to utilize a greater percentage of the “space” Amazon allocates for the image.

Let’s look at an actual example, using my book SELL YOUR BOOK ON AMAZON

Most people won’t search for your book by title or by your name. They will search on Amazon for a keyword or phrase that captures their interest. One of the very popular keyword phrases I optimize for is “book marketing.”  When conducting that search on Amazon today, my book appeared number 10 in the listings on the first page, as shown below:

It comes in directly below The Frugal Book Promoter and two places above Jump Start Your Book Sales.  But I’ll bet your eyes naturally gravitated to THOSE two books first, prior to mine in the image above.  Well, that’s not good — at least, not for me.  The white in my cover gets lost within the white of the webpage, while both those covers are bright. In fact, they’re yellow… hmmm, I wonder why that is…

Granted, The Frugal Book Promoter and Jump Start Your Book Sales are both very good online covers because, surprise surprise, they’re about book marketing, too!  The authors are experts in doing exactly what they’re doing for their own books.   My point is, in all likelihood, your book won’t be competing with marketing experts.  If your book is about bank financing, your competition may not be online marketing savvy, but that’s all the MORE reason to take steps to make YOUR book about bank financing outshine the others, right?

But which image does your eye gravitate toward in this next screen shot? It’s the same search for “book marketing” on Amazon. The titles are all in the same order… I’ve simply adjusted the image that comes up for my book cover:

My image is almost twice as big, which makes the title stand out more, and I’ve replaced the white with a bright, obnoxious yellow to attract attention.  I’m not trying to win any design contests here on Amazon — I’m trying to sell books!

This is an Amazon marketing option we’re considering offering to our authors, so we’re in the process of guinea pigging it — yes, I’ve made that an active verb again — with all my books and then keeping an eye on the Amazon Sales Ranking to see if it makes a statistical difference…

There are two problematic elements to this that we’re currently ironing out. The first is that the “larger” image gets degraded a little bit if Amazon adds the “Look Inside” graphic for Search Inside the Book books.  The second is that the Kindle edition graphic, in my opinion, looks too similar to the paperback and hardback editions on Amazon.  Sure, Amazon adds that little “kindle graphic” on the detail page. But I don’t think that’s good enough.  For example, due to the “look inside” graphic outlined above, you will notice on the screen shot below, that the Kindle edition of my book actually looks MORE appealing than the paperback.   There might be some situations where that’s preferable, but this isn’t one of them.

Hint: the first book is the paperback edition and the 3rd book is the Kindle edition.

Sell Your Book on Amazon – cover image

Take a look over to the right and see the cover of the second edition of SELL YOUR BOOK ON AMAZON (it’s right below Self-Publishing Simplified).

That’s how the cover looks of the actual book. But, strangely, that’s not how I want the cover image to look on Amazon.  And this has to do with online marketing in the new millennium, combined with the aspect ratio of books in relationship to the aspect ratio of the graphic footprint Amazon uses on its sales pages.  In other words, a 6×9 rectangular book cover is not OPTIMAL for use within a 260 x 260 square space, which is the graphic footprint Amazon allocates for product images on its detail pages.   Showcasing portrait-shaped books results in a graphic that is 260 pixels HIGH, but only uses 50% of the available WIDTH.  In other words, most book covers on Amazon sacrifice some of the space Amazon is giving to them.  And let me tell you, with the number of shoppers on Amazon, that is some expensive square-footage going to waste.

So, the solution is to provide Amazon with a different graphic other than the “actual” graphic of the book cover — one that is square rather than rectangular.  Of course, most books are rectangular (portrait) so this means you must “change” the appearance of the cover.  You can either “squash it” so that the entire cover fits in a space that is 33% shorter. Or you crop off a portion of the cover in preference of greater online sales.  I opted for choice number 2.   So when SELL YOUR BOOK ON AMAZON was first published in its first edition, I manually uploaded an alternate cover image (doing anything “different” through Ingram or Amazon requires some manual intervention). 

The cover at that time was slightly different.  The “a” in Amazon was lower-case and I had their little orange “curve” under the word. It wasn’t an arrow, but they apparently thought it was too close to their mark nonetheless and requested that I change the cover of my book.     Of course, I’ve seen other book covers that infringe upon that same exact mark in a manner much more obtrusively than I did, so why Amazon singled ME out is a subject I’ll leave for the conspiracy theorists. 

But in the past 2-3 months the original “trademarked, lower-case-‘a'” version of the book cover ended up on on Amazon again.  I know none of us at Outskirts Press made that change… so how did it get changed back to the version that was rejected by Amazon to begin with?  Another question for conspiracy theorists, perhaps….?

So anyway, that’s the cover anomaly I referred to in my previous post as something I wanted to fix with the Second Edition. Since I knew we had to update the image anyway, might as well make it the image for the Second Edition book, too.  

So below is the new image we’re uploading to Amazon specifically to re-address their trademark concern, which I already corrected but apparently need to correct again and also to re-introduce the square version of the graphic instead of the real-estate-wasting portrait version that 99.9% of all books on Amazon use.  (Hint: differentiating your book from 99.9% of the books on Amazon is a good thing).


Of course, the more observant readers may also notice another difference between the Amazon version of the graphic above and the “real” version to the right — other than the shape.  Yes, the Amazon version is a nice garish YELLOW.  And this brings me to one of the most wonderful things about marketing on the Internet — you can have your cake and eat it, too.

What do I mean by that?  I would never design an actual cover of a book to look like the image above. It’s too… well, “ugly” for lack of a better word.  I don’t want ugly babies, because I submit my babies to contests and awards and I want them to have a chance to win.  And win they do. Below is a run down of the awards Sell Your Book on Amazon has won:

  • Finalist – 2007 USA Book News Best Book Awards
  • Book of the Year – 2007 Royal Palm Literary Awards
  • First Place, How To – 2008 Readers Views Awards
  • First Place, Informational – 2007 Royal Palms
  • Finalist, How To – 2008 Indie Book Awards
  • Winner, Sales – 2008 Indie Book Awards
  •  So cover design is pretty important to me. But sadly, what makes an effective cover “in person” is not always the same as what makes an effective cover online.  That yellow sure is ugly, but when you’re scrolling through 25 books about self-publishing on Amazon’s search page, guess which image your eye is going to see first?  The big ugly yellow one…  So I can have a great actual cover that wins lots of awards (which Sell Your Book on Amazon has), and I can have an image on Amazon that attracts lots of attention. Having my cake and eating it, too.

    I’ve suggested this Amazon cover tactic to writers at seminars and during some of my presentations, and the concept of “altering” their book cover on Amazon doesn’t sit well with many of them.  They think it’s… I don’t know… breaking some unwritten rule or something.   They’re right! It’s breaking the unwritten rule that self-published authors don’t sell many books. And we’ll talk more about this tactic next time.

    Sell Your Book on Amazon – Second Edition

    The second edition of SELL YOUR BOOK ON AMAZON is now available through Ingram and on Amazon and Barnes & Noble’s websites. It has been available for a number of weeks, but I’m just getting around to announcing it, mostly because it’s not all that exciting. For people who already purchased the first edition, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend they buy this one (it’s not THAT different).   Yes, that flies in the face of the whole “annual revisions to get people to buy the same content over and over again” concept because, well… I don’t really believe in that as an author business model.  I’m not saying it doesn’t work (because it does); I’m just saying it’s a little lowbrow to ask the same retail price every year for something that only changes by 10%.

    And for new people coming to the book for the first time, they don’t really care that it is the first edition or the second — they just care that it will help them market their book(s) more successfully on Amazon, which it will.

    I had a couple of goals with the second edition. The first, obviously, was to update it according to the changes Amazon has made to its guidelines, functionality and offerings in the 3 years since the first edition was published. And I’ll detail those changes in a future post.

    The second goal was to create a newer version of the book in-house so we could create a “better” Kindle edition and a Search Inside the Book edition that was more productive.   Since the interior formatting for my book is somewhat atypical, this caused some problems with the Kindle edition. The Kindle edition for Sell Your Book on Amazon was also our first Kindle edition for Outskirts Press (because, as I’ve said, we guinea pig my books first before launching any new options for our authors – to work out all the bugs). Yes, for you writers out there, I just turned “guinea pig” into a verb.   So, my first edition on the Kindle didn’t “look” so great.  This second edition allowed us to iron out some of those formatting bugs, too, which are mostly associated with how Amazon’s DTP conversion tool processes HTML or PRC files.  So the second edition on the Kindle will look much better.  I say “will” instead of “does” because we haven’t uploaded it yet. There’s an issue remaining with the Table of Contents. This use to work with our process and now it doesn’t, which leads me to assume Amazon’s conversion software was adjusted slightly. But we’ll figure it out quickly.

    Speaking of Table of Contents, I also made an adjustment to the table of contents with the second edition. In the first edition, my TOC was 1 page long. It mentioned the specific chapter names and provided each chapter’s starting page number. Sufficient, right?  But I’ve since discovered that “sufficient” isn’t always the same as “successful.”   A more productive Table of Contents for a non-fiction book is one that not only identifies each chapter and its correlating page number, but also identifies each section and/or sub-section of those chapters.  Why? Because Search Inside the Book displays the TOC and you want your table of contents to look LONG, so that it communicates how substantial and informative your book is.   Does this actually affect the content?  No.  But an aesthetic consideration like this goes a long way toward turning a browser into a buyer, especially if they actively use Search Inside the Book to make their purchase decisions.  So with the Second Edition, my TOC is 3 pages long, so it can display all the sub-sections of each chapter. It really does make a large difference in communicating the value of the book, even if it’s merely cosmetic.

    With this edition we also wanted to create the subject index in a different way to explore methods for lowering our indexing costs so we could offer the indexing option at a more affordable price point for our authors.  I’m happy to say the test was successful so now we’re just working on the logistics involved in modifying that option in our system. (Please see “How long everything takes…”

    Lastly, this second edition publication was an opportunity to correct a cover anomaly on Amazon that happened for my book several months ago… and more on that next time.

    The blog time vortex

    One unfortunate aspect of writing so many blog entries at once and then scheduling them out into the future is that a lot of “new” stuff happens on a daily basis, and by the time there is a “break” in the blog schedule to discuss the new topic, a month has gone by, and what seemed “new” or “important” then just doesn’t hold the same weight later.

    One example is the publication of the second edition of SELL YOUR BOOK ON AMAZON, which has been available for a couple weeks now, but we were in the middle of the Entrepreneur blogs, which occupied about three weeks of blog entries. So it doesn’t seem so important to “announce” its availability now. But I probably will make a specific blog posting about it, just to highlight some of the differences between the first edition and the second edition.

    And this brings me to the duration between my blog postings. I’ve done this pretty deliberately. I started this blog on January 1, 2010 and blogged every day. Then I moved to every other day. Now I’m at every 3rd day, which is where I plan to stay. One reason for this, obviously, is controlling the amount of time I devote to blogging. But another is that by blogging every 3 days and showing the ten most recent blogs on the screen at a time, it is easy to get a one-month snapshot of what’s happening in the world of self-publishing, entrepreneurism, and Outskirts Press.

    Of course, in the 3-week span of time that we have been covering the Entrepreneur of the Year blogs, other things have happened, and some deserve their own blogging, too.

    So, with that said, in the coming blog posts I’ll cover:

    – SELL YOUR BOOK ON AMAZON, second edition
    – The semi-finalist reception for the Entrepreneur of the Year awards
    – The publication of the Colorado Humanities Anthology
    – The presentation of the Student Literary Awards
    – A winner at the Student Literary Awards interviews me

    Hmm, that’s good enough. That covers another half month, and by then, a whole new crop of things to blog about will come up.

    How long everything takes

    I’m sure other entrepreneurs can relate to this. Doesn’t it seem like everything takes a really long time? And the “bigger” you get — I’m not talking about weight — the more time everything takes.  A previous post talked about the complexities of creating a logo, for example.  So here I am officially recognizing that my re-write of Sell Your Book on Amazon is taking longer than I expected. I’m partly to blame, of course. But we also wanted to use my book to test a new indexing process.

    I believe that all non-fiction books should include an index.  Of course, indexing a book is a time consuming process and, unfortunately, our price for this option has reflected that effort.  As a result, not as many of our self-publishing authors have added an index to their books as we would like, due to the additional cost.    

    My first edition of Sell Your Book on Amazon had an index so of course we needed to index it again with the second edition.  Once the new edition was done and edited, we decided to explore alternate methods of indexing it in order to bring the price down for our authors.  I’m happy to report that I think we succeeded.   So in the coming days — or more likely weeks, since, as I mentioned above, everything takes longer than it should — we’ll be able to lower our indexing price.    In a day and age when it seems like all other self-publishing companies are increasing their pricing, it’s a pleasure to be able to lower ours for our authors.

    So, to make a long story short, that is why the second edition is taking so long.