Showing posts with label online bookstores. Show all posts
Showing posts with label online bookstores. Show all posts

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Authors Need Discoverability More Than Findability

What is this "discoverability" and "findability" stuff?  A new language?
As ugly as some think of them, it seems essential to use these two words to show authors (and other business people) how important discoverability is. 
Most of us authors (or our publishers) use "findability" well when they put all a book's metadata on the Web and on specific sites so readers can locate exactly what they're looking for…" even [when they don't have] complete information about the book. In this instance "metadata" includes all the stuff like categories, ISBNs, titles,—the specifics about your book.

"Discoverability" is the kind of access a reader might have when she isn't looking for a specific title, author, or even a specific category but something related to her search pops up. We authors hope that will be our book!  Categories can help with this exposure but things like keywords, great pitches and loglines, benefits, etc. that appear on your Amazon page, your social networks, your online bookstore profile and buy pages work even better.


Chances are—your title isn't as well known as you'd like, so you're after "discoverability."


I'm thinking most authors would get more out of the concept if we call it "serendipity." In other words, we have to work everything we can on the Web so that even those who aren't looking for us find us and that our "brand" (the Frugal Book Promoter is full of information on great branding for books!) will be clear to him or her immediately. That includes learning to play to the search engines using the dreaded "keyword concept" in all of our content.


Of course, some use Search Engine Optimization experts to do this for them. But I think you probably know more about what your book (and your career) is about than many SEO guys or gals. And there is plenty you can do to be discovered serendipitously that SEO doesn't fit into the job description of SEO professionals. In this article, we'll concentrate on online bookstores, but you can generally apply these ideas to your Web site, your social network profiles, and anything else you do online.


1.   Get your book categorized in three different categories on Amazon and other online bookstores that offer this categorization feature to organize books. The online bookstore's search engine is a little like the library's catalog—only faster. You want to be associated with genres and categories that people search for. But you want each category to be refined down to the category with the least competition in it—as long as it applies to your book. This is what my categories for The Frugal Book Promoter look like on Amazon. I'm not too happy with the last one, but I really, really needed a subset with fewer books in it than I could get with the obvious:



       Look for Similar Items by Category

Keep in mind that the people who might be looking for your book (or not know they are looking for your book) may very well not use the same jargon you use. Example: For my book they may think of the word "advertising" before they think of the word "publicity" or even "promotion."


2.   When possible use keywords in your title, in your subtitle, on the back of your cover and in your book description. And, yes, in the endorsements and blurbs you use.

3.   Use as many of the little benefits that online bookstores offer as you can. There is lots of Amazon-specific information on doing this in The Frugal Book Promoter ( like reader reviews, Listmanias, the add-an-image function, and the like button (which appears to be disappearing these days!). Even a few "Add to Wish List" entries can help the logarithms on Amazon.

4.   Participate in Amazon comments when it is pertinent, but not in a negative way. You'll find those at the end of each review.  Add helpful information and compliments to related books when you can. They link back to your Amazon profile page.

5.   And, about that profile page! Check it every so often to see if it needs updating. And be sure to feed your blog to it! That keeps it active.

6.   A rarely used function on each Amazon buypage is the "Start a discussion" section. Try to get someone to start one. Warn them that one must scroll down to find it.

7.   Vote on reviews that you like best on your own buypage and get others to do so. This could push that review (along with all of its keywords) to the top of the review offerings.


Now you know what to do with Amazon, apply your new skills to other things you are doing on the Web. And then here's another little tip directly from The Frugal Book Promoter. You don't have to be actively engaged in a social network to have a very nice profile on the site with lots of links back to your other networks and your Website. Make it your business to add a profile to something new every so often.

----- Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and how to books for writers including the award-winning second edition of, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to get nearly free publicity on your own or by partnering with your publisher; The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success; and Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers . The Great First Impression Book Proposal is her newest booklet for writers. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. Some of her other blogs are, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor .

Friday, November 4, 2011

Your Amazon Launch: Learning from Mistakes

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning
Frugal Book Promoter:
How to get nearly free publicity on your own or partnering with your publisher

(updated and expanded to 416 pages!)

As the author of The Frugal Book Promoter ( and other award-winning books in the HowToDoItFrugally series of books, I probably shouldn’t have made any mistakes with the online launch of the second edition. And I probably wouldn’t have if I had been taking my own advice.

In the first edition of The Frugal Book Promoter I warned people that it’s never too early to begin promoting a book. That was years ago! Sometimes we need a boot in the pants to remember what we already know.  I shouldn’t have waited so long to begin making lists and checking them twice!

And since that first edition was published I had built a great platform that I thought would be sufficient. And that brings me to my biggest mistake. Hubris. We authors who have been around awhile are often sure that we can rely on what we have done and who we already know. My contact list included Denise Cassino, an online launch specialist (, and I knew I could rely on her. I have a huge contact list I had been collecting assiduously. What more did I need?

Well, The Frugal Book Promoter also warns authors to categorize their lists. Which I did. But I didn’t have a specific category for the kinds of writers and people who run writers’ services I could ask for bonuses. Bonuses are those things that we offer people when they buy our book on a certain day to try to raise our sales rank. I pulled together a great bunch of bonuses, but after the fact I kept remembering folks I could have asked so it wasn’t nearly as long as it could have been and these bonus partners help an author get the word out (online) about your book.

Further, I took a vacation just before the launch so I hadn’t given myself much thinking time. Again hubris. I reiterate in my book that getting publicity and doing promotion is a partnership. The people an author or publisher hires to help them can’t do it on their own. They need both ideas and cooperation from the author.

Hubris. I had launches before. One for my novel at the Autry Museum of Western History. One for my book of creative nonfiction at my home. Several at bookstores for chapbooks of poetry. But they were realtime launches. This online launch was different. Launches designed to raise ratings at online bookstores are done online and needed lots of techy expertise. At least I knew that I needed Denise!

Services for online launches are like a bowl of minestrone. They come in different sizes, at different prices. The different ingredients are designed to do different things for the health of your book. The more you know about them before you start, the easier it will be to make choices based on the time you have, the money you have and the needs of your particular book.

I knew that when you hire any publicist, you aren’t just buying services. You’re buying their network, their contacts. Their Rolodex is at least as important as their expertise. I didn’t know how much I could do to support Denise because the word “online” mislead me. It seemed so…well, automated. I was right but I was also wrong. No matter what your expert’s level of expertise, the author is still always a vital ingredient. They bring the personal stuff to the launch buffet.

I also had a grasp of how to promote on online bookstores but I still needed Denise to lead me through lots of little things I didn’t know. Luckily, time wasn’t so short she couldn’t do that. Stuff like getting one’s Kindle edition and paperback edition connected. Things like getting your book into a suitable Amazon category with as little competition as possible. Thinks like running a “like” and “tag” campaign before you even begin the launch. If you don’t know about those things, you need some help, too. Yes you do.

I thought this campaign would be lots less work than a book tour. Let me tell you, after two days focusing on online sales, I was exhausted. On the night of my launch I fell into bed at 8 pm. I know people who have stayed up all night checking ratings. I am inspired by their stamina but not about to emulate it!

So, was my campaign a success? That’s the other thing I learned. Online launch campaigns are just like marketing in general, though they can be measured more accurately. When you hit #1 in Amazon’s sales ratings you’ve made it. But is that really your only goal? I don’t think it is. My book hit a very low (and fantastic!)  rating of 1,422 (the lower the better) in overall books but never made it to #1 in its category. #4 was the best we could do for a book in the competitive category of marketing. Here’s what the campaign did:

1.      It gave me new opportunities to connect. Even a mistake we made with the bonuses gave me a chance to reconnect with people who had already ordered The Frugal Book Promoter.

2.      The new names of opt-in writers I collected were worth their weight in marketing gold.

3.      The new partners who contributed to the bonuses the campaign offered—well, that was more than worth the effort.

4.      Oh, yeah! At least for some time, my book beat Stephen King’s On Writing, a moment even noncompetitive me shall cherish! Mmmm. And a couple Writer’s Digest market books!

Online book launches are like anything else in marketing. They’re about branding. They’re about exposure. They’re about networking. They’re about sharing. Most of all they’re about learning more and having some fun. Marketing in all its aspects is a vital part of publishing. An online book launch is a way to learn to love it.

Carolyn’s online campaign propelled her book to number four in one of its categories and to the top 100 books on Amazon for a time. When she fell into bed at the end of the launch day, that was enough. She writes a free Sharing with Writers newsletter and blogs for the benefit of authors at, , and Learn more about her consulting services and books for writers at

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