Sunday, March 27, 2011

What would happen if 1000 Amazon Users collaborated their efforts?

Let’s See If We Can Decide Which Book’s Become Best-Sellers on Amazon

As you all know the beautiful thing about Amazon is that our actions and efforts on the site can actually make a difference when it comes to book promotion. Amazon is the first e-commerce site in history to take its user’s input and use that data to provide shoppers with the ultimate customized online shopping experience made available. Think to when you shop on the site and see the infamous “Customers who viewed this item also viewed….” slogan, how do you think Amazon picked those books to recommend? By OUR clicks! It really is an incredible operating system

I have been working hand in hand with our author, Mike Saxton, on what exactly cracks the Amazon algorithms. We think we are coming pretty darn close but we need your help.

Currently the Kindle store on lists just over 500,000 kindle editions available for sale. These low numbers (when compared to the book department with over 5,000,000) indicate a huge opportunity to increase visibility for our authors. Eventually every book will be in kindle form so we need to act now.

As of Sunday, March 27th 2011, Mike Saxton’s kindle version of his book “7 Scorpions: Rebellion” is being sold for a limited time for .99 cents.

We want to see what our clicks and views can do in the sense of increasing promotion on Amazon.  We want to see what level of user activity it takes for this book to get swept up by the Amazon computers and virally promoted through their systems.

You do not have to buy this Kindle edition (although no one would mind if you did!) we just need you to help us by clicking a few buttons.

What you need to do:

  1. Visit:
  2. Click on the .99 cent tag ( it will look like the image below )
  3. Vote on any reviews you find helpful.

That’s it! Pretty simple. This is a new era and our “e-voices” make a difference now let’s watch it unfold!


Discussion Board Posting- Comment and let us know your thoughts!

Discussion Board Posting on Amazon: Is it a Do or Dont?

The purpose of this message is to “enlighten” you on discussion boards (specifically Amazon but it is applicable to others, especially author boards). On the surface, these seem like a good idea and in many cases . . . they are. The problem is, with over 200,000 books published per year in the United States alone, there is intense and often time fierce competition for attention and readers. Unfortunately, though most authors tend to do the right thing, there are plenty that are out to “burn” other authors in an attempt to bolster their own popularity (basically, aggressively eliminate competition).
There have been numerous authors over the last couple of years who have been victims of “cyber bullying” (as well as others). This is when an individual or group of online users utilizes the web to discredit, coerce, harass, threaten, etc another user.
Below is a list of things to keep in mind before engaging in any community when utilizing your true identity:
1.       Do your best to stay with reputable discussion boards, especially.
2.       Avoid revealing too much personal information about yourself. I know it can be easy to let loose some details as you get more heavily involved but being cautious with this group of people that you just don’t know is highly advisable. Cyber bullies have been known to collect as much personal information as possible and remember: “what you say can and will be used against you”.
3.       Avoid political or hot topic discussions such as abortion, religion, racial relations, etc. That is best saved for forums where you are anonymous. These kind of topics garner extremely deep feelings with a number of people and, just as you hear about all of the time, have driven people to be out of character. Stick to the books so to speak.
4.       Be careful about sharing tips and tricks. It is okay to do that somewhat (I do it) but don’t give away any big time connections that you have in a forum. Remember, there is a difference between being collegiate and being taken advantage of.
5.       If things start to get hot, get out! Matter of fact, I would recommend having a separate email address just for this kind of thing. That way, you can always let it go if things get rough.  Also keep in mind that memories are short. If you get out of dodge quick enough, it won’t take long for the bullies to forget you and move on to someone else, minimizing any damage.
6.       Don’t over promote your book. Funny enough, consumers and other authors are finicky. Everyone knows you need to get the word out but there is a fine line between getting the word out and spamming and that line is drawn by the observer so it is difficult to even pinpoint. It’s something that you need to get a feel for.
A little warning about Amazon discussion boards. I have personally known numerous people who have run into trouble on these forums. They get heated pretty easily. Unless a discussion is specifically asking for authors to post books that meet their criteria (and some do), you are probably wasting your time. Optimizing Amazon is specifically about getting your book to pop up organically. Since many discussion boards view promoting your book as spam, you’re better off spending your time elsewhere unless you find one that is specifically looking for books like yours and they are asking for it.
Cyber bullies on Amazon are known to mess with reviews. The problem with Amazon is they tend not to care all that much about lesser known authors. They address paying customer concerns but even if you are a customer, when you approach them as an author, that is what you are and they are not always interested in going out of their way for you. That means that fixing review issues can be a tough gig with them (if someone maliciously posts a negative review, a group of people getting together to vote your reviews as not helpful, etc).
The good news is that Amazon has bots in place that often pick up large scale blitzes and they will remove the damage on their own. They care about their review system since they are famous for it. I know it has been mentioned once, but it bears repeating. If things get too hot in a discussion board, get out! Very little is worth driving up your blood pressure over, especially discussion boards.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Good Sources For Reviews

Since Amazon itself is a central hub for people to read reviews for books, as well as other materials (even if they do not purchase them from Amazon), it is important to not only get a good number of reviews, but to get them from a variety of sources. Matter of fact, there has been increased attention from the international community on Amazon’s validity, due to its high level of success over the last five years. The international book industry realizes that Amazon is a good source for finding new content. As a result, foreign rights buyers use Amazon as a reference point when researching new titles to purchase. By having a dominant Amazon presence, you will ensure your book is well represented to foreign rights buyers. This being the case, I highly recommend a minimum of 5 – 8 quality reviews.
Below are review and/or contest sites that I would recommend submitting your book to for review. Midwest Book Review actually gives preference to books from smaller presses and self-published authors. This is a free review site; they do not do expedited reviews. It can take a couple of months to receive your review but they post it all over the place, including Amazon. There are numerous, informative articles about seeking reviews and I will give you some highlights below. Readers Favorite is a site that gives you multiple choices. You can query for a free review, enter their contest (like most contests, there is a small fee but you will also get a review out of it), or you can pay a fee for an expedited review (see below for an explanation of expedited reviews). Unlike other reviewers, they will only post your review on Amazon if it is a 4 or 5 star review. They will give you the choice if it is 3 stars and it can be buried if it is less than that. This is another site that offers the choices of free review, expedited review, and contest entry. They actually will provide a formal tear sheet in PDF format via email. They offer publicity services for a price; it would be up to you whether or not you would like to use them. Yet another site that offers a choice of free review, expedited review, and contest entry. Just like Rebecca’s Reads, they will provide a formal tear sheet in PDF format. This site offers either a free review or expedited review. The expedited reviews can be purchased in packages with other services for publicity. Again, this kind of thing is up to you, I will provide more details later in the email. In my recent look at this site, it appears that free reviews are no longer an option and you can only sign up for an expedited review. They provide a PDF tear sheet of your review. This site gives a choice between standard (free) reviews and publicity packages with expedited reviews. They provide a PDF tear sheet for your review. This is a relatively well known contest: The Indie Book Awards. It is only a contest; there are no other options (unless something has changed). There is a fee for the submission, which is not unusual for contests. They will provide a review although it may take quite a while as they tend to get a substantial number of submissions.
Alright, a few notes on “expedited reviews”. There are multiple schools of thought in the field about such services that you should be aware of. First of all, it is a fee that you will pay to the site (we don’t pay it for you). In a typical review submission, your book is not guaranteed for a review. If it is approved for an expedited review, it becomes guaranteed and it also moves up in priority so you get it faster. Each of the above sites makes the claim that expedited reviews do not guarantee a positive review (and by what I have seen, they hold true to that). Some members of the industry regard any review that you pay anything for as invalid (with the possible exception of contests).
The counterargument is that these sites do not indicate in your review whether or not you signed up for an expedited review. It is really something that is up to you. With the exception of Feathered Quill Reviews and contests, you always have the options to seek a free review. Your average reader does not know what an expedited review is or what it means. This is where it really becomes your choice whether or not you wish to take this route.
Remember, when you are submitting to a review site (or a newspaper or magazine or blog or magazine), there is a risk for a negative review. Within the author exchange, if an author does not feel they can give you a good review, then they do not give one at all. As disheartening as that may be, at least you know you will either get 4 stars, 5 stars, or nothing at all so there is really no risk. Going to the outside for reviews can be a bit stressful but it is important to broaden your horizons. Remember, if you really feel strongly about your book and feel that you have written a good piece, it is time to leave your shell. Also keep in mind, not everyone likes every book out there. Most bestsellers (especially in fiction), do have some negative (and brutal) reviews. Believe it or not, it ends up balancing out and gives a bit of credibility to your review pool overall (or at least, if you have a handful of four star reviews in addition to the five stars).
There are sites that will give you the ability to pay for a review and will guarantee you a good review. You will notice that I did not place any of these on the list. Review reliability is diminished for “set up” reviews like this. These sites tend to be a bit more known so if you want to use your reviews for publicity, these may harm you more than anything else although most readers still won’t know the difference. Again, this is really up to you. There is an element of risk here.
When submitting for a free review, keep in mind that the days that reviewers tend to be the most inundated is Monday and Tuesday so timing your mailing to land in their mail room for a Thursday or Friday is helpful as there are less books coming in that yours will need to compete with. Also pay attention to the month. September, October, and November are extremely busy as people are trying to publicize their books for the holiday season. Also, April and May are extremely busy for the Spring market which is quite big in the book industry. July and August tend to be a little more dead and January and February (and the second half of December) tend to be the deadest times for reviewers. Obviously, if you choose expedited, it moves up in priority so these dates do not matter as much except that they may have too many requests and not accept your book for review.


Press Releases and How THEY CAN Help You on Amazon

I will let you know up front, you may wonder what this has to do with Amazon Optimization. Keep with me, you’ll understand soon. What we are going to discuss here are press releases. You probably have some familiarity with what a press release is, because one was probably put out when you became published (if you are self published and have not put out a press release, you should do so as soon as possible). For those that do not know, a press release is effectively a news article written with the purpose to draw attention to something. For instance, large companies will put out a press release when announcing a merger or a movie production company will put one out to announce an upcoming movie. The press release is to entice the media to pursue a story and/or to notify the general public of some new development or product.
The press release has several sections.
1.       Title: Like any article, the title is a major draw and it is the first thing a prospective reader will see.
2.       Abstract/Summary: This section is a two or three sentence overview of what your press release is about. This is what shows up in searches. It is extremely important that you use the limited space here to provide text that will entice a reader to actually open your release and read further. You want yours to stick out. Remember, books are released every day, what is so special about what you have to offer? Attention spans are short, you need to be able to grab the attention of your target audience in the first sentence.
3.       Introduction: The introduction is similar to the abstract (but should not be word for word the same). It is only a few sentences and it needs to draw the reader in. This is where you really will want to angle your story as best as possible.
4.       Body: Like any other piece, this is where you give more details. Remember, you don’t want a press release to be too long, so the body only needs two or three paragraphs of solid material. Avoid making it read like an advertisement. You will really want to show that you have a story to tell or that what you have to offer is interesting.
5.       Conclusion: Like any other document, this is a paragraph to wrap things up. It’s a good time to restate the introduction and remind the reader of what your angle is.
6.       Tags (Optional): Not all press release services support this but these are a series of keywords to tag your press release to have it show up when someone is looking specifically for topics related. Make sure your tags make sense to the content (don’t tag it mystery if it is science fiction, etc).
7.       Contact Information: This is how interested parties will communicate with you. Depending on the service, they may mask the information (a link for email without displaying your actual email, etc). Whatever you do, don’t put your personal contact information. This is where you would have a specific email address meant for being an author. If you have a PO box, you could list that as an address.
8.       Pictures/Other Media: Depending on the service, you may be allowed to upload a certain number of images and/or videos. You may also be permitted to upload documents such as PDFs. It can be tempting to take a feature like this to the extreme but remember, you only have a few seconds to catch the attention of a reader. Believe it or not, too much media draws their attention away from the point of your article.

When writing your copy, keep in mind the concept of SEO (Search Engine Optimization). The search engines index press releases, no matter how basic or advanced the service. To increase the chances of getting a higher ranking, strategic insertion of keywords is important. A pitfall with this, however, is when the same keywords are inserted so often that the quality of the writing suffers (or doesn’t make sense).

So, why do I mention press releases? What are some advantages beyond announcing your book’s release do they serve?
1.       Each and every release you put out is another indexed page. You are allowed to place two or three self-serving hyperlinks in your release. One of these should be to your website. The more links to your website that you pepper the internet with, the better the search engine rankings for it are.
a.       For those of you that do not know, here is a basic explanation of hyperlinks. They are the underlined text (called anchor text links) that you click on that carry you to another site. They can appear as regular text with an underline, or they can be a web address (like Any time you can use an anchor text link, you are better off. The code for this would be <a href =>Text Here</a>.
b.      Avoid linking to blogs as the links tend to change with those. Bad links get penalized by search engines when they calculate your rankings. Anchor text links carry more juice than standard hyperlinks.
2.       Placing a link to your Amazon page will increase the click-throughs to said page. Even if people do not buy it directly through the link, page views for your book are helpful in the formation of recommendations by the Amazon site.
3.       Each release is another page on the internet that discusses you and/or your book. This is the concept of viral marketing. The more you’re out there, the more likely you are to be discovered.
4.       As you build your marketing portfolio, you may find that you have interesting stories to share with the world. It is possible that if you appear enough, members of the media will become interested in you. Media publicity is not only free, it is some of the most effective publicity that you can get.

What are possible subjects of a press release? Here are a few ideas:
1.       Book reviews by known websites and/or publications. Each time your book is reviewed by one of these sources, you should put out a press release. The typical agreement when it comes to reviews is that you can quote any part of it that you want. This means that if you get a good review but there are some negative aspects, you can take what you want and put it in the release and leave the rest out. Just remember though, you typically need to link to the review site as part of the conditions of receiving the review so people can get to the full text of it although most don’t. If you notice, when people quote the New York Times, they typically quote a sentence or two even though the reviews are almost always a lot longer than that.
2.       Major speaking engagements or book signings are another reason. If you are going to be in a high profile area, put out a press release. If you are going to be in a small town independent bookstore, it is probably not newsworthy enough to warrant putting out a release. Of course, if you have a formal speaking engagement, you should definitely put out a press release.
3.       Unique stories about you are great for press releases. These days, writing a book is not news. If there is some aspect of your writing or yourself that is newsworthy (overcoming some type of hardship, etc), that tends to draw the attention of the media. People love that kind of stuff. I can utilize myself as an example. My writing is based on four years of lucid dreams that I had during high school and college. The first radio station I approached with that news invited me on for an interview.
So where do you go to put out a press release? It depends on how much money you have. There are two sites that I’ve used, which I will describe below.
  1. PR Web is an extremely well known Press Release site. Each release is indexed by Google and Yahoo news. There are different packages that can get you additional services including editing and SEO maximizing. More expensive packages also let you post video. The catch of course, is that it is expensive to post a press release here. Unless you feel as though more focused attention will definitely get you more valuable publicity, it may be a waste of your money to use this option. I will say that last year, they had a Black Friday deal where all of their services were half price.
  2. PR Log is a great site. You have a choice between free press releases and paid ones. You can purchase credits and the paid ones are relatively inexpensive for the added benefit of them being sent through the Google and Yahoo news feeds. The free ones are still search engine indexed and you really have no limit as to how many you put out there so have at it.
Press releases are a great way to continue to get the word out about your status as an author and about your book. The more you have going on, the better. The more search engine indexed pages that link back to you and your book, the better. The more you have a presence, the better.