Sunday, April 17, 2011

Amazon & Foreign Rights Sales

Amazon & Foreign Rights

Throughout several of my blog posts I have mentioned the benefits of having a “tricked” out Amazon page. However one of the biggest is that Amazon has now become a go-to site to by foreign rights consultants when looking to acquire new rights. This is huge.

Amazon’s popularity is not only felt within the U.S. but countries around the world have realized its relevance and are using it on a daily basis.  However what is unique is that Amazon has not just become a site to purchase products but a go to hub of information when researching new titles, in foreign rights terms, for purchase.

Over the past couple years I have been traveling to various international book fairs to both buy and sell foreign rights. The one change from 2010 to 2011 that I have noticed the most has been the increased mention of “Amazon” in our meetings.  Amazon has established international credibility. For example, when pitching a book to a Taiwanese foreign rights agent, he immediately pulled out his Ipad and (as we like to call it) Amazoned it.  By this I mean he checked to see how many reviews the book had, its current sales ranking, and how many features the book’s Amazon page was displaying.  His response “ Well the reviews look good on Amazon, send me a sample of the book for further consideration”. That quick and that simple. The foreign rights agent, based of Amazon, gave the book a green light to go to the next level in foreign rights acquisition.

The purpose of this post is to point out to you that having a dominant presence on Amazon is essential to your book’s success. Not only are general consumers using Amazon for purchasing but industry personnel are visiting Amazon to judge content when making foreign rights decisions.

So what does this mean?

1.       You need to make sure you have both an Author’s Page and Amazon Profile setup and filled out completely ( bare minimum).
2.       Your book has numerous quality reviews
3.       There are “added features” being displayed on your book’s Amazon page
4.       You use the site daily, and treat it just as you would any other social media site

If you can control the material foreign rights agents view when deciding whether or not to buy your rights, why would you not take advantage of this?

Hope this helps and if you have any questions please let me know!

Selling Books and eBooks with QR Codes

Selling Books and eBooks with QR Codes

Prediction for 2011 above

So, if you have a QR scanner, did you scan that QR Code yet?  Admit it. There’s a huge curiosity factor with these and I just threw this thing together in a couple of minutes.
QR codes are generated for free online, an example site is The image created can be of various sizes, depending on its intended use. The code block can be read by a smartphone with a barcode or QR Code reader application installed on it (there are many of these apps, all available for free download).
One can embed a URL, a block of text (250 character max), or a phone number in a QR Code. Combined with a bit of creativity, there are a ton of possibilities. Some examples would be:
1.       Adding QR Codes to existing publications. Even if they have a phone number or web address, people with a smartphone will have a direct connection to the information (be able to call or go straight to the web address). In the case of 99 cent eBooks, even if there was a poster or something that had all of the information, scanning a QR code would allow for an instant trip to the book’s Amazon page where it can become an impulse buy. After all, eReading software is available for all smartphones!
2.       Utilizing the mystery aspect, the QR codes hit into natural human curiosity. Naturally, some may feel as though it is unethical to make things a complete mystery but a cool example of something alluring would be to put a poster in an airport that says “Award Winning eRead for the Plane Trip” and stick the QR code for the Amazon site. Boom, they’ll probably buy it. Actually, book sales in airports are pretty big. Why not tap into eBook sales.
3.       Train and Bus Stations could also be hit upon in a similar way to airports as mentioned above.
4.       Dangling signs or some type of mounting that makes a poster stand out in a heavy tourist area would be a great way to get the curious a technologically connected to take a look at our eBooks.
5.       Putting QR Codes on little promotional items such as magnets, bookmarks, etc.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Amazon Vine Program

You want to get into the Amazon Vine Program

As you all should know by now writing reviews on Amazon is a great way to promote your book. Not only can you display your book’s title in your signature at the end of each review you write, but Amazon actually monitors these reviews looking for qualified writers to include in their Amazon Vine Program! As an author it should be your goal to get into this program as this is the “elite of the elite” in the Amazon world. A review by a person in this program far outweigh a review by a normal user on Amazon. Check out what these two authors have to say!

Mike Saxton, Author of “7 Scorpions: Rebellion”

“For the subject of this email, I am going to discuss the Amazon Vine program with you. This program is a great opportunity for you on multiple levels. But before I do that, I am going to discuss what it is.
The Vine program is Amazon’s way of garnering reviews for new and upcoming products, especially books and movies. Publishers/Manufacturers provide a certain number of each item. Amazon will send you an electronic catalog with these items for you to choose from. When you pick, they ship them to you for FREE. You get the item(s) and you get shipping at no charge. The kicker is, you have to write a review for them.
So the advantages? You garner more recognition as a reviewer and you gain the possible notice of various media, who will be interested in the pre-release reviews. You also get free stuff. There is a catch to this. Amazon Vine is by invite only. In other words, Amazon has to bring you into the fold. There is no way to simply go somewhere and sign up for it.
So how do you get in? Fortunately, I got in so I can tell you. You need to be a highly active reviewer on Amazon already. You need to review a variety of products, especially books and movies/shows. In addition, those reviews need to be of high enough quality to garner numerous “helpful” votes. As with many other aspects of Amazon, the exact numbers are unknown. I know that discussion forums have nothing to do with it because I do not participate in those. It appears to be strictly review based, which makes sense. One other thing, this may not mean anything, but I don’t write reviews for anything that I can’t rate at least 4 stars (the whole Karma thing).
So what does that mean for you? It is time to kick up those reviews. Review everything. If you watch a documentary on television, and it is available on DVD, write a review. If you read a book a year ago and still remember it, write a review. If there is a television show that you watch, and the previous seasons are available on DVD, write a review. Just make sure that you do not review anything you have not read/seen/used. You can even write reviews for household products and other things. The point is, this could be a great opportunity so shooting for it is a good idea.”

Robin Landry, Author of “When I Dream”
Being a part of Amazon's Vine Program is of course the free books and other merchandise.  It's like getting paid for doing what you love, and for me that's reading.  I had heard about the program so I became involved with the 'top reviewer' message boards, and in fact started a discussion called "All I want for Christmas is to be a Vine Voice."  The other reviewers came to my aid and what they said was basically, Amazon had to send you an invitation.  I waited and waited, while noticing that my ranking was higher than the Vine Voices around me.  Then one day, someone came on the discussion boards and told me where to look in Amazon for my invitation and there it was. 

So, what happens once you're a Vine Voice? Well, one Thursday a month, Amazon sends you a letter offering you a page worth of things to review based on what you've been reviewing so far.  Well, here's the catch, I had been doing some short young adult books to get my numbers up and guess what half the books that were offered to me to review?  Right, young adult books.  No worries, I have read some great new books from up-and-coming new authors, so it's been good.

While chatting to other reviewers, most of whom are not authors, has it's downfall.  For some reason quite a few of these reviewers have axes to grind and if they disagree with anything you've said, you will get an onslaught of negative reviews.  It's easy to tell why this happens because you'll just get negative reviews on the first things that come up on your profile.  People that do this are called Trolls by the reviewers and the Trolls will make up a new name so they no one knows what they're doing.  It's better to just stay away from the whole discussion group.

Now, to get lots of helpful votes, review things you like.  People who read reviews are already looking at the product or have already purchased it.  The last thing they want is to see what they've bought slammed.  It makes them feel stupid and you'll get lots of negative votes.  Also, try to be the first to read and review a big name author's book, like Danielle Steele.  Easy way to get lots of votes to move yourself up in the rankings.

The people at the top of the reviewing stack are very serious about their rankings and very competive.  They have lots of authors wanting reviews from them.  The top 500 reviewers are basically Amazon royalty.  I've heard through the boards, that some reviewers (top 10) have been asked for interviews, and have had authors wanting to come to them for an interview. 

The Vine Program is its own world and you need to know the rules once you get in.  Once you get your own letter, then a week later the whole comes out for everyone and it's long.  I've seen 26 pages of things wanting reviews, and some of the things are incredible.  Exercise machines, luggage, high chairs, printers, the list goes on.  Of course all these things are gone by the time I get there, in fact I've heard through the boards that people sit by their computers waiting for the letter to come out, then they tell each other what they got.

Anyway, it's worthwhile, it's fun, read the boards, just don't post, and wait for the Thursday letter!

Robin Landry

Amazon URL

The question was posted as to what link should be given on personal websites and other self-marketing materials in regards to purchasing a copy of your book. I am going to suggest that you use Amazon as the primary link for people who are interested in buying. You can use your personal site for media queries and other such needs. Matter of fact, I would even recommend that you link to your Amazon page from your own website. Here's why:

1. Amazon's recommendation and pairing system is the best of any online retailer. In other words, the more people purchase your book from Amazon (or even visit the page), the more likely your book will start showing up in the recommendations section of other book pages or in their computer generated emails.

2. Amazon will help you sell your book if your sales are high enough. The rankings are calculated hourly so the reality is, if you do an event that triggers a dozen people to buy your book and they all do it via Amazon, your sales rankings will shoot up. When your sales rankings shoot up, your book gets matched with other products.

3. Amazon's review system is the best known and most used of all online forums. People who do not shop at Amazon still go there to read reviews. Matter of fact, the media and foreign rights buyers also use Amazon.

The fact is, Amazon's setup will do far more for you and will do it in an automated manner, than any other site including your own. In the long run, purchases from Amazon will serve you the best.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Tagging- The Basics

. This is a great feature of Amazon and it is entirely user powered. Before going further, just look at the image below to see what tags are:

Basically, tags are user defined keywords for a book. When entering key words, sometimes an autofill menu pops up underneath. Amazon has numerous keywords that it will recommend, with a number next to it. The higher the number, the more popular the tag (and also the more competition for a top rank with that tag). If you look at the image above, each tag has a check box next to it and a number on the other side. The check boxes are for whether or not the user agrees with the tag and the number in parenthesis is the number of people who agreed with it.

Here’s where this comes into use. The more times a tag is voted on, the higher ranking the book has for said tag. Various communities are tied to the tags and there are individual rankings within. When people click on a tag to see the rankings, it would be a great idea for yours to be in the top. This is not difficult to do. We will help you but you can also help yourself. Here’s how:
1.       If you have only a few or no tags, you can add any that you want. Don’t go above 15 as the system limits each user to 15 tags (or votes) per item.

2.       You’re better off having about a dozen key words that you focus on than to spread your attention to numerous ones. Also, I would recommend only using one or two of the most popular tags.  This way you can use a bunch of other keywords that may be used a bit less but have significantly less competition. This is similar to keyword tailing in SEO. If you become the top dog in several lesser used tags, you’ll probably do better than if you try to get votes for the top performing keywords (which can have hundreds of votes when you’re talking about wildly popular books like Twilight or The Girl Who Kicked Over the Hornet’s Nest).

3.       Once you have the tags that you want, send an email to your family and friends. Have them go and vote on the tags. They need to have an active Amazon account to do this.

This one more method amongst a series of methods to garner as much attention to your book’s Amazon page as possible. Not only do we want it to come up in organic searches, but we want it to be maximized when other marketing methods start bringing traffic in.

How To Create A Listmania & Why

A segment of Amazon that can draw some good attention to you and your book(s) is the listmania feature. This allows you to build a themed list of various items. After you tag it and save it, the list will begin popping up in the margins on various pages and searches throughout the site. Over time, especially as it gets “helpful” votes, it will pop up more and more. So why do this?

  1. Remember your author signature? This will be on the listmania. As it begins to pop up randomly throughout Amazon, more people will not only see it, they’ll see that you are the author of a book. If they are enticed, you will have more draw to your book. You can at least get another click-through on your book’s page out of it, which is also helpful.
  2. The media scours Amazon. One of our authors was approached by a reporter because she really liked the listmania that the author created. She subsequently published an article that gave credit to the author.
  3. It is another way to have a presence on Amazon. Build up enough of a presence, you draw more people to your book.
So how do you do this? Here you go:
  1. Go into “My Account” on the upper right corner.
  2. Go to the heading “Personalization”. Click on the link “Product Reviews Written By You”.
  3. Click on the link “Listmania! Lists”.
  4. Click on the link for “Create Another List”
  5. Fill in the fields indicated. For introduction, make sure you describe the purpose of the list.
  6. Add products and save!
Listmanias can be short or long. They can contain anything. I would recommend creating listmanias that are geared toward your book’s target audience. That means, if you write Science Fiction, you should create listmanias that would entice Science Fiction fans. This way, they see your book and are more likely to search for it.

Speaking of your book, it’s time for a little note about including it in your lists. You can get away with it once. In that case, simply note that you are the author and few if any will take an issue. If you start banging out list after list with your book in it, people, including Amazon, will view it as spam. At minimum, Amazon may remove your lists.

 What is very likely is that people will vote your lists as not helpful and could even find other ways to retaliate (negative reviews, voting your reviews as not helpful, voting down your tags, etc). For some reason, there are a lot of sensitive people out there and there is a fine balance between marketing and entering into the realm of unethical behavior. Play it safe. Let people discover you, don’t rub their faces in your work.