What is Amazon Doing Now? Can it Work for You?

Jordan Dane
@JordanDane

I received a notice recently from Amazon regarding its implementation of “Amazon Stores,” a way to promote a brand or company products. I’m not sure how open and available this is for anyone with a brand or a store concept. Are many authors using this?

I have a corporation, Cosas Finas LLC, that I have developed into Cosas Finas Publications to promote my brand and I have a website that I’m still developing for this entity. (My navigation needs improvement and I’m tweaking it after my deadline, so be kind.)

Awhile back I set up an Amazon PAGE for my company/brand using Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) to link ad campaigns to. I created a landing page for my ads to show more of my books and group them by series or featured new releases.

I’m a user of Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) and have various ad campaigns established for my books as they release or I develop a concept to promote a series, for example. Through AMS I had created a Cosas Finas Publications company PAGE, which is different than their new STORE idea. Amazon Stores are slicker and more attractive in appearance.

Brand pages are going away or the links to these pages will start to be phased out by Oct 31 and completely gone by Dec. It’s only cost me the money for “click-thru” ads and I set my budget and can monitor the expense vs sales revenues. I’ve been satisfied with the benefits outweighing the cost on AMS and I monitor my profitability and tweak ad campaigns to make them more effective.

Amazon Stores are free to vendors. I just set up an ad campaign that links directly to my new store. It was very easy. I chose a HEADLINE search for keywords as my campaign structure (recommended by Amazon and others I’ve researched) and I can query Amazon’s own system for high traffic keywords used by customers. I set up a daily max budget with a click-thru cost for an ongoing campaign without an end. It’ll be up to me to periodically evaluate the effectiveness and I can terminate any campaign at any time. From what I understand, these vendor stores will be required to have at least one ad campaign linked to them to keep them active. This will probably go into effect after Dec, 2017.

I really liked the ad design I submitted yesterday for Amazon approval. Instead of me creating an intriguing tag line for each book, I was able to use my brand slogan, which is “Take a front Row Seat to Suspense” and direct readers to my store. My ad dollars will go farther if I can consolidate my ads for my brand. We’ll see how this turns out. It’s still very new and I need a final approval on my ad campaign before I can see what traffic and sales it generates, but the metrics are there to analyze, with revenues vs ad cost.

To check out more details, visit AMS for vendors (first party sellers are vendors) or Seller Central (for 3rd party sellers that sell other’s products) for sellers.

How many of you advertise through AMS? What’s been your experience?

My STORE is approved as of yesterday. I hope this link works – Cosas Finas Publications The pre-set design templates are not flexible enough for me. It would be nice to have them in modules where you could mix and match, but I can play with the templates to see what works best for books.

Key Features of Amazon Stores:

1.) Design templates allow you to feature different books in a way that your Amazon Author Page isn’t set up to do. You can add video/book trailers, post promo text, praise blurbs/awards, or feature upcoming releases.

2.) Flexible ability to feature different products at your command. You are the keeper of your store and what is in it. If you have other products that are associated with your brand or writing, like T-shirts or coffee mugs for writers, you can feature those along with your books.

3.) There are social sharing buttons tagged to your store and you can set up HEADLINE search ads or drive readers to your store through your ad campaigns and increase your store traffic. Amazon allows a vendor to search existing keywords already proven to have high traffic on their system.

4.) You can take your Amazon Store link and use it in other promotions off the Amazon website. I can see this working for KDP Select products that are exclusive to Amazon for a time.

5.) Developing an ad campaign for my whole brand of books allows me to make the most of my budget for advertising. Rather than creating an ad for a new release, I can create one for my brand and update the book offerings as I have releases.

For those of you focused on your writing and not at the point of targeting the “not so fun” part of the business end, it’s still important for you to see what authors are doing to promote their work. I talk to many aspiring authors whose eyes glaze over when you share the very necessary business side. They want to believe a publisher will “take care of them” and sell their books, easy/peezy, but that’s not how it works.

I wanted TKZers to see how this might work for you, if you’re not aware of AMS and the Amazon STORE concept, but if you are using it, what are your thoughts? Where do you see this going for Amazon? Is this concept directed at larger companies with multiple products, like a running shoe company for example, or can this work for authors on a budget?

5+

What Would You Like to Know?

By John Gilstrap

Last week, when I published the January issue of Dispatches, my Jonathan Grave newsletter, I asked for guidance from my readership on how frequently the newsletter should come out. We all get pummeled by unwanted email, and I never want to tip over the line into the spam category.  The overwhelming consensus among the 30 or so respondents was for quarterly updates. (Click here if you’d like to subscribe.  I’d love to have you.)

A solid handful of people who wrote back to me also said that they would like to have links to videos or other media that show what a writer’s life is like. It’s easy to shrug off a request like that with the observation that the writing life is not significantly different than any other life that involves long hours of quiet contemplation at a desk, but I understand where they are coming from.  I recognize that I am blessed to be able to spend my days living the dream I’ve dreamed since childhood, and that alone puts writers in exotic real estate, especially in the perception of readers.  It explains why the pictures on my website of my office is one of the most frequently visited pages. I get it.  I respect it. In fact, one of my favorite pictures of another author is that of Stephen King working in a cluttered space with his feet propped up on the desk. It’s nice to get that peek behind the curtain.

I had the opportunity to bring this up over the weekend during a conclave of sorts with other authors, hoping to find some idea of what the subject of such videos might be, and I was introduced to the concept of Facebook Live, which, as I understand it, is pretty much what it sounds like: live audio-video streaming over Facebook, during which there can be direct and immediate interaction with viewers. With decent promotion of the event ahead of time, I could see that as a good way to stay closer to fans.

The big question, of course, is what I would talk about. Some suggested that I could do talks about guns and explosives, and while that clearly is a topic that interests me, I questioned whether or not it would do anything to promote or sell books. Perhaps I could read a chapter or a section from one of my books, kind of a fireside chat. The consensus was that the main goal was simply to be real to readers.  I’m going to give it a shot.

So, now I ask you: If you’re going to spend a half hour or so in direct contact with an author–it doesn’t have to be me specifically–what would you like the focus to be?  What information would you like to know?

3+

Book Talk Checklist

Nancy J. Cohen

Do you give talks at libraries, bookstores, or community groups? If so, here’s a handy checklist so you don’t forget your essential items.

P1040720

Autographed by Author Stickers Optional; not all readers want a sticker on their signed book.

Book Cover of Upcoming Release

Bookmarks: Yes, readers still like them. And even if your books are only available in ebook format, a bookmark or postcard is a reminder the guest can take home.

Books to Donate: Optional; This works for a library donation or door prizes if you’re a guest speaker at a community group.

Box of Books: Always bring a box or two for when you sell your own; otherwise keep some in your car trunk in case the bookseller doesn’t come through.

Bottle of Water: This isn’t necessary if you’re in a conference hotel that provides water for speakers or if the talk takes place at a restaurant.

Business Cards: Be sure to include your website, blog, and social media URLs.

Calculator: This might be needed if you are selling your own books, or else bring a pad of notepaper to add the cost of multiple copies. Or use your cell phone for this purpose.

Camera: Bring a camera or use your cell phone to take pictures of your event.

Cash: Bring an envelope with small bills for change if you are selling your own books. Consider if you want a credit card app on your cell phone or if you will accept personal checks.

Computer Thumb Drive or Laptop: If you are doing a PowerPoint presentation.

Conference Brochures and Flyers: For your local writers’ group for recruitment purposes.

Handouts: If you are doing a lecture, bring a handout people can take home. It’s always appreciated and stays with them longer than a PowerPoint presentation.

Mailing List Sign-up Sheet: This is the most important item to bring. If you are speaking to a writers group, offer to send new sign-ups a file via email of a related handout of interest to them.

Notices of Upcoming Appearances: If you have a slate of appearances, give it to attendees. They might tell a friend who’ll want to hear you speak.

Printed Promotional Material: i.e. postcards, bookmarks, and brochures for your series.

Sharpie fine point black ink permanent markers: Bring plenty of pens, but not expensive ones in case you lose them.

Wheels: You’ll need to haul boxes of books if you bring your own. Look in luggage stores for folding wheels or put the books in a carry-on size suitcase.

With this handy checklist, you won’t forget anything important. What else would you add?

 

8+

Users who have LIKED this post:

  • avatar

Playing with Pinterest

Nancy J. Cohen

Pinterest might be the third most popular social network after Facebook and Twitter. It’s an online pin board where you post photos along with a description. The photos link back to the source. Go here to set up a free account: https://www.pinterest.com/

To find people you know, go to your friends’ sites and search through their followers. Follow any familiar names. Or on the left, click on Find Friends or Invite Friends to Pinterest. If you don’t see these features, click on the gear shift arrow in the upper right corner and then on Find Friends.

Go here to Follow me: http://pinterest.com/njcohen/

 

Pinterest3

To gain followers, follow other people’s boards and repin their photos. If you click on the little heart by the photo, it means you Like their photo. Clicking on a photo brings up a comment box.

Create your boards. Suggestions for topics can include My Books, Books by Friends, Coming Next (your WIP), Favorite Places, The Writing Life, Book Tours, Books I’ve Read, Food, Hobbies, Travels, Crafts. Browse by Category to get ideas. On the right of the search bar, click on the arrow beside the three lines. A category list will pop up. Or see what your favorite authors feature and copy their topics.

Pinterest1

I like to do storyboards for my books. Check out my boards, and you’ll see what I mean. This is a fun activity. It gives me and my fans a visual reference for my books. I’ll use some of the same photos I buy from royalty free sites for my video trailers and mix them with photos I’ve taken personally or that others have pinned.

Pinterest2

To get to your Boards, click on your name in the upper right corner. Find the Board you want to change and click Edit. Here you can add a description to the board.

To access the photos, double click on a board. You can add a pin to this board or edit the photos that are there. When you add a pin, you can also post it to Facebook or Twitter. Click on the pencil on the upper right corner of a pin to edit. If you upload your own photo, go in and edit it to add a description and website link. When you want to post your own book cover, do it from an online bookstore so the source leads back there.

Get the PinIt badge to put on your toolbar. Use it to pin photos from around the Web. On the right of the search bar in Pinterest, click on the arrow beside the three lines. Choose About, and then Browser Button. Also make sure the photos on your sites are pinnable by having the Pinterest share option appear on each post or website page. Get Share buttons at http://www.sharethis.com or http://www.addthis.com

Caution: Do not pin copyrighted material. Make sure the source is listed. Upload your own photos or Repin someone else’s, or buy royalty free images. If in doubt, refrain from pinning.

Manage your pins if you wish on Tailwind: http://www.tailwindapp.com/pinreach

Pinterest can be fun once you start playing with images. It can also be so much fun looking at the pictures on display that you lose all sense of time. So be sure to do your workload for the day first, and plug in Pinterest along with your other social networking. I hope to see you there!

6+

How to Get Readers to Lust After Your Book

Book loveThe word lust in our language is usually limited to the sexual arena. But it was not always so. The Greek philosophers used the term epithumia to indicate an intense desire which can be directed toward good or ill. Whatever the end, the desire is more than intellectual curiosity. It’s a feeling of I really must have this!

Which is precisely the feeling you want to induce in browsers who come across your book. It’s not enough to make the novel look “interesting.” You’ve got to raise epithumia so the blood starts pumping a “buy” message to the head.

In addition to a quality, eye-pleasing cover, there are at least three essential factors for raising desire levels in potential customers. They are excitement, killer copy, and grabber sample.

  1. Excitement

If you are not jazzed about your own book as you write it, it’s going to be that much more difficult to excite a reader. The first order of business, then, is to make sure you are pumped about your own project.

Because writing a book is like a marriage. Your first idea, getting charged up about it, is like falling in love. Once you commit to the writing of a book, you’ve married it, and we all know marriage has its ups and downs. You’re not always going to be starry-eyed and ready to sing “In Your Eyes” at the drop of the hat.just-the-facts-ma'am

(By the way, we need to bring back the daily wearing of hats.)

So you work things out, recapture that magic feeling, because you’re dedicated to the marriage.

Editing, of course, is marriage counseling.

Try not to write any scene until something about it excites you. I brainstorm for the unexpected––in action, dialogue, setting, or new characters. One of those will set off a spark in me, and I know I’m ready to write. I want to sustain that feeling throughout the book. There’s an alchemy there connects reader an author.

  1. Killer Copy

Your book description is the next lust inducer. It’s like that perfect outfit that accentuates the positives. It’s Betty Grable’s legs.

GrableWhat would be the male analogue? This guy?

FabioBut I digress.

Book description copy (sometimes called “cover copy,” sometimes a “blurb,” though I usually reserve that term for someone’s endorsement) are those few lines that sum up the book in a way that increases the desire to buy. It is crucially important. There are people who have marketing degrees that specialize in this kind of writing.

But you can learn to do it. My formula is three sentences and a tagline.

Three Sentences

Sentence #1 – Character name, vocation, initial situation

Dorothy Gale is a farm girl who dreams of getting out of Kansas to a land far, far away, where she and her dog will be safe from the town busybody Miss Gulch.

Sentence #2 – “When” + Doorway of No Return

Note: The Doorway of No Return is my term for the initial turning point that thrusts the Lead into Act II. I describe it in detail in Super Structure.

When a twister hits the farm, Dorothy is carried away to a land of strange creatures and a wicked witch who wants to kill her.

Sentence #3 – “Now” + The Death Stakes

Note: Death can be physical, professional, or psychological

Now, with the help of three unlikely friends, Dorothy must find a way to destroy the wicked witch so the great wizard will send her back home.

You may have heard the term “elevator pitch.” That’s what this is, a short plot outline you can spout on a short elevator ride. You can now expand or revise each sentence as you see fit. Just remember this is the “sizzle” and not the “steak.” Don’t try to pack everything about your plot into the copy. Just enough to whet the appetite of the busy browser.

Tagline

Sometimes wrongly called a “logline” (that’s a screenwriting term for how scripts are “logged” with a sentence describing the plot), the tagline is more of a teaser. It’s what you see on movie posters. Some famous taglines are:

In space, no one can hear you scream. – Alien
Don’t go in the water. – Jaws
Earth. It was fun while it lasted. – Armageddon
His story will touch you, even though he can’t. – Edward Scissorhands
Reality is a thing of the past. – The Matrix

Coming up with a great tagline is fun, but it takes some work. The best way to go at it is to write a bunch of them. Then choose the best ones and refine, rewrite, refine again. Get some help from friends. Brainstorm. Test them on a few people.

By the way, the two exercises above are a great thing to do before you ever write a word of your novel. Because if you can’t nail this much about your idea, and pack it with epithumia, it’s a pretty fair bet you need to shore up the foundation for the long building project ahead.

Here’s the tagline and copy I did for my thriller Don’t Leave Me:

When they came for him it was time to run. When they came for his brother it was time to fight.

Chuck Samson needs to heal. A former Navy chaplain who served with a Marine unit in Afghanistan, he’s come home to take care of his adult, autistic brother, Stan. But the trauma of Chuck’s capture and torture threatens to overtake him. Only the fifth graders he teaches give him reason to hope for the future.

But when an unseen enemy takes aim at Chuck, he finds himself running for his life. And from the cops, who think he’s a murderer. A secret buried deep in Chuck’s damaged soul may be the one thing that can save him. But can he unearth it?

Now, needing to protect his only brother from becoming collateral damage, Chuck Samson must face the dark fears embedded in his mind and find a way to save Stan . . . or die trying.

 

  1. Grabber Sample

The final touch in our lust generator is a great opening. That’s the free sample readers will see online, or on the first few pages when browsing in a bookstore (remember those days?).

I advise that any novel begin with a disturbance and an actual scene. In these days of short attention spans you simply must …

Squirrel!

Want to learn what a grabber opening is? Just click on the button that says “First-page Critiques” on our blog masthead and you’ll get a list of the critiques we’ve done over the years. I’m telling you, spend a week studying these and you’ll be a sample monster, a grabber virtuoso, a hook hotshot.

All right, friends, now it’s your turn. What makes you lust after a book? What is something that would turn off your desire?

12+

12 Tips for a Book Blog Tour

Nancy J. Cohen

If you wish to do a blog tour, determine if you want to offer guest posts, author interviews, reviews, and/or book blasts for your new release. Then determine which hosts you’ll want to solicit. Aim for popular blogs that get a lot of hits and target your particular genre or thematic content. Approach them by asking if you can be a guest on their site. Make sure you study their content and note the length of their typical posts.

I’ve had bloggers approach me to contribute to my site. I’ve turned down some of them because it was clear their business had nothing to do with a writing career. On the other hand, I’ve had cozy mystery or paranormal romance authors query me politely about a guest spot. In those cases, if I feel they’ll have something to contribute to my readers, I say yes. My personal blog readers respond the most to writing craft and marketing articles, so I am selective about guests.

If you don’t care to DIY, you can hire a virtual tour company. However, you’ll still have to publicize the tour, show up on the date of the post, answer comments, and offer giveaways. Send an author photo and book cover image along with your post to the host.

Here are some blog tour companies:
Goddish Fish Promotions http://www.goddessfish.com/tours.htm
Great Escapes Book Tours (Free for Cozy Mysteries) http://www.escapewithdollycas.com/great-escapes-virtual-book-tours
Bewitching Book Tours (Paranormal Romance) http://bewitchingbooktours.blogspot.com/
Buy the Book Tours http://www.buythebooktours.com/#axzz2OqJtoGjs
Partners in Crime (Crime, Mystery & Thrillers) http://www.partnersincrimetours.net/

12 Tips for your Virtual Blog Tour:

  1. Slant your blog to the audience you hope to reach.
  2. Vary your guest posts with a mix of interviews, articles and reviews.
  3. Space the dates out so you don’t clog the loops with your announcements.
  4. Write your posts ahead of time.
  5. Include a short excerpt from your book with your article when possible.
  6. Add buy links to your book along a story blurb, plus links to your website, blog, FB page, and Twitter at the end of your post.
  7. Plan to be available to answer comments all day when your post goes live.
  8. List the tour as an Event on your various social media sites.
  9. Publish the blog tour dates and topics on your website.
  10. Consider offering a giveaway for commenters with each post.
  11. Have a grand prize using Rafflecopter or a random drawing from all commenters.
  12. Thank your host at the end of the day when your post appears.

For next time, write down blog topics as you write your WIP. This way, you’ll have a ready list of topics available when you need them (i.e. research, the writing process, what inspired you to write this story, world building, themes, etc.).

A blog tour can help you gain exposure to new readers who might not have known about your work. It takes a lot of advance planning, publicity, and commitment to make it a success. A blog tour is another tool to raise your readership and possibly garner some reviews. Schedule with the companies listed above or with your selected hosts as far in advance as you can. So decide upon a target date for your tour and go for it.

16+

Users who have LIKED this post:

  • avatar