Book Marketing: optimize your amazon listing for more sales

How to Optimize Your Book’s Amazon Listing for More Conversions and Sales (Book Marketing)

“How do I sell more books?”

That simple question seems to at the top of all indie authors’ minds (and for those who traditionally publish as well). And, like most simple questions it has a complicated, multifaceted answer.

But there are some basic steps you can take to help.

The most important of these is how your book actually appears to potential readers (i.e. customers). And it revolves around one of the most basic concepts of online marketing: the “landing page.”
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A Quick Hack for Awesome Image + Text Content

Image + Text Typography Content Is Easy (and Awesome) with This Tool

I gotta be honest. I was a little hesitant to share this hack I use for creating image + text content since it gives away a bit of my “magic” – but it’s just too good not to share.

If you use any kind of social network, you’ve seen the images of nicely formatted quotes or affirmations etc. overlaid on nice photography and backgrounds. They’re a great visual (and engaging!) way to get a short message across – so much so that Facebook even recently added in the ability to put background colors behind your text posts as a way to emulate their effectiveness.

But making beautiful graphics is hard, right? There’s certainly a lot more to well-formatted typography than just sticking some text over and image and hitting save (trust me, I’ve tried it). So how do you get the same kind of professional-quality images of your own to share?

Easy. There’s an app for that.
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Top Ten Sites for Royalty Free Stock Photos

The Top Ten Sites for Beautiful Royalty Free Stock Photos

Where can I find free images to use on my web site and social media without any licensing worries? I need some royalty free stock photos!

It’s a question I get asked pretty frequently – especially since many of my own posts have some great images tied to them.

You could pay for them. And sometimes I do. But a lot of the time things like simple blog posts or social media shares aren’t made with any sort of major return on investment in mind, and therefore can’t have extra budget allotted for creative. So what do you do? Take photos of your own? Leave your posts barren fields of text?

While I do recommend taking and using your own photos when you can (I do it about 20% of the time), there are other solutions – and those are free-to-use, royalty-free images.

Basically they are photos that you are allowed to use on your site or social media, free of charge. Each often has their own terms (like requiring credit, or restricting resale of the images) so be sure to check those out before you go crazy. But they’re a great solution.

And so, here are the top 10 royalty-free photo sites I turn to when I need to procure an image (but just don’t have the budget for something like Getty Images or Adobe Stock).
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Livestream On a Budget

5 Tips to Livestream Your Event on a Budget (And Still Look Professional)

On the evening of January 21, 2017 I made history. From roughly 8pm-12:30am I livestreamed a reading of my entire novel, ‘A Confession,’ across Facebook Live and Periscope/Twitter. As far as I know, I’m the first author ever to do this.

I did it all in my house, on my own, in my basement for under $100.

And now the question everyone keeps asking me is How did you do it?

When I first decided to go all-in with this event, I admit I had a few hesitations. How do I keep the camera rolling? How will it all look? Will the services even let me stream for that long?

Can my throat handle talking for 4.5 hours straight?

Well, the key in making sure the event went off as well as it did was in preparation. Here’s what I did, and what you can also do on your own if you’re ever looking to do a live event of your own.
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No, You Don't Need an App

Mobile Strategy: No, You Don’t Need an App

With the iPhone released nearly 10 years ago, mobile web and apps have been around for quite a while now. Still, the question continues to come up: Do I need an app?

The short answer? No.

The long answer? It depends on what you’re trying to do.

As mobile started to take off and the world was enamored with the new app economy, the immediate rush of thinking was to either build an app or miss out on mobile. The question most people didn’t ask was this: What will an app accomplish that my website won’t?
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Business Card

Never Underestimate the Importance of the Good Old Business Card

In our modern tech-driven world, the idea of a business card seems kind of … quaint.

After all, with LinkedIn and Facebook and Twitter and e-Mail and all the other ways we can easily get in touch with someone, or at least look them up, the idea of carrying around a piece of paper in your pocket to hand to someone seems almost counter-intuitive to technology.

It’s not the case though. In fact, I’d say that having a business card on hand now is just as important as it ever was.
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Balancing Personalization and Consistency

I’m down in Philadelphia at the annual Monetate Summit for a few days, and while I’m here I’m obviously immersed in the world of personalization. There are quite a few great conversations going on here, with lots of great ideas being tossed about – and it’s doing a great job of getting my neurons firing about how I can better work towards a personalized experience with Musicnotes. Not anything particularly new per se, but still it’s already gotten me to reinvigorate a few projects that had stalled.

One item that has come up several times here that I still haven’t been able to pull the trigger on, even though it sounds great in theory, is the idea of manipulating site navigation so that it adapts to a user’s preferences or behavior. The example I give for this would be if you are a sporting goods site, if you usually have “baseball” as a main category in your navigation, but based on customer preferences or shopping behavior, you can assume they play hockey, should you change out that link from “baseball” to “hockey” in the main navigation?

I’ve heard it argued that yes, you definitely should, as it’s a service to the customer to give them quick and easy access to the category they have shown a propensity toward – plus you’re removing “noise” of a category the customer may not be interested in. I can definitely see this being useful, and can understand the argument (and in fact have made the same argument myself), but I still keep coming back to the final decision that it is not a smart move.

By keeping navigation elements static we can bring about  sense of ease and familiarity with the site that helps the customer remain comfortable shopping there.

My reasoning for why I still haven’t pulled the trigger here is this: site navigation is one of the few areas of a site that remains throughout a shopping experience. It’s part of the header (or sidebar) and frames the rest of the experience. Yes, it is an important tool in helping the customer to find where they want to go and to take them there, but it also acts as a kind of “landmark” for the customer as well. By keeping navigation elements static we can bring about  sense of ease and familiarity with the site that helps the customer remain comfortable shopping there.

… the “Who Moved My Cheese?” effect.

One thing you might have noticed if you do any site experience tests is that oftentimes when you make a change on your website you’ll see an immediate impact which will fade out and level off in a short amount of time. What you’ll often see, if you dig deeper, is that this impact can be more noticeable for existing, regular customers than for new customers. Mostly this is due to the fact that regular customers already know your site and the experience and how everything works, and when you change things, they can get lost as they regain their bearings (think of this as the “who moved my cheese?” effect). New or infrequent customers will have a lesser impact spike as there isn’t anything to compare against other than your other experiences – there is no learned behavior that you are asking them to adjust or unlearn.

This is where I run into the problems with changing navigation. Even if your navigation isn’t particularly well-suited for some of your smaller segments of customers, forcing them to dive deeper into the site to get where they want to go, at least they know how to get there. (For new customers, you probably don’t even know enough about them to even make a good decision as to how to change their navigation, since they are new and unknown). Everything is in relation to somewhere else on the site, and as customers use the site they learn where it is. Kind of like how you know exactly where on your desk that certain letter is, even if no one else can find it – since you put it there, you’ve taught yourself where it is by your own previous knowledge.

Then again, maybe people can adapt to changes, and by having a constantly adjusting site navigation experience that always does its best to put relevant navigational links in front of customers you end up with a better overall experience. The question is, where do people go to look for what you hid on them? What happens if I normally shop for my son, and he loves baseball, but I was just last week shopping for a new set of hockey skates for my niece … and now I’m back on the site looking for more baseball? If my behavior has caused the site to replace my usual quick access to baseball with hockey, will I be frustrated that I can’t easily find my baseball area any more? If the category is buried too deep and the navigation can’t get me back to where I feel comfortable, will I abandon?

As I said, it’s an area where I can see the arguments both ways – and so far I’ve stuck with the more conservative approach. I can see how a constantly morphing experience can always treat the customer with the right content at the right time, but  does this attempt at personalization end up disorienting the customer?

Sure there are baby steps you can take, like “quick links” to category pages, etc. – but I’m more curious as to what happens if you go all-in and adjust the navigation completely depending on who your customer is. Will they be better off? Or just confused?

… what happens when they call customer service and the support team can’t guide them through the site …

Even worse, what happens when they call customer service and the support team can’t guide them through the site because the customer’s experience is completely different from what the support staff sees? If there are no anchors or landmarks, how does one get his or her bearings?

After this week, I’m thinking of giving it a go on my own – as I’ve definitely heard some good arguments for it, so much so that they might outweigh the possible negatives. I guess the only way to find out for sure is to take the safe route and test.

If you’ve done anything in this area, I’d love to hear from you. How have you modified your site experience to adapt to customer behavior on-the-fly?

Form vs. Function: Getting Your Designer To Make an Ugly Graphic with “Stickers”

The world of graphic design can be a pretty fickle space. Most people who go into the area are artists at heart, and have spent years honing their aesthetic to perfection. Over the years I’ve worked with quite a few extremely talented designers – but in working with them there’s one area where I’ve gotten more pushback than anything else … and that’s when I ask them to make their images a little uglier.

Now when I say “ugly” I don’t necessarily mean that it looks too pretty, but instead I’m referring to instances where the design is so perfect and flawless that it blends directly into the rest of the project. In particular, this matters when working on call-to-action promotions or advertisements. The issue you run into with these types of assets is that they are meant to be noticed – meaning they are meant to stick out. Sometimes even like a sore thumb.

A classic example of this is the “sale” promotion. Many times in the past we’ve run into problems where a promotion for a sale on a specific product has a great creative asset put together by our team, but the “sale” portion of the creative is made to match the rest of the project too closely. In these cases I’ve gotten into near arguments about trying to get the designer to make the “sale” stick out more. After all, from the marketing and promotions angle, the whole point of the promotion is to get people to see it and take action (i.e. click, or go to the store, etc). The problem is, many designers hesitate at this, as it breaks the aesthetic.

The way I’ve learned to deal with this is the take the “sticker” approach, by which I mean the designer puts together creative for the product being promoted, but without the “sale” call-to-action. Then, we take the old approach from brick and mortar and put a “sticker” on the artwork with the sale. (By “sticker” I basically mean an additional layer that gets placed on top of the creative).

If your designer can’t bring themselves to make their work “ugly,” put a sticker on it.

Obviously this still doesn’t make the designers completely happy, but it does take them somewhat out of the equation. I’ve found that designers are happier when providing a quality asset, and then at the point where they relinquish control, the sales and promotion team takes over and can then add their extra “sticker” layer on top. Yes, it might be an “uglier” end product, but the designer hasn’t had to try to force themselves to alter their designs to match an aesthetic that may not come naturally – and they take pride in the product they delivered.

Invite your designers to also have a hand in designing the “sticker” assets.

One additional trick I’ve learned with this is that it can be very helpful to invite your designers to also have a hand in designing the “sticker” assets. Make it clear what the sticker is for – to call-to-action and to go on any promotional asset you have. By divorcing the “sticker” from the individual promotions you are able to get a design that still matches your brand appropriately, is up to standards that both your marketing team and your design team are happy with, and that can be easily leveraged going forward on any future assets you receive from your design team.

Just remember, when it comes to promotions, the point is usually to have something that stands out. It can be tempting to make your designs integrate nicely into the overall promotion, but in many instances all you’ll end up with is a pretty picture that’s nice to look at, but ultimately doesn’t do anything. In marketing, you generally want people to take action – and if not action, at least take notice.

If your design team has a hard time allowing themselves to make promotional designs that stand out from the rest of a project, try the sticker approach. It’s worked for me in the past.

Of course if you can find a designer who can deliver the right aesthetic and also understands how to integrate call-to-action / function into design, that’s a better approach – but if you’re working with a designer who you just adore, but can’t bring themselves to “uglify” their work, the sticker approach can work wonders.