Amazon, Goodreads, and Social Media
To sell books, you want to get exposure in places where dedicated followers go to browse and shop for them.
That’s the first step. The second is to involve yourself with these venues. Amazon, the obvious retail gorilla in the room, is a must. And so is Goodreads (now owned by Amazon), the largest website network where authors have the opportunity to connect with readers. Combine
these two with the many social networking sites available that are at your disposal, and you have the opportunity to reach all the readers you need to become a successful author.
Amazon—the largest online book retailer in the world—can be your best friend when it comes to promoting and selling your books. While there are other selling platforms available, most self-published authors have found Amazon to be the most user-friendly and lucrative in the long run. Besides being a reliable selling platform, Amazon has other things to offer.
KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) is Amazon’s way for authors to sell their e-books on Amazon. Authors get 35 percent or 70 percent royalties, depending on the e-book’s list price and where it’s sold—one of the highest royalty percentages around. To get 70 percent, the list price of your e-book must be between $2.99 and $9.99; at least 20 percent of that of the physical version of your book; and 20 percent lower than anywhere else you have it listed for sale. The 70 percent rate applies to sales in the U.S. and most of Europe. Everything else falls under the 35 percent royalty rate.
KDP is not exclusive. Authors can upload e-books to KDP and sell the same e-book elsewhere—unless they join KDP Select, which requires ninety days of digital exclusivity. In return, KDP Select pays higher royalties for sales in otherwise lower royalty rate countries, adds the
e-book to the lending library for Amazon Prime members, and offers promotional options for free and discounted books.
The majority of my income comes from the royalties I receive from Amazon Prime members borrowing my e-books from KDP’s lending library. The KDP lending library royalty has been hovering around 0.5 cents per page read. My monthly goal prior to 2017 was to have 300,000 pages read for each book. That was an easy goal to achieve during a special promotion (I’ve had as many as 1,500,000 pages read during a month following a free promotion), but lately 300,000 has been a lofty goal to maintain for each book each month. In 2017, the market changed (for my books anyway) and reaching 150,000 pages read per month per book has become more realistic.
It’s important to note that readers do not need a Kindle device to read a Kindle e-book. They read well with a free app on PCs and any tablet (like iPads) or smartphone.
Amazon Associates is a membership service that pays you for driving people to Amazon to purchase products. It uses a tracking ID in each URL to identify who directed the buyer to their site. You can use this link when promoting your own books and make an extra 4 to 8 percent on each sale. You also earn a commission from anything else that someone buys on Amazon if they initially got there through your link.
Amazon Author Central
The Amazon author page—where you can include your bio, photo, events, videos, and links to your website, blog, and Twitter page—gives the reader lots of information that in turn builds credibility. Don’t be afraid to include fun information about yourself or inspiration for writing, as this helps to nurture relationships with readers.
Your Author Central page appears on every book sales page on Amazon, so it cross-links other books you’ve published. If someone clicks over to your author page, they can follow you and receive e-mail alerts from Amazon when you release new books.
Author Central also improves the likelihood that your book will be discovered by the search algorithm. The more active you are on your Amazon page, the greater the likelihood that the books will appear in keyword searches.
Amazon’s Author Central format encourages reader feedback and author-initiated discussions, allowing authors to extend a personal touch to their readers—a connection that is good for ongoing sales.
With more than 20 million members, Goodreads is one of the best, if not the best, networks specifically designed for authors and readers—its primary goal being to help readers find books. Becoming a member of the Goodreads community allows readers to check out up-to-date information about you and your books, see what you look like, browse the books you’ve written, and read the reviews.
Here are some ways to utilize Goodreads to its fullest advantage as an author.
Setting up your author profile is the first step to connect with readers on Goodreads. Creating an author page not only gives you exposure, it also provides author and book statistics such as the number of fans you have, number of people who have added your book to their “To Read”
list, number of ratings you have, and number of reviews. This page on the Goodreads site goodreads.com/author/program includes instructions on how to go about setting up a profile.
Since Goodreads is all about sharing the love of books, it behooves you to talk about not only the books you’ve written but also books you’ve read. Authors are typically voracious readers, so let browsers know what you are reading. Share your picks and talk about them. Members love
seeing what authors are reading and if they have any of the same book choices. Show off your understanding of the craft. Talk about characterization, pacing, setting, theme, and narrative arc. Let them know you are knowledgeable in your field.
The more reviews you have on Goodreads the better because Goodreads features books based on the number of reviews. The more reviews your book has, the more people are likely to read it.
Ask the Author
Ask the Author is an optional feature that allows readers to submit questions directly to you. Author responses are public and displayed on the author’s profile page. Questions can be about anything, and it’s up to the author to answer or ignore them. Readers generally like this feature, as your responses tend to reveal more about you personally.
Similar to Ask the Author, Reader Q&A allows readers to ask questions or make comments about a specific book of yours from the book’s profile page, but unlike Ask the Author, any reader can answer said questions. Answers are ranked by the number of “Likes” they receive, with the most liked getting top billing.
If you’re lucky enough to have an active following, Goodreads is a great place to host a discussion about your book—a way to create interest for those who haven’t read it yet. Goodreads is home to more than 20,000 book clubs and thousands more groups about nearly every topic imaginable, some of which regularly host chats with authors. Find a few groups that interest you and join them. After you’ve established yourself in the group, you can talk about your books and eventually contact the moderator about hosting a discussion of your book.
Goodreads’ unique advertising program allows you to target readers who are fans of other authors, for instance, those who write books similar to yours. Or you can target people who have rated your other books in hopes that if they liked one of your books, they’ll like others. These pay-per-click ads cost as little as $0.15 per click. (See more about paid advertising in Chapter 35.)
According to Goodreads, on average, 750 people enter each Goodreads book giveaway, and the pre-release giveaway can be an effective way to get your book read and reviewed. Each month, more than 1,500 titles are given away on Goodreads. But not all giveaways are created equal.
To get the most bang for your pre-release buck, consider running multiple giveaways, each open for three to four weeks. Your first giveaway could ideally start three months before publication. Then run a second giveaway a few weeks before publication. There is no limit to the number of giveaways you can run.
According to Goodreads, about 60 percent of giveaway winners review the books they win, so the more free books that are released, the more reviews they’ll get.
Social media is increasingly important to authors in that it allows them to have unfiltered communication with their intended audience, which in turn can lead to establishing valuable relationships. Increasing your author visibility through various social media sites allows you to meet readers, build your audience, and increase your discoverability to sell more books. Treat social media as a side job. Devote enough time to it to make it worthwhile—an hour or so a few times a week should suffice.
Finding the ideal social media channels is often an exercise in trial-and-error. For one person it might be Twitter; for someone else, it could be LinkedIn, Facebook, or Pinterest. Whatever the outlet, it’s more about the quality of the connections as opposed to the quantity that will in the long run sell more books.
I personally haven’t found social media sites very effective for the direct selling of books. Rather, I see them as a tool for building brand awareness, increasing website traffic, networking, and generally establishing credibility as an author. It’s all about exposure—using
social media wisely can increase your exposure and reap benefits in the long run.
Don’t expect much to happen if all you do is post your Amazon link on a social media page over and over again. Instead, use social media to get to know other writers, talk to industry people, establish relationships with people who can make a difference, and communicate with your readers and potential fans. Ask for their opinions, make an emotional connection with them. These ties can turn into your best advocates.
Try sharing blog posts on social media, ones that your following will find interesting. Give advice. Make recommendations. Talk about other authors. And talk about you and your books…in small doses. When in doubt, post pictures of your pets—everyone loves animals. The ten most popular social media platforms are arguably the following.
It takes time to build a following. It’s okay to have only a few hundred in the beginning. It’s a start. I believe it’s better to have fewer followers who care about what you’re saying and meaningfully interact with you than to have numerous followers who are just a number to boost your ego.
Facebook is by far the largest and most popular social media site, and many authors love it for getting exposure for themselves and their books.
First, let me clarify the distinction between a Facebook personal profile that people use for their personal lives versus a Facebook Page they use for their business. The following is directly from the official Facebook.com site:
Personal profiles are for non-commercial use and represent
individual people. Facebook Pages look similar to personal
profiles, but they offer unique tools for businesses, brands and
organizations. Facebook Pages are managed by people who
have personal profiles.
Creating a Facebook Page will keep your professional posts and other activities separate from your personal ones. Facebook Pages are viewable by anyone, even non-members, so your posts can get significant exposure with the right keywords. One of the great features of the Facebook Page is that when someone “likes” your page, it gets broadcasted to their contacts, potentially reaching many more people who may be interested in you or your books.
I like the 80/20 rule when it comes to authors posting on Facebook—80 percent of the posts are related to some aspect of the book industry and 20 percent are directly related to you and your books. The trick is to keep it interesting for your followers and potential book buyers 100
percent of the time.
For 20 percent of your posts—the ones directly related to you and your books—post milestones, book launches, impressive reviews, interviews, and book signings. People like to read something personal about you, so include interesting facts about yourself—how you got started, lessons learned along the way, what you do when you’re not writing. As long as you keep it interesting, it won’t be considered spammy.
For the remaining 80 percent of your posts, consider writing about fellow authors, sharing interesting facts about the book publishing industry, and offering advice.
Strike a good balance for the number of posts. Too few and people will think it’s not an active and current site. Too many and people may get annoyed. Be generous with including links, not only ones directly related to you but also those that may be interesting or helpful to your audience members. Direct your visitors to places they may not otherwise have visited.
It’s important to get people to “like” your Facebook Page, as search engines, such as Google, favor Facebook Pages with lots of “likes.” One way to get “likes” is for you to “like” other people’s pages and ask them if they will return the favor.
Facebook is all about creating relationships, whether you’re using your personal profile or professional page. It is not advisable to use Facebook strictly as a selling tool. Once you make connections and earn trust, sales will come naturally as a side benefit.
Twitter is another large social network, and its potential for promoting books is hard to deny. But beware—Twitter can be your best friend or your worst nightmare, or maybe both. Here are what I consider the positive features and precautions for this social media outlet.
It’s super easy to use.
You can reach your target audience with the use of hashtags.
Because you are limited to 280 characters, your messages are forced to be concise, therefore having a higher probability for someone reading them than if they were long and drawn out.
Authors can support each other by retweeting posts, enlarging the audience.
Like most other social media platforms, maximizing your effectiveness on Twitter can turn into a full-time job.
How frequently you tweet and retweet is a balancing act. Too infrequent and your followers wonder if you’re serious about what you’re doing. Too frequent and your followers feel like they’re being spammed.
You have to consistently get more creative to get your tweets to stand out.
Sometimes the 280-character limit gets in the way of saying everything you want to say in a single post.
You can start by making a list of the authors and experts in your genre and see who follows them, as these are likely the same people you want for your following. Use Twitter’s recommendations on whom to follow. Twitter creates this list based on whom you’ve followed, so if you follow people in the writing industry and readers, that’s mostly whom you’ll see on the list.
What Facebook does for social networking, LinkedIn does for business-oriented networking. With more than 50 million members worldwide, LinkedIn provides a vast pool of valuable networkers and potential buyers for your books. Just as you will want to create interesting
posts for your blog and Facebook Page, you will want to do the same on LinkedIn. But, again, you don’t want to make your LinkedIn site into a hard-sell endeavor. That will likely turn people off.
Use LinkedIn for offering interesting articles, making announcements, reaching out for advice, and offering advice. Increase your visibility by encouraging discussions and comments. Offer freebies. Create contests. Make it fun—even though it’s business, people still like a little fun.
This is a site where users collect images by “pinning” them to separate boards based on themes, such as books to read. It is different from other social media sites in that the focus is more on making connections with a like-minded community and curating their boards than on “likes” and “follows.” It works for authors because people use it like a search engine. For example, they might search for “literary fiction,” and my book covers will pop up…okay, along with hundreds of others. But throw “Chicago” in the mix, and my book covers get pretty good exposure. And Pinterest allows you to interact with other Pinterest users and build a community that can add value to your platform.
This social network—with the slogan “Real-life sharing rethought for the web”—incorporates “circles” (groups of people, such as family, friends, office colleagues, or people who share a particular interest); “hangouts” (video-chat option); “huddles” (text messaging in group chats), “instant uploads” (option to send pictures and videos); “streams” (news updates); and “sparks” (topics that you want to discuss with others).
Tumblr is another site where you can connect with others who share your interests and post text, photos, GIFs, and videos.
Owned by Facebook, Instagram is a social media app that allows users to share photos and videos from a smartphone. Anyone who creates an Instagram account has a profile and a news feed. When you post a photo or video on Instagram, it is displayed on your profile. Other users
who follow you will see your posts in their own feed, which makes it an interesting marketing tool for authors.
SCAM ALERT: Beware of the dark side of social media—it’s a place where scammers abound, and it’s extremely easy for them to find you on social media and direct their message to you personally. For example, I often see ads for creating tweets or gaining followers for you that are guaranteed to reach millions. The problem is that the millions they are referring to are fake Twitter accounts. Scam artists play on your weaknesses and ignorance. Are all social media service providers bad? Of course not. But many are. Learn how to spot them. Each social media site has its share of trolls, catfish, and haters. Some sites are better than others when it comes to protecting its members against such undesirables, and each has a means of reporting abuse.