Thursday, May 29, 2014

Amazon Book Optimization Tip #5 - Choose Keywords That Attract Buyers

The easiest way to understand keywords is to think of them as mini billboards that drive searchers to your books.

Amazon has several areas where you can add keywords to optimize traffic to your book.

1) The book title and subtitle
2) The book description
3) The search keywords you enter when you upload your book

If you’re totally new to keyword optimization, your first question is probably where do you find keywords to describe your book?

A lot of the “experts” send you to the Google Keywords tool, but that really isn’t necessary. What we’re trying to do here is optimize your book for Amazon. The best way to do that is to discover actual search terms for your book used by readers on Amazon.

Nine times out of ten, I select most of my search terms using the Amazon search bar. It shows me the terms readers are using to find similar books on Amazon.

If I’m writing a Kindle book, I go to the Amazon search bar, click on the arrow at the left-hand side, and select Kindle Store. The first thing I’m going to type in is my general search term. In this case, I’ll say “eBay.”

What pops up is –

. eBay in Kindle Store
. eBay in all departments
. eBay in Apps for Android
. eBay selling
. eBay for Dummies
. eBay .com
. eBay business
. eBay garage sale
. eBay home
. eBay books
. eBay store
. eBay 2014

These are the search terms potential readers are going to click on. eBay for Dummies and eBay 2014 can’t be used in your seven search terms because they are titles of books in the category. It is against Amazon’s TOS to use book titles or author names in your search keywords.

Looking over the rest of the list I would use eBay selling, eBay business, eBay garage sale, eBay books, and eBay store.

Next type in “eBay” followed by each letter of the alphabet, and cull out search terms you think would be relevant to your book.

When I did this here are some of the other keywords I came up with –

. eBay Amazon
. eBay arbitrage
. eBay buying and selling
. eBay Basics
. eBay consignment
. eBay Clothing
. eBay drop shipping
. eBay guide
. eBay how to
. eBay income
. eBay power seller
. eBay shipping

This gives us seventeen solid keywords readers searching for Kindle books are actually using. You can further validate these keywords by looking at book titles and descriptions.

Type “eBay” into the Amazon search bar, and select the first book. Go down to the product details section. Most of the books will be ranked in two or three categories. Select the category labeled eBay, and this will take you into the eBay bestsellers.

Look through the titles and descriptions of the books listed, and you can easily determine which keywords other authors determined to be most relevant. Use this info to narrow down your search terms.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Writing Effective Book Descriptions

It’s Memorial Day, and you know what that means?

Summer’s just around the corner. And, with it come the hot weather doldrums. Book sales slowdown. Sometimes they stop all together.

That got me to thinking it’s probably time to dust off my book covers, and start sprucing up my book descriptions. I spent this weekend rewriting all my book descriptions.

Most times when I publish a new book, I’ll grab a few quotes, and add a couple of lines to tie them all together. Sometimes it works. Other times, what I come up with can sound disjointed.

I decided to start from scratch this time, and take an all new approach. Part of that included using more HTML Code to highlight my descriptions. I used a lot of Amazon orange and bold black. The result really makes the descriptions stand out.

I started every description with either a bold black headline using the <H1> code, or else with two or three lines using Amazon orange <H2>.

Here’s the description I used for my book, How to Make Money Selling Old Books & Magazines Online.

There’s a lot of information out there about how to sell books on eBay

But there’s nothing quite like this

I’m going to show you how to tear apart old books and magazines, repackage them for sale on eBay, and how you can easily turn $15.00 into $250.00. 

Sounds impossible, doesn’t it?

I know all of my friends and relatives thought I’d lost my marbles when I told them what I do for a living. And, you can hardly blame them. 

Hey there. My name is Nick Vulich. Most people online know me as history-bytes. Over the last fifteen years I’ve made a living tearing apart old books and magazines and reselling them on eBay. 

Yes! You heard that right. 

I remove magazine articles, prints, and advertisements from old books and magazines, and resell them to ready buyers on eBay. 

I know it sounds kind of nuts. But, over the last fifteen years, I’ve sold over thirty thousand magazine articles alone. I’ve shipped them to China, Russia, Mexico, India, Australia, just about every country in the world. 

It’s an amazing business

Think about it for a minute. I take old books and magazines that libraries and individuals are ready to throw away, tear them apart, and sell one to ten page chunks to ready buyers around the world. 

And, here’s the best part! 

They pay me $15.00 to $50.00 for each of them. Several have sold for over $250.00 each. 

How crazy is that! 

If you’ve ever considered selling books or paper collectibles on eBay, this short guide can help you better understand

·         How to source product
·         how to write descriptions that sell
·         How to price your items for maximum profit

Selling vintage magazine articles, prints, and advertisements can be one of the most lucrative gigs on eBay. 

Here’s the thing. Even if this isn’t the product for you, the ideas presented in this book can kick-start your thinking about what you can sell on eBay. 

It’ll get you started looking at common everyday items around you and thinking, what if
·         Package these items together
·         Break it apart, and sell each piece separately
·         Or, what if I ….

You get the picture. People are selling just about everything imaginable on eBay. The problem is they’re all fighting to sell the same stuff, and as a result prices – and profits, go down. 

If you want to make real money on eBay – You need to change the rules
Create an all new game, where you’re calling the shots
Be an original, and make more money than you ever thought possible!


What I think makes it work is the description sets my book apart all of the way through. I poke fun at myself, telling potential readers “all of my friends and relatives thought I’d lost my marbles when I told them what I do for a living.”

After telling them I must be crazy, I add, “If you’ve ever considered selling books or paper collectibles on eBay, this short guide can help you better understand…” And, I explain what they’re going to learn in three bullet points.

This is something you want to do in all of your descriptions. You want to lay out the benefits people will receive from reading your book.

And then, I make one last pitch – “Here’s the thing. Even if this isn’t the product for you, the ideas presented in this book can kick-start your thinking about what you can sell on eBay.”

It’s like a whack on the side of the head.

I tell potential buyers, even if old books and magazines aren’t your thing, that’s not important. It’s the concept.

And, that’s where the last three lines in Amazon orange come into play.

If you want to make real money on eBay – You need to change the rules
Create an all new game, where you’re calling the shots
Be an original, and make more money than you ever thought possible!


I’d like to tell you it’s the greatest description ever, and it got me selling a hundred books a day, but the verdict isn’t in yet. I just posted this description.

What I like about it, is it talks directly to potential readers. It gives them a good look at what’s inside the book. It tells them three major benefits they’re going to take from the book. And, finally it has a strong call to action.

What I really like is the look and effect from stacking the Amazon orange type. I think it helps build authority.

For shoppers scouting out new books on a PC, I think the look is as important as the description. If they’re shopping on a Kindle, of course, the Amazon orange, and the big bold headlines don’t display. Because of that, you really need to make the copy count.

It’s got to reach out and grab potential readers.
It’s got to tell a good story.
It’s got to get them excited.
And, more importantly it’s got to make them press the buy button.

What do you think? Does this concept work for you, or do I need to head back to the drawing board?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Amazon Book Optimization Tip # 4 - Write a Compelling Book Description

Congratulations. You’ve done it. You’ve written an awesome title. You created a dazzling book cover. Now you’ve just got to close the deal.

How do you turn browsers into buyers?

A compelling book description can get readers drooling for more.

There’s no right or wrong way to write a book description.

Some authors start off by asking a question. Others present a dilemma either their reader or their main character may find themselves in. Still, others summarize their story. Any of these approaches can work.

What you want to do is draw readers in. Get them hooked on your story, or in the case of nonfiction, on the solution you’re presenting. Make it interesting. Create suspense. Make sure they want to read more.

How do you do that?

Ask questions.

Have you ever wondered what life would be like if you took the other road? The one your parents, teachers, and friends told you would put you on a collision course with the others? What if you veered just a little off course, for just a few minutes? Would it change your destiny forever?

Make your case as an authority figure.

Fifteen years as an eBay Power Seller and Top Rated Seller gives Nick a unique combination of experience and knowledge to guide new and experienced sellers through the maze we call eBay.

Introduce your main character.

Max Power stood at the crossroads of now and forever. If he followed her into the time portal everything behind him would disappear forever. If he took the leap, his future was uncertain. All Max knew for sure was the girl had saved his life back on Zeta 9. Now she was offering him a future as uncertain as the Zondervan Divide.

Compare your writing to a famous author.

Reviewers say my writing is a cross between Stephen King and Peter Straub with a touch of Kurt Vonnegut thrown in for comedy relief. Read Death Race 3000, and find out for yourself why the Zombie Jesus challenged the Werewolf Devil. Laugh your ass off. Puke your guts out. Run the full gamut of your emotions. You may never want to read another book again – Ever

Saturday, May 17, 2014

First Spanish Edition Books Published on Babelcube

My first few translated books from Babelcube have started appearing on numerous bookseller sites over the last few weeks. I've seen one of them in the iStore; three in Barnes and Noble; and the first one showed up in the Kindle store a few minutes ago.

I finally see hope here.

For a while, I thought Babelcube was a waste of time, effort, and money. But now that the books are published and showing up on more sites, I'm getting excited to see how they will sell.

Right now I've got three books published in Spanish, one more in the works in Spanish, and one in Italian. I'm sort of disappointed no one has offered to translate them into other languages, especially German, Japanese, and Chinese, but maybe that's coming.

Maybe one of those translators will read this post? If you do, hop on over to Babelcube and make an offer on one or two of my books.

I'll try and get another post up about using Babelcube in the next week or two. In the meantime, I thought I'd share images of my Spanish covers with you.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Have you tried to Crowdfund Your Book?

I'm trying something new to fund research on my new book - Crowd Funding.

My new book is a history of the Black Hawk War of 1832. It's going to involve extensive travel and research, and as such is going to take much longer to write than most of my other books. Plus, it's going to be scads more expensive. I've got dozens of old books and documents to track down; pictures to study, and travel. My goal is to visit all of the old stockades along the Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin frontiers.

It's going to be fun, but oh-so-much work.

I'm asking for $7500. Odds are it's going to cost a whole lot more, but I don't want to sound greedy. So I cut the amount I think I need by about two-thirds. If it works, maybe I can go back for a second round of financing.

The two major crowdsourcing sites I'm familiar with are Go Fund Me and Kick Starter.

I examined them both, checking what other authors have done and finally settled on Go Fund Me. My major motivation was if you don't raise the whole amount, they still give you what you is pledged. Kick Starter cancels the whole project, and you don't get a dime if your don't raise your entire target amount. I could see me missing the mark by ten bucks and winding up with a bag of rocks (Just like Charlie Brown on Halloween). Losing all that moola would break my little heart!

The way it works is you register with Go Fund Me, share a little bit of information about yourself, and describe your project.

You can also include Reward Levels or a Wish List of items you want people to donate. It's a really cool concept, and I considered adding a wish list, but I finally settled on using Reward Levels. I'm not sure I chose the best reward levels. Mine are a copy of the Kindle book, an autographed copy of the paperback book mentions on the donor page, or in the book dedication. And, the big one, is a special hardbound edition of the book - limited to just five autographed copies - depending upon how many people offer support at this level.

I may not get a plugged nickel in support. Who knows? But, it's a really cool concept, and I think it has real potential for authors and artists. I know Sean Platt and Johnnie Truant authors of Write. Publish. Repeat. recently raised over $50,000 for a project using Kick Starter. Check out their Kick Starter here.

You can visit my project by clicking the Go Fund Me link in the side column of this blog.

I'd love to hear what you think about my project or the idea of Crowd Funding in general. Leave a few comments below.


Update 6/04/2014

What a dud!

I think I had twenty-five or thirty looks, but no pledges of support. Maybe I chose an off topic that no one was interested in. Perhaps I needed to spice it up a bit, throw in a few kittens, puppy dog eyes or something. Whatever the case, I will be funding the Black Hawk War project on my own.

I do have one more idea I'm trying for Kick Starter.

I'm going to have to liven it up a bit. Add a bunch of pictures, some video, and some really clever content.

What I'm thinking is travel, blogging, and eventually a book on my experiences.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Amazon Book Optimization Tip # 3 - Make Your Cover Sizzle

Readers are going to be attracted to your book by three things – the title, the cover, and the buzz surrounding it. 

Whatever you do, don’t design your cover yourself. No matter how good you think you are, or how great you think your idea is, don’t design your own cover. Don’t let your best friend or baby sister do it either. Your cover is too important to be left to chance.

I gotta admit I’m a serial Fiverr. I’ve outsourced 179 graphic design gigs on Fiverr in the last six months. Some of the work you receive is so-so, but a lot of the gigs posted on Fiverr deliver professional quality designs. The results, like anything else, depend upon the effort you put into it.

I use RRoxx for most of my covers. He does great work, and my projects are always delivered on time. Here’s the link to his gig if you want to check it out

You can also outsource your cover on Elance, 99 Designs, or odesk. Each of these sites has experienced graphic designers who can help you design a professional cover to help sell your book.

The key to getting a great deign is to know what you want before you select a designer. Look at other books in your genre. You don’t want to steal anyone else’s design, but normally there’s a common theme running through many of the book covers. If you find something you like, download that cover so you can send it to your designer. Tell them you like this cover, but you have a few ideas to change it up for your own. You can also send your designer three or four covers that you like to let them know this is the style you’re thinking of.

Sometimes I know exactly what I want, and I’ll put together a short sketch. Other times, I’ll let the designer know I have no idea what I want. When this is the case, I normally have four or five designers create a concept for me. If none of the designs that come back are exactly what I’m looking for, I’ll try again. Sometimes I might like different portions of several covers, and I’ll have one of the designers put it all together for me.

Most recently, I’ve been more concerned about controlling the images used on my book covers. Some designers on Fiverr have an up-charge to purchase clip art for you, but you never know. If they grab a piece of art without the proper license, it’s your butt that’s on the line for a lawsuit. Another issue I’ve run into is I don’t remember which designer I used to make some of my earlier covers. This creates problems when I release audio books and paperbacks because I don’t know where to purchase clip art rights for the newer versions of those covers.

Because of this, I’ve begun sourcing most of the clip art for my covers myself before giving the project to a designer. This way I know, I’m legal and hold the proper licenses for all of the artwork used on my covers. I get most of my clip art from Can Stock Photo, Their prices are reasonable and range from $2.50 to $10.00 per use.

I don’t claim to be a lawyer or anything, but keep in mind, you need to pay each time you use a piece of clipart. So if your book is available as an eBook, paperback, and audio book, you need to purchase the rights to the clipart three separate times.

After I’ve picked out the images to use, I put together specific instructions for the cover designer.

I would like a book cover for an Audible audio book. The cover size is 2500 x 2500 pixels. It needs to be a perfect square, and all of the text and images need to be fitted to it. You cannot stretch out the original book cover to fit the space. They will reject the cover.
I am enclosing the original clipart, and a copy of the original book cover. Please keep as close to the original design as possible.

Be sure to specify the exact cover size. Even when you’re ordering an eBook cover, every designer seems to deliver it in slightly different dimensions. When you order a Create Space cover, make sure you let the designer know it needs to be delivered as a .pdf file, and that it needs to conform to the Create Space sizing guidelines. I’ve had several designers deliver the paperback cover as a jpeg, and as a result, it was unusable.

If you’re ordering a paperback cover for Create Space you need to specify the trim size (example: 6 x 9), the paper style (cream or white), the page style (black and white or color), and how many pages are in your book. Your designer requires all of this information to properly size your cover. You will also need to supply any text or illustrations for the back cover blurb. If you want printing on the spine, you need to specify the text. 

FYI: Your book needs to be at least 120 pages to have room for a printed message on the spine.

If you’re not sure about your cover or your book concept, it can be a good idea to have several covers ready to go. That way if your book gets off to a slow start you can switch covers and see which one does a better job.

Review of How to Write, Publish, and Promote Your Book (Without Spending Any Money) by Derek Murphy

I just finished reading How to Write, Publish, and Promote Your Book (Without Spending Any Money) by Derek Murphy.

Overall, it's not a bad book. It has a lot of good information for aspiring Kindle publishers. It also has some dubious information that could get new writers in trouble. The biggest one of these is suggesting it's ok to pay someone on Fiverr or elsewhere to review your book. Buying reviews is against Amazon's Terms of Service (TOS).

It's your book. Do what you feel is necessary, but understand if Amazon catches wind of your fudging a review, they can shut you down if they decide it's time to make an example of someone.

OK. That's the bad stuff. Now let's talk about what I liked about the book.

What I like the best is Murphy is realistic. Early in the book, he tells readers "not all books will be successful." If you've published some books on Kindle, you already know this. Unfortunately, too many * Kindle Success * books make it seem like all you have to do is publish your book, and it'll take off like a NASA space shuttle.

Hate to tell you, but that's not going to happen.

The average self-published author sells a hundred copies of his book - if he's lucky. If he's not so lucky, maybe mom, and Uncle Charlie will buy a copy or two.

I've got books that sell hundreds of copies a month. I've got books that sell three to five copies a month. It happens. Some of them sell better in paperback than as eBooks. What's really strange is - there are a few that I can't give away in any format, and they sell twenty-five to fifty copies per month as audio books.

Key takeaway.  Don't give up. Experiment, and discover the right format to sell your book.

Another point Murphy makes is the genre you write in is a major factor in your success or lack thereof. So if you want to sell a lot of books, pick your categories carefully.

I'm going to give one more personal example here. Most of my books are in the eBay and Online Auction category. A lot of days I have three to five books ranked in the top twenty in their category, yet I only sell ten to twenty Kindle books a day.

What's that tell you? It's nice to have some best selling books, but the category or genre they're in is going to limit your sales. One of my books ranked number three in the eBay category today with five sales.

Take my advice with a grain of salt, but understand - If you want to sell books, you need to write about topics that lots of people are buying books in.

Murphy also gives several good points to help spice up your writing. I don't want to give too much away, but here's one that will help anyone write a more engaging book. Tell stories. Include historical legends, personal anecdotes, and what if's. Stories draw readers into what you're telling them and make it easier for them to relate to your book.

Overall, an excellent book - dragged down a little by the author's advice to buy reviews.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Amazon Book Optimization Tip #2 - Select a Killer ATitle

Select a killer title. Too many writers try to stuff a load of keywords into their title hoping they can game the system. Search engines may find bloated keyword titles enticing, but real readers are turned off by titles too big to fit on the book cover. They can’t remember them. They don’t understand them. They don’t know what to think about books that use them.

Short is better.

One to three words is the perfect length for a title. It’s easy to remember. There’s very little chance for confusion. As a result, you’re going to sell more books.
Check out the following five titles. They’re short. They’re memorable. They do a good job of revealing what the book is about. And, if I didn’t mention it, they’re selling a lot of books.

. Story $elling by Nick Nanton & J. W. Dicks
. eBay Seller Secrets by Ann Eckhart
. Declutter your Inbox by S. J. Scott
. Killing Jesus by Bill O’Reilly
. Email Marketing Blueprint by Steve Scott

Compare that to these titles.

. 7 Steps to Sales Scripts for B2B Appointment Setting by Scott Channell
. How I Make Money Every Day Automatically When Others Sell on eBay by Xavier Zimms
. Author’s Quick Guide to Making Money with your 99¢ Kindle Books by Kristen Eckstein
. How to Write and Publish your Book on Amazon and on Kindle by Eldes Saullo
. How to Write a Kindle Book that People Want to Buy before Breakfast by James Bedford

Use your main keyword in your title. Use a combination of two or three keywords. Don’t string together a series of two or three keyword phrases in your title. It doesn’t make sense.

Instead, write a short title. Follow it up with an awesome subtitle that tells readers a little more about the subject matter of your book. Once again, keep the subtitle short. Less than ten words are best. Include your most relevant keywords in your title and subtitle. Place your other search terms where they belong – in your book tags, and in your description.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Interview with Author Steve Scott

I have a special treat for everybody today. Steve Scott has taken time out to share some tips for Kindle publishers. I think you will find what he has to say both interesting and actionable.

I interviewed Matt Stone a few months ago, and when I asked him what it was like to work with Steve Scott, he told me “Steve is an efficiency machine.” How do you respond to that?

I guess that's a good thing.  Honestly, I don't think I work any harder than most people.  The difference is I believe in creating schedules for writing and completing a minimum word count on a daily basis.  Before I do anything else during a workday, I make sure to complete my writing.  I feel that if authors applied this type of structure in their day, they could easily crank out a consistent level of content.

Most books about self-publishing talk about price pulsing and optimizing your book’s selling price to make the most money possible. Whenever you talk about pricing, you talk about keeping your price low, and how important it is to offer your readers value for their dollar. Can you talk about that philosophy a little, and how it has paid off for you?

The mistake that I see many authors make is to squeeze the maximum amount of money on a single purchase.  I believe that providing value, at a good price, is the best long-term strategy for getting repeat customers.  You see, your goal shouldn't be to make a bunch of money on one book.  You want to give a valuable enough reading experience that a reader will come back and buy the other books in your catalog.  So while I don't make as much with an upfront purchase, I'm confident that I make more money in the long-term because single purchase readers will go on to check out (i.e. buy) other offers.