Part 21: upload your MOBI ebook to Amazon and write the marketing copy which will help to sell it.
Compared to the rest of the publishing process, uploading to Amazon is a fairly soothing experience. It’s the one area where an author’s hand is held rather firmly by Amazon, so instead of a blow by blow account, I’ll deal with the areas that I think don’t have enough coverage. There’s also a very friendly primer over at CJ’s Kindle Tutorials.
Profile security 101
While it’s against Amazon’s terms of service to have multiple seller accounts, as far as I can tell, it’s okay to maintain a separate buyer and seller account. While no sales data is linked to your Author Central account, people can search for your name, or an email address which you may use for Amazon (e.g. email@example.com), and view the items placed on your wish list.
If you write Christian picture books and your Amazon wish list is full of gimp masks and books on advanced flogging, don’t be surprised if the occasional meddler takes exception to your hobbies (or turns up on your doorstep with a parcel and a smile). If it’s something you prefer to stay on the down low, then set up your accounts to protect your privacy.
Kindle Direct Publishing terms and conditions
You won’t find many specifics on the KDP terms and conditions, and for a very good reason – it’s actually a breach of the contract to publicly discuss the contract. Admittedly, the chance that Amazon will pull out the banhammer because you’ve talked legalese on an obscure website (like this one) is remote; however, one should manage risks. One writer who has ponied up on the details is CJ Greene, and it’s an interesting read. Check it out.
Is the Amazon author contract fair? It’s really up to the individual author to do their homework and wade through the fine print. However, one reason that I believe the contract is fair, as far as publishing contracts go, is the lack of real outrage and horror stories out there. If there is one thing the internet is good for, apart from humorous pictures of cats, it’s generating sudden tsunamis of outrage when The Man appears to be taking Joe/ Joelle Everyperson for a ride – yet there seems to be very little evidence of that occurring out there re: Amazon.
Writing marketing copy for your book
As an indie publisher, you are also a advertiser/ marketer/ public relations specialist. You must produce compelling copy as part of the process of converting browsers to buyers. Think of the possible steps involved in this process of conversion, which ends with a customer handing you money for your story.
Assume there are two types of customer (1) those you have directed to your ebook link via external marketing (and who already have an intrinsic motivation to buy your book) and (2) the general throng of customers browsing Amazon at any one time. We’ll concentrate on the second group, remembering that, at any of the following stages, the browser may decide they’ve had enough and will end the purchasing process. Let’s assume the preliminaries: that they are after an Amazon ebook and they own a Kindle.
1. Keyword search: do you have good keywords? Can browsers find your book?
2. Amazon list position: is your book buried too deep in its categories? What can you do to improve its ranking?
3. Description and other ad copy: does this engage the browser? Can it convey a message and entice further reading, all in a matter of seconds?
4. Cover thumbnail: is it legible? Attractive? Will they click on it?
5. Large cover: does it generate interest? Will they read the preview?
6. Preview: is it compelling reading? Is it free of typos and grammatical errors?
7. Price: does your book offer what the browser is looking for at a price they are willing to pay?
8. All of these stages match the browser’s expectations and they decide to purchase your ebook.
The advertising copy occupies a pretty significant rung in the action of buying. The good news is that most writers will already have already written book advertising copy in the form of the manuscript submission letters they have sent to publishers. However, make sure to consider your audience – i.e. you’re not trying to sell the book to industry professionals, you’re trying to sell a story to readers, so go easy with the publishing jargon. Make them identify with the book’s protagonist and problem, and leave them pondering a question about the book.
The book description
Hazel Edwards once told me that a good way to write a marketing ‘blurb’ for your book is to think of a 7-10 word synopsis – that is, explain your book to someone who knows nothing about it, in ten words or less. Then rewrite that as a 30 word synopsis, adding a little more essential detail. Finally, write a 100 word synopsis. By the process of boiling every last shred of your story off to find that seven word skeleton, you will discard the extraneous clutter from your blurb and write something which excites and motivates the reader.
Another way to think of this is to imagine that you are at a party, standing with a group of people you barely know. The conversation is flying back and forth at pace, each person subtly jostling for pecking order. One of your friends mentions to all present that you’ve written a book, and while you subconsciously wish them a variety of vile endings, someone else (inevitably) asks, “So … what’s your book about?” You don’t have time to launch into big explanations, because that’s not the cadence this exchange is running at. Instead, you have to sum up a book in one pithy sentence, capturing the essence of it while leaving a hook for people to anchor their replies on.
My 8 word synopsis for Saving Davey Gravy
A book about nicknames and Aussie Rules. And chickens.
With no room to manoeuvre, I selected three story elements from
My 102 word synopsis
In the first week of Grade 6, average schoolkid Davey Grant has to deal with one furious teacher, two new nicknames, three psycho chickens and his Mum nearly going into full-on, please-run-screaming-from-the-building meltdown mode – all in time to beat the invincible Port Blue in the first game of the Aussie Rules football season. Can he make it?
Saving Davey Gravy is an upper primary/ middle grade chapter book for children aged 8-11, containing fifteen snappy chapters and a guide to Aussie Rules football and Australian slang. With plenty of humour, sport and action, it is written to appeal to reluctant readers.
The nicknames, football and chickens are still there, but now I’ve tried to do five things:
1. Place the reader into the protagonist’s shoes. I’m guessing that most of us were ‘average’ schoolkids.
2. Once the reader is there, confront them with a short, fast list of the protagonist’s road of trials.
3. Inject a little of the story’s humour into the synopsis (well, hopefully).
4. Leave the reader pondering a question about the story – also referred to as a hook.
5. Focus the potential appeal of the book to a more narrow and therefore accurate market segment. I didn’t try to claim something wishy-washy like “this book will appeal to all younger readers”. Thinking as a consumer, I know I am bombarded with false claims in advertising every day – to the point where I block that advertising out and pay no attention to the product it’s attached to. Saving Davey Gravy probably isn’t going to appeal to a seven year old boy who’s really into horses or a fifteen year old girl who loves stories about the paranormal. By focusing the appeal, I’ve already had a small but steady stream of people approach me and say, “Hey, that sounds like something my kid would really like.”
Now, I could very well be doin’ it wrong. It’s an area I need to explore, so all I can say is: do your research. There are a vast array of online resources centred around blurb and synopsis writing: see places like BPS Books, Amy Wilkins, Leslie Sanders and The Passive Voice.
(As a side note, I love the tone of The Passive Voice. There have been some great publishing blogs in the past – Evil Editor, Miss Snark – nobody does a puppy-kicking, gout-afflicted curmudgeon quite like publishing veterans. If you find the way these people speak to be dismissive or hurtful, you should (in the immortal words of the Beastie Boys) check your head, because most often their advice is pure, unadulterated gold. Gold that has been treated with a light contact irritant, but gold nevertheless. Grow some skin and pay attention to these people.)
Oh, no, I’ve changed my mind
If you decide to change how you’ve written your book description, don’t try and change it via the KDP dashboard. If you do, you’ll have to republish your novel, which means it will be unavailable to sell for a period of 12-48 hours while it goes through the (automatic?) checks Amazon runs on uploaded novels.
Instead, you should change the descriptions via Author Central. Yes, that means that you have to make an Author Central profile. Go on, it’ll take you an hour at most, and will significantly improve the look of your book page.
Proceed to Part 22: ‘Uploading to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, part 2’, or return to the article index.
While I’ve endeavoured to provide you with accurate information, what is considered ‘accurate’ will change over time. If I’m wrong, or you’d like to ask a question or share your thoughts, I’d love to hear your take on things.