Category Archives: Internet ideas

Growing Beyond Your Local Area

Last week, I was talking to Sheldon Larmore, author of Be Quiet and Listen. It is the story of his family’s journey through the pain and loss that came through their son David and his will to live as long as possible with spina bifida. After he passed away, they set up a memorial fund to help children with disabilities, and they fund it with the proceeds from their book sales. Sheldon told me they have had great success and feedback locally, but they haven’t been able to get much going beyond that. He and his wife still speak at churches and civic groups at least once a month, which is still quite active. This is a common thing I hear from authors. How do you take that activity to the next level?

Moving your book beyond your local area involves personal appearances, which means the pace will need to be adjusted according to your availability, interest, and desire for doing them. The cost of travel will need to be taken into account as well. This works best when you have established a solid footing locally, so if you haven’t yet, do that first. With all those things in mind, here is the idea:

Whenever you go to a group to speak, ask them who they know in the next town that might benefit from having you come. Then contact those people and set up speaking engagements there, and so on. You can expand out as far as you want to travel. Work towards the major metropolitan areas because you can get in front of more people in less time that way.

The reasoning behind this is that the best way to spread a message is still by word of mouth. Technology has increased the reach for all of us, but it is still word of mouth that causes your audience to grow beyond your reach. So the question becomes, how do you increase word of mouth?

It starts by asking for it. Every time you speak, add a simple sentence to the end: “Tell everyone you know about this.” The fact is that most people won’t do that, but it’s just as much a fact that some will. And those who do will tell a lot of people. And some of those people have reach well beyond just their local area. See Readers, Fans, and Evangelists for more details on getting others to help you grow your audience.

It helps if you give them something to spread. This is where social media fits in. If you speak, start a YouTube channel. Get someone with an iPhone to record a video of you sharing 30-second to 1-minute bites of some of your best stuff. Post them as often as you can (weekly, monthly, etc.) Take the audio and turn it into a podcast. I’m no expert on any of those, but do a Google search of those terms and start educating yourself. If speaking is not your thing, you probably haven’t even read this far, but get better at it or get very good at blogging. You can learn how to do that here.

If you’re reading this thinking, “Man, this sounds like a lot of work!” Congratulations. You’re right! It was a lot of work for the Apostle Paul trying to spread the gospel of Jesus, too. Thankfully, we don’t have to put our feet to the ground (or our boats to the sea) as much as he did, but the attitude and work ethic are the same.

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Filed under Growing your platform, Internet ideas, Niche Marketing, Reputation building, speaking engagements, Uncategorized

Amazon’s tools are AMAZING!

You’ve probably heard me say that nearly 70% of books are sold online. And who do you suppose gets the majority of that business? If you said Amazon, you get the prize. If you’ve ever been to Amazon.com, you know that they sell everything. They started with books, but they sell everything that can possibly be sold. How in the world do you make your book stand out among the millions of products they have available?

Fortunately, Amazon has some handy tools that any enterprising author can use to increase the impulse buys that Amazon is so good at promoting.

There are two in particular that will help people looking for books like yours to find yours: customer reviews and tags. Ask everyone you know who has read the book to go to Amazon.com and do these things. All they need is a user account with Amazon, and they can write a customer review of your book. In describing the book, they will naturally use key words that Amazon and other search engines will then associate with your book. You can make sure they naturally use them by identifying some key words and asking them to use those words in their review if they see fit. You’re not writing the review for them, but you’re helping them use key words. Where do you get those key words?

This is the best part. The key words you give people to use in their reviews can come from the tags of other books that are similar to yours. Tags are words that customers associate with your book. Anyone who is logged in can add one or “vote” for an existing one. Look up the books from 2 or 3 authors whose books are like yours and see what tags they have associated with them. (Once you get to the book page, scroll down until you see the section called “Tags Associated with This Book.” It’s below all the reviews.)

In addition to using them for reviews, you can ask people to add and vote for these key words as tags on your book. I recently looked up the most commonly used tag on a popular fantasy novel. It was “epic fantasy” with just 114 votes. Here’s the key question: do you have more than 114 friends willing to tag your book with the most commonly used tag for books similar to yours? If so, then Amazon’s computers will see your book as more strongly associated with that term than that popular book you just looked up.

How does this matter?

Initially, it doesn’t make a huge difference. But have you ever logged in to Amazon.com and seen a welcome screen? It will say, “Based on your recent searches, you might like these items”, and it lists various products Amazon has on their site. How does it make these associations? By comparing the tags on the things you’ve looked at to the tags on other things. The more closely the tags on your book resemble the books you looked up, the more likely your book will show up when people who bought that book (or the movie based on it, or the coffee mug with main character’s face on it or the T-shirt) log in to Amazon. Now people who are VERY interested in your genre will start seeing your book every time they come to Amazon. Then those people will start buying your book through Amazon. That’s when another nice little bit of magic happens.

When people who have bought these other books also buy yours, your book will show up on those pages in the list titled “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought”. Your name will also show up in the lists called “Customers Also Bought Items By” and “What Do Customers Ultimately Buy After Viewing This Item”. At first it won’t be at the top of the list and people may have to click a link to find it, but the more people buy your book this way, the more likely it is to rise to the top.

The best part about this is that it doesn’t cost anyone a dime. You can open an account with Amazon without buying anything. (NOTE: Amazon does require you to have made a purchase with them at some point in time in order to post a review.)

Barnesandnoble.com has similar features on their sites, so you might be able to do the same things there. I haven’t done the research on them, so I don’t have any further details. I do know you can at least have people write reviews there.

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Use the internet to your advantage!

There are some things you can do that cost you nothing that can help you build a following for you book in your spare time without even leaving your house.

What magazines do you read or are you aware of on the subject of your book? Find the websites of these magazines, and look for their submissions guidelines. Sometimes there is a link for them, and sometimes you have to go to the “Contact Us” section. You could submit articles to them either that you write new or that are excerpts from your book. This is a great way to publicize the book. When you write articles, you often get to write your own bio, and you can include in the bio that you are the author of your book. You can even direct people to our website to buy it, where you get 40% of the retail price for every one sold. And sometimes magazines pay you for articles like this. In fact, the vast majority of people who earn their living writing are freelance writers. Their book is only a part of their income.

You can also find new magazines, blogs and forums where people have conversations about this subject. To find them, go to Google and type in some key words from your book followed by “magazine”, “blog” or “forum”. Blogs and forums are communities of people who gather around similar interests. One of the factors in Google’s rankings is the number of readers or participants, so a simple Google search like this will yield the best results on the first page. Join the community and post comments on blogs and responses to the forums. When you sign the response, sign it with your name and the title of your book under your name. Sometimes you can even include a link where people can buy your book. (Look for a box that says URL when you are posting your comments.) Since these people are as passionate about your subject as you are, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it and even make some new friends.

Another way to get your name out without leaving the house is to get Google to do some work for you. You can use Google alerts to make sure you’re on top of every news story that is related to your book. Terry Cordingley has written a great post about this: http://terrycordingley.blogspot.com/2010/03/google-alerts-publicists-secret-weapon.html

Do a little every day to get the word out about your book, and you’ll see success.

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Filed under Internet ideas, Reputation building