26 March 2012

A Guide to Getting Your Self-Published Book Seen (by any means possible)

Writing a book is hard work but what’s even harder is getting your book seen by readers amidst the hundreds of thousand of books already on the market.

Authors who have been signed by publishers or agents have a helping hand when it comes to marketing and advertising. These lucky authors will have publicists who make sure the next literary sensation is read by book reviewers and advertised in the press. This is usually accounted for in the marketing and advertising budget, and is one of the advantages of striking it lucky with a major publisher.

But what hope is there for those self-published writers who place their work on Amazon only to see their rankings plummet like a safe straight into the virtual bookstore bargain bin as the more savvy self-publishers employ sly, clever, and let’s face it, completely false advertising tricks designed to get their books seen? Here is a guide designed to get your self-published books seen or at least to keep the playing field level with the more experienced Amazon self-published authors.

Disclaimer: I have self-published on Amazon but have never used any of these methods to promote my work except the free promotional days (see additional disclaimer below). And with this in mind I do not recommend or advocate these methods. Then again, as the saying goes – whatever works. It’s not as if Amazon is going to stop writers self-publishing because they use certain advertising methods to promote their work. Amazon is a business you know.

Additional Disclaimer: of course I haven’t, honest.

Amazon’s Free Promotion Days.

Writers who sign up with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing Select (KDP) have the ability to offer their ebooks for free for a specific number of days. The promotion means that readers can purchase the writer’s work for free during the specified promotional days. This does seem to help books climb higher in the Amazon rankings. When I tested the free promotion on my short stories I did jump up to number 20 on Amazon’s Free Bestseller’s rank. As soon as the promotion ended however, my rankings did plummet back down again to around number 150,000.

The downside to the promotion is that writers are giving their work away for free. The upside is that these free books can help to garner those all important, ranking increasing, reader reviews. Around 600 copies of my short stories were taken when I used the free promotion, I didn’t receive one review, bastards!! This may go to prove the saying “if you are giving something away for free, people may take it too lightly” – actually that might not be the saying at all but it’s along those lines.

Manipulate those Bestseller Rankings

There has been a lot of controversy over Amazon rankings, and according to some writers these rankings are fairly easy to manipulate. In fact, a book called The Day the Kindle Died by Thomas Hertog, published on Amazon, allegedly gives an analysis on just how easy it is to manipulate Amazon’s bestseller rankings in order to get your book to the number one spot. Hertog claimed that he managed to hit the number one bestseller ranking in the personal finance list after selling only 32 copies in 45 days.

At the moment, Hertog’s book only has five reviews on Amazon, none of them complimentary. Writers who want to know if the rankings can be manipulated and how to do it need only shell out three bucks for the book. Interestingly, readers who did buy Hertog’s book (and I’m maybe not too off the mark in suggesting it was purchased by some self-published writers) also bought the book How I Sold 1 Million ebooks in Five Months by John Locke. No investigative journalism awards will be given to those who figure out the connection between these two books.

Get on Amazon’s Community Forums

Amazon’s community forums, this is where it’s all happening. It’s where writers come to share knowledge and promote their work. It’s also the place where certain writers use methods to get their books seen including:-

The Like Me, I’ll Like You False Advertising Method

One writer started a message thread in the community forums stating that every other writer who ‘liked’ her Amazon book page would get a like back in return. This initially sounds okay until you realize that the forum poster is getting a large amount of likes on her page while everyone else who takes part gets one like each.

This not so genius marketing trick does also seem like false advertising. People are actually ‘liking’ a book they have not read, which in turn gives a false impression to any reader who comes across her Amazon page. But it’s a writer eat writer world out there. I mean, valuing customers, building up a readership? These things mean nothing when you have a book to sell. It’s no longer a case of publish or perish, it’s sell or perish, goddamit.

Fake Amazon Reviews

Fake reviews certainly piss off a lot of self-published authors on the Amazon Community Forum boards. It seems that some writers are – shock, horror, stunned silence – using Twitter, Facebook, blogs etc to promote their books and solicit reviews from those within their social network. Some writers will even go as far as to rope in their family and friends to read their books and post flattering reviews -will their trickery know no end?

Again, this could be seen as false advertising if the reviewers have not actually read the book. But let’s not kid ourselves; most self-published writers have to do this when they are starting off if they don’t want to be stuck at the very bottom of the ranking list. It’s lonely and dark down there at the bottom of the list beside the Catlover’s Calendar ebook, and if you can’t even get your friends and family to buy and read your book you would be as well giving them away for free.

Cause Some Controversy

Causing controversy can help to boost your rankings. Say something stupid, be politically incorrect, post a picture on your Amazon writer profile of when you once attended that Ku Klux Clan meeting or Young Republican’s Party. Doing so will probably bring in racists or right wing readers – don’t knock it, a reader is a reader. When people start attacking you, feign complete bewilderment and say that the photograph or the controversial statement you made was taken out of context or was placed there by some devious hacker or even worse, some other jealous writer as part of a long running smear campaign. By then you will have the desired publicity, it’s a proven winner and has always worked for politicians.

Of course none of these methods actually guarantee books sold or readers won. Self-publishing is simple but actually finding an audience and selling books is not so cut and dry, no matter what John Locke or Thomas Hertog say in their books. Plus, just in case you forgot, there is also that little matter of writing the book in the first place – the road to fame, fortune and Oprah’s book club is never easy.

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