Amazon Marketing 101

When I was trying to think of what to blog tonight, I realized I never posted about the marketing tips I learned from Quinn Loftis, Ella James, and Eva Pohler at the UtopYA2014 conference in June. My notes are somewhat scattered (just like their owner!), but hopefully this info will help someone!

How to hit the Top Rated Lists without much effort and minimal sales:

Do a soft launch of 48 hrs- have a team of people buy it to start ranking & post reviews but the big Facebook & Twitter party is 2 days later-also helpful to make sure the manuscript looks right if you’re self publishing. Hint: Every time you have to reload your book on Amazon, you loose rankings. Refreshing also hurts ranking- use rank obsession.com– updated more frequently than other sites- & will send you new reviews. Tip: Don’t release on weekends & Tuesdays because Tues is when big houses publish & can’t compete with that & people are busy on the weekends.

 How to use tags and categories properly:

Amazon keywords: put them in your blurb- i.e. YA Romance, YA Trilogy. Google key words to find most searched keywords. If it’s already in your author bio, pick something else because it’s already metadated. Some things like paranormal romance will have way too many books to get noticed so be more specific. “Google ad words.” Optimize website with key words, too.

The importance of pricing:

Indie prices typically do best between 99 cents & $3.99- trainings readers to take a chance on you. Indies, you can make book free on Kindle if you make it free somewhere else like B&N & then they’ll price match. Once the last book in your trilogy or series is published, it’s a good idea to make your first book free through a bookbub ad. Keep your finger on the pulse by looking at the top 100 books in your categories.

Free advertising:

The best kind of free marketing is not advertising at all but just being present on social media sites with authentic interactions.

Have Calls to Action- 90% chance of people responding. Ex: Laura Howard’s Q of the Day on Facebook.

On Facebook- don’t just post blog automatically to your page- insert image and then write 1-3 lines of text with link at the end, because FB drives more traffic to you if you post like that. Also 30 second videos rank higher than anything else. Post natively to Twitter as well- will see a difference with your blog. Don’t pay to booster posts because then FB knows they can get you to pay instead of having them booster it for you.

Google Hangout for book club discussions and school visits around the country, etc: in it’s simplest form it’s a live YouTube. Under your Google Plus account, look at the button for it. Use Twitter hashtag for questions during the hangout – it can also be embedded to watch later. Under your Google pic in the box put your Twitter name & hashtag you’re using. It’s kind of like doing the author FB party but one step up. Do a theme for the hangout: like wearing your pj’s, Star Wars, or anything fandom your fans would get excited about. You should be a fan of what your readers are fans of & interact with those hashtags on Twitter. For example, you can tweet during the favorite TV shows but remember time differences and don’t give away spoilers.

Facebook, Tumblr, & Twitter are the big social media forums right now. If you’re new to Tumblr (like me, follow me here), look at YA authors Cassandra Clare & John Green– rock stars at Tumblr!! All YA authors should be on it. Be creative and have fun! Example idea: Costume ideas for your book characters. Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest are also great sites for interacting. Just remember that social media is to congratulate, celebrate, & “Wow look at this!” Not for “Now hear this!” Stay away from religion and politics when you’re in author mode.

Love it or hate it, Amazon is the world’s largest bookstore. What do you do to market your book?

By the way, thank you for all the tweets last week while 18 Things had it’s 2-day 99 cent sale! When my publisher ran a 99 cent sale six months ago, it got down to #114 overall on all of Amazon and was #1 in 3 categories! Not quite as good this time around, but #169 overall & #1 in 2 categories isn’t too shabby (and still holding there since Thursday)! And it’s given a boost in sales to 18 Truths as well! Muchos gracias, for my early birthday present, amigos ❤

1 best seller in YA Paranormal

Advertisements

Too Much Excitement for One Week!

School starting, my first mother/daughter column, a national magazine book review, a 99 cent sale for 18 Things , and my birthday . . . everything is coming up roses this week 🙂 Let me tell you that there were many times I was severely depressed during my growing up years. My 14yo daughter started high school this week (at my old stomping ground where I met hubs when I was 14!), and as he reminisced about those years with her, I realized I hardly remembered any of my own experiences. I think my subconscious just decided to shelter me by forgetting. But I do remember HOW I felt in my darkest hours, like each day would bring more troubles than I could deal with. So this week I’m incredible happy and thankful because as I’m turning thirty-five (which I view as the midway point in life . . . the Bible only promises us seventy years, eighty with a little trouble, so obey your parents!), it dawned on me that my life is way more than I ever dreamed possible. I have two jobs I LOVE (teaching middle school writing & being an author), a husband who has stayed married to me for 16 years and counting even though I’m sure I got the better end of the deal, and two wonderful daughters. Speaking of which . . .

My teenage daughter has lowered her standards and agreed to do a weekly column with me on my publisher’s website. We’ll review movies, books, music, and fashion. You get both of our perspectives, the Jedi and the Padawan. Check out our first post here, a review for the Ninja Turtles movie.

turtles

Also, 18 Things was reviewed in the Sept/Oct issue of Stone Soup magazine, written by my daughter! If you have a child 13yo or younger who loves to read, they may want to subscribe and/or submit to this magazine. As a book reviewer, they pay the child $40 and send them two free copies of the magazine.

magazine

And in other 18 Things news, the Kindle ecopy will go on sale for only 99 cents tomorrow and Friday (regular price $4.99). I do hope you’ll download it if you haven’t done so already. And if you have, would you mind posting a tweet or Facebook status to help me spread the word? Last time it went on sale in February, it almost broke into the top 100 on all of Amazon (#114–sooo close!!!!). It’s on my bucket list to make it to the top 100, and it’d be about as sweet as it can get if I’m able to cross this one off during my birthday week!

Will I have the Sweetest Birthday Ever?!

Will you help me have the Sweetest Birthday Ever?!

Here’s a sample tweet or FB post:

For a  novel packed with love & adventure grab 18 Things  while it’s only   Aug 21-22

What about you? Has joy greeted you this week? If not, I pray faith would make you whole again and that you could grab hold of each happy moment this life gives. ❤

 

 

Performance Task Writing . . . What It Means For Kids

This past week as summer vacation ended, I had to switch my mind from writing mode to teaching mode. Although I do teach writing to middle school students, it’s a lot different than the type of writing I do for my books, 18 Things and 18 Truths. I realized that many of you probably have children and may not know the new College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing that our nation adopted, so I thought I’d list them here. Of course, the devil is in the details and what these standards mean exactly differs for each grade level, but it’s still good to familiarize yourself.

Text Types and Purposes:

1. Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

2. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

3. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.

Production and Distribution of Writing:

4. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

5. Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or typing a new approach.

6. Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge:

7. Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

8. Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

9. Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Range of Writing:

10. Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single setting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

What does all of this mean???

It means the days of having cold writing prompts are over. No more writing a story about a strange green light you saw when you took out the trash or why Florida is a nice place to visit. Instead, students will read a complex text such as a poem, an excerpt from a memoir or a nonfiction article, and they’ll have to respond to that piece with a specific task.

For example, students read “O Captain! My Captain!” and analyze how Walt Whitman used allusion, analogies, and word choice to write an elegy for Abraham Lincoln.

This way, we’re not expecting students to bring a whole lot of background knowledge to the table with a ‘cold’ essay prompt, because background can vary greatly from kid to kid. It also means we’re connecting reading and writing in a more meaningful way since they are already so intricately connected. The new standards are definitely steering students more towards college writing, where you write research papers for almost every class as if your life depended on it . . . and it’s always connected to your reading for the course.

The sad part for me is it takes away a lot of the creativity in writing. Granted most of these students aren’t going to grow up and become published fiction authors. I get that. And the new series my district adopted is fabulous, sooo many great resources! But it also feels like teaching for dummies. There are anchor texts that I must teach from. In previous years, we didn’t have a textbook for Language Arts. We had academic plans that told us what skills to cover each week, but the way we taught those skills were up to us! I brought in novels from the best modern day authors and let classes vote on which one they wanted to use that quarter and our writing took off from there. I read a different novel for each class period all quarter long (so I read a total of seven novels at once between my 150 students). With the  new curriculum, I doubt I’ll even get to read a novel with my classes because this new stuff in their textbook is so complex. If I do read a novel, I have to pick from a list of ones written by really old dead white dudes that probably won’t interest my students.

I thought I’d have a break from this with a Creative Writing elective, which would be great because those aspiring authors could take my class and we could delve into more creative writing in there. But like a lot of electives, it got cut from the schedule in favor of me teaching more core classes.

But I’m still super excited about the new school year because I know I can make this work. Why? Because I bring the awesome. You can laugh, but I know I’m a great teacher! The fact is, the problems we have in education will NEVER be solved by paying millions of dollars to adopt the latest series aligned to the newest standards. Those teachers who failed to succeed at teaching the old series will probably fail at this one. Programs don’t determine a student’s success, teachers do. Programs aren’t the be-all and end-all of education. Teachers are the problem, and teachers are the solution. I guarantee you that even with this wonderful new series, the same teachers who sucked before will still suck.

What we need in education are more teachers like these . . .

 

I’d like to add that I work at the top performing middle school in our county, and what makes our school great are the teachers! I feel so lucky to collaborate with them on a daily basis 🙂

What about you? Do you think a new program could ‘fix’ the worst teacher you’ve even known? If you have children, are you happy with the writing curriculum at their school?

 

“I Was a Beginning Writer”

This past week, my fourteen-year-old daughter and I traveled to Orlando for LeakyCon, a fandom con birthed out of the Harry Potter book series, but has since branched out to include all things geek. We loved this con because they have a separate lit focus. I even got to moderate/present a Live Plot Twist panel with some of my fellow authors from Curiosity Quills (who has a newly launched website, so take a look)!  I also got to hear from YA bestselling authors like these . . .

Stephanie Perkins, author of Anna and the French Kiss

Stephanie Perkins, author of Anna and the French Kiss

 

 

 

Gayle Foreman, author of If I Stay

Gayle Foreman, author of If I Stay

 

 

 

John Green, author of TFIOS

John Green, author of TFIOS

 

 

Some of the authors participated in a panel titled, “I Was a Teenage Writer.” We got to see and hear these top YA writers reading from some of their early–very early–works. Here’s a clip of John Green reading aloud from  his sample. I couldn’t film much because as you’ll hear, I was the Bozo laughing too hard and couldn’t hold her phone very still.

 

The panel made me want to look at the first novel I wrote back in 2009, Sarah’s Crossroads, the one I thought was so perfect, I didn’t even need to edit it when finished! I submitted it to twenty agents and dreamed at night about receiving acceptance letters from all of them and wondering how I would choose to rep the million dollar deal I was sure to get!! Bahahaha! So, for your reading pleasure today, I present to you my prologue, with some bonus cliffnotes.  The bolded comments are my thoughts while reading it today. And hey, don’t judge. We’ve all got to start somewhere 🙂 Hopefully it’ll encourage you. If I once started out with this piece of crap and landed a publishing deal for my 18 Things trilogy three years later, you can too!

Sarah’s Crossroads Prologue:

In the summer after I graduated high school I accidentally wrote the novel you’re now holding in your hands. (Accidentally? What the hell?!) I blame it on my college application to the University of Florida.  Along with the application I had to write an essay. The assignment for the paper was this: Describe a setback that you faced.  How did you resolve it?  How did the outcome affect you?  If something similar happened in the future, how would you react?

It was hard to narrow it down and focus on one setback because I had already faced so many.  I could’ve talked about being abused by my uncle, my parents divorce and moving away from Michigan to the southern most state in the U.S., losing my house and everything I owned in a tornado, or mine and Ethan’s story. (Wow, can’t believe how obvious I was! Should’ve just titled this Jamie’s Crossroads)  Ethan and I are soul mates.  We were that way for as long as I can remember.  Our parents have been best friends since middle school.  By now our combined families have so many individuals that it’s like a Shakespeare drama where a variety of cast members are endlessly entering and exiting the stage.  Mom got married at seventeen years old and by the time she was twenty-six had six kids, including me.  It can be quite confusing to explain who everyone is and they only play a minimal role in this story, so I’ll wait to delve into that later. (If they play such a minimal role, why am I even mentioning this on the first page of my novel?)

I’m a mature full-fledged grownup telling you these things now; ok so a fairly new one at 18 years of age. (Yeah, full-fledged! I’m just going to tell you these things so I don’t have to show you through my actions. And why am I speaking to the reader? Nobody likes that! And why didn’t I spell out the age?!)  Like I said before, this all started with my essay.  I ended up writing about the move I took when I was 8, away from mom and my sisters and Ethan.  But I realized after that assignment I wanted to tell more.  I’ve been a writer all my life.  I was the annoying girl you come across in every Language Arts class, the one whose papers always got picked to be read aloud by the teacher as an example to everyone else.  My senior high school English teacher even went as far to say on my last day of school in front of the whole class that she was sure I’d be a famous writer some day. (Coughs *Jamie Ayres* Again, why am I telling you everything up front? So the reader won’t be surprised later?)

Well, I graduated two weeks ago and have a lot of time to kill (you’ll find out why soon enough if you’re patient). (Oh yes, you’ll be rewarded soon enough, lol) So I decided to write this novel that I’ve come to think of as a simple narrative.   I implore you to set this down right now if you’re looking for a tell-all scandalous story.  Though it may seem like just that to my parents if they ever read it.  But really it’s like a scrapbook of my life, mostly the lovely parts with Ethan, but also the secrets that you’d never mention at our family reunion. (But I’ll record it all in a book I hope gets published and sits on book store shelves across America!) In fact, at times it paints a kind of picture you’d want to burn in a bonfire at a church healing ceremony (that may sound strange to you, but they do that kind of thing at my charismatic house of praise).

I guess it’s like a diary, a written chronicle as a keepsake to pass onto my future children. (This does sound like an assignment I’d give my middle school students . . . perhaps I was still in teacher mode when I wrote this?)  I want to write it down now, before I’m too old to remember the stories I’d like them to learn from.  I’ll openly admit at the start of this thing that I’m not an indifferent commentator and as I am just 18, haven’t yet had the luxury to be healed by time, but I’d also argue that what I’ve suffered through can’t be healed by the ticking of a clock.  It’s difficult to forgive, let alone forget.  And really, I don’t want to forget, not anymore.  It’s what made me who I am today and if it hadn’t, I would’ve wasted my pain.  Like they say, whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. (I want to go back in time and kill this story before I waste two months writing it!) But to explain what I mean by all of this requires me to back up a little bit and tell you how it all began.  It begins where many good stories begin (but not this one, because this story isn’t even close to being good). . . in a small town where girl meets boy.

This has been a post for Alex J. Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group, where we provide a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! Join us the first Wednesday of every month!

And one more picture before I leave . . . daughter and I got to visit the Harry Potter expansion at Universal Studios on our LeakyCon trip. I wish I had a pensieve so I could relive that memory of walking into Diagon Alley and taking the Hogwarts Express over to Hogsmeade for the first time. So A*M*A*Z*I*N*G!!!

HP Park