Author Topic: The (All-New) Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Covers, Blurbs, Prices & Keywords  (Read 13354 times)  

Offline Nicholas Erik

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Note: this is an update to a post I did a couple months back. If you notice any links that don't exist or messed up formatting, let me know. It's also viewable on my site, here, but the formatting is pretty messy since I just set up the theme and WordPress hates happiness (edit: formatting fixed by moving it to my other site).

Also, I broke the forum and had to immediately reply to my own post like a sad, friendless puppy, in order to input parts seven and eight, since apparently posts are limited to 50,000 characters. So the fun doesn't end after this entry - keep going.

This is a 9900 word, step-by-step guide on how to optimize your book listings for maximum visibility. In non-boring speak: how to make readers want to buy your book when they land on your book page. This is known as "conversion" in internet marketing - converting browsers into buyers. Running experiments and maintaining records has frequently forced me to reevaluate what I think - or want - to be true. The result is this guide you hold in your...mind. Or something.

The goal of this guide is simple: to share which controllable factors are critical to your book's success and, perhaps more importantly, which are huge wastes of time. This guide is designed to be fully and immediately actionable - remember, all the knowledge in the world is useless without implementation.

I estimate that a full optimization will take between 2 - 3 hours. You can split up the steps as needed, and spread the work out over days or weeks.

Throughout the guide, I'll also mix in personal anecdotes and observations from where I've failed. Additionally, at the very end, there's a complete teardown of a recent optimization I did on one of my titles.

Table of Contents

This guide is split into eight parts. If you'd like to skip to a specific section, just use CTRL + F (or Apple + F).

Part 1: What Do You Mean, Optimization? - setting expectations and some fundamental, but important principles
Part 2: Covers - what a good cover actually is and how to commission an effective one that actually sells books
Part 3: Blurbs - your blurb's purpose and how to hone your copywriting skills
Part 4: Keywords - the truth about keywords; what they're for and what they're not for
Part 5: Categories - how to get into additional categories
Part 6: Pricing - how to price any book correctly based on your current goals
Part 7: A Walk Through Paradise - a complete tear-down of optimizing one of my novels + results
Part 8: 80/20 Summary and What Really Matters

Part 1: What Do You Mean, Optimization?

Optimization is a fancy word for making your book listing look appealing to prospective readers. In short, optimization is about tweaking the elements that will convince people to buy your book.

There are only three essential steps in the marketing & sales process:

-Traffic: sending buyers to your book page - e.g. through your mailing list, promos, PPC ads, 'zon's mysterious algorithms or word of mouth. In the indie world, this is often referred to as "visibility."

-Conversion: turning browsing traffic into buyers by not having your page look like a fourteen-year-old arthritic dog hammered it out after one too many rum and cokes; later on, turning your book buyers into raving fans by enticing them to sign up to the email list

-Determine whether you made $$: this involves keeping records of your expenses, ads and marketing activity, and figuring out how sell-through, release frequency, genre, series and so forth affect your income. Stop doing things that are losing money and double down on the things that are making more money. Simple advice, but most people do the opposite and subsidize their losers with their winners.

Please note, before we begin, that listing optimization primarily impacts conversion (#2) [side note: covers, and to a lesser extent, price, can impact traffic]. I'm going to cover traffic in another post that will be finished when I recover from writing this Homerian epic.

These three steps were adapted from Perry Marshall's excellent 80/20 Sales & Marketing.

Important: traffic comes first. You need eyeballs on your book. Don't be a premature optimizer - if you've never done any promotion, or your book is ranked in the six digits, a sexy new blurb or cover won't vault you out of obscurity.

Why You Need to Optimize

Many authors have a presentation problem: while their books are good, they package them incorrectly, using inappropriate blurbs, covers, categories and so forth that don't target the right readers. Thus, when their book page does get a little visibility, their conversion rate is atrocious.

When they do manage to hook readers - despite their best efforts to beat them away with a broom with hideous covers and blurbs as enticing as a four hour lecture on the history of dust - their back matter and email lists are a mess, and they're unable to convert these buyers into "true fans."

Getting your first thousand mailing list subscribers will be covered in Part III of this guide, to be released at a later date. In the meantime, let's work on converting browsers into buyers.

No Magic Bullets

Mythical interwebz stories abound, often tossing about ridiculous numbers with lots of zeroes. Some of these are true, others are exaggerated. None of them ever show the full picture.

Optimization is not a magic bullet.

Optimizing a decently performing book listing will, at most, result in a moderate lift. Apply this to your 3 - 5 best performing titles, and you'll see a nice boost to your bottom line.

In many ways, the points discussed within this guide are simply the price of entry. With more books available and clamoring for attention, your product must meet certain criterion to even be in the game. If your cover is off-genre, your book is DOA. If your blurb is boring, your book is done. Put it in the wrong categories and you're going to reach the wrong buyers - and so forth.

Getting this stuff correct is simple, but most authors get it completely and utterly wrong. I thought I was doing it right for the past three years. I wasn't. This was expensive and frustrating - so hopefully you can be the beneficiary of my mistakes.

One Other Thing

There's a large amount of information distilled in this short guide. Consuming it can be like drinking out of a firehose. If you feel overwhelmed, keep the following rule in mind: your cover and blurb are the most important elements of your book's page, and will account for 95%+ of your success.

The hierarchy of what matters: your book, the cover, the blurb, the price, categories/keywords.

For those with perfectionist tendencies convinced you can do everything correctly, I would implore you to reconsider. Studies have shown that productivity and overall work quality both tend to drop as you burn the candle at both ends. An 80% cover + 80% keywords is far, far less effective than a 99% cover and 5% keywords.

This is particularly important for authors with limited time and other obligations, but it's a lesson we can all benefit from: focus your best, most productive energy on what matters most.

Part 2: Covers

Your packaging matters.

A lot.

In short, the right cover can make or break you. While a good cover usually isn't free - nor may it be your definition of "cheap" - it is the single best investment you can make in your indie career.

However, there are some important myths that need to be addressed up front. A professional cover does not necessarily make for an effective one, a grave error I've made countless times. Indeed, there are many covers riding high on the Kindle charts that may have been designed by 1st graders.

Why are the most exquisite pieces of art not dominating the charts? Because the cover's main job is to instantly convey the expected reading experience. You might lament the number of naked torsos in certain areas of romance, but such imagery immediately screams to the target market that this book is for them.

Your cover is not a piece of art, but a piece of packaging. If the reader cannot immediately tell what your book is about from the cover, the artwork has not done its job and needs to be replaced.


Before beginning on the cover, you need an appropriate title. Perhaps you have a beautiful one that you just can't let go of - a song lyric, or a passage from your favorite book. You envision the story behind the title receiving its own sub-section on your book's Wikipedia page.

If this sounds remotely like what you're doing, stop immediately.

There are many questionable recommendations regarding the elements of a good title. Most of the advice on the topic tends to be fuzzy: "make it sing," "metaphors are the best option," or "follow your heart." All such information is egregiously incorrect for genre fiction - I have some awful selling books to prove it - so I recommend this instead: as with the cover, the title should clearly signal to the reader what the book is about.

There are innumerable exceptions to this rule: Divergent, The Hunger Games, Red Rising, The Sound and The Fury, Infinite Jest and The Sun Also Rises are but a few of the titles that don't really tell you much about the book.

To which I say: yes, you're right. But we don't have a big publisher who will put our book on the front table of Barnes & Noble and spring for a nice spread in PW. We will not be reviewed in the NYT.  We need to create our own little genre storm.

This doesn't mean you title your latest romance Two People Who Fall in Love and Bang at the End.

Consider the book Killing Floor. If you didn't recognize the title, you surely aren't surprised to learn that it's the first book in the Jack Reacher series. It captures the genre and subject matter perfectly.

An example from the extensive archives of personal experience: I titled my first book Only Coyotes Die Here. Kind of cute, but it does an incredibly poor job of setting expectations. It certainly gives you no indication that it's a time-loop novel, a la Replay or the film Source Code, set in a dystopian world.

A more effective title would be Rewind. Instead, when I retitled it & rebranded it three years ago - in a feeble optimization attempt - I redubbed it The Rapture. This was incredibly stupid, not only because it gave no indication about the content, but also because the book then attracted religious readers who were offended by the bad language, drug use and other elements.

Titling your book correctly isn't magical - my latest book is called Ashes of the Fall, and it sold 148 copies in its first 30 days. But with zero additional information, you probably guessed that it's a dystopian/disaster/post-apocalyptic book. If you're interested in that genre, there's a good chance you'll consider clicking the thumbnail and giving it a closer look.


I'll put this bluntly: You need to get the cover design right.

This generally means three things:

1. Get a professional cover artist to do it - don't design it yourself
2. Research what's selling
3. Don't allow your own terrible ideas to get in the way of a good cover.

The first point is self-explanatory. While spending a few bucks on a pro cover doesn't guarantee sales, it usually makes your book dramatically more competitive. That being said, as we've gone over already, the most important element of your cover is not the beauty of the design, but its effectiveness at conveying the genre.

This is why point two - do your damn research - is critical. I consistently commissioned well-designed covers that were totally wrong for my genre. My main concern was being unique. I suspect that others have similar thoughts.

If your cover is unique in genre fiction, you are missing the point.

Case in point: my original covers for my Kip Keene series (left). These are prime examples that competent, professional covers are not enough to sell books. Note that the designer was not at fault here; he followed my briefs and reference covers exactly. The failure and idiocy were mine alone. The end result is a professional, clean cover that has no chance of selling a sci-fi adventure book:

The newer covers are clearly adventures - they aren't unique, and you've probably read a book featuring a similar design. That's a deliberate choice, and it's the right one.

One caveat, before continuing: the covers could still be better targeted. There's zero sci-fi, which was an oversight on my part. I only told the designer about the adventure elements. Subsequently, some readers are annoyed that there's a Star Trek element.

Remember: your cover's sole purpose is to immediately signal what type of reading experience a prospective buyer can expect.

How to Commission a Kick Ass Cover

To avoid purchasing a beautiful piece of art that will not sell any books, here's the process for commissioning a cover design that adheres to genre expectations:

-find 3 - 5 covers that you like on the Amazon top 100 bestseller list in your sub-genre. Find a mix of traditionally published books and indie titles. Readers have voted with their dollars that they prefer these covers in this genre. The bestseller charts are like the ultimate focus group that definitively answers the question "what do readers want?" totally free.

> Make sure the traditionally published books have a cover design consistent with the genre - otherwise it could be a bestseller due to a huge ad push/merchandising etc.

> Don't choose indie books priced at $0.99 (many are there because of recent promo) - find indie-published books $2.99+.

> You can also choose a "classic" that's been a perennial best-seller in the genre (e.g. Butcher's The Dresden Files, Robb's Death), but might currently be outside the top 100 (if your genre is hyper-competitive). Understand, however, that if a design is old, it could be out of style.

> Do not choose a gorgeous design that's dwelling the Amazon cellar. Anything ranked from 50,000+ is off-limits.

> You'll notice that many top 100 covers are professional and well executed, but not necessarily "holy s***" inducing. That's for a reason - they clearly signal expectations.

-Money talks know the saying. A million surveys, opinions and anecdotal reports pale in comparison to what customers are actually buying. Customers will often claim they prefer one product, then purchase another.

-Find a cover artist with a portfolio matching your desired style & book genre. Like authors, designers have genres in which they excel. I especially like using a designer who has made one (or more) of the covers in the top 100. This is irrefutable proof that they have the requisite skills to design a product that paying customers want.

-Send your 3 - 5 sample covers to the designer and tell them to MAKE IT LOOK LIKE THE EXAMPLES. It is crucial to provide your designer with clear visual expectations, as text can be easily misinterpreted. Be specific regarding the design elements you do or do not want. The more clearly you communicate expectations, the better your final cover will be. I've told talented designers to "go for it" based on a bare-bones concept, and not once have I received an effective cover. If you are unable to communicate exactly what you want, you have not done enough research.

-Do not use scenes from your book. These rarely communicate the genre well.

-Illustrated covers can be effective in sci-fi, cozies and fantasy, but I would think long and hard about whether the expense is necessary before shelling out for custom art.

-Ensure that the typography is legible and branded consistently across all books in the series - and, if possible, your entire pen name. The legibility of the text is not optional. If the design sucks at thumbnail, you need a new one. Period. Consistent pen name branding is often impossible, but typography branding must be consistent AT LEAST through the entire series.

-This has been repeated almost ad naseum, but you are not commissioning a piece of artwork. Unfortunately, this is exactly what I see many authors doing. Your cover art is your book's packaging. Its only purpose is to signal what's inside. Do not package a Snickers bar in a Starburst wrapper. This will only attract the wrong customers, and make them very angry.

What Next?

-Cover = packaging, not artwork.
-Make sure your title clearly signals the genre. Don't go for metaphors or esoteric imagery.
-You want a cover that is professional, clean, readable and instantly signals the genre/expectations at a small size.
-Browse Amazon's top 100 bestseller list in your sub-genre. Note the trends in terms of titles, covers and other elements (e.g. is the typography usually distressed? Is it a sans-serif or a serif?).
-Find a designer with a portfolio that indicates they can pull your genre off well.
-Send your 3 - 5 examples to your designer with very clear instructions.

Part 3: Blurbs

Authors often note that writing the book description copy - colloquially referred to as the "blurb" or "jacket copy" - is more difficult than writing the actual novel. That's not a surprise, since the blurb, as a piece of sales copy, requires a different set of writing skills: copywriting.

First, a disclaimer: I am not a master copywriter. But I've uncovered the common elements underpinning effective book descriptions. Actually writing an effective blurb of your own is a matter of practice and repeated revision - unfortunately, there are no shortcuts.

And yes, it is challenging.

Writing Your Blurb: The Essential Principles

Most blurbs are not very good, even for books that sell well. Famed advertiser David Ogilvy wrote in his classic Ogilvy on Advertising that "copy should be written in the language people use in everyday conversation." In the same book, he also noted the importance of researching your competition and correctly positioning your product.

This is excellent advice that most indies ignore. Even if our books are approachable and highly readable, there's a tendency to make our blurbs as unreadable, boring and terrible as possible.

Practically speaking, Ogilvy's sage advice means a few things.

Principle 1: Make It Easy to Read

I often see huge, honkin' paragraphs on people's book pages. These are not your friend, as they trigger immediate resistance in the reader's mind.

Tips to cure this:

    Bullets can break things up, a la Pirate Hunters.
    Otherwise, just hit the return key every couple sentences so that buyers aren't presented with a wall of text. Sparing use of bold and italics can lend your page a professional polish and highlight taglines, pull-quotes and other important elements. Bullets are appropriate for non-fiction. But don't go nuts with the formatting.

Principle 2: Most People Will Never Want to Read Your Book

Look, I know you think you wrote the most incredible book on wizards ever devised. This is the book on wizards that will make everyone who hates wizards finally realize that they were depriving themselves of greatness all along.

This is not what is going to happen.

As Perry Marshall succinctly states in 80/20 Sales & Marketing: "Sales is, first and foremost, a disqualification process, not a "convincing people" process!"

In short, we want everyone who will never be interested in our book to go away.

Unfortunately, I see authors constantly make the error of not putting something in the blurb because they're terrified of scaring away prospective buyers. The chances of any of us writing some massive cross-over success like Divergent are pretty much zero. Which means that you need to speak to your people - and your people only.

If someone hates wizards, it's silly to pull a fast one by pretending your book isn't UF in the blurb, then springing a wizard on them on page 30. All that does is make people angry and make it harder to reach people who would actually enjoy your book. 99.999% of people will never want to read your book - so make sure your blurb appeals only to those who want it.

The best way to connect with your ideal reader is incredibly simple: use your readers' actual language. If the reviews of your book (or books in your genre) consistently talk about how they love the snarky protagonist or its "heart-pounding" nature, find a way to convey these elements in the tone of the blurb.

Principle 3: Limited Real Estate

You have next to no time to capture a prospective reader's attention and get them interested in your book. This isn't some new phenomenon on the internet - this has always been the case. Dan Kennedy wrote in one of his books that America sorts its mail over the trash can.

It can be said, then, that book browsers are looking at your page with the mouse cursor on the back button.

The blurb is the most important marketing tool you have besides the cover - but not all parts of the blurb are of equal importance. The hierarchy goes something like this: the headline (if you have one) is most critical, followed by the first sentence, then the first 90 - 100 words.

Why that number?

This is the approximate amount of text featured before the "see more" tab. Most readers will never read beyond these initial words, so you need to make them the best possible.

If possible, intro the main character, conflict and grabber of a plotline in the first sentence. A good example from the book Ice: Archaeologist Leah Andrews stumbles upon something inexplicable in southwestern New Mexico: inside a dark cavern lies an undiscovered, Native American cliff dwelling abandoned for 800 years. This violates the next rule (reasonable reading level), but we'll let it slide because it's pretty damn compelling stuff.

Another good use of this limited top real estate, albeit introducing the concept/genre rather than the character: "The Passage meets Ender's Game in an epic new series from award-winning author Rick Yancey." (from Rick Yancy's The 5th Wave)

If you're heading the Book X meets Book Y route, make sure these are recognizable, relevant works to fans of the genre. E.g. writing "The Matrix meets The Notebook" in your romance blurb is not going to do anything for you.

Principle 4: Readability

Write the blurb at a reasonable reading level. I would aim for 7th grade. This is not because people are stupid - it is simply because they do not want to read something Pynchonian whilst browsing their favorite bookseller (or when they read Pynchon, for that matter). Some of Hemingway's best work was written at a 5th grade level, and one would be foolish to accuse him of being a poor or simplistic writer.

Writing Your Blurb: Practicing the Principles

Okay, so it's nice to have basic principles. Be readable, be interesting. Find out what your readers want, and then highlight those elements in your description. Be prepared to write a bunch of blurbs to get something remotely good. But how does one actually do that?

Ultimately, your job is arrest your reader's attention and pique their curiosity in a condensed space. For a $5 eBook, the only question/objection you must answer is simple: as a fan of genre x, will this book satisfy my expectations and entertain me? This does not require that much text, just the right text.

This is what I would aim for (taken from a BookBub email): "A Dan Brown-ian adventure" (Kirkus Reviews) in the tradition of Indiana Jones! With more than 1,500 five-star ratings on Goodreads, this "thrilling and tantalizing" (Vince Flynn) New York Times bestseller is impossible to put down.

In 35 words, that blurb conveys a truly ridiculous amount of information.

A few pitfalls to avoid:

    A summary of plot events
    Jamming lots of world building and other cool, but ultimately irrelevant, details in
    Failing to express the elements your genre's readers actually care about.
    Being too damn long. Long copy converts better than short copy in the world of direct response copywriting. This is true, with three conditions:
        The copy is good enough that the reader is compelled to read to the end
        It's not long for the sake of being long
        The higher priced the product, generally the longer the copy needed to adequately address objections.
    Don't write "scroll up and grab a copy." This is a direct-response hard-sell call-to-action (CTA) that is out of place in fiction.

Here's how you can find out what to put in your blurb and practice your copywriting chops, step-by-step.

-Find 5 blurbs in your sub-genre's top 20 lists that make you want to read the actual book. As with the covers, make sure they're not discounted $0.99 books enjoying a temporary promo surge. Try to locate indie books priced above $2.99. Read + copy them over to a document. This is known in copywriting as a "swipe file."

-Find 5 more blurbs - not necessarily in your genre - from NYT Bestsellers. These are usually written by pro copywriters. Read them and copy them to your swipe file.
-Read the reviews for these 5 books in your genre - what did readers consistently hate/like the most? Does the blurb talk about these elements? Then read the 2 & 3 star reviews to find out what that book is missing that readers wanted. Does your book have that? Take notes about these vital elements. These are the tropes readers will expect to see mentioned in your blurb (and in your book)
-Read these effective blurbs: Brilliance, The Hunger Games, The Atlantis Gene. None of them are perfect, but they're all damn effective. What are they doing right? What are they doing wrong?
-For additional professionally written blurbs, subscribe to BookBub's newsletter in your genre(s) of choice. Add good ones to your swipe file.

-Copy the blurbs from your swipe file out word-for-word by hand. Doing one or two a day is probably best, as otherwise your hand becomes fairly grouchy. Analyze what tropes they're using, how the language flows, what encourages people to buy. Why did the writer use a certain word? Why did they leave another detail out? This is a classic copywriting technique and works wonders to get the feeling in your bones.

-Write your blurb according to the principles above: keep readability at a 7th grade level, make the first 90 words incredible, try to grab them from the first sentence, talk to your readers and no one else, use white space and formatting breaks to make it more readable.

Other Notes

This BookBub article
has some spectacular blurb writing tips backed by actual data. There are too many to mention here, but my two favorites:

    More than 150+ 5 star reviews on Amazon mentioned = 14.1% increase in clickthrough
    "If you love thrillers, don't miss this action packed read" = 15.8% increase in clickthrough when catering to specific genre interests

If you're running a promotion, sell-through to other discounted books in the series increases when you mention it at the top of the blurb. With the same title, I got 1.88% sell-through to Book 2 w/ the link & mention at the top of the free book's blurb (1000 copies of Book 2 @ $0.99 / 53,000 free downloads of Book 1) vs. 1.46% sell-through w/ no mention & no link (82 copies @ $0.99 / 5600 free downloads).

Finally, here's a useful framework if you write books using the hero's journey structure (think The Odyssey, Harry Potter and so forth). This is a summary of Libbie Hawker's two-part video series, which details a five-step blurb writing formula:

Your protagonist (1) wants something (2) but an obstacle is in the way (3) causing the character to struggle against that force (4) and either succeed or fail (5 - e.g. the stakes/risk). Then add enough details to make it unique, without overloading your reader with world-building info.

There are more details in her book Gotta Read It, which I recommend. It can work for other plot structures, but I've found it's easiest to apply to books using the hero's journey (or at least character-centric narratives). If your book is plot-driven or high-concept, use an alternative framework.

What's Next?

Practice, practice, practice! I would not recommend hiring a blurb writer - most of them are not very good, and this is an important skill that you need to learn. Becoming a better copywriter will also make you a better writer. The economy of the space forces you to use the most powerful images and words available.
-Four principles to keep in mind: make the formatting eye friendly, direct the book towards your target audience - not towards everyone, the first 90 - 100 words of your blurb are the most important, aim for a 7th grade reading level to maximize readability,
-Practice and research: find 5 blurbs that make you want to read the book in your sub-genre's top 20. Find 5 blurbs from NYT Bestsellers. Subscribe to BookBub's newsletter in your genre. Copy your favorite blurbs into a "swipe file" document on your computer. Then write them out, by hand, and analyze what's effective and why.

Part 4: Keywords

Unlike the rest of this guide, this section mainly pertains to Amazon.

This is a summary of Evenstar's lengthy and helpful keywords post. I've tested many things posited in that thread - and in various books & courses - and returned with one conclusion: keywords are, generally speaking, of minimal importance on Amazon (important note: they are useful on Google Play; I don't have data on other retailers). This is particularly true in larger genres (e.g. post-apocalyptic, romance, thrillers, sci-fi, fantasy etc. and many of their sub-genres) where the top 20 books are all ranked below 1 - 10k in the overall store.

I have used most of the popular keyword tools - Merchant Words, Kindle Inspector, Kindle Spy, Kindle Samurai - as well as the basic "enter the first letter in the Amazon box" technique.

There are a couple exceptions to my general rule of "don't waste time on keywords":

- The title keyword is huge. This pertains more to non-fiction, where you can gain significant traffic from people searching for specific long-tail keyword phrases. It's probably not a bad practice to bake-in the Amazon SEO right into your title & subtitle. Naturally, doing this at the expense of actually having a good title is not recommended.

- For fiction authors, you can get search hits from the title/subtitle, as Amazon's search algorithm weights these far, far more than whatever keywords you plug into the box. However, this usually leads to bad practices like "The Urban Fantasy Mystery Series - Amazing Wizards - Urban Fantasy Paranormal Investigator Thriller Crime Novel of Incredible Bestselling Books Series." I suspect that this practice will soon be eradicated on any retailers that are still stricken by it. Only put "An Urban Fantasy Novel" in the subtitle box if it appears on your cover. Otherwise you could get dinged.

Now that we have that out of the way, a little myth-busting right off the bat:

    Descriptions are not searchable. I tested this with the nonsense word "dgrzprseamp" in one of my perma-free descriptions for 6+ weeks - Amazon's search never returned a hit for that word.
    Most keywords that would be valuable and did produce spikes in the past - e.g. "free science fiction books" or "kindle unlimited romance books" are not allowed by Amazon any more.
    Keywords that would seem to get decent search traffic - e.g. "science fiction books" - are populated by many hard-hitters. But the few smaller books that have managed to rank high for this term aren't selling well.
    There are various studies on Google's keyword results suggesting that the top three results likely account for as many as half the total search clicks. Getting into the top three for a competitive keyword is very difficult, and the dividends, as suggested in the point above, are minimal.
    Long tail keywords: ah, that old internet buzz word. These refer to less competitive, highly niche phrases that only small numbers of people are searching for. Yes, long tail keywords are helpful - even on Amazon - but there is a caveat: you gotta rank for a lot of them. If you can rank for hundreds of long-tail keywords on Google, you might be able to pull in lots of total traffic. Thing is, given the 400 character limit on 'zon - and the fact that most people can only write a book every month, max - that's probably not happening.

Right now, let's say you don't believe me. You've heard of the mythical, chart-topping highs you can achieve through juuuust the right keywords. You want to experience this euphoria for yourself.

So here's how to generate more keywords than you'd ever need.

Finding Keywords

First, a technical note: Amazon KDP allows you only 7 keywords when you separate them by comma. You can get around this by just not using any commas and entering everything as one large string. That'll give you a whopping 400 characters of keyword goodness.

A couple other notes:

> Repeating keywords is unnecessary. E.g. vampire love story and vampire paranormal romance. You can just have vampire love story paranormal romance and Amazon will spit out your book when someone searches for either term.

> Use the full 400 characters. Don't repeat the same word twice (e.g. paranormal romance vampire romance - second romance not necessary). Don't use words like "free," "best-selling," other authors' names or Kindle Unlimited unless you want Amazon to get angry with you.

> Keywords don't have a lot of search uses, simply because most people don't buy books by searching for "cool thrillers" and Amazon doesn't seem to value the keywords you put in the little box all that much. But they can help you get into specific sub-categories, which can be useful. A full list of those special keywords can be found here.

> Plurals don't seem to matter - e.g. the search engine treats "books" and "book" the same way.

Okay, now the step-by-step guide:

1) OneLook ( is actually the most useful tool I've found for generating keyword ideas. It's basically a super-thesaurus that will return all terms related to a word. So if you put in "island," you'll get stuff like "archipelago" along with six degrees type stuff a la "cove," "plantation," and "reef."
2) Use the free Google Keyword Planner tool. Just type in a phrase like "science fiction" or "aliens" etc. and write down all the relevant phrases that have decent search volume. Alternatively, plug in a competitor's book page into the "landing page" box and get keywords from there.

3) To approximate Amazon search volume, you can plug in the terms you've come up with via OneLook & the Google Keyword Planner tool into Merchant Words (; $30/month - look around the net for 1/2 off discount coupons). This is imperfect, since Amazon doesn't share their search volume. If you use Merchant Words, you'll find that many of your potential keyword search terms have poor search volume, or don't appear at all.

4) Do a reverse ASIN search on Keyword Inspector (; ~$3/per search) for two or three titles in your genre - one of the best-sellers, one that looks relatively keyword stuffed, one in the middle. If a title is on the cusp of the midlist (10k - 100k), this tool basically will actually let you see all the keywords that the author plugged in. The search traffic numbers are a little wonky, as are the listing position results. But it's a good way to find what keywords other authors are ranking for and using.

Then use the keywords you've found until you max out the 400 character string. Pretty simple, although it's also time-consuming.

Now on to why that's probably a huge waste of time.

The Evidence

Using the tools above - as well as monitoring the results from my own keyword efforts - I gleaned a bunch of data and insight leading to one disheartening conclusion: my hours obsessing over keywords were pretty much wasted.

What I found is that the majority of search traffic comes to titles from three primary sources:

    A) author name searches - either their own, or other popular authors in their genre (usually that are linked to them via also-boughts)
    B) the series or book title - either their own, or other popular books in their genre (again, usually linked via also-boughts)
    C) through ranking well for terms to do with Kindle Unlimited or free books, which aren't allowed in the keyword box any more.

The organic keywords - that is, stuff like "witch ebooks" - accounted for less search traffic according to my tools. Granted, the tools aren't spot-on, so there is a lot of noise in the data. Some examples of keywords that indies have ranked in the top twenty for: gritty fantasy, witches and sorcerers, dragons and fairies, best fantasy series, books black magic, codex kindle, space fantasy, burned, sword and sorcery books. A lot of these either had the keyword in the name or series title, or were selling at such a ridiculous rate that it's likely that they appeared high in the search results for other reasons, rather than the keywords the author chose.

I examined 12 popular books, many from KBoards authors - not a scientific sample, I know - and found that, out of the top 20 keywords by search volume for each, only 25.4% of them were "organic." This figure considers common words - magic, cursed, burned etc. - that appear in the title & series info "organic." Strip those out, and the situation plummets to around 18.8%.

Worse, most of these organic keywords had minimal search volume - many of the terms received less than 100 estimated searches a month. I don't fully trust the estimated search data, but combined with my own efforts optimizing 35+ titles' keywords, I think it's safe to say that keywords are not particularly useful unless they are already baked into the title & subtitle. Even then, naming your book AN URBAN FANTASY INVESTIGATOR INVESTIGATES THRILLING MYSTERIES FOR HIS WIZARD AND MAGE FRIENDS probably isn't an option for most of us.

For a keyword to be useful, it needs a decent amount of search traffic and you need to rank in the top three for it. The number of overlap between these areas is pitifully small.

So that means keywords are kind of useless, right?

Not quite.

Special Google Play Note

Keywords are critical on Google Play. There's no specific place to add them - but if you include them at the end of the description, it dramatically bumps up downloads.

Examples (Jan 1 - March 31 data is with no keywords; April data is with keywords at bottom)

*in the interest of full disclosure, I also changed the blurbs for these titles and tweaked the categories. I don't think that had any effect on the downloads, but it could've. Additionally, Paradise got a brand new cover + title, which I think did affect the results.

Shadow Memories: 26 downloads (1/1 - 3/31); 41 downloads (4/1 - 4/30)

The Emerald Elephant: 31 downloads (1/1 - 3/31); 32 downloads (4/1 - 4/30)

Paradise: 11 downloads (1/1 - 3/31); 73 downloads (4/1 - 4/30)

What's Next?

    Keywords are useless on Amazon unless they're already part of the pre-existing title & subtitle.
    Keywords can be used to access special Amazon subcategories.
    Keywords are very useful on Google Play.

Part 5: Categories

Most retailers allow you to put in five categories for your book. Use these as you see fit - typically the ones that, you know, actually fit what your book is about are what you should use. I am not a proponent of inserting your books into more categories just to gain more visibility to the wrong readers.

If you're using Amazon, you can only have two categories - unless you keyword into additional ones, or email support. The keyword method was discussed before (here's Amazon's list of keyword-dependent sub-categories again), but it's a little hit or miss. I'm a bigger fan of just emailing them.

Category chart visibility, while less important than those praying to the mythical algo-gods would have you believe, is helpful, since readers do browse them. Thus, entering new ones can net you more exposure to a wider swath of readers. While changing your categories is one way to do this, emailing support to add more is the preferred method. Using this technique, you can usually get your book into 6 - 8 categories - three or four times more than the two you directly pick on the KDP dashboard.

Note: the category needs to be related to your existing categories. Support is not going to grant your request to add your paranormal romance to the business/money category.

This process is refreshingly easy: Email them and post the full strings in the request.

Please place my book ASHES OF THE FALL (ASIN: XX) into the following categories:

Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Genetic Engineering

[category 2]


This isn't some sort of magic. I had a book ranked 19k in the free store in four categories. But it takes five minutes and can help maximize your visibility, particularly during a promo when you hit high enough on various genre lists.

Some will be tempted to abuse this - hell, some already are - and cram their book into as many categories as possible. I think this is a poor practice, as it annoys readers and doesn't get your work in front of the right eyeballs.

What's Next?

    Plug in keywords to get into the categories you want
    Alternatively, email KDP support and ask them nicely to put your book in other categories.

Part 6: Pricing

Testing your price is simple. There's a lot of debate about whether to launch at free, go at $0.99 - and whether to stick at a certain price thereafter. While I can't answer those questions specifically, I can give you the tools so that YOU can answer them on your own. Sound like fun?

First, a single question: is your goal to maximize revenue or visibility? Typically, your revenue increases as your price goes up (to a point; then it drops again), but your total sales decrease, resulting in less overall visibility. Visibility is good if you want reviews, mailing list sign-ups, to change your also-boughts etc. Revenue is good because...well, we all like money and like eating.

A note, however: a price drop doesn't generate visibility by itself. Even a free book will languish in the gutter without promotion.

The answer to the revenue-visibility question will dictate your pricing strategy. Answering a second question helps nail this down further: what is the optimal price for my goal (either revenue/visibility) and specific book/series?

These two questions eliminate emotional responses: The best price for your book is the one that helps you reach your current visibility and revenue goals. Period.

A newer author might want to build their list/also-boughts/reviews. More visibility makes sense - thus an extended run at $0.99 could be enticing. Or, a newer author might need to turn a profit in order to invest in their next project - more revenue and a higher price could make sense as a goal (perhaps after a period of $0.99 to spark visibility/retailer recommendation engines).

It's not always this cut and dry, however - a boost from $0.99 to $3.99 doesn't always result in less visibility/more revenue. A price increase could completely crater your sales, thus also generating less revenue. It could boost your sales AND revenue, thus skyrocketing your visibility. While the likeliest scenario holds to the equation above (lower price = more visibility/less revenue; higher price = less visibility/more revenue) there are enough exceptions to make testing imperative.

Other Important Pricing Tips

Your genre's top 100 chart should give you an idea of what readers expect to pay - in romance, for example, going above $4.99 as an indie is fairly difficult. If you're unestablished, use more successful authors' books as benchmarks.

Don't just price your book at free or $0.99 because "people don't want to take a chance on unknown authors." Basically every indie author - even those making close to seven figures - is an unknown when compared to household names like King or Vonnegut. Fact is, most authors are unknowns to 99.9999% of the population.

After you've settled on a starting price, track your book's sales & revenue for two to four weeks. Note that any recent promo will skew these numbers, so wait until things die down to normal. Then change this to a different price without changing anything else. Track the results over the same period of time, and compare the total sales and revenue to the first price.

You might also want to track things like mailing list sign-ups or reviews if visibility is your goal.

If you have a series, the sell-through is important, and you'll need to track the impact of Book 1's price on the revenue & sales of the other titles. While the first book's revenue will likely drop, the rest of them might explode - or do nothing at all.

An Example

Here's what happened when I price-tested an adventure book (exclusive to Amazon), with revenue as the goal:

14 days @ $0.99 = $7.05/day - 6.2 sales a day
19 days @ $3.99 = $12.25/day - 2.3 sales a day
48 days @ $4.99 = $15.77/day - 3.4 sales a day

I decided not to test $5.99, as most of the indie books in the adventure genre cap out at around $3.99 - $4.99. Page reads increased with the price increase - readers are more likely to buy a book at $0.99 and borrow it when the price is higher.

You should try to make the comparison periods identical. But this back of the envelope type of analysis easily tells me that $4.99 is the best price for my goal. Interestingly, the book also sold slightly better at $4.99, thus increasing my visibility, as well.

What's Next?

    Determine your price by answering two key questions:
        Is my main goal revenue or visibility?
        What is the optimal price for my goal (either revenue/visibility) given my specific book/series?
    General rule of thumb: lower price = more visibility/less revenue; higher price = less visibility/more revenue
        Sometimes this is thrown out of whack, i.e. where a book sells better at a higher price.
    Look at the indie bestsellers in your genre - what do readers expect to pay?
« Last Edit: December 31, 2016, 12:32:05 PM by Nicholas Erik »

Offline Nicholas Erik

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Part VII: A Walk Through Paradise

This is the part where I put my money where my mouth is, and show you the results of my optimization efforts. For the record, I updated my entire catalog - around 35 titles - using the techniques in this guide.

Mostly, the changes did a whole lot of nothing.

This isn't unexpected - none of the things we discussed are particularly effective (or effective at all) for generating traffic to book pages. Still, the results were a little discouraging, and suggested to me that, despite all the information suggesting otherwise, optimization wasn't as important as I thought.

In fact, the results of one test - which I'll discuss in detail below - illustrated that there were only four things that could be changed after the book was written that made a significant difference:

    Book title
    Book cover
    Book blurb
    Keywords on Google Play.

We'll add pricing to that list (since this book was permafree, it didn't apply). But overall, the scope of what you should focus on is rather limited.


Back in March 2014, I released my second book ever - an apocalyptic book about a group of vacationers stranded on an island paradise after their yacht runs aground. A virus rampages across the mainland, leaving them in an idyllic environment filled with dangerous secrets.

I called it Island Daze, and released it as a kind of serial.

It's not the best book ever written: the ending is admittedly weak, a lot of the characters are unlikable, and the story doesn't have a lot of depth. In short, it's a second novel. Despite the issues, there's some cool stuff going on - I pitch it as Lost meets Contagion - and a couple readers really enjoyed it.

Enter: the complete optimization revamp. Whereas the other titles in my catalog merely received new keywords, blurbs and so forth - e.g. things that don't require money - Island Daze was completely overhauled and transformed into the book Paradise.

I'll walk you through what I did, step-by-step, in the order of this guide. This should serve as a Cliff's Notes version of the guide.

Results, you say? The permafree downloads went up by a factor of about 3x:

Island Daze, Jan 1 - Mar 31: 147 downloads (Amazon) + 159 (Others)

Paradise, April 1-30: 336 downloads (Amazon) + 55 downloads (D2D) + 73 (Gplay)

So yeah, it was worth it. If the book was better - and this was the first book in a series - it probably could've made a significant impact on my bottom line.

Let's talk about what I did to get there.

From Serial to Novel

The first thing I did with Island Daze was throw out the serial branding. The novel was written using a four-act narrative structure. Originally, the first act was permafree. To find out what happened next, you had to buy the full-length novel.

This idea was bolted-on at the last minute: permafree was hot in 2014, serials were too, and I wanted to try it out. Problem was, I didn't really know that a serial is structured differently than a traditional novel. In retrospect, the decision to make a couple last-second changes to shoehorn it into the serial/permafree arena was sub-optimal. But I was impatient, and convinced that, with two books out, I should definitely be minting millions.

Luckily, the book still worked perfectly fine as a complete, standalone novel - which is what it was originally intended to be - so selling it as such presented no problems. I made no edits to the content of the book.

Title Tweaks

Next up, I needed a title change. Island Daze has a goofy, whimsical tone. This isn't the darkest apocalyptic book, but it isn't particularly funny, either. So I came up with a new title: Paradise.

There are still some issues - it does have slight religious connotations, and I don't write remotely religious fiction- but, overall, it captures the mood well. Especially in conjunction with the cover, which dispels any notions that this has anything to do with religion.

Yes, there are other books with the same name. I wasn't concerned about that. Paradise: An Apocalyptic Novel (as it appears in the stores), sets clear expectations. Island Daze was a "WTF?" kind of thing - not in a good way. It set no expectations.


This was the biggest change. I was extremely hesitant to shell out money for a book that had, in two years, sold 99 copies. But, truth be told, I never gave it a decent chance. The presentation was so off-base that readers interested in apocalyptic novels would have never given it a second glance.

Enter a new cover from Rebecca Frank. After perusing a number of artists' work, I saw hers continually pop up on bestseller lists. It was clear that, in addition to being a tremendous artist, she also understood the apocalyptic market and what sold.

So I emailed her 3 - 5 covers that I liked from the apocalyptic bestseller list and told her to give them a jungle theme. I also noted elements from her own covers that I liked. Then I got this, which blew away my lofty expectations:

The one on the left is the original. It was a pre-made. The design is fine, but I chose the completely wrong cover for the book. Not only that, but the text was even wrong: this book might be many things, but "a serial survival thriller" it is not.

The simple subtitle "An Apocalyptic Novel" is much better, and also nails the genre. It's a little unusual to have an apocalyptic story set on a lush island - this book is not remotely written to market, because I didn't even realize a market existed at the time - but this cover captures that effect.


This is actually the one part that I think got worse during the revamp. The short, punchy opening lines draw the reader into the story better than the block of text I have in the new version. Although I think the second one's imagery ("violent storm" and "spreading like wildfire") better captures the apocalyptic tenor of the story. The second one also has a better focus on the apocalyptic elements, rather than the partying. Definitely needs to be retooled to enhance readability and the overall formatting.


A global pandemic...
A mysterious millionaire...
A sinister secret.

When Maverick, CEO of Elevation Industries, invites some of his closest staff to his personal island, everyone knows what to expect.
A non-stop, raucous, debauched party on a sun-soaked island paradise. It's known as The Hideaway for good reason.

But, a day into their vacation, news trickles down from the mainland, carrying word of a mysterious virus. And not everything on the picturesque locale in the South Pacific is as wonderful as it seems. There are strange noises in the night. But the most dangerous people of all might be those who they once thought of as friends and colleagues.

Island Daze: The Complete Series is the complete 4 episode series of the post-apocalyptic pulp thriller.


When the world ends, what happens to paradise?

After their yacht is damaged by a violent storm, a group of vacationers are stranded on an idyllic private island. But real panic only sets in when the group radios the mainland for assistance, receiving a harrowing message. A deadly virus is spreading like wildfire across the world, plunging cities into chaos. Cut off from the outside world, the group must find another way off the island in order to survive.

But strange wildlife and a mysterious band of settlers lurk deep in the island's dense jungles - and neither are fond of outsiders. And the true source of the viral outbreak might be closer than anyone realizes...


Note that the keyword "apocalyptic" is now in the subtitle. That probably helps. Otherwise, this didn't make a difference (except on Google Play, where the # of downloads went up 7x), but here are all the keywords I used:

Old keywords: pandemic apocalypse, end of world novels, virus outbreak fiction, post apocalyptic serial, genetic engineering thriller, dystopian novels, genetic engineering science fiction books

New: apocalypse pandemic Armageddon doom cataclysm disaster calamity ruin corporations destruction downfall fall of civilization storm havoc end of the world gritty chaos survival society safety paradise lush sanctuary beach private island ocean earth landscape battle genetic engineering experiments illness virus, third person dystopian post apocalyptic science fiction sci-fi sf kindle ebooks, genes


The old Island Daze was actually in five categories, I believe. Whatever I changed with the keywords and so forth reduced the number to four for the Paradise reboot. It didn't seem to matter. I might email Amazon and add more when I'm feeling less lazy.

As an aside, I added two categories to my book Shadow Memories. Download numbers for May 1 - 17 (pre-add) were 3.2 copies a day. Download numbers for May 18 - 22 were...3.2 copies a day. No promo involved, so that could shift the numbers dramatically. And this does not even remotely qualify as anything more than "interesting anecdotal information." But I'm skeptical about the impact of categories.


This actually didn't change. Island Daze: The Complete Series was originally $4.99 when I was still using the permafree serial model. About six to eight months before I decided to optimize, I took the first episode down and made the entire novel permafree. This didn't do anything for downloads - I would get one or two a day, if I was lucky. I netted a whopping 426 downloads in all of 2015.

The completely revamped Paradise stayed permafree. Its intention was simply to get people interested in my work and get people to sign up for my mailing list. Neither of those have happened, probably because the novel itself has issues that prevent it.


Here are the results again, for the curious (or forgetful):

Island Daze, Jan 1 - Mar 31: 147 downloads (Amazon) + 159 (Others)
Paradise, April 1 - 30: 336 downloads (Amazon) + 55 downloads (D2D) + 73 (Gplay)

Also the results for 5/1 - 5/21, including a $70 Freebooksy ad:

3118 downloads on Amazon + 516 (other)

Did it make me money? No. But I think the process is sound, provided the book - it's always, always, always about the book - satisfies reader expectations and hooks them for the long haul.

Part 8: The 80/20 Summary & What Really Matters

To reiterate my findings from the Paradise optimization: your title, cover and blurb matter most of all. Your price can be a big factor (it wasn't in that test, simply because you can't go lower than free), too.

But, more importantly, visibility and optimization aren't the secret sauce. The most important thing in marketing, contrary to popular belief, is to have a product people want. If no one wants your book, no amount of promotion, optimization or magic will bring it up from the depths. When you've exhausted all such opportunities, and the book still acts as if it is held down by rocks, the book is the likely culprit.

People don't really want Paradise. I tried really hard to create a great book that people would like, but sometimes that doesn't work out. The best marketing in the world can't outrun a product that most readers don't really connect with.

For many, my conclusions that your book, title, cover and blurb are critical won't come as a surprise. However, I hope that my analysis has at least provided more concrete evidence that, in fact, these are the right paths to go down. Too often we get attracted to new and shiny things, while declaring the fundamentals old hat. Look at all those people making cash with their stupid keyword stuffed titles, you might think. Most of them, however, are actually making peanuts, because the core elements of a solid book are absent.

99% of the time, when you put together a decent book listing, run some promo, and your book sinks like a rock, it means you've written something no one wants. I've had the privilege of doing this a whopping fourteen times. Thus, before you optimize until you're seeing keywords in your alphabet soup, know this:

Most of the time, the answer to "why is my book not selling?" is quite simple: you've written an unsellable book.

This isn't meant to end this guide on a discouraging note. Instead, it should be liberating: I see too many authors obsess over the Sisyphean task of propping their non-selling books up with continued revision, promo and never-ending-tweaks. After a certain point, it's better to marshal your resources to other ends - like studying what readers want, and then delivering a book that satisfies their expectations.

Nothing will ever trump that. But before you write off a poor-selling book, see if there's anything you can do to improve its chances of success. You probably won't launch up the best-seller lists, but if you have an extensive backlist, you can generate a comfortable bump in revenue.

The 80/20 Summary


    Cover = packaging, not artwork.
    Make sure your title clearly signals the genre. Don't go for metaphors or esoteric imagery.
    You want a cover that is professional, clean, readable and instantly signals the genre/expectations at a small size.
    Browse Amazon's top 100 bestseller list in your sub-genre. Note the trends in terms of titles, covers and other elements (e.g. is the typography usually distressed? Is it a sans-serif or a serif?).
    Find a designer with a portfolio that indicates they can pull your genre off well.
    Send your 3 - 5 examples to your designer with very clear instructions.


    Four principles to keep in mind: make the formatting eye friendly, direct the book towards your target audience - not towards everyone, the first 90 - 100 words of your blurb are the most important, aim for a 7th grade reading level to maximize readability,
    Practice and research: find 5 blurbs that make you want to read the book in your sub-genre's top 20. Find 5 blurbs from NYT Bestsellers. Subscribe to BookBub's newsletter in your genre. Copy your favorite blurbs into a "swipe file" document on your computer. Then write them out, by hand, and analyze what's effective and why.


    Keywords are useless on Amazon unless they're already part of the pre-existing title & subtitle.
    Keywords can be used to access special Amazon subcategories.
    Keywords are very useful on Google Play.


    Plug in keywords to get into the categories you want
    Alternatively, email KDP support and ask them nicely to put your book in other categories.


    Determine your price by answering two key questions:
        Is my main goal revenue or visibility?
        What is the optimal price for my goal (either revenue/visibility) given my specific book/series?
    General rule of thumb: lower price = more visibility/less revenue; higher price = less visibility/more revenue
        Sometimes this is thrown out of whack, i.e. where a book sells better at a higher price.
    Look at the indie bestsellers in your genre - what do readers expect to pay?

Takeaways from the Paradise optimization

    Title, cover, blurb and keywords (on Google Play) are the main elements that move the needle. Price, too, if your book isn't free.
    Optimization can't save a book that people don't want or like. A sustainable career is built on read-through, and people buying your next book. Getting them to download one book is just the first step in a longer chain.
    Getting a new cover, title and blurb bumped up downloads of the permafree from 306 (Jan 1 - Mar 31) to 664 (Apr 1 - Apr 30).
« Last Edit: May 23, 2016, 04:13:37 PM by Nicholas Erik »

Offline Jenny Schwartz

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Smile, nod and wince. Yep. Made those mistakes. Great post! (bonus points for the laugh - "WordPress hates happiness")

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Offline Abderian

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What an awesome post.  :o If my ovaries hadn't dried up and shrivelled away I would probably want to have your babies.

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Offline Jacob Stanley

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Thanks a TON for posting this. I've barely started reading but I can already tell it's gonna be very helpful.

Edit: HOLY CRAP that "Brilliance" blurb... I read it and instantly hopped over to goodreads so I could add the book to my "to read" list.
« Last Edit: May 22, 2016, 10:35:38 PM by Jacob Stanley »

Online EC Sheedy

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Thank you so much for the time and effort you put into this post. This is going to be my morning read, coffee at the ready!  :-*

Offline Bradley Verdell

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This comes at the perfect time for me, as I'm gearing up for some new releases and constructing my author platform. Thanks for saving so many of us from our own mistakes and saving us the time of piecing it all together from other topics. A nice one-stop shop for marketing directions. I aim to apply your plan to the letter.
« Last Edit: May 23, 2016, 12:20:14 AM by Bradley Verdell »

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Offline Jack Krenneck

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Finally. Some grounded advice on blurbs rooted in genre, fact and evidence - not personal preference. I love it. 

Offline aimeeeasterling

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It took me all day to read this post during breaks, but it was very much worth it! Great information, and a good reminder of the reason to keep my blurb down to a small size. Off to see if I can cut 60 words out of the one I'm currently laboring over....

Try Shiftless for FREE!
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Offline SevenDays

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This is fantastic. Thank you so, so very much! Bookmarked!

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Offline J.A. Cipriano

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I always enjoy your posts.

It was funny reading your title section because that was exactly what I did when I came up with the title for cursed. I don't even know what the three curses are...

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Offline asilomik

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Really helpful, already bookmarked it :D

Online Douglas Milewski

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It's great hearing that an otherwise excellent book with excellent marketing can still fail in the market.

Disclaimer: I sell horribly. Set your filters accordingly.

Offline Amyshojai

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Thanks bunches, picked up a few new gems. What a massive job to put together! Book marked.

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Amazing, helpful post! Thank you for taking the time to put this together and post it. Bookmarked as I'll have to read it in parts.

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Online Lydniz

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Thanks for this! It's looooong, so I've bookmarked it to read later.

Offline Pauline Creeden

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Helpful and inspiring post ~ So glad you took the time to share it with us :)

Offline BWFoster78

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Awesome post and thanks for sharing.

I did have one question, though ...

When I'm looking at a book on Amazon, I swear that more than 95% of my buy decision rests on the sample. If the writing/story draws me in, I buy. If it doesn't, I walk away.

Was the sample excluded from your list because you studied it and found it to be unimportant or has it not been studied?



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Offline PB2016

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Fantastic summation, Nic. Thanks and two thumbs up 😊

Tomorrow is just another day.
Pragati Bidkar | Blog | Twitter | Facebook

Offline Sarah Shaw

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Great information- thanks so much for taking the time to put this together! One question- how do you find the names of cover artists on best sellers- without buying all of them, I mean? I looked through one or two but the copyright, etc. often seem to be at the back now- which you can't reach through the sample.

Offline Jessie G. Talbot

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Heh, my first thought was you could publish this post as a short How To Write/Publish guide and sell it for $0.99.

Excellent stuff, thank you!

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Offline Joseph J Bailey

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Excellent post!

This looks like the beginnings of a potential ebook to me!

Joseph J. Bailey | Website | Facebook | Goodreads

Offline lyndabelle

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Thanks for posting. Already trying out some of the searches to find better keywords. Awesome advice.  8)

Lynda Belle | Website | Amazon Author Page

Online Rick Gualtieri

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Awesome post and thanks for sharing.
I did have one question, though ...
When I'm looking at a book on Amazon, I swear that more than 95% of my buy decision rests on the sample. If the writing/story draws me in, I buy. If it doesn't, I walk away.
Was the sample excluded from your list because you studied it and found it to be unimportant or has it not been studied?

I would think that would be a little harder to test, as it pretty much comes down to "Is the story any good or not?"

That said, I guess it could be tested whether or not front matter other than story makes a difference.

Making fantasy fun again, one corpse at a time
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Offline shellabee

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Great post. Thank-you for taking the time to share.