Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Your Book's Subtitle: Or How to Get Free Ad Space on Amazon

In Aaron Shepherd's book, Aiming at Amazon, he recommends a two-tiered subtitle. It's something I suggest in The Frugal Book Promoter, too. In that book, I suggest having two different subtitles because it gives a book a marketing edge in a bookstore where people turn books over to read the blurbs on the back. An additional subtitle header on that back cover is a second chance at letting a prospective reader know what is inside the book or how the book might fit their needs.

When Aaron makes that suggestion, though, he is thinking more about how to get enough keywords into online bookstore's search engines to benefit that book's sales. In fact, he advocates getting the right keywords in at the expense of a literate or extremely memorable title, if it comes down to that kind of a choice for the author. As an example, if the book is about writing, he'd like to see the title and subtitle include the different forms of that word. "Write." "Writer." "Publish." "Publishing." Maybe even "Publisher" if that version of the word applies. If the book is for children, one might try to include both the search words "children" and "kids" so the book will come up regardless of which the prospective book buyer searches for.

He tells us Amazon's computers will "accept subtitles of up to 300 characters, including all letters, punctuation, and spaces. But Amazon will truncate the title if the main title and subtitle together come to over 200 characters and the characters won't get cut off the end but out of the middle, replaced by an ellipsis!" That means that authors will want to limit the complete title to 200 characters, if possible. He also notes that longer titles take up more space in the prime field of visitors' vision when they are on the book's sales page and other places on Amazon. So, with a great title and one that is long, too, an author has literally "purchased" a great ad online without spending an extra penny to do so. Very frugal, no?

Aaron also advises that other listings have shorter limits. Ingram and Lightning Source won't accept more than 116 characters in the subtitle. Baker & Taylor will take only about 113. So, authors might want to decide on two versions of the subtitle. A big one for Amazon and a smaller one with about 110 characters when the full one won't fit. Or, you could do a shorter one for wherever you need one that is more literate or jazzier. You would just decide which one to submit for each specific venue.

In any case, most authors will see that having some well-considered choices will be an advantage in marketing their book both online and in bookstores.


PS: You'll find more resources on publishing at Aaron's publishing page at www.aaronshep.com/publishing and more resources on promotion on the Resources for Writers pages at my website, www.howtodoitfrugally.com.

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Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and two how to books, The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won't and The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success. She is also the author of the Amazon Short, "The Great First Impression Book Proposal". Some of her other blogs are TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor blog.

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