Thursday, April 28, 2011

So You'd Like To Guides: Amazon's Great Book Promotion Warrior

Below is an excerpt from my first HowToDoItFrugally series of book for writers, The Frugal Book Promoter. I'm reprinting this piece on So You'd Like To guides because I think many authors have neglected this way of promoting their books. In the past I've even directed my UCLA students to how-to articles I've published as a SYLT.  

AHH, AMAZON. When it comes to book sales, she strides on the sturdiest of legs. Like the great woman warrior of mythology she performs amazing feats. She sells your books here and overseas. Small or large publishers, subsidy-, and self-published books may be found in her pages making her a unique buying and selling tool. She also offers—with an outstretched hand and only a few guidelines—avenues that will expose your book to a very important target, readers. To get started using a myriad of possibilities for selling your book and for moving your writing career ahead, open an account.
Because Amazon is fickle—always adding a feature or taking something away, always changing page designs, always changing the names of their features I can only attempt to give exact instructions for implementing the features she offers. Be sure you read and adhere to the guidelines of any feature you use. I especially like So You'd Like Tos...

.“So You’d Like To...” is a feature where you can post articles, essays, rills or rants on any subject that you wish. At the bottom of the article you type in the ISBN numbers (but Amazon calls them ASIN numbers) of books or other products related to the subject of your piece. Readers who visit the pages of the books you listed may then find your article available to read.
Here are some tips for contributing a successful So You’d Like To:

 Find the “So You’d Like To….” link on “Your About You Page.”

 Read the instructions and guidelines before you start.

 Come up with a title that invites browsers to read it. One of mine that has attracted heavy readership is “So You’d Like To… Know More About Elizabeth Smart’s Culture.” Every time Elizabeth’s court case (she’s the teenager who was kidnapped by a radical self-styled prophet in Utah) makes the news, this essay gets another spurt of curious readers.

 Copy and paste your article into the text window.

 Carefully edit. Amazon’s free offer deserves to be honored with your best. Besides, you reputation as a writer is on the line.

 At the end, type in up to 50 related book, tape, and video titles according to the instructions. I used the book written by Elizabeth’s parents and others on facets of Utah’s culture including its renegade polygamist cells.

 Include some books on your list that will attract heavy traffic from book lovers. That helps exposure. Longer lists are spotted throughout Amazon more often than short ones.

 Include the title of your book in the body of the essay. If you have chosen your subject carefully your book will be a natural fit, but don't make it the first book you mention. Amazon appears to frown on that.
 You may begin with a short list and add to it using the edit feature.

 Voila! This list will magically appear on many pages throughout the Amazon site. It will be targeted primarily to the books that you chose to list but may appear elsewhere.
Here's an example of a way I've used SYLTs. It may give you an idea for a project of your own:

I decided to help authors I know by offering to include their books on a “So You’d Like To…” list. I recycled (and rewrote) one of the “Back to Literature” columns I had published at www.myshelf.com . It was an opinion piece on how important it is for authors to be accessible to their fans. Then I posted an offer to fellow authors who share a list-serve with me. I told them what I was doing and asked for volunteers. I also asked them to promise me they would be accessible to fans by offering a gift or a signature label to them if they were contacted.
Some of my SYLTs have made it to Amazon’s top 100, but I haven’t figured out the criteria they use or why they seem to rotate on and off the list, and I can’t find anyone else who has figured it out either.

Now, here's the downside of using SYLTs and any other Amazon feature. What they giveth, they are prone to taketh away. So, if someone reports you or if they think you have broken one of their submission guidelines the powers that be may remove your contribution. In fact, they may remove all your contributions. I am not advising you not to use the features. I am saying to be aware and not to put all your promotional projects in the Amazon basket. Contribute when it will do your book and others some good. Follow the guidelines. But don't put so much into it that you will feel devastated if someone out there in Net land decides to ding you--with little or no cause. And please note: This is not just a risk with Amazon. It is true of most if not all social networks. Facebook once decided (apparently) that I was accepting to many friends as once or that I was doing it the wrong way. Still not sure. I'm b-a-a-a-ck. But it wasn't easy.

PS: There is more on features that Amazon offers writers in The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won't. In fact, a whole chapter on how you can make Amazon work for your book and your writing career.


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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 how to books for writers including, The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won't; The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success; and Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers . The Great First Impression Book Proposal is her newest booklet for writers. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. 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 . If your followers at Twitter would benefit from this blog post, please use the little Green widget to let them know about this blog:

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