Archives: Amazon

Marketing begins with an immediately accessible concept. As more books go digital and jacket art becomes a less important draw to readers, your title becomes your best (or worst) marketer. Look at the New York Times Bestsellers list each week: you’ll see common words repeating almost formulaically by category. How can one tap this formula? Simply by paying careful attention, even just looking at your own bookshelf or Kindle queue. Here are some of the top-selling titles we found to guide you in the right direction. Some might surprise you!

1. Guide to, Ways to, How to: 1,638,764 / 194,230/ 584,472

Practical titles caught us as the most prevalent: promising to fulfill something you need. But you don’t necessarily need to have written a self-help book to use these phrases.  Toby Young’s memoir How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, a spin-off of the famous prescriptive business title: How to Win Friends and Influence People picks up on these buzzwords. Even fiction authors can take advantage: think of Melissa Bank’s breakout book, The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing.

Get creative with nonfiction help titles too by remixing classics like “What to Do When…” (119,112 in Search Results on Amazon) or calls to action, like: “How to Start…” (107,615 in Search). Readers browsing for particular information, whether for personal or professional interest, will respond to both the authority of a “How to” title and the originality of your spin on it.

2. Lives/Life: 1,665,413/1,665,455

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry: A Novel, Life Beyond Words, My Horizontal Life, The Secret Life of Violet Grant… We were surprised by the number of books on bestseller lists containing these words. Three possible reasons: the word “life” implicitly suggests an arc, or progression, or wholeness to a story; it caters to voyeurism, an intimate look at someone else’s life; and finally, it brings a kind of drama through that voyeuristic lens. Many readers appear to respond to a title that feels both honest and sensational.

3. Children: 1,649,100

Everyone love talking about kids: Their kids, other kids, genius kids, and “those darn kids!” So it’s no surprise “children” is a popular search title. There are plenty of self-help books on how to raise a child (The Conscious Parent: Transforming Ourselves, Empowering Our Children). However, other popular fiction writers are also quick to play to our parenting sensibilities, like bestselling YA author Ransom Riggs’ novel Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, or Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children.

4. House/Home: 1,124,405/481,749

A house: one of the most basic units of life. Houses and homes are close to our hearts as well as our wallets. A self-help or style book focused on the house or home would do well to include these keywords, but even fiction books like House of Leaves by  Mark Z. Danielewski and Summer House With Swimming Pool by Herman Koch can capitalize on the ubiquitous and comforting nature of these words.

5. Perfect: 1,057,687

Are we more perfectionist than ever? Apparently so! Popular book titles reveal a lot about human psychology. Using the word “perfect” seems to automatically guarantee a better shot at bestsellerdom, from the book-to-film, A Perfect Storm, to self-help (and in this case self-published) bestsellers, like Creating Your Perfect Lifestyle.

5. You/Your: 776,534  / 486,158

Frame the topic of your book around a well-placed “you” or “your” and you have immediately established a connection with potential readers. You can go the more traditional route: Seeing the Big Picture: Business Acumen to Build Your Credibility, Career, and Company, or… Welcome to Your Brain and Don’t Look Behind You are playful takes on this tactic.

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Did you know The Washington Post has its own eBook series published by Diversion Books?

I didn’t, until this superbly succinct page-turner came my way. At just over 100 pages, Steven Levingston, the Post’s nonfiction editor, describes in equally devastating and uplifting detail, a moment in the life of JFK that forever changed him.

Of course, the book is for you to read, but in the meantime, let’s just relish this gorgeous cover. It really says it all, doesn’t it?

TWP epub cover-Kennedy-FINAL

About the Book

A sensitive portrait of how a profound tragedy changed one of America’s most prominent families.

On August 7, 1963, heavily pregnant Jackie Kennedy collapsed, marking the beginning of a harrowing day and a half. The doctors and family went into full emergency mode, including a helicopter ride to a hospital, a scramble by the President to join her from the White House, and a C-section to deliver a baby boy, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, five and a half weeks early with a severe respiratory ailment. The baby was so frail he was immediately baptized.
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Trying to publicize a book, particularly by way of newspapers and magazines, can be so challenging for already published or just publishing titles that authors in this position are often turned down by publicity firms. Finding the right publicist has become a bit like finding an agent.

There is enormous value to be had in the months until publication, and when consulting with writers, this has become the starting point of any conversation. Carving out ample lead time to promote or think about promotion can make the difference between a book published proactively and a book published reactively. With 3-6 or even 8 months to plan what you want your publication to look like, the reading world is your oyster. You can begin to craft a marketing strategy including those blue sky ideas that, when you’re publicizing a book retroactively, will be near impossible to achieve. With 3-8 months ahead, you can do a lot by way of networking, social or otherwise, and have a much better shot at mainstream publicity.

But for lack of knowledge or budget, or for relying too heavily on their publishers, many authors find themselves in the retroactive position. Instead of tossing in the towel come what may, I think there are avenues to market or publicize your book in a way that builds an audience perhaps slowly, but also more meaningfully and permanently. Before you begin, it’s crucial to shift your objective from ‘buy my book!’ to ‘learn about my book and see if you like it.’ Don’t fall prey to algorithms and popularity contests. What good are those thousands of followers and friends, those form letters to no one in particular, if these are not people who would realistically enjoy your book?

Here are a few ways to use free social platforms available to everyone to genuinely connect with readers at an individual level:
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For authors promoting their books, there are so many methods of marketing online that one can often overlook the most essential platform second to your website: your Amazon book page. Much like your website, this is your showcase—but unlike your website, you’re not allowed the same freedom to design beyond Amazon’s basic infrastructure. So, if your page will appear at least superficially like everyone else’s, how will you hook a potential reader in those very first seconds he or she is scanning your page? How will you stand out? Here are our top 6 hints.

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I recently wrote an article for Mary Cummings‘ blog on Digital Book World. Hopefully, it answers some of the questions I often hear from authors: Is NPR a possibility? What can I expect in terms of book reviews? Why again is Twitter important? Here is a teaser, and you can read the full article here.

Every book that you could at one point feel in your hands has today become something you can instantly access on your cell phone. For authors, publicists and publishers, this has meant that we’ve needed to re-think the traditional publicity tools—print reviews, radio, and television that once, in the gilded age of publishing, worked so well for hardcovers. More than ever, it may now be online marketing that makes the PR difference.

Permanency and Possibility in Online Outlets

The moment physical became virtual, publicity both expanded and became more limited. Expanded, because we’ve never known a time when so many online outlets have existed—not merely the digital counterparts of print magazines, but an infinite sea of online programs and blogs, each with their own set of followers. When a book is covered online, a title and link are given permanency. Readers have the opportunity to click directly to buy. When it is so easy to move from point of mention to point of sale, and when eBooks are priced affordably (under $5), the possibility of the impulse buy is all the more tenable. The chance any person of a younger generation will see an interesting author interview on television, remember the name of the author or book, remember to find it the next time he or she is by the internet or browsing in a book shop, and finally buy that new book in hardcover at a price point of $25.99…well, it’s a big leap of faith you’re taking on a consumer. The “un-immediacy” of how books are still presented today using these major outlets will be even more of a challenge for forthcoming, instantly gratify-able generations—if those outlets still exist.

When I learn about a book on Twitter, one 140-character tweet from someone who shares my interests can move me to action. Maybe I click on the link to that blog review. From there, a good review will seamlessly send me to an author’s website or Amazon page.

Online PR is Not Less Credible, and Possibly Even Profitable

For eBooks, and particularly those self-published, the reality is that NPR, Today, and People Magazine are not reasonable targets. Forgetting any argument of stigma, the lack of “physicality” becomes an issue for events; you simply don’t have something to hand sell. To further complicate matters, these longstanding book reviewers are often still of the hardcover “old school,” preferring to see physical review copies of books. This is the limiting side of publicity as it exists currently, not future. Fortunately, authors are understanding more and more that there are all kinds of ways to sell a book; a different kind of “hand selling” that may be less a blanket approach, and more about targeting individuals in reading communities like Goodreads, or promoting their own events via Togather, and gathering a fan base to help.

Happily, I’ve witnessed authors in successful campaigns, thrilled by the snowballing effect of online coverage—the kind that doesn’t start and end at publication, but which builds momentum and endures. In best case scenarios, great websites, blog reviews, and social media buzz are capturing the attention of NPR and newspaper reviewers, and a fortunate author can benefit from all means of exposure.

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Mary

We were thrilled to sit down with Mary Cummings, the Editorial Director of Diversion Books, to pick her brain on what she sees really working in the world of eBooks, and to get her recommendations for authors on best marketing practices for their books.

First, I’m so curious about how you came to naming your company Diversion.

I can take no credit in the naming of Diversion, as it happened well before my time, but we think of “Diversion” in a couple of ways. There’s the book-as-entertainment aspect, as in “this book is a welcome diversion from my busy day,” but also the very real and important distinction of Diversion as a publisher that has “diverted” from the path of traditional publishing insofar as its digital focus and all that comes with it, but has not abandoned the path altogether. In general, we like to think of Diversion as: “traditional approach, digital focus.”

Why publish with Diversion over Amazon?

Do you mean why not self-publish? Well, if you have time, savviness, and energy to put into publishing and promoting your book in an aggressive, ongoing way, then go for it! But even the most successful self-published authors are turning to companies like Diversion because they see value to more hands on deck, a reputable house backing them and enhancing their efforts, and abandoning the more nitty-gritty, technological, metadata-oriented tasks that are in constant need of management for the entire life of the ebook, assuming it is to be successful. Very few authors will be successful just by putting their work out there–it has to be continually nurtured, updated, and attended to on the marketing end.

Do you predict a fadeout of traditional publishers in favor of eBooks? Read more »

Too Big to Fail?

Will a Random House/Penguin Merger Stave Off the Amazon Threat?

In yet another sign of the major changes happening in the publishing industry, it was announced Monday that Random House and Penguin have agreed to a merger, creating the biggest global, consumer book publisher in the world, controlling over 25% of the market, according to The New York TimesWitty Twitter comments aside (Random Penguins, anyone?), literary agents, authors and other industry professionals have voiced real concerns about the merger: having fewer publishers to submit to, fewer books, lower advances, and jobs in limbo. (This week, Simon & Schuster announced layoffs and a new restructuring plan.) There were even murmurs that come this Wednesday, Murdoch would make a one billion dollar offer for Pearson, Penguin’s parent company, “terrifying agents and authors,” and possibly causing a bidding war with Random House. This never came to pass. Yet.

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We asked, you answered.

We’re happy to host Todd Aaron Jensen, author of a collection of celebrity essays called On Gratitude, Chris Semal, author of mystery/noir Trial of Tears, and Rebecca Regnier, author of humor/diet/social media book, Your Twitter Diet in a virtual conversation on the ups and downs and tricks of the trade in today’s “new school” of publishing.

1) With over 3 million people wanting to write books, why did you feel yours needed to be written, or would stand above the rest?
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It sounds like an oxymoron. But as a follow up to our fairly grim outlook on book advances, I wanted to shine a potential bright light: a possible everybody-wins solution to the financial dilemmas facing both authors and their publishers today.

Last week, I spoke with an internationally published author who came to me with this perspective: “If I could find a major publisher in the U.S., I wouldn’t even require a book advance.”

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Would you choose a literary agent or publisher based on brand name, or based on their knowledge in new media?

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