Ready for 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest?

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2014It’s January. That means the annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest is right around the corner. ABNA Grand Prize is an advance of $50,000 and a publishing contract with Amazon. How did that work out for last year’s winner, author Rysa Walker of Timebound? Her book has well over a thousand reviews and is still the #36 best selling paid book at Amazon. Sounds like it’s doing pretty well.

Four First Prize winners will also get an Amazon Publishing contract and a $15,000 advance. There are other prizes as well but you must enter between Feb 16th and March 2nd–only 10,000 entries, which should go fast due to the explosion of Indie author books. Amazon Publishing will be tremendous exposure, plus it will get print books into bookstores. Factor in the international Amazon expansion that’s going gangbusters–well, you get the picture. Open to new books and previously self-published titles provide you maintain worldwide distribution rights. Click for FAQs.

Genres include: General Fiction, Mystery/Thriller, Science Fiction/Fantasy/, Horror, Romance, Young Adult Fiction.

You must register at CreateSpace.com/abna to enter the Contest. Once you have registered, follow the instructions on the entry form and upload: (1) the complete version of your manuscript that is between 50,000 and 125,000 words (“Manuscript“); (2) up to the first 5,000 words, but not less than 3,000 words, of your Manuscript, excluding any table of contents, foreword, and acknowledgments (“Excerpt“); (3) a pitch of your Manuscript consisting of up to 300 words (“Pitch“); and (4) the personal information required on the entry form. (1-4 collectively, an “Entry“). We will not review any Entry that does not comply with these Official Rules.

The ABNA contest is open to unpublished and self-published novels. Authors can submit their work in one of the following categories: general fiction; mystery/thriller; romance; science fiction/fantasy/horror; and young adult fiction. For complete eligibility details, review the Official Contest Rules.

No fees to enter, a nice feature for a book contest imo. What are your thoughts?


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Smashwords Predictions for 2014

When Mark Coker speaks about e-publishing, writers listen. Or they should; the Smashwords CEO has done as much for indie authors as anyone. The following are highlights from his annual industry predictions. To see the entire article, visit the Smashwords blog post.

Highlights of Mark’s predictions:

  1. Big publishers lower prices – Until recently, it was rare to see a traditionally published book priced under $4.00.  In 2014 their temporary price promotions will give way to a new normal.  Discounting is a slippery slope.  Once customers are conditioned to expect big-name authors for $3.99 or less, the entire industry will be forced to go there.  The huge pricing advantage once enjoyed by indies will diminish in 2013.
  2. When everyone is pricing sub $4.00, price promotions will become less effective – If readers have an unlimited supply of high-quality books from their favorite authors at under $4.00, it means factors other than price will gain importance.
  3. Ebook growth slows – After a decade of exponential growth in ebooks with indies partying like it was 1999, growth is slowing. […] A normal cyclical shakeout is coming.
  4. Competition increases dramatically – With hundreds of thousands of new books published annually, and with retailer catalogs swelling to carry millions of titles, it may come across as trite for me to predict that completion will increase in 2014 for indies.
  5. Ebook sales, measured in dollar volume, will decrease in 2014 – Yikes.  I said it.  The nascent ebook market is likely to experience its first annual downturn in sales as measured in dollar volume.  […]  Global sales in developing countries remain one potential bright spot that could mitigate any sales contraction.
  6. Ebook unit market share will increase – Ebook consumption, measured in unit sales and downloads, and measured in words read digitally, will increase in 2014.
  7. A larger wave of big-name authors will defect to indieville – Multiple market forces will conspire to cause a large number of traditionally published authors to turn their backs on big publishers.
  8. It’s all about the writing – It doesn’t matter if you’re publishing a cookbook, romance novel, gardening how-to, memoir or political treatise.  Your job as the indie author is to write that super-fabulous book.
  9. All authors become indie authors – The best writers will have the option to publish independently AND traditionally, or do one or the other.
  10. Subscription ebook services will change the game – If the ebook subscription services – the most notable of which are Scribd and Oyster – can make their business models work, then they’ll drive a game changing shift in how readers value and consume books. […] Readers will be relieved of the cognitive load of having to decide if a given book is worth the purchase price.  Instead, they’ll surf and sample books with minimal friction, as if every book is free.
  11. Traditional publishers will reevaluate their approach to self-publishing – The vanity approach to self-publishing, as witnessed by Pearson/Penguin’s acquisition of Author Solutions (operates AuthorHouse, iUniverse, BookTango, Trafford, Xlibris, Palibrio, others…), has shown itself to be a boondoggle that harmed the brands of all traditional publishers.  […]  Their business model is expensive at best, and unethical at worst.  It’s about selling $15,000 publishing packages to authors who will never earn the money back.
  12. Platform is king – Platform is your ability to reach readers.  Authors who can build, maintain and leverage their platforms will have a significant competitive advantage over those who cannot.
  13. Multi-author collaborations will become more common – Authors are collaborating with fellow authors in their same genre or category on box set compilations of existing and original content.  These collaborations are often competitively priced and offer readers the opportunity to discover multiple new authors in a single book.
  14. Production takes on increased importance in 2014 – Organize your time to spend more time writing and less time on everything else.

Great predictions and advice. One of my questions not addressed above: what will happen to Barnes & Noble and its Nook? Feels like they’ve been sinking fast over the past two years. What are your thoughts about this list or 2014 in general?


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SmartURL vs BookLinker for Amazon Books?

SmartURL vs BookLinkerAs of today, there are 12 Amazon countries selling your books (soon to be more). But are you missing potential sales in some of these nations? Below is a tutorial video for making links that direct customers to the right one. Think of it as a global Amazon link.

Example: Jane Reader visits your site, sees your book, wants to buy it, clicks on the link and visits Amazon.com. That’s great if Jane lives in the USA or an Amazon.com affiliated nation. But what if Jane Reader lives in a foreign country like Germany, India, Brazil, the UK or a host of other nations where people cannot buy directly from Amazon.com?

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Some Jane and John Readers know to visit their local Amazon, but they are savvy shoppers while others are not. How many others will simply leave your book page, wrongly assuming it is not available to them?

Hence the need for a global Amazon link, one that takes Jane and John directly to their proper Amazon countries to buy your book. This will convert more browsers into paying customers, get more international sales and even get more reviews.

There are several outfits for help with this (and for free). BookLinker (formerly ViewBook) and SmartURL are among the most popular, though Georiot is a good choice too. The video below demonstrates step by step how to use them and lists pros and cons of each service.

There are different suffixes for each Amazon nation. For example, here are links for the same book in the US and in Germany:

http://www.amazon.com/How-Make-Market-Sell-Ebooks-ebook/dp/B00LXH4KIW/
http://www.amazon.de/How-Make-Market-Sell-Ebooks-ebook/dp/B00LXH4KIW/

Just apply the proper suffix after Amazon, followed by the book name, dp, and ASIN. Delete all the ref stuff that often follows.

United States: US – .com
United Kingdom: GB – .co.uk
France: FR – .fr
Japan: JP – .co.jp
Canada: CA – .ca
Germany: DE – .de
Spain: ES – .es
Italy: IT – .it
India: IN – .in
Mexico: MX – .com.mx
Brazil: BR – .com.br
Australia: AU  – .com.au

The good news is all of these link-builders allow you to use your Amazon Associates Affiliate tags for an extra approx. 5% commission on sales. If you don’t use one, they’ll use theirs which is how they make money. Note that you must apply to each Associate country individually:

US: https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/
UK: https://affiliate-program.amazon.co.uk/
DE: https://partnernet.amazon.de/
FR: https://partenaires.amazon.fr/
IT: https://programma-affiliazione.amazon.it/
SP: https://afiliados.amazon.es/
CA: https://associates.amazon.ca/
JP: https://affiliate.amazon.co.jp/

Part 2 of this post (see below) explains how to implement these links at your website and within your books. First, watch this step by step video for how to make the links.

Pros and cons:

BookLinker is designed specifically for Amazon, is fast and has a slightly better custom URL upon creation. But it only works with product (book) pages and author pages, while it does not work with review pages. Currently BookLinker only shows 9 flags; newcomers India, Mexico and Australia’s flags aren’t visible. Not to worry, an email to the admin confirmed those countries will work. “We are currently in the process of updating the ‘My Links’ page of our website to display statistics from some of the newer Amazon’s – and you can expect this feature to be available within the next few weeks.”

SmartURL works with all Amazon pages including reviews, which is wise to do in my opinion. But it takes a bit longer to use and you have to reinsert affiliate tags for every single product instead of just once.

Ultimately, both of these are great. BookLinker is nice because it is designed to be used only with Amazon, but since SmartURL also works with reviews pages, if I had to choose only one–that factor would cause me to go with it. For now, I’m using both with a memo to BookLinker Admin to add Amazon review pages to their platform.

Part 2 of this post teaches how to implement these links at your website, in your document and upload to Amazon.

Do you have a preference or additional thoughts about all this? Please share in the comments.


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Is Amazon SEO Affected by the Book Description?

Does the description of an Amazon book have much effect on its search engine? Many think “yes” since we know titles, subtitles, categories, keywords and actual text contribute to Amazon search results. Even KDP recommends:

To increase your book’s discoverability on Amazon, you need descriptions and keywords that accurately portray your book’s content and use the words customers will use when they search.

But is it true? Let’s do an experiment. Watch the video and see how the book’s description on the product page has no visible effect on search results. However, it’s still worth considering SEO factors in your description because it has merit with Google. The video below explains.


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7 Tips for Amazon Keywords and Best Selling Books

Amazon Keywords for Books and Authors 3Best selling books are more likely to happen when authors use smart Amazon keywords. When used wisely, keywords help strangers from all over the world find your books. Most authors are missing out because the whole metadata thing can be confusing. Think of it like this:

  • At bookstores, readers browse in sections where covers, titles and blurbs help them decide to inspect further.
  • Online, readers type phrases into the search bar where the most relevant books show up in the results (or the books Amazon thinks are most relevant).

Obvious question: how to choose the best ones so the search engine at Amazon leads browsers to your book? Here are 7 tips to help select the best words and phrases plus a tutorial video at YouTube at the bottom of this post.

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1. Make a list of words customers might use in the search bar to find what they want to read that is also what your book is about. This is called relevance. You don’t have to worry about a search for your name or book title. Those results will do fine on their own. You want to focus on subjects in your book like “travel writing” or “young adult romance” or “dating for women” as examples. From Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP): Along with factors like sales history and Amazon Best Sellers Rank, relevant keywords can boost your placement in search results on Amazon.com.

2. Test these words at Amazon. How? Type them into the search bar slowly, one letter at a time and watch as prompts appear with words Amazon thinks you might be looking for in the search field. Example: if you type in R-E-I, the word “reincarnation” comes up immediately in the drop-down menu but it takes R-E-I-N-C before “reincarnation books” appears. This indicates to me that reincarnation is probably a better choice than reincarnation books if that is a major subject in your story.

3. Cross-test the words at Google Keyword Planner. Since Amazon’s search bar gives no data on how often a term is searched, it’s wise to check terms and similar ones with Google and see if one word or phrase is much more popular than the other. Back to our example–let’s say you wanted to add a term like “reincarnation books” along with “reincarnation” to your list of 7 keywords (or phrases) at Amazon. By testing similar terms at Google, wouldn’t it be nice to know the term “reincarnation stories” gets searched 40 times more often than “reincarnation books” does? Thus, you’d be wise to use reincarnation stories rather than reincarnation books.

Remember to try multiple ways of writing the same thing with slight variations like “psychic” vs “psychics.” The tutorial video below demonstrates this is great detail or watch it on YouTube.

4. If possible, adding keywords to your book’s title or subtitle will do more good than at any other location since the title is most influential on search results. For non-fiction especially, your title must be related to search terms. For fiction, this can be hard if you already have a title and are set on keeping it. Perhaps the title is Dawn’s Quest. A brief subtitle will help bunches with keywords that actually get searched like Dawn’s Quest: A Caribbean Mystery. Don’t feel like doing that? I understand–most of my fiction titles don’t have keywords either, but it makes the battle that much harder to reach the top.

Amazon Keywords for Books and Authors 25. Some Categories are linked with Keyword Requirements

The genres below are designed to be linked with keyword suggestions that help rank books in certain categories. Click on the genre to see some of the recommended keywords to rank your book in the top #100 of a specific category. (Notice the yellow highlight example for “new adult” as a keyword requirement for the broader category of Romance–New Age & College–New Adult.)

6. Implement these tips with examples from Amazon:

Useful keyword types
● Setting (Colonial America)
● Character types (single dad, veteran)
● Character roles (strong female lead)
● Plot themes (coming of age, forgiveness)
● Story tone (dystopian, feel-good)

Amazon Keywords for Books and Authors7. Input your keywords with KDP Publishing.
KDP gives you 7 choices (see the highlighted area in the photo on left). It’s recommended to use short phrases, 2-3 words long but I also have good success with 1-word examples like “publishing,” “dogs” and “skiing.” Combine those with phrases like “sell ebooks online,” “children’s bedtime stories” and “extreme sports” respectively as examples to cover the bases. Think like readers who are searching by subjects they enjoy.

Finally, do not include these things:
● Information covered elsewhere in your book’s metadata—title, contributor(s),  category, etc.
● Subjective claims about quality (e.g. “best”)
● Statements that are only temporarily true (“new,” “on sale,” “available now”)
● Information common to most  items in the category (“book”)
● Common misspellings
● Variants of spacing, punctuation, capitalization, and pluralization (both “80GB” and “80 GB”, “computer” and “computers”, etc.). The only exception is for words translated in more than one way, like “Mao Zedong” and “Mao Tse-tung,” or “Hanukkah” and “Chanukah.”
● Anything misrepresentative, such as the name of an author that is not associated with your book. This type of information can create a confusing customer experience and Kindle Direct Publishing has a zero tolerance policy for metadata that is meant to advertise, promote, or mislead.

Don’t use quotation marks in search terms: Single words work better than phrases—and specific words work better than general words. If you enter “complex suspenseful whodunit,” only people who type all of those words will find your book. You’ll get better results if you enter this: complex suspenseful whodunit. Customers can search on any of those words and find your book.

Other no-no’s that might land you in trouble:

• Reference to other authors
• Reference to books by other authors
• Reference to sales rank (i.e. ‘best-selling’)
• Reference to advertisements or promotions (i.e. ‘free’)
• Reference to anything that is unrelated to your book’s content

Other tips:
● Customers are more likely to skim past long titles (over 60 characters).
● Focus your book’s description on the book’s content
● Your keywords can capture useful, relevant information that won’t fit in your title and description (setting, character, plot, theme, etc.)
● You can change keywords and descriptions as often as you like
● If your book is available in different formats (physical, audio) keep your keywords and description consistent across formats
● Make sure your book’s metadata adheres to KDP’s Metadata Guidelines.

This video tutorial goes through this in a step by step fashion.

If you have questions or comments, leave them in the comments section.


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