Let’s face it – selling books is hard, but there are some basics that are easy to do, and yet, many authors seem to miss them. So I’m starting with one of the important one – Amazon’s Author Central. There is absolutely no reason at all why every indie author shouldn’t have their author pages set up.
What is Author Central?
This is a website provided by Amazon for anyone who publishes books there, Kindle or paperback via Createspace. It’s the site that pops up if you click on an author’s name on their book – without one you will get a list of fairly random books that share part of your name e.g. clicking on Jane Smith got me this :
or you will go to a proper Author Central page.
I don’t care how much you don’t “get” marketing – that’s a better result surely?
Why is Author Central Important?
Remember the last time you found a new author that you liked, what was the next thing you did after you finished the book? The usual answer is that you wanted to read more about the author, and see what other books she’d written.
Author Central is the first thing you should do to start establishing your author brand. You need to start giving people a reason to remember you name, your face, and hence your books.
But there a some other less obvious advantages to having an author central page:
You can promote your blog/twitter/videos to readers and hopefully encourage them to further connect with you and sign up for your email list;
You can add additional information to your book’s listing which is not available from the normal KDP (Kindle publishing) dashboard;
You can track your books sales easily;
You start to track your author rank in Amazon – which may well become important for the all-important Amazon algorithm in the future;
It’s by far the easiest way to contact Amazon, and get a human to reply to your emails.
There Are As Many Author Central Pages as Their Are Amazons
I’ll describe the process for signing up for auhorcentral.amazon.com – but you really should repeat the process for any of the other Amazon’s that you make significant sales at. I have Author Central setup on:
Each one is entirely separate so you can alter each one independently. Each also shows different book rankings and different reviews – because each show the ranking and reviews only for that country.
How To Sign Up For Author Central
Create a login at the authorcentral.amazon.com
1) If you have multiple pen names you can set these up separately – you may need to contact Amazon support (link at the bottom of each page) for their assistance. Once the pen-names are setup – you will have a drop down in the top right of the screen to switch between them. You will need to repeat the following steps for each pen-name
2) Go to the Profile tab on the menu and at the very least add your photo and your brief bio. Both of these will also be shown on your book’s Amazon page below your book’s reviews., as well as when readers click through on your name.
3) You also have the option to add any or all the following: your twitter handle, your blog’s RSS feed, up to eight videos, any events you are appearing at.
4) Once you have the profile sorted out, start to claim your books. If your author name exactly matches that of the book, and I assume is reasonably unique, then Amazon will try to pick them up automatically. Otherwise just search for them and claim them again remembering to claim the right books for the right pen-name.
5) For each book you can amend the listing on amazon.com by making changing to the listing details in Amazon Central. Note that you may have multiple editions of the books e.g. Kindle and paperback and you can change each independently.
Once you have made changes here you will never again be able to make changes on the KDP screen for the book’s description, so just remember that.
You can use basic formatting (bold, lists etc) and add in “editorial” reviews, product description (which will over-ride the one KDP), from the author, about the author, from the inside flap, form the back cover. No you don’t have to fill them all – if you don’t fill out one the title won’t show at all on Amazon.
You can go even further and click through to the “Book Extras” tab which allow you to add even more content including characters, synopsis, glossary and many more – these however are maintained from yet another website – shelfari.com. These do show up on some Kindle apps and readers – under a “books extras” tab on the main menu of the book. Note none of these options are available in the other country Author Centrals.
6) Remember that changes you make will only show on Amazon in a few hours/days – it’s not immediate. Keep an eye on which edition (paper or Kindle) and which pen name you are using. I recommend that you use the same email to login to Author Central as you do for KDP. It’s easier for you, and it may make it easier for Amazon to associate the right books with your account, and answer any queries you have in a timely manner.
Monitoring Your Rankings On Amazon
Once you have Author Central set up – that’s all you actually have to do. However you may find that you have a slight fixation about home many books that you’ve sold. In which case, Author Central is not a bad place to check what is going on. You can track three key items:
Book sales are found under Sales Info. Note that the “book sacan” data appears to relate only to paper book sales, and seems to lag significantly. The sales rank data relates to data direct from Amazon so is more up to date, but can be days out of date if their servers are on a go-slow. I’ll do another post on Amazon sales rank – but here it’s suffice to say that the lower the number the bet. Being ranking at #100 is awesome, being ranking at #100,000 is OK, and a sales rank above 1,000,000 probably means you are rarely selling books. Note that these figures ONLY relate to the amazon site that this particular Author Central account relates to e.g. my German translation of a books ranks very poorly on amazon.com and a lot better on amazon.de
What is Amazon’s Author Rankings?
Frankly it’s an experiment – Amazon introduced it in October 2012 – and it’s certainly not perfect – for example I can’t explain the recent dip in my rankings in this graph – I was selling particularly well at the time!
This is my speculation – take it for what it’s worth. But if I was Amazon I would be using author rankings to build “trust” in an author that already sells books well. If they published a new book I might feel more inclined to promote it if they have previous sales…
It appears that author rank mirrors some sort of total sales rank of your books – in the same way – lower is better.
The third part of the tracking function of Author Central – are customer reviews of your book. You can use this to add comments, although that is generally considered bad form, and otherwise just angst or celebrate over the reviews. Your mileage may vary.
I think this should be enough to get you going with Author Central. Really, if you do nothing else to promote your books, fill in AC, it really is that important.
There are exactly two things a self-published authors control on the Internet: your newsletter and your self-hosted blog. Any author who is serious about their business should have both – but today I want to talk newsletter because it’s the least understood.
By the way if you want to see a newsletter in action, and you haven’t already, you may wish to sign up for mine at the bottom of the post. (Note sure if you signed up already – try it the computer will tell you!)
I used to be totally anti email marketing , I had been on so many scammer marketers buy, buy, buy newsletters, I was totally turned off them. But I was wrong. Now I understand about the difference between good and bad marketing. Unfortunately, too many authors are doing email marketing wrong too, or failing to do it at all .
Why People Don’t Start Email Marketing
People can subscribe to my blog by email – what more do they need?
Subscribing to your blog posts is one thing – and suits many people, when say the blog is only updated randomly, like this one. Coming in late to a blog though can be confusing – it’s like being the one late guest to the dinner party. Some of my blog readers have been with me for 5 years, some for 5 days, a regular newsletter is a way to communicate more directly, refer back to earlier blog posts, link to stuff that’s happening on the Internet now, and personal updates. In contrast, subscribing to a blog, only gets you the blog posts as posted, either via email or in a RSS feeder.
A decent email service, will allow you to set-up a pre-programmed series of email messages, so that when a new subscriber signs up they will get your pre-programmed emails, in the correct sequence, with the intervals you set up. Also you can send out regular newsletters referring back to both your blog and any other resource online which may be of interest to your readers.
They Are Using WordPress.com
If you are using wordpress.com to have a free blog you can’t use an external email marketing service. Readers can subscribe to your wordpress.com blog to be notified of post updates but that is it. Blogspot the other popular free website provider will allow you to use external email marketing services.
Do I Need A Newsletter? I’m Already on Facebook/ G+ /Twitter /Pinterest /Youtube /Tumblr/etc etc
Yes you do. All those social media platforms are lovely. I’m on some of them myself. But they are outreach places, places to meet new people. They are not my home base.
They will never be my home business – because I can’t control them.
Each and everyone of those sites ban users everyday. Think it’s hard to get yourself banned? No not really, have enough of your competitors complain about you and you will get banned. It used to be a real problem, now sites like Facebook have got more subtle. You may follow me on this site’s Facebook page, but I’m about to close it down, why?
Because my pages followers hardly ever see up dates in their news feeds. Facebook will fix this problem, if I just pay $5 per an update. That’s fair enough, Facebook has shareholders that need to see a return for their money. It’s bloody expensive though compared to the amount I pay for an email marketing service. Plus more and more users seem to be moving on from Facebook, because of the annoying ads showing up in their news-feed. Why spend a lot of time and effort to build a Facebook following, just to lose the audience when people become disenchanted with the platform, eve if they still ike your content. That’s what I mean by no control.
More subtly, readers need to already be active on a social media site before they follow you there. I’m not going to join Facebook to follow someone, unless I’m already on it. There is one piece of software that everyone uses, good old fashioned email. Particularly if your readers are not hard-core social media users, you will find them easier to reach via email than by social media.
Can’t I Just Send An Email From My Own Email Address?
Maybe you have a collection of a few hundred emails from people who have commented on your blog or have subscribed to your social media profiles or RSS feed. Can’t you just email them all? And attach a Word doc file.
No, it’s illegal. It’s called spamming.
Curiously, at this point some writers will get quite defensive and say, but I asked for their permission, people are okay with it. Maybe. But did you give them an option to subscribe on the email, did you remind them how they subscribed to you? Plus, many people will forget that they subscribed. They will forget who you are, or they are just having a foul day and they will hit the “spam” button in their email reader. If enough of them do that then your email address will be banned, first your email will go directly to the spam box, never to the inbox, next your email provider (gmail, yahoo, your ISP) will ban your email address.
Plus the whole world doesn’t own Microsoft Word, nor will they open your update.doc file unless they know you very well, well they shouldn’t if they know anything about Internet security.
I Don’t Have Anything To Say!
Really, I thought you were a writer? Or a blogger, or a business owner trying to get your message out! I do however know what you mean, and before you decide which email provider you’ll use, which pretty template, and load of other minutiae, you may need to sit down and think about a content strategy. You are trying to reach out to potential and real readers, what do they want to know? How can you help them?
What’s Better Than One Email List? Two Email List, Three Email List, More!
I have at, current count, eight email lists:
one for buyers of each of my three travel books;
one for buyers of Kindle Formatting book;
one for readers of this blog;
one for people signing up at my travel books website;
one for my travel blog website;
one for people signup up at my book formatting services site
I am probably short a few. Every book I publish has a signup at the BACK of the book – asking people to signup for updates and new releases. As that is the ONLY place those particular lists are advertised I know that the only way for someone to sign up is to have reached the last page of my book, hopefully by having bought and read it.
To be honest I really should make a specific call in the front of books, where browsers can see it on Amazon, for interested readers to sign up for new releases under the Non-Boring Travel Guides brandname. That would be yet another new list, one for each book, so I can track where people signup from. They may be previewing the book now, and not buying, so if I have a 99c sale, maybe they would be a good person to tell?
I get far more signups for my Kindle Formatting book because I use the email list as a mechanism to send them the setup files for formatting their own books which will save them much typing.
When I update books (and the formatting book is nearly done), I can email those on the relevant buyer list, and say, here’s the new book. I don’t have to ask Amazon to do it for me, I have control of my buyers. Am I making sense yet?
Isn’t this an awful lot of work? Well no, the buyers lists only get occasional updates, when I have a new version, or a new very, relevant book. The other websites are monthly or longer between updates.
The time spend on updating people who have already expressed an interest by trusting me with their email address, is far higher on my priority list, than doing hourly updates on twitter.
How Do I Get People To Sign Up?
Ask. That’s all I’ve ever done, ask them to signup. You can do giveaways, and many people do. I’ve used a picture book to get signups on a travel blog, which worked well. I intend to put my best blog posts together, revised and edited, sometime in the future. But generally, if people like what they see either in your book or on your website, they will be perfectly happy to sign-up.
You need to make it easy. Ensure that there is a sign-up form on every page of a website, sometimes twice (mine pops up under the post as well as being in the side-bar).
The email service I use also allows me to link to updates on social media, I’ve started doing that and it seems to get a few click through, maybe even some more sign ups.
The important thing is, make sure that you deliver on your promise, if you promise weekly updates, going out to 10 days is fine, but do not email for three months – your subscribers will be wondering who they hell you are, which results in unsubscribes.
If you promise to only update subscribers when a new book comes out, don’t send updates of random cat photos every few days! If people subscribe to your email list for X-rated vampire fantasy, don’t start sending updates about your family, or your angst over the use of apostrophes. They don’t care, all they care about is the next zombie attack!
When Is The Best Time To Start A Newsletter
Yesterday. Seriously, even before you have finished the book, or got the website up and running. Start the email list. Well that may be extreme, but it’s pretty close. I waited years, and I regret that, because I’ve lost many of those people, never to make the connection again.
What Email Service Should I Use?
I suggest you pick carefully. You need something that will grow with you. You can swap email services, but every time you do you will lose some of your subscribers, because they will need to confirm their interest in your newsletter. Start with the one you intend to stay with long term. I use and recommend AWeber.com – and here’s why