The First Step to Marketing Your Book

One of the most frequent questions I receive from new authors is: “How do I market my book?”

Sadly,  the question is usually asked two or three years later than it ought to be. The time to begin marketing your book is at least a year (ideally two or three years) before it’s published.

The first step in marketing your book is creating a personal website or blog. As an author, your website is the front door to your platform. It’s the place where readers can find you and the things you write. Email lists, social media and other ways to connect with readers are nice, but creating a professional-looking website and posting on it regularly are the first steps to building an audience that will buy your books. I learned the importance of having and regularly posting on a website by accident.

In 2009, (three years before my first book was published) I began a Google blog. I shared stories about the people I prayed with who were being healed. The first year of blogging, traffic to my website was pretty dismal. With the help of Google’s search engine, the site had about 10 visits a day. Nothing to brag about, but the readers who did manage to find me became dedicated followers. This was around the time when Facebook was becoming popular.

In 2010, I began intentionally building a group of friends on Facebook who were interested in healing. I continued sharing stories from my blog with them. By the end of 2010, the blog was seeing around 100 visits a day. For the next two years, I continued building the audience and sharing articles from my blog on Facebook. By the end of 2012, when my first book was ready to launch, the website was seeing around 450 visitors a day.

Having that kind of traffic to my website provided an audience of readers who were primed for a book launch. I published my first book at the end of 2012 and it sold well, considering that it was my first book and I was a relatively unknown author. I made more than $25,000 in royalties from the book the first year it was published. All of that due to a blog that I posted on every week.

Here’s where dedication and a little hard work pay off. It’s one thing to set up a free website. It’s another thing to post 300 articles on it over the course of a few years. It takes that long for search engines to aggregate your stories and send readers to your website. Building a platform isn’t rocket science. But it does take time and it requires persistence.

In 2014, I upgraded my platform. I migrated my blog to a self-hosted WordPress website and continued posting and sharing on Facebook. I added a podcast, which increased traffic by 30%. Today the website sees around 1000 visits a day. I self-publish through Amazon’s Kindle and Create Space and my books sell well enough for me to write full-time.

There are many components that make up a successful marketing campaign, but for an author, none are more important than having a personal website, where readers can check out your work, get to know you and fall in love with your stories.

If you need advice on creating a website, check out this article.

Writing a Description for Your Book

In this message, we’ll show you a step-by-step method to write a description that will get your Kindle book in the hands of readers. (We strongly recommend that you read our article on selecting keywords first as this subject will be discussed in this message.)

Your book’s description is not merely an introduction of your book to potential readers – it is also a field of data used by search engines to recommend books to buyers. Much of the marketing of your book is carried out by Amazon’s powerful search engines that work off whatever information you give them. Thus the description of your book needs to be optimized for both human readers and computers. A good description provides readers with a comprehensive, well-written overview, while creating a string of key words that will grab the attention of search engines.

Kindle allows up to 4,000 words for your book’s description. We suggest using as many as possible and we advise spending a little time thinking about the best possible description for your book. One of the biggest mistakes authors make is not taking advantage of the marketing potential offered by a well-written description.

When a buyer searches for a book on Amazon, the website’s search engine will suggest a variety of books based on the words used in their search. The books suggested by the search engine are based on relevance to the search terms (unless the buyer selects a different setting, such as highest average rating).

Once a buyer begins typing in the search box, Amazon suggests words that are commonly used together as search terms. (These groups of words appear below the search window in a drop-down menu.) In our article on keywords we explain that these combinations of words are the best ones to use as keywords for your book. They are also the ones you want to use in your book’s description because search engines look for these words in the title, subtitle, description and in the keywords selected for your book. The more often these word combinations are found – the more likely Amazon is to recommend your book when a buyer enters those words in their search.

To begin, log in to the Kindle Direct Publishing dashboard for your book and find the description text box as shown below.

Description_box

We suggest writing your description in a word processing program and when you are finished, copy and paste it into the text window. Using our book Divine Healing Made Simple as our example, the image below shows how we created a compelling headline for the description.  Amazon has a new feature for authors who have an author page with them.  (Click this link to find out more about author pages.) The author page allows you to create a description in an editing window that provides tools for formatting of text including bold, underline, bullet lists and more. If you have an author page, creating a professional looking description is a snap. If you don’t have an author page, take heart – Kindle allows the limited use of HTML tags for the description in the standard description page editor.

HTML Tags
It’s completely optional, but if you want to create various effects for the text in your description, you can do so by placing HTML tags at the beginning and end of sections of text to create headlines, bold, italics, bullets and more. To create the headline effect as shown in the example below, use the opening heading tag (<H1>) immediately before your ext and the closing tag (</H1>) immediately after the text. Note: using the H1 tag may cause your heading to appear in the Amazon gold color they use for their own headlines, which may cause readers to think your description was created by Amazon. 🙂 Use at your own discretion.

To create the headline effect for your description, replace the text between the tags below with your own text:

<H1>Your Heading Here</H1>

If you want to put the title of your book in bold as we did below, use the HTML tags (<b> </b>) to do it. Replace the text between the tags below with the title of your book:

<b>Your Title Here</b>

To create blank lines between paragraphs and headings, use the paragraph tags (<p> </p>) at the beginning and end of a section of of text. Below we show how to use paragraph and bold tags together. The formatting for the first paragraph in our description looks like this:

<p>
<b>Divine Healing Made Simple</b> is a training manual for the supernatural life, providing street-proven instruction for healing the sick in any type of setting. In addition to healing, the book teaches about prophetic ministry, street evangelism and making disciples.</p>

 

Description_Tags

 

While many authors might use as little as 200 words in their entire book description, we used that many just for the opening. We wrote four paragraphs for the opening of our description, each with different purpose. One paragraph is a general introduction, one tells readers what they can expect from the book, another helps to distinguish our book from others in its genre, and the last is an inspirational paragraph to motivate buyers to read further.

 

Description_Paragraphs

The description itself should be an easy to read overview of your book, with a generous sprinkling of key search words strategically placed within the text so that they don’t interfere with the natural reading of the passage. Repetition of key words is acceptable as long as it doesn’t become glaringly obvious that you’re trying to pack as many search terms as possible into the description. Be careful not to overdo it. Below we’ve circled all the commonly used search terms we used in our description.

Description_Keywords

Bullet List
To give readers a closer look at the contents of our book, and to provide search engines with more keywords, we included the chapter headings of the book in a bullet list. To create a bullet list, replace the text between the tags below with the words from your book:

<li>Chapter 1</li>
<li>Chapter 2</li>
<li>Chapter 3</li>
<li>Chapter 4</li>

Bullet tag

 

Key Words
The key words we want search engines to find in our bullet list are circled below:

Word_combinations

Reviews
Once your book has received some positive reviews you may want to consider adding a few of them to the description. We chose short excerpts from the best reviews and created a list of them with each review separated by a line of blank space.

Headline
To create the headline effect as show below, replace the text between the tags below with your own heading or use ours:

<H1>What Readers Are Saying:</H1>

Italics
It’s completely optional, but to place text in italics as shown below, use the italics tags (<i> </i>) at the beginning and end of the text you want to italicize:

<i>“A book that will bring you to a simpler place and understanding of the truths behind healing the sick.”</i>~ Cameron

Paragraph Tags
To create a line of space between reviews use the paragraph tags (<p> </p>)  and the beginning and end of each line of text. Below is an example of how paragraph and italic tags can be used together:

<p>
<i>“A book that will bring you to a simpler place and understanding of the truths behind healing the sick.”</i>~ Cameron</p>

<p>
<
i>“The authenticity and pure heart of the author comes shining through in a way I truly appreciate.” </i>~ Kody</p>

Paragraph_tag

 

Save and Continue
When your description is complete, save it by clicking on either the “save and continue” or the  “save as draft” button at the bottom of the page.

Save_and_continue

Selecting Your Book’s Keywords

In this message, we’ll show you a simple method to determine the keywords that are most likely to get your Kindle book in the hands of readers.

Kindle allows up to seven keywords for your book. We suggest using all of them and we advise spending a little time determining which keywords are best for your book. When a buyer searches for a book on Amazon, the website’s search engine will suggest a variety of books based on the words used in the search.  The books suggested are based on relevance to the search terms unless the buyer selects a different setting, such as highest average rating.

Once a buyer begins typing in the search box, Amazon will suggest words that are commonly used together as search terms. These groups of words appear below the search window in a drop-down menu. If the buyer chooses one of the suggested combinations of words — the search engine displays books that are relevant to that group of words. If they do not, the search engine suggests a group of books relevant to the words the buyer entered.

The words that appear in groups when a user begins typing are the most commonly searched for combinations. If you want to know what the majority of people are searching for – just look at the combinations of words that are displayed in the drop-down menu as you type. This is where smart authors get their keywords from.

The keywords an author chooses for their book are used by Amazon’s search engines to match up searches by buyers to the books they’re looking for. If you can determine which search words a buyer might use when they’re looking for a book like yours, you’ll know what words to use as your keywords. If you have those same words as your book’s keywords, you have a much better chance of having Amazon suggest your book to a potential buyer.

Keywords can be single words or they may contain strings of words such as “prophetic ministry”, “prayer and fasting” or  “signs and wonders.” In the three examples shown below, when we searched for possible keywords for the book Divine Healing Made Simple, we found that these were groups of words that were relevant to the book and commonly searched for together, so we used them as Keywords. By using this process, we came up with seven different combinations of keywords for the book. Note: in the last example, “prophetic dreams” also came up as a commonly search for combination. We could have used this combination as another keyword.

To choose the keywords for your book, think about the word combinations that are relevant to your genre or the topics discussed in your book and try typing different combinations into the search box, looking for combinations that work. When you have seven sets of words that you think will work well, enter them in the keyword box for your book on the KDP dashboard and save your selections.

Signs_wonders

 

 

Prayer_and_fasting

Prophetic_ministry

Step-by-Step Advice on Starting a Blog

When we start out to create a blog we should ask a few questions. The answers will point us to the blogging tools we’ll need. The first question might be, “Why do I want to create a blog?”

Is it for business, school, ministry, or as a hobby?

What types of things do I want to have on my blog?

Will I post written messages, videos or photos?

What type of audience do I hope to reach?

Will the blog be for friends, family, church, community, or the world?

And lastly:

How much time do I have available to keeping my blog going?

This last question is an important one that’s easy to overlook. Blogging takes time and if you have a popular blog, it can take a lot of time. Ask yourself how much time you have to devote to maintaining your blog.

Spend some time thinking about these questions and develop an idea of what your blog will be about, what it will look like and how much time it will take to maintain it.

Getting Started
Most bloggers begin by using a template provided by a free blog service. The two most popular services are WordPress and Google’s Blogger. There are other services available but most bloggers use one of these two. (My friend Seneca Shcurbon wrote a great article that covers some of the other options.)

Both services have full-featured blogging platforms and they update their services often. Which service you choose is a matter of preference. Since I already had a gmail account when I started blogging, I started with Google’s Blogger and it worked well for me. I have several friends who have used WordPress and they’re happy with that service. (I’ve used both and I personally found Blogger easier to use than WordPress.)

Blogging is made available as a free service, because blog providers make money through advertising. If you choose to advertise on your blog you could create a source of income by having people visit your blog. You allow the blog service to post ads on your blog and they pay you for using your blog space. Carefully consider whether or not advertising is for you.

Advertising
While some bloggers are able to create revenue from their blogs by advertising, not everyone can and not everyone should. Advertisers look for certain things in a blog before allowing their ads to be posted. Before you’re approved to post their ads, most agencies scan your content to see if it fits their criteria. If your blog passes muster, you’ll be allowed to post their ads. If not, you’ll be declined. If you’re not able to advertise, don’t despair. Blogs with a lot of ads take longer to load and that can be annoying to some readers. Heavy use of advertising may actually keep people away from your blog.

Free or Paid?
Although I started out using a free blogging service, I now use a paid WordPress website that I host through Bluehost. I felt like my needs had outgrown Google’s Blogger so I moved up to the next level. The upside to a hosted blog is that you have nearly unlimited freedom when it comes to design. The downside is that you have to pay for hosting. Managing a self-hosted website is a lot more work than managing a free blog. Although you begin with a template, you have to make it look the way you want and that requires some work. for a discussion on the pros and cons of free versus paid WordPress websites, check out this article.

After you decide which blogging service to use, the next step is to choose a name and address for your blog. Spend a little time thinking about the name of your blog. Consider names that your readers will identify with. Also consider that your blog’s name can be used by other bloggers. If you want a unique name, be sure to do a search to see whether or not someone is using the name you’ve chosen.

Once you have a name for your blog, you’ll need to create a web address for it. Although blog names can be duplicated, blog addresses are unique. If you go with a free blogging service, they’ll recommend available addresses that can be used at no  charge. You may want to experiment a little and try different possibilities. You’ll need to find an address that isn’t already in use.

As long as the blog address ends with the name of your blog service (i.e ‘blogspot.com’ or ‘wordpress.com’) the address should be free. If you choose an address without the blog service ending, you’ll have to register it with a service like GodaddyBluehost or Hostgator. You’ll pay a small fee to register the domain name, which reserves it for your use.

Templates
The next step is choosing a template for your blog. A template is a standard set of instructions written in programming language that gives a blog a particular look. Blogging services like WordPress and Google make a variety of templates available. There are also graphic designers who create free templates for use with WordPress and Google blogs.

There are many aesthetic differences between blog templates, but only a few of them are functional.  The functional differences between templates has to do with the number of columns and how they are laid out.  Some templates have two columns while others have three.

Most templates include a main column for posts and one or two sidebars for add-on modules known as “widgets.” Blog content (the text you are now reading) appears in the main column. If you allow readers to leave comments, they’ll usually appear under the post in the main column.

Sidebars provide space for widgets, which are things you add to your blog. Examples are: images, videos, podcasts, weather forecasts, links to older stories, favorite posts, links to other blogs, social networking links, a Paypal donate button, statistics for your blog, disclaimers, legal information, contact information, advertisements, etc.

A two-column template has one wide column for posts and one narrow column as a sidebar. A three column template has one main column and two  sidebars. (Note that this blog has one main column and two sidebars; one on the left and one on the right.)

Nearly everything in a blog template can be modified to some degree, but it’s always been hard to change a three column template to a two column or vice-versa. Recently however, templates have become available that allow you switch not only from a two to three column layout, but you can move the sidebars as well. My blog template has a lot of flexibility. I can choose between several layouts that have two or three columns and I can create individual pages with a completely different layout from the home page. My template is one that I bought. Most free templates are still limited in layout options.

The template you choose will depend on which layout fits your particular needs. If your blog only requires a single, wide column for images or text, and maybe a few widgets,  a two-column layout will probably work. If your blog will have a lot of add-on components that go in a sidebar, a three column layout may be better for you.

Don’t let the template become an obstacle to getting started. If you aren’t excited with the look of a particular template, rest assured knowing that you can tweak it to make it look better or find another one at a later date. If you begin with a two-column template and find that you need more room for widgets, you can always switch to a three-column template.

Dimensions
The dimensions of websites are commonly referred to in pixels. A pixel is a small unit of measurement that describes the height or width of something formatted for the internet.

The main column of a blog is usually between 350 and 500 pixels wide. Sidebars are typically 150 – 250 pixels wide.

For years, the standard width for blog templates was 750 pixels wide.  A two-column template might have a main column 450 pixels wide and a sidebar that is 200 pixels wide. The combined width would be 650 pixels in a layout that allows for 750 pixels total width. The remainder of the space (100 pixels) is used for padding between columns and edges.

Mostly due to the fact that the average computer monitor has grown considerable wider, templates are now available in wider widths. The template I use for this website is 1140 pixels wide. That’s a lot of real estate for my stuff.

Color Schemes
Color schemes are created by graphic designers to give blogs a certain look and feel. There’s a reason why most of us aren’t graphic designers – they have talents we don’t have. Designers are paid to create nice looking websites. Most of the fonts and colors of a blog can be modified, but it’s a risky proposition. If you make too many changes, you’ll end up with a ghastly looking blog. Be cautious when making changes to the standard fonts and colors of a template.

Images
You can display images on your blog by simply adding them to the post in the post editor page. There is button that allows you to add images from your computer or from the internet via HTML code. You’ll be given choices about whether to display the image at it’s full size or a smaller size. There are options  to display the image to the left, right or centered in the main column and you can choose to add tags or descriptions to images.

Tabs & Pages
A recent addition to blogging is a feature known as ‘tabbed’ pages. For years, bloggers were limited to their main page as the only place to put their stuff. But a few years ago, blogging services began offering tabs to multiple pages. Now you can have different pages for different things. Want to have a page for instruction and a separate page for photos? No problem. Just add another tab. A major reason why I switched to a WordPress hosted website was because I wanted to have the ability to add tabs for different pages and my old Google blog made it difficult. My WordPress theme makes it easy to add tabs at the top of the page and even allows for drop-down menus. I can have each page formatted to look virtually any way I choose.

Frequency
Some bloggers post daily, others post weekly and some only a few times a year. How often you post is up to you. I usually post about every two or  three days, which gives my readers a break between posts, so they can do other things and not miss out on what’s happening. I take advantage of my blog’s scheduling feature, which allows me to create posts and schedule them to be published at a future date.

I often set up a group of posts to publish two or three weeks in advance, with three days between posts. This allows me to have a life aside from being a blogger. When something comes up that I want to post immediately, I create the post and publish it, then reschedule the posts I have waiting to publish.

Getting Social
If your blog is intended to reach a wide audience, you’ll want to connect it to social networks. There are add-ons you can use to connect a blog to Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks. My posts are set up to be tweeted automatically when they publish. I use Networked Blogs to publish them to my Facebook page automatically. Automated services can be a blessing, decreasing the time needed to monitor your blog. When I started blogging, I was getting about 10 to 15 viewers a day. Within a month of connecting it to Facebook, the number of views increased tenfold. Social networking is critical if you hope to reach a large audience.

Critics
If your blog attracts readers, it will eventually attract critics. Bloggers have a choice in either allowing or disallowing comments. If you allow readers to comment, you’ll have the pleasure of dealing with feedback – both good and bad. How you handle feedback is critically important. If you handle criticism well, you’ll likely have a good blogging experience, but if you struggle with criticism, your life as a blogger may not be very happy.

Spend some time honestly assessing how you handle praise and criticism and set up the comment feature accordingly. We suggest moderating all comments before they post as your blog will inevitably get spammers leaving comments that will detract from the flow of your blog.

The blogging environment has become a lot more flexible lately. For today’s blogger, the possibilities are nearly endless. We hope you found this message helpful. If you have any questions on getting started as a blogger, we’d be happy to help. Just leave a comment or send us an e-mail.

Articles on blogging by Frank Viola:

How to Start a Blog from Scratch – A Quick & Easy Guide

Advice for Bloggers

What I’ve Learned in Two Years of Blogging

Tips for Bloggers

8 Reasons Why I Don’t Read Your Blog