I need a new bum and other mysteries

Click bait title, hmm? I’m running an ad campaign for Highland Fling, attempting to educate myself in the mysterious world of keywords.

I plugged my romcom book’s details in the Google Adwords keyword planner and one of the suggestions it threw back was ‘I need a new bum’. Low competition for that one apparently, but between 1k to 10k searches a month and a bid range of between 14-17 pence.

I get it—sort of. The Algorithm Gods who now rule our lives have waded their way through the tonnes of data we willingly hand over and decided a fair proportion of people who buy romantic comedies also worry about the gluteus maximus bit of themselves. Therefore, as they type the words (or ask Alexa) ‘I need a new bum’, a link to a romantic comedy book appears and they decide to buy that instead.

At least I hope they do. I’d much rather the women of the world were distracted from their gluteal quest and decided to buy a book instead* of chasing snake oil or dangerous surgery. Last year, an article in a newspaper highlighted one woman’s horrific experiences when she underwent a filler operation designed to give her a curvier backside. And another story told of a doctor who went on the run after one of his patients died following filler injections.

Body dissatisfaction

Tempting as it is to snigger at those stories, it is part of an overall trend towards body dissatisfaction fuelled by social media. As a teenager I only had magazines, TV and film to worry about and that was bad enough. Imagine living with a constant stream of too perfect images you hold in your hand…

Talking of which… Instagram announced this week that it might phase out visible ‘likes’ for posts on the platform—i.e. the likes for posts will be private so there is less competition between people to get reactions. This doesn’t bother me. As someone who has a following of less than 80 people, I never get that many likes anyway. So if only one or two people like my self-congratulatory posts about my books and there is no display of it, who cares?

Instagram, like other social media platforms before it, gave rise to influencers—i.e. people with huge followings who were then courted by companies to promote their products. The most famous example are the Kardashians whose social media accounts are reckoned to bring them in millions of dollars.

Kylie Jenner

Kylie Jenner’s make-up company leveraged that popularity, helping to turn her into a ‘self-made’ billionaire by the age of 21. (Like many other people, I dispute the Forbes’ classification of Kylie Jenner as ‘self-made’.)

If the likes for a picture of a fashion influencer wearing a pair of trainers or new duds courtesy of Top Shop or the likes do not show up, how do those influencers ‘prove’ their worth? Will they still get the freebies and the bungs if others cannot see how popular a post was?

Anyway, back to keywords. Will ‘I need a new bum’ get me sales and am I cynical enough to try it? Here’s hoping and yes.

*Not least because it puts money in my pocket…

The happy day when your print book arrives…

paperback version of Highland FlingAs most authors would agree, a print copy of our book has far more emotional pull on my heart than the electronic version. Even if all you ever do is order one copy for yourself, do it anyway. It cements that feeling that yes, you ARE a proper author—you’ve got the paperback to prove it.

Nowadays, you can even create hardbacks through IngramSparks. At some point, my ego might run rampant and demand such but for the meantime, the paperback suffices.

And, oh it’s a thing of beauty. Enni at yummybookcovers designed my cover for it. (My terrible photography ‘skills’ do not do the cover justice.) She really knows what she is doing when it comes to chick lit book cover design. I’ve written a chick lit book and if you hadn’t already guessed from the title, it’s set in Scotland…

Attracting rom-com fans

My tagline adds that the book’s a rom-com and the design, the font and the positioning convey the genre clearly. As an author, you want the people who typically love your genre to see your book and know at once it’s what they enjoy reading.

Note that you can’t see my heroine’s face? Enni can explain that—romance readers like to project onto a main character and it’s easier to do the less you know what they look like. She’s also used vectors, another common practice in this genre’s book cover design practice.

Because the title of my book isn’t unusual, there are plenty of other Highland Flings—my cover makes mine look like the traditionally published versions (Katie Fforde’s one, for example) rather than screaming “self-published”. While traditional publishing doesn’t guarantee quality, readability and enjoyment there’s enough of a sense that a trad-pubbed book offers some of those things to make a book look like a better bet.

KDP printing

I set up print on demand copies of my book through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). How did I find the experience? KDP replaced CreateSpace, the print book service Amazon bought some years ago. Some authors have reported issues with KDP, but I’ve used it three times and haven’t experienced any problems.

You supply KDP with an interior file and a cover file. This differs from the front cover you supply for an e-book because it has a spine and back, although KDP can create the spine and back from your e-book cover. I’d rather not. My design skills are negligible and if you’re going to go to the effort of creating a print book, why not it properly?

Five days to deliver

I uploaded the files, filled in the details bit and ordered a review copy on the Thursday night. The book arrived on Tuesday morning, ahead of the date Amazon told me. This is a common Amazon practice—managing the expectation of buyers so you are pleasantly surprised but I wouldn’t recommend relying on them to deliver early.

It did look beautiful. This time, I’d opted for a smaller size. The last book I ordered was 5½ by 8½, and I think the 5×8 version feels more ‘standard’. For the last book, I used IngramSparks for books bought outwith Amazon—I sold very few of them. In theory, I agree with IngramSparks. You will get much wider distribution of your books if you offer them via IngramSparks, but there is a set-up cost (refundable if you order 50 books) and it also requires the cover to be set up in a different way.

On the other hand, I did one version of that book through KDP too, and without a doubt the colours and design were much sharper. It’s worth noting KDP dominates the US and UK markets and therefore the service works best in these territories. I suspect it takes longer outside of the US, UK and certain European countries.

I will do the books via IngramSparks at one point, but only when I can afford it. This book needs to work harder for its money…

I’m incredibly pleased with my book cover and cannot recommend Enni’s services highly enough.

The Kobo Experiment part one #amwriting

""My books are on Amazon, of course they are, but what if I stopped focussing on making Amazon the bee all and end all, and took a punt on life outside the mighty behemoth?

In the UK as in many other countries Amazon is blamed for destroying the high street and the old model of business. It’s a Darwinism type principle (only the fittest survive), but you could argue that too many regulators have moved too slowly to put the requisite checks and balances in place.

I use the site so moral objections come with that all-encompassing qualifier, “yes, but…” I buy from it, I sell books there and I read the reviews before I purchase things. A qualifier for the first part of that sentence—I try to sell books on Amazon.

It’s almost impossible these days without splashing out on Amazon ads, thanks to the algorithm changes they have made. Bear in mind this charge is on top of the commission Amazon takes on each sale.

Still, it is worth remembering that it’s easier to be a big fish in a smaller pond. Almost everyone agrees that if you want to sell books on Amazon, we’re now in pay to play territory. Advertise, or die; your book thrust into the seventh, eighth, ninth page of rankings. They’re the pages so few people bother with. (And dear reader, it is worth checking them out— the ranking is more to do with advertising spend than anything else).

One huge irony is that even if you make a book free (the first in a series so you can persuade people to then buy the rest of the books in that series) is you still need to advertise that book, as ‘free’ doesn’t give you the same visibility it used to.

Downloads of my books world-wide.

What if you hang out in the little ponds? My first e-reader was a Kobo. My husband, he of the intense research before you buy fame, reckoned a Kobo was a better bet than a Kindle. You could use it to get library books. I agreed. It’s lack of advertising (well, apart from books), the long battery life, the eye/head/mental health type screen are additional bonuses.

And, shock horror, Kindle and Amazon aren’t as widespread as you might think. Look beyond the US and the UK and you see a healthy e-book market that doesn’t just want the mobi. docs (Amazon only) but screams for epub files (what every other e-book reader uses).

To be clear, I don’t intend to take my books off Amazon–just to concentrate any marketing efforts elsewhere.  So far, a £3 promotion I ran on Kobo has resulted in more than 625 downloads of my free book in more than 40 countries. In the digital world, this is nothing but we small folks save the website address in our favourite buttons and update every day just so we can watch the number increase. The next step is to work out what can you get from a free promotion:

  • One, make sure there are links to all your other paid books in there
  • Ditto, a sign-up for a mailing list
  • Third, a teaser for the next book.

You can still use social media for a bit of ‘advertising’. But as a writer, I identify (as most of us will) as an introvert. Self-promotion on social media platforms—blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram et al—makes me feel as if I need three weeks in a solitary retreat. One where I beg the universe to reveal my higher calling and release me from the grubby modern-day world of non-stop self-promotion.

So far, she has come up with—make white chocolate raspberry cake! The people want to eat cake! Closely followed by, still not cleaned that silver platter you inherited? Pity, your sister would have done it by now had she been given it. Be the best owner of a cat there has ever been.

cat sleeping on laptop

The best owners let their cats do this.

Apart from the latter the inner voice hasn’t been one hundred percent helpful.

My mission for the rest of 2019 is—not to bother with Amazon Advertising, work out what I can do on Kobo and share the results with you.