We Have Your Results and the Test is Positive!

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So about a month ago, I told you about my experiment to improve my sales on Amazon. Basically, I moved my book, Dead and Kicking, from a category that had tens of thousands of other books listed to one that fit my book but had a significantly smaller number of books listed. The idea behind this is to improve a book’s ratings and by improving the ratings, increasing sales. The lower rank a book has, the easier it is for readers to find and therefore buy.

Here’s what I mean:

Before I made the change to Dead and Kicking‘s category, it was ranked (at that particular moment) #5740 out of 307,344 books in the Parnormal & Urban category on Amazon.com.  A person would have to be really persistent to go through the Amazon top seller’s list twenty books at a time to get to 5740, so basically unless a reader knew to look for it, they weren’t going to find Dead and Kicking.

After the change, I noticed an improvement in my rank almost immediately. The next day in fact, Dead and Kicking was ranked #140.  Not too shabby.  And it only improved from there, breaking into the Amazon.com top 100 in just a couple of weeks.

Things were even better on the Amazon.ca side of things.  The day after the change in category, Dead and Kicking sky-rocketed to #27!  That meant a reader only had to decide to click over to the next page once and my book would be visible in the top sellers list.  Three days later I hit lucky #13 on the list.  In other words it was on the top screen in the list so it would be immediately visible to a prospective buyer.

Lucky 13 Nov 24 Amazon.caSo did a better rank equate with increased sales?


I wish I could say it was a dramatic increase, but it wasn’t. It was a noticeable change, however, especially on Amazon.ca where my book was ranking higher.

As you can see from the graph below, sales were pretty steady before the change (the left side of the green line).  I was making sales but the numbers stayed pretty consistent.  After the change (as indicated by the green line), I saw steady growth in sales and momentum is continuing to build.


whitespaceIncreased visibility = increased sales

change in sales after category switch

The other thing I noticed immediately after the change is that my rank didn’t fluctuate as dramatically as it did when it was in its original category. When Dead and Kicking was first released, the rank would jump all over the place from the thousands to the hundreds and back again over the course of an hour or two.  With the new category, the fluctation is much slower and the rank usually stays constant for several hours at at time, if not the entire day.  That isn’t to say it doesn’t fluctuate at all, but the up and down swing is much shallower.

On Amazon.ca where my rank has been the best, there is a steady momentum towards the top five.  Hopefully it’s only a matter of time before it hits #1!  It was #4 all day yesterday 🙂

So, the moral of this story? Pick the categories for your book carefully. It does make a difference!




A Needle in a Haystack

As promised, I’d like to tell you a bit about the experiment I’m trying on Amazon to see if it increases my sales (as touted by the free video series by Nick Stephenson that I watched – more details and sign up here).

A search engine browser window with a magnifying glass

Amazon is basically a huge search engine. In fact, it is the second largest search engine on the internet next to Google. To increase your sales on Amazon, beside having lots of helpful (as determined by Amazon users that read the reviews and mark them as helpful) positive reviews, you need your book to filter to the top of search results so that people can actually find and buy your book. And that’s the hard part.

The trick is to figure out what category and keywords that result in a smaller search results base best fit your book. For example, I orignally placed Dead and Kicking in the category “Science Fiction & Fantasy -> Fanatasy -> Paranormal & Urban”, a category that yields almost 39,000 results. Talk about a needle in a haystack!

So after watching the webinar, I spent an hour or so exploring categories on Amazon to try and find a better fit, i.e. a category that still applies to my book but that has less competitors. I finally settled on “Mystery & Thrillers -> Suspense -> Paranormal” which only has about 3000 books listed. Much better! What makes it even better still, is this happens to be a category on Amazon that will then use your keywords to further filter the genre. So, by adding Vampires as a keyword, suddenly the results set is 730 titles. Use the keywords Werewovles & Shifters and it’s reduced even more to a much more manageable 509 titles. The chances of a reader finding my book just got a lot better.

Will this have a noticeable result on my sales?  I sure hope so.  It’s too early to tell right now, but I will definitely keep you posted.


Broke Amazon’s Top 100!

Well, today for one brief moment, probably more like several hours, Dead and Kicking kicked its way into the top 100 for its category on Amazon.ca. Good thing I took a screen capture, because it was fleeting at best.  This time at least.

one fleeting moment Oct27

Self-publishing a book is what you call a long game. Sure, there are some that luck out and find themselves with just the right set of circumstances at just the right time that helps them to rocket up the charts, but for the most part, it’s a slow and steady momentum as you build up your social platform and spread the word.

I think I’m doing the right things, pushing my book, but not pushing so hard that people are put off. Joining in on the conversation on Goodreads and Twitter, contributing to the communities there, without laying on a constant sales pitch. Trying to engage you, my readers both here and on Pinterest.  Getting my book out in front of bloggers and reviewers.

I think I’m succeeding.  I hope I’m succeeding.  I guess if sales continue to grow, I’ll have my answer. Hopefully next time I hit the top 100, I’ll be there to stay.

Goodreads Giveaway Results

So as part of my launch week marketing for Dead and Kicking, I decided to try using a Goodreads Giveaway. The Goodreads Giveaway system is pretty simple.  Basically you don’t have to do much except tell Goodreads how many copies you want to give away, where you’re prepared to mail them, and when and how long you’d like the giveaway to run. The good folks at Goodreads take care of the rest. They run it, pick the winners and send you their addresses, freeing up time for you to do something else like obsessively stalk you book and see how many entries you have.

I had read a great article with tips on using the giveaway that suggested the shorter the giveaway the better, so that’s what I went for.  I chose one week, which seems to be the shortest time allowed (I originally tried to set it to 3 days thinking I’d have several giveaways instead of just one, but it wouldn’t let me) and offered up 3 signed copies as prizes.

Since it irks me when I try and enter a giveaway only to find out it is restricted to the US only, I tried to open mine up to as many countries as possible and then crossed my fingers and hoped the winners were in the US which would be the cheapest for postage (it’s actually cheaper to mail a book to the US – a different country! – than to Saskatchewan, the province right next door to mine).  I fully admit to omitting some countries from the draw because I thought the postage would be horrendous and the likelihood of the book actually arriving low.

Now the goal of a giveaway is not to gain reviews.  In fact Goodreads states that only 60% of your prize winners actually read and review your book (and the author of the article I mentioned earlier thinks it’s actually much lower).  I hope that my winners are in that group and do leave a favourable review, but I’m not counting on it.  The real goal of a giveaway is about getting your book on the virtual shelves of fellow readers.  The real goal is SALES.  You want Goodreads users to add your book to their ‘To Read’ list so that in the future they will spot it and go ‘oh yeah, that looked interesting’ and then buy your book. The more entries you get in a giveaway, the more people there are that have seen your book and shown an interest in it.

GR giveaway resultsAlthough I don’t have any sales numbers to back it up, I would have to say that my giveaway was a success.  I more than surpassed my expectations for the week.  Over one thousand people saw my giveaway and entered the draw.  That’s one thousand plus potential buyers.

My three winners were all located in the US, so postage was reasonable.  Because I decided to give signed copies away, I wasn’t able to send directly from Createspace, but it also allowed me to write a personal note to each winner.  I’m hoping the personal touch might help get a review or two for my effort.  Time will tell.  As to sales, well, time will tell with that too, but overall, I would definitely consider the Goodreads Giveaway a worthwhile tool in the indie author’s marketing toolbox.

Time! I need more Time!

time_flies_wallpaper__yvt2whitespaceSo I thought I knew what I was getting myself into when I decided to self-publish, but I really didn’t have a clue.  Where does the time go?  There is not enough time in the day to do everything I want to do.  Editing, cover design, marketing, social networking, website design, sales….the list goes on and on.

Did you notice the one thing missing?  WRITING!  I haven’t had a chance to sit and write in ages.  There’s a couple of stories brewing in my head – I don’t know which one will end up on paper next – but I barely have time to even think about writing, let alone sit down and do it.  I don’t know how other writers manage.  I am so glad that I already have Harry’s trilogy written because I would be feeling under the gun to get book two written otherwise.  Thankfully, I just need to finish the editing and Tooth and Claw will be ready to go well in advance of its January 5th release date.

I’m also working on the final edits for Home Again, a contemporary ‘romantica’.  Home Again was actually the first book I ever wrote but is just finally coming to print in February 2016.  I love the story and I’m really looking forward to sharing it.

So, my advice to you if you are thinking of self-publishing? If you know there will be a second book to follow your first, especially if you’ve left a cliffhanger, do yourself (and your readers) a favour and get it written first before you start down the road to self publishing. You’ll be glad you did.

Dead and Kicking Book Launch Party

I just arrived home from the Book Launch Party for Dead and Kicking and I think I’m still riding on cloud nine.  I’ll probably crash soon, but I thought I would quickly impart the two things I learned in case anyone is planning one of their own.

  1. Have someone help with the book sales.  I have to admit to feeling a bit giddy when the night began and found the whole thing a little overwhelming having to deal with taking money and making change and writing in the books.  If I were to do it again, I would get a friend to handle the sales transaction so that I could just focus on visiting with the person buying my book and writing something somewhat witty, or at least spelling their name right (Sorry, George or “Geogre” as I called him.  I still can’t believe I did that!)
  2. Get a friend to take pictures.  I was so busy selling books and signing books and making sure there was enough food for everyone and visiting everyone that I didn’t take a single picture.   I know a few friends snapped a picture or two so hopefully I’ll get copies.

For the night of the event, I had an 11×17 sign made with my book cover on it as well as some postcards with the cover on one side and the book blurb on the back.  I used the sign for the table where I was signing books and put the postcards on tables around the room for people to take if they wished.  Everyone that bought my book also received a bookmark/business card with my contact info and website address, and a QR code with the details of where to buy Dead and Kicking online.  I put together two door prizes and had a draw towards the end of the evening.  When most of the crowd had arrived and had a chance to mingle and enjoy their refreshments, I said a few quick words to the group and then did a very brief reading from my book.  I don’t think everyone could hear me over the din of the crowd, but it was more than my introverted self usually likes to do and seemed to go over well with those that could hear me.

I would have to say overall that my Launch was a huge success.  I had a lot of fun and it looked like everyone else did too.  I held it at a local pub and on my invitations said it was a cash bar with complementary tapas (snacks).  I used a Facebook event to invite a lot of my local friends and family and then emailed the rest (using an invite I created with MailChimp). When all was said and done, about 50 people were in attendance and I sold out of books.  Not too shabby!

I’d like to say a big thank you to all my friends and family that attended.  It was wonderful to be able to celebrate this achievement with you.  I hope you all enjoy Dead and Kicking.  If you do, please write a review at your favourite online retailer or Goodreads.  If you don’t then remember pass it on to someone with better taste! laughing_and_pointing_emoticon_312207

Pick Me! Pick Me!…Part 2

20150915_151737whitespaceSo, you took my advice and decided to hire a professional cover designer.  Good choice.  Now what?

Well, first you have to find a designer.  As in many things when first learning the ropes of self-publishing, Google is your friend.  There are TONS of designers and services out there, your task will be to weed through the list and find someone that is a good fit for you.

Keep the following in mind when making your decision:

1) Hire someone who has a proven track record. This could mean: a) Visiting several different designers and comparing their portfolios or b) Hiring a designer who created a cover that impressed you (the cover designer is usually listed in the front matter of the book, most likely on the copyright page).

2) Don’t take the designer’s word for it, get feedback from previous clients. Send inquiries to authors who had book covers designed by the designer you are considering. Visit the designer’s portfolio, get a couple author names, visit their websites and send inquiries. You’ll want to know if the designer is easy to work with, open to ideas, reliable (responsive and meets deadlines) and are the authors happy with the services rendered and final product?

3) Is the designer’s website professionally designed? If the website doesn’t look professional then how can you trust that the book covers will? The website should detail what is included in the design, what factors could increase costs during the project and what type of files you will receive at completion.  The website should also have a section where the designer displays their portfolio.  If their stuff doesn’t appeal to you, again, why would you hire them?

I honestly can’t say how I stumbled upon my cover designer Scarlett’s website, but I’m glad I did.  I was impressed by the professional look and feel of her site and by her past work.  What really convinced me though, were all the great articles on self-publishing she had on her blog.  You really got a sense that she knew the industry and had a passion for what she does.  Her website also did a great job of laying out what you could expect if you chose her for your cover.

Remember to start thinking about your cover sooner than later.  If you are planning on releasing your book next week, it’s really too late to be thinking about the cover.  Designers, especially the better ones, will book up fast so be prepared to wait for an available timeslot for your project.

Your designer will probably send you a contract to approve before they start.  They will also require a deposit up front before they begin work on your cover.  Once we had things finalized and the date booked for my project, Scarlett sent out a questionnaire for me to fill out.  In it she asked things like:

  • Who is your target market?
  • Do you want the book to be legible at the size of a thumbnail?
  • Do you have a specific idea/design that you’d like to see?
  • What’s the impression you want to give your audience when they first see the cover of your book?
  • What don’t you want on the cover?
  • Which adjectives do you want to describe your cover? (Multiple choice)

While it can be helpful for you to know what you want up front, the right designer should be able to take your vague ideas and give you something to work with. Try to keep an open mind.  The first set of concepts your designer shows you are just the starting point, from there you will work together to fine tune your final concept.

In my case, Scarlett sent two initial concepts:

lisaemme_deadandkicking_web1 lisaemme_deadandkicking_web2

I liked how Scarlett sent the concepts with the various different formats. On my own, I probably wouldn’t have thought about how the cover looked as a thumbnail or in black and white. I also had a little panic attack when I looked at her designs and saw the placeholder that said “This is where your tagline or testimonial goes…” .  Tagline?! I hadn’t thought of that. A little brainstorming though and I soon came up with taglines for all three books in the trilogy – Thanks Christina for letting me bounce ideas off you!

After spending some time looking at the two designs, I came up with a detailed list of what worked and what didn’t for me for both of the covers.  I then made a few suggestions of what I would like to see changed and sent it all back to Scarlett.  Armed with this new information, Scarlett made some changes and I received updated files a couple days later.  Although both still appealed to me, by this time, one design spoke to me more than the other.  I decided to focus on that particular concept and so I sent back a few more comments on changes I would like to see for the one concept only.  I even did a little cut and paste hack job and mocked up what I was thinking.  A picture is worth a thousand words after all.

remix deadandkicking_web2

When Scarlett sent the updated file back, I knew we had a winner.  I loved it!  But that wasn’t the end.  We still had the print cover which needs the spine and back cover as well.  Scarlett was spot on with her concept for the back and there really wasn’t much to change.


In order for your designer to get the dimensions right for the print cover, you will have to know what size your book will be (mine is 5.5″ x 8.5″ which is one of the common trade paperback sizes) and what paper – white or cream – because, believe it or not, that makes a difference.  You will also need to know the finished length of your book (how many pages) when it is formatted to your chosen dimensions because that will determine the size of the spine.

So that’s my experience in getting the final concept for the cover of Dead and Kicking developed.  If you really want to have a look inside what makes a great book cover, I recommend watching this TED talk by Chip Kidd, a book designer (among other things) and art director at Knopf.  Kidd is the genius behind such covers as Crichton’s Jurassic Park  and 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. 1Q84 jacket removedjurassic

Pick Me! Pick Me!

pick-mewhitespaceThat’s basically what you want your cover to shout to your potential readers.  Let’s face it, we do judge books by their covers. If that wasn’t the case, everything, not just books, would come in plain, brown paper wrappers and PR/Marketing firms would be out of business.

The cover of your book isn’t just packaging. It’s your front line marketing.  It makes a statement to the reader about what they can expect to find inside. Different genres tend to have different elements that are important on the cover.  Shirtless males with ripped abs scream romance or erotica, guns and handcuffs imply police procedurals.  Your book’s cover needs to appeal to your target audience. The trick is to make your book stand out but still keep it anchored to reader expectations.

A quick google search will get you heaps of advice, but when it comes to your book cover, my only advice is this:  DON’T DO IT YOURSELF!

Unless you are an experienced artist/designer, hire one. After all, you don’t want your book to end up here.

If you only have a small amount to spend on getting your book published, spend it on the cover, but if you insist on trying it yourself, here’s some good advice.


For my first book, Dead and Kicking, I hired the very talented Scarlett Rugers and I couldn’t be happier with the final product. The cover conveys just the right mood, a little dark, a little mysterious and like Harry, a little quirky.

In my next post, I’ll walk you through the process we took to get to the final product.