Regular readers of these Ramblings will know this post is a little ‘off-beat‘ to those I generally write. However, read on, I am certain you’ll find this entertaining if not a little… well, read on to find out…
I have the sunglasses.
Racing at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi
Although I am a multi-genre author, I do not tend to write science fiction and have never attempted a dystopian novel.
However, this does not stop my thoughts from wandering into such realms, such as it did a short while ago.
I was contemplating the forthcoming lifting of travel restrictions and therefore, by default, thinking about the pandemic, when this idea entered my mind.
Now, I have heard several conspiracy theories which claim Covid 19 is fake. Many of these theories then speculate about mass public control, or Illuminati culling the human species and so forth.
I am sure you have read many such posts on social, especially at the start of the Pandemic.
As part of my thought process, which was an uncontrollable stirring of the muses, I recalled the 2007 film ‘Invasion’ and the ‘Pod People’.
For those who are not familiar with the film, this is the explanation on Wiki:
“In ‘The Invasion’, the aliens are a virus. After the person falls asleep, the virus re-writes human DNA.
Then, these Genetically Modified (post-humans?) vomit a gelatinous substance to continue the invasion.
As their invasion snowballs, the pod people transform humans by injecting them with the substance under the guise of ‘influenza vaccines’”.
So, you may be asking… if you are still reading this… what my mind was doing with all this information.
Well, simple, it was drafting a rough outline for a novel that goes something like this. (Conspiracy theorists get your pens ready!)
What if this Covid 19 pandemic is fake?
What if it is planned unilateral action taken by world leaders?
What if they are doing it to appease an extra-terrestrial lifeform who have returned to ‘Harvest’ their human crop?
What if our governments are attempting to assuage the aliens by offering a limited number of humans, hence the major number of ‘deaths’ in the first wave?
Then, a lesser number in the second and third waves of the pandemic and the lockdowns, as our leaders negotiate with the extraterrestrials?
What if they are hiding the truth to protect us, to protect society?
It is said the human race may have come from stardust… maybe our ancestors were simply seeds?
Many peoples ask what is the point of life, of being… maybe we are just being bred as food, on a farm we call the universe?
Maybe we developed beyond that which was expected, maybe we have a chance of survival if we give up some of our numbers every 1000 years or so… maybe, one day we could fight back, even escape?
Maybe… You write the story… I’ll read it.
In the meantime, could I temp you to read one of my books? Check them out if you will by visiting mywebsite.
I have recently been helping several new-ish authors, along with some quiet well-established writers, with the design and layout of their book’s interiors.
It appears many authors, even those with some experience, do not understand the established and recognised principles of interior book design.
The standard layout of books is no accident. It has evolved from the first medieval printing presses to the current day online publishing and POD.
The issue here is, if these basic conventions are not followed, at least to the greater degree, your book will look and feel amateurish to readers.
Thus, leading to slow take-up of your title and possibly, even probably, eliciting poor or bad reviews.
In short, an inadequately formatted book, even one which has undergone meticulous copy, line and development editing, will fall short of the standards expected and required by today’s avid readers.
This post, unusually for me on this blog, directly addresses the basic principles and concepts of interior formatting of paperback & hardcover books and, to some degree, that of their lesser cousin, the eBook.
I have not called this post ‘Interior Formatting,’ as that covers a much wider and far more complex set of procedures and is covered elsewhere, much in my books ‘The Frugal Author’ and ‘Lots of Author Stuff you Need to Know’.
At the end of this post, you will find these two books which address many, if not most aspects, of independent and small press authorship.
Both books are ready to download now and, I am certain, you will find the answers to many of the question you have but have never asked.
NOW, WITHOUT FURTHER ADO, HERE IS THE PROMISED POST….
BOOK DESIGN AND SECTION LAYOUT
Note:a page is one side of a leaf.
When you ‘turn a page’ you are actually turning the leaf of a book, which is two pages. Each side of the leaf is a single page.
In this post, ‘Blank’indicates a page typically left blank by traditional mainstream publishers.
The front matter of a book consists of its very first pages: the title page, copyright page, table of contents, etc. There may also be a preface by the author or a foreword by someone familiar with their work.
First Page: Blank/Flyleaf
Leave this blank.
2nd Page: Frontispiece/Blank
Page 2 is the back of page 1 and remains blank unless you include an illustration.
Such an illustration is called Frontispiece.
This decorative illustration or photo appears on the page next to the title page.
Traditionally, a Frontispiece will be placed on a left-hand page.
Usually opposite the Frontispiece.
It shows the full title of the book, along with the author’s name as they appear on the cover.
The Colophon or copyright page includes technical information about copyrights, edition dates, typefaces, ISBN, as well as your publisher and printer.
Usually positioned on the reverse of the title page.
Quotes from esteemed reviewers and publications in praise of the book.
This praise, or some of them/it, often appears on the back cover too.
A page where the author names the person or people to whom they dedicate their book, and why.
This typically comes after the copyright page.
Table of Contents
A list of chapter headings and the page numbers where they begin.
The table of contents, often abbreviated to ToC, should list all major sections that follow, both within the body and in the back matter.
Blank or Epigraph
A quote or excerpt which indicates the book’s subject matter.
An Epigraph can be taken from another book, a poem, song, quotation or almost any source.
It generally immediately precedes the first chapter.
Reason for writing, word of thanks.
An introduction written by the author, a preface relates how the book came into being or provides context for the current edition.
An introduction is written by a person other than the author.
Often written by a friend or scholar of the author’s work. Otherwise by a recognised authority of the books subject’s matter.
It is an honour to be asked to write a Foreword.
The body of a book is pretty self-explanatory: the main text that goes between the front matter and back matter. For readers and writers alike, this is where the magic happens — but it’s not just the content that’s crucial, but also how you arrange it.
Prologue (for fiction)
The section before the main story begins.
A prologue aims to set the stage and intrigue the reader.
Many prologues contain notes of intriguing events which only become contextualized as the reader gets deeper in the story.
Introduction (for nonfiction)
A few pages that usher the reader into the subject matter.
The introduction clarifies the books setting and or events linking to the content, along with other information relating to the main narrative.
Note:The difference between a preface and an introduction is a preface is personal to the author, discussing why they wrote the book and what their process was.
An introduction relates directly to the subject matter and establishes the position of the book in relation to its content.
All books have chapters, or sections, into which the narrative or content is divided.
Epilogue (for fiction)
An Epilogue is a scene that wraps up the story in a satisfying manner.
Often an epilogue takes place sometime in the future from the last chapter.
if the book is part of a series, the epilogue may raise new questions or hint at what is to come. A technique is known as a ‘Hook’.
Conclusion (for nonfiction)
This section sums up the core ideas, values and concepts of the text.
Explicitly labelled conclusions are becoming less frequent in nonfiction books, which now commonly offer final thoughts in the last chapter, but academic dissertations are still be formatted this way.
This allows giving final notes on the books content not otherwise addressed.
It is a useful tool for edited, revised and new editions.
The Afterword can be written by the author or another person.
A brief final comment after the narrative comes to an end, usually just a sentence or two.
For example, “Mr Archibald Carruthers died at his Cotswold cottage three months after this book’s publication. Happily, he saw his story come to fruition.)
Also known as the ‘end matter’ is the material found at the back of a book.
Authors utilise the back matter to offer readers further context or information.
The back matter is also an excellent marketing tool, listing the authors ‘other publications’ and giving links to websites.
A section to acknowledge and thank all those who contributed to the book’s creation.
The acknowledgements generally appear directly after the last chapter.
About the author
Is where the author gives a summary of their previous work, education, and personal life.
For example, “John Doe lives in Hampshire with his wife, two wayward daughters and two even more wayward Great Danes”.
If the author has sought permission to reproduce song lyrics, artwork, or extended excerpts from other books, they should be attributed here.
Such items may also appear in the front matter.
A section rarely used nowadays, but worth considering for inclusion.
Thought-provoking questions and prompts about the book, intended for use in an academic context or book clubs.
Appendix or addendum (nonfiction)
Additional details or updated information relevant to the book, especially if it’s a newer edition.
Chronology or timeline (nonfiction)
List of events in sequential order, which may be helpful for the reader, especially if the narrative is presented out of order. A chronology is sometimes part of the appendix.
Supplementary notes relating to specific passages of the text and denoted within the body by superscripts.
Most often used in nonfiction, but occasionally found in experimental/comedic fiction.
Definitions of words or other elements which appear in the text.
In works of fiction, the glossary may contain entries about individual characters or settings.
A glossary should appear in alphabetical order.
For example, in a science fiction book, the Glossary could list the names and details of individual planets in the story.
Generally used in non-fiction.
A list of special terms or phrases used in the book, along with the pages on which they appear, so the reader can find them easily.
An index should appear in alphabetical order.
A formal list of citations, a comprehensive breakdown of sources cited in the work.
Here are those two books I mentioned earlier, books no author should be without.
Yesterday I completed another book, making it ready for publication.
Over the previous three days, I have titivated with the internal layout, put the final finickity touches to my tome, trying to ensure I have no orphaned sentences, that the images, I have a good number throughout the book, are set as I wish and then, once again a run-through for any grammatical, punctuation or other errors such messing about can create.
For the two days before, I worked on finalising the cover.
The book Is now filed away awaiting the right window for publication. (I’m thinking sometime around May.)
The reason, I believe this will be the BEST time for me to release this book.
But is there a best time for you to release a book?
Let’s look at how this publishing game pans out over the year and what else might influence when you make your book available.
Publishing your book as soon as it is ready is termed ‘soft publication.’
Your ‘media date’ or ‘hard publication date’ or ‘release date’ can be whenever you think the stars are going to align with your media coverage and the success of your pre-release marketing.
It should be when you think you can sell the most books.
Traditionally, in the UK, new books are published on a Thursday, especially a Thursday between the 7th and 14th of the month.
The weeks leading up to the autumn are often some of the busiest times for new releases, as publishers jockey to fill bookstore shelves ahead of the upcoming winter holidays.
If you read are a regular reader of my blog on writing, ‘Ramblings from a Writers Mind’ or have any of my books on authorship, you will know I often say, “Copy what the big boys do.”
The reason I say that is, the major publishers rarely do anything by chance. They spend a fortune on strategic planning and market research to ensure they get the right books, in the right places, at the right time to maximise their sales and hence their revenue.
Regarding the release of your next book, you could follow my advice and do the same as the major publishers.
But wait a moment. Let’s think about a few things first.
Some would say, do not release your book anytime between a Tuesday and a Thursday, because doing so will put your book in direct competition with the major publishing houses releases.
Suggestions of when is best include weekends, a Saturday will (generally) give you five whole days before the big houses release another title.
Some industry data points to Sundays and Mondays for attracting the most journalistic attention.
Of course, It may be worth choosing a date early or late in the month, (before the 7th or after the 14th), just after or just before the ‘Monthly Payday’.
Of course, there are other considerations, particularly for books of certain genres.
Romance books do well in early February and a couple of weeks before the summer holiday period.
Horror works well from mid-November and through October.
Introspectiveworks sell best during the Summer, books like ‘Go Set a Watchman’ for instance, as do many Adventure stories.
Books described as ‘light & airy‘ do well in the Springtime.
Unsurprisingly, winter tales, snowy themes and settings, do well during the winter months.
But there’s more to consider than the seasons.
The premise of your book can be all-important at certain times too.
Check out which television series are scheduled over the next six months to a year, find which have similar stories, settings, locations, or characters as your book.
If your book is a period tale and a new costume drama is to be released on Television in August, then that programme could help boost your sales too.
If the new Sci-Fi blockbuster is due out in March… go for it. Major publishers have been known to change the name of a book to align with a mainstream film title.
For example, say a film, a Sci-Fi blockbuster sequel is named ‘Beyond the Far Crescent’, the publisher may alter a book’s title from, ‘From the Planets Shadow’ to ‘The Light of the Crescent’.
Never be afraid to re-title your book to align it with the marketplace, demographics or current trends.
Consider too Special Calendar Days.
Easter time always sees a boost in Christian related books. Martin Luther King Day for Black origin works. International Women’s Day for strong female characters, Feminism and such. Remembrance Day for War Stories, or Memoirs for instance.
In this case, my advice would be as I so often say, “do what the big boys do. Learn from them. Use their knowledge to compete with them.” It’s a bit like literary judo, use their size and bulk against them.
I admit there are no hard and fast rules, but I do suggest seriously planning when you release your next book.
Look ahead, research, find out what influences will affect your book and create your strategy accordingly.
To help you decide when here’s a rough guide cobbled together from industry data.
Self-help; diet; inspirational; business.
If your book fits into this category, this is what the media are generally interested in around this period, and it’s also what consumers are thinking about.
Self-help associated with relationships; debut authors; business; fiction.
If you are a debut/relatively new indie author, this month is not as full of new titles and there may be more promotion and media opportunities for you as a result.
Debut authors; mysteries; fiction
Beach reads; women’s fiction; biographies; books on mountain climbing (Good month for indies)
More beach reads; women’s fiction; biographies or nonfiction that will appeal to male readers on vacation or for Father’s Day
Quieter month better for debut authors; more of what you saw in June.
A good time for indies as there is generally less ‘new book’ competition out there.
Debut authors; education-related titles; narrative nonfiction by lesser-known writers… read indie authors. (Get in, before next month)
Public affairs and politics; serial authors in fiction and nonfiction; cooking; highly publicised titles by debut authors with mainstream publishers.
This is the main month, traditionally the annual main release month for major publishers. It is an incredibly competitive month and not indie-friendly.
More politics; cooking; big nonfiction titles by well-known personalities and writers; higher-end photography books; art books.
Not generally indie-friendly.
Photography; art; gift books; big names; and anything else you can think of that will sell in the current budget year’
Good for a well-planned strategic, high publicity release by indie authors in early November (Last few days of October)
A good month for lesser-known authors. A variety of books are published, including latecomers for Christmas or those titles that people want to get a jump on for January.
Good for indies looking to establish base sales going into the following year.
As for the book I mentioned at the start of this post, I am planning a ‘soft release’ in May, with a pre-order by invitation only, followed by an ongoing, subtle marketing programme. If you would like a copy of ‘Jack’s Dits 2’ (in May) email/message me and I’ll send you an invite.
Feel free to browse this site, there is a plethora of posts for writers and authors of all experiences and abilities.
I am open to comments and would love to answer any questions you have regarding ‘Being Indie’.
You may also like to read these two books about authorship.
You can download both right away, simply click on the link
It seems I no longer have enough time to regularly write this blog. This post explains the reason, or at least one of them.
Most of you will know, at least I hope you do, I love it when random things appear to me and stimulate my writers muse.
Often the best thoughts and ideas come from the unexpected, the surprises and unanticipated events.
I either scribble down notes or mull over whatever stimulated my mind and write my thoughts at a latter date.
I shall return to those notes. Many will become the basis of a short story, often one idea can give birth to a succession of tales, often of various genre, and with seemingly little or no relation to each other.
These stimuli may a form the premise of a novel, or a component of one. Some may suggest the possibility of a non-fictional work.
Now, these unanticipated events, the ones which ‘blow my frock up’, are as unpredictable as the English weather.
One may come from overhearing a private conversation, another from observation, yet another from an article or interview broadcast on the radio and, of course, there is a wealth of written material, both online and physical.
The joy is, one can never know what it is that will prompt the mind, set your thoughts into an overdrive mode, or, indeed, when such an event will occur.
Today, an hour or so before writing this post, I stumbled across something of the ilk.
I was browsing a section of the web, with a vague notion of the sort of thing I was looking for.
By that I mean, it was the start of a research period and I was casting my net wide before knowing where to hone in on the specifics, when I read the following short, but intriguing article regarding an important area of English politics.
Now, that may sound a bit dull to you, but trust me, read this article from ‘The Guardian‘ newspaper. I am sure you will then understand how many stories you could create… and that does not include the ideas you can develop from ‘clicking‘ on and reading the information found by following the contained hyperlinks.
This is one reason I need to live to be one hundred and forty million years old, then, possibly, I would have enough time to write all I wish, including regularly posting here.
I have heard many writers, over several years, comment about the costs involved in publishing and how they restrict new or independent authors.
What writer wants to start their authorship in a position of book debt; knowing they must sell hundreds, if not thousands, of copies before they recoup their writing and publishing costs?
For me, mitigating unnecessary expense is the only sensible way to proficiently indie publish, after all, being a full-time author is a professional commercial career.
Even if an author is not a full-time writer, I see no gain from spending out more money than is absolutely necessary to achieve the same result.
Surely, it is common sense and logical to follow the concept of getting the most value for every penny of your hard-earned cash – the highest return on investment- possible?
It was adopting this attitude which allowed me to develop a method of indie publishing letting me generate profit from my very first book sales.
How I do this is no secret.
I have published two eBook/Kindle books, which are ready for you to download, where I share my methodology, ideas and principles which you can adopt fully or partially, implement in part or whole, now or over time, and adjust to suit your working practices.
These books are NOT‘how-to’ books, ‘Instructional manuals‘, or ‘tuitional publications’. Neither are they ‘step-by-step’ guides.
They do NOT contain the common and over published/promoted drivel about how to ‘market your book’ and ‘what to do to become the world’s bestselling author’ (again) or ask you to buy irreverent and patronising bullshite for a thousand dollars a year, (non-refundable), subscription.
They are books of knowledge.
Insights into the indie publishing world, full of the distilled results, the acquired understanding and personal practice of being a successful, award-winning, Amazon bestselling indie author who dislikes paying out more than is necessary.
These books are presented as simply as possible, excluding as much technical or market segment jargon as practicable, while sharing a significant quantity of pertinent comprehensive information, in a light-hearted fashion; hopefully a reflection of my disposition, or at least my outward temperament after, at least, two cups of strong black coffee on any given morning.
Based on the reckoning you are already a proficient writer and amazing storyteller, you now want your books to look good, to feel professional and attractive so people cannot resist buying them… am I right, or am I right?
Then what are you waiting for? Download these two books today, you know you want to.
Rarely do I venture into posting about promotion and marketing as these are areas which deserve a blog of their own, allowing for comprehensive explanations and discussion.
However, there are many simple elements authors can utilize to assist the sales of their books.
Many of these aspects, like listing your ‘other titles’ as part of your books backmatter should be standard practice.
Some mainstream publishers are now using a paragraph or two from their author’s other works in the front matter, stating the obvious.. ‘From the author of…..other title’. I think it is a spin-off from Hollywood film promotions, i.e. ‘From the director of….blah blah’.
While it’s a practice which is becoming common, flick through the first few pages of mainstream novels in your local bookstore to see this trend. It is not one I particularly like. To me it is a little too aggressive, even hinting at desperation. I’ll leave you to decide where you want to go with it, should you want to try this option.
One often-overlooked opportunity, (I have neglected this myself too many times in the past), is the use of QR codes.
While links, (hyperlinks), work well with most electronic flow files, that is eBooks, Kindle and such, they cannot be used in a physical Paperback or Hardcover book.
One can list site addresses, such as this one, (my Amazon author page), https://www.amazon.co.uk/~/e/B00CJCT5DKbut, with a physical book, it means the reader must type out the whole address string on their keypad. Not a spontaneous act and therefore it is more likely to be ignored than actioned.
I find a significant alternative is using a QR code, like this one which can simply be scanned with a cellphone. (Try it.)
Some may consider QR codes as ‘old school’. However, QR codes offer a great way to connect your reader instantly and directly with your chosen location. This could be your Amazon author page, (as in the example above), your website, your books purchase location, blog, or social media page on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or any other social site.
The location you choose to send your reader to is entirely up to you.
In reverse, QR codes included in you books can direct readers to you social pages, blogs or personal website. You could include several QR codes in one book if you so wished, but you would need to be judicious in their use regarding the appearance of your book.
In ‘Within the Invisible Pentacle’I use QR codes to direct people to my targeted locations, once internally in the back matter on my ‘About the Author‘ page and once on the back cover, next to the barcode.
This is how I use them.
As an Electric Eclectic author, I also use a QR code to help direct people to the Electric Eclectic blog. This QR code you will notice incorporates the EE logo.
Using QR codes is a simple, extremely low-cost, yet effective addition to your marketing and promotional armoury and one I highly recommend you adopting.
You should incorporate these QR codes in your books and use them with your blogs, newsletters and in your social media posts, directing people to your chosen location(s).
The only limit is your imagination.
I am happy to produce bespoke QR codes for your author marketing needs.
I can also create QR codes incorporating personal or business/brand logos.
My QR codes can be produced in a variety of colours and in several bespoke shapes while maintaining their full functionality.
While many authors are proficient in creating individual personalities for their fictional persons, it is imperative when developing such characters’ lives, for one to write in a convincing and accurate mode to cultivate believability from the readers perspective.
Failure to originate plausible credibility of personality and interactions of fictional characters, over prolonged periods, proves detrimental to the reader’s gratification as it detracts from the overall principle and foundations of the author’s storyline, the very premise of which the reader chose for their entertainment.
Reality is fiction is all-important.
Therefore, understanding the social structure your characters inhabit is paramount to building such authentic originality. National, regional, fiscal, domestic and public constructs all constitute facets of each fictional character’s composition and structure.
Below is a list, created to assist with placing your complex and sophisticated character natures in a sound literary context. Therefore, accurately reflecting personality traits found in factual, genuine, true-life people of your chosen genre of state.
Such traits are often referred to as the ‘Hidden rules among Class.’
Following the subject heading, in bold text, are three subtexts. In order, they refer to; Lower Class (poor) – Middle Class (rich) & Upper Class (Wealthy).
Money: To be spent (Lower class) – To be managed (Middle Class) – To be invested (Upper Class)
Money: To be spent -To be managed – To be invested.
Personality: Sense of humour – Achievement – Connections.
Social emphasis: Inclusion – Self-sufficiency – Exclusion.
I recall reading Roald Dahl’s ‘Georges Marvellous Medicine’ to my son when he was a child. One phrase I found particularly hilarious was when George’s grandmother said, ‘Growing was a nasty childish habit’.
I’ll give you a short extract for context.
‘You know what’s the matter with you?’ the old woman said, staring at George over the rim of the teacup with those bright wicked little eyes. ‘You’re growing too fast. Boys who grow too fast become stupid and lazy.’
‘But I can’t help it if I am growing fast, Grandma,’ George said.
‘Of course, you can,’ she snapped. ‘Growing’s a nasty childish habit.’
As it happens, in the ensuing years I found my son adopted other ‘nasty childish habits’ growing boys seem to enjoy. I mentioned most of them to him in much the same way as George’s grandmother, not that it had any effect!
However, it is not childhood or growth or adolescence peccadillos I speak of today, but one of habits.
You see, like many other authors, my mind is constantly working overtime. Even when I am ignoring it, doing regular stuff like cleaning, gardening or shopping, it is whirring away noticing things, listening to other people’s conversations, reading notes, lists and phone screens over people’s shoulders and so forth.
It really is a bit of a rouge in many ways.
The thing is, those subconscious bits of my mind remember it all, record it and mull it over, twisting totally unrelated events, jiggling individual occurrences, shaking them together until a kaleidoscope pattern of instances which hold the possibility of illusory whimsy form.
This is when it digs a sharp elbow of attention into the soft kidneys of my platitude, painfully jerking my ‘normal’ daily thoughts away from the mundane and into the imaginative world of fantastical conception.
Last night, as I was going to bed, I felt the aforesaid sharp elbow ram painfully into the soft parts of my consciousness.
A voice in my head spoke excitedly to me.
“You know,” it started, “you write a fair bit about remembering the past, about nostalgia and stuff?”
“Um, yes,” I said, not sure where this was leading.
“Well, what about if people get all nostalgic because they survived it?”
“Survived it?” I questioned.
“Yeah.” The voice was shouting in my brain. “Think about it.”
“I’m going to bed,” I said. Trying to placate my thoughts.
“Yeah, but you’ll not sleep, not until you understand this.” The voice said sounding a little annoyed and a more than a little bit smug.
Of course, it was right. I needed to do this now, as tired I was. So, I grabbed a notebook and pen. I have several dotted around the house exactly for moments like this.
“Okay,” I said, “fire away.”
“How about if… people love the past, the recent past, like the times in and around their childhood because they lived through it, or most of it. They survived relatively unharmed. Well, they must have done or they wouldn’t be here now, would they?”
“Um, no,” I replied, “I suppose not.”
“So, just like in a good book, or a movie, where the hero rides off into the sunset at the end, that’s what you have done, along with everybody else who reminisces. You rode off into your sunset and arrived in the here and now.”
“Well, maybe, sort of.”
“I’m right. The past is where your parents were. They helped keep you safe, mended your cuts and bruises, kissed your grazed knees. It was home, comforting, warm. Your bedroom your inner sanctuary, guarded by your parents.”
“I guess so.” I was chewing my inner lip. Something I rarely do. “But not all memories are good ones, bad things happened too.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” my mind said, “I’m not talking about those bits. No one gets all sentimental over the bad stuff. We remember it when we must, but not in a nostalgic way. Nostalgia is reserved for nice memories.”
“I’ll go with that,” I said, nodding to myself.
“Well, that’s the key,” my mind continued.
“The key to what?” I asked.
“The key to writing something captivating in your books, especially when you’re basing them in the past, or have characters talking about ‘back when’ & ‘do you remember’ and stuff. It’s great for flashbacks, prequels and shit like that. Think about it.”
I was thinking about it.
“Even a futuristic story must have its past.”
I scribbled a few rough notes, odd aide memoir single word notes I could refer to later. (That later being now).
The thing is, after a good night’s sleep, a day carrying out family chores and a visit to the dentist for a clean & polish, I have mulled over my conversation with the excitable voice from last night and my conclusion is… I agree.
It makes a ton of sense for us to hold fond memories of good times. They could well be recollections of childhood events, maybe a loving mother tucking you into bed, possibly escaping an annoyed farmer when scrumping for apples, or like some of the memories I have written about previously, such as days out for a family a picnic or a train journey to the seaside; all exciting experiences for a child.
My teenage years hold more life events which have helped forge who I am today. Don’t get me wrong, I have instances of near-death, but… I survived to tell the tale. I did ride off into my sunset… although some moments may be more akin to crawling along a drainage ditch in inch thick cloying mud… but those tales are for another time.
It’s called living life.
As an author, I feed on such memories, use them to build my fictional worlds, create my characters, lay plots and write scenes. It is a habit I’ve adopted.
Until now, until the conversation with myself, I did not consider why nostalgia, which is according to the dictionary, ‘A sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past; even one never experienced,’ is such a powerful apparatus to use to elicit emotion.
Now I have spent time complementing the reasons, it makes perfect sense and one I shall be far more aware of when employing it in my writings in the future.
So, while scrumping for apples and reading George’s Marvellous Medicine may be unconnected events, both in time and geographical distance, the voice in my head found a way to join them together into a cohesive entity.
You could say they were unconnected connections of habit.
Keep Happy, Paul
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Don’t forget to look at my Electric Eclectic books, eBooks and Pocketbook paperbacks You can find them on my websiteor on @open24, the Amazon store for readers & writers
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In most of my posts, I ramble away in an unplanned manner, eventually making sense of, or come to a conclusion, about whatever topic is being discussed.
I tend to stay clear of jargon and try not to get too bogged down with the technical aspect of… stuff.
I have tried to do the same here; if you really want to get all techy and scientific you’ll need to undertake some research of your own.
Otherwise, please read on, some explanations, tips, and links are included.
‘A9’ is the proprietary search algorithm developed by Amazon. It is named after the company’s subsidiary which handles SEO
It has one job, to answer customer’s purchasing queries.
Please note, it is NOT Google.
Amazon is the primary destination for book searches, so understanding A9 is critical to your author success on this platform.
Amazon is happy to let A9 fly under the radar, even with A9 being somewhat revolutionary, to say the least.
We all love how Google seamlessly adapts its SERPs to your browsing habits, but A9 floated this idea successfully way back in 2004. A9 also pioneered visual street views long before Google Maps was a thing. The point is, despite being the most valuable company in the world, Amazon isn’t keen on pushing A9 through as a wide-lens search engine. In fact, you won’t find many people who have heard of the A9 algorithm.
The simple reason is, as I said above, it is NOT Google.
Amazon is not in the Searcher Intent business. Searcher intent is simply the type of request or query a specific user is looking for. For example, searcher intent is extremely obvious when terminology such as “buy” or “sell” is used. This is 100% commercial intent. E.G. “buy shoes” “sell my car” etc.
Whereas other intents, such as informational, e.g. “how-to” is also searched by users in YouTube, Google and other major search engines.
Amazon though, being a product-based search engine, doesn’t have this issue. That’s because people coming to Amazon are looking to do one and one thing only: Buy Stuff, like YOUR books. Unlike a traditional search engine, A9 does not need to consider whether someone searching for say, ‘Stephen King’ wants to learn more about the author or if they want to buy his books, Amazon it ‘knows’ they want to buy his books… and this is the most important factor. It is what shapes the way you need to work with A9 to gain higher rankings on the platform.
To place your book in a ‘high’ and visible position the A9 algorithm needs to consider factors such as degree of text match, price, availability, selection, and sales history.
Therefore, optimizing your books potential rating on Amazon begins before your listing goes live. There are several optimization elements you have control over and need to address before you sell even a single book.
1, Book Title and Brand Name, (if any)
The most relevant keywords will be the title and subtitle (if any) of your book. As with Electric Eclectic branded books, the brand name is used as, or as part of, the subtitle.
This allows people optional and assorted methods of searching for your book. They can key in your book title if they know it or remember it, or at least search for something similar. Alternatively, they can use your author name, or simply type in the brand.
For example, when you enter ‘Electric Eclectic books’ into your Amazon search bar you will be presented with a list of all the titles, from authors who have written under the Electric Eclectic brand.
While it is clearly important to write a compelling description to entice the person browsing to buy your book, consider using three to four ‘bullet point’ at the top of your description, such as, ‘Fast-paced Thriller’ or ‘Romantic Fantasy’, to clarify the genre of the book.
Bullets naturally stand out and make content easier to read than a block of text and help increases conversion rates.
Other bullet point options are such things as ‘Revised Edition’, ‘Prequal to ….’ and so forth. Not only does this help your potential buyers to decide, but it also reduces the risk of bad reviews due to a purchaser buying a book outside their regular choice/comfort zone.
A9 will also pick up on the words used, helping to target your book towards those who will enjoy your story.
TIP:Try by selecting three top-ranked competitors, (Mainstream publisher/agent listings are great for this) chose ones which boast the greatest number of reviews.
With the list of keywords in hand, remove those that aren’t relevant. As easy as that, you’ve got a handy list of keywords in your arsenal
In most cases, data from 3 or 4 competitors is enough to get started.
Your books must be strategically and competitively priced. If they are your conversion rate will benefit. Analyse the book pricing of those with high volume sale in your book’s genre, ensuring they are of similar page count/format. Find the ‘sweet spot’ price points, both on and off Amazon and price your book accordingly. Do not overprice or under-price, doing either will reduce your potential sales.
A9 takes pricing into consideration as it is in Amazon’s best interest to prioritise products (books) that sell. To better your chance of being listed next to, or in the proximity of a ‘Best Seller’, you need to be thereabouts.
4, Cover Images
Although images are not a direct, performance-related Amazon ranking factor, they play a critical role in both your click-through and conversion rates.
While cover images are not factors A9 specifically evaluates, (presently) They are very important for your potential customers and can have an impact on your sales.
High-quality images which view clearly when enlarged can increase sales by as much as 10%, according to Amazon, and the A9 algorithm rewards products that sell well.
Genuine, unsolicited, un-incentivised reviews are an ‘indirect factor’ which may impact your product’s rank on Amazon. Customer reviews can significantly influence the conversion rate, demonstrating their role in Amazon SEO. Books with strong ratings (four stars or higher) are more likely to rank higher in Amazon search results than those with less than four stars.
Although your Amazon ranking, as discussed, is dependent on many other factors; so often a two-star review rated book will show next to four and five star reviewed books. This could simply be because it is a new book is without enough reviews to give a true indication but more often it is because the author simply got everything else perfectly set up for A9, so the book appears higher on the pages.
You should constantly monitor your reviews to ensure customers do not abandon their potential purchase due to a negative review.
By responding to negative reviews in a timely fashion, you are showing your prospective customers you hold a value of their comments. This helps maintain positive overall customer experience.
You will notice at the start of this section I used the wording ‘Genuine, unsolicited, un-incentivised reviews’. This is because these are the ONLY reviews that Amazon A9 is concerned with.
Many authors believe that paid for, swapped, coerced or otherwise incentivised reviews help with Amazon rankings. Well, maybe they once did, but Amazon has been working extremely hard and are finding ways to validate every review.
Amazon uses a number of various systems to log everything… the numbers, the names, usernames, associated usernames (friends of), web locations, physical locations, device ID’s of reviewers, ISP addresses associated with reviews and many more data points.
This information is used to monitor the posting of fake and incentivised reviews, along with authors and businesses linked to enticing fake reviews. You may get away with one or two, but that’s about it, many more and A9 will flag your account(s). This may mean the reviews will be deleted, your account may be suspended or closed, just as those posting the reviews.
As A9 and its associated crawlers and bots develop and gather more information about each author/users’ actions and their algorithms enhanced, Amazon has vowed to clear all fake and incentivised reviews from the platform to improve quality.
The most important thing to remember about the A9 algorithm, and what differentiates it from traditional search engines, is that it exists to facilitate one thing: sales.
A9 looks at your title, product descriptions and the price you set to determine relevance. Together, these factors create a flywheel effect where improving one element of your product marketing also increases sales velocity which, in turn, improves your listing’s visibility.
Higher A9 ranking means more targeted exposure by Amazon, such as showing on ‘Also bought’, ‘Also viewed’ and ‘Frequently bought together’ directed to a relevant audience.
7, The Future for A9
Looking at how Google evolved over the years gives us a look into how we believe Amazon is expected to change.
Amazon’s A9 algorithm will follow a similar trajectory, albeit more slowly and less aggressively (remember, as effective as it is, A9 is not one of Amazon’s most important ‘products’).
Amazon is working to fix many problems: low-quality listings, broken English, higher return rates and how people generate reviews (fake reviews, for example). Amazon has aggressively targeted fake reviews in the past few years, going so far as suing Fiverr directly.
In February 2011, Google released an update called Panda.
Despite its tame name, this update wiped out millions in affiliate marketer & SEO consultant earnings. Superficially speaking, the update itself was aimed at low-quality sites from a content point of view. Copied, scraped and poorly created content was the chief target, meaning that millions of low-quality sites were hit very hard and de-indexed. 95+% of traffic and all the income associated with it, poof, GONE.
Amazon is looking to publish a similar update; the goal to have listings that read well and avoid broken English, duplicate content and generally poor optimization overall, instead of just basing the majority of factors on sales directly.
One of the reasons this makes sense from a business point of view is to reduce the number of low-quality Chinese sellers driving out genuine, quality-focused businesses. (Think future competition, think Alibaba).
There are multiple other reasons it makes sense to Amazon’s business model.
This ‘Amazon Panda’, or whatever they may call it, will change the game, but what will ultimately turn Amazon SEO services & marketing agencies on its head would be an algorithm update similar to Google’s ‘Penguin’ update.
The Panda update in 2011 was big but the Penguin update actually changed the SEO game forever. Released on 24th April 2012 (version 1) it impacted close to 3.1% of search queries. If you’ve ever implemented an SEO campaign, you’ll know it’s a massive amount of organic search results.
In short, this update aimed to remove link spam. Any site which was using questionable link building tactics was hit and penalised. Organic traffic for some companies went to zero and some never recovered.
Amazon’s ‘Penguin’ update, a form of which is under construction (I have been told), will involve targeting elements such as sales manipulation, discounted product giveaways, which they are already combating, and overall search engine manipulation.
Other trust signals will become more and more important.
Industry chatter tells me that generating more than 3 reviews per day is a signal that Amazon uses to identify review manipulation. Other tools such as Fakespot or Reviewmeta are also very common for spotting fake reviews.
Third parties are building tools that identify fake reviews. Amazon has signals and software to reduce the amount of review spam on their platform.
The end result is if you want to stay 100% safe, ensure you stay within Amazon’s terms of service and avoid any algorithm manipulation
One final ‘thing’ to end this post..
Myth: Discounted books and Giveaways Still Work.
NO, they don’t.
This is an Amazon SEO myth we have to cover… discounted and book giveaways. They just don’t work anymore.
This was a very sharp change Amazon made almost 2 years ago now. The main tweak involved how Amazon weighted the ranking signal for discounted product sales.
Previously Amazon weighted discounted products (80%+) still relatively heavily. So, a small amount of discounted product giveaways resulted in large organic ranking movements.
The tweak Amazon added downgraded the weighting used. With this in place, running discounted giveaways just doesn’t make economic sense anymore.
Okay, so the title of this post is probably not the best metaphor ever written. Maybe, I was just fishing for compliments, or reeling you in… okay, okay. Enough.
But relating your books sales, or rather your book marketing, to fishing is not so far off the mark as you may think.
I am sure you would have heard the term ‘hook’ used many times when referring to writing, particularly fiction
Most authors know and recognise the importance of having a ‘narrative hook’ in their book’s opening lines and at the end of each chapter, even in the closing paragraphs of books in a series.
The idea, of course, is to leave your reading wanting more, wanting to know what happens next or indeed, on ‘tenterhooks’.
Which, by the way, is an old English word deriving from the 14th-century wool making industry. A ‘Tenter’ was a frame used to stop cleaned woollen fabric shrinking, (from the Latin ‘tendere’, meaning ‘to stretch’). Hooks are placed around the edge of a frame, to which the fabric was attached, so it stretched it enough to stop it shrinking whilst drying.
By the mid-18th century, the phrase ‘on tenterhooks’ came to mean being in a state of tension, uneasiness, anxiety, or suspense, i.e. figuratively stretched like the cloth on the tenter.
However interesting all that may be, these facts have nothing to do with fishing and by association, sadly nothing to do with my terrible metaphor.
So, let me get to the nitty-gritty of this post, which is about your book’s description.
For this blog post, I am including your back-cover blurb and the description you use on your sales page of online sites, such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble etc. as the ‘description’ discussed.
It seems, by the requests for answers I receive and the social comments I read, the writing of your book’s description is an area many authors struggle with, which is, on consideration rather strange as, after completing an entire novel, pages upon pages of creative writing, authors should then struggle to write a dozen or so lines describing the very premise of the book.
Which is, in all honesty, probably one of, if not the most important few paragraphs of the entire work.
What I find is, as the creator of the story, authors tend to want to put every element into their book description. (Much the same is true in amateur cover design.)
The thing is, the description is not supposed to be a summary, or a report, or a review. It is simply an advert. The intent of which is to ‘reel’ in book browsers and have them buy your book.
Allow me to elucidate.
Someone will buy your book if…
Firstly, the little thumbnail image of your front cover catches their eye.
Then, when they enlarge, click, expand or whatever they might need to do to see your book as a larger image if they like what they see at the smaller resolution. (The reason you need a great cover artist. One like PeeJay Designs. PeeJaydesigns@mail.com)
This is the online equivalent of having a potential buyer physically pick up your book from a bookstore shelf and hold it in their hands. If they never pick it up they will never buy it.
The next step is, your potential purchaser will now read the carefully crafted and captivating description of your book. This could be the ‘blurb’ on the back cover or the description given on an online bookstore.
Reaching this point means the cover has done its most important job.
Of course, your book’s description will stop the reader in their tracks, intriguing them enough to want to…
One, buy your book immediately or…
Two, read some of the ‘Look Inside’. (If in a physical bookstore, flick through and read a few random samples.) and then they will, of course, buy your book, won’t they?
Sarah Gribble of The Write Practice, says. “I recently picked up a nonfiction book, which I don’t read many of, and almost put it right back down. But the description intrigued me. It got me to read the first couple pages, standing right there in the store. Then it got me to buy the book.”
However, if you have a lazy, badly worded and therefore an unsuccessful book description, they will simply move on to the next book, regardless of how wonderful your actual story may be, a story they, along with thousands of others, will never get to read.
This means you will have blown your chance, your opportunity to get the sale, all for a few lacklustre lines.
Okay, I hear you saying, “How do I make my book’s descriptions work for me?”
I’m glad you asked because it’s a little like fishing; you must bait your hook with the right lure, the right bait, for the fish you want to catch. (Yep, back to my metaphor.)
Perhaps, one of the best ways is knowing what to do and what not to do when writing your description.
The (basic) do’s:
Always write in Third Person
Use keywords, emotional words, like chilling or passion; they work well for both nonfiction and fiction book descriptions. You can Google power words to find some good ones. But do not overdo it.
Also, consider what people might be Googling that would take them to your book. This is especially true for nonfiction works. Think about employing those in your description.
Be succinct and to the point, no purple prose or verbose writing.
Be clear about the genre, the main genre, do not focus on sub-plots. i.e. if you have a thriller, say so, do not harp on about the romantic story which runs as a sub-plot.
Employ the proper utilization of grammar
Use eye-catching, powerful language. Just like your book needs a hook at the beginning, so does your book description. No one’s going to continue reading the description, let alone the whole book if the first line is as boring as dry toast. Plus, this is often the only thing an online shopper will see before they are prompted to click to see more, and you want them to click, don’t you?
Hint at the climax, never reveal it.
Tell your potential readers how perfect your book is for fans of… genre/style etc.
Mention any awards, high-class reviews, or serious ratings – (see notes below in ‘don’ts’)
Add any audience and age-appropriate.
Give trigger warning when it’s necessary. (These can have a positive effect on sales.)
The (basic) don’ts:
Never use shouty capitals.
Give too short a description.
Cut off words
Make false or misleading claims
Double/triple edit. Do not allow any misspellings or typos to get through. If you cannot write a short description without any errors, there is little hope your book will be error-free.
Do not employ ‘date language’ like ‘just released’ or ‘new novel’, in a week it won’t be and you will need to re-word your description.
Stay away from aggressive calls to action. Such as “You MUST buy this book”. Using such language lends a note of desperation and drives potential buyers away.
Do bear in mind retailers accept differing lengths of descriptions, so you may need to tailor it to each site’s requirements.
Surprisingly, some things you might think influence, do not, according to recent Bookbub research;
It seems it is irrelevant to include details of which type of bestseller you may have, i.e. New York Times Vs USA Today. Simply saying ‘Bestseller’ has far more significance.
Adding a question at the end of your description has no effect on your potential purchaser’s decision making. Which makes doing so a total waste of time.
Neither does saying the book is your debut novel, or your tenth novella, or your seven hundredth and fiftieth for that matter. It has no significant impact on the choice to purchase.
Therefore, use your description to tell people about your story, get them intrigued, wanting to know more.
Avoid telling them about ‘the book’. You may be proud of all those things, but readers don’t give a flying ***, they simply want to know if they will enjoy the story.
Including the series name in the description did not affect readers positively or negatively. Therefore, adding such information (in the description) is pretty much a waste of time and effort. It seems the cover, and the titles on online pages, already show that information; so potential buyers do not want the same information repeated over and again… they know, they get it already.
I now hear you asking how you get to a good description.
The easiest way is to create two versions of similar text, like this:
Both versions have the same information. They both start by listing the accolades which represent the renown of the book.
However, from there, description A focuses more on Nick Dunne’s perspective, while B hones in on Amy.
So, go ahead, create two versions of your book’s description, test them against each other and determine which works best for your book.
Use friends to help you decide. After all, their point of view will be far more accurate than your own; you will not be buying your book, they will and they know what attracts them better than you ever will.
Try using the following suggestions as an outline guide.
Start your description by using a bold opening sentence, possibly a statement to grab the reader’s attention.
Use at least one hook to grab readers’ attention.
Ensure the description does not contain any spelling or grammatical errors.
Make certain to ‘inspire’ your potential reader to ‘buy’.
While I do not suggest using direct comparisons to ‘famous’ or ‘renowned’ authors, (such as “…is the new Stephen King” or “Better than Sophie Kinsella…”) which is considered cheesy, desperate, egotistical and opens all sorts of avenues for negative feedback and bad reviews, it may be worthwhile making a statement your book would be “Perfect for fans of Lee Child” or “Martina Cole fans will love this gritty and convincing thriller“
Note, the words, ‘Gritty & Convincing’ are taken directly from the cover of Martina Cole’s book. Never be afraid of copying the methods and styles used by major publishing houses.
Once you have found a style and method which suits you, why not create your own template and use that for your future books?
After all, great fishermen have their own way of baiting their rod for the type of fish they want to catch. You can do the same, go get the readers you need, lure them in, hook, line and sinker.
See, fishing is not such a bad metaphor after all.
I have compiled a wealth of information to help authors of all capabilities and experience to know more about the publishing world, books and being indie.